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 as young as 13 to 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 where 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 Four: Not All Roads Lead To The Same Place

    His first day of school over, Jason sighed with relief when the last bell rang throughout the halls, calling an end to a day guided with mixed feelings. As had been agreed to beforehand, he made his way to the front of the school and chose a hallway that led south towards the school’s gymnasium. Fighting a steady flow of students moving from the opposite direction, he threaded himself between the oncoming mass of bodies until he reached the set of double doors at the far end, entered and found a seat on one of the nearby benches.

    It wasn’t long before he spotted both Derek and Elliot as they entered from the opposite side of the gym, apparently returning from the outside with a host of other students. They saw and waved at him as they disappeared into the boys’ locker rooms, presumably to change before heading homeward. Jason noted that some students reappeared almost immediately from the area still dressed in their gym clothes but carrying an odd assortment of books and packs, obviously intent to leave the premises without the benefit of changing clothes. At first Jason thought that was strange.  Although he had not been outside for the afternoon as of yet, he knew there was a gusty wind blowing in from the northeast, and just the mere thought of it sent a chill through him. The gym sheltered the students from the elements, but there was a unmistakable dampness in the air, and it made Jason pull the jacket he was wearing around him tighter.

    Ten minutes later both brothers reappeared, Derek fully dressed with his backpack, the younger brother almost identical except for he was carrying his shoes. They made their way over to where Jason was sitting and Elliot dumped his belongings on one side of the seat before sitting down. As he proceeded to don his shoes he asked, “So, how was Mrs. Farther’s history class?”

    Before Jason could answer, Derek snickered. “What? You have Mrs. ‘Farters’ class?” Even Jason had to grin at the play on words before he shrugged his shoulders and struck a pose, mimicking the elderly lady. “’Why class, l believe we have a Yankee with us this afternoon!’”

    This brought more snickering and giggles from the two brothers. “She actually called you that?” asked Elliot.

    “Afraid so, but she explained afterwards they had just began discussing the war with the Colonies, as she called it. I said something like, ‘Oh, you mean the revolutionary war?’ She gave me this look and I uh, don’t think it went over very well with her…” he concluded, his face reddening somewhat from the embarrassment. This time the brothers broke out in hilarious fits of laughter which did not subside until after Elliot finally tied his last shoelace and pulled on his jacket.

    As they made their way outside, Derek was the first to finally speak up.   “Okay, lesson number one about the UK. The war with the colonies has a different perspective over here than what you guys probably learned. I know because I took an American history course last year and we had one of those teacher exchange ladies who were actually pretty good. From what she taught us, you guys look at the war as a revolution of independence I think, but we British sort of saw it as a rebellion against the monarchy. I know that doesn’t seem like much, but over here we see it as a pretty big difference.  Our economy was falling, and the King had stretched our resources as a nation to thin. That and some war or battle or something prior to that, it might have been something to do with the colonies, I don’t remember, but whatever it was put us in a recession or something. So England needed new revenue, and we thought, or at least the King thought, the colonies ought to help pay for some of the burden, so he started all these programs and taxes and everything to which you guys rebelled against. Of course, you know how it turned out. Over here you won’t get a lot of sympathy on that subject; I think most of us sort of understand now why you did it, but the English sort of look on it with a frown because in another way, you just brought more hardship to us.  I have a book about it if you want to read sometime.”

    Jason shook his head. “I’m not very good at history, I probably would never understand it.”

    “You might be surprised. I’m like you - I’m not good with history at all really, but this was one I was able to get through most of. It’s written differently than most books, you know, sort of from a funny perspective I guess, and it really doesn’t preach at you or throw a bunch of dates and names and so forth. I mean, some of them are there, but it’s not dry like a lot of its kind are. Anyway, it’s on the shelf by Dad’s recliner if you’re ever interested.” He glanced at his brother. “You two can make it home I think. I’m supposed to meet up with my mates in a bit. If I hurry I might catch them before they take off.”

    Elliot nodded. “Okay, see you later on tonight,” he replied as Derek waved and set off for the a different area outside the school. Turning to Jason he asked, “You ready to go now?”

    “Sure, I guess…” They started out walking up the street. “So, what did you guys do in gym today?”

    Elliot grunted. “Nothing really – we were supposed to play dodge ball, but our coach got called away for about half of the class before we even got started. We’re not allowed to play without him present, so we spent most of the period just hanging around. When he did get back, we had to share the gym floor with another class since for some reason.”

    “How come you can’t play without him there?”

    Elliot glanced over and grinned wickedly. “Serious? Let’s just say, umm, it gets a little aggressive sometimes, and they tell us we have to have adults around to make sure we play fair. Not that it does any good, because EVERYONE generally figures out how to get around it, but…”

    Jason laughed. “I see. Well, sorry you had to wait then. I guess that sounds pretty sucky.”

    Elliot shrugged his shoulders. “Gym is usually sucky anyway. Most of the time we have to play outside and we end up getting sweaty or sometimes muddy and cold. And when we do team sports, half the kids knock you around or cheat even – and of course THEY never get caught. If YOU try to pay any of it back, of course YOU’RE the one caught and the coach comes down on you. At least, that’s what seems to happen to me a lot.”

    “Um, I guess you don’t have any choice, right? You have to take gym?”

    Elliot looked over at his friend. “There are a couple of exceptions but yeah, generally all kids have to have a gym class every year. Most schools will schedule them during the last two periods of the day, because that’s when it is the warmest. I mean, even in summer the mornings here can be cool, but by the afternoon it’s a lot nicer.” He sniffed and then rummaged his pockets for a tissue. “Bloody nose, I HATE it when it does this to me.”


    “Allergies. I think I’m the only kid in the whole bloody school who has them, and no one can really understand why!”

    “Ah,” Elliot replied and then suddenly remembered something. He stopped and opened the outside pocket of his pack where he found a package of portable tissues. He extracted one and handed it to his friend. “Here, I think your Mom put these in here.”

    “Way to go Mum!” the boy exclaimed as he proceeded to blow his nose before wadding the tissue into a tight ball. “She’s goofy about stuff like this sometimes, but every so often I have to admit I love her for it.” At the entrance to a nearby park was a set of trash cans, so Elliot trotted across the street and disposed of it before returning. They continued walking up the hill. “So, how did you like the rest of it? School, I mean?”

    Jason wrinkled his nose. “It was okay I guess. I think the hardest part I had was in understanding everyone. I mean don’t take it wrong, but some of you guys really do talk funny sometimes.”

    Elliot grinned. “Oh, you mean our properness, accent and all?” he replied, exaggerating the tone and inflection in his words.

    Jason cuffed him on the arm as he replied, “But of course!” They both laughed before Jason continued.  “Math I think is going to be boring.  You guys are doing stuff I did last year already, and English – wow!”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Well, I thought I was pretty good in English, but you heard Ms. What’s-her-name, she couldn’t keep from correcting almost every other word that came out of my mouth!”

    Elliot shrugged his shoulders. “She gets cranky like that sometime, but I know lots of kids who do way worse than you did.” He glanced up at his friend. “So, you think it’ll be okay?”

    “I guess so. I mean, I used to be pretty good in school except for history and social studies and stuff – too much reading I guess, I don’t know. Today’s stuff didn’t really seem all that hard or anything.”

    Elliot smiled. “Cool.  Most of the guys seem to like you well enough today, too. Even Angie Parkington – did you see how she kept turning around and batting her eyes at you?”

    Jason rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I noticed.”

    The response amused Elliot. “Well, just so you know, she’s ummm… She’s kind of loose with a lot of guys, if you know what I mean.”

    “Loose?“ When Elliot raised his eyebrows a couple of times in succession, Jason got the message.  “OOhhhh… LOOSE… got ya.” He wrinkled his nose. “You’re goofy sometimes, you know?”

    Elliot laughed. “I know I am, but meh, that’s just me. Take me or leave me, I can’t be anyone different.”

    Jason grinned and met the knuckles offered in mid-air, the UK version of the American ‘high-five’.

    “Wouldn’t have it any other way, honest.”

    - + - + - + -

    It was late in the evening before Natalie found herself finally alone and away from the boys. Simon had left early that day on a business trip and would consume most of the week.  Although neither were very appreciative of the timing, bot realized that now, more than ever, Simon would have to be more tolerable of duties – especially now that they had an extra teenager to feed and clothe. She was debating whether or not she should call her husband, unsure if she should take the chance of interrupting him wherever he may be at the moment. As she wrestled with the thought, her cell phone suddenly rang and upon answering it, she immediately sighed with relief.

    “Hi dear, how is everyone tonight?” Simon’s cheery voice greeted her.

    “Oh, we’re all fine,” she exclaimed, but not without a being able to hide the sense of rushed relief. Simon noted the exchange immediately from the other end of the connection.

    “Is everything okay? Why do you seem out of breath all of a sudden?” he asked.

    “Oh, it’s nothing. I was just sitting here debating whether to call and you startled me is all.” It was a weak excuse if nothing more, but her husband seemed to accept it for the moment.

    “How did the first day of school go today for Jason?”

    Natalie had been expecting this. “For the most part it went smoothly. We both went this morning and met with Mrs. Fitch first thing.”

    “Mrs. Fitch? Is she still there? I figured she would have retired long ago by now!” the voice on the other end exclaimed.

   “I know what you mean. I know she is up there in years but somehow she still hangs on. I get the impression she doesn’t really want to give it up, really – I mean, you should have heard her today, she really seemed to like what she was doing, and it is pretty obvious she really cares about the students.” Natalie paused and then carefully broached what was on her mind. “Simon, she showed me something today, something that really caught me off guard. It was a note from the American school where Jason transferred from.”

    “Oh? What was it about?”

    Hesitating, she collected her thoughts. “Well, it was from a medical that was filed, apparently after he was found in that park over there and before he returned to school.  At least, that is what I surmised from the date, because it’s dated October 3rd.”

    “What does it say?” He noted the awkward pause, then implored. “Is there something wrong honey? What does the note say?”

    Natalie sighed deeply. “It’s just, well… Remember how we suspected he had been abused? It seems there was a lot more truth to that than we thought.”

    Simon was silent for a few seconds before he asked gently, “How bad?”

    “Bad, I mean, he was… he was…” Natalie could not bring herself to say it, and her eyes became moist to the point she sighed yet again. “Damn, I thought I could be more in control than this. It’s just hard when you realize something is going on, or rather something had happened, and then find out it was worse than you initially thought.”

    Simon was nodding on the other end. “Yes, I understand. Was he molested?” he asked quietly, trying to spare his wife the sordid details of having to voice something that was obviously upsetting her.

    Natalie on the other hand wasn’t going to give in to her fears.  “Worse Simon, he was raped, and according to the note it was pretty vicious. The doctor suggested that Jason would need some time to recover before he re-entered into any kind of strenuous activity. There was also a note that he would probably need counseling and therapy.”

    Simon whistled. “And to think this was never mentioned. Somehow I’m not surprised. Is that it? Are there any other details?”

    Natalie shook her head as if her husband was sitting beside her.  “No, nothing else really. Like you, I’m not that surprised either. Mrs. Fitch did set it up so that he wouldn’t have to take gym for a while, probably because of the note.”

    “I understand. Does Jason know about this?”

    “No dear, we were alone when she gave this to me. In fact, the whole time she was conversing with us, she was really pleasant and thoughtful about how she handled him. She played everything down, like putting him in a history class so he wouldn’t be suspicious – and she did a bloody good job with it. I don’t think he suspected a thing. She also told us we should get him a medical in the upcoming weeks.”

    “That’s good. I actually expected we would have to do that. Did Jason have any reaction to the medical? Was he in there then?”

    “He was, and dear, he didn’t even blink that I could tell. I suppose he expected it was going to have to happen sooner or later.” Natalie sighed. “What do we do? I mean, is there anything we should do for him? He seems so sweet, but yet – like the other night, you can tell there is something there, something hidden.”

    “Hold on sweetheart,” Simon interjected, pausing to quickly evaluate the sequence of events in his mind before he inquired. “Answer me this: is there anything you’ve seen out of him that would make you think he’s a danger to himself in any way?”

    Natalie considered the question before slowly shaking her head.  “No, I can’t say that I have. He and Elliot are getting along better than I ever expected, and I think he seems to be overly anxious to prove himself here to all of us.”

    “And has anything happened to make you think we wouldn’t want to keep him any more than when he first arrived?”

    “Are you kidding me? That’s stupid Simon – of course not! I don’t think there is any amount of money in the world that would make me want to put him out the front door. He’s a sweet child, like I said – a troubled teen to be sure, but…”

    “Then we don’t do anything right now.” He could hear the objection begin, so he hastily continued before his wife could interrupt. “Look, first off I am sure he would not have been allowed out of the States if they felt he had any instability of sorts. As bad as the system is over there or anywhere else in the world, there are just some things they are especially mindful of, and that is one of them.  As far as the medical goes, it sounds like Mrs. Fitch was trying to do us a favor in an unobtrusive way, which is good. It would be good to have him checked out for any long term problems.”

    He collected his thoughts. “More importantly however, right now I’ll bet Jason just needs more space than anything – some time to sort himself out.  I can only imagine the home where he grew up, but from what he told and what we’ve seen, I think my step-brother brought him up in a very loving and friendly environment. Think about it sweetheart – he lost his father, went into a foster care system where he was everything BUT well cared for, then he ends up on the streets for God knows how long. He went from the stability and safety of a home into a totally unstable, unsafe hell from the sounds of it. Who wouldn’t have dark shadows following him from that, especially at his age? If he was raped, then – look at him now, he’s certainly adjusted to it. I’m not saying that it doesn’t leave baggage, but it affects some people more than others, you know? It may be he is learning to deal with a harsh reality and just needs some time to get himself back together. I wonder if anyone addressed it with him…”

    Natalie nodded. “The note says when queried, he precludes having no recollection of it – but the doctor felt he was hiding something nonetheless. Subsequent inquires met similar results.”

    Simon frowned. “I find it extremely disappointing no one felt they should pass that little tidbit on to us before now.” He grunted.  “In my honest opinion dear, right now we’re probably providing him stability again, as close to what he had before all of this went down.”

    “Do you really think it’s that simple?” Natalie asked her husband after a long silence, her voice full of doubt but also tinged with a ray of hope.

    “No, it never is,” Simon replied. “But for right now we do know he needs to search himself out, and I think as he gets more relaxed and comfortable with the four of us and with being here, he’ll let his guard down. If there are things there he has to deal with, then the first stage will be the need of having people who care about him, and care again about helping the lad believe in himself. That’s where he’ll need us the most, and that’s where we can help him the most.”

    Natalie was beginning to see her husband’s logic. “Do you think it will ever come out?”

    “Yes, I do. Maybe not to us directly, but I suspect the boys will learn more than anyone else. He and Elliot are developing one hell of an attachment, and for once I’m glad.  Our son has always been riding a back burner compared to Derek, and all the messiness put aside I think he and Jason may be just what the other needs. So yes, I think somewhere down the line the mystery surrounding our young Jason Mathews will come to light.  When he’s ready to face it, then we’ll face it with him together.”

    Natalie actually smiled, and when she spoke there was a trace of relief in her voice. “It’s times like these I am ever more thankful to have married you – at least, you know what I mean.”

    Simon chuckled. “Four days – the kid has been with us four days, and already we love him to death, don’t we.”

    Natalie cracked up. “Bloody right, we do!” She changed the subject. “Did you get the email off today?”

    “Yes I actually did, but I checked just before I called you and there was no response yet. I suspect it will be a few days before we hear anything to tell the truth. They are notoriously slow about these things it seems, or so I’m told.”

    Natalie again nodded. “I know what you mean…”

    - + - + -+ -

    The next few days were uneventful inside the Flavell household.  Jason began to fall into a normal routine with the rest of the household, attending school and returning home with Elliot in the afternoons. The week had turned bitterly cold, unusual for the present time of year, and as such their outdoor activities became limited. Elliot had hoped to be able to take Jason around the ports and across the city somewhat to show him more of where they actually lived. The only excursion they were able to take however, was on Tuesday evening when they both stopped by the game shack again. There they learned there would be no group playing that night due to the shop closing early because of a death in the family.  The balance of the week Elliot and Jason spent more time together chatting, doing homework, playing various games and watching television.

    Jason was amused at how British TV differed from American broadcasts.  Although much of the content was cultured within the mainland, he saw some series broadcast that originated in the States as well. Finding some material was commercial free, and discovering that late evenings the standards were a little less stringent with their content had been an eye opener.  One evening he and Elliot had come across an educational program that depicted men completely nude, both from behind and in front displaying their genitals.  Stunned, Jason at first thought they had happened across an exception of sorts, but when the show was focused on the types of problems men had as they aged and appeared to be every bit as normal as an educational program. As they continued displaying various aspects of male anatomy in all its glory, he whistled. Elliot, who had been flipping through the available channels with the remote at the opposite end of the couch, noticed his friend’s look of amazement.

    “What’s wrong with you?” he asked in amusement. He had purposefully paused on the channel while he gauged the American’s reaction.

    Returning the other’s glance, Jason asked in bewilderment.  “You guys actually, like, have this stuff on public TV? Just broadcast it and everything?” When Elliot nodded, he whistled and shook his head incredulously.  “Do they show both men and women naked and stuff?”

    “Yeah, usually only late at night though, like after nine or ten o’clock or so. We don’t have censorship here like you blokes do.”

    “Shit!” Jason exclaimed under his breath. He continued to stare for another minute or so before he looked sheepishly at Elliot. “Um, you can change the channel if you want.”

    Elliot laughed out loud, but replied in a subdued voice, “You sure? Your eyes were pretty glued I think!”

    Jason picked up a cushion and threw it at the kid, but grinned afterwards while clearly showing his embarrassment. “I just, I dunno, it’s just not something I expected, that’s all.”

    Elliot got up and moved closer, sitting down next to his friend.  “I kind of figured that,” he replied as he complied and changed the channel. Finding nothing else on, he shut the TV off and they sat there together for a moment before he cleared his throat. “Um, can I ask you something?”


    “Well, did seeing that man and stuff, like, really bother you or anything?”

    Jason shrugged his shoulders. “Meh, not really. I mean, I didn’t mind it any, just was, well, surprised I guess. I think it’s cool, in a way.” He grinned. “No, not so much the old man’s dick or anything, mind you, just – I don’t know. I think it’s cool you guys can broadcast stuff like that We could never do that stuff back home unless it was on paid cable or something.” He wrinkled his nose again. “Um, I guess kids over here get their sex education early… right?  I mean, if they want. It’s probably not too hard to stay up and find a show when their parents aren’t around or watching, or something like that.”

    Elliot nodded. “Yeah, mostly I guess. Derek and I used to sneak down here a long time ago and try to watch stuff. I don’t think Mum or Dad ever knew, or at least they never seemed to catch us.” He paused.  “Sometimes it’s not so cool though, like when parents actually allow their kids to watch stuff on purpose.”  He paused before he added, “I know Mum did.”

    Jason’s eyes went wide in amazement. “Huh? Are you kidding?”

    Elliot shook his head. “Nope, it’s for real. When Derek was 14, she found some episode stuff that showed all the stages of pregnancy, all the way down to the baby being delivered. She wanted him to watch it, so he would, you know, ‘get educated’ I guess. It went through all the birth control and everything, and after they watched it together, she decided I should see it too.”

    Jason whistled. “Man, that’s hard to believe.” He glanced up into Elliot’s impassive expression. “You had to watch it with her then? You were, what, 12 or so?” When his friend nodded, he whistled again. “I bet that was hard.”

    “No kidding,” Elliot rolled his eyes in response. “It’s one thing to watch stuff like that where people are, you know, naked and showing everything – but it’s another thing when you have to watch it sitting next to your Mum!”  He shook his head. “I was almost sick to my stomach for a week, too. I mean, well, you know…”

    Jason, however, didn’t know. “What do you mean?”

    Elliot studied his expression, then grinned and shook his head.  “Um, it was just gross, that’s all.  It was one of these big ladies with big tits and, I don’t know, giving birth and everything – they showed it all and well, it might be okay for some people, but it wasn’t for me. I mean, I handled it okay and everything, but having to sit beside her while she is watching ME?” He laughed.  “The worst of it all though, was when it was over Mum sat me down at the table and asked if I had any questions.  I was thinking like ‘Shit!’”

    “Oh crap, I would have died,” muttered Jason.

    “I did die! I was like, ‘MMMuummmm!!!’ She wouldn’t let me get away though until she had ‘the talk’, you know? I was sitting there miserable the whole time because, like, that’s the kind of talk you have with your Dad, not your Mum.”

    Jason mulled over that for a moment before he sheepishly admitted to the other boy, “That’s one talk my Dad never had with me, thankfully.”

    Elliot studied him for a second. “Well, then you’re lucky I guess, because over here well, I’ve heard lots of kids tell about their parents doing it – you know, Mum’s and girls, Dad’s and guys.” He sighed.  “So, have you ever, like, seen porn or anything on TV or…?”

    Jason sadly shook his head. “Honest? Not really… I mean, I’ve some little stuff, mostly on the internet, mostly by accident, too – but we never had a computer at home, and the school computers were pretty secured against that stuff.”

    Elliot nodded. “Don’t knock it, it’s cool. I know some other guys who’ve said the same thing. I don’t think it’s a big deal.”

    “Really? I mean…”

    “Yah, I know, it sounds weird – especially coming from me. I mean, I know what a girl looks like all over now, or at least a big woman anyway.  I admit it was kind of, well, interesting, a little anyways, but...” He shrugged his shoulders. “Mum was there so I didn’t dare think about anything that would pop a hard-on, you know?”

    “For sure!” Jason agreed, laughing all the while.

    Elliot grinned. “Only thing else I’ve ever been fortunate to see was this one time last year, our class was at this rally for school, and there was a year six or so girl who had her shirt pulled up all the way in front by a preschooler. They were playing around and the little girl was sitting on her lap and just did it. But – there was nothing to really see. She hadn’t started growing her breasts or anything yet, you know, flat chested. My eyes were just in the right place at the right time, but um - meh.”

    Jason nodded thoughtfully as an eerie silence fell between them again.  Sitting back into the couch more, he noted Elliot had subtly sat close to where they were side by side. He was amused, more so because it seemed as their time with each other progressed, so did the little things such as this. He didn’t want to hurt Elliot’s feelings, because he knew his friend enjoyed the closeness more than most kids seemed to. To be truthful, he was finding that he like it, too.

    After a bit Elliot started knocking his knees together and in turn caused the two of them to do the same. Jason was readying a comment when the other boy stopped just as suddenly he had started “You want to do anything else right now?” Glancing at the clock on the wall he saw it was twenty minutes past ten. “I don’t know, maybe we should start heading upstairs. Mum will be back in about a half hour or so. We should be in bed before long, or she’ll give us grief.”

    Jason nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I guess so.”

    Elliot slowly got to his feet and offered the other boy a hand up, which Jason gladly welcomed. Moving towards the stairs, Elliot casually glanced back. “I should probably get a shower, too. I haven’t had one since Monday, and Mum gets sort of picky about that stuff, too.”

    Jason giggled. “Yeah, I heard her getting after you this morning.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know what the big deal is though. I mean, if it was hot and we were sweaty or stuff, I could understand it… but right now though? I mean, what are we going to do to get dirty? It’s not like we’re playing in sports like your brother!”

    “I know,” Elliot agreed. “Derek IS different though, I guess cause he’s older. He DOES sweat a lot!” At the top of the stairs, they turned and entered the bedroom, where Elliot promptly moved to their dresser and removed a pair of briefs from the drawer. Nonchalantly, he called out to the other. “I won’t take long, and then you can take one if you want – unless you want to join me.”

    Jason laughed out loud at how carefree his friend had made it sound.  “You got to be kidding…” He stopped when there was no response and saw the grin that met him. “Um, you were kidding… right?”

    In reply, Elliot just shrugged his shoulders. “It’s no big deal.”

    Jason thought about it for a few seconds then shook his head.  “That’s the second or third time you’ve done that though.” He stood up and walked over to stand in front of the boy. Looking into his eyes, he searched for some reason, some idea of where it was coming from. “You – you’d really, like… want to do that? Just like that?”

    Slowly Elliot nodded his head as he shut the drawer and made ready to leave. “Derek and I used to take showers together some, and besides – I don’t know, like I told you, I trust you and stuff.”

    Jason hesitation was eventually too long because Elliot sighed and made to leave the room. “Just forget it, like I said, it’s no big deal.” As he left however, Jason noted the slump in his friend’s shoulders and the disappointment that he could see. It confused him, but he couldn’t really reason out why it did. ‘Why had he hesitated?’ he berated himself. If he didn’t really want to do it, why couldn’t he just politely decline and let that be the end of it?

    Shaking his head hard, he tried to clear the cobwebs spinning inside.  Slowly he crossed over and climbed into the bed, settling into the far corner and pulling his knees up to his chest.  There he sat for a long time trying to think about what had just happened, and why he had reacted as he did.  It wasn’t something normal as far as he could tell, but again he had not lived a normal life insofar as other kids his age. Isolated and alone, maybe it WAS a part of something kids did – but just never talked about with anyone. For all he knew, maybe doing these things, showers, baths, whatever – maybe it was something normal in a family.

    If so, it still wasn’t normal for him. At the same time though, he thought about Elliot and what the kid meant to him.  There was no question that Elliot wasn’t a vital part of his life now, and as he thought about what it would have been like without him these past few days, he shivered. He didn’t want to think about the night he arrived, and how scared he actually felt. When Elliot reached out and calmed him, he lay in awe – and knew then something was good about him.

    So what was it? Why was he feeling so confused? What was behind Elliot’s motives, seeming innocent hints and suggestions? Closing his eyes, he told himself over and over to calm down and took deep steady breaths. For some reason though, he could not let it go. He was feeling scared, and he knew he really had no reason to.  He wasn’t afraid of Elliot at all, or so he thought, but the idea of jumping in the shower with the kid made him feel jumpy.

    Sighing, he took another deep breath and let it out slowly, feeling remorseful. These people had nothing to do with what happened to him in the States - why did he have to react that way? They had been together for almost a week now, and there was nothing that Elliot or his family had done to make him feel so edgy or unsafe. In the end, he felt miserable and unsure of himself once again, and was at a loss about what to do about it. He looked up to the chest of drawers and almost moved to grab a pair of shorts and go downstairs right then to join Elliot.

    Another part of him, however, would not let him.

    And that made him all the more unsure of himself anymore.

    - + - + - + -

    Elliot turned the water off and listened to the quiet that followed, hearing the telltale dripping associated with the shower head as warm water drained at his feet. He stood there and closed his eyes, fighting back the sudden feelings that refused to abate.  He had gone too far, had tried to make light of something that definitely was anything but, and he knew it. 

    His hair wet and matted to his head, a tear escaped the corner of his eye to mingle with the rest of the water falling down his cheeks. He felt awful, as if a heavy burden had settled upon his shoulders. The American was right: he had played the shower card too many times, and he could only feel like the other kid must think him either thick or an idiot.

    Steeling himself, he turned and exited the shower, grabbing the nearby towel before sitting on the toilet. He used it to steady himself as he dried off slowly, but he couldn’t wipe away the shame he was feeling. Had Elliot just ruined something between them? It hurt; he wanted more than anything for Jason to just like him for who he was. Moreover he wanted the other kid to just see that he, Elliot, was not afraid to be with him. Was that so bad?

    In some way it must have been, but Elliot could not figure it out.  He remembered how his Dad had warned both of the brothers about how some things would be soundly different between their two cultures. Combine that with the fact that Jason had some mysterious past that troubled him, which no one knew any details of, might cause for them to be cautious. Still… this? In a way, he knew it was touching some sacred ground, but the way their relationship had been building, he had thought nothing of it – until now.

    Slowly he pulled on his briefs and shirt before wrapping the towel around his waist. In some ways, he wanted to cry, but he knew that would not help the situation right now.  As he left the bathroom he heard the front door lock turning, so he hurried and ascended the stairs before his mother would find him as shaken as he was. Just before he reached his room, he paused one last time to take a deep breath.  He didn’t know what to expect, but he was resolute to whatever his fate might be. Quietly entering, he closed the door to the darkness that met him and looked about. At first he did not see the figure that was still propped up in the corner of the bed, but when he did dropped the towel and walked over. “Hey, um, you okay?” he asked quietly.

    Jason looked up as if startled, coming out of deep thought and seeing his friend standing there. If there had been enough light in the room, Elliot would have seen the reddened eyes that met him, but as fate had it he only observed what appeared to him to be a nonchalant stance. It was enough to push him over the edge and question, all over again, if there was something he was missing. Too tired to worry with it, Jason simply nodded while hiding in his cloak of insecurity. 

    Elliot hesitated for a few seconds, unsure of what to say. He was about to apologize when Jason slowly crawled out of the bed and moved to the chest in silence. Withdrawing his own set of briefs and t-shirt, he left the room without a word, leaving Elliot feeling heartbroken.

    And it scared him.

    - + - + - + -

    The next morning, both boys were awakened by the persistent buzzing of the alarm clock. Elliot groaned as he rolled over and hit the snooze button, and then fell back as he slowly started to wake up. The events of the night before returned immediately, and in no time he was awake agonizing again over what he could do to make things right. He felt Jason shift in the bed beside him, so he dared to look over in the ambient light saw that his friend, too, was awake and staring back at him.  Rather weakly, Elliot opened his mouth twice, but words escaped him until finally he sighed before surrendering.  “Um, morning…”

    Jason simply nodded, watching the other boy intently. He knew he should say something, knew he still wanted to apologize – but the night had been ravaged with fitful dreams that would not stop, no matter how many times he woke up and turned over. His feelings were still in a flux of confusion for the moment, and he was unsure what he should say or even feel. When he returned from the shower the night before much the same way as Elliot, he couldn’t bring himself to try and talk it out. Instead he simply crawled over the boy as usual and wrapped himself under the covers, hugging the wall as close as he could.  He knew he wasn’t thinking straight, and it scared him to think that if he had tried to say anything – anything at all – it would sound stupid and meaningless.

    The dreams were another matter. They had eluded him from the moment since he arrived in England – dreams which had escaped him for so long he had almost forgotten them. While being here with Elliot, he had been able to rest and finally find peace. He felt he owed that blessing to the teen lying beside him, because until that first night no one else had ever been able to make him feel as safe as he was. He didn’t know why, but Elliot’s presence had that uncanny effect on him. For that he was grateful.

    Elliot sighed, bringing his friend out of the trance of his thoughts.  When he spoke, he collected his wits about him. He wanted desperately to undo the damage of the night before. “Jase, I’m sorry, I really didn’t mean it to be like that,” he whispered. He wanted to add more, but couldn’t.

    Jason lay there in the stillness for a moment before he spoke, and when he did, Elliot could barely hear him. “Forget it; it’s okay.”

    Hearing that gave Elliot a little hope and courage. “No, it’s not okay. I think you took me the wrong way, but it doesn’t matter – it was my fault Jason, all mine. I didn’t mean to make you mad at me or upset or… anything. I’m really sorry.” He paused for a moment. “I would never hurt you, or make you feel like, I don’t know – like you did last night. You have to believe me,” he implored.

    Jason was silent again for what seem like an eternity before he finally replied. “Can I ask you something?”

    Startled, Elliot nodded. “You can ask me anything, honest.”

     “Will tell me the truth?”

     “I will ALWAYS tell you the truth - cross my heart,” he added, hoping the other boy could feel the sincerity in his voice.

    Another long pause. “Just tell me – are you trying to get me naked for some weird reason, or… you know…?”

    Elliot froze. He had already played a version of this out in his mind the night before, and had so hoped he would not have to worry about it. Having it brought up between them now however, especially by the boy lying next to him whom he was beginning to have such serious feelings for, made it all scarier than it sounded. He sighed.  He was going to have to tell the truth; he just hoped his new friend would accept it.

    “Not really, I mean, yeah, but not for what you’re probably thinking.”

    Another long pause, and then Jason responded. “How do you know what I’m thinking?”

    “Because of the way you said it, the way you asked me. You probably think I’m some kind of pervert or something.”

    Jason smiled, a hint of relief edging its way into his voice.  “Okay, then ‘fess up… why? Why do you hint at it and stuff?”

    Elliot looked deep into the eyes that he knew was there staring back into his own, and in the ambient light he could see a sort of smile meet him.  In the darkness, it gave him courage, so taking a deep breath, he tried to explain. “I just… I want to help, Jason, I want you to know I trust you. I want you to trust me, and I want to help. I want to be friends, and I want – “ He stopped, knowing the words were rambling and becoming repetitive. In frustration with himself, rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling as he sighed in frustration before closing his eyes.  “What the hell, it doesn’t matter…”

    There was another long pause. “Yes it does. It matters to me.” He hesitated and then spoke softly, encouraging Elliot to continue. “Tell me.”

    Elliot opened his eyes again. “Then please don’t be mad at me, I don’t think I could take it, okay? In fact, I know I can’t take it.”

    “Why?” Curiosity was heavily veiled in the query.

    “Because, just because…” Elliot hesitated. “Because you’re my best friend right now, maybe the only one I’ve ever had.”

    Jason scoffed. “I don’t believe that. You’re cool, you’re funny, and you’re fun to be around… even if you do talk weird sometimes.” Jason had meant the last as a joke, trying to lighten the mood somewhat, and when Elliot turned to meet his gaze again, both boys could sense a break in the tension.

    After a moment, tentatively Elliot reached out until he found Jason’s fingers under the cover. “You know what it’s like to be alone?”

    “Yeah, I think I do,” Jason replied matter-of-factly, but not without sincerity.

    “Then try to imagine know what it’s like living in a house with a brother who is into nothing but sports, a Dad who works most of the day is gone half the time on business trips, and a Mum who spends a lot of time in her volunteer circles and stuff. Add that to a bunch of friends who see you as the weird kid – one who plays role games and other stuff like that – stuff they have no understanding or interest in.”

    “That’s not the same,” Jason offered, his voice just above a whisper now.

    “No, you’re right – it isn’t the same. In some ways, it’s worse.” He noticed Jason didn’t pull away when their fingertips connected – a sign that once again gave him encouragement. He was trying to think about how to press on when the alarm went off again. Reluctantly he rolled over and this time shut it off before rolling back. He sat up and looked down at the figure in the dark.  “It’s worse because it makes you feel like you’re out in the field somewhere, with a whole crowd of people, but no one is watching you. And you want them to, you know, at least notice you sometimes – but it gets harder and harder.” He sighed.  “Anyhow, we have to get up. But Jason – are we good? I mean, I’m sorry, I wish I could learn to keep my mouth shut up sometimes, but… I’m sorry man, I’m really sorry.”

    Jason slowly rose in the bed until he was sitting next to his friend.  “Yeah, I told you, forget it.”  Seeing the slump of the shoulders and the expression of non-belief, he reached out and grabbed a pillow before plopping it on the other boy’s head. As Elliot pulled it off, Jason whispered. “Look, I promise, I’m okay. Last night was just as much my fault, too. I reacted badly, and I didn’t mean to. I told you before, I’m not afraid of being naked with you – at least I don’t think I am. You say it’s to help me, well – okay, I’ll take your word for it, but man, I’m sorry too… I just, if you knew the weird stuff I’ve been through, well – maybe you’d understand. You just have to give me some time, that’s all - I really need more time. I’ve got way too much going on in my head right now.”

    Elliot digested that before responding, his voice once more a whisper. “Jase?”


    “I promise – no more.”

    Jason giggled. “Wrong – you will. Maybe one of these nights I might even give in, who knows.”

    “Don’t kid around with me with stuff like that, it’s not like I’m trying to rape you or anything.”

    “I know that Elliot – honest, I do. Just right now… don’t make me go somewhere I’m not ready to go.”

    Elliot thought about that for a moment. “I won’t, but you have to promise me something. Promise me you know you can talk to me, about anything, okay? I’m not afraid of you or anything – just, if you feel like it, just – you know…”

    Jason returned the intense gaze with a smile and reached out.  He embraced the other kid and whispered “Thanks, I promise.”  He wanted to add more but couldn’t because he saw the light flash on in the hallway.  With a sigh, they both knew the moment was gone and they slowly crawled from the bed with Jason following him, both preparing to get ready for the day ahead. Jason thought over what Elliot had told him and began smiling inwardly.  He felt happy once again, and the more he watched the other kid as they dressed, the more he was beginning to realize something else…

    - + - + -+ -

    Saturday arrived in due haste, and for once the sun seem to greet the early morning hours with a renewed spirit. Jason awoke and peered out the edge of the window, closing his eyes and soaking up the warmth that hit his face. Although the night had been rough once again, this time the dreams were not as intense, and he was actually able to control and feel better again. How long he sat there he did not know, but there was something about the morning that had already improved his mood.

    Hearing a yawn behind him, he turned and noted Elliot’s struggle to wake up. They had both had stayed up late the night before playing another game of Monopoly, Elliot once again emerging victorious early and steadfast. At one point Jason almost caught up with the other boy in terms of cash and real estate, but the luck of the dice turned against him to a degree which he never recovered. Both having fallen into the bed afterwards, it had been a late hour. Smiling now though, he watched as Elliot slowly opened his eyes and – once getting his bearings – ever so slightly withdrew himself away, inching toward his half of the bed.

    It wasn’t as if he was intruding on Jason’s space, but it seemed that since the other morning the boy had been going out of his way to make sure he steered clear of the American. Once Jason realized it however, he quickly became annoyed. “Good grief!” he muttered to himself and then jumped.  Before Elliot knew what was happening, Jason was all over the kid pinning him down and tickling him, holding him in place for good measure for a solid minute while he intruded on various parts of the boy’s ribs and underarms until both began laughing hard. The body contact was intense, both boys in nothing but their t-shirts and underwear, but it felt good to Jason – because it felt personal and satisfying that he could trust the kid in a way he figured Elliot would really like. More than that though, he found he really liked it to – drawing on the closeness, the warmth and the friendship between them. When they stopped, Jason had Elliot rolled up and pinned underneath him.  “Say ‘uncle’,” he whispered.

    “S-S-Stop! Y-You’re gunna m-make me p-pee!” Elliot gasped.

    Jason held the other tightly for a few more seconds. “I said say ‘uncle’,” he repeated.

    Elliot looked up at the wild-eyed youth and actually considered betraying the moment, but decided his bladder would punish him worse if he didn’t first give it some much needed attention. Reluctantly, he nodded. “Okay… Okay… uncle. Now get off me you oaf! I bloody well don’t want to soak the bed!”

     Jason laughed and then let him slip up beside him. Elliot quickly disappeared through the doorway and was gone, but returned moments later to reappear. “You Americans may spell relief R-o-l-a-i-d-s, but I spell it B-a-t-h-r-o-o-m!” he quipped while closing the door behind him.

    At first Jason didn’t get it, but suddenly he remembered seeing old TV commercials for some kind of antacid tablets. Rolling his eyes, he let the snide remark pass and looked out the window again. “Man, I wish it would stay this way a while. I wonder if it’s cold outside...”

    Elliot crawled over to look out the window with him. “Nah, it might be for a little while, but I bet it warms up quick. It usually does by lunchtime.” Just then a knock was heard at the door. “Who is it?” Elliot called, turning his head.

    “It’s your Dad. May I come in boys? Are you decent?”

    They both looked at each other and realized they had yet to dress.  Quickly scurrying out of the bed, Elliot pulled on a pair of sweats while Jason got back under the covers.  When they were ready, Elliot called out, “Um, sure Dad, come on in!”

    Simon appeared and walked into the room smiling, glancing about.  “Hmm, a little cool in here, isn’t it?”  He glanced at the heat register and noticed the duct was closed. “You boys like it that way, or just too lazy to open up the register here?” he asked, indicating its closed state.

    Both boys looked at each other, and it was Jason’s turn to shrug his shoulders in reply. “I guess we just kind of like it. I mean, we – or rather I didn’t have a lot of heat in my room at home.” He laughed. “It always annoyed Dad, said he couldn’t understand it. He kept the rest of the house like an oven in the winter time.” 

    The sudden onset of those memories caused Jason to take pause and the others could see his mood change ever so slightly. Simon purposefully sat down on the side of the bed, indicating that Elliot should take a seat as well. Looking over the two, he cleared his throat before speaking. “Well, I thought about something last night, and if you like I thought we might be able to take a little trip today if you’re up to it.”

    “Yeah? Where to Dad?” Elliot asked.

    “Well, I was thinking on the way home the other night that perhaps we could introduce our newest family member here to some of England’s sites a little. With your fall break next week, you boys should have plenty of time to run around here, so maybe we could just get out and away from Portsmouth for the day. How about it Jason, you think you might like to take a drive up to, say, Stonehenge?”

    Jason’s eyes went wide. “You mean – THE Stonehenge? The big rocks, in a circle, right?” When Simon nodded, the young boy suddenly became enthusiastic. “Would I? Are you kidding me? That would be AWESOME! You mean it isn’t that far away?”

    Simon laughed. “Umm, I don’t know – I think about an hour or so might put us there. I take it you know a little of the site then?

    Jason nodded enthusiastically. “We studied them some in school, I guess maybe two or three years ago. That would be awesome Mr. Flavell!”

    Simon flinched inwardly again, but could not help smile at the enthusiasm. “Well, they supposedly have a lot of mystery surrounding them, I’ll grant you that.  So then let’s do it, the change of scenery might do us all some good – especially before old man winter starts settling in. Perhaps afterwards if we have time, we might come back by Portchester Castle as well, sort of show you another side of England.”

    Jason’s eyes expanded even wider. “A real castle? Wow! What are we waiting for!”

    Elliot grinned at his Dad. “I think you’ve made a friend for life Dad!” All of them laughed before he continued. “It would be kind of cool to see them again.”

    Jason turned curiously toward the youth. “You’ve been there before?”

    “Only once to Stonehenge, on a school trip, umm… kind of like you said, two or three years ago. The castle we’ve been to a bunch though. They host Derek’s football games in the courtyards sometimes. It’s a pretty cool place to see and explore.”

    When the two fell silent, Simon pulled himself from the bed.  “Okay then you two, get dressed and get downstairs, we’ll leave in about 30 minutes. I’ll see if your mother wants to come along.”

    - + - + -+ -

    For the first time since arriving in England, Jason stared in awe at the countryside that whisked by them. Though it was not his first time traveling outside of the city, his first trip had hampered his seeing much around them due to the late evening hour.  At the present it was mid-morning, and the sun had rapidly burned away all traces of the earlier fog, leaving clear, bright fields, coves and colorful townships to greet them on their way.  Both Simon and Natalie rode up front while he and Elliot stretched out in the back seats. Derek had declined the trip, opting for a day with his ‘mates’ instead – a term Jason was only beginning to come to grasps with. Elliot had given his brother a deep frown as they all walked out the door, showing his obvious disappointment in more ways than one.  Jason recalled the conversation they had just days before, and for a moment he felt the significance.

    As they rode along, Jason thought the countryside was not all that different. There was a lot more greenery here than what he would have expected for the season.  Where he grew up, most grasses would be fading, and trees would be giving up their leaves in a dazzling display of brown, gold and red kaleidoscopes. Here he saw little to none of that as they went cross country and through townships spotted here and there. The town layouts and architecture of the buildings were, as best he could tell, more compact. Not that he had expected anything less from what he had already seen, but as he studied them, it caused him to wrinkle his nose and turn from the window. “Umm, can I ask something, probably weird, but…”

    Natalie turned and smiled at him. “Of course you can, what’s up?”

    “Well, don’t get me wrong, I kind of understand what you guys have told me, about space being a premium and everything in some places, but – how come?  I mean, out here there seems to be all kinds of room and everything, right? I thought maybe it was because England was like, overcrowded or something, but now…?”

    Simon laughed as he listened. “Sharp observation, if I must say. You are right though. Overall the UK is not as crowded as you might initially perceive. There are plenty of villages and open plains throughout the country, plenty of farmland and more for the most part – but I wouldn’t say we have an overabundance of land. You see, many of our cities and townships were built from ages ago – most founded in centuries past, much older than the townships you have been used to in the States.  People in our country still congregate around these places because that is where our more abundant trade and manufacturing is.”

    “So it’s like, people live together because that’s where the jobs are and stuff.”

    “You could look at it that way,” Natalie answered. “Of course it’s much more than that, too – and I don’t think either of us are qualified to try and explain English socialism. It’s more … “ She paused, searching for words. “It’s more cultural, too. People have just lived this way for hundreds of years. We sort of just accept it as a heritage, as a way of life. Real estate is expensive enough here, so everyone makes use of space in a very reserved way because they’re use to it being that way.”

    Simon picked up from there. “Understand something else, too: where we live, things are a little tighter than you might find in other areas, but at the same time we have more room than say, some of the apartments or flats you’ll find in downtown London, or Birmingham. I guess if we wanted to, we could uproot as a family and move north of Havant and gain a little more room. It would even put me a little closer to where I work. To tell the truth however, Natalie and I like being next to the shorelines – and there is a lot you can see and do within walking distance of home. We’ve just always liked it there, and we’ve never had to deal with it being too crowded.”

    Jason turned and stared out the window for a moment. “You mean, until I came along.”

    Simon grunted, looking into his rearview mirror at the teenager.  “No, don’t think like that. I admit, things have changed somewhat, but surely you’re seen in the last week how well everything is adapting. You are not crowding us out – and I doubt very much you’ll ever impact us in that way.  As long as you and Elliot can get along with your room, I think everything will be just fine. Derek will be moving out in a couple of years, probably, at about the right time you two will want some more privacy, so we’ll see.”

    Glancing over at his friend and seeing the smile that met him made Jason smile back. “I think we get along pretty cool.”

    “I’m happy to hear that,” Natalie acknowledged after exchanging a glance with her husband. They rode along in silence for a few minutes before another thought struck Jason.

    “Um, can I ask something else?”

    Elliot snickered, but quieted immediately after the stern look his mother gave him. “Sure, what’s on your mind dear?” Natalie replied.

    At first Jason was unsure how to word it. “Well, it’s kind of personal, and I – I don’t want to be rude or say something I shouldn’t.”

    Once again Simon peered back at him through the rearview mirror.  “It’s okay, if we can’t or don’t want to answer something, we’ll tell you. You need not be afraid to ask anything of us,” he added, which caused Jason to steal a quick look at Elliot again before casting his eyes down to his feet.  Thinking hard, he finally took a deep breath.

    “Well is it, like, costing you guys a lot of money to, you know, let me stay here and stuff?” The question caught all three of the Flavells off guard, and a sudden silence fell between them. Jason could sense the change in the mood, so after a few seconds he hastily added. “It’s okay, I mean, I shouldn’t have said anything, and-“

    “It is every bit a fair question Jason, it’s just not something we expected is all,” Natalie interrupted. She smiled at him again. “I think from my experience, most teenagers don’t think or talk about such things you know.” Simon was nodding in agreement next to her.

    Jason shrugged. “Um, okay maybe not, but I can’t help but think sometimes that, well – you had to go buy clothes for me and you’ve done all this other stuff and …“

    “Jason,” Simon began, “You need not worry about things like this.  I will not lie to you and say you haven’t changed the family equation somewhat, but it isn’t anything we can’t handle. We considered these things before we bought your plane ticket to bring you over. Trust me: everything works out in the end.” He laughed. “The worst I think we have to adjust for is instead of two ravenous teenage gullets to fill we now have three!” Peering again in the rearview mirror, he made sure the teen understood the intent. “It WAS supposed to be a joke, you know!”

    Jason smiled but was thinking about something the man said. “You bought my ticket to come over here? From Tennessee? I thought the social services people did that!”

    Simon paused and shook his head. “It would have been fair if they had, I think, but no – they didn’t pursue that particular expense.”

    Jason frowned. “Was it a lot? I mean… Maybe I could get a job and -“

    “Jason,” Simon interrupted, rather more harshly than he intended. He sighed while he reached out and took hold of Natalie’s hand for support. “I’ll say it again: you need not worry about such things.  We are not the most well-to-do family you will find in England, even for the measure of middle-class status, but I do make a decent quid or two from my employer. It keeps us afloat for the most part. Sometimes we have to make small adjustments here and there, but for the most part we live fairly comfortably.”

    Jason felt chastised. “Yes sir, I understand.” He looked up.  “I’m glad for you then. Umm, do you like get any money from the States or anything, like the foster care program or social services? You know, for me? They can help, right?”

    Simon shook his head. “No, I’m sorry Jason, but it doesn’t seem to work that way over here. At least not given the fact you aren’t a citizen of the UK.”

    Jason sighed. “I’m sorry guys, if there’s anything I can do, just tell me okay? I mean...”

    Natalie frowned at him. “Yes, we know what you’re implying, but tell me, why are you worried about it dear? We just told you, everything will work out fine. There isn’t a one of us who isn’t happy to have you here – you know that, right? I think I can speak for us all – none of us have regretted it in the slightest. We did not bring you here because of an obligation – we brought you here because we wanted to. There is a difference, you know. Do you understand?” Seeing the youth nod, she smiled and changed the subject. “Now, how about you – how do you like English life so far? I mean really, be honest about it – you won’t hurt our feelings.”

    Jason’s eyes lit up. “It’s – well, kind of weird sometimes, you know, strange-funny-weird, but I really like it, at least so far.” He glanced at Elliot. “I couldn’t have made it this far without you, you know. All of you, but especially this geek – he’s been great.”  He announced it with a smile, one which both parents laughed at. It earned him a brief episode where Elliot stuck out his tongue, but behind it was an expression of gratitude, and Jason was glad he had admitted it so freely.

    Natalie smiled and again exchanged a glance with her husband before turning around and facing forward again. “Then stop worrying about the kinds of things meant for us adults to ponder on and enjoy the moment. Be a boy, explore, have fun growing up in this big crazy world we live in – and leave the rest to us. There will come a time all too soon in life you’ll have to change those perspectives, but now is not one of them. Let us worry about the things where money, food and shelter apply.  We’ll all be fine.”

    In the minutes that followed, Jason couldn’t help think about how, since losing his father, he had lived on next to nothing. Living with the old man and woman hadn’t been very productive either, as they had constantly badgered him with the notion of how much it was taking for them to house and feed him. He never really believed there was much truth in it, but with no way of knowing any better he had no choice but to take them at their word.  Given that into account with what followed afterwards – the thought made him visibly shudder, and he chastised himself for his momentary loss of control. Taking a deep breath he realized the difference now was that these people were totally different: they liked him, and they were making a lot of effort to make him feel like he now had a home.

    Elliot observed Jason closer than anyone else in the vehicle, and seeing the sudden change in his friend’s mood made him wonder if there was more behind the questions than was apparent. He knew the boy was hiding something – that that had been made obvious from the other morning. Whatever it was he knew that it was hurting his friend – of that fact he never wavered. He wished he could just understand it, at least enough to try and help…

    Eventually the two youths were drawn to look at each other, and Jason surprised Elliot with a sincere smile. That simple act conveyed a lot about how close they were becoming as a family, and Elliot felt like his heart skipped a beat. Maybe, just maybe, there could be something between them after all. It was enough of a revelation in that moment that he suddenly found hope: maybe Jason would come around to seeing what was really inside of Elliot – see how much he wanted to help. Slowly Elliot lifted his knuckles and met the other boy’s fist midway between them, but when they made contact, neither pulled away immediately. It was not just a simple act of friendship; there was a mutual feeling exchanged between them.

    Simon suddenly interrupted the moment and exclaimed, “Look boys, there it is at the top of that hill!”

    Looking out, Jason saw to the right just ahead was an incline that led into a fenced area.  At the top of the hill was Stonehenge – just like he had seen in pictures so long ago – and for the moment he could only gasp at the reality he was actually here. As Simon turned the vehicle and they moved closer, he was excited at the fact of how real it was and not just a picture in a book or magazine.

    Across from the structure they pulled into a lot and parked, and each alighted from the car. Jason stood in awe at the scene across the road. “Wow!” he exclaimed. Elliot was even silent, taking in the scenery with his friend but not with as much enthusiasm. Though the road and fence separated them, Jason noted a path that tourist walked, leading to an underground tunnel that led away from the parking lot to the other side of the road – and inside to where the structures lay.

    Before he had any time to wonder about whether they would get any closer, Natalie walked up beside the boys and handed them both some money.  “You two go ahead and have some fun.”  She pointed. “If I remember right, you can get tickets down there and this should get you through the gate and give you a little extra if you like.”

    “You’re not coming with us?” Jason asked.

    Natalie laughed. “Oh no dear, Simon and I have been here plenty of times over the years, and personally I think we would rather just take a nice long walk. You two enjoy yourselves though, we’re in no hurry.”

    Simon sided up behind her. “Well, she may not be in any hurry, but I personally would not want to spend all day here, if you know what I mean.” He winked at them. “Just go and enjoy yourselves. Oh, and here…“ He paused and pulled a small digital camera from his pocket, handing it over to the youths. “Go make a few memories while you’re at it, why don’t you.”

    - + - + -+ -

    Walking around the circle, Jason whistled and stared in awe at the structure of the stones. “You know, I’ve dreamed about these things and this place since I was probably 7 or 8 years old.” Turning to Elliot, he added, “I never thought I would get to see it someday, though.”

    Elliot grinned at him. “Well now you have, so live it up. It’s real.” He suddenly sneezed quite loudly and then started wiping at his eyes.  “Where the bloody hell did THAT come from?” he exclaimed, more to himself than anyone else. Grunting, he asked, “Do you still have any of those tissues?”

    “Afraid not, they’re packed in my bag at home.”

    “Ah well, it’s okay.” He offered Jason a sip of his soda he had bought, who hesitated at first but accepted the can and took a drink. Until that moment, he had never shared a drink after someone in his life. It was another act, though unintentional and harmless as it may have been perceived, that only further confirmed the bond growing between them.

    He passed it back to his friend. “Thanks.”

    Eliot nodded. Most of the area was roped off to keep people from getting too close, so they slowly walked along the path that circled the mammoth boulders. “You know, you did quite a job on Mum back there.”


     “All those feel-good things you said. She soaks that stuff up like a sponge sometimes.”

     Jason stopped and reflected on it. “Um, okay, I guess.”

    “Did you mean it? About us getting along and everything, even after I screwed up so royally the other night?”

     “Well, yeah,” Jason replied in surprise. “Besides, I told you: you didn’t screw up - it was me El, just me being a piss-ant.”

    Elliot giggled, but afterwards shook his head. “Then it’s cool - honest. “ He wrinkled his nose. “Mum is kind of funny about stuff sometimes, you know? But I’m telling you, I know she worries about you. I can see it when we’re around her and stuff. She’s trying hard to be a friend, but she’s trying, you know, to watch out for us too.”

    Jason nodded. “I think both your parents are cool – in a creepy, weird sort of way.” He smiled as Elliot giggled beside him. “I mean, you’re Dad isn’t loud or short tempered or …”

    A silence fell between them, and Elliot observed his friend closely before replying. “Was your Dad like that?”

    Jason shook his head. “No, my Dad was actually really kind to me, and patient and… and… just like your Dad. You know?” He smiled wistfully, and Elliot could not help but nod in understanding.

    “Well, I haven’t heard a lot from either of them, but I can tell what Mum said was true. They really are glad they brought you over here.”

    “And you?” When the other boy looked up at him, Jason smiled and they exchanged that weird look between them again.

    “Especially me. Look, we all like you Jason. They care – Mum, Dad and Derek – and you already know by now that I care, too – a lot.  I mean, do you realize what you just now said? You left your pack at ‘home’ – you didn’t say house or flat or room or anything, you actually called it ‘home’. I don’t know, maybe that’s weird, but I kind of like it, you know? How can that not make any of us feel good?”

    Jason turned and studied him. “I am feeling better, about all of this. I’ll tell you something too, just between you and me though, okay?” When Elliot nodded, he hesitated then lowered his voice. “I feel a lot better about us, too.”

    Elliot was taken aback at how forward that had come. “Then you really do forgive me for the other night?”

     Jason giggled. “No,” he kidded. “You’re gonna pay for that one, right when you least expect it too!”   Elliot rolled his eyes, but before he could respond Jason very quickly stepped in front of the boy and pretended to take hold of the camera, but also indiscreetly put an arm around the other boy’s waist and hugged him. “You should know better, I forgave you a long time ago. Besides, I told you…”

    “Yeah, yeah, I know…” Elliot grinned in relief. “Okay you, let’s take a picture of you.” Seeing another older couple walk by, he suddenly had a better idea. “Excuse me, sir? Would you…”

    In the end, the elderly man not only took one, but several photos of both boys for them. Jason was so happy at that moment.

    It really was like Simon had said – they were making memories…

        - + - + -+ -

    The weekend passed agreeably for the teens and as the new week began, both found themselves enjoying the respite from school. Being able to sleep later than usual, they stayed up until the early hours of most mornings throughout the week playing various games.  Between the video games, it was definitely the brother’s personal wars that got the most attention, although Jason did not shy away from watching as their antics unfolded. He joined them on occasion, but for the most part he didn’t have the skills to compete and he knew it.

    On other fronts, Jason was able to get involved with more challenges.  During the days Derek started spending more time with them, and both brothers showed Jason all the sites of Portsmouth. Some treks were longer than others, but for the most part Jason was able to visit the docks, the mall and markets, along with a whole host of other English culture he had not been able to visit yet. They attacked the naval yards, joining groups fortunate enough to get rare tours inside.  Here Jason found another sight that astounded him: older-based merchant clipper ships, their masts ready to unfurl their sails as if from a pre-modern era. He could not help but explore and study the vast ships and soak up the lore as their guides educated them on all facets of sailing lore.

    They also ascended Spinnaker Tower, one of Portsmouth’s highest towering attractions. With the use of the digital camera still in their possession, they made more photos between them while they overlooked the city from atop the highest platforms.  Derek also showed Jason the Football Club, and explained the Pompey references they kept encountering and how the sport was so revered in England.

    The week was just what Jason needed to get away and explore, finding out what his new home was really like. As Halloween approached, Jason also observed that some English traditions were not all that different from American ones. Jason thought the English might indulge the traditions of the season a little more, decorating their homes and broiling up strange concoctions for the kids – who still dressed up and went door-to-door for treats. He was amused as he watched Simon go all out, dressing up in costume and preparing a dish of what looked to the naked eye to be – well – eyeballs; as candies, he would use them to freak out any of the youngsters who came to the door that evening by plopping one from the bowl and eating it, then offering (or trying to in most cases) one to the kids.

    The week flew by fast and as Friday night approached, the candies were put away and the lights turned out below. Halloween ended with Elliot and Jason in their room once again, this time situated on their bed and playing cards. The hour was not that late, but the day had been full and both were overly tired. Their day winding down, it was easier to relax and listen to the radio in the background playing ghostly tunes.

    Playing cards was the one thing Jason discovered he had at least an even advantage within the family. He could easily hold his own when it came to strategy and skill when playing the brothers, and this particular evening was no different. Jason held the winning the hand as he had the previous three, and Elliot finally rolled his eyes before tossing the cards down from his hand. “Okay, that does it – enough! I’ve learned my lesson.”

    “What lesson is that?” Jason grinned.

    “That you’re as good at these things as I am with video games.”

     “Does that umm, maybe make us even then?” Jason laughed as he picked up the cards and started shuffling.

    Elliot fell back onto the bed and drew his shoulders back to flex them a little before rolling on his side to face the teen. “It means – yeah, I guess so.”

    Jason nodded. “Sorry, but I do think cards are kind of fun sometimes. You guys ever hear of Yahtzee? That’s pretty good too, except you just use dice.”

    Elliot rolled his eyes. “YYeeessss… it’s not like we live in the dark ages, you know!” The both laughed and then were silent. Jason finished shuffling the deck, but did not pass out a new hand. They sat for a few moments, just regarding each other before Elliot stifled a yawn.  “Um, you maybe up for turning in for a change? I know it’s not that late, but…”

    Jason nodded. “Yeah, I know. I feel like we’ve walked a hundred miles this week though, so I am kind of tired. We can still talk some if you want, but yeah…”  They were both already dressed down in their t-shirts and sweats, so as he crawled from the bed to put the card deck away, he shunned his outerwear as Elliot killed the table lamp and did the same.  The evening had turned cool, almost cold, but neither of them could really complain given the week’s weather had been so exceptionally awesome. Climbing aboard the bed he slid under the covers as usual, and eventually Elliot joined him. They lay there again in silence, both feeling content.

    “I’m glad we still have two more days before school starts again,” Elliot mused, trying to fill the void with something.

    Jason acknowledged with a grunt. “Don’t remind me, I think I’m finally getting use to the change in time over here.”

    “Well, it’s only taken you what, two weeks?” Elliot teased, causing Jason to reach over and poke the boy in his ribs. “Ow! That hurt!” Elliot cried softly before he tried to return the favor - or so he thought. In an effort to avoid the arms he knew were there to block him, he aimed lower – but ended up poking the other boy too low. Instead of the expected abdomen, what he felt at the tip of his fingers was instead something unmistakable behind cloth – something very spongy and soft.

    “OOwwww!” Jason hissed but laughed at the startled expression that met him. Elliot froze instantly as Jason lowered his voice and added, “Careful, an inch lower would not have been good! I’ve got family jewels in there just like you do, you know!”

    Elliot visibly settled back with relief although his heart continued to race a hundred miles a second. When he spoke, his voice was soft, “Sorry man, I didn’t mean to, you know…”

    Jason grinned at him as he shrugged his shoulders. “Doesn’t matter - I started it anyway.” He moved his face close to the other boy, and in the ambient room light it was enough they could read each other’s expression.  “It’s okay, I swear.”

    Elliot looked up into the eyes that searched his own. “I’m glad. Seriously, I’m always so – I don’t know – afraid, you know?”

    Jason pulled his pillow over and propped his head up so they remained close. “I know, but like I tried to tell you the other day, stop it. It doesn’t bother me, honest – not between you and me anyway.”

    Elliot could not tear his gaze away. “Can I ask you something?” Seeing the nod, he continued. “What changed?”

    It was several minutes before Jason responded. Both lay in silence, but their gaze held each other’s attention the whole time, and Elliot waited patiently. “I changed El, I just, I don’t know… I guess just being here with you, and feeling safe – I guess it’s just me.”

    Elliot had no response, but after a time he watched as Jason smiled and then tentatively reached out to the other boy. Finding him he grabbed hold of Elliot’s arm and gave a slight tug, and both boys closed the gap between them until they embraced yet again.  The only difference now was - this time - there was no one to interrupt them. Elliot snuggled up and nuzzled his friend’s neck for what seemed to be an eternity. He didn’t want to pull away - the warmth and the power in their contact was something indescribable, and he wanted to do nothing but envelop all of it as it wrapped around them.

    While breathing all of this in, Elliot received another surprise, even more shocking still: Jason actually closed the distance between them completely and moved such that their legs now entwined with one another. Although the bed sheets were rather cool to the touch, as well as the room’s temperature, the warmth their bodies shared was immeasurable. Elliot closed his eyes as a small whimper escaped him, relishing the moment and gripping his friend. Jason responded in kind without any inhibition, hugging the other boy tighter.  It mattered not what was touching the other, or where; he thought it was just so perfect how everything seem to fit.  It was a moment neither could have predicted, but both found they wanted it desperately.

    There they lay for a long time until Jason finally pulled back a little bit, far enough so he could look at his friend and hope that maybe the message was clear: he really wasn’t afraid anymore. Although he could not see it, Elliot eyes were moist from the happy emotions running through him for the moment. It was he who finally broke the silence between them. “Thank you,” he offered, his voice a hoarse whisper.  He could see Jason smile at him before leaning in close and bringing their foreheads to rest with one another.

     “Don’t thank me. Just trust me: I liked it as much as you did, maybe even more.” After another moment he pulled back completely and rolled over to face the window. Elliot was saddened by the ending of the moment, but received another surprise when Jason reached behind him, found and grabbed Elliot’s hand. Before the boy could wonder what was happening, Jason scooted himself back until he neatly molded against the other teen. Settling in, he pulled the arm tightly around him, drawing the both of them snuggly together once more. He said nothing more for the rest of the night as Elliot’s hand settled against his chest, finding a resting place inconspicuously over Jason’s heart.

    Although he tried to be as nonchalant about it as he could, inside Jason was still a little nervous, even hesitant. More than anything though, he meant what he had said: he did trust his friend, and he wanted Elliot to know it. The reason was simple: here Jason felt safe, and he knew it was Elliot that was making him feel that way.

    He knew it was Elliot making him feel whole again.

        - + - + -+ -

    Elliot gradually drifted into a peaceful abyss while holding Jason close, each teen drawing warmth from the other throughout the night. He had never had such a good feeling come over him like it did now. Although he had had his doubts about how much the American would like him, in the end those doubts melted away. Succumbing to a peaceful slumber, he nuzzled up to the back that met him, their bodies finding each other in the best ways anyone could hope for.

    What Elliot did not realize though, was that it had taken Jason a long time to fall asleep. Jason could feel the boy snuggle up tight behind him, including the nether regions that met his butt. He even felt his friend at one point begin to harden, and at that moment Jason felt his worst distress. He knew better, knew it could happen – heck, he even figured he would have done the same thing if they were reversed. It did not help though in fighting away certain memories and feelings he had wanted to block out. Shutting his eyes tightly, he had to steel his nerves and pointedly remind himself to breathe.  Thankfully Elliot dozed off into an even rhythm, breathing steadily, and his ‘member’ softened. The change was enough that Jason eventually realized it and was able to release some of the tension he felt.

    Jason’s thoughts traveled everywhere for the next little while, from his feelings for Elliot to their adventures of the week, to his new ‘family’ and life and even more. It was when his thoughts returned to the ‘more’ that he started to once again feel restless.  Breathing deeply, he finally convinced himself he didn’t care what he physically felt or where. He loved sharing this connection with the one person that made him feel safe and wanted. He didn’t care what the cost – he was going to conquer his fears and live in the moment. That thought was enough; he finally succumbed to the late night hour and dozed off.

     Not unlike any other night, he dreamed. At first they were not at all bad, but there were shadows hanging onto the edge of the darkness, wanting to invade his unconsciousness at a moments’ notice. T first he was able to resist, laughing at them as he dreamed of him and Elliot laughing, playing and wrestling. The feeling of Elliot’s groin behind him stirred from time to time, and although it was as innocent as one could have it in the moment, it somehow broke the rhythm inside his subconscious state. It wasn’t long before the nightmares found their entrance and descended upon him like an avalanche.

    Sometime later in the night Elliot was jarred awake. At first the grogginess left him questioning whether the last few minutes of the evening had been a dream, but as he became more self-aware and felt the body that still snuggled up against him, he could not help but smile at the reality of it. That is, until he noticed that something didn’t feel right. Jason had broken out in a cold sweat, and the clammy feeling clung between. He could feel the tenseness sandwiched between them, raising his curiosity.  After a moment he simultaneously felt a shudder followed by a low muttering, he was suddenly alert that something was deeply wrong. “Jason? You okay?” he whispered.

    In response, Jason seemed to become more agitated than before.  At first Elliot held the boy tighter, but eventually he pulled back so he could rise up on one elbow, peering down and over the figure in the dark. “Hey, wake up man, you’re having a nightmare.” Again, with no response, this time he started to shake his friend’s shoulder.

    It was several more attempts and a little louder prompting before Jason’s eyes finally opened. Elliot had turned on the bedside light in the meantime, and the sight that met him in the gloomy light scared him. Jason was breathing hard, his eyes wild and bulging; despite the covers and the warmth they shared together, he could feel a wet coldness between them.

    As Elliot reached between them to assure the other boy, Jason shrank and backed away at first, clearly unfocussed and confused. “Hey, it’s me...” Elliot said soothingly.

    They lay there for several seconds until Jason finally relented and relaxed. He could finally see and focus on the boy hovering above him, and after a moment he loosened his arms from the grasp and wiped his eyes and face with the edge of the covers.  It was another full minute before he lay back on the covers exhausted.

    Elliot was worried. “You okay man? Bad dream?” When Jason nodded, he hesitantly reached out and touched the kid. This time Jason did not shrink away. “Want to tell me about it?”

    Surprisingly, Jason shook his head no. He could not speak for the moment, nor did he want to trust his voice to say anything. His right side was sore from having lain so long as he did, so he rolled onto his other side facing Elliot. His eyes were still wide, but the alarm in them subsided as the boy began to relax.  When he felt comfortable enough to do so, Elliot turned the light off and lay back. “You sure?” he whispered.

    His only response was Jason siding up to him again under the covers, though this time he had grabbed the youth and clung to him fiercely as he latched onto his side. Elliot relaxed and situated himself on his back and tentatively tried to put his arm around the boy, but was unable to comfortably do so. Instead he just cuddled in closer and waited. Several minutes passed and Elliot was about to speak again when he realized that his friend had fallen asleep. The grip had lessoned considerably, and there was a steady rhythm to his breathing.

    Elliot tried to relax but too many questions bounced around inside.  He wondered if there had been other signs of the nightmares, other signs he had missed before that night.  Elliot was admittedly a heavy sleeper, so he it was not inconceivable that he overlooked or could be unaware of more things going on than someone else would. Could Jason have been doing this routine before now, all along, without anybody even knowing it? He chastised himself, and wondered what he could or should do about it – and especially if he should tell his parents.

    The rest of the night would not bode well for him…

        - + - + -+ -

    Elliot stretched hard for a few seconds, tightening his limbs to their fullest as he extended himself along the floor in an attempt to release the tension that was wound up inside. Jason watched his friend in amusement when his t-shirt rose to expose his lower belly, and for some reason Jason could not tear his eyes away. It was perhaps the first time he had ever taken an interest in the other boy’s lithe form, and for some reason it captured his attention.

    That morning neither spoke about the night before, Jason choosing to try and figure it out for himself what had happened. His memory of events were hazy, but what he did vividly recall was waking up, finding Elliot beside him though in a worried state, but still feeling the warmth and connection they had shared. He soaked it up, pulling the kid close again, and so peaceful was the aurora that encompassed him he had been able to fall back into a deep sleep, this time with the peace he so desperately needed.

    The day had been spent as before, running about and visiting another part of the city, exploring more areas of a lifestyle he was quickly becoming accustomed to. At the moment both Elliot and Jason were alone at home, Derek having gone off with his mates again, and Simon and Natalie having opted for an evening dinner with friends. Both boys once again found themselves worn down from the days’ activities, so they made a their way back home and had spent the last few hours attempting to give Jason some practice with various video games. He didn’t do as badly as before, but one could tell his heart still wasn’t in it and so, after showing some improvement he finally laid the controller aside. Elliot, who had stretched out on the floor in front of the couch, watched his friend sitting beside him. Grunting at one point, he finally caused Jason to glance up and meet his gaze.

    Sheepishly Jason realized what he had been doing, and moreover that Elliot had caught him in the act. “Sorry,” he whispered, reddening with embarrassment.

    “For what?” the other boy replied, drawing his hands back behind his head and supporting himself as he relaxed.

    At first Jason could not answer. He was unsure what had caught him so off-guard to begin with, or why he was even now blushing. They had come so far beyond this point in their friendship now, especially after what had happened the night before, but for some reason he was still shy. He observed his friend beside him, the beltless jeans that clung loosely around his waist, the yellow t-shirt which had settled back somewhat, but still revealed part of Elliot’s midsection from his navel down. Jason even stared at the band of the boys briefs, clearly visible in the gap. For some reason, it drew his attention but he could not figure out why. The light from the table lamp cast an eerie shadow about the room, but to Jason it seemed to highlight Elliot’s figure stretched out beside him in an inviting way.  Finally he sighed and started shaking his head. “I don’t know, really.”

    Elliot at first laughed a little, but caught Jason’s gaze in his own.  “No, seriously – tell me,” he implored.

    Jason held the gaze for a long time before he finally shrugged.  “I guess I was just looking at, you know, how skinny you are and stuff.”

    Elliot scrunched up his nose. “Meh, I’m no different than you,” he replied.

    “Huh? Of course you are, there’s lots of differences between us.”  Seeing Elliot raise an eyebrow, Jason gathered his courage and did something totally unexpected for the both of them. Reaching out, he lightly touched the Elliot’s midsection. It was not an embrace, nor an exchange attributed as so many times before that precluded tickling or wrestling. This was an obvious reach to purposefully touch the youth, and touch him in his bareness. “For starters, your belly button, you have what we call an innie, while I’ve got an outtie.”

    Elliot giggled and sucked his gut in at the touch, but Jason did not withdraw his hand immediately. Elliot responded almost instantly though, reaching down and pulling his t-shirt up even more, glancing at himself. He grinned at his friend before extending his own hand out to Jason’s t-shirt and doing the same. Jason sat still and let it happen with no inhibition, which Elliot noted with pleasure.  “Yeah, you’re right on that one.  I guess…” He paused before he continued. “I guess I knew it, but just never thought of it any.” He grinned wickedly at the American and returned back to his reclined position. “Okay, so Mr. Observant – what else?”

    Jason laughed. “I don’t know – lots of stuff I guess.”

    “Yeah, so… tell me.”

    It had become a game and for once, Jason smiled in amusement.  “You really want to play this, don’t you?” When Elliot nodded, Jason thought about it for a few seconds before he glanced at the other boy, only this time with a renewed intent along a different track.  “Well, your jeans are always a little big on you than mine are. I figure that’s because you got some hand-me-downs from Derek?” Elliot’s nod confirming the assessment was not unexpected, so he continued. “Um, I dunno, I think maybe your ribs and stuff – you know, the top of your tummy – show up a lot more than mine. I’ve still got baby fat or kid fat or whatever you want to call it I guess.”

    “No, you don’t have any baby fat – it’s just you, that’s all,” was Elliot’s reply, his voice softened however.

    Jason giggled before tugging his own shirt up in front and looking down at himself. It was the first time he had taken note of it, and even more so had ever done it on purpose in front of another individual. “I guess you’re right, but ummm, like I said, my ribs and stuff aren’t like yours, they don’t show up hardly any.”

    Elliot shrugged his shoulders.   “So? I think they’re fine like they are. Like I said, that’s you.” He watched the other boy return his smile. “Can I ask you something? I mean, really personal?” Jason hesitated before nodding, so he continued. “What happened last night?” When Jason did not immediately answer, he continued. “If you don’t want to talk about it, okay - I understand that but, I have to tell you – I was scared for a while.”

    Jason turned red with embarrassment. “I don’t know man, it just – it’s hard, that’s all. I just – I don’t want to talk about it right now, okay? Please?”

    Elliot studied for a moment before nodding and returning his hands once again behind his head. “Okay, sorry.” He was clearly disappointed, but he respected the other kid enough to back away. “So tell me, what else do you see different between you and me?” When Jason laughed, so did he before adding. “Come on, you said lots of stuff, so spill it, I want to know what devious little things you think about in your head when you see me!”

    Jason responded by moving around until he was at Elliot’s side and hovering over the boy. He reached above Elliot’s stomach again, but this time he hesitated. Seeking approval, the boy on the floor grinned and nodded, allowing Jason to lift the hem of the shirt farther up and expose the boy’s tummy.  At first Jason wrinkled his nose.  “Um, maybe not anything more, I don’t know.” He lifted the shirt a little higher. “Um, I think your nipples are a little bigger than mine, though.”

    Elliot laughed aloud. “Sheesh!” They both cracked up before he could finally look up into the American’s eyes.  “Anything else?”

    Jason shook his head and whispered, “No, I guess that’s it.”

    Elliot nodded. “Was that so bad?” he whispered. Seeing his friend’s confusion, he reached out and grasped one of Jason’s hands and pulled it closer until he held it on his tummy. “You know, I’m not going to bite you or anything because you touch me. I thought before last night you would never do what you did.”

    Jason blushed. “I have touched you before,” was the weak reply, but Elliot shook his head.

    “No you haven’t, except for bumps and stuff every now and then, and of course the hugs we’ve had,” he explained. “I’m not saying it in a bad way Jason, I’m just saying – don’t be afraid of me, please? Last night, God, I wouldn’t trade that for anything.” The sincerity in his voice spoke volumes.

    Jason stared into the gaze that met his eyes. He felt Elliot holding onto him, keeping his hand in place, and for once he relaxed. “I know.  I felt like that, too.” He looked around the room before letting his eyes fall to the floor. “I’m not afraid of you Elliot – I promise. I just – sometimes it’s hard to let go, you know?” He sighed. “I’m not use to touching people, or being touched – but last night I kind of, I don’t know, I kind of just finally let my guard down some.”

    “I’m glad you did Jase, I’m so fucking glad you did,” Elliot replied with a whisper. Jason shrugged his shoulders, smiling a little at the profanity.

    “Okay, okay… I’m glad I did, too.” He lay back and supported himself on his hands. “You know, after my Mom passed away, it’s just the way it was for me. Dad wasn’t really, like, an affectionate person or anything, and well… touching peeps at school just…”

    “Just makes you seem like you’re gay or something, yeah – I know.”  A silence fell between them.  “There’s more though, isn’t there?”

    Jason hesitated before nodding. “Yeah,” was the reply, the voice now barely above a whisper.

    Elliot rolled onto his side facing his friend. “I’m sorry man, I know I said I wouldn’t push you, but - what’s so hard Jason? Why won’t you tell me?” When Jason hesitated, he pressed on quietly. “Did something happen to you, or did I do something wrong, or are we still just strange to you, or is it me or just… what? What is it?”

    Slowly Jason shook his head. “No, you didn’t do anything Elliot, and yeah – everything is still strange sometimes, but not as bad anymore.  I would think you’d know that by now, especially after we like, held each other all night.”

    Admonished, Elliot paused. “I do Jason, I’m sorry. It’s just, I don’t know – if you could have seen yourself this morning, you’d understand, that’s all.” He looked down at the floor. There was nothing more he could do, unless Jason opened the door to the inside.

    Jason was still too afraid to look up. “It – it was scary, yeah.”

    Elliot thought about it for a moment and tried to find an opening.  “So… did something happen then?  Something um, somewhere else, maybe?”  He held his breath, knowing that was as far as he dared push.

    They both held each other’s gaze between them eventually, sitting in silence for a long time. When Jason finally answered, Elliot saw tears welling up in his friend’s eyes.  “Please, don’t – don’t make me…” Jason begged softly, but he could not finish.

    Elliot immediately swung himself around until he was sitting in front of the boy. When they were both only inches apart, he reached out slowly and held both of his friend’s hands. “I’m not going to make you do anything – you know me better than that by now. I wouldn’t do anything like that to hurt you, cross my heart – but you’ve got to know, you’ve got to feel it between us.”  He paused before lowering his voice even more. “You have to know I care, and that I just want to help. I want to be here for you, but I can’t if you won’t let me in any, if you won’t trust me.”

    “I – I do trust you.”

    Elliot sighed and then looked deep into Jason’s blue eyes.  “Then… tell me. Talk to me – let me help.”

    A tear escaped and ran down the side of Jason’s cheek. He saw the sincerity and compassion that met him, and for the umpteenth time again it made him feel stronger yet more secure. What was it about Elliot that drew him inside so close? More so, he asked himself: could he tell Elliot?  Could he really tell him? What could he say that wouldn’t make a mess of things that were already in motion?  He didn’t want to scare the youth away from him. Could he tell him the truth? That thought scared him. He had never been brought up in a world of lies and deceits or half-truths. If there was one thing his father had endowed upon him it was the heritage that supported what a man represents: his honor of the truth and nothing else. Could he tell him though? Could he tell Elliot what he wanted to hear, what had been so bottled up inside of him for all these months – even though his life had changed so drastically for the better? A thought occurred to him.

    “Why? Why is it so important for you to know?”

    This time it was Elliot’s turn to consider the impact of those words. Why did he want to know? Why was it so important to him? He decided he was going to have to believe in his own words if he wanted Jason to trust him. He was going to have to show some level of that deep trust in return.

    “Because Jase, I tried to tell you the other day: you don’t know what it was like before you got here. I mean, okay maybe some of it, but not all of it. I’ve always wanted someone I could hang out with my age, someone I could be with some times when I needed to talk or laugh or wrestle… or hug or… just not be lonesome, okay? You see what Derek is like, right? I mean, we’re close – really close – but it isn’t the same anymore. He has his mates, he has his team and his circle of things he does and everything. Before you came I really had nobody. I was afraid you might be some self-absorbed stuck up asshole at first, and it would probably make everything even more miserable. But – you weren’t. You were a lot like me, kind of – at least, that’s what I kind of figured out. Don’t you see? The guys at the games and at school and stuff – I can’t be close to any of them, they’d freak out on me in a heartbeat I think. Except for Derek, I haven’t had anybody for a long time.”

    Elliot actually shivered as his confession came out. “I don’t know … I mean, I don’t expect you to understand everything I have bundled up inside or anything, it’s just a lot of mixed up feelings and stuff, okay? It’s weird and cool and scary and I don’t know… I think I feel as confused as you do sometimes, but at least I see you here, and when we connect, it’s like it just clicks, you know? But then I look at you and I see someone hurting inside, really hurting, and believe me or not but it makes me hurt, too. And the only way I know how to help is to try and just be here for you, to let you feel me and know I’m here and real and everything.  And.. and… I know you’re there for me, too. I mean, last night? I can’t even begin to describe to you what that was like, what it did to me, you know? But it makes me feel like we’re closer, and because of that it makes me worry about you more. Doesn’t that at least make some kind of sense?”

    Jason nodded as he looked up. “Is that why you’re so touchy-feely and stuff?”

    Elliot sighed deeply as their hands dropped to their legs and bowed his head a moment. Jason was immediately sorry he had said that, knowing that something had broken between them in that instant. He didn’t want that though; he wanted Elliot to know he felt the same way sometimes. Slowly he moved his hands forward until their fingertips were touching again, a sign he hoped Elliot would understand. Elliot struggled for a few seconds before looking back up with a different determination in his expression. “Remember that first night? Remember how you told me you were scared and how I helped you feel better and everything?  I think about that a lot sometimes, and I can’t help but feel good about it. Not because of what I did, or what you did, but because it just felt so right, you know? And then it wasn’t what, three days later we hugged each other and … and … Damn Jason, to me it’s like an answer to my prayers or something, if you can believe that. I’ve felt like shouting inside all day and everything because I was so happy about last night. I know, it sounds stupid and corny or something, especially between guys, okay?  I don’t know why I do it, I just… it just feels good, and somehow, you and me, it feels like we’re connecting or something.” He lowered his voice to a whisper. “It feels as if it’s just right, between you and me. Touchy, feely, whatever you want to call it… I can’t explain it, but if it’s so right, how can it be wrong, you know?” He pulled his hands away briefly and turned them up in a gesture of surrender.  “If that makes it bad, or makes me seem bad, then okay – but that’s me Jase. I can’t be somebody I’m not. Stupid or not, it’s just me,” he repeated.

    Jason was surprised at what he was hearing, and even more surprised to find that his friend was feeling some of the things he had already been wondering about as well. “It doesn’t sound stupid… it’s not stupid at all.” His resolve wavered, and for a second he felt like the other kid was getting through to him in a way that no one else ever had.

    Elliot met the other’s gaze head on. “I care, okay?” His own eyes had become watery, but he plunged on. “I really, really care – and I don’t like seeing you hurt so much like you were this morning, or the other night, or any other time for that matter. And I do see it sometimes you know, even when you think I don’t.  And the only thing I can figure out that might help is to get you to talk – and even if it’s not me then maybe talk to Mum or Dad, or someone at school or just somebody, you know? That’s why Jason – it’s because I care, I just wish you’d see that and let me in.”

    It was a full minute before Jason found his voice again. “I know you care Elliot, honest - but, you don’t know what it was like, it was hard and … and…” Jason felt like he was grasping at straws, trying to find the right words. “Fuck,” he said softly, agonizing over his inability to control himself. The tears were back and starting to stream down his face.

    Elliot moved forward, this time their legs overlapping and surrounding the other until they faced only inches apart. He said nothing at first, wanting to embrace his friend, but at the same time he felt this was the farthest they had ever come. What else could he do or say? He didn’t want Jason to pull away and not give in if he could help it. Silently he pleaded with the youth,  caught up in the emotion, of the moment he actually felt  his own heart racing. “Jason?”  When he had his friend’s attention, he whispered. “Do you know now? Do you understand how I feel about you? Let me help bro… please?”

    The words stunned the American. Never before had he ever been called a brother, never before had anyone reached inside of him and took hold of his feelings and pulled them out where he could see them. Leaning forward awkwardly at first, he closed the distance and felt Elliot do the same.  They embraced again with Jason sobbing on his friends shoulder. He couldn’t bring himself to speak, his voice caught in a gut-wrenching display of agony.  It was some time before he could regain control, somehow choking down his feelings and beginning to finally understand something. He was feeling something inside that went beyond the bounds of friendship. He drew back and nodded, still saying nothing.  Elliot only smiled at him, but there was a worry in his expression.

    “I’m sorry Jason, I didn’t – I mean, if I went too far, I’m – I’m sorry,” he spoke softly. Jason quickly shook his head.

    “No, you didn’t,” he whispered in reply. “Maybe – maybe it’s time I grew up some…” He looked at his friend and he made a decision. “You really called me a bro?”

    Elliot nodded. “You are.  Maybe not by blood, but… you are.  Always will be if I have anything to say about it.”

    Jason took a deep breath. “If… I tell y-you Elliot, you have to promise. You have to swear to me, it stays between us.” Seeing the cloud of doubt that started to cross his friend’s face, Jason pushed on.  “If you r-really care about me, if I’m going to tell you this stuff, I have to know I can trust you – all the way.”

    Elliot hesitated but slowly nodded. “You have my word, I won’t tell anyone.”

    Jason gazed for a long time before he closed his eyes. “What do you want to know?” There, he had said it. He let his guard down and felt Elliot as they drew close again, this time noting the feel of the other boy’s presence. For whatever the reason, he drew so much comfort from it he secretly hoped he would never lose it. In the cool room, they were sharing their warmth with each other again, but this time in more ways than one, and he drew confidence in it.

    Elliot was unsure what he should say, but eventually he whispered.  “I want to know anything you will tell me, but I really want to know what happened to you and everything, that makes you hurt so bad inside.”

    Jason nodded in defeat. “It might take a while.”

    “I don’t care, no one is going to be home for hours – it’s just you and me. And hell, if someone does show up, we’ll go up to our room.” He hesitated. “Jase?”


    “Y-You know I love you, right? In a good way, you know.” There, he had said what he thought he would never tell the other kid, but once he said it, he was glad he did.

    Jason smiled and nodded. “Yeah, I know. I think I love you, too – all you guys, but especially you.” He sniffed and then wiped his eyes with his fingers. “Okay… get ready Elliot… here goes.”

    He smiled and then took a deep breath…


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)