The following story is for adults and contains descriptions of sexual contact between teenage males. If you are a minor it is illegal for you to read, or if you find the subject objectionable, read no further. All the characters, events and settings are the product of my over-active imagination. I hope you like it. Mail me or if literary analysis interests you visit Eliot's Space.
Conversation 1, Monday, June 6th
The shelf seemed bare to an eye unenthusiastic about actually combining ingredients together into something palatable. A block of cheddar would require finding a knife and the ham was too recent. For the rest, it looked like fruit and vegetables. "Just give me a soda."
"But I'm hungry"
"Get back here you goof, you haven't finished your summary yet and I need it." The container had some pasta his mother had brought home the night before. He sniffed it and decided that it just might meet his needs. He grabbed two cans before he turned back to her.
"You don't need the summary. You have this stuff down cold. Let's watch something."
"If you are not going to study, I'll just go home. What's in that?"
"Bring an extra fork with you." He dropped the container and cokes on the table and turned back for the flatware. They were compatible; she did not expect him to zap it in the microwave. He went back to the literature summaries and they sat contentedly working in silence. Between sentences they took turns picking at the cold shrimp fettuccini. Occasionally they would break the silence to ask a question or share a point. Mandy stopped for a moment and sucked her pen. "Ms. Cannon is okay, but she could have done a better job on this review outline. I mean, we don't really know what she expects here." Mandy liked certainty. Daniel was less concerned about it. He resigned himself to studying for tests, but it usually came easily. Mandy struggled. "We don't even know what she expects on an essay."
"Sorry, she gave that to us last Friday when you were missing." Daniel rummaged through his binder and located three pages he had overlooked. She glanced at the sheets without comment and went back to her reading. Studying together was a new thing for them. It was part of their relationship now. Even though they only shared one class, they still found working together a pleasure. Mandy was aware of the shift in his mood and caught the change in posture. Daniel was predictable.
The phone's ring pulled Daniel away from his musings. He glanced at Mandy before searching the couch for the receiver. He wondered if Simon had changed his mind about studying with them. "Hey"
"Arlo, hey, what do you want?" Daniel glanced back at Mandy. She did not respond to his look. After a moment she picked up her fork and twirled a thread of noodle before stabbing a shrimp. He had not talked to her about the park.
"What's wrong, I thought we were cool. You like, just blew me off today."
"I was studying man. Its exam week you know."
"That's bull Daniel, it was lunch and you were stuffing fries into your mouth." Daniel could hear the anger in Arlo's voice and it just served to harden him. "When did you start eating lunch with Laine?" Daniel did not like that line of questioning.
"What do you want Arlo?" he repeated the question. He turned his back on Mandy and walked toward the balcony. Daniel had half a mind to go out where the conversation would be more private.
"So when did you become friends?"
"He's on the cross country team with Simon. I run with them sometimes, you know that." Daniel was glad Laine had not put the jacket on. "He's not really my friend." It felt wrong as soon as he said it. He glanced back at Mandy. She continued to pick at the food, but he could tell she was listening to him. "What does it matter anyway? You hang out with that shit Donald now."
"Do you like him?"
"What is that supposed to mean?" Arlo knew him too well and he hated it.
"I know you man. Do you remember the YMCA? I do." There was a silence and Arlo seemed to expect some kind of answer. They exchanged breaths over the phone and after a bit Arlo continued to harass Daniel "I know you like it. You fucked me; I'll bet you love to suck cock. Is that what you think you're going to do? Are you going to fuck my boyfriend?" Arlo hissed out his fears as if someone was listening at his end. Daniel glanced at Mandy and followed his first impulse. He closed the door mindful of Mandy behind him. "Are you gay?" Arlo demanded.
"Are you?" Daniel answered evasively. He was not going to have this conversation. "Mandy and I are together," and then he caught his own reflection in the window and for a moment the anxious eyes was not his, but Laine's and Daniel could not bear to hear his own lies. "Look, I'll tell you the truth. I think Laine is cool. He is my friend and I like him. Why you turned to that fag Donald when you could be with Laine I don't know and right now I'm not even sorry. Anything between us is our business and nobody else's. Nobody, you understand what I am trying to say here Arlo?" Daniel's voice had an edge to it, but with his next words he gave way to his bewilderment and the burden of helplessness he carried when it came to his oldest friend. "You need help Arlo and I don't have the time to give it to you."
"Laine's not like us Daniel; he's just a good Catholic boy afraid of sex. Probably went to confession and told his priest." Daniel was bewildered by Arlo's words. Then he almost laughed at the thought of Laine sharing his sex life with a priest. Daniel imagined Laine's frank description of one of their sweat-filled tangles delivered to some old man in a stuffy wooden confessional straight out of a movie or a Seinfield episode..
"Laine's okay, but you'll get tired of him after a while. You'll see. You'll figure out Simon Marks is the same looser he was in elementary school too. I know what you want." Daniel knew he was talking about that first cursed time when they had fooled around together. Arlo kept digging it up like a rotting bone and it nausiated Daniel. It was so different with Amber. They had an unspoken understanding that it had happened, it had been fun, and Daniel had quickly accepted that it would likely never happen again.
"Christ, just forget that why don't you? It was a mistake. We both fucked up. We were stupid." All his frustration with Arlo came out suddenly in a rush. "I don't know you anymore man. You tell me you go to these parties and fuck around like a slut. Your doing damage to yourself. Where's the self respect man? You phone me up and talk about your crazy parties like I want to hear the details. Keep it to yourself Arlo. It's not a pretty picture to keep in my head. What was with you yesterday? You were going to help that fucking rapist work over some guys or something?"
"Its just fun" Arlo interjected defensively.
"Fun like you had by the river?"
"It is different this time. "
"God Arlo, you're so full of shit." Daniel could have wept. He glanced back at Mandy through the glass. She was watching him and Daniel felt the panic set in. Arlo was going to have a melt down on him and then Arlo would try and get Mandy's sympathetic ear. She still listened to him. She wanted to believe they were all still the same friends from 7 th Avenue school and that nothing had really changed. "Look, I don't want to fight with you man" he leaned his head against the door and suddenly a tear dripped down onto his nose. "You can't be doing this Arlo. This isn't you man, this isn't you. Don't make me fight you too."
"It's not a war dude. We just grew up, that's all. I mean, do you want to be a dorky freshman still? Ravi and Marty, they are so lame dude." They were both struggling to pull back. Neither of them wanted to look down into the gulf that had opened between them. "They will be fine and it's our turn to have a little fun. Hey Daniel, what did you think of that kid with Ravi and Marty?"
"What kid?" Daniel thought for a moment and then the name came back to him, Scandinavian, Neil Lindquest or something. It definitely started with an L.
"Now who is full of shit? I'll bet you noticed him."
"What is your point Arlo?"
"Donald bid on him."
Daniel suddenly remembered the comments in Ms. Cannon's English class. It was all so predictable. He remembered the story The New Kid and how the boy in it had been so happy that someone else was would be the new victim. Daniel had not gotten the point of the story then, but he did now: everyone wants out from under even if it meant climbing over the prostrate body of someone who was more vulnerable. He thought about the fresh-faced kid on the sandbar and he did not want to imagine him assaulted like Arlo had been. Daniel opened the glass door and walked slowly back to Mandy as he listened to Arlo continue.
"Leave it alone Arlo" Daniel pleaded with a sad voice.
"Are you going to any parties on Friday?"
"I don't know" Mark did not have the time of day for freshie fun. Denver had told Mark it was better to pick his own freshie than have one saddled on him in the fall. Daniel did not think Mark was going to listen to him. Yeskem, Denver, a thin gilt edge appeared along the side of conversation's ominous cloud.
Arlo's voice still grated against his ear. Daniel sat next to Mandy again and leaned on the island. He felt very tired. Arlo wanted to push his canoe down a different branch and Daniel knew he was going another way. Mandy brushed a hand over his back. Daniel finally interupted Arlo, "I have to study, okay?"
"Sure, me too, maybe next year we'll get some more classes together."
It was like Arlo had not listened to him at all. Daniel cut the connection without further comment. He felt shitty and he knew he had not been completely honest. He was just glad to be off the phone. He picked up his fork and stabbed at the last of the noodles.
Mandy fussed with her papers and let him brood. She knew there was a problem between them still. "Look, I'll talk with him Daniel, it will be alright. He doesn't want to listen to you. Things are better now that the year is over. He will come around."
"He still hangs with that turd Donald."
"He's mad at me because we were sitting with his old boy friend at lunch today."
"Well Laine needs friends too. You don't mind sitting with Laine do you?" Daniel shook his head. "At least you know he's gay so you don't have to be jealous." She was never going to let him forget his confusion about Carlos and Victor.
"Hey Mandy, you can stop saying that now. I like Laine a lot. I guess right now I like being with him more than I like Arlo." Daniel tried to gage her reaction to his words. He was never completely dishonest with her. Mandy should recognize by this point that Daniel was attracted to boys. He was just not sure she had worked out the import of this fact yet. Some things did not have to be explained though. Daniel was entitled to his own space just like Mandy was entitled to hers. Daniel had decided his sex life was private. "It's like you Mandy. You mostly hang with a new crowd. Well it is the same with me. I don't connect with the old gang much at all; pretty much just you and Simon. Do you understand?"
"Yes, I guess I can see that Daniel."
He finally smiled at her and she scratched his back again.
"Are we done studying?" he asked hopefully.
"Not a chance" She gave him a playful kiss on the cheek and returned to her work. Daniel picked up his pencil and played with it for a moment. He experimented with pushing Arlo from his thoughts, but he was troubled about Arlo's last words to him.
"I have to cut him loose Mandy. Tell him I don't want to talk to him for a while. Tell him I need some space." Tell him to leave Laine and the little kids alone next year. "Do you understand?"
"Give it some time Daniel. Arlo needs a friend too." He nodded to reassure her, but he knew he could not handle Arlo any more.
Magic, Thursday June 9th
"He's over there, just drop us off here mom." Daniel was leaning against the brick wall beside the door to the theatre. Denver's jacket hung loosely around his shoulders and his fists were thrust deep into his pants. He pulled a hand out and gave a small wave when he recognized Laine's car.
"Be sure to thank him for the coat."
"I'll be back at nine thirty to pick you all up." Laine sighed at the delay. "You and Daniel might be on vacation, but Nick has school tomorrow." Laine's constant shadow pushed against his side and he gave him a quick elbow.
"This sucks, I get better grades than Laine does and he gets out two days earlier."
"We have been over this Nick, Laine is in high school." Laine checked his wallet for the third time and bailed out of the car before she could offer any further advice. Daniel pushed himself away from the wall as he approached. They punched knuckles and let their shoulders brush a little as they turned toward the door. After that they tried to keep their distance.
"Hey Nick" Daniel offered eyeing the small boy bouncing beside Laine. The fifth grader had recognized him from the YMCA pool the first time Daniel had visited Laine's house. It was inevitable that the eleven-year old would weasel his way into Laine's night out. Nick smiled back and ducked through the door ahead of them. They caught up to him at the monitor where he was studying the choices.
"How about this one" it was not the movie they had agreed to see. Daniel would have been willing to switch, but it was 14A and he did not think they would be able to sneak Nick in.
"We have to stick to the plan. It starts too late and mother will be pissed off if we are not outside on time." Daniel marveled at Laine's patience with his brother. "We can rent it when it comes out."
Nick shrugged his shoulders. It had been worth a try. He watched while the older boys bought the tickets. When Laine handed him the slips for the popcorn and drinks he bounced over to the counter while Daniel and Laine waited for him by the arcade.
The chatter of enticing electronic noises filled the empty lobby. It was a school night and most of the films had been out for a while. Daniel watched the people drift around the games before turning back to look at Nick. He was a small version of his brother and Daniel was amused by their similarities. They had the same features, hair style and expressions. They even had the same cute butts. Nick turned to find his brother. He had a look of consternation on his face. "He can't handle it all."
"I'll help him" Laine headed toward the boy and Daniel followed. They shared the load and went in search of seats. Daniel listened while Laine overruled Nick's choice of seats. Daniel looked around the half empty theatre as the brothers haggled about the distance from the screen. Clumps of teenagers sat chattering together. If they had gone to the multiplex down town he might have recognized some of them. Laine used to live far enough out that his parents thought the city center a wild and dangerous place. The three boys finally settled down about midway up the theater.
As the previews began Daniel slumped next to Laine and found his thoughts drifting to Garrett. He had not followed through on his decision to reveal their relationship.
He might have invited Garrett to come to the movies. He was about Nick's age. Garrett and Nick did not seem similar, but it would have been easier hanging out with him if there were a few other people around. Well that would not have brought Daniel any closer to settling the matter. Daniel listened to Laine whispering with his brother. Daniel did not have that kind of history with Garrett.
Daniel was drawn to Garrett. He felt the connection, or a least he yearned for a connection like Laine had with Nick. Daniel and Denver talked as if they were brothers, but Daniel understood he had something different with the eighteen-year-old.
Laine leaned back toward him. "I'm sorry I brought Nick. I know it sucks."
"No problem Laine, we're just watching a movie here buddy."
"Yes, and it is kind of lame" Laine added. Laine was stressing things too much.
"You don't like magic?" Daniel had seen the movie with Mandy the week before. Wizards with British accents; it was not the kind of movie he would gladly see twice. Mandy had read the series of books and had little patience for his confusion. He found it easier to follow the second time through. "Mandy loves this stuff. Lord of the Rings was okay though." The movie, not the book, Daniel had tried to read Denver's dog-eared copy of that but gave up quickly when it bog down in Hobbit and Elvish poetry.
"I like blood." Laine pointed to a character scampering through a castle. "If the red head there gets killed this movie would be better. Is Mandy busy tonight?"
"No, I guess she's at home or something." Laine was surprised. He had assumed on the last day of school Mandy and Daniel would be together if they could. He risked giving Daniel a light kiss on his ear. Daniel rewarded him with a smile. They settled back to watch the movie for a while. Laine wanted to hold Daniel's hand. They let their arms touch, but it was as much as they dared. After a time they let their legs kiss and fondle in the dark.
Nick watched the first half of the movie absorbed in the action. He worked his way through a huge coke and a bucket of popcorn soaked in butter. Occasionally he whispered critical comments to Laine. Nick loved the book series and any divergence from the gospel was met with a mumble of disapproval. Nick began to fidget. Daniel watched the brothers speak briefly and then Nick slipped away. The older boys sat watching the movie while he was gone. After a while Laine left his seat and followed his brother out. Daniel waited patiently for the brothers to return.
Daniel remembered Jake in the theater restroom down town. It was a sad world. Older brothers watched their younger brother's backs. Garrett was hurting and Daniel needed to do something about it. He had made some kind of impression on the boy. All it had taken was one reply after his talk with his mom and the gates had opened. Daniel had been overwhelmed by Garrett's need to talk. It was hard to know what to say to the boy. They had only met that once and his new-found brother kept pushing information at him.
The emails were full of questions. Daniel recognized them as the kind of questions he had wanted to ask his grandfather. Questions it would be stupid to ask your friends, but questions you might trust to an older brother. Only Daniel was not good at talking to little kids.
When Nick came back Daniel pulled him into the seat next to him as he crossed past. After that nick sat between the two older boys dividing his comments between them. Daniel tried to pay closer attention to the finer points of the backstory and fed Nick questions to show he was interested. Nick was exaustive. Mandy should have been there for the dissection.
They followed the crowd out at the end of the movie. The time was close so Daniel did not have to phone Laine's parents. People quickly filtered out the door past them and there was only a small trickle of people coming in for the next show.
"Mom's gone again. She left this morning for Chicago." Daniel dropped the comment into their conversation as casually as he could. It was an invitation. Laine understood that. Laine watched Nick hammer away at a game. Daniel was pushing at the door, opening it a little and then letting it close as he looked out into the quiet mall parking lot. Laine leaned against the glass. He wanted to be with Daniel. Their private times together seemed rare. "Tomorrow is freshie day, do you believe that?" Daniel glanced at a group of girls who might be marking time until the morning. "I was really nervous."
"Arlo said Denver paid a lot for you."
"Yes he did." Daniel looked at the girls and caught them looking back. They turned away giggling. Maybe they were only going into grade eight; they seemed too immature to be freshmen.
"Duncan and I didn't hook up till September really," Laine added. Duncan had phoned him during the summer, but they had been strangers on the first day of school.
"Lucky you" Daniel remembered the tumultuous summer. "Duncan's a cool dude." Nick had apparently run out of money because he joined them at the door. "Kill them all?"
"I told you not to waste your money Nick. We have that game at home." Laine knew it was useless. Nick would blow all his money as soon as he got it. The Laine clone shrugged his shoulders as if to say it was only money. He unconsciously leaned into his older brother. There was that closeness between them that Daniel envied. He knew brothers who treated each other like poison. Tracey Marks treated Simon badly. Garrett seemed to scorn his sister. Daniel glanced at the jacket he had given Laine. He knew who was going to get it when Laine graduated. Nick probably knew too and just accepted it as something natural. Daniel looked away from the brothers. Could you have something like that if you never grew up with someone? He did not know and it made him sad. It was one thing to be like Denver and accept you were alone and had no brothers or sisters. Daniel had lived his life like that too. But Daniel had a brother and sister and that seemed to change everything.
Daniel was musing about this when the door pushed against him and he was forced to retreat to let two boys into the theater. He glanced at them absently before turning his attention back to Laine. The coat looked good on Laine. Daniel had felt a thrill when Laine showed him where Daniel's name had been transferred to the inside lining. His smile faded when Laine's expression registered. Daniel realized Laine was watching the two boys.
Anthony and Troy, Laine should have guessed they might be around. They had been an unwelcome sight walking across the parking lot. His evening was going to go south in a hurry in just a few moments. Laine scanned the lobby but it was too late to avoid them. He was not worried for himself; he could take anything they wanted to say to him. He did not want Nick hearing it. He tried to blend into the corner. Perhaps they would pass through the door without noticing him.
"Hey Tony" Nick betrayed Lain with a friendly greeting.
Anthony and Troy paused to look at the three boys standing across from them. Laine tried to control the cold ache in his stomach as a he waited for the inevitable snub. Anthony nodded at Nick and took in Daniel standing innocently beside Laine. He looked like he might say something, but must have decided to leave it alone. Troy broke the uncomfortable silence with a quick barb.
"This your new boyfriend Bryan?"
Laine felt Daniel stiffen beside him. Laine cringed silently. It was important not to embarrass Daniel. Daniel would regret going out with him and they would be back to sneaking around, or worse, Daniel would decide it was too dangerous to be friends with an openly gay boy. It was hard getting back into the closet after you open the door. Laine glanced quickly at Nick. Maybe Nick would not understand what had been said. Laine was caught between ignoring the comment and saying something to protect Daniel. It never occurred to Laine that Daniel might say or do anything.
Daniel felt a flare of anger. The guy seemed familiar to him, but he could not place him, probably just part of the herd around school. Daniel instinctively disliked him. He could not let the comment pass. He closed the distance keeping his clenched fists firmly in his coat pocket. There would be no violence. There had been too much in his life already. The guy stepped back a pace when he moved close. "Why are you being an asshole? Don't you see he has his brother with him?" Daniel's voice was a low murmur. He glanced at the other boy to see his reaction. Both boys were bigger than him, but these days size did not intimidate Daniel as much as it used to.
"So are you his boyfriend?" The one boy's voice had lost some of its assurance and the other boy seemed suddenly embarrassed. Daniel was encouraged.
"Sure, that's what I am. I'm Laine's friend."
Daniel let the two boys take it anyway they wanted. He knew it was a risk going out with Laine like this, but they were good friends now. Something in Daniel could not bear letting Laine face their ignorant homophobic abuse alone. It hurt to see Laine treated badly by the two boys.
He was surprised by how good he felt as soon as he said the words but Daniel decided not to press his luck. He turned back to Laine and Nick. "Let's wait outside" he suggested. He felt really high for some reason and impulsively grabbed Nick around the waist as they passed through the door. Daniel flipped him upside down and began tickling Nick as the boy's legs flailed about.
Laine choked back the emotion that threatened to overwhelm him as he watched Nick struggle to escape Daniel's grip and probing fingers. He laughed suddenly at the sight. His brother's pants were pulling off and Nick alternatively struggled to keep them on and fend off his attacker's fingers. Daniel finally let him fall to the pavement and Nick scrambled up, quickly tugged up his pants and then gave Daniel a strong push that sent him back a few paces. Nick had a wide grin on his face as he rushed Daniel for another try. Laine shook his head as Daniel easily got his brother into a head lock. Nick squirmed and tried to tickle his way out of his new predicament while Daniel flashed a big grin at Laine.
He does not even know what he just did for me, Laine thought. He does not see how huge that was.
Conversation 2, Thursday night
Garrett tapped the keyboard nervously. The sounds of his mother's strained voice mingled with the slightly more muffled replies of his father grated on his nerves. Garrett tried to imagine Daniel in front of his computer. He wished his mother would just go to sleep. His dad would brood in the living room and then Garrett would have the computer to himself. Daniel had stopped typing again.
A door slammed and Garrett glanced away from the screen. Garrett resumed typing a new message to Daniel. Curtis is this jerk in my class. He saw me with a stiffy and called me... Garrett paused. Why had he asked Daniel that? The older boy would think he was lamer than he probably already did. Garrett read back over his words. He should have told Curtis to f-off. Instead he had tried to hide himself while the other boys laughed at him. Garrett tapped the delete key.
Garrett smiled at the words and spun once around in the chair. "Garrett, get to bed, you have school tomorrow." Garrett turned with a start to see his father standing at the bottom of the stairs. He shifted slightly so that he could shield the screen from his father's view.
"Sure, okay dad."
"It's almost eleven-thirty"
"Yeh, I know." Garrett eyed his dad hoping he would go away. His dad leaned against the jam and folded his arms.
"So what are you doing?"
"Just talking to a friend" Garrett answered softly.
"Someone from school?" If it had been his mother Garrett knew she would be all over him worried that he was talking to some pervert. "Who is it then? Is it your girl friend?"
"Dad, don't be gross!" The comment at least brought a grin to Garrett's face. It was probably the first time his dad had teased him like that. It seemed to be part of his new interest in Garrett.
"Well just be sure you are not looking at dirty pictures there or your mother is going to have a fit." Garrett blushed at the idea. His father turned to go back up the stairs and Garrett sighed with relief.
"Gosh dad I'm just talking with Daniel." The name came out without a second thought.
Garrett swore at himself. He could not do anything in the house without someone needing to know his business. His father had turned back in the doorway.
"Just a guy I know." Garrett mumbled "In my class this year." Garrett swung back and forth on his chair nervously waiting for his dad to go away.
"So do you like this Daniel?"
"What do you mean?" Garrett's dad looked like he wanted to read what was on the monitor. Not a good idea thought Garrett. The question made him nervous. Garrett was sure that his parents would stop him from talking to the older boy.
"I mean is he an okay sort of guy?"
"Well, sure. He's cool I guess." Garrett was not prepared to talk about Daniel with his father. "He's not black if that is what you are worried about."
"Garrett, don't worry about that. Your mother is just not used to the idea. Don't take her too seriously okay?" Bruce Jennet smiled at his son. "So what are you talking about then?"
His father decided to let it drop. Bruce nodded his head as if he understood. "One more day and you are done. Grade Seven next, you are getting so big Garrett. How does your eye feel tonight?"
Garrett blushed again. He thought about the fight on the playground the day before. Garrett wanted to tell Daniel about it. It had been so cool. He had been trying to play ball with his friends. He had found a grade eight who was willing to show him how to hold a baseball correctly when he threw it and he was practicing when a couple of grade sevens had pushed him over. His new shirt got muddy. He had turned on the boys and got a few licks in before he was dragged off to the principal's office. His mom had been speechless but his dad had actually smiled when he heard about it later that evening. Garrett was sure Daniel would be proud of him.
Bruce sighed to himself as he eyed his son. It would be the boy. There were no Daniels in Garrett's classroom. It was possible that in the course of Garrett's unexpected burst of preadolescent independence he had met a new friend, but Bruce knew he would not be so lucky. Heather Murrell had phoned him about the unwelcome connection and warned him Daniel would be heading his way whenever his fifteen-year-old mind got around to it. Bruce had an evil impulse to tell his Garrett to say hello to his other son for him. Bruce paused as he turned to go, "Don't stay up too late talking to your friend."
"Okay dad" Garrett tried not to let his exasperation slip through. His dad finally left him in peace and he turned back to the browser. He had missed quite a lot.
Garrett panicked. He wondered how long he had kept Daniel waiting. "Shit" he exclaimed, "yes!" Then he rapidly typed it out.
The witching hour, Friday, June 10th
It was the first day of vacation for Laine and he could not sleep. He sat on the couch with the television turned down low and thought about Daniel alone in his apartment. It was almost 12:00. Laine turned off the television and quietly went to the phone. It was not on the cradle. Laine spent a frustrating ten minutes searching the house. He ended at his parents' bedroom door cursing his dad's stingy habits and wishing they had a second phone in the house. Ten dollars, was that too much to spend on a phone? Laine tried the computer, but Daniel was not on line.
Laine leaned against the kitchen sink and thought about Daniel's words at the movie theater. With his mother and Nick in the car there had been no time to talk to Daniel. Laine wondered what Daniel had really meant when he said friend. The tree with its fort was frosted in sage hues by the moon and surrounding lights. The darker mass of the platform drew him. He held Daniel's jacket up to his nose once before he drew it on and then stepped outside into the chill night. Laine heard Noelle Boisson's high-pitched laughter. His neighbor was likely having yet another gathering to celebrate graduation. The rope ladder creaked when Laine leaned his weight on the first rung.
Laine climbed silently up to the platform. He stood still listening to the soft rush of the leaves and the intermittent noises of the neighborhood reminded him that everyone was not yet at rest. When he sat down to lean his head against the trunk the memories of Greg's laughter as they built the tree house together troubled him. Laine had begun building a gift for his brother and then it had seemed like he was building a friendship during those hot summer days. The tree house had seemed tainted after Greg walked away from him in silence. Greg had stolen the joy of it.
Noelle's voice, followed by a low male retort recalled the late August party he had spied on. Laine crawled to the railing and took his familiar place where the long gone moon-boy had filled him with wonder for that brief interlude. Perhaps Greg had been helping him to build this perch in the trees just so he could have that fleeting glimpse of love. Laine wondered idly if the two boys in the grass below had continued to be friends. They had parted quickly in silence and Laine remembered thinking that was wrong. You do not just walk away from someone like that. Laine grinned as he thought of holding Daniel close after they had exhausted themselves. Thoughts of Daniel brought the loneliness back and he pulled the jacket closer to him for comfort. He needed Daniel now with an urgency that matched the passion he had felt for the moon-lit boy in the August grass below. Laine spared a thought for that boy lost in summer memory as he reached for the dangling rope that would see him safely to the ground. Let him be happy, Laine thought, whoever he is, wherever he is, he deserved it as much as anyone. Whatever Laine might call his relationship, Laine had his Daniel.
Laine went to his room. Nick was curled into his sheet. It was not really warm enough to sleep without a light blanket. Nick always burned hot when he slept. A light sheen of sweat covered his forehead and his tangled hair was damp.
"Nick" Laine poked him. His brother woke instantly and he looked back with a child's alertness. "I want you to cover for me."
"I'm going out for a while. I'll be back before mom and dad wake up."
"Why, what are you doing, where are you going?" Nick propped himself on an elbow. There was no argument there, just curiosity.
"I'm going to hang out with Daniel for a while." Laine paused for a minute "If mom or dad wake up and find out I'm gone just tell them the truth, okay? It'll be alright." Laine would deal with their wrath later, if he had to. He turned to go.
"Are you what they said, a fag? Do you like boys? Is Daniel, like, your boyfriend or something?"
Laine froze and studied the floor. He did not want to deal with the question at that moment. This was not something he was ready for but it was too important to pass over and he found that as usual, he did not want to lie about it, particularly to Nick. Laine struggled with his words. How do you tell these things to your little brother?
"I'm gay Nick, Daniel is my friend." He turned back to look at Nick. It came to him that Nick's opinion mattered very much to him. Nick stared at him with wide eyes that seemed to glint in the darkness.
"I don't understand"
"I don't understand either Nick. It's just who I am." Nick nodded to himself but Laine did not think the boy knew what to think.
It was not going to be that easy. There would be a lot of questions. Laine would have to think of some good answers. Laine was caught by the moment. He had a long way to go and no certainty that Daniel would answer the bell when he got there. Laine wanted to be gone before he lost his nerve. Nick lay down again, but his eyes were still locked on his brother's face. Laine was going to ask Nick again if he would cover for him, but he did not need to. Of course Nick would watch out for him. He smiled a little sadly at Nick and turned to go.
"Hey Laine" Laine turned back to look at his brother "I like Daniel." Laine nodded acknowledgement and left the room with tears blurring his eyes.
* ** *
It was the first day of vacation for Daniel and he could not sleep. He had chatted with Garrett and now that was resolved. He had poked into the FreshieBay site to reassure himself and he needed to just be patient for now. He sat on the couch with the television turned to a movie he did not care to watch and thought about Laine across town in the small bedroom he shared with Nick. It was past 12:30. Daniel turned off the television and quietly went out to the balcony. Daniel sat in a chair and looked out at the muted lights of the summer city. It was not really warm enough to sit without a coat. He tucked his bare feet up and buried his hands inside his sweat pants. That was hardly a good idea when he was thinking about Laine. He remembered it being warmer last year. Funny the memories you have.
Daniel sat for a long time feeling the breeze against his skin and let his mind drift. Daniel toyed with himself as he imagined being with Laine. Denver was right. Daniel did not have to think why, or worry about who he was anymore; he just understood that Laine was one of the people he needed. Are we gay, Arlo had wondered that first time they were together almost a year ago. Daniel had said not to ask that until the next year.
Daniel felt a momentary sadness at the thought of Arlo. It had not ended well, if indeed it was the end. Daniel was probably caught in the same tug of war Denver was with Troy. Perhaps like Denver he would finally find some way to be friends with Arlo again. Are you gay? Arlo had echoed the question from the June afternoon. Are you? Daniel had replied. They had not really answered each other. Labels to reassure or oppress each other. That was all they were right now. Arlo's crushing on him was a burden he could live without and it made it unfair to Laine. Daniel was not willing to admit to Arlo that he was seeing Laine. It would have made a bad situation between the old friends worse. How can you explain attraction? Why do you give over a friend for a stranger?
Daniel shivered violently and became conscious of the cold. He wandered back in and grabbed Denver's coat. He had an erection he should probably deal with but instead he was drawn back to the balcony. As the coat warmed him he leaned against the railing and idly looked up and down the streets. It used to simply fascinate him. It was his turf and he knew it well. The year had changed that. Now he feared the alleys and dark corners. The formless fears of childhood had taken frightening definition. He walked with the bear now. Dark patches between pools of light were no longer mysterious, they were threatening. Despite the warmth of the jacket and its connection to Denver's love, Daniel felt alone and lost in the night.
Daniel tried to shake the bear off. He could keep the bear at bay with the spirits in his life. Denver, Simon, Mandy and Laine had become his compass; his mom was the unshakable ground beneath his feet, and his grandfather watched from above. He felt so useless sometimes. They each gave him something and he hoped he could give them as much back. He imagined a map in his head and traced the path to each of his friends. As an afterthought he added Garrett.
The sky was clear tonight and the moon washed across his face. A year ago he had tossed in an uncertain sleep nervous about the year to come. He gazed up and caught his breath when a flash of light burned across the sky. He turned back to the streets below. Daniel was ready to go back to the woods. A few cars went by. There were even people laughing on the street. Daniel knew the bars and the shops that would still be open. He thought sadly of the empty apartment behind him. Somewhere people were not alone. His eyes were finally drawn to a lonely bike rider speeding through the pools of light along the street.
* ** *
Laine had not thought logically about what he would do when he reached Daniel's apartment house. He should have phoned somehow. The adrenalin that had fueled his ride down the long blocks continued to burn. He rang the buzzer and waited impatiently for Daniel to wake and answer the phone. Daniel was asleep. Daniel had decided to go over to his friend Denver's home. Laine slammed his palms violently on the glass. He was not ready to contemplate the discouraging ride home.
Time past and there was still no answer. Laine leaned his forehead against the door denying him access to Daniel. Suddenly the elevator opened and there he was. All he had on was a pair of loose sweat pants and the worn jacket. Laine put his hands on the glass and stared at Daniel as he walked slowly up to the door. Daniel carefully placed his hands on the glass matching Laine's. As they pressed their palms into the glass each boy saw his own ghostly reflection superimposed on the face of the other. They almost made it to the elevator before they began.
Later, in the early morning, Laine felt Daniel stir beside him in the bed. Laine opened his eyes and looked at the sleeping boy. Daniel had kicked the sheets off of them and lay turned toward him. His face was at peace and Laine looked at him in the dark. Laine felt tired and fulfilled. He slipped quietly off the bed pausing to retrieve a pair of used condoms on his way to the bathroom. They had left damp towels on the floor and Laine stopped to pick them up.
When Laine returned to the bedroom he sat on the side of the bed and took in the way the shadows and light that played across Daniel's body. Daniel had turned over onto his back and one arm was flung up onto the pillow. Laine smiled when Daniel snorted slightly in his sleep. Laine touched a finger tightly to Daniel's lips and watched him stir slightly. Laine leaned over Daniel and lightly kissed his parted lips. He smiled to himself. Denver and Mark were together. Daniel and Laine were only fifteen, they had time. Daniel opened his eyes and smiled sleepily at him. There was still time before he had to slip away. Laine kissed the sleep out of Daniel's eyes and turned his attention to rousing Daniel.
Murrell's Marauders' first raid, Friday, June 10th, 11:57 AM
Daniel sat naked rocking gently on chair with the phone pressed against one ear and his hand nervously poised over the mouse. "No man, I've been up for an hour. I don't know, I'll sleep tonight I guess." He smiled at Laine's reply while his eyes remained fixed on the monitor. "So you survived your parents? Sure... I told you she liked me." Daniel was intent on the countdown and paused for a moment.
The bid had not changed since Wednesday and it stood at $15.00. Donald, the cheap bastard, had only bid twice. Daniel pondered his options and then decided if he bid now, at two minutes, he could prepare another bid to enter at the last second if Donald was watching. $20 seemed safe, no point in panicking Donald.
Daniel glanced at the boy's smiling face on the web site as he listened to Laine describe his morning. No action on the board, Yeske held the bid and there was a minute left to go. Mark was going to be so pissed with Daniel. "So you still okay with coming over at three? You didn't get grounded?" Laine assured him that things were fine and that he would be there for him. It could be another good day Daniel reflected. It could be one of the best days. His body reminded him that it had begun very well. He just needed to get through the meeting with his father and telling Garrett the truth. If only the bid would hold.
"Gotta phone you back man!"
Turd Donald had upped the bid to $25.00. Daniel dropped the phone to the floor and eyed the clock. At fifty-five seconds he entered his $50.00 bid and held his breath. Five seconds later Mark Yeske had a freshie.
"Yes!" Daniel howled and raised his arms in victory as he spun around on his chair "I rule!" He turned back to the monitor to confirm that he had actually won the bidding war and then he became conscious of the buzz of Laine's high pitched voice coming from the cell phone on the floor. He retrieved the cell phone. "Sorry man"
"What's up Daniel? What are you doing?"
"I just bought a freshie."
"I bid on a freshie."
"You what?" Laine's voice took on a stern tone. "Daniel, what are you thinking about here?" Daniel moved to reassure Laine.
"He is for you and me." Daniel replied happily.
"Are you tired of me already?" Daniel remembered their soft words together on the elevator as they kissed and groped. Daniel's sweat pants had been around one ankle and his hand had been deep in Laine's crotch as they had lurched back to his apartment door giggling together.
"No Laine, it is not like that at all."
"Hang on a minute I am going to log in." Laine's old computer took a while and Daniel started gathering his clothes together in the silence. "What is the name?" Daniel shared Neil's name as he considered which shirt to wear to the school. He did not have much time and he needed to get moving. Laine's curse distracted him.
"You lie like a rug Daniel Murrell, you so want to do this kid."
"No" Daniel protested sincerely.
Daniel was serious when continued. He needed to convince Laine that he had been honest about his feelings the night before. "He's cute, I know, I guess that is part of the reason. I thought you and Simon and I could look out for him a bit. I don't know, maybe I'm wrong. I don't really know this guy. It is just, Arlo's friend Donald was after him and I just could not let it go." Daniel's voice softened, "Laine I told you, I need you."
"Yeh, okay Daniel, we'll see... so what now?"
"My place at 3:30 still?" Daniel needed some support.
"So I'm off to meet the kid now, just to let him know what is happening."
"You planning on telling Mark he has a freshie?"
"Hummm... eventually" Mark might wonder why the school sent him a letter asking for the $50.00. Daniel wondered if Denver could help break the news to Mark. Daniel needed to tell Simon about his new responsibility too. After a few soft words Daniel broke the connection and went back to considering his shirts.
* ** *
Daniel stopped at the entrance to 7th Avenue School. He felt out of place now. Even the eighth graders filtering out of the building seemed years younger. It was not very busy. There was only a pair of seniors leaving with their new freshies. Daniel watched the pairs trying to gage the new relationships. He wished them well before he pushed through the door. He had to stop a girl he recalled and ask her if she knew Neil and where his classroom was. When he reached Mr. Petri's room Neil was not there. Daniel had to endure a barrage of greetings and questions from people who remembered him before he could finally as Mr. Petri where Neil was. He had hoped to see the boy before Neil left for home.
"Neil has not been feeling well; I let him go to the restroom." Mr. Petri beamed at Daniel fondly. The teacher had not questioned Daniel's presence in the school. Daniel thanked him politely and slipped away. It was too strange being back and Daniel did not want to stay long. He walked down the bare hallway past the open lockers. He recognized Mrs. Parker sorting through the debris that had spilled onto the floor. It was unbelievable how safe and small the school felt after his year at Riverview. He pushed through the restroom door and stopped at the sound of someone vomiting.
Neil did not notice Daniel leaning by the door when he came out of the stall. Daniel watched him move slowly over to the sinks. Neil splashed water on his face and patted it dry with his t-shirt. Daniel took in his muscled torso and reminded himself of his assurances to Laine. When Neil bent down to suck some water from the tap he noticed Daniel. Their eyes met and then Neil straightened up. He turned to spit the water out before facing Daniel. Neil looked at him uncertainly.
"Yep" Daniel was flattered that the boy knew his name. "Are you okay?"
"What are you doing here?" The boy did not answer his question. Neil was very tense.
"I'm just waiting for they guy who got me." Daniel moved over to the farthest sink remembering how nervous he had been. The whole system was wrong. First the older students frighten you and then you are left wondering who you will be paired with for a week. Neil looked so cute with the tips of his hair spiked casually by the water he had splashed on himself. Daniel tried not to leer at Neil.
"That's me Neil. I bought you."
"Ravi said you were only in grade ten." Neil looked confused.
"Okay, so I bought you for a friend of mine."
"Donald?" There was real fear in Neil's eyes as he said the name. Daniel was surprised for a moment and then felt sad.
"No" Daniel said firmly. He added, "You know Donald?"
Neil nodded his head slowly and took a deep breath. "He came round yesterday after school and told me I was his freshie." Neil gave Daniel a calculating look. "You're not shitting me right? Donald did not pay $50.00 for me?" Daniel shook his head and smiled again. "The asshole paddled my ass." Neil blushed through the early summer tan. "He told me he was going to take me on a picnic this afternoon."
"No picnics Neil, no parties."
"So what now, what should I call you?" Neil finally smiled slightly at Daniel.
"Why Daniel of course" Daniel pushed himself away from the sink and cocked his head at Neil. "So do you want to make like a tree and leaf?
"Sure, this place is yesterday's news. So what is Riverview like?" They walked out into the hall together and Daniel tempted himself by giving Neil a hip-check. The boy bounced away and then returned the favor with a light shoulder-check.
"It's a freaking nightmare, Neil." Daniel threw the boy a glance, "You need to get anything in the classroom?"
"Screw it, let's go." Daniel slapped Neil on the shoulder and ran off through the trash. Neil caught up to him at the door and gave him a slight shove in return. Daniel looked out into the sunshine where a young girl knelt on the pavement kissing some twelfth grader's sandals. Neil paused to watch and his smile faltered slightly. Daniel gave him a bump to draw his attention and then poked him lightly in the chest.
"Freshie Year Neil; you need to understand two rules."
"Two rules" Neil nodded his head seriously.
"First, don't do a fucking thing the seniors ask you to do." Daniel's voice was stern and Neil nodded his head solemnly in understanding. Neil took a deep breath.
"Right" he peered at Daniel curiously "What's the second rule?"
"If they do catch up with you, scream like a little girl."
"Scream like a little girl. I can do that." Neil grinned at Daniel. The weight of the week dropped from his shoulders and the year ahead seemed less bleak as he stood by the handsome blond in the tight black t-shirt. Daniel seemed so secure and in control to him. Neil wished he could be so easy and confident about himself. Daniel drew a pair of Oakleys from his shirt pocket and slipped them on. He flashed Neil a huge smile and then Neil watched it slowly faded away. Daniel turned his head to take a long look out to where the girl continued to grovel at the feet of her senior and then he turned impassively back to Neil.
In a low Schwarzenegger monotone Daniel growled out "Come with me if you wish to live" and then he pushed his way out into the sunshine.
Family, Friday June 10th
Daniel did not know if he could do this. He was jumpy and Laine worried about him. They were sitting on a window ledge for some reason and Laine wanted to hug him. Daniel listened to him absently while Laine described sneaking onto the tree house early in the morning. When his dad's voice had drifted out through the kitchen window as he started shouting at Nick Laine had taken it as his cue to come in the house. His explanation that he had fallen asleep in the tree house was met with suspicion. Laine's mother had shrewdly held her peace until his dad had stormed off to work. Laine offered her his best innocent expression when she shook a finger at him silently. Nick held his peace until his mother had left as well and then gave Laine no peace until he had produced some version of his night with Daniel.
Laine saw Daniel's eyes drawn to the little figure in the bright blue shirt running along the sidewalk across the street. The twelve-year-old boy looked like he was going to run into the street for a minute, but checked himself and ran down to the cross walk. Laine smiled when he got to their side of the street. The dark haired boy was dressed like Daniel down to the black t-shirt and he had spiked his hair. Laine did not know if Daniel noticed the similarity. He did not look like Daniel but he was a cute elf like Mark.
Garrett bounced up to Daniel and the other boy. He wanted to stay cool, but he was too keyed up. "Garrett this is Laine. Garrett, I want to talk to your dad for a minute. Could you wait here with Laine?"
Garrett did not know what he was supposed to do with this strange person, and he thought it was a bad idea for Daniel to talk with his dad. It would probably just screw things up. He did not have a good reason to say no, so he told Daniel that it would be okay. He watched Laine hug Daniel before Daniel walked off to the cross walk with that slow gate he had. Laine suggested he sit down next to him. That was a little too close so he sat like Daniel had with his back against the side of the wall and a foot up on the sill.
Laine asked the boy how he had met Daniel. Garrett told him about the alley and pointed to where it was. Laine shook his head. He never wanted to hear about Daniel in another alley for the rest of his life. This led Garrett into his triumph on the playground. He even showed Laine his bruises.
Laine could see where this was going so he tried to head the boy off. "Daniel won't be happy to hear that Garrett. He has been in two fights this year, three you say, and you know what?" Garrett shook his head. "He lost every one of them."
"So why does he fight?" What was the point of fighting if you always get your ass kicked Garrett wondered to himself.
"Why did he come into the alley that day Garrett?"
"To help me I guess."
Laine nodded at him and Garrett thought he understood what Daniel's friend was saying. Garrett decided to skip telling Daniel about the playground. He realized he didn't know the older boy that well.
"If you want his respect Garrett, don't fight." Laine decided to knock his boyfriend off of the pedestal before the kid got into too much trouble. While they waited for Daniel to come back he told Garrett stories about Daniel starting with Daniel's first disastrous football game. Garrett ate his stories up. Despite him best intentions Laine could not manage to make Daniel sound bad.
* ** *
God, he was there in the hallway. Bruce blessed Heather for the generous impulse to warn him this was coming. It was a bad day for Garrett to drop by. Bruce was relieved he had given Garrett the money he needed for a snack. Daniel seemed so big compared to Garrett. Bruce's parenting skills were developing at the same rate Garrett was and he was not ready for the three year jump forward. He wasn't even ready for Garrett's sudden desire to assert himself. His gut told him this next few minutes were going to be brutal. Bruce watched one of the office staff direct the boy to him.
The boy stood in the doorway and looked at him a moment and Bruce decided to stand up. He looked like he had made a good recovery. The boy came up to his desk, glanced at the picture frames before meeting Bruce's eyes. Understanding seemed to cross Daniel's young face. "She told you, didn't she?"
"Yes" He pointed at the chair and the boy, his son Daniel, sat down.
"I should have thought of that." Daniel looked like he was adjusting his plans. He sighed. "A friend of mine told me this was going to go badly no matter what I did so I shouldn't worry about it."
"What can I say Daniel?" Bruce did not know how to begin explaining himself or the years that had past. He could have used a drink right then. The boy seemed to gather himself together and looked at his father. Bruce promised he would hold the gaze.
"I'm not really here to talk about us. I guess like mom said, maybe later. I don't care about us. I don't need you." Daniel took a breath before continuing. "I'm here about Garrett."
"Garrett? What about him?" Bruce understood they had been talking. His eldest son shrugged his shoulders.
"I guess you know Garrett and I met last month by accident. We have talked a bit since then. He keeps trying to talk to me and see me."
"You told him you are his brother?" Bruce wasn't happy with that. This was something he wasn't ready for.
Daniel shook his head. "I gave him some help and he just connected with me."
"And you want me to stop him from bothering you?"
Daniel broke a little for the first time. He answered back with tears in his eyes. "Why would I want that? He's my brother."
That got to Bruce quicker than anything else. He lowered his head and closed his eyes for a minute. "But I can't sneak around forever trying to avoid you and your wife. Garrett wouldn't understand and you would find out anyway." Yes Shannon would worry about a fourteen-year old boy spending intimate time with an eleven-year old boy. She would stop it quickly if she found out.
"So what do you want from me?" Bruce felt the weight was lifting now that they were talking. Daniel looked back.
"Just to know I am talking to him and maybe seeing him a little. If he mentions me you won't have to worry or be surprised. I don't think I can just step off and leave him hanging." They were an elementary kid and a tenth grader thought Daniel. There was not that much in common yet, but this was his brother and Daniel needed him.
"So you will just be friends." Bruce nodded. He appreciated the consideration. Bruce thought he could handle this.
Daniel shook his head. "No, I'm going to tell him we are brothers in a few minutes. When he asks you about it you can explain it to him, later you can tell my sister."
Bruce began to caution him against this but Daniel interrupted. "I'm not going to be the one dropping this on him when he is eighteen or something. I'm done with being a ghost." Daniel was telling Bruce that since he created the problem he could deal with it.
"And just what do you intend to say to him?"
"You can handle that yourself. Lie to him if you like but if my mom comes out of this looking like some high school slut I will find some way to bring you down." Daniel suddenly sounded fierce and angry. He was shaking with the emotion. He didn't know what he could do to this man, but he owed it to her.
Bruce thought for a moment. Perhaps this was the beginning of his penance. He would start with the easiest person in his family and work out a way to deal with the others. Perhaps he might even find a way to explain it to Shannon.
"What do you say dad?" The final word jarred his senses and brought him back to the youth before him.
"Have it your way."
Daniel nodded his head and got up. He paused before Bruce's desk and looked down at the man. "I guess this might be out of line but you should lay off the drinking and fighting. Garrett is freaking out about it."
The drinking had been all about Daniel. Bruce suddenly felt better. He turned to the door without another word. "Daniel!" His boy turned back to look at him from the door. "I'm sorry son." Daniel looked at him a moment and left.
Laine tried to judge Daniel's mood as he came back across the street. He had just been telling Garrett about Nick. They were not the same age, but Laine found himself promising that Daniel and he would take them to a movie some time. Daniel was somber but much of the tension had left him. Laine was afraid the next part was not going to be any easier on Daniel. Still, reflected Laine, it could not be any harder to meet an estranged brother than it had been to admit you were gay to an eleven-year-old brother.
"Sorry to make you wait Garrett."
Laine asked "Do you want me to go Daniel?" Daniel shook his head. "This isn't a good place." Laine added cautiously looking up and down the street.
But Daniel thought it was. If Garrett did not take it well he would have a quick escape to his dad. If it did work out then they could go somewhere else to talk. Daniel sat between the two and felt Laine's hand touch his back briefly as he turned to the boy.
"Garrett I have something big to tell you and I don't know an easy way to say it." He took a breath. "We're brothers. We have the same dad." After weeks of practicing Daniel had not thought of a cool way to say it. It sounded monumentally inadequate in the abrupt silence that followed.
Garrett was confused. He had been expecting Daniel to say something like; I can't hang out with you anymore. Your dad won't let me. "Brothers; what do you mean?" The idea was not registering with him.
"I'm your older brother." Daniel waited patiently for the idea to sink in.
"Why don't you live with us then?" Garrett looked at him quizzically.
Laine broke in patiently "You have different mothers."
"Dad was married before?" Garrett could not imagine it.
"No, they were not married." Laine cast around for an explanation that might make sense. "It was high school Garrett. Daniel's mother didn't love your dad, so they didn't get married." Daniel winced at the explanation, but he had to admit it was a good save. Laine squeezed his shoulder.
"Why didn't dad tell me? Where have you been?"
Daniel brushed this aside quickly. "Well it all kind of came together when you and I met. I don't know the whole story so I guess you will have to ask your dad later." Daniel had no idea how his father planned to get around the ugly truth behind his conception. Daniel stood up. "I'll tell you a secret Garrett, I always wanted a real brother." He gave the kid a little poke. "Do you want to go talk to your dad or do you want to hang out some more and talk about this?"
Garrett pushed himself off the window ledge and turned slowly to look toward the street. His mom was pretty square but he had lots of friends whose parents were divorced. Some had new moms or dads and all sorts of brothers and sisters. When they talked it could get pretty confusing. Their family treets were more complicated than Garrett's. Having a brother like Daniel made him almost normal now. It also made his dad a little more interesting. "Does my mom know?" he asked Daniel.
Garrett was not going to be the one to tell her that was for sure. He considered Daniel. The teenager suddenly seemed like a stranger to him. He saw nothing of himself or his family in the tall boy. Garrett felt a cramp in his stomach. The blond high school student was forcing his way into Garrett's well ordered world and Garrett was not sure how to handle it. For all his shortcomings Garrett had always been the boy of the family. He had all the attention. The athletic Daniel could easily push Garrett aside.
He turned to look back at his father's office building. He felt a flash of annoyance that he knew would return the next time his dad rode him about something he had screwed up. His dad owed him a really good explanation about his unexpected brother. Garrett could wait for that though. He realized he did not even know where Daniel lived. There was so much to learn about Daniel still. Garrett voiced one of his fears.
"Are you going to live with us?"
"No bro, I live with my mom."
Garrett turned to look at the boy fully for the first time since he had heard the news. The older boy seemed less confident now. Garrett saw the other boy put his hand on Daniel's shoulder as Daniel stared at Garrett. Neither brother moved as the traffic cruised by. Pedestrians stepped around them with unregistered glances of annoyance. Then suddenly Daniel became the hero in the alley again. Garrett remembered his first conversation with Daniel and the way he had accepted him. Daniel listened to him and he never made Garrett feel his questions were stupid.
Daniel might be there to teach him how to throw a football. Well, he wouldn't be there. He would be around. Brothers had to be around for each other. Maybe that was better. Garrett could see himself escaping from his mother's clutches to hang out at his brother's house. He suddenly realized Daniel would be someone for him; someone he might be able to count on for years to come. Daniel would be there waiting for him when he came to Riverview as a ninth grader. It was something to think about. He turned away and started walking toward the Dairy Queen.
Daniel and Laine followed the boy as he walked slowly down to the corner that would take him back across the street to his father's office. The three walked in silence, each consumed by his thoughts. Daniel was concerned about his little brother. He did not know what the boy was thinking. He watched Garrett stop at the crosswalk seemingly oblivious to the two trailing behind him. The crosswalk changed and Daniel half expected the boy to walk out of his life. The little walking man called out to Garrett insistently as stood on the corner. When it started flashing Daniel broke the silence, "Garrett?" The little boy turned toward him. Daniel hesitated before continuing. "What do you think Garrett? Are you okay with being my brother?"
Garrett looked at him for a moment, his eyes wide with surprise. "Sure Daniel; who wouldn't be?"
Laine hugged Daniel from behind and buried his head in his lover's back. Daniel touched Laine's hand absently as the small dark figure started across the street; supremely confident that his older brother Daniel was just a few steps behind.
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