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Flamer Skater

by Bensiamin

© 2020 by Bensiamin. All rights reserved.

This is a work of gay fiction. While the locations are real, all characters and situations are imaginary. This story contains characters who earlier appeared in the Revelation & Redemption series. While it stands alone, the characters and story line will be more complete if you've read them first.

The sound of a pack and skateboard hitting the rear floor was followed by the hatch closing with a solid click, filling the interior of the Dodge Caravan. A few seconds later Eric opened the side door and caught his Dad's eye as he climbed into the vehicle. They both smiled at each other.

Eric slid the door forward to close it, dropped into the rear seat and snapped his seat belt, letting out a deep sigh. He tossed his cap on the seat and brushed his longish brown hair off his forehead, revealing bright eyes, and a sunny complexion. Out of the corner of his eye Will watched his wife Sam (whose full name was Samantha but insisted that she be called Sam) turn to Eric and ask if he had had a good time.

"Oh yeah. It was great. Not too many people for a Saturday afternoon, Billy was there, and we skated for a while. He's so good and I learn a ton from him every time we skate together. He helped me master a jump on the back wall, and I rode one of the long rails for the whole way. And we had a lot of fun too!"

Will could almost feel the smile in Sam's reply when she said, "That's wonderful. What a combination, a good time and learning new things too! How cool you are able to do it at Burnside Skatepark. It's only four o'clock. Are you starving, or can you hang on just a little longer so we can stop at Pioneer Square for a few minutes? I've got to buy a couple of things."

Eric rolled his eyes. "Mom. Pioneer Square! It's like a small shopping mall, not like stopping at the supermarket. You'll take forever."

"Not true. I have a couple of leotards to get at the sporting goods store, and a few toiletries to buy at Le Occitane en Provence , and then we'll be on our way."

Eric sighed. "This is already planned, isn't it? We'll be waiting half an hour, best case."

"Eric, honey, it's only a few blocks away and I promise I'll be quick. I need the leotards for class, and the toiletries are kind of important. You don't want your Mom leading gym class in leotards with holes, do you? Don't you want me smelling good too? Shall I get you some shaving cream or cologne?"

"Mom, give me a break!"

Will laughed, loving the experience of hearing the give and take, knowing that under it all was so much love and affection that there was no worry about the outcome.

They were already pulling into the parking lot across the street from Pioneer Square and he said, "Eric, how about this: while Mom buys her stuff, you and I will hit that hot dog stand right here on the corner, and then if you keep being so sweet and understanding we'll go to the same sporting goods store where Mom's getting her leotards, and I'll buy you a sweat shirt. It'll be fall soon, and you'll need another one. The one you wear most of the time looks pretty worn."

Eric reached forward and put his hands on his Dad's shoulders and squeezed softly. "Is this a bribe?"


"You know, a bribe. When you buy someone's agreement with money...or food...or clothes."

"I'm just trying to be a good Dad, that's all."

"You're the best, Dad. But this is only a deal if they've got good skateboarding sweatshirts in there. If not, can I get my sweatshirt at Cal Skate They've got the best boards and clothes too."

Will reached around and found Eric's knee and gave it a huge squeeze. "I think I can make that happen. If you can't find what you want here, we'll go to Cal Skate in the next few days. I know they're the best skateboarding shop in Portland. It makes the case though. The stuff your Mom needs she can't buy in Sellwood, and you may not be able to find a sweatshirt that meets your high standards here. Is that cool?"

"Cool beans. Let's go. I'm starving and dying for a hot dog."

"Deal, it'll tide you over till dinner, and we're having your favorite chicken dinner tonight, so you'll be a happy camper later."

"You mean Doris' chicken? The one with carrots and sour cream?

"I do indeed. Prepared just the way Uncle David taught me. You'll have to chop the onions though."

Will didn't hear an acknowledgment. It was lost in the sound of "Yummmmmm!" coming from the back seat, followed by a question.

"Where's Susan?"

"She's with Uncle David and Uncle Jackson. They offered to watch her for a couple of hours while we came downtown to pick you up. We'll get Susan on the way home, but not to fret. Remember we're having a barbecue with them tomorrow afternoon."

"That's cool. I'd forgotten."

"It'll be good to spend some time with them. We haven't been over there for a few weeks. See, there's a payoff to getting your schoolwork done early."

They were all out of the Caravan and Will hugged Sam and told her they'd catch up with her inside Pioneer Square.

"Let's go get that dog!"

When father and son were settled on the bench of the single picnic table that sat next to the hot dog stand, and after they'd chewed and swallowed two bites of hot dog, Will smiled and said, "Tell me more about this afternoon."

Eric chewed, taking his time, then swallowed and followed it by a large gulp of Diet Coke.

"Like I said, it was cool skating with Billy. It's still summer and we don't need to be undercover and out of the rain, but that's one of the things about Burnside Skatepark. It's in the shade and that makes it the coolest place in town—meaning cool both ways—on top of having the most technical layout. You know, Dad, none of the skateboarding places in east Portland are even close to the ramps and barrier walls and stuff that Burnside has."

"I remember reading about it when you started to want to go and was impressed that it was designed with obstacles inspired by transition and pool-skating, and that the concrete banks are built right into the base of the main wall, which means into the foundation of the bridge."

Eric wiggled his eyebrows, and after a few more chews and a swallow said, "And don't forget the main wall also has a bump for pumping, that can really get you flying. Billy was showing me how to really make that happen. And then there's the deep bowl and the bowl pocket and the pyramid and the quarter pipe to boot. It's so much better than that plywood job out by Mount Tabor."

Watch the YouTube video showing the Burnside Skatepark as part of the reporting on Portland-Skateboarding capital of the USA.

"I'm with you, Eric, and I think it's pretty great that you've got something that cool and that good to skate on here in downtown. If they'd had it when Uncle Jackson and I were going to college at Lewis & Clark, we might have taken up skateboarding. But that was a while ago. I don't even think skateboards were on our radar back then. When did it open?"

Eric was still chewing, but managed to say, "I think six years ago. That would have been 1990. But back when you were in college, BMX racing and rock climbing were on your radar!"

"True enough. I'm cool with it as long as skating doesn't replace BMX riding. Actually, to be more accurate, mountain biking. All of us being able to go mountain biking together is one of the best things."

"And one of the things that makes you glad is that there's two uncles to baby sit, right?"

Eric was grinning conspiratorially now, and his eyes were sparkling.

Will grinned back, "But, they ride too, and it's a lot of fun when we can all go together.

Eric nodded, and continued," No worries there. Are we going to be able to make it to Moab before school starts in the Fall?"

"It looks good. I'm not teaching this summer, and your Mom is, but her summer term ends before the middle of August so we think we can pull it off. It'll be hot though! Are you excited about riding the Slickrock Trail in the Utah red rock country?"

"Sure am. They're the best, aren't they? Everything I read is that the traction on the sandstone is so good you can ride up a 45 degree slope!"

They fell silent finishing their food, and as Eric wiped his lips with the paper napkin he asked, "So David and Jackson are up for taking care of Susan?"

"She's really not old enough to go, you know, with us being out on a bike trail for hours at a time, and it looks like David and Jackson are going to come through again. Just like when you were small. They didn't just love you and change your diapers and wipe your ass, but made it possible for us to do stuff till you were old enough to come along or we could all go together. Pretty good pair of guys. Jackson's working full time, but David has the summer off, too. The advantage of being Dean of Students."

"I know, Dad, and I love them totally. I still haven't figured out how come it's so easy and comfortable around them. Most of my friends act like being around adults is like being around aliens, but being around Jackson and David is just totally chill."

"Good way to put it. Are you done? Let's go see about that sweatshirt."

Will waited for Eric to throw the trash in the garbage can, and they crossed the street with his arm over his son's shoulder. They'd always been close and affectionate, and still were.

They entered Pioneer Square together, Will's arm still over Eric's shoulder, and headed for the escalator to go up to the second floor and the sporting goods store. Just before they got there, Will noticed Eric look to his right and stop in front of the escalator. He stopped with him and looked in the direction of his son's gaze. What he saw was a teenager sitting on a couch in a slumped position, a skateboard in a shopping cart next to him.

"Dad, something's up."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean something's up. That's Kim from school."

"Is he in your grade? Was he at the skatepark?"

"Yeah, he's a sophomore, too, but I don't know him very well. We only have one class together. If he was at the park, I didn't see him. Something's wrong. He's normally one of those happy-go-lucky kind of guys. Can we go talk to him?"

"If you think something's wrong, sure. You go first, he knows you, not me. I'll be right behind you."

He watched Eric head off toward Kim and followed close enough to hear the soft "Hi, Kim, how's it going?"

It was only when Kim looked up at the unexpected greeting from Eric that Will realized his eyes were red and that the boy had been crying. From a distance he just looked like a teenager sitting on a couch, but as Will got closer, he realized that the boy's face was still a little flushed and his eyes were still red. He noticed the cute face atop a well-proportioned body, and the short blonde hair that together gave him a Nordic look. Then he realized that a few other details didn't make sense. The boy was wearing a Metallica t-shirt. That was understandable, most teens were into hard rock. He also had regular jeans on, but what was with the flame patterned socks and especially the flame patterned sneakers? And then there was the skateboard. It was in a shopping cart next to the couch, but it was painted pink!

He heard Kim say, "Oh, hi, Eric."

Eric sat down next to him and said, "What's up man, are you okay?" Will moved behind Eric standing behind the couch, being present but not interfering.

Kim tried to look brave, but sniffled and said, "I'm okay. What are you doing here?"

"We just left the skatepark and my Mom had to do some shopping here, so we're waiting for her. This is my Dad." He nodded his head back toward Will, and Kim glanced at him. He suddenly had a look of embarrassment on his face as well.

Will leaned over and put his hand on Kim's shoulder and said, "Nice to meet you Kim. I've got to find the Men's room, so you two talk and I'll be back in a couple of minutes." He turned and walked away, wondering what had happened. He had full confidence in Eric. He was bright, responsible, caring and loving. All the attributes you could hope for in a son.

When he came back a few minutes later, he saw Eric stand up as he approached the couch, then pat Kim's thigh and say, "Sit tight for a minute." He stepped in front of his Dad.

"Dad, this isn't good. Kim just got outed and humiliated and he's alone until late tonight when his Dad gets back in town. What can we do?"

Will didn't even have to think about it. "Easy. He comes with us. You stay here with Kim and talk to him. I'll go find your Mom. Somehow, dinner with a friend from high school in a friendly environment will help."

"Are you sure. Will Mom be okay with it? I don't know him that well, but he's really hurting right now."

"You know your Mom, it'll be the same as finding a lost puppy, except more important. You stay here with Kim. Okay?"

Will and Eric were looking straight into each other's eyes, and the warmth and affection were obvious.

"Thanks, Dad. You're the best, you know that, right?"

"That's twice you've told me that in the last hour! Now I'm beginning to wonder! You take care of Kim. I'll find your Mom and we'll be back in a few minutes."

Eric had enough time to buck Kim up and let him know that he was coming home with them for dinner and they'd take him home later after his Dad got back in town."

Kim's expression shifted from dull to surprise to disbelief. "Why would you do this for me? You barely know me. Why do you even care about me?"

Kim had looked down into his lap again, and Eric said, "Kim" and waited until Kim finally couldn't stand the silence and looked up at him. "It's easy man. I may not know you really well, but that doesn't mean were not friends. We've got more in common than you know about."

"What does that mean?" Kim looked suspicious.

"It means I know something about being gay and what it means to be outed. You're going to meet my two uncles in a little while, and they're gay and they're also the best people in the world. So, you're coming with us when my parents get back, and we're having a great dinner. That's way better than sitting here alone on this couch feeling like shit, isn't it?"

Kim was quiet, but finally a wry smile slipped over his lips. "But why would you do anything? Why do you even care?"

Eric saw his parents approaching and said, "Kim, just trust me, okay. Be cool, it'll all be fine. Here are my parents."

Kim was suddenly really embarrassed at being the center of attention, but Sam was having no part of it. She pushed Eric to the side and sat down next to Kim with her arm around his shoulders and pulled him in for a hug. Will smartly stood behind the couch, letting Sam do her thing.

"Hi, Kim," Sam said softly but cheerily, "I'm Eric's Mom, and my name's Sam. You'll probably want to call me Mrs. Summers, but I want you to know my name is Sam. At school I'm Coach Sam, and you can call me that if you prefer. Now here's the important thing. Will, that's my husband and Eric's Dad, told me a little about what happened to you this afternoon. There isn't enough time to talk about it all now, but you need to know that we understand because we've been through it ourselves in our own ways. We're both teachers, Will at Lewis & Clark and me at Lincoln High School. We're on your side, and we're here to tell you right now that you're okay. You're a good guy. There's nothing wrong with you, just in case you're worrying about that."

Kim was silent, and Sam reached over and took his chin and turned his face toward her's and smiled at him. "Did you hear what I said? Do you believe me?"

Kim didn't say anything right away, then nodded and with a half-smile said, "Yeah. I guess I kind of have to, I'm outnumbered."

"You are, and you're coming with us now. Eric said your Dad is out of town and you're on your own?"

"Yeah, he went to Vegas on a business trip yesterday and had to stay over for a trade show. We worked out that I could be alone one night, and he gets back tonight."

"Got it. Okay, grab your stuff and let's go. We're driving to some friends to pick up our daughter, Susan, then you're coming home with us till your Dad gets back. Is there an answering machine on your phone at home?"

Kim nodded.

"When we get in the car, write down your Dad's name and your phone number for Will. When we get home, he'll call and leave a message, so your Dad knows where you are and how to contact us when he gets back in town. Then we'll drive you home. Make sense?"

Kim nodded, and his smile now had a little warmth to it.

"Come on, boys, let's go. Kim, get your pack and don't forget your cap. Eric, grab Kim's skateboard and let's go."

Within five minutes they were all across the street and loaded up in the Caravan.

Will and Sam kept their conversation to a minimum to catch the vibe of the talk between the boys in the back seat. It sounded like two teenagers, but Eric had moved into a supporting role that confirmed to Will that he'd seen what his Mom had done and knew it was important. Kim seemed to have left the tears and emotion behind him at Pioneer Square.

They turned off McAdam Boulevard and headed over the Sellwood Bridge and Will looked over his shoulder and said, "We're almost there. They live in Sellwood, and so do we. Where do you live, Kim?"

"We live in the Woodstock neighborhood. Do you know where that is? It's where Otto's Sausage Kitchen is." He looked conspiratorial, and continued, "They've got the best brats in all of Portland. Or at least that's what my Dad says. We live two blocks south of Otto's."

"Everyone's heard of Otto's, and that means you don't live that far away, basically just due north from us. It'll be easy getting you home later tonight."

Then he paused. "Kim, can I say something to you, something direct, like man to man?"

It was quiet, and Will could see Eric encouraging him in the rear-view mirror. Finally, Kim said, "Yeah, I guess."

"Thanks. Okay, here's the deal. You're going to meet David and Jackson. David is Dean of Students at Lewis & Clark, and Jackson is my best friend since high school. Eric told you they're gay, and you need to know two things. None of us have any hang ups about sexuality, about being gay. And all of us are straight shooters, what you see is what you get. Something happened to you this afternoon, and at some point this evening we're going to talk about it. Not because we think you did something wrong or because we want to grill you about it, but because you got hurt and we want to help. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"I think so" came meekly from the back seat.

Will could see in the rear-view mirror that Eric had his arm around Kim's shoulder.

"You're Eric's friend and he wanted to help you, and that's why we want to help, too. We've all been through some of what you went through, so you can trust us. Everything you tell us is private, none of it is embarrassing, and we're all here to help. Okay?"

"Yeah, thanks."

"Great. Now, when we get to David and Jackson's, you'll meet them, and I told you that they're cool. Nothing to worry about there. We'll introduce you, say hi, pick up Susan and head home. No pressure."

Will saw Kim nod in the back seat, and said "Good, because here we are. Leave your stuff in the car. You probably won't need your cap or board in the house."

Will had parked in the driveway, and they were met at the front door by a very cute and smiling little girl. "Hi Daddy. Hi Mommy. You're here! Hi Eric. Who's your friend?"

Sam gave the girl a passing hug and Will picked her up and gave her a bear hug. Eric rubbed her head as he went past, and Will turned to Kim and said, "Kim, this is our daughter Susan. She's eleven going on twenty, but she has an eye for really nice boys, and you seem to have passed the first test."

Kim had paused, then he grinned, starting to understand what was going on, and said to Susan, "Hi, Susan. I'm glad you think I'm okay. I don't have any sisters, so meeting you is really cool."

Susan smiled demurely and leaned over to whisper in her Dad's ear. Will grinned and turned to Kim and said, "It appears you more than passed the test. She wants me to hand her over to you so you can give her a hug. Are you up for that?" Will was nodding his head to encourage Kim.

Kim smiled, suddenly becoming disarmed and put at ease and held out his arms. After she settled, Susan kind of leaned back in his arms and her hands met behind his neck, and then said, "You're nice and you've got really cool hair."

It was quiet, and Will and Sam were watching to see what happened, and they could see the emotion flare on Kim's face which then became a wide grin. As the grin softened into a smile he said softly to Susan, "You're pretty cute, too." Susan pulled him in for a hug and her parents smiled. Kim was over the bridge and had just been made welcome into a new family group in a way that couldn't be denied.

Susan leaned back and said, "You're nice. Can I feel your hair?"

Kim grinned at that, and nodded, and Susan with no hesitation rubbed her hand over the top of his longish flat-top. "Cool! It feels like a bottle brush. That's really neat, Kim."

Susan didn't want to be put down, and Kim carried her into the living room demonstrating that his build was strong, and an eleven-year-old girl didn't faze him. Sam gave Susan the eye, and softly said, "Honey, you've got to get down so Kim can meet Uncle Jackson and Uncle David."

Her eyes flashed and she giggled, and somehow, she squirmed in Kim's arms, he set her down and she had him by the hand and was pulling him toward the kitchen as if it was all one motion. She was laughing and said, "Come on, Kim. You get to meet my uncles."

She pulled him across the dining room and into the kitchen where two men were sitting at the kitchen table sipping glasses of wine. One was in his mid-thirties, with a full head of amber hair and his hazel eyes glanced at the commotion coming through the kitchen door, following which his face broke out into a huge grin. The older man was in his early forties, slightly taller than the first, also with a good head of brown hair and an equally engaging smile.

Jackson turned and faced the commotion heading his way. "Susan, what have you found? Are you bringing us your new friend?"

Susan hauled Kim through the doorway, still laughing and said in a sing song voice, "Yes, this is my new friend, Kim." She had him by the hand and pulled him to a stop in front of the two men at the table.

"This is Uncle Jackson. He's in marketing. And, this is Uncle David, and he's a big wig at Lewis & Clark."

Both men laughed at the same time. "Don't get carried away, Susan," David said, "I'm no big wig, just another employee." He rubbed her head and turned to the boy, who was standing there just a little flummoxed.

"I'm guessing you don't get these kinds of introductions too often. Am I right?"

Kim was at a loss for words and nodded his head.

"Well, Susan is one of a kind, and you're in the process of finding that out. So are her parents and her brother. I'm David and this is Jackson. Now you've got to tell us where Susan found you?"

David was interrupted by Will, who was standing in the doorway to the dining room with his wife and son, and said, "Kim, for the record, that 'one of a kind' comment applies to both of them, too. We ran into Kim at Pioneer Square, near the skatepark. He's a friend of Eric's and is coming home with us tonight for dinner. I told Kim that you guys are okay, and he'd be fully accepted and welcome here. I guess we're all one-of-a-kind, as in the molds got thrown away when they made us!"

Jackson stood up and extended a hand, saying, "Hi, Kim. I'm Jackson." Then he pulled him in for a hug, saying in a quieter voice, "Friends of Susan and Eric are friends of mine, and my friends all get a hug."

Kim was at a loss for words. David was right behind Jackson and gave him a warm hug, too, then turned to Will and Sam. "Can you stay for a drink? We're going out to dinner tonight, but we've got time if you can."

Sam shook her head and said, "No, we really can't we've still got to get home, unpack some shopping and prepare dinner. And we're coming here for your barbecue tomorrow. Kim's Dad is out of town till later tonight, and when he gets back, we'll take him home. Thanks, though. We'll all catch up tomorrow."

Sam started ushering Susan and the boys out of the kitchen and caught Will's eye, nodding toward Jackson and David. He knew what she meant, and lingered as she walked the children, who were all waving goodbye, and headed to the front door. They were all in the car and buckled in when Will slid into the driver's seat a few minutes later and he started the Caravan. He smiled at Sam and nodded, then looked over his shoulder at the rear seat.

"Are you three all buckled in? Susan, you're not giving Kim a hard time, are you?"

Susan laughed, and they all said yes to the seat belt question, and Will backed out of the driveway. It was only twelve blocks to their home, and ten minutes later they were all inside the Craftsman style house. Will turned to the children and said, "Okay, listen up. Eric, why don't you take Kim to your room and make him feel comfortable. Susan, Eric and Kim need some time together, so why don't you help your Mom unpack the stuff she bought this afternoon, okay? I'll call Kim's house and leave a message for his Dad. That sound like a plan?"

Susan was pouting, clearly wanting to be with her new friend, but Eric and Kim were smiling, and Will watched Eric drag Kim upstairs to his room while he propelled Susan into Sam's arms. Then he opened the piece of paper Kim had given him and prepared to leave a message for John Sorenson.

"Mr. Sorenson, my name is Will Summers, I'm on the faculty at Lewis & Clark, and my son, Eric, is a friend of your son, Kim. They know each other from school. Kim had an unpleasant situation happen this afternoon, and I'm calling to let you know that he's with our family in our home in Sellwood. He's having dinner with us, and when you get home and get this message, call me and I'll bring him home to you."

Will then headed to the kitchen for a beer and started pulling the ingredients for dinner out of the refrigerator. His first worry evaporated quickly: Sam had bought two extra chicken breasts, so they had plenty. He put the water on for rice and chopped two onions and was just getting teary as Sam walked into the kitchen and gave him a hug.

"Are you crying because you miss me?


"Far out. I know we've got plenty of time, but do we want salad with the chicken or a green vegetable?"

"I think salad. The chicken will have carrots, remember?"

"Right. I'll chop those for you and then put the salad together in half an hour or so. I got Susan settled watching Sesame Street reruns."

"That's good and will occupy her for half an hour or so. What do you make of this situation we've been handed?"

Sam paused, then said thoughtfully, "I think it's too early to tell. We know what Kim told Eric and then told us. Let's make clear to Kim that there's no pressure, just relax and enjoy his time with Eric, enjoy dinner, and we'll talk afterwards. Make sense?"

"You always make sense. Especially when it comes to stuff like this. You should have gone into counseling. Jackson too, for that matter. You two could have opened a practice together and solved all the problems gay kids are struggling with."

Sam smiled, saying, "Right, like that would have happened! But thanks for the vote of confidence. Now move over and I'll chop the carrots. There's an open bottle of white wine over there from last night, and a full container of sour cream on the top shelf of the fridge."

Fifteen minutes later Sam checked on Susan, who was still enraptured with Sesame Street reruns, and when she leaned her head into the doorway of Eric's room, both boys were at Eric's desk playing Super Mario 64. She smiled; happy they were into it. They let Eric play video games like Super Mario and Pokémon, but games like Diablo and Quake weren't on the approved list.

"Looks like you guys are doing okay?"

They both turned and smiled, and Sam said, "Dinner will be ready in about twenty minutes. Wash your hands and face when I give you a shout."

They both nodded as they turned back to the video game.

Dinner went smoothly, with light conversation that would have led an outside observer to think Eric had asked a school friend over for the evening and nothing untoward had happened in the afternoon. He and Kim kidded each other, and Kim was full of praise about the dinner. Will thought to himself that there was something almost magical about this recipe that David's childhood cook had taught him. Sautéed chicken breasts, onions and carrots, that were then reduced in white wine and finished with sour cream just always hit the spot and made everyone warm and happy. He'd even cooked it for Sam over a camp stove on one of their rock climbing and camping trips when they were in college, and she'd been sold ever since.

After dessert, Will looked at both boys and said, "Sam and I will clean up and do the dishes. You guys go chill out, then we'll get together and talk. Kim, relax. This is no interrogation, but like I said earlier we're here for you and want to know what happened. I'll come find you when we've got everything cleaned up."

He heard their footsteps on the stairs as he carried dishes into the kitchen. When they were done, Sam said, "I'll keep Susan occupied. She really likes Kim, but that means she'd probably be all over him, and you wouldn't have much of a conversation. If I can get her settled, I'll come join you guys, but maybe it's best if it starts out as a guy talk, know what I mean?"

Will kissed her forehead, smiled and said, "It might be, and these are examples of why you're such a great teacher and Mom."

Sam giggled and they put the dried dishes away.

Will walked into Eric's room about fifteen minutes later. Both looked up from the play station, and Eric shut it down. "Want to talk up here or in the living room?"

Eric looked at Kim, who shrugged his shoulders. "Is it cool up here, Dad?"

"Sure. It'll be more private too. I'll park myself here on the bed, and you guys stay in your chairs."

Before he sat down, he put his hand on Kim's shoulder and said softly, "Eric told us a little bit about what happened, and like I said earlier, this is no interrogation. I just want to talk about what happened and make sure you're okay."

Kim just nodded. Will went on, "Good. You're in the same high school with Eric, right?"

Kim continued to nod, "Yeah, we're both at Roosevelt High, and I'm a sophomore too, but we don't have many classes together, so I really don't know Eric. I mean I know who he is, he knows who I am, if you know what I mean." He paused, looked around, and then said, "I still don't know why he stopped and talked to me. I mean, I really like him already, but we don't really know each other, and he, he…" His sentence kind of fell apart and ended.

Will stood up and knelt in front of Kim and looked him straight in the eyes. "He's your friend, whether you knew it, or not. We're all your friends now. Do you know what friends do? They take care of each other. It's no more complicated than that. We love each other and we take care of each other."

He stood up and sat back down on the edge of the bed. "So, we ran into you at Pioneer Square, and you'd been at Burnside Skatepark and then something happened. Why don't you tell us about it?"

Kim hesitated, "Well, it was, I mean, I thought it was going to be…but it didn't… and…I don't know what to say."

Will was still smiling. "Kim, I meant what I said about us all being friends, even though Eric is a closer friend because you both go to the same high school. Can I tell you a couple of things that may make you feel better?"

Kim nodded.

"Eric knows all of this, but when Jackson and I were in high school, about your age, he had a couple of bad years when his step father basically shut down his life and wouldn't let him do anything except go to school. Meaning pretty much permanently grounded. I lost my best friend for a couple of years, and during that time he figured out he was gay. His step father was a real jerk, but eventually he went too far and ended up in jail, and when the dust settled and Jackson got back into the swing of things we were friends again, we were able to pick up right where we left off. Best friends. And then I figured out he was gay, and he was getting bullied, and you know what happened? He's got a great voice and he sings in the Portland Gay Men's Chorus. Anyway, we were all in a band and we all decided to support each other, meaning all three of us were there for Jackson, and together we stood up to the bullies. So, I just want you to know that we've been through some of the shit I think you went through today. Am I right?"

Kim looked around at Eric and back to Will, and it took him a little while, but he figured out that there was no judgment, just encouragement. Finally, he said softly, "Yeah, and it was some shit."

Will said equally softly, "I know stuff like this is hard to talk about, especially with people you don't know. Would it help if I told you what we think we know, and you tell us if it's right or wrong and we go from there?"

Kim nodded shyly, and Will went on, "Okay, it sounds like you got outed for being gay, probably there was some confrontation, it sounds like you got hit, and then you were made unwelcome. Is that kind of the story?"

"Yeah, I thought it was going to be so great. And with my Dad out of town, off in Vegas today, we were going to skateboard, and I took the bus downtown and it started out great and then it all went…it all went sideways."

"So, did your Dad know you were going down to the skatepark at the Burnside Bridge, meaning downtown by yourself?"

Kim grimaced. "No, the plan was to go down and then be back home before he got back."

"So, he wasn't supposed to know?"


"You know he's going to know before tonight is over, don't you?"

Kim smiled wryly. "Yeah, I figured out pretty quick that would happen. I'll get a lot of shit and get grounded, but I'll get over it."

"So, Kim, what happened? It looks like you got your best skating duds on for this afternoon. How could that not have worked out?"

Now Kim looked embarrassed. Finally, he said, "I think that's what did it, what blew it. I mean my board has flames on the top." He looked at Eric. "Did you see that?" Eric smiled softly and nodded.

"Well, my grandparents thought that was cool and gave me the socks and the Vans with the flames. They thought it was extra cool. I wasn't sure. I mean, I never wore them. Then Friday at school this guy I really like, and his friends were talking at lunch about how they were going to the skatepark on Saturday afternoon, and I kind of got invited along."


"Meaning," Kim said, "I kind of weaseled my way in, 'cause I like Tommy so much, and he said okay, and everyone else did, too, even though they're sophomores and juniors, and I was just thrilled."

Will looked at Eric. "Do you know Tommy?"

"Yeah, Tommy Dolan. He's a total wise ass, in trouble a lot, but a really good skateboarder. He can ride the rail for ages, handle the jumps and stuff. He's almost up there with Billy."

Will looked back at Kim, "So what happened?"

"Well, it started out fine, like we were all skating, and I'm okay, but not as good as any of them, and I fell a couple of times and Tommy's friends were making fun of me, and then one of them started razzing me about the socks and the shoes, and after a while Tommy was razzing me too."

Eric reached over and put his hand on Kim's shoulder. "Why were they razzing you?"

"I don't know. I'd fallen and I'm not that good, and it was like why are you wearing all that fancy shit if you can't even skate." He looked crestfallen.

Kim stopped, and everyone waited for him. He looked up at Will, who was looking back at him with a totally supportive expression on his face.

"Then even Tommy started razzing me about what I wore. I mean, like I said, I'm not that good a skater. I can't do the tricks, and I probably looked like a wimp, and they kept pushing it, and finally I fell again, and Tommy helped me get up and he handed me my board. I mean after he looked at the flames on the top and looked at my socks and shoes and then he said, "What did you wear all that shit for?"

Kim has stopped and swallowed hard, struggling with reliving the humiliation.

Eric softly said, "It's okay, Kim. Go on. Get it over with."

"Well, I didn't know what to say, but finally I said something like I was so happy they let me skate with them and I wore the socks and shoes 'cause I hoped he liked them 'cause I like him."

It was silent.

Kim looked at Eric and then at Will and said, "And then it got horrible. He got this vicious look on his face and accused me of trying to impress him, and then he flipped my board over and saw the bottom was painted pink and he looked at me like he hated me and said, 'What are you, a fag?' And then it really got horrible. He shoved my board at me, and that knocked me over, and he yelled at his friends and said, 'Hey you guys, this creep's wearing all this shit because he's a fag. He painted the bottom of his board pink.' I was trying to get up and explain, and the other guys had gathered around and I tried to explain what I meant and Tommy said, 'You're a fucking flamer skater,' and then he looked at his friends and then back at me and then he slapped me and said, 'Fuck off, faggot,' and they took off."

Eric had moved closer to Kim, whose expression was now bleak, and put his arm around his shoulder and gave him a hug. Will softly said, "That must have really hurt."

Kim was quiet and Eric gave him another hug. Finally, he said, "It was the worst. The worst thing ever. I don't cry, well not much. My Dad is ex-Navy, and crying is for babies, and our family doesn't cry, but as they all skated away, I just stood there crying. It had all blown up, and finally I knew I couldn't stay in the skatepark crying like a baby, so I left, and kind of found myself at Pioneer Square. I don't know how long I was on the couch, and then Eric was there, and that's how it happened."

Will reached out and took Kim's hand and said, "Thanks for telling us what happened. That's a scary thing to do, and you were a real man doing it. You're a good guy, Kim."

They were silent for a minute, and Will continued, "Now, let's get straight on a few things. In case you don't understand it, you were bullied. You were bullied for being gay. You were also publicly humiliated. The problem is that it happened with a bunch of teenagers in a public place, and they'll probably cover for each other, so filing a report or pressing charges isn't likely to go anywhere."

Kim's face was flushed, and he looked like he was on the edge of tears again.

Will continued, "It's really too bad it happened the way it did, but there's part of this we've got to get sorted out. Can I ask you a hard question?"

Kim nodded.

"You told Eric when we found you on the couch that you got outed. I know you told us Tommy called you a fag, but you told Eric you got outed. That usually means you're gay and it got out for the first time. It sounds from what you just told us that's the case. Are you gay?"

Kim was quiet. After a minute or so, Will said, "Kim, I know it's hard to say, but if you are, then sooner or later you have to say it."

Another minute passed, then Kim looked up at all of them, and the tears were seeping from his eyes.

Eric pulled him into another hug and said, "Can I tell you something, Kim?'

Kim was sniffling but nodded.

"It's something my Uncle Jackson told me a couple of years ago when we were talking about being gay or straight. I mean, it doesn't matter if you're gay or straight. They're both normal and legal, right? But what Uncle Jackson said to me was, which ever you are you have to own it. If you don't, you're living a lie."

Will was leaning forward too, and said softly, "You for sure didn't plan on getting outed now, while you're still in high school. But what Eric just told you is what I learned the hard way. Jackson was right, and I had to go through it too. I finally figured out I was bi when I was a senior in high school, and I had a couple of boyfriends before I met Eric's Mom. But the point is you have to own it. Once you own it, once you can say it, it gives you strength. You can finally be yourself. So, I'm going to ask you just once more, and then we'll drop all of this because we don't want to overload you."

He waited and, in a few seconds, Kim looked up at him with a pleading expression on his face.

"Kim, can you tell us?"

He hesitated, then finally said, "Yeah, if I have to, I'm gay. I know what the deal is. I've had the sex ed classes. All I think about is guys."

He looked at Eric. "I even had a crush on you for a while. That's why I was so embarrassed when you came over to me on the couch."

"Whoa! That's a real compliment. I mean, it's not that many hunky and good-looking blonde guys have ever told me they had a crush on me. You just made my day, man."

He hugged Kim again and said, "Seriously, that makes me feel good. You heard what my Dad just said, and you know my uncles are gay. We're not hung up about all that sex stuff around here. I'm so glad you can talk to us like this. I don't know if I'm bi or gay, I haven't 'had to decide,' if you know what I mean. Jackson and David have been working with kids about this stuff for years, and I know getting to the point of acceptance is key. You're there because you just did the hardest thing ever, you told a couple of people you don't really know."

Kim wiped his eyes and then his nose with the back of his hand, then looked at Will, and finally rested his eyes on Eric's and hugged him back. "Thanks, man, but I still haven't told my Dad. There's no way he's not going to know before this is all over."

Will watched them for a minute. Something was going on between the boys he hadn't seen before. Eric had always been empathetic and sensitive and even helpful to others. As a family they openly talked about sex and sexuality and sexual identity, and he'd talked about it with Jackson and David too…and David taught classes on it. Yet, something different was happening, as if for the first time something new seemed to be taking place within Eric. It was subtle, and maybe the type of thing only a parent who was close to his son could see, but he made a mental note.

Finally, he looked at Kim again and said, "Let's stop there for now. Thanks for what you've told us. It's after 9:00 o'clock now, and your Dad should be calling soon. I'll talk to him and try and explain what happened and take the edge off. You're right that the story will be out, but maybe we can handle it in a good way."

"I hope so. I told you my Dad's ex-Navy, so he's kind of hard core. My Mom died a few years ago, and he kind of got colder and distant or something. I mean I'm athletic, but never been good enough in his eyes . I don't know how he'll handle it. Anyway, we never talked about any of this stuff, so he's likely to just like go tilt when he finds out. You know what I mean?"

"Kim, I've been there. I've seen it. I've also seen it go the other way. We'll see what we can do to make it a lot more mellow. Can you trust me?"

Kim nodded and smiled hopefully.

Will stood up and smiled at both of them. "Do you guys want anything else to eat? More dessert or anything?"

They looked at each other and shook their heads. "Fine, you two hang out here and I'll go spend some time with Mom and Susan. I'll let you know when your Dad calls."

As he headed downstairs Will noticed Sam was putting Susan to bed, so he stepped in and said, "Do I get to kiss my favorite girl goodnight?" Susan giggled and held out her arms and got what she was hoping for. Will hugged her and whispered to Sam that he'd see her for a glass of wine in the living room.

When he walked in a few minutes later, Sam smiled and handed him a glass of wine as he sat down next to her, taking one of her hands while he managed a sip of wine with the other.

"Everything under control with Kim? How'd it go?"

"It went. Pretty much like he told Eric. He got outed because he's naïve. He's a good kid, sweet actually, but naïve, and he thought this guy he liked also liked him. So, then got himself to go skateboarding with what turned out to be the wrong crowd, but he's not very good and he really overdid it with the flames!"

Will paused and smiled and Sam rolled her eyes. "God, don't I know. I teach high school, and anyone who showed up with all those flames, on the board and the socks and the shoes, is just asking for trouble."

"You're right. And that's what happened. He was trying to impress this boy, and it got confrontational, and he told this kid named Tommy Dolan that he liked him, and Tommy didn't like that at all, started pushing him around and slapped him, and then the Tommy kid called him a flamer skater, and pushed him down."

"What's a flamer skater?"

"Well, Tommy must pay attention in English Lit, or read a lot, because he picked up on all the flames and turned it on its head from hot, you know like hot cars with flame paint jobs, to flamboyant, as in a flaming gay guy! He also called him a fucking fag."

"Oh, wow! That's one I wouldn't know about. That must have been humiliating and painful for him. No wonder he was crying and hurting when we found him on the couch."

"Yeah, but he can get over that. The hard part is that his Dad is ex-Navy and he doesn't know any of this, including that he was down at the skatepark this afternoon when he was supposed to be home."

"Oh god! This one's going to get sticky."

"It could, but maybe we can finesse it. Hopefully, I can talk to his Dad when I take him home." Will fell silent, and said, "Would you like to listen to some music?

Sam squeezed his hand. "You're so romantic. How about that new Whitney Houston album?"

"You mean Waiting To Inhale ?"

Sam nodded, and Will walked to the stereo and cued up the album. As he sat back down, the phone rang, and he got up and walked to the hall. Sam could hear bits and pieces of the conversation and figured out it was Kim's Dad.

Will walked back into the living room in a few minutes and raised his eyebrows. "That was Kim's Dad. He's still in Vegas, but he got his messages remotely. He was on the last flight back tonight and it got canceled due to some mechanical problem, so he can't get rebooked and back till tomorrow afternoon. I guess Eric's having a sleep over."

Sam giggled. "Too funny. I mean what Dad leaves a kid that age alone over the weekend in the middle of the summer so they can go to Vegas. I don't care if it's business or a conference or whatever. It's irresponsible. Still, after what he went through this afternoon, it'll be better this way. He seems to be over it and settling in."

Will hugged his wife as he sat back down on the couch, kissed the side of her head and said, "I wondered about it too, but let's hold off on the judgment. If Kim told us the full story, it was supposed to be one night and then his Dad would be back tonight. We don't know all the details of their family situation. I think two days without supervision is too much, but let's withhold judgment."

Sam rolled her eyes, and after a short pause, Will said, "I think there's something else going on?"


"Meaning that Eric's a wonderful kid, and he's being really helpful and supportive and all of that, but there's something else happening, as in something I haven't seen before. A change in his demeanor or something."

"What are you getting at?"

"He may be having his first real boy crush."

"Oh, wow! Really! That's cool. And long overdue. I've been worrying for a couple of years that knowing we were bi and having two gay uncles and all this 'everything's on the table and everything's okay' kind of discussion about sexuality, that maybe somehow he'd been overdosed or something. I expected this at least a year ago, but it didn't happen. Are you sure?"

"No, I'm not sure. I'm just telling you that I felt something had changed in how he looked at Kim, in how they related to each other, when I was up there just now. Maybe you should go up and tell them about Kim's Dad and that he's staying here tonight."

Sam was silent, but smiling, then she turned to Will and said, "You're just dumping sorting out the sleeping arrangements on me, aren't you?"

Will tried to keep a straight face, but only lasted ten seconds, then a smile appeared and shortly after a full grin. "Well, you're his Mom, you know how to do all this stuff. I mean pajamas and toothbrushes and stuff."

"Cut me some slack, Mr. Summers. I think we should both go up there and talk to them. We'll be gentle, and there's not much choice about sleeping. Either they share Eric's bed or Kim sleeps down here on the couch. Honey, we've got to be positive and encouraging. It's important for Kim after what he went through, and it'll be important for Eric too, if what you're sensing is true. I know you. You've got the same kind of radar as Jackson, so if you say something's happening, I believe it. We've just got to treat it like a precious jewel, agreed?"

"You know there are many reasons why I love you, don't you?"

Sam smiled demurely, and Will whispered in her ear, "And, this is one of the perfect examples. How many kids get a Mom like this?"

As Will closed the door, Eric still had his arm around Kim's shoulder and pulled him in for a hug, and whispered softly, "I'm sorry all this shit happened, man. It's not fair. It shouldn't be this way for anyone."

Kim was quiet for a bit, then extended his arm around Eric's waist and hugged him back. "I know, but the bottom line is that I pretty much did this to myself. If I hadn't pushed my way in with those guys, and then overdressed to show off, all that shit wouldn't have happened, and I wouldn't have been humiliated."

Eric was quiet, and the wheels were spinning in his mind. He realized that he liked Kim, and he really liked the feeling of having him beside him. This was something new. He'd grown up with parents and uncles who spent time making sure he understood sexuality and sexual identity and put no pressure on him to be one thing or the other, to lean one way or the other. He just never felt any pressure to conform. He knew his uncles' personal history, and his parents' as well, and had always been content just being open minded. He'd never really been attracted to any girls, even though he'd gone on a few dates. He'd played around with some friends, jacking off and stuff, but apart from a few distant attractions that kicked off some feelings about guys, he hadn't really fallen in love with any other boys. He'd told his parents he might be gay, because he was very conscious of what he thought about when he jacked off, but always thought of himself as just normal: open and balanced and waiting to see what happened. Now he was struggling to understand these new feelings he was having.

He squeezed Kim's shoulder and said, "But you know what? If you hadn't done all that stuff and had that run in at the skatepark and gotten humiliated and outed, you know what?"

Kim looked at him questioningly, not quite understanding the question.

"If all that hadn't happened I wouldn't know you're gay, and we wouldn't have found you at Pioneer Square, and you wouldn't be here with my arm around you, and you wouldn't know the stuff you know now about me and my family."

"Your family is the greatest! I love them. And your uncles are so cool too."

"All true. Let's go sit on the bed and talk. I don't feel like playing games anymore, and I bet you don't either."

Eric stood up and pulled Kim with him over to the bed and they sat with their backs to the headboard. Eric put his arm around Kim's shoulder again and said softly, "Is this Okay?"

Kim glanced at him and smiled, and said, "It's great."

Eric pulled him tight and Kim's head rested on Eric's shoulder. Eric was quiet. The wheels spinning in his mind. What to say, which direction to take. His concern was short-circuited by Kim, who said, "I'm sorry I'm such a fuck up, that I screwed up so bad today, but being here with you makes it all good. You know what I mean?"

"Yeah, I do, and you're not a fuck up." Eric replied softly.

"It feels so good and so safe being here next to you."

"I know, me, too."

After a minute of silence, Eric said, "My parents are the best, and totally open and honest and just want what's best for me and Susan, and don't push anything. And having David and Jackson as uncles has been amazing too. I mean I think I know a lot about sexuality and stuff because of them, but can I tell you something?"

Kim snuggled closer and hugged Eric and said softly, "Yeah, go for it."

"I've never felt this way about another boy before. I mean forget about the stuff we found out at Pioneer Square and helped you out. All that, Okay? I mean this side of all that stuff. It's kind of like a switch got flipped inside me somewhere in the last few hours, and I feel different."

"What do you mean different? Do you mean I'm different?"

Eric tentatively touched Kim's chin. He didn't dare go further and do what he wanted to do, turn Kim's face toward his and maybe…maybe kiss those beautiful lips.

"No. No way! I don't mean you're different. Sorry. I mean how I'm feeling is different than I've ever felt. You know, being close to you. Playing video games with you. Having you here for dinner. Having my arm around you. It's different than I've ever felt."

Kim was quiet, momentarily scared, but he fought down the feelings. Finally, he said, very quietly, "Does that mean you like me, 'cause I don't have many friends. Just so you're not saying I'm different, like weird or a sicko or something."

"Kim, I'm not saying that. Not at all. My uncles are gay, and my parents are bi. Do know what that means?"

Eric felt Kim nod his head in the curve between his neck and his shoulder.

"Good. What it means for me is that I get it. I get hetero. I get homo. I get bi. Okay? They all told me I'd figure out what I am, not to push it. I'm trying to tell you that I've never had to decide, and I didn't have any hang-ups about that. Like it was no pressure to be one thing or the other. No need to conform. They all love me for who I am and that I'll be what I'm going to be and that's that. Are you hearing me?"

Kim nodded again into Eric's neck.

"I'm telling you I'm feeling different than I've ever felt. Because of you. I feel like I've been waiting in a big railroad station, watching all the trains coming and going, and finally the right one came along and it's time for me to get on it. Does that make sense?"

Eric felt Kim gasp, and then he was quiet, and finally he said, "It makes sense if you mean what I think and hope you mean, and if I'm on that same train."

He fell silent, and wisely Eric did too.

After a couple of minutes, Kim said softly, "I think I was worried that the right train would never come, and that's why I weaseled my way in with Tommy and all that shit happened. If I'd just known I could hang tight for the Eric Express, I would have been okay."

Eric giggled and hugged him close, and Kim reciprocated, and they were quiet in each other's arms until Eric said, "The Eric Express was running behind schedule, but today it finally got to the station. Are you on board?"

"Are you kidding me? I'm totally on board."

"There's gonna be some shit we have to sort out when your Dad gets back in town. Are you good with that? You're not going to jump off the train?"

"No way. I've never felt as good as I feel right now. I feel warm and happy and accepted, and…and, can I say it?"

"Say what?"

"I feel loved."

"Why wouldn't you?"

"Because, just like my family doesn't cry, there's not that much love. My Dad has never told me he loves me. I think he does, but I don't know. Sometimes it's just being told. I'm betting your Mom and Dad tell you that every day."

"Like multiple times a day. It gets embarrassing!"

"Don't ever let it embarrass you. Trust me, when you're on the other end, hearing it is everything."

"What would you do if I told you that I think I love you?"

Kim gasped again and was quiet. Finally, he said softly and in voice that was cracking, "I'd be really happy, and I think I'd start crying."

Eric reached for Kim's chin, planning to turn his face upward and toward him, when he heard the knock on his door, followed by the door opening, and his Mom coming it.

Sam took it all in with one glance, and immediately said, "I'm sorry to interrupt, and don't stop anything you two are doing. It's beautiful! I just need to update you on what's happened."

Eric smiled at his Mom in an annoyed kind of way, and Kim blushed.

Sam asked if she could join them, both boys nodded, and she hopped on the bed, leaning back on the headboard on the near side of Kim, who was now in the middle.

She softly said, "This could be really embarrassing, and I don't want it to be. I know I came in on something really nice and really intimate, and I don't want to break that up."

Eric looked questioningly at his Mom, and Kim was still blushing.

"Eric, honey, did I ever tell you about the first time your Dad and I kissed?"

Eric was completely caught off guard, and Kim was confused by the direction the conversation had suddenly taken.

Sam carried on. "It was after we got back from our first camping trip to Smith Rock, and we were both really confused about our feelings for each other, and Uncle Jackson did one of his things and told us we needed to have a talk with Uncle David, and basically he asked if we were telling each other how we were feeling…about each other."

Sam paused, and there was silence. Eric knew part of the story but wasn't sure where his Mom was going with it. For Kim this was uncharted territory.

Sam carried on, "Basically he asked if we'd been telling each other what we were feeling and what we were feeling for each other? I mean, here's two people who are bi, they'd both had gay relationships, and they're having trouble communicating their feelings. So, it took someone outside to say, 'Hey. Tell each other how you're feeling.' So, we did, that night on the drive home, and that was the beginning. For the record, our first kiss was in your Dad's Chevy Nova."

Sam stopped to see what either boy would say, and Eric was silent, but his eyes were warm, watching his Mom as he figured out what she was doing. Kim was still flustered.

"I take that as permission to continue. It seems to me that you two have gotten really close over the last few hours, and I think when I walked in here, even though I knocked first, I interrupted something really big, and I'm sorry for that. I mean I think I interrupted your First Kiss."

Eric spontaneously grinned, and Kim blushed even deeper. Sam looked at them both with an expression of total love and acceptance, and said softly, "Your choice. If you don't want to have your First Kiss with me sitting here, say so and I'll wait outside till you're done. On the other hand, if you're up for it, I can tell you that watching it will be among the most romantic things I've ever seen."

Eric was still grinning and had caught his mother's eye, and they were exchanging volumes of emotional information and love. Kim was silent, caught in the middle.

Finally, Eric broke his gaze away from him Mom and looked at Kim and said softly, "You said you love my parents, and I think I love you. Is it okay with you if I kiss you in front of my Mom?"

Kim swallowed, his face still flushed, and shot a glance at Sam who smiled at him angelically, and then he nodded. Eric, who had kept his fingers on Kim's chin throughout, slowly tipped his face up and softly placed his lips on Kim's. It was short, and dry, but still precious.

Sam wisely said nothing but watched as both boys wrapped their arms around each other, and hugged one and other close. When they finally relaxed and released each other, she could see moisture in the eyes of both of them, and then said, "That was beautiful and romantic."

Both boys smiled, and Sam went on, "And I have news. Kim, your Dad called, and he's not coming home tonight. His flight was canceled due to some mechanical problem, so he can't get back till tomorrow afternoon. So, guess what that means? You two are having a sleep over."

Both boys were looking at her in total disbelief. Then they looked at each other and their disbelief slowly turned into excitement and then outright enthusiasm.

"For real?"

"Yeah, for real. So, I'm going to go back downstairs and finish my glass of wine with Will. Eric, you find Kim a pair of pajamas. There's a spare toothbrush in your bathroom. Do you know where it is?"

Eric nodded.

"Okay, good. It's getting late, so I'm going to leave you lovebirds alone till 10:00 o'clock. Then I expect you to be cleaned up and ready for bed. I'm assuming that you are both sleeping together in this bed. It's either that or Kim sleeps on the couch downstairs, but somehow, I don't think that's happening. I'm not naïve, so what I'm asking is that you go to bed with your pajamas on, okay? Then if anything comes up with Kim's Dad, I can maintain we insisted on propriety. I'll come up to say goodnight, and after that it's up to you. You're mature young men, and I have full confidence in both of you."

"Thanks, Mom. You're the best."

"Yeah, Thanks, Coach Sam. You are the best. Is it okay if I call you that?"

"I'm honored that you want to call me that, and I'll be back around 10:00 o'clock. You guys enjoy yourself."

When his Mom had left and he'd heard both the door close and her footsteps going down the stairs, he pulled Kim close and tight and whispered in his ear, "She's pretty amazing, isn't she?"

"Geez! She's the best. I'd never believe something like this could happen. At my house it was always like totally scary."

"I'm going to tell you something, and then I want to kiss you again. When my Dad was in high school, and thought he was gay, before he figured out he was bi, that's just what he said. It was totally scary. Like he was scared to death. My parents made sure I understood that sexuality is not, as in never, something you should be scared about. They've always been totally open and totally supportive. So, what just happened is just part of who they are. Mom wasn't putting on an act. That was totally her. All the way."

Eric paused, and Kim turned toward him, hugging him close. "I'm totally amazed, like blown away."

"Good, because you're probably in a good condition to practice some more kissing."

It only took a few minutes before they were kissing with their mouths open, experimenting with what they could do for each other with their tongues, and realizing how stimulating that could be. Which, of course led to the natural response, of running their hands through each other's hair, across their shoulders and chests, and then under their T-shirts. They were panting and had to stop for air a couple of times but found themselves happily giggling as they told each other how wonderful it felt.

True to her word, Sam knocked on the door about 10:00 o'clock, and both boys were sitting on the bed, but had changed into pajamas. Eric grinned. "We've even brushed our teeth already!"

"Good for you guys. Are you okay? Is everything alright? I didn't screw anything up too bad for you?"

"Mom! It was really nice, what you said about the First Kiss. Thanks. And guess what, because you were so open about it, Kim and I got to do some more practice kissing. Want to see?

"No, no. I think the First Kiss was enough. You guys sleep tight. We'll have breakfast late in the morning, then I think we'll take a bike ride before we go over to the barbecue at your uncles. Sleep tight."

When the door clicked shut, Eric knew they were totally accepted and loved and sheltered. He said softly, "Let's get under the sheets," and turned off the bedside lamp.

Kim had rolled toward him, pulling him in so their chests were pressed together, and his lips were nuzzling in Eric's neck.

"That feels so good. I'm so happy it all worked out and you get to stay here tonight, with me, in my bed."

"Me, too. But I got hard and so did you, and…"

"But, what? Stop worrying. I don't have some big plans. The kissing we've done for the last half hour isn't just the best, but the most I've ever done. And it was way sexy. We'll do what we do, and not worry about it."

"Is it okay if I just lay here in your arms? I feel so safe and happy, and after what happened this afternoon, it feels like that's what I really want."

"I can do that, 'cause it's the best feeling ever. But only on one condition?"


"You've got to kiss me some more first."

"I can do that."

What ensued was another passionate make out session with lots of stimulation as they stroked and rubbed each other, and eventually found their hands moving down the abdomen of one and other, gingerly exploring each other's pubes, and finally and carefully rubbing each other's cocks through their pajamas.

"Kim, that feels so amazing. Let's just go slow, okay. I feel like I could cum really fast, and I want it to last. I love the feeling of you stroking me. Let's ditch these pajamas."

They squirmed around and did just that while somehow managing to not let go of each other, and slowly began again, holding each other's cock and kissing softly.

Kim whispered directly into Eric's mouth, "I always dreamed of this. I never thought it would feel so wonderful."

"Me either. It's way different than just jacking off. Your cock is so smooth, and your pubes are kind of blonde too. You're beautiful, Kim," he said softly as he began slowly stroking Kim's cock.

Kim reciprocated, and Eric said to him, "We've got to go slow. I feel like I could cum already, your hand feels so good."

They both kissed and tried to go slow, but it only lasted a short time as finally the passion that had built in both boys overwhelmed them and they stroked each other to a glorious climax.

When they'd recovered, Eric pulled a washcloth out of the nightstand and cleaned them up. Then he leaned up over Kim and said again softly, "I love you; you know?"

"Me, too."

"Do you want to sleep nude?"

"Oh yeah, holding you as tight to me as I can?"

"Good, 'cause that's what I want too."

Sam and Will let the boys sleep in. It was Sunday after all, and Susan had already come into her parent's bedroom and climbed in bed with them, and all three slept together for another hour.

They were in the kitchen with Susan, sipping orange juice, when they all heard the boys coming down the stairs. Sam was next to the stove organizing breakfast, and Will was sitting next to Susan. Will looked up as both boys walked into the kitchen.

"Well, you two are a sight for sore eyes!"

Eric grimaced, and said quietly, "Dad!"

Will laughed. "That was a joke to give you guys some space. You look like you haven't fully woken up yet. You're both pretty cute this early in the morning though!"

Sam glanced at him and said, "Will, lighten up. They're not awake yet. Be nice and pour them some orange juice. Boys, I'm making French Toast this morning. With sausage patties. Is that enough, or do either of you need eggs or any other special order items?" She was smiling at them, then stepped toward them and pulled them both in for a hug.

"That sounds great, Mom. Is that okay, Kim?" He nodded, softly saying 'Yes' in a way that said he wasn't used to this kind of breakfast service.

"Cool. You guys sit down, and I'll pour some coffee for your Dad and me. Eric, I know you want milk. Kim, what do you want to drink after the orange juice?"

"Milk, please."

As Sam released them from the hug, Will took over and kind of hugged and moved them to seats at the kitchen table. "You know I was just giving you a hard time because I like you two so much, don't you?"

Kim was quiet, the whole situation being completely new to him. Eric said, "Yeah, Dad, I do, and I love you, too, but it's first thing in the morning!"

"Well, settle in and have breakfast, and it'll all be fine. That's my prediction."

As Will walked to the refrigerator, Susan looked from Eric to Kim and said softly, "Are you guys boyfriends now?"

Both boys glanced at each other, and Eric said equally softly, "I don't know, Susan. We just met yesterday. But we like each other a lot already. Are you worried?"

Susan's eyes were sparkling. "No, if Kim will still be my friend, too."

Kim reached over and took her hand and said, "I'll always be your friend. You're the best."

Susan laughed happily and squeezed his hand back.

When the last of breakfast was done, Will looked at Kim and said, "If I heard right yesterday, you have a bike at home, right?"

Kim nodded.

"Great. So, here's what I'm proposing. Unless you lost the keys to your house in that unfortunate event at the skatepark yesterday, you and I are hopping in the Caravan and driving to your house to get your bike. Eric will help Sam clean up, and when we get back, we'll all go on a bike ride down to Oak Bottom Park."

Kim had been watching Will, wondering where this was going, and he nodded his head and said, "Can I run inside and get some clean clothes for this afternoon.? I want to ditch these shoes and socks, too. I'm not too keen on them anymore!"

Will smiled wryly, and then said, "You bet, clean clothes is good thinking. I think you'll like the ride. They've paved the trail a lot further north now, so we can ride up along the river. It's an easy and fun ride. We'll work off this breakfast and build an appetite for the barbecue this afternoon. You can shower and change before we head over. I happen to know that David is doing baby back ribs. Sound good?"

Kim's eyes widened. "I only know of one place that has ribs like that, and it's out by the International Speedway. My Dad loves them and takes me out there once in a while."

"Well, build an appetite, because David is a great cook, and you'll love them. The bike ride will be fun. We'll ride to the park, then go north along the Willamette River for a couple of miles, then we can leave the north end of the park and ride home through Sellwood. It won't be competitive or anything, but Susan's a good rider and can keep up, and we can all ride together, and if you guys want to take off and do some more radical stuff, that'll be fine. We'll just have a good time."

The ride was sunny and hot and a lot of fun, and they were back home by noon, and that gave everyone time to have a shower and clean up before they left for the barbecue. On the drive over a thought suddenly hit Kim, and he looked at Eric with worry on his face.

"What's up?"

"I just realized I don't know when my Dad gets back. What time's his flight? Do we have to go to the airport? Do I need to be home? Will that mess up the barbecue?"

Will reached his hand back from the driver's seat, clearly reaching for Kim, and making clear he wanted Kim to take his hand. When he had a good grip, he said, "Not to worry, my man. When your Dad called last night, I told him that he had to pick you up at David and Jackson's. Meaning he's invited to the barbecue and will be part of the party."

"Really? You did that?"

"Sure did. I figured he owed us since we've been taking care of his son. You know what else?"

Kim looked at Eric, who shrugged his shoulders, and then said, "What?"

"I told you we were going to try and make this mellow for you. As in, not a confrontation. So, guess what? He's going to be outnumbered. Just counting us adults he'll be outnumbered against me and Sam and David and Jackson. What do you think?"

Kim was stunned. Eric started giggling. "This was a plot, wasn't it? I mean it's like a trap. Kim's Dad shows up and there's two gay guys, two bi parents, and me and Susan and Kim. He'll be totally outnumbered. And then if Susan decides that he's nice and passes her test, he'll be totally undone! You are one bad dude, Dad! Did you tell him any of this?"

"You mean all the details? Well, no. There wasn't time on the phone last night. I just told him we were all planning on being at an afternoon barbecue with our best friends and the agreement was that he'd come there, have some food, join the fun, and take Kim home from there. What's so unusual about that?"

Eric had grabbed Kim in a hug and pulled him close. He was almost giggling. "What a plan!"

Will pulled the Caravan into the driveway and parked behind David's BMW. They all walked down the side of the house to the back yard, where they found Jackson setting two tables on the back deck, and David manning the grill. The aroma of slow cooking ribs was overwhelming.

David gave them all a welcoming smile with an accompanying wave but wasn't leaving his post on the grill. Jackson dropped what he had in hand onto the table and dropped to a knee, knowing what was coming next: Susan running into his arms. He rose with her and twirled around, both of them laughing like mad.

Finally, Jackson stopped the rotating and turned to the rest of the group and said, "Glad you're here! We're going to have a super barbecue this afternoon."

Susan leaned close to Jackson's ear and began whispering as Will and Sam with the two boys walked onto the deck and settled around the tables.

"Really?" Jackson held Susan at arm's length. "Eric and Kim are boyfriends? Wow, that's pretty cool"

They both looked daggers at Susan. He looked at them and grinned. "No secrets from Susan. And relax, it's all cool."

Susan grabbed his neck and pulled him close and whispered something else.

"The good news is that Kim is still Susan's friend. To that I would say, this is what love is: the ability to love many, maybe even to love all." He glanced at Will and said, "Remember that line from the Moody Blues song, 'Love everybody and make them your friend?" Will grinned and smiled at him as Jackson looked back at Susan. "Thanks for telling me that important information. Do you want me to put you down now?"

Susan nodded and laughed, and when he put Susan down, she ran to Kim for a hug.

Kim was hugging her back, looking somewhere between happy and amazed, when David said, "Will. You and Jackson are responsible for getting everyone drinks. There's beer and wine in the cooler and soft drinks in the fridge. Sam, will you bring out the potato salad and the slaw in about ten minutes, and I'll pull these ribs off? I do believe they're going to be very tasty!"

And, indeed, they were. Everyone had a first plate-load of food and was just about to settle into some serious eating when they heard the sound of tires in the driveway. David glanced at Will and nodded, stood up and walked down the side of the house.

Kim looked nervously at Eric, who just smiled back. Sam said softly, "Kim, be cool. It'll all be fine. I just know it."

They could all hear the sound of two male voices echoing along the side of the house and coming toward them, and after what seemed like an eternity, but was less than five minutes, David and Kim's father appeared in the back yard.

"Hey, you guys. Look who just got into town and dropped by to join the party."

He paused, and Kim's father smiled, seeming a little uncomfortable as he looked at everyone. David then went on. "This is John Sorenson. So, first, John, sorry we didn't wait till you got here to start eating, but the ribs were done, and we didn't know what the arrival time would be. Second, this is a party, with a big extended family and we'll fill you in later, but in the meantime, the idea is to relax and have a good time with everyone else. Third, and last, the food is great, and Kim told us you're a fan of baby back ribs, so this should be right up your alley. Now, let me introduce you to all these people you don't know who are surrounding your son."

David went through the introductions, emphasizing just enough to make the point that these were credible people: Jackson, a marketing product manager; Will, on the music faculty at Lewis & Clark College, Sam, a coach at Lincoln High School. Then he introduced Eric and Susan, Will and Sam's children and their godchildren.

"To be clear, John, when I say they're our godchildren, I mean mine and Jackson. We're a couple, have been since 1977, and these two jewels are our godchildren…and now there's a new friend in the mix, your son. So, have a seat, load up a plate, and enjoy. Would you like a beer or a glass of wine?"

Dinner progressed with a wide range of conversation from mechanical breakdowns on aircraft to how David had prepared the ribs. John had commented that they were just as moist and flavorful as the barbecue place out by the International Speedway, but not as sweet. David finally let on that the secret was a dry rub and a hot sear on the grill, followed by a long slow cook at a very low temperature.

John was impressed, and that set the stage for a positive vibe. After the dishes and plates were cleared, Sam and Jackson returned from the kitchen with two strawberry pies. There were lots of Oohs and Aahs, and everyone dug in.

There was a momentary quiet, and as if on cue, Sam took Susan by the hand and gave Eric and Kim the high sign, and then softly said, "We're going to clean up the dishes and stuff while you guys talk," and they all disappeared into the kitchen with plates and dishes.

John realized he was the odd guy out and began by thanking his hosts for their hospitality. They demurred and made clear it was a pleasure to get to know Kim's father, and that he was as welcome into their extended family as Kim was.

"I guess it's time you told me what happened yesterday. I've thought about it a lot since we talked on the phone last night, Will, and I'm responsible. I shouldn't have assumed a boy the age of Kim could, or should, be left on his own so I could take a business trip. It's been a tough juggling act since his Mom died, but that's no excuse. Now, will you tell me what happened, how he ended up with you and Sam, and how we all ended up here?"

Will walked him through the Saturday afternoon sequence of events at the skatepark and Pioneer Square and what followed. When he'd finished giving John the blow-by-blow summary of what had transpired, he glanced at David and then said, "John, we're all happy to meet you and to welcome you here, but there's no way to dance around the issue. You son got outed in public yesterday. He's gay. He's worried sick that you're not going to take that well because he loves and respects you, but he knows you're ex-military and have certain expectations, and he just doesn't know what you'll think."

John was quiet, but to his credit not angry, and after a pause said, "Well, it's pretty much a surprise. I don't know where it came from. I mean, everyone in my family is straight, my Dad was Navy too, we were all athletes…I just don't know what to think."

David leaned over and said, "I understand that you're a single Dad with a full-time job, but haven't you noticed anything that would make you wonder?"

"What? Well, no…I mean he hasn't had any dates. Is that what you mean? He's gotten good grades so he's busy with school and goes out for football and track, and…oh, I see what you mean." He paused. "No, if I understand your question, then I guess I hadn't. But where did this come from, I mean is it normal?"

"It's not only normal, but happens in ways that will blow you mind," Jackson said softly from beside him. "Can I tell you a little story?"

John nodded.

"My Mom died of cancer my senior year in high school, so I relate to what Kim went through with his mother dying. What happened though, was that this man was at the funeral that no one recognized, and it turned out to be my real father. The guy I always thought was my father was really my stepfather and he was out of the picture. My Mom and my Dad had a fling and I was the result. That's not the point, though. It's this: my Dad was an Army Medevac helicopter warrant officer in Vietnam. I didn't know that, but now he found out he had a son who was gay."

Jackson paused, and John thoughtfully said, "That must have been a shock."

"Surprise is a better word, but not as much as you'd think because it turned out that my Dad had an identical twin brother. They were both in country in Vietnam early in the war and my uncle was Airborne and died in a big battle. Anyway, here's the point: they were identical twins except for two things. My uncle had a birth mark on his abdomen, and he was gay. Their father was an Army Colonel, and my Dad is as straight as an arrow. The point, John, is simply that it's genetic."

It was quiet, and John was thinking and then looked at the three men in front of him. "I don't have a college degree, I enlisted in the Navy out of high school, but I read a lot, so I understand that. I also know what the law says. I just want you guys to know I'm not completely clueless. I owe you. You stepped up and rescued Kim and took care of him when I should have been there, and I thank you for that."

David subtly shifted into counseling mode. "John, thanks for acknowledging that fact. It was Eric who saw Kim was in trouble, and Will and Sam who stepped right up to make sure Kim was all right, and took him home with them. There are two things going on here that you need to understand, and they're connected. I'm Dean of Students at Lewis & Clark, but for years before that I ran the Campus Ministry and the biggest part of our program was outreach to gay kids. What most people, including parents, don't understand is how much social pressure gay kids are under. Our job was to help them understand themselves and help them feel good about themselves and accept themselves. What we couldn't do was make the parents and the families feel good about their kids and accept them. That's always where the disconnect came."

John looked surprised, and said, "Hey, I love Kim. He's my son."

David looked at Will, who leaned over the picnic table and said to John, "I'm a Dad just like you, and I don't doubt you love your son. But I want to tell you something if you can promise me that there won't be any repercussions on Kim?"

John looked shocked but nodded. "Of course."

"Kim told me last night he can't remember you telling him that you love him. That is the set up not just for misunderstanding, but fear. I went through that in high school. Until you know you're loved and accepted, everything else is pretty much secondary."

"But I love Kim, I mean, he's my son, how could he say… how could I not…"

"John, all he said is that he couldn't remember you saying you loved him. He said he thinks you do but he can't remember you telling him. Sometimes it's the simple act of putting the feeling into words that makes the difference."

John fell silent. After a minute, David said, "John, we don't want this to be a counseling session, let alone confrontational, but back to the two issues. First, Kim got outed yesterday, the result of bad decisions on his part to go skateboarding with a guy he had a crush on, but that's what happened. When we talked it through with him, he acknowledged that he's gay. So, the first question is if you can and will accept that, and love him the way he wants and needs to be loved?"

John was slow answering, but finally said, "Well, yeah. He's my son. I love him."

"That's great. Jackson and I have worked with gay and lesbian kids for years, and the most important thing we can say to you is this: you don't have to understand it, you just have to be willing to accept it because that's how it is and how he is. Can you do that?"

John nodded.

"The second thing is this. Kim and Eric, Will and Sam's son, have known each other distantly for a while at school and this situation has brought something to the surface they didn't understand before, and they're in the early stages of a relationship. If it happens, if it develops, if it goes somewhere, will you support it? Again, you don't have to understand the relationship. That's not required. All that's required is that you be a good and accepting father. You just need to be there with a heart full of love, accepting him for who he is. He loves you and wants to make you proud, but he needs to know you accept him for who he is. If he and Eric become boyfriends, then they'll not just want you to be part of them, they will need you to be part of them. Can you do that?"

John was quiet, but clearly processing what had just been laid on him. Finally, he said, "This is a lot of stuff, and most of it is outside my wheelhouse. That said, I'm his Dad and he's my son and I love him, even if I've put more energy into my work than into my relationship with him. Do I want him to be happy and healthy? Yes. I've spent the last twenty four hours agonizing about how I screwed up, what could have really gone wrong, what I should have done differently, and I'm still trying to figure out how all of you people could have been there at the right time to help him. To catch him and keep him from crashing when I wasn't there. I'm not going to tell you that I know what to do, because I don't. But I love my son, and I'll do my level best to accept him for what he is, even if I don't fully understand it."

He looked around slowly, looking directly at David and then Will and then Jackson. He was somber, and then he said, "I'll also tell you I'm not going to kid myself about knowing what to do. So, here's what I'll say. I'll do my best to do my part as his Dad, but I need you guys and your extended family to help me. I'm single with a son in high school, but I'm also not dumb. I have a full time job and travel quite a bit. I know I don't have all the answers. I was pretty impressed with the way it felt in here when I walked in earlier, and I know that's the kind of family feeling Kim needs. I'm also not too proud to tell you so either. So, will you guys help me be a better Dad?

Will slid over next to John and put his arm around his shoulder. "That's a no brainer. I can tell you that you've got all of us on your team, including Sam and Susan! By the way, Susan is our family's best judge of character, and she told Sam that you passed!"

John smiled wryly. "I'm guessing those are hard marks to achieve?"

Will nodded. "Yep, and Kim passed yesterday. When it's all said and done, this isn't that hard. Its about love and acceptance. That's all any of us want. If we can agree that's what Kim deserves, then we'll be on our way."

They were quiet for a minute, then John looked up and said, "So, what should I do?"

Jackson put his hand over the top of John's much larger hand and said, "If I know anything, it's that you've got a really uptight son sitting in the kitchen next to his maybe-boyfriend, who's worried to death about where this conversation out here is going to end up. You could go in there and give them both a hug and tell them you love them."

John was listening closely as Jackson spoke, and finally said, "Not that hard is it? Okay, I'll do that right now. Then what?"

Jackson's face brightened into a smile, then slowly turned into a grin. "If you want to make both of those boys really happy, you take Kim home with you, unpack, have dinner, whatever. Start the conversation with him. Then you bring him back to Will and Sam's house and let him have another sleepover with Eric. If you combine telling him you love and accept him, and act on it in a way that clearly shows you believe it and want him to understand that, then I think you'll have made up a lot of ground. Will told me you're taking tomorrow off because of working the weekend, and Will or Sam will bring him home in the morning. Or maybe you and Will could take both of them skateboarding at the Burnside Skatepark and change the experience of that place for him from humiliating to happy. How does that sound?"

"It sounds like something I never would have ever thought of before Friday when I flew to Vegas, but which suddenly this afternoon seems to make perfect sense to me."

There was a knock on the front door about 9:00 o'clock, and Eric rushed to answer the door. It was a beaming Kim carrying a small pack, and Eric ushered him into the living room where he'd been waiting with his parents.

"You look like things have gone pretty well over the last few hours."

"Unbelievable is the word. I told Eric last night I didn't know what would happen but didn't think it would be good. It was good. Unbelievably good. And I'm not even grounded, and look—I'm here for another sleepover. Is that rad, or what?"

Sam and Will were smiling broadly, happiness for the boys radiating off their faces. "We're so happy for you. For both of you. Now, do you two want to sit down with us adults and tell us all about what you did and talked about with your Dad, or would you prefer a little privacy upstairs?"

"Mom! You don't have to put us on the spot, but thanks for letting us choose."

He looked at Kim and wiggled his eyebrows with a conspiratorial smile on his face. Kim smiled back, but said, "In a minute."

Then he turned back to Sam and Will and said, "I'll never forget this weekend. I got humiliated and outed, but you guys rescued me. Then I got my First Kiss and you accepted and encouraged it and sorted stuff out with my Dad. Now I've got a boyfriend. So, thanks a million. All pretty rad, huh?"

He was grinning wildly as Eric grabbed his arm and pulled him out of the living room and up the stairs.

Thanks to my editor, Michael, for the time and effort to put the clarifying and finishing touches on this story!


This story is part of the 2020 story challenge "Inspired by a Picture: Sofa Skater". The other stories may be found at the challenge home page. Please read them, too. The voting period of 31 January to 21 February is when the voting is open. This story may be rated, below, against a set of criteria, and may be rated against other stories on the challenge home page.

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2020 Inspired by a Picture Challenge - Sofa skater

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Flamer Skater

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