Jason became aware of Tom and Jim trying to be quiet in the kitchen. The bedroom door muffled the slight noise, but he was a light sleeper. He realized that he had slept through the night and was still in bed with Jon, whose head was on the pillow facing his. Jon was drooling a bit and breathing slowly and deeply. Jason thought that if you could fall in love with someone, watching him sleep would be the time when you did it. Jon's features were relaxed, as was his body, except for the part Jason could feel against his thigh. He started to get out of bed to pee, but as he pushed the covers back, Jonathan stirred and pulled him back. Those gold-flecked eyes opened slightly. "Not yet, please."
Jason reached down and, shifting the erection out of the way, pressed lightly on Jon's bladder. "Hey, stop that. I'm going to piss all over you."
"I need to pee, too. I'll come back." He left a disappointed Jonathan, and after gently closing the door behind him, quietly disappeared down the hall.
Jonathan wished he could sink back into sleep. His desire to sleep with someone had been satisfied, and he reflected on the sleep without restlessness he had experienced. What was he doing getting into a relationship with someone who lived over a hundred miles away? Shit. Then he thought about how Annie and North were managing the start of a long-distance relationship. He wasn't sanguine about their chances, and if Annie and North couldn't do it, he didn't have a chance with Jason.
Jason returned as quietly as he had left. He looked at the other bed, still undisturbed. As he climbed back into the small bed with Jon who still had a very stiff one, he asked, "Should I mess it up?"
"I think they probably know we didn't use both, but if you're more comfortable mussing it up, go for it."
"No. You're right. Besides, I don't want to get up again. I could get that lesson from you since you seem ready."
"Not unless you want me to pee in your mouth. The next time I move, it's to run to the bathroom."
"Well, I think I'll pass on that, but you owe me some instruction."
"It's on-the-job training. Like Jim says about medical procedures: see one, do one, teach one. Or, in this case, have one done to you, do one, then you may be ready to teach one."
"What if I don't want to teach one? I think I'll need a lot of practice before I'm ready to be a teacher. I'd need someone to practice on."
"I could probably help you with that."
The door opened slightly, and Annie's and North's heads, one atop the other, appeared in the narrow opening. "Look what we found. You owe me a quarter, Northy."
"Could we have a little privacy, please? I don't crash your little parties. The bedroom is like a confessional—private."
"Oh, Jon, don't be a prude. You both look like you enjoyed the night. I like the sleepy, mussed-up look. Besides, Jim asked if we'd get you up. Or, are you already up?"
Jason laughed. "Jon is. I peed mine away."
The door closed. Jonathan rested his palm against Jason's cheek. "You're a keeper. Thanks for the best night of my life."
"Thanks for helping me find my life."
After Jonathan peed, they both cleaned up and went out to find the others. Jim and Tom smiled but didn't say anything. "Cold breakfast, this morning. Eat enough that we don't have to stop for lunch, please."
Annie and North had Cheerios with milk and some leftover blueberries. Jon and Jason settled on Grape Nuts with only milk.
"How'd it go at the club, Jason?" Jason looked back at Tom and didn't feel he had anything to hide.
"I had a great time. Jon taught me to dance respectably. I hope I get to go again. Everyone was cool."
"Felt pretty good, didn't it?"
"Yes, sir. You were absolutely right."
After the late breakfast, they packed, straightened and closed up the condo, and were off by eleven. They packed the middle seat row with their bags and a few things that North and his dads were taking to Goldendale. Annie and North were in the second-row seating, leaving the back row for Jason and Jon. They took the Fremont Bridge over the Willamette River and connected with I-84 heading east toward The Dalles.
All Jason wanted to do was to talk, hold, and make out with Jonathan in equal proportions, but he settled for handholding and talking. He could detect Tom's and Jim's influence on the whole clan, not so much by what they said but by their example, especially on Annie and Jon. Jon had been straightforward about his coming-out process and his experience. Jason felt the same need for closeness and sex that Jon had expressed, but also for deep friendship. He saw the deep friendship between Jim and Tom. That's what he'd like with someone, and right now, he hoped that someone would be Jon. He mulled the situation of a gay boy and a straight one both trying to manage long-distance relationships. At least, they could help each other.
'For the summer,' Jason thought, 'maybe Jon and I can be together a lot.'
The conversation was cut short as Jim took the Troutdale exit. Then Jason remembered the promise to go shopping. Four almost simultaneous expressions of thanks erupted from the young ones at the thought of shopping at the outlet stores. For a Sunday, the lot was already crowded. After they parked, Tom looked back to the clan members. "Ninety minutes. Please be back at 1:40."
The four bounced around the shops, trying things on and goofing with each other. A few people frowned when Jason and Jon held hands, but others smiled. No one was obviously rude to them. Jason bought more clothes than the others because he didn't get outside Goldendale much. The prices weren't that great, but the Eddie Bauer and Levi's outlets had some deals. Everything he bought had to be vetted by North and Annie, but the final say belonged to Jon.
Jon had zeroed in on Jason's preferred look and didn't find anything that screamed out for change. While Jason's fashion sense was quite understated compared to his own, he liked what Jason chose and how the clothes looked on him. Jon thought that making Jason unattractive would require a boatload of work.
Before they went back to the car, Jon realized how happy he was. 'Happiness,' he thought, 'is always a bit unsettling for me because of the possibility of loss. Well, nothing ventured . . .'
* * * * *
Back on the Interstate, they all talked about the sights along the way, including a house that had been overtaken by a landslide headed to the river. Only its upper half and roof were visible. The boys talked about what kind of ride that must have been.
Tom mused that they were still half little boys and half young men. He felt that he and Jim had to fight a constant battle, or maybe a negotiation, with immature teen-age frontal lobes. They were glad that Annie seemed to have a little more common sense. North had never been a confrontational wild one. He was wild in some ways, but not contrarian. They both trusted him as much as they could trust any fifteen-year-old. Trust didn't require perfection.
They turned north at U.S. 97 and crossed the Columbia River. The highway climbed steeply from the river to the plateau until Mt. Adams came into view on their left. The broad fields of the farms stretched on either side. Passing the first road into Goldendale, they turned and eventually bumped along to the drive to their new home. They parked at the end of the long driveway and everyone piled out, stretching.
"I'd better check in at the home front," Jason said
"Want us to drive you back?"
"No thanks, Jim. I feel like walking."
Jonathan asked, "Want company?"
Jason felt tightness in his chest. "Not now, Jon." He went to Jon and hugged him, kissing him lightly and whispering, "I'll bring you home soon. Promise."
As Jason walked down the drive, North and Annie climbed the steps of the old farmhouse. North looked back to see Jonathan watching the receding figure on the drive. He let go of Annie's hand and went to Jonathan.
"He turned out to be special, didn't he?"
Jonathan looked at him with tears in his eyes. North instinctively felt Jon's pain and sense of emptiness. He wrapped Jon in his arms.
"I know it hurts, Jon. When I fell for Annie, half the time I was crying and half the time I was laughing. It's so new for you. I know him. He won't let you down. Come on, let's go in."
Jon gave a shivering sigh and, drying his eyes, let North guide him into the unfamiliar house. This was fucked up. He had never felt this way about anyone, and the feeling irritated him. He felt like a sniveling little wimp.
* * * * *
Jason walked deliberately back along the dirt road to his house. He didn't feel terror about being gay as he had two weeks ago. This fear was more reasoned, and the practical consequences for him and his family weighed on him. He knew his dad was steeped in the beliefs of the conservative church they attended, but he also knew his father wasn't violent.
Jason was unsure about how God would judge him, but was almost certain how his father would. He knew a struggle lay ahead, but he didn't feel physically unsafe. He and his father had a distant, almost silent, relationship. Jason was a hard worker, and he never complained about the work his father asked of him. He admired his father, who made the farm financially secure and made a good life for his mother and him.
Most, he loved his father for loving his mother. His parents didn't have a demonstrative relationship, but Jason saw how much they respected each other, a kind of loving friendship. He knew that either of his parents would be lost without the other. His father was scrupulously respectful of his wife. He paid her real attention when she spoke. He knew his father had been a bit wild when he was young, until he got churched and married.
His father had never spoken to Jason about love or sex. That was his mother's job, a job she did with warmth and humor. No, he didn't ever see his father hurting him physically, but kicking him out—maybe. He was lost in thought and didn't hear the big F-350 pull up beside him.
"How'd it go in the city? They treat you right?"
Jason knew what his father was asking. "Hey, Papa. They did. I had a good time. They're nice people, and North has nice friends."
"I don't know, Jason. I have a hard time with queers raising children."
As Jason got in the cab, he restrained himself, not making a comment that would have brought matters to a head. 'Choose the time for your battles,' he thought.
"They're nice guys, and North is a good kid. He's going to be a good friend. He can run like the devil, and he's going to run cross-country in the fall."
"We'll see. The only reason I let you go with them is that your mother seems okay with it."
'Give them a chance, Dad,' Jason thought as they arrived at the house.
* * * * *
North showed Annie and Jonathan around the house and the land behind it. Jon seemed to have perked up a bit. Coming back in, they showed Jon upstairs and got him settled in one of the guest rooms. North felt the pang of jealousy from Jon when Annie and he went into their room.
'This isn't going to be easy on anyone,' North thought. 'Why the fuck couldn't they just have stayed in Portland?'
"We can't hibernate in here, Anns. Jonathan needs some company. I promise we'll find 'us' time later."
"I know. He's like one big abrasion. Without Jason everything that touches him hurts. I'm not so sure we should have put those two together."
"We didn't put them together, Anns. They put themselves together, and we'll help them keep them together. I'm making it a personal mission."
"Northy, don't put your beautiful nose where it has no business."
"Let's collect the hangdog."
* * * * *
"Jasey, welcome home, sweet one." His mother enveloped him, and he felt momentarily rooted and safe. Pushing him back to arm length, she looked at him as she always did, as if she could see every secret, ever hidden place in him.
"I'm going to check a couple of things. I'll be back in for dinner," his father announced as he left through the back door.
"Fred, you be careful out there," Jason's mother said. "You, Jasey, tell me all about your trip."
'All about my trip,' he thought. 'Maybe not all.'
"Their place is high over the city, beautiful views of the mountains and the Willamette River. They were so nice to me. I didn't feel homesick at all. We had a nice dinner both Friday and Saturday. Jim cooked one night and Tom the other. North and I made breakfast Saturday morning. I made your waffle recipe—big hit with the whole crew. We stopped at the outlets on the way back."
His mother interrupted. "Crew?"
"North's fiends, Mama. Two boys and two girls in addition to North's girlfriend."
She looked at him for a minute, and then smiled. "Tell me about the special one."
"What special one, Mama?"
"Don't try that on me. Girl or boy?"
Tears welled in his eyes. He hugged her like he had when he was five and afraid. "How could you know?" he sniffled.
"Oh, must be Medicine. I listened when you talked about North the other day, but you say he has a girlfriend. Your heart is changed. I can feel it, Jasey. I told you to find your way, and I'm thinking you began on this trip."
"Oh, Mama," he sobbed. "I don't want you to think I'm messed up. His name is Jonathan."
"You're not messed up if you're listening to your heart. What's there is there. Few men naturally grow wrong, and you haven't. I'll need to meet this Jonathan."
"Well, Annie came back with North, and Jonathan did, too. He's staying with them for a couple of weeks."
"Lucky you," his mother breathed with a laughing sigh.
"What about Dad?"
"We'll have to see. You know, in the Nation, women run the household. I'm my mother's daughter. I will help your father, but you will have to help him, too."
"You really don't think I'm screwed up?"
"I do not, my boy."
* * * * *
Through a large window, Jon looked at Annie and North cavorting in the back yard. He wanted to be out there with Jason. Jim walked by and noticed his melancholy mien.
"A little shaky, Jon?"
"I guess, Jim. Is being in love always like this?"
"I hope so, and I hope I never have to find out again."
"I'm afraid his father will make him think we're dirty. Jason might not want to see me again."
"From what I could see, he cares about you. He cares because you helped him confront his nature. When someone crosses that threshold, he doesn't very often try to go back."
"I guess. Not knowing how he's doing is driving me crazy." Jon's cell chimed, and he saw it was Jason. "Jason, Jim. Excuse me." He walked away and answered.
"Hey, Jon. I miss you."
"Same, Jase. You doing okay?"
"I am. I told my mother about us, or rather she asked me about us."
"She asked you?"
"Don't ask me how she knew, but she knew I had met someone special. So, I told her about us. She was so great. One down, and one to go. She wants to meet you."
"Jase, I'm so happy for you. Can you come over later?"
"I think I'd better stay here tonight, but I'll be over tomorrow. I promise."
"Bye. I … "
"I know. Me, too."
He turned back to Jim. "He told his mother. I think he's going to be all right."