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  1. August 30, 1799 Portland Place Granger sat in his bath, marveling again at how wonderful it was, and how restorative after even a short voyage. Only that marveling lasted for but a brief period, after which he began to ruminate yet again on how strangely he’d been treated since he returned to London. His orders had made it sound like he was urgently needed, yet he had arrived five days ago and been virtually ignored. Granger had sent a report detailing his voyage, more to let the Admiralty know he had arrived than anything, and had received no response at all. Granger knew that there was really nothing he could do. To make inquiries would make him look ridiculous. To hound the Admiralty would smack of insubordination, and would make him seem impulsive and impatient. He was loath to give that impression, so he would have to just wait, but he didn’t have to like it. There was a knock on the door to the baths, a rarity in a society where scratching at a door was considered acceptable. But the staff was aware that while Granger was a kind and generous master, nothing made him angrier than being interrupted when he was bathing, and what was unforgivable was to surprise him while he was bathing. As such, in this instance, a knock was allowed at Granger’s home in Portland Place. “Enter,” Granger said, managing to hide his irritation. He knew that it must be important for the staff to risk his ire. Cheevers himself entered, yet another good mark for this man who was such an excellent butler. He would risk Granger’s wrath by interrupting himself, rather than delegate the job to a footman. “I am sorry to bother you, my lord. A letter just arrived for you. It appears to be from the Admiralty.” Granger felt his pulse quicken, and had to restrain himself as his curiosity was now fully aroused. He walked out of the bath calmly, smiling inwardly as Cheevers ogled his body. Granger did not know if it was lust, or merely shock, but he had the presence of mind to hand Granger a towel. Granger fully dried himself off and put on his robe before he deigned to take the letter from Cheevers. He scanned the letter, his curiosity completely unsatisfied. It was merely a brief note from Nepean requesting that he call at the Admiralty at his earliest convenience. Granger forced himself to calmly fold the letter back up. “I would be obliged if you would have the carriage brought around,” he said slowly. “Of course, my lord,” Cheevers said, and ushered Granger out of the baths and up the stairs to his room, where Winkler was there to attend to him. “I will need my dress uniform,” Granger said. “I am bidden to the Admiralty.” “Perhaps we will find out where we’re going this time, my lord,” Winkler said as he helped Granger with his stockings. Some men would have lambasted a servant who had the temerity to speculate about his orders, but Granger had a special relationship with Winkler, and their communication was more intimate. “Perhaps,” Granger said. He finished dressing and then slowly walked down the stairs and out the front door to find his carriage waiting for him. “The Admiralty,” he said to the coachman. “Yes, my lord,” the coachman replied. Granger sat back in the soft leather seats and forced his curiosity and anticipation to ebb as he made his way to the Admiralty. He would, above all else, appear calm and unruffled. Granger had been thoroughly annoyed at how the press had portrayed his victory over the Spanish squadron, making it sound like Valiant had single-handedly fought and defeated an entire Spanish fleet. He sighed, something he allowed himself to do since he was alone. That report would only make him more popular with the mob, and arouse yet more jealousy from his fellow naval officers. Neither one of those consequences was something Granger relished. A small group of people saw his carriage drive up to the Admiralty and gathered around to see Granger. He made his way through them with the help of the marines guarding the Admiralty, smiling and nodding to the people as they uttered inane encouragement to him. Such was the price of fame; he would happily do without it. He strode up to the secretary, who smiled at him. “If you will have a seat, my lord, I will tell His Lordship you are here.” That was the positive side of fame: it was pleasant to be recognized in these hallowed halls. “Of course,” Granger said politely. He pondered the man’s words. So he was to see Spencer himself, and not Nepean or one of the other Admiralty administrators. He allowed his eyes to scan the waiting room, using only his peripheral vision, trying to decide which seating option was the least onerous. There was a dour looking captain Granger did not know, a chatty lieutenant whom Granger had met briefly when serving with Nelson at the Nile, and a midshipman who was sneezing, and evidently afflicted by some ailment. Granger was spared from making that unenviable choice of companions when the secretary returned. “My lord, His Lordship will see you now.” “Thank you,” Granger said with a smile, and followed him back to Spencer’s office. The First Lord was standing there to greet him, a marked sign of courtesy. “Ah, Granger. You responded quite fast.” “I am at your service, sir,” Granger said with a smile. “We’ll see if you end up being happy with that state of affairs,” Spencer said. Granger managed to avoid swallowing in nervousness over what foul task he would have set upon him, and merely stood rigidly, waiting for Spencer to speak again. “How is St. Vincent?” “His spirit is the same, sir, but he is quite frail,” Granger said. “He needs help to move about, and he appears to be all but exhausted.” “Do you think he could go to sea again?” “I wouldn’t feel knowledgeable enough to make that kind of assessment, sir,” Granger said. He certainly wasn’t a doctor. “I would be able to say with some certainty that he could not go to sea immediately.” “I see.” “When we fought our action against the Spanish, sir, he seemed to come alive again, and I had hoped that would be a lasting effect, but alas, it was not.” Spencer nodded. “It sounds as if his body is failing him, but his mind is not.” “I found His Lordship to be as clear of mind and as sharp as he always was,” Granger said, then smiled. “Although perhaps a bit more curmudgeonly.” Spencer chuckled. “How is Valiant?” “I would have initially described her as a good sea boat, sir, one that has the speed of one of our older frigates, but not the agility,” Granger said. “It doesn’t sound like she impressed you,” Spencer noted. The man was quite adept at probing. “Her handling did not initially impress me, sir, but when one factors in the weight of her broadside that compensates for a relative lack of speed” Granger said. “When we were in action with the Spaniards, we discovered something quite useful.” “Indeed?” “While Valiant is not an impressive performer in fair weather, in gales and rough seas she is superb. After we engaged the Santa Catalina, and were attempting to escape from the San Justo, sir, we were surprised that the Spanish kept up the chase. We suspect that they thought that the San Justo would perform better, and make less leeway than Valiant in the building seas.” “But she did not?” “She did not, sir. We were able to easily outpace her, and to do so without seeming to strain our spars.” “That is interesting. Do you have any idea why that is?” “I will have to ask Mr. Hornblower when next I see him, sir, as he is all but a mathematical genius and would surely be able to explain it,” Granger said, remembering to give Hornblower some praise. “But I have consulted with the ship’s master, Mr. Meurice, and we attribute it to the higher center of gravity, the stepping of the masts farther aft, the heavier rigging, and the water tanks.” “Why would the water tanks assist you?” “Mr. Meurice thinks, sir, that while our center of gravity is higher, having the weight of the water so low in the hull acts as a counter balance to the waves.” “Fascinating,” Spencer said. “You will have to keep me informed as you get more experience with her.” “Aye aye, sir,” Granger said. Spencer paused and refilled their glasses, an indication that he was changing topics as well. “As Valiant has not formally been assigned to a fleet yet, she provides me with a wonderful option to deal with some of the other more miscellaneous tasks we are given.” “I will gladly go wherever you send me, sir,” Granger said, and that was true, although he knew there were limits on how far Spencer could dispatch him without his tacit approval. That was the result of his voyage around the world. “Then you will be going to Turkey,” Spencer said. Granger stared at Spencer and for once was unable to hide his surprise. “Turkey, sir?” “Yes. We are dispatching an envoy to the Sublime Porte to see if we can’t tie the Ottomans to us a little closer. With Bonaparte’s incursion into Egypt, and then his failed attempt to take the Levant, he has both angered the Sultan, and shown himself to be vulnerable, so it appears to be an ideal opportunity to exploit our ties to them. You are to convey our envoy and his entourage to Constantinople,” Spencer said. “Who is to be the envoy, sir?” Granger asked. “Lord Elgin.” Granger knew that he was a Scottish peer, and had seen him at court before. He was in his early 30s, and still quite handsome. “I fear I know little about him, sir.” “Normally I would dispatch Cavendish over to give you some useful information about him, but as he is still in the north country, I will have to do that myself.” “I am most appreciative of anything you can tell me,” Granger said. “Elgin is a typical Scotsman. You will find that he will part with coins only if they are all but wrested from his clutches. He can be charming and affable enough, when he wants to be, but tends to treat his staff with disdain. You cannot rely on him to police their activities,” Spencer said. That meant that Granger would have to be responsible for disciplining Elgin’s staff, should they get out of line on his ship. “You should also know that one of his entourage, a Reverend Hunt, is so pedantic that Sir John Borlase Warren almost had him thrown overboard when he conveyed him to Belgium.” Granger almost laughed out loud at the thought that Warren, who was one of England’s premiere frigate captains, would let some minister so rile him. “A penurious Scotsman, and a difficult man of God,” Granger said ruefully. “I fear I have vexed you, sir, for you to inflict such punishment upon me.” Spencer laughed. “It does get a bit worse.” “Sir?” Granger asked, barely managing to hide his apprehension. “Lady Elgin will be accompanying His Lordship.” “I have not had the privilege of meeting Her Ladyship,” Granger said. “That is because until a few months ago, she was Miss Nesbit, the daughter of a man of means but with little else to commend him. Some say that Elgin married her because of his avarice, while others suggest that it was not greed, but impoverishment, that caused him to make such an alliance. In any event, you will find her to be a true product of the merchant class from which she comes.” Granger was flattered that Spencer was unbending so much with him, even though the words were not to his liking. “So we should not expect charming female company sir?” “No, you should not, especially since she is with child.” “She is going to travel to Constantinople in that state, sir?” Granger asked, incredulous. “They are newly wed, and she wants to perform her duties as hostess for her husband,” Spencer said. “If you will pardon me for asking, sir, what kind of behavior can I expect from her?” “She is rumored to whine quite a bit, and she also tends to complain most frequently about her health. In addition, she is quite prim and proper, and has a more difficult time with more libertine society.” “Then it is no wonder I have not met her, sir,” Granger joked, getting a laugh from Spencer. “Nor was she presented to me prior to this assignment, and this marriage.” “One thing is certain, sir. When I walk in here, I usually am surprised by the challenges you give me.” Spencer laughed again. “If you did not execute those tasks so well, Granger, you would probably find yourself blockading a French or Spanish port.” “I am not sure if that would not be preferable to dealing with the Elgins and their entourage,” Granger said. “Neither am I,” Spencer said. “Sir, I would like to pose two questions to you, if I may,” Granger said, being quite daring. “Go ahead,” Spencer said, being tolerant of Granger, who was one of his favorite captains, and who was being given an unusual mission. “I am not beloved in the Muslim world, and I would expect that the Sultan is not enamored of me either. When traveling through Egypt, it took considerable effort to even convince my guide to convey me.” “And you are worried that when you arrive in Constantinople the Sultan will string you up?” Granger manfully controlled his anger, even though he was irate that Spencer would even suggest he was afraid. To imply such a thing was tantamount to calling Granger a coward. It was only the fact that he knew Spencer, and thus could assume that Spencer misspoke, that allowed him to retain control of his temper. “I am not concerned for my own safety, sir, but I am concerned that my presence would merely antagonize the Sultan.” “I did not mean to imply that you were lacking in courage, Granger,” Spencer said, recognizing that he’d offended the young man. “I do not think there is anything wrong with self-preservation.” “Thank you, sir,” Granger said, and the environment became more pleasant again. “What was your other question?” Spencer asked, avoiding a response to the first. “I am curious, sir, although I have no right to ask, why I was chosen for this mission?” “Your two questions are actually related. From the perspective of the Sultan, we are aware that your presence may antagonize him, but it will also remind him of what we are capable of. So when Lord Elgin finds the Sultan difficult, your visit will remind him of the costs of duplicitous neutrality.” That was extremely flattering and not a little unnerving, to think that Granger was being used as a diplomatic tool to rattle the cage of an Oriental potentate. “I understand, sir.” “The other aspect of your appointment has more to do with your social rank.” Granger was confused about that, because he didn’t think that would factor too greatly with the Sultan. “If Lord and Lady Elgin are difficult, they will have to take into account that you are not as easy to sacrifice as one of my less-well-connected captains.” “I will do my best to get along with them, sir,” Granger said reassuringly. “Even though I will not have to worry about being put to the stake in some pagan sacrifice.” Spencer chuckled at his joke. “I have no doubt that you will, Granger, and that was part of it. You are known to be charming and diplomatic, but you are also exalted enough so that you don’t have to tolerate unnecessary tedium.” “I understand, sir.” “And there is finally one more matter, one more mission that I have for you to undertake, and this one is for me personally.” “Sir?” Spencer poured yet more wine for them. “Nelson has followed up his spectacular success at the Nile with a damaging performance in Sicily.” “I heard about the Caracciolo affair, sir,” Granger said. That had been a blot on Nelson, and the Royal Navy. A Sicilian admiral, Ruffo, had offered rebellious Neapolitan nobles amnesty, which King Ferdinand renounced. Nelson personally arranged the court martial of Admiral Caracciolo, one of those who surrendered under the terms of the amnesty, and oversaw his subsequent execution on board a Sicilian warship serving in conjunction with Nelson’s fleet. “Evidently only a third of those who surrendered, and took advantage of the amnesty, survived,” Spencer said. “Forgive me for not being surprised at such outcomes, sir, when one is dealing with the Neapolitan court,” Granger said. He thought the entire government of Naples was corrupt, dissolute, and inept. “That’s as may be, but it is hardly consistent with His Majesty’s wishes for one of His Majesty’s officers, and a peer of the realm no less, to sanction such a dishonorable act,” Spencer said, with real anger in his eyes. “Yes, sir,” Granger agreed, since he did in fact agree with Spencer. “Then there is another matter,” Spencer said delicately. “The rumored liaison between Nelson and Sir William’s wife, Lady Hamilton.” “I had heard about that as well, sir,” Granger said. It had been one of the key tidbits of gossip about town, even though the season was over. When everyone returned to London, it would become much more talked about. “I have met Lady Hamilton, and indeed she is quite beautiful.” “She may be beautiful, but to cuckold His Majesty’s ambassador while serving on the same station is infamous,” Spencer said. “Especially when his own wife is here in England, cutting a most sympathetic figure.” “I had heard, sir, that Sir William did not appear to be offended by the relationship,” Granger said cautiously. “That is my understanding as well, although I am not sure of the sources.” That almost made it worse, to think that Sir William condoned the romantic relationship between Nelson and his wife. Granger wondered briefly if they were engaged in a ménage a trois, but found the vision so disturbing, he forced his mind to focus on Spencer. Spencer paused, probably for emphasis. “Nelson is brilliant, and his victory at the Nile was spectacular. But his behavior since then threatens to destroy the image of the hero that he has earned. He was awarded a barony for his victory, and was none too gracious, calling it a poor excuse for a reward.” “Begging your pardon, sir, but it is hard to fault him for feeling shunted by that. Sir John Jervis received an earldom for the Battle of Cape St. Vincent, where we achieved less spectacular results.” “I don’t suppose you’d like to share that viewpoint with St. Vincent?” Spencer asked playfully. “That would not be my first choice, sir,” Granger said. “Perhaps a more appropriate comparison would be with Admiral Duncan, who was made a viscount after Camperdown.” “I did not call you in here to tell me we have treated Nelson badly,” Spencer snapped, then regained his composure. “I did what I could, but it was not enough, evidently.” “Perhaps His Lordship just needs to win another battle, sir,” Granger said, trying to bring Spencer back to a happier state. “Perhaps,” Spencer said, “but with his conduct in Naples and Sicily, I am worried that he will destroy his career.” “Surely it’s not that dire, sir,” Granger said, horrified that such a brilliant admiral would be sidelined because of his peccadilloes. “When you add onto that Nelson’s general outrage over Sir Sidney Smith’s appointment, notwithstanding his subsequent praise of Smith’s conduct during the siege of Acre; and his inability to get along with Keith, the general impression is of a man who is a genius, but out of control, and insubordinate.” “That is unfortunate,” Granger observed. “What would you have me do, sir?” “You have known Nelson for many years. You performed your duties as Captain of the Fleet at the Battle of the Nile to perfection, if one is to believe Nelson’s praise of you. He likes you, and he respects you,” Spencer said. “If you say so, sir,” Granger said. He didn’t think he held that much esteem in Nelson’s eyes. “I do,” Spencer said firmly. “I want you to call on Nelson, preferably on your way to Constantinople, and see if you can’t talk some sense into him.” Granger recoiled; horrified that he would be put in a position to try and dictate to Nelson what he should and should not do, especially with his private life. “I would think he would find such representations on my part to be impertinent, at best.” “I do not want you to tell him what to do,” Spencer said. “I want you to explain the situation to him clearly, to fill in the blanks where perhaps letters from me and friends of his have not been able to convey. Would you not consider Nelson to be a friend?” “I consider his friendship to be an honor, sir,” Granger said sincerely. “All I am asking you to do is to be a friend, and explain the situation clearly to him. If he does not act on your good offices, there is nothing more lost, and if we can persuade him to stop this folly, I may be able to save him.” “I understand, sir,” Granger said. “I will certainly do my best.” “I’m sure you will,” Spencer said, then looked at the clock. Granger took that as a sign that he was being dismissed, and made to rise, but a look from Spencer caused him to relax again. “There is one more thing.” “Sir?” Granger asked. He couldn’t possibly fathom what else Spencer would have for him to do. “You were brought around to London for a special purpose. I would like you to plan a party on board Valiant, to be held on September 9,” he said. Granger eyed him curiously. “That is easy to accomplish. Will this be a grand affair?” “It will be. It should be quite splendid, as a matter of fact. You will be entertaining distinguished visitors,” Spencer said. Granger began to wonder if there was some foreign head of state that needed to be entertained while being simultaneously given a reminder of British naval power. “Certainly, sir,” Granger said, his mind beginning to think of how he could throw a gala on Valiant. “May I inquire as to who these visitors are?” “You may,” he said. “His Majesty has chosen to grace the Valiant with a visit.” Granger stared at Spencer, and for once he was stunned speechless. Spencer smiled at having stymied this normally cool young man. “The King?” Granger asked. “I was not clear?” Spencer responded. “No sir,” Granger said hastily. “Of course you were. I was just surprised, and overwhelmed with the honor His Majesty does me and my ship.” “This latest tale of yours, dismasting a Spanish frigate under the nose of her attending fleet and then escaping unharmed, has apparently piqued His Majesty’s interest enough that he wants to come see your ship and meet your crew.” “I did not dismast the frigate, sir,” Granger asserted. “We merely took out one of her topmasts.” “Does that mean you would refuse to entertain His Majesty?” Spencer asked acidly, in no mood to quibble about the reporting done by the press. He dealt with those hooligans enough on his own. “Of course not, sir,” Granger said hastily. “I merely did not want to do so under false pretenses.” “His Majesty is fond of you, Granger, and he wants to see your vessel. Humor him, and show him a good time.” Granger smiled. “I will certainly do that, sir.” “You will need to move Valiant to the Tower, to facilitate His Majesty’s access to her. You will receive orders to that effect shortly.” “Aye aye sir,” Granger said automatically. “By the way, how is Major Treadway working out?” “Quite well, sir,” Granger said, even though he was still curious as to what had passed between Treadway and Caroline. “I have been very impressed with him so far.” “Excellent,” Spencer said, and ended their interview. A very dazed Granger paused outside Spencer’s office briefly to collect himself, and then strode confidently out of the Admiralty, only to find himself in a mob of admirers. “Sergeant, can you clear a path for me to the jetty?” Granger asked. “Of course, my lord,” he said pleasantly. There were several additional marines there to help. “We were planning for your departure.” He smiled when he said that. “Thank you,” Granger said with a smile. “Perhaps you would be willing to tell my coachman he can return home? I am going to my ship.” “Aye aye, my lord,” he said, using the familiar naval jargon that was quite reassuring. The marines cleared a path down to the river, where Granger hired a boat to take him to Valiant. He studied his command as they approached her. When he had taken command of his first ship, the Intrepid, he had all but fallen in love with her immediately. With his subsequent ships, Belvidera and Bacchante, he had felt similar reactions. Yet his reaction to Valiant was not love at first sight, nor had he become all that enamored of her on their voyage to Cadiz. But he was growing to appreciate her beauty, and her attributes. He smiled; thinking that she was much like an uglier woman a man takes for a wife, where it takes him a while to work past her face to see the true beauty beneath it. He looked at her more closely, and was pleased to see that Weston had been working hard to get her back into perfect condition. It was inevitable that time at sea would wear her paint away, and Weston had already worked to solve that problem. Then there were the myriad of small details to attend to, things that were often of a low priority when they were at sea. He suspected the men had been busy. “Boat ahoy!” came the hail from his ship. “Valiant,” the boatman replied, then guided his craft up to Valiant’s chains. “Thank you,” Granger said, and handed the man some coins, vastly overpaying as would be expected of someone of his station. He easily hauled himself up the sides, saluting the quarterdeck as he came through the entry port. “Welcome back, my lord,” Weston said. “Thank you, Mr. Weston. I will see you, Mr. Andrews, Mr. Eastwyck, Major Treadway, and Mr. Clifton in my cabin at once,” Granger said. “Of course, my lord,” he said. “Mr. Eastwyck went ashore.” Granger could hardly be upset about that, since he’d been ashore much of the time since they’d been back. “Shore leave will be significantly diminished for the next few weeks,” Granger said. “Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said. Granger went into his cabin, and found that it was strange being here without Winkler. But Winkler’s assistant, a young man named Cabot, was on hand to set up refreshments for his officers. He had just finished setting out glasses and a decanter when the officers arrived. “Welcome, gentlemen,” Granger said. “Please have a seat.” He gestured to the dining table, where they all arrayed themselves around it in the customary order of seniority. “Will you need anything else, my lord?” Cabot asked. “No, Cabot,” Granger said, dismissing him, and then turned to face his officers. “Normally I would host a dinner to share our orders with you, but in this case, time is of the essence, so I hope you will forgive my lack of hospitality.” “That’s quite alright, my lord,” Weston said. “We have been busy, and have taken on stores. We could be ready to sail tomorrow, but two more days in port would be preferable.” “That is good to know, Mr. Weston, but we will not be leaving just yet,” Granger said, and now he really had their attention. “We will be staying here in port until at least September 10. On September 9, we will be hosting a large reception, a fete if you will. I summoned you here because I will need your help to make sure we are ready.” Granger watched their faces, grinning internally at how they struggled to not show surprise and irritation that this urgent matter he had alluded to was merely strategizing with them about a party. “My lord, may I inquire as to who will be attending this party?” Treadway asked. “His Majesty,” Granger said. They all blinked at him, shocked by his announcement as much as Granger had been when Spencer had told him. “The King, sir?” Clifton asked. “Yes,” Granger said simply. After that, they were much more enthusiastic about planning the big gala event.
    22 points
  2. Coach Willis blew his whistle sharply and called the class of sixth form boys back over to where he stood. The three werewolves in the group, Henry and the Ulrich boys, came walking over together, somehow still faster than the humans who jogged. They’d been doing well all lesson, and while Willis should have been reprimanding them for showing off, he could not bring himself to do it. The two boys who were about to become the core of a new pack looked happy. It was a shock to see it, but a shock like joy. Like a surprise on your birthday which made your heart race with delight. Tahryn wrapped an arm tightly around his mate and Kurt blushed but pressed himself up against the blond wolf and kissed him fiercely. The deep purple love bites on his neck were an obvious sign of possession. Someone in the class made a comment, something about ‘faggots’, and Henry Tanner simply reached out and whacked him around the skull for it. Willis shrugged at the human who’d been in the wrong, he wasn’t going to admonish either Henry or Tahryn for their actions, and especially not Kurt, who glowed like he was full of molten gold and smelled like someone had gone and sprinkled cinnamon all over the woodland. Tahryn gazed at his mate like a man in love, and Kurt looked back at him the same way. What a difference a day made. Willis dismissed the class but waved Kurt back. Tahryn stayed automatically. After more than a month of arguing, they had finally reached the stage most werewolf couples found as soon as they’d mated, when they could not stand to be apart. Kurt didn’t ask what he wanted, just stood and waited, eyes locked with his. The challenge was indirect, but there. Though it shamed Willis to do it, he looked away first. He was a good beta, steadfast and reliable, but he was no match in force of will or strength to these two boys who were, in their own ways, alphas of their pack. “We have training Kurt.” “I’m still an enforcer?” Kurt frowned as he spoke, obviously trying to balance this information in his mind. “For now technically. You lost some weight and muscle while you were injured, we gotta get you back to being better again.” Kurt nodded. Willis saw something exchange between the mated pair he couldn’t fathom. It was like they had spoken; Tahryn’s expression softened, Kurt smiled just a little and the older boy left without saying a word. Willis had felt the contact, but had no idea what had happened. His frown must have asked the question and Kurt answered. “We can talk in our heads, hear each other’s thoughts. It’s fun.” “I don’t wanna know what he said to you do I?” Kurt shrugged, and his eyes sparkled wickedly. “No, probably not.” Thirty minutes later Kurt was sweating and shaking. Willis had told him not to overdo himself. He wasn’t going to be quite as good as he had been before the accident. Kurt took this a challenge, had to prove himself, so he had done all the exercises at the exact same speed with the same force as before. The last push up was jittery, but he did it, and then collapsed back on his heels. He winced as he sat down. Willis handed him a bottle of water, which vanished in about four seconds, and then another one which Kurt sipped at while he panted. “You pull a muscle or something?” Kurt looked confused, and blushed pink despite his panting, sweating state. “Or something.” “Forget I asked.” Willis half turned away and rubbed the back of his head. “You feel up to helping the year seven girls? We’ll do cricket.” “Sure.” Kurt hopped up from the ground and Willis waved him off towards the showers. The big man walked to the storage room to collect the blue bags containing the plastic quick cricket sets and dumped them by the far door of the gym as he reflected on the situation. Kurt was happy, Tahryn was happy, and those two things had almost never happened before and not for this long or this strongly. The two boys seemed aware of their situation, their probable expulsion from the pack, at least in some sense anyway. A splinter pack was not wholly independent. They would still come under Degan’s jurisdiction, at least at first. For the first time in his life, the young wild wolf, born in a form none had ever thought possible, was truly happy. He shone with it. That brought Willis’s thoughts around to poor David James. He had loved his wife dearly, of course he had, and they had been excited for their new arrival to come and join them, add to the pack and raise a little one all their own. Pups were good for the pack. They brought everyone together and helped to reinforce the bonds between the extended family that made a successful group. The man was a wreck without his wife. The funeral was to be next week, on Friday with the pack meet afterwards. It made Willis sad to think of his pack sister buried alone, her husband and daughter left to fend for themselves. And what a daughter... David had called her Yulva, apparently at Mary’s insistence. Clover had lain in bed with him and told him everything. “All four feet and such soft ears, she’s totally perfect darling.” “Another Kurt?” Willis had stared at his wife in shock. “Oh she’s much prettier than he was as a puppy. Blue merle colouring, she’ll turn all of the boy’s heads when she’s older.” “Oh I’ll bet. How is David doing?” “Besotted and petrified, upset whenever he remembers he should be. She’s a powerful force of nature that one. Poor Mary.” “But why a puppy? Why now? Mary was overdue wasn’t she?” “And Barbara’s term was very short with Kurt. Yes, I remember. Who knows?” The reappearance of Kurt, trailing the twenty eleven and twelve year old girls out into the gym shook him from his reverie. He went to give instructions, but there was no need. The alpha in Kurt had taken over, and the girls picked up the cricket sets and began to walk out to the field. He and Isla set up while the others jogged a lap and did stretches. It was an amazing thing to watch as Kurt taught and directed with barely a word, body language and gestures doing everything for him. He got the girls sorted out and bowled each one of them a ball so they would know how it felt when they needed to play. Isla Spencer fetched every single one of them without being asked and Willis did not miss the contact that passed between her and Kurt as the round finished. A dog with its master, she rubbed ever so quickly against him and a thread of love passed between them as she did. They were a pack sure enough. Kurt got the game started properly and came over to stand near Willis “You’re going to do alright at this.” He said evenly, speaking to an equal. “Thanks. I’m not sure I can be bothered with all the theory and paperwork rubbish though.” Kurt barked at a girl who was doing her best not to join in and returned to the conversation. “Surely there’s another way of teaching?” “Some. Sports coaching, activity centres that sort of thing.” Kurt nodded, eyes fixed on the game, and Willis could see his brain working away in there on what he had said, forging a path into the forest of his future. * Carson swore and tossed the now broken pen across the workshop. “Temper, temper.” He looked up to see Aliza, who had caught the pen, and now took the clipboard away from him too. She stared down at his hand writing on the invoice pad. “Dear god man, can anyone read this rubbish?” “No.” Carson Davies huffed and shoved his hands into the pockets of the overalls, the top half down and sleeves tied around his waist. “People don’t complain though.” “I’m not surprised.” Aliza ripped off the first page and took a fresh pen out of her pocket and began to translate the work onto another invoice sheet. “Not when you look at them like that. What’s eating you Carson?” “Nothing.” Carson knew he was acting like a recalcitrant teenager, but he couldn’t help it. “You’re a shite liar. What’s wrong?” “I’m worried about Dave.” Carson sighed into the silence that followed the statement, and because Aliza wasn’t being a woman and taking over the conversation, he continued. “He’s still going to work as normal, he barely looks at the pup, he cries all the time. I know he’s mourning his wife, but the little thing needs him. You can see he loves her. He told me the wolf in him wants to spend all his time with her, but it breaks his heart. I’m worried he won’t cope.” Aliza handed him back the clipboard and neatly written accounts slip. “He’ll be alright I’ll bet. It’s good you worry about him. He needs a friend.” Carson turned to her and wondered if he dared say what was really worrying him, the niggling worry that turned into a gnawing torment in his gut at night. What if it happens to my wife and child too? He decided not to, and just in time too. He heard the sound of Tahryn Ulrich’s modified flat four engine pull onto the forecourt out front of the garage. Aliza followed him out front to see the little blue sportster parked beside her own rather beat up looking van. Carson was surprised to see not only Tahryn, but Kurt too, emerge from the vehicle, looking happy and in love. “Afternoon boys.” Carson nodded to the two young werewolves and was surprised when Tahryn merely nodded in recognition and made no move to defer to his authority at all. “Carson. Aliza.” “I see you two finally got all your kinks worked out.” Aliza chuckled and hefted the exhaust she was about to deliver to a little garage just outside the territory. Kurt and Tahryn exchanged a glance that was a full of… a lack of words actually. Aliza gestured to Kurt to walk with her and Tahryn preceded Carson into the main garage, where the muscular young man leant up again the side of Carson’s own truck. “What’s up?” “Have Degan or Willis told you anything yet?” Tahryn picked at his nails when he spoke, and Carson had the definite feeling part of Tahryn was paying attention to a totally different conversation as well. “No. What would they be telling me?” Carson frowned and folded his arms. He was not keen on where this was headed. “I think me and Kurt are going to need money, and soon. The only thing I’m actually any good at is working with cars and engines and stuff, and I was wondering if you knew of any garages that might be hiring.” “Well hell,” Carson smiled and slapped Tahryn’s arm. “You don’t need to look so worried Tahryn. There’s been a place earmarked here for you for weeks.” “That might not be an option.” Tahryn’s voice was tight and low. “I’d imagine that I probably won’t be allowed to come onto pack territory.” Carson frowned. “You’re serious? Shit.” “Maybe, maybe not. A lot depends on Degan and how much negotiation we can do before Kurt gets too pissed about compromises.” Tahryn scowled, but again Carson got the feeling there was another conversation going on inside the blond young man’s head. “Well, alright, I’ll put the word out for you. But I want you working here if at all possible. Get you trained up and licensed.” Carson smiled and clapped Tahryn on the shoulder. He moved his hand quickly as Kurt approached. Kurt placed a hand on his mate’s sternum and Tahryn wrapped a possessive arm around his waist. “We done babe?” Carson was shocked at how normal Kurt sounded. The strange wolf he had known the whole of his life now sounded like any other teenage boy in love. Tahryn buried his face in Kurt’s hair and sniffed. Carson looked away, feeling as though he was interrupting something intimately private between them. “How are Mary and David doing?” Kurt sounded as if he’d only just remembered he’d been present when his pack sister had gone into labour. “I thought you knew…” Carson found his voice shuddered when he spoke, “Mary died during the birth.” Kurt made a hard and sharp growling noise in his throat and gritted his teeth. “Oh god.” Tahryn hugged his mate hard against his chest. “How? When? Why didn’t we know?” “It was… about the time Kurt fell. There’s something else.” “David’s alright yeah?” “Yeah. The baby.” “A girl?” Kurt smiled very softly at Carson’s nod. “I knew it.” “She’s like you Kurt.” Both wolves stiffened at the words before they were even spoken. “Born wolf, she’s beautiful.” “She’s like me?” Kurt sounded awed. “Really?” “Yes. I think David might need you Kurt.” Carson frowned, not knowing if he should share how worried he was about his friend. “You’re going to really like her.” Kurt’s wolf ears invisibly pricked up at the words. “She needs you Ulrich. She’ll be running around the yard calling you ‘Uncle Kurt’ in no time.” “Uncle Kurt…” Tahryn muttered and shook his head. “Sounds good.” Kurt said something without using his voice and Tahryn grinned. “Oh you bet!” Tahryn pressed a big palm against Kurt’s flat stomach. “Pup, if that were an option…” “Oh get off you,” Kurt swatted him away, “Uncle Kurt. Huh...” But he was smiling. “Can I drive?” “No! You’ve only had like twelve lessons.” “Here.” Carson beckoned Kurt over to the office and took a set of keys off one of the hooks. “It’s for that big hulking Mitsubishi out front, the black one with the rust.” He turned to Tahryn. “If you’re right, you guys are going to need more vehicles than just your cute little Spitfire.” * Degan received the missive and blanched. The South Bank gamma was going to be arriving in an hour to discuss the petition he’d sent, and he now had to arrange to get everyone in one place. It was Thursday, the day before the pack meet proper, and Degan had an idea of who he needed to call in. On the other hand… “Darling?” Deidre Canon poked her head around the door of her husband’s office. She had flour in her hair. “Yes dear?” “Do you think we could get enough food in to hold a pack meeting and entertain a guest from the National Council?” Degan ran a hand through his hair and noticed for the first time it was thinning. “Today?” Deidre seemed to consider this and began counting on her fingers in the way chefs and good hosts often did in the crisis, muttering to herself and counting off on an invisible list. “I will call the butcher and start the grill. I need the phone.” Degan smiled and handed over control to his wife. Behind every great alpha, was a really strong woman. He got up from his desk and decided to start calling everyone to the meet the old fashioned way, by knocking on doors. * “I have to be dressed?” Kurt emerged from his towel and stared at Tahryn’s naked back as the big tan young man chose clothes from their shared wardrobe. “It’s a meet, how long do you expect me to stay in skin?” “It’s an emergency meet.” Tahryn pulled out a pair of jeans and his favourite timber wolf t-shirt. “You know Degan is going to want to talk to us.” “And for that I need to be dressed?” Kurt sighed and laid back against the wall. “Can’t we stay home, or go running in the woods?” Kurt raised an eyebrow suggestively. Tahryn dragged his shirt over his head and turned to his mate. “We already spent way too long in the bath pup.” Tahryn grinned. “And I don’t want some Londoner ogling you naked.” ‘Jealous much?’ Tahryn threw a pair of blue jeans and a red shirt at him. Kurt stared at the black wolf head logo. “I am not wearing this.” “Black is boring.” Tahryn smiled at him, ‘Humour me?’ Kurt grumbled and got up. He put on the jeans but went to the wardrobe and picked out one of his own black t-shirts. ‘Shall we?’ “You excited?” Tahryn slipped his hand into his mate’s as they went downstairs. The girls and Whelan had already started over there. “Worried.” ‘We’re going to get kicked out aren’t we?’ ‘We’re a pack already babe. Don’t worry.’ Hand in hand, looking like teenagers in love, the two boys crossed the cul-de-sac and made for the house at the far end, nearest the forest. The scent of wolves filled the air, members of the South Sea pack who weren’t their family anymore. Kurt sniffed. ‘How many?’ Tahryn breathed deeply. “You, me. Chaska, Jene…Isla. Henry.” “Tanner?” Kurt practically growled. “Yeah.” ‘He hates me.’ ‘You blame him for it?’ Tahryn squeezed his mate’s hand, ‘It’ll pass. Let’s go meet the new pup.’ Degan’s house was full of people, passing through towards the garden and Kurt stuck closely to his mate. Never before had he felt so far away from all the other werewolves who had been his pack sister’s and brother’s. This was no longer his pack, no longer the house of his alpha. Even if nothing was official, Kurt could feel it was done. His nose twitched. “Crocuses?” Tahryn frowned, “you smell it?” But Kurt wasn’t paying attention anymore. All his attention was tuned to the scent. The pup didn’t smell like him exactly, but the deepness of it, the richness of the lavender scent made his head spin. He recognised the scent, it smelt like family. David James was sitting in the big lounge with a bundle of blankets in his arms. Kurt pushed passed his former pack mates, let go of Tahryn’s hand and stripped as he shifted. He whined, standing in front of David and the pup and wagged his tail. ‘Kurt…’ Tahryn’s thought in his head was warning. “No, it’s OK.” David slipped from the chair and sat on the floor, opening the blankets for the big black wolf. The pup was beautiful, squirming for warmth. Her little eyes were finally open to reveal a bright spring green. Kurt inhaled the scent like a drug straight through his instincts. “She’s lovely David,” Tahryn was speaking, a hand in Kurt’s fur. “What’s her name?” “Yulva.” Kurt nuzzled the little pup. She was smaller than his muzzle, and she began to mewl. “She’s hungry again,” David took a bottle from the bag beside the chair and pushed the rubber teat to the puppy’s mouth. She sucked and let go, whimpering more. “She doesn’t like me, she won’t eat.” No one could miss the great strain, the despondency or the un-said words. If Mary had been there… ‘Give her to me,’ Kurt took the little werewolf cub gently by the ruff and removed her from her father’s arms. ‘Bring the bottle.’ Tahryn took the warm formula from David’s slack hand as Kurt lay down on the carpet and curled himself around the baby. She whined and began to wriggle against him, looking for food. ‘Kurt? What are you doing?’ Tahryn frowned, and their lack of open communication was being noticed. Kurt lifted his near side front leg and thrummed low in his throat, cocking one ear. ‘Roll it under there, past the elbow,’ Tahryn did as he was asked and Kurt drew his tail around the puppy, angling her little white and grey snout to the teat. The second she found it she started to suck, her whole body quivering, pressed up against the big black wolf. Kurt began to lick her fur and nuzzle her, checking over her tiny puppy body with all its loose skin and fine fur, the tiny hot feet. “That’s amazing. How did he…?” David stopped speaking to simply stare at his daughter. “Wow.” “Oh Kurt!” Kurt stopped his paternal ministrations and looked to the door where Barbara Smith stood, hands at her chest. She was beaming. “I never thought I’d see the day.” Kurt wagged his tail but didn’t move as his mother crossed the room to him and rubbed the space between his ears, “I’m so proud of you.” ‘Tell her thanks for me.’ “He says thank you.” Tahryn repeated dutifully. ‘Parents are weird.’ “I am not repeating that!” “You guys can hear each other?” David sounded awed. “Cool. Is she doing good Kurt?” The big black wolf nodded. He couldn’t think of the little pup as his pack sister. David might be her father, but Kurt knew the instinct, the feeling that had stopped him from being gotten rid of when he became a nuisance. It took a pack to raise a child, and it took a special pack to raise a born wolf. She’s like me, he thought. And I need to be here for her. Deo was right a lot sooner than he thought. Eventually Yulva stopped suckling and Kurt rolled the bottle away to a more comfortable position. Now that she was full and happy, Yulva squirmed around on her belly, her legs not yet strong enough to support her weight, and tried to go exploring. Kurt picked her up by the scruff of her neck every time she got too far away and placed her back between his front paws. The little pup fascinated him, relaxed him, and when she nuzzled at his paws and ankles, using her nose and tongue to explore everything about him, Kurt felt he could forgive the girl anything as his heart swelled in his chest. Puppies exhausted quickly, and Yulva snuggled up in his fur and slept, the sound and total sleep of the very young. Kurt thrummed in happiness to feel his mate stroking his fur. He turned golden tawny eyes to Tahryn and twitched his ears. ‘Can we keep her?’ and then he registered the expression on Tahryn’s face, ‘What’s wrong?’ ‘We have to go pup. The wolf from National Council is here. He’s asking after us.’ Kurt nuzzled Yulva again and shifted very slightly away from her before he changed. The puppy mewled and Kurt scooped her up and handed her back to her father. “Kurt?” David’s eyes were wide and wet. “She’s going to need you way more than she needs me.” Kurt pulled on his jeans and touched David James’s shoulder briefly. “I’ll be there for her. Promise.” He turned to his mate and together they turned to walk into Degan Canon’s office. The man who was no longer their alpha was not seated directly behind the desk but at one end in another chair. With him was a bookish man of middling years who sat with a stack of documents in front of him, looking very earnest. “Is this them?” Kurt snarled to be acknowledged in such a way. “Roger Morris, gamma of the South Bank pack. Nice to meet you. Tahryn and Kurt… Ulrich, right? Please sit down.” ‘I do not like him.’ Kurt thought, but he dragged out a chair and sat opposite the invader. ‘Be nice Kurt. He’s got our future there in those files.’ Degan smiled at Tahryn as he sat down. “I wrote to Roger with a petition to create a new splinter pack, not wholly independent but separate from South Sea.” “And since there is now also a new mated pair and a child to register I thought I’d better come down to visit. It seemed easier.” He flicked through one of the files. “Tell me, this was Koby Dean’s original pack wasn’t it?” Tahryn stopped breathing and went white as a sheet. Kurt snarled, his blood boiling. “I take it from your reaction you knew him well?” Kurt snapped his teeth, but Tahryn steadied him with one hand. “Y-yeah. Why?” ‘What the hell Tay?’ ‘Koby was stupid and confused, but he wasn’t evil.’ Tahryn replied, ‘I want to know.’ “I thought his old pack would like the news he ended up settling with us in South Bank. He’s mated to a wolf much more dominant than he is. Seems very happy.” Roger shrugged, truth was the skinny little submissive got on his nerves. “We put him to work in the archives and he and his mate get along very well.” “Good lord.” Degan half smiled. “It’s nice to know at least.” “You speak to him much?” Kurt kept his voice low so as not to bark, tension running high. “Some.” “He ever comes near here again I’ll kill him. Make sure he knows.” ‘Pup…’ Tahryn reached for his arm, working a hand up to his shoulder. ‘I get irrational around you Tay. You’re mine.’ The visiting wolf from London coughed politely. “So tell me,” Roger Morris steepled his fingers, elbows leaning on the desk. “Which one of you intendeds to be alpha out there at Chalk Horse Hill?” Kurt and Tahryn exchanged a glance and spoke simultaneously. “He is.” Roger turned to Degan, where the alpha sat watching his former pack members with interest. “I see what you meant in your letter now. Neither of them is more dominant?” Roger raised an eyebrow as Tahryn and Kurt looked at each other. “It doesn’t seem that way to me.” Kurt glared at him. So what if Tahryn had a hand on the back of his neck, fingering the purple bruises he loved to give, it did not give this Londoner the right to decide his fate. He pushed straight through pissed off to angry and then into fur in two seconds flat. ‘Little shit!’ he snarled, paws on the desk, hackles raised, fangs showing. ‘We are both more alpha than him.’ Kurt felt Tahryn smirk. “Mr Morris I would advise you to rephrase your statement if you want to live long enough to return to London.” Roger stared at Kurt as Tahryn spoke. “Or you could challenge him if you like.” Kurt growled low to back up his mate’s words, and grinned as Roger Morris exposed his neck to him. Kurt shifted back with half a thought and sat down heavily. “Two alpha’s… alright then.” The gamma’s voice was shaky as he began to sort his files. Kurt watched him carefully. “It’s very unusual indeed, but I think I agree with you Degan. These two need their own pack.” “Chalk Horse Hill? Where I went with Willis?” “Yes,” Degan nodded to the skinny black haired boy. “I put in an offer on the property as the centre of the new territory. It also backs onto National Forest parkland and the protected woodland.” “But…” Tahryn was counting in his head. Kurt could hear the numbers going around. “We can’t pay for it. Like, at all. Neither of us will graduate for another three months.” “For now, you’re a splinter pack so it doesn’t matter.” Roger leant forwards on the desk, finally comfortable with the conversation now that Kurt wasn’t looking at him like he was going to kill him. “It works like this. Chalk Horse Hill will remain under Degan Canon’s jurisdiction. He will be the step between you and any issues which would affect National Council. He is your adjudicator and he will have to approve pack changes and be notified of new members. If after five years the pack is stable and you have a set of permanent members rather than passing strays then you can petition to become independent. At that stage National Council will pay South Sea pack for the land and you will repay us on a mortgage basis.” “Can we not give it to them?” “It’s your investment, your money. Why?” Degan coughed gently and shifted in his chair. “I put in the offer to buy the land under their names. They’ll own it. Five years is five years, but they’ll be a real pack the second they walk out the door.” “Alright,” Roger nodded, “That works. They’ll need to have their joining recorded legally then. I’ll call head office and push the paperwork through for a ceremony tomorrow shall I?” “What ceremony?” Kurt frowned. “You boys are going to have to get married if you want to be called Ulrich on the paperwork.” Kurt blanched and Tahryn giggled. ‘What?’ Kurt’s mental voice sounded like acid. “You’re going to have to wear a suit!” Tahryn smirked and Kurt knew he wasn’t going to win that fight at all. * Henry found himself in the garden sitting with Chaska, Jene and Isla in a rough circle. The South Sea pack moved around them, many of them were direct blood relatives, but the four of them sat together like a stone in a river, different and immobile. Henry hadn’t really known the exact moment his allegiance had shifted. It had started somewhere when he and Tahryn had been out running, best friends and pack-brothers, and ended when he’d realised the enormity of what Kurt had done didn’t outweigh the loyalty he felt to Tahryn. He wanted to hate Kurt for what he’d done. He killed my brother… but the thought was kind of useless because Henry was happy for his friend. Kurt made Tahryn happy in the sort of way you saw in films or read about in story books. The pair of them glowed when they were together. Henry knew they were in and out of each other’s heads all the time. And Kurt had smiled at him, softly with no teeth and apologised. It had been a shock, as small a moment as it was, to have the stronger werewolf dip his head, ever so slightly, and say he was sorry for what had happened. And now he was sitting here with the members of his pack. The four of them felt small, insignificant, and yet strong. They were united in their loyalty to Tahryn and Kurt. They were going to be a pack. Others had started to realise, other wolves at school giving them a wide berth, but Henry knew his new allegiance was going to shock his parents. He watched Jene and Chaska leaning against each other, Tahryn’s sister clearly the one in the relationship with the upper hand, and wondered if he might find a mate one day too. It was going to suck to be the only straight single guy in his new pack, regardless of how tolerant he was. “Can you two hear each other?” He didn’t like to interrupt the long emotional looks between the two girls to ask, but the words sort of slipped out, bypassing his brain. Jene smiled at her mate and Henry wondered how he had never noticed how right the two of them looked together before. Their union had been drama-less, the perfect counterpoint to Tahryn and Kurt’s messy, dramatic, angry relationship. Jene looked slight and slender against her younger companion, dressed in her traditional layers of hemp and unbleached cotton. “No, it’s not quite as direct as that.” Jene spoke, but she wasn’t looking at him, trapped by Chaska’s indigo eyes. “I can feel her in my head when we’re close, like touching. But I can’t work out what’s going on in there.” “I think Kurt and Tay must be a special case yeah?” Chaska kissed Jene’s hair and turned to Henry, “What with them being so thick half the time, they needed another way to communicate. It’s a miracle they ever stopped fighting long enough to use their noses.” “Mean.” Isla jabbed her sister in the ribs. “I think it’s romantic…” She put her chin in her palms and sighed, her eyes unfocused. Chaska raised an eyebrow at Henry and rolled her eyes. It looked like puberty was starting something in little Isla, she looked like every girl in the midst of a developing fantasy. “God, what do you reckon is taking so long in there?” Henry groaned and rolled his shoulders. “How pissed do you think our parents are going to be?” Jene waggled her hand from side to side. “Who knows? It’s not like we have a choice in the matter.” “We could choose not to go.” Henry sighed as he spoke. Instinct and loyalty caused his skull ache to even say the words. “Yeah. See how that works out for you.” Chaska turned her head and Henry felt it too, the pin prick sensation that meant power. “They’re here.” Kurt and Tahryn walked ahead of Degan and the visiting London gamma, the position of power in the informal arrangement. Henry stood, reached down to help Isla up, and the four of them stood, a little island in the bright sea of scents, and watched their alpha’s walk towards them. It was the strangest sensation, but Henry felt the desire to go straight to the pair of big dominant male werewolves, loyalty to his new pack overriding all else. “So we’re agreed?” Roger Morris held out his hand to first Tahryn, then Kurt. Around them, the tension and new lines of scent made everyone pause and give their attention to Morris. “Wolves and cubs, the alphas of the new Chalk Horse Hill pack.” Roger smiled, and Henry could see Kurt’s eyes narrow. Some things would never change. “That’s it?” Tahryn sounded surprised. “Except for the new pack roster, that’s all there is.” Roger looked about and he settled on where Henry and the others stood. “Is that the rest of them?” The South Sea pack stilled and Henry was very aware he was being stared at. Isla stepped forwards. “I swear allegiance to the Chalk Horse Hill pack.” Her small voice was light and clear, but deadly serious. She walked over to where her father stood and wrapped her arms around him. “Sorry papa.” Tahryn welcomed his littlest sister with open arms and she was quickly enfolded between the twin alphas. Kurt chuckled at something his mate said without using his mouth. “We swear,” Chaska spoke, and Jene nodded. “And we chose a new name. Lowell.” Chaska kissed her mate and Henry looked away, not wanting to intrude. He skipped over his own parents to see Doug Camra standing near Degan, arms folded, looking half elated and half depressed. His daughter was leaving the pack of her family, but she had a mate, and that was good. “We want to join Chalk Horse Hill.” “Five is good.” Degan nodded and smiled, he seemed satisfied with the construction of the new pack. The South Bank gamma was standing with Willis noting down the names on his files. “Me too.” Henry only realised he’d spoken afterwards. He stepped forwards and saw his mother crying. “No!” His father looked torn. He’d been staring at Kurt and Tahryn, and Henry realised his parents were pleased the wolf who had killed his brother was leaving the pack. And now he was leaving with them. “I have to Dad.” Henry walked to his father. “I have to go with them.” “But…” Henry hugged his mother, her tears staining his pale t-shirt, and then pulled away. He sniffed, knowing he was going to have to go, really soon, or he was going to cry too. He stepped up to where Tahryn and Kurt stood with hands clasped and gulped audibly. “I pledge allegiance to you.” Henry turned his gaze to Kurt, who was watching him like he might be dangerous. “Both of you. To Chalk Horse Hill.” “Well it’s done.” Roger closed his clip file and smiled. “I’ll sort out the papers for the Lowell girls. A double wedding in the morning it is.” “We’re going too.” Kurt whipped round to see David James, cradling the bundle of his mewling daughter. The pup was awake again, and David looked petrified of holding her or dropping her. His eyes begged Kurt, and Henry and the others watched as Kurt lifted the little white and lavender merle wolf pup from her blankets. She instantly snuggled against his neck, her tiny soft head in the curve of his pale throat. Tahryn let his hand fall around the nape of his mate and Kurt shot him a look Henry could easily translate as his fingers touched the very obvious marks left by his teeth. They looked like a family. My family…I’m one of their family. It was such sweet warmth that Henry barely listened while various members of the South Sea pack advised David against his decision. But he knew it was useless, the same as his mother’s tears and father’s anger had been, sweet and loving, but ultimately without purpose. He was no longer a member of the South Sea pack. David stepped into the little group, the island of scent coloured by Tahryn’s deep salty spice and the thick musky dampness of Kurt, and highlighted points of all the others. Tahryn smiled at him, at all of them. “We’re a pack now.” Henry felt the command, the voice of an alpha in his bones and shifted. Seven wolves and a little girl, two blond, one black and cradling the little merle puppy in his paws, Henry’s red brown fur, Jene’s pale nearly-white and David’s classic grey and slate speckled pelt. Isla touched all of them and her wanting to join them was palpable. Kurt lifted his head and howled. Tahryn joined him in song and the sound shot out of every throat, a howl that bound them up in love and loyalty, gold and bronze and green. A howl that sounded like home and belonging. We’re a family. The thought was like a whisper in Henry’s mind, and he knew he was not the only one who had heard the voice of the alpha, of Kurt, the big black wolf singing and howling to the early night sky. It didn’t matter if they were on another’s pack’s land, surrounded by wolves who were no longer their own kin. They were together, and everything was right. * It was left to Tahryn and Degan to work out the finer details of the move while the other members of the newly formed Chalk Horse Hill pack reaffirmed their bond. Roger Morris had filled out all his forms, promised to make a bunch of phone calls and email details of the wedding in first thing and taken off in a taxi. Willis had seen him out. Degan was none too happy about David James’s separation from the pack, taking his new cub with him, but he had made it obvious he had to go. Yulva was going to need a lot of help as she grew up, and it made emotional and logical sense for her to be with the only other wolf who was at least a little like her. And perhaps there would be other cubs soon enough. He felt sorry for Isla, the only one who wasn’t yet grown into her fur, and who would no longer have pack children to play with. Once the split was complete, when the new pack had left, it was going to be hard for the others. Doug, Whelan and Alex would have all lost children. The Smith’s too, but Degan knew they had been preparing for this moment for months. There was going to be a lot of emotional upheaval in the coming weeks. It would be a good time to start prepping the man who would replace him. Tahryn drove a hard bargain and negotiated well for all that his pride fought against him. It was obvious he was listening in on his mate in his head. It was a highly unusual skill, though not totally unprecedented, and there were few who could really claim to know what was going on inside their mate’s heads. For a pair of two matched alphas though it seemed deeply fitting. So it was decided. The wolves of the Chalk Horse Hill pack would reside on South Sea territory until the buy-out of the new land was completed. The alpha’s could continue to come and go as they pleased until the school year was over. Isla would finish school, everyone would keep their jobs. The borderline between the two packs would be open, if not flexible, but all three alphas would need permission to cross. Tahryn worried about a job, and working for Carson, so an agreement was made for that as well. Neither of them could see Kurt wanting to leave his new territory anytime soon. No more defections would be encouraged from the wolves of the South Sea pack, and Chalk Horse Hill would not be allowed to recruit from the area. Degan would want an official staffing list within a month. He would help set up an account for the boy’s, assist them with supplies and loans and business prospects and insurance. He would help with all the little legal things that made setting up a new pack a daunting task, especially for wolves as young as Kurt and Tahryn were. He would help as much as he could. While they lived on main pack territory, they were as welcome at meets as they always had been, but once they moved they would need permission to join meets and hunts or run in the forest within South Sea territory. And the workings of the Chalk Horse Hill wolf pack became settled and smoothed, paving the way for the passage of the wolves that had become too strong and bloody minded to stay.
    18 points
  3. CHAPTER THIRTEEN: BOMBSHELL Adam ended up sitting with his back up against the headboard, Mikeal cradled between his knees. Mikeal was recounting the events at his home in a cool, factual manner, his voice detached and disengaged. Adam hugged him tightly when he was done with the story, leaning forward to rest his chin on Mikeal’s shoulder. “That really sucks baby,” he said. Mikeal shook his head. “I don’t know what to think. I don’t know what to do.” “That’s okay.” “No, I need to figure this out. I need to figure out how I feel.” Adam recognized Mikeal’s approach: to figure out how to turn this into a problem that he could analyze and solve. “Baby, you just found out and this is a big deal. You’re probably in shock. Give yourself some time to get used to the idea, and then try to figure out how you feel.” “Used to it?” Mikeal snorted. “Right.” “Give it time baby,” Adam said, running his hands up and down Mikeal’s arm. “Are you hungry?” “A little,” Mikeal admitted. “God, I’m so embarrassed. The way I stormed in here and...” “No, no. It told me exactly what I needed to know; something happened and it wasn’t good.” “No, definitely not good.” “Come on.” Adam climbed off the bed and took Mikeal’s hand in his own, leading him into the kitchen. It was empty aside from Adam’s mother, Olivia, who glanced up as they entered and smiled warmly. “It’s nice to see you again, Mikeal,” she said, standing to shake his hand. Mikeal smiled wanly. “Likewise.” “Did we miss dinner?” Adam asked. Olivia nodded as she sat back down. “I saved some leftovers; they're in the fridge for you.” Her eyes slid from Mikeal to Adam and back again, but Mikeal didn’t see any disapproval or worry, just calm acceptance. “Do you want to be alone?” she asked. Mikeal shook his head. “No, no. You don’t have to leave.” He shrugged. “It’s your house. Thank you for letting me come in and collect myself.” “Any friend of Adam’s is welcome in our house,” Olivia said. She glanced at Adam. “Do his parents know he is here?” Adam shook his head. “I don’t think so. Baby?” Mikeal shook his head. “No. I haven’t talked to them since…since this afternoon.” Mikeal checked his watch. “They're probably just getting home.” “I don’t think you need to talk to them quite yet, but maybe text them or your sister, to let them know that you are okay,” Adam suggested. Olivia nodded. “I don’t know what the situation is, but as a parent, I would want to know where my child is." “The whole 'parent' thing is up to debate,” Mikeal said. “I’m going to go get my phone.” When he left the room, Olivia glanced at Adam and raised her eyebrows. “I’m not going to tell you all of it,” Adam said, leaning his forearms against the butcher’s block where she was sitting. “But there is a strong possibility that his parents aren’t his birth parents. And he just found out today.” “Oh my,” Olivia whispered, glancing down the hallway. “Today? Right before Christmas?” Adam nodded. “Yeah, and he didn’t find out in the best of circumstances.” He turned and stacked leftover turkey, bacon, and blue cheese on a slice of bread, added some mayo and pressed another slice on top. He cut it in half and set it aside for Mikeal and made another for himself. The familiarity of the simple task helped ease some of his worry. He glanced up as Mikeal shuffled back inside. Olivia slid off her stool. “I better go check on the kids,” she said, stepping out of the room. “Here,” Adam said, pushing a plate in his direction. Mikeal sat down and picked at the crust. “How did it go?” Mikeal shrugged. “I texted them. They keep trying to call. I haven’t answered. I told them that I knew the truth and that Hyacinth could fill in the details if they wanted them. They both are trying to get in touch with me; to find out where I am and what is going on. All I’ve told them is that I'm safe, and have a place to stay. I told my dad I would meet with him tomorrow.” Mikeal shrugged. “We need to talk and we need to be in a neutral territory. Is there a good place around here?” “There's a pretty good coffee shop downtown,” Adam said. “I can take you there.” Mikeal texted the address to his dad. The phone began to buzz shortly after he sent it and Mikeal powered it down. “Finish your dinner,” Adam gently prompted. “Do you think you're ready?” “I won’t be able to figure out what to think or how to feel until I have all the facts. That means I have questions I need answered. Right now, I'm angry, hurt and feel betrayed. But I need to know if there is a basis for those feelings. I was lied to, all of my life, about who I was and where I came from. I need to know why.” “Makes sense,” Adam agreed. Mikeal finished eating quietly and Adam led him back to his bedroom. It had been close to lunch when Hyacinth had dropped her bomb; it was now late and dark outside. “Get in the bed,” Adam instructed, closing the door before stripping down to his T-shirt and boxers. Mikeal looked a little apprehensive, but did the same. Adam sank down onto the mattress next to Mikeal. The twin bed was a snug fit, but Adam didn’t mind the necessary closeness. Mikeal pulled the sheets up to his chin and turned towards Adam, his dark eyes fathomless pools in the dim light. Adam found his hand underneath the sheets and gripped it. “Okay?” he whispered. The darkness, the closeness provided by his tiny bed and the revelation from earlier somehow made everything more solemn, more reverent, more intimate. “I don’t know. Probably not. Not yet.” Mikeal moved closer, his fingers gripping Adam’s shirt, lips seeking his in the dark. “Just…stay with me, okay?” Adam kissed him again, and wished desperately that they were alone. He wanted, so bad, to take Mikeal into his arms, kiss all of his worries away, and to make love to him, until he was limp with exhaustion. To drive everything from Mikeal’s mind except his touch, his taste, the feel of his body. “I’m not going anywhere, baby.” He felt Mikeal’s arm come across him and press close. “I’m right here. Through all of it, I’m right here.” * * * Mikeal sat nervously inside the coffee shop that he told Jamison to meet him at. He was early, but he was so restless and jumpy that morning that he was useless until Adam drove him out to town. He took a sip of the coffee and found comfort in both the familiar taste and the sight of Adam, sitting discretely on the other side of the shop, reading. Adam glanced up and caught his eye, raising his eyebrows in his "okay?" gesture. Mikeal nodded slightly, then shifted his gaze. His heart gave another uncertain leap when he saw the familiar figure of his father through the window before he entered the shop. Jamison looked around and approached Mikeal's table. There was an awkward pause. Usually when they saw each other, the first thing they did was exchange a hug. Mikeal stayed in his seat and his father lowered himself into a chair across from him. It struck Mikeal suddenly how old his father looked. Jamison was not a young man, only a few years from retirement, but he was always energetic, and brimming with vitality. The man sitting before him now looked tired, drained, and barely alive. It softened the knot of hurt, angry betrayal that was still sitting heavy on Mikeal’s chest. "Are you okay?" Jamison asked, leaning forward. "We've been worried about you." "I know," Mikeal answered. "I'm okay." “I brought some stuff for you,” Jamison said, depositing a duffel bag onto the ground and folding his arms on the table. “The things that you told Lily you wanted from the house. Your mother is frantic," Jamison continued. "Lily filled us in on what happened. Hyacinth admitted to her part in it." He looked down at his hands. "Hyacinth has left the house at our request and will be spending Christmas with her husband and his family. We are very sorry that you had to find out this way, Mikeal. This is not how we wanted to tell you." "Were you ever planning on telling me?" Mikeal said. He hated the bitterness in his voice, but he couldn't keep it at bay. "Or were you going to keep on stringing me along, lying to me, letting me believe something that wasn't true?" "Mikeal, we are still your parents and we still love you. That never changed. That never will." "If you love me, how could you do this? Lie to me all these years? Not let me know who I came from?" "I wanted to Mikeal, I swear, I wanted to, long ago. But the right time just never seemed to come. And then, it just seemed like it was never necessary." "Not necessary?" Mikeal asked in disbelief. "You were happy, Mikeal. Smart, healthy, well-behaved. I was all for telling you when you were older. We wanted to make sure you would understand what adoption was, you see. I wanted to tell you when you were around twelve, your mother pressed for sixteen, then eighteen. I think she was afraid that you would be upset, and she didn't want to have to go through it." Mikeal frowned. "Didn't want to go through it?" Jamison sighed. "You have to know the circumstances behind your adoption if you want to understand why she didn't say anything about it." "There are circumstances now?" Mikeal asked. "Yes." Jamison looked at the cup of coffee that Mikeal was holding. "I'm going to get a drink. Do you want a refill?" Mikeal shook his head. While Jamison was up getting his drink, Mikeal glanced at Adam again. Adam gave him another questioning raise of his eyebrows. Mikeal gave him a nod to let him know that things were still okay. When Jamison returned and started talking, Mikeal noticed that he had trouble meeting his eyes. "You never knew this, though I'm sure your sisters remember. Marigold had given me two beautiful, healthy little girls. And I love them like I love you. But I wanted a son; someone to carry on the family name, to take over when I was gone. It all seems very silly and misogynistic now, but at the time it was very important to me. But your mother was having trouble. She had difficulties carrying your sisters through to their due date, and later pregnancies were even harder. She was miscarrying, and the one other she carried to term was stillborn. I eventually realized after all that, that having a son wasn't what God had planned for me, and I decided to be happy and satisfied with my darling daughters. "But your mother...she took it harder than I. She wanted more children and she felt like she failed me. She carried a lot of grief and shame from her failed pregnancies. It remained with her, even though I told her I no longer cared about having a son, and was happy with the children we had.” Jamison broke off and took a drink. He pushed his glasses up on top of his head, and pressed his fingertips against his eyes. Mikeal felt a strange twist in his stomach as he wondered if his father was crying...something he had never seen him do. But when Jamison spoke again, his voice was steady...tired, but steady. "It was a low point in our marriage. We had separated, briefly, and were considering divorce. Your mother was staying with her family, or so I thought. Then one day, she shows back up at the house, with a baby. By the time I got home, your sisters had already seen you and fallen in love with you. When she put you in my arms and I looked into your eyes and you smiled at me, I was lost. Your mother had already started the adoption process. Normally it would have taken ages with all the red tape, but we had enough money to grease the wheels and were able to take custody while the paperwork was churning through the system. It didn't matter that you weren't my biological son. I loved you regardless. And I love you now. “Your mother and I decided to get back together to raise you. She wanted a fresh start so we moved to a new town and I opened up a new firm. Looking back now, I realized what she was doing, and why she was so reluctant to tell you. She wanted to act like you were the son that she couldn’t conceive, that you were my own flesh and blood. It didn't matter to me; I love you just as much as if you were my biological child. But it mattered to her. And I still loved her, so I allowed her whatever she needed to comfort herself. But I was adamant that you be told eventually. To try to avoid the very situation we're at right now." Jamison lifted his gaze, and met Mikeal's stunned stare. "I know it's a lot to take in, and I know that a lot of it probably doesn't make sense to you. But there is one thing that I want you to know, more than anything else. And that is that I love you. I always have, and I always will and being adopted will never change that. And the only thing that I regret about your knowing that you are adopted is that we waited so long to tell you and that you found out in the manner that you did. Because that hurt you, Mikeal, and we never wanted that. Neither one of us." Mikeal pressed his lips together. It was a lot to take in, and he could feel a tell-tale burn in his chest. "Did-did Mom--did she want me?" "Of course. She is the one who brought you home." "No. Did she want me?" Mikeal asked. "You are making it sound like she wanted a son of her own, and when she couldn’t make that happen, she took the next best thing, which was me. She didn't take me because she wanted to adopt a child. She took me because she couldn't have one of her own." "You are simplifying things, Mikeal. It was much more complicated than that. It wasn't just about having a son; that was something I had wanted. Marigold wanted more children, period, even if they were girls. She wanted a house full of them. Even if I hadn't wanted a son, she might have adopted you anyway. And she chose you, Mikeal. There were other boys she could have chosen; blond or redheaded boys that would have looked more like your sisters. But she chose you, Mikeal. And she loves you, just like I do. Just like your sisters do." Mikeal touched his face self-consciously. “Do you know my--my heritage?” "You are half Japanese, half Caucasian. Born to a Japanese mother and a Caucasian father. I have a little information on your birth parents, if you want it. If you want to meet them, we’ll have to get your full records unsealed by the courts. I’ll help you with that, if it is something you want.” Mikeal looked down and fiddled with his cup. "I know this is a lot to take in, Mikeal. And I understand if you need some time. But your mother would like you home for Christmas, and so would I, and your sister." The thought of returning home to his family, especially his mother right now and trying to celebrate was so ridiculous that he couldn't believe his father was suggesting it. Mikeal shook his head. "I can't right now. I'm sorry, but I can't." Jamison looked pained. "Please, Mikeal. Your mom and I...we want some time. We want to talk to you some more." Mikeal shook his head again, pushing back from the table. He saw Adam look alarmed and start to get up and Mikeal shook his head again, holding his hand up. Adam slowly sank back down into his seat. "Listen," Mikeal said. "It's not the adoption that bothers me so much, but the fact that you didn't tell me about it. Finding out about this showed me that most of the stuff I thought I knew was false. Things that I believed were true, built my life upon were lies. Not malicious lies, but lies all the same. And I just need some time to think, to process. I'll come back for the New Year, but not before that." Jamison still looked concerned. "Where are you staying? A hotel?" "No." Mikeal looked down at the table again. He clenched his hands into fists. "There is something I was going to talk to you about over the break, before all this other stuff came up." "What is it?" Mikeal wanted to just keep his eyes on the table, but refused to take the easy way out. He lifted his eyes. "I was going to write you and....mom a letter. But since you are here..." He took a breath and took another glance at Adam, who was giving him an encouraging smile from across the crowded shop. Like he knew what Mikeal was about to do even though there was no way for him to hear the conversation. "I have a boyfriend. And I'm staying with him and his family right now." Jamison's expression didn't waver, although he was silent for longer than Mikeal was comfortable with. "Boyfriend?" he finally asked, lifting his cup to take a sip. Mikeal nodded, clenching his fists so hard that he could feel the nails digging into his skin and his knuckles were blanched white. Jamison leaned back in his chair. "Seems we have both been keeping secrets." "There is no comparison," Mikeal snapped, immediately going on the defensive. "I had a secret for a couple months. You've had yours for nineteen years." "A couple of months, hmm?" Jamison asked. "Where did you meet this boy?" "He goes to my school. I met him at a convention that Julie took me to." "Tell me about him." Mikeal blinked. "You're not upset?" "Why would I be?" Mikeal shrugged. "You and Mom were always foisting off girls on me." Jamison chuckled a little. "Your mother wanted you to find someone to settle down with, like Lily and Hyacinth did. I care about you getting a good education. As long as this young man doesn't interfere with that and treats you well, then I am fine." Jamison took another drink, appearing far more relaxed. "How serious is this?" "Serious,” Mikeal said. "I love him." "Are you being safe?" Mikeal felt his face heat up and covered it up with his hands. "Daaaaaad!" He heard his father chuckle and how it ended in a choked sound. Mikeal dropped his hands and saw that his father was giving him a strange little smile, his eyes suspiciously bright. "Are you okay?" "Yeah." Jamison cleared his throat. "I just really like hearing you call me Dad right now. Son." Mikeal cracked a small grin. "Tell me more about him. What is his name?" "Adam." Mikeal shifted in his seat nervously. "Would you like to meet him?" Jamison raised his eyebrows. "He's here." Mikeal stood and waved at Adam. Adam stowed his book in his bag and crossed the room. He approached Mikeal and slid an arm around his waist, giving him a small smile before meeting Jamison's gaze. "Adam, this is my father, Jamison Hamilton." "Mr. Hamilton,” Adam said politely, extending his hand. Jamison accepted his hand and shook it firmly. Mikeal and Adam sat back down and Mikeal had to hide a smile as he saw his father dive into the typical drill that he had given Lily and Hyacinth's paramours. Adam patiently answered Jamison's questions about his family, what he was studying, and what his career plans were. Jamison eventually turned his attention back to Mikeal. “Are you sure you won’t reconsider Christmas? You’re welcome to bring Adam, of course.” Mikeal shook his head resolutely. “I’m sorry. Not yet.” “It’s Christmas, Mikeal.” “Bad timing. You could have decided when and how I found out, but you chose not to. And I don’t think it is fair for me to be suddenly okay with it, just because you want me around for the holidays.” Adam chose that time to go and get a cup of coffee. “Your mother wants to see you.” “Well, I don’t want to see her,” Mikeal shot back. “I need some time. And right now, I am not okay with being at the house, acting like I’m fine with all this when I’m not. Because that is what she wants.” “She wants to see you, to talk to you, like I am. What’s so wrong with that?” “Because it’s not what I want. And I think I have every right to think of myself a little bit right now.” Mikeal shoved his chair back. “And right now I want to go.” Jamison was out of his chair in an instant and the next thing Mikeal knew, he was wrapped in his father’s warm embrace. Everything, from the weight of his arms to the familiar smell of cologne and wool from his sweater, broke him down and he returned the hug. “I love you.” “I know you do,” Mikeal replied. Jamison gave him another hard squeeze, then stepped back. “Alright. You need time. But if you change your mind, let us know. I can come and pick you up if need be.” Mikeal nodded. “Thanks,” he managed. Jamison gave him another hug and exited the shop. Mikeal turned as Adam approached and took the tea that the other boy gave him. “Are you okay?” Adam asked again. Mikeal shrugged. “I don’t know.” Adam took Mikeal’s other free hand and tugged him towards the entrance. “C’mon. Let’s get out of here."
    9 points
  4. June 22, 2002 Malibu, CA Will From: Willsurfer@yahoo.com Sent: Friday, June 21, 2002 10:28 PM To: Tonymo@aol.com Subject: I’m Listening Tony, I shut you down before when you tried to talk to me. You got something to say, I’ll hear you out. Will From: Tonymo@aol.com Sent: Saturday, June 22, 2002 12:28 AM To: Willsurfer@yahoo.com Subject: Re: I’m Listening Will, It’s really good to hear from you. I went out with some friends tonight (no, Rick wasn’t there), and I’m a little drunk off my ass, so I’m not going to ramble on and fuck things up worse than I already have, and make an even bigger ass out of myself. The main thing I want to say to you is that I’m sorry. I’m really really sorry. I don’t know how to say it so it has more meaning. If I could figure out how to put it in bold, I would, but the fucking mouse won’t work. God damn it. OK. I just threw the mouse across the room and broke it, so now I have to use the track pad. Shit. I hate these damn things. My fingers are too fat for it to work. Tony I looked at the message from Tony and laughed. “What?” Zach asked. “I got a response from Tony,” I said. He frowned. “See.” He read it and chuckled. “So he has fat fingers?” I shrugged. “I guess. I never really looked at his hands.” I took Zach’s hand and held it in mine, looking at it carefully. “Knock it off,” he said, pulling his hand away. I held my hand out, demanding that he put his back in mine. He relented, giving me his hand along with his cute grin. “You have sexy hands,” I said. “They go with the rest of you.” That just magnified his grin. “Duh,” he said, cracking me up. His hands were rough from football, kind of callused, but that made them really masculine. Mine weren’t like that; they were a lot smoother. His fingers were a little shorter than mine, but a lot bigger. I gently stroked his fingers, one at a time, like I was stroking his dick. We were lying in bed naked, and I almost giggled as I watched his cock rise up as I did that. I replaced my fingers with my mouth, sucking on each one of them. “I love your hands,” I said. He grabbed the back of my head and pulled me in roughly, kissing me in a really aggressive way. I moved over so I was on top of him, with his hard cock rubbing up and down my crack as I writhed against him. He grabbed my hair and pulled my head back, smiling at me as I looked at him, crazed and breathless. “I got some news today.” “What?” I asked, wondering why the fuck he would start a conversation when I was so ready for him to jam his cock up my ass. “I got retested. I’m negative. Passed it with flying colors,” he said with a wicked grin. I smiled and grabbed the lube, then slathered it all over his cock. I guided it to my hole and sat on it, reveling at the familiar feel of him filling me up, but enjoying it even more because we were barebacking. “That’s so fucking good,” I cooed in his ear. “You like that?” he asked, as he started pushing up into me. He bent his legs and put his feet flat on the bed, and used that leverage to start pounding me. His legs were so strong; he could probably lift a fucking car up with them. I broke off our kiss and sat straight up and started stroking my cock, smiling as his eyes focused on it, on the head. I knew what he liked: he was really into cum. I thought it was seriously his favorite food. I pushed myself along to give him what he wanted. “I’m gonna shoot my load all over you, and then I’m gonna feed it to you,” I said. He moaned and pumped harder. “Fuck yeah. I love that.” “I know,” I said, grinning at him. And then I came. The first shot landed on his face, and he stretched his tongue out to lap it up. I blew the rest of my load all over his chest, even as he slowed his pace to a more loving speed. I smiled. He knew my body as well as I knew his, and he knew that while I liked getting my ass pounded, when I came, I loved it when he got more gentle and caring, with a slow, sensuous, steady rhythm. He kept that up while I finished my orgasm, and for a bit longer to let me catch my breath. “Time for a snack,” I said to him with a sexy leer. “I’m so hungry,” he said, almost moaning. I lifted my ass up just a bit, his clue that he could really start fucking me again, as I scooped my cum off his body and fed it to him. God, it was erotic, the way he slurped and sucked it off my fingers. “Gonna cum. Gonna cum!” he shouted out, a roar, and then lifted me off the bed as he jammed his dick in me. He was so cute when he came, especially when he was fucking me. He would make these really hard thrusts, followed by some small erratic ones, repeating that until he was done. When he was finally finished, I squeezed my ass muscles tightly as I pulled off of him, squeezing every drop out of his long tube, and then kept my ass clenched tight, keeping his load inside me. There was a towel next to the bed, so I grabbed it and wiped the lube off my ass, and then I lay on top of him, but to his right side, and gently played with his nipple. “Do you still love Tony?” he asked me, kind of out of the blue. “No,” I answered honestly. It was cool that my simple answer was enough for him. “I’ve never been in love before,” he said. “Before what?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. He loved me. I knew he did. He knew he did. But I was just teasing him. No way I was going to push him into that admission until he was ready. “As in ever,” he said, giving me a fake frown. “I have,” I said. “Or at least I think I have. Sometimes it’s hard to separate love from a crush.” “How do you know the difference?” I shrugged. “For me, it’s time. If it lasts for a long time, it’s love. I also think there are different kinds of love.” “You mean like how you love friends, or your family, versus someone you fuck?” he asked, making me chuckle. “Yeah, but I think it’s also different from person to person. I think you can love someone, but it seems that there are some people who just belong together. They’re soul mates. That’s a different kind of love.” “Have you ever felt that kind of love before?” “Before what?” I taunted. “Asshole,” he said lovingly. “I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it with Grand and Stef, with Dad and Robbie, and with Wade and Matt.” “Wade and Matt aren’t together anymore,” he said, as if that meant their love wasn’t that kind of love. “Do they seem happy to you?” I asked. “They seem OK,” he said, but even he didn’t believe that. I shook my head. “I saw this when my dad and Robbie broke up,” I told him. It was amazing that I could talk about this and not completely lose it, not completely freak out about Robbie being gone. “There’s a hole there that they’ll never be able to really fill up.” “A hole, eh?” he asked, and grabbed my ass, making me giggle. “Wade and Matt moved to different cities. Shouldn’t you be willing to give up everything for that person?” I thought about that. “I think it’s not about sacrificing for someone, it’s about trade-offs.” “What do you mean?” “I don’t think it can be all one-sided. I don’t think one person should always have to make the sacrifices,” I told him. I realized that we weren’t talking about Wade and Matt, but that we were actually talking about us, in a really backhanded kind of way. And I wanted him to know that while I’d do a lot to deal with his football career, he had to toss me a bone here and there. “I guess I can see that,” he said, in a grudging kind of way. I kissed his nipple, and then sucked on it. “You’re horny tonight.” “You’re not?” I asked, as I reached down and stroked his cock. I had him hard in no time at all. “Maybe,” he said, giving me his impish grin. “I want you to be my nasty boy,” I said, whispering in his ear. He loved it when I talked to him like that, almost like I used to talk to Tony. “What do you want me to do?” he asked, his deep voice sounding so husky, and the lust dripping off his words. “You shot your load in my ass, and I’ve kept it there. I’m squeezing my ass tight, but even then I can feel it leaking out,” I said. He moaned. “I want you to suck it out of me, use your tongue to get every last drop.” He let out a loud moan and all but spun me around, so my ass was over his face. I felt his tongue rimming me, then probing me, and I unclenched my muscles. I felt his load leaking out, even as his tongue lapped it up. God, that felt good. His cock was throbbing in front of me, so I started sucking it slowly, really slowly, so there was no way I’d make him cum. I let him work me for a long time, and then I grabbed the lube and rolled him over onto his stomach. “Oh yeah,” he said, as my fingers probed his ass. “I’m gonna fuck you now,” I said. “I’m gonna cram my big dick up your ass.” “Fuck me, Will,” he said, almost begging me. I laid my body on his, my chest on his back, and gently pushed my dick into him. “You feel so good,” I said, as I gently fucked him. I went slowly, really slowly: I could feel every inch, every move, and so could he. I kept it up until he finally couldn’t stand it anymore. I pulled out and he rolled over and grabbed his ankles. “I want you back,” he said. I pushed my dick back into his willing hole and really started to fuck him hard. He lay there, his mouth open, his eyes bulging, as I pounded his ass. He put his hands behind his head, as if to surrender all control to me, and then started to buck his hips with me, really working with me. His ass was amazing, like this throbbing thing that wrapped tightly around my dick, pulsing in the most erotic way. “Fuck, I’m gonna cum. I’m gonna cum!” Every once in a while I could make him do this, and it was so hot: I could make him cum without touching his dick. That’s what I was about to do to him now. He shouted, bellowed, and then cum started shooting out of his cock. I knew his body so well, and as soon as he started shooting, I reached down and started stroking him, nursing his orgasm out of him. But even as I was finishing off his orgasm, I felt my own start. The stimulation of feeling his ass contract as he shot his load, along with the visual of him lying there covered in his own cum, just set me free. “I’m gonna cum. I’m gonna cum,” I said urgently, as I felt my balls rise. “Can I shoot in your ass?” “Fuck yeah, Will. Shoot that load in my ass,” he growled, and I did. I came for fucking ever, then when I was done, I was so spent I collapsed on top of him, slowly letting my dick pop out of his ass. “Let’s rinse off,” I said. He grinned, since his load was all over both of us. We got on the elevator and went down to my bathroom and took a quick shower, then went back up to the bed and changed the sheets. He climbed into bed and nodded his head at me to tell me to join him, in what was such a sexy gesture. I lay next to him on my side, and gently stroked his chest, outlining his pecs with my fingers. I sensed something was bothering him. “What?” “Nothing,” he lied. “What?” I demanded more forcefully. “I feel like a pig.” “Why?” “You know why,” he said, furrowing his eyebrows. “You mean because cum is your favorite food,” I teased. “You don’t think it’s gross?” I looked at him intently, so he could see the sincerity in my eyes. “I think it’s hot.” He grinned. “You do?” “Fuck yeah. I told you you’re my nasty boy,” I said. He chuckled. “It’s a really cool thing.” “Why is it so cool?” he asked, not believing me. “Think of all the dudes who aren’t into something kinky. They just fuck. That’s it. What makes it special? What really gets them going? That sounds boring as hell. Not you. It’s not like you want to do it all the time, but when you do, you just lose it. Shit, I’m still tingling.” He smiled at me, then leaned in and gave me a really nice kiss. When he backed away, I heard the words from him I never thought I’d hear: “I love you.” I stared at him, stunned. I honestly didn’t think he’d ever admit it, that he’d ever tell me. He got a worried look on his face, even while a huge smile was spreading across mine. He tried to look away, but I leaned up on my arm and put my hand on his face to move it back, forcing him to look at me. “Say it again,” I ordered. He swallowed hard, and I wondered if he’d try to play it off. “I love you,” he said. “I know,” I told him. “I love you too.” “Duh,” he said, smiling. “How could you not?” “I couldn’t not,” I said, and my dorky word choice made him laugh. “What do you mean, that you knew?” he asked, challenging me. “I know you. I told you that when we first hooked up. I can read you pretty damn good,” I said. “Alright, if you’re so smart, when did I fall in love with you?” I thought about that. I almost really fucked up and said “when I bought you the Durango,” but through some miracle, I stopped those idiotic words from flying out of my mouth “I don’t know. I think it was gradual, and something I just realized.” “Wrong,” he said, making his voice sound like a game show buzzer. “Alright, when?” I asked, chuckling “The second time you came out to see me play football.” “That was in November, and you’re just telling me now?” I asked, pretending to be a little annoyed. “I wanted to make sure. I didn’t want to tell you and have it be an infatuation,” he said. He stroked my hair lovingly, a caring gesture I would never have guessed I’d have gotten from him when we first hooked up. “I never had someone who liked me for who I am.” “I love the dude that you are,” I said. “You just like me because I’m hot,” he joked, only I did know him, and he was tossing that out there to hide his insecurities. “I do like that you’re hot,” I said, grinning. “But you’re so much more than that.” “That’s good to know,” he said, but he needed more. “I like that you’re not perfect. You can be a real dick and a pretty uncaring asshole at times,” I said. I watched him get pissed off, waiting for him to boil a bit. “But you’re never that way to me. You treat me with respect, and you watch out for me. You pay attention to what I like, and you do it. That’s how I know you love me.” “I don’t let many people in,” he admitted. “That makes it really special, that I’m one of the people that you let see the real you.” “Will,” he said, staring at me intently. “You’re the only person I let in.” I stared back at him, getting how into me he really was. He loved me as much as I loved him. “I love being in you,” I whispered in his ear, in my husky voice. He snaughed. “You know, Robbie had all kinds of issues, and he took Dad on a pretty wild ride. He’d have these kinks that were like an itch he had to scratch.” “What kind of kinks?” he asked. He was curious about that, and about why I’d brought this up. “He was into fisting, and let some douchebag in college use that to rule him.” “How’s that work?” “If I was going to fist you, I’d make my hand into a shape like this,” I said, mimicking the pose I’d seen my dad do. “Then I’d work my hand up your ass. When it was up there, I’d use it to stimulate your prostate and get you off.” “Dude, how do you know about this?” he asked me, all freaked out. I shrugged. “When I was younger, I snuck in and watched one of the videos of them doing it.” “Dude, you watched your dad doing that to Robbie?” he asked, kind of grossed out. I guess if it was his dad, it would be pretty gross, but not my dad. My dad was really attractive, and so was Robbie. “Fuck yeah. It was a little weird, but hot as hell. Don’t you think my dad’s hot?” “I’d do him,” he said casually, and while that should have freaked me out what with all the incestuous shit we’d been through, it was strangely funny. “It seems like it would hurt.” “You take my dick. It’s not that much bigger,” I joked. “You want to try it?” he asked. I could tell that it really freaked him out, but at the same time, he was kind of curious. I shrugged. “Dude, if you wanted to try it, I’d do it,” I told him. “I’d probably try just about anything you wanted to do.” “Really?” he asked, grinning. “Sure,” I said. “I’ll have to think up some shit,” he joked. “You do that.” “So why’d you bring up fisting? You think I’m all twisted up like that?” he asked, his whole mood changing as he’d interpreted my comments in that way. “No,” I said, looking at him like he was an idiot. “On top of the fisting thing, Robbie got really restless, and had to go out and find different guys to fuck. It was like he needed new meat.” “And your dad couldn’t handle that?” “No, I don’t think he could do an open relationship,” I said sagely. “Robbie could never really be happy with just my dad. My dad couldn’t handle that. For Robbie, it was about something different, just for fun. For my dad, it made him feel all inadequate, like he wasn’t good enough.” “I can see that,” he said, putting himself in my dad’s shoes. “So Robbie had these kinks, and it was like they dominated him, and caused him to make bad decisions,” I said. “Are you pissed at him about that?” I shook my head. “No, but watching him and Dad, sometimes it got a little scary. It was like they pushed the envelope pretty far, but it fucked them up. I think I learned a lot from their fuck-ups.” “You trying to say I’m fucked up like that?” he asked, getting defensive. I laughed, in a loving way. “No, what I’m saying is that I don’t think you’re like that at all, and that’s one of the coolest things about you.” That brought out his magnetic grin. “I’m not perfect.” “I know,” I said. “But when you get off by sucking cum out of my ass, instead of me thinking it’s weird, I think it’s hot, because I know it’s just you having fun, not because it’s some obsession.” He gave me a really loving kiss. “I really only have one obsession,” he said. “Football,” I said, and managed to not sound bitter when I said it. He nodded. “I need to talk about that.” “What?” he asked, getting nervous. “I knew, from the minute I first let myself fall in love with you, that I’d always be at least second to football in your life.” “After football, you are the most important thing to me,” he said, and he said it with such conviction, it actually made me tear up a bit. “I’m OK with that. It’s part of the deal,” I said. “But you have to find room for me. This deal with you breaking up with me really fucked me up. I don’t have to be number one, but I have to rank high enough that you keep me in your life in a big way.” “Will, come on. I freaked out, and made a mistake. I told you I was sorry. I’ll even get down on my knees right now if you want me to,” he said. “What if Barry comes over tomorrow, sees how we look at each other, and tells you that you have to dump me?” I asked. “Let’s not create problems,” he said, frustrated. “I’m not creating problems, I’m thinking of contingencies,” I said, sounding a lot like Grand. “You are so fucking smart, it just blows me away. You’ll help me figure a way around it,” he said. I grinned, enjoying the ego stroke, but I wasn’t going to let him get away with that. He understood that perfectly. “Barry can’t tell me to dump you. Barry can suggest it. If he does, I’ll tell him I’m not going to.” I sighed. “I’m not insecure about people you hook up with when I’m not around, but I’m a little insecure about this. Thanks for making it better.” “You know what makes me insecure?” “What?” I asked, expecting him to talk about Tony, or some other guy he thought I was with. “I worry that with all this bullshit we’re gonna have to deal with for football, that you’ll just get sick of it, say fuck it, and blow me off,” he told me. I just stared at him, stunned at how open he was being with me. He’d totally lowered all of his shields. “Dude, as long as you give me part of you, and keep me in your life, we’ll be fine.” “Sometimes it’s really tempting to just throw it all away and to say ‘fuck football’.” He paused, and I didn’t know why, until he spoke the next sentence. “It would be so awesome to be able to tell the world I’m gay, and to just be with you.” I leaned up and stared at him, shocked shitless. That was the first time he’d ever admitted that he was gay. And he’d actually fantasized about giving football up for me? That was amazing. But I had to handle this carefully. That was part of him exposing so much of himself. “Dude, I don’t want you to give up football. It makes you happy. And you don’t have to tell the whole world you’re gay, as long as you’re gay with me.” He just smiled at me, and put his hand on my face. His callused hands were so rough on my skin, even as he moved them so gently. He guided my mouth to his, and then he made love to me. He’d done that before, but this time it was the real deal. The next morning, Zach woke up early and went for a run on the beach, so I took that opportunity to respond to Tony’s e-mail. From: Willsurfer@yahoo.com Sent: Saturday, June 22, 2002 8:28 AM To: Tonymo@aol.com Subject: Re: I’m Listening Dude, I am so sorry to hear about your mouse. Make sure to give it a decent burial. Here’s where I’m at. You and I have had all these problems because we tried to be more than just friends. I think if we were just friends, we wouldn’t have all these other bullshit problems. Then it wouldn’t matter to me who you fucked, even if I was hanging with you and you bailed on me to plow some dude. So I’ll accept your apology, but that’s what I can offer you: friendship. Only friendship. You’re going to get an invite to our Bastille Day Party. Maybe you can come out and see me, and show me that we’re cool. That’s my way of blackmailing you into showing up. Will I printed off the three e-mails we’d exchanged and went down for breakfast, hoping I’d run into Matt. He wasn’t there, but Rosa was. She gave me a big hug. She and I were really tight when I’d lived here, so it was cool to come down and spend some time with her. I sat there, eating, but Matt still hadn’t shown up. Zach came back from his run and woofed down some more food. I was just about to go up and shower with him, to get ready for Barry, when Matt finally staggered into the room, looking pretty tired. “Dude, you look like shit,” I teased. “Don’t you ever sleep in?” he grumbled. I handed him the paper. “I did my part. Your turn.” He scanned the e-mails, and chuckled when he read Tony’s. Then he nodded his head and smiled. “You did good.” June 22, 2002 Van Nuys, CA Brad “Thanks,” I said to the pilots as I walked out of the plane and descended the stairs. They hadn’t really done anything but their jobs, but they did them pleasantly, so I figured I’d show some gratitude. We’d gotten up really fucking early to fly back here in time for the 10am meeting with Zach’s advisor, but I was still running late. “I need to get to Malibu as quickly as possible,” I said to the driver as I got into the limo. “Of course, Mr. Schluter,” he said as he closed the door. He drove just slightly less crazy than a madman, but it didn’t bother me. I just chuckled, appreciating that he was trying to do what I asked. I kicked back, thinking about my trip to Connecticut. I’d basically gone out there to escape from the situation with Matt and Wade, but it had been productive. I’d hooked up with Chris Mendoza a few times, and got pretty close to letting him fuck me, but something was holding me back. It was like there was this nagging voice in my brain, telling me to go slow. Especially with him. It was strange that although he tried to get me to give it up, he didn’t seem disappointed when I didn’t. The whole thing confused the shit out of me, because in the past, when I’d been single, I’d been a total slut. Only now I’d avoided Scott Slater and Cody, because I just didn’t want to sleep with them, and I’d kept Chris Mendoza distant. In the past, I’d have fucked their brains out. But then again, when I was single, it was because I was fighting with Robbie, so that was the other ingredient. I thought about how he’d fueled my insecurities, and that took me down the typical path, where I got pissed at him for fucking with my mind, then the anger at him was replaced with anger at me for blaming him for all of our problems. Then there was Wade. That was one of the most special relationships I’d ever had. We complemented each other so well, in bed and out, and our friendship was part of my emotional foundation. What was more, I knew I was important to him too. The secrecy of our relationship had just turbocharged our natural attraction. When I forced myself to accept that it was over, and that my days of fucking Wade had ended, I got pretty fucking depressed. Good thing I was still taking Welbutrin. We still talked every other day or so, but it was kind of empty now, since we both knew we had to keep distance between us. I felt like we were trying to build this entirely different friendship, and we were failing miserably. I’d been so busy depressing myself; I wasn’t paying attention to where we were, so I was kind of surprised when the limo pulled up in front of our house. There was a new Land Rover in the driveway, so I assumed that must be Zach’s advisor. I looked at my watch, and it was 10:10. I signed off on the invoice, grabbed my bag from the driver, and strode confidently into the house. I froze as soon as I walked into the great room, stopping to take in the scene in front of me. Zach, Barry Friedman, and Will were sitting around the coffee table. Will and Zach were dressed nicely, even wearing ties, in what was clearly a power gesture. Barry was wearing khakis and a polo shirt. “Look, I have an obligation to do what I’m hired to do, by the people who hired and paid me,” Barry said. “Who do you think is paying you?” Will demanded. “Wally and Clara Hayes,” he said. Zach and Will looked at each other, and Zach shook his head, and seemed to be annoyed with his parents. “Your bill is paid from my trust,” Zach said. Barry handed him a piece of paper. “That’s the check I got. Doesn’t say anything about a trust.” I shook my head, assuming that either Wally and Clara had just used their own money to make it easier, or to keep control of Zach. “You work for me,” Zach said forcefully. “Period.” “You’re a minor,” Barry said. “You can’t make me play football, and my parents can’t make me play football,” Zach said. “If they’re in charge, I’m not playing.” “Then you won’t have a career,” he said. “Unlikely,” Will said coldly, jumping into the equation. “In a year, Zach won’t be a minor.” “My contract lasts longer than a year,” Barry said. I watched him with interest. He was just posturing, trying to find something out, but Will and Zach didn’t get that. “You think it will hold up in court?” Will asked, raising an eyebrow. “I know it will,” Barry said confidently. “You have enough money to fight that legal battle?” Will asked, in kind of an arrogant way. “Because I do.” “I see,” he said. “So you’re backing Zach up on this?” “I am,” Will said. “And your family is too?” “They are,” Will affirmed. I smiled at how confidently he said that, glad that he knew we’d be in his corner. “What’s the status of your relationship?” he asked them, changing the subject. “Will is my best friend, and my cousin,” Zach said. “That’s all?” Barry asked. “That’s it,” Zach said. Barry nodded. “Alright, let’s start all over. I’ll tell you the truth, and you can tell me the truth.” “What are you talking about?” Will demanded. “My job is to work for Zach, to get him into the best college I can,” he said. “He’s the only one I work for, no matter who pays the check.” “Why’d you tell me you weren’t?” Zach asked, and seemed pretty annoyed. “Why’d you tell me you were just friends?” Barry asked. I had to admire how well he handled that. He had Will and Zach completely flummoxed. “There’s a confidentiality clause in our agreement. That means you can be honest with me, and I won’t say a fucking thing. So let’s try again. What’s the status of your relationship?” Zach looked at Will, then at Barry, and sighed. “We’re together.” “Ya think?” Barry asked sarcastically. “I knew that the minute I walked in here. I just wanted to hear you say that.” “Why?” Zach demanded. “Because I can’t help you out if you don’t tell me the whole deal. Now I know the whole deal,” he said. “So you’re willing to help us out?” Will asked cautiously. “I’ll help you out,” Barry said, smiling. Will must have sensed my presence, because his eyes scanned the room, and even though I was in the foyer, mostly hidden, he spied me. “Dad!” I walked into the room, pretending like I’d just gotten there, even as he got up and strode to me to give me a huge hug. “Good to see you!” “Good to see you, too,” I said. I gave Zach a hug too, which kind of surprised him, but he didn’t get the symbolism. I was showing Barry how tight we were, and explaining, non-verbally, that I was in their corner. “Barry Friedman,” he said, and held out his hand. “Brad Schluter,” I responded, shaking his hand firmly. “How long have you been here?” Will asked. “Long enough to hear a very interesting conversation,” I said. It was pleasant to see Barry shit a brick.
    5 points
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  6. 4 points
  7. . Coming Out, and "The Closet" An historical review on the semantics of the terms This piece cannot be as extensive or elaborate as I would like, for I lack further resources to research the subject, however, in preparing the seventh and final screenplay for The Secret Melville series, I once again encountered the phrase "to come out" in a clear LGBT context in that author's work. I wonder if straight people are even aware of it? Aware that there is a massive current of denial that Gay people ever existed in the past? Now, you are asking why I would raise such a provocative statement in the form of a question. I do so, because when it comes to researching the historical context relating to how men and women who loved each other led their lives, the omnipresent crush of opposite-sex politics 'sterilizes' the past out of a misplaced sense that "gay" is a new thing and was non-existent before the Stonewall Riots forced it down their throats.[1] In terms of words and phrases, this suppression extends from current times back for centuries. Two examples might suffice: "sagging" (or, more properly, saggin') is the practice of young men wearing their beltlines on or below their backsides. When the practice arose within the U.S. prison system in the 1980s there was fair and honest discussion in the press that it was a sexual display. Fellow inmates generally advise young men entering the correctional system that they have two options: fight or fuck. If the latter is chosen, these young men can expect their selected companions to protect them, provide services, obtain food treats, get drugs, and more often than not, offer love. Saggin' arose as a means to show which young man was looking for such a relationship.[2] As I say, the original comments were unequivocal as to the reasons why this new display appeared, however now, several decades on, most information available will strongly deny any 'gay' connection at all.[3] The second phrase is much, much older: "mate." The historian Barry Richard Burg shows that there was an unbroken cultural chain of 'men on the loose,' for lack of a better term.[4] This culture was fully in place at least by the 17th century, and he shows that men formed bonds based on extended communities of the same sex. To say they formed "gangs" is one way of understanding this subculture, and members of it often fell victim to the brutal practices of Royal Navy impressments.[5] "Britons never will be slaves" must have struck cold ears of the men enslaved under the lash of the Sovereign's naval task-masters, however, the culture of mutual protection and of forming lasting partnerships went with these men as they became seamen. And just as the latter culture of being on the road and a hobo carried on these traditions, "mate" was used to denote which men were together. This was the natural, the most direct term to show which pair of men in the broader group were partnered in a loving bond. With the rise of the fear of Gay people that became rampant beginning in the second half of the 19th century, "mate" was sterilized to be synonymous with "friend," even though the very nature of the word belies much more than fraternity.[6] So, two examples of how straight society, and their complacent and self-repressed gay allies, muddy the waters of LGBT studies. I say all of this as prelude, because even such basic terms as "gay," "fag," "faggot," "punk," have lost the context of when and how they arose because of straight society's obfuscation. Such too are the phrases "come out," and "the closet." When and where and in what context did these phrases take on LGBT overtones? And is it even correct for us today to link them together, as in "to come out of the closet?" Truth be told, the phenomenon of linking those phrases together, is rather recent. The historian George Chauncey links "coming out" to the post WWI emergence of Gay culture in the North Eastern United States. In Gay New York, Gender, Urban Culture and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940,[7] Chauncey links the term to a camp reading of high society customs where young ladies "came out" at balls once they turned sixteen years old. From that point on, they were "in" high society. He further states that Harlem drag queens co-opted the phrase and concept at their own balls. Here drag mamas present new accolades who were polished and ready to be "in the life," as current parlance had anyone living a more or less out life. There is no linking of the phrase to any notion of a closet. His theory is an intriguing one, and very hard to refute, except for the existence of the phrase in a Gay context from much earlier than the 1920s.[8] In his 1852 novel, Pierre or the Ambiguities,[9] Melville presents the very complex title character with a simple country friend named Charlie Millthorpe. In the best traditions of coded language, Charlie tells us himself that he "will never marry." But he goes further than that, and at two places in the book, he seems on the verge of wanting to tell Pierre a deep and secret intimacy he has concerning the other young man. He confesses to Pierre: "By marriage, I might contribute to the population of men, but not to the census of mind. The great men are all bachelors, you know. Their family is the universe: I should say the planet Saturn was their elder son; and Plato their uncle." To initiated 19th century minds, such a statement is a gold mine of Gay cultural references. Saturn was seen in astrological terms as the principal governor of the more sanguine aspects of male same-sex relations, and has a cultural tradition as such that stretches back at least to ancient Greece.[10] Likewise, a reference to "our uncle Plato" can almost be seen as being spoken with a wink. Melville, sufficiently establishing that Charlie is Gay, then goes on to put the "coming out" phrase in his mouth. In Book XX, he tells Pierre: "Hark now, in your ear; I think of throwing off [my] disguise and coming boldly out; Pierre! I think of stumping the State, and preaching our philosophy to the masses." The second occurrence appears in Book XXIII. Here Pierre's rejected lover, Lucy, writes to him and almost builds a powerful refrain of the term to try and convey her love for the title character: "But all this was vacancy; little I clutched; nothing I knew; 'twas less than a dream, my Pierre. […] But now, this long, long swoon is past; I come out again into life and light; but how could I come out, how could I any way be, my Pierre, if not in thee?" The nature of this letter is a pleading attempt to allow Lucy to come and live with him, but not to engage sexually with him. She begs him to allow her to come out and love him in the open, and not care what society has to say about such an unorthodox living arrangement. In this context, it matches Charlie's statement that he wishes to tear off his disguise and come out to "stump the State," by which he means the government and her court system. In both cases, "to come out" infers of the reading of "come out with the truth," end secrecy, and do so in a way that thumbs a nose at other people's perception of convention. So where does the closet come in (pun intended)? Well, here it gets interesting. Mark Mitchell and David Leavitt edited a fascinating anthology of Gay literature. They surveyed major works from a period between 1748 to 1914, and payed particular attention to a Melville short story.[11] I and My Chimney was originally published in Putnam's Magazine in 1856. It is a rather mysterious 'story,' where the only proper reading involves a great application of analogy to understand it. Ostensibly, it is the first-person account of a middle-aged man who lives in a Colonial era house. This house is dominated by a great central chimney, below which is a room. This is a secret place where the man never allows his wife to enter, but to which place he often goes to seek retreat from her. His "closet" is where he can be himself, and although his wife – or, indeed no female – is allowed admittance, his handsome young neighbor-man is often there with him in soulful seclusion. Mitchell and Leavitt have the following blunt statement to make: "I and My Chimney" is the source of "the closet" – and of its integrity. The wife of "I" supposes the chimney to contain a secret closet, and badgers her husband to open it. In the end, however, "I" prevails: "Besides, even if there were a secret closet, secret it should remain, and secret it shall. Yes, wife, here for once I must say my say. Infinite sad mischief has resulted from the profane bursting open of secret recesses."[12] So could Melville really be the alpha and omega of both "to come out" and "the closet?" Further research will need to be done, but any information and opinions you have to offer will be humbly considered and followed up by me. One thing is certain, Gay men of the 19th and 20th centuries treasured Melville's writings as among the most honest and open portrayals of same-sex love among men, and as such, were constantly at the forefront of a fledgling concept of a new and bolder Gay identity. So, it is very plausible he was the originator of both concepts and uses in the Gay community. Another contender for the closet phrase may come from a woman-loving-woman perspective. The following Emily Dickinson poem was published in 1935, and very well may have influenced our contemporary use of the term. It is not controversial to say that Dickinson's work, and the affectional ties she formed to a small group of women in her life, has informed a reading of her work from the perspective of same-sex love; I might argue that much of her work is only decipherable if approached from such an understanding. (Poem 907) They shut me up in Prose -- As when a little Girl They put me in the Closet -- Because they liked me "still" -- Still! Could themself have peeped -- And seen my Brain -- go round -- They might as wise have lodged a Bird For Treason -- in the Pound -- Himself has but to will And easy as a Star Abolish his Captivity -- And laugh -- No more have I – Now, with all of this being said, I humbly ask that you please let me know what you think. ------------------------------------------------- [1] The comments left behind on Youtube videos are hardly taken seriously by anyone, however they can be informative about attitudes. One young man (presumably a straight young man) left a telltale cultural marker on a video of The Village People performing the song Y.M.C.A. Without malice, as I interpret it, this fellow was deeply surprised that Gay people and Gay culture existed before circa 1980. In his mind at least, it was the AIDS crisis that had brought people 'out,' and united them in community spirit, of which he is not mistaken. [2] Consequently, once such a partnership was cemented, the young man stopped saggin'. [3] If interested, I need only point you to the Wikipedia entry on the subject. [4] See the 1995 edition of his book, Sodomy and the Pirate Tradition. This edition is interesting for the inclusion of a Introduction to the New Edition, where the straight majority's reaction to the book's 1983 appearance is spoken about extensively. He elaborates specific tendencies to suppress material simply because it speaks to the existence of Gay people leading ordinary lives in the past. [5] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impressment [6] There is a very funny example of how unconcerned Anglo-American culture is by the idea of same-sex relations. In the 1987 film, Hope and Glory, a young boy is in London during the blitz and joins a 'gang' of other youths. As part of his initiation ceremony, he is told to name bad words. When he says "fuck" as the very first one, the boys are aghast. The leader tells the young initiate that they were hoping for less shocking ideas, like "bugger" and "sod" (both terms for consensual male-male intercourse). But to think of it, why is it less offensive in our culture to make reference to same-sex sex than to opposed-sex intercourse? Because, going back in time, 'buggery' was no big deal. That casualness survives in the language of our culture even though it was made to appear non-existent, and 'too dreadful for words,' by the powers that rose at the end of the 19th century. You can see the scene here: [7] 1994 New York. [8] Ibid., pages 7-10 and 291-299. [9] Harper Brothers, New York. [10] See Man, Myth and Magic, An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Supernatural, 1970 London – Volume 18 covers essays on both the Roman god Saturn, and his holiday, Saturnalia, which was arguably the single most important celebration on the Latin calendar. [11] Pages Passed from Hand to Hand, 1997 Boston. [12] Ibid., page 22. _
    3 points
  8. I'm back! Well, just for a couple of guest posts to allow Renee to enjoy herself. So we're at the end of the week, and that means we get a chance to explore two new writing prompts, courtesy of our prompt-guru Comicfan. I think you'll like these - I know I can't wait to see what people come up with. But when you do - share it with the rest of the community in the Writing Prompt forum! Prompt 320 – Creative Tag – The Drought Your town is suffering through the worst drought that it has ever known. It is going on two years without a single drop and nothing is growing. The once lush lawns and forests are dry kindling. The businesses have slowly closed and the town is looking like it might soon just vanish beneath the blowing dust. You might know a way to finally make it rain, but you know it will come at a cost. What do you have to do? Prompt 321 – Creative Tag – List of Words Use the following words in a story – a cactus, a hedgehog, a broken clock, a Band-Aid, and a computer. One really interesting use of last week's prompts came from Ron, who took Prompt 318 (first line) and came up with The Goodbye Garden: Here you can see the rest of this response, as well as a link to an earlier prompt response involving Tommy. Enjoy!
    3 points
  9. "I've wanted to do that since . . . forever." "What's that?" I called out. I tried making it sound as if I was interested but truthfully, I wanted to groan the words; Brian had a habit—or rather, a long history—of not pursuing projects once having begun them. I suspected this was going to be yet another of those pursuits. Although, if I was to be honest, a project completed or otherwise would be preferable to his other, more recent and painful activity. "Gardening, Tommy." He stood in the kitchen doorway, too handsome for his own good, and probably too handsome for mine. I held up a finger and finished the bite of bagel before washing it down with my morning cup of mocha-java. "Gardening? I moved to the city to avoid gardens, Brian. That's part of the reason I bought the condo." Getting close to gardens of any sizable area involved working through an unavoidable feeling of apprehension before I could step into them. I felt they were better dodged than attempted. Brian offered me an uneven smile and an off-side turn of the head. "I know. Your mom told me why. She also told me not to bring it up, that you would be . . . difficult about it." "Really! When did you two have this discussion about me?" I was not going to be difficult. "A couple of years ago." He paused. "Don't look at me like that." The huff behind his words could almost be heard, it was that palpable. "I tried to broach the subject with you before, but you cut me off, so I asked your mother. You should have talked to me." I heard the implied meaning behind the word, before; its meaning meant—more than a few times. But going missing for fourteen months as a child was disturbing, and not to remember what happened . . . Except for the memories I have from being told the story, nothing remained of that time spent missing, that time was gone for me. Disappeared. Brian and I have been together for six years, and he was right, and maybe he had every right to know the story. I should have offered some explanation for being so taciturn—before he had to ask and hear the story from someone else, even my mother. "I'm sorry, Brian." Getting up from my chair, I held up my coffee cup and gestured, he nodded. "Please, come sit at the table with me?" I patted the back of the chair next to where I sat and used the time needed to prepare our cups to address my thoughts. *** "Mmm, this coffee is so good." I inhaled the aroma and made a mockery of a face in ecstasy. My friend, Susan, laughed at my behavior. "Yes, it is good," she offered, once she stopped snickering. "This shop just seems to get it right. So, why isn't Brian joining us on this beautiful, spring day? What's he up to?" "Gardening." "You're kidding?" "Nope. He says it's something he's always wanted to do." I shrugged. "It's better that he's occupied in his free time, I suppose." "Once a cheat, always a cheat," she said. "Susan, please, that's not fair. Brian's been on his best behavior; he's given me no reason to keep doubting him." The look she returned me said she wasn't convinced. "Right now, I just hope that he'll stick with it. He has a plot in the community garden at Washington and Newton. I've seen it, the plots big enough to be creative and not so big that it will become a chore. He's breaking ground and mixing in mulch today." "Let's go watch him, Tom. See the pretty boy wallowing around in the dirt. Again." Despite my defense of Brian to Susan, and knowing just how callously snarky she could be, I carried around with me a sense of unease and over the following weeks I walked past the community garden on several occasions. Brian's plot remained rough and unturned, which refuted his boasts to the contrary and of the time he spent away. I began to worry despite my having noticed dirt under his nails periodically. Something was up, I was missing some crucial thing I was sure, and I wondered how it was that he hoped to pull off the June, 1st reveal that crept ever closer. *** The day finally arrived for me to see Brian's garden plot and he was about as excited as I'd ever seen him. He went ahead of me, he said 'to make last minute adjustments', while I waited nervously at home for a half-hour more. When I arrived at the community garden, I found Brian standing and waiting by the gate, wearing a big smile. I had to stop, close my eyes, and take a big breath to calm myself before joining him. I couldn't decide which apprehension it was that I was trying to dispel. "You can do it, Tommy. I'm with you, come on." He took me by the hand and when we arrived at the turn off for his plot, I began to pull in that direction. Brian tugged on my hand to stop me. "What's wrong, Brian? Aren't we going to see your plot?" I asked. "My plot is over there, by the tool shed." He pointed. "I put in a request for one of the larger plots when I applied; there wasn't one available at the time but somebody backed out, and I got the space. I'm glad, the first one was too small for what I had in mind. Come see." Not having let go of my hand, Brian pulled me along as he guided me to his plot on the far side of the garden. Although there was a long time left in the growing season, we hadn't had any late frosts and the weather had been more than accommodating, with warm days, cool nights and enough rain without drowning everything. The effect on the plantings showed everywhere. I was so focused on that dead little plot each time I walked by that I had barely noticed all the growth going on, and now, well . . . I was embarrassed, and my lack of attention to the growth was the smallest part of it. Brian pulled up short and since I wasn't paying attention, I nearly walked into him. He stepped aside and after a flourish of his arm, he said, "This is it, Tommy." His smile seemed to take up most of his face—I loved his smile; how easy he could use it to charm. But he could just as easily hide behind it; just as easily use it to deceive. Today, his smile was one of pride, and rightly so. His garden was young and beautiful, nearly three times larger than the first one, and he had incorporated herbs and vegetables amongst the flowering and soon to be flowering plantings. Everything was well on its way. "Brian, this is so impressive." I latched onto him and hugged him tightly. "It's beautiful, really. I'm so proud of you." "I had lots of help. The big ideas I had from watching the garden shows were, in practice, a little bit harder to achieve than I imagined. When the other gardeners saw how badly I was doing, they took pity on me and offered all kinds of good advice. I was able to rely on them, Tommy. But I did all the work." "I did notice some dirt under your nails," I said. "Yeah, even with the gloves, that was hard to avoid." He paused then and looked down at the ground. He licked his lips, took a big breath and let it out. "What were you thinking, Tommy? I saw you, you know." "You saw me?" I questioned. "What are you talking about, Brian?" "Some days, I would grab a sandwich and spend my lunch here. Then and other times, I saw you . . . you would walk by and stop, stare at that bare plot and then walk away. You never said anything, you never asked what was going on, nothing. And I wonder, what were you thinking, Tommy?" Brian looked up, his eyes were wet with unshed tears and I felt like a fool. "I . . . I'm sorry." It was all I could manage to get out, my voice quivered. "Yeah. I thought so. You haven't really forgiven me, have you?" Brian rolled his head up and around trying to focus on something—anything. And not having found whatever he needed, he looked me straight in the eyes. "How are we to survive, if you won't forgive me, Tommy?" "I don't know, Brian. I don't know."
    3 points
  10. Must read rest of Ron's prompt...
    2 points
  11. Gratz, Ron. What will you do next?
    2 points
  12. This is really nice, thanks for featuring the story.
    2 points
  13. 2 points
  14. 2 points
  15. I enjoy reading your essay and you did a big research it seems. I also would like to mention anti-homosexuality sentiment I read only started from the late 1800's. Before that it was unmentionable or indifferent to most cultures (I don't remember which Pope started to openly condemn homosexuality). For gay literature, I recommend you also read Joseph Conrad's "Secret Sharer." In psychology, prisoners' same sex behavior is often said to be pseudo-homosexuality. Just behaviors to fulfill one's hungry sex drive. They don't engage in homosexual behavior outside of prison. As a gay man yourself, you should understand homosexuality is more than mere sexual relationship. I doubt prison "mates" had actual love relationship, more like survival instinct.... This morning I was only thinking about why animals never really care about sexuality (or rather, why humans care). Homosexuality happens in nature, but human is the only species which has such behavior as put down others for being homosexual. Animals couldn't care less if their siblings are gay or not, despite some animals definitely have some form of high level reasoning (cats have the concept of possession and jealousy, for example). Does your cat love you less because you're gay? There is only one thing in your essay I would like you to re-examine. The coming out ball of the high society, debutante, is a formal event to celebrate girls' coming out to the "society." That is, their parents are putting them out so possible polite suitors can take their hands for a serious relationship (i.e., marriage). Perhaps "coming out" means the gay man is openly looking for a suitor..., or maybe not. I am not sure. (I had been looking for a possible suitor even before I came out..., does that make me vulgar or lack of propriety? ).
    2 points
  16. The Alexander family had all their summer holidays up at Foxborough Hills Manor, a beautiful granite and brownstone mansion sitting on 50 acres of manicured farmland, looking out on picturesque Lake Superior. The house was built by Michael’s late father Marcus in 1956. When he built the home, his original designs for it was to use it for escaping Chicago when the corruption and mob-related crimes began to get to him. As the years went by, Gabrielle Alexander fell in love with the place and began making it into their future home for retirement. No Florida for these two. Before he died of cancer Marcus and Gabrielle had been married for 55 years and Michael was their only child. Gabrielle was still the matriarch of the family. “So Michael, care to explain this situation to me. What the hell is going on?” So for the next hour with little interruption, Michael told her all he knew starting with stashing Ryan away and making it seem like he was dead to the events leading up to Ryan and Kieran saving Davis’ life and uncovering a murder conspiracy. He even told her about Davis and Bryce’s relationship. “Well it’s about damn time,” she laughed. Michael cocked his eyebrow quizzically, “What the hell are you talking about, Mom?” “Michael, language!” she admonished. “Sorry Mom,” he said blushing. “Mmhmm, anyway to answer your question, a grandmother always knows, just like I always knew Ryan was gay.” *** Bryce and Davis were taking their newly found relationship slow. Even though they were sleeping in the same bed now, they still hadn’t consummated their love for each other, but their love was apparent to everyone. Davis was trying to set up a hammock but it kept getting tangled on him. When Bryce walked up, Davis got entangled in the ropes and fell on his ass. Bryce busted out laughing. “Hey baby, what you doing?” Bryce laughed at his boyfriend’s predicament. “Trying to put up the hammock to sleep in with my lovely boyfriend, but it won’t cooperate,” Davis laughed. After helping untangle his man and setting the hammock up, the boys climbed in and wrapped each other in their arms and kissed for a good ten minutes they laid intertwined silently reliving everything since the events at the police station: their growing love, Ryan’s reappearance, and the latest murders. Bryce broke the silence, “So, I wonder what Kieran is like? He has to be good for Ryan to be with for so long.” “I can’t wait to meet him and see my brother again, I still can’t believe he’s still alive, and that he is not like all the other asshole Caldwell’s,” Davis said. “I can’t wait to meet him either, he brought you back to me, I love you Davy,” Bryce said affectionately. “Love you too, Bry.” After kissing for another ten minutes or so a sound behind them broke the moment. “Ahem,” the person said. The boys turned and saw James, Ryan, and a gorgeous blond stud were looking at them. The two lovers blushed at being caught. “Hey Ryan. Hey James, is this Kieran?” Davis asked as the boys untangled themselves and got out of the hammock. “Yea I’m Kieran, you must be Davis. You look so much like your brother. So nice to meet you,” he said pulling the brunette into a hug. “Thank you so much for saving my boyfriend, Kieran. You my friend are a godsend,” Bryce said when it was his turn for a hug. Kieran blushed at the flattering comments and humbly stated that it was nothing, constituting an eye roll from Ryan and more praise from the younger boys. Ryan and Davis went to go talk in private for the first time since they left the police station a week ago, even though they talked on the phone every day. Davis asked if he wanted to go fishing on the lake and Ryan agreed. After a few moments of silence, Davis asked the questions he had on his mind since he found out his brother was alive. “Ryan, why did you disappear?” After a few seconds Ryan answered, “Louis caught me having sex with another guy, I didn’t know he was home, or I would have never had sex at the house. I was 16 at the time, and Dad’s current favorite. Louis told Jacob and he sent that goon Dino Czorniak after me to kill me.” He paused to collect his emotions, “You and Bryce were only six at the time and you were staying with his grandparents. I was walking through the neighborhood to meet with James and the guys, when I got hit from behind. Dino and his thugs beat me senseless. I suffered from a concussion, a broken arm, a few broken ribs, and some internal bleeding but the worst was the…” he stopped. Davis waited for him to continue and his heart broke for his older brother when he continued the worst day of his life, “…the worst part was that they gang raped me and stuck items like baseball bats up my ass, When they left, I crawled up to Jimmy’s house and Michael found me near death. The next thing I know is that I was in the hospital, and Michael and I formulated a plan to make me disappear. Davy, I'm so sorry, I didn’t know they were going to turn on you next. I love you so much little brother,” at that point Davis grabbed Ryan and pulled his older brother into a warm embrace and they both cried at the fact Ryan was almost murdered at the hands of their father. His grief soon turned into anger at his father, at Louis, Jacob’s asshole bodyguard who he never liked, and at Dino Czorniak for raping the man who had come to save his life. Those sentiments were shared by James who had come over to check on the man who had been his best friend all those years ago. He was beyond angry, he wanted revenge. Bryce and Kieran noticed this look of pure rage and the emotion pouring off of him and gave James a look that shared the sentiments but also said that they needed to be patient and do it legally. Ryan and Davis saw them and soon all five boys were crying at Ryan and Davis’ cruel, sadistic father and the fact he can be so cold and calculating as to hire someone to kill them. *** Jacob was sitting in his office when a knock at the door took him out of his thoughts. “Come in,” he said gruffly. The door opened and in entered Louis Krieger, his bodyguard and former business partner, back when Jacob and Louis used to work for Natalia’s father, Piotr Abramov, a notorious Russian mobster and arms dealer that had, until his death, been notorious for being ruthless and bloodthirsty. Piotr and his father had taught the two men all their tricks. His father's murder had hardened him further. The aftermath of the dissolution of Abramov's criminal empire had made them plan nearly 30 years for revenge on those responsible. This meeting was for concocting a new plan to destroy the Alexander family once and for all. He also needed to take care of the unforeseen complication of Ryan's survival of Dino's murder attempt. Louis got a sinister grin on his face, “I think our friendly neighborhood serial killer should pay the Alexander’s a visit and drop of a special gift. They are probably in Superior right now having those faggots over for the holiday weekend. This is going to be fun.” Jacob was intrigued at the prospect of giving the family an unexpected visitor and listened as Louis gave him the plan. The Ripper would be perfect for this as it seems that the FBI agents working the case didn’t heed his dire threats. When Jacob had heard the plot, he smiled and made the call. *** Special Agent Moira Campbell was working overtime to get clues on the Ripper case. She was running down leads by herself as Kieran was off to visit Ryan’s adoptive family and brother. She liked Ryan; she believed he was good for Kieran, a man she had come to think off as her brother. The leads were going nowhere, until the phone rang. “Hello?” The man on the line told her that he had some information on the killer and that he would only talk to her in person. After writing down the address she texted Kieran that she might have a lead in the case. He told her to be careful and keep him posted. She got to the location near Grant Park around midnight, sat on a bench near the famous Fountain of the Great Lakes, which portrays five women that are arranged in the way the Great Lakes water flows: from Lake Superior in the north to Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River in the east. As she looked at the statue that had been part of Chicago’s Loop District since 1913; she didn’t even see the man sneak up behind her. She felt the pinch in her neck from the injection she received and turned around to see her assailant smile at her. Then everything went black. *** After the emotional day before, Ryan woke up refreshed waking up to the smell of bacon and coffee wafting in the air. When he turned to see if Kieran was asleep, he found himself alone in bed. He got up to relieve himself and showered then went to search for his boyfriend and to find sustenance. When he found Kieran he saw the troubled look on his face. “What’s wrong, babe?” “Moira’s missing.” “What? She’s probably looking at the lead from last night.” “They found her car outside Grant Park and a syringe near the fountain by the Art Institute. I think he took her. God I should have quit looking for him,” Kieran broke down. “Hey now, stop that! He would have done something like this anyway. He’s a sadist and a sociopath. Hell, we might be wrong, she could have just got in someone else’s car, the syringe could be from anyone,” Ryan said reassuringly, not believing a word he just said. “Thanks, but you’re a horrible liar.” They looked at each other worryingly. After a few seconds, they got up and joined the family for brunch. After an hour of light conversation, Ryan spoke up with an announcement. “Kieran knows about this, but I want you all to know what is going on as you are my family.” They sat quietly looking up at Ryan, who was standing, waiting for his news. He continued, “I’m quitting my practice.” After a few murmurs and gasps from the boys, Michael asked, “Why? Is something wrong?” “No, for the past two and half years, I have been juggling my lawyer duties and traveling to Quantico at the FBI Academy. I applied to become an agent. I’ve been through FLETC and I graduate from the Academy next weekend.” After receiving congratulations and hugs the family celebrated only to have the mood shattered with the ring of the doorbell. *** Ten miles away in Amnicon Falls State Park outside the city of Superior, a jogger and her dog come upon a grizzly scene. Just off the path under a big oak tree by the river were the naked remains of a woman. What made the scene even more shocking to the woman and the Superior Sherriff’s Department was the fact the woman had no head and the wounds on her torso were clean and showed absolutely no blood. But the clothes hanging from a tree a few yards away, were covered in it the thick viscous red liquid. Other than that there were no other clues of the killer. *** The doorbell rang. Everyone just stopped what they were doing. ‘Who could be ringing the doorbell on Labor Day?’ Michael wondered. He got up and answered the door. When he opened it all he saw was a big brown box addressed to “The Alexander Family.” Everyone was confused at the box Michael set on the table. Marc asked “Were we expecting a package Dad?” “No this is strange, and stranger still no one was outside when I answered either. It was just sitting on the porch.” Kieran volunteered to open it. Inside was another box and a white envelope. When he saw it was addressed to him, his blood went ice cold. “What is it, babe?” Ryan asked. “The Ripper was here.” Everyone was stunned. Kieran finally opened the letter and as he read his eves fell on the box inside. Dear, Special Agent Pollack, As you can probably tell, I am back and my latest victim is all on you. I told you to stop hunting me, but no you had to have your partner look for me and run down my whereabouts. Well guess what? Seems I got the last laugh, faggot. The surprise in the box is my present to you for your efforts. Enjoy it Kieran. Sincerely yours, The Ripper. P.S.: Tell your boyfriend congrats on graduating from the FBI Academy. Can’t wait to give him my present. I just haven’t picked it out yet. Meanwhile enjoy yours, Kieran. Kieran stared at the box and letter for what seemed like hours. Finally he took it out, cut the tape, and opened it. Even though he had a feeling what it was, what he saw made him sick to his stomach. He rushed to the sink and threw up. When everyone looked in the box the women screamed and Gabrielle even fainted. Marc yelled, “What the fuck!” Michael immediately called the police as Abigail began hugging and comforting a distraught Ryan and Kieran. James, Bryce, and Davis looked at each other with looks of shocked horror. In the box was the head of Special Agent Moira Campbell. *** Half a mile from the Alexander manor, in a White Mitsubishi Eclipse, The Ripper listened as the police scanner crackled and the dispatcher gave the police code for dead body at the address of Foxborough Hills Manor. He smiled his sinister and cold smile and drove off as police cars came roaring in from the State Park.
    2 points
  17. One time Yuri got into a bottle of liquor. The dizzy not-quite-real sensation and heavy limbs bombarding him felt very similar to the clear stuff they pumped into him. The table they made him lie down on bent in funny ways, tilting his head down. It was up high though, so he could see Benny’s face and hold his hand. He liked that part. The rest of it all felt weird. He wanted to close his eyes and rest, but…. “Stay awake, Yuri.” Benny squeezed his hands. “We’re almost there.” The buzzing noise was teeth rattling. Yuri snorted. Teeth rattling. He could see the little white shapes dancing in his head. “Dancing teeth.” Yuri snickered. “What’s that?” “My teeth are dancing.” “Okay.” Benny sat back on the stool and looked over the bed to the doctors standing around them. “He’s higher than a kite. Is he going to be able to do what you want?” “It’ll be fine. We’ve turned off the drip now that we’ve created an avenue of delivery for the venom. This port will remain in for the duration of the treatment, like we discussed. It won’t hurt him.” “Nope, doesn’t hurt. Not even a little.” Yuri wiggled his feet. “Lay still, Yuri.” Millie said. “M’kay.” He sighed. He was bored. And tired. A yawn was struggling to come out. He let it, huffing at the end. “The port is secure. Time for the venom.” They were sticking a poison in him. Somehow, knowing it was the Snake-yet-not-yet Snake guy’s made it not so bad. Plus he might remember. He could remember his mate. Yuri reached for Benny. “Hold my hands?” Benny leaned forward and laced their fingers together. “It’s gonna be fine.” Yuri gasped. Heat flowed into his head like a tiny, hot thread of fire. The hair on the back of his neck stood up. “Venom in. Bashta?” The Jaguar had a closer link that most to a protector of the Carthera clans. Though he was a Jaguar, and not a Tiger, Bashta thought some prayers could help. Yuri wasn’t sure what stuff he was gonna do, but he didn’t expect the hollow rattle of wood bracelets. Then Bashta began to chant and shuffle around the table. He prayed, in a sing-song voice, and in a language Yuri couldn’t understand. Then he laid his hands on Yuri’s head, his chant ending in a sharp ululation. Under the sound of the loud cry, Benny growled, staring at the black Jaguar’s hands which were buried in Yuri’s hair. A light, flicking oranges, reds, and black, intertwined in front of his eyes. Yuri tried to bat at it, but it grew, bigger and bigger. It was all he could see, but he didn’t smell any fire or hear it crackling. Roaring filled the room; great, bellowing sounds of… fury! A face came out of the flames, a whole body followed, claws outstretched for him. Yuri screamed. He had to get away, but he had to stay for… for…. “What’s wrong? Why’s he screaming? This wasn’t supposed to hurt him!” Fear and rage warred inside Yuri. He flexed his hands and needle sharp claws slid out. Yuri wouldn’t let that bad man in. He couldn’t. A babble of voices came from all around him. “Look at the monitors. His brain activity is off the charts.” “Definite signs of increased activity in the hippocampus.” “What’s wrong with my mate?” “Bashta, step back!” “Tell me what the hell is wrong with my mate!” “There’s activity going on between his long and short term memory—a connection through the hippocampus, if you will.” Why wouldn’t they stop talking? Didn’t they see him? They had to get away. Yuri shoved himself up from the table. Bodies piled on top of his, forcing him back down. Yuri roared. “Grab him! Hold him down.” Snarling and growling filled the room as utter chaos descended. *** Yuri blinked. His eyelids were so heavy, like elephants sat on them. He was on his back, his face no longer mashed into the table. What was that sound? He was tired, and it woke him up. Yuri turned his head, the only part of his body he could seem to move. “What are you growling at now?” he asked Benny. “Yuri!” Benny flew out of his chair and leaned over the bed. “You’re awake. Thank God.” “Excuse me, I’ll go inform the doctor he’s awake.” A small woman stepped around a curtain and disappeared. “Where are we? Why does it stink so much? What happened?” Yuri’s mouth was so dry. He coughed. “Here, have a sip of water.” Benny lifted his head and helped him take a drink. “Right now, we’re at the human hospital. You had some sort of episode when they injected the venom or when Bashta began chanting. We don’t know which.” Yuri tried to reach up to touch his head, but his hand wouldn’t move. “What’s wrong with my arms” He craned his neck, trying to see... “Why am I tied down?” Yuri began to fight the wide straps across his body, holding him to the bed. “Stop, Yuri!” “No!” Yuri ignored his mate. “You’re going to hurt yourself again. Please stop. These were just a precaution. You kept having seizures. You attacked—” Benny slammed his mouth shut, looking pained. “I-I…” Yuri didn’t want to hurt anyone. “It’s okay. Everyone’s fine.” Benny leaned forward and wiped away the tears building on Yuir’s eyes. He had faint pink scratches over his forehead and nose. “Oh my god,” Yuri whispered. “I hurt you. I cut you.” He went limp in the bed. Mates didn’t hurt each other; they couldn’t. “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”
    2 points
  18. Kurt sat on the big flat rock, in his favourite place in his territory, surrounded by nature, the coppiced trees, and the scent of life. He wondered how he had gotten his life so wrong. Listening to Deoran’s life had been painful, almost too much to bear and for a long while Kurt had wondered why he was being told all of it. Was it to depress him? He’d been sad enough as it was. But that hadn’t been it. Even after everything Deoran had been through, every hurt and pain and starving night, he had accepted help, had tried to get better. If he’d been really determined to end his life, Kurt doubted if even the best efforts of Tam would have helped. But Deoran had realised he couldn’t do it alone, and allowed another person into is life to stop him from sinking down ever further, and had let that person see how weak he really was. And through the weakness he became strong again. It was easy to see now that the shivering wreck of a man Kurt had first brought in was a result of shock, fear and his own intimidation. It was not the way Deoran really was. The last thing Deoran had said to him lodged in his brain. You’ll be there for someone one day too. That meant he had to be there. Be alive and stable and responsible long enough to actually be there for someone who needed him. He wouldn’t manage it the way he was going now, swinging between emotional and physical lows and highs like a bouncing tennis ball. This could not go on any longer. Kurt shifted as he stood up, and the big black wolf flicked his ears forwards and surveyed his territory, the rolling hills and farmland, the fields of the National parkland, the woods of his pack, his family. This could not go on any longer. Someone is already relying on you for his happiness, he thought with a quick flash of guilt. You’re his mate. We have to support each other. Kurt sniffed the air, closed his eyes and picked up the scents of his pack. It surprised him when there weren’t as many as before. He could still scent all the wolves, forty-odd werewolves in different shades and scents crisscrossing the territory, but there were a few his mind picked up as belonging to him. The sweet salt spice of his mate; the cool fresh blues and purples of Jene; the sweeter, chocolate spiciness of Chaska; the paler sun scent of Isla, not yet changed, they were his pack. Oh god… You cannot do this alone. Kurt heard the voice in his mind as though Tahryn had spoken in his ear, but he wasn’t sure if it had been an actual thought or an imagined one. But the trueness of the idea focused his mind beautifully. No wolf could survive alone, and Deoran had been right, had to be right. He was the strongest wolf in his pack. He was the strongest wolf in the area, which included South Sea. The fact he wanted, desperately wanted, Tahryn to wrap him in his big tan arms and never let him go changed nothing. The thought of his mate made him stiffen in his sheath, the pink pointed tip peeking into the spring air. Oh to have the boy with him now on the hillside, nothing between them and nature but the endless sky… it was a wonderful vision. Kurt closed his eyes, put up his muzzle and howled for joy to the great big sky, the sun beating down, the little day birds in their trees. The gulls shrieked and wheeled overhead, and fell silent at his call. Kurt Ulrich howled with every bone he had in his body, every fibre of his being attuned in a song that wound on and on and on, carrying all the wondrous love he felt to any who heard the call. The elation could not be missed or misinterpreted, the love and desire of his mate ignored or eschewed, and Kurt sang until he could no longer draw breath, until he was dizzy with the thrill of it. Only once he had let his voice fade did he hear the other calls, the ending notes of the song he had sung, echoed and supported, reverberated around the territory that had once been his. He would miss this place, this outcropping of rock and trees had been his place. It would be someone else’s place now, some child of the pack that no longer included him. Tahryn’s words spun around his head in a warm golden whirl. We’re our own pack Kurt. You and I. Kurt barked, loudly, sending birds skyrocketing from the woods, running rabbits into their holes again. He looked around his own skull and could only find himself, and the lingering press of his mate. There was no wolf side, no human side fighting for dominance. It had all been twisted and strange and wrong. He was just Kurt. Kurt Ulrich, which meant wolf power, the name his mate had chosen for them together. They were both in charge, both dominant, both submissive. The howl exploded out of him again so hard the trees shook around the power of the big black wolf, every hair of his pelt standing on end as he sang his joy. He was alive and he knew what he wanted and where he was supposed to be. ‘I love you.’ Kurt turned to see the big fluffy sandy coloured wolf staring at him with wide ice blue eyes. He barked to his mate, yapping, and his tail already high and wagging back and forth. The yellow wolf grinned with his tongue out and came to stand beside his mate on the flat rock. Kurt pushed his whole body up against the wolf he loved, thrummed his pleasure and licked around his muzzle. Tahryn swished his tail in his face invitingly. Kurt grinned. * Tahryn Ulrich made a whining noise in his throat as Kurt passed him over, walked around him and rubbed himself against his fluffy chest. The howl of his mate had reached down his throat and found his heart and squeezed it beyond all rationality when he’d heard the call. He’d run the whole way there on four feet, his clothes were scattered and shredded somewhere in the wild scrubland between the school and the forest proper, and he didn’t care at all. Kurt had shouted his love to the sky and Tahryn had known, just known, he had to come, to be here with the man he was going to love for the rest of his life. Now he lowered his head as Kurt moved around him and pressed his muzzle very firmly again the black wolf’s underbelly where his pink cock was already peeking. Kurt growled, ears, forwards, tail wagging to show it was a game, and turned to push him over. Tahryn slipped on the stone, lost his footing and slipped onto his side. His mate’s nose was cold through his fur, nudging and nuzzling him. Tahryn rolled fully onto his back, paws floppy, to show his belly, bringing his tail up automatically to cover himself. Kurt licked at his soft belly and the stiffness of his sheath, long tongue working wonders in ways human mouths couldn’t do. Tahryn whimpered and whined and made his delight very clear to the wolf who was his lover. Kurt’s tongue was wet and rough and Tahryn’s reddish erection sensitive and wanting, pulsing along with his racing heart. When Kurt moved further south to his taint he wriggled and squirmed and found a big paw planted on his ribs as he lover explored him. Kurt’s nose was cold under his tail and Tahryn yelped. ‘Oh Kurt…please, please, please let me up. I want you to fuck me so bad…’ the thought ended in a whimper and Tahryn felt Kurt’s smile. He loved to win. Kurt moved his paw and Tahryn twisted around until he could stand. He took the opportunity to rub his muzzle and face against Kurt’s thick black ruff, coating himself in the scent of his mate: the thick wetness of moss growing on bark, the crisp sharpness of new green leaves unfurling in the dew; then he dipped he head and licked once at Kurt’s exposed shaft, remembering with delight the thick knot that would form at the base. Kurt huffed softly and Tahryn wanted to be back inside his head again, to know what he thought. ‘Want you.’ He whined softly, swivelling his ears to follow his mate as the black wolf moved around him. He lifted his tail over his back, exposing the tight pink entrance under his fluffy tail and shuddered as he felt Kurt’s sharp paws at his ribs, mounting him. The press of flesh on flesh, Tahryn gritted his fangs and tried not to whimper, knowing the good was going to come really soon after the pain. ‘Are you OK?’ ‘Yes. Keep going.’ Tahryn begged and took half a step back, forcing the hot rigid length of his mate further into his tight entrance, and was rewarded with Kurt’s thrusting hips. Kurt pounded into him as only a canine can, fast as a jackhammer, hitting every time the bundle of nerve endings that made him snap and snarl in pleasure as the sensation built. ‘Tay… oh god.’ ‘Yes! Yes, oh Kurt, please…’ Even their thoughts were incomplete and incomprehensible as they moved against each other, their panting and growling joining the sounds of nature as they renewed their mated relationship. Tahryn felt himself getting really close, his untouched cock burning with want and need and the desire to come, and snarled when Kurt pulled back instead of pushing the delicious expanse of his knot further into his body. ‘Sorry…’ ‘What’s the matter? Babe…” Tahryn stared at his mate, but the big black wolf was unreadable. Then he smiled, eyes shining, and shifted. The boy Tahryn loved stood there in front of him, naked and perfect, his pale skin contrasting wonderfully with the rose pink blush of his slim tapered erection. He was perfect in every single way. The red scars took nothing from him, the hairline white marks on his face serving only to improve his beauty. Tahryn felt something warm deep in the pit of his stomach. He could feel that the time he wanted was here, now. Nothing could be better as the sun made the world glow gold and green. Tahryn Ulrich rubbed himself against his mate’s bare legs, the feeling of skin on fur unusual this way around and felt Kurt’s fingers running through his pelt, touching him right down to his soul. He changed forms, coming to stand upright, suddenly looking down at his boy. The man he wanted to make love to. “Pup…” Tahryn was surprised to find his voice breaking under the weight of the emotion as Kurt came to him, looped long arms around his waist and laid himself along Tahryn’s front. They fitted together like they were made for each other; Kurt’s head rested on his shoulder, the four inch height difference working to bring them more perfectly together. Tahryn’s thick member pressed against Kurt’s belly, the soft skin he loved to see. Kurt’s own was trapped between his thigh and Kurt’s pointed hip as they stood toe to toe. “Are you sure?” “Yes.” Kurt used one hand to trace distracting circles on the thick flat muscles of his upper chest. “I want to. Can I touch you?” “Yes please.” Tahryn knew his breath was short, his vision blurring at the edges as Kurt’s rough slender hand wrapped around his girth. He twitched in his boy’s hand and Kurt giggled softly. Tahryn put two fingers under his chin, lifted his face and kissed him. He tasted like summer rain and new grass, and Tahryn groaned, running his fingers through Kurt’s hair, grabbing at the longer length and turning his face until he exposed the perfect pale column of his neck. He bit and nipped and licked his way along Kurt’s throat as the boy gripped his thickening shaft, his hand moving slowly and oh-so-sweetly up and down the impressive length. He pulled up more blood, a bruise to mark his mate. Everyone would know how lucky he was to have such a beautiful and strong partner. “Flatterer.” Kurt gasped, and Tahryn rumbled a growl, remembering the boy could hear him. “Oh god…” He was panting now, the smooth muscles of his abdomen constricting as Tahryn worked his hands across his body, one to palm flat the perfectly proportioned cock, the other to cup his arse, which had driven Tahryn mad for months. “I want to make love to you.” Kurt pulled back and frowned. “What are you, a girl?” Tahryn snarled and in two seconds Kurt was flat back on the rough warm stone, Tahryn looming over him, making a cage with his arms and legs. He growled. “I want to fuck you until you can barely remember your own name.” He rumbled. Kurt pressed a hand over his heart and smiled. It was still a shy smile, unsure and sort-of innocent in a very warped way, but his eyes sparkled, honey and bronze in the sunlight. “There’s my man.” And the words clawed up the side of Tahryn’s self-esteem and made him feel like a god to have the boy who was the strongest wolf he’d ever known look at him like that. He ran a big hand down’s Kurt’s body, loving it when his pup shivered and writhed under his touch, his cheeks staining the same pink as his lovely cock. Tahryn wet two fingers in his mouth and touched at Kurt’s entrance. He pressed his nose to Kurt’s navel and inhaled the scent of his mate. ‘Christ you’re beautiful. I am such a lucky bastard.’ Kurt was gasping and making small wanting noises in his throat and Tahryn pushed saliva slicked fingers into him, past the tight ring of muscle and into the wet waiting heat of his mate. It was easy to see where Kurt found the fire for his temper, the heat inside him was intense and amazing. Tahryn kissed his mate as he moved his fingers, seeking out the reflected spot in himself that would make Kurt beg for him. He knew he’d found it when Kurt bit his other arm and raked short but sharp nails across his back. “Oh fuck, there! Oh Tay, please do it again!” Tahryn smiled proprietarily down at his mate. “What pup?” He asked, feigning innocence. “That!” Kurt groaned, his head rolled back on the stone. “Touch me there again please?” Tahryn obliged and had the pleasure of watching Kurt groan as his eyes fluttered closed. He was panting, his pale skin slicked with sweat, his thighs parted for Tahryn, opening up for him as the pleasure built between them. Tahryn’s own erection was leaking pre-come, pulsing and begging to be buried in the white hot heat. But not yet. “Why not?” Kurt’s hand had found his hair, twisted in the golden locks. “Please Tay, I want it.” Tahryn growled low and curved his neck to lick at each of Kurt’s hard nipples as he inserted a third finger, pushing and twisting his hand to stretch out Kurt’s entrance. Kurt screamed. He took his boy’s chin in his hand and kissed him roughly, feeling Kurt open up to him, push against his tongue, kiss him back and welcome him in, then the smaller werewolf bucked against his hand and Tahryn knew he was ready. He bit at Kurt’s neck again, marking the skin where neck joined shoulder darkly. He wanted everyone to see, to know this was his. ‘Say it pup.’ He thought the words, loud and clear, so Kurt would know what he wanted from him. Kurt whimpered, but he still bucked against Tahryn’s invading fingers, still writhing underneath him. “Say it for me.” “Please…” “Please what?” Kurt’s voice was small and low, but clear, and Tahryn felt every muscle tense as his mate begged for him. “Please fuck me Tay.” “Good boy.” Tahryn couldn’t stop the bark of pleasure that expelled from him. He kissed Kurt and withdrew his fingers, then sat up and back to look at the panting mess of his mate. Kurt’s eyes were huge, the pupils dilated to the size of saucers. Every muscle stood out in definition. His pale skin was desperate and wanting. Slowly, not wanting to give in to his own touch, Tahryn spread his body’s warm natural lubricant over his cock, pushing Kurt’s thighs further apart with his knees as he lined the head up with the boy’s tight hot entrance. ‘I love you.’ “I know.” Kurt was panting, scared but sure this time. “I love you.” ‘Breathe.’ Tahryn thought, and pushed forwards. It was like being squeezed by a volcano, but hotter, soft and tight and moist and so perfect Tahryn wondered if he would make it out alive from this sensation that stripped every nerve he had and set his whole body on fire. The sensation of his mate surrounded him, pressing on his body and his mind and Tahryn could barely think, let alone imagine a better place to be than buried up to the hilt in the tight body of the boy he loved. He stopped himself from thrusting and waited, experiencing Kurt’s body pulsing around him, allowing the boy time to adjust. ‘Ready?’ Tahryn smiled at his mate and leant down to kiss him. Kurt met him halfway with a thrust. ‘God yes. Please fuck me.’ “Well hey there.” Tahryn couldn’t keep the self-satisfied grin from his voice and hearing Kurt in his mind again. Tahryn followed the words by drawing his great length slowly from his mate until only the head remained buried inside his pulsing column, pushing down Kurt’s hips to abort his movements to get the sensation back. “Damn you!” “Now, now…” Tahryn kissed him again, loving the way the scent of his mate filled his senses. ‘Bad dogs don’t get what they want.’ ‘If you don’t fuck me now I swear I’ll…’ but the though didn’t finish as Tahryn thrust back, in one hard and fast jerk of his hips. Instead Kurt groaned from between gritted teeth. ‘Is that what you wanted?’ Tahryn punctuated every word by drawing out slowly before pounding into his mate. Kurt gnashed his teeth and snarled, tossing his head. ‘YES! Oh Tay please, please…’ Tahryn knew he’d won, his mate was in his arms, begging him to bang him into oblivion and the big blond werewolf was only too happy to oblige. He released Kurt’s hips, tensing his own shoulders, knowing he wasn’t going to last too long. Everything was too intense. Kurt rocked up to meet him at every thrust as Tahryn reamed him with all the force he had. “Touch yourself.” He growled, and Kurt obeyed him instantly, both hands going around his slim cock, gripping and jerking in time with Tahryn’s thrusts. Kurt tightened around him somehow, impossible as that seemed, and Tahryn felt his own balls contract, ready and wanting. He forced himself to hang on, hold out. Kurt’s eyes met his, and the thought of his impending orgasm wasn’t even in words, just knowledge supplanted directly to his brain. Kurt moaned and cried out as he came, splashing thick white seed over his own hands, onto the smooth skin of his belly, offering himself to his dominant mate. He contracted around Tahryn’s thick length automatically and Tahryn roared, his own ecstasy going off like a depth charge, blowing out every nerve and synapse in his brain as he flooded Kurt’s heated channel with his come. Their movements stilled then halted, both teenagers panting, tongues out like wolves, sweat dripping from skin and hair and they started into each other’s eyes. Ice blue reflected wonder and lust at tawny brown and for several moments that were more than an eternity and less than minutes, the world existed entirely of the two stranded connection of pleasure and love. ‘That was…’ Kurt couldn’t even string more than two words together in his head and Tahryn chuckled and lent down to kiss him. ‘You are amazing.’ ‘So are you.’ Tahryn allowed himself to relax, and shifted his weight as he pulled out from his lover. Kurt mewled as the sensation vanished. ‘Miss me already?’ ‘Self-conceited bastard.’ Kurt was snappy and sarcastic even in his thoughts. ‘Why didn’t you tell me it was this good?’ Tahryn chuckled and rolled with the boy in his arms until Kurt was lying curled on top of him. He stroked the short hairs on the back of his skull and vibrated happily. “I’m so glad we found each other pup.” Tahryn had to fight to find his voice again. It was simple to think to his mate now that they could hear each other. He forced himself, he wanted the air and the trees and the birds to hear him so there would be a record of what he said. “I’m lucky to have you.” “Really?” Kurt looked doubtful, but Tahryn did not want him remembering their many fights. “Yeah. Who else is gonna make my life this interesting huh?” “Bastard.” Kurt sat up and stretched, popping his spine and flexing, ‘Ah… that hurts.’ ‘Is it bad?’ Tahryn was up and reaching towards his mate as he stood, concern written all over his features. “Ha! Some dominant wolf you are!” Kurt gripped his wrist and hauled the bigger werewolf to his feet. “It’s just sore.” ‘Sorry.’ ‘No you’re not.’ “No.” Tahryn kissed his mate long and slow, pressing all of Kurt against him despite the stickiness of their exertions. “I’m not. That was awesome.” Kurt brushed grit from his lower back and butt with one hand. “Maybe we can bring blankets next time, or a bed.” Kurt winced when he walked and Tahryn scooped him up quickly. “Oh for-! Put me down you great oaf.” “Nah…” Tahryn grinned happily at the man he loved. “It’ll save your feet. We’d best go find somewhere to have a shower yeah?” ‘Can we do it in the bath again?’ the mental picture Kurt flashed him made the blood drain from Tahryn’s head to his crotch really quickly. “Yes.” He replied firmly, “Yes please.”
    2 points
  19. Magic 8-Ball says . . . Concentrate and ask again. Thanks, Mann. I will concentrate and continue to learn the craft. That's what I will do.
    1 point
  20. "Infinite sad mischief has resulted from the profane bursting open of secret recesses." -- Indeed. I am afraid that I can't add anything to your work but I enjoyed your essay very much.
    1 point
  21. Prolog It’s the week before New Year’s and Chad and Aaron are enjoying a movie date together at the theater in the mall one night. With his eyes fixed on the screen, Chad reaches over in the darkness for some more popcorn when Aaron moves it away teasingly. Chad’s hand ends up touching Aaron’s pants crotch by mistake before he pulls his hands away in realization and embarrassment. “Whoops! Sorry about that!” Chad says, “I didn’t mean to do that. Um I just wanted -” “Do you want to?” Aaron simply asks him and he turns in his seat to face him. Chad gets red in the face by the question and stutters, “Whoa. Aaron, I dunno if we’re ready for –” Aaron smirks and states, “Hey, hey! What I meant was do you want to have some more of my popcorn?” Chad gasps in embarrassment before he elbows him playfully in the shoulder. He takes some more of the popcorn from the large bucket between them before he remarks, “Thanks for sharing that after.” Aaron tells him, “Look, I know we’re still getting to know each other and I like what we share right now. So I want you to know I would never try to rush the two of us into anything that could end up ruining this if we’re not ready.” Chad sits back and thinks back to the time when he ran away out of town with Rick and muses in response, “You almost always regret when you rush into things without really thinking them through.” Aaron slouches back in his chair and comments, “Hmm. I wish Dustin would understand that.” Chad looks at the friendship bracelet on his wrist before he muses, “Dustin and I have been become pretty good friends and all but I hope he isn’t always getting into trouble like before with the military.” Aaron folds his arms and remarks, “Well he’s still in big trouble for kissing my boyfriend on Christmas.” Chad sees him pouting childishly and playfully confesses, “Well, Dustin has kinda kissed me before.” Aaron furrows his eyebrows before he sits up and turns to him, “Say what?” Chad explains to him, “It was back when he was hiding out at my school and way before I met you. But he was just using it as a cover when these military guys were passing by. I’m sure he was just messing around this time to cause a little trouble because of the mistletoe. I mean, what else could it be?” Aaron simply says, “What I’m sure of is that Dustin is probably getting himself into trouble right now.” = = = Over at Rita Allen’s dorm, Dustin arrives to see that her boyfriend, Ray Torres, sitting on the couch in the living room, reading some football magazine. Dustin slips off his jacket and places it on the rack before he walks in. Dustin looks around the dorm before he says, “Hey Ray. Where’s my sister?” “Oh, hey Dustin. She’s in the next room taking some kind of important phone call,” Ray looks up at him and replies, “But you know I just have to wonder if you ever gave that poor girl that you slept with at my dorm a call after what happened.” Dustin looks around in a panic before he whispers harshly, “Omigosh Ray! Can you drop this already?” Ray continues, “I just can’t understand how people can take such a serious step like that like it’s nothing. I mean I would never go all that way with someone unless I was sure that whatever we had was truly something special.” Dustin shakes his head, “I can only be glad you’re so noble since you’re dating my sister, after all.” Ray says, “Yeah? Well you should try being noble sometime. Maybe things work out better for you in the future,” and it’s about then that he gets a text from his coach so he then says, “Looks like I have to go meet my coach for something. Tell your sister I’ll be back later.” With that, Ray gets his jacket and heads out. Dustin sighs in exasperation as he closes the door. Just then, Dustin’s own cell phone starts to ring. He muses that it seems like everyone is getting a call for New Year’s and he hopes this one is a good call before he answers. Dustin’s eyes bulge and he looks around the room cautiously before he whispers harshly, “Look, I told you no one is going to find out what we did, okay? I want this to remain a secret just as much as you do! So it would help if you would stop calling me all the time!” He hangs up. However, he is then startled by the voice that suddenly comes from behind him. “I can only hope you’re not in any more trouble despite what I just heard,” school reporter Rita Allen states as she walks into the room, “So you should tell me what that phone call was all about so I can be sure you haven’t gotten yourself into another mess.” Dustin tells her, “Oh hey, sis. That? That was nothing I can’t control on my own. It’s fine really.” “I sure hope you’re right,” Rita Allen folds her arms and says. “Although what that phone call was about is yet another thing you’re going to keep from your own sister. Like the mysterious person you have feelings for or who gave you that bracelet you can’t seem to take off.” Dustin raises an eyebrow and folds his arm as he retorts, “Oh? Like how you can’t tell me the real reason you want to assume nothing but the worst of Chad Blackman and his connection to Rick Hayes.” Rita Allen frowns and says defensively, “What? Dustin, I already told you how close Chad and Rick were. I told you how Chad had been wearing the same jacket Rick wore when he manipulated those students into attempted suicide and how Chad was missing from school when Rick disappeared from town!” Dustin asks, “Then sure, I understand that Chad and Rick could’ve been close and Chad could’ve just borrowed that jacket. So with Chad’s missing classes with Rick’s disappearance, why didn’t you just assume that Chad was in some way another victim of Rick's manipulation just like the other students?” Rita Allen pauses before she simply says, “I guess that’s why we have to start planning now.” Dustin frowns, “What are you talking about? We have to start planning what?” Rita Allen explains, “We have to start planning now that I just got that call about the editor-in-chief vacancy that just opened up at the school newspaper. I just thought about it and I’ve decided I want to run for that editor-in-chief position.” “Editor-in-chief, huh?” Dustin comments, “I remember when I tried out a journalism stint like yours over at my school a while back, and I know that the editor-in-chief position can be pretty tough to get.” “It sure is,” Rita Allen replies, “But I’ve got to take the chance while I have it, right? Besides, if I get the job, not only would it make good experience for my future career but I can make sure the newspaper tells nothing but the truth about everyone. And maybe I can finally have the resources I need to show everyone all the real secrets Chad has been keeping about Rick Hayes.” Dustin wonders if she can really find out the truth that he knows. Rita Allen has a determined look. = = = Meanwhile, at a restaurant, Vitani and Josh are standing in the waiting area in semiformal evening wear. They had been waiting for Evan and Eliza to show up, as they are late for the reservation. Vitani and Josh get anxious and decide to go look outside. After they get outside, there is no sign of their expected dates. However, Josh’s cell phone vibrates. Josh looks at it, “Hey, I just got a text from Ellie saying they want tonight to be full of surprises.” Vitani looks at her cell phone, “I just got the same text from Evan. What do you think is going on?” Just then, a man in white lab coat runs towards them in a panic. He pushes his way past them, dropping a large thin envelope as he does. Vitani picks it up to give it back to him but he runs off. She sees a small label on the envelope that it is from a local research center. Josh looks around but no one is following the man. Josh wonders if the man was in some sort of trouble and takes after him with Vitani following. The man turns into a nearby alley but is cornered by a dead end. He yells out frantically with nowhere to escape just as Vitani and Josh turn in the alley. Just as they arrive, a bright white light flashes from at the dead end of the alley, causing them both to shield their eyes as the man yells. When the light finally fades away, they look, only to see the man has vanished from the alley. Vitani and Josh exchange astonished looks. Alien In the alley, Vitani and Josh are shocked by what just happened, since there is no trace of the man ever having been there except for the envelope he had dropped earlier. Josh is worried and suggests they get out of the alley, pulling Vitani along. As they walk away, Josh looks back in confusion as he asks, “What the hell was that bright light?” Vitani nods and adds, “And what’s in this envelope he dropped. Maybe it can give us some sort of clue as to what’s going on. Let’s see,” and so she opens the envelope and pulls out what appears to be a picture of a hailstone along with an infrared image of the hailstone… and the September freak storm around when Chad had arrived in town, “Hey look! This is the storm; that was how we all knew of the coming of Chad as the chosen one.” Josh looks at it and remarks, “But that storm was really an omen of the impending rise of the oscinades. So this man’s disappearance must have something to do with an oscinade too. Maybe that scientist guy uncovered something big about -” “Maybe we can uncover something big ourselves,” comes two familiar voices. Vitani and Josh look up to see Evan and Eliza standing outside of the restaurant. Vitani and Eliza hug before she then hugs Evan as they greet. Josh hugs Eliza and nods to her cousin Evan as they all greet. Eliza says, “Oh. You guys must have gone for a walk while you were waiting for us. Sorry about that.” Evan explains, “Yeah. I was just paying off the PI who helped us all find Eliza, when she and I both decided that he could maybe help us with something else. Something else just as important.” With that, Evan opens the door to let them head back inside. Vitani and Josh exchange curious looks. = = = Back at the movie theater at the mall, Chad's cell phone rings in his pocket so he rushes to answer it before it annoyed the other patrons in the theater. It’s Dustin calling. Aaron sees it come up on Chad’s phone screen and frowns a little to himself. Chad smirks, “Hehe. Speaking of our good friend Dustin, let me go see what’s up. Be right back.” With that, Chad answers it and jogs out of the theater to answer the call. Aaron secretly grimaces. Meanwhile, out in the concession area, Chad puts the cell phone to his ear, “Hey Dustin, what’s up?” “My sister is running for the editor-in-chief position at your school newspaper,” Dustin states. Chad frowns a little and muses, “Oh. I have a feeling I know one reason why she’s going after that job.” Dustin agrees, “She’d have way more control at the school newspaper and that kind of power could give better access to all sorts of files and reports at SyndAcad. Maybe even ones about … Rick Hayes.” Chad remarks, “Your sister has a determination that’s good for her job, but seems to mean bad news for me.” Dustin adds, “Since I did a journalism stint once at my school, she says she wants me to run as assistant editor. But then if she’s gets the job, I could find out whatever she’s up to and make sure she doesn’t do anything crazy about this Rick thing.” Chad says, “You’d do that for me? But still, Dustin, I don’t want to be the reason you, like, undermine your sister's career or anything.” “I would never undermine her career,” Dustin says, “But I would never let her hurt you if there’s something that I can do about it.” Chad is touched and says, “Thanks Dustin. I know it means something when I’m wearing this bracelet.” “Really? You’re wearing the friendship bracelet now?” Dustin smiles, “So am I. I’m wearing mine too.” “Really? That’s awesome,” Chad looks around before he giggles, “Except it might make a certain boyfriend of mine twice as jealous after he saw you kiss me like that under the mistletoe.” “Huh? Kissed you like what?” Dustin teases with a smirk. “Almost like … I dunno … like there was something else going between us, hehe,” Chad replies, “But I know you were just playing around and Aaron probably knows that too. He’s known you longer than I have. Hey, maybe Aaron even already knows that you’re gay.” “Well I never told him about that,” Dustin says. “Aaron didn’t have to tell you he was bi,” Chad points out, “Maybe he picked up on you the same way.” “But I never felt this way about a boy until I met – ” Dustin trails off before he says, “Until recently.” “I’d ask Aaron about it but that’s probably a conversation you two should have yourselves. Anyway, I should get back inside the movie theater,” Chad explains, “Aaron and I are sorta on a date right now. So we’ll talk later. And hey, thanks for telling me about your sister’s latest plans to destroy me.” “You know I’d like to make plans for us to hang out sometime soon,” Dustin says, “For the friends we say we are, it seems I can only hang with you when you’re not on a date with my roommate and when my sister isn’t trying to keep me away from you.” Chad giggles, “We just have to make sure that no matter what, you and I find our way to each other.” Dustin sighs before he replies, “Well I hope we can find our way to each other soon.” After they hang up, Chad passes the concession stand and smiles when he decides to buy himself some popcorn first to avoid any more awkwardness on their date before he heads back inside to finish the movie with his boyfriend, Aaron. = = = Over at the restaurant, Evan, Eliza, Vitani and Josh take a seat at their reserved table to talk. Evan begins, “Vitani, since we all know that your mother used an alias at the orphanage in Italy before you got transferred to NY with us, we can send the PI to Italy to check for someone with that name and who had her last description, and had the same silver pendant you’re wearing.” Vitani shakes her head, “But sending a PI to Italy would cost a fortune, much less hiring one.” Eliza explains, “Don’t worry about that. We still have trust fund money from when our family died.” Evan adds, “Right. And maybe even Josh could help out, right Josh?” Josh ponders on it and replies, “Sure. It might mean asking my father for help but I would totally do that if this PI guy could get us answers to your past, Vitani.” Vitani replies, “Thanks a lot guys. Really. It’s so touching to me that you are all thinking of me like this. But you guys also have to think that if the police hadn’t found anything then over a decade ago, there’s probably less to find now. My mother didn’t want to be found.” Eliza suggests, “But maybe it’s like what I did. I settled down in Westpoint City and even started seeing people like Josh when I didn’t think anyone was looking for me here.” Josh agrees, “And who else is back there searching for your mother more than a decade later?” Vitani remarks, “With a silver pendant like this, my mother could probably afford to send a PI looking for me herself, but has she?” Evan replies, “Well this is our chance to find out the answers to that question and so much more.” Vitani sighs and says, “Look guys, I could never forgive myself if I let you invest so much in something that might only be a lost cause. But I will always love all of you for even being willing to. There might be a time I’m willing to power that search for my mother, but it’s not right now.” Eliza hugs her and tells her, “We totally understand, Vitani. And we’re always here if you need us.” Josh reaches over and touches Vitani hand, “Yeah. I hope you know much we all care about you.” Vitani smiles at him, “I do.” Evan clears his throat, “I also think it’s time … that you know how I felt about you, Vitani.” Vitani looks up. Eliza smiles knowingly and Josh turns and raises an eyebrow. Evan looks right at her. He takes a deep breath before he continues, “Because not only may I have had a crush on you from back at the orphanage, but I’ve had feelings for you from the time I came here to Westpoint City. And those have both grown into this amazing feeling I get every time I see you now. So now I want the chance to show you. So Vitani … will you go out with me?” Josh looks on expectantly. Eliza grins happily and Vitani giggles to herself. Evan waits for a reply. Vitani gives him a look before she nods and smiles, “Hehe. Yes Evan. I would love to.” Evan lets out a sigh of nervous relief before they get up and hug each other affectionately. Eliza is ecstatic about her best friends’ growing relationship. Josh meanwhile looks away in deep thought. = = = Back at SyndAcad, Ray drops by the newspaper office where Rita Allen is preparing for the editor-in-chief campaign. The school reporter is unpacking some papers to be used as flyers during her run for office when she sees him at the door. Ray props against the doorway and tells her, “Hey you, I nabbed some planetarium tickets today and I wondered if you wanted me to take you out. Maybe I can even take you to the stars tomorrow, hehe.” Rita Allen says, “Oh! The planetarium convention I heard about. That’s really awesome. But I don’t think I can make it, sorry Ray. I’m super busy right now because I have to write an application letter, an essay and then draw up a whole campaign plan since I’m gonna be running for the editor-in-chief position here at the newspaper. It just opened up and I just got started.” Ray pouts cutely and asks, “Wouldn’t you rather spend time with me?” Rita Allen promises, “Look, I’m definitely gonna at least make it to the gathering at Look-Out Point on the night before New Year’s for the fireworks. But tonight and tomorrow I definitely have to make the most of it for this campaign.” Ray nods and says, “Fine. I guess I’ll just let you get back to work and I’ll um see you later.” With that, Ray kisses her on the cheek and excuses himself from the room. Rita Allen is already darting from here to there with more files for the campaign and hardly notices Ray’s dejected look. She heads into the backroom. Outside, Ray looks at the tickets and tells himself he knows the perfect person to ask and walks away. After he walks away, Amber and Christy stop nearby and start to talk. Rita Allen meanwhile keeps working in the office on her campaign when she overhears the other reporter girls talking to the Milano sisters outside of the door and her name gets mentioned. She stops and listens at the door. Rita Allen overhears the reporter girls discuss whether they think that she will get the job or not. The Milano sisters talk about how they just heard her shoot down her own boyfriend to focus on preparing for her campaign plans. They gawk that Ray Torres is not only sweet and handsome but that he is the star football player and if it were them, they would not give him up for the world. They suddenly go silent and walk along past the office. Rita Allen steps away from the door just as her brother Dustin returns with two lattes in hand. Dustin knocks the door shut with his hip before he says, “Hey sis, saw some of your competition outside. Have they even got a campaign of their own going? Maybe we won’t even need a campaign this big.” After he puts down a latte for her and gets back to work on the flyers, Rita Allen meanwhile wonders if she did the right thing by turning down Ray’s offer for a date at the planetarium. She looks over at Dustin planning out the flyers as she takes up her latte from the table. Rita Allen sips on her latte and thinks to herself, ‘Oh we need this campaign alright. I’m doing this campaign to really make sure I get the chance to not only show you but to show Ray the truth about Chad Blackman once and for all.’ = = = Sometime the next day, Chad stops by the condo to catch up with his friends. He finds Vitani and Josh looking over some newspaper articles in the living room. Chad takes off his jacket and heads over. Vitani asks, “Hey Chad, how was your date with Aaron last night?” Chad says, “Um, it was pretty cool. How was your night out?” Josh says, “You’ll never guess half of what happened, squirt.” Vitani cuts in, “But for starters, I’ve now got a date for New Year’s this year like the two of you. My best friend Evan asked me out to the party we’re gonna be hosting at the Libretta.” Chad smiles, “Hey that’s great. I always could tell Evan had some kind of feelings for you, but I wasn’t sure if it was just fondness from your past together.” Vitani muses, “Yeah. Evan and I have been through a lot together. And I guess he probably didn’t tell me about his feelings after I started going out with the basketball captain Brett from WP. Then I laid off dating after how things between me and Brett ended. But I’ve got a whole year of possibilities ahead of me now!” Chad turns and asks, “So why doesn’t Josh look too happy?” Josh looks up and claims, “Huh? Oh. I was just thinking about the other thing that happened last night.” Vitani nods and clears her throat before she says, “We think we saw a man get abducted last night.” Chad looks at them incredulously, “You mean like alien abducted?” “Yup, one minute he was there and the next minute, after a bright light – gone,” Vitani nods and shows him a newspaper article from a few months ago that she dug up at the library, “Take a look at this.” It’s about some scientists at the Storm Research Center who reported that they detected an anomaly of infrared radiation in a hailstone that crashed on site during the September storm. They were suspicious the hailstone contained extraterrestrial life. However, it was laughed off by the scientific community since it was claimed by Dr. Reid, an eccentric scientist whose previous outlandish ideas got him a bunch of denied research grants. Vitani nods and says, “That guy, Dr. Reid, he’s the same man Josh and I saw disappear.” Chad looks at the article and asks, “How do you guys know who he was?” Josh explains, “He dropped this envelope; we found his name printed at the bottom.” Vitani says, “So we called the research center and they said Dr. Reid hasn’t returned for the last few days. But then they also said it wasn’t unusual, given his eccentric behavior. I think it will be a while before they think his disappearance means anything close to what we saw.” Chad then looks at the images from the envelope and says, “Hmm. Well according to these images, the hailstone's thermal readings are an exact match for a region of heat in the September storm cloud.” Vitani says, “Well I just researched hailstone formation and we found out that they form when heat updrafts push rain up into freezing regions of the storm cloud. So when the frozen rain becomes too heavy, it falls back down and out of the cloud as hail.” Chad nods and says, “Right. That makes sense but what doesn’t make sense is how a huge storm would only produce a single hailstone report. And according to what’s written at the back, the thermal readings are similar to that of some kind of cold-blooded organism. This is implying there was some kind of life up there in that storm when I came to Westpoint City.” Vitani muses, “I guess that must have made this even more laughable when Dr. Reid suggested it.” Josh shakes his head and says, “But now we definitely know there had to be more to all this.” Chad looks up, “What do you mean? You guys think this is probably oscinade related?” “When isn’t it oscinade related?” Vitani remarks, “But now we know it is for sure. You see back in September before we found out you were an auranade, we had no choice but to ignore oscinade activity in the city, since we couldn’t banish them without a third auranade. Things in this town were getting pretty bad. Then we were visited by the oscinade of omens, who showed up to put the scare in us. He said that if we didn’t find the chosen one before it was too late that evil would reign upon the city in the face of the storm. So when the storm came that’s how we knew the chosen one was in town, and we eventually figured out that chosen one was you, Chad.” Chad looks up in awe that the storm when he came to Westpoint City was a sign of much to come. Josh says, “So the September storm was part of the omen of the oscinades’ impending rise before we finally put a stop to it when we stopped Rick Hayes’ plans for you on the bridge and the auranades were united.” “Then the storm went away,” Chad muses in following, “But then if it occurred just by a rise in oscinade activity, it must have been powered by some kind of dark forces. So then we have to wonder if those same forces sent some oscinade that could have lived inside the hailstone that the scientist Dr. Reid found.” Josh notes, “Well we’ve faced all kinds of oscinades this year that were capable of about anything.” Vitani looks up and says, “So where is this oscinade now and what has it done with Dr. Reid?” = = = After a small beep from the security settings, Chad, Vitani and Josh enter the front door to the Storm Research Center on the outskirts of town and are met by a male scientist in a lab coat, carrying some boxes of equipment. He has a name tag pinned on his coat, identifying him as Dr. Groff. “What brings you kids all the way out here?” Dr. Groff asks curiously. “We’re all um doing this winter project thing for school,” Chad claims, “So we were really hoping to see the hailstone you and your team here found a few months ago with a claim it possibly contained life?” Dr. Groff lets out a heavy sigh, “Either you kids do your research or I bet you probably Googled ‘weird things of winter in Westpoint City’. But I’m sorry to disappoint you, since the display had been taken down ever since it got ridiculed by the scientific community - as you probably also read in some article.” Vitani says, “But with the possibility that it all could’ve been something big, I’m sure you guys must’ve kept something on the hailstone. It would mean a lot to us if we could get more information on it.” Josh adds, “Yeah. I kinda wanted to deal with this ‘project’ of ours and get it out of the way before New Year’s. I’ve got this date with my girlfriend and I –” Chad cuts in, “We’re just really curious as to how a hailstone could produce thermal radiation similar to that of a living cold-blooded organism. No fish or frog would’ve ever survived that long in a storm like that one. It almost makes you wonder if this thing could’ve been from … outer space or something.” Dr. Groff looks up at the mention of the words ‘outer space’. Chad, Vitani and Josh exchange looks. The scientist sighs again, “Since you kids seem to have the enthusiasm my team and I had about the hailstone when we’d first found it, I’ll see what I can do. Maybe I can show you some of the last collected information we had on it.” With that, Chad, Vitani and Josh follow him into an office with Dr. Reid’s name printed on the outside of the door. However, when they get inside, they look around to see the room is mostly empty. They notice papers are scattered everywhere. “Although this is typical of Dr. Reid to not be here, neither is his data on the hailstone,” Dr. Groff comments as he goes through the papers, “He was reassessing the hailstone again this week and yet all of his files on the hailstone are gone. Let me check the security cameras.” Dr. Groff runs upstairs with Chad, Vitani and Josh curiously following. When the alarmed scientist types in a few passwords on a computer, the view of security camera outside of Dr. Reid’s room pops up. He checks the log of the last time Dr. Reid was seen. A video plays of Dr. Reid leaving his office in some kind of panicked hurry. A few minutes later, a bright white light is seen coming from the opposite corner of the hallway. The camera starts to fizz before it scrambles and blacks out. Vitani and Josh look at each other upon seeing a bright light similar to the one they had seen in the alley where Dr. Reid had disappeared last night. “What the hell was that bright light?” Dr. Groff wonders, “It was getting closer to the camera just before the footage got ruined. It’s as if it could have produced the thermal readings we got … from the hailstone.” Chad gulps and muses, “You think that means that –” Dr. Groff replies, “I think I have contact our other partner, Dr. Haden, presenting at the planetarium tonight and discuss this matter. I also think you kids better get out of here until we get more information about what’s going on.” “C’mon guys. We should probably be getting back to SyndAcad anyway,” Josh remarks worriedly. Chad, Vitani and Josh nod before they leave the room. As Dr. Groff escorts them out, he locks the door to the center right after they leave. He has a worried look on his face as he watches the three drive off in Josh’s jeep. Dr. Groff turns around to see a bright light approach him. He yells out as a zapping sound is heard. = = = At the Libretta, Chad, Vitani and Josh return to help with a New Year’s party being hosted there tomorrow, as they wonder what was going on with the scientists, the hailstone, the mysterious bright light and its connection to a new mysterious oscinade. The three auranades are helping set up the tables for the party. Chad places some napkins on the table as he muses, “When I got back from my aunt’s after Christmas and heard about the planetarium, all of the tickets were already sold out. So I guess we can only wait on word from Dr. Groff on what else is going on with Dr. Reid and the hailstone – hopefully before it’s too late.” “But maybe it’s not too late for you and your special someone,” Josh remarks. “Oh. Well Aaron wants to take me to Look-Out Point for the New Year’s fireworks,” Chad muses. “That’s not who we meant,” Vitani says with a grin, “Maybe fate has plans for you and the guy who just walked in.” Chad looks up in confusion until he turns around to see Ray Torres entering the café and looking about. Vitani and Josh smile at Chad. He gives them a look before he sighs and heads over to Ray. “Hey Ray, what’s up?” Chad asks. “Hey C.K., you’re just the person I was looking for,” Ray explains with a grin before he digs into his jacket pockets and pulls out tickets, “I’ve got two tickets to the planetarium and it’s the two of us.” “Awesome! I wanted to go myself, but the tickets were sold out,” Chad exclaims before he adds, “Wait … what about your girlfriend, Rita Allen?” “Um,” Ray explains, “She’s busy preparing an editor-in-chief campaign for the school newspaper.” “So I’m a second choice then,” Chad muses. “Hey. You were the first person I thought of when I got these. No one knows your love for science and stuff better than I do; you taught me all about it,” Ray tells him, “But I thought it would be kinda weird if I didn’t ask my girlfriend first. After all, you might have had plans with your own date or whatever. Last week when I wanted to hang out, your friends over there told me you were on a date, but then they clammed up like they weren’t supposed to tell me.” “Oh, it’s not that. It’s just -” Chad pauses as he doesn’t think he should tell Ray that he has a boyfriend and that he’s dating Aaron; he’s not ready to reveal he is gay yet. After all, he supposedly saw Ray and Rita Allen having sex before, and he took it to mean Ray may have never even had those kind of feelings. “I guess me and my date were just getting to know each other at the time.” “I see,” Ray slips his hands in his pocket and nods to himself, guessing to himself everyone was right about Chad and that girl Cassie, “And I guess that means you two are getting more serious now?” “Whatever it means, we don’t have any plans right now,” Chad scratches his head. “Great. Then it’s a date,” Ray simply replies, “Say we meet up at the convention in an hour?” “Sure thing,” Chad nods, “See ya there.” Ray nods and heads back out of the café. Chad looks on and fiddles with a banner ribbon in his hand. He sighs to himself before going back over to Vitani and Josh setting up the other tables. The two smirk teasingly at him. Chad rolls his eyes at their looks before he grabs his stuff and says, “Looks like I’m going to the planetarium tonight guys. So maybe I can find some of the answers we’ve been looking for.” = = = Meanwhile at the newspaper, Rita Allen tells Dustin that she has to go to the bathroom. After he nods, she leaves and goes to the girls’ bathroom, but as she enters, she overhears a girl crying to two of her friends inside of one of the bathroom stalls. Rita Allen stops curiously in case she might be intruding. ‘What’s going on in here?’ Rita Allen wonders curiously. The girl sobs that she just doesn’t understand why her boyfriend is losing interest in her after she gave him everything. The other girls remark that they hadn’t known she’d lost her virginity. The girl says she hasn’t given him that and maybe he doesn’t deserve it now. The other girls think that would keep him interested. Rita Allen simply rolls her eyes in disbelief at their comment. The girl asks her friends if they think sleeping with her boyfriend will keep him around. One of the girls claim the possibility will. The other girl says that no one is saying to define a relationship by sex, but sex is and will always be one of those things that keep most relationships alive, whether she likes to look at it that way or not. She insists that her own boyfriend isn’t interested in anyone or anything else because he knows he can get everything he wants and needs from her. The two girls tell their friend, “You just have to know if he is worth it or worth letting go.” Rita Allen ponders to herself before she turns and leaves the bathroom quietly. = = = Back at the Libretta, Amber and Christy stroll in towards Vitani and Josh as they pin up some balloons. Vitani and Josh see them and let out a big sigh. The Milano sisters grin deviously. Amber says, “Like, if it isn’t our favorite waitress of woe and of course our fave basketball captain.” Christy adds, “Like, we just wanted to let you know that we’re gonna have dates for the New Year’s party tomorrow that will totally give you a run for your money.” Josh smirks and teases, “Oh. I guess I will just run right into my girlfriend Eliza's arms then.” Vitani giggles, “And running from the two of you is always best.” The Milano sisters snap, “All of the guys sure ran from you this year, Vitani. Look how fast Brett ran.” Vitani says, “For your information, although it’s really none of your business, I’m the one who told Brett he had to go and I’m more than glad I did because now I’ve something way better.” The Milano sister fold their arms, “Oh really? And what’s that?” Vitani smiles, “Guess you girls will have to wait and see tomorrow, just like I’ll have to wait to see the poor guys you have for dates; who I’m sure by New Year’s will be saying ‘like, never again!’ after a night with you two.” Josh chuckles, “Yeah, I made that resolution myself last year and now I’m happier than ever.” With that, Vitani and Josh walk off laughing together. The Milano sisters fold their arms and scowl. = = = At the planetarium, Chad and Ray are looking at the displays around the convention in awe. Tons of excited people are buzzing from here to there to look at all of the amazing exhibits about outer space. Chad is also reading one of the brochures to find out where Dr. Haden's presentation will be held so he can get some more information on the mysterious hailstone. Ray slips his hands in his pockets and asks him, “So C.K., how were the holidays at your aunt's?” Chad looks up from the brochure and says, “Oh. It was really great to be with family again after my first school term at a new school like SyndAcad. But it was also great that I could tell them how many good friends I’ve made since I enrolled. I actually have reasons that I want to come back here next year.” Ray turns to him replies, “You have to come back. When you came to SyndAcad, you totally changed my life. I mean you saved me from the lightning storm, you tutored me so I could stay on the football team and you figured out that Cameron Levine was plotting to get rid of me all along. I don’t just call you C.K. for namesake. You’ve got a world to save here.” Chad blushes a little, “I guess I have to figure out what means the world to me. But that means a lot.” Ray smiles and tells him, “It means a lot that you save a lot of people the way you do.” “I couldn’t agree more,” comes a familiar voice. Chad and Ray turn around to see none other than Destiny, the fortune teller! She is the fortune teller girl who they all had run into at SyndAcad a few months ago for Halloween. She smiles at them knowingly. Chad and Ray are surprised to see the mysterious fortune teller again. Chad says, “Hey, Destiny. What brings you to the planetarium?” Destiny states, “I was scheduled to leave a few weeks ago but couldn’t bring myself to do so until I spoke to you again. I know something drew me to stay for the convention and it must have been you.” Ray asks curiously, “Why did you need to speak to us?” Destiny reminds them, “I never got to tell you about your destiny before Rita Allen got in the way.” Chad sighs deeply as he recalls how Rita Allen had come between something ever happening between him and Ray and he had no choice but to move on. He thinks that since Ray is with Rita Allen, who is out to get him, and he is with Aaron now, he isn’t sure what lies ahead for them. Destiny meanwhile nods and pulls out a scroll which she unravels before them, “Look here. You see, each one of us is a star, bright in its own right. But just like in this painting, when the path of some stars cross, that’s when their light will shine brightest and cast off the surrounding darkness.” Chad and Ray look at the scroll to see a painting of two stars which seem to circle each other and produce a magnificent light. But what did it all mean about their future? Chad and Ray look at each other in wonder. However, when they look back – Destiny is gone. They look around, but she is nowhere in sight among the crowd. Chad and Ray shrug in confusion. “Well this was pretty amazing,” Ray says, “I feel like I know a little more about this world we live and even beyond now. I just wish I understood what Destiny meant by that star-cross painting in the scroll.” “I dunno,” Chad shrugs. “I guess maybe we just have to play it out right and it will all make sense.” “I wonder how far we are from figuring it out,” Ray muses before looking at his watch, “I hope it’s sometime soon. But speaking of time, I better get back to SyndAcad to help out my girlfriend with her editor-in-chief campaign. Rita Allen seems really driven to get this job at the school newspaper.” “I bet she is,” Chad muses, knowing that Rita Allen wants to get more on his connection to Rick Hayes. “If we finish up with the campaign planning tonight, maybe she and I can make some plans for tomorrow night for New Year’s,” Ray continues, “I bet you’ve got something planned with your date.” Chad scratches his head and nods, “Um yea. I think we do.” Ray replies, “I guess we’ll both be ringing in the New Year with someone special then.” With that, Ray walks away and leaves the convention. Chad shakes his head before he looks down at the brochure in his hand. He still hadn’t found the doctor. However, it’s at that moment that he looks up to see none other than Dr. Haden walking out towards two other people… his partners, Dr. Reid and Dr. Groff. Chad listens from around the corner. “We told you we don’t know what hailstone you’re talking about,” the other two scientists insist. “What do you mean you don’t know what I’m – omigod!” Dr. Haden exclaims, noticing some kind of bruise at the sides of both their heads, “Did someone do something to you?” “If someone did something to us, they must have hit you with a dose of crazy,” Dr. Groff claims. “You’re talking about aliens in hailstones. And they call me the crazy one,” Dr. Reid laughs. The two scientists put a hand on Dr. Haden’s shoulder telling him to calm down. Unnoticeably to Dr. Haden, but seen by Chad, a silvery amoeboid creature slithers its way from out of Dr. Groff’s jacket and onto Dr. Haden’s back. Chad’s eyes bulge in shock. Meanwhile, Dr. Haden looks at Dr. Reid and Dr. Groff in disbelief before he suddenly runs off out of the doors. The other two scientists scratch their heads in bewilderment and walk away. After they pass by, Chad steps out in alarm. Chad realizes what is going on and muses, “Well it’s no alien, but it definitely doesn’t come in peace!” = = = Josh's Jeep pulls up at the Storm Research Center. They notice Dr. Haden’s car parked outside with the doors left open. Chad, Vitani and Josh jump out of the vehicle and burst inside the front doors where they find Dr. Haden has gathered up the last of his stuff in the next room. “What are you kids doing here?” Dr. Haden exclaims, “You need to leave now before –“ Before he can finish the sentence, the silvery amoeboid creature suddenly expands behind him and produces hand-like projections which glow with crackling electricity. It places it hands at each side of Dr. Haden’s head and zaps him, creating an explosion bright light. Chad, Vitani and Josh gasp in horror. Dr. Haden collapses on the floor. The silvery oscinade takes a more human-like form in order to stand on two feet. Its eyes glow an electric blue. The auranades run out into the main area where the front doors are now locked and automatic gates block the way. Chad states, “That energy in its hands is probably responsible for the readings Dr. Reid picked up in the hailstone. It’s been using its powers to zap their minds and erase their memories of that hailstone from the September storm. But I think it’s already gotten to Dr. Reid and Dr. Groff!” “It must’ve gotten to Dr. Reid that night in the alley,” Vitani realizes. “And it must’ve gotten to Dr. Groff after we left before,” Josh adds. “I am no ‘it’, I am K15 - oscinade of abduction!” the eerie oscinade creature hisses in a robotic voice as it enters the main area, “I couldn’t allow these humans to prove my existence for their government to hunt me down. Not while I, and so many others who came in that storm, have objectives from the Triad of Doom to complete. One objective is now priority – destroy the auranades!” With that, K15 launches a blast of reverberating sound waves towards them. Chad and Vitani cover their ears. Josh stands in the way and turns his arms to steel, crossing them in front of him. The sound waves hit his arms and reflect back in the opposite direction, towards K15. The oscinade of abduction returns to its amoeboid state on the floor to dodge the sound blast before it slithers quickly towards them. Vitani puts her hand to her mouth and blows her icy mist. K15 crawls onto the wall and up on the ceiling to dodge the icy cloud. Chad quickly swipes his hand upwards to make a gust of wind blow the cloud of icy mist over toward K15. It hisses as it freezes solid on the ceiling, flickering in light from inside K15. “Hey guys, I think K15 is weakened by ice,” Chad realizes, “That’s why it couldn’t break out of the hailstone on its own. It must have only escaped recently when Dr. Reid abandoned his project and let the hailstone melt, freeing K15!” Just then, the frozen alien-like oscinade suddenly drops from the ceiling. The ice shatters on impact and so the oscinade is freed as a flittering silvery blob. They watch as it regains its human-like form. “Now we know how to stop you!” Vitani smiles and blows more icy mist. However, to everyone’s surprise, the icy mist floats up into the air and freezes onto the ceiling. They then feel their own feet lifting off the ground. K15 laughs robotically as it creates a zero-gravity effect in the room. Random objects around them start to float as well. As they float upward, Chad tries to swipe his hand at the oscinade. But nothing seems to happen. “You need air molecules for your powers to work,” K15 explains, “So, apart from the thin veil of air around you to breathe, you are all now essentially in a vacuum of space! But worry not, all shall be void once I destroy you three!” “Pretty sure there’s still ice in space!” Vitani yells and uses her new power to hurl blue spheres of ice. However, the blue spheres also float around aimlessly. K15 floats up into the air as it laughs evilly. The three gulp when they see K15’s hands glow with crackling electricity. It was going to zap them too! Unlike the auranades, K15 moves toward them with more control, although slowly. They try to move away, but they merely spin in the air. Chad, Vitani and Josh panic as the oscinade approaches. Realizing that he hasn’t tried anything yet, Josh turns his hand to steel. He begins to sink towards the floor due to the density of the steel. He manages to grab one of Vitani’s blue spheres, which had been floating below them. Just as K15 is almost there, Josh turns one of his hands back to normal, causing him to rise back up between K15 and Chad and Vitani. When K15 reaches out to zap him, he holds the blue sphere in his steel enhanced hand and puts it between the oscinade’s grip as quickly as possible. A bright light is created as Josh’s metallic arm conducts the electricity and the ice of the blue sphere weakens K15 during the contact. After a shock wave occurs, K15 hisses and is blasted away. This causes the zero-gravity field to lose effect. Chad, Vitani and Josh hit the ground first. When the floating blue sphere starts to fall, Chad takes a deep breath before he swipes his arms around to guide all of them to crash right into K15, forcibly knocking it back into an electrical generator behind it. The oscinade is electrocuted before it slumps into a silvery puddle. Chad, Vitani and Josh look over at the hit man and repeat the banishment verse together: “Evil spawned from darkness core, Walk this land you shall no more, Wickedness be rectified, Let your face be now denied!” An intense light emerges from the generator, where blasts of energy cause fragments of the broken generator to swirl up into the air from the opening vortex. The three auranades watch K15 move towards the portal. The oscinade of abduction hisses as its body and the generator are sucked inside. There is an echo of the hiss in the research center before it seals shut and fades away. “I’m sure that’s one blast that oscinade won’t forget,” Josh muses, shaking off a weird feeling he gets. Just moments later, Dr. Haden walks into the main room apparently just having woken up. “What happened in here?” the dazed scientist asks in confusion. It’s then that Dr. Reid and Dr. Groff entered the research center once the security gates slid apart and the doors unlocked. Chad, Vitani and Josh step aside as the scientists run over to Dr. Haden. “Hey, it’s you three kids again. Are you kids alright?” Dr. Groff asks. Chad, Vitani and Josh say it is just Dr. Haden they are worried about after things got a little ‘crazy’. “We knew things must’ve been serious when you put the center on lockdown like that and we couldn’t get inside,” Dr. Reid says to Dr. Haden. “Things must have gotten as crazy for you as it did for me when it came to this hailstone. Yes, it all came back to me a few minutes ago. But what happened to the hailstone we had is still a blank.” “I think we should just forget about all of it and just start fresh with our research,” Dr. Haden remarks. “I more than agree, Dr. Haden,” Dr. Groff adds. “Now there’s a new year of possibilities ahead of us.” The three scientists shake their heads and laugh. Chad, Vitani and Josh nod at each other. Epilog At the newspaper office, Rita Allen and Dustin remark that they’ve put in enough work for the campaign for the day and the final touches can be done just before school first thing next year when the actual campaign will begin. The siblings begin packing up their things from on the office table. Just then, Ray shows up with a big smile on his face, “Hey guys. I’m here to help if you need any.” Dustin replies, “We actually just decided we’ve done enough for the day, although you’re in a good mood.” Rita Allen walks up to her boyfriend and holds his hand as she says, “I’m sorry for not going to the planetarium with you today, but maybe we can go tonight. Hey, let’s go right now!” Ray shakes his head, “Um it’s probably closing now. But if you’d have come with me before I’m sure you would’ve seen just how amazing it was. I think we had a pretty good time.” Rita Allen frowns. “We?” she asks. Ray replies, “I just knew C.K. would love that kind of stuff, being our top science student and all.” Dustin looks up and asks, “Who’s C.K.? Did you go out with another girl because my sister had plans?” Ray says, “Don’t be silly, Dustin. C.K.’s my best friend. And your sister knows how close we are.” Rita Allen cuts in and swallows jealously, “Well Ray, you are all mine tomorrow night for New Year’s!” Rita Allen then pulls Ray into a hug, thinking about how Ray didn’t hesitate to turn to Chad the moment she wasn’t there. She thinks that Chad is trying to get close to Ray when she’s not around. She vows that she isn’t going to lose Ray to Chad, not when she knows she is so close to proving his true connection to Rick now… if she wins the campaign. She sighs in thought. Rita Allen muses, “I guess I let you go already today, and you’re not worth letting go. You’re worth it.” She smiles and Ray smiles back before they share a kiss before holding each other’s hand. Their show of affection makes Dustin think about his feelings for Chad, which he’s been keeping secret, especially now that Chad is dating his military school roommate, Aaron. He then thinks about what Chad said about Aaron. That’s when something hits him. Dustin gets his coat and says, “Well, let’s go guys. I think this New Year is gonna be an interesting one!” = = = On the night before New Year’s at the Libretta, the party has started with a dance, although some of the guests are arriving. Meanwhile, Amber and Christy sit patiently at their own table until Vitani comes in. They get up and go towards her. “Where’s your non-existent new boyfriend, Vitani?” the Milano sisters ask her. “Where are your unfortunate dates, girls?” Vitani asks in return. “Right here,” comes a familiar voice. Vitani turns in shock to see none other than her ex-boyfriend, WP basketball captain, Brett, standing behind her. Brett smiles at her before he stands next to the twins and put his arms around them both. Vitani frowns at them all in disbelief. Amber and Christy smile teasingly. “But it like looks like you’re the one doing the solo samba tonight.” Vitani looks around the decorated bookshop café. The twins laugh. Brett then leans forward. He whispers to Vitani, “You can save the last dance for me and maybe even the rest of your night.” Brett wiggles his eyebrows teasingly. Vitani scoffs in her head before she decides to play along. She pulls him aside by the hand from the twins and claims, “Oh I’m all for a good night tonight, Brett. But prove it to me and tell the Milano sisters to get lost right now.” Brett looks at her in surprise until Vitani traces her finger along his tie. Brett looks up and thinks that she must really be still into him. He turns and immediately confesses to the Milano sisters, “Look girls, I only used you two to get my girl Vitani here to see what she’s been missing with me. So that now that she has –” The WP basketball captain moves over puts an arm around Vitani’s waist. The Milano sisters scoff. Vitani steps away from him and explains, “Now that I have Brett, I realize I’m not missing much of anything and I’m also discovering a whole lot more about how vindictive people like the three of you can be. Thankfully, I know that there is always better.” With that, Vitani walks over and kisses Evan, who is standing not far behind them, “Take me to dance?” Evan doesn’t even look around at Brett and the Milano sisters before he grins happily, “Right this way.” After realizing that Vitani had just played him, Brett turns back to the Milano sisters, “Hey girls do you wanna-” but they cut him off, each with a slap to his face. “We wanna do more than slap you after that,” the Milano sisters exclaim, “But now you have nothing.” With that, Amber and Christy storm out of the party. Brett looks around embarrassed and leaves. Over where the others are dancing, Josh dances with Eliza as Vitani and Evan come over arm in arm. Josh tells Vitani, “I thought I was gonna have to come over and escort that jerk outta here. He could still get to know my fists again before the year is out.” Vitani laughs and replies, “Don’t worry, Josh. I knew the Milano sisters could send anyone running.” Josh twirls Eliza before pulling her back in and saying, “Once you run in the right direction like I did.” With that, he leans in and kisses Eliza. Vitani smiles as she hugs Evan while they dance. = = = Meanwhile, Aaron has taken Chad out to Look-Out Point to watch the New Year’s fireworks together. As they are looking for a spot to settle down, Chad and Aaron pass by the football players around a campfire fry who gossip that Ray and his school reporter girlfriend Rita Allen are there as well. Aaron tugs Chad away from them. “Let’s go somewhere else,” Aaron suggests, “I mean so we don’t have to hear what a wild time Dustin's sister is gonna be having with her boyfriend tonight. Whatever happens tonight is gonna be just about you and me.” Chad thinks back to when he’d seen what he thought was Ray and Rita Allen having sex before and just nods. So Chad and Aaron walk off through the nearby trees to find a spot to watch the fireworks together. Just after they have left, Dustin shows up at the campfire looking around for both of them. Dustin looks around the crowd of other kids and says, “I have to find Aaron now!” = = = Also at Look-Out Point, but in a rented car, Ray and Rita Allen are talking about the upcoming year. Rita Allen decides to ask, “And what do you want for the two of us this year, Ray?” Ray shrugs and says, “I dunno, but I think I’m hungry for something right now.” He offers to go get them some food from the fry and leaves the car. When he is gone, Rita Allen slowly reaches into her handbag and pulls out a box of condoms. She looks down at the box and has a flashback of the girls in the bathroom at school: The two girls tell their friend, ‘You just have to know if he is worth it or worth letting go.’ Rita Allen sighs nervously and wonders, ‘Should I go through with this? Is this worth it?’ = = = Meanwhile, Aaron suggests they split up in two directions to find the perfect spot to set up before the fireworks. Chad simply nods and walks off. Aaron turns to head the other way when he hears twigs crunching nearby. He turns to see none other than Dustin coming towards him. “Aaron! You and I need to talk!” Dustin states as he grabs Aaron by the arm, “Right about now!” “Actually, I need to find a place for me and my boyfriend to get cozy for tonight,” Aar0n replies as he yanks his arm away, “In case you forgot, Dustin, some of us actually have plans with our dates tonight!” “What I remember is that time when you, me and Chad all went to find out who framed me for the military code,” Dustin remarks while glaring at him, “You know, when you whispered in my ear that you couldn't blame me for having the hots for Chad.” “You mean when you punched me?” Aaron shrugs, “Hmm. Well your denial was your loss.” Dustin gasps, “So you did know I had feelings for Chad all along, didn’t you? And you still went after him anyway! And you were more than sure to make your move right when Chad and I were having a rough patch over my sister!” Aaron retorts, “I was sure to be a man about my feelings for Chad unlike you, Dustin. That’s all.” Dustin asks, “Would a real man deliberately go after someone his friend had feelings for?” Aaron narrows his eyes, “I should ask you that same question, Dustin.” With that, Aaron turns and walks away. Dustin frowns before he exclaims, “Omigod. Aaron knows!” = = = Chad stumbles upon a parking lot on one edge of the cliff and sees a single car parked there. He figures it is just some couple, until he hears familiar voices. Chad frowns and looks a little more closely to see it’s none other than Ray and Rita Allen in her bra making out in the car. He sees Rita Allen pull Ray’s shirt off of him before kissing him again. He guesses where this was going to lead after what he supposedly saw last time. With that, Chad turns and leaves hurriedly, his foot snapping a twig as he leaves. When the twig snaps, Ray hears it and pushes Rita Allen off of him again before talking a deep breath. Rita Allen softly asks between planting kisses on him, “What’s the matter Ray? This is what I want.” Ray frowns and says, “Are you sure about that? This isn’t like you. You just pushed this on me!” Rita Allen scratches her head in embarrassment, “Look Ray, I was just, um, playing around. That’s all.” Ray replies, “Yeah? I thought you were messing around or something before I saw that box over there.” Rita Allen looks at the condom box in the car seat and pauses before she sits back. Ray shakes his head. Ray asks her, “You really wanted our first time to be in some car? That’s not the Rita Allen I know. And I always thought that if we wanted to take our relationship to the next level that this is something we’d discuss first.” Rita Allen shakes her head, “You’re right. I guess I got carried away. But it must’ve been because I’m realizing … that my feelings for you are becoming more serious, Ray.” As he puts back on his own shirt, Ray looks over at her, unsure, before he gulps nervously to himself. = = = Chad finally finds a spot for him and his boyfriend to be alone and calls Aaron on his cell phone. Aaron shows up at their spot and lights a small campfire before he sets up the blanket and basket of food quickly before he sits and has a beer. Chad puts down his stuff and sits close beside him. Chad then notices that three other beers are already missing from the pack. So Chad takes Aaron’s beer and says, “Um I think you have had enough for tonight, Aaron.” Aaron nods and claims, “You’re right. I have. Besides I want to put my lips on something better.” Aaron moves forward and starts to kiss Chad on his neck. Chad is a bit nervous, but Aaron tells him that it is okay. When jealousy over seeing Ray with Rita Allen in the car hits him for a moment, Chad slides his hands onto Aaron’s neck and starts to kiss him back. Aaron moans appreciatively and cradles Chad’s back to encourage him to lie back on the blanket. As Chad and Aaron kiss, one of Aaron’s hands reaches for Chad’s belt buckle, but Chad soon grabs his hand when he catches himself. Chad shakes his head and sits up. Aaron looks at him and frowns. “Hey, slow down there,” Chad tells him awkwardly, “We don’t have to rush into anything, remember?” “I can’t imagine a better way to ring in the New Year,” Aaron smiles and leans in, kissing him again. “I know I might not be who you had in mind, but don’t worry, Chad. I’ll make sure you don’t regret this.” “What are you talking about?” Chad frowns and looks at him, “How much did you really have to drink?” “I just know what I want. And I know this is what you want too,” Aaron climbs over him and kisses him in the neck, “Well almost, maybe you can just pretend I’m Ray Torres and let me show you I’m better!” Chad frowns in disbelief and slaps Aaron across the face, “Okay, that’s it! Before this gets any worse!” Aaron rubs his cheek, “Hey! What’s the matter with you? And where are you going?” Chad is grabbing his stuff, “You’re drunk, Aaron! And that might get you in the mood, but I’m not in the mood for any of this! Clearly, after the amount of beers you had and what you just said, you can toast to the New Year without me!” With that, Chad takes his things and leaves, heading back through the trees. Aaron calls out for him. Aaron tries to follow but gets dizzy from the beers he drank. He gets angry before he stumbles back to the picnic blanket and pops a few more beers. About that moment, Dustin shows up at their set up. Dustin grabs him and asks him, “I thought you said you were here with Chad. Where is he? And why are all these beer cans around here? Omigod, Aaron, what have you done?” Aaron simply looks at him and groggily says, “I guess we’ve both done some bad things, haven’t we?” = = = Chad wonders around the forest when he finds Ray sitting by himself on a tree stump near the cliff. Ray looks up and smiles a little before he asks him, “Hey C.K., what are you doing out here? Shouldn’t you be with your date?” Chad shrugs, “I could ask the same thing of you.” Ray explains, “Rita Allen and I are both taking a little time to think about something we did.” Chad remembers what he saw in the car and sighs before he asks, “Is it all going to be okay?” Ray says, “I think so. No matter what, I feel like it’s all gonna be okay somehow because you’re here.” With that, Ray reaches out and touches him on the shoulder. Chad can’t help but get that feeling in his chest from his touch. It’s also at that moment that the fireworks go off to signal the beginning of the New Year. They hadn’t even realized it was already midnight. Chad and Ray turn and look up at the amazing display of colors in the clear night sky. “Happy New Year,” Chad and Ray say to each other at the same time before they smile bashfully. “Hmm. Maybe this year will make this whole destiny thing become clear for us,” Chad muses. “I’m really looking forward to that day,” Ray tells him as he turns to face him. Chad looks up at Ray, who is looking right back at him. They exchange long looks before Ray’s cell phone suddenly rings. Ray steps aside to answer it. Chad meanwhile sighs to himself that he always feels like he is so close and yet so far from Ray. Ray hangs up his cell and says, “That was Rita Allen’s brother. Apparently he found a roommate friend of his who’s too drunk to get home on his own. So he wanted me to make sure his sister gets home safely. I guess he thought I was with her this whole time.” Chad nods in understanding, “I guess you have to go then.” Ray asks him, “Should I walk you back to your campfire? Do you need a ride home, or is you date still here?” Chad shrugs, “Um, I’ll be fine. Thanks, Ray.” Ray nods and says, “Guess I’ll see you around. After all, it’s hard to forget about destiny.” With that, Ray walks back through the forest. Chad ponders in thought as he walks away until his own cell phone vibrates. He just got a signal in the forest where a bunch of messages from Dustin come in; asking where he is, if he’s okay and wishing him a Happy New Year. Chad smiles a little and texts Dustin back a ‘Happy New Year’ message. Chad sits on the tree stump before he calls Vitani and Josh to pick him up. He sighs in wonder. = = = The next day, back at the military school, Aaron is still calling Chad who isn’t answering. So he leaves yet another voice message apologizing for what he did while he was drunk on New Year’s Eve. “Chad, I’m sorry about what happened!” Aaron says. “I can explain everything. I just -” “I suggest you let it go and let using Chad to get back at me go. I know you know about what I did. You know … that I slept with that girl you went out with,” Dustin says this as he arrives there, when he returns with his stuff from his sister’s, where he spent the holidays. Aaron turns around and snaps, “She has a name – it’s Felicity Blake! You hear that, Dustin? She wasn’t just something you could use as a test to prove to yourself that you weren’t gay. How dare you accuse me of using someone, when you took advantage of her when she and I were having a hard time?” Dustin sighs and explains, “Look, I won’t deny that I made a huge mistake with her, but you told me it was over between the two of you and she was the one who came onto me that night during the blackout. And as I realize now, it must have been to get back at you for whatever happened!” Aaron says, “So you went straight for it, huh? Oh wait, you’re not even a little straight. So once you were finished screwing around Felicity, you kicked her out of the place! She came crying back to her friends and I overheard it all!” Dustin says, “Well you didn’t overhear that we got caught in the middle of things by my sister’s boyfriend that night so I had no choice. So many things happened that night that weren’t supposed to!” Aaron says, “I know you got so caught up in your indecisiveness, you lost out on Chad!” Dustin states, “So you deliberately go after Chad the very moment he and I were at odds!” Aaron retorts, “Except I think way more of Chad than you ever thought of Felicity and I wasn’t about to let you do Chad in the way you did her!” Dustin says, “This all kinda happened because of my feelings for Chad! And you really don’t stand to question my feelings for him, since, as I can tell, Chad doesn’t want to hear from you after whatever it is you did on New Year’s Eve.” “What I did is nothing compared to what you did,” Aaron assures him, “You’ll figure that out soon.” Aaron storms out of the dorm. Dustin sighs and looks down at his friendship bracelet with Chad. = = = Later that day, in the school newspaper office, Ray and Rita Allen are alone, talking about what happened between them in the car at Look-Out Point. Rita Allen had just finished uploading some pictures they had taken together the night before she tried to seduce him in the car. In doing so, she still hadn't looked through the others to notice that, a few weeks ago, her hacking device had managed to download a single photo from Rick Hayes' flash drive. She closes down her computer as she and Ray both agree they are not ready for that step in their relationship. They hug and make up. As Ray props himself on her table, she stands in front of him with her arms over his shoulders. Rita Allen sighs, “Oh Ray, I’m glad we’re okay. I just can’t believe we spent the countdown alone.” Ray muses, “Actually, I wasn’t that alone. Chad showed up just before the fireworks. It was like fate.” Rita Allen pauses in disbelief that Ray had been with none other than Chad at midnight for New Year’s while she was with – someone she didn’t expect to be with that night - where she thinks it's better if Ray thinks she was really alone. She tells herself that this had all been because of her idea to use sex to get Ray to want to turn to her over Chad had blown up in her face in the car that night. She then grimaces at the thought that Chad is definitely trying to somehow come between her and Ray, but she swears she won’t let him – and as soon as she finds out his true connection to Rick, that will be it for Chad. Just then, Dustin shows up and says, “Everything for the editor-in-chief campaign is officially ready!” With that, Dustin pours them all something for a toast. As he does so, Ray notices Dustin is wearing a friendship bracelet that he thinks looks rather familiar somehow. They toast to what they want for this year: Dustin briefly glances at his friendship bracelet and sighs before he says, “For new chances.” Ray thinks about his and Chad’s run-in with Destiny and adds, “For new chapters.” Rita Allen smiles deviously to herself about her plans for Chad and says, “For new surprises.” After that, they all toast and drink with smiles. Dustin then looks at his sister and her boyfriend says he hopes everything is okay now. Ray and Rita Allen look at each other and nod. The door opens up and someone says, "It couldn't be better!". They all turn around in surprise at the sound of the female voice. Rita Allen glares at the door, Ray frowns in sudden realization of who the girl is and Dustin's jaw drops in shock. "My name is Felicity Blake, and I’m going to be the new editor in chief of SyndAcad this year!” the girl proudly declares, “After all I've got lots to tell!" = = = Over at the condo, Chad looks at all of Aaron's messages and ponders what to do about the situation. Vitani and Josh return at that moment from a brief trip to the store for some drinks for an official New Year’s toast. They see his engrossed look before they come over and ask, “Hey, Chad, you okay?” Chad looks up and states, “Hey. We’ve defeated yet another oscinade. I couldn’t be more proud of the three of us!” Josh pours them all a drink in wine glasses. The three hold their glasses and toast, “To the auranades!”
    1 point
  22. August 18, 1799 HMS Valiant, The English Channel “Good morning, sir,” Granger said cheerfully as he joined St. Vincent at his table for breakfast. “So you say,” St. Vincent grumbled. He felt a lot of sympathy toward this crusty old admiral, who was on his way home and would lower his flag, probably for the last time. He was so frail and sickly, it was hard to see him ever going to sea again. Granger had hoped that the energy he’d shown during the action with the Spanish ships would have transformed him, but he had sadly lapsed back into his previous frail state. “We should arrive at Spithead today, sir.” “Well, at least you’ll be rid of me. Have your cabin back, along with your fancy stove.” “I do appreciate the space, but I will miss you, sir,” Granger said. St. Vincent gave him a dour look, but Granger knew his moods well enough not to be afraid of this one. Doctor Baird and Captain Grey chose that moment to come in and join them. “My lord,” Baird said to St. Vincent nervously, which meant he was probably planning to broach an unpleasant topic. “I am worried that you are not well enough to travel to Rochetts.” St. Vincent’s home, Rochetts, was in Essex, and was actually adjacent to Brentwood. Granger cringed when he realized that if St. Vincent retired there, when Granger was at Brentwood, he’d be St. Vincent’s next door neighbor. “I am going home, Baird. I have survived thus far, so I think I will survive a bit longer,” St. Vincent said. “Sir, perhaps you would like to rest ashore for a few days prior to your journey?” Granger asked. “I have a home located in Cowes. It has a dock, so it would be convenient to disembark. You could recuperate there.” “I appreciate the offer, Granger, but I have imposed upon your hospitality enough as it is,” St. Vincent said, in a kindly way that had been all too rare lately. “Sir, I must protest that this burden you allude to is in fact an honor,” Granger said. He turned to Baird. “I have had baths installed in this home.” “I have heard of these contraptions you’ve devised, my lord,” Baird said with disdain. “I was thinking that perhaps the hot water would be therapeutic for His Lordship,” Granger offered. “Of course I will leave it to you to render a decision, but the baths will be there, at your disposal.” “I appreciate that, my lord. I will investigate them when we arrive,” Baird said. St. Vincent looked at Baird, then at Granger, then shook his head, since he’d been unwittingly maneuvered into staying at Granger’s estate at Cowes. It was unusual for St. Vincent to find himself tricked into a course of action that was not of his doing. Granger decided that it would be best to leave the table since he’d won that particular battle. “If you gentlemen will excuse me, I am going to ensure we don’t run afoul of the Royal Sovereign,” Granger said. “You don’t have confidence in your first lieutenant?” St. Vincent challenged. “Sir, I have the utmost confidence in Mr. Weston. Unfortunately, the officers aboard Royal Sovereign are unknown to me,” Granger said with a smile. St. Vincent allowed himself a slight grin. Granger walked out onto the deck to find Valiant passing by St. Helens. The seas were calm and the wind light, much as it had been when they left. Granger was more confident now, and anxious to get to his anchorage, so he left the courses and topsails on her. “Major Treadway, I think it would be appropriate for our band to play as we return to port.” “Of course, my lord,” he said. By the time Valiant was entering Spithead, her band was formed up and belting out songs. “The whole fleet will think you are anxious to be rid of me,” St. Vincent said, surprising Granger. He had an unpleasant way of showing up on deck without being noticed. He was in full dress, and as resplendent as he’d been during their battle. “You’re heading for the anchorage at damn near full sail. And celebrating with a veritable concert.” “I would submit, sir, that they would already know that, having seen your flag flying,” Granger said, teasing him. “Damn good thing you’re a peer. Makes it a lot harder to hang you,” he said, making Granger smile. “Mr. Weston, take us down to just topsails. Mr. Meurice, I will trust you to discern our anchorage.” “Aye aye, my lord,” they chimed. And so Valiant slowed her pace as she approached her anchorage, passing the Channel Fleet, lowering and raising her ensign as she did. Granger smiled as he saw St. Vincent and Bridport doff their hats as Valiant passed the Royal Sovereign; two veteran warriors, saluting each other. Granger watched carefully as they approached Cowes, pausing to look out at his home. They had started the fountains, presumably to welcome him back, and it was a very friendly gesture. “That is your home?” St. Vincent asked. “It is, sir,” Granger said. “It is almost as fancy as your cabin,” he said, making Granger smile. But then Granger detached himself a bit to focus on his ship, watching as Meurice gauged their time and distance. “Let go!” Meurice ordered. Granger heard the splash of Valiant’s anchor as it plunged into the waters of Spithead. Men hurried up the yards to take in the sails, while the band still kept on playing. “I’ll have the launch and my gig swayed out!” “Aye aye my lord,” Weston said, and found men to handle that task as well. There was considerable commotion as those evolutions were handled, and then with the launch aside, and the bosun’s chair rigged, St. Vincent approached Granger. “Captain, I would be obliged if you would lower my flag.” St. Vincent was stoic, with a face that could be carved from stone, but this was such a momentous event, even he could not hide the sadness in his voice. “Aye aye sir,” Granger said. He nodded to Weston, and the band ceased to play. Instead, the pipes twittered, and the drums beat out, summoning all hands. He had worked this program out with Treadway and Weston two nights ago, to try and make this event special for the old admiral. The men and marines assembled, at attention. “Mr. Kingsdale, please lower His Lordship’s flag.” “Aye aye sir,” Kingsdale said. And as he slowly began to lower the flag, the band began to play Auld Lang Syne. The crew stood silently and respectfully at attention, as the flag slowly descended to the deck. Kingsdale detached it, and his party of seamen folded it neatly. “Sir, your flag,” Kingsdale said, handing it to St. Vincent. “Thank you,” St. Vincent said, and handed it off to his secretary. Then as the admiral made his way to the bosun’s chair, the crew of Valiant began cheering for this admiral that many of them had served under, and all of them respected. “You should teach your men some discipline, and keep them under control,” St. Vincent growled. “I think, sir, that they would risk the lash, to a man, if it meant paying tribute to you.” St. Vincent grinned slightly and doffed his hat, then he was hoisted over the side and into the launch. Granger went down as St. Vincent was being hoisted aboard, to ensure he arrived in the launch first, as was naval custom. Once they had secured the admiral, they rowed him the short way to the docks. They disembarked in reverse order, with a delegation of men carrying St. Vincent in a sedan chair the carpenter had crafted over the past two days. “You’ve managed to craft a carriage of sorts for me, Granger,” St. Vincent said. “It is well sprung, sir,” Granger noted, and saw the men grin at his joke. Granger was strolling along next to the lower basin, paying such attention to St. Vincent’s progress, and to the fountains beyond him, that he had not looked ahead of him. As he neared the house, he averted his gaze straight ahead, and found Caroline standing there, smiling at him. “George! You’re home! How wonderful!” Granger took her hands in his, and beamed down at his lovely wife. He was about to enjoy their reunion, when he remembered his duty, and his manners. “It is good to see you as well, my dear,” he said. “His Lordship has agreed to be our guest here for as long as is required to recover before his journey to Rochetts.” “How wonderful to see you again,” Caroline said to St. Vincent, curtseying. “We are so honored to have you staying with us.” “Had I known I would be able to enjoy your charming company, I would not have argued so much about coming ashore,” St. Vincent said. They ushered St. Vincent and Grey into the house and the staff found them rooms, and helped them get settled in. And finally, after they had tended to their guests, Granger was able to be alone with his wife. They went into the bedroom and then Caroline was in his arms, her lips on his, and then they shed only the necessary garments to allow them to couple. It was a fast, yet satisfying, bonding. “I do so look forward to when you are home,” Caroline flirted, making Granger blush. “I am confident you do not look forward to it as much as I do,” Granger said. “I am so glad you are here, yet surprised as well. I would have thought you’d be back in London.” “We are due to leave next week. It has been dreadfully hot in London and at Brentwood, so we opted to stay here, where it is beautiful, and the breezes keep us cool.” “Then this house is even more special, because it has kept you here,” he said. “Come, I will regale you with all the court gossip,” Caroline said. “First I must see the children,” Granger insisted. They went to the nursery, and found the children preoccupied with lessons. “Father!” William said, and raced to give this mysterious man a hug. Granger smiled at what a nice young gentleman he was becoming. He was almost six years old now, and had been breeched, so he looked quite adorable in his gentleman’s clothes. Charlotte and Alexander followed along after their older brother, while a nurse carried Elizabeth. Granger allowed himself to spend half an hour with them before descending downstairs to attend to his guests. And once he had done that, he was able to attend to his ship, and then to more properly let his wife welcome him home. August 23, 1799 Spithead, England Granger sat in a chair next to Caroline on their veranda, watching the ships at anchor. They’d watered Valiant, tapping into the upper basin as they had the last time. It had almost drained the reservoir, barely leaving enough water to keep the baths operating. It seemed as if by thinking about that problem, Granger had solved it, as he heard the ominous sound of thunder, and then a deluge rained down all around them. “It is pleasant to watch the rain from such a shelter,” Caroline said. “It is less enjoyable when one is in it.” “You must experience the joys of rain combined with salt spray,” Granger said. “Perhaps someday,” she said dubiously. “Is that a boat approaching our dock?” Granger focused on the boat Caroline had sighted, and felt his pulse quicken. It was the guardboat, and that meant it would most likely be carrying some sort of news. Granger pondered that just enough time had passed for his reports to make it to London, and for the Admiralty to communicate back to him. Granger watched as a lieutenant disembarked and strode up the path, past the basin, even as the poor man was pelted with rain. “Jenkins,” Caroline called. “My lady?” “There is an officer arriving. Please direct him back here. We’ll need some refreshments.” “Of course, my lady,” he said. “I wonder if this will be orders for you,” Caroline said sadly. “Quite possibly,” Granger said. “I have been back for four days. I would think you would be ready for me to leave.” She frowned at him. “I would have you stay here indefinitely, if I had my way.” He smiled at her frowning face. “If your title were ‘your majesty’, then I would gladly do your bidding, but as it is not, I must do my duty.” “I think you are setting unreasonable goals for me, George,” she joked. “And if I am not mistaken, it is treasonous to conspire to seize the crown.” “Then we shall have to leave things as they are,” he said. They were interrupted by the arrival of a pleasant looking young man. “My lord, Lieutenant Bledsoe,” he said, introducing himself. “We’ve received a letter for you from the Admiralty.” He handed Granger the letter. “Welcome, Mr. Bledsoe,” Granger said. “Please join us for some drinks. Have you met my wife?” He bowed gallantly to Caroline. “I have not had that honor, Your Ladyship.” “Well now you have,” she said. “How nice to meet you. Could I impose on you to pour a glass for us, so George may read his letter? And then we must see if we can help you dry your uniform.” “Of course, my lady,” Bledsoe said. But Granger had already tuned them out, and began to read his letter. The Right Honorable Viscount Granger, commanding His Majesty’s Ship Valiant. Spithead. My Lord, You are hereby directed and required to proceed with His Majesty’s frigate Valiant to Woolwich, with all due haste and speed, immediately upon receipt of these orders. Evan Nepean, Esquire Secretary to their Lordships of the Admiralty. “I am ordered to return to London,” Granger said. “That is convenient, since I had planned to return there as well,” Caroline noted, smiling at him. That sparked an idea in Granger’s mind, one that he fully fleshed out in no time at all. Granger turned to Bledsoe. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Bledsoe. I hope you will allow me to leave you in the charming company of my wife?” “Of course, my lord,” he said. Granger strode back into the house, even as he heard Caroline chatting with the young man. St. Vincent had been accommodated in the library, which was easier for him since it was on the main level. Stairs were difficult for him to navigate, even if he had assistance. Granger scratched at the door, then entered. “You did not get enough of my company at dinner, Granger?” St. Vincent asked jovially. Granger had noted a marked improvement in his health since he’d come ashore, and a marked improvement in his mood. He attributed the latter to Caroline’s charming company. It was amusing to see how easily she had wrapped the old earl around her finger. “I did not, sir, but in addition to the privilege of enjoying your company, I came to bring you news,” Granger said. St. Vincent stared at him, waiting for him to go on. “I have been ordered to take Valiant to Woolwich.” “Perhaps they are going to hang you,” St. Vincent joked. “I would not be surprised, sir,” Granger said with a smile. “My wife and my family are planning to return to London, and I was of a mind to take them with me.” “You would take your family to London on Valiant?” St. Vincent asked, his eyebrows narrowing in annoyance at the idea that a naval officer would convey his family around. But this was no ordinary naval officer, and his wife was no ordinary woman. “What if we encounter an enemy fleet?” “I daresay, sir, that if we encounter a fleet large enough to be a hazard to Valiant in the Channel, we have much bigger problems to worry about,” Granger said with a smile. “I daresay you are correct,” St. Vincent said, chuckling. “I was thinking that as Rochetts is not far from London, perhaps you would prefer to sail with us, rather than take a carriage?” They both knew that the roads would be bumpy, and it would be an unpleasant journey by coach. “So you would have me, your wife, and your children on board when you make this run up the Channel?” “I am trying to dangle enough bait out there to tempt the French, sir,” Granger said. “When are you leaving?” “I have been ordered to go as soon as practical, which I would interpret to be on the morning tide, sir.” “I think that would be preferable to a carriage,” St. Vincent said. “I think you are correct, sir, provided that if my wife opts to bring our children with us, that they do not cry too much,” Granger said. “Can’t be worse than listening to a bunch of whining captains,” St. Vincent said. “We captains are a temperamental lot, sir,” Granger said. “If you will pardon me, I must alert Mr. Weston, and I must see if Her Ladyship wishes to risk her life at sea.” He nodded, then began rattling out instructions to Grey, as Granger managed to escape from the library. “Jacobs,” Granger called, catching sight of his coxswain. “My lord?” “I need you to take a message to Mr. Weston.” “Of course, my lord,” he said. Granger jotted out a quick note to Weston, telling him that they’d be leaving on the morning tide, then he went to find Caroline. Fortunately she had managed to rid herself of Bledsoe. “When will you leave?” Caroline asked him. “We leave on the morning tide,” Granger said. “We?” “I thought that you may enjoy going to London by sea,” Granger explained. “His Lordship has also agreed to accompany us.” Caroline’s eyes danced with delight. “How wonderful that would be, to actually sail with you! George, that is a fantastic idea! You are sure we won’t be in the way?” “It is but a short voyage, so I think we can easily accommodate you.” “Then I must go and prepare for our departure,” she said, glancing at the clock on the wall. “And I must go and see if Mr. Weston can find a place for all of our passengers,” Granger joked. He found Winkler waiting for him, and dragged him down to the dock, all the time rattling off things his efficient young steward would have to attend to. They arrived there just as Jacobs was returning from Valiant, only to make him turn around and row back out to the ship again. Based on the amount of baggage Caroline took with her when she traveled, he suspected these men would be making quite a few more trips. Granger acknowledged the honors he received as he came aboard, then brushed aside Weston’s pleasantries. “We are to host my wife, my children, and Lord St. Vincent on our voyage to London.” Weston’s eyes bulged slightly at that. “Aye aye, my lord.” “I will see you in my cabin directly, so we can plan out the accommodations. Please pass the word for Mr. Andrews.” He turned to Winkler. “I will leave it to you to explain things to LeFavre.” Winkler cringed. “I suspect he will have some choice words for me, my lord.” Granger chuckled, even as Winkler scurried off to help get things ready. August 24, 1799 Spithead, England Granger was quite exhausted when dawn arrived, and heralded the arrival of their passengers. Baggage had been sent over constantly during the night, both for St. Vincent and for Caroline and the children. The carpenter and his mates had established a nursery for the children adjacent to the Wardroom, while Granger’s own cabin had been partitioned to make a cabin for St. Vincent and for Granger and Caroline. Those three, in addition to Captain Grey, would dine together in Granger’s cabin. Grey would be accommodated in the Wardroom. He trained his eye on the shore and saw his gig pushing off. Caroline sat in the back with William in between her and St. Vincent. The other children were being held by their nurses, who looked terrified at being afloat. They were fortunate, once again, to have flat seas. If this had been attempted during a January gale, those nurses would probably be green with seasickness, in addition to being terrified. The boat pulled up alongside and hooked on, and the bosun’s chair began it’s work. St. Vincent was adamant that Caroline and the children precede him, which was a singular mark of honor. When the chair went back to get William, there was some hesitation. Granger walked over to the side and peered down into the boat. “I would like to climb up the side like my father does, sir,” William said to St. Vincent courteously. Granger smiled down at his son. “Then let’s see you do it,” St. Vincent encouraged him. William stood up, balancing in the boat, grabbed the rope ladder, and slowly began to haul himself up. St. Vincent grinned at him, even as he was fitting himself into the bosun’s chair. Granger went to the side and when William got to the top of the ladder, he took William’s hand and pulled him up the rest of the way. “That was well done,” Granger said. “Thank you, father,” he said politely. Granger went over to welcome St. Vincent aboard, and to raise his flag yet again. They fired off a salute, which delighted Granger’s children, and then it was time to leave. “William, you must go below with your brother and sisters,” Caroline said. “If it would not trouble you too much, dear, I would like it if he could remain here with me,” Granger said. The boy positively beamed at him. And so, with his son standing by his side, Granger gave the order for the anchor to be hove short. “Major Treadway, some music for our lads to heave to, if you would be so kind.” “Aye aye, my lord,” Treadway said. He already had the band assembled, so they began to play on Treadway’s signal. “What a wonderful band you have,” Caroline said. “That is thanks to Major Treadway,” Granger said. Caroline smiled at him, but they both seemed nervous, which irritated Granger. He ignored it, lest it disturb his good mood. He had been so busy getting to know his new ship, and dealing with St. Vincent, that he had not gotten a chance to know Treadway very well. And he had not yet had a chance to determine why he and Caroline seemed so uncomfortable around each other. “Mr. Weston, I would be obliged if you would take us out,” Granger said, giving Weston control of the ship. This was not unusual for Weston, but with St. Vincent and Granger’s whole family aboard, it was a bit more daunting. But Granger had felt bad about St. Vincent’s comment, his allusion that Granger didn’t trust Weston, so he wanted to give his lieutenant a chance to do this, and to show confidence in him. Granger detached himself a bit from Weston and the others, to give him the freedom to maneuver the ship, while watching to make sure he gave all the right orders. To occupy himself, he explained what they were doing to Caroline and William. “Look at those men, and how high up they are,” Caroline said, gesturing up at the topsail yards. “It is an achievement that they do that now, in calm seas, but with a gale raging all around, they are required to perform the same tasks,” Granger noted. “Do you have to climb up there?” William asked him. “I do,” Granger said. “But it is rare that I have to climb out on the yards. I am usually lucky enough to only have to go to the tops.” He gestured at the main top. They passed by the Channel Fleet, with Granger telling them the name of each ship and who her captain was as they went by, and then they were beyond Spithead, and heading into the Channel. The seas here were calm, not flat, and that caused a bit of motion. Granger was worried that Caroline would succumb to seasickness as Hornblower had, but she was seemingly unaffected, as was William. From the cries below, he soon discovered that one of the nurses was not so lucky. The winds were light from the west, perfect for their voyage. “Mr. Weston, let’s get the courses and the topgallants on her,” Granger ordered. Men scurried aloft to release that canvas, while Caroline and William watched, amazed, as it was sheeted home and Valiant heeled over with the additional pressure from her sails. “She is certainly fast,” Caroline said. “She is not as fast as Bacchante, or Belvidera, but we have discovered that she is very fast in inclement weather,” Granger said. “That is good news, although I hate to think about you braving dangerous seas,” she said. “It comes with the job, dear,” Granger said with a smile, then turned to Weston. “Let’s see how she does with the royals.” “Aye aye, my lord,” Weston said with a grin. And then with all sail set except her studding sails, Valiant all but tore up the Channel. “My lord, my lady, dinner is ready,” Winkler told them, distracting Granger from tending to the ship. “Mr. Weston, you have the ship,” Granger said. He led Caroline down to his cabin, where he hosted a dinner for her, St. Vincent, and all of his officers except Weston, and those required to be on watch. William was finally dispatched down to the ‘nursery’ to spend some time with his siblings. August 25, 1799 The Thames Estuary, England Granger was up before dawn, as was his normal routine while at sea, and up on deck to herald the arrival of the new day. They had made it as far as Margate last night, and had hove to, letting the gentle seas and winds have their way with Valiant. “Winds are light from the south, my lord,” Meurice said. “That should serve us well,” Granger replied. “What of the tide?” “It has just begun to make, my lord.” “And that is even better.” The door to his cabin opened and Caroline appeared. “You are just in time to see the sunrise, dear.” Caroline looked aft, toward the east, as the first glint of sunlight began to bathe the horizon. “Will we arrive in London today?” “We will,” Granger answered. It was reasonable for her to ask such a question, since she would not know how long a voyage up the river would take. “You will get to see what it is like for me to return home after a long voyage.” “That will be interesting,” she said. “Land ho! Off the starboard beam!” cried the lookout. Granger took his glass and peered out in the darkness. Slowly the light brightened his view enough for him to tell that they were still off of Margate. “Mr. Weston, let’s get back on course.” “Aye aye, my lord,” he said. They had hove to using the topsails, so they had but to retrim them and brace them round to get Valiant going forward again. “I think we can handle the courses with a reef until we get to the river,” Granger said. The whistles blew as Weston handled that as well. “It is beautiful,” Caroline said, gazing aft toward the sunrise. “It is so much more vivid than on land.” “It is,” Granger agreed. He took her hand and led her up the stairs to the poop deck, and they stood there together, gazing aft as the giant orb slowly began to rise. They were interrupted by Winkler, who announced breakfast. LeFavre had put out quite a spread, but Granger ate quickly, so anxious was he to be on deck when Valiant reached the river, and the traffic that would challenge them. He returned to deck just as they passed the Nore. Granger saw Kingsdale busily saluting the other ships as they passed. The poor young man was going to be quite adept at dipping their colors, but he would no doubt be happy to have some actual signals to interpret for a change. “It looks so different from here,” Caroline said, speaking about the capital. “This much is certain,” Granger said with a smile. He stood there with his wife, as he conned Valiant past the bends in the river. When they reached Gravesend, the band began to play, and that aroused some attention from the shore. It took them all morning and the better part of the afternoon to work their way up the Thames to Woolwich. And when Valiant finally anchored, her boats leapt into a flurry of activity, taking St. Vincent ashore to a coach for his much shorter ride to Rochetts; taking Caroline and the children to Portland Place; and taking Granger to the Admiralty, to see what new mission Spencer had in store for him.
    1 point
  23. Degan Canon flipped through the papers on his desk and reviewed the photos Willis had taken of the new site out at the oxbow lakes. It looked promising. The site was very large and backed onto the next part of the National Forest parkland as well as the flat protected valley of the river. And the pack could afford it. It was a stretch, buying several nearby houses would be cheaper, but this would solve many more issues for the pack. Degan shuffled the copies and the spare photos together along with the list of pack members taken from the roster and put the lot into a large manila envelope. He wrote the address carefully in a rounded hand and put the envelope in the stack of letters on his desk to be sent up to the South Bank pack. Things had gone from tense to great, to tense again in the pack. The mood of a group of werewolves was a fluid thing, connected to the happiness of the individuals, and tied to the strongest members of the pack. It should have been himself, Willis and Noakes, and the other members of the council. But since Kurt’s fight with Phillip and Tahryn’s obvious dismissal of other pack members at the council vote, the lay of emotions had changed. When the Ulrich boys were high strung the pack was nervous. And there they were taking one step forwards and two steps back. Kurt had recovered well from his fight, broken his mind in half and then ignored the needs of his wolf soul. Noakes said he’d been lucky as sin not to break anything else and had come out of his fall basically uninjured. Physically at least. Mentally the boy was a wreck. The big black wolf had spent the night in Degan’s house, back in the sickroom where he had slept after his injury, but in one of the dog baskets taken from Degan’s study. Tahryn had been sent home again, much to the big blond wolf’s disgust, and now Kurt was back in his parent’s house. He was still wolf, still uncommunicative, and still feral. It was not a good situation. No one was willing to challenge him over it. Willis had tried and come back with scratches where he hadn’t moved away quickly enough. Kurt was too strong, and apparently now without any kind of control. Tahryn, big and sandy coloured, had spent the day lying, head on paws, outside the back door. Willis had basically dragged him to school. No good was going to come from pining after his mate. Kurt was talking to no one, and it wasn’t helping anything. Degan needed the boys to see eye to eye properly, finally, if any of his plans were ever going to work out in any real sense. Degan chose to focus on happier things. Mary James had gone into labour, finally, but it was a long one. The new pup was really keen to stay inside and not join them out in the big wide world. It was good for Dinah Tanner to have other things to focus her mind after the loss of her son. The new wolf Deoran was turning out to be solid and reliable. He had helped to bury the body of Philip, and had been the first to arrive to where Kurt had fallen. He’d gone from quivering wreck to showing his true colours, strong and dependable, very quickly indeed. Degan was pleased with Aliza’s choice of mate. She’d chosen well, for all her fast paced method had led him to believe otherwise. A dominant female was a powerful force indeed. And that lead to the situation with his granddaughter and Chaska Spencer. Degan regretted, just for a moment, his decision to welcome the Spencer family into the pack. It seemed the children were causing no end of trouble now. Noakes had been to Degan with his concerns. “A split,” the doctor had laid his arm across Degan’s desk decisively, “in the family. I swear it was like the dining table was broken right down the middle.” “Is it that bad already?” Degan had frowned at his gamma across the desk, turning a little brass wolf paperweight over and over in his hand. “Yes. Those five are a pack already; for all they look like a bunch of unruly teenagers. And it looks like Tahryn could be their alpha if he can keep his mate under control.” “Five?” Degan had dropped the brass canine on his foot with a yelp. “What do you mean five?” “Isla. The littlest one.” Noakes looked at him like he was blind. “She and Kurt are like two peas in a pod.” “Oh god…” Degan put his head in his hands. “Do you think there would be any more? We’ll lose a whole generation.” Noakes seemed to consider the question. “The middle girl will stay. She’s still with Whelan.” “What about Henry? Tanner’s boy?” Degan spoke carefully. There was no love lost between Henry and Kurt, especially now, but the young wolf had still been seen with his former blond friend. Apparently there was a loyalty there too which was not yet broken. “I don’t know. It would kill Alex if he went.” Noakes pinched his forehead. “But he might. He seems to be very loyal to Tahryn. It depends if he can forgive Kurt or not.” “They can’t stay can they?” Degan asked, but knew the answer. “No. They are already aligned differently. They’ll have to go. Did you receive the communiqué back from Pincents Hill yet?” “Yes. It’s been done before.” “With one alpha?” “Yes. I’m not sure there’s ever been a double alpha before.” Degan sighed. “Was it wrong of me not to see that aspect in him?” “None of us did.” “This is going to cause problems if it’s not handled right isn’t it?” Degan could show worry in front of his gamma. Noakes would know what to do. “Yes. Yes it is. You have any idea how hard it’s going to be to convince Kurt to leave the territory?” * Finally out of breath, Tahryn headed off the asphalt track and headed towards the patch of grass where he had left water bottle and towel. Trying to be normal was nigh on impossible today, not after he had spent the night sitting outside Degan’s house wanting to be with his mate. Willis had strong armed him into coming, and then signed him off classes for the day and sent him out to the track to go run off his anxiety. Why he couldn’t stay home and run wolf through the woods he didn’t know. He’d been out here for hours, pushing his muscles way past the point of smooth easy motion and into the territory where every step hurt. It was a great distraction. Blood pounding in his ears, Tahryn put his head between his knees and panted, tongue out like a wolf. Some habits were hard to shake. He smelt Henry before he heard him. His ears were rubbish with his pulse this hard anyway, but over the sweat his nose worked fine. Henry’s usual scent was coloured with uncertainty and the grey ribbon of loss. He had not forgotten what Tahryn’s mate had done to his brother. He never would, but the fact that Henry was approaching him now meant the other teen knew, as Degan had, what Kurt had done had been necessary. Philip had meant to destroy Kurt, but he hadn’t been strong enough to follow through on his challenge and wouldn’t back down. Expulsion or death had been Philip’s only options. When you challenged a wolf like Kurt, those options were narrowed for you. “Hey.” Tahryn looked up at the werewolf he still considered his friend. Henry smiled at him. It was such a normal gesture Tahryn felt his breath catch in his chest all over again. Kurt had smiled like that, just once before everything had gone wrong. He nodded back and made a welcoming gesture with one arm, indicating the grass. He took a long drink as Henry sat down, trying to calm the frantic thudding of his heart, and offered his friend the water. Henry, not even sweating, declined with a hand. “You’ve been out here for hours Tahryn.” “I know.” Tahryn looked up at the sky. It would have been nice for it to have been overcast, cloudy, preferably black to match his mood, but no: the sun was out, the sky was watercolour blue and dotted with little fluffy clouds like sheep in summer. He looked utterly despondent. “I think I really screwed up Henry.” His friend’s hand landed softly on his shoulder and Tahryn decided he wanted the comfort from the touch, the usual werewolf instinct to have physical contact whenever things went wrong. “Looks like none of our lives are getting easier.” Henry squeezed his shoulder. “You want to talk to me about it?” “You don’t want to hear about my problems with Kurt. You hate him.” Henry shrugged and lay back on the grass, pillowing his head on his arms. “Sure I do. It doesn’t mean he was wrong though.” “What?” Tahryn twisted around to look at his friend. Henry looked unchanged, still sort of good looking, very normal for a teenage boy. Only in his eyes could you see the change, the chocolate brown distant and thoughtful whereas before he had been happy-go-lucky and dancing with life and hormones. “We’ve never gotten on well. We probably never will. I hate that he killed my brother, but I’d told Philip a dozen times he would never win against Kurt. He was dumb as fuck to try again. Kurt and I will never be friends, but you’re my friend and he’s your mate so…” Henry managed to shrug again from his prone position. “I would rather Philip had lived, but I wouldn’t have wanted Kurt to die either.” “I’m sorry, about your brother.” Tahryn found the words stuck in his throat, even though they were true. “He was not always the nicest person to be around. Mostly I feel bad for Mum, she was devoted to him.” Henry patted the grass beside him, and Tahryn relaxed his spine back into the warm earth. “Now tell me what’s eating you. Kurt’s not injured again is he? I thought I heard Noakes say he was somehow OK?” “Somehow being the operative word there. I have no idea how he didn’t injure himself again.” Tahryn exhaled deeply and closed his eyes. It was somewhat easier to speak when he could only see with his nose. The world was growing, and everything reminded him of the scent of his mate. “I think I pushed him too hard, calling him ‘pup’ in public and thinking he was OK with it. Fucking hell, we took him shopping and treated him like he was any other boy. I ignored the fact he hadn’t shifted in days. I thought he was OK, that he was coping with it…” Tahryn stopped speaking. He could feel the hot tears and the sob in his throat. He did not want to cry here, out on the sports field, in front of his friend. “Hey…” Henry touched his shoulder again. “You didn’t know.” “Sure I did. I just chose to ignore it.” Tahryn swallowed the tears and kept going. “I knew he was crushing all his wolf instincts. He went from having no human side at all to giving it all his attention. He couldn’t hold it together, and I pushed him to hard.” “What did you do Tay?” He could tell Henry was leaning up on one elbow, watching him. Tahryn kept his eyes closed, almost too embarrassed to answer. “I fucked him.” Tahryn breathed shakily into the hot silence that followed his words. He half, no more than half, expected Henry to get up and walk away. Straight guys were not known for their coping ability when their best male friend wants to talk about sex with guys. Henry didn’t move. “I think I sort of forced him to. I didn’t mean to, but I used a command on him.” “You guys can command each other?” Henry sounded more shocked by that than anything else Tahryn had said so far. “Yeah…” Tahryn felt his diaphragm sink as he exhaled again. “And he can hear my thoughts if I don’t guard them. I can hear him when we… have sex.” Tahryn paused, and then clarified. “As wolves.” “Dude, it’s kind of awesome don’t you think?” Henry seemed to consider something. “You mean you can’t hear him all the time?” “No. Well. We haven’t… you know,” Tahryn growled inwardly, talking about sex with Henry was even harder than talking about it with Kurt. “Done it as humans yet.” “I thought you said you…” “We didn’t exactly get very far.” Tahryn rubbed the long red scratch on his arm where Kurt’s fangs had laid him open. Noakes had given him steri-strips and antiseptic for the wound, but it had healed well overnight in wolf form. “I don’t know what to do.” Henry seemed to consider this. Tahryn could hear his friend fidgeting with the grass, tearing the wide blades into little strips. “Talk to him?” “He’s a wolf. He holed himself up in his parent’s house after he left Degan’s and hasn’t come out since. Degan thinks ‘space’ will be good for us.” “So no talking?” “I doubt it.” Tahryn thumped big fists hard into the dry ground. It hurt, and that was good. He did it again. “Dude.” Henry put a hand out to cover his. “He doesn’t want you to punish yourself.” “But it was my fault! I should have known he wasn’t coping. I should have just slowed the fuck down. Stuck to stuff he was comfortable with.” Tahryn’s words were hot and red with anger and self-pity. “You can’t see inside his head. And you didn’t mean to hurt him.” “Intentions count for nothing once someone gets hurt.” Tahryn screwed up his eyes as he felt the hot salt tears finally escaping. “And now Degan’s going to kick us out.” “WHAT?” Henry obviously hadn’t meant to shout, because he swore softly under his breath and slapped a hand across his mouth with force. “I mean; what? Why? How did you find out?” “Noakes let it slip. Our days are numbered.” Tahryn sighed, what the doctor had said weighed heavily on him now he and Kurt weren’t talking again. “I never thought I would be, could be, an alpha.” “Really?” Tahryn opened red rimmed eyes to look at his friend. Henry was sitting cross legged, making a daisy chain aimlessly while he thought, “I figured you knew. I did.” “What? How could you know?” Henry shook his head slowly, and Tahryn had the feeling he was about to be made to look a bit blond and stupid. “You remember when you first moved here?” Tahryn nodded, “and you walked into our lives and usurped the top spot in our social group?” He didn’t give Tahryn time to counter him, but ploughed on. “You did it naturally, as though there could be no other outcome. I’m surprised you didn’t see it in yourself, because I certainly did.” “I’m sorry…” “Don’t be. I’m not an alpha. I’m happy where I am. But you just swept in and made the world revolve around you. I don’t expect you even noticed?” Tahryn’s gaze apparently gave Henry the answer to his question. “See? All the humans and the wolves in our set all look to you to make decisions. Where we eat, what we do, where he hang out, when we run, it’s all you.” “Shit.” “Well there’s no way Degan would let you take over South Sea. Not with Kurt as unpredictable as he is. Sorry.” Tahryn had felt the growl in his throat overriding the tears before he’d even had time to draw breath. “But as a wolf he’s stronger than you, which would make him wolf alpha. You’d have to be alpha together.” “Is that even possible?” “Who knows?” Henry shrugged. Tahryn stared back up at the annoyingly sunny sky. “We’d have to be on speaking terms for more than two days straight I reckon. Damn.” “Yeah. You two have a lot to work on.” Henry touched his knuckles gently, and turned the gesture into a handshake. “I’m going to come with you.” “What?” “Every good alpha needs a gamma wolf right? Chaska is obviously beta in your pack.” “But what about… Kurt? Philip?” The hugeness of what had happened hung over both teens for the longest time imaginable which could still be contained by less than ten seconds. “He was my brother, but he is gone.” Henry’s words were simple but full of a brutal honesty that hurt just to hear. “His memory is best served by not repeating his mistakes.” * David James paced nervously up and down his own living room. He’d been shut, forcefully, out of the bedroom and told to go and wait downstairs like good husbands should. The noise of his wife in pain was making his head hurt, but he did not fancy trying to win the argument with Dinah Tanner. All female wolves went very protective and strong when a new pup was arriving, and David was no match for three strong females, especially as one of them was right now swearing blue bloody murder and cursing him in many other colourful ways. Carson had come over to sit with him as he patrolled the perimeter of his lounge in worry. “Jesus it sounds like she’s dying in there!” David dragged his hands through his hair, making the short thick strands stand on end for all he was messing with them. “I should go back up there.” “You wanna keep your balls? Don’t do it dude.” There was another gut wrenching scream from above. It made both big werewolves turn pale. “And just think,” David sounded sort of amused, “you have all this to look forwards to.” Carson blanched further. “Remind me again why I’m your friend?” Carson got up shakily and walked to the little drinks cabinet in the corner and poured two big tumblers of bourbon. “Come on, I’m sure we’re supposed to be drinking while we wait.” “Can’t we go to the pub?” David whined, looking longingly at the door. “You think you’ll live long if you leave now? Jesus dude…” Carson reached out and patted his friend’s shoulder as he passed. “Dude, sit down. You’ll wear a hole in the carpet doing that.” David sat down heavily in the other arm chair. He was sweating, panting, and obviously nervous. “You excited?” “Petrified. What if I’m shite at being a dad?” David’s eyes were wide and worried. “What if I drop him-her-it? What if Mary thinks I’m bad at this whole fatherhood thing?” “I’m thinking the fact you worry about it means you’ll be fine. You’ll do great Dave.” “You think?” David looked incredulous and hopeful. “Yeah. You got any names picked out?” “Mary likes Joseph for a boy, after her grandfather.” “What about you?” Carson smiled. “What if it’s a girl?” “Briar is nice. Mary doesn’t like it though.” Carson choked on his bourbon as he tried to swallow and laugh at the same time. He thumped his chest and wiped his face on his sleeve. “No shit? You want to call your daughter after a thorny plant. You have a death wish man.” There was a long scream from above. It made both men’s blood run cold. When it ended there was silence. They heard a whimper, the smallest softest sound. David bolted out of his seat before Carson could stop him. “Dude wait!” Carson managed to grab his friend’s fist before he pounded on the door to what had been his own bedroom. “Just wait. They’ll bring her out when she’s ready. Wait.” “But…” David took a deep breath and his eyes went wide, the scent of his new born child working its way into the synapses of his bran, setting all his loving protective instincts on fire. “She smells like crocuses.” Clover Willis was the first to emerge from the room, closing the door efficiently behind her before either man could see anything. “Well?” David demanded hotly. “A girl.” “I know.” “A wolf.” David blinked. “Huh?” “A wolf. A… puppy. Like Kurt.” “But… I mean…” “David, there’s something else.” Clover’s voice was firm, but soft. “You need to focus now.” “What? What’s happened?” David’s breath was shallow now, concern overriding all his other senses as he scented over the blood for his wife. There was a lot of blood. Too much blood. “Mary suffered a haemorrhage during the birth. The baby was in a very complicated position. She’s lost a lot of blood.” “Is she still...?” David couldn’t finish the sentence. “Yes. But barely.” Clover put a hand on his chest gently. “David she’s not going to make it.” “NO!” David pushed past the older woman and burst into the room which had been his bedroom. The air was thick with the scent of blood, too thick. The paternal instinct was stronger than the desire to go to his wife. Not until now had David realised the difference between marrying someone you loved and being with your true mate. His wolf-side brain was much more interested in the whimpering bundle which had been placed in the basket on the dresser. His human side won and David sprang to the bed, clutching at his wife’s hand. Dinah had half covered her with the sheet, to hide at least the sight of the worst blood, but Mary was pale, ashen, her hair lank and sweaty, her eyes glazed with pain and far away. “Babe…” Her voice was right on the edge of hearing, barely more than a breath on his skin. “No, no ,no…Mary don’t go!” David was vaguely aware he was crying, tears and snot running down his face. He wiped his nose on his sleeve, “I need you.” “Is she beautiful?” His wife’s eyes were nearly closed, unfocused. “Mary, stay with me…” “Is she beautiful?” Mary’s breath was almost non-existent, her face lined with pain. “Yes! Mary…” “Call her Yulva. I love you.” “No!” David’s hands gripping his wife’s were white, the knuckles nearly breaking through the skin, “No! Don’t say that. Don’t go!” But it was too late for pleading and begging. The light was fading in her eyes, and by the time David was finished his plaintive cry she was gone, her last breath drawn out and vanished. David wanted to grasp that last rattling sigh and stuff it back in, find a way of bringing her back. What did he care for a daughter when the woman he loved was gone from him, gone where he couldn’t follow? David let his head fall forwards onto the sheets, his forehead on his wife’s hand and screamed. The noise became a wail, then a sob, and a litany of tears that seemed to go on forever. “David.” Carson’s voice was intruding on his guilt and pain and David didn’t want to look up. The wolf part of him was twisting though, towards the scent of the new-born. Fresh and spring-like, crocus flowers in the dewy grass. “David.” Carson touched his shoulder, “Dave, look at her. She is beautiful.” David James turned to the pink blanketed bundle in Carson’s huge oil stained arms and suddenly his world became very focused. The loss of his wife, the woman he had loved for a decade, was still sharp and raw, but somehow no longer overwhelming. Every nerve ending in his brain fired pleasure and a desire to protect like he had never known, never thought he could experience let along comprehend as Carson handed him the bundle. The pup that was his daughter mewled softly, whimpering. A perfect little puppy. A pink nose and fine fur so white it was like snow, patched and touched with a blue-grey, almost lavender. Like all puppies, her eyes were closed, would open in about a day, and she squirmed towards him, tiny pink tongue seeking warmth and food and love. He stroked the space between ears that were yet to unfold and found the tiny pup suckling on his finger. “Yulva…” David knew he was still crying, but didn’t care. “As lovely as her mother.” * Roger Morris pinched the bridge of his nose and let his head fall back in his expensive executive office chair. The damn thing was supposed to help his back, but did nothing of the sort. Apparently lumbar structure just made you ache more in different places. It didn’t help much that it was his fourth time reading through the petition he had received that morning and it still made no sense to him. He’d opened the big manila envelope when it had first arrived. He reviewed it again on the tube, then between meetings at the office, and now a last time before dinner was due. The gamma of the South Bank pack barked at the ceiling in his annoyance. It was the second time in a week he’d had to deal with issues at South Sea pack, which after years of quiet should have been seen as a blessing. There were more northerly packs that kept him busy with missives and changes nearly every month. He should have been grateful. But it was the third time in as many communiqués Kurt Smith’s, now Kurt Ulrich’s, name had come up. There weren't any wolves in the South Bank pack who did not know of the boy simply by his unique history alone. Roger had phoned his counterpart over in Personnel at lunch to discuss the matter. “You have Kurt Smith’s file?” “In front of me now.” Giles Troup had sounded only slightly worried to pick up the phone to his gamma without a single exchanged pleasantry. “I was just re-filing him under U.” “Right. Can you fax me over a copy of his incident history?” “Is there much point, there’s only one entry.” Giles had sounded confused. “What?” Roger had accidentally growled down the phone. “His file must be half an inch thick and you’re telling me there is only one incident connected to his name? Which one?” Giles had coughed. “‘Friday 12th of April: Was challenged by Phillip Tanner (nee, son of Alex and Dinah Tanner of South Sea pack) to a fight to the death. Won said fight with severe injuries.’ That’s all there is sir.” “Christ. Can you have his file on my desk for when I get home?” “Sure thing Roger. Can I ask…?” Giles had left the question open and hanging, in case it was refused. “Yeah. I got a petition from South Sea for a splinter pack. Looks like the born wolf might be moving. He would be joint alpha with his mate.” “Sometimes I don’t envy your job. See you at dinner.” Giles had hung up, leaving Roger to fume until his next meeting. Being head of Pack and Territory Divisions and Management was a good post, and it went very well with his human role sitting on the board of directors for both the Council of Planning and Agriculture and the National Trust. Controlling pack boarders was a hell of a lot easier when you could also help to govern the size and shape of new towns and work on increasing National parkland which had much stricter building regulations. Sometimes Roger was jealous of his people’s Canadian counterparts. They had far fewer worries as far as land was concerned. When the National Trust had been started by Miss Beatrix Potter at the point of her death, pretty much every bright minded wolf in the country had gotten somehow involved in the cause to expand the protected land, to keep their families safe. At one point there had been no human’s on the board at all, only wolves. They were very persuasive at buying up endangered land and property. They joined big sections of the country together with wild forests and working farms, where their people would be safe. Werewolves made very good farmers; they tended not to require sheepdogs. Now Roger gathered and re-laid out all the documents on his desk. There was Kurt Ulrich’s file, as thick as he remembered it. The monthly updates that had been sent about the boy when he was growing up filled it out. The set of photos of the proposed site of the splinter pack, in a wide farming valley of oxbow lakes and protected woodland with the campsite which the alpha of South Sea intended to buy outright for his new group of young wolves, and the letter Degan Canon had sent with it containing the list of names of the wolves who were most likely to move to form the new pack all crowded his desk. Chalk Horse Hill; the gamma did have to admit it had a nice ring to it but Roger didn’t know what to make of it all. Two alpha wolves… such a thing had never happened. But then, according to both written records and remembered histories, no two alpha male wolves had ever become mates. And apparently these two were true mates. Not just kids in love, but bound up by hormones and chemical scents that drove them to be together despite all the good reasons they shouldn’t be. The dinner bell went and Roger left his papers and his office, locking it on his way out, to go to the mess hall. Renting County Hall had been a great option when the South Bank pack had moved in along the river in the late eighties, and their wing of the building housed the fifty wolves easily. Roger took his seat at the main table, at the left hand side of his alpha, and waited for the last few stragglers before the meal began. The alpha and the members of National Council ate first, and after serving himself Roger turned and smiled at Giles who sat further down the first table. “So anything new to report?” Asked the alpha, turning between his two deputies. “The New Forest pack alpha stepped down.” The beta replied, and Roger quickly remembered he had given the file to his superior; Daniel liked to handle alpha staffing’s and since it gave Roger less to do, he didn’t mind. “Already? Good god. Did he hire a replacement?” “Yeah. It’s all sorted.” “Good. What about you Roger, anything on your end?” Roger turned to his alpha. He was a good man, a strong firm leader, and he knew the South Sea pack well. He would be better equipped to make a decision. “South Sea pack wants to form a splinter pack. They have too many dominant young males.” He coughed. “Kurt Ulrich’s name came up.” “Really?” The alpha laid down his fork, anything that stopped a wolf from eating was pretty important. “Dare I ask as what?” “Joint alpha. He mated another alpha male.” “Dear god. I think it might be time we gave our friends on the South Coast a little visit don’t you?” Roger blanched. “You’re going to visit them sir?” He asked, dreading the answer that made his alpha smile. “Nope. But you are.” He gestured to Roger Morris with a fork. “Get down there on a train tomorrow morning. I trust you to make the right decision.” * Deoran stood outside of Kurt’s house, or rather, the house in which Kurt was currently holed up, and sighed. It had been a long, long time since he had done something like this, especially initiated it. But he had woken up at four in the morning beside his mate and realised it was probably the best course of action for Kurt. The boy who was too much a wolf had in the space of four days done as much mental damage to himself as Deoran had achieved in eight months. Kurt did nothing by halves. If Kurt responded the way he hoped… Well, it would be half the battle over with. Deoran slunk through the back door and padded softly up the stairs. He couldn’t follow his nose, too long ignoring his wolf as a teenager had left him permanently head blind in that respect, but the pull of Kurt’s misery was easier to trace than his scent. Deoran pushed the door open with a shoulder. The room looked like it had been shredded by a tornado with claws. In the mess that had once been a bed and blankets was curled the big black shape of Kurt, his topaz and gold eyes narrowed to slits, watching Deoran as he stepped forwards. It’s alright; you know how to do this. Just remember. Deoran stretched his paws forwards, bringing his head low between them. Tail up, butt in the air, he angled his ears forwards and barked. The black wolf snarled, but didn’t move. Deoran lay on the floor and shuffled towards him, tail sweeping from side to side across the carpet, getting close to the black wolf. He kept his ears forwards, muzzle low to the ground and yipped again. Again Kurt growled. Deoran was about six inches from Kurt when the big wolf went from showing teeth to standing up. For a long second Deoran thought he had misjudged the act, and Kurt’s fangs were about to slice down and bring cold sharp death to him, but from the corner of one eye the little red wolf saw Kurt’s bushy tail twitch. He raised himself up, very carefully, on shaking legs and pressed his muzzle under Kurt’s chin. He sprang back, tail waggling in the air, head down and barked. In comparison Kurt’s bark was a like a thunderclap, but his ears were forwards, his tail was up, and when Deoran turned he knew the black wolf was following him. Eight paws raced downstairs, ran circles around each other and made for the garden. Deoran barked and yapped, dashing in between the big wolf’s legs as he twisted and turned, making for the forest. Kurt sprang at him, bowled him over, and let him up. Deoran chased Kurt into the woods. The game went on for what seemed forever as they barked each other round trees, through and over the woods. Deoran led whenever he had to, but subtlety let Kurt pick the direction they travelled in. Even if the black wolf didn’t know it, his body had a destination in mind. Again and again Deoran made it close enough to his companion to push his muzzle under the big wolf’s head, nuzzling his neck in a way that meant trust. More than once Kurt pushed him over, and Deoran let him, paws in the air. Every time Kurt leapt away and continued the game, acting as though it hadn’t happened: a dominant wolf almost scared to be dominant. Kurt was slightly more broken than Deoran had thought. Leap, spring; run, bark, chase. Deoran knew when they’d reached their destination. On the ridge was a little copse of field maple trees, their new green leaves fully unfurled, and there was large flat stone, jutting out of the landscape. He and the big wolf raced to it, Kurt won, bowled him over and Deoran stayed on his back, turned his head and craned his neck. The black wolf pressed his muzzle into his ruff, then down his chest and belly, licking him once before he huffed, snorted and sat up. Deoran rolled and lay with his tail curved around his feet, watching Kurt look out across the landscape. The big wolf was sad. Deoran knew he had not misread Kurt’s look the previous evening when he had lain in the grass, too lucky to have been injured by his fall. He knew the confusion and hopelessness, the feeling nothing would ever be right again. Kurt sat looking out at his world, apparently not seeing anything. Deoran shifted as quickly and quietly as he could, and sat cross legged on the sun baked stone, the warmth coming down around him as good as a blanket. He laid his hands on his folded knees. “I was like every other teenage wolf.” It was as good a start as any, and Kurt flicked an ear in his direction to show that he was listening. “There were no worries, no issues. I knew my place, I’d found the boy I wanted to mate with. My world was complete.” He paused long enough for the wolf to whine at him. Deoran gulped. Now he’d started the story and he found that he could speak it, he wanted to finish. “We were running in the woods, playing, not really paying attention to anything but each other. We were young and stupid and in love. I raced him across the road. It was a game.” The sick wet thud of flesh and fur and bone on tarmac. “I made it. He didn’t.” The screech of tyres and engines. The shouts of humans. “It was my fault. I was older, responsible. I was so scared of what I’d done that I ran away.” Three days. Three days of running and hitch hiking. He’d run until after dark. He’d crept into a house and stolen clothes from the laundry. He hitched a lift with a thumb in bare feet, heading away, just away. As far from his home territory, from the body of the boy he’d loved, as far as he could from his wolf. He needed a big city, big enough to get lost in, where one more skinny homeless teenager wouldn’t make anyone suspicious. Winter had come quickly in the cold without fur. The wolf scared him, petrified him in his own head, until he could not bring himself to change at all. He would wake, in parks or under bridges, wearing his fur and change back as soon as he found his clothes. A small russet red wolf can pass easily for a dog or an urban fox in the city at night. He begged for food, ignored every need and desire of his wolf mind, and debased his existence to a mad scramble for scraps outside restaurant bins. He grew thinner and weaker every day. Eight months, all through the autumn and winter, to the spring that never came. Eight months he existed with maybe four involuntary changes in shape, perhaps seven hot meals from soup kitchens and one night indoors when he’d been the first to an abandoned house before the hard heads and druggies had moved in on it. Eight months ignoring the wolf, with nothing to think of except the fight to survive and nothing he could remember but the blood on fur and asphalt. One morning he had woken too cold to move, too weak to wake properly, and shifted forms in the alley where he lay. A starving wolf looks very much the same as a dead dog to an uneducated human. When the men in overalls came with net and crate and blankets Deoran had prayed for a swift death, even though he didn’t deserve it. He had hoped that he had done enough damage, ignored his wolf side long enough for it to kill him before the humans found out what he was. The following morning he had woke to find himself not in a cage, not surrounded by the smells and noise of other abandoned strays, but in a clean-ish room lying on something soft, and staring at the young man who had rescued him. Spiky black hair, piercings and tattoos let him know a little bit about him, but the appearance of food distracted his nose more. Chicken and bacon, cooked too, and cut up into little pieces. The young man fed him by hand, spoke to him, and when Deoran had tuned his mind into the conversation he had found that the man had spoken like he knew what he was. It was a shock to realise that he had ignored his wolf so long that he had basically broken his sense of smell permanently. His physical recovery had taken weeks. Every shift left him drained, but the mini-alpha of the Maiwand Lion stray pack, for that was who the tattooed twenty five year old had been, insisted on daily changes. He had ignored his wolf long enough for it to nearly kill him. It had cost him his nose, his sense of smell, and nearly cost him his whole existence. Regardless of how well his body worked, his mind was worse. He would scream when someone touched him, shake and shiver in the presence of other wolves until his legs and bladder gave way. Tam had been unbelievably patient with him considering he was a twenty five year old metal head who had moved into the centre of Reading for the festival and never moved back, forming a little splinter pack of strays and lost boys too moody to stay at home. Tam had saved him from himself, saved him from the mad rushes of self-hatred that had made him try and lay open his veins. Had sat up with him night after night while he cried himself to sleep and been there in the morning with tea and toast, or chicken, lasagne, shepherd’s pie, depending on shape and the usual lack of fresh milk. Tam and the Maiwand Lion had saved him He’d been nineteen before he’d been able to actually enter society. It had taken that long to fix him up enough to pass for normal. Tam had almost forced him to enrol in college, finish the formal part of his education that he’d missed. Tam had said he had a ‘damn good brain kiddo, you’d better do something useful with it’. So Deoran had finished up his GCSE’s, taken A-levels and started a four year teaching degree. He stayed home, as moving to halls was out of the question. Tam, approaching thirty and starting to look like a grown-up, had let him, encouraged him with his studies and continued to be kind and patient and caring. He had graduated, taking a one year position to fill in NQT year and by the time he was twenty seven had been ready to re-enter the world properly. Eleven years had passed since he’d left home, ten years of recovery, of Tam teaching him how often he needed to turn to keep the wolf healthy but at arm’s length. He was far from healed, probably never would be really. Sometimes a hot flood of shame would creep over him, making him wish he was not a wolf at all. But he had stopped actively thinking about trying to kill himself long before and Tam and the other members of the Maiwand Lion, of which he’d been one of the most stable, waved him off in the second hand rusty estate car that would become his most permanent possession and sometimes home. The same car he had sat in the back of in terror six years later, less than a week ago. The boy who had been the big black wolf, who had turned out to be all wolf without a shred of humanity in him, had driven that car at break neck speed when he had inadvertently wandered into the South Sea pack territory. “I ignored my wolf Kurt, the same as you did. It nearly killed me. Aliza told me about you; born wolf. You were all wolf and then you were all human. It was never going to work.” Deoran looked down to find the big black wolf was now a ball of pale limbs and thick black hair, tawny eyes wild. “I did it for Tahryn.” Kurt was crying, salty tears tracking down his face, his eyes rimmed with red and dark circles. “I know. But Tahryn loves you for being who you are. You’re a werewolf, not a human.” “I can’t do it.” Kurt sniffed and snivelled. “I can’t be both!” “You don’t have to Kurt.” There was a long, long silence punctuated only by sniffles. “What?” “You don’t have to be a human and a wolf. You’re a werewolf. One side, one mind, one person.” They were the same words Tam had said to him long ago, when Deoran had looked like Kurt did now. “Your human side and your wolf side are the same thing. You just have to be all Kurt. That’s all.” “But Tay…” “He loves you. What you do with him, regardless of who in your relationship is dominant, doesn’t change the way the pack sees you. You have alpha in you boy. Wanting to have your mate fuck you will not change that in the slightest.” Kurt’s throat thrummed with a possessive growl at the mention of his mate and the things they did in private. “See. Better already.” “You’re a lot smarter than I thought you were.” Kurt looked grumpy but somehow cheerful, and he was no longer crying. Deoran stood and stepped down from the rock. His legs had gone to sleep beneath him. He was a little clumsy. Kurt snorted. “Well I’m glad you find me funny. You wanna come back down?” “I think I’ll stay for a while.” “Alright.” Deoran turned to leave, but stopped when Kurt said his name. “Deo? Thank you.” Deoran smiled. “Somebody was there to save me. I was there to save you. You’ll be there for someone one day too.” The words left Kurt looking thoughtful. Deoran shifted and sniffed the air, frowning. There was something there, on the breeze, and that was new. As he trotted down the hill towards the cul-de-sac he was starting to think of as being home, a tiny hope grew.
    1 point
  24. June 6, 2002 Stanford University, CA “Sup?” Tony asked as I walked into our room. He was sitting at his desk studying, wearing just a T-shirt and boxers. “Hey,” I said, and put down the empty boxes I had in my hands. “I’m moving back to Escorial.” “Bummer,” Tony said. “Been good having you around.” “Thanks,” I said. “Been good being around.” “This mean you and Wade worked things out?” “Kind of,” I said, even as I started packing stuff up. “We’re not together, but we’re friends.” “You fucked him,” he said with his sexy leer. “Damn straight,” I said, winking at him. “How’s that going to be, being at Escorial with Will there?” “I had a long talk with him last night,” I said nervously. “We worked things out.” “Does he still hate me?” “Dude, I told Will I wasn’t going to talk about you, and I don’t want to talk to you about him either,” I said. “So how come he can forgive you for us fucking, but he can still hate me?” Tony was pretty good at keeping his emotions to himself, and didn’t say much about shit like that, but it had been obvious from the beginning that his rift with Will was like an open wound for him. “Because I’m basically his brother, and he has to do it for family,” I said. “Dude, I’m sorry.” “Whatever,” he said, and went back to studying. When I was pretty much done packing things up, he helped me haul it all down to the GMC. “See you ’round,” he said casually. “Tony,” I said, stopping him. “Thanks for everything. You really helped me out through a pretty tough time.” He grinned. “It’s all good.” Then he sauntered off, looking like the sexy beast that he was. I opened the door of the GMC and paused, glancing at the dorms and the people around them. I got in the GMC and shut the door, knowing that I was shutting the door not only on the dorms, but on this life. I drove back to Escorial in an introspective mood. These had been mostly good times here at Stanford, and I’d changed a lot as a person. I couldn’t blame the university for the totally shit things that had happened in my life, especially losing Robbie, but I worried that I’d link Stanford forever with Robbie’s death, and with Wade. Time would tell if the link to Wade would be a positive or not. I got back and parked the GMC by the garage. I was about to unload it when Pedro and another one of the staff members came walking up with a dolly. Pedro was this totally hot Latino who technically worked as a driver here, but he’d been basically monopolized by Will, so everyone thought of him as Will’s personal valet. “We got this for you,” Pedro said. “I can carry this shit,” I objected. “You don’t have to do that.” “I have my orders,” Pedro said with a smile, referring to Will. “Professor Crampton asked you to see him when you got back. He is in his study.” “Alright,” I agreed. “Thanks.” “My pleasure,” he said, flirting a bit. I raised my eyebrow suggestively to let him know that I’d noticed his attention, and then strolled through the familiar halls to JP’s study. The doors were open, probably because he was expecting me. “You wanted to see me?” I asked. “Ah Matthew,” he said, and got up to greet me. He gave me a hug, a nice one, and I appreciated that because JP was stunted with people he didn’t like, so by putting himself into the embrace, it was his way of telling me he still loved me. He directed me to have a seat in one of the chairs in his sitting area, and closed the doors before joining me. “I wanted to talk to you about your future plans.” “You worried that my move here is permanent?” I joked. “I would love it if you came to live here with us,” he said, then seemed to switch gears as he got back to the topic at hand. “I try not to pry into the lives of others, but I am curious about what you are going to do, such that it has overwhelmed my normal good manners.” “There’s nothing wrong with you asking me about this stuff,” I said. “This deal with the University of Chicago screws up my original plan.” “What are your other options?” “Stef wants me to come to work for him, but he thinks it would be a good idea for me to get some experience at other places first,” I said. I was worried that Stef was just using that as a way to blow me off, but I decided that he wasn’t. “You’ve worked with him, off and on, during your time here at Stanford,” JP observed, as evidence that Stef genuinely wanted me around. “I think he merely wants you to have another perspective before he claims your talents.” “That makes sense,” I agreed. “We talked about me working toward my CFA designation, doing a master’s degree along with it.” “That is probably good training for working in their business,” JP said. “I’ve got a few options, but the two best ones, until I heard from Chicago, were in New York and Boston. Stef helped me line up opportunities to work part time in both cities. If I lived in New York, I could work on my CFA through a program at New York University, and in Boston, I could do it at Boston College.” “And now you have an opportunity to do that in Chicago as well,” he concluded. “I do,” I said. “I’d pretty much decided on Boston until this morning, and now I’m confused again.” “Going to the University of Chicago is an exceptional opportunity,” he said. “How much money did Stef have to give them to let me in, or was it you that pulled strings?” I asked. I wasn’t stupid; this was all too convenient, and while I was grateful, I wanted him to know that I figured it out. “You are suggesting that a few well-placed phone calls are inappropriate?” he asked, which surprised me, because I figured he’d try to worm his way out of it. “No, I just wanted to know who to thank,” I said. “No thanks are required,” he said. “You think I should go to Chicago?” I asked. He shook his head. “I am not going to tell you what to do. This is a big decision, one that is entirely yours.” “I’m not asking for orders, just your opinion,” I said. “Perhaps if you talked through your pros and cons with me, I could give you some guidance,” he suggested. “Chicago offers me an incredible opportunity. No matter what happens, having a finance degree from the University of Chicago is stellar, and combined with Stanford, it cements my resume,” I said. He nodded. “Boston College is a good school too, but not as good as Chicago.” “Those would seem to be accurate assessments,” he noted. “But Wade is going to be in Boston,” I said. “I do not mean to pry, but you seem to have reconciled with both Wade and Will last night. Is that reconciliation with Wade expansive enough for you to move to Boston with him?” “No,” I said sadly. “We basically are really good friends, with benefits.” I raised my eyebrows when I said those last two words, making him chuckle. “Then you would not really be moving to Boston with Wade,” he noted. He was dancing around on this, and it was starting to frustrate me. “How is that different?” “Moving with him involves picking a place to live together, one that works for both your lifestyles, and setting up your lives such that they revolve around each other,” he said. “As it stands now, you’d both be moving to Boston, but doing it largely each on your own.” JP and Wade were very tight, so if he was having this conversation with me, it was largely because he was worried about this issue. And that meant that Wade was worried about it too. “Has Wade talked to you about this?” He frowned. “I am not going to share what Wade tells me, just as I won’t share what you tell me.” “Alright,” I said. “But I feel like you have something to say to me and you’re holding back. I’m suggesting that if you just told me what was on your mind, it would take a lot less time, and we could both go do other things.” “At this point in the semester, that is probably a good thing for both of us,” he said, while he smiled, then he got serious. “I think that if you go to Boston, it will be to chase after Wade. Wade will know that, and I think he will feel very uncomfortable about it.” “I don’t understand,” I said honestly. I saw his frustration, so I changed things around. “Let me ask you this. If you were going to Boston for school, and a dude you’d just broken up with was going there too, what would you think?” “I am not Wade,” he objected. “That’s not what I asked you,” I said. “I would feel as if he were making decisions based on my relationship with him, which was tenuous at best. That would bother me, and I would assume some level of responsibility for that decision,” he said. “I would probably try to discourage him from making the move.” “And if he still did it?” “I think I would try to discourage him more actively,” he said. And then I got his message. If Wade thought I was going to Boston to chase after him, he would completely shut down on me, and block me from having anything to do with him. That was completely in character with him, and with JP. What he was telling me was that if I ever wanted to have a chance to have a relationship with Wade in the future, I should go to Chicago, or at least not to Boston. I stood up. “Thanks JP. I haven’t made my decision yet, but you helped me see things much more clearly.” Even though I knew what I had to do, that conflicted with what I wanted to do, and I was willing to see what the next few days with Wade turned out like before I announced for Chicago. “Excellent,” he said. I left his study, not a little disturbed, and headed toward the room Wade and I used to share. I’d vacated that one, so it only made sense that I’d move back in there. I saw Will talking to a guy outside the Great Hall. Holy shit, was this guy attractive! He was tall, with dark hair and bulging muscles. He had a day or two of beard growth, but it just made him look sexy and masculine. It was hard to peg his exact age, but he looked like he was under thirty. “Hey!” I said to Will, and put my left arm around him, then held out my right hand to this other guy. “Matt Carrswold.” “Ben Carter,” he said, as he gripped my hand firmly. “We’ll let you get back to work,” Will said, and led me off toward his room. “Dude, who the fuck was that?” I asked him. “He’s working on the wood in the Great Hall.” “He can work on my wood anytime,” I joked. Will rolled his eyes. “Of all the people who live here, who’s the scariest?” “The scariest?” I asked, confused. “Who would you be most afraid to have pissed off at you?” I thought about that, and my initial instinct was to say JP, since he was so fucking smart, but he was also restrained, so even if he was mad at me, he wouldn’t go postal. I worked my way through the other people there, and came to a conclusion: “Your father.” “Good answer,” Will said, laughing. “Dad’s spending the day with Ben on Saturday.” I laughed with him. “Alright. Ben is off limits.” “Look how well you learn,” he joked, making fun of me. He led me down to the room that was next to Wade’s. “You’re over here.” “You moved me?” “Stef’s been going through and re-doing all the rooms,” he said. “Your old room is under construction, and this one is done.” He opened the door to a room that was beautiful, redecorated with very modern touches. I thought of the room Wade had, which was more traditional. This one was more like Will’s. “This is awesome. Thanks!” It was also really nice of him to put me near Wade, but I didn’t comment on that. Pedro was there with the other guy, stacking the boxes around. “Time to get to work,” Will said. He dismissed the other staff member, but made Pedro stick around and help us out. I focused on the task at hand, but also spent some time watching Will and Pedro. It was pretty obvious to me that there was more to their relationship than just an employer-employee deal. Pedro finally left us, and it was just Will and I putting my stuff away. “You must have been spending some time with Wade,” I said. “You’re almost as good at organizing shit as he is.” “No one is that good. I figured we’d better do a good job in case he does an inspection tour,” he joked. I laughed. “True that.” “I’m putting your socks in this drawer. You can take care of putting your underwear away.” “You know you want to,” I said. “As if,” he responded. I was having a really good time with him, which was cool and freaky at the same time. “So is Pedro off-limits too?” I asked. He frowned at me. “Dude, I don’t want to hurt you again, but you have to let me know who’s not available.” “Pedro and Zach,” he said. “They’re off-limits.” “So Pedro is the dude that takes care of you when Zach’s not around?” “Uh, not exactly,” he said nervously. I shrugged. “I’m not trying to get all into your shit, but nothing you say is going to shock me.” “Pedro’s a good dude,” he said. “He’s mostly straight, but he’ll do a hot dude if he’s horny.” “You’re a hot dude,” I said. “I am,” he agreed, cracking me up, and then focused briefly on sorting out some of my socks. “Zach’s into, uh… never mind.” “Threesomes?” I asked. “Dude, I know all about those.” “No doubt,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Zach’s into felching.” I nodded. “I knew a couple of guys at Stanford who were into that.” I didn’t tell him that one guy just about drove Tony and me crazy to get him off with it. “I mean, it’s not really my thing, but I’m into it because he is,” Will said. I was amazed at how much he was opening up to me. “That’s cool. Good for you, for doing that for the guy you’re with,” I said. “The only thing is, sometimes guys that are into that aren’t really all that safe.” “Yeah, and that’s kind of an issue for me. But since Zach and I aren’t barebacking, it’s not a problem.” I worked that around in my mind. “So Pedro fucks you, and then Zach sucks his load out of your ass?” “Pretty much,” he said, and was uncomfortable since I’d been so blunt about it. “Dude, that must feel fucking incredible, to have him do that to your ass,” I said. He smiled shyly. “It’s pretty hot.” “So there’s really not a problem?” “No, other than I think its kind of gross,” he said. Only he didn’t, he just wanted someone to validate him. “That’s bullshit,” I said. “Guys are pretty gross, when you get down to it. If it makes him happy, and you think it’s fun, and you’re safe, what’s the problem?” “I guess there isn’t one,” he said. “Dude, I fucked up so bad last night.” “What did you do?” he demanded. “I should have fucked you when I had the chance,” I said. “Probably missed one of the best times I could have had.” “Probably,” he said, grinning at me. “But you made the right decision.” “I know,” I said. “In the meantime, I have some jack-off fantasies.” He blushed, which was really cute. “I think you’re good,” he pronounced, looking at my closet and how nicely things were laid out. I gave him a nice kiss. “I think I will be.” June 7, 2002 Escorial, CA I was going to walk into my room, but instead I went straight to Wade’s. Then again, it’s not like it was a big deal, since it was right next door. I knocked on the door, and then waited for him to say ‘come in’. I walked in to find him lying on his stomach in his bed, while Brad sat about five feet away from him in a chair. I felt my anger rising, since Brad and Wade had fucked around a while back, and that had damn near ruined our relationship. I barely managed to keep my brows from furrowing when I saw them together. “Hey,” Wade said cheerfully. “How was your final?” “I think I did pretty good,” I said, trying hard to be as cheerful as he was. “I’ll see you guys later on,” Brad said. He walked by me and patted me on the shoulder, which just about set me free, since it was like he came in here to hit on my boyfriend, and then when he was busted, he gave me a patronizing pat on the back. I watched him leave, even as I reminded myself that Wade wasn’t my boyfriend, then turned back to see Wade staring at me. Fuck. “Are you alright?” he asked. “Doing great,” I said, forcing my jealousy out of my head, no mean feat. “Thanks to your help and motivation, I think I made it through that lit class without totally fucking up my GPA. “That’s great!” he said. His enthusiasm seemed fake, like this was some big act to hide the fact that he and Brad were about to fuck. “I was going to go take a shower, then start studying for the next final,” I said. “There’s a party tonight I was thinking of going to,” he said. “Seriously?” I asked him. Wade never partied during finals. He shrugged. “I’m almost out of here, I’m already admitted to law school, so I figure what the fuck.” “Where’s it at?” “The Kappas are throwing it,” he said. Those girls were total snobs, and most of them didn’t like me. “Cool. Well have fun. I’m going to shower, and then study some more.” I walked out of his room and went into mine, tossing my book bag down in a pretty violent way. I stripped off my clothes, leaving them in a pile on the floor, then went into the bathroom and turned on the shower. Stef had redone this as well, and it matched the showers he’d put in at their house in Claremont. It was a steam shower, with all these cool panels that shot water out from the sides, and a nice rain shower head above me. I messed around with the aromatherapy, finding a scent I liked, then relaxed and let the water soothe my mind. Was Wade trying to test me with this shit? Was Brad in there just to annoy me, and was Wade going to this party just to see if I’d freak out? I could totally see him doing that, pushing at me like that to see if I really could handle a relationship with him based only on friendship. That really pissed me off, that he would stoop to manipulate me, but the water and aroma worked their magic, helping me get to the point where I could shrug it off. Then I internally bitch slapped myself. Wade and I had made love again last night, and this morning. He’d been totally into it. And based on our deal, there was nothing to prevent him from going to a party, or even from fucking Brad, although after all the attitude I got from him with that Will-Tony deal, I had grounds to have some serious issues with Brad. Then I calmed down again, reminding myself that this was exactly the kind of shit that would piss Wade off. The shower door opened, scaring the shit out of me. I jumped up and actually threw the soap in the air. “Fuck!” I yelled, trying to get my pulse to go down. Wade laughed. “Sorry. If you don’t want company, I can leave.” “Get your ass in here,” I said, playfully at first, but then I saw his expression, and knew what he was in the mood for. I turned off the water, but the shower held the heat in, keeping it warm, then I tackled him down onto the wet floor. “What the fuck,” he said, but he knew what I was doing. I pinned him down on his stomach, on the tile, holding his arm up behind his back. I saw the soap next to me and grabbed it, then started getting my cock really soapy. He struggled, trying to get away, but I had him pinned, and he didn’t really want to get away. I soaped up his hole. “Knock it off!” He said that, but that was bullshit. He knew the safe word, so if he really wanted me to stop, he’d say it. My mind flashed back to Christmas, the one and only time he’d used it on me, but I managed to move beyond that. “I’m gonna fuck you, fuck you hard,” I snarled in his ear. “No!” he shouted. “Shut the fuck up. You know you want it,” I said, even as I lined my cock up and gently pushed into his hole. “Yeah, that’s what you want.” “Ah!” he shouted, but an excited shout. I lay on top of him, gnawing on his ears and his neck, not enough to hurt or leave a mark, but enough to let him know I was in charge, while I just pounded away at his sweet ass. I stopped, pulled out, and grabbed his hip, pulling him up into a kneeling position, and then slammed my dick back into him again. I fucked him for as long as I could, and then pulled out again. “Roll over!” He did what I said, and lay on his back, with his dick standing straight up and throbbing. I put some soap on it, then on my hole, and knelt over him. I took him slowly, savoring each second of his movement, until I had him fully in me. I sat on his pelvis, forcing him to really work to thrust up into me, making him lift my entire weight if he wanted to gain any friction in my ass. I knew Wade so well, and he loved this. His face was bright red, and he was breathing heavily, signs that he was about to blow. I stroked my cock two or three times, but I was so fired up, that was all it took. I blasted my load all over him, watching as it landed on his chest and his abdomen. I rode the orgasm for a long time, and feeling him straining to thrust his cock into me deeper just made me go on that much longer. When I was done, I scooped up glops of my cum and made him eat it, or smeared it on his face, while I lifted up enough to let him really fuck me. “Ahhhh!” he shouted, probably loud enough for Will to hear, and then he came, blasting on and on, shooting his load inside me. When he was done, I stood up and smiled down at him, then turned the water on so it sprayed all over him. “Fuck!” he said, and jumped up, while I couldn’t stop laughing. “You deserved it for scaring the shit out of me,” I said. “I’m sorry. Next time I won’t bother you,” he said, pretending to be petulant. I pulled him to me, hugging him, and kissed him. “Interrupt me whenever you want.” “I’ll keep that in mind,” he said. We kissed again, and then he got nervous. Only my conversation with JP had helped me figure him out. He loved me, and he really loved having sex with me, because I knew just which buttons to push to really set him off. At the same time, he didn’t want to lead me on, and he didn’t want to be my partner. I forced myself to not let that upset me. That opportunity, to be partners, had passed for now. There was no way I was going to resurrect it between now and when he moved to Boston, and if I moved with him, it would just ruin us. I had to be realistic. “If you want to go to that party you can,” I said, “but if not, I was thinking we could go out and grab a drink.” “Just the two of us?” he asked, like that was the most boring thing we could do. “Yeah. I’ve been thinking about my plans for this fall, and I wanted to run them by you,” I said. “You don’t need my approval,” he said hastily, which told me I was reading him pretty damn well. “I don’t want your approval, I want your opinion. But hey, I don’t want to fuck up your big night. We can talk later.” I was forcing myself to be casual, to play him like I would play a dude I was hitting on who thought he was hot shit. “I’ll go on one condition,” he said. “There has to be food involved.” “Get dressed,” I said, and slapped his ass. He gave me a dirty look, but I saw his smile in the mirror as he walked out of the bathroom. I took him to this pub on the El Camino, hoping that this went better than our conversation last year in the diner. That’s when we’d pretty much ended as a couple. We made small talk, mostly about our finals, until we got there. We ordered beers and some appetizers, and pretended to relax. “So tell me about your plans.” “Well, I have three options for grad school, and each one comes with a pretty cool internship.” “Alright,” he said, to urge me on. “The first is in New York, where I can go to New York University,” I said. “The advantage to that is that I’m close to you, I can stay at the condo in Tribeca, and I have friends there. Carullo still lives there.” I saw Wade frown briefly at that, and it made me smile to see that he was still a little jealous of me. John Carullo had been a football player at Stanford, and he’d been a good friend and a great fuck. Wade knew that if I was around Carullo, there was a decent chance my relationship with John could become more serious. “I can see the benefits,” he allowed. “The second choice is Boston,” I said. His eye twitched a bit, and my heart sank, since that was the only sign from him I’d probably get that told me he didn’t want me to be there. “I could go to Boston College, and I’d be around you. I mean, I’d get my own apartment, but I think it would bug you to have me around.” “Don’t make this decision based on me,” he snapped, being uncharacteristically bitchy. “Wade, knock it off,” I said firmly. “Even if we’re not partners, you’re really important to me. Is it so wrong for me to want to be around you?” “No,” he said, “but I don’t want you to short-circuit your own career just so you can hang out with me.” “You’re saying that I’d bug the shit out of you if I was around all the time,” I said, teasing him. “That’s not it at all,” he objected, and I was pretty sure that wasn’t the whole story, but it was part of it, and we both knew it. “The third option is the best option,” I said. “I can go to the University of Chicago, and work in the Loop.” “So you’re going to do that?” “What’s it worth to you to actually get me to go to Chicago instead of Boston?” I asked, teasing him about it. “It’s your decision,” he said grumpily. “Yeah, but it seems there should be some sort of bribe to keep me out of your hair,” I said. He caught my playful mood. “Alright, what’s the price so I don’t have to put up with your sorry ass?” “You come visit me once every semester, and I get to visit you once.” “What if our situations change?” he said. “You could meet someone, I could meet someone…” “Then we’ll still have to visit, we just won’t fuck,” I said, winking at him. He chuckled, then smiled, then really laughed. He wasn’t laughing at my stupid line, he was laughing because he was happy that he’d worked this out, that he’d gotten me to move to a different city. It was really hard not to let that disappoint me. He held out his hand, and I shook it. “Deal,” he said. “You could have bargained for less time,” I said. He made to say something but I stopped him. “Too late now!” “Shit,” he said, pretending to be annoyed at driving such a bad bargain. “How was I supposed to know you’d do the smart thing?” “I know, right?” I joked. “Dude, can you imagine how pissed off Stef would be, after he bugged those poor bastards in admissions until they let me in, if I decided not to go?” “How do you know he did that?” I just stared at him. “Alright, he probably did.” “Probably? It’s a given,” I said. He nodded, and then got serious. “I know you’re doing this for me too. To give me some space.” I was going to argue, but I decided to say nothing. “Thanks.” “You’re welcome,” I said. And even though I’d just had amazing sex with him, and even though we were communicating really well, I couldn’t help but think that I was watching him slip away from me forever.
    1 point
  25. The next morning, I was awoken by the sound of a herd of elephants square-dancing to a steel drum band that badly needed to develop some musical talent. Rolling my head to the side – lifting it would have taken too much energy – I saw Dan and Kelly, dressed for another day’s work, making themselves breakfast. Letting a low groan that reverberated though my skull like a scream in an echo chamber, I closed my eyes again. This is what I get for over-indulging the night before, and not taking any precautions against a hangover. “I think the porn star partied too hard, last night,” Kelly screamed. At least that’s what it felt like, though the slightly sympathetic tone meant she was probably speaking softly to Dan. “He had a good time, and now he’s paying the price,” Dan confirmed, way too loudly. “Shut up, please?” I pleaded in a whispered that was probably heard a mile away. I heard a loud pair of chuckles, and then some furious banging of cupboard doors. I don’t think they appreciated my delicate state. I felt a sudden surge of sympathy for Garret, who also had to put up with this pair of sadists. “Here, Greg. Drink this. It’ll help, believe me,” Dan’s voice trumpeted from next to me. I opened my eyes to see Dan standing there with a cup of something held out to me. I tried to lift myself up so I could drink it, but even that amount of effort was beyond me. Dan, seeing my plight, reached down and put his arm behind my back. As he pulled me upright, I suddenly felt nauseous. “I think I’m going to spew,” I said weakly. Dan grabbed a bucket that some thoughtful person must have placed next to the bed last night, and helped me lean my face over it. That movement was enough for me to empty my stomach. The headache was still roaring along happily, but my stomach felt a lot more comfortable after that. My mouth tasted disgusting, of course, but overall it was in improvement, even if only a small one. “I need to wash my mouth,” I managed to force out. “Okay, Greg. I’ll help you to the bathroom.” Dan half-carried me to the sink where I rinsed my mouth out. I could still smell the odour of stale beer, and it was only when I glanced down that I noticed I was still wearing my clothes from last night. The smell was coming from them, and it was making me nauseous again. After gulping down the drink that Dan offered me again, I started to pull off my clothes. A few of the buttons gave me trouble, as my hands were shaking, and I ended up ripping them off. As I started to undo my pants, I glanced up to see Dan leaving and closing the door behind him. “Ahhhh... And I thought I’d finally get to see the real Greg, in the flesh, so to speak,” I heard Kelly say through the door. “Somehow, I don’t think he’s really there, yet,” Dan remarked. “Maybe after he’s had a shower.” “Good! I’ll look forward to that,” Kelly responded enthusiastically. I stood there for a few seconds, before my brain kicked into gear enough for me to reach over and lock the door. I then finished stripping and stepped into the shower. I didn’t really want Kelly coming in to take a peek. After spending an indeterminate amount of time with warm water running over me, I turned off the shower and stepped out. I was beginning to feel alive, or at least only slightly dead. After I dried myself, I realised I had a problem. I didn’t have a change of clothes with me. I reached down to pick up my discarded clothes, thinking I could put on enough for modesty’s sake, but the aroma made my stomach queezy and I stepped away from them. With no other choice, I wrapped a towel around my waist and opened the door. Not surprisingly, Kelly gave me a wolf whistle as soon as she spotted me. “Looking good, Greg!” she called out. “You’ve only got the towel to lose.” I elected to ignore her. I certainly wasn’t up to sparing verbally. Holding onto my towel tightly with my left hand, I searched through my bags for some fresh clothes. “You know, I think I’ll have another shower,” Kelly remarked. I looked up at that strange comment, to find her staring at me with an evil grin. “I’m going to need that towel, Greg,” she threatened, holding out her hand. I tighten my grip on the towel. I wasn’t going to let the only thing I was wearing be taken off me. She started to advance menancing, when Dan piped up from the kitchen where he was seated drinking a cup of coffee. “Leave him alone, Kelly,” he said, clearly amused. “You’ve had your fun, now let him get dressed in peace.” “Of course he can get dressed in peace,” Kelly retorted. “All I want is the towel.” “Leave him alone, Kelly,” Dan repeated, but with a bit of menace this time. “You two are no fun,” Kelly grumbled, as she turned back to the kitchen and picked up the drink she’d left there. “I only wanted to look.” Taking the opportunity that I’d been given, I grabbed some clothes and retreated to the bathroom. I wasn’t fussed about which clothes I’d grabbed, as I could always get changed again after Kelly had left for work. When I came out of the bathroom, Dan had a cup of strong, black coffee waiting for me. I gave him a grunt of appreciation, which he took in the spirit with which it was intended. “You need to get out into the fresh air, Greg,” he stated. “Don’t forget, we have another night of drinking coming up.” I looked up and snarled, “Don’t remind me!” “You’ll be fine by then,” he said, soothingly. “A day of skiing will put the body back into order.” “It’s not the body that needs to be fixed,” I replied with a groan. “It’s my head that’s killing me.” “The body definitely does not need fixing,” Kelly piped up from where she was putting on her jacket, ready to go out. “Your problem is that you wear too many clothes.” “Kelly, you’ve got a one track mind,” Dan remarked. “And you don’t?” Kelly asked sarcastically. Dan blushed, which I thought was an interesting response. If I was more alive, I would’ve asked him why, but at that particular instant in time, the coffee in front of me was of more importance. Kelly left then, and Dan disappeared shortly after. I checked my watch, but I still had sometime before I needed to head out, assuming I was going to make it that far. “You know, Greg, Dan’s right,” a voice mentioned from behind me. As I turned around, Garret continued. “Getting outside will help clear the head. It’ll make you feel a lot better.” Giving me a grin, he added, “I can confirm that from personal experience.” He pulled himself more upright in his bed, wincing, but that was more than he was capable of doing the day before. “You’re looking better than I’m feeling,” I muttered in his direction as I carried my coffee carefully over to Dan’s bed, where I sat down. That way I could talk to Garret without raising my voice above the pain threshold. “Every good time has its price,” Garret replied cheerfully before scowling and looking away. It was easy to guess what price he was thinking of. “Do you know a good hangover cure?” I asked, hopeful that someone in this world is capable of miracles. “Once you’ve got it, no,” Garret replied, reverting to an infuriating cheerful mood. I’m sure he’s doing it deliberately, just to annoy me. I’m staying in a room full of sadists. “Everything I know is based on making sure you don’t get one in the first place,” he continued. I grunted in reply. So much for expecting any help. “It looks like you had a good time after you left here. Do you remember any of it?” “I always remember them,” I replied gingerly. “Yeah, it was a good night. It’s only the morning after that I can live without.” Garret chuckled. “I know what you mean. Lucky for me I rarely drink that much. It affects the performance too much, if you know what I mean,” he finished with a wink. Dan was right. Garret only thinks about one thing. The way I was feeling, sex was the last thing I wanted to consider. Throwing up again was higher in the list of things I was likely to do. I shouldn’t have thought of that, as I found myself rising quickly to my feet, staggering as I suddenly felt light-headed from getting up too fast, and rushing to the toilet. I managed to make it, before losing whatever was left in my stomach. I emerged feeling a little better. I needed something to eat to settle things down, but I had to be careful. I decided a single slice of toast was the best thing. Garret was mercifully quiet while I prepared myself something to eat. I could see him watching me, but as there was nothing else to look at in the room, I didn’t think much of it. After a couple of bites, I finally remembered my manners. “Can I make you something, Garret?” I asked. “It had better be easy, though, or it might not be edible.” “Toast and OJ will be fine, Greg,” he replied gratefully, “Thanks for that. I was just trying to work out if I was capable of getting up to do it myself.” I put some bread in the toaster and poured him an orange juice. I noticed that my hands were still shaking while I did that, but they seemed to be improving. I took the OJ over to him, and then returned for his toast. It was easier for me to make two trips than to try the delicate balancing trick of a plate in hand and a glass in the other. We ate our breakfasts in silence. By the time I finished mine, I was beginning to feel almost sociable. “Ah, Greg?” Garret called out cautiously. “Do you think you can give me a hand getting up?” I looked at him blankly, trying to work out what he was asking, when I saw him squirm and his eyes flick in the direction of the toilet. “Sure, Garret,” I responded as I got up and walked slowly over to him, “but I’m not steady on my feet, either.” I managed to get him upright. He seemed more able to support his own weight this time. Without prompting, I took him over to the toilet. I noticed that he was wearing briefs, but it was of only passing academic interest – that part of my brain was still very much shutdown. “There you are,” I stated, as he lowered himself down onto the seat. “You’re on your own, now. I hope you won’t need your bum wiped, because I think that would make me throw up again.” “I’ll be fine, Greg, and I only need to take a piss. I’ll call you when I’ve finished,” Garret replied, blushing, but clearly appreciative of the help. I left him alone and started to sort out what I was going to wear. A quick glance outside showed that it was still overcast, but the visibility was a lot better and it had stopped snowing. Before long, Garret opened the door and stood, holding onto the door frame. He had a triumphant smile on his face, despite the pain he still felt. “I don’t think I’m going to need any more help, at least in this way,” he announced. “But I wouldn’t mind a bit of help the rest of the way to my bed,” he added, hopefully. I gave him a weak grin. One of us, at least, was on the improve. I came over and helped him to his bed. There were drops of perspiration on his forehead by the time we got there, but he managed to do it with only minimal support from me. Another day, and he may be ready to be up and about, as long as he was cautious. Soon afterwards I was sitting on the Eagle chairlift, being carried towards the top of the mountain. The wind was only gentle; refreshing, rather than chilling. My head was slowly clearing, but I didn’t think I’d be skiing at my best, that day. I couldn’t help smiling, despite the throbbing headache, because this was still the best holiday I’ve ever had. New friends – I included Chris and Paul in that category – and good times were combining almost perfectly. I was halfway through my ski-trip and I was having an absolute ball! Arriving at the top, I did one warm-up run down the Playground and found that I wasn’t as unsteady as I’d feared. The trip up and the skiing down were slowly clearing my head. Rather than doing another run, I headed over to Cloud Nine to get ready for my lesson. I was thinking of taking off my skis and just sitting in the snow for the remaining time before Russ showed up. The crisp, clear air was slowly invigorating my abused body and brain. I was surprised to spot Chris and Paul standing by the marshalling point for my lesson. “Hi, guys! What’s up?” I asked as I stopped next to them, wincing slightly from speaking too loudly. “After the amount of beer you drank, we thought we’d check how you were,” Chris explained. I shrugged. “Apart from a head that feels like it’s about to split in two, not too bad. The fresh air is helping.” “You got back okay, last night?” Paul asked. “Yeah, not a problem. Dan had to almost carry me back to the room, but we got there in the end,” I answered. With a short laugh, I added, “I’m not sure if he was impressed or not by the way I collapsed onto his bed when we got there.” “His bed?” Paul asked, surprised. “I wasn’t really able to climb up to the top bunk, so I slept on his bed for the night. I just fell onto it and was out like a light.” Paul glanced across at Chris, who asked me, “Where did Dan sleep, then?” “My bed. He was smart – he got undressed before he went to bed. I woke up still wearing the same clothes, and they stunk of stale beer.” Chris grinned before flicking a smile towards his boyfriend. “I’ve woken up in that state a few times myself. Paul would’ve been the same this morning, if I wasn’t there to clean him up last night.” Paul went red and looked away. I don’t think he was feeling any better than I was. “I could’ve done with someone like that, last night,” I admitted. “The smell was almost enough to make me throw-up again.” “I’m surprised that you managed to get up in time for your lesson,” Paul said. “I almost didn’t make it up this morning, and you’d had more to drink than I had.” “I thought about missing it,” I replied, “but I was already awake and everyone was telling me that the fresh air would help.” I shrugged, “So, here I am.” After that, there was a pause, as if no one had anything to add. “We’re going to meet up for lunch, as usual?” I asked. Chris and Paul exchanged looks. When Chris crossed his arms and kept staring, Paul looked away, clearly uneasy about something. “Yeah,” Paul said with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm. “That’ll be good.” “If you’d prefer to have a lunch by yourselves, that’s fine too. You’re not leaving until tomorrow, after all,” I offered. It looked to me that Paul didn’t really want to go back to the village for lunch. I could understand that. After all, the round trip cuts into their skiing time. It might even be that they want spend one lunch with just the two of them. I sometimes forget that they’re a couple and will occasionally want to do couple things, without me hanging around. “No, Greg. That’s alright. We’d love to be there,” Chris replied, still staring at Paul. By his tone, he was angry about something, and Paul was the target. Paul knew it, too, and was acting very sheepish. I wondered if Chris thought Paul had made a fool of himself last night. I didn’t think so, but if he did, we must have been fools together, because there wasn’t anything that Paul did, once we were drunk, that I didn’t join in on. Mentally shrugging, I dropped the subject. It must be something that happened after I left, in which case I didn’t want to know about it. What goes on in their bedroom was their business, not mine. Chris and Paul left soon afterwards. I waited for Russ to show up, and whichever of my classmates were able to get out of bed. As it turned out, besides Rachel and Owen, who seemed to be really keen to learn, Yanni managed to make it, too. This time he seemed a little bit more open. He apologised for not showing up for the last lesson, but the people he was with hadn’t wanted to go out, and he hadn’t been confident on getting here by himself. The lesson was quite an eye-opener. Russ took us over to the Ruined Castle area. It was the steepest run we’d been on so far, but it was also the widest and the longest. I could see why the others enjoyed skiing around there, because there was enough room to do whatever you wanted. Russ had us practice some balancing exercises as we traversed the slope, and then lift the top ski before putting it down and starting the turn. It was after the second time we did it that I suddenly realised that this is what Rob had been trying to teach me when I first started. What he had neglected to do was to include all the basics I needed to know before I got this far. Finding myself doing “Stem Christies” was a real buzz, even if I was pretty bad at them. Now that I knew what I had to do, it was as if a whole new vista had opened up in front of me. Russ explained that as we improved, the stepping out part of the Stem Christies would get smaller and smaller, until we were doing parallel turns. It would take time and practise, but I could now see how to get from where I was to where I wanted to go. Because of the width of the run, we all had plenty of time to get ready to do the turns. It was going to be sometime before we’d be able to turn when we wanted to. For now, we would turn when we finally got ourselves balanced properly, however long that took. The Ruined Castle chairlift was interesting as well. We would shuffle onto a conveyor belt which moved us forward, while the next chair came around behind us. Russ told us that this meant that the lift could run at a faster speed, and so take more people up the run. We’d be able to see the difference it made when we compared it with the Scott Quad that we’d back up the mountain to the top of the Playground. At the end of the lesson, my headache was still persisting in irritating me, but it was more than cancelled out by the exhilaration that I was feeling. Russ had told us that we might be able to ski Ruined Castle by the end of the week, and we did it on the Tuesday instead! He did admit that he wouldn’t have normally taken us there, but the fresh layer of snow made it much more forgiving that it would normally be. The next lesson, he said, we’d be back at the Towers. We headed back up the Scott Quad, which was noticeably slower than the Ruined Castle lift. I spotted the clouds beginning to descend again, but the visibility wasn’t too bad, at least for the moment. I noticed a large bunch of snowboarders off to the left as the lift took us up the mountain. Asking Russ, he told me that there were special sections set up, just for the snowboarders. He mentioned a lot of terms that I didn’t understand, but I got the impression that there were things you could do on a snowboard that you couldn’t do on skis. Of course, it seemed that it worked the other way around, as well. Paul and Chris were waiting for me outside Cloud Nine. However, they were looking for me to come from the direction of the Towers. Since I was skiing in from the opposite direction, I thought I’d see if I could surprise them. As I approached, I had another idea. I’m still a beginner, so losing control and running into someone was something I could be expected to do. I grinned. Here was my chance to have a run in with Paul. Carefully lining myself up, I let the skis take me towards my target. The slope towards Cloud Nine was fairly gentle, so I knew I wouldn’t hit him hard, well at least not in that sense. My goal was to glide into him, and grab him around the chest to stop myself. If we ended up falling to the ground, then that would just be an added bonus. My fantastic morning continued, with my plan working almost perfectly. The only thing that went wrong was instead of running into his back, he turned to say something to Chris and so I ran into his side. Still, I got to grab him and hold on for several seconds while I struggled to maintain my balance. “G’day, Greg. Fancy running into you here, or rather, fancy you running into me here,” Paul said with amusement. “Sorry, guys!” I said with no trace of remorse. “I was trying to sneak up on you and lost control when it was time to stop. Lucky I ran into something solid.” Chris laughed. “You can let go of him now, Greg,” he said, chuckling. “Get your skis off and we’ll go inside for a drink.” Paul and I untangled ourselves, while I resisted the temptation to make it more difficult. I’d had my fun, and it was time to play nice again. Despite all my fantasies, Paul had Chris and I didn’t want to risk messing that up, or risk losing their friendship by being too obvious. “What were you doing, coming from that direction, anyway,” Chris asked me, as I took off my skis. I grinned as widely as I could. “I’ve been skiing Ruined Castle,” I stated proudly. Chris’ jaw dropped and when I glanced at Paul, he was similarly amazed. “Russ said it was only because the conditions were almost perfect, but it was fun!” I explained, though I couldn’t stop smiling. As we retired to the warmth inside, I described my lesson, and how I had suddenly seen the path in front of me from where I was now, to the neat parallel skiing that I’d see the experienced skiers using. When I asked them where they had been skiing, clearly not at Ruined Castle, they mentioned another couple of runs that I’d seen, but hadn’t tried yet: Panorama and Lakeside. They flank the Towers area, and are a similar difficulty to Ruined Castle, but not as wide. They are also usually not as busy. Chris also implied that they did those runs because Paul didn’t want to ski the Towers, just in case Kelly was working. Chris smiled as he commented that he didn’t understand what the problem was, but Paul’s embarrassed fidgeting made it clear that Chris was just enjoying an opportunity to tease his boyfriend. We headed down to the village after we finished our drinks. A quick glance at my watch showed we’d be early, but that would give us more time to make sure we had a table before Dan arrived. I asked if I could lead, and the two guys agreed, though they couldn’t hide the amusement they were feeling. For me, though, it was a serious matter. After Wednesday, they wouldn’t be there to show me the way down to the Frying Pan, and I would need to do it myself. The more practise I got, the safer I would be. I knew I was unlikely to get lost, as all the trails lead back to the village. But if I took the wrong turn, I might have to take the skis off and walk to get back to the Frying Pan, and that was something I didn’t want to do. It was with a sense of achievement that I spotted the right turn off, and in plenty of time to make an almost graceful turn into the side trail. “Almost graceful” being the polite expression for a sudden twist of the body to force the skis to turn in the desired direction, almost resulting in me toppling over. However, as I didn’t fall down, I thought it was a success. We arrived at the Frying Pan in plenty of time. Dan gave us a wave as we went past, so I knew I didn’t have to wait outside for him. It wasn’t as bitter as it had been the day before, but if I could relax inside, it was preferable to waiting out in the weather. Luck favoured us, as we quickly found a table and settled down. With Dan not due to show up for another ten minutes, at least, we decided to postpone ordering our meals. Instead, we elected to get some drinks. “I’ll have a hot chocolate,” I said, rising to me feet. “I also think it’s my turn to go get them.” “I’ll have one, too,” Chris replied, digging out his wallet. “I’ll have a beer,” Paul stated. Chris paused at that and gave his boyfriend an unreadable look. Paul just returned it defiantly. I started getting vibes that there was something going on between them. There had been some tension that morning, but when we met up after my lesson it had gone. For whatever reason, it was back again, and with a vengeance. Nodding reluctantly, Chris pulled out some money and gave it to me. Heading off, I paused after a few steps and glanced back. Chris and Paul had their heads together and were talking quietly, but intensely. When I came back with the drinks, they had settled back. I don’t think they had resolved their issue, whatever it was, but were more holding an uneasy truce. I felt disturbed by this, as I had pictured them as an almost perfect couple. After the sudden stress that appeared between Rob and my sister the weekend we were up here together, the last thing I wanted to see was a strain in Chris and Paul’s relationship. Rob had hopefully repaired his balls-up by now, but I knew what had caused that one. I had no idea why Chris and Paul were fighting. We talked about inconsequential things, and I felt the tension ease. But just as I thought it was going to blow over, I saw Paul tense up, as he stared beyond me at something. Looking over my shoulder, I saw Dan approaching. I now had an idea on the subject that was causing problems, because Chris had alerted me to potential trouble earlier in the week. Why couldn’t Paul understand that Dan wasn’t one of his attackers? That Dan was really a great guy who had nothing to hide? “Hi, guys,” Dan called out cheerfully as he came up to our table. “Hi, Dan,” Paul replied flatly. He couldn’t have made it more obvious that he wasn’t happy. “G’day, Dan,” Chris replied enthusiastically, as if trying to counteract the negativity that Paul had put into his response. I was silent for a second, as I flicked my eyes between the two guys sitting opposite me. I caught Chris giving Paul a nudge with his elbow, at which Paul painted a false smile onto his face. I looked up at Dan who was looking a trifle uncertain. He was biting his lower lip as he stared at Paul. I started to rack my brains for something to break the tension, but was failing miserably until Chris piped up. “Guys, why don’t we all have a drink before lunch? I know I could do with another,” he suggested. Dan nodded. “That sounds good to me. I’ll get them, if you’ll tell me what you want,” he offered, sounding unsettled. “No, you sit down,” Chris said. “Greg and I can get them. Paul, you’ll have another beer?” “Yeah, thanks,” Paul replied absently, his eyes never leaving Dan. I looked over at Chris in surprise, who gestured for me to get up as he rose to his feet. He indicated to me with a quick glance at Dan and Paul that he wanted to give them a chance to talk, in private. I personally wasn’t sure whether that was a good idea or not – Paul didn’t look like he was in a mood to chat – but I also had the impression that Chris knew what was going on. I decided to take his lead, so I got up from the table. “I’ll have a strong, black coffee with two sugars,” Dan said, as he slid into the seat that I had just vacated, leaving him sitting opposite Paul. “Okay. Come on, Greg,” Chris said, as he headed over to the bar. As soon as we were out of earshot of the table, I grabbed Chris by the arm. He didn’t look surprised when he stopped and looked at me. “Alright, Chris. What the fuck is going on?” I demanded in a low voice. Chris glanced back at the two guys we had just left. Following his glance, I saw Dan and Paul, leaning across the table, whispering furiously. Neither looked happy, but they clearly had a lot to talk about. “They need to get some things off their chests,” Chris replied quietly. “It’s not my place to say what this is about; it’s strictly between those two. I would’ve preferred it if they didn’t need to do this, but it’s gone too far, now.” “Chris,” I said, switching to a pleading tone, “You, Paul and Dan are my friends. If there is something going on, I want to know about it. I might be able to help.” Chris sighed and shook his head. “Sorry, Greg, but I can’t tell you. And, no, you wouldn’t be able to help. You’re in the middle of it, as it is.” “What do you mean, I’m in the middle of it?” I asked, completely perplexed now by what is going on. How can I be involved, and have absolutely no idea on what is happening? “I’ve said too much,” Chris stated sadly, turning away and heading off to the bar. I followed at a slower pace. With only a handful of words, Chris had totally confused me. I knew I wasn’t going to get anything more out of him, but all he’d done was throw me into turmoil. I’d had it all planned out. After Happy Harvey Hour, I was going to tell them that I had something important to say, but I wanted to do in private, and ask if we could go back to the Snoweagle. Once there, I would inform them that I’m gay, though the exact words I wanted to use were still escaping me. I knew I had to be careful to make sure I wouldn’t put Dan off, but I thought that I would work on that after the big announcement. The last thing I wanted to do was to scare off Dan because he thought I was trying to hit on him. But if Dan and Paul are having issues with each other, and Paul and Chris are arguing about it, then it wasn’t going to be a good time for me to drop my little bit of news. Chris deliberately chose what had to be the slowest line for getting the drinks, so it was some minutes before we made it back to the table. Paul and Dan were sitting back in their seats, relaxed and chatting happily. Whatever it was that had been disturbing them, they appeared to have resolved their differences, or at least decided they didn’t matter. I glanced at Chris and I could tell that he was relieved, too. “Here’s the drinks. How about we order lunch, now?” Chris suggested. Dan rose to his feet. “I’m starving!” he exclaimed. “I’ll be back with mine, shortly. See you soon!” With that, he was gone. While I would’ve loved to be there while Chris interrogated Paul on what had gone on, I suspected that they wouldn’t talk if I was present. Chris had indicated that I’m involved, but they don’t seem to want me to know what it’s about. “I think it’s my turn to get the food, today. What do you guys want?” I asked. Chris gave me a look of thanks before giving me his order. After collecting Paul’s preference, and some money, I headed off. Now was the time that I wished I had a James Bond style miniature recording device, because I was dying of curiosity. Something was going on that Dan, Chris and Paul all knew, but I was completely in the dark. Given that there had never been a time when Dan had been with the other two and I wasn’t around, I just couldn’t work out what it could be. Dan was back before me. I noticed three heads together, whispering as I approached. I was tempted to try to sneak up on them, but I decided that wouldn’t be smart. If they were working it out, then I didn’t want to take the risk of messing things up. I was going to need all three of them to be happy and comfortable at the end of the day, if I was to build up enough courage to tell them I’m gay. While we ate our lunch, I paid careful, and hopefully surreptitious, attention to all three. Almost all signs of tension had vanished. The only things that I could see that could be potentially worrying were Dan giving me nervous glances when he didn’t think I was watching, and Paul occasionally narrowing his eyes when he found himself looking in Dan’s direction. The conversation was mainly about music, of all things. While I was the only one who had a real passion for the old rock and pop music of the 80’s, and Paul was the only one into heavy metal, we found enough common ground to keep the talk going. It was only near the end of lunch that we talked about what we were going to do this afternoon. “Back to the Towers for the afternoon?” Dan asked. “Kelly won’t be working,” he added with a deadpan expression, though a twitch of the lips showed he was having a dig at Paul. “We could,” Paul agreed with a wry grin, “but given that someone was skiing Ruined Castle this morning, maybe we could try somewhere else.” It was only then that I realised that I hadn’t told Dan about the great lesson I’d had. Other, more serious concerns had thrown that piece of news out of my mind. Dan looked puzzled, and then turned to me with raised eyebrows and an open mouth. “Ruined Castle?” he asked, amazed. I grinned. “Yep! Russ said it was because the conditions were so great, and he didn’t think we’d be back there until the end of the week, but that’s where I skied all morning,” I stated proudly. “Hmmmm...,” he started, still staring at me. “Do you think you’re up to a bit of a challenge, then?” I started to get nervous, but I trusted that Dan wouldn’t push me too far. After all, he’d skied with me enough to know what my limits were. “I think so,” I answered slowly. “How about we ski the Village, then?” I was confused. We were in the village, already. Did he mean skiing down the streets? I didn’t think that would be particularly exciting. “The Village T-bar is a difficult blue run, almost black. Don’t you think that’s a bit beyond him?” Paul asked. With that reminder, I recalled the ski run behind the Frying Pan; the one that Dan had ribbed Paul and Chris about, when he first met them. Dan turned back to Paul. “They groomed the northern half last night, so it’s not that bad. It’s the moguls that make it difficult, and half of them have gone. Greg can ski the groomed part, and we can tackle the moguls,” he explained. Again, I was lost for a moment, before remembering that moguls were those mounds of snow that tended to form on the more difficult runs. The better skiers ski around them, picking their way down the slope with a series of tight turns. “I’m not very good with moguls,” Chris said nervously. “I tend to run into them, instead of around them.” “Then you could do with the practise,” Paul told him cheekily. “It’s about time you remembered how it is to fall down lots.” He turned back to Dan before continuing. “I don’t ski them well, either,” he admitted, “but I’m willing to try.” “Given that we’re all heading to Happy Harvey Hour tonight, we won’t be there for too long, anyway,” Dan commented. “A couple of hours is all I think we’ll have time for.” Chris winced. “A couple of hours of moguls? Paul, you may need to carry me to Harvey Hour.” Paul laughed gently. “I may not be able to walk either, but we’ll give it a go.” It was quickly settled. Going outside, we walked the short distance to the Village T-bar. Located on the other side of the Frying Pan to the Eagle and Nursery lifts, I could understand why Chris was nervous. There were a couple of other skiers already on the slope, and the way they did turn after turn, facing directly down the run with the skis flicking from side to side, was way beyond what I capable of. Given that I suspected that Chris wasn’t that far ahead of me in ability, I doubted he was able to do that either. The groomed part was nice and smooth, but not particularly wide. I knew I’d be challenged to get my turns in before I ran into the T-bar track on one side, or the trees beyond, or the moguls on the other. Chris and Paul got on the lift first. I noticed that the towie wasn’t helping and Paul had to grab the T-bar and position it himself. Dan didn’t seem concerned by this, so I guessed that this was normal. Only experienced skiers were expected to do this run, and they should know how to operate the lift without help. I let Dan handle that side of things. I felt like I was there under false pretences, as I still occasionally had trouble getting on the lift at the Tower, and that was with help. As we headed off, I made one attempt to find out what was going on. “Do you want to tell me what that was all about, earlier?” I asked Dan. “What?” he asked. He didn’t seem to understand what I meant, rather than being evasive. “When you showed up for lunch. There was something going on between you and Paul.” Now he did look evasive. “That was personal stuff,” he said. “Between me and Paul. I’m sorry, but I can’t talk about it, yet. Maybe later, but not now.” I wasn’t happy, but I left it at that. With the goodwill I would need from him later that day, I didn’t think it was a good time to push. I couldn’t take the risk of getting him annoyed with me. As we rode the lift, I noticed that the run had almost two distinct sections. There was a change in direction half way down the run, with a flattish section at that point. It was clear to me that the best way for me to tackle this was to ski it in two parts. A stop at the halfway point was almost mandatory. Chris and Paul were waiting for us at the top. Paul had a grin of anticipation, but Chris just looked nervous. “Ready to go?” Dan asked as we pulled up next to the other two. “I’m ready,” Paul replied, “but Chris is trying to chicken out.” “I am not!” Chris replied indignantly. “All I did was suggest that maybe I ski with Greg for a couple of runs, just to make sure he’s going to be okay.” “Yeah, sure Chris,” Paul said sarcastically. “We all believe you.” Dan turned to me. “I’ll stop at the halfway mark for you. Take your time getting down, it won’t be easy,” he conceded, “but I think you can do it. See you soon!” With that, he was off. I watched, open mouthed, as he zipped through the moguls. It was like his legs had turned into springs, with his knees bouncing up to his chest and back down again, and his skis jumping from side to side, as they went around the mounds of snow. He pulled up neatly at the halfway point, and waved a ski pole at us as he looked back up the slope. “Holy shit!” Paul exclaimed softly. “He really knows how to ski!” “Does that mean you’re not going to race him to the bottom, next time?” Chris asked mildly, with a faint smile creeping across his face. “No fucking way! I wouldn’t stand a chance,” Paul replied, shaking himself out of his shock. “Time to see how well I can do it.” Paul started off. The difference was noticeable. Paul didn’t do too badly, but he wasn’t anywhere near as graceful as Dan. You could see the times when he missed the turn he wanted, and was off balance for a couple of seconds. I looked at Chris. “I’ve got a long way to go before I can do that, but I’m not going to improve while I’m standing here. See you at the halfway mark!” With that, I pushed off and traversed across to my left, where the groomed section started. I deliberately kept myself from going too fast, and so managed to make my first turn when I wanted it. I forced myself to maintain my weight on my outside ski, even though I felt like leaning to the inside as I started to pick up speed. However, I was now going so quickly that I wasn’t ready for the next turn before I ran out of groomed area. I suddenly found myself skiing up the side of one of the moguls. At least it stopped me, but I had to struggle to maintain my balance as the skis then slide back a couple of feet back down the side of the mound. Looking around, I saw Paul and Dan still waiting at the halfway mark, while Chris was only about ten feet away from me, picking himself up off the ground. “This is going to take a while,” Chris commented dryly, as he put his skis back on. As I tried to work out how to turn around to get back to the groomed area, Chris noticed my dilemma. “Get yourself onto the top of one of the moguls, Greg, and then you can turn the skis around easily,” he suggested. I tried that, and it worked. Because the skis only had the middle part on the snow, they pivoted with little effort. I quickly turned around and used my poles to push myself off. This time I managed two turns before I forced myself to stop. I had already learnt that I could stop almost anywhere by simply letting the skis take me uphill, but when you are concentrating on trying to turn, it was easy to forget. By the time I joined Dan and Paul, I was sweating profusely. It was hard work, mainly from the constant stopping and stress. I’d fallen down four times when I ran off the groomed area, and found my skis trying to go on opposite sides of a mogul. Even so, I just managed to beat Chris, who was also having a lot of problems. Despite who I was feeling, I noticed that Dan and Paul seemed to be relaxed. I couldn’t see any sign of tension between them, so that, at least, was looking up. “Is it too hard, Greg?” Dan asked, concerned. “We can somewhere else if you like.” That immediately brought back memories to that other weekend, where Dan had been chatting with Paul about how “hard” the village was. I know that wasn’t what Dan meant this time, but I couldn’t help grinning at the memory. “I won’t give up that quickly,” I replied. “As long as you don’t mind waiting for me. I think you and Paul might be better off doing two runs to Chris and my one.” Dan and Paul exchanged glances. “If you don’t mind,” Dan answered tentatively. “Not at all,” I said, “I sincerely doubt that we’ll be waiting for you. It’ll still be very much the other way around.” So that’s what we ended up doing. Chris struggled through the moguls until he’d had enough and switched over to the groomed section. I just plain struggled. But Paul and Dan were skiing together, and riding the lift up together. I was willing to put up with a bit of frustration if it meant that those two would resolve whatever it was that was coming between them. We finished early, so we could get ready for our drinking session at the hotel later that afternoon. Chris and I both said we needed long hot showers, too. Chris lamented the fact that the lodge didn’t have a spa, as he really just wanted to lie down in a pool of hot water for an hour or so. It was only a short trip back to our room from where we were. Garret was sitting up in his bed, reading another of Dan’s books. He waved as we entered, but seemed too engrossed to make conversation. I quickly grabbed some clothes and retreated to the shower. Dan joked about he needed a shower too, and I just gave him the finger. He’d made me ski the Village, and for that he could wait. Afterwards, I felt a lot better. As I waited for Dan to have his shower, I started getting tense again. This was a big day for me. For the first time, I was going to admit to someone else that I’m gay. I couldn’t pick two guys more likely to accept me for what I am than Chris and Paul, but I still felt nervous. As for Dan, well, I was petrified that he’d reject me. It was totally irrational, but that’s the way I felt. He was cool with the other two guys, and would even trade innuendo with them, at times. But he wasn’t sharing a room with them, and he is with me. Would that make any difference? Shit! I had no ideas what his reaction is going to be, but I was trying to anticipate the worst. This was only getting me down. I almost felt like backing out of my plan, but I knew I’d never get another chance like this. If things went badly, Chris and Paul could look after me for the night. I made a resolution to stop thinking of what could go wrong, and just think about all the positives. Simply stepping out of the closet, even if only to three people, would be an achievement. Before I knew it, we were on our way to the Falls Creek Hotel, and Happy Harvey Hour. A few Harvey Wallbangers may be just enough dutch courage to help me through the rest of the day. Paul and Chris were waiting inside for us. They had grabbed a table for four along one of the walls, and were busy fending off people who were asking if the other seats were taken. “Paul made us get here early,” Chris explained, “because he knew we wouldn’t get a seat, otherwise.” Looking around at the crowded room, I appreciated his foresight. If we wanted a table now, we’d have to go outside. That would be bearable, but certainly not desirable. With an overcast sky, the chilled air had a bite to it. “As this is my first time, how about I get the first round?” I suggested. “If you’re offering, I see no reason to refuse,” Chris replied happily. I noticed that both he and Paul had an empty beer glass in front of them. They’d probably bought the beers to forestall any attempt to get them to move while they waited for us to show up, and Happy Harvey Hour to start. “So, what do I ask for?” I inquired. “Just ask for a jug and four glasses,” Dan replied. “During Harvey Hour, they know that means only one thing.” With that as my instructions, I proceeded to work myself to the bar. It took some time, as there were a lot of other people doing the same. I saw several people heading back with two, and in one case three, jugs of Harvey Wallbangers. Finally reaching the bar, I was quickly served. I was pleasantly surprised at how cheap it was. They must be making their money on the turnover, because I couldn’t see that they’d be making much on each individual jug. I managed to return to the table without spilling anything. I was bumped a couple of times, but considering the number of people around, that wasn’t too bad. I was pleased when I was able to sit down, though. “Here’s to a great Harvey Hour and a happy evening to follow,” Dan proposed once the first round of drinks was poured. Somehow or other, he managed to appear serious when he said it. Given what I was planning on saying afterwards, I fervently prayed that it would be a happy evening. The conversation continued with Paul asking Dan how he managed to get a job up here in the first place. He told us that during summer the previous year, he had seen an ad for jobs up here. As he wasn’t really happy working at his dad’s garage, he applied and got offered a position. Being used to working outdoors, and having a good knowledge of engines seemed to have helped. It’s not an ideal job, because it’s so seasonal, but he fell in love with the place and just had to come back again this year. Unless something crops up, he’s planning on applying again for a position next year. As long as he keeps his nose clean, work-wise, the company is quite keen to get repeat workers, so he doesn’t expect there to be a problem. Part of their initial job interviews seem to be geared to working out whether someone is able to stick it out for the whole season, and how likely they are to come back the following year. Before we knew it, the first jug was empty, so Paul got up to buy the next jug. Dan, Chris and I continued to chat as the light buzz from the previous set of drinks helped everyone to relax. “What’s up, Paul? Lost your way?” Dan asked cheekily. I looked up to see Paul standing by the table. I was going to add my own wisecrack when I noticed something wasn’t right. Paul had gone ashen, and his body was visually trembling. “What’s wrong, Paul?” I asked, concerned. He hadn’t had enough to drink to be sick, unless he was still being affected by our drinking spree the previous night. Paul ignored us and just looked at Chris. “One of them is at the bar,” he said shakily. He started sending nervous glances back towards the crowd at the bar. “Who?” Dan asked. “Get me out of here?” Paul pleaded to Chris, still ignoring the rest of us. Alarmed, Chris quickly rose to his feet. Dragging out his wallet, he threw some money on the table. “Sorry, guys. Buy another round on us,” he said apologetically, before putting an arm across Paul’s shoulder and leading him to the door. I could see Paul leaning into him for support, but anyone else would just think it was someone helping a mate who’d had too much to drink. “What was that all about?” Dan asked, still staring after the disappearing couple. I tossed up on whether to say anything, but while they didn’t talk about it, I’d never heard either Chris or Paul hide the information. “I think I know, but you’ve got to keep it yourself,” I said, leaning forward to try to ensure that I wasn’t overheard. Dan turned to face me, still perplexed at what had just happened. “Some time ago, I don’t know when, Paul was attacked. I saw him have a flashback once, and he just collapsed into himself,” I started quietly. “It was really scary. I’m guessing that one of the guys who bashed him is at the bar. How anyone can bash a guy, simply because he’s gay, is beyond me.” Dan sat back in his chair and stared blankly at the crowd by the bar. I looked too, trying to speculate on who it was that was a gay-basher. When neither of us made any other movement, I reached over and picked up the money Chris had dropped. I’d return it when I saw him next. I didn’t feel like having anything else to drink, and I don’t think Dan did either. “I think you’re wrong, Greg,” Dan said suddenly. I just looked at him. What did I have wrong? “I know a few gay-bashing victims, but I’ve only seen a reaction anything like Paul’s once before. That guy wasn’t bashed,” he said quietly before turning to look me in the eye. With an edge to his voice that spoke of a grief unspoken, Dan continued. “I think Paul was raped.” I struggled to comprehend what Dan had just said. Raped? I went back over everything I’d heard them say, but I couldn’t recall them ever using the word “bashed”; it was always an attack. I started feeling sick in my stomach. I’d been lusting after Paul for days now; weeks, if you counted from when I first met him. While I would never force anyone, I recognised that Paul’s appearance was stunning enough that he’d attract a lot of attention. I’d never considered it before, but if there are rapists amongst straight guys, there must be the same sorts who are gay. Considering the thoughts I’d been having about Paul, it was all too easy to believe Dan. It would only take one sicko who wouldn’t take “No” for an answer. “You’re probably wondering how I know a gay-rape victim, as well as some gay-bashed guys,” Dan stated softly, still in that grief-edged voice. I hadn’t been, but that did strike me as odd. My mind was still trying to take in the news about Paul, though, and this just confused me more. “You see, I’m gay, too,” Dan added quietly.
    1 point
  26. I was a little surprised to be woken up by the small sounds of Dan making himself some breakfast, rather than Garret storming into the room like bull elephant on heat. I turned my head to look at the other bed but, as expected, it hadn’t been slept in. With a stretch and a yawn, I swung myself off the bed and lowered myself to the ground. With a grunt and a half-raised hand to Dan to acknowledge his “Hi, Greg,” I staggered into the bathroom. Exiting a few minutes later, slightly more awake, I walked over to the kitchen area and sat down on one of the stools there. “Tea or coffee?” Dan asked me quietly. “Coffee, I think,” I replied as I struggled to put my mind into gear. Dan waited for a moment without doing anything. When I looked up at him as if to ask why the hell he wasn’t preparing a caffeine infusion to wake me up properly, he gave me a wry half-smile. “How do you have it?” he asked. With a guilty start, I realised that of course he didn’t know. “I’ll have black with two sugars today,” I answered, “though I can have it practically anyway. At some of the jobs I’ve been on, they keep running out of things. So, I drink tea and coffee, black and white, with or without sugar.” “Okay, Greg. One black coffee coming up,” Dan responded. When he placed the drink in front of me, I gave him a smile of appreciation. After a couple of sips, I felt a bit more alive. With a nod in direction of the bowl of cereal he was eating, I asked, “Is that one yours? I wasn’t sure yesterday whether the cereals were common property or belonged to particular people.” It was his turn to give a guilt start. “Sorry, Greg. I just didn’t think to tell you about things like that. To answer your question, yes this one is mine. That’s more because we have different tastes than anything else, though. Feel free to have some if you want. The bread, tea, coffee, milk and sugar are common property. You should ask Kelly if you’d like some of her muesli, though I’d advise against trying Garret’s cereal. That box has been there since the start of the season and it’s probably stale. He’s not often here for breakfast,” he explained. I made a mental note to go to the shop later today to buy some supplies for breakfast. Since I was going to be staying here for the week, I should contribute. “Speaking of Garret, it looks like he’s going to miss his shift this morning,” I remarked. I didn’t mind, as I was enjoying having a quiet chat with Dan while he got ready for work, rather than watching the maelstrom of activity that occurred yesterday when Garret was here. “He has Sunday and Monday off,” Dan explained. “That way he can spend Saturday and Sunday nights with whatever girl he’s currently shacked up with. He’s never here on a Sunday morning. Me? I have Wednesday and Thursday off, as the mountain is a bit quieter then if I want to go out skiing. Also, if I have to go off-mountain for something, everything will generally be open.” I don’t know why I was surprised. It should’ve been obvious that they wouldn’t work seven days a week. It just never occurred to me that they would have staggered days off. As with many things, it made sense once it was explained. “What sort of things to you go off-mountain for?” I asked, interested in how often he left the village. Dan shrugged. “It varies. There are a lot of things you can get done here, but for a few specialty items you have to go to either Myrtleford or up to Albury-Wodonga. To be honest, most of the time people leave the mountain is simply to get away. Everyone gets a little stir-crazy after being here for months on end.” He then gave me a wry grin. “If you ever bring a girl up here for a couple of weeks, someone made a recommendation to me once that I thought was excellent. What they did was to leave the mountain and go to Beechworth for the middle weekend. It’s an old historic town that’s well worth a visit in its own right. It broke up their trip and they avoided the longer lines at the lift that the weekend traffic brings.” An interesting idea, but I doubt it would be a girl I’d do it with. I had heard of Beechworth from some friends of my parents who had stayed there earlier in the year, but I’ve never been there myself. “What do you think drives Garret? Surely he’ll settle down with one girl eventually,” I asked, returning to the subject of the missing piece of eye-candy. Dan just shook his head. “As far as I can work out, he just loves sex. It’s like the Robert Palmer song – he’s addicted to love.” He paused, as if reconsidering what he just said. “No, that’s not quite right. It’s more than just the sex, though I think that’s his driving force. He’s demonstrated several times that he honestly cares for the girls he sleeps with. He puts in more effort than what’s just needed to get them into bed. Maybe he really loves girls, all girls, and the sex is just a way of showing it.” “Will you two stop talking about sex!” Kelly yelled from her bed. “I’m not getting any at the moment, and I think you going on about it is in extremely poor taste.” “Speaking of sex, if you’re going to change the topic,” Dan remarked to Kelly with a grin, “when is your boyfriend coming back up again.” Kelly’s sour expression melted away. “Friday night,” she answered in a dreamy tone. “Friday!” Dan said, surprised. “But Greg will still be here then.” He turned to me with worried look. “What’s wrong with that?” I asked him. “Mike prefers it if Garret and I sleep elsewhere while he’s here with Kelly. He’s a little fussy about things like that,” Dan explained quietly. “Normally, I don’t mind, and Garret never has a problem finding somewhere else to go, but there is no way I can find somewhere else for both of us for the weekend.” I glanced over at Kelly, who was looking thoughtful. “Mike needs to grow up eventually,” she said slowly, almost as if she was talking to herself. “Either we wait until everyone has gone, or he learns to overcome his shyness.” She grinned down at the two of us. “His blush is almost as cute as yours, Greg,” she added. I felt myself going red at the comment. I think it was a complement but with Kelly I wasn’t sure. “We have a few days to work things out,” Dan remarked, though he looked a little uncertain. “As a last resort we could try to book a room at one of the lodges, though I’d prefer it if we didn’t have to. “Now it’s time for me to finish getting ready for work!” he finished, forcing himself back into a cheerful mood. I don’t know how anyone can be cheerful about going to work. “And Greg needs some time for striptease practise,” Kelly piped up. Then again, if it gets him away from Kelly, he must take that as being a positive. Work or Kelly? Which is the bigger horror? A tough call…. “Sorry, Kelly, but today’s a rest day. Maybe tomorrow,” I replied. That gave me a day to think up another excuse. I’ve decided that putting on that show for Kelly yesterday was a big mistake. Grabbing some clothes, I retreated to the bathroom. I’ll have my breakfast after a shower, which should also mean that I won’t be in Dan’s way while he prepares for another day of labour. When I came out Dan was standing by Kelly’s bed, having a quiet conversation with his roommate. After a glance at me over his shoulder, Dan reached up and shook hands with Kelly. “Thanks, I appreciate it,” he said simply to her. Turning back to me, he waved a hand. “I’ve got to go. Where will we meet up for lunch?” “How about the Frying Pan?” I suggested, watching carefully for his reaction. As I saw him relax slightly, I thought my guess from yesterday was correct – he’s running out of cash. “Okay, sounds good to me. See you then!” he replied happily before disappearing out the door. Turning to Kelly, I asked, “So what was that about?” Swinging herself out of bed, she landed lightly on her feet. “If Mike is going to be a prude this weekend, I offered to find the two of us a room.” Leering at me, she added, “That’s unless you’d be interested in a threesome. Then all we have to do is to get rid of Dan, and we can all stay here.” Struggling to contain the terror I felt at that suggestion, I replied, “I wouldn’t have thought Mike would like that.” She shrugged, “He’ll come around once I get him alone. So I take it that the answer is yes?” “Ah, no, I don’t think so,” I stammered. I knew I had completely failed to keep my expression neutral. She laughed as she reached over and gave me a pat on the cheek, “You’re so easy, Greg. Okay, no threesome. Does that make you feel better?” I gave her a nervous smile. “Thanks, Kelly. Did anyone ever tell you that you sometimes come over as a bit scary?” She frowned and looked worried. “Shit! Only sometimes? I must be slipping.” As I started to prepare some breakfast for myself, Kelly made some more coffee. “Kelly, I’ve got a question, but I don’t want to offend you,” I started cautiously. She stopped what she was doing and just looked at me with a raised eyebrow. “How much do towies make? I suspect that Dan is running out of money, but I don’t want to insult him by asking directly,” I explained, keeping a nervous eye on her reaction. After an initial startled look, she smiled at me. This was one of her gentle smiles. “He probably is,” Kelly admitted. “No, we don’t make a lot of money. After all, we get a room, meals and a season ski ticket. Take out union dues as well, and there’s enough left over for drinks and the occasional night out, but not much more. Dan doesn’t go out much, but he just bought himself a new pair of skis about a month ago, so that probably wiped out all his savings.” I nodded to myself, before giving Kelly a smile of thanks. “Okay then. I need to make sure we don’t make him spend too much money. Thanks, Kelly. It’s really appreciated.” “No problems, Greg,” she replied. Her normal caustic nature was curiously absent as she continued, “Let me know if you need any help. He deserves to have a good time while you’re here.” As I ate my breakfast, I pondered that it’s now been two days in a row that Kelly has offered comment on Dan, almost bluntly implying that he doesn’t normally have it easy up here. All the more reason to make sure he doesn’t get stressed about this week because of money worries. Following Dan’s advice, I left early and bought myself a seven day lift-and-lesson ticket. As soon as the Eagle chairlift opened, I headed up to get a couple of practice runs in before I was tested. From what Dan told me, I would have only once chance to show what I was capable of doing, and if I stuffed it up, I’d be put in a class of total beginners. I was a bit rusty on the first run, but by the end of the second run I was feeling comfortable. Checking my watch, I had time for another run down the Playground before the classes started. Rather than stand around getting stiff again, I took off for one last practise run. That was a mistake. There is a little guy called Murphy that delights in causing problems. Today, just as I started off on that last practise run, Murphy’s Law struck. Another beginner, an older guy in his early thirties, started a run just after me. If he wasn’t about to take lessons, he should be, as he quickly lost controlled and resorted to the time-honoured technique to let everyone know it. “LOOK OUT!” Twisted around at the scream from behind me, I saw him accelerating on a collision course. Arms flailing widely around, endangering everyone within ski-pole distance of him, he crashed into me and we were both knocked to the ground. Not only did we end up in a tangled mess, but my skis took this as an opportunity to show me what they were capable of, and headed straight down the run at a furious rate of knots – without me. After picking ourselves up, and listening to him apologising furiously, which I waved off as not important, I started the walk down the slope to recover my skis. Internally, I was fuming, but that was more at my skis than the guy. It was only luck that I hadn’t wiped someone out myself so far. I’d come close a couple of times, but I’d always managed to fall over before hitting anyone. Eventually retrieving my recalcitrant skis, I put them back on and joined the line to go back up the lift. Exhausted from walking down the slope in ski boots, I really wasn’t in the best condition to be tested on my skiing ability. However, I was running out of time. The lessons were due to start in ten minutes, and I still needed to get across to the ski school meeting place outside Cloud Nine. I managed to make it with a few minutes to spare. They told me to go to the top of a small slope nearby, and to ski down towards the head instructor, doing a couple of turns along the way. I was already tired from the walk before, and now I had to walk up the slope in my skis. Dan had shown me the way of doing it – lots of side steps – but it’s exhausting and slow to go any significant distance. Consequently, when I skied down the slope, I was largely on automatic. I couldn’t concentrate on what I was doing, but at least I didn’t crash. The tester pointed me to the first group waiting under a large number ‘5’. I remembered being told that they grouped the skiers from level 5, beginner, to level 1, expert. I did notice a couple of other poles listed as ‘First Lesson’ and ‘Third Lesson’, so they obviously considered me to be beyond that. “Hi, I’m Russ,” said the ski instructor waiting by the group I was sent to. Probably late twenties with black hair, he had a broad American accent. “Hi, I’m Greg,” I replied as I slowly manoeuvred into position next to the others. “Well I think you’re the last,” Russ stated, as he looked back to where the testing had taken place. Seeing the tester nod his head and wave his arm, Russ turned back to us. “Okay, follow me, everyone. We’re going to head over to the Playground. Once we get there, just line up in front of me. Remember, always join the line on the downhill side. Let’s go!” Dan had been right about taking lessons. Russ quickly sorted out our individual skill levels. There were five of us in the class. An elderly couple, probably late thirties, by the names of Owen and Rachel, seemed to be the most knowledgeable of the students. At least, that’s the impression they gave as they questioned Russ on the fine details of what he was trying to teach. If I wasn’t being generous, I’d say they were trying to sound like know-it-alls, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt and decided to call them simply eager. There was a girl, Caroline, who was up here with her boyfriend. He was in a more experienced class, as he had been skiing for years. When I questioned her why he was still taking lessons, she told me that he always does, because he wants to keep improving. Rather than simply skiing the same slopes all the time, the instructors take them out over a wider range and in different conditions than he’d probably ski if he was by himself. The last one in the class was a Greek guy by the name of Yanni. He looked in his early twenties, and if it wasn’t for the thick glasses he wore, would’ve been reasonably good looking. He was very serious, though, always paying close attention to what Russ would say. I tried striking up a conversation with him a couple of times, but he was too reserved. Mentally shrugging my shoulders, I left him to his own devices after that. It wasn’t as if I needed to find someone to ski with after the lesson. After explaining what we would be learning this week, Russ had us doing balance exercises for the first part of the lesson. They were similar to the ones that Dan had been showing me, like balancing on the downhill ski while skiing across the slope of the hill. Russ complicated them a bit by getting us to lift the top ski off the ground, but they were exercises I was familiar with. While waiting for each of the students to finish the exercise, Rachel asked Russ about where he was from. It turned out that while he’s a regular instructor here at Falls Creek, he lives in California near the Nevada border. He teaches skiing at one of the resorts in the Lake Tahoe area during their winter, then comes down here for our winter. He gets a bit of spring each year, but he hasn’t seen a summer for five years now. While I’m enjoying the snow, I think I’d go crazy not being able to enjoy a hot day on the beach occasionally. It’s obvious that Russ enjoys his job though, and that seems to be enough for him. After a few runs at the Playground, we headed over to Towers to practice turns. Russ explained that the steeper terrain actually helped because the slope did more of the work to make the turn. He explained how the skis were wide at the ends and narrow in the middle. By putting our weight onto the outside ski, the edge formed a curve. As long as our weight stayed there, the curve would cause the ski to make an easy and natural turn. It sounded easy, but putting my weight to the outside of the turn felt so unnatural – I was used to riding bikes where you would lean to the inside to turn, not the outside. Russ had us do single turns, one at a time, and would give each of us some advice as we reached him. It was an easy exercise; just ski straight down the hill and then put the weight on one side to turn. We were to just let the ski go until we ended up pointing partially up the hill and slowed to a stop. I quickly realised that part of the purpose was to build up confidence that the skis would do the work if we let them. Russ’s only comment to me was I needed to get my weight over further; I was still being a bit tentative. When we got to the bottom, Russ gave us another pep-talk, and then took us to the special ski school entrance to the lift line. This put us up near the lift so we wouldn’t have to wait as long before heading back up. I was the last one in my class through the gate. “Look who’s the towie’s pet. He gets to jump to the front of the line!” I turned my head to find Chris and Paul grinning at me. They were just behind me in the queue. “It’s nothing to do with knowing the towies,” I retorted, glaring at Chris who had made the comment, “This is where I was told to join the line.” “Yeah, sure, Greg,” Chris replied sarcastically, “It’s only the rest of us poor skiers who have to start at the back.” “Russ told me to get in here. He said it was the entrance for the ski school classes,” I said defensively. Paul laughed, “We know, Greg. Ignore Chris; he’s just teasing. You’re in a lesson and that means you get to join the line near the front so you don’t waste your time standing around.” “How did you know I’m having a lesson?” I asked, surprised that they knew. I hadn’t mentioned it to them last night. “We saw you in the class when you were practising on the slope. The ski instructor outfit is pretty noticeable,” Paul explained. “We waved as we went past, but you were busy and didn’t see us.” “So, what made you decide to take lessons?” Chris asked, as we continued inching our way along the line towards the lift. “Dan suggested them. He said that I should be able to ski Ruined Castle by the end of the week if I take lessons. He told me that it was the quickest way to improve, especially for someone new,” I replied. Finding myself at the front of the line, I moved into position and was surprised to find Chris taking the place next to me. Grabbing the T-bar, we headed off, following the rest of my class. “It’ll be good if you can do Ruined Castle, but that’s a pretty quick improvement. You’ve only been skiing a few days!” Chris remarked. I shrugged. “I can only go by what Dan’s told me. Russ, my instructor, also said he expected to be able to take us there near the end of the week, so I’m hopeful.” “Well, best of luck then. We’ll catch up with you after your lesson, if you like, and we can have lunch then,” Chris suggested. “I promised Dan I’d have lunch with him at the Frying Pan after his shift,” I apologised. “You’re welcome to join us, if you want to.” Chris looked across at me. “Why not Cloud Nine? It’s a bit of pain skiing down to the village and then coming back here afterwards. Most of the best beginner and intermediate runs are on this side of the mountain.” His puzzlement was clear. “Dan gets his meals for free at the Frying Pan, because they are included as part of his employment. If he came up here to Cloud Nine, he’d have to pay for them. I can’t ask him to do that for me, so I’ve told him I’ll join him down there,” I explained. “Fair enough,” Chris agreed. “I check with Paul, but we’ll probably join you. I think your lesson will finish before Dan’s shift, so we’ll still meet up outside Cloud Nine. We’ll ski back to the village from there. Sounds good to you?” I grinned. “Sounds good to me!” Getting off the lift at the top, I quickly skied over to join the rest of the class, while Chris waited for Paul to join him. As soon as I got there, Russ had us repeat our balance exercises at the top part of the run, where it was flatter, and then changed to the turning exercises for the lower half where it was a bit steeper. By the end of the lesson, I was feeling really good about my skiing. Even if I couldn’t feel any improvement in my ability, I could sense an increase in my confidence levels. From what Russ had said, that alone would help me ski better. After being told by Russ where to meet up tomorrow morning, I waved goodbye to my class mates, and headed over to Cloud Nine. I quickly spotted my two friends waiting for me outside. “Hi, guys,” I cried out, as I skied up to them. “G’day, Greg,” Chris said. “How about going inside for a hot drink before we head down to the village?” “I’ll go for that,” I answered as I stepped out of my skis. I realised that a quick sugar-fix would be useful; the lesson must have taken more out of me than I’d realised. Once inside, we grabbed our drinks, and sat down at a table by the windows. The view looked quite different from the other weekend when it had been sunny. The overcast skies made the whole place look dreary and flat. “Did you enjoy your lesson?” Paul asked me. “It was good. I think a lot of it is just confidence, and having the instructor there means I’m not being pushed too fast,” I replied. Chris nodded, in agreement and then grinned at me. “And it’s also a good way to meet people. Who’s the girl you were skiing with?” I hope my surprise, and mild disgust, didn’t appear on my face. I would’ve thought Chris and Paul would be the last people in the world to try pushing me towards girls. I just wanted to ski to have fun, not as a way to pick up people! “Caroline? She’s nice. She’s going home on Friday, so I should be seeing her each day until then.” “Have you asked her out, yet?” Paul asked, obviously interested. Were they trying to gang up on me? I was getting irritated at the intrusion into my personal life. It was time to nip this in the bud, before it got out of control. “We talked about it, but she needs to check with her boyfriend, first,” I stated. “I thought Dan and I could go out with them one night after you two have gone back to Melbourne.” I could see Paul rock back in his seat at that. I think some of my anger must have filtered through, though I was trying to stay calm. “Look, guys. I appreciate the sentiments, but I just want to have fun skiing. I’m not up here to chase girls. I want more than a one night stand!” I may have said that a bit too forcibly, but the last thing I wanted this trip was to be put under pressure to find someone to sleep with. Especially a girl! “Sorry, Greg,” Paul said contritely. “It’s just that you’re young and good looking and I just assumed you’d be keeping an eye out for opportunities.” Paul said I was good looking! I felt an immediate buzz go through my body. I knew I couldn’t hide the smile that appeared in response to that, so I had to say something to hide the real reason. ‘That’s okay, Paul. I did ask her about herself; it’s just that I’m not going out of my way to look at the moment. I’m going to have fun skiing this week, and I don’t want to waste my skiing time doing other things.” Though if Paul asked me back to his room, I’d make an exception. He thinks I’m good looking! There was a lull in the conversation at that point, which was just as well as I found my mind going off on a tangent. It’ll never happen because Chris and Paul are too solid as a couple, but if Paul did ask me out, am I ready to say “Yes” and come out of the closet? I think it would depend on the circumstances. Getting to know the other two guys has taught me a lot. My confidence in being able to survive as a gay guy in today’s society has increased as a result of their example. There are still some scary parts, such as the issues of not being able to dance together, or show affection in public, but the love the two of them so obviously share is something worthwhile. They have something good going, and if I could have that too, I think I’d be ready to come out for it. Back to my hypothetical – I’d say “Yes” if it was for love, but I’d say “No” if it was just for sex. No matter how much I want to have a night of hot sex with Paul, I’m not ready to change my life for just one night. “What are you thinking about?” Chris asked. “My mind just went off on a tangent to a TV show my parents used to watch when I was younger,” I replied. It wasn’t too far off the truth. “Do you remember Geoffrey Robertson’s Hypotheticals?” “I think so,” Paul said hesitantly, while Chris shook his head. “Wasn’t there one on AIDS?” I grinned “’Does Dracula have AIDS?’ I remember that one.” “What was it about?” Chris asked. “Geoffrey Robertson was the moderator who would present a hypothetical situation to a panel of experts and ask them questions about it. The show about Dracula was exploring different aspects and consequences of the disease, as it was still largely unknown to the general public at that time. I don’t remember too much about it, but I’ve never forgotten the title. It was too catchy to forget.” “Sounds interesting!” Chris remarked. “I’m not sure, but I think they are available on video. It was on the ABC, so try one of the ABC shops in the city sometime,” I suggested. “I’ll look into it,” he answered thoughtfully. Shortly afterwards, we left Cloud Nine and headed off down the home trail. I asked the other two if I they could let me try to find the turn-off for the Frying Pan. Soon or later, I’d have to do it by myself, and this seemed a good chance to see if I could do it. They agreed, which meant that they skied behind me instead of shooting ahead. Nervous at being watched by the guys behind me, as well as being concerned that I’d make a fool of myself by missing the turn-off, I did something stupid. I crashed on the home trail. I should’ve known by now that I needed to concentrate when I was skiing. Too many distractions and I lost control of what I was doing. Quickly getting back to my feet, I glanced up the hill to where Paul and Chris were stopped. Paul was grinning at me, but Chris was studiously looking at the view off the side of the home trail. That was probably the best of both worlds. Chris was trying to avoid embarrassing me further, and while Paul was obviously amused, I could forgive him a lot for that grin. Plus, he thinks I’m good looking! After that incident, I was happy when I spotted the exit I wanted. I was almost past when I recognised it and ended up stopping a few feet downhill. As I side-stepped my way up the hill to the turn-off, Paul and Chris pulled up just short of the exit. “Well done, Greg!” Chris smiled. “Let’s go get some lunch.” I didn’t waste my breath with a response; I just grinned a thank you back at him instead. We timed it pretty well. As we pulled up outside the Frying Pan, I could see Dan just starting to trudge across the snow from the lift he had been working at. After taking off our skis and finding some empty spots in the racks to put them in, we waited for Dan to join us. “Hi, guys! Thanks for waiting for me,” Dan cried out cheerfully as he approached. “Not a problem, mate,” Chris called back, equally cheerfully. I glanced across at Paul, and I could see him forcing a smile onto his face. I wish there was some way I could get him to like Dan, but I knew it would just take time. Until he could see past his memories to the real Dan, I would just have to put up with a grudging acceptance. “Hi,” Paul said when Dan reached us. “Shall we go in and eat? I’m starving!” The Frying Pan was busy that day. I think the outside weather was bitter enough that most people wanted to eat inside, rather than outside. Spotting a small group leaving a table along the side wall, I pushed quickly through the crowd to get to it before anyone else could. Sitting myself down, I waited for the others to follow. Paul and Chris slid into the bench seat opposite me, but Dan remained standing. “I’m just going to the back room to get my lunch. I’ll bring it out here shortly,” he explained, before heading to a door at the far end of the room. “You two get your lunch. I’ll hold the table until you get back,” I offered to Paul and Chris. “If you know what you want, we can get it for you at the same time,” Chris suggested. Quickly making a decision, I replied, “Any one of the focaccia, and a hot chocolate.” Digging into my pocket, I pulled out a ten dollar note and handed over. As they headed off, I settled back into the seat. Soon, they were all back and we settled down to eat. Dan and I sat on one side of the table, and Paul and Chris on the other. “So, what’s the plan for tonight?” Paul asked, as he dug into the plate of pasta he’d bought. “I was thinking of having a quiet night,” I answered quickly, before anyone else could say anything. Chris looked up from his lunch in horror. “A quiet night? How can you even think it? If you’re up here, you’re supposed to party!” I scowled back at him. “Not all of us are made of money, Chris,” I responded, pointing to myself. As Dan leant forward, I also tilted my head towards him, hoping the other two would get the hint that I was worried about Dan’s finances. “There are options up here that don’t take a lot of money,” Dan stated. “We could go back to the lodge we went to last night. The mixed drinks are a little expensive, but the entertainment is good and the beer is moderately cheap.” “I thought it was good, too,” Paul confirmed, “but I’d really prefer to do something different.” “We have a pack of cards at our place,” Chris mentioned. “We could all meet and play cards. How about strip-poker?” he asked with a straight face. “No, no, no and NO!” I exclaimed, beginning to panic on the off chance that it was a serious suggestion. After the incident with the cocktails on the last trip, I wasn’t absolutely sure Dan would turn it down. He just might find the idea amusing. Chris laughed, while Dan and Paul looked at me in amusement. “You’re pretty easy to get going, Greg. You need to lighten up,” Chris remarked. “I can be as light as you like, as long as it doesn’t involve taking off clothes!” I retorted. Dan looked thoughtful. “You know, they’re showing the original Star Wars movie on TV tonight. I wouldn’t mind watching it again,” he suggested. “I’ll go for that,” I quickly jumped in. After exchanging glances, Chris and Paul grinned. “I think we have a deal,” Paul said. “Okay, we’ll bring the food,” Dan stated, “Popcorn and chocolates. How does that sound?” With a nod of agreement, Chris added, “And we’ll get the beer. Do we need anything else?” After a glance around the table, the answer appeared to be “No.” It looked like we had organised the activity for tonight. “Changing the topic, I understand you guys are heading back on Wednesday,” Dan remarked. “Yeah,” Chris replied despondently. “Unfortunately, I have a new project starting up on Thursday, and I have to be back by then.” “Well, I don’t believe Greg has been to a Happy Harvey Hour, yet. We should do that on Tuesday night. What do you think?” Dan asked. Paul grinned, “Definitely! You can’t have a week up here without a Happy Harvey Hour.” I look at the three grinning guys, perplexed. “What’s a Happy Harvey Hour?” I asked nervously, not sure I really wanted to know the answer. I recall Rob mentioned it on my last trip up here, but he didn’t say what it was. Dan looked across at Paul and Chris. Paul waved a hand back at him. “You explain it; you’ll know it better than any of us.” Dan turned to me. “You know about pubs that sell beer by the jug, don’t you?” he asked. I nodded my head. Most bars and pubs did that. A jug of beer was cheaper than buying individual glasses. “Well, at the Falls Creek Hotel, on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, they sell Harvey Wallbangers by the jug,” Dan explained. “That’s Happy Harvey Hour. You get a bar full of people making themselves absolutely pissed on Harvey Wallbangers.” “What’s in a Harvey Wallbanger, again?” I asked. “I know it’s a cocktail, but I can’t remember what’s in it.” “Orange juice, vodka and Galliano,” Chris answered enthusiastically. “Not normally my drink of choice, but when you can buy it by the jug, I certainly don’t mind it!” “Falls Creek sells more Galliano than anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere,” Dan announced. “They sell so much, that the executives from Galliano came out here once to find out why. They were horrified to find out what was going on. It wasn’t the image they wanted their company and drinks to portray. Of course, they didn’t stop the sales, but they weren’t happy.” “Okay, then,” I replied, “Happy Harvey Hour on Tuesday, it is!” We quickly finished our lunch and headed out to ski. Chris and Paul starting skiing with us, which I thought was very kind of them, until Paul spotted Kelly as one of the towies at Towers. After a whispered conversation with Chris, the two of them decided to head off to Ruined Castle instead. Kelly had nothing to do with decision, of course; they just thought the other run would be more challenging for them. Who did they think they were fooling? Since we had to buy supplies for the night, and I also wanted to get some breakfast foods, Dan and I finished skiing a little early. Taking an alternative route from the main home trail, we ended up outside the small local store. It was only a few minutes before we were out again, loaded up with microwave popcorn, chocolates, corn chips, salsas and some food for breakfast. Not everything was on the shopping list, but I just can’t resist impulse buying, especially when it’s junk food. At this point, I would have taken off my skis and trudged back up the hill until I could ski down to our room. Dan, however, told me he’s too lazy for that, so he took me a different way. Skiing down through the village, we ended up near the car park. There, we found what Dan told me was the Gully chairlift. Its entire purpose appears to be to take people from the car park area, up to the top of the village, near the Frying Pan. It certainly saved me a long and tedious walk, so I don’t begrudge it’s existance in the slightest. After dinner, we headed off to the Snoweagle. Just before we knocked on the door, Dan turned to me with a grin. “Can you do me a favour, Greg?” he asked. I looked at him suspiciously. He was up to something and I wasn’t sure who the target was going to be. “Tell me what it is and I’ll tell you whether or not I can do it,” I answered cautiously. “Just cover your eyes when they answer the door. I’ll do the rest,” he responded ambiguously. It sounded crazy, but I couldn’t see what harm it would do, unless he had already set something up with Chris and Paul, so I nodded my head. I decided I’d peek a little anyway. Dan knocked and then turned to me with a grin of anticipation. As the door began to open, he quickly covered his eyes with his hands. Following suit, I looked through the gap between my fingers to see Chris standing there, puzzled at our behaviour. “Are you decent?” Dan asked, “We didn’t catch you at a bad time, did we?” Chris laughed. “No, we’re not decent, but we are dressed, if that’s what you meant!” Dan dropped his hands and then pretended to wipe sweat from his forehead. “Phew, that’s a relief. I don’t think I could have survived another encounter like the last one.” Entering their room, we found Paul in the kitchen, pulling out bowls to put the junk food in. “Hi, guys!” he said when he spotted us. “I wasn’t sure what we would need, so I thought I’d drag out what was here. Oh, and the beer is in the fridge.” “Get your priorities right, Paul,” Dan said cheekily, “You need to tell us where the beer is first, and then tell us anything else we need to know.” “Okay,” Paul replied, “The beer is in the fridge. I don’t think anything else is important, is that right?” Dan laughed. “Absolutely!” Seeing that Dan and Paul were chatting, I decided to encourage it. If Paul talked more with Dan, then he’ll see what sort of guy he is and should get over his worries. “Okay, you guys. Out of the kitchen. I’m going to cook the popcorn,” I said, pushing Paul out. “Yes, Mum,” Dan and Paul said in unison. They even managed to do matching little-kid tones. Chris laughed while I turned to hide a smile. The two of them were enough alike that they really should get along great. It’ll just take a bit of time. I cooked a couple of bags of popcorn, while Chris broke out the corn chips and salsa. Soon, we were all settled in front of the TV. Dan and I were lounging at opposite ends of the couch, with bowls of popcorn and corn chips on the coffee table in front of us. Chris was slouching on the chair, with Paul sitting on the ground between his legs. Paul’s head was resting against Chris’ stomach, with one arm draped over Chris’s leg. While the introduction to Star Wars was starting, I noticed Chris absentmindedly running his fingers through Paul’s hair. It was something I’ve also seen Rob and Diane do at various times when they were relaxed. It was as if Chris just needed to touch and feel Paul when he was able to do so. From the way the two of them were watching the movie, I don’t think it was a conscious action on Chris’ behalf; just a natural way of him showing affection to his boyfriend. I must have been staring a bit too hard, dreaming of being able to run my fingers through Paul’s hair, because Dan twisted a bit in his seat to look at the other guys. Turning back to me, he gave me a wink before returning his attention to the movie. Feeling myself blush, I forced myself to focus on the TV and push my fantasies to the back of my mind. Well, some of my fantasies anyway. Luke Skywalker was good eye-candy, though he needed to keep his mouth shut. He’s always come across to me as a boastful little brat. Funnily, Han Solo is just as boastful, but I don’t mind him. I think it’s because Harrison Ford manages to portray him as a likeable rogue. I was surprised during one of the ad breaks to find I wasn’t alone. “Did I ever tell you, I used to fantasies about Luke when I was younger,” Paul remarked to Chris as he looked up at his boyfriend. “No, you didn’t,” Chris replied with surprise. “I always thought he was a bit of a brat. Han Solo is a lot more desirable, in my opinion.” In response to Paul’s raised eyebrows, Chris smiled and quickly added, “After you, of course.” Bending down, he met Paul’s upturned face with a quick kiss on the lips. Chris suddenly straightened and glanced over at Dan and me. His face had gone red. “Sorry, guys. I hope we didn’t offend you.” Dan laughed. “Not at all! Just as long as you keep your clothes on, I won’t be bothered. Anyway, I’m jealous.” Paul glanced over at him, puzzled. “Jealous?” he asked. “Yeah. You two have Luke Skywalker and Han Solo to dream about. Princess Leia is a fiesty girl, but that hairdo of hers is a complete turnoff,” Dan stated with mock disgust. Paul looked at him with surprise and then shrugged his shoulders. I agreed with him. I’ve never understood what anyone could see in Princess Leia, either. “Did you know that someone once tried to tell me that Chewbacca was a girl?” Chris threw in. “I think the sex of a Wookiee is only really of interest to another Wookiee,” I threw back. “Anyway, I’m pretty sure Chewie is referred to as ‘he’ at least once in the movies.” “He’s definitely male,” Dan piped up, “Whoever told you that had rocks in their head.” Chris put up his hands in surrender. “I didn’t say I agreed. It was just something someone told me once.” With that, the ad break was over and the movie started again. As the end of the movie approached, I couldn’t help glancing over at Paul and Chris. While a lot of people would probably disagree, the sight of two guys acting as an old and relaxed couple looked natural to me. There wasn’t anything odd about it. At that instant, I made the decision that I was going to come out of the closet this week. I’m not sure if I’ll tell Dan first, or whether to tell all three at the same time, but I felt ready. I wanted a piece of what those two guys had, and I couldn’t do it hiding away. My musing was distracted by Dan leaning forward and interrupting my view of Chris and Paul. “Miss! Miss! Miss!” Dan started to chant. Checking what was going on in the movie, I could see Luke coming in for the final shot to try to destroy the Death Star. As the three of us just stared at him, Dan glanced around at us. “What’s wrong? I’m a Darth Vader fan. I’ve always wanted to see what would’ve happened if Luke missed that shot,” Dan stated mildly. “Ahhh! He got it!” Dan cried. The disappointment in his voice was clear. “You are one strange person,” Chris said, shaking his head. “You know, I think it’s rigged,” Dan remarked, ignoring Chris’ comment as he slouched back into the couch. “It doesn’t matter how many times I see the movie, Luke never misses.” “Do you really think so?” I asked, straight-faced. If Dan wanted to treat the movie as real, let’s see if I can keep up with him. “Yeah. I just don’t know who to complain to,” Dan replied, shaking his head. “Another beer anyone?” Paul asked, getting to his feet. “Me! Me! Me!” I cried out, sticking up my hand. I didn’t want to be overlooked. Having already drunk five beers, I wasn’t going to miss out on the even half-dozen. “Not for me, thanks,” Dan said, “I have to work in the morning.” “How about complaining to the Imperial Senate?” Chris suggested to Dan. “No good,” Dan said sadly. “That bunch of liberals would just question why the Death Star existed in the first place and never would get around to investigating any accusations of cheating by the Rebel Alliance.” “Instead of complaining, why don’t just contact the builders of the Death Star and tell them about the fault?” I asked. “Tried that. Unfortunately the details of the builders are top secret and not listed in the phone book.” I thought about asking which phone book he looked in, but I wasn’t sure I’d like the answer I’d get. “You do realise that all’s fair in love and war. Cheating by the Rebel Alliance is therefore allowed,” I pointed out. Dan looked at me as if puzzled, before shaking his head. “You know, I’ve never looked at it that way. Personally I don’t believe the Rebel Alliance is in love with the Empire, but if you do, I can see why you think that.” At that, I conceded. I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with Dan, at least not after five beers. Maybe I could if I was sober, but then I wouldn’t enjoy the sparring anywhere near as much. Paul came back with my beer, and we settled down for the end of the movie. Nights like this that make you realise that you don’t need to spend a lot of money, or do fancy things, to have fun. Reflecting back on the best moments of my life to date, it’s always been the people I’ve been with that have made them great. The place and the things we’ve been doing are usually secondary to the company I was keeping. After finishing up with a cup of coffee and the last of the junk food, Dan and I said goodnight to Paul and Chris and headed out. There was a bit of wind blowing the snow around, and I could feel the sting as snowflakes were blown into my face. We made it back to our room with little trouble. I slipped in the snow a few times, but I blamed the ice for that. Dan tried to tell me I was smashed, but I knew I was only a little drunk. It had been a great night, and I was just having a good time. Beer does that to me. While some people can get aggressive when they’ve had too much to drink, I just get happy. My mood was shattered when we entered the room. The lights were all on, and Kelly was pacing the room, obviously anxious. As we came in, she looked at us distressed. The normally caustic and worldly towie had disappeared. “It’s Garret. He’s been bashed!”
    1 point
  27. I stared in amazement at Chris. His love and concern for his brother had out-shone that for his parents. Instead of taking the easy way out, he had stood up for Scott and told his mum and dad that if they rejected Scott, they’d lose him, too. I don’t know if I could be that strong. I hope I’m never put to the question, as I’d hate to lose anyone in my family. I love my brother, Mum and Dad, and I can’t imagine them not being there. Chris was breaking down before my eyes, but that didn’t diminish a thing. It’d never been clearer that he was only a few years older than me. The fact that he had a fulltime job and drove a car made him seem more mature, but now he was a quivering teenager, going through something that shouldn’t happen. No one should be asked to make the choice that he made that night. Mum was already there, pulling him into an embrace, but I stepped forward anyway. I put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed gently, willing him to sense my support for him through that contact. I don’t know if it helped or not, but I felt I had to do it. As Chris let out the emotions he’d kept bottled up until he could get Scott to our house, Dad touched me on the arm to get my attention. “David, can you and Randy get their bags from the car? Just bring them in here for the moment. Then get the large air mattress from where the camping gear is stored. We’ll put it in the lounge room,” Dad said softly. I nodded and headed for the door. Randy joined me and we went outside. “Wow!” Randy breathed as we walked up the path. “Yeah, wow!” I agreed. “Chris is one tough guy.” “Do you think we’ve just got ourselves a pair of brothers?” I considered that possibility. Our house really couldn’t take another two people for any length of time. Mum and Dad would let them stay as long as they needed, but I couldn’t see them staying permanently. “I don’t think so. Chris is working, so he might be able to rent somewhere for the two of them. Mum and Dad will let them stay until they get back on their feet, and Break will probably sleep over on a regular basis, but I don’t think they’ll be staying for good.” Randy nodded as we got to Chris’ car. He reached through the open window and hit the boot release. We headed around the back and retrieved the bags. As Chris had indicated, there were three large bags. Randy picked up two and I lifted the last one. “I wonder why Dad said to get the large air mattress instead of the two smaller ones,” Randy remarked as we headed back. Once he’d pointed it out, that did sound strange. Mum and Dad use the large one on the rare times we all go camping together. By the time we entered the house, I still hadn’t worked out a reason for Scott and Chris to use it. I dropped the bag I was carrying and headed back to get the mattress and the pump to inflate it. When I returned, Chris was standing up with a cup in his hand, sniffling. I smiled wryly as I realised that he’d been given a cup of coffee, Mum’s hot drink therapy. Noticing the bottle of rum was relocated by the kettle, I suspected there was something extra in the cup. Despite that, Chris still looked like a stunned mullet. “Randy, can you go check on Scott and Adam? Just come back without disturbing them, if you can,” Dad suggested. “Okay, Dad.” “Thanks for this, Mr. Castle, Mrs. Johnson,” Chris said. “I thought this was the best place for Scott, but if it’s inconvenient I’ll look for a hotel room for the night.” “Chris,” Dad gently admonished, “firstly, you can call us Kevin and Yvonne. Secondly, of course you can stay here. You don’t have any choice, now, anyway.” Chris looked surprised, but before he could say anything, Dad smiled and pointed at the empty glass on the table. “You’re still a probationary driver, and that means a zero blood-alcohol level. I knew as soon as you had that drink that you were staying the night,” he pointed out, and then smiled. Chris gave a sheepish grin in response. “Sorry, I hadn’t thought of that. I’ll remember that for next time.” “Next time? You’re planning on doing this again?” Chris did a double take and then gave a short, sharp bark of laughter. “Sorry. I’m not thinking straight,” he said, before a lost look came over his face. “I don’t ever want to go through this again,” he finished faintly. Mum stepped up and, putting an arm around his waist, pulled him into a gentle hug. “Shush, dear. I’m sure everything will work out. For now, just relax and try to get some sleep tonight.” “Thanks,” Chris replied simply, awkwardly returning the hug while trying not to spill his coffee. As he stepped back, he took a deep breath and straightened his shoulders. “I’ll just sleep on the couch, if that’s all right,” he offered. I suddenly knew how I could help out and show my appreciation at the same time. “Why don’t you take my bed? I’ll take the couch,” I suggested. “It’s the least I can do.” Chris looked at me, surprise on his face. Before Chris could say anything, Dad jumped in. “There’s no need for that, either of you. Chris is going to use the folding bed in Randy’s room.” “But where’s Adam going to sleep?” Randy asked as he re-entered the room. The light dawned and my mouth opened as I stared at my parents. I couldn’t believe they were doing that so calmly. I felt a strange mixture of shock and pride in them as I heard Mum confirm my suspicions. “Adam and Scott will be sharing the air mattress,” she said simply. “Scott needs Adam to be with him tonight. Anything else would be cruel.” As Randy blushed and looked away, Dad smiled. “Get your mind out of the gutter, son. They’ll be in the lounge room and won’t have any real privacy. All they’ll be able to get up to is exactly what Scott needs: someone to hold him, and to know he’s loved.” I wasn’t so sure, but I resolved to stay in my room until well into the morning. I didn’t want to take the chance of seeing something I didn’t want to see. “Now, can we disturb them and start setting up the room?” Mum asked Randy. “Yeah, sure,” Randy answered absentmindedly. He seemed a little stunned at the proposed sleeping arrangements. Mum sent me off to get some sheets and a spare doona for the air mattress, and Chris moved his bag down to Randy’s room. As I carried the bedding into the lounge room, I quickly scanned the room for Adam and Scott. As I’d expected, the two guys were sitting together on the couch. Adam had one arm across Scott’s shoulders and was squeezing gently. Scott was leaning against his boyfriend’s shoulder. He’d stopped crying, but he still looked lost. As Randy started pumping up the mattress, Scott tried to pull himself together enough to help with the makeshift bed. Mum sternly told him to stay where he was. I noticed that Adam hadn’t let go of Scott the whole time. When Chris came in and offered to help, Mum just gave him a silent stare, eyebrows raised. With a wry smile, Chris surrendered and dropped into one of the chairs. He wasn’t looking much better than his brother. Randy and I had almost finished setting everything up, making the lounge room quite crowded, when the phone rang. A few seconds later, Dad stepped through the doorway. “Chris, it’s your dad. He’d like to speak to you,” he announced neutrally, holding out the handset. Chris’ almost relaxed expression disappeared in an instant. Fear and longing swept across his face as he jerked himself upright. He took one step toward my dad and reached out for the phone, but then stopped and pulled back his arm. “No,” he said softly, before repeating it more firmly. “No! Not until Scott tells me it’s okay. He has to speak to Scott first!” Dad gave him a small smile and a nod, before he lifted the handset to his ear. “Did you hear that?” he said into the mouthpiece. I looked over at Scott. His lower lip was trembling and his right hand was shaking. Adam had his right arm around Scott’s shoulder, and was holding Scott’s left hand with his. I saw him again squeeze Scott gently. “Okay,” Dad said before smiling at Scott. “Your dad said he’d like to say they’re sorry and asks if you’ll speak to him.” Scott’s head jerked up and down. He may not have been terrified, but he didn’t look too far from it. He held out his right hand, but his left was firmly grasping Adam’s and showing no signs of letting go. After giving him the phone, Dad and Mum started to leave the room. Randy and I were getting ready to follow them when Scott spoke up. “No, stay,” he said, pleadingly. “I need you all here.” Mum and Dad exchanged glances before turning back to Scott. “Sure, hon,” Mum said kindly. We all watched Scott lift the phone to his ear. “Hello,” he said hesitantly. He was sitting stiffly, listening, when he suddenly turned to Adam and smiled. “I love you, too, Dad,” he said, letting go of Adam’s hand so he could wipe away the tears that were threatening to fall again. The smile didn’t budge, though. “Hi, Mum,” he said happily, as he reclaimed Adam’s hand. This time he just let the tears run down his cheeks. The red mark from where he’d been slapped was highlighted by the tear tracks running over it. I was moving to the door before Mum and Dad could indicate it was time to go. Scott didn’t need us there, anymore. I waited in the kitchen for my parents and brother to join me. “Well, that was quite an event,” Mum remarked as she headed over to the kettle. “Not something I’d like to go through on a regular basis.” “So, Dad, does this mean that I’ll be allowed to share the big air mattress with a girlfriend at some stage in the future?” Randy cheekily asked. Dad frowned at him. “If she’s just lost her family, then yes,” he said quietly. “Otherwise, no.” Randy cringed. He started looking around the room, trying to avoid making eye contact with anyone. I knew how he felt, from having put my foot in my mouth enough times. “What do you think will happen with Scott and Chris, Kevin?” Mum asked. “Well, they’ll definitely be staying here tonight. I don’t think it’ll be a good idea for them to go home, even if their parents come over to pick them up. “As for the rest of the weekend, I don’t know. It’s a long weekend, so we won’t have to rush anything. It might be good if they stay a couple of nights. That’ll give everyone some breathing space,” he mused. “We’ll ask them in the morning, but I won’t expect them to go to church with us tomorrow,” Mum remarked absently. “Maybe we should miss it? We’ll be going on Sunday, anyway.” “Let’s wait until morning. We don’t have to make a decision tonight,” Dad replied. Turning away from Mum, Dad caught sight of Randy and me listening intently to their conversation. He seemed startled that we were still there. He flicked a quick glance in the direction of the lounge room before bringing his attention back to us. “Okay, boys. The house will be a little crowded in the morning. Can we rely on you two to make things as easy as possible?” “Of course, Dad!” I exclaimed, surprised that he’d think we’d do anything else. “Sure,” Randy replied, then waved a hand, dismissing the matter as unimportant. Dad smiled self-consciously as he ran a hand through his hair. “Sorry, I know I didn’t need to ask. This has all been just a bit of a surprise.” There was a lull for a few seconds before Mum straightened up and rubbed her hands. “Time to clean up the dinner dishes, as it looks like everyone’s finished. David, Randy, can you please clear the table?” “Sure, Mum,” we answered in unison, even matching our traditional tone of resignation. Some things don’t change. While we were cleaning up, Dad wandered down to the lounge room. A few minutes later, he came back with Chris. Dad was talking on the phone. Staring past him, I noticed that the door to the lounge room had been closed. “Okay, we’ll see you tomorrow around two. We can discuss the rest of the things then. Don’t worry about the boys, we’ll look after them,” Dad said into the phone. Looking over at Mum, he nodded his head. “Bye, Phil,” he said before switching off the phone. “They were going to come around tonight, but Chris and I convinced them to wait until tomorrow. I raised the option of Scott and Chris staying a couple of nights, but we’ll talk about that when Phil and Carol get here,” he explained to Mum. When she glanced past him, he added, “Scott is worn out. He and Adam are settling down for the night.” “What about you?” she asked Chris. “Do you want to go lie down?” “I’m still too shaky for that. I’d prefer to stay up, if you don’t mind.” “Of course not. No one has to do anything tomorrow, so you can stay up as long as you like.” Turning an eye onto Randy and me, she added, “You two can stay up as long as Chris does, if you want to.” My brother and I exchanged surprised glances. “Thanks, Mum,” I said. We took advantage of that offer. After they assured themselves that Chris was okay, our parents retreated to their bedroom. Chris, Randy and I sat around the kitchen table, drinking soft drinks and coffee, and talking. I offered Chris some more rum, but he declined. He said he didn’t want to get drunk, as he didn’t want to have a hangover when he faced his parents the next day. Chris told us that Scott had been working himself up all week to come out to their parents. Adam hadn’t pushed him, but Scott knew that Adam really wanted to be able to be open about their relationship. When asked by Randy, Chris admitted that Scott hadn’t told Adam what he was planning on doing. Scott hadn’t wanted to commit himself, and if he’d told Adam that he was going to tell his parents, he would’ve felt forced to go ahead and do it. By not saying anything, he felt he’d be able to chicken out if he didn’t feel comfortable. “It’s strange,” Chris mused, almost to himself. “I steered the conversation onto Adam and what he was going through. Both Mum and Dad said how sorry they were for Adam. He’s been around our place so many times over the last couple of years that they both know him well. Mum even made the comment that she didn’t think any kid should go through things like that. That was when Scott felt like it was safe to say something. “I don’t know what went wrong. One minute, Mum was expressing sympathy for Adam, and the next she slapped Scott and said he couldn’t be gay. Dad just sat there saying something stupid like ‘Are you sure?’ Scott fled at that point. Mum rounded on me and told me I better not be gay, either. That’s when I stood up and gave them my ultimatum. “I never expected to have to do it. I still don’t know why I had to.” I could hear the regret and concern in his voice. With a flash of intuition, I guessed he was blaming himself for what had happened. “Chris,” I started cautiously, waiting until he looked at me before continuing. “It took me a week to come to terms with Adam, and I’m still not totally there. How long did it take you to accept Scott?” He looked at me wide-eyed for a moment before giving me a wry smile. “A couple of days,” he admitted. “How long do you think your parents need?” While Chris thought about that question, Randy spoke up. “It could be months.” Chris and I both looked at him. I wondered where that idea had come from. “If Scott had thought to ask for help from Adam and me, we could’ve warned him,” Randy said. “How did you become an expert on coming out?” I asked sarcastically. “The Internet,” Randy replied simply. “There’s lots of info available from reputable places. I found one that was written by the father of a gay boy, and what he went through, as well as how others have handled it. He was writing to give advice on how to come out to your parents.” “And he said it could be months?” Chris asked in disbelief. Randy nodded. “It’s not the same for parents, apparently. Their attachment to their kids seems to be different to how a brother or sister can feel. For example, one of things he said is that they can feel like they’ve failed as parents. That sort of thing makes it more complicated for them, and it can take longer to come to terms with having a gay son or daughter than having a gay brother or sister.” We kept on talking until after midnight. Several comments Chris made reinforced my guess that he was blaming himself for something, but he was slowly coming around to realise that he wasn’t at fault. When Chris seemed unable to control his yawns, we all went to bed. I must’ve been more tired than I realised, as the next thing I saw was daylight starting to appear past the bedroom curtains. I intended to stay in my room until I was sure that someone else was up. I didn’t expect Scott and Adam to be up to anything, but after finding them kissing that first time I wasn’t going to take any risks. I listened for noises that would indicate others were awake, but it was the smell wafting up from the kitchen that made me leap out of bed. I should’ve remembered, but the drama of the night before had messed up my thinking. I made myself presentable as quickly as I could, and then raced down the hallway. “Hot cross buns?” I asked eagerly, as I slid to a stop. “Of course,” Mum replied with a smile. Dad was sitting quietly, drinking a cup of coffee, but he grinned at my enthusiasm. I slipped into an empty seat and waited impatiently for Mum’s homemade hot cross buns to be brought out of the oven. While I sat there, I had a thought. “Will we have enough?” I asked, concerned because we had an unexpected extra two mouths to feed. “I have some store-bought buns in the freezer we can use if we run out,” Mum replied. “Don’t worry. You won’t starve.” Hot cross buns – especially homemade ones – for breakfast are a family tradition on Good Friday. When we were younger they were all bought from the local supermarket or bakery. When I was twelve, though, Mum started making them. She’s only improved with practise and now Randy and I eagerly await Good Friday morning, for fresh buns straight from the oven. I was mildly surprised that Randy wasn’t already here with his mouth open and drool running down his chin. The reason for his delay became apparent when he showed up a few minutes later, pushing a staggering Chris down the hallway. Chris looked dazed, as if he hadn’t managed to get any sleep. He was dressed in an old pair of tracksuit pants and a plain T-shirt, and his scruffy appearance wouldn’t have looked out of place in a late-night zombie horror movie. While I had to smile at Randy’s constant stream of enthusiastic promises for what would be coming, I was concerned for Chris. Had he not managed to get any rest, or was that the way he normally woke up? Once Chris was seated and had a fresh cup of coffee in front of him, Dad caught my eye. “Will you check if Adam and Scott want to join us?” he asked. “Breakfast will be ready in a few minutes.” I froze for a moment, then nodded my head stiffly and rose to my feet, trying to hide my apprehension. I didn’t expect Scott and Adam to be in an inappropriate situation, but I thought that if they were, it would be better for me to discover them than either Randy or my parents. I didn’t want Randy to be exposed to that sort of thing, and Mum and Dad just might go overboard. I walked down the hallway to the lounge room, hesitated a moment, and then knocked. The door was slightly ajar, but I was sure that it had been shut when I had gone to bed the night before. After several seconds with no response, I knocked again. When I didn’t hear anything, I nervously eased the door open. If everything was okay, I’d leave quietly, but otherwise I’d have to wake them before anyone else saw them. Scott was sound asleep, but Adam was awake. The two of them were lying side-by-side on the mattress, with the doona up around their chests. Scott was wearing a T-shirt, but Adam was topless. Adam met my eyes and raised his left index finger to his lips, asking me to be quiet. His right hand was firmly grasped by his sleeping boyfriend’s hand, on top of the doona. When Adam tried to ease away, Scott stirred slightly and pulled Adam’s hand closer to him. With a wry smile for me and then a tender one for his boyfriend, Adam gave up and waved for me to go. He wasn’t getting out of bed until Scott woke up. I closed the door behind me and headed back to the kitchen. “Scott’s still asleep and Adam doesn’t want to leave him,” I explained when Dad raised an eyebrow to me. Nodding his head, Dad said, “Okay. Let him sleep as long as he wants.” I noticed Chris seemed to be a lot more alert than when I’d gone to check on the other two. He must be one of those people who can’t operate until they’ve had a coffee in the morning. We were halfway through the second tray of buns when Scott and Adam wandered down the hallway and into the kitchen. They were holding hands, and I could see Randy biting his lip to stop himself from making a sarcastic comment. I understood. I felt like saying “How cute!” but resisted. Scott still looked fragile and I didn’t think it would take much to set him off. While they started to catch up to the rest of us, and Mum brought out some more hot cross buns from the oven, Dad asked who wanted to go to church. Chris paused in his eating and looked thoughtful. “I’d like to go, if you are.” “I’m going, but I understand if some people are not up to it,” Dad replied, peering over the table at Scott and Adam. “Yvonne will stay behind with whoever doesn’t go.” Scott looked relieved. “Thanks, Mr. Castle. I don’t think I’m up to going out, today.” Adam was wearing a faint frown. He flicked a glance across at Dad before returning his attention to Scott. He then slumped slightly. “I’ll stay behind, too, if you don’t mind.” “Of course we don’t mind,” Mum replied, as she placed the new batch of buns on the table. “Going to church is something you should want to do, and sometimes other things are more important.” It was settled. Adam, Scott and Mum would stay behind and the rest of us would go. After finishing up our breakfast, and with a feeling of having eaten too much, we got ready for church. Chris rode with us in the Land Cruiser. What he was wearing wasn’t what most people would consider to be their Sunday best, but it was presentable, and Mum never said a word about it. She just smiled and said she’d see us when we got back. The service wasn’t overly long, and it had the usual Easter theme, concentrating on the Crucifixion. I noticed that Chris paid careful attention to several parts of the sermon – sections on the subject of forgiveness – even going as far as nodding his head in agreement, or perhaps to make sure he wouldn’t forget. I wasn’t sure if he was seeking forgiveness for what he thought he’d put his brother through the night before, or if he was looking to forgive his parents. Either way, he seemed to be readying himself for a reconciliation. After the service a couple of other kids came up to talk to Randy and me, and they asked about Adam. Randy was quick to come up with a story about Adam not having a good night’s sleep and staying home for the day. There was a twinkle in his eye as he looked at me while he said that, and I could tell what was going through his mind. I hoped he was just trying to tease me and that he didn’t honestly believe what he appeared to be thinking. We left soon afterwards. Chris seemed more relaxed on the drive home, as if he’d settled something during the church service, or made some decision, and was a happier person. Once home, we found Scott and Adam helping Mum get lunch ready. She’d decided we would have roast lamb. It was already in the oven, and the two guys were cutting up potatoes and pumpkin for roasting. After the rest of us got changed, Mum dismissed her helpers and told us to relax, as lunch was an hour away. We retired to the lounge room, where the mattress had been deflated and put in the corner with the sheets and doona. Scott and Adam took the couch, Chris and Randy took the chairs, and I sat on the floor near my brother. “Bit more room here than last night,” Chris remarked. “Yeah, we did that after you left. Mrs. Johnson mentioned that we’ll be talking to your parents in here after lunch, and it might be a good idea to tidy the place up,” Adam explained. As soon has Adam mentioned their parents, Scott and Chris tensed up. With a look of dismay, Adam grabbed Scott’s hand with both of his and squeezed gently. “Sorry, Break. I didn’t mean to upset you,” he pleaded. “It’s okay,” Scott replied faintly, giving Adam a weak smile. “They’ve been at the back of my mind all morning, anyway.” “You know you can stay here until things get sorted out,” Randy said, before glancing over at Chris with his cheeky, innocent smile. “Of course, Chris’ll have to move in with Stick; he can’t stay in my room.” “Why not?” Chris asked, looking surprised. “I need my sleep,” Randy replied haughtily. “You snore!” “I don’t snore!” “Yes, you do,” Randy replied. “You do, Chris,” Scott put in, looking better with a grin on his face. “I’ve heard you from my room at our place.” He never let go of Adam’s hand. It was like Adam was an anchor that was keeping him grounded. They were still bickering good-naturedly when there was a cough from the doorway. We all turned to see who it was. “Kelly!” Adam said with glee. Letting go of Scott’s hand, he bounded to his feet and raced to give his sister a hug. “Steady, Adam. You’re going to break my ribs if you squeeze any harder,” she said, chuckling as she returned the hug. When her brother let go, she grabbed his hands and looked him carefully in the eye. “You’re looking a lot happier than last time,” she said kindly. “Now, are you going to introduce me to the guy you were holding hands with when I came in?” There was a stunned silence throughout the room, broken only by a whispered “fuck” from Scott. While Adam seemed flustered and incapable of speaking, I was sitting on the floor desperately trying to think of something – anything – to say. Chris was the only one to move. Rising to his feet, he stretched out his hand towards Kelly. “Hi, I’m Chris. You must be Adam’s sister. My brother, Scott,” he said, indicating Break with a tilt of his head, “told me about your last visit here.” Letting go of Adam, Kelly accepted Chris’ outstretched hand and shook it. “Scott,” she said thoughtfully. “That sounds familiar.... Does he play basketball with Adam?” “That’s right,” Chris replied, and smiled as he let go of Kelly’s hand. While Chris and Kelly were talking, I saw Adam look imploringly at Scott. With a heavy sigh, Scott gave a single nod of his head. He didn’t look happy. “He’s also my boyfriend,” Adam stated firmly, almost challengingly. Kelly suddenly grabbed Adam in another hug. “Good on you,” she said quietly. Adam stood there awkwardly for a second or two before he relaxed into his sister’s hug. When she let go, she smiled at where Scott was still sitting on the couch. He was wringing his hands. “Hi, I’m Kelly,” she said cheerfully to him. “If you need any juicy gossip about my brother, just let me know. I’ve got loads of the stuff.” Scott tried to smile nervously back, but he seemed too concerned. Adam, finally noticing how distressed Scott was becoming, left Kelly and dropped into the seat next to his boyfriend. He reached for his hand, but Scott pulled it away quickly, as if by reflex. “Break, what’s wrong?” Adam asked, ignoring everyone else in the room. “I didn’t want anyone else to know,” he replied. He seemed scared, and the quiver in his voice must have been a reflection of tension in his body. Kelly stepped forward and sank to her knees in front of Scott. “It’s okay,” she said soothingly. “I’m happy for both of you, and I won’t say anything.” Scott just shook his downcast head, avoiding eye contact. Adam put his arm across Scott’s shoulders and pulled him gently to his side. “Scott came out to our parents last night. We spent the night here after Mum blew up,” Chris explained to Kelly. “What the fuck is wrong with these parents?” Kelly exclaimed angrily as she rose to her feet. “Why can’t they just love their kids and leave it at that?” Her fists were clenched as she looked down at her brother. “You look after him, Adam. If you need any help, just let me know,” she said through gritted teeth. “It’s not that bad,” Chris said as he stepped up and put a hand on Scott’s shoulder. “Mum and Dad rang and apologised soon after we got here, but we decided to stay, anyway. They’re coming around this afternoon so we can all talk.” Kelly nodded thoughtfully at Chris. “Okay, thanks. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what Adam’s gone through. “He didn’t mention a boyfriend last time we spoke, though,” she added archly, staring down at a sheepish Adam. “I didn’t know Scott was gay, then. We only got together later.” “Well?” Kelly said sternly, though with a hint of smile on her lips. “Details, Adam, details!” Adam gave Scott a questioning look. Scott sighed and nodded his head. When Kelly and Adam started catching up on what they’d been doing, I stood up and headed out. As I’d expected, Randy offered Kelly his chair and then joined me in the hallway. “Scott was freaking out,” Randy said quietly as we headed towards the kitchen. “Do you blame him?” I asked. “After what Adam went through and then last night, he’s got a right to be scared.” “Yeah, but it’s still not nice to watch.” All I could do was nod my head in agreement. Randy and I started setting the table. Mum told us that Kelly was staying for lunch, so the table would be a little crowded. Glancing up at the clock, I wondered if Kelly would still be around when Scott’s parents arrived. I wasn’t sure it would be a good idea if she was: she might just blow up at them at the wrong time. Lunch was a great success. Scott had recovered most of his composure and was sitting comfortably next to Adam. I noticed them doing a lot of subtle hand holding beneath the table. Kelly told us that her mum wasn’t coping well. Her dad was getting worse and Mrs. Kennedy was having trouble looking after him as well as holding down two jobs. Her mum had told her that one thing she was grateful for was that both of her children were out of the house, so she didn’t have to worry about what was going to happen to them. Kelly apologised for not showing up the previous weekend, but she had been flat hunting. Her uni friend had said she should stay as long as she needed, but Kelly didn’t want to be dependent on charity. Instead, she was spending the weekends looking for a place to live. She’d already managed to find a part time job to pay for it while she kept up her studies. It would be hard, but Kelly was determined to keep going. Mum, predictably, told her that once she had herself settled, she was welcome at our house at any time. Without sounding like she was trying to help, Mum managed to pass on the impression that having a few meals a week with us would help keep Kelly’s living costs down. Because of the appreciation that Kelly showed for the meal, I suspected she would consider Mum’s offer seriously. When we have these sorts of get-togethers, we usually sit at the table and have a very leisurely end to the meal. This time, Dad cut things short by getting to his feet. A glance at the clock showed why: Scott’s parents would be arriving in about twenty minutes. “Well, thank you very much for the meal and the chance to catch up with my brother,” Kelly said to Mum and Dad. “No problem. You’re welcome at any time, you know that,” Mum replied with a smile. “You can stay longer if you like.” Kelly shook her head. “Sorry, but I don’t think I should. Chris told me what happened last night, and they don’t need a stranger around when they talk to their parents. I’m going out with my friends tonight, anyway, and I want to get ready.” “All right,” Dad said. “Have a safe trip back.” Kelly gave Adam a hug goodbye. She then surprised Scott when she pulled him into a hug as well. I saw her whisper something to him, to which he nodded. Kelly then turned to Chris and held out her hand. “Good luck, Chris.” He took her hand and smiled. “Thanks.” After she was gone, Chris looked wistfully after her. “She’s a cool girl,” he said to himself. Adam chuckled. “You saw her on a good day. You should see her after something goes wrong. She’d rip you to shreds.” Chris started as he realised we’d all heard his comment. Randy was smirking and Adam was amused, but Scott didn’t seem to have noticed. I decided against saying anything. They each have a gay younger brother, but otherwise they appeared to move in different circles. I wasn’t going to read any more into Chris’ comment than an appreciation for Kelly’s concern for Scott. There was a mad rush while all the lunch dishes were cleared off the table and either stacked in the dishwasher or manually washed, dried and put away. After a quick glance into the lounge room, Mum ordered all the bedding material taken to the study. When there was a pause in the action, Dad spoke to Chris and Scott. “Do you want to talk to your parents in private, or would you prefer to have someone there with you?” Chris and Scott exchanged glances. “I want Adam there,” Scott said firmly, though I could see his arms trembling. He seemed extremely anxious about what was about to happen. I could appreciate that. If things went badly, he and Chris might lose their family. The phone call the night before indicated that that was unlikely to happen, but until he’d spoken to his parents face-to-face, Scott didn’t know what would occur. He had to be dreading the worst. “If Adam’s there, I think you two should be there, too,” Chris said to Mum and Dad. Our parents looked at Randy and me. “If you don’t mind, could you two boys stay out?” Dad said kindly. “I don’t want Scott’s parents thinking we’re ganging up on them.” “Sure, Dad,” I responded, trying to conceal my relief. While I would be there if they needed me, I was happy to stay out of a situation that had the potential to get very stressful. I was afraid I might say something to make things worse. “We’ll do the tea, coffee and cakes,” Randy offered. “That way you can concentrate on what’s important.” “Thanks, honey,” Mum said, seeming relieved. “We all want this to go well.” With most of the other preparations out of the way, Randy and I took over the kitchen and started organising things. We asked Chris what his parents normally drank and he told us they both prefer tea. I began getting the good cups out of the dresser while Randy started organising a plate of food. We then waited. Randy and I kept a lookout from the kitchen window. Adam and Scott were holding each other; Scott resting his head on Adam’s shoulder. Chris paced nervously while Mum and Dad just sat and talked about minor things. “They’re here!” Randy called out. Adam let go of Scott, who stepped back and wiped his eyes. “How do I look?” Scott asked Adam. Adam gave him an encouraging smile. “Fantastic.” “Okay, let’s go out and meet them,” Dad said. He looked nervous. The Wilsons were just getting out of their car when we walked up. Both looked haggard, as if they’d had little or no sleep. Mrs. Wilson, in particular, looked as if she’d spent a long time crying. Without planning, Chris stepped forward, with Scott at his shoulder. “Mum, Dad,” Chris said with a nod of the head. He was a little blunt but I was sure he was just uncertain about the reception he was going to get. Mr. Wilson didn’t hesitate. He stepped forward and gave Chris a big bear hug. “Son,” was all he said. A second later, he let go and grabbed Scott in an identical hug. “I love you, son. I don’t want to lose you.” While Mr. Wilson was embracing Scott, Mrs. Wilson stepped over and hesitantly kissed Chris on the cheek. She didn’t say anything, but smiles appeared on both their faces. She then headed towards where her husband had just released Scott. She reached forward to hug him, but froze when Scott flinched. Both stood staring at each other, Mrs. Wilson with her arms raised, for a long moment. Everyone held their breath. Scott took a cautious half step forward. When nothing happened, he took another half step and collapsed into her arms. “Mum,” he whispered. She put her arms around him. “My son,” was all she said, but it seemed to be enough. Just before she let him go, she kissed him gently on the cheek. They were smiling at each other – still appearing nervous and unsure, but hopeful – as the rest of us stepped forward. “Welcome, Carol, Phil. Why don’t we all go inside where it’s warmer?” Mum suggested. “Thanks, Yvonne,” Mrs. Wilson said. “And thank you for looking after both my boys last night.” The emphasis on the word “both” brought a grin a mile wide to Scott’s face. Mrs. Wilson then looked past my parents to where Adam was standing. She scowled. “So, you’re the one who’s turned my son gay,” she said bitterly. Scott’s face fell.
    1 point
  28. The next morning, everyone was in a good mood. The outcome of the tribunal had lifted our spirits. Even Randy showed no signs of the simmering anger that had been making random appearances over the preceding week. With the rain still falling, Mum gave us a lift down to the bus stop before she continued on to work. The weather was not putting a damper on the high spirits we were all feeling. Even a reminder from Adam about the history exam coming up later that day didn’t faze me. Randy was quieter on the bus than he had been the previous day. I think Maria’s comments were sinking into that thick skull of his. He still attracted most of the attention, but everything stayed low-key. “How did it go last night?” Rick asked, as he slipped into the seat next to Randy. “Not guilty!” Randy said proudly, before scowling. “Lawrence wants to appeal, though.” When Rick looked concerned, I spoke up. “Dad doesn’t think Lawrence has grounds to appeal, so Giant should be okay.” “Well, are you going to give me the details, or do I have to beat them out of you?” Rick asked my brother. With a smile, Randy started to tell the story of what happened at the tribunal. I was silently thankful for Rick, as he kept Randy occupied for the rest of the trip. Glancing around, I saw a few other students listening to the conversation. As far as I could tell, they were just being curious. None of them showed signs of anything except interest in something unusual. When we reached school, we found Gary, Mary, Scott and Liz waiting for us. Scott explained that he was there early because Chris had given him a lift in. Randy’s friends, Stu and Kev, joined us soon afterwards. Scott had already filled the others in on the events of the tribunal, so Randy was busy accepting congratulations from everyone. Stu and Kev weren’t happy, though. It seemed that Randy had neglected to inform them about the tribunal. They had previously learnt about the report, from Randy’s teammates, but they hadn’t known the tribunal had been held. After giving my brother a bit of abuse for keeping secrets, they added their congratulations for the successful outcome. There was still some tension between Liz and me, but it was dissipating the more we spent time together. I saw Fiona scowling at me in the distance, but I didn’t care. I hoped that Liz wouldn’t have a falling out with her girlfriends over me, but I was selfish enough to not care if some of them couldn’t stand me. I had the girl I wanted with me, and I just wanted it to stay that way. She was happy to stand next to me while Randy had the spotlight. We weren’t holding hands, though I was very tempted to reach out, but I was happy to just share some common space. As we began making the rounds of everyone’s lockers before our classes started, we were laughing at a joke that Gary had just told us – a clean one, for a change – when Scott suddenly stopped dead and just stared ahead. We all fell silent as we followed his gaze to my locker. I stepped forward and read what was scrawled on the door: “My brother gives great head!” “Pretty tame stuff,” Randy remarked with a touch of anger. “But it means that whoever is doing this is starting to target other people,” Liz pointed out, concerned. “What about your friends and classmates, Randy? Will they be next?” I glanced over at my brother and saw anger and fear fighting for a place on his face. Fear won. “Surely they wouldn’t target them?” he asked, pleading for an answer he wasn’t going to get. There was a small well of silence around my locker as everyone just looked at each other. I didn’t know what to say, and it was clear that no one else did. “Ah, you’ve found it,” a gravelly voice remarked mildly. I looked around to see Swampy approaching, carrying a small pot of paint. “I’m sorry about that,” he continued, “but I was busy fixing the other locker first. I thought it had priority.” Fixing an eye on Adam, he added, “I’m moving you to a new locker. I have better things to do with my time than to keep repainting your current one. I’ll let you know as soon as I’ve got it organised.” He was disgusted, but it wasn’t with Adam. “Wh... what did they do to my locker?” Adam asked hesitantly. Swampy looked around. He peered at Liz and Mary before leaning forward to speak softly to Adam. Adam started to go green as he listened to what the maintenance man was telling him. Straightening up, Swampy addressed all of us. “Now, whose locker is this?” “Mine,” I answered tentatively, wondering what it was that Adam had been told. “Okay. Get what you need out of it, and I’ll repaint it. If it happens again, I’m moving you to a new locker, too,” he said with a sigh. Mechanically, I did as I was told. I kept glancing at Adam, as did most of the others, unable to ignore the way he kept swallowing, as if he was trying to stop himself from throwing up. No one said anything, though, until we’d finished at my locker. As soon as we moved and were out of Swampy’s earshot, Gary was the one to ask the question everyone was thinking. “What did he say?” Adam looked extremely uncomfortable. Fixing his eyes straight ahead, he sighed. “Someone stuck a used condom onto my locker,” he said without expression. He then made a face and continued, “Trust me, you don’t want to know what they wrote.” Gary and I exchanged puzzled looks, but we both trusted Adam enough not to ask any more questions. None of us are particularly squeamish, but if Adam was sickened by what he was told, then it must have been really revolting. We headed down to Adam’s locker after that. The paint on it was still wet and Adam had to be careful when he opened it. “What the fuck?” he exclaimed as soon as he glanced inside. It was just as well that there was hardly anything in his locker, as there was a fine spray of some lightly-coloured liquid over everything. Looking over his shoulder, I noticed a lot of whatever it was on the back wall of the locker. Adam started to gingerly take things out. “I’ll get some paper towels from the toilets,” Gary volunteered, and ran off. “It looks like they sprayed it in through the slits in the door,” I remarked. “What is it, Adam?” After one sniff, he rocked back in disgust. “Piss.” “Someone pissed into a jar, or something, and then sprayed it into your locker?” Randy asked in disbelief. “The bastard!” Adam and I looked at each other. A quick unspoken agreement flashed between us. Randy was going to be getting a new locker, too. Whichever one of us saw Swampy first would mention it. The bastard had indicated that my brother was a target and we wanted that target to be as small as possible. When Gary came back, everyone was expressing disgust, and thanks that Adam would be shifting lockers. As soon as Gary found out what the liquid was, he was ready to start stomping on heads, but the fact that the perpetrator was completely unknown stopped him. We were a somber group as we continued the rounds of the lockers. As this was not something we’d done much, we found ourselves running out of time and broke up into small groups just before our classes started, so the others could get to their lockers in time. Adam, Gary and I headed to our history exam, while Scott, Mary and Liz went with Randy and his friends to make sure he got to his class safely. I saw a flash of resentment on his face, but when Mary slipped her arm around his back on one side and Liz did the same on the other, he was quickly disarmed. Walking around the school with a pair of good-looking older girls appeared to do wonders. He quickly gave up the struggle and let a proud grin appear on his face. While Scott carried his bag for him, Randy draped his arms over the two girls’ shoulders. Gary smiled after them. “It’s lucky that I trust Giant. Otherwise, I’d have to have a few words with him,” he chuckled. “Yeah,” I said quietly. I knew Liz liked my brother, but at the moment she seemed more comfortable with him than with me. I trusted both of them, but that didn’t stop me from feeling uneasy. After a moment’s thought, I decided I was just being nervous because I’d barely started to get Liz back. There was no way I could be jealous of my brother. Liz was just being helpful. As we entered the classroom, we noticed that Mrs. Leadbetter was already there, even though there was still a few minutes before the class would begin. “Put your bags against the wall, please,” she ordered as we entered, pointing to the front of the class where a collection of school bags had already accumulated. “What about pens?” Gary asked. “Won’t we need them for the exam?” “I’ll be providing the writing equipment,” she told him, “so just put your bags down and find a seat.” We were all puzzled by that, but did as we were told. “She’s paranoid about cheating,” a voice whispered from behind us after we’d sat down. We turned to find Andrew Driver leaning forward in his seat. “Apparently, a student once hid notes inside a pen. Now, all she’ll let us have on the desk is the exam and a pen that she provides,” he explained. “She’s going a bit overboard, isn’t she?” Adam asked. Andrew shrugged. “It’s her class. She’s allowed to run it any way she wants to, I suppose.” Adam was right. Those instructions were only the start of the draconian rules our teacher had for the exam. It was as if she’d researched all possible ways for students to cheat and had put procedures in place to counter them. Despite the overbearing nature of the teacher, I thought I did pretty well on that exam. There was one section that I found interesting, because it wasn’t in our textbook. Rather than a dry recitation of facts and figures, one part of the exam asked for our opinion on whether or not the actions of Governor Bligh that triggered the Rum Rebellion were justified. The issue had been discussed in our lessons, and for anyone who’d been paying attention there was plenty of material to work with, but I knew it wasn’t a subject mentioned in our reading material. I wondered if that was just a creative way for the teacher to draw out of us what, if anything, we had learnt from class discussions. It wasn’t clear how it would be marked; whether it would be like an English essay and marked mainly on presentation, or whether it would be marked mainly on content. I guessed it was the latter, but I tried to make sure my answer was well constructed. As we left the room after the exam, we found Swampy waiting patiently outside. “Ah, there you are,” he said when he saw Adam. Straightening up from where he’d been leaning against the wall, he added, “Come with me. I’ll show you to your new locker.” Gary and I followed, causing Swampy to stop for a moment and cast a critical eye over the two of us before continuing on his way. “I’ve picked one that should make anyone pause before they attempt to deface it,” he remarked to Adam as we walked along. “Where is it?” Adam asked. Swampy chuckled. “You’ll see.” As I realised where we were heading, I grinned. If I was right, it would be a brave student who’d attempt any graffiti. “Here you are,” Swampy announced proudly when he stopped, pointing to a nearby locker. I was right; Adam had a locker that was within spitting distance of the teachers’ staffroom. With the danger of a teacher appearing at any time, only a lunatic would try anything. “Swampy,” I said, attracting the attention of the grinning maintenance man, “would it be possible to get a new locker for my brother, as well?” He frowned at me. “I don’t like making changes during the term. Why does he need a new one?” “Whoever has been doing this has shown that they’re not just targeting me,” Adam replied. “David’s brother was mentioned in the graffiti on David’s locker. We don’t want him to get any of this.” Swampy stared intently at first me, then Adam. Pursing his lips, he looked away as he considered the suggestion. Turning back to me, he asked, “Your brother, is his name Randy?” “Yes.” He nodded his head. “Consider it done. It may not be until tomorrow, though.” With that, he waved and headed off. Adam took the opportunity to dump several items from his bag into his new locker. Since he’d learnt about the first episode of vandalism he’d taken to carrying almost all his gear with him. That morning, he’d cleared the last of the things from his old locker. Even though I stood a couple of feet away, the odour wafting from those items was noticeable. Adam would need to take them home and give them a good airing to let the smell fade. At least he wouldn’t have to carry them for the rest of the day. “Are things getting better, Ads?” Gary asked quietly as Adam closed up the locker. I leant forward to make sure I heard the answer. It was a question I’d wanted to ask but was too uncertain of the reception I’d get. Most of the time, Adam and I had been getting along, but I still sometimes put my foot in it if I talked about the “gay issue”. Adam gave the question serious thought before responding slowly, “I think so, Gazza. I think so.” His uncertainty was clear, but there was an undercurrent of hope in the way he said it. As we started to head to where we always have lunch, Gary nodded his head. “You’ve had your fifteen minutes of fame, and now everyone’s moved on,” he remarked. “Almost everyone,” Adam replied, “but yeah, that’s the way it seems.” With the morning’s rain ended, and the occasional ray of sunshine as the cloud cover started to break up, we took up our position near the outside basketball courts. The bench was wet, but a quick wipe with the sleeve of my jumper dried it off enough for us to sit down. Liz and Mary soon joined Adam, Gary and me. Gary and I both got up at the same time to offer our seats to the girls. Mary gave Gary a quick kiss on the cheek before she sat down, while Liz just smiled softly. I’m sure I had a foolish grin on my face in response, but I couldn’t help it. Scott trotted up just then, and we all settled into a discussion about the exams we’d just had. From the post-mortem, I was confident that I’d passed, and thought I’d done reasonably well. Adam filled everyone in on the location of his new locker, and we all agreed that it was as safe a place as the school could manage. I was looking around, wondering what was keeping my brother and his friends, when we became aware of a commotion in the direction of the sports field. Several guys were running in that direction, and a couple of kids were running away from it. One of guys running away started shouting out to some other students nearby. “Hey, Paul! Luke Williams is bashing up some kid on the footy oval!” We all heard that clearly. Still looking around for my missing brother, I added two and two and got a number I didn’t like. “Randy!” Scott and I said at the same time. All of us guys started sprinting, and Scott quickly outpaced the rest of us. Joining the general throng heading towards the football field, I was slowed down as bulkier kids kept getting in my way. Scott, on the other hand, used his smaller size and agility to zip through gaps as they appeared. Adam and Gary just barged through, trying not to knock anyone over, but not caring if they did. When we got to the slope that overlooks the sports field, we saw that Luke Williams was being restrained by a number of older students. I recognised Ty Roberts as one of them. Luke was screaming obscenities. “Poofter”, “faggot” and “cocksucker” were some of the common expletives he was using. Scott had stopped at the top and was just watching. I quickly scanned the area around Luke, looking for his victim. I saw a body lying on the ground and was relieved that whoever it was had black hair, not the pink/blonde I’d been looking for and dreading to find. As I watched, I saw someone lean over the guy and shake him gently, and realised with horror that Luke must have gone mental – whoever he’d bashed wasn’t moving. Not knowing if there was anything I could do to help, I started down the slope. At the least, I could run to get a teacher. It seemed that someone had had that thought before me, as Mr. Presley, the head P.E. teacher, arrived at the same time I did. He gave one glance at where the guys were holding a struggling Luke Williams, before turning his attention to the guy on the ground. Another student was busy on a mobile phone. From what I caught, he was asking for an ambulance and the police to be sent to the school as quickly as possible. Very gently, the teacher turned the victim over. I gasped as I recognised him, despite the blood covering his face and the bruising that was already beginning to show. It was Nick Tremen. “Okay, everyone. Move away, please. There is nothing for you to do here,” Mr. Presley commanded, as he began to gently check Nick for injuries. He glanced at the four guys holding Luke down and added, “Keep him there until we get help. He’s done a real number on this guy.” He glanced around and caught my eye. “You! Go to the staffroom and tell them I need help, NOW!” I hesitated for a moment, to see if he had any other instructions, but all he said – with a touch of desperation in his voice – was “GO!” I started running and Gary, Adam and Scott quickly joined me. We were moving too fast for a conversation, but Scott managed to gasp out a question. “Who is it?” “Nick Tremen,” I replied between breaths. I was puzzled by why Luke had bashed up Nick, especially so badly. From what Michael had told us previously, it seemed that they’d been mates, or at least co-conspirators. My musings were brought to a stop when we arrived at the staffroom. I quickly explained what Mr. Presley had told me to say. They seemed a little hesitant to get out of their comfy seats on just my word, but when I mentioned Luke Williams and an unconscious kid, they acted quickly. Before I could move, one teacher was ringing the nurse, while another was calling out names to go down to help Mr. Presley. Effectively dismissed, we all headed outside. We were followed out by a group of five teachers who started running in the direction of the oval. “What happened?” Adam asked me, as we strolled back to our normal lunchtime place. I shrugged. “Beats me.” I was trying to make sense of it, and I’m sure the other guys were as well, but I hadn’t come up with anything to say by the time we got back. Randy and his friends had shown up while we had been away, and were busy talking to Mary and Liz. Michael O’Conner was also there. We filled them in on what we had seen. Michael was the one who came up with what sounded like the most likely explanation, though it still left a lot of questions unanswered. “If Nick was the one who put Luke up to the attack on Randy, Luke might’ve blamed Nick for the police being involved. If the wrong thing was said, Luke just might’ve snapped,” he said thoughtfully. “He certainly looked like he was ready to start breaking bones the other morning,” Randy remarked. “If that’s the case, then that’s two problems solved at once,” Gary said cheerfully. “Gary,” Mary said warningly, “a kid was hurt, and hurt real bad. You don’t describe that as a problem being solved.” Gary cringed. “Sorry, that’s not how I meant it. I just meant that that is two people who didn’t like Adam out of the way. The school has to expel Luke for this!” Mary gave him a stern glare before responding. “You did mean it that way, and you know it.” Gary flashed the rest of us a silent plea for help. I was mildly amused at how well Mary had Gary wrapped around her finger. Of course, I knew Liz was able to do the same to me at times, so I stepped in to try to help him. “Do you guys think Luke or Nick vandalised the lockers?” The conversation shifted and we started to discuss my question. Gary gave me a look of gratitude, but I’m sure he didn’t realise that Mary gave me a wink and a small grin, as well. I smiled wryly at the thought that we hadn’t fooled her in the slightest, but she’d let us get away with it, anyway. Everyone quickly agreed that Luke wasn’t the sort to write things on lockers. He would’ve been more likely to make the owner of the locker write it, if he’d ever thought of it. Doing something without his victim seeing it happen was just not his style. No one knew enough of Nick to say if he was the culprit or not. I thought it was likely, but as Scott pointed out, there were more than two people in the school who’d indicated they weren’t part of the gay fan club. It wasn’t long before everyone in the schoolyard stopped to watch the arrival of first an ambulance, and shortly afterwards, a police car. Most of the school, including our little group, congregated near the football oval and watched as the police put handcuffs on Luke and took him away, and Nick was loaded into the ambulance. After that, the crowd dispersed. We all wandered back to our usual spot. With the previous topic dying, we started to talk about what we’d be doing over the Easter break. I saw Liz give me a speculative look when I mentioned that I had no special plans for the long weekend. I wanted to ask her if she wanted to do something, but I wasn’t sure if I should let her be the first to raise the subject. As the bell rang for the end of lunch and everyone started to scatter, I noticed Adam looking rather tense. “What’s wrong?” I asked him. “Have you forgotten what class we have next?” With everything that had been going on, and the disruption to our normal timetable because of the exams, it took me a moment to realise what he was talking about. “Oh,” was all I said. The next class was Religious Education with Sister Brenda. The corresponding class the week before had resulted in our being suspended. “I saw the Sister from Hell earlier today, so it’s pretty definite it’s going to be her, this time,” Adam added as we headed towards the classroom. He sounded depressed. “I’m not going to start anything, but I’m not going to let her put me down, either,” he added in a firm tone. We continued on our way in silence. I had no ideas on what was going through Adam’s mind, but I was getting ready for a repeat of the week before. This time, I was planning on watching a bit more carefully what came out of my mouth. I was hoping that wouldn’t be needed, but from what little I knew of Catholics and homosexuality, I expected Sister Brenda to be only a more refined version of Mr. Martin. The twins had given me the impression that homophobia is rampant in the Catholic Church. We arrived to find most of the class already seated. As one, their eyes all followed Adam as he walked in and sat down. No one said a thing, but an aura from the week before was hanging over the room. I looked around before I sat down. Being tense was normal for this particular lesson, but it had been raised up a level in intensity. I was pleased to see no one was gloating in anticipation, and a handful even looked concerned, but everyone looked like they were just trying to be spectators, not wanting to get involved. As the final stragglers came in and sat down, the noise of other students outside the room died away. We could hear the low hum of other classes starting, but everyone in our room was quiet. Sister Brenda entered the room. The silence intensified with her physical presence. With scarcely a glance at us, the elderly nun walked over to the teacher’s desk and sat down. She then commenced reading the roll, noting, as normal, each student’s reply of “Present, Sister Brenda.” I listened carefully for any change when she came to my name and Adam’s, but I couldn't detect anything. That, at least, was different from the week before with Mr. Martin. When the roll call was completed, she paused and cast her gaze over the class. “I have been informed of the reprehensible events that occurred in this class last week. Needless to say, I was not impressed by the behaviour that was reported to me. I shouldn’t have to say it, but I will not tolerate a repeat – today, or at any time in the future,” she stated forcefully. “I was also subjected to a lecture on the importance of tolerance; something I found extremely distasteful,” she continued. “For many years I have taken my instruction from one and only one source.” Lifting up the Bible she always carries around with her, she added, “I take my instruction from this, and I consider it to be the ultimate source for how I should live my life.” The entire class remained silent as she paused, though almost everyone, including me, flicked glances across at Adam, to see how he was reacting. “Mr. Johnson, will you please stand up?” Sister Brenda ordered. I rose slowly to my feet, cringing at what was about to happen. Tongue-lashings from the Sister from Hell have been known to reduce students to quivering wrecks. I steeled myself as I expected the worst. “I have been informed of your comments of last week. Do you intend to repeat more of the same, today?” she asked me. She raised an eyebrow, seeming to indicate that she would’ve been amazed if I’d answered anything but “no”. “No, Sister Brenda.” She nodded. “You may be seated, Mr. Johnson.” I let out a controlled sigh of relief as I sat back down. I wanted to wipe my brow, but I didn’t want to take the risk of drawing her attention. She turned to look at Adam. You could hear almost every student take a breath and hold it, as they waited for what was going to happen next. “Mr. Kennedy, will you please stand up?” Sister Brenda asked. I don’t know if anyone else picked it up, but the tone she used was different to the one she’d used on me. For me, it had been an order, though phrased as a request. For Adam, while he still didn’t really have a choice, it was more like a suggestion than an instruction. Adam rose stiffly. His face was set into an expression not often seen in Sister Brenda’s classes: steely determination. “While the subject of homosexuality is not on the curriculum, it appears that it must be addressed. I have been informed of the Bible quoting spree engaged in by Mr. Martin and Mr. Kennedy. I would like to state that I consider the statement that Jesus made on the subject of homosexuals to be definitive,” she stated firmly to the class, before turning her attention to where Adam was standing. “Do you care to disagree with the word of our Lord, Mr. Kennedy?” Adam looked confused. Something about what Sister Brenda had said had thrown him. “Umm... what statement, Sister Brenda?” Adam asked cautiously. “You do not know it?” the elderly nun asked rhetorically. “I’m very much surprised. I had expected you to have everything on the subject memorised.” I heard a faint giggle at Adam’s discomfort from someone to my left. Sister Brenda quickly flicked her eyes across the room. “Do you wish to say something, Miss Wheelan?” she asked sharply. “Sorry, Sister Brenda,” Kim Wheelan stammered, clearly not expecting to be caught. “Then please be quiet until you have something to contribute,” Sister Brenda ordered before turning back to Adam. “If you are not aware of what our Lord has said on this subject, then I think it is appropriate that you read that statement out to the class. Please come up here to the front, Mr. Kennedy,” she stated firmly, as she picked up her Bible again and rose to her feet. Adam walked nervously up to join the nun. As he stood there hesitantly, she gestured that he should face the rest of the students. She then handed him her Bible, already opened to whatever page she wanted him to read. “I want you to read the marked verses. I’m sure you’ll find it amusing that I have used a pink highlighter on them,” she stated dryly. I had a sudden suspicion that Adam had been set up. Why did she have the section to be read already highlighted? Several other students seemed to have the same idea, as many leant forward in their seats in anticipation of Adam’s humiliation. Adam looked at the Bible pages for a couple of seconds, and then his jaw dropped open and his head snapped around to stare at the nun. “If you could please start soon, Mr. Kennedy,” she said politely, if a little sharply. “We have a lot of other things to cover today. I do not wish to spend the entire period waiting for you to learn to read.” To everyone’s surprise, Adam smiled at the nun before turning back to the class with a broad grin. His whole body seemed to lift as all his nervousness disappeared. “Mark, Chapter 12, Verses 28 to 31,” he started confidently. “One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ “ ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.’ “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ “ ‘The second is this: Love your neighbour as yourself. There are no commandments greater than these.’ ” Adam reverently closed the Bible and handed it to Sister Brenda. I might have been mistaken, but I thought he gave her a short bow as he did so. “Do you wish to disagree with our Lord?” Sister Brenda asked him, as she accepted the Bible’s return. “No, Sister Brenda,” Adam said happily. “Then you may resume your seat,” she said. Turning to the class, she swung her steely gaze over all the students. “Does anyone want to say anything, or can we consider this topic closed?” she asked, clearly not expecting anyone to say anything. “Sister Brenda, what about the sections of the Bible that say homosexuality is an abomination?” Tristan MacDonald asked politely. She raised an eyebrow at him, and the rest of the class stared in amazement at his audacity. I was surprised that Tristan was willing to continue something that the sister clearly wanted ended. “The verses that were read out don’t say anything about that,” he added defensively. Slowly, the elderly nun nodded her head. “You are correct; they do not,” she admitted. “I will not make comment on that directly, as different branches of the Christian church have varied opinions on the subject. I will just point out that a person’s actions are between him and God. Our Lord said ‘Judge not, least you be judged.’ He also said ‘Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.’ What I have indicated is how Jesus Christ taught that we should treat each other, regardless of what sins we may or may not have committed. I would expect everyone here to follow those instructions.” She looked almost apologetically at Tristan as she added, “That is all I am prepared to say on that subject at this point in time. If you feel that is insufficient, I am willing to meet with you privately at a later date to discuss it further, Mr. MacDonald.” Tristan nodded his head thoughtfully. “Thank you, Sister Brenda. I will think on what you have said,” he said with careful formality. I stared at him for a few seconds longer, as I tried to work out what that meant. There had been no hostility in what he’d said, and I hadn’t noticed any hostility from him prior to Sister Brenda’s class. Was he just trying to sort out what he believed, or was he trying to stir the pot against Adam? “If you would kindly bring your attention back to the front, Mr. Johnson, we can continue with our planned lesson,” Sister Brenda said sharply. I quickly turned back to the nun. The last thing I wanted was to get into more trouble. The lesson continued after that, though there was an odd feeling in the room. Somehow, the terror that the Sister from Hell normally instilled in the students seemed muted. It was as if, by indicating her tacit support for Adam, she’d shown that she was human and had a sense of compassion. Everyone was still incredibly formal and polite, but the edge had been taken off it. Tension returned at the end of the lesson when Sister Brenda asked Adam to stay behind. I paused and let everyone else leave, while I tried to decide if I should ask to stay, too. “You may stay, if you wish, Mr. Johnson,” Sister Brenda graciously offered, when she noticed me hovering by the door. “Please close the door first, though.” I closed the door, then walked back to where Adam was sitting, and sat next to him. The nun left her desk and sat down in a chair near us. “Mr. Kennedy, I’ve asked you to stay because I want to address some of the things that you said to Mr. Martin last week,” Sister Brenda started. Adam and I both stiffened at that. “Please relax,” she added quickly. “This is not an attack, but an attempt to provide you with some advice.” The nun in front of us was not the iron-willed disciplinarian that normally taught us. As if a switch had been thrown, this was a compassionate person, extending an offer of help. “What do you mean, Sister Brenda?” Adam asked carefully. “You made two major mistakes last week, and I want to point them out to you. Hopefully, if you are in that situation again, you will perform better,” she replied. Adam and I exchanged quick glances. Both of us were perplexed by what she was saying. “Your first mistake was to get into a Bible quoting contest. Please remember what happened to Jesus during his temptations: even the Devil can quote the scriptures when it suits him.” Adam nodded his head thoughtfully. I could see the point, too. It seemed a bit of a cop-out to me, but I understood what she was saying. The ability to quote sections of the Bible that support your point of view really doesn’t mean a lot. “The second thing is that in response to the comment about homosexuality being an abomination, you replied by commenting about the subject of adultery,” she continued. “That was a mistake.” “But he was being hypocritical by only picking part of that chapter and ignoring the rest,” Adam pointed out, though without anger. It was as if he was trying to understand what she was getting at, and wasn’t taking offense. “You are correct, but don’t you realise that you were conceding that homosexuality is a sin?” Sister Brenda asked politely. Adam rocked back in his seat as he absorbed what she had just said. My own mind was racing, as I tried to work out what she meant. “Adultery is listed in the Ten Commandments, while homosexuality is not. Linking the two raises the subject of homosexuality to the same level,” she explained patiently. “Are you saying that you don’t think it is a sin?” Adam asked, wonder in his tone. “That is a question you have to answer for yourself,” she replied kindly. “My opinion is not important. If you are to grow up as a Christian young man, you need to be confident of that answer in your heart, in your mind, and in your soul.” When Adam didn’t respond, she sighed and looked out the nearby window. “When I was younger, I worked in Belfast during the height of the IRA activities. Two young people there made me realise that those verses I made you read were what I had to base my life on. “The first was a young woman whom I met in hospital. She had been badly hurt as a result of a bomb blast that destroyed the shop where she worked. The reason the shop was blown up? Because they opened on St. Patrick’s Day.” She reached into a pocket and brought out a handkerchief. Dabbing at her eyes, she continued. “The second was a young man whom I met in prison. I spent several days visiting and praying with him. It was only as I was finishing that I learnt why he was there. He had ruthlessly assassinated two people for being suspected informers.” She sighed and hung her head. “He said he was a Catholic, but he had no qualms about breaking the commandment, Thou shalt not kill. The people who planted the bomb that injured that young woman also claimed to be Catholics. The other side was just as bad. People claiming to be Protestants would go out at night and kill people. “That was when I highlighted those verses in my Bible. I read that section daily. I am not able to say who is right and who is wrong, but I can do my best to love all of them as my neighbours.” She looked up and stared directly into Adam’s eyes. “His Holiness, the pope, has said that homosexuality is a sin. I will not debate that with you,” she stated firmly. “The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded me to love my neighbours and to not judge. Whether or not the life you live is sinful is something for God to decide when you face Him. Until then, you are my neighbour, and I don’t want you hurt. “Take care, Adam,” she added, using his given name for the first time. “Love the Lord, and love those around you. That’s all I ask. The rest is up to you. Take my love with you as you go.” She stood up and walked back to her desk. As Adam and I got to our feet and picked up our bags, she started writing. “Here are passes that excuse you for being late for your next classes. Don’t abuse them by dawdling along the way,” she stated dryly. “Thank you, Sister Brenda,” Adam and I chorused. We also gave her nods of thanks. Adam surprisingly had an ally in the elderly nun. It was clear to me, at least, that she wouldn’t tolerate any sort of attacks against him. When we opened the door, we found her next class lined up quietly and neatly. If that had been any other class, it would’ve been a rowdy mess. Sister Brenda’s control extends beyond her room, however. Even though the class was supposed to have already started, none of the students had been game to open the door and interrupt her chat with us. “Okay, class. You may now come in,” she commanded from her desk. The students entered the room in an orderly and quiet way. Not one of them was brave enough to risk the ire of the Sister from Hell. Adam and I exchanged quiet smiles as we walked along. I had to start thinking of Sister Brenda differently. The title of the Sister from Hell just didn’t fit her, anymore.
    1 point
  29. We all just stared at Randy. Who was Tony, and why was he asking Randy out on a date? My mind had stopped working; I couldn’t understand what was going on. “Sorry, mate, but I think that’s my fault,” Adam said apologetically from where he was nestled with Scott. “When I started telling people at school that you aren’t my boyfriend, I thought they would realise you aren’t gay. It just never occurred to me that someone would think that it meant you’re available.” “Who’s Tony?” I asked, perplexed, before anyone could say anything. Randy shrugged. “No ideas. I know a couple of Tonys at school, but I didn’t recognise the voice. He might not be in my year, anyway.” He sat thoughtfully for a moment before adding, “I hope he rings back. I’d like to get to know him.” “WHAT!” I yelled. “You can’t be serious! What if he makes a move on you?” My brother scowled at me. He leaned forward and looked me straight in the eye. “Don’t tell me what I can or can’t do, David,” he said, quietly but firmly. “If he’s gay, he’s probably all alone. Even if I can’t be his boyfriend, I can still be a friend that he can be open with. Why don’t you try talking to Ads and Break to find out what it’s like to be hiding something from everyone and not being able to say anything?” I rocked back in my seat. Randy’s words didn’t intimidate me, but they certainly made me start thinking. I still hadn’t sat down to talk one-on-one with Adam, but I had had a good, if short, chat with Scott on the night I found out he’s gay. I also recalled my thoughts from the morning. “Sorry,” I said, hanging my head to stare at the carpet. “You’re right.” Looking back up, I added, “Just be careful. He might assume more that you want him to.” A muffled grunt made me glance across to the other two. Scott was smiling faintly, but Adam didn’t appear very happy with me. He wasn’t quite scowling, but he wasn’t far off it. I realised I’d done it again. “Sorry, Adam, Scott,” I said. “I was stereotyping again. I’ve been trying not to, but sometimes I just react.” Adam just looked away in disgust. “That’s okay, Stick,” Scott replied. “I understand. You’re still adjusting.” I gave him a faint smile of thanks. For some reason, Scott seemed to be more forgiving than Adam. That’s partly because of the difference in their personalities, but I suspected that it was also due to the difference in what they’d gone through. Adam had been hit head-on with abuse due to assumptions people make about homosexuals, while Scott had seen it but not experienced it. Adam turned back to me. “David, you need to talk less and think more,” he said, still showing disgust. “Actually, I think Stick’s right,” Scott interjected. “At least to a degree.” He was suddenly the centre of attention. Even Adam shifted around so he could look at his boyfriend. Scott looked uncomfortable, but still continued. “Just because the guy is gay doesn’t mean he can be trusted. Stick’s right as far as that is concerned. The guy might take Giant’s friendship to mean more than that. Giant needs to be careful around the guy. Tony might be the gay equivalent of Sean McInnes.” I was grateful of the support, but disturbed at the comparison he made. Sean McInnes was a student who’d ended up in juvenile detention the year before on sexual assault charges. He thought he was God’s gift to women, and while, according to the rumour mill, he was quite successful, he made the mistake of not understanding that “No” meant “No”. The girl got away before he went too far, but it seemed that he thought that if a girl went out with him, she would have sex with him. “He might not be, and probably isn’t,” Adam said, though in a thoughtful manner, “but I see your point.” I bristled a little at the implication that if Scott said it, it was reasonable, and if I said it, I was talking through my arse, but I had to admit that Break had said it a lot better than I had. “While we’re on the subject,” Scott said to Adam, “what are you going to say when it’s your turn?” Adam looked confused. “What do you mean?” “This was only the first one,” Scott said reasonably. “Think about it. If you’re a gay kid at school, and you find out that there are a couple of other gay guys, and then learn that they are not a couple, what are you going to do? Most will probably be too scared to do anything, but some will take the chance and try to contact one or both of those guys with either a view of just being friends, or trying for boyfriends. “There’s about five hundred kids at school. If ten percent are gay, that’s fifty kids. Half will be lesbian, so that means around twenty-five gay guys who would’ve heard the rumours. “Tony was just the first, and obviously doesn’t have much taste,” he added with a cheeky grin at my brother. “After all, he asked Randy out and not Adam, who’s the much better catch.” “Hey! That’s not fair!” Randy pouted, playing up to the line he’d been given. “I’m a good catch!” “Yeah,” I put in. “Randy’s a lot better looking than Adam.” Scott grinned at me. “Sorry, Stick, but unless there’s something you haven’t been telling us, you’re not qualified to say who’s better looking to a gay guy,” he teased. He silenced me with that one. Even Randy waved a hand to concede the point. I could’ve argued that even though I’m not gay, I can still tell who’s attractive or not, but I knew Scott meant it as a joke. I was surprised he was relaxed enough to do that. It looked like he felt safe in our home. Scott turned back to Adam and eyed him speculatively. “So, what are you going to do when someone rings up and asks you out on a date?” he asked. As if on cue, the phone rang. We all looked at it for a moment, before Randy picked it up and answered it. “Randy Johnson,” he said tentatively. He then relaxed back into his chair. “Hi, Tony,” he said cheerfully. He listened for a while, with a smile playing across his face. “Don’t worry, Tony,” he eventually said. “I won’t tell anyone at school, but I still would like to meet you. Why don’t you come out to our place at some stage? Everyone here is cool with Adam, so they’ll be cool with you, too.” Randy suddenly looked panicky. “Uh… sorry, but Adam isn’t here at the moment,” he lied. “Why don’t you trying ringing Wednesday after school and you can ask him then?” He then gave an inaudible sigh of relief. “There’s a basketball tribunal we all have to go to tomorrow night, that’s why. Things will be hectic here.” After a short pause he added, “Yeah, same to you. Stay in touch!” With that, Randy put the phone down. He looked over at Adam and gave a sheepish grin. “He asked me if I thought you’d like to go out with him. I thought you’d like a bit of time to think of an answer, so I lied,” Randy said. “I hope you didn’t mind.” Adam gave a fake frown. “So, I’m the second choice, am I?” he asked, before continuing more seriously. “Thanks, Giant. I really need to work out an answer to that, don’t I?” he asked rhetorically, looking at his boyfriend. “I don’t want to hurt him. We both know what he’s going through, don’t we, Break?” “Yeah, we do,” Scott replied, subdued. It was as if they’d forgotten that Randy and I were in the room. “But I’m not sharing!” he added forcefully. Smiling, Adam leant forward and kissed Scott lightly on the lips. “I’m not sharing, either,” he said softly before being silenced by a return kiss from his boyfriend. “Eww... gross! Boy germs!” Randy exclaimed. Adam and Scott jumped slightly as they suddenly realised where they were. Randy started chuckling and they both started blushing. I couldn’t help smiling, but I refrained from actually laughing at them. I’d been caught like that a few times with Liz, so I knew what it felt like. I’d felt uncomfortable seeing the two kissing, but it hadn’t been as bad as I’d expected. I knew it was a simple sign of affection, rather than a kiss of passion. We continued the discussion after that, but didn’t really get anywhere. Both Adam and Scott were firm that they wanted to help other gay guys, but didn’t want to lead them on. Adam very tentatively suggested that he tell any gay guy who might ask that he’s already seeing someone, but he said he realised that that may mean Scott’s secret would be revealed. I was surprised that Scott, while seeming nervous, didn’t object. He said that if he had to come out to more people, other gay guys would be an easy group to do so to. After talking that subject into the ground, we started talking about the basketball tribunal that was coming up the following night. That wasn’t productive, either, but I became aware, again, of how much anger Randy still had bottled up. He made a couple of comments that I jumped onto quickly. It seemed that things hadn’t been quite as smooth that day as he’d lead our parents to believe. Some of his classmates who hadn’t said or done anything earlier had spent the day snickering at him. He’d also heard a couple of older students make a few suggestive comments. It was mainly low-key stuff, and that was why he hadn’t said anything earlier. I was going to gripe at him, but Adam beat me to it. In retrospect, I was happy about that. Randy was taking advice and comments from Adam more readily than he was from me. After promising Adam that he would pass on any future comments, at least to Adam and me, he fell back to insisting that it had been no big deal. Chris joined us after that. He had been in the study with Dad, discussing the tribunal. They both thought that one of the key things would be Brendan and his dad showing up to testify on Randy’s behalf. Brendan’s being from the opposition team should have a big impact on the tribunal members. Soon afterwards, Chris and Scott went home and the rest of us went to bed. I woke up early the next morning. I wouldn’t call it a nightmare, but having a dream about trigonometry functions coming to life and chasing you around in circles has to come close. I took that as an omen – the test that day was not going to be fun. Not that I really needed a dream to tell me that; mathematics has always been a struggle for me. Deciding to do some last minute revision before the alarm went off, I sat down at my desk and reviewed, again, the formulas that I would have to know for the exam. I had been having a tendency to mix up sines and cosines and I wanted to try to drill the difference into my brain. As the sound of music filled the room, I closed my textbook with a sigh of relief. I got up, walked over, and switched off the alarm. After stretching to relieve the muscles that had gotten stiff while I was bent over my mathematics book, I headed off for a shower. I didn’t know if that last bit of review was going to help, but I couldn’t see how it would hurt. The rest of the morning went according to routine. There was a light drizzle as we walked down to the bus stop. Despite our jackets, we ended up lightly soaked. It wasn’t enough to require us to get changed; just enough to dampen our spirits. To me, it felt like the universe was no fonder of Maths exams than I was, and was doing its bit to put everyone into an appropriate frame of mind. When the bus arrived, the driver’s greeting surprised me. “Ah! Good to see you, boys. Things were too quiet, yesterday,” he remarked with a grin as we started to board. Adam and I looked at each other, puzzled by the comment. “Sorry about that. I promise it won’t happen again,” Randy said sheepishly from behind us. “That’s okay,” the driver replied cheerfully. “Nice hair, by the way.” When we turned to stare at my brother, he scowled back. “Hurry up, it’s wet out here!” Adam and I started down the aisle, but both of us threw glances back at Randy as we went. What had happened, and when? It had to have been the previous week, while Adam and I were suspended, but Randy hadn’t mentioned anything. Of course, he had been in such a sour mood on both of those days that it wouldn’t have taken much to set him off. Whatever it was, the driver seemed to have found it amusing. With only a handful of other students on the bus, we had plenty of seats to choose from. I glanced down the length of the bus to where two of Randy’s classmates were seated. I might have been mistaken, but I thought they looked terrified, and they seemed to be trying to avoid looking in our direction. “Here,” I muttered to Adam, well before we reached the younger students. Intuition told me that it wouldn’t be good to let Randy too close to them. As I moved across to the window, Adam dropped into the seat next to me. “Hi, guys!” Randy called out cheerfully. If I hadn’t been listening for it, I might not have noticed the touch of steel behind those simple words. “Umm... hi, Giant,” one of them called back hesitantly. A quick look showed clearly false smiles painted on their faces. Randy chuckled quietly to himself, as he dropped into the seat opposite us. I leant over Adam to try to catch my brother’s eye. “Okay, Giant,” I whispered across the aisle. “What happened?” He tried to return my gaze innocently, but he couldn’t stop the corners of his mouth twitching upwards. “Nothing,” he lied. His tone indicated we weren’t going to get anything out of him. I wondered if the bus driver would tell me, if I asked, but I decided that maybe I didn’t really want to know. It couldn’t have been too serious, if the adult found it amusing, but Mum would kill me if she found out I knew something and didn’t tell her. I settled back into my seat and paused for a moment before asking Adam how he felt about that morning’s exam. It wasn’t a typical conversation for the bus, but I was feeling desperate enough to want some extra reassurance, or help, prior to sitting down to a Maths test. That trip had to be the oddest I’d ever had on the bus. Randy made a point of saying hello to almost everyone who boarded. Most gave indifferent replies; a few gave nervous ones. Only three people glared at him; the same people I remember from the first trip after Adam came out. Randy just smiled back. Rick dropped into the seat next to Randy without any hesitation and engaged him in a conversation, as if nothing else was happening around him. Adam was ignored – it was Randy that had the focus. There wasn’t a single person that didn’t look in his direction when they came on board. He seemed unperturbed by it. I wondered if it was just the pink hair, which was fading but still quite noticeable, or if it was because of something he had done the week before. I felt curiosity warring with caution. Should I ask Rick what was going on, and would I receive a straight answer if I did? I still hadn’t made up my mind by the time we arrived at the school, and then I had other things to keep my mind occupied: Liz was waiting for me. I approached cautiously, not sure of the reception I’d be getting. Unlike the day before, this time her attention was fixed on me. “Hi, Liz,” I said quietly, trying to keep my tone neutral. “Hi, Stick,” she responded in a similar manner. An awkward silence followed. Only two weeks prior, we would have been chatting happily about all sorts of inconsequential things. None of those topics seemed appropriate anymore. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Randy and Adam heading in the direction of their lockers. I was torn on whether or not to follow them, ready to help out if they needed it, or stay with Liz. “Can we follow the other guys?” I asked lamely. I’m sure I could have said that more gracefully, but the words just weren’t flowing. She raised her eyebrows in surprise, before glancing over her shoulder to where Randy and Adam were going. Turning back to me, she gave me a flash of her old smile. “Sure, Stick.” We started walking after the other guys, who’d been joined by Mary and Gary. I started to stride out to try to catch up, but when Liz didn’t follow suit I dropped back to join her. I glanced back at her as she caught up to me and found her nodding to someone ahead of us. Quickly looking in that direction, I saw Mary turning her back on us. Mary and Liz hadn’t had a lot to do with each other previously, as Mary and Gary had only been going out for a few weeks, but it seems they have been talking since then. One face I wasn’t happy to see was Nick Tremen’s. I don’t know if the others saw him, but after they passed, he stepped out of an alcove and glared at them. His face was contorted with fury, and his hands kept clenching into fists and then relaxing again. Making an instant decision, and wondering if I was doing the right thing, I left Liz and stepped up behind him. “Why don’t you tell us what the problem is?” I asked politely. He spun around in surprise. For a moment, I thought he was going to hit me, but his arms quickly dropped back down by his side. “If you need to be told, it’s too late for you,” he snarled, before shoving past me, deliberately knocking me with his shoulder. “Enjoy your brother while you still have him,” he threw back as he headed off. I shivered at the malice in that last statement. By the time I thought to chase after him and ask him what he meant, he’d disappeared. “Stick, what did he mean?” Liz asked from just behind me. “I don’t know, Liz. I just don’t know.” I turned to her and found my concern mirrored in her eyes. “Should we say anything to Randy?” I asked. “Or should we just tell the office?” She frowned as she tried to work out an answer. “We have to tell the school staff. I promised Mum,” I added, trying to be more decisive. “That was definitely a threat.” “Let’s go while it’s still fresh in our minds,” Liz said firmly, having made up her mind. Grabbing me by the hand, she started to drag me towards the office. With my longer legs, I was walking next to her almost immediately, and I expected her to let go. For a few strides, I thought she wouldn’t, but then she just relaxed her hand and I allowed mine to slip out. I made a conscious effort to not turn and look at her at that point. The momentary handholding had sent a complex surge of emotions through me, and I didn’t want to ruin the feeling by finding out what expression she had on her face. Checking my watch, I realised we didn’t have a lot of time before we were supposed to be in class. Luck was with us, though, as Ms. Ng was in the outer office when we got there, talking to one of the office workers. “Excuse me, Ms. Ng, but we just heard something that we thought you should know about, straight away,” I said, taking the lead. She turned at my voice, looking ready to berate whoever it was who’d interrupted, but that expression disappeared quickly when she recognised me. “You’d better come to my office, then, Mr. Johnson,” she sighed. After a thoughtful look at Liz, she added, “Miss Richardson?” Liz nodded, and the three of us headed down the now-familiar corridor. It felt strange that after never having been down there for my first few years at the school, that hallway seemed like a regular haunt for me. I was impressed by Ms. Ng’s recognition of Liz. She visits the classes regularly, but I hadn’t expected her to know Liz’s name. “All right, Mr. Johnson, Miss Richardson, what is this about?” the vice principal asked once we were all seated. “A student said something that sounded like a threat against my brother,” I said, before relating Nick’s comment. After Liz gave her version, adding a couple of things that I’d forgotten to say, Ms. Ng sat back in her chair and stared at a picture on her wall for a few seconds. I followed her gaze and saw a print of The Last Supper. I wondered if she was considering something in the print, or if it was just a place to rest her eyes while she thought. As the bell sounded to indicate the start of school, she jerked her attention back to us. “Thank you for the information,” she said, as she started to scribble something onto a piece of paper on her desk. “We’ll keep an eye on the situation and work out what to do.” Standing up, she held out two late passes to us. We clambered to our feet and accepted them as she continued. “These will stop you from getting into trouble, but you had better get moving. You both have exams starting in a few minutes. In the meantime, thanks again for coming forward.” Sensing we were dismissed, Liz and I headed to the door. As we left the room, I heard Ms. Ng pick up her phone and dial a number. Liz and I quickly made our way to our lockers and then on to our separate classes. Mr. Irving started to scold me for being late, but fell silent when he saw who’d signed my late pass. He gave me a strange look; understandable, as it must be a rare thing for the vice principal to sign a late pass. After looking around, I took one of the few empty seats. I was mildly surprised to find that all the seats near Adam were taken. It was clear that most, if not all, of his immediate classmates didn’t have an issue with his being gay. It was the students in other years that seemed to be the main source of concern. “Now that Mr. Johnson has deigned to join us, we can begin,” Mr. Irving declared, staring pointedly at me as he spoke. “You will have three hours to complete your test. There will be no talking. If you have a question, raise your hand and I will come to see you,” he continued, gazing indiscriminately around the room. With that, all the nerves and worries that had been pushed aside by my concerns for Randy came flooding back. I had wanted to do some final studying beforehand, but that option had been taken away from me. I turned over the paper and looked at the first question. “Using a unit circle, show the relationship between the trigonometric functions of sine, cosine and tangent and a right-angle triangle.” They had kindly provided three circles for me to destroy, so I started searching through my memory for what to do. I knew the basics, but I had trouble remembering which way around everything was. All I could do was hope I got it right in the end. The wave of relief that swept over me when Mr. Irving announced the end of the test was for an ordeal ended, not for a challenge overcome. I thought I had done well enough to pass, but there were too many questions where I wasn’t confident of my answers. As was normal after a major test, all the students were reasonably subdued until we’d exited building. Adam, Scott and I left as a group. “So...” Peter drawled, startling me as I hadn’t realised he had followed us out, “why were you late?” Shifting mental gears took me a couple of seconds, as I was still in exam mode and didn’t understand what he was talking about. “Uh... I had a message I had to give the VP,” I replied, adlibbing quickly. I wasn’t sure if I should say anything. The general student community frowns on dobbers. Under the circumstances I thought I’d get away with it, as there seemed to be a genuine sense of sympathy for Randy, but I wasn’t sure and I didn’t see how telling anyone would help. “And?” “And what?” I asked back, stalling for time by playing dumb. “And what was the message?” Peter asked, looking a little exasperated with my reluctance to say anything. “It was about the attack on Randy, and I’d prefer not to say anything more as the police are still investigating,” I responded, as inspiration struck me on how to get out of that. “Fair enough,” Peter said, nodding his head. “I hope the cops get the evidence they need quickly. Luke Williams deserves anything that happens to him for that!” “How do you think you went on the exam?” I asked, partially to try to double-check my answers, and partially to force a change of topic. Peter shrugged and gave a small smile. “Pretty well, I think.” “I got confused on question five,” I admitted. “How were we supposed to do that?” With that, we started reviewing the exam. I found out I’d completely messed up a number of questions, as Peter explained the correct solutions, but it seemed I had a few others right – at least as far as Peter was concerned. Either that, or we had both made the same mistakes. Adam and Scott threw in a few comments, but largely let Peter and me dominate the conversation. His curiosity satisfied, Peter left us soon afterwards. “Okay, David,” Adam said sternly. “What’s the real reason you were late? And don’t give us some bullshit story about having to tell the VP something!” I looked around. There were no other students within easy earshot. Momentarily, I thought of refusing to tell him, but the matter was too serious for that. “I spoke to Nick Tremen this morning,” I said, lowering my voice. Adam and Scott took a half step closer so they could hear me. “He made what sounded like a threat against Randy, so I went and told Ms. Ng.” “Shit, David,” Adam said, suddenly concerned. “What did he say?” “He told me to enjoy my brother while I still have him.” That simple statement silenced the other two guys. There was a long pause while they tried to make sense of it. “It could be that he expects him to get AIDS and die,” Scott remarked thoughtfully. “It may not be a threat; just a warning.” I shook my head. “I know you want to see things in the best light, Break, but you didn’t hear the hatred in his voice.” “We only have your word for that,” Adam said, bristling slightly as he defended his boyfriend’s opinion. “Liz heard it, too,” I added quietly, looking at him squarely, willing him to understand and believe me. Something got through to him, as his eyes went wide before flicking across to Scott. “Hi, guys!” We turned as one to see Gary and Mary approaching, hand-in-hand. Both looked cheerful, which implied that they were fully recovered from their exam ordeal, as I couldn’t see how anyone could be happy if they were still thinking about what they’d gone through. “I don’t want everyone to know,” I whispered quickly to Scott and Adam, before facing our other friends. I didn’t have time to explain, so I just hoped that Scott and Adam would keep quiet. They needed to know, just in case they were threatened next, but I didn’t see how the information would make any difference to anyone else. They’d all been warned about Nick and my earlier suspicions; telling others would only risk giving me a reputation. The conversation shifted to safer topics after that. When I spotted Liz, I dropped out and headed over to see her. I asked her how her exam went, and we discussed it for a few minutes before I switched to the subject of Nick Tremen. “I’ve told Adam and Scott, but I don’t think we should tell anyone else the details, or we’ll get reps for being dobbers,” I explained. She frowned slightly as she nodded her head. “What about Randy?” “He knows about Nick, though I don’t think he knows what he looks like. I don’t see how saying anything would help. He should already be on his guard.” After a couple of seconds thought, she shook her head. “No, David, I think you’re wrong. We need to tell people what Nick said. We just don’t tell them we told the VP,” she said, staring across the grounds to where our friends were standing. “Why?” I asked, looking for her reasoning, rather than objecting. “A lot of people are already up in arms about the first attack on Giant,” she said. “Rumours of another threat against him will make them keep an eye out. The more people who are looking out for him, the better.” I slowly nodded my head. Even if it backfired and I was accused of running to the teachers telling tales, my brother’s safety was more important. “You’re right,” I conceded. When she looked at me, I gave her a soft smile and added, “I’ve missed your advice on things like this.” She flicked me a smile that I reflected back to her. I couldn’t help it – it had been too long since I’d seen her do that. We headed over to join the others. Michael had appeared at some stage, though I hadn’t seen him approach. Once we were all together, Liz and I told everyone about Nick’s comments. The reactions were of anger. Gary had to be restrained from heading off looking for Nick. Michael wasn’t much better, but his was more a cold rage. He mentioned, again, that he’d seen Nick talking to Luke Williams the previous week, and wondered out loud if there may have been a connection with the attack on Randy. Scott pointed out that we might all have been misinterpreting what had been said, and repeated his earlier comment. Liz agreed with me about the malice with which the statement had been made, but did say that maybe Nick just liked the idea of gays dying from AIDS. However, she did reiterate her earlier statement to me, and said that we needed to let people know so they could be on the lookout for Randy, just in case. Soon afterwards, Randy and his friends joined us. Randy’s reaction to the news irritated me. Despite everything that’s happened to him, he still had a feeling of invulnerability. “Doesn’t sound like much,” he commented. “Let’s not go overboard. This is not a soap opera; kids don’t go around knocking off other kids just because they don’t like them. Unless he’s wacko, this guy is not going to do anything stupid. He may make threats, but he’s not going to do anything.” “And if he is wacko?” Gary asked. Randy shrugged. “The odds are against it. Why worry about something that’s unlikely to happen?” I was ready to step in and try to shake some sense into him, but someone beat me to it. Maria stepped forward and slapped Randy across the face. Putting his hand to his cheek, he just stared at her in surprise. “Don’t be an idiot, Giant,” she growled at him. “Yeah, he may not try to kill you, but that doesn’t mean he won’t hurt you. How about thinking of someone other than yourself, for a change? Do you think we like seeing you being abused and hurt? Give us a break and try taking this seriously!” Randy’s other friends all made noises of support for Maria. He glanced over them in amazement. As they all stared back at him defiantly, he dropped his eyes and started to blush. “Okay,” he said, shamefaced. With that out of the way, the rest of lunch went quickly. Gary and Mary disappeared partway through, after making a comment about spreading the news. Mary gave Liz a hug and whispered something to her before they left. I looked at Liz with a raised eyebrow, but I wasn’t confident enough to ask her what that was about when she just gave me an innocent stare in return. The rest of the day was too busy to leave much time to worry. We had a practical test in our Computer Studies class that afternoon, but it was a straight continuation of what we’d been doing the previous weeks. It was also not going to be a major part of our overall class mark, so it didn’t produce the same level of stress as our other exams that week. Unlike the week before, Media Studies was almost a joy. That subject was being marked mainly on papers we’d had to submit, rather than a written test, so it was just a normal class. Liz and I hadn’t resumed our normal level of banter, but the communication we did have was a vast improvement over the painful silence I’d felt when we weren’t talking. The school rumour mill was working well. By the end of school, I’d overheard several rumours about threats to Randy. Most of them named Luke, rather than Nick, but they almost all expressed disgust at the idea of anyone attacking my brother. Liz was right in that respect – my brother was attracting a lot of sympathy for what he was going through. A reasonable number of people seemed indifferent to the whole business, but few said anything that even implied that he deserved whatever happened to him. While we waited for the bus, Randy was more contrite than he’d been previously. Maria’s comments at lunchtime must have sunk in; he was being very cautious with all his friends, as if he was trying to avoid offending them. He even went as far as going up to Mark and Luke, his classmates from the bus, and apologising. I was shamelessly eavesdropping, hoping to hear what he was apologising for, but no details were mentioned. That night, after we had explained the events of the day, Mum made a point of thanking me for going to the vice principal. She wasn’t happy at the threat, naturally, but she was pleased with how we all handled it. Randy was careful to avoid mentioning that he’d initially made light of the matter, and Adam and I let it slide. The important thing was that he was taking it seriously, not when he started doing so. Adam and I managed to get some study done for the next day’s history exam, but our preparations were cut short when Dad announced it was almost time for us to go to the main basketball stadium in Lilydale for Randy’s tribunal hearing. Mum made all us get changed into better clothes before she let us go out. It wasn’t a major thing, but she felt that a neat appearance would make a better impact than a scruffy one. We made the trip to Lilydale in silence. Randy was getting tense, as were the rest of us. Matters at school faded into the background of our minds as my brother’s basketball future was in the balance. When we entered the stadium, Dad took us over to the tables near the canteen, overlooking the basketball courts below. Neil was already there, sitting at a table in the corner. He glanced up at us, nodded his head once, and then returned his attention to the book he was reading. We sat down at a table about twenty feet from Neil. “Now, boys, remember to keep your cool. Getting emotional isn’t going to help. Just tell the truth, and don’t try to hedge. If they think you’re lying, it’s going to hurt Randy’s chances,” Dad said, his concern showing by the nervous way he kept glancing around. “You’ve told us that, already,” Randy replied with a roll of his eyes. He was trying to be nonchalant, but was betrayed by the white-knuckled, clenched fist on the table in front of him. Dad gave him a tentative grin but didn’t say anything more. “Here comes trouble,” Adam muttered to the rest of us. Following his gaze, we saw Lawrence strolling in, chatting to another referee, who was in uniform. She gave him a quick kiss before she headed off to the refs’ room. Lawrence was grinning like a fool as he watched her leave. The smile transformed into a scowl when he turned around and saw all of us staring at him. After a quick look around, he headed to the table in the corner where Neil was reading. With nothing better to do until we were called in, I kept watching. I was surprised when seconds after Lawrence sat down, Neil closed his book and stood up. Moving to another empty table, he sat down and opened his book and resumed reading. Lawrence’s face was a picture of confusion. He just stared after his fellow referee. It was obvious he didn’t understand what had just happened. “That could be really good news,” Dad stated quietly. He had also observed the incident. “What do you think it means?” I asked. “What are you two talking about?” Randy asked, irritated. “Neil’s refusing to sit at the same table as Lawrence,” I explained quickly, before turning back to my dad, who looked cautiously happy. “I’d say that Neil isn’t going to be giving Lawrence much support tonight,” he said. “How much that helps us will depend on whether or not he goes the other way and offers us support.” “Why don’t we ask him?” Adam suggested. Dad shook his head. “We don’t want any accusations of collusion. We have to let Neil give the evidence the way he wants to.” “Hi, guys!” With our attention focused on the two referees, we were startled by the voice behind us. Brendan and his dad stood there with smiles on their faces. “Hi, Brendan,” I said, standing up and extending my hand. Adam and Randy followed suit. “Thanks for coming, Wayne,” Dad said to Brendan’s dad. “Tony Ricardo can’t make it because of work commitments, so we really appreciate having you here.” “The least we could do, Kevin,” Mr. Stanlen replied. “Brendan, this is Adam, and this is my brother, Randy. Guys, this is Brendan,” I said as I realised they probably had never been introduced. As I grabbed a couple of spare chairs for the newcomers, Dad and Mr. Stanlen pre-empted me by moving to a nearby table. After we all sat down, there was an awkward silence for a few seconds. I wasn’t sure whether to talk about the tribunal, or if that would sound too mercenary. After all, Brendan was there doing us a favour and I didn’t want to be ungrateful. Randy spoke first. “Stick told us you might be looking for a new team for next season.” “Yeah,” Brendan replied with a sigh. “I just don’t think I can tolerate those guys anymore.” “They weren’t like that the last time we played them,” Adam said, clearly begging for an explanation. Brendan gave him a wry smile. “Last time, they didn’t know you’re gay.” After a pause, he added, “They’re a bit bigoted on a few things. I play with a few of them in another competition, which has a team of mainly Aborigines. They’ve made comments about the Abos that I felt were out of line. The things they said to you were just the last straw.” Adam tensed up slightly and asked, “You don’t have a problem with me?” Brendan laughed. “Only on the basketball court. You’re too tall!” That broke the ice and we started gossiping about the various teams we played against. We were still chatting happily when Scott and Chris joined us. After quick introductions, we continued our conversation. Everyone was relaxed and comfortable when Dad approached. “Time to go, boys.” I looked up and saw that one of the tribunal members was standing in a doorway nearby. “Randy, you come with me. The rest of you stay here and wait until you’re called. We may not need all of you, but please be ready. Just remember: tell the truth and don’t get emotional,” Dad instructed. We all nodded nervously and watched my brother and dad follow the referees into the tribunal room, where the door was then closed behind them. The easy atmosphere of only a minute before was gone. It was quiet at our table as we sat solemnly, each of us absorbed in his own thoughts. Fifteen minutes passed before Mr. Stanlen was called as a witness. Having never been to a tribunal before, I had no idea whether that was a short or long time. Ten minutes later, he came out and Brendan was called in. Mr. Stanlen came over and sat down at our table. “How’s it going?” I asked nervously. He smiled, but it didn’t look like a confident smile. “I don’t know. They asked a lot of questions about the whole match, rather than just the one incident. I can only see that as good news for your brother. Lawrence questioned me on the details of when Randy got up off the bench, and I was forced to admit that I was sitting down near the other end of the court. I don’t think that helped.” He shrugged. “I don’t think it’s going badly for Randy, but I don’t know if it’s going well enough for him,” he said, almost embarrassed at having to admit a lack of certainty. After a look in the direction of the canteen, he stood up. “I’m going to get a coffee. Would you like anything?” he asked, glancing around the table. “No, thanks,” I answered. I was too nervous to think about food or drink. “Thanks, Mr. Stanlen, but I’m fine,” Adam replied, while Scott just shook his head. “I’ll go with you,” Chris said, rising to his feet. Before they were back, Brendan came out and Adam was called in. I wanted to ask Brendan how it went, but I was afraid of the answer. I think he worked out what I wanted from the way I was staring at him. “I think it’s going fine, Stick,” he said with a quick grin. “There were a lot of questions about Lawrence’s umpiring and his attitude towards Adam. That has to be good news.” I gave him a weak smile in response. I knew I would stay nervous until Randy came out and said he’d been cleared. When Mr. Stanlen came back, he put a can of Coke in front of Brendan before sitting down with his coffee. Chris dropped into the chair next to Scott with his drink. “How did it go?” Mr. Stanlen asked his son. Brendan shrugged. “I think it went well. At least one of the tribunal members seems really annoyed with Lawrence, and Neil doesn’t seem to be giving him any support at all.” We all fell silent after that. I just sat there, fidgeting in my seat, as I waited for my turn in front of the tribunal. It seemed to be going well, but would I say something that would sink my brother? All it would take was the wrong word at the wrong time, and he would be banned for years. That was worse than my worries before the Maths exam earlier that day. Adam came out of the room. I started to get up, ready for my turn, but the person who’d let Adam out just closed the door behind him. I was stuck there, half out of my chair, wondering what to do. Should I sit down, since they hadn’t called me, or should I get up so I can go straight in when they did? Deciding to get ready, I finished standing up and pushed the chair back under the table. “I don’t think you’ll be going in,” Adam said quietly, as he came up to us. “Why not?” I asked, worried at the change in plans. Adam gave me a nervous half-smile. “The chairman asked the other members if they’d heard enough, and they both nodded. Your dad was told that they didn’t need any more witnesses.” “That’s good, isn’t it?” I asked anxiously. “It sounds good to me,” Mr. Stanlen said from behind my back. “If they thought he was guilty, they’d have to let all his witnesses have their say, so they couldn’t be accused of preventing evidence from being presented.” At that moment, the door opened and Randy and Dad came out, followed closely by Lawrence and Neil. Lawrence immediately headed away to the far corner, but Neil followed the other two towards our table. Dad smiled. “I think it went well. I don’t think we could’ve put forward a better case.” He turned slightly towards Randy, then appeared startled to find Neil hovering nearby. “Good luck,” Neil said with a shy smile. Before anyone could say anything, he headed over to another table, sat down and pulled out his book. “Thanks, Wayne,” Dad said to Mr. Stanlen, extending his hand. “Between you, Brendan and Neil, Lawrence came off looking like an idiot. I don’t think the members of the tribunal were happy about wasting their time on this report.” “Neil?” I asked in disbelief. I was already puzzled by Neil’s comment, and this just confused me more. Randy gave a short laugh. “Yeah! Neil started contradicting Lawrence almost immediately. While he never said Lawrence was ever wrong, he just insisted that he saw nothing of what Lawrence was saying, but agreed with me on almost everything!” Dad and Randy seemed optimistic, though still a little tense. Until the announcement was made, he wasn’t off. The door to the tribunal room opened just then, and the man signalled that everyone should go back in. “That was quick,” Dad remarked as he gathered Randy up with a glance. “Hopefully that means good news.” I started to follow them, but a frown from the tribunal member stopped me in my tracks. It was clear that I would have to wait until they came out again before I found out the verdict. Sitting back down, I gazed blankly down at the table. All I could do was wait and worry. At some point, a cup of coffee appeared in front on me. Looking up, I saw Chris lowering himself into his seat. “If you’re going to sit there ignoring everyone trying to speak to you, you might as well have something to drink,” he remarked dryly. “You haven’t responded to anyone for the last few minutes.” “Thanks, Chris,” I said faintly. I looked around. “How long has it been?” “About ten minutes,” he replied, sounding a little worried. “I don’t know what’s keeping them. All they need to do is to announce the verdict, don’t you think?” I shrugged. I had no idea on what went on in a tribunal, as I’d never been to one before. Taking a quick sip of my drink, I started getting more tense, if that was possible. What was keeping them? Dad isn’t the sort to start thumping his fist on the table when he disagrees with something, but if they found Randy guilty, he just might’ve done that. An argument with the tribunal could be what was keeping them, but that thought didn’t feel like good news to me. “Relax, Stick,” Scott said soothingly. “Everything will work out in the end.” “Yeah,” I replied despondently, “but if he’s found guilty, that end may be years away.” The conversation died, again, with that. Everyone was trying to be optimistic, even Brendan and his dad, but the longer that door stayed closed, the worse the tension became. My coffee cooled down, but I barely noticed it as I kept taking sips automatically. Randy was the first out the door. The angry look on his face told the story of how things had gone. He started to stomp towards us, but we all got up quickly and met him halfway. “What happened?” I asked, getting in slightly ahead of Scott and Adam. “Not guilty!” Randy beamed suddenly. “You little shit!” I said, giving him a light punch to the arm. “From the way you looked, I thought they’d found you guilty.” He scowled angrily. “Lawrence wants to appeal.” “He doesn’t have any grounds to do so,” Dad said mildly, as he came up behind Randy. “That’s what kept us so long – the tribunal arguing with Lawrence about the result. They were pretty damning in what they said about him. Either things have changed, or they were really annoyed, because when I was a ref, the tribunal never criticised the ref in front of the players; they would ask the refs to stay behind afterwards to tell them what they thought.” “They asked them to stay behind, anyway,” Randy said cheerfully. “I’d love to know what they’re saying to them. If they save up their worst stuff for when they have the refs by themselves, they must really be slamming into them!” “Anyway, I think I can shout everyone something,” Dad announced, rubbing his hands happily. “What does everyone want?” He took orders from everyone, before glancing over to where Brendan and his dad were getting to their feet. “You, too,” Dad said. “It’s the least I can do for your help.” “You don’t have to,” Mr. Stanlen replied. “I insist.” “Okay,” Mr. Stanlen replied, returning to his chair. “But I still think we only did what was right.” Dad took their orders and headed off. While he was gone, the tribunal door opened and the two refs came out. Lawrence glared at us before heading off in the direction of the basketball courts. I guessed he was hoping to get consolation from his girlfriend, or whoever that was he had kissed earlier. Neil, on the other hand, was headed in our direction. Randy stood up as he approached. Everyone else had gone silent. “I’m glad it all ended up okay,” Neil said, extending a hand. My brother reached forward and shook hands. A grin appeared on his face. “Thanks for your help, Neil,” he said simply. Neil shrugged. “No big deal. All I did was tell the truth. I wasn’t doing you any favours.” “Still, I appreciate it.” At Neil’s puzzled look, Randy clarified, “Your honesty, I mean. Lawrence wasn’t happy about that.” Neil made a face. “I’m going to tell the supervisor that I don’t want to ref with him ever again. From a couple of comments he made, I think the feeling is mutual.” Clearing his expression, he added, “Good luck. I doubt you’ll be getting him as a ref for any of the finals, so you should do okay.” With that, he headed off, not waiting for Randy to say anything else. Randy stared after him for a few moments, before returning to his chair. The conversation picked up, and a blow-by-blow account of the tribunal hearing was in full swing by the time Dad came back with our orders. A number of us wanted to keep celebrating, but Dad soon reminded us that we had school the next day. Recalling that I had a history exam coming up, and I hadn’t done much effective study for it, I reluctantly agreed. On that depressing note, we headed home.
    1 point
  30. “Now, Carol, we said we wouldn’t say anything about that,” Mr. Wilson said, trying to calm his wife. “I said we’ll still love our son,” she barked. “I never said anything about that boy.” “Mum, Adam didn’t turn Scott gay. Scott was gay well before we learnt about Adam,” Chris said. She spun around to him. “How do you know?” “Why don’t we all go inside and talk about it there?” Dad suggested, gently taking Mrs. Wilson’s arm and guiding her towards the house. “Yes, we can sit down and talk about this calmly. It sounds like Scott and Chris have a lot to fill you in on,” Mum added. I wasn’t sure what to say, so I just stood there, dumbstruck at Mrs. Wilson’s rage against Adam. I glanced over at him and started to worry. He displayed his now familiar steely determination by blatantly taking Scott’s hand before heading back to the house. That would just inflame Mrs. Wilson. Scott made a half-hearted attempt to pull his hand away, but Adam didn’t let him. The two walked back to the house together, with Scott’s parents following. “Scott...” It sounded like Mrs. Wilson was about to say something hateful, but her husband interrupted her. “Let’s wait until we’re inside,” he said quietly, putting a hand on her shoulder. Chris and my parents exchanged worried looks. The issue of Adam was going to be critical in the upcoming discussion. Randy and I brought up the rear in the procession towards the house. “Any ideas on what we can do?” Randy whispered to me as we walked along. “None,” I replied curtly. It was going to be up to Chris and Scott, and I hoped Adam wouldn’t make things worse by making some sort of stupid statement about not giving up his boyfriend. His belligerent stance in front of Scott’s parents was not a good sign. I stopped in my tracks as I suddenly guessed at what was going through Adam’s head. He’d come so far since he’d been kicked out of home that I’d forgotten how recently that was. Scott had come out to him less than a week after he’d lost his family. Adam was afraid he was going to lose Scott, too, and he was trying to show that he wasn’t willing to let that happen. “What is it?” Randy asked me as he stopped, too. “Nothing,” I said. I didn’t see how sharing my thoughts with Randy would help, and I might have been wrong, anyway. Once inside the house, Mum and Dad took everyone to the lounge room, while Randy put the kettle on. I hesitated for a moment before following the others. The Wilsons were just seating themselves on the couch when I arrived. Mum and Dad had taken the two good chairs, while Adam, Scott and Chris were sitting in the extra chairs we’d brought in earlier. Adam and Scott were still hold hands, despite Mrs. Wilson’s disapproving glare. “What’s he doing here?” Mrs. Wilson demanded, pointing at Adam. “This is a family matter, and I don’t want him in the room.” “He’s here for me,” Scott shot back. “I want him with me, and what we talk about is going to affect him, too.” Before Mrs. Wilson could explode, her husband reached over and put a hand on her arm. “Just let it go,” he said gently. “It’s not that important.” She snapped her mouth closed and scowled angrily. “Would you like a cup of tea or coffee?” I asked Scott’s parents as politely as I could. I didn’t want to aggravate matters by being rude. “We’ll both have tea, thanks,” Mr. Wilson replied, after glancing at his wife. She didn’t seem to notice me. I hesitated. Chris had told me what they normally drink, but I wasn’t confident enough to just assume that was what they’d be having. Mr. Wilson guessed my dilemma. “I’ll have black with one. My wife will have white, no sugar.” “Black with one sugar. White with none,” I repeated, before turning to my parents. “White tea, no sugar,” Mum said. The fact that she didn’t smile was telling, at least to me. “Same here,” Dad added. I was a little surprised. I’d been expecting him to have coffee. I turned to the others. “White coffee with two sugars,” Chris quietly told me, before returning his attention to his parents. He was frowning slightly and gnawing at his lower lip. “White coffee,” Scott said. He seemed preoccupied, and he was squeezing Adam’s hand. “Tea, please,” Adam said, after a glance at my parents. “White, no sugar.” Again, I was surprised. Adam normally drinks coffee. As I left the room, I heard Mum start the conversation. “Chris, why don’t you tell us what you know?” I didn’t stick around to hear what he would say. I just hoped it would help. Randy looked up as I joined him in the kitchen. “Chris and Scott are having coffee, Chris with two sugars. Their dad is having black tea with one and everyone else is having white tea.” I looked down at the cups Randy had out. There weren’t enough good teacups, so I headed to the dresser to get more. “How’s it going?” Randy asked me, as he spooned instant coffee into two mugs. We’d asked Mum earlier if we should make a pot, and she’d said to do that only if the Wilsons wanted coffee. For everyone else, instant would be okay. “Tense, but I’m hoping Chris can explain things to his mum.” Randy nodded. “I hope she doesn’t end up blaming Adam.” “Yeah,” I sighed, as I continued getting things ready. The early signs were that she was heading in that direction. Once we had the drink orders organised and everything onto a pair of trays, Randy and I looked at each other for support. I was glad the pink in Randy’s hair had faded, as that colour could’ve been another thing to upset Mrs. Wilson. Randy raised both hands to show his crossed fingers, and then reached down to pick up a tray. I picked up the other, and we walked carefully to the lounge room. “... and I had to keep encouraging Scott to tell Adam,” Chris was saying as we entered. Everyone looked up as our entrance interrupted their discussion. “Thanks, dears,” Mum said gently. She gave us a small smile. I gave Scott’s parents their drinks first, starting with Mrs. Wilson. Her lips were pursed as she stared across at where Adam and Scott were sitting. She looked up at me and gave me a nod of appreciation when she accepted her tea, but didn’t say anything. Mr. Wilson softly thanked me but quickly turned his attention back to his two sons and Adam. After placing a plate of cakes and slices next to the Wilsons, and handing Mum and Dad their drinks, I picked up the tray, ready to leave. Randy was waiting for me by the door. “As I was saying, Scott was scared to say anything. I told him that I liked Adam and I kept pushing Scott to tell him about himself. After a few days, he finally did.” “So, you were helping your brother to meet up with this...this...” Mrs. Wilson was struggling to find an appropriate word to describe Adam. “My boyfriend?” Scott suggested. There was a touch of defiance in the way he said it, though his tone was civil. “...homosexual,” Mrs Wilson eventually said. Her tone made it clear how unpleasant she found the word. “I’m a homosexual, too, Mum,” Scott stated firmly, though politely, as I walked over to stand beside Randy. “I’ve known that for years.” “But you weren’t like this, before. You’ve changed,” she said, seeming to try to contain her emotions. “You don’t understand! Yes, I’ve changed. For the first time in over two years, I’m happy, and that’s because of Adam. I’m no longer alone. I want him. I need him, and I’m not giving him up.” During the silence that followed Scott’s outburst, Randy and I slipped out of the room. A final glance back showed Mrs. Wilson looking like she was about to explode. She obviously wasn’t happy with what Scott had just said. I was very tempted to stay and eavesdrop, but I headed back along the hallway. I didn’t want to give Mrs. Wilson any excuses for getting more upset. I hadn’t heard Mr. Wilson say much, so I could only hope he was listening with an open mind. “It doesn’t sound too good,” Randy remarked, once we were back in the kitchen. “No, it doesn’t, but it sounds like Scott’s not going to let her get away with blaming Adam.” Randy looked thoughtful. “Come with me,” he said suddenly, heading towards the study. I followed, curious as to what he was planning. When he sat down at the computer and logged on, I made a guess. “You’re going to print something off for Scott’s mum?” “Yep. There’s a site I know of with information for parents. I should’ve thought of this earlier and had some stuff ready, but we thought it was all going to be okay.” Randy was surfing through web sites. “Ah ha! Here it is!” I looked over his shoulder and saw lots of questions and answers. Reading a few of them showed me that it would’ve been a good site for me to have read earlier. I mightn’t have gone off the deep end as much as I did if I’d known those sorts of things when Adam came out. “How many copies should I print off?” I thought for a moment. “Five. One each for Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, one for Chris, one for Scott and Adam, and one for Mum and Dad. That way, everyone will know what they are talking about.” “Okay.” I collected the copies as they printed, and stapled them together. Once we had the five copies ready, Randy was going to head straight to the lounge room, but I stopped him. “They’ll have finished their drinks. Let’s get the trays so we can take the cups away. We can ask them if they want any more at the same time.” Randy nodded. “We can give them the printouts then, too.” “I don’t think so,” I said slowly, as I worked furiously through the options. “Just give them to Dad without comment. He can hand them out, if he thinks it’s okay.” “Good idea. We don’t know what they’ve been talking about, and we don’t want to jump in and make things worse.” I handed him the printouts after he’d picked up his tray. When he looked quizzically at me, I just said, “They were your idea. You should get the credit for giving them to Dad.” We headed down to the lounge room and hesitated outside, listening to see if we would be interrupting at an inappropriate time. “…we’ve done wrong? Haven’t we provided you with a good home to grow up in?” It sounded like Mrs. Wilson had left her belligerent attitude behind and was now confused and upset. Randy looked at me and I nodded my head. I knocked on the door to alert them that we were coming in. When there was no response, I pushed the door open. The first thing I saw was Mrs. Wilson dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief. She was visibly distressed. Her husband was awkwardly patting her other hand. A glance around showed that Chris was looking worried, and that Scott seemed to be the verge of losing it. I wondered if Scott was about to start screaming abuse, or maybe just break down on the spot. Adam was holding Scott’s hand tightly in both of his and keeping his focus on his boyfriend. He barely looked up as we walked in. While Randy went up to Dad, I stepped forward to grab everyone’s attention. “Would anyone like another drink?” I asked, while scanning the plates of food to see if they needed to be topped up. The plate near Chris was half empty, but most of the rest didn’t look touched. I wondered whether that was a good sign or a bad sign. It could have meant that either they had been too busy talking or they were too upset and distraught to eat. Mrs. Wilson had barely tasted her drink, but she asked for another one. Mr. Wilson accepted the offer, as did Mum, but everyone else turned me down. When I turned to Dad, I noticed he was busy scanning the printouts that Randy had slipped to him while everyone’s attention was on me. Randy and I returned to the kitchen and put the kettle back on. “Any idea on how it’s going?” Randy asked me. I shrugged. There really wasn’t anything to say. The kettle had just boiled when we heard a polite cough from behind us. We turned to see an apologetic-looking Mr. Wilson standing nearby. “Excuse me, but where’s the toilet?” Randy pointed him in the right direction. I was about to make the tea, but decided to wait until Mr. Wilson returned. There was no point in taking it in before he went back to the lounge room. When he did return, he stopped and looked at us. He glanced down the hallway towards where the others were, and then turned his attention back to Randy and me. “Umm, can I ask you boys a question?” “Sure,” I replied while Randy nodded. “You’re living with Adam. Aren’t you…uh…afraid he might…” His voice drifted off as he struggled to say what he meant. “He might what?” Randy asked with an edge to his voice. He was playing games. I knew he knew what Scott’s dad was talking about. “Never mind,” Mr. Wilson quickly replied, looking embarrassed as he turned away. “I shouldn’t have asked.” “Yeah, I was, but not anymore,” I replied. On that subject, I thought I understood things better than Randy. Scott’s dad turned back to stare at me. “Oh?” he said, raising an eyebrow. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Randy scowl at me, but he stayed quiet. “When I first found out about Adam, I remembered some of the stories and jokes I’d heard. I was worried he might try something. Eventually, though, I realised that Adam is still the same guy I’ve known for years. He probably saved my life last year, and he just doesn’t fit the picture of the poofs I’d been told about. “I’ve decided he’s a friend, first,” I added, lying through my teeth. It wasn’t the time to tell Mr. Wilson that while I wanted Adam as a friend again, he still hadn’t accepted me back. “That’s all that’s important.” Mr. Wilson nodded his head. “Thanks,” he said absently, before strolling slowly back to the lounge room. He looked like he was thinking hard. I turned and put the kettle back on. It started to boil again almost immediately, so I started making the three cups of tea. Once I’d finished, I looked up to see Randy staring at me. He had an odd expression on his face, as if he couldn’t work something out. “What?” He shook his head. “Nothing.” Ignoring my brother, I picked up the tray and took the drinks back down to the other room. I paused outside the room, waiting for a chance to go in without disrupting things. The conversation sounded heated. Scott was being interrogated on whether or not he’s really gay. “Mum, I’m sorry. I’m gay, and that’s the way it is. I can’t change it. Both Adam and I have tried, but it just doesn’t work. Can’t you please understand that?” I heard Mrs. Wilson say, “Scott…” The raw emotion in both of their voices was painful to hear. There was silence for a few moments, so I knocked and entered. Scott had his head buried in Adam’s shoulder, and his whole body was shaking. Adam had both arms wrapped around Scott and was whispering softly to him. He looked distressed. Mrs. Wilson was half out of her chair, but was being held back by her husband. Both seemed very upset. Scott’s mum must’ve given up trying to keep her composure, as unchecked tears were streaming down her face. I handed out the drinks and quietly left. I don’t think Scott even realised I’d been in the room. I was shaking when I stepped out of the room, due to the intense atmosphere I’d just left. Both Scott and his parents were going through something really painful. I was glad I didn’t have to go through it with them. Randy and I were reduced to looking at the clock. Neither one of us felt like talking. I was worried for Scott, and I guessed Randy felt the same. It started raining, the weather seeming to complement the mood inside the house. Almost an hour later, everyone came out of the lounge room. Scott’s dad was holding a rolled up paper, so I knew my dad had handed out Randy’s printouts. Scott and Adam were holding hands as they followed the four parents out of the room. Chris brought up the rear. Scott was a wreck and his mum looked just as bad. Mr. Wilson looked slightly better, but he was moving as if he’d aged twenty years. “Thanks for coming around, Carol, Phil,” Mum was saying. “We look forward to seeing you tomorrow.” “Thank you, Yvonne,” Mrs. Wilson replied. There was definite sincerity in her statement. She then turned to Scott and hesitantly lifted her arms. Scott stepped forward, but his expression was stony as he gave her a hug. After he stepped back to Adam, Mrs. Wilson gave a heavy sigh before turning to Chris and doing the same with him. Unlike his brother, Chris smiled down at his mum. “Now, you two be good for Mrs. Johnson,” she instructed after letting go of Chris. “Yes, Mum,” Chris said, smiling, while Scott just nodded. Scott’s face was a mask of neutrality. Mr. Wilson stepped up and gave Scott a hug. He whispered something that seemed to surprise Scott, but whatever it was must’ve been encouraging, as Scott looked happier when his dad stepped over to Chris. Mr. Wilson only shook Chris’ hand, but both of them were smiling. While Mr. Wilson did that, Mrs. Wilson was staring at Adam and Scott, who were standing together, each with an arm around the other’s waist. Adam noticeably pulled Scott closer when he became aware of the attention. He was scowling, as if in challenge. Mrs. Wilson was harder to read. She wasn’t happy, but she didn’t seem as hostile as she’d been when she’d arrived. Even in Adam’s grip, Scott was standing stiffly, like a soldier going to war. He wanted his parents to accept him, but he wasn’t going to back down on what he wanted. After a few more pleasantries, the Wilsons left. The rest of us stayed inside, out of the rain. “So, how did it go?” Randy asked impatiently, as soon as we saw Scott’s parents’ car disappear down the driveway. We all looked at Scott to see if he was going to answer. “Not good,” he said sadly. He leant against Adam, as if for support, and then continued. “But it could’ve been a lot worse.” “We’re staying here another night, but we should be back home tomorrow,” Chris said, when it was clear that Scott wasn’t going to say anything else. “Scott’s parents need more time to think,” Mum said, “so we all decided it’s best for the two boys to stay for a bit longer.” “Thanks, boys, for those printouts, ” Dad said, smiling at Randy and me. “They really helped.” “Randy gets the credit for that,” I replied. “In that case, thanks, Randy.” “That’s okay,” Randy said, giving a dismissive wave of the hand. “I’m just sorry I didn’t think of it earlier.” “I’m not sure Mum was ready to listen before then,” Chris remarked. “She had to have Scott and me give her the background, first.” I noticed Adam was staying very quiet and Scott didn’t seem keen to say much. Trying not to be obvious, I watched them closely. I wasn’t sure, but I thought both of them were still tense. Adam had an arm around Scott’s back and was holding him tight. “Well, I suppose I should get the air mattress back out,” Randy said. “Get the two singles out, not the big one,” Dad said. “The singles?” “Yes. We’ll organise things differently this time.” Randy looked puzzled. “Different how?” Dad looked over at me. “David, do you mind Scott staying in your room tonight?” “Why can’t Scott stay with me?” Adam asked. There was an unspoken plea behind his words. Dad fixed him with a critical eye. “Last night was special; Scott needed you. You’re only fifteen, Adam, and we need to take that into account. Tonight, you’re going back to your bed in Randy’s room.” “Of course, we don’t have any special plans tomorrow, so you can stay up late if you want to,” Mum added comfortingly. “We’re not going to get between you and Scott, but there are boundaries we’d like you to respect.” “I take it that means I’m sleeping in the lounge room, then,” Chris said. Dad gave him a wry smile. “I heard a rumour that you snore, so I think that’s best for the rest of us,” he remarked dryly. “I don’t snore!” Chris remarked indignantly. “Yes you do!” Scott and Randy chorused. “Hmph,” Chris snorted. “If you’re going to be that way, then I’m going to sleep in the lounge room tonight. I won’t want to sleep in the same room as either of you.” “David, you haven’t answered your dad’s question,” Adam asked without inflection. He was staring at me as if he was waiting for me to make a wrong move. “What question was that?” “About Break sleeping in your room tonight.” I then knew what he was waiting for. Luckily, there’d been time for me to think before the question was re-asked. “Of course he can stay in my room. He can even have the bed. I’ll sleep on the air bed.” Adam’s eyes widened at that, but otherwise he didn’t react. Scott was startled. “You don’t have to do that! You keep the bed.” I stared hard at him. “You’re still upset, Break. You’ll sleep better in a bed than on the floor,” I said sternly, before continuing more gently. “Please, let me help, even if it’s only in this small way.” Scott was tired, or had more important things on his mind, so he stopped arguing and just accepted it with a nod of his head. While it was only midafternoon, everyone, apart from Randy and me, looked worn out. The tension must’ve been high in that meeting. Mum went out to see her horses, and Dad retreated to the study to read a book. The rest of us returned to the lounge room. “What else can you tell us?” Randy asked. I’d been trying to work out how to ask the same question, but I hadn’t been confident enough. I was afraid Adam might take it as putting my nose in where it wasn’t welcome. Scott just sat there, resting his head on Adam’s shoulder. Either he didn’t hear the question, or he just didn’t want to think about it, because he didn’t react. “Neither of them understand,” Chris answered. “Dad is trying really hard, but Mum seems to have some sort of mental block on the subject. It’s like until she can sort out what’s happened, she can’t move on to working out what to do next.” He sounded sad, but he hadn’t given up hoping for a happy ending. “On the positive side, both of them say they still love Scott. Dad even made the comment that we’re his sons first, and anything else second. Mum just can’t seem to be able to see Scott and ‘gay’ at the same time. We probably could’ve gone home today, but another night of thinking things over, separately, seemed like the smart thing to do. Everyone agreed to that.” “What did our parents say?” Randy asked. “They kept out of it, mostly,” Chris answered. “They said just enough to show they support both Scott and Adam, and then only intervened to correct mistakes or to keep things under control. Your dad was good with dispelling myths about gays, but he left a lot up to Scott and me. Your mum was really good at calming our mum down when needed.” We talked for some time. Scott was very quiet and Adam’s attention was mainly on his boyfriend, but Chris filled Randy and me in on the events of the afternoon. He was concerned about his mum. Despite the sympathy she’d expressed previously about Adam, she just couldn’t accept him as Scott’s boyfriend. She was also struggling with the concept of Scott being gay. Chris thanked Randy for the printouts. They’d helped redirect his parents into more useful areas of discussion. Whether another night of thinking about it would be enough to start Mrs. Wilson coming to terms with her gay son and his protective big brother remained to be seen. Chris mentioned that his parents had said they hadn’t slept the night before. He was hoping that was part of the reason for his mum’s aggression. They’d be back for another talk the next afternoon, and the intention was that Chris and Scott would go home at that point. When that was stated, Adam stirred and looked worried. “Why can’t your mum accept that Scott and I are together, Chris?” he asked, showing some anger. “Every time she looked at me, I felt as if she wished she could shoot me.” “She doesn’t understand, Adam. She’s still getting used to the news. Give her time.” “What’s there to get used to? I love Scott and I’m not giving him up. Why can’t she just leave us alone?” Adam asked. He was building up into a rage against Scott’s mother. Scott suddenly pulled away from Adam and jumped to his feet. He glared down at his startled boyfriend. “She’s my mum, Ads! She’s not your father!” With that, Scott stormed out of the room. As soon as Adam had shaken off his stunned surprise, he leapt to his feet. “Scott, wait!” he cried out as he sprinted to the door. Randy started to move, but Chris held up his hand and stopped him. “Let them go. This is between them and none of our business.” Chris sounded very tired. I heard what sounded like the door to the veranda closing, dropping the volume of Adam’s pleas. I nodded to myself. The veranda was probably the best place for them. They’d have some privacy without getting rained on. I stood up and looked over at my brother. “Come on, Giant. Time to organise things for tonight.” Scott and Adam didn’t come back inside until just before dinner. When they reappeared, they were holding hands, but didn’t look comfortable. While they were gone, Randy and I had set up the air mattresses; one in the lounge room and one in my room. Chris had made a half-hearted offer to help, but ended up lying on the couch with his eyes closed. The mood that night was somber. No one seemed willing to talk much. Even Randy didn’t tease me as much as he normally would. Mum made an effort to get things going by asking me what I was going to wear for my date with Liz the following night, but all that did was to make me start to worry. I’d been intending to wear jeans, a good T-shirt, and a jacket, but then I became concerned that that would be too casual. When we finished eating and cleaning up, I headed to my room to have another look at what options I had in the clothing department. I had clothes scattered in piles all over my bed when I heard someone behind me. “Don’t worry about it, Stick. Liz isn’t going to turn you down because of what you’re wearing.” I looked over my shoulder at Scott, who was standing in the doorway. He looked tired and unhappy. Despite that, he seemed amused at me. “I know, but I want to show that I’m making an effort,” I said, as I scanned my selections and moved one set off the bed and into the reject heap. “She knows that already.” Feeling a bit desperate, I sat down on the edge of the bed and looked up at Scott. “You’ve been talking to her?” “Not much, but yes,” he replied as he walked towards the bed. He glanced down at the piles of clothes and gave me a half smile. “How about you take the bed and I take the mattress? That way you won’t have to move everything.” I stood up quickly. Glancing at the clock, I was surprised to see it was already after nine. “I’ll move them, but isn’t it a bit early to go to bed?” Scott shrugged and sat down on an empty spot of the bed. “It’s been a tiring day. Adam and I were about to start arguing, and I don’t want to do that, so I’ve decided it’s time to go to sleep.” I started moving things from the bed to piles on the floor nearby. “You and Adam were fighting?” I asked, surprised. I hadn’t heard anything, but I’d been obsessed with my clothes. “Not quite, but it was heading that way,” Scott sighed. His shoulders slumped and his face looked drawn. I debated with myself about whether I should get involved, while I cleared the rest of my stuff off the bed. Coming to a decision, I sat down at the other end of the bed. “Do you want to talk about it?” Scott at first shook his head, but then nodded. “Adam’s asking me if the worst happens, will I choose him or my family.” Scott was worried, that was obvious, but I sensed he didn’t want to make that choice. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he didn’t know the answer to that question, and didn’t even want to think about it. I got up and closed the door. We were going to have a private chat, and I suspected it would be unwise to let others overhear what we said. I also had a question I wanted to ask Scott, if I got the chance. Returning to the bed, I looked at Scott before saying anything. He seemed dejected. He was sitting, slumped, staring at the floor. He’d been shaken by the situation with his parents, and still hadn’t recovered. “You don’t want to lose your family, do you, Break?” I asked gently. He shook his head. “Adam’s already lost his family. He doesn’t want to lose you, too.” “I know that, but it doesn’t make it any easier,” Scott admitted before turning to face me. There was a glint of anger in his eyes. “Adam doesn’t have the right to ask that of me!” “Adam’s scared. He might look strong, but he needs as much support as he can get,” I responded. “I can still remember the effect you had on him. The day before, he’d been frantic when Maise and Helen harassed him. The next day, he was confidence plus. He told me afterwards that knowing you were there for him made all the difference in the world. He doesn’t want to lose that.” Scott looked at me wide-eyed. “He said that?” I nodded. “Yep. I’ve seen it, too. He’ll do anything to keep you with him.” Scott looked away. “He still shouldn’t ask me to choose.” “No, but he’s doing it because he doesn’t want to worry about you walking out on him.” Scott jumped to his feet. He was halfway to the door before he glanced back over his shoulder at me. “I’ll be back, Stick. I just need to say something to Ads.” I smiled. Adam and I were still rubbing each other raw at times, but I was glad that Scott and I didn’t have that problem. Gay relationship counselling wasn’t something I’d ever considered I’d be doing, but I felt I understood Adam, at least to a degree. His situation was sort of like mine with Liz. I’d do anything to avoid having her walk away from me. In a strange way, I owed Adam, and helping him and Scott was a way of paying him back. While Scott was out, I started thinking about having a gay guy spend the night in my room. I trusted Scott, but I was nervous. There were so many things I didn’t know. I made a quick decision and changed into a pair of tracksuit pants. I could sleep in those. Sleeping in my underwear like I normally do would probably have been okay, but I didn’t see any harm in being cautious. Scott came back after about twenty minutes, and he was smiling happily. He closed the door behind him, sat down on the bed, and looked down at where I was sitting on the mattress. “Thanks, Stick,” he said. The gratitude he felt came through loud and clear. I shrugged. “It was nothing.” “Do you mind if I go to bed? It’s been a long day.” I grinned. “Go ahead. I want to get up early tomorrow, anyway. I have to make that cake.” While Scott got undressed, I picked up a book to read. I was happy to let Scott take the lead if he wanted to talk about the day. “Do you want me to turn the light off?” Scott asked me when he was finished. I looked up. He was wearing a pair of boxers and a loose T-shirt. I gave a wry half-smile as I realised he looked exactly the same as every other time we’d slept over at the same place. It just reinforced the idea that he’s still the same guy he’s always been. “I’ll do it. You’d probably fall over me if you tried to get back to the bed in the dark.” Scott chuckled. “I wouldn’t want to do that. Okay, thanks.” I got up and turned off the light. On impulse, before going back to the air mattress, I stripped off my tracksuit pants. The sooner I started treating everything as “business-as-usual” the better it would be. After lying down on the mattress and pulling the doona up over my chest, I put my hands behind my head. I had a question I wanted to ask Scott, but I didn’t know if I should. It was important to me, but I would be asking Scott to talk about his boyfriend. That’s a different relationship than when he and Adam had just been best friends. When I heard Scott roll around in the bed, trying to get comfortable, I took a deep breath and decided to go ahead. Raising myself up onto an elbow, I looked in the direction of the bed. “Scott, can I ask you a question?” “Sure, Stick,” he replied hesitantly. “What do you want to know?” After getting the go-ahead, I almost backed down. I suddenly realised that I might be risking my friendship with Scott, too, if he thought I was prying. It was only the feeling that if I didn’t ask then, I never would, that made me continue. “I messed up big time with Adam. I’ve been trying to fix things up since then, but I don’t know if I’m getting anywhere. Do you think Adam will ever again accept me as a friend?” I held my breath while I waited for a reply. I let it out in surprise when Scott gave a short, sharp laugh. “Sorry, Stick, but that wasn’t what I thought you were going to ask about,” he said with a chuckle. “What do you mean?” I asked before I could stop myself. I quickly added “never mind” when I guessed what he meant. I suppose I’ll eventually ask him questions about sex, but that was not the time. I waited for Scott to say something, but when his silence stretched out, I got worried. “Forget it, if you don’t want to answer,” I said quickly, as I tried to dig myself out of a hole. I was afraid I had somehow upset Scott. “Sorry to take so long, but I want to make sure I answer this properly,” Scott said. “Give me a sec while I work out how to say this.” I waited nervously. “Stick, I don’t think you appreciate how much you hurt Adam that night,” Scott started cautiously. “While he wasn’t able to do it properly, he’s told me that there were a few people he had expected to be able to tell he’s gay without a serious problem. You were one of those, and when you fired out at him that night, he felt betrayed. He had faith in you, but you let him down in the worst possible way.” Scott paused while I cringed at what he’d said. I’d always considered myself to be fair-minded and open, but I was anything but, when Adam told us he’s gay. I still don’t believe I understand exactly what I did, but I was gaining an appreciation for the pain I caused. “Since then, you’ve tried really hard, and Adam knows this, but he’s slow to trust you again. He’s getting there, but it’s going to take time. Just keep going the way you’re going.” “Is there something else I should do?” I asked, and was then afraid that I was sounding a touch desperate. “Don’t worry about it, Stick. You’re doing fine. Just give Ads some more time.” I heard the smile in Scott’s voice. He’d heard my desperate tone. We talked about minor stuff for maybe another hour. When I heard Scott yawn, I ended the chat, and we settled down and went to sleep. I woke up partway through the night to the sound of Scott tossing and turning, but I didn’t say anything. If he was having trouble sleeping, there wasn’t much I could do about it. I waited, and he eventually fell back to sleep. I woke up early the next morning. I heard Scott snoring faintly, so I eased myself carefully out of bed and picked up some clothes to put on later. I quietly opened the door and went to take a shower. After I’d finished and dressed, I went down to the kitchen. Tony was due later that morning, and I didn’t know how long he’d stay, so I needed to go ahead and bake the cake for Mary’s mum. Otherwise, I might run out of time. Not surprisingly, both of my parents were up. Mum looked like she’d already been out to check on the horses. Dad was sitting down with toast and coffee, while Mum was eating a bowl of cereal. I said good morning and quickly made myself some raisin toast and a cup of strong coffee. After finishing my breakfast, I got everything ready to start cooking. I was just putting the cake in the oven when Randy and Adam entered the room. “Where’s Scott?” Adam asked. “He was still asleep when I woke up,” I replied, setting the timer on the oven. I’d never hear the end of it if the cake got burnt. Adam’s glance down the hallway couldn’t have been more transparent. “Why don’t you go wake him up?” Mum suggested, trying to smother a smile. Adam didn’t wait. He disappeared straight away. “What’s your plan for this morning, Mum?” Randy asked casually as he started to organise his breakfast. “I was planning on going for a ride. Why?” Randy shrugged. “Just wanted to know, that’s all.” Mum didn’t seem fooled by his attempt at nonchalance, but she let it slide. “I’ve got some shopping to do down at Chirnside Park. Do you boys want anything?” Dad asked. “Nothing for me,” I replied. I was secretly pleased that we’d probably have the house to ourselves when Tony arrived. “I don’t need anything, Dad,” Randy added. Adam and Scott came in soon afterwards. Scott looked a lot better that morning. When Chris came in, it was clear that both of them were a lot more relaxed than they’d been the day before. Their parents would be showing up at around two that afternoon. Unless something went terribly wrong, they’d be going home that day. It was after nine when Dad left. Mum gave me a compliment on the cooling cake before she headed outside to ride her horse. The sky was overcast, but the rain had stopped during the night and it looked like it was going to stay dry for the day. “What will we do when Tony arrives?” Randy asked, once we were all alone. “What do you mean?” I asked. “I mean, who goes out and says hello? If we all go, he just might turn and run away, thinking he’s about to be mobbed.” “Good point,” Chris said. “I think Adam should go out to see him.” Adam shook his head. “He rang Randy first, and it’s Randy’s home. He should go out first.” “I’m happy with that,” Randy stated. He was keen to meet the guy. “What if it’s a setup?” I asked. “Randy’s been attacked once when he was by himself.” Randy snorted. “Yeah, right. You guys will be right here in the house. How likely is it that this guy will try anything?” “It’s worth worrying about,” Scott said. “If he’s on a bike he could be away again before anyone could catch him. Why doesn’t Stick go with you, Giant? It’s his home, too.” We all looked at each other and it was quickly agreed. Then it was just a case of waiting. Randy remarked that he hoped the guy hadn’t chickened out, but he was told there wasn’t a lot we could do about that. It was the best time for Tony to show up. Mum was down riding her horse and could be expected to be out there until close to lunchtime. Dad was out shopping, and wasn’t expected back until just after midday. Tony could show up and, if he wanted to, be gone before Mum and Dad saw him. When we saw a bike coming up our driveway, Randy and I went outside. Randy was particularly eager to meet the mysterious “Tony” and find out who he was. As the rider approached, I thought he was about the same age as me, though with the riding helmet obscuring part of his face, it was hard to tell. He looked average in size, but was clearly fit. I was guessing he’d ridden from Yarra Glen, but he was still going strong. He had on the typical brightly-coloured, skin-tight clothing that serious bike riders tend to wear when road riding. He was also wearing a backpack. He lifted one hand to wave to us as he came closer. He pulled to a stop near us and dismounted. With his back to us, he flicked down the stand for the bike, then took off his helmet and shook his head. A mass of vaguely familiar black curls appeared. The guy then turned to face my brother and me. “Tristan!” I said in disbelief. “Hi, Stick, Randy,” Tristan MacDonald said in a reserved manner. He looked nervous. “What are you doing here?” I asked as I tried to put my brain into gear. “Were you expecting someone named Tony, by any chance?” “You’re Tony?” Randy asked, perplexed by something. “Can we go inside? I don’t want to cool down out here,” Tristan said, as he slipped the backpack off and held it by one strap. “If it’s not too much trouble, I’d like to take a shower. I’ve got a change of clothes with me.” “Sure,” I said, waving him towards the house. I wanted to talk privately with my brother, as he was looking at Tristan suspiciously, but we didn’t really have a chance. Tristan was never that far away. As he’d never been to our house, that wasn’t surprising. I opened the door and let Tristan go first. Inside, Adam, Scott and Chris were waiting. “Hi, Tristan,” Adam said, looking concerned. “What brings you to these parts?” “This is ‘Tony’,” I said. Adam shook his head and glared at Tristan. “He’s not Tony. I know Tristan’s voice, and that’s not who I spoke to on the phone. Okay, Tristan, what are you up to?” Tristan ignored Adam and stared at Scott and Chris. He then glanced across at Adam and gave a small nod of the head, as if to himself. Stepping forward, he put out a hand to Chris. “Hi. I’m Tristan. You must be Adam’s boyfriend.” Chris stood up and accepted the offered hand. He shook it firmly. “I’m Chris. Before I answer that, can you answer Adam’s question?” Once Chris had let go, Tristan nervously ran his hand through his sweaty black hair. He looked around at all of us before turning back to Adam. “No, I’m not Tony,” he conceded. “Tony’s a friend of mine. I wanted to make sure things were safe before he came here.” Adam’s belligerent mood subsided as he absorbed that statement. Randy’s tension also seemed to drop away as he accepted what Tristan had said. “Sensible,” Chris said, with a nod of his head. There was a moment of silence. I didn’t know what to say and no one else seemed to, either. “Do you mind if I make a phone call?” Tristan asked. He looked liked he’d made some sort of decision. “Go ahead,” I said, as I started to walk over to get the handset. “I’ll get it for you.” “No need,” Tristan replied, and pulled a mobile phone out of his pack. After hitting a few keys, he held it up to his ear. “Hi, Tony. It looks okay. Come on up.” Pausing to listen to the response, he smiled and then hung up. The smile transformed into a cold stare as he glared around the room. “Tony will be here shortly,” he stated curtly. “I’m putting my brother’s life in your hands, guys. You hurt him and I’ll make your lives a living hell.”
    1 point
  31. Chapter 1: Wedding Bells “This is totally nuts, we can’t do it that way... it’s... it’s... abnormal, that’s what it is, and fucking perverted!” Eric grumped as he paced back and forth in the living room of Helen’s imposing Bel Air home, flicking his coiled-up shirt at the crystals of a low-hanging chandelier precisely because he knew that it drove Helen crazy. Helen chewed on her lip as the tan, shirtless bassist took another flick at the dangling crystals, making a few of them tinkle. Giving him her best evil glare, she snarled, “Leave my chandelier alone! Just because you’re pissed at Brandon and Chase does not mean you get to take it out on me or my furnishings!” Eric paused, and turned to face Helen, smiling the most innocent of smiles, which belied the mischievous twinkle in his blue eyes. “Aww, come on, mom, I’m not hurting it. Besides, it’s knocking all the dust layers off so you can actually see the glass.” Helen hauled herself to her feet. She still moved a little more slowly than she used to; she’d recovered from the gunshot wound to her gut but it slowed her down. However, what she’d lost in physical adroitness she more than made up for with her acerbic tongue. “Eric, honey,” she said in her sweetest voice, one Eric had grown to fear. “I assure you that my fixtures are not caked in dirt, and thus are not in need of your assistance,” Helen’s voice changed, rising in volume as she took a menacing step in Eric’s direction, “So leave my fucking chandelier alone. I swear, about the only time I ever see you wear a shirt is when you come over here, and it takes you about thirty seconds to whip it off and start molesting my furniture with it. Don’t bother denying it; I know you do it to bug me. However, be forewarned, two can play at that game and I’m much better at it than you are. And another thing, you're lucky I'm not really your mother, or I’d have done the sensible thing and drowned you at birth!” Knowing – at least sometimes, and this was one such time – when to quit, Eric smiled and tucked his shirt into the back pocket of his jeans, resisting the urge to give the chandelier one last flick. Tossing his sun-streaked brown hair back with a snap of his neck, Eric grinned and then gave Helen a wink. Satisfied, Helen nodded once and said, “Okay now, back to the issue at hand. You’re just going to have to accept Brandon and Chase’s decision. It’s their wedding so they get to do it their way.” Letting out a disgruntled snort, Eric returned to his pacing. “It’s sick, that’s what it is. Who ever heard of a stag party with your fiancé in attendance? I had everything booked up; two adjoining conference rooms at the hotel, catering for separate parties, everything. Jon was going to run Brandon’s and I was going to run Chase’s, then halfway through the night we’d switch. It was going to be wild; I was going to book a troop of male strippers and everything. I had all sorts of stuff planned,” Eric wisely refrained from mentioning some of his other plans. “I am quite sure you did, and I’ll bet that’s part of why Brandon and Chase decided to combine their stag parties; safety in numbers against your pranks,” Helen said. With a shrug, Eric replied, “That just makes it a little harder, but it’s tradition, Helen. Stag parties have to be wild.” Arching an eyebrow in Eric’s direction, Helen said, “Your newfound love of tradition strikes me as overly convenient. Just keep it halfway sane, okay? I also want you to keep in mind that you still aren’t old enough to legally drink, and neither are Brandon and Chase. Just keep it discrete, and no tequila!” “Would I ever go too far?” Eric asked, thinking fond thoughts about his favorite liquor and giving Helen his most disarming smile, which she didn’t buy for an instant. “You, go too far? Perish the thought,” Helen said in a sarcastic tone, thinking of the countless times Eric had done precisely that. Managing a rock group like Instinct often entailed dealing with wild musicians like Eric, but Helen had grown to think of the four members as family. They – the three Carlisle brothers and Brandon – were, in a very real sense, her boys. Their reaction when she’d been shot had left her with no doubts that they felt the same way, but like any good mother, Helen still had to lay down the law every once in a while. Now was one such time, and after taking a deep breath, she said, “Eric, you, your brothers, and Brandon are in a very precarious position. Right now, you are all still basking in the glow of being national heroes, but even saving two cities won’t protect you forever. The press and public opinion are always fickle, and the goodwill you have had may prove fleeting. Brandon and Chase came out on national TV. So far, so good, and the public has accepted them, for now. However, any wild debauchery that results in bad press and that can change in a heartbeat. For the sake of the group, plus your own public images, you need to keep things halfway sane.” Eric’s blue eyes flared for a moment as he felt the weight of Helen’s words and the unwelcome duty that they imposed. He knew she was right, but that didn’t make the restrictions any less onerous. With a touch of exasperation in his voice, he asked, “When is it ever going to be okay for us to be us? When can we stop worrying about public opinion any time we do anything?” Giving Eric a wry but understanding smile, Helen gave him the answer he’d known all along. “When your careers are over, hon. Right now, you’re one of the hottest groups in the business. Like any business, you have to protect your brand; maintain your name. Wild behavior isn’t exactly unexpected from rock stars, but the gay issue complicates things. Your careers might last five years, or it might end tomorrow, but for now you need to treat it like what it is: business.” The fact that he knew Helen was right was not about to stop Eric from contesting the issue. Looking down at the ground with a pout on his handsome face, Eric brushed his washboard abs once with the back of his hand before saying softly, “In five years, I’ll be almost twenty-five. That’s way too old to do... well, anything.” Eric’s downward gaze did not prevent Helen from seeing the mischievous twinkle that had returned to his eyes. She was nearly twice the age that Eric had just despaired of being, and she had no doubt whatsoever that he had, in his roundabout way, just called her old. Picking up a chunk of Moreno glass from her coffee table, Helen hefted it for weight before saying, “In spite of what you might think, even at my age I can still throw things quite well, thank you. Shall I demonstrate?” Breaking into a laugh, Eric backpedaled a few paces before turning to run for the door. “Okay, mom, you win, I’ll try and keep the party ‘halfway sane’,” Eric called back, though his definition was not at all the same as Helen’s. Eric ran through the house, his tennis shoes squeaking on the granite floors, seeking his eldest brother. It didn’t take him long before reaching the kitchen, where his quarry was raiding the refrigerator. Jon looked up from the banana and pepperoni sandwich he was building to ask, “So, did you convince Helen, or what?” Snagging a piece of pepperoni off Jon’s plate, Eric tossed it into the air and opened his mouth to catch it. After a successful intercept, and while still chewing, he said with a shrug of his shoulders, “Nah, she thinks a combined stag party is just fine. She also warned us to keep it ‘halfway sane’,” as he waved finger quotes in the air. Sharing a conspiratorial nod with his brother, Jon said, “We don’t want to stress her out. So, what she doesn’t know –” “Won’t hurt us,” Eric finished his brother’s sentence with a grin. “What’ve you got planned for entertainment?” Jon asked, arching an eyebrow in Eric’s direction. Eric leaned back on the counter. “Strippers for sure, plus I’ve got some other stuff in mind, like a roast... You’ve seen those celebrity roast programs, right?” Rolling his eyes, Jon asked, “Let me get this straight; you plan on subjecting Brandon and Chase, two days before their wedding, to public humiliation?” Eric simply smiled and nodded. Jon gave his brother an appraising look, and then an approving nod. “I like it. Okay, now, what about these strippers. What kind?” Knowing full well what his brother was asking, Eric pretended to be oblivious as he replied, “I figure I’ll get some real pros; dance routines and everything.” Rolling his eyes, Jon asked in exasperation, “You know what I mean; male, female, or some of each?” Eric snickered, and ducked an aimed slice of pepperoni as he replied, “Bro, come on, this is for Brandon and Chase; we can’t have female strippers at their stag party. That would be like having male strippers at yours. Come on, I like the ladies as much as you do, but for this party, it’s gotta be a stag party, all the way.” Jon’s disgruntled snort made Eric laugh. He’d expected no less, but he knew that Jon was exaggerating, at least a little. Changing the subject slightly, Eric smirked. “I had to promise Helen; no alcohol for anyone under the drinking age.” Knowing his brother too well to think for a second that he was on the level, Jon paused to think. Breaking into a grin as he realized what Eric must be thinking, Jon asked the obvious question, “Where will the stag party be and how do we get them there?” Eric lowered his voice to a whisper. “Jim’s in on it. He’s in charge of security and travel arrangements, so this is right up his alley, and he likes the idea. I’m still looking for a stag party location, but it has to be somewhere kind of on the way to Isla De La Palma.” The site for Brandon and Chase’s wedding had not been an easy thing to find. Chase had wanted to get married on a tropical beach, but finding somewhere suitable in the tropics that allowed gay marriage had seemed impossible. Spain’s Canary Islands had been one option that Eric had found. They aren’t tropical; located just north of the Tropic of Cancer off the west coast of Africa, they are mainly semi-arid, though Isla De La Palma, which means ‘Isle of Palms’, has the lushest vegetation of any island in the chain. The climate in the Canaries is warm and sunny, making those islands a favorite destination for European tourists. Hearing the name of the island prodded Jon to ask a question he’d been pondering for some time, “When exactly are you going to tell Brandon and Chase where they are getting married? They still think they are getting hitched in Massachusetts.” Eric gave Jon a mischievous grin before replying, “Hey, Helen doesn’t know either; you and Jim are the only ones who know. I figure we can tell ‘em eventually, maybe en-route. Chase said he wanted to get married on a tropical beach, right? Brandon liked that idea too, but they couldn’t find anywhere. So, I did some research and found ‘em a place.” Jon almost choked on his sandwich. Giving Eric an incredulous look, Jon said, “Yeah, right, you were watching the history channel and saw the island on a Megadisasters episode. Half the island might fall into the sea and cause a huge tidal wave, so you thought it was a perfect spot for Brandon and Chase to get married.” Jon rolled his eyes toward the ceiling before taking another sloppy bite of his sandwich. Eric chuckled. “Nah, I saw that it is owned by Spain, and I remembered that Spain has gay marriage. So I checked, and it’s legal there. Isla De La Palma looks like the least touristy of the islands so I figured it would be perfect.” “There’s still the matter of half of it falling into the sea,” Jon remarked dryly, though he was grinning. “Only if the volcano erupts, and they say it isn’t,” Eric answered with a snicker, wondering how Brandon and Chase would react when they learned of the reason for the island’s notoriety. Eric had done a few second’s worth of research, more than sufficient to reveal that the postulated Megadisaster was in reality Megahype and not a real threat at all. Like so many other threats populating the airwaves, it was based on bad science and sensationalism. However, he had no intention of sharing that detail with anyone. It was, he’d decided, much more fun that way. A few miles away, in the hotel next to the Wilshire Boulevard recording studios, Brandon snuggled up next to Chase, enjoying the lazy afternoon. Brandon absently traced his fingers over Chase’s tiger’s eye necklace, and his eyes fell on the tiny hairline scar on Chase’s neck. It had faded in the three months that had passed since its creation, so much so that it was barely visible, but Brandon’s eyes were drawn to it and he shuddered. Chase felt his fiancé’s movement, and seeing the glance at his neck, guessed at its cause. Pulling Brandon into a hug, Chase said in a soft voice, “Brand, that was a bad day, we nearly lost each other, but it’s over now. We’re lucky to be alive. Helen nearly died, Jon got shot, and you jumped off a fucking cliff. But we’re still here and you killed the guy who did it. Don’t stress on the past; you can’t change it.” Brandon let his fingers wander down to Chase’s bare, tan chest. “I know you’re right. I just keep thinking of how close we came. Five cops died, Günter died, our pilot and road boss died, and tens of thousands of people in Australia died or are dying from the bomb. We all came so close to dying... first on the plane, then that day in Telluride. I still have nightmares. Now, it’s like everything has changed. We’re out, and so far so good on that, not too much trouble, but Helen’s right; the public can be fickle. Our new album has to be a hit, otherwise it’ll be seen as the end of Instinct because we came out, whether that’s the real reason or not.” Running his fingers through Brandon’s hair, Chase smiled faintly. Brandon hadn’t talked much about that day, and now that he was, Chase knew that he was finally ready to put it behind him. It would take time, but time was something they had, or so he hoped. “Brand, I know, I get nightmares sometimes too. But you know what? That day made me realize that you never know what’s around the corner, and we should make every minute count. That’s why I proposed to you.” Remembering the proposal, Brandon grinned. “Yeah, you surprised me with that, in a good way. I think I was mostly stunned by the way you asked me.” Chuckling at the memory, Chase replied, “Yeah, that wasn’t exactly what I had planned. Speaking of which, you’ve got Eric all wound up to find out. He’s been asking me constantly.” “The suspense will do him good,” Brandon replied with a laugh of his own, glad to have the upper hand on Eric for once. Brandon’s mood darkened a little, as his concerns once again made their way to the forefront of his mind. “Jon and Eric have been great about all this. We’re risking their careers too.” The tension was palpable, but Chase knew Brandon’s moods. He also knew how to change them. Easing his hand down towards his boyfriend’s crotch, Chase whispered, “‘Changing Lanes’ will be a hit, I’m sure of it. We’re writing some great songs, and the work-ups have been the best we’ve ever done. Besides, we’ve got a lot of money saved up; we made a mint from the ‘Changing of the Guard’ tour and from the encore tour that Helen arranged from her hospital bed. So if worst comes to worst, we’re still set for life. Most people would kill for that, so quit stressing. If you’re going to get all worked up, I can thinks of better uses for your energy...” Chase’s voice trailed off as his hand took over the job of communication. Brandon quivered from the sensation. “I think you’re right,” he mumbled as the intimate touch became even more. Jim had his own wedding to plan. His friendship with Brandon had led to his current job as Instinct’s de-facto chief of security. Originally, he and a few of his biker friends had been hired for the very unofficial role of keeping the paparazzi at bay. That job, upon the death of the prior security chief, had placed Jim in a role where he felt decidedly uncomfortable. A biker through and through, he disliked the corporate world, and management was not his forte. He felt honored by the offer of a permanent role as head of security, but at the same time, he was apprehensive. By the time he’d finished his fourth tumbler of whiskey, his choice was clear; he’d go back to being in charge of Instinct’s unofficial protectors, and leave the job of security chief to someone more qualified. With that decision made, he’d struggled to type out an e-mail note to Helen with two fingers – his typing skill was abysmal at best, and the whiskey hadn’t helped – and his mind returned to the more pressing question; his own wedding. He had a perfect place in mind, if only he could convince his fiancée Linda to forgo a more conventional setting. In rural Idaho, under a few scudding clouds, a man by the name of James Tate Carlshitski tended his roses, a uniform row of Lavaglut, named after their deep crimson glow, which some thought reminiscent of fiery lava. Every so often he paused to stare out at his empty, windswept land. A businessman both by nature and profession, he’d made his money in the recording industry: CD production. Together with a partner in the shipping business, he’d done well, well enough to allow himself an early semi-retirement to the family farm he’d grown up on, and then inherited twenty years before. He still kept a hand in the business, but he found it unfulfilling these days, a condition that, had he been honest with himself – which he scrupulously avoided – he’d have traced to the loss of his sons. “JT, you supper’s getting cold,” his wife, Jane, called out from the front porch. JT, as he preferred to be called, set down his old gardening trowel, hitched up his trousers, and walked towards the house, seeing that Jane had already gone inside. He let out a sigh; things had not been the same between them for years. He knew that somewhere deep inside she blamed him for her now-empty life. He’d hoped that with time she’d accept the fact they were gone, but her heart had grown cold to him and now they just went through the motions of married life, sustained by force of habit more than anything else. They hardly spoke these days, he mussed, wondering if she’d said more than a hundred words to him all week. The crisp snap and crunch of tires on gravel jarred him from his maudlin reverie, and he glanced back at his driveway, to see the unwelcome return of the unmarked black sedan. JT watched with a little trepidation as the sedan wheeled to a halt a dozen yards away. A tall man in a business suit stepped out, and the first thing JT noticed was that the suit was a bad fit on the man, both physically and, he had a feeling, by temperament. From his own years in the Army, JT recognized the look of a man unused to civilian clothes. Sizing up the man as he approached, JT couldn’t decide whether he was looking at an officer, or a senior enlisted. A glance at the man’s ramrod posture made JT think of a drill sergeant he’d once known and loathed, and the cut of the visitor’s jaw seemed to confirm it. Assuming he was in for yet another round of questioning regarding his former business partner, JT said with a growl as the man approached, “Can’t you people call ahead, or at least come at a decent hour so you aren’t interrupting my damn supper?” Choosing to ignore the hostile reception, the visitor came to a halt at arm’s length, and with a friendly smile said, “I’m Walter Bradson, U.S. Air Force. We spoke on the phone a few times but we’ve never met. I’m not here to question you again; that case is pretty well closed.” “I remember you, General,” JT replied, his demeanor not having improved, “So to what do I owe the dubious distinction of this visit?” Sizing the man up and finding him wanting, General Bradson kept to a professional air. With his friendly smile painted on his lips, he replied, “I’ve come to give you some information. A few things turned up during my review of your interview notes. I believe you’ve been lied to. There are some things you need to know. What I’d like to do is come inside and talk to you and your wife, speak my peace, then I’ll get out of your hair.” JT’s eyes narrowed; he was unsure, and that uncertainty made him defensive. Before, the government agents had not asked, they’d ordered. Skirting the issue and looking for the upper hand, JT asked, “Is this official business?” General Bradson had expected that question, and also the attitude with which he’d been received. For that reason, he’d been careful to omit the word ‘retired’ from his introduction, and had pulled a few strings to borrow a black sedan that, though unmarked, fairly screamed ‘government’ to all who saw it. He needed the appearance of power, a power he no longer had, but he was well aware that appearances can, and often do, trump reality. Bending the truth a little, he replied, “Yes sir, in a way it is. I need to speak with you and your wife. It won’t take long, but it is imperative that I do so.” Standing his ground, JT met the Generals eyes and said, in a tone even less pleasant than before, “Why involve Jane in this? Speak your peace then be on your way. Our dinner’s goin’ cold.” The General fixed JT in a glare that belied his easy, fake smile. “I’ll be talking to both of you. She needs to hear this too.” JT’s demeanor changed. Where before he had felt unease, now he felt threatened, at risk from things he preferred not to dwell upon, things he preferred to leave buried, safe from the pain they could cause. He tried to read the expression the General wore, which was somewhere between neutral and accusing. He’d thought he had the situation in hand until that moment, but now he saw it spiraling out of control, and JT was a person who needed to be in control. As he struggled to think of a reply, the drumming of his heart became almost painful in its intensity. The words he sought would not come, and General Bradson settled the issue by striding purposefully towards the large grey clapboard house. Defeated, as much by his inner deeply buried fears as by the General, JT followed wordlessly towards his own front door. Eric fiddled with the ornate globe, cut out of various stones and inlaid with black pearl, which stood on a pedestal in Helen’s study. Jon wolfed down the last of his sandwich and walked over to gaze over Eric’s shoulder at the twirling globe. Eric reached out with his finger to halt the spinning sphere, and twisted it so that the Western Hemisphere was in view. In spite of being mainly decorative, the globe was good enough for Eric’s purposes. Jabbing a finger at Cancun, Eric said in a low voice, “I figure we could have the party here, or maybe in Bermuda. They’re both kind of on the way to the Canary Islands.” Eric paused for a few seconds, and then spun to face his brother. “Hey, what’s the drinking age in the Canaries? Why don’t we just have the party there? Brandon and Chase think we’re having it in Massachusetts, so we load them onto the plane, let them think we’re going to Massachusetts, and then fly ‘em to the Canary Islands.” “What about Helen,” Jon asked, regretting to have to be the one to shoot down Eric’s plan. “If you try and keep her away from the wedding, she’s going to kill you slowly, you know that right?” Eric crossed his arms and returned his gaze to the globe. A few seconds later he flashed Jon a grin. “Bro, we’re missing the obvious here. Helen is going away the week before the wedding. Her and Barbra have a romantic getaway planned up in the Poconos. So, we shanghai Brandon and Chase while she’s away. She can easily get there in time for the wedding, but not the stag party. Besides, we can’t have her at the party no matter where we have it; she’d be a wet blanket, and having somebody who’s virtually our mom at a stag party would be so wrong. You know she’d want to be there, so this way it solves all our problems.” “Except Helen killing you when she finds out,” Jon observed dryly. With a shrug, Eric chuckled by way of reply, giving the ornate globe another look. “Trust me, this will be good. The wedding is supposed to be private anyway, but you know damn well the paparazzi will try to crash it if they know where it is. I’ll phone the air charter company and make the arrangements for the flight, then I’ll start trying to find a place for the party on the island.” Jon nodded in agreement. “You should probably make the wedding arrangements first, they might be harder,” Jon said as an afterthought. With the party foremost on his mind, Eric spared Jon’s question a shrug. “I don’t think that will be hard. All we need to do is hire a preacher and haul everyone down to a beach.” With that triviality addressed, Eric returned to his real interest, planning the party. “Any idea how I can find male strippers on the island?” he asked. “Check the Internet,” Jon said, giving the obvious answer. Eric rolled his eyes. “I already tried that. All I found are a few clubs that have lady’s night. We need some real pros, not some amateurs.” Still not entirely pleased with the subject – to Jon, a stripper would always be female – Jon gave it a few moment’s thought. “Find a good act here, then fly ‘em out separately.” Eric gave Jon a thoughtful nod. “Yeah, that could work. We can make sure they’re good, then book ‘em for the gig.” Jon raised a hand, turning his palm towards Eric as he said, “Whoa, bro. No ‘we’ for this. I’ll help with anything else, but you get to do any auditioning.” Laughing at Jon, Eric nodded and smiled, wondering how to best go about finding the right performers. In her study, Helen sat in her plush desk chair, her eyes closed and her body totally relaxed, except for her thumb which was holding the intercom switch. She allowed herself a smile; she’d thought that Eric had caved in far too easily, and had assumed that he was up to something. He usually was, so that took no leap of intuition, but Helen congratulated herself for correctly guessing that Eric had an overseas location in mind. She was also very pleased with the reference to her as ‘mother’. The decision turned out to be an easy one to make; better to let Eric think he was pulling the wool over her eyes. So far, she found his plans acceptable in the main, though they contained some gaping holes. Keeping the press away should, she hoped, help insulate the group from any bad fallout. She didn’t begrudge her boys some fun, and this way she hoped she could keep an eye on things. © 2008 C James Please let me know what you think; good, bad, or indifferent. Please give me feedback, and please don’t be shy if you want to criticize! The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!" Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions. Thanks also to Shadowgod, for beta reading, support and advice, and for putting up with me. Special thanks to Graeme, for beta-reading and advice. A big "thank you" to to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and advice , and to Captain Rick for his advice. Any remaining errors are mine alone.
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  32. Chapter 6 I pulled into the parking lot of Marcus's building just before eight o'clock. The sky had a red-purple glow to it, reflecting the last light of the sun. The stars were just starting to be visible in the eastern sky, the familiar constellations slowly showing themselves. I suppose it would have been a beautiful night if my thoughts weren't so jumbled up. "Marcus has been in love with you, maybe even since that first weekend." Scott's words echoing in my brain. How could I have been so blind? All the memories since the day we met, had I been so wrapped up in myself I never read the signs? Now I needed to fix the pain I'd caused. But how? I could see Marcus's living room window from my car, his shadow visible through the drawn curtains. He was pacing quickly back and forth. I still couldn't think about what to do next. "Don’t think. Feel." Again Scott's words pounding my consciousness. I slowly got out of the car and walked towards the stairs. Get out of your head, Tony. What's in your heart? I still didn't know. This was where I call Marcus and he helps me figure out what to do. But now it was all about Marcus, and still I couldn't get out of my head. Reaching the door, I hesitated before knocking. How many times had I unloaded all my feelings, hurt, joy, tears, and even my dreams in this place? Why was this moment the most difficult I ever faced here? I could hear music coming from inside the condo. Mozart. "I play this CD when I get down; it usually helps me get back to myself. Although sometimes it makes me sink right down to the depths, then I know it's time to move forward, somehow." Marcus once played this CD for me, after the Jared implosion. I took a deep breath and knocked on the door. The noise echoed in my ears. "Oh God, Tony, I told you I couldn't do this tonight. Please I just need some time." Marcus had tears running down his cheeks when he answered the door. I took one look at him and I knew… He turned and tried to close the door on me. I pushed in and past him. "Suck it up, buttercup." He just looked at me, with his mouth hanging open. The twinkle was missing in those cobalt blue eyes, replaced by a little anger. His whole demeanor signaled defeat. My heart was absolutely breaking knowing I had caused this pain. I walked over to the stereo system and killed that Mozart disc. I switched to the CD of dance remixes I made for him. He just stared at me, standing at the edge of the hallway and living room. Slowly he walked towards me; I quickly turned and walked right into him. I stumbled back. Even in his pain, he tried to save me from falling. "I'm sorry I wasn't looking where I was going. I'm Tony, by the way. Dance with me. I usually don't take no for an answer." I grabbed his hand and pulled him into me. I wrapped my arms around him and just started to sway. He resisted my efforts completely. "Tony…" I placed my finger on his lips. "You need to listen and not say anything until I'm done," tears flowing freely from both of us, now. "I'm sorry. I've been a fool. I've been looking everywhere for something, and the whole time it was right in front of me. Marcus you are the most amazing person I know. You are incredibly selfless and loving. You are my best friend. The best friend anyone could ever dream of having. I don't deserve you. I've been selfish and blind. I just hope it's not too late. "When you hung up on me tonight, I couldn't understand what was going on. I thought back to that weekend we met; and then all the times you were there for me, every single time you listened, saved my ass, or helped me get over something. I remembered all the huge and all the tiny problems you helped me solve. I didn't understand why this time was different. I was beside myself, memories causing even more stress. So, I called Scott to try and get some answers. I got more than I bargained for. Scott forced me to recall my worst nightmare, and showed me how blind I've been. He told me I needed to stop thinking and start feeling. "So, now I want to show you what I'm feeling." I placed my hand on the side of his face, turning him towards me. I needed to see those eyes… I started kissing his lips. He reacted by tensing up and trying to pull away. I held him tightly but gently and continued to kiss him, both hands holding his face. He slowly started to respond to my efforts. In the moment I felt him returning the kiss, my heart exploded with joy. The kiss began to build into a breathtaking passion. I could barely keep my balance. Slowly I started to move my hands lower. I unzipped the gray hoodie he was wearing, pulling it off his shoulders and letting it fall to the floor. His chest felt like steel covered by silk. My hands moved lower… "Stop, Tony." Marcus was breathless. "We need to talk before we lose control." I put my hands back on the sides of his face, our foreheads touching. I never felt like this before. I pulled him into another kiss. I wanted to stay like this forever. Marcus took hold of my hand and led me to the couch. I snuggled up against him. My back against his bare chest, he pulled me close and wrapped me up in his arms. I sighed. "Tony, don't get me wrong, I'm over the moon. You in my arms is a dream I never want to awake from. But, how did we get here. I never expected this." "Marcus, I was so confused when you hung up on me. Finally I called Scott. The last person I wanted to talk to, but the only one I thought might give me answers. He started out as the asshole he normally is to me. Then, he forced me to remember the one night I have tried my hardest to forget: Derek Kingston, my worst nightmare. "Marcus, when I tried to black that out of my mind. I also forgot what you did for me that weekend." Tears again, I tried to continue. "I really have been the selfish prick Scott has always claimed I was. I have hurt you, in so many ways. I don't know how I will ever be able to make it up to you. How do you not hate me?" "Tony, I could never hate you. I love you with all my heart. But you need to stop beating yourself up. I'm more to blame for what's gone on between us than you. I could have told you any number of times how I felt, but I never did. I was afraid of losing you, so I did the one thing I kept telling you not to do. I gave up a part of myself so I was sure you would stay in my life. I was great at giving advice, really bad at following it. "But I need to know what you think this is. Tony, what you want from us." "Until I walked through the door tonight, I never considered an' us'. I never knew it was possible. I knew I had the most amazing friend, but until I really looked into my heart I didn't know. Right now, I know when you started to kiss me back, my heart exploded. I have never felt such joy. I know I never want this feeling to end. "Marcus, I know you want a better answer, but what I need right now is just to be held by you. I want to spend the night wrapped in your arms; to wake up with you and spend the day just being together. We can spend the whole day tomorrow talking. Do you have plans for tomorrow?" "Tomorrow is Taylor family Sunday dinner at my place. I need to go shopping in the morning and cook for the whole family, including my father and his new girlfriend. I guess that isn't what you had in mind." "Not exactly," I chuckled. "But does your family know about your feelings for me?" "Jamie and Sarah know, but not the rest of the family. Why?" "Are you ready to go public with us?" "I would scream it from the rooftop, if I was sure we both knew what ‘us’ meant. Maybe if I tell you what I think, what I want…" He turned me around so we were facing each other. He put his right hand on my cheek and grabbed my hand with his left. I saw the sparkle in his eyes again, but a little trepidation too. "Tony, now you know I have been in love with you for a very long time. But right away I realized I needed to let you grow as a gay man before I could even hope you could share my feelings. I watched you, giving advice when you asked, and letting you find yourself. I was proud of how you handled yourself. "The weekend you call your worst nightmare, was my worst too. I felt so helpless, so guilty. I let you get hurt in the worst way. If I had just gone with you… I clung to you trying to take the pain away, knowing I couldn't. I couldn't let you go. Even the slightest movement, I held you as tight as I could. It took Danni and Scott hours of arguments to convince me to leave you with Danni. In my head I knew it was the best thing, but in my heart I didn’t want to let go. In the end, Danni gave you what you needed to start moving past the nightmare. I was so grateful for that. "You recovered for the most part. And then Jared. I felt like I almost lost you forever then; but, I don't want to talk about Jared tonight. Someday maybe, but not tonight. "So here it is… I want to show you how I feel, now that I can. I want to hold you knowing you want to be held by me. I want tomorrow to be the day I tell someone that you are my boyfriend. I want us to learn more about each other. I want to take each day and enjoy every second with you. But, I also want 'us' to take our time with the physical part. You are my best friend, too. I don't want to rush this and screw it up. But, I want 'us' more than I've ever wanted anything. "What do you think?" "I feel like I keep hitting the jackpot. Marcus, it sounds perfect. The only thing I'm less than enthusiastic about is going slow with the physical part. I want to show you how I feel about you in every way, but if you think we should go slow... I do have one fear. I'm going to want to run when I should walk. You know me well enough to see how easy that would be for me to do. Already, I want to make plans with you that start to mean forever." "I know, buttercup, and by the way don't ever call me that again." We laughed. I pulled Marcus in for a kiss. It started simple. Then, it felt like we were trying to make up for three missed years with one kiss. Finally, we broke apart. Marcus smiled. "Do you think you would be up for Sunday dinner with your boyfriend's family? I would love it if you felt you could. But, I totally understand if it’s too much. At least we can listen to music tonight. Hold each other and then sleep together. I mean sleep, too." His eyes were full of that mischievous twinkle. "I would love to have Sunday dinner with my boyfriend's family, but I guess your family will have to do…" "You think you're funny." He started tickling me, we were laughing and squirming, and then he was lying on top of me kissing me with mind blowing passion. I could feel his excitement too. I was lost in the feeling. Finally, he took a breath. "See I told you I wasn't very good at taking my own advice." "Marcus, I'll be good. Let's go into your room and cuddle. I just want to hold you and be held. Then tomorrow we can make a plan." He pulled me into his bedroom. We lay there in bed, my head on his chest and his arms around my shoulders, we fell asleep quickly. I woke in the middle of the night. Marcus was spooned up against my back, his arms circling me. I suddenly was overcome with emotion. I began to sob. "Tony, what's wrong? It wasn't a nightmare was it?" "I can't help it. I never felt like this before. I'm so incredibly happy right now. Please tell me it's not a dream. Why did it take me so long to figure this out?" "Buttercup, you had me worried. It is a dream, but we are having the same one. Go back to sleep and I promise when you wake up, it will still be real." He pulled me closer, if that was possible. When I woke in the morning, I was alone in bed. I heard Marcus humming. He walked into the bedroom carrying a tray and set it down in front of me. I couldn't help but smile, him and his breakfast. It smelled wonderful. "Time to get moving, I need to hit the grocery store and get started with the meal. But first breakfast in bed together." He leaned down and kissed me. "Marcus, are you sure you want me to be here for 'Taylor family Sunday dinner'? I don't want to intrude. I can always come back later tonight to talk." "Eat, and quit worrying so much. I want you to do whatever is comfortable for you. I want you here. I know I can't wait to tell Jamie and Sarah our news. They are going to be thrilled. But I know my whole family might be overwhelming." "Ok, I need to go to my apartment. I can go when you get groceries. I need to shower and get dressed in clean clothes. I'll come back to help you cook, or at least keep you company." "I like the plan except for one thing. You didn't say you would pack some clothes. I hope you are going to spend the night again. I'm going to play hooky from work tomorrow. I want to spend the day with my boyfriend. If he's free." God, I loved that smile. "Awesome. I think he might be free, but if he's not I am!" I tried keeping a straight face while chewing. "That's going to come to an end real soon, funny guy. Now we need to finish breakfast, I'm already behind." I gave Marcus a kiss before I went home to clean up. After finishing my shower, I heard my phone ringing. It was Dad. I held my breath when I answered it. "What's up Dad?" "Nothing, just wanted to let you know there will be an exhibit of my photos in an art gallery. Is there any chance you could come home next weekend? It's actually in a gallery in Hampton Beach. It would mean a lot if you could be here, Son. I'm a little nervous about the whole thing." "Dad, that's so exciting. I'm sure I'll be there. I'm just getting out of the shower. Can I call you back in about an hour? I'll let you know for sure then. Dad, I'm so proud of you." "Sure, Tony. Your Mom and I are going to brunch in town and then we will be home. You can talk to both of us then. Don't forget to call now." "Don't worry, Dad. I'll talk to you in a little while." I got back to Marcus's condo as he was pulling into the parking lot. I helped him get groceries put away, and sat down while he got to work. "My dad called a while ago. I need to call him back, but first I have a question for you. What are your plans for next weekend?" "Babe, I don't have any yet why?" "Good, you do now. You'll understand after this call." I punched up my parent's home number. Mom answered right away. "Hi, baby. It's good to hear your voice." "Mom, I have great news. I will be able to make it out to Dad's gallery show next weekend." She squealed. Marcus smiled, and shook his head vigorously. "I am so proud of him. I'll try to get in Friday evening. Do I need my best suit for the show?" "Oh, Tony he will be thrilled. Hold on and talk to him." "I take it from the squeal on this end; you will be able to come here next weekend." Dad sounded very happy, "Yes sir, Mister 'My photos are going to be in an art gallery' I'm looking forward to it. How fancy is this show? You are going to get Mom a new dress, right? And I'll bring my best suit. Dad, I'm so proud and happy for you. Summer season at Hampton Beach, the place should be packed." "Now Tony, don't go blowing this out of proportion. It's just a few photos. However, I need to pick out a few more today, so I need to let you go. I'm really excited you can make it here next weekend. If I get more information I'll call you. Talk to you later" I hung up and grinned at Marcus. "So, you'll come with me to New Hampshire next weekend? Dad sounds so pumped. I can't wait. You will come with me right?" "You should call your boyfriend and see if he has plans..." Marcus went back to slicing mushrooms. "I thought you said that needed to end…" I grabbed him and kissed his neck. He turned and smiled. "I owed you one. Tony, I'm so happy for your Dad. This is amazing. I need to find out what gallery so I can tell my Boston friends. They can miss P'Town one weekend, and we need to send congratulation flowers to your house. And I want to book them a room. The show will be both days I assume, so they could spend the night in a fancy hotel. " "Whoa there, slow down. You're talking too fast. I only caught half of it, but it sounds wonderful. Let's talk more about this later." "Actually, if the show is next weekend, I need to make one call. Do you remember my friend, Richard? He will take care of the whole thing for me. Babe, finish pounding out the chicken breasts while I make this call." He walked into his office. About twenty minutes later, he walked up to me and reached his arms around me. I turned and was greeted with a kiss. (I still become breathless when he kisses me like that…) "It's all set. The Boston crew was getting a little bored with the Cape, so they will be there on Saturday. I have a room reserved for your parents and for us. Flowers are being delivered this afternoon in your name, and I have set up a limo for your parents. Unless you think it's too much, I can always cancel the car." "Marcus, you are unbelievable. I love you so much. You don't need to do all this." "Nothing is too good for my boyfriend's parents. We can talk about the specifics later. Right now I need to concentrate on dinner or I will have a Taylor family revolt on my hands. But I do need one more kiss." Just over an hour later, the family started to descend upon us. Fortunately, Jamie, Sarah, and the twins were first. I just happened to be in the bedroom when they showed. On the spur of the moment, I decided to have a little fun. As the three adults were talking, I slipped out of the condo. I rang the doorbell. Jamie answered the door expecting another family member. I got a flustered look on my face, and burst into the condo. Marcus saw my wink and was ready to play along. "Tony, what the heck is your problem?" Marcus yelled. "I needed to see you right away to give this to you…" I planted the most mind-numbing kiss I could muster. We looked over at Jamie and Sarah, they were stunned. Finally, Sarah smiled, jumped up, and hugged us both. She playfully punched me. Jamie took a moment longer. When he finally was on board with the joke, he whooped. "This is fantastic. How long? When? How? Why didn't you tell us?" He babbled. "You are the first to know. This all happened last night, long story short you are looking at the two happiest people on the planet." Suddenly Stephen burst out, "Uncle Marcus, how come you kissed Tony?" "Well Stephen, Uncle Marcus and Tony are in love just like Mommy and Daddy." Sarah said. "Do you understand?" As he walked up and punched me, "You took forever Tony…" Marcus got an odd look on his face, and then the brightest smile. "You're right Stephen; Tony is just a little slow sometimes." The rest of us burst out laughing. I grabbed Stephen, "I will try not to be so slow from now on." "Tony, play cars with us…" He was done with adult foolishness, time for more important things. I was playing on the floor with the boys, when the rest of the family arrived. Nick and Jessica, along with their three-year-old daughter Mallory, showed just ahead of Marcus's Dad and his girlfriend. I had met everyone at some point, except his Dad's new girlfriend. I got up to say hello. Marcus came over to me, put his arm around me, and introduced us. "Carolyn, this is my boyfriend Tony. I have been waiting all day to say that!" He gushed. "Tony, this is my father's friend, Carolyn. Dad, you remember Tony." Marcus kissed me. "Tony and I have been friends for three years, Carolyn. As of last night, we have taken our relationship to a new level. You'll have to pardon my excitement." "I'm very happy for you both. My son and his husband live in Massachusetts. I look forward to family functions where you can meet each other. Marcus, you have a beautiful place. Thank you so much for inviting me." Marcus's Dad had a surprised look on his face, but recovered quickly. "Everyone, Jamie will take care of your beverage needs. I need to work on dinner. Please make yourself at home, Carolyn. Tony, could you help me in the kitchen." He was grinning. "That was my third favorite moment today." "Third?" I wondered. "Sure, second was the joke on Jamie and Sarah. And number one was your Dad's news. Right now I need some help finishing up this meal." The rest of the afternoon was wonderful. Marcus's chicken cacciatore was incredible. Even the kids went back for seconds. I think our mood was infectious. Marcus and I spent time playing with the boys and his niece, Mallory. I'd never played a more cutthroat game of Candy Land before, but Mallory got so excited when she beat us all. The family started saying their goodbyes as darkness fell. Carolyn gave us both kisses on the cheek, "Marcus and Tony, I had a wonderful time. I wish you all the happiness in the world. Thank you so much for inviting me." Finally, the only members of the Taylor family left were Jamie and Sarah, and the sleeping boys. "You guys are so cute," Sarah gushed. "But I want to hear the dirt." Marcus told the story, leaving out some of the details, but staying true to the real story. He did not mention my attack, and played up my using the way we met to get his attention last night. At the end of the story, Sarah gave me a hug and Jamie shook my hand. "Welcome to the family Tony. We really are so happy for you both. I wish you weren't so slow though…" We all laughed. Finally, Marcus and I were alone again. We cleaned up the remnants of the party and collapsed on the couch together. I kissed him and pulled him against me. I could have stayed like that for the rest of the night. "Babe, you survived your first Taylor family get together. How are you feeling tonight?" "Your family is great, especially your nephews and niece. Mallory is a pistol. She was so excited when she won. Jamie and Sarah are awesome and you know I love the boys, and I liked Carolyn. I think she surprised your Dad with sharing that tidbit about her son. I got the feeling your Dad was a little uncomfortable with us until then." "I think you're right, and I liked her too. I think she will keep him on his toes. I’m tired, babe, let's call it a night. Are you playing hooky with me tomorrow?" "Yes, my dissertation can survive a day without me. I think we need to talk a little about plans tomorrow, But I also want to do something fun. Right now I'm ready for bed. And sleep." After we crawled into bed together, we fell into one of my favorite positions: my head on his chest and his arms around me. I couldn't hold back, "Hon, can we talk for a minute? I want to know what your thoughts are about the physical part, no damn it. When can we make love? I think I know why we are waiting… but I'm afraid the longer we wait the more nervous I'm going to be? I'm so good at over thinking things… I don't want this to become something for me to stew about." "Babe, I think we will know when the time is right. I can't explain better than that. I just want the first time to be special in some way. Don't think about it. Please Babe, trust me on this." "I love you. I just want you to know how much. I will try to be good, but when your boyfriend is the sexiest man around it's hard." "I can tell it's hard, against my leg." He chuckled. "Let's go to sleep and spend the day together tomorrow. Good Night, Babe." "Good night, Hon."
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  33. Colton held Parker’s sleeping form in his arms. He softly stroked his boy’s hair while he memorized every feature, every freckle and every pore. He always knew that Parker was his: his to protect and provide for. What he didn’t know was that smaller man was going to become everything to him, that he would steal his heart. Parker may not be pack yet, but Colton realized for the first time that he was Colton’s pack. They were a pack of two. * * * * Parker opened his eyes when he felt movement behind him. The musty smell hit him and he remembered that he was inside that old, dark cabin with Colton. The hint of pain around his asshole and the sticky wetness down there reminded him that he had just made love for the first time. He turned around to face his boyfriend. “Hi.” Colton smiled. “Hi yourself. We should get up and get going. I’d really like to take a walk around the woods if it’s not too muddy. If you don’t mind.” Parker nodded and leaned forward, demanding a kiss from Colton. Colton’s hand slid behind Parker’s head. His fingers tangled in Parker’s blond locks as he slanted his mouth and covered Parker’s. “Thank you, pup,” he whispered when he finally pulled away. “Thank you, Colton.” “I meant what I said. You’re mine now. You’ll have to kill me to get rid of me.” Parker laughed softly. “I can’t see that happening anytime soon. I would probably miss you.” “We better get up and get dressed. If you don’t get some clothes on, I’m gonna have to take you again.” “You don’t have to take it, Colton. I’ll give it to you whenever you want.” * * * * Colton’s eyes dilated as he was hit with a wave of lust. His cock stiffened even further. He ached to be inside his mate again. He moved on top of Parker, kneeling between his legs. Parker eagerly spread his legs wide, allowing Colton to slide forward and ease into him. Lube and semen eased the way for a quick and messy coupling. Colton gripped Parker’s waist, holding him in place. He stayed on his knees between Parker’s legs, thrusting his hips forward. Parker moaned as Colton stroked his prostate from inside his velvet soft walls. Parker’s pretty cock oozed pre-come onto his perfect belly. While holding Parker tight, he leaned forward and rolled onto his back. Parker settled on his knees, straddling Colton. He grabbed Colton’s dick, lifted up and sat back down on it. Parker let out a wanton moan as he started to move up and down. His moves were awkward and uneven at first, but he quickly figured out the rhythm. Yes, he was a fast learner. Colton grabbed Parker’s hips and held him in place, then thrust hard up into Parker’s body. Parker cried out in pleasure as his body shuddered. His dick lurched and dribbled pre-come into the hair on Colton’s abs. Yeah, even when Parker was on top, Colton needed to be in charge. He wasn’t even going to pretend otherwise. He held Parker and pounded his hips up into his boy, watching Parker’s swollen dick bob up and down each time he bottomed out. “Touch yourself, pup.” Parker reached down and grabbed his sticky dick. He stroked with Colton’s rhythm while feeling up the bigger man’s muscles with his other hand. “Colt. Feels so good…” Colton stared up at Parker with unabashed lust. His pup had his head thrown back, exposing the bruised spot at the curve of his neck. It called out to him, already dark purple from Colton’s earlier abuse. He was drawn to that spot. He knew that was where submissive werewolf mates were marked with a permanent bite scar. But Parker was human, he couldn’t be bitten. It was absolutely forbidden to bite a human. That didn’t mean that Colton couldn’t leave his mark there. He never let the hickeys fade and he liked seeing his teeth marks there. As long as he didn’t break the skin… Fuck. He had the overwhelming urge to sink his teeth into that spot, to pin Parker down to the bed with his teeth. Both sets of canine teeth erupted through his gums. He squeezed his eyes shut as they shifted. The need to bite Parker, to break his skin with his fangs, to make him submit was almost too strong. Colton gripped Parker and tossed him onto the bed on his back. Colton grabbed Parker’s ankles and pulled his legs apart and slammed his cock into him. He covered Parker’s body with his and clamped his mouth over the mating spot and sucked hard. He let his teeth graze, using every ounce of control to not clench his jaws. His mate whimpered and begged for him. “Please don’t stop. Harder.” Every time Colton bottomed out inside Parker, his little mate let out a whimper and tried to pull him in deeper. His pants and moans were getting louder and his ass was starting to spasm. Colton slammed his cock into Parker’s ass with a single purpose: to spill his seed inside his mate, to breed him and mark him with his wolf scent from the inside out. “Colton!” Parker’s sudden shout of his name broke Colton out of his trance. Parker’s ass clenched and milked Colton’s cock as he painted his belly with a second load of come. The sight and smell of his boy in orgasm was enough to trip Colton over the edge. He thrust hard and deep, and then for the second time, he shot his load deep inside Parker’s perfect ass, marking him from the inside as belonging only to Colton. Colton remained hard as steel. He could go another time, but he knew that his boy’s ass was likely sore. He slowly pulled back and his wet, sticky boner slapped against his belly. A flood of thick come slowly dripped out of Parker’s raw, reddened asshole. The sight was almost enough to make Colton shoot his load one more time. He took the head of his dick and rubbed it up Parker’s crack, scooping up the river of semen. He pushed the head of his cock back into Parker’s ass, pushing his come back where it belonged, before finally pulling out. Parker suddenly drew in a sharp breath. His eyes widened as he looked up at Colton. “We didn’t use condoms,” he worried. Colton gave him a reassuring smile. “It’s okay, pup. We don’t need them. I swear to you I don’t have any diseases. I would never put you at risk like that. I promise. If you’re worried, we’ll go get tested, both of us.” Parker looked at him for a moment and nodded with a smile. “Okay. I trust you, Colt.” * * * * Colton held Parker’s hand, their fingers interlaced together, as they finished their walk through the woods. He felt like everything was in place. He had finally made love with his mate. More than ever, he was absolutely positive that Parker was the one. His one. He looked down at Parker. Parker had a little smile on his beautiful face. He was practically glowing. He looked so innocent, so sweet. But Colton knew better. His pup was a little animal in the bedroom and he practically brought out the beast in Colton. Colton sniffed and a wolfish smile spread across his face. His pup’s sweet ass was filled with his come. Just the thought made his cock start to go hard again. He wanted to throw his head back and howl triumphantly. Colton couldn’t get human diseases, so he couldn’t transfer STDs to his pup. Luckily Parker didn’t push the condom usage. Colton had no intention of using a condom with his mate. “Hey, Colt?” Parker quietly interrupted his thoughts. “Yeah, pup?” “Do you think… Maybe we could come back here sometime?” “Sure. Anything you want, Parker.” “I wonder if that fireplace in the cabin works.” “We’ll give it a try next time.” “Maybe we could get some blankets and, you know…” “Make love in front of the fire?” Parker nodded, his cheeks turning pink. “Yeah. I know, it sounds…” Parker shrugged. “It sounds romantic. I’d be down with that.” “Okay. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone you’re a big, romantic softie.” Parker nudged Colton with his shoulder. “Only for you. Ain’t nothing too good for my pup.” Parker leaned against Colton’s arm as they walked. “Do you feel different?” Colton asked. “What do you mean?” “Different now that you’re not a virgin anymore. Do you have any regrets?” Parker stopped and made sure that Colton could see his eyes. “I have absolutely no regrets where you’re concerned. As far as feeling different… my butt hurts a little bit, but otherwise I feel great.” Colton threw his head back and laughed. He stole a quick kiss before they continued on. They arrived back at the main campground as Jed and Trey emerged from the woods, their shirts tucked into the backs of their muddy shorts. They were both fairly muddy. Jed even had mud caked in his thick chest hair. They were laughing and pushing each other, acting goofy. The grins on their faces showed that they were on a major high from their run and hunt in the woods. It gave Colton a warm feeling of contentment that his pack-mates were happy. Parker gasped next to him. “Are they…” His whispered voice trailed off. Colton looked down at Parker, who was staring at Jed and Trey with wide eyes. Colton looked back up at Trey and Jed. Realizing what Parker thought, he started to laugh loudly. He could understand how their touching and roughhousing might look to outsiders. Their kind was very tactile. “No, pup. First of all, Trey is straight. Second of all, he’s not Jed’s type.” Parker frowned. “Because Trey’s black?” “No. Jed wants to be the top dog, pun intended, and no way in hell would he submit to Trey.” Parker nodded his head at what Colton was telling him. They both wanted to be on top. He could understand that. Colton and his friends had very dominant personalities. Parker didn’t. Maybe that’s why he and Colton worked well together. Colton was the top dog. And Parker didn’t mind being his bottom. They walked over to Jed’s monster truck and joined the other two. “Have a good run?” Colton asked his two friends. “Yeah,” Trey nodded. “It was great. These woods are awesome.” “Told ya,” Jed said. “Go ahead and take shotgun,” Colt told Trey. Jed pulled open the back door of the truck and grabbed a bottle of water from the cooler. He tossed one to Trey, who held up his hand and snatched it in mid-air. Jed looked back at Parker and jerked his thumb towards the open door. “You need a lift up, pup?” Parker narrowed his eyes at Jed. “I’m not your pup and I can get in by myself, thank you.” Colton grinned. He liked it when his boy got feisty. Jed held his hands up. “Sorry. My mistake.” He then added in a baby-talk voice, “You’re just so widdle and cuuute.” When Jed reached out to pinch his cheek, Parker wasn’t having any of that. Parker slapped the hand away and glared at the big redneck. He pressed his index finger into Jed’s chest and poked hard at the mud caked there. “Little! Why you— Just because I’m not built like a mountain, doesn’t mean I’m little. And what’s up with this big ass truck anyway? Trying to compensate for something?” “I know you’ve checked me out in the showers. You know damn well I don’t need to compensate.” Jed grabbed his dick in his shorts, hefted it up and laughed. Colton had enough. He stepped in front of Jed and shoved him with his chest. “Back off. Show your cock to my boyfriend again, and I’ll rip it off and shove it up your ass.” “Jeez, man. Calm down. I was just playing.” “Play somewhere else.” Colton turned Jed around and shoved him towards the truck. “Damn,” Jed muttered to Trey. “For someone who just got laid, he sure is grouchy.” Colton ignored Jed’s comment since he knew that Parker didn’t hear it. He knew that his two friends might have heard him and Parker having sex on account of their sensitive hearing. Even if they didn’t hear, they could smell him all over Parker. He didn’t give a shit, so long as they didn’t tease Parker or make him uncomfortable about it. Colton turned around and gripped Parker by the waist and hefted him up into the truck. Parker grunted and looked back at his boyfriend with a piercing glare. “Didn’t I just say I could get in by myself?” Colton just grinned. He shut the door and walked around to the other side and climbed into the seat next to Parker. He pulled off his shirt and reached over and slapped Jed on the back of his head. “Let’s go, asswipe.” They sped back towards the city with the windows rolled down. They had to shout to hear each other over the wind, but it was freaking awesome. Almost as good as a nice long run in the woods. * * * * Parker looked over at Colton, staring at the hair on his chiseled chest and abs. His boyfriend was so damn sexy. The other three guys had their shirts off and were relaxing and enjoying themselves. Colton loved Parker’s chest and stomach, so why should he worry or feel modest? Parker grabbed the hem of his T-shirt, lifted it over his head, and dropped it on the seat. He got a nod from Trey and a thumbs-up from Jed, who spied him in the rear-view mirror. Parker grinned happily. For the first time in his life, he felt like he truly belonged. * * * * Colton felt his body heating and his cock hardening at the sight of Parker’s bared chest and belly. He wondered if Parker had any idea what that did to him. He gave the boy he loved a smile and received one in return.
    1 point
  34. “Hold on!” Jed shouted. Parker yelped as Jed’s monster four wheel truck hit a hole in the rutted two-track, sending him flying forward. He grabbed on to the seat belt shoulder strap with one hand and grabbed the headrest in front of him with the other. Jed let out a rebel yell as Colton and Trey cheered him on. Another bump had Parker screaming as he nearly hit the ceiling. When Colton suggested that Parker needed “bonding time” with Colton and his friends, Parker happily agreed. He was now regretting that decision. Parker and Colton had been dating seriously for almost four weeks now. They spent all of their spare time together. Parker felt a little guilty that Colton didn’t see his friends as often. He knew how close they were. He also felt guilt over not spending as much time with Shell, but Shell was dating Curtis hot and heavy now, so she wasn’t around as much either. The plan for today was to celebrate Trey receiving a full athletic scholarship to Tech. Parker thought they were going to go out to dinner, maybe a party. He didn’t know that their idea of bonding time was four-wheeling in the mud. It had rained hard last night, all night long. Everything was completely wet and muddy. Jed drove his truck like a mad man. There was so much mud on the windows, Parker didn’t know how the big lug could even see where they were going. Colton rode shotgun in the front passenger seat, with Parker directly behind him, in the back seat with Trey. The three jocks yelled and whooped every time Jed hit a bump. Jed did a donut, screeched the truck to a halt and gave a final rebel yell. As it came to a stop, Parker thought the truck was literally going to roll over. He clutched at his chest as he tried to calm his breathing. “Holy Jesus, I think I just crapped my pants!” The other three men laughed until they were in tears. “Let’s stretch our legs,” Colton said. He opened the truck door and jumped out. That was fine with Parker. Right now, getting out of that killer truck was more important than anything in the entire world. He unbuckled his seat belt and pushed open the door. He stepped on to the running board and lost his footing on the slippery mud-covered surface. With a startled yelp, he found himself flat on his back in a pool of bone-chilling cold mud. “Holy shit, are you okay, pup?” Colton asked as he crouched down. Parker wasn’t hurt, but he was totally humiliated. Jed and Trey stood by watching him, obviously trying not to laugh. His anger rose and he felt a stinging in his eyes as he tried to hold it together. He looked up at Colton. Colton looked down at him with concern. Not pity, not mockery. Colton reached out and brushed a blob of mud from Parker’s face, then cleared some away from his eye. His voice lowered to a whisper, “Even covered in mud, you’re fucking adorable, pup. Christ, you make me happy.” Parker nearly melted. How could he stay mad after hearing that? Colton looked up at his friends. “We’re gonna go down to the river and clean up.” He grabbed Parker’s hands and pulled him to his feet. “We’re gonna go for a run,” Jed said. “A hike. In the woods.” He and Trey turned and ran off towards the woods. Parker looked around and frowned. Jed’s 4x4 monster truck was completely caked with mud from top to bottom. It was sitting in an overgrown field of grass and mud. There was a fire pit and a rusted out barbecue grill nearby. Looking around, Parker noticed several other fire pits. Behind Colton sat a row of a dozen small run-down, boarded up log cabins. Half of them looked like they were ready to collapse in on themselves. There was one larger building off to the left at the end of the driveway that came up from the main road. Parker could hear the rush of the nearby river, which flowed behind the cabins. “Where are we?” Parker asked. “Camp Timber, just across the county border. Jed said it was abandoned years ago, but the woods and trails are awesome for four-wheeling and hiking and stuff.” “How did you guys find this place? Are we supposed to be here? We’re not gonna get in trouble for being here are we?” Colton just smiled and held out his hand. “C’mon.” Parker took it and followed Colton towards one of the cabins. His sneakers squished with every step and he was completely covered in goopy brown mud from his head to his feet. He tried to wipe his face, but it was useless. They walked past the cabin through the overgrown grass. Parker looked around his feet. “There aren’t any snakes around here, are there?” “Nah, probably not.” “‘Probably’ not?” Parker scooted closer to Colton, carefully scanning the ground with each step. He followed him between two of the cabins, down to the river bank. The river was wide enough at this point that Parker knew he could swim the width of it using a little effort. There was a busted up dock that was nothing more than a few scraps of wood. When the camp was in its prime, it was probably really nice. Now it was just kind of sad. Both teens stripped their clothes off and waded into the cold river. Parker looked around. The water level was higher than normal and seemed to be flowing fairly quickly. He was a good swimmer, but he imagined an undertow pulling him away. “Is it safe?” “It’s safe here. Just stay close to the shore.” They washed the mud away from their bodies and then rinsed their clothes out. The water was cold, but it felt good to have the mud cleaned away. “You’re not having fun, are you?” Colton asked as he and Parker laid their clothes on the remains of the wooden dock. Parker looked up. “No, I am,” he insisted. He clamped his jaw down when his teeth started to chatter. Now that he was only in the river up to his knees, the air around him made him even colder. He wrapped his arms around his body, trying not to shiver. His nipples were so hard they could probably cut glass. Parker openly stared at Colton’s naked body. His wide shoulders formed a V-shape to his narrow waist. Even in the cold air, his dick looked big. Parker looked down between his legs. It looked like his dick was trying crawl up into his body. Just great. He gave it a discreet tug, trying to make it look more presentable. Colton coughed, trying to hide a laugh, which Parker ignored. “So you’re really having fun? Honest?” Colton asked. “The truck was scary, but it was fun. But this is actually really nice. Good god, you’re hot.” Colton smirked and flexed his muscles, then wiggled his hips, making his cock slap against his thighs. He pulled Parker close and tried to warm him up with his hands. “I wanted to do something outside with you, in nature. I’m an outdoorsy kinda guy.” Parker leaned into Colton. The bigger boy radiated body heat that felt so damn good right now. “No, this is nice, Colt. Seriously.” “Are you sure? You seem a little distracted.” Parker let out a slow breath. “I didn’t get in,” Parker said quietly, looking away from Colton. Colton looked confused. “Didn’t get in what?” “I didn’t get into Tech. I got my rejection letter yesterday.” “Pup. Why didn’t you say anything?” Parker dropped his head onto Colton’s shoulder. “This was supposed to be about Trey. I didn’t want to ruin his day.” “So what are you gonna do?” “I don’t know. My dad is seriously pissed. He wanted me to go to Tech, since that’s where he went. He said he was really disappointed in me. He said I squandered the chances I was given. If I spent more time studying instead of ‘frogging around with you’….” Parker’s voice started to tremble. He closed his eyes, wanting to keep the tears at bay. It wasn’t so much that he didn’t get into the college that upset him. It was how his father reacted. His father barely paid attention to him before and now he was getting the silent treatment, along the added bonus of sighs and head shaking. Parker let out a deep breath. “Maybe I’ll get into State. I don’t know. I’m still waiting to hear from them. I don’t even know what I want to study. Hell, I don’t know if I even want to go to college. What about you?” “I’m not going to college. Jed either.” He thought for a moment. “I guess I’ll end up going wherever you go, pup.” “You… What?” “If you go to State, then I’ll just have to move there and get a job. I can’t be away from you, Parker.” Parker’s fears evaporated. The separation from Colton after graduation weighed heavily in the back of his mind. Looking at Colton, he could see that he had the same fears. The two smiled at each other. When Colton’s hard-on pushed into Parker’s stomach, his eyes widened. “You make me so fucking hard, pup,” Colton whispered. “I can’t help it.” They continued staring into each other’s eyes for a few moments longer. Parker saw the desire in Colton’s dark eyes like always, but there was something else. Parker knew that this was an important moment. He looked up towards the cabin and around at the woods before turning his attention back to Colton. “Will they be gone awhile?” “Mm-hmm.” “Maybe we could go back to the truck for a little bit?” Parker reached between their bodies and wrapped his fingers around Colton’s hard-on. He fisted the hot flesh, working the foreskin back and forth across the head, teasing the slit with his thumb. “Let’s see if we can’t find something a little better, with a little more room.” Colton slipped on his shoes but remained undressed. Parker followed Colton, loving the view of Colton’s broad back and his high and tight muscular ass. The two boys carried their clothes in their hands and walked up to the back of one of the cabins. Colton paused at the back door. He sniffed and listened at the door for a moment, then grabbed the door knob and gave the door a firm shove with his shoulder. The door jamb gave way easily. “Damn. You’re strong,” whispered Parker as his eyes traveled across the sinewy muscles of Colton’s back and shoulders. Colton peeked his head in and looked around before ushering Parker inside. The one room cabin had a living area with a fireplace, a tiny kitchenette and a small bathroom. Wooden planks were nailed over the windows, making it difficult to make out the details. The cabin was furnished, and the furniture was covered with canvas tarps. A layer of dust coated everything and Parker’s body was wracked with a series of sneezes. Colton walked to the window by the front door and yanked the boards off. Enough light streamed in through the dirty window panes that Parker could now see where he was going. He watched Colton pull the tarp off a small dining table, then lay his clothes out on the tabletop. Parker did the same. He then followed his boyfriend over to the bed. Colton pulled the canvas tarp away, revealing a bare mattress on a rickety wooden bed frame. “I know this isn’t very romantic, but…” He raised a brow, asking Parker for permission. “No, it’s fine.” Colton turned the canvas cover around so the clean side was up and then draped it over the mattress. He hurried back into the kitchen and rifled through his shorts. He came back with a small packet. He held it up for Parker to see. “Lube.” Parker smiled and blushed slightly. When Colton sucked him off, he liked to use spit soaked or lubed-up fingers on Parker’s ass. He had been preparing Parker to take his cock. Parker knew that today would be the day. And Colton knew it as well. He pressed his body to Colton’s bigger, warmer body and put his hands on Colton’s tight waist. Colton leaned down and kissed him, slow and tenderly at first, then harder and more passionately. As their kisses became deeper and more frantic, Colton pushed Parker backwards, lowering him onto the bed. The frame creaked under their combined weight. Colton sucked Parker’s neck, and then began sliding down his body, pressing kisses to smooth skin as he went. Parker closed his eyes and moaned, enjoying the sensations. Colton licked each of Parker’s nipples and then kept going. Parker ran his hands through Colton’s thick head of black hair. Colton kissed and bit all over his flat belly before moving further south. His tongue slid up and down Parker’s hard shaft. Parker gasped as his dick was enveloped by Colton’s hot sucking mouth. It was so wet and warm. A finger slid into the crack of Parker’s ass. It was wet and slippery, already coated with lube. The sensations sent waves of pleasure right into Parker’s core. He never imagined it would feel so good to be fingered, but it did every time. “Colton… I want more.” Looking Parker square in the eye, he asked, “You sure?” Parker nodded. Colton sat up and pulled Parker’s shoes off and dropped them onto the floor. He pushed Parker’s legs up and apart, rocking his hips back to expose the small, pink target. After swiping his fingers across his tongue, he then rubbed the spit soaked fingers around the rim of Parker’s ass. Colton laid down flat on the bed and spread Parker’s cheeks apart. His wet tongue slid across the puckered flesh, and Parker nearly leapt off the bed. “Colt!” Encouraged by Parker’s reaction, Colton ate his ass out like a wild man. Parker could only lay there and take it. Colton’s hand rubbed across his chest, and pinched a nipple. Parker moaned and writhed on the bed, wanting, needing more. He was on the verge of coming all over himself, when he finally had to push Colton’s head away. “Colton. Please. I want you.” “You got me,” he whispered. Parker lay flat on his back. He took a deep breath, then let it out slowly. “Relax, pup. Breathe.” His eyes slid shut as he continued to breathe calmly. Two thick fingers slowly pushed inside him, up to the first knuckle. They slid in easily with the lube, with only the slightest discomfort. Colton began slowly moving his fingers in and out and when he pushed it back in, he hit that spot inside Parker that had him gasping in pleasure, “Oh, Colt!” Colton was staring into Parker’s eyes and whispered, “There’s the spot. You like that, don’t you? Just imagine what it will feel like when it’s my cock hitting that spot.” When Parker’s entire body shuddered, Colton chuckled. He rubbed the spot again and again, making Parker moan and whimper as his body writhed against the bed. “Damn, pup. I could come just from those sounds you make. I don’t know how long I’m gonna be able to last.” He dripped some more lube, and then gently slipped in a third finger as he began slowly making love to Parker with his fingers, tapping his prostate with each stroke. It was uncomfortable for a few seconds, but Parker soon got used to it and was pushing back against Colton’s invading fingers, wanting more. Parker’s dick was starting to ache, needing direct stimulation. He didn’t dare touch it, because he knew it would go off immediately. Colton leaned over and kissed Parker and looked him in the eye. “I won’t hurt you, pup. I’d never hurt you.” “I know.” “It might be easier to take me on your stomach,” he said quietly. “But I want to see you when I take you. I want to see your face when I make you come with my cock.” Parker’s body reacted to Colton’s words with a jerk and a shudder. His cock pulsed and dribbled a drop of pre-come onto his belly. “Oh my god, I want that, too.” As Colton lifted Parker’s ankles onto his shoulders and leaned in, Parker placed his hands on Colton’s pec muscles. The tip of Colton’s dick found Parker’s hole, and Colton rubbed it back and forth, prodding and teasing. “Breathe slow and deep. Relax and push out, okay?” When Parker nodded, Colton slowly pushed his cock inside Parker’s ass. Parker drew in a sharp breath as Colton’s cock breached him. He expected it to hurt a lot more, but he wanted Colton inside him so bad, he didn’t care if he was feeling the burn. He grabbed Colton’s waist and pulled him closer. “Fuck me.” Colton’s eyes widened at Parker’s plea. “Fuck!” he grunted. He pulled out and gripped the base of his cock, but it was too late. His come shot out, covering Parker’s cock, balls and ass crack. “Oh my god,” Parker whimpered as the scalding hot liquid splattered across his balls and into the crack of his ass. “Jesus, pup. You’re so fucking hot, you make me lose control.” Watching Colton lose control was damn sexy. That he was so turned on he shot his load prematurely made Parker feel sexy himself. The fact that Colton’s cock was still hard was sexy as well. His man had stamina. Colton put the head of his still rock-hard dick back at the entrance to Parker’s body. The slime-covered head slowly pushed past the tight ring of muscle. “Breathe. Push out.” Parker took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then did it again. Within a few seconds the pain started to lessen. He opened his eyes to see Colton staring down at him. The look on his face was tender and caring, and it took Parker’s breath away. At that moment, he was utterly content. Colton had taken his rightful place on top of him, inside him. He loved the way Colton felt above him, the way he covered his body, surrounding him and protecting him. “Ready?” Colton asked. Parker nodded and Colton pushed in a little more, pausing every few seconds to allow Parker to adjust to his girth. “I’m all the way inside you, pup. You’re all mine now.” Parker was so caught up in Colton’s dark eyes, he didn’t even realize. He felt Colton’s pubic hair tickling him, and his heavy balls resting against his ass. His sphincter throbbed around the girth of Colton’s shaft. “I’ve always been yours.” Colton shifted slightly, making Parker grunt from the pressure. “Oh, damn you’re big, Colt.” “Fuck, you are so hot and tight. Your ass is squeezing my cock. You feel so fucking good…” They lay still for a moment. Parker could feel Colton’s girth throbbing inside him with every beat of the bigger man’s heart. Colton started to move. He slowly pulled out, nearly all the way, and then even more slowly pushed back in. Parker gasped and cried out his boyfriend’s name in surprise when that big dick hit his prostate and dragged across it. His fingernails dug into Colton’s skin as his back arched. “Do that again, right there. Move, Colt. Don’t stop, please, don't stop…” Colton let Parker’s legs down, and hooked the ankles around his butt and thighs. He began slowly making love to Parker. They both groaned and moaned as Colton’s hips sawed back and forth. Colton’s mouth was everywhere, sucking on Parker’s nipples, his collarbones and neck. “Oh god,” Parker moaned. “Why did we wait to do this?” He rubbed his hands all over Colton, feeling the power of his sinewy muscles. As he kissed Parker, sliding his tongue into his boy’s mouth, he picked up the pace and his thrusting became more intense. Every time Colton tapped Parker’s G-spot, he let out a little whimper. Parker gripped him tighter as he thrust. He could tell that Colton was holding back, trying not to thrust too hard, but Parker wanted it. He wanted all that Colton had; he didn’t want Colton to ever have to hold back with him. “I won’t break, Colt. Give it to me.” Colton shuddered and his thrusts quickened. He slammed into Parker, their thighs connecting with a slap. “Yes,” Parker moaned. His body trembled with need. “Harder.” “Take it,” he growled. “Take my cock.” The bed shook beneath them. The old frame rocked against the wall, keeping time with Colton’s punishing pace. Colton reached down and grabbed Parker’s chin, forcing him to look up into his eyes. “You’re mine, Parker Montgomery. Mine.” He pinned Parker down, and fucked him into the mattress. “Yes! Yours!” Parker cried, pushing back onto him, meeting his thrusts. He thrashed about on the bed underneath his big lover, his hands and feet digging into the muscles of that hard body. “Don’t stop,” Parker moaned. “Please.” “You beg so fucking good.” Parker’s groin tightened. The tingles spread and the pressure built. He cried out, “Colt! I think I’m gonna… You’re gonna make me… I’m gonna come! Don’t stop, don’t stop!” “Shoot it for me, Parker.” “Oh my god, Colt!” Parker screamed. His head slammed back against the mattress as he arched his back up. He clamped his ass muscles down around Colton’s thrusting cock. Colton’s mouth latched onto Parker’s exposed neck. He sucked hard at the base, pulling fresh blood to the surface, marking him for the world to see. A garbled shout spilled from Parker’s throat as his body contracted and released his load between their thrusting bodies. It was the most intense orgasm he’d ever experienced. As his pubic muscles pulsed with each shot, his sphincter contracted and milked Colton’s slamming cock. Colton let out a loud growl. His thrusts became erratic. “Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck, I’m gonna fucking come. I’m coming now!” He lifted onto his hands and arched his back. He threw his head back, and with a mighty roar, thrust one final time as hard as he could. His body shuddered and convulsed. Parker felt Colton expand inside him, then his thickness pulsed over and over. Parker felt the intense heat of Colton’s come, and it felt like he was being filled to capacity with molten-hot lava. Colton’s body jerked a couple of times as he gave a few final, weak thrusts. Colton’s arms buckled and he fell on top of Parker. He tried to lift up, to keep his entire weight off his smaller lover. Parker’s arms slid around Colton’s back and pulled him back down. “Stay. Colt… that was… oh my god,” Parker whispered. “Pup, you are fucking amazing. The best…” Colton’s body quivered and shuddered on top of him, his cock still buried deep inside Parker. Parker was no longer a virgin. He had given that gift to the man he was in love with. As he drifted off to sleep, a little voice in his head told him that the act wasn’t just about sex. He had set something in motion that would change his life forever…
    1 point
  35. “O.M.G! Tell me what happened!” Shell exclaimed as she flopped down onto Parker’s bed. She rolled onto her stomach and propped her chin on her hands, wearing a grin that could be seen from space. Parker put in the mix CD Shell had brought over, and then sat down on his bed, crossing his legs, Indian style. “Nothing, really.” “Liar.” Parker couldn’t help but blush a little bit. “Okay…” He knew Shell would get it out of him one way or another and he really was dying to tell someone. The whole story came pouring out in a single breath. “Seth and TJ started messing with me. I mean, they were going to kick my ass or worse. Next thing I knew, Trey and Colton appeared out of nowhere. Colton twisted TJ’s arm and snapped it. I mean, he literally snapped it. Broken bones sticking out, blood and everything. So gross. Trey punched Seth and gave him a fat lip. I’ve never been so scared in my life.” “Holy shit!” “I know right! I swear my life flashed before my eyes.” Shell rolled her eyes. “Girl, you are so damn dramatic.” “Don’t call me ‘girl’.” “So get to the good part already. Girl.” “That was the good part.” “Boy, I’m gonna slap the shit out of you. What happened after Colton drove you home?” Parker’s eyes flicked to the bedpost of his headboard where Colton’s blue flannel shirt hung. He had slept with it under his pillow last night, holding it so that he could smell it. God, he was pathetic. He turned his eyes back to Shell, and tried to shrug and be casual. “He took me home. We sat in the car for a little bit. He said he’d see me Monday to pick me up for school and that he was coming to my birthday party.” “Oh my god.” “I know.” Parker let out a little giggle. He clapped a hand over his mouth, embarrassed at having made the girly sound. “Parker’s got a boyfriend,” Shell said in a sing-songy voice. “Parker’s got a—” She suddenly sat up on her knees, face completely serious. She pointed her index finger at Parker. “Okay, hold up. You said you guys sat in the car for a little bit.” One eyebrow went up and she twirled her index finger at Parker. Parker rolled his eyes. “You don’t miss a thing, do you?” “Hell, no! I want details, boy. So, is he a good kisser? Is he packing or what?” she asked. She held her index fingers together and then slowly spread them apart a few inches. “Here?” When Parker didn’t say anything, her eyebrows shot up and she moved her fingers wider apart. “Here?” “Oh my god!” Parker exclaimed, slapping at her hands. “Stop being so nasty. We just kissed is all,” Parker muttered, his face going completely red. He subconsciously rubbed the base of his neck, where Colton had marked him. Shell gasped and jerked at Parker’s shirt collar, exposing the huge hickey there. “You are a first class hussy!” Parker deadpanned, “Not yet, but I’m gonna be very soon.” They both started to laugh uncontrollably, and flopped down onto the bed in a fit of giggles. Once they stopped laughing, Shell lowered her voice to a whisper. “So, you have protection right?” Parker furrowed his brows. “He’s just picking me up for school. I don’t think we’ll be needing that.” She didn’t look convinced. “Mm-hmm.” “Okay, well give me one just in case,” he said, holding out his hand. Shell slapped Parker’s hand away. “Boy, you think I’m some kind of ho who carries condoms around in her pocket?” Parker cradled his hand against his chest. “Ow. You’re the one who brought it up. Whatever. Anyway, I don’t think I’m really into, you know, the butt sex.” Shell reached out and clasped Parker’s hand, her voice dead serious. “Please, I beg you to never say ‘butt sex’ ever again. Especially to Colton. You must promise me this.” Parker yanked his hand away. “Remind me again why I like you?” Shell grinned. “You know you love me, boo. Now, more importantly: what are you going to wear on Monday?” * * * * Colton arrived with his father to the Alpha’s home. The Alpha’s mini-mansion was set on a multi-acre plot of land at the edge of the forest just outside the city. The back yard was plenty big enough for the pack gatherings, and with the forest right there, running and hunting was always allowed and encouraged after the meeting. People mingled around the back yard, talking and grazing on the plentiful food. The smell of the meat on the barbecue grills permeated the air. Colton normally would be fixing a plate and mingling himself, but today his mind was elsewhere: on his boy. He wondered what Parker was doing. If he didn’t have the weekly pack meeting, he would have called Parker and found a way to spend the day with him. Sure, he had an image to maintain as an aloof alpha dog – pun intended – but the fact was that he was tired of waiting. He didn’t have time for these bullshit games the other high school kids liked to play. There were nearly a hundred wolves in the Forest View Pack and most of them had already arrived. “Deputy Butler,” one of the women greeted Colton’s father with a smile. “It’s nice to see you again.” “Now, didn’t I tell you to call me Carlton?” he replied with a charming smile as he placed a hand on her shoulder. Colton didn’t have the stomach to watch his dad try to flirt. He scanned the crowd until he found Jed. His friend was with his parents, his sister and his hundred brothers. Okay, so there were only four other brothers, but damn, six kids was way too many. Jed’s dad stood out in the crowd, standing a head taller than the people around him. He was one of the pack enforcers. He kept the other wolves in line, plus acted as a bodyguard; he was fiercely loyal and always had the Alpha’s back. Jed inherited the same mentality as his dad. In a way, Colton was the alpha of their small group and Jed naturally fell in line as his enforcer. In the same manner, Trey was like his beta. He was his most trusted advisor. He never failed to back Colton up, but he also gave Colton advice when he thought it was needed. They were like a mini pack inside the big pack. The only thing missing was Colton’s mate. But Colton had let his intentions be known. Parker belonged to him and now his pup knew it. And soon everyone else would know it. Jed nodded at Colton and Colton made his way over, joined by Trey. Trey and Colton tapped fists, then did the same with Jed. Colton spotted Seth talking with a couple of his goons. Seth looked back and engaged in a staring contest. Colton sneered. He didn’t even care that the Alpha was starting the meeting. He kept his eyes on Seth, not blinking even once. After a few long, intense moments, Seth finally backed down and looked away. Like always. Pussy. With a satisfied grin on his face, Colton turned his attentions to the Alpha while he gave his weekly update. He even managed to keep his mind on what the leader was saying instead of Parker. Once Alpha finished, Jed and Trey followed Colton to grab a plateful of food. After they had their fill, Colton decided he needed to relax and, other than getting laid, there was one foolproof way of doing that. “C’mon. Let’s run.” The trio walked over to the treeline and stripped off their clothes. Colton watched the big brown wolf and the massive auburn-brown wolf playfully nip at each other, then wrestle around on the ground. He let out a low growl and nodded his head. The other two quickly snapped to attention, their eyes on the black wolf, ears twitching, waiting for instruction. Colton turned and took off into the woods. The other two took chase, flanking him as usual, as they ran at top speed. The razor sharp claws on his huge paws dug into the earth, propelling him deeper into the woods. Colton breathed in the forest air, crisp and fresh. The distant scent of prey wafted across his snout and he turned direction. Jed and Trey turned with him, perfectly in tune with their leader. Jed and Trey boxed in the small buck and Colton made the kill. He snapped the deer’s neck with his jaws, making the kill quick and painless for the animal. The trio of wolves gnawed on the deer until they were stuffed. Colton closed his eyes and breathed in deep. He felt free, at one with nature. He felt powerful. He looked at his pack-mates, his brothers, and felt a sense of belonging he never felt with his old pack. Yes, this was exactly where he belonged. And once he had Parker by his side, he would only grow stronger and more powerful. Life was good. Colton tilted back his head and let out a howl. His brothers joined in and the sounds of their celebration of life echoed through the forest.
    1 point
  36. Alex would say definitively that Frank was short—just to piss him off mostly—anything to get Frank’s auburn eyes to arc a hard and pretty left was always a win. In middle school, Alex tried to console Frank about his height with a tale of the little emperor Napoleon Bonaparte rampaging through Europe, to which Frank replied, “Who’s Napoleon?” And that was the start of a friendship. Several times, Alex thought he would never get to see Frank’s horrid bowl haircut again, like on the last day of their sophomore year of high school when Alex blurted he was gay. He could still remember the sensation of pebbles rumbling in his throat as he floated away from the lobby and lost himself in the parking lot. He had thought the reveal would lead to a long exhausting summer, and hopefully in the fall, Frank would have gotten over hatred and settled into a cool disregard. But three weeks into the summer at Manhattan Beach, he ran into Frank, sporting a surfboard, a bronze hard torso, and a girl in a swimsuit made of strings. Frank’s cheeks rounded into fleshy rumps, and his eyes sparked lively and exciting, as he crowed about his new girl, his new pecs, his surfboard. All the while, Alex was gulping down boulders. The girl skipped ahead into the waves, and there proceeded a distinct changed in Frank’s mien. A hand went to chin, setting up a stance for a serious pose—this Alex always found ridiculous from the wannabe Napoleon. Frank had asked, “So, who’s looking hot this summer?” Alex thought it was another Frank’s miserable jokes, but there was his eyes drilling him down. Frank complained, “Fuck, I tell you everything, and I know nothing about you.” Alex softened enough to give a list of jocks, to which Frank exclaimed. “God, you’re cliché. Is there guy you have a real chance of fucking?” “You only want to nail porn stars and women who are too tall for you,” Alex retorted. “Sandy,” Frank pointed the girl kneeling into the water, “Is shorter than me… Give me someone real here. Fuck, I even told you about the fat chick I wanted to nail in seventh grade. Why did I fucking tell you that again?” Why indeed? Alex remembered his body buoyed lighter with every roar of the ocean waves, its rolling chariot of foam, and Sandy, askew in it, slanted into it, delighted with it, and then the half smile on Frank’s face and his realization that by the summer’s end, Frank was so not going to get to third base with Sandy. He knew Frank. His ridiculous goals, like how he wanted to ride every bus on the LA metro. The incessant preening on his bicep width and his perfect commanding look like Napoleon. And the refining and ruminating on the machine specs of a bottle rocket. He knew Frank. How his black hair would bunch up around his large ears. Or the triple of prominent pimples on his left cheek that never would never go away despite Frank’s concoction of potions. Frank said, “Some guy came onto me the other day in the gym. Looked a little like you.” “Great, all gay men looked like me now.” “He was a red head, and all curly hair like yours,” His voice was balled up in defensive hurt. “But taller, bigger, and a smarmy greasy fuck.” “So what if it had been me?” Alex blurted. Alex remembered not waiting for a reply, perhaps walking away furiously, he couldn’t not recall. But he did remember feeling as if he were swimming on the sand, the sand itching his toes, his fingers grimy with the dusty sand, and he growling rabidly against the idea of a beach. But Frank flagged him down, stopped in front him, his eyes quivering. “Wait, you don’t—” “Of course not!” Later, Alex begged his parents to spend the rest of summer with his grandparents in Phoenix. He claimed the 110 degree heat would be good for his moral fiber. And now, they had just arrived from Vegas, parked in front of the black pole of Alex’s mailbox. It was twelve noon, exhaustingly and depressingly late for Alex, but Frank did not give a fuck. The radio was pouring verses about bitches and hoes. Alex stole a glance at Frank’s hair still black and limp over the ears and the veined forearm crowning the steering wheel. They were still together, at least for the next nine weeks. Straggling down again those worn steps of gloom, Alex proceeded to count the money to pay for his share of the travel expenses. There was a tired groan from Frank. “I can’t believe you held us up for dick.” A delightful look spread over Alex’s face, already a rose of warmth. Dimov, tall, hard and tense at his armchair came back to him, his mien, tight, stony, but with occasional twists of hurt. He had stolen the pot from him, unnerved him, felt him up, and left him panting. Alex was smiling rashly now. “I couldn’t pass up someone taller than you Throwing his head back, Frank scoffed. “Was I the only one who didn’t get laid this weekend?” “Pro’lly,” Alex said, still absentminded, “You and Janet.” There was a low sigh from Frank, and in it the languorous tones, the dramatic history of the on and off again Frank and Janet. Frank snorted, grimaced. Fringes of hair covered messily over his eyes. “Fuck what did I do? How’s it still my fault after four months?” Frank hissed through clenched teeth. “I think she’s seeing someone anyway.” Alex counted again the wad of a hundred dollar bills. “Don’t care. Don’t give a fuck. Just make up with her already.” “Christ! You’re the manwhore, but I’m the bad guy.” Alex raised cold eyes to him. “I’m not sleeping with your friends.” “The fuck does it matter anyway?” Frank pumped on the steering wheel. “We are graduating. Janet says something about Korea … Korea, what the fuck is in Korea? And Tom and Pete are—” “Really don’t want to hear about Tom and Pete.” The memory of Pete’s whiny drunken voice ruffled Alex so much he forgot how much money he had counted. “They don’t get to say shit about you because of me.” Frank laughed, looking away from Alex. “I don’t give a shit. And so you shouldn’t.” Alex’s stare roved over Frank’s chest, a solid slab in royal blue cotton, tall against his seat, and up to the eyes dimming, seeking his acquiescence. Sometimes, Alex thought, there was one last hidden lever to pull, one more knob to push before Frank would lean over and press his forehead against his. Maybe. There was an indistinct groan from him or Frank. Letting dreams go, Alex handed over the bills to Frank who promptly waved it back to him. “I got this,” Frank said. “Aww, if only I could flash my titties for you …” “Think of it as my good luck to your interview tomorrow.” “Ooh thanks. I’m gunning for this one.” Alex was gathering his bag pack now. “It’s ideal, close by in Santa Monica.” “This the boutique trading firm in Santa Monica? What happened to Wall Street?” Cascading down the flights of remonstrations, Alex wrestled with straps of his bag while his eyes were roaming from mailbox to mailbox in the cul de sac. His hands slackened when he noticed the sea blue trashcan behind a parked car in his garage. Guilt rushed in with the vague thought that his mother, Susan, may have stayed home all weekend. He brooded. “I prefer the sun, fake titties and fake pecs.” “You have to get wake up at what? Three or four in the morning to trade on New York time?” “This isn’t a finance job. That interview is in another few weeks. This one is some big data gig. Data mining, machine learning and shit.” Frank drew back with a hum of puzzlement. “I don’t get it.” Alex opened the door hurriedly, refusing to glean concern or worry from Frank’s tone. It could be mean anything, and everything, but an invisible line corralled their friendship and kept it alive, tense, fun, secure. To look for signs or something more would destroy the tender shoot of it. Alex waved him off, and soon the flashy red cocoon of the German import car was at the end of the street, and then panic, expanding and sweeping, wracked up his spine. They would be graduating. Frank would be off to the land of dumb blondes and high rollers, and he would be stuck in Irvine. Frank, yeah Frank. Through sentiments of pathetic loss, Alex directed himself and found himself at his mailbox, hoping for an empty hull. His senses circled distressingly with the whorls of colorful junkmail packed tightly in the mailbox. Why had he been hopeful at all? Of course, Susan had not left home all weekend, possibly all week. She had taken over a corner of the living room, limp upon a paisley-upholstered sofa, like an old decaying oak. Her eyes were pinched small behind narrow glasses as she struggled with a needle through a patchwork quilt. Alex dumped his bag pack on adjacent couch, and already his mind was tearing apart over things he shouldn’t have done. He shouldn’t have angrily agreed to go Vegas just because Frank’s phone call kept interrupting Steve blowing him. Definitely shouldn’t have insisted with Dimov if it meant returning home twelve hours too late. Eventually in the barrage of shoulda’s, woulda’s, coulda’s, Alex’s cheeks and fingers relaxed, his pose straightened a little taller, but his eyes still looked bleary. “You said, you’d be back last night,” she said, not looking up. “Yeah. Things happened.” He could explain Dimov, but she would frown on his loose ways. Maybe explain roaming the nether regions of Nevada to buy for fireworks at one in the morning, and then roaming again for the whorehouse that would satisfy Pete’s particular specifications of ‘young but not too young looking. Cute, but good hips. No yellow teeth.’ And then the fight that ensued when Janet demanded Tom and Pete choose between hookers and fireworks, but not both. And Pete grumbling that Frank preferred to spend a couple hundred dollars on fireworks instead of hookers, and Tom insinuating that it was because Frank was faggy hot on Alex. Alex blowing up and calling him a deranged dickhead was unfortunate, as was Janet whining about too much testosterone for her poor nerves. But Alex would dare explain that to Susan? There would be nothing for her to approve of, much less laugh at. “How much money did you lose?” she asked. “I won a bunch.” “And then you go right and lose another bunch next time.” She fought with a needle into the quilt, her lips tightened. “You’d follow Frank right off the edge of a cliff.” Alex held his breadth a moment and then sat on the coffee table across from her. “Mom, I’d follow a boy with dimples off a cliff, not Frank.” Alex raised a section of the quilt and could appreciate its intricateness even though he could not understand what would possess anyone to waste time poking holes and needling threads. “While I was having fun winning money, what did you do?” Alex asked. “Having fun not wasting money.” Alex thought he should be more polite. “How was the art festival?” “Got a blinding headache, had to pass” Alex struggled to not to stir at her “headaches.” Something was definitely wrong with her. Perhaps lupus or fibromyalgia, but a thousand visits to doctors could not ascertain. And in the mean time, she was getting heavier, looking puffier, his fingers and toes looking more edematous, life slowly was squeezing out of her. Alex blamed the divorce four years ago, but it was hard to keep believing that. Alex dropped the quilt and looked into the revolting sterility of the kitchen. “Have you had breakfast yet? I’m feeling rich enough to get us brunch.” “Thanks, but I have to finish this.” Red hair tinted with grey pasted her damp temple, lending her the look of a tired hen. “These finance jobs you’re interviewing for … can’t you find something more productive?” Her voice rose, leaving Alex low and ruffled. “I could say the same thing to you being unproductive. Instead of sitting alone, cooped up in the dark, why don’t you go out and run soup kitchens?” Her eyes shriveled tight behind her spectacles. Already guilt was puckering at Alex. He went for a gentler tone. “We’ve gone through this about productivity. You won’t be having that nice pension if not for the liquidity that—” “You wanted to apply to med school. What happened to do that?” “I changed my mind. Can’t I change my mind?” “Look here Frederick …” Alex bent his head over his knees and prepared for the lecture that always followed his mother’s croons of ‘Frederick.” “Frank’s family is old money. His grandfather was rich, his father is rich and he will be rich. You won’t be like him. You’ll be never like him. So why are you letting yourself get mixed up in his crazy ideas? He can afford to be careless and stupid about money and career choices. You can’t. You certainly can’t afford to be as debauched as he is.” Susan took a moment to rub her eyes. “You’re smart. You’re own person. You should do what brings value to you and to others.” Alex remembered his father sitting right where his mother was sitting, giving another kind of lecture, the man lecture, the lecture about his responsibility to keep house safe and strong, how no amount of gay preening would change that, how he should listen to his mother because she understood more than he would ever know. He also remembered few months later judging his father a hypocrital twat who divorced his mother for a young, but admittedly lovely girl. Now his mother, he looked to the eyes that was his eyes, and the hair that was his hair … the woman who birthed him didn’t understand a bone in his body. He straightened up and armed himself with a smile. “I hear you, Mom. This interview isn’t for a finance job. More computer sciency. And it’s based in Santa Monica too, so I don’t have to move. Commuting’s a bit of a stretch though.” She looked adoringly at the trapezoidal shapes puckering the quilt, and a smile was curving her lips now. “Well then.” Alex nodded. “I was going to make some eggs, you want some?” “Wouldn’t mind a bite of yours.” Alex palmed her knee affectionately. “Eggs coming up.” The kitchen looked revoltingly sterile, the enamel white of the stove, the silvery shine of the sink and the tiles smoothly blue, and the floors cold and clean. Alex did not want to think that Susan may have not eaten for a couple days. He concentrated on milky froth of the eggs, the gritty gold of the butter clarifying in the frying pan then checked impatiently the messages on his cellphones. Some lovers, some study mates, Janet apologizing for being a bitch the other day. Dimov had not called. But of course Dimov would not call him back, and that was all right with him. He had got what he wanted out of the encounter: cost-free sex, the opportunity to see hard-seeming man fall flat and hard, and finally a sense of control, albeit fleeting, some control over the freewheeling cage of his life.
    1 point
  37. "We are going to Vegas," Charles had demanded majestically, and before Dimov could waffle about the cost and inconvenience, Charles booked the Premier Aurora room with double queen beds (What nonsense about separate rooms). However, their roommate, Glenda, hovered sulkily around them, lamenting the Universe’s bad graces in denying her a chorus part at the LA Opera. Charles, grunting of his good graces much grander than the Universe’s, demanded she come along. And there remained the perplexing problem of two beds, three people (Goodness, who will sleep with whom?). That was easily solved. The Universe be praised. One king-sized bed, three people, and a lovely old time. Dimov spent day one of the Vegas outing indoors on the poker floor. Now he was alone in the hotel room, unbuttoning his shirt, slugging across the grainy carpet. The bold linked motifs on the floor, he thought and would never say to Charles, repellant, as well as the bold green and cream swathes over the walls. The bed, admittedly, looked kingly and promised dreamy sleep among the starry sheets, but with three to a bed and Glenda’s guttural snoring, dreamy sleep felt like drunken boxing in a sleeping bag. The air conditioning kicked up a gear of lethargic activity. Dimov fell into the bed, into the grey shimmery sheets, and thought it better to claim the good hours of lonely sleep rather than return sheepishly to Charles. He might have to apologize about his grouchiness earlier. But why should he? He put his weekend on hold and—something itched in his throat; stray cords splintered in his chest—and Charles was leaving for Phila-fucking-delphia. In his heart opened the creaky door to a stairwell descending into the dank, musty dark. It jarred and shocked him to bounding to bedtime plans. But there was a knock, a strong double knock that augured unrest. “You lied about the wife,” Alex announced himself. Dimov’s hands hardened over the door handle. Alex leaned in, returned Dimov’s narrow grizzly glare with a pawky grin. The elevators dinged, murmurs surfaced from the beyond the hallway, and then their silence of apprehensive stares. As if to concede, Alex straightened back but his hand brushed lazily over his fly and up the excruciating roughness of his baseball jacket to his wet lips. “I overheard you and … Charley,” he said. “It’s poker. Everyone lies. Everyone makes false promises.” “I don’t make false promises.” Alex looked over Dimov’s thinning lips and down the island of his chest peeking from the half-unbuttoned shirt, and then ruminated on the belt and its tight looking buckle. He glided back to Dimov’s eyes, still hard, still blank. Alex defaulted to easiness. “Let me buy you a drink.” “I don’t drink.” “You lying again?” “Dimi!” Dimov saw Charles calling all way from the elevators, and the full-bodied Glenda in a velvet tracksuit shuffled heavily from behind him. “You’re supposed to be sleeping,” she said, smiling like she was onto a secret stash of bonbons. Charles’ eyes flicked between Alex’s red hair and Dimov’s tightening face. Dimov blurted, “He was about to le—” Alex leaned forward and extended his arm to Glenda. “Alex. Nice to meet you. Dimov invited me over for a drink.” “A drink?” Charles dialed his hazel eyes onto Alex’s reddening face, but before he could say anything, Glenda corralled Alex’s arm and pulled him inside the room. “You, my dear, are really special. Dimov’s a bad, bad Russian. Drinks only on special occasions.” “Ukrainian,” Dimov emphasized and then settled himself on an armchair and began buttoning up his shirt with particular sourness. Unmindful of Dimov’s cloudiness, Charles dropped himself by Dimov’s and inserted himself rather jerkily on the Dimov’s armrest. Dimov kept by his stoniness while Charles had warm but worried look in his eyes as he stroked the short tufts of Dimov’s hair. “The bulky manly Ukrainian who burnt his suit.” He was cutting. Dimov colored and suppressed the bead of a memory of his first meeting with Charles, the room service boy. Then he had been, as Charles would say, a twenty-one year old with a frowning problem. If he must, he could dredge up the sepia aura of the hotel room, or the image of the carbon-hard gauze embossed on the suit breast pocket, or the alienating New York skyline, dark and discomforting, or that he had an eight AM interview at a finance firm the next day. If Dimov must remember, he would remember; but these days, the exuberant can-do Charles with hair of stiff peaks was all he could conjure of that night. The man had saved him, and now the man was leaving him. Dimov cradled his head and the hurt simmering in it. Charles moved his head about like cat playing with a spool of yarn. He caught Dimov’s eye and motioned slyly to Alex feeling the softness of the bed, “You managed a cute one.” Dimov sank back in his chair, tense with hurt. But Charles, still unmindful, gave a final ruffle of Dimov’s hair before moving off the chair for his suitcase on the bed. Unengaged on the bed, Alex began rubbing his knuckle against his lips like he would rather be stroking something else. The wall mirror beside him was reflecting a single bed and its ruffles and folds of ruined sheets, Charles, prancing about the bed, undecided over the glimmering grey shirt or the glimmering black shirt and Glenda laying out her makeup case from her suitcase. “The universe is so good and amazing today,” she frittered with glee then flurried into the bathroom to change. With the door bang still ringing, Dimov looked over to Charles to explain what good news of no significance he had missed. Charles cooed, “She got herself a opera audition for the Orange County opera.” “Orange County?” Alex bristled with an urge to divulge his personal details. But before Charles could answer, Glenda emerged again, the frills of her blouse generous over her bosom, a lipstick like a baton in her left hand. The moment became pregnant with compliments that should be said. “Oh dear, please take a seat. We’ll be out of you boys’ way in no time.” She towed Alex away from the mirror and sat him at the corner of the bed closest to Dimov. While Charles disappeared into the bathroom, her woody flowery scent blossomed in the space between them. Dimov kept his eye on Charles still indecisive over shirts. Alex crossed his legs, smiling and whittling away under the spectacles of Glenda’s twinkling eyes. “So,” she began, applying lipstick while watching herself in the mirror, “Where you from, Sunshine?” “Los Angeles,” Alex said. “Really? Amazing how the Universe is good and amazing today. We all live in a West Hollywood. Dimov’s our kind and benevolent landlord.” “Kind … I need proof of that.” Alex gave Dimov a daring smirk. “Posh! Dimov’s a squeeze.” She rubbed her lips to smear tamarind-red lipstick. “Just talk about poker and pot odds and see him squee like a girl.” “Dimov squeeing like a girl, that’s something to see.” Alex nodded knowingly. With Glenda’s face to the mirror, Alex was amused with Dimov persevering in his flinty air, rolling his lips at the closed bathroom door. Then Charles came out of the bathroom looking quite squat in a sequined green shirt. “What exactly is that?” Dimov asked coldly. “It makes a statement.” “I like it,” Glenda chirped. Charles shifted onto Alex, eyes swimmingly curious. It was not quite clear if he was waiting for his approval, but he threw his head back to Dimov. “What happened to being tired and hated a four-way?” Dimov’s mouth hardened at the corners. “We are not—” “Glenda,” Alex interrupted, “I live in Irvine, actually. Going to graduate from UCI in a few months.” “Irvine?” Charles settled on the glimmering gray shirt on the bed and just before he entered bathroom to change, he said, “Cars are more important than people over there.” “It’s not that bad. Good Chinese food nearby. Lots and lots of parking space … Not bad.” “Parking space, the one good thing about Irvine.” Charles had changed into the grey shirt but looked vaguely satisfied over his slightly plump belly. “I liked the green shirt.” “And you may wear what you want,” Dimov growled tiredly. “Would you all of you get going? I’m going to bed.” “Oh not yet,” Alex quipped. Charles pushed forward excitedly, like an ever-grateful grandmother, took hold of Alex hand and shook it gleefully. “Yes, please punish him for me.” “I’ll see what I can do.” Dimov tsk-ed. He persevered his stares straight ahead at the tiled shine emanating from the open bathroom. The room felt damp and hot even with the low groan of the air conditioning. Perhaps it was the hot air about the good graces of the Universe to blame, Dimov did not deign to ask. It was enough trouble finding the right label for the intruder. Money did strange things to people. Cry when they meant to laugh. Laugh when they meant to frown, curse, cheat, praise. Money didn’t bring Alex in here? Alex looked unpolished, relaxed enough in his baseball jacket; nothing seemed artificial about him, except perhaps his forwardness, which Dimov, now scrutinizing the face that was in desperate need of a shave, decided he did not care for. Glenda chirped, “Alex make him come dancing.” “All of you, just go already.” With that Dimov admitted to himself that he was tense, and about nothing important either. Worrying if your opponent had just made a flush draw was a more important and a better reason to feel nervous. Alex, again with the honest eyes, headed him the tight smile known to neer-do-wells. Dimov looked away too quickly, quite liked to see Glenda calmly strapping on her pumps but the tension rilling his pores, tunneling through his veins was still unpleasant. There was just one way to deal with it: buckling the winner punk underneath him and doing what he alone wanted. “Lady, you take too long.” Charles pulled Glenda off the bed, hooked his arm into hers, and dragged her to the door. The door shut quietly but firmly, and then the room and its walls enclosing wood-stained hues swelled wide and wobbled in Dimov’s eyes, enforcing a tight sense of pressure. Back straight, hands in his jacket pockets, Alex grinned valiantly. “Your tenants look like fun to control.” “They pay the rent eventually.” Dimov calculated the precise cut the intruder needed. “Alex, you are—” Alex jumped up from the bed and gathered his bag pack. “It’s getting late.” Folding a knee to himself, Dimov loosened, a little relieved, a little grateful. But Alex sidled up to his armrest, causing his pulse to flare, but upon seeing the sleeved arm extend to him for handshake, Dimov perspired coldly under his arms. “It was fun meeting up close in person,” Alex said. The handshake was secure and firm, like what Dimov thought of Charles on their first meeting, secure, firm, like Alex’s smile unzipping a ledge of yellowed whites. Alex made for the door. The incandescent light filtered over the cropped curls like truncated snail shells of auburn hair. His baseball jacket puffed at the waist, giving an unflattering short impression of his height. Dimov estimated perhaps he could be one head shorter than him. And in thinking about it blandly, he had not been accurately aware of Alex all along. The boy was ebullient, forthright, but nothing physical of him piqued in his awareness. “I should offer you a drink …” Dimov shifted in his chair and surveyed the disorder of opened suitcases on the bed. “Charley has vodka around here somewhere to annoy me.” Alex refrained from opening the door, but Dimov did not expect the face, again, like at the poker table, assured of its seventy three hundred windfall, or the pounding strides across the room and back to his feet. Eyes cool and insistent, Alex knelt before him; Dimov was instantly drained of all feeling. Kick away, move into the eyes? Alex reached for his waist, and suddenly, Dimov held back the hand strongly, catching Alex with a sneer. Alex strove against the brace, driving Dimov to grip him by his nape and pull back his face. “You’re cocky, you know that?” Dimov wanted to end it and say “and that’s why I don’t like you,” but the upward profile of the neck glistening with sweat, open view of the tongue soft and steaming and the eyes glaring even in surrender … the kiss was a collision, long anticipated, yet unstoppable. Teeth hit against teeth, tongue lanced against tongue. His vehemence, his contempt at losing against him twice now, Dimov forced it down his throat. Alex’s hands were palming his tightening hardness, and he let go and let him taste his victory. It was strange, frightening, exhilarating. The room had become a shattered mirror of images, the dark-stained headboard, the glazed blankness of the television, the all-too-white sheen from the bathroom door ajar. It was his luck, perhaps his bad luck because Charles and Glenda would gibber about it ceaselessly; and luck that could not be managed with money, luck all the same that gifted him the hands impatiently zipping his fly. Space seeped into a blur, but the door handle shone like a beacon in the gathering mist of the room. His fingers tingled brightly as a wet warmth slipped over him. The whorls of auburn hair on Alex’s head sliding in and out, in and out. Dimov held back a smile at Alex’s mouth full of him, thick with him, lovely, efficient, desperately efficient. To stop from buckling, he gripped the armrests, and still the hungry slurping noises encouraging him to rock away. An ache grew wild down the edge of his tailbone. Dimov clasped the damp head, ground his teeth down the floor of his mouth. Then it came on a flood and drowned him beneath the lake of his own undoing. Alex looked back at him, rabid, a pearl dotting the corner of lips; and Dimov was overcome with need. Without hesitation, he shifted down onto the floor and pulled Alex to himself. Alex was furious with his erection, Dimov furious with kisses down the line of his neck. He buried his nose into the nook of his ear, the salty sweat, the cheap soap, the smells cascading. With an airy grunt, Alex convulsed back into the nook of his shoulder and then lacteal trail seeping into jeans fabric of his lap. A moment rested with waning breaths and heartbeats. Alex turned dreamily into his cold damp cheek. “Thanks, Baby. But you really didn’t have to.” Baby? Dimov inwardly bristled, reminding himself that this was a one-time only happenstance. “Shit.” Alex forced his vibrating cellphone from his pocket and answered quickly. “Yeah, yeah. I’ll be there, I’ll be there … we’re still leaving tonight.” Cellphone held in between ear and shoulder, Alex hopped about madly to zip up his fly then picked up Glenda’s lipstick on the bed and scribbled his number on the mirror hanging. The great red “Call me! Got to go,” rattled with the eventual door bang. The soft lamp light bathing his perspiring cheek, Dimov was left with the overwhelming sense of having seen a whirlwind uproot trees, collide vehicles, and yet leaving him unscathed. He still did not like Alex, and even so chaos tore within. Chaos and need.
    1 point
  38. The casino was a riot of iniquity: laughing, tinkling, groaning, drinking, and then the zings of slots machines and the riffling of cards. At the poker table blessed with light and the shine of a perky dealer, three men were hard and dim over their duo of cards. It was nine p.m., and the pot stood at four thousand dollars. The dealer turned the fourth street. At the early position, a player twirled a chip with his left fingers against the velvet-lined table. A triangular patch of chest hair peeked from the opening of his Hawaiian shirt. Between the silvery-blue shades hiding his eyes and the tumbler touching his lips, no expression is evident on his face. His fingers began to move four chips towards to the pile of chips for the pot, but the first player clockwise from the dealer spoke up, “Sorry, I never got your name.” The fingers slackened over the green felt of the table. “Chris,” he put down his tumbler, “you, Alex right?” “You remember mine … now I feel bad.” Chris shrugged, but tiredness still crinkled his eyes. “Don’t sweat it, Kiddo. I’m good with names and faces.” Stalagmite teeth hinted from behind the slight smile. “When I do win the pot, I’ll be sure to thank you with a blowjob.” Chris’s lips collapsed into a frown. “I raise,” Chris said, words and actions like ice blocks. Alex smiled but ended with an irrepressible yawn. He stretched out his arms up into the air, bone layered over bone; exhaustion would seem to thread upwards to the coffered ceiling. His smooth cheeks were flushed with some color, and his eyes livened with the polished whiteness of dolomites. Alex, lips holding back a smile, motioned to the second player. “We’ve been playing for what eight hours now? And I never did catch your name.” “Because you’re an idiot, that’s why,” Chris interrupted. Alex popped back, not fazed by the affront, while the second player matched the bet without comment. The long hours had yet to mark him. His mouth was just as firm, his cheeks just as rough and lax with pockmarks and the eyes, pointed and hoary. A school of women shambled across the floor like a school of strutting geese. Amid their squawking and squealing about how not amazing the fondue had been, the second player deigned to return Alex’s amiable stare. He replied, with an accent thick and gunky, “Dimov, Dimov Krym.” Alex nodded to himself approvingly. “Russian, I like it.” “Ukrainian.” “Same thing.” “Blowhards think like that all the time.” Tense but intrigued, Alex bit his lower lip. “I’m just a stupid American. Africa is one giant country. Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and whatever-the fuck-istan is all Mother Russia.” “Idiot, speak for yourself.” Chris’s face was a desert map of red and pink. The dealer cautioned, “Gentlemen…” Alex played with a chip and grimaced over the community cards. “I prefer being an idiot. I think it’s less arrogant than being a blowhard. What do you think, Dimov? Dimov turned modestly toward the black and glittery dealer and chuckled. “There!” Alex said in wonderment, “It must be his lucky night.” “Are you going to play or something?” Chris demanded. “The idiot needs to think first. Luck doesn’t seem to be on my side today.” “That remains to be seen,” replied Dimov. “Ooh, you’re looking forward to my blowjobs. I should think harder.” “I might, but my wife won’t like it.” “So you find another. Some women like to watch,” Alex said. “Why would I marry her then?” “Can we get on with this?” Chris pleaded. “I think I’m entitled to negotiate with the kind and polite Mr. Krym from … Russia,” Alex said. Dimov glared fully and furiously at Alex, who was licking his lips in an evident anticipation of something. A sure win, a childish dare, a befuddled prattle of boy on the brink of a loss? No one had answers, and answers could not be divined, and the minutes built up a tense cage of locked stares. Alex broke away, tossed his chip in the air, caught with a twinkle in his eyes. “I call.” “All your yammering for calling?” Chris guzzled from his tumbler, slammed the glass with a sandy exhale from his mouth. “We’ll see what you’re made off, Kiddo, I raise.” Dimov called. Alex called as well. The dealer turned the fifth street. Chris took a quick glance at the ace of diamonds, and raised. Dimov raised. Alex called. It was back to Chris looking blearily over his dwindling ledge of chips. “Let’s get this baby into orbit. I raise.” Dimov raised. Alex leaned back in his chair, moped over his modest mountain of chips, then with a resigned nod of the head, he said, “I raise.” Chris’s face had sagged to a pale mush. The amount he would need to match Alex’s bet was more or less equal to the number of chips he had. He drank again, this time slowly. His little finger trembled against the table imperceptibly. “Fold,” Chris announced manfully, and without pausing for the men to gesture sympathy, he huffed away towards the green tinkling fountain. “Just you and me, now Mr. Russia,” Alex said. “For your wife’s sake, I hope I don’t win.” Dimov said, “You sound more interested in … than winning …” he visually estimated the chips in the pot. “Winning seven thousand dollars.” “Seven thousand three hundred dollars.” Dimov mimed to himself in concession to his superior estimating skills. Alex added, more sultry than before, “Money can’t buy everything. You need to bargain for everything else.” Dimov popped up at him, his lips tightening and bunching to the left. He turned to the dealer then it was show down. Alex’s fingers tightened over his thin cards before revealing them. Dimov exhaled an exhausted breath and said, “You win,” then flipped over his cards. The dealer concurred. Dimov extended his arm across to the table to shake Alex’s. “Congratulations.” Dimov’s tone managed to be warm and cordial; Alex managed to leave behind his bravado with a quivering smile. “I’ll be enjoying this alone then?” Alex asked, searching. Dimov’s hand was firm, and the handshake seemed to last longer than it should. But both men measured each other, and it would seem that the scales, where they may be, were found wanting, inadequate, amidst the gathering din of the hall. With a dismissive eye-roll, Dimov pulled back first and smoothed over his ear like he was trying to recover something. “Don’t spend it all one in place. Never too young to start saving.” And without haste, he arose, the table and chair rumbling. His shoulders spanned wide like long horns and looked packed tight. Momentarily, a thick shadow loomed vertically over the table, like a bright palm tree. Alex, his fingers caressing the corrugated surface of a chip, watched Dimov nod again, amiable, reluctant, then turned away towards the horizontal gleam of the lobby. Alex gripped the chip. A shudder worked through his sternum; quavering began apace. It was like watching a sun eclipse and seeing ahead the dark closing in. New players were hovering over the table, giving Alex steely looks so that he would pack up his chips and vamoose. But Alex took his time opening his bag pack, dropping one chip after another, glancing over the irate faces to the suited back of Dimov, who was slithering around the poker tables. Alex clucked and shoved all his chips into his bag and tramped away to the popping line of slot machines. A drink might do him good; perhaps roll him of the edge of anticipation. Did he have time for it? Alex checked his phone for the time: nine thirty. With a crick in his neck, he realized all the free alcohol he refused during his eight hours at the table. Maybe he should join a table just for a free drink? But the time—he really ought to pack up or he would not make it back home before dawn. A victorious yell of “Yess!” alerted him to the squat man at a slot machine pumping a fat arm into the air. Even with the gleeful clinks of coins streaming out of the machine, he could not suppress the pebble of disgust forming in his belly. He conceded the luck of the idiot winning perhaps enough for a better-looking toupee. But he prided himself a careful gambler ever watchful of the odds, not another zoned-out monkey who thinks pulling levers is equivalent to skill. And these odds he felt shifting in his favor as he looked over to the mosaic of poker tables, the dull spectators sipping from tumblers, and the lone man without a glass—Dimov tall and grave. And where the odds blew, Alex followed. Another man, shaved balding head, rose ears and rose cheeks, hailed down Dimov, who first grunted tiredly and then slid to a prim smile. Dimov’s effortless amity impelled Alex to pause. “Dimi,” the man swooned. “Are you done now?” Dimov neighed affirmation. He reached over his neck and fixed his collar then pointed him to a trio of smiling men by an abstract statue. “Now time for us to go dancing with those Argentinians over there. Gracious me, sexy Spanish, sexy pecs. Two for me, one for you. ” Dimov flustered but did nothing as the man unbuttoned his collar. “Make that three for you and zero for me. I’m tired, Charley.” He slammed his palms over his eyes and heaved a breath. Charles dimmed. “Are you going spend the weekend playing serious poker, or we all going to have fun?” Dimov flew red on the cheeks. “I got carried away.” Charles rolled his eyes. Dimov scrambled to regain the high ground. “I lost the game, but I’m up for the day. More money for you and Glenda to spend…” “Ugh. Remind me never to come along with you to Vegas again.” “Look, you have another two months before you move to Philly. We still time to come back to Vegas,” Dimov said consolingly, but Charles was making irreverent faces at the Latin trio. Dimov shifted abruptly. “Where’s Glenda?” “Stalking Hello Handsome.” Dimov’s eyes widened, as he expected nothing less from Glenda. He yawned again. “I’ll go back to the room and freshen up a bit, and I’ll rejoin you and your friends back here.” Charles’ brow zoomed inward and creased in the middle of his forehead. “Good. Sounds like a plan.” Before Dimov could walk away, Charley held back him by the arm and said, like a naughty child, “What’s the room number?” “Where’s your key card?” “Somewhere in the lockers or the bottom of the pool” “You—If they charge us for that, you’re paying.” Dimov leaned his hand on Charles’s shoulder for a moment, and moaned, “443—don’t bring your friends into the room.” Charles smirked mischievously. “What about our long planned three-way … four-way?” The words took their slow effect on Dimov staring carefully into the glassy hazel of Charles’s eyes. “Maybe when you’re less bald.” “You’re getting bald too.” Dimov glared at him. “No, I’m not.” “Yes, Dimi,” Charley stroking Dimov's widow’s peak, “there, you getting bald. A shame losing hair before you’re thirty,” he ended victoriously. “Pedro doesn’t mind bald. I asked him for you—” Dimov took control of the hands and brushed them aside. “This isn’t funny.” “I agree getting bald isn’t funny.” “Joking about n-ways with you isn’t funny.” The moment between the two friends was suddenly fraught with perilous crags. Charles stepped back, brushing the imaginary lint off his striped polo shirt. “You’re tired. You should go to bed early. We’ll do something tomorrow.” “I’m not—Just tell her to be absolutely sober when she gets back.” The two men went their separate ways, Dimov plodded to the glittering row of elevators, Charles danced up to Latin Trio, Bossa Nova or Tango on his mind. Alex, however, had been watching the conversation with the amusement one gets when you discover that your five-year-old parrot can swear. The last eight hours had him sit against Dimov’s etched presence, his no-nonsense demeanor, and then this unexpected boon of a gentle Dimov. Smirking, Alex swayed lazily to where he could cash his chips. The darling fruits of luck was on his mind, not the squiggly trail woven into the carpet, a fibrous maze, less art and more blindingly psychedelic. He thought it was now or never. But before he could dream up a slick plan, his phone rang. He grimaced at its hot-white screen and answered hurriedly as he marched to the elevators. “Frank, I almost done here. I just need to cash my chips, and we’re good to go.” He tsk-ed about Dimov. “I’m fuck-all tired. I don’t think we should leave tonight.” Alex looked around the diarrheic glimmer spiraling over the elevator doors. “I only agreed to come with you to Vegas if I could get back before Sunday Morning. I have the Monday interview to prepare for.” His senses narrowed as he imagined his mother sitting alone in the scouring dark of the living room. “I need to get home early.” A depressing sigh came over the phone. “How did you do?” “Up. Everyone else?” “I and Tom are up. Janet doubled her bankroll. She announced she’s quitting poker. Too much testosterone bullshit, she said.” Alex clenched a fist into the air. “You two should make up already and getting fucking. I like her around. I can't handle you and Tom alone.” “Don’t blame me. I did nothing. I said nothing while she was grinding a greaseball. Go shake Tom." “But you—how did the retard do?” “Pete’s drunk off his mind. Lost three-quarters of his bankroll.” Alex gritted his teeth. “Next time, your friend doesn’t get to come along.” “Roger that. But Tom wants to buy hookers and Pete is real stoked. I think L.A. might have to wait till the morning.” “What the hell I am supposed to do when you guys are paying too much for plastic titties?” “Talk to Janet about shoes, Darling.” “Fuck you too.” Alex rubbed his sore eyes and glimpsed Dimov disappearing in the elevators. “And you wonder why Janet doesn’t want to play anymore. I veto this idea.” “I’m not so keen on the idea either. I get better pussy spending ten bucks on cheap." Alex sneered, Frank continued, “You’re welcome to look at my limp dick, while Janet talks to you about shoes.” “Don’t you fucking wish.” There was vague guffawing over the phone. Alex groaned. “We can’t get legal hookers in Vegas anyway. We’ll have to stop somewhere on the way home. It all works out as long as you don’t buy hookers while Janet is around.” “Roger… She shouldn’t mind us three playing with fireworks.” “No shit, fireworks?” Alex could not help smiling. “That sounds like a fucking plan.” The plan was tentative, and Alex felt grateful that the world was not crashing down on him yet as he cashed his chips. Money heavy in his bag pack, he installed himself in the corner of an elevator, glazing over the LCD glow of floor numbers ticking to the flow of his thoughts. The money meant nothing. It was a game, a serious game of risk management. The money was evidence of a job well done, and now it would go back into his gambling bank account to be played with later. The doors opened to the swirly rose of the faux granite hallway, and Alex's mind flashed with Dimov, his big wide face, the wide big shoulders, and the goose-pimpled neck and the hefty Adam’s apple. Alex stepped back into the elevator and pressed the button for the fourth floor.
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  39. Cole is fascinated by a boy who won't talk to him and has no idea how to be gay in a world in which a man's worth is measured by his skill in working the land and riding quad bikes. Jared thinks he's happy with his secret lover but when a boy who can't communicate with him puts in the effort to try realises that secret sex-friends might not be enough and even good boys get love too.
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  40. Beep. Beep. Beep. Okay, that was annoying. It was a sound I was familiar with though. I tried to open my eyes, but they wouldn't work. I shifted, the hard mattress underneath me and the chemical smell that seemed to coat my tongue confirmed it. I was in the hospital. "Ellis?" Feelings of relief swamped me, and it took me a minute to realize they weren't mine and remember why. I'd been blocking our bond, and Dav had convinced me to pull down the walls I'd built between us without even knowing I’d created them. But then . . . I groaned, trying to put a hand to my head. I must have had another migraine. A sharp sting and the tug of tape on the back of my hand made me wince. I heard him move over me and an arm brushed my ear as he reached for something on my left. I shied away from the contact, my head throbbing. Hospital lights were bright; I didn’t want to open my eyes, not if I’d had a migraine. "Yes?" A tinny female voice came over a speaker by my head. I flinched from the sound so close to my ear. I knew I wasn't in the clinic. "He's awake." "The doctors will be right in." Hands on my face startled me, and I embarrassed myself by whimpering. "Shh, it's just me. It's going to be okay, Ellis, I promise.” I heard a door open and turned my head toward the sound. "Hello, Ellis." "Dr. Pannar. What are you doing here?" Steps approached the bed, and I could hear more than one set. I tried to open my eyes again, but they still didn't move. I could move my head and arms though. I shifted restlessly in the bed, pulling at the sheet over me. "Davis suggested that your doctor call me. Since you've mated a Carthera, you're not exactly human anymore Ellis." "Dr. Pannar is here at my invitation. I needed his advice on some of the test results.” My doctor was here too? I felt my stomach churn. What was so wrong with me that I needed two doctors? "What tests, Dr. Bakier? I haven't been out that long have I?" My mind instantly went to Isiah. What would he do if he didn't hear from me? He could do something stupid, like infiltrate the eyrie to try to get answers. I hadn't exactly been able to give him much information when I spoke to him on the phone with Dav in the room. "You've been out about eight hours." Whew. Not too long, but long enough. I had to get out of the hospital fast and get some time alone to call him. Isiah was patient, but he would be on edge with everything going on. "Well, I'm feeling much better now, so I'd like to get discharged." I just had to get them to agree. "I'm sorry, Ellis, you're not going to be able to leave for a while." I could hear someone moving to my left and my head shot around when I felt tugging on my arm. "Who is that? What are you doing?" I asked, pulling my arm away. There was silence in the room. "Can't you see me?" Dr. Pannar asked. I shook my head slowly. "No, I can't get my eyes to open." I heard a breath catch next to me. "Babe, your eyes are open." "What? No, they're not, I can't see anything. I'd still be able to see the machines if you just had the lights off so my eyes have to be closed. Otherwise . . . otherwise . . . ." Panic set in, and the beeping on the machine took off. I started shaking my head side to side in denial. "No. No." "Ellis, calm down. There is a lot going on, and we still have a lot of tests to run," Dr. Bakier said soothingly. I felt hands on my face and the click of a light. "Calm down? I can't see!" "Can you see this?" Dr. Pannar asked. "No. I can't see anything. Everything is pitch black." I ignored the pull of the IV in my arm and put my hands on my face, sliding my fingers up to my eyes. I felt my lashes brush across the tips as I felt myself blink. I saw nothing. My fingers dug into my face in panic. "I'm blind!" Hands wrapped around my fingers and drew them down. Thumbs caressed the backs and I knew the touch belonged to Dav. I could feel his anger, and sadness through our newly opened bond, but he smothered it with calm. "Shh, try to relax Ellis. I'm here. The doctors will find out what's wrong, and you'll be fine." I shook my head and felt anger grow inside me. I knew all about my type of migraines. I knew the kind of damage they could do and what was likely to happen when I was already blind. It was a pretty short and fast trip downhill to the grave. "Don't try to bullshit me," I said shortly. "I'm not stupid. I know the statistics." I was still shaking but I wouldn't become that patient, the one that held out false hope for miracles when I sure as hell knew better. What if Dav left me? He deplored weakness. Being blind was a hell of a big weakness. Davis bent down and pressed his cheek to mine. "I won't let you go, not for anything." Shit, I'd forgotten he'd feel my emotions through the bond. Had he felt my concern about Isiah? I nibbled on my lip as I worried about that too. I almost snorted when I realized what I was doing. I’d been completely stressed since I woke up; there is no way Dav would be able to tell what it was about specifically. My doctor spoke at the foot of the bed. "Your blood work, and some of the initial scan results we took while you were unconscious showed a lot of changes from the ones I took a few weeks ago Ellis," he paused, "and Dr. Pannar and I are not really sure of what it all means. But I think your bond to your mate is having an effect on your condition. We're just not sure what the outcome is." That caught my attention. "How can my bond to Dav have an effect my migraines?" I heard a chair squeak as someone sat down. I could only assume it was my slightly round, older doctor. He often sat down and tented his fingers, speaking to me over the points when the news was something he wasn't quite happy with. "Did you know that there have been studies done on the effective use of venom to treat sufferers of various migraine types?" he asked. I frowned. "No. What does that have to do with anything?" My brain wasn't really up to speed, and I had no idea what his point was. "Well, to our medical knowledge, no human and Snake have ever mated. It's not exactly common with other species, but it has happened enough that it's not a big deal. We know what tends to happen. Humans bond and develop some of their mate’s characteristics outwardly, but inside they remain human. You're not like that. There is something about your DNA that is allowing for a greater mutation than normal." "I'm what, some kind of freak?" I tightened my fingers around Dav's, and he grunted. "No, you're not a freak. For some reason, not only are you changing externally with the mating mark in scales on your back and the growth of a vomeronasal organ, or Jacobson’s organ, in the roof of your mouth, your blood shows a distinct chemical make-up we identified as Dav's venom," Dr. Bakier said. I could feel the heat of my face and knew I was blushing. "Uh, um, that might be because he'd just bitten me a few hours before this happened." Dr. Pannar cleared his throat. "We are aware of that," he said wryly, "but it's more concentrated than a single dose should be. And it's spreading." "Like a disease?" Dav made a noise in protest and I shushed him. "I didn't mean it like that." "We don't know. We do know that there is something strange going on with your brain activity, your blood work, and your vision now; everything is off. We need you to stay here so we can get some baseline tests started now that you are awake. This is important. Davis has already agreed to help us and had provided us with a venom sample." I heard Dr. Bakier stand up and shifted my face toward him, straining, hoping that if I tried hard enough I would be able to see him. I couldn’t. I slumped back against the pillows. This was all academically interesting to them, I'm sure, but this was my life. And not just mine, but Isiah's. If something in my DNA was messing with my bonding with my mate, Isiah was probably experiencing something similar. He'd had fangs like Ahsran. Did normal human mates to cat Carthera get fangs, or was it just him? I put all that aside. I hadn't researched much into mating and the effects on humans so I couldn't know for certain. I had bigger issues to worry about with Isiah. Like being in the hospital while my supposedly killer brother and his mate were hiding from Velaku for another two days while I was stuck in here, blind and helpless. Even if I got the doctors to let me leave I wouldn't be able to get to them. Shit. Everything was falling apart. "Ellis? You're awake!" I didn't have time to move before someone's body was thrown across mine and their arms wrapped around me. I grunted at the impact then smelled a familiar wave of mint and cologne. "Matthew? What are you doing here?” "You know I’ll always be here if you need me, babe! I'm so glad you're awake. Davis called me after you were admitted, and I rushed right over. Didn't even take the time to change out of my sweats." I raised an eyebrow. "Wow, don't I feel special." The queen never went out without being fully primped and ready for action, just in case he ran into a hottie. Matthew was a great friend but he was still in that sleep with a new guy every weekend party mode. "You know it," he said in a saucy voice, giving me a smacking kiss on the cheek. I heard Davis hiss. "Stop that. Matthew's just being friendly." I felt him move back and climb off the bed. "You are sort of interrupting though." "Oh! I didn't see your doctors in here; I just saw your pretty eyes open and rushed in. Sorry." I winced, biting my lip when he said that. I heard people moving around and it was frustrating not to know who it was or what they were doing. "Actually, at this point we don't have any answers for you. Dr. Bakier and I were just about to go. We're going to order some more blood tests and a few scans, take a peek at your brain. We'll figure out what's going on, Ellis, I promise." I heard the door shut. "What's going on? What do you mean? Didn't you just have another migraine?" I licked my lips. "No, not exactly. It's complicated." I could hear the panic in Matthew's voice. "Complicated? What's wrong with you? Are you okay?" I sighed and turned my head toward the spot Dav had been last. "Dav, do you think you could ask the doctors if I can have some juice and a snack? It's been a long time since I had anything to eat, and I don't feel very well." "Ellis!" Matthew's voice was sharp. "Just a minute, Matthew, and I'll explain everything. Dav?" "Okay, babe. I'll be right back." I sighed. I was really tired and could feel sleep trying to drag me back, and I wasn't really very hungry or thirsty. I just had to get a few minutes alone with Matthew. "What is going on, Ellis?" "A lot I haven't told you Matthew. Just listen, okay, and try not to interrupt me." I rushed through a simple explanation that Isiah was doing some work for the government but somehow Velaku had reason to think he and his mate were trying to help take over his territory. I didn't have to explain how dangerous for Isiah that could be, Matthew and I had grown up in a society where Carthera were no longer hidden. Velaku could wield a lot of power and once on Carthera lands, my brother would have little recourse if something were to happen to him. I couldn't let that happen. "I need you to go to the Lucky Star motel across town and find Isiah. He and his mate are in room eight. I told him I'd call him back this morning, but obviously things came up. I don't know when I'll be able to leave the hospital, or what's going to happen to me. I need you to tell him everything, and warn him to get out of town." "What exactly is happening to you?" "I don't know. Something is going wrong with my DNA and my migraines. Isiah might need to be checked out by doctors eventually if whatever is wrong with me is dangerous, but keeping him safely hidden is more important right now. This last migraine I had has affected my vision, Matthew." It was hard to breathe and it hurt to swallow past the lump in my throat. "I'm blind." "Oh my god, Ellis. I . . . I'm sorry." I could feel tears in my eyes, and I rubbed them away. "Everything is just so messed up. It feels like the last two weeks have been nothing but one major event or catastrophe after the other. I don't know how much more bad news I can take. I need your help, Matthew, please." "Of course. I won't let you down." "Tell him--" I stopped talking as soon as the door opened. "Tell who what?" Dav asked as he walked in. "Nothing. I was just asking Matthew to speak to the landlord about my apartment. Nothing important," I said quickly. "Gods," I yawned. "You must be tired Ellis. I'm going to go, but I'll be back soon. Just run a few errands, talk to the landlord like you asked and then I'll be back." I could hear the worry in Matthew's voice. I smiled gratefully at him, one major concern now lifted from my shoulders. "Thank you Matthew, but they're just going to be running tests. We probably won't know anything for a while. Go home, and get some rest. I promise Dav will call you if anything happens." "Of course I will," Dav assured him. I yawned again. "Sorry, I'm just so tired all of a sudden." I smelled Dav as he leaned over me, smoothing my hair back. "Rest then. A snack will be sent up after the tech comes to take your blood, so you have time to take a nap." "Okay." Matthew leaned down and hugged me. "Don't worry," he whispered in my ear. I squeezed him hard, so thankful he was helping me. He was the best friend anyone could have. *** After my nap I had needles stuck in me as people asked questions about my family history, my personal history; that included my very personal sexual history, and just about anything else you can imagine. I was a medical test dummy, and through it all Dav stayed with me. I wasn't sure how I felt about us, yet. I knew I had feelings for him, but a relationship had to be built on trust. Not only had he shown that he didn't trust me; he'd damaged my ability to trust him. With those challenges in front of us, I wasn't sure if we could ever move past them. Especially when I seemed to only be getting worse. When I'd gotten the diagnosis of vertebrobrasiliar migraines I'd done a lot of research. Blindness was common, and the headaches could often lead to death. I didn't want to stroke out in my early twenties. With all that on my mind, focusing on working things out with Dav was something I wasn’t sure I could do. Even with knowing Matthew had contacted Isiah, I had so many worries on my mind that I couldn't seem to focus on anything. I kept expecting Dav to pressure me to fall back into the same relationship we had before the incident at Velaku's, but he didn't. "Why are you so quiet?" I finally asked. "Why aren't you bothering me about us?" "You don't need more stress. Our bond is important, but we have to focus on getting you well so that we can have the rest of our lives to make it work. I can be patient; I'm a snake." I wanted to roll my eyes. He didn't seem very patient to me. "Really?" His lips feathered across mine. "I feel like I could lose you at any moment, Ellis. I'm afraid," he whispered. "I just want to be with you." He crawled up into my bed, curling around my body. He was careful to avoid the wires and tubes but his hands were everywhere, touching me. "I can't be without you again. The past few days were the worst I've ever lived through. I was so wrong, and I can never make it up to you, I know that. “When you fell and I caught you, you were so still. I’ve done nothing, but think about where I went wrong and why I didn’t trust you. No excuses, you were right. Mates should support each other, no matter what. I saw your memories; I know what kind of man you are. I was just so scared that I’d exposed myself, been weak, to someone who meant harm to those I am sworn to protect. “I just hope that the man you are is someone who will be willing to forgive me, in time." "Oh Dav." I reached up and pushed my fingers into his hair, pulling his forehead to mine. I could feel his hot tears fall on my cheeks, mingling with mine as we cried quietly together while our pain mingled just as surely through our bond. It was a release, a purging of the pain that filled us both. I realized then that as angry and afraid as I had been, I needed Dav. We had things to work out but we could, somehow. I know how much pain I felt when I thought I’d lost him. He was going to face that reality very soon, and I couldn’t let him go through that thinking I hated him. Snakes were so unknown; he might even survive my death. That thought made me speak. "I don't want to die but for as long as I have, I'm with you Davis," I said, "no matter what we have to work through. I need you." I drew him back down toward me to kiss me again. Our lips touched, my tongue slipping out to lick at the seam between his lips to open them. I slid my tongue into his mouth and moaned at the hot taste of him waiting for me. A shudder went through me and hit him. I could feel his shoulders shake beneath my hands. We moaned. My hands slid up, and I buried them in his hair to tug him closer. He leaned against me, his body a warm pressure holding me to the bed as I held him to me. The door banged open. "We think we have it!" I jerked, and Dav hissed when my hands pulled on his hair. I rubbed my fingers against his scalp to soothe the sting. I wanted to ask what they had, but my mouth was suddenly dry and my heart was pounding in my chest. Both my doctors were breathing hard, like they'd been running. Dav pulled my hand down and tucked it under his chin. He rubbed it back and forth against my knuckles and asked the question I wanted to know but was too afraid to speak out loud. "Have what?" "Well, it took a phone consultation with Dr. Pennelst. The man is truly brilliant when it comes to chemicals," Dr. Pannar said. "Dr. Waddel recommended him before, and I'm glad we had his number. His insights were instrumental." I felt Dav's body tighten against mine. "You said you had 'it'. Tell us already," he hissed. I ran my free hand down his spine, stroking him in return, trying to calm him down. I could feel his frustration through the bond. That much emotion meant he felt a lot more fear than I thought. He had to be hiding it from me, trying to be confident and keep me from thinking about the death I was facing. “Well?” Dav said shortly when they didn’t speak immediately. I was distracted from that realization when Dr. Bakier spoke. "We know what to do to help Ellis."
    1 point
  41. Now this is living in style." Jamie grinned raising a glass of champaigne to dark blue lips. "What can you expect? This is living in Las Vegas." Joe smiled and leaned over to kiss Jamie softly. Okay, let's set the scenery. Jamie and Joe were in one of those high dollar hotel suites. Sitting in that large hot tub located by a large window with a view of the city skyline and was adorned with a large water bed. Jamie returned Joe's kiss but it deepened. Jamie placed his glass down on the small table attached to the hot tub and slid into Joe's lap. Joe would moan deeply as Jamie took his glass and laid it beside his own. Joe's arms wrapped around that small and feminine form while those hips began to grind against each other's. Joe reached down and began tugging at those black silk thongs and Jamie lifted up long enough for Joe to get them off. Jamie returned to sitting in Joe's lap and the boys hands roamed all over each other. "FBI." Matthew spoke as he flashed his badge to the Miami air port representative. "I need to know if a Jamie Hillary arrived here last night or earlier today." The woman looked up at Matthew for a second. "Jamie Hillary..." She typed in the name and found it. Looking over all the information that was given to her upon the arrival her eyes would shift up to Matthew. "Yes she arrived here earlier today." "Good...wait...what?" Matthew raised his eyebrows in confusion. "She?" "Yes she and a man. They had a cab outside waiting. If you'd like I could call the taxi company." The woman offered her help. "Uh...yeah that would help alot." Matthew spoke and rubbed the back of his head while the woman got on the phone. Jamie moaned as the water splashed violently and his body moved up and down upon Joe. Hands came upon Jamie's ass to squeeze it tightly as Joe cried out and shot several loads inside of Jamie. He stopped all motion and laid his head back on the edge of the tub breathing heavily. "God...I love you so much....you're so perfect in every way." Joe smiled and closed his eyes. Jamie continued riding that cock but not long after Joe's words, he found himself moaning loudly as he reached his release. His body collapsed ontop of Joe's and he to breathed heavily. "I love you too...let's get out of here it's really hot now." Joe nodded and once Jamie got out he would follow suit and the two worked to get dried off and dressed. Hearing a knock on the door Paige opened it to find Matthew standing there. She nor Adam have ever seen Matthew or heard of him so ofcourse she would ask. "Yes can I help you?" "Why hello there Jamie impostor." Matthew would speak with one of those shit eating grins and pushed passed her inside the room. "Excuse me? Who are you to come busting into my room?" Paige spoke trying to keep her nerves calm as she looked to Matthew. "Who am I?" Matthew turned around and flashed his badge to her. "New York FBI. Here's the deal Jamie is a suspect in two very...very serious crimes and the fact that you pretended to be him makes you a possible accesory." Paige became even more nervous and she looked to the bathroom door where Adam was inside taking a shower. She remained quiet and her eyes shifted to Matthew. "Now...if you help me out here I can get you out of an identity theft charge." Matthew reasoned with her and walked up to her. "I need to know what happened and where Jamie is. He was only a suspect but he's doing nothing but incriminating himself right now. We need him in New York to verify his innocence" Paige hesitated for a moment and then sighed. "Okay...I'll tell you everything."
    1 point
  42. Matthew slowly walked into Jamie's cubicle and the sight terrified him. He looked at all the tubes and IVs that were attached to Jamie's arms and then looked to the oxygen pipe that was inserted into his nose; last but not least he took notice to the bruises on Jamie's arms and legs, but the rest was covered in a hospital gown. He slowly walked up to Jamie and was nearly in tears. "Jamie?" He spoke softly and waited for a reply as his body trembled nervously. Jamie slowly opened his eyes and turned to look up at Matthew. His face expression was again emotionless and he opened his mouth to speak but couldn't find his voice. "Baby I am so sorry..." Matthew spoke and took hold of Jamie's hand. "It's all my fault." He looked down and cried softly still not knowing what all had happened. Jamie stared at Matthew for a moment and was too weak to pull his hand free but after a few moments, his hoarse voice croaked out barely above a whisper. "Get out..." He said and stared at Matthew. "What?" Matthew looked up at Jamie and shook his head. "I love you and I'm not going anywhere." Jamie's eyes flared with anger and he took what little bit of energy he had left and screamed. "Get out!" That took a lot of energy from him and he lay back against the bed helplessly. Joe heard Jamie's scream as he burst into the cubicle and his eyes were full of rage as they landed on Matthew. He approached the guy and grabbed him by the shirt. "You fucking heard him asshole, get out!" Matthew stared at Joe and then his hands moved to Joe's chest and he shoved him back. "No I wont get out and who the fuck are you?!" Matthew screamed as two security guards moved into the cubical. "I'm his fucking friend and he wants you out!" Joe screamed as he stumbled back but grabbed a hold of Matthew's shirt again. He pulled Matthew forward and shoved him towards the security guards who quickly escorted him out. Joe quickly turned to Jamie with a look of sadness in his eyes as he approached his friend and took hold of Jamie's hand. "Oh god...this is terrible." Joe spoke and softly kissed Jamie's forehead. Jamie sighed and held onto Joe's hand as tightly as possible as he began to feel safe again and looked as Jimmy entered the room looking very angry. "God damn it! I'm gonna sue them! I'm gonna make sure they all fucking go down! I'm gonna..." Jimmy was on a bitching spree but was interrupted by Joe. "What happened?" Joe asked in concern as he released Jamie's hand. Jimmy looked over at Joe and sighed sadly, as he shook his head. "Jamie was raped...not once but about ten to eleven times by a police officer and all of the inmates." Joe's eyes widened as he heard the news. "Those bastards..." He whispered but let the anger go as he turned to comfort Jamie. He leaned down and hugged his friend softly. Matthew stumbled as he was pushed out the ER door, and nearly hit the ground. He turned back and looked angrily at the guards before shaking his head and getting into his car with a loud slam of the door. He was angry with himself and balled up a fist, as he just wanted to give himself a knuckle sandwich but thought better of it. He grabbed his phone and dialed Jack. As soon as Jack picked up, he screamed angrily into the phone. "What the fuck happened?!" Jack sighed and spoke up. "Jamie was raped by one of the officers and numerous inmates." Matthew narrowed his eyes and decided the blame wasn't entirely on him. "Jack, this isn't entirely my fault. You're the one who told me to arrest him and look what it’s done! Take the goddamn job and shove it up your ass! I’m through with it and I hope you and everyone else over there burn in fucking hell!" With that, Matthew hung up the phone. Matthew started the car and with a loud squeal, he pulled off and away from the hospital. He sighed needing someone to talk to and called Jessica. He knew she was still on duty but she’d always be willing to take a break for him as they have been very close friends since he moved to New York. She had been the one to train him and luckily she agreed to meet him for coffee and he drove on towards the coffee shop. Jimmy sighed and moved towards Jamie when he got a page and he checked to see who it was. "Sorry Jamie, but I got business to attend." Jimmy spoke as all worry and concern were quickly erased from his face and he simply walked out leaving his younger boyfriend behind. Joe watched as Jimmy just walked off like nothing had happened. "What a fucking jerk." Joe turned to look down at Jamie sadly and sighed. "I know this isn't the time but Jamie...that guy doesn't deserve you if he’s just gonna walk out like that." Jamie looked up at Joe as tears formed in his eyes and he tried to sit up but was to weak. Joe noticed his efforts and leaned down as he embraced the small and broken boy and they both cried softly together. Jamie buried his face in Joe’s chest and just held onto him as tightly as his arms would allow. Matthew and Jessica were soon seated at the coffee shop and were both treated to cups of hot coffee as they sat in silence. Matthew just stared out the window with a look of deep thought as Jessica just watched him patiently. Matthew felt terrible in many different ways and he just needed someone to vent to and turned to look at Jessica. He nervously picked up his coffee with two shaky hands before accidentally dropping it and spilling coffee all over the table. Jessica sighed and looked at him with sympathy before grabbing some napkins and started cleaning up the table the best she could. "I can't do anything right..." Matthew said; he ran his hands through his hair. Jessica had the mess at least half way cleaned up and looked up at Matthew. "Yes you can Matt. You are a good man and...well whats bothering you?" "It’s a long story so I’ll just give you the basics. For starters, I’m gay and Jamie...well Jamie is the love of my life. I had treated him like shit back in high school and haven't seen him for three years and finally we were making things right again when that bastard..." Matthew trailed off and a look of anger crossed his face. "That bastard Jack made me arrest him because he’s a suspect in Tiffani West’s case and now Jamie hates me...I can't blame him though can I?" Matthew looked up at Jessica sadly. He didn't care that he had just come out to her and he didn't care if she hated it, but he really hoped she didn't start screaming at him. Jessica stared at Matthew and took a deep breath. She began to feel a little awkward and as a distraction to ease herself she took a sip of her coffee. Once placing the mug back down her eyes would shift back to Matthew. "Well...it’s definitely a shocker to me...I mean I had no idea you were..." She trailed off then looked to her best friend and reached over to take his hand. "I’m fine with it." Matthew sighed with relief by her reaction and nodded as he gave her hand a gentle squeeze before pulling his own hand away. "My sexuality is the least of my problems right now..." Jessica nodded and remained silent as she processed all the information through her head. "Matthew...there might not be much you can do. Rape is hard on a person and that's only if it happens one time by one person. Jamie went through something very traumatic and it seems like in his own mindset that he blames you for it. To him it’s completely logical as he sees it your fault because you arrested him in the first place." Jessica looked down at the table and shrugged. "Maybe you should just...leave him alone." Matthew stared at her for a moment and due to the great stress he was under had a sudden mood swing. "You're a lot of fucking help." He stood up and left the coffee shop and a shocked and concerned Jessica behind. Two days had passed and Jamie remained in the hospital and Joe stayed right by his side the whole time and never left once except occasionally for food. During that time, Matthew just kept buried in his apartment tossing sleeping pills right and left. Jamie however was improving greatly physically and was off the oxygen and able to sit up on his own now. Of course, emotionally he would be messed up for a long time but during his stay at the hospital Joe managed to keep him distracted with jokes and stories; they watched movies together. Well Jamie would wake up on the third morning to see Joe sitting in a chair with his head on the bed fast asleep. Jamie smiled softly and gently shook him awake. "You should go get some rest...you're so tired." Jamie said softly. "Trust me this is more comfortable than that tent." Joe smiled as he sat up and took hold of Jamie’s hand. "How are you doing?" "A little better." Jamie nodded as he spoke honestly then looked into Joe’s eyes. "You know I’ve been thinking about what you said about Jimmy...He hasn't been to see me once since the night it happened and..." "Jamie...I know it hurts, trust me I know, but...you gotta see the light. The guy just doesn't care." Joe replied and stared into Jamie’s eyes as his own were red and puffy. Joe looked awful and really tired but he was going to be there for Jamie no matter what it took. Jamie stared at Joe and nodded in agreement. He sat there for a few moments and then slowly leaned over. He connected lips with Joe and the two kissed softly. Once it was broken, Jamie looked into Joe’s eyes. "I’ve been such a fool. You really do care...between Matthew and Jimmy you were here for me and they weren't." Joe looked into Jamie’s eyes and then his hand moved up to caress the boy's face. "You know I love you Jamie but I would never push you. I’m your friend and I’ll always be your friend that's just fine with me because I care and if only friendship makes you happy then so be it." Jamie looked at Joe and nodded softly before looking down. He appeared to be in deep thought and then looked back up at Joe. This guy really cared about Jamie. He had taken care of him since he had arrived to New York. Jimmy did give him a job and paid him but in return, Jamie had to have sex with him. Joe was different in every way he took care of Jamie made sure he had a roof...well tent over his head and food and Joe was always just fine with talking. During the whole three years, they'd known each other Joe had never made a move on Jamie once. He made his feelings clear but he never tried to push Jamie. "I love you." Jamie spoke all of a sudden, as he looked deeply into Joe’s eyes. Joe stared at Jamie in complete shock and sat up straight. "W...what?" He repeated wanting to make sure of what he heard. "I love you....What I’m saying is that I want to be with you. I mean you’ve always been there for me and haven't expected anything in return and even denied your feelings to make me happy which wasn't the best thing but it showed that you cared. It’s time I acknowledge your feelings and return them with my own." Jamie spoke and took a deep breath. Joe stared at Jamie for a moment and tears came to his eyes as the two leaned in for another deep kiss. They embraced each other gently and the kiss deepened. The emotions between them were running wild like airplanes soaring through the sky. Jamie felt this time he would truly be safe. Joe had always protected him; he had always been open about his feelings and wasn't afraid of his sexuality. To top it all off he had never asked Jamie for sex when every other man involved with Jamie did one or all of those things. Jamie was sure that his heart would be safe with Joe and was giving it to him right there in the hospital room. Joe felt happiness and devotion. Jamie was his lover now but that wouldn't change their relationship, only strengthen it. Joe was going to protect Jamie to the best of his ability and wouldn't ever see the boy hurt if he could help it. The kiss was finally broken when they heard a nurse clear her throat. They both turned to look at her and smiled. "Just kissing my boyfriend." Joe said openly and that caused a smile from Jamie. Beth, the nurse smiled and handed them each a cup of coke. "You two cuties have fun then. My names Beth and I will be your nurse for today and they're planning your release tomorrow so if you need anything at all, just ask me." She turned and with that was gone. Jamie took the cup and held it up as Joe took the hint and they banged their cups together gently as Jamie spoke with a smile. "To a new love." Both boys laughed softly and in unison took sips of their drinks.
    1 point
  43. Matthew carried Jamie in a cradle like way towards the bedroom. Both boys were kissing and Matthew slowly laid a smiling Jamie down on the bed. Matthew quickly moved across the room and got a fire going in the fireplace to keep them both warm. Winter could be cruel up in the north; it being wet and rainy wasn't a good combination. Matthew moved back towards the bed with Jamie waiting with open arms. Matthew smiled and climbed on top of Jamie and they kissed deeply. Jamie pushed his body up against Matthew's as he shivered from being wet and from the sensations of Matthew's lips after so long. Both boys slowly and sensually removed each other's clothing piece by piece before Matthew gently kissed Jamie's cute little tummy then trailed his way back up and they connected lips once again. Jamie spread his legs and Matthew proceeded to push himself inside of Jamie. The fire from the fireplace reflected off their glistening and wet bodies and reflected their shadows on the wall. They slowly and gently made love, to both of them it felt so wonderful and safe, and they felt they had come home again after a long and miserable vacation. Matthew belonged with Jamie and he knew it. The next morning Jamie was awakened by the sunlight coming in from the window. He squinted his eyes and pushed himself to sit up before noticing Matthew wasn't there but he did smell a good breakfast cooking and he smiled. He got up gently and moved to the bathroom door and grabbing a robe. He pulled it on and tied it around himself before making his way into the kitchen to see a fully dressed Matthew cooking away. He smiled and leaned against the doorframe just watching him for a few moments. Matthew turned around and once his eyes landed on Jamie's beautiful face and his eyes connected with those beautiful sea-blue eyes of Jamie's he would smile. Both boys moved close to each other and came to meet in front of the kitchen window. The morning sun glaring into the window was cut off from the room as their faces connected in a deep and loving kiss. The sunlight causing their faces to have an angelic like glow as they continued to kiss and so many deep emotions ran through both of the boys. Matthew felt happy again and relieved that his life had taken on such a good change. Jamie felt loved and safe from harm and most of all warm. He remembered all those cold snowy nights out on the streets and just wishing he had someone's warm arms to hold him. Joe did his best but Jamie just didn't love him. The boys after what seemed like an eternity of kissing would break apart and they smiled as they stared deeply into each other's eyes. Matthew slowly took each of Jamie's hands and kissed them. "Good morning. You have a seat and I'm gonna treat that tummy to a good breakfast." Jamie smiled and broke away from Matthew and moved to the table. Soon both plates of eggs, pancakes, grits and sausage were placed down with two glasses of coke. Matthew moved to sit across as Jamie stared at the food as if he hadn't seen it in a long time. He had a big smile on his face and turned to Matthew. "Thanks for the food...I haven't had something like this in a very long time." Jamie spoke and didn't waste any time digging into his food. "Anytime." Matthew nodded and soon began eating. After a few moments of silence, he turned to look up at Jamie. "Jamie...I just want you to know how sorry I am for how I've treated you. I am in no way asking you to trust me right now but I want you to know some things. You're beautiful to me Jamie. You always have been and you always will." Matthew smiled and Jamie returned that smile. "Every time I look into your eyes I can see the ocean and the crystal clear water rolling in and out." Matthew reached across and took a hold of Jamie's hand. "Me and you belong together. You're the water and I'm the sand and our love is beautiful and we should be proud, we should show everyone." "Matthew..." Jamie was at a loss for words and just smiled. "Thank you." Matthew nodded and was about to speak again when his phone rang. "Excuse me." He stood up and moved into his bedroom. Once seeing it was Jack on the caller ID he closed the door and answered it. "Hello?" "I need you down at the station right now." Jack ordered then hung up on Matthew. Matthew sighed and then informed Jamie that he had to go to work. Jamie was okay with it and said he was going to hang around the apartment. Matthew moved out to his car and started on his journey to the police station. For some reason he dreaded whatever this was. He felt a knot in his stomach sighed as he parked at the station. Once getting out he moved through the station ignoring people's greetings as normal as he headed inside Jack's office to find him with his feet kicked back on the desk as if he was the king of England. "Have you talked to the dancer yet?" Jack asked forwardly. Jack wasn't the type for small talk he was always down to business. Matthew moved over to the desk as he tensed up and sat down in a chair. "Yeah I talked to him." "Him huh? So what did he say?" Jack spoke with an accusing expression on his face. "He said he wasn't kidnapped..." Matthew tried to speak but wasn't successful. "Our witness said he was involved so if he's not the kidnap victim that makes him the suspect. I want him held in custody for the time being." Jack ordered. Matthew's eyes almost fell out of his head as he stared at Jack. He was being told to arrest Jamie? His mind began racing as he tried to figure a way out of this. "Maybe we should give it some more time..." Again, Matthew was interrupted. "Matthew do you want your job or not?" Jack spoke then after realizing how harsh it was he sighed. He pulled his feet off the desk and leaned forward. "Matthew I like you and I know this case hits a little close to home since these are people you knew but we can't let crime go. I am not accusing this guy of anything but I want everyone that's unaccounted for whom was involved in custody until we get things figured out. He's not being charged...yet." Matthew sighed, as he felt helpless. He simply nodded in agreement and left the office. He drove home feeling more terrible then he had when he left. There was no way he could arrest Jamie but he also couldn't afford to lose his job then what good would he do Jamie? If he didn't arrest Jamie then Jack would simply fire him and have someone else do it, which would be ten times worse. Tears began streaming down his face as he slowly entered his apartment to find Jamie dressed up in all the leather and make up. "Hey." Jamie smiled as he moved off the couch and walked up to Matthew. Once seeing the expression on Matthew's face, he frowned. "What's wrong?" He puffed on his cigarette. Matthew stared at Jamie and sighed. He didn't know what to do to get out of the situation. When realizing there really wasn't a way out, he began to read Jamie his rights and withdrew his handcuffs. Jamie's face scrunched up and anger flared in his eyes. "The fuck?!" He threw his cigarette down, which caused a hole to be burned into the carpet. "Jamie I...let me explain...Jamie..." Matthew was blubbering like an airhead as the tears streamed down his face. "Fuck you! You're nothing but a sad ass liar who told me and fed me all this bullshit just so you could have a piece of ass! You wanted to bang me before you arrested me, you son of a bitch!" Jamie screamed and pointed a finger in Matthew's face. "It was a mistake to trust you." He spoke as he began to cry softly once again ruining the eyeliner. Every word Jamie spoke felt like another knife to Matthew's heart as he silently cried. He had done walked through a door that he couldn't back out of so the only choice he had now was to step forward. He placed the cuffs on Jamie as gently as he could actually being overly gentle. Once having the handcuffs fastened on loosely he pulled Jamie out the door. Jamie went willingly and didn't try to fight one bit.
    1 point
  44. Jamie moved down another dark alley that was lit only by a few bonfires. Several poor and homeless people littered the alleyways; some were talking, some were passed out, while others just appeared to be in deep thought and drinking their lives away. By now, the rain had stopped; it was only a quick shower but Jamie found himself shivering, soaked in water as he approached a bonfire, and tried to warm up. "How was work?" Joe asked as he leaned against the wall next to the bonfire and took a sip from his bottle of beer. "It was..." Jamie began to speak then looked down at the fire as he began to warm up. "Eventful." "Oh really what happened?" Joe asked as he dug through his duffle bag. "I've seen someone who I haven't seen in three years." Jamie spoke and hugged his arms around his thin femme-like figure. "Oh so it was good eventful then?" Joe asked and retrieved two sandwiches and held one out. "You hungry? I managed to swipe them from the sandwich stop down the road." "Yeah good eventful." Jamie spoke with sarcasm and a grin. He reached out and took a sandwich. "You're gonna get busted one day." He and Joe shared a small laugh before digging into their small amount of food. Matthew had arrived home to his high-rise apartment with an excellent view of the city skyline. He moved over to his couch and sat down as he just stared out the window in deep thought. He was literally amazed and shocked at the drastic change in Jamie. He had changed his appearance, personality and everything; and though Matthew found Jamie's appearance to be attractive, he didn't like his cold and sarcastic persona. Matthew believed Jamie was dead inside. He sighed and shook his head figuring it was pointless to sleep. He and Jamie needed to talk about things. They had never gotten a chance to do that since Jamie disappeared after Matthew's girlfriend's murder the same night three years ago. He stood back up and grabbed his keys before heading out the door. "Jamie you know I find you attractive, right?" Joe spoke as he and Jamie continued to stand beside the bonfire. "Who doesn't." Jamie spoke flatly, as his face returned to that frozen and emotionless state. "I...I just.." Joe sighed and moved closer to Jamie. "I want you to let me in. You're always building these walls around yourself and putting boundaries between you and everyone else." Jamie turned to look Joe in the eyes and sighed. "Just because of my profession doesn't mean I'm gonna let every guy in the world bed me." Jamie shook his head and looked down. "It's an art and I enjoy it. Dancing is the only thing that keeps me going." "Jamie, I'm not talking about that. I just want to know you...know you more then I already do which isn't very much." Joe looked down as well then glanced at the dancing flames of the bonfire. "Maybe one day." Jamie looked up at Joe and a soft smile came to his face. He leaned in and his dark blue lips softly connected with Joe's only briefly however as he pulled away. "For now you'll have to make that memory last." Joe smiled and nodded in understanding before wrapping his muscular arms around Jamie's small and delicate frame in a gentle hug. "I'm gonna head to bed." Joe then turned around and headed behind the dumpsters where their small tent was built. Matthew continued driving down the road, his eyes frantically darting in every direction before he came upon a lit alleyway and saw several figures casting shadows on the walls. He pulled to a stop beside the sidewalk and slowly got out. He moved down the sidewalk a little ways until he reached the entrance of the alley. His eyes then fell on Jamie and he quickly made his way down the alley in a walk at first but then went off into a run. Several people gave him strange looks but then when he approached Jamie they went back to whatever they were doing. It was a normal thing when strange men ran to Jamie and they knew that. "Jamie..." Matthew spoke as his running soon came to a halt and he breathed deeply. "Great you found my home." Jamie turned to look at Matthew and grinned. "Very detective like." "Your home?" Matthew's face grew a look of confusion. Jamie's grin faded and the blank and emotionless face returned. "Yes my home. What do you think dancers make in this city? Literally nothing but I don't do it for the money, so don't ask." Jamie retrieved another cigarette and leaned down to use the bonfire to light it. He then stood up and turned back to Matthew. Matthew frowned obviously saddened by learning this bit of news then he shook his head. "We need to talk." "Thought we did that already? Yeah and we went real far in the conversation department." Jamie's words were literally bleeding with sarcasm and soon that amused grin returned. "Please?" Matthew simply spoke and his face took on an expression of small hope. "Where to? I got people here that I don't want to know some things." Jamie spoke and stepped forward before blowing some smoke in Matthew's face. Matthew grimaced and coughed. "We can go get some coffee." He spoke as his coughing continued. Jamie agreed with a nod and the pair headed out of the alley and towards Matthew's black BMW. The ride to the coffee shop was awkward to Matthew to say the least. The silence was honestly bothering him where as Jamie didn't seem affected at all. He just held that emotionless face which seemed to be a normal thing for him now. Matthew sighed with relief as they parked at the local coffee shop and both boys got out. They moved inside and once sitting at a table, they both ordered two coffees with cream and extra sugar from the waitress. "Lets make this fast. I need sleep to work tomorrow you know," Jamie said and allowed a bit of irritation to show. Matthew studied Jamie for a moment and then sighed. "As I said before I'm working on Tiffani West's case and you disappeared the same night. I need to know any information you have." This wasn't exactly what Matthew wanted to talk about but he felt strangely nervous around Jamie now. The two of them use to be so close like the sand and the ocean but now they seemed as if they were in two different worlds. "I didn't do it and I'm gonna tell you why." Jamie began to defend himself then after a quick moment of thought he added. "Not that you'll believe me anyway. Cops never do believe their suspects." The last word spoken with a real icy coldness. "Jamie I..." Matthew began to speak but was interrupted as the waitress brought their orders, then moved off. "Where's your confidence at? You use to be the jock that held his head up high. Now you just act like a blubbering airhead. I swear you're worst than Tiffani now." Jamie spoke with an amused grin. Matthew looked up at Jamie with a flare of anger in his eyes but thought better of it and his face expression softened. "Tell me everything that happened to you that night." "You said there was a kidnap victim that night, right? Well I wouldn't call it kidnapping as I was willing to go." Jamie took a sip of his coffee and left a dark blue lipstick smudge on the glass. "You pissed me off you know? Being twofaced and loving me in the dark, but hating me in the crowds. So, after a miserable graduation I started hunting guys online. I was looking for a guy that would appreciate me." Matthew couldn't help but grin. "You're so cute when you're angry." He spoke then remembered the situation and frowned sadly. "Go on." He tried to keep a calm and professional tone. "Better watch the compliments. People might hear," Jamie shot back, and then rolled his eyes. "I met a man named Jimmy that offered me something I couldn't refuse. He offered me my dreams. He came to town that night and brought me here to New York. He made me beautiful he made me feel loved and to this day tells me that I am his only one. His only love. He introduced me to the world of meditative dancing with a little spice of sexuality. He told me that he thought I was the most beautiful boy in the world and wanted to share my beauty with the world through dance which I have become to love." Jamie took a deep breath and sipped his coffee again. Matthew listened intently to every word Jamie spoke, and then looked down at the table in thought. His eyes then shifted to his untouched coffee and he pushed it to the side as he looked up at Jamie. "If he really loves you then why does he make you live on the streets?" For the first time since Matthew had found Jamie again, he saw emotion. A look of anger as Jamie abruptly stood up. "He said he wasn't ready to give up his privacy. Now if you're through I want you to leave me alone." Matthew stared at Jamie and from the sound of his voice he wasn't so sure of himself. Matthew could have sworn he was in denial. As Jamie turned to walk out Matthew spoke. "I need to know about Tiffani." "She wasn't there!" Jamie screamed and moved out the door and down the street. Matthew stood up and ran out the door with the waitress hot on his tail. Once getting outside he turned to hear the waitress screaming about how she didn't get paid. Matthew pulled out five one-dollar bills and literally threw them at her. As the waitress ushered to gather the money angrily Matthew ran after Jamie. "I'm sorry okay! I'm sorry for everything. I'm sorry I hurt you." Matthew spoke as he stopped in his tracks and breathed heavily. Jamie turned around to face Matthew and his eyes were fixed on the ground. He hugged his arms around himself before his eyes turned up to look at Matthew with black eyeliner streaked down his face from tears. "You mean that?" Matthew walked up to Jamie with tears in his eyes and nodded. "I'm really sorry. I made some stupid mistakes. I mean, you were the best thing that happened to me and instead of being scared of our love, I should have embraced it. I should have held you up high like the shiniest trophy I'd ever won. I should have been proud of you." Matthew stared into Jamie's eyes as tears ran down his own face. "We use to be so happy and I...I ruined it by being scared." Jamie stared at Matthew for a moment a look of sadness and distrust on his face. After a few moments, Jamie fell into Matthew's arms and cried softly. He felt so warm and safe and protected. As many times as Jimmy held him he never felt as safe and loved as he did in Matthews arms and no matter how many walls and how thick of walls he built around himself he couldn't deny Matthew. The two just held each other as it began to rain again and Matthew ushered Jamie into his car.
    1 point
  45. “Stop! Don’t hurt him! Stop! Stop!” Luke yelled in his sleep. Drew rolled off the air mattress, and frantically scrambled across the floor to Luke’s bedside. He placed a hand on Luke’s shoulder, “Wake up, your just having a bad dream,” Drew said softly as he shook his shoulder. “Please, stop,” Luke whimpered as he shrunk from the pressure from Drew’s hand. Drew placed his other hand on the unbattered side of Luke’s face, “Luke! Wake up,” he said, with more concern. Luke’s eyes flashed open, and Drew saw, for a split second, the terror within them. Before he had just seen the pain they held and now it was as if he was looking in to the eyes of fear itself. However, when Luke realized he had been dreaming as he let his eyes rest upon Drew’s, it disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared. Drew smiled at Luke’s relieved expression and that’s when he realized his hand was still pressed against Luke’s face. He straightened up immediately as he took a step back. “A-are you alright?” Drew asked slightly stumbling over his words. Luke just nodded as he looked up at the ceiling. Drew sat down on the side of Luke’s bed and yawned as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “Will you tell me what you were dreaming about?” he asked with a sleepy grin. Luke shook his head. “What time is it?” he asked in a quiet voice. Drew looked down at his watch. “Two-thirty six in the morning. You fell asleep around six o’clock.” “I’m sorry I woke you up, you can go back to bed.” Luke’s voice was still quiet and small. Drew gave him an unconvinced look. “Luke I’m not going to sleep until I know you’re alright. Please tell me what I can do to help.” “You can go back to sleep.” “I know you don’t want to tell me what you were dreaming about, but I think if you told me I could help.” Luke was silent for a long while. Drew had thought he fallen asleep and just as he was about to get up and trudge back to his air mattress, Luke started to speak with his eyes closed. “It was dark, it’s always dark, and we were at the docks,” Luke was speaking slowly and his voice was shaky. Drew watched him carefully. “Everything always feels so real. You, he was killing you. I was trying to move, but I couldn’t, I couldn’t help you. I couldn’t escape the darkness and your screams. He was hitting you, drowning you, and I-I couldn’t do anything.” Luke was shaking. Drew placed his hands on Luke’s shoulders, and Luke opened his eyes, looking up at him. “Luke, that will never happen. I made you a promise and I plan to keep it. I am not going to let him hurt you or me. Besides,” Drew tousled Luke’s hair, “If he messes with us he will have to deal with Mom.” Luke smiled half-heartedly, but Drew knew he was still pretty shook up. Drew gave him a big grin recalling one of the many quotes he had memorized from years of reading. “Do not dwell in the past; do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment,” Drew said. “Where did that come from?” Luke asked distracted. “It’s a quote I read way back when. Buddha.” “That’s pretty cool…that you know stuff like that. Most jocks are dumber than fence posts,” Luke said, settling back against the mattress. “Well, I don’t really like stereotypes. Besides, you used to be a jock and you seem pretty smart to me.” “I guess I never really cared for them either.” “Luke, can ask you to do something for me?” Luke looked into Drew’s eyes. They were filled with hope, friendship, and for what Luke thought just for a moment was longing. He dismissed that and nodded. “I’ll be right back,” Drew said as he hurried out the door. Luke stared after him surrounded by confusion. He grabbed the remote and raised his bed to where he could sit up a bit more. Drew was back in less than two minutes with a pencil and a thin stack of white computer paper resting upon a clipboard. “What?” Luke asked, looking at the paper in Drew’s hand. “Draw something for me, anything except a landscape,” Drew said with a grin as he sat down on the foot of Luke’s bed and laid the clipboard and pencil on his lap. “I-I can’t. Drew-,” Luke was cut short at the sight of Drew’s face. “Seriously Dude? The puppy dog face?” “Is it helping my case any?” Drew asked. Luke smiled, picked up the pencil, and looked at Drew once more before he pressed the pencil to the page. Drew found himself once again staring out the window. Stars had been covered by a thick veil of clouds, and he could see the light rain drops beginning to fall on the pond. He watched as those tiny rain drops made way for the larger ones that fell so fast the weeping willow was barely visible. Before he had realized it twenty minutes had passed. Drew turned to face Luke and stared at the turned up corners of his mouth. “You’re smiling,” Drew said. Luke didn’t look up but made one more light mark on the paper and handed it to Drew. Drew felt his eyes go wide as he looked at the drawing Luke had handed him. It was a perfect imitation of Drew sitting on the foot of the hospital bed staring out at the rain. Only in the picture it wasn’t raining or stormy, instead it was bright. “I know it’s horrible,” Luke said smiling. Drew looked up at him in surprise, “Luke this is the best thing I have ever seen. It’s drawn with a pencil, and yet everything is so clear, precise. I look, I mean do I always look so…” Drew trailed off. “Sad? Yeah, but I don’t have any room to talk.” “Can I keep this?” “I guess,” Luke said shrugging. “One more thing though. Sign it,” Drew said as he handed the picture back to Luke. Luke shrugged once more and quickly signed it then handed it back to a grinning Drew. "You’re going to be famous one day,” Drew said as he placed the picture and clip board on the recliner. "Ha, that’s funny,” Luke gave a sarcastic laugh. Their banter didn't last though. They both snapped their eyes to the window as they saw a bright flash of lighting. A few seconds later there was a clap of thunder that shook the entire room. For a moment Drew thought he was imagining it, but out of the corner of his eye he could see Luke shaking. That’s when he remembered Jeff talking about the night David attacked Luke at the docks. The storm. Drew moved closer to Luke and put a hand on Luke’s arm hoping it would provide the same calming effect as it did before. Even with his hand steadying Luke’s arm, Drew could feel him coming apart. Drew’s mind was racing; he couldn’t decide what he should do. Part of him wanted to wrap his arms around Luke and never let go, and the other just wanted to be forever still. Luke made his decision for him when tears began to fill his eyes, and he began to shake even harder as the thunder and lightning began to pick up. Drew gripped Luke’s arm tighter, and moved up beside him. He wrapped his arms around him, and Luke shook with quiet sobs. "Everything is going to be alright,” Drew whispered. Luke wrapped his own arms around Drew. “The rain may fall and your tears may hurt, but those who love you provide a shelter to keep you dry and love to wipe away your pain.” Luke buried his face in Drew’s chest and Drew could feel Luke’s tears soaking through his t-shirt. Drew was looking down at Luke’s shaking form and thoughts began to race through his mind. What am I doing? Drew thought. Why…Why do I like holding him? I shouldn’t be doing this! I shouldn’t like it! Drew was about to get up when looked down at Luke once more and felt his breath against his chest. All he could bring himself to do was hold him tighter and his own heart skipped a beat as he felt Luke tighten his grip as well. “Shh, calm down. I’m here, you’re safe.” Drew was worried not just because Luke was upset from memories, but because of what Luke’s intense crying was doing to his body; the physical pain it must be causing. Drew kept whispering into his ear, and Luke slowly started to calm down. Drew, without realizing it, kissed the top of his head, and was stroking his hair and his arms. Luke didn’t mind. To him it was calming. For the first time in a long time he felt loved and wanted. The storm lasted the remainder of the night and Luke fell asleep in Drew’s arms after exhausting himself from crying. Drew closed his eyes, unwilling to move away from Luke, and fell asleep as well.
    1 point
  46. 3 days later: Drew awoke stiff as a board, and to make things worse he rolled over and fell off the futon with a thud. "Fucking rock,” Drew growled. Luke stood in the doorway laughing. He was wearing only a towel, and his hair was dripping, sending beads of water cascading down his chest and back. "Are you alright,” he asked, limping over to Drew. Drew picked himself up off the floor with a grunt. He gave the futon a swift kick causing him to grab his foot in pain and begin hopping around. Luke grabbed his arms and smiled at him, “Did you honestly think you were going to hurt the futon?” Drew laughed, “Well, at the time it seemed like a good idea.” Drew let his eyes wander over Luke’s slight six pack and his broad shoulders. He wasn’t as muscular as Drew but he looked damn good. Luke kissed his nose. “Are you alright?” Drew pulled Luke into his arms and let his hands slide down his hips. He felt Luke’s hands venture up under his shirt and up his back, and he couldn’t help but to sigh and push him away. "When you’re better. For now let’s try our best to stop causing each other to pitch tents in our pants. We need to get that bandage changed too.” "Fine, but I don’t think we are going to be very successful. Besides, I’m not wearing any pants.” "I know and as much as I hate to ask,” Drew said as he ran his lips over Luke’s ear, “Can you please get dressed before I have no choice but to take you to the hospital after I’ve ripped off your towel and taken advantage of you.” Luke grinned devilishly and grabbed the waist of Drew’s boxers and pulled him into another kiss. "A trip well worth it,” Luke said as Drew pulled himself away from Luke and ran for the door. "When you’re better,” he said dashing down the hall to take a shower. Drew returned to the room fifteen minutes later in only a towel to find Luke setting on the futon fully dressed in jeans, white socks, and a green and tan pin striped dress shirt over a plain white t-shirt. His hair had been gelled and to Drew he was perfect as he sat there with his sketch pad. Luke’s eyes snapped up to look at Drew’s nearly naked body. He smiled. "What did you just tell me to get dressed for?” Luke asked, staring at Drew’s body. He sported a complete and chiseled six pack and strong biceps. Luke nearly drooled at the sight of Drew’s treasure trail that disappeared under his towel. "I’ll just be a sec. I ran out without my clothes when I was trying to escape your lips. I’m going to go get dressed and when I come back you and I are going to do something special.” "What? Where are we going to go at nine o’clock in the morning?” "You’ll see.” Drew dressed in his faded blue jeans and his Jordans, and a solid blue dress shirt over a plain white t-shirt. He came back into the room with his hair gelled into to soft tuffs all over his head. Luke’s jaw dropped as Drew did a model turn for him. "How do I look?” he asked sitting down beside Luke. "Amazing,” was all he could bring himself to say. "I’m not the only one. Now we better get going. We have a bit of a drive ahead of us.” "You really won’t tell me where we are going? Not even a hint?” "Not a chance, but bring your sketch pad.” Drew put Luke’s converse on for him and they headed out to his mom’s Escalade. "Where is your car?” Luke asked as they climbed in. "Mom took it to work this morning so we could take this.” "Why?” "This is better fitting for four people then my Camaro.” "Jeff and Rose?” Drew nodded, “Were supposed to pick them up at Rose’s. She said you would show me the way.” "Only if you give me a hint about where you are taking me.” "Let’s just say that we won’t have to worry about privacy. Good enough?” "I guess, make a left as you pull out of the driveway.” Luke navigated Drew to Rose’s house without any problem, and they were greeted in the stone drive by the grinning couple. Rose and Jeff hoped in the back and simultaneously cooed, “Aw”. Luke and Drew rolled their eyes. "We knew it!” Rose chimed. “You guys were made for each other!” "Is this a good time to say I told you so?” Jeff asked Drew, who rolled his eyes again. "Does everyone know where we are going except me?” Luke asked, annoyed but smiling. They all just nodded. "We have to know…have you two…ya know…yet?” Rose asked, leaning forward. Drew nearly hit the car in front of him. “Rose, little personal don’t ya think? Besides it hurts when he just breathes.” "He just doesn’t want to get blood everywhere when my stitches rip open.” Luke smiled over at Drew, knowing Rose had her answer. "Talk about mental pictures. Hello! Straight guy in the backseat,” Jeff said, trying not to picture anything. "Hey, blame Rose she is the one that brought it up,” Luke said. "Hey, I was just curious you gave us the details.” "So did anyone see the game last night?” Jeff asked, desperately trying to change the subject. "Naw dude, who won?” Drew asked, trying to help out. "I don’t know.” "What sport are you two talking about?” Rose asked smiling at Luke. "Basketball,” Drew said. "Football,” Jeff said simultaneously. Rose and Luke began to laugh hysterically. Drew and Jeff just hung their heads in defeat. "Drew did you bring my pain pills?” Luke asked, slightly grimacing. "Yeah they are in my pocket,” Drew said quickly, pulling them out and handing them to him. “Is it your ribs or your abdomen?” "Abdomen,” Luke said, popping one of the pills into his mouth before taking a big drink of bottled water Drew had brought for him. "You alright?” Drew asked slightly concerned. "Yeah it isn’t as bad as yesterday.” "At least you have your own personal doctor living at home,” Jeff said and smiled, trying to lighten the now concerned atmosphere. "True, that does have its advantages and it disadvantages. Example: you never get away with playing sick,” Drew said. "I guess that would kind of suck.” "Totally dude.” After that the car ride was filled with pointless chatter and laughter. Luke fell asleep toward the end, and Jeff did as well leaving only Rose and Drew to talk. "You love him don’t you?” Rose stated more then she asked. "Yeah, yeah I do,” Drew said as he looked over at a sleeping Luke. "He loves you too. I can tell. I have never seen him this happy before.” There was a silence and then Rose continued. “I want to thank you so much for bringing him back into our lives.” "Believe me Rose, it was my pleasure. I don’t know what I would do without him. I mean you have known him your whole life, but I haven’t even known him a week and I would do anything for him.” "I know he would do the same for you.” Drew pulled off the main road and began to navigate down a low maintenance road. Trees, whose leaves had turned and had begun to fall, lined each side of the narrow strip and the wind whistled outside the car. The sky was light blue and the sun was shining brightly. Drew drove until he reached the clearing at the end of the road. The clearing was vast and beautiful. At the far edge it dropped off nearly a thousand feet, overlooking the mountains. The edges were woven with thick trees and sown in the wild grass were multitudes of wildflowers. Drew shut off the car and put a hand on Luke’s knee and patted it softly. "Hey, wake up sleepy. We’re here,” Drew said smiling. Luke stirred to life and looked over at Drew after rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He smiled up at him. "Where is here exactly?” Luke asked, looking around. "The location of our first date,” Drew said. "How long have I been asleep?” "Couple of hours. Are you hungry?” "Starved.” Drew opened the door and hopped out. Rose had woken Jeff from his slumber and they had followed Drew’s lead. Jeff began helping Drew with the blankets and picnic basket that Jane had put together for them. "What is all this?” Luke asked, staring at Drew. "A late birthday celebration for you,” Rose chirped. "Yeah, it was all Drew’s idea,” Jeff said as he and Rose walked into the clearing with the blankets. "You mean this is for me?” Luke asked, looking at Drew with surprised eyes. "Of course it is. You didn’t think that we weren’t going to do anything for your birthday did you? What kind of boyfriend would I be?” Drew asked as he put his arm around Luke’s shoulder and kissed him gently. "Boyfriend…I like the sound of that.” Drew laughed and they walked over to where Jeff and Rose had spread out the blankets. Drew sat the basket down and pulled Luke into his arms as Rose skipped back with the CD player. "What’s for lunch?” she asked after crashing into Jeff’s arms. "I don’t have a clue what Mom packed, but I guess we’ll find out.” Drew helped Luke sit down on the ground beside him and he let Jeff and Rose begin to empty the basket. Drew just enjoyed life as Luke nibbled at his ear. Jane had packed them everything needed for sub sandwiches. She also packed cans of Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew and cream soda. After they polished off their lunch they found themselves engaged in conversation. "Luke I still can’t believe that you didn’t tell me that you’re gay,” Rose said disbelievingly. "I’m sorry Rose it is just that I knew you would want me to tell the world and that was just something I couldn’t bring myself to do. I told David because I thought that he was different than his father. I mean he had been one of my best friends since we were little kids.” "What about you Drew? When did you realize you were gay?” Jeff asked. Drew kissed Luke’s forehead. “I guess the signs have always been there. It wasn’t until I met Luke that I realized it and it wasn’t til a few days ago that I acted on it.” "Are you going to tell your mom?” Jeff asked. "Yeah, I just don’t know when. I just don’t know how she will react.” "I think she will be cool with it. I’ve seen the way she acts with you two. I think she might already know,” said Rose. Drew shrugged, “Enough about me, what about you guys? I’m interested in what ever made Rose want to date David.” They all started to laugh. "Well, he used to be an okay guy,” Rose said. “I mean he was always a little cocky but you know how that goes. Then he started that gang and he just kept going downhill from there. Then I met Jeff and David couldn’t hold a candle to him.” Jeff smiled and held Rose even closer to him as he kissed the top of her head. "So was it really the start of this gang that made David change so much?” Drew asked. "Yeah, that’s when it all started. With his social standing in the community and him being on the football team everyone knew who he was. They also knew that with his father being the mayor he could pretty much get away with anything. I guess it all just went to his head,” Jeff replied, sort of disgusted. "It drove him crazy that Luke was the quarterback,” Rose began, causing Luke to squeeze Drew’s hand. “Luke was always just slightly more popular then David and that always got on his nerves.” "That’s why he shattered my knee. He knew that football was basically my life. Well, that and the fact that he wants me to suffer as much as possible before he kills me.” "I’m not going to let him kill you.” Drew said before pulling Luke into a gentle embrace. "There is one thing I just don’t understand. I don’t get why he would go to such extremes,” Jeff said with a puzzled look as Drew let go of Luke. “You guys used to be best friends. I mean you told him you were gay and he was fine with it and then all of a sudden he just does a one eighty and decides he wants you dead at all costs and on top of that he wants you to suffer as much as possible. It just doesn’t add up.” "You know I agree with Jeff,” Rose chimed in, “Everything was fine one minute and then he’s going off the deep end the next. I mean it just does not add up. Sure he was mad that Luke defended Tyler, but that’s no reason to try and kill him. Plus, we know that it wasn’t Tyler’s death that set him off.” "I don’t have the slightest clue what David’s motive is. I just know he has one, and honestly I’m just trying to stay alive,” Luke responded "Well, at least now you’re trying,” Rose said in all seriousness. "Why was Tyler at the party in the first place?” Drew asked with a confused expression. "The party was open to everyone. I mean no one told Tyler he couldn’t come, but the fact that Tyler was there is puzzling. Tyler wasn’t socially accepted, and you would think he would avoid a party where he knew all of his tormentors were in attendance,” Rose replied. There was a silence that fell and Luke felt as if something needed to be said. "Tyler was a good guy. He didn’t deserve what people dished out to him. The sad part was it was dished out to him for the sole purpose that he was gay. I don’t know who killed him, but I do know the reason he was killed.” They all exchanged sorrowful looks and Drew held Luke closer and a playful smile crossed his lips. Rose looked at Jeff and they gave each other a nod. They both sprang from the ground and quickly made their way to the escalade and set a large box out of the back before hopping in and taking off. Luke sat in Drew’s arms completely stunned as he stared after the car. Before he could say anything, Drew kissed his cheek and quickly went to retrieve the box. Drew picked it up and carried it over to where Luke sat and sat it down beside him. "Open it.” Drew smiled as he sat down beside Luke. "What is this?” Luke asked with a mystified expression. "It’s a late birthday present. Now just open it.” Luke opened the box and peered inside. He just sat a starred at the perfectly wrapped professional art set. As he looked at the contents of the box he felt a tear slip down his cheek, and Drew’s arms found their way around Luke. Drew rested his lips in the nape of Luke’s neck. "Happy birthday,” Drew whispered as he kissed Luke’s neck. Another tear escaped Luke’s eye as he lifted out the newly framed drawing he had drawn Drew just other night. Luke’s heart warmed as he read the small loopy hand writing in the top left hand corner of the drawing. I will always be here for you to draw… Luke held the picture tight to his chest as he let his eyes close and a smile fall upon his lips. Drew continued to kiss the nape of Luke’s neck as Luke’s hands found Drew’s. "I’m not ever going to let anything happen to you. I can’t live without you,” Drew said pressing his cheek next to Luke’s. "The same applies to you. If something were to happen to you I promise I would follow close behind.” "No, you made me promise you. Now you have to promise me that you will keep living if I were to ever die for whatever reason.” "No Drew. I can’t promise you that. I didn’t tell you this because I thought it might freak you out before. The other night when you found me I was dying. Believe me I know what it feels like. It was pulling me away and then you were we there. I felt your hand on my shoulder and then I heard your voice. I just wanted to die and stop everyone’s pain. That’s when you asked me to live for you. After that no matter how much I thought dying was the right thing to do I decided to be selfish. I decided to live because I wanted to be with you. I wanted to be a part of your life in some way. That was the first time in a long time that I wanted to live. So, please understand my decision of not sticking around too long if you were ever taken from me.” Drew sighed, “Then you will have to respect my decision to do the same. Before I met you…I…I don’t know if I would have been able to make it much longer.” "Drew, what happened to your brother and your mom wasn’t your fault. You couldn’t have known that he was going to show up that night.” "Maybe not but if it wasn’t for me we wouldn’t have been hiding from him in the first place.” "Drew if you hadn’t done what you did Jane would still be with him; hiding the bruises. Telling her friends she bumped into doors, and slipped in the shower. I know what it’s like. My father abused me for years, and there isn’t a day goes by that I wish I had someone who could have been there for me. Someone who could have stopped him. The only thing that kept me from taking my life was Rose and, ironic as it seems, David.” Drew tightened his arms around Luke. The wind was a light breeze and it tickled at the warmth in Drew’s skin. The sky was beginning to dim slightly from its once bright blue as dark clouds began to roll in from the horizon. Drew felt Luke shiver in his arms. "Rose and Jeff won’t be gone long. They will back before the rain moves in,” Drew said as he felt another cool breeze. Luke stayed silent for a little while before speaking again. His voice was quiet and as soon as he spoke the words Drew knew exactly what he was talking about. "Sometimes I wonder what she was like...If she would have loved me,” Luke said quietly as he looked up at the sky. “I wish I could have at least known what she looked like.” "You don’t even have a picture of her?” Drew asked, surprised. "No, I don’t even know where she is buried. My father always told me that it was because of me that she died and I didn’t deserve to know her.” "That isn’t true Luke. Your mother died bringing you into the world but she loved you more than anything. She would have wanted you to be happy.” "How do you know that? How do you know that she would have loved me? No one has ever loved me Drew. No one.” "Luke she was a mother. That is how I know she loved you.” "She couldn’t love me Drew. I’m a killer. I killed her and I killed my father.” "Luke, you listen to me,” Drew said not being as gentle as normal. “Neither of those deaths were your fault. All your life you have been told over and over again that they were, but they’re not.” "I just can’t accept that Drew. If I were never born none of this would have ever happened.” "You know you are right,” Drew said, standing up. His tone was irate and Luke knew he had hit a nerve. “If you had not have been born your mother would still be dead because she would have had another baby anyway. Your father would have still been a drunken abusive ass and I probably would have ducked out of life by now! So you are completely right on that account!” Drew was pacing back and forth, trying to keep clam. Luke felt a tear drop to his arm. He stood up rather quickly, ignoring the pain, and stopped Drew in his tracks. Throwing his arms around him, Luke kissed him passionately only pulling away to say, “Sorry. I can be a jackass sometimes.” "Yeah, you can,” Drew said, hugging him tight to his chest. "How about we just forget our pasts for the rest of the day and just enjoy ourselves.” "I think that is the best idea you have had.” "Dance with me.” A blush flooded Drew’s cheeks and he looked down shyly at his feet. Luke grinned and tilted his chin up with his index finger. He stared into Drew’s emerald eyes. "You don’t know how to dance do you?” Luke grinned. Drew shook his head trying to look away from Luke’s gaze. He was unsuccessful. Luke let his smile and his warm caramel eyes melt Drew into his arms. Drew began to slowly shuffle his feet with Luke’s. They could both hear ‘Breathe Me’ by Sia playing softy from Rose’s CD player. "You are amazing,” Luke said. "Not nearly as much as you.” Their lips found each other’s and they stood there as the clouds rolled in. Thunder rolled in the distance but they did not notice nor did they care. Their kissing was soft and slow. Drew could feel the rhythm of Luke’s heart beat and he loved it. A tiny rain drop fell on Drew’s cheek and he looked to the sky. The rain began to fall and then they noticed the thunder. Drew looked into Luke’s eyes and saw the traces of fear. This time he could comfort him they way he had wanted in the hospital; they way he needed to be comforted. Drew cradled Luke’s face in his hands and pressed his forehead to his. Their noses were slightly touching and their lips only centimeters apart. "I’m never going to let anything happen to you,” Drew said. "Kiss me?” Luke asked. Drew kissed him. The rain began to fall and they were both smiling. Rose and Jeff pulled up and Luke laughed, “This is such a romantic movie cliché.” "Yeah, but it is our romantic movie cliché.” Drew kissed Luke one more passionate time and Rose elbowed Jeff who smiled and kissed her on the head.
    1 point
  47. Drew had just handed Luke another tissue and a cup of water when they both heard a knock at the door. Not expecting his mother for a while, Drew’s eyes darted over to the door. As the door opened he quickly positioned himself between it and Luke. When Dr. McGowan entered Drew’s temper began to spike. Drew turned to face Luke who had an astonished expression on his face. Slowly, Drew backed up and stood beside Luke and kept a watchful eye on Dr. McGowan as he spoke. “How are you feeling?” Dr. McGowan asked without a hint of compassion in his voice. “Fine,” Luke replied in a diminutive voice. “I came in here for a certain purpose. You will be eighteen in a couple of days and after this latest incident I feel it would be beneficial for the both of us if you moved out.” Drew looked down at Luke’s face, which had become stricken with pain, and watched as Luke nodded. Drew could no longer contain his temper. He took a step forward and placed himself in front of Dr. McGowan. “You heartless son of a bitch! How can you turn on your own nephew?!” Drew yelled. “It’s alright Drew,” Luke said, “I’ll be alright. I’ll find somewhere to go.” “You don’t have to look for a place to go. You can stay with me.” Drew said, softening his tone. “I can’t stay with you Drew,” Luke insisted. “You have done too much for me as it is. I will find somewhere to stay.” “I’ve already discussed this with Dr. Knight,” Dr. McGowan interrupted. “She fully agreed with you moving in with them. With you living with her and Drew things will be much easier. Drew can keep you safe and with your injuries it will be good for you to be living with a doctor who will keep an eye on you.” “Are you saying that you, a doctor and his uncle, would not bother to check on him?” Drew asked. “I am afraid so.” “How do you sleep at night?” Drew spat. “I’m sorry Drew, but Luke and I both know that this is for the best.” "Bastard,” Drew spat as he looked Dr. McGowan in the eye. Dr. McGowan took a step back seeing the fury Drew held in his gaze. He looked at Luke, whose expression was blank as he stared out the window. "You can pick up your things when you are released,” Dr. McGowan said quietly as he walked to the door. Drew let power flood into his voice as he called after him, “I will pick up his things.” Dr. McGowan nodded without turning and left. Drew turned to look at Luke. His eyes were red and watery. Drew walked over and sat down on the side of his bed. Luke looked at him and saw the warmth in his eyes. "You are not alone. You have me.” Drew said as he grabbed another tissue from the box on the bed and handed it to Luke. Luke took the tissue and twisted it around in his fingers. Drew watched as tears slid down his cheeks. Before he realized it Drew had taken Luke’s hand in his and was holding it tight. Luke and Drew looked at their intertwined fingers, and then looked at each other. Their eyes flew to the door and they quickly released their hands as it opened. "Hello, boys,” Jane said. "Hey, Mom.” Drew said as he stood up. "Hey, sweetheart. I thought I would come and check up on Luke. Has Dr. McGowan been here?” "Yeah, you just missed him,” Drew said frowning in disgust. "Well, I guess he filled you both in on the new arrangements.” Jane looked at Luke with all the love and warmth in her heart and smiled. “I couldn’t be happier that you’re moving in with us. Don’t for a second think that you are not welcome because you are. You have a home with Drew and I.” "Thank you Dr. Knight,” Luke said shyly as he smiled. "Jane, call me Jane. There is no reason to address me so formally.” Luke smiled, “Thank you...Jane.” "You’re very welcome.” Drew looked at Luke and then looked to his mom. “When do you think he can get out of here and come home?” Luke felt a surge of warmth spread through his body when Drew said home and he watched as Jane smiled. "I think he should be able to leave in a couple more days. You,” Jane nodded to Drew, “need to go home and set up your room to fit two. I don’t want Luke to sleep alone for a while. I know he looks strong, but don’t let him fool you. He needs rest and plenty of it. If it wasn’t for the fact that he is going to be living with us, I would keep him longer than just a couple of days.” "I’ll set everything up before he gets home. Also, I think we need to make Luke a key.” “You don’t need to give me a key to your home.” Luke said shaking his head. “Oh, shush! It’s your home now too and I agree with Drew. You need a key even though I am pretty sure Drew isn’t going to let you out of his sight again,” Jane giggled, making both of the boys turn pink. “Well if you boys need me don’t hesitate to have me paged. Luke you are going to be just fine. Just remember to keep upright, and walk around when your knee allows.” Luke nodded. Jane smiled and made a quick exit. Drew, who was now standing at the window, gave Luke a warm smile. Luke returned the smile and Drew stretched out on the couch and yawned. Luke closed his eyes and let his smile linger on his face. “You know there is one thing we haven’t discussed yet,” Drew said keeping his eyes closed. “What’s that?” Luke asked. “Rose and Jeff.” Luke’s eyes snapped open, “What about them?” “They are going to come by to visit you today. I figure when they do that’s when I’ll go get your key made, fix up the room, and possibly bring an air mattress to sleep on.” Drew said as he tossed restlessly on the couch. “I don’t want them coming to visit me. David might not be able to get to you, but he can get to them.” “Luke, David isn’t going to go after Jeff and Rose. If he does the whole damn boxing team, not to mention me, will go after his ass. I don’t know how long it’s been, but they are all a pretty tight knit group now.” “Really? It didn’t used to be like that. What changed?” “I don’t know, but Jeff and Rose are not helpless.” “I miss them. I miss hanging out with them, but I don’t want them to get hurt.” Luke let sadness fill his voice. “They miss you too,” Drew said as he sat up and nodded toward the door. Rose and a hung-over Jeff were standing in the doorway looking at Luke and smiling. Luke watched as Rose happily skipped over to the recliner beside his bed and plopped down. Her blonde hair was hanging loosely over her shoulders and she was wearing a deep blue tank, a pair of washed out jeans and black flip-flops. Jeff took a seat beside Drew and sprawled out. He was wearing a pair of baggy jeans, tennis shoes, a gray track shirt and a pair of dark sunglasses. “I knew you missed us!” Rose squeaked. “I’m so glad you’re okay, I don’t know what I would have done if Drew hadn’t found you.” “Same goes for me man,” Jeff said lifting his sunglasses to the top of his head. “This weekend was the lake party wasn’t it?” Luke said looking from Rose to Jeff. Rose nodded as she frowned. She didn’t like drinking in general. “I figured that was why Jeff looks so wasted,” Luke said smiling. “Man, I was wasted before it even started,” Jeff said shaking his head. “We hadn’t been at the lake for more than two hours and I get a call from Drew. Man, he was freakin’ out 'cause his mom called him and said you were missing. That sobered my ass up and from then on me and Rose were out looking for ya’. We even tried to get it out of that sorry fuck, David. Thankfully, Drew called demanding to know where he was and apparently beat it out of the fucker.” “You saw him today?” Drew asked smiling. “Yeah, we saw him alright. How can you miss him?” Rose laughed. “Fuck, man, what did you use on the bastard? Brass knuckles?” Jeff asked. Drew looked at Luke and then reached into his pocket and pulled out the knuckles with a grin. Jeff burst into laughter and Rose accompanied him. Jeff took the knuckles from Drew’s hand and looked at them. "Shit, I guess we know why the whole bunch of fucks looked like they beat the hell out of each other.” "Yeah, well, let’s just keep it to ourselves. They were all drunk and I know they don’t remember what happened.” Drew took the knuckles and stuffed them back in his pocket. "Yeah, you’re right, man, but actually I think David is scared of you now.” "Totally,” Rose chirped. “We were in the pool hall eating lunch, well breakfast, and someone mentioned your name and I swear he went white,” Rose laughed. "Well, you should have given the fucker a dose of what he did to Luke. Speaking of that shit, Jimmy Peters, the Sherriff’s son, told me that they have the security footage of them dumping Luke in the shop class,” Jeff said. "Don’t worry about David, he will get what’s coming to him,” Rose said with a sure expression. "How long are you guys staying?” Luke asked with a hint of hope in his voice. He hoped that they would hang around. "I plan on staying as long as you will let me,” Rose said with a smile. "Fuck, I just got you talking to me again. I ain’t goin’ nowhere till we catch up,” Jeff added. Luke was smiling at his two best friends and he threw Drew a grateful look. Drew smiled back and then got to his feet, allowing Jeff to make full use of the couch. "Where are you going?” Rose asked. "I am going to get a house key made for Luke and then I’m going to go convert the guest room into his new bedroom.” Drew grinned at Luke. "Huh?” Jeff said. Rose accompanied that with a confused stare at Luke. "My uncle decided it would be best if I moved out. Drew and his mom have decided to let me live with them,” Luke explained. "He just kicked you out?” Jeff said looking at Luke in surprise. Luke nodded looking down at his hands. "You still have me,” Rose said placing her hand on top of Luke’s. Luke looked up at Rose’s blue eyes and smiled. "Me too, dude.” Jeff said nodding in that total guy way. "And you know you have me,” Drew said. "Thanks.” Drew threw one last caring look at Luke and then walked out the door. Rose and Jeff looked at Luke with curious eyes. "Dish. What is up with you two?” Rose questioned. Jeff sat up and looked at Luke with a crooked smile, “Yeah man. What’s up?” "What are you two talking about?” Luke asked. Rose gave Luke a knowing smile and cut her eyes, “I’ve seen the way you two have been looking at each other. I think you have switched teams on me!” Rose beamed. "I’m not gay, Rose.” "Man, come on. It’s cool if you are. Just cause you’re a homo doesn’t mean we will love you any less,” Jeff said sincerely. "I’m not gay!” Luke snapped at them and grimaced in pain as he grabbed his ribs. "Okay, calm down. Just know that if you were no one would think any less of you,” Jeff reassured him. “So… your knee? How long till you can walk again?” Rose asked changing the subject. “Couple of days. It was nothing too bad. Dr. Knight fixed me up pretty well.” "Good,” Jeff said, relieved. “So, when are you getting out of here?” "Tomorrow or the day after that.” "So what about your stuff?” Rose asked. "Drew is going to pick it up. He isn’t going to let me out of his sight though, and he really hates my uncle,” Luke said. "Man, I would go kick his ass if he wasn’t the one who always patches me up after my matches,” Jeff muttered. "Thanks Jeff, but I understand why he hates me. Drew, however, nearly took his head off.” "Drew cares. He is a good friend.” Rose said putting emphasis on the term friend. "Yeah, I know,” Luke said smiling.
    1 point
  48. That morning when Drew arrived at Clearstone High, he was very surprised that it didn’t feel that much smaller than his last high school. This didn’t make much sense to Drew considering this particular town was not even close to needing such a large school. He had no trouble parking his car; the parking lot wasn’t even half full. As he made his way through the parking lot, he realized what his mom meant by all the girls. He could hear the giggles and the girlish whispers as he climbed the steps. He didn’t smile, he didn’t acknowledge them. He stopped before he reached the top, to look at the elaborate décor of the school. Stone steps led up to the large, red bricked building. In the middle the steps were separated by a guard rail. The double doors leading into the building were tall and rounded off at the top; almost resembling the doors of a cathedral. The building was huge, from the view of the steps Drew could see that it was a three story structure that twisted and turned its halls, causing the building to become sectionalized. He stood in awe at the building before him. Drew felt a tap on his shoulder. He turned, only to see another unfamiliar face. The young man who stood before him had a tanned complexion that was complemented by his short, neat, black hair, chocolate eyes, and muscular body. Standing at six foot, he was slightly under Drew’s eye level. His eyebrows were dark, but not over powering. His chin was ever-so slightly cleft, but it worked quite nicely with his features. Like Drew he had a strong jaw line, however, when he smiled, deep dimples appeared in his cheeks giving him a younger appearance. "Impressed?” Jeff asked nodding to the building. Drew nodded. "This school is a town landmark. It was founded in 1901, but not as a high school. It was actually the town’s first courthouse slash jail. It was converted into a school in the late 1950’s. The latest renovations were made in the 1980’s,” the young man relayed the information to Drew as he also looked up at the magnificent building. "Why would a town this small need a school this big?” Drew asked. “I mean there can’t be more than 700 students in this place.” "The town wasn’t always this small. In 1998 the school district was split in half, this half remained Clearstone and the other became Riverstone. The schools are huge rivals. I’m Jeff Rower,” he extended his hand toward Drew. Drew shook his hand, “I’m Drew Knight.” "I know who you are. Everyone knows. You are basically the talk of the town right now.” "Great, and here I was thinking it would take a couple of days for everyone to realize.” Drew frowned deeply. "Hey, don’t think of it as such a bad thing. I mean you just got here today and you are already the most popular person in school, other than David Davison, the Mayor’s evil bastard of a son. He is someone you will want to avoid, along with the rest of his lackeys. Don’t worry about spotting them they stick together pretty tight. They all wear the tight t-shirts and David wears a black leather jacket. Anyhow avoid them at all costs.” "What about you? What’s your story?” Drew asked curiously. "I’m a senior, captain of the boxing team, football team, and the baseball team. Speaking of boxing, we would love to have you on the team. We’ve lost to Riverstone three years in a row. Washington’s state champ should put an end to that losing streak. If you are interested in being on the team I can set you up a time on Wednesday to try-out. Not that you actually need to try-out, but it’s a formality.” “I’ll be there.” "Alright man I’ll see ya’ around.” Jeff trotted off into the school. Drew continued up the steps behind him and entered into the large, elaborate lobby. Drew found himself looking around in awe again. The floors were marble, the walls were white cement blocks and in the center of the lobby was a large bronze statue of a horse rearing up on its hind legs. Engraved under it were the words, ‘Home of the Clearstone Stallions, Where Dreams Run Free’. The lobby had the feel of a normal run of the mill high school. It was no mystery that the schools colors were blue and gold due to the fact that there were banners everywhere sporting the colors. The lobby was the basic shape of a large square that had been lined with benches and connected to two hallways on opposite sides of the room that led off to other wings of the school. As Drew looked around he noticed all the busy students scurrying around the lobby with their books and inquiring eyes. Drew ignored their stares and began what he found to be a short search for the main office. Down the hallway to his left he found what he was looking for. As he entered through the arched doorway he found a young, petite woman sitting behind a large desk, surrounded by paper work, and swamped with incoming phone calls. While he was waiting for one of her free moments which seemed to be very limited, he stared out the window to look at the passing students. He watched the faces of the strangers that passed for what seemed to be a very long time before he saw the clique of guys Jeff had mentioned earlier. As described each was sporting a solid black or white t-shirt. As the group passed, the leader, who was about Drew’s height and build, shot him a wary glance. Drew didn’t pay it much attention, but he had a feeling that they wouldn’t be friends in the near future. "Can I help you?” The woman asked as she looked up through her long, messy brown hair. The woman was in her late twenties. Drew looked at the dark circles under her brown eyes and tried to look slightly happy. All he managed was a blank expression. "Yeah, I’m a new student, Drew Knight. I was looking for my schedule and whatever else I may need.” "Umm, yes, hold on I have that here somewhere,” she began quickly looking through stacks of papers and files. Drew waited patiently until she found what she was looking for. "Alright,” she sighed, “Here is everything you need. When you arrive at your classes your teachers will assign you your books and it says here that your guide is Luke McGowan.” The woman frowned whilst she said the name. “Wait here and let me see if I can find you another guide.” "What’s wrong with the one I was assigned?” Drew asked perplexed. "All guides are chosen by computer, which matches you by your class schedules. You have almost every class with him, but you wouldn’t want to get involved with him.” "Why?” "Well, he isn’t very well liked here, and I’m sure the principal wouldn’t want you to get into any trouble. It’s better if we just find you a new guide.” "Alright, if you want, but I think I can find my way around.” "Well, then why don’t you just go on and if you have any trouble than just come back and we will find someone for you.” "Sounds good. Thanks for your help,” Drew said as he turned to leave. "Have a nice day,” she said as she began to attack the paper work once again. Drew exited the office and shuffled through his papers to find his schedule. He was able to read the first class before someone, who was apparently in a hurry, ran past him and knocked the papers from his hands. The guy who had caused the incident kept running and Drew was left with the mess. As he bent down to pick up the strewn papers a young man began to help him. Drew looked up from the floor and met his eyes. He caught his breath. The eyes he were looking into were holding the same pain as his own. The young man’s long eye lashes shaded his caramel eyes. His hair was strawberry blond, cut in a shaggy style and gelled to perfection; unlike Drew’s messy look. He was wearing a white t-shirt under the white and blue pinstriped dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up and the first three buttons unbuttoned. He also wore a pair of faded, baggy blue jeans and black and white converse shoes. When he stood he was about an inch shorter than Drew, however, he had the same muscular build as him. "Are you alright? It looked like he hit you pretty hard,” he said handing Drew his papers. "I have been hit harder. Thanks for helping me,” Drew looked at him for a short moment, “I’m Drew Knight,” Drew said as he extended his hand. "It’s nice to meet you, Drew,” The guy shook his hand and then smiled halfheartedly. "No name?” Drew asked smiling his old bright smile. "No, I have one, but it’s better I don’t tell you.” "Why?” "Simple,” he let the faint smile fade from his face, “Plausible Deniability.” "Alright, I guess I should avoid you then?” "It would be in your best interest.” Drew had noticed that the boy had been staring, not at him, but through the window of the office directly behind him. When Drew turned to look into the office, he saw a tall man with dark hair glaring at the young man. When Drew turned around the guy who had helped him had already left. Drew turned to look back at the man he believed to be the principal, but he too was gone. Meanwhile, across town, Jane had started her shift at the hospital. She worked as the day-time Emergency Room doctor. Things were very slow that particular day, and she had some down time to deal with. She really didn’t like the fact that things were so dreadfully slow, because it made her think about Jordan, which made her feel horrible and hopeless. To avoid thinking about it she would find herself sitting and talking to the secretary, a 60 year-old woman named Eleanor, for most of the time. Eleanor was pretty much the only person she had met in the few days she had been there that she liked to talk to. She had met the handsome middle aged doctor that worked in the pediatrics wing, but seeing how her last marriage crashed and burned. She wasn’t at all interested in pursuing a relationship, even though he was good looking and really seemed to be interested. “Why don’t you go talk to that pediatrics doctor, instead of bothering me all day?” Eleanor laughed. “He doesn’t interest me Eleanor, no man does, not anymore.” “Jane, I know you have been hurt in the past, but not all men are like your ex-husband. Give Dr. McGowan a chance. He’s a nice man, he even has a son, well nephew, your son’s age, they would make great friends, I think. Although, you shouldn’t believe what you hear about the boy, he is a good hearted kid.” “No, I have had my fill of men.” “I am disappointed to hear that,” a deep voice said coming around the corner. “Dr. McGowan, how nice of you to grace us with your presence, you’re just in time to take Ms. Knight out to lunch.” Eleanor decided to emphasize her title as Ms. “Well, if you’re free I would love to go, in fact I’ve been dying to ask you,” Dr. McGowan said smiling. “I appreciate the offer but I would rather n-.” “Please.” “I can’t I’ve got other things to do.” Dr. McGowan had a disappointed look on his face and for a moment Jane really did want to go but she was too afraid. Dr. McGowan smiled at her and Eleanor, turned and left. “He really is a handsome man.” “Eleanor! I should wring your neck!” “Well, you can’t deny it, all the women are after him.” Eleanor smiled. “Why should I add to the competition then?” “Fine, be stubborn then. See if I care.” Eleanor’s smile faded as Jane lifted her head and walked to her office. Drew found his way to his first class easily enough. Although it did help, that anyone he asked directions from was more than happy to talk to him. He figured it was mostly due to the fact they would have something to tell the press later. When Drew arrived at the advanced calculus room, he gave a slight knock on the door. Class had already begun, but none of the students had quieted down enough for anything to be taught. When Drew stepped into the room it was obvious what the topic of conversation was, when everyone became silent. Drew let a frown cross his face as he looked at the inquisitive faces that stared at him as he walked to the teacher’s desk. “Mr. Greene?” “Mr. Knight I wasn’t expecting you until after the break.” Mr. Greene was in his late thirties. He still possessed all of his raven black hair, but it was beginning to gray around his temples. His eyes, bright blue, were set under heavy eye lids surround by crow’s feet. However, he was physically fit, and professionally dressed. “Yeah, well…” Drew replied lifelessly. “Please take a seat by Mr. McGowan, I will have another desk in here tomorrow, but until then that will be your seat.” Drew looked back over his shoulder at the only empty desk in the room. The same young man that helped Drew pick up his papers earlier that morning, sat alone and secluded in the corner next to the window. Drew let surprise flood his face when he realized that that young man was no other than Luke McGowan, and he was staring straight at Drew. “Is that someone else’s seat?” Drew asked trying to find the reason for an extra desk. “No, but-” Mr. Greene started. “With all due respect Mr. Greene, I think that I of all people can decide what is best for me. Don’t worry about getting another desk.” Drew turned and realized that all thirty-two students in the class were staring at him with wide eyes and dropped jaws. Drew however, was only looking at Luke, as he walked to the back of the class to take his seat. “Why didn’t you tell me who you were this morning?” Drew asked in a whisper as he took his seat. “I figured it would be best if you were not associated with me,” Luke whispered back. “Why is that?” “You’re taking advanced calculus, so you’re pretty smart. It’s not that hard to figure out.” Luke looked Drew square in the eye. “I’m the ex-member of a local gang who killed my own father. If I were you, I would avoid me too.” Luke shifted his body toward the window and stared out at the sky. Drew looked back out at the thirty one students staring at him. “What?” Drew asked in a loud, irate tone. They all turned back around at once. Drew saw Luke grin out of the corner of his eye. It was sunny and slightly windy outside as it often was in spring. Drew turned his attention to the sketch book on Luke’s desk. The drawing in it was extremely good. It was almost an exact copy of the landscape outside the window, but the only difference was the landscape was dark and stormy rather than bright and sunny. Luke turned and looked at Drew’s wandering eyes and then shut the book. Drew saw the anguish in his eyes as he did so. At that very moment, he didn’t know why, but in an odd sort of way Drew felt like he was connected to him. They shared a pain that few people would ever know. As the class lingered on Drew found himself completely spaced out. For what had only lasted an hour seemed like a millennium to Drew. When the bell finally rang Drew still felt dazed. Despite that, he still noticed that Luke took his time leaving. He was very cautious as he walked out of the room, looking down both ends of the hall before he walked out the door. Luke tried to adopt the same relaxed posture as his classmates when he walked, but Drew could tell he was tense. His shoulders were slightly slumped, head held level, and his pace fast. A slight frown marred his face and his expression showed that he was hyper alert to his surroundings. Drew noticed a slight limp to his walk. Drew realized then that Luke might not be isolated by the people around him, but that he might be isolating himself. Drew then thought about the gang, and the principle. This made him wonder if just for a second that maybe he should heed everyone’s warnings. As the morning passed, Drew found himself sitting next to Luke in all of his morning classes, except for Spanish, which was due to the fact that Luke took German. When it came time for lunch Drew saw Jeff setting at a large table of guys he believed might be the boxing team. That didn’t include the beautiful blonde that set just to Jeff’s left. As Drew approached, the girl elbowed Jeff and looked straight at Drew. Jeff smiled and got up to welcome him; the girl followed suit. “Hey, Drew! Come sit with us and meet the team,” Jeff said pulling another chair up to the table. Drew approached Jeff, who had put his arm around the girl that accompanied him. “Drew, this is my girl Rose,” Jeff said proudly, beaming. The girl was wearing a short, pink mini skirt, with a white button up blouse. Her long, blonde curls reached down to the middle of her back and matched perfectly with her golden eyes. She was also tall for a female; 5’8, Drew guessed. “Hi,” she said in friendly manner, much like Jeff. Drew tried to smile back. “Hi,” was all he could manage. Jeff, still smiling, motioned to the table and they took their seats. Drew looked around at the other guys setting at the table. He counted seven, but there was still one empty chair beside Rose. Drew looked over the cafeteria for Luke, he was nowhere in sight. “Drew, this is the boxing team. There are eight of us, not counting you, and we are all hoping that will change. A state champ is something our team could really use,” Jeff said in between bites of his hamburger. “I told you I would join, I don’t go back on my word,” Drew said, forcing a slight smile. “Well,” Jeff began pointing around the table, “This is Matt, Jake, Lance, Joey, Brett, Mike, Ryan, and Lucas.” The guys all nodded and smiled. “I heard that you ticked Mr. Greene off royally this morning. What did you do?” Mark, a brawny, raven hair guy asked. “Oh, I guess he was mad about my refusing to take another desk,” Drew said. “Another desk?” Mark asked. “Yeah, the one left was beside of that Luke McGowan guy, and Mr. Greene wanted to bring in another desk and I told him it wasn’t necessary.” Every jaw at the table dropped. Drew rolled his eyes and took a bite from his burger. “You took up for Luke McGowan?” Rose asked with a smile. “If you want to call it that. He helped me this morning and I was just returning the favor. He seems like a nice guy to me.” “That’s what Jeff and I keep telling everyone,” Rose eyed the others at the table. “I was his best friend, still am if I can ever get him to talk to me again. We leave a seat open every day, but he never comes to lunch anymore.” “Rose, you know Luke has his reasons,” Jeff said looking at her. “What are you talking about? What did he do to make everyone send him into exile?” Drew asked confused as ever. “He keeps himself isolated from Jeff and me because he is afraid that David and his gang might come after us as well.” Drew gave her a funny look. Jeff sat back in his chair, second hamburger in hand and sighed as Rose began to explain. “About a year ago, when we were still juniors and Luke lived with his father, him and David Davidson had a falling out,” Rose paused and looked at Jeff who nodded at her. When she got conformation that Jeff had already informed Drew about David she continued, “Jeff and I were his best friends along with David. It was Luke’s seventeenth birthday, and we were all down by the docks when Tyler Chipley came by. Tyler had never been really popular with many people, but Luke seemed to like him. “As the night progressed we all began to get really drunk. That’s when David began to hassle Tyler. At first it was just playful then he started to get violent. Luke stepped in and David got pissed, he started