Richie's thoughts were suddenly interrupted when he heard voices followed by the slamming of the front screen-door as TJ and Lindy came into the cabin.
"Dude, that was so funny when you lost it coming around that last turn." said TJ.
"Yeah? Well, I'd a been OK if he hadn't cut it so sharp just when I was going to cross the wake," said Lindy. Then, pointing to the bathroom he said, "There's the can, by the way."
"Cool, cause I gotta go so bad," said TJ. "Must be somethin about beer. Drink one and piss out two."
When he heard the bathroom door close, followed by Lindy's footsteps approaching the kitchen, Richie quickly tried to wipe the tears from his eyes before his friend could see them. He wasn't very successful.
"Hey, Rich, we were wondering where you went off to," said Lindy with a grin as he rounded the corner. When he saw the phone in Richie's hand, and his reddened eyes, however, the look on his face became serious. "What's the matter, bro? Bad news from home?"
"Nah, everything's cool," sniffed Richie. "So how was the water-skiing?"
"Um, it was great, but don't try changing the subject. What's got your eyes leakin, man?"
"Aw, It's nothin, Lindy, really. I'm just..."
"...a little homesick, maybe?" asked Lindy, finishing Richie's sentence for him. "Was that your mom on the phone?"
"Yeah, it was."
"Thought so. Mothers have a way of doin that to a guy." When Richie blew his nose on a paper towel, Lindy grinned even more, then lightly punched his friend in the shoulder. "Bet she asked if ya had enough clean underwear, too, didn't she?"
"Yeah, she did," answered Richie, perking up again. "How'd you know?"
"Shit, man, that wasn't a hard call. My mom would've asked me the same thing. All mothers must ask their kids that... I think it's the law or something."
Although Lindy was wrong about what had him fighting back his tears, Richie was grateful that he'd provided a satisfactory explanation. What was really bothering him was a complicated issue - one that he wanted to discuss with Lindy, but at a more appropriate time. Just then, TJ strolled into the kitchen, draining the last of the beer from his cup.
"Ah, now that is some fine tasting brew," he said before wiping his forearm across his mouth. "I'm ready for a refill, how bout you guys?"
"Sounds like a plan to me," said Richie. Turning to the sink, he poured out the warm remnants of his beer, his good spirits quickly returning. "Lead on, Macduff, it's party time."
"Mac who?" asked TJ as they headed back to the party.
"Macduff, doofus. You know, from Shakespeare's Macbeth?"
"Shake what?" asked TJ, this time with a smile on his face.
"Bite me, you preppy pecker-head. If you don't know about Shakespeare, then you'd better get your ass out of St. Matt's cause you sure as hell ain't gonna make it through the tenth grade."
"My point, exactly," said TJ over his shoulder as he led the way down the steps.
The party was a huge success. Everybody skied at least twice, and Lindy three times, before the beer began to make it difficult for them to stay on the skis. Much to everyone's amazement, TJ outshone them all with his acrobatic display on the slalom ski. Richie, Lindy, and Daryl swam a four lap freestyle race between the raft and the dock. The heavily favored Lindy won by a good half lap, with Richie just beating out Daryl for the runner-up position. Although Richie expected Lindy to win the race, his pride kept him from admitting that it took all he had in him to keep from losing out to Daryl as well.
The three Jet Skis also got a good workout, so just about every summer toy the Jacobson's owned got used at one time or another. When the sun began to set, Kyle built a large fire on the beach where all of the boys hung out to wolf down Harry's burgers and brats. During a lull in the conversation, Richie remembered to ask Kyle about his ride to the creek-bed.
"So, Kyle, did you guys find the pond OK?"
"Yeah, right, Rich. I can't believe you and your guppy sidekick sent us on that wild-goose chase."
"What the fuck you talkin about, man?" asked Richie, totally taken by surprise.
"What I'm talking about is that you guys are either full of shit, or totally delusional, cause there's no way you or anyone else could ride a bike up that creek-bed. It's just like I knew it would be, all full of downed trees and shit."
When he said this, Richie and Lindy looked at each other in utter disbelief. So classic was their look of shock that Kevin broke the silence when he could no longer contain his laughter.
"Shit," said Kyle. "Another Kodak moment lost."
"You fuckers!" exclaimed Richie. "You did go up there, didn't you?"
"Yeah, we did," confessed Kyle, barely able to contain his own laughter, "and it was just like you said, bro, pond and everything." Both Richie and Lindy were visibly relieved at hearing this, while Kevin continued to laugh. "Blew my mind when we got there, too. I mean that creek-bed looked like a fuckin freeway compared to what I remember."
A few minutes later, Harry walked up to Richie with his hand outstretched. "Well, son, I gotta get back to the store and help the wife close up. So happy birthday, and thanks for inviting me."
Shaking Harry's hand with a firm grip, Richie said, "Oh no, Harry, it's me that oughta be thanking you for these awesome burgers."
"Aw shucks, tweren't nothin son, glad I could help out. You're all a bunch of real nice boys and I was happy to do it."
After tipping his hat while waving goodbye to a rousing round of applause from the rest of the crowd, Harry made his way to his pickup and was soon disappearing down Jake's road.
"Well, Rich, what d'ya think... we do OK for ya?"asked Kyle as he moved to stand next to him.
"OK? No, it was way better than OK, it was great. Thanks." At that moment Richie had the almost overpowering urge to kiss Kyle full on the lips to show his gratitude. Remembering the crowd that was around them, however, he changed his mind at the last minute. Pulling him into a tight embrace instead, he whispered into his ear. "I love you, man, you're the best."
"Well," said Kyle loud enough for all to hear as he pulled away from Richie's embrace, staggering slightly in the process, "we still have one more item to tend to on the party schedule. TJ... the envelope, please."
While Richie and the others watched with curiosity, TJ retrieved a purple envelope wrapped in gold ribbon from its hiding place near the light pole. A look of surprise mixed with confusion crossed Richie's face as he reluctantly accepted the gift. After staring in silence for a moment at the purple and gold object in his hand, he looked up at Kyle with disbelief. It was one thing to throw this great party for him, but he never expected to get a present as well.
"Go on, Guppy, open it," said Kyle with a huge grin.
Staring at the envelope, Richie shook his head slowly from side to side. "You guys shouldn't have done this, ya know. Just throwing me this awesome party was like the best present I could've hoped for."
"Well staring at it ain't gonna get it open, bro," said Lindy with knowing anticipation, his eyes wide and twinkling in the firelight.
As if in a daze, Richie slowly and carefully slid the ribbon off one end of the envelope, then slipped his fingers inside. What he felt when he did this gave him no clue as to what was there. It wasn't until he'd removed the eight pieces of thin cardboard from the envelope, and fanned them out in his hand in the light of the fire, that the realization of what he held hit him like a ton of bricks. There, in his now shaking hand, were four pairs of Vikings-Packers tickets - four tickets for each of the two upcoming regular season games, one in Minneapolis, the other at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Tears began to build in his eyes as on closer inspection he noticed that the seats were on the lower level, in the third row, and on the fifty-yard line for both games. The silence around the fire was deafening as Richie continued to stare through growing tears at the prize he held.
"What are they, Rich," asked Daryl from the other side of the fire. "Tickets?"
"Tickets?!" said Richie as he slowly raised his head to look at Daryl. "No, man, these are way more than tickets, these are more like pure gold." Then, looking over to Kyle he asked, "Who did you have to kill to get these, man? Do you have any idea how much these are worth?"
"Hey, don't look at me, man. TJ's the one who got 'em for ya. But if ya don't like 'em, I'm sure we could find someone else to take 'em off your hands."
"Yeah? I'll tell you what, bro... it'll take more than you and your whole fucking hockey team to pry these puppies out of my hand, and that's for real." Then looking at TJ, he said, "Where the hell did you get these, man?"
"From my dad. He has season tickets, but hardly ever goes to the games. He mostly gives them out to his best customers... either that, or I'll take them every once in a while, so it's no big deal."
"Yeah? Well where did he get the Lambeau tickets from? Does he have season tickets for the Packers, too?"
"Um, yeah, he does," said TJ, looking a little self-conscious. "He's like part owner of a couple of dealerships in Milwaukee, so he does the same thing with the Green Bay tickets."
"No shit?" asked Lindy, this information being new for him as well. "Well then," he added as he casually draped an arm over TJ's shoulder to pull him close, "you and me have got to talk to your mom and dad about adopting me, bro. I so want to become your brother, TJ."
This got a laugh out of everyone but Richie who continued to stare in silence at the prize he held in his still shaking hand.
"Hey, Rich," said Kyle, nudging him with his elbow. "Why don't you put them up in the cabin where they'll be safe before you drop 'em in the lake or somethin. Then you can help us find the bottom of that keg."
"Um, OK, sure, I'll be right back." All the while he said this, Richie never took his eyes off the tickets - he didn't even look up until he stumbled and nearly fell on his way up the hill. Walking zombie-like into his bedroom, he sat down heavily on the edge of the bed. To say that he was overwhelmed would be a gross understatement. He'd been to several Vikings games before, and loved every minute of them, but never had he been on the fifty-yard line, much less in the third row. Slipping them back into the envelope, he wondered how he could possibly accept such an expensive gift, especially from someone he'd just met. He was about to tuck them into his bag when he heard the front door slam. Looking up, he saw TJ making a beeline for the bathroom.
"Sorry, Rich, but if ya wanna talk to me now, you're gonna have to come in here cause I gotta piss so bad I can taste it."
Taking the tickets with him, Richie walked swiftly into the bathroom just as TJ began to let loose his stream into the toilet.
"TJ, man, I can't..." Richie's words caught in his throat when he saw TJ standing shirtless, with his hands on his hips, in front of the toilet. He had unsnapped as well as unzipped his still damp cargo shorts, and the wet fabric clung tightly to his ass and thighs, riding low on his hips just below the top of the crack between his ass-cheeks. Even though he didn't have the muscle tone of an athlete, his body was well proportioned with no telltale signs of excessive fat. His blonde hair, still wet and matted against his head, contrasted sharply with the deep tan of his back and shoulders.
As Richie's eyes traveled over TJ from head to toe, he could see no exposed skin that wasn't the same dark tan. There wasn't even a hint of a tan line across the top of his butt where his shorts normally hung. Unable to stop himself, his eyes moved to TJ's equipment. There he stared, first at the small tuft of blonde pubic hair that blossomed around his open fly, then at his uncut dick where the foreskin was partially pulled back to expose his glans.
"Can't what?" asked TJ without looking up.
"Um, nothin... I mean... look, I'll just wait for you outside," fumbled Richie, his dick rapidly stiffening in his cutoffs.
With that, he quickly returned to his room to put the tickets in his bag, then went outside to sit on the front steps and wait for TJ. While his hormones ran rampant, his alcohol influenced mind was filled with erotic fantasies, his rock-hard dick leaking pre-cum into the denim that pressed against it. Moments later, TJ burst through the front door. So intent was he to join the others that he didn't even see Richie sitting on the steps and he was nearly to the top of the hill before Richie called out to him.
Screeching to a halt, and nearly falling in the process, TJ turned back to the source of the voice.
"Oh there you are. Sit tight, Rich, while I get us a couple of beers."
Before Richie could respond, TJ was on his way down the hill toward the keg. Watching him descend the steps, his form silhouetted in the light from the fire, Richie's lust raged on. In that moment he made a decision - he had to find out about TJ even if it meant exposing his own sexual preference in the process. 'Shit,' he thought. 'What the hell. Even if he's not gay, he'll be OK with it if he finds out that I am.' He had no specific plan in place for finding out, deciding to play it by ear, but he knew another beer or two would definitely help to bolster his courage. While he waited for TJ to return, he watched the rest of his friends as they horsed around on the beach between trips to the keg for refills. Smiling at the sight, he couldn't remember when he'd ever enjoyed himself so much. True to his word, TJ quickly returned with a full cup of beer in each hand.
"Here ya go, bro," he said, handing Richie his. Then, as if proposing a toast, he held up his cup and added, "Happy birthday, dude."
"Thanks, man," said Richie, bumping his cup against TJ's before they both took a healthy drink.
"So, what's on your mind," asked TJ.
"Mmm," said Richie as he wiped the foam from his upper lip on the back of his hand. "It's about the tickets."
"Yeah? What about 'em?"
"I can't take 'em, TJ."
"Say what?" asked TJ in shocked disbelief. "You're joking, right?"
"No, I'm not. I can't accept an expensive gift like that! Those things are worth at least a grand, and that's just face value. God knows what you could get for them on the street. It's just too much money."
"You're serious, aren't you?" asked TJ, his look of disbelief now mixed with one of hurt.
"Yeah, I am," said Richie with regret as he looked down at his feet. When TJ said nothing more, Richie looked up to see the expression on his face.
"What?" he asked.
"I don't know," answered TJ as he looked out over the beach, his voice so quiet is was almost a whisper. "I just thought we were friends, is all."
"We are friends," said Richie as he gave TJ's shoulder a squeeze that became a gentle massage while he continued his explanation. "That's why I can't take 'em. They're way more expensive than what one friend should spend on another."
"No they're not," said TJ as he turned to face Richie. His was voice edged with just a trace of anger, and his eyes were lightly glazed as if he were fighting to hold back his tears. "They're probably not worth more than eight hundred bucks, tops, and they didn't cost me a dime. Besides, I just thought... well, I thought you'd like 'em, that's all." After saying this, he returned his gaze to the beach.
"I do like 'em, TJ." said Richie, his hand still on his shoulder, but no longer squeezing it. "Hell, I love 'em. They're probably the nicest present I've ever gotten, but..."
Snapping his head around to look at Richie again, TJ cut him off in mid-sentence. "But shit, man! I don't understand this, Rich. After all you've done for me, I just wanted to give you something special... you know, something that you'd really like. Kyle and the rest of your buds were throwing you this cool party, so when I found out you were a Vikings fan, I thought the tickets would be the perfect thing. I even asked Kyle about it, just to make sure it'd be OK, and he thought it was a great idea." Then, turning to look at the beach again, he continued in a much quieter voice, "Besides, I thought that if I gave you the tickets, it might... you know... help us to become better friends."
'Whoa, talk about dejavu,' thought Richie. 'He's thinking just like Kyle used to think. He's rich, so he thinks the way to make friends is to buy them with expensive gifts.'
"Look, TJ," said Richie, resuming the massage of his shoulder, "we're already friends, and I'm sure we'll get to be even better friends when we get to know each other more, but it won't be because you're rich. You can't buy friendship, bro... it just happens or it doesn't... but it all depends on you and your personality, not your money. Understand?"
"Yeah? Well I don't have many friends, so I guess I don't know how's the right way to make 'em." said TJ, looking over to Richie again.
"Ya think?" asked Richie. Then, moving his hand to the back of TJ's neck, he turned his head, forcing him to look to the beach again. "In case you haven't noticed, dude, there are at least four or five guys down there that think of you as a friend. And it's not because of your money."
"Yeah? Well, maybe."
"Maybe?!" said Richie, turning TJ's head back to face him. He smiled to himself when he thought how he must look like a ventriloquist, manipulating the head of a wooden dummy. "You think I'm lyin to you?"
"No," said TJ, breaking eye contact to look at his feet again. "It's just that I've had guys tell me before that they were my friends, and it turned out to be bullshit. They never wanted to be my friend, they just wanted something from me."
"Whoa," said Richie, dropping his hand into his lap. "I've never thought about it before, but I spose that's one of the downsides of being rich."
"Shit, if all they wanted was money I woulda probably given it to them. Thing is, it wasn't that simple."
This statement piqued Richie's curiosity. What, he wondered, could TJ be referring to? From the tone of his voice, however, and the wistful look on his face, he decided that now was not the time to pursue it any further, so he took a different approach.
"You and Brian are good friends, right?"
"Oh yeah. Brian's like the greatest. There isn't a phony bone in his body."
"OK, so I'm guessing he doesn't care about your money, either, right?"
"No, he's never asked me for anything."
"Yeah? Well is it such a stretch to think that, just maybe, we don't care about your money, either? What did me and Lindy tell you in the boat, earlier?"
"That I didn't have to show off and do stupid things to get attention."
"Um, somethin about giving people a chance to get to know me."
"Exactly! If you don't do that, or if you bribe them with money or expensive gifts, then you'll never know for sure if they're a real friend or not."
"OK," said TJ after a moment of silence. "I'll try, but I still want you to have the tickets. Ya see, they're kinda like from my dad as much as they're from me. Ever since you guys pulled me from the lake he's been goin nuts trying to think of a way to repay you. You know, some way to show his gratitude. So, when I asked him about the tickets, he was so excited he was like falling all over himself tryin to find them in his desk."
"He was?" asked Richie.
"Yeah, but if you really don't feel right about takin 'em, don't worry about it," said TJ with resignation. Then, surprising Richie, he put his arm over his shoulder to give him an affectionate hug. "I'll figure out something to tell him so he won't feel too bad."
Despite the heat and humidity, TJ made no attempt to remove his arm from around Richie's shoulder and Richie made no effort to move from under it. They sat like this in silence for a few minutes before TJ looked slyly at Richie out of the corner of his eye.
"So, you still want me to take back the tickets?"
"Um, well no, not really," said Richie, matching both TJ's look and his tone of voice. "I mean, even if they are expensive, since both you and your dad want me to have 'em, I spose I should probably keep 'em." A few moments later, both boys broke out in a huge laugh.
After regaining control of themselves, TJ looked into Richie's eyes with a twinkle in his own. "That's so cool, Rich, cause I really want you to have 'em."
"Thanks, man, cause I really wanna keep 'em. Thing is, now I have a small problem. The way I see it there's four tickets for each game, and the last time I counted, I have four friends plus myself that I want to take."
"Ah," said TJ. "Well normally I'd have to say you did have a problem, but in this case I think I - or I should say we - have a solution. Now the tickets are yours, so it's like totally up to you what you do with them, but see what you think of this idea.
"See, the four of us saw this coming so we talked about it. Since Kyle, Kevin, and Lindy all wanted to chip in somehow, we decided that on game day, me and you don't pay for anything. Between the three of them, they'll pay for all food and drinks, do the driving, and pay for the gas. And since there's a mismatch between the number of tickets and number of people, Kyle and Kevin agreed that Kevin would drive to the local game, then Kyle would drive to the Green Bay game."
When TJ finished, Richie had that 'I'm not sure' look on his face, so he went on. "Hey, man, don't look at me. This was Kevin's and Kyle's idea. Matter of fact, that's what they were talkin about when you went into the kitchen to talk to your mom. They almost blew the whole surprise, too."
"I knew they were hiding something when I walked in on them!"
"So what d'ya say, man, sound like a plan?"
"Um, yeah, sure. Long as it was their idea, who am I to disagree?"
"Good," said TJ as he stood and brushed off the seat of his still wet shorts. "Then c'mon, let's go tell 'em. Besides," he added after draining the last of his beer, "I think we're both ready for a refill."
When TJ started to move toward the top of the hill, Richie grabbed him by the arm, spinning him around in the process. "It was the tickets your dad was talking about this morning, wasn't it?"
"Oh, yeah... talk about almost giving away the surprise."
"But when did you talk to Kyle about them?"
"Last night, when I called you and you were in the shower." Then, extending his hand to pull Richie to his feet, he added, "Now c'mon, dude, let's get us some more brew before those guys drink it all up."
"Right behind ya, man," said Richie as he stood and stretched, grateful that his hard-on had gone down.
Descending the steps on their way to the keg, Richie scoped out the activity of his guests, pleased to see everyone having a good time. Quickly dodging an errant Frisbee thrown by Lindy and intended for Brian, he continued to follow TJ over to the light pole. When they got there, he noticed the aluminum keg was beginning to float in its tub of ice-water, a sure sign that it would soon be empty. In an effort to judge how much actually remained, he grabbed it by the tap and hefted it partially out of the tub.
"Now that's the true mark of a successful party, Guppy," said Kyle as he approached from the beach.
"From the looks of all the drunks around here, I can see where it all went, too," said Richie as he gently set the keg back down into the tub. When TJ squeezed in to fill his cup, Richie stepped aside to talk to Kyle.
"Ya know we can't let anybody drive outa here tonight, don't ya, Kyle?"
"That, my web-footed friend is what they call a forgone conclusion," answered Kyle, his words slurring slightly. "Everything's been arranged, bro, right down to the finest detail."
"Is that right?" laughed Richie. "So just what sort of arrangements have been made, big guy?"
"Simple, bro. I put out two air-mattresses next to the hide-a-bed for Daryl and TJ, and the rest of us will sleep where we slept the night of the fourth. An air-mattress may not be as comfortable as a bed, but by the time this keg is empty, I don't think anyone's gonna care where they crash." After a short pause during which Richie took his turn at the keg, Kyle added an afterthought. "Unless, of course, you decide to go skinny-dipping with Kevin again... then everybody'll get a bed."
"Very funny, hockey player," said Richie, before blowing the excess foam from the top of his beer onto Kyle's bare chest. After trying unsuccessfully to jump out of the way of the cold beer-shower, Kyle began to laugh as he snatched a rag off one of the coolers to wipe himself off. While he was doing this, Richie watched TJ join Daryl by the edge of the fire. Nodding in their direction, he expanded on Kyle's joke. "Besides, if I wanted a late night swimming partner, there's plenty to choose from around here."
Following Richie's line of sight, Kyle grinned with a twinkle in his eyes. "Whoa, a three-way. You really are a horny fucker, aren't ya, Guppy."
This remark caught Richie so off guard that he blew a mouthful of beer out his nose and all over the front of his chest. When Kyle began to laugh, Richie playfully punched him in the arm. It wasn't a hard punch by any standards, but it was enough to cause a very inebriated Kyle to stagger into the keg, nearly tipping it over.
"Whoa, easy, dude! What's all the commotion, anyway?" asked Kevin, as he and Steve approached them on their way to the keg. Looking over to them, Richie smiled when he saw Kevin stagger with almost every step. He was happy to see that, relieved of his driving duties, his friend was finally able to fully enjoy himself.
"Aw, nothin," said Kyle after regaining his balance, a wide grin still present across his face. "Me and Rich were just tryin to solve a math problem."
"Math problem?!" asked Steve.
"Don't pay any attention to him, dude," said Richie. "He's drunk, and as usual, not making any sense. By the way, thanks for driving the boat this afternoon. You manage to catch up to the rest of us yet?"
"Almost, Rich." Then, hefting the keg the way Richie did earlier, he added, "Whoa, looks like one more round for each of us and this puppy can be laid to rest."
"Perfect," said Kyle, finishing off his beer. "Cause I got us one finely rolled nightcap just waiting to be lit up."
"Alright!" exclaimed Steve before turning toward the fire where the others were gathered. "Last call for alcohol!" he shouted.
Like Pavlov's dogs, the other half of the group moved en masse toward the keg, pushing and shoving to make sure they wouldn't miss out on what was left of the beer. While they filled their cups in turn, Richie observed them in an effort to determine who was the drunkest. It wasn't hard to figure out that the winner was Daryl, with Kevin and Lindy running a close second. He figured that he and TJ were the soberest of the bunch with the others falling somewhere in between.
When Daryl had his cup filled, he began to stagger in Richie's direction. Almost falling several times, and spilling most of his beer in the process, he zigzagged his way through the sand. When he was finally close enough, Richie took him by the arm to steady him.
"Whoa! Easy, dude, or ya just might fall down and break somethin."
"Rich," said Daryl as he tried to focus his glazed-over eyes on Richie's face, "you and your buds are the greatest, man. I ain't never had so much fun in my whole fucking life." Then, leaning closer, his breath reeking of beer, he added in almost a whisper, "I ain't never drank any beer before, either, and I'm loving the absolute hell out of it." This last statement was followed with a long disgusting burp.
"Whew," said Richie, wrinkling up his nose at Daryl's foul breath. "Let's find you a seat by the fire before you fall down and hurt yourself."
That said, he led Daryl over to the fire where the others were gathering and gently sat him down on one of the large logs that were spread around the perimeter. Once satisfied he was settled, and unlikely to wander off again, Richie walked around to the other side of the fire where Kyle was just lighting the first of two joints he'd prepared earlier.
"I don't think Daryl needs any of that," he said to no one in particular.
"Ya think?" asked Kyle while he looked over to the nearly passed out Daryl. "He reminds me of Lindy the first time he got drunk at my party last winter."
"Yup," said Lindy, slowly nodding his head as he weaved slightly from side to side. "And he'll be hating it come morning, too... just like I did."
"Whoa, listen to you Lindstrom," said Richie, accepting the lit joint from Kyle. "You guys are like two peas in a pod tonight, bro. Your head's gonna be so big tomorrow, you won't be able to get it through the front door."
This got an acknowledging laugh from everybody, including Lindy. This fact not withstanding, he quickly accepted the joint from Richie.
"Don't worry, Rich," said TJ. "Soon as we finish this weed, I'll get Daryl up to the cabin so he can crash."
"I'll give you a hand," said Richie. "From the looks of him, he's gonna be one hell of a load for one guy to handle."
A short time later, both joints smoked to a quarter inch roach, Richie and TJ set about the task of getting Daryl up to the cabin. Since he was more passed out than awake, much to the amusement of the others, they had to literally drag him up the hill and in through the front door. They gently laid him out on his back on one of the air mattresses, then proceeded to pull off his sandals. Daryl never knew what was happening.
"As long as he don't get sick and hurl all over the place, I think he'll be alright," said Richie as they looked down at the sleeping form.
When TJ didn't respond, Richie looked up to see him staring, as if in a trance, at Daryl's outstretched body. Like the rest of the boys, Daryl was shirtless, so all he wore now were his shorts. His right knee was cocked slightly up and to one side, and his legs were partially spread. Following TJ's line of sight, Richie saw that the left leg opening of Daryl's shorts was pulled away from his thigh giving them a clear view of his exposed package.
Seeing this, Richie momentarily forgot about TJ and did some staring of his own. His lust and hormones kicking into high gear, his dick quickly stiffened uncomfortably in his cutoffs. It took all of his willpower, as well as what little control he had left in his intoxicated state of mind, to force himself to tear his eyes away from Daryl, only to shift them to the front of TJ's shorts. When he saw that TJ's member was straining against its cotton covering, his mind began to fill with renewed fantasies. Smiling broadly at TJ's bulge, he was pretty sure that at least one his questions about him was now answered.
Without bothering to conceal, or adjust his erection to a more comfortable position, he leaned closer to TJ's ear and whispered, "We should probably get outa here, TJ, and let him sleep it off."
"Oh, um, yeah," said TJ with a start, Richie's voice seeming to shake him from his thoughts like a slap in the face. As if it were an automatic response, when TJ looked away from Daryl, his eyes instantly dropped to the front of Richie's shorts. After staring for a moment, he snapped his head up to see Richie grinning back at him. With his glazed eyes sparkling, a huge grin quickly spread across his own face as both he and Richie adjusted their hard-ons at the same time. "I guess you're right, Rich, we both better get outa here."
Exiting the cabin, Richie was grateful for the darkness of the night that surrounded them. Even though his erection was no longer uncomfortable, it wasn't about to go down any time soon and would be quite visible to the others were there enough light. Neither boy spoke as they casually made their way to the top of the hill. When they got there, they paused briefly before descending the steps. Each wanted to say something to the other at this moment, but neither could seem to find the right words. So, without regret or discomfort with their silence, they stood side by side at the top of the hill and scoped out the activity around the fire below. Just then, from where he was seated on one of the coolers, Kyle held up a bottle of Jim Beam in one hand, a bottle of Coke in the other, then called out to the rest of the crowd.
"Who's ready for a beamer?!"
Turning to each other with that 'what d'ya think' look on their face, Richie was the one to voice what they both were thinking. "Why not, man? It's not like either one of us is driving anywhere tonight."
"We'll take a couple of those, Jacobson," hollered TJ as he led the way down the steps.
"Alright! Beamers all around!" exclaimed Kyle, even though no one else responded to his offer.
Since they had all shared in the weed earlier, the pace of the party had slowed considerably, but the inevitable thirst that followed the smoking of marijuana had all seven lining up patiently for their beamers. Being the birthday boy, Richie was first, followed by TJ.
When they stepped back to allow the others to retrieve their drinks, Richie gently nudged TJ with his elbow while he cocked his head as a signal to follow him. Leading the way, Richie took them to the end of the dock where they sat to dangle their feet in the cool water. The moon was up now, though no longer completely full, and the wind, while still coming out of the south, had dropped off to a gentle breeze. Sipping on their beamers, they sat in silence, each content to feel the refreshing coolness of the spring fed lake on their feet while the breeze that caressed their sun-baked bodies gently ruffled their hair with each momentary shift in direction.
"I can't wait till football season starts," said Richie, his soft-spoken words sounding loud in the relative quiet of the night. Then, looking up at TJ he asked, "You're a Packers fan, aren't ya?"
"Yeah, I guess I am. Does that mean you won't take me to the games with you? Cause if it does, I can turn traitor and become a Vikings fan in a heartbeat."
"No, not at all," said Richie with a chuckle. "Hell, if I left you out, then I'd have to leave Lindy out, too, and he'd never let me get by with that. No, I was just thinkin how much fun it's gonna be with two Packers fans and two Vikings fans. Course, it's gonna be more fun for us because the Vikings are gonna win both games."
"Care to place a small wager on that?"
"Sure, how much?"
"Tell you what," said TJ after a moment's thought, "let me think about it for a while. We got lots of time yet, so maybe I can come up with something more interesting than just betting for money."
"Cool," said Richie, intrigued by the strange request.
After taking another sip from his drink, Richie realized he'd been drinking it faster than he'd intended and it was almost gone. He also concluded that Kyle must have made them strong because he definitely felt considerably higher that he did before. This feeling led to the return of his lust for TJ. Sitting so close to him, their thighs nearly touching, he could feel the heat radiating from his body, smell the mixture of sweat and sunscreen that was carried on the cooling breeze, and his dick began to respond. Even though he was sure that TJ's sexual preferences were in line with his own, he didn't want to make any overt moves. Still, he was desperate to find out for sure - and if he was right, he hoped to explore things further.
"I know we've already talked about the tickets, but..."
"Oh no," interrupted TJ. "You're not gonna try to make me take 'em back again, are ya?"
"Hell no. I just wanted to thank you again, is all. And even though they were a gift, I still owe ya for giving them to me... big time."
As he said this, he put his hand on top of TJ's thigh just below the hem around the leg opening of his shorts. After giving it a gentle squeeze, he let his hand slip in between his legs where he began to lightly caress his inner thigh with his fingers. When TJ made no response to Richie's touch, neither encouraging him, nor rebuffing him, he spoke again.
"So if there's anything I can do to thank you, anything at all, you let me know, would ya?"
This did get a reaction from TJ, though not what Richie had hoped for. He began to fidget noticeably, then quickly moved his legs together causing Richie to pull his hand back with a start. He made no comment with this sudden movement, he didn't even give Richie a look to tell him to back off. Instead, he drained the last of his drink, then turned to Richie where he rattled the ice in the bottom of his cup as if nothing had happened.
"I think I'll get me another one of these. How bout you?"
"Um, yeah, sure, but..."
Before Richie could finish, TJ was on his feet and headed for the beach. Confused and feeling the pain of rejection, Richie sighed as he casually dumped the ice from his cup into the lake. 'Great,' he thought, 'the first time I have the balls to hit on a guy, he blows me off. Good move, Andrews... what a way to end a friendship before it even gets started... and I was so sure. Guess I better get my gaydar in for a tune-up.'
Richie's attempt to make light of what happened didn't work to cheer him up, nor did it stave off his growing feeling of shame at what he'd done. Suddenly, the best birthday of his life was turning into his worst nightmare. While he waited for TJ to return, not at all sure that he would, he decided that since the damage was already done, all he could do now is apologize and hope that TJ would understand. A moment later, TJ was once again standing next to him, surprising Richie with his quick return. He was in for another surprise when he looked up to see him lighting a cigarette.
"We're gonna have to wait for our refills, Rich. I guess Kyle ran out of ice, so he went to the cabin for some more. He said he'd bring 'em down to us when he gets 'em made, though."
"That's cool," said Richie as he looked judgmentally at TJ's cigarette.
Seeing the look on Richie's face, TJ responded defensively. "It's the beer, man. I told you I smoke when I drink beer."
"Or when you're nervous," added Richie. "Look, TJ, about what I did earlier. I wanna..."
"Hey," interrupted TJ, "how bout a quick swim while we wait for Kyle? C'mon, I'll race ya to the raft."
"Sure," said Richie with a shrug of his shoulders. "But I want to..." His words trailed off when, without further comment, TJ flipped his newly lit cigarette into the lake, then launched himself off the end of the dock.
Irritated at TJ's obvious reluctance to listen to him, Richie grudgingly got to his feet and dove in after him. Even though TJ had a pretty good jump on him, Richie was sure he could catch up without too much extra effort, but his heart wasn't in it. So, by the time TJ reached the raft, Richie was still lagging far behind.
"Whoa, what's up with you, Dude?" asked TJ when Richie grabbed the ladder to catch his breath. "Too much wacky tabacky, or are you just tired out?"
"No, it's nothin like that. Look, TJ, I gotta tell ya somth..."
"C'mon, let's race back... and at least give me something to race against this time, would ya?" interrupted TJ before pushing off the ladder to swim back to shore.
"No! TJ, wait!" said Richie in a demanding tone as he reached out just in time to catch him by the ankle. Pulling him back to the ladder, he said, "I gotta tell you something, and I need you to listen."
"OK," said TJ with irritated resignation as he tread water just inches away from Richie, "What?!"
"About back there on the dock. I'm sorry, man, I just thought... you know... after what happened in the cabin... I thought you..."
"Hey," said TJ, cutting Richie off again, "no prob, man, let's just forget it, OK? Now c'mon, let's swim back."
"No!," said Richie, grabbing TJ by the arm when he tried to swim again. "Just give me sixty seconds to say what I gotta say without interrupting me, then you can swim to the other end of the lake for all I care. Alright?!"
"OK," said TJ, again with resignation. He knew he had little choice. "Go ahead."
"I just want to apologize for hitting on you like I did. I just thought you'd be OK with it because of what happened in the cabin. It was wrong for me to think that and I was wrong for doing what I did. I'm sorry, and I promise that I'll never do it again. All I ask is that you forgive me for making a mistake." All the while Richie was talking, TJ never looked him in the eyes. And when he was finished, he made no response.
"Well, that's it... that's all I wanted to say... so you can swim in now if ya want, and thanks for listening to me." Following that, Richie turned to the ladder and began to climb to the deck. Before he could reach it, however, TJ grabbed his ankle to stop him. When Richie looked down, he thought he saw tears in TJ's eyes.
"Wait, Rich. You got nothing to apologize for." Seeing that TJ was truly troubled about something, and sure that he wanted to tell him more, Richie eased himself back into the water to listen.
"Look," started TJ, "you weren't wrong... you didn't make a mistake... so if anybody should apologize, it's me. I think we got a good start on our friendship, and I hope to God that my weirdness doesn't fuck that up, but I just can't do... you know... what you wanted to do on the dock. OK?"
"Sure, man, no problem, but can you tell me why? I mean, if you like it, why can't..."
"No, man, I can't tell you. Please, just let it be, OK?"
"Sure, man, that's cool." When TJ readied himself to swim to shore, Richie gently held his arm for a moment longer to make one final comment. "Just remember one thing, though... we're friends TJ... so if you ever decide you want to talk some more about this, I'm a pretty good listener... and I have a pretty good idea about what it means to be gay. OK?"
"OK," said TJ. With that, Richie released his arm and he began to swim away.
'Whoa,' thought Richie as he climbed the ladder to sit on the deck, 'there's one dude with some major issues.' Sitting on the edge of the raft, Richie pondered all that happened while he watched TJ swim toward shore. Suddenly he heard a series of whistles and cat calls coming from the area around the fire. Curious, it wasn't long before he discovered the cause. Strutting down the length of the dock like some hard-body model on a runway, was Kyle. He was careful not to spill the two drinks he carried as he made his way up and down the dock, but what had the rest of the guys cheering and clapping was the red and black striped Speedo he was wearing - the Speedo Richie had given him for Christmas. It fit him perfectly, as if it were painted on, leaving nothing to the imagination. The top of the suit, with three inches of white tie cord hanging over his package, barely covered his pubic bush in the front, while the back rode just above the crack between his cheeks. 'God he looks hot in that thing,' thought Richie with a smile, his dick twitching in response.
When Kyle saw TJ approaching the dock through the shallow water, he moved to intercept him, offering him one of the drinks he held. When TJ passed by him without a word and proceeded on up the steps to the cabin, Kyle looked out to Richie on the raft, shrugging his shoulders as if to ask 'what's with him?'.
"Stay there, Kyle," yelled Richie while getting to his feet, adjusting his semi-hard member in the process. "I'll be right in." With that, he dove into the water and swam to shore.
When he arrived at the dock, Kyle was sitting at the end waiting for him. "What the hell did you do to TJ, man?" he asked as Richie sat down next to him. "He blew past me like I wasn't even there. He didn't even take his drink. Now I'm gonna have to drink it for him."
"I'm sure he won't mind," said Richie, taking the other drink for himself. "He's got some issues to deal with is all... could be like serious ones, too, I think. And ya know what? I wanna try and help him if I can."
"And I'm like supposed to be surprised to hear that? Show me a dude who needs help and I'll show you Richie Andrews not too far away, and that's for real."
"Yeah? Well TJ's different. I don't know any of the details, but he just may have some real problems."
"Then you gotta be careful, Rich."
"Yeah? How so?"
"You may have the biggest heart around, bro, but you're no trained therapist. If TJ has serious problems, you could do more damage than good if you're not careful."
"Oh, I know that, and I wouldn't try to make like a shrink or anything, but I think sometimes a good friend can help more than any trained therapist can."
"Well, just be careful, OK?" said Kyle as he ruffled Richie's hair.
"Don't worry, I will. Which reminds me, can we borrow the dirt bikes in the morning?"
"Sure, go ahead," said Kyle, giving Richie a questioning look. "But why? What have you got goin on it that devious little brain of yours?"
"Aw, nothin," said Richie, shrugging his shoulders as he looked out to the raft. "I promised TJ I'd show him the pond and I thought tomorrow would be a good time to do it, is all."
"Yeah, right, the pond," said Kyle with a grin and a twinkle in his eye.
"Seriously," said Richie, his face flushed at Kyle's unspoken innuendo. "When we were sailing, I promised I'd show him where it was."
When Kyle didn't say anything more, Richie turned to him to see the same grin on his face and the same twinkle in his eyes. Since this confirmed that Kyle wasn't buying his explanation, he looked back to the raft while making a partial confession to the real reason he wanted to go to the pond. "OK, I thought maybe we could get a chance to talk a little up there. You know, like maybe he'll open up a little more and tell me what's buggin him."
"Hey, no need to explain," said Kyle, grinning broadly. "Go ahead. I got a feeling everybody else will be sleeping in tomorrow, anyway, so it'll be the perfect time."
"Thanks, man, you're the best. By the way, you look fucking hot in that Speedo, big guy."
"Ya think?" asked Kyle as he spread his arms and sucked in his stomach. "Think it shows off my package OK?"
"Your package, your ass, all your best parts, bro. Made my dick hard just watchin ya from the raft."
"Yeah? Then how bout we go to bed and work on it for a while" whispered Kyle as he leaned in close to Richie's ear while he ran a free hand seductively along the inside of his thigh.
"Sounds great," said Richie, strongly tempted to give in to his offer, "but I'd rather just sit here and talk for while if it's OK with you."
"Sure, bro, what's on your mind... besides TJ, that is?" asked Kyle, pulling his hand back.
"I wanna come out to my family, Kyle."
"Yeah? So? We've talked about that before, right?"
"Yeah, we have, but I wanna do it as soon as we get back. And there's more. I wanna come out to Lindy's at the same time. I mean, they're just like family to me, too, so how can I come out to mine and not to his?"
Kyle silently took a sip from his drink, then gazed out over the lake in the direction of McCarthy's. He'd known for a long time that sooner or later Richie was going to want to take the next big step, and he'd thought about it often. Now that the time had come, however, and Richie was ready, he wasn't so sure that he was.
When Kyle didn't respond to his latest revelation, Richie knew what he was thinking - he knew that what he was proposing would be a concern for him. Like he had said earlier, they'd discussed this subject before and even though Richie was ready to take the next big step right away, he knew that Kyle had no intention of doing the same.
"Yeah, Rich?" answered Kyle, his voice soft as he continued to gaze out over the lake.
"I know what you're thinking, man - what you're worried about - but I don't think this'll be a problem for you, or us. You know that I'd never out you... not to anyone... not even my parents... but this is something I gotta do for myself."
"I know, Rich," said Kyle, worried more for Richie than for himself. What Richie wanted to do would have a huge impact on his life - a major event in defining his entire future. It may also be very difficult for him, so Kyle didn't want to burden him with his own personal concerns. "You gotta do what you gotta do, Rich, so if you're sure you're ready, then go for it... just remember that I'll be here for you if you need me."
"I know, bro," said Richie with a smile as he pulled Kyle close to rest his head against his shoulder, "I never doubted that."
"How do you think it'll go?" asked Kyle after a moment.
"I don't know," said Richie, snuggling in closer. "I don't see any problem with my brother, and I'm pretty sure my parents will be cool with it, though my mom might be a little disappointed. Not that I'm gay or anything, just that I won't be giving her any grandchildren. I don't know about Lindy's parents, though. Hell, I didn't even think about telling them until tonight. I'll talk to Lindy first, of course... you know, to get his take on what his parents might think. No matter how it goes, though, it's you that I wanted to make sure was cool with it. The rest is... well, whatever happens, happens."
"You're one brave guppy, ya know that?" said Kyle, gently kissing Richie on the top of his head.
"Yeah? Well, I might sound that way now, but we'll see just how brave I really am when I actually do it."
"You'll do just fine, bro," said Kyle as he wrapped his arm around Richie's shoulders to give him a reassuring hug. "And if deep down, you didn't know that was true, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Right?"
Just then, the mercury-vapor yard-light behind them went out. Both boys turned their heads to see Lindy and Kevin standing in the moonlight next to the pole. Scanning the beach area, they saw that the unattended fire had burned down to smoldering coals, and with the exception of the two by the light pole, all of their friends had apparently moved the party up to the cabin.
"Didn't think you guys needed the light anymore," called Lindy quietly from where he and Kevin stood. Even though it was too dark to see, Richie was sure his best friend was smiling.
"Yeah, and if the moon ain't bright enough, I'm sure you two can feel your way around," snickered Kevin. This got a chuckle from Lindy that was loud enough for Kyle and Richie to hear, and after giving Kevin a playful shove, the two of them made their way up the hill.
"I guess everyone's abandoned us, bro," whispered Richie as he looked into Kyle's eyes.
"Yeah," replied Kyle with a sigh, "I guess the party's over."
"It doesn't have to be," said Richie, running his hand up the inside of Kyle's thigh to the bulge that strained against the nylon fabric of his Speedo.
"I don't know, Rich," groaned Kyle when Richie's hand cupped his Speedo covered balls. "It's pretty crowded in the cabin... and some of 'em might not be too understanding."
"What're ya doin, turning chicken on me now? You're the one that suggested it."
"I know, but I'm having second thoughts."
"OK, so who says we have to go up to the cabin?" asked Richie with a mischievous grin as he playfully tugged at the drawstring of Kyle's swim suit.
Kyle's dick began to respond, stiffening uncomfortably in the tight fitting Speedo, causing him to fidget with the hope that it would seek out a more comfortable position on its own.
After achieving marginal success, he settled down and smiled at Richie. "Hatch was right, you are an exhibitionist."
"Oh, man... he told you about that?"
"Yup, said you wanted to put on a show for all of Gull Lake."
"Bullshit! I mean... if he said that, then he was like so exaggerating. Besides, it's dark, we're alone, so nobody's gonna see us," he added, curling his fingers over the top edge of Kyle's Speedo, gently caressing his pubic hair with the back of his fingertips.
"I don't know, man," said Kyle, glancing around nervously, "I still feel kind of exposed out here in the open like this." After a moment of more fidgeting he said, "Look, I have an idea. Hatch has to go back tomorrow afternoon, right? And if Lindy went with him, then we'd have the whole place to ourselves. How bout I give you your birthday present then... you know, like what we talked about in Pine City?"
"Really?!" asked an excited Richie. "You'll do it for me?"
"You bet, bro, and it'll be the best I can possibly give ya. Course, it all depends on whether or not Lindy goes back with Hatch."
"Oh, he'll go back with him, alright... I guarantee it," said Richie, a broad grin spreading across his face as he reached further into Kyle's suit. "But that don't mean we can't fool around tonight."
"OK," sighed Kyle with final resignation, his dick now painfully constricted. "But let's skinny-dip our way out to the raft, first. I'd just feel safer out there."
"Alright!" exclaimed Richie, too excited to care if his voice was louder than it should have been.
With that, Kyle stood up, grateful for the opportunity to realign his aching cock. When he was done it was pointing up and to the left, the tip of his glans poking out from under the waistband of his Speedo. After stretching his body, he looked down at it, then over to Richie.
"Ya know what? They oughta sew warning labels in these things to tell you the dangers of getting turned on while wearing 'em."
While Richie lustfully stared at his moonlit body, Kyle hooked his thumbs into the waistband and was about to pull it down when Richie reached up to stop him.
"Whoa, bro," he said as he raised himself to his knees, his own dick pressing against the inside of his cutoffs. "I'm the birthday boy, so I get to unwrap all the presents."
Kyle smiled with that 'go for it' look on his face as he removed his thumbs to let his arms hang loosely at his sides. Taking this as his cue, Richie reached for the backs of Kyle's thighs. Sliding his hands up to his ass-cheeks, he forced his fingers under the tight leg openings to feel the warm flesh underneath. Leaning forward while pulling Kyle gently toward him, Richie licked at the pre-cum that oozed from his exposed piss-slit. When Kyle groaned with pleasure, Richie cocked and lowered his head, grasped Kyle's rock-hard, nylon encased member firmly between his teeth, then pulled his head back slowly. When the fabric of the Speedo was stretched to its limit, he gave it a quick twist, then let it slip from his mouth, allowing it to snap back against Kyle's body.
So aggressive was his attack that Kyle flinched, grimacing from the unexpected surge of pain. The pain he felt was momentary, though, and to his pleasant surprise, it flowed through his dick to his balls - not as pain, but as pleasure, a pleasure that he'd never before experienced. So intense was this new sensation that he quickly came dangerously close to orgasm.
Grinning like a kid in a candy store, Richie moved his hands from under Kyle's swim suit to hook his fingers over the waistband at the back. Leaning his head in again, he placed his lips over the tip of his protruding glans to suck at the ever increasing flow of pre-cum. Slowly pulling the Speedo down from behind, exposing Kyle's dick in the process, he sucked more of it into his mouth. By the time Kyle's suit was bunched around his ankles, Richie was well into deep-throating him.
As soon Richie had bitten down on his aching cock, Kyle had known they would never make it out to the raft. Now, as Richie voraciously deep-throated him, he knew he was just moments away from his climax. Sensing this, Richie circled his thumb and forefinger around Kyle's scrotum, just above his low hanging balls, then pulled down on them while he stepped up his deep-throating action. Another quick surge of pain-to-pleasure spread through Kyle's body as the soft skin of his ball-sac was stretched tight. This was more than he could stand, and his entire body began to shiver as if he was going into convulsions. Moments later he went over the edge, unloading his teenage load into Richie's eager mouth and down his waiting throat. When finally his orgasm began to subside, his body covered with sweat, his knees too weak from the experience to carry his weight, an exhausted Kyle slumped to the dock to catch his breath.
So involved were they in their sex that neither boy was aware of the lone figure watching them from the top of the hill. Now, as they sat silently waiting for Kyle to recover, TJ adjusted his hard-on before quietly making his way back to the cabin.
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