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Into the Lion's Den

A story by e

© 2002 SunShine DayDreamers UnLimited

DISCLAIMER: This story contains descriptions of sexual encounters between minors that are homosexual in nature. If offended by such things or if you are not of legal age in the country where you live, then read no further. The characters and events depicted in this story are completely fictional and any resemblance to any real persons, places, or events is purely coincidental. This story may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the expressed written consent of the author.

Chapter 9

I was useless the rest of the day. What else could there be? What was that son of a bitch cop not telling me? What else could Recob have done? Maybe it was somebody else. The police had picked up Kirshner. They had to have something on him. Had he been involved? Was Joe hiding something? Was I helping a guy who had helped rape my boyfriend? FUCK! Did Joey know more than he was telling me? Was it something about me?

"Dammit! I have got to get out of this fucking place."

"Aw fuck, man. Not again." Elf was laughing at me. "You've been goin' on about this all day. Give it a rest."

"I can't deal with this, man." Elf and I had gone to the gym to workout, but I was spending more time brooding than lifting.

"What you need is to get laid, or at least a good blow job." Elf chuckled.

"I suppose you're volunteering." I shot him a disapproving glance.

"Damn straight." He playfully swatted me in the chest with the back of his hand.

"Will you two cream puffs knock that sick shit off." Bobby Shepherd was about my size, but not nearly as built. He was a year older and pretty good looking. We might have been friends, except he was always raggin' on Elf for being gay.

Without even realizing it, I moved towards him, shoved him hard, then pinned him against the wall with my left forearm across his chest. My face was only an inch or two from his as I glared into his eyes.

"You fuckin' bastard. Fuck with either of us again and I'll ram my dick so far down your throat it'll be stickin' out your ass!"

"Jesus Mike!" Elf's voice snapped me back to reality.

"Michael Paul you knock that shit off." I heard George yelling from all the way across the gym and heard his footsteps as he charged across the gym.

I could see the fear in Bobby's eyes and felt him trembling as I leaned forcefully against his chest with all my weight. "You understand me?" I didn't give him time to respond. I threw him sideways and turned to meet George. Bobby hit the ground hard and slid several feet across the floor on his side.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" George was one of the counselors who had a thing against gays.

"Sorry George, but this little fucker needs to learn to watch his mouth. I'm sick of his shit." I walked right past him.

"Where the fuck do you think you're going?" If I hadn't been so angry, I might have laughed at the confusion in his voice.

I spun to face him but continued towards the door. "Back to the dorm to have a fuckin' seat in my chair. That is where you're going to send me isn't it?"

I may have only been here a few weeks, but I knew how the system worked. George would send me back to the dorm and I'd have to sit time out in the chair next to my bed until the activity period was over. Then he'd show up and tell Bruce what I'd done. Bruce would lecture me for a while, then leave me to sit and think about my mistake. Tomorrow he'd meet with Dr. Barnes and they'd assign me to do some meaningless labor during my free time for the next several days. I'd probably get a lecture from Barnes too.

I stormed out of the gym and back to the dorm. Bruce just looked at me as he watched me stomp on past him and throw myself into my chair. I crossed my legs, crossed my arms, and glared up at him.

The son of a bitch just burst into laughter. "You wanna talk about it?"


"Then get your shower and cool yourself off. Activities end in ten minutes. I want you ready for bed and back into your chair before then."

"I wanna know what makes him so special." It was Shepherd. "How come his shit don't stink?"

I sat back on the couch. I hated these group therapy sessions. Nobody ever talked about anything real. It was all just a bunch of petty bickering and it looked like today was gonna be no different.

"He got the same consequences as anyone else would get for fighting." Leave it to Bruce to come to my rescue.

"That ain't what Brad got last month. You guys sent him back to Juvey."

"Yeah, what's up with that?" Tommy was Shepherd's lap dog and was sitting next to Bobby as usual. If the kid ever had an original thought his brain would probably explode.

I stifled a giggle as I looked over at Elf who was sitting across from me and on the other side of Bobby. He was just shaking his head and smiling.

"Brad couldn't seem to follow any of the rules around here. He was termed for more than just the fight."

"That's bullshit, Bruce. If it wasn't for the fight, he'd still be here."

"Jesus Christ Shepherd. Brad is old fucking news." I was sick of hearing about that asshole. "He's gone. Get over it already."

"Then let's get back to my original point. You." Bobby was looking right at me, then he shifted his gaze to Bruce who was seated on the opposite end of the same sofa where I was sitting. "He may have gotten the same consequences, but you don't make him work on it in group. Anybody else would have to be talkin' 'bout it. But not your little pet."

"We've been over this before, Bobby. Mike's..."

"Fuck it Bruce." I cut him off before he could finish. I was tired of the same old shit, never getting anywhere. "I'll fuckin' tell him what he wants to know."

"You sure?" Bruce looked over at me and several of the others sat up and began to pay attention.

I just ignored him and glared at Bobby as I took a deep breath. I'd just kick his sorry ass if he tried to make anything of it.

"First, I'm gay." I looked around the room, my glance stopping at Bobby. "Anybody got a problem with that?"

"I knew it." Bobby looked rather satisfied. There were some snickers from the others.

"That why you tried to off yourself?" Hal rarely spoke in group.

"No, Hal. My boyfriend killed himself and it was my fault. I could've stopped it but I didn't."

Suddenly the whole room was quiet. Even Bobby was at a loss for words.

"I thought it was because we broke up. But yesterday I found out it was because he was being raped by a bully. I could have sent the fucker to jail before it ever happened, but I didn't. Now Chris is dead and it's my fucking fault." I stopped long enough to wipe my eyes.

I looked straight at Bobby. "He used to call us fags and fairies and shit like that. Chris just tried to ignore it. Well I ain't ignoring it anymore. You fuck with me or you fuck with Elf and I'll fuckin knock your fuckin' head off."

"Mike. Mike!" Bruce was trying to interrupt. "You know better than to make threats in here."

I looked over at Bruce. "Sorry Bruce, but they've gotta know what's comin'. I ain't takin' no shit."

"Nobody's giving you any, Mike." Bruce's voice was more gentle now.

"They will."

"And what makes you so sure of that?" Hal didn't have a clue.

"Enough of this." Bruce interrupted before I could respond. "There will be no more threats made in this group. Mike, you've taken some very big risks in here today, you've exposed your biggest secrets. I know you feel vulnerable and like you've got to protect yourself. But the threats aren't going to cut it. What we've really got here are some serious trust issues."

"Well can you blame me? All I've heard since I got here is fag this and queer that. It ain't exactly safe to be gay in here."

"No, I don't suppose it is. So what are we going to do about it?" Bruce looked around the room. He stopped when his eyes met Shepherd's.

"What're you lookin' at me for?" Bobby was shrugging his shoulders and trying to look innocent.

"Because you're the one who's always talkin' shit about fags and hasslin' Elf." I was raised up, sitting on the edge of my seat, glaring at him.

Bobby looked over at me and started to say something, paused for a second and leaned back quietly into his seat. He sighed as he crossed his arms and looked at me out of the corner of his eye. "Well it ain't... it ain't normal." He looked rather disgusted.

"Damn straight it ain't. Talkin' shit about people and hasslin' them all the time. Good to see you're finally admitting that you got problems." I knew that wasn't what he'd meant, but I couldn't resist the temptation to turn Bobby's own words against him.

"Fuck you Mike." Bobby growled and glared at me. Some of the others snickered a bit.

"Unless you guys want to spend the rest of the afternoon in your chairs, you will get back to the task at hand." Bruce looked first at me, then at Bobby. "What are we going to do to make it safe in here?"

"Just tell 'em to keep away from me. I ain't takin' no one's dick up my ass." Bobby's tone had returned to normal even if his words were still insulting.

"Don't worry about it Shepherd, your ass ain't fit to have a dick up it." Rene hadn't said a word all afternoon and his first comment surprised almost everyone. Even Tommy let out a giggle. "Well it ain't. I mean... I wouldn't... um, put mine up that smelly thing of his."

"And just whose ass would you put your dick in Rene?" Darren's first words had everyone laughing. Everyone but Rene who turned red as a beet.

That was when I realized that Elf and I weren't the only two gay boys in the room. I was certain that Rene was gay and something about Hal's silence and the look on his face when Rene spoke up had me thinking he may be as well.

"I... I... I don't ... know. B...b... but not his." Rene stammered out a response trying to hide the fact that he'd just outed himself, but instead he only made it more apparent.

"Jesus Rene. You're..." Tommy's words trailed off as Elf got up to comfort Rene who now had tears rolling down his face.

"It's ok, Rene. It's ok." Elf sat next to the kid and put his arm around Rene's shoulder.

I looked at Hal and mouthed the words "You too?"

The look on Hal's face was one of pure horror. I wasn't sure if anyone else had noticed. I wanted to go to him and give him a hug, but I didn't want to give up his secret. I didn't have to. Rene stood up, stepped towards Hal, sat in his lap, and buried his face in Hal's shoulder. It had just become clear whose ass Rene wanted.

I looked over at Bobby who was sitting back with a disgusted look on his face. He caught my glance. He took a deep breath and shook his head. He mouthed the words "pansy patrol" to no one in particular.

I smiled to myself. Maybe we weren't normal, but we were growing in numbers and Bobby was surrounded by us.

Bruce ended the group with an explanation that Dr. Barnes had accepted several gays for placement within the group home. He wouldn't say whether there were any more of us, only that it was our choice whether or not we wanted to come out. He cautioned the others against harassment and even warned us not to harass the straight guys. He reminded everyone that since this had been revealed in group, it was not public knowledge and was to be kept confidential.

Elf and I decided not to attend the evening activity session. Instead we stayed in the dorm talking with Hal and Rene. I was surprised to find out that those two had secretly been in love for the last couple of weeks. They were very afraid of being found out.

The four of us were huddled in a corner talking when Tommy walked up.

"What's it like?"

"What's what like?" Elf had an edge to his voice. You couldn't blame him for not trusting Tommy.

"Being, uhm... gay." Tommy seemed to be choking on the word.

"Well, we could give you a demonstration." Elf chuckled.

Tommy looked at Elf and smiled.

"Son of a bitch!" I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Tommy was gay too. "What'll Bobby say when he finds out his number one lap dog is a fudge-packer?"

Tommy looked like he was going to protest, but didn't say a word. Everyone else just looked at him. "I... I'm not sure... I've never..." His voice trailed off.

"You're a virgin?" Hal seemed surprised.

Tommy nodded.

"Just with guys or with girls too?" Hal, as usual, was about as subtle as a jackhammer.

Tommy nodded again. "I ain't never done nothin' with girls either." He was turning red as he spoke.

"That's ok, Tommy. The only one of us that's ever had a girl is Elf." I looked over at Elf to make sure I hadn't just said something I shouldn't have. He just smiled back at me with a kind of sly smile.

"Yeah, but Elf doesn't count. He'd do it with a dog if the price was right." Rene had us all laughing now.

The fact was that Rene might just have been right. Elf had sex to survive when he lived on the streets. He did it for food, money, shelter, and drugs. Man or woman, it made no difference. I admired him for how open and honest he'd been about it. It took a lot of guts to admit he'd been a prostitute.

"Yeah but, how do you know if you're gay or not?" Tommy was pretty serious about this. He pulled up a chair and joined our circle.

"Well what makes you think that you might be?" I figured if Tommy was going to be serious, we'd help if we could. I had never really disliked Tommy. When he wasn't hanging around Bobby, he could be ok.

Well, uh, sometimes... I, uh, think about.. guys." This was quite an admission for Tommy and he was having trouble getting the words out.

"You mean like, when you're jerking off and stuff." Elf was stating the obvious.

Tommy's eyes went straight to the ground. I remembered a couple of weeks ago we had talked about masturbation in group. Tommy had been so embarrassed that he didn't say a word.

Tommy just nodded.

"Do you usually think of guys or girls?" Hal just blurted it out. "Mine wilts if I think about girls."

We all giggled, but I saw Rene nodding in agreement. I recalled my own problems with getting it up in front of a couple of girls. Then I remembered how hard Andrea could make me and I wondered if I could actually do it with a girl. I wasn't even sure I wanted to.

"Mostly girls, but when I really think about doing it, I want to do it with another guy more than a girl."

"Well that sounds pretty gay to me." Rene seemed to think it was that simple. "I never thought about girls. I wanted a boyfriend when I was in the fourth grade. On Valentine's Day we made these cards. I had a crush on a boy in my class and made one for him. I saw a couple of the guys trying to kiss the girls when they gave them a card, so I kissed Bryan when I handed him the card I made. Right there in front of the whole class I asked him to be my boyfriend." Rene paused to wipe his eyes. "I was so fucking stupid. I never even realized what I was doing. He socked me in the nose and the teacher sent me to the office and called my mom to come get me. His dad caused such a stink that they moved me into another class to keep me away from him."

That was the most ridiculous story I'd ever heard. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I don't think anyone else did either.

"I always used to check guys out in the locker room and stuff. But I thought I was straight until my best friend convinced me to practice kissing with him." Hal was always asking other guys questions, but he rarely spoke much about himself. "That's how we started. We ended up jerking each other off a few times. Then I convinced him to let me suck his dick. He wouldn't return the favor and I only did him once. But I never thought about a girl after that, just guys."

"What about you Elf? You had sex with girls and guys. How do you know you're gay?" Tommy didn't seem to relate to Hal and Rene so he turned towards Elf.

"Aw fuck, man. I first had sex with my uncle and my cousin. I didn't want to. I didn't even know what sex was. I thought it was just because boys and girls were different. I didn't know what they did together. I was only eight when it started. Then I ran away when I was twelve. Some guy picked me up when I was hitchhikin' and I ended up doing it with both him and his girlfriend. That's when I learned how to survive on the streets. I never really liked any of it, but it wasn't as bad with the men. I was fourteen when I did it the first time just 'cause I wanted to. It was with a girl in my foster home named Jenny. We did it a bunch of times before we got caught. I liked her, but sex was just a way to pass the time. She wanted it a whole lot more than I did. In my next foster home, I started doing it with my roommate, George. He was the foster parent's son. I couldn't get enough sex with him. It was just better than sex with a girl. I did it with two other boys and another girl. It was always better with the boys. That's how I know."

"So you didn't know from fantasies or anything, then?"

"I never really had any sex fantasies or anything. I hated sex 'til I finally did it with Jenny. But it wasn't 'til I started having sex with George that I figured out how much fun it is. Now I pretty much just think of guys."

Everybody's eyes shifted to me.

"Like I said, I ain't never done it with a girl. Just Chris. There is a girl at school that wants me. She's always teasin' me an' shit. I get hard. But, I don't know. I think about it. I'm kinda curious. But I can't imagine it could be as good as with Chris." It was true.

I went to sleep that night with the day's events on my mind. It was hard to believe that half of us were gay. I wondered about the others. How many more of us were there.

In some ways it was a relief to have it out in the open. I knew I wouldn't have to hide anymore. But it was also troubling. Some of the guys had been hostile. Darren had seemed ok, but Bobby might be trouble. He was a natural leader and could turn the others against us. Sam, Billy, and Roger had been awfully quiet. It was hard to tell which way they were leaning.

Because of the fight with Bobby, my first weekend home pass was denied. But I was permitted to have an afternoon pass off campus with my aunt. Elf came too. He was usually around when my aunt visited. I think he got along with her better than I did. I bought some Christmas presents for my parents and Cliff teased us about being "a couple." "A couple of what?" I wanted to know. The only response that I got was laughs, taunts, and a few punches in the arm.

The week went by quickly and with minimal harassment from the others. I managed to keep from knocking anyone's head off, though sometimes it took great restraint.

Tommy wasn't out to anyone but us and we were pretty good at keeping secrets. So nobody bothered him. Bobby was scared of me and steered clear. He was even pretty cautious around Elf because he knew Elf was my friend. It was mostly Hal and Rene who had to suffer Bobby's name-calling and harassment. Sam and Roger joined him but usually didn't start anything themselves.

What bothered me was how much Tommy joined in. I knew he was only doing it to help keep his secret, but it made me mad anyway. The son of a bitch could have simply come out and we'd have protected him. But instead, he clung even tighter to Bobby and even seemed to enjoy tormenting Hal and Rene. In some ways, I wanted to kick his ass even more than Bobby's.

Christmas Eve was only a couple of days away. Nearly everyone would be going home, including myself. Billy, Hal, and Elf would be the only ones left. They had nowhere to go. It would be my first home pass. Well, almost home pass. I would be going to my aunt's and wouldn't have to come back until Saturday evening, two days after Christmas. Joey would be coming over too. He and his mother were going to visit his grandmother, but they would return Christmas Day. His mother had agreed to let him sleep over Christmas night. I couldn't wait. It was about all I could think of.

"Dr. Barnes, do you think Elf could come home with me for Christmas?" We were in group and Dr. Barnes was going over the rules and expectations for our holiday passes.

He looked up at me and put his hand under his chin without saying anything.

"Please. I know my aunt will say it's ok and I know guys have taken other guys home for holidays before." Elf had told me when I first thought of the idea that it had been done before.

"Elf" Dr. Barnes shifted his gaze. "Is this something you want?"

Elf broke into a big smile. He hadn't been on a home pass since he'd gotten here. Since he'd never made a secret about being gay, no one had ever asked him.

"Ok, call your aunt after group. If she says it's ok, I'll need to speak with her." He turned back in my direction. "I need to hear it from her."

"Thanks Dr. Barnes." I stepped over to him and gave him a big hug and was quickly joined by Elf.

Of course having Elf spend Christmas with us was more than just ok with my aunt. She was thrilled and spent what seemed like an hour on the phone with Dr. Barnes. By the time Dr. Barnes hung up the phone, Elf and I were dying from the tension and anticipation.

"Ok boys, it's all set. You've got your pass."

Elf and I both hugged Dr. Barnes as he spoke.

"What took so long?" I couldn't believe it would take such a long time to discuss a visit.

"We just had a few things to talk about." Was his reply as he walked towards the door. He had a sly smile on his face and I suspected there was more to the conversation than he let on.

/rp>Elf and I had been picked up early by my aunt and she took us shopping for last minute gifts at the plaza. We ditched her at JC Penney's and headed off to the arcade.

"Oh my God, it's Mike!"

Just my luck that the first person we'd see was Andrea. She threw her arms around me and hugged me like she thought I was going to run away. Maybe I should have.

"I've missed you sooo much. Are you back for good?" She was still squeezing the life out of me.

"Hi Andrea. Um, no. Just here for a few days."

"Oh. I was hoping maybe..." Her voice tailed off when she noticed Elf.

"Um, this is Elf. Elf, Andrea."

"Pleased to make your acquaintance." Elf took her hand , raised it a bit, bent forward and kissed it.

"Oooooh, I like him." Andrea blushed a bit and giggled. Tonya and a couple of her friends were giggling too.

I elbowed Elf in the ribs knocking him slightly off balance. "Show off."

"Mike. Be nice." Andrea gave me a disapproving look.

"A little jealous, Mike?" I could always count on Tonya for a smart remark.

"Oh!" Andrea seemed a bit surprised. "Is he your..."

"Friend, Andrea, the word is friend." I teased her with the sarcasm in my voice.

"Oh, so you're not..."

"Not yet." I interrupted her and elbowed Elf again.

"Then he is..."

"Gay." This time it was Elf joining in the fun.

"Damn." Andrea was feigning disappointment. Her friends' giggles had turned to laughs.

"Well have you heard?" Her mood suddenly became much more serious. "Recob was arrested."

"Really? When?" I hadn't heard a thing, but this was good news.

"Yesterday. They say he was raping Chris. That's why Chris..."

"Killed himself?" Finishing Andrea's sentences was getting to be a habit.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean..."

I put my finger to her mouth. "It's ok. I know all about it. Well, everything except that he'd been arrested."

"I thought I'd find you boys in here." I turned to see Maxine walking up behind me.

"Well, looks like its time to go." I grabbed Elf by the arm and started to walk away.

Andrea stepped in front of me. She leaned forward and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek opposite from Elf. "I still want you, you know." Her whisper was barely audible, but the message was loud and clear. She then gave Elf a quick kiss and allowed us to pass.

Maxine shot us a raised eyebrow and a wink, but said nothing.

I talked Maxine into dropping us off near my parents' house. I wanted to show Elf where I grew up. I had to promise that we wouldn't actually go to the house. She didn't think an unexpected visit would be a good idea.

I didn't either. My relationship with my parents was improving, but still tenuous to say the least. They had started family therapy with Dr. Barnes, but we'd only had a couple of sessions. My dad had eased up a bit, but my mom was still quoting the Bible and calling me a sinner.

It started snowing as Maxine dropped us off and soon was snowing quite hard. I quickly showed Elf my house, the tree house, the river where the girls had caught me naked, and Branyan's farm. I was surprised that we didn't run into anyone, but the weather was getting bad and it was cold. We were definitely going to have a white Christmas.

Elf and I threw some snowballs at each other and played like little kids making angels in the snow and just foolin' around in general. He really seemed to be having a good time. By the time we got back to Maxine's there was three inches of snow on the ground and at least as much covering the two of us.

We took a nice hot shower and had a good hot dinner with the rest of the family, then settled into the family room to watch TV. It was mostly Christmas stuff and we talked through a lot of it. Elf was curious about everybody and it was a really good chance for them to get to know him.

The last show we watched before bedtime was an old black and white version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. I'd read the book in school and had seen the animated version starring Mr. Magoo as Ebenezer Scrooge. It wasn't one of my favorite tales, but for some reason this version caught my attention. I didn't even recognize the actors, but I couldn't get it out of my mind.

"Ok boys, its time for bed. If you want to stay up and watch TV you'll have to go downstairs." Maxine nudged me with her foot and I slowly rose off the floor where I'd been laying as I watched TV. Uncle Jim had gone to bed an hour ago.

Elf had fallen asleep and I had to give him swat on the behind to get him moving. I turned to Cliff. "Are you guys coming down with us?"

"Not me. I'm gonna hit the hay. I'm beat."

James just shook his head and followed his older brother upstairs to their room.

"Goodnight." There were several muttered replies. It seemed that everyone was pretty tired.

"Looks like it's just the two of us, Elf." He nodded and followed me downstairs.

"I think today was the most fun I've ever had." Elf was just beaming with a smile that went quite literally from ear to ear. "I can't even remember the last time I was out somewhere, on my own, without some counselor or adult watching every move I make. I can't even remember ever playin' in the snow before. Thanks for the best Christmas present ever."

I smiled and kissed him on the forehead as we reached the bottom of the stairs.

Maxine was true to form and had laid out a pillow and blankets on the sofa. She always did that for Chris and Joey too even though she knew they slept in bed with me.


Elf nodded as I flipped the switch and set the channel. He was still about half asleep, but somehow managed to help me spread the blankets over the floor in front of the sofa.

We stripped to our underwear and sat next to each other on the floor, propping ourselves up on the sofa, and pulling the blankets over us to keep warm.

I couldn't tell what was going through Elf's mind, but my heart was racing with anticipation. We were finally alone and in bed together, our nearly naked bodies touching from shoulder to toe. I had wanted this for weeks. It seemed so right, yet it was all wrong.

Elf glanced up at me and smiled as we snuggled up together and I smiled back. He laid his head on my shoulder and I put my arm around him. We sat silently and stared at the television, but I wasn't watching the program. I was lost, deep in thought.

That Dickens movie kept playing itself over and over in my mind until finally it hit me. My own ghosts of past, present, and future were tormenting me. I needed to sort them out.

The past was easy. That was Chris. I never had the chance to say goodbye. Everyone blamed me for his suicide including his parents. I didn't get to attend the funeral. I didn't even know where he was buried.

I glanced down at Elf and was certain that the boy sleeping in my arms was my future. I loved him. There was no doubt about it. But I couldn't be his. Not yet. Not until I put Chris behind me.

But there was something else in the way as well. Joey. He was my best friend and I knew that he fully expected to become my boyfriend upon my return. He loved me more than anything and I was going to break his heart, again. Joey was the ghost of the present and before I could move onto my future, I would have to do something about Joey.

I had teased him and taunted him, tantalizing him with sex until neither one of us could stand it. I had all but promised to take his virginity. I knew he was waiting for me. I had no idea what I was going to do about Joey.

At least for tonight, I wouldn't have to worry about Elf. The cute little guy was sound asleep, with visions of sugar plums dancing through his head, no doubt.

"Rise and shine boys. Up and at 'em."

I opened my eyes just in time to be blinded by a flash of light. "Ow!" I heard Elf groan a little.

"Sorry about that. You boys were just so cute, I couldn't help but take a couple pictures." Maxine was grinning and still pointing the camera at us. "You've got just enough time to get a shower before breakfast, if you hurry. After everything's cleaned up, we open the presents."

I smiled and threw off the blankets, forgetting that we were both in nothing but our underwear. I was immediately blinded by another flash. Maxine was giggling like a schoolgirl. "You boys hurry it up." She said as she headed back upstairs.

"Damn Mike, I'm practically naked here." Elf was protesting, but had made no move to cover himself.

"And that ain't all." I was looking at the tent sticking up in his boxers.

"Aw fuck, man. You think she noticed?" Elf's face went red as he moved his hands to cover himself.

"It's a little late to try and hide it, don'tcha think?" I was giggling and really, really hoping he'd move his hands.

"Gawwwwd." Elf got to his feet and we folded the blankets before tossing them onto the sofa.

I couldn't take my eyes off his crotch. I'd seen him in his underwear, and even naked, a bunch of times in the dorm, but never with an erection. I smiled at him and he blushed. If this boy ever got any cuter, I'd never be able to control myself. In fact, I realized I was starting to lose control as I felt my briefs getting a little tighter in front.

"Time for a shower." I started towards the bathroom, then glanced back at him, "Aren't you coming?"

Elf looked at me quizzically. I motioned him on as I continued into the room. He followed and I got the water started. When I turned around he'd already dropped his boxers and I nearly choked at the gorgeous site in front of me. He was just standing there, an anxious half smile on his face. I could tell he was just as nervous as I was.

His dick was small and narrow with the cutest little pink cap on top and his balls hanging loosely below, but on his slight and scrawny frame, it actually looked big. I couldn't help but stare at it.

"Aw fuck, man. You just gonna stare at me all day or are you gonna show me yours?" His voice was excited and impatient.

"Sorry... but gawd... you are so beautiful." I gasped, finding myself completely out of breath, "I couldn't help it." I pulled down my briefs and my dick thumped as it slapped against my belly.

Elf smiled approvingly and stepped into the shower. I quickly followed.

"I... last night... I thought... maybe... maybe you didn't want me." Elf's voice was shaky, hesitant, as he stepped under the spigot to wet himself.

"Sorry." I wasn't sure what else to say and I wished he hadn't brought it up.

"Something's wrong, huh?" He moved from under the water so I could get wet.

"It's just... well... there's some things I gotta do first." I wanted to have this conversation, but not just now. This wasn't something I could explain while standing naked, in the shower, and with an erection.

Elf reached for the soap, but I beat him to it. I grabbed the wash cloth and rubbed some soap on it. "I love you Elf. I want you more than anything." I put my hand on his shoulder and turned him away from me, then began scrubbing his back. "I want to be your boyfriend. I want to make love to you." I raised his arm and scrubbed under it then reached around and did his chest. I hoped that by washing him I could demonstrate that I wanted him even if I couldn't make love to him right now.

"But..." There was disappointment in his voice.

"No buts. If you feel the same way we are gonna be lovers." As much as I wanted it, I knew it couldn't happen right this minute. But if he wanted it, there would be no "but," there would just be a "later."

I scrubbed my way under his other arm and down his stomach. I shivered as I felt the back of my hand brush against his erection. Why did I have to make such a big deal out of everything? Why couldn't I just let go and seize the moment? It was perfect. Elf was perfect. But I was too flawed.

I started to move down his waist to the outside of his thigh. But as I stooped, he turned and put his arms around me and pulled me back up. Our bodies pressed together and our lips met. I melted. I felt myself being washed right down the drain.

"Even if I have to wait until the end of time, I'll wait for you, Mike. I never knew I could love anybody so much. I never cared before. I'll wait. I don't care how hard it gets."

I wanted to cry, but couldn't help giggling at his last statement. I could feel how hard it was. It was pressing into my thigh.

"Boys! We're waiting." Maxine was becoming impatient and yelled down from the top oof the stairs.

"We'll be up in a second." I yelled back to her.

"I think we're already up." Elf giggled.

Hurriedly I ran the washcloth up and down his legs, but let my hands linger a bit as I got to his crotch. I wanted to hold it forever. "Maybe she didn't notice your condition after all. Otherwise she'd know to be a little more patient."

We both cracked up at that one. Elf and I changed places so he could rinse off. While he did, I quickly soaped up, not waiting for him to wash me as I had him. We had both kicked into overdrive and Elf was out of the shower and dried just as I was finished rinsing. He handed me the towel and scampered naked across the basement and into my room to get some clean clothes. I joined him about 30 seconds later and we finished dressing just as my aunt was hollering down at us again.

Breakfast was a series of jokes, puns, and innuendo with my aunt, my cousins, and even Uncle Jim joining in. I don't think I'd ever been so embarrassed in front of so many people. And we hadn't even DONE anything.

After the dishes were washed and the kitchen was clean, it was time to open presents. At home, we started with the youngest member of the family and worked our way to the oldest with each person opening all their presents before the next began. But here they did it differently, they started with the oldest family member who passed out all the gifts that he had gotten for each of the others.

The gifts were mostly clothing, jewelry, watches, wallets and other such practical items, though Elf and I bought eight track tapes for Cliff and James. I was really surprised at how much stuff they had bought for Elf and myself. Neither of us had expected much. I was the youngest so I was the last to pass out my gifts, but when I had finished, one item remained under the tree.

"What's this?" Uncle Jim reached for the long and slender box. "Looks like it's for Elf and Mike. But it doesn't say who it's from." He handed the box to Elf who was sitting closer to him than I was.

As Elf began tearing open the wrapping we each looked at one another expecting to find out who the gift came from, but everyone just shrugged their shoulders. Inside the wrapper was a plain white box. He removed the lid. Suddenly his eyes widened and his mouth dropped open. "Aw... fuck... man!" He stammered out the words as he tossed the box on the floor.

"Holy Shit!"

"Oh my God!"

We each uttered our own exclamation as we saw what rolled out of the box. Cliff and James broke into a fit of laughter while their father just stared at the thing. Maxine stepped back in utter horror. I was completely dumbfounded and Elf had turned the deepest shade of red I'd ever seen.

If it hadn't been plastic, I'd have sworn someone had cut off Joey's dick and stuck it in the box. It was about the same size and had a pair of testicles at one end. Laying on the floor next to it was a tube of K-Y Jelly. Maxine, of course, blamed her sons and it took about ten minutes for the hysterics to die down enough for them to emphatically deny putting it under the tree.

In the end it was Uncle Jim who finally fessed up. "That's just in case you get lonely or find out that one of you just isn't enough."

I thought Maxine was gonna kill him before she finally turned to Elf and I, "Get that THING downstairs. I don't ever want to have to see it or hear about it again."

Elf and I just looked at each other. Neither of us wanted to touch it.

Finally, Jim put it back in the box and handed it to me. "Better do as she says, boys, before we end up in even bigger trouble."

I quickly took it downstairs and hid it in my dresser under my underwear. Everyone was still in hysterics when I returned.

"Ok boys, there's one more present, if you want it. Now I want everyone to come over here and sit down." Maxine motioned us to the dining table and the serious tone of her voice was enough to quiet the laughter. She looked at me as she spoke. "Your Uncle Jim and I, and your cousins have been talking about this for several days now, even before Dr. Barnes gave you permission for Elf to spend Christmas with us. I've discussed it with Dr. Barnes and Elf's social worker and they both think it's a good idea."

As she paused for a breath, I looked over at Elf. He seemed to be as much in the dark as I was. But everyone else was smiling so I figured it couldn't be too bad.

"Mike, how would you like to have a roommate when you come home?"

A roommate? I was totally confused and had no idea what she was talking about. Was Cliff or James going to move down to my room? It didn't make sense.

"What do you think, Elf? Would you like to share a room with Mike?"

Suddenly it hit me. But how? I looked over at Elf who was just staring at her in disbelief.

"How?" I just blurted it out.

"We can get a foster care license from the county. Miss Evans will expedite it so Elf can come home the same day you do."

This was more than my brain could hold. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The best I had even dreamed of was that Elf would come to visit on weekends. The thought that he could live here had never entered my mind.

I looked over at Elf. He had tears streaming down his face. He stood up and stepped over to Maxine, wrapped his arms around her and held on for dear life. Maxine put her hand under Elf's chin and lifted it up so she could see his face. "When it comes down to it, love and friendship are all I have. If I can't share them with someone, there's just no point in having them. And I can't think of two finer boys to share them with."

It wasn't long until we were all crying.

"I think it's time you boys followed your Uncle Jim out to the garage." Maxine was trying to wipe the tears from her cheeks.

Elf slowly pried himself away from her and the three of us headed through the house and into the garage.

"This is for the two of you."

Elf and I looked at each other, then back to the chest of drawers, the bunk beds, and the pair of desks sitting on the garage floor.

"I'll be tearing out the walls of your room, we'll have to make it a bit bigger to get all this to fit. By the time we're done, you boys will have your own little apartment down there, minus a kitchen, of course."

The morning had been completely overwhelming, and it wasn't even half over. Elf and I found ourselves laying sideways across my bed staring at the ceiling.

"I can't believe you're gonna be comin' here to live. We're gonna be like brothers." I was excited, but my voice betrayed how exhausted I was.

"Yeah, bunk beds and everything." There was more than just a hint of sarcasm in Elf's voice.

I chuckled. "I asked Uncle Jim about that while you were in the bathroom. He said it was some sort of law that foster kids had to have their own bed."

"Oh." Elf was still less than enthusiastic.

I gave him a playful backhand to the gut. He gasped and curled into a ball. "The law doesn't say you gotta sleep in it."

"Oh, then where am I gonna sleep?"

"With me, silly." I rolled over and tried to pounce on him, but he was too quick and wiggled away. It was then that I realized that he didn't have a very playful look on his face. "What's wrong?" Everything was near perfect as far as I was concerned.

"I was just wondering about this morning, tryin' to figure out where I fit in. Am I gonna be your boyfriend or your brother?"

I could be pretty dense sometimes. "You're gonna be my boyfriend." I tried to say it as emphatically as possible.

"Then what's holding us back? If I'm gonna hafta wait for ya, ya gotta tell me why I'm waitin'." He sat up on the bed, cross-legged, leaning back against the wall.

"It's kinda complicated. But there's two things I gotta take care of before I can make a commitment." I sat up next to him, but sort of perpendicular, leaning against the head of the bed. Elf just looked at me so I continued. "First, there's Chris. I never got to say goodbye. I tried to go to the funeral. But everyone was blaming me for his suicide. It was a bad scene. I couldn't stay. I gotta put that right. I gotta say goodbye."

"Ok, but when. How long am I gonna wait for you to get over him?" Elf may have been small and fragile and always kidding around, but he could be tough when he wanted to be. He wasn't gonna make this easy.

"Today, I think. It'll be my Christmas present to you. His parents live a couple houses up the street. I'll go talk to them. I'll try and find out where he's buried so I can go see him."

"You're gonna talk to his parents?" I'd really gotten his attention now.

"I gotta try. They might slam the door in my face, but I gotta try."

"Aw fuck, man. I don't think I could ever do that."

I just nodded and smiled.

We just sat there for a moment. Both of us staring into our laps. "So what's the other thing?" Elf broke the silence.

I looked up at him, "Joey."

He looked rather puzzled.

"This one's a little more difficult to explain. Joey's my best friend. He's just about the best friend anyone could ever have. I don't know how to tell him about us."

Elf looked confused. "I'm not sure I understand."

"I'm not sure I do either. After Chris died I think that both of us kind of figured that we'd end up as boyfriends sooner or later. I broke his heart once when I stole Chris from him. This could be even worse."

"Aw fuck, man." Elf's whole mood seemed to fade. "I don't want to come between you two. Joey's a really good guy. I was kinda hopin' we'd end up friends."

"That's what's making this so tough. I don't just want to spring it on him. 'Sorry Joey, but I've decided Elf is gonna be my boyfriend.' Especially not when I've treated him the way I have."

"What do you mean? I thought you treated him really good?"

"It's not that. It's... well..." I wasn't sure I would be able to explain this. "I've really been leading him on."

"I don't understand?"

"Sexually. I've teased the hell out of him. I get him so wound up that he practically comes in his pants whenever he's around me." Both of us were having trouble holding back our giggles. "He's a virgin. The most he ever did was jack off with me and Chris. I keep getting his hopes up that I'll do it with him."

"Sounds like it's more than just his hopes you're getting up." Our giggles turned to laughter and Elf sort of toppled over into my lap. "Maybe I can help."

"How?" I looked down at him and began stroking his hair.

"He's comin' over tonight, right?"


"Then somehow we'll find a way to talk about it... together."

I shivered from the cold as I approached the Curtis' house. It had snowed all night and there had to be at least eight inches of the white stuff covering the ground. I was wearing a down parka with a ski cap and gloves. But I didn't have any boots and though I was just heading up the street, I had gotten enough snow inside my shoes that my feet were getting cold.

I shook my head. Elf was amazing. I had just told him that I couldn't be with him until I broke up with my dead boyfriend and some guy who had never been my boyfriend in the first place. He not only accepted it, he wanted to help.

I plodded my way up the driveway. No one had shoveled and there weren't even any footprints. Snow was clinging to the legs of my pants and my feet were starting to feel wet. Finally I reached the doorstep. I used my feet to clear off enough space for the door to open. I stomped my feet on the concrete to knock the snow from them and knocked on the door. At first I didn't think anyone was home, but as I started to knock a second time I heard the click of the lock and the door opened.

"Hi Mrs. Curtis." I tried to sound cheerful, but I wasn't sure how it came out. "Merry Christmas."

"Mike. Is that you?" She seemed genuinely surprised and unexpectedly nice considering what had been said at Chris' funeral.

I nodded.

"Well get in here before you freeze to death."

I kicked my feet against the doorstop to shake off what was left of the snow, then stepped inside.

"I've been wanting to speak with you." Her tone was now more serious as she paused to draw a breath.

Uh-oh. Here it comes. I closed my eyes and braced myself for the worst.

"I've been trying to figure out just what to say. 'I'm sorry' just never seemed like enough."

I opened my eyes and smiled.

"Well, here. Give me your coat and have seat." She motioned me towards the sofa. "Chris! Look who's here."

My heart nearly leapt from my chest as she spoke and I gasped. Then I realized that she was calling Chris' father. I heard footsteps coming from the hall.

Mr. Curtis appeared from around the corner. He came to an abrupt halt when he saw me.

"Um, hi Mr. Curtis." I wasn't too sure what to say, but figured if I spoke first things might go a little better.

"Honey, I was just telling Michael how sorry we are for the way he was treated at Chris' funeral." Mrs. Curtis must have been thinking the same thing.

"Ah, yes. Well, merry Christmas Mike." He stepped towards me and extended his hand.

I took it and gave it a shake. "Yes merry Christmas."

Mr. Curtis sat in his chair and I followed suit sitting on the sofa. Mrs. Curtis stepped around the coffee table and sat on my opposite side. I was surrounded.

My eyes were on the floor as I spoke, "That's ok, I even thought it was my fault."

"Still, we should have treated you better, shouldn't we honey?"

Mr. Curtis grunted, sort of clearing his throat. "I suppose."

"Mr. Curtis, I..."

He cut me off, motioning with his hand for me to stop. Again he cleared his throat. "I'm sorry, Mike, if I'm not too friendly here. I never really understood this whole thing to begin with." He was fidgeting with his hands and staring right through me. "I don't understand how two boys... well, that's not really important. I just wanted what was best for my son. I tried to be understanding. I tolerated your, um, relationship. If my son was gonna be... what do you call yourselves? Gay, is it? Well, if that's what he wanted, then I was going to try my best to support him." He stopped for a breath and adjusted his seat in his chair.

I glanced quickly at Mrs. Curtis who seemed content with letting her husband speak.

"I didn't do very well, I'm afraid."

"I thought, he thought you did just fine. You did a lot better than my dad. He threw me out. We're in therapy now, but we still don't speak very much." I tried to hold back the tears that were welling up in my eyes. "You tried, and I know Chris appreciated it." I looked over at Mrs. Curtis. She had tears in her eyes. "You did really good, Mrs. Curtis. I always felt welcome here. Chris was so proud of both of you." I was choking on the words and couldn't talk anymore. I couldn't hold the tears any longer either.

After what seemed like an eternity, Mrs. Curtis finally spoke. "You'll always be welcome here, Michael. And I, no we, do hope you'll come visit from time to time." She stood and stepped towards me. I stood as well and she pulled me close and held me for one of the best hugs of my life.

We had no sooner than parted when Mr. Curtis gave me a quick hug and a pat on the back. "Now, I'm sure there was another reason for your visit."

I smiled. "Yeah, I never got to say goodbye to Chris. I really need to, but I don't know where he's buried."

Mr. Curtis returned mine with a big broad smile of his own. "Yes, you really should get to do that."

He gave me directions before I headed back home. Chris was buried across town and there was just no way of getting there today. The roads were far too bad for that and it was too cold and snowy to walk. I'd get there before I went back to the group home, but somehow, I felt like I'd already said everything that I needed to say.

My parents brought my brothers and sister over for Christmas dinner. We exchanged presents and they all seemed happy with what I got them, Cleveland Browns t-shirts for my brothers, a stuffed animal for my sister, and a "Mom" and "Dad" coffee mug for each of my parents. I got more clothes. I kind of figured that if this kept up, I'd have socks and underwear coming out of my ears by the time I got back to the group home.

My mom and I barely spoke and she ignored Elf completely. My dad didn't seem to take to him either. But my little brothers seemed to think he was the greatest thing to hit the planet. They spent the whole afternoon playing with some "Hot Wheels" they received from Cliff and James. If I hadn't known better, I'd have sworn Elf was about eight years old.

We had just finished dinner. Maxine and my mother were clearing the table, Cliff and James volunteered to do the dishes, Elf took the kids into the family room to keep them entertained and out of the way, and I'm not too sure what happened to Uncle Jim. I was starting to help with the dishes when my dad called me into the living room.

"We need to talk." He had that serious tone and hard look that seemed to mark every conversation we had these days. "Sit down." It was more an order than an invitation.

I hesitated.

"No arguing, no criticism. I promise." He softened just a bit.

I sat on the opposite side of the table from the chair he pulled out for himself. If this didn't go well I wanted the table between us.

"Son, I just don't understand this homosexual thing."

I started to get up. This was not a conversation I felt safe having.

"But I want to try." There was a bit of pleading in his voice.

I looked at him. He nodded. I sat.

"I'm not saying that I can ever condone it." He paused, obviously searching for the right words. He was really trying to keep this civil. "But I don't want to lose my son over it either."

I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe therapy was starting to work. This was the longest conversation we'd had without yelling since the day he threw me out.

"So what do you want?" I could have said that nicer and regretting the tone I'd used.

He swallowed hard stopping himself from reacting to my tone. "I want you to explain it to me."

I just looked at him. I had no idea what to say. Explain it to him? I wasn't even sure I could explain it to me.

"Not here. Not now. But soon. Alright?"

He must have sensed that I had no answer for him and he decided to let me off the hook. I guess it's better than arguing about it which was what I almost had done.

"Yeah, ok dad. Soon."

I just sat there in disbelief as he walked back into the kitchen. That was maybe the weirdest conversation I'd ever had. But at least it was civil.

"Merry Christmas Joey!" I practically yanked him into the house, wrapped my arms around him, and squeezed him so tight I thought I might break him. Before he could even say a word I'd already filled his mouth with tongue. I could hear Cliff and James hollerin' in the background and making catcalls.

"Um... Merry Christmas to you too." It took him a second after I let him go to recover from the shock. "Damn."

"I thought you'd never get here." It was almost nine p.m. He was supposed to be here hours ago. I'd been really worried.

"I almost didn't. We just spent seven hours on the road. It's usually a four hour drive from my grandma's."

"Well, thank God you made it." I helped him get his coat off and hung it in the closet.

After everyone said 'hello' and 'merry Christmas' Joey pulled an apple pie from the bag he was carrying and handed it to Maxine. "Merry Christmas."

"Well thank you, Joey. You know you didn't have to bring anything. Now come on in here and let's get you some dinner. You must be starving." Maxine was already pulling a plate from the refrigerator. "Let me pop this in the oven. It'll be hot in no time."

While Joey ate, Elf and I filled him in on all the details of the last two days. Well, there were a couple things we saved until we could be alone.

"So what's this mystery gift you wouldn't talk about upstairs?" Joey could barely spit out the words through his giggles. Elf and Joey were sitting on my bed, shoulder to shoulder and leaning against the wall. Elf was being rather frisky, wrestling and tickling Joey in an obvious attempt to get him flustered. It was working, too, and even better than he'd hoped. I was getting turned on just watching them.

I reached into my underwear drawer and pulled out the box. Joey watched intently, but Elf was rolling on the bed and holding sides from laughter. I handed the box to Joey.

"OH FUCK!" The box fell from Joey's hands and the huge penis rolled out into his lap. Elf fell off the bad and I dropped to my knees from laughter. "Jesus Christ!"

"The first time I saw it, I thought you'd cut your dick off and given it to us for Christmas." I was laughing so hard I could barely talk. "Know how I knew it wasn't yours?"

Joey looked like he was afraid to ask.

"It ain't big enough."

"Aw fuck, man. No way is his thing bigger than that."

"Sure it is."

"No way."

Elf and I both gave Joey the same the same diabolical look at the same time.

"Uh-uh. I'm not... you're not... NOOO!"

I grabbed Joey by the shoulders as Elf grabbed him around the legs. Joey struggled to no avail as I pulled him across the bed and Elf straddled his legs so he couldn't kick. I pulled Joey's t-shirt over his head, but left it on him, using it to help bind his arms over his head. At the same time Elf undid Joeys jeans and in one motion, yanked both jeans and boxers from Joey's body.

"Aw fuck man, it IS bigger." Elf's eyes were wide with amazement.

"And he ain't even hard yet." It had been a while since I'd last seen Joey naked, but somehow he seemed even bigger than before.

Joey made one last desperation attempt to get away as Elf reached for both the plastic penis and the real one. He gasped and quivered at Elf's touch. Elf moved the fake organ next to Joey's real one, which by now was fully erect. It was no comparison. Joey won easily.

"God damn." Elf shook his head in disbelief.

Joey gasped again and his whole body twitched and stiffened. "Oh God. No! Let go! Let go! Let go!" He panted out the words.

Elf didn't let go. Instead he used both hands to give Joey a couple very quick strokes.

"Let goooooooooooooooooo!" Joey sounded like he was in pain, but the two of us knew otherwise. A huge thick gooey rope of Joey juice shot into the air and splattered across his chest. Joey went into convulsions as the first shot was followed by two more. He was gasping so hard I pulled the t-shirt the rest of the way over his head and off him so it would be easier for him to breath. Elf continued pumping while Joey writhed across the bed, eventually slowing as Joey also came back to earth. Joey's body was covered in cum, three long lines of the stuff, one reaching from his neck to his navel. There were several more puddles splattered across his chest and stomach. Elf's hands were bathed in the stuff.

Joey finally opened his eyes and looked up at the two of us. Still out of breath, he looked down across his body. "Will one of you grab a towel and wipe this stuff off me?"

Elf looked at his hands, then at me as he smiled and licked his lips. He bobbed his head sideways in Joey's direction and raised an eyebrow. "Well, dig in."

I nearly choked as I realized what it was that he was trying to get me to do. But I couldn't stop myself either. I leaned forward and touched my tongue to the nearest strand of Joey's essence and licked my way down to the tip of his cock. I couldn't resist. I took the thing into my mouth. It was so thick, I couldn't get much inside, but I could feel it as it twitched and began to come back to life.

"Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God." Joey repeated the words over and over as I continued to suck and lick. Elf knelt between Joey's legs and lapped at his balls. They were so big he had trouble getting even one into his mouth. I felt Joey's body twitch and his dick expand as it launched a jet of Joey down my throat. There wasn't nearly as much this time as before, but there was still quite a bit. I think I managed to swallow most of it and what I couldn't get, Elf eagerly lapped up along with what remained from his first explosion. By the time we had finished with our tongue bath, Joey was in never-never land.

Elf just looked at me and I at him. He had this real sinister grin on his face and it was only then that I realized he'd been planning this since this morning. He knew I'd never have agreed to it and he knew that I knew that he knew. The kid was downright evil, but I loved him and wouldn't have allowed it to be any other way. He'd given me permission to give Joey the one thing that I'd wanted to give him more than anything in the world and from the look on Elf's face, we'd barely gotten started.

Elf was curled up, asleep in my arms. Joey was next to me, our backs touching. I could hear him snoring. I never noticed that before. Gawd what a night. It had been full of new experiences, for both me and Joey. Elf was quite a teacher and I was sure there was a lot more to come. None of us were virgins anymore. I hadn't considered myself to be one anyway, but until last night, my ass had been. Elf saw to it that it didn't stay that way. And I had ensured that Joey's didn't either.

It had all been great, but it bothered me too. I hadn't been prepared for it and I was worried about how this was gonna effect our relationships. I still wanted Elf for a boyfriend and Joey for a best friend. I didn't want to hurt, or lose either one, but feared I'd end up with neither.

Elf was still in my arms as I awoke the next morning. His face was calm and peaceful. I breathed in his scent. It brought a smile to my face. But I no longer felt Joey behind me. I reached back to touch him, but there was no one there. All my fears from last night came flooding back into my head. I had to find him. I was careful not to wake Elf as I climbed out of bed and stepped out of the room without pausing to dress.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw Joey on the sofa, curled up in a blanket. Must have come out here to be more comfortable. Three teens in a bed doesn't leave much room.

I heard a sniffle. A whimper. Another sniffle. Oh God, he's crying. I knew it. Mike you are such an ass. Why did you let this happen?

I walked to the sofa and knelt beside him, putting my hand on what looked like his shoulder. He jumped a bit. "It's me, Joey, what's wrong?"

"Go away. Just leave me alone."

"You know that's not gonna happen. I ain't leavin' til Iyou talk to me."

He rolled towards me and stuck his head out from under the blanket. His eyes were red. "I ain't some charity case, Mike."

"What are you talkin' about Joey?"

"Last night. You shouldn't have done that." He used the blanket to wipe away a tear.

"Done what?" I knew exactly what he was talkin' about, but somehow I needed him to say it.

"The sex, Mike. Why did you guys do that? I shouldn't have been there."

"You were there because we love you Joey."

"You don't love me. You love him." He covered his head again.

"You're wrong, Joey."

"No I'm not. A blind man could it from a hundred miles away. I was just too horny last night to realize." He rolled away from me.

I put my hand back on his shoulder. "Look Joey. It's true that Elf and I are in love. But we both love you and we wanted you to know that. What we did last night... We risked everything for you."

Joey turned back towards me and uncovered his face. He looked confused.

"I belong to Elf and Elf belongs to me. We've given everything we are to each other. That's what it means to be in love. But last night, each of us took a little piece back, and we gave it to you. That means I'm not completely his anymore and he's not completely mine. That puts our whole relationship at risk. But that's what friendship is, Joey. Friends risk themselves for each other. Me and Elf, we risked our whole relationship for you. We did it because we love you and we wanted to prove to you how much you mean to us." I wasn't too sure that what I was sayin' was making much sense, but it sounded good to me.

"You... you mean you're willing to risk losing Elf... for me?"

I nodded.

"And Elf would give you up to be friends with me?"

"He took that chance, didn't he?"

"I sure as Hell did."

Elf had walked up behind us. He was still nekkid as a jaybird, and that cute little thing was pointin' straight up at the ceiling.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Joey lick his lips.

"Uh-uh. Last night was last night. I might be tempted to share him with you again someday, but today he's all mine."

Elf and I were only a few minutes late as we got out of the car. By now it was more dark than dusk. I hated that the sun goes down so early in the winter. Joey had to run some errands for his mother and Elf and I had agreed to catch up with him at the Plaza in time for an early movie.

"Thanks Maxine."

"Yeah, thanks for the ride." I echoed Elf's sentiment. The theater is around this way." I pointed to my right at a passage between the two buildings that made up the plaza. "The entrance is in back."

"Joey must be back there already." Elf said as he followed my lead.

We walked to the back and looked around. There were several people milling about, but no Joey.

"I wonder where he could..." I was cut off by a loud shout and a crowd pushing past us. I turned to see a shadowy figure stumbling from behind the other building.

"JOEY!" Elf pointed and grabbed my arm.

I hurriedly pushed my way past people as I cleared a path for the two of us. We got there just as Joey fell to the ground.

"Joey. Oh God. Joey, what happened." His face was bloody. I couldn't see well enough to tell how badly he was hurt.

"Somebody get an ambulance!" I heard Elf shouting to the crowd and someone else responding.

"Joey, what happened." I took hold of him and helped him sit, leaning against the wall.

"Recob." Joey could barely mouth the words.

"Recob! I thought he was in jail." I had loosened the buttons on Joey's coat. "When?"

"Just now. He was looking for you. He went through the woods. I told him you'd be walking through Branyan's farm."

Damn. Elf and I had just missed him. If we hadn't gotten a ride, we'd have found him coming across Branyan's farm. "Elf. Take care of Joey. Make sure he's ok. I'm gonna get that bastard."

"No. Mike."

"I gotta put an end to this, Joey. Elf will make sure you're all right."

I stepped quickly away and headed for the woods. It's strange sometimes, the thoughts that run through your head. I should have been focused on Recob, but Dickens was still on my mind. I had misjudged my ghosts. I had thought Joey was the ghost of the present. But he was the future. He'd never been my lover, but could have been, would have been had I not met Elf. But now I could see more clearly. Recob was the ghost of the present. He had been the driving force behind it all. He was the present that had created my past. He was the present that was shaping my future. If I couldn't exorcise this demon, I'd have no future. It was time I took control.

"RECOB!" I had caught him at the edge of the woods. It was a good place for a fight. The trees had sheltered the ground from the snow. I'd be able to keep my footing and move around easier than if we'd been out in the open. Mobility was the one advantage I had over him.

Ron turned. "Well. I knew beating that little shit would get the little fairy to crawl out of the woodwork." He smiled. "Surprised to see me? Bail is such a wonderful thing, don't you think?"

"Fuck you!" I stood with my fists clenched, holding my ground and expecting him to step towards me. "If you wanted me, all you ever had to do was say so."

"So the fairy thinks he's got the balls to stand up to me, does he?" Ron turned and put a hand into his coat. "Well let's see just how big the fairy's balls are."

"Go for it you asshole." I hated the way he spoke as though I wasn't even there. The way he refused to acknowledge me. "By the way, how's the food in jail? Drop the soap yet?"

A wry smile appeared on his face. "Not nearly as bad as the nuthouse, I'd imagine and I suppose you drop yours all the time." He let his coat drop open and pulled out one of what looked like two handguns stuffed into the front of his pants. He threw it at my feet. "Go ahead. Pick it up." He pulled out the second pistol.

He'd caught me off guard and I just stood there. I didn't know what to think.

"Well? You got the balls or not?" His eyes were cold as steel. "You can even have the first shot.' He paused a moment. "If you got the balls."

"It prob'ly ain't even loaded." My voice betrayed me and broke up as I spoke.

"It's loaded. Go ahead, check it. I won't shoot til you do." He squared off against me. "I'm gonna blow your head off whether you pick it up or not." He pointed his gun at me and cocked the hammer.

"Pistols at sundown, eh Ronnie?" Kirshner emerged from the trees. "You always said you wanted to fight a duel."

"Stay out of this Joe." Recob pointed the pistol at Kirshner.

"What? Can't stand it if the odds aren't stacked in your favor?" Kirshner continued to step slowly towards me and the gun at my feet.

"No Joe, I can handle this." What the hell was I? Chopped fucking liver? I could take care of myself. I didn't need Kirshner's intervention. "Where the hell did you come from anyway?"

"heard you were back. Came lookin' for ya.. Wanted to warn you he was out. I found Joey and that other faggot instead." Joe looked over at Ron who was still pointing the gun at him. "This is between me and you. Let him go."

"No way. After I kill the fairy, then you can have your chance. Pick up the gun, faggot."

I stood there trembling. I didn't know what to do. I felt myself starting to reach down. It didn't even seem like it was me who was moving. It was sorta like I was watching myself on TV.

"Now get out of the fuckin' way." Joe shoved me with his left hand as he dove for the gun.

I was knocked off balance and fell as I heard the deafening blast. Joe hit the ground hard, but managed to grab the gun and roll as he fell. A second shot had Recob staggering backwards. Ron dropped his gun, but managed to stay on his feet.

Joe struggled to get up. Blood dripped from under his coat and he held his left arm against his side. He stepped towards Ron who looked down at the gun at his feet.

"Tell him." Kirshner had righted himself and was standing there pointing the gun at Recob. "C'mon asshole. Tell him everything. All of it."

Recob just glared back at him. "Alright."

Recob turned towards me and I stepped back a bit. He smiled.

"The little fairy's still scared shitless. You want to know the truth?"

I nodded tentatively.

"I fucked his brains out... six, maybe seven times." He choked on his laughter as the words came out.

My stomach churned. I felt like I was gonna throw up. I hated this asshole. But I couldn't move. I just stood there and listened.

"He was a tight little fuck. Better'n most pussy I ever had."

God I hated that smirk of his. I wanted to knock it right off his face.

"Too bad you never got any of that sweet little ass of his. Yeah, that's right. He told me. He begged and pleaded for me to leave his virginity intact." Ron chuckled, then coughed. "But you know the best part? He liked it too. Always wanted more."

I stepped towards him, clenching my fists.

"You wanna know how he died?"

I stopped just before getting close enough to hit the motherfucker.

"What would you know about that?" My voice was hard and cold. I was seeing nothing but red.

His smirk returned.

"Go on."

"Should I tell him, Joe? Or you want to?"

I looked over at Joe who still held the gun on him.

"It's your story."

"What d'ya know about this Joe?" I wasn't so sure I wanted an answer to that. It was enough that he knew anything.

"What didn't he know?"

I looked back at Recob. His breathing was heavier. He had a trickle of blood oozing from his mouth. I figured he didn't have much longer.

"We paid your little boyfriend a visit that afternoon. You know, the day you went over to beg him to take you back."

I coughed, choked a little.

"Didn't know we were there, did ya?" Recob was laughing when he said it. "That's right. He slammed the door in your face to keep you out of it."

I felt myself getting dizzy. Chris had sacrificed himself for me. Oh FUCK! I never knew. Suddenly, I was cold. Recob's laughter brought me back to reality.

"You want me to tell him what you did, Joe?" Recob staggered as he spoke, then dropped to a knee.

I looked back to Kirshner who just stood there holding the gun.

"Your savior standing over there..." Recob shot a glance at Joe as he spoke. "He's the one that gave Chris the sleeping pills."

I looked over at Joe. All my rage. All my anger now focused on him. I didn't care that he had the gun. I was gonna rip the motherfucker limb from limb. I only wanted to hear him say it first.


"After they left, he was just layin' on the floor cryin'. Ron handed me the pills. Told me I should put him out of his misery. I put the bottle in his hand. That's all."

I covered my ears with my hands. "Nooooooooo!" I couldn't catch my breath. I was in agony. I fell to my knees, tears streaming down my face.

"Sorry Mike. I lied before. I thought I could still get out of it. But there's just no way. I didn't want to be there but Larkin and Boselli... they held me while we watched Ron do Chris. Then when he was done, he handed me the pills. Chris begged me for them. After I gave them to him, he begged me to watch out for you. To protect you."

"How sweet. Very touching, Joseph." Recob slumped to the ground nearly dead, but still laughing at us.

Joe pointed the gun at him and pulled the trigger. The sound that ripped through my ears made it feel as though I was the one he'd just shot.

Recob twitched and his last breath escaped through his lips.

"I never wanted any of this. I just didn't have the courage to stand up to him. I promised Chris that I'd protect you from him. I imagine you can protect yourself from Boselli and Larkin. Regardless, you're gonna have to. I don't think I'm gonna make it."

Joe was pale. I knew he'd been shot, but he was hurt much worse than I thought. He coughed, staggered, then fell to his knees.

My head was swirling. I didn't know whether to walk away or to help him. He'd helped us, then he'd helped hurt Chris. Then he'd helped me. Joe was an enigma I couldn't figure out.

"I'll get an ambulance."

But it was too late. Joe collapsed and lay lifeless on the ground.

I woke up the next day only half-aware of where I was. I'd been in a daze as the police questioned me for what seemed like hours. Joey had been taken to the hospital and no one would tell me what had happened to Elf.

"Hey sleepyhead. How you feelin'?"

"Bruce?" The dorm was starting to come into focus.

"Well you didn't expect Santa Claus, did ya?" It was good to see his familiar smile as he stood over me.

"How'd I get here?" I tried shaking the cobwebs from my head as I sat up in bed and put my feet on the floor.

"Dr. Barnes thought it might be better if he brought you back here last night." Bruce squatted in front of me and put his hand on my shoulder. "You gonna be ok?"

I wasn't sure at first why he was asking. I had a headache, but I couldn't see why he'd be so concerned about that. Slowly the memories began to return.

"Where's Elf?" I looked around. The dorm was empty.

"He stayed at your aunt's house. He'll be back this afternoon."

"What about Joey?" I tried to wipe the sleep from my eyes.

"Don't know. But you can call to find out if you want." Bruce stood up, taking my arm as he did and pulled me to my feet. "But after you've gotten showered and dressed."

As I stood, the covers fell off me, and I realized I was naked. "Oh shit." I was a bit startled and moved my hands to cover myself.

Bruce laughed and I realized how ridiculous I must have looked trying to cover myself when he'd seen me naked dozens of times.

"You were out cold from the sedative Dr. Barnes gave you when he brought you in. I had to undress you while you were lying in bed. Your underwear came off accidentally when I pulled your pants off."

"Did I enjoy it as much as you did?" I laughed as I grabbed my towel and wrapped it around my waist.

"Get out of here you goddam fairy." He swatted me on the butt as I walked away.

"Ooooooh! Beat me! Spthank me!" I swished my butt, flipped my wrist, and used my best lisp as I headed for the shower.

My mood faded quickly as I found myself alone in the shower and had time to think. The memory of finding Joey bleeding behind the store, Joe and Ron shooting it out, and the trauma of being questioned, even accused, by the police began to fill my head. I was standing under hot water, but I was shivering and felt cold as I lathered up and rinsed myself off.

I didn't wait to get dressed before calling Joey. I stopped at the phone on my way back into the dorm.

"Hello?" I recognized the voice immediately.

"Joey!" No way could I contain my excitement at hearing his voice.

"Hey, it's Wyatt Earp. Been to any good gunfights lately?"

"You ok?" I was way too concerned to laugh at his jokes.

"OK? You better corral that humor pilgrim." Joey was laughing his ass off, but his John Wayne imitation was horrible.

"Will you knock it off." I was trying to be serious, but I couldn't help but let a couple of chuckles get through. "Puleeease." Joey was still laughing and it was driving me crazy not knowing if he was hurt or not. "Just tell me you're ok, um, alright."

"Yeah sure, I'm fine. A few bruises, but nothing broken. "

"Prettiest purple eyes you've ever seen." I could hear Elf in the background.

"They're not THAT purple." Joey protested. "Really, they're not. I'm fine Mike."

"Yeah, well you're just gonna have to prove it to me."

"What do you mean?" Joey had calmed a bit.

"You're getting' your ass over here. NOW!" I was doing my best to sound authoritative and to keep from laughing. "And you're bringing my boyfriend with you dammit." I couldn't stifle my laughter any longer. Just knowing that both of them were ok was all I needed.

As I dressed, I couldn't help but reflect on how my life had changed during the last few months. I thought about my first meeting with Joey and how that had started the dominoes falling. How I had found him, beaten and bloodied, and taken him into the coach's office. That one simple act had lead to a series of events that had changed my life. It had started my life spiraling out of control. It was over now. I had faced my ghost and it wasn't Chris, or Joey, or Recob. I was my own ghost. I had viewed everyone and everything as the enemy at one time or another. But I had been my own worst enemy. My own refusal to accept who and what I am had nearly destroyed me. I had to accept me for who I am. That was the only way to save myself. 'Til now I'd felt like the lone gladiator in a den of lions and I still wasn't sure that I wouldn't end up being dinner, but I'd have lots of help from here on in.

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