W H E N   S H A D O W S   P A S S
by Sean E. – EkidKy  (EKidKy@Hotmail.com) 

D I S C L A I M E R 
This fictional series contains frank discussions, imagery and scenes between young male teens with subject material that is not appropriate for all people.  Although that statement implies young adults of a certain age should refrain or be discouraged from reading, it is my honest belief that the decision should lie with the individual (I know what it was like when I was 13 - 14 years old).  This story is intended to be read by all ages, both young and old at heart, who want to find encouragement, understanding and acceptance – especially in this big, busy world where we live.  I know society frowns upon what it considers to be the taboos of young people and sex, but I think there is a place – deep inside all of us, throughout life – where we need to feel accepted and wanted.

 On a personal note, that’s why I write and do this – for guys who feel confused but need to believe in themselves. It is my sincere hope my writings can give a teen courage and hope.  If it helps even just one individual in some way to know that they are not alone, then it’s worth every effort I make.  There is a stigma in our society young male emotions should always be surpassed: “Grow up!”, “Suck it up, be a man!” and other phrases are things I’ve heard all my life.  It’s as if anything to do with boys having feelings and companionship amongst one another should be dammed.  Well, it wasn’t for me; I was a teen who hid a lot from the world, but also had a lot to give on the inside, and I think as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized it is a reality more common than you think.  I know because I’ve been there – and surprisingly, at the time of this writing, it was NOT that long ago. 

 If you find such material objectionable, then obviously you're in the wrong place - and you should move on to other sources for your reading pleasure.  Also be warned: if you want the “quickie” – sorry, that isn’t me or my style.

 As with most authors, any feedback is encouraged and appreciated: EKidKy@hotmail.com


W H E N   S H A D O W S   P A S S
Chapter Two:When Two Worlds Meet

    "Blimey, how much longer is it gonna be?"

    The young man sitting at the end of the couch had his knees pulled to his chest with arms wrapping and hugging them together sighed.  The dark red shorts he wore were pulled tight, exposing his legs to just above his knees.  Boney feet were propped on the edge of the sofa with long toes curled over cushion, holding him in check as he sat there.  A large yellow t-shirt showing signs of age appeared to swallow him; almost unnaturally the large garment extended well beyond his back and was tucked underneath where he was sitting. 

    Elliot sighed in exasperation as he looked at the clock again, as if by sheer will it would make the minutes go by faster.  Although thin and small for his age, Elliot was a youth already well past the age of accountability, the age all teenagers metamorphosis through as they enter young adulthood.  In the past 6 months his body had finally decided it had better catch up to the rest of his age group.  His was at that awkward stage where his features still held a great deal of their youthfulness overall, but other parts had started stretching in odd proportions here and there, hinting at the tall, lithe figure that would come.  The only two features seemed to copy his father: first the matching blue eyes which seemed to be a family trait that matched even those of his brother, and second a set of black, fine hair they also seemed to share.

    "It shouldn't be too much longer now, honey," called a reply from the distance, his mother clearly having heard his outcry from the kitchen.  "Your father phoned at about half-past seven and said they were entering Havant."

    Elliot drew a deep breath and sighed again, closing his eyes.  Havant, the township where his father worked, was a good half-hours drive on most days.  Looking at the clock, he knew there would be at least another 10-minute wait to hold out for – and that was IF the traffic was agreeable.  He was unsure why he felt as much anxiousness building within him – or was it excitement?  He wasn’t sure how he felt about the new kid coming to live with them, as a jumble of mixed emotions caught him on a roller coaster from one moment to the next.  He heard footsteps from somewhere above and realized his older brother must have finally gotten out of the shower and was getting dressed.  A brother whom, although they had their spats at times, he respect well, and wished more than anything to have by his side right now.

    Derek was never one for outright ignoring his feelings or mistreating his younger brother to any extent.  Both boys, separated by only two years in age, were surprisingly close.  They got along great - hanging out often, going places, playing games and just being a part of the overall family.  They looked out and stood up for each other well.  Unlike his younger sibling, Derek was more carefree with living, more spontaneous and physically minded.  He liked sports and being active wherever he could find something to fit into.  The younger of the two was also carefree, but resigned more at an academic level, preferring the strategic puzzles life could offer.  Gaming, reading, theatre – all held an appeal very different than his brother.  Both however, had always had time for one another, to talk and figure out the mysteries of life with one another as only kids could understand – although Elliot had seen that becoming less and less as of late.  Derek had his friends, and the direction they were moving was making it harder and harder for the two of them to find time for one another.

    Maybe that was a back-end source of his anxiety, Elliot thought.  Perhaps somehow he was subconsciously hoping this new kid, whom he already knew to be almost identical in age, would be a new friend – someone he could lean on and have fun with in Derek’s absence.  It had only been the week before when the both of them had came home one evening and, finding their parents in the living room waiting for them - a oddity all to itself - he and Derek had sat down and learned of the new kid.  It was sort of funny: Derek had said little throughout the whole tale his father told, about a young boy of 14 had lost his father and family in the States, and how – through an odd series of events – it had been discovered the boy’s father was his dad's long lost brother.  Elliot was shocked at first: he had never known he had any other family short of just his father’s sister.  As the details unfolded, however, a strange sense had invaded not just him but both of the young teenagers.  As incredulous as it turned out, however, they all learned enough and decided their lives were about to change.

    What had been funny about it all was Elliot’s apparent surprise at discovering things it appeared Derek had already known.  His brother tried to shrug it off, but Eliot knew better.  At first his parents made the subject an open discussion, wanting to know how the boys would feel about bringing in a fifth member to the family, temporary at first but – if all worked out – permanent in the end.  In other words, how would they feel about fostering someone from the States, someone who was obviously family, but who would still be a stranger?  Elliot’s emotions were mixed, but as Derek pointed out later that night when just the two of them were alone, the decision had really already been made.  In the end it hadn't made any difference to Elliot; at least at first.

    Elliot opened his eyes again and saw another five minutes had finally ticked away.  It was, by every meaning of the words, now or never.  'What could be taking them so long?' he wondered as he ran his hands down both sides of his head, threading the tips of his through restless fingers.  He had only finished when he suddenly heard a noise outside and the front door being opened.  Springing to his feet Derek suddenly appeared at his side, waiting with as much anxiousness as his younger sibling.  Through the darkness on the other side of the door, lit only by the street light across the way, they could both see the silhouette of their father as he turned the key in the lock.

    "Mum!" The hushed whisper uttered by Derek towards the back of the flat was unnecessary as within seconds Natalie had already joined them.  In the silence that followed, the inner door finally swung inward as its hinges creaked with a shrill cry.  The light from the living room fell across the features of a pleasantly tall individual, whose smiling face greeted them as he straightened up and guided a shorter, more youthful companion to step inside before him.  Closing the door tight, the man turned and both of the newcomers stared briefly at the ensemble gathered before them.

    "Ah, hello all!  Um, this is our new guest.  Jason, I'd like you to meet my wife Natalie, my older son Derek, and my younger son Elliot.  Everyone, this is Mr. Jason Mathews."

    At first an eerie silence enveloped each of the brothers and their mother as they took in the newcomer, and he observed them likewise in return.  Natalie broke from the trio, however, and stepped up in front of the youth extending her hand.  "I'm very pleased to meet you Jason," she said with a deep sincere smile.  As the youth lightly grasped the hand in return, he nodded - his voice being lost in the moment as he studied her.  His mother having been gone for years, this was the first he time he had ever been so formally presented to a woman who saw him in a different light.  To him she was beautiful, a petite attractive lady that did much to care for her own features.  After studying the youth for only a second, she gently tugged the link between them.  Not wanting to force the moment, she guarded his reaction and, when she met no resistance, she very slowly embraced him with a friendly yet firm hug.  "It's so good to finally get to meet you, you know.  We've been on pins and needles waiting all week to finally meet this family we've only just begun to hear about."

    After a few seconds they separated, and Jason finally found his voice.  "Thank you ma'am, honest, it's uh, good to find and hear about you guys, too."  He turned to the brothers that had stepped forward behind their mother.  "Uh, hi guys," he said sheepishly, feeling as if he should say something, but totally at a loss of words.  Both Derek and Elliot returned the greeting, smiling at him awkwardly while they shook hands.  It was something Jason found strange with kids his own age, but nonetheless he figured shaking hands was the proper thing to do.

    For everyone standing in the room it was an awkward moment.  Both adults exchanged glances and hesitated, waiting to see what happened next, but none of the boys were sure what to say to one another.  Finally the older brother grunted and glanced around before turning back to their new visitor.  “Uh, are you hungry?  I think mum has some dinner fixed for us.”

    That seemed to break the ice between them.  Chuckling, Simon piped up while he gave Natalie a quick kiss in greeting.  “Spoken like a true teenager, always thinking with their stomach it seems!”  He then glanced down at Jason. “Hmm, seems I’ve succumbed to that observation already one once tonight, doesn’t it?”  He grinned and shook his own head, much to the confusion and amusement of the others.  It was Natalie who broke the moment however as she admonished all of them and ushered the brothers to set the table while she disappeared off to collect the food.

    Simon sighed deeply before turning and locking up the door behind him, giving Jason a moment to take in his surroundings.  The room was small by most of the standards where he came from.  Perhaps twenty wide by maybe thirty feet deep, it combined as both a family room at the back and a dining room toward the front of the flat.  It was tastefully decorated with recessed lighting throughout the ceiling, except for a short dining lamp that was centered over a normal, oak dining table capable of seating six or more people pleasantly.  Against the far wall stood a series of custom made cabinets, fashioned to provide various types of storage including fine china and linens.  Looking beyond the dining area, two loveseats adorned the far area of the room, with a widescreen LCD TV hung on the opposite wall.  Beneath it were various electronic components, of which Jason noted included both a XBox 360 and a Sony PlayStation.  Magazine racks, end tables, a win rack and other various items gave the place an impression of warmth.

    Jason only noted the room because of the differences he had noted on the outside of the place.  As he and Simon approached closer to "home", they traveled deep into the lights of an English city.  Part of the various streets along the route were no different than what Jason had seen in other cities, but when they turned down a stone pathway at one point leaving the paved street, the landscape changed drastically from storefronts and shops to residences stretching away on either side.  Unlike places he was used to in America, however, many of these two-story "flats" - as Simon had called them - were all joined together in long rows side-by-side. That in itself wasn't so bad, but Jason noted how aged everything looked, as if the various flats could have been built a hundred years ago or more.  Aside from an occasional side street separating the buildings, each stretch of housing that was comprised of both stone and sided facing the streets was very run-down, almost dirty looking - at least from what he could tell in the darkness, relying on the street lights that dotted the way. 

    Although Jason had never lived anywhere posh or moderate in the states, he had an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach that grew steadily.  He glanced at Simon and noticed the man had nothing special on in clothes, although they looked cleaned and well cared for.  The car in which they rode was nothing, at least by American standards, anything special either.  Could it be these people were a lower-class income family?  It did not bother Jason if they were - other than in his reluctance to impose upon them.  Simon and his wife, and two sons, plus himself would make five mouths to feed.  Maybe it might have been a better idea to reconsider this arrangement before it had been made.

    As if sensing his thoughts, Simon reached out and put a hand on the youth's shoulder.  "Don't judge us too quickly by what you see here, hmm?  Give us a fair chance first - you might be surprised."  Jason gulped, immediately feeling guilty for having had his feelings so plainly displayed.  Looking sheepish, he turned his head back toward the street as Simon came upon a parking space and quickly zipped the vehicle in place.  They had parked several doors away it seemed, and while they walk the older man explained that the street was indeed an old passageway that had been converted over the years.  Most streets near the waterfront were in that section of town, and Simon explained that most were similar.  Simon also showed Jason each of the various flats as they walked along, and how to tell one from the other.  Although most had plain entrances that opened to the road, some had little, mini-fronts to them no bigger than and arms stretch, but still a parcel of territory that separated them from the cars parked along the side of the street.  When they arrived at their own, Jason was surprised to see that the Flavell's entry way actually had a patch of green grass growing in front, separating it in appearance from other entries up and down the long street.  Jason noted the number above the door, knowing he would eventually have to remember it as his new address.

    Jason began to feel better though once he stepped through the doorway into the room.  Inside, the tasteful hunter-green walls, with beige trim and various decorations - especially family pictures hanging most everywhere on the adorning walls - made the place much more inviting.  He placed his backpack out of the way near the door and moved to the table where, as Natalie set several bowls of steaming food, he was invited to sit.  Amazingly, with the boys assistance, the table was spread quickly with dishes that both looked familiar and new, and they soon sat down as a family.  Both Derek and Elliot, who had said little to this point, waited patiently until their parents were settled, before Natalie began passing each dish around, starting with Jason.

    It was a little unusual, as the food seemed "normal" to him - not that he had expected it to be any less.  Taking a small portion of each into his plate to be courteous, he watched as the other teenagers took considerably larger amounts of their own.  When a plate of what looked like breaded chicken tenders passed by, Natalie leaned in to whisper: "Take what you want, I promise there is plenty to share."  Her smile disarmed him, and obeying the growl of his stomach he did take a larger portion for himself.  When each person had filled their plate, they began digging in.  At first Jason tentatively sample the dishes, but ultimately was amazed at the flavors he sampled - so much so he began eating hungrily.  It pleased both Simon and Natalie to see the young teen take the food with as much gusto as their own boys.

    After a time, Simon cleared his throat.  "Well boys, what have you two planned for tomorrow, hmm?  I know it's Saturday, but there are supposed to be some rather strong storms in the area and a bit of wind as well."

    After a quick glance between themselves, it was Derek who answered first.  "I'm supposed to go with the team up to Highlands Arena north of Porchester.  It’s a sort of indoor facility where local teams come in to practice."  He looked up at his father.  "If it's alright with you and Mum, Tom Elums is supposed to pick me up early in the morning and some of the guys are going to hang out afterwards, although I really don't know much about how long we'll be.  My guess is we should be back sometime late in the afternoon."

    Natalie looked up from her plate.  "I guess its okay with me, but I had hoped you might help Jason settle in somewhat and spend some time with him.  Perhaps he and Elliot could go with you?”

    Derek shook his head.  "Sorry mum, but I don't really think there would be much room, and I understand the facility doesn't really have any stands.  I think it would be a terribly boring day for them there, and afterwards, well..."  Looking at his father, he continued.  "Besides, you know how the guys can get after a long practice, and I have no real idea what they'll be planning."  He turned to Jason.  "I don't want to seem standoffish or anything, but I really am trying to think somewhat on your behalf.  My friends are not a bad sort, really, but they can have a little too much fun sometimes if they’re not careful."

    “I don’t know, maybe you shouldn’t be staying with them afterwards then,” Natalie spoke up with a frown. 

    “Well, I could leave afterwards Mum, but then someone would have to pick me up.  Honest though, I’ll be fine – you know me, I can hold my ground pretty good!” Derek responded, then watch both of his parents carefully, awaiting to see their thoughts.

    Natalie sighed then slowly nodded, and Simon gave his son a grim smile in agreement, causing the older brother to inwardly sigh with relief.  Turning to their new guest, Derek offered cautiously.  “I honestly do think you and El would get along tomorrow better, for your first day and all.”

    Jason shrugged his shoulders.  “It’s fine.  I don’t really want to get in anyone’s way.”

    Simon thought that was an odd observation.  "Get in the way?  Why on Earth ... You will not get in anyone's way round here, trust me young man."  He studied for a moment.  "I, too, think you're right son, we had better make other plans for this occasion.  What about you Elliot, what might you like to do tomorrow?"

    Elliot squirmed in his seat slightly then just shrugged his shoulders.  The boy had yet to speak since Jason’s arrival beyond the normal pleasantries thus far, and as Jason observed the youth on the other side of the table, he felt an uneasiness greeting him back.  Jason wondered if the youth had been avoiding him, but as the silence droned on Simon and Natalie exchanged glances before the man cleared his throat.  "It's unlike you to be so silent Elliot, anything wrong down there?"  When the boy shook his head no, he reached for his glass of milk and tried to ignore the fact that both of his parents were scrutinizing him closely.

    "Well, I for one think we should get Jason out and show him around some of the city, storms or no.  Don't you have a game going in the morning, honey?" Natalie addressed her youngest son.

    "Um, yeah mum."  Looking down in his plate, he knew what was coming, so he figured he might as well continue.  "I guess he could come with me for a while."  The two teens made eye contact, but Jason found the other younger brother to be unreadable.  Elliot on the other hand, pressed on.  "You ever hear of WarHammer?"  When Jason slowly shook his head, Elliot grunted and looked away.  "I'm not surprised."

    Simon could not help but feel confused by this attitude, and an eerie silence developed.  He was about to speak up when he felt Natalie reach under the table and touch his leg.  Glancing at her, he detected a barely perceptible shake of the head warning him to let it drop for the moment.  They had learned many times over the years how to read one another, so after pretending to think it over, he finally sighed and addressed the group.  "Well, I think afterwards we should probably make our way up to ASDA."  He motion to the pack near the door.  "I'm afraid our new young charge has a limited wardrobe of sorts, so I'm sure he could use a few more items here and there."

    Natalie frowned in surprise.  "You mean, that's all he has with him?"  Without waiting for a reply, she addressed Jason directly.  “I say honey, where are your belongings?  Do you have more being shipped over or…?"

    Jason, clearly embarrassed, slowly shook his head.  "I'm sorry but, um, that's all there is.”  Seeing the confusion and curiosity in all of their faces, he hastily continued.  “I've never really had much with me since Dad... since Dad..."  He couldn't bring himself to say it - now of all times.  For months since his father's death, he had never had any problems talking about it before.  Now, however, he looked deep into Simon and realized his father had had a brother, one he had never known about.  Not just a brother, but a family as well – one which he had missed out on all his life.  For whatever reason, Jason began to feel overwhelmed and it only served to deepen his embarrassment.

    Simon saw this and spoke softly as the other looked onward.  "It's quite all right, nothing amiss there Jason, we understand perfectly.  We'll take stock of what you have sometime and tomorrow we'll just go on a little shopping trip, perhaps even dine out and celebrate a little.  Mind you right now we may have a lot to spare at the moment, as I've just paid out some rather large premiums for some things, but we'll get you by until I can build up our funds again.  Certainly, we'll make sure you have what you need."  His intent had been to ease the boy out of the conversational corner he had steered into, but as the silence dragged on, he could see it wasn’t having the desired effect.  He was about to speak again when, surprisingly, Elliot broke in.

    "He can share some of my clothes and stuff Dad, if you need.  I've got plenty, and we look pretty close to the same size," the younger brother offered. 

    Not only was Simon surprised, but so was their new guest.  Jason peered at the other youth in a different light and thought maybe the facade had broken, because suddenly the unreadable mask was now gone.  In its place Jason saw a youth who at first relaxed and then greeted him with a smile.  With his whole demeanor changed, Jason began to feel better about what he was getting himself into with the other kid.  Maybe the younger brother was alright, after all.

    "That's rather nice of you honey, we might just have to do that for a few weeks," his mother stated, exchanging a knowing glance with her husband.  She knew they were not that put off at the moment, but she saw this as a way her youngest son was trying to not only fit in and help out, but break the ice of the moment for the better.  "Well, if we're all finished here, are you too stuffed or is there anyone up for some banana split cake?"  A resounding chorus from Simon and the two Flavell teens met her words with such a cry she laughed, and in turn it made Jason smile.  It had been a long time since he had ever sat at such a table.

    And a long time since he had felt like anything except a place filler for somebody else's family.

    They talked amongst themselves for a good part of the evening, the family bombarding their new charge with questions about general life in America.  Natalie subtly focused more on discovering the things he liked or found interest in, using strategic moments to ask about foods, TV shows, movies and more.  Jason was thankful the conversation didn't approach his immediate past, but instead focused earlier.  Simon was particularly interested in learning what he could about his brother, which Jason felt inadequate in his ability to convey much.  He knew the man as his father – an aspect unlike anything else.  He actually felt sorry for the older man because he recognized the thirst for information.  It just wasn’t something Elliot could fulfill beyond a certain point, and Simon eventually recognized it.

    After a while, Jason stifled an involuntary yawn and, although it was getting late locally, he was surprised at how he suddenly felt so tired.  Looking at a nearby clock he reasoned it was only the middle of the afternoon where he had come from - although he had to admit it was normal for him to get up and head to the airport at 3:30 in the morning either.  Simon watch the youth and eventually leaned back in his chair.

    "Tell you what boys," he began, nodding in the direction of Derek and Elliot.  "I'm sure that a ten-hour flight, plus a two-hour drive through the country and who knows how long in layovers and customs - it has all probably taken a pretty big toll on our guest here."  Smiling at Jason, he swept forward and placed his elbows on the table observing the youth.  "Why don't we let the boys get you settled away for the night, hmm?  Tomorrow will be a new day, and so will the next and the next.  If the weather clears, we'll even all take an outing Sunday and show you part of Portsmouth here.  We're probably in a strange bit of land here than what you've been used to, but that does not mean it is absent of adventure and exciting places to be and see - even for young teen-aged boys.  We'll just take things one day at a time and work it out from there.  What do you say?"

    Jason smiled back to the older man as the others looked on.  "I can do that sir," he replied, to which both of the Flavell teens snickered.  Simon look down upon them and then swatted the nearest.

    "Well, SOME people have a sense of properness, you know!  Maybe I should start teaching you guys to call me SIR every once in a while!"

    Both boys laughed hard as they got up, picking up their dishes.  "Don't count on it, DAD!" quipped Derek as he headed towards the hallway that exited right at the rear-wall of the room. He paused in the doorway however, looking back over Elliot's shoulder as his younger brother caught up.  "You want to check out the flat here?" he asked as Jason stood and collected his dishes.

    "Sure, I guess," he replied, looking first at Simon then back at the two brothers.  Carefully carrying his items, he followed both brothers down a long hallway that emptied into the back of the flat, passing what looked to be a small sitting room and a set of stairs leading up.  He figured they would be returning there at some point, and glancing forward he rushed to keep up with the brothers as they entered into one of the smallest kitchens he believed he had ever seen.  Following and placing his dishes into the sink like the others had, he turned around to observe his surroundings more closely.

    "Uh, yeah, this is the kitchen.  Kind of cramped, but Mum and Dad make it work pretty good," Derek offered.  Cramped and compact, yes, but Jason also noted the room was well organized, and that it still held the basic stove and refrigerator like any other place he had been.  There was even a fold-out island for making preparation space, which Elliot was neatly putting away out of sight. 

    The only thing that looked out of place to Jason was a metal box that hung on the back wall. Painted white but showing signs of rust and age, the box looked rather menacing as it differed from any of the other items in the room.  "What's that?"

    "THAT is the water burner," Natalie replied coming up behind them.  "I imagine in the States you're used to seeing water heaters, right? Well, here, we are pretty limited for space, so instead we have a flasher, or burner.  You see, it only heats the water we need, when we need it, all at once.  It saves, or is supposed to anyway, on energy costs.  Of course, it also saves a lot of space."

    "Oh," Jason replied, not sure what to make of that.  He saw a door next to it leading into another room.  He turned to the brothers and it was Derek who again stepped forward and opened it, leading the others inside.

   "This is our 'loo'.  Dad just recently finished remodeling it.  It used to be cramped as well, but he built on an extension into the backyard a few feet and voila - well, now you can see."

    Upon hearing the word loo, Jason was at first confused until he saw the toilet, sink and other amenities.  Comprehension dawned on him as he also observed what looked to be a new shower with glass walls.  It appeared to be gigantic compared to the rest of the furnishings in the room, easily one of the biggest showers he had ever seen, tucked away in a corner.  The room, accented in blue, was clean, dry and comfortable however, and like the front room, tastefully decorated. He nodded and followed the boys as they made their way out and back through the kitchen to the "middle" area, as he thought of it.  Elliot then spoke for the first time as they neared the stairway.

    "Uh, not really much of anything to see here, kind of just a place Dad uses to unwind sometimes in the evening if we're playing games or stuff on the TV."  Glancing at his older brother, he gestured to Jason.  "Come on up." 

    At the top of the stairs was a narrow hallway that extended in both directions.  Thick, soft carpet met their feet, as well as a fresh pine scent that hung in the air as they reached the top.  Around the stairwell was a tight room filled with a series of bookshelves and a roll-topped writing desk.  Although windowless, Jason noted that above the desk was a skylight that looked out into the night's darkened sky.  Jerking his head in the direction toward the rear of the flat, Derek offered.  "Back there is Mum and Dad's room, and up here is ours."  They turned and walked toward the front, pausing at a door leading into another bedroom.  As the three stepped inside, Jason was taken aback again by the cramped size of the windowless room.   It was certainly larger than some rooms he had stayed in the past, but it's size was still relatively cramped.  The only furnishings were an oversized twin bed, a chest and nightstand.  There was little more to see at that moment, however, as much of the far wall and recessed closet had been stacked with boxes and other miscellaneous items, giving the impression of having just been moved in.  Like the study before, a skylight opened to the outside above the bed.

    "Um, sorry about the mess, I haven't had time to get moved in properly just yet," Derek offered, clearly embarrassed.

    Jason, however, was confused.  "Moved in?"

    Elliot cleared his throat.  "Um, yeah, this used to be my room, but we switched."  Seeing their new step-brother was trying to work it out, he took hold of Jason by the arm and guided him back into the hall.  "Come on, you'll understand better when you see our room."  With Elliot leading the way, the other boys followed as he led them into the last room at the end of the hall, where they opened the door and turned on the overhead light.

    The first thing Jason noted was that the space was certainly bigger than Derek's room, finished out in a rust-reddish color of sorts.  Like the other areas upstairs, thick and well-padded carpet adorned the floor, along with a throw rug stretched by the door holding a collection of shoes, presumably belonging to Elliot. A queen-sized bed stood in the farthest corner from the door, pushed up against the wall and thus creating a semblance of more floor space.  Above the bed was a window, shaded and draped with white-laced curtains that overlooked the entrance to the flat below.  Like Derek's room there was a chest and nightstand here in addition to a desk. 

    Jason was awestruck as he turned to the brothers.  "Y-you traded?  I mean-" He paused, afraid to say anything that might seem rude.

    Derek shoved both hands into the pockets of his jeans and responded with a shrug of his shoulders.  "Well, there's two of you and one of me, and Mum and Dad figured you would, you know, be more comfortable sleeping with Elliot than you would with me, see."  When comprehension finally dawned on Jason, the older brother added.  "I mean, sorry but we just don't have a lot of room, as you can see, and well..."

    Jason glanced back at the unreadable faces that met him.  He knew something was being sacrificed for his sake here, and he was NOT going to be selfish about it in any way shape or form.  He realized that his moving in was making a big impact on these people.  "S-sorry guys, I didn't mean it in a bad way, I was, just - you know -" He hesitated and then looked around the room again. "I can't believe you gave this up though, not because of me anyways!"

    "Hey now!"  Elliot exclaimed.  "I'm getting the better end of the deal too, you know!"  He was grinning widely and Jason could see a change in the other kid as he stepped around to face their new charge.  "You understand, right?  We can't get two beds in here, but the bed is still pretty big."  The statement lingered long enough that Jason saw the unspoken question in the other boy's eyes.  He nodded.

    "Yeah, I'm okay with it, it's cool," he replied.  Derek grinned, crossing his arms and leaning against the door frame.

    Derek snorted.  "See? I told you it would alright!"  He cast an amused expression toward Jason.  "Beware though, you might not think it's that cool once you hear the rat snore at night!"  They all laughed, at which point Elliot picked up a pillow and threw it at his brother.  Just then both Natalie and Simon appeared at the entrance.

    "What do you think Jason, hmm?  Can you and Elliot make do in here?" Simon asked as he stepped inside and sat down on the corner of the bed.  Like the other room, Jason noted various boxes and articles lay about, although it appeared that unlike his brother, Elliot had already been at work putting some things in order in the room.

    Simon looked up at the young teen and studied him. "Now, we won't make a big deal out of it, but you've seen space here is at a premium at best.  The flat is a small place, but I think as you get around England and see different parts, you'll notice that most houses are rather compact compared to America.  Mind you there are some that exceed the norm, but for the most part I think you'll get the idea.  It's been that way for decades, practically centuries, so we English don't think of it so much over here as you probably would.  I mean, take this room for example - I'm sure you're probably used to having a room to yourself.  Here, we probably COULD get a couple of beds in here, but to do that would give the both of you practically no space for anything else.  At least this way... you get the idea, right?"

    "Yes sir, that's okay-" Jason started to reply but hesitated.  Natalie smiled at him as she maneuvered into the room and sat down next to her husband.

    "It's more than just sharing a room though.  You see, we all talked about this a lot, and we all thought maybe it would be for the better for the time being.  There are a lot of things you'll have to get used to around here, and maybe having someone to sort of help you work through it might not be such a bad idea.  Thank God the two of you," she nodded, indicating Elliot, "are about the same age.  We're not trying to make you two chummy or anything, it's just - well, with Derek being the oldest, we didn't really want to take away his right to have his own room, and-"

    "Honest, Mr. and Mrs. Flavell, I understand, it's okay."  He looked at the woman suddenly, a keen expression crossing his features.  "Uh, you are, like, I mean - Mrs. Flavell? or...?"

    Both of the adults laughed aloud at that while Simon leaned close to his wife's ear.  "I think he is brighter than some at picking up on certain things."

    Natalie giggled, then took Jason by the hand and held it with a sincerely look into his eyes.  "Jason, call me whatever feels comfortable to you.  Yes, I took Simon's last name, as have the boys, by right - he is, truly, their father. As for me, I take it Simon explained his situation?"  When the youth nodded, she smiled.  "All is good, trust us.  The paper may not be filed, but it is only a piece of paper in the eyes of the law.  We've been together for 18 years and still going strong. Or, so I think-" she leaned back, giving her husband a very pointed look, daring him to contradict her. 

    Simon laughed and poked her in the ribs.  "Just don't try to force any more of your porridge on me and we'll make it another 18 plus more!"  He glanced up at Jason and winked.  "You might want to avoid it, too!  AAHHHHH!!!!"  Natalie had swatted him playfully before standing up and pulling her husband up with her.

    "You men!" she exclaimed, half dragging the man from the room.  Glancing back, she winked at the three boys before they disappeared through the doorway.  Standing alone the three of them stared at one another in an awkward silence, until Jason sat down in the space Simon had just vacated.

    "I... I don't know what to say guys, just - thanks."  He observed Derek grunt as he stood to his feet and made ready to leave.  Wordlessly the older brother saluted and then left them alone, presumably to return to his own room.  Elliot walked over and sat down by Jason, turning to take him in up close.  It was the first moment the two of them had found themselves alone.

    "You know, I guess the blokes are right, we are a lot alike," he offered nonchalantly.  Although he might have an inch or more on the American, both were roughly the same height and build.  They both also sported the same color hair, although each styled differently, and in a funny sort of way, they both held similar characteristics that made them look somewhat alike.  He gazed into Jason's eyes.  "I think that's sort of eerie though, in an odd sort of way."

    "What?" Jason asked.

    "We have the same color eyes, I think.  Haven't you noticed?"

    Slowly Jason nodded.  "Yeah, I noticed when we first met."  They stared at one another for some time before Elliot giggled.  "What?"

    "It's nothing, honest.  I'm just - well, just taking you in I guess.  I mean, you're - how do I say it? You're - here."

    Jason nodded.  He was warming up to this kid.  "It's like, to me, some kind of strange fairy tale or dream or something."

    "I can figure that much out, yeah.  Was it bad before?" Elliot probed gently.  His parents had warned both brothers to forgo and be patient with certain areas, but he could not help but ask.  Afterwards, however, he regretted having let it slip. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have asked."

    "No, it's okay," was Jason's quick reply.  He looked around the room once again.  "Yeah, I guess it was."  It was all he offered, but it was enough to make Elliot nod.  The two exchanged another glance of each other before Elliot nodded toward the head of the bed.

     "Um, which side do you want?"

    Jason studied it for a second.  "Um, either one is okay.  What side, I mean, which...?"

    Elliot laughed.  "Derek and I both had big twin beds before.  Dad put one in storage and bought this bed for you and me just this week."

    Jason looked down at his feet.  "I wish I wasn't like, you know, imposing on you guys so much.  I mean, you seem to be going to a lot of trouble for me and everything."  He looked up.  "Your folks, they're really nice people.  All of you are, I didn't mean just them."

    Again Elliot laughed at him.  "You worry too much, no offense taken.  You're right though, Mum and Dad are really great.  They give Derek and me all the privacy we want, and they're always there for us."  He sniffed before he continued.  "You'll really like them I think.  For the most part Dad's a really cool dude.  Mum, well, she's Mum."  He stood up.  "Tell you what, let's start out a couple nights with you on the inside and see how you like it, then if you want we'll change before we get to used to it altogether."

    Jason stood as well.  "Okay, sounds fair."  He looked around.  "I'll go get my pack and-"

    "No need," a voice answered from the doorway as Derek walked in carrying the backpack.  "Mum sent this up with me," he explained before sitting it down on the bed and exiting the room.  Jason unzipped the top, and several pairs of briefs immediately fell and rolled onto the bed.  He reached out to collect them, unsure whether to be embarrassed or not, but Elliot giggled and helped him.  "Here, let me show you where you can put your stuff."  He helped Jason gather several pairs and then walked over to the chest, pulling out the top drawer.

    "Um, since the drawers are kind of big, I thought maybe we could split them half and half for a while, you know, I'll keep my stuff on the left and you can have the right."  Glancing at the closet, he nodded.  "You should get about half the closet too, when everything is sorted out."

    It was all stated with such a wide grin and friendliness that it became infectious with Jason, who grinned back and shrugged his shoulders. "Sure, I guess.  I mean, I don't have much anyways, but I promise I'll stay out of your stuff as much as I can."

    "I'm not worried about that stuff," Elliot replied.  Turning around, both boys emptied the contents of the pack into the other drawers of the chest and closet. "Man, Mum was right - you don't have very much in the way of anything!"  He opened the other sliding door of the closet and showed Jason his own belongings, which was fairly impressive for the teen.

    "I know, I mean, I used to have more, but, well - I've always managed okay."

    "Well, don't worry, give Mum and Dad a few weeks or so and it'll be different," replied Elliot as he closed the doors.  He indicated a the rug by the entrance.  "I usually just keep my shoes here, kind of works out pretty nice.  You can too if you want."

    Jason understood and thus walked over and removed both of his shoes.  An odor immediately drifted upwards, causing him to make a face.  "Ugh."  With a grimace he lifted both feet and peeled his socks off as well.  "Sorry, uh, I don't usually do this, but -" He stopped as a pillow hit him upside of the head.

    "You worry too much, take a breather!" exclaimed Elliot as he walked up.  Reaching into the desk, he pulled out a bottle of baby powder.  "Here, these help me a lot after a long day.  Ever use any?"  Jason shook his head no, so Elliot gestured at him.  "Take your socks off."  Seeing the puzzled expression, he added.  "Come on, just do it, will ya?"  Elliot sat in the floor and did as he was told, and then was amazed as Elliot opened the top and sprinkled the fine powder across the top of his feet.  "Just rub it in and around, you'll see."  Jason did as he watched the other boy put the bottle away, and then looked up in amazement.  The powder actually did feel good against his feet. 

    Elliot was pleased to see the expression of relief and then grinned at him.   "See?"  Giving Jason a knowing look, he then crossed over to the chest again and grabbed a pair of briefs from the drawer.  "I'm going to go take a quick shower before I climb in for the night.  You want to come?"

    Jason looked at the boy, unsure whether or not he had heard correctly.  Hesitating only briefly, he decided he didn't want to take a chance he had misunderstood.  "Uh no, I think I just want to lie down," he replied meekly, to which Elliot merely shrugged his shoulders.

    "Okay, I'll be back in a bit then," was all he said as he left the room.  Jason, confused, stared after him for a moment before finally just shrugging his shoulders.  He was sure he misunderstood the intent, but did not dwell on it for the time being.  Simon had been right about one thing - for himself, it had been a very long and tiring day, full of emotional ups and downs and physical anxieties of just getting from one place to another, much like a roller coaster.  In the end he really was ready to just stretch out and lie down.  Removing his belt and emptying his pockets on the desk, he hesitated only long enough to go ahead and change into another t-shirt.

    Stretching out on the bed, he thought back over what Simon had said earlier.  It was true - for as long as he could remember, he had never shared a room with anyone, yet alone a bed.  It was going to feel very strange to him, he thought.  It was a small price to pay, in a sense, giving what he had come from into where he was potentially going to live.  He knew the brothers were giving up a lot - despite what Elliot had said about himself getting an "upgrade".  Yet other than Elliot's strange reactions when greeting him at first, all of them - the whole family -  did seem to genuinely appreciate his being there.  That thought made Jason smile, because he had not felt that way since his father passed away.  To him it seemed he was always someone else's problem, someone else's burden.  These people didn't strike him that way at all, even though he had only been with them for a few hours.  That went a long way making him want to work this out, to do his best.  He WAS in a strange land, but so far the people did not really seem all that strange to him.  Talked a little funny, yeah, but heck - he probably talked a little funny to them, too.  The alternative was too harrowing for him to consider if it didn't work out.  Simon, Natalie, Derek and Elliot were all four going out of their way - all because of him.  In the few short hours they had been together, he really did feel a genuine warmth from the lot, and it affected him deeply.

    If the price of that was sharing a bed with Elliot, though it might make him a little nervous, at least for a while he was willing to try.

    Before long Elliot re-entered the room wearing his long t-shirt as before, but this time with no shorts in site.  As the door closed behind him, Elliot reached up on a shelf for some reason or another and as he stretched, Jason could see the boy had only his briefs on underneath. Seeing this he moved up off the bed and sort of sheepishly addressed the younger of the brothers.  "Um, do you, like, use pajamas bottoms or anything, or..."

    Elliot turned to him and grinned wickedly. "Heck no, I sleep naked most of the time, don't you?"  Seeing the incredulous look on his friends face, he laughed hard and pointed at him. "You're so gullible, you know that?  I was just kidding!"  When Jason sighed with relief he grinned back as well and once Elliot settled down somewhat, he shrugged his shoulders.  "Um, usually just a t-shirt and my briefs.  Derek too, though he mostly wears boxers or boxer shorts."

    Jason nodded but hesitated, feeling awkward in the moment, so much so that Elliot took note. He turned off as they stood next to one another. "Come on now, you're not one of those shy kids, are you?  I mean..."

    Jason shook his head.  "No, not really, just - it's kind of new for me, that's all."  With that he unsnapped his jeans and let them fall to the floor.  His t-shirt was not as long as that of his English friend, exposing more of the area below but he didn't really care. As nonchalantly as possible but still a little nervous, he climbed into the bed and moved over against the wall. Pulling the sheet over himself he settled down on the pillow.  "Wow, this pillow feels pretty good!"

    Elliot nodded as he stretched out and situated himself on the bed.  "Yeah, I always liked them  Derek doesn't though, he likes the beaded ones."

    Unsure what that meant, Jason let the remark pass for the moment.  He stared at the ceiling and noted his friend was watching him.  After a moment Elliot spoke up in a quiet voice.  "See! We have plenty of room," he offered, taking one arm and fanning the distance between them in the bed.  Jason turned and for a moment, thought he could read a curious look on the other boys face in the shadows.  If it was there however, It melted immediately afterwards, confusing the teen even more. He sighed and figured he must have been suffering from fatigue.  Nodding, he duplicated the effort, feeling the foot or so of space between them.

    At one point their hands met and just touched.  Elliot did not pull away, and neither did he.  It was a strange feeling of sorts, not exactly of intimacy, but of - something.  Jason observed the other youth before he too spoke quietly.  "I guess I ought to say thanks, you know, for everything.  Especially to you."

    "What do you mean?"

    "Well, you're letting me stay here, your whole family and everything.  I just - I think, I dunno - I just - thanks, that's all."

    Elliot smiled back at him and sat up, scooting over to close the distance, surprising Jason as the other boy drew near.  With only inches separating them, Elliot pulled up his fist and held it in the air, waiting expectantly.  Relieved, Jason understood and brought his own out from underneath the covers to meet and match the other in the air, knocking them lightly together.  Elliot grinned, nodding in approval. 

    "It's cool man, don't worry so much.  I bet we'll have a lot of fun together, at least I'm hoping we will."  He stared for a moment before lowering his voice to a whisper.  " I know you're tired, so just relax, okay?  I figure you got to be scared at least a little, I know I would be if I were in your shoes.  Hell, I'd probably be scared out of my wits some.  I'm just saying you don't have to be - it really will be okay, honest. No one is going to get you or bother you any tonight.  I'll be here if you need me, so just - chill out for a while.  If you need to get up for the bathroom or anything, just climb over me - it'll be cool, I promise.  When you wake up in the morning, we'll start teaching you about Warhammer and games and anything else we want to get into."  He giggled.  "And quit looking at me so weird and stuff, I'm not going to rape you or anything!"

    At that, Jason giggled.  "I didn't think that any," he replied, although unconvincingly.

    "You wuss, yeah you did, I could see it, you prude!" was the bemused response, but Jason knew the other kid was just teasing him.  Elliot did lean in close though, and whisper into the other youths ear.  "Jason? Just sleep, I promise you, everything will be alright, and I mean it."

    When Jason looked up into the eyes that met his own, he suddenly felt reassured.  He nodded and relaxed as Elliot lingered and smiled down upon him before slowly rolling back onto his side of the bed.  Carefree and relaxed as his new friend had made him, Jason almost immediately drifted off into a peaceful sleep for the rest of the night.

    - + - + - + - + -

    “Well, he seems like a little sweetheart, if first impressions amount to anything.”  Natalie soft voice carried in the stillness of the night as she lay upon her husband’s bare chest, listening to his heartbeat underneath.

    “He is,” Simon agreed, his arms puller her tighter.  “He’s smart, without doubt, but also seemingly very humble.”

    “There is something though, you can see it in his eyes.”  She said it as fact and without question, to which Simon grunted.

    “I think he has been through some very rough times – perhaps more than people know or are giving him credit for.  You know, before I left for the airport this afternoon, that social worker sent me an interesting email.”

    Natalie turned her head to look into her husband’s eyes.  “Oh?”

    Simon smiled.  “It seems they only now acknowledged that he has been rather tight-lipped about his experiences with his caretakers and the afterwards.  She suggested there may be more that he’s hiding, but they affirmed their inability to get him to talk about it.  I found it rather odd – and of course, the timing of telling us about it, as if they were afraid we might have second thoughts or something.”

    “Do you think he was abused?”   Before he could answer, she scoffed.  “Of course he was abused, what am I saying!  There is no telling how many weeks he was living on the streets before they found him again.  Something awful HAD to have happened to make a child run away like that.  Especially one who seems so alert and vibrant and courteous and … I don't know, just full of life I guess.”  She paused.  "You're brother really raised him well, you know?"

    Simon nodded.  "That he did.  The man must have really changed somewhere along the way.  I'm glad, to be perfectly honest.  It is one of the most pleasing things to be able to learn about him after all these years."

    "You'll learn more, I'm sure of it."   She trailed off, then looked up once again.  “It’s hard to believe he has so little with him, though.  Don't you think that is strange?”

    Simon nodded.  “Without question, there is something wrong with that scenario.  First of the week I am going to shoot off an email inquiring about his belongings.  Someone in the system over there has to know something. As long as the boy has been in state care, if nothing else, he should have had more clothes and personal effects than what he came over with.  Aside from all that, what about his belongings from the estate?  From what I gather, my brother cared for his wife and son decently, and to do that must mean there was something handed down to the boy at the very least.  There are laws to protect those situations here, and I am sure there must be similar laws in the States.”  He sighed.  “There is so much about him that seems right, and just as much that raises more questions than answers.”

    Natalie nodded, returning to her favorite spot, listening to the man’s soft heartbeat once more. After some time, she asked quietly, “You do think he’ll be alright with the boys, don’t you?”  It was equally as long of a silence that followed.  Wondering if perhaps the man had fallen asleep or didn’t hear her, she was about to let it go when he sighed.

    “Without any question, he has been damaged and hurt more than we'll ever fully understand.  I just hope it isn’t so deep it can’t be healed.  I think if anyone can help him sort it all out, it will be Elliot.  I really do feel the lad is a good kid – he just needs some time, some patience and a little nurturing.  Even more so, I think he needs to feel that someone really does care about him.”  He rubbed his wife’s back softly.  “You know Elliot – he can be a little rough around the edges sometimes, but he is all heart.  He has more love and empathy than any child I've ever known in my whole life. I think they will be fine.”

    Natalie nodded.  "Derek, too."

    "Derek too," Simon agreed.  "Derek though is at that stage where he and his friends are taking on a different role in life, and I suspect he will have a lesser impact in the months to come. I only say Elliot will be more so beneficial because both of the boys are the same age, and both are at the awkward moment in life trying to figure everything out for themselves, you know?"

    Natalie nodded.  “I know,” she whispered, before turning one last time and giving her husband a soft kiss.  “I really am happy he’s here, though.  As rough as your brother was, from what you’ve told us, this kid seems to have followed nothing of that history.  He really does seem to be sweet.”

   Simon smiled and hugged her tightly.  "I know dear, I know."

    - + - + - + - + -

    Saturday arrived, with Elliot awaking groggy and unclear at the first light of dusk.  It was true he had retired earlier than usual the night before, but in deference to their new guest he had wanted to make the other boy feel as comfortable as possible.  He lay awake for some time, watching the still figure beside him, relaxed in the coolness of the room before he realized the hour was not at all that early.  He could see out the edge of the window that the sky was overcast, and that a light rain had begun falling sometime during the overnight hours.  Glancing back at the clock by their bed, he saw it was almost 8:30 just as he heard sounds coming from the hallway.  As quietly as possible he climbed out of the bed and slowly crept over to the door, opening it enough to see his brother returning from downstairs.  Silently slipping out of the room, he crossed over and entered the smaller bedroom silently.  His brother was facing the closet, rummaging for something inside, so Elliot quietly moved and sat down at the head of the bed.  So silent was he that Derek nearly jumped out of his skin when he turned and found the youth there.

    “Bullocks creep, don’t scare the shit out of me like that!” he hissed, then grinned as his brother briefly stuck his tongue out at him and then pulled his knees up to his chest.  After a moment, Derek found the shirt he was looking for and after slipping it on moved over to sit beside his younger sibling.  “Well, what do you think?”

    Looking up, Elliot shrugged his shoulders.  “He seems okay I guess.”

    Derek nodded.  “Yeah, I know.  Might take some time to really get to know him, though, but first time round, yeah, seems to be a good chap.”  He pulled the shirt on over his head, but made no move to get up.  “He is kind of cute, for an American of course.”

    “Are you kidding? And did you notice, he has the same eyes as you and me?”

    Again Derek nodded before putting an arm around his brother and pulling him in close.  They sat there together like that for a moment, sharing a profound closeness most boys, especially brothers, never experienced.  Derek sensed something seemed to trouble his younger sibling and he waited patiently, knowing that when the time was right it would come out between them.  This occasion was no exception, because after a moment he heard a hushed whisper.  “Derek?”


    “Do you think Mum and Dad are going to, like, dote on him and forget about us, you know, not forget but - you know?”

    “No,” Derek answered simply and quickly, pulling his brother even closer.  “They’ll look out for him at first, just like we all will, but eventually he’ll be treated just like we are.  I dunno, maybe not so special and all – I mean, we’re Mum and Dad’s kids and he isn’t. He'll just be more a – a step-brother or something, but I think they'll accept and treat him and us all the same.  Does that make sense?”

    “I guess so.”  He sighed.  “I know it’s a stupid question, I’m sorry I even thought about it.”

    “No, not stupid, but you should know better.  No one is going to love you any less, including me.”  He smiled as the youngster glanced up and looked at him, and in that moment of seriousness.  “If anything I might get jealous.”


    Derek laughed.  “Like I said, for an American, he IS kind of cute.”  He giggled as his brother grabbed a pillow and threw it at him.

    “Quit thinking like a prick, or …”  He didn’t finish, but the glance between them exchanged everything the two needed to convey.  Elliot leaned in and hugged his brother, whispering in his ear. “Never bro, we won’t change, I promise.”

    Derek squeezed back.  “Never say never El, just don’t forget is all.  I meant it, no one is going to love you any less.”  He watched as the younger boy untangled himself and got up from the bed, mouthing the word ‘Thanks’, to which Derek returned a wordless ‘You’re welcome.’  As Elliot moved to leave the room, Derek reached up and pinched his brother’s butt, causing Elliot to swat at him as he left the room, shaking his head.

    - + - + - + - + -

    As Jason awoke, it took a few moments before he gathered his wits about him.  He had fallen into a dreamless sleep the night before, truly surprised at how tired he must have really been.  His body felt weird, adjusting to a new time zone and schedule, but he was adapting to it surprisingly well, or so he thought. 

    Reaching out he lifted the shade and peered at the various flats across the street.  The overcast sky did little to improve the effects of what he had feared the night before: the buildings looked incredibly old and ill-maintained.  The street was lined with vehicles on both sides, and he watched as a car approached and had to straddle the middle of the alley carefully.  With hardly no room to spare on either side, Jason could not understand how people were able to travel up and/or down the pathway.

    Jason sighed.  He had lived somewhat in the city once before, actually in the suburbs – so city life with all its noises and smells and congestion was nothing new for him.  This place however, redefined those memories in a completely different light. He did note how quiet everything had been however, even as the car passed by the window and rolled on out of sight.  Old as the structures might be, they seemed to be fairly soundproof. Although the outside world may have been bleak, he had to admit that inside this space, inside this "home" it was far more cheerier and alive.

    He let go of the shade and turned, noting that the bed where Elliot had lain the night before was empty.  Jason liked the boy, although at times he gave off an odd impression that made him question his perceptions of the kid.  Still, the last few moments in bed the night before had eroded a lot of that uneasiness.  Jason had traveled over what felt to him like half the world – although he knew better the reality of it was nowhere near that distance – unsure of what he would find.  He had heard that English kids were a frightful group, very close-minded and “stuck up”, for lack of a better phrase.  What he found though, not only in Elliot but that of his brother too, was all too different.  Here both of the brothers seemed to size the newcomer up, and then almost immediately welcomed him warmly.

    He thought of Elliot a lot at that moment, and was secretly glad to have someone his own age to hang out with.  As Natalie had suggested the night before, he was sure that his change and adaptation to English life was going to be – interesting.  Having someone to help him along the way might be okay, as long as that someone wanted to help.  Elliot gave every indication he would do just that, and a lot more.  That thought made Jason smile, just as another more pressing need made itself obvious for the moment.  He grunted and groggily climbed out of the bed and found his jeans from the night before.  Perhaps this family didn’t think so much of walking around in their underwear, and certainly he didn’t think so much of being around Elliot as such, but he was still shy. Elliot’s parents were a different matter in his mind, and as he walked from the bedroom he was glad he hadn’t forgotten that fact. Coming from the other end of the hall was Natalie, dressed in a long housecoat, yawning as he approached.

    “Good morning little one!” she smiled.

    “Morning, Mrs. Flavell,” Jason replied, smiling back.

    After ushering the youth ahead of her, she spoke as they descended the stairs.  “Did you sleep well?”

    “Pretty good, yeah, thanks.”

    “I’m glad, sometimes the street can get a little noisy out there, but most of the time it is very tame.”  She sniffed as they reached the bottom.  “What is it you like to eat for breakfast?”

    “Um, anything I guess.  I mean, I usually just have cereal or something.”  They made their way to the kitchen.

    “During the week we’re much the same way, but on the weekends I try to do a little better.  Do you like eggs and bacon, perhaps a little toast?”  Seeing the youth nod, she smiled.  “Then so it shall be.  You go ahead to the loo, then after I get out I’ll have it fixed up in a jiff.”

    Jason could not help but giggle at her, causing her to tilt her head and raise an eyebrow.   He was quickly embarrassed.  “Sorry ma'am, just – you guys call it the ‘loo’, that’s – well…”

    Natalie laughed then put her arm around the boy.  “No, not everyone does, I daresay the room has many names – but it seems that the boys and Simon amuse themselves from time to time calling it that more than anything.  Elsewhere they usually refer to it as the bathroom.”  She winked.  “You may call it however you wish: the court, the bathroom, the loo – most people will understand.”

    “The court?” Jason asked.

    “Yes, the court,” Natalie replied, laughing again.  “It umm, has been described before by many as going to see the judge and finding out if you’ve been sentenced and found guilty, or if you’ve been placed on probation, I think.  The former meaning you’ve got the trots, or ‘number 2’ as I think I’ve heard it described in your country.  The latter meaning, of course, you have to urinate.”

    Jason laughed hard at that one, so much so Natalie joined in with him.  “That’s – that’s – hilarious!” he replied and once he settled down, he gave her an admiring glance before heading toward the back doorway.  “Thanks for the one-up on that one!  I guess I better go find out what my sentence is.”

    Moments later he exited, grinning, and at seeing the raised eyebrow, he whispered “Paroled!” before quickly exiting the room.  He heard her laughter trailing him as he rushed back upstairs, just in time to see Elliot exiting his brother's bedroom. 

    As Jason passed, Elliot grunted at him.  “Um, mother nature calls,” he quipped before disappearing down the stairs.  Jason continued into their room, where he stretched out on top of the covers of the bed and waited for the other youth to return.  When he did, Elliot joined him by his side.  “So, you ready to start your first day with the aliens?” he asked with a wide grin.

    Jason rolled onto his side, facing the other boy.  “You’re not aliens, not to me anyway.”  He hesitated.  “Um, do I seem that way to you? To you guys, I mean?”

    “Nah, not really,” Elliot replied, shaking his head.  “Sorry, just trying to be funny, that’s all.”  Elliot thought about it for a second before continuing.  “You want to know the truth?  I don’t know what you are right now, but I’m hoping it’s nothing like that.  I guess you’re just Jason, in one way, but – more than that too, you know?”

    “Yeah, I know.  You guys – have really been nice to me though.  I hope I don’t let you down any,” Jason replied.

    “That’s a funny thing to say.  Let us down?”  Elliot rolled and propped his head up on one arm.  “How do you figure you’d do that?”

    “I dunno, just – I don’t want to disappoint you guys, or your parents, that’s all.”

    Elliot observed the other boy for a moment.  “You won’t.  Just be yourself – and I promise, you’ll be just fine.”

    Jason shook his head though.  “That’s what scares me a little though, because … I don’t want to be an idiot about stuff or anything.”  When the other boy laughed, he grinned.  “What?”

    “You will be – get used to it.  I mean, Dad talked to us the other night.  There are a lot of things you’ll find different over here, and some people will look at you funny, maybe laugh sometimes or whatever.  But man, it doesn’t mean anyone is going to chop your head off or put you in the gallows or anything – or as you put it, think you’re some kind of idiot.  Believe me, the guys will know you’re from the States, and they may laugh sometimes, but heck, we’ll help you understand and things, and maybe you’ll teach us some things, too.”

    Jason was thunderstruck.  After a moment he finally spoke.  “You’re cool, you know?”

    Elliot grinned.  “So are you.  So what say we stop the mushy, feel-sorry row.  I've got things to show you today, rain or no rain!”

    “Okay, you’re on,” Jason replied, grinning widely.


Comments to: EKidKy@hotmail.com
Other series by me:

   - The Bully and the Bullied (A novel)
     (www.Nifty.org, Gay – High School section, Early-Mid 2009)

   - One Autumn Weekend (A Short Story)
     (www.Nifty.org, Gay – High School section, February 2010)

   - Life’s Road of Discoveries
     (www.Nifty.org, Gay-Young Friends section, Early 2008)

   - Terry and Sam - Short Story, Holiday Christmas Collaboration w/Ruwen
     (www.Nifty.org, Gay-No Sex section, Late 2008)