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The following is an original work of fiction and has no basis in reality.

Do not read this story if:

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3) If you don't want to read about gay/bisexual people in love or having sex.

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Perry and Jesse:  The Incredibly Romantic (and slightly kinky) Adventures of Two Boys In Love  

Part V  Truths and Lies

Chapter 13  A Jolly Good Fellow

Dinner was great.  It seemed that Jesse and my mom had come to some unspoken understanding, at least for the time being, and whatever the consequences of our deceptions and Jesse's violent past, they would apparently wait until next week to be pronounced.  After dinner, my mom produced a small birthday cake covered in chocolate icing with a single, thick blue candle in the middle.  Much to my eternal ,embarrassment everyone sang Happy Birthday and I could see that Miranda was just dying to blow out that candle.

"You really have a big candle!"  she exclaimed enviously, and Jesse thought that was particularly funny for some reason.

"You wanna help me?" I asked.  She nodded and stood by my side while my mom started snapping pictures.  I actually let Miranda do most of the blowing, and it didn't take much to extinguish the lone candle.  I got to cut the cake though, and was thrilled to see that it was chocolate chip cheesecake!  It was from the Cheesecake Factory and was really thick and rich.  Miranda seemed excited by it, but didn't actually take more than a few bites.  I'm not sure she had ever had real serious cheesecake before.  She scurried into the den and I heard her flipping through the channels.

The three of us were just enjoying a few quiet moments and I loved letting the cheesecake just slowly melt in my mouth, leaving the crunchy chocolate chip pieces to be munched on last.  Jesse must have really enjoyed his because he asked if he could finish up the rest of Miranda's piece.  It was almost funny the way we all perked up at the same instant...

"...Regarding the incident at Hode Ranch.  These are the latest developments--"   The reporter's words were abruptly cut off as Miranda quickly jumped to the next channel and the next, finally settling on some  noisy cartoon show.

We all looked at each other and it was an undeniably awkward moment.  Personally, I wanted to hear what was going on, but I realized that would just get my mom more upset, and make Jesse feel even more guilty than he already did, so we just finished our cake in silence.  Jesse and I took care of the dishes while my mom got ready for church.

It felt weird to show up at St. Agnus in my hoodie, Diesel jeans, and sneakers.  Jesse was also dressed in the same clothes he had worn to the mall, and we had our matching Vans of course!  It was a smaller crowd than on Sunday morning, and there was a predominance of families and young people.  Gene was there to greet us and I felt a momentary wave of panic.  Fortunately, he had been dropped off and his parents weren't there.  I didn't know if I could have faced his mother, and I'm sure it would have been awkward for my mom as well.  Morgan, Derek, and Tom soon joined us along with Mr. and Mrs. Kipner, everyone looking like they were dressed for a casual night at the local multiplex.  I was surprised when Mr. Kipner, a big, broad shouldered man with close cropped brownish  gray hair and a bushy mustache, dressed in a striped polo shirt and Dockers, forcefully  shook my hand.

"Great job for the team," he said.  "We really appreciate it."

I wasn't sure who 'we' were supposed to be: he and Morgan, or the Crusaders, or St. Boniface itself?  I was pretty sure Mr. Kipner was on the board of directors for the school, so maybe that was what he meant.  Anyway, I didn't feel like asking him to elaborate.  I had this really weird feeling, thinking that Morgan or Derek might have been struck by the very hand I was now shaking.  It was a huge hand to be sure, easily twice my size.  Still, it was only a feeling.  Neither Derek or Morgan had ever directly said that their father had ever hit them.

"Haven't seen you at the house lately," he noted.

"Oh yeah...uh...Yeah, I've been pretty busy with school and...stuff,"  I stammered.  He was definitely an intimidating presence and he made me nervous for no apparent reason.

"Well, we keep the pool heated all winter so Morgan can swim his laps, so feel free to drop by whenever you like,"  he said in a pleasant enough voice.

"Sure, Mr. Kipner...I will."  Not!

We all went inside and the Kipners led the way to a pew near the front.  We ended up sitting just a few rows from the front, and very close to where the band would be playing, in an alcove just off to the side of the pulpit.  There was a stocky black guy with a beard who looked about college age setting up his drum set, and another younger guy setting up mikes and plugging in amps.  Both were wearing purple T-shirts with 'St. Agnus Youth Worship Team' written across the front in white lettering.  A few minutes later, Jason Tarentino came strolling in, carrying a thin guitar case.  He was wearing a black leather jacket, tight black jeans, and black square toed boots.  This monochromatic wardrobe dramatically set off his shiny, light blond hair and deep blue eyes.  He was closely followed by a short, but exotically beautiful Asian girl with smooth golden skin and long, jet black hair that poured unhindered down her shoulders and back.  She was carrying what looked like an acoustic guitar case.  To my surprise, Jason stopped when he recognized Jesse and me (or maybe it was just Jesse that he had recognized).

"Hey, guys!" he said, setting his guitar down and approaching us from the pew in front of us which was still empty.  "Remember me?" he asked, smiling that smile of dazzling bright white teeth.  "Ma'am," Jason said, nodding his head politely to my mom as he moved passed her.

"Uh...hey, Jason..." I stammered, taking his proffered hand with the intention of giving it a tentative shake.  But the sophomore grabbed my hand and gave it a tight squeeze and a vigorous pump before releasing it.  He then greeted Jesse in the same way.

"Perry and Jesse, right?" he asked confidently.  We nodded in unison.  "And this is Keiko," he said, introducing the Asian girl who I presumed was his girlfriend.  It's great to see you guys here!" Jason noted, and it sounded like he meant it.  "So, these your buds?"

I introduced Gene, Morgan, Tom and Derek, and told him we were all from St. Boniface.

"Morgan Kipner--all this time I never knew!" Jason said approvingly.  "Captain of the basketball team, right?"

Morgan seemed flattered by the sixteen year old's recognition, and I could see his dad trying not to beam too brightly with pride.  

"I hear you guys already clinched a spot in the regional playoffs.  That's awesome!  We're all rooting for you over at H.T.  Congrats, dude!"

"Well, Perry had a lot to do with it," Morgan assured him.

"I bet he did.  Can't wait till next year.  With you guys on the team, we're sure to make up for the lousy season we had this year."

"We're totally looking forward to it," Morgan assured him.

"Cool...well, I gotta get to work!" he noted.  "C'mon up later and say hi!"

When Jason got to the front, he took off his leather jacket, revealing the same purple worship team shirt the other band members were wearing.  He quickly plugged in his bright red electric guitar and began strumming lightly and tuning it to the nearby keyboard, which was apparently Keiko's instrument.  They were soon joined by a very tall guy who looked like a high school senior, with a very musicianly looking goatee on his long, boyish face.  He pulled out his electric bass and they were soon ready to go.  They started playing about five minutes before seven.

"I'd like to welcome everyone to our Saturday night family Mass," Jason noted in a smooth (and sexy) voice.  "A special welcome to my new buds, Perry and Jesse and their classmates from St. Boniface!" he noted, gesturing to us.  Jesse rolled his eyes with embarrassment as Gene clapped me proudly on the shoulder.

"That's two high schoolers in your pocket already!" he whispered.  "Way to go!"

The band started playing and I was impressed.  Though the music was pretty tame stuff, even by Christian rock standards, they seemed to know how to play well together.  Jason dominated the vocals with a smooth and mellow voice.  Still, when he got to the more intense phrases, his voice took on just enough edge to add some drama to his performance.  Keiko and the bassist  occasionally sang along with him or sang harmony to his lead.  After a couple of solos, the whole congregation joined in on some familiar contemporary hymns.  People were even clapping along with some of the more upbeat tunes.  I could see Morgan especially was really getting into it.  It was interesting to observe Jesse, who was obviously not familiar with most of these songs, but remarkably, by the second verse if not sooner, joining right in, right on key and right in tempo.  Tom also seemed to be enjoying the music and one time he even bumped hips playfully with Derek and that made me cringe a little, knowing that Mr. and Mrs. Kipner were standing just a few feet away from them.  My mom wasn't singing much, but she was responding to the music in her own subtle way, nodding her head and swaying her hips in a way that reminded me she wasn't an old lady yet!

There was only one altar boy, and thank goodness it wasn't Craig!  Rather than stand at the elevated pulpit like they did on Sunday, Father Mike gave his sermon standing on the lowest step of the dais that eventually rose to the altar.  It had to be more than a coincidence that the subject of his sermon was deceit, and at one point, he actually mentioned the Hode Ranch Incident, remarking with dismay that there had been so many minors involved, both as participants and as spectators.  How had they gotten to that remote location?  Where were their parents during all this?  And then he went on to explain that, when we lied to our parents, we were really lying to God.  He also made it a point to note that, when parents were negligent, when they didn't actively involve themselves in their children's lives, or pay attention to what they were doing or who they were doing it with, they were also doing a disservice to themselves, their children, and God.  So I guess in the end, pretty much everyone was guilty of something!

After the sermon, Father Mike invited everyone to shake hands and offer a word or two of greeting to their neighbor.  I was surprised to see Gary and Theresa way at the back of the church.  I wanted to wave but thought that might be inappropriate even in the context of a casual service.  Jason performed a very nice interlude, singing alone and accompanying himself on the acoustic guitar.  I watched Jesse as much as I watched Jason, and my friend certainly seemed to be captivated.  But Jason was good, and even if he did suck at basketball like he said he did, he more than made up for it with his seemingly effortless musical talents.

After the last hymn, I wanted to say hi to Gary, but Jesse headed right for the band so I followed with the rest of the gang.  My mom was busy talking to the Kipners, and was soon joined by a few other people that she knew.

"Hey guys!" he said cheerfully.  "You already know Keiko.  That's Tate on the drums and Harv on the bass.  Guys, these are my buds, Perry and Jesse and their friends.  So what'd you guys think?" Jason asked as he started putting his gear away.

"Very cool!" Jesse responded.  He was eyeing Jason's acoustic guitar in more than a casual way.

"You play?" Jason asked.

Jesse shrugged bashfully.  "A little..." he admitted quietly.

"You play, Jesse?" Tom asked excitedly.

"Here.  This is a top of the line Gibson.  You gotta try it!  The sound is so sweet!" Jason urged.

We all egged him on, which of course made Jesse even more nervous and self-conscious, but finally, he took it from Jason.  He put the shoulder strap over his head and strummed the open strings.  Apparently impressed with the sound, he fingered a few chords.

"Hey, that sounds good!" Jason said encouragingly.  He picked up his electric guitar and turned the volume back up.  "Just play that pattern again," he requested, and Jesse started strumming.  Jason improvised a mellow lead line over Jesse's chord pattern and everyone nodded their head in approval.

"Add a D minor" Jason said in a rhythmic voice, and remarkably,  they both landed in the same harmony at the same time.  Jesse seemed totally involved in what he was doing now.  Even Gary and Theresa had come up to check it out.  

Morgan greeted the dark haired high schooler right away, and they talked quietly while the rest of us enjoyed Jason and Jesse's little jam session.  Jason called out a couple of other chords and finally Jesse admitted that he wasn't sure about one.  Jason came over and showed Jesse where to put his fingers on the frets and I felt a little twinge of jealousy.  I now regretted having quit piano lessons shortly before my dad moved out.  My mom had begged me to continue, but I had been obstinate and she  hadn't had the strength to argue with me.  So when we moved, we donated the piano to a local retirement home and that was the end of my musical career!

"Hey, what do you think about everyone meeting up at Herbie's?" Morgan asked.

"Huh...?" I asked, having momentarily forgotten about everything and everyone other than Jason and Jesse.

"I was talking to Gary, and we were thinking it would be fun to hang at Herbie's for a bit.  What do you think?"

I went to ask my mom, and to my surprise, she was talking to Gary and Theresa, and everyone was smiling!

I told her about our plan.
"I really should get Miranda home," she noted.  "I suppose I can see if Mrs. Taylor needs some help getting ready for our trip tomorrow.  So call me when you're ready to come home," she said.  "And not too late, please.  You had such a...a busy night and a very full day, and you want to be able to enjoy yourself tomorrow."

"All right.  Just a shake and some fries!  We won't be long," I promised her.

Just then, there was some light applause and I realized it was for Jesse and Jason's little impromptu performance.  I clapped too.

"I didn't know you came to this church!"  I told Gary.

"Hmph!"  Theresa said with a half smile.

"Well, I guess I don't get over here as often as I should, but T. said, after last night, we really did have something to go to church for, we are!"

"I'm glad you came,"I said.  "There's so much I want to talk to you about and..."

"Hey, bud!"  It was Gene.  "Tom and I are going with the Kipners.  You coming?"

"Sure, we'll be right behind you!"  I assured him.  

"Great, see ya there!" Gene shook Gary and Theresa's hands and headed out.

"You coming?"  I asked Gary.

"Sure, for a bit.  I mean, it is Saturday night and all..."  he gave Theresa a knowing wink.

"Yeah, right.  Don't get your hopes up!" she joked.

 I felt uncomfortable sitting next to Jesse in the  back seat of the Lexus.  He was humming the simple tune he had worked out with Jason, and seemed to be in a good mood...a really good mood!

When my mom let us off in the parking lot of the small diner, I paused before joining everyone else inside.

"What's the matter?" Jesse asked, noticing that I looked preoccupied..

"Nothing...It's just that you seem so...happy," I explained uneasily.

"Why shouldn't I be?" Jesse asked with a charismatic smile that was every bit as sharp as Jason's.

"I guess..." I shrugged dismally, realizing that there was no way I could compete with Jason Tarentino.  Not only was he sexy and incredibly good looking, but now he and Jesse had music in common as well.  I didn't know if Jason was even remotely gay, but it was obvious that he liked Jesse and visa versa.  And where did that leave stupid, dorky me?

Jesse leaned over and whispered in my ear.  "I mean, I got to spend the whole day with the boy I love...What could beat that?"

I felt myself starting to tear up.  I had put Jesse through an awful twenty four hours, revealing things to my mom that betrayed Jesse's trust and seriously threatened our relationship.  And now he had to face his own mom, and tell her that history was repeating itself.  As it was in Illinois, so it is in California.  And still, regardless of all that, he was happy...happy to be with stupid, unthinking, half witted me.  I couldn't believe it.

"After everything I put you through..." I mumbled.

"You're mom is very cool.  I know we pushed her right to the edge, and I was really impressed with the way she handled everything," he assured me.  "I can only hope that she can talk some sense into my mom..."

"Are you scared?" I asked nervously.

Jesse shrugged.  "It's worth it," he declared simply and plainly.

"What about Jason...?" I asked uncomfortably.

"What about him?"

" like him and stuff..."

"And stuff?" Jesse grinned.  He bit his lower lip thoughtfully.  "I don't know about that.  Jason is pretty cool, and a great musician, but whether I actually like him or not..."  He shrugged noncommittally.  "He did invite me to come practice with the band next week."

"Are you going to do it?" I asked .

"Do you think I shouldn't?" he asked.

" mean...yes...I mean, you should go if you want to.  You're a very good guitar player."

Jesse shrugged off the compliment.  "My dad taught me a little.  He even told me to take his guitar with me to keep for him, until he gets out..."  I could hear a touch of emotion in his voice as he spoke about his dad.  Obviously, there were some good memories there.  It was so strange how love seemed to totally defy logic.  Jesse's father had been a drunkard and a drug dealer and perhaps more than that.  My dad had carried on an illicit affair behind my mom's back and then deliberately left us for his new lover.  Both of them were more or less out of our lives for the time being, and yet, we both still had feelings for them.  

"My dad called this wish me a happy birthday--he sent me a really cool camcorder!"  I noted.

"Oooh, more dirty Perry pictures!"  Jesse smiled slyly.

I blushed, pretty sure that I wasn't ready to fully enter the world of teenage pornography yet.  "Anyway, he asked me to be Best Man at his wedding."

"Whoa...that's a big deal!"

"I know.  There's so many other people he could've asked..."

"Well, that's very cool!"  

"Actually, I told him I'd have to think about it," I said hesitantly.

"I see,"  Jesse said thoughtfully.  "You know, it's funny dad's in prison and deserves to be there...but I still miss him.  Isn't that weird?"

No, of course it wasn't weird.  My dad had hurt my mom deeply, cheated on her, and left us both, and I still had feelings for him too.

"Hey guys, what's up?"  It was Tom, coming back out to see what was taking us so long.  "Everything okay?" he asked with concern, noticing the moisture in my eyes.

"I think so," Jesse said uncertainly.  "We were uh...just talking about our dads..."

"Oh..." Tom nodded understandingly.  Then he couldn't help but let a little smile slip out.

"Hey that guitar guy--Tarentino--he was pretty hot, huh?"

"I wouldn't throw him out of bed!"  Jesse declared.  I knew he was making a joke for Tom's benefit, but it still stung me a little.  Jason was attractive, and it seemed to me that he was interested in more than Jesse's musical skills.

"You're so gay!"  Tom quipped, nudging Jesse playfully in the shoulder.

There was a moment's awkward silence during which Tom kept on smiling while I continued to brood over Jason, and Jesse seemed somewhat distracted.  

"What?" I asked curiously.

"Speaking of gay,"  Tom said, lowering his voice even though we were standing out in the parking lot by ourselves, "Derek and I...did some stuff," he informed us shyly.  Still, there was almost a look of pride on his face when he said it.

"Good for you!"  Jesse said peremptorily.  He started to head inside.

"Don't you want to know what we did?" Tom asked, obviously excited to share.

Jesse, his hands stuffed into the front pockets of his hoodie, turned around, his blond hair glistening in the bright halogen lights that illuminated the small parking lot.  "I'm pretty sure that would fall under the category of Too Much Information,'" he noted, pulling his hand out to give a perfect imitation of Kyle's cocky wink and gun finger before entering the diner.

Tom seemed disappointed by Jesse's lack of interest.  I saw his smile waver.

"That's awesome, dude!  I'm so happy for you guys!"  I told him with a somewhat forced smile.

Tom grinned back gratefully.  "I really want to tell you all about it!"

"Are you sure Derek would be okay with that?"

Tom shrugged.  "I think we can all be open with each other now..."  he said with some hesitation.

"Yeah, that sounds good,"  I assured him as we went inside.

Much to my eternal embarrassment, everyone (including gray-haired Herbie himself) shouted: "Happy Birthday, Perry!"  I was stunned.  

For..."  Jesse began singing, and everyone joined in.  "...He's a jolly good fellow; he's a jolly good fellow; he's a jolly good feh----loooooow!!!  Which nobody can deny!"

Tom led us to a booth where Gary and Theresa were already sitting.  There were two orders of crispy, crinkle cut fries and strawberry milkshakes waiting for us.  Tom went to sit in another booth with Gene, Morgan, and Derek.  Fortunately, there weren't too many other people eating in the dining room, since Herbie's main business was the drive-thru and to-go orders.  But no one looked like they were the least bit bothered by our rowdy group.  No sooner had we sat down, then Morgan got to his feet, holding his milkshake.

"A toast to Perry Thompson on the  occasion of his fourteenth birthday!  There was never a better friend in the whole wide world--you totally rock, dude!"  and everyone cheered and slurped their shakes.  "Seriously though," Morgan said, still standing.  "I think everyone here--including my dorky brother--"  he playfully nudged Derek, who was sitting next to him with a big grin on his face, "would agree that you're something  special, Perry.  When you first came to St. Boniface over a year ago now, it's safe to say, you changed all our lives for the better..."

"Here, here!"  Gene affirmed with a sweet grin that reminded me of his brother.

"And we hope that you'll continue to be a part of our lives for a long, long time to come!"  More cheering and applause.  "Oh, and thanks to Gene for springing for all the shakes and fries!"

Everyone hooted and whistled and clapped for Gene, who just held his hands up and smiled modestly.

  "And finally, here's to the St. Boniface Crusaders--double championships in football and basketball this season!"  Morgan proclaimed.  This caused a very large noise of approval and high fives all around and I wondered if Herbie might be starting to get annoyed with us.

Just as Morgan sat down, everyone began chanting:  "Speech, speech, speech, speech..."

And I just looked around with a silly grin pasted on my face until Jesse elbowed me sharply in the ribs.

"Wh...what?  Me?"  I asked disbelievingly.

He nodded and gave me an encouraging smile.

Slowly, I got to my feet, feeling giddy  and somehow distant from myself, as if this wasn't really happening.  "I...I guess I wouldn'ta come if I knew you guys were gonna make such a big fuss!"  I noted.  

"Jesse wanted balloons!"  Gene called out and everyone laughed.

"...And fireworks..."  Jesse added in a dopey voice.

"Well...uh, I just want to say that...that..."  Oh no!  I was starting to get all emotional.  All my wonderful friends that cared so much about me were here: sweet and precious Tom, loyal Morgan,  gentle Gene, my new friends Gary and Theresa,  horny and confused Derek, and of course, my beautiful, beautiful blond angel.

"...Just that you all mean so much to me.  I was so scared when we moved to Santa Corina--that I'd never make any new friends or anything, but everyone was so nice to me since the first day--especially Morgan,"  I noted, tilting my shake momentarily in his direction.  "And...and I'm just glad I met all you guys.  You've totally changed my life forever!"  I quickly sat down before tears started pouring out of my watery eyes.

"Good job!" Gary noted, pounding me affectionately on the back.

"Here, here...What is the meaning of all this chaos?"  Jesse asked as he rose to his feet, doing a great imitation of Mr. Walsh's deadpan demeanor, even jamming a straw up each nostril to stand in for our Geography teacher's ample supply of nose hair.  Everyone laughed, but all I could think about was taking Jesse into my arms and planting a big kiss on his strawberry milkshake covered lips.

After that, there was just a lot of silly talk about everything and nothing:  school, sports, movies, books.  No one talked about sex or who they had a crush on, or what they did behind closed doors or anything like that, and it seemed like we were all kids again, if only for an hour or so.  I was sitting in the other booth now with Tom, Gene, and Morgan.  Derek was sitting with Jesse, and by the way they were both waving their arms and jabbing at each other, I guessed they were talking martial arts.  Gary and Theresa came up arm in arm.

"Hey, Per.  I think we're gonna take off,"  Gary said.

"Oh...really?"  I asked disappointedly.

"Yeah, it is getting late," Morgan noted.  "We should probably be heading out too."  He got on his cellphone to call his parents.

I got up so that I could speak more privately with Gary and Theresa.  "I really wanted to talk to you...and stuff," I said awkwardly.

"Yeah, I do have a bit of news," Gary noted uneasily.

I didn't see any way we could just sneak off with all my friends around and talk about last night's adventures.  But Jesse was suddenly standing right next to me and gave me a little nudge.

"I think Morgan's got room for me too," he said.  "They're already dropping off Tom and I don't live that far from him."

"Oh, but my mom'll drop you off," I assured him anxiously.

"She's already made one trip over there tonight,"  Jesse noted.  "Besides, I think you and Gary have stuff to talk about, so why don't you just tell your mom to go home and Gary'll drop you off?  That'll give you guys a few minutes of alone time," he suggested.

I felt like hugging my sweet and considerate angel, but thinking that might look suspicious, I just gave him the warmest look I could and hopefully  still manage to not let people know that we were two boys madly in love with each other.  I called my mom and she was reluctant at first, but I hammered and hammered at her like a good teenager should.

"We won't be long and I'll keep my phone on the whole time--I promise!"  I told her earnestly.

"All right, dear," my mom agreed wearily.  "I guess I'll turn in early and pack our things in the morning.  Please don't stay out late."

"We won't.  We're just gonna talk on the way home, that's all."

"I did apologize to Gary and Theresa for being a little...cold last night," she admitted.  "I do understand that he took quite a risk taking you out that place.  And he did a brave thing to get you all out of there safely."

"Yeah, he's a great guy.  I think he's gonna be a good friend,"  I told her.

We all said our good byes in the parking lot.  

"Thanks Gene, for the shakes and stuff,"  I said.

"Aw, no biggie, dude.  I was glad we could get together.  I really did want to come with you guys tomorrow..."

"I know.  But I'll hold you to that round of golf!"

"That's for sure!" he acknowledged.  Then his expression became more thoughtful.  He gestured with a tilt of his head for us to move out of earshot of the rest of the group.  "I almost forgot to tell you, Georgie called the other night and he said, 'Be sure to say hi to Perry for me, and that I'm really glad we met.'"

"Really, he said that?"  That made me feel so good inside!

"Absolutely...You know," Gene said more quietly,  "he really was taken by you, Perry.  And you know he's...that way."

He probably meant that George was openly gay.  I nodded my understanding.  I was glad that Gene's brother liked me.  He seemed like a great, warm hearted guy and I hoped he had a lot of good friends over there at Miami U.

"He told me something else," Gene said, looking around carefully to make sure we couldn't be overheard.  "He said that, with your looks, you could have a lot of trouble, especially in high school...That there were guys who might...well, take an interest in you," he said uncomfortably.

I didn't like where this conversation was going and I started to fidget.

"Anyway, he told me that I should keep an eye on you, and that, if some guy...some queer should ever hassle you," he said in a whisper, "you should tell me about it right away."

"I don't want to judge my friends by who's gay and who isn't," I whispered back.

"I know that,"  Gene said, "and that's a good thought, but Georgie said there are some guys that are kinda...fucked up, ya know?  And they just might take what they can get anyway they can get it.  And the last thing he said was, 'Watch out for Arnie Hollister.'"

"Do you mean that...that Arnie is...?"

Gene shrugged.  I could see that this conversation was making him as uncomfortable as I was.  "I don't know, and I didn't want to ask.  Too much fuckin' info, ya know?"

I nodded in agreement.  

"But if you ever see him like...following you around or something, you just get away from there, got it?"  Gene asked, and I could tell that these were now his own thoughts and not his brother's.  

I nodded.

"I know Jesse's a good friend and that he can take care of you and himself like noboby's business but otherwise, me and Morgan are totally there for you, dude!"

"Did you talk to Morgan about this stuff?"  I asked uneasily.

"No, and I don't plan to unless it's really necessary.  He spent a lot of time with Georgie when we were younger, but I don't think he knows that Georgie is gay.  I'm just saying that Morgan feels really...well...protective of you I guess.  So you can count on him if you ever need him.  Same with me."

Obviously, Gene didn't know anything about the drunken little scene in my bedroom a couple of weeks ago.  But I still knew that he was right.  Morgan was protective, and willing to hurt people to keep me out of harm's way, and it frightened me.  I hoped we'd never find ourselves in a situation where he felt like he needed to defend me.  I sensed that it would turn out badly.

"Thanks Gene; thanks for everything," I said as sincerely as I could as the Kipner's minivan pulled into the parking lot.

I waved to Morgan, Derek, Tom and my sweet angel as they climbed in and drove off into the night, feeling good knowing that I'd see Jesse again in the morning and for the next two days!

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