The Man from Swift Current
© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved




Chapter 77: Greg and Cory

After Rick left them, Greg and Cory sat staring into the fire.   A stony silence existed between them.   Greg's face was full of anger and he kept open closing his fists.   Cory watched his friend and felt a deep sense of remorse for breaking the promise he had made to him.  He didn't know what to say that would lessen the anger that was being directed at him.   So he sat in silence, staring into the fire.   The rest of the boys and their leaders were oblivious to the intense drama being played out across the fire from them, as they continued to tell stories and laugh at each other's jokes.

Suddenly Greg stood and stalked toward the tent he and Cory had set up.   Cory waited to see what Greg was going to do.   When he did not return, Cory gathered up his courage and followed him.   As he entered the tent, Cory could vaguely see Greg lying on top of his sleeping bag fully clothed.   He removed his shoes and did the same.  

Cory whispered, "Greg, I am sorry for breaking my promise.   Can you forgive me?"

There wasn't an immediate response.   In fact, Cory began to think Greg had fallen asleep.   Then he felt Greg's hand reach for his and heard a hoarse whisper, "Cory, I'm scared."

"So am I," Cory replied, softly.

"What do you think Rick will do," Greg asked.

"Nothing.    Didn't  you hear him tell us to be very careful," Cory said.

Greg squeezed Cory's hand, and, then, said, "No.   I was so upset with you that I wasn't listening to what Rick was saying."

Cory said, "I think we can trust him, so stop worrying about it.   I have a feeling that Rick is going to be a very good friend."

Greg let go of Cory's hand and climbed inside his sleeping bag.   Cory did the same.   Cory listened to Greg's breathing as it slowed and he began to snore.   Cory couldn't sleep as he couldn't stop thinking about what had just happened.   He had watched Rick all day and felt he could trust Rick.   That is why he had started to tell him their secret when Greg had interrupted.  

What bothered Cory so much was the fact that Rick had guessed that they were having sex.   Cory wasn't ready to admit that he was gay, nor was Greg.   They had started fooling around a few weeks ago, and had ended up naked on Cory's bed and one thing had led to another.

Cory's memory of what happened next still made him horny.   They both had been pretty clumsy at first; but quickly figured things out, much to their mutual enjoyment.   Greg had sworn Cory to secrecy, since he didn't want anyone to find out that he liked guys.  Cory knew Greg was right to be concerned about what would happen should their classmates discover that they liked having sex with each other.

Despite Greg's misgivings, he had made his way over to Cory's house every day after school for the last few weeks since Cory's parents both worked and came home late, so they had the house to themselves.   They usually spent the first hour or so after school having sex and cleaned each other up in the shower, before settling down to study at the kitchen table.

Greg had slept overnight at Cory's house last night, so they could leave early for the campout.   Greg had locked Cory's bedroom door.   They had stripped off their clothes and climbed into bed together.    

After making out, Greg had pulled Cory close to him and looked him in the eyes, "Cory, I think I am falling in love with you, but I am still confused by the fact that I want to go out with girls, too."  

"Greg, I know that I love you, and I have loved you for a long time.   I have wanted you to have sex with me since we were in the 7th grade.   I didn't dare hope that you would even feel the same way about me, so I tried to hide my feelings for you the best I could," Cory said.

Greg smiled, and said, "That first night we made out I was so horny and you seemed to really want to have sex with me, so I thought it would be okay to do it just once.   What I didn't expect was to feel so close to you.   I have had sex with girls before, but it was just that – sex.   I never felt like I wanted to stay with them for the rest of my life.   I didn't think I would feel that way towards you.   I expected it to be just good sex and that's all."

Cory smiled and said, "I was willing to accept a friends-with-benefits situation just to have you be with me.   But now, I am very happy that things have turned out the way they have."   He paused since he wasn't sure how Greg would react to his next words.   He decided to chance it and said softly, "I love you."

Greg kissed Cory and responded, "I love you, too.   Now what do we do?"

"We wait until we graduate, then, we can move in together wherever you decide you are going to attend college," Cory answered.

"Do you really mean that you will go with me anywhere?" Greg asked, in wonder.

"Yes, I mean that I will go with you, if you want me to be with you," Cory replied, hesitantly since he wasn't sure how Greg really felt about them as a couple.

Greg said, "Knowing that you love me so much that you would move with me to anywhere in the country blows me away, Cory.   I know that we have been best friends since forever, but I never expected that you would love me this way.   I am still trying to figure out all this stuff in my head."   Greg suddenly went silent.   Cory looked at Greg's face closely, wondering why he had stopped talking.

Greg continued, "You have to promise me you will never ever tell anyone about us, until after graduation.   I can just imagine how my teammates will react to finding out that I like being with you."

Cory agreed, "Things could get pretty ugly.   I have read about gays being beat up pretty badly and even murdered.   Do you remember reading about Matthew Shepard?"

Greg shook his head, "No, I don't remember anything about him.   Who is he?"

"He was the gay college student that was murdered by so called ‘Christians' because he somehow threatened them due to his sexual orientation," Cory said.   "I have done a lot of research about gays.   My parents have started to wonder about me since I have taken such an interest in gay issues.   In fact, I want to establish a gay-straight alliance at our school," Cory said.

"You know that the principal won't approve that," Greg said.   "Not only that, you still haven't told me you will keep this between us."

Cory replied, "I promise not to tell anyone at school.   I think we should tell our parents at some point though."

Greg sat bolt upright in bed as if someone had shot him, "Don't you dare even breathe a word of this to my parents!   You know that my dad would disown me, if he ever found out.   He has been very vocal about his hatred of gays."

Cory replied, "I know.   I have heard him.   My mother is the same way.   I think that my dad would understand though and my mom would come around eventually."

"Let's just keep this between ourselves for now, okay?" Greg pleaded, hoping Cory would understand why he felt so strongly about it.

Cory said, "I won't tell anyone, okay?"

Greg finally laid down next to Cory and sighed, "Okay.   Let's go sleep."

 Cory snuggled up next to Greg and soon they both had fallen asleep.

Cory's thoughts returned to the present.   Now he had to figure out if he had really messed up by giving their secret away.   Soon he fell asleep.

The next morning, Rick was up early and had the campfire going when Sgt. Mason exited his tent.

"Good morning, Sgt.," Rick greeted him.

"Good morning, Rick.   Thank you for getting the fire going for breakfast," Sgt. Mason said.

"You are welcome.   The fire helps take some of the morning chill away," Rick said.

Sgt. Mason moved closer to the fire and stood over it warming his hands.   "Greg and Cory seem to have taken a liking to you, Rick.   I'm glad they have opened up to you.   I have been worried about them.   Something has happened in the last few weeks to cause them to shut me out.   I have never had anything like it happen before in all the years I have worked with the Boy Scouts.   I am usually pretty good at working with teenage boys, but those two have withdrawn from me and haven't responded to any of my attempts to get them to talk to me about what is going on."

Rick looked surprised at Sgt. Mason's comments.   Sgt. Mason was the last person Rick expected to confide in him.   He seemed so disciplined and well organized.   Rick waited for Sgt. Mason to continue.

Sgt. Mason turned and looked at Rick, "I would very much appreciate your assistance in working with those two.   I don't want to lose them, especially since they are both so close to earning their Eagles.   I'm sure I don't have to tell you how much it will mean to them later in their lives to be able to say that they earned the rank of Eagle Scout."

Rick returned Sgt. Mason's look and answered, "I can't promise that they will respond to me, but I will do my best to help them."

Sgt. Mason smiled, "Thank you.   I will make sure Lt. Col. Bachman arranges your schedule so you can continue to work with the boys.   You know that he has talked with me about what happened to your friend?"

"Yes.   I suspected as much when he insisted that I work with the scout troop," Rick responded in a neutral tone.   Rick wondered where this conversation was going.

"Please don't get offended by what I am about to ask.   You remind me in some ways of the two boys we were just talking about.   I have noticed that you are very closed and don't talk much unless spoken to, just like those two.   You don't have to worry about me, Rick.   I am not trying to get inside your head to figure out what is going on with you, but I do hope that working with the boys can help you work through whatever demons are tormenting you."   Sgt. Mason noted the look on Rick's face.   He knew he had stepped over a line with Rick.   He liked this young man.   Rick reminded him of himself at about the same age.   He said, "I am sorry if I have offended you, because that was not my intent.   You are about the same age as my son, if he had survived."

Rick looked at Sgt. Mason in surprise, and asked, "What happened to him?"

"Brett died of leukemia when he was 10 years old.   He was our only child.   My wife left me the year after his death to teach school overseas.   She said she couldn't continue living with all the memories.   After she left, I threw myself into my work.  Then, someone suggested that I get involved with the Boy Scouts.   Working with these young men has helped me to get my life back together.   I have been able to see them progress from being awkward young boys and growing up to be fine young men.   Somehow, it gives me the strength to go on.   I am still single, but I have started dating, again.   I am a little rusty after being out of circulation for so long."  Sgt. Mason paused.   "I'm sorry.   I shouldn't be telling you all of my personal troubles.   I just want you to understand that I don't have a hidden agenda when I say I really want to help you, if I can."

Rick said, "Thank you, Sgt. Mason.   I appreciate your honesty with me.   I think I can put your mind at ease with regards to my mental and emotional health.   I know that Lt. Col. Bachman and Sgt. Riehle think that I am suffering from post traumatic syndrome or something like that, and, well, I might be.   However, that is not why I choose to shut out my fellow Marines."

Sgt. Mason looked at Rick curiously, "Then why are you shutting us out?"

Rick said, "Let me put it this way.   How would you react if you found out that someone you had been trained to trust with your life is the one who killed your best friend and did it in such a horrible and undignified way?"

Sgt. Mason didn't respond at first; but, then, said, "I think I would be very hesitant to trust anyone around me."

"Exactly!   I am not sure who I can trust anymore.   That more than anything has driven me to close off any close contact with my fellow marines.   Sam was a very good friend and didn't deserve to be murdered by those he trusted with his life on the battlefield," Rick said.   "I have intentionally cut off all the friendships I have with fellow servicemen.   You could say that I have lost faith in the entire military establishment and its ability to keep its own safe, let alone defend our country from foreign threats."

"I understand that those responsible for his murder are being held here, while their courts martial are being prepared," Sgt. Mason said.

"Yes and that is why Lt. Col. Bachman and I are still here, rather than being deployed elsewhere," Rick responded.

Sgt. Mason said, "I want you to know that you can talk to me anytime, Rick.   I may not understand what you have been through, but I can promise you I will listen and try to be a sounding board for you, if you need one."

"Thank you, Sgt.," Rick replied, feeling little uncertain about Sgt. Mason's motivation for trying to befriend him.

"You can call me Jim.   I know that I can appear to be pretty aloof and distant, but that is just my way of maintaining discipline.   Don't let it prevent you from approaching me when you need to talk," Sgt. Mason said.

Sgt. Slade joined them around the fire. "Good morning, gentlemen!   I hope you are ready for a great day of fun and lots of activities."

 Sgt. Mason laughed, "Yes, I believe we are, but ARE the boys ready is the real question?"

Sgt. Slade grinned, "I am sure they will be, once we get some breakfast in them."

The three men soon had breakfast cooked.   They made their way from tent to tent waking up the sleeping teenagers with the promise of a tasty breakfast.

Soon they were all gathered around the fire trying to stay warm.   Breakfast soon disappeared.   As they ate, Sgt. Slade outlined the day's activities and turned to the patrol leader to make assignments.   The boys quickly cleaned up the camp, and had everything stowed away in its proper place.   Rick was paired off with Cory, Greg, Chip and Steve for most of the day's activities.   Rick was aware that Greg and Cory were watching him closely to see if he would give away their secret.  For his part, Rick was watching them just as closely as they were watching him.   As evening approached, they loaded all of their gear into the vehicles and took it back to the scout building and unloaded it.

Ray asked, "Rick, how would you like to join us for dinner?"

Rick looked suspiciously at Sgt. Mason, thinking he had probably suggested it to Ray.   Sgt. Mason smiled and nodded his head in approval, confirming Rick's suspicions.   Rick turned back to Ray, "Sure.   I would love that.   I have to be back here by 10 o'clock.   Is that okay?"

Ray said, "That would be great.   We will make sure you're back on base on time."

Cory smiled and said, "I'm glad you're coming to dinner.   Dad, can Greg come over as well?"

Ray said, "Of course.   Let me call your mother to make sure it's okay with her."

Ray made the phone call, and turned to his son, "Greg's family is joining us as well."

Rick climbed aboard Ray's mini-van.   They stopped at the barracks, so Rick could get some clean clothes, and they headed to Ray's house.   Rick made polite conversation with Ray, while at the same time trying to hear what the boys were talking about in the back.   When they arrived at Ray's home, the boys unloaded the mini-van, while Ray showed Rick where the shower was and left him to get cleaned up for dinner.  Rick came out of the bathroom and saw the boys coming upstairs.  

Cory said, "Are you finished with the shower?"

"Yes.   It's all yours," Rick responded, as he went downstairs.   He heard the boys laughing and goofing around in the bathroom.   He entered the kitchen where Ray introduced him to his wife, "Honey, this is Rick.  Rick this is my wife, Darla."

"Nice to meet you, Rick," Mrs. Stetson said, as Rick shook her hand.

"Same here, Mrs. Stetson," Rick replied.

She quickly said, "Please call me Darla.   Mrs. Stetson is my mother-in-law."

Rick smiled, "Okay, Darla.   It smells good in here.   Can I help with anything?"

"No.   I have everything under control here," she said, smiling.

The doorbell rang.   Ray said, "There is the rest of the company."   Soon they were joined by Greg's family.   Cory and Greg joined them just as the table was set and dinner set out.

Ray said, "Perfect timing boys!"

Rick relaxed and enjoyed himself.   The food was very good.   Joey, Greg's brother-in-law, played on the same high school football team with Rick.   He and Joey reminisced about their high school days.   Cory and Greg listened to them talking and asked an occasional question or two.   Greg paid special attention to the stories of their exploits on the football field.   He asked questions about their strategies and how they had managed to communicate the next play without the other team figuring out what was happening.

After a while, Cory asked, "Rick, would you like to see my soccer trophies?"

Greg looked at Cory in surprise, but didn't say anything as he waited to hear Rick's response.   Rick saw the look, and wondered what it was about.   He said, "Sure."

Joey laughed, "You are in trouble now, Rick!   Cory can be quite the talker when you get him going."

Cory laughed and said, "Joey has already seen my trophies."

Joey smiled, "Yes, I have.   You go on up with Cory.   I'll wait for you down here."

Cory led the way back upstairs with Greg and Rick following him.   He opened the door and went over the shelf above his desk where all of his trophies were displayed.   "I have played soccer since I was five years old."

He pointed to each trophy and explained what he had done to earn it.   When he finished, he sat down on the bed and Greg sat next to him.   Rick sat down on the desk chair and looked at the two boys and waited, knowing that they wanted to ask him some questions by the look on their faces.

Cory looked at Rick and asked, "How do you know what our secret is?'

Rick smiled, "I know because I have watched how you two interact with each other.   I can tell you love each other very much and that you are more than just good friends."

Greg looked scared.  "Is it that obvious?   I don't want anyone else to find out."

Rick tried to reassure Greg.  "No, it is not obvious to the casual observer.   In fact, most of your classmates probably won't notice anything out of the ordinary.   You two have been good friends for a long time haven't you?"

"Yes, we have," Cory said.

Rick said, "Then, it should be pretty easy for you two to keep your secret from your classmates."

Greg looked relieved.  "I can't afford to have anyone find out that Cory and I are lovers because they would kick me off of the football team."

Rick nodded his head.  "Yes.   You're right.    Not only would they kick you off the football team, but you could be banned from participating in any sports activities.   Have you thought about what your church would do, or how your families would react?"

Both boys started to answer at the same time.   They paused and Greg answered for them, "Yes, we have.   My family would disown me and my church would condemn me as a sinner and throw me out."

Cory said, "My Dad would be okay with us but my mother would probably throw me out of her house.   I go to the same church as Greg, so I expect I wouldn't be welcome there anymore."

Greg said, "Honestly, Rick, we're very scared.   I love Cory, but I'm afraid to let anyone know that we are in love with each other."

Cory said, "I have loved Greg for most of my life, so I am not as scared to admit it to other people but that being said; I am still very apprehensive about how people will treat us once they find out.   There is so much hatred towards gays and most of it originating in the name of religion.   It makes me angry that so many religious people claim to follow Christian principles, but then don't do it.   They preach hatred from the pulpit.   I have heard it many times at our church.   There is so much violence preached there that I have told Mom and Dad I don't want to attend church with them anymore."

"My best advice to you both is that you keep your relationship a secret from everyone until you are out of high school.   That way you will avoid being bullied at school, or persecuted by those who should be a support to you.   You both know that the Boy Scouts as well as your church will kick you out of their organizations, if you come out as being gay.   And if your parents should disown you, you can move out on your own without having to worry about trying to graduate from high school at the same time," Rick said.

Greg eyes widened as he sat listening to Rick.  "I didn't realize the Boy Scouts would kick us out, too!   My parents are really set on me earning my Eagle Scout!  It has been a tradition in our family for all the boys to earn their Eagle.   My Grandpa, all my uncles and my cousins are all Eagle Scouts."

"All the more reason to keep things under wraps until you are out of high school and can function on your own," Rick said.

Cory said, dejectedly, "I didn't realize that having my dreams come true would bring with it so many challenges.   It seems there are more problems now, than if we hadn't explored our feelings for each other."

Greg agreed, "Life was so simple, or at least it had seemed so to me.   I used to get laid every weekend with any girl who would do it with me.   In fact, there is quite a competition among my teammates to see how many girls we can have sex with before we graduate!"

Rick laughed, "Yes, I remember we had something similar going on at my school.   I wasn't part of it though, because I had a girlfriend already who didn't like me fooling around on her."

Cory looked at Rick and asked, "What happened?   I don't see a ring on your finger so you must not have married her."

"She got pregnant, and she and her family turned against me claiming that is was my fault that she was having a baby.   She sent her two brothers to beat me up and refused to speak to me, again," Rick said, the pain of his memories reflected in his face.

"I'm sorry," Greg said.   "I have always practiced safe sex; so to my knowledge I haven't fathered any children."

Cory grinned, "You don't have to worry about getting me pregnant and having my father come after you with a gun!"

Greg laughed, "No, but your mother still might when she finds out that I'm having sex with her only son."

The look on Rick's face at the mention of family taking the law into their own hands caused both the boys to stop talking.   Greg asked, "What is wrong, Rick?"

"There is nothing wrong, Greg.   Just some bad memories that's all," Rick said.   Then, he redirected the conversation to stave off any additional questions, "Guys, have you thought about getting married?"

Cory smiled, "Yes, I have but I haven't dared talk about it with Greg.   Our relationship is still so new that we haven't had time to really talk about our future together."

"I want us to graduate first, before we start talking about our future together.   I need to concentrate on one thing at a time," Greg responded to Cory.

"I agree with you, Greg.   Both of you need to put your efforts into getting good grades and doing your best to get into a good college," Rick said.   "I'm attending Georgia Tech.   I had just finished my second year there, when I was called up for a one year deployment."

Greg asked curiously, "What are you studying?"

"I am majoring in mechanical engineering," Rick replied.

"I don't know what I want to study.   I figured I would take general education courses for a while before committing to a major," Greg said.   "My parents think I should attend a local community college first."

Cory spoke up, "I want to study political science and criminology.   I have already told Greg I would go to school wherever he is."

Rick smiled, "So when are you two going to work on your Eagle projects?"

Greg shrugged his shoulders, "I don't know."

"What would you two say if I offered to help you on your projects and you promise to get them started this week?" Rick asked.

"I would be willing to do it," Cory said.

"Me, too," Greg replied.

"Okay, let's take some time to figure out what you want to do," Rick said.   "Do you have some paper we can use to write down a few things?"

Cory stood up and pulled some paper off the shelf next to his bed and handed it to Rick.

The guys spent the next hour strategizing and came to an agreement on an action plan.   They had just finished writing everything down when Joey showed up in Cory's doorway.

"Hey, guys, it's time for us to go home, and Rick has to be back on base," Joey said.

Rick looked at the clock.  "Thanks for remembering for me, Joey.   We were so engrossed in our planning for their Eagle projects that I forgot to watch the time."

Joey looked at his brother-in-law.  "So….Greg, are you really going to work on your Eagle project?"

Greg nodded his head.  "Will you help me, Joey?"

Joey smiled, "Of course, I will help you.   Both Rick and I earned our Eagles before we turned 17.   I will be happy to do what I can to help you out."

Cory said, "Rick has promised to help us, as well."

"Well, you appear to be gathering support already, boys.   You need to get with Sgt. Mason and finish your planning, so you can get your projects approved by the local Boy Scout council before you begin executing on your plans," Rick said.

"Yeah, you need to be preapproved before doing your project.   One of our friends had to redo his project because he did his first one without getting the Boy Scout council to okay it first.   His parents were so mad that no one had told them they needed the preapproval.   So don't make the same mistake.   Do you have the Eagle Scout Project guidebook?" Joey asked.

Greg and Cory looked at each other in puzzlement.   Greg asked, "What is that?"

Joey answered, "It is a workbook that outlines everything you need to do and when.   I will download it off the internet so you can use it to finish your planning in the right way," Joey said.

Rick said, "Sounds like a plan, guys."

Cory said, "Thank you for your help, Rick."

"You are most welcome," Rick responded.  

They made their way back downstairs where Rick thanked his hosts for their hospitality and climbed into the mini-van with Ray.   On their way back to the marine base, Ray said, "Thank you for working with the boys on their scouting stuff."

"You're welcome, Ray.   I enjoyed spending time with them this weekend," Rick replied.

Ray and Rick chatted about their camping adventures with the guys until Ray pulled up in front of Rick's barracks.

"Thank you, again, for helping with the scouts," Ray said.

"No problem, Ray.   See you later," Rick said.   He made his way inside and made preparations for the next day.   He sent a quick text message to Glenn to tell him he would call him the next day.

The next evening Rick placed the promised call, "Hello, lover boy."

"How was your camping trip?" I asked.

"It was great!   I'm helping a couple of the guys work on their Eagle projects.   I'm pretty excited to be able to help them," Rick said, enthusiastically.

"That's wonderful, Rick.   I am happy that this scouting thing is working out for you.   I wasn't sure what they were thinking when they first volunteered you to work with the scout troop," I replied.

"I wasn't either; but now I am glad to have something to keep my thoughts occupied, instead of stewing all the time about the upcoming trials," Rick said.

"Ben and I are planning to go home for Thanksgiving.   Do you know when you will be able to go on leave, again?" I asked.

"Lt. Col. Bachman says we will get a few days off at Christmas the way things are looking now," Rick replied.

"Okay.   I won't count on you for Thanksgiving, then," I said.

"When are you and Ben leaving," Rick asked.

"We are leaving two weeks from last Friday," I responded.

Rick said, in surprise, "It's only October.   Why are you going home so early?   Thanksgiving isn't until the end of November."

"We celebrate Thanksgiving in October in Canada, Rick.   The whole family is going to Mom and Dad's this year, so Ben and I want to be there, too," I said.

"Oh, I had forgotten.   I hope you two have a good time.   I wish I could go with you," Rick said.

"So do I," I said, with feeling.   "I miss you, Rick."

"I miss you, too," Rick replied.

"Where do you want to go for Christmas?" I asked.

"Anywhere you are," Rick replied.   "I don't have a preference other than that."

I smiled and laughed.  "Okay, Grandma and Grandpa Scarborough have asked us to stay with them for the holidays.   Is that okay?"

"Sure.    It sure beats staying in Minnesota!   It is way too cold for me," Rick said, laughing.

I said, "After a while, you get used to it.   I will let them know to expect us."

"Okay, I'll talk to you tomorrow then," Rick said.

"I love you," I said.

Rick replied, "Ditto!"

I broke the connection and got up from my desk and walked across the hall to Ben's room.   I tapped on the door.

Ben said, "Come in."

I opened the door to see Ben was studying at his desk, just like I had been when Rick's call had come in.   "I talked with Rick and he won't be able to join us for Thanksgiving."

Ben looked up from his homework and said, "That is what we expected.   Janice is going to go with us.   I want her to meet the rest of the family.   Have you talked to your professors about being out of class that week?"

"Yes, I've already made arrangements to complete my homework and turn it in online," I said.

"I haven't spoken to all my professors, yet.   I'll catch the last one in the morning," Ben said.   "Unfortunately, I can't turn in my assignments online, so I have to complete them before we leave.   I am going to be swamped for the next couple of days getting them all done, as well as keeping up with the regular homework."

"We can't leave until after your hockey game, right?" I asked.

"Right," Ben confirmed.   "That's okay.   We will have plenty of time to get there before the main event."

"Hopefully, the weather will cooperate with us," I said.

"I'm sure it will be fine," Ben said.   "We have both driven in bad weather before, so I am not worried about it.   Janice is worried about the weather as well, but I don't think it will be a problem for us."

"I am looking forward to seeing our family.   I know it hasn't been that long since we were there, but for some reason I really want to be home for a while," I said.

"I am feeling the same way, but I know the reason why," Ben said.

I laughed, "Yeah, I know.   You want to show off your new girlfriend!"

Ben joined in my laughter, "Yes, that is exactly why I am so eager to go home!"

"I guess we're all set.   I had better get back to my studies.   I have a major test in the morning and I'm not quite ready for it," I said.

"I completely understand.   I have a test tomorrow, as well," Ben said.   "I will catch you in the morning, cousin."

"Good night," I said, as I left Ben's room and closed the door.   I returned to my room to finish studying.

Time flew by for us.   The guys were kept busy with homework and working out with the hockey team.   All of us were starting to look pretty good given our efforts to tone up our muscles.   Thanksgiving (both of them – Canada and US) came and went.  

Dr. Hansen told us this week that Brian seems to be the key to Justin's recovery.   They have been together over two months now.   Justin and Brian don't have any plans for the holidays.   Brian's family lives in India, so they don't plan to go home to see Brian's family.  

Since they will be spending the holidays here, we went out and purchased decorations for the house.   Justin and Brian helped me put up the tree and the lights.   It certainly gives the house a festive air about it.   We bought a gingerbread house kit and put it together.  

Ben and Janice are going to her parents for the holidays.   Of course, Mark, Brandon, Zach, Todd, Robbie and Adam are all going home to Duluth.   Brandon has settled down a lot since he and Mark got together.   Brandon has stopped hitting all the guys!   It was pretty bad there at the beginning of their relationship, because Brandon would flirt with me, or one of the other guys.   That would get Mark upset.   Brandon would apologize and they would make up.   It has been nearly a month now since Brandon confessed to me that he has fallen madly in love with Mark!   I am very happy that things have worked out for the two of them!  

I reflected on the fact that each of the couples living with us had healthy relationships and seemed very happy to be together.   Even Robbie and Adam seemed to have matured a lot as a result of seeing how the other couples related to each other.   Most of all, the thing that amazed me the most is how accepting our straight friends have been of us.      

Rick called last night to tell me he is has been approved for two weeks of leave starting on December 21st.   That is only a couple of days from now, so I am very hyped up at the prospect of seeing my lover boy.   We made plans last night to meet at Keith and Kerry's place, since Rick's Jeep Wrangler is parked there.  Keith and Kerry will be caravanning up with us to my grandparents' home.

Rick also told me about Greg and Cory earning their Eagle Scout Awards.   They had finished their projects and managed to get all the paperwork approved in time for Rick to be present at the awards ceremony which was last night.    Working with the scouts has been a good thing for Rick and I am glad it turned out to be a good thing for Greg and Cory.   Rick has told me a great deal about them.   I hope things go well for them.

The hockey team has invited all of us to a party tonight.   I guess I should start getting ready since we only have an hour before we have to be there.   The team has rented a dance hall and has hired a live band.   I looked through my closet and decided to wear khaki pants, a dark blue oxford shirt with a button down collar, light blue wool sweater, and cordovan penny loafers completed my outfit.  

I looked in the mirror and decided the diamonds studs were a good match but my hair is a mess!   I ran a comb through my shoulder length blond hair until I was satisfied it looked okay.   This is the first time I have ever had long hair.   My Dad always insisted that we keep our hair short and Mom supported his decision.   I had argued with them about it many times during high school to no avail.   I smiled at my reflection.   I still have what my Mom calls a "baby face" and it makes people think I am a lot younger than I am.   I would grow a mustache and beard, but I have not had to shave much since the only facial hair I have are my eyebrows.   Satisfied that I looked good, I turned out the lights and went downstairs to join the others.  

I walked into the front room to find everyone there ready to go.   Ben exclaimed with a big smile, "Finally!   We thought you would never be ready!"

"I had to make sure I look good," I responded, defensively.

"You look great, Glenn," Janice said, patting me on the arm.

"Thank you, Janice.   You look great yourself," I replied.   Janice looked gorgeous in her tight-fitting red dress that would have had me drooling all over her if I were wired that way.   I enjoyed watching Ben try not to stare at her, despite the fact that he only had eyes for her.   Ben wore dark slacks and a red shirt that matched Janice's dress.   They looked good together.

The guys had decided that each couple would dress alike; so, as I looked around the room, it was easy to see who belonged with whom.   We had all gone shopping together to get new clothes for this party.   Brandon had suggested that we all wear khaki pants but vary the color of shirts and sweaters.   The others agreed.   Mark and Brandon wore green.   Robbie and Adam – burgundy, Justin and Brian – navy blue, Zach and Todd – purple.  

Zach said, "I think we are all here so let's go."   Zach took Todd by the hand and led him out of the door and the rest of us followed.

We arrived at the dance club and joined the party which had already gotten off to a good start.   The rest of the team was already there, as were many of our other friends from the dorms.   Donica, Patty and Irene waved us over to their table and pointed to a couple of empty tables near them.   I took a seat between Patty and Irene while Ben and Janice sat next to Donica.   The rest of guys sat at the tables next to us.

Donica said, "Wow!   Brandon looks really great in that outfit you gave him.   I have to admit I did a good job helping you pick it out."

I looked over at Brandon as talked animatedly to Mark.   "Yes, he looks great!   I'm glad he has decided that Mark is the only guy for him."

Donica said, "I agree.   I met Brandon last year.   He seemed very unhappy, then.   Hey, there's Jimmy!"

Jimmy made his way over to us and took a seat next to Donica.   He leaned over and gave her a quick kiss.   "I'm glad you guys could make it," he said, looking around the table.  

Ben asked, "Is everything ready?"

"Yes," Jimmy answered.

The rest of us looked between the two with more than a little curiosity.  

Janice asked, "What is ready?"

"You will just have to wait to find out," Ben said smiling, as he took Janice's hand in his.

"But you won't have to wait very long," Jimmy said, laughing at our reaction to Ben's statement.

The band started playing one of our favorite songs and Jimmy turned to Donica.  "Want to dance?"

"Yes," she answered and they got up and went out on the dance floor.

They were soon joined by Ben and Janice as well as the rest of the guys.  Patty and Irene excused themselves to go to the powder room.  

Seeing me sitting by myself, Devon came over and sat next to me, "How are things going, Glenn?"

"Good, thanks," I replied.   Devon still made me feel a little uncomfortable, even though I knew he was a harmless flirt.   Devon placed his hand on my leg and started rubbing up and down.

I put my hand on his, "Devon, you know that I am not like that."

Devon grinned.  "I know, but I still have to try."

I said, "Devon, you are a great looking guy, but I am taken already.   Not only that, you are bisexual so even if we had a relationship, I would never know when you would decide to dump me for some chick you met at the bar!"

Devon grinned.   "So true!   Does Irene have a boyfriend?"

"I don't think so.   Why?" I asked, looking suspiciously at Devon.

Devon gave me his "I am so innocent" look.   "I was just wondering."

The girls returned to our table.   Patty said, "Hi, Devon.   How are you doing?"

"I'm great.   Thanks for asking, Patty.   Irene, would you like to dance?" Devon asked, pouring on the charm.

I looked over at Irene to see the color rise in her cheeks.   "Yes, I would," she answered.

Patty looked at me, "I guess that leaves just you and me.   Let's go dancing."   Patty pulled me onto the dance floor where we held our own.   After a while, the crowd moved aside to let Zach and Todd dance with Brandon and Mark trying to outdo them.      Both couples were perfectly in synch with each other.   When the song ended, the crowd's enthusiastic applause rewarded them for their efforts.

The lead singer of the band announced, "We have a very special request to make at this time.   Would Zach join us on the stage?"

We all looked at Zach who grinned and took Todd by the hand and moved toward the stage.   Zach took the microphone, got down on one knee in front of Todd, and pulled out a ring.    "Todd Ingram will you marry me?"

The look on Todd's face was priceless.   He smiled and said, "Yes, I will marry you Zach Anderson."

The entire room shouted, "Hoorah!" and "Congratulations!"

Zach slipped the ring onto Todd's finger and stood up pulling Todd close for a passionate kiss that drew many cat calls and more cheering from the crowd.

The band started playing Zach and Todd's favorite song as they moved out onto the dance floor where the crowd cleared a space to watch them dance.   After the song ended, Zach and Todd came over to me and sat down.

Todd was still flushed with the excitement of the moment.   Zach held Todd's hand and had a smile a mile wide.   I said, "Congratulations!   I am very happy for you both."

Todd smiled. "Thank you, Glenn."

"When do you plan to get married?" I asked.

Todd looked at Zach who said, "We want to be married as soon as possible."

Todd nodded his head in agreement.   "We were thinking about January 2nd or 3rd.   We were planning to go home to Duluth for the holidays anyway, so it would be really easy for us to cross the border into Canada and get married."

"It's about a four hour drive to Thunder Bay, Ontario, from Duluth.   I talked to my Mom and Dad about making the arrangements for the wedding last weekend," Zach said.

"I wondered why you spent so much time in your Dad's study.   Your Mom and I had quite a nice visit, while I waited for you," Todd said.

Zach laughed, "I had a hard time keeping them from telling you I was going to propose to you tonight.   My Mom is so excited."

Todd grinned, "I suppose my parents know already, right?"

"Yes, I asked your Dad's permission to marry you when we were there for dinner.   Do you remember when I excused myself from the dinner table and followed your dad into the front room?" Zach asked.

"Yes," Todd replied.

"That's when I asked your Dad if it was okay to marry his son," Zach said smiling at his fiancé.

Todd said, "I can't believe Dad managed to keep the secret this long.   He has a hard time keeping secrets."

"I know!   Your mother managed to convince him that this time he needed to honor my request and not mention anything to you," Zach said.

The rest of our friends surrounded our table to congratulate the happy couple.   Zach's coach came over and shook their hands.  "I am very happy that Zach has found Mr. Right.   I expect to get an invitation to the wedding."

Zach replied, "We will let you know all the details tomorrow after we talk to our parents.   We plan to get married in January just before school starts, again."

"Good!   The sooner the better is what I think.   I find that my married players tend to have better concentration on the ice and that they play harder for me when their spouses are in the audience," Coach Dodd said.   "So I expect to see Todd at our games as often as possible."

Zach said, "Is there a possibility that Todd could play hockey for us?"

"I am sure we can arrange for a transfer down from Duluth, but I won't be able to offer Todd a scholarship," Coach Dodd replied.

Todd said, "That's okay.   I won't need a scholarship, since I will be married to Zach.   His parents have already told me that if we were to get married that they would help us with college."

"Good.   I look forward to seeing you boys at the wedding next month," Coach Dodd said.

Todd looked over at me, "I am assuming it will be okay for me to move in with Zach.   Is that okay, Glenn?"

"I wouldn't have it any other way, Todd.   You know that you are always welcome," I replied, smiling at the happy couple.

Patty asked Zach, "Where do you plan to go for your honeymoon?"

"I haven't planned that far ahead.   Since school starts so soon after the wedding, I think we will have to wait until spring break to go on our honeymoon," Zach said.   "Todd wants to go to New Zealand so maybe we can go there."

"Why do you want to go to New Zealand?" Patty asked.

Todd smiled. "No particular reason other than I want to see that part of the world.   I have always wanted to travel.   I would like to go to Australia, as well."

"Why not go to one of those island paradises like Fiji or Tahiti?" I asked

"We might do just that.   I asked Dad where he thought we should go for our honeymoon.   He suggested Mexico, or the Bahamas," Zach said.

"The only problem is that if we go during spring break we won't have much time.   Maybe we should wait until next summer," Todd said.

Patty, grinning, said, "You know, Todd, you should hold out for two honeymoons – one now and a second one later."

Todd replied, "I like your idea.   What do you think about that, Zach?"

"I like it a lot.   That way we can take a quick trip during spring break, and then take an extended vacation later," Zach said, leaning over to give his partner a quick kiss.   

The rest of the evening went by quickly with everyone talking excitedly about the guys' wedding plans and where they should go on their honeymoon.   Of course, everyone wanted to be in attendance.   Todd started a list of names with addresses and phone numbers, so they could make sure everyone was notified of the final details.   Watching Zach and Todd planning their life together made me think of Rick and his promise to marry me some day.   I knew we had to wait until he was out of the military, but I couldn't stop myself from wishing we could be married at the same time as Zach and Todd.

Prev To be continued . . .