My Buddy Eddie

Fiction by Daniel Bradford

dbwrites@dslextreme.com

Copyright 2009 All rights reserved

 

December 21 was the last day of school before the winter break began. The next day I walked to Eddie's house to deliver my modest gift of a card and a music CD I had burned. It didn't matter to me that he'd probably never realize that in my mind, they were all love songs, I just wanted him to like it, at least a little. I also had to deliver a plate of Christmas cookies; my mom is an absolute freak when it comes to holiday baking. The house smells great, but I have my limit; Josh and dad could seemingly eat every cookie in sight! Eddie's smile suggested that he would join the ranks of Josh and dad; I'd barely closed the door before he had fished a cookie out of the container. "Awesome! Thanks Joey," he said while retrieving a second cookie. He managed to give me a quick peck on the cheek before he bit into the second cookie.

"Sure." I said with a snicker and shrugged my shoulders; I was just the delivery boy. "I'll tell mom you liked them but be sure to save a couple for your dad." He gave me a sheepish grin and led the way to the kitchen.

"Cookies need milk," he said, approaching the refrigerator. "Do you want something to drink?"

"Ummm, no. But I brought you something," I said and extended the small package toward him.

He smiled hugely and took it from me. "Should I open it?"

"No, wait ‘til Christmas, that way I won't be embarrassed."

"Embarrassed? Joey I'm gonna love it, just like I love you." He wrapped me in a tight hug. My entire body melted into his embrace, except for my dick, which immediately started to stiffen. Releasing me, he said, "Don't move, I'll be right back; I have something for you too!"

Does he have any idea what he does to me? I thought, as my body tingled from his embrace, but when he handed me a package of similar dimensions to the one I had just given him my curiosity took over. I was dying to open it immediately, knowing that it couldn't be the same thing I had given him, but what???

Possibly seeing my anxious excitement he said. "I have to wait until Christmas, so I guess you'll have to do the same. Sorry kiddo." I started beating him, though he easily defended himself. "You probably don't want Santa to see you acting like that," he teased with a laugh. Almost immediately I was laughing with him. God I love this guy! Somehow I managed to broach the subject of Ethan and mentioned how nervous I was feeling. "Dude, just be yourself! Don't try to kiss him right of the bat and you'll be fine. If he messes with you, just let me know and I'll take care of him." Again he hugged me so tightly that for a moment I couldn't breathe. I was surprised to think that Eddie said the same kind of thing Josh had said; ultimately it was exactly what I wanted to hear and I hugged him back. We talked and ate a few cookies before I was ready to leave, only to run into Eddie's dad on the way out. He was cordial as always, but Eddie made a big fuss about the cookies, so I had an extended departure.

As far as I was concerned it was the best Christmas ever! We finally got some snow on Christmas Eve; not enough that I actually had to shovel the sidewalks but enough to make it an almost-white Christmas. Josh was home for several days, which was great despite the fact that I had grown accustomed to having our room to myself; mom and dad chose this to be the year they stopped dragging Katie and I to boring parties, while several of my friends hosted impromptu events during the winter break, and I had time to indulge in my journalism project. Josh gave me an authentic team jersey (it practically swallowed me.) But the real gift was his attempt at editing my articles; he had circled a few typos that spell check had missed and nailed me for using a soccer term in a football article; he put a big red X though segments that he labeled BORING! or REPETITIOUS, but most of his efforts amounted to parenthetical comments like: NICE, GOOD OBSERVATION, THAT MADE ME LAUGH or JUST LIKE HIS BIG BROTHER! I laughed out loud at his comment on my cheerleader article: BRO, ARE YOU SURE YOU'RE GAY? Josh also included several clippings from the university rag, which he insisted was infinitely inferior to my work. Even if his claims were inflated, I relished the compliment. Eddie's gift likewise surprised and pleased me; he'd wrapped up some publishing software---I could make my own newspaper, I thought! Or possibly my first book!

Mom prepared snacks as I set up my computer, a stack of articles and a ton of photos in the den for Ethan's visit on the 27th. I couldn't remember being this nervous in quite some time. I tried to embrace Eddie's advice and hoped to discover his ‘what's the big deal?' nonchalance, when the doorbell rang. Thankfully, Katie was the one to answer the door and she was completely charming and totally nonplussed. "You've got company," she announced as she motioned Ethan into the den. They both smiled.

"Happy Holidays, Joey. Thanks for the invite."

"No. Thank you for coming," I said almost by rote as I was a bit freaked by having the terminally handsome Ethan inside my house for the very first time.

"I met Katie; how's the family? I'd like to meet Josh if he's around," he said approaching me and giving me a casual guy hug.

"Ahh they're…um, fine, but Josh is out with dad right now," I replied, hoping he wasn't too disappointed.

"No prob. You need my help you need a third eye, but I'll try, so lay it on me Joey."

I'd like to lay a kiss on him I thought as I lead Ethan to the desk, reminding myself that this whole set up was to give him a chance to talk with me; my journalism project was mostly a ruse! I took a deep breath and exhaled before explaining my project as we sat side by side. Ethan reviewed a couple of my articles and I took notes while sneaking glances at his handsome face. He was apologetic as he suggested revisions, though I was grateful that he was far more critical than my instructor. Still, I felt that he was holding back in his criticism and was totally ignoring the topic I assumed he wanted to discuss.

"Ethan, stop apologizing! Stop being nice! Give it to me straight! Admissions at NYU, Columbia or even fuckin' State won't be nice; I have a mother to give me nice!" He stared at me and I shuddered. "Sorry… I'm sorry Ethan. I…I just want you to tell me. Be honest about how you, ah… really feel, what you really think about…I can take it. I really want to know." A painfully awkward silence followed as we stared at each other.

"I didn't mean to…I didn't want too offend…"

Thankfully, dad stuck his head in the door before too much time elapsed. "Hey Joey...Oh, sorry didn't mean to intrude."

"No prob, dad. This is Ethan; he's helping out with my Journalism project." They exchanged greetings. "Is Josh home? Ethan's a big fan," I said giving him a smile. The momentary awkwardness vanished as my dad called to my older brother. I gladly introduced them and allowed Josh and Ethan to discuss sports for 15 or 20 minutes of very animated conversation. Thank god for Josh I thought, though later Ethan apologized for ignoring me.

"No prob," I teased. "It's not every day you get to meet the bomb!"

"Or a sports icon!" Ethan added.

"Exactly!" I agreed. We both smiled.

"So where were we?" He looked at the mess of papers on the desk and sighed. "Hey Joey. You've got enough material here for a couple of books. Why don't you give me copies of some of your favorites for me to take home, like homework; I'll mark them up and we can get together in a couple of days to go over them. You've got some great stuff here and I don't want to shortchange you. What do you think?"

"This is our break; you shouldn't be doing my homework!"

"Dude, I want to, okay?"

There was a bit of back and forth before I sorted through the pages to hand off to Ethan. "Okay, but only if you're sure," I said reluctantly handing him a small stack.

"Of course I'm sure." He said as we walked toward the door. "But maybe next time we can meet in your room so we won't be distracted."

I was about to explain that I'd moved everything to the den since Josh was home and I didn't want him to be uncomfortable, when I had the presence of mind to say nothing. "Sure thing, Ethan. I really appreciate your help." I gave him a quick hug before we exchanged good nights.

Early in the day we were scheduled to meet again, Ethan called and apologized profusely for the fact that a family emergency had taken his parents out of town unexpectedly and he had to stay home with his younger siblings. I was reluctant when he suggested it, but he practically insisted that I come over to his house instead. But I agreed thinking that perhaps he would be more comfortable in his own space. He greeted me at the door and led me to the kitchen table. We quickly reviewed the articles that Ethan had taken home; his comments and suggestions were great, though I still wasn't able to direct our conversation beyond the immediate topic.

We'd barely been seated for half an hour before Tim came in making a fuss. Though he addressed his little brother directly, he let me know that Tim was a bit freaked by the fact that both parents were gone. Ethan suggested a video and Tim's mood immediately changed. "You go pick one and I'll be there in a minute. Okay sport?" Tim smiled and darted from the room. "Sorry Joey, duty calls. But please feel free to join us, the little guy has good taste in movies." Watching Ethan deal with Tim, I couldn't help but admire him. Damn! It was like he was heaping unnecessary evidence in my lap as to why I should like him more than I already did.

"Sure," I replied and followed him into the living room. Julie, who was about Katie's age, grabbed the recliner, while Tim scored the spot next to Ethan on the sofa. I settled in next to Tim and felt a bit of jealously when Ethan wrapped his muscled arm around his brother's shoulder. It had been a long time since I had seen Finding Nemo and enjoyed watching it with the others. About fifteen minutes before the film ended Tim fell asleep nestled against his brother. I wouldn't have noticed except that Ethan's arm was now stretched across the back of the sofa rather than wrapped around Tim; his fingers were mere inches from my shoulder. I don't know how I became aware of the change, but it made me smile while I debated the idea of sliding closer to Tim and Ethan's large hand.

When the film ended, Julie jumped out of her chair but Ethan shushed her and reminded her to brush her teeth before bed. He smiled at me and indicated that I should also remain quiet. "Time for bed, Big T," he whispered as he effortlessly lifted his sleeping brother. For the second time that night I was jealous of little Tim.

Ethan was full of apologies, which I dismissed but didn't know how to approach the unspoken subject. Apparently that wasn't on his agenda, but we talked and laughed until I felt the call of sleep. Ethan was still going strong.

"No prob," I replied when he reminded me that we hadn't finished reviewing my project. "But I still owe you dinner, that was the deal!" Ethan insisted that it wasn't necessary since he hadn't fulfilled his end of the bargain. But I was equally insistent and we ended in a stalemate. I got another ‘guy' hug before I walked home.

The next day I had my final scheduled interview with the twins, which provided an opportunity to meet their parents. Before the day ended they had all given me a hearty hug and Kevin topped his with a quick kiss on the cheek. I blushed and in turn Kevin blushed. Cody rolled his eyes theatrically and smiled at the two of us. "Should I step outside?" he teased. I smiled, Kevin groaned before playfully punching his brother, who in turn smiled. We were all smiling when we bumped fists at the door.

"You guys are a blast; see you around. ‘K?"

I hadn't seen it coming, but Kevin and I became email pen pals almost immediately. Thought I continually assured him that I was hardly his best resource regarding all things gay and teen, DUH! I enjoyed the exchange. And Kevin could actually compose a proper sentence when he chose to do so!

When Ethan arrived at my house, later that week, my mom invited him to dinner. I was about to protest, when Ethan graciously accepted. Oh well, I thought as he followed me to my room. We picked up approximately where we had left off previously, though honestly I had more or less completed my project since our last meeting. We talked until it was time to eat, where Ethan charmed my parents and sister. After dinner we returned to my room where I teased Ethan about journalistic ethics when he pried for details concerning people in my articles. In all honesty, I hadn't uncovered any dirt or surprises, which was probably a good thing as I was having a blast hanging out with Ethan and probably would have told him anything he asked. We were mid-conversation when he almost yelled.

"Holy shit! What's that?"

My eyes followed his to the desktop and at that point we were both looking at a photo of a wrestler (185-pound class, from the visiting team, about to lose his match) caught in a bridge to keep from being pinned. My camera had been intentionally focused on his crotch with its python-like bulge, though I never intended for anyone other than myself to view it. "Duh!" I nervously replied. "Don't act like you've never seen one of those before."

"Heck no, man. I've been in locker rooms for years and I can tell you high school dudes don't go around equipped like that!" he said emphatically.

"Maybe you should take up wrestling," I teased, attempting damage control.

"I'll take up wresting if you do," Ethan replied, with the smallest of grins. I smiled in return before we both started laughing. I shuffled the stack of images as we continued to chat until Ethan interrupted. "Sorry dude," he said when he noticed the clock near my bed. "Why didn't you tell me to shut the fuck up? I've been yammering away though I'm sure my brain went home at least an hour ago!" I just shrugged my shoulders and smiled.

"Don't thank me, retard! You were here helping me," I said at the door in response to yet another thank you from Ethan. I leaned in to kiss him but redirected the movement at the last moment to deliver a hug. Ethan hugged me in return; his touch and smell were more than mildly intoxicating.

Eddie chuckled at my story, but his only comment was, "I think he likes you."

"What's that supposed to mean?" I asked but he just shrugged his shoulders and smiled.

After all the opportunities I had given him, it seemed that gay sex apparently wasn't part of Ethan's agenda, though I couldn't fully accept the fact that my assumptions had been so far off base. Regardless, I was very happy that we had become somewhat better friends, as I was desperate to find someone to help me with Physics; I had enrolled at my dad's suggestion and regretted the decision from day one. I barely managed to get a ‘B' the first quarter and I knew three more of those would definitely drop my GPA. By comparison, Ethan aced every test and every assignment, seemingly without any effort and willingly agreed to some one-on-one study sessions. I looked to him to help me succeed in class, but the thought that he might be gay continued to fester in the recesses of my brain; so every study session had a double agenda. I managed to get an A- for my first semester final grade and breathed a small sigh of relief and repeatedly thanked Ethan, who seemingly laughed off his contribution.

*     *     *     *     *

February 13 arrived on a Friday and I was feeling particularly out of sorts; seriously, I couldn't consider Eddie or Ethan or any one else as my valentine. I'd done better than expected on my first semester grades, and thusly encouraged, sent applications off to several schools. Still, I was bummed, so I called Josh. We talked forever, which I'm sure used up all my minutes for the month, but like always, I felt great when we finally said good bye. I'd barely hung up, when Eddie called and invited me to come over the next day.

Neither of us mentioned Valentine's Day, though I was sooo happy to be able to spend part of the day with my caring and sexy friend. We connected late in the afternoon, ate pizza and after wasting an inordinate period of time perusing the aisles at the video store, we ended up at his house with several movies. We made popcorn and settled in. I was reminded of that afternoon almost a year previous when Eddie appeared at my door, except this time, we didn't hesitate to snuggle next to each other and the occasional comment, question or kiss didn't seem to detract from the film. (I think we were both just happy to be together in such safe and comfortable surroundings.) Apparently I fell asleep during the second film as I awoke in Eddie's bed with his body spooning mine sometime the next morning. Pressing my body more tightly against him I returned to sleep, though we eventually awakened with equally insistent hard-ons. The obvious solution was simply fantastic, as was a shared shower before we made time for breakfast.

I couldn't recall whether or not the groundhog had seen his shadow but the weather remained unreasonably shitty. There wasn't much snow but there was plenty of rain, sleet and just plain miserably cold, damp and cloudy days; it was nothing like those brisk windy, sun-filled days when I was small and dad introduced me to kite flying. Without an auspicious sign from the weather, Ethan announced that perhaps it was time for me to make good on my promise to buy him dinner. I'd pretty much forgotten my original proposition and stuttered a moment to figure out what he was talking about. "Yeah, sure, whatever. You tell me what works for you and…"

"Doesn't really matter to me, I just thought we could do something other than physics for a change," he said with a smile and playfully slapped my shoulder.

"You're on," I replied and that's how we ended up at Pie and Burger. It's an establishment that predates my parents' high school days but obviously fills a need as it has been around for a long time. We shared a late lunch so the place was largely deserted, except for several tables of gray-headed individuals nursing cups of coffee while chatting or perusing the newspaper. Ethan and I never seemed to lack conversation material and that day was no different. My sandwich had more than filled my stomach, yet Ethan ordered the apple pie, warmed and with extra ice cream; I felt his foot nudge mine under the table as he asked the waitress for two forks.

Obviously Ethan had charmed our waitress as she smiled non-stop while she delivered the largest slice of pie ever, with a veritable mountain of vanilla ice cream and as requested, two forks. "You boys enjoy!" she said before she left our table.

"You heard the lady; dig in Joey!" How could I resist when Ethan was wearing his biggest smile ever? And the pie and ice cream really was good.

The pie was cold and the ice cream was melting before we were even half way through the dessert, mostly because I was stuffed and Ethan continued to talk. "Joey, what would you have done if I accepted your invitation to the winter dance?"

Thankfully my mouth wasn't filled with dessert at that moment or I might have choked; I was blindsided by his simple inquiry. "Well, I…I guess I'd…" I paused a few moments to collect my thoughts; it was so unlike Ethan to completely unravel me like this. "I guess I'd want to know what your motivation was… um…I ‘d like to think of you as a friend, you know, someone that wouldn't intentionally hurt me, but I… you haven't…I haven't had any concrete evidence to convince me that you weren't just pulling some…publicity stunt, so I don't know exactly what I would have done or said." Ethan looked disappointed or possibly worried; I couldn't quite discern which. Perhaps too late, I offered up my less reasoned and much more likely response. "I probably would have said yes."

Apparently my cerebral response to Ethan's question brought our afternoon to a premature end as the dessert morphed into a molten mess as I waited for our waitress to bring the bill. I paid the tab before we exited to Ethan's car. The short ride was mostly quiet and I cursed myself for being honest instead of a being a bit more…equivocal or romantic. When he stopped the car outside my house, I ventured to say, "Well, if we had gone to the dance you certainly could have counted on this," I said as I leaned over and kissed his cheek and then pulled back a bit. His face was now turned toward mine and I landed a kiss directly on his succulent lips; he didn't pull away. I pressed our mouths together until I felt the need for air.

"Wow…! Joey…"

"Yeah." I agreed with a growing smile. Then I forced him into another lip lock, this time using my hands to hold his face next to mine.

When we broke the kiss, Ethan looked sort of dazed, excited and spooked. "Can I…would you? You won't tell anyone will you?"

Like an epileptic I was nodding yes and shaking my head no, when Ethan initiated our next kiss. We were still wearing our seatbelts so our bodies were held apart as our mouths met. This kiss lasted so long that the seatbelts should have given way; instead it was I that finally pulled away, my face flush, my heart racing and my dick a bit hard. "That was incredible; you're incredible, I gushed, breathing a bit heavily. "But I really should let you go." What I didn't say was that I seriously worried about embarrassing myself if I didn't get out of the car, and soon! "Can we do this again, soon?"

"Sure…" he replied, though apparently I had broken the spell as his voice lacked its previous enthusiasm. However, he did display one of his gorgeous smiles as his hand gently squeezed my shoulder.

"Excellent!" I said in return. "I'll hold you to that guy." And before he could interrupt, I planted a quick kiss on his cheek and jumped out of the car, bidding him goodbye before I closed the door. Ethan had put me in an unusually good mood and also provided the material for some very erotic dreams, leading to my first wet dream in a very long time. However when we next met at school it was if our date had never happened! Well, we no longer hugged in the straight-guy, A-frame position, but seemingly nothing else had changed. If I didn't know Ethan better I might have thought he was playing' me, just jerking me around but honestly, maybe I didn't know Ethan as well as I thought I did.

Some time later on a drizzly, miserable afternoon I grabbed an umbrella and walked over to Eddie's house. I didn't bother to call first; I simply acted on instinct. Eddie's dad answered the door and immediately invited me inside; almost as quickly he bellowed to his son in a voice that could surely raise the dead I thought to myself, as it seemed so out of character. "That usually gets his attention, whether he's sleeping, surfing the web, jerking off or just spacing out," Bill said with a wink. I couldn't help but notice how similar his smile was to Eddie's. "Sorry to be so abrupt, but I was just about to go out the door myself; one of the big honchos back east decided I should start the new week a bit early." He audibly sighed but then smiled. "We're way overdue for a dinner together! Why don't you drop a hint with my son? He added with another wink. Eddie appeared, and since I was horny he looked hot dressed in a tee and sweat pants, with bare feet. He was also wearing a big smile. Without missing a beat, he pulled me into a tight hug.

"Dude, why didn't you call me? I could have picked you up!" He added a kiss to the hug and I was no longer chilled.

"I didn't want to bother you." And in a much softer voice admitted my real reason for appearing on his doorstep, "It's our anniversary."

It took several seconds for Eddie to decipher my meaning, but then he hugged me so tightly, I thought he'd surely break bones and kissed me several times before he finally spoke. "Joey, you're such a weirdo, but god I love you." We were engaged in another kiss when Bill approached with his briefcase in one hand and a suitcase in the other; he was wearing a smile on his face.

"You two behave," he said and hugged his son. "And have fun," he said while hugging me. "I'll call when I touch down; the usual drill," he said addressing us as if we were brothers.

"Sure, dad. Show'em who's boss," Eddie said hugging his dad in the same way he hugged me; I had to wonder if his dad got bruises every time he left on a business trip.

Of course we eventually ended up in bed together in bed for some great sex, but mostly we just palled around for 24 hours like best friends and never once mentioned school, though the word, love, was mentioned on more than one occasion and not just by me! Eddie had definitely become one of my closest and most trusted friends. I wondered if we weren't a couple even though we weren't together, but that seemed waaaay too much like rationalization, even for a romantic like me!

*     *     *     *    *

 

The school year quickly came to an end. Unlike many of my classmates, I was really enjoying our final semester and since I hadn't settled on a college yet, I wasn't so anxious for the school year to end. However, I had no say in the matter and graduation became reality for the senior class. Josh barely made it home. H grabbed a shower after a delayed family breakfast and apologized for his late arrival as we were dressing.

"Bro I get it; I'm just glad you're here," I replied and approached to give him a hug.

He saw it coming and wrapped me in his arms of steel; man it felt so good having Josh hold me like that but he surprised me with what he whispered in my ear. "Should I be encouraging Eddie or this new guy, Ethan?"

"Shut up, you fuckin' moron!" I cried as I landed my hardest punch to his shoulder, but it was like hitting a brick wall. I rolled my eyes and moaned at the seeming impenetrability of my brother's muscular build, when he replied.

"Hey Joey, it's me…your big brother. I'm not making fun of you, I just don't want to make an ass of myself by saying something stupid."

He hadn't fully released me from our hug and I dropped my head onto his shoulder. "Thanks for asking. I'm sorry for acting like a jerk; I guess I'm a little bit nervous about this whole graduation thing!"

"You're not a jerk," Josh replied. "And with your grades, there's no reason to be nervous; you should be proud! So chill, bro."

I looked up to see his smiling face. "Thanks Josh; you know I get a little wound up at times. But as for Eddie and Ethan, cheer for whomever you want; it seems they're both free agents. I don't like it much, but that's how it is."

"Sorry bro, but you're…"

"I'm…"

"Still young," we said almost in unison.

Katie's voice followed a knock on the door, which interrupted our conversation. "C'mon guys; we're waiting!"

 

"Sure thing, Katie! I'm sorry. Tell mom and dad we'll be right down," Josh replied before I could even open my mouth. "We better go, but dude, let me fix your tie."

 

The graduates were seated alphabetically except for the top 20; three seats separated Ethan (11) and myself (14). It came as no surprise that Jenny sat between us. I was happy for both of them but mostly glad that Eddie was able to graduate with our class after years of shitty grades resulting in large part from an until-recently shitty home life.

Ethan and I crossed paths after the ceremony, still dressed in cap and gown.

"Joey! Congratulations guy," he said puling me into a tight hug, which caused our mortarboards to collide. "You're way smarter than me; leave it to the front office to screw things up!" he added before placing a quick kiss on my cheek. I felt my face flush before his face was far enough from mine so that I could see his beautiful smile and that his cap was now askew. Encouraged by his smile I discretely returned the kiss.

"I don't know if I'm smarter, maybe just lucky," I said, considering his kiss. And while I obviously enjoyed the affectionate moment, it served to underscore my dilemma over Ethan.

Back home mom put on the dog for a small gathering of family, family friends and my favorite aunt and uncle (my dad's sister and her husband). Like always, they made a big fuss over me, but I was used to that and Uncle Ted has a wicked sense of humor, so what might have been a bore was great fun. Gran, my maternal grandmother and the only grandparent within a reasonable drive, conspiratorially slipped an envelope to me as she hugged me, hinting that I should open it later. A couple of Josh's friends showed up later in the afternoon as the three of them were scheduled to head out on a trip sometime the next day. Katie had probably been bored before the two college guys appeared, but she wasn't the only one to sneak glances at the two hunks. What can I say? It was a great afternoon!

After most of the guests had left I excused myself to head over to Eddie's house as we had a standing agreement. When I arrived, the festivities at his house were also winding down, though Eddie seemed extremely happy to see me. "Thank god you made it!" he proclaimed as he hugged me at least as tightly as my muscle-bound brother had, though Eddie also added a kiss.

"What's the big deal? I said I'd come," I said looking at Eddie for some kind of explanation. He just turned toward the living room and my eyes followed. The remains of a party were visible but all the people were our parents' age. Eddie was an only child and I remembered that he had no close family. "Oh…" I said with the tiniest bit of understanding. Covering my mouth as if whispering in his ear, I kissed Eddie's cheek and gave him a hug of my own. "Congratulations Eddie! You did it!"

"Yeah, because of you," he rebutted.

"Yeah right…like I did your homework and won that MVP award. I always wanted to help but you were pretty stubborn about doing it your way. And see, you really didn't need me. You really are…" Eddie's expression stopped me. I almost thought he might cry.

He hugged me again and his breath was warm on my ear when he finally spoke. "Joey, I don't think I can ever thank you enough…for…for, everything, but help me get through this will you?" He added while gesturing again towards to the gathering in the living room.

I still didn't fully understand his predicament but teasingly replied, "Anything for you, dude," hoping to alleviate some of his apparent anxiety. Though it was probably coincidental, it seemed that I cleared the room of most of the remaining guests, who apparently were Bill's business associates. During introductions I noticed that many of the guests had been drinking, which I could imagine was part of Eddie's dilemma. One of the introductions was to a woman whose name I recognized; she was personable and pleasant looking and I realized that this was the woman Eddie had told me his dad had recently started dating. Eddie had complained about her but I put on my best face for Carly; she was gracious and cordial in return. I felt badly when I had to decline an offer of food, though the truth was my best excuse: my mother had already succeeded in stuffing me. "But I could go for a cup of tea about now, if it's not too much of a bother." (I needed caffeine but still didn't drink coffee.)

"Not at all!" she replied with a smile as Bill ushered the last guests to the door. Eddie sat near me, seemingly content that I engaged the adults in conversation and drawing attention away from him while tea and fresh coffee were prepared and served. I felt relaxed and comfortable as we chatted, though Eddie remained mostly silent. I frequently turned to face him attempting to include him in the conversation.

Finally Bill reached over to another counter and grabbed an envelope, which he handed to me. I turned again to Eddie for some sort of explanation and for the first time since I had arrived he wore the tiniest of smiles. "Joey," Bill began. "Eddie and I owe you a lot, so this is a little something to let you know how grateful we are for your friendship and because we're proud of what you've done for yourself."

I was a bit embarrassed to have the three of them watching me open the envelope. The card was unmistakably something Eddie had made on the computer, (my face had been inserted into some clip art character wearing a cap and gown) so I turned to smile at him and he just motioned for me to open the card. "No way!" I practically shouted looking from one face to the other. I couldn't believe they were offering me a new computer!

"No, we're not kidding," Bill responded to my claim. "There is a caveat however; you must chose one of the computers listed on the back as they're on the company's purchase plan. I get corporate rates plus a personal discount, so I'm hardly being generous," he said with a big smile.

I turned to Eddie who was now wearing a huge smile, then rushed over to hug Bill. "Thanks guys!" I said with my eyes directed at Eddie. My eyes met Carly's for a moment and she was smiling as well.

After the hug ended but before I returned to my seat, Bill again spoke. "So Eddie, have you told Joey the news?"

Turning to look at my friend, he was shaking his head as I also noticed he was blushing slightly, something I'd seldom if ever seen him do before.

"Well?" we said almost in unison.

He sort of snickered, and then said, "I'm going to college… and with a baseball scholarship…go figure." He was wearing a tiny, crooked smile, but his face was even redder.

"Oh my god, Eddie!" Almost immediately I had my arms wrapped around him and had landed a kiss on his face. Suddenly by body went stiff and my face was burning red as I realized Carly was right behind me. Slowly I turned to see that both adults had kind, accepting smiles on their faces.

"It's okay Joey. We're cool." Bill said as he and Carly moved away to start picking up party debris.

Eddie nudged me to his room, where behind closed doors the jollity of the previous ten minutes instantly evaporated. I hadn't seen Eddie in a slump like this since the day he arrived on my doorstep, though I fully expected him to be enjoying his graduation. He hugged me even more tightly than he had earlier. "Eddie what's up? What's wrong? Can I help?" I asked as we were still in out embrace.

"It's been kind of a shitty day. Can we just chill for a bit?"

"Sure…" I replied as I took his hand in mine and guided us to his bed where I held him as tightly as my arms were able. He relaxed almost to the point of sleeping and I just watched him, though neither of us broke the embrace. He wore a wan smile when he seemingly returned to consciousness.

"Joey, I'm really gonna miss you." I felt certain that missing me sometime in the near future wasn't responsible for Eddie's funk; truth be told, I suspect I'd be missing him even more. I simply pressed our bodies closer.

"I'll miss you more," I responded. "But what's really going on Eddie? You're big and strong, gorgeous and smart…and sexier than hell," I almost giggled with glee as I rolled on top of him. We kissed mouth to mouth.

He smiled but it quickly faded, though his body was still trapped under mine. He turned his head toward the wall and said. "I don't want to go to college. High school was fuckin' hell! I hate school; it's for smart, nice guys like you!"

"Not true!" I argued before turning his face toward mine and kissing him firmly on the lips. That single kiss derailed my thoughts and I took several deep breaths while I tried to regroup. "Nice try!" I teased, even though I had initiated the kiss. "Dude, you know I'd love to do this with you all night, but you haven't told me shit! I gotta know."

"Okay fucker," he said, almost with a sneer and easily tossed me off himself. "Let me tell you what's what."

I knew that Eddie was way stronger than me, but was still surprised by the ease with which he accomplished a reversal. Reclining side by side, Eddie revealed thoughts that made me wonder why we hadn't talked about any of this during our usual study sessions. To me, it seemed that Eddie was afraid of failing his long-absent father, possibly resented his dad's new girlfriend and, like me was scared shitless about the prospect of college. Listening to Eddie's complaints and concerns, it occurred to me that he and I were more or less in the same boat. His funk grew from many of the same anxieties that caused me to attack the wall of muscle that was my brother, just hours earlier.

I reminded him that his dad had asked him to try college for just one year. "As for Carly, " I interjected. "She seems pretty nice, and if she really does own her own consulting firm like your dad mentioned, she probably isn't some gold-digger trying to get between you and your dad. And besides, your dad deserves at least a little something, right?" I queried as my hand squeezed Eddie's basket. Almost immediately I felt his cock respond to my touch, while hoping that my words had had at least some impact.

I guess I was too busy playing doctor to notice than Eddie's funk had passed. "Wanna get naked?" he asked and pushed his body closer.

"Like you have to ask," I snorted. "But it's kinda weird having your dad's girlfriend downstairs; can I take a rain check?"

"God, Joey! You're the only guy that ever asked for a…." he paused long enough to give me a deep kiss. "But, sure, get me hard and then leave me," he teased and tickled my ribs. "Give me blue balls and then run home," he added with another assault on my tender ribs. I was squirming, trying to get away, when he rolled on top of me and assailed me with kisses. His hard cock rubbed against my own, which seemingly raced to match his in hardness. "But you have to get home…" he said and rolled off me.

"Yeah, but…" I began, speaking for my aroused pecker.

"Yeah, but what? Carly could be right outside the door," he said with a sinister smile.

"Fuck that shit!" I exclaimed as I started to undo his belt and fly. I almost had his dick out of his boxers when he returned my gesture and by some unspoken agreement, we settled into a very satisfying 69 without actually getting undressed. We were still catching our breath when I brought my face next to Eddie's and we kissed. I felt my cock start to stiffen yet again and gently pulled away. "I probably should get home."

"Okay, you need a ride?"

"No, I have mom's car. But thanks."

"You want me to drive?" he asked with a smile.

"But how will you get home?'

"Home is where ever you are," he said with another smile. I wasn't sure if he was serious or just teasing, but it was the most romantic thing I'd heard Eddie say and I actually felt my face grow warm. My only reply was a kiss and a hug. Eventually we disengaged and took a few moments to right our clothes before we headed out. Bill was escorting Carly to her car as Eddie and I exited the house. Internally I chuckled, albeit a bit nervously thinking that the men, Bill and Eddie were walking their dates, Carly and I to our cars. Hers was a shiny, black Audi, so I was glad that mom had abandoned her minivan a couple years previously, allowing me to depart with at least some dignity in her Honda Accord.

So after eighteen years, I had finally finished high school, had a driver's license, even if I didn't own a car and had been accepted into college (my second choice). Some might say, and I would have to agree that I've had it pretty easy; I just need to think about Eddie to know that's true. It's also true that I worked hard and have been a good, though sometimes geeky kid. Regardless, summer was shaping up to be the best ever.

The local newspaper had awarded me a scholarship, which was actually a paid internship. I never seriously considered journalism as a career; I wanted to be a writer, so wasn't even aware of the program. But Ms. Gorman, my journalism teacher politely forced the issue and apparently penned a killer letter of recommendation. It wasn't The New York Times, but it was better than flipping' burgers and I had my evenings and weekends free! Matt and Miguel again joined the city band with me; Macy was off to Europe for a better part of the summer though she swore she would miss us. Steve and Jenny were still up for having fun whenever our schedules coincided, and often Carrie and Ethan joined us. Occasionally Eddie would join the group and sometimes it would just be the two of us. In a pinch, there was always Katie, who was always good for a laugh and even my parents, though I was content to be alone with a good book, a notebook (for jotting down ideas) and Internet porn for filling down time.

Despite those couple kisses in his car, I generally considered Ethan and Carrie as a couple: they looked good together and that's how I usually saw them. That is until one night when the gang had gathered at Ethan's house for Trivial Pursuit. It wasn't particularly late, but the others excused themselves leaving me alone with Ethan. "Wanna try my new video game?" He asked after seeing the others to the door and stepping into the kitchen to grab a couple sodas. "I got it for graduation and it's awesome. C'mon!" I couldn't resist his eager invitation and followed him to his bedroom where he set up his game box. I was having so much fun that I paid no attention to the time, but focused on the game and the fact that I continued to outscore Ethan. "What the fuck?" He proclaimed and tossed his controller aside. "Dude, you've played this game before, right?" I thought he was upset, but he had a big smile on his face. I was about to smile in return when he sort of tackled me and started to wrestle with me. Well, it was mock wrestling as Ethan cold have pinned me with both arms tied behind his back, but I did my best to fend him off. Mostly it was just the two of us rolling around on the floor, frequently switching from being on top to being on the bottom. But when I felt the unmistakable hardness of Ethan's cock pressing against my leg I quickly rolled off him and squeezed his bulge with my hand. A muffled groan escaped his mouth, so I squeezed again.

"Yeah, I'm sure," and "No, I won't tell anyone," I said in reply to his questions. For a quasi-nerd like me, seeing his anxious vulnerability made him appear more human and incredibly sexy. "Just relax and let me do this for you," I said as I reached for the fly of his jeans. I gasped and he moaned yet again when I freed his hard dick from his boxer briefs; it was beautiful and the tip glistened with a glob of precum. My own mouth watered as I stroked his cock several times before I lowered my face to his crotch. His scent and taste stoked me even though I knew I couldn't swallow his entire bone. Apparently what I was doing felt good, as Ethan was bucking his hips, groaning ever more boisterously and occasionally testing my gag reflex by pushing my head down with his hands. I gave it my best, considering that I had thought about this moment for almost four years. I'd like to think it was my technique, but pair a horny teen cock with a wet mouth and bingo! Ethan started to shoot his wad within five minutes, a huge load! I couldn't swallow and breathe fast enough, some of his cum slipped out of my mouth but I was sure to lick his cock and balls clean before I let him go.

Ethan was still panting, when I moved up to kiss his mouth. He didn't pull away until some internal alarm apparently sounded. He looked away, seemingly nervous and embarrassed as he become more agitated. His eyes darted as I lowered paired fingers and pressed them to his lips. "Ssssh. Don't say anything, but it felt good huh?" Possibly, my fingers kept him silent, but he nodded his head in agreement. "That's all that matters. This doesn't mean you're gay; if you want, think of it as a special thank you for helping me with physics." He finally smiled and I pushed some hair away from his eyes. I desperately wanted to kiss him again but instead, we silently fixed our clothes.

Ever the gentleman, Ethan walked me to the door, though neither of us spoke. I was about to walk out the door when Ethan hugged me. He wouldn't let go, not that I was complaining. Finally Ethan spoke, though it was more of a whisper. "Thanks Joey, you… that was awesome but I've never done anything with a guy before. And I'm not sure if…I guess I mean I'm sort of confused but I know I want us to be friends."

"We're still friends," I said with a smile and quickly kissed his cheek. He actually blushed! "Call me or I'll call you, ‘k?"

"Sure thing," he said with a smile. "Can you get home all right?"

"Yeah, but Ethan…"

"What?"

"You need to smile more. You've got a killer smile."

His face broke into the biggest smile ever before he grabbed me into a hug.

"G'night," I said as I stepped out of our embrace. Ethan just continued to smile and nodded his head until he closed the door.

*     *     *     *     *

 

That night spent with Ethan sort of summed up my summer before college: yes, no, maybe.

Eddie got super clingy, which I liked except for the fact that I knew it was a response to his fear of college. I also knew that I was going to miss him, even without all the added attention and affection. Occasionally I would wish and hope and pray that some miracle would have us attending the same school, but I continually reminded him that we would never be farther apart that a phone call and that at college he could make a fresh start as no one would know about his "Buddy" days.

Steve and Jenny suckered me into adjudicating their parting. "Sorry Steve, but I agree with Jenny. You're some of the coolest people I know both together and apart!" I was thinking of Eddie and a little bit about Ethan as I said this. "But you haven't left town yet; there are entire worlds you've never seen. Me either!" I added, mostly to bolster my own resolve. "If you're destined to be together, then four years of college won't change anything." (Poor Steve was getting the pep talk I'd prepared for myself!)

Jenny hugged Steve, kissed his cheek, and then said to me, "Joey, it's a good thing you're gay, because I'm loving you a lot right now." I noticed Steve looked a little hurt. "But not as much as you Steve," she said and kissed him again.

Steve smiled and said. "Joey, I think you've been keeping me in the dark regarding girls. What do I have to do to get you to spill the beans?" The three of us exchanged glances, Jenny laughed and I blushed.

"Steve, I don't think you want to know," she said and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek.

"Oh…. yeah, you're probably right," he said as he and I both turned red.

Ethan and I did a lot of talking that summer. I enjoyed discussing almost anything with someone as intelligent as Ethan, thought sometimes his looks distracted me from the topic at hand. A few times he broached the subject of homosexuality and I tried to be as honest and informative as possible. On a couple occasions, I managed to segue from theoretical discussion to practical application; sucking his beautiful cock was better than just jerking off after he went home. Am I right?

A week or so before Ethan left for college; I was at his house for an informal farewell party, which included the members of our study group and some close friends. It was fun if not a bit bittersweet. Near the end of the event, I teased Steve by giving him a kiss on the cheek; I almost freaked when he reciprocated! Maybe Jenny thought she needed to mark her territory as she kissed both of us after the fact. There were more hugs and farewells before I ended up with Ethan in his room.

I'm pretty sure I didn't initiate it but we lost our clothes as a make out session progressed. I admit to going down on Ethan, but he was responsible for turning a blowjob into a 69. I had to assume that he was a virgin cocksucker but really didn't mind his lack of technique; for me, it was a fantasy finally coming to life. Regardless we climaxed at about the same time, though Ethan wasn't prepared as he almost gagged and ended up with most of my load on his face and chest. I hastily righted myself, kissing his face while licking up my errant load; he nervously giggled and even returned a kiss or two before we dozed off.

Though he appeared to be sleeping, Ethan's arms held me firmly so it was impossible for me to extricate myself. His half open eyes seemingly asked me to stay, but I replied, "I better go home. I didn't tell anyone I was staying overnight."

"Can't you just call?"

He was so beautiful and his question suggested that he liked being naked in bed with me. I was torn but decided that love or lust or whatever it was that I was feeling, couldn't mess things up at home when I was days away from heading off for college. "Sorry…but don't get up."

"What would my mom say if she saw you walking out the door by yourself?" he asked as he jumped out of bed.

What would she say if she knew we just had boy sex? I thought. I managed to get my shirt on before I was thoroughly engrossed in watching Ethan dress. Other than the fact that he didn't bother pulling on his boxer briefs, I'm sure for him it was like getting dressed in the locker room. For me it was sort of a strip tease in reverse, especially when his jeans slid up over his perfect ass and he turned, facing me as he eased his package inside before zipping up. My dick was three quarters hard, which he immediately noticed. "I thought you were going home," he said quietly and lightly stroked my cock.

"I am," I said, reluctantly pushing his hand away. I stood and quickly pulled on my shorts; I wasn't sure where my boxers were but wasn't about to go looking for them. I was particularly mindful as I zipped up, not wanting to snag anything. Ethan handed me my shoes and socks, and I quickly put them on.

"Damn, you're cute," he said as I stood. The bulge in my shorts got bigger and started to leak when he hugged me. The house was quiet and mostly dark as we made our way to the door, seemingly his family was asleep. At the door Ethan again hugged me tightly before we said good night.

Back home I discovered that there were two messages on my phone, both of them from Eddie. I was tired but thought it best to at least leave a return voicemail; I was surprised when he picked up after just two rings. "Why aren't you in bed already?" I asked.

"I am, but I can't sleep. That's why I called earlier; I was sort of hoping you could come over, but its kinda late now."

Though it probably wasn't his intention, I felt like a complete shithead. "Yeah, sorry, it is kind of late but how about tomorrow?"

I spent the following night with Eddie as well as most nights before I left home. I never retrieved my boxers from Ethan, though did manage to see him long enough to share a hug and a kiss before he headed off to school.

It was fortunate that I didn't have a ton of stuff to take to school, as there was room for Eddie to join mom and dad when it was time for me to leave. We sat in the back seat, as close to arm in arm as the seat belts would allow, which made the long ride a blessing and a curse. Occasionally, in the rear-view mirror I'd catch the eye of whichever parent was driving; the response was always an encouraging smile.

I'd been in touch with my roommate via email, so he already knew I was gay but he almost freaked when he saw Eddie; I don't know, maybe he thought my friend was moving in too. Though Eddie was cool with everything, it was my parents, especially my mom that seemingly put my new roomie at ease; Kyle even pitched in to help bring the final items from the car. My parents invited him to join us for dinner, though he declined.

Dinner was nice, very nice actually, though I was so nervous, excited and anxious that I wasn't particularly hungry. At some point I realized this was a part of some ritual rite of passage and started spewing thanks and accolades on my parents. Eddie was looking at me like I'd totally lost it before my dad intervened to remind me that this wasn't the last supper, or our final goodbye. Except for Eddie we all chuckled, albeit a bit nervously before we finished dinner.

That night Eddie and I settled into one of the two beds in our hotel room, where we cuddled until we slept. There were many kisses in the morning though tears threatened like distant clouds. After breakfast the four of us followed Kyle's directions to join a group of students, friends and parents for a campus tour. (He and his parents had participated the day before.) Sharon, the upper-classman who chaperoned our tour was extremely personable and my excitement grew. I was grateful for the campus overview, my parents were probably pleased to see where their son and some of their money would be pursuing higher education and Eddie had a chance to see some of the good things that college might possibly offer him.

There were plenty of tears when it was time for us to part; even dad had wet eyes. I managed to pull Eddie around a corner to deliver a few words and a final kiss. He was actually rather brave, as I started to cry uncontrollably. Eddie just held me and gently rubbed my back.

"Joey," he finally said brushing away my tears. "Think about all the stuff you told me about college; it's a hundred times truer for you. We both know you can do something great here." He smiled and I tried to do the same. "But I do have a favor to ask of you; if you write a story about me, don't make me totally lame; ‘k? I really do try some of the time."

I couldn't believe my best friend was saying something so ridiculous, but his smile said he was making a joke at his own expense and I couldn't help but smile. Suddenly we were hugging, laughing and kissing all at the same time. Finally we separated and I grabbed Eddie's hand and led him back to the car. When my dad finally hugged me I quietly asked him to look after Eddie before the three of them got into the car and headed for home.

 

*     *     *    *   *

 

During the first weeks of school, the phone calls, text messages and emails were non-stop; they formed a veritable compendium of the trials and tribulations of college freshman everywhere, including my own tale of getting lost on campus after three days of classes! I had to laugh when Steve reported that although he missed Jenny, there were cute girls everywhere at his school. I also laughed at an email from Carrie, forwarded by Jenny describing her plan to ditch the "roommate from hell" at the semester break. A huge sigh of relief passed my lips when Eddie reported that college wasn't as bad as he had expected, it also made it easier to talk on the phone with him, which we did frequently. And of course I had Josh as my ultimate go-to.

After the initial transition, I settled into university life. My courses were challenging but of course I liked that! I was meeting all kinds of people though wasn't looking for a boyfriend, at least not yet! Kyle was kind of messy but otherwise we got along quite well. He was pretty serious about school too, so I didn't have to worry about sharing space with a party animal. And as he wasn't much to look at (in my opinion) I didn't need to worry about being distracted by a hunky roommate.

About a month into it, Eddie let me know that he was spending his first weekend at campus rather than going home. He enjoyed the fitness center and the pool and had made a few friends that happened to know other guys that played soccer most weekends. I didn't even think to say, I told you so. I just smiled and thanked whatever higher power might be responsible. But I laughed out loud at an email from Ethan asking for my advice. I laughed partly because he was treating my like Kevin, as though I was some expert on dating but particularly because of Ethan's particular situation. It seems he had finally decided to ask a girl to go out and seeing her in the student union, set off to approach her when he was intercepted by a "really nice guy" from one of his classes, who asked Ethan out, first! Better get used to it! I thought and wondered if this was his first guy proposal. Instead I replied that he should go out with both of them. I tried to keep my reply brief and not too analytical. My final sentence read. "Maybe you should just think of this as a pop quiz; it's not like a final exam." Once again, I was giving Ethan the same advice that I needed to follow.

 

The End