Castle Roland

The Least Of These

by Josh


Chapter 14a

Posted: N/A

Author's Introductory Notes:

As usual, I retain all rights, but am more than glad for anyone wishing to offer this story to others at no charge to do so with my gratitude and permission. Josh.

CHAPTER 14a -- Something Old, Something New

I struggled to wake in a room full of light. Davey's room? Am I back home? Opening my eyes, I found myself in a steel-framed hospital bed, with a blinking medical cart alongside me. Shit, I thought, as realization sank in. I'm in a hospital. Things slowly began to come back to me — the embarrassment of the ambulance arriving just as classes were changing… the misery of waiting in the emergency room while I fought for control of my body… the horrified face of my Mom… the hypodermic the nurse finally gave me. Then nothing.

I tried to roll over and discovered that there was an IV in the back of my hand.

"Take it easy, Michael." Mom's face appeared beside my bed. "How do you feel?"

"Sleepy," I tried to say, but my mouth was dry and my tongue felt thick.

"You should be feeling better. You've slept for fourteen hours straight," she said, taking my hand that did not have an IV.

Maggie appeared on the other side of my bed, smiled, and helped me take a sip from a plastic cup filled with water.

I choked a little, then sipped some more. "Parts of my brain are still sleeping," I mumbled.

"You can rest more. Dr. Kazan will be here in a little while to look in on you."

"Dr. Kazan?" I asked, trying to focus my eyes on her face. "Davey's specialist?"

Mom nodded, and glanced across the bed at Maggie.

"I called him, Michael," Maggie said. "I asked him who he'd recommend to help you, and he insisted on coming down here himself."

Mom leaned over me and smiled gently. "Are you hungry, Michael? I can get some food for you."

"No, Mom" I said, still feeling dizzy. "I think I'll sleep some more."

She smoothed back my hair, and I closed my eyes.

A firm hand held mine. I opened my eyes to find Dr. Kazan beside my bed. I looked around for Mom.

"I gave your mother a break, Michael," he said quietly, "so that we could talk. Just you and me."

"Why am I so… groggy?" I asked, rubbing my eyes.

"We've given you a little something to help you rest," he said.

I laid my head back on the pillow and looked up into his face. "What's wrong with me?"

"Well, the simple answer is that you've been pushing yourself too hard," he said with a gentle smile. "But I know there's a lot more to it that that. Davey and I had a long talk last night." He let out a long sigh. "It sounds like you've had a tough year, Michael."

Shit, I thought. "What did he tell you?" I asked.

He held up his hand and began counting off on his fingers. "Let's see. He told me about what Geoff did to you. He told me about Amy and the baby. I already knew about Carlson-Bentolli. And I figured out about your relationship with Davey a long time ago." He lowered his hand down. "It sounds like you and Davey have had some ups and downs in your relationship this year, as well. For a guy your age, that can be pretty traumatic, too."

I looked away from Dr. Kazan and out the window. "What happened to me yesterday?"

He let go of my hand and sat down on the bed. "It's a little early to make diagnoses."

"Ha," I snorted. "I've read enough to know psychiatrists diagnose patients almost before they sit down."

He shrugged. "Well, I'm not your usual psychiatrist."

"How come you're here then?" I asked looking up at him.

He smiled. "I'm here because we're friends. And because I can help you."

I looked out the window again. The memories of what happened at the school lockers returned to me. Everybody knows now, I thought bitterly. It was bad enough when just Mom and Maggie knew. How am I ever going to go back to school?

He walked around the bed and leaned against the windowsill, right in my line of sight. "Alright, look," he said. "You came in here with the classic symptoms of an anxiety attack: the shaking, the shortness of breath. Davey says that you've been struggling with depression. My guess is that you also had some post-traumatic stress after the rape. A lot has happened to you Michael, and you're under a lot of pressure for a guy your age. Hell, I know a lot of adults who couldn't handle this much happening at one time."

He moved back to the bedside where his eyes caught mine and held them. "You're going to be fine. I can help. Will you let me?"

"Yeah," I nodded. "I hate being like this."

"Good," he said. "Now tell me — did something happen yesterday to trigger your episode?"

I shook my head. "No," I said in a raspy voice. "Nothing happened."

"Listen to me, Michael!" he said sharply.

I flinched and turned back to him.

"This is not going to go away. Even a first-year medical student could see you've got some real demons up there." He tapped at my forehead. "Together, you and I can exorcise them. But first, you've got to tell me everything that happened. Don't leave anything out — no matter how embarrassing, no matter how unpleasant. The longer you keep this inside of you, the closer you'll get to having a breakdown."

"Isn't that… isn't that what I had?"

He shook his head. "No," Dr. Kazan said. "Not a nervous breakdown, not even close. Let's just call this nervous exhaustion, brought on by trauma and weeks and months of stress. But now, it's time for you to tell me everything."

"Everything?" I asked.


I took a sip of water, then took a deep breath and recounted my life from the day it began to fall apart; the day Davey walked away from the pool with Geoff.

It was over an hour later that Dr. Kazan called Mom back into the room. "I think we'll keep him another night. I want him to get more rest."

Mom glanced at me, saw me watching them, and ushered the doctor from the room. It was several minutes before she came back.

"Did he say whether or not I'll live?" I asked.

She smiled. "Well, he thinks it may take you a day or two longer to conquer the computer world." She stood by the bed and took my hand. "You haven't eaten yet. Shall I try to get you some food?"

"Maybe a Coke," I said, trying to get the dizziness out of my head. "It'd be nice to wake up."

Later, when lunch came, they brought Mom a tray too. We talked about books we read, watched a game show on TV, and played cards. I was beginning to feel more alert.

"This is crazy, Mom," I said. "I feel fine — I'm just a little sleepy from the medicine. Why don't we go home?"

"Oh, no you don't!" she warned. "You're going to stay here, get bored, and sleep."

But Mom was the one who was beginning to look bored. And she also looked tired. She told me she'd spent the entire night in my room, on a cot the hospital provided.

"Why don't you go home, Mom?" I suggested. "Rest. I'll be fine."

Mom patted my arm. "Maybe in a little while."

"You don't need to baby-sit me, Mom. Honest." I smiled at her. "There's no sense both of us being bored. Go hit the office or whatever you want to do."

But Mom stayed until Davey showed up. We were watching a game show when he stuck his head into the room, saw me, and came up beside the bed.

"Hey, Old Man," he said, smiling, taking my hand.

"Hey, Old Man," I said, not smiling. I wasn't sure why, but I didn't really feel like I needed Davey's face smiling over me like unwelcome sunshine. Davey would try to make me happy. And I wasn't sure I wanted to be happy.

He bent down and gave me a gentle hug. Then he stepped over to hug Mom.

"Are you going to stay with him for a while?" Mom asked Davey.

"All afternoon," he said.

She nodded. "OK. Then maybe I'll go home. But Davey, he's supposed to rest and sleep."

"And be bored," I added.

Mom eyed me and frowned. "And keep away the visitors. I already turned a couple away this morning."

"You did?" I asked. "Why?"

"You were sleeping, Michael. You're supposed to be sleeping!"

"Who came?"

"Ed Armstrong came by," she said. "I let him look in on you, but not wake you. And that Geoff boy. I know you don't like him much, so I just sent him away."

"Geoff?" I asked, startled. Couldn't he at least leave me alone in the hospital?

"He can't see Mickey," Davey said quickly and authoritatively.

Mom looked surprised at Davey's response, but then nodded. "Well, he's not to have a lot of visitors anyway. You make sure he rests."

"Make sure I get bored, you mean," I said, pushing Geoff from my mind. "And sleep."

"Here," Mom said, handing Davey her deck of cards. "Beat him at something two-handed. He's so groggy, I won two games of gin earlier."

As soon as Mom was out the door, Davey was beside the bed again. He bent over, brushing my hair back and kissed me lightly on the lips… and again… and once more. Then he put his cheek next to mine.

"I'm going to be alright," I said, a little irritated. "You don't have to treat me like a basket case. "Dr. Kazan says I'll be OK."

Davey ran his arms under my back and held me tightly, quietly. It finally dawned on me: I hadn't considered how all this might have affected Davey.

I rubbed his back. "Hey, Old Man," I whispered. "Are you OK?"

He nodded and continued to hold me.

I rubbed his back. "You sure?"

He nodded again.

So I continued to rub his back and smell his hair and feel his chest on mine. His breath on my neck was warm and regular. My mind grew cloudy and I began to doze.

I woke up when he pulled away. "Hey," I complained, groggily. "I was resting just fine that way. Who said you could un-hug me?"

He chuckled and rubbed my tummy. "Do you wanna play cards… Mickey?"

"No," I said with a groan. "I'm sleepy. You play — strip solitaire. I'll watch."

He grinned – his happy Davey smile — and I gave up. He was going to make me happy, no matter what.

"Alright," I sighed and winked. "We'll play strip poker. And you'll probably win. All I'm wearing is this flimsy hospital gown."

"No underwear?" he asked. His grin widened and I knew what he was going to do. He ran a hand under the sheet, up my leg, and under the gown, fondling my balls before gently grabbing my cock, which was completely soft.

"I don't think you're going to get much out of that today," I said wearily. "They've got me too doped up."

I should have known better than to say that. His head dove under the sheet and I felt him pull up the gown. He nibbled open-mouthed all over my balls and then his mouth closed over my cock and he sucked me in. My giggles turned to a gasp.

"Davey," I hissed. "Get outta there! What if someone comes in?"

He started making slurping noises.

"Cut that out," I said, trying to squirm out from under him. Then I popped the back of his head through the sheet because he was actually starting to get me hard.

He came up laughing.

"If I wasn't plugged into this stupid IV, you'd be sooo sorry."

He laughed and his laugh warmed me. I grabbed his arm, pulling him toward me. "Climb up here with me," I said.

"What if someone comes in," he asked, laughing.

"Please," I said, seriously.

Davey's smile faded and he slid into the bed on the side opposite my IV. I cuddled into him, burying my face in his shoulder.

"Why do you have that?" he asked, carefully touching my hand by the IV tube.

"The nurse says they stick one in just about everyone. She told mom that if she was here long enough, she'd get one, too."

He chuckled. "She was joking… right?"

"Doofus," I said softly, nuzzling his shoulder.

Davey kissed the top of my head.

"It scared me, Davey," I said quietly. "You know… what happened yesterday."

I felt him nod.

"I don't want to go back there," I told him. "I don't want to go back to school, not ever. I felt so stupid… everybody was staring at me, and I couldn't stop shaking. And everybody knows now — about me, that is."

He pulled me tighter, pressing my face into his shoulder. He smelled good; warm, faintly sweaty with his own particular scent. I took a deep breath through my nose and clung to him. And I fell asleep again.

I woke when there was a knock at the door. Davey climbed out from beside me and accepted delivery of a potted plant from Ed. The flowers from Dr. Meyers arrived at the same time as Larice. While Davey took care of the flowers, I enjoyed a hug from Larice.

"How are you?" she asked, sitting down at the foot of the bed.

I shrugged. "I was pretty bored until Davey got here."

"He was playing strip solitaire," Davey said, taking a seat beside my shoulder.

Larice raised her eyebrows.

"And I was winning, too," I said.

"I don't wanna go there," she said, laughing. "So, tell me what's wrong with you."

I could tell I was going to get tired of that question pretty damn quickly. "The doctor said it was mental exhaustion."

"You? Mentally exhausted?" Larice guffawed. "That's hard to believe. Of course, what's harder to believe is that you were seen kissing Geoff." She sighed, and shook her head. "The rumor is all over school. What's that all about? I thought you hated that guy!"

I wanted to sleep again. Really sleep; as in make-the-world-go-away sleep. But Larice was staring at me, waiting for an answer. "He trapped me, Larice, and forced a kiss on me."

"Seriously?" she asked, surprised.

"Yeah, seriously. He's the last guy I'd ever want to kiss."

Davey shot me a look, and I knew what he thought, but I shook my head. I wasn't prepared to tell Larice any more than that — not yet, anyway.

She looked thoughtful. "Well, we can tell people that, but they're still gonna believe what they want to believe. I'm afraid you and Mr. Geoffrey are pretty well outed. People are already wondering about Davey now, along with Chase and the other nerds."

I saw a familiar face peeking around the door at the back of the room.

"Speak of the devil," I said.

Larice looked up just as Chase walked in, and he didn't look happy. Without a word, he stuck his hands into his pockets and slumped into one of the chairs.

There was an uneasy silence as Chase stared at the floor, and the rest of us looked at each other. "Uh, Davey," Larice finally said, "let's go get a couple of sodas. Chase, you want anything?"

He shook his head, and continued to stare at the floor.

"Michael? You want anything?"

"No. Thanks."

After Larice and Davey left, Chase continued to sit silently.

"Say something," I said.

He glanced up at me, then back at the floor. "So you are gay, after all."

I nodded. "Yeah."

He let out a long sigh, and shook his head sadly. "Geez, Bent," he said. "Why? Why do you have to be gay? You like girls — I know you do!"

"Yeah," I said, but didn't state the obvious — that I liked boys more; or more exactly, that I liked Davey more.

"I mean… I messed around some, too, y'know," Chase said, taking his hands from his pockets and crossing his arms over his chest. "I mean… hell, you and I jacked each other off. But that doesn't mean I'm gay! And it doesn't mean you are, either! And why the hell were you kissing Geoff of all people? A big fucker like that? I mean, that's just downright gross."

"I wasn't kissing him," I said, exasperated. "He trapped me."

"You should've kicked him in the balls, then."

I rolled my eyes. "I didn't have much of a chance," I said. "He outweighs me by about 60 pounds."

"You could've at least fought him, Bent!" he insisted. "The rumor is, you two were really goin' at it."

"I can't help rumors, Chase. And we weren't going at it." I used the bed controls to lift the head of the bed higher and looked him in the eye. "I'm gay, and I'm glad you finally know it, Chase. I never liked keeping that from you — but I wasn't 'going at it' with Geoff."

He glared at me. "I just can't believe it," he said in a quiet voice. "All this time, whenever anyone said anything about you and Davey being gay, I told 'em to fuck off. I almost got into a couple of fights over you! I feel pretty stupid now."

It was my turn to hang my head. "I'm sorry Chase. I didn't think you'd want to be friends if you found out I was gay. To tell you the truth, I'm surprised to see you here. I didn't know if you'd ever want to see me again."

He stood up. "Fuck you, Bent!" he snapped. "What kinda friend do you think I am?"

"Maybe," I said, smiling sadly, "a better one than I deserve."

"Damn straight," he said, finally giving me a grin.

"Bad choice of words," I pointed out.

We both chuckled, then he shook his head. "Not really better than you deserve, Bent. I'm glad to be your friend. Just don't expect me to hug you for a while."

"Don't worry, Chase." I said, grinning. "You're a hot dude, but I'm taken."

"Davey," he nodded with a sigh. "It all makes sense now." He hesitated for a moment as if trying to make up his mind. "Listen, uh, Bent," he began. "About that. My dad wanted to know what happened to you at school and all, and… well, I told him about the rumors, 'cause I figured he'd hear about 'em sooner or later."

"What'd he say?" I asked, my stomach tightening.

"Dad was a little surprised. I mean, he knows about Amy being pregnant and all." He stopped for a minute and looked at me curiously. "You… you are the father, right?"

I laughed, ruefully. "Yeah," I admitted. "I really am. Some gay kid, huh? Knocking up girls at school. Seems like I can't get anything right."

"So maybe you're not totally gay?" he asked.

I shrugged. "I always liked Amy," I said. "And the sex was hot. We did it a few times. But she's not the person I want to spend my life with."

"Well don't get 'em pregnant and you don't have to worry about marrying them," Chase admonished.

"I'm not getting any more girls pregnant. It's not a girl I want to spend my life with," I said.

"Geez, Bent," Chase asked surprised. "Are you and Davey that serious about each other?"

"One of us is," I replied.

Chase considered that a moment, and then nodded sadly. "Speaking of Davey, Bent," he said, "I've got a problem. It's… it's my dad."

Uh-oh, I thought. His dad, who, technically speaking, works for me.

"Right away," Chase continued, "Dad told me that he was worried about Hunter and me. He asked if you and me had ever done anything."

I could feel my face flush hot as I watched Chase.

"I told him no," Chase added quickly. "'Cause, I mean… we really didn't, right? Like I said, a little JO together doesn't make you queer. But then Dad talked to Hunter, and… well, Hunter can't lie for shit."

I felt almost faint, as the blood drained from my face. "What did Hunter tell him?" I asked weakly.

"He told Dad they'd jacked each other off a couple of times. Dad let it go at that, but I'm not sure how much he believed him." Chase looked at me. "I'm not sure how much I believe my brother, either. He and Davey have been palling around for a coupla years now. But I don't wanna know either. Just warn Davey what to say if my Dad asks."

"Thanks, Chase," I said, with a sense of relief. "We're still cool, then?"

"Yeah. And you're still cool with the nerds. We all talked it over today. If anyone gives you a hard time, we're going to sabotage their lab experiments."

I smiled. "Thanks," I said. "I can use all the friends I can get right now."

Chase traced his hand on the chrome frame around the bed. "You don't look right in a hospital, Bent. Not without a buncha bruises from fighting somebody."

I laughed. "Fraid they're all on the inside this time."

Chase's face softened. He came up beside me. "I am gonna give you a hug, Bent," he said. "Just don't tell anybody." And then he bent over me and wrapped his arms under me and gave me a powerful hug. When he stood up, he gave my shoulder a gentle squeeze. "No matter what anybody says, we're still best buds," he said simply. "Just send me any girls that come on to you." And then he winked.

I had strange dreams that night. The first was the worst. Everything was gray and blurry. I was standing in the middle of the cafeteria at school and Davey was beginning to undress me. I protested, but he wouldn't stop. He removed my shirt and handed it to Geoff.

"What's he doing here?" I asked Davey.

"He's helpin' me get you ready," Davey said, working at loosening my belt.

"For what?"

"For them," Davey said, nodding with his head back over his shoulder.

I looked up and all the guys in the cafeteria were coming towards me. Some already had their pants off and were sporting erections. Some of the girls were cheering.

"Don't let 'em do it to you," said a voice from behind me.

I turned. Chase was beside me and put a hand on my bare shoulder. "Don't let 'em do it to you," he repeated.

Davey pushed his hand away. "We just want everyone to see how nice Mickey is," he said, pushing down my pants.

The jocks were first in line, and came closer, their huge erections bouncing with each step.

"No!" I cried, turning to leave. "NO!" My pants had fallen to my ankles and they tripped me up. I fell hard to the floor, landing on my stomach, and I couldn't get up. I tried desperately to get the pants off my legs. I heard the sound of a belt being undone and I knew it was Geoff. Suddenly he was on me, and I felt a stabbing pain as he entered me again.

I woke up, tangled in my sheets. I was sweating profusely and gasping for breath, and the room was pitch-black. My IV had been removed earlier. Unsteadily, I stood up to go to the john. "Fucking medicine," I mumbled, and then noticed my hands were trembling.

I drank some water, then lay back down and pulled up another blanket. My teeth were chattering, partly from the chill, and partly from the cold memory of my nightmare. Slowly, I drifted off to sleep again.

And I was naked, sitting in Brandon's lap in my bedroom. He was naked too, and we had just finished making love when Davey leaned in the door, holding Geoff's hand. "Since you have Brandon now," he said, "I'm taking Geoff." Geoff gave me a smug look over Davey's shoulder.

And they left. I heard them opening the front door. I looked at Brandon for help. "But I don't have you. And now I'm losing Davey," I wailed.

"Geez, Bent," Brandon said, angrily. "Get some balls! You want him, go get him!"

I looked out the window at Davey, stepping off the front porch with Geoff, and then back at Brandon.

"Well, go get him!" Brandon said again.

I didn't even bother with clothes. I jumped up and ran out after them, catching them out by the street. "Leave Davey alone, you asshole," I said, grabbing Geoff's shoulder and turning him around. Damn! Suddenly, he looked much bigger than I remembered.

As he turned, he punched my chest, and I fell to the ground. Geoff said nothing, just glared at me.

"Davey, don't go," I said, as I struggled to my feet, keeping my eyes on Geoff, who seemed to be growing larger as I watched him.

I looked over at Davey — he was frowning at me.

Suddenly, I was angry. I turned back to take a swing at Geoff, no longer caring how big he was, but he was gone. Surprised, I looked again at Davey, who stood with both hands on his hips.

"About time you got balls, Mickey," he said, and headed back into the house.

I looked around for Geoff but he was gone.

Maggie was in a chair beside my bed when I awoke in the morning. "Sleep well?" she asked.

"Weird dreams," I said, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.

"How weird?" Maggie asked concerned.

I waved her concern off. "Just… weird. But I am going to need to have a talk with Davey about how he behaved."

"You tell me if I need to ground him," she said, smiling.

"Ha!" I laughed. "You've never grounded Davey."

She took a sip from a cup of coffee, and shook her head sadly. "There were probably times we should've grounded both of you."

"Well, ground him for two weeks now —for what he did in my dreams."

"Should I tell him what he did to deserve it?" she asked with a grin.

"Nope. Just tell him never to do it again."

She laughed. The door opened, and my breakfast arrived.

As I started in on the food, Maggie sipped her coffee and watched quietly. Finally, she leaned forward. "Michael," she said carefully. "Something's… something's been bothering me."

I chewed a bite of scrambled egg and sausage and looked up at her, waiting to hear what it was.

She bit her lip. "It's about your breakdown at the school. I don't think you've given us the whole story. In fact, I don't think you've given us the whole story for some time now. The night Gloria and I found out about you and Davey, and I saw you were shaking so badly, I almost asked then."

I looked back at my food. It was a perfectly good breakfast, I thought. Why did Maggie have to go spoiling it?

"Michael?" she said.

I glanced at her. She was looking at my hands, which were trembling again, and then she looked back up at me. "You're holding something back. It's time. You need to tell us what's going on."

"What did Davey tell you?" I asked casually, taking a bite of toast, trying to keep my voice even.

She sighed. "Not a word," she said. "He keeps telling me and your mother to ask you about it."

I shook my head. "You wouldn't understand," I said, and tried to take another bite. But all the taste had left the food. I put down the fork; irritated.

"Try me, Michael." She put her hand on my arm. "Tell me, and I'll try to understand."

Her blue eyes were full of love and concern, and her smile was gentle, like Davey's sometimes is. I leaned back on my pillow and sighed. "I already told Dr. Kazan."

"Then you need to tell us," she said, squeezing my arm.

I thought about it. Maybe I did. Maybe enough time had passed, it'd be like talking about someone else. I nodded, and looked away because I didn't want to watch her face. I told her almost exactly the same things that I had told Dr. Kazan, starting from the day Geoff approached me at the pool, because I wanted her to know what kind of guy Geoff was. I left out parts of the story I thought she'd find offensive, or that embarrassed me, but not much. And when I told her about Geoff and what happened in the basement, she took my hand and I heard her sob.

In the end, I wound up telling her even more than I had told Dr. Kazan. And unlike him, she hugged me and cried for me. I cried too — partly for myself, but more because Maggie was crying. The medicine had left me pretty numb.

"I don't want to go back to school, Maggie," I told her while she still held me. "We can hire tutors, and Davey and I can go for our GED."

Maggie released me from her hug and sat back down, dabbing her eyes with a tissue.

"I understand, Michael," she said with a sigh. "I think it'd be fine for you to do that. Gloria will probably approve. But I want Davey to stay in high school." She quickly held up a hand before I could interrupt. "You don't have to keep helping him. He can afford his own tutor."

Then she clasped my forearm again. "Michael, I hope you'll try to understand, too. You know how much I've always wanted Davey to have a normal life – like other kids. Well, I don't know how much of Davey's life is ever going to be normal, especially if you two become wealthy. But right now, he's in high school and can be just like any other kid his age, with friends who don't know he's rich but do know about his disabilities. He's having experiences that only happen once in a lifetime. He has friends in high school, Michael. I'm not sure he would want to drop out."

She leaned closer. "I know you love him, and he loves you. But you aren't his whole world. He has loved high school. I don't want him to miss out on that."

I bit my lip. Even if Larice, Chase, and the nerds were cool with us, I wasn't sure how everyone else would treat us… me. I dreaded going back. However, there was no way I was going to let Davey continue in high school without me. It was mainly selfishness; I didn't want Davey loose in a school with lots of boys, some of whom could be gay. And I didn't want to spend that much time apart from him. If Davey stayed in high school, I'd just have to tough it out and stay in high school as well.

"I'll stay too, then."

"Michael," Maggie gave me a sad smile and squeezed my arm once more. "Davey isn't your whole world either. It's fine for you to drop out and finish on your own. But," she patted my arm and then leaned back in her chair. "I think if you are brave enough, you could try going back. You have friends there, too, Michael. And maybe," she winked, "this is as normal as your life is ever going to be, too." Then a frown crossed her face. "We need to do something about Geoff, though."

"There's nothing we can do that wouldn't make things worse," I said quietly.

She sat looking up at the ceiling, then her gaze returned to me. "Let me talk to Tom. Maybe there is something you can do, legally, through the police."

After Maggie left, I thought for a while. _Do I really want to even think about going back to school? Even with the nerds, Davey, and Chase sticking up for me, how safe could I be every day? And how hated would I be? _

An hour later, Mom and Dr. Kazan arrived. I was nervous, wondering whether I should tell Mom what I told Maggie, or if Maggie would tell her. Or if I even wanted Maggie to tell her. As a result, I was shaking a little when he looked me over.

Dr. Kazan frowned. "I wonder if we need to keep you a little longer?" he speculated.

"No, please," I insisted. "Let me go home. I'll be fine." His frown didn't leave, but he nodded and gave me a couple of prescriptions for medication. "I'll authorize your discharge today, Michael. But you need to rest this weekend. Stay home."

He turned to Mom. "Michael still needs more rest," he said. "Maybe a couple of visitors a day, but that's all. And keep him on the medication. No caffeine and no stimulants of any kind."

"What about after this weekend?" Mom asked. "What about school and computer work? Should he stay home from the office? How long should he stay home from school?"

Dr. Kazan turned to me. "Go back to school as soon as you can. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to go back. But take your medicine. Rest. Don't push yourself. And as for computer work, your private office is alright, but no business trips or anything." He gripped my shoulder. "Remember what we talked about, Michael," he said gently. "Don't push yourself. If you start to feel pressured, back off."

Mom nodded at me in enthusiastic agreement.

"I want to see you at my office Wednesday afternoon," Dr. Kazan said.

"We'll both be there," she said.

He nodded. Mom accompanied him out to the hall, and it was several minutes before she returned. When she did, she came up beside the bed and took my hand.

"How do you feel?" she asked.

"I'm… I'm OK," I said, looking up at her worried frown. In the bright light of the hospital room, she looked haggard. She wasn't quite 40 yet, but her face was gaunt and lined with worry.

Her eyes dropped to where she held my hand. "Dr. Kazan says that it's not my fault that you had your collapse." Then she glanced at me. "But I think maybe I helped it along. I'm sorry if I've put pressure on you."

I shrugged. "I'll be OK, Mom."

She nodded. "Michael," she said, holding my hand firmly with both of hers. "You're my son and I love you. I want you to remember that, even when we're mad at each other." She stood up and paced beside the bed without looking at me. "I can't pretend that I'm comfortable with this gay business or that I even believe you are gay. I still don't think you are. I think you and Davey have gotten good, honest friendship mixed up with… well, with something else."

I rolled away from her in my bed. I didn't need lectures right now. Then I felt her hand on my shoulder. She patted me. "I'm sorry. Just get your rest. We'll take you home as soon as they discharge you."

She left to fill out forms at the nurse's station, and I stared out the window. This isn't just a phase, Mom, I thought. It's a lot more than that.

Davey was in the front door only minutes after school was out. I was lying on the couch reading when he knelt beside me.

"How are you?" he asked.

"Sleepy," I answered. "The medicine, y'know?"

Mom leaned out of the kitchen. "Hi, Davey!" was all she said. She was making a chicken casserole that was a favorite of mine.

I lowered my voice. "How'd it go today?"

Davey shrugged.

"Are people still talking?" I asked.

He sat down on the floor beside me with downcast eyes. "Maybe, but not to me. The nerds are still talking to me, but nobody else is." He glanced up at me. "Geoff has a black eye."

"No kidding?" I said, slipping from the couch onto the floor beside him.

He looked at me and giggled. "Swollen lip, too."

I wasn't sure whether I should feel happy about that or not. Maybe Larice had gotten out the word that Geoff had tried to kiss me, and the jocks were taking that out on him. Maybe they were taking it out on him anyway. I figured any punishment he got was deserved, but not simply for being gay.

Mom and Davey doted on me that evening, and Mom screened my phone calls, which came almost non-stop. Over the next two hours, we had calls from Dr. Meyers, Mr. Weishamer, Amy, Larice, Chase, and then Ed, who wanted a meeting in the morning at the office.

When Maggie arrived after work, she came right to me on the couch and shooed Davey away.

"Have you told Gloria yet?" she asked quietly.

I shook my head. "I can't."

She knelt beside me and rubbed my arm. "I talked to Tom and a couple of other policemen today."

I started to interrupt, but she shushed me.

"I didn't say who it was," she insisted. "Tom's the only one who knows it's you that I was talking about. There's a rape crises counselor that the department uses. I talked to her, too. Michael, what happened to you — she said it can even be worse for a man." She gently squeezed my forearm. "I'm so sorry, Michael."

"I'm fine, Maggie. I really am. That was months ago now."

She nodded knowingly. "The counselor told me that no one ever gets over something like that. Not completely, anyway."

"I will," I said — and I meant it.

She smiled at me and a tear ran down her cheek. She grabbed a tissue from the table and dabbed her eyes. "Why don't I tell Gloria?" she asked. "Will that be alright?"

I sighed. If Mom has to know, I thought, that'd be the easiest way to do it. I nodded.

Maggie kissed my cheek and stood up. As she headed for the kitchen, Davey returned from across the room.

I sat up on the couch and patted the seat next to me. "I need to hold your hand," I said as he sat down.

He gave me his hand and looked at me curiously.

"I told your mom about Geoff this morning — what he did to me. She's telling Mom now."

"That's good, Mickey," he said, squeezing my hand.

The TV was on, but I wasn't watching. My ears strained to hear what might be happening in the kitchen. I was ashamed and embarrassed, and deep down, I was afraid. I was afraid of how Mom would react.

Then there was a gasp and cry of dismay from the kitchen. And silence again. Davey moved closer and held my hand tightly.

When Mom came from the kitchen, tears were streaming down her face, and she almost ran to me. Davey got up and she sat down beside me, cradling my face in her hands.

"Why didn't you tell me, Michael?" she said, choking. "I feel so terrible! I thought you had only been fighting. If I had only known…"

"I'm alright, Mom," I assured her. "I'm going to be alright."

She pulled my head over onto her shoulder and put her arms around me. "Of course you are," she said, rocking me in your arms. "Of course you are." She kissed the top of my head and then began to sob, almost uncontrollably.

"Mom, it's alright," I said. "I'll be OK." I looked over at Maggie, who gave me an encouraging nod. I supposed that meant that I had to let Mom get through this. Mom clutched me harder and sobs racked her body.

Maggie moved over and rubbed Mom's shoulder. "I can only imagine," she said, "how much it must hurt a mother to have this happen to her son."

Mom nodded. My hair was damp with her tears and my neck was getting sore. Maybe because of the medicine, I was still feeling numb inside, and I almost felt irritated about all the fuss.

When Mom finally let my head up, her eyes were swollen and she looked uncharacteristically vulnerable.

"Listen, Mom," I said, putting an arm around her shoulder. "I really am OK. I don't need you worrying about me and trying to nurse me. Dr. Kazan said I just pushed myself a little too hard, that's all. But I'm fine now."

"You are not fine!" Mom said, becoming angry. "You only just got out of the hospital today. You need rest and you need care." Then her face twisted up and she began to cry again. "Why didn't you ever tell me?"

I couldn't take that and I took my arm from her shoulder and turned away from her.

She put her hand on my knee. "I'm sorry Michael. I just feel so guilty that I let this terrible thing happen to you."

I turned back toward her and tucking my hands under my arms, I tried to smile. "Mom, you didn't let anything happen. There's nothing you could've done — not you, or Davey, or anybody. There's nothing to be sorry for."

Mom started to cry again, and suddenly, she seemed so weak and small. I put my arms around her and she leaned on my shoulder and shook with emotion. "I miss Michael," she said. "I miss your father so much."

I looked helplessly at Maggie who sat down on the couch behind Mom and rubbed her back. Mom turned, hugged Maggie, and cried on her shoulder. I was glad for the rest.

Women, I thought, shaking my head. They really are different — physically, psychologically, everything. I didn't ever want to be that emotional.

After a few minutes, Maggie encouraged Mom up from the couch and started her back towards her room to help her get ready for bed. Mom composed herself and paused before leaving the room. "You need sleep, Michael. You need to go to bed."

"I've slept for two solid days, Mom," I pointed out. "I'll go to bed in a little while."

"Don't argue, Michael! It's what the doctor said to do. As soon as Maggie and Davey leave, you need to get to bed. Watch some TV, listen to the radio, read a book. Just relax."

Davey looked at me, my hands still tucked under my arms and then he looked at our moms. "I'm staying with Mickey tonight," he said.

"But he needs rest, Davey," Mom insisted.

"Davey is staying with me tonight," I said as flatly as I could, staring Mom in the eye. She looked at me uncertainly, and then glanced at Maggie, who nodded slightly. Reluctantly, Mom turned to go to her room and Maggie went along to help her.

Two hours later, Davey and I were bundled up on the couch, with the Late Show blaring quietly in the background.

"You want something to eat?" Davey asked. "Or a Coke?"

I shook my head. "You don't need to nurse me either."

"I like taking care of you."

And then I had the strangest thought. I was struggling so hard to not be a wimp, but I wondered if a wimp is what Davey would prefer. It was an idea that didn't sit well with me.

I fell asleep that night almost as soon as I closed my eyes, and I didn't intend to wake up too early since it was Saturday. But Davey roused me from sleep when I felt his hard cock rubbing the side of my butt.

"Damn, Davey," I said with a yawn. "I'm so sleepy; just go ahead and do what you want. Frot my butt or something."

He wrapped his arm over my back and I felt his breath, hot on my neck. "I don't like that medicine you're taking," he said.

"I don't either. I'm not going to take it any more."

"Are you sure?" Davey asked surprised.

"Yeah. That's the sedative. It's the other medicine that Dr. Kazan says I have to take all the time."

He ground against my butt. "So are you gonna be horny later?"

"Probably… it's been days since I've done it."

"Then I'll wait," he said.

"No," I insisted. "Don't wait." I rolled over onto my back.

Davey moved up onto me and I spread my legs for him to settle between. His hard cock pressed against my belly, but he didn't try rubbing it against me.

I wrapped my arms over his shoulders and looked up into his smiling eyes. "Mmmm. You feel good," I said. "You really can go ahead. I think that's the medicine I really need the most."

He felt under the sheets. "But you aren't even hard yet!"

I wrapped my legs behind his and ran my hands lightly down his back and over his butt. "You still feel good. Go ahead. Maybe you'll make me hard."

And he really did feel good on me. The weight of his body was comforting.

"Go ahead, Davey," I repeated. "You're really hard. You need to."

"I don't mind waiting," he said, as his hips began to grind. And then he buried his face in my neck and groaned.

My own cock did begin to stiffen and Davey warmed to the task. I rubbed his back and enjoyed the feeling of him in my arms and between my legs. His scent filled my nostrils and his hard torso moved sensuously over me.

I held him tightly when he came, and dozed with him after; the feel of his cum pressed between the smooth skin of our bellies was intimate and comfortable.

Mom was sipping coffee at the kitchen table when we came in, each clad only in a pair of my shorts. I don't know whether she could see or smell the afterglow, or if it was because she saw my arm around Davey's waist, but a frown passed over her face.

No sense provoking her, I thought, and I let go of Davey's waist. "Morning, Mom," I said casually, giving her a kiss on top of her head. "You feeling better this morning?"

"Yes," she said. "The question is — how do you feel?"

I thought about it. "I feel good." I smiled at her. "I really do. Well… better, anyway."

Stepping over to the fridge, I looked inside, rummaging for eggs. Davey came up and rubbed my bare back while I was bent over. Mom had to be able to see that. He was pushing the envelope. I wondered about his timing, but maybe it was good. At any rate, Mom needed to get past this. We weren't being all that much more physical than we were before we got outed.

"Don't forget your meeting this morning," she warned, as I took the carton of eggs to the stove.

"I haven't, Mom. Thanks."

Davey was beside me again, his hand resting at the top of my butt. It was a possessive gesture, a lover's gesture. I didn't know whether he was trying to provoke Mom, or just letting her know how things stood.

"And don't forget your medicine," she added.

"That stuff makes me too sleepy." I said, taking down a bowl. "Makes me feel like my head's full of concrete."

Davey stepped back as I worked. I guess he felt that he'd made his point.

"Alright, you don't have to take the sedative," Mom said. "But take the other one Dr. Kazan gave you. Take the anti-depressant."

I paused and looked at Davey: his lean form, his white-blond hair that was almost back to its old length, his twinkling eyes. "I think I already have an anti-depressant."

Mom must have caught the look. There was a quiet harrumph from her direction.

On the way over to the office in our Camaro, I worried about the meeting with Ed and Dr. Meyers that morning. Did Ed regret tying his star to a nutcase? Were he and Dr. Meyers going to want out? Or were they going to try to take charge of Carlson-Bentolli? What about our investors?

In the reception area of the office, we found a gray-haired, bulldog of a man, with a broad face and wide, muscular shoulders. My guess was that he was in his early fifties, and though he had a gut, even that looked hard. He stood when Davey and I came in and held out his hand. His bearing was like that of a cop or maybe a military man.

"Fred Roche," he said brusquely. "You must be Mr. Bentolli, and you must be Mr. Carlson," he said, taking first mine, and then Davey's hands. He had a powerful grip.

I looked at him curiously, but before I could ask why he was there, he waved us on towards the door to the back.

"Go on in. They're waiting for you."

Roche stayed in the lobby while we continued down the hallway. When we walked into the office, Ed and Dr. Meyers were sitting at the table in the middle of the room. They both stood.

"Michael," Ed held out his hand solicitously. "How are you feeling?"

Dr. Meyer came around the table and put his hand on my back.

"I'm… I'm fine," I said nervously, taking Ed's hand. "I'm really OK."

They shook Davey's hand too, but kept watching me. Ed waved us all into chairs.

"We wanted to meet with you, Michael, just to talk about how you're doing and what adjustments we might need to make here at the company."

They're worried, _I decided. _And I really can't blame them.

Ed leaned forward. "Listen, Michael," he said. "Don't worry about the company for now. Our first concern is with your health."

Dr. Meyers nodded. "We want you to take it easy. We already have the designs and prototypes. Everything is lined up on both major projects."

"Wait a minute," I protested. "We'd agreed that you wanted Davey and me to work on security aspects of the new networking host protocols. We've got some good ideas."

Dr. Meyers looked to Ed for an answer.

"Michael," Ed said. "We want you around for a long time. We need you to take it easy. Don't push yourself so hard! You're only sixteen. You don't need to conquer the world yet."

"Yeah? Well, you haven't talked to Ruth Jamison," I observed humorlessly.

Ed raised an eyebrow, wondering if he was supposed to understand my remark.

I shook my head. "Never mind. Just don't worry about me. Working on C-B stuff isn't a problem." It's school and my friends, I thought nervously, and my Mom.

"Well, promise me you'll only do what you feel up to," Ed said. "There's no rush. And since you mentioned Ruth — she doesn't know about your problems this week. In fact, nobody at Carlson-Bentolli does. For now, we feel it'd be just as good that they don't. We wouldn't want to shake up the investors."

"Because I'm a nutcase?" I asked, hiding my trembling hands under the table, in my lap. "Or because I'm gay?"

Dr. Meyers glanced at Ed again, and Ed frowned at me. "Neither," he said quietly. "And you should know that, Michael. These people have a lot riding on you. They don't need to have their confidence shaken right now — especially because we really are in good shape. You've already done all the design work."

I nodded, "OK."

He leaned back. "So, the rumors Chase told me are true? You are gay?"

I sat up and looked him in the eye. "Yes."

Ed nodded slowly, and then looked at Davey. He raised an inquiring eyebrow.

Davey glanced at me nervously and slid closer to me on his chair. He put his hand up on the table. Trembling hand or not, I took it. Just holding Davey's hand calmed me, I was glad to see the trembling fade.

"I'm gay, too." Davey said.

Ed nodded again. "Well for the record, Michael, Dr. Meyers and I talked it over. It doesn't matter to either of us that you're gay. It has no bearing on the business or our personal relationships. Period."

"Thanks," I said. "It shouldn't."

He gave me a frank look. "You're smart, Michael. You should know better than to take this the wrong way, but you and Davey are going to need to keep a low profile about being gay. We may be getting sensitive government and military contracts. I'm not sure what the rules are these days on security clearances, or whether guys your age can even get them. We don't need to complicate matters. You understand?"


There was an uncomfortable silence, and then Dr. Meyers cleared his throat. "Speaking of security, did you meet Fred Roche when you came in?"

"Yes, sir."

"I've gotten to know him," Dr. Meyers continued, "while we were working on the Army contract. He's Army Intelligence. He's sharp, Michael, and he's retiring in a month. We need a head of security, and I think Fred has all the right qualifications."

"How does he feel about gays?" I asked.

Dr. Meyers rocked back on his seat.

"Michael," Ed said, "being gay is not your defining characteristic, and it's not Davey's. It wasn't before this last week, and it isn't now. If you're going to make it an issue, that is going to complicate things needlessly. No one else is going to make it an issue — I can promise you that. And for your information, we vetted Fred this morning on the gay thing. He has no problem with it. In his line of work, he's seen just about everything. You two being gay didn't faze him at all."

"If it's not an issue," I asked, "then why did you ask him about it in the first place?"

"So that it wouldn't be an issue." He let out a sigh. "Look, Michael, if you were Jewish, I'd make sure we didn't hire any anti-Semites. You're gay. There are limits to what I can check out, but I'll do my best to make sure we don't hire anyone who's going to have a problem with that."

They called Fred in, and we chatted. I liked Fred. He was clever — very clever. And tough. His manner was practical and no-nonsense. Dr. Meyers was right; Roche was a natural for head of security.

He shook my hand as he was leaving and holding it, leaned back. He frowned at me. "I hear you had a run-in at school this last week."

I nodded.

"One of the first things we're going to do," he said, "is teach you boys some self-defense."

"Kung-fu?" Davey asked, interested.

"That would be great!" I said, with genuine enthusiasm. I might be needing it… soon.

After the other two left, Ed held back. "I wanted to make it clear that you two are still invited for the usual Sunday afternoon grill tomorrow."

I smiled. "Thanks."

He turned to leave, hesitated and turned back to Davey. "Davey, you and Hunter are friends," Ed said, looking at him steadily. "I'll always expect you to protect him like a brother. Do you understand?"

Davey turned pale and nodded meekly.

After they were gone, I turned to Davey. "Well, they know about the two of us."

Davey nodded. "He didn't ask me," he said. "Hunter told him some of… what we did."

"You've been talking to Hunter?" I felt a small wave of panic again, remembering how I felt when I caught Davey cheating with him. Davey saw the look on my face and put his arm around me.

"Just talked, Mickey. I told you… that's over with for now."

I nodded. "So, uh," I said, trying to change the subject. "Fred's going to teach us self-defense. How do you think he'd cope with a nerf ball attack?"

Davey looked surprised and then laughed.

The tension of the meeting was gone. Things had gone well. And I was suddenly feeling better. I couldn't resist tackling Davey to the floor. "I want to practice self-defense," I told him, looking down at his grinning face. "Prepare to defend yourself!"

The phone rang. "Stay right there," I told him. "I have to finish my attack." Then I jumped up to answer it.

Davey rolled to his side and watched me walk to the phone. "The medicine is wearing off," he observed.

I wriggled my eyebrows back at him. It was Mom on the phone, telling me that we needed to get home right away. Someone had come to see us.

"Grandpa!" I shouted.

He stood up from the couch when we came through the door and when I reached him, he gave me a backslapping hug. Damn, I thought. I'm happy to see him. I suddenly knew how the settlers felt when the cavalry arrived. Grandpa still smelled of cigars, Old Spice, and flannel, but I remembered him as bigger.

He pushed me back and looked me up and down. "You've grown!" he said, looking slightly upward into my eyes. Then he hugged me again. "I should have known you'd be tall by how much your voice has changed on the phone."

While still hugging me, he spoke over my shoulder. "And you must be Davey!" he exclaimed. Extending an arm, he pulled Davey into our hug.

When Grandpa Bentolli let us go, he left an arm over each of our shoulders. I could feel my grin stretching my face as I looked at Davey. "My grandpa," I said proudly.

Davey beamed. He knew how much I loved the old guy.

Mom came up beside me and patted my back.

"You didn't tell me he was coming," I said to her.

"I didn't know," she answered. "It was a big surprise for me, too."

"You don't mind me coming for the weekend, do you? Your mom told me you've been pushing yourself too hard," he said, "so I thought maybe it was time for grandpa to come down and tell you to take it easy. You know — play more chess."

Mom guffawed. "Chess is certainly not relaxing for me."

"You haven't seen Grandpa play," I said, with a twinkle in my eye.

Grandpa raised an amused eyebrow and turned to Davey. "You play chess with him?" he asked Davey, jerking a thumb in my direction.

Davey shook his head.

"Then I'll teach you. Michael needs a challenge."

I smiled, thinking that Grandpa was the one who was about to have a challenge.

That afternoon, Grandpa filled us in on all the relatives back in Chicago, and we told him about the new office and the latest on Carlson-Bentolli. Maggie came over, and the four of us took Grandpa over to see the office, and then drove him around to see the rest of San Antonio.

We returned for family dinner and Mom cooked, primarily to show Grandpa that she could still fix an excellent Italian dinner. After dinner, we moved out to the front porch.

Though the sky was clear, there was no moon. It was unseasonably cool, and a light breeze from the north brought the aromas from someone's grill.

Davey and I sat on the porch swing, playing music softly while Mom and Maggie shared the couch and Grandpa sat nearby in a cushioned chair. He had brought out my chess set, and once he set it up on the table next to his chair, he called Davey over and began to teach him the various chess pieces and moves. I continued playing the guitar; I figured both Grandpa and Davey could use something mellow in the background.

Though Davey had never tried playing, he'd seen me play and picked up the movement of the various pieces fairly quickly. Strategy was something else entirely. Grandpa tried to explain how to think a few turns ahead and began a game with Davey.

As I watched, it seemed to me that Davey was great at sizing up the board, one move at a time. Thinking moves ahead for several pieces was something else again. Davey was quite a linear thinker. Each turn, he would get up from his seat to walk around the board, sizing it up almost like he had to figure things out all over again.

Finally, I put down the guitar and made a suggestion. "How about you two play against me? Maybe if Davey helps you, Grandpa, you can finally beat me."

Grandpa's eyes twinkled and he agreed, resetting the board. Once we began, I walked out of earshot each time they needed to discuss their next move. The arrangement was a good idea; we all enjoyed it. And I still kicked butt, two games running.

Then it was time for bed. We'd already set Grandpa up in my room, and so after he said goodnight, I said goodnight to Mom and prepared to go back to Davey's house with him and Maggie.

"Where are you going?" Mom asked.

"To sleep over at Davey's," I said.

"You can sleep on the couch in the living room," she said.

I put my hands on my hips, weighing how best to argue.

She frowned up at me. "Please, Michael — you need your rest."

"I'll sleep better at Davey's."

Mom frowned at me. "Michael, why are you suddenly being so stubborn? This hasn't been an easy time for me, either. Don't try to take advantage of that."

Though Mom was trying to look commanding, she actually looked small, unhappy, and alone there on the couch. I sat down beside her and took her hands and tried to think how best to answer her. "I'm not trying to take advantage, Mom." I said with a deep sigh. "I'm just trying to get back something that was stolen from me."

Mom bent her head to mine. "I'm sure he stole a lot from you, Michael. What are you trying to get back?"

There was a sudden tightness in my throat as I tried to answer. I waited for it to go away. "My manhood," I said quietly. "I'm trying to be a man again, Mom."

Her eyes began to tear, but she smiled and patted my cheek. "You have an Italian mother, Michael. Grown men don't always stand up to one of us well. I think you just did." She pulled my head down and kissed my forehead. "I love you."

She looked over at Davey as she stood up, and motioned for him to come over. She pulled down his head and kissed the top of it. Then she went inside.

I woke feeling good, like I had finally shaken all the cobwebs out of my brain. The 'sleepy' medicine had worn off and for the first time in days I felt well rested, and almost had a sense of well-being. Sometimes when you start to feel good after being sick for several days, there is a sense of exhilaration, because the change feels so good. That's how I felt.

My good feelings had another reason as well: I woke up on Davey. For anyone who's had a tough time in his life lately, I recommend going a few days without sex, and then waking up with your leg over the butt of a beautiful male — especially if he's the one you love.

Davey was asleep on his stomach and besides my leg over his butt, my arm was over his back and my hard cock was pressed to his side. When I opened my eyes, Davey's face was only inches from mine on the pillow. I let my eye travel from the fine, light hairs on his temples to the faintest stubble at his sideburns, and then across the soft skin of his cheek to his lips, red in the morning light, and then up to his straight nose and the flaring of his nostrils as he breathed.

I ground my hips gently against him, and stroked his back with my fingertips. He smiled before he opened his eyes. And when he did open them, it was like a bright blue sunrise.

Grinning, he took his hand from under the pillow and reached down between us. When he closed it over my cock, it gave me the little jolt the feel of his hand always gave me. I sighed and closed my eyes.

He squeezed and fondled and stroked, and I relaxed and enjoyed it. "What do you wanna do, Mickey?" he asked quietly.

I smiled and pulled back the covers. Looking down over our bodies, I rubbed the soft skin of his butt cheeks. "Your ass is really beautiful this morning."

"Well," he said, smiling, "I belong to you."

I grinned and kissed his cheek before moving up on to him. As I did, I kissed the back of his shoulders and neck before settling down with my cock in the crack of his fleshy butt. Reaching up, I grasped the ends of his shoulders and slid myself forward and back.

He moaned as I kissed his cheek and the side of his neck. I slid down his body, kissing and licking down his spine until I could bury my nose between his legs and pull his balls back on the bed between them.

Some guys may not like the smell, and certainly some guys may not smell good down there, but I loved Davey's scent. In the previous couple of years, he had developed a deeply rich sexual aroma; a complex, sweet, and almost-but-not-quite fermented type of smell. His scent down there was always like an aphrodisiac to me, and it made my erection as hard as steel. I began licking at the back of his scrotum.

Davey spread his legs wider and I detected a whiff of my own scent, which I had left on his smooth butt as I slid down him. They say we each have our own unique mix of body bacteria that give us unique odors; Davey and I must have pressed ourselves together so many times that we shared most of the same bacteria, because we smelled very much alike between the legs, and I liked my own scent, too. I moaned like some might at the smell of rich coffee or chocolate.

Rimming was not something I particularly liked doing, but Davey liked having it done, and so I spent time there, loosening him with my tongue. When Davey began grinding his hips on the bed and his perineum had grown thick so that I knew he had a hard erection, I moved up, my knees on either side of his hips. It had been a while, so I grabbed the KY from where Davey kept it hidden in his nightstand and lubed. Then I grasped his shoulders and kissed behind his neck as I searched for his wet entrance with my hips. I found it, and pushed in.

I entered slowly, rubbing my face in his hair and then tonguing his ear while his tightness moved down my cock. Once my loins pressed against him, we began to move together. My balls were still low, and I could feel them brush the back of his as I moved in and out. Davey moaned and slid his hands under his stomach.

I lay completely down on him. His smooth legs felt strong between mine, and his butt felt firm under my thrusts; his back was hard under my tight belly and chest. Sliding my hands under his shoulders, I caressed them and buried my nose again in the back of his head.

"I always love to smell your hair," I murmured. "You always smell good."

"You smell like my crotch," he murmured back.

I chuckled and rubbed my face over his cheek. "Your crotch always makes me hot," I whispered.

He smiled and I kissed the edge of his mouth.

"Your crotch makes me hot, too… Mickey," he murmured and wiggled his ass up under me. "Your smell… everything about you," he whispered, and turned his head back to kiss me.

His bottom felt so good between my legs that I ground more than pumped, while I first nibbled his cheek and then behind his ear. Davey's legs thrashed under me while I slid my whole body up and down on the back of his. The best feeling was where my cock was pressed between his butt checks, constricted by the tightness of his hole.

It had been too long; I was ready far sooner than I wanted to be. I moved my hands to the top of his shoulders and did a push-up off him so that I could watch myself move in and out. I watched his cheeks flatten each time I pressed my pelvis forward, and watched the flesh ripple as I ground in on him. And then I pumped faster, bouncing the bed under us, as I felt a powerful orgasm gathering deep inside.

Dropping back down on Davey, I wrapped my arms under his chest, rested my teeth on the side of his neck and humped furiously. "Oh, damn," I panted. "You feel sooo good." And then I was cumming, whimpering into his ear, and I made one final deep lunge. I came hard and when I finally paused in my thrusting, I still didn't feel like I was done. "I think I can stay hard," I whispered.

"Keep going," Davey said with a thick voice. "I haven't cum yet."

"Cum in me," I whispered, chewing his earlobe.

"Mmm," he moaned and wiggled under me. "Get your butt ready."

I smiled and kissed his neck, retrieved the KY, and rubbed it into my butt. "I'm ready," I told him.

Pulling out, I rolled onto my back and pulled my knees up. Davey moved above me, his stiff cock wagging under his belly. He ran an arm under each of my knees as he came forward, and finding me with his cock, he slid in.

When the hardness of his pubic bone pressed in beneath my balls, he let go of my legs and lay down on me, reaching down along my sides to grasp the sides of my butt. Our bellies and chests, damp with sweat, flattened together, and the feel of his weight on me returned my erection to full strength. I wrapped my arms over his back and squeezed him between my legs. Davey began slowly moving his hips.

This was my favorite way for him to top and he knew it. And he knew how to do it: grinding in, swiveling his hips, hitting all the right places inside and using his belly to rub my cock. Davey's head was beside mine, the scent of his hair filling my nostrils again. My head rolled back and my mouth hung open as Davey buried his nose behind my ear and moved faster.

Sweat lubricated our bodies and added its scent to the aroma of our sex. My pulse raced and I climbed fast to the edge again. I grabbed Davey's waist and held him against me as I ground my cock against his belly. He was getting close, too, and thrust even faster. With him lying flat on me, his cock massaged my prostate and I gasped at the intensity of sensations roiling up inside like some sexual fire. Davey was going to bring me with him.

He clutched my butt even harder and several high-pitched moans let me know he was cumming. I pushed up my hips to rub myself against Davey's firm abdomen, and I came with him, spraying between our bellies as he pounded deep inside me. A mutual ecstasy racked us, and passed between our bodies in a long, electric orgasm. Then we froze as Davey held himself deep inside me and I arched my body under him. We'd done this before; holding on to an orgasm, stretching it out.

Our bellies pressed and separated as our breathing made them heave. We were hard and our balls were tight. We both were still at the edge.

Davey moved in me, a luxurious slow slide in and out, and he sighed in my ear before I heard his throaty voice. "Want more, Mickey?"

A gurgle came from deep in my throat. "Keep going," I gasped. I clamped my sphincter on him as hard as I could and my cock pulsed against his belly. He slammed all the way in and we both tensed in a post-coital tremor.

Davey tried to push in even farther, pressing his pubic bone hard against my perineum. It triggered a small, secondary orgasm in me, and I whimpered. The mini-orgasm passed and Davey pulled out an inch, and then drove in hard again, skewering me, and driving a pleasurable shock up from my butt and through my groin. My body remained tensed and arched under his and he drove in again and another shock of pleasure raced up inside me.

"Oh damn," I gasped, running my hands up to cling to the strong muscles of his back. "Orgasm therapy!"

He drove in once more. I arched again, moaning even more loudly at the pleasurable shock. He pressed hard into my tensed body, and I felt a shudder run through his frame. He held us there, frozen in a long moment of pleasure until very, very slowly, we both began to relax.

We rested and he held his cheek against mine while his cock softened and finally slid out of me. While he was still in my arms, I whispered. "I think we're getting really good at this."

Davey pressed his lips behind my ear and kissed. "Awesome." He snuggled up beside me and the room was silent except for our quiet breathing. We lay there for several minutes, cooling down, relaxing.

Finally, Davey climbed off the bed and pulled a towel from one of his drawers. He wiped my cum off his belly and chest. I watched his skin slide over his hard abs and watched the muscles work in his arms and chest as he cleaned himself. He was beautiful.

He threw the towel beside me on the bed, and pulled a pair of shorts out from a drawer, slipping them on. I watched the muscles in his butt, legs, and back as he did. Then I realized he was looking back at me, hands on his hips, grinning.

He slid back into bed beside me and cleaned my belly with the towel. "Are you getting up?" he asked.

"It's Sunday. Make me," I challenged.

His smile turned mischievous and he tossed away the towel, then grabbed my cock firmly and began backing slowly off the bed, pulling me along.

"OK, OK!" I cried, scooting toward the edge of the bed. "I may belong to you, but be careful how you handle the merchandise!"

We returned to my house for breakfast with Grandpa, and afterwards, the three of us sat on my bed while Davey and I showed him our family pictures from first grade on. I found all kinds of things to show him, from small childhood souvenirs we'd saved from scouts and school, to my more recent swimming ribbons. We ended with pictures Maggie had taken of us at the beach that summer, and showed him the sand dollars we'd collected.

When we were done, he thumbed back through the pictures and looked at us, then re-examined the photographs and shook his head. "It's amazing," he observed. "Almost every picture includes both of you, or was taken when the other was close by. It's remarkable."

Actually, Davey had a few pictures from when he was camping with Geoff, and I had a couple from the time Brandon stayed with me. But neither of us brought those out when the other was around, and I didn't mention them to Grandpa because his point was valid. "We've grown up together," I said with a shrug.

"You've grown up joined at the hip," he corrected. "Don't either of you ever do things on your own?"

I thought for a moment. "Sometimes I let Davey go to the bathroom by himself."

Grandpa snorted and Davey laughed.

"Only if it's gonna stink," Davey added, and Grandpa snorted again.

"So," he asked. "Which of you taught the other to be a smart ass?"

Davey said "Mickey" at exactly the same time as I said "Davey."

Grandpa shook his head. "Identical twins aren't together as much as you two!"

"That's cause they're identical," I said. "Davey's so different from me, it's never boring."

Grandpa put an arm over Davey's shoulder and leaned close to him, whispering loud enough for me to hear from his other side. "What about Michael? Doesn't he get boring? He's a pretty serious guy."

Davey whispered back, loud enough for me to hear. "I have to tickle him… a lot."

"Oh?" Grandpa said with a widening smile as he turned to look at me.

"Whoa!" I said, holding up my hands. "You gotta be gentle with me. I've been sick."

Grandpa raised an eyebrow. "Davey," he asked, leering at me, "can you hold him down and let me have a try at… tickling him?"

Davey tackled me as I sprang from the bed. It was absolutely unfair. I had to be careful not to trash my room or hurt Grandpa. And he was a damn good tickler, not stopping until Davey explained that "please!" — however breathlessly it was said — meant stop!

As I lay, trying to catch my breath, I scowled at Grandpa. "You just wanted revenge for all those times I beat you at chess."

"No," he said. "We'll have to work on that later."

It was a beautiful Sunday. Cooler air had settled in over San Antonio and the sky was blazingly clear. We decided to take Grandpa downtown, and Mom encouraged us to go without her. She wanted us to have some 'guy time'.

Grandpa wanted real Mexican food, so we took him to Mi Tierra at the market. The server brought chips and salsa for us while we looked over the menu. Davey tasted the salsa first, dipping in a chip before taking a bite. He turned bright red and gasped.

So I had to try it. The salsa was hot, but excellent with the freshly fried chips. The salsa tasted like it might have a hint of habanera pepper as well as jalapeño. I almost filled up on it before we even ordered our meals.

Despite my praises, Grandpa wouldn't touch the hot stuff. "You can have more, Davey," I said, pushing the bowl towards him. "There's plenty."

"Ha!" he said. "You're crazy."

And then I did have a crazy idea. Right before the food came, I caught Davey's attention. "Let's hit the john real quick, so we don't have to go later when we're down on the river."

Davey nodded and stood up. "I'll go when you come back." Grandpa said.

As I stood, I took a last, large bite of salsa, but didn't swallow. Davey didn't notice.

My eyes were watering heavily and sweat covered my forehead by the time we reached the john, but Davey still didn't notice. It was perfect — a small empty bathroom. I locked the door once Davey and I were inside, and quickly grabbed him up in a big kiss, plunging salsa and my tongue into his mouth.

His eyes flew open and he tried to struggle away from me. When I finally let him go, his howls and my laughter echoed off the bathroom walls so loudly, I figured the whole restaurant could hear.

When we unlocked the door, a dad was waiting outside with his small son. Behind him stood a waiter, and another managerial type person. All four stared at my sweat-covered, red face.

Davey stormed past me, back toward the table, and I hurried to catch up.

"You know I owed you — I still owe you," I said, continuing the discussion begun in the bathroom.

"You didn't!" Davey insisted once more, quickly grabbing a glass of ice water.

"Did too!" I insisted right back.

Davey looked at Grandpa and pointed back at me. "He needs more tickling. Lots more tickling."

After lunch, we walked down to the River Walk and took Grandpa on a boat tour. Then we walked over to the Alamo and strolled through the grounds. It was late when we finally headed home, and so we stopped to pick up Church's Southern Fried Chicken for supper to show Grandpa how we did fried chicken in Texas.

That night, Mom joined us for cards before we all went outside to the porch. Grandpa and Davey teamed up against me in chess once again.

"Have you been reading books on chess?" Grandpa asked after I won the third straight game.

"I may have somewhere along the line," I admitted.

Grandpa nodded. "I wondered. You could at least take a little longer to win each game. There are two of us playing you. You should have a little decency!"

"Two of you might be why it's only taking half as long," I commented, moving out my first pawn of the fourth game.

"Gloria," Grandpa said. "You may need to go inside soon. What we have to do to this boy isn't going to be pretty."

"Stay out here, Mom," I pleaded, remembering the tickling from earlier that morning. "Somebody's got to make Grandpa behave."

Mom stood up, smiling. "I need to go to bed. I have work tomorrow. And you two have school. You'll have plenty of time with Grandpa tomorrow afternoon. His flight back isn't until six PM."

Mom went inside and I stepped away to let them confer on their next move. When I returned and sat down, I studied the board and didn't notice Davey get up and circle behind me. He managed to get me into a full nelson, on the floor, before I had much chance to react. Grandpa quickly closed in for the kill.

"Mom!" I cried. "MOM!" But my cries echoed unheeded, off the porch and down the street.

The next morning, I left a note in Davey's locker. "You'll pay!"

Geoff wasn't in school that Monday, and the rumor was that he'd transferred to the Alamo Heights school district. In a way, I was sorry he wasn't there to share the curiosity of several hundred students.

It was my first day back, and I felt like every eye in the hallway was on me. Some of the stares were downright hostile, and a few times, I was bumped by unfriendly jocks and other assholes. Nevertheless, the weekend and the medicine had worked some healing in my spirit, and put some time and emotional distance between me and the trauma of the previous Wednesday. At least my hands weren't shaking.

What really helped was that the nerds were true to Chase's word. They were, to a man — and girl — still as friendly as ever. Art appeared to be even more friendly. And I was glad to see that people didn't seem to give Davey much trouble.

We made it home by two in the afternoon — time enough to have a couple of hours with Grandpa before we took him to the airport. I had been looking forward to it, until I found out that he wanted a serious conversation.

He sat Davey and me down at the kitchen table, and opened the discussion. "Before I go," he said, "we need to talk about this whole 'gay' business."

I groaned. Davey looked away.

"Grandpa," I said. "Don't they call that 'beating a dead horse'?"

"Michael, you just had a nervous breakdown. Let me talk to you as a concerned grandpa."

"It wasn't a nervous breakdown," I pointed out. "It was exhaustion."

"Whatever you want to call it," he said. "OK, exhaustion. Your mom stayed home this morning and we had a good talk, her and I. She told me what happened, Michael."

My face instantly reddened. "You mean," I said, trying to keep my voice even, "she told you about the…"

"She told me how you were attacked," he interrupted.

"Geez, Grandpa." I hung my head. "I really don't want to talk about that again. Unless you have some suggestions for how I can get revenge." I looked Grandpa in the eye. "Seriously… I'd love for Geoff to see what it feels like. Maybe then he'd leave me alone."

Grandpa shrugged. "Do you think he's still going to bother you?"

"Yeah," I said, angrily. "He's left two messages on the answering machine to say that he's sorry." I looked Grandpa in the eye. "I hate him. And I've never hated anybody."

"Hate's a strong word, Michael," he said, concerned.

"Not strong enough!" I said, my voice rising.

Grandpa frowned and shook his head. "When I came down here, Michael, I was concerned for your health, and I was afraid that dabbling in homosexuality was somehow affecting you emotionally."

I opened my mouth to comment on his use of the word 'dabbling' but he held up his hand.

"Look, for the record — and don't you ever breathe a word of this to your mom — I did a little dabbling myself when I was your age, or maybe a little younger. A lot of boys do. And just so you know, I understand what it's like to have a crush on another boy. I had a schoolboy crush on my brother, Michael. As far as I was concerned, he hung the moon and the stars, and the blackest day of my life was when we got word he'd been killed in the war. So give me a little credit for understanding your situation."

He leaned forward and held out a hand to each of us. We each reached out and took it. "And just for the record," Grandpa said, "I like you, Davey. I like you a lot. And I love you, Michael. You probably know you're my favorite — and grandpas aren't supposed to have favorites. I appreciate that you two have a remarkable friendship. I hope you stay friends for life… even after you both marry and have lots of children." He grinned and squeezed our hands.

"You mean 'if,'" I corrected.

"You already have one son on the way," he pointed out. "Another Bentolli. My first great grandchild." Then he leaned back, letting go of our hands. "But what bothers me most now, Michael, is what Geoff did to you and how it's affecting you."

He turned in his seat to face me directly and leaned forward. "What Geoff did was evil, and I think he should be punished. I say, report him to the police." He held my gaze. "But hate is evil, too, Michael. And bitterness can twist your life and make your heart hard and dark. In the end, hating Geoff can do more damage to you than Geoff himself did."

I shook my head. "I'm sorry, Grandpa," I said. "But that's crazy. I have every right to hate him after what he did to me."

Grandpa shook his head sadly. "It's not a matter of having the right to hate." He sighed deeply. "I've been thinking a lot lately about what's important in life." He gave me a little smile. "Old men do that sort of thing. I've decided that living is important. Hate is not living."

He looked at me kindly. "You weren't made for hate, Michael," he continued. "You've grown up surrounded by love. You have your mom, and Maggie, and your best friend, Davey. You have a lot of good things in your life, Michael. Enjoy them and forget this Geoff." He glanced at his watch and sighed. "I wish I didn't have to rush this," he said. "I wish I had time to help you through this personally, but I don't. Michael, I have to tell you flat-out: forget Geoff. Let him go."

He reached once more for my hand. "Both good things and bad things happen in our lives, Michael, and we usually don't deserve either. But part of being a man is learning how to forget the bad, quickly, and move on. Don't let yourself become a victim in life. Be a master. Forget, and move on."

"I can't believe you're saying this, Grandpa!" I cried, rising from my chair. "I can't believe you want me to forget what that guy did to me! It almost sounds like you're telling me to forgive that asshole. And I can't ever do that."

Grandpa stood up too, and put his hand on my shoulder. "I didn't say it would be easy," he said gently. "But for your own sake, forgiving is exactly what you need to do. Don't ever give your enemies a chance, Michael — forgive them. Keep your soul free."

I clenched my fists and turned away. "I can't ever forgive Geoff," I said angrily. "I can't think of anything more impossible than forgiving that creep."

"Michael," Grandpa said. "What I've done when someone has hurt me badly… and I'm serious… is to leave them to God; let him deal with them."

"I'm not sure I even believe in God," I said softly.

"Maybe now's a good time to try him out," Grandpa asked. "Why don't you turn Geoff over to God?"

I glanced back at him. "You mean I should complain to God about Geoff and see if He strikes him with lightning?" I asked with a chuckle.

"No. I mean for you to just let go. Let God deal with Geoff. You have a life to live."

Biting my lip, I looked away again. "I'm not sure I want to give Geoff to God," I said. "From what I've heard about God, He might just forgive Geoff."

Grandpa chuckled and pulled me into a hug. "You are a smart kid, Michael. Yes, God might do just that. I for one hope that God is as forgiving as I've been taught." He patted my back. "I want you to be at peace, Michael. You find peace only when you're ready to give it; and you'll only find complete peace when you're willing to give it completely."

I shook my head. It all sounds too simple, I thought. "I'd be a lot happier with revenge than peace," I said.

"Michael," he said quietly, leaning back from me. "You were born for great things. I'm convinced of it. But you won't ever be great unless you can learn how to forgive. Don't let Geoff make you small."

"I won't, Grandpa," I said, pulling away from him. "But I'm sorry. There's no way I can forgive Geoff. Not right now."

Grandpa nodded sadly. "Someday, Michael, you must. Life is much too important to waste even a moment on hate."

"And besides," pointed out Davey, who'd been quietly watching us all this time. "Love is a lot more fun than hate."

"Yeah, right," I snapped. "Who have you ever had reason to hate?"

"No one," he said simply.

That wasn't true and I knew it. I was stupid to have asked the question. Davey just wasn't the type to hate anybody. And he was going to make it hard for me to.

I realized Grandpa was grinning at me. "Don't say it!" I told him.

Grandpa smiled and patted my back. "If I pack quickly, we have time for one more a chess game before you take me to the airport."

He almost got me to a draw, but I checkmated him at the last minute. Then, on the entire trip to the airport, I kept thinking about what he'd said before. Life's too important to waste even a moment on hate. Hmmmph. Of course, if I blew Geoff's head off with a shotgun, then I wouldn't have to hate him anymore. I wrestled with the problem, and stared out the window.

That night, Mom was unusually quiet. "Is something wrong, Mom?" I finally asked. "I mean… other than everything else that's been wrong lately."

She nodded sadly. "Grandpa said not to tell you, especially after what happened last Wednesday, but I think you ought to know."

I sat down on the couch, a sudden empty feeling in my gut.

"Your grandpa and I had a long talk this morning." She paused. "Grandpa didn't come down here only because he was concerned for you," she said. "He also came down to see you again while he was still fairly healthy." She came over and sat beside me on the couch, taking my hands. "He has cancer, Michael. As soon as he's back, they're going to start chemotherapy, but the doctors aren't very hopeful."

My mouth fell open. "No," I whispered. "No!" And then my heart and everything inside me twisted to a tight, painful knot. "Mom, no."

Mom pulled my head onto her shoulder and let me cry. "My poor Michael," she said sadly. "So many things going wrong. Being a man is never easy, but I don't think it's usually this hard."

This can't be happening, I thought. I want him to see his great grandson. He'll be born in just a couple more weeks.

"Michael," she said, resting her head against the top of mine. "You know what else your grandpa told me?"

"What?" I asked without lifting my head.

"He said he's very, very proud of you. He says you are brave and strong, and a good man. He used those words, Michael — 'a good man.' He said to tell you something else when the time came. I'm going to tell you now, before I forget. He said that because you're wealthy now, he's not going to try to leave you anything worth much money, but that there were three things very special to him that he is going to leave you — his ivory chess set, his Bible, and a photo album he put together with pictures of him and his brother, Michael, and of him and your father." She patted my back again. "He loves you very much."

I nodded and more tears fell from my eyes onto her shoulder. Mom rocked me and soothed me for several minutes.

I tried to compose myself and dried my eyes. "I'm glad you told me, Mom. I think I want to go see Grandpa again in Chicago sometime soon. I think I understand better now why he said some of the things he said to me today."

I stood up and took her hand. "I'm going over to Davey's house now," I told her. I started to choke, but cleared my throat. "I need Davey tonight."

Mom stood up and hugged me. "You are strong, son. I'm sorry, that life has been so hard for you lately. But maybe things will be better soon."

"I'd say they couldn't get worse, but I don't want to tempt fate," I said ruefully.

She put her hand on my cheek. "Do you need to take your medicine?"

I held up a hand. Sure enough, it was trembling. "Yeah, I'll take the medicine."

She took my hand and held it tightly. "Maybe it's just a Mom's intuition," she said. "But I think things are going to get better for you, and soon."

I smiled. "I'm not sure I ever heard of Mom's intuition, but it sounds good to me."

Mom leaned up and kissed my cheek. "Take your medicine."

Davey and I shared a pillow damped by both our tears that night, and fell asleep in each other's arms. I thought over Grandpa's words again and remembered the saying from Shakespeare: "To err is human; to forgive divine." There wasn't a doubt in my mind that Grandpa had forgiven, or was trying to forgive anyone in his life who needed it. If I knew of any man I wanted to be like, it was Grandpa.

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