It all really happened at almost the exact same time. The opening of the youth center, the release of Tony's newest book, and the television interview that Tony, Denise, and Dieter were scheduled for. They had been asked if they would agree to it, since the story was now public, and no longer needed to be hidden.
The four of them, Denise, Dieter, Tony, and Tom, all sat with the reporter and talked about the books, and their past for almost two hours. He asked all sorts of questions about everything, how Denise and Dieter even made it out alive, let alone sane, how Tony felt hearing the story and how he wrote such a gruesome novel about it. He asked everything. None of them held back at all either, they told the entire truth about everything, leaving next to nothing out. It was a really good interview.
The youth center was almost two weeks later in opening than had originally been planned, due to unforeseen circumstances that were unfortunately no ones fault, but everyone was okay by that. They had an excellent grand opening celebration. There were so many local government officials and celebrities there that it was amazing that they still fit almost a hundred children in there. The kids were mostly boys, but there were quite a few girls there as well, they all ranged in age from about eight years old, right up to about sixteen years old. It was an excellent turnout, and they procured many more donations yet.
About an hour into the festivities, the mayor got up on the podium that had been erected. There was a local television crew there to record the special events, so they got right up there. Denise and Dieter were also called up, and they pulled Tony with them, who of course held onto Tom for dear life, so all four were pretty much dragged up to the podium.
“May I have everyones attention please.” The mayor requested, and a few moments later the entire crowd quietened down so that he could speak. “Thank you very much. I am happy to be here today, and for the many of you that probably have no idea who I am, I am Mayor Quincy, I supposedly run this town. It is my pleasure to have been invited here today for the grand opening of this absolutely amazing youth center that I wish I could have built for all the youth in this city to enjoy, but sadly our funding these days is not what you would call very nice. Unfortunately I was not able to help you kids like I wanted to, and we have been trying to find ways to keep you guys off the streets, but fortunately we have Denise and Dieter Serghei here to do it for me.”
“They were able to do with their business contacts what I was unable to do for my city. When the application was unceremoniously put on my desk by their people, telling me that I pretty much had to sign it to approve it, or else, I read it over and signed it instantly, because I knew that this would be for the better of our fine city. It has always been my goal to try and keep you kids off the street, give you something fun to do, to keep you out of trouble. I know better than most what it is like for you guys. I grew up in the very same place you did, in fact only two blocks from here. It is now a grocery store, but back then it was a dump of an apartment building. We had five times more rats than people living there, and the cockroaches were simply uncountable.”
“Sadly I got into trouble when I was ten, I stole a car, and got caught drinking and smoking pot in the stolen car. I was only ten, how horrible is that. My parents couldn't do anything about me though, they both worked poor jobs just to keep what little food on the table that they could, so I roamed the streets night and day. When I was caught, I was sent straight to juvie, where sadly I think I learned more about how to live on the streets than I already knew. I found out things that no ten year old should know. I was also far too small to defend myself in that place, and the guards were of little help, I was beaten and worse in there for six whole months. When I got out, it was right back onto the streets for me, and with my newfound knowledge, I was even better at dodging everything.”
“It was when I was twelve that the unthinkable happened. My parents were both murdered because of something that I had gotten into. They were killed because I backed out at the last minute, I chickened out, and to pay me back, no, they didn't just kill me, they took my parents instead. All this because I was just some punk kid who pretty much had nothing better to do than do what he wanted, when he wanted to. The police were really no help, they arrested and imprisoned the kids who did it, and by the way, the three kids who murdered my parents were only fourteen, but the cops did nothing to help me. Even social services just stuck me in a home that was not equipped to handle me. I ended back in juvie not even a month later. I was caught drinking again, but this time I was still in the liquor store that I had broken into to get it. I just sat in the middle of the floor, crying my eyes out, attempting to drown my sorrows in a 26er of tequila. All this because I was some punk kid.”
“This is all in the public records, I never hid where I came from, what I had to do to get to where I am today. It took a lot of long hard years to overcome what had happened, lots of therapy, lots of makeup work to catch up in school, because I was three grades behind by then, I was almost a lost cause. It was through the kindness of others that I made it, and made something of myself. It is through the kindness of Dieter and Denise that many of you may be able to maybe bypass some of the hell that I had to go through, and maybe, just maybe you will all become far better than I have become. Yes, I am the mayor of the city, yes, I have done pretty good for myself, but I came from the worst possible beginnings, and trust me, if I can do it, so can anyone, because there was a time that I wanted it all to end, and in fact, it almost did. I am told that this facility will have hot food for those that need it, they will have warm clothes for those who need it, they have facilities here for you to play and workout, and they even have people that you can talk to.”
“Now everyone thinks that shrinks are bad, but trust me, they're not. Sometimes it's just really nice to talk to someone who understands and won't judge. Give it a try if you have any problems. If you're gay or bi, a bed wetter, a victim of bullying, in trouble with the law, talk to them, they can help. Sometimes as adults we forget what it was like to be a kid, but not me, I remember very vividly what it was like, and that is why I am so happy to see this place here for you guys. If something like this had have been available to me, maybe none of my past would have happened. I would have had some good food and warm clothes, a nice place to play and work out my frustrations. Now, because of our poor funding status right now, I was unable to do as much as I wanted in order to help, but I have done what I could. I have suspended the property taxes for at least the next ten years, so that will at least help the place run a little more cost effective. I congratulate all you children out there on having such a nice caring place to come to, to have fun, burn off all that excess energy, and most of all get what you need to help you survive. Thanks for taking the time to listen to me.” The mayor said and then stepped down. Dieter stepped up.
“Thank you very much Mayor Quincy. Your story is the very reason that we wanted to start this center, because your story is sadly all too common. I know that our son almost became a street kid too, even though we were quite well off. We were unable to cope with him, we didn't understand him, and he was fast on the track to becoming a bully, or worse. It is ironic though that he ended up meeting a friend who ended up turning him around, and then met a wonderful boy who quickly became his boyfriend, and then the two of them ended up helping us.”
“You see, we were not very good parents, but we did not know any better, because our childhood was probably even worse than the Mayors was, and that tells you all a lot. Some of you may have read the book, some of you may have already heard the story, and we have decided that we no longer wish to hide who we really are. My wife and I were both orphans, we lived in an orphanage that would have made hell look like a nice cozy place to live. There we were beaten and raped almost daily, we were never potty trained and were made to mess and wet our pants, and then beaten for being disgusting pigs. It was all we knew, we grew up in that hole, as best we can tell, at least sixteen years. It was our wonderful son and his boyfriend that have helped us out of the depression that that caused us, they broke our shells wide open, and then healed us, and it is directly because of them and their friends that we found the courage to quit our high paying jobs and create this place.”
“So trust me, if we can deal with all that we have, have a gay son, and be bed wetters ourselves, we can certainly help you to understand that you are not alone, that your problems are not the worst that there is. I certainly hope that there is not one single person in this room, or this city, that has a story that is as bad as ours is. If we could make it as far as we have, then I can guarantee that each and every child in this city has just as much opportunity to do so.” Dieter said and then stepped down.
The entire crowd was silent. Many of them had heard the story, some had read it, the children there were just stunned, because they knew that there were adults who understood them. Between the mayors story of his childhood, and what he went through on the streets, and then Denise and Dieter's story of their childhood and all that they had done, it really helped to boost the kids' morale. Denise waited a few moments, and then she stepped up on the podium.
“Many of you seem shocked to have heard the stories that we have gone through. Some of you have gone through bad, some of you have gone through worse than others. Maybe some of you have been fortunately spared of all of this, to you, you are truly blessed. To all you kids out there, you are welcome to come and visit us at any time. We will try and be open as much as possible to help you have a safe place to come and play, to come and work out your frustrations, to just be kids, because that is just what you should be. Let the adults worry about the gross grownup stuff, that is their job after all, you guys just need to come here and have some fun. Remember as well, that if you have a problem, and you want to talk to someone about it, someone who will understand and listen and never judge you, then remember to come and see us here. I personally would love to sit and talk with any one of you. Now, as much as I hated to have to burden everyone with all that unpleasantness, it was necessary so that you all knew where we were coming from, but now that is over, and this is supposed to be a party. I see roughly a tonne of food over there, and we are not keeping any of it, so please, go eat yourselves silly, play all the games, and please, HAVE FUN.” Denise said, the shortest speech of the evening, and she got applause at that.
For the next two hours there were hundreds of people in and out all night, playing games, mingling, trying out the equipment, looking around, and of course eating. Apparently though the children that did not always have quite enough to eat took Denise's last part about eating yourselves silly to heart, because they did, and by the end of the night, there was not even a crumb of food left for the mice, which thankfully there should not be any at all.
“Well, I think that the night went really well, how about you boys?” Denise asked on their way home after the grand opening festivities were over. It was almost eleven.
“It went really well. A whole bunch of kids talked to me and Tom tonight, asking us if we were really gay, and that you guys would really understand that type of thing. We of course told them that that was not the only things that you guys were capable of understanding. One boy there was wearing diapers as well, and we told him that we all understood about that, and another boy noticed that we were wearing as well, so we told him all about that as well, and he seemed happy too. Everyone seemed to be genuinely happy to have a cool place to go to hang out that was safe from the streets, somewhere that they could go when they were bored, which sounded like a lot of the time. Some of the kids are truly frightened of going there at night though, which would be the best times for them, because that is when their parents are working, so I think that you guys should work out some type of bus or cab system to get kids too and from the center.” Tony suggested.
“Yeah, it went great, the kids sure seem happy that they have a place to go to now, but Tony is right, it certainly is not safe out there at night for them, so something like that would be a good idea.” Tom added.
“It's a really good idea, and we too heard some of the same things, so I think that we might just do something about it. We will talk to the local cab companies and see what we can work out with them, but it might just be cheaper in the long run to buy our own van and have one of the hired hands drive when needed. We will have a lot to learn in the next little while, so we will have to all learn and grow as we go. The problem is of course that this whole venture is mostly a night time thing, so that means that we will not always be home at nights any more.” Dieter said.
“That's okay really, because we will come with you guys some nights, and some nights you will be home. It really won't be all that much different than when you guys were working, you were hardly ever home at all, now it is not going to be every day.”
“Good point, never thought of it that way. We would appreciate all your help that you care to give, and I am certain that the kids will appreciate it as well.” Denise smiled warmly, but the boys couldn't really see it.
When they got home, they all went and got ready for bed, and without barely getting kisses goodnight, they all passed right out.
All the friends and their families had of course been at the party, and they were all mingling about as well, rubbing elbows with all the influential people there, and a good few of the boys found that they were the most popular people there. AJ and JJ were even asked to give their autographs by a few of the kids there. It was quite embarrassing they thought, but then, they really should have known it would happen eventually, they were quite famous in their sport, even if they really didn't want to admit it.
“So how is the youth center going since it opened?” JJ asked Tony a couple weeks later, as they were all sitting around in the hot tub after a good strenuous workout.
“It's going really well actually. You should see how many kids they get there every night. There are sometimes as many as fifty kids there, and all of them need food, and they all talk to whomever is there, even us. We have helped out lots, sometimes cooking, sometimes just sitting and talking to some kids, and we play lots with them as well. Mom and dad say that we have been a lot of help to the kids.” Tony said proudly.
“That's really good to hear. I think that maybe we'll come tonight to help out as well, seeing as how we have hardly been there to help out. How are the donations coming along?” AJ asked.
“It's not a problem really, you don't all have to come, there is usually lots of help there anyways, but if you want to, I'm sure that there is always something to do. The community donations are doing pretty good, but what you guys have been able to get from the school is just amazing. I swear that you guys just getting the students on board could help us out alone. At least this way we have tonnes of stuff to keep us going for a long time.” Tony smiled. AJ and JJ, and Matt and Orin had been able to start rather large donation drives for the cause, and because of their popularity, they always went really well. They had tonnes of donations of food, clothes, money, and even toys and games. It was really great.
“That's really good to hear as well. I guess that is one bonus of being popular at school, you can get the other students to do almost anything. Man, I never ever thought in my wildest dreams that we would be part of the popular crowd, the ones that everyone wants to hang out with. I mean, I am such a nerd at heart.” AJ grinned.
“Yes, but you're my nerd, and we are popular, no doubt about it, sadly. Glad we don't get mobbed every day at school though, that would be horrible.” JJ smiled warmly, grabbing AJ in for a nice sideways hug.
it would.” They all had to agree.
Before they all knew it, and really before they were all ready for it, Christmas was upon them. Their last day in school had been today, and they were all happy to be out of school for almost two weeks, it would be a nice break.
All the boys were getting tired, and they knew it. They were all still working very hard in their swimming and working out, they were all very busy with their school work, the school swim team and football team still had their twice weekly practices, and a good many of them donated at least one night a week at the youth center to help out. Having the break would be very nice, and they all vowed, that other than working at the youth center, they were doing nothing else at all.
A few weeks ago all the children that regularly visited the youth center were given a paper and a pen and told to put their names on it and at least five things that they would like for Christmas, as well they were to put their clothing and shoe sizes down. All the children knew that there was no way that they would get everything on their Christmas wish lists, and none of them put anything too terribly fancy on them, but they all handed in a good list. The boys had went about this chore of shopping for everything that the kids wanted or needed, so the Saturday after they all got out of school, AJ, JJ, TJ, Ricky, Tom, Tony, and Max went shopping. Max had offered to go and transport everything, and he could drive the boys everywhere as well. They were gifted with the youth centers bank card to do with as they wished, because there would be more than enough money to buy all the kids everything on their lists, and then some.
“So, where to first?” Tony asked the guys.
“I say we go and see Sean first and get shoes for everyone, and you now that he will give a damn good deal to us. Even though hardly any of the kids put shoes on their lists, I think that they should all get new ones, most of them have taped up shoes.” AJ offered.
“Good idea. Nothing fancy though, we don't want some poor kid killed because of high end shoes. That and we don't have tons of money to spend. I think that we should get them each a new outfit and a toy from their lists.” Tony said.
“That was sorta what I was thinking as well, and if what we are buying that kid for a toy is not that expensive, then we can get them two of something on their list as well.” AJ smiled.
So that was where Max took them, to their favorite shoe store, the only one in their opinions at any rate.
“Hi guys, what do I owe the pleasure of seeing you all today?” Sean smiled when he saw six of his most favorite customers.
“We need to buy about a hundred pairs of shoes for the youth group. We'll have to get the few girls shoes at a different store though, but we have almost a hundred boys to buy shoes for.” Tom answered.
“Actually, you might not need to. I decided to quietly carry a few different styles of girly type shoes for the boys who like to dress up, nice and sensible, not very expensive, because they are mostly for play.” Sean grinned.
“Besides, you wanted some for yourself, right?” AJ grinned.
“Of course honey, why else.” Sean grinned right back.
“So, this is for a charitable cause, for the youth group that my parents now run, what kind of deals would you be willing to give for that cause?” Tony asked.
“Depending upon the style and the markup, I would say an average of fifty percent off, but could be more or less, but don't worry, we will work something out for you guys. Your word of mouth advertising for my store to all the gay boys in town sure has helped business, and I have not made much for charitable donations yet, so this just might cover it.” Sean smiled at the boys.
“Thanks Sean. I have our receipt book with me, so the receipt will need to clearly show the normal retail price and the discounted price, and then I can write you a tax receipt.”
“Not a problem. Now, because you are going to be looking for under privileged children, you probably don't want to go to anything too terribly fancy or expensive, but you don't want crap either that will wear out, not that I carry that stuff, I let Wal-Mart carry that, so I suggest this line here. I have them in dozens of colors, and I have virtually every size available. For the girls, I even have them in pink, baby blue, my favorite one, and purple. As always just have a look around though, and just pile them up by the counter as you find what you want.” Sean offered. He showed them a nice simple shoe, but they were good leather shoes with a good durable sole, and they looked like they had really good arch support. They talked about it for a minute, and then just decided to get all the kids these ones. So going through their size charts, they got each kid the ones that they would need, but just slightly large, to account for growth.
“Well Sean, I think that this is all that we will be taking with us today, at least for the center, but we all found at least one pair of something else as well, but those will go on separate receipts.” Tony smiled.
“Okay, I started ringing them in already as you guys started piling them up, so this should only take me a few minutes.” Sean said. He worked quickly to work it all out, and then came up with the final total. He gave them fifty five percent off, so they were a damn good deal.
“That's awesome Sean, thanks so much. The kids will certainly appreciate it. We better get going, we have lots more stops to make.” Tony said.
“You're very welcome, just remember to come and see me every so often, I need to see you guys every so often to remind me just how gorgeous you all are.”
“It'll never happen, I told you once, and I'll tell you again, you couldn't handle us.” JJ grinned.
“Ain't that the truth. Bye guys.”
They all waved and headed out.
“Interesting man, a little on the flamboyant side, isn't he?” Max chuckled as they were loading the shoes into the back of the truck. Thankfully the canopy was on the truck today.
“Yes he is, he's hilarious too. It's mostly just an act for us though, and probably a few others who are comfortable with it. He toned it down quite a bit today because you were with us though. Normally he hits on us like you wouldn't believe.” AJ grinned wickedly.
“I don't even doubt it. So, where to next?”
“To our clothing store I think.” JJ said, and they all agreed.
“Hi guys, glad to see you again. Sean just called and said that you would probably be here soon, and he told me all about what you are doing. You can have anything you want at cost, and because it's all for kids, there won't even be any tax, so go ahead and pick out what you want.”
“Oh, thanks Ewan, that's awesome.” Tony said.
So without further ado, they all went in search of nice clothing that was good and durable. They got each boy a couple good pairs of underwear, just some nice briefs, nothing fancy, but nice and durable, as well they got each kid a pack of good white socks. Next came a shirt and a pair of pants for each boy. Again, nice things, durable and comfortable, but not terribly expensive. It took them just as long here as it had taken at the shoe store, which was a little over an hour and a half. Finally they went up to the front to pay for the large mound of clothes, and Ewan had also started ringing things up as the boys piled the stuff up, so within a few minutes he had it all rung up.
“Thanks very much Ewan, here is your tax receipt.” Tony said after Ewan had handed over the receipt with all the information on it.
“No, thank you very much. I pride myself on how much I try and help the community, and this is a good donation to make, so I am happy to do it. You make sure to come and see me at any time that you need to do this, and from now on, any clothing that I have that happens to come to me damaged, or that does not sell, I will send to you guys instead of the thrift store. You all have a good day.”
“Thank you very much, and of course, where else would we shop!”
Their next stop was a girls clothing store, because even though Ewan carried some stuff that was girlish, for the girly gay boys, he did not have quite what they needed. They picked out almost all the exact same things for the girls, and while the owner of that store did not give them as good a deal, they still got a pretty good deal. It did take Max explaining that it was Tony that was doing all the financial work, and that he was to be listened to, or else. The owner did not care to question it, because he could tell that Max was more than a little serious.
Next they headed to a local hobby store that they had heard about, apparently the owners were gay, so they were an obvious choice for the boys to go to. Hobby stores were also a great place to get lots of really cool things for kids, and interestingly enough, many of the kids chose things that they would be able to get there quite easily.
“Hi, my name is Tony, my parents own and operate the new youth center downtown, and we are doing some Christmas shopping for all the kids that go there, so that they have a nice Christmas. What I would like to know is, what kind of deals could we get, we will be offering a tax receipt so that you can write off anything that you donate?”
“Hi Tony, I recognize your face from the grand opening, I was there, and I'm glad that you came to see us. My partner and I were very happy to see what you and your parents and your boyfriend are doing for the kids. We were one of the ones to donate some money, but that was a personal check. I would be happy to offer you an excellent discount on anything that you care to purchase for the kids. Let's say five percent above cost!”
“That sounds great, and thanks for the donation. It is with all those generous donations that we are able to do this for the kids. We will pile anything that we find by the cash desk then if that is all right with you?”
“That sounds great, set them by the second one, that way it leaves the first one open still.”
So, for the next two hours the boys and Max all toured the store, looking at all the neat things that they had there. They were able to find nearly half of the items that they wanted to get, and because of the generous offer that the owner had made, they were able to get almost every child one of something from there, so they would still be able to get one other small gift. When they went up to the cash desk, the owner had nearly everything rung in already as well, so he added the last few items to the total, and then gave the price. Amazingly enough, this was their cheapest stop so far, and they had gotten a lot of stuff.
Their final stop they decided would be the local Wal-Mart, where they could get the last remaining gifts, wrapping paper to wrap it all, and tape, tags, and bows as well to make it all look nice. This was by far their most expensive stop, even though they had far less than they had from any previous place, but the manager was not willing to give them too terribly good a deal on anything, in fact he really didn't give them much at all, so they were not even given a tax receipt.
By the time that they were all finished with their shopping spree, they had spent many hours, many thousands of dollars, but had saved about the same, and they were all very tired. They took it all back to AJ's place, because they would all wrap and tag it all there, so that the kids who were to receive the gifts did not see any of them. That would wait for the next day though.
The boys had of course all done their Christmas shopping for their boyfriends and their families previously, so they did not have to worry about that any at all. Their trees were already lit up at home, and their presents were all already under their trees.
It actually took two nearly full days for them all to wrap all the gifts, even with Max and Alice helping whenever they could. Neither one was really working, except Alice did do a couple pickup shifts, and Max did have a few things to take care of, so they were mostly free. There was a hell of a pile of wrapped presents though for all the boys and girls, and it would take a lot of work to take them to the youth center, but they were all happy to do it.
The night before Christmas, and all through the youth center, it was chaos. All the kids who normally came, were told to be there for six o'clock with their families, that dinner would be served, and then they would have a huge Christmas party, with gifts. All the kids were understandably excited by this. They knew that they would all be getting at least one of the things that they had wanted, but they could all clearly see the huge pile of gifts, and it looked like a lot more presents there than there were kids to accept them. It never really dawned on any of the kids that maybe they were getting more than one gift, and they were all good enough to not peek.
Nearly the whole of their gang was there nearly all day setting up the place and cooking the huge turkey dinner that they were serving to all the kids. There were fifteen absolutely huge turkeys, a couple hundred pounds of potatoes, five different types of vegetables, an absolutely massive pot of homemade cranberry sauce, a couple massive fruit salads, with plenty of whipped cream in one of them, the other was without, and of course at least a dozen of six different pies. The entire block smelled the delicious cooking, and it was making them all hungry.
“Well everyone, it's Christmas time, it is a time to be with your families, a time to be thankful for all that we do have, as meager as it sometimes is. It is a time of giving and receiving. And that is why we are happy to be here this year for all of you. We know how hard it is to sometimes have nothing, how hard it is to sometimes wonder where your next meal is going to come from. Because we know all this, we have made all this for you, because Christmas deserves a great feast fit for kings. Tonight, you are all kings and queens. Please join us in saying thanks to whomever it is that you say thanks to. Let us bow our heads in silence for a moment.” Dieter called out after everyone had been seated.
Denise and Dieter were not at all religious, many of their current group were also not so, but they all had something to be thankful for, and although most of the people silently thanked Denise and Dieter this year, none of them said it.
“Now, let's see if we can do this in some sort of an order, and don't worry, there is tonnes of food, almost literally I think, so don't worry, there's more than enough for everyone. We will go one table at a time, so as I call your table up, please go and get some dinner. Enjoy.” Dieter called out.
One by one each table went up and got their food. All the plates were nice and full, and the kids were licking their chops, just imagining how good it would taste, because it sure did smell good. The boys stayed back in the kitchen, and as soon as they saw something empty, they went and refilled it with fresh food. They were the last to get their dinners, and by the time they got their food, more than a few of the people in there had already started going for seconds.
By the time that everyone had had their fill, there were barely any crumbs left, it was almost all eaten up. More than a few buttons also looked as if they were in danger of exploding and causing grievous bodily harm though.
“Now, of course Santa could not be with us this evening, he's more than a little bit busy tonight, you understand, so we have agreed to step in and hand out all the gifts for you boys and girls. Just stay sitting at your tables, and as your name is called, please come up and accept your gift. You will also notice that there have been trash bags hung at each end of your tables, so please put any garbage into those, please and thanks.” Denise said this time. The cheer that erupted then almost blew the roof off.
It took almost two hours to hand out all the gifts, and all the kids were very excited, and it showed greatly. More than a few parents thanked Denise and Dieter for all that they have done for their children. Almost every one of the kids gave each of them a huge hug, most of them had tears in their eyes.
“Well everyone, it has been a long day, and even though it is early closing tonight, I think that it is time for everyone to be heading home. I am very pleased to see how happy you are with the gifts that the boys picked out for you all, use them well.” Dieter said in closing for the night.
Everyone said their good nights, and before too long, they were left alone. There was still some cleanup to be done, so they took care of that quickly, and then they all headed home, Denise and Dieter driving the boys to their homes to be with their families.
The youth center operated for many many years, Denise and Dieter had made a place that the kids truly wanted to be. They were pleased to hear that the youth crime and school dropout rates steadily declined over the next few years, and that many more of those kids graduated and went on to many bigger and better things. Many of the kids that were helped there, years later, congratulated them on what they had done for the kids, and how many children's lives were saved. It was a great success story.
The next day was of course Christmas day, and once again, JJ's family came and spent it AJ's place with the others. Even Ricky's mom was there for a good portion of the day. She had come a long way in her healing, and was now very caring towards her son, but they both still agreed that he was home now, and her home was no longer his. Everyone exchanged their gifts with each other, mostly just small things that each of them wanted or needed, but not terribly much. What could you buy for those who had everything that they ever needed already. The girls did get spoiled though, their haul of toys was almost astonishing.
And then there was dinner. AJ and JJ worked tirelessly in the kitchen much of the day, preparing the sumptuous meal that they would all thoroughly enjoy, and enjoy they did.
“Well you two, I do believe that you may have outdone yourselves. Dinner was amazing, thanks so much.” Sarah commented for them all.
“Thanks, it was all our pleasure, we're just glad that you enjoyed it.” JJ smiled warmly.
The rest of the day they sat around and enjoyed spending their time together, just talking and laughing.
The next few months seemed to just fly by for all the boys, with nothing much seeming to happen. Amazing since they all seemed to collect trouble and interesting happenings. Really though it was just the same old things happening all over. They swam lots, had many meets, they played lots, had many weekend parties with their friends, and they just all had as much fun as possible.
Jim was pushing the boys even harder now than he had ever pushed them. They were now in the home stretch for the Olympics. They had the national finals to contend with first to weed out the non Olympians, and then it was straight to the Olympics. Jim was absolutely certain that each and every one of them would take home more than a few medals. He knew that AJ was going to take gold in diving, and then silver was going to be a hell of a tossup between Orin, JJ, and Ricky.
Swimming was another big one, he knew that his team was virtually unstoppable, and that there was not a snowballs chance in hell that another team in the world was going to touch them. Everyone was saying that the Chinese team would be tough to beat, that they had their strongest team ever as well, but Jim had some inside information from people that had seen their teams in action. Yes they were strong, but not strong enough, and they didn't work as a team. The Russians were another strong team, and while their teamwork was good, their skills were still lacking. No, Jim knew without a shadow of a doubt that his team was going to be taking almost all the medals.
All the boys had chosen their swimming events, they didn't want to all go out for the same races, and they broke up into groups of three for each race, all placing themselves where their strengths were, so that Jim knew which one of them was going to take which medal.
The national finals were in only one week, and given that it was such an absolutely huge event, and an Olympic deciding event, they had to be there four days before for registration and mandatory drug testing. Each and every team member was screened three times, using three different tests, to make absolutely certain that everyone was performing naturally. It would also take that long just to organize everyone.
Even though he had tried, months in advance even, Jim was unable to get them enough rooms for them all to share with their couples, so there ended up being two couples to each room, but at least they were queen size beds.
The night before their departure, each and every one of the boys was physically ill. They were all used to the stress of a large event, but none of them were ready for this. Not one of the boys ate a thing the entire day, and they all threw up what little contents their stomachs had in them, sometimes repeatedly. They all knew the reasons of course, so were not worried about it. Sarah was there that night giving each boy a shot of motion sickness medication, just to make certain that they all fared well throughout the flight.
Everyone met at AJ's the morning that they were to depart, all their families were there to see them off as well. The boys did look far more calm, cool, and collect though this morning, although not one of them could even think about food. Even though Nate and TJ were not going to be competing this time, because it was an Olympic deciding event, and they were too young for that, they too were going. This was their chance to see what it would be like when it was their turn in four years, if they chose to go for it.
“Well everyone, this is it, we have to get going. Thanks all for being here to wish our team your best of luck and love, but we don't need luck, we have the best swimmers and divers in the world, how can we fail.” Jim said happily
“Good luck.” All the families said at the same time.
“Thanks.” All the boys said back, and then with that, they all hopped into the limo that Jim had ordered for the occasion, to drive them all to the airport. The thing was massive, a large converted SUV, and they all fit in comfort.
The trip there, and then to the city where the finals were being held, was long and boring, and the boys all slept a good portion of the way. They arrived at their hotel only a few minutes late, and Jim signed them all in and got their room keys, and then they were off. They were only on the second floor, of a fifteen story tall building, and they managed to only be a few rooms apart from each other.
The entire hotel was booked solid for the national swim finals, and everywhere that they went over the next few days, while they were there, they recognized others that they had swam or dove against in the past, and everyone recognized them. Once again they found themselves signing autographs, much against their displeasure, but they never once showed it. There were many of the boy there that made comments along the lines that they had hoped that the boys had not entered, that way they would have had a hope in hell of scraping some sort of a victory. The boys all of course told them, graciously, that they had just as much chance as anyone did of winning, but they were usually scoffed at for those comments.
The few days prior to the meet were also extremely busy for all of them; for their mandatory drug tests, they had to give hair, urine, and blood, as well there were photo shoots, tours of the facilities that they were going to swim in, shown where their locker room was, because there were simply too many for one locker room to suffice. And of course they all tried to tour the city that they were in, see the sights, hit the tourist traps, all the normal stuff, because other than swimming, they tried to be as normal as possible.
Finally the first day of the competition was upon them, they were all now so used to the nerves that they had been feeling, that they hardly even noticed them any more. They were back to eating and drinking as per normal, which was good, because they desperately needed their energy.
“Well boys, this is it, we're here, and this is our last stop before gold in the Olympics. Remember, no matter what happens out there today and tomorrow, you are gold medal winners. We all know that you are going to take all the medals, but that doesn't mean that there isn't someone out there that could come out of the woodwork and surprise us. I doubt it, but you never know. Now go out there and do yourselves proud, because I couldn't possibly be more proud of you.” Jim shouted out to his boys. There was not a dry eye in the group, in fact there was not a dry eye for all that heard his little speech, because there had been a camera on them. They were getting used to that though, there had been cameras aimed at them the entire past few days, and it seemed as if they were being tailed at all times.
Did the boys do well over the next few days for the competition, you better believe it. We won't go through the whole thing again, because you have all heard it before, but suffice it to say, that they all won everything that Jim had expected them to. AJ took three golds, one silver, and even a bronze, JJ had two gold, one silver, and three bronze, and the others had much the same spread.
“Well boys, I believe I once told you that I would be happy to be the lead judge at the Olympics to hand your golds to you, and you have made the very final step to be doing just that. I know that as a judge I cannot show favoritism, but I have to admit, you boys and your excellent coach have surely shown the world what real teamwork is supposed to be, and I will be proud to hand each and every one of you your medals in three months time.” The head judge told them, he of course being one of the judges that had judged them the previous year as well.
“Coach Pompodoro, may we have a quick few minutes with you and your team?” A reporter asked.
“Sure, why not, you have been following us virtually every step we take for the past few days, so I'm not sure what else you could possibly want to know.” Jim grinned.
“Yes, we did follow you guys everywhere, and we apologize if we interrupted your fun, but we just wanted to know what world class swimmers and divers did in their off time.”
“Nah, we're getting sort of used to it now, unfortunately. Sure can't wait until this all dies down though. So what would you like to know?”
“I can understand, it sometimes gets just as maddening for us, but it is our job I guess. I must say though, we were very impressed with your team over the past few days, and even more so by the few days prior to that.”
“Well, you spout teamwork and sportsmanship all the time, telling others how if they had teams that worked together, they could get just as good, but I never thought that we would see what you meant. Your entire team goes out of their way to help each other, they truly love and trust each other. Of course their performance in the pool shows some of that, but observing you together outside of the pool really drove it home for us all.”
“Thanks, and while I would love to take credit for that, I cannot. The boys are all friends, plain and simple. They do love and trust each other just like brothers. All I can boast is showing them some of their moves, the rest was all them. Their drive, their determination, their steadfast loyalty to each other, that is all them.” Jim said seriously.
“While that may be somewhat true, the shaking of the heads behind you says differently. They love and trust you just as much, so I feel that that has a lot more to do with it than you realize.”
“Well, they're always trying to pawn off their talents on me, but we all know that that is just not true, they would have done well without me, I just helped them along.” Jim grinned.
“I'm more than a little certain that some of that is true. So boys, how does it feel to be headed to the Olympics in just a few short months, where you will get to go against the rest of the worlds top athletes?”
“Awesome.” They all said together.
“Well, if you boys do only half as well there as you did here, then I still expect you to dominate the entire event, and I can't wait to be there to interview you for that as well. I thank you for your time, and we will now leave you alone.” She said, and with that, they cut.
The rest of their time there was quick, and relatively painless, their flight home was long and boring, and the simply exhausted boys slept the entire way. The drive back in the limo was nearly as long and boring, but the boys did not sleep this time.
The welcoming party that greeted them when they arrived home was astounding. It appeared as if nearly half the town had shown up. All their families were there of course, all their friends and their families were there, many people that they recognized from the youth center were there, and then there were a umber of people there that none of them recognized. There were even police there with blockades to prevent a mob incident. The cheers that arose when they excited had to have been heard clear across town. Each and every one of them were congratulated on their wins, and they were even interviewed by the local news crew. It took nearly two hours before they were finally able to get home to get cleaned up and rested.
Once again the principal of the high school had the entire event playing on the big screen in the school auditorium, and this time there was not even enough room for everyone to sit. Every pub and bar in the entire city was also tuned into the same thing, and everyone watched with baited breath. Nothing like this had ever happened to their town, and while they all knew of the boys, and that they all lived in their city, they were not so much interested, normally, but now they were. Having true Olympians hail from your city was a wondrous thing. The schools roof was more than a few times nearly blown clear off its supports by the shouts and cheers, as each of their boys did superbly well.
The welcome home party had been arranged by none other than Denise, she had called in a few favors, had more than a few of the more important people in town there, had the reporters there, not that that took much convincing, and she even had the police there, everyone else just naturally followed.
A couple weekends later saw all the boys and all their friends having the biggest sleepover that they had ever had in AJ's poor house. They had to split up into two groups just to sleep, there was not nearly enough room for everyone to sit at any given time, it was pure and total enjoyable chaos the entire time. Cooking proved to be more than a bit of a challenge as well. Not only did they not have enough seats, but they didn't have enough dishes for everyone, so they had to go in two shifts. Denise donated the use of their youth center chef though for the event, saying that she and Dieter would be able to cook at the center for the weekend, no problem.
The next few months before the Olympics were to start also went by relatively swift and peacefully. They were in full on training mode, even though they were doing about the same as they had been doing for a long time, but they were now going almost every day. They did take a few days here and there to rest, because they all knew that even they could not keep going at that kind of pace. Usually those weekends they had a sleepover, so that they could have fun. Those sleepover weekends though were much smaller, either one or the other group.
Once again they had to be at the Olympics facilities a few days in advance, but this time it was a full week. The Olympics were being held in their home country for the first time in many years, and all the boys were excited to be in Greece. Whenever possible they did some sightseeing, but their time was being very annoyingly filled with all sorts of things. Once again they all went through mandatory drug testing, hair, blood, and urine again. Once again no matter where the boys were, they were stopped by all sorts of different people, welcoming them to the Olympics and wishing them luck. Their opposing teams looked at them as if to say, 'you're not so hot, we can beat you,' but most of them could not even speak the same language, and those who did were so broken that they could barely understand, so it was taken with a grain of salt. Not that it wouldn't have been anyways, even if they could have understood most of them.
Their swimming events were to be towards the end of the games, so they had almost a week to watch the other events that were taking place there. They enjoyed the gymnastics, and they all thought that it was too bad that Nate couldn't have been there, because he would have done almost as well as the gold medal winner there. They really enjoyed being there and watching all the different events, and while they had been almost as nervous coming to the Olympics as they had been the last National event, it was not so bad, and by now they were totally care free, just enjoying themselves.
Finally it was their turn to perform. As with many times in the past, it was swimming first, and then diving the following day. This was a nearly all day event though with as many competitors as there were there, but it was early on evident who was going to be the winners. When AJ, JJ, and Matt swam their breast stroke races and won, and JJ tailing their group, with the next closet competitor a half a body length behind, everyone knew that they were in trouble. A half a body length is a loss, no matter how you look at it, and the three of them were only within a fraction of a second between each other. The others all did just as well in swimming, and once again they dominated the event. A couple surprise bronzes ended up going to other countries, but good for them.
Diving though the following day was another story. There was not one other country that even took a medal in the entire event. Jim and his team cleaned up totally. They broke the moral of all the other teams so badly that some of them had actually dove quite poorly.
The cheers both at the massive aquatic center and at home, were so loud that many people feared for the safety of their hearing. The parents were crying full on by the last dive, they had never, ever seen or heard of such a feat, nor had anyone for that matter. Jim too was bawling his eyes out, and when his final dive of the day was complete, which also happened to be the last dive of the day, and the scores were posted, he and all the rest of his team that had been waiting in their area, came bursting out onto the pool deck and hugged JJ, who just so happened to be that last diver. Amazingly enough, their cheers and happy cries could actually be heard above the loud roar of the crowd. Then again a camera crew was standing right there, and their happy smiling faces, tear streaked as well, were being shown on every large screen in the entire place, sound included.
“You boys did it, I knew you would do it, I just knew it. I am so proud of all of you.” Jim cried out.
“We did it for you Jim.” AJ cried as well.
“Yeah, we did it for the best coach in the world.” JJ added, tears also streaming.
By the time they were finished with the exchange, the first of the reporters was there and surrounding them, and they all started asking their questions all at the same time. Jim eventually had to tell them that they had to go one at a time, or they would leave, and they would not talk at all. They did of course, and it took almost half an hour for them to answer all the various questions that were posed to them. They were the normal questions though, how does it feel, being the main one everyone wanted to know.
That night Jim took the boys all out to the biggest and fanciest restaurant that he could find, and they had a celebratory dinner that was hard to believe. It was some of the very best food that they had ever had in their lives. Jim of course raised his glass in a toast, and toasted the boys on their spectacular performance, telling them all that they did something that no one had ever seen or heard of being done before. The Olympics were not normally completely dominated by one team, but this year they were. The boys tried to play it all off of course, claiming that it was all him, but he would have none of it.
Two days later was the start of the awards ceremonies for the games, and all the boys were there with Jim, and if possible, they were actually more nervous than they had been before the games had even started. They knew for a fact that there was to be a special ceremony for them, because not one other swim team managed to get anything but a couple bronzes, and no one else placed anywhere in diving.
“Congratulations boys, I told you that I would be happy to be handing out your medals, I just never imagined that it would have been so many of them. For such an achievement, enjoy the special celebration that you will receive. It was my honor to judge you boys, and I hope that I get to see you all at the next Olympics.” Their judge admirer told them after he handed out the last of their medals.
“Thank you sir. You will see some of us, but not others, and there are already a couple new ones in training, so hopefully you will get to meet them when the time comes.” AJ said happily.
“Oh, I'm sorry to hear that I won't get to see some of you. Why would that be though?”
“Orin and I feel that we are ready to retire. We want to finish school, adopt our children, and let other deserving swimmers and divers get the chance to be up here.” Matt said.
“And JJ and I have not totally decided yet whether or not we will be there either. We may be, because we do not plan to quit swimming and diving, but time will tell. We will finish high school next year and then we go onto university, and then we too want to adopt. We will just have to wait and see. We both feel that we have enough years left in us to compete, but we still have to decide. Honestly though, how much better than this could it get, so maybe we too will bow out to let the next generation feel this too.” AJ said happily.
Matt and Orin had only sprung this on all of them the night before, that they had decided to retire. Everyone was behind them of course, and they all agreed that there was no higher high to be on than to be at the Olympics, well except winning all that they had. They were also not surprised by the decision, they had been hinting at it for months. AJ and JJ had said that they too may follow suit, but would probably compete for another couple years or so before they retired. One thing was for sure though, the money that they were all going to get from winning was going to pay off every penny of schooling that they could ever hope to need, and then some, especially with all their other monies that they already had.
The ceremony later that evening, for the awesome feat that they had pulled off, was very nice. They were all presented with a sizable check towards their futures, and they all received a massive standing ovation. All in all it was one of the highlights of all their lives.
Two days later when they arrived home, it was to a hero's welcome. It actually made the last welcome look like a small friendly gathering. It was held at the schools outdoor sports field, so that all the people could sit on the bleachers and stand and see all that was happening. The driver of their limo had already been told where to go, so he dropped the very famous swim and dive team off there. All their families were at the entrance to greet them and to explain what was happening, and then they were led out onto a podium that had been erected for them. For the next couple hours they were asked tonnes of questions, and they told everyone just how good it felt, so on and so forth. It was quite tiring really, after the excitement of the past few days for sure.
The following year in high school for AJ and JJ went extremely well, just as the previous had, and they both graduated with top marks and the highest honors that the school could give to them. They went to the local university and did just as well in their chosen fields, and two full years early, they both graduated there as well with masters degrees. Their university was paid in full by all their grants that they had earned, and all the money that they had had in their education savings plans, and all the money they earned from swimming was theirs in full. Money wise they would never have to worry about a thing.
Not even a full year after they finished school and started working, they adopted three children. They adopted two baby boys and a two year old girl, the boys were twins, all siblings, from Russia. It was actually easier for them to adopt from a country such as that, in comparison to the country that they lived in, but they didn't mind, because it got three children into a good loving home.
AJ and JJ did swim for another three years competitively, but then decided to retire. They had just had enough of the fame, and they were famous. They were both endorsed by more than a few companies, as were the others, to sell their products or services, and that also paid handsomely.
They both worked from home, so they were both stay at home dads, and they loved their children very much. AJ and JJ got married in a simple backyard ceremony when they were still in university, it was just family and friends there, so it was pretty packed, but it was beautiful.
The boys also kept their love of diapers, and although the kids knew about them, they were never encouraged to be like their dads, but that didn't matter, the kids loved them just as much.
The rest of the gang all did well for themselves too. They all stayed together with their partners for many long years as well. The diaper lovers stayed loving their diapers, the couples that got together when they thought that they were straight or bi, stayed together. They all adopted children as well, most of them opting to adopt children from other countries as well.
What started in just two scared young boys being pushed together by a wise old caring teacher, ended in something so much more than anyone could have ever dreamed possible. They loved long and happy together, all staying friends for life.