Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to real people or events is coincidental. It contains descriptions of sex between teenage boys and between adult men. If you are offended by this type of material, or if you are forbidden by law to read it, please exit the story now. E-mail comments are gratefully accepted. Send e-mail to brew_drinker23@yahoo.com.


Chapter 3

I met Kyle right after we moved to the beach. He was in my scout troop, and I liked him right away. He was really good looking and very well built, but the most important thing was how much fun it was to be with him. He was always smiling, and he had a million wise cracks that broke me up. We used to have fun together, along with some other boys who became my friends when I joined the scout troop, but I really got to know Kyle on a camping trip about two weeks before my dad left when we were assigned to the same tent. I later found out that that particular troop always assigned an older boy to look out for a new scout on his first few camping trips. I had been a scout since I was eleven, and I was close to being an Eagle Scout, but I was new to them. They accepted my rank because I could prove it, but they still considered me a new guy.

They had a rule about no talking after taps, same as my old troop, but pretty much nobody obeyed it (same as my old troop). As long as you stayed in your tent and kept the noise and lights down, you could stay up as late as you wanted to. That's when Kyle and I really got to be friends.

"How do you like it here," Kyle asked, once we were alone in our tent.

"It's okay. I missed my old friends at first, but I've made some new ones," I said.

"Cool. Do you play any sports," he asked.

I told him that I played baseball. From there the conversation was all over the place, touching on just about every subject kids talk about.

In that conversation, I learned that Kyle was sixteen and that he had been kept back in kindergarten. He was a sophomore in high school, and he was on the cross country team. I didn't really know what that was, so he explained about running long distances on the street and through fields and woods, instead of on a track. It sounded cool to me. He said he had an older brother who was away from home in college, and his parents owned some motels and stores on the beach. He told me he really liked acting, and he had been in two plays since he started high school. He was going to be in another one in the spring. He had his license and a car, and his parents were pretty cool about letting him come and go as he felt like doing.

Eventually, the conversation got around to sex. We were both in our briefs lying on top of our sleeping bags, and I could see the outline of his penis and balls through his underwear. We had a tiny flashlight turned on, so it wasn't totally dark in the tent. I tried not to look at him in a way that was obvious, but he had a beautiful body. I wanted to touch him, but I knew he'd beat the shit out of me if I did.

"Have you ever seen a girl naked," he asked.

"Pictures, but not the real thing," I said. "Have you?"

"I saw my cousin once. It wasn't much, but I saw her completely naked when I passed the room she was in to change into her bathing suit."

"Wow. Was she fine," I asked.

"Yeah. And she had hair down there, just like I do. Do you have any hair yet," he asked.

"Yeah," I said.

"Cool," he said.

"Did you get a boner when you saw your cousin," I asked.

"Naw. Did you get a boner looking at those pictures of naked girls?"

"Not really," I said. "Do guys always get boners when they see pictures of naked girls?"

"I guess not. I don't, and you didn't. You're not gay, are you?"

My heart skipped a few beats, and I suddenly became nervous as hell. I had been wondering about that about myself for a couple of years, but I was pretty sure I knew I was gay. I hadn't talked to anybody about it before, even my dad, and I had read a bunch of Web sites that had stories about gay guys coming out and stuff. I knew it was okay to be gay, or at least they thought it was okay to be gay. I knew that I got a boner when I looked at pictures of naked guys on the Web, especially if they were hard or were with another naked guy. I also knew that I wouldn't say no if Kyle wanted to kiss me at that moment.

My lack of a quick denial must have made him more curious.

"It would be okay with me if you are gay, Tim." He said that very gently, and his tone of voice implied complete acceptance.

"Maybe," I whispered.

"Maybe what? Maybe you're gay?"

"Yeah," I said, again in a whisper.

"Maybe I'm gay, too," he said.

I felt a sudden surge of excitement at those words.

"Does seeing guys naked make you hard," I asked.

"Yeah. You?"

"Yeah," I said.

"What else about a guy makes you hard," he asked.

"Well, sometimes just looking at a good looking guy, especially if he doesn't have a shirt on, makes me hard." I didn't say, "And lying next to you in just our underwear makes me hard," but I was thinking it. In fact, I was well on my way to a full boner.

Kyle propped himself up on the elbow closest to me, and he looked at me.

"You're hard right now, aren't you," he asked.

I nodded shyly. Nobody but my dad had ever seen me hard before, and he only had a couple of times when he came into the bathroom when I was peeing in the morning. He had just ignored it, and I hadn't really given it much thought. Having Kyle that close to me, looking at me and knowing I was hard, was a tremendous turn-on, and I could feel the front of my briefs getting wet.

I don't know what would have happened next because right at that moment there was a whisper outside the front of our tent.

"Kyle," the voice said.

Kyle jumped a little.

"What," he whispered back.

"It's me. Philip. You got any smokes?"

"Shit," Kyle said to me. "Wait up," he whispered to Philip.

I hurried up and got inside my sleeping bag. Kyle stood up, and I saw him in profile. His dick was pushing out against his underwear, and it looked huge. He reached his hand inside his briefs to adjust himself to point straight up, and he got into his jeans. Once his jeans were zipped up, I could only see the faintest outline of his erection. He put his shoes on without tying them, and he left the tent. I heard another voice whisper, "All right, man," and then the three of them moved away from our tent. Kyle was gone for about twenty minutes, I guessed, and, when he came back in, he smelled like he had been smoking and maybe drinking, too. I pretended I was asleep when he got back, and that was it for that night.

The next day, Kyle and I didn't talk about our mutual revelation about ourselves the night before. We had a great time playing football, cooking on the camp fire, and doing all the things you do on scout outings.

When I got home late that afternoon, my dad asked how the camp out went. I told him I had a great time and had made a new friend. He asked me who, and I told him about Kyle. I didn't tell him everything, of course, but I did tell him I liked him enough for him to be my best friend.

That night we were in the den watching TV, and the show Queer As Folk came on. Dad was reading, and he didn't notice what it was, at first. He glanced up, though, and saw two guys kissing.

"What are we watching, son," he asked me.

"It's Queer as Folk. It's on Showtime," I said.

"Did it bother you that those two guys were kissing," he asked.

I shrugged.

"You know what `gay' means, don't you?"

"Dad, I'm fourteen, not four. Of course I know what `gay' means."

"I didn't mean to offend you, Tim, but I just wanted to make sure. And I didn't care much for your tone of voice."

"Sorry, Dad."

He closed his book and paid attention to the show. He didn't say anything during the show, and I didn't, either. I wished I had gone to my room to watch it, but I was afraid to leave, for some reason.

"I heard something about this show on the radio the other day. Apparently many gay men are offended by it."

I didn't answer for a few seconds. Then, "Why?"

"They say it trivializes homosexuality and makes it seem that the only things gay men want is sex, drugs, and booze."

I didn't say anything.

"I wonder if Kevin and Rick watch it," he said.

Kevin and Rick were our next door neighbors, and all four of us had gotten to be pretty good friends. Rick was a great athlete, and he told us he had run in the Ironman Triathlon and finished it. If he saw me outside shooting baskets, he would usually come over and shoot with me. He was fun to hang out with, and, while I knew he and Kevin were gay, I never really thought of them that way.

"They sure aren't like those guys on that show," I said.

"I think that's the point the critic was making. Those boys next door are a loving, committed couple. They're not out picking up guys and partying all night long."

There was a short pause.

"Well, sport, it's time for bed. Good night, Tim. I love you."

I got up when he did. "I love you, too, Dad. See you in the morning."

I thought about Kyle that night in bed, and I tried to picture what his penis looked like. I had measured mine, so I knew how big it was. I wondered how big his was. I also wondered if he had a foreskin like I did. I hated not looking like the other guys when I was little, but by then I was pretty much used to being stared at in locker rooms and public showers.

I thought about Kyle's chest and his beefy legs. I even thought about the shadow of beard I had noticed that morning when we got up. I wondered what it would be like to touch his face and feel the prickle of his whiskers.

In bed that night, when the pressure down below got to be too much to bear, I used my left hand and pretended it was Kyle. I grunted when the time came, but I was sure my dad hadn't heard.

I didn't see Kyle at school on Monday or Tuesday. That wasn't unusual, though. I rarely saw him, except occasionally at lunch, and he would always be at a table with two or three people, usually girls. We ate lunch at the restaurant that was part of a hotel a block from school. They had a big buffet, and it was good.

Wednesday of that week was the monthly School Improvement Day. That basically meant we had our four class periods, but they were only fifty minutes instead of the usual ninety. They turned us loose for the day at 11:15. I stopped that day at my biology classroom to pick up some forms for the science fair, and I ended up missing my bus. That had happened before, and it was no big deal. I lived about three miles from school, and I could walk it easily. It was a beautiful day, and I took my tee shirt off to get some sun on the way home. The warm winter weather in Florida freaked my dad out, but I loved it.

I was about six blocks from home when this car came up behind me. I was on the sidewalk, so I didn't even look over at it. Then I heard a whistle, the kind some guys make to flirt with pretty girls. I turned to see who it was. To my surprise, it was Kyle. He was leaning partly out the window. He stopped, and I stopped walking.

"Come on. Get in, and I'll take you home," he said.

"That's all right," I said. "I've only got a few more blocks. I'll walk."

"Aw, Tim. Come on, man. Let me drive you home." There was a pleading quality to his voice, and he looked so cute I couldn't resist.

I got in the car, and Kyle extended his hand for me to shake. I did, and he seemed to hold it just a little longer than you might ordinarily do.

"What's up, dude," he asked.

"Not much. What's up with you," I replied, like I always did.

"Not much. Where do you live?"

"On this street. Three more blocks," I said.

"No, shit! This is the street I live on, too. In fact, that's my house right there." He pointed to a really nice house on the water side of the street. The street ran down a lagoon, and the houses that were on waterfront property were much nicer than the ones on my side of the street.

"Cool. We're neighbors," I said.

There was a pause in our talking.

"How do you get to school in the morning," he asked.

"Cheese wagon," I said. That was our name for the yellow school buses I rode.

"Bummer. Want to ride with me?"

"Hey, this is my house," I said. He turned into the driveway. "Yeah, that would be cool. I won't have to leave the house as early. It's only three miles to school, but they pick us up at seven o'clock."

"Fuck, man. Do you have time to eat breakfast," he asked.

"Yeah. Cereal or a couple of pop tarts," I said.

"Me, too. But at least I can get up a little later. Or spend a little time with my friend in the shower." He grinned a wicked grin. At first I didn't know what he was talking about. Then he glanced down to his lap, and I caught it. I'm sure I blushed. He laughed.

"Thanks for the ride," I said as I started to get out of the car. "Do you want me to walk down to your house tomorrow morning? What time do you leave?"

"I leave at 7:20, but I'll pick you up. Walking's okay on nice days, but it would suck on rainy days. I'll pick you up at 7:20 Be ready."

"Right," I said. Try standing in the rain to catch a bus, I thought.

"What are you going to do this afternoon," he asked.

I shrugged. "Hang out, I guess. Watch TV. I don't know."

"Can I hang out with you?"

I couldn't believe I hadn't thought to ask him. I had thought about almost nothing but him since the camping trip, and I hadn't recognized the opportunity of a whole afternoon with nothing to do but hang out with him.

"Sure. Come on in."

Kyle followed me into my bedroom when we got inside. It was a wreck, as usual, but not as bad as it sometimes was. My dad believed everybody should have privacy in their bedroom, so he never went into mine. He made me keep the door closed at all times, though, because he didn't want to see my mess. The door had a lock, but I rarely used it because I knew he'd never barge in on me.

"Nice room," Kyle said. I couldn't tell if he was being sarcastic or not, so I just said "thanks."

He walked over to my side of the bed and bent down. He picked up the sock I had been using to clean up with for the last week or so, held it up to his nose, and took a deep smell. He looked at me and gave me a wicked grin.

I was embarrassed almost to death, and I know I turned bright red because I saw myself in the mirror.

He laughed at my embarrassment, and that only embarrassed me more.

"Why are you turning red? All guys do it, man, and this is better than a big old wet spot that you have to sleep in." His logic was impeccable, but I had had enough of it.

"Let's go," I said and turned to leave my room.

He caught up with me.

"Hey, you're not mad at me, are you? I was just teasing you, Tim. I don't want you to be mad at me."

He put his hand on my shoulder, and I stopped. I turned to face him, and he had the cutest sad look on his face I had ever seen. I grinned, and he beamed back at me.

"I'm not mad at you, Kyle. I was just caught off guard a little. Of course it's my own damn fault for leaving it out in the middle of the room."

"Did you think about me while you were doing it? `Cause lately I've been thinking about you when I do it."

Oh, my God, I thought. I'm going to faint. I couldn't believe what I had just heard. For one thing, I couldn't believe he had asked me that, and for another thing I couldn't believe he had said he'd been thinking about me lately when he masturbated. My dick got hard as a rock in an instant. I liked Kyle more than I had ever liked anybody before, and for him to think about me when he masturbated was more than I could have hoped for.

"Well, do you," he asked. "Don't be shy, man. I told you, didn't I?"

"Yes," I said softly.

"Yes you think about me when you jerk off, or yes I told you?"

"Both," I whispered.

He grinned at me in a way that let me know I had said what he was hoping to hear. Neither of us knew what to do after that revelation. In a few seconds, though, I came back to planet earth.

"Let's make some lunch," I said.

"Good idea," he replied, and we went to the kitchen.


We each made ourselves two ham and cheese sandwiches, and I put them on paper plates. I piled on a generous serving of chips, and I got us each a couple of medium-size pickles. I pulled two drinks from the fridge, and started moving over to the table.

"Let's eat outside," he said.

Without responding, I picked up my plate and drink, and headed toward the back door. Kyle was right behind me. We set our food on the table, and I sat down. I was still without a shirt, and Kyle took his off before he sat down across from me. We didn't say much while we ate, but we kept looking at each other.

After he finished eating, Kyle got out his cigarettes.

"Do you want one," he asked me.

I had smoked a few times with my friends in the past, and every time I had gotten a light-headed feeling. I didn't especially like the taste of cigarettes, but I did like the way they made me feel. Since I had already done and said things that day that were way out of character for me, I figured, what the hell.

I took a cigarette, and Kyle held his lighter to it for me. I inhaled too deeply, and I coughed a little. After another drag, though, I was fine.

My neighbor Rick chose that very moment to show up in his back yard. He was looking around like he was looking for something.

"Jesus Christ! Who is that piece of eye candy," Kyle asked.

"Shhhh. Not so loud. He'll hear you. That's Rick, and he's married."

Kyle didn't react to that last statement.

"To a guy," I said. My dramatic pause before that last line had the effect I had hoped it would.

"No fucking way!" Kyle said.

Kyle said that pretty loud, and Rick must have heard him because he looked over toward us. He waved. Without thinking, Kyle and I both waved back with the same hand we were holding our cigarettes in. Rick would had to have been blind not to see them. He laughed a little.

"Are you guys skipping school, Tim," Rick asked.

"No, half day today," I said in reply.

"Enjoy the afternoon, guys," he said.

"Thanks. You, too, Rick," I said.

He answered by making a gesture like he was digging with a shovel and throwing the dirt over his shoulder to mean he'd be working. I laughed, but it wasn't really funny. He went over and looked at a sprinkler head, and then he counted other sprinkler heads. He gave me the okay sign and left.

"He's married to a guy," Kyle asked incredulously. "Is he gay?"

"Have you ever had your IQ tested," I asked.

Kyle saw the stupidity of his question and laughed.

"Damn, man. You have a gay couple living right next door. Do your parents know about them?"

"It's just my dad, and, yeah, he knows. They're good friends of ours. I've even stayed with them a few times when my dad had to be out of town."

"He's let you stay with two gay guys," Kyle asked, not believing it once again.

"Yeah. Why the hell not? They're great guys. They're both real smart, and they both have awesome jobs. That guy you just saw, Rick, is a big-time endurance athlete."

"What does that mean," he asked.

"Triathlon and marathon," I said.

"No shit! That's awesome. Did the run the Ironman they had here a couple of months ago?"

"Not this year. He ran it last year, though. He had a bike accident right before New Years, and he told me his triathlon days are over, for now at least. He's gonna concentrate on marathon for now."


We finished our smokes in silence. Then Kyle spoke up.

"Have you ever talked to them about sex?"

"No. Why should I have," I asked.

"Aren't you curious about what they do together," he asked.

"I know what gay guys do for sex," I said.

"Well, yeah, I know you do, but, damn, I'd love to talk to them," he said.

We relaxed for a while in the sun, but I got kind of bored.

"You feel like playing some video games," I asked.

We played video games the rest of the afternoon. We went back outside for a little while for Kyle to smoke, and I had another one, too. After a few hours, we heard my dad pull up.

"I guess it's time for me to go home," Kyle said.

"Wait and meet my dad. I'd invite you to stay for dinner, but we just sort of snack on our own. This has been a great day for me, man."

"Me, too, Tim. I feel like there's some kind of link between us, you know?"

"You think it's that we're maybe both gay," I asked, as much to see his reaction, as anything.

"That's part of it, for sure, but I just like you. I feel like I've always known you, you know?"

"Yeah, I do. I feel the same way."

Kyle and I both had our shirts on by then, and Kyle had put his cigarettes in his shirt pocket. I didn't think anything about it, and I was sure that was what he usually did. When I introduced him to my dad, I could tell Hawkeye George spotted them first thing. He didn't say anything to Kyle, though, and that was a relief. He waited until Kyle was out the driveway before he started.

"Tell me about your friend," he said.

"What do you want to know," I asked.

"Well, just general stuff. You know."

"He's an Eagle," I said.

"An Eagle Scout?"

"Yeah. He's a sophomore. He is on the cross country team at school."

"How old is he," he asked.


"And he's a sophomore?"

"He had to repeat kindergarten," I said.

I hated it when I got the third degree from my dad. I always felt like I had done something wrong and was being interrogated by the police or something.

"Was that his car?"

"Yes." I knew I must have sounded defensive, but I felt like he didn't like him even though they had just met.

"Nice car," he said. "And he smokes."

It was just a statement, but I knew he wanted some kind of response from me. My dad was the coolest guy in the world about 98 per cent of the time, but times like that, when I was under interrogation, were terrible.

"Yeah," I said.

"A lot of boys his age, and your age, too, experiment with cigarettes, Tim. I know that. If you decide to smoke, I won't be able to do anything about that. My parents couldn't, and I know I can't either. Starting smoking was the dumbest thing I've ever done, and quitting was the hardest. But I want you to know the health risks involved."

He went into a thirty minute sermon about smoking and health. I had heard it five or six times before, and besides boring the piss out of me, it made me feel guilty as hell because I had smoked those two cigarettes that afternoon. By the time he finished, I was in a foul mood.

"What's the matter, son?"

"Well, it's just that every time you talk about stuff like that I feel like you're yelling at me."

"Tim, it was never my intention to make you feel bad," he said.

"I know."

"Does Kyle have a girlfriend," he asked, no doubt to change the subject.

"No. Not that I know of," I said.

"I would think a boy as good looking as he is, and with a car, would have lots of girls chasing him," he said.

I just shrugged without any expression on my face, but inside I was a nervous wreck. Please don't say the G word, I thought. Then I decided, hell, why not?

"Do you think he might be gay," I asked.

"It wouldn't make any difference to me if he were gay, Tim. Surely you know that."

"I guess."

"Is he gay, Tim?"

"Would it make any difference to you if I was gay," I asked. I didn't look at him. I was scared.

"Are you gay, son," he asked. Whatever hostility he might have shown earlier toward cigarettes was totally gone from his voice. He was gentleness itself when he asked that question.

"Yes," I said in barely more than a whisper.

"Are you sure?"

"I think so," I whispered again.

He hugged me hard. I felt the warmth from his body, and I knew my being gay would never be an issue between us.

"I love you, Tim. And thank you for trusting me," he said.

"I love you, too," I said. I squirmed a little, and he broke the hug. It was great, but it was getting uncomfortable.

"Will you tell Kevin and Rick for me," I asked.

"You don't want to tell them yourself," he asked.

"No. I'd be too embarrassed," I said.

"Those boys are our friends, Tim. We're lucky to have them. In my mind, at least, they're what Gay Pride is all about. But, yes, I'll tell them." Then, after a pause, "Have you read anything about being gay?"

I told him about some of the Web sites of gay teens I had read.

"Did any of those boys say anything about being picked on for being gay," he asked.

"A few, but not many. I know some gay kids get picked on, Dad, and some even get beaten up, but I don't think that happens to everyone. But I'll be super careful, if that's what you're worried about."

"It is, Tim, and I know you will be. Do you think any of your friends are gay," he asked.

"You mean besides Kyle? I don't know. Probably. There is a club at school called the Gay-Straight Alliance. I'm sure some of those people are gay or lesbian."

"Are you a member," he asked.

"No. Should I be?"

"Well, you have to be the judge of that. On one hand, it might give you a chance to get to know other gay kids. There's strength in numbers, you know. On the other hand, though, it might make people suspicious of you. As I said, you have to judge that for yourself."


"Would it offend you if I asked whether you've had sex?"

"No, it wouldn't offend me, but, no, I haven't. I've never even kissed anyone."

"I didn't think so. Well, son, I'm sure when the time comes you'll handle it well. I'm sure you'll have questions about sex that I can't answer, though. Never be afraid to ask me, but I'm not promising I'll know the answer. But I bet Rick and Kevin will."

I nodded.

"Do you know about safe sex," he asked.

"Well, a little. I've read stuff on the Web about it," I said.

"Before you have sex, anal sex, anyway, please find out all you can about how to be safe."

"I will, Dad, but I don't see that happening," I said.

"Well, you'll know, if it ever comes to that," he said.

I couldn't imagine ever having butt sex. I wanted to touch Kyle and kiss him and jerk him off, even, but anything else was a little more than I wanted to think about.

"How do you feel right now?"

"I feel good. Why?"

"Do you feel like going out to eat?"

"Sure." And we did.

That night in bed I thought about everything that had happened that day. I thought about what it would be like to kiss Kyle and to see him naked. I thought about what he had said about thinking about me while he jerked off, and it thrilled me that he did that. I wanted Kyle badly. I didn't understand exactly why I wanted to touch him and kiss him and cuddle with him, but I wanted to. I used the left-hand technique again that night, and Kyle was in my mind's eye the whole time.

The next morning when we were talking on the way to school, I brought up the idea of joining the GSA. He said he had thought about it, too, but then he said he had all the gay friends he needed.

"Like who," I asked.

"You, dumbass. Who do you think I meant?"

I laughed, and I felt warm and wonderful.

Thursday and Friday were just ordinary days. Kyle and I hung out after school, and we talked to one another on the phone at night. I liked him more and more every day, and I wanted to touch him and kiss him and rub my naked body on his more and more every day.

My dad and I didn't have any more heart-to-heart talks Thursday night or Friday morning, and everything was just like it always was. Friday night was another story.

I had planned on asking if Kyle could spend the night, but the look on my dad's face when he came home from work told me that probably wasn't a good idea. He said 'hi' when he came in, but he went directly into his office and closed the door. It made me a little nervous for him to do that, but I figured he had had a hard day or something. In a little while he called me to come to his office.

"Hi. What's up," I asked.

"It's something at work. I've been assigned to a hospital ship to help take care of our soldiers and marines. I have to leave Sunday."

"Shit!" I said. It had slipped out, but he didn't comment. I had said that word a few times before around him, and he always corrected me. That time, though, he didn't even flinch.

"Shit is right, son. I just got off the phone with your grandparents, and they're not able to help."

"Dad, I really don't want to move up there."

"I know, and I don't want you to. They couldn't handle you, anyway."

"Because of Gramgram," I asked. She was my great-grandmother, and I knew she was sick.

"That, and grandpa's in a wheelchair full time now because of his arthritis. I've known for a couple of months about him, but I didn't want to worry you."

"Why can't I just stay here?"

"You can't stay here by yourself. That's out of the question."

"Rick and Kevin would check on me, and I could go to them if I needed help with anything I couldn't handle," I said.

His facial expression changed suddenly, and I could tell he was thinking. He picked up the phone and dialed a number. He put it down without saying anything.

"I'll talk to them about maybe letting you stay with them," he said. "They're not home yet, though."

"Dad, you've always said this could happen on a moment's notice. This is something bad, but at least you won't be fighting."

"Good point. Well, I've got a lot to do in the next couple of days. I need to get started. Call for a pizza, why don't you?"

"Okay. Is there anything I can do to help," I asked.

"Yeah, actually, there is. Will you wash my clothes for me?"

"Oh, sure." I had washed my own clothes since I was ten, and I knew just what to do. I called for pizza, and then I got busy on the clothes.

After we had eaten, Dad went back into his office. I did something I hadn't done in a long time. I went into my room, got on my knees and prayed. I prayed that my dad would be safe, and I prayed that Kevin and Rick would say yes. In twelve hours my second prayer was answered.