As He Lay Dying

Damien Webber and Michael Carlisle had been cousins since they were born. Unlike a lot of families around them, they didn't have a step cousin, or any kind of step. There mothers were sisters, and their fathers were friends. They became brother in laws by default when the sisters married. They did the wedding together. They both picked different honey moon spots, but if they had agreed on something, it was said that they probably would've gone together. Their boys were born around the same time. Michael was a week younger then Damien. They grew up inseparable. The sisters loved each other dearly, and Holly, the older sister, had gotten a house with a guest house in the back yard. Karen lived in the guest house with Damien and her husband. It was their senior year, and Damien and Michael were both about to graduate. Michael would go onto community college, and Damien would go on to join the army. Michael didn't tell him, but he was devastated that Damien was about to sever their relationship by making them have to separate. The reason Michael wouldn't join, was because he thought it was too dangerous.

"Sup?" Damien asked as he walked into the kitchen. He was trying to hold in a yawn. He ended up letting his muscles control his mouth, and opened it wide as he let the yawn out.

"I'm just as tired as you." Michael muttered. "This is a load of crap.; They just piled up more homework, even though we got free periods." He muttered.

"Yeah, well." Damien muttered as he reached for the cereal. "No one said it'd be easy, sport." He muttered as he grabbed a bowl.

"You boys ready for school?" Holly asked as she came walking in to the kitchen.

She was wearing her nice dress shirt, and pants. She was wearing a white shirt, and black slacks. She was wearing really nice work shoes, colored brown. All part of her uniform. She was five one, and wore her blonde hair in a bun. She had nice hazel eyes, that Michael had gotten from her. She was wearing nice earrings. She taught at the middle school in the part of town they lived in.

"It's illegal to have that smile in the morning." Damien muttered as he flicked a corn flake at her.

"It's rude to flick cereal at people." Holly said as she walked over to him. "Behave mister." She said as she poked the six foot height giant in the stomach.

"You know I never do." Damien said as he ruffled her shirt.

She made a face and smoothed it out.

"You guys gonna take the bus, or are you walking, or using my car?" she asked.

"Why don't you drive us?" Michael said smiling. He felt in a cuddly mood today. His mom owned a pickup truck, with driver's seat, passenger, and a small backseat. The attachment in the back was to carry cargo. Michael liked it when his mother drove them, because she car pooled with a friend. That wasn't it though. Her friend would sit in the front, Michael and Damien were forced to sit in the back. Usually, Damien and Michael would stuff their backpacks in first, and Michael would sit in the middle, and Damien would sit his bulk on the other side. Either behind Holly, or behind her friend. Depending on who he felt like picking on that day. Sometimes, he didn't pick on either. When he didn't, Michael got his full attention. Since the book bags took space up in the cramped little back, Damien and Michael had to be squooshed together. Rather than getting his lanky arm squooshed, Damien would wrap it around Michael, and hold on to him. He said he hated it, and really would like it if one day his aunt would let him sit in the front for once. But he never really insisted. So Michael didn't really believe him. He did love when they were able to ride like that though. Damien was able to hold Michael, and Michael would fall asleep in his cousin's arms.

Half an hour later, Damien and Michael were situated just as described above. The book bags were in the right behind the passenger seat, Michael in the middle, and Damien, with his arm around Michael, against the truck's door behind his aunt.

Damien was a tall male. He was six feet, a good basketball player, and strong weight lifter. He had short red hair that he got from his father, and green eyes that he got from his mother. He always had nice white teeth, and smelled nice. He was too skinny for his height, as many always said. It looked like the wind would blow him away. This was unusual, because Damien loved to eat. He was always stuffing his face during meals, and loved to try new things when the family went out to eat.

Michael, on the other hand, was a very short plump asthmatic, compared to Damien. He was five nine, With hazel eyes, and short blond hair. He wore glasses, because he had some problems with his eyes. It was something Damien loved to do, hide his glasses. He couldn't see but blurs without them.

The boys fell into a nice sleep as the driver started driving towards the house she needed to stop at. It was routine now, for Tina to be waiting there, for her friend to pick her up. She quietly climbed in, as she had seen the boys cuddled up in the back.

"Did it ever occur to you that Damien and Mikey have something going on?" Tina would ask often as she and her friend ate lunch at the middle school.

"No. And if they did, heaven knows I don't want to know. It's none of my business." Holly said bitterly. "My family doesn't have lesbians or gays." She muttered. "This would be a first. I wouldn't stop them if they had crushes on other guys, but if they were seeing each other, I don't know what I'd do." She said as they sat there.

Tina wasn't too far off, either. The boys often were inseparable. They fought, like any normal boys. But they were always over it within a day. It was odd. They took time to help each other with homework, and all kinds of stuff. Damien wasn't all that into education, whereas Michael was a honor student.

The car rolled on as Tina kept taking glimpses of Damien and the younger boy. She would look over at Holly, who would brush off the look.

"Wake up, boys." Tina said as the car pulled up to the school. "We're here."

"I hate you guys." Damien muttered. "I can't wait to graduate. I will be done with this forever." He muttered.

"Don't you like school, even a little?" Michael asked as he handed Damien his stuff. "I love the feeling I get when I finish writing a good long essay." He said as he got out of the car. "Bye mom."

"That's because you are a nerd." Damien said as he slammed the door shut and they walked away.

"Rude!" Michael said as Damien tried to punch him.

"I love the smell of a book in the morning." Damien teased. "Fuckin' geek." He muttered as they entered the school.

"Hey, D!" shouted a boy their age. "You coming to the courts after school today?" he asked.

"Hell yeah." Damien said grinning as he fist bumped his pal. Michael was staying after school to study some subject in the library. Damien stayed after school often when Michael did. Once in a while when Michael stayed after school however, Damien would go home. Or he would go and buy Michael a little treat before he came back to pick him up.

"Hey it's an ice cream!" Michael would thank him for whatever treat he got that time. "Thanks!"

Damien would always ruin the bonding moment with snide comments. Mostly about how he was only getting the treat for Michael to "Show how proud of my nerd I am." Or "Even dweebs deserve some dessert. If you can't get the girl, might as well get the swirl." That would leave Michael very dejected, but he kept his mouth shut.

Time went on for a while without anything much happening. It was the middle of march, when Damien asked the question.

"Hey, Mick?" He liked to call his cousin that when the two of them were going to have a serious conversation.

"Sup?" Michael asked as he put down the book he was reading.

"You take physics? Eeeeeewww." Damien teased as he tossed the book in Michael's trash can.

"Don't." Michael whined as he fished it out. "I was doing my homework until you came along. What do you want?" he asked as he put his book on his desk.

"I wanted to know if you had a walking partner yet." Damien said softly. "I want to be yours." He said looking right into Michael's eyes.

From the point of an outsider, it looked like Michael and Damien were proposing to each other. Their faces were serious and flustered at the same time. The way they displayed their body language was almost as if they wanted to show great affection for a lover. But no.

"Of course, Damien." Michael said softly and affectionately. "I would really like to be your walking partner." He muttered. "I wasn't going to pick one, because I am too shy. I was just going to see if I could go with the loners, and get one that way. But, I really am honored that you asked. It means a lot to me." he said softly.

Damien always had a habit of ruining a good time. Of course, even if Michael knew it was going to be ruined, he was always caught off guard. That's why it hurt so bad when Damien gave him the next reply.

"Well, you know," he said as he stood and turned to leave. "I asked Alice, and she refused. I asked David, and he's going with Shelby, and I asked a lot of cooler people than you. You were my last resort. Mom forced me." he lied.

"Great." Michael said. He had felt like he had just been hit in the stomach. He didn't know what to say as Damien left. "Catch yuh later, geek." He said as he left the room.

"Get over it." His mom said as she took Michael's dirty clothes and stuffed them in the basket for washing. "You know how your cousin is. He's a condescending piece of shit. Yuh can't help but love the guy, though." She said smiling. "If you want, I'll talk to your aunt and ask her if what Damien said was true."

"Nah." Michael muttered. "I already did. She said she had no idea he asked me to be his partner." He mumbled. "Why does he gotta act so tough and hallow?" Michael moaned. "He's no cooler than the coolest guy in school just because he doesn't show his emotions." He muttered.

Two weeks later, Michael was walking down the hall to his locker. He found Damien standing by it, holding a blunt in his hand. He gasped.

"Dude! What the hell are you doing? If my uncle finds out, he's going to disown you!" he shouted.

"Don't worry, I got you one, too." Damien said as he pulled the second blunt out of his pocket. That's when Michael noticed that one of the blunts looked different than the first. That's because it was a chocolate blunt! One of them still had the foil wrapped around it, the other was already opened. That was the one Damien held in his hand.

"You are so fucked up." Michael muttered. "You can't tease me for falling for it either. It looked realistic from here." He muttered.

"I will give you this one, and, I also got you a lime freeze. From DQ. Just the way you like them." Damien said as he handed over the large freeze.

"Thank you." Michael said robotically.

"Why so disappointed?" Damien asked looking at his face. "Did you not want a freeze today? You want us to go get you something different? I got no problem with that." He said. The words were tumbling out of his mouth. He sounded like all he wanted to do was please his cousin.

"No. I want it. I'm just tired." Michael lied as he started walking to the front doors of the school.

"Aren't you going to insult your gift?" Michael asked as they got into his aunt's car.

"What are you talking about?" Damien asked as if he didn't know.

"Aren't you going to ruin the mood of the moment by telling me you only got this because you felt bad for me, or some other fucked up shit?" Michael asked.

"I don't do that." Damien said trying to keep a straight face.

"Whatever." Michael said as he sipped his freeze. From now on, he vowed to never feel excited about Damien getting him treats or making him feel special in any way. He knew Damien was waiting for Michael to feel that bond with his cousin, in order to ruin it the moment he saw it in the boy's eyes. He wasn't going to let that happen.

The time flew by faster than the boys would've liked. In the middle of April, Michael thought all he had to worry about was graduation. He found Damien and his parents crying in their guest house when he went to look for Damien to ask him if he wanted to hang out.

"I love you." His mom was saying as she held and kissed her son. "I want you to know I bet it's just a stupid letter to scare the shit out of you. I bet it won't come to pass." She said bitterly. "You'll be able to graduate." She added wiping her tears. "I know they wouldn't do that to you."

"Knock knock." Michael said as he pushed open the Dorr. "What's going on here?" he asked.

"I just got a letter." Damien said as he picked up the envelope. He didn't even try to conceal his tears. "They said I was to get ready for my assignment. They're going to station me in Afghanistan." He said as his whole body renewed with sobs. He sank to the couch once more rocking back and forth.

Michael reached out and took the letter. The letter was a message to let Damien know that he should be prepared. The need for soldiers was great, and they would be calling on the men who had joined. Whether they had received training or not. No matter what. So, they should be preparing for assignment and letting the school know that they might be leaving soon. But it also said that a second letter would arrive in the mail, to let him know when and if he was assigned. Michael felt the sense of loss as he held the letter in his hand. He put it on the coffee table, and watched as his cousin sat there crying. He really didn't want to go. He had joined the army, but to this day, Michael didn't know his motive. Somehow, he knew there was more to the story. Damien wasn't the type of guy to just go out on a limb and join the army. There had to be more. He was falling apart, and he really didn't want to be sent away. But then, why had he joined the army? Somehow no one else questioned the actions as much as Michael did.

"Damien," Michael's uncle said sadly. "It'll be okay, son. Just wait and see. You'll make it through graduation. Just wait. Everything will be all right." He said as he got up.

Michael sat down next to Damien and wrapped his arms around his cousin's waist. He let the boy break down all over again on his shoulder. The two adults said they were going to the main house to help with dinner. Somehow Michael knew they were going to go tell his parents what had happened.

"Mick?" Damien asked softly as he sat there. "I love you." He said as he cried.

"I love you, too." Michael said as he tried to be the strong one.

"Promise me you'll always try to remember me. Even if I die." Damien said bitterly.

"Don't say that, Damien." Michael said bitterly as he looked his cousin in the eye. "God will keep you safe. As long as you believe, I know he'll help you dodge trouble." He muttered.

In the psychologist's office, Damien told the lady he was seeing about the events from the day before. He had been going to the psychologist for a year now, and they had become good friends. He was "Trying to fix himself, and not be gay." He said. Chris had often told him that being gay was actually something that wasn't that big of a deal, but he had let her in on the secret.

He was after his cousin. He told her how the relationship stood, and that he just wanted out of there. That was the reason he had joined the army. Sooner or later, he'd be called to serve.

"I didn't think it'd be this soon." Damien said with an empty tone. "I really want to graduate." He muttered.

"The letter says maybe. Keep that in mind." Christine said as she handed the letter back to him. "You'll be okay. You probably will end up waiting for the better part of two years before they call on you. You have nothing to worry about, kiddo." She said as she handed him a tissue. "What did your parents say?" she asked. She waited listening to him explain. "What did Michael say?" she asked as she analyzed his expression.

"He was sad, but he looked like he didn't really care. He didn't cry. He doesn't love me. He didn't cry, Miss Abel." Damien muttered sadly. "How come he didn't cry?"

"My guess is, that he saw you crying, and he wanted to be strong for you. Don't assume that he doesn't love you just because he didn't cry." She said softly. "People deal with these kinds of things in different ways." She said as she handed Damien a stress ball filled with red starch.

"I tried to tell him I love him. He just said I love you too, and kept going with what he was doing." Damien said sighing. "I can't believe I'm going to the army on purpose." He muttered.

"What the hell do you think you're doing!?" Damien shouted as he burst into the gym. There was a crowd of onlookers, as a tall white male in his late teens held the neck of a blond haired hazel eyed teen. The bully looked up and stared at Damien.

"You are so lucky someone came to rescue your skinny ass." Pete muttered as he dropped the squirming bundle at Damien's feet.

"If I ever catch you picking on anyone again, Duran, You are in so much trouble. I will make sure of it, understand?" Damien asked as he pulled Michael up by the neck of his shirt.

"Great." Michael muttered as he hid his face from the crowd. "I got saved by my cousin, and now the whole school thinks I'm a worse nerd than before." He muttered.

"The word is thank you." Damien said as he released his cousin.

"Yeah?" Michael asked as the crowd dispersed. "Well, maybe I didn't need rescuing!" he said bitterly as he walked away.

"Fine!" Damien said as he walked off behind him. "Maybe you don't need a ride home, either." He said as he pulled the car keys out of his pocket.

"I hate you." Michael said as he and Damien went to the car.

Damien ran into the bully and let Michael go ahead of him as he cornered the boy against a locker. "If you don't keep your hands off my geek, I will murder you." He said as he held the boy against the locker. "You may be as tall as me, Pete, but you ain't got skill. We all know that. So keep your hands off." He muttered as he let go of Pete and walked away.

"There's better ways to defend him." Said a girl as she came up behind Damien. "Without embarrassing the shit out of him." She said smiling.

That night, dinner was pretty uneventful. They had homemade pizza, and salad. Damien and Michael were pretty silent, and the adults just talked among themselves. They really didn't ask much of the boys. The boys were tired, and the grown folks knew it.

"I'm going to go finish my homework, and go to bed." Michael said as he stood up after eating a piece of cake.

"Damien, honey are you okay?" asked Michael in a singsong voice. "You only ate two slices of pizza, and you haven't even touched your cake." He said as he left.

He had done it specially for the girls to pay close attention to the red head. Damien would make sure to kick Michael's ass later.

"I'm fine." Damien said fifteen minutes later for the billionth time as he tried to get out of the kitchen.

Damien and Michael watched their dads sit on the couch in the living room getting ready to watch the game. Michael's mom was in the dining room preparing the lesson plans for the next day, and Damien saw his mom washing the dishes.

Michael was true to his word. He retired to his room, finished his homework, and went to bed. He was so glad to be in his bed, and closing his eyes. He had been so tired that day. It was about nine forty five when he finally turned out the lamp beside his bed. He sighed as he closed his eyes content.

Damien had watched part of the game with his uncle and dad. When he couldn't keep his eyes open any longer, he left and also went to bed. He felt so tired. The worst part is, he was going to have to go to school tomorrow. He hated school with all his hart. He didn't understand why anyone in their right mind would want to go to community college. He had been given the choice, and he was done with that stuff after high school. He wasn't going to live the rest of his life going to school, just to get a job that he may not even like in the first place. The army was where it's all at.

The days dragged on as usual. Homework, eating, and the occasional moment where there was actually time to sleep in. There wasn't a lot of that. The boys were about to graduate. There was tension in the air all around. The parents couldn't wait, the boys were nervous, it was a mess. Soon, it was a week before graduation. Damien was so excited that he hadn't gotten the call to leave to his first deployment yet. He wanted to make it through the graduation ceremony. He felt it was his god given right.

"You don't even like school." Michael said as they all lined up ready to rehearse the graduation ceremony.

"I know. But at least I'm not out in the middle of some trench dying." He muttered as he spun around to show off his cap and gown.

The rehearsal went without a hitch. Soon, the boys were making their way back home to get ready for the real thing. The family all went out to dinner before the graduation. It was a really big event. No one wanted to miss it for the world. Their grandparents were all there, too.

In what seemed like no time at all, it was time to go. There were butterflies in their stomachs as the boys entered the football field and made their way to the students all lined up at the north side. It looked like the weather was holding up pretty good.

The principal spoke, some students spoke, and soon it was time. The principal took the first batch of names. It took them a long time before they got called to receive their diplomas. It was terrible. But all too soon, Damien Webber and Michael Carlisle were called up to the stage. The silence dragged on as the pair walked up to the principal and got what they needed. Took the diplomas with their left hand and shook hands with the right. It was actually pretty smooth. Damien made sure his cousin got back to his chair, and ran off to a spot at the side of the field and threw up. He wondered what was wrong with him.

"Damien. Damien, are you all right?" asked the basketball coach as he grabbed the tall boy's shoulders. "Damien?"

"I'm finishing high school, I'm about to go join the army, and I'm scared shitless." Damien said as he wiped his mouth with a hand. "But no, coach baily. I'm fine." He said as he was led back to his seat.

It happened all too soon. Graduation, and six months later, Damien was saying goodbye to his family as he was sent to Afghanistan. Michael was devastated, and so was the rest of the family. At the airport, there were tears, hugs, and all kinds of goodbyes. Michael was the last one to say goodbye.

"I want you to know, that you're my best friend." Michael said as he stood in front of his cousin. "I always looked up to you, physically, and metaphorically, too." He said smiling and making Damien smile. "You'll be okay. Write to us." He said as he hugged Damien and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

"I love you, Mick." Damien said as he kissed his cousin back. "You've always been my best friend, too." He said as he touched Michael's face affectionately. "I promise to write whenever I can." He muttered as he held Michael to him. "I want you to have something, to remember me by." Damien said as he pulled a key chain out of his pocket. It was his graduation tassel.

Michael smiled at the taller youth. "I know you're not the religious type," Michael said as he took a small box out of his pocket. "But I've been saving up for a long time to give you..., this." He said as he handed the box to Damien.

Damien opened the little box, and in a bed of cotton, he saw a thin gold chain with a cross on it. "I love it!" he said smiling as he put it over his neck. "I can keep it along with the key chain of Saint Christopher that I have. He's the patron saint of travelers, you know." Damien said smiling.

"I hope you stay safe, Damien, and I love you." Michael said as he hugged his cousin. "See you soon." He said as he tried to hold back tears.

The loud speaker announced his flight number and a warning for all to board. Michael didn't know what to say, so he hugged his cousin one last time, and watched as he left. With a broken heart, he turned around and walked back to his family. The ladies were crying, and the men were trying not to. They all headed back to their car, and drove away.

Nothing eventful happened for the next three months. It was a typical summer break. Michael got started applying to the community college, and got in. He started out by only taking twelve credits. It was three classes, but it was enough. He was going on a few scholarships. When the term began, his mom also began working at the middle school again. Michael got a volunteer job as a janitor there. He wanted to be busy for as much time as he could. Maybe his busy life would allow him to forget that his cousin was gone.

It was during lunch one day, that the teen's life took an unexpected turn. He was sitting at one of the long tables, eating his lunch. A group of kids descended on his table, and sat all around him. They all seemed to know each other.

"Oh, look." One of the middle schoolers said smiling. "The janitor eating lunch. Like a normal person, out in the open." She said grinning. "That's a first. What's the matter? Are there other janitors in your stuffy little room?" she asked smiling at Michael.

"No." he said grinning back. He could feel his face going red. "I don't like it in there. It smells funny. I think someone died there, too." He muttered.

"Michael, honey!" shouted a voice. "Would you like to come eat with mommy in the staff room?" His mom was three tables away trying to catch his attention.

"Mrs. Carlisle is your mother?" asked one of the boys. "She's the coolest teacher around! I love her class!" he shouted. "Hey, Mrs. C! We'll take care of your son." He said as he waved at her.

"See you guys later, then." She said as she left the cafeteria.

"Can you guys not mention this?" Michael asked as he sat there blushing. "I have to pay for my college. That's why I'm taking this stupid job." He said softly.

"It's a secret." One of the girls said smiling. "So, naturally, the whole school will know in about twenty minutes via Facebook." She said grinning. "Sorry, kiddo." She said laughing.

"So, before lunch period is over, you guys said we were going to talk about the finer details of the plan." The girl said bitterly. "I don't want all of you chickens to tell me you don't want to do this at the last minute." She said bitter.

"What are you guys trying to do?" Michael asked curious.

"None of your business, if you're going to rat us out. A Halloween prank if you're going to keep your mouth shut." A boy said to his left.

"I won't tell." Michael said as he started eating again.

"We need to make a flying saucer that will withstand the duration of the prank. We also need a radio system, so that we can broadcast ourselves to the whole city. We want to scare the crap out of as many people as we can."

The girl who seemed to be the leader was now discussing plans and items that they would need to buy. Michael couldn't help but noticing that they were doing it all wrong. He pointed out a few things that might better the prank, and the crowd of kids was impressed.

"Why don't you join us, Michael?" the girl asked. "We could really use a second genius. Besides me, of course." She said smiling at the crowd at large.

"Laura is top of our class." The boy to his left muttered. "She's a miss know it all." He said bitterly.

"Let me tell you, since you guys have let me in your little group, we've managed to pull off very sophisticated pranks." She said in a low voice.

The crowd introduced themselves. Laura was the leader, the boy to his left was Samuel, Brandon and Justin were to his right, and there was a few girls across from them. Laura seemed to be the one who was the leader. Laura and Michael both got together after school, and discussed the details of the plan. For such a simple plan, it took a lot of time to work through.

In his spare time, Michael would travel down to the radio station, and memorize the schedule of the DJ's. They had to get this right, or the prank wouldn't be pulled off with the right affect. He went window shopping and got a list of the makeup for the alien costumes. He was so excited, and his parents were asking him constantly what he was up to. He had a tough time finding a way to not lie to them. Time couldn't go by fast enough. For a while, it seemed that Damien was put out of his mind completely. Time went by at an abnormally slow speed as the youth got ready for the assault on the city of Dallas. Soon enough, it was time.

"We all agree we're going to use Laura's house as a meeting place to get our costumes ready." One of the boys said.

There were over one hundred fifty kids in on this prank. Michael's mother was a very hard working very loving person. So naturally all of her students loved her, and came to love her son. They all wanted in on the prank when the rumor spread that Michael Carlisle was the coolest janitor in the history of Dallas middle school. The place was going to be overrun by alien invaders soon. They were going to pull off the most amazing prank.

Laura and Michael, being the two nerds of the group, both did their research on what time the sun would set that day. An hour before, they all met at Laura's house. One by one, Laura did all the makeup for each kid.

"Rudy," Laura asked as she looked at the boy she was working on. "You did a really nice job looking for the supplies. This makeup looks incredible." She said smiling.

"I did it all by myself. You should've been there. It took me nearly two hours in a variety of different stores, but I finally found the one I was looking for." He said as he got off his stool and headed out of the bathroom.

"I'm going to head down to the radio station." Michael said excitedly as he grabbed a few things.

"Rudy," he said as he walked towards the door. "Remember, listen for the radio broadcast. Look out for my text message. I will tell you when to light the water tower up." He instructed.

"Got it, chief." Rudy said as Michael left the house.

He got on his bike and pedaled as fast as he could. He had forty minutes until the guy took his lunch break, and it was only twenty minutes long. He hoped the guy would go out to eat, and be a little late. He got a lucky break. The guy was seen getting into his car, and leaving the radio station. Michael didn't know how much time this bought him, so he had to work quickly. He dimmed the lights in the station to make it a little more serious. He turned on the microphone after the current song ended.

"Hello, people of Dallas and the surrounding areas. This is Kool Jazz 109.4. Giving you all the latest news, and playing all the current songs. For all you listening out there tonight, an incredible story has just been given to me by my producer. Apparently, Halloween isn't just a night for children and many to dress up and have themselves a jolly old time. It may also be the day that we finally have contact with our so far, unknown comrades of the universe. Sources have indicated that there have been some sightings of a UFO, that's right, an unidentified flying object, has been spotted. The sightings occurred in the light of the previous night's moon. Now speculation says that the UFO is indeed getting closer, and might already be in our atmosphere. What if there is alien contact? Are we prepared for that? Can we handle knowing about the mysteries of the unknown? We will be sure to keep you updated." He said as he flicked a switch. The next song on queue came up, and thankfully, it was a short one.

"Here we are once again. Kool Jazz, playing your most adored songs, and bringing you up to the minute news. It seems that there has been an accident on main street. But it was cleaned up shortly after. We also have more reports on the mysterious flying object." He looked out the window after sending his text to the right person. He watched as the water tower lit up, to look like a flying saucer. He queued his sound file of the War of the Worlds, and gasped. "It appears that the UFO has indeed landed. And how terrifyingly lucky that it just so happened to land here, folks! In our very own, Dallas Texas! How very terrifying indeed. If you want to see it all, just look outside your windows, wherever you may be. There is no way you can possibly miss the lights, as they are without a doubt—" he screamed as he played the sound file.

If you were a listener, all you could hear right now was the sound of screams, growls, and breaking glass. Michael tried to make himself heard over the drone, as he described the alien creatures that were now advancing on the radio station.

"Impish, creepy creatures! With long pointy tube like mouths, and green skin all over! They have claws, and walk on flat dome shaped feet!" he shouted. "One of them is coming for me!" he yelled. "Oh oh no!" he started the static on the radio making the station lose its broadcast. He ran as fast as he could out of the radio station just in time. The person in charge had returned from his break. Michael didn't want to know if the man suspected someone had been playing with his equipment.

That's when Michael noticed it. All over the city, people were panicking. He watched as his army of alien invaders roamed the city asking for treats, only to have the candy dropped on them, and people burst into screams. This was not going well, for Laura and her gang, though.

"Shoot every one of these confounded things!" shouted an officer as he grabbed Laura by the fake tube mouth that she was wearing.

"No!" she shouted desperately. "Don't shoot us, you idiot! We're just kids!" she yelled. "This was all a prank, You moron!" she shouted. "Hello! Halloween! Prank gone awry!" she yelled as she was put in the back of a cop car and restrained. "Michael!" she yelled.

"Dad!" shouted one of the boys. "It's me! Kevin! Your son! Don't shoot, please!"

"Prove it!" the officer who was about to shoot the boy shouted.

Kevin tried to take off the makeup with water, and tried to pull off the tube mouth, and claws. He couldn't. Everyone went silent. "It won't come off." He whispered. "Ruuuuuuuudy!" he yelled at the top of his lungs.

As Michael was approaching one of the super markets, where people were taking shelter, he got the phone call. It was Daniel. One of the other boys.

"Isn't this great?" Michael asked grinning. "The whole city is in shambles, bro!" he said as he laughed.

"About that, Laura has just been taken by a police officer, and a bunch of townsmen are chasing after us, trying to shoot us with real bullets, and fire arms." Daniel said gasping. "I just barely got away."

"Take the makeup off then." Michael said as his smile came off.

"The thing is, Rudy fucked us all over. The shit won't come off." Daniel said as Michael heard glass breaking in the background.

"Shit!" he moaned as he drove back to the radio station. "Try to run as long as you can, I'll tell everyone not to worry, that this is all a prank. Don't worry, Danny! I'll save you guys!"

Four hours later, everyone and everything was finally under control. The kids were all rounded up by Laura and Michael and taken to Laura's house.

"Latex permanent art makeup? Latex permanent glue?" Laura read aloud from the tubes of makeup and glue she was looking at. She gave Rudy a glare.

"I thought that's what you were looking for!" Rudy moaned. "I figured, we'd be out there for a pretty long time!"

"I'm surrounded." Laura moaned as she tried to figure out how to take the stuff off.

It took two days for Michael and the middle schoolers who had participated in the prank to calm down. It was a pretty awesome prank, until it got out of hand. Michael decided that that was enough fun for a while. He was going to throw himself into his studies, and try to not fall behind. The preparations they had done for this event had made him lose sleep, and fall a little behind on his school work.

Time passed without events. Michael took two and a half years to get a degree in medicine. He became a doctor, and tried to find work in a place that suited him. But he didn't look too much. He was in no hurry to grow up. He was happy where he was. He turned twenty-three, and wondered how his cousin had been on his birthday. The surprise of his life came when the family was able to talk to him via close circuit television.

The man that came on the screen was unrecognizable. Michael didn't know if the tears in his eyes were of joy, or of fright. Damien was thin, which was not the scary part. No. The scary part was the bloodshot eyes, the tangled red hair, and the lack of shaving. He looked dirty, and sleepy, and just so out of the ordinary. No one knew what to ask him, or how to act.

"How are you doing, son?" Michael's mom finally asked as she looked at her nephew.

"I'm doing great." Damien said smiling. "They don't know how long I'll be here, but I'm doing okay. We have food, shelter, and water. Sleep is a rare thing, though." He said as he smiled at them. "You guys look well. Happy birthday, Michael." He said smiling at his cousin. "It's good to see you."

The talk hadn't lasted a long time, since there was an uncomfortable feeling round the whole family.

Damien looked terrible. He looked like he had lost more weight, looked like he didn't get enough sleep, and looked like he had lost a lot of his personality. He just didn't act, or look like the Damien they all knew and loved.

Seven and a half months later, There were reports on the news that the troops were going to be brought back home. Obama had requested that troops from Iraq and other places be brought home. The family grew excited wondering if they were going to get a letter, or a call. But it never came. Anguish plagued the Webbers, as they waited for news from their son. Michael's mom and dad often tried to comfort them, telling them that everything would be okay. Michael himself found it hard to believe that everything would be okay. Something could've already happened to his cousin for all they knew. They wouldn't know until it was too late if that was the case.

It was a whole nother year before the call that they had been waiting for came. It was Michael, who got the call, since he had been the only one home. Everyone else was at work. He was the only one who heard the kitchen phone ring. He picked it up on the fourth ring, right as the answering machine was about to get it.

"Hello?" he said happily.

"Mick?" said a familiar voice. "I'm at the airport. Can yuh come get me?" he asked.

Tears welled up in Michael's eyes, and he didn't know what to say. "Mom and the rest of the family are all at work. I'll be the only one." He said trying not to break down. "I'll be there in about forty five minutes to get you, kay?" he explained.

"I'll look forward to it." Damien said with a hint of sadness to is voice.

Michael made his way to base. Damien wasn't really at the airport. He probably said that to make himself feel better. He was at a special base where the military often either took flight from or landed in. When Michael got there, there were kids, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, all variety of family members there to see their loved ones. Men on crutches, or with fake limbs came around to meet their families. There were lots of tears. Michael himself found that tears were leaking out of his own eyes as he tried to look for his cousin in such a place. He hoped he would find him soon. There was a tall youth with a glass eye staring around for his family. There were plenty of men in uniform that weren't injured as well. Michael found who he was looking for, fifteen minutes later. Damien was sitting on a bench, surrounded by a lot of luggage. Michael got the shock of his life up on closer examination of his cousin.

Damien was still lanky, he was still very tall. But he no longer had the red hair that he had at one point. He was bald. Michael had always loved his hair, and Damien seemed to be fond of it, too. So, Michael wondered what had happened to his hair. He didn't ask, as the two men hugged. Damien was crying harder than Michael had ever seen him cry, but hey. Michael wasn't dry eyed himself.

"I missed you, my cousin." Michael sobbed as he held him in his arms.

"I missed you too, Mick." Damien said as he buried his head in Michael's neck, and took in his cousin's familiar smell. He was home. He was finally home.

"Let's get the luggage in, and we'll get you home." Michael said through tears as they parted reluctantly.

There was clutter and flutter all around as everyone got what they were looking for. In no time at all, Michael and Damien had recovered all his bags, and were on their way home, before anyone could say anything to them. It was a hard battle. But he had made it home. Michael was still alive. Michael still loved him.

"I'm really glad to see you." Damien said as they drove home.

"Me too." Michael replied with a smile.

The rest of the car ride was silent. Michael found himself more than once holding Damien's hand tightly. Their fingers interlaced warmly together. All too soon, they were home.

"Can we get the luggage later?" Damien asked sadly. "I just want to get inside." He muttered.

"Sure." Michael said as he and his cousin went into the main house.

Damien and Michael sat down on the couch, where instantaneously Damien's arms flew once again around Michael protectively.

"Damien?" Michael said softly not being able to hold it any longer. "What happened to you? Your hair?" he asked sadly.

"I had an accident." Damien said as he sat there looking at Michael with a haunted look. "I was shot in the head." He said bitterly. "In order to take out the bullet, they had to saw my skull apart, and try to see if they could take the bullet out." He said bitterly.

"D-D-did they get it out?" Michael stuttered as he asked.

"Yes." Damien said as he sat there looking straight into Michael's eyes. "For a moment, I thought I wasn't going to make it." He said bitterly.

"I'm glad you did." Michael said softly. "I don't know what I'd do without you." He added smiling through the tears.

"I have to admit, I left because I wanted to get myself killed." Damien said softly. "But I regretted it as soon as I saw you and the rest of the family the time I got to talk to you guys for my birthday." He said softly.

"Damien, I have a feeling there's a slew of shit you're not telling me." Michael said softly as he looked into Damien's eyes.

"Yes there is, little dude." Damien said bitterly. "And maybe, one day, you'll know." He said as he hugged his cousin.

"Damien, what do you mean, you joined the army to try and get yourself killed?" Michael asked as he sat there with his cousin.

"I am gay." Damien said matter-of-factly.

"That doesn't answer my question." Michael said exasperated.

"I hate being gay, Mick. I joined the army so that I could intentionally get myself killed, and not have to go through being gay anymore. For the better part of my high school experience, I had been seeing a psychologist, and trying to find a cure. Trying to find a way to fix that side of me that refuses to be fixed. But I didn't make way with it." He said sadly. "If you hate me, I'll understand." He said as he tried to push Michael away.

"I don't hate you. I don't hate you at all." Michael said as he hugged Damien smiling. "Somehow, I always had a feeling." He said as he stroked a hand across the other's bald head.

"I'm very glad to be home." Damien said as he smiled at his cousin. "I missed you all. There was constant regret for what I did, and I guess God showed me how wrong I was and gave me a second chance. I still hate that I'm gay, but I'm going to not let it get to me. Otherwise I should've died during that gunshot I took." He said adamantly.

Damien and Michael had retired to their respective rooms. Michael, to cry, and Damien to sleep. He needed that sleep.

Mrs. Webber got home to find the house quiet. She knew that Michael was probably asleep, and so didn't make noise as she walked in. She shut the door behind her and locked it. She walked to the dining room, and slid the backyard door open. She closed that too, as she made her way to her guest house. She walked in, and went straight to her room. She noticed that the room beside hers was closed. She hadn't closed the door to her son's room when she had left. She also knew that her husband never closed his door either. She pushed it open, and turned on the light. Her eyes fell on the figure lying in the bed. The figure was taller than her husband, or Michael. So she looked at the man, and suspected it could only be one thing. Either there was a stranger in her house, or...,

"Son?" she asked as tears welled up in her eyes. "Damien?" she said a little louder this time. "Damien!" she shouted as she ran to the bed and wrapped her arms around the bundle lying on it. She could only get her arms around him, and since the blanket was restraining him, he couldn't hug her yet.

"Yo, ma." He said as he opened his eyes. "Where you been?" he asked smiling.

Soon, the whole family came home from various places. Soon, it was known to the whole house that Damien was back. Everyone was joyous to have the boy back. He told the story about his hair at the dinner table, drawing tears from all of his family as he did so. Everyone was glad to have him home. Everyone.

"You okay, Michael?" Damien asked as he looked at his cousin across from him. Michael was scratching at his right arm.

"Yeah." Michael said as he looked at his skin. "I think I got a bug bite, or an irritant on my skin. It itches a little. I'll be all right, though." He said as he returned to his meal.

It's tough going to the army and coming back. Michael was the only one who seemed interested that Damien had come back. He seemed to want to always be with him, or talk to him. Hell, even if they didn't talk for the space of four hours, Michael was content to just be with Damien as they both sat there in silence watching television. Their parents seemed to treat Damien like he was a slug. They wouldn't go near him, unless they had to. Michael noticed this, and asked Damien if he wanted Michael to have a talk with them. Damien just shook his head, and told Michael they would get over themselves. They were probably waiting for the PTSD to set in, or they didn't want to scare him by coming too close. Damien didn't think anything of it.

It was the middle of August, and Michael's mom was awakened by something. She looked over to her husband's side of the bed, and saw that Jimmy was still lying beside her. She wondered what had awakened her. She looked around, and saw nothing out of the ordinary. She felt some strange feeling in her gut, and couldn't make it go away. She got up and walked out of her room, and opened the door to Michael's.

Michael was lying on the bed, with his blankets off, shaking. She walked into the room, and turned on the lamp beside his bed.

"Is everything all right, dear?" she asked as she looked at him.

"Mom, My stomach hurts so bad." Michael was shaking and had tears in his eyes. "And, I just threw up. A lot." He said as he looked up at her. "Mom, my stomach."

Holly looked down at her boy and wondered what the trouble was. Michael shook and was sweating a lot. He never got sick. And if he did, he always let it run its course without complaint. She knew something was wrong when Michael was actually making it known to her that he was sick. Her son was a trooper.

She went into the bathroom, and got her thermometer. She took his temperature, and discovered that his fever was a low grade. He was at one hundred one point five degrees Fahrenheit. She sighed. She knew what to do. She would give him some medicines to bring the fever down, and she would make sure that he drank a lot of fluids. He might not be going into work tomorrow if the symptoms persisted.

But, as sure as she was, her confidence proved to be true. His fever had broken by the morning, and he came down stairs to eat well rested, and hardly remembering what had been ailing him in the middle of the night. He was happy, and said he felt well enough to go to work. She was glad for him. Maybe it had been a stomach bug, and he had just vomited it up by chance the night before.

Everyone was at work in the middle of the day, and Damien was doing his own work taking online classes. He was working on a physics paper, when the phone rang. It was about four seventeen in the afternoon. Michael was usually the one who got home first. So, maybe it was him having car trouble.

"Hello?" Damien asked as he picked up the phone.

"Is mom there?" Michael asked softly into the phone.

"No. She hasn't gotten home from work yet. You doin' all right?" he asked as he stood up and started pacing.

"No. Damien, I need you to come get me. I can't drive." He said in a panic. "I am really dizzy, and I feel nauseous, and I just want to lie down. I'm really cold. I tried to get myself home but—"

"Don't worry, cousin. I'm on my way, and I'll be there soon. I love you and I'll see you later."

He hung up before the other boy could answer. He got up, grabbed the key to the garage, and went and got his bike. He rode all the way to the general hospital, and spotted the familiar nineteen sixty eight Plymouth. He put his bike on the roof of the car and tied it down. Soon, the boys were driving home. Damien didn't get to talk to Michael much, because as soon as they started driving, Michael fell asleep.

When they got home, Jimmy and Craig were home too. They were both in the living room, watching television. They both gasped when Damien and Michael entered the house. Damien had the boy held protectively in his arms.

"What's wrong?" Craig asked as he and his brother in law stood up.

"He got sick and asked me to come get him. I don't know what's wrong. He has a slight fever, and he has chills." Damien said as he walked upstairs.

"I'll call Holly!" Jimmy said from the bottom of the stair well.

"She's almost home, uncle Jim." Damien said bitterly. "Why bother her on her car ride with her friend?"

"Well, if he gets worse, let me know." Jimmy said as he turned around and went to sit down.

"Aren't you going to help take care of him?" Damien's father asked concerned.

"Hell no! I don't wanna get what he has! Besides, Damien was in the army, he can take care of it."

The men stayed down stairs arguing about why Jimmy wouldn't man up and go take care of his son. Jimmy was queasy around blood. He hated the smell, and the sight of it made him go white as snow and pass out. He was really sensitive to that kind of stuff.

Damien grabbed the thermometer, and took the boy's temperature once again. It was slight. One hundred degrees. Damien thought if he wrapped Michael up in blankets, and let him rest, the boy would sweat out whatever was making him feel sick. Michael's eyes opened, and he looked up at Damien.

"I am going to die, Damien." He predicted.

Damien got tears in his eyes, and felt the warmth of them as they slid down his cheeks. He didn't want to hear those words from his favorite cousin. "Michael, it's just a fever!" Damien said in a high pitched voice. "You'll be okay!" he sobbed as he kissed his cousin's forehead.

Damien held the bundle of blankets in his arms and sat on the bed for a while. There was a racket down stairs, and the sound of laughter carried up to the open bedroom door. The sound of footsteps was heard on the stairs, and soon after, Karen Webber burst into the room. She looked at Michael, Damien, and at the thermometer lying on the bed beside the taller boy.

"One hundred degrees F." Damien said as he looked at his mother's questioning look.

"Shit. It's not high grade, but it needs to come down before it gets any higher." Karen said as she went into the bathroom. She came back with some medicine to give the boy, but Michael suddenly sat up. He was white as a ghost, as he sprang out of Damien's arms, and ran for the bathroom. They could hear Michael throwing up as he bent over the toilet.

"Honey what happened to him?" Karen asked in shock.

"I don't know!" Damien moaned as they made their way to the bathroom. "He just asked me to pick him up and bring him home, that he wasn't feeling well." Damien said bitterly. "I don't know what happened."

Karen got Michael cleaned up, and gave him some medicine. She hoped that it would be enough to bring the fever down a lot. He was crying, complaining of pain all over his body. He said his skin felt tender to the touch.

"What's going on here?" asked Holly as she came walking into the bedroom.

"I was just sitting there doing my homework, and the phone rang!" Damien explained.

"You, were doing homework?" Holly asked confused.

"Focus!" Damien said as he swatted her arm. "The phone rang, and it was Michael asking if you were home. I said no, and he asked me if I could get him home, because he didn't feel too good. I went and got him, and he was having chills, and said he was dizzy. I wrapped him up in some blankets, and he was fine for a bit. Then my mom was going to give him medicine, and he threw up."

"Did he throw up the medicine, sis?" Holly asked sadly.

"No." Karen said as she looked down at the boy. "Damien took his temp, and it was a hundred. I don't know if it's improved, but I gave him this stuff to calm the fever down." She muttered.

The family left Michael alone for the next few hours, to see if he got better with rest. Sure enough, by dinner, he was down at the table, and was ready to eat.

"Hey," Damien said as he noticed something. "That bug bite was small and singular when I first saw it on you." He said as he touched Michael's arm. Michael winced visibly.

The arm had only had one red dot as if there had been a small mosquito bite. Now it was a little swollen, like mosquito bites get, and it also had multiplied.

Over the next few weeks, the same thing would happen. Michael felt fine in the mornings, by the end of the day, he felt terrible, and more often than naught, he would end up throwing up. He got examined by doctors at the hospital where he worked, and they all gave the same diagnosis. "It's the flu, or some other virus going around."

But it wasn't. And three weeks after his first vomiting fit, he developed a cough. It wasn't just a cough, like when you have something in your throat either. It was a rattling, gruesome sounding cough. The girls took Michael to see if he had the whooping cough, but he tested negative for that. He tested negative for tuberculosis, and strep. He tested negative for the flu, as well. He was told that he had bronchitis, and he should just drink a lot of fluids, and rest.

Soon, it became a whole month, and Michael's cough was still not going away. He often had fevers that had to be brought back down. Since they weren't one hundred three or above, for the hospital, it wasn't considered an emergency. So the family just had to keep medicating him and hope the fevers would subside on their own.

"Mom!" Damien had been helping Michael take a bath. Just to see how it would make him feel afterword's. Holly and Jimmy were out on a shopping trip. Karen would never forget the way Damien screamed for her as she sat in the kitchen eating a slice of cake. She could remember how chilling her son's scream was. She thought, Oh shit, my nephew has died in the tub.

When she got there, She was surprised to see that Michael was not the same as he had been when she last saw him naked in the fifth grade. His skin, every part of his body, was covered in little black spots. She looked at her nephew, and looked at Damien.

"Michael, honey," she said as she touched the boy's shoulder. He wasn't responding.

"Michael!" Damien shouted as he stood there staring at him. "Michael! Answer me, Michael!" he said as he lifted the boy out of the tub. He dried him off, and took him to his room. Karen came in with the thermometer again. She took his temperature, and it was a shocking one hundred and six degrees.

"Get your cousin dressed, we're going to the ER. Now." Karen said in a voice full of determination.

When the trio got to the ER, there was almost no one who believed this was a serious case. Fifteen minutes went by, and different guys and girls were being attended before Michael. Finally, a young man came walking up to them.

"Oh, hey. Is that Michael Carlisle?" he asked. "I used to work with him during the day shift. Now they changed me to the evening. What's wrong with him?" he asked.

Karen and Damien told him all the symptoms, and they watched as he left them for another five minutes. When he came back, he was wheeling a cot over to them. Damien placed his cousin on the cot, and he and his mother watched as they wheeled their kin away. They spotted three people coming over to them in the waiting room. It was Craig, Jimmy and Holly. Holly looked white faced. Damien and Karen told her all the new symptoms that her son had developed. The young man came over to them, and sighed.

"We've got a doctor looking at him right now, testing for all kinds of viruses. He flat lined a minute ago, but we were able to bring him back. We'll let you know what happens as soon as something does. For now, you can either wait here, or go home." He said as he stood there with a grim face.

"Can we go there and see him?" Damien asked a little angry.

"No. Not until the doctor has finished doing what he needs to do. Should be within fifteen to twenty minutes."

So the family sat there, waiting for what felt like the longest time in the world. Craig and Jimmy kept looking at Damien, and Karen and Holly just sat there, gazing at their husbands. Karen squeezed Damien's hand. In his other hand, he was squeezing the cross that hung around his neck.

Soon, a doctor came out to see them. She was tall, and looked tired and worn out.

"You all with Michael?" she asked.

"Yes." They all said as they stood up as one to listen to what she had to say.

"We've preformed some basic tests. Testing for shingles, rubella, measles, strep, and a whole lot of other viruses and bacteria we can think of. Some of the results will be ready in an hour, some won't be ready for weeks. Michael has been in here before, and we couldn't find out what was wrong with him. Maybe it might just be the flu."

"Did you undress him to do these tests, lady?" Damien asked outraged. "Because if you had, you'd know that damn thing in his body is not the fuckin' flu." He said as he made his hands into fists.

"Look, I did undress him. I suspect what you're referring to is all the little black spots on his body? They could be tiny burns from the internal fever. He's at one hundred and one right now, and we're trying to see if we can bring it down. If they aren't burns, well, they might just be some other type of skin rash." She muttered as she turned around. "You guys can take him home after we cool him down and give him something for the cough." She said.

"Ridiculous!" Holly said as she stood there about ready to cry. "I've been here for the last while, trying to make my boy feel better, and all you ass holes do is give him medicine and tell me take him home. That is not what you're supposed to be doing! I demand that you find out what is wrong with my son, or you will have a law suit on your hands if he ends up dead!" she shouted.

"Hey, lady, I've got people up to my neck here who need to be looked at. Gunshot wounds, car accidents, burns, you name it. And you know what? I'm tired of it all. It breaks my heart when we can't figure out a case, but you have to just be patient. You don't need to yell at me, for something that I can't help. We'll find out what's wrong with your son, and in the meantime, we can treat the symptoms. If that makes you happy, great. If not, then, your loss. Because that's all we can do right now." She said as she turned and walked away.

"Which room is he in!?" Damien yelled after her.

"He's in the ICU, in room six seventeen." She said.

Ten minutes later, the whole family was sitting around Michael. He was coughing his strange rattle. He was awake.

"Damien?" he asked smiling. "I think that nurse who just gave me medicine is checkin' you out." He said in a raspy voice.

"Yeah?" Damien asked as he sat on his chair regally. "I'll give her that. I am, after all, the one with the good looks." He said as he ran his fingers through a crease in his shirt smoothing it out.

"Am I going to die, you guys?" Michael asked.

"Don't say that, Michael. We'll find out what's the matter, and we'll cure you." Jimmy said as he squeezed his son's hand.

Damien noticed something that wasn't quite right. He stood up, and took the boy's right hand away from Jimmy. He looked at the raised bumps on it.

"Michael, are these still the bug bites from when I got home from the war?" he asked.

"Yeah." Michael said as he lay there coughing. "I thought they'd go away by now." He muttered.

TO the family's dismay, the fever broke, and he was soon normal. Normal enough, the doctors said, to be discharged. So, with broken hearts, and fear, the family took their relative home.

"I am not well." Michael said as Damien helped him get into a pair of pajamas. "I am really sick. I can taste and smell it." He muttered.

"What are you talking about?" asked his mother as she watched her nephew help her boy. He was the tallest of the men, and the strongest. So, they had no choice.

"I can smell my body, and breath." Michael observed. "I smell like rot. Or something similar. Like death." He said bitterly. "I taste it, too."

"Michael, you'll be better tomorrow." Damien said bitterly. "You're a strong person. You won't let a little cold beat you." He said as he put the boy in the blankets.

"My body hurts. All over." Michael said as he lay his head on the pillow.

"Just try to go to sleep." Holly said as she leaned down and kissed him.

"It's not just a cold, is it Auntie Holly?" Damien whispered as tears fell from his eyes as they made their way down stairs.

"No, sweet heart. But, don't worry. The doctors will find out if he's okay, and everything will be fine. You'll see."

Two days passed without great event. Michael was bedridden and so couldn't go to work. The cough got worse, he said his whole body hurt, and he could barely sit up. He didn't often eat, either. He'd just end up throwing up anyway. The situation took a turn for the worse, when during the night, Holly went to check on him. He was coughing worse than usual, and he was coughing up blood. Not a tremendous amount, but little dots would appear on his lips when he'd cough. He was rubbing his stomach.

"Mom, I don't feel very good." He moaned. "I am very nauseous." Before anyone could do or say a word, Michael sat up, and vomited all over the blankets, himself, and the bed. This time, there was a lot of blood. He broke down and started to cry.

"Oh, Mikey!" Holly sobbed as she started to help him get out of bed. She and Jimmy tried their best to help. The two of them couldn't help him because he was too sensitive to touch. They laid him on the floor of the bathroom, and Jimmy stood beside him while Holly cleaned his bed up.

"We can't do this, Holly. We have to take him to the hospital. Have to. He's just getting worse, and we can't do anything." He said as his face creased with frustration.

"They don't want to help us!" she sobbed as she and her husband picked their son up and carried him to the living room. "We have to find another hospital. Dallas isn't good enough."

They ended up taking their son, at three in the morning, to a hospital in Austin Texas. Nurses and doctors hooked him up on a heart monitor and did all kinds of tests. Soon, the worst would come.

"Mr. and Mrs. Carlisle?" A man with a blood stained lab coat walked up to them.

"Is that Michael's?" Jimmy asked as he looked away.

"Yes." The man said sadly. "We are unable, at this time, to determine what is wrong with him. I suggest you two go get some rest, and leave him here. We'll take care of him the best we can." He said sighing.

They had no choice. The two of them had to go to work. They couldn't stay at the hospital no matter if they wanted to or not.

When they got back to the house, Craig and Karen were already up. They gasped in surprise.

"We thought you were still sleeping?" Karen said with a question in her voice.

"No." Holly said bitterly. "We just got back from Austin, after leaving Michael in the hospital." She whispered.

"Oh god." Damien said as he stared down at his oatmeal. "What happened?" he asked.

Two hours later, Damien was sitting in a chair beside his cousin. Michael would wake up and fall back asleep regularly. They did whatever they could to keep his fever down. He was really sick. He started to get red dots all over his face.

"Hello?" a lady came walking in. Damien looked at her with great concern. "Are you going to save my cousin?" he asked softly.

"I am certainly going to try." She said smiling. "How close are you with the patient?" she asked.

"We are inseparable." Damien said as he looked down at his cousin.

"Can you tell me what's been going on then?" she asked as she sat in a stool with wheels. She had a pad, and pen in her hand.

Damien told her everything. From the bite on his arm, to the color of Michael's sputum.

She started doing something none of the others had done. She examined him from head to foot. Even going as far as to take a swab from the bug bites on his arm. She looked puzzled.

"Can you tell me when this happened?" she asked as she pointed to his armpit.

There was a lump there. Oh my goodness, the boy had cancer. Damien felt like he wanted to break down.

"We've never seen that before." Damien whispered.

"Has Michael been anywhere outside of the united states for the last year?" she asked.

"No." Damien said in a whisper. He took out his cell phone, and sent the text. Hurry. We think he might have cancer. Found a lump in his arm pit.

The hours went by, and the fever only got worse. He looked very old, and sick, and almost like he could die at any moment. Their parents came walking in around five fifteen. They were all white faced.

"Hello!" said the lady that had been talking with Damien a while ago. "I am doctor Fletcher." She said smiling. "I specialize in infectious diseases." She said as she shook their hands.

"So, you don't think Michael has cancer?" asked Holly exasperated.

"No. I know what he has, but I have to do a bit more testing, to make sure." She said. "And if I'm right, you all shouldn't be in here right now."

"Can you tell us your opinion?" Jimmy asked.

"No. You'll look it up on your phones, or go look on your computers, you'll just scare yourselves to death. I want to be sure." She said as she took the boy's blood pressure.

When she left, Damien looked at his family. He didn't know what made him do it, but his mouth opened and spoke of its own accord.

"I'm gay." He announced.

"Of course you are, honey." Karen said as she stroked Michael's hair.

"Mom, I'm serious. I'm gay." He said again.

"A lot of guys come back from the arm—" Jimmy was saying.

"No, it's been like that since I was born." Damien said bitterly. "I've been secretly going to psych doctors to try and fix it." He added.

"Why are you telling us this?" Craig asked looking flabbergasted.

"Because, I am in love with your son." Damien said as he looked right at his aunt. "I want him to know that before he dies."

"He's not going to die." Holly said as she rounded on Damien. "You are serious?" she asked looking aghast. "I mean, you love Michael, in more than a friend or cousin way?" she asked blushing.

"Yes." He said bitterly.

"But, son," Jimmy said as he looked at his brother in law. "That's incest. That's not right."

"We're not able to have children. If we were, that wouldn't be right." He muttered. "He may not even love me like that. He may be straight. I don't know. I just thought he should know if he's awake. In case..."

"He won't die." Said his father as he squeezed his hand. "That, I'm sure of."

The door burst open and about four doctors came in at once. They ignored the family as they all took temperatures, blood pressures, and everything they could think of.

"Doctor Fletcher wants all of you out of here. She says this room needs to be disinfected, and you all need to go home. You need to change clothes, and throw away or burn all of what you have on right now." He said as he looked all of them in the eye in turn.

"What's going on here?" Holly asked.

"Just do as you're told." The man said as he ushered all of them out. "You won't be able to come back in, until all that has been done."

Damien caught up to the doctor as he was handed a mask two hours later. He pulled her aside.

"Do you really think my cousin, my twenty four year old cousin that has never traveled, or been anywhere where there are fleas, has the bubonic plague?" he asked in a whisper.

"I told you I didn't want to say. You already went and looked it up. I don't know for sure. We'll find out in about an hour. I am doing a test for the primary bacteria." She said bitterly. "This is why you have to make sure not to be exposed."

"have you seen the mortality rate?" Damien asked softly. "My cousin could die!" he said trying not to break down.

"We will make sure we do our best to save him." She said as she gave him a pair of gloves to ware.

For the next day, everyone that went into the room had to wear gowns, gloves, and masks. It all had to be incinerated after use. It was very painful for the whole family having to wait and see what the results of this special test were. Soon, though, they would find out.

"I am afraid to inform you that your son has contracted the bubonic plague." The lady said looking at the parents.

"The fuck?" asked Craig looking at Jimmy. "How does that shit happen?" he asked looking at his son confused.

"I think I gave it to him." Damien said bitterly as he wiped tears from his eyes. "When he went to pick me up at the military base, a lot of bugs were there, primarily brought with the men on their clothes, or luggage. He got bitten by a flea, and now has the bacteria in his system. I killed my cousin!" he said as he finally broke down.

"I am going to have to induce a coma." She said as the whole family started to cry. "I am going to assault his body with antibiotics, and his brain needs to shut down for it all, or he may lose the battle." She said as she started working on the boy.

"How do we know if he's going to make it?" sobbed Holly.

"We don't. We just have to keep him here, and literally bathe him in medicine, to help fight it off." She said sadly. "I don't know his prognosis."

For the next few weeks, the family watches in pain, as Michael begins to deteriorate worse. Soon, he was starting to get black on his lips and on his nose. The doctor explained to the family what that meant. If the medicine helped at all, the boy would make it, and nothing would have to be amputated. No one knew what would happen, but Michael was basically gone. He was in a coma, and on life support.

After about a month and a half in the hospital, the boy began to improve. His vital signs looked good, the lump in his arm pit disappeared, and the boy started to get color back in his lips, and nose. He still had the red dots on his face, and black spots on his body. But those too, were going down in numbers. Doctor Fletcher came in the next day after the boy had shown improvement, and took him off his ventilator. He was able to breathe on his own. The relief was showing on all their faces. She took him out of his coma, and two days later, Michael Carlisle awoke, to find himself feeling a lot better than he last remembered. Damien was the only one in the room with him, as the rest of the family was working. Damien would never forget the first thing Michael said to him.

"I want chocolate milk, soup, water, and pizza, and fudge." He said seriously. "I'm really hungry."

Damien had tears rolling down his face as he pushed the call button. He asked if the boy could have solids, and sure enough, the room was filling with nurses and Doctors, come to see the one boy in the whole hospital that had somehow gotten the plague.

"What happened to me?" Michael asked as doctor Fletcher came walking over to him and squeezing his hand.

"Well, it took a while, but we figured out what you had and cured you." she said smiling. "You now have Y Pestis antibodies in your system." She said smiling.

"Oh my god. I got the plague?" he asked softly.

"Pestis?" Damien asked quizzically.

"It's nerd talk for the plague." Michael said softly. "She must know that I'm a geek. Who told her?! Damien? Mom? Dad? Was it Dave from accounting?" he asked looking around.

"You're not at the hospital you work at." Damien said bitterly. "We're in Austin Texas, and this is a totally different hospital. By the way, I took the liberty of telling the doc that you're a geek." He said smiling.

"The plague... I'll be. The fucking plague. Out of all the things I could contract, and I get the damn plague. How the hell did this happen?" he asked as he tested all his limbs.

"You were bitten by fleas." The doctor said sighing. "Your cousin thinks it was when you went to get him from the military base." She said sadly. "They must have been infected." She added.

"You know, I remember those damn fleas. I thought they were just annoying. I didn't know they carried a potential virus that could've killed me." he muttered sadly.

"You flat lined a couple of times back in Dallas. They weren't taking care of you right." Damien said sighing as he gently squeezed his hand. "Doctor F here saved your life. I owe this woman everything." He said smiling. "She even put in over time, to make sure they took care of you and all."

"I had to put up with this pest for a bit." She said as she leaned down and gave Damien a hug. "I told you he'd be okay." She whispered into his ear. "He never left your bedside. Since he got here, he's been there the whole time on that damn chair." She said smiling.

"When did you get here? When did I get here?" he asked.

The doctor and Damien related every detail to him, and he listened with rapt attention. He was stunned, by the time they were finished.

"I think I've lost my job." He muttered. "Haven't been there for way too long."

"The staff was notified of what you had," the doctor said smiling. "They said that they would keep your spot. You are a valuable part of their team, they said."

"Being a nerd, I can see why." Damien said under his breath.

"I heard that, jock." Michael said softly.

Within a half hour, Damien was texting, and telling everyone that his cousin was okay. They were all happy, and now could go on with their jobs, knowing that the boy was awake. When the doctor was gone, and the boy had finished eating, He tried to sit up, to see how he felt. Damien rushed up and helped him, and soon, he was reclining against a pile of pillows. He smiled. "Much Better." He said with a sigh.

"I gotta talk to yuh, Mick." Damien said using the appellation he gave his cousin when he was dead serious. "I discovered something big about myself over the last couple months since I came home. You getting sick just made me want to shout it out to the whole world." He said as he took Michael's hand.

"What?" Michael asked as he squeezed Damien's hand reassuringly. "If you want to go into nursing, I'll be there for you." He said smiling.

"I love you, Mick." Damien said as he took Michael's hand and put it to his heart. "You dying, almost lost me my other half." He said softly. "I told mom and dad, and your mom and dad, and they're all still trying to deal with it. But I had to tell you, too." He said as he sat there holding the other's hand.

"I don't know how long I've been waiting for you to tell me those words." Michael whispered. "I've felt that way about you for my whole life." He muttered. "If you didn't tell me by now, I would've broken down myself and told you that." He added smiling with a sparkle in his eyes.

They both smiled as they looked at each other. Michael touched the mask on his face.

"I can't kiss you through that, though." He said grinning.

"I'm afraid you can't kiss me, period. I have to keep this on, until you're not contagious anymore. We don't know how the plague spreads—"

"Septisemic, bubonic, or mnemonic?" Michael asked seriously.

"Bubonic." Damien said softly.

"Yeah. You're right. We don't know how that one spreads. Oh well. That means more love later." He muttered.

Damien laughed as he looked down at Michael's pants and saw a growing bulge.

"You don't know how glad I am that I am alive." He muttered. "Looks like Michael the second is glad too." He said as he patted his cock.

The place was full of hugs, kisses, tears, and cries of I love you, and I'm glad you're alive. Everyone was baffled that he had gotten this disease, and wondering how the hell it had happened. The doctor reassured them that the lump in Michael's armpit would go away within the week. That wasn't cancer, it was just swollen lymph nodes. That would eventually go away. She said that the black spots on his body, or Lenticulae, would go away as well over time. Michael's face cleared up quite fast, even before he was awakened out of his coma. He didn't have to get anything amputated, and for that he was glad. He and his family were still wondering how such a small animal could kill with just one bite. They wondered how in the world bacteria could make a life fall apart like that.

"Hey." Damien said as he knocked on Michael's door. "Where are all the grown ass folk?" he asked.

"They all went to get food for us to eat." Michael said as he lay on his bed relaxing.

They had gotten home two hours ago, and Damien had been in his room, doing some work. He walked into the room, and lay down beside his cousin. He kissed the top of Michael's head and smiled.

"I love you, mick." He said as he stroked his hair.

"I love you too, Damien." Michael said as he stroked the little bit of hair that was growing back on the soldier's head.

Just as Michael and Damien were about to kiss, the whole family burst in with food. Michael brushed it off as if it was no big deal, and they both went to the main kitchen and joined the rest of the family for dinner.

"How's the food?" asked Jimmy who joined them last.

"Try some of this pizza. I got vegetarian, and I got sausage, and..." Craig started naming off the different kinds of pizza they had. It was obvious that the boys weren't paying attention.

"Did you know the peperoni is the ass of a chicken?" Molly asked laughing.

"So is the sausage." Craig said as he took a huge bite of sausage and mushroom pizza.

After dinner, Damien offered to take Michael for a drive. The boys left without telling anyone where they were going. Michael himself thought they were just going for an innocent drive. He was all too surprised when they arrived at the most beautiful place. It was a very nice clearing that showed the setting sun perfectly. He smiled as he turned off the engine. He sighed. Michael didn't need to ask what they were doing there.

"How are you feeling?" Damien asked looking Michael over.

"I'm good. I feel really lucky that I got out of that one alive." He muttered. "How are you?"

"Really stupid." Damien said smiling. "I should've just told you that I really loved you. I didn't need to go all the way to the army just to try and get myself killed." He muttered as he reached out and took Michael's hand.

"Thanks for staying with me until I woke up." Michael said as he squeezed Damien.

"I love you, Mick. I'd do it again, even if you didn't wake up." He said as he pulled Michael across the space between the two seats and into his arms. They were both glad it wasn't a stick shift.

They both looked into the other's eyes. It was here, as the stars shined in, that the couple shared their first kiss.

Michael felt Damien's big hand lifting his chin to look into his eyes. He smiled at the strong soldier as Damien gently loomed closer. He was unsure, and so was Michael. But they were sure about one thing.

"I love you, Michael." Damien whispered.

"I love you too, Damien." Michael whispered in a soft tremble.

Their lips met and they stared into each other's eyes as they sat there, connected by the kiss.

"I love you." Damien said as he began to kiss Michael everywhere. Michael moaned loudly as Damien trailed kisses on his neck, and on his face. He was gasping for breath. Damien reverently kissed Michael's temples, and smiled.

"Let me do that to you." Michael pleaded.

"You just got better." Damien said softly. "If you wanna do that to me tomorrow, sure. But today it's all about you." He said softly. "I can't even begin to fathom how fucking terrible life would've been without you. I got a second chance, Mick." He said as he kissed Michael's lips. "This is it. I'm not gonna let you go for anything." He said softly. "No more goofing around."

"Oh, Damien, I don't know what to say." Michael muttered as he lay there in Damien's arms.

"I've never done this before." Damien muttered.

"Really? I thought for sure you had." Michael muttered. "I thought you had girls after you constantly. I thought during the army..."

"I never once got anything that I wanted in the army." He said as he gently kissed Michael's neck. "I want to take you home." He whispered. "I want to do this right, Mick. I want to make love to you." He whispered.

"Oh, Damien!" Michael gasped.

"But, unfortunately, we can't do that at home." He said as he kissed Michael tenderly. "So, we'll have to settle for a night at the Red Lion." He said as he looked into his cousin's eyes.

"But won't they know exactly why we're there?" Michael asked grinning.

"Does it matter?" Damien asked as he ran his fingers through his cousin's hair.

"That feels so good." Michael moaned as he trembled.

For the longest time, the couple sat in the car, kissing, and holding each other. Damien didn't want to stop. He couldn't stop. He really loved this boy. He was so handsome, and so delicious. Damien didn't want to miss a second with Michael.

Soon, though, it got dark, and the pair drove to where Damien had told Michael he had a reservation. They were situated in the room in half an hour. Damien closed the door, and locked it tight. He smiled as he took his suit case and put it on the floor. He started taking off his clothing, and so did Michael. He smiled at seeing the boy in front of him, fully undressed for the first time.

He laid Michael on the bed, and started rubbing rose oil on him. Michael moaned as he lay there letting the older boy do what he wanted. Soon, Damien had Michael in his mouth, and was sucking greedily.

"I love it." Michael moaned as he held Damien's head. There was soft love songs playing in the back ground. "You're really good at that, Damien!" Michael moaned. "Keep going." He moaned.

Damien hummed as he kept going, like his cousin had asked. He started kissing all over the boy's chest, and giving the boy's body hickies. Michael was trembling and moaning. He really loved the attention his cousin was giving him.

"Fuck! I should get sick more often!" he moaned.

"No, Michael. Not like that." Damien muttered as he came up and kissed him deeply.

"Damien! Oh, fuck. I'm so close. I really want to cum!" he moaned.

"I want you to." Damien said as he went back down and started suckling on Michael some more. Michael moaned as he started trembling more. Suddenly, Damien's mouth was filled with Michael's sweet release. Michael let out a moan as he pressed Damien's head deeper on his cock, and sprayed down the older boy's throat. He felt like it was never ending. He really loved this feeling as he exploded all over the place.

"Damien!" he moaned when he was done. "Damien." he gasped.

"I am going to love you all night long, Mick." Damien moaned as he came up and hugged his cousin. "I don't want to send you home without giving you what you rightfully deserve." He moaned as he kissed him again.

He went to a night stand, and dipped his hands in some oil. He gently put it all over his hard cock. He came slowly, and laid himself on Michael. He moaned as he guided himself to the boy.

"I promise I'll be gentle." Damien said as he lay there trying to sink gently into his cousin.

"I want to be close to you." Michael moaned softly. "Just do whatever it takes." He said as he felt Damien sink gently and smoothly into him.

Soon, the room was full of sighs, and a rhythmic movement as Damien and his cousin lay in the bed making love. Their hips moving, their tongues interacting, their moans of pleasure filling the air.

"I love you, Mick." Damien said as he moved gently in and out of his love. "I love you so fucking much. I don't know what I would do if anything happened to you." He moaned.

"I missed you, D." Michael said as he lay there moving with his cousin.

The boys moaned softly as they lay there kissing. The sounds of the couple making love filled the room as they lay there entwined with each other. They both lost track of how many times they climaxed with each other. They just knew this was the best time any of them had ever had.

"Oh, stay with me, Damien." Michael moaned as he gently kissed the older boy. "Stay with me." he moaned.

It was three in the morning when the couple finally fell asleep. They had a lot of life left ahead of them, and a lot of things left to do.

"We'd know if they lost their virginity." Jimmy said as he sat at the table. "There's just no doubt about it." He said as he took a bite of his egg.

"Oh, yeah?" Holly asked looking at him curiously. "And how is that?" she asked .

"They would have that glow in their faces." Karen said as she stood and went to get a couple strips of bacon.

"Why the hell do you think they left?" Craig asked as he wiped sweat off his brow.

"It was not for that. My boy knows better than to give into sex." Holly said as she too started blushing.

The door burst open, and Damien and Michael came walking in. There was nothing different about either of them. They just looked the same.

"I don't wanna know." Craig said as he got up and put his dishes in the sink.

"You guys can take the guest house if you're really serious about this." Holly said softly.

"What are you guys talking about?" Damien asked grinning.

"Where were you guys?" asked Jimmy softly.

"We drove down to—" Damien explained that the pair of them had gone out of town to get some food for the family. The bags were all out in the living room. When the family went to investigate, they actually found food there.

"So you mean, you didn't take his virginity?" Craig asked softly.

"I don't really feel good about answering that." Damien said softly as he hung his head.

"You guys should really take the guest house if you're going to be serious." Muttered Holly as Jimmy and Craig both pretended to throw up.

"Whatever." Michael muttered softly. "It's all up to you." He said as he left to his room.

"I'm goin' to take a shower." Damien said as he left. They all waited until the tall boy was outside in the backyard.

Jimmy turned to Craig. He was blushing.

"They lost their virginity." He muttered.

"What makes you think that. They didn't look any different." Karen said as she fidgeted in her seat.

"Yeah..., they did." Jimmy said biting his lip. "They were glowing. Didn't you see the calmness in the boys' fac3es? They were glowing. If Michael and Damien sleep all day today, you know it was because they lost there..., well, they now have a sex life." He muttered.

"I'm gonna go watch the game." Craig muttered as he walked out of the kitchen.

The week after that, Damien and Michael had the guest house. The family was a tight nit close family. Otherwise the boys would've just gotten their own apartment. But the girls weren't ready to let go of the boys yet. Especially not when Damien had just returned from the war. It would take some getting used to, but the family would be fine with whatever the boys had going on. Holly really wanted to call Tina and tell he she was right. But she would tell her later. For whatever it was worth, the family was together. Damien was back, and Michael was happy again. They could live with that. They were all going to be fine.