One of the suggestions made was to provide a way to tell when the story moves from past to present. I have included this in this chapter, and future chapters.

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 VII

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*** Present Day ***

Justin crawled into the passenger side of his father's truck. Matt took the wheel, and Chris climbed into the back and popped open his Gameboy to play. They were headed to the mountains for a quick hike at Box Canyon. The drive would take about 30 minuets, and would provide some quality time to talk.

"So you going to call him?" Matt asked as they turned onto the highway.

Justin sat and looked out the window. He smiled for a bit as he thought about the past few days. He had started to relive parts of his life he had forgotten. Parts he wanted to forget.

"I don't know." Justin finally responded. "I don't see why he would have called me. He left me because he felt unfulfilled." The words became bitterer as he spoke.

"I think you should call." Matt said. "You were with him for how many years?"

"Seven." Justin put his head against the window. "Seven great years."

"Who are you talking about?" Chris asked from the back.

"A friend of mine from a long time ago." Justin said looking back with a smile.

"You mean your ex - boyfriend?" Chris said still playing his game without looking up.

Justin opened his mouth and then closed it, and looked at Matt. This was his kid, and Matt should answer him.

"Yes Chris." Matt laughed for a moment. "He has been told since he asked about you."

Chris shrugged and went back to his game. He seemed to accept the answer with no fuss.

Justin's phone went off. Picking it up Justin smiled and answered with a smile.

"Hello." Justin said into the phone.  "Doing great heading to a canyon to have a hike with my brother and nephew. How about you?" He responded to the person on the other side of the phone. "I thought I would call you because I didn't want to wait till I got back to Seattle, and figured it would be a good way to get to know you more."

Justin talked a bit more and then hung up

"Well I guess I will meet Jason in Albuquerque on Monday." Justin grinned. "He has a layover that night, and I figure would be good to show him around since he never really had the chance."

"Excellent." Matt smiled. "But are you going to call Nate?"

Justin sighed hard. He knew his brother had good intentions, and he had to resolve the problem. He could not lie about his emotions about Nate. They had been through many challenges, and Justin figured there love was strong. He put his head against the window again, and closed his eyes.

*** 16 years ago ***

The first week of school came to a close with no major incidents. The other students seemed to leave him alone, and as a good side effect the other students seemed to have started to leave Grayson alone. Justin and Nate were able to see each other in the mornings before school and after school for a little bit so that made it easier.

The bad news was Lori was unable to convince her parents to allow Justin and Nate time alone. They were of the opinion that this was not their battle, and that they should not get involved with other people business. Lori said she still had another idea that would work, but would need time to work it out. Justin had figured Lori's plan to come over for dinner wouldn't work out since they would only have two weeks before Justin and Lori went off to college.

Sunday was another story. For some reason Justin felt anxious about going to Church. By now the whole Church should have found out about Justin and Nate having a very public display of affection. Justin knew Kimberly and Nate's parents were okay with the situation, and many of the young single adults that attended the university.

Matt drove Justin to Church earlier than his parents went since he had duties to preform. This being the first Sunday of school starting, he had a young men and young women presidency meeting to attend. These meetings were designed to plan out the month, and determine what activates would be held and what the goal would be. It was also their turn to host this months Stake youth dance.

Justin got out and made his way to the Bishop's office where they held the meetings. Kimberly was already sitting there, along with representatives from the other age groups. There were two other boys, one older and one younger then he. He never really talked to them, but he could feel their eyes on him as he took his seat next to Kimberly. There were two other girls in the room as well, and they whispered something to each other.

Sitting in the corner of the room was the Young Men's President, Brother Potts; a student at New Mexico Tech. Justin liked him, as he seemed to be full of ideas that appealed to the young men in the Ward. During the summer they were able to take a trip to Elephant Butte Lake and go inner tubing. It was a blast. In the other corner was Sister Mary, who always seemed uptight and proper. It was always said that you got a position that suited your skills, and what you needed in life. They were not talking about Sister Mary when they said that.

The Bishop walked in and sat down in his usual chair and called the meeting to order.

"There is some new business we need to take care of, but I would like to go over some old business." He looked at Brother Potts. "I would like to congratulate you and the Young Men group for such a successful open house last Wednesday. We had a much larger turn out, and I think we were able to get some people coming that had not been to Church for a while. I can only pray we are more successful next time."

"Thank you Bishop." Brother Potts smiled. "I couldn't have done it without the help of Justin and Nate overseeing it."

"Yes commendations to you Justin." The Bishop turned to Justin. "Please inform Justin of my thanks for a job well done."

Sister Mary and the older boy, Johnny, made some sounds, but didn't vocalize. The Bishop looked at them both to see if they had anything to say.

"Now the big item we need to start work on is the Stake dance in three weeks." He turned to Sister Mary. "Who do we have to oversee this project?"

"I think Jenny and Jesse should be able to handle the arrangements this time." Sister Mary looked at Jenny the oldest of the girls there. "Is that fine?"

"Yes." Jenny smiled and looked right at Justin. "I think we can throw the best dance yet."

A male and a female usually headed the dance and would be responsible for making all arrangements. Justin shrugged. He was not even the eldest boy in the room, but usually got most of the duties. He was the only one that was trusted to get the job done. Justin figured give it a week and they would be asking him to do it.

"Are you okay with this Johnny?" The Bishop turned to Johnny to make sure that he did not want anything to do with the planning.

"I am okay with it." He smiled. "I really don't have the time this year due to school, and football."

"Very good" The Bishop looked at his calendar. "I also see we will be starting Seminary on Monday. Please make sure that everyone in your quorums knows what time it is at, and also what to bring. You will be studying the Old Testament this year. Any other business that needs tending too?"

They all looked at each other, and shook their heads. These meetings never took long. The next one would be longer as they would have to plan several activities now that school was back in session.

"Very well." The Bishop closed his book. "Will you give us a closing prayer Johnny?"

***

After the prayer, everyone stood to leave. The Bishop called to Justin before he could leave.

"Justin, can you stay for a moment? I would like to talk to you."

Justin stayed behind in his seat. He could hear the others minus Kimberly snickering. They knew Justin would be released from his position due to his actions at school. Johnny would have liked that as Justin and he did not get along to well.

Justin fiddled with his hands in his lap. He had already seen the Bishop once this week.

"It is nothing major Justin." The Bishop leaned back in his chair. "As you know we like to have young people fill the roles of leadership so they have some experience for the future."

"Yes sir." Justin said weakly.

"I have not yet appointed a Seminary President for this upcoming year. I feel very strongly that person should be you." The Bishop leaned forward. "Assuming that nothing has changed since we last talked?"

"No sir." Justin was shocked he was given another position. "I have not actually been able to see Nate very much since Mom had my schedule changed, and put me under house arrest."

"Give her time." The Bishop frowned at hearing this. "I think this will be a good experience for you. You will be required to go once a month to Los Lunas for a meeting with the Stake Seminary Council. Can you do that?"

"Yes sir." Justin grinned. "We will also have a First Councilor for you, which has not been picked yet. I am still working on that. That person will go with you. Are there any that you can think of that you think would be worthy of that calling?"

Justin thought for a moment. He could easily say Nate, but then again, he did not want to put the Bishop in that spot, as well as make his mother feel he was manipulating his position.

"If I were to give my honest opinion," Justin took a deep breath, "I would say Kimberly. But it's only the gut feeling I have."

"Sometimes the gut feeling is the right feeling." The Bishop smiled. "I will take your suggestion under advisement."

They both stood up and shook hands.

"I am sure Nate is getting the sacrament ready." The Bishop said opening the door. "Don't forget that is your job as well, so you better hurry on."

Justin walked out the door and towards the chapel to get his other duties underway.

***

People were starting to come in to be ready for the start of the services. Justin looked around to see if Nate was there a getting thing ready. He saw him coming out of the closet on the far side of the chapel carrying two trays of water. Behind him came Cody, one of the seniors carrying the other two trays. Justin made his way to see if Nate needed any help.

"Got it all?" Justin asked as Nate put the trays on a table.

"Yea." Nate looked up and his face lit up. "Cody came in to help. Said you were busy."

"Hey mate." Cody came up and put his two trays on the table. "How are you this morning?"

"Good." Justin smiled. He liked Cody. Never really had the chance to get to know him, but always seemed easy going. "Yourself?"

"Good. Just helping Nate." Cody reached into a drawer and pulled out a white cloth and handed one end to Justin. "Wanna help finish?"

Justin grabbed the corner and placed the cloth on top of the trays positioned on the table.

"Thanks for helping Cody." Nate said patting Cody on the back. "It makes it easier with two."

"No problem." Cody smiled. "And guys, I saw what happened at school Wednesday. I think it is awesome that you two are that brave."

Cody walked off to visit with some other people before services started.

"So how is your weekend so far?" Nate asked as he sat down behind the table and pulled several other items out.

"It has been good I suppose." Just responded as he rubbed the tablecloth in his fingers. "Mom has been really harsh on me. I don't know what I am going to do when Matt and Lori go off to college in a couple of weeks."

"I am sure it will be fine." Nate stood up with his job complete. "So what did the Bishop want?"

"Apparently he wants me to be the Seminary class president." Justin shrugged and they both walked to the back of the chapel to wait for everyone else to show up. Their job was to hand out the day's program, and help anyone that needed it.

"Awesome." Nate smiled. "Things should work out great."

They stood at the door and handed the program to people as they walked in. As Justin expected some of the people ignored both of them and went in without so much as a nod of the head. Others would take the program and would not say anything. Others smiled and said hello, and asked how family members were doing. Unfortunately there were more unfriendly faces than friendly faces.

Shortly after starting one of the non-friendly members showed up: Justin's mom. Nate attempted to be as civil as possible. He extended a program to her as she walked up and smiled.

"Good morning Sister Leary." Nate said.

She just looked at him with cold eyes and turned her attention to her son.

"I am not sure you should be out here assisting." She said without smiling. "You should be helping out inside." She took a program from Justin and walked in. Justin's father greeted Nate, but did not say much else.

"Why is she like that?" Nate asked as he looked at the ground. This is the first time he had seen Justin's mom, and did not understand the emotionally damage that she could inflict.

"Are we all set?" the Bishop came up to them both with a smile.

"Yes sir." Nate said with more heartbreak then anything.

"What is wrong?" The Bishop raised an eyebrow at Nate and placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Um," Justin started. "I don't think we should be doing this job anymore. Maybe get one of the other boys to do this."

"Why?" the Bishop frowned, which was not often.

"People don't want use to be doing this. I think they think we should be barred from doing any activity." Justin said with a tear forming in his eye. He did not like to cry, but the look on Nate's face made him boil again. He was on the verge of losing control like he did in cafeteria on Wednesday.

"Nonsense." The Bishop sucked in a breath of air. He would not tolerate for people to judge others. "Boys take your seats here at the door. Do your job like you have in the past." The Bishop patted his the boys on the back as he walked by. His face was still holding a frown that seemed to grow deeper as he walked to the front.

***

The beginning of the services was like normal. It was quick and sweet. Justin and Nate sat by the door to welcome any latecomer, and to close the door when the sacrament was to be administered. Several time people turned around to eye the two boys sitting next to each other. Justin's mom was one of them. Justin ignored the eyes and kept his focus on the front. Normally the Bishop was all smiles, but today he had a scowl on his face, and kept leaning over to one of his councilors, who would jot down a few notes.

With the sacrament done, the boys were free to return to their families. Justin enjoyed his time being able to sit next to Nate. His smell was intoxicating, and he had to resist hard not to grab his hand. This was not the appropriate time or place to do that. He went to go sit with his brother, who was sitting behind his mother this time. Matt wrapped his arm around his brother and gave him a big hug.

"We would like to make a quick adjustment to the program." Brother Johnson stood up to the podium. This was the non-formal portion of the meeting where church business and individual speakers presented a personalized discussion on Church doctrine. "Bishop McGowan would like to tend to some immediate Church business."

The Bishop got up and took the podium, still with a scowl on his face.

"Several issue of Church business that was not planned until next Sunday, that I feel prompted to deal with today." He said with a stern voice. Bishop McGowan was an expert speaker. It came in helpful at Tech where he taught. Everyone enjoyed him in class. "I feel ashamed, as I must say I have not felt the Spirit today. There seems to be a cloud of animosity in the room, which does not allow for the Spirit to be welcome. I watch with shock and amazement as to the display witnessed here today."

Several people shifted in their chairs uncomfortably, and some even turned in their chairs to look at Justin and Nate, some grinning as they assumed he was talking about Justin and Nate.

"I do not discuss personal issues of members of the Church with the whole congregation, but I feel I must issue a warning as a whole to everyone." He continued, as his scow got deeper. Justin never recalled a time when he looked as upset as he does now. "It is not for you to determine who is and who is not worthy to act in the congregation. Personal convictions and preconceived notions are not enough to justify turning our back on others just for expressing different emotions. In fact there is no reason a person should feel compelled to turn their back on another human. If you personally feel that you must judge another person, then you have sinned as well. Judge not. I do not condone behavior that is in violation of Church doctrine. But as of now, there is, to my knowledge, no such violation. I say soften your hearts, and listen to the Spirit." The Bishop sighed heavy, and stepped away from the podium.

Justin raised an eyebrow. He never expected this form of lecture from the Bishop. Justin looked around and saw some people whisper into their neighbor's ear, and others lower their heads. No one bothered to turn and look at Justin or Nate.

"We will now continue on with this morning program." Brother Johnson said now standing behind the podium.

***

At noon, Justin was with Matt driving home.

"Interesting service." Matt said absently. "A bit shocked that the Bishop would go so far as to scold everyone."

Justin just frowned. "I doubt he has changed opinions. Probably just get worse."

"School is good?" Matt raised an eyebrow.

"Just grand." Justin sighed. "No one gives me problems, no one says anything. I get to see Nate for a few moments a day. So yea, it is just grand!" He finished the last words with spite and anger.

"I am sorry." Matt sat in silence for the rest of the way home.

***

The week passed slowly, and Justin found it difficult to get up in the morning, stay focused at school. He seemed to have lost all of his will. After Church the previous Sunday, Justin felt that what ever he felt, what ever he was told, he felt rejected. On Friday after school, Justin did not even bother to stick around to see Nate.

***

Sunday rolled around and Matt knocked on Justin's bedroom door. Justin was lying in bed awake, but did not bother responding. Another knock. Again Justin ignored the knocking.

The door cracked open.

"Justin?" Matt stuck his head in. "Are you okay?"

"Not going." Justin said not looking. "No point."

"You can see Nate." Matt suggested.

"It only makes it harder." Justin rolled over.

Matt shook his head and closed the door. A few moments later the door opened and his mother was standing in the doorway. Justin snorted a bit.

"Get up." She said sternly. "You are going to Church."

"No. I am not." Justin ignored his mother. "What is the point? You treat me the same no mater what I do."

"You have to go to Church. You have duties to attend to." She went to his closet and threw out clothes. "Get up and get dressed."

"No." Justin was going to be defiant. "I am not going."

His mother with frustration stormed out of the room. Justin grinned, as he knew he annoyed his mother. He should have felt bad about it, but after the way she treated him, he felt justified. Of course he knew he might have crossed a line. He may very well have to deal with his father.

Within a few moments he heard his fathers heavy footfalls heading to his door. He took a deep breath in. This may get tricky.

"Son." His father said in a gruff voice. "Your mother wants you to get ready for Church."

"Sorry dad." Justin said this time with a bit more reserve, and trying not to sound challenging. "I don't fell like it. There seems to be no point going. Mom will just look down on my like I failed and can never get back."

There was silence for a moment. Justin couldn't bring himself to turn and face his father. He knew if he did, he might very well lose his nerve.

"I understand." His father turned around. "I am sorry son." And with that he left the room as well.

Justin was surprised at this turn of events. He expected his father to force him to go, as his father usually sided with his mother to keep the peace. He was sure his mother would be nagging away at him all day and night. He closed his eyes and feel back asleep. He did not care anymore. He did not care about school, about Church, or about life.

***Modern Day***

Matt drove back down the highway after spending the day at Box Canyon with Justin and Chris. Chris of course seemed to be more interested in going back home to play with his video games. Justin and Matt continued the conversation.

"Justin," Matt started, "you really should call Nate. At least give him a chance to explain."

Justin growled a bit as Matt continually bringing up the need to call Nate annoying.

"I am sorry to keep at it." Matt ignored the growl. "I just think that you need to close that chapter of your life, before moving on."

"He is married." Justin said. "What difference would it make now?"

"He will not be married until Saturday." Matt said. "I got an invite to the wedding. He had a wedding party since several of his relatives wouldn't be able to attend that weekend."

Justin rubbed his forehead. He could feel a headache coming on.

"Do you know why he wants to see me?" Justin looked at Matt expectedly.

"He wants to close old wounds." Matt said with a bit of a whisper. As if saying there were wounds was a secret.

"HE has old wounds?" Justin almost screamed, causing Chris in the back seat to jump as he had headphones on. "HE has old wounds? Why would he have old wounds? He is the one that wielded the knife that ended our relationship. He has WOUNDS?"

Matt sat silent to let Justin simmer down. Chris had gone back to his game after looking at Justin and Matt..

"How did you find this out?" Justin asked trying to keep his head. He had propped his elbow up on the window and had his head resting in his hand. "And when were you going to tell me?"

"He called me yesterday." Matt said with a frown. "He said you had not yet contacted him, and wanted to know what was up. If you intended to call or come by."

Justin could feel the blood drain from his face. He felt sweet start to form on his hands and arms. He became uncomfortable, and wanted to bolt. But he was in a car traveling at 70 miles per hour. Matt noticed the change.

"I am sorry." Matt said. "I have been in contact with him for about a year. He wanted to try and fix some of the damage."

"And you are now just telling me this?" Justin could feel tears of rage forming in his eyes. He had figured his brother of all people would have his back. That Matt would have stood behind him after Nate just ripped his heart out and left him without so much as a goodbye. "You know what he did. You know how he treated me. And you are friends with him?"

"Matt it is not what it sounds like. He has some explanations." Matt realized the situation was not getting better. "They are not the best, but you may want to hear them. I am sorry."

Justin was furious. He had not been this angry in a long time. He never imagined he would feel betrayed by his own brother.

To prevent himself from doing something he would regret, he pulled out some ear buds and plugged them into his phone. The road home would be in silence.

***

Matt pulled the truck into the driveway, and Justin jumped out before the truck came to a stop.

"Justin!" Matt called after him, but was ignored.

Justin walked quickly to the house. Once inside he went up to his room and closed the door. He was breathing hard trying not to let the anger well up in him. He couldn't believe Matt had talked to Nate and did not tell him.

A knock on the door.

"Go away Matt." Justin yelled at the door. He just needed time to process everything and figure out

"It's me." Lori voice passed through the door. "Can I come in?"

Justin wasn't sure he wanted to see Lori at the moment, but he couldn't be mad at her. Yet.

"Yea." Justin said half-heartedly. He lay on his bed as Lori opened the door.

"How you doing?" Lori asked moving over to the bed and sitting next to Justin. She grabbed his hand and squeezed.

"Did you know?" Justin asked without looking her in the eye. "Did you know Matt was talking to Nate?"

"Yes." Lori said softly. Justin pulled his hand from her, and turned on his side.

"Get out." He said coldly.

"Justin," Lori said again reaching for his hand. "Let Matt explain."

"What?" Justin turned his head, tears rolling down his face. "He knew Nate hurt me."

"Matt wanted to tell you." Lori looked at her hand holding Justin's. "He wanted to tell you very badly that Nate had contacted him. But Nate made him promise not to say anything, because Nate wanted to be the one to tell you. And he was right. Nate should be the one to tell you." Lori squeezed Justin's hand and stood up. "Don't be hard on Matt. He loves you."

She moved to the door and walked out.

***

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