by Andrew Todd
Brice lay in bed Sunday morning. Milo had his body shoved up against his new master. Brice had tried to show the dog the bed that he had prepared for him in the corner of the room, but every time he woke up, Milo was on the comforter sleeping next to him.
Brice had not slept much. He usually didn't remember his dreams, but all he could think of were the two alternating dreams that had filled his mind all through the night.
In the first dream, he was making love with Justin. It was hot, passionate and physical. Justin was a hungry lover, who was insatiable and kept coming after Brice no matter how many times the two climaxed.
In the second dream, he was with Cody. Cody was tender, gentle and loving. Cody was a giving lover who did everything he could to bring Brice pleasure and comfort.
Brice's head started to spin as he tried to reconcile his feelings for his two friends.
He was pissed at himself, because he hadn't even planned to get involved with anyone this year. His last relationship in Virginia had ended badly and he had sworn off romance until college. He just wanted to get through this last year of school without any drama--now he was right smack in the middle of it.
It would be fine if he had feelings for just one or the other, but he was realizing he had feelings for both of them. He didn't feel stronger for Cody or Justin--he had equally strong feelings for Cody and Justin. He could see himself in a relationship with either boy. Each boy had something that appealed to Brice. He laughed to himself as he realized that together they would make the perfect boyfriend.
Brice was contemplating whether to get out of bed or try to get some more sleep when his phone rang. He reached over to the nightstand and fumbled around for his phone. He finally found it and answered it.
"Hey, Code. What's up?"
"Just checking to see how you and Milo are doing."
"We're pretty good. He's lying here beside me," Brice replied and he rested his hand on Milo's back.
"See, he loves you already," Cody snickered.
"I guess; I tried to get him to sleep on the floor, but he kept jumping on the bed, so I gave up."
"He's probably a little needy right now; he's been through a lot. Once he knows you're not going to desert him, he'll relax some."
"I hope so. I'm used to sleeping alone."
Cody laughed, "All three of mine are usually on the bed with me."
"How do you manage that?" Brice asked. "I know you're pretty skinny, but they must take up the whole bed."
"A lot of it," Cody answered. "But, we manage."
"So, are you still busy today?" Cody asked hopefully.
"As far as I know," Brice answered.
"Oh, ok." Brice heard the disappointment in Cody's voice.
"We're still on for tomorrow afternoon, right?" Brice asked.
"Sure," Cody answered, the smile back in his voice. "Can you give me a ride home afterwards?"
"Sure, no problem."
"Sounds like a plan."
"Great. I'll see you at school tomorrow."
"Seeya," Cody replied.
Brice disconnected and was about to drop the phone back on his nightstand when it rang again.
"What did you forget?" he said when he answered.
"Nothing that I know of."
"Sorry, Jus, I thought you were someone else."
"No problem. Just checking to see if we are still on for this afternoon."
"Cool. I'll pick you up about noon, ok?"
"I'll be ready."
"Make sure you wear something warm that you don't mind getting dirty," Justin instructed. "Do you have a pair of boots?"
"Umm, I think I have a pair of hiking boots around here somewhere."
"Good, you'll need them; sneakers are ok, but something sturdier with a heel is better."
"Ok, I'll have to look for them, cuz I haven't seen them since the move."
"Give me a call if you can't find them, I may have something around here you can borrow. Oops, Mom's giving me the evil eye, gotta go to church. I'll seeya later."
Brice hung up and stared at the phone for a minute; when it didn't ring he tossed it back on the nightstand. He threw back the covers and climbed out of bed.
"Let's go see if we can get some breakfast," he said to Milo as he left the room. Milo followed him downstairs and into the kitchen. Brice re-filled his water bowl and poured some dry food into his food bowl. He grabbed some cereal and juice for himself.
When he finished breakfast, Brice let Milo out to take care of business; luckily the house was set far enough back that the neighbors couldn't see him standing in the doorway in nothing but his jockeys. When Milo had finished, Brice let him back in and went upstairs to shower.
When he came back from his shower, Brice rummaged through his closet trying to find his old hiking boots; he finally found them in a box that he hadn't yet unpacked.
He grabbed a pair of old blue jeans and a t-shirt. Noting the coolness of the late September weather, he found an old baggy sweatshirt and pulled that on as well. He put on the hiking boots and grabbed a new Patriots ball cap as he ran out of his room and went downstairs.
Brice decided to wait outside for Justin. He let Milo out to run around and explore some more and he sat on the porch rocker and watched the dog.
After a few minutes, Milo came running up with an old tennis ball he had found in his mouth. He dropped it at Brice's feet.
Brice stood up from the rocker and picked up the ball. Milo looked up at him hopefully. Brice grinned as he threw the ball and watched Milo bound after it and then bring it back.
Brice tossed the ball to Milo for a while, and then he heard Justin's truck coming down the driveway.
Justin parked behind Brice's car and got out of the truck. Milo made a beeline for the intruder, barking as he charged at Justin.
"Milo, no!!" Brice called after the dog. "He's ok!!"
Justin bent down on one knee and looked the dog in the eyes. He slowly put out his hand so Milo could sniff it.
Milo sniffed Justin suspiciously.
"Hey, Buddy," Justin spoke softly. "Just here to pick up Brice, no need for all the noise."
Milo sensing there was no danger circled around Justin and then trotted back to Brice. He stood right next to Brice. Brice reached down and scratched behind the dog's ears. "Good boy," he said.
Justin walked over to Brice laughing and shaking his head.
Brice shrugged his shoulders. "Well, Cody said he was a good watchdog," he laughed. "I guess he is."
"You didn't tell me he was trying to get you to adopt a pit," Justin said.
"Well, when he told me, I thought he was nuts, but he made an impassioned plea for him and said that judging him for his breeding was like judging a person because of their race or sexuality. I really couldn't argue with that. And he really is a sweet dog."
"Oh, I'm not arguing that. In fact, my uncle used to have a pit--he was the sweetest dog you'd ever want to meet. The ones that get the bad reps are trained to fight by idiots. They aren't born mean, people turn them mean."
Brice grinned. "You and Cody are gonna have to start a support group for pit bulls."
"Probably not a bad idea; there are lots that are abandoned and then euthanized just cuz of their breeding, rescuing them is not a bad idea. I didn't know that McDonald did this."
"There's probably a lot the two of you don't know about each other," Brice said.
"Could be," Justin nodded. He looked at his watch. "Hey, we need to get going. I need to be home by six."
"Why so early?"
"Patriots have a game tonight. Family tradition--we have a big cookout and then watch the game together. Bray's so excited, I don't think Mom will get him to even lay down this afternoon, never mind take a nap."
"You guys really get into that don't you?"
"Well, as my dad likes to remind us, he suffered through forty years of mediocrity before the Pats became the powerhouse they are, so we all need to appreciate it and enjoy it," Justin laughed. "That reminds me; my dad got three tickets to the game on Veteran's Day weekend. He can't go so he offered them to me--do you wanna go?"
"Sure. I've never been to a real game before."
"You'll love it. Gillette is the best stadium. Plus, they're playing the Jets. So tailgating will be fun. Torturing anyone stupid enough to show up in white and green."
Brice laughed. "Do you guys wail on the opposing fans at every game?"
"Not really. Usually, it's just a little lip service if someone is wearing the opponents' stuff, but when it's the Jets forget it. If you are wearing that stuff at Gillette, you deserve whatever happens to you."
"What are you doing with the other ticket?"
"I don't know. I thought about taking Bray, but it's a four o'clock game and we won't get home till after nine or so. We don't have school the next day cuz of the holiday, but he'll never make it that long."
"Could we ask Cody?"
Justin hesitated for minute. "I guess that would be ok. I don't know how much of a fan he is."
"Me, neither, but it would be fun to do something together. 'Sides, it's not just about the game, right? It's about the camaraderie, the tailgating, and smacking around the Jets' fans."
Justin grinned. "That it is," he said. "Ok, ask him and let me know."
"I will. Thanks."
Justin looked at Milo. "What are you gonna do with him?" he asked. "I'd say bring him, but the horses sometimes get a little skittish."
"I don't know, I really don't wanna lock him up in the house. He might destroy the place and I haven't even told my dad about him yet."
Justin gestured towards the barn. "Hey, the barn is empty."
"You wanna lock him in the barn?"
"No, we can make a den for him in one of the empty stalls, that way he'll have a place to stay during the day and when you aren't here," Justin said. "Go in the house and dig up some old blankets. I'll get his food bowls. You should get a second set; then you can leave a set in the barn and a set in the house."
Brice ran off to find the blankets and Justin grabbed the bowls and went into the barn. He looked around and decided to set Milo up in the far back stall, that way if someone wanted to park their car in there during the winter, the dog would still have a place to seek shelter.
"C'mon, boy," Justin called to Milo who was watching him from the barn door.
Milo walked over to where Justin waited. Brice came in with the blankets. He and Justin laid the blankets out to make a bed for Milo and then set his bowls near the stall door. Milo went over to the blankets and lay down.
"Good boy," Brice said to him. "We're going out a just a little while, so you chill out here and we'll be back."
As they walked to Justin's truck, Brice said, "I hope he's ok in there."
"He'll be fine," Justin reassured him. "Once he's more familiar with the area, we'll put a 'doggy door' in there so he can come and go. Right now he just needs to get used to his 'den'."
They climbed into the truck. Before he started it up Justin leaned into Brice and kissed him. Brice kissed him back and the boys kissed hungrily until Brice pulled back.
Justin looked at him. "What's wrong? Second thoughts?"
Brice shook his head. "No. Just confused."
"I wasn't planning to get involved with anyone this year. It's my senior year, I'm the new kid, I was just gonna get through it and head to college," Brice explained. "I went through a really bad break-up at the end of school last year and I swore off romance."
"Must have been pretty bad then."
"It was. Kevin and I hooked up at the beginning of my sophomore year--he was a junior. We had kinda danced around each other the year before, but never actually got together. When I started my sophomore year, he and I were in the same geometry class and we started talking; before I knew it we were dating. I fell hard for him. I had casually dated a few guys, but he was my first love. He was beautiful and sweet, he spoiled me and I thought he loved me. He was the star of the lacrosse team and wide receiver on the football team."
Justin smirked at the implication.
Brice laughed. "Yeah, he dealt with some ribbing about that. We were both very out and open with our relationship. We were the 'class couple'. We had lots of friends. Actually, when I look back, Kevin had lots of friends. They were mine by default. I've always been the kind of person who has one or two really good friends and then a lot of acquaintances. Kevin was a person who had to be liked by everyone; he collected friends like a little kid collects comic books.
"Everyone knew us and about us. What I found out later is most of them knew more than I did. There was a big party at the end of the school year. Kevin was a senior and was graduating. We didn't usually do that much partying, or at least I didn't. But this was an end-of-the-year bash at one of his closest friend's house, so I agreed to go. Now, I've never been a drinker, can't stand the stuff actually, so I was the designated driver so that Kevin could enjoy himself. I ran into one of my best friends there and we were off in a corner talking while Kevin made the rounds. After a while I realized I hadn't seen him anywhere in over an hour. Wanting to make sure he was ok, I went looking for him. I found him in one of the bedrooms."
"Oh, shit," Justin groaned.
Brice grimaced and nodded. "Yep, he was legs up with one of his lacrosse teammates banging the hell out of him, sixty-nining with another who was getting railed by a fourth. When I walked in the four of them all looked up, saw me and went right back at it. Me being there didn't even faze them. Kevin mumbled something about joining them. I slammed the door and ran out of the house jumped in my car and drove home. I pulled over on the side of the road and puked my guts up.
"Kevin called me constantly all weekend, but I ignored him. I just holed up in my room. When I got to school on Monday, everyone knew what had happened and what I found out was my boyfriend was the school slut. He had been with just about everyone. I did my best to avoid him, but he cornered me at the end of the day. He begged and pleaded with me to forgive him, kept making excuses. I told him to go to hell and walked away. Luckily, it was the last week of school and then my dad told me we were moving, so as much as I didn't want to move, I knew I was getting a fresh start. Of course, I also had to go to my doctor and demand he give me a blood test for every STD he could test for and for HIV--luckily everything came back negative."
Justin reached over and wrapped his arm around Brice. "Thank God for small favors. Sucks that that jerk did you like that. I wish I knew where that guy was, I'd kick his ass for you. No one should be treated that way. I can understand you wanting to take things slow and I have no problem with that. I really like you, Brice. You're a good guy and you're cute as hell. It will be hard, but I will take it as slow as you want."
Brice kissed Justin's cheek. "Thanks, Jus."
Justin squeezed Brice tight and then turned to start the truck.
They drove silently to Brice's grandparent's farm which was about twenty minutes away.
When they pulled into the driveway, Brice looked around. "This is really nice," he said. "Is there anyone around?"
Justin shook his head. "No, they're away for the weekend. I think Gram dragged Grandpa to Mohegan Sun for a gambling weekend," he laughed. "C'mon, let's go."
The boys hopped out of the truck and Justin took Brice's hand and led him to a fenced-in area. Brice looked in and saw three black horses grazing. The horses weren't too tall, but they seemed very big to Brice.
Justin looked at Brice and laughed at the look of apprehension on his friend's face.
"Wait here," Justin said as he grabbed two halters and hopped over the fence into the paddock.
Two of the horses trotted right over to Justin. He slipped the halters on them and led them over to the gate.
"Brice can you get the gate for me?"
Brice unlatched the gate and opened it wide. He stayed on the opposite side of the gate from the horses. He watched as Justin led them out of the paddock and towards the barn.
Brice followed at a comfortable distance. Justin led the two horses into the barn and clipped them into ties that were attached to the walls.
Justin looked at Brice who was lurking in the barn doorway and laughed. "Get over here," he ordered. "These guys won't hurt you."
As Brice inched closer, Justin reached out and grabbed his hand and dragged him over to where the horses stood placidly waiting.
"This is Mo and this is Saber," Justin said as he pointed to each horse. "They're gentle as babies."
Brice tentatively reached over and stroked the neck of the horse nearest to him. The horse didn't move and after a few minutes he was more relaxed with the big animals.
Justin quickly showed him how to groom and saddle the horses.
When they were ready, he led Mo outside and had Brice follow him with Saber.
After Justin instructed him on how to mount, Brice looked at him hesitantly.
"What?" Justin asked.
"I'm just not sure about this," Brice answered. "I've never even been on a pony ride. My dad grew up with them, but I lived in the city."
"Brice, do you trust me?"
"Well, sure, but…"
Justin shook his head. "No, buts. I won't let anything happen to you. These guys are very gentle and they won't do anything you don't want them to. I take Bray on rides with them all the time and you know I would never do anything that was unsafe with him."
Brice nodded and with a look of determination, he put his left foot into the stirrup and pulled himself up on the horse.
He looked around. "You know, from up here he seems a lot taller."
Justin laughed, "Actually, there are breeds that are a lot taller than these guys. They just seem big cuz they're so muscular and wide."
Justin easily hopped up on Mo and started him walking down the trail. Saber lumbered after his friend.
Justin turned to watch Brice. "Let go of the horn, cowboy."
"If I do that I'll fall off."
"No, you won't. The way to stay on is a good grip on the reins, not too tight, just enough to feel him, and sit deep in the saddle with your heels down."
Brice did as instructed. He felt very unsure, but he trusted Justin to not get him killed.
As they rode past the paddock, the one remaining horse charged at the fence and started rearing and bucking.
Neither Mo nor Saber stirred as the other horse acted out.
Brice looked over at the third horse. "What's his problem?"
Justin shook his head. "That's Jet; he was my uncle's horse."
"Yeah, apparently 'bonus' kids are a tradition on my dad's side of the family. My dad was in his late-teens when his brother, Denny, was born. We were really close, since he was only about seven or eight when I was born. He was my hero and I was his shadow. He taught me to ride and how to play football. He never left me behind, even when he was the most popular guy in the high school and I was a little elementary school kid. We had a great time. Jet was his horse. They were awesome together. Jet is the fastest thing you ever want to ride. When Denny was eighteen, he joined the Marines. Before he left he told me to take care of Jet. I would come to visit him every weekend and ride him all over the farm.
"My uncle did three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. His last one was two years ago; he never came home. Roadside bomb in Afghanistan got him and his whole unit."
"Oh, man, I'm sorry."
"It was rough on my dad and my grandparents, but it was also like Jet knew that Denny was gone. He went wild. I tried to ride him and he threw me. It was the only time I've ever been thrown. My dad and grandpa forbade me from riding him after that. My grandpa wanted to sell him, but Gram won't let him."
Brice looked back at the Jet. "He doesn't look like these guys." He gestured to Mo and Sabre. "Same color, but he's sleeker, like a runner versus a linebacker."
Justin laughed and nodded. "These guys are Morgans. They are very stable, sure-footed and gentle. The breed was actually started next door in Vermont. Jet is a thoroughbred. Denny got him when he about twelve or so. Grampa wanted to find him a horse of his own and was looking for a Quarter Horse or another Morgan, but Denny found Jet and it was love at first sight. He's an ex-racehorse. So he has lots of speed, but he's also hot-blooded, so he can be difficult to deal with. He was always great for Denny and he was fine for me until we lost Denny."
"So now he's just there?"
"Pretty much. Every few months, I try to get him out of there to groom him or get close to him again, but he won't have anything to do with me now. And since I was the only besides my uncle who really handled him, he just gets left alone. When the farrier comes to do his hooves or when the vet comes, they have to sedate him just so they can work on him. It really sucks, cuz he's a great horse, he just needs someone to connect with him again."
As Brice listened to Justin he couldn't help but think he was listening to Cody. The way Cody had defended Milo was the same way Justin was championing Jet. He thought it was funny that the two saw themselves as 'enemies' because of their cliques when to Brice they actually had a lot in common.
Justin led Brice through the woods and along the orchard trail. Brice was captivated by the beauty around him. Growing up in Northern Virginia he had seen foliage and the changing of the seasons, but nothing he had seen could compare to the vision of an autumn afternoon in New England. The colors of the leaves, the cool breeze and the apples hanging from the trees made Brice feel so comfortable. He could see himself staying in this area. He was apprehensive when he first moved, but he was quickly falling in love with New England.
As they reached the edge of the orchard, Justin said, "Hey, let's give these guys a break." He dismounted and helped Brice down. The two horses started grazing on the lush grass. Justin led Brice into the orchard.
"What about them?" Brice asked, looking back at the horses. "Don't they need to be tied up?"
Justin shook his head. "Nope, they'll stick around here."
Justin pulled a couple of plastic grocery bags from his pocket and handed one to Brice.
"Ok, fill it up," Justin instructed Brice.
Brice and Justin spent the next fifteen minutes wandering around the orchard trying to find the biggest and shiniest apples for their bags. When both bags were full, Justin led Brice over to a where a river flowed through the property and sat down on the bank.
"Man, it is so gorgeous out here," Brice sighed.
"I know, I can't imagine how people live in areas that don't get real seasons," Justin said. "During a big snowstorm or in the spring when the mud is thick and the black flies are biting, you start thinking you want to live anywhere else, but then you get a day like this and you can't imagine ever leaving."
Justin reached over and took Brice's hand in his. Brice smiled at Justin. The two sat not saying a word, just listening to the breeze and the birds. Brice's heart was pounding in his chest. He could feel himself falling harder and harder for Justin, but every time he closed his eyes he saw Cody as well.
Justin pulled Brice closer and turned and kissed him. Brice tried to resist, but he couldn't. He was overwhelmed by his feelings for Justin. Brice opened his mouth and Justin's tongue slipped in. The two kissed passionately, their hands roaming over each other's bodies. Justin's fingers danced over Brice's jeans-covered erection. Brice returned the favor, rubbing the huge bulge in Justin's pants.
Brice felt himself heading to the point of no return. Marshaling all his willpower he pushed himself back from Justin.
"Whoa…" Brice exhaled. "Not that this isn't fun, but if we don't stop I'm gonna be riding back in wet jeans."
Justin looked at him starry-eyed and nodded, "I know, me too." He sighed. "I don't know what you're doing to me Brice. When I'm around you I have a harder and harder time controlling myself."
"Yeah, I'm having the same problem," Brice nodded. "I really like you, Justin, but I don't want to jeopardize our friendship. I really need to take this slow."
"I know you're afraid of being hurt again, Brice. I promise you, I won't ever hurt you." Justin looked into Brice's emerald eyes. Brice could see his sincerity.
"Jus, it's not that. I mean, yeah, I am a little gun-shy, but I don't want to hurt you either. I want to make absolutely sure before we go somewhere we can't turn back from."
"Ok. We can wait, we can take as long as you want. Cuz I've never met anyone like you and I know you're the one I want to be with."
Brice smiled as Justin kissed him one last time. Justin stood up and offered Brice a hand up. The boys took their bags of apples and headed back to where the horses were waiting.
Justin showed Brice how to offer the horses an apple with the fruit in his flat palm. Brice laughed as the horse's lips tickled his palm.
They each fed the horses a couple of apples and then mounted up and headed back to the barn.
Justin showed Brice how to take care of the horses and put them back in the paddock.
Justin then drove Brice home.
Justin turned the truck off when he reached Brice's house.
"Thanks for a fun afternoon," Brice said, smiling at Justin.
"My pleasure. Glad you had fun."
"I really did, we'll have to do that again sometime."
"Sure. We ride them all year round. A trail ride in the snow is a lot of fun. They also have some snowmobiles we can get out."
"Sounds like fun," Brice replied. "Well, I better go make sure Milo hasn't torn down the barn."
Justin laughed, "Ok. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Seeya," Brice said as he hopped out of the truck.
Brice waved at Justin as he backed out of the driveway. He walked over to the barn and cautiously stepped inside. Milo came wandering out of the stall wagging his tail.
Brice bent down to pet the dog. "Did ya miss me, boy?"
Brice looked at his watch--it was only four; he figured the local pet store should still be open, so he piled Milo into his car and headed off to the store.
He left Milo in the car with the windows cracked while he ran in and bought a second set of food bowls. While he was there he decided to get him some toys, treats and a couple of rawhide bones.
When he climbed back into the car, Milo was all over him like a long lost friend. Brice laughed as the dog licked at his face. "Ok, ok," he laughed. "I get it you missed me. Now get back there so I can drive."
Milo retreated to the back seat where he stretched out for the ride back.
Brice drove back home and settled in for the night. He grabbed a quick dinner, fed Milo and then decided to watch the game on the TV in his room.
He fell asleep halfway during the third quarter when the Patriots were ahead by 24 points.
The next day Brice walked into his homeroom and was greeted by Cody's bright smiling face.
Brice took his seat next to Cody.
"So, 'Daddy', how's my buddy Milo doing?" Cody grinned.
"He's doing good, you pain in the ass," Brice laughed.
Cody laughed. "What did you do with him today?" He asked.
Brice explained how Justin had helped him to make a den for Milo in the barn and that he seemed to like it in there. He also told Cody about their plans to build a doggie door.
Cody nodded. "Sounds cool. As long as he feels safe and knows you're coming back, he'll be fine during the day. The doggie door is a good idea once you are comfortable that he's not going to bolt. I don't think that will take too long since he's getting comfortable with you."
On their way to first period Cody asked, "So what did you get up to yesterday?"
"Justin took me to his grandparents' farm. They have a huge orchard and some horses, so we went riding and picked some apples and just hung out."
"That sounds like fun," Cody said. "I love horses--haven't been riding in a while though. Used to go all the time when I was younger and in the Boy Scouts"
"Yeah, it was a lot of fun. It was actually the first time I've ever been on a horse."
"Really? Were you scared or nervous?"
"I was nervous--those suckers are big!"
Cody and Brice passed the day as they usually did, joking between classes and trying to be serious in them.
After school, Brice met Cody out at his car. Cody didn't have a car of his own ('yet', as he would say). Most days he would use his mother's but since he was going to Brice's his mom had dropped him and his brother off that morning. Ty was stuck taking the bus home.
Justin had reminded Brice about the game as they were leaving gym, so Brice went ahead and asked Cody. "Hey, do you like football?"
"I'm a New Englander, of course I like football."
"I was wondering cuz you never go to the games."
"I'm not big on the high school games. Too many people I know and am not too fond of. But I love the NFL. Go Patriots!!"
"That's great cuz I have an offer for you."
"A friend of mine has three tickets for the game on the Sunday before Veteran's Day and he asked me if I wanted to go and if I knew anyone else who might want to go."
Cody pulled his wallet out of his pocket and took out a small card, he scanned the dates on the card, when he found the date, his eyes went wide. "The Jets game!?!"
"Yup." Brice grinned.
"I'd sell my little brother to go that game."
Brice laughed, "Cody you'd sell Ty for tickets to a Pop Warner game."
"True," Cody laughed. "But seriously, if you're asking me if I want to go see the Patriots kill the Jets at Gillette, I am all in."
"Great. It should be a lot of fun. Justin's gonna drive us in his truck so we can really tailgate."
"Justin?" Cody cringed. "You conned me."
Brice shook his head. "You guys are killing me," he moaned. "You and Justin are my two best friends and even though you've known each other your whole lives you only see each other with these stupid prejudices. You think he is just a 'jock' and he thinks you are the 'class clown'. I know you are both so much more than that. Can you just, for me, come with us and put your prejudices aside and let yourself have a good time?"
Cody nodded his head. "I guess so."
"Thank you," Brice said as he parked his car in the driveway.
"Hey, is that your dad's car?" Cody asked.
Brice looked out the windshield to see his dad's car parked in front of his house. "Yup, that's it." Then the realization hit him. "Oh, shit!! Milo!!"
The door to the barn was open. The boys jumped out of the car and ran for the barn. They could hear Milo's loud barking coming from inside the barn.
Brice and Cody stopped in the doorway of the barn and laughed at the sight before them. Milo was standing in front of one of the stalls barking incessantly and jumping at the closed door. Brice's dad had barricaded himself in the stall and was peering over the door at the dog.
"Milo!!" Brice called. "Get over here!!"
Milo stopped barking and trotted over to Brice and Cody. Brice knelt down and petted the dog. "It's ok, that's just my dad," he told the dog as Cody went over and let Mr. Matthews out of the stall.
Cody introduced himself to Mr. Matthews, "Hey, I'm Cody."
"Nice to meet you, Cody. I'm David Matthews. Am I to take it that animal is yours?"
"Uh, no." Cody grinned.
Brice walked over with Milo at his side. "Hey, Dad," he said with a smile. "I see you met Milo."
"You could say that."
"Well, I came home because the Prosecutor got a continuance on that case; we don't start until tomorrow, so I thought I'd see how you were doing. I heard a noise coming from the barn and came in to check it out and your friend here came out of the back stall barking his head off and I jumped into the nearest stall."
Brice and Cody were both laughing again. "So how long have you been in here?" Brice asked between chuckles.
"About a half hour."
"Well, Dad, this is Milo. He's mine, thanks to Cody."
"Oh, really?" David asked, glaring at Cody.
"Mr. Mathews, here's the deal. I used to work at the animal shelter and Milo was going to be put down if I couldn't get him adopted. He's really gentle, just protective. I guess he's taken to Brice a little quicker than I figured and he thought he was protecting him." He turned to Brice. "I told you he was a great watchdog, didn't I?"
Brice nodded and grinned at Cody. "You did." He turned to his dad. "He really is a good dog, Dad. Cody's been trying to get him adopted for a while, but no one wanted him cuz he's a pit. At first, I was the same way, but he really is friendly and sweet."
As if to back up Brice's defense of him, Milo walked over to David and sniffed at his hand. David bent down and scratched the dog behind the ears. "Ok, as long as you are taking care of him, I guess he can stay. It will make me feel better about leaving you here alone knowing you have him as protection."
Cody looked at Brice with a grin. "Two for two," he laughed.
David looked at Brice quizzically.
Brice laughed. "Cody's selling points for Milo were that he was a great watchdog and he would keep me company when you were staying in Boston, so he was right on both of those."
"That he was," David nodded. "Well, I still have some work to get done for my case, so I will be in the study if you need me. Brice, I'll probably be gone before you leave for school and I don't know how long I'll be staying in the city. This case is getting more complicated by the day."
"That's cool, Dad," Brice said.
David walked to the barn door. He turned back to the boys. "Oh, Brice, you have your credit cards, right?"
"Yes, sir," Brice nodded.
"And you're good on cash?"
"Ok, just checking," David said as he left the barn.
"Credit cards?" Cody whispered when Brice's father was out of ear shot.
Brice nodded. "He got them for me when I turned sixteen and started driving. He was working a lot, so I would do the grocery shopping and get myself school supplies and clothes. It's just easier that way. He really doesn't question what I use them for; I've never abused them and I don't even think he looks at the statements half the time, just pays the bill."
"Man, that's sweet. My parents barely give me an allowance."
"Well, get a job," Brice laughed.
Cody rolled his eyes. "You sound like my dad. The problem is there aren't a lot of job opportunities for kids around here. It's a small town with small businesses."
"Maybe Justin's dad needs help at the hardware store--I could ask him."
Cody shrugged. "Wouldn't hurt, Mr. Cross is pretty cool."
"Wait, you like Justin's dad, but not Justin?"
"Brice, it's a small town…"
"Blah, blah, blah…" Brice rolled his eyes. "You guys even make the same excuses. The fact of the matter is you've never given each other a chance."
"That's probably true, but that's the way things go."
"Well, not anymore, you guys are my best friends and my life will be so much easier if you get along."
"I'll try, but I make no promises."
Brice just laughed and shook his head. "Let's go inside, it's getting cold out here."
"I thought you wanted to work on Milo's training."
Brice stopped and looked at Milo. "Milo, sit." Milo sat. "Milo, heel." Milo walked over to Brice and stood at his side. Brice looked at Cody. "Looks good to me," he laughed.
Cody shook his head. "Me, too."
The boys walked out of the barn and into the house, with Milo walking between them.
Brice led Cody up to his room.
Cody's eyes bugged out when he saw Brice's bedroom. "Holy Shit, man!! Look at this place!"
"What?" Brice shrugged.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Cody laughed. "Look at the TV and that bed. Man, I have an old 24-inch TV I got when my grandmother died and I have a little double bed. I can't believe you were bitching about Milo being in the bed when you have that thing. You should try it in a double bed with three of them."
"Excuse, me, I wasn't 'bitching' and besides it wasn't that he was on the bed, it's that he has 'personal space' issues," Brice laughed.
Cody rolled his eyes. "Man, you are too much."
Cody ran at Brice and tackled him, the two landing in a pile on the bed.
The boys wrestled on the bed while Milo sat in the corner of the room watching curiously.
Brice finally pinned Cody to the bed and sat on his waist to keep him down. He turned and gave Milo a look of scorn. "Some protector," he mumbled.
Cody grinned, "He's known me longer than you, he's probably trying to figure out which one of us to protect."
Brice looked at his dog. "That's easy, you…" he said, pointing to Milo, "…protect the one…" he pointed to himself, "…who feeds you."
Cody took advantage of Brice's distraction to flip their position so that Brice was lying on the bed and Cody was seated on top of him.
Cody bent down and gently kissed Brice.
Again, Brice felt himself getting swept away. He wrapped his arms around Cody and returned the kiss. He moved his lips down Cody's neck and nuzzled the sweet spot under his ear. Cody purred.
The voice of reason was shouting at Brice to stop, but that voice was getting drowned out by the blood rushing to his nether regions.
Cody ran his hands through Brice's long red hair and kissed him so tenderly.
Finally, Brice rolled himself over so he was on top of Cody and then he pinned Cody's roaming hands to the bed.
"Cody, we need to stop," Brice panted.
"Why?" Cody asked, disappointment in his eyes.
"I need to take things slow," Brice answered. He then told Cody about his romantic past and about Kevin. "I don't want to get hurt and I don't want to hurt you," Brice said. "So we have to take things slow."
"Ok," Cody nodded. "I can do that; it won't be easy," he grinned, "but I can do that."
"Why don't we go and grab a bite to eat before I bring you home?" Brice asked. "That will keep us out of trouble."
"Oh, ok," Cody said, pouting.
Brice laughed at Cody's pout and Cody jumped him pinning him to the bed.
"Don't laugh at me, you meanie," Cody laughed as he looked into Brice's deep green eyes.
Brice felt himself starting to harden. He knew that he had to get control. Right now he couldn't even think straight.
Cody leaned forward and rubbed his nose against Brice. "Admit it, you think I'm cute," Cody laughed.
Brice nodded. "I think you're very cute, but if you don't let me up I'm gonna sic Milo on you."
"Won't work," Cody shook his head. "I'm probably the only one he won't save you from."
"Probably true," Brice said as he gathered his strength and pushed Cody off of him. "Luckily, I won't need him to rescue me from a stick like you."
"Stick?!" Cody laughed waving his arms around. "There's muscles under here, you know."
"I know there's one," Brice said with a raised eyebrow. "Cuz I could feel it against my leg."
Cody blushed and turned away.
Brice wrapped his arms around Cody from behind. "Oh, sure, now you're shy," he laughed. He rested his head on Cody's shoulder. "Don't worry, Code, you were doing the same thing to me."
Cody turned. "Really?"
"Yes, that's why we need to stop. I'm too confused by my feelings right now and I don't want to go too far until I know for sure what's going on."
"I don't get it, you like me, right?"
"Yes, I like you a lot, but I've been hurt already and I don't want to be hurt again and I don't want to hurt you. Sometimes it happens even when you don't want it to, but I need time to sort out my feelings. I need you as a friend and I don't want to wreck our friendship for anything."
"Ok, I understand."
Brice leaned his forehead against Cody's. "Good," he said. "Now, let's get out of here."
Cody laughed and jumped off the bed. "Let's go to Snyder's."
"A little family restaurant out on Rt. 3. Everything is fresh and home-cooked. It's awesome."
"Ok, let's go."
The two boys bounded down the stairs followed by Milo.
Brice stopped and told his dad they were going to dinner and asked if he wanted anything. David said he would get something later.
Brice asked him to keep an eye on Milo so he would not have to wait in the car.
After enjoying an amazing meal at Snyder's, Brice drove Cody home.
Cody dragged Brice in to introduce him to his parents.
Cody's brother Ty was in the kitchen when Cody and Brice came in.
Brice was always amazed at the physical difference between Cody and his younger brother.
Brice couldn't think of Ty as Cody's 'little' brother, as Cody always referred to him, because Ty, at 15, was 6'1" to Cody's 5'10" and probably weighed a good 60-75 pounds more than Cody, all of it muscle.
Ty had been the star of the JV hockey team in his freshman year and now, as a sophomore, fully expected to make the varsity team.
While Cody and Ty bickered and harassed each other like most brothers would, Brice really liked Ty. In spite of his size and 'jock' status, Ty was an easy-going guy who was well-liked in school. He didn't have his older brother's sense of humor, but he was friendly and easy to get along with.
"Hey, Brice," Ty greeted him as they walked in. "You had to bring him home, huh?" he said, grinning.
Brice laughed, "Yeah, since he's the only one my dog listens to instead of me."
"Yes, he's Weston's own 'Dog Whisperer', isn't he?"
Brice turned around and saw a woman he assumed was Cody and Ty's mom.
"You must be Brice," she said holding out her hand. "I'm Kelly McDonald, Cody's mom."
"Nice to meet you, Mrs. McDonald," Brice said as he shook her hand.
"Oh, please, call me Kelly."
"I'll try, ma'am, but I was raised in the south and we're always taught to address our elders by their last name or as 'Miss', so forgive me if I slip and call you 'Miss Kelly'."
Cody and Ty snickered and their mom shot them a dirty look. "You two don't need to laugh, just because someone has some manners."
"Where's dad?" Cody asked.
"He's working late."
"Oh, I wanted him to meet Brice," Cody sighed. "Well, next time, I guess."
"Hey, Brice, can I ask you a favor?" Ty asked.
"If you are taking Cody somewhere after school, would you mind giving me a ride home so I don't have to ride the cheese wagon?"
"Aw, poor baby," Cody teased.
Ty reached over and grabbed his brother in a headlock.
"If you don't kill my best friend, then I'll drop you off, Ty."
Ty let Cody go. "Thanks, Brice."
Cody dramatically rubbed his hands around his neck. "Mother, aren't you going to punish your last born?"
"No," Kelly laughed. "And if you keep it up, next time I might help him."
Cody looked around. "Where are my boys? They're the only ones in this house that love me."
Ty laughed, "They're out back. I wasn't sure when you were coming home."
"So you kicked them out?"
"No, I let them out to do their business, and they were having fun out there so I let them stay out."
"Ok, thanks then," Cody shrugged.
"Well, I need to get going," Brice said.
"Thanks for dinner," Cody said. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Yeah, I'll seeya first thing," Brice replied. "Nice to meet you, Mi—uh, Kelly."
"You too, Brice."
Brice spent the ride back home mentally smacking himself. He needed to figure out his feelings for Cody and Justin before one of them, or all of them, got hurt.
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