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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Life Goes On - 3. Chapter 3


For a little while longer, we goofed around before finally calling it a night. Rolling onto our sides, Keith snuggled up behind me and wrapped an arm around me. Content, I fell quickly asleep. After what seemed to be only minutes, I woke up on my stomach, feeling cold. Beside me, Keith was asleep on his back and lightly snoring. Somewhere along the line, Keith had let me go and I had kicked the top sleeping bag off of us. Sitting up, I pulled it back up then lay down again, snuggling closer to my lover to benefit from his body heat.

Lying there in the pitch blackness, I waited for sleep. It had been an exceptionally good afternoon and evening. Silently, I told my mom about it and again wished that she were around to see it all. A strong breeze blew and the tent rustled. At the edge of consciousness, I heard her voice softly calling me, mixed in the wind.

With my eyes still closed, I sighed and again wished for just a few minutes alone with her.

“What would you say?”

“That I love you and miss you and wish you could be here.”

“I know that already.”

“Were you… in pain?”

“Only for the brief moments the car was spinning out of control, before it hit the truck. I knew it would be bad, but all I thought of was leaving you alone while I recovered from my injuries.”

“Why are you here now?”

“Because you called for me.”

Afraid of the answer, I wearily asked, “Can I see you again?”

“Come outside.”

Tossing the sleeping bag aside, I got up and carefully maneuvered around Keith then stepped out of the tent. Beyond the treetops, the moon and the stars speckled the sky. Another strong breeze blew and chilled me slightly. Looking around the campsite, I questioned my sanity and wondered what I was doing standing outside in the middle of the night in my birthday suit. So I wouldn’t wake anyone, I whispered, “Ma?”

Behind a cluster of trees, I saw something move. It was way too large to be a coyote or any other critter. Shivering with excitement, I walked towards the movement and soon, I clearly saw my mother. She was dressed in blue jeans and a pale pink blouse. Her red hair shifted in the breeze. Covering my face, but with my fingers spread so I could see, I softly whimpered, “It’s really you.”

Still walking towards me, she nodded, “For you sunshine.”

Falling to my knees at her feet, I cried, “I’ve missed you so much.”

“I know sweetheart. I’ve been with you before, even when you couldn’t see me.”

“I know,” I softly sobbed, “I’ve felt you.”

Softly she hushed me and I felt her hands on both of my arms. “Stand,” she softly said as she guided me.

Struggling to stand up, I looked at her and could smell the woman that was undeniably my mother. Wiping my eyes, I forced a smile and asked, “There is something after we die?”

She nodded, “It’s not exactly what we learned in church, but it is almost paradise.”


“Separated from her child, a mother can’t truly experience bliss. That’s why I watch you.”

“I would give anything if the accident didn’t happen,” I softly confessed.

“Would you?” She softly smiled, “Would you give up Keith or any of the Hundsers? You can’t know what the alternatives might’ve been or who would’ve been hurt. No one deserves that sort of pain. More than anything Preston, I wish I could snap my fingers and take all the pain away from you… but I can’t.”

“I wish that I had spent more time with you. I still miss you, ma.”

“I know you do. But you didn’t abandon me, Preston. Don’t allow yourself to feel like you did. We had a wonderful relationship; it was good in Texas, but it got better after we moved. Before my eyes, my baby boy became a man. You finally found yourself and made a life. That’s why I’m here now; to show you that I do still exist, to let you know that I am still your mother and will always be.”

Breaking down again, I choked, “Will I ever see you again?”

She smiled, “I hope so, sunshine.” We looked at each other for a long few moments. She then asked, “Is there anything else you wanted to say?”

I nodded, “Thank you, for everything.”

She smiled widely and hugged me. Squeezing her tightly, I felt her warmth against me. She kissed my cheek and reminded, “I’m always with you, Preston; through the good times and the bad.” Then she released me and stepped back. “You’ve always been a good boy. I am so proud of the man you’re becoming,” she smiled.

Embarrassed by what she had said and my lack of clothes, I said, “And you were a great mom.”

Before my eyes, my mom floated off the Earth. She reminded, “I love you, Preston.” Motionless, she hovered a few feet off the ground for a few seconds.

I smiled, “Goodbye, ma. And thanks again.”

Smiling, she nodded and waved. As I watched, her body was lifted higher and seemed to become transparent. A moment later, she vanished completely, leaving me alone, naked and suddenly petrified.

I remained there, standing still in the dark, wondering again if I had finally lost my mind. But I would not stop watching the spot where my mom disappeared; not even to blink.

Was it all a dream? Was I sleepwalking again? I didn’t think so.

Behind me, I heard the tent flap rustle, but I wouldn’t turn around. Gently taking hold of my shoulder, Keith softly beckoned; “Prez? You okay, baby?”

Wanting to turn to him, but unable to do so, I looked up into the trees and softly answered, “I’m okay.”

Keith waited a few moments then softly asked, “Did you have to leak?”

“No,” I answered, and wondered if I could tell Keith what I had seen and heard. There had been many times where I heard my mom, but nothing compared to actually seeing her, feeling her hug me and smelling her scent.

Moving in front of me, Keith tilted his head curiously and said, “It’s after four in the morning, baby. Come back to bed.”

Wanting to assure myself that all of what I had experienced was real, I shook my head and softly suggested, “Let’s stay awake for a little while, okay?”

“It’s a little cooler out,” he shivered, and then asked, “Aren’t you cold?” I shook my head and Keith said, “Well I am. Let me just get our sleeping bag from the tent.”

While Keith went to the tent, I remained glued to the same spot waiting for something – some sign to assure me that my imagination wasn’t running away. Returning, Keith wrapped us up in the sleeping bag and gave me a short, sweet kiss. Patiently, my lover waited for me to tell him why I was awake and loitering around our campsite, butt-naked, in the middle of the night.

“How do I seem to you,” I asked.

Keith smiled and shrugged, “Fine baby. Why wouldn’t you be?”

His smile shone brightly in the night. Wrapping my arms around his back, I softly assured, “I sure do love you; everything about you, Keith.”

Keith grinned, “That woke you?”

Shaking my head, I started telling him exactly what had happened. “I woke up feeling cold and saw that I had kicked the sleeping bag off of us,” I began to explain. “While I was lying there waiting to fall back asleep, I again asked for just a few minutes with my mom so we could say goodbye.” Happy tears flooded my eyes and I paused to wipe them.

Shaking his head sadly, Keith smirked, “I warned you about telling ghost stories.”

Hearing that, I started snickering. “You think that was a good story?” I giggled. Keith nodded and I smiled, “And what would you say if I told you that she was just here?”

Nervously glancing around, Keith gleefully replied, “You’re trying to freak me out!”

“She was,” I quickly burst. “I saw her, felt her and smelled her, Keith.” Breaking down with joy, I tearfully admitted, “Finally, finally, we got to say goodbye.” I sighed wearily and rested my head on my lover’s shoulder. “I got to finally tell her the things that I’ve been telling you and just about everyone else. A ton of guilt and hurt was just lifted from me, Keith.”

Holding my head on his shoulder and gently rubbing my back, Keith softly hushed me and repeatedly said, “Its okay now, Prez.”

I wondered if he thought I was sad or upset. After the forth repetition, I lifted my head and wiped my eyes. “It gets better with each and every day,” I smiled. “That accident that Derrick and I witnessed, it was my mom that interfered that day so I wouldn’t be hurt. For all I know, it’s her helping me time the streetlights and her that has been giving me the strength to go on every day.”

Keith smiled understandingly and said, “She may be helping with the more amazing things, but it’s your strength getting you through the bad days, Prez. You do that all by yourself.”

Not wanting to argue about it, I shrugged, “Okay, if you insist.” Then I asked, “You believe me, don’t you Keith?”

He kissed me softly then asked, “Do you really feel a ton lighter?” Enthusiastically, I nodded rapidly and Keith assured, “Then it was a good thing and I believe you.” Ecstatic, I covered his face with little kisses. Keith softly giggled, “Ready for bed now, baby?”

Not wanting to keep him awake any longer because we both had to work later that day, I nodded, but knew I didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of sleeping. Still, I went back in the tent with him. We settled down and pulled the top sleeping bag over us. With my head resting on Keith’s chest, I heard his softest whisper quite clearly. “Rest now baby.”

And I closed my eyes, but remained awake. Soon, Keith’s hand fell off of me and he started snoring. Rather than get up and wait outside like I really wanted, I remained in the tent. Carefully, I moved away from Keith and stared up into the dark. All I thought about was the visit from my mom. She looked completely normal, like she might’ve on any weekend or once she had changed out of her work clothes. Her expressions were the same; the way she answered my questions and her tone of voice were also exactly as I remembered.

She said that she came to me because I had asked, but to me, that didn’t make sense. I had been asking for those same few minutes for a very long time. But she finally assured me that I hadn’t abandoned or ignored her. I could only assume that it seemed that way to me because I was so head over heels in love with Keith. We ate dinner at the apartment with her nearly as often as I ate at the Hundser’s, I remembered. The nights Keith and I spent at the apartment were always filled with sexual tension because we would wait until the wee hours of the morning before making love. And we never went for intercourse while my mom was home. Although, two horny teenagers could accomplish a lot in five minutes behind a closed bedroom or bathroom door; and we sure did a lot of that!

She said that she was proud of me too. A warm tingling sensation enveloped me. Most times, I had a rough time making a decision and when I did, I wasn’t always sure it was the right one. It was good to know that she thought I was doing the right things for the right reasons. I knew when I had messed up royally though and, turning to Keith, softly repeated my promise to never do that again.

Time passed and my mind raced. It seemed another quiet hour passed before I heard either Corey or Drew stir. It was pitch black in the tent, but I think it was Corey that sat upright for a moment or two before lying back down again. Soon, there was nothing, but deep breathing going on around me. Outside, a small critter scurried past the tent.

In my mind, I created a long list of other things to tell my mother. Thanking her for the Christmas gifts was a good start. I only wore the Seiko watch she gave on special occasions. Mostly, I wore a Casio sports watch, but I had worn the watch she gave me to the prom and would again at court on Monday.

I wondered if I had dealt with Jake the right way that fateful afternoon. Maybe I shouldn’t have teased him? I could ask my mom that question too. We all wondered how Jake knew that any of us were gay. None of my friends had any of the supposed tell-tale signs. Or maybe he happened to overhear something? Did I do anything that made him want to target me?

Birds chirped loudly outside the tent. Glancing over Keith at the tent flap, I scanned for signs of daylight and yawned.

Naturally, with the sun rising, I was ready to fall asleep again. Softly chuckling at myself, I snuggled closer to Keith and closed my eyes, anxiously hoping for another opportunity to talk with my mom. But even if it never happened again, I could now consider myself among the lucky few that believe they had been visited by a departed loved one.

Once upon a time, I considered such stories to be Halloween jokes because they always show that sort of supernatural stuff on TV around that time. But what I experienced was not a mist or a disembodied voice; but the entire person she was. And I was assured that there was something beyond this plane of existence; something so wonderful that it could be called paradise. What more could I need to know? If I couldn’t see her again in this life, I would see her again after this life.

Keith’s mom had called me a spiritual person on more than one occasion. I wondered what that meant because she knew that I wasn’t a devote Catholic. At an early age, I recognized that there were different religions and even different flavors of Christianity.

Back around Operation Desert Storm, when I was eleven, I asked my mom how anyone could consider one religion to be better than another. She couldn’t really answer the question, but talked about a sense of belonging and of community. I reminded her of all the people that lived in our neighborhood and that there should be a sense of belonging and community there too. She said that I was right, but that was how communities overlapped and that really, every person on the planet was part of one giant community. People tended to focus on differences instead of commonalities, she sadly said. It was completely foolish to me when I was eleven and even more so when I was sixteen-year old gay teenager.

I heard someone rustling around outside the tent. Glancing over Keith at the tent flap, I saw daylight. Still hearing noises of movement outside, I assumed that Keith’s dad was awake. Carefully, I got up and stealthily went to my backpack to get clean underwear. Even though I was being as quiet as possible, Corey shifted and stretched.

Clearing his throat slightly, Corey looked around. Noticing me squatting down and digging through my backpack, Corey tossed the top sleeping bag aside and softly croaked, “G’mornin’ Prez.”

The kid was laying there naked with full wood and didn’t seem to care that I saw him. I never knew that Corey was uncircumcised until that moment. I softly smiled, “Good morning, Cor. Did you sleep okay?”

Reaching for the tent roof, Corey nodded and sat up.

I continued digging through my back pack, separating Keith’s stuff from mine as I went.

“Oops!” Corey squeaked. Turning to him and smiling, I noticed that he was now covering his crotch with both hands. “Sorry,” Corey softly offered.

Grinning at his blush, I stood up with a clean pair of CK’s in one hand and pointed at my limp dick with the other saying, “No harm done, see?” Lifting my left leg and beginning to put on my undies, I said, “You’re fourteen, right?” Corey nodded and I complimented, “It’s a descent size for someone your age.” Picking up my shorts, I started to pull them up and commented, “It could be really big by the time you stop growing.”

Corey beamed, “Thanks dude.” Then he stood and started looking for his clothes. I put fresh deodorant on and Corey pulled up a pair of boxers. Reaching for his shorts, Corey cautiously asked, “Can we talk, Prez?”

I said, “Sure, dude. What’s on your mind?”

Zipping his shorts, Corey looked down at Drew and softly said, “Not here.”

I shrugged and smiled, “I was just going to find a worthy tree.”

Pulling a T-shirt over his head, Corey softly giggled, “I’ll join you.”

Moments later, we were tip-toeing out of the tent. Keith’s dad was awake and patiently sitting on a log by the fire pit. Corey and I greeted him, picked up our socks and sneakers then joined him.

“I need my morning coffee,” Mr. Hundser yawned. I snickered and he smiled, “How about I end our suffering and go get some breakfast?”

I nodded and grinned, “And an extra large coffee.”

Slightly surprised, Keith’s dad asked, “For you?”

I nodded and said, “I woke around three and never got back to sleep.”

Appearing concerned, he asked, “Was the ground too hard?”

I smiled, shook my head and glowed, “I’ll tell you about it later, I promise.”

Turning his head slightly, a smile slowly formed and he said, “I’ll hold you to that.” Turning to Corey, he asked, “Would you like to join me for the ride.”

Corey smiled and shook his head saying, “No thanks, I’ll be fine with fruit and juice for breakfast.”

Mr. Hundser eyed Corey suspiciously for a moment then reached into his shorts pocket and pulled out his keys. “I’ll be back in about half an hour,” he said, and then went to the Suburban.

Finished tying his sneakers, Corey turned to me. We stood and started walking. Keith’s dad pulled out and started down the main dirt road. I looked down at Corey and he smiled up at me, “I need you to be honest with me, Prez.”

Tilting my head, I said, “As much as I can be.”

Looking ahead and not at me, Corey took a deep breath, “I think Drew is angry with me. Has he said anything about me and him?”

Stopping at a wide tree, I honestly said, “Sorry, he hasn’t said anything to me and Keith hasn’t said anything.” Then I started to pull down my fly.

Shocking the shit out of me, Corey moved around the same tree and pulled down his zipper. Digging his dick out, Corey nervously huffed, “We’re going to break up again. I can see it all now.” Pulling back the foreskin, he immediately started to piss.

Completely stunned by Corey’s actions and words, I stood there with my dick in my hand. Closing my eyes, I relaxed enough to start leaking. Opening them again, I saw Corey looking up at me. “I can only tell you what I perceive,” I said.

“What do you see?” Corey pleaded, “Please.”

I said, “I see Drew with you all the time. It seems to me that you guys spend a lot of time together.”

Corey nodded and sighed, “Just about every day. Monday and Friday afternoons I spend with my mom. But since school let out, we’ve spent every night together, either at my place or yours.” He started squirting out a few final blasts then shook his meat and stuffed it back in his shorts. But he didn’t turn away and he wasn’t looking at my dick. He was studying my face and waiting for me.

“I don’t see anything wrong between you two, Corey. I’m positive that Drew really cares for you. He spends most of his time with you or waiting for you, it seems to me.”

Corey smiled widely for a moment then looked down at his feet and became thoughtful. I finished leaking and put my dick back in my shorts. Stepping back away from the tree, I went to Corey and reached for his shoulder. He looked up and appeared on the verge of tears. Swallowing hard, Corey softly said, “I’m in love with him.”

I softly suggested, “Talk with him about what scares you. It’s hard sometimes, I know. But trust him dude. Sharing gets easier the more you do it.” Then I smiled and assured, “It seems that Drew loves you too.”

We started walking and Corey said, “Sometimes I think so. But then other times he can be such a shit. And then, before I can stop myself, I’m being just as shitty, if not more so. I know it’s not right, but it happens and neither of us apologizes so it must mean that we’re saying what we really feel. That should be a good thing, right?” I nodded and Corey nervously rambled, “But it hurts me and I can tell it’s hurting him too. How can that be good?”

We walked past our campsite down the dirt road. I softly said, “Give me a second, please,” and processed what Corey had told me. I also remembered disagreements Keith and I had had, no matter how trivial. I sighed and said, “Corey, you’ve got to talk with Drew. I could ask all sorts of personal questions about why you two argue, but my opinion wouldn’t necessarily be Drew’s opinion. It’s obviously very important to you. And from my point of view, it seems that it would be just as important to Drew. Sometimes Keith and I revisit various topics; stuff that he feels strongly about and stuff that I feel strongly about. When you’re finished talking, listen to what he says and try not to interrupt. That was my big problem, I think. And sometimes Keith will just clam up and not say a word if I’ve said or done the wrong thing. Every time it happens, I pray it never happens again.”

Corey smiled, “I can’t believe you two ever once had a disagreement.”

I grinned, “Of course we do. But we talk about shit too.” Glancing down at him, I playfully asked, “Remember the park ranger last night?”

“Omigod!” Corey loudly laughed. “He was sooooooooo hot!” Bouncing against me, he shrieked, “Got full wood in less than thirty seconds! Swear to God! Bam! Just like that!”

I roared and then playfully grumbled, “Too much info, Corey!”

He blushed and asked, “You talked with Keith about the ranger?” I nodded and he asked, “Because you were both watching him too?” I nodded again and Corey snickered, “That dude is gay. Three gay-dars can’t be that off base!” I loudly laughed and Corey grinned, “If I was ten years older…”

“Never mind!” I bellowed hysterically. Smiling down at him and turning us around, I said, “You’ve got to be able to tell him everything, don’t you think?” Corey shrugged and I said, “The way I think of it is like this: I really care about Keith - his whole being; what worries him, what pleases him, what annoys him, what frightens him – all of him.”

Glancing down at Corey, I waited until he looked up at me. He smiled and nodded, “It sounds really great. A lot of work too.”

I nodded, “It’s the best job on the block with fantastic benefits.”

Looking up at me, he grinned, “I know what you mean.”

Daringly, I asked, “Could you imagine how dull sex would be with someone you didn’t care that much about?”

Thoughtful for a few moments, Corey then huffed, “That’s enough thinking about that! I’d rather beat off.” Nodding, I agreed and let Corey think for the remainder of the walk back to camp.

I was totally amazed with Corey. For most of the last year, we were always pleasant with each other, saying hello and goodbye, but I hadn’t had a conversation alone with him. He seemed so shy most of the time. But the kid I just spent the last twenty or so minutes with was not the least bit shy. He was pretty darn smart for a fourteen year old too. We were friendly before. After that walk, we were good friends.

He glanced up and grinned, “Betchya they’re still asleep.”

“Oh no doubt,” I chuckled.

“Drew’s dad will be back pretty soon,” Corey reminded.

Glancing down at him, I bounced my eyebrows playfully and suggested, “We need to wake them.”

“Really slowly and deliberately,” Corey enthusiastically agreed. Without another word, Corey took off running for the tent, stopped short and kicked his sneakers off. In the blink of an eye, he disappeared inside. Moments later, I lifted the flap and ducked inside the tent too. Corey was under their sleeping bag, perpendicular to Drew.

Keith was still unconscious in our sleeping bags. I took my queue from Corey and carefully slid into bed with Keith. Rolling onto my side, I took his morning throbber into my hand and gently stroked while whispering in his ear. “Good morning lover. Come on now, back to Earth with me.”

Smiling and becoming aware, Keith groaned and stretched, bucking his hips up against my hand. He inhaled and sighed, “You are so awesome.”

Behind me, Drew suddenly hollered, “Coreeeeeeeeeeeey!” I held in a belly laugh.

Keith’s eyes shot open and he started to sit up, but I leaned against him and held him down. I grinned and assured, “Its okay,” then gave him his morning kiss.

Corey softly and sincerely said, “I love you so much, Drew.” Then there was only the sound of smacking lips.

A few moments later, I slid my lips to Keith’s ear and whispered, “Your dad went to get breakfast. He should be back any minute.”

Keith hummed, “Mickey Dee’s flapjacks would be great.” Releasing his boner, I got up off him then turned and crawled to reach for his clean boxers. Turning again, I noticed Corey draped mostly over Drew. Holding onto Corey with both arms, Drew smiled and blushed.

Handing Keith his boxers, I nodded towards Drew and Corey. Nodding and smiling, Keith tossed the sleeping bag away then stood and put on his undies. I handed him his shorts and Keith teased, “Gettin’ motivated today or what Drew?”

Drew squinted, “As soon as you two leave!”

Shaking his head sadly, Keith asked, “Do you shower with your underwear on at school?”

“No,” Drew answered, “but nobody’s watching me there!”

“That you know of,” Corey grinned.

“What do you mean?” Drew suspiciously asked. “Who’s been sneaking peeks at me?”

Corey snickered, “Besides me? I ain’t sayin’!”

Drew huffed and amazingly tossed the sleeping off and on top of Corey!

“Yeah!” Keith triumphantly chuckled as his brother stood up. “You’re growing up, bro!”

Reaching for his boxers, Drew smiled at me and said, “Not without a few traumas along the way.”

I chuckled and asked, “My seeing you naked isn’t traumatizing, is it Drew?”

Turning his boxers’ right-side out, Drew shook his head and grinned evilly. He then turned around, pointed his ass at Keith and slid into his underwear. Corey and I roared laughing.

Keith smirked, “Careful bro, you know how much I like to spank.” Corey howled and curled up into a fetal position.

Quickly pulling his ass out of Keith’s reach, Drew pulled his drawers all the way up, stumbled and turned around, smiling widely at his older brother. “Happy now?” Drew snickered.

Keith turned to me and asked, “What do you think?”

I played along and shrugged, “A little more than average, as best as I could tell.”

Drew beamed at me and Keith faced his brother saying, “Now will you stop being so self conscious around us. It really makes me crazy, bro. You let me read your journal, but hide you body like it’s gross or something.”

“It sure ain’t gross to me,” Corey emphatically stated.

Shaking his head and starting for the tent flap, Keith playfully grumbled, “Which is more personal – your dick or your thoughts? And you’ve already got a boyfriend.” Ducking down slightly, Keith stepped outside.

Glancing down at Corey, I winked and said, “A pretty cool one, at that.”

Stunned, Drew glanced suspiciously between Corey and I. Giggling; Corey stood and reached for Drew. Turning around, I followed Keith out of the tent. Corey wanted to be able to communicate more effectively with Drew, I reckoned. It was time let them do so.

Sitting on a log by the fire pit, Keith was putting his sneakers on. I sat beside him to put my own sneakers back on and he smiled, “Did you get back to sleep?”

“I sort of drifted in and out,” I told him. “My mind was racing with possibilities.”

“I wish I had been there with you,” Keith said as he tied his laces. Finished, he sat upright and snickered, “It probably would’ve scared the shit out of me.” The Suburban pulled up and stopped. Keith hummed hungrily and stood, offering his hand to me. My lover still believed me and wasn’t worried.

Standing on my own power, I took his hand and we went to the Suburban. Keith’s dad opened the door and handed Keith a large McDonald’s sack. Keith peeked inside the bag. Mr. Hundser reached for another large sack then handed it to his son. Finally, Mr. Hundser carefully picked up a cardboard cup holder loaded with four medium sized drinks. He smiled at me, nodded towards the front seat and said, “Get our large coffees please, Preston.” Nodding, I waited for Keith and his dad to pass then reached in for our java juice.

Closing the car door, I noticed Drew and Corey emerging from the tent. Seeing breakfast, Drew giggled, “Awesome! It must be close to Father’s Day.”

Keith stopped dead in his tracks then slowly turned and looked at me, mirroring my stupefied expression.

Mr. Hundser sat down and chuckled, “I’m hungry too!”

The third Sunday of June was Father’s Day. We had forgotten all about it! After all this man and his family have done for me, I’d feel like a large load of warmed over shit if I didn’t get him something!

Keith sat beside his dad and I pulled up a log beside Keith. I handed Mr. Hundser his cup of coffee then took a careful sip from my cup. In one large sack were two pancake breakfast combos. The other sack had an assortment of breakfast biscuit sandwiches and six Mickey Dee’s hash browns. With their sneakers tied, Corey and Drew joined us.

Keith grabbed a pancake breakfast and offered me the other one. Shaking my head, I smiled, “Just one of the biscuit sandwiches for me please, babe.”

Reaching for the remaining pancake combo, Drew looked up and said, “Dibs!” Chomping on an apple, Corey sat on the other side of Mr. Hundser.

Shocked, Keith loudly asked, “You’re drinking coffee?” and reached in the other sack for a biscuit sandwich.

Taking the sandwich from him, I nodded, “Since I didn’t get much sleep last night,” and then innocently asked, “Ya want some?”

Carving his pancakes, Keith caught my tone and deliberately looked up, flashing me a mischievous smirk. Baring my pearly whites, I snickered and set my coffee down then opened my sandwich.

Taking a bite out of the biscuit, I found myself wondering why Mother’s Day passed in May, but no one had said a word to me about it. Then I asked myself, when was Mrs. Hundser’s birthday? I knew Mr. Hundser’s Birthday was July fifteenth, Drew’s was August thirtieth, John’s had just passed and Keith’s was September twenty-second at 12:02 AM. My lover was born on the cusp between Virgo and Libra. Mike’s birthday was June first and Derrick’s was December twenty-ninth.

Still chewing, Keith seemed worried and asked, “What’s the matter, baby?”

“What’s your mom’s birthday, Keith?”

My lover watched me carefully. Glancing around, I noticed they had all stopped eating and were watching me. I giggled, “What? I know everyone else’s birthdays. And while we’re on the subject, what happened to Mother’s Day?”

Keith turned to his dad. Mr. Hundser nodded. Keith then turned back to me and softly said, “My mom thought that it might upset you. So her last birthday and Mother’s Day were quiet and private, one-on-one kinda celebrations.”

Watching the four of them watch me, I sighed. Shaking my head, but smiling, I said, “Thank you all. I totally spaced it, but intend to make it up to her.” Mr. Hundser, Drew and Keith swapped nods and smiles. I then asked, “And her birthday is when?” and took another bite from my sandwich.

Mr. Hundser answered, “November nineteenth, 1958.”

Stunned, I straightened up. Exactly one month after my mom passed and, Keith’s mom was about a year younger than my mom. “Amazing,” I softly said and lifted my cup for a sip of coffee. Everyone except Keith returned to their breakfast. Before lifting the last bit of my sandwich to my mouth, I smiled, “It won’t pass by me un-noticed this year. She’s turning forty! We have to do something special.”

“Definitely!” Mr. Hundser happily chuckled. Corey and Drew chanted their agreements. But Keith only watched me like a hawk, peering right though me. He forked more pancake, but never lifted it to his mouth. I noticed tears welling up in his eyes.

Suddenly, Keith put his breakfast down then stood and hurried away from the campsite. I got up and went after him. We passed the Suburban and went out to the dirt road. Still a few yards ahead of me, I heard him sniffle and called his name. Immediately he slowed, but didn’t stop. I caught up to him. “I’m sorry baby,” Keith softly sobbed.

“Don’t be. Just tell me why you’re crying.”

He shrugged, “Everything.” Wiping his eyes, he struggled to explain. “I’ve put myself in your shoes a hundred times since October. Each time I wonder how long it would take for me to get over something that big.”

“Never,” I said. He stopped as suddenly as he had started and intensely scanned my face. “I know it now Keith. I’ll probably never get over it if I live to a ripe hundred years. But I have to go on. I’ll admit, seeing a birthday cake for your mom only a month after burying my mom would’ve hurt. But Mother’s Day too? She didn’t have to hide it; none of you had to hide it from me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m tickled you all did that for me. But I won’t let it happen again. For me, tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I’ll get her something tomorrow morning, while we’re at the mall getting our suits.”

Wiping his eyes and forcing a smile, Keith stammered, “How… did you get to be you?”

I giggled and shrugged, “I lived between two extremes; a mother that truly cared and a father that couldn’t have cared less. I’ve felt the disappointment from not having my dad give a shit. My little league teams weren’t in the playoffs so it wasn’t worth a night off work to him. But my mom was there – too often sometimes!” Keith giggled and I took his hand in mine softly saying, “Don’t try and carry the weight for me, Keith.”

He sternly said, “I’m not doing that.” But then he paused and smiled, “Am I?”

We started back for our campsite and I asked, “Were those happy tears or sad ones?”

He shrugged, “A little of both. I love hearing you talk about her without pain in your voice. I just hope it’s not too much too soon for you, baby.”

“I can only keep trying, Keith.”

“And last night?”

“It was real to me in every way. If that was a dream it was the most detailed and real dream I’ve ever had.” Turning to him, I pointed at the ground and reminded, “There are sticks, stones and pine needles everywhere. I was barefoot and felt them.”

He snickered, “You were bare-assed too!” I grinned at him. Keith chuckled, “Imagine it from my point of view. You weren’t in bed. I figured you had to whiz and went to find you. So I crawl out of the tent and there you are, naked and looking up at the trees.” We both started laughing. Then Keith playfully bumped into me and wondered, “How many conversations have you had with her in the nude?”

I roared, “Just this one time!”

Taking hold of me, Keith chuckled, “I would hope so!”

Bordering on hysterics, I chortled, “Thankfully she had clothes on!”

Staggering, Keith loudly laughed. As he composed himself, he softly snickered, “You flashed your mom’s spirit, you perv. I wonder what my mom would have to say about this little episode.” I cracked up.

Keith led me down the path to our campsite. I was still laughing as hard as I ever had. Keith’s dad, brother and Corey were tearing down the smaller tent, but stopped and watched us.

Mr. Hundser loudly asked, “Everything’s all right?”

Keith nodded and chuckled, “Just a drama queen moment.” Bending in half and gasping for air, I laughed my ass off. Drew rolled his eyes and entire head. Wondering if I was a bigger drama queen than Keith only caused me to stagger around helplessly. From my perspective, ghostly visits in the middle of the night were far more dramatic than suddenly turning and wandering away.

Corey giggled, “Careful, you’ll get hiccups!”

No sooner said than done; my chest heaved and I began hiccupping. “Ah-ah fu-uck!” I hiccupped and parked my ass on a log. Drew and Corey giggled as my body bounced and I tried to catch my breath. Snickering, Keith found my cup of coffee and handed it to me. It wasn’t piping hot anymore, but still warm in my hand. In between hiccups and giggles, I managed to swallow a few mouthfuls.

Keith moved behind me and rubbed my shoulders. Bouncing once again, I smiled appreciatively up at my lover. Corey, Drew and Mr. Hundser had the smaller tent flat on the ground. I watched as they folded it in thirds. While Drew rolled the tent towards Corey, Mr. Hundser retrieved the tent’s bag and held it open for Drew to slide the tent into.

Having caught my breath, I smiled up at Keith and said, “Red-eye?” Dropping his hands from my shoulders, Keith nodded and I stood. We went to the tent and ducked inside. The place was a disaster area of sleeping bags, backpacks and dirty clothes.

“Holy shit!” Keith snickered.

Picking up my bass case, I sighed, “This is only in the way.” Keith started to pick up the cooler. I begged, “No, Keith. Let me carry one end?”

Lifting it only slightly and putting it down again, he nodded, “Yeah, the ice has melted and it would be a bitch to carry alone.” Keith then put the cooler down. I grabbed one handle and Keith took hold of the other. Carefully, we maneuvered out of the tent then took the cooler and my bass to the Suburban. When we returned to the tent, Drew and Corey were on their knees folding and zipping sleeping bags. Getting down on our knees, we worked on our sleeping bags.

Drew said, “Next time, let’s stay for at least two nights.”

Corey nodded, “I wish we didn’t have to leave. I’d like to spend some time checking the place out in the daylight.”

Smiling at me, Keith teased, “Did I ask if you wanted to come next time?”

With his sleeping bag rolled, Drew kneeled on it and paused, turning to Keith and me with an incredulous look on his face. I dared not even snicker. Drew said, “We’ll take the other tent and you two can have this spacious beauty. You’ll hardly know we’re around.”

Corey giggled, “Might not even see us, once all the tents are pitched!”

Surprised, Drew, Keith and I stopped and turned to Corey. Grinning impishly, he shifted his eyes mysteriously. Simultaneously, the four of us cracked up.

Minutes later, all the sleeping bags and backpacks were stowed in the back of the Suburban. Keith’s dad helped us dismantle, fold and roll the tent. The next thing I new, the campsite was cleared. Keith and I got in the backseat. I buckled up and leaned over to whisper, “I don’t want to leave and can’t wait to come back here again.”

“We will, Prez. And a few other places too,” Keith softly promised.

Mr. Hundser pulled away and I leaned against my love. I yawned and Keith told me to close my eyes. Doing so, I heard the radio and felt the car occasionally turning. Keith finger combed my hair. The next thing I knew, we were stopped in our driveway. The front seat emptied out while consciousness returned.

Unbuckling his seatbelt, Keith smiled, “Did you have a nice nap?”

I grinned, “Blacked out would be a better description.”

Keith asked, “No dreams?” and the tail gate opened behind us.

Shaking my head, I unbuckled my seatbelt and stretched. I glanced at my watch and saw it was about eleven o’clock. We got out of the backseat and helped unload the camping gear. Finally, I grabbed my acoustic bass. Carrying my backpack, Keith locked the Suburban. On the way inside I asked; “Do you want to give Mike a call or shall I?”

Cracking a grin, Keith answered, “I need to use the toidy. I’ve been holding it a while.”

I giggled, “You didn’t want to use the latrine?”

“It was never that much of an emergency,” Keith snickered.

We stepped inside, briefly said hello to John and Keith’s mom then went down the hall. Keith handed me the backpack then turned into the bathroom. I turned left into our bedroom. After I put my bass away, I went out back to say hello to my hound dog. Rush danced around me for several minutes then I brought him inside with me. By this time, Mr. Hundser had joined his wife and youngest son on the sofa.

Picking up the phone, I dialed Mike’s number and waited for a connection.

“Hello?” Mike’s little sister said.

I said, “Hi Lindsay, it’s Prez. Is Mike around?”

“Hi,” Lindsay said, “Mike’s talking to my mom, but Derrick’s here.”


Without another word, Lindsay had handed the phone to Derrick. “Hey dude,” he gleefully said, “Good news; Jimmy didn’t show up for work last night. Mike’s with us now.”

“Excellent!” I chuckled and asked, “How’d he do?”

Derrick answered, “Great, he figured out the table patterns and went to work. He didn’t know where stuff was in the kitchen so I quickly showed him around. It was really busy and he rocked.”

“That’s fantastic! Jimmy was asleep at the wheel half the time anyway.”

Derrick chortled, “He was there to hit on the waitresses.”

I laughed, “And he struck out there too!”

“Soon Keith will be with us too,” Derrick said. “The four of us are gonna make serious bucks.” I hummed affirmatively and Derrick slyly asked, “Did you have fun last night?”

“Unbelievable!” was the first word that came to mind.

After a brief pause, Derrick snickered, “Really?”

I grinned, “Camping out was pretty cool too,” and Derrick cracked up.

“Tell me later,” he snickered.

In the background and not very far from the phone, I heard Mike say, “Mister’s Sweet and Innocent; frolicking in the woods!”

“We don’t frolic!” I chuckled, “Not in public places, anyway.”

Derrick playfully wondered, “Then what was so unbelievable?”

I laughed, “You’re very bad when you’re very happy, you know that?”

Humming affirmatively, Derrick said, “Mike’s on the schedule with me, Thursday through Sunday.”

Barefoot and shirtless, Keith stepped into the kitchen with me. Rush ran to him and Keith squatted down to say hello. Slightly distracted, I asked, “You’re keeping Thursday’s then?”

“Yeah,” Derrick sighed, “I need the bucks to get another PA and microphones for my drums. And Mike hasn’t made any money in about a month. We’re going to need it in July and August.”

Unable to take my eyes off of my lover’s awesome torso, I said, “I’m still dropping Tuesday’s as soon as possible.”

Keith stood and stepped beside me. He silently mouthed, “Mike?”

I shook my head and Derrick asked, “What’s the plan today?”

Taking hold of my sexy boyfriend, I answered, “I need to meet with Keith’s dad for the trial.”

Derrick sighed, “You’ll do better than I did.” He then quickly added, “I suck at public speaking. Keith’s dad kept reminding me, louder.”

I grinned, “I should be ready around three,” and asked, “Why don’t you head over here then?”

Keith softly reminded, “Are they picking up the amps and drums?”

Derrick answered, “Oh, we were kinda counting on sooner.”

“Oh yeah!” I loudly said.

Confused, Derrick grunted, “Huh?”

“I’m sorry,” I quickly apologized and explained, “Keith just reminded me of something I wanted to ask.”

“Oh?” Derrick queried.

“What do you think about changing rehearsal locations?”

Derrick wondered, “Move everything here?”

I explained, “I thought we could split the year in half.”

In the background, Mike hollered, “Fine! I want my amp now, dude!” Even Keith heard it and snickered.

“You heard that?” Derrick giggled.

I chuckled, “We both did.”

“We’ll be over in ten minutes, bro.”

“Cool, see ya soon,” I said.

We said goodbye and I hung up the phone. Finally wrapping both arms around Keith, I whispered, “Sexy stud.”

“We need to shower,” he softly giggled.

“They’re on their way here,” I reminded.

Pulling away and leading me by the hand to the living room, Keith said, “Mom? Mike and Derrick are coming to pick up their stuff.” Mrs. Hundser nodded and Keith grinned, “We need to shower too.” My face surely turned red.

“I’ll show them to the garage,” Mrs. Hundser smiled.

“Thanks mom,” Keith said. Turning to me, he then caught my blush and hurried towards the bathroom, pulling me along with him! We flew down the hall and John snickered.

Twenty or so minutes later, we exited the bathroom wearing towels and went back to our room. Reaching for the bedroom doorknob, Keith frowned, “I don’t remember closing this door.”

The door swung open. Sitting on the edge of our bed, Mike and Derrick innocently smiled.

Turning to Keith, I grinned, “You didn’t close it, obviously.”

Mike playfully asked, “Should we have gathered our stuff and took off without saying hello?”

Keith smiled down at Mike and Derrick and huffed, “I guess not.”

I opened the dresser drawer and got our underwear. Handing Keith his boxers, I noticed Mike turned to me and Derrick was looking up at Keith. I giggled, “You’re just gonna sit there and watch?” Simultaneously, they smiled and nodded.

Without bothering to turn around, Keith dropped his towel and I did too.

We slipped into our undies. Turning to Derrick, Mike softly smiled, “Pubeage.”

Derrick nodded, “They’re growing up.”

I handed Keith a pair of clean shorts and he smiled, “And Mike’s working for a living again, I hear.”

Mike nodded, “Ya know, at Marie Calendar’s I worked just as hard, but would only make forty bones or so, if I was lucky. Last night I made sixty plus.”

Derrick said, “Black Angus is a completely different kind of place.”

Facing his partner, Mike assured, “By the end of the summer, we’ll have that PA.”

Turning to me, Derrick said, “We were thinking of getting sixteen channels and using the one we have now for the drums, Prez.”

I shrugged, “We could try that, I guess. But for clean bass, you’ll eventually need more than that PA can offer.”

“That’s why I think we should stop making intermediate investments,” Mike said. Keith put his Blockbuster polo shirt on and I grabbed a navy blue T-shirt.

Derrick warned, “We’re talking twice the bucks though, dude.”

Mike sighed, “The PA we have now is fine for small parties. Doug and Brian said our mix was good at John’s party. Jerry and Mack said we sounded great the last day of school. I’m just thinking of the school dances. We need to cover several hundred people. Another PA like the one we already have just won’t cut it. With a descent board, we can add amps and other accessories over time when we need them.”

I asked, “What are you considering, Mike.”

Mike answered, “For all the mics and lines from amps, I figure twenty-four channels, minimum. Thirty-two channels would leave us room for growth. Carvin has a thirty-two channel system with a thousand watt amp and great speakers for three grand. Our used system cost us a grand. A new one just like it would cost almost two grand. Why not just make the smarter investments?”

Keith leaned against the desk, slowly shaking his head. He caught me watching him. Turning to Mike, I said, “It has to be expandable and flexible for everything we need.”

“It would be,” Mike assured, “just add speakers and amps for bigger gigs.”

Facing Keith again, I offered, “Renting equipment is like throwing money away.”

“Only when we need it,” Keith said.

“We’ll need it by the end of September,” Mike said. “And at least two or three more times before the end of our senior year.”

Derrick turned to Mike and asked, “You’ve called the Carvin store three or four times now, haven’t you?”

Mike nodded then turned to Keith and said, “I’ve talked with Doug and Brian about it too. If we wanted everything all at once – compressors, crossovers, equalizers and subwoofer systems too, we could easily find ourselves dropping ten grand or more. But we don’t need all that by September. We need more than we have now though.”

Unable to take it anymore, Keith chuckled, “You’re all crazy. You realize that, don’t you?”

Derrick, Mike and I grinned and nodded. I went to Keith and said, “It’s that important to us. Without the right equipment, we’re very limited.”

Mike offered, “Allowing myself summer fun money, I know that I could easily save fifty bucks a week especially for this. That’s about six hundred by Labor Day weekend.”

Derrick said, “Same here.”

Derrick and Mike then turned to me. I did some quick math in my head, averaging my income low and my expenses high before finally saying, “I can match that.” They then turned to Keith and I shook my head saying, “No. Keith’s doing this for me and doesn’t have the same level of commitment. I won’t let him spend a dime more than he wants to.”

Keith then sternly said, “And I won’t let Prez spend a dime more than each of you. The three of you need to save a hundred bucks a week for the next ten weeks to have your three grand.”

Derrick shook his head. “I doubt I can make that. There’s car insurance, gas and maintenance to think of first. Then summer play money and then saving for equipment. Those are my priorities. And working five nights a week ain’t gonna happen.”

“Well, I’m already figuring on covering some gas money this summer. That should leave you a little extra. Sixty bucks a night times four nights a week…” Mike rubbed his jaw in thought then turned to Derrick and suggested; “If we make only one trip to Disneyland or Magic Mountain this summer? Any more than that and we probably won’t make our goal.”

“That’s an easy hundred bucks per trip,” Derrick agreed.

I grinned, “At Doug and Brian’s you can find other ways to entertain yourselves, can’t you?”

Smirking devilishly, Derrick and Mike glared at me. Keith snickered, “I’ve got to get to work. I’ll see how much I can contribute in September.”

“That depends on how fast we can get you into Black Angus,” I smiled.

Turning to Derrick, Keith softly admitted, “My priorities are like yours, dude.” Keith then turned to me and reminded, “Don’t forget my dad.” He kissed me goodbye then sighed, “See ya later.”

I said, “Have a good night, babe.”

Mike said, “Later, bro.”

And Derrick grinned, “Don’t work too hard.”

Smiling and shaking his head sadly, Keith grabbed his wallet and keys from the dresser then left us.

Once the door closed again, Derrick sighed, “I hope we can make our goal, Prez. We really need that stuff for those dances.”

I sat on the floor in front of my friends and said, “Don’t worry about it. If I really wanted to I could buy a PA system tomorrow. But I promised Keith that I’d split equipment costs with you.”

Mike smiled, “Insurance money?” I nodded and he said, “Mine’s in a trust fund. My mom will let me have some after I turn eighteen.”

Derrick reminded, “Probably just enough for wheels and school though, dude.”

Mike said, “But when I turn twenty-one, there should still be some left.”

I asked, “And what about a lighting system?”

Mike and Derrick glanced at each other. Then Mike shrugged, “We can’t accept any night time party gigs until we get that too.”

Derrick sighed, “And mics for my drums are gonna run five hundred easy.” He quickly perked up and smiled, “Back around April, I was playing some Yamaha electronic drums at GC. The set cost a grand and would only require two cables.”

I asked, “Would you want to play electronic drums?”

Derrick shrugged, “They sounded really good. With the touch of a button they can sound like hard rock, pop, jazz or Latin drum kits. I could practice in the middle of the night with headphones on and all anyone else would hear is tapping. And finally, they would be much easier to move around.”

Mike softly chanted, “Decisions, decisions.”

Quietly, we sat around thinking for two or three minutes. Part of me wanted to simplify matters by offering to buy the entire PA system. Then Mike and Derrick could concentrate on a lighting system and drum mics or an electronic drum kit. But I didn’t say any of that. I made a promise to Keith and intended to keep it.

Derrick suddenly huffed and reached for Mike’s hand. “Let’s jet, dude.”

Snapping to attention, Mike bounced off the bed and smiled down at me. Offering his hand, Mike said, “We’ll pick you up for work, Prez.”

Taking his hand, I said, “Cool,” and hopped up off the floor. “Don’t worry, we’ll get it together, one way or another,” I assured. They smiled and nodded then we started for the door. As we stepped out of the bedroom, I added, “What we don’t have at the start of the school year, we’ll get before the end of the year.”

Mike said, “We’ll have gigs next summer.”

“And start MI with an advantage,” Derrick cheered.

We stopped at the entryway, hugged and said goodbye. Closing the door, I then stepped into the living room. Both of Keith’s parents and John were sitting on the sofa.

Keith’s dad asked, “Ready?”

I nodded, “Yes, Sir.”

Standing and maneuvering around the coffee table, Mr. Hundser said, “Let’s go to the den.” I turned and went down the hall then stepped into the den and sat on the couch. Entering the den and closing the door, Keith’s dad said, “I’ll be playing the parts of the prosecution and the defense lawyers, Preston. Do you understand the difference?” I nodded and he said, “I’ll tell you which part I’m playing and pause only when necessary to correct your language. How you say things is important, but so is body language. Sit up straight and don’t ever slouch while on the stand. Maintain a poker face; don’t show any emotion, not even amusement. Jake’s defense lawyers will be looking for reactions and will focus on questions to find the root of the reaction.” I wiped the smile off my face and nodded.

Mr. Hundser went to his desk and picked up a legal pad then read for a few moments. Without looking up, he casually said, “Prosecution first.” Then he looked at me. Suddenly his warm, pleasant eyes seemed ice cold. “Mister O’Brian, please describe for the court the events of Wednesday, the twenty-second of April.”

“It was a school day,” I began, “It was just like any other school day until that afternoon. Mike and I were in the locker room, changing clothes for gym class when Jake walked by. He stopped and said, ‘Homo number one and homo number two helping each other undress. Bet they get lots of practice!’”

Mr. Hundser said, “Prior to that incident, had you ever had a conversation with Mister Thompson?”

Shaking my head, I said, “No, Sir. I knew of him from that class, but we weren’t friends. We weren’t enemies either – just classmates.”

Mr. Hundser asked, “What did you think of Mister Thompson’s statement?”

I shrugged, “I hadn’t done a thing to deserve an attack. And the boy’s locker room isn’t really the right place to be discussing homosexuality, so I assumed he was just teasing Mike and me.”

“Are you homosexual, Mister O’Brian?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Do you know if Mister Gibbons is homosexual?”

I nodded, “Yes, he is.”

“Are you and Mister Gibbons involved sexually?”

Hearing Keith’s dad ask that question really hurt. I huffed, “No, we’re friends.”

Mr. Hundser paused and slowly cracked a smile. “Remember what I said?” he reminded, “Separate the father from the professional. The father loves and trusts you as much as any of his sons.” I nodded and wiped my eyes. “As little emotion as possible,” he said.

His face became stern and he asked, “Have you ever had sexual relations with Mister Gibbons?”

“Never,” I replied, “Keith Hundser is my partner.”

“You said that you assumed Mister Thompson was teasing you.”

“Yes Sir.”

“What gave you that impression?”

“He was with one of his buddies and they were smiling.”

“And then what happened?”

“I teased him back.”

“Do you recall what you said?”

I fought back a grin and answered, “I joked about Jake’s private fantasies.”

“What happened next?”

“Jake got embarrassed and implied that Mike and I were a couple. Mike then suggested that Jake adjust his fantasies. Jake then got angry and yelled an obscenity. Mike cracked another joke, but then one of the coaches came in the locker room before anything escalated. Jake was late and wound up running laps the entire class. For the next two days, Jake was looking for a fight, continually threatening me and Mike.”

“How did he threaten you?”

“By tripping and shoving me; and promising to either kick my ass or kill me. He was doing the same with Mike.”

“Were you frightened?”

I shrugged, “Not really. He’s no bigger than I am. Annoyed and frustrated would probably be more accurate.”

“Did you tell your partner, Mister Hundser, about the incident?”

I nodded, “Mike and me told our partners that afternoon. But we didn’t think it would ever escalate further than idle threats.”

“Mister Thompson threatened you again Thursday and Friday afternoons?”

“Yes Sir.”

Mr. Hundser explained, “We have the coach’s deposition to corroborate that story.” He then asked, “Then what happened?”

I took a deep breath and then said, “After school Friday, Mike and I were heading for the student parking lot when I thought I was stung by a bee. Dropping my books, I grabbed my arm where I thought I was stung. Then Mike suddenly flinched, shouted and grabbed his neck. We turned around and saw Jake and two other guys coming towards us and chucking small stones at us. There were some words exchanged and again Jake threatened to kill us.”

“Do you recall what was said?”

I shrugged, “Mike asked what their problem was. Jake said that faggots like us were his problem. I said that they were chucking stones like little girls - or something to that effect.”

“Then what happened?”

I shuddered, “Jake threatened to kill us and pulled a knife out.” I sighed, “Jake’s two friends went after Mike and Jake started jabbing the knife at me. I ducked and spun around out of the way of the knife a few times. Eventually, Jake’s knife caught my shirt and a little skin.”

Mr. Hundser said, “We have the medical records.” He nodded, “You’re doing fine. Go on please.”

Flashing back to that day, I said, “My concentration was completely on Jake’s knife. I kept dancing and swinging around, away from Jake’s jabs at me. The next thing I knew, a foot kicked Jake’s arm. The knife fell to the ground. I looked up and saw Keith punch Jake in the face, then in the stomach. Jake bent in half and Keith punched him once more, knocking him to the ground. I then noticed Derrick was helping Mike. Then Keith ran over to help Mike and Derrick. There were a lot of other kids around and I saw the school security guards running towards us. Before I knew it, I was back in school and sitting in the nurse’s office, getting my wound dressed.”

After a brief pause, my foster father smiled, “Very good. You spoke clearly and maintained yourself very well; just that one minor exception. That’s the easy part.”

Incredulously, I repeated, “The easy part?”

He nodded and said, “Jake’s defense then gets to cross examine.” Then Mr. Hundser sighed and asked, “Would you like to take a break? Get something to drink?”

Glancing at my watch, I noticed we had been in the den about forty-five minutes.

I nodded and grinned, “Bathroom first.” I stood and Keith’s dad firmly grasped my shoulder as I passed him for the den door.

Walking out of the den and a few steps down the hall, I turned into the bathroom. Keith’s dad passed and I closed the door. While I sat on the throne, I thought of what I had just experienced. By the time I finished, I was wondering how anyone could defend Jake. Watching myself in the mirror, I washed my hands and noticed that my face had gotten a lot of sun that morning. Drying my hands and returning the towel to the bar, I then sprayed some air freshener and opened the door.

In the living room, Mr. Hundser sat alone on the sofa, flipping channels on the TV.

On my way to the kitchen, I paused and asked, “Where are mom and John?”

Mr. Hundser grinned, “Running errands, out in public where people interact.”

“Oh!” I nodded then turned and went to the kitchen.

Turning off the TV and following me into the kitchen, Keith’s dad said, “Last spring, I happened to be at Mike’s house, helping his mom with some forms.”

Reaching into the refrigerator and grabbing a small bottle of Sunny D, I smiled at him and closed the door.

He continued, “Derrick and Mike were… I can’t find the right word. It wasn’t exactly rehearsing or practicing.” I giggled and he grinned, “It was a very loud rhythm, at best. The next time I heard Derrick and Mike play was last September, at the birthday party. I guess what I’d like to know is, how you turned noise into a cohesive unit that could play identifiable songs?”

Leaning against the counter, I chuckled, “That’s what bass players do, tie the band together.” Putting the bottle of juice down, I demonstrated, softly tapping the counter and explained, “Drummers get bored doing straight eight. So they look for different patterns, three taps to a beat or five taps to beat. It’s good when a drummer can do that easily and not lose his timing. And guitar players are a completely different breed altogether!”

Mr. Hundser chuckled. Picking up my juice, I swallowed another mouthful then said, “Maybe a guitar player might seem to be all crunch and flash with little talent. But what I saw was a guy sitting there with his acoustic guitar playing chord inversions, intensely listening to the harmony. They were good before I showed up. My job as the bassist is to hold the rhythm, bring the drummer and guitarist back to the song. They have to pay attention to me as much as I have to pay attention to them. They had never worked out a lead sheet before, but had lots of songs memorized. I just organized them.”

“That you did,” he smiled and nodded. We started towards the den and Mr. Hundser observed, “You and Mike had little problem admitting your homosexuality.” I turned to him at the entryway and he continued, “Keith blushed, but I’m pretty sure that was only because I had asked the question. Derrick blushed and practically coughed his response.”

Following him the remainder of the way to the den, I explained, “It’s probably because of his father. He’ll easily admit it to me or Keith. Depending on the circumstances, admitting to anyone else is really hard. Telling my mom was rough.”

I sat on the couch in the den and said, “It’s different somehow for me though. I had a boyfriend virtually the same day that I admitted I was gay. It was always there in me. Keith just gave me the right reasons to admit it. And I always had my mom’s support and your family’s support.”

Keith’s dad nodded and softly said, “That’s why he attacked you, Preston. He saw you as the leader. Jake admitted that.”

I grinned, “I’m not a leader! I can barely find my way from one end of the valley to the other!” Keith’s dad smiled down at me and I uncontrollably chuckled, “Leader? Like Keith, Mike and Derrick are mindless lemmings or something? Since October, I can barely lead my own life. I sure as hell don’t lead our band or anyone’s lives, no more than they could lead my life.” Shaking my head sadly, I incredulously heaved, “That’s absurd.”

Resuming the role of counselor at law, Mr. Hundser asked, “Are you ready to continue?” I nodded and settled down.

“Prior to the events of April twenty-second, had you flaunted your sexual preference at school?”

“I did not.”

“You didn’t have lunch with Mike, Derrick and Keith?”

I nodded and sharply answered, “Of course I did; and with Jessy and Nelson too on occasion. Eating lunch with friends isn’t flaunting my sexual preference.”

“You were never publicly affectionate with Keith, Mike or Derrick?”

I shrugged, “I may have reached for Keith’s hand on a number of occasions.”

“And that’s not flaunting your sexual preference?”

I shook my head and calmly grinned, “Not when straight guys and girls are swapping breaths and spit in just about every hall and stairway.”

“Mister O’Brian, would it be fair to say you were attracted to Jake Thompson?”

“No it would not be fair,” I firmly said. “I did not know anything about Jake prior to that Wednesday afternoon. He was just another kid in the class.” God, I was so ready to fire with both barrels.

Mr. Hundser must’ve sensed this and his expression softened. “Relax,” he softly smiled, “You’ve done fine. These are the kinds of questions we expect. The defense team wants you to get upset. Don’t give them the satisfaction.”

I nervously giggled, “Please tell me we’re almost done.”

Pulling the large leather desk chair in front of me, he sat and said, “There’s one other thing I’d like to discuss with you. Since you and Mike were injured, you can also file a civil case against Jake and his family for physical and emotional damages.”

It took me a few seconds to absorb that. Mr. Hundser continued, “We’ve presented the defense team our final offer for a plea bargain. If Jake doesn’t accept, he’ll be tried as an adult. We can prove pre-meditation and intent. He’ll be found guilty and locked away for twenty years if he doesn’t accept. If he does accept, then he’s admitting the wrong doing and a civil case would be easier. It would still take a long while, possibly years. You’d ultimately win the civil case, but the question you need to ask is if it would be worth the time, effort and emotional turmoil.”

I thought for a moment then softly asked, “What would you do?”

Leaning back, he sighed, “If found guilty of the premeditated attempted murder charge, you could win big and financially ruin them. Don’t think for a moment that it would be without costs though. Your life – all your lives would be put under a microscope too. Everything you do during the course of the case would have impact on its eventual outcome. I wouldn’t put myself or my family through it though.”


“First of all, The Thompson’s aren’t The Rockefellers. Years of emotional trauma costs way more than one or two million. Secondly, we’d have to prove that Jake’s family and upbringing were related to his anger and the attack.” He paused and huffed, “All this anger that people just won’t let go. They fight for right, but in the process add to their own misery.

“In this case, you got a few stitches. I know you and Keith talked about it a lot. You talked with Derrick and Mike about it too. It was painful, but you’ve already been able to put it in the past. Do you want to have to repeatedly revisit the pain the next few years?” He paused again and smiled, “Take your time and think about it. Talk with Mike about it. You know that I’ll support your decision.”

“We’re done?” I anxiously asked. Keith’s dad nodded. I huffed, “Why do I feel like I need to stare at a campfire for a few hours again?”

Standing, Mr. Hundser snickered. As he returned his chair to the desk, he said, “We’re hoping to get you and Mike on the stand Monday; then Keith and Derrick Tuesday. With luck, you won’t have to be there Wednesday.”

“We could go if we want though?”

He grinned, “Why would you want to spend the day sitting in a courthouse?”

I shrugged, “I really wouldn’t, but still want to hear Jake’s testimony.” Turning around and starting out of the room, I snickered, “Me a leader. There’s a joke! Or me, choosing a fantasy with Jake over reality with Keith!” At that I laughed loudly and Keith’s dad chuckled behind me. I sat on the loveseat and Keith’s dad started for the sofa. As he passed I softly giggled, “We obviously have real problems with our sex life!”

Catching the sarcasm in my voice, Mr. Hundser turned to me for a moment and roared. Still chuckling, he sat and turned on the TV. He settled on the movie ‘Die Hard’, and I kicked back. We got to quietly enjoy about ten minutes of the movie before Drew and Corey returned. After saying hello, they went to the kitchen. Moments later, they returned to the living room. Corey had a large glass of water and Drew was munching on a bagel.

After swallowing, Drew asked, “Can I let the dog in, Prez?”

I nodded, “Sure.” Turning around, Drew slid open the back door and called Rush. Moments later, Rush trotted inside. Quickly saying hello to Drew and Corey, Rush then came to me, wagging his entire body. “You’re a silly hound,” I grinned, and scratched behind Rush’s ears. The dog sat and contentedly panted.

Drew crossed the room and sat on the sofa beside his father. Corey started across the room and sat beside me! Raising one eyebrow curiously, Drew huffed then grinned devilishly. Bouncing slightly, Corey smiled up at me then turned his attention back to Drew. They watched each other silently for a few moments. Then Corey got up from the loveseat and went over to Drew. I noticed Mr. Hundser, obviously amused, watching this exchange. Drew shuffled away from his father, closer to the end of the sofa, making a spot for Corey to sit. But instead, Corey sat on the floor and wiggled his buns backwards, forcing Drew to spread his legs. Once in position, Corey leaned back, gently resting his head in his boyfriends lap and smiled up at Drew.

Suddenly, Rush got up and went to the door. Over the sound of the TV, I clearly heard him snorting at the bottom of the door. He softly growled and inhaled deeper. Moments later, he raced into the living room and spun around happily.

I chuckled, “Does he greet everyone this way?”

Drew answered, “For you, Keith and mom.”

The front door opened and Rush tore to the entryway. John walked into the room with his mother a few paces behind. She came into view, leaned over and greeted Rush. “How is everyone?” she cheerfully asked as she stood. Everyone grinned and chattered they were fine. She smiled down at me and asked, “Did you enjoy camping?”

I nodded enthusiastically, “It was great!”

Tilting her head, she giggled, “Really?”

Standing up, I asked, “Can I chat with you and dad for a few minutes?” She nodded and, by the time I turned around, Mr. Hundser was already standing.

They both walked down the hall to the den and I anxiously followed. Closing the door, I watched as my foster parents sat on the couch. Nervously biting my lip, I said, “I had an exceptional time camping.”

Mrs. Hundser smiled at her husband. He nodded, “I’m glad you enjoyed it, but I thought that you didn’t sleep very well.”

“I woke up,” I started and pulled the desk chair over then sat. Forcing a grin, I heaved, “I saw my mom last night.” Waiting for their reaction, I watched as they turned to one another.

Facing me again, Mrs. Hundser smiled, “Good for you, Preston.”

“I’m not crazy?”

She asked, “Do you see her now?” I shook my head and she smiled, “You’re perfectly sane, Preston. Many people experience visitations and many don’t. If I had mentioned it to you, but it never happened, we would’ve both felt awful.”

Mr. Hundser asked, “Did you just see her?”

I shook my head. “We had a chat,” I remembered, “I asked her if she was ever in pain and she said, only briefly before hitting the truck. Most importantly, I got to say thank you and we both got to say goodbye.” Barely controlling myself, I nervously heaved, “It was so short, but so important to me.”

They slowly nodded and seemed pleased. Mrs. Hundser then leaned forward and said, “I’ll become concerned if seeing her continually interrupts your sleep or if you start seeing her all the time.”

I asked, “You think I imagined it?”

Mr. Hundser shrugged, “What we think is irrelevant. What matters is what you think and how the experience affects you over the long term.”

Relaxing in the chair, I chuckled, “I couldn’t be happier. Everything seems to be coming together again. The little gaps are getting filled, by you and Keith and my Aunt and Uncle. Even Mike and Derrick have occasionally said the right things at the right times.”

“Talking about all of this helps too,” Mrs. Hundser reminded. “The more you talk the more you heal.”

“Did you tell Keith?” Mr. Hundser asked.

I nodded, “Last night, immediately afterwards.”

“Ah,” Mr. Hundser softly groaned. Looking into my eyes, he could see why Keith was emotional that morning.

Mrs. Hundser glanced at us. I cheered, “Thanks for listening,” and got up from the chair. Pushing it back to the desk, I said, “It’s good to know I haven’t lost my mind.” By the time I turned around, Keith’s dad was walking out of the room.

Taking hold of my shoulders, Mrs. Hundser firmly assured, “You’re not going insane, Preston. The flashbacks and everything else you’re experiencing are completely normal. In time, it will fade.”

I softly smiled, “And I’m sure I’ll be sad when I realize it.”

Momentarily shocked, she wondered “Michael?” and I nodded. She stepped forward and tightly hugged me.

I hugged her back and whispered, “Thank you.”

She softly answered, “You’re very welcome,” and then stepped back. I followed Keith’s mom out of the den and back towards the living room. My stomach growled and I checked my watch. It was almost three. Mrs. Hundser said, “Get something to eat before work, Preston.”

I sighed and giggled, “Yes, mom. I was heading in that direction.”

She turned and grinned, “Did your mom swat your butt often?”

Shrugging, I chuckled, “Not as often as I probably needed,” and slowly backed away, into the kitchen. She finally turned and went to the sofa.

I started making myself lunch. Soon lunch was eaten and, as I started to clean up, there were knocks on the front door. “I’ll get it,” I loudly said, and hurried from the kitchen. “It’s Mike and Derrick,” I said, as I passed the living room.

I opened the front door. Mike had his acoustic and a hanger with his work clothes. He stepped inside saying, “How’s it goin’, dude?” Derrick also had a hanger with black slacks and a white shirt.

Closing the door behind them, I answered, “I just had lunch and was cleanin’ up the mess.” Pointing down the hall, I said, “Go ahead and kick back. I’ll be there in two minutes.”

Derrick started down the hall. Mike said, “I’ve got a riff to show you, dude.”

I asked, “Something you made up?” Mike nodded and smiled. “I’ll hurry,” I smiled and quickly spun around.

Barely two minutes later, I finished in the kitchen and went to my room. Mike was sitting on the edge of the bed with his acoustic. Leaning against the desk, Derrick innocently wondered, “Where’s the chair, Prez?”

My shoulders bounced and I uncontrollably snickered as I turned and closed the bedroom door. Suspiciously, Mike and Derrick smiled, waiting for my answer. “We broke it,” I softly chuckled. Falling back on the bed, Mike howled. Derrick covered his eyes with one hand. His shoulders started bouncing and his head shook back and forth sadly. Parking my ass on the floor in between Mike and the entertainment center, I hopelessly cackled, “Don’t ever try that. Your combined weight would be too much.” Mike stomped his feet and roared.

I turned to Derrick and he giggled, “I believe you!”

“But where can I get a replacement?” I grinned.

Derrick heaved and snickered, “Try Office Depot or Staples, bro.”

Snapping my fingers and pointing at my best friend, I chuckled, “Hopefully tomorrow morning.” Returning my attention to Mike, I found him hanging off his acoustic guitar like a rag doll, his face red from laughing. I prompted, “Show me the riff, dude.”

After a few false starts due to snickering, Mike eventually showed me the entire riff. It was catchy and I told him so. Mike then showed me how it could work into a chord progression and told me to get my bass. I hopped up and quickly got my bass. We started with the opening riff. An octave higher, Mike doubled what I was playing, and then started playing chords. After four repetitions, Mike played a hauntingly melodic solo over my rhythm.

Derrick nodded as Mike made a smooth transition back to the chords. We repeated the progression eight times before stopping. Standing up, Derrick smiled, “We have got to record that! Then write some appropriate lyrics.” He went over to Mike, planted a wet kiss directly on his mouth then sat on the edge of the bed. He proudly said, “It sounded awesome, dudes. I can’t wait to work on it in the studio and hear it develop.”

Mike smiled and said, “I’d like to hear it with an acoustic twelve-string; build it up like a mountain then slide right back down the other side.”

I chuckled, “That would sound awesome!” Then Derrick’s watch started beeping. Derrick sighed and turned it off.

It was three-thirty: time to get ready for work. Mike and I got up and put our axes away. Derrick was already down to his boxers by the time Mike and I started to undress. Noticing their bare feet, I asked, “You have shoes and socks in the car?”

They both nodded and Derrick said, “It’s been so damn hot.”

Pulling his black Dockers up, Mike agreed, “Every moment my dogs are uncovered is precious. I’m staying barefoot until we’re parked at Black Angus.”

Buttoning up my white shirt, I said, “If it stays like this, we should just take our work clothes to work with us and dress in the men’s room there.”

Suddenly, Mike and Derrick stopped what they were doing and stared at me.

They smirked at each other then Mike hollered, “Why didn’t you think of that five minutes ago!” and I cracked up.

“Fucker” Derrick softly grumbled as he zipped up his pants.

“A chair-breaking perfect fucker,” Mike snickered.

Derrick buttoned his shirt and sighed, “Thankfully, he’s got a few other redeemable attributes.”

“Oh thank you,” I chuckled, and then went to the dresser for socks. On my way to get my work shoes from the closet, I noticed Mike and Derrick folding their shorts and shirts on the bed.

Derrick said, “Bring your bass, Prez.”

“And some trunks,” Mike added, “We’ll hang out by the pool later.”

I went to the dresser again and pulled a pair of trunks out of the drawer. “Those are my shorts!” Derrick hollered.

“So they are,” I chuckled, and then teased, “Are you sure you want them? They really look better on me.” Smiling widely at us, Mike slumped and sighed.

I handed Derrick his trunks. Swiftly grabbing them from me, he playfully grumbled, “You can get your own anywhere, just like these!”

Soon, we were marching out of the room. Rush hurried to me and I squatted down to say goodbye. Then I looked up at Keith’s dad and asked him to tell Keith to meet us at Mike’s around eleven.

“Will do,” he said, and I thanked him then stood. Mr. Hundser then asked, “Are you staying the night?”

I shrugged and turned to Mike saying, “We have to pick up our suits at the mall.”

Derrick said, “We need to get sport jackets.”

“Still?” I incredulously asked.

Mike nodded, “Stay the night. We’ll get it done first thing tomorrow.”

Mr. Hundser smiled, “I’ll let Keith know.”

Glancing at my watch and seeing it was quarter to four, I chuckled, “Ask him to bring me some clothes too please.”

Keith’s dad grinned and nodded, “Have a good night.”

Simultaneously, Derrick, Mike and I waved and said goodbye then hurried out of the house. Barely a minute later, our guitars were stowed in the trunk of the 442 and we were pulling away from the curb. On the way to work, we chattered about recording Mike’s song. Most of the night, we chattered about the song.

But around nine-thirty, soon after I returned from my dinner break, a customer complained to Mike about a weak chair that he thought might collapse beneath him. The man was simply a giant; I thought that he was seven feet tall and close to three hundred pounds. Nelson would have to tilt his head up to see the guy! Derrick and Mike went to get the man a different chair. By the way they were bouncing against each other I knew what I would be hearing about for the rest of the night.

And I was right. Every chance they got where we wouldn’t be overheard, I heard about the desk chair. And then, while we were clearing a table, Mike wondered why the bed was on the floor last month, but back on a steel frame this month!

The real reason, of course, was that Keith and I didn’t like the bed on the floor. There was also the advantage of my being able to store my basses under the box-spring and frame. But that’s not what I told Mike. “Boy were we surprised when the welding busted,” I joked.

Checking around, Mike then softly giggled, “I don’t know when you’re exaggerating anymore!”

Picking up the full bus-bucket, I grinned, “It might always be a mystery,” and started for the kitchen.

Finally, we collected our tips and headed out the kitchen dock. On our way to the 442, Derrick turned to Mike and said, “Drive, dude,” then tossed his keys. By this time, I was exhausted and climbed into the backseat yawning. Soon the radio was on and Mike was pulling away. Derrick turned and smiled, “Don’t crash out on us now, dude.”

“Come on, Prez.” Mike loudly added, “Don’t make me push you into the pool.”

“I’m sorry,” I yawned and chuckled, “I didn’t get much sleep last night. I’m looking forward to the pool though.”

Derrick grinned, “That reminds me. What was so unbelievable last night?”

I smiled and wondered if I should tell them. Soon I decided and said, “I just want to hold on to the memory for a while.”

Derrick and Mike simultaneously mooed and I cracked up.

“I’ll have to drag it out of Keith,” Derrick playfully threatened.

And Mike loudly wondered, “Will Keith corroborate the broken bed frame story?”

I roared and looked to my left, down the street and at my old apartment complex. Kicked back alone in the back seat, I contentedly sighed. After another hot day, there was a sweet scent in the air, as if the trees were also sighing in the cooler night. Soon, we were passing the 101. I couldn’t wait to see Keith. If I knew him, he was thinking about me most of the time he was at work.



If your boyfriend told you that he had been visited by his mother’s ghost, what would you think about? I admit that was a little worried about him.

When I got home shortly after ten that night, my parents told me that Prez had shared the story with them. Immediately relieved, I softly asked, “What do you think?”

My dad wondered, “Of what? That he saw his mom?”

I nodded and my mom said, “Many people experience what Preston did. Not everybody does though so I couldn’t have said anything to either of you about it. What if it never happened? Just waiting for the possibility, Preston would’ve felt terrible. What am I saying? He would’ve been miserable.”

“Who’s to say if it was real?” My dad asked. He then smiled, “It was real to Preston and he seems very happy about it.”

My mom shrugged, “He’s just wondering if he’s crazy, like many people that have lost a loved one. Remember when Aldo died? We all kept seeing him for weeks because he was around us for thirteen years. But Preston isn’t living where his mother lived. If he had been, I would’ve expected this visitation much sooner.”

“That would not have been good!” I loudly said. “Anytime before April would’ve knocked him for a loop!”

“Whether it was a dream or reality only matters to Preston,” my dad said. “Think of how different the world must’ve seemed to him from October until April. The flashbacks he’s described are shadows of memories.”

Sternly, my mom glared, “Some people have less pleasant visitations.”

I had heard enough. Rush scampered around as I quickly stood and slapped my own forehead hollering; “Omigod! If Prez imagines his mom questioning him, he gets quiet and thoughtful. If she ever said anything really bad…” I didn’t even want to finish the thought aloud.

Chuckling at my reaction, my dad assured, “Preston is fine. We talked for almost two hours today.”

“And right after I came home with John, he told us about the visitation,” my mom added.

Smiling at her, I collapsed into the loveseat and softly begged, “Please stop calling it that.”

My mom began giggling and my dad playfully wondered, “Haunting?”

I groaned and helplessly giggled.

“You said you wanted a relationship,” my mom chortled.

“I know,” I chuckled, “but shit like this? We shouldn’t be dealing with this until our late thirties or forties.”

“If not this then it would’ve been something else,” my dad reminded.

Down the hall, I heard a door open. A moment later, Drew and Corey walked by and briefly said hello on their way to the kitchen. Turning to my parents again, I said, “Guess I’ll get changed and kick back until Prez gets home.”

As I stood, my dad said, “Think again. They asked me to tell you to meet them at Mike’s. Bring a change of clothes too. You’re all going to the mall first thing tomorrow morning.”

“I guess Prez really is fine,” I said.

My mom nodded and reminded, “Don’t forget the Macy’s sales receipt.”

I grinned, “Won’t get far without that.”

“It’s on the top of my dresser,” my dad said.

Nodding, I turned and went to our room with Rush trotting along side. Turning on the light, I took my Blockbuster shirt off and tossed it at the closet floor. Then I went and picked up Prez’s backpack. It still had our funky clothes and Prez’s portable radio in it. I took Prez’s radio out and put it on the desk then dumped the rest of our soiled clothes onto the closet floor. The pile was getting quite large again. We had tried a hamper, but it filled on a daily basis and overflowed onto the floor anyway. No sooner did I wonder when my mom would say something about it, she appeared at the door. There was something in her hand, I noticed.

“I was thinking of you two today,” she smiled as she stepped into the room. She handed me the package and said, “This is a laundry bag. It has three sections; one for each type of wash.” I started tearing open the plastic wrapper and my mom said, “I got one for Drew and John too. If you boys actually take the time to separate as you go, my life will be infinitely simpler.”

I grinned and said, “Prez and I have a good shot; maybe even Drew, but John?”

“He’ll work on it,” my mom promised with a gleam in her eye.

I removed the laundry bag from the package. Fully collapsed, it was a simple circle of nylon and plastic with a wide elastic band. Releasing the elastic, the circle popped open. “Excellent,” I giggled.

My mom smiled and reminded, “I’ll be searching for laundry in the morning.”

Leaving me alone, I took the new laundry bag to the closet and started sorting clothes into the three compartments. There were only a few pair of socks in the whites section, but the next section had four big bath towels and was stuffed to the brim. I put our shorts, undies and T-shirts in the last compartment then stood up. Returning to the dresser, I started loading the backpack.

Everything was going along fine until I got to our swimming trunks. Mine were in the drawer. Our Speedos were in the drawer too. But Prez’s trunks were gone. I had just gone through the dirty laundry and knew they weren’t there. Uncertainly, I wondered if Prez already had his trunks. Then I grinned and stuffed our Speedos into the backpack.

Moments later, I shut off the lights and took the backpack to the entryway. I then went to my parents’ bedroom and got the Macy’s receipt. Returning to the living room, I said, “The mall doesn’t open until ten so we should be home by noon the latest.”

My mom asked, “The laundry is sorted?” Grinning, I nodded and bit my tongue. “Thank you,” my mom softly smiled.

I grabbed the backpack and my dad added, “Have a good night.”

“See ya tomorrow,” I said and started for the door. Rush wanted to come too, but I had to burst his bubble. The dog’s ears went back and he stopped panting, closing his mouth into what appeared to be a frown! Stepping outside and closing the door, I thought that he was the most expressive dog I had ever known.

I turned the ignition and the radio came on with the engine. The green LED’s read exactly eleven as I pulled away. By the time I made it to the first corner, Truly, Madly, Deeply began playing. Stopping at the light, I cranked the volume and sang along. The song had become my favorite since the night I sang it to Prez. Not so mysteriously, I became just as excited singing and remembering that night. Between my itchy pubes and my throbbing boner, I couldn’t keep my hand away from my crotch!

Soon I was sitting in my car in front of Mike’s house. The engine and radio were off. Rather than walk up to the front door with tented shorts, I was just waiting for my boner to deflate when I noticed headlights in my rearview mirror. I softly giggled, “Perfect!” and thought that Prez would love to see me this excited.

I adjusted my stiffie one last time then opened the door and grabbed the backpack. Stepping outside, I watched as Prez hopped out of Derrick’s 442. He landed and started for me before Mike and Derrick had even opened their doors! I smiled and opened my arms.

Prez happily said, “Hey babe,” and took me into his arms. “Did you have a good night?” he whispered.

“When you’re not around, I always daydream about you,” I freely admitted and waved as Mike and Derrick started for the house.

Pulling back and smiling widely, he giggled then playfully sang, “Ooo, you’re really happy to see me, aren’t you?”

I nodded and kissed him deeply. Prez exhaled from his nose and inhaled all I gave him. Swooning in my arms, I held him up and slid my lips away from his.

“Whew!” Prez chuckled, “Now I’ve got my second wind.”

Once I closed my car door, we started for the house. At the front porch, Mike giggled, “My friggin’ neighbors!”

Prez and I looked around, but saw no one outside. “It was my fault,” Prez grinned.

“Nope, it was mine,” I softly admitted then adjusted my package.

Mike’s eyes widened then his head dropped into his waiting hand as he cracked up.

I chuckled, “Are your mom or sister around?”

Backing up, Mike shook his head and giggled, “They’re upstairs; good thing too!”

Stepping up onto the porch, I said, “Or I could’ve taken Prez around back, directly into the pool house.” Once we were inside Mike’s living room, Prez stopped short and pulled me to him, hugging me tightly. I noticed Derrick in the kitchen pouring sodas. He had taken his shoes and white shirt off, but was still wearing his black work slacks.

Shaking his head, Mike snickered, “Oh no. We’re going to be jamming in there right after we cool off… in the pool, dammit!”

Joining us in the living room, Derrick sneered, “I heard enough from the kitchen to know better than ask.” Prez giggled and hugged me tighter, practically climbing on top of me where we stood. As he slid down, I realized my lover had gotten an erection too!

I smiled at Mike, “We all need to get changed, bro.”

“Very true,” Derrick leered, and then slid over to Mike. After taking a bite from Mike’s neck, Derrick softly suggested, “We’ll meet out by the pool.” Derrick, Prez and I all started nodding and Mike caved. Walking backwards, Derrick held onto Mike and pulled him along. Derrick said, “Take my room, dudes.”

I nodded and carried Prez along.

Just before being pulled into his room, Mike bared his gritted teeth and softly warned, “Be quiet!”

Prez softly giggled, “I promise,” and closed Derrick’s bedroom door. He stepped towards me and I helped my lover undress. Once his shirt was unbuttoned, I caressed his chest. As my hands slid around, he smiled and shivered, “Oh God, Keith.”

Taking my queue, I went to work.

Fifteen or twenty minutes later, while we were lying on the carpet, basking in the afterglow and chatting about our time apart, we heard the other bedroom door open. There was a soft tap on our door, but no commentary from either Derrick or Mike.

Prez sat up and smiled down at me saying, “That’s the worst part of quickies. The cuddle time is drastically cut short.”

I sighed and reached for his hand. “As soon as this trial is out of the way, I’m spending an hour crawling all over you.”

Reaching for the backpack, he giggled, “Woo-hoo! Then I get to do the same to you!” Pulling out the Speedos and holding them out, he softly wondered, “How long were you carryin’ that bone?”

Standing beside him and taking the black Speedos, I chuckled, “Not that long!” Stepping into them, I asked, “Where’s your other trunks?”

He smiled, “In my bass case.” Then he stood and slipped into his red Speedos. Moments later, we were quietly walking down the hall and stepping out the back door.

Derrick and Mike were sitting by the patio table. On the table was a pile of towels and at their feet were two guitar cases. Noticing our Speedos, Mike chuckled and turned to Derrick. “Let’s change, dude.”

Derrick sagged into his seat and softly snickered, “We just got changed!” But he grasped the arms of his chair and stood any way.

Standing, Mike smiled, “This time, in less than two minutes!” They then hurried past us towards the door.

On our way to the edge of the pool, Prez joked, “Two minutes? Really short fuses!” and I cracked up. We sat down and let our feet dangle in the water. “Oh, it’s like bath water,” Prez happily said. He then pushed off of the edge and sank into the pool. I waited until he popped up again, a few feet further from the side and then joined him. Soon, he were holding each other like an open pair of scissors and paddling in a circle in the middle of the pool. Prez said, “When Mike and Derrick came back over before work, guess what they noticed?” I shrugged and Prez snickered, “The missing desk chair.”

Wide-eyed, I chuckled, “Oh, no!”

Suddenly stopping and letting go of me, Prez said, “Mike thinks we broke the bed frame too. I didn’t disagree, but umm… sorta told him we broke one of the welds!”

I laughed, “You didn’t! And he fell for it?” Prez nodded and cracked up then slid beneath the water.

Behind me, I heard the door open. Mike and Derrick stepped out of the house. Without turning around, I slid beneath the water with Prez. Sitting cross-legged at the bottom of the pool, my lover pointed above and behind me. I heard splashing. Knowing better than to trust Mike, I started to swim away.

But it was too late. Two pair of strong arms took hold of my legs. Then I felt one hand reaching for my ass and the waistband of my Speedos! Prez bounced off the bottom and shot up like a missile. I heard grunts and yelling, but was momentarily freed, at least long enough to get the heck away from Mike and Derrick. Grabbing a breath and noticing Mike and Derrick doubling up on Prez, I turned and launched myself at them. For another minute or two, we fought and horsed around until…

“Hey! Boys! Michael!” Mrs. Gibbons shrieked, immediately breaking up our fun. Lined up and smiling at her, we paddled in the middle of the pool. Mike’s mom sighed, “It’s almost midnight. Be quiet or come inside.”

Appeasing his mother, Mike sweetly said, “Sorry, mom. We’ll be quiet.”

From the pool, I could see Mrs. Gibbons’ eyes roll around in their sockets. Sinking below the surface to hide my grin, I watched as she turned and went back inside.

Smiling widely, Mike splashed Prez and I. “You dudes are gonna get me in trouble!” he playfully complained.

I cracked up and Prez softly chuckled, “I saw hands reaching for Keith’s Speedos.”

“We don’t need ‘em,” Mike shrugged and Derrick nodded. Mike then turned to Prez and asked, “Ready to jam?”

Prez nodded and followed Mike to the ladder. Soon, we were all standing around the patio drying off. Of course, Derrick and Mike helped each other like Prez and I. We hung the towels over the fence to dry then Derrick turned to me and said, “Give me a hand carrying the percussion out?”

Mike and Prez were already lifting their cases and I nodded, “Sure dude,” then followed Derrick into the house. As we walked down the hall, Derrick asked, “Have you ever considered playing drums, dude?”

“No,” I softly chuckled, “the thought never crossed my mind.”

We stepped into his room and he turned on the light. Derrick smiled and shrugged, “Why not? You could do it. Everything I’ve shown you so far, you’ve done. Going for a full kit wouldn’t be much different.” He then slid open the closet door and squatted down. The first thing he passed out was a tambourine. He set it down on the floor and said, “Pick that noisy bitch up last.” I nodded and chuckled as Derrick dug out his bongos, Djembe and maracas.

Gathering up the various instruments, we stepped out of the room. Derrick softly teased, “Prez would really like it if you played drums.”

I grinned, “He told you that?”

Shaking his head, Derrick explained, “But you dudes could jam and practice together. It’s just a suggestion - another way to spend time with him, dude.”

We stepped outside and Derrick closed the back door. I stopped and turned, blocking his path. I smiled, “Thanks, dude. Prez and I have been bouncing lots of ideas around, for school and beyond.” Derrick nodded and I said, “But I really don’t know what I want to do.”

“What does your gut say?” Derrick asked.

I thought about his question and a smile slowly spread across my face. Derrick grinned and I chuckled, “My number one priority is Prez. It always has been.”

Derrick giggled and nodded, “I know what you mean. Just think of what might be fun to make a living at, Keith. Whatever that means to you, okay? You won’t be a whole heck of a lot of fun to live with if you don’t enjoy what you’re studying. God knows, studying and practicing will probably take up most of each and every day. Without the light at the end of the tunnel, I’d get really bitchy.”

We started for the pool house and I agreed, “Yeah, I can see me being the same way.”

He said, “If I’m gonna spend years learning something and a lifetime working in that career field, it had better be something enjoyable. That’s why air-conditioning and refrigeration repair disappeared from my plan.”

Reaching for the doorknob, I smiled, “I was wondering about that.” Turning the knob, I stepped aside and Derrick went into the pool house. Prez and Mike were already playing something that I couldn’t recall ever hearing before. Taking a seat beside Prez, I asked, “What song is that?”

Still playing his bass, Prez grinned, “An original of Mike’s.”

I turned to Mike and he chuckled, “Until we come up with lyrics and a reasonable title, let’s call it Opus number seventeen.” On the floor in front of Mike, Derrick was getting himself comfortable and his drums positioned.

Prez chuckled, “Why seventeen?”

Mike shrugged, “Because I wrote it on my birthday,” and continued playing.

Derrick said, “I like Invention number seventeen,” then started tapping his bongos. I listened for a minute or so. It was definitely original and sounded really sweet. Derrick smiled and asked, “What do you think?”

I nodded, “I like what I’m hearing a lot.” Mike smiled down at me. There was a thank you in the smile, but in his eyes, I heard him shout, “I told you I’d be great someday!”

As if to prove the point, Mike played a really fluid and fast lick while saying, “Play, bro. What ever you feel; I’ll tell you if it’s shit.”

Smirking, “Thanks, bitch,” I picked up the maracas. Mike and Prez giggled.

Derrick grinned, “Shake ‘em fast, dude,” and briefly demonstrated on the bongos. I started shaking the shit out the maracas, accenting the same beats Derrick was. He then grinned, “Excellent,” and returned to his original pattern.

After a minute or so, Mike cackled, “I love the way it sounds in here! The wood walls, ceiling and floor are making a wicked reverb.” He then sighed, “What I wouldn’t give to record us right now; two mics hanging from the ceiling.”

“Live from the pool house in Mike’s backyard!” I chuckled.

Derrick nodded, “Its goin’ platinum.”

Prez said, “We really should record in here, acoustically, just like this. No electronics were used in this recording.”

Mike snickered, “No small furry animals were harmed in the making of this record,” and we all cracked up. The song fell apart and we sloppily improvised an ending. Mike then began playing Teach Your Children. Prez and Derrick started playing too. Then Prez and I started singing the first verse. Soon Mike and Derrick joined. In the confined space of the pool house, we sounded really good. Especially impressive were our harmonies. Purposefully, I left them to sing the final chorus, earning curious stares.

Before the final chord finished ringing, Mike smirked, “What the fuck, bro?”

I shrugged, “I just wanted to hear the three of you.”

Derrick said, “It sounded pretty good, but that song in particular needs the top voice.”

“It sounded fine to me too,” I admitted. “You kept the harmonies going.”

Prez smiled, “That high voice adds to the children’s storybook character of the song, don’t you think?” I nodded and my baby added, “That’s Graham Nash’s voice. There aren’t too many that would even try to copy him.”

“That’s exactly right,” Derrick chimed and Mike nodded.

I sighed, “I didn’t stop for a compliment, but to see if you dudes would carry the end of the song without me. And you did. And it sounded good. How about complimenting each other?”

Prez giggled, “Good job, dudes!”

Mike smirked, “Like songbirds.”

Derrick sarcastically offered, “Almost angelic.”

After a brief moment we all started snickering. Mike said, “I’m thirsty. Anyone else?” We all nodded and followed Mike back into the house.

Noticing the time, I softly reminded, “The mall opens at ten.”

Prez whispered, “While we’re out, I’d like to go to Office Depot.”

Pouring our sodas, Derrick snickered and Mike softly chuckled. Firmly grabbing their shoulders, I suggested, “We need to be awake by eight…” Putting the bottle down, Mike spun around and snarled. Wide-eyed, I softly giggled, “Showered and out of the house by nine.”

Derrick nudged Mike. “He’s right, ya know?”

Turning around again, Mike softly grumbled, “I want this trial over with.”

Prez agreed, “It’s really getting in the way.”

Wrapping my arms around my baby, I softly offered, “Two days; three max.” He nodded and forced a smile for me.

Mike sighed, “Guess we need to chill for a while and get ready to crash.”

Derrick kissed Mike’s cheek then offered, “I’ll get your guitar and be right back.”

“I’ll go get my bass,” Prez softly said, and I let go of him. He followed Derrick out the back door.

Mike softly whined, “This really sucks. I just want to stay up, jam, shoot the shit… but no. We’ve gotta deal with the bullshit process. The fucking dude is guilty.”

Moving beside him, I softly said, “I never thought anything like this would happen to us.”

Taking a sip of his soda, Mike nodded. He handed me a glass, swallowed and said, “It had to happen to one of us. I hope it never ever happens again.”

Quietly, we drank and watched each other. We never actually said a word, but I’m sure we were wondering the same things. It couldn’t happen again, could it? How much longer would we have to fight for our right to love whomever we please? I was new to it all and already disgusted with the necessity. Would we be subject to periodic bashings for the rest of our lives? Just as the thoughts became overwhelming, the backdoor opened and my lover walked in with his bass. I smiled for him. Derrick stepped inside and closed the door.

Suspiciously, Prez grinned, “What have you two been talking about?”

“Trash,” I shrugged and took a sip from my soda.

Derrick’s eyes squinted and Mike giggled then went to him. After planting a kiss, Mike suggested, “Wanna just hang out and listen to tunes for a while?” We all nodded. Derrick led Prez down the hall while I grabbed a glass of cola for my baby. Mike picked up the remaining two glasses and followed me back to his room.

Mike’s room was pretty large; about twelve by fourteen feet. One wall had a large window and the two adjacent walls were covered with posters. Also in the room was Mike’s Fender amp with Tinky Winky sitting on top. Mike had a really cool stereo system with a six CD changer. It wasn’t a component system, but had Surround sound and five speakers.

Putting the glasses down on the desk, Mike said, “Say adios to this bed dudes.”

Wide-eyed, I asked, “When?”

Mike answered, “Tuesday morning.”

“Good for you dude,” Prez cheerfully said.

Mike nodded, “We can even sleep together in it!” and slid over to Derrick.

Derrick rolled his eyes and giggled at Mike’s enthusiasm. Prez and I barely contained our laughter to mere snickers. Derrick chuckled, “Better close the door dudes.”

Prez turned around to gently close the door, but didn’t let go of my hand.

Mike then picked up his collection of CD’s. Looking up at Prez, Mike asked, “Have you heard any Satriani, dude?”

Prez shook his head. “I’ve heard of him, of course.”

Picking up his glass of soda, Derrick’s knees folded and he sat cross-legged on the floor. A moment later, Prez and I were on the floor too.

Sitting on the edge of his old twin size bed and opening the CD case, Mike said, “You won’t hear much of him on the radio.” Flipping groups of pages, Mike said, “He plays different styles, which you’ll like, but listen to some of the runs. Blindingly fast, dude; totally unbelievable.” Finding the right page, Mike zeroed in on the disk and pulled it out. He closed the case, put it on his bed and then stood to load the disk in the player.

Turning to me, Derrick commented, “It’s pretty good. No vocals to speak of on this disk though.”

The music started playing. I grinned, “To speak of?”

Derrick smiled, “Synthesized, Vocoder vocals. No lyrics.”

With his glass in hand, Mike sat down on the floor with us. Prez turned to him and asked, “Do you have any Steve Vai?”

Shaking his head sadly, Mike sighed, “Not yet.”

I asked, “Who’s that guy?”

Prez answered, “Another very talented guitarist.”

“Did you look for any of his stuff while we were at the mall?” I wondered. Prez shook his head and said, “If we have the time, check tomorrow morning.”

They started talking about PA and lighting gear again. Mike crawled to his desk, retrieved a calculator, a pad, a pencil and the Carvin catalog. During the remainder of the CD, we created a few sample orders. I got to run the calculator while they flipped pages, jotting down model numbers and prices. The first was a minimal, twenty-four track system with a thousand watt power amp. We would reuse the speakers and monitor we already had. It came to about one thousand five hundred dollars.

They then considered a thirty-two track system. With speakers, several power amps, cables, cases and covers, they hit two thousand six hundred. But they weren’t done yet. They added power conditioners, equalizers, compressors and a digital effects unit then recomputed. Three thousand eight hundred was the grand total. Then finally the CD ended and they went hog wild, dreaming about a fifty-six channel system with more speakers, power amps and assorted other accessories than I could name. It would cost just slightly over twelve grand and would require an eighteen-wheeler to move it all around! They all sighed and smiled widely. Leaning over, I checked Prez’s Speedos for a bulge or wet stains. While Mike and Derrick were chuckling at us, we suspiciously eyed their crotches and they covered up, attempting to act ashamed!

Shaking his head sadly, Prez softly chuckled, “You’ll drop ‘em on a whim though!”

Mike smiled, “That’s completely different. I could’ve been sitting here naked all this time.”

“It’s not like the Speedos cover much,” Derrick agreed.

With his eyes hundreds of miles away, Mike thought for a few moments. It scared me! Noticing us watching him, Mike softly said, “We’ve got some shit to talk about.”

Mike and Derrick shared a meaningful glance. They then nodded and rolled away from our circle on the bedroom carpet. Standing, they stood and pushed their Speedos to the floor. Prez cracked up and collapsed against me.

I chuckled, “You mentioned it.” Mike and Derrick returned to their original spots on the carpet.

Prez soon turned to them and childishly pouted, “Oh yeah?” My baby then stood and dropped his red Speedos, shocking me slightly because he did it so quickly and with little instigation.

“Cool,” Mike snickered.

“Very cool,” Derrick nodded. Prez sat beside me and Derrick grinned at me.

Before it was said, I sighed then rolled away from the circle and bared my ass. Taking my seat on the floor, I looked at each of them, making it very obvious what I was looking at.

“No wood here,” Mike grinned.

“None anywhere,” Derrick casually nodded.

Mike admitted, “I get hard at the drop of hat. I should be getting hard just talking about getting hard!” We all giggled and he shrugged, “But I’m not.”

“It’s not really appropriate,” Derrick offered.

Prez said, “We shouldn’t really mind hugging each other.”

Smiling at my love, I half asked, “Or being naked around each other?” and he nodded.

He then turned to Mike and Derrick saying, “I’m going to tell you dudes exactly what I told Keith. This ass is his and only his.” I was so proud of him at that moment.

Derrick interrupted, “Prez, hold on bro. It’s not like that; not now anyway.”

Prez tilted his head curiously and Mike admitted, “It was sorta like that when we first considered it late last summer.” Reaching for Derrick’s hand, he smiled, “Not anymore.”

“Remember Mike’s party?” Derrick prodded. Prez nodded and Derrick said, “The stuff we joked about then would be our limit now.”

“Really?” Prez smiled.

I wondered for a few moments then asked, “What changed?”

Mike shrugged, “We all did. We’ve been noticing stuff since our anniversary in April.”

Derrick offered, “It sorta started about March, don’t you think? It was living together that changed us as much as our anniversary.”

Mike nodded, “Reminiscing about our first year together.”

Derrick smiled, “Two dudes getting along as a couple in the same space takes a certain attitude.”

Mike said, “And extra commitment. When you choose to over look certain things…”

“But choose to bitch and complain about others,” Derrick chuckled.

Never letting his eyes fall from Derrick's face, Mike said, “And still, no matter what happens or what was said, who do I go to first?”

“Him,” the four of us chanted. We paused and grinned at each other.

Mike said, “Last week, when we talked about stuff with our mom’s, we asked how some couples manage to make it last a lifetime.”

Derrick asked, “Ya know what they said?” Prez and I shook our heads and Derrick answered, “Simple choice.”

I shrugged, “You’ve got to want it long term. Question that for too long and I guess things are in trouble.”

Prez smiled, “It makes sense.” Turning to Mike and Derrick, Prez said, “You’ve made some new choices then?”

Nodding at us, Mike then grinned at Derrick. “Like I choose to overlook the way you clean out your nostrils in the shower.”

I snarled and Derrick chuckled, “Ya know I’m learning about Yoga?” Prez nodded and Derrick explained, “It’s not just exercises; its philosophy. I’m just keeping myself clean. It’s so dry and dusty; it all just cakes up in my nose.” Prez and I nodded and grinned. “Probably your noses too,” Derrick smirked. “While you’re in the shower, let your head fall back and inhale some drops of water off your hand. Then blow your nose and let the crud go down the drain. I still keep a hanky with me, but I haven’t needed it as often, it seems.”

Mike grinned, “I tried it. It takes some getting used to; the water stings a little.”

Derrick chuckled, “Think about it though. First thing in the morning, ya take a piss…”

“Or a major shit,” Mike playfully interrupted.

“You brush your teeth,” Derrick continued, “then get in the shower and clean everything you can. What’s cleaning your nose? Just another necessary evil.” He then turned to Mike and smirked, “And who rinses out the sink after we brush our teeth and shave?”

Mike giggled, “So I’m a slob!”

“And a pack rat,” Derrick grinned.

Mike nodded and admitted, “I save everything, magazines and newspaper articles mostly.” Turning to me, he said, “I still have the first birthday card you ever gave me.”

Breaking down and barely controlling the volume of his voice, Derrick reached for Mike and laughed, “You have all your birthday cards!”

Prez giggled and teased, “Aw, that’s so cute!”

“Don’t you start,” Mike playfully warned, “we’re nekid.”

Derrick contentedly sighed, “This is what we’re looking forward to.” Mike glanced at him and nodded. “Imagine us in our own place, sharing a bathroom, walking around in our underwear or even in the nude without a care in the world; as long as someone doesn’t have company over, of course.”

Nodding at his partner, Mike softly suggested, “Undressed rehearsals at Brian and Doug’s place next month?” and Derrick nodded.

Prez shook his head and snickered, “I can’t believe we had sex in their bathroom! I can’t believe we did it here!”

Mike chuckled, “We didn’t hear a sound. I’m sure my mom didn’t. Don’t worry about it.”

Derrick then said, “Doug prefers walking around in his T-shirt and boxers after nine at night.”

“Brian usually takes his shirt off immediately after dinner,” Mike offered.

Derrick grinned devilishly, “They wake around five thirty in the morning.”

“Sometimes six-ish,” Mike giggled.

“Guess how they start their day?” Derrick softly chuckled.

“Omigod!” I snickered evilly. “You’re voyeurs!”

Still chuckling, but shaking his head, Mike explained, “They woke us. A few hours earlier, we probably woke them. If we get a place together, we’ll be waking each other too.”

“Oh my God!” Prez laughed. “That would be insane. You’d hear us and we’d hear you and round and round until they find us… stiff as boards, dead as doornails…”

Nodding his head insanely, Mike chuckled, “But smiling!” and we all cracked up, but tried to mute ourselves. Mike glanced over Derrick at his dresser then stood up. He chuckled, “It’s after two.” He sat down again and asked, “Anyone tired?”

Derrick shook his head and smiled then reached for Mike’s shoulder and planted a kiss.

I turned to Prez and asked, “You okay, baby?”

He nodded and smiled, “I’m unwinding.”

“Whenever you’re ready,” I softly said.

Mike perked up and said, “You know what’s weird?” Derrick grinned while Prez and I shook our heads, waiting for another bomb to be dropped. “It’s that little devil in me, the one in all of us that says reproduce, stick yer dick anywhere you can, whenever you can. Doing that is unacceptable not only in the grand scheme of things, but to each of us. Should I tell D not to let some dude suck his dick? Can he tell me that very same thing? The thing is, we don't have to tell each other, it's obvious.” He paused and looked down at his pecker. “Fuckin’ thing’s still not getting hard,” he griped.

While Prez and I chuckled, Derrick assured, “I’m sure it’ll work fine… later.”

Prez said, “That little devil wants to create problems. Imagine the each of the four of us with someone else and then returning to our partners. I couldn’t keep that hidden. If I even tried, I’m sure it would fuck with me and make me moody, to say the least.”

Derrick asked, “Within our group our external to it?”

“Either way,” Prez quickly answered. “I’m sorry, but I can’t imagine having sex with either of you, while Keith is there or not. I don’t dream about Jerry’s long one or Mack’s fat one or anyone else’s. Even with Keith’s approval, I might as well jump up and stomp on his chest. Anything similar that he did would affect me the same way.”

Smiling proudly, I sighed and leaned against him.

Mike asked, “So even games are too much?”

Prez affirmed, “Games bud. You wanna get the measuring tape out, fine. You wanna have a shoot off, fine. Another circle jerk, okay. Much beyond that… I think I need to be forewarned.”

I chuckled and kissed him real quick.

Grabbing my attention, Derrick called my name. I turned and smiled. He then knelt and shuffled closer to Prez asking, “I think the doc left Prez some foreskin, don’t you?” His flat expression told me he was serious.

I checked Derrick’s soft uncut dick then stared at Prez’s. Checking Derrick’s flaccid meat again, I noticed Mike watching me, but then looked up into Derrick's eyes and said, “You’re right. I never really considered that, but yeah – soft, you both look a lot a like. I can still see some of the head of Prez’s dick though.”

Stealing a kiss, Prez softly giggled, “Keep talkin’ about it; it won’t stay soft.”

Raising his eyebrows, Derrick quickly shuffled back to Mike and sat. The four of us started snickering. Mike confessed, “There was one other game we thought of.”

Prez playfully groaned, “Here we go.”

Pointing at himself and Derrick, Mike offered, “We wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

Letting my curiosity get the better of me, I sighed, “What exactly?”

Derrick asked, “Ever see the movie Deer Hunter?” I nodded and he grinned, “A variation on the Russian Roulette scene.”

Swinging his arm around, Mike nodded, “Four loaded guns, one blind folded shooter, three suckers, a minute or so each until the gun goes off. Each of us gets a turn as shooter. We’ll roll dice or draw cards or somethin’.”

Turning to Prez, I smirked, “What an imagination.”

My baby chuckled and asked, “What if either of you get me or Keith off, or one of us get you off?”

Mike and Derrick turned to each other only briefly. Mike then answered, “It’s up to the sucker, don’t you think?”

“And the boyfriend!” I snickered.

“Okay, that works too,” Mike grinned.

Beside me, Prez heaved and struggled to catch his breath. I rubbed my lover's back. Derrick said, “Believe it or not, that one was mostly mine,” and Mike nodded.

“Why am I not surprised?” Prez cackled.

Derrick smirked, “And part of you isn’t looking forward to actually playing those games?”

Prez watched me watching him a few moments then answered, “Just the demon in me wanting to be included in what you three did only a few weeks before I moved here.”

Mike nodded, “And that’s a big part of the reason why we want to do it again. You should’ve been there, dude. Once we do finally play those games, we may never do it again.”

“We’re getting pretty tight with Gil and Shaun,” Derrick said, “And Jerry and Mack too, I think.” Mike nodded and Derrick continued, “But the friendships aren’t ready to add anything sexual to the mix.”

Prez said, “Gil and Mack would definitely freak out.”

Smiling widely at Prez, Mike admitted, “After we first met you, I kinda thought…” He paused and giggled, “That you were a red haired version of Derrick.”

Derrick grinned widely, intently watching Prez’s reaction.

Prez’s draw dropped then he snickered, “Not hardly!”

“That was while you dudes were in the mountains,” Mike explained, “before I got to know you. And the next week, you spent a few afternoons jamming alone with Derrick while I was conveniently at work. I expected to hear that you tried to seduce him.”

Prez grinned, “You really didn’t trust me.”

Mike nodded, “Not until you called and laid it all out for me; point blank. That took balls, dude.”

Prez admitted, “By the end of July, things seemed really cool to me.”

“They were,” Mike assured, and then easily apologized. “I’m sorry I was a dick.”

“Oh man!” Prez excitedly said, “We are well past all that. Apology easily accepted, never to be mentioned again.”

Playfully bouncing his eyebrows at me, Derrick then said, “A five minute hug probably accomplished that.”

Grinning, Mike turned to Derrick and loudly stated, “It wasn’t five minutes!” Derrick softly chuckled and Mike nervously looked around. “Maybe three minutes,” he snickered, knowing that didn’t make whole hell of a big difference. Derrick, Prez and I cracked up.

Then Prez stretched his arms over his head. Still wearing a big grin, he sighed then lowered his arms and quickly covered his mouth with his left hand. He yawned. Then I covered my mouth and yawned too. Finally, Derrick openly yawned, but Mike looked down and locked his jaw.

Standing up and reaching for Prez’s hand, I smiled, “Good night, dudes.”

Remaining seated, Mike and Derrick watched as Prez stood beside me. My baby wrapped an arm around me and smiled, “This was really great.”

I nodded and smiled, “It was a rush.”

“We’ll do it again,” Mike said.

Derrick smiled, “Anytime ya want, dudes. Don’t wait for us to drop ‘em though, okay?”

Prez asked, “Is there an alarm clock in your room, bro?”

Derrick nodded, “A small one with an annoying beep, on the dresser.”

“Good luck sleeping on a twin size bed,” Mike grinned.

“And don’t make a mess!” Derrick playfully warned.

Innocently looking away, I said, “We’ll just strip the sheets off the bed in the morning.”

Prez nodded, “That’s the best idea.” Turning to Mike and Derrick, he smiled, “See ya in the morning.” Prez started for the door and I let go of him for a moment to pick up our Speedos. Closing the door behind me, I followed Prez across the hall to Derrick’s room.

He went directly to the dresser and found Derrick’s alarm clock. The room was smaller than Mike’s; maybe ten feet by twelve feet. It was sparsely furnished with a twin size bed in one corner, a small night table and dresser. That made for a lot of open floor space. There were no photos or posters on the wall. The drumsticks and stack of CD’s were the only clues about the room's occupant. When Prez finished setting the alarm, he turned to me and asked, “Have I said I love you today?”

I nodded and wrapped my arms around him saying; “In words and deeds.”

“I was a little embarrassed the first five or ten minutes after taking my Speedos off,” my lover freely admitted. “I kept imagining one of us getting excited over something.” He paused and softly giggled, “It would’ve been like the domino effect in reverse!”

Chuckling, I kissed him real quick and said, “You only got four hours sleep last night.”

“I’m so over tired,” he softly smiled.

Leading him to the bed, I sat him down then released him. Prez started rolling the sheet and blanket down. I turned the lights off then returned to the sack and slid under the covers with him. We kissed each other good night then found a comfortable position on our sides. Soon, Prez was breathing deeply and I drifted off.

At eight in the morning, Derrick’s alarm clock began beeping. He was right too; the pitch of that beep would aggravate a saint. Tossing the covers aside, I peeled my eyes open and staggered to the dresser. Slapping the alarm and turning around, I found Prez stretching on the bed. Uncharacteristically, he groaned, “It can’t be morning already?”

Returning to bed, I snuggled up with him and asked, “Dreams?”

He nodded, “Some really great ones.”

Mooing playfully, I reached for his package. Finding only rubbery meat, I grinned, “Guess they weren’t that good.”

He leered and stole a kiss. I felt his dick lurch under my hand. “The dream I was having had us with Mike and Derrick, like last night. But instead of sleeping in separate rooms and beds, we all crashed out in one bed. I wasn’t getting much sleep because Mike kept rolling into me. Then the alarm went off, in real life, not in the dream.”

For two nights, my baby had not gotten near enough sleep. I asked, “Promise me something?”

He smiled, “Anything babe, you know that.”

I sighed, “No matter what Mike and Derrick want to do after I go to work, I want you to lie down and take a nap.” I waited for him to say something. He only nodded and I reminded, “Tomorrow and Tuesday are going to be rough enough without being exhausted.”

He said, “I’ll try, babe. I think it’s the trial messing with me…”

Across the hall, Mike loudly laughed, interrupting Prez and causing us to turn to the door. “I know that laugh,” I grinned, “Mike’s getting tickled.”

Rolling his eyes, Prez suggested, “While they play, we could shower?”

I wasn’t at all disappointed, but I asked, “Do you want to play?”

He smiled, “At home.”

I rolled out of bed and waited for him. While we slid back into our Speedos, Prez smiled widely and whispered, “I still can’t believe we had sex here. Mike and Derrick had to be careful for so long, it just seems strange.”

Stepping closer to him, I softly reminded, “They had that talk with Lindsay and Mike’s mom. Besides, we didn’t go all the way.”

He nibbled my ear and sighed, “I love the way you feel, smell and taste.”

My dick throbbed and I giggled, “Careful or we won’t make it till we get home.”

Chuckling, my baby kissed my cheek then stepped back and released me. He picked up his backpack and we walked to the bathroom. A few minutes later, after brushing our teeth and relieving our bladders, we were under the shower spray. Prez started soaping me up while I shampooed. Rinsing my hair, I felt Prez’s hands slide down to my crotch and carefully reach around my nads. Then he washed my dick. And kept stroking even after it was clean! Wiping water from my face, I softly grinned, “Did you change your mind?”

Prez smiled and shrugged, “Just realizing that maybe you needed my help.”

He’s so sweet! Leaning forward, I kissed him deeply. His eyes closed and I let my teeth graze over his bottom lip. Pulling back and gently guiding his hand away from my erection, I waited for his eyes to open then softly said, “I can wait.”

“You’re sure?” he asked, and I nodded. Prez then turned me around and washed from my neck down to my ass. My sexy lover slid his soapy hand between my cheeks and I grinned. He then slid his fingers across my hole. Giggling, I glanced over my shoulder.

“Feels nice, huh?” he softly chuckled.

He knew it did! Awkwardly, I nodded. Prez stole a kiss then whispered, “Anything that makes you feel good.” His hand then slid out of my crack and he stepped back, allowing me to turn and rinse off. My lover was completely hard, I noticed.

We swapped positions in the tub and I made up for his careful administrations, bathing him just as slowly and deliberately making him shudder. Once he was completely rinsed off, Prez turned off the shower.

Stepping out of the bathroom with towels wrapped around us, we noticed Mike and Derrick eating cereal at the small kitchen table. We said good morning then returned to Derrick’s room to dress and get the last of our stuff. Minutes later, we joined Mike and Derrick in the kitchen. They were just finishing up, but already had two bowls and spoons on the table waiting for us. On the table were boxes of Life cereal and Wheaties.

Standing with his bowl and spoon in hand Mike said, “Help your selves, dudes.”

“Milk’s back in the fridge,” Derrick said as he started to stand.

I got the milk while Prez sat down. Behind me, Mike and Derrick rinsed their bowls in the sink. Mike said, “We’ll be ready in fifteen or twenty.”

Closing the refrigerator door, I nodded, “Take your time. We’ll wait in the living room and watch some TV.” Derrick and Mike nodded then went down the hall.

Helping himself to a bowl of Wheaties, Prez asked, “Remember Ben the other night?”

Nodding and helping myself to Life cereal, I grinned, “He really likes you.”

Prez sighed, “I could easily like him too, but how? He’s so self conscious. And there’s really no reason for it.” He poured milk into his bowl and then handed me the plastic jug.

Taking the milk from him, I splashed some over my cereal and shrugged, “His voice has a much higher pitch than most dudes. Considering his overall size, it doesn’t really fit.”

Prez swallowed and asked, “Does his voice make him effeminate?”

“To him it may,” I said. “My voice has a higher pitch than yours, Mike’s and Derrick’s, but it’s not as high as Ben’s.” Prez smiled and nodded.

For a long few moments we ate quietly. Nearing the bottom of his bowl, Prez said, “He doesn’t dance or walk effeminately. I’m just wondering what made him the way he is. Obviously, he’d like to hang with us.”

“I hope he does,” I admitted, and then warned, “Forcing him may have the opposite effect; he may just crawl deeper into his shell.”

“The next time we see him, I’ll ask him for his phone number,” Prez said.

I smiled, “Just go real slow, Prez.”

“`Course,” he snickered. “Any one of us could sweep him off his feet.”

I hummed jealously and Prez chuckled heartily. We finished eating, rinsed our bowls and loaded them into the dishwasher. Then we went to the living room, sat on the sofa and turned on the TV. I checked the TV Guide channel, but early on a Sunday morning there were lots of news, politics and religious shows still on. We wound up watching 'The Planet’s Funniest Animals' on Animal Planet. Turning slightly, Prez rested his head in my lap and I ran my fingers through his hair. Then we heard Mrs. Gibbons starting down the stairs and Prez sat up with far too much space between us.

“Be still my beating heart,” Mike’s mom said before her face even came into view. Once she saw Prez and me, she smiled, “Good morning. Is that the shower I hear?” Prez and I nodded. She giggled, “Stay the night more often.”

I grinned, “Tomorrow and Tuesday, they’ll need to wake by seven to be at the courthouse by nine.”

Prez asked, “Will you be coming too?”

Stopping at the bottom of the stairs, she nodded, “I want to tell him and his parents my perspective. For two weeks or more, I had to look at my son with a black eye and assorted other bruises. And then to learn that I was lucky to see him or any of you at all…”

“He was too stupid to be successful,” Prez interrupted.

She sighed and forced a smile then went to the kitchen.

Moving closer to me again, Prez then softly asked, “Are you worried?”

Wrapping an arm over his shoulders, I shrugged, “Anxious to get it over with,” and then asked, “You?”

Rapidly shaking his head, Prez smiled, “In my mind, we’ve already won. All we need to learn now are the verdicts and the sentencing.” Loving his attitude, I leaned over and kissed him. Then we concentrated on the silly animals on TV.

From the kitchen, Mrs. Gibbons hollered, “Everyone ate already too? And cleaned up and loaded the dishwasher? My God, I woke up in the Twilight Zone.” Prez and I laughed loudly as much for Mike’s mom as for the goofy miniature poodle attacking a vacuum cleaner on the TV.

The shower finally turned off. Prez whispered, “They did more than clean each other in there.”

I snickered, “So did we.” Hearing another pair of footsteps coming down the stairs, I held back further commentary.

Already dressed for the day, Lindsay came into view and smiled, “Hi!” We said hello and she stepped over to discover what we were watching on TV. Plopping down on the sofa too, she giggled, “I love this show!” and then she loudly said, “I hope to get a kitten or a puppy some day!”

“I know, I know,” Mrs. Gibbons loudly replied. The smell of coffee brewing wafted in from the kitchen.

Turning to us, she smiled, “My birthday’s in a few weeks, can you tell?”

Prez chuckled, “When?”

“The twenty-fifth of July,” she happily answered. “I turn thirteen.”

We smiled at each other and congratulated her. If the truth be known, Lindsay was quite obviously maturing. The legs that came down the stairs were that of a young woman, not a little girl. She was getting really cute. I wondered if Mike would become a protective big brother some day. I couldn’t see it, but if it ever happened, I would crack up. At the next commercial break, Lindsay got up and went into the kitchen.

Emergency Vets began on Animal Planet and we started channel surfing. Shortly after nine, Mike and Derrick emerged from the bedrooms and went to the kitchen. Prez and I joined them there. After Mike finished explaining where we were going, he turned to me and asked, “Ready?”

Prez and I nodded then said goodbye to Lindsay and Mrs. Gibbons. The four of us then went out the backdoor and around the house, deciding to take my car to Office Depot and then to the mall.

The radio was turned on immediately. Once again, Mike bitched me out for not keeping at least a few cassettes in the car. The only ones I had were The Backstreet Boys and one of Prez’s compilations. But Prez found 'Breakfast With The Beatles' on the KCBS Oldies Station and remained there. In the backseat, Mike and Derrick sang along with the song Two Of Us.

When the song ended, I lowered the radio volume then said, “That was really good.”

“Very, very good,” Prez enthusiastically agreed.

Mike said, “I do a decent Lennon on songs where he sings low, like that one.”

“The Beatles had awesome vocal harmonies,” Derrick said. “If we worked on that some more?”

I asked, “Aren’t we already? What else are we doing in the vocals closet?”

“It’s a booth, dammit!” Mike loudly laughed.

“Whatever!” I snickered.

Derrick said, “I just meant we need to get our vocal harmonies tighter.”

“You’re right,” Prez said. “Wednesday night, we should plan on hitting the beach. Invite Shaun and Jessy too so we can all work on our harmonies.”

“I’ll need that kind of return to normalcy by then,” Mike sighed.

Turning into a Staples parking lot, I nodded, “We all will.” In front of the store there were cars parked already and a few people loitering outside the doors, I noticed as I searched for a place to park.

Prez said, “They’re not open yet, but will be soon.” Turning to me he asked, “Have you thought of what kind of chair we should get?”

Derrick snickered, “A steel one.”

Pulling into a parking space, I snickered, “Shut up!” After the car came to a stop, I turned to Prez and asked, “Why not another wooden one?”

He shrugged, “Let’s see what a wood one costs then compare it to one with a padded seat.” Hysterical, Mike and Derrick got out of the back seat. Prez smiled, “We can’t break or destroy anything else. I’m warning Rush too, as soon as we get home.”

Snickering hysterically, we got out of the car. As we walked across the parking lot, the store doors were opened and everyone filed inside, including Mike and Derrick. Prez and I saw them checking out laptop PC’s, but went to the back of the store where the furniture was displayed.

We quickly found two wooden chairs, one for seventy bucks and the other was eighty. But there were some nice padded folding chairs for fifty and I showed them to Prez. He shrugged and wandered further down the wall display. There we found high back ergonomic chairs for the same seventy bucks as the wooden chair.

Prez said, “I have my tips from last night, sixty-six bucks. Do you have another ten or so bucks?”

Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out my wallet and counted. “Yep,” I happily said, “as long as the total doesn’t exceed eighty bucks, we’re set.”

“Cool,” Prez chuckled and passed me a wad of small bills. Then he turned and reached for one of the large boxes.

Helping him lift the box, I read the printing aloud. “It assembles with a Phillips head screwdriver and an included wrench. It shouldn’t take more than fifteen or twenty minutes.”

Prez grinned and observed, “It’s got arms so we won’t ever try… any exercises again!”

We started for the cashier and I chuckled, “I even like the color!”

Derrick and Mike caught up with us. “Mission 'A' accomplished,” Derrick smiled.

“It looks really comfy too,” Mike chuckled.

I playfully warned, “Don’t take that tangent!”

Prez snickered, “Wait until we’re in the car please.”

Stopped and waiting in line, we put the box down on the floor. I asked, “What were you dudes checking out?”

Mike grinned, “We were thinking we could use a laptop and projector in our act.”

“It’s not a priority,” Derrick offered, “just another something we’d like to have.”

“How much?” I suspiciously asked.

“Two grand for a laptop, another grand for a projector and screen,” Mike asked.

Derrick said, “Above and behind the drums.”

“That would be too cool!” Prez enthusiastically nodded.

I snickered, “You’re all scaring me again.”

Moving forward and pushing the box, Prez and I then lifted it for the cashier to scan. Minutes and seventy five bucks later, we had our new desk chair loaded in the trunk of my car.

Back in the car and on our way to the mall, my maniac friends and lover were overflowing with enthusiasm, naming songs and suggesting what could be projected from a PC onto a movie screen behind our band. Although I hated the costs involved, I liked the idea of providing full audio and video entertainment.

Mike then loudly suggested, “We need some pyrotechnics too. Imagine cranking out the ending to Rock Of Ages with some powder explosions.”

“Yeah!” Prez and Derrick playfully growled. Laughing at ourselves, we pulled into the mall parking lot.

We got out of the car and started for Macy’s. Derrick sighed, “If only we had about ten grand to pick off the money tree.”

I turned to Prez. He was smiling and watching the ground. Looking to me, he smiled and said, “We’re eventually going to need to rent rehearsal space too. Figure a couple of hundred a month for that too.”

“We’ve got to house and feed ourselves first,” Derrick softly reminded.

Mike said, “I wonder what rent would cost. We need to figure our income and expenses to know what’s realistic and when.”

Quiet and thoughtful, we opened the doors and went inside Macy’s. I knew one thing – there would be no way that I’d let Prez carry the financial burdens of the band. The sad part was; I knew he could and would if I didn’t prevent him.

Derrick and Mike stopped to browse. Prez and I continued for the Men’s department customer service desk. I wondered aloud, “Please tell me that you’re not considering buying a lot of the stuff for the band.”

Prez looked and grinned, “I’d like to be able to, that’s for sure.”

I softly begged, “Please don’t, Prez.”

Pulling me aside and stopping between some shirt displays, Prez said, “I’d like to, but I can’t. I want that money to be there for us, Keith. That’s most important to me. I need to talk with your dad sometime soon about my investments.”

Breathing a sigh of relief, I nodded, “Learn enough to make the best decisions possible.”

“I know this,” Prez said, “the stock market has been doing well and so have been my dividends. If suddenly the market isn’t doing so good then the dividends have to dwindle too.”

I nodded and smiled warmly, “That’s all I needed to hear, baby.”

Prez said, “It’s just another one of many things I need to learn about and take care of.” We started walking and he assured, “One intense thing at a time. First my aunt, then the trial, then investments, then Father’s Day and our anniversary…” He took another step and reminded, “I’ll get your mom a CD for a belated Mother’s Day gift. I need a card too.” We stopped and waited in line at the Customer Service desk. Prez then asked, “What CD should I get her?”

“She likes that guy… what’s his name… Julio Iglacious.”

Prez snarled and chuckled, “And Kenny G too. All he does is play slightly sharp with some digital delay. Whoopee!”

Digging the receipt from my wallet, I smiled, “And the classical tenor, Pavarati.”

“Now I can respect that talent,” Prez confessed.

We stepped forward and I handed the salesman the receipt. He typed at the computer terminal then disappeared into a back room. Returning a minute or so later with our suits, he smiled, “Would you like to try them on?”

Turning to Prez, I said, “We really should.” He nodded and the salesman led us to the dressing room. A few minutes later, Prez and I stepped out of the booths.

My suit felt good; I could twist and move around without feeling too confined. Prez assured it looked good and I told him that he looked fantastic in his. He looked so good in fact that I immediately imagined dropping to my knees and sucking him off while he was still wearing it! But before I could tell Prez, the salesman came in to help us. And he remained in the room while Prez and I ducked into the booths to undress. He did have our suits hung properly and covered with garment bags by the time we stepped out again though.

By the time we walked out of the dressing room with our suits, Mike and Derrick were at the checkout counter. Derrick had a brown tweed sport jacket and Mike had a blue one. A few minutes later, we were on our way out to the car. On the way, Prez explained that he missed Mother’s Day and needed to get a CD and card before we went back home. With four garment bags lying flat over the box in the trunk, we turned around and went back into the mall, directly to the nearest ATM.

I glanced at my watch. It was almost half past ten. With twenty bucks from his savings account in hand, Prez led us to The Warehouse. While Mike and Derrick went in one direction, Prez and I searched around in the classical section and then the easy listening section. Finding a Harry Connick, Jr. disk, Prez went to the cashier. I went to get Mike and Derrick. They had each found disks they wanted. Derrick had the Emerson, Lake and Palmer disk, Trilogy, and Mike had found a copy of Jeff Beck’s Blow By Blow. Before leaving the mall, we made a quick run through the Hallmark store where Prez got a gift bag and a card.

“I couldn’t wrap anything right to save my life,” Prez softly chuckled as we stepped outside if the store. A few paces ahead, Mike and Derrick led us to the exit.

“I would’ve wrapped it for you, baby.”

“Thanks babe, I know you would,” Prez smiled. “But this one I want to be special. I’ll write something in the card.”

I asked, “Do you want to give it to her privately?”

Prez shrugged, “You can be there.”

Shaking my head, I reminded, “We all gave her our Mother’s Day cards and gifts privately. You could too.”

He smiled, “Okay.”

We got to my car and I unlocked the doors. Getting in the back seat, Mike grumbled, “You need a CD player in this car, bro.” I got in the front seat with Prez beside me. Mike and Derrick snapped the CD cases between us. Obviously, they had removed the plastic wrapping from their CD’s as they walked across the parking lot.

“You know my birthday,” I teased as I started the engine. “I’ll gladly accept a CD player for my car.”

Prez giggled, “Our anniversary is next week.”

“Would you use it?” Derrick asked.

Mike argued, “You hardly ever use the tape player.”

“Tapes can melt and stretch in hot cars,” I reminded.

As I backed out, Prez said, “You have more CD’s than tapes anyway.”

I nodded, “I only bought a few tapes after I got the car. The rest are compilations from all three of you dudes.” Then I turned up the radio volume. 'Breakfast With The Beatles' was over, but the old song, Happy Together was playing. Tapping his feet, Prez soon started singing along.

“I can’t see me loving nobody but you for all my life
When you’re near me baby the skies will be blue for all my life
Me and you, and you and me
No matter how they toss the dice, it had to be
The only one for me is you and you for me.”

The next time around, I sang along with him while Mike and Derrick sang backup vocals from the backseat. When the song ended, I chuckled, “We rehearse as much in our cars as we do anywhere else!” They all chuckled and agreed the acoustics in the car were pretty good for vocals.

“Almost as good as the shower,” Mike grinned. I let that pass without comment, believe it or not.

The Supertramp song, Take The Long Way Home began playing. A few moments into the song, Derrick loudly said, “You could sing this song, Keith.”

“I don’t know the lyrics,” I smiled into the rearview mirror.

Mike said, “I’ll find them online.”

We listened to the rest of the song and crossed the 101 on our way to Mike’s house. Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying, by Gerry and The Pacemakers played next. I liked the lyrics.

Turning in his seat, Prez said, “We could learn this song. Jessy could do something with her synthesizers instead of the string and orchestra parts; make it a little more modern.”

From the rearview mirror, I watched Mike grimace and then begin chuckling.

Derrick offered, “We still need more ballads, dude.”

Watching me in the rearview mirror, Mike smirked, “When do I get more crunching metal?”

Prez faced forward and reached for my hand. Stopping in front of Mike’s house, I turned and answered, “Find one that tells more of a story than I’m more stoned than you.”

“I know just such a song,” Mike smiled. “It’s one you should remember.”

I grinned, “Yeah? Which one?”

“Remember Flight Of Icarus?” Mike sneered.

Catching the sparkle in his eye and flashing back about five years, I loudly sang, “Fly on your way, like an eagle; fly as high as the sun.”

“That’s the one!” Mike chuckled. Tapping Prez’s seat, he asked, “You know the tune, dude?”

“I’ve heard it before,” Prez giggled. “I’ll learn it from you dude.”

“Cool!” Mike hollered. “Be ready Wednesday at Brian and Doug’s.

Just as they were about to open the back doors, Jumping Jack Flash started playing and Derrick said, “We could learn this one too! Mike’s already got most of it.” He then playfully sang, “Watch it! I was bo-o-orn in a cross fire hurricane.”

Prez loudly cackled, “Alright already!” and then held up the lickity-split signal!

Derrick stopped singing and cracked up. Mike bellowed, “We didn’t know we were delaying anything!” Reaching for their door handles and stepping out of the car, I popped the trunk. Moments later the trunk closed. They leaned over and peered in from the passenger side. Mike asked, “One or three, Prez?”

Prez smiled, “Three; I have Mother’s Day to take care of.”

Derrick asked, “That was the day after John’s birthday party, wasn’t it?”

I nodded and Prez chuckled, “For most, but I’m thpecial!”

They glanced at each other then cracked up and turned away. Putting the car in drive and pulling away, I softly grinned, “You’re special alright!”

“And you’re going to work happy,” Prez promised. All my blood rushed directly into my shorts. Drive by R.E.M. played on the radio and we sang along. Then Time Of The Season by The Zombies played.

Lightly tapping my hand with his fingers, Prez sang along, “What’s your name? Who’s your daddy? Is he rich like me? Has he taken any time to show you what you need to live? Tell it to me slowly. Tell you why. I really want to know. It’s the time of the season for loving.” We glanced at each other and he started laughing hysterically. His hand slipped from mine and he reached for my crotch. “I knew it,” he giggled.

Turning into our neighborhood, I sighed, “The really sad thing is that we have to try the suits on again for my folks. I’m ready now, dammit!” Prez giggled. Moments later, I stopped in front of our house and turned to him. “We’ve had enough oral sex the last few days,” I grinned.

He nodded and warmly smiled, “I wanna make love with you.”

“We’d better hurry,” I chuckled, and we were out of the car in a flash. I carried both suits and Prez carried the desk chair box into the house. Stepping inside with Rush prancing around and happily whining for attention, we quickly said hello to John and my folks. Seeing the box with a new desk chair, my parents began softly chuckling. Blushing, Prez turned and took it to our room with Rush at his heels. Noticing the time on the living room VCR, I said, “We’ll be back in a few minutes with our suits on.”

As I started to turn, my dad said, “Shirts, ties and shoes too.”

My mom added, “Let us get the entire effect.”

Starting down the hall, I sighed, “Okay,” and rolled my eyes. It was quarter to twelve and too hot out. And I was too hot and bothered to waste time playing dress up!

Prez was sitting cross-legged on the floor greeting the dog as I stepped into the room. He smirked, “They want to see all of it?” I nodded and he groaned, “Okay, let’s get it over with.” Getting up from the floor, he told Rush; “You go out for a few minutes hound dog.” The dog’s ears went back and he slowly started for the door, looking back pitifully. Prez chuckled, “Don’t look at me like that!”

He closed the door and I laid out our new suits on the bed. Off came his shirt. I couldn’t watch! My cork would pop and the suits would surely be stained. Turning away I started to strip too. A minute later we were at the closet and putting on our new shirts. Once they were buttoned, we went to the bed and got the slacks then put them on. We put our socks and shoes on then tied our ties and finally slipped the jackets on.

We walked out the room and Prez firmly said, “Rush, down.” The dogs ears went back and he trotted away, looking back at us sadly.

As we stepped into the living room again, John started giggling. My parents nodded and got up. With Rush wandering around the four of us, my parents checked us out. “They look fantastic,” my mom finally said.

My dad smiled, “Very presentable; a jury would be impressed.”

Prez smiled, “Mike and Derrick just got their jackets.”

“They were nice,” I assured.

“I wish Mike would’ve gotten another haircut,” my dad grinned.

Prez chuckled, “He just had one, right after the frolics and before the prom.”

I almost offered to call Mike, but chose not to mention it. Instead, I nodded, “Derrick had one too.” Then I sighed, “Can we get back to normal now?”

My dad nodded and my mom said, “Thank you.” They then returned to the sofa. Prez and I hurried back to our room. We were out of those suits so fast. I was surprised nothing was torn! About forty-five minutes later, we emerged from the bedroom and went across the hall for a quick shower.

While we were drying off, Prez said, “I’ll get the chair assembled.”

I shrugged, “Wait for me, Prez. We’ll take care of that after work tonight.” Wrapping the towel around my waist, I asked, “Aren’t you a little tired?”

He sighed, “I can nap and then assemble the chair…” Then he glanced up, wrapped the towel around his waist and giggled, “I hope!”

I opened the door chuckling, “Just wait until later.”

Glancing down the hall, I saw John and my folks smiling widely. I paused and slumped then loudly insisted, “So we can put the new chair together!” Laughing heartily, Prez went directly into our room. Like three puppets on the sofa, my family nodded slowly. Rolling my eyes, I turned and went into our room. Hysterical, Prez was sitting on the edge of the bed. My baby’s face was so red it was almost bleeding! Closing the door, I then tackled him and pinned him to the bed. Yeah, our towels fell off. But unfortunately, I had to get my self to work.

Actually, I was about five minutes late for work. Usually, at Blockbuster, there were periods when there were virtually no customers in the store. That gave us a chance to restock shelves. But that Sunday there were no lapses. I spent most of the day behind the cashier counter. Around five, I went home for dinner. Only John and my folks were home. Drew was eating over Corey’s.

After my short break, I returned to work by six. Blockbuster was the place to be in Woodland Hills that night. Old friends were accidentally meeting up and chatting while they browsed. Four hours and numerous customers later, I clocked out and went home, anxious for another bedroom wrestling match.

At home, I found John still awake, sitting on the couch beside my mom. My dad was kicked back in his recliner. They were watching 'West Side Story'. One look at John’s face and I knew he was in hell. Rush was demanding my attention anyhow, so I decided to take him out back and laugh at my brother.

Ten or fifteen minutes later, Rush was getting tired of chasing his rope toy around the yard. I let him inside and he went directly to his water dish. It was empty so I filled it up for him. Then I went to the garage and got a medium Phillips head screwdriver. Without Derrick’s drums and Mike’s amp, the garage looked larger. Moments later, I was in our bedroom, on my knees tearing the chair box open. The bed had been slept in, I happily noticed as I sat down to read over the assembly instructions. Rush ran in the room and went directly to the foreign box. Soon I was back on the floor assembling the chair.

I had only just begun when my mom came to the doorway. Stopping what I was doing, I smiled up at her, waiting for a broken desk chair remark of one sort or another. “I wanted to talk to you about Preston,” she said as she stepped in the room. Taking a seat on the edge of the bed, she said, “There’s another step he needs to take. It’s probably the biggest step yet.” I stopped tinkering with the chair and gave her my full attention.

She softly asked, “He told us that his mother relieved him of some guilt?”

I nodded, “She assured him that he didn’t abandon her in any way.”

“My guess is that the guilt is still there within him,” she said. “He needs to relieve himself of that feeling. No one else can tell him it was okay. Preston believing that his mom felt it was okay is only another step.”

“It’s so silly,” I started. “It’s like he’s forgotten all the times I was there with him. We ate together at the apartment as often as we did here. It seems to me that we spent almost as many nights together there as here. I don’t understand it.”

“While he was in Texas, Preston spent most of his time at home.”

I nodded, “About three years like that.”

“Soon after moving here, he had a boyfriend and two friends and then a job too. He always had something to do and somewhere to be for the first time in a long time.”

Checking to see if I understood her correctly, I asked, “It was just circumstance?” She nodded and I asked, “What can I do?”

She smiled, “Remind him of some of those times you two were at the apartment with her. What may seem trivial to you will probably mean a lot to him.”

I admitted, “I still approach some topics very carefully, especially anything having to do with his mom.”

“Try it his way,” she suggested, “like she’s alive and just across town.” Standing and smiling, she got in a shot. “I know that she found you two entertaining at times.”

I chuckled, “And we found embarrassing her amusing too.”

She giggled, “How did you manage to break the other chair?”

Returning my attention to assembling the new chair, I grinned, “Would you like the truth or to be embarrassed?” Smiling widely, she huffed as if I were impossible then turned and left the room. Concentrating on the chair, it took about ten minutes before I could turn it upright and sit down on it to adjust it.

Turning on the PC, I waited for it to boot then checked our mail. After deleting two pages worth of spam, I found something interesting – an advertisement from International Male. They seemed to have some great clothes and really cute models so I followed the link and saved the site in my favorites beside A&F, Gucci and a few other similar sites I had visited.

Behind me I heard crunching. Wondering what the dog was chewing on, I got up. Laying on the floor in front of his crate and wagging his tail as I came into view, I found Rush gnawing on my dad’s screwdriver! “No!” I yelled and reached down to take the screwdriver. Rush scurried into his crate, turned around and looked at me like I had some kind of problem! “If I tell Prez, you’ll get a few hours of the cold shoulder treatment,” I warned. The dog collapsed in his crate and huffed impatiently.

Heading out of the room to put the screwdriver away, I barely made it past the entryway before Rush tore out of our room and whined happily at the door. I hurried to the garage and returned moments after Prez stepped inside. “Hey baby,” I happily said, and then planted a kiss.

Prez kissed me back and smiled, “Hi.” He waved at my folks in the living room then asked, “Did you have a good day?”

I shrugged, “Decent enough.” Leading him to the loveseat, I asked, “Mike and Derrick went home?”

Petting Rush, Prez nodded, “For a seven AM alarm,” and sat down.

“I just finished putting the chair together,” I said.

Turning to me, he asked, “Really?” I nodded and he stood up saying, “Lemme see.” Then he quickly went to the bedroom. Rush raced us to the room. Sitting in the chair and spinning around on its casters, Prez giggled, “Great!”

I chuckled, “It barely took fifteen minutes to put it together.”

“The computer is on,” Prez noticed, and leered, “What will I find tonight?” Then he gave the mouse a shove, disengaging the screensaver. He saw the International Male web page and giggled. Turning to me with a bright smile, he asked, “For you or for me?”

“For the both of us, when we can afford it,” I promised, and then explained, “We got an ad in the mail so I clicked on the link.”

Prez closed his eyes and grinned, “I’m picturing you wearing a sheer thong.”

Taking hold of his shoulder, I chuckled and reached for the mouse then clicked the swimsuits link. Once the page loaded I pointed at the awesome midcut swimsuit and smiled, “I need to see you in one of those someday.”

Prez said, “The Speedos show more.”

“But it would look especially great on you,” I assured.

Rush came over and dropped his rope toy on Prez’s lap. The moment Prez picked up the end of the rope, Rush tugged and almost pulled Prez out of the chair! Stepping back, I told Prez; “Pick your feet up, baby.”

Prez rested his feet on the base of the chair and tugged the rope. Rush growled and tugged with all his strength. The chair with Prez in it started rolling across the bedroom carpet! Praising his dog, Prez chuckled, “He’s a killer! Go hound dog!” I cracked up as Rush tugged Prez clear across the room. If the bedroom door was open, he would’ve kept tugging right out to the hall.

Dropping to his knees, Prez heartily praised and petted Rush. After a minute or so, he looked up at me and sighed, “I need to get undressed.”

I huffed and nodded, “We need to wake up early.”

He gave Rush another firm rub then started to stand. Prez came to me and sincerely said, “I’m sorry, Keith.”

Startled, I asked, “For what baby?” and started to unbutton his grimy white shirt.

“For whatever I did to make Jake hate me enough to start this whole thing going,” he whispered.

Helping him take his shirt off, I tossed it at the closet then wrapped my arms around my sweetness. “Apology not accepted because you can’t be responsible for Jake’s actions. As close as we are, you’re not responsible for my actions and I’m not responsible for yours.” I reached for his belt, unlatched it then lowered his fly. I stepped back from him and wondered, “How could you apologize for that?”

Unfastening his pants button, Prez explained, “Your dad said that Jake saw me as a leader, some kind of threat to his sense of normalcy.” Lifting a leg and sliding out of his pants, Prez said, “It’s totally asinine to me, but that’s what the dude thought.”

I asked, “When my dad said that, what did you say?”

Emptying his pants pockets, Prez smirked, “That I couldn’t find my way from one end of the valley to the other never mind lead anyone else.”

Watching him stow another large wad of small bills into the dresser drawer and wanting to change the subject, I asked, “Was it busy at work?”

“Not as busy as last Sunday,” he answered. “I found a guy to work Tuesday’s for me tonight,” he smiled, and tossed his black pants at the closet.

Taking him by the hand, I led my lover to the closet. Pushing his clothes aside, I pulled the folded laundry bag that my mom got us out of the closet. It popped open and Prez’s eyes popped too. Chuckling, I showed him the little compartments and started stuffing his clothes into the bag. When I finished, my lover stripped off his socks and underwear. He then helped me get undressed and loaded up the laundry bag.

I turned on the TV then found the remote to set the timer. Prez turned off the lights and I reset the alarm then we got in bed. My baby snuggled up against me. I giggled, “What happened?” Smiling up at me, he hummed curiously. “We just got undressed,” I explained, “You weren’t hard a minute or so ago.”

“Oh that!” he giggled. He then smiled, “I’m where I love being, with you.”

“Ooo,” I chuckled, “Someone’s hoping to get lucky, I think.”

Grinding his wood against my hip, my lover nodded, “We need to, for tomorrow, real slow.”

Carefully rolling towards him, I whispered, “I’ll love you more Wednesday than I have today,” and then kissed him.

The clock radio turned on at seven o'clock. While I was groggily searching for the snooze button, Prez snuggled up behind me. He hoarsely whispered, “Good mornin’ lover.”

Grinding my ass back against his erection, I gave up on finding the snooze button and held his arms in place around me sighing, “I already love you more.” Suddenly, I felt a lot more awake and willing to motivate.

Hugging me tight, he sighed, “It was just what we needed.”

For the first time since school ended, I rolled towards him, kissed him hard and started our morning grind. Giggling, Prez held on tightly and humped me back. At seven fifteen, the second alarm, an annoying beep, went off; but unfortunately, neither of us had. Too much trial bullshit was lying just beneath the surface. Promising to return to the exact same position later that night, we gave up and got out of bed.

We slipped into cotton sport shorts. Prez hurried to let Rush out and I followed him, but turned into the kitchen. Scanning the refrigerator contents, I asked, “Apple or orange juice, baby?”

Closing the back door, he answered, “Apple, please,” and went to get glasses from the cabinet. I retrieved the plastic bottle of juice and poured while Prez went to the pantry. He suggested, “How about toasted bagels?”

I nodded and smiled, “Sounds good.”

Returning with two bagels, Prez then got a knife from the drawer and sliced them. He stuffed the slices into the toaster and reached for his juice. From the kitchen window, we watched Rush investigating the back yard. A bird suddenly flew from a Cyprus tree, startling Rush. The dog bolted and Prez cracked up. In the center of the yard, Rush spun around and watched the trees for a few moments. “Killer hound dog,” Prez giggled.

My parents’ bedroom door opened and we turned as my mom stepped into the dining room with her coffee cup. “Good morning,” she cheerfully said. Stopping beside us, she asked, “Anxious?” and filled her cup.

I smirked, “To get it over with.”

Prez said, “Mike and Derrick feel the same way.”

Moving between us and wrapping her arms around each of us, she smiled, “Right is on our side. Justice will be served.” We nodded and smiled for her. “Keep thinking positive,” she said and squeezed us tightly. We assured her that we would and she stepped away to get her cup of coffee.

“Has dad already left?” I asked.

My mom nodded, “Just ten minutes ago.” The toaster popped and my mom started for her bedroom. I went to the fridge for the butter and strawberry preserves while Prez put our bagels on plates. I opened the drawer and Prez got a spoon. I reached in for a butter knife.

Mostly we ate quietly, only slowing briefly to assure ourselves that we had to do this. I could see cold blue sternness in his eyes. He said my eyes seemed angry.

“Angry at Jake for getting us in this situation,” I assured.

Reaching for my hand, Prez nodded, “While I’m on the stand, I’ll be looking at you.”

“And the jury,” I reminded, and then leaned over to kiss him. We then got up, cleaned up our mess and hurried to the bathroom. Like it was a school day, we maneuvered around each other in the bathroom. While I brushed my teeth, Prez took a dump. While Prez brushed his teeth, I took a leak. We brought our razors into the shower and shaved while we were in there.

Water sprayed down his back while he soaped up. Prez smiled, “Any dreams last night?”

With shampoo in my hair, I carefully shrugged, “Just you and me.”

He giggled, “And what were we doing?”

I rinsed the soap from my hair and smiled, “Flying.”

We swapped positions in the tub and he grinned, “You dream of that a lot,” and handed me the bar of soap.

I asked, “Did you have any dreams?”

With shampoo in his hair and his eyes closed, he smiled and nodded. I continued soaping up and watched my baby, waiting to hear more. Then I noticed his dick pointing at me! “Oh!” I laughed, “Those kinds of dreams!” I waited until he was rinsing shampoo from hair to lovingly soap his hard shaft.

Minutes later we were back in our room, getting into our new suits. Once his shoes were tied, Prez let the dog back in and locked him in our room.

At five minutes after eight, we hurried out of the house to pick up Mike and Derrick. Prez insisted on driving his 4Runner. He pulled away from the curb and I turned on the radio. Finding nothing we wanted to hear on any of the presets, Prez asked me to find one of his compilation tapes. I pulled the tape marked, “John’s b-day sets 3 & 4,” in Prez’s handwriting and stuffed it in the deck. Seconds later, Birthday by The Beatles began and we sang along.

Living On A Prayer had just begun when we stopped in front of Mike’s house. They looked good in dress slacks, shirts, ties and sports jackets. Getting in the car, they said good morning. Prez greeted them while I waved and kept on singing. Prez pulled away from the curb. At the second chorus, Mike and Derrick sang backup vocals. We had rehearsed these songs for months. Behind me, Derrick started drumming on his knees. We knew the lyrics, who needed to sing and when.

In the few seconds silence before Wildest Dreams began, I wondered if Prez had purposefully chose a compilation so we wouldn’t dwell on what the day had in store for us. Whether or not that was his purpose didn’t really matter, I reckoned; the effect was great. And with all the glass on Prez’s 4Runner, the acoustics were fabulous. I heard each of their voices clearly as they joined me for the chorus. The Joker began next with Prez singing lead vocals. The acoustic effect was even more fabulous with Mike, Derrick and me backing him up. Then Prez and I sang lead on It’s Only Natural. Briefly, I flashed back to the day of John’s party.

Remarkable as it may seem, we sang the entire way to the courthouse; never once was Jake or the trial mentioned. Prez sang Hold My Hand along with the tape next. The song was just nearing the end as he turned into the parking garage across the street from the courthouse. Rolling down his window and still singing loudly, Prez took a parking receipt from the machine and the aluminum bar began to rise. Before we found a place to park, Lights by Journey, began playing and I started singing. On the third level, Prez found a spot and parked. But he didn’t turn off the engine until the song ended.

Wordlessly, we unbuckled our seat belts and got out of the car. Mike and Derrick waited for Prez and I. We started across the parking garage for the stairs. Derrick softly said, “I love you dudes. I won’t let you down.”

Prez was at least as stunned as I. He loudly assured, “D, you can’t let me down. You were there when it counted most.”

I reminded, “This is just a necessary evil, bud.”

Mike bumped into Derrick and softly smiled.

“Do your best,” Prez said, “From where I’ve been standing your best is really good.”

Forcing a smile, Derrick looked past me at Prez and said, “Thanks, bro.”

“It’s the truth,” Prez smiled.

We started down the stairs. I grinned, “Personally, I’m afraid of what Mike might say.”

“Lick me,” Mike grumbled.

I chuckled, “See, exactly my point. Jake’s gonna walk in the room and Mike’s gonna start cussin’.” Prez snickered and squeezed my hand.

Turning and heading down another flight of stairs, Mike smiled up at me and snickered, “I learned from you!”

I laughed, “Don’t blame me for your evil ways!”

Mike impatiently sighed, “Guess a courtroom isn’t such a good place to kick your ass!”

Prez sweetly chuckled, “My virgin ears!”

“I’m gonna puke,” Mike chortled.

Derrick smiled up at Prez and teased, “His ears are the only virgin body parts left.”

Stepping outside, we refrained from further foolishness. At the corner, traffic was very busy. We waited for the light to change then walked across the street. As we climbed the stairs to the courthouse doors, Prez glanced at his watch and announced, “Eight forty-five.”

Derrick held open the door for us. Inside the courthouse was a metal detector with two armed security officers at either side. We emptied our pockets into little blue plastic bins so they could be x-rayed then walked through the metal detector.

As we gathered our stuff, my dad appeared with a sharply dressed and handsome younger man. I smiled, “Hey dad.” Prez, Mike and Derrick turned to say hello.

“Hi,” my dad said, “How are you all?”

“It’s been a good morning so far,” Prez smiled.

Placing his hand on the young man’s shoulder standing beside him, my dad said, “Darrell McKay, I’d like you to meet my son Keith, his partner Preston, and their friends Derrick and Mike.” Darrell shook our hands as my dad introduced us. My dad then said, “Darrell is interning with our firm this summer. He’ll show you around and get you settled.” The four of us looked at each other uncertainly. My dad smiled, “Its okay. Until all the I’s are dotted and T’s crossed, I don’t want to get your hopes up.”

Darrell chuckled, “Come on dudes. We can’t talk about this here.”

As Darrell gathered us and led us down the hall, my dad said, “I’ll see you later.”

Darrell showed us to the canteen, where we could get assorted drinks and snacks. “If you’d like anything to eat or drink, you can get it now,” Darrell suggested. They didn’t really have much in the way of food; just donuts, crescent rolls and various muffins. We all got sodas though.

Then he showed us the actual courtroom we would be in. It was empty and looked small compared to what I’d seen on the news or TV shows. Next, Darrell took us upstairs and down a hall. He pointed at the men’s room, but kept walking another ten or so paces. Stopping and opening a door for us, we entered a room smaller than my bedroom. There were two old sofas, a black lacquer coffee table with a few tattered magazines scattered across its top and a television on a stand. At the far end of the room there was a large window. “Make your selves at home,” Darrell warmly said. He picked up the remote control, turned on the TV and said, “It’s got all the basic cable channels just no HBO or Showtime. Check the coffee table drawer for a deck of cards.” Handing the remote to Prez, he said, “I’ll be back for you all once we get our ducks lined up and quaking.”

Prez wondered, “We’re just supposed to hang out here?”

“For how long?” Mike asked

Darrell nodded, “Just for a little while.”

Derrick asked, “Do you know much about this case?”

“Everything there is to know,” Darrell smiled.

Before he left us, I asked, “What’s the delay?”

Scanning our four curious and eager expressions, Darrell sighed, “I don’t know all the details, but something happened over the weekend.” He paused and a grin slowly formed across his face. “It’ll be good,” he assured, and then turned and walked out of the room.

Prez turned to me with an uncertain smirk. “We could’ve watched TV at home or even better, slept in!”

Mike plopped onto one of the sofas. Glancing up at the clock on the wall he grumbled, “We’d just be waking up and getting ready for the beach.”

Setting my soda on the coffee table, I took off my suit jacket then carefully draped it over the couch across from Mike saying, “Might as well get comfy.” Then I parked my ass and patted the next cushion, smiling up at my lover. Prez and Derrick both took their jackets off.

Sitting down beside Mike, Derrick looked up at Prez and said, “Find something better than news, dude.”

Putting his drink down on the table, Prez then started channel surfing. There was nothing of value on any of the local broadcast channels; what a surprise!

Standing and taking his jacket off, Mike then sat back down and looked at me saying, “See if there are cards in the drawer, Keith.”

I opened the coffee table drawer. There were more magazines and I started digging eventually finding loose cards scattered all over the drawer. I sighed and Prez looked over at me then down in the drawer. He groaned, “Ah shit!” and then handed the remote to Derrick saying; “Here ya go, D. The cards are all around the drawer.” Together we started sorting magazines and playing cards.

Leaning forward to help with the cards, Mike said, “Check VH-1, dude.” Derrick quickly settled on VH-1 then started commenting on the assortment of old magazines. About twenty minutes later, after shaking a few cards out of the magazines, we found all fifty-two cards.

Derrick shuffled and dealt the first hand. “Five card stud, jacks or better to open, deuces wild.”

Mike grinned, “What are we playing for?”

I sneered and Prez chuckled, “Clothes. Let Darrell find us in the nude.” I dove at him and Prez held on tight.

Mike and Derrick cracked up. I sat up again, but closer to Prez and admitted, “He was pretty hot. I’d guess about twenty.” Then we picked up our cards.

Derrick sighed, “Yeah, but he’s straight.”

Smiling over my shitty hand at him, I grinned, “How do you know he’s straight?”

Prez smiled, “I’ll open with my jacket.”

Derrick shrugged and smiled, “No doubt about it.”

I nodded, “I’m in. Check.”

Mike grinned, “I’ll see your jacket and toss in my tie.”

Derrick nodded, “Check.”

Prez tossed down two cards. Smiling, I peeked over and he hid his hand from me!

Derrick dealt two cards to Prez and turned to me. I kept my queen and ten and tossed down three. Derrick quickly replaced them.

Tossing down three cards, Mike said, “My gaydar was totally silent, but I don’t really trust it either.” He looked at his new cards with a blank expression.

Derrick tossed down three cards and replaced them. Prez said, “I’ll bet my shirt on these babies.” Then he looked at Mike and asked, “Why don’t you trust it, dude?”

I had the queen of diamonds and the ten on spades hoping for a straight or even a straight flush. But I drew a nine, seven and a four.

Mike answered, “It goes off for dudes I know are straight, like Zack.”

Smiling at Prez and keeping the secret, I tossed my cards down saying, “Fold.”

Leering suspiciously at Prez, Mike said, “I’ll see your shirt, dude.”

Derrick sighed, “Fold.”

Grinning insanely, my lover laid his cards down. He had two kings, but turned them into four with wild deuces. Mike tossed his cards down and grumbled, “Some day, Prez.”

“Not today!” Prez happily sang and I cracked up. While I laughed, my baby gathered the cards and giggled, “We’ll pay off later. Same game, same rules.” He shuffled the cards a few times then dealt around the table to me, Mike and Derrick before laying one down for himself. Moments later, we picked up our cards.

Again, I had shit – only the ace of hearts was worth keeping.

I looked up at Mike and he said, “I’ll open with my shoes.”

Derrick nodded, “Check.”

On the TV, Def Leppard began playing Pour Some Sugar On Me and simultaneously hands reached for the remote. Mike was fastest though and turned up the volume. The card game was suspended for about four and half minutes. Derrick turned the volume back down and Mike complained, “This is valuable jam time we're wasting here!” Then he glanced around and asked, “Whose turn is it any way?”

“Mine,” Prez said. Quickly glancing at his cards, he added, “Check.”

I said, “I’m in,” and laid down four cards. Prez dealt me four cards then looked at Mike. He laid down two cards and Derrick three. Prez laid down three and picked up another three. I looked at my cards. Another ace and a deuce! YES! “I’ll bet my shirt and socks,” I grinned.

“So it’s socks and pants to me,” Mike softly said. He then smiled up at me and asked, “Wanna see me naked?”

I snickered, “Not particularly.”

He then nodded and said, “I’ll see your bet.”

Derrick frowned and said, “Fold, a pair of sevens that went no where.”

Scanning Mike and I, Prez then said, “I’ll see that bet.”

I grinned and laid down my cards. Mike hollered, “Wench! I’m already down to my boxers!” and I cracked up.

Derrick grinned, “I’ve still got my shirt.”

“Socks pants and undies,” Prez grinned.

While I gathered the cards, Derrick sighed, “I wonder what’s going on? It’s almost ten.”

I shuffled the cards and assured, “My dad said its okay, dude.”

“Try to be patient,” Prez softly smiled.

Derrick huffed, “Aren’t you dudes feeling anything?”

I started dealing the cards and nodded, “It’s later though, D. Try and chill now.”

Mike shrugged, “Sure dude, but what can we do?”

Prez agreed, “There’s no reason to be anxious or nervous now, bro.”

“If it would help, you could take all your clothes off,” Mike joked.

Derrick grinned, “Nope, next time Prez and Keith drop ‘em first.”

Picking up his cards, Prez snickered, “It’s looking like Mike gets to start us off next time.”

Smiling across the table at Mike, I wondered, “Can you open, bro?”

Mike snickered, “I’d open with my boxers, but I’d have to play with these cards.”

Derrick chuckled, “Want the shirt off my back?”

Humming provocatively for a moment, Mike then nodded, “I’ll open.”

“I’m in,” Derrick grinned.

Prez smiled, “Me too.”

I nodded then smiled, “How many cards dude?”

Mike dropped two cards and I dealt him two. I could see in his eyes he was pleased.

Derrick discarded three and I replaced them; then three for Prez and three for me.

Mike grinned, “I’ll bet D’s shirt.”

“And I’ll raise my shoes and socks,” Derrick gleamed.

Biting his lower lip, Prez grinned, “Y’all just want to see my dick again.”

Derrick smiled, “It’s definitely unique.”

Prez chuckled, “Not on these cards! Fold.”

Holding an inside straight, I grinned, “Call,” and then laid down my cards. But Mike had three eights and Derrick had a full house!

Prez cackled, “Looks like Keith and Mike start us off next time!”

Kicking back and folding one leg over the other, Mike grinned, “Do we need to talk about the four way any more?”

Shaking his head, Prez smiled, “I don’t think so.”

Sitting back and drumming on his knees, Derrick said, “Last year we could’ve taken an `anything goes’ attitude, but that’s pretty impossible now.”

I chimed, “But you got upset last year. Not at me, but at Mike.”

Derrick smiled, “And when you thought I was a little too close to Prez, you got mad at him, not me.”

“It was my idea,” Mike said. “The little head was thinking more than the big one, what can I say?”

“Don’t apologize for being human,” Prez assured. He then explained, “I get guilty just noticing some dudes.”

“And he tells me about it,” I happily interjected.

Prez nodded, “When I think back to last year, I really felt… well, privileged.”

Derrick grinned, “Privileged?”

My baby nodded and reached for my hand saying, “I went from having no one to this.”

Mike smirked, “Do you still feel privileged?”

Prez shook his head and said, “More like a cog in the wheel.”

“The way it really is and has been for a long while,” Derrick said.

Facing my lover, I smiled, “You earned our trust, baby.”

Nodding, Prez said, “And you’ve all earned mine.”

Derrick grinned and softly admitted, “Sitting around naked the other night was so cool.”

Mike chuckled, “It was fucking amazing! None us popped a rod! How fucking weird is that!”

Prez laughed, “It was our first time!”

I then told Mike and Derrick what I had told Prez a few months prior. “The only thing I want to see is the two of you making love.”

Prez nodded and admitted, “I’d like to see that too. Of course, we’d be fine with putting on a little show for the two of you in return.”

Mike smiled and loudly said, “That would be too cool!”

Derrick nodded, “I want to see both of you making each other that happy. I’m pretty sure I could perform… as long as there are no wise cracks!”

Prez cracked up and I giggled, “No comments about the squishy noises?”

Derrick chuckled, “Exactly those kinds of remarks.”

Shaking his head sadly, Mike giggled, “If I start laughing, I’ll lose my erection. It happens every damn time.”

Prez chuckled, “So, switch off. If you’re not hard enough anymore, take the bottom position.”

I nodded, “That’ll get you hard again, won’t it?”

Mike enthusiastically nodded, “Every time!”

Derrick sneered, “Just watch quietly.”

“That night, in Derrick’s room,” Prez started, “I dreamt about the four of us sleeping together.” He then glared at Mike and chuckled, “You kept rolling into me and waking me up!”

Mike giggled, “Wouldn’t surprise me in the least.”

Derrick nodded, “He rolls around a lot at night.”

“Oh shit!” Prez giggled. “Do you?”

Shaking his head, Derrick said, “I sleep on my back mostly. Occasionally, I’ll roll from one side to the other, but I wake on my back.”

“We fall asleep on our sides,” I said. “Either I’m holding Prez or he’s holding me.”

“From there, we seem to move around a bit,” Prez grinned at me.

“And always manage to be touching when we wake,” I smiled widely.

Turning to Mike and Derrick, Prez said, “I’ll just take an edge of the bed then!”

I smiled at Mike. “If you roll into me, I’ll club you one!”

Derrick smiled, “Sometimes Mike’s on his stomach and its like he’s swimming in slow motion!” Mike cracked up and fell over onto Derrick. “Just rub his ass and he’ll stop swimming!” Derrick laughed and Mike pushed away. Prez and I roared.

Mike smirked, “We’re still talking about a dream, right? Or are we planning on attempting sleeping in the same bed?”

“For the four of us?” Prez giggled, “It would take a really big bed!”

Derrick smiled, “Doug and Brian have a king size bed.”

Mike nodded, “And an awesome master bath shower.”

“Designed for two to shower at the same time, but big enough for four,” Derrick added.

Prez giggled, “What the hell?” and I happily nodded.

Turning to Derrick, Mike affirmed, “Intercourse is the ultimate, only for you.”

Prez and I were so shocked to hear something that sweet escape Mike’s lips, we could only smile at each other. Derrick seemed to melt.

Prez then turned to Derrick and asked, “More sappy than last year?”

Derrick shrugged and smiled, “Close, but not quite.” He then tugged at the front of his slacks. Prez blushed and I cracked up again. Mike shuffled closer to Derrick and rested against him. I moved closer to Prez and kissed him deeply.

Behind me, the door swung open. I pushed away from Prez and turned around.

Darrell smiled, “I knew you’d get comfortable.”

I blushed and chuckled, “What’s the scoop, dude?”

“Plea bargain,” Darrell happily explained. “They’ve admitted guilt to all except the attempted murder charges. None of you need to take the stand.”

Prez and I let out huge sighs of relief and reached for each other. Glancing across the table, I noticed Mike and Derrick were also holding hands.

Mike asked, “What happens next?”

“We present it to the judge,” Darrell said. “You dudes don’t even have to be there.”

“Will Jake be there?” Derrick asked.

Darrell nodded, “He has to be for sentencing.”

We glanced at each other and silently agreed. Prez said, “We want to be there too.”

Darrell grinned, “We half expected you would. We’ve got fifteen minutes and only need to walk back down the hall.” He then asked, “Does anyone have any questions?”

Derrick suspiciously asked, “What kind of sentencing are we talkin’ here? How long will he be locked away?”

Darrell chuckled, “That dude has been such an asshole. He actually had a better deal four weeks ago and turned it down.” He then wiped the smile from his face and explained, “The deal we made this time was to drop the attempted murder charges, but prosecute the assault with a deadly weapon and manslaughter charges. From now until his twenty-first birthday, Jake will be in a juvenile detention facility. He’ll finish his education and be treated by professional psychologists, with periodic evaluations. After his twenty-first birthday, he’ll spend no fewer than three additional years at the state penitentiary before coming up for his first parole hearing. The results of his psych exams will have direct bearing on his readiness to re-join society.” He paused and smiled, “That’s seven years before his first parole hearing. I’d doubt he has any chance of seeing the light of day for the full ten though.”

“Ten years is the maximum sentence?” Mike asked.

Darrell nodded. Derrick turned to Mike and Prez softly saying, “He wanted to kill you.”

Mike’s and Prez’s eyes locked. Mike softly offered, “He’s gone for seven years at least, probably ten.”

Prez said, “He’ll learn how to live with diverse society instead of against it.”

Mike grinned, “One way or another.”

Derrick grumbled, “The dudes a scumbag. I think he’s getting off too easy.”

Darrell said, “To some extent, we all are. You dudes don’t have to testify or face a jury. The state doesn’t have to pay for the trial, but justice is served.”

Mike then turned to Derrick and softly said, “It was a black eye and some bruises.”

“I never want to see you like that again,” Derrick sternly said.

I faced Prez and asked, “Are you satisfied?”

My baby nodded and huffed, “Totally and very relieved.”

Shocked, Derrick said, “You are, aren’t you?”

Prez said, “It sucks enough that we had to live it once. I didn’t really want to rehash it all for a jury and I’m sure none of you did either.” Derrick, Mike and I nodded.

Darrell said, “Let’s go, dudes.” We all stood and put our suit jackets on.

Derrick told Mike; “Comb your hair, dude.” Mike pulled a comb from his back pocket and raked his mop.

I beamed at Prez. “You look fantastic.”

My baby smiled, “You do too, babe.”

Darrell chuckled and started for the door. We followed him down the hall into the courtroom. My dad and Gene Lieberman were seated at one table. Jake’s defense team was at the other table. The jury booth was vacant. Darrell pointed at the row of seats behind my dad. As we passed, he softly said, “The bailiff will order the room to stand. Just stand up and don’t sit until the judge says to.”

With Gene and my dad proudly watching, we sat down. My dad signaled with the thumbs up sign then faced forward. About a minute later Jake was brought into the courtroom wearing a bright orange prison jumpsuit with his hands and legs shackled. We all watched him, but he never even looked up at us. A few minutes after eleven in the morning, we were told to stand and the judge finally came into the room. She told us to be seated then read for several minutes, flipping pages back and forth. Prez reached for my hand. He was shaking, I immediately noticed. I softly hushed him and squeezed his hand tightly. Prez squeezed my hand and sighed, slumping slightly in his seat.

The judge said, “Will the defendant please stand?” and Prez jumped in his seat, sitting upright again. Jake and his attorney stood. The judge rattled through a list of a half a dozen charges and after each, asked Jake how he plead.

To each charge, Jake softly and almost impatiently said, “Guilty.” The four of us glanced at each other and sadly shook our heads.

After reading the shorter list of dropped charges the judge set Jake’s sentence. He would be in jail for seven years, partially because of his less than favorable prison record over the prior two months. What I found most revealing while the judge talked to Jake was that there was no one sitting on the other side of the aisle. During the most tragic minutes of his life, Jake had no family or friends in the courtroom that day. He stood completely alone.

The gavel fell and the bailiff asked us to stand. The judge left the room and two policemen led Jake from the room. He never once looked our way. Gene Lieberman shook hands with my dad then turned around and shook each of our hands. Darrell followed Gene from the courtroom. My dad smiled widely and shook our hands.

Shaking my dad’s hand, Derrick’s chest rose and he huffed, “That’s it then?”

My dad nodded, “He’ll be punished and educated.”

Derrick sighed, “I’m sorry, but I don’t see a dude with any remorse. He actually sounded annoyed to have to admit his guilt.”

Taking Derrick by the shoulder, my dad said, “About two weeks ago, his jaw was broken in a brawl. He answered the best he could.” My dad then led us from the courtroom saying, “I’m sure that Jake is doing some serious thinking. His arrogance could’ve gotten him killed. He’ll have to evolve to survive.”

Prez said, “Imagine it dude, Jake lives every day with a bunch of other dudes, some of which are probably way bigger and tougher than he could ever hope to be. Who do you trust? Are friendships even possible?”

Mike shook his head sadly and muttered, “What a fucked up situation it must be; totally alone and surrounded by danger.”

I added, “Jake had no one with him. That side of the room was empty.”

Derrick nodded, “Spending a day like that would be bad. But years?”

Prez agreed, “I hope that he has the capacity to learn.”

Stopping at the security station, my dad smiled, “What’s the plan for the rest of the day? Are you working?”

We all nodded and told my dad that we had planned on going in late, but now we really didn’t need to; we could all make our normal start times.

My dad nodded and grinned, “I have a few dozen forms to get filed.” Patting Prez and I on the back, he asked, “I’ll see you later tonight?”

Prez nodded and I said, “Chill time tonight.”

Derrick grinned, “But beach time tomorrow! No suit and tie; just trunks, sand and waves.”

Mike giggled, “That is the best part.”

“Don’t waste another minute here,” my dad chuckled.

We all said goodbye then headed out of the courthouse. Checking my watch as I reached to take off my tie, I noticed it was almost noon. Beside me, Prez also untied his tie. In front of us and walking down the steps, Mike and Derrick took their jackets off. Once down the steps and on the sidewalk, they turned around. Mike asked, “What’s for lunch?”

Derrick grinned, “I vote for KFC.”

Slyly grinning my way for second, Prez then faced them and suggested, “How about we celebrate with a served lunch?”

Mike nodded, “Nothing too expensive though.”

I asked, “How about Denny’s?”

“Cool,” Derrick nodded. While we waited for the signal to cross the busy intersection, Derrick scanned Mike and then Prez. He sighed, “I hate to ask, but I need to here it again. Are you dudes cool with the sentence?”

Mike and Prez both nodded. Mike assured, “Seven years is a long time. And I think he’s too dense to do what’s best for himself. He’ll be locked away for ten years, I’m sure of it.”

We started across the street. Prez said, “I need you to be cool about this too, Derrick.”

Derrick sighed, “I know, bro. I’m trying.”

I admitted, “It scared me too, dude. Way more after the fact, thinking about what could have been.”

Reaching for his partner’s hand, Mike said, “What could have been never happened.” Glancing at Prez he asked, “What do you think about a civil case?”

We started up the parking garage stairs. Prez sighed, “I really don’t know. Part of me wants to sue them, but his parents didn’t even show up today. How much did they influence what happened? And more importantly, do we want to spend more days in court? It all sounds pretty aggravating to me.”

Derrick agreed, “Today has certainly been a waste of time and effort.”

“I wish we could return these jackets,” Mike grumbled.

I grinned, “They looked good on you. Save ‘em for graduation.”

Wide-eyed, Derrick smirked, “I hadn’t thought of that.”

“The dances are before graduation though,” Mike reminded. “We need to make extra bucks for a PA system.”

I chuckled, “We need to put on a good show or no one will come to any of the dances. Will and Zack will find someone else if they have to, I’m sure.”

Prez agreed, “The music comes first.”

“We do all right with most every style with one exception,” I said. Mike glared at me and I grinned, “We need to do techno dance stuff too, whether Mike likes it or not.”

We started across the third level and Mike whined, “You are such a bitch.”

Derrick nudged Mike. “It’s true though. We need to mix the new with the old.”

“And I’ll just take a nap playing the same ol’ chunky rhythm guitar,” Mike sneered.

“Or we could write something original?” Prez gleamed.

Derrick smiled, “Use the synth effects in your GT-3, like last week dude. It’s just crowd control.”

Mike huffed, “Next we’ll be adding DJ equipment.”

Unlocking the 4Runner, Prez said, “We need to do that too.” Mike glared at him and Prez snickered, “In between sets, dude. Just because we’re taking breaks doesn’t mean the dancing should stop.” We got in the car and buckled up.

Derrick chuckled, “Hell yeah! We could play tapes of current tunes then play a little something during each set in between all our classic rock, blues and pop tunes.”

I smiled, “The crowd has to be entertained is all I’m saying.”

After starting the engine and turning the air conditioning on, Prez reminded, “There are RCA plugs on our PA. I could use my mom’s tape player and attach it to the PA, no problem.” I turned the stereo on and Prez carefully backed out then started slowly forward.

Mike said, “We can play tapes of anything the crowd wants, that’s cool. But I don’t really want to play that shit. Even with me playing melody leads, it’s dull.”

Prez said, “I wouldn’t have a problem if you wanted to take a break, Mike. Jessy, Derrick and I wander away when you and Keith play More Than Words. Derrick, Jessy and I could carry the techno tunes.”

Derrick said, “Actually, it would sound best with programmed drums from Jessy’s synthesizer.”

“You’re not into it either, D?” Prez asked.

Derrick answered, “I would be, but I was just honestly admitting, electronic drums would sound better. Besides, you don’t have any real solos Prez.”

“Yeah,” Mike started, “you’re a great bassist, dude. Take some slap bass solos. Show off a little and in the process, give them something to dance to.”

Stopping at the garage toll booth, Prez smiled, “I guess I could do that.” Then he noticed the parking rate and grumbled, “Sonofabitch! Two bucks an hour!” Unbuckling his safety belt, Prez reached into his pant’s pocket and pulled out his cash. I reached into my pocket to help, but Prez said, “I’ve got it covered, babe. Save it for lunch.” My baby then greeted the attendant and passed him eight bucks. The gate rose and Prez inched forward. He pulled out onto the street and turned right.

Mike then said, “You could take some rock bass solos too Prez. Mike Anthony of Van Halen does a few that you could easily do, especially with your new effects unit. Like Sunday Afternoon In The Park, from the Fair Warning disk.”

Derrick enthusiastically said, “With two amps it would sound awesome bro.”

“We could introduce each other at the solos,” I suggested.

“But you don’t ever sing a solo,” Mike said, and I swung around to stare him down. He grinned, “Truth hurts?” and Derrick snickered evilly. Prez stifled his laughter, but he was grinning widely and his shoulders were bouncing.

“You’re such a bitch,” I smirked. Facing forward, I added, “Chose any of the fifty or so songs I sing lead vocals on.”

“Don’t get cranky now,” Mike giggled.

“I won’t get mad now,” I grinned, “But I will get even later.”

“Oo-oo-oo!” Mike and Derrick playfully mooed.

After a few moments, Derrick leaned forward and suggested, “Why don’t we move the rest of the gear from your garage to Mike’s today?”

Prez nodded, “Right after lunch.”

Mike said, “Drop us off at home so we can change into normal clothes. Then we’ll be right over.”

Derrick added, “We might need your car too, Keith.”

Mike agreed, “For Jessy’s keys, the mics and stands.”

I nodded and Prez said, “And my bass too. The PA and my amps will fit in the back though.”

Mike suggested, “You could leave one amp here if you want, Prez.”

“Live, the two amps sound great, but in the garage, it’s too much,” Derrick agreed.

Preoccupied with heavy lunch hour traffic, Prez softly said, “Cool.” He then turned on his directional and moved into the left turn lane. At least two minutes later, traffic allowed him to shoot across the road into a Denny’s parking lot. Parking the car, he smiled, “I’m starving!” and turned off the engine.

We got out of the car and started for the restaurant. I wondered aloud, “If it takes all three of our vehicles to move the equipment we have, what will you need to move the bigger systems?”

Mike answered, “I’m getting a van – at least three quarter ton, full ton if I have my way.”

“Gotta prove you need it first,” Derrick smiled.

“I can already do that,” Mike chimed. “Like Keith said, it’s taking all our cars to move the stuff around.”

We stepped into the restaurant and waited to be seated. A hostess soon showed us to a booth. She said, “Jason will be your server today and will be right with you,” then walked away.

Prez hummed and said, “The first Jason I’ve met since arriving in California.”

Derrick grinned, “Can’t wait to see him.”

Mike and I glared incredulously at our partners.

I grinned, “In Texas, Prez’s best friend was a Jason so I know why he’s interested.”

Mike chortled, “And your excuse is?”

Derrick shrugged and snickered, “Jason is a hot name. I don’t know why, it just is.”

And Prez nodded enthusiastically! Nudging him softly, I snickered, “You are sinking deeper by the second! Maybe we need to talk more about Jason in Texas?”

Prez giggled, “Any time. I told you he had blond hair and blue eyes.”

Sitting up straight and obviously way more interested, Mike leered, “Really?”

Prez nodded and smiled, “The last time I saw him, Jason was a little taller than me, but more like your build Mike.”

“Really?” Mike melodically smiled.

“That’s twice,” Derrick chuckled.

Turning to his partner, Mike giggled, “I can’t join this fantasy?”

Prez and I chuckled. A tall young man wearing a Denny’s shirt approached. His name tag read, Jason. He was probably twenty-one, about six feet tall and built like a gymnast with exceptionally wide shoulders and a trim waist. As attractive as he was, my gaydar was sadly quiet.

Jason stopped at our table and introduced himself while passing out menus. The four of us shared meaningful smiles while greeting our waiter. He asked, “Can I get you anything to drink?”

Simultaneously, we all chattered our preference.

Jason chuckled, “One at a time,” and pointed at me saying, “Starting with you.”

I smiled up at the luscious hunk and said, “Coke, please.”

Then Prez said, “Iced tea, please.”

Derrick said, “Just ice water for now.”

And Mike smiled, “Lemonade please dude.”

Jason nodded, “I’ll be right back,” and we all picked up our menus.

Waiting until Jason was out of range, Mike softly sighed, “Very impressive.”

Derrick chuckled and bounced against Mike.

“He’s not gay though,” I grinned.

Prez nodded, “No pings here either.”

“We’ll still have to come back here again,” Derrick giggled and Mike forcefully bounced against him, making the entire booth shake.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Jason returning and snickered, “Here he comes.”

Derrick softly giggled, “I’d watch that show,” and we all cracked up.

Jason began setting our drinks down on the table and we tried to compose ourselves. Jason smiled, “Do you need a few more minutes?”

Quickly, Derrick grinned, “I’m ready, dude.”

And Mike loudly chuckled, “Me too!”

I nodded and covered my eyes as I tried to control my laughs. OMIGOD! I really had to wonder if we were talking about ordering lunch or having Jason for lunch!

Prez chuckled, “I’ll be ready in a minute.”

Over my snickers, Derrick ordered southern fried chicken and a Coke. Mike chuckled, “Bacon cheeseburger.”

Jason turned to me and patiently waited until I snickered, “Turkey club sandwich.”

I turned to Prez. He looked up and softly chortled, “Cheeseburger please.”

Taking our menus, Jason nodded, “About fifteen minutes,” and then turned and walked away.

Leaning back, I chuckled, “Too bad he’s not on the menu.”

Mike nodded, “If I were into flings…”

Derrick whispered, “But he’s definitely straight.”

Mike sighed, “I think so too.”

Prez sat back and focused on Mike then asked, “What do you think about suing Jake’s family, dude?”

Mike sighed, “Lemme talk with my mom. She was pretty shook up by the black eye.”

Prez nodded and smiled, “My mom would’ve attacked Jake in jail.” He then turned to me and asked, “Has your mom said anything privately to you?”

“Not really,” I shrugged. “You know my mom; there’s never reason for physical violence.”

Mike huffed, “My mom wonders if that was the first of many bashings.”

“God forbid,” Prez groaned. But the rest of us remained silent for a few moments too long. “What’s going on here?” Prez asked.

Locking eyes with my lover, I shrugged, “Will it be the only time?”

“So what should we do?” Prez asked. His eyes turned cold and he softly rambled, “Let’s go back into the closet and completely hide it. No more late night chats in the buff, no more hugs, no more truth except behind closed doors and when no one else is around. My Lord, what would happen if everyone spoke the truth?”

“Prez, come one bro,” Derrick pleaded.

Thoughtful for a moment, Prez shook his head and retained low tones saying; “Not this time. You think LA is bad? Would you like to try North Texas? If the four of us were magically teleported there, you know things couldn’t have happened the way they have. And I’m sure there are other places more intolerant. Think of gay teenagers in those places. I think we’re lucky to be here.

“Jake was a social moron. Anyone else that picks a fight based solely on sexual orientation is a moron. And why did he choose us, Mike? I know I never did anything remotely overt at school with you.” Then he turned to me and asked, “What did he see us do? Did you reach for my hand or did I reach for yours? Were we whispering or just sitting too close or what?” He looked at Derrick and sadly said, “So maybe we shouldn’t be so close. Let’s change our minds, get girlfriends so we don’t appear too queer.”

Mike leaned forward and sharply said, “You know that won’t happen. But we’re not full citizens, remember? We can’t do anything straight couples do.”

“Sure we can,” Prez softly smiled. “Exactly the things we have been doing.” Turning to me, he smiled, “If I feel like reaching for your hand, I’m gonna do it. I want you to feel its okay to hold my hand. Same goes for hugs and kisses. Most kids in our school don’t give a fuck and I don’t feel threatened in any way any where. I’m not going to plan on any more fights, but I will defend myself. I feel comfortable enough with my sexuality to sit around shooting the shit, stark naked. Obviously, you all do too.”

Derrick nodded, “I’m happy with the decisions, bro; just wary of certain types of people.”

“Understandably so,” Prez said.

Mike said, “What can we do about those people is the question.”

Prez answered, “Educate them by having the balls to show who we really are and who we care most about. That’s a good first step.” My lover then looked down at the foot or so between us, smiled up at me and shuffled closer. Wide-eyed, he softly sneered, “Ooo! So close, we must be gay!”

Derrick and Mike snickered and nodded. I smiled proudly at my partner then leaned back and wrapped my left arm around his back. Derrick and Mike then moved closer and held hands.

When Jason returned with our meals only a minute or so later, we remained in the same positions, smiling up at our attractive waiter. He didn’t seem the slightest bit miffed about the four of displaying affection. Once we were served, Jason asked, “Would you like anything else?” We all shook our heads and he said, “I’ll be back in a while to check,” then walked away.

We began eating and, like true couples, shared our meals. Mike sampled some of Derrick’s chicken and Prez took a bite from my turkey club sandwich. Jason returned and refilled our glasses. A few minutes later we had all finished eating and Jason checked to see if we wanted desert. We shook our heads and politely declined. Jason then cleared away our plates and returned a minute later with our bill.

Digging our cash out, we covered the bill and left Jason a twenty percent tip just for being cute above and beyond the call.

Once out side, Mike pushed me aside. Then Derrick and Mike surrounded Prez. Derrick chuckled, “We now know what not to say around you!”

Prez giggled and nodded. Mike smashed up against Prez, knocking him into Derrick and seductively growled, “I love it when you get stern with me!”

Derrick laughed, “Tell us we’re bad.”

Nodding, Prez unlocked the truck and chuckled, “Deserving of a spanking!”


Copyright © 2013 TheEggman; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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I'm glad they didn't have to go to court or rather to testify. Though I'm pretty sure Keith's mom and dad aren't saying that about the suits lol. I kinda hope they don't do the civil suit, if the parents didn't care enough to stand behind their son then odds are it would take years of court time and mud raking in order to get money that Jakes parents probably can't afford. Now if it was more damage to the boys or against a business or the city yes but trying to prove that it was the parents fault and get them to pay its not worth it. Prez seeing his mom was it real or in his mind? My thinking on it is it was real enough in his mind that he could have those last thought with her say goodbye to her and find out about her pain. It allowed him to drop a lot of the pain and guilt get was carrying. So yes to Prez she was there and that's all that really matters. Keith believes him so do I. Great chapter cleared up a lot of questions they had some fun and cleared the court case now they can enjoy their summer.

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