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Journey of Love

By The Journeyman

Chapter 17

I'm not writing from my lover's bedroom anymore. I keep waking him up. I asked if the computer could be moved downstairs. But he said he wanted a computer in his room. The solution -- his family bought me a laptop. Just like that. They bought me a laptop. Now I won't wake him up as I type the night away.

See, I still don't sleep well. Now and then I make it through the night, but not real often. I still have dreams. I don't wake up screaming any more, but I do wake up. And the dreams are getting better. Either they aren't as bad as they used to be, or I'm getting used to them. I think they aren't as bad. This writing has really helped. I've been able to grieve over things that I never really did before. But there's more left to come. I don't want to write it. I'm afraid of it. There are more nightmares in my future.

This is the most I've written in one chapter. It was a lot, and it was difficult. But I'm past that part of my life. A lot left to go.

Oh, that thing about being in jail? It all worked out. This family -- I'd die without them.


Home never looked so good. I'd been in the hospital more than three weeks. I'd been hurt, poked, scanned, prodded, coddled, fed, bathed, fitted with glasses and harangued by that prick Kent. I hated the food, the view, the constant interruptions of the nurses, the bed, the chair, the smell.

But the simple fact was, all that had kept me alive. That, and Danny, Richie, Kyle and Greg. And here they still were, sitting in the family room at home. I was able to sit in a real chair, have a Coke, munch real food and have my friends around me. There was a lot of noise in that room, everyone talking at once, it seemed like. The best part was, there was a lot of laughter.

People tend not to laugh in a hospital. I mean, even if they say something funny, there's not really any outright laughter. A few awkward chuckles, like people are embarrassed to be too happy. No one wants to make too much noise, even when you don't have any roommates. But here, at home, lots of laughter. They were trying to tell me about the accident, but keeping it moving so we didn't get all depressed again. That's a good thing, I think.

I'd read Danny's account of the whole thing. Wow. If I'd known all that, I'd have been really scared. Now the guys were filling me in on all the other stuff that went on. Stuff at school that Danny either left out or didn't know about. There was actually a prayer vigil for me for a few days. The baseball team hung up my jersey in the weight room. I guess even the EMTs came by a few days after they brought me in to see how I was doing.

But mostly we were just the guys again, laughing, joking and teasing each other. Kyle's romance with Becky came in for some heat. The dressings still around my head, to cover up the surgery to relieve pressure on my brain did, too. They started calling me "Swami." I got filled in on all the stuff going on at school -- who's dating whom, who got dumped, who stole whom away. A lot happens in a high school in three weeks. Mom and dad had fixed us snacks, and Fran Shaw had sent over cookies.

My first visitor that afternoon had been Danny's little brother, Charlie. Right after school, he was on my front doorstep, ringing the bell. Mom let him in and he came right over and sat by me. God, he'd grown in the three weeks I hadn't seen him. At 13 that was bound to happen -- Charlie was in a growth spurt.

"How do you feel, Justin?" he asked.

"I'm fine, Charlie. A little sore and I can't move my left side real well yet, but I'm really okay."

"Uh, good." He fidgeted a little. "Um, why's your head still wrapped up?"

"So you can't see I'm bald on that side of my head," I joked.


"Well, only temporarily. They had to shave me to cut my head open."

"Oh, wow. Why'd they do that?"

I'd picked up a lot of medical knowledge during my stay. Just enough to sound important. "Well, when you have a head injury, the brain swells up. Just like when you get a knock on the head and you get a lump there. Only this lump is inside your head. The brain swells, but the head doesn't. If it swells too much it can kill you. In my case, they had to relieve some of the pressure."

He got real quiet for a moment.



"Justin, I'm sorry I didn't come visit you."

"It's okay, Charlie."

"No, it's not. I came when they first brought you -- while you were still in a coma." He was the one of the few people around me who used the word "coma." Most of the others said "asleep". Charlie was pretty straight forward. "I saw you there, and I thought you were going to die."

"I guess you weren't alone."

"Well, I got pretty scared. It felt like the walls were closing in on us, like they would crush us if I didn't get out of there. I had to, Justin. I had to leave."

"I know, Charlie. Your mom told me. It's okay."

"And then later, after you came out of the coma, Danny would always ask me if I wanted to come with him, but I couldn't. That hospital-y smell, the color, it all got to me. I couldn't come see you. I tried, but when we got the car, I'd freak. Once I got as far as the front door of the hospital. But I couldn't go in." He was getting pretty worked up.

"Charlie, don't worry about it, bud. Your mom told me you were thinking of me, and that made me feel better. I'm not mad at you, Charlie. I'm not even disappointed. We're still buds, and we're going to camp out again one of these days."

Charlie smiled a little. "Thanks, Justin. I'm glad you're Danny's special friend."

Special? What did that mean?

"What do you mean, special?"

"I mean better than best friends. Like you coming over all the time. I know about it, Justin. I know why you come over. I've always liked seeing you at breakfast."

"What do you know?"

"About your parents. Mom explained it all to me."


"Well, Danny and you are my special friends, because you've given me a home and a family when I needed it."

We chatted a little about school, autumn chores, his allowance (it wasn't enough), the new bike he wanted and a girl he thought was pretty cute. That's when the guys showed up. Charlie said he had some chores to do, and left.

So for the last hour it had been us. I can tell Danny is getting more and more nervous. This was the day we'd decided to tell the guys. Well, really it's only Richie we had to tell. Greg knew the day before the accident, and Kyle found out in the hospital. Greg's a pretty sensitive guy, but he hadn't really had a strong male influence in his life, other than us. Having four boys your own age just isn't the same as having a dad. So I wasn't surprised that Greg was curious about his sexuality. Danny hadn't cleared that matter up one bit the night he licked Greg's nipple and started that chain action of events.

Greg grew up in a house of women. His dad was killed when he was small and his mom never remarried. Kyle had a step-dad, who treated him like his natural son. He was pretty sure of himself. Not cocky, but at ease. His parents were fairly liberal -- well, his step-dad was a hippie in a previous life. So I wasn't surprised that he took the news so well. Plus he knew that Becky was okay with it, and if he wasn't okay that would be the end of that relationship.

Now Richie was a question mark. Good parents. Good kid. But he'd grown up with those small-town prejudices that come out of in-breeding. I don't mean that literally. We weren't sleeping with our cousins. Well, most of us weren't. But you know, small towns don't seem to change much. People don't move away a whole lot, but even fewer people move in from the outside. So you keep having the same stereotypes and ideas and prejudices over and over and over. I mean, TV helps expose us to new ideas and thoughts. We all knew what AIDS is, we knew about hate crimes and what happened to Matthew Shepard. And to be honest, there were a few who said he got what was coming to him. But there were enough enlightened people to denounce the crime.

And after fifteen years of knowing Richie, I could not say how he was going to react to the news.

Mom said she was going next door for a cup of coffee, and that's when Danny and I seized the moment.

"Uh, guys, Danny and I have something to say."

Everyone just looked at us. Danny moved closer, and he took my hand. Richie's eyes got wide. We had talked about announcing it as if none of the guys already knew. That way Richie wouldn't feel left out. But at that moment, I decided it would be lying, and we'd be found out somehow. So I decided to change strategy. I looked at Danny.

"Richie, Greg and Kyle have already figured out or found out what I'm going to tell you. What we're going to tell you. So I'll just say it. Richie, Danny and I are in love . . .um . . . with each other."

Danny chimed in on cue, "We're gay."

Richie started to laugh. I wasn't sure what that meant. It wasn't a joke. I really wanted Richie to be serious. Danny and I glanced at each other. Greg and Kyle were watching Richie.

"Oh, shit," he finally said. Then he started laughing more.

He though it was a joke. Frankly, I probably would have done the same thing if he and Kyle had said it. I smiled a little, and he realized no one else was laughing.

"It's a joke, right? Like, the knock in the head turned you gay? You go in a straight baseball player and come out a queer.?"

Queer? This might be tougher than I thought.

"Um, no, Richie. It's not a joke," Danny said.

There was silence. Absolute silence. Richie just looked at me.

Then he exploded.

"What the fuck do you mean you're gay? You're not gay. You haven't been gay before, have you?"

"Richie, let them explain," Kyle said. Greg sat stone still, looking the most scared I've ever seen him.

"Explain what? How do they know they're gay?"

"I know, Richie. I've been in love with Justin for years," Danny said. "I know that now. For a long time I couldn't put it in words. Then I found out what it all means. I'm gay."

"Stop saying that," Richie said. "You're NOT gay. You're Danny and he's Justin. Two guys I grew up with. I'd KNOW if you were gay."

"How?" Danny asked.

"I would. You would have given it away." For some reason the line popped into my head, Hey, I don't give nothin' away -- you gotta pay, just like all the rest. But I didn't say anything. "You don't talk gay or act gay."

"What does that mean?" Danny was getting upset, but he was trying hard not to show it.

"You know, walk all swishy. Talk with a lisp. Let your wrists flop around. Cry a lot. Play the violin."

"Oh, my god," Danny said. "That is soo bigoted. You've created a stereotype of gays, and like all stereotypes, it's nowhere near reality. C'mon, Richie, just because I don't act gay doesn't mean I can't be gay."

"Shit. This is weird. Jeezuz. And what the hell is wrong with you guys?" he asked Kyle and Greg. "You can't tell me you approve of this?'

Kyle looked at Greg. "As a matter of fact, I do. I don't understand it yet, Richie. I hope I do someday. I'm trying. But they're the same guys we grew up with. They haven't changed. They're cool and they're my friends."

"What about you, Greg? You, too?"

"Me, too, what?" Greg said, a little too aggressively.

"You okay with this?"

"Well, yeah I am."

"Jeez, not having a father is really noticeable, huh?"

Wow. I never suspected Richie would stoop so low. I'd heard him get mad, but never mean. It was uncalled for. It was unfair. It was untrue. And it was awful. I thought in that moment the gang had ended for sure. And Danny and I were the cause of it.

Greg was on his feet instantly. He grabbed Richie, who was taller than he, yanked him to his feet and slammed him against the wall.

"Why the fuck did you say that? You sonofabitch. You're disgusting. Jeezuz, Richie. I never knew you were so ignorant. I didn't know you were a prick. I'm sorry I ever tossed a football with you, you pathetic creature. If a lifetime of friendship means that little to you, get the fuck out of here. Get out." He started dragging Richie to the door.

"Wait, Greg. It's my house. I don't want him thrown out of here."

Everyone looked at me. Danny slipped his hand into mine. Richie saw it and groaned, "Fuuuuck."

Greg let go of Richie, but threw him back against the wall. Richie hit his head sharply, and started rubbing it.

Okay, now what was I going to do? Maybe it was better to let Greg throw him out. We'd be rid of the problem.

"Do you really mean all that, Richie?" I asked.

"Fuckin' right. God. I can't believe I've been friends with a couple of pervs. And I can't believe you guys" he pointed at Kyle and Greg "are okay with this. It's unnatural. Godalmighty, it's a fuckin' sin. I'm outta here, boys. Good fuckin' bye, faggots."

He let the door slam on the way out.

The four of us sat in stunned silence.

"Well, I think that went well," Danny said, trying to lighten the mood. It didn't work. We just glared at him. "Sorry," he said quietly.

And then a profound feeling of sadness came over me. The doc said I might have mood swings with this injury, but I don't think that was the cause. Tears welled in my eyes, but I was determined not to cry. I think everyone felt the same way.

It was Greg who broke the spell. "Fuck him."

"Greg, c'mon, man. He's one of the guys," I said. I didn't want our group to break up.

"Not any more. What a piece of shit. Did you hear what he said to me about my dad?"

"He didn't say anything about your dad, Greg. He said it about you growing up without a father." Greg started to say something, but I went on. "I know, it was a cheap shot. I didn't know Richie of capable of that. We grew up with him."

"Justin, you can't use that as an excuse, or as a reason to keep us together. Obviously it doesn't mean anything to him. Man, what he said hurts." He barely choked back a sob. "I don't want to be around him."

I wasn't about to try anything else to begin healing the wound. It was open and bleeding and was in danger of becoming infected. But I hoped we could mend things among us. Hoped.

There wasn't much to talk about. We were all stunned. I think each of us was trying to work out in his mind what this meant. Richie was no longer going to be around us. I know he had some other friends. In a town this size you make friends even away from your neighborhood. I wasn't too worried about Richie. But this threw us out of balance. We'd always been five. Now we were four. We relied on Richie for some things. Each guy contributed something to the whole. Now a big part of that was gone.

Pretty deep for a high-schooler, huh?

Greg and Kyle went home for dinner. Each just said a quiet good bye and told me they were glad I was home. Danny stayed for dinner and then helped me with some homework.

But by about 9:00 I was whacked. Danny helped me into the bathroom to wash up and brush my teeth, then helped me into bed. He sat on the side of the bed. I took off my glasses and set them on the nightstand. Mom kissed me good night. Dad was working late. She closed the door behind her as she left. Danny leaned in to kiss me, and a tiny spark leapt from his lips to mine. I know it was only a bit of static electricity, but not to us it wasn't. It was the spark that lit a flame of passion. The kiss started gently, just a sweet kiss. It's how he intended it. But after a few moments, it began to smoulder. He pressed harder against me and our lips parted. Tongue met tongue in that glorious cavern as his arms snaked around mine. He moved to lie down on the length of my bed, but his mouth never left mine. Breathing through our noses, we tried to suck in enough oxygen that we could make the kiss last longer. And we did.

My left arm was mostly useless, but not my right. Danny was wearing sweat shorts, and I pulled seductively on the draw string. With it loosened, I could work my hand into his shorts, under his briefs, and grasp his five inch teenage cock. The cock that opened up a new world for me. A cock I hadn't tasted in three weeks, and that I missed so dearly. I held it, and as I lightly stroked it, Danny broke the kiss and arched his back, trying desperately to silence the groan that broke from his lips.

I cupped his sweet balls in my hand and snaked my finger back toward that special hole. I wanted to lick it again, assault it with my tongue, make him cum from the lashing I could give it, wet and slippery, with just my mouth. But that would have to wait. I could feel precum oozing from my own organ, and Danny came to his senses. I moved my hand back to his cock, and smeared his precum over the head. I wanted him to be mine right now. Using his own ooze as a lubricant, I slid my hand up and down his length, remembering again exactly how it felt. His eyes were tightly shut and he was biting his lower lip.

He brought his hands from behind me and rucked up the t-shirt I was wearing. His thumbs found my nipples, and he teased them lightly, dancing over the hardening nubs, coaxing them to firmness. I tried to maneuver myself so I could rub my cock against his leg, but my left side was still too weak. I whimpered, but it didn't do any good. As my nipples swelled under his tender touch, he brought his mouth down to kiss me again. His tongue made a sweep of my molars and then me moved to take my left nipple in his mouth. He nipped at the hard center, which was sticking up slightly. Not a hard nip. A love bite, with his tongue swiping over it as he teeth held it gently. No tingles this time, but 220 volts. My cock spasmed and I thought I was cumming. But I couldn't just yet. He played with that nipple for a few seconds, then plunged his whole mouth over it, sucking it up into him as far as it would go. His tongue tap danced against it riveting all my attention on that one spot.

Until I felt his hands. He had moved his hands to the boxers I was wearing, and cupped my butt. Then his mouth moved to the right nipple. No teasing this time. Now he made an all-out assault on that wonderful, sensitive tit. Again he distracted me, as I arched my back to force more of the morsel into his mouth. This time I felt his hands slink into the boxers, and oh so gently, take hold of my cock and begin jerking it softly. I let him get by with it for a few strokes, then tried to move my hips to speed him up and increase the friction. I soo badly needed to get off. But he wasn't letting that happen. He lifted his mouth from the right nipple with a pop. His wet, hot tongue circled the nipple, the flicked across the center again, then he repeated it with the left, before moving to the center of my chest. He let a little bit of spittle fall from his mouth in the shallow depression at my sternum, then made a wet, sensuous trail with his tongue across my belly and to my navel. His hands played on my penis, fingers tapping against it. Now and then his thumbs would spread a little more precum over the head, which was becoming more and more sensitive. Just keep it up, Danny, and I'll give you a handful of hot cum. I was trying not to moan and attract attention. It was as soo difficult.

His thumbs rubbed over the head again. Just a few more...I was getting closer. If he would just grab the shaft a little tighter. Jack his hand up and down once or twice I could....I COULD...Oh, God, Danny, once more with the THUMB...and...

He stopped.

FOR GODS SAKE HE STOPPED. I tried to raise my hips to find his hand. It was pretty much involuntary. I was almost there.

He lifted his head from where his tongue had been playing in the bellybutton pool he'd created, and his hands yanked down the boxers. My cock slapped up against my belly, then stood out straight for him. Five inches of hot sex.

He devoured it. He slid his lips over the length and buried his nose in the light bush at the base of my cock. His right hand held the base of my cock tightly. And then he began to move his head up and down. Slowly, and not all the way to the head. The stimulation was along the shaft only. But each time he came up a little further toward the head. Then all the way down. Then up to touch the corona. Then all the way down. Then he slid up over it, about halfway up the head. Then all the way down. Then all the way up to the cum slit. Then all the way down. His hand followed his mouth, till his mouth came all the way off my cock and his hand pulled the skin of the shaft over the head. Then all the way down. Up, his tongue trying to pry its way into the cum slit, his hand tight on the shaft, and all the way down.

The pressure from his earlier teasing returned the moment my cock was in his sweet, warm mouth, and the urgent need came back. I wouldn't last this time. A little more teasing, Danny. He scraped his teeth lightly over the head, swirled his tongue around the entire head, pumped his hand long the shaft, and then waited for the explosion. It came. I came. With a muffled groan I shot into his mouth. Spurt, spurt, spurt. My balls emptied of the teencum they'd been storing for so many weeks. Danny stayed with it, swallowing it, the most wonderful look of bliss on his face.

As I came down, his tongue gathered the remaining trickles of juice from my cock, and he pulled himself up to kiss me. He let some of the cum flow into my mouth. Danny, who always tasted like the last thing he ate, tasted like me.

I winced in pain as a headache overtook me. Danny, alarmed, said, "What's wrong?"

"Headache," I said.

"Oh, shit. I shouldn't have done that. I'm sorry, Justin. I was selfish. Are you going to be okay? Should I call your mom?"

"Not unless you want her to find me nearly naked and with your cock hanging out. It's just the rush of blood. I'll be okay."

He stroked my cheek, his own needs forgotten.

"Danny, come up here so I can have your cock."

"No, Justin. I can't let you do that. You might get carried away and really hurt yourself. I can wait."

"No, you can't. You won't." And I took him in my hand. His cock had softened some in his alarm, but I quickly solved that problem. With my right hand I slowly fisted his cock, and smeared the precum around. I wanted to taste it, but I knew he was right. I pumped him, increasing the past and the pressure. He had a look of passion on his face, even though this was nothing more than an old-fashioned jerk off.

We hadn't thought about him cumming. As his breathing became more rapid, and he started little whimpers, his cock grew in my hand. Choking back a guttural groan, he shot a load of cum that hit me in the face, landed on my chest, and, because I was still stroking him, fired out over the sheets, rained on the pillow and soaked my crotch. It went everywhere. Probably even in my hair. I didn't care. I'd have to think of something to tell mom. What could this dried stuff be? Lotion, maybe? That would come (ha) later. Right now, Danny gently fell into my arms, and we kissed again. We lay there, chest to chest, his cum squished between us. He raised himself a little and smeared the cum all around my torso, smiling, then lifted his fingers to my mouth. I licked them clean.

A short 10 minutes later, Danny pushed himself off me and straightened himself up. It was time for him to go home. We kissed again, he pulled the sheets and blanket up over me, gave me a final peck on the lips, and he left. I fell into the best night of sleep in weeks. Nobody woke me up to take my vitals.

I still couldn't go to school. Not until the head healed and I had enough stamina to get through the day. Every morning mom or dad took me to physical therapy. I could tell I was slowly getting stronger, but not strong enough to walk. Every couple of days I would notice that the tingling was going away. But, damn, that's a long process. In the afternoons I'd have to go back for a second, shorter round. Leg lifts, arm lifts, things like that, and trying to walk between the parallel bars. And of course I had homework. Every single night.

But here's the thing. The guys helped. All but Richie. Just like they said they would. I mean, guys make promises like that all the time, but you know teenagers. They get pretty bored with a commitment and then they disappear. Not those guys. They'd worked out a rotation. But when Richie left, they had to rework it. Every afternoon one of them would come by after school and help me with the therapy. A different one each afternoon. Then in the evening, one of them would come over and help me with my homework. They took notes in class and gave them to me. They even went to our geometry teacher after school if they didn't understand the stuff and get special instructions so they could come home and teach me.

I know it sounds like fiction. I realize that. But it's the god's honest truth. Every night they made sure my work was done, and they did their own right along side, so that if I had any questions they could demonstrate or explain. I had three personal tutors. Not everyone was good at everything, of course, but among the three, there was enough school ability to get me caught up and keep up. I wanted to kiss them all. The next morning they took my work to school to be graded. I was a 10th grader along with everyone else my age.

After four days, I had to know. It was Kyle's night to help me, and after an hour of geometry and American History, it was time for a break. He went to the fridge and got us some pop and came back to my room.

"Kyle, have you seen Richie around? Has he said anything to you?"

"Yes and no."

"A little more answer, please."

"Yes I've seen him around and no he hasn't said anything to me."

"C'mon, Kyle. What's he been doing?"

"How should I know? I threw away the schedule of who's supposed to watch him when he blew up the other day."

I glared at him, and he tried to out-stare me. Finally, he lowered his eyes.

"Okay. Yes, I've seen him around. He's not really talking to anyone. He hasn't been eating lunch in the lunchroom. Usually he goes outside and sits against the wall around the corner from the door. He's been talking some to Roger and a little to Clay, but really no one else. We're in two classes together, and he hasn't been saying anything in them. Today when Mrs. Wilson called on him in English he just said he didn't know. He doesn't come to school until just before the bell rings, and he leaves right after the final bell. Yesterday he looked okay, but today he looked like shit."

"Wow, for someone who wasn't supposed to watch him, you sure watched him." We both laughed a little.

"You think I should have him over to talk?" I asked.

"No. Let him make the first move. He's the one who blew up. I don't really think he'd come over anyway. Besides, I don't think I want to be his friend anymore."

I wasn't sure about that.

"I dunno. Maybe I won't. If he gets violent with me I can't defend myself."

"Do you think he'd do that? I mean, he might be mad, but I can't see him doing anything like that, Justin."

"Yeah, maybe not. Maybe I'm just rationalizing so I don't have to ask him over. He wouldn't hit a guy with glasses on."

"You don't have to have him over. It's his call now."

We finished history and went on to English, which didn't take long, and then we were done.

It was Greg's turn the next night, and I didn't say anything to him about Richie. I figured he wouldn't have anything to say.

But he did have something to say about other matters. It was when we were done with geometry and physics, and just closing the books for the evening. It had been sorta tough.

"Thanks, Greg," I said. "I really appreciate you doing this."

"Sure. No prob."

"Well, it's pretty great. And it may not be a problem, but I know it's an inconvenience."

He put his books in his backpack and zipped it up. But he didn't get up to go. He just sat and looked at his feet.



"Justin, ummmm, I'm sorry."

"Sorry? Sorry for what?"

"You know what."

"No. What did you do?"

"With Danny? While you were in the hospital?"

"Oh." He caught me by surprise.

"I'm sorry, Justin. I don't know what happened. He had a nightmare and I tried to calm him down. The next thing I know we're all sweaty and it's all over."

"Yeah. I read about it in the journal. Greg, I've never blamed you. Never. Not once. I thought maybe Danny had fallen in love with you, but I never figured that you'd tried to take him away from me."

He finally looked up at me. "Ah, well, thanks. I've felt so bad about it. I know I've waited a long time to apologize, but I just couldn't bring myself to think about it. It's all been so . . . weird. But I had to say it. I'm really sorry, Justin."

"Apology accepted, bud. I know Danny loves me, and I love him. And I suppose he and I will have other arguments and other chances to make up." I raised my eyebrows and winked at him. And then he smiled.

"Cool. But Justin, can I ask you a question?"


"Why did you trust me more than you trusted Danny? Why did you think he'd left you for me, but not that I'd stolen him away?"

Oh, lord. What a powerful question. I hadn't even thought of it. It was a great question. And a devastating one. I didn't answer. There was only the bubbling of the pump in the 10-gallon aquarium I kept in my room. I stared at the tetras, the pair of angelfish, and the two glass fish, who spent most of the day parallel to each other in the water, mirroring the movement of their fins and tails in perfect sync. I wished Danny and I were like that. We still don't seem to be, not since he told me he loved me.

But Greg wasn't leaving. He wanted an answer. I didn't have to give him one, I knew. But I did have to find one for myself, and it might as well be in front of Greg.

I thought. I cast my mind back over the years. Those nights in Danny's bed as a child. The terror of my parents fighting. The slowly descending madness of my mother's illness, recently in abeyance. Going home after school, only to flee to Danny's house once again. A resident of my home, but feeling at home only in Danny's bed. Rejected from my own home at age six. Not directly by my parents. Not ordered out. But driven out. And they didn't seem to care. My chest began to hurt.

There must be something about teenage hormones, or maybe the doc was right about mood swings. I fought the tears that were building.

Greg sat. Waiting. I looked around the room, avoiding his eyes.

Then I drew a deep breath, and slowly let it out. "Maybe I have a problem with love," I said. "I've always believed my parents loved me. I have to believe it. I cling to that." I didn't cry out loud, but the tears spilled over, and I didn't move to wipe them off my cheeks. "I'm not sure I really know what love is. My parents said they loved each other once. But look at them. They don't talk much, and when they do, they yell. It's been better for the last few months, but I can feel the tension. They loved each other so much once that they promised to live their lives together. Now I'm afraid they can't stand each other. I don't think there were more than four or five times they were with me together in the hospital. They both spent a lot of time there, but not with the other one there.

"I guess I grew up watching my parents, and seeing how fragile their love is. I don't think I knew it exactly that way, but I knew that they loved each other once, and don't any more. And they had grown so self-centered about it, that they forgot me. They let me leave the house and find love in someone else's house. It's not that they stopped loving me. They just forgot about me. They stopped loving each other, and in that grief and anger, they lost me.

"And I guess I'm afraid of that happening with Danny and me. I'm afraid of us falling apart, arguing like my parents do. Would we have the sense to split up if that happened, or would we need each other if only to argue with? I've seen how fragile love is all my life, Greg, and I guess I thought it would be fragile between Danny and me. When I thought he'd fallen in love with you, I was almost relieved. I knew we wouldn't end up like my parents."

Greg wiped his hands across his cheeks. I hadn't looked at him that whole time. I'd been staring at a pile of clothes on my bedroom floor. His movement caught my eye and I looked at him. His eyes were red. He was breathing heavily.

"Justin, you and Danny will never be like that. I honestly believe nothing will ever come between you two."

Oh, god. Never say never.

He hadn't exactly. But it meant the same thing.

I smiled weakly at him. "Thanks, bud. For caring. But what about you? Where are you in all of this? I guess I've forgotten about your feelings. How are you doing?"

He looked deep into my eyes. "I'm fine, Justin. It was a one-time thing. I don't think I'm gay. I'm not in love with Danny. Not like that. It was an experience that I will . . . ummm . . . treasure, I guess. I'm just sorry it happened the way it did. But I'm fine. I'm happy. And I'm going to ask out Christina Day to a movie this weekend." He smiled. So did I.

"That's great, Greg. Good luck."


He stood and slung his backpack across his back. I longed to be able to do something that simple. Maybe soon.

"Good night, Justin."

"G'night, Greg. Thanks."

I let things go for about a week.  Just studying and therapy.

That night, Danny.

"How's Richie?" I asked him during a break.

"I dunno. I hope he rots."

"You do not, you prick."

"Well, I don't care how he is."

"Have you seen him?"



"Well what?"

"Dammit, Danny, you know what."

"He's not doing anything. I have gym with him and he doesn't do anything. He's not even trying. He's not eating lunch in the lunch room. He goes outside and around the corner from the door. I only see him talking to Clay, and a little bit to Roger. He looks shitty. I mean, tired. He's worn the same clothes the last two days. They looked like he slept in them. I hope so. I hope he never sleeps again."

"C'mon, Danny. He has a right to think what he wants to."

"Not if it breaks up the group."

"What does that mean?"

Sigh. "I don't know. I love those guys, Justin. I loved Richie once." He glanced at me. "Not like that. Like a brother. Like I love Kyle and Greg." He looked at me when he said Greg's name. I didn't respond. "He's screwed everything up."

"Danny, did you ever think that WE screwed everything up? We're the ones who fell in love with each other. What if Greg and Kyle hadn't been okay with it? Then WE would have broken up the group. Kyle, Greg and Richie would still be together."

"But they ARE okay with it. We have a right to love who we want."

"And Richie has a right to believe what he wants. Maybe we should give him a few more days and then try to talk to him again."

"Jeez, Justin, you're always doing that. Every time one of us has had a fight, you've always been the one to try to get everyone to make up. And we always do. But not this time, bud. I don't think I can forgive him. I KNOW Greg can't. Did you talk to him about it?"

"No. I figured he'd be totally against the idea. He was really hurt by what Richie said. I want to try, Danny."

"No. I don't know. Do what you want to. But don't expect the rest of us to back you this time."

"I won't. But I'm not going to do anything without telling you. I won't do anything behind your backs."

"Always the peacemaker, aren't you? But I don't think it's going to work this time."

History and math. Always math. Sometimes English, sometimes history, sometimes business principles, but always math. Geometry. I hope Pythagoras died a slow, painful death.

We finished up with a bit of physics. And after that I broke one of the basic laws. I defied gravity. Or I made Danny defy gravity. He rose in my hand, and I sank to my knees between his legs and sucked his sweet dick into me. I scratched his balls and rubbed the spot behind them. I slid my hand under his shirt and teased his nipples into hard nubs, then pinched and tickled them till he was squirming in the chair. His breathing was deep and sweet, urgent, like he needed to do something. And soon he did. He shot a load in my mouth that would slake any thirst, and I swallowed as if it were an elixir that I needed quickly to save my life. It was sweet and delicious.

When we kissed, Danny tasted like chocolate. He'd had pudding for dessert that night.

Mom knocked on my door and said it was late and that Danny should get home. Danny looked at me with puppy eyes and said, "Sorry. I wanted to do the same for you."

"I know. I'll take care of it and imagine it's you."

We kissed, he gathered up his stuff and left. I did take care of myself that night. I started using my left hand. I thought it could use the extra therapy, and since I could never cum with my left hand, it just made me last longer and imagine Danny's tongue all over me. When I switched to my right hand to finish the job, it was Danny's hand that I imagined, and I shot cum across my chest up to my chin. I smeared it on my chest and licked my fingers clean. When it dried, I pulled the covers over me and went to sleep.

The next day was Friday. Danny came back and took me to PT, where Kent de Sade put me through my routine.

"Wow, you're getting stronger," Danny said. "You should be able to go back to school any day."

DevilKent just looked at him. I still couldn't walk, even with crutches.

Kyle came that night -- yes, a Friday -- to help. I was catching up quickly. He brought back some of the homework and papers that they'd turned in for me, and I was doing okay. I still faced several tests that my parents would have to administer.

After an hour, we rested.

"Kyle, what if..."

"Stop," he said, cutting me off. "I know what you're going to say."

"How? Did Danny tell you?"

"No, I didn't see him much today. I know cuz you always do this. I don't know how many times we would have broken up over arguments if you hadn't always smoothed things over. I don't know, maybe we would all still be friends anyway. But you were always the one to get everyone back together after an argument. That's why some of us tried to get you and Danny together after your argument last summer. But we didn't succeed. And when you were in the hospital, too. The best we could do was throw him into the room. What did you guys argue about last summer anyway?"

"Kyle, for the last time, I'm not going to tell you. And don't change the subject. And you don't know what I'm going to say. What I was going to say is...well, okay. How about if I talk to Richie?"

"SEE!!! That's exactly what I thought you'd say. I knew it."

"Don't change the subject," I said again.

"He won't, Justin. He won't talk to you. He's fucked up. He hangs around with those two idiots who are always high, and I think he's getting what he deserves."

"You don't think he's using, do you?"


"Oh, fuck. What are we going to do?"

"Leave him alone. He's a jerk."

"Stop it, Kyle. You grew up with him. We all did. If he's in trouble, we should help."

"After what he said? No."

"He has a right to his beliefs. We shocked him pretty good the other night. It as a knee jerk reaction. Prolly one he learned at home or something. He just reacted out of what he'd heard about homosexuals. We didn't give him time to think about it."

"Stop making excuses for him. He said some awful things to Greg and the rest of us. He fucked up, and if he wants our friendship again, he's got to come to us. Period."

Yeah, but . . . "

"No 'buts', Danny. Not this time. It won't work. Besides, have you talked to Greg and Danny about this?"

"Danny, but not Greg. I didn't think he'd like it too much."

"He won't. What about Danny?"

"He said pretty much the same as you."

"Well, there you have it. Three to one. No."

"But I can't . . . "

"We can."

"Stop interrupting me. If he's in trouble I want to help."

"I'm not going to help and I'm not going to talk to him."

"You're cold."

Kyle looked at me. I saw his eyes. He wasn't cold. He was scared. He was as scared as I was about the group breaking up. And he was scared about Richie. But he had been hurt badly. All of us had been by Richie's outburst, and now, at fifteen, the macho hormones were gaining strength and he didn't want to back down.

Just as I thought I saw some water in his eyes, he turned away and put his books away.

"Justin, I'm tired. Can we knock off for the night?"

"Sure. Thanks, Kyle. I'll never be able to repay you for all this."

"You've paid in advance, Justin. We're just giving back."

He stood and slung his backpack onto his shoulder, and walked to the door. He put his hand on the knob, and then, without looking at me, said, "You're going to talk to him, aren't you?'

I sat looking at his back. He never turned around. He just stood there ready to open the door. I thought hard for a moment and weighed the possibilities.

"Yeah," I said finally.

Silence.  Then, "Do what you need to."

The weekend was weird. The guys came over, each one for a while, and so did Becky, but they had other things to do at home. The tension was mounting in my home. Mom and dad were trying to keep it together for me. I knew that if it exploded I couldn't get to Danny's on my own. And finally, on Saturday night, I got to leave the house. I got in the wheelchair and we went out for pizza. Danny came with us. Sunday morning I was able to go to church. God, did that help. Just getting outside was a blessing. Heh heh.

Monday, Kyle for PT and Greg for homework.

I waited till we were all done with homework, took and deep breath, and plunged in.

"Have you talked to Richie?"


Just no?

"Just no?"

"No, I haven't. He hasn't been around much."

"Have you seen him?"

"Yeah. He looks like shit. He's been hanging around with Roger and Clay."

"Yeah, I know."

"I think he's trying to convince himself that they're his friends."

"They're potheads."

"I know."

"That means . . . "

"Yeah, I think so," he said in a low voice.

Greg wasn't reacting at all like I expected him. I decided to take the next step.

"You think he's getting himself in trouble?"

"Justin, he didn't come home Friday night or Saturday night. He called his folks Friday and told them he was staying over at some friends'. But Saturday he didn't come home. His mom called mine looking for him. He finally called about three o'clock in the morning, I guess. Said he was fine and he wasn't coming home that night."

"Was he in school today?"

"Yeah. He nodded off in both classes I have with him, and in study hall."

"He needs help."

"I know. But I can't do it. Not after that."

"Do you think I should?"

"You always have."

"I can't do anything, Greg, without the rest of the group. What if he wants to apologize? Danny and Kyle are dead set against it. I suppose you are, too."

"I don't know, Justin. I'd want him to apologize to me. I'd want it to be sincere. I'd want to look in his eyes. But depending on what he said, yeah, I think I could."

"He said some pretty awful things to you."

"But we sort of stunned him. Well, you guys did. He didn't have time to think it through. He just reacted. Then it was too late."

"He's had time to apologize, Greg." I was playing devil's advocate. God knows Kent had taught me about being a devil.

"He thinks he screwed up too bad. He's not going to make the first move cuz he thinks he'll get rejected all over again."

"How much trouble do you think he's in?"

"A lot. I think he's using every day, before, during and after school."


"I think he started the day after. Justin, can you talk to him?"

"You're the last person I thought would say that."

"I know. But we grew up together. I can't just throw him away because of something he said in a moment of absolute shock. We turned his world upside down. Well, you did. No, we all did when Kyle and I said we accepted it. He couldn't without thinking about it, and he felt the odd man out. So he reacted violently. But I can't turn my back on someone I've been friends with for fifteen years."

"Danny and Kyle don't want me to."

"I do. And it was me he hurt the most."

"I feel hurt, too."

"Then take some of my strength."

Greg was amazing. Mature beyond his years. Growing up without a father did show -- he had become strong and thoughtful on his own, when he'd had to.

"Okay. I will. I'll talk to him."



Greg stood up to go. He smiled at me. "Be gentle with him. He's likely to be suspicious and scared."

I lay awake most of the night thinking about Richie. How to approach him, how to even get him to come over here. I had a couple of his CDs. Maybe I could get him to come take them back.

All this time I had other visitors. Becky came around a lot. Some of the guys from the team dropped in now and then. I really appreciated it all.

Danny came over the next night. It was all we could do to keep our hands off each other. In fact, we couldn't. We came in each others' mouths at least once, although not until we took a break. How we made it that far, I don't know. A couple of minutes on computer class, then the inevitable geometry, and then swapping spit.

"I'm going to call Richie," I said suddenly.

He glared at me and backed off.


"I've got to."

"Greg will hate you for it."

"It was his idea."

"No. You're lying."

"No, I'm not. We talked about it last night and a little again today when he came with me to PT."

"And he's okay with it?"

"He almost begged me to."

"Well, fuck. Is he the only one who gets a vote?"

"No. But he was hurt."

"So were we."

"Not that bad. He called us names. He said some awful things about Greg."

"Justin, I don't want you to, but if you feel you need to, okay. But don't you make the first move and pave the way for him to apologize. He has to want to. Don't prod him to."

"I don't think that would work anyway."

When Danny went home, I picked up the phone.


"Hi, Mrs. Brown. It's Justin. Is Richie home?"

"I think he's in his room. He may be asleep. He's been tired lately."

"Could you see?"

I heard her yell, "RICHIE! TELEPHONE!"

There was a pause, and Richie picked up the phone.


"Hi, Richie, it's me. Justin."

"Fuck you."

"Thanks. You're not my type."


"Listen, I called because you left some CDs here and could you come get them?"

"Keep them."

"I don't want them. Come get them."

"Fuck. I don't want them, either."

Shoot. This was hard.

"Well maybe someone else in your family does. I'm an only child. There's no one else here who likes that music."

"Throw them away then."

"Well, no. They're yours."

"Why are you even talking to me?"

"Because they're yours and you paid money for them and you should at least have them back."

He wasn't buying it.

"You're just trying to get me over there."

"Well, yes, you'd have to come over to pick them up."

"Drop them in my mailbox."

"I can't. Remember?"

"Have Danny do it."

Well, at least he didn't say "Have your faggot boyfriend do it."

"Jeezuz, Richie, would it hurt you to come over here for a few minutes?"



"Okay. I'll be over."


"Soon." Click.

I didn't know if that meant in a few minutes or in a few days. Or ever. Well, I'd HAVE to see him when I went back to school. But I tried to work out what exactly I'd say to him when I did see him. I doodled on a piece of scratch paper, just words and phrases. If he came now, he might just grab the CDs and leave. Which reminded me, I had to find the CDs.

I rummaged around in the stack on the bookcase, and just as I found the second one, the doorbell rang. I quickly stashed them in them in the middle of the stack so I could pretend I was looking for them if I had to buy time. Mom answered, and in a moment Richie was standing in my door. He looked shitty. Bags under his eyes, which were bloodshot, unkempt hair, wrinkled clothes. It had been two weeks. If he had abandoned us, he did a quick one-eighty and changed completely.

I didn't hand him the CDs right away. He had a defiant look on his face.

"So, you got me over here. But I'm not talking to you. I want my CDs and I'm going."

"You look like you need to talk."

"Fuck you. I don't need anybody or anything."

"Richie, that's not like you. C'mon. I know you. This isn't you."

"Yeah, well, I thought I knew you, too. You're not you."

"That's fair, Richie. And you're right. The CD thing was just to get you to come over. I really wanted you to come over so I could apologize to you."

The defiant look left his face for a moment and he looked confused. But he didn't say anything.

"I was wrong. Not about being gay," he winced, "but telling you like that. It wasn't fair to you. Maybe you really feel that way about gays, and maybe you could instantly hate Danny and me for being gay, but I should have told you in private instead of making an announcement in front of the others. That way you could have reacted in private, but not have offended the others. It would have been just between you and me."

His face softened a little. But not much.

"I might have punched you then."

"No you wouldn't. You could punch me now, but I don't think you will."

"Justin, it's not normal. You can't be gay."

"You've been taught it's not normal, but the fact is, we're in love. It's true most people aren't gay. If being in the minority isn't normal, then we're not normal. But neither are you. You're taller than most people your age. You're not normal, either."

"But that's different. I can't control how tall I am."

"And I can't control who I love."

"You can control who you have sex with -- or who you don't."

"Well, that's a little personal. And I'm not going to talk about that. I am going to ask you if you truly, deep in your heart, hate Danny and me for an emotion we can't control."

"No, not for that. But for acting on it, yes."

"Hate us? Just like that? When we've done nothing to you except surprise you? You can be mad at us for that -- we deserve it." He didn't expect me to be apologizing to him. It turned everything around.

"But, everything I've learned. I mean, guys are supposed to be with girls and girls with guys. That's the way it should be."

"It should be that way for most. For those of us unlucky enough to feel the other way, it's not." I hated using the word "unlucky." I certainly didn't feel unlucky to have Danny as a lover. But under the circumstances, I thought it was a good word. "Richie, sit down if you want. You look tired."

"I haven't slept real well lately."


"I dunno."

"You miss your friends?"


"I've got friends," he said angrily, the hard look returning.

"I know. Kyle says you've been hanging out with Roger and Clay. That's cool." It wasn't, but I wasn't going to challenge his choice of friends right now.

He glared at me, waiting for me to criticize them. "It's just that, well, I miss you, Richie. Believe it or not, I do."

Groveling? Yep.

"Fuck that. You've got the others."

"And you know as well as I do that it's not the same when one of the group is on the outs. Look at what I did to the group last summer when Danny and I weren't talking. All of you tried to get us to talk again. What did it feel like? I'll tell you what. I felt awful. I missed you guys, but I was too proud to admit it. Ha. I'd have done anything to hang around with you, but I was afraid Danny would be there too, and I wasn't going to apologize."

"What started that, anyway?"

"It's personal, and yes, it has to do with us loving each other." That was the most I'd told anybody, although I figured the rest of them had guessed. "The fact is, I didn't have any friends, and I would have latched onto anyone who was nice to me. Including Roger and Clay. But it was summer and they weren't around."

He took a deep breath. "They're not bad guys."

"How'd you hook up with them?"

"They said I looked down and would I like to come with them?" he said. "So I did after school."

"What did you all do?"

"Went to the arcade. Hung around."

"Word is they smoke pot." Yeah, we were innocent enough at fifteen to not have done that sort of thing. We were still a little scared of it. I think eventually all of us would.

"So? That doesn't make them bad. You're gay. If you don't want me criticizing that, don't criticize them. Being gay is illegal in some places." I let that one go.

"I'm not criticizing them. It's okay. They aren't the only ones. I assume a few on the baseball team smoke pot, too."

Again, I think he was surprised. I wanted to keep him a little off guard.

"So, are you the first of us to try it?" Hmm. More blunt that I'd wanted it to be. I braced for his reaction.

There was none. And then there was. A tear. A single tear rolling down his right cheek.

"Yes," he whispered.

I didn't say anything.

"That first night, after the arcade. They took me out. We smoked some pot. It didn't do anything to me. The next night it did. And the next and the next and the next. It took the sting away and I felt part of the group. Me, Roger and Clay. We stayed out all weekend, getting high and drunk. I puked my guts out Saturday. I've tasted beer before, but we drank a lot. Pot makes you really thirsty and really hungry. They stole some chips and Twinkies from a convenience store while I waited outside, then we ran like hell to Clay's. His mom was working overnights, so we stayed there. Crashed. I'd told mom I was going to stay over. But the next night it was different. We stayed high all day Saturday, went to parties, drank and shit. It was three o'clock in the morning before I realized what had happened. I don't know how I had enough sense to call home."

Tears were flowing freely, but he wasn't sobbing.

"When I came out of it on Sunday, I wondered what I'd done. I went home and slept it off. But then after school, there I was again. Roger and Clay were my buds now. God, it hurt so much. I've always had friends. You guys. I still need that. Roger and Clay gave me friendship. But they aren't friends, I realized tonight. I'm just a pot buddy. If I left them tomorrow they'd never notice."

"Then leave them."

"And do what?"

"Whatever your heart tells you. Not your head. Not right now. Your heart."

He wiped the tears away. "I can't. They hate me."

"No, they don't."

"I can tell by the way they look at me in school."

"Well, they're mad. But they don't hate you." Okay, I lied. I hoped it was convincing.

"They don't?"

"Not everyone." Then I decided to really knock him off balance. "Not Greg."

His head snapped up and he got a sharp look in his eye. "Oh, fuck you. That's a lie and you know it."

"Actually, it's not. He knows you were just reacting. It was knee-jerk. And I don't hate you. I started the whole thing by making a wrong choice. I didn't tell you in the right setting."

"You mean we're still friends?"

"We can be."

"And the other guys?"

"You know them as well as I do, Richie. Danny and Kyle are really mad at you. And to be honest, they didn't want me to talk to you. But I think with the right, ummm, actions, they could find a way to put it behind us." I didn't want to use the word forgive. I didn't want Richie to think of it as an apology. I wanted him to come up with the right course. To set the tone on his own.

"I don't believe that Greg really would."

I wasn't sure how to handle this. I mean, I was still a little sore at Richie for what he'd done, and I didn't want him to think Greg was going to let him off. On the other hand, it might be just enough encouragement to get him to act.

"Well, believe it or not, Greg says he's mad, but he understands. Of the three, he's the most open to you."

Richie sat on the bed, hands clasped between his legs, looking at the floor. The tears had stopped, but his cheeks were still wet. I didn't say anything. I wanted him to think. I didn't even move lest I break the mood.

"You know, my dad's not a bad guy," he said after about five minutes. "I love him and he's done soo much for me. Remember when that guy in Montana was killed for being gay?"

"Matthew Shepard, and it was in Wyoming."

"Yeah. My dad said he deserved what he got. When I asked him about it later, he said he guessed he didn't mean that the guy should have been killed. But he said homosexuality is wrong, and there was a reason they were called queers. A couple of guys at camp last summer said they wished there were some gays around so they could go beat some up. They were really bad-mouthing homosexuals, and they were able to quote the Bible about it. I liked those guys and I had a lot of fun with them.

"So when you said you and Danny were gay, I reacted like I'd learned. I mean, the Bible, Justin. If it's wrong in the Bible it's got to be a sin. God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Ron." I had to work hard not to giggle at that. "I just was stunned. And when it was okay with Kyle and Greg, I just lost it. Here I was the only one who yelled and made a fuss. I expected the other two to react the same way. It was worse when I was the only one."

"I told you they had figured it out already. They weren't going to react."

Deep breath. "Yeah. I guess I forgot it. Or expected them to react when you finally said it out loud. I don't know." He looked at me with sad, sad eyes. "Thanks for not letting Greg throw me out of the house."

"It wouldn't have been right. I'm just sorry the way this has all happened. And I'm really sorry about what it's done to you, Rich."

More silence. Then, "What do I do now?"

"It's up to you, Richie. I can't tell you or make you do anything this time. I won't."

He stood up and came over to me and helped me to my feet. Then he wrapped me in a huge bear hug. I wrapped my right arm around him, and with effort, got my left partly around him. But he was squeezing me, hanging on me, as if I were the last life raft before he sank into the dark waters and drowned. And then I felt his body start shaking. Richie was taller than me, but he was bent over and had his face buried in the crook of my neck. Sobs wracked his body. Huge, violent sobs. I felt my shoulder get wet from his tears. He held me and sobbed and I stood still, one arm around him, the other one mostly useless.

Through the sobs, he said, whispering in my ear, "I am soo sorry, Justin."

And into his I whispered, "It's okay, Richie. It'll be okay."

I figured there was a pool of snot on my shoulder as well as the tears, but I didn't want to look. When he had stopped and stood up again, he said, "I guess that's where I needed to start. Justin, I'm sorry for all the things I said to you. I'm sorry for abandoning you. For being so closed-minded. I feel pretty awful, and I have since I got home that night. I've been trying to find ways to put it out of my head, but nothing works. Nothing." He said the last word with emphasis.

"Then why don't you come back to us?" I asked.

"I don't know if I can." More tears slid down his cheeks.

"You can try."

He was sitting with his hands clasped again, after helping me back into my desk chair. The clock said 9:30. He was silent again.

"Do you think the guys would listen to an apology?"

"Honestly, Richie, I don't know. They might listen, but they might not accept it. I can't say."

"Do you think you could get them over here so I could try?"

"I'll ask them. They might not even come. But I'll do what I can. I've got PT tomorrow at 4:00. Come over about 5:30. If they don't come, then you and I can talk some more."


He stood to go, and as he got to the door, I said, "Richie, you want those CDs?"

He turned and smiled at me. It was a sad smile, though. "No, you keep them. You never know when you might have to use them to get me to come over again."

I worried about it all the next day. At PT Associate Devil Kent scolded me for not concentrating. Mom scolded me for not eating my lunch. I couldn't even watch Oprah. Okay, I can't anyway, but I couldn't concentrate on anything. I was afraid this wasn't going to work. The guys were on to my methods.

Since Danny had helped me with my homework, he went with me to PT. I'd told them all they didn't have to do that, but they insisted. Back at home, I asked Danny to come to my room. He got a smile on his face.

"Um, not for that," I said when we got there. "Look, I have no right to ask any of you for a favor, but I'm going to anyway. I want you to come back about 5:30."

He eyed me suspiciously. "Why?"

"Just do."

"Is it about Richie?"


He hung his head. "Justin, don't do this."

"Danny, I have to. Richie is getting himself into trouble. I've got to. And bud? So do you."

After a long pause Danny promised he'd be there, and with a loving kiss, he left. I quickly called Greg.

"Can you call Kyle and get him to come here with you at 5:30?"

"Why?" Greg asked.

"It's about Richie. He wants to talk to us. But I don't think I'd mention that to Kyle right now. Danny has promised to come, but I didn't tell him Richie would be here. I talked to Richie last night, and he wants to see us all."

"Ummmm, yeah. I' call. I'll see what I can do."

Richie showed up about 5:15, nervous. He paced in my room, which wasn't all that big. He didn't want to talk much, so I stayed quiet, trying to read a magazine. Danny came about 5:25. He looked at Richie, but didn't say anything. Then he glanced at me, and I could tell he wasn't happy with me. Greg, with Kyle in tow, showed up right at 5:30. Greg said hi to Richie, but Kyle said nothing.

Richie knew that I wasn't going to say anything. I was sitting in my desk chair. The others were sitting on my bed. Richie was standing. He looked really out of place, because he was tall to begin with.

"Guys, ummmm, I'm really, really sorry about the other day. I don't have any excuse. I've talked to Justin about it. I guess I just reacted like I'd always hated gay people. It's what I learned, and I thought you guys -- well, Greg and Kyle -- would react the same way. I don't know if you can even accept this apology, but I had to tell you. We've been friends too long for me just to walk away like that. So even if you don't, I wanted you to know."

"If you give me another chance, I won't ever do that again. I l-l-l . . ." his voice faltered on "love" and he couldn't choke it out past the tears that began. Danny and Kyle sat unmoved. Rich wiped his eyes and took a deep breath. "I love you guys. I don't know if you even care about that. But I really need you." He broke down for a moment, and then recovered.

"I didn't want to cry in front of you. I didn't want you to think I was using that. I don't know what came over me that day. Kyle, I know you tried to talk some sense into me about us all growing up together and Justin and Danny not being any different just because they love each other. It was like something burst in me. I couldn't control it. And when I saw I was the only one reacting that way, it was almost worse. I had to really overdo it to make myself feel good.

"Only I don't feel good. I feel awful. Justin and Danny, I want you to know that I truly don't believe the things I said. Kyle, you tried to help me that day, and I didn't listen. I won't make that mistake again." Then he walked over in front of Greg, and squatted down. "Greg, I know what I said about you growing up without a father. I am ashamed. I've tried to forget those words, but they haunt me.

"Bud, I don't know how I can apologize, or how you can forgive me. I hope I can apologize over the years by being the best friend you could have. And I hope you can find a way to forgive me. I was afraid those words I said broke your heart. They broke mine. I ran to Roger and Clay to try to find a way to forget. But I never will."

It was obvious to me that it came from the heart. None of the three had tears in his eyes, though. They sat there, looking at Richie, who was looking at the floor. After a moment, he turned to me and said simply, "Thanks, Justin," and he walked toward the door. His hand clasped the door knob.

"Richie," Greg said. "Richie, I accept your apology." Kyle and Danny looked at him, then at me. I just shrugged. Greg stood up and went over to Richie. "I know you didn't mean it. Well, I know it was said in an uncontrolled moment. And if you promise never to fly off the handle like that, I accept." He grabbed Richie in a bear hug, even though Richie was taller than Greg, and wrapped him up in his arms. Richie cried quietly on Greg's shoulder. Slowly Danny stood up, went over to the two, and put his arms around them. I looked at Kyle, who seemed to be looking vacantly at my kneecap. His fingers pulled at a loose thread on his shorts.

"Richie," he said finally. The hugging stopped and the three of them looked at him. "I'm trying. You hurt us all that night. Because if you hurt one, you hurt us all. What you said about Justin and Danny was bad. What you said to Greg was cruel. It made me hate you, just like that." He snapped his fingers. "I've thought about it these last two weeks. I was actually happy you were looking awful. I was glad you were hanging out with Roger and Clay. I actually hoped all three of you would get arrested." His voice was thick with emotion. He closed his eyes. If our group had a leader, it was Kyle. He was smart and funny and wise. That's what I said. I don't know if you can use the word "wise" on a fifteen-year-old guy, but if you can, then he was.

"I was wrong to hope that. And maybe the hate reaction was too much, too. I realize now that you were caught off guard. Maybe Justin and Danny should have told you alone. But then again, the way you reacted, maybe it was better Greg and I were there so you didn't . . . Well, here's the thing. I'll try. I can't accept it right now, Richie, but I'll try. Let's move on from here. Let's see if we can get along with each other again."

"Thanks, Kyle," Richie said quietly. Everyone but Kyle left. He was going to be my tutor tonight.

"I don't know if I can do this, bud," Kyle said. "I didn't feel anything for him tonight."

I didn't answer right away.

"Well, I can understand that. But it was just one incident. An ugly one. But he's been your friend for fifteen years."

"I didn't know he was like this."

"He's not. Anyway, he didn't know Danny and I were like this -- gay -- and we chose the worst possible way to tell him."

Kyle thought a moment. "He did sound sincere. I don't think he was faking it."

Attaboy, Kyle. Talk yourself into it. I let the matter drop, and pulled out my geometry book. It was the one subject I KNEW we had tonight.

Kyle went with me to PT. When we got home, Richie was waiting on the doorstep.

"What are you doing here?" I asked.

I'm here to help you with your homework."

"I was expecting Greg."

"He told me to take his spot and he'd give everyone a new schedule tomorrow." He turned directly to Kyle. "Hi, Kyle," he said.

"Hi, Richie." Big pause. "It's good of you to help Justin here."

Baby steps. That's all I wanted. Baby steps back toward friendship.

Richie wasn't quite as good a student as the rest of them, but he did help, and he was the courier for the day's assignments and the finished work back to my teachers.

Greg came the next night, Danny after him, and then Kyle again. Greg and Danny were themselves. Greg told me Kyle and Richie weren't talking in school, but the next day Danny said they did that day. Kyle didn't say much while we did our work. I'd taken a couple of tests with my mom or dad proctoring, and did pretty well on them. Kyle asked what I got on them and I told him.

"Wow. Y' know, I did too. I did really well. Greg and Danny say they're getting pretty solid grades, too. I mean, none of us has ever done really bad, but they're even better. We decided it's because of you."

"Me? What did I do."

"You almost died, you jerk. And since we've been helping you with your homework, we've done better, too."

So we did our homework together again. I tried not to think about it, what these guys were doing for me. I tended to get teary when I did. As we were putting our books away, Kyle said, quietly, "Thanks."

"Hey, no problem. But I don't think I'll have a near-death experience next time just to help you guys raise your grades," I laughed.

"I didn't mean that. I mean for what you did. Trying to bring us all together again. It was pretty gutsy of you."

"You're welcome." I couldn't say anything else. But then I did. "Did it work?"

Kyle closed his eyes and sat back in the chair. "It will. It's working. I'm not there yet, but I will be."

"Then it was worth it."

"You're amazing."

"No, I'm Justin. You guys are amazing."

And things settled down in my life.

PT was slow. I wanted to make fast progress, but Kent-the-devil-incarnate said it would take time. We battled furiously several times, me wanting to do more, and he wanting me to do it right instead of fast. Sometimes I won; usually he did. In two more weeks I was able to walk three steps using the parallel bars. But I had to use both of them, which meant at best I'd have to use a walker at school. No way was that going to happen. BUT my left arm was getting stronger. And the Kentdemon was letting me do some free weights. Danny loved that. He was doing weights, too. So was Greg. They Danny would bring some over to the house for the afternoon session some days and both of them would help. I made enough progress to not get discouraged. Except in walking. Damn. I wanted to walk.

On Friday, more than four and a half weeks after I came home, I went back to the hospital. It was for tests, a CT scan, X-rays, and a PT evaluation. The CT machine whirred around me with the sound I'd come to know. X-rays were tedious as always. My blood, urine, lungs, heart and reflexes were all good, at least on my right side. The tingling was nearly gone. Well, in my arm. Still some noticeable in my leg, though. But I could walk the length of the parallel bars supporting myself with my arms, and that day I finally supported myself on crutches and made it the length of the PT room. At each test, I begged the doctor or Kent-the-torturer to let me go back to school. I know. Who wants to go to school? I did. Because that's were everyone was. I was bored silly sitting at home. Thank god the guys came over when they did or I'd be in a rubber room now.

I waited for the verdict. I have an inkling of what a person on trial goes through waiting for the jury to decide his fate. At 3:45, Danny came to the hospital. At 4:00, Kyle and Becky were there. No word. Finally, Dr. Smith asked my parents to come into his office.

"Hey, I want to be in on this, too," I protested. "It's my life and it's partly my decision."

"Not entirely, and I want to talk with your parents for just a moment. Then you."

I was sitting in a wheelchair again, frustrated. I paced in the chair until all three told me to stop because I was making them nervous. They were in there an hour, it seemed. Five minutes later, the door opened, and Dr. Smith came over.

"Do you want to go back to school, Justin?"

"Yes, I do. Honestly, doc, I'm going crazy sitting at home. PLEASE let me go back."

He smiled at me. "Okay. You can go back Monday.

Everyone cheered. I cheered the loudest. Becky gave me a kiss on the cheek. Danny wanted to give me a kiss -- and shove his tongue down my throat. And oh, how I wanted him to.

Dr. Smith smiled and waited for us to shut up.

"If you think you can use your crutches, okay. Otherwise, use the wheelchair. And if you get tired, go home. I'll send instructions to the school nurse and the principal and vice-principal so you can leave when you need to. Now, you still have to do physical therapy. Kent has agreed to one session a day. Every day, Justin, until you can walk."

"How about my head, doc? Do I have to wear bandages or take special precautions."

"No, the bandages stay off as of today. You can wash your hair, but don't scrub too hard over that spot. The hair is growing back, and in another couple of weeks, you won't be able to see any scar or sign of injury. As for precautions, you don't need to wear a helmet unless you put a Honda Gold Wing engine on that wheelchair. Just be careful. If you fall and hit your head, or even jostle it by falling, you'll get another concussion and the whole process could start over again."

Geez, that was enough deterrent for me. "I'll be real careful, doc."

I thanked him again and we went out to the car. Dad had come from work so we had two cars, and everyone rode to our house. We called Richie and then Greg and told them the good news. And all of a sudden, a party broke out. They came over, and so did everyone's parents, to say congratulations. I was beaming. Danny was standing near me the whole time, but none of the guys was far away. We ordered pizza and went into the back yard. It was all informal. I had to recount the hospital stay, the therapy, all that stuff for the parents. And Charlie couldn't get enough of it. He wanted to hear everything. As close as Danny was, Charlie was right there, too.

The pizza came, the soft drinks flowed, we laughed and talked and had a great time. As 10:30 rolled around I asked mom if the guys could sleep over. She said one could, but not all. Not this soon after getting out. One by one, Kyle, Richie and Greg came up with a reason why he couldn't stay. Each gave me a little wink as he said it. I was sitting in a lawn chair on the patio, and I asked if we could all go inside for a few minutes because I wanted to talk to the guys. Greg and Kyle helped me up and supported me as I hobbled into the house and to the family room.

When we were seated, I said, "Guys, I didn't plan it to turn out that way. I really wanted all of you to stay the night. NOT just Danny."

"We know, Justin," Richie said. "We know you meant it sincerely. But since only one of us can, it should be Danny." Danny blushed a bright red. How cute.

"Listen," I said, "there's something else I wanted to say to you. I don't know how to say it."

"You don't have to," Kyle said.

"Yes, I do. I don't know what I did to deserve friends like this. You guys mean everything to me. What you've done for me over the last two months -- I..." I choked up. Tears flowed. The emotion finally burst. I'd never really dealt with the accident, the hospital stay, the disability, the anger, the frustration, the uncertainty. It came washing out of me in wracks of sobs. Greg put his arms around me as Danny rubbed my back.

"I'm sooo grateful for you guys and everything you've done..." More crying.

"I don't know how I'll ever thank you..." crying.

"But I'll find a way."

"But Justin, we're just repaying everything you've meant to us," Richie said. "It's what we mean to each other. We're a group...a family...and if we'd lost you..." Damn, it was contagious. Richie started. Then Kyle, and I think Greg already was. I know Danny was.

You know, what I just wrote sounds corny. Five teenage guys sitting around with tears in their eyes -- and one of them practically hyperventilating from the sobs (that would be me). But I think in his own way each of us had to come down from the emotional plane we'd been on. They'd almost lost a life-long friend, and then when he had to be nursed back to health, they had reached down inside themselves and found the courage, love and stamina to pull him through. Danny had almost lost his lover. A dumb one at times, but the person he'd loved since he was six. And I had almost lost everything. And I still didn't know if I'd get some things back. And after all of that, for almost a month, these guys put their own lives aside to help me. For nearly two months they relied on their stamina and adrenalin to sustain them. We weren't ashamed of our crying, either, which is also weird. We should have been self-conscious. But we weren't. We talked, when we could through the tears. There was no group hug. But I did stand -- with help -- as each one left and gave him a hug. We dried our eyes as best we could. The adults had gone home, and Greg, Kyle and Richie walked home in the dark, cool evening. I said good night to Charlie who'd waited behind, kissed mom and dad good night and thanked them for the impromptu party, and asked Danny to help me to bed.

My god, did he help me. We brushed our teeth (oh, Charlie had brought over some stuff for Danny), washed up a little, then, bare chested and barefoot, we went into my bedroom, me leaning on him.

Gently, he removed my glasses and put them on the nightstand. We stripped naked, already hard from the contact of our chests. I lightly rubbed his small nipples till they where hard. His knees almost buckled. Still standing, he moved his mouth to mine and kissed me soo gently I could hardly feel it. "More," is all he said, and I kept softly caressing his nipples. We came together in another kiss, this more passionate than a moment ago. His arms were around me, rubbing my back, lightly scraping down to my ass, kneading the globes, working back up. We broke for air and looked in each others' eyes. We came together in a kiss again, hard this time, tongues stroking each other, breathing heavily. At the same moment we moaned into the other's throat. His hands had worked their way up the back of my neck and his fingers were in my hair, running through it, stroking. He touched the spot of my surgery, where metal plates now held the pieces of my skull together. Gently he stroked, and when he felt the spot, he broke the kiss and looked at me with tears forming in his eyes.

"It's okay, Danny. I'm okay. You guys have made me okay. You . . . you, Danny. You make me okay."

His kiss was powerful. It was consuming. It took my breath away in its passion. I couldn't kiss back. He controlled the moment, hands still running through my hair. He pressed harder against me, his whole body. I couldn't rub his hard nipples any more because he was pressing against me. His cock was pressing against me. His toes were on mine. His arms wrapped around me and he pulled me closer, as if he wanted to pull me inside of him, to become part of him.

Without breaking the kiss, he slowly lowered me to the bed, but halfway down we lost our balance and fell onto the soft mattress. He worked us so that I was on the bottom, then he ground himself against me. He lifted up to breathe, and in that instant I tried to slip down and suck on his nipples. He let me, and I drew the left one into my mouth. I rubbed my tongue roughly over the hard center and sucked hard on it. Then I nibbled ever so lightly on it. My hand was on the other nipple, pinching, stroking, teasing. I worked the nipple in my mouth with vigor, getting more and more aggressive. Danny's low moans -- we had to be quiet -- urged me on and I couldn't stop. I stopped sucking and let go of his nipple with a wet "pop", and ran my tongue over it till it was soggy with my saliva. Then I switched to the right nipple, my fingers now taking over on the left one, sliding across it on the slick spit I'd left behind.

I did not start out gently on the right. I bit it. Not hard, but with pressure, and he arched his back, which pushed his cock into mine. I tried to pinch his left nipple in my fingers, but the moisture made my fingers slide over it, making the nipple harder and harder. I continued to attack the right one with my mouth, stabbing it with my tongue, licking, mouthing it, biting it, nibbling it. He lowered his head. I could hear his desperate breaths, and then he began a low, slow rhythmic moan. "Uh . . . uh . . . uh . . . uh . . ." The sound went out of it and it became a driving whisper. My fingers and tongue matched the pace of his breaths, driving him forward. His legs were all over mine. He was holding himself up with his arms, which were stiff from the effort. I couldn't let up. Nothing would have stopped me. His breaths set the pace, and my tongue and fingers kept up. The whispered urgency slid back further into his throat, until is was a rasp, like a beast cornered, trying to find a way of escape.

I was one with him. I knew he was building, because I could feel it. I felt my balls start to contract and the exquisite joy in my groin, just as I knew Danny was feeling in his. He thrust against me, and I knew the exact moment to bite that nipple. It was perfect. He exploded between us. With superhuman effort, I fought back my own orgasm. His cum shot up our chests and coated us. His body was rigid, and every muscle seemed to contribute to the contraction that forced the Dannycum from his sweet, wonderful dick. He long, rasping, whispered moan from deep in his chest lasted a full 15 seconds and shot after shot left us sticky and wet.

He slowly collapsed onto me, squishing the warm spunk between us, making us slippery. He licked the little bit off my chin, and got a puzzled look on his face. "Is that what I taste like?" he asked.

"What?" I said.

He lifted up a little and gathered some on his index finger from between us, and offered it to me. I sucked his whole finger into my mouth and swallowed what was there. My tongue caressed his finger as if it were his precious five inch cock. "Yeah, that's what you taste like," I breathed.

He pushed himself off of me and smeared the cum around on my chest, paying particular attention to my nipples now. It was slippery, which made his touch even more ephemeral. A layer of ooze separated his finger from my skin, and his forefinger and thumb skated across my skin, always stopping and pirouetting on the center of my nipples. It drove me to the edge. He rubbed the stuff into my belly, the center of my chest, along my ribs, till there was none left.

Then he turned himself around, got on his stomach, and headed toward the foot of my bed. In one motion he took two of my right toes into his mouth. He sucked gently on them, just as he'd sucked on my cock before the accident. I could feel his tongue in between them, and as he let them slide wetly from his mouth his hand gently worked the arches. Each toe got the treatment from his warm mouth, as if he were bathing them. He nibbled lightly on some of them, on the bottom of the toe. Then licked along the ridge under the toes, and began sucking and licking toward the heel. I was about to cum.

Danny's feet were next to my head, and as a last ditch attempt to distract myself from what he was doing to me, I took his toes into my mouth. I tried to imitate what he was doing, but I found that I was thinking too much about it, and it was driving me closer to a climax. I just sucked for dear life.

Danny switched to the other foot, and for about fifteen minutes did nothing else but tease me. Near the end he started rubbing his cock against my thigh and moaning. Finally he released my toes and panted, then said, "You gotta fuck me, Justin. I need you inside me. Jeez, I can't wait.

That was no problem. I just wasn't sure I could do it. Oh, I was hard enough. I was just afraid as soon as he started to lube me up I'd shoot. If not that, then I knew I would as soon as my penis touched his outer ring. Damn. No lube.

Danny slid off the bed and fumbled for something in his pants, which were lying in a heap on the floor. He came up with a small tube of Vaseline and smiled. He squeezed some out onto his fingers and moved between my legs. Gently, as if he knew I could erupt at any moment, he applied the greasy gel to my cock. He did the shaft first, and waited to touch the sensitive head till the very last. He didn't play much with me, which must have been difficult for him. But he didn't want me to orgasm before I as in him.

He handed me the tube, and moved around so his sweet butt was right above me. He was beautiful. I knew he wanted me to lube him, but I reached up and pulled him closer. My tongue licked all around, never touching. Danny shuddered and I could tell he was trying to work his butt so I'd lick right on the hole. So I let him. My tongue touched it and he involuntarily pushed down onto me. I tried to stab my tongue into him, and continued to lick all round.

Then I squeezed some gel out onto my fingers, and spread it around his hole. Gently I worked in one finger. It had been a while since we'd done this, so I didn't want to hurry. He moaned as I pushed inside, past the fingernail, the first joint, then the second, up to my knuckle. I worked my finger in and out a little, looking for his prostate. I knew I'd found it when -- well, I could feel it for one -- but he let out a long, whispered moan and pushed back against me. In and out I went with that finger, till I felt him loosen up a little. Then I got a second finger greasy and pushed it in. Danny was helping now, pushing himself against the fingers and pulling away. He was setting up a rhythm, and I figured he could cum just from that. Every now and then I'd let a finger scrape his button again and he'd stop and wiggle his butt to get the most out of it.

After a few minutes of that, a third finger found its way in and Danny's breath was getting ragged. I figured I'd better get my cock in before he burst. So I pulled my fingers away.

Danny turned around and kissed me deeply, darting his tongue in and out. He slowly lowered himself onto me. My cock touched his sweet hole. We were both silent, afraid that any sound of pleasure would send one of us over the edge. Slowly he sat down further. My cock pushed against his hole, and I could feel it sliding in. I tried so hard not to cum, and finally got past the danger point. He lowered himself more, sinking down onto me, until his butt was on my pubes.

The cum on my chest had dried now, and Danny leaned over to lick my nipples once again, then put his thumps on the slick points. Then he began to work my cock in and out of him. He was looking for the right angle so I would hit him just right as I glided along his tender tunnel. He let his head fall back, and he had the most passionate look on his face. As if he'd found the ultimate pleasure. He more rocked back and forth than bobbed up and down, and it was swell. Now and then he'd stop and hold me in him, then bend over and kiss. He would lick my nipples again to keep them slick. Then he'd rock again.

I reached up and pinched his nipples gently, then teased his belly button. That seemed to send him onto another plane. He rocked faster and began to pull up and push down a little. His ass moved back and forth, and he gave a little "ungh, ungh" every time my hard cock brushed against the spot. He passed the point where he could control himself, and he began to rock more vigorously. The bed started to make noise and we came to a dead stop. He looked at me. Dammit. I thought my heart would come right out through my chest. I didn't want to stop. Damn.

Without a word between us he lifted himself off, helped me out of the bed, and pulled the covers onto the floor. I laid down and he climbed back onto me. In a way it was good, because we almost were starting from scratch. He rocked, but it didn't take as long. We were desperate to cum. When he passed that point again, he became almost violent, pounding himself against me, trying to get more than my measly five inches into him. A whispered growl started in his throat, and it did wonders for me. My balls churned, and a feeling started must behind my cock that let me know this might blow Danny right off me and across the room. His ass on my cock was a blur. His eyes were closed. He was biting his bottom lip. His hands were on my ribs to give him more leverage. My breathing was uncontrolled. Then I felt it. I was ready to fire. I started to sit up from the pressure. He slowed down and rocked twice, as hard as he could, and I fired a continuous stream of hot fiery teen cum up into him as far as I could go. At that moment he let loose, too. His stream hit my hair, then my face, then across my chest. Still he rocked, and still I pumped into him and still he pumped over me.

When it was over, he didn't move. My cock softened and so did his. Only then did he slide off and lay down next to me on the floor. He started to gather cum on his finger. Then we took turns slurping it, till I was pretty well cleaned off. But my cock, nestled back in my sparse bush, was still oozing cum. It rolled down my balls and into my butt crack. I felt it slide down to my hole, and I knew that pretty soon I was going to have to have Danny in there.

When we caught our breath we got up, threw the covers back on the bed, and climbed in. I snuggled behind Danny, running my hands over his back and his butt. I let a finger find his hole, which was still filled with my cum. It made me hard, and I pushed up against him and let the tip of my cock work its way in. And that's how we fell asleep.

You know, that sounds real nice. I think I'll try that tonight. He should still be pretty loose and lubed. And I don't think he'll mind if I wake him up.
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