Pounding Heartbeats: Take My Breath Away
By Maureen

For Mad Cow

***

Hank stood in front of the mirror in his bathroom, clad only in boxer shorts. Not just any boxer shorts, but a new pair that he had bought especially for the dance that night. They were a rich white silk with black Dalmatian spots on them. He was very straight laced on the outside, but as his boyfriend, Tyler, knew, he wore the craziest boxers he could find.

He looked at himself in the mirror, pleased with what he saw. Smooth, unblemished skin covered a muscular body, toned and supple from years of football practice and working as an EMT. There was one tiny blemish, he noticed with a start, but relaxed as he realized it was only a hicky that hadn't quite faded.

Tyler had given it to him on his shoulder several days earlier, careful to make sure it was somewhere no one would see. And sure enough, no one knew about it but the two of them. They both delighted in doing things like that.

Shaking himself out of his reverie, he grabbed his hairbrush, a small baby's brush that fit his hand and combed his short black hair so it waved. Looking at his reflection one last time, he pulled his undershirt on and put his white button up shirt on over it.

Following his shirt were his socks and pants. Gone was the high school senior, gone was the EMT-I. In the mirror Henry Beecham, love machine (at least towards Tyler) had replaced his former self.

"Hank! Are you almost ready?" his father called from downstairs.

"Almost!" he called back, realizing he only had a few more minutes.

He quickly added the Dalmatian print clip on bow tie, vest and cummerbund to his ensemble and put on some cologne. Jumping around he managed to get his cufflinks figured out and his shoes on. As an EMT he had learned to get dressed while running, jumping, eating and many other unimaginable ways.

Grabbing his tuxedo jacket he headed out the door to Tyler's house. Val was also meeting them at Tyler's house to take pictures of the couple and then they were going to head to Val's house since parents were also insisting on pictures. It was an awkward way to do it, but they couldn't think of anything better without someone's parents finding out.

Coming out of the closet was one of the scariest things Hank had ever done in his life and not an experience he wanted any time soon. He knew his father would still understand, but the thought still sent chills down his spine.

***

At the Jenks mansion as Tyler liked to call it, Tyler Connell was nearly ready. He fidgeted slightly as his mother fixed his tie for him, a dark blue Windsor tie, which was similar to a regular tie, but shorter and slightly wider.

"There," she pronounced, stepping back. "You look handsome."

"Thanks mom," Tyler said. Dressed in a traditional black tux with a high V-necked vest and the tie, he added a little swank to the otherwise drab penguin suit. He and Hank had picked out their tuxes together, Hank opting for something wild (at least for him) and Tyler choosing a more traditional but still fashionable look.

"Hey," Hank breathed in the doorway. "William let me in," he explained.

Tyler's mom made a hasty retreat, knowing her son would want his privacy. She knew they were a couple, even if he hadn't told her. She knew her son.

"You look...wild," Tyler said, impressed that Hank had actually worn the Dalmatian tux. He had been convinced that his boyfriend was going to change the order to something more traditional, but he hadn't.

"So do you," Hank replied, kissing Tyler lightly on the lips.

"Val should be here in a soon," Tyler replied, wishing they could kiss forever. "I need to finish."

Tyler quickly put on his shoes and cologne and ran a little gel through his hair to get it to
maybe do what he wanted. The blonde curls were cropped short, but they still had their moments of unruliness.

"What do you think Jamie and Catie are going to do?" Hank asked, remembering last homecoming.

They had dressed as a football player and cheerleader...with Jamie as the cheerleader and Catie as the football player. They had been on call that evening and Jamie was forced to leave the station that night in Val's cheerleading skirt. How he had managed to get into it know one was sure.

"Not sure, Val wouldn't say, but I bet it will be wilder than your sexy tux."

Hank blew a raspberry, something very uncharacteristic for him to do usually. Around Tyler he wasn't worried about looking stupid or being mature or professional.

***

"Hey guys!" Val said, coming into Tyler's room. "You guys and Albert ready?" she asked, referring to Tyler's car, Albert the Albo. The trio would be taking Tyler's car since Hank's jeep was permanently in the shop and Val didn't have a car.

"But of course, milady," Tyler said, giving her a deep bow.

Val was wearing a simple black dress with shimmery flowers embroidered on it. "Really," she said, laughing at his behavior.

Pictures done at everyone's houses, they headed to the dance. No one really spoke in the car, letting the radio play. This would be awkward and everyone knew it.

***

Walking into the gym, the trio was practically assaulted by the music the DJ was playing. They were fashionably late and quickly spotted Jamie and Catie sitting on the bleachers. Heading over there, they waved to get their attention. Yelling was pointless over the din.

"Hey!" Jamie called, once they were within yelling distance. "'Bout time you guys got here!"

"Traffic!" Hank yelled back mimicking driving a car.

"I'm going over there!" Val said, pointing to a group of cheerleaders. She headed over, not really sure what to do. On one hand, the boys couldn't dance together without being ousted as 'gay', but she was single and wanted to either talk with the other cheerleaders or find herself a guy. As much as she wanted to talk with Catie, she was very uncomfortable around Jamie since she really didn't have time to learn sign...she was stuck. She knew she had to get over her mind tricks, but she had no idea how. So for the night, she was intent on just having fun.

"Hey," Jamie said, nearly an hour later, coming up behind her.

Val turned; surprised that he would venture off the bleachers to see her.

"Want to dance?"

Val nodded, and signed 'yes'. She had discussed this briefly with Catie and led him out to the dance floor. She wrapped her arms around his neck and he held her hips briefly, swaying slowly to the music.

As they turned Val was surprised to see Hank and Tyler dancing a few couples away. Val tapped

Jamie's shoulder, pointing them out.

"Cool," he replied, giving them a thumbs up as they passed each other.

A few minutes later, after Jamie had left to get Catie some punch, the prerequisite fight broke out. As the other students gathered to see what was happening, Hank and Tyler met with Val to push their way to the center. By the time they got there, the fight was over. Carlson was dragging Kenny off Jamie and Catie was following, certainly the cause of the fight.

The super squad tried to follow, but Catie motioned for the to stay back and enjoy themselves. By the time the dance ended, Catie and Jamie were gone.

***

Tyler dropped Val off at her house and headed back to his. Hank was spending the night there.

As they entered the foyer the grandfather clock began its hourly chime, the twelve tones marking a new day. Tyler yawned, "Ready to sleep?" he asked.

"Not really," Hank replied.