First off, the warning. If you have, by some chance of fate, mistyping, or misdirection, come here by accident, allow me to inform you that you have found the ninth chapter of a story detailing the lives of several people, most of them high school students and a large portion of them gay. If stories about gay people, or just love in general, including love between minors, is restricted in your area or offends you personally, then you shouldn't be here. If you want to be here anyway... well you can't say I didn't warn you.
    Secondly, I would like to apologize profusely to those of you who have been following 'Different' from it's inception - it has been a very long time. I believe I have grown as a writer and as a person, and I think Different itself has taken on a life all it's own. For all of you, including those of you who are reading for the first time, my thanks to you for making it this far.
    Special thanks go to David, who is still my greatest fan. Even if he has had to move and so hasn't been in touch recently. To Matt, (all three of you) and to Steve, who have been friends. To Tamara, Mabs and Chantel; above everything else you have taught me that friendship is ever more and more about love. And finally to Wes. You, who have taught me that friendship can become so much more without ever trying. Forever and for always, thank you.
    And now, here it is. Different: Chapter Nine. If you wish to contact me for any reason, whether it be praise, condemnation, commentary or just chewing the proverbial fat, (which in laymen's terms means talking about everything, nothing, and all the stuff in between) my e-mail address is
    Oh yes, I nearly forgot. If you would like to see some of my other writings, poetry and the prolog to a second story based in a world of fantasy, then please visit my website at

Chapter Nine: A New Perspective

Narrative POV

The fresh welts on his back and the bruises on his ribs were not the cause. No amount of physical pain would make him cry. Flinch, maybe. Scream, yes - screams that ripped out of him and left his throat raw. But he rarely whimpered, and he never cried.

It was not a physical pain that made him whimper now - nor would he have done so had he been even partially conscious. But as flashes of the past played themselves in front of his unconscious eye, he flinched in his sleep, whimpering in fright and remembered pain.

Nicholas, was generally considered to be a nice guy. He was all the kid's favorite uncle at the family reunions, he always had candy for them and was the only one willing to rough house with them. Gregg, though, had never really liked him. Nicholas had always looked at him a little differently from the other children, almost hungrily. Gregg thought once that Nicholas looked at him as though he were seeing a banquet and Gregg was going to be the main course.

The year after Gregg's thirteenth birthday, Greggory Jacob Lancaster III, Gregg's father, was nominated to be the host of the family reunion. With a smile, and a happy laugh at the bestowal of what some might call a 'white elephant gift, 'Greggory accepted the nomination. Three days before the event was actually supposed to begin, there were early comers knocking on the front door. Nicholas Lancaster, Brian Dowtry and his wife Cheryl (Greggory's sister) and their son Donny, Gregg's favorite cousin, were the first four to arrive.

Immediately, Gregg and Donny went off to play. The adults merely shook their heads at the antics of boys. Four days later the entire family had arrived, swamping the house with relatives and turning the large backyard into a circus like affair. It was a success. The adults enjoyed themselves and got to know each other again, catching up on a year's worth of news, gossip and living. The children picked up playing, rough housing and generally getting into trouble right where they had left off the year before. For three full days the family played, ate, slept and went through the motions of living in Gregg's house - and he was as happy as he had been all year. His parents rarely paid as much attention to him when it was just the three of them, and he had very few friends at the school they sent him too. The reunion was like his yearly escape into a world of fun with his cousins. Nicholas, though, still bothered him. And, still, he was unable to explain to himself why.

Finally, the last day arrived and Gregg said good bye to his family with masterfully concealed tears. A talent he had perfected in the last few years. Crying at good byes made his father upset. For some reason, Nicholas decided to stay an extra day, and Greggory happily agreed to let him. Nick and Greggory had always been very close brothers.

That night, as Gregg lay in his bed, wishing that Donny and his other cousins could have stayed a while longer, Nicholas entered Gregg's room and sat on his bed after gently closing the door. The lights were out and the moon and stars were obscured by heavy clouds, casting the room into near total darkness. Gregg, pretending sleep, watched his uncle through slitted eyes and hoped that he would leave soon.

When Nicholas' hand began running through his hair he nearly jumped, but, by a force of will he didn't know he possessed, he remained still and continued breathing normally - even as his skin crawled at the sensation. Somehow he knew that Nicholas' touch was not the type of caress an uncle should be giving his nephew. His suspicions were confirmed when he felt Nicholas slip a hand beneath the covers and spider it across his chest. This time he did jump, but Nicholas moved very quickly. Within a heartbeat, Nick had removed the bedclothes covering Gregg and had him pinned down, one hand over the boy's mouth and the other holding both arms above his head.

'You know Gregg,' Nicholas spoke softly, 'you are much to beautiful for your own good. No self respecting boy should be so pretty. Now listen: your parents are out, and the help has all been given the night off. No one will hear if you scream, and it'll hurt all the more if you do. Understand?'

Scared and confused, Gregg nodded, but as soon as Nicholas moved his hand away Gregg screamed as loudly as he could for his father. With a sharp blow across the mouth Nicholas silenced his nephew and hissed in his ear. 'You're going to regret that.'

With a cruel force, Nicholas pressed his lips against Gregg's own and began undressing himself. Gregg once again saw the hunger that he had always puzzled over in Nicholas' eyes. With a last whimper of protest he closed his own eyes and realized that the hunger in Nicholas' had always been for this.

As rain began to fall against the windows, a sound which Gregg had always before equated with safety, tears slipped silently from his eyes and he let his body go limp. He felt what Nicholas was doing to him, and continued to cry silently the entire time. The pain of Nicholas' entry was a red flare of agony accompanied by a loud crash of thunder that drowned out Gregg's scream of protest. That night was the worst night of his life, and almost continually he begged Nicholas to stop. When it was finally over, Nicholas whispered in Gregg's ear that Gregg was the tightest virgin he'd ever fucked. Gregg just laid there, tears still leaking from his eyes.

Lightning flashed, and Gregg awoke with a start. For a moment he relived that time, and was unable to distinguish between the pain of his battered body and the remembered pain of his uncle raping him. A belated peal of thunder crashed around the house and he was jolted back to the present. Laying back down, he closed his eyes and relived a different memory.

It had been over two years. Nicholas had 'come out' to the family at that year's reunion and, except for Gregg's father, was shunned by the entire family. When Nicholas looked at Gregg that year, he flinched at the enraged hatred in his nephew's eyes, but neither said anything to the other, nor to anyone else.  Donny and his other cousins had stopped playing with Gregg, he was mean now and he hurt them. Despite his claims that it was all accidental they still avoided him.

It didn't matter though, all that mattered was that Nicholas hadn't touched him since that night two years ago. Gregg had been studying Judo for the last two years, and he secretly wished Nicholas would approach him. It would be fun to surprise him.

The reunion ended with Nicholas leaving early and the rest of the family angrily arguing over who's fault it was. All the children quickly forgot that Nick had been their favorite uncle, especially the boys. Gregg did nothing to hide his hatred for his uncle, and many of the adults thought that Greggory should take his son's example.

For the next two months Gregg and his parents lived almost completely apart. If they did chance to meet each other in a hallway of the large house Gregg would quickly turn and walk away, avoiding his parents and their wretched contempt of his hatred. He no longer resented them, he now hated them almost as fully as he hated Nicholas. Life went on that way until late in September of that year, Gregg's first year at Pishley High. Greggory received word that Nicholas had been killed by a group of gay bashers outside a bar in San Francisco. When Gregg heard, it was all he could do not to smile. At the funeral, he had to consciously restrain himself from spitting on his uncle's corpse.  There were very few people at the funeral. Gregg and his father Greggory. Cheryl, who aside from Greggory was the only member of Nicholas' family who did not hate him out right for being gay, and a man whom Gregg learned was named Derrick. Apparently derrick had been Nicholas' partner, despite the fact that he looked barely nineteen, while Nick had been almost thirty four. Gregg's mother was also in attendance, as were some few of Nicholas' friends from school and work.

When Derrick attempted to talk to him, Gregg's only response was to glare until Derrick retreated and left him alone. Of the entire assemblage, Gregg was the only one who never once shed a tear. In his mind a single thought repeated itself over and over. 'Burn in hell, you fucking faggot.'

That night was the first time Gregg's father ever beat him. It shocked him as nothing else ever had, but despite his father's demands that he cry for the death of his uncle, he refused to shed a single tear. Instead, he let the pain galvanize his hatred. He became enraged at his parents for allowing him to be raped and came to hate everyone who even sympathized with 'homo queers.'

Now, laying on his bed, he smiled. Soon, very soon. Everything was working perfectly. Derrick had been found mysteriously murdered in the slums of San Diego after coming to visit Greggory. The fags at Pishley would soon be dealt with, and Gregg's father would not be swinging his belt much longer. His eyes glowed darkly as lightning flashed again, and a terrifying smile split his face. It would be very, very soon.

Narrative POV

Detective Leal McCleod frowned in concentration. The case file he had spread out in front of him covered fully three fourths of the table in his kitchen. It wasn't exactly a large table, but it wasn't small either. Neither was the case, in fact it was one of the most perplexing of his long career.  Every time a new piece of the puzzle turned up he would go back to the beginning, reviewing the entire case to give him a refreshed perspective, perhaps inspire an insight he had missed the first time, or at the very least try to figure out how the new piece fit with the others.

In some ways this new piece matched almost all the others. Six distinctly different semen samples. A single punctured lung as cause of death, making it long and painful. The victim was a prostitute, more specifically a male prostitute, and even more specifically, a gay prostitute - as were all the others. Late teens to early twenties, in this case 19. Relatively good looking. Nothing stolen. Yet in other ways... a complete departure from past Mo.'s. The victim had apparently been tortured as well as raped before dying, the torture had never before occurred. It was undoubtedly the same group of assailants though, the semen samples matched, as did the hair and skin samples they had found. But the murder weapon was different. Always before, cause of death had been a bullet through the right lung- and every time the same gun. This time a knife had been used - in all probability, the same knife that had been used as the torture device.

It was infinitely frustrating. In some ways this group of gay bashers were unforgivably sloppy. They left semen in both the rectum and the stomach, as well as saliva that clearly did not belong to the victims. Under the fingernails of one victim they had found skin from three different people, but the DNA didn't match anything on file. And there were hair samples galore, most of it pubic hair that had come off during the raping. But no matter how many clues they left lying around, the police still couldn't find any of the perpetrators. Not a damn one!

McCleod growled in disgust and pushed the papers he had been reading away from him. He had already memorized the entire case, staring at the paper for another three hours wasn't going to do him a bit of good. As he did almost constantly now, he ran the names of the victims through his head. Derrick Johnston. Jacob Talbet. Kevin Delaney. Phillip Tao. Charles Lane. Tommy Kahn. Ian Simmons. And Jason al'Don, the one they had found Thursday. He had nearly fallen over when he'd seen  al'Don's body. The boy looked so much like his own son that had his hair been red instead of blond, McCleod might have been completely fooled. The fact that his son was gay was common knowledge to everyone in the department, and while many of his colleagues thought he might be making the case too personal, they all agreed that he was the best detective in the city. Even so, he still couldn't figure it out. Not yet anyway, and he was almost certain that another victim would be turning up within the month. He only prayed to God that it wouldn't be his son.

Chris' POV

School that Friday was actually what you might consider to be normal ,if any day at school can be called that. There were no confrontations with Gregg, no breath takingly beautiful new students, or any other new students for that matter. No strange incidents that ended with some one running away, and no Amanda trying to sit in my lap at lunch. I was most especially grateful for that last part, and even more grateful that, although we did exchange a few words in Drama, she didn't say anything about the question she had asked me in my driveway the previous day. The only thing that might be considered strange was the way Adam and Amanda looked at each other, almost as if they were sizing up the competition. Although what they were competing for, I had no idea.

I was driving Adam home from school as part of my duties as chauffeur when, of a sudden, the thought that had jolted me out of my daze during lunch on Thursday popped back into my head. "Adam," I began, already wondering why I was asking him, "do you believe in the possibility of soul mates?"

"Huh?" Adam responded, seemingly surprised by my 'out of the blue' question.

"You know, soul mates. The idea that there's one person out there somewhere who your meant to be with?"

"Yes." Adam said very seriously. When I glanced over at him to see his expression I found him staring out his window, one hand resting forlornly on the glass.

He looked sad. "Is something wrong Adam? You don't look too good."

With his hand still pressed against the glass, his eyes still locked on some unseen vision, he ignored me. I figured he must be thinking, and so left him alone as I continued to drive towards his house. Ten silent minutes later I pulled into the driveway in front of Adam's house and killed the engine. With a start, as though he were surprised that we were already there, Adam pulled his hand from the window and glanced over at me. Slowly he opened his door and stepped out. I didn't get out with him, as today he had to go shopping with his mom all afternoon.

"Chris..." He paused, standing outside the car and holding the door halfway between open and closed. "I... What Amanda said... I really don't care either way. It wouldn't change my wanting to be your friend."

My mind was numb. His mention of Amanda's question the other day paralyzed me, and his statement floored me. Between the two, I was in no condition to respond. So I did the only thing I could do. I sat there like a brainless lump until he finally closed his door, and then I drove home.

'You should have told him.' Alexander's voice in my mind as I walked towards the house from my car was a surprise. 'You insult his intelligence by lying to him, and hurt yourself by hiding from him.'

'I didn't lie to him!' I thought incredulously as I climbed the stairs. 'I didn't even say anything to him!' It was true, I hadn't said a word to him before I drove away.

'I know. But your silence was intended as a denial. Twice as insulting, to both of you, because not only did you lie to him, you ran away from having to say it.'

I was angry now. "Look," I said harshly, banging my door against the wall and rattling the glass figurines on my desk and night stand. "I don't need you telling me how to live! Nor do I need you telling me how to get a boyfriend. I've been fine without one for eighteen years, I'll be fine by myself for another eighteen if I have to!" I was standing halfway to the bed glaring down at him. He didn't apologize, he didn't blink, he didn't even so much as lift an eyebrow at my out burst. He just sat there with a questioning look on his face and waited for me to finish. I glared at him and seethed, wanting very badly to tell him he was wrong, and knowing all the while that he was completely right. I was lying, and I was running.

'So. You know I'm right and you're still angry. Why?'

"Because I don't want you to be right, damn it!" I yelled. I threw my back pack onto the floor and only barely resisted the urge to kick it. "What if... what if he..." I couldn't finish the thought, it was too painful.

 "Just tell him." Alexander sounded as though he were having to explain how to tie shoe laces to a twelve year old. Well fine, at this point I guess I was kind of acting like a twelve year old throwing a tantrum. Not that I was about to admit it though. "You already know he won't hold it against you," Alexander continued, "he's said as much more than once now."

"But what if he doesn't want me?" I demanded, my anger overcoming what I hadn't been able to say earlier. "What if he says 'let's just be friends'?" Realizing that this was what I had been trying to mask with my tantrum, I sat down on the bed next to Alexander, energy slowly leaking out of me.

"Then you know you have at least one friend, and you can stop torturing yourself. And besides," he asked as he put a hand on my should and turned me to look him in the eye, "what if he does want you? Have you ever considered that?"

I laughed halfheartedly. "Hoped, dreamed, tortured myself over the possibility, yes. I haven't been able to do any more than that." For a long time after that it was quiet. Alexander sat propped up against the wall with his hand on my shoulder as I stared contemplatively at the ceiling.

Alexander was quiet for a moment, as I thought. "You know," I said after a little while, "I think I hate emotions. They're a pain in the ass."

"Yes," he said laughing, but sounded more than half serious when he spoke. "I know exactly what you mean. But let me tell you something I once forgot. Emotions, like love, can be the most wonderful thing in the world. You just have to be willing to try for it."

I smiled thoughtfully. He was right. So... what do I do? I stood up and walked to the window. "I'll tell him tomorrow, that I'm gay. After Amanda's party. That I might be in love with him will have to wait though. I.. I'll tell Amanda too." So... there it was. I had made my decision. Although I still had to carry it out, and although I was more than a bit nervous, it felt good to finally have made the decision. For a time, I remained staring out the window, hugging myself and wondering what it would be like if Adam did want me.

Eventually I was pulled from my musings by the tell tale grumbling of my stomach, reminding me that I hadn't had dinner yet. Alexander and I both laughed.

"Someone's hungry." He said, his voice light. "And so am I. What's a guy gotta do to get a decent meal around here? Starve?"

"Starve!" I exclaimed with a laugh as I turned around. "Just ask John for a snack. He'll have a feast ready in five minutes and a banquet in ten."

Alexander smiled. "I don't want a banquet, just something more substantial than air. Like a side of beef."

"Cute. Come on, I'll take you downstairs and fix us something for dinner."

Adam's POV

What had that been in his eyes? That look, just before I closed the door? I waited, hoping he would say something. He just stared at me, or maybe he was staring through me, staring into some world of his own. Finally, a little disappointed, I closed the door and then watched as he backed out of the drive way and drove off down the road.

I wanted to kick myself! 'I mean really!' I thought to myself as I walked into the house and up to my room. 'Did you expect him to jump up and profess his undying love for you!?' I threw my backpack down on my bed in disgust. 'Stupid!'

"What's stupid dear?" Mom asked, alerting me to the fact that I had inadvertently said the last word out loud.

"Oh.. just something I said to Chris."

"Ah." She stepped into my room and put a hand on my shoulder. "You want to talk about it?"

'Not really... at least not yet anyway."

"Okay," she said, drawing me into a hug. "When you are ready, I'm always available. And in the mean time," she declared with a flourish, "we've got some shopping to do!"

I smiled as she walked out of my room. Actually, I think walked is the wrong word. It was more like she skipped, pranced, danced and floated all at the same time. If there's one thing my mother loves to do, it's to go shopping! And it doesn't matter what she's shopping for either, furniture, clothes, gardening supplies or power tools - she just loves to shop.

Thinking about it made me groan. Invariably I would end up carrying all the bags, and being asked what I thought about this and that and oh my, isn't that just adorable. The only thing that might make it bearable... "Hey mom!"

"Yes dear?" She called, already halfway down the stairs on her way to the car.

"Can we stop by the mall? I want to get a new outfit for the party tomorrow."

"Sure. Anything in particular you want to get?"

I smiled. I knew the exact image I wanted to present. Chris was almost certainly going to be wearing the black clothes that made him look so hot!! I mean, just his face and hands exposed to give a tantalizing hint of pale, lovely skin. And his hair falling down his back in a cascade of midnight blue. I got all excited just thinking about it. So, if he was going to be all dressed in black, I was going to choose an outfit that would compliment him, and be complimented by him. After all, we were going to be showing up together, he's my chauffeur. "I know exactly what I want mom. Now we just have to find it."

Narrative POV

"YES!" Jamie's shout was echoed by Gareth's as he hung up the phone. "Mom said yes!" Jamie said excitedly, grabbing his friend's hand and swinging the two of them around. "Ooof"


Both boys burst into laughter as Jamie tripped and dragged Gareth down on top of him.

"All right, you two. Don't hurt yourselves now." Amanda's mother smiled down at the two boys as she walked into the living room, drawn away from her 'in home office' by the sounds of the boys' laughter. "Jamie, did you call your parents?"

"Yes, Mom." The blond boy replied, feeling only slightly awkward about calling his friend's mother Mom. "They said it was okay as long as you called back when you were free and they could make sure it was all right with you ."

"All right. Well you boys run along and play, and I'll call your parents as soon as I'm done with the case I'm working on. Shouldn't be too much longer, and then we'll eat dinner."

"Thanks, Mom." Gareth said from his position atop Jamie. He grinned as his mother turned with a smile on her lips and walked back to her office. "You know," he said in a speculative voice, looking down into Jamie's face, "I could really get used to this position."

"Ummmm, me too. But we'd better switch if we ever play steal the mint, 'cause you need all the help you can get. Not that you'd be able to win, even if gravity was on your side...." Jamie grinned at the mock anger on Gareth's face.

"Why you little brat! Just for that, I'm not letting you up! You'll just have to stay there all night unti -" Gareth gasped as Jamie lifted his head and brushed his tongue along Gareth's lips.

"Gareth.... shut up and kiss me."

If nothing else, spending the night at Gareth's house was certainly going to be fun.

"Oh come on guys!" Amanda said as she walked into the room, sounding almost annoyed, but still amused. "For God's sake, get a room!"

"We... had a.... perfectly..... good room." Gareth said between kisses. "...Until.... you came." That said, he put all his attention back in to rediscovering the insides of Jamie's mouth, still marveling that Jamie could taste of spring and summer.

With a jerk, Gareth jumped off Jamie, annoyed but laughing as he felt a pair of hands attack his ribs. "Stop Amanda!" He gasped, "Stop already!"

"Next time," Amanda said, smiling and ruffling his hair, "get a room."

"You are annoying Amanda. Go bother Chris or Adam, you were going gaga over them on Monday." Gareth pushed himself to his feet, then reached down and helped Jamie up as well.

"I can't. Adam is gay, and Dianne said that Chris was busy when I tried to call. Something about a meditation circle or I think."

"Oh," Jamie said, "that means he's practicing his jujitsu, or karate or whatever he calls it. Sometimes he practices for hours, it's like he goes into a trance."

"Now I've just got to get Chris to tell me if he's gay or not so I'll know if I have a chance. Anyway, I'm going to watch a movie in here. If you two nymphs want to continue playing, please go elsewhere. Then again, it might be fun to tickle you some  more." Amanda smiled angelically as Gareth stuck his tongue out at her. With a happy laugh she watched as Jamie followed Gareth towards the stairs and his room. This night would certainly be interesting.

Narrative POV

"James, James... Why?" Gregg asked of the kneeling boy, shaking his head, the gesture nearly lost in the shadows of the alley where they had gathered. "You were doing so well... You had the pictures early, you were finally on my good side. And now this." Gregg gestured at James, indicating the bloody nose, split lip, black eyes, and several bruises that were visible through the many tears in James' clothing. "I told you what would happen the next time you challenged Marcus. Maybe if you had won..." Keeping his face impassive, Gregg smiled inside at the sudden fear that flashed behind James' eyes.

"Gregg," James said, lifting a hand in supplication, "please don't. Please..."

Gregg allowed the disgust to show in his face. "You had your chance, James." Gregg turned, facing the rest of the group. Marcus, who had soundly beaten James just moments before was still glaring at the battered form kneeling on the ground. Eric, having stepped forward, was cast almost completely in shadow and looked like nothing so much as a formless shadow. "He's yours Eric. Keep him, fuck him, beat him, kill him, or leave him. He belongs to you."

As Eric approached the now openly sobbing James, Gregg held out his hand to one of the others, who quickly extended a thick stack of pictures. "Thank you Blake. Marcus, take these. Keep them at your house. Everyone be here Monday morning at one, and Marcus, bring the pictures. Got it?" The three standing in front of him nodded once, then began to go their separate ways. Only Marcus remained.

"Gregg." Marcus said, almost demandingly.

Resisting his urge to lash out at his once friend, Gregg merely raised an eyebrow.

"Why do you hate James so much?"

"Because he's weak and stupid. He had his uses, and I used him as I needed him. I no longer need him, now Eric gets to keep him."

"Why Eric?" Marcus questioned further.

"Because, as strong as you are, as loyal as you are, only Eric obeys me without question. If you want my favor, you must earn it."

A long suffered pain could be seen in Marcus' eyes. "Yes, Gregg." He turned, and slowly began to walk home, wondering all the while what had happened to make Gregg so emotionless - wondering how he had allowed himself to be dragged down into the hell that was Gregg's world. Wondering... if he would ever get out alive.

Narrative POV

The candle light flickered and danced in the thin fog like steam as Alexander watched. Light played across Chris' form as he moved quickly through the forms of a defensive routine. Chris' chest and arms shone with sweat and the steam that was coming from the sauna behind the far alter, and his hair was bound back from his head in a tight braid. Lose black silk whispered as his leg shot out, streaming through the air.

Unsure how he knew, Alexander realized that Chris had changed the motions and was now attacking his invisible opponent, rather than defending himself. With a lethal grace Chris advanced, blocked parried and attacked his imaginary adversary, a dance that looked as beautiful as it did dangerous. Opening his mind, Alexander reached out and felt himself become one with his brother. On the surface, calm and peace seemed to radiate through him. Even beneath that there was a sense of order in Chris's mind, and as he listened he heard a resounding declaration. 'I will find happiness. I will find happiness.'

Such simple words, but the meaning behind them was fathom less. The emotions and feelings tied up in those words seemed to be saying, 'Yes, there is horror and despair in the world. Yes, there is death, disease, crime, cruelty, ugliness, hatred, bigotry, prejudice and all manner of evil in the world. That will not prevent my being happy. I will find love, I will make my own peace, and I will be happy. And I will bring others with me if I can.'

Alexander was awestruck. It didn't seem possible, the level of determined optimism Chris was capable of feeling. Even acknowledging all the horror in the world - much of which Alexander had chosen to ignore, even as he lived parts of it - he was still willing to be happy. Not only was he willing to be happy, he was determined to be happy and drag as many people along with him as he could.

Alexander laughed as a thought of his own occurred to him. 'Misery may love company, but happiness revels in it.' So far, it seemed that it was true.

Still in awe of his discovery, Alexander carefully pulled back into himself. For the first time in weeks, he had real and true hope of finding happiness. Still only a spark, true... but it was impossible to see such optimism as Chris had in his soul, and not be touched by it in some way - however small.

Later, as he was lying in bed, waiting for Chris to finish showering, Alexander made a choice of his own. He was going to be happy again. Eventually, somehow, he would do it. Probably with lots of help, much of it coming from Chris, but still, it would happen. That, above all else, was set in his mind. Having made this promise to himself, he discovered that he was no longer scared of what he might dream, and so let himself fall asleep.

It was dark. Not so dark that one couldn't see, just dark. Like the night sky when the moon is barely there at all, and the stars seem distant and dull. Except there were neither stars, nor sun, nor moon. It was just dark. Alexander stood, staring at the ground. He looked back along the path he had been walking on, set and immutable. He remembered all that had come before this moment. The pain, the horror. The joy, the love, the happiness and the wonder.

Then he looked forward, where the path was strangely indistinct, undecided. So much to do, so much to experience. But... so much pain was possible, so much horror still waiting. Could he ever hope to survive it all?

"Don't think of that." A voice said to him, quietly.

Alexander jerked his head toward the sound. For a moment he stood there, motionless. It wasn't possible. It couldn't be possible. "Ph... Philip?"

"Yes, I know. I'm dead. But remember, I loved you. I still do. I can't be there any more, we both know that, but you can still be happy." Philip stepped forward, taking Alexander's hands in his own. "Be happy, for me."

It wasn't dark anymore, and in the light Alexander saw the path ahead of him become a little less horrible. Embracing him tightly, Alexander acknowledged what Phillip had told him. "I'll always love you Phillip. Always..."

End Chapter Nine

    So, there it is. All comments, criticisms, suggestions or theories on the meaning of life, should be sent to

My thanks to you all,