This story contains scenes depicting gay characters and gay sexual situations. If you find that offensive, if you are under the legal age of consent to view/read such material, or it is forbidden in your particular jurisdiction altogether, it is suggested you move on. You have been warned.
©2003 by Keith Morrisette, all rights reserved. No part of this story may be copied or reproduced without the express consent of the author.
This story is related to but not a sequel of my two earlier stories, The Boyfriend and Little Secrets, Little Lies (formerly And the Other Friends) since many of the same characters are carried over.

More of  this story is available at Archerland and KeithMorrisette.com.

Comments to Keith_Hackwriter@Lycos.com.

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Keith Morrisette


"I’m not gonna hurt you!" David Sciuoto shouted, trying to at least sound sincere even if the look on his face gave it the lie. "Now stop bein’ such a wuss an’ c’mere!"

Martin kept the tree trunk between the two of them and held a wary eye on David. ‘Keep-Away’ wasn’t exactly his favorite game, but he was practiced at it with his chief adversary - Chunk - only a few lots away from his own.

"Like I’m gonna believe that!" Martin shouted back. "Right after you tried to run me down with your car!"

David knitted his eyebrows and frowned. "I didn’t try to run you down, Martin! I came around the corner a little quick and - well, there you were. I hit the brakes," he added defensively.

Uh-huh - after I jumped behind concrete blocks and you didn’t have any choice. "A little quick? You left enough rubber to make a spare tire! Jesus Dave, what’d I do?" wailed Martin, peeking around the base of the tree again.

David Sciuoto wasn’t much in the mood for explanations. His upper lip was still curled as he lunged for Martin again, dodging to the left then swinging his body right. But Martin learned enough survivor skills at school and scampered quickly out of his way - over the hammock suspended from two metal posts, then kicked a lawn chair over behind him before scrambling up the two low, wood steps of the mobile home. He slammed the screen door shut and shot the lock.

An angry David Sciuoto charged after him and rattled the aluminum door in its frame. On one level, Martin knew he should slam the inner door and shoot the dead bolt, but he hesitated. The flimsy lock had held before when he escaped, and he didn’t see any reason it shouldn’t hold now. Except this time Martin wasn’t sticking out his tongue and yelling names at a fat thirteen year old like Chunk who thought he was a bruiser simply because of his waist size.

Martin was shaking in his knock-off Wal-Mart running shoes trying to figure out why David Sciuoto - who was nice to everybody - suddenly wanted to throttle him after a failed attempt to run him down when he walked out to check the mail. David’s face was still an artist’s study of rage when he grabbed the handle of the screen door and wrenched it. Years of abuse and metal fatigue finally kicked in. The aluminum clip holding the door shut snapped in two, and the door jerked open so quickly David stumbled back before regaining enough of his balance to lunge at Martin again. And almost got him.

A terrified Martin Seduko, arms wrapped protectively around his bowed head, with one knee drawn up in an attempt to shield other parts, saw David looming at him fast then suddenly jerk back and through the door again, his feet off the ground. Martin peeked up long enough to see the empty doorway then peered out to see a short, thick armed boy hold David down on the ground with one knee planted on his chest, holding up a clenched fist and pretty much giving the impression he was ready to smash it into David’s face.

"Leo! Leave ‘em alone! He’s a friend of mine!"

Leo DiStefano twisted his thick neck and looked up at Martin and paused, his single black eyebrow furrowed on his forehead. The left edge of his wide lips twitched as he looked down again at a startled David, who recovered enough of his senses to say something stupid.

"Get your hands off me, ya dumb Guinea bastid!"

Leo’s nostrils flared, and he still hadn’t lowered his arm or un-balled his fist.

"You know, you got a lotta mouth for someone in your situation," he growled. "And I’d watch it with the ‘dumb ginny’ crap. I know a paisan when I see one." He leaned into Dave a little more menacingly, his voice filled with malice. "And if I’m so dumb, why am I the one standing over you, waiting to pound that pretty nose of yours until it looks like mush?"

"Dumb football jock," David muttered defiantly, proving that bravery and brilliance seldom accompany one another.

Martin was out the door now and pulling at Leo’s raised arm. "C’mon, man! He really is a friend of mine. We were just screwin’ around! Honest!"

Leo pursed his lips and looked back and forth between the young man under his knee and the teen-age boy pulling at his arm. Finally he shook his head and let go of David and stood up. "It’s your call, Mart. Sandy said I should make sure you don’t get kicked around too bad, but if you say this dick’s okay, guess I got to buy it." He held out a hand to David that wasn’t to shake, grabbed him by the arm and without hesitating jerked David to his feet. "And just for the record, I used to wrestle, not play football. And before you come up with some snide remark - no. I really don’t get all excited when I feel another guy squirmin’ all over me at a match. And it also don’t bother me that some guys do, either," he said nodding to Martin.

Leo took a long look at David, the quality of his clothes, and the car he drove. It wasn’t a friendly look. Another one with a daddy who’s got bucks, thinkin’ he can mess with the peons.

He turned away from David, who eyed him malevolently. His black eyes relaxed when they focused on Martin. "Sandy sent me here to get her black purse - it’s got her wallet in it an’ we’re goin’ out tonight. Wanna get it for me?"

Martin scampered off. The two young men eyed each other carefully, coal black eyes drilling into coal black eyes, studying signs and drawing conclusions based on assumptions. David noted the swarthy skin and thick neck, as well as the deep acne scarring. He took in the hulky torso with the long arms and the short legs. Tell-tale signs of generations of country peasants, working the soil of the lower Italian boot or in the hills of the Mediterranean islands.

Leo eyed the patrician elegance of David’s longer, slender body and handsome face. He remembered stories his grandfather told about the high-born aristocrats who came down from Rome or Naples to lord it over the pesonavantes working the estates their families farmed for an upper class of one breed or another since the days of the Roman Empire - ridiculing them because of their looks, their manners, and their way of life.

Both David and Leo came to an instant, simultaneous conclusion about the other.

This guy’s an asshole.

Leo broke the silence. "So, why were you after Martin?"

David shrugged. "I wasn’t... well, not really after him. I was tryin’ to get him to stop so I could talk to him." He frowned. "What’s it to you, anyway?"

Leo eyed the shiny black Jetta parked up and over the curbing of the trailer lot a few feet short of a pile of cinder blocks. "Didn’t much look like you wanted conversation to me," Leo commented dryly. "Usually when someone about rips a door off a house, it seems to me they want to do more than just talk. Especially when I seen Martin runnin’ like hell to get away from you - Martin gets a lot of shit for the way he is, so I get suspicious."

David’s eyes narrowed. "The way he is? Like, him bein’ gay?"

Leo’s eyes slitted right back, and the left end of his monobrow arched. "I don’t know if he is or not - it ain’t my business to ask. I just meant he acts kinda different from the other kids, and he gets slammed around for it, and I don’t like seein’ anyone treated like that. Plus him bein’ my girlfriend’s little brother makes it more personal, you know? What floats his boat ain’t my business or yours. He’s a pretty nice kid, an’ I don’t like seein’ some wise ass pick on him ’cuz he thinks Martin’s somethin’ just because he acts the way he does. Plus I don’t like seein’ anyone gettin’ hurt because they can’t defend themselves." He looked David over again. "I’d also be kind of suspicious of any guy my age messin’ with a fourteen year old, too. Same as I’d wonder why he was hangin’ out with my fourteen year old sister."

David glared, his lips curling again. "You trying to say something?"

Leo’s mouth twitched. "Let’s just say I better not hear anything from my girl friend about how her little brother - who’s prob’ly just as dumb about some stuff like I remember being at fourteen - got jerked around by some rich pretty boy. Some people might get the idea that makes him kind of an easy mark." He leaned towards a frowning David again, and the mono-brow arched even higher on the left. "Get the message, gumba?"

The screen door clattered open before David could get himself in any deeper and Martin trotted up holding out a black purse with a long strap. He held it out to Leo, who brought his hands up awkwardly, blushed, and dropped them again.

"Hey, uh, Mart?" he began sheepishly. "Would you mind just, uh, tossin’ it in the front seat of my car?" Something occurred to him. He’d have to walk it to Sandy at Demille’s Grocery Cart. "Better yet, there’s a shoppin’ bag in there. How about droppin’ it into that?"

Martin rolled his eyes, disgusted. "Jesus, Leo. It really isn’t catchin’, you know? And even if it were, I think it’d take more than handling a purse!"

Leo DiStefano blushed and gave Martin a look not entirely devoid of venom for the remark and his voice stumbled. "Yeah, well... you know."

Martin shook his head, walked over to the six-year-old blue Honda Accord and opened the door. He found the white plastic shopping bag and dropped the purse into it before tossing it back onto the passenger seat. Then the three stood in an awkward silence before David spoke again.

"Are you an’ me done now?" he asked in an edgy voice.

Leo looked him over again, eyed Martin, who nodded that it was okay before he spoke. "I guess, if Martin says its okay. You’re not from around here, but I know your face." He peered at David. "Got it. You work at Barrier Books over at the Loop, right?"

David nodded, and fought down the impulse to ask how Leo could know about something like a bookstore, tempting as it was.

"Cool. Well, just keep something in mind, okay? I’ll be seein’ Sandy tomorrow night and most other nights too. And if she should mention something about how her brother got roughed up or anything, I can meet you after work some night. I really wouldn’t see that as a problem - for me, anyway."

Leo turned for the car. David grunted and crossed his arms over his chest, and his eyes bored into the back of Leo’s head as his short legs carried him back to his Accord. David watched Leo drive off after they exchanged a last look of mutual loathing.

"What the hell does your sister see in a dick like that?"

Martin shrugged. "Probably that he’s really a nice guy and he treats her like a princess instead of trailer trash. Plus I’m not supposed to know it, but he put the word out at school with the upper classmen not to mess with me when she asked. I haven’t been stuffed into a trash can since first quarter." Martin grimaced. "Now that he graduated, guess I got that to look forward to again this fall."

He sighed, resigned to his coming fate. "Isn’t too bad, really. Unless it’s one of the cans in the lunch room and they jam you in head first." He scowled. The last time he got canned was on a bad Sloppy Joe day, and Martin had to leave school to wash the sauce out of his hair. It would never be one of his fonder memories of Salem High, but it would be the one he’d always remember. Just like he’d remember the vice-principal who sent him home but never did anything to the culprits responsible, because in a crowded lunchroom filled with hundreds of pairs of eyes, no one saw the three hockey players who grabbed him - including faculty members who were supposed to keep an eye on things. It was a selective blindness that often occurred depending on the popularity of the students involved.

"Huh. Out of school now? What’s he do, flip burgers?"

Martin shook his head. "Landscaping, at least for the summer. He’s goin’ to college in the fall."

"Right," David commented, pegging Leo for a community college somewhere with an open enrollment program. "Guess I don’t have to worry about him showing up at Merrimack College."

"Not hardly," Martin added. "He’ll be at MIT. So, what’s with you, anyway? How come all of a sudden you’re after my blood?"

"I’m not pissed off at you, Mart," David stammered, filing the interesting information about Leo away. "Well, not enough to hurt you anyway... much." He hesitated, looking Martin over. "That picture you emailed me sort of took me by surprise and - well. It just got to me. You said you saw a bunch of ’em on some web site," he said sharply. "Where?"

Martin’s mouth fell open. "Is that what’s got you all pissed? I mean, yeah, you’re in your underwear and all, but it’s no worse than a bathing suit, Dave! And it’s not like I’m passin’ it around or nothin’ - I figured it’d be a joke. And there’s no web site, I just said that kiddin’ around."

David’s mouth twitched. "Okay, fine." He looked around the trailer park furtively and then spoke in a lower voice to Martin. "Look, you’re safe, okay? Can we go inside? I don’t really want to talk about this in the front yard."

Front yard? More like the only yard, Martin thought, but didn’t correct David and signaled him to follow.

David stepped into Martin’s home and blinked, taking in a living, dining and kitchen area all crowded into one space and didn’t make any comments as he stood in the dim light after being in the bright July sun. Martin pointed to the uncomfortable looking, narrow couch and went to get them both a soda. David felt almost claustrophobic as he looked around at the cheap, scaled-down furnishings and glanced down the short hall. The air conditioner whirred in the small window.

Jesus, our garage is bigger than this. How the hell do four people live here? He thanked Martin for the glass of store-brand orange soda, and the boy plopped himself down on the far end of the narrow sofa, still with a wary eye on David.

"Okay, so tell me what I did," he began, his voice cracking.

David set the soda down on the coffee table. "Tell me about the picture, Mart. Who sent it? And did he send you any more?"

Martin shrugged. "Yeah, but just of him. He joked about how I’d get a good skin shot of his butt in that one... well, half of it anyway. He - he’s just a guy I talk to on-line a lot. We swapped some pics the other day."

David looked up sharply. "What kind did you send him?"

Martin blushed. "Nothin’ trashy. Jesus, give me some credit, will you? Just a head shot of me Sandy took, and one of me without a shirt, an’ that’s it."

David nodded. "Good, I hope so. I seen some of the stuff kids send out over the net they at least claim is them."

Martin snorted. "No shit. But the other one’s he sent looked legit - just him, dressed different in most, one of him with no shirt. I mean, they were all different, taken at different times, so I figured they were real."

"Show me."

Martin hesitated, nervous.

"Look," said David, leaning forward, and Martin realized for the first time that he could actually see fear in the young man’s eyes. David gripped Martin’s knee firmly. "It’s important, Martin. I used to know Danny an’-well, it’s important okay? His name is Danny, right?"

Martin nodded, and they got up and David followed Martin as he zagged around the furniture. Martin stepped through the second door of the short hall and David followed him. He paused, standing in the doorway of the small, crowded room.

Martin pretended not to notice the expression on David’s face. He’d never seen David’s house, but from what he’d heard Alan say it sounded like David lived in a mansion. Martin flushed, embarrassed, but didn’t look up as he flicked on the computer he’d mainly built for himself out of other people’s cast-offs. He answered an unasked question to fill the uncomfortable quiet.

"It’s a home-brew, but not real quick... I just upgraded to the big new processor from last year." He snickered. "Have to wait for someone else to upgrade an pay me off for the install with their old processor before I get better’n that." Windows came up and Martin eyed David as he furtively typed in his password. David shook his head and sighed looking away while the boy typed. When the system stabilized he brought up the folder where he’d stashed Danny’s pictures and a few of their choicer conversation records so he could relive a few special moments, and clicked the photos open. Martin sidled out of the chair and David leaned in and scrolled through the shots.

David shook his head, and the pained expression on his face made Martin nervous. Finally David pushed the mouse aside as he rolled himself back from the computer, staring at the floor. He looked back up at a still-scared Martin, who didn’t know what to make of a pensive David Sciuoto any more than he knew what to make of an angry David earlier.

"How much does this guy know about you?" David asked, nervous but firm. "Where you live? Where you go to school?"

"He knows I live in southern New Hampshire, an’ that’s it," Martin replied, a little irritated. "Dammit, Dave, I’m not stupid. I don’t give much for details, okay? I mean, I never even told him my name until yesterday."

"Right. And followed that up by sending him pictures of yourself, Mart. That’s not real bright."

Martin flushed. "Hey, fuck you, David! You told me yourself you met Alan over the net, okay? So don’t get all high and mighty on me! I sent him some pics but only ‘cuz he sent some of his to me, and they looked legit. If they looked like somethin’ from a porn site or some air-brushed ad, I’d have just blown him off. But you saw those shots - they’re real. The clothes are different, his hair’s cut different in some... he’s even older in some than others, at least a little. And it’s not like I drew him a map on how to get here! Plus I been talkin’ to him for a few months now - it’s not like some total stranger."

David scowled. "Okay, okay... so. But Alan and I were also a lot older, too Mart. I take it you guys cyber, right?"

Martin twisted his mouth and blushed, looking down before eyeing David again. "I’m fourteen," he said holding up his left hand. "This ‘n my keyboard are about the only sex life I got right now, okay?"

David had to chuckle. "Yeah, I guess I remember bein’ in the same boat." He cleared his throat. "Alright, now listen to me and answer without gettin’ defensive, okay Martin? Has he hinted you guys should get together?"

Martin shook his head. "No. I mean, I don’t know where he is, either, except from the chat-name he uses; BlonBoi_n_NoMa - northern Massachusetts. For all I know he could be over the line in Methuen or somewhere out by the Vermont border."

"That’s usually considered western or central Mass, but never mind. How old does he say he is?"

"Fifteen, almost sixteen. He knows I’m fourteen. Almost fifteen.

Five-and-a-half months ain’t almost, twerp. "Okay. Now, what strikes you as kinda weird about that?"

Martin looked confused. "Whaddya mean?"

David looked up at him sideways and shifted his mouth around. He clicked open the directory again and brought up the photos, scrolling to the one of himself and Danny. "Think about it, Martin. I’m a little shy of nineteen now, okay? And that means Danny is almost four years younger than me - even if you want to argue, make it three. Now, I was thirteen in that picture. Assumin’ that Danny looks a little younger n’ me, that means he would’ve been nine or maybe ten. Yeah, he’s smaller ‘n me - but not that much smaller! Did you think of that?"

Martin shifted around, uncomfortable. "No," he answered reluctantly, then eyed David. "I didn’t think it all the way like that... I mean, I was kinda happy you know?"

Martin looked down at the floor, feeling the stinging in his eyes, and not wanting David to see it. "He - he asked me to be his boyfriend yesterday, and he didn’t care I was kinda fem and all, and - and... Shit. Shit! How did I just know this was gonna all turn to crap. No one wants me. The kids at school just assume I’m a fag, and even other gay kids avoid me ‘cuz they’re afraid of bein’ around someone real easy to spot. Some of them even look down on me, too." His hands came up as he felt the tears brimming in his eyes.

David rose and reached over to Martin and pulled the boy closer to him, hugging his head to his chest. "Take it easy, Martin," he said gently. "I know what it’s like, bein’ alone. Or feeling like you are."

"Yeah," Martin said, snuffling. "Maybe you know what it’s like thinking you’re alone, but do you know what it’s like having people take one look at you when you walk by and laugh?"

David’s mouth formed the first word of a lie, but caught himself. "No, I don’t," David sighed, swaying the boy slightly as he held him. "And you’re right - I had it lots easier. I didn’t come out at school, so I never had to deal with all the crap like you do. Or like Alan did when he got outed," he continued. "And all I can do is guess how you feel right now... I had net boyfriends too, you know. And it really sucked when they dumped you - or weren’t who they claimed to be. I had my share of chat-room pedos, too."

Martin wiped his face with the back of his hand, but didn’t push away from David. He liked the feeling... being held close, being cared about. And he knew he was still luckier than he was last winter. It began with Drew McKinnon from their gay youth group started giving Martin rides, and he and his boyfriend Marc were nice to him. Then he’d gotten closer to Alan, and through Alan he’d met David and their friend Chris. They were all good to him, but they were older and had jobs and cars, and that added up to having real lives of their own... while Martin was stuck at home, too young to tag along.

He realized the chats meant a lot more than he thought. And Blon - Danny - made Martin feel better about himself in one day than he’d felt for months. He knew a net-friend could evaporate as quickly as it took to click out of a room and change your name, but still... Danny said he cared, he liked Martin. And it didn’t matter to Danny how Martin acted or sounded. Danny made him feel good about himself for a change. Wanted. And Martin desperately needed to feel wanted by someone other than his sister. He lived for the moment a boy would hold him like David held him now, and whisper in his ear that he was loved. Even if it was only from the pressure of the moment.

David eased Martin away from him, but didn’t shove him away. He smiled at the boy and ran his fingers through his sandy hair. "I really didn’t mean to make you feel bad Mart, honest. But... well, there’s things you don’t know about this guy. I know you’re hurtin’ right now, but if I don’t step in, it’ll only hurt more later. Now - sit down and tell me everything you know about this guy."

* * * * *

David Sciuoto slammed the door of his room and went straight to his computer, sliding in the floppy disk Martin made up for him. He dragged the images into a new directory then opened them up, scrolling through, studying the face again - particularly the one that appeared to be the most recent.

It’s him, he told himself. No doubt about it, that’s Danny. David frowned. This wasn’t good news to him. What’s he want with Martin? Why’s he still with Griff

And finally the worst fear. What’s Griff up to?

A shudder ran through his body. Are you still the bait, Danny? Has Griff got you trollin’ for kids on-line for him?

David thought about it, felt a cold anger spreading through him. He could see Griff being soulless enough to do exactly that. But Danny? Hadn’t Danny saved him? Still, after all this time… why was Danny still with him?

He lay down on the bed and closed his eyes, recalling the rest of the scene with Martin when David told him to break off all contact with Danny. The boy had been scared at first, then angry when he turned on David.

"Look at you, telling me I got to give up the little bit I’ve got - the good lookin’ rich kid with the easy life, the one people fall all over themselves tryin’ to get to know," he spat as all the buried resentments built up and finally overflowed. His upper lip curled and his voice cracked as he tried to blast David out. "I gotta work hard just to get people to talk to me, never mind bein’ my friend! And I got one thing to look forward to a couple times a week - one lousy thing! And the rich kid who’s got it all wants me to give up even that!"

David stared up at the ceiling, remembering the hurt, the anger in Martin’s eyes-and finally followed by the lost, lonely look of someone who’s life was the brunt of everyone else’s jokes. He tried to understand what that must feel like, and couldn’t.

David rolled onto his stomach, chin resting on his hands, staring straight ahead. His feet dangled off the edge of the bed and he unconsciously jiggled his right foot.

Yeah, I got a charmed life, David told himself, sighing. Unless you happen to know what goes on in my head… what I dream at night, and sometimes what I think.

He lay there, wishing his mind could just drift someplace else besides the memories of the days with Griff and Danny. David felt the shadow of the man’s hand drifting down his back again and shuddered, opening his eyes and finding himself sweating again even in the air conditioned room.

Griff’s always there now… every time I close my eyes, he’s always right there.

David’s head jerked up when he heard a solid double-rap at the door, followed by a second set. The door handle jiggled.

"David?" came his mother’s voice. "I heard you come in, and I really need to talk to you."

Jesus. Now she’s gonna bitch ’cuz I slammed the door when I came in. Oh yeah-and for not takin’ off my shoes, then for runnin’ up the stairs again and lockin’ my door. Am I always gonna be five?

"Just a minute!" David jumped up and closed the photo program, leaving only the wallpaper on his screen. He walked slowly across the room and opened the door, trying to hide the scowl he felt and force an easy smile he didn’t feel.

"’Sup, mum?"

"Don’t talk that street talk, David," she complained stepping in, and turned around rolling his eyes knowing already it was going to be that kind of conversation again. Jennifer Sciuoto’s dark eyes flicked over the room and then over her son before she stepped in, gently closing the door. That caught David’s attention and he snapped his head back. The only time she ever bothered to close the door when they spoke was when she had something important to say, and felt that even in an empty house closing the door for privacy was important.

Jennifer Sciuoto studied the face of her son, her jaw twitching. This is gonna be another bad one, he thought. Twitching was never a good sign.

"Last weekend - did you have anyone over the house?" she said in a careful voice, smoothing her silk blouse.

David shrugged and kept poker faced. "Yeah. Chris St. Jacques hung out for awhile after work on Friday, and Alan was over, too."

She nodded and Jennifer’s jaw twitched again, and David felt another twinge of anxiety. "Those two again…" she grumbled. "Honestly David - don’t you have any decent friends? I knew letting you go to the public high school was a mistake."

David snorted. This was old territory being worked over again. "Mum, let’s not get into my friends, okay? We’ve been down that road too many times. And as for schools-when I got done with the nuns I told you then; no more church an’ no more church schools and I meant it, so Lawrence Catholic and Austin were out."

Jennifer Sciuoto’s lips tightened as David pressed a serious button. "I don’t know why you’ve gotten so down about the Catholic Church. When you were little-"

David cut in hard and fast. "When I was little I didn’t know they were training me to look down on everyone else-and when I was little, I didn’t realize the Archbishop of Boston was hidin’ priests who liked screwin’ little boys."

Jennifer’s face paled and she froze. "Don’t talk about Cardinal Law and the Church like that!" she snapped.

"Why?" David asked simply, facing his mother again and speaking calmly, sliding his hands into his pockets and shrugging. He did everything he could to hide the anger boiling up in him. "He’s a disgrace, Mum. He shoulda been sharing that cell block when they offed Father Geoghan in prison for diddlin’ kids. But Law’s just like any CEO-whether he’s the guy who ran Enron or the Catholic Church of Boston, Incorporated," he snarled. "Just another well-connected rat who walked instead of serving time for conspiracy and obstruction - by hidin’ child molesters an’ movin’ them from one parish to another when the crap began to fly. Except the Cardinal’s worse than the thieves at Enron and in Washington-they just stole money. That bastard helped steal lives."

Jennifer began wringing her hands, then sensed that’s exactly what her son wanted to do-distract her from the real purpose of their conversation. No you don’t. You’re not going to work my buttons that easy. She calmed herself.

"Never mind about the church, David," she began, studying his face and trying to keep cool. "You just don’t seem to understand how important it is in life to make the right contacts-with friends and school."

Like the kids of those social climbing snots you hang out with on the Haverhill Women’s Republican Action Caucus - rich-bitch wives of political wannabes in a state that’s about 90% run by Democrats? "I wasn’t smart enough and Dad isn’t rich enough for Phillips-Andover, and I wasn’t about to go away to any of those other snob academies."

"That’s not why I’m here, David-the school issue’s done, but there’s still the matter of the people you run with," she began.

David understood one diversion was dead and pursued another, stroking his chin and nodding. "You know mum, you’re right," he said in a reasonable voice. "I really should be more conscious of the people I hang with. Maybe get to know a few of your friends’ kids."

He suddenly grinned, snapped his fingers. "I got it! I can call up Timothy Morrison and hang with him! His father’s a big wheel in that electronics company that shut down last year so they could use third-world slave labor, right? Yeah, they’re cool people to know. Timbo’s my age and he’s got the right connections-hell, he even knows three Kennedy cousins Mum - he meets a new one every time he goes back to rehab! And if I really play my cards right, I can maybe get in with Brenda Carlson. The Carlson’s that own the newspapers? I mean if she’s recovered enough from her third abortion in two years. Hey, there’s a class crowd."

His mother’s eyes narrowed, following David as he walked across the room and placed his hands on the back of his swivel chair. She put her hands on her hips and glared while her son ignored her.

"You never used to talk to me like that! And I know what it is, too. It’s those people you're hanging out with."

"I never used to talk back because I knew it wasn’t worth the effort when you were on your high horse, Mum," David said in a tired voice. "Just like Dad turned your volume off years ago when you started in. But I’m not twelve anymore, and if you’re gonna try treating me like I am you’re in for a surprise, okay? And that’s got nothing to do with my friends-that’s just me having enough. As for friends-well I’ve got good ones, Mum," David said with frost in his voice. "Alan and Chris are two of the nicest guys you could want to meet - even if their families aren’t quite up to your social stature."

Jennifer’s lips pressed thin at the sound of the sarcasm. "Just because your father let you go to that school doesn’t mean you can’t find a decent group of kids to hang out with. I mean honestly, David! Your father and I have a social position in this town to think about, and-"

David gritted his teeth. "Social position? Ma, Dad grew up in the streets of the North End, and his father ran a junk yard in Everett. And your family? How about Papu? I know you like lettin’ your friends think you’re from Italian aristocrats, but I knew the guy, remember? Papu was a plumber in New Jersey when you were growing up - in Newark! Yeah, now there’s a piss-elegant place to be from!"

David studied the flushing face and something came to him, and a slow smile crept over his face as he decided to use the wild-card dealt to him by his father when he’d had enough of Jennifer Sciuoto.

"Hell, you always tell your friends about how you had to give up studying ‘at the Conservatory’ when you met dad," he said in with a deadly precision. He crossed his arms and cocked his head, leaning forward. "I don’t suppose you ever told any of ’em it was the Fisichelli Conservatory of Hair Design, did you? And what’s that song dad likes to hum behind your back when all those jerks are around?" He snapped his fingers and cocked his head with a fake grin. His mother’s face blanched and David leaned in for the kill. "Damn-I think it’s from that old musical, Grease! Was it ‘Beauty School Drop-Out’ or something like that?" He hummed a few notes for emphasis.

"Yeah, that’s it," David finished bitterly. "And before you start in on any of the other crap, Dad doesn’t care about those phony contacts and neither do I. He’s got a good reputation as a lawyer because he earned it, and he’s the first one to tell people he caught some good breaks early on. The closest he ever got to the Ivy league was bumpin’ into a Harvard student ridin’ the T to the old Boston State College before they closed it, and he got his law degree part time at night from one of the grind schools - so, let’s not lay it on about our ‘social position’, okay? You’re not the local contessa, and this ain’t the manor house." He kicked the chair hard enough to slam into his computer desk.

David turned back to her again. "On top of that, there’s nothing wrong with my friends; it’s not like they’re into drugs like the kids of some of your committee friends, or stealin’ crap they don’t need at Macy’s just for kicks. And Alan goes to Lawrence Catholic, so it’s not like-"

Jennifer Sciuoto held her hand up. "The St. Jacques kid isn’t bad I guess… at least his parents come from a decent background. I mean they’re just blue collar, but - "

"Roland St. Jacques’s the Distribution Manager at-"

"This isn’t about Chris!" she snapped. "It’s - it’s that other one I’m worried about," she said narrowing her eyes. "At first I thought-well, his father works under the Attorney General, so at least he has some decent background. But you’re always with him, David. And I’ve talked with some friends who have their kids at Lawrence Catholic."

David stopped cold, aware he’d suddenly lost his advantage and not comfortable with the sudden new direction the conversation might be going in. It wasn’t the usual argument about David’s choice of friends versus what his mother perceived as their social inferiority. He took in the grim look on his mother’s face.

"He has a certain… reputation, David," she said uncomfortably, licking her lips. "Rather a loathsome one, too."

Jennifer Sciuoto saw her son’s face flush and turn away. Her hands fidgeted and she balled them together in front of her and her eyes flickered furtively away from her son. She walked over to his dresser, moved some small items around.

I really don’t want to have this discussion, she told herself. But I’ve got to.

"Okay. Now, about Alan," she began in a level voice. Don’t lose your temper and he won’t lose his. The two of you can come to an understanding as long as you stay in control. "He stayed overnight again, didn’t he?" She paused, picking a few stray hairs out of David’s comb. "It seems to me Alan stays here an awful lot when your father and I go away." She turned and fixed her eyes on her son, noting with satisfaction that his face was frozen, all his early confidence suddenly drained.

"In fact, you and Alan seem to spend a lot of time together - including staying at his house."

David felt the sudden grip on his throat, and he swallowed hard.

She knows.

He felt a coldness in the pit of his stomach, but David mentally fought it off. He and Alan were always together now, and whenever one house or the other was empty and their schedules allowed it, they both spent the night together. Eileen Curran knew about her brother Alan and understood their relationship but never commented. In David’s own home, no one had ever seen fit to mention it before. Still, he was feeling less and less comfortable by the second.

You always knew it would come out sooner or later. It had to. Especially once it was just me an’ Alan.

"I’m not going to ask for… specifics," she said hesitantly, trying to hide the tone in her voice but wrinkling her nose. The subject was distasteful to her - disgusting even. "And you don’t have to comment or try to think up some lie, David. I’m not blind and I know what’s going on," she said dryly. "But I think it’s best that he doesn’t come into this house again."

She fixed her eyes steady on her son. "Certainly not when your father and I are gone, and I’d rather he wasn’t here at all. In fact, I don’t want him here at all."

David dropped onto the edge of his bed, frozen.

"Mum, I don’t know what you’re-"

"David, please!" she snapped. "Please don’t try to talk to me like I’m stupid, alright? I know what’s going on, I’m not blind. Your father may not have put two and two together, but I have. I mean seriously - what did you think? That I’d never figure out why I had this extremely attractive, smart kid everyone likes who never goes out on dates with girls? And spends all his time with a kid like - like Alan, who has a reputation for - for being-" She searched for words helplessly.


David watched her close her eyes and press her lips together.

"Don’t-don’t say that word," she said in a hoarse voice. "My God, how can something that ugly use such a nice word to describe it."

David’s jaw twitched and his eyes narrowed. "Then use the one you want to use, ‘cuz there’s plenty. Homosexual sounds kinda clinical, but queer is good. Cocksucker and fag have always been the hands-down favorite in the school yard, Mum. How’s fudge-packer or cock-hound? One of them do?"

She snapped her head up. "Don’t talk to me like that. I’m your mother."

"Yeah, you are, which is about the only reason we’re still talkin’ right now," he said defiantly. "I’m eighteen Mum. You can’t tell me who I can or can’t see. And Alan isn’t the only one who’s-"

"Stop that!" she shouted. "This isn’t a discussion, David! No, I can’t control who you see or don’t see. And I - I can’t make you into something else; but if I thought for a second there was something that would actually work, I’d do it." She shook her head. "But those things just don’t work. Believe me, I’ve checked."

"Yeah - and besides, what if someone found out?" David snapped back. "All your friends would find out and where would you be?" David shook his head, picked up a pen and tapped it on his night stand.

"What were you gonna do Mum? Have me kidnapped and sent to a re-programmer, like in one of those Christian propaganda pamphlets?" he jeered. "You just got to love those guys. ‘Save Christian America! Let ‘em all die of God’s just plague!’" He looked up at her. " ‘Drive ‘em back into the shadows like they used to be, and pretend everyone’s the same. Call the 800 number flashin’ on your screen now with your Visa card and buy your place in Heaven!’"

David shook his head, disgusted. "Shit, I bet they even run ‘two fer’ sales," he taunted. "Just like the discount stores. Those are the same guys who used to burn crosses outside of town after dark, dressed in white sheets," he added, disgusted. "They just don’t say ‘nigger’ anymore, because people get all upset. But fag’s okay!"

Jennifer held back her anger. "Don’t ever use that ‘n’ word again. It’s-it’s vulgar and disrespectful."

David’s eyebrow shot up. "And fag isn’t?"

Mrs. Sciuoto swallowed hard. "I already told you I’m not going to try any of that reprogramming nonsense… it doesn’t work, I know that." She lowered her voice, searched for control. She pressed her lips together.

"You’re my only son, and I love you, and nothing is going to change that," she said in a calculatedly softer and gentler voice. "But that doesn’t mean I have to like what you are, and it doesn’t mean I’ll let you rub my nose in it. I’m not going to stand here and make you say you’ll never-never do the disgusting things those people do-"

David looked up. "People like me, Ma! Not people like some unknown them, people like me! I do those things."

She ignored the outburst, doing what she always did when she was opposed - she chose not to hear it. "-but I won’t have it happening in my house, and I won’t have him in my house. At least you weren’t-you weren’t doing those things before you met him, and I’ve talked to enough people who deal with Lawrence Catholic to know that one’s notorious!"

David laughed. "I wasn’t ‘doing those things’ before I met Alan, Mum? He’s ‘notorious?’" David laughed, shaking his head ruefully. "He’s the one that must have corrupted me, right? Jesus, if you only knew."

His voice trailed and his head snapped up again. "Wanna know something, Mum? Alan was with one other kid before he met me - and that guy outed him to save his own sorry ass when people started to wonder what was going on between ‘em. That’s how he became ‘notorious’ - one guy shot his mouth off, and Alan didn’t think fast enough to cover his ass. I had more experience than he did! Careful, or I’ll tell you how!"

Her eyes blazed. "That’s beside the point and I don’t care!" she shouted back. "I just know I’m not going to let you two act like-like animals in my house! Alan doesn’t come here any more, period! Not to spend the night, not to visit, not even to sit in the car while you come in for something! I can’t stop you from being what you are, but I won’t have it under my nose!"

"Have you talked to Dad about all this?"

"No!" she growled back. "I don’t know what he’ll do when he figures out what’s going on."

David grunted. He had no idea what would happen either. He was sure the man wouldn’t put him out of the house, but he wouldn’t be thrilled, either. David thought of some of the people who’d gone through coming out to their parents… Alan’s father hated his son already, and finding out was just one more reason for the man to abuse the boy. Chris’ father and mother just dealt with it; they didn’t talk about it a lot, but they didn’t pretend it wasn’t real, either. Even Chris’ father knew he and Alan were a couple, and fixed it so Alan had a good paying job for the summer at the warehouse he ran. But this-he never imagined his mother would react like this. She wanted to bury her head in the sand and pretend it wasn’t real, to have everyone just go on with their lives acting like everything was all right. And that somehow forbidding Alan to even come into the house could change everything.

"This discussion is over, David."

He snorted. "This was a discussion?"

She ignored him. "You live your life outside the way you have to, but I don’t want it happening here," she said grimly. "For God’s sake, you can be discreet at least."

"Sure," he said with sarcasm. "We can be real discreet, and give each other head in an alley some place, just like in the good ol’ days when people were so discreet. I can be the family’s dirty little secret-the happy bachelor with the ‘special friend’ no one ever talks about."

Jennifer clenched her jaw one last time and slammed the door behind her, almost on the verge of frustrated tears.

David kicked the swivel chair savagely again, knocking it over. Today doesn’t suck enough, she has to pull this shit on me. What the fuck!

David threw himself on the bed again. He snarled and clenched his fists.

And why the hell’d she have to bring up the church again on top of everything else?

He rolled himself into a ball on the bed, eyes clenched shut and arms wrapped around himself, motionless, but his mind going places he’s rather not visit.

Near the end of eighth grade, David had gone to his father, informing him he wanted to go to public school. "No more nuns and no priests, Dad. I had enough of that stuff."

It was a long, bitter argument. His mother threatened to drag him to either Austin Prep or Lawrence Catholic, but David was adamant about going to a public school. Finally Albert Sciuoto over-ruled his wife and gave in. David let them think what they wanted with that battle won, but the rest of the war to be fought. That happened the following Sunday when David refused to go to Church with his mother, Albert Sciuoto - standing in his robe, unshaven and holding the paper, finally realizing he no longer had to perpetuate the lie he was going to a special Mass later in the day - shrugged and told his son to do what he thought best.

"You can’t force him, Jen," he said resigned, and not much saddened. "Mama tried that with me and Lou - we just hung out at Dunkin’ Donuts for an hour. You can’t force him to believe so forget it." Then he looked at his son. "It’s your decision, Davey. And if she leans on you, tell me about it," he’d said simply, and walked back to the kitchen for more coffee.

Church was a closed subject. Just ‘part of his growing up’, as Albert Sciuoto said. At school David heard a few remarks from nuns and teachers about how he wasn’t seen at Church, and had stunned a few people when he’d looked at Mother Superior and told her boldly if she had any questions she could call his father.

To David, it was a lot more than just ‘growing up’. It was a Saturday afternoon spent walking to another part of town, to an old red-brick church done up in high Gothic - nothing like his own modern, bright colored church with its open floor and big windows allowing the light to flood in. But David was afraid to go to his own church. He knew the priests, and they’d recognize his voice when he confessed. He still wasn’t convinced there wasn’t a loophole in the Seal of the Confessional rule; and even if there wasn’t, he didn’t want the priests that knew him and his family know about his awful sin.

David snuck into the back of the dark church, hoping no one saw him. He’d expected the lines of people like he saw on the Thursdays before a Good Friday when the sister’s insisted everyone from school take confession before Mass the next day. That church was filled with people, but this one was different.

David peered into the shadows of this strange church, a few old people sitting in the pews, a few more at the old fashioned marble rail that once ‘guarded’ the altar. Two dark-oak boxes with a carved oak door in the center between two purple-velvet curtains on either side stood mid-way down the church, to the right and left. One booth had a green light over the center door, showing the priest was available. David held his ball cap in his hands and stared at the chipped tile floor and crept cautiously down the side aisle, eyeing the older people and grateful not to see a familiar face. He read the sign on the oak door - Monsignor Bourque - and sighed with relief that the name was unfamiliar.

He fell to his knees and the slide on the screen was pulled back and they went through the correct formula for absolution. Then the hard part came.

The tired, disinterested voice of an old man mumbled. "Tell me your sins, child."

David began to cry when he babbled about the things he did with Danny. But David didn’t care about that part. He had a worse sin to confess, if he could get to it. But the priest stopped him.

"You have committed the darkest sin," the voice rasped, dripping with disgust. "Stop. I don’t need any more details."

"But Father-"

"Monsignor," the man snapped. His voice was cold. "Boy, you have committed the worst of sins. I want you to say five rosaries today - and every night for a week at home. And I insist you promise here and now - in God’s house and at the cost of your immortal soul - that you will never sin like that again before I grant you absolution."

"But Fath-Monsignor," David corrected himself, shaking his head and the words racing. He had to tell, he had to get it out. "That’s not the sin! The sin was-"

"Not a sin?" the voice rose to the harshest, throatiest whisper, rasping. "Not a sin? Get out, boy-or don’t argue with me about sin! Your cursed and damned forever unless you swear and confess!"

"I’m trying to confess!" David cried. "The real sin was-"

The priest cut him off, droned on with his angry lecture about the sins of flesh. A scared David forced back frightened tears, but then rocked back on the kneeler, staring up at faint outline of a fat old man with thinning hair who owned a nasty voice. Something snapped inside David and he frowned. Suddenly David’s eyes dried, and their look hardened.

He doesn’t care what I have to say. He won’t listen and he doesn’t care. A cold indifference suddenly filled him.

"Fuck you, Monsignor," David said softly, leaning back on his heels. He heard the tirade come to a halt, followed by a shocked silence. David got up, pushed back the purple velvet curtain and walked calmly from the booth, down the shadowy aisle. He heard a door slam open but never bothered to turn, simply pushed open the dark, heavy oak door at the rear of the church and stepped into the daylight.

On the street he stood back on the sidewalk, and looked up at the three high towers, his hard, dark eyes studying the building and frowning. Ugly, common red brick pretending to be a Gothic cathedral, capped with copper spires - an ugly green against the pale blue sky. Narrow dark windows concealed behind heavy grates, protecting stained glass but blocking the light. In his mind he could still see and smell the dark and musty air, feel the dampness.

It’s all just fake. The look, the promises - everything’s fake.

"Fuck you," he mouthed at the building, then turned and walked away. "And fuck all the phony priests," he muttered staring ahead, oblivious to the curious faces of passers-by who heard an angry boy muttering under his breath. "And fuck that whole bullshit church," he fumed. "None of ‘em ever listen - they always say only they know everything, that only they know best, and only they know what’s right. Well they don’t know shit! They don’t even know what the problem is because they won’t listen. And I don’t need their crap in my life."

When he got home late in the afternoon David ran up to his room and locked the door. He fished in his dresser for the hand-carved marble rosary his grandmother had given for his Confirmation only a year before. The rosary was made by her own father for a long dead brother, from marble chips used to build the altar in their village in Italy. David gripped the cool, shiny marble, fell to his knees and began ticking off the prayers. He mouthed each word of the ten Hail Marys that made the decade of the rosary the way he was taught, showing respect. In between was the Our Father, until the five decades were complete, and then began the next full rosary until he’d said five in full. God wasn’t the villain, so David paid what was owed. It was part of the deal he’d made when he walked into the confessional.

He knew it was his last obligation to the Catholic Church, and David said the prayers each night for a week, just as the priest ordered. It didn’t matter that the priest held back formal absolution; David made his confession with the right intent, and fulfilled his penance. That was how Confession worked - prayer for payment of sin. That took care of the sex - but after that, David would never see sex as sin again, so it couldn’t be one. He no longer considered it wrong. That was basic catechism from the first grade: it wasn’t a sin unless you knew it was sin, and believed it was sin. He’d loved Danny and had been forced to submit to Griff. But David did care that he hadn’t been able to confess what he believed to be his real sin, the one that truly condemned him.

Danny trusted David, and David abandoned him to save himself. That was David’s big sin, and that was Davis’s dark secret. That was the one thing he couldn’t get absolution for, because he couldn’t confess it - and he couldn’t forgive himself. Worse, he never got to tell about Griff.

He heard the chirp of his cell and David jerked his head up from the mattress.

Has to be Alan, he told himself as he rubbed his eyes, and snatched it up from the desk. He glanced at the clock - almost three in the afternoon. Alan would be out of work in a half hour, and expected to drive to David’s. His thumb hit receive.

"Hey, sexy," Alan started. "We all set for tonight? I can be there in less than a half hour after work."

Now what? Do I tell him he can’t come here again, ever? Or do I buy some time until I can get this worked out with Wonder Bitch?

Danny’s face flittered in front of his eyes. Damn, like I don’t have enough crap in my life today.

"Alan, look," he began. "Uh, thing’s have changed, okay? It might not be a good idea for you to come over today… listen, let me call you a little later? Six o’clock, I can call you at home. There’s, uh, some stuff goin’ on here I don’t wanna get into."

He heard a brief silence, and David was worried Alan might know something was up.

"Yeah, no prob, dude," Alan snickered. "Besides, you’re prob’ly lucky. Old Roland worked me like this place was a plantation today and I stink. Gimme a call later."

David clicked off the line and threw himself back on the bed feeling guilty about having to lie. He sighed.

How can everything go to shit all at once?

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