"But there's not a damn thing either of us can do about it," I added, "so let's put this stuff away and go get cleaned up for dinner."
We picked up the tools and stashed them in the barn before going inside to shower. I waited until I heard the water in the guest bath turn off before taking my own, and as I slid the shower curtain aside to grab a towel, Evan came into the bathroom, zipping a pair of cargo shorts.
"Good timing," he said, giving my drippy dick a quick squeeze. "I see you got the coop started."
We chatted about that while we got dressed, and then went to feed Chewy before we left. Bren was in the kitchen when we got out there, so I gave him the bag of carrots for Dory and the mares who waiting at the fence, patiently for once.
"Here, go make yourself useful," I told him. He smiled and banged out the back door and jogged across the yard, his hair and shirt and shorts flopping around as he ran.
"He even runs like you," Evan commented as he watched out the window.
I leaned over to see. "Really?" I watched him until he reached the fence, then turned to look at Evan. "That's such a weird thought, that there's another person who's kinda like me. I mean, cause I didn't have any brothers, so... I don't know."
Evan had gone back to watching Brendan after I began speaking. Now he turned to me and said, "It's interesting to see the two of you together. When I first saw him, he looked like he could be your kid. Now that I've been around him some, he seems less like you cause he has different mannerisms and his accent is a little stronger."
"I have an accent?" I thought I talked just like Evan.
He laughed. "Yes, you definitely sound like you're from further north. You can't hear it?"
Bren came bounding in the back door at that point, so we jumped in the Jeep and headed for ribs. I listened to them talk and, now that Evan had mentioned it, I could hear the softer vowels in some of Brendan's words. Huh.
Someone was just pulling out of a spot as we got there, so I squeezed into it and as we got out, I saw Sharon and Norm coming across the street. Brendan spotted Sharon the same time I did and locked onto the sight of her gently bobbing chest as they walked toward us. They were both wearing white t-shorts and denim shorts, smiling, holding hands, and they looked like an ad for laundry detergent or mouthwash. We met up with them at the door, where Bren managed to drag his eyes up to Sharon's face as I introduced them.
She grinned and took his hesitantly outstretched hand. "Ah, the nephew. You're even cuter than your uncle!"
He blushed hard at that, deep pink circles coming up on his cheeks as he swallowed and stammered a thank you. Norm shook his hand, then whacked him on the shoulder and pushed him on through the door. Evan rolled his eyes as he walked past me and muttered, "Straight as an arrow."
Maybe, but I wasn't completely immune to Sharon in a snug white T either, so I didn't feel that totally settled it. And he was only fifteen oops, fifteen and a half so maybe he was still on the fence. Whatever. I could smell ribs now that I was following Evan to the big rectangular table in the corner where Raf and Kenny were already pouring the first round, so the burning issue of Brendan's gender preference took a back seat to food.
I watched Bren take in Kenny in his chair, watched him looking at the wheels and at Kenny's legs, wondering what he was thinking. When Raf stood up to shake his hand, Bren's back was to me, so I tried to read his reaction from the expression on Raf's face, but after giving Bren a hard look, Raf grinned at him, and I breathed a little easier.
Dinner was delicious, as usual, and I spent most of it eating and watching from my seat at the end of the table. Sharon had pulled Brendan into the chair next to her, with Norm on her other side, to my right. Kenny was opposite me with Evan next to him, then Raf to my left. When I'd first moved to Patterson and we'd started going out with other couples, I'd had a thing about always sitting next to Evan. Kinda like I didn't want him to get too far away from me, but when I realized it was me being uncomfortable about being around people I didn't know well, I eased up on elbowing them out of the seat next to Evan, and just sitting wherever I ended up. At first, Bren mostly just stuffed his face. Coleslaw, baked beans, two dinner rolls, a full rack of baby backs, at least two soda refills it all just kept disappearing into his mouth as he nodded and laughed at whatever Sharon or Kenny was saying to him. Looking at him, seeing other people - my friends - enjoying his company, I felt a faint parental sort of pride in knowing that he was my nephew.
"What're you guys doing this weekend?" Kenny asked Sharon.
"Working. I've got an open house both days at that big red brick place on Tenth, and Norm's on for seventy-two hours starting Saturday at noon."
"Sucks to be you. We're doing a swim-and-eat at our place."
Norm snorted in disgust. "Figures."
When every last rib had been gnawed clean and the waiter came around to check on dessert, everyone but Brendan groaned and waved him away. Bren glanced at me for a second, then said, "No thanks, we've got really good cookies at home." Then he gave me kind of a quick secret little smile and I figured he was remembering my "fuck Mike" comment.
Out on the sidewalk, we stood around for a bit, saying goodbye. When Sharon treated Bren to a seriously close hug, I thought his eyes were gonna pop out, and I actually laughed at his expression when they drew apart. Sharon socked me in the arm, but Brendan didn't even notice.
Back home, it was still pretty warm in the house, so we turned on a few fans, poured tall iced teas and headed for the back porch while it cooled down inside. Evan and I staked out the top step, our usual spot, and Bren sat in the grass at our feet while Chewy chased a ball around. After we'd been out there a few minutes, he glanced at Evan and cleared his throat. "Um... I know the ladies at your office are, like, your clients, but can I ask you a question?"
"The girl? With the baby? How old is she?"
After a slight pause, Evan asked, "Why do you want to know?"
"Cause she looks so young. Like my age or something."
Evan sighed and looked at him for several seconds before replying. His face was grave and I knew this was one of those cases that had really touched him for some reason.
"She is your age, Brendan. Her parents threw her out when they found out she was pregnant, so she stayed with a friend's family. She's decided to do an open adoption, so I'm handling that for her and helping her get some financial assistance so that she can finish high school."
I watched the reality of all that sink in as Brendan's face slowly went from curiosity to confusion. He looked at me, but I didn't have any answers and could only shrug at him. I ached a little for him, wishing we'd never gone upstairs, wishing the girl had picked a different day to hang out at the Family Law Center. But I knew as well as anyone that you can't protect people from life. Finally I said, "It was her decision to have the baby, and Evan's going to help her. You don't have to feel bad for her."
"Um... it's not really that." He flushed and looked away for a second, but came back to me with a desperate look on his face. "I'm the same age she is but I've never done it!"
Ahhh, the self-centeredness of being fifteen and a half. It was almost impossible to keep a straight face, but I managed it because he was deadly serious. "Well, not everyone, uh, has, uh, sex when they're fifteen."
He gave me a doubtful look. "How old were you?"
Evan's eyes slid my way. He knew damn well I'd been fifteen.
"Um... well... I was pretty young, too, but that doesn't mean you have to run out and get lai uh... do the same thing. It'll happen when it's right, believe me."
Thankfully, he seemed to accept that as a decent answer and didn't ask anything further on the subject. As he turned his gaze out to the dark field, I got another wave of that parental feeling again, but this one was kind of panicky. What the hell were you supposed to say when your own experiences were not what you wanted your kid well, nephew to do? Lie? That didn't seem like a particularly smart move, in case they ever found out the truth later and called you on it.
Evan leaned toward me slightly as he shifted his weight and murmured, "Dodged that bullet."
When we went in to bed around ten-thirty, Brendan paused outside the door to his room. "Thanks a lot for dinner. Your friends are pretty nice."
"You get enough to eat?"
He gave me a sheepish look. "Yeah. Did I eat a lot? My mom's always asking me if I have a hollow leg or something."
"Well, enjoy it while you can." I patted my belly. "Pretty soon it starts sticking around."
He gave me another disbelieving look and went into his room. Evan was naked and chugging down aspirin when I walked into our bathroom. He saw me looking at him. "Not tonight, honey, I have a headache."
"Very funny," I said, as I stripped and followed him to bed.
Actually, I wasn't much in the mood either. Having a virgin minor right next door kind of put a damper on things. Evan curled up next to me, one arm across my chest with a loose grip on my bicep, like he was keeping me from getting up and running off. Having slept next to him for more than a year now, I could hardly remember sleeping alone. Even when we weren't actually touching, I could still hear him breathing, still knew he was there, just an arm's length away if I needed to reach out and put the flat of my hand on the warm skin of his back. He drifted off before I did, leaving me to lay there and think about family and about a saying I'd heard once. You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your relatives. If you could, though, I'd pick Brendan any day.
By seven Saturday morning, I was in the kitchen swilling down a glass of orange juice and pushing `pulse' on the coffee bean grinder every few seconds. Bren staggered in rubbing his eyes. "What are you doing?"
"Grinding coffee beans."
He let his jaw drop and gave me a `duh' look. "They sell 'em already done."
"No shit?" I said, with a look of my own. "This is kind of a treat we have on the weekends."
He rolled his eyes as I dumped the grounds into the French press and poured in hot water. "Coffee's gross, anyway."
I let that go and started on breakfast, putting Bren to work mashing up a couple over-ripe bananas and measuring pancake mix into a bowl. Sausages in one pan, butter in another for the fried eggs, the cast-iron griddle on the big burner for the pancakes. Evan ambled into the room just as I was flipping the first banana pancake over.
"Oh, god, the good coffee," he said, raising his head to sniff the air. He poured two cups, got the cream from the fridge, and doctored up a mug for me with just enough sugar. That first sip is crucial, you know? Sets the tone for the rest of the day, sometimes. I mmm'd my approval as I walked over to the table and handed my cup to Brendan. "Taste this."
He wrinkled up his nose but took the mug carefully and smelled it before taking a hesitant sip. He blinked a couple times as he took in the flavors, and then took another, larger, sip.
"Well?" I asked, holding out my hand for the cup.
He smiled and turned his shoulder toward me as he put both hands around the cup. "Not bad. Can I have it?"
"Not bad?" Evan questioned, as he cracked eggs into the pan. "It's fucking fabulous." I smiled and made myself another one.
After breakfast, we went out to the garden to pick whatever was ready and talk about what to take to Kenny's that afternoon. Beer, of course, but since they were making burgers, we decided on macaroni salad and guacamole. Although Brendan seemed to eat most of what he picked, tomato-wise, he seemed to enjoy walking up and down the rows, peering through the foliage for ripe veggies. We were just walking back to the house when one of the mares nickered a horse `hello', and from around the back of the barn came Bill riding a huge brown horse. I glanced at Bren real quick and grinned to see the delight on his face.
"You can ride `em!" he said as he handed me the basket of vegetables and made a bee line for Bill.
As Evan and I got close, I hazarded, "Is that Brownie?"
"Very good," Bill said. "I hear you wanna ride a horse," he added, looking at Brendan, who stood a few feet away with his mouth hanging open.
"Um, yeah, that'd be cool."
Bill swung his leg over and slid to the ground. "Ok, well, first you have to figure out how to get on."
Bren eyed Brownie's back, which was several inches above his head. "Well, I can't jump that high... Can I take him over by the picnic table?"
"Sure." Bill handed him the reins and we watched the big horse follow the skinny teenager across the yard.
"He's not gonna get killed, is he?" I asked. "Cause I'm not sure what I'd tell my sister."
Bill laughed. "My wife's ten-year-old niece rode him in the county fair this year. He'll be fine."
Brendan carefully led Brownie in a circle, ending up with one side of the horse parallel with the end of the table. Even after Brendan climbed on top of the table, it was a bit of a jump to end up belly-down across Brownie's back. He stayed there for a moment, getting his balance, then swung a leg over and pushed himself to a sitting position. He gathered up the reins in one hand, grabbed a handful of thick black mane with the other, and grinned at us.
"Squeeze with your legs to make him go. Whoa means stop. He neck-reins, so lay the reins against his neck in the direction you wanna turn."
Another pause while Bren digested that, then Brownie's ears perked up slightly and he began walking across the yard, but without any directional input from Brendan, he started to drift toward us.
"Did you aim him this way?" Bill asked.
"Then make him go where you want. You're ridin' him, not the other way around."
Brownie's path straightened out as Bren gave him some direction, and as we watched, they criss-crossed the yard a few times, circled us once, and went completely around the house. I held my breath until they appeared again, feeling unreasonably nervous about the whole thing.
"Wanna go faster?" Bill asked, and when he got a nod from Brendan, replied, "Kick him gently, but it's gonna be a little bouncy, so be ready."
Brownie lifted into a slow trot, and they got about thirty feet before Brendan jolted out a jerky, "Who-oo-ooa," whereupon Brownie stopped in his tracks. When he rubbed his nuts for a second, then added, "That's ok, I'll just walk.," we all cracked up. Bill walked over to them and snapped a rope onto Brownie's bridle.
"Actually, there's another gear that's a little faster but a lot smoother. You wanna try that?"
Brendan frowned for a moment, but nodded. "Sure."
"Ok, when he gets going, lean back just a little and relax." Bill took off at a jog, towing Brownie and Brendan along. After a few seconds, he rapped out, "Canter!" in a sharp voice, and Brownie broke into a slow, rolling lope at his side. After a few seconds of looking like he was gonna fall completely off, Bren suddenly got the hang of it, surging along like an extra in a spaghetti western. When Bill got tired of running, he slowed down and turned back toward us, but Brendan didn't quite get the message in time, and disappeared off the far side of the horse in a rolling tumble. Luckily, he jumped up laughing and hollered, "Slippery!" He caught up with Bill who boosted him back onto Brownie, unsnapped the rope, and let them wander around for a few more minutes before saying he had to get back to chores.
"That was really cool. Thanks a lot!" Bren said as he reluctantly handed Brownie back to Bill.
"No problem. Next time you visit, we'll do it again."
We waved goodbye as they went off down the drive, then went into the house to make guacamole and mac salad. Brendan couldn't stop talking about how neat it was to be so high up in the air, and how he could feel Brownie's muscles working as he moved, and how he couldn't wait to come back and do it again. Evan bumped my arm, smiling at me as he chopped onions, and I grinned back.
By the time we got to Kenny and Raf's it was hot. We threw the food in the fridge and leaped into the pool, splashing around for an hour or so until hunger drove us back out. Raf cooked burgers while the rest of us drank beer (soda for the kid) and ate chips and guac. Brendan was really comfortable with Raf and Kenny, joking with Raf about burning the burgers and getting thrown in the pool for his trouble. We lay around for a while after we ate, letting all that ground sirloin digest a little before jumping back in the pool.
"Hey, there's four of us how about a little king of the mountain?" Raf asked. `Four of us' meant four people not in wheelchairs. I glanced at Kenny, but he was floating around in an inner tube and looked like he was asleep.
"Sure," Evan said, "but I get Jeff."
"Welcome to him," Raf scoffed. "Come here, kid."
He squatted down in the water while Bren climbed onto his shoulders and I did the same for Evan, gripping his thighs just above the knees after he got his nuts settled behind the back of my neck. Raf and I stalked each other, getting just close enough for Bren and Evan to try and pull the other guy over. Things got intense and pretty soon it was a free-for-all with the dogs barking from the edge of the pool as Raf and I tried to keep our balance while the upper guys pulled and shoved. Finally, Evan's strength and experience won out, pushing Bren and Raf over, then under, as we piled onto them.
We played a little football later in the afternoon, when it had cooled off some, and they kicked our butts there. Brendan was quick, and so skinny you couldn't get a hand on him. He ran all over the place, dodging around just out of reach, catching everything Raf threw to him while Evan and I ran ourselves ragged.
"Enough," I finally declared, bending over with my hands on my knees, trying to get some air into my burning lungs.
"What's the matter, old man?" Raf asked as he swatted me on the butt, then handed me a beer. "Kid too much for ya?"
"Bite me," I muttered, trying not to say `fuck' too much in front of Bren. Not that he didn't know the word, but I figured I oughta try to set some sort of example, which was pretty funny when you thought about it.
Around seven, we packed up our stuff and went out to the Jeep. Raf caught me up in a hug that was more fun than usual since we were both bare-chested and had only swimsuits on. The original plan had been to go out for burgers or pizza, but none of us were inspired enough to actually get cleaned up and go, so we just went home. Bren was quiet during the drive. I glanced at him in the back seat of the Jeep, one arm holding Chewy close. He was brown with a touch of pink from a day in the sun, his hair was shoved back off his face, and he had his eyes closed as he tilted his face up into the wind, a small smile on his mouth. He looked young and happy, and it twisted my innards just a little to look at him. Evan followed my gaze, and patted my leg with a warm hand as he smiled at me.
We took showers to get the chlorine and sweat off, then slumped into the kitchen to see about dinner. All three of us were too tired to come up with anything requiring much effort, so we decided on grilled cheese sandwiches and the rest of the guacamole and chips. Not a gourmet meal, but it tasted good as we washed it down with iced tea on the back porch while the yard grew dark. I was beginning to recognize Brendan's looks, and seeing him stare off across the field, I knew a question or two was brewing. Once the last crescent of sun had disappeared into the trees, he cleared his throat.
"Can I ask a question? Kind of about Kenny?"
He didn't direct it at one of us in particular, but I glanced at Evan, and he replied, "Sure."
"How do you get used to not walking? I mean, don't you just try to stand up without even thinking about it?"
Evan sighed, and was silent for a few moments. "Well... in Kenny's case, his back was broken, and when you can't feel anything, I'm pretty sure you know you can't walk. It's kinda like you feel ok, except that you just can't get your legs to work. As far as getting used to it... I think maybe you finally accept it, but you never get used to it." Another sigh, this one deeper. "There are some things you never get used to."
A year ago a comment like that would have broke me out in a cold sweat, imagining Evan brooding over Luke, wishing it was Luke sitting next to him instead of me. Now I just reached over and rested a hand on the back of Evan's bowed head for a second before sliding it down to grip his neck gently. One last sigh, then he swung his head and smiled when his eyes met mine.
"It must suck," was Brendan's final comment on the subject.
Evan's smiled widened as he closed his eyes and shook his head slightly. "Yeah, it must."
The three of us sat there in contemplative silence for a while longer, but then the mosquitoes started biting and we retreated indoors to ice cream and TV. Brendan sprawled in the chair and promptly fell asleep while Evan and I lounged on the sofa. I was actually paying attention to the movie, but Evan lay down and began nestling the back of his head into my lap. At first I thought he was just trying to get comfortable, but when I glanced down, he was watching me.
"What are you doing?" I whispered.
"It's been three days," Evan whispered back. "I'm horny."
"Yeah, well..." I replied, tipping my head toward Bren, who was snoring softly from the depths of the overstuffed chair.
"So? We've fooled around with other people in the house."
Yeah, other adult people who know what fooling around is. You heard him he's never done it."
"I promise I won't shriek," Evan said, sliding one hand up the front of my shirt and circling my nipple with a soft fingertip as he rolled his face into my stomach. The enthusiastic reaction from my dick was immediately felt on the side of his head, and he grinned at me. "He's sound asleep. Come on."
"All right, all right, but we gotta be quick."
"Don't worry, it's been three days," Evan assured me as we snuck out of the room. I had in mind to give him a speedy blow job just to shut him up, but then we got to the bedroom where Evan undressed and crawled naked up the bed, and I decided what the hell. I'd lost my shirt on the way down the hall, so I dropped my shorts and quickly crawled after him, biting him on the ass when I caught up. He did shriek then, flipping onto his back with a giggle which quickly became a moan when I pushed between his knees and took his hard cock in a firm grip.
"So... what's your pleasure?" I asked him in a throaty growl, which always seemed to make him just a little harder.
In the dim light, I saw Evan's throat work as he swallowed, but his voice still came out a hoarse whisper. "Like this," he said, holding my eyes with his dark gaze as I leaned down to kiss him. After a quick pause for lube, I pushed his knees out and back as I eased between his legs, pushing my spread thighs under his butt until I could angle my way into him. He closed his eyes and made small sounds that I always think are discomfort but which he assures me are not. Once I was settled deep inside him, I paused to collect myself, figuring that if we were gonna do this, we might as well do it good. Evan opened his eyes after a moment.
"You ok?" he asked.
"Yeah, just thinkin' it never gets old, you know?" I moved slightly inside him. "This."
I could hear the smile in his voice. "Yeah, I know."
So instead of a five minute blow job, we spent the next hour making each other smile in a variety of ways, but ending up as we had begun - Evan on his back, me on my knees - both of us completely winded as I collapsed next to him.
"Has it really only been three days?" I asked him, when I had enough breath.
After we cleaned up a bit, Evan crawled back into bed while I put on a pair of shorts and wandered back to the TV room where Brendan was still snoring to the sounds of Jay Leno announcing his next guest. I snapped the TV off, then walked over and looked down at him. Did I ever look that innocent, I wondered. Probably not, I thought, as I gently shook his shoulder.
"Hey," I said when he opened his eyes and smiled. "Bedtime."
He nodded sleepily and stretched, then pushed to his feet and staggered through the kitchen and down the hall. At the door to his room, he turned to me. "You guys hug a lot."
I shrugged. "Yeah, I guess maybe we do, but hugs are something you can't get too many of." I studied him for a moment. "Does your family hug much?"
I got the one-shoulder hike and a dismissive shake of the head. "Nah."
"Don't know what you're missing, then." I paused as I tried to figure out how to say this the right way, but after a few seconds, I decided talking wasn't the way to go. I rested a hand on his shoulder for a moment, then pulled him to me, ready to let go if he resisted too much. After a slight hesitation, he gave a little, and I pulled him close, folding my arms across his boney back as an unexpected jolt of emotion tightened my chest. Brendan stood still in my arms, barely breathing, it seemed, and I almost let go, but then his forehead dropped to my shoulder and his hands came up to rest lightly on my back. I could feel the thump of his heart against my chest, fast and light, like he was scared or out of breath.
Before I had time to register much else, he stepped away and turned toward his room with a soft, "'Night."
"Good night," I said to the closing door, staring at it for a bit before going back to Evan. I wasn't sure but I thought maybe Brendan and I had just shared a moment and it felt pretty good. I slid under the sheet, easing over until I met up with Evan's warm back. I put an arm across his ribcage and settled in, thinking about family and all that word could mean. For me, it meant Evan, first and foremost, but my definition had been expanded this weekend to include a skinny teenager who looked back at me with my eyes.