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Big Bro, Little Bro

by Rob Warr

Chapter 8

"So, how's it going with you and Jake," Sarah asked as the two strolled the mall killing time.

Carol Gibson was tagging along behind, checking out the boys as she usually did, but at the mention of Jake's name she hurried to catch up, "Yeah, you never talk about you guys relationship, is there trouble in paradise?" she teased.

"For Heaven's sake, it's kind of personal you guys. I don't go around askin' about you and your boyfriends, do I?"

"No, because we don't have any," Carol frowned, "and you and Jake are juicy gossip," she added giggling.

"Well, for your information, we are doing just fine, but we're taking it slow. We don't want to cause Joey any more pain than we already have," Zak sighed.

"Yeah, I feel bad for Joey," Sarah said frowning, "too bad he doesn't like girls, he's a real fox."

"Who says he doesn't like girls?" Carol said forcing herself between the two and taking their hands in hers.

"I just assumed he was gay," Sarah offered, "I mean he fell for this stud over here," she said cocking her head in Zak's direction.

"Well, as far as I know, he only likes boys, but feel free to try him out," Zak chuckled.

"I think maybe I will," Carol said smiling mischievously, "there are too many gay boys in this town, and I need to turn one of them straight, maybe Joey will be the boy."

Zak laughed, "Well, if anyone could, it would be you little sister," Zak said giving his gal friend's hand a gentle squeeze.

"He could use some friends anyway," Sarah added, "even if he's not interested romantically, we could offer our friendship."

"That's sweet of you two," Zak said sincerely, "you girls are the best friends any guy could have. I mean that, you two really helped me get through the thing with Jake, and when I came out you were there for me and I just love you both so much," he added becoming quite emotional.

"We love you too, even if you're gay," Carol said grinning, "too bad too, cause you're a real fox Zak Mason."

" think so," Zak said blushing.

"I know so, right Sarah?"

"Yeah, the foxiest," she giggled. "Hey, isn't that Carlos' friend John up there?"

"Yeah, come on, let's say hi," Zak said breaking the hand hold with Carol and taking the lead.

"Hi you guys," John said warmly, "No fair, you have two pretty girls with you and I have none," he teased.

"My harem," Zak teased back. He wasn't sure if John knew he was gay or not, but he had never tried to hide it from him, and since he and Carlos were close, it was possible he might have found out from him.

"Lucky duck, what are you guys doin', just killin' time?"

"Yep, doing some back-to-school shopping and spendin' time with my girls," Zak said smiling.

"Mind if I tag along? I'll buy you guys a drink or something at the food court," John said almost desperately.

"Sure, the more the merrier," Sarah said eying the hunky teen lewdly. She was almost a year older than Zak and Carol, but was in the same grade due to her birth date falling late.

Carol couldn't help but notice her friend Sarah's interest in John, and she couldn't blame her really, John was a real fox too, as she liked to say.

At the food court John bought two orders of nachos for them to share, and drinks all around, and they sat at a table talking and enjoying their snack. Zak had known John for a while now, but other than an occasional outing with him and Carlos he really didn't spend that much time with him. He knew he was a nice guy and that Carlos thought the world of him, and he was looking forward to getting to know him better.

Somehow the subject of Carlos' problems with Bob Slater came up, and for a minute Zak was too stunned to speak. Carol and Sarah seemed to already know about the taunting, and had heard about the shaving cream tagging, and Zak felt like a complete idiot as he listened to the three talk about the incidents.

"Wait, hold on," Zak finally said, "you mean this kid Slater and his buddies are bullying Carlos and messing with his truck and stuff?"

"Yeah, I just assumed you knew..." John said blushing, "you two are so tight and all. I didn't think you had any secrets..."

"I...don't know what to say. I don't know why he didn't tell me about this. I feel like maybe he doesn't trust me or something..."

"No, man, it's not like that. He's just stubborn. I've tried to get him to tell someone at school or your folks, but he says he can handle it. I mean I guess he has, sort of, so far..."

"It's not right," Zak said, "well, now that I'll be going to the same school with him and Jake, I will make sure this crap doesn't happen again."

"We can all help," Carol said laying her hand on Zak's arm, "there's strength in numbers, and no one better cross us bitches," she snarled.

"Yeah, we'll fix that Slater dude good," Sarah said laughing maniacally, "we'll tell everyone he fucks chickens or something."

They all got a good laugh out of that and the tension was eased, but Zak was determined to talk to Carlos about this bullying thing and how hurt he was that Carlos hadn't confided in him.

They wandered the mall some more after their snack and Zak bought a new shirt at Old Navy, and Sarah bought a pair of skinny jeans. Carol said she had all the clothes she needed for back-to-school, but that she could use some new shoes, and they were off to Footlocker to see what they had.

At five Sarah's mom picked them up at the north entrance and dropped Zak off at his house. Carol was spending the night with Sarah, as she often did, and Zak could only imagine what sort of mischief the two would get into.

Carlos was at work, and Jake hadn't gotten home from football practice yet, so Zak sat down with his mom in the living room to kill a few minutes.

"Buy anything at the mall dear?"

"A shirt, want to see?" he said digging it out of the bag.

"Oh, nice dear. Did you have fun with your girl friends?" she chuckled.

"Yeah, and we met up with John, you know Carlos' friend?"

"Of course I know John, he and Carlos have been friends a long time. He's a nice boy."

"Yeah, mom..." Zak started, he was about to spill what he had heard about Carlos being bullied then thought better of it. Maybe that was why Carlos hadn't told him to begin with, maybe he was afraid Zak would spill his guts at the first opportunity.

"Ummm...yes dear?" she said looking away from the news program on TV.

"I just, nothing really. It can wait. What time will Carlos be home?"

"I think he works till 7. He said not to wait dinner on him."

"Okay, well...I'm gonna go up to my room and lay down for a little while. Those girls wore me out," he laughed.

"OH?" She said raising an eyebrow, "Is it like that now?" she teased, causing Zak to blush.

"MOM, they're like my sisters. It's not like that." Besides I'm gay, and I only want to mess with my brother Jake, he thought, realizing once more how sick that sounded.

"I'm teasing son, I know you three are close as thieves, but I've never worried there was any...hanky panky going on between you."

"Why's that mom?" Zak suddenly blurted out. He just had to know, did his mom suspect he was gay?

"Is there something you want to talk about son?" she said switching off the TV and looking serious.

"No, not really," he said backing down quickly, "Just tired I guess."

"Zak, honey, if it's about you and Joey, we understand. We don't know what happened, but I'm pretty sure you two were closer than just friends before whatever it was happened."

Zak looked panicky, this was the conversation he had been avoiding ever since they'd returned from the lake.

"Does dad know?" was all Zak could think to say.

"Sit down son," his mother said gently, "Yes, your father and I don't keep secrets and we compare notes. We've known for quite some time that you might be having some issues with your sexuality. The only complaint we have is, that you haven't trusted us enough to seek our counsel. We love you son, and there is nothing, nothing, that can ever change that."

Zak was crying now, "I know," he sobbed, "but you must be so, so disappointed in me."

"What? No, we are anything but disappointed. You are a sweet and wonderful young man, you are smart and talented, and you treat your family and friends with love and respect. You are everything we could have asked for in a son, and we are very proud of you. Who you love that way does not define you as a person. You are who you are, and God made you that way, and there is no reason to be ashamed or feel guilty for being you."

"I never thought about it like that, I just always assumed that being this way was...wrong, I guess, or that I was sick."

"Let me ask you this son, when you told Carlos, how did he react?"

"What? How did you know that I told Carlos, did he tell you?"

"No, but I know how close you two are, and if you told anyone I know it was probably him, or your girl pals," she chuckled.

"Actually all of them, and Jake of course," Zak said blushing, hoping he wasn't saying too much, "And they were all...very cool about it. Carol held me and let me cry on her shoulder, and Carlos told me he loved me, and that was all that mattered. Oh mom, I've been a fool to think I could hide this from you and dad, and stupid to think you would love me any less," Zak said breaking down at last.

"Come here honey," his mom said taking him in her arms and kissing his hair just as she used to when he was little and needed his momma's comfort.

When he was all cried out he sniffed and wiped at his eyes just as Jake came busting through the front door. He took one look at the two and froze, a deer in the headlights look on his face, and his stomach was tied up in knots as he let his worst fears populate his mind. Had something happened to dad or Carlos, or...was it the unthinkable, had Zak confided in their mom about their relationship?

"Hello son," Mrs. Mason said, "why don't you go shower and change, we need a little more time here."

"Yes ma'am," he said giving Zak a questioning look, then he headed upstairs, his stomach threatening to empty at any moment.

"Are you all right son?"

"Yeah, I'm okay. Thanks for being cool about all this. I really love you and dad a lot, and I guess I just didn't want to cause you any trouble."

"What trouble honey? As far as we're concerned nothing has changed. However," she chuckled, "it doesn't look like we'll have to worry about you getting any girls pregnant."

"Oh, mom...even if I was straight that wouldn't happen. Dad had the safe sex talk with me already," he laughed, feeling much better now.

"Well, when your father gets home I think he and you should have this same talk, but I can assure you he will tell you the same thing I have. We have discussed this matter several times and are in complete agreement."

"Thanks, that might be scary, but I'll do it. Will you, um, tell him about our talk first?"

"Yes dear, he'll be prepared," she said smiling, "now why don't you go wash your face and change that wet shirt," she said, referring to his tear stained shirt.

"Okay, thanks again mom," he said leaning in and giving his mom a kiss on the cheek, "I love you so much."

"I love you too honey, and nothing can ever change that."

Jake was still in the shower when Zak walked into the bathroom, and hearing Zak enter, Jake pulled back the curtain and peeked out, "Dude, what was going on down there? Is everything okay?"

"Fine, I just came out to mom, that's all," Zak said wetting a washcloth beneath the faucet.

"What? No way, really? How did that go?"

"They gave me a week to get out," Zak said with a serious look on his face. He just couldn't keep himself from teasing Jake, despite the seriousness of the situation.

"Yeah, right. Well, I guess we'll both be leaving then," Jake scoffed, he knew his new parents well enough to know that they would be accepting and loving, no matter what.

"Seriously though, it went well. I guess Carlos was right, I should have just trusted the fact that our rents are the best rents in the whole world. I still have to talk to dad, but mom says he feels the same way and that they have talked about this before."

"So, they suspected you were gay all along?" Jake muttered, "I wonder if they figured out what happened with us then?"

"I don't know. I wondered that too, but mom didn't mention it. She did mention Joey and I think she figured that one out."

"Oh wow," Jake said throwing the curtain back and stepping out of the shower.

Zak's eyes automatically went to Jake's chiseled naked body and eventually to his privates.

"Dude, close your mouth," Jake teased, "unless you want me to put something in it."

"What, oh...sorry. It's just that you are hot, and every time I see you naked I get a boner. See," he said pointing at the tent in his shorts.

Jake chuckled, "I'm flattered, but I don't think this is the time or the place for us to do anything about it."

"I know," Zak said turning away and staring in the mirror, "I feel so strange, relieved in some ways, but also sort of vulnerable, like I opened myself up and I can't take it back."

"Relax, it's only mom and dad. Now the whole family knows. My only question is, what happens with us now that they know you're gay? If we're not careful they will figure us out pretty fast."

"Would that be so bad?" Zak said turning to look Jake in the eye, "Look how good they took the news of me being gay, maybe they'll take the news that we're lovers the same way."

"I don't know," Jake said nervously, "that's a big step to take. What if mom and dad won't adopt me because of it?"

"Is that really that important to you?"

"Well, wanted it that way and well...I would sort of like to belong for real..."

"I never thought of that, maybe I'm being selfish. Maybe we shouldn't be together after all," Zak said sadly.

"No, I didn't mean that. After all the crap we've gone through, I think we deserve to be together. It just sucks that mom had to die and now things are all messed up."

Jake had finished drying off and was headed to the bedroom to get dressed, and Zak followed him like a puppy, ogling Jake's fine ass the whole time.

"We could just keep it on the down low I guess," Jake said looking thoughtful, "we share a room and if we wait till everyone is asleep we can have plenty of time you know, be together."

"I don't like sneaking around, but I guess till we figure things out that's the best we can do," Zak sighed.

The sound of the garage door going up pulled Zak's head around and he frowned, "That's dad. I wonder if he'll want to talk to me before supper?"

Jake got dressed and the two were lounging on their own bed when Mr. Mason knocked on the open door.

"Hi guys, how was your day?"

"Fine," Zak said nervously, "I went to the mall with the girls."

"I had practice, but they didn't push us too hard today. How was your day dad?"

"Pretty tame," he chuckled, "Can I steal Zak for a minute? I need to discuss something with him."

"Oh, sure we were just hanging out. See you at dinner I guess," he said, glad it was Zak having this talk and not him.

Zak followed his dad to his room, hanging his head as if he were headed to the gallows. He knew it was silly, his mom had already told him his dad would be fine with his being gay, but he just couldn't shake the feeling of dread. After all, dads expected their sons to be masculine, and follow in their footsteps, and carry on the family name.

"Sit down son," Mr. Mason said smiling warmly as he shut the door to his bedroom

"Thanks," Zak said, hoping his nervousness didn't show in his voice.

"Relax son," Mr. Mason said sitting down beside his son on the king sized bed he shared with his wife.

"Yes sir," Zak said shaking visibly and fighting back the tears.

Mr. Mason slipped an arm around his son and gave him a gentle hug, "So, mom tells me that you came out to her today. We have wondered how long it would take you," he chuckled.

" did?"

"Yes son, and as I'm sure she told you, we are not disappointed, nor do we love you any less. I am very proud of you in fact, and I'm sorry that you felt you had to keep this secret from us for so long. I know that must've been very stressful for you to live with the fear that you would be discovered and your whole world would fall apart. I suppose we should have tried to have this discussion with you when we first suspected, but right or wrong, we decided that you needed to trust us enough to tell us on your own terms."

"You, you're not disappointed that I won't have kids and carry on the family name?"

"No son, but who's to say you won't? Times are changing, and same sex couples are able to adopt now or have children using surrogate mothers. But even if that never happens, we still have Carlos," he chuckled.

Zak wondered why only Carlos, did he suspect that he and Jake were lovers?

"I'm kind of young to think about kids, but someday, if I find someone that I really love and we make a life together I think that might be cool."

"And I have no doubt that you'd make a good father," he said leaning in and knocking heads with his son, "Zak, I love you more than I can express. I try not to play favorites, but you are my flesh and blood, and you have a special place in my heart. Whether you are gay or straight makes no difference to me, I love you just the same and I always will. So, are we good?"

"Yes sir," Zak said relaxing at last, "I love you so much dad, and if you're cool with me then I'm fine."

"I'm cool with you, so what say we go see what your mom has fixed for dinner?"

They walked arm in arm down the stairs and when they appeared in the dining room Jake was helping his mom get dinner on the table. One look at Zak told him everything was fine and Jake relaxed. He knew Zak would fill him in later, but for now he was content to enjoy dinner with his family.

"Hey, I got off early?" Carlos announced as he came in the front door, "am I too late for dinner?"

"Just in time son," Mr. Mason said, "pull up a chair and prepare to be amazed by your mother's cooking."

"I hope I can live up to your expectations," Mrs. Mason chuckled, "it's just spaghetti and meatballs."

"I love spaghetti and meatballs," Carlos said sniffing the air, "do I smell garlic bread?"

"You have a good nose," his mom chuckled.

As they sat down to dinner, Carlos looked at his two brothers and somehow sensed that something was up. They didn't look worried exactly, but they seemed more serious tonight, and he was anxious to get them alone, and find out what was going on, however as it turned out he didn't have to wait.

"Well, since I'm sure you boys already know about your brother's big secret," Mr. Mason chuckled, "Zak has finally come out to us and as you might have suspected, we took it well. I hope this serves as a lesson to all of you boys that your mother and I love you unconditionally, and nothing, nothing can change that. Even if you committed murder we would still love you, and come visit you in prison," he joked.

"Thanks dad," Zak said, "I think I learned my lesson."

"I told you little brother, there was nothing to worry about," Carlos chuckled.

"Yeah, I, I should have trusted all of you more."

"Can I say something?" Jake said looking serious.

"Of course son," Mr. Mason said, sobering quickly when he saw the look on Jake's face.

Jake took a deep breath and pushed his plate back and began, "I know Carlos knows all this, but I don't know how much you know, mom and dad. When Zak turned 13 you guys threw him this really cool party and it was so much fun. We were playing video games, and laughing and horsing around, and stuffing our faces with pizza and cake and ice cream."

A hush had fallen over the table and Jake had everyone's attention. Zak was panicky, but he supposed there was no real danger in Jake revealing why they had fallen out. After all, Carlos had said that they suspected something like that all along. Carlos was calm, but he worried that Jake might me ready to reveal more than his feelings back then.

"I'm not going to go into detail, but Zak came out to me that night, and well...I didn't take it very well. In fact I was a total jack ass, sorry mom and dad for the language, but that's what I was. I ran away from him instead of trying to understand him and help him through this. I tried to justify it by telling myself that if Zak had, ummm...handled things differently I would have understood..."

"I'm confused Jake, what are you trying to say?" Mrs. Mason asked, "how did Zak approach you?"

Zak looked away and felt the sick feeling in his stomach that he had felt when he was having his talk with his dad.

Jake sighed, "Okay, I guess there's no way to do this, but to tell you exactly what happened. Is that okay Zak?"

Zak nodded, unable to trust his voice. Swallowing hard he waited for Jake to continue.

"Like I said, we were having a good time, then Zak asked me to follow him up to his room," Jake said, staring at his plate and looking lost in thought as he relived that night. "Of course I said yes, I thought maybe he had a new video game or something. I mean I didn't give it a second thought. I'd been in that room a million times and that night was no different.

When Zak latched the door I wondered about that, but I didn't say anything. I wasn't worried, after all we were like bros, even back then. At first Zak seemed nervous, then he was all bubbly and smiling, and that's when he told me.

He said, he said...that he'd known for a long time that he was gay and that he wanted me to know because he trusted me more than anyone in the whole world. This is where things sort of got crazy. At that point I like to think that I would have been fine with things and we would have still stayed friends."

"But something else happened, right?" Mrs. Mason said.

Jake nodded, "He...he told me that he loved me and...and he kissed me," Jake said finally, "and I freaked. I ran out of there as fast as I could, and know the rest. I treated Zak like crap and I justified it by saying that I couldn't be friends with a gay person, cause kids might think I was gay too.

I knew I was wrong, I knew I was being unfair, and I hated myself for it, but I just couldn't find the courage to make things right. I was as miserable as he was, but that was my fault too. I ruined things for both of us, and if my mom hadn't gotten sick again, I don't know if things would have ever gotten any better.

A good friend of mine made me see what an idiot I had been, and well, you know the rest. Since then Zak and I have pretty much picked up where we left off and I hope he's forgiven me," he said looking over a Zak, "but I'm not sure I can ever forgive myself."

"It's okay," Zak said softly, "I understand."

Mrs. Mason wiped a tear from her eye, "We always suspected that you boys' breakup had something to do with Zak being gay, but we didn't want to pry. I sometimes wonder if we made the right decision. There is plenty of blame to go around, and we share part of it by not getting involved. Your mother, God rest her soul, came very close to doing just that, but then she got sick and she had more important things to deal with."

"When mom got sick she made me see how wrong I was and that made me want to fix things. I didn't want Zak to think I was doing it just because my mom was sick, so I didn't tell him about mom and that was a mistake too. I messed up a lot, and just seemed to keep messing up, but Zak was great," he said smiling at the boy, "he could have held a grudge and got his revenge on me, but Zak is like the nicest and most loving guy I know."

"Is that all you'd like to tell us?" Mr. Mason said looking at Jake and then Zak.

Zak was physically trembling now and Jake looked ready to bolt.

"Uh, what do you mean?" Jake said, hoping he was misreading his new dad.

"We're not quite as dense as you boys may think," Mrs. Mason said giving the two a little smile.

"When you broke off the friendship with Zak, your mother came to us and we discussed things quite candidly. Your mother seemed to think that you might have had some deep feelings for Zak, but that you were afraid to face them. Was the real reason you broke things off, that you were struggling with your own feelings and sexuality?"

"Dad..." Zak pleaded.

"It's all right son, no one is in trouble. We're just trying to understand what's really going on here so we can deal with it before it gets too out of hand."

Jake looked at Zak and something passed between them, and Jake turned to his new parents and began, "Okay, maybe there's more. No, there is more. You're right, but it took me a long time to figure out what the real problem was. The funny thing is, almost everyone but me had it figured out, but every time they suggested that the problem was my feelings, I got mad and denied it.

When my mom first got sick I was scared and so sad, and then when she told me I'd be coming to live here, with Zak, I wasn't sure how I'd make that work. I...I called Zak a fag in front of my mom and she...she slapped me, Jake said through tears. I felt awful, not about being slapped, but because I had become just like all the other homophobic idiots in the world. Mom made me see how wrong I was, and I promised to do my best to make things work with Zak.

The day after my mom told me the news, I skipped school and me and an older friend went to the river and hung out that day. Even he could see what my problem was, and he convinced me to talk to Carlos and see where I stood with Zak. I guess you know how that turned out, Carlos was great. He could have told me to shove off and leave well enough alone, but instead he opened his arms and his heart to me, and that gave me hope. He told me that Zak had always hoped I'd try to get over what happened and become friends again.

Well, you know what happened next, I talked to Zak, and he was great too, and he welcomed me back with open arms. The only thing I messed up was, I didn't tell him about my mom, but I swear the only reason was that I didn't want him to think that I was just fixing things because of my mom dying and me coming to live here. He was hurt that I hadn't told him, but he forgave me, and I love him for that," Jake gave Zak a tender look then, which did not go unnoticed by the adults.

"We fell back into our same old easy friendship, only now we were closer, cause we were brothers for real. I wasn't freaked about Zak being gay anymore, and he told me up front that he still had feelings for me and that they wouldn't go away so easy, but that he wouldn't act on them, or make me feel uncomfortable, and he did a great job of that.

I guess I thought if Zak had someone, you know? A boyfriend or something, that he would forget about me and those feelings, but what I didn't count on was that I had some feelings too. When Zak met Joey, I think that's when I first really started to figure things out. I mean part of me wanted them to get together, and part of me was jealous that they were getting so close, so soon. Crazy huh? I didn't want him, but I didn't want Joey to have him either, only...well, I guess I did want him.

I acted like a complete douche bag, sorry about the language again, and I treated Joey sort of bad, but he just took it and didn't push back. I began to think about the stuff Zak and I used to do when we were younger," Jake said blushing, "I'm not going to go into detail, but I figure you know what I'm talking about, and I realized that what for me was just fun, was serious business for Zak. Only if I had really thought about it, it was special for me too. We loved each other then, but it was innocent and happy, and we didn't put any labels on it. Then when Zak put a label on it, I freaked. I was so, so stupid. I can't believe how clear everything is now. It's like my eyes were opened, and I hate that I missed so much by being a complete idiot and denying my feelings.

Then, that weekend at the lake I just couldn't take it anymore. I knew I had feelings for Zak, but he and Joey were together and there was nothing I could do about it. Then, well...something happened at the lake."

"Go on son, but please no graphic details," Mr. Mason said softly.

"Oh, it's not like that," Jake said blushing deeper, "I was feeling kind of down and lonely and I went down to the lake to think things out. Seeing Zak and Joey together was too much for me, and knowing they were sharing a tent and all was really eating at me.

I guess Carlos was worried about me, and when Zak asked where I was, he told Zak, and Zak came looking for me, just to talk. We talked about things, but I just kept denying my feelings, even then. I think Zak knew better, but he didn't press me, then...then the kiss happened."

Mrs. Mason looked over at her husband and smiled, as a woman she was more sensitive to romance, and she could see from the look in Jake and Zak's eyes that romance was afoot.

"We were getting ready to leave and Zak stood, and well, he slipped and I caught him in my arms. I just stood there holding him and I realized that nothing had ever felt that good or so right. I think Zak could feel it too, and when he suggested we should get back before something happened, I said, like this? And I kissed him. At first I could tell he was unsure, then...then he really got into it, and all our feelings came spilling out, and even though I knew things were complicated, I was willing to risk it if Zak was."

"And Joey found out about the kiss?" Mr. Mason guessed.

"I told him," Zak confessed, "I didn't want there to be any secrets between us, and well...I told him all about what happened, but I told him that I wanted to be with him, and that I loved him, and that Jake was too late. I even had myself first."

"How did Joey take the news?" Mrs. Mason asked.

"He was worried, but he said he trusted me, then later Jake came by and we all three talked and we sort of agreed that Joey and I needed a chance to see where things went, but Jake said if it didn't work out that he was going after me."

"Oh my," Mrs. Mason groaned, "so much drama for boys so young. So, what happened? Apparently things didn't work out quite like you planned."

"Well, then Shaun came along," Jake said picking up where Zak left off, "At first I just thought we'd hang out and be friends, but I wound up spilling my feelings to him and I even told him about the kiss. He said he understood cause he had been in love like that before, only it ended badly. The boy's father caught them together and told Shaun to get out, and he never got to see him again. The other boy's dad was ex-military and had guns in the house..."

"Oh no," Mrs. Mason groaned.

"Yeah, and after they had one of their really bad arguments the boy killed himself with one of his dad's guns."

Zak had wondered what the story was there after hearing the two talking about it at the lake, but now that he knew he wished he didn't.

"I will never understand how parents can turn on their children that way," Mr. Mason said frowning, "That's why we felt it was so important for you to know how much we love you and accept you as you are. That boy's life was wasted because of bad parenting."

"It's worse than that, his dad was so upset he took to drinking and died in a car wreck later."

"So, you and this boy, Shaun, you became close?" Mrs. Mason asked, glad to put the deaths of the young man and his father behind them.

"Yes, no...maybe, I'm not sure. I guess I sort of turned to Shaun for comfort and Zak got a little jealous."

"That explains your behavior at the picnic table that evening," Mrs. Mason said as she recalled Zak's outburst that night.

"Yeah, I was afraid that Jake would hook up with Shaun, but that was stupid. Anyway, I had Joey and I shouldn't have cared, but I did, and Joey figured things out and he got very upset. That's why he called his folks to come get him and he...he broke up with me cause he said he didn't want to be second choice," Zak sighed.

"Oh dear. This would make a good soap opera," Mr. Mason clucked, "When I was your age my biggest worry was what was for supper that night."

"Well, it was sort of uncomfortable that last night in the tent with Joey, but we agreed to stay friends, and so far we've done a pretty good job of that."

"So, let me get this straight," Mr. Mason said settling back in his chair and pushing his plate away, "Zak has always had deep feelings for you Jake, and apparently you have discovered that you feel the same way?"

Jake and Zak nodded, and held their breath as they waited for the firestorm that was sure to come next. When nothing happened after a few minutes the boys began to get even more nervous.

"I'm sorry..." Zak began, tears running down his cheeks, "I've ruined everything loving Jake that way, haven't I?"

"Why would you say that?" Mrs. Mason said giving her son a loving look, "You can't control your feelings, besides Jake was your friend long before he was your brother."

"I'm the one who caused the trouble, by kissing Zak at the lake," Jake said jumping in, "I knew he was with Joey and I still did it, and well... us being brothers and all, what I did was stupid."

"Jake, sweetheart, no one is to blame. Granted it might have been better had you admitted your feelings long ago, before all this happened, but that's water under the bridge now."

"So, you're not mad at us?" Zak wondered, sniffing back a few tears.

"Mad? Of course not. I think it took a great deal of courage to tell us what happened, and to admit your true feelings. The only problem now is, what do we do about it?" Mrs. Mason said looking thoughtful.

"You aren't going to keep us apart are you?" Zak asked looking worried.

Mr. Mason laughed softly, "Of course not. That's what caused your friend Shaun's problems. No, that's the furtherest thing from our minds, right dear?"

"Yes, but certainly things have changed, and we have to deal with the fact that you boys are brothers now."

"What if...what if you didn't adopt me?" Jake said looking stricken.

"No, that's not fair," Zak protested, "your mom wanted you to be adopted and have a mom and dad again."

"And we wanted that too," Mr. Mason assured them, "but adopting Jake at this point would only complicate things. As long as we're only Jake's guardians, there's no issue of incest, however obscure it might be since you aren't blood brothers."

"I think...I think that's best then. I can still live here, but just not be a real brother to Zak, right?"

"We'll have to give this some serious thought," Mr. Mason added, "but it's late and our dinner has grown cold. Why don't we microwave our plates and finish our dinner then sleep on this? There's no need to rush into things, it's not like anyone is going anywhere," he added chuckling.

They realized that despite the drama that had unfolded they were hungry, and after reheating their food they ate quietly, thinking over what had been said, and trying to figure out what might happen next. When they were finished Mrs. Mason shooed the boys off to their rooms and she and her husband did clean up duty so they could talk in private.

In the room that Zak and Jake shared, Carlos joined the two and sat down heavily on Zak's bed.

"Well, that went well," he chuckled, "I told you they wouldn't freak. I'm surprised you told them all that though Jake."

"I think they already knew what was going on," he confessed, "and I figured it was better to come clean now and see what happened. If they were gonna kick me out I needed to know now."

"There was never any danger of that, but how do you feel about not being adopted?" Carlos asked.

"At first it made me sad. I mean it was what mom wanted, but as far as I'm concerned I don't need to be adopted to belong to this family. And if I'm not adopted then technically I'm just living here, and Zak and I can be boyfriends, and we're not breaking the law or doing anything immoral."

"Unless you consider gay sex immoral," Carlos teased.

"Yeah, well...I used to, but not anymore," Jake sighed, "So, Zak what do you think?"

"I don't know, I feel like I'm being unfair to you by keeping you from being adopted. One part of me wants you as a full-on brother and the other part of me wants you as a boyfriend. It's confusing."

"You're not being unfair to me," Jake assured him, "I'm the one who stirred things up, and I'm to blame for what happens now. If I had been honest from the start mom would never have expected me to be adopted, but I think she would have still wanted me to come live with you guys."

"I think what's most important here is that we love you like a brother, and nothing can change that," Carlos said sincerely, "doesn't matter what your last name is as long as we know how we all feel. I think it's the perfect solution to the problem, and if this thing doesn't last, mom and dad can always adopt you later."

"It will last," Zak said quickly, "I mean...that's how I feel."

"I think so too, but Carlos is right. If not being adopted makes it easier for us to be boyfriends then that's how it should be. I don't need a piece of paper to tell me that I love Carlos like a brother, and mom and dad like parents. As for you Zak, well...I love you as a bro and as a lover, get double the love."

"Do you think mom and dad will go for that?"

"Yeah, I think so. They brought it up, so I'm guessing that's what they'll suggest. After all, there might be a legal issue otherwise. Incest is a crime, even if it goes on all the time, especially between brothers," Carlos said looking serious.

"Then that's what I'll tell them I want," Jake said, finally feeling at peace with the situation. "I think mom will understand," he added looking up at the ceiling, "Mom, I love Zak and I can't be his bro and his boyfriend."

"I bet she's up there smiling down at you two," Carlos said softly, "and I know she's happy you two will finally be together for real."

"Yeah, so...should we go tell them what we decided, or sleep on it like they said?"

"There's no hurry, we could all use a good night's sleep. I'm tired and I stink, I'm gonna go take a shower. I'll come back and say goodnight, okay?"

"Yeah, go wash the onion smell off," Zak laughed, "and then you can kiss us goodnight."

Carlos laughed, "Sure bro, be back in a flash."

When Carlos was gone Zak moved over to sit by Jake, "That was kick ass, you telling mom and dad all that stuff. I'm proud of you. At first I was terrified they'd kick both our asses out, but I should have known better after the way they took my coming out."

"Our rents are the best," Jake said, "and I think things will work out after all. It will be nice not to have to sneak around. I always hated lying to my mom and I didn't want to have to lie to our folks about this."

"Do you think they know we...we have sex?"

"Well, they're not stupid," Jake chuckled, "and we're healthy horny teenage boys, so...I'm gonna guess they know we've done something."

"That's embarrassing to think about, but I guess I'll get over it."

"I wonder if they will split us up after this though?"

"What do you mean?" Zak asked sounding panicky

"I wonder if they'll make me move into the attic room. It might look better to anyone on the outside if we weren't sharing a room."

"Oh, yeah...I see. I hadn't thought of that."

"I wouldn't get too worked up about that till you talk to mom and dad," Carlos suggested, as he rejoined them, "I think they'll figure this thing out and make the right decision."

"I hope so," Zak sighed, "I feel relieved in some ways, but sort of weird at the same time."

"Don't worry, the worst part is over," Carlos assured him, "Coming out, and admitting you two had feelings for each other had to be really hard, but mom and dad took it well. Heck, I think they suspected it all along."

"Yeah, they're pretty smart, for old folks," Jake chuckled, "I don't know about you guys, but I'm bushed. I think I'll head to bed."

"Yeah, I'm pretty tired myself," Carlos said stretching his lithe form and yawning.

"Damn Carlos, are you trying to turn us on?" Jake joked.

"Huh, what do you mean?"

"He doesn't know just how hot he is, does he?" Zak offered.

"Naw, but that's just as well. We don't need any more sexual tension in this house."

"You guys, I'm not sexy," Carlos scoffed.

"Yeah, you are, and you need to find someone who appreciates that," Zak said tenderly.

"I'm too busy for that kind of stuff," Carlos said blushing.

"Come on bro, no one is that busy," Jake laughed, "What about this girl you like, the one that works at Sonic?"

"Oh, well...she's nice, but I don't think she's really interested in me that way."

"Are you interested in her that way?"

"Well, she's really nice, and pretty and all..." he said blushing.

Zak smiled, "I think he likes her."

"Goodnight you guys," Carlos said shaking his head in dismay, "I have more important things to think about."

"Nite bro," Zak said, "love ya. Thanks for being there for me."

"Yeah, that goes for me too," Jake said looking very emotional, "I don't know what I would do without my big bro."

"I love you guys too," Carlos said, "Everything will work out, you'll see."

"Well, that went better than I'd feared. We just have to wait and see what mom and dad decide."

"Yeah, well...I'm not worried. I was before, but now...I feel like things are gonna' be okay," Jake said putting his arm around Zak.

"Yeah, but...I think we should keep things on the down-low for a while."

"Yeah, I understand. It would feel kind of weird knowing mom and dad knew what we were up to."

"Yeah, that creeps me out a little."

"Me too, well...I'm pretty tired, what say we head to bed?"

"Yeah, that suits me just fine. Goodnight," Zak said leaning in for a kiss.

"Mmm...that's nice," Jake said pulling away at last, "too bad we can't..."

"I know, but I think it would be too weird..."

"Yeah, least I have my hand," Jake sighed.

"Me too, well...goodnight bro," Zak said giving Jake a warm hug.

"Mmmmm...I love you so much," Jake said nuzzling Zak's neck, "I hope all this works out like we want it to."

"I think it will, mom and dad are on our side. Heck, everyone is on our side."

"Except maybe Joey. I really feel bad about what happened to him. He's a nice kid. I hope he finds someone to love."

"Yeah, well...all we can do now is be his friend and hope for the best."

"Yeah, well...goodnight. I'm gonna go pee and brush my teeth."

When Jake was gone, Zak stripped down to his boxer briefs and crawled into bed. It had been a weird day, but he hoped for the best. He thought about Joey and his feelings for him and compared them to his feelings for Jake. He was sure he loved them both, but in different ways. The sex was good with both, but Jake had his heart and always would. He was sorry that Joey got hurt, but he knew without a doubt that he belonged with Jake, and now Jake seemed to think so too. He smiled when he thought about how brave Jake had been as he confessed his true feelings to his folks, and he had never been so sure of Jake's love as he was now.

"Can I get one more kiss?" Jake asked as he emerged from the bathroom.

"Yup, a nasty one," Zak giggled.

"Mmmm...I like that," Jake said leaning down for the kiss.

The kiss went on for quite some time and both boys were hard when they finally broke it off.

"Wow, better get in my bed before I do something we'll both regret," Jake said pulling back at last.

"Yeah, I guess..." Zak said sighing, "once we find out what mom and dad have decided we'll make up for lost time."

"Yeah, well...goodnight. Love ya."

"Love you too, and thanks for being honest with our folks and all. That really took a lot of courage."

"It was easy. You know why? Cause the look in your eyes told me that you felt the same way too, and how could I deny my love looking into your eyes?"

"Aww...that's so sweet. I love you so much."

"Me too, well...goodnight," Jake said finally climbing into his bed, "this is gonna be a rough night, but hopefully tomorrow we'll have some good news."

"I'm sure we will. Mom and dad will be fair."

"Yeah, well...I'm not as worried as I was before, but I still feel sort of weird about all this."

"Our love, or the fact that we're bros and mom and dad know about us?"

"Not our love, that's perfect. I just wish things were different and there wasn't so much drama."

"Yeah, well...look at it like this. Even if one of us has to move to the attic we'll still be living under the same roof and we can get together a lot."

"Yeah, nice," Jake said grinning. Then sighing, he turned off the bedside lamp, "well, goodnight for real this time."

"Yeah, goodnight," Zak said softly, and soon the only sound was the steady breathing of the two brothers/lovers.

Neither boy slept well the night before, and come morning they were grouchy and reluctant to climb out of bed. However their aching bladders finally forced them up, and they padded off to the bathroom together to relieve them.

"Morning," Zak yawned.

"Morning, you look like shit," Jake laughed.

"You too, I guess neither of us slept very well."

"Nope, but at least we don't have to go to school today."

"Yeah, I'd like to just climb back in bed and hide out, but I know mom has breakfast waiting for us."

"Yeah, well...I'm sorta hungry, so that works for me."

When they were dressed they padded downstairs to find Carlos and their mom busy in the kitchen. Mr. Mason was already gone for the day and it was just the four of them for breakfast.

"Good morning sleepy heads," Mrs. Mason said cheerfully.

They both mumbled a good morning then plopped down in their chairs and took a drink of orange juice. Soon breakfast was on the table, and the boys perked up when they saw the blueberry pancakes and bacon and eggs. Their appetites were typical of teenage boys and there were no left overs.

"So," Zak said blushing as he carried his plate to the sink, "did, and dad talk anymore about things?"

"Yes, we did, but I want your father to be here when we discuss it. I want all of you to plan on being here for supper. Is that a problem Carlos?"

"No mom, I'm off today so I'll be home all day."

"Well, no need to hang around all day, it might get boring for you boys around here, but plan on being home by 5 if you do go out."

"I guess we could go to the mall or a movie," Carlos suggested, "I might ask John to come with us."

"That sounds fun," Mrs. Mason said, clearing the rest of the dishes, "why don't you go call him and make your plans. Is that okay with you two?" she added looking at Zak and Jake.

"Uh, yeah...that sounds fine," Zak said, figuring he and Jake could at least have some alone time.

"Yeah, a movie sounds good. We could go to the Cineplex at the Mall and do both things."

"That's what I had in mind. I'll go call John and set it up," Carlos said leaving the two to help their mom finish cleaning up.

"Are you boys all right with all this?" she asked tenderly.

"Well, we were a little worried at first, but we know you and dad will be fair about this, but till we hear what you decided I guess we'll be nervous."

"Don't worry, things will work out," she said smoothing back Zak's long brown hair, "I just don't want to get into things till we're all together."

Jake had finished loading the dishwasher and Mrs. Mason was wiping down the counters. "Any special requests for dinner?" she asked cheerfully, as if nothing was different.

"Uh, pizza?" Zak teased.

"How about we save the pizza for some other time? How does fried chicken and the works sound?"

"I love your fried chicken," Jake said rubbing his flat stomach, "remember when I used to come over and eat all the time? That was one of my favorite things."

"Yes, and as I recall I had to cook an extra chicken when you were over," Mrs. Mason chuckled, "So Zak, is that all right with you?"

"Yes ma'am, I love your chicken too and your mashed potatoes with the green stuff in them."

She chuckled, "That's just parsley sprigs to make it more appealing to the eye. We learned in cooking class that presentation was a big part of a successful meal." Mrs. Mason had taken some classes at the local community college a few years ago, and the family had been reaping the benefits ever since.

"I think I'll take a shower, I feel all sticky," Jake said giving Zak a wink while Mrs. Mason's back was turned.

"Yeah, me too. You can go first, I want to talk to mom for a minute."

"Oh, okay...see you in our room then," Jake said trying not to sound too disappointed that Zak wouldn't be joining him in the shower.

When Jake was gone Zak leaned against the counter next to his mom and sighed, "Mom, I want you to know that I really appreciate the way you and dad took my coming out, and I promise you that I will continue to make you proud no matter what. I just love Jake so much, I always have, and now that he has admitted that he loves me too, just seems like a dream come true. But I gotta tell ya', we were really worried about how you and dad would take the news that we wanted to be boyfriends. I mean we talked about it a lot and we really hadn't intended to spring this on you guys yet, but it just sort of happened. Jake surprised me by being so open and honest, and I gotta say it took a lot of courage on his part to admit how he felt and to try to make up for what happened between us."

"You are both very young," Mrs. Mason said touching her son's cute face affectionately, "and a lot can happen between now and the time you turn 18, but I know that what you are feeling is very real to you and I won't diminish it by calling it puppy love. Love is...well, love is something that everyone craves, from cradle to grave, and to find a love so early in life is a wonderful thing. First loves are very strong and set the stage for all future relationships. If you are lucky your first love will be the one true love, but if not, it will still be just as important and real while it lasts."

"I know mom, but all we know is how we feel right now. I mean there are no promises, not with anyone, not even adults. Look how many people get divorces. If it doesn't last, then we'll deal with that when it happens, but I really think it will. After all we have loved each other almost as long as we've been alive. How many people can say that?"

Mrs. Mason smiled and laughed softly, "You should become a lawyer or a politician. You make some very good points, but you don't need to convince me that what you feel is real, your father and I have always suspected that you and Jake were closer than just friends. I don't want to embarrass you, but we also suspected you were...experimenting sexually with each other at a very early age."

Zak blushed bright red, but didn't deny what she was saying, "I think all boys do that kind of stuff mom."

"I think that stands to reason, and I'm not saying there was anything wrong with what you and Jake did, but perhaps because of that you became closer as friends."

"I think it was like that for me, but for Jake I think it was just fun," Zak said, amazed that he could be so candid with his mother about such things.

"So, it wasn't, experimenting that scared Jake away?"

"No, it was the kiss...and my saying that I loved him. I guess he might have freaked over the fact that I was gay, and well...since we'd been messing around, I guess he thought he was gay too."

"I'm not an expert on these things by any means, but it seems to me that a person doesn't necessarily have to be gay to love someone who is the same sex as they are. I think most of us are capable of loving anyone if the situation and chemistry is there."

"Yeah, but I'm sure I'm gay," Zak said stubbornly, "as for Jake, I think he's still confused about that."

"Won't that cause problems later on?"

"I don't know, I honestly don't, but I think he feels sort of like you do, that he's capable of loving another boy, even if he's not 100% gay."

"Well, honey...why don't you run along and take your shower, I bet Jake is done by now, or at least still waiting for you to join him," she chuckled.

"Mom!" Zak groaned, but he didn't deny that what she was implying was true.

"Go on, scoot. I have things to do and I don't need you boys under foot all day."

Zak gratefully made his exit and sure enough Jake was waiting for him in the bathroom. Without speaking, Zak began undressing and joined Jake under the spray.

"You sure about this?"

"Mom practically ordered me to come get in the shower with you," Zak giggled.

"What? No way!"

"Yeah, she told me you were probably waiting for me to join you."

"Oh wow, that's crazy stuff. Is it possible our folks are just gonna let us do whatever we want?"

"Naw, they'll be rules. Count on it, but I think we can live with them."

"Here, let me wash your back."

"Mmm...yeah, I'm all tensed up, maybe you could massage my shoulders too."

"Sure bro," Jake said taking his time and giving Zak's back a good going over before beginning to massage his shoulders and neck.

"Mmm...that feels so good. You could make money doing that," Zak hummed.

"Yeah, well...I could make money selling my bootie on the street too," Jake teased, "but my body is just for you from no on."

"Aw, you're sweet. Switch places and I'll do you," Zak said turning around slowly.

"You're hard," Jake said simply.

"So are you, but I'm not sure we should do anything about it right now."

"Yeah, might be better to wait. At least till we see what the rents have decided about us."

"Yeah, but...well...I can't go all day with this thing popping up, so I may have to jerk it."

"Well, we could jerk each other. That wouldn't be too much would it?"

"I don't know," Zak said squinting his eyes, "Oh hell, why not? It's not like mom will ever know."

"Yeah, sounds okay," Jake said reaching down to grab Zak's erection, "I like your dick. It feels so warm and so hard..."

"Mmm...I like yours too," Zak said sighing, "I'm close, it won't take much."

"Me either, I was too tired and too worried about things to jerk off last night."

"Me too," Zak said offering his lips for Jake to kiss.

Their lips met and they kissed deeply and wetly as they continued to handle each other's rampant teenage joy stick, and suddenly they moaned into each others mouth and began to spew almost simultaneously.

"Oh God, that was intense," Zak gasped after they'd both emptied their balls.

"Yeah, and hot," Jake said kissing Zak sweetly before pulling away and beginning to wash the remains of their orgasms off of them.

Soon they were both clean and they climbed out of the shower and began drying off, helping each other reach those hard to reach places. Back in their room they dressed quickly and went looking for Carlos.

"Hey guys, want to see if Sarah and Carol want to come with us?"

"Sure, why not?" Zak said, "they both have the hots for John, maybe he'll get lucky," he chuckled.

"Oh surely not," Carlos scoffed, "they're so much younger than John."

"Sarah is only a year younger," Zak reminded him, "and as far as Carol goes, she's very mature for her age."

"What Zak is trying to say is, Carol and Sarah are horny girls with hot bodies and nice tits," Jake joked.

"You think they're hot?" Zak asked almost accusingly.

"Well, yeah...I might be in love with a boy, but I can appreciate a nice looking girl."

"Hmm...should I keep you away from those two?" Zak wondered.

"Zak, do you trust me or not?"

"Of course, I'm just busting your balls. Besides my little sisters would never go after my boyfriend," he said grinning, "I'll call them and see if they're up for a triple date."

The girls were ecstatic at being asked along, and Zak wondered if they were planning to put the make on Carlos and John. Carol had confessed that she found Carlos attractive, and Sarah had said that she thought John was sexy as well. It would be an interesting date, he chuckled, but he didn't think either boy would give in to their flirting.

Since Carlos truck wasn't big enough to accommodate them all, Mrs. Mason loaned them the use of her mini-van and Jake and Zak took the back row while Carol and Sarah occupied the middle row, and John rode up front with Carlos.

At the mall they browsed all the usual shops that were of interest to teenagers and bought their tickets for the movie. Carlos surprised Zak by offering to buy tickets for the girls, but both girls insisted they could pay for their own.

They found seats on the second level, front row and took the six seats in the middle. While the others held their seats, Zak, Jake, and Carlos went to the concession stand and they got popcorn, candy, and drinks for everyone. This time the girls graciously allowed the boys to pay, and before long the previews started and they settled in for the movie.

Zak and Jake sat together, then Sarah next, John, then Carol and Carlos. Zak smiled when he saw the seating arrangement the girls had worked out. It was obvious they intended this to be more than a friendly date, but he wondered how willing the two boys would be to cooperate.

The movie started and the quiet conversation ended, and except for any occasional whispered comment they didn't speak. After a while Zak let his hand wander over to Jake's leg and soon Jake covered her hand with his own. They weren't exactly holding hands, but both boys thought it felt nice.

Meanwhile Sarah was putting some moves on John and waiting to see what his reaction would be. Stretching her legs a bit she brought them back then let her knee contact John's. At first John started to pull away, but he finally decided there was no harm to their touching and he relaxed and just enjoyed the warmth of her leg against his.

Carol wasn't quite as bold however, she knew from talking to Zak that Carlos considered her too young and off limits, but she just had to show him that she liked him, and hope they could at least become closer friends.

Moving her arm to the armrest that they shared, she pressed against Carlos' arm pretending to be paying attention to the movie and unaware of what she was doing. At first Carlos was concerned, but glancing over at Carol, she seemed to be oblivious to their contact and he relaxed and just left things alone. Zak had told him that Carol liked him and was curious about him as boyfriend material, and he had to admit she was cute, and sweet, and all the things he'd look for in a girl, but the age thing still bothered him. Not to mention that he knew Zak thought of her as a little sister and that sort of creeped him out, after all, since he and Zak were brothers, wouldn't that make her his little sister too?

He was confused, but he had to admit the warmth of Carol's naked arm against his was a little exciting and he'd begun to feel a tingling in his groin. Would it be so bad to at least date a girl like Carol? He thought about something Zak had pointed out once, that both their names shared the same five letters, and Carol rearranged and with an s spelled Carlos. He chuckled to himself, then frowned, what did that have to do with anything?

Emboldened by Carlos reaction, or rather his lack of a reaction to her invading his space, she decided to move things along a bit. Moving her leg, much as Sarah had, she let her knee press against Carlos' leg. At first he pulled back a little, but there was really nowhere for him to go. Despite the seating having ample leg room, they were still fairly close together, and besides he didn't want to make any sudden moves and make Carol think he was rejecting her.

He understood how fragile a person's feelings could be. He had sat with Zak as he cried his heart out over Jake, and he'd had his own share of hurt feelings and rejection over the years. No, he didn't want to hurt Carol's feelings, and he thought what she was doing was innocent enough, so he just relaxed and left things as they were.

The only real problem was, he was finding that he liked Carol's covert advances and the attention she was paying to him, and that made him wonder, what it be like to kiss her? He chastised himself mentally, surely he couldn't be contemplating starting something with this girl who was almost two years younger than him. Still, he knew a lot of guys in school dated younger girls. In fact it seemed like younger girls always wanted older guys. It had something to do with the fact that girls matured faster, he imagined, and certainly Carol was mature enough to know what she wanted.

She was drop dead gorgeous really, and he had to admit that just being near her was sort of exciting. He could smell her shampoo and the subtle scent of some perfume that was exotic, but not overpowering. He stretched his long legs and pressed against Carol a bit harder, now taking the lead and hoping he wasn't biting off more than he could chew.

What would it hurt if he at least tried to get to know her better? Would Zak be okay with it? He wondered. He'd been the one to ask him what he thought about her and he'd shot Zak down saying she was too young and too much like a sister, but the truth was, he really didn't know her that well. His only dealings with her was the occasional get together they'd shared with Zak, and she had never really seemed that interested in him, or he in her, until now.

"Carlos," she whispered, pulling him out of his thoughts,"I need to go to the bathroom."

"Oh, sure," Carlos said pulling his legs up and giving her room to pass. Actually there was plenty of room already and he decided she had informed him of her need to go to the bathroom simply out of courtesy.

Then leaning around John she said to Sarah, "Sarah, come on and go to the bathroom with me."

Sarah jumped up quickly and both girls moved quickly out of the aisle leaving the boys to stare after them.

"Girls," John laughed, "why do they always go to the bathroom in packs?"

Carlos laughed, he'd always wondered the same thing, "So they can talk about boys," Carlos offered.

"Probably talking about you two," Jake offered, "you know they're hot for you guys...right?"

"What?" John said, acting surprised. He had figured Sarah out pretty quick, but he was a bit surprised that Carol might be going after Carlos.

"Yeah, Sarah thinks you're a real fox," Zak laughed, "and Carol has been hot for Carlos for a while now."

"You okay with that guys?" Jake asked getting serious.

"That's silly," Carlos protested, but he knew it was true, even if he wasn't sure what to do about it.

"Sarah is nice," John said, not expressing what he was really thinking, that she was very sexy.

"Just don't hurt her," Zak warned.

"I'm crushed that you would think I would do something like that," John said looking hurt.

"I know, just be careful is all I'm saying."

"SHHHHHHHHHH," someone behind them scolded and they turned their attention back to the movie, and Carlos was left to think about his own feelings.

When the girls returned they took their seats and resumed their positions as before, pressing into the boy next to them and hoping for the best. Emboldened by what Zak and Jake had told him, John let his hand wander over to Sarah's and soon they were holding hands. Sarah gave John a shy look then squeezed his hand gently and sighed and relaxed into him, her shoulder brushing up against his.

Seeing that Sarah was having some success, Carol decided to take things to the next level. Sighing, she moved her hand from the armrest and laid it on Carlos leg. Immediately Carlos began to sweat and he worried that he would become aroused and embarrass them both, but somehow he managed to keep that part of him under control. However, his heart was beating so fast he felt as if it would burst out of his chest at any moment, and he felt all thumpy inside. Was this love? No, not love, lust then? He wondered, or just a normal human reaction to someone touching them intimately?

He knew there was all kinds of intimacy, all kinds of touching. He'd experienced the sexual type with John when they were younger, but it was more about feeling good and less about emotions. Then there was the intimacy he shared with his brothers, that was less sexual and more emotional, and then the intimacy he shared with his parents, which was based purely on love and respect.

He's never had a girlfriend, in fact he'd never dated, except in a group setting like this one, only this one seemed different. Had the girls set this up once they found out they'd all be together? Or was it just something that was occurring by mutual desire? He was confused, and one part of him wanted to break away and end the torment, but another part of him wanted to see where this might lead.

Taking the initiative, he reached down and took Carol's much smaller hand in his and squeezed it gently. The smile that brought to her face made her even more beautiful, Carlos thought, and suddenly he knew what it was he wanted to do. It didn't have to be love, and certainly not sex, but why couldn't he get to know this cute, sweet girl better, and in the process get his folks and all his friends off his back for not having a girl friend or dating?

They held hands all through the rest of the movie as Carol leaned her head on Carlos shoulder and snuggled in as close as the seats would allow. Zak leaned forward and checked the two out them poked Jake who took a look as well, and a huge smile filled both boy's face. Zak wanted Carlos to find someone to make him happy, and if it was Carol that was perfect. He loved both of them dearly and couldn't think of a better match. As for John and Sarah, well...he'd see how that worked out. He knew Sarah well enough to know that she wasn't looking for anything permanent, and John might just be a passing fancy, but as long as no one got hurt that was cool.

When the movie was over they walked out, not as one couple and four friends, but as three couples, two of the couples holding hands.

"No fair," Zak whispered to Jake, "they can hold hands, but we can't."

"Who says we can't?" Jake said boldly taking Zak's hand in his.

"Are you sure?" Zak said looking around, but no one seemed to notice or care that two cute teenage boys were holding hands in a crowded theater lobby.

Once they were in the mall Zak pulled away, for fear they'd run into one of their friends or someone from school, but the smile on his face remained as he realized that Jake had just admitted to the world, though covertly, that he was okay with the two of them as a couple.

"Let's go to the food court," Jake suggested, "After all that salty popcorn I need a Lemonade."

They sat around laughing and talking until it was time to go and this time the seating arrangement was changed. This time Carol rode up front with Carlos while John and Sarah occupied the middle row. Jake and Zak took their seats in the last row and wasted no time joining hands. After they were out of the lot Jake leaned in and kissed Zak passionately and they made out most of the way to Carol's house where they dropped off the girls.

Carlos and John walked the girls to the door, which Zak thought was very romantic, and when they returned he couldn't help but rib them.

" guys are soooo cute together," he teased, "who would have thought my big bro and Carol would become more than friends."

"Who says we're more than friends," Carlos said sounding embarrassed, "she's a nice girl and I wouldn't mind getting to know her better, that's all."

"That's a start," Jake said, "you two look sweet together bro. Carol is a nice girl and she will treat you right."

"Sarah is nice too," John said grinning, "and bold. She actually...well, I won't tell you or you might pound me for thinking of her that way..."

"Sarah is a mess," Zak chuckled, "if she'd had the opportunity you'd have gotten more than holding hands."

"Oh wow," John said blushing, "I'm not sure I'm ready for that, but who knows?"

"So, you're okay with this?" Carlos asked curiously.

"Yeah, I trust you bro," Zak said sincerely, "and I'd rather have Carol get with someone nice like you than those apes at school. All they think about is what they can get from a girl and not how they feel about things."

"You know I'd never hurt her," Carlos said sincerely, "She's a nice girl, but the age things sort of freaks me out."

"Why, she's probably more mature than most girls your age, and she's so sweet, and caring, not to mention she's sexy as hell," Zak added with a giggle.

"I'll take your word for that," Carlos chuckled, "What do you think mom and dad will think?"

"Are you kidding? After all the drama that's gone on lately at our house?" then realizing that John had no clue what he was talking about he added, "Should we tell John?"

"Tell me what?" John said looking anxious.

"It's up to you guys, you know I don't go around blabbing about your business."

"John, can we trust you to keep a really, really big secret?"

"I'm hurt that you'd ask me that. Bro, tell them I'm no snitch," he said turning to Carlos.

"He's cool guys, I trust this guy with my life."

"Okay, well...I sort of came out to my folks the other night."

"Oh, is that all," John chuckled, "Bout' time."

"You knew?" Zak said wondering if Carlos had told him or he'd just figured it out on his own.

"I didn't tell him..." Carlos jumped in.

"It was obvious dude, and today...well, I sort of got the feeling you and Jake might be...well, more than brothers."

"What tipped you off, the holding hands or the making out in the back of the van?" Jake chuckled.

"The way you looked at each other," John sighed, "so I assume that's the drama you were talking about."

"Yeah, and after all that, Carlos dating Carol will be like a relief for our folks," Zak chuckled.

"Yeah, they might get those grand kids after all," Jake chuckled.

Carlos groaned, "We're not getting married, we're just dating."

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