A Special Place

By Sequoyah Pendor


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This is a work of fiction; any coincidence is just that, a coincidence.

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(Parts One - Ten)

Part One

        I was in another world, so totally immersed in a Bach piece I had been working on for several weeks that I didn't see the light flashing indicating I should pick up the phone/intercom. Accordingly, I almost had a heart attack when Gertie, the parish secretary, shouted, "There's a hysterical woman on the phone asking for you. Think it might be Gabrielle Larsen."
        "Thanks, Gertie," I said as I grabbed the phone and punched the button, "Matt here."
        "Matt, Luke has left a suicide note. It says you will know where to find him. I don't know what to do!"
        "Call 911. Tell the dispatcher what you have found and to call me on my cell phone. I think I know where he is and pray God I won't be too late! I'm on my way." I tossed the phone into its cradle and said to Gertie, "My God, Gertie, Luke has left a suicide note and his mother doesn't know where he is. I'm supposed to, and I think I do." I was shouting over my shoulder as I rushed from the church toward my Jeep.
        Luke's place and mine were about ten miles out of town. I leapt into my Jeep and pushed it for all it was worth. My mind was also running in overdrive.  "Luke must have left school early because he should just be getting home now," I thought to myself as I raced down Old Farm Road toward our places. I was doing an independent study in music for my final period each day and I hadn't been practicing at St. Mary's for more than twenty or twenty-five minutes when Gertie called. "God, please let me be in time," I prayed, wishing my Jeep would go faster. Fortunately, Old Farm Road is a farm road and traffic is minimal, so I wasn't worried about that.
        "Why has Luke even thought about suicide?" I kept asking myself. Exactly the same age as I--we were actually born minutes apart and both would be eighteen in two months--he was handsome--even beautiful--popular at school . . . .We have no secrets from each other,"I thought,"or at least I didn't think we did, but I was surely wrong."
        Suddenly I heard sirens behind me and when I looked in the rear view mirror, saw flashing lights approaching. About that time my phone rang. "Yea?"
        "The EMS squad should be getting close to you," the dispatcher said, "I'm patching you through to them."
        "Yea, I see them right behind me," I responded.
        "Matt, this is David Andrews. Where are we headed?"
        David and his son lived on the farm on the town side of the Larsens; our farm was on the other side of Luke's home. When David got out of the army, he used his Army college money to become a registered nurse with special emergency medicine training and he had been with the EMS for several years, actually since before I was born.
        "David, I'm betting money--and maybe his life--that he is below the falls on the river. I'm jumping the ditch and crashing the fence as soon as I cross the river bridge. Think that thing you guys are driving can follow?"
        "We can sure as hell try," he responded.
        "If you can't...."
        "I know, it's three more miles. You go; we'll follow."
        I rushed passed the David's place, across the river bridge, and hung a sharp right, jumping the road ditch. As I crashed the pasture fence, I expected the barbed wire to snap, but it didn't. Instead, it started stretching and pulling loose from the posts. When it finally snapped, the backlash smashed the windshield and whipped through the Jeep, but I didn't pause. "Please, God," I prayed with my whole being, "let him be here and let us be in time."
        Reaching the path to the river, I leapt from the Jeep before it stopped moving.  As I raced along the narrow path through the cane and trees lining the river bank, I heard the sirens stop and then the sound of the water rushing over the low falls and splashing into a wide basin before, once again, entering its narrow river bed and going on its way. As I raced toward the river, I kicked off my shoes, knowing that if Luke were here, he was in the river.
        As soon as I reached the edge of the basin, my heart stopped. I saw him, his nude body, face up, caught between two rocks. Otherwise, he would have washed over the basin's edge and down the river. I dived into the icy water--after all it was only mid-March and this water was never really warm enough for swimming until mid-May--and swam over to Luke. As I pulled his body to mine, I couldn't be sure, but it seemed as if his beautiful body was lifeless. Grabbing him under the chin, I started swimming back just as David and his crew reached the river's edge.
        "Matt, grab the float," David shouted as he tossed it out over the water. Holding Luke's chin above water with one hand, I grabbed the float with the other. David rapidly pulled me to the sandy beach. His two team mates grabbed Luke and started working on him while David helped me ashore and covered my shivering body with a blanket."I'll grab you something hot from my kit," he said as soon as I was settled.
        While I waited, I looked around at this, a very special place. Suddenly I spied Luke's clothes, neatly folded, a few feet from me and near them was a prescription bottle. I quickly got up and ran to the clothes, picked up the bottle, and called to David, "David, here's something you need to see."
        Handing me a cup of hot liquid, David took the bottle and called to Anna and Jake, his colleagues,"Here's an empty bottle which originally held 35 200 mg caps of phenobarb. That's a lethal dose if they were all here and he took them. "Is he still alive?" I asked, dreading the answer.
        "Barely," Jake replied, "but since we know we have more to deal with than hypothermia, that's a plus. But to be honest, I doubt he makes it, but we'll try to get the barbiturate out of him and do everything else we can.
        As he and Anna continued to get Luke ready to transport, I bent to pick up Luke's clothes. I felt something warm running down my cheek.  I turned to speak to David when he said,"Matt, you're bleeding like crazy!" as he rushed toward me. "When you crashed through the fence, you took a barb in the face. You've got a bad cut there." He grabbed his kit, quickly cleaned the wound and pulled it together with butterfly strips. "When we get to the hospital, you will get that checked out. Promise?" I nodded.
        "We're ready to transport," Anna called to David.
        "See you at the hospital, Matt," David said as he grabbed his kit and joined his team.
        "I'll get his things, go by his house, get some dry clothes and his mother," I responded, "then I'll be there."
        As the EMS team left, I walked slowed over to Luke's neat folded clothes. "This spot has always been so special to us," I thought as I bent to pick up his things. I clutched his clothes to my body, inhaling the fragrance of the man I loved--I loved as my very best friend as did he me, but more than that, my great and painful secret was that I not only loved Luke, but had been in love with him for a very long time, in fact, for as long as I could remember. I lived with the agony of loving him more than life itself and the fear that if he knew, at best, our friendship would be destroyed and at worse, he would hate me. It was a risk I could not take. So I lived, every day, every night with the heartache of my secret.
        Tears streaming down my face, I walked slowly back to the Jeep, shivering in spite of the blanket David had given me. Placing Luke's clothes on the passenger's seat, I picked up my cell phone and hit speed dial 1. "That's exactly what you are to my life, Luke, you're first and all else is after. Please, please,please don't die!" Gabrielle answered on the first ring. "Gabrielle, we found him and he is alive,barely. It's not absolutely hopeless, but very, very close."
        "I'll light another candle to the Virgin for him,"Gabrielle responded. The Larsen's, he of Danish background and she born and raised in Germany, were surprisingly, very devote Catholics instead of being Lutheran as one would have expected. And that raised another question about what my best friend, a devoted Catholic, had done. Taking your own life, I was sure, was a mortal sin for a Catholic and would doom Luke to hell. Not that I believed that, but then I am an Episcopalian, not a Roman Catholic.
        "Call in all you have out to your saints, Gabrielle. Our guy needs all the help he can get. I'm on my way now.  I'll pick up some dry clothes at your place and then take you into town. We'll have to take your car, though, because my Jeep's a mess. See you in a sec."
        "OK, I'll be ready."
        There would be no problem with clothes. Not only did Luke and I spend so much time at each other's house that we both had clothes in both places, but we were also the same size. In fact, our fathers once remarked that had we not been "darkness and light" we could have been twins so far as size goes.
        Luke was clearly "light." Again, given his family background, how could he be otherwise? Luke was truly a golden man-child--a golden young man. His hair, so curly he had given up in trying to make it otherwise, was so blond it sometimes seem transparent. In the sun it shown like spun gold, creating a shining halo around his beautiul face. His fair skin was perfect so that the goodness that was inside made his body seem to glow. Hard work on the farm and the non-jock sports--volleyball and tennis--kept him in excellent shape, clearly defined, but not grotesque. Also, he and I had started running together two years ago and ran every morning after our chores were done before we got ready for school. In the winter we even ran in the dark and the weather had to be really bad for us not to have our morning run.
        I, on the other hand, was darkness, the son of a half Korean mother and father who was at least half American Indian.
        As I pulled into the Larsen's drive, Gabrielle ran out to meet me. Weeping, she cried, " Why? Why? Why did he do such a terrible thing, Matt? Why?"
        "I don't know, Gabrielle, I don't know and I should have known. I should have known he was in pain. I should have known, even though he didn't tell me."
        We walked into the house and I continued upstairs to Luke's room. As soon as I entered, I could not hold back an outburst of tears as I was overwhelmed by a tide of memories and the fragrance of the man I loved. While I had loved Luke as long as I could remember. Of course, over time my love had changed, had matured, but I kept it to myself. No way was I going to risk the beautiful friendship Luke and I had since the day we were born.
        Suddenly I realized that I was still carrying Luke's clothes I had taken from the river, the clothes that had covered Luke's so alive beautiful body and which still held the scent of the one I loved above all else. Tears still streaming, I got dressed in Luke's clothes and walked downstairs.
        Gabrielle handed me her keys and we walked out of the house to her car. While the trip into town was not a race like the one out, my mind was racing around and around, "Why? Why? Why?" Suddenly it occurred to me that Gabrielle should not have been home when she had called me. "How did you happened to be home early today?" I asked Gabrielle.
        "The system went down just after lunch and we were told it would not be back up until sometime late tonight so I just came on home. I hope in time to save my boy," she responded as she started crying softly. Gabrielle was office manager for the medical complex in Concord, our small town. The rest of the drive into town was spent in silence, each of us lost in our own thoughts.
        When we reached the hospital, I found a parking place near the emergency room entrance. When we walked in, David was coming out of one of the treatment bays and walked toward us.
        "He's still alive, but just barely. Matt, had you not known where to find him and had we not gotten there when we did, there is no doubt he would be dead, but he's sure not out of the woods yet," David answered our unspoken question. "But you, Young Man, need to get yourself over there into that treatment bay so someone can take a look at your face."
        "So there's no change in Luke," I asked David as we walked toward an empty treatment bay.
        "None, at least none for the better. He's so close to death that any change would be for the better or . . . ."
        When we reached the treatment bay a fairly young, good looking woman--hey, I may be in love with another man, surely you have gathered that--but that didn't mean I didn't appreciate a good piece of handiwork and God had done an outstanding job on this woman.
        "Hi, I'm Dr. Bailey. I understand that you took a pretty severe hit in the face by a pasture fence while rescuing a friend."
        "I'm not sure I would call it a rescue, especially since it looks as if he may not make it. And, in fact, I didn't even know my face was cut until David--Mr. Andrews--noticed all the blood."
        "Yes, I understand your friend. . . What's his name?"
        "Luke, Luke Larsen."
        "Luke is near death, but so long as there is a spark of life, there's hope, right."
        "Right! Damn right," I responded with all the bravado I could muster, then the tears started again in spite of my putting every effort into stopping them.
        Dr. Bailey reached over and put her arms around me, giving me a warm and comforting hug. Gradually I stopped crying.
        "Now" she said, "let me take a look at your face, Matthew."
        "Please call me Matt. The only time I am called Matthew is when my mom is really upset with me or when I am in her class."
        Ok, Matt, you've got a really nasty gash there. David--ah, Mr. Andrews--told me you crashed through a pasture fence and the barbed wire didn't break until it snapped and whipped back, breaking your windshield and hitting you in the face."
        "Yea, that's what happened, but as I said, I didn't know it until Mr. Andrews. . . .Look, David is obviously a friend of both of us, so can we stop this Mr. Andrews bit?"
        I was very surprised when Dr. Bailey blushed a bright red like a young school girl. "Sure," she replied, suddenly becoming very busy with some instruments on a tray beside the table. I wondered what was going on here.
        When she turned back to me she said, "David is well-known around the hospital. Not only for his work, but also for the loving care he gave his wife Elizabeth when she was here for treatments for cancer two years before she died three years ago. Did you know her too?"
        "Sure, there are three families of us living on adjoining farms. The Larsen's live between David and us. David and his son Michael live on the town side and we live on the country side. But actually, we're like one family most of the time--except we don't talk much about religion, since the Larsens are devote Catholics and we are Episcopalians. David and Michael were very active in their church until the preacher said AIDS was God's curse on gays and then damned gays and peoplr who supported their rights. Also, he was never there when Michael and David needed someone during Elizabeth's illness and death. David and Michael have really been close to my family after Elizabeth's death. It's a long story, but the families have been very close ever since before the three men got out of service."
        "I'd like to hear that story some time. Meanwhile, let me look at your face. And, Matt, I need to know your full name for this form."
        "Matthew S-a-r-a-n-g upper case H-a-n-u-n upper case P-o-m-u-l Greywolf. That's my middle name Mom and Dad gave me when I was born. I think it's probably Dad's butchered Korean, although it may be perfectly correct. It's a real mouthful and when I was younger, I just gave the English translation until one day kids started kidding me about it so now I just spell it and let it go at that.  My mom's Korean, actually half Korean. Her father was an American soldier who deserted her mother when she became pregnant. Mom doesn't even know his name since her mother refuses to acknowledge he ever existed. Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf--that's what Mom and Dad call me when they are very upset with me or when they are very pleased with me. I've never figured it out. Ouch!"
        "I'm sorry, but I needed to clean up your face so I can see what needs to be done. What *is* the translation of you middle name?"
        "You have to promise not to laugh. It means 'Beloved Treasure."'
        "While I can see why kids, being kids might laugh, I think that is one of the most beautiful names I have ever heard. David has done an excellent job with the butterflies, but there is going to be a scar on that high Greywolf cheekbone. Am I correct in assuming your father is an American Indian?"
        At least half. I don't think he even knows what the other half is, but his mother was a full blooded Lakota."
        That makes your middle names mean even more since it honors your mother and carries out the Lakota custom of naming one according to what one is, Beloved Treasure. By the way, are your parents on their way?"
        "Oh, my God, I haven't even thought to call them. They don't know anything about this since they had a faculty meeting after school today and I was at St. Mary's so they won't expect me home until about five. What time is it?"It's almost 4:30"
        They are probably just getting home now. I gotta call them."
        "I'll take care of that," she said as she walked out of the treatment bay and called out, "Mr. Andrews, could you come here, please?" When David reached the bay, she asked him to call my parents and tell them what had happened. Also to ask them if they felt I was mature enough to make a decision about my face since if anything was to be done, it needed to be done as soon as possible.
        Apparently David knew what she meant because he came back in about three minutes and said the decision was mine, then continued talking to my parents on his cell phone as he walked back to the desk.
        "Well, we are at a decision point, Matt. How old are you?"
        "Eighteen. Well, Luke and I will both be eighteen in two months. We were born on the same day, but I am twenty minutes older." Mentioning Luke's name started another flood of tears and their salt soon started the newly cleaned wound on my face stinging. I realized that Dr. Bailey had not only been attending to my physical needs, but my emotional ones as well by distracting me.
        "Well, you're not quite eighteen, but your parents say you can make the decision. David has done an excellent job, as I said, but if there is not to be a scar, I need to get a plastic surgeon in here pronto. If nothing more is done, you will have a scar, as I said, right on the peak of that Greywolf cheekbone. It will be, oh, I guess about an inch long and narrow. Hope you don't think I'm being sexist, but I wouldn't hesitate in calling in a surgeon if you were a girl, but since you are a man (Yes, she said "You are a man."), given where the scar will be and as small as it will be, it's your call."
        Look, you're to doctor. You're supposed to know these things. I'm not."
        "Just a minute," she said as she stood up and walked into the hall, calling David again. When he came into the bay, she said, "Matt needs to have a plastic surgeon redo that wound pronto unless he wants to just let it go. You know there will be a small scar, so what do you think?"
        "I think a small scar there would be downright sexy," David responded as he reached over and messed up my hair. "He'll have all the women in school chasing him, not that he doesn't already!" I blushed all over at his comment. If he only know how little I cared about that! But it was true that Luke and I had girls all over us most of the time, but neither of us dated more than occasionally, then it was first with one girl then another. A kind of friends going out, not real dating.
        What do you think, Stud?" David asked, causing me to blush a deeper red I'm sure.
        I decided more than one could play in this game and said, "Well, Doc, you're a pretty sexy bundle yourself. What do you think? Which would be sexier?"
        David laughed and Dr. Bailey joined in the blushing. "Well, I think I'd be Matthew Beloved Treasure Barbed Wire in the Face Greywolf and let be as is."
        "So be it."
        Since Dr. Bailey had finished with me, I walked to the emergency waiting room where I found Gabrielle and Jens Larsen. "Are you ok?" Jens asked me and I nodded yes. "There has been no change in Luke. The doctors are holding out very little hope," he said. "We have called Fr. Muller for Last Rites."
        As he finished speaking, the burly German priest came through the emergency room door and stopped at the nurses' station. He spoke briefly to the nurse on duty, the came storming over to the waiting room. His opening words to the grieving parents were, "You son has committed a mortal sin and unless he confesses, he will be damned to hell forever. I thought you were good Catholics, yet you dare ask Mother Church for Her Last Rites for a boy who had attempted self-murder." Every word he spoke was like a hammer blow to the heart of his parents and to mine. Gabrielle was weeping bitterly and Jens was turning white with anger. "I will say a prayer for you two at Mass, but not for him and his damned soul."
        "Get the hell out!" Jens shouted at the priest and appeared to be advancing toward the burly man in the collar, "Just get the hell out!"
        "You'll understand later," Fr. Muller said, "then you can come to confession."
        I thought Jens was about to kill the priest, but Gabrielle held him back as Fr. Muller beat a hasty retreat.
        Without further thought, I whipped out my cell phone and hit speed dial three--again, I thought of the priorities in my life: Luke was one, my family was two, and St. Mary's was three--hoping someone was still in the church office even though it was late. Gertie answered the phone. "Gertie, get Fr. Tom over to the hospital at once. I need him," I said, surprisingly calm. As I put the phone back in my pocket, I saw a gurney with Luke on it being wheeled out of the treatment bay. Thank God, his face was not covered, but he looked dead with tubes goes in and out of his beautiful body. I tried very hard to be brave for the Larsens, but I didn't make it. My tears started again as I looked at Luke, thinking this may be the last time I see him alive. And he doesn't know how I feel about him.
        A doctor walked over to the Larsens and said, "We have done all we can for Luke right now. He is barely holding his own, but he has not gotten worse. He's being taken to ICU. You may go up and see him for a few minutes--five or ten. After that, you may see him for fifteen minutes every hour on the hour, however, I would suggest you go up and see him, then go home and try to get some rest until tomorrow morning. At the very miraculous best, this will be a long, tough haul and you need to stay well. If there is any change at all, any at all, someone will call you. If you need something to help you sleep, I will leave it with the nurse on duty here in the emergency room. Do you have any questions or is there anything else I can do?"
        "No, I guess not, Doctor. And thanks for offering the medicine to help us sleep. I am sure we will need it and if you think it best, we will go home."
        "I do. If Luke makes it, he is going to require a lot of you after he leaves the hospital and there is nothing you can do here now. Save your strength for when he is going to have to have it. Here's my card. Should you think of anything, anything at all, that I might do, please call me." Handing Jens the card, the doctor shook his hand and gave Gabrielle a hug before he left."
        "Matt, are you ok?" Jens asked as he hugged Gabrielle to himself.
        "Yea, I'm ok, I guess. David called Mom and Dad and Fr. Tom is coming and he can take me home. Go on up and see Luke."
        As the Larsens got on the elevator, I, for the first time, felt something in a back pocket. When I pulled it out, it was a letter addressed to me in Luke's handwriting. I opened it and began to read.
             "I know you are hurt and in pain because of my cowardly act. Please forgive me and know that I loved you better than life itself, but I could never let you know. Every moment I was away from you, you filled my thoughts and I felt empty and lonely, suffering because I was not with the one I loved. Every moment I spent with you over the past few years have been filled ecstasy because I was with you, the man I loved more than anything in heaven or earth. Yet it was agony also because I was terrified that my feeling toward you would slip out and I would lose you as a friend forever and I could not bear the thought of that happening. Agony because the loneliness and emptiness were still there, just overshadowed by the joy of my being with you., If loving you, another man, makes me gay, I am gay, Matt. Please don't hate me, even though when you read this, I will be gone. I could not go on being so in love with you and never being able to tell you."
             Since my family, and I thought I, are good Catholics, I was also haunted by the fact that loving another man was a mortal sin. Fr. Muller made that very clear Sunday after Sunday. Since I was damned for loving you, hell's fire held no terror to prevent my committing another mortal sin. To escape the agony because I can no longer handle it, I have taken a coward's way out. Please forgive me and know that I went to my death loving you with my whole being. I chose a place special to both of us. I love you, Matt, my beautiful friend.

        Before I finished the letter, I could hardly read for the tears streaming down my face. As I read his name, I screamed "Luke!" and collapsed on the floor. I was not completely unconscious, so I knew someone had picked me up.  My foggy mind recognized Dr. Bailey and David. "I think we need to take him into my office. I don't think the problem here is medical," I heard Dr. Bailey say and David lifted me in his arms. As soon as I was safely in Dr. Bailey's office, she gave me something and said, "Drink this." My mind gradually cleared and I lay on th sofa, staring at the ceiling.
        Dr. Bailey said to David, "Wait outside for a few minutes while I check Matt out."
        "Also be on the look out for Fr. Tom, please, David. I am expecting him," I added.
        As soon as David had left the room, Dr. Bailey said, "Do you want to tell me what happened?"
        "I'm not sure. About telling you I mean."
        "Had you rather wait and talk with Fr. Tom?"
        "Don't both of you have the same vow about keeping secrets?"
        "Sure do."
        I took a deep breath and decided to unload a big pile of garbage I had been carrying too long, garbage which might have killed the love of my life. "I was all wet after we got Luke out of the river and since his house was closer than mine, I went there to change. When I took off my wet clothes, I put on the clothes Luke had been wearing before he jumped into the river, because they were Luke's. After the Larsens left to go to ICU, I found a letter in a back pocket addressed to me in Luke's handwriting." With those words, I handed the letter to her.
        She read the letter slowly, glancing at me every once in awhile.
        When she finished she said, "Do you want me to tell you the rest of the story?" I nodded. "The truth of the matter is, you could have written essentially the same letter to Luke. Right?"
        I had sat up on the sofa and when she said that, I dropped my eyes to stare at the floor as I slowly nodded my head "yes."
        "I am not surprised. I have seen an awful lot of guys come into the emergency room with injured friends, but it was obvious to me from the first that your feelings for Luke was well beyond friendship, even a very close friendship. Don't be ashamed of your love, Matt, there is little enough love in the world to condemn any of it. And look what hate can do. Luke was told his love for you was a dirty, sinful thing; that he should hate himself because he loved. And so now he is lying up there having tried to destroy himself, having no reason for living."
        "But he knows that there are people out there just waiting for the opportunity to kick the ass of a man who loves another man--of me and Luke. He knows that people get carried away and kill a man simply because he is gay. Remember the student who was brought in here last year, half dead because he had be sodomized over and over by a group of rednecks? He and they went to the same school we attend. But Doctor, to be honest, If he dies, I can't see any reason to live myself."
        "Oh, there are thousands of reasons for you to live, even without Luke. But let's not think about that right now. Let's think about Luke living. Nothing else you have said makes any difference otherwise, does it?"
        There was a soft knock on the door and when Dr. Bailey said, "Come in," David and Fr. Tom walked in.
        David had filled Fr. Tom in on what happened and he had been to see my parents and they are fine, David told me.
        "Are the Larsens still here?" I asked David.
        "Yes, they have a few more minutes with Luke."
        I quickly told Fr. Tom what had happened with Fr. Muller and asked him if he would offer to anoint Luke and give him the Sacrament if his parents wished. "I know that it's not Last Rites for you, but it's the same Sacrament, right?" Of course, he agreed. He told me as soon as he had seen the Larsens and Luke, he would come back down and and do the same for me as he had done for Luke.
        I'm glad Episcopalians don't have Last Rites because Last Rites seem to be giving up hope, and I still had hope for Luke.
        As David and Fr. Tom left Dr. Bailey's office, another doctor came in. He was the one who had talked to the Larsens earlier, Doctor Walker. "How's Luke?" Dr. Bailey asked.
        "I would like to say he is at least holding his own, but I'm not sure he's doing that well. He seems to have absolutely no will to live--which is not surprising since he tried to commit suicide; he has no fight. I think he is willing himself to death. He is healthy and looks as if he is as strong as a horse, I think he could make it if he just had the will to live, but if he continues to wish to die, he will. I am sure of that."
        "Paul," Dr. Bailey said to the doctor, "just how far are you willing to bend the rules?"
        "Hell, Margaret, you know me well enough to know that I don't just bend the rules, I break them and if or I ignore them. What do you have in mind?"
        "You have known comatose patients who, when they woke up, know everything that was said and done around them, haven't you?"
        "Who hasn't?"
        Dr. Bailey looked straight at me and said, "I think we can give Luke something to fight for and a reason to live if you will bend the rules."
        What did she have in mind? Why had she looked at me so strangely?
        Dr. Walker seemed not to hear Dr. Bailey and said, "The Larsens are, I think, going home shortly. They were about ready to leave when I came down stairs. As soon as Fr. Tom--I thought the Larsens were Catholic--but Fr. Tom was up there--as soon as he finished, they planned to go home and try to rest." Looking at me he said, "You should do the same, Young Man."
        "I don't think so, Paul, I think Matt needs to spend the night with Luke."
        "What in the world are you talking about?" asked Dr. Walker.
        Dr. Bailey looked at me, raised an eyebrow, and picked up Luke's letter from her desk. She waited for some reaction from me. I thought I knew what she had in mind and nodded my head.
        She handed the letter to Dr. Walker who read it slowly, glancing at me from time to time as had Dr. Bailey.
        "When are the assholes of the world going to learn that some men love men and some women love women and that love is love, period? But what did you have in mind, as if I couldn't guess?"
        "Paul, Matt could have written a letter telling Luke exactly the same thing about being in love and the fear he had of losing a lifelong friendship. Because of their fear and the value they placed on their friendship, both young men, who were madly in love with the other, were afraid to say anything. I want you to take Matt up to ICU, throw the fear of God into Chelsea who is on duty tonight, telling her that Matt is not to leave Luke's side. He'll have to get out before the Larsens get here tomorrow morning and someone will have to take care of letting his parents know."
        "Just what I thought you had in mind. I'll take care of Chelsea and make sure the nurse coming on in the morning knows to get Matt out before the Larsens come in. You'll have to take care of the parents."
        As Dr. Walker left the room, Fr. Tom and David came in. Fr. Tom asked Dr. Bailey if she would like to receive the Sacrament with me as David had done when he anointed Luke and placed a drop of the consecrated wine on his lips. The Larsens, of course, expressed their appreciation to Fr. Tom for what he did for Luke, but as good Catholics did not receive. She said she would and Fr. Tom said the prayers, anointed me, and gave me and Dr. Bailey the Sacrament. After we had said the Lord's Prayer together, Fr. Tom said,"I'll take you home now, Matt."
        I looked at Dr. Bailey, took a deep breath and said, "I'm staying." Both David and Fr. Tom looked surprised, then looked at Dr. Bailey. "It's ok. Show them the letter. They need to know."
        David read over Fr. Tom's shoulder and when they had finished, I said, "My fear may have killed Luke because I feel the same way toward him as he says he does toward me."
        Fr. Tom simply nodded his head and said, "Well, you have never heard me say you'll burn in hell because you love a man. If you love him as he loves you, you have a hard time ahead of you, but your surely have my blessing, even if it's not official."
        David looked less surprised than I thought, then said, "You know, Matt, the Larsens cannot know about this, at least not now. I'll be really surprised if your parents will love you less or treat you any differently, but you can never know. They need not know until we can sit down and talk about this as family. You have my love and support as you always have. Should either you or Luke need a home, you have it. My older brother, whom I worshiped, was gay. I was eleven when our parents found out. My father beat him to a pulp while my mother screamed at him. They then threw him out of the house and told him he was no longer their son and never to darken their door again. He was eighteen, almost exactly your and Luke's age. I only saw him once after that. He came by school to see me. When my father found out, he beat me until I had to be hospitalized. My brother sent me a note though one of my teachers and told me he loved me, but he couldn't see me again because of what my father might do. When I grew up, I tried o find him, but never did. I swore then I could never let what someone was make me hate them. And you know I love you and Luke as I do Michael."
        When David had finished speaking, I jumped up off the sofa and hugged him with all my strength while crying like a baby.
        "Dr. Walker is making arrangements; he's setting Chelsea straight, David, for Matt to spend the night with Luke. Dr. Walker says Luke has no will to live and it is up to Matt to convince him he has a damn good reason to live," Dr. Bailey said.
        "Well, I guess that means I have to come up with some reason for Matt staying here without having the Greywolf pack rushing here to take care of their young pup, Sarang Hanun Pomul. (David knew he could always get my goat by calling me that.) I'll tell them he needed to stay for observation and was already asleep.
        "Matt, you better tell that man you love just how much you love him and pray at the same time that he hears you," Fr. Tom said.
        When Fr. Tom and David left, Dr. Bailey had food brought to her office and even though I didn't feel like eating, she insisted. "You have a long, tough night ahead of you, and it's probably not the last one, we can hope" she said, "so eat.
        By the time I finished eating, it seemed as though it was midnight, but it was only eight o'clock. It had been about four hours since Luke had been pulled from the river.
        "When you go up, Matt, you will probably be shocked by what you see. Luke took an overdose of barbiturates which slowed down his heart, his breathing, all his body functions. Additionally, he was in icy water which caused hypothermia, which also slows down the body's functions. It forces all nonessential body functions to completely shut down so the brain can receive oxygen. He has a ventilator breathing for him. He had to have his stomach pumped and infused with charcoal to get any barbiturates still in his stomach. His body temperature, which was below 85 degrees, ten degrees below where hypothermia begins, has to be increased gradually. In short, he looks as if he is not alive and is hooked up to a number of machines. Try to overlook all that and concentrate on convincing him he has a reason to live. If anyone can do it, it is you. And remember, he may not be able to hear you and even if it does, he may well have suffered brain damage and have other problems. Don't blame yourself if you cannot get through to him, but don't give up hope. And since you seem to be a religious person, prayer like hell!"
        I gave Dr. Bailey a huge hug and she hugged me back. "Luke just don't know how lucky he is and if he knows only half of it, he'll jump up out of that bed!" Dr. Bailey said.
        "I know someone who is luckier if he lives," I replied as Dr. Bailey led me toward the elevators to the ICU.

Part Two  

          As Dr. Bailey and I entered the elevator which was to take us to ICU, she looked me straight in the eye and said, "Matt, I'm sure you are excited about getting to see Luke, but you need to be warned, you are not going to like what you see. In fact, you are going to be shocked.  There is no way I can really prepare you except to tell you Luke is going to look as if he is dead.  Additionally, he is connected to all sorts of machines, including a ventilator which is breathing for him. The barbiturates would probably have made that necessary as would hypothermia, but he is suffering from both. His heart is beating so slowly that it could stop at any time and that means he looks like a corpse. The good side to this situation, if there is one, is that hypothermia slows down the body processes so a person can go much longer deprived of oxygen than when the body temperature is normal. Also, Luke will be kept in a drug induced coma--which he was in when you found him and is still in from the barbiturates he took--to keep the brain from swelling and causing any additional brain damage. Right now, no one knows how long he will be in the self-induced coma or how long he might have to be kept in one. Also, what his condition will be when he does wake up, if he ever does, is very much up in the air. Again, I can't really prepare you for what he looks like, but then, I do know that love can sometimes be very blind."
        I simply nodded my head. I was sure that just seeing Luke alive, even barely alive, would mean I could overlook everything else. I was wrong. When we walked into ICU, I saw a nurses' station with numerous monitors in the center with rooms arranged in a circle around it. The rooms all had glass walls facing the nurses' station so they could see the patients, of which there were several.
        When we reached the nurses' station, Dr. Bailey introduced me to Chelsea, the nurse in charge. "Chelsea, this is Matt. I believe Dr. Walker spoke to you about him."
        "Yes, he did, Dr. Bailey. I will see that everyone knows he must go before the Larsens arrive in the morning and Dr. Walker requested that the curtains across the glass wall of Luke Larsen's bay be closed. "Young Man, if you see anything unusual, you are to buzz us. We, of course, will be checking on Luke every few minutes and he is connected to several sensing devices which we monitor here at the nurses' station. Is there anything you need or do you have any questions?"
        "Only one. Has there been any change in Luke's condition?"
        "Actually there has not been any change, but I consider that a change because, to tell you the truth, I didn't think he would be alive this long, so I guess the fact that there has been no change is an improvement."
        "Matt, I will go to Luke's bay with you, then I'll be leaving unless you have further need of me." With those words, Dr. Bailey put her arm around my waist and we walked toward a bay with the curtain drawn.
        She was right, I wasn't prepared for what I saw when we entered the bay. Luke had tubes coming and going from all parts of his body. The ventilator made a noise like some angry beast as it pumped air into his body. His bed was elevated so he was almost sitting up. All I could see was his face which looked lifeless and dead. His lips were bluish instead of their usual red. There was no way I could have told that he was alive and I knew that, in fact, his life was hanging by a thread.
        I walked over to his bed, placed my hand on his cheek, bent forward and kissed him softly on the forehead. His skin was cold to my lips, again, making me realize that while he was still alive, death was hovering close by. I suddenly realized that my tears were flowing again. When I turned away from Luke, Dr. Bailey took me into her arms and hugged me tightly.
        "Be brave, Matt, be brave. Luke needs you."
        As I released myself from Dr. Bailey's embrace, I said, "You sure have this mama thing done to a T."
        She smiled a sad smile and said, "Yea, I wish I had more practice, but that's a long story too. I guess we're just going to have a story telling time one of these days. Well, I've got to be going and you have a hard night's work cut out for you."
        "The work is not hard at all, in fact, it's a fight for both our lives and he's worth fighting for."
        "And so are you, Matt. Good night."
        "Good night."
        As soon as Dr. Bailey was gone, I moved a chair close to Luke's bed, reached under the blanket covering him and found his hand. It, too, was as cold as ice. Holding his hand and looking into his face, I prayed, I really prayed that God would send him back to me. "You have thousands and millions of people who love you and I have so few, and only one who is special beyond my understanding. Please send him back to me.  You know the pain of seeing someone you love die, please take that pain from me now. Let me show Luke how loved he is and how wonderful he, your son and creation is."
        Having said those words aloud, I then just entered a state in which I knew that I was praying, but did not have to use words. Suddenly I felt as if I heard a voice which said, simply, "It's up to you to give Luke his life back." I knew what I had to do, but I didn't know how. I had to make Luke realize that I loved him as much as he loved me.
        I started talking to him. "Luke, I am so sorry that we didn't trust our friendship enough to be honest with each other. I am as much to blame for your being here as you are. How could we have been so blind??? I love you, Luke, I love you with my all my heart, with my whole being. If my loving you damns me to hell, then I will gladly go there if it will give you back your life. But how can love be wrong? How can loving you be wrong? How can you loving me be wrong? I cannot believe the One who is called Love condemns anyone for loving another. Please come back to me, Luke. Let me hold you in my arms, let me show you how special you are, how wonderful you are, how you make my life complete."
        I continued talking to Luke, not knowing whether he could hear me or not, whether it would make any difference or not. From time to time, Chelsea or one of the other nurses came to check on Luke.
        "You must be really fond of your friend," she said, making it more a question than a statement."
        "He is my life and my love," I responded.
        Chelsea looked a bit shocked, but then said,"Teenagers feel everything so deeply. I guess when we get older we forget just how intense friendships can be."
        "I hope I don't."
        "Is there any change?" I asked each time a nurse came to check on Luke.  Each time the answer was, "He's holding his own and maybe, just maybe his temperature is starting to rise, but he has a long way to go before it's normal."
        Sometime around five in the morning, I was completely exhausted and fell asleep with my head resting on Luke's bed, my hand still holding his. I must have slept for several minutes when Chelsea and another nurse came into the bay. "Sorry to disturb you," she said. (I was beginning to wonder where the battle axe called Chelsea was because this Chelsea seemed very nice.) "We need to check on your friend."
        The nurse with Chelsea, Gladys according to her name tag, said, "Chelsea worked over to make sure I knew the situation here and as soon as we check on Luke, she's going home.  Right, Chelsea?"
        Chelsea nodded. I decided it was a good time to take care of nature's needs and went to the restroom while the two took care of Luke. When I returned, Gladys said, "I saw you holding Luke's hand. Have you noticed anything?"
        "I don't think so," I said slowly, still in a bit of fog from falling asleep. "My hand was warm when I waked up, but it had been under that blanket thing."
        "In cases of hypothermia, the body's temperature drops below 95. Luke's was well below that. People used to think you needed to dump people suffering hypothermia into a tub of hot water to warm them up quickly, but now we know you need to very carefully and very gradually raise the body's temperature. That blanket affair is to warm Luke slowly. Your hand is a good indication. For the first time I can tell you there is a change and it is for the better. Luke's temperature is definitely on the rise the way we had hoped."
        I had always heard people say, "Thank God for small blessing," and I guess the slight change in Luke's condition may have been considered a small blessing by some, but it was all I could do not to burst out in Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus"--and I think I could have sung all parts!
        Just then another nurse came into the bay and said, "The Larsens are downstairs." Once again I leaned over Luke's still form and kissed him on the forehead. As I turned to leave, Gladys looked at me and gave me a smile.  I went down the stairs as the Larsens came up the elevator.
        When I reached the ground floor, David was waiting for me. "Morning, Stud," he said.  "Hear there is a tiny bit of good news.
        I nodded, then asked,"Why are you here this early? You didn't get home until late last night did you?"
        "Anything for a lover, besides, it helps cover the little lie I told your parents about why you would not be home last night."
        "Speaking of lovers, was I right in picking up lover vibrations between you and Dr.  Bailey?" David blushed bright red, stammered a bit, then said, "Nah, she is a doctor and I am a nurse. Besides, I'm several years older than she is. She'd not be interested in an old man with a kid."
        I didn't say anything, but thought to myself, "Man, since they are so helpful in getting you and Luke together, maybe turn about is fair play. I'll have to look into this."
        I was asleep before we were out of the parking lot, dreaming of Luke and me diving off the falls into the pool, our naked bodies plunging beneath the water then surfacing as we shouted just for the joy of being alive.
        I didn't even know when we got home. David picked me up, took me to my room, undressed me and put me to bed without awakening me.
        I woke up very confused. The sun was pouring in my window so I knew I was I still in bed in the afternoon. I knew it wasn't Saturday, in fact, I was pretty sure it was Tuesday, so why wasn't I in school? I looked at my alarm clock, which was not set, and saw that it was 3:00. Then it hit me like a sack of cement. I remembered, all in a rush, what had happened yesterday. I bounded out of bed, pulled on my boxers, and ran downstairs.
        On the refrigerator was a note, "David said you needed to sleep today so we left you in bed. We will be home immediately after school. He also said you were to call Dr. Bailey as soon as you were up. Mom."
        I grabbed a glass, filled it with OJ, and went into the library to get the cordless phone and the phone book. I found Dr. Bailey's number quickly and dialed it. It rang several times before a voice said, "Dr. Bailey's office."
        "This is Matt Greywolf. I have a note to call Dr. Bailey as soon as I waked up."
        "Dr. Bailey said you would call. She is with a patient right now, but she will call you back as soon as she finishes. May I have your number, please?"
        I gave her my number, finished off the OJ and went upstairs to my room. Since I didn't know how long I would have to wait for Dr. Bailey, I took the cordless phone with me to the bathroom so I could answer when she called, turned on the shower, adjusted the water until it was as hot as I could stand and got in the shower. I stood in the shower, letting the hot water wash away some of my tension and tiredness. Even though I had slept for about eight hours, I was still tired and exhausted, physically and emotionally, from yesterday's ordeal.
        After I finished my shower, I dried myself, brushed my teeth and fixed my hair. My father was very proud of his Lakota heritage and, in spite of objections by his principal when he first started teaching, wore his hair long. In fact, the only time it was cut after he left the Army was when he evened up the ends. Following his example, I also wore my hair long. I usually wore it braided or in a ponytail, a pony tail longer than most ponies had I might add! I am not one who usually spends time admiring himself in the mirror; I guess because I never saw myself as a cutie--I hate that word--or looker. After all, I certainly didn't have that All American Boy look. In fact, I seldom did more than glance in the mirror to see that everything was ok, but today was different.
        As I rapidly braided my hair, I thought "Luke loves me." For some reason , I stood in front of a full length mirror and asked myself, "What does Luke see when he looks at me?" I was kinda surprised when I took a what I thought was a critical, objective look at myself. My mother was half Korean. Her mother, my Korean grandmother, had fallen in love with an American soldier who deserted her when he found she was pregnant with my mother. My mother never even knew his name. My father was, as I had told Dr. Bailey, half Lakota and had no idea who his father was.
        Mom doesn't like it very much since she suffered a great deal in Korea because she was a "mongrel," but Dad sometimes joked about our being a household of half breeds and, he guessed, a quarter breed child. While he wasn't ridiculed as much as Mom for being a "breed," both Indians and whites had often called him names when he was a kid and I knew it must have hurt.
        With those ancestors, I was not surprised to see my dark skin. My heritage also took care of any excess body hair. In fact, although I was almost eighteen and had an abundance of hair under my arms and surrounding my cock, that was about it. My upper lip had just a shadow of dark hair, but it was so soft and short that I never bothered to shave. As I said, my hair was never really cut, so the braid hung below my waist. Actually, it was so long that when I left it loose, I could sit on it, and sometimes did it when I rushed into class just in time to hit a desk before the bell caught me. I was not especially tall--again a part of my heritage, but I wasn't short either.  For some reason, people lump Koreans with Japanese and think they are all short. Their Olympic basketball team should have made it obvious that Koreans can be tall. I stood at 5' 10" in my bare feet and weighted about 165. I, as Luke, was no jock, but did play tennis and baseball. I was also a runner. After our chores were done--we did live on farms after all--Luke and I ran every morning before school. To keep in shape for my two sports, I also worked out in the school gym the two days I did not go to St. Mary's to work on my music. I was clearly defined, but not muscle bound, with a well developed six pack.
        If I do say so myself, I have a great ass--not as great as Luke's--but certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Both Luke and I complained about girls pinching us on the butt in the hall. Eyes so brown they looked black, almond shaped, with long, very long, black eye lashes. I guess I got those from one of the unknowns in my background--my father's father or my mother's father.  As these thoughts ran through my head, I concluded that I wasn't such a bad looking almost eighteen year old.  One of my ancestors also provided the genes for decent equipment since I had a nice cock, uncut thanks to my dad's intervention, which now hung over a great set of balls. My cock was only four inches soft, but rose to a good six and a half inches hard.
        Usually when I was ready to shower it was hard and I generally had to take care of it with visions of Luke flooding my thoughts, but today as soon as I thought of Luke any possibility of getting hard was gone.
        I started to wonder why Dr. Bailey hadn't called as I finished in the bathroom. As I stood before the mirror, I started comparing myself to Luke. As I have said, my father started calling us Darkness and Light and the nicknames were used from time to time by our families and David and his son Michael. Luke inherited a whole load of Nordic genes. He was almost 6" tall and well developed. As I said earlier, we were near enough the same size that we wore each other's clothes. Since we swam in the nude ever since we were allowed to go to the falls without adults, I had often seen him naked. He, too, was well-endowed. Unlike me, though, he was cut. His cock was surrounded by a mass of blond curls and his underarms looked as if some magical bird had built a nest of blond hair there. He, as I had little body hair, but he did have to shave.
        Since we often stayed over with each other, I had seen his morning woody. Hard his cock was a bit longer than mine, probably seven inches, but thinner. Guess if you were into such things, you could calculate the volume of our two cocks and find they were essentially the same, just with different dimensions. His smooth skin was so fair it seemed to glow at times.  His hair I have already described. His eyes were the most amazing blue; they looked so deep it would seem you could dive into them. And nothing was more beautiful than Luke's smile. When he smiled, the whole world around him lit up.
        With that thought came another--I hadn't seen Luke really smile recently for several weeks. Again I felt guilty because I should have known something was wrong. I did recall mentioning it to him a week or so ago, but he dismissed it with, "I've just got things on my mind." When I reminded him that we had always talked things out with each other, he replied, "Well, this is something I just have to resolve myself, please."
        I should have known something serious was going on and have pushed further, but I must admit I was too engrossed in my own struggle with my love for Luke to say anything.  I was emotionally kicking myself when the phone rang. I grabbed it on the first ring.
        When I answered Dr. Bailey said, "Good afternoon, Matt. I've got a little bit of good news. Luke is doing a little better than holding his own. His temperature is rising exactly as we dared hope and his pulse is almost in the acceptable range, but still very, very weak. He is still not conscious, of course, but the drugs he took are essentially out of the picture.  He is now in a coma induced by the medical staff to keep his brain from swelling. He is not breathing on is own, but he's doing better than anyone here expected. I have no way of proving it at this point, but I am convinced someone who loves him very much is responsible."
        I was so happy I couldn't hold back the tears. "Thank God!" I said, "when can I see him?" "Well, the Larsens have been here--either one or both--since they came in as you left this morning and I don't think it would be a good idea for you to be seen in Luke's room since the rules are supposed to be very strict with only immediate family being admitted. Today is Tuesday so if you can pull another all nighter and still handle school tomorrow, you can come when the Larsens leave tonight, but if you don't show up for school, that's going to cause problems if we are not careful. I think your being here last night was, very literally, a matter of life or death for Luke and, to be honest, I don't know how many more nights you may need to spend with him before he is out of the woods. Dr. Walker would like to get him off the ventilator as soon as possible. People can get kinda addicted to one. Then there will have to be a whole battery of tests made to determine what can and needs to be done. I want you to realize that there may well be massive brain damage. It just depends on how much of the drug he had taken and how long he had been in the river before you and EMS reached him. Also, how long he had been in a hypothermia. But we need to talk about tonight."
        "Of course I'll be at the hospital. Where else would I be?"
        "There's a problem there. How are you going to explain your spending the night here to your parents, especially since Dr. Walker will have to insist, if necessary, that the Larsens go home for the night? And how can you be sure your mom and dad will not mention your being here to the Larsens? From what I understand from David, you folks are pretty much one big happy family," she said.
        "Well, I'll just tell Mom and Dad where I am going and why and why they can't tell the Larsens. "
        "Are you sure you want to tell them?"
        "Yes, I'm sure. I am positive they love me for who I am, and a big part of who I am is I am in love with Luke Hans Larsen. I suppose that means I am gay. I am their gay son who is in love with Luke Hans Larsen who loves me. He needs me very much right now and he needs to know that I love him. I don't see why I shouldn't tell my parents."
        "Let me ask you something very personal Matt. I am very much against labels for people because labels begin to define people and their personhood gets lost in a stereotype. Do you always, you know, fantasize about boys when you, you know?"
        I almost laughed as I said, "You mean when I jerk off?"
        I could see Dr. Bailey turning nine shades of red as she responded, "Well, yes, that's what I mean. Or do you sometimes fantasize about girls when you, you know."
        In spite of all that was going on, I couldn't help but laugh at this doctor's, this woman of the world's, embarrassment. "The honest truth is, I have never fantasized about a girl or a boy other than Luke. Always Luke, forever Luke. That doesn't mean that I don't notice a guy with a nice ass or a good looking gal with a nice figure--I noticed you didn't I--but anything having to do with being attracted to, liking, being in love with, fantasizing about--it's Luke, always Luke, forever Luke."
        "Then don't label yourself as anything other than Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf who is in love with Luke Hans Larsen. Now back to the issue at hand. Matt, I don't know your parents and David, who knows them very well, isn't sure how they will take your announcement.  After all, you are an only child, the only son. They, I am sure, expect grandchildren and grandsons to carry on the Greywolf name. What you are going to tell them will not be easy to take. I have seen a couple of young men come into the hospital where I did my internship so beaten when their fathers found out they loved a man that they were near death. You just can't know, can you?"
        "I believe with all my heart that my parents will accept me as who I am. Maybe it will be a shock--I know it will be a shock--but I am not afraid. Well, I'm not much afraid."
        "When will your parents be home?"
        "They should be home at any time now."
        "Would you like for me and/or David to come and be with you? David felt that you should all sit down as a family to sort this out and, you know, when he says family, he includes himself. Ordinarily he would include the Larsens, but right now we all know that would not be a good idea. You know that David is prepared to take both you and Luke in should things not go as well as you hope."
        "Yes, he told me that. I guess I haven't been thinking too clearly about the possible consequences of telling my parents. I just expected them to take my announcement the same as they have all others, including those which did not please them. Could you and David come over, please?"
        "I know David has made arrangements to get off a bit early to be there and I have one more patient to see and we'll come then. Say half an hour at most."
        "Ok, I won't say anything until you get here and we can all sit down and try to sort this out. Please check on Luke before you come."
        "Of course I will. You're a great kid, Matt."
        "Thanks. See you soon." As I hung up the phone, I heard the car pull into the driveway.  Mom and Dad were home from school. Mom teachers literature to juniors and has an AP English class for seniors. That AP class was a difficult one for me not only because Mom was my teacher, but also because it was one of the three classes I had with Luke. Frequently I found myself distracted by my blond god and, now that I think back on it, there was more than a few times when I found myself trying to get a glance of him, he was looking at me. When he saw me looking at him--strange I never really thought about it before--he would give me a smile that turned me to jelly and blush. The same was true of AP physics which was taught by my dad.  Come to think of it, I wonder if they have been as oblivious to what was going on--or not going on as the case may be--between Luke and me?
        The third class we had together was German. I kidded Luke about having a crip course because Gabrielle had insisted he and Mary Kathryn learn German at home. He actually knew more German than the teacher and when I had a problem, I went to Luke, not the teacher. By the way, I guess from what I have said, you know that Luke and I not only are good at our sports, but are also tops academically. We both have all four parents, plus David, to thank for that. They never accepted anything but our best.
        Mom and Dad walked into the house, each with papers to be graded. I met them in the living room, said, "Hello, Rents," which always got a rise out of both of them.
        "Hi. Juvenile Delinquent," Dad replied, "how did you day away from school go?"
        "Most of it just went. I was so out of it; I slept until three. By the time I had showered and gotten dressed, it was almost time for you two to get home." As I was talking, I took their papers and books and put them in the library/den where they would work on them later.
        "Have you heard from Luke today?" Mom asked as she kissed me on the cheek.
        "Yes, Dr. Bailey called just awhile ago and said he was holding his own on all counts and his body temperature is rising as they had hoped and his pulse rate even and almost as high as it should be, although very weak. He's still in a coma, but one induced by the doctors to protect his brain, and they are not sure how much damage has been done, especially brain damage."
        "That's really sad since he is one of the brightest students in the whole school. Present company included," Dad said as he walked toward me and gave me a hug. I think my parents so lacked affection when they were growing up that they wanted to make sure that I had plenty. I liked it!
        "Mom, Dad, David and Dr. Bailey are coming over just as soon as they can so we can discuss the situation. You know he tried to commit suicide?" Both nodded indicating they did.  "Well, David felt we needed to talk about it as a family before the Larsens are involved. You know what they believe about suicide."
        "Yes, and David told me about what happened with Fr. Muller last night. Are you sure you're ok, Matt? David said it was important for you to spend the night at the hospital, but that we needn't come because you were already asleep."
        "Sure, I'm ok. There was some question about what to do about the cut on my face but that got resolved. By the way, my Jeep is a mess and is still at the Larsens," I said to change the subject.
        "No, it's being repaired. I called and had it picked up this morning. I guess we'll have to do some fence repair as well. Seems you tried to take it with you. But what was the problem with the face cut?"
        "Well, David had stopped the bleeding and pulled the gash together with butterfly strips, but Dr. Bailey said she would have to get a plastic surgeon to redo it or I would have a scar. I didn't see what damage a small scar would do and, in fact, she and David thought it would be sexy! So how could I not leave it as it was? Dr. Bailey said I could take on a new name 'Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Barbed Wire in the Face Greywolf."
        "She thought a scar on my baby would be sexy? What does she know about beautiful boys?"
        "Mom, she knows I am a man, and a sexy one at that, but sexier with a scar. Besides, once you get a look at her, I think you agree that she is pretty sexy herself and that's enough to convince me she knows what she's talking about! By the way, I can't be sure, but I think she has a thing for David and David has one for her, but she is afraid to say anything to David because of Elizabeth and David is afraid to say anything to her because he thinks he's too old for her--maybe five or so years older--and he is just a nurse.  Besides, he's convinced that no woman is interested in a man with a fifteen--nearly sixteen--year old son."
        "I guess David doesn't see Michael as a plus, but I surely would, especially if a woman Dr.  Bailey's age wanted children and never had any," Mom said. "I know what it is to want a child and not be able to have one and the reason doesn't matter."
        I walked over to my mother and gave her a big hug and said, "But you have me!"
          "Of course I have you and you are my Sarang Hanun Pomul, but your father and I wanted more children. Seems that all three families wanted more. Elizabeth and David only had Michael, and the Larsens had Luke, then Mary Kathryn. You know they expected to have more, being good Catholics."
        "Well, if Dr. Bailey wants a fine man and a great son, she better grab David, that's all I can say," Dad responded to Mom's statement. This discussion had gone so far afield that I had forgotten what was coming up, but I was quickly brought back to earth when I heard a car arrive in the drive way. David and Dr. Bailey had arrived.

        Darkness, nothingness, the void.
        I was walking toward what seemed to be a cloud of darkness, but I knew it was nothingness, oblivion. I was surprised. I had expected to be greeted by Satan and be tossed into a lake of fire. I had been told that all my life, but no, what I faced was oblivion. I welcomed it. It would end my pain, my agony.
        For the past three years, at least, I had lived torn between agony and ecstasy--ecstasy because I was with the love of my life almost every day. We had three classes together at school and lived on adjoining farms. Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf, quite a mouthful. Of course, he was always called Matt, but I went to sleep every night with his name on my lips: Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf, Matthew Beloved Treasure Greywolf--how well his name described how I felt about him.
        Our families had been close friends since before we were born--we were born on he same day, but he has never let me forget he was the older one--by twenty minutes. He was so beautiful. I suppose you should call a man handsome, but Matt was beautiful. Smooth, perfect dark skin which spoke of his strength, not just physical strength, although he was strong, but also inner strength. Since we had never been modest around each other--we grew up being bathed together by our mothers, as soon as we were allowed to go without adult supervision, we swan in the nude below the falls of the river. We stayed with each other so often that we had about as many clothes at one place as the other so we often dressed in front of each other. I had seen the whole of him. In recent years it had become more and more difficult to avoid being aroused in such situations, but somehow or other neither of us mentioned it when I lost my struggle.
        Matt's face was perfect. His eyes were unbelievable. Almond shaped, but large, so brown they were black, and eye lashes to die for. They were so long they seems to make his eyes twice as large. Smooth face, just a shadow of soft hair on his upper lip. Lips perfectly shaped and utterly kissable, even though I had never had a chance to taste them, and red with life.
        Matt was well-endowed. While he had practically no body hair, when he raised his arms, he revealed a mass of black, coal black hair. His cock was surrounded by a similar bush of black hair, abundant since he was thirteen, five years ago. As beautiful as Matt was physically, he was even more beautiful inside-caring, loving, full of life and bringing joy to all around him. His passion for his music--he was an accomplished organist and composer--brought joy to many, especially to members of his church's--St. Mary's. In short, Matt was, in my eyes, perfect and I loved him with all my heart, my mind and my soul.
        But I could never tell him. He was first and foremost my lifelong friend and there was no way I was going to risk having him hate me when he discovered that I not only loved him as a brother, but was so deeply in love with him that I ached from not being able to hold him in my arms, kiss those perfect lips and make love to him.
        A week ago it all came crushing down on me and I made a decision which brought me to this place. I couldn't tell Matt of my feelings and risk losing his friendship and I might have been able to deal with that, but a classmate, Gregory, had been outted at school by an ex-boyfriend.  He was physically and emotionally abused. Some of the jocks had caught him leaving school and had dragged him into their car, taken him out into the country and sodomized him again and again, then beat him unconscious. When he was found, he was near death, bleeding and beaten.  But the torture he endured emotionally which being gang raped was perhaps worse. The body of a young man can heal quickly, the mind takes longer. When he regained consciousness, he reported to the police that the five guys who had raped him heaped verbal abuse on him while they sodomized him.
        The five were arrested, but were released to their parents until their hearing before the juvenile court.  They were loose and running around. While some of the teachers were very angry over the episode and made no bones about it, others turned the other way when some students started making heros of them.
        Gregory's family refused to even visit him in the hospital and sent word he was not to return home. Some relative in another state took him in, but I was terrified that if I should tell Matt of my love, it would somehow become known and the same happen to me, or even worse, to him. The Sunday after Gregory had been raped, Fr. Muller, our priest, has said that while rape and the abuse of another was to be rejected always, gays should expect to suffer from the hands of society because they were rejected by God. "They will all burn in eternal flames!" he concluded.
        Until that Sunday, I had never thought of myself as being gay. I was simply Luke who loved Matt. Did that make me gay? I guess--I knew it did. And I was damned. The rest of Sunday and Sunday night--I never went to sleep-- I brooded on what had happened to Gregory, what Fr. Muller had said, and decided what I must do. I am--was--a good Catholic and knew that suicide--self-murder--damned you to hell, but then I was damned already because I loved Matt.  What did I have to lose by taking my life? I would free myself the agony of loving someone I could never tell, I would be free of the fear of being discovered and abused as Gregory had been and--it took me a while to realize it, but it clinched my decision--I would free Matt from danger.
        No matter what I or anyone else said, if I was outted and it became known that I loved Matt, he would immediately be classified as gay by the assholes at school, and as innocent as he was, would be the object of their abuse, if not physical, at least emotional. I decided to commit suicide, to kill myself. I knew that the doctor has prescribed sleeping pills for my mother six months ago, but being the true Teutonic, she refused to take them after a few days. Monday morning, before the household was awake, I took the pills from the medicine cabinet and put them in my backpack.
        Monday I went to school, spending every minute I could with Matt. My heart was breaking, but I knew I was doing the right thing. I had to protect Matt and if that cost me my life, I was willing to pay. Matt went to St. Mary's for his final period of the school day three days a week--Monday, Wednesday and Friday-- to work on his recital. He was taking an independent study in music and that recital, which was to include at least two short compositions of his, would determine his grade for the study. I had kidded him about a piece called "Luke" and he had laughed at the idea.
        I had art class last period. While I went to class, I was supposed to mount an exhibition in the spring which would determine 90% of my grade. I was good at art and enjoyed it, but today I couldn't keep my mind on anything other than the fact that my time on earth was rapidly drawing to a close. Finally I simply told my art teacher I was leaving school. He knew that I didn't do that without a reason and told me to just go ahead; I didn't need to checkout in the office.
        I rode to school with Matt when he was not going to practice at St. Mary's, but when he did, I rode my bike to school. It was one way I kept in shape.  I jumped on my bike and started riding home, a good five miles, and before long I realized I was crying, a seemingly endless supply of tears poured from my eyes. I was crying for myself and my love of Matt, but I was also crying for Gregory and all those who suffer because they love another man. I cried because I would never hold Matt in my arms, never kiss his lips, never make love to him. I cried.
        Before I realized it, I reached my house, put my bike up, took the sleeping pills from my bookbag and walked across the pasture to the falls on the river. The river, and especially the pool below the falls, was a special place for our families--Matt's, mine, and another neighbor, Michael's. As babies, we had been brought here to play in the shallow area, to picnic, to enjoy the coolness of the river in the hot summer. As soon as we were old enough, we--Matt, Michael, my sister Mary Kathryn, and I--went to the river to swim almost every day in the late spring until early fall. Until we were ten or eleven, we always swam nude, even Mary Kathryn. Mama pitched a fit when she discovered we were still swimming nude at that age. From then on, when Mary Kathryn was with us, we wore something, even if just our boxers or briefs. When there were just the three boys, we crossed two cane poles across the path to the falls as a warning that we were to be left alone, skinny dipping.
        As I sat on the river's edge, recalling those carefree moments, I could see Matt's perfect body in a graceful dive from the lip of the falls into the pool almost thirty feet below. After daydreaming for awhile, I started taking the sleeping pills, washing them down with the clear cold, cold water of the river. When the last pill was down, I sat still, picturing Matt, my Beloved Treasure, in my mind, and weeping softly because of what could never be between us. I began to feel the effects of the pills and soon I became very sleepy, barely able to keep my eyes open. I took off my clothes, even though it was mid-March and still pretty cold, folded them neatly as an indication that I had thought through what I was about to do and checked to make sure that the letter I had written Matt was in the back pocket of my cargo pants. I then walked up the trail to the top of the falls.
        By the time I reached the top I was feeling very, very drowsy and dizzy. I walked out onto the lips of the falls and dived in. I do not remember anything after my face touched the water until now, as I face the blackness of nothingness before me. I was walking slowly toward nothingness when I heard a faint sound. It seems to be a voice behind me, but I can't be sure.  Then I recognized Matt's voice, calling me back, proclaiming his love for me. That was to be my punishment, my hell. A demon with Matt's voice speaking the words I had only dreamed of hearing when I was alive. Hell's flames would have been better! But the voice continued and I realized that no demon could speak with Matt's voice. He was too good, too wonderful for a demon to have his voice. Suddenly, I turned from the black nothingness and with all my being, I ran away from it. With my total being, I fought against entering the nothingness of death. I had to live because Matt said he loved me as I loved him!

Part Three

           No one was surprised when David just opened the door and walked in. He was family. Just behind him was Dr. Bailey. As soon as he was inside the house, he introduced Dr. Bailey who said, "How are you doing, Matt?"
        "I'm fine, considering."
        She smiled and nodded. David gave me a big hug and said, "I've got news for you, St--Sport.  Luke's temperature is approaching normal. His pulse is steady, but still very weak, his blood pressure is low, but rising and other vital signs are improving. Dr. Walker says there was a sudden change in his apparent willingness to fight to live which took place last night. He hopes to start weaning Luke from the ventilator soon. Of course, he is still in a coma, but it is induced by the doctors. The drug he swallowed is out of his system."
        "His mother told Dr. Walker he had taken the phenobarb from the medicine cabinet. The doctor had given it to her some time ago, but being the stoic German, she had taken only a few, maybe ten or so, before she stopped.  There were maybe twenty or so caps left, but she was not sure of the exact number," Dr. Bailey said.
        "But why would such a promising young man do such a thing?" my Dad asked.
        "He is such a beautiful child, what could have been so bad to make him do such a terrible thing?" Mom added.
        "Well," David looked at me, then Dr. Bailey, "that's half the reason we two are here."
        "I need to do this," I said as I pulled Luke's letter from my pocket. "Mom, Dad, yesterday I went to the Larsens to change clothes after David and his crew were on their way to the hospital with Luke. I had jumped into the river with everything on except my shoes. Luke had left his clothes, neatly folded, on the bank of the river and I took them with me to pick up Gabrielle.  When I went to his room to change, I put on the clothes he had been wearing."
        "Why would you do that," Mom asked.
        I pretended I didn't hear her and went on, "After Luke had been taken to ICU, I found a letter, this letter, addressed to me in a pocket. I know this is going to shock and upset you, but you need to hear it." As I unfolded the letter, the tears started and I simply couldn't see to read Luke's letter, although I practically knew it by heart. Dr. Bailey put her arm around me and David took the letter from my hand and read it aloud, slowly. Mom and Dad were surprisingly calm when David finished.
        Dad said, "Teenage suicide is bad enough at best, but young men who love other young men seem to stand a better chance of survival in combat. Damn, when will people learn?" Mom said nothing, but had a very strange look in her eyes.
        "Mom, Dad, that's only half the story. If my priest had told me constantly that I would go to hell for loving a man and had my parents preached the same thing, I might have written that letter.  I have been in love with Luke for as long as I can remember and I, too, was afraid to tell him, not because of any fear of hell, but because I was afraid I would lose him as a friend and I couldn't stand that."
        Having just said what he had said, I was shocked when my father got a stricken look on his face and said, "I need to be alone for awhile," as he turned and walked though the house and out the back.
        Mom, who never, ever had a trace of Korean accent looked at me in disbelief and said, "But the sons. Where come the sons?"
        I knew exactly what she meant and there was no answer I could give her.  I was bawling like a baby. "So much for knowing how your loving parents will react," I said bitterly."
        "Don't dismiss them, Matt. Remember your reaction when you read Luke's letter?  Remember how surprised you were? Remember how you berated yourself because you had not known something was not as it appeared? Give your parents the same break," David admonished me as he embraced me and held me tight. When he released me, he said,"I think I'll go and see if I can find Greywolf," as he followed my father's path through the house.
        "Do you want me to talk with your Mom?" Dr. Bailey asked.
        "No, I think I need to do that,"I replied, "but I would like for you to come with me." The door to the library was half open and I saw my mom sitting at her desk, her head in her hands, weeping bitterly. "Mom, can we talk?" She got up from the desk, ran to me and I actually dodged fearing a blow, which was very strange since my mom had never hit me, not in my entire life.  But right now everything was strange. My reaction made her cry even more.
        "My Sarang Hanun Pomul, how could I ever have placed myself ahead of your happiness?  How could I ever have risked making you hate me because I wanted grandsons. Can you ever forgive me?"
        "What's to forgive, Mom? You have a right to have expected grandchildren. If I could choose, I would chosen to have loved some beautiful woman and made you beautiful grandsons, but I had no choice. I have no choice! When will people learn, this is not a lifestyle you choose, it just is; it's just as much a part of who I am as the color of my hair or the shape of my eyes. Even when I have tried to deny it, my love for Luke has always been there. I know I want to spend my whole life with him, but . . . ." And the tears started afresh.
        Mom pulled me to herself and gradually started rocking me in her arms. Without realizing it, I'm sure, she began to sing a Korean lullaby she often sang to me when I was very young and which she always sang when I was very upset or ill. I found myself relaxing and holding on to her, once again a child, beloved of his mother. Dr. Bailey walked over to the two of us and put her arms around my mother, who was surprised because she was in a kind of trance. She looked up at Dr. Bailey and said, "He is my beautiful young man, my Beloved Treasure, who loves so deeply, so very deeply. I love him; I love him so very, very much." We all just sat quietly in the library thinking our own thoughts when I heard the back door close.
        I started to get up, but Mom motioned me to be still. Soon Dad and David appeared in the door of the library. David sat on the arm of the overstuffed chair where Dr. Bailey was seated and Dad came and sat beside me on a small sofa. "Matt, I know I hurt you by my reaction and I must appear a terrible hypocrite after what I said earlier, but there is something that I have told very few people which you need to know. Something which was pushed so far down in my guts that I had forgotten it, but when you told me you loved another man, emotions long forgotten flooded out and made me act an ass. You need to know the story so you will know that it has nothing to do with you and your love of Luke."
        "As you know, my mother left Rosebud Reservation when she was barely fifteen. Her mother had left her with her grandparents when she was eight or nine. Her grandparents were old and couldn't handle a wild girl, so she became even wilder. She was trading sex for alcohol before she was thirteen. Her grandmother died about that time and only her grandfather was left to look after her. She became even worse. Finally, he just threw up his hands and she left Rosebud. She came back when she had just had her sixteenth birthday and thought she might be pregnant. She was sick and had been physically abused. Her pregnancy was confirmed immediately and Grandfather took her in and was determined she would have a healthy baby. He took her so far up in the hills that she couldn't get alcohol; he saw that she ate right, even if it meant he went hungry. When her time came, he delivered her son--me."
        "As soon as they came back to grandfather's place, she took off, never to be heard of again, leaving me with grandfather. By that time, he was a very old man. The winter I turned six, he died. My mother's brother took over the place and I became little more than his slave. It started with physical abuse when I didn't do exactly what he wanted, but later it became sexual abuse. So when you said you loved Luke, all the horror of that sexual abuse fell on me afresh. I know there was no love involved in the abuse I suffered from my uncle. And I know you, my beloved son, well enough to know that when you say you love someone, it is love unto death. I am so sorry, so very, very sorry that I reacted as I did, but in all honesty, it happened before I could have a rational thought. I love you, my son, more than life itself and would never hurt you intentionally. But my kind of irrational, unintentional reaction is something I fear for you and Luke."
        "That's one of many other issues which we'll have to help you two deal with later, but right now we have to deal with immediate concerns," Dr. Bailey said.
        "Yes," Dad agreed. "and one of those is to make it very clear to you, Matt, that as much as I love Luke, and I do, he is a very, very lucky young man to be loved by you Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf!"
        By this time, the whole room was filled with weeping, laughing people hugging each other. I noticed that Dr. Bailey fit right into this gathering of the family. Dad went into the kitchen and came back with five wine glasses and a bottle of wine. "Let's celebrate the power and promise of love," he said.
        After we had finished our wine, David and Dr. Bailey explained what had happened the night before and that they thought I should spend the night with Luke again. "There's no way anyone can explain the progress Luke has made, especially in light of his will to die yesterday, except that it has come about by the power of Matt's love and Luke's love for Matt.
        "We'll just have to deal with Jens and Gabrielle when Luke has recovered because our job right now is to see that he does recover," David said.
        Dr. Bailey said she would take me to the hospital on her way home.
        "That will be awhile since the Larsens won't be leaving for some time. Meanwhile, Greywolf, call and ask the Larsens to come by for dinner when they leave the hospital. And all of you are staying for dinner, right?" Mom said, a statement, not really a question. With only a little protest, all agreed.
        "I'll help in the kitchen," Dr. Bailey said.
        "Thank you, Dr. Bailey," Mom replied, "but that's not necessary."
        "Of course it's not--and call me Margaret since I seem to have been adopted into the family--but it'll give us time for women talk.
        "I need to get to the hospital as soon as the Larsens leave.
        "I don't think so," Dad said. I was horrified. He had just heard how much Luke needed me, now he was saying I couldn't go. Before I could protest, he continued, "Matt, you need to eat, so why not here. And one way to make sure the Larsens don't know what is going on is for you to be here for dinner." Of course it made sense, even if I didn't like it.
        David said, "I need to get home and see Michael. Because of the events of yesterday, he was already in bed when I got home and we only have a little time this morning before he had to leave for school. I did tell him about Luke--just the bare details. So I'll go and pick him up and come back for dinner."
        "David, if you don't mind, I'd like to go get Michael and bring him over.
        "Is that the only reason you're going? If so, I will go."
        "No, I think I need to tell him what happened to Luke and why."
        "Are you sure that is wise," David asked.
        "No, but I think I have learned how you gotta trust true friends and I trust Michael is a true friend."
        "Granted, but are you sure a near sixteen year old male is ready to deal with two men loving each other?"
        "I hope so. I want to be honest with Michael. I owe him that for being a friend." Little did I know that Michael had a major surprise for me.

           I could still hear Matt's voice, begging me to come back, telling me how much he loved me, asking God to send me back. The black nothingness of death was behind me now, but still pulling me toward oblivion. My desire for death was still acting even though I now wanted to live more than anything else. I felt I was caught in a struggle between life and death. I was in that struggle and the outcome was not at all clear to me. It seemed that I was in a timeless place where the drama of life and death could go on forever. I felt myself growing weak in my struggle to live. I had desired death, wanted death too strongly.
        Yet, every time blackness seemed to be getting the upper hand, I could hear Matt's voice, if not his words, pleading with me, pleading to God for my life. I could feel Matt's presence near me, I could even feel his touch, but his hand in mine seemed like a burning fire, mine was like ice, the coldness of death lay over my whole body. Finally I sank, exhausted, knowing that the blackness would overcome me. I cried: I cried because of my cowardice; I cried for my lost opportunity to love and be loved; I cried for my lost life. I cried for all those who take their own life because they love another man. I cried for Gregory and the abuse he had to endure. I even cried for those who hate and heap abuse on those of us who only want the freedom to love who we love. Then my awareness was swallowed into oblivion.
        Later, it had to have been later, but time meant nothing in this place, I became aware again. I could see the blackness of death was still in this place with me, but it seemed farther away than before. I still felt the iciness of death throughout my body, but somewhere within, there was a glow, a spot of warmth. I felt nothing beyond the coldness and the tiny warm glow, the tiny spark of life within. I don't know how, because I could feel nothing outside myself, but I knew that Matt kissed me on the forehead. I knew he was leaving, but the kiss promised he would still be with me.
        I started to relax my vigil against the blackness and it started advancing again. Once again, all the strength left in my whole being became focused on running from death to life. I willed myself to keep going, to keep running, to crawl if need be, to escape that blackness. I fought until I had once again left the blackness behind and, once again, sank into the place of unawareness. But I was not dead yet! There was still hope that if I struggled hard enough, I could escape death and return to the Land of the Living and to Matt.

Part Four
          As I drove my father's truck to Michael's house, I kept running over what I would say to him. Michael was only a year younger than I and we had been close since forever. Luke, Michael and I were more like brothers than neighbors. Our families were so close we just grew up together. Of course, just about the same could be said of Mary Kathryn even though she was a girl. She and Michael were the same age--a few weeks apart--and she was just like one of the gang. In fact, she was ten or eleven years old before she stopped skinny dipping with us at the falls. And I'm not sure she would have stopped then except her mother found out she was doing it and was horrified. Dad told us we should use a Lakota custom: if you didn't want anyone to come into your space, you put crossed sticks in the entrance. So we had two cane poles that were put across the path to the falls when the guys were swimming. Other times we all wore swim gear; actually, to tell the truth, we usually just stripped to our briefs or boxers. I found myself smiling, thinking of all the happy times we had at the falls. Sometimes just the three guys skinny dipping, sometimes the four of us, and very often the three families all swimming and picnicking. It was a place, a special place, that kinda bonded us all together. Suddenly I wasn't smiling because I remembered where I was headed and why and that the special place had almost become a place of separation.
        When I reached the Andrews' place, I walked into the living room and called out for Michael.
        "I'm upstairs in my room, Matt, come on up." When I entered the room, Michael got up from his computer, walked toward me and embraced me in a bear hug. "I am so sorry, so very, very sorry," he said, still holding me tight. The water works started again. "Luke will make it, Matt. I know he will. He just has to." Michael gave me a final hug, then turned and sat on his bed, patting the place beside him indicating that I should sit down.
        "Michael, I consider you a good friend, closer than a brother, and there is something that I feel I should tell you, but I want you to read this first." I gave him Luke's letter.
        Before he had time to read more than a few words, he put the letter aside, looked up, and said, "I have known Luke was in love with you since just after Christmas. He didn't know I knew and I didn't want to tell him because of how I found out and I certainly couldn't tell you because of what it might have done to your and Luke's relationship as friends. It was a secret that I wished I had not discovered because I ached for Luke every time I saw him looking at you with pure love in his eyes, looks that you may never have seen. I found out because one afternoon when I was at Luke's, he was showing me the new computer he got for Christmas when Gabrielle called him to do something. As he left, he accidentally restored a file which had been minimized. It was a journal entry. I should not have read it, but I guess most people would have and what I read was an outpouring of his love for you and the heartache he felt because he could not tell you. If I had only known where it would lead, I would have asked Dad what to do. But we never know the future. So I knew before you did, so there's nothing to tell, is there?"
        "And you didn't mind that Luke was in love with a guy?"
        "I guess I had a 'Well, well' attitude. Do you know that Dad has or had a gay brother who he hasn't seen or heard from in years?"
        "Well, needless to say, he has no truck with people who gay bash. I think we might have still been involved in church, even though the church folks were never around while Mom was ill and dying, except for the fact that 'most every Sunday the sermon made some reference to gays or fags, or queers, or some other putdown. Dad finally got fed up with it and told the preacher off. In fact, the Sunday it happened, he had mentioned how much I reminded him of his brother so I know he was thinking and hurting over that and then to go to church and have that kind of garbage thrown at him was too much. Had a couple fellows not taken Dad aside, I am sure there would have been a preacher with a black eye and I'm not just kidding. So being gay is the way some people are, Dad says, and I believe him, that's just the way you are, same as being tall or short." With those words, Michael gave me a punch on the arm and laughed. Although he is a year younger, Michael is already six feet tall, and still growing.
        "God, I'm glad to hear you say that, Michael. And we do have something to talk about. I'm not as careless with my journal, it is encrypted. But had you been able to read it, you would have discovered I was writing almost the same thing about Luke. I love Luke Larsen with my whole heart. I have loved him for as long as I can remember. But I, as he, would not risk destroying our friendship by telling him I loved him. I guess that makes me gay, I really don't know because I have never thought about girls or boys, men or women. It has always been Luke."
        "Holy shit!" Michael exclaimed as he smacked himself on the forehead. "I have to be some really dumb ass shit not to have realized that the looks Luke gave you when you were not looking were the same as the ones you gave him when he wasn't looking. I really feel like a dumb ass and guilty as hell because. . . ."
        "Don't, Michael, don't go blaming yourself for what Luke did. We did what we thought best with what we knew. In hindsight, Luke and I could have had a couple years of loving each other instead of both being in pain and now him being barely alive. But we didn't know. Never would I blame you for being a good friend, and that is what you are and have been.  But we had better get to the house. The whole gang will be there along with Dr. Bailey."
        "Do you think there's something going on with Dr. Bailey and Dad?"
        "I think both of them would like for there to be, but are afraid to do anything about it."
        "Maybe we should take seriously the lesson we have learned about keeping love secret.  What do you think, Bro?"
        "Sounds like you are wise beyond your years, Little Bro." With that we both stood up, ready to leave. I had started calling Michael Little Bro the first time I noticed he had passed me in height.
        As we stood up, Michael again hugged me and said, "I really am sorry that Luke did what he did, but maybe, in the end, it will be for the best. I love you, Bro."
        "Love you too, Little Bro."
        When we got back to my house, the Larsens had just arrived with Mary Kathryn. After all the greetings were over, we all sat down to dinner. The "grownups" in the dining room and the three "kids" at the kitchen table--the way it had been since we were old enough to eat without doing serious damage to each other with our forks. We could hear the adults talking, being very guarded not to let the Larsens know what everyone else knew about Luke's suicide attempt.
        After dinner, the adults were having coffee when Mary Kathryn announced that she needed to get home to do her homework. "I'll drive you," I said, "OK, Dad?"
        "Of course," Dad responded.
        "Look, it's very warm for a March night and the moon is full, so if I could get these two handsome gentlemen to walk me home, it would be pleasant stroll." I opened my mouth to speak because Mary Kathryn drove to the mailbox for heaven's sake, but she gave me the sign to keep my mouth shut.
        "I'm sure they would be happy to protect you from the dangers of the night," said Jens.
        "Unless they are the dangers of the night themselves," David laughed.
        "They better not be if they want to remain alive dangers to anything!" Jens said, then everyone got very quiet, remembering that one member of the family might not be alive tomorrow.
        "Well, let's go," Michael said and we all said goodnight and walked out the door. Soon the three of us were walking down the road in the moonlight, arm in arm. "Matt, Mary Kathryn knows about my reading Luke's journal," Michael said as we walked slowly toward the Larsen's place.
        "Then she needs to know the rest since I know I can trust her. Mary Kathryn, I love you like the sister I never had and would not hurt you for anything, but there is another side to this whole business of Luke's suicide attempt. He left a letter addressed to me in which he told me what Michael had read in his journal. What hurts more than anything is that I have felt the same way about Luke for as long as I can remember. I didn't need anything at the hospital last night, the cut on my face was such that I decided not to have anything more done to prevent a scar. . . ."
        "You'll have a sexy scar!" Mary Kathryn exclaimed.
        "And I hope--I pray that Luke will live to see it and think it is sexy. But anyway, Luke had no desire to live and was literally willing himself to death according to Dr. Walker. Dr. Bailey thought it was possible that even though he was in a coma, he might be able to hear my voice.  Dr. Walker agreed so as soon as your parents came home, I went to Luke's room where I talked to him, held his hand, and prayed all night. I will go back tonight, and every night until he comes back to me. And I know he will."
        Tears formed in Mary Kathryn's eyes and slowed flowed down her cheeks. "Matt, you know I love you the way I love Luke. I know how devoted you and Luke are to the each other and to Michael and me. Luke's love for you and yours for him is so powerful that if love can overcome death, Luke will live, I believe that." I gave Mary Kathryn a big hug and the three of us continued our walk, holding each other tightly.
        When we reached the Larsens, I kissed Mary Kathryn on the cheek and turned to go when I realized Michael still had his arms around Mary Kathryn. He drew her closer to himself and she put her arms around his neck and suddenly they were engaged in a wild passionate kiss! All I could say was, "Holy shit! What's going on here?"
        "There's another secret among the families," Michael said. "Mary Kathryn and I discovered that what we felt for each other was more than friendship when we all were busy celebrating Christmas. We were alone in the living room at your place when Mary Kathryn stepped under the mistletoe and I walked over to her, took her in my arms for a friendly kiss.  When her lips touched mine, I forgot all about a friendly kiss and went for the gold. You know Mary Kathryn and her ability to take care of herself so I expected, at least, to be knocked on my butt, if not given a black eye, but what I got was a kiss back that made me see stars. I'm not kidding! I thought I could pass out. My knees went weak and I thought I'd fall. Instead, I managed to stand on shaky knees and give back as much as I received. When we heard someone coming, we finally broke apart--reluctantly I might add--and Mary Kathryn said, 'I thought you'd never get up the courage to do that!' Well, you can guess the rest."
        "But why have you been so secretive about it? You don't have the problems Luke and I will have, if he lives."
        "Look, we're still fifteen. It will be a awhile before we can drive. If our parents knew, we would lose the freedom we have had growing up, so we decided we'd just keep our love secret and enjoy each other as friends, as we always have, and let you and Luke give us space for our love to mature and develop."
        "God, you sure are wise for kids," I said, laughing, but realizing that they had worked out their own way of letting their love grow and sure as hell had were doing a better job than Luke and I. I again gave Mary Kathryn a good night kiss on the cheek and said, as I hugged her,"You are a lucky young woman." Then I turned to Michael, hugged him to myself and said, "And you are a damn lucky guy!"
        As Michael and I walked back to my house, we talked about the complicated loves among the four of us and just before we reached the house, Michael said,"And we still have the problem of how to deal with David and Margaret."
        As soon as the Larsens left for home, Dr. Bailey took me to the hospital where I once again spent the night talking to Luke, praying, and occasionally crying when I could no longer hold back the tears. The rest of the week and the first of the next was spent in the same routine--school during the day, hospital at night. The days I was supposed to be at St. Mary's practising, Gertie insisted I go home and get some rest and covered for me the few times the school called to make sure I wasn't just skipping. The two days I usually worked out, I also went home and collapsed. I tried very hard to keep up with school, doing homework every free minute I could find, even doing some in Luke's room. Chelsea or Gladys saw that I ate and were careful not to wake me up when, in utter exhaustion, I fell asleep, my head on Luke's bed. As much as I wished it was otherwise, my strength wasn't superhuman. I could tell I was constantly fatigued, my grades were dropping like a rock and my music was suffering.
        I really realized just how fatigued I was on Sunday when, during Mass at St. Mary's, I fell asleep at the organ, my head fell on the keyboard and the resulting blast almost sent half the congregation into cardiac arrest! When Mass was over, Fr. Tom called me into his office and asked what was up. I thought he knew I was spending nights with Luke because I had told Gertie and was sure she had told him.  But she hadn't. "Gertie is the best parish secretary in the world; I think she had taken the Vow of the Confessional as well as I." When I told him what I had been doing, he said softly, "No man has greater love than to give his life for his friend." Then continued, "Matt, you can't keep up this pace or you'll end up in the hospital and that certainly won't help Luke."
        I knew I couldn't keep up what I was doing much longer. At the same time, both Dr. Bailey and Dr. Walker were convinced that my presence and love was keeping Luke not only alive, but steadily improving. I was really in a dilemma.

          I knew I was in a battle for my life and that the odds were against me. Self-hate and the desire for death can become so much a part of your being that turning around was hard, like breaking a bad habit. Plus, of course, what I had done to myself made living almost impossible.  In fact, I didn't know why I had not died at the river. I had planned pretty carefully. Thank God, the best laid plans. . . .My desire for death and my fear of life had so ingrained themselves into my being that simply deciding I wanted to live was not enough. I found my time--if you can talk about time in the place where I was--was divided between the times when I found strength to fight against death and to struggle for life and the times when all I could do, at best, was to hold the ground I had gained.
        Black nothingness of death still pulled me to itself. I was too weak to resist.  Weeping bitterly, I would feel myself being dragged toward that blackness, then, suddenly, unexpectedly, I would feel strength flowing into me. Gradually I was able to resist the blackness' pull. I knew that Matt had returned and that it was his strength flowing into my being. I was finally able to stand and to walk away from the all-consuming nothingness.
        As its pull became less powerful, and with Matt's strength, I stood up and walked, slowly, painfully, thankfully away. And I was gaining ground. Matt's love was winning! As I placed distance between myself and that blackness, between death and life, I started weeping tears of joy. But I wondered how long Matt could continue to pour his strength, his life, into my being when death awaited not far from me. His voice became faint and I could feel myself growing weaker. Yet, when I could hear him no longer, I could feel his presence. And that was enough, if not to allow me to continue toward life, then to hold the ground that I had gained. Finally, I could neither hear Matt's voice and was not conscious of his presence, but still I was able to keep nothingness at bay. Again, I sank into unawareness.
        I became aware again. Who knows how long I had been unaware? There is no time in this place. As I looked about me, I discovered the blackness had drawn nearer than it had been when I lost awareness, but it was not nearly where it had been before Matt had given me strength.  Once again--how did I know? I felt nothing, yet I did--I knew that Matt had kissed me on the forehead. As his lips touched me, I felt a sudden surge of strength and the blackness immediately retreated. As he began speaking--I still could not make out the words, but the message of his love was clear--I looked ahead and saw, not blackness and not light, but a grayness which seemed to have substance.
        Once again I started crawling toward it and, as Matt continued to give me the strength of his love, I stood and slowly, haltingly walked toward grayness and away from blackness. This was the pattern of my existence in this place of no place and no time. Strengthened by Matt's presence, I made progress away from darkness and deeper into the gray fog. Then a time of unawareness, whatever that might be in this place. Each time I awoke, I could see that I had gained ground--toward what I wasn't sure, but away from nothingness, of that I was sure. I don't know how many cycles of struggling toward life, then becoming unaware I had passed through.  When I became aware this time I was not only aware of myself and my situation, but also knew that Matt was reaching the point of exhaustion. Claiming all the strength Matt was giving me and all my own, I stopped walking and started running. I noticed at once that the fog was becoming less gray and my surroundings brighter.
        I knew that I was alive and would live when sheer terror struck me. I felt as though a steel band had been placed around my chest. I couldn't breathe! Some demon had been torturing me with the belief that I was going to live. Now I would die! All my dreams, all my struggles were just that--dreams, foolish dreams. I fell to the ground, tears streaming, but not weeping since I couldn't breathe. As hard as I tried, I could not get my lungs to pull air into my lungs. Awareness left me.

Part Five

           A week after Luke's attempted suicide, I was near total exhaustion. I hated myself because I wasn't superhuman. When I went to the hospital for the night, I noticed Dr. Bailey was in her office and knocked on her open door.
        "Matt, come in. How are you doing?"
        "That's what I wanted to talk with you about, Dr. Bailey. I'd never want anyone else to know, but I am just about completely exhausted. I don't know what to do. I haven't been working on my music, my grades are approaching the failing mark, and every time I stop for a minute, I fall asleep. Yet, I am convinced that you and Dr. Walker are right, my being with Luke does make a difference. I feel very guilty that I am thinking about myself, but at the same time, I don't know how much longer I can hold out. I have thought about dropping out of school and doing summer school to finish even though it would mean I'd have to drop my independent study in music. So long as there is the least possibility that my being with him makes even the slightest difference between Luke's recovering or not, I'll be here. He is more important to me than anything else."
        "Matt, if you collapse and end up in the hospital yourself, you are not going to be able to help Luke. That's reality. And never doubt that Luke is alive because you have given him hope and a reason to live. I am convinced Luke would have been dead days ago had you not spent night after night at his bedside. I have been worried about you, but knew it would do no good to suggest you spend less time here. Besides, we all know that the young believe they are invincible and immortal until it is proven otherwise."
        "You are right about that, all of it, but I have had my mortality and limits rubbed in my face. Isn't there something you can give me which will keep me going?"
        "You mean speed? No way. There has to be some better way. Dr. Walker is still here.  Would you like to have him join us to discuss the situation?"
        "Of course. Anything or anyone you think might help."
        Dr. Bailey picked up her phone and had Dr. Walker paged. Minutes later he appeared at her door. "Paul, would you close the door. We need to talk with Matt."
        "Sure. Good to see you, Matt, but you don't look too good."
        "That's what we need to talk about. Matt is close to the point of complete exhaustion. He's considering dropping out of school and doing summer school to finish, but that would mean losing some credits which are important to his future, especially his future in music because he will have to drop his independent study and the recital which determines his grade. He has dropped off the baseball and tennis teams, but still has a very full plate in addition to being here for Luke. He asked about something to keep him going--speed--but I said no way."
        "I have been worried about you, Matt. When I have been here late and gone to ICU, I have seen you sleeping, exhausted, your head resting on Luke's bed. You have saved his life--yes, I am confident he will make it--but he still has a long way to go. However, he is almost completely off the drugs which have been keeping him in a coma and we started weaning him from the ventilator. While I can't predict when he might regain consciousness, or what his condition will be when he does, I have a suggestion to make. Why don't you go up, talk to him for awhile--not more than an hour--and then go home. Chelsea, who has decided she is mother to you two--I have never seen her be such a mother hen--will call you immediately if she thinks you are needed. By the way, she told me a few days ago that she knew you two were more than friends. 'Those two beautiful young men are in love with each other and I hope they have a long, rich life together. I have seldom seen such love as Matt has shown and I know that has something to do with why Luke is here.' Hope you don't mind, but I thought the best way to have her keep her observations to herself was to tell her the whole story. When I finished, she said, 'You didn't have to tell me all that. I had figured it out long ago!' By the way, I am hopelessly heterosexual, but I agree that the scar is sexy!"
        I laughed and said, "Honestly, I have been so busy I hadn't even noticed. David came to the house and checked it and I forgot to look in the mirror after he left the butterflies off.  Obviously I don't have to stare at a face shaving and I do my hair by feel, but I'm glad its sexy!. . . . I don't know about your suggestion. By the time Chelsea called, I got up, got dressed and got here, it would take twenty minutes or so, that is if I could get awake enough to drive. I think maybe I better just keep up the usual as long as I can."
        "What's going to happen when you collapse from exhaustion and have to be hospitalized?"  Dr. Bailey asked again.
        "I guess I'll just have to cross that bridge when I get to it."
        "How about a compromise? Margaret, you'll be leaving soon, won't you?"
        "I should have been gone hours ago. Why?"
        "Assuming all goes as well, as I am sure it will, this will be Luke's last night in ICU. If we can get him completely off the ventilator, which I believe we can, he can be moved into a semi-private room tomorrow. That way, Matt, there will be another bed in his room and you can sleep there if Luke doesn't come around. I'll make sure Luke is the only one in the room. For tonight, Matt, why don't you go up, spend a hour with Luke and then come down to Margaret's office. She can have an orderly make up the bed on the sofa where I know she has spent a lot of nights. Then, if Chelsea thinks Luke needs you, you can be at his bedside in a few minutes."
        "I'm glad someone is thinking straight, Paul, because I knew we'd never get Matt home tonight. That's an excellent idea. What do you think, Matt?"
        "I agree on one condition. If Chelsea will call me every two hours so I can spend time with Luke."
        "How about every three hours and you spend not more than twenty minutes when you go up unless there is some unforeseen change for the worse?"
        "OK. I'll agree to that.
        "Good," Dr. Bailey and Dr. Walker said together."Matt, you go on up and I'll have the bed fixed. I'll also get you something to sleep if you like because sleeping in your clothes is never very comfortable."
        I blushed and said, "If you are sure no one will barge in, I'll just sleep as I usually do, the way my mother birthed me."
        "That would be a pretty sight and I'm not kidding," Dr. Bailey said, then blushed."I'll see that you are not disturbed. Chelsea can call directly here if she needs to do so or to wake you in three hours. Also, I'm not going to give you speed, but I will leave something on the desk which will help you get to sleep quickly and rest. It won't dope you up so you can't get awake when Chelsea calls."
        "Good idea, Margaret. Matt, before I go, I want to say again, the man you love is alive today because of your love. Don't ever forget that. I have always known that love could work miracles, but I never thought even a miracle could pull off what you have done. Do get some rest. Good night and good night, Margaret.
        "Good night," Dr. Bailey and I said together. Dr. Bailey walked over to me and gave me a big hug. "Matt, when this is over, we are going to have to have a long talk about how wonderful you are!" Needless to say, I blushed.
        I went up to ICU, leaving Dr. Bailey to make arrangements for my night. Chelsea greeted me with a huge smile and gave me a good hug. "I'm glad you are going to get some rest tonight and I promise if there is the slightest reason to have you come up, I will call. And I promise to call you every three hours as well. Our boy is having a struggle getting off the ventilator, as do most people who have been on it as long as he has. It's almost like your body forgets how to breathe. It must be like those dreams where you need to breathe and can't. We take him off for short periods, each time for a little longer, but he just won't give it up. Maybe you can talk some sense into him! Also, he should be coming out from under the drugs soon, then we can begin to find out how he really is. Now you get on in there and convince him he can breathe!" With those words she gave me a slap on the butt--Chelsea the ogre gave me a slap on the butt! What had happened to the wicked witch of the ICU I had first heard about?
        When I went into Luke's room, he looked more alive than I had ever seen him since his dive into the river. The ventilator was running so I decided to have a little talk with him about that and about what would be going on tonight. "Luke, Babe, you finally look like a human being--almost--if you just weren't hooked up to all these machines. For the first time, your lips really look like you and they look like I could kiss them forever, but you are still on that fucking ventilator! How am I ever going to get the kisses I deserve for being here with you night after night if you don't get your ass in gear and start breathing like a normal human being? Man, I need a kiss now and all I can do is kiss you on the forehead and that sucks when your beautiful lips are just inches away." I continued to talk in that mock serious vein for awhile and then realized that what I wanted more than rest or anything else right now was to kiss those perfect lips.  "Luke, I love you so much it really does hurt not to be able to kiss you, to hold you, to let you know how very, very much I love you. Please, Luke, breathe for me!"
        Suddenly, Luke gasped. I didn't know whether that was good or bad so I ran for Chelsea, forgetting the call button at hand. "Chelsea," I said as soon as I reached the nurses' station, remembering not to call out, "Luke is gasping!" The two of us ran back to the room and Luke was gasping frantically, the ventilator still pumping away. Chelsea quickly disconnected the hose to the ventilator and turned it off. As Luke continued to gasp, I became frightened. What did this mean? "What's going on, Chelsea?" I asked anxiously.
        "Looks like someone has decided to breathe on his own. I wonder why? Have you made any threats or promises?" Since I knew the jig was up with Chelsea after the conversation in Dr.  Bailey's office, I said, "Not really. I just told him I was tired of kissing him on the forehead and not on his beautiful lips and that his insisting on the ventilator sucked because I couldn't have the kisses I deserved for being here night after night and asked him why he didn't get his ass in gear and start breathing like a normal human being. That's all."
        "Well, it seems that was enough. We can't be sure he will continue to breathe on his own for awhile, but since he got you pissed off, I suspect he knows he better," she said with a laugh.  "We'll have to leave the tubes in place until Dr. Walker sees him in the morning, but I suspect when you come back tomorrow night, you can give him at least one great smack on the lips.  You've done it again, Matt, My Man!"
        Do I need to say I blushed? I think I have taken to having hot flashes I am blushing so much these days.
        "I'm going to leave the ventilator disconnected.  We're able to monitor Luke's breathing from the nurses' station and should he stop breathing, we can reconnect it in seconds. But I don't think that will happen. Should anyone decide to nominate you for sainthood, I'll be the first to testify to your performing miracles! But even saints have to have their rest and, Young Man, your twenty minutes are up. Go get some rest."
        "OK, but you promise to call me if anything happens?"
        "Of course I will. Don't you doubt it."
        "Then I'll see you in a couple hours."
        "You'll see me in three hours, not two!"
        I kissed Luke on the forehead as I had done so many times, told him I would be back in three hours and, this time, left him with real joy in my heart as I went downstairs to Dr. Bailey's office. Ordinarily I think that I would have immediately collapsed in bed, but I was so excited that when I was undressed, I took the medicine Dr. Bailey had left for me and slipped between the cool sheets. As I felt my body relax, I mentally sang a song of thanksgiving to my God for bringing Luke back to me, for Chelsea, Dr. Bailey and Dr. Walker, and for everyone who had made it possible for me to be with the man I loved and promptly fell asleep.
        When I left Luke the next morning, he appeared to be simply asleep. For the first time, he looked natural and real. With the exception of the connector for the ventilator and a single IV, only the sensors for the monitors were attached to his body. He had been breathing on his own since he had gasped earlier and Chelsea, and then Gladys, assured me that when I saw him next he would be in his own room with nothing attached except an IV "just in case." I, too, felt like a different person. Not only was Luke doing well, but the rest Dr. Bailey had insisted upon for me had a remarkable effect. I felt rejuvenated and really alive for the first time since Luke's dive into the river.
        I got home, took a shower and got dressed for school much earlier than I had since Luke had been in the hospital. I had been grabbing a nap before school, skipping breakfast, which my parents had early so we could have some time together before we all had to leave for school. Today I was ready when I heard them in the kitchen. When I went downstairs I was actually feeling great and it obviously showed. "Well, you are all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed this morning," Dad said in greeting, a smile on his face.
        "I feel the same," I said. "Luke is breathing completely on his own and he will be moved into his own room today. When I left this morning, he seemed to be sleeping peacefully. They have stopped the drugs which kept him in a coma. No one knows when he will come around, but it may be soon. I would love to be there when that happens.
        "It would be great if you could be," Mom said,"but since no one knows when that will happen and, besides, until he is in his own room, you can't be there when the Larsens are there.  There's really no way to make that happen, is there?"
        "No, I guess not."
        "Matt, Jens told me the doctors expected Luke to be coming around today or tomorrow if all goes as it should and I knew you'd like to be there, if not when he comes 'round, as soon as possible. I picked up a pager for you. You know school rules and I'll not defend you if you get caught. Keep it in those baggy pants of yours set on vibrator rather than bell."
        I hugged Dad tightly. I had always known I had great parents, but even I have been surprised by how supportive they had been. "Well, I've got to run. I have some things to do before school. Also, I am talking to all my teachers today about any work I need to make up or redo. I guess I'll have to speak to my physics and English teachers tonight. And thanks, Dad, for taking care of the Jeep. I don't know when I could have gotten that done." Dad had seen to getting my Jeep repaired and I had it for several days, but hadn't remembered to thank him. "By the way, are the Larsens still spending all day at the hospital?"
        "I don't think so. Jens said since there was little or nothing they could do except wait. They were checking on Luke before and after work and one or the other or both were going by during lunch hour. Since David is having to go in to the hospital early this month, they take Mary Kathryn and Michael to school then go by the hospital."
        "Well, I've gotta run," I said as I gave my Mom a kiss on the cheek and Dad another hug.  As I drove out of the driveway, I made a hasty decision. I was going to go to the hospital to see Luke before I went to school. By this time, I knew my way around the hospital and knew that I could get to ICU and make sure the Larsens were not there before I went in to see my beloved. I went up the stairs to ICU, walked toward the nurses' station, making sure I was not seen. Gladys was coming out of Luke's room as I reached the nurses' station. When she got near enough, I whispered, "Gladys! Gladys!"
        She looked toward me and motioned me to come on in. "Our boy. . . ."
        "My Man," I corrected her.
        "So you're finally going to say what I have known from the beginning. He's your man."
        "I would shout it to the world except it would probably get the shit beat out of both of us."
        "Or worse. Matt, promise me you'll be very careful who you tell and what you do. I love both of you and if he loves you half as much as you obviously love him, you two deserve a whole long life of loving each other, but there are those. . . ."
        "How well I know. But how is he?"
        "I think he is doing just great. All his vitals are good and he appears to be sleeping normally. He hasn't had a moment's trouble breathing on his own. Chelsea told me that was because you gave him an ass chewing about being too lazy to breathe for you."
        "Well. . . ." Then I did it again. I blushed.
        "Dr. Walker will be in before long, probably in less than an hour, and unless I miss my guess, when you see Luke again, he'll be in his own room."
        "Do me a favor, Gladys?"
        "You know I will if I can."
        "Do you think you'll have any indication when he might wake up?"
        "Maybe, maybe not. Why? What did you have in mind?"
        "You already have my cell phone number. I can't have that at school and even if I did, there'd be no way I could have it ring. Dad got me a pager which I will put on vibrate because I'm not supposed to have it at school either, but I will keep it in my cargo pants. . . ."
        "Yea, and the way you kids wear'em these days, you could hide a car in the pockets."
        "If you have any hint that Luke might wake up, will you page me?"
        "Give me the number, Lover Boy."
        With that bit of business taken care of, I went into Luke's room. Sure enough, he looked very little different from the way I had seen him countless times when we slept over at one another's house, except for the fact that he had lost a tremendous amount of weight and the days in bed had taken its toll on his sculptured body. I knew the Larsens could show up any minute, so I leaned over Luke and kissed him on the forehead. In my rush, I hadn't done anything to my hair so it spilled over him, enclosing the two of us. "Today you get kissed for real, Luke, Babe. Just hang in there until I get back."
        As I turned to leave, I saw Gladys motioning for me to hurry. As the door to the stairs closed I heard her say, "Mr. and Mrs. Larsen, I am sure you will be pleased to see how you son looks this morning."

        I felt as though a steel band had been placed around my chest. I couldn't breathe! Some demon had been torturing me with the belief that I was going to live; now I was dying! All my dreams, all my struggles were just that--dreams, foolish dreams.
        I fell to the ground, tears streaming, but not weeping since I couldn't breathe. As hard as I tried, I could not pull air into my lungs. I summoned all the strength I could muster and focused on one thing--breathing. I felt I was in a vacuum and my chest simply would not expand. Had I come this far only to die now?  Had I heard Matt's words of love and encouragement only to fade into nothingness? NO! Most emphatically NO! I would breathe! Suddenly, I found myself gasping, sucking welcome air into my lungs. I was breathing!
        But soon, too soon, I found I could no longer continue. When I thought I would once again die from lack of air, something took over and air was being pumped to my lungs. As I was able to breathe or something was breathing for me, I became aware of a change in my surroundings. I was no longer in the fog. I was lying on the ground, surrounded by light. I was no longer in that place of no time. I could feel my body. I no longer felt like a suspended ghost. Not conscious, but more than I had been since I had dived into the river, I began to recall the events which had led up to that moment, but even more importantly, I began to realize that wherever I was, Matt had been with me. Not all the time, but the times when I needed him and his strength to fight against death.
        Matt had said he loved me. Matt had kissed me, time and again on the forehead. Matt had held my hand. How I knew this, I did not know, but I knew it; I was in a dreamlike state. I was almost aware of people moving around me from time to time, but not fully aware. Once again I drifted into a state of being unaware and once again was shocked into awareness when I couldn't breathe. I didn't know what was going on, but this time I did not panic. I just called upon all my strength again and prayed to God to give me more until I was able to gasp for air. I was now conscious of time and realized that I was able to breathe for awhile longer than previously before it became too much.  Several times I was shocked into awareness by suddenly not breathing and each time I struggled harder to breathe longer once I started. Each time I found myself struggling for breath, I realized that once I started breathing, I could go on my own longer and longer. Then, exhausted, I would collapse into unawareness again.
        I became conscious that Matt was near me. I don't know how I knew, but I did. As he bent over to kiss my forehead as he had done so many times before, his loose hair fell over my face and I could smell the scent of Matt, the most wonderful smell in the world--far better that anything anyone had ever been able to put in a bottle. A deep happiness stirred my being. When Matt had kissed me, he stayed near--again, I don't know how I knew--and started talking to me. His tone was mock serious, but serious, as he told me to get to breathing on my own. I didn't know I had not been, but I did know that when I stopped breathing, something took over. Drawing every ounce of strength I had and all I could get from Matt's presence, I was determined to breathe on my own even though whatever breathed for me was doing so. Finally I was able to take a great gasp of air into my lungs--on my own! Once I started, I continued. I realized that what had been pumping air into my lungs stopped and I was on my own--for Matt. I was as excited as someone who is not really conscious, but aware, could be.
        I continued breathing without help. Matt left and returned after what seemed an eternity.  Once again my face was covered by his magnificent hair and the perfume of him. For the first time since I had dived into the river, I settled into real sleep.
        I awoke because I knew that Matt was near. Not since I had plunged beneath the waters of the river had I been so near real consciousness. I was breathing on my own and knew it.  Aside from not being fully conscious, I felt nearly normal. I was puzzled as to how I knew Matt was near when I knew he wasn't in the room with me. Almost from the beginning of my being in this place, where even it was, I could sense Matt's presence, even when I knew he wasn't beside me. Of course, I knew when he was beside me, holding my hand, talking to me, kissing me on the forehead. I wondered why he only kiss my forehead. Then I remembered he said something about not being able to kiss me because of a machine or something. I didn't understand, but the fact that he wanted to really kiss me made my heart skip a beat.
        As I lay waiting for Matt to come to me, I realized my throat was very sore. Sometimes it made breathing uncomfortable, but I was and would be breathing on my own. Suddenly I knew that Matt had entered my room and was bending over me. I could feel his hair as it covered my face. After he kissed me on the forehead, he whispered, "Today you get kissed for real, Luke, Babe. Just hang in there until I get back."  That was enough to keep me doing whatever I needed to do to "hang in there." With those words, Matt left and I could feel his presence moving further and further from me. When I was no longer aware of his presence, I heard someone say, "Mr. and Mrs. Larsen, I am sure you will be pleased to see how you son looks this morning." For the first time I was knew my parents had come to see me and I was frightened.

Part Six

           I got to school just in time for the bell, but I knew that I did need to talk with my teachers--actually only two, German and AP calculus since I would talk to Mom and Dad at home. Oh yes, I would also have to talk with my music teacher. I had decided to ask for the recital to be postponed. Since it had not been announced, that shouldn't be any problem, but calculus was a definite problem. My usual A's had dropped to C's and I didn't need to have that on my record.  German. . .well, you never knew what Frau Holzhauser would do about anything except she wasn't going to put much effort into it. The real problem I faced was coming up with a reason for my grades having taken a nose dive. I knew that my teachers had seen me half asleep in class, at best and, at worst, completely zoned out. And there was no way I could tell them the real reason. After each class, I made an appointment for after school. All day long I was thinking about what I would tell them.
        At lunch I sat with Mary Kathryn and Michael and the usual gang. Every day the conversation revolved around how Luke was doing and, of course, why he had done what he had. There were all sorts of theories. The one I liked best was that he had gotten a girl pregnant and she had an abortion. It was kinda hard for Mary Kathryn, Michael and me to keep a straight face when that suggestion came up. Of course, any comment on Luke's condition had to come from Mary Kathryn and she could only say what her parents had told her even though I kept Michael and her more up-to-date than her parents could.
        I hadn't had a chance to tell them of my morning visit so just before lunch was over, I told Mary Kathryn I needed to talk with her. We went outside and I gave her the good news. She, of course, would fill in Michael as soon as she could.
        When my last period was over, I went to see my music teacher rather than going to St.  Mary's. I told him that I would like to postpone the recital because there was a possibility Luke would be out of the hospital before long and that he had been very interested in my music and, in fact, had asked me to compose a piece which I was working on. (Not quite true, he had jokingly suggested I write a piece called "Luke." At the time I had laughed with him, but something was stirring in the back of my composing brain. I had no idea where it would lead, if anywhere, but I could sense it was there.)  "I know he will need all the encouragement he can get to get over whatever pushed him to attempt suicide and I think hearing a piece he wanted might help and I really would like for him to hear it if he makes it and gets out of the hospital."
        "That is a very thoughtful gesture, Matt, and since, as you said, we have never set an official date, you can have the extra time if you can arrange it with Fr. Tom. We'll talk about a date next week or so, but so long as Fr. Tom allows the use of St. Mary's and there's time to give it publicity, there'll be no problem." One down and two to go. I still didn't know what I would say to my German and calculus teachers.
        Mr. Mitchell, the AP calculus teacher, was very hard-nosed. He reminded me of how little attention I had been paying in class, that I had not kept up with my homework and had made a D on the last test. "Are you doing drugs?" he asked after telling me what I already knew, that I was doing poorly.                
        "No, Sir!" I exclaimed. "I have never touched even a cigarette! It's just that since my very best friend, Luke Larsen, attempted suicide, I haven't been able to keep focused. I heard that it looks as if he is going to make it and I also realized that I had to bear down and get to work or my grades would be a big problem.  I promise I will be focused for the rest of the year and I will get some tutoring help to cover materials I really didn't get in class because I wasn't attending to your instruction. And if you could give me a week to turn in the homework I missed and to retake the test, I would deeply appreciate it."
        "Well, you also know the AP test is coming up shortly and that is extremely important. I am a bit hesitant about cutting you the slack you ask for. I'm afraid it might set a precedent. Next year you will be gone, but I will still be here and once you do something special, it becomes expected."
        "I understand, Sir, and I appreciate your time and your giving me the reason for not making an exception. Thank you very much."
        "I said I was hesitant, Matt. I didn't say that I wouldn't. Since you take full responsibility for your situation and have always been a sterling and respectful student, I am going to make that exception."
        "Thank you very much, Sir. You don't know how much I appreciate it. One further question, could you suggest a tutor for me?"
        "Matt, I don't know of one better than myself. I'll be willing to give you two hours a week after school provided you really put forth the effort to catch up."
        I was thunderstruck! I grabbed Mr. Mitchell's hand and shook it firmly. "I promise to make you proud, Mr. Mitchell. I promise." I couldn't believe my luck! Only one more teacher to go and I would have my work cut out for me and the possibility of keeping my 4.0.
        Frau Holzhauser was, essentially, lazy. I hate to have to say it, but the German you learned in her class, you pretty much learned on your own. But in an attempt, I suppose, to appear to be a hard teacher, she could make it really rough on students in subtle ways--often, I felt, unfairly. I didn't know what to expect. I told her the same thing I had told Mr.  Mitchell and then had to endure a lecture on suicide and how teenagers were not old enough to have problems which could drive them to suicide. I listened politely then lied through my teeth.  Hey, I once heard that there is an unknown Old Testament book of Hezekiah which opens with the verse, "A lie is an abomination in the sight of the Lord, but a ready help in a time of trouble."  If there's no such verse anywhere, there should be when you have to deal with the Frau Holzhausers of the world.
        After her lecture, she gave me a box of cassette tapes, told me to listen to them and she would given me a test on them in a week. The grade I made on the test would replace all my recent bad grades. That was a snap because I knew she wouldn't put much effort into the tests and, besides, the tapes came with a self-test. She always picked out a few items from it as "her" test. After I thanked her and left, I looked at the box and realized these were the tapes we had used in class shortly before Luke tried to take his life and, knowing her, I suspect she will give me the same test she had given to the class after we had listened to the tapes. Nonetheless, I was going to be a very busy young man for the next few weeks. Plus, I thought as I walked to my Jeep, "I still have to deal with my hardest teachers at dinner tonight."
        Dealing with all the school mess, I had completely forgotten about my pager when suddenly something started vibrating in my pocket. I pulled it out and checked the number. I raced to the Jeep and grabbed my cell phone and dialed the number.
        "ICU, Chelsea."
        "Chelsea, Matt."
        "I figured it would be you. They moved Luke about noon today. Can't promise anything, but the charge nurse on second floor just called to tell me she thinks Luke may be waking up. How she knows, I don't know. He's in room 218."
        "Thanks, Chelsea, I'm already on my way." I made it to the hospital in record time, skidded into a parking place, raced into the building and took the stairs to second floor two at a time. By the time I slid to a stop before room 218, I was completely out of breath. "Man, I have got to get back on some sort of training schedule," I thought, gasping for breath.
        When I entered the room I was surprised to see both Chelsea and Gladys there. I must have shown my surprise because Chelsea said, "Gladys got a friend to cover for her and called me at home so we could be here. We figured you would want a bit of privacy should Luke wake up--or not for that matter--and since we've been here all the time, thought you'd be just as private with us as without."
        "Thanks a million although I do hope the day comes when I will not feel I have privacy with you two around."
        "Already Lover Boy is making plans for some heavy making out, I can tell," Gladys laughed.
        "Girl, you want to place any money on it stopping at making out?" Chelsea asked.
        Both laughed as, yes, I turned ten shades of red. "Matt, Luke has been stirring around as if he is trying to wake up for about half an hour now. Everything looks normal, but you never know. He may just drop off to sleep again. But let's go on in," Gladys said, pushing the door open. Luke lay in bed, only slightly elevated now, an IV in his left arm and a nasal oxygen tube. I walked over to his bed, looked at him for a long minute. He was so beautiful, even with the ravages of what he had been through, and I loved him so very, very much. I bent over him, my hair--it was still loose--cascaded around his head, enclosing us in a very private world. I leaned forward slowly until my lips touch his.
        His lips were so warm and soft. Carefully I kissed him. I placed my face beside his and whispered, "Luke Hans Larsen, I love you with all my heart, mind, body, and soul. I love you with my whole being."
        In a whisper so soft I almost didn't hear, Luke said, "And I love you too, Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf."
        His voice faded as he said my name, but he said it! When I raised up, I was staring into the most beautiful blue eyes in the world and Luke was smiling."Yes!" I shouted. "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
        Gladys and Chelsea finally got me to realize where I was and that shouting in a hospital is not exactly good form. Then the two went over to Luke to check everything. He remained awake and seemed to have just awaken from sleep. When he tried to talk, Chelsea stopped him and told him his throat needed time to heal from the ventilator so he should write what he had to say as she and Gladys left the room.
        He was so weak writing was difficult so he just wrote, "Tell me."
        I recounted most of what had happened, including that I had spent each night with him. He wrote, "Parents?" and I told him they knew nothing, including the fact that I had been with him.  He nodded, indicating he understood.
        Chelsea and Gladys came back and gave me the word that Luke needed to rest and I could come back later. I told him I would be back for a short visit, but I knew Mary Kathryn would want to see him and not to be surprised if Michael came with her. Now that he was well on his way to recovery, I had to get busy on school work. He nodded. Once again I leaned over his bed and kissed him on the lips. As my hair covered the two of us Luke said, "You have the most wonderful scent in the whole world and I love you," in a voice I could hardly hear, but my heart certainly heard his words!
        As I had suspected, the hardest teachers I had sat down after dinner with me.  Of course, they knew the reason for my current situation and had not harassed me at all during the time I was spending nights at Luke's bedside, and for that I was thankful, but that didn't mean I got off lightly.
        After I told them of my conversations with my three other teachers, they told me how proud they were of me for taking responsibility for my education. While they would never criticize another teacher--nor allow me to do so--they did smile when I told them about Frau Holzhauser. I told them the whole story of my conversation with Mr. Mitchell and Dad said, "You should not only appreciate what he is doing for you, but also accept it was a high compliment. Ron is an excellent teacher, but does not suffer fools gladly! Mom joined in Dad's and my laughter.
        "Now it's time to deal with two real hard noses! Mom, do you want to go first, or shall I?"
        Mom said, "I suspect you have more to tell Matt than I, so I'll take care of the kitchen." Of course, under ordinary circumstances, taking care of the kitchen after dinner was my job, but circumstances were not ordinary.
        "Matt, I'm going to give you the same breaks I give other students who have a good reason for falling behind in class." He didn't have to emphasize reason because I knew he made a very distinct difference between reasons and excuses. "You are two weeks behind in your lab work, have a test you need to retake and do all the review sheets in preparation for the AP test. I have been wondering whether or not to suggest that students be limited in the number of AP classes they can take. You and Luke both are carrying three--AP English, physics, and calculus.  That is a big load in the best of times. You know what you have to do. This Saturday is one of those I set aside for makeup lab work for those who are willing to give up a Saturday to catch up. Any questions?" Dad may as well have been in class!
        "No Sir, Mr. Greywolf, Sir. May I be excused to talk to my mother now?" I said in a little kid's voice.
        Dad laughed, hugged me, and said, "Matt, I know you have a heavy load right now and we will do all we can to lighten it for you. Your mom and I will take care of your chores so you can devote all your time to the school work you must do. Plus, of course, we do expect you to spend some time with Luke. We're not monsters, you know."
        "Dad, you don't know how much I love and appreciate you and Mom. I always have, even when I haven't been too good about showing it, but I really become overwhelmed when I realize how much you love and care for me."
        "Son, you must never forget, even when we disagree and maybe even hurt each other, that you are your mother's and my Sarang Hanun Pomul, our Beloved treasure."
        I couldn't stop the tears of joy, nor did I try, as I wrapped my arms around my precious father.
        He became a bit teary eyed himself and then said, "Also, soon as Luke is able, I expect you to do all you can to get him back into the running for a 4.0. That's going to mean doing some hard work on both your parts with a minimum of making out during study time!"
        I decided to ignore his last statement and didn't even blush. Then I asked him, "Do you think it is possible for Luke to get caught up? I mean he probably won't be out of the hospital for another week and no one knows whether or not he has brain damage from . . ."
        "I talked with Jens this afternoon. He said all tests indicate Luke has no permanent damage, period. He, of course, has to repair a lot of physical damage, his emotions will really be on edge--he becomes angry, even enraged, weeps without apparent reason, etc.--but basically, physical therapy will take care of the physical damage and time will take care of the emotional. Of course, he will tire easily for some time, but, yes, I think he can do it--with your help. You both have the intelligence and I hope the will to do what has to be done. You have the brains and I hope you will both keep them in your head rather than your crotch!"
        "Dad!" I said and this time I did blush.
        Dad laughed and gave me a hug, then called out, "Omoni, are you ready to talk to your man-child?"
        "As soon as I get my hands dry. Actually, it shouldn't take long." When Mom came into the library, she was very much my AP English teacher. "Matthew, you have an essay and a book review overdue and need to be reviewing for the AP test. I'll be happy to tutor you for the latter and the other two are due a week from Friday or there will be penalty." I knew that had any other student gone to Mom and asked what they needed to do to get their grade back up, they would have received exactly the same answer. Luke, Luke, Luke, you had better do a speedy recovery or you'll never get out of school!
        I had always appreciated the fact that school was school and home was home. I got no breaks because I was the son of teachers, but never was I subjected to having my parents prove I got no favors by demanding more of me than they demanded of all their students--their very best.
        The week which followed quickly fell into a routine for me: I got up early, showered, dressed and had breakfast with my parents. They certainly were happy to have me back in the morning and I felt lucky that I had them, period. After breakfast, I made a quick trip to see Luke, then to school. After school, I stopped by to see Luke before going to St. Mary's to practice three days and the other two days I worked out before going to Mr. Mitchell for tutoring in calculus. I knew I would get into shape faster if I started running again, but until Luke was out of the hospital, seeing him was much more important. My visits were short because I had to really pour on the steam to get caught up.
        The second day after he regained consciousness, the physical therapist had Luke out of bed and walking. By the third day he was in a regular physical therapy program. Twice a day sessions were getting him back into some kind of shape and he was eating like a horse and regaining the weight he had lost. Extensive tests over a period of a week showed absolutely no permanent damage, physically or mentally. I started taking him assignments so he could get some school work done.
        While there was no permanent damage, he was very emotional. He had not become angry with me, but he had been a real prick to some of the staff. Fortunately, they realized what was going on and never took it personally. With me, he was very prone to burst into tears for no apparent reason. I had talked with both Dr. Bailey and Dr. Walker to make sure the good reports weren't just for public consumption, and both assured me that Luke was perfectly ok and would be over the emotional outbursts soon.
        A week after he regained consciousness, Dr. Walker came in with Dr. Bailey shortly after I arrived from school. "I probably should wait until later when your parents come in," Dr.  Walker said, "but I think we have put up with you and fed you long enough. Tomorrow we'll do some final tests, then you can go home." Luke immediately burst into tears and couldn't seem to stop. I climbed on the bed and held him tightly until his sobbing finally stopped.
        "There is a very serious matter we need to talk about," Dr. Walker said, and looked at me.  "Matt, does Luke know the history of the letter?"
        I had intended to talk with Luke about his letter and the people who knew about it and us, but it never seemed to be the right time. I hung my head and stared at the floor and whispered, "No."
        "Were you afraid to tell him," Dr. Bailey asked.
        Again, in a whisper, I answered "Yes."
        "I thought you had learned about trust and fear, Matt. What happened?"
        "Luke seemed so weak and frail until just recently and then I have had so little time with him, I spent it. . ."
        "Telling him you loved him?"
        I looked at Luke when Dr. Bailey said that and saw at once he was very angry. So much for not getting angry at me!
        "You told her! You told her something nobody except you should know! You want us to get the shit beat out of us, or even killed? How can you say you love me when you run around telling everyone a secret which could get us both rejected by all our family and friends--and worse? Do you want what happened to Gregory to happen to you? To me? To us? How could you!" Luke shouted, turned his back to me and faced the wall, silent. Then I saw his body shaking with sobs. I reached out to take him in my arms, but he shoved me away. "It would have been better had you not made it to the falls, then all this would have been over!  Life was beginning to be worthwhile, to be wonderful and now we will live in hell!"
        I couldn't believe the words coming from Luke's mouth with such anger and bitterness. I thought of all the nights I had spent in this place, and while I had been an emotional rock for almost a month now, it all caught up with me. I was angry; I was hurt; I was bewildered. "Then just fuck you, Asshole!" I cried out in my pain.
        "You wish, Dickhead," he shouted back.
        Turning, tears streaming I ran from his room, out the entrance and jumped into my Jeep.  Now I felt like jumping into the river, but I wouldn't give Luke that satisfaction. With my eyes pouring tears, I raced out of the hospital parking lot.

        I kept trying to wake up, but couldn't seem to leave sleep behind. I knew Matt had been to see me, kissed me as his hair fell over my face, its perfume as wonderful as ever. Some time later I realized I was being moved. I didn't know what was going on, but I was still trying to get awake. After I had been moved, I was exhausted and drifted into deep sleep. When I became aware again, I started struggling to wake up. I was conscious of moving around in the bed. I was also knew that I was no longer attached to machines. My throat was very sore, but I was thankful I could feel.
        Suddenly I felt Matt's presence in my room. I could sense that he was drawing near, then I knew he was bending over me. I felt his hair fall about my face and the smell of Matt became my whole world for a moment. I expected a kiss on the forehead and wanted so much to wake up so I could see him as he bent over me. Instead, I felt his lips against mine, warm, soft, gentle.  When he had kissed me, he put his cheek against mine and whispered into my ear, "Luke Hans Larsen, I love you with all my heart, mind, body and soul. I love you, Luke, with my whole being."
        His words were enough to pull me from the Land of Sleep into the World of Awareness and I spoke--softly because my throat was sore and I had little strength--"And I love you too Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf." I was aware that after each word, my voice became weaker, but I said it all, the words I had wanted to say for a very long time.
        When I had finished speaking, Matt raised up and gazed into my eyes. I could have fallen into the depths of those black eyes, sparkling with love, excitement, and joy. A huge smile spread across his beautiful face. Suddenly he shouted "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
        Two nurses came running into the room to get him quieted down. One of them, Chelsea--how did I know that before I saw her name tag?--told me I needed to refrain from talking because my throat needed to heal from the time I had been on the ventilator. I didn't know what she was talking about, but I did know my throat sure was sore. She gave me a pad and pencil and told me to write what I wanted to say. The two nurses then checked me out and told Matt I needed to rest. He asked for ten more minutes and Chelsea said, "Ten minutes, no more." I wrote on the pad, "Tell all."
        Matt told me how my mom had called, how he had found me near death, floating in the river, and how it looked as though I was not going to make it. He said he had put on my clothes because he had jumped in the river with his on and had gone to our house to get Mom. He said when he discovered the letter, he realized what a fool he had been and how much we had suffered because we did not trust our friendship. When the doctors had decided I was willing myself dead, he had managed to get them let him stay with me every night since I had dived into the river.
        By the time he had finished, tears were pouring down my cheeks and I could not stop them. He held me in his arms until I gained control then laid my head back against the pillow.  Suddenly very frightened, I grabbed the pad and wrote "Parents?". He told me they knew nothing of the letter or the fact that he had spent every night with me.
        "Luke, I have to go," he said, as he again leaned over me, creating a private place with a cascade of hair, and kissed me, less gently than before; he kissed with greater passion and love.
        I wrote, "Come back?" and Matt said he would, but it would be only for a short time. Now that I was awake, he told me, earlier plans for his having the extra bed in my room were scratched. Since I was in my own room, he was free to come and go as he pleased since the hospital had open visiting hours.  But he had to keep visits short because he had met with all his teachers except his mom and dad and have a shit load of work to do to get caught up and pull his grades up. Knowing Matt, I realized how much he had sacrificed because his grades had dropped because he had been with me. As Matt leaned over me to kiss me, I was barely able to speak, but managed to say, "You have the most wonderful scent in the whole world and I love you!"
        "And I love you too, Luke," Matt said as he, once again, kissed me gently on the lips, turned and left the room.I couldn't believe how lucky I was to have failed at doing something! I had failed in my suicide attempt and, as a result, the man I loved was holding me, kissing me and telling me he loved me!
        When an orderly brought my dinner, I realized I was starved, but the food looked terrible.  It looked like baby food! I rang for the nurse and asked the meaning of the mess. She told me because of the ventilator, my throat needed time to heal and that regular food would slow down the process, even if I could get solid food down. Realizing I had no choice, I tried to eat what had been given me and discovered that other than the texture, it wasn't bad. In fact, I ate it all including spinach which not only looked terrible, but also was on my "Never Eat" list.
        Shortly after dinner, Mom and Dad came and were overjoyed to see me awake. When I saw them I was both happy and ashamed. I started weeping uncontrollably again. After I regained control--Mom held me like a baby until I could--I asked about Mary Kathryn. Mom said she would come over later. She had started on her homework and wanted to finish. She said Matt had said she could come with him because he and Michael were planning on coming later.I expected to be quizzed on why I had attempted suicide, but it was never mentioned. I am sure that was because my parents had been told I was not to talk.
        Writing on a pad is sure a poor means of communication and after about an half an hour, I was exhausted. My parents realized this and after Mom had kissed me on the cheek and Dad had patted me on the shoulder, they left. I was completely exhausted and realized that one reason was because I expected them to open the question of the suicide attempt. I gradually relaxed and before I knew it, I was asleep.
        An hour or so later, I awoke when I felt Matt's presence again. This was getting to be kinda creepy since he wasn't in the room when I awoke, but I knew he was near. Sure enough, he, Michael, and Mary Kathryn walked into the room just as my eyes were fully open. Once again the gang was together and it felt great. Matt walked over to my bed, smiled, bent over and kissed me on the lips.
        "What in the hell did you do that for?" I asked. "Can't you see there are people present?"
        "They know Luke. They have known longer than I have."
        "Yea," Michael said, "when you were showing me your new computer, you left and before you did, you opened your journal file. I know I shouldn't have, but I read the day before's entry about how you felt about Matt. Matt told me about his feeling toward you because he felt I should know since we have no secrets. Right? And Mary Kathryn knows because I told her since we have no secrets." With those words, he pulled Mary Kathryn to himself and gave her a soft kiss.
        I grabbed the pad and wrote "You 2?"
        Michael and Mary Kathryn replied in one voice, "Yes!"
        I smiled and wrote--4 2 gether always!"
        As much as I wanted to be with the other three members of The Gang of Four, I was becoming very tired. I could hardly keep my eyes open. Sensing this, Matt said they had to go.  Mary Kathryn kissed me on the cheek; Michael gave me a hug and Matt kissed me again and said, "Good night, Sweet Prince. I love you!"
        I returned his kiss and said, "Good night, Beloved Treasure." Soon I was sound asleep, dreaming real dreams of Matt.
        In the week which followed, Matt came before and after school for short visits. In the afternoon he brought some short assignments. I tried to concentrate on school work as much as possible, but found that when I was trying to do something and didn't understand it, I became violently angry or else burst into tears. My emotions were utterly out of control. I was also having physical therapy twice a day and when I couldn't do something or when I became very tired, I also lost emotional control. I asked Dr. Walker about it and he said it was just a side effect of what I had been through and it would eventually take care of itself.
        I kept expecting someone to at least ask why I had attempted suicide, but no one did. I knew that Michael and Mary Kathryn--my little sister in love with my best friend (Matt is my love, more than a best friend)--knew, but why hadn't someone else asked? The week after I had regained consciousness, Matt came by after school. By now I was free of all tubes, machines, and monitors. I could talk without a problem. Accordingly, Matt didn't need to ask for the kisses I felt he had earned for standing by me all those lonely nights and I was ready and eager to start paying back! As his lips pressed against mine, I felt his tongue seeking entrance to my mouth. For the first time in my life, I experienced the passion of a deep French kiss. I loved it! But in the midst of the kiss there was a knock on the door and we broke it off.
        Dr. Walker and Dr. Bailey (Matt told me he thought she and David Andrews should get it together and I agreed. She was a real looker even if she was a she!) came in. Dr. Walker told me that if the tests scheduled for early tomorrow proved as good as he was sure they would, I could go home. I was, again, overcome by emotions and started weeping uncontrollably. Matt climbed on the bed beside me and took me in his arms and held me tight until I finally regained control. I hated this emotional turmoil I was in constantly. When I finally stopped crying, Dr. Walker said there was something serious that needed discussing and asked Matt if he had told me about the letter.
        I didn't know what he meant until he and Dr. Bailey kept questioning Matt. Matt seemed to be making excuses about something and when he said he had too little time to talk about the letter, Dr. Bailey asked if he was afraid to tell me and Matt said he was. She said she thought he had learned about trust and fear. Matt hung his head. I didn't understand what was going on.  Then when Matt said he had so little time with me he spent it. . . . When he paused, Dr. Bailey said, "Telling him you loved him." I couldn't believe it! After what had happened to Gregory, Matt was exposing himself to the same thing. I was frightened for myself, but more so for my Matt. I was terrified of what would happen because people knew. What would our parents do?  What had they decided to do already? What would people at school do? There were other jocks to treat us the same way those five jerks had treated Geogory! I panicked, then literally saw red. My anger knew no bounds. I was not just angry at Matt, but at the world and the people who killed and mistreated and damned us because we loved. But Matt was the focus of my unmitigated anger. I don't know what I shouted at Matt. I was so angry I was beyond thinking, beyond rationality, beyond caring. Matt tried to take me in his arms, but I shoved him away. As I continued to heap abuse on him, Matt finally shouted at me, "Fuck you, Asshole!."
        I responded, "You wish, Dickhead!" as he ran from the room, tears streaming. My anger turned to fear, panic, hopelessness. I wanted to die.
Part Seven

        I was weeping so hard that I could hardly see to drive and was driving far in excess of the speed limit, just running away. I was so angry at Luke that I wanted to get as far from him as I could as quickly as possible. I had almost wrecked my academic career. I had given up the two sports I loved. My music was suffering. And for what? For Luke. And Luke had essentially told me to fuck off because. . . because. . because he loved me so much he feared for my well being, for my safety. He had almost killed himself to protect me out of fear that his love for me would result in something like what happened to Gregory happening to me. Sure, I had only done what I had to do, but then I kept it a secret from him. My keeping a secret from him had almost resulted in his death and I had done it again. How could I blame him when I was really the one at fault?
        With that realization came another: if I kept driving only half-seeing and racing down a country road, there was a good likelihood that I would be the one in the hospital or dead.  Coming to my senses, I slowed down and only then noticed where I was. I was crossing the bridge over the river. When I saw the new wire where the fence had been repaired, the nightmare of the past weeks hit me full force.
        I pulled over on the shoulder of the road, parked and crawled through the fence. As I walked slowly toward the falls, I began to hate myself and cry for the love that I had destroyed by being a coward again. When I reached the path to the falls, I crossed the cane poles behind me and walked to the falls.
        As I sat on the edge of the pool I realized that it was almost the end of March.  The weather was beautiful; the day warm and sunny. But not in my world. My world was in a dark cloud of my own making. I sat very still as my thoughts raced, going nowhere. What was I to do? How was I to earn Luke's forgiveness and win his love back?  If I couldn't do that, all we had endured since Luke had dived from the falls was for nothing.  I was simply incapable of any straight thought.      "I hope you will forgive me for breaking the code of the Lakota and entering a private place," I heard David's voice say.
        I turned and saw David standing behind me. The tears started afresh and I flung myself into his arms, weeping like a baby. David hugged me close and let me cry until I could cry no longer. "What am I going to do, David? I have ruined everything."
        "Well, I'll admit that you have made a pretty good mess of things, but then Luke is not the only one whose emotions have been strained to the breaking point.  I cannot believe the love that you have shown over the weeks will not come out on top. You and Luke have to learn a lesson which is difficult for all of us. You have to learn to trust each other and to listen to each other. Both of you were wrong, but neither is to blame. In a way, it's to be expected when your love is so young. Oh, I know you have loved Luke for a long time and he you, but your love is very, very young, your common love, I mean. Even in the best of situations, there are really rough spots in a couple's love; and you two certainly haven't had the best of times."
        "But I intended to hurt Luke, something I would have said I would never do."
        "Matt, any human being, when wounded deeply, will lash out.  Luke hurt you deeply. He didn't intend to, but he did and you lashed out. The question now is how the two of you heal your love."
        "And what is the answer, David? I have been sitting here trying to think and my thoughts just keep blaming me and I can't think of any way to earn Luke's forgiveness and win his love back."
        "Luke loves you. Can you doubt that? There is no question of winning his love back.  You have never lost it and it was never won. He gave it freely as you have given your love to him.  Forgiveness? You tell him why you did what you did and didn't do.  And you ask his forgiveness. Forgiveness, like love, is never earned, it is given freely. The one thing you will have to earn is trust. In a real sense, you are going to have to put your very life in Luke's hands and he his in yours. So both of you have got to talk, really talk, and really listen."
        "But what if Luke won't even see me? What if he keeps his back turned to me forever?"
        "Matt, do you love Luke?"
        "More than anything in the world!"
        "Do you doubt that he loves you just as much?"
        "Yes, I think he hates me."
        "That's pure bullshit, Matt, and you know it."
        "How can he love me when I have been such a jerk? Such a coward?"
        "Answer your own question, Matt. He was willing to give his life, yes to take himself out of his own misery, but what pushed him over the edge was his fear that harm would come to you because of him. Now, give me a straight answer, do you doubt that Luke loves you?"
        I was silent for a minute, thinking about what David had said and what Luke had done.  Try as hard as I would, I simply could not convince myself that Luke loved me any less than I loved him. "No, I have no doubt that Luke loves me as much or more than I love him."
        "Then I think it is about time you got your butt back to the hospital and told him. Dr.  Bailey is with Luke and by this time he knows you are coming back."
        "How could she know I would come back? How did you know where to find me?"
        "We knew you would come back because you could not stay away.  And I knew where to find you because you are Matt Greywolf, whom I know as well as I know my own son, sometimes I think even better, and for years when any one of the four of you needed a time and place to think, you come here. Don't we all?"
        David was right, of course. He had set me straight on some things and I knew it was not going to be easy, but Luke and I had to get this sorted out. And we would.
        I knew my emotions had gotten the better of me again, but I also knew that if anything happened to Matt because of our love, I could not go on living. In a moment's time I had a mental picture of my beautiful love being beaten, sodomized and abused, as Gregory had been, because someone found out we loved each other. I was so angry I wasn't thinking, just reacting.
        When Matt stormed out the door, I felt as though my whole world came crashing down around my head. I was enraged at Matt, yes, but most of all at myself.  A wave of self-hatred swept over me. I was still facing the wall when I heard Dr. Bailey's voice, "Luke, turn yourself this way or I'll do it for you!"
        Her voice left no doubt that she could and would do exactly that.  I turned slowly to face her.
        "Luke, you need to know the whole story. You have a right to that. What you don't have is the right to do is to let your emotions ruin the best thing you have going for you. I know that your emotions are on a razor's edge because of what you have been through, but you have to get control enough to hear me out. When I finish, if you still are angry at Matt, so be it. But right now you don't know what he has been through and why he had to have the support that he got."
        Dr. Bailey's tone was tough, but loving so I struggled to gain control and when I did, she told me the whole story. As she named more and more people who knew about me and Matt, I found anger rising in me again. At the same time, as she told me what Matt had done, I felt shame and self-loathing.  By the time she had finished, I was so ashamed and so angry at myself that I was crying and could hardly get the words out, but I was finally able to say, "Matt saved my life and I have treated him like shit. How can he ever stand the sight of me again?"
        "He can stand the sight of you because he's in love with you. Just as you can forgive him for making your secret known because you love him. It's pretty simple when you think about it.  And that's what you have to remember when he comes walking in that door."
        "Why would he come back? Why would he ever want to see me again?"
        "Stop being so dense, Luke. Why do you want him to walk through that door?"
        "Because I love that man more than anything else in the world, that's why."
        "And you question his love for you?"
        "Of course. How could he love me after the way I have treated him?"
        "Look, you almost succeeded in killing yourself because you loved him. He knows that.  You have been in love with each other for years and you think you can just turn love on and off?  When you were shouting at him, did you stop loving him? Hell no, you were angry, you were hurt, you felt your trust had been betrayed, but you still loved him.  That's what made it so bad.  Do you think his love was any less deep than yours?"      I could only stare at the ceiling, afraid to look at Dr. Bailey.
        "No, I know he loves me with his whole heart."
        "Then why don't you tell him?"
        When I turned to look at Dr. Bailey, I saw Matt standing beside her. At the same moment we both started crying our hearts out. Matt took a small step toward my bed and I held out my arms to him. As I did, I saw David take Dr. Bailey's elbow as they left the room and closed the door. Neither Matt nor I said a word. He simply came to the bed and into my arms. For a long moment we looked into each other's eyes. When I looked into his beautiful black eyes, I saw what I had dreamed of seeing for a very long time, Matt's pure love for me. I knew from the smile which gradually swept across his face that he saw my love for him in mine.
        "I love you Luke Hans Larsen," Matt said, still looking deeply into my eyes.  "And I love you Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf." With those words, I pulled Matt onto the bed with me. As we continued gazing into the windows to the soul, I reached up and took the bands from his ponytail, letting his hair free. He slowly brought his lips to mine and the perfume of his hair took my breathe away and the cascade of coal black hair fell around my face, enclosing us in our very private world. Our kiss was long and passionate, but gentle. It spoke of our love, not lust. It spoke of our passion for each other, our desire and longing for each other, but at the same time with the purity of trust and hope and desire.
        "Luke, can you ever forgive me for being such a coward, for being afraid I would lose your love if I told you I had made our secret known to so many?" Matt asked as soon as we ended our kiss.
        "I will forgive you if you will forgive me."
        "There is nothing for me to forgive, my Luke."
        "Yes, there is, my Sarang Hanun Pomul. We both hurt each other terribly. Not intentionally, at first maybe, but we hit where we knew it would hurt before it was over. Both our emotions were stretched to the breaking point, but we hurt each other. So forgive me, Matt."
        "You are right, of course, and I do forgive you and I promise I will never intentionally hurt you again. And I beg your forgiveness."
        "Of course, I forgive you. And I promise that I will never intentionally hurt you again.  And I beg your forgiveness. But we both must know that we will hurt each other. We're human.  We will hurt each other, but never intentionally, and we will never allow hurt to fester. For me, that's my promise to you."
        "And mine to you," Matt said, and once again our lips met.
        "Matt, you taste so good. You taste as good as you smell. And I love it." The kiss which followed was interrupted by a soft knock on the door. As Matt crawled off the bed, Dr. Walker pushed open the door and came into the room, followed by my parents.
        Matt spoke to my parents then said, "I'll be back later, Luke, with the assignments," as he turned to the door.
        "Matt, Dr. Bailey would like for you to stop by her office before you go home," Dr.  Walker said. Matt nodded and walked out the door.
        "Mr. And Mrs. Larsen, your son is a very lucky young man. Had he been in the water much longer, or had there been any more pills in the bottle or had Matt not known where to find him, he would be dead. It's that simple. As it is, his excellent physical condition and the promptness of his treatment has prevented any irrevocable damage. He is regaining the weight he lost and has done well in physical therapy. As soon as he is released, he can continue working out, running and whatever other activities he likes to rebuild his strength and muscle mass. There is absolutely no evidence of the brain damage we feared.  There will be tests tomorrow morning and when those are completed, he can go home."
        "What about the reason he ended up here. How can we know that he won't attempt suicide again? We still have no idea why he did in the first place," Dad said to the doctor.
        "Over the past week, Luke has been working on that. At this point I believe it best to allow him to continue at his own pace. Right now I doubt that he will want to discuss it, but that time will come."
        "You are really getting on thin ice here, Doctor," I thought to myself. I was hoping and praying that Dr. Walker could convince my parents not to probe until I had time to find a way to tell them the truth without being put out. I knew how firm my parents were in their faith and doubted that they would have a "damned to hell faggot" in their house.
        "If you will just allow him to continue seeing the doctors here for a week or two, I think it will be time for you to sit down and discuss the situation but, again, please give him a couple weeks to continue sorting things out. I think I can assure you that you or I are as likely to commit suicide as Luke at this point. Am I right, Luke?"
        I was glad Dr. Walker had decided to acknowledge that I was present and that he had done a great job of trying to give me some space before I had to deal with my parents. "I am so glad to be alive that I will fight tooth and toenail to stay alive. I don't think there is anyone in seven states, or even the Pope himself, who is less likely to commit suicide than I."
        "Of course he can keep seeing the doctors here and we will give him the space he needs, but we are concerned about why he did what he did," Mom said.
        "All in good time, I assure you," Dr. Walker said. "Now if you have no further questions or concerns, I'll be on my way. Luke, I will see you in the morning.  Plan to leave the hospital about noon." With those words, Dr. Walker left.
        As soon as Dr. Walker had closed the door, Dad said, "Luke, I am not sure why the doctor thinks you need two weeks before you discuss your suicide attempt with your parents."
        "Here it comes, in spite of the promises," I thought to myself. I could feel the anger rising up in me again, but this time I was determined to retain control.  Just before I lost it, I heard my dad continue.
        "But he is the doctor and has saved your life and for that we are thankful. Because he has proven his worth, we will give you the two weeks and see that you get to continue seeing the doctors here. But there is another issue which we need very much to discuss." He, then, told me of Fr. Muller's reaction when he was called and asked to give me Last Rites. I was not surprised.  I was surprised when he said that Matt had asked Fr. Tom to come and offer to anoint me and give me the Blessed Sacrament. "And while he is not a true Catholic, we appreciate very much his doing that for you. I don't think it will hurt anyone if Fr. Muller never knows that since he would be very upset. It was very meaningful us--at the moment--and helped us get through a very traumatic night. However, now that you have recovered you will still be denied the Sacrament because of your attempted self-murder. There is no way I can force you to go to confession and restore your place among the faithful, but your mother and I trust that you will do so as soon as possible."
        "I will do that, Sir, just as soon as I can. If I can get an appointment with Fr. Muller, I'll go to confession Friday. You will never know how sorry I am that I almost lost my life at my own hand." And to myself I added, "You may also never understand how that desperate act gave me my life back a thousandfold because I now have my beloved Matt."
        "Very good. That makes your mother and me very happy. Also, your mother and I went to school today and talked with the principal and the counselors. Since you were hospitalized, even if it was something you did intentionally, you have excused absences. That means that you have exactly the same number of schools days to make up your missed work as you have been absent. And of course, you know that you will not only be pulling double duty making up work and keeping up your new assignments, but you also will have to do extra preparation for the three AP tests you have coming up very soon. You recall I told you last fall that I thought you were taking on too much."
        "Dad, I am not worried about my art class. The exhibition I have to mount has not been scheduled or even a place found for it.  Besides, I think I could mount an acceptable one with what I have now.  German is obviously, thanks to Mom, a snap. I can read, write and speak German better than the teacher. She is giving Matt a make up test at the end of this week . . . because he missed an assignment. (Man, I almost blew it there. You better be careful, Luke!) I am sure she will give me a single test whenever I ask for it, probably the same one she gives Matt since we all know she is lazy and she knows I know more German than she does."
        "AP English, physics and calculus are another question. I am sure Matt will help me with those. If I work with him at his house, the Greywolfs will be there to help out if he gets stuck. (Man, you have just made it possible to spend loads of time with Matt even if it is serious study time. An occasional kiss will make the study time easier!) That just leaves AP calculus. We all know that Mr. Mitchell is a real hard-nose so I don't know what to expect there. Nonetheless, I will bust my ass to keep my 4.0."
        "Watch your language, Luke, especially in your mother's presence."
        "Sorry, Mom." Well, you can see how the household works. Dad is lord and master.  Don't get me wrong, I have great and loving parents, but their world is black and white; their morals and rules are carved in stone.  They are not at all flexible. If you know that and stay inside the boundaries, all is ok, but stray outside and there can be hell to pay. I had no difficulty seeing the incident with Fr. Muller, even before I had been told the details. That is one reason I get so angry at myself for becoming angry. Dad is easily angered and it hurts. When he realizes he has hurt someone, he is usually genuinely sorry, but he finds it very hard to admit he was wrong or that he hurt anyone.
        "I suspect you will be tired by the time you get home tomorrow," Mom said. "I can pick you up and take you home. Just call me when you are ready to go. Since my office is just across the street, I can be here in five minutes. I had planned to take the day off work, but since you won't be getting out until about noon, I'll come in a bit early and will be ready to go when you are."
        "Thanks, Mom."
        "We really are glad to have you coming home, Luke. And we are especially glad that your attempted suicide hasn't caused any permanent damage. We were really worried out of our minds."
        "I'm sorry, Mom. Honestly I wasn't thinking about what my foolishness would do to others. I am sorry I caused everyone so much pain and I, too, am very thankful that there is no permanent damage. And in some ways, I know that I'm stronger than I was before. . . "
        "How about finding another way to grow strong next time, Son," Dad said, at least half-jokingly.
        "I promise. And thanks so very much for giving me some time to get all this worked out.  The doctors here are being very helpful, but I do need some time and I appreciate you giving it to me."
        "You have our promise of two weeks free of any discussion of your suicide attempt, right Gabrielle?"
        "Certainly you do, Luke."
        "We'll see you tomorrow, Luke."
        "Good night, Luke."
        "Goodnight Dad, Mom. I love you both very much."
        "We love you too, Luke," Mom replied. Dad nodded. I wish just once he would at least tell me he loved me, give me a hug, or show some kind of affection. I know he loves me, but he is just too stoic to show it. If only he showed love as easily as he shows anger. I envy the way Matt and his parents show affection. When I started middle school I once remarked that it was baby stuff to which Matt replied, "Then I'm a baby 'cause I like it!"  Even then, deep down inside, I knew that I would have liked it too.
        After our goodnights, my parents left. Now I just waited for Matt's return. I was waiting for someone who was never afraid to show affection and love--for parents, friends and especially for me--his lover.
        I must have dozed off because I was awakened by that feeling.  I knew Matt was close by. He tapped gently on the door and then walked in. He looked very serious. Sometime after he left, he had braided his hair, but I could still smell its perfume when he leaned over and kissed me. Once again, it was a passionate, but gentle kiss. As he lifted his head, he gazed lovingly in my eyes, gave me another quick kiss and then, as he looked into my very soul with those beautiful eyes said, "Luke, Babe, we have some very serious talking to do and the sooner the better."
        "What had Dr. Bailey said to him when he went by her office?" I wondered.

        Luke looked very puzzled so I told him I had been in Dr. Bailey's office since I had left and she had helped me see that we had a lot of talking to do. "The first thing we need to decide is what to do about your parents. They are bound to have questions and lots of them."
        "Matt, I know they will, but we have gained a little time."
        "How so, Luke Babe?"
        "Dr. Walker told them that I was sorting things out and that I needed two more weeks working with the doctors. . . "
        "What do you mean, 'working with the doctors?"'
        "What he meant and what I meant isn't important. What is important is what my parents thought he was saying. They are convinced, I'm sure, that I am undergoing psychological counseling with the doctors here at the hospital. And I guess, in a sense that's true, but not in the sense they imagine. So we have two weeks before we have to deal with that.
        "Then she pointed out, we need to discuss how we are going to approach my parents."
        "I thought they accept us for what we are, two men in love, as a couple."
        "They do, but they also see us as their children. I'm sure they will want to lay down some rules. . . . "
        "Rules about what?"
        "Rules about what is and is not acceptable behavior. About sex and stuff."
        "Well, that's one thing we really do need to talk about. . . sex I mean. Matt, I love you with my whole being, but I'm not sure about, you know, this, you know, sex thing."
        "Well, that's one sure thing we've got to talk about. We've got to do some really serious talking about . . sex." My God, I was talking to my love--whose very body I worshiped--about sex and what could be more natural, but I blushed. When I did, Luke did too. Two grown men who have known each other since birth and who were madly in love with each other were blushing when they mentioned the word sex! Is that weird or what? "Well, we do have to talk about sex and I don't mean just when we start, but there's all sorts of questions about gay sex, some pretty important, but not pleasant to talk about, I think. Dr.  Bailey says there are all sorts of medical things we need to discuss."
        "That's not what I'm talking about, Matt. I mean just the whole sex thing. I mean about us having sex."
        "Ok, we've got some time right now, so let's talk about it."
        "Well, I don't want to hurt you or make you think that I don't love you, but. . . ."
        "Trust me, Luke. That's something we really have to work at, trusting each other. Trust me."
        "Ok, here goes. I am as horny as anybody else, maybe more so. I know that we'll have sex. There's no doubt about that, is there?"
        "The thought of remaining a virgin since I found out you loved me has never crossed my mind. So what's the problem?"
        "Well, I have loved you since I don't know when. . . . "
        "Same here."
        "But that was me loving you. In your case it was you loving me. But it wasn't us loving each other. You know what I mean?"
        "Yea, I do, strangely enough. David made that very clear. He found me at the falls after I left and said that in spite of the time we have loved the other, our love, OUR love is a young love. So, yes, I know what you mean."
        "Remember Lacey Greene? She was in our AP US history class last year."
        "Sure, she dated James Thrower didn't she?"
        "Yea. They fell madly in love, at least so they thought and I'm sure they did, and started having sex right away. First thing she knew, she told me, was that their love kinda got pushed aside for sex. I'm not sure what happened, but she told me to give love a space to grow and that sex before the right time takes away the space for love. Again, I'm not exactly sure what she meant, but I think she told me something very important because she said 'Before we knew it, sex became empty and meaningless. We both were just relieving sexual tension. He said all we were doing was getting our rocks off and I guess that was true, although I don't think girls talk about getting their rocks off. Anyway, it seemed there was nothing left of what started off as a beautiful young love. We tried to back off and kinda start over, but it was like being a virgin, once you ain't, you ain't and you can't back up.'"
        "So you're saying we should take it slow and easy. We should spend time learning how to love each other in all kinds of ways until the right time when sex becomes one of the ways of showing our love and devotion to each other?"
        "Yea. That's what I'm saying, I guess."
        "God, Luke I love you! I love you so damn much I could just about explode. That's what I wanted, but I was ready to hop in bed right now if that was what you wanted, but I was hoping you felt as I do.
        "Matt, what about trust? If you wanted to wait, as you said you do, why did you not trust me enough to know that you would say that rather than hopping in bed because you thought or even knew that was what I wanted to do?"
        "You know, Luke, I can see where this love thing is a lot of hard work. No wonder people just start fucking because loving is hard."
        "Is there any doubt that it's worth it, Beloved Treasure?"
        "None whatsoever, Lover Boy. Your sister and Michael. . . ."
        "My sister and Michael, what?"
        "Are in love. You knew that. They told you the day you woke up.
        "Yea, I remember now. Things are still pretty hazy about that day."
        "Well, I'll let them tell you about it. It's their story. But Michael and Mary Kathryn decided not to tell their parents so they could continue to have the freedom they have had and, in their words, to enjoy each other as friends as they always have and have the two of us give them time and space for their love to grow and develop. Lover, they are wise beyond their years."
        "And wiser than we have been. Sarang Hanun Pomul, I love you so much it hurts and I really want time for that love to find a thousand ways to express itself before we take a shortcut and right now I think sex would be a shortcut."
        "Luke Babe, you don't know how glad and proud I am to hear you say that. One thing we have had since the day we were born and which I hope, pray, and trust will last forever is our friendship. I want our love to be the same, along with that friendship, not as a replacement for it, but a great addition to our love as friends. You know something? I am convinced that our parents, both sets, are good friends along with being lovers. That's what I want for us. When the time comes, and it will come, we'll have sex which will set the stars spinning, but until that time, there are a thousand ways I want to love you which will at least give them a whirl."
        "Hell, yea. You are my very best friend and we both know how much value we placed on that. . . . Both of us suddenly fell silent remembering just how much we did value that friendship; Luke enough to give his life for it and I hoped I would have too. "Well, I'm afraid we don't have the option of keeping our love a secret so it can develop and mature, do we? All the family knows about it except my parents. By the way, what's with David and Dr. Bailey?"
        "I think they have the 'I'm afraid to admit/tell of my love disease.' Michael, Mary Kathryn and I have decided to make them a special project since we four know that keeping your love a secret from the one you love is a real heartache. You need to join us in getting David and Dr.  Bailey to admit they have a thing for each other."
        "I kinda figured they were attracted to each other, to say the least. The times they have been here together it seemed pretty obvious. Ok, Lover Boy, I'll join Project David and Margaret!  But what about parents and us?"
        "You'll be going home tomorrow. I'm sure it will be a tiring day and you will want to be with your family. . ."
        "Yea. And there is a family celebration at our place Friday night. Everyone is coming for a dinner celebrating my homecoming, Gabrielle is seeing to that."
        "Think you can get Dr. Bailey invited?"
        "Mom took care of that. She invited both Dr. Walker and Dr. Bailey. Dr. Walker can't make it, but David said he'd pick up Dr. Bailey and bring her."
        "Sounds like the project may be working already. But as I was saying, as soon as possible, we need to sit down with my parents and talk. I'd also like for us to sit down with David and Michael, Dr. Bailey and Mary Kathryn too. Dr. Bailey is practically part of the family already and has been involved from the very beginning. The problem is how, after all these years, do we have a family meeting without your parents? That's a problem."
        "What's the date?"
        "Which date?"
        "Today's date."
        "Damned if I know. Some time around the first of April. Maybe March 28, 29 or 30."  Why?"
        "Look at your watch, Dumbass, and let's not use the word damned any more, ok? I've had too much experience with the real thing!"
        I laughed at Luke's new choice of words of endearment and he smiled that earth-lighting smile in return. Then he said, "Time out for a kiss, Beloved Treasure!"  I leaned over him and as I was lowering my lips to his, he pulled my braid across his face and said again, "Matt, your smell is the most wonderful fragrance in the world."
        "I think I'd question that Yonghon Tongmu."
        "Hey, don't go crazy Korean on me! What are you calling me, Dickhead?"
        "Less than half Korean, but totally crazy about you, Yonghon Tongmu. And I'll tell you when the time is right. It's probably bastard Korean anyway, but it says what I mean. Anyway, you might not be alive right now if I didn't think the fragrance of Luke wasn't the best in the world."
        "Why is that?"
        "After I had pulled you out of the river and David and the EMS crew were on the way to the hospital, I went to your place to get some dry clothes and to pick up your mom. I had jumped into the river with all my clothes on except my shoes. I had taken your clothes from the river bank and when I started to get some of my clothes out of your closet, I stopped. I had to have you near and when I couldn't, I did the next best thing. I put on the clothes you had worn to the river so I would have something next to my skin which had been near yours and something which still held the fragrance of my secret love. Because I had to have your fragrance to keep me going, I found the letter.  I just fell apart when I read it. I didn't completely pass out, but was so close I was carried into Dr. Bailey's office. That's when she and David found out about us.  When Dr. Walker came in and said you should make it, but you were willing yourself to death, Dr. Bailey and Dr. Walker decided that even in a coma you might be able to hear me and set the plan into action which kept me at your bedside every night until you woke up. So. . . .my fragrance may be great perfume, but yours, Tongmu, was life saving for both of us 'cause I would never be really alive without you!"
        Some time during this speech, Luke had patted the bed and I had climbed on it and was sitting cross-legged at the foot. Luke was sitting cross-legged at the head. By the time I had ended my little speech, our knees were touching and Luke leaned forward, placed his hands behind my neck and pulled me to him. I did the same. We both knew this was going to end in another kiss, but we took our time and enjoyed just looking at each other. His golden hair was a beautiful halo around his wonderful face. His smile, well it was a full Luke smile, 'nough said.  Time stood still as we looked at each other, smiles revealing the joy and love in our hearts and shining in our eyes. Slowly our arms pulled the other closer until, finally, our lips met. Both of us kept our eyes open, fixed on the eyes of the other. The kiss became more and more passionate. Luke leaned back, pulling me on top of himself. As the kiss continued, his tongue entered my mouth where my tongue did battle with his. Both of us won!
        "Matt, if you are feeling what I am feeling. . . ."
        "Are we talking about love and joy or . . . ."
        "We're talking about OR. . . I think you have to be feeling something against your leg and I know I am feeling something against mine. Unless you have better control than I do, we'd better stop or slow and easy is out the window."
        Of course he was right on all counts. We sat back, but still held hands. And I said, "So what's the date got to do with it?"  What difference does the date make?"
        Luke looked puzzled. "What are you talking about?"
        "You asked me what today's date was when we were talking about a family meeting without your parents. Remember?"
        "It kinda slipped my mind for some reason or other."
        "I guess Dad was right."
        "About what?"
        "He said you and I have the intelligence to regain our 4.0 if we could keep our brains in our head and out of our crotch."      "He said that? Weeeeell, you have to admit that brains in the crotch, if that's what you want to call it ain't bad." Luke leaned forward and gave me a quick kiss, his eyes laughing and his smile sparkling. "But back to this date thing. Mom and Dad have an anniversary soon, April first to be exact. Dad has always said that being married on April Fools proved that some April Fools are the wisest people in the world. Matt, there's no doubt my parents love each other very much. I'm sure they love each other as much as your parents, but you would seldom see any indication of that. I haven't and I grew up in the house with them."
        "People have different ways of showing their love for each other.  Mom and Dad are just flat out 'We're in love and want the world to know it.' Showing affection is as natural as breathing to them. I think a part of the reason is they saw so little growing up and were determined to be different. Remember when you said their being so openly affectionate with me was baby stuff?"
        "Do I ever! I was so jealous I could hardly stand it, but I had to be the macho middle schooler."
        "We can put showing affection down on the To-Do-List with a footnote saying we have to learn how we do what when. We can never be as open in our affection as our parents, but I certainly don't want to be as hidden as yours."
        "Yea, Mary Kathryn and Michael are right we need time and space."
        "We don't seem to be making a lot of progress here, Lover Boy. . .  ."
        "I like Yonghon Tongmu better, I think, but then I'll take both.  And what do you mean we're not making progress. Slow and easy, those were the words, right?  Well, we're going slow and easy as we learn, talk about, figure out this love thing. I think we're making great progress, so there!"
        "You're right, of course."
        "As always."
        "I won't bring up the evidence to prove that statement wrong." Luke got a stricken look on his face and I immediately felt ashamed. "Luke Babe, I am so very, very sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you and I know I did."
        Luke looked at me, silently for what seemed ages, but couldn't have been more than a few seconds and said, "Another lesson learned, right? We can and will hurt without intending to and we've got to realize that the hurt was unintended. Yes, what you said hurt at first, but your eyes and your words immediately told me you loved me, and that's more than any hurt, Beloved Treasure.
        "Man, if this doesn't qualify as serious talk, I don't think I could stand serious talk. So back to frivolous things, how to have a family meeting without your parents."
        "Well, as I was saying before we got sidetracked into serious stuff, Mom and Dad were married April Fools' Day. What's the date?
        I finally had sense enough to look at my watch. "It's Wednesday night, March 29, 1996.  Why?"
        "Ok, I'll be going home tomorrow. Friday I have to go to confession. . . ."
        "Confession? Why?
        "Matt, you know that for a good Catholic, suicide, or attempted suicide is a mortal sin.  While he could have handled it differently, Fr. Muller was right, he couldn't give me Last Rites.  By the way, I've got to see Fr. Tom. I guess I'm not a very good Catholic because Dad told me he came because you asked him to and anointed me and gave me the Blessed Sacrament. I think it was just as good as if Fr. Muller did it, but while my parents appreciated it and said it helped them over a rough spot, for them it's not the same. I'll still be denied the Sacrament until I have gone to confession, so I'll do that Friday if I can make an appointment with Fr.  Muller."
        "But what difference will it make? You'll confess you're sorry for attempting suicide and then that you love another man and you'll be right back where you started."
        "Technically I won't because I am still celibate, I'm still a virgin. By the way, can I ask you something?"
        "Anything Lover Boy."
        "Are you?"
        "Are I what? A virgin?"
        "Yea, are you a virgin."
        "Take a good look at me Luke Hans Larsen. Do I look like someone who could get to be almost eighteen, who has girls pinching me on the ass everyday, and still be a virgin? Are you kidding?"
        Luke got a strange, maybe pained look on his face and dropped his head. I had done it again. Before I could speak, Luke looked up with a Cheshire cat grin and said, "Of course you are because you were in love with the sexist man in seven states!"
        "Damn right, Yonghon Tongmu. Don't you ever forget it!"
        "Had you scared there for a minute, didn't I, Sarang Hanun Pomul?"
        I wrapped my braid around Luke's neck and pulled him toward me for a kiss.
        "Matt, if this keeps up, I'm going to have to ring the nurse for a case of lip balm."
        "Then, Luke, you just better ring 'cause I don't intend to stop.  But back to the less serious things like this date business."
        "I have a great idea. What if we asked your parents and maybe David to suggest Mom and Dad take a mini-honeymoon after all they have been through. Mary Kathryn could stay with your family and I could stay with David and Michael and all would be well."
        "Except for one thing, Lover Boy, I am not letting you out of my sight any more than I have to."
        "Look, Matt, I'm not sure your parents would approve of us sleeping together and I'm not sure I could keep a promise of putting off sex if your naked body was next to mine, Stud."
        "Stud? Stud? What's with this Stud bit? I know, Luke, you've been talking to David.  Anyway, we'll work out the details later, but I'll talk to Mom and Dad tonight."
        "You know, Stud, Dr. Bailey is right. That scar is damn sexy. It's not only sexy, but every time I see it I realize just how lucky I am to be alive and that you shed blood to keep me alive.  God, Matt, I hate myself every time I think of how I have hurt so many people and especially you."
        "Ok, get off the self-loathing trick. I only got barbed wire in the face to get you and you almost died because of me. Damn, I don't know how much love I can stand."
        "All my love, all of it 'cause you have it and are standing it very well."
        "You know, I bet all this would sound silly if anyone heard it.  Words just don't do the trick."
        "Come here and I'll show you without a word."
        Luke wrapped his arms around me and pulled me on top of himself again. Again we were silent and still, just gazing into each other's eyes. I would never get enough of those beautiful blue eyes. I felt his hand as he pulled my braid from my back.  He slowly loosened the ends and started unbraiding it. "I tell you one thing, Luke, if you are going to have a hair fetish, you're going to have to learn how to let down a braid and put it back!" Luke smiled his Luke smile and continued to work at getting the braid undone. When my hair was finally loose, he pulled it to the front, pushed it away from my face and we were, once again, enclosed in our very private world. Still gazing into my eyes, Luke pulled my face to his and kissed me with great love and tenderness. I returned his kiss with equal tenderness and passion. For rank amateurs, we were making rapid progress in the field of kissology! It's a pity there's not an AP exam in kissing because by the time it would be scheduled, we could ace it!
        There was a soft knock on the door, so we broke our kiss and I climbed off Luke's bed.  When Luke said, "Come in." Dr. Bailey came into the room.
        "Shouldn't you be home by now," I asked.
        "Actually I was, but I got called back to see one of my patients in the emergency room. A frightened mother. Nothing serious, but mothers are mothers, thank goodness. So has any serious talking been going on here or have you two just been making out."
        "Dr. Bailey! How could you think such a thing of two nice, polite--virgin I might add-- young men."
        "So you've just been making out."
        "Matt's one of them mixed breeds. You can't trust them about anything. We've been making out big time. And, Doctor, I'll be honest with you, I thought we should be doing some serious talking, but that damn sexy scar you gave this wild Indian got my brains in my crotch, isn't that the Lakota expression or is it Korean, Sarang Hanun Pomul?"
        Dr. Bailey beat me to the draw this time as she started blushing and that set me off. She laughed and said, "Luke, you are obviously well and the two of you are absolutely impossible and I love you to death. So no serious talk, huh?"
        Luke got very serious very quickly. "Dr. Bailey, we have rambled all over the place, and I guess that's just being normal human beings, but while we did some pretty innocent--but star spinning--making out we also did some really serious talking. Funny thing though, we were having great fun while doing it."
        "That's what happens when friends are in love. Your friendship is still very much a part of your life and you have the wonderful gift of the fun of friends and the fun of lovers--even virgin lovers. And you, Matt?"
        "This man can make me see shooting stars when he kisses me, he has a hair fetish, I think, and we are babes in the woods with this whole love thing and especially with the complications being two men add." Dr. Bailey nodded. I looked at Luke as I said, "And we'll talk to you about the sex thing later. We both want to take things slow and easy and not rush into something which will possibly hurt our love."
        "You are so wise. I guess since I seem to know more than my share of your secrets, I might trust you with one of mine. Maybe it will be of value to you guys.  A fellow medical student and I fell madly in love during our final year in med school, in the fall. We were so much in love and so wise--at least so we thought--that we decided that sex was just the natural expression of that love. Young, in love, both of us, I don't doubt that, we started having sex before we really learned just to enjoyed each other as persons.  Before we knew it, the pressures of school, our hectic schedules--you guys have one from now to the end of school at least-- that sex became our only expression of our love. Then it became an end in itself. You know what a quickie is? Well, that became our time together. Finally we had a long weekend we had been looking forward to and planning for so we left school, went to his family's place on a lake to have a weekend of love. After a day of little other than sex and resting for another bout of sex, sex finally became boring, really. That was when we found we had nothing to talk about. We tried to talk about the future, but we had spent so much time in bed that neither of us knew the other's hopes and dreams for the future, much less what OUR hopes and dreams were. Before the weekend was over, we realized that while neither of us was to blame we no longer knew each other. We had just grown apart. To us, to use street language, making love had become a fast fuck. (She blushed.) We had been so in love that sex seemed so right, but sex, just sex, had replaced our love. We weren't angry with each other, we didn't blame each other, but we broke up. And when we tried to be friends, we couldn't because we didn't know each other. End of true confessions and sermon."
        There was a long silence in the room then I noticed Luke looking at me. He raised an eyebrow as if to ask a question. I thought I knew what he had in mind so I nodded.
        "Can I ask you something very personal, Dr. Bailey?"
        "Sure you can, Luke, but I don't promise to answer."
        "Is that the reason you are afraid to love?"
        "I don't understand. What do you mean?"
        "Is that experience the reason you are so afraid to love?"
        "I'm not afraid to love. I still don't understand what you're trying to say."
        I looked at Luke and asked, "Can I try?" He nodded yes. "The night Luke was brought in here, I commented on your having the mother thing down pat and you said you wished you had more practice. But you are a good looking. . . ."
        "She's a sexy, spicy dish," Luke interrupted. "So if you're not afraid to love, why aren't you married with kids?"
        Luke goes to the heart of things, I seem to have noticed. "Yea," I chimed in, "and since you aren't, why haven't you grabbed one of the best looking men around who comes complete with the third greatest guy in the world--Luke and I being number two and one. . . "
        "That's one and two, Stud."
        "You guys have me very confused."      "I don't think so. I may have been out for a few days, but I've been awake long enough to see what's going on," Luke said with a great grin.
        "And I haven't been out of it and I saw what was going on from day one."
        "You're talking in riddles or I'm missing something. Will you please stop talking nonsense?"
        "Matt and I learned a very hard lesson about taking the risk of making your love known.  And I guess you may as well know since we have something to hold over your head now that Michael and Mary Kathryn learned theirs a bit easier. . . ."
        "Their . . . ."
        "Yep," I said. "Michael took a risk. . ."
        "A real risk if you know my sister. Last year the biggest football jock pinched her on the butt. Before he knew what had happened, she left him a writhing mess on the floor in the middle of the main hall.  Michael knew that, but laid a real kiss on her at Christmas. Instead of being slapped into the middle of next week, she returned the kiss with one which left him barely able to stand."
        "I still don't see. . . ."
        "Lady doctor need to look at Michael's dad looking at lady doctor. Lady doctor need to see self looking at boy Michael's dad," I said in my best movie Indian voice.
        Luke picked up with the fake Indian bit and said, "Lady doctor need listen to Lakota Chief Barbed Wire in the Face Greywolf. He expert on love."
        Luke and I absolutely cracked up as Dr. Bailey turned her usual ten shades of red, plus five.
        "You two are hopeless. Well, I've got to go."
        Luke said, as she turned to the door, "Seriously, Doc, you need to think about that man and his son. Meanwhile, I need to see you before I leave tomorrow. Matt and I are hatching a plan for a family meeting without my parents and I need to talk with you about it, ok?"
        "Sure. I'll find time and find you even if I have to see you in the lab or wherever they happen to be punching and probing on you." We both were surprised when she walked over to each of us and hugged us tight. "I love you guys and wish the very best for you. You deserve it."
        As soon as she left, Luke and I gave each other a high five and a low shouted "YES!"  "Luke, we haven't gotten any school work done and it's getting late.  I've got to go."
        "I know, but I'd like you right here beside me. Before you go, would you do two things for me? Will you give me a sweet, soft, loving good night kiss. . . . " He paused.
        "And . . . ."
        "Will you tell me what that friggin' Korean name you have given me means? I'll go nuts tonight trying to figure it out."
        "Friggin' Korean name?"
        "Ok, bad choice, but its frustrating hell out of me. I love Beloved Treasure, Sarang Hanun Pomul and I know whatever you have chosen for me will be as beautiful."
        I climbed back on Luke's bed, took him my arms and kissed him softly, tenderly, lovingly. His kiss in return was as loving, but hardly as tender. His tongue found its way in my mouth and, damn, this guy was becoming a french kissing expert. As his tongue explored my mouth, I could taste the sweetness of my lover, my Luke, my Yonghon Tongmu. Placing my cheek against his I whispered in his ear, "Luke, I love you so much it hurts. I love the smell of you, the taste of your lips, the strength of your arms, the beauty of your face, the hardness of your body, but most of all, I love you, Luke, my Yonghon Tongmu, my Soul Companion."
        I felt Luke's tears against my cheek as he whispered, "Matthew, you are my Sarang Hanun Pomul, my Beloved Treasure." We held each other tightly for only a few moments then I climbed off his bed and as I turned to go he called after me, "Sarang Hanun Pomul and his Yonghon Tongmu together forever."
Part Eight


        As I drove home, I thought about the time Luke and I had spent together and it felt good, very good. Sure, we had done some making out and, even though it was our first time, I would be a liar if I said it wasn't spectacular and hadn't made my heart sing. I found myself singing a line from the musical, "South Pacific": "I'm in love, I'm in love with a wonderful guy!" Dad has a collection of records--real records, not tapes or CDs, which he plays sometimes and I have learned to enjoy and play some of the tunes on my keyboard. I know if there's something I really want out of my parents, all I have to do is haul out the keyboard and play some of those tunes from the time they were young or even before they were born. So it never surprises me when I start singing something that was old when my dad was young. And in this case, the words sure fit!
        But while we made out some, we also started what I knew would be a long process getting to know each other as lovers and not just friends. . . no, no, never "just friends" because I knew that "just friends" didn't begin to describe the depth of our friendship. Our suffering, especially Luke's, proved that. We had done some pretty serious talking and I was glad. I was especially glad that Luke had felt we should take it slow and easy with the sex, but I knew it was going to be, pardon the pun, hard and that had he asked, I would have crawled his body in a second.
        As I neared the house, I hoped that my parents would still have some time for us to talk. When I walked in, Dad and Mom were cuddled on the love seat in the library. On their desks were stacks of papers they had obviously graded, so I knew they had been busy and were probably tired. Seeing them together I remember what I had told Luke about their being friends and lovers. I had a feeling that their sharing this time was both and I hated to disturb it, but as soon as I was in the door, Dad spoke.
        "Everything ok with Luke, Matt?"
        "He's fine, Dad. Unless something unexpected shows up in tomorrow's tests, he'll be coming home at noon tomorrow. Gabrielle is picking him up."
        "We were beginning to worry a bit since you were later than we expected," Mom said.
        "They were probably making out and forgot the time," Dad said as he gave Mom a quick kiss. I. . . .well, you know, blushed.
        "And I loved every minute of it and wanted to crawl in bed and spend the night with him," I responded. "But seriously, Mom, Dad, of course we did some making out. From your own experience, you'd know I lied if I said otherwise. . .  ." Both my parents smiled and Dad snuck another kiss from my mom.  "But we also got some serious talking done and, I think, got Dr. Bailey thinking about David in a new way. One of the things we talked about was how much we need to talk to you two and that we need a family meeting since the whole family except Gabrielle and Jens know about us."
        "Michael and Mary Kathryn too?"
        "They knew about Luke before I did. Luke left his journal open on his new computer just after Christmas and Michael read how Luke was in love with me. He told Mary Kathryn. . . ."
        "Why would he do that?" Mom asked.
        "Oops! Well, I'll have to swear you two to secrecy since I've kinda let a cat out of the bag.  Michael and Mary Kathryn are in love. So there are two couples in the family."
        "But they have no real reason to keep it a secret, do they?" Dad asked.
        "Actually, I think they have a good reason. Michael says that if they announced they were a couple, they would lose the freedom they have as friends and their friendship is as important as Luke's and mine. By keeping their love a secret for awhile, Mary Kathryn says they can have the freedom and time to allow it to develop and mature while maintaining their friendship. That sure makes sense to me."
        "Well, I don't know how long they can keep their new relationship secret, but they are sure right about friendship," Mom said.
        "Absolutely. Your mom is not only my wife and lover, but also my best friend. I think if I had to choose between her being just a lover or just a friend, I'd have to choose friend. .  ."
        "I'm inclined to agree," Mom said, "but there's no need for you choosing since you've got both, whether you like it or not!"
        "And I like it!" Dad exclaimed as he gave Mom a really passionate kiss, a real winner if I had learned anything about kissing this evening!
        "Ok, you two, break it up and get serious!" I said after the kiss had gone on longer than I expected.
        "What? You don't think kissing is serious? And I thought you just told us you and Luke had done some making out!" Mom said. I blushed. "Well, we'll all be together Friday night for a celebration of Luke's homecoming. Gabrielle called a while ago."
        "But we need to talk to just you two and then the whole family, except for Jens and Gabrielle. Dr. Walker convinced them that they should not bring up the question of why Luke attempted suicide for two weeks and Luke plans to go to confession Friday so he can receive the Sacrament again and . . . ."
        "Matt. . . .Matt, we don't need a blow by blow account," Dad said with a laugh.  "What about a family meeting without the Larsens? How's that possible?"
        "Luke said their wedding anniversary is April First. . . ."
        Dad laughed and said, "Yea, I can remember kidding Gabrielle about being an April Fool for marrying Jens."
        "Luke thought that if you, Mom and David, suggested they take a mini-honeymoon for their anniversary--since they have been through so much--they might, and then we could have a get-together without them. It's really important to Luke and me."
        "That sounds like a wonderful idea," Mom said, "and not just because you want them out of town. They deserve some time together after what they have suffered the past few weeks. Greywolf, remember how much they enjoyed that place on the lake a couple years ago?  Didn't it belong to a friend of David's?"
        "They did, didn't they? And I'm positive the place belongs to a friend of David's. I'll call David right now and check." Dad called David and he liked the idea and said he'd be right over so the three of them could make some plans. I realized that getting the Larsens away was no longer my problem and went up to my room.
        In a few minutes David arrived and Michael was with him. While the adults held a conference in the living room, Michael came upstairs. He knew Luke was coming home tomorrow and that there was to be a celebration at the Larsen's Friday night, so he asked what was going on downstairs. "I asked Dad what was up when he asked if I wanted to come over with him and he said he and your parents had some business to discuss.
        "Luke and I wanted to have a family meeting to discuss our situation, but you know that can't happen with the Larsens present, so Luke came up with a scheme to get them out of town for the weekend. David, Mom and Dad are working out the details now. I'm afraid Luke and I do not have the option of keeping our love a secret the way you and Mary Kathryn do."
        "I guess not. Of course you don't. Matt, do you think we should tell our parents? It's kinda dishonest not to, I guess. But. . . ."
        "Michael, the time will come when you will want the world to know you're in love, but as you said when I found out, you're just fifteen. You'll know when the time is right. Right now Gabrielle and Jens have more to handle than they know about and some of their feelings about Luke may spill over onto you and Mary Kathryn. Maybe you will want to tell your dad. . . .  Ok, I was about to do it again. I was about to lie to you or at least keep something from you that I have done. I seem to have a bad habit of avoiding what might be painful because of my actions, but I think I learned a lesson. I told Mom and Dad that you and Mary Kathryn knew about Luke's love for me before I did and when they asked how, I told them. I even told them why you had told Mary Kathryn and swore them to secrecy. I really didn't mean to betray your trust, but it just sorta slipped out."
        I was surprised at Michael's response. "Two things, Matt.  First, what was their reaction?"
        "They didn't seemed surprised or anything. They just asked why you two were keeping it a secret. When I told them what the two of you had said, they agreed that maintaining your friendship was very important and thought that your taking time was wonderful. In fact, Dad said if he had to choose between having Mom as friend and as a lover, he thought he'd have to choose friend. What else?"
        "How are you going to keep from letting your secret slip out?  It really doesn't matter if the world knows Mary Kathryn and I are a couple since we're . . . you know."
        "No, that is not what I was going to say. I was going to say since we are just two fifteen-year-olds. I guess, if you want to put it that way, but I wouldn't, we are what people expect as being normal."
        "Thanks, Lil' Bro."
        "You're welcome, Bro."
        "Anyway, I think you and Mary Kathryn should decide who you want to tell and when you want to tell, but I wouldn't tell the Larsens right now. In the meantime, let your love grow, develop, mature if it will, if it doesn't then you're young. . . ."
        "Matt, what about, you know . . . ."
        "Sex? We'll need to talk about that, but there better not be any big rush about having sex, ok?"
        "Well, what about you and Luke?"
        "Same applies. No big rush, ok?" The two of us continued talking about the loves of our lives for awhile longer then I said, "Let's go downstairs and see how the plans are going."
        When we got downstairs, the three adults were having a glass of wine. "I assume the plot has adequately thickened."
        David glanced at Michael and I realized that he didn't know the whole story so I told him Michael knew about Luke before I did.
        When I had finished, Michael took a deep breathe and said, "Matt, I think now's the time for telling my dad."
        "Telling me what?"
        "That I am in serious need of an additional feminine figure in my life. I have one, I'm madly in love with Mary Kathryn and she with me, but I need an older one as well, kinda a mother figure and you're going to have to take care of that. I've already picked out Dr.  Bailey and all you have to do is realize that as much as you loved and love Mom--and I also loved and love her--there comes a time when you have to let go and get on with your life and the time is now while that good looking, fantastic woman Dr. Bailey is still available."
        I absolutely cracked up. Seems Michael has something in common with Luke--cutting straight to the chase. Also, the look on David's face was priceless. Mom was laughing so hard tears were running down her cheeks and Dad was so absolutely out of control he fell off the sofa laughing.
        "Did I hear you say you were in love with Mary Kathryn??"
        "Stop trying to change the subject, Dad. I will handle the Mary Kathryn question, but you're going to have to deal with the other."
        "Ok, I can see you tried to slip something past me, but it won't work. We'll talk about this later. Meanwhile, we have done all we can do about getting Gabrielle and Jens away for a weekend--a weekend they have earned even if we didn't need them away, I might add. I have gotten the place at the lake and arranged to have it stocked for a weekend. Greywolf and Yong Jin have made reservations for a Saturday night dinner at the lake lodge. We checked on times for Mass at St. Peter's by the Lake and they can go at 6:00 Saturday evening or at 10 Sunday morning."
        "Champagne arranged for dinner?" I asked.
        "Yes, and you're paying for it," Dad replied.
        "Don't you think Luke should arrange to have roses sent to Gabrielle? If I'm buying the champagne, he should do something."
        "Great idea, Pomul," Mom said, "and he needs to remember that they are to be yellow, not red; Gabrielle loves yellow roses."
        "I just wish this was just a real celebration for the two of them, a romantic weekend, and not also something to put off breaking their hearts," Michael said. "Not that I don't think Matt's and Luke's love is not absolutely magnificent, it is. I just hope I love as deeply, but we all know that Jens and Gabrielle are going to be brokenhearted to learn that Luke is in love with another man, even a man as great as my bro," Michael said, sadly.
        We all knew what he said was true and I think we had been pushing that part of the weekend's plan into the background. The room became very still and very silent for the longest time.
        "I just hope and trust and pray that their love for their son will help them overcome their disappointment and heartache and that they will love and accept the man he loves. But I confess, I am frightened. I know what happened to my brother. . . ." David suddenly had tears in his eyes, "but I also know that Luke will never be without a home and people who love him so long as I have breath."
        "That goes for all of us," Mom said.
        "Well, I guess we have done all we can do except hope and pray," David said. "By the way, to change the subject rather drastically, I want to ask something about church."
        "That is a drastic change of subject," Dad laughed, relieving the tension which had been in the room. "Fire away."
        "Well, you know that I haven't had anything to do with the church for a long time now. I kept going after Elizabeth's death--primarily, I guess, because of Michael. I was deeply hurt when my fellow church members ignored us while she was sick and dying, even after her death, but I couldn't keep going when week after week the sermon made some comment about gays being damned to hell. One Sunday morning I looked at Michael and saw my brother, clear as day, and it just about undid me. I had gotten over it somewhat, but when the usual garbage about gays started coming from the pulpit, I had a hard time sitting still. When the service was over, I had had it. I saw red and had a couple guys not taken me in hand, so help me God, I would have strangled a preacher. I absolutely worshiped my brother and when my family drove him from the house, I died inside. Then when he came to school to see me, I was overjoyed, but my father found out and nearly beat me to death. To protect me, my brother disappeared from my life. I still hurt from that."
        I realized I was crying and when David saw me, he said, "I'm sorry, Matt."
        "No, David, I was just thinking that what your brother did for you was what Luke was trying to do for me: protect me from those assholes who believe gays are fair game."
        "You're right and you can appreciate my hurt. I am just so happy that you still have Luke. I wish I had my brother. Anyway, I believe I am a deeply religious person and I miss church, but I don't want to have to endure what I have in the past."
        "David, I don't deny that there are people at St. Mary's who are anti-gay and gay bash. I'm sure there are, but I have never heard them and I can assure you, you will never hear any such from the pulpit," Dad said.
        "David, when Fr. Tom learned about me and Luke, he said that if we loved each other we had his blessing--unofficial of course--but had it nonetheless. I think that might answer your question."
        "Could I come and go to church with the Greywolfs Sunday?"
        "Of course! We would be delighted. Matt goes early since he has to play and have a brief choir warm-up, but Yong Jin and I leave about 10 for the 10:30 service."
        "Matt, could I go with you?" Michael asked. "I'd go with Mary Kathryn, but that might give away too much and besides, I think Fr. Muller isn't too much different from what we experienced before."
        "Sure. I leave at nine if you can drag your butt out of the bed that early."
        "Well, I guess we'd better go home, Michael. See all of you tomorrow night."
        After all the good nights, we all went to bed, later than usual. I, again, sang a silent thanksgiving for Luke and all who had worked to bring him back to me and for all the support we were receiving. I fell asleep thinking of Luke and dreamed of him.
        I awoke with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. I mean, really, one of the songs from Dad's records was running through my head...at least the tune and first two lines:
        "More than the greatest love the world has known          This is the love I give to you alone"
        I knew that I would go nuts if I couldn't find the song and the rest of the words, but I didn't have time this morning.
        When I went down for breakfast, Mom and Dad both gave me a big hug. Mom said, "I hope you can keep your mind on school today, but I doubt it since Luke will be home by the time you get out of school."
        "I'll try, but it will not be easy. By the way, Jens and Gabrielle went to school earlier this week and learned Luke's absences were excused. He feels his art exhibition will be no problem since he has works enough to mount one now if he had to. German is a real laugh since he can read, write and speak German better than Frau Holzhauser. That leaves the three AP courses. I know that I can help him some with calculus, but I hope Mr. Mitchell will at least let him join in our tutoring sessions. He's depending on coming here to work on physics and English."
        "Of course we'll help all we can, but you two are going to have to work and not sit mooning over each other or making out," Mom said.
        "Mom! How could you even think such a thing?"
        "Because I have been young and in love and haven't reached senility yet," Mom laughed.
        "Gotta go," I said, "I'm making my last trip to the hospital before school!"
        As I drove to the hospital, the tune and two lines from that song kept running over and over in my head. I finally remembered it was simply titled "More," but couldn't remember any other words.
        When I reached Luke's room, he was up, had showered, shaved--it was about time. He was even dressed. "How are they going to poke and probe you when you have clothes on?" I asked.
        "You're just upset because I have clothes covering the beautiful body you'd like to crawl."
        "Not at all. I'm as cool as can be. I'm devoted to slow and easy. You know that."  And with those words, I grabbed him, pulled him to me and gave him a wild, passionate french kiss. I was learning fast!  His, in return, was no less passionate and I must confess, there was some pure lust in both. "Yonghon Tongmu, that's about all I can handle without. . . ."
        "Yea, me too. Well, back to today. Apparently the only tests won't involve more than drawing blood, a stress test, and another brain wave and CAT scan and I can wear clothes for all that. "Course, if you want to do a physical, I can get undressed."
        "And that would be the end of 'slow and easy', you can bet!"  I said as I embraced Luke.  We were standing together, holding each other tight, our lips meeting in a long, deep, passionate kiss. "Luke, you taste so good! You taste as good as you smell."
        "You don't taste so bad yourself, Sarang Hanun Pomul, but I'm not sure what you taste like. I need another taste." Once again his beautiful soft lips touched mine, this time in a gentle, loving kiss. "I know, you taste like my love, my Sarang Hanun Pomul."
        "Luke, I want to stay here all day with you in my arms, but I've got to run or I'll be late for school. See you this afternoon at home!"
        "Matt, if you can find time, see if you can get all my assignments so I can plan and begin getting caught up. I have to do well because I may not have any money for college when my parents find out about us. Besides, your parents and David would kill me if I do less than my best!"
        "Well, the only one you really need to worry about is Mr. Mitchell since you can get your assignments from Mom and Dad after school and you know that it doesn't matter what Frau Holzhauser comes up with. And you don't worry about money for college; the rest of the family is behind you."
        "Ok, try to see Mr. Mitchell and I don't want to have to have the family support me."
        "I have a tutoring session with him this afternoon and I'll talk to him then. Bye, Lover."
        "Bye, Stud," Luke said as he kissed me.
        I did have a hard time keeping my mind on school. Both Mom and Dad got a kick out of kidding me during their classes. Mom knew I was sitting there dreaming of Luke so she asked, "Matthew, one of the themes referred to in the selection just read is that of friends and lovers. How would you define the two?"  I turned bright red, stammered a few times and Mom finally had mercy on me and said, "Maybe if you could find it possible to return to the classroom mentally as well as physically it would be helpful."  The class laughed uproariously because Mom seldom made such remarks to a student.
        I decided not to let her get away with her private joke and responded, "Well, Mrs.  Greywolf, I believe the love of friendship has been described as a willingness to lay down your life for your friend."
        "That's very good, Matthew. Now what about lovers?"
        "Well, if the love of a friend shows a willingness to lay down your life for a friend, I guess that means the love of a lover means a willingness to just lie down."
        "Matthew Sarang Hanun Pomul Greywolf what on earth do you mean by that remark?"
        "Well, that's what some fellows told me in gym," I responded and laughed.
        "Just wait until your father gets home!" Mom laughed, getting the last word as bell rang. The students were falling out of their chairs laughing.
        Dad got in a couple remarks as well and I knew that my parents were just letting me know that they shared my joy the only way they could in school.
        After school, I worked out both to pass the time and to get my mind off wanting to leave without seeing Mr. Mitchell since I knew that would never do. All the time I was working up a sweat those two lines from "More" kept running through my head.
        Mr. Mitchell told me that I had caught up with my assignments and had made all As on the makeup tests. He then suggested we spend the tutoring sessions before the AP exam reviewing and prepping for it. I agreed then asked him about Luke's assignments. "He's coming home today and the principal told his parents he'd the same length of time to make up his work as he was out of school."
        "Matt, I told you I decided to make an exception for you because you were a very responsible and respectful young man. I meant that as a high compliment.  At the time you told me you would stay focused and make me proud of you. You have certainly done both.  Frankly, I am confident you will make a 5 on the AP test. I don't think Luke can make up all he has missed in the time he has been allowed. But he, too, has always been a very responsible young man and shown the greatest respect for me, his other teachers and peers. I want very much to see that he gets an A in calculus, and, if at all possible, a 5 on the AP test. If you will help him do the makeup work, and you surely should be able to do that, why not have him join us for the tutoring sessions for the AP exam?"
        "You realize, Mr. Mitchell, that you are putting your reputation for being a hard nose in great jeopardy. I think your idea is great and I know Luke will appreciate it."
        "I just hope whatever caused him to attempt to take his life has been worked out.  He is too fine to lose."
        "As you know, our families are more like one family than two and I can assure you that his problem has been overcome."
        "I am more than pleased to hear that. Do you still have a list of all the makeup assignments you have completed and the class work since?"
        "I certainly do."
        "Then you help Luke get those done and we'll start serious review for the AP next week."
        "Mr. Mitchell, thank you again for your confidence in me and your help. Thank you also for Luke." Then I did something I suspect no student had ever done to Ron Mitchell; I embraced him in a bear hug, not knowing what to expect in return.
        I was surprised when he hugged me back and said "Thank you very much, Matthew."
        As soon as I was out of Mr. Mitchell's room I started running at top speed for my Jeep. It was all I could do to keep from setting a new speed record getting to the Larsens.
        After Matt left, I lay back on my bed saying over and over again "Sarang Hanun Pomul and his Yonghon Tongmu together forever." My love for Matt was so deep and intense that I found myself unable to contain my tears of joy. "And," I thought to myself, "you almost destroyed the most beautiful thing you have ever known, Matt's love, by ending your life.  I knew that if it took giving my life for him and his love, I would do it in a heartbeat. But I also knew that I didn't have to do anything.  Matt loved me with his whole heart. He had freely and willingly and joyfully given his love to me as I gave mine to him. "Sarang Hanun Pomul and his Yonghon Tongmu together forever.
        But there was another side to our love. I knew my parents would be heartbroken when they learned their only son was in love with a man. And Matt was a man, make no mistake about that!  Beyond being heartbroken, I did not know what they would do, but it frightened me. Also while Matt and I had always been friends and everyone at school knew that, I wondered how we could keep our new relationship secret. There was no doubt in my mind that was crucial.  Today Chelsea had come to my room and talked to me about how important it was that we be extremely careful about who we told. Matt had told me Gladys had said as much to him before I came out of a coma. Chelsea also told me the jerks who had abused Gregory had been given a slap on the wrist. Since they were under seventeen, they were tried as juveniles and the juvenile court judge had given them a year's probation. He had said, in effect, that Gregory had chosen a lifestyle which invited and provoked the attack and, as proof, he had pointed to the fact that Gregory's parents had disowned him and weren't present for the hearing. I was sick at my stomach when I heard that. I couldn't hold back my angry tears and Chelsea held me until I regained control. Yes, what Matt and I had was wonderful, priceless even, but the cost was going to be high.
        Before I went to sleep, I remembered my promise to Dad and Mom to go to confession. I knew that what Fr. Muller would hear would satisfy him, but it would not be the real truth.  Yet, if I told him the real truth, he would probably refuse me absolution and when I could not receive the Blessed Sacrament, my parents would want to know why. So I would tell him only what he wanted to hear.
        I had told Matt that I needed to talk to Fr. Tom to thank him for anointing and giving me the Sacrament the night I lay near death. And that was true. What I did not tell him was that while I had always tried to be a good Catholic, I was having real doubts about my religion.  Basically, it rested upon my love of Matt and my church's condemnation of two men making love. I had read tons of stuff on the internet and knew that the church taught that parents should not abandon a child because he was gay, but that the child, in order to be in good standing with the church had to remain celibate.  I was like Matt, once I knew of his love for me, the idea of remaining a virgin had not only not crossed my mind, but also seemed downright sinful now when I think about it. But I am a very religious person. Maybe not as religious as Matt but then Matt's religion gives him much joy. And mine? I'm not sure what it gives me except guilt. No, that's not true. I don't feel guilty. I feel dishonest, maybe, or hurt because it condemns a great love. . . .  That confusion is what I really want to talk with Fr. Tom about.
        My eyelids were growing heavy and I was drifting off to sleep when I uttered a real prayer of thanksgiving to my loving God for all who had kept me alive and especially for giving me Matt which made living that life so wonderful. As I closed my eyes in sleep I, again, said those wonderful words, "Sarang Hanun Pomul and his Yonghon Tongmu together forever.
        I was awaked early by an orderly who brought me breakfast. I got out of bed and ate, then showered and shaved. I had a month's growth of beard and it was pretty long. I debated about waiting and letting Matt decide whether I should shave or not, then went ahead and shaved. It felt so good! Mom had sent clothes by David and I got dressed in real clothes for the first time in almost a month. I felt like a real human being again. I had just finished dressing when Matt came in. We kidded around about my being dressed and I offered to get undressed if he wanted to do a physical. He reminded me that we had said slow and easy. Man, that is going to be hard in more ways that one. I just hope one or the other of us can, in Greywolf's words, manage to keep our brains out of our crotch because if both can't. . .  well, slow and easy will go bye bye!
        After Matt left, I was called to the lab to have blood drawn and then went for a CAT scan and an EEG, a brain wave test. Before I left the hospital, I was told that preliminary evaluations showed everything to be normal, as it had been since I came out of the coma.
        As soon as the last test was done, I went to Dr. Bailey's office to see if she could see me.  She was with a patient, but when she finished, she told me she had left the morning as open as possible so she could see me. "I don't have another appointment for forty-five minutes and the time is yours," she said as she closed the office door.
        "Well, I'm not sure why I needed to talk to you, but I knew I did. One thing is very clear, I want you to know just how much I thank you for all you did to keep me alive after my foolish attempt to end my life. And even more than that, I want to thank you for me and Matt. Had it not been for you, we might never have been together. That is the most important thing in the world to me."
        "Luke, I'm a doctor and that means my job is to keep people alive, but from you and Matt, I think I have learned that my vocation--you know that word don't you?"  I nodded that I did. "My vocation is to enable people to live, not just be alive. There is too much hate and pain and suffering in the world to ignore anything thing you can do to increase love and to eliminate pain and suffering. And I'm not talking about pills and pain killers."
        "That brings up another thing, Dr. Bailey. Matt and I were kinda kidding you when we talked about Michael and David, but we were also being serious. You, yourself, had said you'd like to be a mother. I suspect you hadn't planned on starting with a nearly sixteen year old, but you start where you can. I've seen you and David together and I have every reason to believe that if the two of you would be honest with yourselves, you'd see a major increase in the love in the world. Matt and I have learned a real lesson about keeping love a secret and apparently my sister and Michael have as well. Won't you at least give the idea some thought?"
        "Here I am, an old woman getting advice for the lovelorn from a seventeen-year-old. What is the world coming to? To be honest, Luke, I have given what you and Matt said to me some thought--a whole lot of thought. But I know David is still in love with Elizabeth and I know that I could never take her place."
        "Who would expect you to take her place? No, what we're suggesting is that you and David find and develop your own relationship. Sure David is still in love with Elizabeth, and always will be, but Elizabeth is gone. Furthermore, what makes you think that you would be taking Elizabeth's place? You would be claiming a place of your own in David's and Michael's hearts and lives. Their love for you is--and I am positive IS is the right word--just that, their love for you. I know it is so far as Michael is concerned and, unless I have been brain damaged, there is your love for them--at least David and I know you will love Michael when you know him.  He is a great and wonderful young man."
        "Luke, what can I say? I will promise you I'll continue to give serious thought to what you have said and to what you and Matt said earlier.
        "Well, Doctor, I want to remind you of two facts and then I'll drop the subject.  First, this is the day of the liberated woman. Obviously you fit the category since you are a doctor and women doctors were practically unknown until recently. Second, 1996 is divisible evenly by four."
        "It' a leap year, Doctor, you don't have to wait on David who thinks he's too old for you, 'just a nurse', and besides, he doesn't think any woman would be interested in a man with a nearly sixteen-year-old son. 'Nough said."
        "Ok, 'nough said. What else did you want to talk about?"
        "Matt said you wanted to talk to us about sex and we'll have to arrange for that, but I did want you to know that we are going to go slow and easy with the sex thing."
        "Luke, to be honest with you, simply given your ages, I think you will find that is very difficult. When you add the intensity of your love for each other, I am much afraid that control is going to go by the boards unless you really work hard at it. And above all, I hope and pray that your first time will be so special that it will always be something you remember with joy and delight. But again, if you're not careful, it will be a time when you simply lost control. I don't envy you your struggle to keep the first time special, but I rejoice in your love and respect for each other."
        "Dr. Bailey, I already know that maintaining control will, if you'll pardon the expression, be a hard one. But while everything with Matt is special, the first time must be super special.  And we do need to talk to you about the whole gay sex thing. Matt told me there are some things we really need to know."
        "Luke, when you and Matt are ready, give me a call. I want to be as much help as I can. To get you pointed in the right direction, I have ordered a couple books which I think are good.  When they arrive, I'll give them to Matt because I know you don't want to have them at your place. Also, there are some very good sites on the internet. Just be careful to use your critical thinking when you start surfing because there is also a lot of wrong and misguided information there as well. And, always remember, I am here when you have questions and concerns."
        I got up, walked over to where Dr. Bailey was sitting and bent over to hug her.  "Dr.  Bailey, you mean so much to me and to Matt. We love you dearly and are ever thankful for your love and support and I know Michael will be too."
        "You don't give up do you, Luke?"
        "I gave up on love once and promised myself that I would never do that again. As you said, there's too much hate in the world and not enough love. So, no, I have promised myself and my God that I would never give up on love again!"
        "Luke, you are something else." With those words, Dr. Bailey stood up and hugged me to herself. "You know, I feel as if I am at least a stepmother to you two guys and I can't imagine having two greater sons." I couldn't believe it when I saw tears forming in her eyes and then she kissed me on the cheek and said, "Now call your mother, I'm sure she is just waiting to have her beloved son home again."
        "Dr. Bailey, I only hope that is true, but I am frightened, if the truth be known. I'm sure she wants some Luke Larsen home, but I'm not at all sure she wants the Luke Larsen who is.  Only time will tell," I said as I picked up the phone and called my mom. I then kissed Dr. Bailey on the cheek and walked out of her office.
        Mom came into the hospital only minutes after I had called her. She had already taken care of all the paperwork so we were ready to go home at once. The drive home started in silence. I didn't know what to say.
        Mom finally broke the silence. "Luke, Matt is coming over after school with all your assignments except for the Greywolfs'. You are to go over to their place this evening to talk with them. Tomorrow night we are celebrating your homecoming with a dinner for the whole family.  David is going to pick up Dr. Bailey and bring her. I invited Dr.  Walker, but he had a previous engagement and can't make it."
        "Did you say David was bringing Dr. Bailey?"
        "Yes, I couldn't reach her personally when I called so rather than leaving a message with the receptionist, I asked David to tell her. Why?"
        Now I was in a bind. If I told her that the four kids in the family had been trying to get the two together, she would start asking questions and heaven knows where that might lead. "I didn't understand you at first. It really makes sense for David to bring her since he will be at the hospital and she might miss the way out into the country." Mom bought that.
        "Luke, I talked with Dr. Walker about what restrictions should be placed on you in regard to school and so on and he advised none. In fact, he said you should get back into some kind of training schedule at once. I asked about your running since I know you loved that early morning run and he said it was an excellent idea and that your body would set the limits, otherwise there were none. He even thought you could go back to school tomorrow, but I knew you had said you wanted to make your confession then so he wrote your release to school for Monday."
        "Thanks, Mom. I know that our family isn't too much into expressing our affection for each other, but I want you to know that I love and appreciate you and Dad--and Mary Kathryn--very, very much," I said as I leaned over and kissed my mom.  She almost ran off the road it was so unexpected, but turned and smiled at me.
        "Luke, I love you very much as well. I have done an awful lot of thinking and worrying about you over the last month. I have worried about what I might have done to prevent. .  . you know. . .and one thing I realized was what you just said, our family is not much into expressing affection and I aim to change that, at least for myself." I was thunderstruck.
        As soon as we arrived at home, Mom started putting food out for lunch. There was enough for an army and I ate most of it. It was great to taste Mom's cooking again. When we finished, I automatically gathered up the dirty dishes and placed them in the dishwasher as I has always done. When I finished, Mom asked if I was tired and needed to rest. I told her I wasn't and that I was going to the basement and workout.  Not only did I need to do that to recover my physical strength, but I needed something to get my mind off Matt since I knew it would be awhile before he got home from school.
        After I had done a thorough workout, I was sweaty as could be.  I could even smell me and it wasn't the nicest smell in the world. I stank, so I went to my room, undressed, tied a towel around my waist and went into the bathroom. After I had the water adjusted to just the right temperature, I climbed into the shower and took a long shower and washed my hair.  When I finished, I stood before the mirror on the back of the bathroom door and studied myself.  About the only time I stood before that mirror had been when I was jerking off, thinking of Matt, but today was different. I took a good, hard look at the Luke Larsen Matt loved.
        The blond hair was still there, though longer than it had been since I was a kid. It was still so curly that even though it was very long, it didn't look it. I laughed at myself when I thought, "Man, you have an Afro!" since hair just didn't come, naturally anyway, blonder than mine. While I had gained weight from eating like a horse and some muscle tone from physical therapy, my face still looked thin and my body no longer had the hard, sculptured look I had worked so hard to achieve over the past year, but with daily workouts and running in the morning, it would become so again. "It will once again be the body Matt loves," I thought to myself. But as soon as the thought was finished, I knew it was wrong; Matt loved me--all of me just the way I was. I was sure he would appreciate my body when it once again looked as it had done before I dived into the river--maybe even better looking--but I also know that Matt loved me, not some super body.
        As I started thinking of Matt, my manhood made its presence felt. Before there would have been no question about what to do, but I began to wonder if bringing myself off was, somehow or other, betraying Matt. Then I realized that keeping control was going to be difficult enough without relieving sexual tension. The resulting explosion covered the mirror as I dreamed of Matt and took care of my need for release.
        I had just cleaned the mirror and myself when I heard Matt's Jeep arrive. He must have been flying from the noise he made skidding into the drive.
Part Nine

        As all members of the three families do, I treated the Larsens' house as my own and just walked in and yelled, "Hello, anybody home?"
        "You better believe it, Matt," Luke said as he can bouncing downstairs. Since we have always been huggers, I wasn't surprised when Luke grabbed me in a great hug.  However, I caught a glimpse of Gabrielle as she came from the kitchen and managed to hug Luke without giving him the kiss I had been dreaming about all day.
        "It's great to have our boy back home, isn't it, Gabrielle?"
        "It certainly is! I have spent sleepless nights wondering if he'd ever be back and then worrying about how he would be if he did get back. Now he's back and as good as new!" She embraced Luke and gave him a kiss on the cheek, something I had never seen her do since Luke was in grade school.
        "I take it all the tests showed no damage and everything working."
        "Yea, and Dr. Walker told me to get busy getting back into shape.  Think you might want to go running in the morning?"
        "I've just been waiting for you to get back so you're on."
        "Well, I don't think I'll be up to five miles, but a good run in the morning sounds great....  Mom, I'd like to go to the falls. Dr. Walker thinks its important for me to do that. I didn't want to ask earlier because I was afraid you would worry, but now that Matt's here, would you be ok with us going?"
        "If you are sure that's what you want to do and Matt's with you I don't see why not."
        "It's 4:30 now. we'll be back not later than 5:30 when Dad gets home."
        "Well, be sure to keep track of time. If you're late, you know we will worry."
        "We'll see you at 5:30 or before, I promise." Luke walked over to his mom and gave her a kiss on the cheek. It looked as though this family may have learned something from Luke's desperate deed.
        As we left the house, we walked by the Jeep and I snatched a blanket out of the back and threw it over my shoulder. By the time we had left the yard, Luke's hand found mine and we walked toward the falls holding hands. Anyone looking from the house would not have seen that because the blanket over my shoulder would have hidden our hands from their sight. "Damn, Yonghon Tongmu, who would have thought that just holding hands was such great stuff?"
        "A thousand ways to express our love and devotion to each other...  isn't that what we said? I have a sneaking suspicion that just about anything we do from now on will be great stuff.  You know what I mean?"
        "Yea, and we are going to have to find some of those which do not announce to the world that we are a couple. I bet that is not going to easy once we are in school together again. Looks, smiles, touching....
        Matt, it's going to be hard as hell to keep from grabbing you and laying a big kiss on you every time I see you."
        "Let's worry about that later. We have almost an hour left to just be together here in a special place," I said as we entered the path to the falls. As I crossed the canes, I remembered the last time I had been here and the second time crossed canes had been violated.  "Luke, the day I rushed out of your room at the hospital, I came here, crossed the canes, and probably would still have been here had David not violated the Lakota code. I think I learned an awful lot that day, not only about our love and trust and forgiveness, but also about another kind of love, the love David has for me, for us, for the family. He risked violating a code that he knew was sacred for us because he placed greater importance on me and you and on us. I owe David more than I can ever repay, and I know that he will go on giving, and giving, and giving. That's one of the things love is about, giving without thinking about anything in return."
        "Matt, I probably couldn't have said it as well, but I owe my very life to you and David and his EMS crew.  And you know something, hundreds of people owe their lives to David, but I would be willing to bet he's never thought about it that way. I think he looks at himself as 'just a nurse,' and that's part of his problem with Dr.  Bailey."
        "I know it is. He said as much the first time I asked him why he didn't latch onto her." As we were talking, I spread the blanket on the sandy shore of the pool and we both lay down on our backs, staring at the blue sky above, silent.
        "What are you thinking about, Matt?"
        "I was thinking that about a month ago I came to this place terrified and saw your beautiful body floating in the cold water. Luke, if you had died I don't know how I would have gone on living. I know how miserable you were because I was almost as miserable loving you and thinking it would always be just me loving you and hurting, but Gregory's abuse didn't affect me as deeply as it did you. I never thought anyone, including you, would know I loved you.  So much pain and suffering for so many people and because of love. I can't understand how so many can hate because others love."
        "But they do. And sometimes it just gets to be too much. All I could think about was how much I loved you and what would happen to you if some people found out.  I could just see you being abused and I couldn't stand it any longer."
        "So what's different now? We are still going to experience hatred when people find out.  And we have a whole long life ahead of us, I hope and pray."
        "Matt, I would be lying to you if I said I didn't worry about that. I am very worried about what will happen when Mom and Dad find out, I really am. So what's different?  I'm not alone; you're not alone. We have each other and we have thanks to you, and I mean that sincerely, a whole bunch of people who love us and who are standing by us.  That's what's different."
        "I see we are letting frivolous talk interfere with serious business again," I said as I rolled over on my side and pulled Luke to me. As he turned to me, our legs entwined as our arms encircled each other. As I kissed him, I felt his hands in my hair, undoing the braid. "You really do have a hair fetish, Lover Boy." Luke smiled as he pulled my hair to the front, creating our special world. Our lips met in a slow, deep, tender, loving kiss. I ran my fingers through Luke's golden curls and pulled his face to mine as my tongue sought the taste of Luke, the most wonderful taste in the world.  When we broke the kiss, each stared into the eyes of the other, black into a sea of blue, blue into depthless black.
        Still looking into my eyes, Luke took his arms from around me and ran his hands under my shirt, up my back. The touch of his hands on my bare skin was sheer heaven.  Pulling away from him, I opened Luke's shirt as he unbuttoned mine. Legs still entwined, we pressed our bare chests together. I could feel Luke's manhood pressing against mine as we held each other tight, our lips meeting, our tongues dueling. I realized that Luke was grinding himself into me and my hips pushed forward to meet his. Our kiss became more passionate, more lust filled.  "Yonghon Tongmu, I want you so bad. I want to make love to you so much it hurts."
        Luke stopped the movement of his hips, moved his face away from mine and looked deeply into my eyes. "And I want you too, Sarang Hanun Pomul, I want you--your heart and your body more than anything else in the world--almost. But I want our love to...."
        "Yonghon Tongmu, I know. This is not the time--I think it might be the place--but I want you, all of you, so bad I ache."
        When Luke stood up, I was puzzled. I was even more puzzled when he started undressing as he said, "Sarang Hanun Pomul, I have the answer." With those words he
        finished undressing and stood naked before me, his beautiful body glowing in the sunlight, his manhood standing proudly, full and pulsating. I was even more amazed when he took me in his arms and started undressing me. Soon I, too, was standing, dark, hair loose, my manhood standing equally as proud before my body.
        "And this is supposed to be the answer? Has slow and easy changed?"
        Luke simply looked into my eyes, smiled, gave me a soft kiss, grabbed my hand and started running up the path to the top of the falls. "You crazy Larsen, what are you doing?"
        "I'm giving us help in keeping slow and easy." By this time we were at the top of the falls.  Luke ran out on the lip, still holding my hand, and dived in. I couldn't
        believe how crazy he was, but had to dive in with him.
        It had been almost a month since Luke dived into the pool the last time and the water had warmed a bit, but not that much. As soon as we surfaced, we both quickly swam to the shore and crawled out. "See, look at yourself. Do you think you could do anything with what you have between your legs now?" Of course the river had done a better job than any cold shower. Soon we were both laughing our heads off while shivering from the cold river.  Once again we lay on the blanket, in the sun, gradually warming up and drying off.
        "I really don't think I want to play that game again," I said as I started dressing. "My hair won't be dry for ages. What are we going to tell your mom and dad?"
        "That is just one of the thousands of ways I want to show I love you and to hold us to slow and easy. We'll tell Mom and Dad that we took a dive just to prove I am not afraid of the river.  Now come on, we are going to have to run to make it back before 5:30."
        Before we left, we once again embraced, two young lovers standing on a sandy shore, expressing their deep love for each other. Our lips had met in a soft, gentle kiss and when it ended, Luke looked at me and said, "Matt, having you here with me...my being here alive... having your love...." Luke choked up, tears of joy pouring down his face.
        "Luke, my life, my love..." and I choked up as well; my tears of joy mingled with Luke's as we kissed and then turned and started toward his home.
        As we ran, a sudden breeze sprang up and my hair was blowing in the wind. Luke dropped my hand; we were holding hands again. It seemed so natural I hadn't given it a thought until he dropped my hand and ran ahead of me, turned and continued running backwards.  "You really do look like some kind of strange Lakota warrior, Matt, with you hair blowing like that, an almond-eyed Lakota. And you're beautiful and I love you!" He then ran toward me and just before he grabbed me, stopped, and said, "You know how hard it is going to be to be together and pretend we're not in love?"
        "I was just thinking the same thing when I realized we were running openly, holding hands. I didn't even realize we were until you dropped mine. It just seemed so natural, what two people in love do."
        "And that's the problem. We cannot do what two people in love do naturally and, Stud, that frightens me."
        When we reached Luke's house, I went inside and spoke to Jens and told him and Gabrielle that I had spoken to Mr. Mitchell about Luke's calculus class and AP exam. Jens suggested that Luke wait until Monday to return to school since he did have an appointment to make his confession the next day. Gabrielle told him Dr. Walker had taken care of that. Jens continued, "Luke, you're probably pretty tired now and need to go to bed early I suspect."
        "Actually, I feel great, Dad, and Dr. Walker said I should do anything I wanted and needed to do. I do know I need plenty of rest, and plenty food, Mom.  Exercise is important and Dr. Walker suggested that I would probably have to take it easy at first, but my body would set its own limits. He suggested I start running again as soon as possible.  Matt and I plan to start tomorrow morning with just a short run maybe a mile or so. But I also need to get started catching up on my school work. I need to talk to Mr. and Mrs. Greywolf about physics and English assignments."
        "Good going, Luke Babe," I thought.
        "Matt, when would be the best time for Luke to talk to your parents?  Actually, I guess it would be best for Luke to call them and ask them rather than my asking you."
        "That would be best as I haven't seen them since I left this morning. Luke, when you come over to talk to Mom and Dad, I'll give you the calculus assignments. You can probably get started on them tomorrow without my help. Anyway, you'll know what you'll have to do to get caught up."
        "Thanks, Matt. I'll call your parents right now."
        "Yes, thanks, Matt, and give your Mom and Dad Gabrielle's and my thanks for being willing to help Luke out."
        "We're all family so we help each other, right? Good-bye Jens, Gabrielle. See you later, Luke." As I walked to my Jeep, I was already dreaming of seeing Luke again tonight.
        When I got home, Dad was at the kitchen table preparing a salad and Mom was putting the finishing touches on dinner. "I assume you have been at the Larsens'," Dad said as I gave Mom a kiss on the cheek.
        As I hugged Dad, I said, "No, I have just been wandering around trying to think of something to do."
        Dad gave me a slap on the butt and laughed, "Then you must not be the Matt Greywolf who sat spaced out in my physics class today!"
        "Greywolf, do you know what YOUR son did in my class today? I asked him to define friends and lovers and he said a friend is willing to lay down his life for a friend and a lover is willing to just lie down!"
        "Matt! How could you reveal such family secrets in class?"
        As Dad and I laughed, Mom threw a pot holder at Dad. I realized anew that there really were a thousand ways to show love and devotion. "Of course I went to the Larsens'.  Luke looks just great. He worked out this afternoon and intends to go running with me in the morning. Dr.  Walker said his body would set the limits of what he could do, but he needed to get back on a training schedule. Gabrielle said it was ok, so we went to the river."
        "From the looks of your hair, you must have taken a swim. I would have thought the water was still too cold for swimming," Mom said.
        I blushed, which Dad quickly picked up on and said, "Probably
        better than a cold shower, huh, Sarang Hanun Pomul?" I got even redder. "Maybe we need to talk about that with you two."
        "Has Luke called? He was going to call about coming over to talk about his assignments sometime tonight."
        "The Larsens have dinner a bit later than we do so I told Luke to come over about 7:30.  Actually, there is very little to talk about so far as I am concerned," Mom said. "There are only a little over a couple weeks before AP exams and in class we're doing preview for that. After the exam there will be very few assignments, so Luke will have time to make up any assignments that he doesn't get done before. My real concern right now is the AP exam. I know he can get all the makeup done before the end of the semester and make an A, but he has
        missed a great deal in class which will be important for the exam. You're going to have to help him as, of course, I will."
        "Much the same could be said for physics except the lab work needs to be made up before the exam since to exam often assumes students have had hands-on experience as well as textbook instruction. Tests and other assignments can wait until after the exam if necessary. What about calculus? Have you talked with Ron Mitchell?" Dad asked.
        When I told my parents of my conversation with Mr. Mitchell and his response to a hug, Dad said, "There are not many people in the world who do not like human touch, but I think most of us men have been so conditioned that we're afraid of it. So even hard-nosed Ron liked a hug!"
        When we sat down to dinner, it was my time to say grace. The privilege of saying grace rotates around the table and all three of us usually just use one of the
        graces we have learned from the Book of Common Prayer. Tonight I had to put into words what was
        in my heart-- overflowing with joy and thanks for my parents, Mr. Mitchell, Dr. Walker and Dr. Bailey, the family--especially David--and, of course, for my beloved. Mom and Dad both gave a loud "Amen" to my prayer of thanksgiving.
        "Mom, Dad, if it doesn't take too long to get Luke squared away with school, and if he is willing, could we have a talk with you tonight? I know there is a lot we need to talk about and I'd like for it to be as soon as possible."
        "I think that would be a good idea, but you don't want to just spring it on Luke out of the blue. He may not be ready to talk."
        "Of course. I'll ask him and if he is at all reluctant, we'll do it another time."
        When dinner was finished, I went to my room and started on my school work. I had reached the point where there wasn't any pressure, just daily work. Sure
        enough, Frau Holzhauser had given me the same test she had given earlier on the tapes. So German was essentially over and done with. I was caught up with calculus and had only daily work to do for that class. I assigned myself a number of review sheets each night and that, with Mr. Mitchell's tutoring, had made me very comfortable about taking the AP exam, but not
        overconfident. I had caught up with AP English and maintained my A in it and physics. After the pressure of the past few weeks, I felt very relaxed although I had as much daily work to do as I had before I got behind. I guess I had proven to myself that I was capable of doing whatever was required of me, even when it was beyond the assignments I used to complain about being too much.
        When I heard the front door open and Luke's "Hello, anybody home?" I ran downstairs, swept Luke into my arms and gave him a kiss. "I take it you two know each other?" Dad said as he came from the library. Luke broke away from me and jumped back.
        "Ah, ah, ah hello, Mr. Greywolf." Luke was blushing like mad; he was putting me to shame. I just laughed along with Dad.
        "Come in, Luke. It is so good to see you, even when you are being attacked by some wild Korean Lakota 'breed. Come on into the library."
        "Dad, could we have a minute to talk first?"
        "Of course, just come on in when you are ready."
        "Luke, Mom and Dad said getting your school work sorted out won't take long and they are willing to talk with us tonight if you're willing. Dad wanted to be sure you were ready and I promised I'd ask you and if you were at all reluctant we'd do it another
        "Matt, I have been so uptight tonight making sure I didn't say the wrong thing in front of Dad and Mom that I'd really welcome the opportunity to talk to your mom and dad who know us and our feeling for each other."
        "Well, come on then."
        After both Mom and Dad had gotten Luke's school work sorted out, Dad said, "Luke, Matt said the two of you wanted to talk to us. Before you say anything, I'd like for you to know that if I had a choice--and if you had a choice--I would want both you and Matt to meet and marry some beautiful and loving woman and produce beautiful grandchildren for us and Jens and Gabrielle. That's not because I believe there is anything wicked, evil, or wrong with two men loving each other. It is because I know that there are those who do and those whose hearts are so filled with hate toward anyone who loves someone of the same sex and life for the two of you, should your love and commitment to each other last, will not be easy. It will often be painful and as Matt's father and--I trust your friend--I want life to be easy and always joyful for the two of you, but already you have suffered more for your love than most couples have in half a lifetime."
        Mom had been nodding in agreement as Dad talked and when he finished she said, "Luke, Matt, I love you both as sons and only want what will bring happiness and joy into your lives and your life together, which I hope is for a very long time."
        "Mr. and Mrs. Greywolf, I love your son more than life itself and I am more than honored by your love for him and for me and for us. I only hope my parents will at least accept us even if they do not approve or give us the love I know we have from you."
        "Ok, Matt, Luke, what do we need to talk about, I mean from your perspective?"
        "Dad, Luke and I have promised each other that we will approach sex slow and easy. We have talked about it ourselves and with Dr. Bailey. You would know we were lying if we said we would remain virgins until we were forty. At the same time, we don't want to do anything which will harm our friendship. Luke, at least, has proven how important our friendship is...."
        "Matt, I am beginning to tire a bit of how I have made the sacrifice in the name of our friendship. I took a cowardly way to show it. You, on the other hand, demonstrated your friendship, and your love as well, by giving up things which were very important to you because of me. I don't think anyone could doubt that our friendship was and is extremely important to both of us so we can drop that talk. Mr. Greywolf, what we need to know are the house rules and to get some help in how we can keep a cool tool...oops, I'm sorry Mrs.  Greywolf."
        Mom was laughing her head off as she said, "Mr. Larsen, you don't beat about the bush, do you?"
        "Well, I guess I just want to know where we stand."
        "You stand as two wonderful, lovely and loved young men for starters. Nothing is going to ever change that. You are two men who are deeply in love with each other
        and while you are both men, I don't see how that is really different from the way Greywolf and I love each other.  And that is also wonderful. I would be untruthful if I did not say that I agree with Greywolf about what I would like for the two of you, not because I disapprove of your loving each other, but because I don't want to see you, either of you, hurt. But both of you have already been hurt and you have survived and I know you will again. But since we, neither you two nor Greywolf and I, have a choice, we promise to do all we can to protect you from hurt."
        "As to house rules, you have said that you want to take it slow and easy so far as sex is concerned, " Dad said, "I want you to make your first time of making love very special--and if either of you dare talk of fucking--I will kick your ass. You, if you are in love, will see sex as one of many ways of expressing your love for each other and fucking is what dogs do.  Since you are both nearly eighteen, I would like for you wait until you are eighteen before having sex, but that is your decision. Even when you are eighteen, sex between two men is not legal in this state, but the state is not likely to invade your bedroom so that is not a real worry. It's just that at eighteen--except for alcohol-- you are legally adults. Maybe that doesn't mean anything to you, and I can't tell you why, but it does to me."
        "Mr. Greywolf, taking it slow and easy is not going to be easy, we have found that out already, but as a token of my respect for you and in thanks for your understanding and support I, for one, accept that boundary."
        "I as well, Dad," I said. "But what we really need to know are the boundaries this side of out and out sex."
        "Matt, Luke, you are going to have few places where you can
        express your love for each other openly. This house is one, and maybe the only one. So long as only those who know about you two are here, I expect your behavior to be no more and no less than what you both have seen between Yong Jin and me in public areas of the house. Cuddle anywhere you wish. I expect to see more than a few kisses just about anywhere in these four walls.  It would probably be best, and I'm sure you would be more comfortable, to keep any heavy making out in Matt's room.  Matt's mom and I promise you privacy there. Does that cover it?"
        "Well, not really, Dad.  Luke and I have slept over at each
        other's house so often that we have clothes both places. What about sleep overs? I'll admit, I don't know how that will work. How can we go slow and easy when we are sleeping together?  Yet, that is so much a part of who we have been, how can it not be a part of who we are?"
        "Matt, what do you suggest?" Mom asked.
        "Well, one thing for sure, if we're still allowed to sleep over, there's going to have to be a change in how we sleep. I don't think I could resist climbing Luke's body if he crawled in bed with me naked."
        "Matt, how can you say such things to your mom?" Luke asked, blushing. Is blushing catching? And what happened to Mr. Cut to the Chase?
        "Hey, Yonghon Tongmu, Mom was young once, in love, and hasn't reached senility yet!"
        "Trying Korean, Son?"
        "Is it correct? You know I don't know a lot about Korean."
        "Does it say what you want it to say?"
        "Does it mean Soul Mate or Soul Companion? That's what I want it to say."
        "Then that's what it says; it's correct for you and that's all that
        counts. Right?" I nodded in agreement.
        "Ok, you'll have to start wearing something to bed, but I'm not sure that will make a lot of difference. What else can you suggest that will make it easier for the two of you to have sleep overs as friends without losing slow and easy?" Dad asked.
        "I don't know, Dad. We're new at this."
        "It's the kind of thing that you can't be old at, is it? I don't want to forbid sleeping over here. At the Larsens' is a very different question, at least at this point. I don't know what the two of you need to remind you of your promise to each other. What I'm saying is I can't make decisions for you because you are going to be alone together and no one is going to keep check on you."
        "Matt, I think one thing I'd like would be to just leave your bedroom door open. Your parents have promised us privacy, but an open door would be a good reminder of where we are and what we have promised each other and our parents."
        "That makes some sense to me," Mom said. "But it is not a problem that has to be solved tonight is it?"
        "No, I guess not," I said, "it's just that sleeping over is so much of who we are I worry about it."
        "Well, keep thinking about it and, if you like, run what you come up with in front of Yong Jin and me and we will point out anything we see about it, but I'm afraid this is something the two of you will have to work out on your own. Anything else we need to talk about?"
        "No, I guess not," I said. "We're going to talk with Dr. Bailey about medical things before we do anything and I guess that's it."
        Luke was sitting in an overstuffed chair in the library and Mom and Dad were seated on the love seat, snuggled together. I was seated on the floor between Luke's legs. He kept playing with my hair all the time we had been talking. "Dad, is there any cure for a hair fetish? Luke is in sad need of treatment."
        "I'm afraid you're in trouble, Sarang Hanun Pomul. Your mother has never been cured.  Of course, I have never tried to get her cured, but if you really want your lover out of your hair, I think maybe you're the one that needs treatment!" Only then did I notice Mom had unbraided Dad's hair!
        "Mr. And Mrs. Greywolf, I wish with all my heart that my parents would respond to my love of Matt as you have to mine for him, but it will never be. To tell to truth, I am very frightened. I don't know how they will respond, but I am afraid."
        "Luke, I don't know what to expect from your parents either. I do know that we are having a family meeting Saturday night if Jens and Gabrielle take up the offer for a weekend honeymoon. Luke, you've got to remember to order your mom yellow roses.  David can give you the address. You do know that regardless of your parents response, you have a home with David or with us should it come to that. You have the same support from us that Matt has and not because you and Matt are in love, but because we have always considered the family a family, period."
        "Luke, Gabrielle is your mother, but I have always considered you as much my son as Matt and that has not changed. I am sure your mother loves you very much. When we gave birth, we both felt really blessed with two wonderful sons born minutes apart.  Sooner or later Gabrielle will be unable to not be your mother as I would find it impossible not to be Matt's mother."
        Luke got up, went to the love seat and gave each of my parents a long hug then said, "I know where my Sarang Hanun Pomul gets his kind and loving heart. How could he not when he has two parents who are so kind and loving? Sarang Hanun Pomul, I've got to go. It's nine o'clock and I still need to do some schoolwork."
        We walked to the door, holding hands. When we reached the door, Luke took me into his arms, drew me to himself and pulled my face to his. As our lips met, his
        tongue invaded my mouth and once again the taste of Luke became my whole world. Our kiss went on and on, becoming more and more passionate. Finally, when we came up for air, I saw my mom and dad, on the love seat, engaged in a wild and passionate kiss. I placed my hands on Luke's cheeks and turned his head around until he could see as well. "I'm pleased to see your parents setting our boundaries, but I guess they're passed the slow and easy part," Luke said loudly enough for them to hear. Mom and Dad broke their kiss and laughed as Luke said, "Goodnight Mr.  And Mrs., Greywolf." Embracing me again, he gave me a soft kiss and said, "Goodnight, Sarang Hanun Pomul, lover mine."
        Returning Luke's kiss, I said, "Goodnight, Yonghon Tongmu, my
        heart's desire."
        I went to my room and did school work for an hour, undressed and slid my naked body between cool sheets. As I thought about the day I found my heart overflowing with love for the people who loved me and especially for my wonderful Luke. Just before I fell asleep, those words haunted me again, "More than the greatest love the world has known, This is to love I give to you "and added , "my Yonghon Tongmu. I've got to find that song before I go crazy!" I thought, then whispered to myself, "My Yonghon Tongmu, I love you with my whole heart and soul, fell asleep.                                                     

        When I left the Greywolfs, I drove home slowly, thinking about my homecoming day.  Mom had surprised me with a show of affection I had not experienced since I was in grade school. My time at the river with Matt had been wonderful beyond belief, but also served as a warning. Dr. Bailey was right, keeping control was not going to be easy.  I laughed to myself as I thought, "Maybe we'll have to have a designated controller because loving Matt and showing it was more addictive than any alcohol!
        When I got home, I went into the den to say goodnight to my parents. I was determined to let them know of my love for them in spite of their reluctance to express affection. I leaned over my mom and kissed her on the cheek and she reached up and put her arms around me. When I approached Dad, he just said, "Good night, Son," barely looking up from his newspaper.
        It was obvious I could not give him a hug, but I did say, "Good night, Dad. It is good to be alive and to be home with people I love." He made no response. When I went upstairs I noticed Mary Kathryn's light was on so I tapped gently on her door and asked, "May I come in?"
        "Sure, I was kinda expecting you," she responded. When I entered the room, she was sitting at her desk and motioned for me to sit on her bed. "Michael says
        everything is set up for Mom and Dad to get away this weekend. I surely hope they take advantage of the offer, not only because we really need to get some things sorted out before they are told about you and Matt, but also because they deserve a break after what they have been through. You
        realize, of course, that I have been pissed off at you for what you did. I know you felt that you had to do it, but I kept thinking that you had tried to kill my brother and that really pissed me off. Now that's weird!"
        "Not really, I guess, I did try to kill your brother. Thank God, I was a miserable failure because now I have Matt and more love from the family than I thought possible.  I just took the family for granted and never realized how much a part of my very being they were. Of course, there's still the problem with Mom and Dad."
        "Did you and Matt talk with the Greywolfs?"
        "Yea, we surely did. I can't believe how accepting and supportive they are. They make no bones about the fact that they wish Matt and I were straight and would get married and have kids. But you know what, Sis, that's not the real issue with them.  They are perfectly happy with Matt loving me, but are terribly afraid of what will happen when others find out."
        "And well they should be. I guess you heard what happened--or more like what didn't happen--to the jerks who abused Gregory."
        "Yea, Chelsea at the hospital told me. Sis, their abuse of Gregory was what finally pushed me over the edge, literally. I was so afraid someone would find out I was in love with Matt and.  ..."
        "Well, Brother Mine, that's still something to worry about and I do. It's not like Michael and me. If Mom and Dad find out, they may place some restrictions on me I don't have now. If the kids at school find out, the girls will be jealous and the boys....  "
        "Will be jealous as hell of Michael. Sis, you're a real beauty and I stood ready to beat the shit out of anyone who so much as laid a finger on you in the wrong place.  Now, since it's Michael...."
        "Luke, Michael is the gentlest, kindest, lovingest person in the whole world...."
        "I'd challenge that! That's a title won by a landslide by Matt!"
        "Says you! Anyway, any time he puts a finger on me, it is in the right place and if it's not, I'll deck his gentle, kind, loving ass! By the way, Lover Boy, you and old Scar Face had better be a little more careful than you were this afternoon. I happened to look out my window as you were coming back from the river and noticed you holding hands. Mom couldn't see from where she was, but had she been elsewhere and looked that way...."
        "Sis, Matt and I talked about that sort of thing. We are going to have a real problem keeping our new relationship secret. I hope you and Michael will be on the lookout for things we do at school which might give us away and warn us about them."
        "Will do, Bro."
        "You have been talking to Michael, I see."
        "Only when we come up for air!" she said as she threw a pillow at me.
        "Well, I've got to get some school work done. I have a whole month to catch up and preparation for three AP exams." I got up from Mary Kathryn's bed, walked over to her desk, put my arms around her and said, "Sis, I am so glad to be home, to have you as a sister and I love you very much."
        Mary Kathryn pulled my face toward hers and kissed me on the cheek and said, "Good to have my bro home."
        I went to my room and took out the assignment sheets for calculus Matt had given me and worked on them for an hour. I found that I could do very well because the first assignments were directly related to what we had been doing in class before I ended up in the hospital. I was pleased with my progress as I undressed for bed.
        Matt was having a strange influence on me, I thought, as I found myself saying a silent thanksgiving for Matt and his love, for the Greywolfs and their love and
        support, for David and Michael, for my parents and for my sis. Matt had told me long ago that he never went to sleep without thinking over the day and all the good things that had happened and singing a silent thanksgiving for them. Seemed strange to me at the time and I asked about all the bad things that happened and he said he asked forgiveness if he was the cause and forgave if he wasn't. "Life's too short," he had said, "to carry guilt or anger around all the time."  I guess he was right except I still couldn't bring myself to forgive those who had hurt Gregory. Or, for that matter, could I forgive myself for all the pain and hurt I had caused. But I was thankful, was I ever thankful, for the day and the wonders it had brought.
        As I continued to think over the day, I thought about the time Matt and I had spent with his parents. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that when we had talked about house rules, there hadn't been any hard and fast ones laid down. Greywolf has asked that we put off having sex until we were eighteen--gee, that was weeks--but even that was in the form of a request, not a rule. We were to be as free in the public areas of Matt's house as his parents were. Now had that been as my parents were, I might have had a problem, but even as a kid I knew that Yong Jin and Greywolf didn't give a hoot about hiding their affection. Sleep overs were not forbidden and Greywolf had even said that how to maintain control was a problem Matt and I had to solve. I can see why people like to have hard and fast rules laid down; that way, you don't have to think. All you have to do is decide whether to obey the rules or not. Matt and I had to make our own rules and then make the decision about how we would keep them.  Yong Jin and Greywolf--you know, I have never heard anyone call Mr.  Greywolf anything other than Greywolf, I wonder what his name is?--were treating us as adults whom they trusted to do what was right and then leaving it up to us to decide what was right.  "That way," I thought, "we have no one to blame if we cross a line because we made the line and we decided to cross it."
        But I also remembered what Dr. Bailey had said about the difficulty we would have maintaining our promise of slow and easy. Man, this love thing sure is complicated. But would I change it? Never! "Sarang Hanun Pomul and Yonghon Tongmu together for ever."  With those words on my lips, I drifted off to sleep.
Part Ten

        I woke up before anyone in the house was stirring; in fact, they would not be awake for at least an hour and a half. I quickly put on my sweats and slipped out of the house just as the sun began to brighten the eastern sky. I jogged to the Greywolfs' and went to the side porch where I climbed the trellis to the porch roof. When we were kids, Mary Kathryn, Michael, Matt and I often climbed up and down the trellis playing fireman. One Sunday afternoon when the adults were sitting on the side porch, Dad had said that we were no longer kids and getting to old to be playing on a trellis. "Besides, you're half-grown and climbing on the trellis is dangerous because it might break." The next weekend when the four of us were again at the Greywolfs', Greywolf was busy replacing the trellis with another. The new one was strong enough to hold an elephant. When we were in middle school we became "too grown up" to chase each other up and down the trellis, but once we became high school kids, we again played on it as we had done when we were really kids. Middle school is such a terrible time!
        When I reached the roof, I walked across it to Matt's window, knowing it would be at least partially open. I don't know whether it is his wild Lakota blood or his wild Korean blood, but Matt always sleeps with his window open--if not all the way at least partially. This morning it was wide open and when I looked in I saw my beautiful love asleep, his hair surrounding his head, his body only half covered and his face glowing in the rays of the morning sun. I could have spent hours just watching him sleep. But maybe he had the sense of presence I found I had in the hospital because as I stood perfectly still, a smile slowly crossed his face and his black, black almond eyes opened.
        "Good morning, Yonghon Tongmu, Light of My Life," he said, still smiling his wonderful smile.
        "Good morning, Sarang Hanun Pomul, Sun of My Soul." With those words, I climbed through the window, walked to Matt's bed and pulled his body to mine. Our lips met in a morning kiss, then Matt said, "I don't think you'll like the taste of your love this morning," as he threw back the covers, revealing his hard, dark body. I noticed it wasn't the only thing that was hard as he quickly leapt from the bed, dashed to his bathroom and started shooting a golden stream into the toilet.
        "Man, I was ready to bust I needed to piss so bad," he said.  When he finished, he brushed his teeth, turned and walked back into the bedroom, still naked. He quickly braided his hair, grabbed a pair of sweats, and asked, "Well, are you ready to run?"
        "Matt, have you noticed anything strange going on just now?"
        "Can't say as I have."
        "You were walking around naked as a jay bird.... "
        "So, what's strange about that? That's the way it has always been."
        "That's just it. That's just the way it's always been. I didn't jump your beautiful body and you paid absolutely no attention to the fact that our relationship has changed. Maybe there's some hope for slow and easy yet."
        "Maybe, but right now I'm going to end the 'as its always been'" and with those words he pushed me down on the bed and crawled on top of me and gave me a toe curling kiss.
        "Are we going to engage in serious business or the trivial business of getting back in shape," I asked.
        "One more bit of serious business and then we hit the road," Matt said and once again gave me a deep french kiss. As he released me he said, "Luke, you are the most wonderful thing in my world. I love you so much, so very, very, very much."
        "Matt, my love, you ARE my world. Without you, I have none."
        "Well, it may not be yours, but the world calls!" Matt said as he got up from the bed and climbed through the window with me right behind. Soon we were running down the road in the rays of the rising sun.
        We soon reached the end of David's pasture, which we knew was a mile from Matt's, and I knew it was time to turn back. "Matt, I've about done all I can do this morning." Matt turned back and we started running back toward his house.  Half-way there I called to Matt, who was running effortlessly ahead of me, "Matt, wait up." He stopped, turned to face me and kept jogging in place. When I caught up with him I said, "The body is crying out, 'Enough, already!'  Can we just do a fast walk to cool down?"
        I half-expected Matt to make some smartass remark about my being a wuss--he certainly would have a month ago--but he simply slowed down, smiled, and reached out for my hand. Our walk started pretty briskly, but as we neared his house we had slowed to the point of a slow walk, stopping from time-to-time for a quick kiss.
        When we reached Matt's place, he said, "Your folks get up later than mine so I bet there's breakfast waiting for us. Come on in since you're practically a Greywolf now."
        "Strange," I replied, "I thought you were practically a Larsen! But I can't stay for breakfast. I need to eat with the family, but I do have time for something to drink," I said as I followed Matt into the house. Before we reached the kitchen, Matt called out, "Break it up, you two. The real lovers are here!"
        "Mere amateurs," Mrs. Greywolf called from the kitchen.
        I joined the Greywolf tribe around the kitchen table.  Breakfast was almost ready, but I told Mrs. Greywolf I'd just have OJ while they ate.
        "What's up for you today, Luke?" she asked.
        "I have an appointment with Fr. Muller at one to make my confession. The more I think about that the more dishonest I feel. I'm really only doing it for Dad and Mom because I honestly don't feel contrition for what I did, only for the pain and heartache I caused by it. I guess the outcome seems worth it to me" I said as I grabbed Matt and planted a kiss on his wonderful lips.
        "Luke, give what you say in confession some thought. As you know, we half-assed Catholics seldom make a private confession to a priest, but take corporate confession and our prayers of confession very seriously. I think you can say what you feel in your heart about what you did without Fr. Muller being the wiser. After all, you did say you were truly sorry for the heartache you caused. May seem a bit dishonest to mislead Fr. Muller, but I don't think so. Anyway, give it some thought," Greywolf admonished me. "And I can see I was right when I said I would expect kisses all over the place," he laughed.
        "I'll give what you said a lot of thought, Mr. Greywolf. I think Mom is coming on her lunch hour to pick me up. I guess I'll wander around town and meet her when she gets off work."
        "Today's my day at St. Mary's and you said you wanted to talk with Fr. Tom. Why don't you call and see if he will be available this afternoon and you can come home when I do?" Matt asked.
        "That sounds good to me," Greywolf said and I nodded in agreement.
        "Well, I've got to run. The family will be up and about and I need to be there for breakfast and make sure Mom can pick me up for my appointment. If not, I can drive her to work and then take the car by when I go in." I gave Matt a quick good bye kiss, said good bye to the Greywolfs and left.
        When I got home, Mom was fixing breakfast, Dad was in the shower and Mary Kathryn was in the bathroom we shared upstairs. "Morning, Mom," I said and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
        Very unlike her, she turned from what she was doing and gave me a hug. "Good morning, Luke, how was your run?"
        "Great, Mom. It was really great to be out and running again. I stopped by the Greywolfs' and Matt said since he would be at St. Mary's this afternoon, he would bring me home after I see Fr. Muller. I'll need a way into town. I can either take you to work and then drop off the car when I come in at one or you can come get me during your lunch hour."
        "Why don't you take me in this morning then when you finish at Immaculate Conception, you can drop the car off if you wish and come home with Matt.  You'll get home earlier that way."
        "Then that'll be the plan," I said, "now I need to see if Mary Kathryn is all fixed up and out of the bathroom so I can shower before breakfast. I'm sure my sweaty body would not be welcome at the table."
        After I showered and shaved, I joined the family for breakfast. They were already seated; nonetheless, I walked over to Mary Kathryn and gave her a peck on the cheek and said, "Good morning, Sis."
        "Morning, Luke, good to have you here for breakfast," she said.
        "Luke, if you'll sit down we'll have grace," Dad said as his way of greeting me.
        After Dad had said grace I said, "Good morning, Dad." He nodded.
        After breakfast, Mary Kathryn went to school with David and Michael since David was not working the early, early shift this week. Dad left shortly afterward. Mom had a few minutes before we had to leave. She had another cup of coffee and I a glass of orange juice.
        As we sat, silent, I wondered what would happen to the family when the love of my life became known.
        Mom broke my reverie with a very strange statement, "Luke, I want you to know how heartbroken I was that you, for whatever reason, thought life was not worth living. I must have burned a year's supply of candles to the Virgin while you were in the hospital, praying for your recovery. Dr. Walker told us you might have suffered severe brain damage, but I wanted you back regardless of your condition." Perhaps to lighten the mood, she said, laughing, "So I've started burning next year's candles in thanksgiving for my beautiful man-child being back and well." She stood up, walked behind me and put her arms around me and said, "Luke, we certainly haven't said it enough, but I hope you know that your father and I love you very much. I only hope and trust that you know that life is glorious and to be lived fully and that you will always be my adored man-child regardless. I love you and Mary Kathryn from the depths of my heart and I promise I will work hard showing the two of you how very much you mean to me."
        Mom still stood behind me, holding me to herself, her arms around me. I turned, with tears in my eyes, and said, "Mom, I love you very much too and I never want to hurt you. Please believe that. I didn't intend to hurt anyone when I dived off the falls... I simply was not thinking about all those who loved me. I was only thinking of myself (and I wanted to add, 'and the love of my life') and for that I am very sorry. I know that suicide is, as someone has said, 'a very permanent solution to a temporary problem,' but more than that, it radiates circles of pain and heartache to more and more people. I'm sorry, Mom." By this time we were both teary eyed.
        Mom patted me on the chest and said, "Well, it's over and this is a new beginning. And it's time for me to get to work."
        As I drove Mom to work, we talked about my plans for the day. I told her I planned to drop by the hospital to say hello to Gladys then go home and work on calculus until I got stuck or it was time for my appointment.
        "If you drop by the office about noon, we can grab a bite to eat before you go to confession."
        "I'd like that, Mom. Then when I finish I'll wander around town for a bit before I meet Matt at St. Mary's."
        "Well, since you're coming home with Matt, you'll get home before I do. 'Most everything is ready for tonight and Mary Kathryn is putting the finishing touches to what is left. Lend a hand if she needs it, please."
        "'Course I will. See you this evening," I said and let Mom out in front of her office. The hospital was just across the street so I parked in Mom's parking place and walked across the street and went up to ICU. There was a button beside the door which notified the nurses that someone was outside. I pushed it and waited. I didn't know the nurse who came to the door, but asked her if Gladys was on duty. She told me Gladys had been called out-of-town to take care of some family business. "And you are filling for her?"
        "No, I'm new to the hospital. A nurse named Chelsea swapped shifts with her."
        "Would you tell Chelsea that one of the Lover Boys is here?"
        "Tell her what? One of the Lover Boys is here? She'll bite my head off. You must not know Chelsea."
        "Just tell her, please." Shaking her head, the nurse closed the door. Moments later she was standing with her mouth open as Chelsea opened the door, grabbed me and gave me a big kiss. Her mouth was still open when Chelsea let the door close and lead me to a small, vacant waiting area.
        "Luke, you look wonderful. It is good to see you even though you were here yesterday.  How are things going? How's Matt?"
        "Whoa. Matt's great. We spent some time at the falls yesterday and went for a run together this morning and his kisses get better and better and slow and easy gets.... "
        "Don't say it!" Chelsea laughed.
        "My Mom has really gone out of her way to let me know she loves and cares for me. It's almost like it was when I was a little boy and I love it. The Greywolfs have essentially told me and Matt we had to set our own rules which, frankly, sounds good, but the truth of the matter is, it puts the responsibility squarely on us. We have to behave as Mr. and Mrs. Greywolf do in public areas of the house and that's pretty wild compared with my parents. Well, in short, it's going great, Chelsea. Of course, the biggie hasn't been dropped yet. Oh, by the way, it looks as if Dr. Bailey and David Andrews may finally get together. They're coming to dinner together tonight. The family--that's all three families--are getting together to celebrate my homecoming. .  . .I'm not being very sensitive am I? I was told you were here because Gladys got called away on family business. I hope it's not something serious."
        "Well, Luke, it's pretty serious, but not unpleasant.  Gladys' favorite aunt died a year ago.  She had been in a nursing home for two or three years and Gladys was the only family member who visited her on any regular basis. Gladys took one of her off-days once a month and drove to Lexington to visit her. Well, when she died, Gladys had to make all the arrangements for her burial rites because the rest of the family not only weren't interested, but also feared they might have to pick up part of the bill. Gladys was very upset when she came up with most of the money, but was still a little short so I gave it to her (Chelsea the ogre strikes again). Well, the aunt left a sealed letter with a lawyer to be opened a year her death. Day before yesterday the lawyer's secretary called and said she had an envelope addressed to Gladys. Gladys asked the secretary to get the lawyer to open the envelope and let her know what was in it. Well, seems the old lady wasn't dumb or out of it at all. The envelope contained a list of CDs, not those things you play, but Certificate of Deposits, made out to Gladys.  The aunt had given instructions to the bank to rollover the certificates so it looks as if our Gladys is a wealthy woman. The certificates are worth over a million. Gladys is taking care of transferring, taxes, all that stuff. Not sure she'll ever be back here."
        "Wow! But I bet she'll be back. Don't think you could beat her away from here."
        "You're probably right. She's just like me. This is what we were put here for."
        "I couldn't agree more, Chelsea, me love."
        "I know better than that, but I'll take second place," she laughed as she hugged me to herself and said, "Be careful, be safe, Luke."
        "I will. See you later."
        I had spent longer at the hospital than I intended, but it had been like a second home and Chelsea and Gladys like step moms. As soon as I got home I went to my room and hit the books.  Calculus had always been pretty easy for me so by eleven I had accomplished a great deal, about a week's assignments. I would have gone on, but it was time to get to town.
        When I reached Mom's office, she was ready to go. She had actually made reservations for lunch at the one decent Italian restaurant in town. After we ordered, we talked about what I had done in the morning. I told her about seeing Chelsea and about Gladys' new fortune. After desert was served, she said, "Luke, I wanted a chance to talk with you privately ("Here it comes," I thought) and I didn't know when we might have a chance. I have done a lot of thinking since you dived into the river. I know that our family hasn't been as close as we should have been and I keep feeling that somehow or other I could have done something to prevent so desperate a deed. I feel so guilty.  Will you forgive me?"
        "Mom, I don't.... I can't.... talk about why I did the foolish thing I did, but while I couldn't agree more with your statement that our family is not as close as it should be, neither you nor anyone in the family had anything to do with my attempted suicide; couldn't have known my reason and couldn't have prevented it, so please don't feel guilty. And there's no reason for your asking forgiveness. At the same time, I hope we can become closer. Oh, I know that you and Dad love me and Mary Kathryn and that you love each other, but I, at least, need to be told that, shown that, more than even I realized."
        "All I can do is to tell you I am trying and will try to make sure you know I love you very, very much and that nothing, nothing at all, will ever change that, my lovely man-child. Well, I've got to run. Where do you want me to drop you off?"
        "It's nearly one now so just drop me off at Immaculate Conception."
        When we reached Immaculate Conception, Mom gave me a kiss on the cheek and said, "See you this evening, Luke."
        As I returned her kiss I said, "Bye, Mom. See you."
        Immaculate Conception allowed parishioners to do an open confession in Fr. Muller's study. However, there were old-fashioned confessionals in the church and I had told him I wanted to use one. As I walked into the church, he entered the confessional. I was honest with him, confessing that I was sorry for having nearly ended my life and for hurting so many people. He heard what he wanted to hear and I didn't have to say what wasn't really true. I got a real old-fashioned penance: ten "Hail Marys" and five "Our Fathers".  With the formalities out of the way, I remained kneeling for some minutes, offering thanks for all those who loved and cared about me, for Gladys' reward for love and, above all, for my true love.  I guess offering thanks for Matt was sacrilegious in that place, but I didn't think so. God had created us both and made us as we were and I was positive He had not made a mistake.
        When I walked out of Immaculate Conception, I remembered that Matt had suggested I contact Fr. Tom about talking with him this afternoon. I was passing a small jewelry store so I went inside and asked if I could use the phone. The elderly gentleman behind the counter passed me the phone and looked up St. Mary's number. While I was waiting for the phone to ring, something in the jewelry case me caught my eye. Before I could say anything, Gertie answered the phone.
        "Gertie, this is Luke Larsen. I'd like to know if it would be possible for me to see Fr. Tom this afternoon while Matt is practicing?"
        "He usually spends the afternoon making calls, but he hasn't left yet so I'll check. I'm putting you on hold."
        While I was on hold, I pointed to the piece that had caught my eye and the old fellow took it out of the case and handed it to me. Just as I started looking at it, Fr. Tom answered the phone. "Say you want to see me this afternoon, Luke?"
        "Yes, if it's not too inconvenient."
        "Well, I usually make calls in the afternoon, but I got a late start and have none that are absolutely pressing beyond a short hospital call. Matt will be here in the next half hour so why don't I make the hospital call and see you in half an hour or so?"
        "Thanks, Father. I'll see you then." I hung up the phone and turned my attention to the jewelry I was holding in my hand. "Do you have another one of these?" I asked.
        "I think I have another in the back. I'll check." The jeweler was gone for a few minutes and when he came back he said, "You're in luck. I have another exactly like that one and they've been discontinued."
        "I only have $20 with me. Could I give you that for a deposit and bring the balance later this afternoon?"
        "Sure, but remember, I'm only open until 5:30."
        "I'll be back before then. Then I told him what I wanted done to the pieces. He made sure he understood and told me they would be ready by 3:30 when Matt and I should be leaving St.  Mary's.
        I was so excited because I had stumbled across something that was very important to Matt and me just because I asked to use a phone and the jeweler was kind enough to let me do so.
        I ambled along the main street of our little town, window shopping and doing nothing except appreciating a beautiful spring day. Soon I realized that it was almost time for me to get to St. Mary's so I turned in that direction.
        When I reached St. Mary's, I went to the church office to say hello to Gertie. "Luke, you look great. I was afraid you were a goner there for awhile.  Think you would have been if that Greywolf character who hangs around here hadn't deserted us for the hospital."
        "I know I would have been, Gertie. I guess you know what the suicide bit was all about."
        "Kinda figured it out when Matt dragged in here half-dead day after day. Finally told him to go home and get some rest instead of coming in to practise.  That kid could play anything in the hymnal--most anything you can throw at him for that matter--with no practice. At least he could well enough to do at St. Mary's."
        "And you had no prob.... "
        "Luke, I play bridge with Millie Willingham. During his second year in college, Jason showed up for Christmas with a young man so handsome half the women in the town would kill to have him and introduced him as "my significant other, Anthony." Millie said, 'Well, thank God your daddy's dead or he'd stroke out and I'd have a funeral messing up my Christmas plans. Nice to have you aboard, Anthony, now I won't have to worry about pregnant girlfriends and daddies with shotguns.' I kinda liked her attitude. Jason was and is a delightful, kind, loving young man.  He found his match and the love in the world increased. Guess if I was as smart as Millie I would come up with something equally as clever. All I really have to say is that you better treat my boy right and love him to death or I'll kick your ass!"
        Just then Fr. Tom arrived from the hospital and announced his presence by asking, "Whose ass are you kicking this time, Gertie?"
        "This blond-haired angel if he doesn't treat his Korean Indian right."
        "Come on in, Luke," Fr. Tom said.
        As I walked toward Fr. Tom's study, I turned to Gertie and asked, "Gertie, would you let Matt know I am here?"
        "Sure," she replied, "He drops by before he leaves and I will tell him then so I don't interrupt his practice."
        Once we were in the study, Fr. Tom indicated an overstuffed chair and then took one opposite me. "You certainly look better than the last time I saw you, Luke," he said. "I was sure I would be telling Matt that you were no longer in this world. I am pleased to see you not only ok, but looking great."
        "Thanks, Father. Had it not been for Matt, I wouldn't be in this world and I know that for a fact. I have several things I need to talk to you about, and I'm not sure where to start. Well, that's not really true, I know that first of all I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for coming to the hospital and anointing me and giving me the Blessed Sacrament."
        "There is no need for thanks, Luke, although I do appreciate it. That's part of who I am. I must confess that I felt a bit awkward since I knew you and your family were devout Roman Catholics, but when Matt asked me to do it, I was ready and willing provided your parents gave permission. Otherwise, I would have respected their wishes since I had no way of knowing yours."
        "Well, Mom and Dad have said it meant a great deal to them at the time and helped them get through a very traumatic night, but now that it is over, they see it as a nice gesture but not really real, if you understand. I don't agree and I want you to know that. In fact, I am pleased that it was you rather than Fr. Muller because you are important to Matt and that makes you top notch with me. And I guess that brings up the next thing I need to talk with you about. I think you know--or at least suspect--that Matt and I are a couple. We are in love."
        "Yea, I know that."
        "Well, Matt told me you had said that if we were in love, we had your blessing even if it was unofficial."
        "Matt said right. I happen to believe that men who love men are born that way. And I make no difference between a heterosexual and a homosexual couple. The church still does, but it is struggling with that question. We have openly gay priests now, but the only thing that has changed has been the openness. One of the finest priests I have ever known was gay.  His sexuality was never mentioned or discussed. I never knew whether he chose to be celibate or just knew that he would only be tolerated as a priest if he were."
        "That's a question for me. You know that my church says that parents aren't to disown or throw out their children because they are gay--and right now I suspect that will be one ruling by the American Bishops that will be ignored when my parents find out--but the only way I can remain a Catholic in good standing is by remaining celibate. Now I assume you are heterosexual.  ... "
        "Safe assumption, but celibate because I was married to the most wonderful woman in the world for twenty magnificent years and after she died, I have never been really attracted to anyone else--yet. But you're not here to talk about me."
        "Maybe I am, at least some, because I need to know how you think and feel about things because of Matt and because of me. Anyway, I think even a real macho heterosexual could take a look at Matt and realize that if he were attracted to men, Matt would be near the top of the 'Man, that's a man list.'"
        "Fr. Tom laughed and said, "Look, I don't find myself attracted to men, but I know that Matt Greywolf is a real looker and more than that, he is a really wonderful person. In fact, I was not surprised to find him in love with a man because he had never fallen for all the girls--and women--who have thrown themselves at his feet. And you're, by the way, a knockout yourself.  May sound strange, but you two make a beautiful couple and from what I have learned from Matt you, too, are just as beautiful inside as outside."
        I think I have been around Matt too long and caught his disease because I never used to blush, but I knew I was bright red after that statement. "So what I'm saying, Father, is that while both Matt and I are virgins.... "
        "You certainly must be among a small minority of high school seniors these days," Fr.  Tom laughed. "So, you're virgins.... "
        "And not likely to remain so! Actually, we are going really slow and easy so far as sex is concerned--and that's difficult. Greywolf asked that we wait until we were eighteen--asked, not told--and we agreed out of respect for him and Mrs. Greywolf."
        "So the Greywolfs know?"
        "Yea. We had a talk with them last night. Matt and I were concerned about house rules since they did know. In fact the family--I guess.... "
        "Luke, I've been around Matt long enough to realize--finally--that "the family" means the three families when said with one intonation and the immediate family when said with another."
        "I always wondered why people got confused about which was meant when we never did.  Also wondered why the confusion disappeared after really getting to know someone.... Well, all of the family knows except my Mom and Dad. We are hoping they will get away on a weekend honeymoon the family has arranged and, if they do, we will have a family meeting this weekend. Anyway, Greywolf and Mrs. Greywolf essentially told us we had to make our own rules. In the public areas of the house, we are free to behave as the Greywolfs do and if you know those two, you know that is not terribly limiting. Heavy making out we were told should probably be kept in Matt's room. Sleep overs, which have been very much a part of our lives are not forbidden and we are to decide how to control ourselves in that regard. I suggested we keep Matt's room door open. Greywolf said that would probably be a good idea, but the choice was ours.  We're going to talk with Dr. Bailey about the whole sex thing since there are, she says, some aspects of gay sex that we really need to know about."
        "It comes as no surprise to me, knowing Matt as well as I do, that he would fall in love with a very mature young man. I am impressed with how you two are making decisions and taking responsibility for your actions."
        "Well.... there's one decision that I have to make on my own. I went to confession today and while what I said was true, it was only what Fr Muller wanted to hear so he could give me absolution for attempting suicide. I am truly sorry that I hurt so many people and caused so much pain, but what he wanted to hear was that I was sorry for attempting self-murder. I have very mixed feeling about that. It's kinda like my sister Mary Kathryn said about her feelings. She was very sad that I hurt so much that I tried to end it all, but at the same time she was really pissed--sorry, Father.... " Fr. Tom simply waved his hand in dismissal.... "because I tried to kill her brother. I am very sorry that I hurt so many, but if it took that to bring Matt and me together.  ... Anyway, I can receive the Blessed Sacrament at Immaculate Conception now only because Matt and I have decided not to have sex so technically I am celibate.  But that will change. Father, I am a religious person at heart. The church and the sacraments mean a great deal to me. I think maybe not as much as they do to Matt, but his church and religion has always been a source of joy and peace for him. Mine has not. Yet, even at that, I know that I will miss it when I can no longer be a part of it--and I won't lie about my relationship to Matt even after we are no longer virgins. We certainly won't announce it to the world, but my parents will know and that will be all it takes. I guess what I am really asking is will I be welcome at St. Mary's with Matt?"
        "Luke, I would be a liar if I told you there were no people at St. Mary's who would not condemn you and Matt if they knew. I can assure you they are a small minority and no-one has a right to poke into your bedroom. You will be as welcomed and I hope as loved by this congregation as it loves Matt. And, of course, if you're not we can always turn Gertie loose on them!"  Father laughed. "Seriously, this is a large step you are anticipating, maybe not for you but for your parents. You will find, I'm sure, things look very familiar and you will feel right at home in one sense. In another, you will find, I hope, the same attitude here you found in the Greywolf home. You are expected pretty much to make your own decisions.  They will be questioned--I hope not in a judgmental way--in order to keep you rethinking and growing and maturing. I am and expect to be until I am dust and ashes."
        "I only have one other thing I want to talk about right now--and I probably should have talked to Matt first, but I wanted to ask you first. You told Matt that if we loved each other, we had your blessing even if it had to be unofficial. I want to ask you about th.... "
        The phone on Fr. Tom's desk buzzed and Gertie's gravelly voice said, "Matt's out here.  What do I do with him?"
        Fr. Tom looked at me and I said, "Let him come in."
        "If you can't get rid of him, send him in."
        Matt came into the office as hyper as he could be. "I've got it. I've really got it!"
        "Got what, Sarang Hanun Pomul?"
        "I wanted to compose something special for my recital and just couldn't come up with anything, but as I was playing around with a tune that has been driving me nuts, I got it!" With those words, he grabbed me by the hands, pulled me from my chair and gave me a very passionate, fun, loving, deep kiss.
        "Matt, remember where you are! Fath....  "
        His lips covered mine and his tongue entered my mouth. I could feel the blush as my face turned redder and redder. Father Tom was laughing his head off. "I can understand why you're finding slow and easy a bit difficult to maintain when this wild Lakota Korean is on the loose!"
        "Fr. Tom, I love this man so much it is almost sinful!"
        "Matt, if you'll come in for a landing, Luke was about to ask something. Luke, do you still have a question?"
        "Yes. Matt, I know I should have talked to you, but since you're here... Father Tom, I know you can't marry two men, but is there some way Matt and I--if he wants to and when we're ready- -can have something in a the way of....  . Well, I don't know what to call it."
        "Luke, as a priest, I don't marry couples. I married one woman once, Janice, who was my wife. A couple marries each other. That's the first thing you need to know. The second is that a wedding is a public announcement, if you will, of a couple's commitment to each other. The only part the church actually plays is blessing the union. But to my mind, at least at this point in my life and growth, I see marriage as restricted to a man and a woman, not because I believe two men--or two women--can't love each other as deeply and be as fully committed to each other. I do not, on the other hand, see any reason why two men cannot exchange vows. Unfortunately, it cannot be as public as a wedding because of the community and society. I'm sure neither of you are ready to have your picture appear in the weekly rag here in Concord as newly weds. When and if you decide to make a commitment to each other in the presence of family and friends, I can't do the ceremony--I'll change that--I could, but it would be the end of my ministry here and I'm not willing to do that. I would, however, be delighted to be present and celebrate a festive Eucharist which could include a prayer for your commitment and a blessing for you and all present.  Maybe that seems to be hairsplitting-- it is--but that's where I am right now."
        "It's kinda like my confession, isn't it," Luke asked.
        "I guess you could say that. In any event, let me know what you decide and when you'd like. Anything else we need to talk about?"
        "I don't think so and thank you so much, Father."
        "Matt, I'm sure knows this, but please remember I am here for you when you need me. I'll be honest with you and support you all I can. You're going to need a lot of support, I'm afraid."  Fr. Tom then stood up and Matt gave him a hug. The Greywolfs are really into hugging and I am learning to like it, but I didn't feel right hugging a priest, so I just shook hands and Matt and I walked out of the study.
        "Well, I see your lover boy has calmed down a bit, Luke. Do you think you can stand having that wild Korean Indian around all the time?"
        "Don't know, but I'd sure like to find out," I replied. As we left the church office and headed for Matt's Jeep, I realized we were holding hands again. "I think we'd better drop hands, Matt," I reminded him.
        "Well Shit!" Matt exclaimed, very uncharacteristically of him I might add since I am the one that usually has the dirty mouth. He dropped my hand and we got into the Jeep.
        "Swing by the bank, if you would," I said, "I need to get some money from the ATM.
        When I punched in the amount Matt said, "What are you trying to do, go bankrupt?" I just laughed. Since we were just around the corner from the jewelry store, I asked Matt to wait for me in the bank parking lot. "What's going on here?" he asked.
        "Never mind. You'll find out when you need to. Now just wait. I'll be back in five minutes." I dashed around the corner and into the store. The elderly gentleman showed me the pieces he had prepared and was obviously very proud of his handiwork as well he should be; they were beautiful.
        As we drove home, I had my arm around Matt's shoulders, untying his hair. He kept looking over at me with a big grin on his face. "Luke of the Hair Fetish, I love you, Man. I love you with every ounce of my being."
        As we crossed the river bridge, I asked Matt to stop and when he did, I grabbed his hand and started racing toward the river. As we entered that special place, I crossed the canes behind us and pulled Matt to me for a fun kiss--it had never occurred to me until a few days ago that kisses come in all kinds and I hadn't found one I disliked! When we reached the falls, I handed Matt a small box and asked him to open it. Inside was the piece I had found by accident. It was a silver chain from which hung a diamond-shaped medallion. The jeweler had beautifully engraved a design around it and in the center of one side were the words Sarang Hanun Pomul. On the other side, equally as beautifully engraved were the words Yonghon Tongmu. "Luke, this is absolutely beautiful! I love it," Matt said. I took the necklace from him, placed it around his neck--after I managed to get it under his hair--and fastened it.  I then gave him a second box, exactly like the first, and when he opened it he found an identical necklace which he placed around my neck and, while keeping his arms around my neck, pulled me to himself for a passionate--with a bit of lust I suspect--kiss. "Luke, if I loved you any more, I would just burst."
        "Sarang Hanun Pomul, I want you to look carefully the two necklaces. What do you see?"
        "Yonghon Tongmu, I see two beautiful silver medallions on a silver chain. I see some magnificent engraving including our names."
        "What else do you see?"
        "What am I supposed to see?"
        "Matt, today I just ducked in a small jewelry story to ask if I could use the phone to call Fr. Tom. While I was waiting for Gertie to answer, I noticed the medallion and chain in the case.  I was struck at once by the shape of the medallion....  "
        "I see it's diamond-shaped, but I don't understand ....  "
        "Remember driver's ed, Matt?"
        "Sure. But what has that to d.... diamond-shaped signs mean caution. Luke, you're a wonder."
        "As soon as I saw that medallion I remember Greywolf saying we would have to figure out our own reminders and ways of remembering slow and easy and that medallion seemed perfect for at least one way. They do not come off--at least until....  well, until. We'll know when. The chains are long so that there's no way we can play around and ignore the caution sign--which speaks of our love. I asked the jeweler if he could have the engraving done by this afternoon because I wanted my lover and me to have one and he said he could and he'd do a special job. I had expected just our names, but he did more and when I went to pick them up, he showed them to me and said, "Wear them in love, my son, and remember an old man who has loved long and deeply and wishes the same for you and the one you love."
        "So they are doubly special, Luke, my love." We embraced and kissed each other, I suspect both thinking what it would be like not just to love deeply, but also to love long.

        I was sound asleep when I got the strangest, but most delightful feeling. I felt Luke's presence near me. Of course, I thought I was dreaming, but when I opened my eyes, Luke was at my window. "Good morning, Yonghon Tongmu, Light of My Life," I smiled at my love.
        "Good morning, Sarang Hanun Pomul, Sun of My Soul," Luke replied as he climbed through the window, coming to my bed and pulling my body to his as our lips met. I would like to have stayed longer, but I was about to piss myself so I jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom. When I came back, Luke commented on the fact that we were acting normally, that is, just as we had always done. I was walking around as I had slept, nude, and had given it no thought. That soon changed as I pushed him back on my bed and gave him a good morning kiss that set the stars spinning. Well, all good things must end, and soon we were running down the road. Luke was not up to his usual speed yet and by the time we reached the end of David's pasture, we turned back. Before we reached the house, we had slowed down to a walk and since there was no-one about, we walked holding hands. I can't get over how much holding hands says about our love. It's not as passionate--or lustful if the truth were known--as kissing, but it was pretty powerful stuff.
        Luke came in and had an orange juice while we ate breakfast and talked. It was obvious he loved being around my parents and being free to express his love for their son. Soon, however, he had to leave and go home to have breakfast with his parents--which I'm sure wasn't as easy.
        School was school, what more can I say? The usual lunch gang were overjoyed to learn that Luke was home and would be back at school Monday. The three AP classes were pressing review and preparation hard and I took notes like mad, knowing I'd have to help Luke get prepared as well as prepare myself.
        I was anxious to get to St. Marry's, not only because I knew Luke would meet me there, but also to see if I couldn't figure out what I wanted to do about my recital. I had selected the music for the most part and felt comfortable with it, but I also wanted to write a special piece. I knew it was that piece which I had laughingly called "Luke" that had been stewing in the back of my mind, but that's all I knew.
        I played through the music for Sunday--it was all familiar and I had been doing some of the shorter pieces I planned for the recital as preludes and postludes, that way I got double duty out of practice. I tackled a couple pieces with which I was not satisfied and still nothing came to mind. Finally, I opened the organ up and blasted out "More" from memory. I should know the music since it had been running around in my head for what seemed like forever. In the middle of playing it through the second time, using a different registration, it hit. I knew the special piece. I would compose variations on "More!"; I even knew what it would be called. I certainly couldn't call it "Luke," but I could call it "Yonghon Tongmu!". I jumped off the organ bench and went racing into the church office and yelled at Gertie, "I've got it, Gertie; I've got it!"
        "Well, I hope you keep it since I don't think my old heart could stand it, whatever it is that you've got."
        Not quite shouting, but still so excited I could hardly speak, I said, "You don't understand.... "
        "You're right about that!" she responded quickly.
        "I've been annoyed to death by a tune running around in my head and worried because I couldn't think of anything I wanted to compose as the centerpiece of my recital and it hit me.... "
        "Must have hit you pretty hard from the way you're acting.  Are you sure you don't need to lie down and let me get an ice pack."
        "Gertie, the tune running around in my head was trying to tell me to use it for a special composition. I've finally got it!"
        "Glad you got it. Heaven help us if you were worse without it. Luke's here. Want me to buzz Tom?"
        "Do you think it'll be ok?"
        "Wouldn't have suggested it if I didn't. He knows how to say 'no'."
        "Buzz 'em."
        When Fr. Tom answered, Gertie told him I was outside and he told her to send me in.  Luke was there and I was so excited about what I had discovered that I grabbed him and gave him a huge kiss. I think he was a bit taken aback because of Fr.  Tom but that made no difference to me since he knew about us. Then I realized that Luke didn't know him as well I did. Luke surprised me after I had settled down a little by talking about a commitment ceremony of some kind. He and Fr. Tom were very serious about that. I was so surprised that I didn't have much to say. There was a side to Luke I was seeing which I never saw before. He had mouthed the words "Sarang Hanun Pomul and Yonghon Tongmu together forever" and I had said similar things and, I guess, I had kinda thought that would be the way it was, but.... this man of mine was being serious about our being together forever--very serious. Somehow or other, I felt a new love for him, a love that went way beyond our youthful exuberance. This man was talking about the kind of commitment my parents, his parents and David and Elizabeth had to each other. This man was serious! Wow!
        When we left, Luke went by the ATM and took out more money than I thought he needed and then asked me to wait for him in the bank parking lot. He disappeared around the corner and was back in ten minutes or so. He didn't say where he had been or what he had been doing.
        As we drove home, his arm was around my shoulders and he let down my hair. I thought of that fairy tale about the princess in the tower whose lover climbed up her hair. Anyway, when we crossed the river bridge, he asked me to stop and we went to the falls where he gave me a small box. Inside was the most beautifully engraved silver medallion on a chain. With some coaching, I finally identified the shape as a caution sign. Luke had found one way we could remind ourselves of 'slow and easy'. Come to think of it, he had also suggested the open door policy at sleep overs. I felt as if I had been brain dead when it came to working out how we were going to work this relationship. I guess Dad had been right, my brain was in my crotch while Luke has his firmly on his shoulders. But it was because of him that mine was in my crotch!
        When Luke told me the story of how the old jeweler had done special engraving on the medallions and wished for us--at least for Luke and his love and that's us--a love as long and deep as his, I once again thought about how serious Luke was about our love. I knew that I loved him no less deeply than he loved me, but our thoughts about our love were running on different paths: Luke's were focused on the long term, mine were more concerned with the immediate future. Maybe that's because I had no real fear about the immediate future, but Luke certainly looked to major changes in his life very soon. Well, tonight would begin to tell the tale, wouldn't it? The whole family would be gathered for the first time since Luke's attempted suicide and what Jens and Gabrielle decided about the weekend would have a lot to do with how the future looked.
        With another deep, passionate kiss, we left the river and started walking across the meadow to the Jeep. About half-way there, Luke suddenly pulled me to himself and gave me a surprise kiss. Laughing, we started running toward the Jeep. It was only when we reached the Jeep and Luke reminded me that I realized we had been holding hands as we crossed the meadow.
        I couldn't help myself. As Matt and I walked across the meadow toward the road, I grabbed him and pulled his body to mine and gave him a deep, passion-filled kiss. Matt laughed and suddenly started running. I noticed our bright, new medallions bouncing on our chests as we ran. When we reached the Jeep I realized we had been holding hands. "Matt, we came all the way across the meadow holding hands!"
        "Well, IF anyone saw us and IF anyone cared, the holding hands probably wouldn't have caused the flak that your laying a kiss on me did!" he replied.  "And, if we're going to have any secrets, I think we better put our medallions under our shirts."
        "Yeeps, Matt, we have got to be more careful--but, Man, how can you be careful when your whole being is focused on the one you love?"
        "I wish I had an answer to that," Matt replied and, since we were in the Jeep, turned to me and gave me a smile that made any problem I had disappear--at least for the moment.
        When we reached the house, I was surprised to find Mom in the kitchen with Mary Kathryn. "Mom, you're home early." When Mom turned from the sink she had a strange look on her face.
        "I finished all I really had to do and took off early to make sure everything was ready for tonight. When I got here, Mary Kathryn had everything under control--with a little help."
        "Hi, guys, whatsup?" Michael said, coming into the kitchen from the den.
        "'Sup with you, Dude?" Matt asked, knowing that the one word forbidden among the Gang of Four was "dude."
        "Thought Mary Kathryn might need some help so I came over after school. When we got here, Mary Kathryn decided I was her kitchen slave so we got everything done quickly. Where you two been, Duuuude?"
        "I met Matt at St. Mary's and got a ride home so Mom would be free and here we are."
        "Well, since you're here, Luke, you can set the table and then get cleaned up."
        "I'll help," Matt volunteered and we soon had the table set. Mom had to remind us to get the extra leaf since the "kids" would be eating with the adults this evening. As soon as we finished, we went upstairs to my room. I closed the door and grabbed Matt. While we were practicing advanced tongue wrestling, there was a knock on the door and Mary Kathryn and Michael just walked in without waiting.
        "At least you could give a fellow time to finish what he was doing," I said as the two of them made themselves at home on my bed.
        "From the way you two were going at it, I don't think we have long enough before dinner," Michael laughed, then got a very serious look on his face. "Guys, I think we've got a problem."
        "Something wrong between you and Mary Kathryn?" Matt asked, suddenly as serious as Michael. "You know both of us are here for you when you need us."
        "Oh, no, everything's fine between me and Mary Kathryn.  Couldn't be better at least for the time being. We've got a problem because I think you guys have a problem, a real problem."
        "What's up, Lil Bro?" Matt had presence of mind to ask. I was thunderstruck--about what I didn't know.
        "You two went to the river today, right?"
        Suddenly regaining my senses, I answered, "Yes, so what's the big deal. We all do that all the time."
        "Sure we do, but we don't come out of the cane brake holding hands and we certainly don't stop in the middle of the meadow for a kiss."
        "Holy shit! You saw us?"
        "Now would that be a problem, Luke, other than reminding you again that you need to be careful?"
        "Luke, remember yesterday when I said I saw you and Matt holding hands as you came from the river?" Mary Kathryn asked--then continued, not waiting for an answer, "I told you then I saw you because I was upstairs, but Mom didn't because she was downstairs. Well, that's true so long as you're near the river, but you guys came walking across the meadow in plain sight. I'm pretty sure Mom saw you, not only holding hands, but also stopping for a kiss. I was in the dining room when I saw you and she was in the kitchen so I can't be absolutely sure, but when I walked back into the kitchen, she had a strange look on her face and said, "I see Matt's bringing Luke home."
        "And that's all she said?"
        "That's it."
        "Holy Mary and Baby Jesus, what are we going to do?" I said. I was so frightened I couldn't think.
        "Ok," Matt finally spoke up, "we don't know for sure what Gabrielle did or didn't see.  She has said nothing about it and doesn't seem particularly upset or anything."
        "But what are we going to do?" I begged for an answer.
        "Nothing, period. We're going to do nothing. Stop and think. If she saw us and put one and one together, she was bound to come up with a couple. Now it would be very strange for your mom to say, 'Oh well, my son's a queer.' She's bound to be working things out in her own mind. She's not dumb. She's not going to spoil the celebration tonight and, I would be willing to bet, she'll go along with the plans for the weekend. Your mom's a wonderful woman, Luke, and she's going to think long and carefully before she does anything. I'd bet my life on that....  "
        "You may be doing just that," Michael chimed in.
        "And again, what can we do? Do we want to come out tonight?  I don't think so."
        "I don't think you can go to Mom and say, 'Mom, you thought you saw Luke and Matt making out in the meadow today, but it was just two stray studs,'" Mary Kathryn laughed. Her laugh made us all feel good and we all started giggling.
        "Well I, for one, plan to enjoy tonight's celebration to the fullest and worry about who knows what about who.... "
        "Whom, Michael, whom," Matt said, the endless years of living with an English teacher just comes out from time to time. "But you're right Lil Bro. If the fecal material hits the spinning blades tonight, I'll be surprised, but we all know it's only a matter of time. Somehow, the family will survive, but it's good to have a real scare because we're not going to be dealing with the family in school next week."
        I had remained quiet because I was the one who was scared shitless thinking what would happen when my dad found out. I wasn't as worried about Mom.  Maybe that conversation at lunch today wasn't as strange as I thought. I wonder.... "
        "Hey, Mary Kathryn and Michael, look at this." Matt pulled the medallion from under his shirt and held it out toward the two.
        "It's beautiful, but what is it," Michael asked.
        "See, the engraving says Yonghon Tongmu on one side and Sarang Hanun Pomul on the other. Luke bought us each one today. You've both had drivers' ed. What's a diamond-shaped sign mean?"
        "Caution?" Mary Kathryn asked.
        "Yea, caution. It's a way to remind us of slow and easy. I guess we also need one to remind us of when and where.
        "I guess I'll have to buy us a compass to wear as well," Luke said, but he still wasn't in the lighthearted mood the three of us were in.
        "Luke Babe, it'll be ok."
        "But I exposed you to the wrath of my family--skip that--of my father. I worry.... "
        "I don't remember you tying me down to plant a kiss, Yonghon Tongmu. We've got each other and soon a whole house-full of people who love us and who support us and who think our love is great, so.... "
        "Lighten up, Brother, or I'll be forced to kick your ass," my sweet, charming, loving sister said.
        "Michael, how in hell do you think you can handle this wild woman sister of mine?"
        "Do you need a demonstration?" and with those words he grabbed Mary Kathryn, pulled her on top of himself and started french kissing her. She grabbed a handful of his hair and pulled his face closer to hers, if that were possible. When they finally came up for air, Matt laughed and said, "You may have tamed a wild woman, but she sure untamed part of you!" Matt cracked up as he pointed to the tent in Michael's pants. Michael turned red and tried to hide his erection.  Mary Kathryn was laughing her head off.
        The Gang of Four, including this somewhat troubled member was once again in great form. Michael gave Mary Kathryn a kiss, grabbed her hand and started out of the room. "It's about love," he tossed over his shoulder as he slipped his arm around my sister's waist and pulled her to himself.
        I kicked the door closed behind them, put my arms around Matt's neck and pulled him to me. "Yes, it's about love and no matter how hard it gets, it's about love and that means you, Beloved Treasure." We shared a deep kiss and Matt left for home to get ready for the evening and I went to the bathroom. My manhood was aching for attention and as I took care of that problem, I said to myself, "Even waiting is about love. But, damn, love sure is complicated!"
        I was in a great mood as I drove home, but wondered why since Luke stood to be put out of his house because of our carelessness. I guess I had decided that nothing was going to ruin this celebration of Luke's homecoming--even if it was for only a short time--and the fact that my love was alive and well and loved me. Nothing could ruin that.
        When I got home, Mom and Dad were horsing around while getting ready for the evening. I used to get embarrassed when they started playing around, but now that I have discovered there are thousands of ways to show love, I was taking them as role models.
        "You need to get ready, Matt. It's almost 6:30 and Gabrielle wants us all there by 7:30.  How was your day?"
        "I'll grab a quick shower and change, then I'll tell you about my day. It has been some day."
        I ran upstairs, got undressed and got in the shower. All I could think about was making love to Luke and as if to confirm that possibility, my Chili Pepper--that's what my Korean Mama used to call my penis and I still do--let it be known that it was ready for action now, not later. Well, the quick shower would just have to take a bit longer. Some things are difficult to put off. All the time I was taking care of Chili Pepper, I was thinking of Luke and his beautiful body.  When I exploded, I saw stars it was so intense. "Babe, slow and easy may be the way to go now, but comes the time when.... "
        I finished my shower and picked out an outfit which I knew complemented my dark skin--an off-white shirt and black pants. Not my usual cargo pants, but a pair of jeans which showed off my ass. This was Luke's night and I wanted to make sure he enjoyed it! Before I dropped the medallion into my shirt I kissed it and said the magic words, "Yonghon Tongmu, I love you with all I am."
        When I went downstairs, Mom and Dad were dressed, sitting in the library, which is the favorite spot in the house unless there's food around! When I walked in, Mom said, "Killerrr."  and Dad said, "Hot stuff.!"
        "So, tell us about your day, Killer Hot Stuff," Dad said.
        "Well, I went to school, of course. About as interesting as warm milk.... "
        "I guess we need to talk to your teachers and see if they can't get you enough work to make school interesting," Mom said.
        "Hey, I didn't say there was anything wrong with warm milk!  Anyway, I went to St. Mary's this afternoon to practise. I've had something going on in my head for weeks about a composition for the centerpiece of my recital. Nothing came to the surface although I've had a song and its first two lines driving me nuts. I finally remembered the title, but have never remembered to try to find it. I know you have it somewhere."
        "What is it?" Dad asked.
        "It's called 'More'."
        Dad grabbed Mom and started dancing her around the room as both of them sang:

                    More than the greatest love the world had known
                    This is the love I'll give to you alone
                    More than the simple words I try to say
                    I only live to love you more each day
                    More that you'll ever know
                    My arms long to hold you so
                    My life will be in your keeping
                    Walking, sleeping, laughing, weeping,
                    Longer than always is a long long time
                    But far beyond forever you'll be mine
                    I know I never lived before, and my heart is very sure
                    No one else could ever love you more
                    I know I never lived before, and my heart is very sure
                    No one else could ever love you more.

        "Yes! Yes! Yes! That's exactly what I wanted to say, but couldn't remember the words and couldn't announce them to the world anyway. Thanks, Mom and Dad, and you can come back to earth now."
        Dad had ended by doing a huge dip, barely holding Mom off the floor, then planted a hot kiss on her.
        "Anyway, I am going to write a composition around that song, a kind of variations and fugue probably.... "
        "And the title will be 'Yonghon Tongmu: Variations and Fugue on" More"' right?" Mom asked, smiling.
        "But of course, as a tribute to my Korean heritage. Of course there'll have to be some Lakota type variations in there.... "
        "You don't have to try to fool us, Sarang Hanun Pomul--we know, remember," Mom laughed.
        "Anyway, that just popped into my head as I was practising.  Then I talked with Fr. Tom a bit. Actually, he and Luke were having a conversation and they let me in on the last of it. Luke's having a real struggle with church right now. And, you know what?"
        "Of course we know what. Why?" Dad asked. He is almost as bad as Mom about getting on my language and usage.
        "Dad, Mom, Luke was talking to Fr. Tom about a kind of commitment ceremony. Here I am thinking about getting through the next few weeks until we are eighteen.... " I realized what I had said and blushed. "Anyway, this joker of a lover of mine is thinking about years from now.  When we are old men."
        "And that bothers you?"
        "Hell no--sorry--no. It's just that I kinda work out of the immediate and Luke looks way down the road."
        "Sounds like a good combination to me so long as you talk about it so one doesn't get left behind. So how do you feel about some sort of commitment ceremony?"
        "Dad, when he said it I was so excited I didn't know what to do. I keep discovering just how much that man loves me and it makes me love him all the more."
        "More than the greatest love...  Son, you've really got it bad."
        "And that's good," Mom added.
        "Anyway, when we left the church, Luke went to the ATM and took out more money than I thought he should, left me waiting in the bank parking lot and came back ten minutes later. No explanation, nothing. When we got to the river bridge, he had me stop and we went to the falls where he gave me this." I pulled the medallion from my shirt and held it before me.
        Both Mom and Dad looked at it carefully, admiring the engraving and then Mom said, "I think you may need to get a shorter chain. That one's so long it'll get in the way."
        All of a sudden Dad got a huge grin on his face and said, "Damn, that Luke Larsen kid is sharp. Yong Jin, it's a caution sign! It's supposed to get in to way. It's another open bedroom door, right Matt?"
        "Man, Dad, you figured it out quicker than I did."
        "Anyway, after we spent a short time at the falls, we were walking across the meadow to the Jeep. Right in the middle of the meadow, Luke grabbed me and gave me a kiss. After that we started running and ran to the Jeep and when we got there, I realized we had been holding hands all the time. When we got to Luke's, Gabrielle gave him a kind of strange look, he said, and later Mary Kathryn and Michael said they were positive she had seen us in the meadow. It put Luke pretty far down because, while he won't admit it, he is terrified of what Jens will do when he finds out. But when I left, the other three of us in the Gang of Four had pretty much convinced Luke that tonight would go great and whatever happens, happens."
        "Well, I'll be honest with you, Matt, I too worry about what Jens will do. We all know he has a violent temper and seems not to know when to admit he is wrong and say he's sorry. But I think the Gang is right. Tonight will be a celebration.  Gabrielle is too good a hostess to allow anything to happen. Later.... Well, we'll talk about that tomorrow night, one way or another I think. 1