"Come in Mr. Harter. Have a seat." Ms. Peckum said, smiling at him. Her elbows on her desk and her finger tips dancing against each other. She looked way too happy. Andrew was scared. What was she up to? He sat pensively.
"You called for me, Ms. Peckum?"
"Yes, I wanted to tell you right away that I have approved your application for your club. I want you to know you have my full support and I have even talked with Ms. Persimmon and you may use her biology classroom for your meetings. Here is a key. You are responsible for keeping the room clean and locking it up when you are done. Make sure the chairs are back where you found them, please. It is downstairs and well out of view to give your group a little more . . . privacy." She was absolutely bubbly about it. She is up to something.
"Oh, and I think it would be wonderful if you made some kind of announcement Friday at the pep rally. You know, in the way of an invitation to the rest of the kids. If you want to, that is."
"Why are you being so nice about this all of a sudden?" Andrew asked abruptly.
"Well, we have had our differences, yes, but I can see when I'm beaten. Times change and we must change with them. Here's your charter paperwork, complete with my personal stamped approval. I am sure you will act like totally responsible young men and young ladies and won't abuse my trust, right?"
"Uh, yeah, right. Thanks." Andrew said, taking the papers and headed for the door. She was still wearing the painted on smile she had when he exited the room.
"What did she want?" Michael asked, seeing the worried look on his face.
"She wanted to give me the application for our club."
"Ok, so now we just call Josh and he will overrule her and we are in business."
"No, you don't understand. She approved it."
"Dude, she approved it and even gave me the key to Ms. Persimmon's Biology classroom downstairs for our meetings. I'm supposed to make an announcement at the pep rally tomorrow for kids to join."
"That's awesome. So why do you look so worried?"
"Michael, she was way too happy. She was happy like it was her birthday and she was just given a guillotine and my execution papers at the same time."
"I don't get it, Ms. Peckum," the voice said over the telephone. "We usually don't even put motion sensors downstairs because they would be picked up on the upper floors. You want a camera placed in a basement biology room that doesn't even have lab equipment? This is highly irregular."
"Mr. Felker, we've known each other for quite some time. We share the same views on some things. There is a movement of sorts to infuse our school with values that people like you and I don't see as normal. I have had no choice but to give a group of queers free run of this room to infect normal kids with their un-natural ways. In short, I have given them the rope and I want your help to hang them. Do I make myself clear, Mr. Felker? I'm sure that you can see the need to document what goes on in that room when the door gets closed Monday, after school."
"Yes ma'am, I couldn't agree more. I didn't know. I mean, I'll put it through right away. We'll treat it like you have had a tip off of some planned vandalism. That will bypass the usual channels; you know what I mean, Ms. Peckum?"
"I certainly do, Mr. Felker. I knew you would see it my way. We have to stand up for the right way of life before they infect the good kids and spread their disease all over society. The bureaucrats are clueless, but when we catch them doing what their very nature will make them do, then we can expel them and remove their cancer from this school and it will serve as a shining example to those who think about playing this little game elsewhere in other schools. Now, one more thing. Can you put the recorder and a monitor in my office? I want to monitor this one myself."
"Certainly Ms. Peckum. I'll be there myself in the morning to take care of this personally. Something of this importance should not be left to others that may not see things the way we do."
"I thought I could count on you. Thank you. It's good to see that there are a few who still understand that discretion is the better part of valor. I'll see you tomorrow then. Bye bye." She hung up the phone.
"Yeah Josh, she approved it and even gave me a key to Ms. Persimmon's Biology Class. She said it was out of the way and would give us privacy. She wants me to make an announcement during the pep rally Friday. But Josh, she was smiling like she just gave me a key to a microwave that seats twelve. Dude, I am way worried."
"I think with good cause Michael. She is indeed up to something but I have no clues what. So here's what you do. Have your meeting, but make absolutely sure that there is no making out, stay all business. That's the only thing she could get you on and seeing as though she picked a room downstairs for privacy then she must think you need it for something. I'll do some digging, but for now, make it strictly business."
"Well, I don't see that as a problem. There are only a few who are out at school. Josh, she can't really think we would be bumping uglies on campus. She's not really that stupid, is she?"
"Andy, she is treating you like the average homophobe that's clueless about the realities of gay life. So let's remain above board and see if we can either change her perceptions or use it against her. Keep me posted. I'll try and be there tomorrow for the rally. Know what you are going to say?"
"Yes. I mean no. I mean, I'm clueless."
"Stick to the mission. This is a real club Andy, with real goals. Hopefully, it will turn into a movement. It's not a gay club, it's a club of people with differences, who are coming together to show that they can put all that aside to accomplish something. It's not about asking them to give up their beliefs about what's proper love or improper love. It's about saying that you can come together anyways, to achieve a common goal. It's about eliminating hate by educating them to the realities."
"Wow, I wish you could do this instead of me. You know just what to say."
"Andy, I know what to say because you are educated about the realities. You need to say it so that the jocks will even understand it and feel compelled to join in. They will need to feel like not joining in would be more embarrassing than playing football in a tutu."
"Oh Josh! Bad pictures, bad pictures. That's too funny. But how do I do that?"
"Andy, you did it the other morning. Just be yourself and talk it out with them. I mean, you haven't had your first meeting yet, so it's not like you have already picked out your first project. So don't be disappointed if your turn out is not what you hoped for. Just stay the course and you will be fine. And watch your back. There are still some idiots out there."
"Thanks Josh. Looks like I have my work cut out for me." Just then, fire trucks rushed down the road past the farm. The sound of them still put a lump in his throat. "Josh, I have to go. One of our neighbors is in trouble. I'll see you tomorrow."
They all ran out on the porch. A fire truck was big business because it was so seldom heard. "Come on, get in the truck," Gladys yelled. "Looks like the McGrudy's place. I can see the smoke. Becky, while I get the truck you get some blankets."
"Alright!" She disappeared back into the house and emerged with an armload of quilts and threw them in the back as the boys climbed in.
"Wait!" Michael yelled and Aunt Gladys stepped on the brake. Randal came running across the yard and jumped in the back.
"Figured you could use another set of hands." He said in a half smile.
"Sure, glad to have 'em, never enough. Here, sit down and hang on. Aunt Gladys isn't sparing the gas pedal any. Better hang on." Randal turned and sat with his back against the cab of the truck like Michael and Andy were. Gladys turned sharply and Randal tried to steady himself but his hand landed on Michael's bulge. He straightened himself up as quickly as he could and Michael smiled when their eyes met. Randal snapped upright and stared out the back of the truck. Michael put his hand on Randal's leg, "Relax, you're alright."
Randal relaxed a bit as the truck skidded to a stop. The McGrudy's place was in flames. The McGrudy's were an Irish family that ran a few head of cattle and farmed a bit of land. They had a few kids. Joe, who was the oldest at fifteen, and two little red headed girls, twins about ten. The boys knew Joe from school. He played on the football team.
Aunt Gladys shifted into gear. "Andy, you and Randal go let the horses out of the barn, better they trample some corn than hurt they selves trying to get away from the smoke. Turn 'em out the back. Then set to find 'en how you can help the fireman. Michael, you come with Becky and me and see if we can round up the kids and get them back here in some blankets."
They rounded the back of the house, the heat was intense. They spotted Joe with a hose, trying to help fight the fire. He was a stocky boy with a thick neck and brick red hair. He was barefooted and shirtless in his bibs. Behind him, huddled together, were his two sisters holding each other and trembling.
Becky and Gladys found them and calmly said, "Come on honey." She led one as Becky led the other and took them around to the back of the truck. Michael spread a blanket for them to sit on and Becky wrapped one around the two of them, then sat and held them as they trembled.
The firemen had their hoses strung across the yard and were gaining control over the fire, but their home was a total loss. Mr. and Mrs. McGrudy were trying to help where they could. Andy watched and went to Mrs. McGrudy. "Come on," he said, leading her by the hand. "Your girls are over here with my mom and Aunt Gladys. There's nothing you can do here."
Suddenly a voice rang out, "Get back, it's going to blow!" Andy saw that Joe was around the corner and didn't hear the alarm. He released her hand and ran at Joe with everything he had as he leapt through the air. The heating oil tank exploded and he knocked Joe to the ground avoiding the blast. The entire area was engulfed in flames and smoke and falling pieces of wood. Andy smelled something awful and then he felt pain, searing pain. His bibs were burning and his hair was what he smelled. He was suddenly aware of cold water showering him and Joe. He rolled to put the fire out on his pant legs. Joe was patting his hair out as a fireman came through the wall of water and looked at Joe.
"Are you alright?"
"I think so. It's him. Look, he's burned." The firemen scooped Andy up and said, "Come on," to Joe as another fireman came through the wall of water and helped Joe to clear the fire. Joe looked back and the entire corner of the house was blown away. Shards of burning debris were strewn around for almost fifty yards. The fireman brought Andy out to the waiting ambulance where the paramedics were checking over the girls. They immediately turned their attention to Joe and Andy.
Andy looked at the paramedic. It was Pat.
"Is this considered dancing with chainsaws?" He asked nervously.
"No, I don't think so. Care to give a guy a hand?" Andy said, smiling.
"Andy!" Michael yelled and hopped down off the truck, looking at his smoldering hair and blackened legs. "Oh shit! Andy are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. I just singed my hair a bit." But then he started to feel his legs and he grit his teeth as they carefully cut away the burned part of his bibs.
Pat put some slimy gauze pads on his legs. The coolness felt good against his skin. He smiled at Andy. "They aren't bad. They're going to hurt like hell, but they'll heal up fine, I think. Your hair on the other hand, is pretty messed up, but at least you didn't hurt that beautiful smile. They're going to want to take you in though, and clean these out properly."
"How's Joe?" he asked, looking around.
"Bumped his head when some numbskull tackled him and a couple little burns on his arms. You got the worst of it. That was a pretty brave thing to do."
"Nah, I just saw that he didn't hear, so I reacted. He had to get down."
Mr. Mc Grudy was suddenly there beside Andy. "Oh, it's all my fault. I shoulda fixed that damn heater last season. They just cost so much. I'm so sorry, son. And you saved my Joe. I'll never forget it, ya hear?" They were moving his gurney into the ambulance. Joe was sitting in a jump seat. He heard Michael arguing as they closed the doors. Pat looked at him. "Your Mom will come as soon as she can. She signed a consent short form so you won't have to wait to be seen. So, just lay back and enjoy the ride." He turned to Joe. "How you doin'?"
"I'm a little sick to my stomach and my head feels like it's about to explode."
Pat handed him a plastic pan. "Here, if you feel the need. It's to be expected. You got a pretty big knot on the back of your head."
"I can't believe that scrawny little kid took me down that way. We're going to have to get him on the team."
"Hey! Who are you calling scrawny? And thanks, but I'm not the football type."
"Why, just because you're gay?"
"No, because I subscribe to the philosophy that if you just give them the damn ball they won't hurt you."
"HAAAAAahahahahaha" Joe roared. "Oh, that hurt," he said, holding his head.
"Thanks Joe." Andy said quietly.
"For what? You just saved 'my' life."
"You said 'just because' I was gay. That infers you don't hold it against me."
"What is there to hold against you? You didn't judge me and say 'Oh he's just a jock. We can do with one less of those'. And you never asked me if I was gay before you did what you did."
"No way in hell. But it's not the point."
"You're right. I think you just wrote my speech for tomorrow."
"Nothin" The ambulance pulled into the portico for the emergency room, and as the door opened, Michael was standing there.
"Hey, how'd you get here so fast?"
"Since Pat was in the back, it left a seat free up front and I climbed in."
"More like he insisted he was coming and threatened to climb up on top and road surf if we didn't let him in," the other paramedic said. "And he chatters worse than Pat. Joe, you stay put 'til we can get another gurney out here. If you go walkin' in they won't take us seriously," he laughed and disappeared, returning in moments with a gurney.
"Pat, go ahead and take yours in and take chatterbox with ya. I'll bring Joe along in a minute."
Pat rolled Andy into the E.R. and straight into one of the little curtained-in places. A nurse came back to start taking his vitals. "Excuse me young man, you'll have to wait out in the waiting room."
"I'm not leaving him." Michael said, defiantly.
She just looked at him. "Sir, you'll have to wait outside. We can't have you here."
"Call Dr. Raburn. He'll tell you we can not be separated."
"Who is Dr. Raburn?"
"He is our psychologist and we are trauma mates. We can't be separated."
"Nurse," Andy said. "I think if you talk to the paramedic Pat, he can clear this up. But it is important that Michael be here with me."
She disappeared for a few minutes. When she returned, her compassion showed in her eyes. "Alright, you can stay. But, you got to do what we say and stay out of the way. You hear?"
"Yes ma'am." Michael said.
"Burns can be pretty ugly. You going to be alright with that?" She asked.
"I watched my brother and my lover bleed to death after being shot. I think I can take this."
She looked stunned and her eyes welled a little. "Well, let's get your I.V. started and then we'll clean these up. I'm going to cut these bibs off of you so we can get you into a gown."
"Ah, do you think Michael could help me with that? Um, I'm not wearing any underwear."
"I'll tell you what. I'll cut the two sides and he can slide them out from under you and we'll lay this gown over ya. That ok?"
"Yeah, that's great, thanks. I know you probably see naked bodies all the time, but I'm a little on the shy side."
"It's alright honey, I understand. You're just lucky to have a friend who doesn't mind helping with intimate things."
"Nurse, he's my lover. Didn't Pat tell you?"
"No, he just said you had both had tragic losses of loved ones within an arms reach and that you two support each other in times of crisis. But that's ok. It takes all types to make the world go round."
"You're a pretty lucky kid. These will hurt like hell for a few days, but they could have been a lot worse. I understand you got all this saving another kid's life."
"I wish people would stop saying that. I just saw that I could get him out of the way of the blast and no one else could. I had no idea I could get hurt doing it. It's the same thing anyone else would have done."
"That's the attitude most of the real heroes have. They're modest. You said yourself that you didn't think about the possibility of you getting hurt. You realize that because you were on top of Joe, you took the burning oil he would have had. All that hair singed off the back of your head could have been his face. And standing, it would have been far worse. You protected him from the blast too. It's a selfless act. Like it or not, I think you're in for some attention over it."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, there were a couple of phone calls from newspapers to check and see if you were alright. And, the McGrudy's have talked to them too. Anyways, you'll have to deal with them on your own, because I'm kicking your butt out of here. I'm going to give you some ointment to put on those and you make sure you wash your hands good before you use them to put this on. Burns get infected really easily, so keep an eye on them. You're going to have trouble walking because the skin is going to stretch when you do. We'll give you something for the pain, but I want to encourage you to keep moving. If you let them dry out and then try moving, they will hurt even more. So, tough it out and come back if they start looking really red or tender. I'll check and see if your mom is here yet and I'll have her come back. I hope she brought some clothes for you or you might just have to face those photographers naked."
Andy's eyes got big 'til he realized the doctor was jerking his chain. "Thanks loads doc. Hey, how's Joe? Is he going to be ok?"
The doctor smiled, "He's going to be fine. We're keeping him over night just for observation. That's all I can say. The nurse will be back in a few so you just relax."
Becky showed up just a few minutes after the doctor went out. Michael had moved up onto the bed and lay beside Andy. It was an all too familiar sight that took Becky back for a moment and pushed her over the edge. The tears flowed from her eyes.
"Mom, there's no need to cry. I'm fine. Just got a few burns on my legs and they aren't even that bad."
"Andy, I saw you run and then the explosion and I thought I lost you. When they brought you out of that hose spray, I was so afraid."
"Mom, I'm alright."
"Andy, that night Tad died, I was so angry at you. You didn't care how it would affect anyone else. And I realize now that you were young and well, then tonight, I heard them yell and then you ran into it, not away from it. I was so afraid."
Michael got up and went around to her and hugged her and kissed her. Andy squeezed her hand. "I'm sorry Momma. I never thought of how all that must have hurt you. I'm so sorry. I just saw that I was the only one who could do it and I did what I felt I had to do. I didn't think about anything except getting Joe down on the ground. I never considered that I could even get hurt, let alone die from it. Momma, please look at me."
She dried her eyes and looked into Andy's. "Momma, I want to live." She leaned over and hugged him and kissed him, weeping.
She released him and as she straightened up she said, "Don't know what we are going to do about that hair. We'll cut it tomorrow."
"It'll have to be early then, because I have a speech to make tomorrow afternoon in front of the whole school."
"Oh honey, I think you should stay home tomorrow. You've been through a lot."
"No momma, it is an important day. I'll be alright. The club makes or breaks tomorrow. I've got to be there and make the speech."
"We'll see how you feel in the morning. OK?"
"Deal, now I hope you brought shorts."
"Yeah, your brown ones and I brought a t-shirt and hoodie."
Michael took the clothes from her and just set them on the bed and looked at her, grinning. "Oh, yes right. Uh, I'll go take care of the paperwork." And she stepped through the curtains pulling them closed behind her.
They worked together and got the shorts on but until the I.V. came out, they were stuck. Michael sat down and just looked into Andy's face. "You look troubled, spill it."
"Michael, I've made a terrible mistake."
"What are you talking about?"
"Michael, when Tad died I tried to kill myself."
"Wait, let me finish. Mom lost Tad and me that night."
"But you're back now. You're fine."
"Michael, what if your brother lived, but he came home with someone else who cared for him and he wouldn't let you do anything for him. He wouldn't let you comfort him or tend his wounds, but he was in front of you every day. He might as well still be dead to you. You would feel guilty because you blamed yourself every day."
"Andy, what are you getting at?"
"Michael, Mom couldn't help me. She couldn't help Tad. Then, when I finally came home, I came with my very own caretaker. She hasn't been able to care for me. She still lost me that night and she watches daily as someone else cares for me. She must still blame herself for not being able to help me."
"I never thought of it like that, but I see what you mean."
"Michael, I need your help on this one and it will be really hard."
"Andy you know I will do anything for you. Just tell me what you want me to do."
"Sit still, I'm almost through." Becky said, turning off the electric clippers. "It's the best I can do. I saved as much as I could. Why don't you go get a shower and I'll take you boys to school."
"Alright. I'm not looking forward to this part. This is gonna hurt."
"I wish I could take the hurt from you son, but I can't."
"I know Momma, thanks." He hugged and kissed her as he hobbled up the steps. Michael was waiting.
"Yeah, this is gonna hurt. Well, I'll see if I can take your mind off of it a bit," he giggled.
Andy stepped into the tub, gingerly wincing at the pain as he stretched the skin, climbing in. He turned the water on, knowing a hot shower was out. He made it tepid. Michael stepped in too.
"Damn, it's almost cold."
"I know, but the least bit of warmth on the burns hurts like hell."
"Here, let me soap you up," Michael said, stepping up close so he was against his back. He reached around and rubbed liquid soap over his hard abs, feeling the ripples. He ran his fingers gently up to his belly button. He circled it and moved his hand up to find a nipple. He teased it while taking his other hand and running gently over the ripples, down to his slowly raising love staff. He gently kissed his neck and brought his lower hand around his leg and gently ran his fingers across his perineum and up the boy's love canal, slowing and reversing direction as he crossed his pucker.
"Oh Michael," he said in a broken whisper and leaning forward against the wall. His desires were plain. Michael soaped his now white hot staff and found his spot. Michael took a breath as did Andy and he settled back as Michael urged forward, feeling his head pass so slowly through the ring. He paused as Andy then settled back at his own rate until Michael was all the way in.
Andy reached behind him, having straightened up and ran his fingers lightly up Michael's ass cheeks. He leaned his head back, allowing Michael to kiss his neck. Michael started his gentle movement. He withdrew until Andy gasped and he knew how far to go. He pushed forward, pulling his hips to him. His mound nestling between his perfect dimpled cheeks. He pulled back quickly and started a sawing movement. A long stroke, withdrawing just past his prostate and forward just past it. Then out past it, then slamming home. That was the rhythm. One long and two short. Moving faster, he felt Andy's breathing change and he tilted his head sideways in ecstasy, whimpering on each short stroke.
He felt Michael's thickness grow and it pushed him over as Michael reached for his rod and milked it with a firm ring around it, stemming the flow. He thrust forward and then jacked him as he unloaded, extending Andy's orgasm. He almost collapsed into the tub.
"No, no, no. Don't go down," Michael said, pulling him back up. Turning him around, he kissed him.
"Michael, that was fantastic. Where did that rhythm come from?"
"Don't know. It just felt like what I wanted to do. Are you ready?'
"Ready for what AHHHHH! Shit that hurts!"
"Ok, rinse off while I get dry." Andy stood there gritting his teeth.
Andy rinsed off and got dry. He turned and Michael toweled him off. He grabbed the whitey tighties.
"Do I have to?" Andy asked.
"No, but you are wearing short shorts and your going to be on stage. If you want everyone looking up there, it's no business of mine."
"Right. Shut up and hold them out there again." He stepped in, wincing as a trickle of water ran over a burn.
"Now the shorts. Here, you can do the shirt." He looked at Andy. "Are you ready?"
"Yeah, wait." He leaned forward and kissed Michael on the lips. "I love you, Michael."
"Me too. Ok, let's go with it."
"Ouch, damn it Michael that hurts."
Michael stepped out in the landing. "If you're going to whimper about every little thing then YOU do it!" Michael stormed down the steps. "That's it, I've had it. Someone else can put up with his pansy-ass whining. I'm done with it. I'll be out in the truck."
Becky was out in the hall in a flash.
"Mom! Can you give me a hand please?"
Becky was up the stairs in a flash.
"Mom, I can't wrap these and Michael's being an ass."
"Sure honey. Here, put your foot right up here." She said and started to wrap his left calf.
"Not too tight Mom."
"Ok honey, how's that?"
"You are the best."
"Ok, now the other. Give me the ointment, you missed a spot here."
Andy climbed into the back of the pickup and sat down next to Michael, each looking away from the other as Becky got in and started the truck.
"How'd it go?" Michael said in a soft tone.
"She bought it hook line and sinker." Andy grinned at Michael. "Michael, pansy-ass whining?"
"Well, I wanted to be believable, didn't I?"
"Yeah, but . . . ouch!" They laughed. The ride to the school wasn't long and when they arrived, Andy noticed a lot of odd looking vehicles.
"Shit." Andy said, quietly.
There were two or three vans with satellite dishes on long telescopic masts. He could see the fire chief's red car with the light rack on top and a long black limousine.
"Wow, must be someone important, look at that limo." They pulled up to the door and Andy slid to the back as Michael let the tailgate down. He slid to the end and stood wincing, then dusting his shorts off from where he sat on the bed. He looked wearily through the windows at the mob inside, standing around the office. As he went up to the door, Michael opened it and held it as he entered. His mother went to park the truck and was now making her way back to the doors. As she entered, she saw Michael and Andy waiting to go in the second set of doors.
"What are you waiting for? You're late for class." Michael opened the door and the entire throng of people saw him and moved as one huge barrage of people and equipment. Camera flashes were going so rapid he shielded his eyes with his hands as what sounded like a million voices started asking questions.
"Wait! You guys are mixed up. I don't know who you want, but it isn't me."
"You're Andy Harter, aren't you?"
"No Henry, Henry Martin."
"But you have bandages on your legs."
"Yeah, but I wouldn't think my wart removal was news, now excuse me, I'm late for class." He walked into the office, mother and Michael in tow.
"Hi, we need a pass to class please?"
Without looking up, the lady asked, "Why are you late?"
"I was in the hospital last night and it took longer to get ready than we planned."
The woman looked up and recognized him. "Wait a moment, please." She got up and went over and knocked on Ms. Peckum's door. She came out quickly and smiled that painted on smile of hers.
"Ms. Harter, Andy and Marshal. Won't you come in?"
"It's Michael." Andy said, without moving.
"Yes of course, Michael. Won't you all come in for a moment?"
Becky opened the swinging gate and held it so they could pass and they walked into Ms. Peckum's office. There was a guy sitting in a chair that was extremely well dressed. He looked to be in his mid thirties and had a wisp of gray hair. He was quite handsome. Beside him was a younger guy with a notepad that he was writing notes in frantically, while whispering on his cell phone. And then a fat guy in a cheap rack suit. The good looking, well-dressed man stood and walked over, putting his hand out to shake Andy's hand.
"You must be Andy Harter, I'm Senator Helfer. This is my aid, Mark Ramsey and you probably know the mayor, Steven Stebbens." He stepped forward and shook Andy's hand.
"This is my mother, Becky Harter." He paused, waiting for the hand shakes to be completed.
"And this is my boyfriend, Michael LeSalle."
"He's your boyfriend?"
"Yeah, I'm gay, it's what we do." He looked at Ms. Peckum, who looked like she was about to take flight, she was so happy.
The senator turned around and talked to his aid in quick whispers, then turned around. Putting on his smile again, he reached out for Michael's hand.
Andy turned to Ms. Peckum. "Ms. Peckum, I'm sorry to have interrupted your meeting, I just needed a pass to class. If you could just give me a pass, we'll go."
"Andrew, they aren't here to see me. They are here to see you." She said, with a needle to her voice.
"Why?" He said, firmly.
"So modest," the senator said.
"Andrew, we are here to award you with a citizenship award. You're a hero, young man," the senator said, walking over to him and ushering him into a seat.
"Look, you're mistaken. I didn't do anything and if I did, I don't want any recognition for it."
"Nonsense. Look Andy, this award comes with a full ride scholarship. You can't turn that down." The senator's aid said, kneeling down beside them.
"It's not nonsense and I don't deserve it. Give it to someone who runs into a burning building or something like that. This is stupid."
"Ms. Harter, please talk to him."
"Certainly. Is there somewhere we may speak privately?"
Andrew started to get up and winced at the pain.
"Why don't you folks stay here and we'll step out." Everyone filed out except Ms. Peckum. "Ah, Ms. Peckum would you join us?" The senator said.
"Oh yes, of course!" Andy was still standing and he paced a little bit, walking over to Ms. Peckum's window and looking at the news vans and more showing up.
"Mom, I hate this."
"I knew you would."
"You knew about this?"
"A little. Ms. Peckum called this morning and asked if you were coming to school. I told her yes and she asked if I could come in too, that they were going to give you an award. I didn't know about all this though. The cameras and the senator and all. But Andrew, it costs a lot of money to make all this happen and the publicity is good for the school. And Andy, a full ride scholarship. Son, you would be a fool to turn that down even if everything they said was a lie! That is a boatload of money. I've been trying to figure out how I was going to afford to send you to college. Son, think hard about this, please. I'm proud of you and what you did is heroic."
"Mom, not you too."
"Honey, I know you don't see it that way, but Joe does. Mr. and Mrs. McGrudy do. If you had not done that, then their Joe would not be here. They don't have the means to say thank you, but these people do. Take it as a personal thank you from them. Just smile and say thank you. I know it's hard. You're not a good receiver. You need to learn to accept praise for what you do. It's not conceit when it comes to you unsolicited, honey. It only becomes bad when you leverage it against people."
Andrew's eye's snapped to hers. He got a noticeable smirk. "Mom, have I told you lately that I love you? You're brilliant!" And he hugged her.
As he hobbled over to the door, he passed behind Ms. Peckum's desk and paused for a moment before grinning widely and opening the door. He calmly smiled and stuck out his hand to the senator. "My mother explained to me that I'm being a bit pig headed. I apologize, I'll gladly accept the award."
"Wonderful, then let's go back in and talk for a minute." He turned his head to his aid. "Mark, get the gallery set up for the photo op. We'll be out in about ten."
"Alright Andy, this is wonderful. What I'd like to do first, is get all the pictures out of the way and there are a couple interviews. You're going to be on Fox News and CNN!"
"Great," he said, unenthused.
"Then we are going to have an assembly and present you with the award on stage in front of your whole school."
"I don't suppose I can dodge that bullet?"
"Andy, being recognized in front of your peers is important. People will look up to you. You will inspire other kids to be more than they are. That's all there is to it. Then we leave and I believe you have some kind of a pep rally. It will be over before you know it."
"Ok, so what's first? Let's get it over with."
"Great, let me just check with Mark and make sure they are ready." He turned and pulled out his cell phone. Andy went over and whispered something to Michael. He smiled.
"They're ready, let's go." Andy walked slowly and gingerly to the hall with the senator standing with his hand on his shoulder and the mayor on his other side.
"He asked that we call the fire department and ask that Pat and the other guys who were at the Mc Grudy's be here at the beginning of third period."
"Michael, why? What's he up to?"
"I don't know, but I know that look. And he is definitely up to something. He also wants to know if you can go to an office supply. He wants us to pick up some certificates."
Ms. Peckum stuck her head back in the office. "Well, there's no reason for you to be here, so I'll just give you a pass and off you go."
"No" Becky said.
"Excuse me?" she said.
"I said no. He will be staying by Andy today." Michael looked up at Becky and then to Ms. Peckum. He was scared.
"Ms. Harter, I appreciate your concern, but there is no just cause for him to miss class."
"Ms. Peckum, I am his guardian. He is my son's trauma mate and lover. This whole circus that you have concocted is very stressful for Andrew. If you insist on separating him from his support network, then I will take both of my children home for the day and you can deal with the explanations to the Senator and the press. Do I make myself clear?"
"Abundantly." She said, burning red in her fury. "He may stay. But this isn't over."
Becky turned around and knuckles down on her desk, leaned in nose to nose. "You bet it's not. You f**k with me and I'll show you what can be done with a law degree. By the time I am done with you, you won't qualify as a tutor in a juvenile prison. Think about it. Is this the hill you want your career to die on?"
Those words echoed through her head. They were the exact words Andy said to her over the kissing battle. She remembered how badly she lost and what it cost her. She pushed her chair back and left the room to stand out in the waiting area.
Michael turned to Becky and put his arm around her waist and then hugged her. "Momma I love you. Thanks for being my Mom." He sobbed. She sat down and pulled him away to look in his eyes. "I'm losing him you know. He's pushing me away."
"Shush, it's alright. He may push but he won't stop loving you. And I love you too. Hey, thanks for this morning. Between the two of us, you think we can take care of this kid?"
Michael's eyes flowed as his face scrunched up. "You knew?"
"Yeah, don't take drama. You're not convincing." And she pulled him to her and just held him for a few minutes before pulling him back and looking him in the eyes, "Really Michael, pansy-ass whining?" It broke the tension. "Don't worry; he's just testing his legs. You'll be back in each others arms in no time. You guys have to test it now and then to see if you can stand without the other. You don't have to go far but you have to check and see how far you've come. It's the only way to know how far you have yet to go."
"How did he get so smart?"
"Don't know. He just seems to feel his way through things though, doesn't he?"
Michael giggled and blushed crimson, "That's when I like him best."
Becky blushed too and gave his little butt a couple of playful squeezes. "Come on, let's see if we can make Pickyass Peckum wet her pants by hovering around waiting for her senator."
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are here today to honor a great citizen. A young man that exemplifies our youth today. Fearless and selfless in actions, caring and thoughtful in demeanor, Andrew Harter has gone above and beyond what would be expected from a young man his age, or at any age, for that matter.
"Andrew Harter went with his family to help a neighbor in their times of trouble. Little did he know that he would be faced with a life or death, split-second decision. While helping Ms. McGrudy to her children who were earlier recovered from the blaze, a fireman shouted for them to get down on the ground, the heating oil tank was about to blow. He saw Joe McGrudy around the corner of the house and knew he didn't hear and was confident he was about to die. Andrew Harter, released the hand of Mrs. McGrudy and ran at Joe, diving through the air as the blast leveled the house. His aim was true and he landed on top of Joe, driving him to the ground microseconds before the blast would have surely killed him and covering his body with his own, protected him from the oily burns by taking them upon himself. Were it not for this selfless act, Joe may have survived, but according to all those who were there, would have at the very least been burned severely.
"This story has been verified by the doctors at the hospital, from the fire Chief's own lips just a short time ago on this very stage, the McGrudy's, including Joe himself, who is delighted to be here, unharmed, to testify to it and Andrew's own family.
"It gives me great honor and privilege to welcome to the stage, Andrew Makis Harter." The senator steped to the side of the stage to welcome Andrew who walked slowly, wincing as he made his way up the steps and onto the stage, passing a gauntlet of hands to be shaken, ending with the Senator who handed him his award. Andrew had a folder in his hand and approached the microphone.
"Wow, I'm overwhelmed. Thank you Senator, Mr. Mayor, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen and anyone I may have missed. (Slight chuckle from the audience.) It is my honor to accept this award, not because I feel that I deserve it, but because it represents what so many do on a daily basis. I'm not special. I'm just a kid, like a lot of others that I'm sure would have done the same thing. So, why me? Why was I chosen?
"I've given that a lot of thought. I have not found a lot of answers. I mean, I'm average height, nothing special to look at, certainly not an athlete. I sorta figure no matter what the game is, give 'em the ball, they won't hurt ya. (The crowd laughs.) So that's not it. About the only thing I could see that set's me apart from most kids is that I'm gay. But Joe's not gay, why would I save him. In fact he's a jock. Jocks torture more gay's than the Baptist Church! Could it be that it doesn't matter?
"I started looking at the firemen. Heroes every day. (Waving to Pat.) I have a personal one right there. Pat saved my life 3 times in the same night. He also treated me at the scene of this incident. 'Hey Pat, do you guys ask if the folks you are going to help are gay or not before you help them?' (Pat stood up and shook his head no.) Thank you, Pat. Oh wait, Pat one more question. Are there any gay firemen? (Pat stood and shrugged his shoulders.) Don't know? Must not matter."
He turned to look at the very tense pile of politicians behind him. "Once in a while we hear of gays in politics, but it's usually not favorable. But they go on, day by day helping everyone, never asking if the recipients of their help are gay or straight. Even Ms. Peckum, who has always made her position on gays very clear, found it within herself to put her personal feelings aside to allow me to form a gay and friends of gays group called 'Destiny's Children'. It's a group that is designed to show that ordinary kids can do extraordinary things whether they are gay or straight or still trying to figure things out, as long as they are willing to work together. Because, when you get into the real world, it just doesn't matter. To the heroes out there it doesn't matter. You are all heroes of the tomorrow. So be a hero today, show the world that at this high school, it doesn't matter.
"So in closing, I would ask the following to step forward and receive an honorary membership to Destiny's Children. First and foremost, Fireman Pat, please join me up here on stage. And senator, Mr. Mayor, Ms Peckum, and Michael LaSalle."
Each one stepped forward, the camera's rolling as Andrew shook the hand of each person and handed them a certificate. Then, he gently tilted his head up to whisper to Ms. Peckum, "I think you're going to need a bigger room and a lot more cameras." Then getting to the end, took Michael by the hand and led him to the microphone. Putting his arm around his waist said, "Ladies and gentlemen, these are my heroes." And he kissed Michael and tried to suck his face off as applause and wolf whistles and hoots came from the audience and the flashes from the cameras of the press.
Headlines in the papers the next day read, Senator and Mayor and High School Principle found together in members only gay club. It featured a picture of them standing behind the passionately kissing boys.
Phone rings, "Hey Josh, how are ya? Guess you watched the news, eh?"
"Brilliant Andy. I bet you never thought you would be kissing on CNN."
"No shit?" Turning his head, "Michael, it's Josh, says they have us kissin' on CNN!"
"We don't have cable. But hey, you said you wanted a movement."
"So now what? Got a first project?"
"Yep, we are going to have our first meeting Monday. I thought that helping to clean up the McGrudy's farm would be a good place to start. Well, for one team anyways. Then I figured a team could tackle the school neighborhood. It looks pretty scraggley and with all the visitors and all. And the third team, I figure we can send out for clothing collections. Do you know there are no organizations for victims of fires? You're just out when it happens. So we are going to start one. So that will take care of the first week."
"Wait, wait, wait. You plan on all that for one week end? How many people joined?"
"Well, only about sixty-five, but we're looking at more once the football team joins."
"Holy smokes Andy, that is incredible."
"Yeah, well as long as we can keep the momentum going. You know, if we can keep them excited about it then it can grow. But even if it fizzles out Josh, these people no longer hate us. They won't let their kids either."
"Andy you did awesome. Sixty-five. That's incredible. Look, you keep doin' and I'll be back at you in a week or two. Keep your head down, Ms. Peckum is livid."
"Well that's just plain ungrateful! I mean, what other student gets her headlines!"
"Right you are. I am sure she will never forget that. Neither will the Senator or the Mayor for that matter."
"Well go figure. I guess I don't have to worry about a repeat performance. Even if I save the president."
"Talk to you soon, Andy. I have to make a few more calls yet. I'll be watching." The phone hung up.
"Markie, I'm sure she just sold him. Probably studding him out! That Kabob she offered looked more like lamb than goat. So stop dwellin' on it. Here, got this number from some kid named Greg. He thought I was you. He tastes pretty good to. A real squirmer."
"Why ain't you keeping him?"
"Markie, I'm growin' up now. Can't keep going down on everything around me. Liable to get a bad reputation. Nope, I got me a keeper. I'm turning into a regular, dependable, respectable homo."
"Fer reals Markie. Me and Jeff got sumpin' special. He even gave me a bracelet made out of them flexy straws. We's serious."
"Damn Toome. Never figured you for no one man, straw homo."
"Hey, we all gotta grow up some time. So why don't you give this Greg guy a call. And hey, when he starts droolin' and making sounds like a blender, just swirl him a couple times and you'll put him in orbit."
"Think I can do it good as you?"
"Well, may not be just as good, but you're pretty damn good. Next ta me you're the best. Now that I'm retirein' I guess that makes you the best."
"Wow. Me at the top. Go figure. Mom'll be powerful proud, won't she?"
"Well yeah, but let's not run any ads Markie. You'll never sleep again once they find out I'm retiring. Best keep it a secret an ease into it some. It can right tire a boy out."
Knock, knock, knock. "Well Randal, come on in, you don't need to knock."
"Hi Aunt Gladys. Is Michael home?"
"Well sure, let me get him fer you." She walked to the stairs, looking up. "Michael, there's someone here to see you."
"Hey Randal, how's it going? You want to come up?"
Randal had two hands in his pocket and kept looking at the floor as he rocked. He looked like he wanted to run. "Well uh, I mean." Andrew cut him off.
"Michael, it looks like he's got something on his mind and needs to talk. Why don't you two go out for a little walk," he said, giving him a little push toward Randal. Michael started down the steps looking back at Andrew.
Andrew winked, "I'll be right here if you have trouble standin'. Always." He slowly followed Michael down stairs. Michael grabbed his coat and turned to Randal and took his hand as they went out the door.
Becky came out of the kitchen and wrapped her arm around him as he started to sob.
"They love each other momma. I could see it in their eyes. I had to let him go, that's the stuff that dreams are made of."
First of all, thank you Ricky for the wonderful story, and allowing me to be along for the ride. This was such a wonderful story, full of love and heartbreak. Every chapter tugged at more than one emotion. It got to the point that I was going through a box of Kleenex a chapter. Thank you for selflessly giving your time to write such a beautiful and powerfully moving story. You are a true friend and confidant! Please don't ever change.
To the readers: Thank you all for sticking it out and following it to the end. I hope you have had as much fun reading the story as I have. (Hey, just because I edited it, doesn't mean that I didn't read it as well. It was a perk of editing - I got the advanced copy!) Your comments and words of encouragement meant a lot to Ricky and to myself. It is a part of what kept us going. It is the only pay that the authors get.
Once again, thank you to all who have stuck through this amazing ride with us, and I look forward to hearing from all of you about this story and the other stories (Did he just say 'stories'? Hint, hint) that are in the works by this amazing author! Best wishes to you all and be well! Thanks for being you!
The Author's Notes: (Blushing after that.)
Wow, this has really been some ride hasn't it. I know there are a bunch of people who think that Michael should stay with Andy but that's not where his heart is. They will always belong to each other and always be there for each other for the rest of their lives. That's why he still has the chain. But their only common thread besides sex was tragedy and that is not something to build a relationship on. Andy was Tad's and will always be. I am sure there is love out there yet for him and perhaps through Destiny's Children he will find him.
So, the ending of my very first story. I hope it was worthwhile for you overall. I know it was an emotional rollercoaster and I was as shocked at the loss of Tad as much as you were. Possibly more; I fleshed him. But that's what you get when you write it as it comes. I still don't know how people can plan out a story by an outline. The first thing that I learned when I tried it was that storybook characters hate outlines.
Thanks to my editor Mark for hanging with me. This story would not have the following it does were it not for his efforts. I am profoundly dyslexic and I assure you that it would be quite noticeable were in not for Marks tireless efforts. I would also be remiss if I didn't thank Michael for the loan of Marks body, mind and spirit. I doubt if he got any after Chapter 15 for sure and probably not until Ch17. Somehow I think he suffered more. He didn't even read the story and felt the loss of Tad.
To the readers who read this at the suggestion of their therapist after losing someone. I can only hope that you have found some measure of healing here or at least a temporary escape. You all have my heart.
I leave you with this final thought. Do we pick our friends and lovers by the things we have in common or by their faults that we can live with? Ponder that a while. Your answer may surprise you.
Best wishes, Ricky