This story is 100% fictional. The towns are real, but the people and locations are made up. Any action or resemblance to any person living or dead is pure coincidence.

Please enjoy.

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Challenges VI

***

The next morning Justin woke up and felt a body next to him. He was about to jerk out of bed before he remembered Matt had joined him in the night due to his dream. He felt foolish being scared of the dream, but the fact it had felt so real gave it a different psychological level.

He looked at the clock and noticed it was only 6:00 AM.

Justin stretched a bit and got up to find his way to the bathroom. Matt rolled over and continued to sleep. His brother: the lazy one. Of course that was fine considering Matt owned his own company. A very successful biotech company that he had built from the ground up.

Lori had helped him run it from just a small office with 2 other people working to a multi-national business in just ten years. The big break through was a cancer detection system that was cheaper, and more accurate then any before. Justin had designed the main computer system of the company. Every now and then he was called in to fix a glitch the other techs could not figure out. After building the system, Justin received an offer to work for a high tech firm in Seattle.

After leaving the bathroom Justin decided to check to see who else was up at this hour. He expected to find his dad up, but that was it. As he heard the kitchen he could hear Lori talking to someone. Justin stopped to see what the commotion was about.

"╔Why do you think that?" She asked in a soft but stern voice.

"I just do." A sullen male voice returned to her. It was Chris. "I just don't like girls that much. I much prefer to hang out with Steven at school."

"That doesn't mean anything." Lori said with a sigh. "I love you son no matter what, but you do not need to jump to this conclusion just yet."

"I do like Steven." Chris said in defiance. "And he likes me. I don't know what the big deal is. You always tell me that Uncle Justin is normal."

"He is normal." Lori said. "But you need to understand╔" The scrapping of a chair on the floor and the sound of footsteps moving towards Justin interrupted her. Justin composed himself as if he hadn't heard the scenario.

"He little man." Justin said with a smile as Chris came into sight. "Early morning?"

Chris stopped short and looked at his uncle. Justin could tell he would be one mess of a teenager.

"Mom insisted on talking." He smarted off. "She has issues."

"That's not a nice to say about your mom." Justin ruffled with Chris's hair. "She is concerned and loves you. Listen to what she has to say."

"Whatever." Chris started off to the living room. "I am going to watch TV."

Justin watched his nephew walk away and laughed at himself. The boy was just like him at that age. He turned towards the kitchen and the talk he was not looking forward to with Lori.

When Justin rounded the doorway he saw Lori with tears in her eyes. This was something of a surprise.

"Morning." Justin said with a smile.

"Morning." Lori reached for a paper towel to dry her eyes. She sniffed a bit and smiled to make it look normal. "Are you okay?"

"Yes. Just a bad dream." Justin said opening the fridge and getting orange juice out. "Matt stayed with me like he used too."

"He told me he was going to." Lori smiled. "He also told me about the dreams."

"They started soon after he returned from his mission." Justin drank his orange juice. He was curious to know what had took place between Lori and Chris, but he would find out eventually. "Same figure. Same statements. Same sequence of events."

Lori nodded deep in thought.

"Chris thinks he is gay." Lori finally said with a deep breath. "He thinks he is in love with one of his school friends, Steven."

Justin raised an eyebrow and watched Lori. He didn't respond. There was nothing to say. He had learned early on when this conversation came up, it was best to say nothing and just listen. People needed to process it.

"Oh I am okay with it if he is." Lori said making clear that she didn't find anything wrong with it. "Justin would feel the same way. But I wonder if he is just not feeling that way because he is so young?"

They sat in silence for a while. Lori stared off at the wall, and Justin drank his orange juice.

"I don't want him to think I disapprove by any means." Lori continued after a few moments of silence. "But at the same time I want him to really think his feelings through. He is only 12. Almost 13. How does a 13 year old know what he wants?" She looked at Justin, this time for an answer.

"I started to sense I was different at 12." Justin shrugged. "I had to figure it out on my own, as I had no one to talk to. Chris is lucky as he has Matt and you to talk to. He knows you care. It took me almost 3 years to come to terms and accept it."

"We live in a world that is more accepting." Lori put her face in her hands and looked ready to scream. "But it is still cruel. Even in this house he knew that people wouldn't accept him for that."

"One person." Justin said simply and finished off his juice.

He went to the sink to rinse the glass out and put it in the dishwasher to be cleaned later.

"More people in this house will love him," Justin said heading out of the kitchen to go back to his room, "then will not love him."

***

Justin and Matt climbed out of the car after Matt picked him up from school. Justin could drive, but his mom currently felt he did not need the freedom to drive around. He was confident when Matt went to college in two weeks that would change. His mom would not enjoy having to go back and forth to take him.

Justin put his backpack in the den and made his way to the kitchen to get a snack. He was in high spirits, and wasn't about to let anything get him down.

As he entered the kitchen his mother was busy working on something for dinner and didn't turn around when he entered the room. He wasn't even sure he heard him.

"How was school?" She said without turning around.

"It was good." Matt opened the fridge to grab a soda. "I got to meet some new friends today, since I had my schedule changed."

"I am glad Mr. Lowe did that." His mother turned around to look at Justin. "Keeping you two apart will be the best for everyone involved."

"A challenge." Justin said trying to be as obstinate as possible. "One of many challenges I am sure."

"Don't talk back to me like that young man." His mother waved a finger at Justin. "You may not like what I am doing, but I am doing it for your own good. For the good of your soul."

Justin shrugged and went to grab an apple. He figured if he played his cards right his mother would get flustered.

"Kimberly asked me to come over to study for our English class. We have a chapter to read already, and figured it would be easier to do it together." Justin took a bite of his apple. "Can I go?"

"Who all will be there?" His mother eyed him.

"I don't know. She asked me at the end of school. Said she wouldn't mind studying together." Justin figured he would just leave out the other people coming over. "I said I doubted I could since I was grounded for life."

"I will call her mom." His mother turned around and started to cook dinner again. "I want her to know under no circumstances are you to be there if Nate is there."

"Whatever." Justin turned around and went back to the den to take a look at his math homework.

***

Thirty minuets later the front door opened and he could hear multiple steps walking down the hall. He suspected it was Matt and Lori. They would be off to college in two weeks together, leaving Justin to deal with life alone. It was a depressing thought.

"Hey little man!" Lori smiled as she saw Justin siting on the couch by himself. She went over and sat next to him, pulling him into her and giving him a tight hug. She didn't let go.

"Hi Lori." Justin surrendered and didn't fight her grip. "Nice to see you too."

"I just love you." She said kissing him on the forehead and letting him go. "Not as much as I love Matt, but still love you."

She sat back to allow Justin to readjust his papers and books on the couch. Matt took a seat in the chair on the opposite side of the room. The one that his dad usually sat in.

"So Matt told me about your adventure yesterday." Lori grinned. "I am so proud of you."

Justin blushed and looked at the floor. "I was just standing up for people that I cared for. Those jerks had no right to be saying what they said." The thought made him get angry, but he had to let it go.

"Still." Lori said thoughtfully. "It took a brave young man to do that. Nate must really love you to support you still after this."

"He is awesome." Justin blushed at the comments. Lori had been great. Always asking questions, and wanting to know about Justin's life. It gave him a way to vent, and get closer to Lori and Matt.

"So did you see him today?" Lori asked playing with Justin's hair.

"Yea." Justin grinned. He didn't want to say out loud he had the opportunity to make out in fear of his mother hearing.

"I see." Lori sat for a moment sitting silent. "I think I might have an idea."  She smiled and stood up giving Justin a pat on the head. "Lets go talk about it." She grabbed Matt's hand and dragged him upstairs to his room.

***

By dinner time Justin had not heard if he was allowed to go to Kimberly's to work on homework or not. Justin assumed that he would not be allowed to go. He wasn't sure how keen Kimberly's mom was about Justin and Nate having a romantic encounter at school. He wondered what church would be like on Sunday when he would be they, doing all his duties, and all the members looking down on them.

Justin was seated at the table, with his brother other side of the table. His dad was sitting at the head of the table as usual, looking at the paper. Justin's mom and Lori were busy bringing in plates of food for dinner. Lori and Matt alternated eating between houses, with Monday being reserved for each other home.

They all sat down and had a blessing on the food, and started to eat. Lori and his mother spent much of the time having small talk. It was apparent that Justin's mom was attempting to bring a new light to Lori as being the prime example of what a love should look like. As dinner dragged on, he felt less and less like eating, and eventually just moved is food around. What was life going to be like without Matt around?

"I called Sister Helen about what the plans were for tonight's study group." Justin's mom finally stated as dinner was coming to an end. "She said that as far as she knew it would be just you and Kimberly." Her mother had a smug look of victory in her. "She thinks it would be a good idea for you to spend some time with a girl, and get to know what relationships should really be about." His mother took a drink of water and placed her hands on the table, which gave Justin an imagine of Queen Elizabeth I of England about to make a royal decree. "I think it would be good to, so you are free to go."

"Thanks." Justin said attempting to hide his excitement. "I am sure Kimberly will appreciate the help I can provide."

"Matt," his mother looked at her eldest son, "Can you drive Justin to Kimberly's please?"

"Of course." Matt smiled at Justin.

***

Justin sat in the back seat of the car as Matt and Lori took him to Kimberly's house.

"So what's the deal?" Lori asked turning around. "I am sure Nate will be there."

"As far as I know he will be there, with several of our other friends." Justin shrugged. "We are all doing a big study group. New kid name Neil, who Kimberly has the eye on." Justin looked out the window and sighed. "I hope Nate is there."

"I wonder why Sister Helen said it would just be the two of you?" Matt eyed Justin in the back seat. "You don't think this is an attempt by Kimberly to `convert' you?"

"No." Justin thought for a moment. "I mean she had a crush on me, but she accepted me the moment she found out. She was the second person that I told, or should say confirmed."

"How are you going to get home?" Matt asked.

"I think Kimberly will take me home." Justin grinned. "Or if I am lucky Nate will, and I can just walk down the driveway."

"Okay." Matt grinned. It was sad they had to sneak around, but he knew his brother needed to be happy, and this made him happy.

They sat in silence for the last bit of the right home. As they pulled up in front of Kimberly's house, Lori turned around to face Justin again.

"Matt and I have been talking about ways to help you and Nate." She started with a bit of a hesitation in her voice. "You know that every other night Nate and I switch dinners between my parents and yours. What if on the night's dinner is at my house, you tag along? We can see if Nate can tag along too."

"That would be awesome." Justin said with a large grin. "But what about your mother?"

"That is the only problem. I have to clear it with them first." Lori looked down at the seat before continuing. "The conversation of you and Nate has reached her ear, apparently via your mother. I guess the fact that I am with your brother; she feels that my parents need to be warned of the `danger'. If she doesn't agree to this, then I have a secondary plan, that will work." She smiled

"Sound good." Justin opened the door and climbed out. "Thanks Matt. Have a good evening."

***

Justin rang the doorbell to the modest house that was Kimberly Helen's. He had been here countless times, and he preferred this to the spacious house of his parents. It seemed happier, more inviting. Sister Helen was a loving mother, and always treated him as if he were her own. Justin always wondered if it would just be second nature for him to marry Kimberly.

"Hey Justin." Sister Helen opened the door. "Kimberly is waiting for you the living room."

"Thanks Sister Helen." Justin walked in and took the familiar route to the living room, where he could hear several people talking.

"Justin!" Kimberly smiled when she saw him. "I am glad the warden let you get out."

"Well your mom told my mom that it would just be the two of us." Justin looked around the room. Scott and Neil were siting on the couch. Nate was nowhere to be seen. Justin's face showed his disappointment.

"Well my mom said she only knew it would be the two of us." She grinned. "I told her what was going on and she said she was fine with it. I was shocked to be blunt. She said if your mom called asking, she would just say that some of my other friends showed up unexpected."

"Well I am glad you came Neil." Justin put his hands in his pocket. He was sad that Nate was not here, but he would deal with it. At least he was out of his house.

"What about me?" a voice came up behind him and he felt arms warp around him. "Are you glad I came?"

Justin whirled around and his face lit up again. "Nate!" He planted a quick kiss on his lips. "I thought you weren't here."

"Kim thought it would be a good idea for me to hid and surprise you." Nate grinned. "I could hear the sadness in your voice." Nate released Justin and they moved to the secondary couch in the living room. Kimberly had taken position in the large recliner.

They sat around talking for a few moments, most of them getting to know Neil better as he was the new comer. Justin was shocked to see him so cool with Nate and himself. After a while they buckled down and started to read the novel. Neil took the job of reading the narration, while the other took roles of the speakers so that they could act it out. They finished the first chapter in no time.

"Here are some cookies for you hard workers." Sister Helen came in with a plate of cookies. "I will bring some drinks in a moment."

As she walked out of the room, Justin got up to follower her.

"Sister Helen," he said coming up behind her.

"Yes dear?" She turned and smiled. She was a petite woman with long blonde hair, similar to that of Kimberly's. In fact, Justin would not doubt this is what Kimberly would like in the future. Her bright blue eyes sparkled in the light, and her fair skin glowed.

"I wanted to thank you for letting me come over and spend time with Kimberly," he swallowed hard, "and Nate."

"Your mother will come around eventually Justin." She reached and gave Justin a hug. "I do not understand this, but I know it is out there. I know that people have these feelings. If you have them, then you have them. There is not much you can do about it. I see how you look at Nate, and how Nate looks at you, and there is nothing but love in your eyes for each other." She sighed for a bit. "I will not lie. I always hoped that you and Kimberly would end up like Matt and Lori." She smiled and went off to the kitchen to grab drinks.

***

For the rest of the night, they sat around talking and enjoying each other's company. For the most part Justin and Nate just sat and held hands. Kimberly was also trying to make sure Neil noticed her, which he had no problem doing. Scott made his normal comments that to some would be harsh, but to his friends were nothing.

At 8:30 Sister Helen came in and told them it was time they went home. They would have been able to stay later if it had been a school night. Neil gave Kimberly a hug, with Scott waving good-bye as they made it to their individual cars. Nate and Justin hung back just a bit to chat a bit more with Kimberly before leaving.

"So you like Neil huh?" Justin winked at Kimberly.

"He is cute. I love his tan." She blushed. "I hope he asks me out."

"Ask him out." Nate said, and tried to imitate the dryness that was Scott. Kimberly laughed.

"I may just have to do that." She looked at Justin. "How you getting home?"

"I figured I would ask Nate to take me. He can drop me off at the driveway, and I can walk the rest home. I figure it will give us time to chat a bit more. If I get caught, what else will she do? She has already grounded me from everything else."

"Okay love." She gave Justin and Nate both a kiss on the cheek. "Be safe you too."

***

As Nate drove Justin home, Justin informed Nate of the idea that Lori had.

"That would be cool if it worked." Nate said smiling. "I am glad we have friends and parents who will try to help us out. I figured everyone would be freaking."

"Kimberly's mom was really cool." Justin said thinking back to their study group. "I figured she would be upset when she saw us holding hands, but didn't seem to care."

"Neil was cool as well." Nate commented. "I guess being from California you see tons of things taking place."

"I wish we could see each other more." Justin said with a somber tone. "I think you are the greatest guy in the world."

"You are too."

Justin reached over and grabbed Nate's hand and they drove in silence until they reached the driveway to Justin's house. Nate put the car in park and grabbed Justin's other hand. "See you at school tomorrow?"

"Of course." Justin smiled and leaned over to kiss Nate. They stayed embraced for several moments. "Love you."

"Love you more."

Justin exited the car and started to walk down the driveway. The air was cool, the air was fresh, and the sky was clear. The only thing that would make this night better was Nate standing next to him.

***

If you enjoyed this story, please let me know. I love all comments, questions, or complaints. Email me at sockingsaw@hotmail.com.

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