Chapter 8

“Good morning baby, how did you sleep last night?” JJ whispered as AJ had finally came awake.

“Wonderful with you holding me all night long. How long have you been awake and watching me sleep?”

“Only a few minutes, did you know you are the most beautiful boy on the planet?” JJ asked, giving AJ a nice tender kiss.

“That's impossible, you are.” AJ whispered and kissed right back.

“How do you feel this morning?”

“I have a headache and could use my pills I think, but otherwise fine.”

“You don't have a fever or anything, so that's good. I will go get your pills, gimme a min and I will be right back.”

“I'll get up now as well, no point in laying around all day, that's all I did half of yesterday and I hated it.” AJ said.

“I bet, I can't stand to just lay around either, although cuddled up to you makes it a lot easier.” JJ smiled warmly.

The boys climbed out of bed together, JJ having to steady AJ, as he was a little dizzy for a second, but not nearly so bad as it had been the day before. They went to the kitchen to find the pills. JJ grabbed them, and AJ grabbed a glass of milk to drink with them. Once AJ was medicated they grabbed some cereal and sat down to eat.

“What time does your mom normally get up?”

“Normally about nine, why?”

“And she leaves for work at noon right?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Just wondering, trying to figure out what we should do today?”

“Well mom should be up soon, it's almost nine already, wow, I don't normally sleep that late. I don't know what I should be doing though.”

“You heard the doctor, lots of exercise, but nothing strenuous. I think we can even go for a bike ride or a walk into town, get your hair fixed, 'cause sorry, it looks real bad.”

“I still haven't even looked at it, is it really that bad?”

“Afraid so, you have a big patch of hair missing, and it looks pretty weird. I hope Marcos can fix it so that it looks okay, but oh well, it will all grow back.”

“Yeah, I felt around it, and the bald spot felt pretty big, but I figured it probably felt worse than it looked. I would like to go for a walk, I don't know about riding bike with how dizzy I sometimes am, and besides I doubt my bike helmet will feel very good on my cut right now. It will rub right on it, the cut's in the right place.”

“Oh yeah, never thought of either thing, walking it is then.”

“Yeah, and as soon as mom gets up I want to ask her about the pool again, I bet she says yes now, at least being shot might help her to say okay.” AJ grinned.

“Well I don't know if I want to try getting shot to get a pool, but if it's already done, you may as well use it to your advantage right!” JJ smirked back.

“I certainly wouldn't recommend it, and I was only barely grazed, that was painful enough, but no way would I pass up that opportunity.”

“Me neither.”

“Good morning boys, how do you feel this morning?” Alice asked, walking in while yawning and stretching.

“Better than yesterday, that's for sure. I just took my pills and I already feel better. How about you?”

“I still feel like shit, having felt like I lost you just when I was starting to get to know you properly, it will take a while. Believe me when I say that no parent wants to ever receive the call that I did, I don't even remember the drive to the hospital, I was in real bad shape. I feel a lot better having you at home though.” Alice admitted.

“Having been on the other end, and thinking I was going to die, just when everything in life was going so perfectly, I can say I never want to either.”

“I also thought about it, and figured that it is your house, your money, and your plans, you can install the pool, we can go to the bank as soon as I get some food into me, I already made the appointment, did it while you two were sleeping yesterday.” Alice said.

“Thank you mom, I really appreciate it, and it will be put to very good use.” AJ said and went and gave his mom a huge hug.

“I know AJ, I know.” Alice said and then grabbed herself some cereal, and they all sat and talked as she ate, something she had never really done before.

Once they were all dressed, they headed out to the car and headed off to the bank. Alice let AJ do most of the talking, because it was his idea and his money, and the only thing Alice really did, was suggest that they add an extra two thousand to the total to be transferred to AJ's main account for extra equipment that he wanted or needed, and then sign the papers. So in under half an hour, they walked away from the bank with plenty of money in AJ's account to cover the entire thing, plus some extra, and a few checks that AJ asked for so that he could pay with.

They headed back home and sat around for a while until Alice said she had to go get ready for work. The boys also went and had a shower as well, since they had not had one before leaving, AJ having to be very careful not to get his head wet though. He had new bandages to put on, but he was certain that water would not yet feel good, and soap would probably make him scream. Both boys were of course hard for the entire shower, but they did not take care of them this time, opting just to get cleaned and get out. After getting dressed they met up with Alice as she was just finishing getting ready to head to work.

“Would you boys like a ride over to JJ's?” She asked.

“No thanks, we're gonna take a walk into town and get my hair cut and go talk to the pool company.”

“You sure you're ready to do that yet?” Alice asked a little anxiously.

“Yeah, I'll be fine. Walking actually feels a lot better than sitting, and my head doesn't throb quite as much then. Nor do I get dizzy if I stay standing, I only get dizzy if I stand up too fast.” He argued his points.

“Okay, I will leave it up to you then, but take plenty of breaks, and don't overdo it.” Alice said and then gave both boys hugs.

“Bye mom, love you.” AJ said as she walked out the door.

“Well I should call my mom and tell her what we are going to get up to then, and I will probably have to tell her the same things all over again.”

AJ just nodded and JJ grabbed the phone and called home, and as he predicted, he did have to say all the same things over again to his mom, but she being a doctor herself, knew that if AJ was up to it, then he could do it. All she said was to stay safe and to have fun. Once they hung up the boys left on their adventure.

The walk into town was not all that long or tiring, but they were glad to sit down when they made it to Marcos' salon. Marcos was busy with another customer at the time, so they sat and waited patiently for him, and he hardly seemed to notice them enter. Finally though he finished and he got a wide smile on his face when he saw the boys sitting there and waiting for him, and practically pushed his previous customer out the door.

“I heard what happened to you boys, I was so scared for you both. How come you're here though, shouldn't you still be in the hospital AJ, you were shot?”

“Actually I was just barely grazed, enough to cut the skin and gouge my scull a little bit, and give me a wicked headache, but I was released yesterday. But as you can see, it kind of ruined your artwork. I still haven't even looked at it myself, been kind of chicken to, I want you to try and fix it as best you can, so that I look somewhat normal please?”

“My mom said that you were in good spirits and were doing real well, saying you were too damned thick skulled to let being shot in the head affect you too much, glad to see she was right.” Marcos smiled widely.

“Let me guess, typical teenager right?” AJ asked seriously.

“Yeah, she mighta mentioned something along those lines.” He grinned.

“Ha, then I got her, I'm not a teenager yet.”

“Oh go climb in the chair you brat and I will see what I can do to make you all gorgeous again.” Marcos smiled and swatted at AJ's backside.

AJ giggled and headed for the same chair he sat in the last time, JJ sitting next to him again, and Marcos went to work, performing his magic. He had to do a lot of shaving, cutting and shaping, and it took longer than normal to do, but by the time he was finished, you would never be able to tell that that was not the way it was supposed to have been. Now the only way to tell that AJ was injured was to see the pretty large bandage on the side of his head above his ear.

“Well gorgeous, I think I did even myself proud on this one, and I am hard to please. Take a look and tell me what you think?” Marcos asked and spun him so that he could see himself in the mirror.

“It looks great, you can't even tell you had to fix it, it looks like a perfectly normal hair cut. A little more shaved than I would have asked for, but under the circumstances I sort of had no choice. Thank you Marcos, you're the best.”

“I'm glad you like it, and it looks real hot with the streaks in it like that, and if you hadn't already had them, I would have done them for you.”

“Thanks.” AJ said and then grabbed his wallet to pay.

“What do you think you're doing?” Marcos asked, sounding almost insulted.

“Well, paying you for your work of course.” AJ said, sounding puzzled.

“Uh uh, no money for this, this was free of charge, I'm just happy to have you back.”

“Marcos, take the money, you can't do it for free, I appreciate it, but you have to pay your bills too.”

“Nope, not gonna take it, and my bills are all taken care of, so no worries there. I promise I'll charge you next time, but this one was a fix up, so keep your money.” Marcos said, giving them the, I'm serious so don't bother trying, look, the boys nearly burst out laughing.

“Fine. Thank you very much Marcos, I really appreciate how you made me look normal again, you are an artist.”

“And gratitude like that is more payment than I could ever hope to ask, you boys have a good day now.”

“Thanks, you too.” They both called out and left the shop.

“Man is he ever good. I wondered how he was going to be able to fix it, but man it looks awesome.” JJ said as they walked away.

“Yeah. Let's go get us a pool installed.” AJ said happily.

They headed off and talked the whole way, laughing and having fun, and the walk went by so fast they hardly noticed it. When they walked in the showroom, the same pretty lady was sitting at the desk and she said hello to them as soon as they walked in.

“Hi, can we speak to Max please?” AJ asked.

“Certainly, I like your haircut, very unique, and what happened, the hair stylist accidentally cut you or something while doing it? She grinned, probably having had that happen to her once.

“No, something far more painful than just a cut I'm afraid, I was shot, but it only grazed me, so I'm fine.” AJ smiled.

“Oh dear, you're the boy we heard about. I'm sorry to hear you were shot, but you look like you're doing okay, so that's good. Let me go get Max right away for you.”

They nodded and she ran off to get the boss, and a minute later they walked back out, and Max shook both their hands, obviously the receptionist had not told Max who was there, because he got an odd look on his face when he saw the boys.

“Come on in boys.” He said and led them into his office. “So what can I do for you today?” He asked politely.

“We came in today to ask you to build us a pool please. Everything was okay'd by my mom and the bank, and I have the money in my account, so all I have to do is give you the down payment I believe. So when would you be able to start?”

“Excellent. It might be a bit hard to get started Monday now, it's pretty late in the week, but we should be able to. I have a friend over at the permits office and I might be able to get a permit fast tracked for us, but it will be next week anyhow. Now all I have to do is come see the house and the property and draw up the final plans, do you have time to do that now?”

“Sure do, we're free all day, rest of the week in fact, I'm not allowed to go back to school yet.”

“Yeah, I was wondering about that, how come you're not allowed back to school yet?”

“Doctor wants me to just rest for a few days, but I have to walk as much as possible to keep my blood flowing.”

“Oh, okay, and whys that?” He asked curiously, eying the bandage on the side of AJ's head.

“Yeah, that's the reason, I was shot the day after I talked to you last, well barely grazed I should say. I'm out of the hospital already, so that would have to tell you how minor it really was. About all I have is a cut and a headache, and I will probably have a scar something fierce, but oh well.”

“Oh, so you are the one we heard about, no one really knows any details yet, given you are so young they wouldn't release any names, just saying that you were alive and that you were shot by an ex student by the name of Brad what's his name, can't remember. You're very lucky and I am happy to hear that you are just fine.”

“Yeah, I know, and thanks.”

“So you guys walked here then, I may as well drive you to the house then and we can get everything done.”

“Sure, sounds good.” The boys said and then they headed off to AJ's place.

The boys took Max out back and he started taking detailed measurements of everything, and then they sat down at the table on the deck and hammered out the final details about size and how things were going to be situated, and even planning the glass covered walkway from the house to the pool. It took nearly two hours to come up with a finalized plan, and finally everyone was happy with how it all looked, and Max left, promising to start just as soon as everything was cleared, and promising to have it done in three weeks or less.

“Oh man, I can't wait to see it when it is done. I am so gonna ask to have a pool party sleepover for everyone once it is, I hope mom says yes.” AJ said excitedly.

“Yeah, I can't wait either, and that would be so cool.” JJ said just as excitedly.

“Want to head to your house and have lunch, or should we just eat here right now?”

“Let's just go, I bet mom has lunch for us.”

So that's what they did, they headed over to JJ's house and found Sarah at home, cooking lunch. She of course asked how the day was and commented on how good a job Marcos did on AJ's hair, and the boys told her everything.

For the rest of the day the boys just watched TV and did nothing much, curled up on the couch, having gotten diapered of course. The next few days kind of dragged for the boys as well, and even though they went for long walks and even worked out on the equipment for a while, they were both glad to be heading to school on Monday to get back into a routine. Sunday morning AJ went home to spend the day with his mom, and she asked how he had been doing and also commented that his hair looked nice like that. The bandage had been removed completely now that it had stopped weeping, so all that was there was a cut in AJ's scalp about six to seven centimeters long that was stitched up, and even the bruising was starting to fade, not that there was all that much.

Monday morning everyone wanted to see the cut, and ask AJ how he felt, and he felt it quite tiring answering the same questions over and over again, but finally classes started, but even the teachers wanted to know, and he gave the exact same answers. During lunch the entire swim team sat with him of course, and they all had a good time laughing and carrying on. Amazingly enough not one word was said about either boy being gay. When the day ended, and the boys headed home, it was with a small amount of disappointment to see that no work had begun on the pool. They did their school work and tutoring as normal anyways though.

Tuesday would be the first swim practice for both boys since the shooting, and although AJ knew the water would not hurt, he was apprehensive about how the chlorine would feel, but he figured that he would be fine.

“Are you sure you're okay to swim today AJ?” Coach Phil stopped AJ as he was walking out of the change room and asked.

“Yes sir, I'll be just fine. I don't think I should dive yet though, that might hurt a little too much.”

“Okay, you go at your own pace for the next week or so and build up, and besides we weren't diving this week and next anyways to practice for the meet. You are still coming to the meet with us though right?”

“You bet I am sir. It's next Saturday right, and it's only the one day?”

“Yes, that's correct, it's only a hundred kilometers away, so we leave here at six am and should be back no later than seven pm.”

“Awesome.” AJ said and then joined the rest of the boys as they jumped in the pool.

AJ was happy to feel that the pool water did not seem to hurt his cut any at all, and he joined the boys in their swim practice. Coach Phil, as always, stood on the side of the pool, yelling out ways to improve, like sink your ass in more, kick faster, and push harder, pretty much the normal things. After an hour of this he had them doing calisthenics in the water, really pushing them fast and hard, and AJ was happy that he could keep up just as well as normal, which was still not quite so good as the others, but he was getting far better. Finally after their cool down, the coach let them go get their showers.

“So how do you feel now AJ?” Matt called out.

“Great, I hurt like hell, but it's not my head, so it's great.” AJ yelled out and everyone was happy for him.

They all laughed and talked for a while longer as they got cleaned and dressed, and then they headed out on their way home.

“How come you didn't tell the guys about the pool?” JJ asked, thinking that AJ would have been telling them as soon as he had a chance.

“Because I want to keep it as a surprise.” AJ grinned.


They walked the rest of the way home, talking happily, heading to AJ's, hoping to see the pool started. They were not disappointed today, for when they arrived, they found that the crew had not only already started, but were still there and working. The hole looked to be already completely dug, and it looked huge. The tractor just seemed to be making some last minute adjustments to things so that it made it easier later on. That wasn't the only work going on though, there was equipment being pulled out of their boxes, and whatever could be set up before the concrete was poured, was being done. It even appeared as if a small crew of people was getting the framing ready for the equipment room, so that as soon as the concrete was ready, all they had to do was stand the walls up and attach the pieces. Another guy was already putting in all the plumbing into what would eventually be the hot tub, and running it all to where the equipment room would eventually be. The boys watched all this from the dining room window, very happy with the work that was already done.

Not too long after the boys arrived, the guys called it a day and started to pack up, getting ready to go home. JJ also figured that he too should head home, so they gave each other a nice kiss and then JJ headed home.

Two weeks had passed from the day that the pool had started construction, three from the day that AJ was shot, and things were going well. AJ had almost completely healed, he is now on no medications, and his stitches came out. The only evidence of the shooting was the scar that AJ would carry for life. He still got headaches a little, especially first thing in the morning, but the doctor had told him that was to be expected, the outside may have healed, but the inside takes a little longer, he had been told. Both boys had been to see a therapist to deal with their feelings on the situation, and AJ was dismissed after only two sessions, while JJ needed four, and they were completed in the two weeks. They had both asked about Brad on a few occasions, but he was still in a coma, and while he was expected to come out of it eventually, there was no telling when that might be.

Both boys were very excited about how the pool was coming along. By the two week mark, the pool and hot tub were completed, including being tiled in the white and cobalt blue tiles AJ had chosen, the entire deck was done, and so was the equipment room. It seemed that the only thing left to do was the glass house around it, and to get all the exercise equipment in there. Even the pool and hot tub were now filled with water and all the heating and pump equipment was being tested, they started filling them the day before. AJ had of course given Max the second check at the half way point, even though it appeared as if they were closer to two thirds of the way done.

AJ had slept over at JJ's over the last weekend and they had a good time, giving each other a hand as necessary to relieve the buildup of pressure, and they kissed and cuddled a lot, but they also did a lot more than just that, but this past weekend was their swim meet. Sarah drove both boys to the school to get on the bus for the hour and a half long trip, and they arrived, poor AJ having never seen such a zoo of activity. There were hundreds of boys crammed into a change room probably only rated for a hundred, and they were all showering and dressing, and it was so loud at times that you could not even hear your own thoughts.

Finally the swim meet started and there were multiple swim events taking place all day for the different categories. Both AJ and JJ were entered only into the one hundred and five hundred meter breast stroke events, whereas many of the others were in a couple different events. They all did very well, Matt taking first place in nearly every event he was scheduled for of course, and even AJ and JJ did very well. JJ because he used to swim and was in very good shape, took fourth in the five and third in the one, and AJ came in right behind him in both at fourth and fifth positions respectively, surprising everyone completely. Coach Phil had screamed himself hoarse he was so excited. Not only about AJ of course, but that everyone on his team were the tops in all the rankings for all the twenty schools that were there, and he even took a trophy home for having the best school team. The bus ride home was so loud and excited that the bus driver had to stop a few times and warn them to keep it down because he couldn't concentrate.

Alice had also started school this week, and her first day, the day before, had been difficult for her, having to get up a lot earlier than she was used to, and then going to school for the first time in many years. She was nervous and very scared, and she thought she was either going to puke or pee herself, but she survived her first day.

Finally though the excitement of the weekend was over and the school week once again was upon them, and Monday was about as normal as it could be. Tuesday came along, but AJ and JJ were called out of class in their second to last class, the secretary telling them that Sarah was there to take them out of school for the rest of the day. Both boys were puzzled by this, but did as they were asked, and both telling friends on the swim team that they would not be there this afternoon.

“Mom, what's going on?” JJ asked as soon as he found his mom in the office.

“Just wait until AJ gets here as well.” She answered, and they only waited a minute for him to arrive.

“Hi, what's happening?” AJ asked, clearly as confused as JJ was at the moment.

“Brad woke up this morning, his parents have told him what all has been happening, and they're asking to see you AJ, and I doubted very seriously that you would go without JJ, so I pulled him from school as well for the rest of the day.”

“Why is he asking to see me, what makes him think that I would even think of coming to see him?” AJ asked simply.

“Well from the reports I got, he is feeling very bad and probably very sorry for himself. He does not have full function any more, his brain was damaged slightly. His speech is slurred, his movements are sluggish, and he seems to be a bit slower mentally all around. He does not remember the day that the shooting occurred at all, and has had to be told by his parents and the police, who of course have the statements from everyone as to what happened on that day and previously. I think that he hopes to apologize, and maybe ask for forgiveness, I don't know, all I know is that we should go.” Sarah told the boys.

“Okay, I will go, just as long as JJ does as well.”

“I will go with you for sure, just don't expect me to be nice to him.” JJ said.

“JJ, you know that you don't feel like that, you have been just as concerned for Brad as AJ has been, you still feel bad for what you did, and you probably always will, even the therapist said that. Just listen to what he has to say, no one expects either of you to forgive him, or even really speak, you are just going to hear what he has to say.” Sarah said softly.

“I know, it's still just so hard.” JJ whispered.

“I know it is, but you are both doing so well. Come on.” Sarah said as softly and guided them from the office.

The drive to the hospital was in deathly silence, each of them in their own thoughts. Even Sarah was thinking that there was no way that she could forgive the boy of such a thing. She had kept real strong for the boys, but the whole ordeal scared her far more than she would let them know, Frank did know though, they talked a lot about it, and they both felt that it was AJ that was holding JJ together, and to lose him would surely kill JJ. And that was something neither of them wanted to think about. They finally made it to the hospital and went to the ward that Brad was in, a secure ward, and were buzzed in by the nurse at the station.

“Hello, you must be AJ and JJ, and I'm sorry, but I don't know your name. I am Stan and this is my wife Helen, I'm glad that you came today.” Stan said, sounding far worse than he looked, and that was pretty rough. They were still outside the room, so they could not see Brad.

“Yes, these are AJ and JJ, and I am Sarah, I am JJ's mom. AJ's mom, Alice, could not be here today, she is in school today.”

“Well, as I told the hospital to tell you, Brad has waken up today. We have explained everything to him, that he is being charged with attempted premeditated murder, that AJ survived with barely a scratch, that he was beaten into a small puddle by the boyfriend of the boy he shot. We held nothing back with him. We were told by the doctors he still has full function, it's just slower now, so he doesn't think or move as fast as he used to, but he is still about as smart as he was. I know that there is nothing that he can do or say that would allow you to forgive him, and I told him that it would be wrong of him to ask it, because he does not deserve it, but he may still try. I wish I could tell you why he did what he did, but I cannot. We have been wracking our brains trying to figure out where we went wrong with him, what we must have done to have raised a murderer, but we just don't know. He used to be such a sweet polite little boy, and then he started being a bully.” Stan said, crying the entire time, his wife also crying.

“As I am sure you have been told time and time again, you cannot blame yourself for the actions of your kids. I am certain that it was nothing that you did or did not do, and you did not raise a murderer, you raised your son, he just made a mistake somewhere along the line.”

“Well, we should go in now, he looks almost back to normal, but he still has some scars from the surgery.” Stan said, wiping the tears from his eyes.

They walked in the room, and Brad was laying down, in a more seated position, and he looked over as they all entered. He had an apprehensive look on his face at seeing the boys, he was scared to death of doing this, but he felt he had to. He had not even told his parents all that he was about to say.

“I'm glad you came, I fully expected that you would not, please sit down?” Brad asked them all, slowly, but sounding almost normal.

They all sat down in chairs around the bed, not saying anything, and Brad sat himself up a bit more, using the bed controls.

“First of all JJ, I do not blame you for what you did to me, I could not blame you. I don't think that I could have been pulled off like you were, I would have kept coming back, I apologize for making you do that, because I hear you have been upset with yourself for nearly killing me. Don't be, I deserved nothing less, still do. AJ, I apologize to you as well, although I do not expect you to accept it, I shot you, and for absolutely no reason. I can't even tell you the reasons why, I don't remember that day at all, probably never will according to the doctor who talked to me earlier. I asked you here today so that I can explain, the best I can, what led up to it though, and please do not interrupt, anyone, this is hard enough for me as it is.”

“Well you see, I was jealous of you AJ, you were everything I wished I could be, you're smart, very good looking, and popular, even though you didn't really know it until recently, all you needed was your boyfriend to set you free. I was jealous of that as well, I would have done anything to have a boyfriend just like you. I'm gay, known since I was twelve, but I knew my parents would disown me, so I buried it as best I could. Problem is that the more I buried it, the more it hurt, and to help lessen the hurt I started to hurt others, especially those I knew were gay, and I knew you were gay. So the more I hurt, the more I wanted to hurt others, I was stupid.”

“Then when you beat me up like that, I snapped, I let a little fagot fairy boy beat me up, the toughest kid in the school, how could I let that happen, I had to have been tricked somehow. Then I got kicked out of school, my parents were so furious they kicked me out of the house, and then I had nothing, here I was, still a scared gay boy with nothing, and from then on, everything is real fuzzy, until I woke up today. My dad says that it would be wrong of me to ask for forgiveness, and maybe he's right, but I don't think that I can continue living with myself, I have done too much bad, and even if you're not sincere, it would still make me feel a bit better.” Brad said, taking longer to say than would be normal, but doing not too bad. Everyone had tears in their eyes, especially his parents.

“I would like to start off.” Stan said. “Brad, you know we love you very much, even when you started bullying others, we loved you, and we tried to get you to stop. Why would you think we would have disowned you for being gay, it would have been a shock to us, and we both wanted grandchildren, but we would have accepted you with open arms.”

“But your church says it is wrong to be gay. You would have thought I was a mortal sinner.” Brad said tearfully.

“Just because we go to that church, does not mean we take absolutely everything they say to heart. We believe that only love is necessary, and that hatred, no matter what or towards whom, is bad. As for kicking you out, we're very sorry about that, we just came to the end of our rope with you, and we had no where else to turn, nothing left to do. We felt that we had to set you free, so that you could make your own life choices, we know now that that was wrong.” Stan said.

“No dad, don't you guys go blaming yourselves for kicking me out, it was the right choice, and I don't blame you for that. I hope that you can forgive me for all that I have put you through, even though I hardly deserve that.”

“We forgive you Brad, we never truly gave up on you.” Helen said.

“Brad, I must admit that I did come in here to listen to you, and then leave, probably not saying anything, and while I can't really forgive you for what you did to me, and my friends and family, I do accept your apology, and maybe with time I can forgive you, just not yet. I feel sorry for you though, not for what JJ did to you, because you did kinda deserve it after all, but we are glad that you survived. No, I feel sorry for you for not believing in your parents or yourself enough to admit the truth. I am not saying that you had to tell your parents you were gay, they could have gone for years more before they had to know, but you should have admitted it to yourself at least, and learned to live with it. You learned the hard way what burying your feelings can do, it chewed you up and spit you out. Why didn't you ever go see a therapist about your feelings though?”

“Thank you AJ, that was more than I ever expected to get from you, I appreciate it. Mom and dad did make me see someone many times, but they made me talk to the priest at their church, it has never been mine since I knew I was not accepted there, and I could hardly tell him what was bothering me, I just refused to talk for the most part, he did all the talking.” Brad admitted.

“Why didn't you tell us that you did not want to talk to the priest, that you would have preferred someone outside the church?” Stan asked.

“Would you have listened, did you listen? I told you I didn't want to talk to the priest, that he couldn't help me with my problems. I believe you said that the priest could help me with all my problems, but he couldn't, he was the cause of all of them, he's the reason I hated myself so much, it was his teachings that said I was a bad person for wanting to love another boy, but I couldn't tell you that either though.”

“I'm sorry, I guess you're right, but how were we supposed to know! You wouldn't talk to us, we had no idea what was going on with you. I guess in a way this was all our fault, if we had have paid more attention to you, then maybe we would have seen this, if we had have listened to you, you would not have felt like this. We felt that the priest could help you with anything, but we had no idea that he was the reason you felt like you did, for that we're sorry.” Stan said.

“No dad, it's not your fault either, it's not even the priests, it is their faulty way of thinking, and for that I feel sorry for them, because I have come to accept that if god made me this way, if there is a god, then he surely would love me if I were gay as well. I know now that all that was my fault, and had I have just told you more plainly that I did not want to talk to the priest, but would accept another therapist, then maybe I wouldn't have done what I did.”

“Brad, I too cannot forgive you yet, but I do accept your apology, and I hope that you get all the help that you need to readjust. And I am very sorry that I beat you up so badly that it will permanently affect you.” JJ said.

“Thanks JJ, and you don't have to apologize at all, like I said, I got nothing less than I deserved, less in fact. This is not necessarily permanent, I will have to have a lot of speech therapy and physical therapy, but the doctor said that I might be able to regain much of my previous speech and mobility. I haven't been out of bed yet, and I don't know how walking will be, but it is not that hard to make my arms move, I just have to concentrate a little now. So maybe by the time I go to prison I will be able to walk and talk almost normally, but for now, I have to stay here.”

“What have the police told you about that, what are you being charged with, and how long will you have to go to jail for?” AJ asked.

“They don't really know all the details yet, the DA still has to meet with my lawyer, but I haven't met him yet. The police said though that I will be charged with attempted premeditated murder, but I don't ever remember planning it at all, I kinda don't remember the few days prior to the shooting too well, and I will be charged with carrying an illegal weapon, concealing a weapon, and whatever else they can think of. The police did tell me that because this was my first offense, and that AJ was not permanently affected by his injuries, that I might get off with ten years, but I deserve more.” Brad said, totally emotionless, but his parents were crying more.

“Mom and dad, you know I deserve it, and I will take it like a man, I did the crime, and I will do the time without asking for any less.”

“You're being very brave Brad, accepting what was done to you, and what you'll get for what you did to others. I too cannot forgive you yet, and I feel AJ's mom will undoubtedly feel the same way, but I know now how hard it was for you and your parents. We dealt with a situation much like this with JJ, he had lost hope, we were nearly losing hope as well, all because of his school work. He was not doing well at all, and then AJ came along and fixed all that for us.”

“I shutter to think what would have happened had JJ just snapped, and I feel that is what happened to you. In a way I do not blame you, and I do not blame your parents at all, knowing what they were going through. I feel sorry for you, and anything that we can do to make it easier on you, we will, even though I know you are much to proud to ask for it. And while you do deserve punishment for what you did, I think you have been punished enough already. Please stop beating yourself up over this, it was not entirely your fault.”

“Us adults can sometimes be blind, forgive us of that, we cannot always tell what is bothering our kids, and we get frustrated when they don't talk to us about it, but we forget what it was like to be a kid. We forget that we thought our parents couldn't possibly know what we were going through, and we couldn't tell them anything. What you have to understand as kids, or a young adults such as you are, is that we do know, we do remember all the teen angst, what it was like to grow up feeling we were different from everyone else, that we were not normal, we all felt that way at one time or another. As parents we forget that and try and make our kids feel that we know everything about them just because we raised them, we fail to try and explain what we know, and why we know it, we fail to listen to our kids, even when they are not talking, we forget what it's like.”

“Now, because you probably did not know this before, I should tell you that I am a pediatrician, so I know what I am talking about here, but as a teen, you kids all have huge amounts of hormones running through your bodies, making all sorts of changes to everything, making you feel different every day, and you never quite know what to think of everything. Now these hormones can also blind you to certain things, they can make you rebellious, they can make you do all sorts of stupid things that you will look back on when you were older, and say to yourself 'I was such an idiot, and for what, nothing.' It's just the way our bodies are built, it happens to everyone, no one can stop it. So you see, you were not alone, and I bet your parents can tell you things they did as teens that would make you sick, and I can tell my kids many of mine as well. So please think about that okay.” Sarah said softly, bringing her speech to a close.

“Thank you, for all that, but you don't have to do anything at all for me. I'm getting kind of tired, so I think I better go to sleep, this was a lot more exhausting than I thought it would be.”

“Yes, emotional purges can be very tiring, and you did just wake up from a coma, so you have a lot of proper sleep to catch up on. We will leave you now, and you try and relax.” Sarah said soothingly.

“Brad, I would like it very much if you'd allow us to come back to visit every so often?” AJ asked.

“You'd do that? I'd like that a lot, but you really don't have to. I would totally understand if you never wanted to see me again.” Brad said so quickly he stumbled over his words, and it was barely understood, but they caught his meaning.

“Yes Brad, we will come and visit, at least a few times, you will have to give us a few days though. We have a lot to think about, but thank you for asking us here today, I think it has helped us all a lot.” AJ said warmly.

“No, thank you.” Brad said and then yawned hugely.

The three of them left with waves to Brads parents, getting buzzed out by the nurse and then heading to the car. It was silent for the entire walk, until they got in the car.

“You know, I swore that I would not forgive him, but I have already, I feel more sorry for him than anything.” AJ said speculatively.

“Yeah me too. I can't help but feel that it could have been me up there instead if you hadn't have come along and saved me.” JJ said, sounding weird.

“You saved me too though remember. I really don't think that he deserves to go to prison for ten years or more though, I think that he has gone through enough, I got off easy compared to him.” AJ said.

“He did break a lot of laws though AJ, and he did try and kill you. But I feel the same way, and I have forgiven him as well. If you wanted to AJ, we could go talk to the police officers and lawyers in charge of the case and see if there is anything that we can do. It would be entirely up to you though.” Sarah said.

“I think I'd like that, can we please?”

“Sure, let me call the police station and see if they can arrange it.” Sarah said and pulled over.

She made the call and found that the investigator was not in, that he was in fact at one of the lawyers' office with the other lawyer, trying to get all the details straight and figuring out where to go with the case. They were all asked by the receptionist, who called them, if they would mind an interruption from AJ, and they all agreed that they would. So Sarah took off towards the office they were directed to.

When they arrived they all introduced themselves to each other, and then AJ got down to telling them all of what had transpired during their meeting with Brad, and what he wanted. He, in no uncertain terms, informed them that he did not want to see Brad spend so much as a day in jail, that all he wanted was to have him see a therapist for as long as it took, and to be on probation for a while, and maybe community service, but he had already paid enough. They were all stunned to say the least, thinking that if anyone wanted to see Brad go to jail for a long time, it should be AJ, but he wanted the opposite. They promised him that they would do all that they could, but that some of it would be out of their hands. AJ thanked them for taking the time to talk to him, and they headed out, heading to take AJ home. Alice was home when they got there, so JJ and Sarah went in as well.

“How was your day at school today?” Both AJ and Alice asked at the same time, and they all started giggling.

“It was not too bad, still a little unnerving being there, and being the oldest student in the class, but I'll be fine.” Alice said first.

“I know what you mean.” JJ grinned.

“Well our day was going fine until Sarah came and pulled us out a little more than an hour early.” AJ said, and then explained everything that had happened that afternoon. Alice let the three of them tell the whole story, without really saying anything at all.

“Well I think that he must have been hurting a great deal to have done what he did, but I don't think I can forgive him quite so easily, at least not yet. And although I don't completely agree with your decision to not want him to go to prison, I feel that it is your decision to make, and you're probably right. I still have too many ill feelings about receiving that call.”

“And no one would blame you at all Alice.” Sarah said warmly.

“Have you taken a look outside yet boys?”

“No, we haven't.” They both said.

They rushed to the window and found that the high dive and low dive were up, the glass was all delivered, the aluminum frame was well on its way, but still had a lot of work left. The showers were installed now and the equipment shed was completed, including its door.

“Wow, it looks like they will be finished in just a couple more days, it looks awesome.” AJ said.

“Yeah, I didn't know you were going so extravagant on everything, but it really looks nice.” Alice said.

“Just wait until you see it all completed, you won't believe it all.” AJ smiled.

“Why, what more have you got coming for it?”

“It's a surprise, and you'll have to wait and see.” AJ grinned.

Alice made a sound in the back of her throat that sounded suspiciously like the word boys, and left it at that. Sarah and JJ took their leave a few minutes later, the boys giving each other a nice tender kiss by the door, in full sight of their moms and not caring.

The next couple days just flew right on by, and before they knew it, AJ and JJ were at their swim practice, and swimming their hearts out. The performance the boys had put on at the last swim meet spurred Coach Phil on to newer and greater heights than he had ever aspired, and now he was pushing the boys even harder, but being very careful to not push them too hard. When their first hour was up, and the main swimming practice was completed, the divers moved onto diving. AJ was on the low dive today, while the others were once again on the high dive, and Coach Phil was again working him very hard, making him do more simple dives, correcting his stance and posture, and making him do it over and over and over again until he did it perfectly. With half an hour left, the coach started teaching AJ how to do a back dive. Well the first try was a colossal flop, literally, right onto his back, and AJ sunk like a rock. A couple seconds later he came up groaning in pain.

“Hurt didn't it?” Coach Phil said stiffly.

“Nearly as much as getting shot.”

“And what did I tell you about jumping high, arching your body and pointing yourself down?”

“Nothing, you didn't tell me how to do it, just to do it, so I did it.”

“Oh yeah, my bad. Well next time try it like that, it works better, and next time, try asking what you're supposed to do before doing it.” Coach Phil grinned.

“Right. Should I spring when I do it?”

“No, for right now do a standing jump, and then we will add the spring in afterwards.”

“Okay.” AJ said, shaking off the pain and then climbing back up to do it again.

The second time was far better, and then the coach made him do it about a dozen times in a row until he felt that AJ nearly had it, so he added a spring into the mix. The first time with a spring threw AJ a little further than he was expecting, and when he arched his body to enter the water like he was supposed to, he went to far and did a belly flop instead. Once again AJ sunk to the bottom and came up a second later groaning again.

“Oh shit that hurt. I think I pushed too hard or something.” AJ said, gingerly climbing out of the pool.

“It usually does, but every diver gets used to it before too long, it's one of the dangers of diving. Next time don't arch yourself quite so much in a spring jump. I want you to try that a couple more times before we're done for the day, without the belly flop though please.”

AJ just nodded and climbed back up on the diving board and this time did the dive almost perfectly. He did it another three times before Coach Phil blew his whistle, signifying the end of the practice.

“I saw a few of those dives, are you okay?” JJ asked in a concerned manner as they were walking into the change room.

“Hell yeah they hurt, nearly as bad as getting shot, but it goes away quickly.” AJ admitted.

“He does that to everyone, he will let you do the belly and the back flops, I suggest you ask exactly how to do things from now on when he wants you to try something new, 'cause trust me, you do that on the high dive, and one of us will have to come rescue you.” Orin said.

“How many dives did it take for you to figure that out?” AJ asked.

“A lot more than I care to admit.” Orin grinned.

“Well two was enough for me, any more and I might not live, man does it hurt.”

“Tell me about it, but it is going to happen, even I still misjudge a dive sometimes and flop. And trust me, when you flop off the high dive, it will hurt like nothing you can imagine. People get broken bones and concussions from that, so just be very careful, trust me.” Orin said almost sternly.

“Thanks, I will try and remember that.” AJ said and they all headed into the shower room together to clean up for the day.

Everyone left shortly after, the talking never ceasing once the entire time they were there, but once they left the pool they all had to head their own ways. AJ and JJ walked towards AJ's house, they both wanted to see how much work was left on the pool and hopefully find out when they would get to use it. The glass structure had been almost complete the day before, and they were hoping it would be done today, which meant all they had to do was bring the exercise equipment in for AJ and JJ to set up as they pleased. They talked and laughed the whole way home, as they usually did, and when they got there, they saw that Max's truck was there, and so was Alice's car.

“Young man, I thought you told me you were just putting in a pool. What's all this exercise equipment, sauna, massage table and all that all about?” Alice said with crossed arms and tapping toe as they walked in.

“Told you it would be a surprise, I had it all included in the price of the pool, I figured that I would need everything, well except the massage table, that is just because a nice massage feels so good.” AJ grinned, he could tell his mom was not mad.

“When Max came and knocked on the door saying that it was completed and would you like to come out and inspect it, I told him you would not be here for an hour and that I would love to, and what do I find, but an entire workout center in my backyard.”

“I know, isn't it great.” AJ smiled.

“Well that's besides the point, and it does look very nice. I suppose you will want to go out and inspect it now?”

“Oh yeah.” Both boys said excitedly.

“Follow me then boys.” Max said and showed them out the kitchen door and into the new rear foyer of glass, there were two doors leading from it, one to the outside, and the other into the pool. Max led them out to the pool and the boys stopped and stared in awe.

“You didn't have to set up all the equipment, we were going to do that. Wow, this looks incredible though, and there is so much more space than I imagined.” AJ said.

“We usually set everything up for our customers, so that we know that it is done correctly and safely, and most people just appreciate it. I took the liberty of including a small shelf and a small selection of massage oils on it for you. As well the pool and hot tub have been tested and are fully ready to go, and at optimum temperatures. All that is left is to teach you how to use everything, and that is real simple.” Max said, and then took both boys and Alice on a tour of all the equipment and how to use it all, and even how to test the water. He took nearly an hour to show them everything, and by the time he was finished, they knew everything there was to know about it.

“This is incredible Max, it all looks so perfect, I can't thank you enough. If you come back inside I will write you the final check.” AJ said, almost to the point of tears he was so happy.

They all followed AJ inside and he grabbed his last check, and then wrote it out and passed it over to Max.

“Um AJ, I don't mean to complain, but there is an extra thousand dollars on this check than there should be.”

“I realize that. It is for getting the job done early and to higher than dreamed of results, it is also for being so nice and giving me everything that I wanted. Consider it a bonus, and share it amongst all the guys who worked the job, tell them they all did an excellent job.” AJ said.

“I can't take a thousand dollar bonus though, especially from a kid.” Max said flatly.

“Yes you can, and you have to as well, that was my last check, I cannot remake it, so you have to take it.” AJ said cheerfully.

“You'd be best to take it, he could probably out argue a lawyer, in fact he has recently.” Alice said dryly.

“Fine, I will take it, but anything at all, any questions, concerns, anything at all, you be sure and call me.” Max said firmly.

“Of course.” AJ said.

“Well I should probably get home to my cat before she gets angry and attacks me when I walk in again, if I'm not at home on time to feed her, she gets cranky.” Max said with a giggle.

“Well once again, thank you very much, and have a good night.” AJ said happily.

“Thanks, you too.” He said and headed out.

“Quit looking at me like that, of course you can go for a swim, I will get dinner started, and yes JJ can stay for dinner as well, I will call his mom for you.” Alice said, AJ had only just looked at her and was about to ask, she had not even given him a chance.

“Okay.” They both said and started stripping where they were, clothes landing in piles at their feet, and a few seconds later two naked boys streaked through the house and out the back door to the pool. Alice just shook her head, she had actually thought they would wear suits in the pool, and she was a bit surprised that they both got naked in front of her.

Alice did as she said she would though, she called Sarah and explained what was happening, and then started making dinner. The boys went out, showered off quickly and then hopped in the pool.

“Oh this water is perfect.” AJ sighed as they both surfaced on the far side of the pool.

“Yeah, it is. Want to try the hot tub, I don't really feel too much like swimming right now?”

“Sure.” AJ said and they hopped out and headed to the hot tub and sunk into the hot steamy water, both of them sighing deeply as they sank in.

“Oh man that feels so good, and boy is it hot.” JJ said, still gasping a little here and there as he sank lower.

“Yeah. I can't wait to try out all the equipment and start getting a good routine going.” AJ said.

They cuddled up together and just chatted about how incredible the whole place turned out to be, until Alice called them for dinner in a few minutes. They climbed out and headed to the showers and they washed each other off quickly, and then headed back in the house.

“Uh boys, you're not wearing any clothes, go put something on to eat dinner please?” Alice asked, a little shocked at how open they were being around her.

“Oh sorry mom, we're just sort of used to it, JJ's house is totally clothing optional, and they normally eat naked or in underwear at the most, I just kinda got used to it. And in case it bothers you, we will be swimming naked, just to warn you. You of course don't have to, but it feels wonderful. Come on JJ, we better go get some clothes on, I trust you put our clothes on my bed mom?”

“Yeah, I did, and it's okay, it's not wrong, just a bit of a shock at first. I can't even really remember the last time I saw you naked, and even then you were too shy to let me see you. And you'll have to forgive me if I don't join you in skinny dipping, I haven't done that since I was a kid, and I'm not sure how comfortable I would be doing that now, especially with my son and his boyfriend in the pool.” Alice smiled shyly.

“Work up to it slowly, we won't always be here, so go in by yourself, not like the neighbors can see you or anything.”

“Maybe. So you picked a very nice guy to come and install your pool, and he did very good work.”

“Yes, I liked him because he talked to me like an adult and not just some kid there wasting his time, that was really the main reason I gave him the bonus. You kinda like him don't you, it sounds like he is single, and I can tell you where his shop is, maybe you should ask him out on a date.” AJ smiled warmly at his mom.

“I don't know.” She said apprehensively.

“Oh come on, when was the last time you even went out on a date, or even had fun for that matter, you deserve this too you know.”

“I haven't been on a date since I was dating your father, and I don't even remember the last time I went out.”

“My point exactly, if you don't call him, I will.”

“Don't you dare, I still know how to spank a bared bum, and I will make your boyfriend watch.” Alice threatened, problem was she was smiling.

“Ah save that for your boyfriend.” AJ grinned.

“AJ.” Alice gasped.

“What, give him a hand, spank him you know, what else would I have meant.” AJ said innocently, but they both knew what the other was really talking about, JJ though was in the dark.

“You're horrible. You haven't told JJ though have you?” She bent over and whispered into his ear.

“Oh no, you asked me not to tell anyone, but he would not care either.” AJ said in a normal tone. JJ looked up, but did not ask, he knew it was none of his business.


“You should maybe tell Max though, you ever know right.”

“Enough, you're embarrassing me.” Alice said, and to change the subject she set dinner out.

It was enough to change the subject for the very hungry boys, and they dug in and ate well. As soon as the dishes were cleaned up though, the boys headed back to AJ's room and JJ got dressed. They shared a nice goodnight kiss, and then JJ headed for home.

AJ got himself diapered and then he went and sat on the couch and cuddled up to his mom and watched TV for a while before they went to bed.