Legal Notice:

The following contains descriptions of graphic sexual acts between consenting underage boys. It is a work of fiction and has no basis in reality.

Do not read this story if:

1) You're not 18 or over.
2) If it is illegal to read this type of material where you live.
3) If you don't want to read about gay/bisexual people in love or having sex.

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What We Are II - Summer Heat
By: R. Ryan

Chapter 9:  Pine City

Although Pine City was a small town, it had its share of fast food restaurants, bars, and one huge shopping center.  It was a strip mall really, and among its many smaller businesses there was a Home Depot, a Walmart, and a Blockbuster video store.

Pulling the Suburban into the parking lot, Kyle turned to the left toward the far end of the complex and Jerry's Super Value, a fairly large supermarket.  Although there were numerous places to park close to the entrance, Kyle pulled into a parking spot toward the rear of the lot.  As he did when parking his own car, he preferred to park away from the general congestion of the other parked cars to prevent some careless shopper from denting his doors when opening their own.

With Richie's list in hand, they grabbed a cart as they entered the store and began to make their way quickly through the aisles.  Before long their cart was half-filled with everything from hamburger and sausage to milk and eggs.  When they passed down the snack food aisle, Kyle stopped them in front of the chips and pretzels section.

"Your list is missing some stuff, Rich."

"Yeah?  Like what?" asked Richie, looking at the list over Kyle's shoulder.  "I got some chips and pretzels on there."

"True that.  But you don't have enough, or enough different kinds.  Plus, you don't have any salsa, or dip for the chips.  What up, dude?  You forget we're havin a party tomorrow?"

"Oh, that," said Richie with a shrug.  "That ain't no big deal.  It's only my birthday."

"Yeah, but we've already invited Steve and Brian, and I'm guessing you'll be wanting to ask TJ, too, if he feels up to it."

This caused Richie to look at Kyle with a surprised expression on his face.  "What makes you think I'd wanna do that?  I don't even know him."

"Yeah, well I can't think of a better way to get to know him than to invite him.  Can you?"

"Yeah?  And what makes you think I want to get to know him?" asked Richie, a little flushed and defensive.

"C'mon, bro, gimme a break, would ya?" said Kyle with a knowing smile on his lips.  "You think I'm blind or somethin?  I knew you had the hots for him ever since we pulled him out of the water yesterday.  I'd have to be both blind and in a coma not to see that."

Feeling like a kid who just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, Richie was unable to look Kyle in the eyes anymore.  Embarrassed, he shrugged his shoulders and looked down at the floor by his feet.

"Look, Rich, if we're gonna make this relationship work, we have to be honest with ourselves, and with each other.  So, if you're attracted to him, so what?  I can see it.  He ain't a bad lookin dude.  And who knows, maybe he isn't such a dick-head after all.  Only way to find out is to get to know him."

"Yeah, true that," said Richie.  Then, looking up at Kyle again he asked, "Was it that obvious?  That I was attracted to him, I mean?"

"Well, duh.  Even though he was breathing, I coulda sworn you were gonna give him mouth to mouth just so's you could kiss him."

"You fucker!" said Richie with a smile as he pushed his friend in the chest hard enough to cause him to lose his balance and fall against the potato chips.

Unfortunately, he caused enough of a commotion that some of the nearby shoppers turned their heads to look at them.  Still smiling, but feeling totally embarrassed, he spoke in a much quieter voice to a still giggling Kyle.

"I'd never do anything like that... even if I'd thought of it, which I didn't."

Trying to stop his laughing, Kyle stooped down to pick up the bags of chips he'd knocked to the floor.  He was still smiling when he'd finished and turned to look at a red-faced Richie.

"So?  You gonna invite him?"

"OK, OK, I'll see if he wants to come.  Can we just finish up and get outa here?"

Still chuckling, Kyle added a few more bags of chips and other snacks to the cart.  Their final stop was at the frozen dairy case where they chose two half-gallons of different flavored ice cream.  Once they checked over their list to make sure they hadn't forgotten anything, they headed for the checkout line.  As they approached, Richie began to look for the shortest one.  Spotting one that was just opening up, he turned to tell Kyle, only to find that he'd already stopped at another register.  There was only one other customer ahead of him in that line, so Richie shrugged his shoulders and backtracked to join him.

While they waited, a thought came to Richie.  "Oh shit, we forgot to get ice."

"Oh yeah, you're right.  Why don't ya run back and pick up a bag.  Just one bag, though, to keep the milk cold."

"Why just one?" asked Richie.  "Why not just fill up the cooler since we're here?"

"Nah.  We'll get the rest from Harry.  It's probably more expensive from him, but I like to buy stuff at his store whenever I can."

Seeing a perplexed look on Richie's face, Kyle went on to explain.

"See, basically Harry's living off social security... well, that and whatever he can make off his store, which can't be much.  So I figure if we buy from him, it's sorta like helping him out some.  He's been around here like forever and I'd hate to see him go out of business.  Besides, I'd really hate to have to come all the way up here every time we needed a few things."

When Richie didn't say anything, Kyle looked at him to see a smile on his face and a twinkle in his eyes.


"Oh nothin," said Richie as he continued smile.  "You're just too kind and thoughtful to be a dumb city-boy hockey player, is all.  And if you're not careful, I could really get to like you."

This embarrassed Kyle some, and he felt his cheeks burn as he looked around nervously to see if anyone else heard Richie's remark.

"Just go get the ice, would ya, Guppy?"

Still smiling, Richie did as he was told.  When he returned with the ice, Kyle was already unloading the cart and the cashier was ringing up their purchases.  In order to save time, he squeezed past Kyle on his way to the end of the conveyor to begin bagging the groceries.

Just as he reached for the first bag to fill, he heard a voice coming from behind him.  "I'll get that for you sir.  Would you like paper or plastic?"

When he looked up, he saw a boy about his age dressed in a white shirt, black bow tie, and wearing a red apron.  Richie was momentarily speechless as he stared at the bag-boy's medium cut blond hair, blue eyes, and all too sexy smile.

"Oh, um, pastic... I mean plaper... Ah shit, sorry, I mean paper.  Yeah, paper's fine, thanks."

Still smiling, the bag-boy went to work while an embarrassed and red faced Richie stood behind him, looking nervously around the store.  When his eyes fell on Kyle, he noticed he was grinning from ear to ear.  It was obvious that Kyle had heard Richie's inept reply to the bag-boy, and was getting a big kick out of it.

By the time Kyle finished settling up with the checkout girl the bag-boy had placed the last bag of groceries into their cart.  Joining Richie, he started to push the cart toward the door while he nodded to the bag-boy.

"Thanks, dude."

"Yeah, thanks, man," added Richie.

"All part of the service, sir," he said before turning to help the next customer.

Just as they were passing through the door, Richie glanced back over his shoulder in the direction of the bag-boy.  When the automatic door closed behind them, he looked over to Kyle.

"Man, I thought bag-boys were a thing of the past.  Back home it's all `bag your own'."

"Yeah, I know," said Kyle.  "I kinda like it like this, though.  Gives you that small town feel, ya know?"

When they were about halfway between the store and the truck, Kyle stopped suddenly and looked at Richie with a twinkle in his eye.

"What?" asked Richie.

"Didn't you forget something?"

"Who, me?  No, I don't think so.  What d'ya mean?"

"Oh," said Kyle as he started to move again.  "I thought you forgot to ask that bag-boy to your party."

"Hey, fuck you, hockey player."

"Whoa, sorry, man.  I just thought from the way you were drooling over him that you might like to get to know him better, too."

"Ya know... you're gonna piss me off if you keep talkin like that.  Besides, can I help it if I keep running into all these hot lookin dudes?  He was pretty hot-lookin, too, wasn't he?"

Kyle began to laugh at that, which prompted Richie to become even more defensive.

"What's so funny?  It's not as if I'm cruising these guys or anything."

They had reached the Suburban now and, still chuckling, Kyle opened the tailgate in preparation to load the groceries.

"I guess I have a small confession to make, Guppy.  I like kinda steered us into that checkout line when I got a look at the bag-boy working it.  I thought it might get a rise out of you, and was I ever right about that.  You shoulda seen the look on your face when he asked you if you wanted paper or plastic.  God, what a Kodak moment that was."

"Yeah?  Well, keep fuckin with me, hockey player.  What goes around comes around, and paybacks are a bitch."

"OK, Rich, I'll lighten up.  Just answer me one question, though, would ya?"


"Were you really checking to see if TJ was breathing out there yesterday, or did you just wanna cop a feel?"

"Oh, you are so askin for it, big guy.  Can we just get this shit loaded and hit the road?"

After they loaded truck with their groceries, they were on their way back down Main Street.  Minutes later they pulled into the parking lot in front of the hospital.  Kyle had no problem finding an isolated spot not too far from the entrance, and just as he was about to get out of the truck, Richie stopped him.

"Kyle, do you know if TJ's gay or not?"

"No, can't say as I do, Rich.  Why?"

"I'm still tryin to figure out why he came lookin for me Tuesday night at McCarthy's.  Then, yesterday... I'm sure he was headed to your place when he took that header.  I mean, you said it yourself, there's nothin else at that end of the lake but us."

"Yeah?  And because of those two things, you thought I might know if he's gay?"

"No.  It's because you acted weird when Lindy told us he was lookin for me.  Like you knew something about him that I didn't know."

"Oh, that.  Nah, I was just surprised he came looking for you.  I didn't know you knew him."

"That's just it!  I don't know him!  All we did was exchange a few words in the can while we pissed.  It just doesn't make any sense."

"Well, you're gonna see him in about two minutes, so ask him."

"What?  If he's gay?"

"No, dummy!  Ask him why he was looking for ya.  Who knows?  Maybe he is gay.  Was he checking you out in the can?"

"No.  At least I don't think so.  Course, I was kinda checkin him out, so maybe he checked me out at the same time."

"Yeah, or maybe he saw you checkin him out... Look, we can toss this around all day, and still not figure it out.  So just go in there and ask him!"

"Oh, I plan to.  I just wanted to see if you knew anything, first.  You know, to sorta give me a heads-up on what to expect."

"Sorry, can't help ya there.  C'mon, let's go."

"Did Brian mention which room he was in?" asked Kyle as they made their way across the parking lot.

"No, he didn't... and that's something else that's weird about all this."

"Yeah?  How's that?"

"Oh, I don't know.  Brian seems to know TJ pretty well.  I mean, they hang around together in the summer... he did tell me that.  But he seemed embarrassed that he called the hospital.  He seemed kinda uncomfortable when I asked about him later, too.  Like he didn't want to talk about it or somethin."

Just as they were about to pass through the front door to the emergency room, Kyle stopped them.

"Are you sure you're not making something that's simple into something that's like way complicated.  You know, like blowing this whole thing way out of proportion.  You do that, you know... a lot.  You're kinda like the Hardy Boys, trying to find a mystery in everything that happens.  You like... what's the word?  Over-analyze everything, and make it into something it's not.  You gotta relax, man, and do like me.  Just go with the flow, bro.  Just go with the flow."

"Ya think?" asked Richie as they entered the hospital.

"No, I don't think, Rich, I know."

Stepping through the automatic sliding doors, they found themselves in the combined Emergency and General Admissions area.  Compared to the large hospitals in the city, this place seemed more like a public library in its lack of activity.  In the city there would be the constant hustle and bustle of hospital staff tending to victims of cuts and bruises, and the occasional gunshot wound.  Here, all they found was a lone volunteer worker seated behind the admissions desk and a few people in the waiting room, thumbing through month old magazines.

The volunteer was a good looking high school age girl with long blonde hair, dressed in a red and white striped uniform.  It wasn't uncommon to find young volunteers like this in most hospitals, and they were referred to as `candy-stripers' because of the color of their uniform.  More often than not they were high school juniors and seniors planning to pursue a career in the healthcare profession.  This volunteer work gave them early exposure to how a hospital worked while earning them extra credit for their classes.

She was talking on the phone as the boys approached, and when she looked up, she quickly ended her conversation.  Putting down the phone, she smiled up at Kyle, showing off her perfect white teeth and sparkling blue eyes.

"Can I help you?" she asked as she continued to stare.

"Yes," said Richie.  "Could you please tell us which room is TJ Allison is in?"

"I'm sorry, but I don't recognize the name," she said, her eyes still glued to Kyle's face.

"Look," said Kyle, smiling his `teen model smile' as he glanced at her name tag.  "Cindy, that's your name, right?  His given name is Terrence, Terrence Allison.  Do you suppose you could look it up in your computer for us?"

"Sure, no problem.  And yes, my name is Cindy, and I get off at five," she said as she continued to drool over Kyle.

"How nice for you," said Kyle.  "How bout that room number then... If it's not too much trouble for you, that is."

"Oh, sure, it'll only take a second," she said as she finally tore her eyes from Kyle to look down at her monitor.

After typing something on her keyboard, she smiled up at Kyle again while she waited for the file search to give her the information.  After a few moments passed, Kyle reminded her again.

"The room number?  I should be up on the screen now, right?

"Um, oh, yeah," she said as she looked back to her screen, "He's in room 238."  Then, looking back to Kyle, she said, "It's on the second floor at the end of the hall.  I can show you where it is if you'd like."

"Nah.  Thanks anyway, but we'll find it OK.  Besides, I wouldn't want to take you away from your important work here."

This last statement was loaded with sarcasm, but because of Kyle's good looks and sexy smile, it was completely lost on Cindy.  It didn't get past Richie, though, and he began to chuckle as they turned away from the desk to head for the elevators.

"You are somethin else, ya know that, bro?" he said while they waited for the elevator.

"How's that, Rich?"

"Yeah, right.  Like you don't know what I'm talkin about.  That chick, man!  She woulda spread her legs right there on the desk if you'd a asked her to... She didn't even know I was there."

"Oh, that," said Kyle with a slight blush. "I run into that shit all the time.  I'm kinda used to it now, though."

Just then, the doors opened onto an empty elevator.  Once they were inside, Riche punched the button for the second floor, then smiled over at Kyle as the doors closed again.


"Oh, I was just thinkin.  It makes me feel kinda good that I can have what she would kill for," said Richie while reaching over to squeeze Kyle's dick through his Levi's.

As luck would have it, just as Richie gave Kyle's package a final squeeze, the doors opened at their floor.  Standing there, waiting to use the elevator, were two middle aged women who saw enough to become visibly shocked.  It was anybody's guess as to whose faces were redder, theirs' or the women's, as the boys stepped passed them into the hallway.

"Nice move, Guppy," said Kyle, still flushed but not angry.

Even though Richie was just as embarrassed as Kyle, he was giggling quietly as they made their way down the hall toward TJ's room.

"Whoa, did you see the looks on their faces, man?  Talk about a Kodak moment."

"Ya think?" asked Kyle, as he, too, smiled at the encounter.

"Fuckin right!" said Richie.  "Kinda makes me want to come out more, ya know?  Just so I can do shit like that... you know, shock the hell out of some of these narrow-minded fucking prudes."

"They were shocked alright, but don't get up too high on your `gay pride' horse, dude.  For all you know, they coulda been a couple of wonderful, open-minded ladies.  Hell, for all we know, they could even be lesbians."

"Yeah, well then how come they freaked when they saw me squeezin your dick?"

"Are you serious?  Think about it, man.  I don't wanna come off sounding like a dad or anything here, but an elevator ain't exactly the place one would expect to see that kinda shit happening.  What I'm sayin is, they woulda freaked just as much if they saw some straight dude's girlfriend grab his dick."

"Yeah, I spose you're right.  Not exactly `proper behavior', huh, Dad."

"Hey, what can I say, dude?... if the shoe fits."

Just before they reached TJ's room, Richie grabbed Kyle by the arm and directed him over to the wall.  Placing both of his hands on his shoulders, he looked directly into his eyes.

"What?" asked an impatient Kyle.

"You're a puzzle to me Kyle Jacobson, did you know that?"

"Yeah?... to you and the whole rest of the world.  So what?"

"So, you're a very special puzzle to me, and I just wanted to tell you that."

"Um, OK, if you say so," said Kyle, beginning to feel a little awkward.  "But if you're planning to kiss me right now, that probably wouldn't be proper, either."

"Why not?" asked Richie.  "Straights kiss each other in hospital hallways all the time."

Before Kyle could respond, Richie pulled him close and kissed him full on the lips.  It wasn't a long kiss, but one that showed how much Richie truly cared for him.  When they broke their embrace, they smiled knowingly at each other for a moment before Kyle glanced around the hallway to see if they had been observed.  When he saw no one around, he looked at Richie again.

"That was pretty bold of you, ya know... especially for someone that's pretty much still in the closet."

"Yeah?" said Richie.  "Well, I've been meaning to talk to you about..."

Richie was unable to finish his sentence because Kyle pulled him into another embrace.  This time the kiss was long and passionate and, when finally they moved apart, their semi-hard dicks were making a slight bulge in their Levi's.

"C'mon," said Richie with a devilish grin on his face.  "Let's get outa here and get a motel room."

"You're kidding... You are, aren't you?"

"No... I mean, yeah, I guess I am.  I know we can't... you know, with all the food in the truck, and the guys waiting for us... besides, we're here to see TJ, right?"

"Yeah, right... I knew we were here for somethin," said Kyle with a grin.  "C'mon, let's go."

With that said, they walked the last few feet and slowly pushed open the door to room 238.  It was a semi-private room, designed for two patients, but TJ was its only occupant.  He was in the bed furthest from the door, propped against his pillows and staring out the window when the boys entered.  Hearing them come in, he turned in their direction as he smiled his recognition.

"Kyle!," he said with obvious surprise.  "And Rich, right?  What brings you dudes up here?"

"Hey, TJ," said both boys almost simultaneously.

"We were in the neighborhood, so we thought we'd stop in and see how you're doin," added Kyle.

"Cool, though I was hoping you were the rents coming to bust me out."

"Yeah," said Richie.  "Brian told us your parole was denied.  Somethin about waitin for some test results or somethin."

"Brian Cochran?" asked TJ with surprise.  "You know Brian?"

"Yeah," said Richie.  "Well, I do now, anyway.  I met him yesterday.  Kyle's buds with his brother and we hooked up with them at McCarthy's."

"That's right, the big 4th of July celebration.  How was it?"

"Pretty cool, actually.  We partied all afternoon and most of the night."

"Shit!  I'm sorry I missed it."

"Well, at least your still alive after butting heads with that log on the lake."

TJ was about to answer when Kyle interrupted their conversation.  "Have they fed you yet?  We haven't eaten since breakfast, and I'm starving."

"Fuck no!" said TJ.  "I mean they brought that crap around they call food, but I couldn't eat any of it."

"How bout I run to `Mickey D's' for some burgers.  They're just down the street.  What d'ya say, Rich?"

"Sounds like a plan to me," said Richie.

"Oh, man, I'd kill for a quarter pounder and some fries right about now," said TJ.

"Cool," said Kyle.  "I'll be back in a flash."

With that he was out the door, leaving Richie and TJ alone.

"By the way, thanks, man, for pulling me out of the lake yesterday," said TJ.

"Don't thank me, dude.  It was Kyle's boat, and our friends that did as much as me."

"Yeah?  Well I owe ya, all of ya.  But especially you."

"Me?  Shit, man, I didn't do anything more than anybody else."

"Yeah ya did.  You stayed with me.  I don't mean just staying with me till the ambulance came either.  I heard what ya said at the boat-landing."

"Oh, that," said Richie, his face flushing a little at the memory.  "I didn't think you heard me."

"I heard you alright.  I don't think my own parents would've said that much.  Thanks."

With that, TJ reached out and squeezed Richie's hand.  Feeling even more embarrassed, as well as a little awkward, Richie pulled his hand away, then stepped back to sit on the edge of the empty bed next to TJ's.

"Um... like what were you doin out there in all that wind by yourself, anyway."

"Oh, that," said TJ as he shifted himself into a more comfortable position on the bed.  "I was just out fuckin around on the jet-ski, which can get real boring when you're by yourself.  Then I remembered that you guys were at Kyle's place, so I thought I'd buzz over and see what you were up to.  Guess I misjudged a wave or two, huh?"

"Yeah, I'd say so.  By the way, your machine's over at Kyle's so ya don't have to worry about that.  I hope ya don't mind, but me and my bud, Lindy, messed around on it for a while."

"Cool.  I don't mind at all.  At least somebody had some fun with it."

There was a moment of silence as both boys tried to think of something to keep the conversation going.  It was Richie who spoke first.

"Lindy told me you were lookin for me at McCarthy's Tuesday night."

"Lindy?  Oh, one of the dudes you were with.  Sorry, I didn't know his name.  Yeah, I was bored, I guess.  Then I saw them and remembered you.  Thought I'd see if I couldn't track ya down.  You know, see if ya wanted to like hang out and play some games or somethin.  Which one was Lindy?"

"The younger one. He's my age."

"I see.  So, this Lindy dude, he a good friend of yours from the city?"

"Yeah, he is.  We've been best buds like forever.  The other dude's name is Kevin, a good friend of Kyle's.  The four of us came up for the fourth.  Well, that, and to celebrate my birthday tomorrow... which you're invited to, by the way."

Immediately after saying this, Richie wondered if he hadn't been too forward in extending his invitation.  He barely knew TJ, and all of a sudden he'd invited him over like he would a friend or teammate.

"I mean, if your not busy... and if ya wanna come, that is.  Brian and Steve'll be there," he added nervously.

"Sure, I got nothin planned."

After saying this, TJ frowned, then grimaced as he shifted his position in the bed again.

"You OK, man?" asked Richie.

"Oh, yeah, I feel fine.  Just been stuck in this fuckin bed too long, is all."

Once he was comfortable again, he looked at Richie, the frown still on his face.  "Um... are you sure Jacobson's alright with me coming to your party?"

"Kyle?  Fuck yeah, he is.  He's the one who suggested I invite you.  Why wouldn't he be?"

"Well, me and Kyle never hit it off too good.  Besides, I think he's still pissed at me for something that happened last summer."

"Oh, you mean that firecracker thing.  Don't worry about it.  He's over it.  It was a pretty dumb thing to do, though, don't ya think?"

"He told you about that?"

"Yeah.  Well, actually it was Kevin who told me... when we saw you in the restaurant that night."

"Oh yeah, that's where I'd seen him before.  He was with Kyle last summer.  I guess it was pretty dumb, alright.  My old man yelled at me for a month after that deal."

"So, you gonna come then?  To the party, I mean."

"Sure," said TJ with a shrug.  "As long as I'm invited.  I'm always up for a good party.  What time, and how old ya gonna be?"

"Don't know what time yet, Ill have to get back to ya on that.  As far as how old... fifteen."

"Cool," said TJ.  "Same as me.  Welcome to the world of learner's permits, dude."

"I know!  I can't hardly wait.  You got yours?"

"Fuckin right!  Got mine the day after my birthday."  After he said this, TJ face took on the look of sadness.  It wasn't very pronounced, but it was enough for Richie to notice.  "Now all I need is a licensed driver who'll take me driving."

There was another awkward silence.  Before either boy could break it, however, the door swung open and Brian stepped into the room.

"Brian, dude, what up, man?" said TJ, visibly excited at the recognition of his friend.

"Not much, Teege," said Brian as he stepped past Richie and slapped TJ's open hand.

Watching this, Richie decided this hand slap was their special sort of handshake.  Similar to his and Lindy's, though no where near as complicated or ritualistic.  One of his questions was finally answered, though.  It was obvious that these two were good friends.

Looking past Brian to Richie, TJ said, "I don't guess I need to introduce you two, do I."

"Hell no," said Brian as he turned to face Richie.  "I thought that was Kyle's truck I saw at McDonald's on my way over here.  You guys get all your supplies and shit?"

"Yeah, we did.  We are like so ready for tomorrow.  How'd you get here, anyway?"

"Rode my bike.  I only live a mile away."

"Liar!" said TJ.  "More like four of five miles."

"Whatever," said Brian.  "Like who's counting."

"You get anything to eat?" asked TJ.  "Kyle's bringing some burgers back for us."

"Yeah, I ate before I left.  I talked to your ma before I came over, too.  She said they were gonna get you outa here around three or so."

"Great," said TJ.  "This place is drivin me nuts."

Just then, the door opened and Kyle came in with their food.  After saying `hey' to Brian, he distributed the burgers and the four of them talked and joked while the ate their lunch.  Among other things, Kyle and Brian filled TJ in on Richie's video debut.  They all laughed about it, although Richie still turned red with embarrassment.

Around two o'clock, when they'd finished eating, Kyle thought it was about time for him and Richie to head back.  "So, Brian.  You want us to give you a ride home?" he asked.

"Thanks, but TJ's dad said he'd drop me off when they come to get him out.  What time does the party start tomorrow?"

"Well, I kinda thought we'd start around one or so.  Hopefully the wind won't be too bad so we can get in some water-skiing."

"Perfect," said Brian.  "Cause me and Steve gotta help my dad paint the house in the morning.  He's getting it ready to sell in case we move to the city."

"Great," said Kyle.  "Then Rich can pick up TJ in my boat.  That way you guys don't have to go out of your way to get him when you come over."

"Um, sure, I could do that," answered Richie, wondering what Kyle was up to.  He hadn't even driven the boat yet, and now Kyle had him taking it over to TJ's.

"Cool," said TJ.  "What time ya comin over?"

"I don't know.  What time am I goin over, Kyle?!" asked Richie.

"Why not make it around ten," said TJ.  "Unless you have other plans, I'm sure we can find something to do to kill time until the party.  No sense in wasting the morning."

"OK, then ten it is." said Kyle.

"Sure, ten's cool," said Richie, shrugging his shoulders.  "I'll see ya then."

That said, Richie got up to leave, with Kyle close behind him.

"Wait a sec, Rich," said Brian as he stood to follow them.  "I'll walk you guys out.  I don't have a lock for my bike and I wanna see if it's still where I left it."

That said, Kyle held the door open for the two younger boys.  Just as he turned to follow them out, TJ called to him.


"Yeah, man," he said as he leaned back into the room.

"Um... you sure you're OK with me coming over for the party tomorrow?"

"Sure, man, I'm the one who told Rich to invite you."

"I know, that's what he said.  I just wanted to make sure it was OK.  You know, after last year and all."

"Ah, forget it, dude.  Old news.  Already forgotten.  See ya tomorrow."

"Yeah, see ya.  Oh, and Kyle?  Thanks again, man, for everything."

"Hey, no prob, dude.  Later."

With that said, Kyle left to catch up with Brian and Richie who were already halfway down the hall to the elevators.

"What was that all about," asked Brian when Kyle caught up with them.

"Nothin, just some last minute details, is all."

When they arrived at the bank of elevators, Brian explained to them the real reason he wanted to walk out with them.

"Look you guys, my bike's OK.  I really don't have a lock for it, but nobody would steal that piece of junk, anyway.  What I wanted to do was to thank you for everything you've done for TJ.  He don't have many friends around here, and... Well, it means a lot to him.  Especially inviting him to your party and all.  So, thanks."

"Hey, no problem, man," said Kyle just as the elevator doors opened, "We'll see you all tomorrow."

That said, Kyle and Richie stepped into the elevator and watched as the doors closed on a very happy looking Brian.

Richie didn't say anything as the elevator began it's descent to the first floor.  When Kyle looked at him, he appeared to be lost in his thoughts.

"You're doin it again, ain't ya, Guppy?"

"Huh?  Doin what?" asked Richie, his train of thought interrupted.

"Over-analyzing something."

"Oh, no, not really.  I was just thinking that I was right about Brian and TJ.  They are good friends.  Course, I still can't figure out why Brian didn't wanna talk about it."

"And that's not over-analyzing?"

"Hey, so what.  When I see something that's weird, I can't help wondering about it, OK?" said Richie a little defensively.

"Hey, that's cool... go for it."

"And speaking of weird, what the hell are you trying to do, play matchmaker?"

"What d'ya mean?"

"What do I mean?  I've never even driven a boat before, and all of a sudden you've got me picking up TJ tomorrow."

"Oh, that.  No big deal.  Driving the boat's cake, and  somebody's gotta do it, so why not you?  Is that a problem for ya?"

"No, it's just that you were awful quick to volunteer me, is all.  Kinda like Lindy's trial by fire yesterday.  So I gotta think you got some ulterior motive goin on."

"Nope," said Kyle.  "Just trying to pull the party together, is all."

Richie wasn't sure he believed this, but he had to admit to himself he was pleased with his assignment.  He was also intrigued that TJ suggested he come over early.  Now he would be able to spend some time with him before the party started.

Just before the elevator doors opened onto the admissions area, Richie chuckled, then asked Kyle a question.  "So, you've like read the Hardy Boys?"

Kyle flushed a little at his question and shrugged his shoulders as they stepped off the elevator.

"Yeah, until I started high school, anyway.  I don't know if they're still being written, but I got every one there was before I quit readin 'em.  Why?  You wanna borrow 'em?"

"No," laughed Richie.  "I got a pretty good collection of my own.  I just never knew you read that much."

"Yeah?  Well there's a lot you don't know about me."

Cindy was still seated behind the admissions counter, talking on the phone again when they passed by.  When she looked up to see them, she smiled her `I get off at five' smile at Kyle.

"I bet she'd crap her panties if she knew you were gay," chuckled Richie.

"Now you're being crude, Rich."

"Yeah, I spose I am.  When somethin like that happens, though, does it ever make you wish you were straight?"

"No!  Why the hell would it?  Would it make you wish you were straight?"

"Well, it's not something I've ever had to deal with... but, no, I guess it something like that wouldn't make me wish it."

"Besides," said Kyle as they made their way across the parking lot to the Suburban, "I get the same thing from some pretty hot lookin dudes, too.  So I guess I'd have to say my looks aren't totally going to waste."

"I see your point," said Richie thoughtfully as they climbed into the cab of the truck.

After they buckled-up, Kyle guided them back onto Main Street and they headed out of town.  Neither boy spoke again until they passed the point where Main Street narrowed from four lanes into two.  It was Kyle who was the first to speak.

"What's on your mind now, Rich?"

"Oh, just over-analyzing again, I spose."

"Yeah?" chuckled Kyle, "What about this time?"

"What you said about hot lookin dudes drooling over you.  I'd sure like to have someone drool over me.  Hell, I'd be happy if I could just tell the gay ones from the straight ones.  I mean, it's easy for you to spot a hot lookin gay dude.  They practically shout it out with their expression when they see you.  Just like Cindy back there.  But it ain't that easy for me.  And the way society is, it's not like I can just walk up to some dude and ask him out or anything.  At least not in your normal hetero type setting, anyway.  I mean, if a straight dude sees a hot lookin chick, he can ask her out if he wants... and if she's not interested, the worst that can happen is that she'll turn him down.  But if I ask a guy out, the worst thing that can happen to me is that he beats the shit out of me.  Kind of a big difference there, don't ya think?"

"Well yeah, but this can't be a new thought for you.  For sure you've always known that.  That's the way society is right now.  It's gettin better, though, don't ya think?  Course I don't have any real numbers or anything... but don't you think that if you asked, say, a hundred guys out, that only fifty of them would beat the shit out of you... instead of, say, ninety-five, twenty years ago?"

"Oh, yeah, I agree with you there.  We're moving in the right direction, that's for sure, but fifty is still way too many.  I mean, shit, just one would hurt a helluva lot."

"Ya know what would help?  Let the other dudes ask you out.  Course, they're in the same boat you are, so you'd have to let them know that you won't kick their ass if they do... and to do that, you'd have to come out to more people than just the three of us."

"I know, and I've been thinkin about that more and more.  It's something I've been wanting to talk to you about, too.  I think I want to come out to my family.  Like soon, and for sure before school starts."

This was a surprise for Kyle, and he immediately began to consider the consequences.  Richie had mentioned coming out to his family several times in the past, and Kyle knew that he would do it as soon as he felt he was ready.  Kyle, on the other hand, was not so eager to join him.  He had one more year of high school left, and long ago decided not to come out before he graduated.  Now that Richie was obviously ready to open himself up to his family, it wouldn't be long before he'd want to come out at school as well.  What Kyle wondered about was what it would mean for them and their relationship if Riche came out and he didn't.



"I know what you're thinkin right now, but you know I wouldn't do anything before we had a chance to talk about it.  I know you're not ready to come out, and that's cool.  You know I'd never out you to anyone, either... so for now, just think about it, OK?"

"OK, fair enough," said Kyle, his mind continuing to churn over the possible ramifications.

"Answer me one question, though, would ya?  How come you've never fucked me?  I fucked you once, last winter, but you've never fucked me... and whenever I asked you to, you always came up with some lame excuse, like we don't have any lube or somethin.  Why is that?"

Kyle began to fidget in his seat, obviously uncomfortable with the turn this  conversation had taken.  Richie was right, he always found some way, some excuse, to avoid having anal sex with him.  He also knew that eventually Richie would call him on it.

"I love you Rich, and I never want to do anything to hurt you.  Well, that's it, I've always been afraid that I'd hurt you."

"Did I hurt you when I did it?"

"No... I mean, yeah, at first, but that was only for a second or so, then it was fantastic."

Kyle looked over to Richie after saying this, knowing that telling him it was fantastic wasn't helping his case any.  Turning his attention back to the road, he continued.

"But I'm much bigger than you, and I'm afraid it'll hurt too much."

"That's bullshit, Kyle, and you know it.  Yeah, you're bigger than me, but no way in hell are you MUCH bigger than me.  So you're gonna have to come up with somethin better, cause I'm not buying that one."

When Kyle still didn't answer, Richie prompted him again.

"You know I'm just dyin to find out what it's like, don't you?  And now that we're not a couple anymore, I'm gonna find out sooner or later.  But I want you to be my first because that would make it special.  I wouldn't be afraid with you doing it, either, cause I know you wouldn't hurt me.  Besides, you're the only one who could do it without... you know, without using a rubber."

Surprised at this, Kyle looked over to Richie again.  In the entire six months that they'd known each other, the subject of safe sex was never discussed.  Seeing the expression on Kyle's face as he turned his attention back to the road, Richie went on to explain.

"Yeah, that's right, big guy.  Once we start having sex with someone else, it's condom time.  We've never had to worry about safe sex cause we've never had sex with anyone but each other... well, other than a few blow-jobs, but they were with guys we knew were safe.  So it never applied to us.  But now, the first time either one of us has sex with someone else, the gloves are on, if ya know what I mean.  So, please, do it for me Kyle.  Let me find out what it's like from someone special, without a rubber."

Kyle thought about this for a moment or two before answering.

"Jeez, Rich, I swear to God I didn't know you felt this way.  I mean, that you wanted to do it so bad."

"Then you'll do it for me?"

"Sure I'll do it for you."  Then looking over at Richie again, he grinned a huge grin and said, "And I'll make it one that you'll never forget."

"Yes!" exclaimed Richie.  "So how bout we turn this truck around and find that motel room?" he added with his devilish grin.

"Nope," said Kyle immediately and with conviction.  "No way, Guppy.  You're first time ain't gonna be in some cheap motel room.  It's gonna be as special as I can make it for you, and that means a special time and place."

The rest of the trip from Pine City was made in silence with each boy thinking his own thoughts.  Kyle was already planning on how and when he'd have anal sex with Richie, while Richie was wondering about Brian and TJ.  It was obvious from what he saw at the hospital that they were good friends, but he couldn't help wondering if their relationship wasn't sexual as well.  There was no reason to think that either one was gay, but anytime he was attracted to another boy, Richie couldn't help but wonder.  Not only would he wonder if they were gay, but in some cases he would fantasize that they were.  Since he was attracted to both Brian and TJ, the logical thought process took him to question exactly what kind of relationship they had with each other.

His thoughts were interrupted when the truck slowed at the entrance to Harry's Sport Shop.

"Whoa," said Kyle.  "Looks like Hatch and Lindy are here."

This caused Richie to look up and search the area for their friends.

"Where?" he asked.  "I don't see 'em."

"No, they're probably inside.  But those are my dirt bikes parked by the door."

Richie had seen the bikes when they pulled off the highway, but thought nothing of them.  Now, however, after hearing what Kyle said, he looked at the twin Yamaha 125cc dirt bikes more closely.

"You sure those are yours?"

"Oh yeah, they're mine alright," said Kyle as he parked next to them. "They're the only matching pair of Yamaha's around here.  I didn't know Lindy knew how to ride."

"Hell yes he does!" said Richie as his eyes lit up. "Me and him went out to the quarry all the time last summer with this kid in our home-room.  You know the quarry I'm talkin about?  It's the one on the way out to your house."

"Shelly's quarry?  Sure, I know where that is," said Kyle as they climbed down from the truck.

"Yeah, this kid, Danny, has a dirt bike and he let us ride it all the time.  Actually, he's kind of a dork so we never hung out with him or nothin, but it sure was fun to ride his bike."

Passing through the door of the sport shop, they saw Harry at his usual spot, sitting on his stool behind the counter.

"Harry, you ole rattlesnake, how the hell are ya?" asked Kyle as he made his way to the counter.

"Well bless my soul if it ain't the other half of the `awesome foursome' come to pay old Harry a visit.  How you boys doin?"

"We're good, Harry, how bout yourself?"

"Can't complain, can't complain."

While Kyle talked to Harry, Richie stood by the door and scoped out the shop looking for Kevin and Lindy.  He quickly spotted them heading toward the counter from the back.  Envious because they were riding the dirt bikes, Richie smiled when he made eye contact with Lindy.  Seeming to read Richie's thoughts, Lindy smiled back at him as he broke away from Kevin to head in his direction.  Although Richie was excited about the dirt bikes, and wanted to ask Lindy all about them, the conversation between Kyle and Harry caught his attention.

"You're not spreading stories around about us with that `awesome foursome' stuff, are ya, Harry?"

"Ain't none of my doin, son.  I heard it from the guy that drives the ice truck.  Said he heard about it from the bartender at McCarthy's.  Sounds to me like the whole lake knows what you boys done yesterday."

"Shit, Harry, it wasn't such a big deal.  All we did was fish TJ out of the lake."

"Yeah, well that makes you heroes round these parts.  Leastwise to most people it does.  What can I do for you today?"

Richie wondered what Harry meant when he said they were heroes to most people, but before he could dwell on it, Lindy nudged him in the ribs.

"What d'ya think of our ride out there, bro?"

"Fucking awesome, man!  They're bigger than Danny's, too, ain't they."

"Fuck yeah, they are!  And you wouldn't believe what a rush it is to ride 'em through the woods around here," said Lindy.  Then, lowering his voice to be sure that only Richie could hear him, he added, "Thing is, Kevin's kind of a wuss when it comes to dirt riding.  I mean, he's fun to ride with and all, but he's not too high on gettin off the road much.  I always had to wait for him to catch up."

"Well he probably hasn't done it as much as we have.  It takes some gettin used to, ya know."

"Oh, for sure.  I'm not complaining or nothin, it's just that me and you could like totally tear up these woods if we rode together."

"Hey you clowns," called Kyle from the counter.  "How bout you guys fill the cooler with ice while Hatch tops off the tanks in the truck?"

"We're on it, bro," said Lindy.

With that, the younger boys left to store to retrieve the cooler.  When they got to the truck, they paused to look over the dirt bikes.

"So, what's it like compared to Danny's bike?" asked Richie.

"Oh, fuck... they're way better, man.  These puppies could like climb a telephone pole with two riders on 'em.  They're so much more powerful than Danny's."

Just then, Kevin walked up behind them.

"Hey, Rich."

"Hey, Kevin," said Richie.

"I guess you guys have done some riding before, eh?  And from what I've seen of Lindy, much more than I have."

"Yeah, we've been over a hill or two, I guess," said Richie as he grinned at Lindy.

"Then why don't you two take 'em when we're done here, and I'll ride back with Jake."

"Really?" asked an enthusiastic Richie. "You wouldn't mind?"

"Nah... I'd much rather have four wheels under me than try to keep up with Evel Knievel here.  For now, though, why don't you guys grab the cooler so I can pull the truck over to the pumps?"

"Thanks, man," said a beaming Richie as he and Lindy wrestled the cooler from the back of the truck.

"Whoa, this is gonna be so cool, Rich,"  said Lindy on their way back into Harry's.

They were so excited about their upcoming ride that they failed to see Kyle on his way out of Harry's, nearly knocking him over when they ran into him.

"Whoa, dudes.  Where's the fire?" asked Kyle, barely able to maintain his balance.

"Sorry, man, guess we weren't watching where we were goin.  You OK?" asked Lindy.

"I'll live.  I'm guessing that you guys'll be taking the bikes back, huh?"

"Yeah, if that's OK with you," said Richie.

"Works for me," said Kyle.  "But if ya want a really cool ride, I suggest you take the snowmobile trail around the lake."

"Whoa!  What d'ya say, Rich?" said Lindy, his excitement obvious.

"Awesome!" said Richie.  "But where do we pick up the trail from here?"

"About a quarter mile back up Jake's Road," said Kyle.

"Oh yeah, I remember seein the yellow signs with the black snowmobile on 'em," said Richie.

"That's it," said Kyle, "Just take the trail off to the right and follow it around past the boat landing.  After that, just keep bearing to the left on around the lake.  You'll see signs all along the trail marking it, so ya shouldn't get lost... at least not too bad.  Better take the cell phone with you, though, just in case."

"Yes!" said Richie.  "C'mon, bro, let's get this puppy filled with ice so we can get out there."

While they packed the cooler, Kyle gave them some last minute cautions.

"Stay pretty close to the trail, you guys.  There's a lot of woods out there, and it all looks the same, so it's like real easy to get lost.  You're gonna run into some sections of trail that are wet and muddy, too.  If ya can, skirt around 'em.  If ya can't go around 'em, then take it easy goin over 'em.  I'm not worried about you or the bikes gettin muddy or anything, I just don't want ya tearing up the trail, OK?  And be careful, we don't wanna be celebrating Richie's birthday tomorrow in the hospital."

"Gotcha, `Dad'," said Richie, a huge grin on his face.  "We'll be cool."

"I know you will, I just... "

Whatever Kyle was going to say was interrupted when Kevin joined them to announce the truck was filled and ready to go.  "Seven bucks apiece for the gas, guys, plus whatever the ice is," he said.  Again Kyle was beaten at the money game.

Just then, Harry sauntered up behind them.  "Couldn't help overhearing your conversation, boys.  Couldn't pick a nicer day for a ride, that's for sure.  Just keep your eyes peeled for `dead-falls' while you're out there.  With that wind we had the other night, you just know there's gonna be some trees down."

"Thanks, Harry," said Richie.  "We'll be careful."

While Kevin and Kyle went up front with Harry to settle the bill, the younger boys hauled the cooler back out to the truck.

"That was a little harsh don't ya think, Rich?" said Lindy on the way.

"What, the `Dad' crack?  Nah, I don't think so.  I do it every once in a while just to get a rise out of him.  He knows I'm just givin him shit."

"Yeah?  Well just so you know, he only does that cause he cares about you."

"Whoa, listen to you...  Mister relationship expert."

"Hey, man, I'm just sayin... "

"I know, bro," said Richie.  "Tell the truth, he's more like a big brother than a dad, anyway, don't ya think?"

"Yeah, you're right, he is.  You're one lucky dude, ya know that?"

"Yeah, I guess I am," said Richie as they hefted the cooler into the truck.  "C'mon, let's make tracks."

After Lindy pocketed the cell phone from the cab of the truck, they headed for the bikes, waving goodbye to Kevin and Kyle on the way.

"Man, I can't wait to wrap my legs around all that power," said Richie.

"Yeah?  Then you're headed in the wrong direction, dude," said Lindy with a huge grin.  "Kyle's on his way to the truck."

"Bite me, Lindstrom," said Richie, as he punched his best bud in the arm.