DISCLAIMER: The following story is a fictional account involving pre-teen and teenage boys, some of whom are gay. Although very little sexual activity takes place in this story, there are references to and some descriptions of gay sex, and anyone who is uncomfortable with this should obviously not be reading this story. All characters are fictional and any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental. Although the story takes place in real locations and establishments, the author takes full responsibility for all events described and these are not in any way meant to reflect the activities of real individuals, nor actual school policies. The author retains full copyright of this story, and of stories based on these characters.

Please note that this 2009 Spring Anthology entry is the eighteenth in a series of short stories known collectively as Naptown Tales. The series of stories can be found on my GayAuthors Page and on the Naptown Tales Page at Awesome Dude. Slightly modified versions of some of these stories that are suitable for younger teens can also be found on the Altimexis Page at Codey's World. Please see the Introduction for important background on the series.

Home is Where the Heart Is

A Naptown Tale by Altimexis

I'll never forget the moment our parents dropped the bombshell on us. My brother, David, and I were sitting around the dinner table talking about the usual school stuff and the like, when suddenly Dad said, "Boys, your mother and I have been thinking that maybe it's a good time to move."

After he said it, there was, like, complete silence, except for the sound of the grandfather clock in the entryway. Finally, David said, "Whadaya mean, move?"

"Well, the economy's in a major recession and real estate's in the worst slump in decades," Dad said. "Right now, there are five and six thousand-square-foot houses up on One Hundred Sixth Street that were just built a few years ago that people can't give away. I bet we could probably pick one up with a heated pool out back and maybe even tennis courts for under a quarter mil. They cost two or three times that to build. It's definitely a buyers market."

"One Hundred Sixth Street?" I asked. "You mean up in Carmel?"

"Well, sure, Brad," Dad answered, "But we're only talking about a few miles away from where we live now, and the neighborhood's a lot nicer, the homes are brand new and much bigger, and we'd have our own swimming pool. It's a real opportunity to move up in the world that may never come again."

"Why would we want to do that?" David began. "We already live in a great house in a nice neighborhood right by the Monon Trail. I can bike up and down the trail to get to, well, everything, from the shops up in Carmel to the shops down in Broad Ripple, and to my boyfriend's house. The houses you're talking about are way over on the west side, by Ditch Road, in what used to be cornfields. We have trees here. It's beautiful here in our neighborhood. They have nothing over there. The lots are barren.

"And what do we need with a bigger house, anyway," my brother continued. "We have more than enough house as it is. Brad and I each have our own bedrooms, which are plenty big enough for us. We have a guest room and you have a home office, Dad. We already have a three car garage, so if I do get a car some day, all we have to do is clean out the third bay and maybe get a storage shed out back for the lawn mower and our gardening tools."

Way to go, bro!

"There's a lot more to it than just that, David," Mom started in. "Sure, we have a nice house, but we can afford a much nicer one, especially now that so many houses are in foreclosure. There are million-dollar mansions up in Carmel, sitting vacant. One of those could be ours. Why not go for it?"

"I'll tell you why," David answered. "Jeremy lives in a mansion in Lake Shores. I think theirs is something like seven thousand square feet, but that's beside the point. You've heard what he's said about life in his mansion. There aren't many kids his age in his neighborhood. He's lonely down there. He calls it his prison."

"Does he still feel that way now that he has a foster brother?" Mom asked.

"Cliff is Brad's age," David countered. "I'm sure Jeremy loves Cliff the way I love Brad, but three years is a big age difference. It's not like Jeremy and Cliff can even relate to each other on the same level . . . you know?

 "Brad and I have lots of friends here in Sherwood Forrest. Carmel? . . . That's in the next county! It isn't even in our school district! We have lots of friends at school, and I'm president of the sophomore class! You'd be taking us away from all of that, and for what . . . so you and Dad can stroke your egos, just so you can prove something?"

"David!" Dad practically shouted, but I wasn't about to give him an inch.

"No, Dad, David's right," I chimed in. "David and I have our lives here. We have friends we've had since we were in kindergarten. And David is the president of his class. Do you think a gay boy has a chance in Hell of that kind of popularity with all the rich snobs up in Carmel?"

"They do have a very active GSA in Carmel High," Mom interrupted. "I already spoke to one of the faculty advisors and they have monthly meetings and dances and everything. I think you'll find you fit in just as well there."

"But Jeremy won't be there," David said with obvious sadness in his voice.

"I know, sweetheart," Mom replied, "but we aren't going to move before the end of the school year, and by the time school starts next year, you'll have your license and be able to drive to see him any time you want to. If it'll make things any easier, I think we could probably swing a car for you as part of the deal."

"You think you can bribe me?" David practically shouted at Mom with a vehemence I'd rarely seen from my brother. "Don't you get it? Jeremy and I are a couple. We've been boyfriends for, like, nearly two years now. A lot of marriages don't last that long. We love each other, Mom. We eat lunch together, every day. We have many classes together. As soon as we graduate high school, we intend to get married, we intend to go to college together and, one day, we intend to have children together by whatever means possible. Sure, we can still see each other, even if we move out of the school district, but it won't be the same."

"But why limit yourself, David," Dad said. "Carmel High is much better than where you are now."

"Says who?" David asked. "Yeah, if you look at their National Merit rankings, Carmel ranks higher, but only slightly. They both rank in the top 300 of all high schools nationwide. That's out of how many tens of thousands of high schools? If you go by percentile rankings, the schools are equivalent."

"But your school's half black and Hispanic," Dad countered.

"You make that sound like a bad thing," David countered. "Our schools are more diverse, and I think that's a great thing. Carmel's full of rich snobs who moved up there to get away from all the African Americans and the Jewish people who live down here. Of course there are a lot of rich snobby African Americans and Jews up in Carmel now, too, so I hear a lot of WASPs are moving out to Noblesville and to Zionsville. Maybe you'll decide even Carmel's not good enough for us either, Dad. I didn't realize you're a racist."


"Sorry. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that I like the rainbow of skin colors I see in the hallway every day at school. Of course, I like rainbows in general," my brother said with a smile.

"On top of everything else, they went for McCain up in Carmel," I felt obliged to point out.

"We voted for McCain," Dad countered.

"I know," I replied. "The sign on our front lawn was embarrassing."

"Jeremy's parents voted for Obama," David added. "Even though they're richer than anyone I know, they never lost sight of where they came from. You know, they could have had an even bigger house up in Carmel, too, but they chose Lake Shores because it's in the city and in a good school district. Just because they have money didn't mean they had to leave the city, or become Republicans, or forget who they are."

"That's not the reason, David," Dad replied. "We supported McCain because we don't want our hard-earned money going to support higher taxes . . ."

"Yeah, right . . ." David interrupted, "taxes we're otherwise going to have to collect from future generations to pay down our country's ten trillion dollar debt. I agree with the Democrats. Once this crisis is behind us, we need to pay off the debt, but now isn't the time . . . I'll grant you that. We just can't expect countries like China to keep lending us the money forever, Dad."

"McCain had the right idea," Dad countered, "cut spending and we can pay off the debt. We don't need to raise taxes to do that."

David audibly sighed before he went on. "Unless you're willing to cut Social Security and Medicare, the only thing big enough left to cut in the budget that could make any kind of dent in reducing the deficit is defense. Between Iraq and Afghanistan, we're already at a point where we couldn't even defend ourselves in an international crisis as it is. There isn't any money left to cut . . . unless you're talking about the loopholes the rich use to get out of paying their fair share of taxes!

"I think Obama has the right idea. The middle class is strapped as is, so why is it always those who have the least that give the most? Let's loosen the purse strings of the rich and if they don't want to give to the poor voluntarily, maybe we should be legislating it. Hell, right now we could be supporting some poor kid who doesn't have a home . . . like what Jeremy's parents are doing. That in itself is a big tax break for the rich . . . but not you, Dad . . . you want that big house in a snobby neighborhood.  Think . . . think about the things that you could do for others . . . think about those who need, who deserve and who would welcome our help."

"Hmmm . . . my son the politician," Dad said thoughtfully. "You're only the Class President and already you think you have the cure for this country's financial mess."

"David, be careful," Mom warned. "Don't let your idealism make you foolish and put you in the poor house. There's a lot of people out there that would be happy to bilk you out of your money and before long, you'd end up as poor as they are. Buying a new house is our chance to step up to a better way of life."

"At what expense Mom . . . at whose expense?"  David countered. "Yeah I like being Class President and I like to help out kids in need . . . and it doesn't cost me anything." David took a deep sigh. "It's your money . . . you've worked hard for it . . . I haven't contributed towards it . . . spend it the way you think you need to, but remember it's not only your own lives that will be affected by your choices."

My brother was always the politician. I swore, he'd end up being the president some day, but talk of the economy brought up another important point and I thought I'd better raise it.

"If the economy's so bad," I asked, "how will we ever manage to sell this house? What good will it do to move to some McMansion up in Carmel if we can't unload this place?"

"That's a very good question, Brad," Dad answered, "and one that has an easy answer. We're very fortunate to have done well for ourselves, particularly during these troubled financial times, and we paid off the mortgage long ago. We've come a long way from where we were when we bought this place, when I was a new bank manager, and your mother was a brand new teacher. Now, I'm a division head of a major U.S. bank for the entire region, and your mother of course has tenure, so we both have very secure jobs.

"Although we could probably sell this house for more than we paid for it, it would be foolish to sell it below market value, just to unload it. What your mother and I discussed is simply holding onto it and possibly renting it out until the economy turns around, and then we'll put it on the market and sell it for a more reasonable price, using the money we get for it to help put you guys through college.

"Since we don't have a mortgage to support and since the taxes and insurance on the place are low, we really don't need to rush into renting it out to recoup our investment. It really would be foolish not to move," Dad concluded.

"I still think it sucks," David said, "and I'm opposed to it."

"Same here," I chimed in.

"David, Brad, your father and I didn't bring this up for discussion," Mom stated flatly, shocking both of us to the core. Up until now, I had thought they were tossing this whole thing out for our thoughts on it. I really thought Mom and Dad listened to us . . . that they valued what we had to say. I guess I was wrong. They were our parents and they'd already made their minds up. They were going to do this with or without our approval and this whole thing was their way of trying to convince us that it was in our best interests, too. What a crock!

David was not so generous in his way of looking at it as he spouted off, "I don't give a flying FUCK what you and Dad think about it . . . you are NOT doing what's best for Brad and me!"

"DAVID!" Dad shouted in return.

"NO! You listen to ME," David continued. "Brad and I don't want or need a bigger house. We aren't asking for our own pool out back. We love this neighborhood with all its mature trees, and are more than willing to rake the leaves in the fall. We have WONDERFUL, lifelong friends that we want to keep. We're popular here. We're both involved in sports. I'm the Class President. I have a boyfriend that I LOVE more than life itself whom I see everyday and with whom I'm intimate every weekend and I think you know that. The only reason to move is to prove something, but what? That you can?

"What the fuck do you hope to accomplish by moving?" David continued. "Do you really think you'll be happier? When you look out at all the barren land and the mansions around you, will it make you feel more successful? Is that it? Is that the fucking reason for putting us through fucking hell?"

"David, enough with the language," Dad said.

I don't know what got into me, but I was royally pissed at my parents and wasn't about to let David be the only one to speak up. "What the hell's wrong with his fucking language," I said. "Why the fuck can't he say what he fucking pleases. You're the fucking idiots who fucking want us to fucking leave all our friends behind and move the fuck away from here."

"Brad, to your room, now!" Dad said. My dinner sat in front of me, largely untouched, but that was OK. I wasn't really hungry, anyway. Slowly and sullenly I rose to my feet and made my way to my bedroom. Even through my closed bedroom door, I could hear the shouting continue. David wasn't about to give up, that was for sure! If anything the argument only became more heated after I left.

Finally, I heard David's bedroom door slam shut. I wasn't sure if it was because he had been grounded like me, or if it was because he just couldn't take it any more and stormed out on our parents. Either way, it sucked. Life sucked. How could Mom and Dad think that moving was actually a good idea? Why would they be willing to even consider driving a wedge between themselves and their sons, just so they could - what's the saying - keep up with the Joneses?

David and I shared a bathroom that connected to both our bedrooms, so I entered the bathroom and, as I kinda expected, David was crying. I gently knocked on the door to his room. I'd long ago learned that he didn't like me barging in on him unannounced, any more than I'd like him doing it to me.

"Come on in, Squirt. I could use the company," he answered.

When I entered, I couldn't help but notice how down David looked. I didn't think I'd ever seen David look so down. He was sitting on the edge of his bed with his head resting in his hands. His eyes were red and his cheeks were tear-stained. David was tall - about six-three, I think, and I was only a little over five feet myself, but as slouched over as he was, I was easily able to drape my arm over his shoulders and hug him to my side. We were both hurting, but I knew how much Jeremy meant to David and how going to a different school would affect him. Being Class President meant a lot to David, but not nearly as much as being with Jeremy. I was cool with their relationship. Why wouldn't I be?

The next day at school, I sat by Cliff, Jeremy's foster brother, in homeroom at the beginning of first period. We weren't best friends or anything, but we'd become friendly since the start of school. Jeremy's parents took him in after he tested HIV-positive from having been sexually abused over the summer. They even hired a `nanny' to help care for Cliff after school, since their own jobs kept them busy until late at night. In any case, since our older brothers were boyfriends, we naturally gravitated to each other to, well, gossip about our brothers behind their backs.

After I told Cliff about what was happening, he said, "Brad, you know what, it's gonna be OK."

"What do you mean it'll be OK?" I asked.

"Sure, it sucks big time that you'll hafta go to a different school and all, but you and David'll do OK wherever you are. You guys'll make friends wherever you go, and nothing'll keep David and Jeremy apart. You said your parents'll get David a car, and you know Jeremy'll get a car for his birthday. I bet it'll be something sweet, too. Maybe one a those Mercedes two-seaters, or maybe a Porsche roadster, or a Corvette? You can be sure it'll be one of the nicest sets of wheels in the student parking lot. Prolly in the faculty parking lot, for that matter. Those two'll be at each other's houses every night and every weekend. 'Cept for seeing each other at school, nothing'll really change.

"It's like that old saying, after all, you know . . . how's it go? . . . Home is where the heart is?"

Though I didn't like what Mom and Dad were doing one bit, I had to hand it to Cliff. For a kid who'd just turned thirteen, he was wise beyond his years. He'd been around the block more than most kids twice his age. He'd been beaten and abused, and now he'd been raped, and even still, he had one of the brightest outlooks on life of anyone I knew. What he said made a whole lotta sense.

Maybe to Mom and Dad bricks and mortar were important - they symbolized their accomplishments in life. The big mansion on the two acre plot with a swimming pool and tennis court in back meant something to them . . . to them it meant they'd made it in life. To David and me, bricks and mortar didn't really mean shit, to put it bluntly. To us, it was our friendships that meant everything. We could live in a tiny trailer by the river or in a housing project and it wouldn't matter as long as we had our friends. Yeah, we could make new friends up in Carmel, but they'd never be the same as the friends we grew up with down here. With e-mail, David's car, our bicycles and our cell phones, if we made the effort, we'd never lose touch with our friends, new and old. Home wasn't a physical place, but sense of being, and that was something that was entirely up to David and me.

"Thanks, man," I said to Cliff. "You've really given me something to think about."

"No prob, Brad. Hey, why don't you come over this afternoon for a while to take your mind off of things, you know? I bet your brother'll be there, too. . . . It'd do the both a you some good. We could go for a swim in our indoor pool, or have a Madden tournament, or shoot; you've seen our game room. It's Friday, after all. We'll have a blast!"

"You know, that might not be a bad idea. I'll check with the 'rents at lunch and see if they'll let me."

Although Mom wasn't thrilled with the idea, especially with the way David and I had behaved at dinner last night, she agreed it might be good for us to get out of the house so she gave me the OK when I called her. When I met up with Cliff at the end of the day, I asked if he thought it would be OK to ride the bus home with him and he said, "Sure, David rides home with Jer and me all the time."

"But doesn't the bus driver notice?" I asked.

"She probably does, but she don't care; long as there's enough seats for everyone and everyone gets off where they're supposed to, she's cool with it."

We rode the bus over to the high school and, sure enough, both Jeremy and David got on, and they went to sit right behind us.

"Hey, bro, nice to see you riding with us for a change," David said as he slid into the window seat. "Can't say I'm feeling any better, though."

"Actually, I'm feeling a little better," I admitted. "Cliff said some things that got me to thinking. It doesn't matter where we live as long as we have each other, and we'll still have each other, no matter what."

"Bummed out as I am," Jeremy said, "that's what I've been trying to tell David, too.

"By the way, I hope you guys don't mind, but I've taken the liberty of inviting some old friends from middle school that I haven't seen in years. They go to Carmel High, and I thought they might be able to help you feel a little better about going there next year."

"Who?" David asked.

"You remember Henry and Pauline?"

"Henry and Pauline? Wasn't Henry the kid that gave you a hard time after the gym incident?" David asked. "Wasn't he a major homophobe and an asshole?"

"Actually, he was a good friend right up until the gym incident, and Pauline said he's gotten some counseling and he's changed. Pauline's older brother's gay and she didn't exactly give him much choice. Anyway, they're on the way over and they're popular at Carmel High, and they could help you to feel a little less alone over there. It'll be nice to see them after all this time."

"Maybe for you, but I never knew them that well, and I'll reserve judgment until I see just how much Henry has really changed," David pouted, clearly not wanting to relinquish his sense of gloom. Jer wasn't having any of that, however. He knew what Dave was doing, and he couldn't help but laugh at him. Soon, Jeremy was mercilessly tickling David's sides, which was no small feat through his jacket, and David was giggling like a schoolgirl. The giggling ended in a long, but closed-mouth kiss. How embarrassing.

Soon, we reached Jeremy's and Cliff's neighborhood. "Looks like Henry and Pauline are already here," Jeremy said as he got off the bus, nodding his head at a RAV-4 that was parked in the driveway. "Henry's birthday was back in December, so he must have just gotten his license in January. Must be nice . . ."

"What are you complaining about?" Cliff asked. "You may not be getting your license 'til June, but you know your parents'll be getting you a car that's way nicer than the rust bucket Henry's driving."

"Well they're keeping quiet about it, but one thing's for sure . . . it won't be an SUV. When I hinted that I wanted one, Mom pulled out some articles that looked at traffic fatalities, rather than just at crash ratings. If you get into a crash, you're less likely to be crushed in an SUV, but much more likely to roll over, be thrown from one or otherwise mutilated. The bottom line is you're far more likely to crash an SUV in the first place. A well-built, agile car like the Mini is actually your best bet, but with my luck, my folks'll prolly get me something sexy like an Accord, a Camry, or a nice, dependable minivan," Jeremy said with a smirk. "Let's go inside."

We entered through the garage, into a mudroom and then into a kitchen that was larger than our kitchen, dining room and family room, combined. Off the kitchen was what they called a great room, with floor-to-ceiling glass doors that led to an enclosed pool, and a game room down below. `Great' really didn't begin to describe the room - it was more like being in a ski lodge. The ceiling went up to a peak at least fifteen feet above, and in the center was the biggest circular fireplace I'd ever seen. It was awesome!

Waiting in the great room were a couple of kids about David and Jeremy's age. The boy had short-cropped blond hair. He was stocky and muscular, and was clearly an athlete. The girl was . . . well, what could I say. I knew she was too old for me and it was clear by the way she was sitting on the sofa next to the boy that she was his girlfriend, but she was absolutely beautiful. Having a gay brother, I occasionally had doubts about my own sexuality, but seeing her there erased all of those doubts. Embarrassingly, I was hard, instantly - more so than had happened with any girl my own age at school.

"Hey, Goldilocks, it's been a while," the boy said as they both stood up.

"Hey Henry. Hey Pauline," Jeremy said in return, and then there was a period of what could only be described as awkward silence.

After what was probably no more than ten or fifteen seconds, the girl nudged the boy with her elbow in his ribs as we continued to approach. He looked down at the floor before he looked back up at Jeremy and said, "Listen, Jer . . . this isn't easy for me. I'm not really sure where to begin. . . ."

"You could start by saying you're sorry," Jeremy suggested quietly."

"Yeah, I could," the boy agreed, "and I am, but somehow, I don't think that would be enough, would it? You still wouldn't trust me and I'd prolly still think you tried to feel me up . . . not that I can blame you . . . in fact, in a way I'm flattered. Jeremy, I . . . I've gone through some counseling and I've had a talk with Pauline's brother, and I'm not freaked out by gay guys any more. You know, you and David have been on the cover of The Star, what, twice now?"

"Three times," David corrected him.

Turning to face David, the boy corrected himself as he said, "Three times now, and I have to admit," turning back to Jeremy, he continued, "the two of you make a really cute couple. My folks raised me to think being gay isn't natural, but Pauline, her brother, and the therapist sure set me straight on that one, no pun intended.

"Now, I really feel horrible about the way I treated you in eighth grade. You didn't deserve it, Jeremy. I'm sorry you got outed, but I'm sorrier about the way kids treated you, especially me. If we're going to ever be friends again, I think we have to come to grips with what actually happened in gym that day, two years ago."

"Henry," Jeremy said, "You and I both know it was an accident. It was nothing more than an innocent game of shirts versus skins. We collided, you landed on top of me and my hand ended up slipping inside your shorts. Never in a million years did I intend for it to happen that way. It was a complete and total freak accident."

"Was it really an accident, Jer?" Henry asked.

"How could you even think otherwise?" Jeremy asked incredulously.

"Sorry, but before you go getting your nose bent all out of shape, Goldilocks, hear me out. I'm not saying this in a derogatory sense at all. I know the way we slammed into each other on the basketball court was an accident. Neither of us intended for that to happen. I know the way your hand slipped down my chest and into my shorts was prolly an accident. There's no way you had time to plan to do that, even if you wanted to. But when I lifted myself off your body, you were groping me. I know you didn't mean to do that, but you did. I don't think any straight boy would've done that. That's how I knew you were gay."

The look on Jeremy's face told me he realized for the first time that part of what happened wasn't really an accident. He was in shock. "Henry, I . . . I don't know what to say. It's no excuse, but I did hit my head kinda hard on the floor, and . . . now I feel like a jerk . . . like I molested you or something. I didn't even realize I'd done it. All these years I thought my hand just landed on your dick by accident, but you're right, I . . . I groped you. When we ended up with you on top of me with my hand in your shorts, my hand did what my subconscious must've always wanted it to do. I had no idea. I'm so . . . so sorry." Jeremy had tears in his eyes.

Henry actually grabbed Jeremy in a bear-like hug and comforted him. "It's OK, Jer. Back then, it really weirded me out, but with the therapy and stuff, I understand now what you must've been going through . . . how depressed you must've been. I had Pauline and could kiss her and hold hands with her in the halls without fear of what she would think or how she would react. I felt what boys were supposed to feel.

"My guess is that maybe you had all these strange feelings for boys that you didn't understand . . . that you prolly didn't even want to have and that you had no control over, and then, suddenly, WHAM . . . there we were. If I found myself on the ground with my hand inside Pauline's panties, could I have resisted copping a feel? Hell, that was the stuff of my J.O. fantasies at the time."

Mine, too, I thought as Henry released Jeremy and put his arm around Pauline.

Looking at Pauline, who's face was now red as a beet, Henry said, "Sorry, Paulie." He then turned back to face Jeremy and continued, "What I'm really trying to say is that you reacted instinctively before your brain had a chance to think of the consequences. I understand that, now. It really wasn't something you could help . . . and I hope you'll forgive me for being such an asshole about it."

"Of course I forgive you, Henry. Friends?"

"You bet, Goldilocks," Henry said, as he once again pulled Jeremy into a warm hug.

We had a great afternoon. Cliff got me one of his spare swimsuits and David of course already had a pair there, and Henry and Pauline had brought theirs with them. We all swam around for a while, and then we went downstairs and played in Jeremy and Cliff's awesome game room. We played air hockey, foosball, Ping-Pong and pool. We all had a blast.

Henry and Pauline told us a little bit about Carmel and what going to school was like there. Yes, there were a lot of rich snobs up there, but David and I were surprised to learn there were a lot of rednecks that went there as well. I could only imagine what it must be like for those kids, growing up in the older sections of town that were there before the affluent suburbs were built.

At one point, I asked, "Henry, you and Pauline used to go to my middle school, and I know you didn't move or anything. How did you end up going to Carmel High?"

Pauline answered, "That's a strange one. Our street was cut off from the rest of the neighborhood when they put in the Interstate back in the seventies, and now that they put in a sound barrier, we're much more a part of Carmel than of the city. When we were in elementary and middle school, the school bus used to make a detour to pick us up, but I guess the district ultimately decided it was cheaper to send us to Carmel schools than to send a school bus out of the way to get a few kids.

"They phased the change in over a few years, so we didn't have to change schools until we started high school. Our parents were happy with the change. Carmel High is a much smaller school and has a higher national ranking, and because of that, our property values went up. Me . . . I missed my old friends, but I've made new friends and I'm happy there. Henry and I are both happy there."

We continued to have fun until it was time for dinner, and then to our delight, a nice, Hispanic lady came down to the game room to tell us dinner was ready for us all. Up to that point, I didn't even know we were staying for dinner. I told her I had to get permission and she looked at me kinda funny as she rolled her eyes and informed me she'd already called all our parents and gotten their permission. She also informed me I had permission to stay the night if I so chose. Cliff's reaction was, "Awesome."

Cliff introduced the lady to me. Her name was Carlota, and she was originally from Ecuador. He explained that she was initially hired as a housekeeper and part-time nanny for Jeremy when he was younger, and was now a full-time live-in nanny since Cliff became their foster kid.

Dinner was great! We had vegetarian fajitas with refried beans, Spanish rice, guacamole and fried ice cream. Of course there was no meat since David was still on that vegetarian kick of his that he'd been on for the past few years. Thank God he wasn't a vegan!

After dinner, Henry and Pauline left and Cliff and I went to his room to do our homework, while, I presumed, Jeremy and David did the same. After we finished our homework, we stripped down to our boxers and all piled onto Jeremy's bed and watched a little television. I asked Jeremy if he minded the intrusion, since before Cliff arrived, he'd been able to be alone with David. You know what he said?

"Brad, I have plenty of time alone with David, but I've never had a brother before. I love having Cliff around. I love Cliff. I always used to envy the relationship you and David have. Having you and Cliff here with me and David tonight is the best way I can think of to spend the evening." And with that, Jeremy actually kissed me on the top of my head. Eww.

After we were done watching TV, we returned to Cliff's room and Cliff got out some clothes he thought would fit me that I could wear home tomorrow. Cliff had to take a shitload of pills for his HIV. Man, that sucked.

After we got under the covers, Cliff asked me, "Brad, don't take this the wrong way, but you ever jerk off with another guy before?"

What a loaded question! "I'm not gay, Cliff, if that's what you're asking."

"I didn't think you were, and for the record, I'm definitely not either. I saw the way you looked at Pauline today. She's one hot babe, isn't she? Henry's one lucky dude! But at twelve in your case, and thirteen for me, it's gonna prolly be a while before either of our dicks see the inside of a cunt . . . am I right? Especially in my case. What girl is gonna want to have sex with a kid who's HIV-positive, even if I wear two condoms. The old palm gets really old after a while.

"I was just wondering if you'd be up to a little mutual J.O. You know, I'd pump you while you pump me? There's nothing gay about that . . . it's just two guys helping each other out until we get ourselves some girlfriends."

Thinking about what Cliff said, I worried for a second and asked what was on my mind. "Isn't there a risk to me of getting HIV if I jerk you off and get your spunk on my hands?"

"Only if you have an open sore or cut on your hands and my junk lands on that open wound, and even then, the risk is less than a percent. Mutual J.O. is one of the safest forms of sex around, but if it would make you feel any safer, I'll wear a condom, or I'll look at your hands to make sure you don't have even a hangnail. Trust me, Brad, I'd never do anything that might hurt you."

Looking at the serious expression on Cliff's face, I couldn't help notice how cute he was with his very curly, platinum blond hair and his bright blue eyes. It wasn't a sexual attraction or anything . . . at least I didn't think it was, but Cliff had a sort of irresistible charm and I wanted to please him, and I knew that doing things with him would be fun.

"OK," I agreed, "but I'll take you up on the condom, just to play it safe."

"That's fair," Cliff said. "It's overkill, but it's fair and I can't say I blame you, and this is gonna be awesome!"

Cliff got a condom out of his nightstand and whispered to me, "I snuck this out of Jer's supply."

He lowered his boxers to his ankles and kicked them off, and then unrolled the condom onto his throbbing member. We sat cross-legged opposite each other and grabbed hold of each other as best we could, considering our appendages were angled backwards from what we were used to from our solitary activities.

Touching another boy was not at all what I was expecting it to be, and being touched by another boy was unreal. I had no idea it would feel so different than it did when I touched myself. The sensations were just so much more intense. I wanted to think about my fantasy of doing it with Pauline from earlier in the afternoon, but it was impossible to do that when I had a real live boy's pulsating cock in my hand.

The whole thing didn't take long and we both climaxed far too soon . . . me first, as an arc of my semen hit Cliff in the chin, across his chest and then on his comforter - oh shit . . . and then him, as his condom suddenly filled, giving it a warm, squishy, slimy feeling.

Cliff ran to his bathroom to get a washcloth to clean up himself, and then his comforter. "Man, Brad, that was wicked fun!"

"It was," I admitted. "I'm not gay, but that was a lot more fun than doing it alone . . . and like you said, until we get girlfriends, doing it with each other's the next best thing."

"Definitely!" Cliff agreed.

Just then, I had a more serious thought. "Cliff," I asked, "when you were molested at that camp last summer, that creep forced you to do a lot of stuff. How come what we just did doesn't creep you out?"

"Some of the kids had it a lot worse than I did, Brad. That's for sure, but it was still a horrible experience. For one thing, my life was a lot better than a lot of the kids who went to that camp. I had it really good as a kid up until I was ten, when my parents were killed in a car crash. They were both orphans, and so I was put into foster care at a much older age than most of the other kids who were at that camp. I was able to protect myself better than the other campers. Gary wasn't able to seduce me, although he tried . . . more than once.

"When I realized just what it was he wanted, I decided I had to go to the camp director, but Gary had me figured out by then, and he'd have killed me to shut me up if necessary . . . that's how evil the bastard was. He went one better, though . . . one night he grabbed me and he had a knife pointed at my face and he took me out and he raped me. He said if I told anyone, he'd kill as many campers as he could, and make it look like someone else did it. He raped me a lot of times before he was finally caught, but that wasn't sex . . . that was him ramming it up my ass.

"Sex, what you and I did, was fun! What Gary did to me was . . . vulgar. It wasn't even sex. I've been seeing a counselor about it, but as far as I'm concerned, except for being HIV-positive, I've already put it all behind me."

"I can't imagine going through something like that . . ."

"Brad, no one can imagine what it's like to be raped until it happens to them," Cliff continued. "You know that Sammy Franklin, Kurt DeWitt's foster brother, was also raped, don't you?"

"Yeah, everyone knows," I replied.

"Well, he spoke about it at an assembly at the high school just before the Thanksgiving break. David may have told you about it."

"Yeah, he did."

"Well, they recorded it along with all the other presentations on rape and abuse, and made it into a DVD. There's a copy in the library at our school, too. You really owe it to yourself to check it out." Cliff had a very serious look on his face when he made that suggestion - one that left no room for doubt.

"I think I'll do that," I agreed.

"Cool," Cliff said as he smiled at me. "Now let's get some sleep and maybe we can do some stuff tomorrow."

As I drifted off to sleep, I wondered just what that `stuff' might be - did he mean more sex stuff, or did he mean playing video games or maybe heading over to the shops in Broad Ripple or something like that?

Unfortunately, none of those things were to be, as my parents stopped by early to retrieve David and me. They wanted to get an early start on house hunting in Carmel. So much for having a fun weekend.

Let me tell you, when you're a kid, house hunting is not fun. Adults really seem to get into it and they think their kids will too, but nothing could be further from the truth. Maybe if we lived in a singlewide trailer, David and I might have been interested, but we already had a nice house with everything we wanted or needed. After we'd seen about the third house, they all started to blend together. I mean, how many variations on the same theme of kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms or great rooms and garages can there really be?

Virtually every house had the same basic layout. Every damn one sat on a huge lot with a big three, four or even five car garage in front, as close to the street as possible. I guess that was so the driveway could be short, leaving less snow to drive your Mercedes SUV over if you had to get out quickly. A circular drive led to a large front door, which led to a huge atrium inside. The atrium, of course, was at least two stories high, the better to run up your heating and AC bills, and of course there was a large stairway off the atrium with a balcony overlooking the atrium. Every fucking house had this same layout. No wonder they called them McMansions.

Off to one side there was always a formal living room or library that was usually not very large, which made sense because no one ever used it. Off to the other side was a study or an office. Behind the living room was a small, formal dining room. Next to the dining room was a large kitchen with an island in the middle and solid granite countertops, built-in double convection ovens and a built-in microwave. Mom sure seemed to love the fancy appliances and the smooth electric countertop stove, even when I pointed out to her how much she used to brag about how much she loves her gas stove at home. Ha!

Behind the kitchen, every single house had a large family room or great room with a fireplace. In some houses, the fireplace was a real wood-burning fireplace and in some, it was gas. The family room also opened directly to the atrium, so that guests could access it directly, bypassing the living room that no one seemed to use. In a lot of the homes, the family room opened to a back yard with a deck or a terrace, and in many cases, a heated pool. Some even had a hot tub or a Jacuzzi. One house even had a tennis court, just as Dad had said some of the houses would.

Upstairs, all of the houses had five or six bedrooms. I was actually rather disappointed in the bedrooms. The master bedrooms were pretty nice, with huge walk-in closets, and all the bathrooms were very nice and new looking, but the other bedrooms were really pretty ordinary if you asked me. Some of them weren't as nice as what David and I already had. Of course Mom and Dad, weren't seeing any of that. All they saw were the huge master bedroom suites with their enormous closets and exercise rooms and his and hers master bathrooms. They didn't care where their sons had to sleep, and I suppose with all those extra bedrooms, we could always take more than one if we needed to.

Most of the houses had basements that were fully finished with game rooms and workshops. Even I had to admit that it was pretty cool. Leave it to my brother to point out, in one of the houses however, that there was a sump pump running pretty much full-time. "The power cuts out in a thunderstorm, and we all know how often that happens around here, and this whole basement'll flood in no time."

Noticing a dank smell, I added, "I wouldn't be surprised if there's mold behind these walls."

"Don't worry, boys," Dad said. "We won't buy anything without getting a full engineer's inspection."

My eyes were totally glazed over by the end of Saturday, and yet we went out again on Sunday to look at even more houses. And then we came to THE house. It wasn't that it was all that different from all the other houses we'd already looked at, it was just bigger than all the others, and it had more features, and . . . oh yeah, it cost a whole lot more money. The list price was $1.5 million, but our realtor thought we could prolly get it for around $450k. Yeah, right, I wondered what she'd been smoking. Even if we got it for `half-a-mil', that was still double what Mom and Dad had been talking about at the dinner table a couple nights earlier.

"Dad, are you sure we can afford this house?" I had to ask.

"If we can get the price down that much, we definitely can, and look at all that we'll have! Six bedrooms, eight bathrooms, an office, and a study, a kitchen to die for with a gas range, four gas fireplaces, a game room, an in-ground heated pool, a Jacuzzi, a tennis court, a basketball court, a soccer field, a built-in outdoor gas grill, and that's just the beginning. The place is only three years old, and it's in mint condition. There's almost nothing that needs to be done to the place. It's move-in ready. We could be in here as soon as school lets out. It's perfect."

Even I had to admit, it seemed like a great house, but . . . where were the other kids in the neighborhood. I sure didn't see any. Unless I hitched a ride with David and spent all my time with Cliff, I'd wind up alone, a prisoner of the house, just like Jeremy used to be, only worse. This house wasn't even near anything. That thought alone made me hate the house, but even the mere hint of a negative thought to my parents made them brush me off as if I wasn't even there.

That night, they wrote an offer on the house for $400k, which was soundly rejected by the sellers.

"How could they outright reject it like that?" my father asked as he paced back and forth. "That house has been on the market for six months already. They've lowered their price three times, and haven't even had a single offer until ours. You'd think they'd at least make a counteroffer."

"It did cost them $2.5 million to build it," the realtor pointed out, "which was their initial listing price. Maybe they've come down on their price as far as they're willing to come down?"

"In this market, they're not going to get anything close to that," Dad countered. "Every day it stays on the market, they're losing money on it."

"Yeah, but $400k is a pretty low-ball offer, Dad," I said. "If you come in too low, they may feel insulted, you know?"

"He's right, Jack," the realtor said, actually agreeing with me. "I did try to tell you that . . . that our opening offer should be $450k, but now we can't come back with an offer that low. If you really want that house, you're going to have to come back with an offer of at least a half-million now, and even that may be pushing it. Or you may have to sit on them a while and give them time. Perhaps after three to six more months of no activity, they'll reconsider your offer. Of course by then, the economy might rebound, so doing that could be risky. Then again, you might just want to admit defeat and set your sights lower."

"No! We really want that house." Dad said as he practically pounded his fist on the table. "Let's come back with a $500k offer and see how they react to it. At least it should be more in the ballpark, I would think. If they don't respond, then we'll have to consider sitting on it for a while. Hopefully, they'll at least counter and we'll have the basis for negotiation, as that's something I'm good at."

Not to get into the boring details, but after a lot of back and forth offers and counteroffers, the sellers finally agreed to an offer of $650k, which is a lot more than the quarter-mil my parents had originally planned to spend, but they insisted it was still well within what we could afford, especially once we eventually rented out our old house.

The house sailed through the engineer's inspection, although the engineer did seem to take pleasure in pointing out how crappy all the modern construction materials were compared to the older materials used in our old home, which was built in the sixties.

With a signed contract in hand, the final step was getting a mortgage, but with Dad being the division head of the central Midwest Region of a major U.S. bank, that certainly wasn't going to be a problem.

David and I resigned ourselves to the fact that we were going to be moving. We were kinda miserable.

One day, while Dad was waiting for the mortgage to be approved, I'd borrowed the DVD from the school library, the one on rape and abuse that Cliff had suggested I watch. David knew I had it and he said he wanted to watch it with me after we'd done our homework. It was an amazing video -- Kurt and Sammy had me in tears, especially when I knew what had happened to Cliff. The girl that talked about her father -- she really made me feel her shame. David knew what I was feeling and he kept his arm around my shoulder.

When it ended, David asked me, "What did you think, bro?"

"It's so sad," I answered, "what Kurt, Trevor, Sammy, and Cliff went through. Cliff told me what it was like for him, but this . . . this made it so real."

"Brad, just remember what Kurt said, that when your partner says no, it means stop and it also means that if you do, you care and respect the feelings of your partner. If you don't stop, you'll have lost the respect and trust of that person for life."

I just nodded my head and said, "Yeah. Have you and Jeremy ever said no?"

"Just once. He was exhausted after a swim meet he'd been in that day. I . . . I hadn't realized and was horny as hell . . . finally he pushed me away and that broke my mood and then he told me what was wrong. He was just too tired. It's the old story, always talk to one another so you know what both of you are feeling . . . and always listen to what your partner is saying."

I knew that to be true -- God knows we were rather strong when we expressed our feelings to the folks about this move.

It was strange that nothing was said around the dinner table a few days after that, and David and I both noticed that our parents had decidedly worried expressions on their faces. It sure didn't fit with the happy, excited expressions they'd had just days before.

For a few days, David and I both wondered what could be going on, but it didn't take long for us to find out.

It was on a Sunday afternoon that Mom and Dad gathered us together in the living room to break the bad news to us.

"Brad, David," Dad started, "This is a good news -- bad news thing. Never in a million years did I ever suspect that my job was in jeopardy. I suppose I should have seen it coming with all the bad news coming out of the banking industry and the subprime crisis and the outright bank failures, but I always assumed that as the division head for the Central Midwest region, my job was secure. Man was I wrong.

"With what's going on right now, there's a major push to shore up the entire banking industry throughout the world, and to find scapegoats to blame for the current crisis. The U.S. government, and the British and several others for that matter, have pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into the banks to shore them up and make them stable, but in return, they expect the banks to `punish' those who were `responsible' for the crises as best they can, even if they have to invent responsible parties.

"The banking industry is also consolidating, and eliminating a lot of middle management positions, helping to cut costs to make up for the trillions of dollars they wasted in the subprime mortgage fiasco. The bottom line is . . . I'm one of the casualties. . . ."

"Oh Dad . . ." David said as he ran over to our father and threw his arms around him and hugged him tightly.

"They offered me a much lower position in lieu of being laid off, at a much lower salary, if we moved to Atlanta. Obviously, I turned their `generous' offer down. For one thing, what they were offering wasn't enough to make up for the loss of your mother's income after factoring in the cost of living in a more expensive city, and secondly, if you didn't want to move to Carmel, I figured you'd go absolutely ballistic if we pulled up stakes and moved to Atlanta."

"You got that right," I chimed in.

"Anyway," Dad continued, "the good news is the contract we wrote on the house in Carmel is automatically void if we can't get a mortgage, which we certainly can't under the circumstances. In addition, the sellers have very generously agreed to refund our deposit, which they didn't have to do under the circumstances. Twenty percent of $650k is $130k, which is no small sum. Our realtor has agreed to wave her commission under the circumstances, which is $19,500, and she's going to try to get the seller's realtor to do the same, but if we have to pay it, it's a small sum compared to what we could have lost.

"If we'd already bought and moved into that house, we'd be up shit creek without a paddle." Man, I'd never heard Dad swear before.

"The bottom line is that we should be grateful for what we do have. We have a roof over our heads that's paid for. Mom's a tenured teacher with seniority, and for a teacher, she makes pretty good money. We can live off her salary for quite a while if we have to . . . it'll put food on the table and pay the bills, indefinitely. We're better off than a lot of people.

"I'll be able to find another job, but it won't pay nearly as much as what I was making, and it'll probably take a while to find something decent. We may need to tighten our belts a little, but we won't be eating mac and cheese. The only reason I need to work at all is to be sure we put away enough money to send you boys to the best schools for college, and to make sure you guys don't have to support us in our old age. Otherwise, we're in great shape. The last thing we need is to live in some McMansion and send our kids to a snobby high school, especially since you boys seem to be happy right where we are."

Way to go, Dad!

Things did settle down to normal after that. It took Dad a while, but he found a job he actually enjoyed a lot more than he ever enjoyed his old job. It wasn't in banking, but was in fundraising for the nonprofit sector. He was good at it, and he was able to put a lot of the contacts he'd built up over the years to good use in raising money for worthy causes.

When we had thought we might be moving, David held back on his decision as to whether or not to run for reelection as Class President. Once the decision on moving was reversed, however, he ran with gusto. David was very popular and, even in my middle school, I'd heard about all the things he was doing to make life better for students at the high school. When it had appeared he might not run, a bunch of others signed up to run, but when it became clear he would run after all, everyone else withdrew. When he told me about it, I laughed. I was really happy for him. For the first time in the school's history, the Junior Class President was elected by acclamation.

It was on a day around the time of the class election that I happened to be home alone, when the phone rang. I answered the phone.


The person on the other end said, "Hello, David?"

I was just about to answer that David was over at Jeremy's, when the other person went barreling ahead without even giving me the chance to correct him.

"David, it's Henry. Listen, I'm sorry we haven't had much time to talk since we all met at Jeremy's house," he said all excitedly, talking a mile a minute, "but I've been real busy and all, and I just wanted to give you some big news. I've been in e-mail contact with Jeremy, at least until a few weeks ago when things got crazy busy for me, anyway, but I know about you guys buying that huge house off 106th and all. So I guess you'll be going to Carmel High next year, huh?"

I tried to break in again to say I wasn't David and that we wouldn't be moving, but Henry was just too fast for me.

"So what I wanted to tell you is that when I heard about you guys buying that house, I started up a write-in campaign for Junior Class President. For you, man. I figured if you were popular enough to be Class President in your high school and with all the publicity you've had and since our Class President has shit for brains, you might actually be able to beat her in the election. So I've been going around and talking to all the sophomores at Carmel and telling them that you're going to be going here next year and, dude, get this.

"A lot of the kids already know of you and they really think you're cool. They've heard about all the great things you've done down there and a lot of them saw you on TV last year and a lot of them think you'd make a great Class President here. So a lot of the kids I talked to went out and talked to their friends and they talked to their friends and so on.

"So guess what? You won! You're gonna be the Junior Class President at Carmel High next year. Isn't that great?"

Holy crap. How was my brother going to be the Junior Class President at two high schools?

And then I did the only thing I could do. I laughed hysterically into the phone.

The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of David of Hope in editing and Trab in proofreading my stories, as well as Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Codey's World for hosting them.

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