First, a warning: If you find homosexual conduct between youths offensive or do not wish to view or read such material, or it would be considered illegal in your situation, close this page or file and discard it.  This material is intended only for audiences who wish to view it. 

Second, the legal stuff: I retain all rights and title to this original work.  You may mirror it provided you provide it complete with these introductory paragraphs, my email and a link to this page at the Nifty Archives and/or my own url. 

Third, content codes: BB con mast Young Teen Boys Consensual Masturbation

Fourth, description: The following story contains the consensual sexual activities of teenaged boys.  While some of the events may be true, the names of all involved are altered, the locations are changed, and circumstances and activities modified.  No identifying information is provided.  This work is intended for entertainment only.  Overall, this is a collection of reminisces, fiction and collected fantasies.  If you, however, find this story a little too close for coincidence, email me and we can see if we can find out anything.

I hope you enjoy it. I welcome tips, thoughts, ideas and critiques, or, just a 'hey'.

Flames get the usual treatment. Exceptional flames get archived for future hilarity. As does the From: addy. Be warned.

 onetime <at> smokr <dot> info

A big thanks to you know who for the HTML lessons!

For all the goodness than comes with closeness, between friends and more.
For all the beauty, obscured and obliterated, by the actions of idiots,
To all the ones who can tell the difference,
and especially to the ones who live the difference...



Ray's Circle

Chapter 2

Like An Open Book

present day


Ray smiled behind his multi-colored scarf as he rode his bike to the bookstore.  By the time he turned off the residential street and through an alley, he was so cold that only the warmth in his crotch seemed to resist the deep cold of the Chicago February day.  "Thank goodness for fond memories," Ray mumbled, as he followed the alley through several blocks of houses, until coming out between the auto parts store and the printing shop on a wide, busy street with four lanes of traffic and diagonal parking on both sides. He turned right before the street and started his weaving way down the sidewalk towards the bookstore still several blocks away.

Ray got out of school one period earlier than most of the students.  He was bright, quick to learn and had gotten ahead in most classes.  Now that Sophomore year was over half way done, he was three credits ahead of the required amount to pass the year and in no risk of anything less than a C.  He was one of about a hundred students who didn't have to take a full day of classes, so his last period of the day was eight instead of nine like most students.  After eighth period, Ray could do about anything he wanted.  Some days he went to the computer lab, some days he went to the library and others the cafeteria.  Sometimes he waited in the appropriate classroom for one or another club to meet after school; the D&D, Chess, Computer or Gaming clubs met almost every day, but Tom wasn't a regular among any of them but the D&D club.  He was just an occasional visitor and sometimes unofficial member at all the others. 

He didn't have to be home until after five when his parents expected him to help with the preliminary stuff for the party tonight.  He had over two hours before then and he intended to spend most of it at the bookstore today with Tom.  It was only a few of his friends and his parents for the party tonight, anyway, and it wasn't as if they were going to decorate or anything, so as long as Ray got home before five, it was all good. 

Ray knew something special was being planned by his parents for the early party on Friday, and by his friends for the later one, but could not get a bit of information from anyone about either.  Not even from Todd, the youngest of the Circle, and Ray was able to exert considerable pressure upon the twelve year old.  Just being four years older than Todd was quite a pressure itself, but Ray had far more potent tools to apply to the boy.  None of them caused Todd to reveal any useful information about the plans his friends had for him for the second party Friday night.  Most likely the guys wisely didn't reveal any details to Todd, but, still, it was fun trying to wring the information out of the boy. 

"Don't really matter anyway, just spoil the fun," Ray mumbled under the scarf.  "I'll just have to deal with what they've in store for me.  But I swear, if they try to hook me up with some chick. . . "

Ray let the threat die in his thoughts as he had no idea what he would do if that eventuality, and indeed, quite distinct possibility, were to occur.  This led to his again moping upon the fact that his usual Friday get-together and activities with The Circle would not occur this weekend. 

Usually, each Friday, Ray and The Circle got together for a sleepover at one or another boy's house for the night.  Video games, movies, music, jokes, teasing, laughter and more were the usual order to start things off.  But it was what almost always happened later in the night that Ray really liked.  It usually started after the adults were sure to be in bed, or at least totally unlikely to bother the boys for the rest of the night.  It almost always began with some pot and some porn mags.  He knew some of the group were not all that into what went on, but they were all horny teenaged boys, and horny teenaged boys will be horny teenaged boys. 

Yea, the usual Friday stuff may be on hold, but for a fucking good reason! Ray thought. 

Being born on a Leap Day meant his birthday was sort of special, and only actually came along every four years.  This year was only the fifth time, including the day he was born, that his birthday was on any calendar.  And considering the amount of secrecy and plotting going on, this will be well worth the loss of the Friday night stuff, Ray considered as pulled up across the street from the bookstore and waited to cross the busy street.

Ray heard the familiar sound of Tim Millers van and he spotted it just as the van was almost even with the bookstore across the street.  Man, Ray though, that is a ride!  Tim was always in trouble and skipped more school than he attended, was probably going to fail senior year again, and was no friend of Ray's.  Being a major pot-head, a deadbeat, and as stupid as a Chicago winter was cold, Tim Miller was no part of Ray's circle of friends.  About 19, stocky and muscular, Tim had at one time been in a few of Ray's fantasies, but that black Chevy shorty van continued to play parts in Ray's fantasies, without the owner.  Ray, more than a few times, had dreamed of owning the van, and had fantasized about him and various friends doing various things in the curved bed in back.  The only windows behind where the driver and passenger sat were the two in the rear doors that had those black slotted covers.  Ray had seen the inside a few times as Tim and the crew hung around in it and loved the black and red velvet interior, the small curved bed and the sink; it even had red lights like old-fashioned lanterns in it!  Red  velour curtains hung between the front passenger area and the rest of the interior.  The body was rusting in places and the paint was dull, but it was definitely one of the neatest rides around if anyone asked Ray.

Suddenly, Ray saw Tom come out of the bookstore with a package, quickly pick up his bike, and disappear.

Ray was puzzled, and curious.  They were supposed to be meeting at the bookstore to look over the new books that the shop owner said would be out on the shelves for them to peruse by the time school let out.  Ray left school extra early, almost two hours before Tom would get out,  so how did Tom get here so fast, and why did he leave?  And where did he go?  Did he actually get into Tim's van?  The van had slowed and stopped in the far lane, but that was normal on this street about all day long because of the diagonal parking on both sides. Tom would have had ample time, Ray figured.  And people holding bikes don't just disappear.  And then, most people don't pick up and carry a big, old, one-speed, RoughRider bikes, they usually ride them.

He sat there, in the cold winds of the city street, pondering what he should do.  He thought of just going home since maybe the promised books were not in after all.  Or, perhaps, Tom had pissed off the store owner and was told to leave.  What if Tom actually STOLE one of the books?  But then why would he get into a passing van with Tim Miller?  Ray wondered.  He stood with both feet on the sidewalk, rocking his bike front to back on its wheels, the seat moving between and brushing his thighs each pass, trying to decide what to do. Just earlier today they spoke quickly in the halls and reminded each other they would be there right after school. 

"What the fuck?" he said loud enough for a passing lady to eye him with disdain.  Ray did not notice her, or anyone else moving along the sidewalks, or the vehicles in the street.  His eyes were locked onto the front of the little bookstore as he considered the puzzle. 

The new books had been on both their minds and had been the most popular topic of conversation for months, ever since TSR announced the release of the updated version.  This was an important day, and Ray and Tom had been looking forward to it for a long time now.  They both knew the only way they could afford them was to save and share.  Ray had saved up over fifteen of the twenty bucks for the DM's Guide, and Tom had managed to save the same amount for the fifteen dollar Player's Manual.  That would leave the Monstrous Manual that they agreed to share the cost of in the future.  Of course, there were another dozen books on classes and races they would need to keep up with everyone else.

Ray even went as far as to skip eighth period History, and was able to convince the teacher to not mark him absent as a birthday gift, provided Ray helped with the regular level class a couple of days next week.  It meant Ray would be busy for ninth period a few days, but that was not much to pay to get an extra hour to peek at the changes for the new version without having to try to keep Tom from looking over his shoulder.  He should have had almost two hours to read before Tom would have gotten there.  Instead, Tom had apparently skipped TWO CLASSES to get here and leave before Ray, and Tom was in no way ahead in his classes.  In fact, Tom was in danger of a couple Ds and even an F in history. 

"What the fuck is going on?" Tom wondered again, pushing his bike ahead of him and leaping onto the pedals to take advantage in a lull in traffic, he rode across the street to the bookstore.  He put his bike in the rack and rushed inside.  The Fantasy Gaming section was in the center of the store, right up front in full view of the register and anyone coming or going through the doors.  That was often embarrassing, as kids who routinely made fun of the "Fantasy Freaks", as they called them, also came to this store to get the stuff they needed for their 'real hobbies'. 

While Ray and Tom called Downtown Hobbies the bookstore, it was in fact a hobby store with far more than fantasy game books.  The largest section was by far the trains, but nearly as large was the radio controlled planes and cars areas.  The hobby store also carried supplies for model rocketry, model cars, ships and planes, paints and even small power tools that were used in these and other hobbies.  But to Tom and Ray, it was the sole source for D&D books, dice, paperwork and supplies, so it was the bookstore. 

"Now what the hell was Tom up to in here?"

Inside he unwrapped his long scarf so he could inhale deeply, as he always did, of the aromas of the shop.  He could not name even a fraction of the many different aromas, but he could make out glues, paints and, most importantly, fresh printed books. 

He removed his fogging glasses as he took the dozen steps to the large racks that held the books of his desire.  Well before he could touch them, his eyes had spotted and locked onto them easily.  There, on the top row, at eye height.  His hands reached out to take one of them and paused.  His gloves were dirty from street slush and he didn't want to risk staining or damaging one of the fine books, so he used his teeth to remove his left glove and used his left hand to pull of his right glove.  He then grabbed both with his right hand and pushed them absentmindedly into his coat pocket.  After rubbing his hands together, he gently took the Dungeon Masters Guide from the rack and cradled it, balanced on his left arm and hand, as he softly brushed the cover with his right fingertips. 

It was beautiful! Instead of the ugly orange from the previous versions, the cover was mostly black, shiny black, with a square image in the center and the title in large, yellow letters across the top.  The image was well done, both intricate and colorful.  Ray stood literally transfixed by the book, and held it for a long minute before turning it over to examine the back.  Finally daring to open it at last, the spine cracked and popped as Ray held the book just under his nose so that he could inhale the fragrance of the freshly printed pages. 

He smiled widely as all thoughts of why Tom had been here earlier were forgotten.  Ray lost himself in the tome of knowledge and long minutes ticked by as he stood, unmoving, unaware of movements and conversations around him.  He had only eyes for this object of his desire. 

He was surprised when the store owner came up and said, "Hi, there.  Is it all you hoped? And do you have it memorized yet so you don't have to buy it?" he joked. 

After a quick smile and a laugh, Ray replied, "Yea, it rules! And no, I don't have it memorized, not yet! And I WILL buy it, someday, somehow!"

The two shared a laugh before the owner continued, "I know how you love the game and the books, and I know you want one, but I also know you won't be able to buy it either.  Especially when you can't use it unless your players have the Player's Manual, and the Monstrous Manual and these other ones too.  Don't be mad, I don't mean to make fun, I just know after the years you and your friend come in here, your family isn't one of the usual kind from around here.  Your mom and dad have to work, like me I might add, and money is tight, so, well, I've got a deal for you, if you're interested. . . "

"What, kind of deal?" Ray asked, immediately suspicious, placing his now de-fogged glasses back on. 

The store owner was old enough to be Ray's dad, or even his grandpa.  He had silver-white hair, lots of wrinkles and his back was bent with years of work.  Ray had been propositioned before with 'deals' and the occassional gift, but found the idea displeasing. He might be gay, but he didn't have any desire to experiment with the older guys who made the offers, usually in the park, and often near dark. He always gave the man making the offer a look as if he was insane and kept walking.  Maybe, for THESE books...but with this old man?

"Well, see, my son used to come help me here at the store, but lately he is just so busy with his family and the like, he just doesn't have the time anymore.  So, frankly, I am way behind.  There are about a dozen boxes of new stuff stacked up in back that need to come out here and more stuff that needs to go into the back.  I just can't keep up alone anymore," the shop owner said. 

"Why don't you hire someone, then?" Ray asked, still suspicious.

"That is easier said than done.  Very few kids around here are willing to actually work.  Most just get what they want from their parents anyway.  I'm thinking about running a help wanted ad, but I don't have the time to do any interviews.  I have a shop to run, and I can't even keep up without doing all those interviews or even setting up an ad," the older guy answered. 

"So, you want me to do some work around here to earn the book?" Ray asked. 

"Well, yes.  Just come in after school tomorrow and I will show you what comes off the shelves and what goes out to replace it.  It should only take a couple days, tomorrow and maybe Monday, and in return, I will give you that book you are holding.  I'm sure we can find other things to do to earn the rest of the new books.  A couple days a week, and each week another one of the books.  What d'ya say?"

Fuck, Ray thought, how cool! I could put in a couple days a week and end up with the entire library by summer when the D&D season really took off!  And if the guy had kids, he probably wouldn't try anything or ask to do anything sexy.

"Are you serious?" Ray asked the shopkeeper.  "Just do the work you need around here? I mean, really serious? Having me around here might not be good for your business."

"What? Just because you're gay that would hurt my business? Not as if everyone who sees you is going to know, anyway.  You're not open about it or the kids that came in here would be harder on you than they are," the shopkeeper stated. 

Ray was stunned.  Absolutely shocked into silence.  His mouth hung open and his eyes turned into perfectly round, white orbs behind his glasses.  He hadn't been referring to his sexuality, he meant his unpopularity, his reputation as a poor kid, a geek and a nerd. 

"Uh, uh, buh," poor Ray stammered out. 

"Ah, don't be so shocked.  I've raised six boys, and one of them was gay from before your age.  He told me when I caught him with one of his friends.  I didn't do or say what I should have, and things got bad between us for a time.  But I recognize the signs in you.  Most folk wouldn't, but I can see it. "

"What 'signs'?" Ray quietly demanded. 

"Oh, the way you and your friend look at each other, the way you are so gentle with the books, your mannerisms.  Don't worry, though, you don't scream 'fag' or act like a sissy, but the subtle stuff is there, just like my son at your age. "

"I, but I, umm, shit!" Ray managed to state quietly.  He didn't know what to think! His mind kept starting over on another train of thought as soon as he tried to grasp at the current one.  He felt as if he was running around in circles inside his of own head. 

"Hey, like I said, most folk won't notice.  I doubt you get much grief from the other kids at school because you don't lisp, swagger or swish, so I doubt any have picked up on it.  Maybe some other gay guys would notice, so don't be too surprised if you get a lot of attention from some of the guys," the old man said. 

"Yea, well, I did wonder why so many guys in the preserve come on to me," Ray said slowly.  "I always just thought they were guessing or maybe kinda hoping, but I guess they could tell, after all. . . "

"Yup, probably.  And don't let them talk you into anything or take any kind of risks with any of them.  And what do you expect, hanging out in the preserves? I suggest you stop that, especially alone.  And never at night.  And never go for any rides or get in anyone's car! Boys come up missing from time to time there, you know. "

"Yea, I heard that.  I just like to ride my bike there.  It's quieter, and its nice. "

"So did my son.  I sometimes wonder if those damned woods were cut down if he might have never found out he was that way.  But, that is water under the bridge, and today, I am just as proud of him as any of his brothers.  More so in some ways, because he has it a bit harder than his brothers, and has done pretty well despite it.  You just stay true to yourself and don't let anyone make you different. "

"Wait, you said the way I look at my friend? How do I 'look' at him?" Ray asked, worried. 

"Oh, just like my son looked at his friend that I caught him with.  Soft eyed, always smiling.  And you and he stand right up next to each other, like my son and his friend did.  And, most of all, neither one of you have even noticed the pretty girls when they come in. "

"We must be soooo obvious!" Ray exclaimed in a whisper, looking about as worried as he ever has in any situation, and blushing brightly. 

"Hey, like I said, you or your buddy aren't obvious.  Not to most.  I just have a better perspective.  Other parents of gay kids might notice, but not most folk.  Don't worry about it now!  So, what do ya say to working those books off?" the old man said, placing his right hand on Ray's left shoulder. 

"Are you serious? Knowing I'm, uh, knowing what you know and all?"

"Heck, yea, I'm serious.  Look, I grew up with working parents, and I know how hard it can be.  And today, things are only more expensive.  And these books are no exception! Even your parents would balk at the cost of these books.  I know you and your friend are good kids.  You come in here, look at the books, buy what you can afford, never damage the stuff, act decent and don't give the stuck-up kids a reason to cause trouble.  In fact, I've seen you and your buddy go way out of your way to avoid trouble.  I appreciate that, even if you are doing it out of your own reasons and not to prevent me any problems.  I need some help, you want the books.  We both get something out of this. "

"You, don't, you know, what anything else?"

"What? You afraid I'm gonna rape you?" the old guy said, leaning in closer and lowering his voice. "I ain't that way, and at my age, all I'm interested in is how comfortable my shoes are and what the wife is cooking for dinner when I get home," He answered with a laugh.

"Wow, I don't know what to answer," Ray said. 

"How about, see you tomorrow?"

They laughed and Ray said, "Yea, okay.  I'll do it.  And, thanks.  For, well, for. . . knowing, and. . . not saying. . . "

"No, thank you.  And I'm glad you agreed.  You and your buddy have been coming in here for, what, three, four, years? More? And you have not once broken anything, tried to take anything, bent a single page in the books you guys looked through or done anything even close to what those haughty-taughty kids try to pull.  The least I can do is reward you in some small way, and if it helps me too, all the better!" the older man replied. 

"Wow, this is cool! Thanks, man, really!" Ray said.  "Like I said, no problem.  I will see you tomorrow, about the usual time?"

"Sure, I get out about two o'clock and will be here in ten minutes!" Ray said, feeling a tingling in his stomach. 

"Good.  One thing, go ahead and keep that book, take it home.  But do me a small favor and don't tell anyone about our deal.  I don't want the regular half the school coming in here trying to make a deal.  I have precious little time as it is and right now Mr. Sweeney is looking my way with a dirty look for making His Highness wait, so I got to go take his money now.  He has no idea how much I fleece him for," he said, tapping Ray on the shoulder.  "See you tomorrow, Ray"

"Okay, will do and thanks again!" Ray said as the shopkeeper walked to the front counter.  He stood there looking down at the shiny book in his hands.  HIS book! HIS Dungeon Master's Guide! HIS OWN! Ray's stomach felt as if a hundred butterflies were trying to find a place to land.  All he had to do was help the old guy a couple days and then he would have earned it as good as if he paid for it.  And now he had a few bucks for something else!  He stood there and actually hugged the book to his chest, holding it close, just under his nose, smelling the fresh ink and paper and binding glue; it smelled like heaven!

Shrugging, Ray threw his shoulders back one at a time and pulled the straps holding his backpack off his back and swung the pack around to the floor in front of him.  He squatted and made a safe and secure place to hold the new treasure.  Satisfied it was not going to take any scratches from objects or creases from other books, he zipped the pack closed and gently shrugged his shoulders back into the straps. 

Now that he had a DM's Guide of his own and he could read it at leisure at home, he turned his attention to the other, shiny black books on the rack.  He was lost in a copy of the Player's Manual when he noticed another person reach for another copy of it. 

"Worth the wait," he heard a high, small voice say. 

Ray turned to answer and saw a boy of about twelve bundled in a big blue down coat and hood with matching gloves and boots.  He could only see the round lenses of the kid's glasses, which were beginning to fog over.  The boy reached up with his gloved hands and fumbled with the glasses, taking them off and placing one of the earpieces into his straight, white teeth behind dark red lips. 

"They always fog up winter," the boy said around the glasses.  "So, are they worth it," the boy continued. 

"Yea, the art is great and the way they printed it with the backgrounds on the pages is cool.  And it looks like some new characters and classes and races and lots of tables for each," Ray answered, still looking at the boys smooth, round face.  He had dark brows over big, green eyes.  Ray had never seen this kid before, so he was probably one of the rich kids. 

"Cool, look'it, orc classes!" the kid said, smiling even wider and uttering more approving sounds. 

"Yea.  You from around here?" Ray asked.  "I don't recognize you. "

"Yea, I live on Catherine Street, the big log house," the boy informed Ray, telling him all he needed to know.  He was one of the richest of the rich kids.  Catherine Avenue was a dead end road that led to the border of the forest preserves with about six of the largest houses in Cook County.  Only the super-rich lived on Catherine. 

"You play at your school?" Ray asked. 

"Yup. And at camp, a bunch of us play there.  I promised to bring the books this year.  We didn't have a Monster Manual and had to jigger the numbers as best we could remember.  So I promised to have them this year for everybody. "

"You the DM?" Ray inquired, a bit surprised. 

"Nuh-uh, but the DM will get a new book he said by then.  I'm going to bring the books for us players.  And some sheets and other stuff.  When I told dad the books came out today he ordered them from Mr. Broft and he went in back to get them for me. "

"Wow, bet that was expensive!" Ray exclaimed, his eyes wide with jealousy. 

"I dunno.  Dad said he paid for it I just need to pick up stuff other than the books.  Dad said Mr. Broft said he would have the six books ready and I should pick out anything else I need.  Like the dice and papers.  And I want mods too, so the DM don't have to make everything up.  We played The Tomb of Horrors last year but it was the only one we had so we played it about hundred times.  Not this year," the boy said as he picked about a dozen modules and added them to his stack of books.  He probably had over a hundred dollars worth in his arms already.  The six books would be over fifty bucks more. 

"Last year we left everything behind by accident again and dad called they said they always throw away any belongings without names because they had some law problem once and it was just easier that way so we lost the books and dice and all sorts of stuff and so dad this year said to get it all and he would have our names put in them and our phone numbers in case we forgot them this year," the boy went on, almost breathlessly, as if he had no reason to stop for air. 

Ray let the sound of the boy's rambling speech fade into the background, ignoring the boy.  Jealousy and anger together had Ray ready to scream at the boy "You spoiled, rotten, shit-sucking son-of-a-bitch" while pounding him with the entire row of metal shelves.  Ray wanted to grind the boy's gory stain into the hardwood floor and piss on the mark until it was washed away. 

What a waste of these fine books, Ray thought.  It's too bad they end up in the hands of such petty bastards.  If the kid only knew how much they cost and what most people had to do to earn one.  Sick, Ray concluded.  Not the kid's fault.  The parents spoiled him and he had no idea what it took to earn anything. 

Before long the boy staggered off with over a hundred dollars worth of the books and supplies.  He watched as the kid pointed out six complete sets of dice, another twenty bucks.  Ray was never so glad his family wasn't rich.  He would rather be real and poor than empty and rich. 

Although, I wouldn't call myself poor, either, Ray concluded, trying to turn his attention back to the book in his hands.  His parents both worked their butts off and did pretty good.  The moved to the neighborhood so that Ray wouldn't have to live far from the best school they provide for him.  They made sure he knew what it took to make it and what they had to give up to keep it. 

"Hey!  So, whatd'ya think?" Tom's voice brought Ray out of his brooding state.  He had been on the same page for several minutes, thinking more about other things than reading and Tom had snuck up on him. 

"I think I am richer than I think," Ray said, not looking up from the page he wasn't reading. 

"Huh?" Tom asked, perplexed.  "I mean the books, moron!" he said as he reached for a copy of the PM, leaving only one on the rack. 

"Yea, I know," Ray said slowly.  "I know. "

"Awesome!" Tom exclaimed, flipping pages as he took up position next to Ray.  "The new classes are in here, and new playable races, and new weapons, magic, everything, man, too much stuff!" Tom said, paging through the book quickly. 

"Tom, why were you here earlier?" Ray asked, looking up at Tom, noticing his glasses were not on his face and that his cheeks were the splotchy bright red they always got in the cold. 

"What? When?" Tom asked, raising his dark, thin eyebrows. 

"Today, earlier.  Just as I got across the street I saw you leave and head towards home. " Ray watched Tom's cold-blush turn into the deeper, fuller blush of emotional origins. 

"Nuh-uh," Tom replied, turning back to the book in his hands. 

"Dude, you so were! I saw you!" Ray insisted, closing the book. 

"Uh, okay, whatever!" Tom said in his best valley-girl imitation. "You get out an hour earlier than I do, how could I have got here BEFORE you?"

"Oh, gonna be that way, huh?" Ray said. 

"Don't know what you are talking 'bout," Tom said, tilting his head up as if raising his nose above the level of some unpleasant smell and staring down his nose at the book. 

"Fine, okay.  You got me a book, didn't you?" Ray asked, placing the one he had been holding back on the rack. 

"Yea, sure, I bought two of all of them, while I was at it," he said sarcastically. 

"Okay, don't tell me," Ray said, pulling his pack off his shoulders.  "But when I open the present and it's one of these. . . " he said as he pulled the DM's Guide out of the pack, "Don't cry to me about it!"

"Dude, you were gonna snake that?" Tom asked in a hissing whisper.  "Mr.  Broft is a nice guy!"

"No! Get this, the old guy needs some help around here and he asked me to come in tomorrow to help out.  He said I could have this for a couple of days work, and maybe earn the other books next couple weeks!" Ray said with a huge grin. 

"Cool! How about that?" Tom said, smiling.  "You gonna earn me a copy too?"

"Yea, right.  I don't know, maybe," Ray said.  "I don't know how much work he has but I can ask. "

"Man, I was kidding, you don't have to do that. "

"I might, make it your birthday present, you know?" Ray offered. 

"Huh, maybe.  I want the same gift you got me last year and you know it.  See what he says first," Tom said, nodding toward the counter where the old man was ringing up another sale.  "Right now, since you have a DM's Guide and will get some of the others anyway, what say we head to your house and get some food and hit the game I'm gonna give you tonight?  Maybe play around?"

"You got it with you?" Ray asked. 

"Yea, and it's in one of those gift boxes you can open then close right back up and open again in front of your parents later!" Tom said. 

"Yea, since I got this one, and now I know I will get the others, we might as well go get something hot to warm up with instead of staring at them.  We can read the DM's Guide at home anyway now."

"You mean YOU can read the Guide, I don't think you want me cruising through it and I don't wanna know the stuff anyway.  Right now I want'a check out the Monster Manual and these other new ones," Tom said, turning his attention to them.

"Sure you don't wanna head to my house and let me play with some of my birthday presents, instead?" Ray asked, smiling widely.

Tom returned the blush and said, "Now, now, today is about the books, remember? I've been waiting to see these for months, and damn it, I'm gonna see them!"

"Yea, okay, I know what you mean. Check out this one..." Ray said, lifting one of the books about the new classes.

The boys lost themselves in the material for quite some time.  Tom had been glancing at his watch, and at four-thirty he decreed it time to head out before Ray's parents got home. Tom had volunteered to help with the preparations for the small party tonight, and Tom's parents had accepted his help. 

"Good to go, then," Ray said as he closed his pack over the precious cargo. "Why don't you go ahead and pay for the PH and I'll meet you outside?"

"Uh, I, didn't bring my money," Tom said. 

"Right, sure. You ALWAYS have your money with you. Go pay for it and I'll meet you outside," Ray repeated.

"I told ya, I didn't bring it today," Tom said, already turning and heading for the front door after having placed the book back on the shelves.

"Yea, sure," Ray mumbled, knowing full well Tom always had that money with him.  He didn't trust his older brother not to find it if he kept it at home.  Ray knew at that moment Tom had purchased one of the books for Ray already. That was probably why Tom got here so early today, left and then returned to meet him. I wonder which book he got me?  Ray thought as he followed Tom out of the store.

As they passed the counter, Ray waved to the old man, who was just now finishing with another customer.  Tom waved and said, "Bye Mr.  Broft!"

Once outside, Ray realized Tom had called the shopkeeper by name, and earlier, the shopkeeper had called Ray by name!  In the entire time he and Tom had been coming here they had shared a few words in passing with the old man, but he never remembered any of them using any names before today. 

"When did you learn the old man's name?" Ray asked. 

"What" Tom replied, blushing anew. 

"Something is going on here," Ray said, standing beside his bike, watching Tom get on his own.  "How do I find out just exactly what?"

"Call Sherlock Holmes?" Tom shot back.  The usual reply from one of the two to the other when he had no intention of saying anything about the current topic of discussion, whatever it might be. 

"Well, one thing, I think we might be a bit obvious, you know, about 'it',"

"Huh?" Tom asked, totally perplexed, canting his covered head to the side. 

"The old guy, he said, he, uh, he hinted that, maybe, we might, sometimes, act, um, gay, ish, sorta. . . " Ray fumbled along. 

"Um, I guess we should talk about that when we get there," Tom said, referring to Ray's house. 

Shrugging his pack up more comfortably, wrapping the ridiculous scarf around his face a few times and climbing onto his bike, Ray tried to figure out this latest puzzle. 

Tom was always a bit of a puzzle.  Just when Ray thought he had Tom pegged, something would come along and surprise him.  Just like the day after Ray and Tom had first broken the sexual barrier between them two years ago. 

As Ray rode behind Tom, watching his backside as he raised and lowered it on the seat of his bike, Ray let his mind wander back to two years ago. . . 

To be continued in Chapter 3: The Day After

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