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Christmas Guest

by David Lee

© David Lee 2017-2018. All rights reserved

"Jeez, Mom! I'm barely 16 and you're pushing me out of my room already!" Brady complained in a tone approaching a whine.

"Don't be a teenage drama queen," Vanessa snickered, not turning toward him as she worked at the stove. "Allowing Dustin to stay with us a few days over the holidays isn't tantamount to tossing you out in the street on your little backside. Give it a rest, child!"

Brady grinned in spite of himself, but felt that he shouldn't stop griping just because his mother wasn't buying his attempt at self-pity.

"Why can't you put him up in the guest room? Why does he have to invade my space so I can't have any privacy during break?"

"Brady, we've been over this already. Dr. Hutchinson had the reservations made for his honeymoon cruise to Aruba long before he found himself the sole guardian of his orphaned nephew. There's no way on earth to plan for catastrophes like that. Would you expect the newlyweds to give up their trip, or take him along, so you wouldn't be slightly inconvenienced?

"It's going to be tough enough on his marriage, starting out with a teenager to look after. How is a couple supposed to get used to life together when there's a virtual stranger in the house?"

"How am I going to enjoy Christmas with a virtual stranger in our house – and in my bedroom at that?"

"I suppose he can move to the guest room after our company leaves. I can't do that initially unless I put your grandpa in the other twin bed in your room. You know he snores like a Billy goat; bless his heart. You'll have to suck it up until a couple of days after Christmas at least. It's not all that long!"

"But Mom…."

"Let me inject a shot of reality here. Ryan has been very kind to us since your dad died. If he hadn't kept me in his practice when he barely had enough patients to pay the rent, and helped me get my certification as a nurse-practitioner on top of that, our standard of living might not be high enough to keep up this house where you have a great bedroom of your own. We could have lived these last few years on Dad's life insurance money, but then we'd be facing a bleak future after it ran out.

"When the responsibility for his nephew unexpectedly fell on him, I felt like I needed to bail him out if I could. We owe him!"

"You're right Mom," Brady agreed contritely. "I really am grateful for what we have, and I know Dr. Hutchinson's done a lot for us. He's a good guy, and he also has the most beautiful blue eyes I've ever seen."

"Don't start perving on my employer," Vanessa joked. "He's cute, but he's not for you."

"Mom, is this your day to pick on me? Just because I think he's a stud doesn't mean I'm gonna go after him. Obviously, he's marrying a female, and he's too old for me anyway."

"Dustin's your age, and he has blue eyes too," Vanessa teased.

"Jeez! Are you pimping me? Have you even met him? I saw him yesterday, across the hall, when Ryan and he were headed for the counselor's office to get him enrolled, and he looked like a frightened rabbit. I assumed HIS eyes were pink!"

"I saw a picture of him on Ryan's phone, and he's adorable. When you saw him, he was probably overwhelmed from being thrown into a high school of that size. You might have introduced yourself to help him feel more comfortable, after you figured out who he was."

"I was with Dax and Trent, and I didn't want to look like a wuss."

"What's with you boys and your unrealistic notion of what it means to be masculine? I suppose you kids can't wear pink or cross your legs when you sit for fear of looking sissy."

"Mom, I may be gay, but I don't want to broadcast it to the whole school!"

"So, having empathy with a new kid would blow your cover?"

"You just don't understand life in high school," he said with an exaggerated sigh.

"No, I don't! I recently saw a commercial for Axe that's trying to break down those stereotypes. It implied that manliness isn't based on whether you like sports, or what your physical build is, or whether you experiment with other guys…."


"Look Brady, I love you unconditionally. I know it's tough finding your way without a male role-model in the house. I realize I can't guide you through all the pitfalls of your teen years, but I want you to have at least some compassion for others. Relax a little! Be yourself. Don't censor your every move because of what you believe someone else may think. Am I wasting my breath?"

"No, I buy what you're saying. I know we're supposed to treat others like we want to be treated, and I'll try to make Dustin feel welcome at school. I know how easily I could have ended up orphaned like he was."

"Yes, about another two feet and I'd have been killed too."

Brady stood and embraced his mother. They both wept a few tears remembering the painful time they'd been through.

"Let's eat before it gets cold," she admonished as she dried her eyes.

Brady officially met Dustin on Saturday evening at the wedding reception where they were destined to sit next to one another at dinner in a few minutes.

Ryan had felt it would help them get acquainted if they were seated side by side, and had convinced his new mother-in-law to switch some place cards to make it happen.

She understood his motives, and quickly made the changes. He had a lot of affection for her, having lost his own mother at an early age. She had become like another mother to him. In fact, it was her example of kindness and empathy that had led him to open his home to his nephew.

Dustin reminded him of himself at that age, young, vulnerable, and worried about his future.

Dustin was dressed to the nines, and Brady didn't look shabby either. While searching for their table, the two sized each other up from a couple of yards away before Dustin approached and stuck out his hand to make a formal introduction.

"Hi, I'm Dustin Hutchinson; from the photo Uncle Ryan showed me on his phone, I'm guessing you're Brady Lytle."

"Yup, that's me. It's nice to make your acquaintance. You look like your picture too."

"Thanks for taking me into your home while my uncle's on his honeymoon. My grandparents didn't step up like I thought they might. I know it's got to be difficult to have a stranger around for Christmas."

"No, it's fine. I'm sure you'd do the same for a friend."

"I would, but you're sharing your home with me, and you don't even know me! Not many people would do that; I can't thank you enough."

"But we know your Uncle Ryan, and that's a good recommendation," Brady smiled.

"A good-looking recommendation, at least. Dad always says his baby bro is almost too cute to be a guy. Dad…." Dustin broke off, trying not to get emotional. "I keep forgetting he's gone!"

"I have a little idea of what you're going through, Dustin," Brady assured him, looking him in the eye as he put an arm on his shoulder. "I lost my dad four years ago when a semi crossed the median. It's okay to cry."

"Thanks!" Dustin sniffled as he tried to rein in his emotions.

"Let's go back to the hors d'oeurve table and get one of those Mexican thingies. That'll make you feel better. And if it doesn't, people will assume your eyes are watering from the spice!"

Whether it was the appetizer or Brady's compassion that did the trick, Dustin's mood had improved by the time they found their seats a few minutes later.

There were other teens at the table, so neither boy felt self-conscious. Brady preferred being there than having to sit with his mother and her associates. This was manlier!

Then it struck Brady that he was allowing himself to feel pressured by what a group of strangers might think. At least he hadn't censored his actions when he touched Dustin's shoulder earlier. It had felt right, and had been accepted in the spirit it was intended. Mom was correct, as she often was these days. The older he got, the more sense she seemed to make.

The food was delicious despite including a few things Brady wasn't used to eating very often. He was glad his mother had exposed him to lots of different foods, and taught him to use silverware correctly. Some of the younger kids in the room were turning up their noses at the asparagus, and eating the other stuff like animals. Ah, now he was being guilty of judging. Maybe they were just being themselves.

Brady tried to make the kind of conversation with his new acquaintance that would draw him out a bit without reminding him of his parents' recent demise. They mainly compared the schools they'd gone to. That was a safe subject. It made him smile to find that Dustin wasn't a jock, but enjoyed playing in jazz band. Wow! They had two things in common already.

Both young men were shy about venturing onto the dance floor, but Vanessa encouraged them to relax and have fun. She danced with Dustin for a bit while another nurse from the practice did the same with Brady. After they survived the first round without making fools of themselves, the boys danced with a couple of the girls they'd sat with at dinner.

Soon, the DJ organized several line dances which were simple enough for most kids to learn quickly, if they didn't know them already. The stiff, formal evening that both teens had dreaded was turning into a fun activity.

It wasn't long before the cake was cut, and the party was winding down.

Having previously transferred Dustin's suitcase to Vanessa's car, Ryan hugged his nephew goodbye before he and Cara departed for their honeymoon. He took a moment to remind the boy to be on his best behavior, pick up after himself, and say please and thank you. Then he left, and Dustin was on his own. Well, not really, because Brady was there to keep him from feeling alone.

"Um, which bed am I supposed to sleep in?"

"That one, I guess. Mom says this one wouldn't be comfortable for anyone else because it has the imprint of my little butt in it," Brady giggled, indicating his usual spot.

"Let me get you some hangers for your dress clothes," he offered.

"Thanks. Ryan had to remind me to hang them up when he was saying goodbye."

"You would have done that anyway, wouldn't you?"

"Yup. He was treating me like a little kid, but I didn't say anything. I don't want to cause him any trouble. I hate imposing on him, and on you guys too. I know you have company coming on Monday."

"It's okay. You'll just have to be part of our family."

"Yeah, I don't have one anymore."

"Shit! I didn't mean to remind you," Brady said contritely as he held his tearful companion tightly. "Go ahead; let it out."

"I'm such a wuss!" the boy sobbed.

"There's nothing that says a man can't cry," Brady insisted. "Grown men on the battlefield mourn their buddies. It's okay!"

Vanessa had been on her way to remind the boys not to stay up too late (another thing adults feel they must do). Seeing through the partially open door that her son was comforting their guest, she beat a hasty retreat. Brady's kindness brought moisture to her eyes. He was turning into a compassionate young man, just like his father had been.

Handing him a tissue, Brady offered Dustin first shot at the bathroom, so he went in to pee one last time, brush his teeth and change into his pajamas. When he returned, he saw that Brady was wearing only a pair of boxers. He felt overdressed and prudish, but wasn't sure how to resolve his predicament.

When Brady came back from performing the same ritual in the bathroom, he mentioned that he thought his mother kept the thermostat too high at night, and offered Dustin a clean pair of underwear to use if he wanted. He accepted them gratefully, and turned his back as he swapped them out. Brady got a peek at his cute butt before turning out the light.

"When I'm alone, I usually sleep raw," Brady said in a near whisper.

"Me too, when I get the chance. I'd better not tonight in case there's an emergency or if I have to get up to pee. I drank a lot of soda at the reception."

"Maybe we can another night," Brady offered, thinking it would be an excuse to check each other out.

Sunday, everyone slept in. Vanessa would normally have rousted Brady out for church, but with the Christmas Eve service coming up, and the lateness of the wedding celebration, she felt it better to let the boys have their rest. She needed time off too. Single mothers had a lot more on their plates than those with helpmates.

Brady straggled out of bed, stood, and stretched. His morning erection strained the cotton fabric which encased it, making it look more impressive than it was. He had forgotten that he wasn't alone, so Dustin's voice coming out of the dusky corner of the room startled him, momentarily.

"I see you're UP, Brady."

"Sorry about that. I forgot you were here."

"THAT'S nothing to be sorry about," Dustin grinned, staring at his bulge.

"Jeez! I thought you were super shy." Brady exclaimed, covering the lump in his underwear with one hand.

"I am when I'm uncomfortable with people, but I don't feel that way around you."

"Well, prove it," Brady insisted as he pulled the covers off Dustin.

It was rather revealing, because Dustin was pitching a serious tent in his boxers too.

"Now you're embarrassing me!" Dustin tried to feign dismay.

"You don't need to be ashamed of THAT either!" Brady grinned as he pointed at Dustin's crotch.

Dustin grabbed Brady's "pointing hand" and pulled him off balance, landing him in the bed. The two play-wrestled for a minute, getting harder in the process. They settled down, grinning at each other and panting from their exertion.

Brady had the urge to get lost in those blue eyes and kiss those perfect lips, but his censor-mode kicked in the last minute.

"I'm sorry," he mumbled as he pulled away.

"Don't be," Dustin whispered.

"I'd better go pee," Brady said as he sprinted out of the room.

Dustin lay there for a couple of minutes, willing his dick to deflate as he replayed the scene in his mind. Wrestling with Brady had felt awesome. He suspected Brady had enjoyed it as well. He wondered if there could ever be a connection between them. If so, he wouldn't complain!

"Mom, I want to go out to the bookstore at the community college. I checked on the 'net, and it's open for a few hours today, but will be closed on Monday. May I take the car?"

"Certainly! Please take Dustin with you. He's been asking if the city bus goes there. I was considering giving him a ride, but I still have several things to do before everyone arrives. What's the big draw?"

"Um, they stock copies of the new CD's they feature each month on their radio station. I found out Dustin loves "Upward Spiral" with Branford Marsalis, and I thought I'd get it for him for Christmas. He won't have anything to open otherwise"

"That's not entirely true. I bought him a present, and Ryan left gifts with me to put under the tree. But I think it's especially nice that you want to give him something.

"I suspect Dustin wants to do a similar thing for you. He mentioned he was thrilled that you're into jazz too."

"Oh, wow, it's gonna be a little awkward if we're going together to buy each other a gift."

"Maybe you'll have to admit that, and take turns shopping, or perhaps it doesn't have to be a surprise. But it's senseless to make two trips that far across town."

"Okay, we'll work it out. Thanks, Mom!"

"I'm not disappointed or surprised that we thought of the same kind of thing to give each other," Dustin grinned. "We're a lot alike."

"Yeah, it seems that way."

The boys found discs they knew the other would like, and didn't have already. They left the shop pleased with their venture.

Back at the house, they found Vanessa trying to get the lastminute housecleaning finished.

"I may be 'Dusty,' but your house isn't," Dustin joked.

Brady groaned.

"My mother's house was always spotless, and I can't have ours looking less than perfect when they arrive," Vanessa smiled.

"Mom, who was it that said you shouldn't let other people's opinions rule you? She hires a cleaning lady!"

"I know, but…."

"Find us another dust rag and we can do it. I know how to run a vacuum. You go and rest."

"Okay, I'll take you up on part of that, but I can't sit down before I finish organizing the menu."

The boys found that they enjoyed the time cleaning together. It gave them the chance to visit, and it made them feel useful as well.

"I liked the lame pun you made on your name. Do you ever go by a nickname?" Brady asked.

"Yeah, I was always 'Dusty' to my friends at my old school. I thought I might change that here. Don't you think it sounds kinda like a name for a girl or a little kid? I could imagine some interior decorator calling her daughter Dusty Rose."

"I don't think 'Dusty', without the 'Rose,' sounds fem. Maybe softer, or more personal."

"I wouldn't mind if you called me that in private."

"Cool, but what would you call me in return? 'Bray' is like what a donkey does."

"How about 'Buddy' then?"

"Dad used to call me that."

"Oh, sorry."

"No, Mom calls me that sometime too, so it doesn't make me sad. I think that would be nice, in private, like you said, Dusty."

"Cool, Buddy!"

The boys talked awhile after the lights were out as they awaited the sandman.

"So, what's your impression of our school?" Brady asked.

"I haven't had time to form one yet. It looks up to date, and the teachers seem nice, at least the ones I've met so far. I don't want to get too attached because I may not be around that long."

"What do you mean by that?" Brady asked, fearing that Dustin might be feeling suicidal.

"I overheard my other grandmother telling Uncle Ryan that she'd pay for boarding school, so he wouldn't have me 'underfoot' all the time. She can afford it, but I don't want to be too far away from the only bit of family that I have."

"Do you think he'd agree to it?"

"He doesn't seem keen on it, but I can imagine it would be hard to be romantic with me around all the time. I mean, don't newlyweds like to do, um, some of those things spontaneously?"

"Like get laid on the kitchen table?" Brady giggled.

"Yeah. You tend to put things in plain English."

"At least I didn't use the "F" word. Give me that much credit.

"I hope you don't have to go somewhere else, Dusty. I'm beginning to feel like we could be best buds."

"Yup, I know what you mean, Bud."

Sleep soon ended their conversation.

On Christmas Eve Day, Brady's company arrived. First, it was Grandma and Grandpa Sims, his mom's parents. They were ushered to the master bedroom where Grandma Beth lay down for a short nap. She was pleased to be pampered with the roomy accommodations her daughter had provided for her. She enjoyed the role of queen bee.

Grandpa Lytle arrived about half an hour later, and was shown to the guest room.

Vanessa had made up a cot in the tiny computer room for herself. Grandpa Richard said he'd gladly sleep there instead, but she insisted that he have the more comfortable bed. She appreciated his concern for her. He'd been her main emotional support after his son's unexpected death.

Following dinner, they all drove to First Presbyterian Church for the early service. Vanessa preferred the later one, but felt that she'd be better rested for making Christmas dinner if she went to bed at a reasonable hour.

It was a pleasant time of listening to the scriptures and singing carols. There were many younger kids in attendance. The joy in their innocent eyes made the season brighter.

Brady took Dustin with him to the balcony to hang with some other teens who didn't feel it was cool to sit with their parents. Dustin was happy that he got introduced to a few of his peers he'd be going to high school with.

Back at home there were cookies and eggnog before they went to bed. Presents would be opened after dinner the next day.

One might have assumed Vanessa's mother would jump up to help in the kitchen, but it was the boys and her father-in-law, Richard, who came to her rescue. She appreciated their thoughtfulness!

Dinner was lovely. Most of it was homemade, but she had purchased the pies from a local shop. After it was over, and the dishwasher had been started, Vanessa could relax at last. Her mother had said only positive things about the meal. Everything was going better than she'd expected.

They all gathered in the living room to open their gifts in the afternoon. There wasn't an overabundance of material things because they had drawn names as usual. Fortunately, Dustin had about the same number of packages to open as Brady did.

The boys retreated to Brady's room to listen to their new CD's and transfer some of the music onto their phones. Sitting propped up on Brady's bed, they eventually fell to sleep for a while.

They'd left the door open, so the adults saw them when they passed by. Brady's mother thought they looked adorable. She speculated about how close they were becoming. She wouldn't push them together, but she wouldn't pull them apart either.

When their company departed early on the 26th, it was a relief for Vanessa. Although the boys had helped her quite a bit with the entertaining, she was tired. She would have to be in the office tomorrow, and the rest of the week, seeing the patients that she could treat in Ryan's absence. Those amounted to quite a few because, as a nurse-practitioner, she could do many things that used to be limited to MD's.

Before sitting down to relax, she had one more present to give to her son. She had managed to keep it a secret from everyone including her parents. Despite the fact that they probably could have written a check for it without transferring money from savings, they might think her a spendthrift if they knew.

"Boys, I'd like you to go with me to check on Ryan's place. Could you stop your video game tournament long enough to go? Brady, make sure you have your license if you want to drive us."

Brady could certainly take a break from gaming if he could get behind the wheel instead, especially with Dustin riding shotgun. Brady had given up on hoping for a car of his own, after not receiving one last month when he turned 16. It would take him a long time to save up for something that wasn't a hazard on the road, but Mom was pretty generous in sharing hers.

At the condo, they checked each room and looked in the fridge to be sure there was nothing in there that would spoil before the couple got home. Dustin was asked if he needed anything from his room, and he did grab two extra pairs of boxers for sleeping.

Then Vanessa said they should check the garage.

"Mom, they left their car at the airport. Does the new Mrs. Hutchinson have a vehicle in there?"

"No, Aunt Cara left hers at her parents' house until they get back," Dustin said. "Hopefully the garage is empty."

"Well, let's look anyway." Vanessa suggested.

She punched in the code and the door came up revealing a late model red Corolla.

"That's cool; maybe she changed her mind," Brady said.

"But that's not her car," Dustin frowned. "I wonder how this got here."

"I have an idea," Vanessa grinned. "Brady, why don't you see if this key fits it?"

"What's going on? Is it for me?"

"Merry Christmas, Son. I'll close the garage as soon as you back out. You two might want to go somewhere for lunch, but I hope you'll come home in time for dinner. Do you have money?"

Brady took a step toward the car, and then spun around to hug his mother tightly. He couldn't believe this was happening.

"Mom, are you sure we can afford it?"

"Yes. The trucking company's insurance finally settled our claim over the accident, and it's more than enough to pay for your car and a lot of other things. I know it's not a new one, but I have to save some of the rest for your college expenses."

"Oh Mom, it's perfect! It's just what I need, and it should last me through college. Thank you; thank you; thank you!"

"I think he likes it," Vanessa said, looking at Dustin with a grin.

Sometime in the wee hours, Brady was awakened by sounds of anguish from the other bed. He jumped up to see what he could do. Dustin was thrashing around as if being pursued by the devil himself.

"Easy, Dusty, it's okay. I'm here with you. You're having a bad dream. I'll make it go away."

So saying, he climbed under the covers with his temporary roommate and snuggled. Dustin quickly calmed down; his breathing and heart-rate returning to normal.

"You wanna tell me about it?"

"A man in a dark navy hoodie was chasing me with a gun. I ran until I couldn't go any farther, and then I tried to hide. He pointed it at my heart. Then you woke me up before he could fire."

"Wow! Can you think of anything that could have triggered it? Sorry, I didn't mean to make a pun."

"My parents were killed by a burglar. I evidently slept through it. The police said he must have used a silencer, so there was no reason I should have been awakened by it. They said I couldn't have done anything about it if I had roused, and I probably would have been killed too. But I feel so guilty!"

"Have you told anyone about how you feel?"

"No, I'm ashamed. I'm not sure why I told you."

"Maybe you can sense that I care. I think you should talk to Ryan about seeing a counselor."

"You think I need a shrink?"

"Yeah! I have one. It's not wussy, and it helps a lot!"

"That's one more financial burden for my uncle."

"Maybe not. People in the medical field do stuff for each other without charging. I think it's called a reciprocal agreement or something. Besides, if you have a grandmother who's loaded, I'm sure she'd pay. Tell her you need help, and you need to stay where your 'Buddy' can keep an eye on you."

"I wish that could be true. I guess I'd better try to go back to sleep."

"Okay, I'll get back in my own bed."

"Do you have to? Could you stay with me?"

"You bet!"

Brady felt comfortably warm and cozy as he awoke from his slumber a few hours later. He was aware of something firm pressed against his butt. He was pretty sure he knew what it was, but reached back to confirm his suspicions. Touching Dusty's morning erection, which was poking through the fly of his boxers, accelerated Brady's heart-rate. He let go as quickly as if it had been a branding-iron, but not quite fast enough.

"May I feel you in return?" Dustin whispered.

"I'm sorry; I didn't know you were awake. I didn't mean to," Brady gasped.

"I didn't mean to poke it at your butt either, but you didn't answer my question."

"Okay, I guess you can."

Brady nearly levitated off the mattress when Dusty's warm hand encased his private part. Dustin let go rapidly too.

"I'm sorry," he whispered.

"That makes us a pair of SORRY INDIVIDUALS!" Brady giggled, breaking the tension. "I guess we both satisfied our curiosity."

"You'll probably be happy if I go to boarding school now that you know more about me."

"Does that mean you're gay, like me?"

"Yeah, I'm sorry…. What did you say?"

"I said, 'gay like me,'" Brady reiterated as he turned toward his bedmate with a warm smile.

"For sure you'd be better off if I go away. If I stayed, you might get outed."

"I'm out to my mom and the people at school who count. The whole place is fairly affirming. They don't tolerate bullying."

"Not to change the subject, but I've gotta pee right now!" Dustin exclaimed.

"Me too! Can we share?"

"Sure, as long as your mom's gone to the office."

They ran across the hall to the bathroom, yanked their boxers down, and immediately went into vapor-lock. Neither one could get the flow started. Brady reached over to turn on the faucet so the sound of running water would prime their "pumps," but it still took several seconds. Then they laughed, nearly hosing down the pot and the floor around it.

Their boy-parts shrank a little in relief, but soon expanded again as they openly checked one another out.

"How big are you?" Dustin asked.

"Nearly six inches, hard, last I measured."

"They look like twins. Um, I don't show that well soft."

"So, you're what they call, a 'grower,' I guess. "I've been told it's not a problem as long as your dick isn't too short to reach your body," Brady joked.

"Man, that's lame!" Dusty grinned.

Brady used a sheet of paper towel to wipe the floor and the rim of the pot before washing his hands.

Dustin washed his hands, and they brushed their teeth before going to the kitchen to forage for breakfast.

While Dustin was in the shower that evening, Brady had a little private chat with his mother.

"Mom, I've figured out a way to earn gas money without getting a job."

"Really, and how would that work?"

"I could rent out half of my room to Dustin. He could stay here and go to school with me like he wants to. Ryan could give you the money he'd have to spend feeding him, and we could be like a family. The newlyweds could chase each other around the condo like they want to, and everyone would be happy."

"What happened to the kid who whined about having unexpected company over the holidays?"

"Dusty happened; and I didn't whine!"

"Privacy isn't an issue anymore?"

"Nope, we're both guys."

"Is he likely to become your boyfriend?"


"Well, is he?"

"I hope he will."

"If you were my daughter, do you think it would be okay for you to share a room with your boyfriend?"

"Would you have put us in the same room over Christmas if I were a girl?" he countered.

"Touché," Vanessa grinned. "You think well on your feet."

"Being on the debate team helps. I have another persuasive argument. Boys can't get pregnant!"

"But they might be tempted to experiment."

"Didn't you quote the Axe commercial about experimenting not making a guy less of a man?"

"Okay, you've made your point. Have you and Dustin worked this all out?"

"Nope, I didn't want to get his hopes up until after I'd cleared it with you. He's pretty fragile, and I didn't want to hurt him if it didn't work out. I think he should see Dr. Taylor like I did, you know, to get him past his loss. It's awful! Did you know his parents were murdered in the house while he slept?"

"Ryan didn't share all the details. Oh, that poor boy!"

"Yeah. Um, the shower's quit, so I'd better go before he wonders where I am. So, can I tell him?"


"Dusty, I have a solution about boarding school, and Mom's cool with it. Now you have to convince Uncle Ryan."

After Brady finished explaining his idea, Dustin hugged him tightly.

"Man, you're my Christmas angel!"

"Oh damn! Does that mean you're gonna stick a tree up my ass?"

"Go take your shower and climb in bed with me, naughty boy. And wash your mouth out with soap while you're in there!"

While Brady was in the bathroom, Dustin sent a long, heart-felt text to his uncle, pleading his case for living with the Lytle's. He didn't expect that Ryan would see it until the ship docked in Miami, but he couldn't wait to begin working on him.

Brady returned, a little damp around the edges, and sporting a rather prominent bulge in his boxers. Dustin held up the bed covers as a silent invitation.

"Do you think sleeping together is a good idea?" Brady asked.

"I must think so, since it's MY idea!"

"We haven't known each other very long. I'm really into you, but I don't want either of us to get hurt."

"That's one of the things I love most about you; you're sensitive and caring. I'm not gonna strip you and rape you! I think we can keep our boxers on and cuddle without going any further. It's probably best if I can truthfully tell Uncle Ryan that we haven't been, um, intimate. I won't be able to promise him I'll remain celibate, but…."

"I'm cool with that."

Dr. Hutchinson and his bride arrived in town in the early evening on December 30. As soon as they got their luggage settled, they came over to confer with Vanessa, as they had arranged by text.

Ryan couldn't help noticing how much happier his nephew appeared. The deep sadness in his eyes seemed to have been replaced by a look of hope.

After pleasantries had been exchanged by all, the adults asked the boys to go to Brady's room to give them privacy for the discussion they needed to have. Ryan, Cara, and Vanessa retreated to the kitchen which was far enough away so that they couldn't be overheard.

The boys began to play a video game, but neither was really into it. They turned it off, and sat propped up on Brady's bed instead.

"However it turns out, I want you to know that this has been one of the best Christmases ever," Dustin said, gazing into Brady's eyes. "I'm so glad we met, and I'll never forget you."

"Oh man, you make it sound like this is the end for us. Even in the unlikely event that you had to go to boarding school, we could still Skype. I firmly believe we'll be so close we won't ever forget each other."

"I don't know," Dustin started to cry. "Hold me so tight they can't pull us apart."

Brady complied, holding him close.

"No one's going to do that," Ryan announced, as he stood in the doorway. "Vanessa, Cara, and I all believe that you'll thrive better together. The arrangement can benefit everyone. Vanessa pointed out that she, being the mother of a teen, might have some skills for raising you, Dustin, that I don't have. She also thought that I could be a positive role model in both of your lives. I won't try to replace your dads, but I could be like a big brother, for doing guy-things. I'm not sure I can throw a football, but I'll try."

"Um, we're not into sports all that much," Brady said. "We'll be happy if you can make it to our concerts, assuming Dusty gets into jazz band, and I know he will!"

"Dustin, I want you to know that you're welcome to take over the guest room, so you have a place to call your own," Vanessa offered.

"I'd like to stay here, unless Brady wants to move in there with me."

"Well, for the time being, I think it would be best for you to at least have your own beds. A social worker may come out to inspect your living conditions when I apply for joint guardianship."

"So, I get at least part of my Christmas wish!" Dustin beamed. "I guess I'll have to keep on wishing for the rest."

"Do you want to move your things tomorrow, or wait until New Year's Day?" Ryan asked. "I'm not pushing you out."

"I know, and I appreciate it, but I want to be with Buddy for New Year's Eve if I can."

"We can get your stuff tomorrow in my car, whenever it's convenient for everyone," Brady replied. "Then we can sleep late on January first, and not have any pressure to get stuff done."

"I have a few snacks set out on the kitchen counter to welcome my new son," Vanessa announced. "Let's celebrate!"

Dustin needed a shower before bedtime to wash off the sweat he'd produced while awaiting his uncle's decision. Brady wanted one too. Despite his upbeat chatter, he had been worried that the outcome might not have gone their way. They would have loved applying gel to each other, but they didn't want to push the boundaries just yet.

When both were clean, dry, and in their sleeping attire, they stood in their room grinning.

"Should I sleep with you, or do you want to sleep with me?" Brady asked.

"Is that like saying, my place or yours?"

"I guess. Um, I've always been the one to visit you."

"Okay, I'll see if I can keep from falling into the depression made by your cute little butt!" Dusty giggled. "Hey, are we gonna kiss tomorrow at midnight?" he continued.

"Do we have to wait?"

Dusty answered with his lips instead of words.

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