The Move

by Doug Smith

Chapter 49

Dan

We spent longer than we'd planned at the arcade, almost three hours. It was fun even if I wasn't a big fan of the arcade or video games. Scott even got me to play a few games. Mainly, he got me to demonstrate my ineptness. Everyone thought it was funny that both he and Tommy could easily beat me at any game, even the one where two of the game characters fought each other. I guess I was better at real fighting than using a joystick to control an avatar in a video game.

I didn't even understand the language Tommy and Scott were talking. They were tossing around words like aimbot, button mashing, circle strafing and camping like I should understand what they meant. I did caution him not to talk about bullet hell when he got home though.

I heard Tim joking with Josh after one game where Scott easily trounced me. He laughed, saying he hoped I was better with Josh's joystick than the one on the arcade game. It was a good thing Scott was doing a victory dance and off to another game with Tommy and Tim's brother so he didn't hear anything. I doubt anyone could hear anyway given how loud things were.

"For a straight boy you're pretty interested in our side of the street," I smiled.

"I was just looking out for Josh. You didn't look like you knew what you were doing."

"No worries Tim," said Josh. "Dan definitely knows how to handle my joystick."

"Of course, I use more than my hands," I smiled.

"Plus my joystick gets bigger and harder the more Dan handles it," added Josh.

"Okay, I guess I asked for this," said Tim, shaking his head. "Seriously though, and you'd better not tell this to Abby, but under the right circumstances, I might… might, mind you, let another dude suck me, but I'd never do it in return. I'm fine with you guys doing whatever but..."

"It's okay Tim. We get it. You're not gay. We're not straight, so we could say the same thing about things you might do. But, I wouldn't recommend letting a guy blow you."

"Why not? Some gay dude might like what I've got."

"I'm sure someone might be that hard up, but think about it. It would set the bar too high. No girl could ever live up to your expectations after that," I said, with my arm around Josh, smiling. "But then again, your cousin did say he'd do a straight guy so you might be in luck."

"Gross," said Tim. "No way!!"

Josh laughed. "Let's go Dan. I'm thirsty. Stop teasing the straight boy."

"He started it… again," I laughed. "Do you want to have something to drink with two gay boys?" I asked. "I promise, we won't gang up on you… even though you might enjoy it."

The best part of the afternoon was that both Josh and I were able to temporarily forget everything that had been happening, what was waiting for us at home, that Jake would be here tomorrow… all of it, if only for a few hours. The arcade seemed to be a popular place. A lot of guys someone knew from school or elsewhere were there. Some only stayed an hour or so, but others were there as long as we were. Some were friends of Scott or Tommy while others were friends of Chris or Tim, or friends of friends. We were just able to relax without thinking about things. We all needed that.

Of course Scott enjoyed it. As long as we kept feeding him game tokens at least. It was an ego boost when he beat the older kids, not that Scott needed a boost in ego. Especially when it came to his video game prowess. He considered himself the king of video games. And from the high scores he got, he wasn't wrong.

Perhaps I felt too relaxed. At one point I walked up behind Josh while he was watching Scott play Tommy at some game involving zombies and I put my arms around him from behind. He immediately tensed even though he didn't pull away.

"Relax," I said, putting my chin on his shoulder hugging him against me. "This feels good."

"It does, but should we do this here? This is a public place."

A few people were looking but nobody said anything. I couldn't tell if they were looks of disapproval or simply surprise, maybe both. Seeing two boys showing affection was still something not seen every day. That was too bad. Boys didn't show affection between each other because of how people might react so when people did see it then it was a novelty. Maybe someday it will be just as accepted as seeing a girl and a guy together.

Why shouldn't I be able to hold my boyfriend if I wanted and he didn't object? There was a guy and a girl by the snack bar doing the same thing. I was good and at least kept my hands above the waist, not that I didn't think about reaching lower. I'm sure Josh would pull away if I had done that, but I don't do stuff like that in front of other people anyway. I just enjoyed holding him in my arms.

Nick and I did both call home at one point. We had said we wouldn't be long and were there longer than we'd planned. Given everything that's been happening, we didn't want to be late. Maybe we were going overboard, but like Nick said, it was better to be safe than sorry, at least for awhile. We were both surprised when my father told me Nick's parents were at our house so I didn't have to take him home. It sounded like they were having a good time.

The afternoon was good for Chris and Nick as well. They largely hung out together. Maybe misery does like company. At one point, Joey was talking with Chris but that didn't last long. I wasn't positive but I assumed he'd mentioned his group sex sessions and Chris wasn't biting. Joey just smiled before walking away and leaving with Tim. Fortunately, I didn't see him talk with Nick. Not that he hadn't.

Josh and I did talk to Chris for a few minutes before we left. I offered to hold Ryan down while Chris beat him once again, but Chris said he'd wait to see how things played out. He said he might go over to Ryan's house either Wednesday or Friday just to see his reaction for being caught in a lie. I couldn't believe Ryan was being such a dick to him. They were friends, or I thought they were. I thought they cared about each other. Even if he wanted to break up, you don't lie to someone you care about.

Around five, Scott came over wanting more tokens. He said some kids beat his high score on one of the games and he wanted his initials back on top.

"We need to get going," I said. "I just talked to Dad and told him we'd be home soon. They're getting dinner ready."

"Just one more game?" he begged. "I know I can beat his score."

"And then he'll beat yours and you'll want to play again. We'll be here all night."

"Come on Dan, one more game… Please??? Nick is still playing and you have to give him a ride anyway. I'm riding with Josh. I can play another game and we'll still beat you home. Josh? Do you have any tokens?"

I looked at Josh. I didn't want him to be the bad guy. I don't think he wanted to say no but I wasn't going to let Scott play us. Thinking that made me laugh. I sounded like my parents.

"What's so funny?" asked Scott.

"You… Tell you what. We leave now and we'll bring you back this weekend. You can pick out any three games where your scores aren't still the high score and play those. Either that or I'll throw you over my shoulder and carry you out," I smiled, playfully grabbing at him.

"Okay," he said laughing. "Put me down. You promise you'll bring me back?"

"I promise buddy. Now say good-bye to Tommy and I'll get Nick."

We got home around 5:30. Scott rode with Josh while Nick rode with me. Nick's father's car was in the driveway. I wondered why he was there. Nick did too.

Nick's mom was in the kitchen with Mrs. M and my mother. She was just sitting at the counter having a glass of wine while Mom and Mrs. M were making pies. My mother didn't make pies from scratch very often. She didn't have the time. Plus it's just as easy to pick one up at the store. She really only did it at holidays and then only Thanksgiving and Christmas. She said her mother used to do it and it reminded her of baking pies with her. Holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas were important to her and she loved the old-time family aspect of them. I kind of took what our holidays were like for granted and assumed everyone's were similar. However, when Josh had said this was the first real Thanksgiving he could remember, I realized that wasn't the case. Thinking that caused me to give him a kiss on the cheek.

"What was that for?" he asked.

"I love you," I said.

He smiled but gave me a curious look. He was probably wondering what brought that on, not that I'd needed much reason to kiss him today. Neither my Mom nor Mrs. M thought anything of it. They barely noticed, if they noticed at all. Nick's Mom did give me a strange look when we made eye contact, but it wasn't a disapproving look. It was more that seeing two boys together up close was new to her. I'm sure she was thinking of her son, picturing him kissing another boy and telling him he loves him. Until recently, that was something she'd never considered. It is unfortunate seeing two boys together still gives people pause. She didn't say anything though. Instead, she gave me a slight nod of acceptance before talking with Nick.

"Hello sweetheart," she said. "Did you have a good time?"

"Yeah, we've been at the arcade. It was fun. Why are you here?"

"Can't I visit a friend?" Mrs. Wade asked, laughing. "Actually, your father wanted to bring some wine to Dan's parents… as an apology. The Johnsons were courteous enough to ask us to stay. Your father is downstairs playing pool. I think they drank the wine… and then some," she laughed.

"You're all staying for dinner," added Mom, probably for Nick's benefit. "We'll be eating in about half an hour."

"Those pies smell good, Mom," said Josh. "I can't wait until Thanksgiving."

"Oh, these two are for tonight. I'll bake more tomorrow. Don't get used to it though. I only do this at Thanksgiving. Debbie said her son likes apple and lemon meringue so that's what I'm making. Is that true?" she asked, looking at Nick.

"You bet," said Nick, smiling. "We're really staying for dinner?"

"If that's okay with you," his Mom smiled. "Why don't you find something to do until it's ready."

"Let's play Nintendo," said Scott.

I laughed. "Buddy, you've been playing arcade games all afternoon. Don't you ever get tired of them?"

"No," he laughed. "Come on, we can play teams. You and Josh against Nick and me. We'll kick butt."

The sad thing is he was probably right. I don't know how good Nick is but I'm pretty sure I only beat Scott when he lets me win. Josh told me how Scott beat him this morning. Good thing dinner was soon.

"Fine with me, as long as everyone else wants to play," I said.

Our fathers were playing pool when we got downstairs. Actually, Mr. Wade and Mr. M were currently playing while my dad watched. I rarely saw my father after he'd been drinking, but Mrs. Wade was right, they'd had been drinking the wine Mr. Wade had brought over. They weren't drunk but it was obvious they'd been drinking. To me, they just looked like they were having a good time. Yeah, they were acting more like teenagers than adults in the way they were joking around, but we had all been through a lot. They deserved to unwind too.

I felt Josh tense against me however, with a look of panic on his face. "What's wrong?" asked Mr. M, with a worried tone as he noticed Josh looking at the empty bottles. He also saw the wine glass in his father's hand, and immediately ran upstairs without saying a word.

I was pretty sure I knew what was wrong. In fact, I was positive of it. Josh had been living with a drunk for the last eight years. His entire life actually, but from what he'd said, it has been since his mother died that things got really bad. Mr. M wasn't anything like Mr. Sullivan, but Josh didn't know that. Even if he logically knew there was no comparison, he had to have doubts. He only found out about Mr. and Mrs. M a week ago. Of course he was unsure.

My first instinct was to run after Josh. I knew he was freaked out. I wanted to hold him in my arms and make him feel safe. I thought it better Mr. M talk to him though. I know if he thought about it then he'd know why Josh had freaked, but to most people, having a few glasses of wine wasn't a big deal. To Josh, it was a very big deal.

"Mr. Sullivan is a drunk," I said.

His face fell. "Shit," he said running towards the stairs.

Josh

I felt like an idiot. I freaked when I saw my father drinking. All it took was one look and all the memories of the past eight years came flooding back. I thought I had pushed those out of my head. Everything had been so good the last few weeks. I'd forgotten what life could be like.

I know I over-reacted. I can't even imagine what my father must be thinking. He is nothing like my adoptive father. People can have a drink, or a few drinks, without being like that. He would never be like that. I knew that. But, if I did then why was I lying here in a fetal position shaking and sobbing?

"Josh?" asked Mr. M softly, while knocking on the door. "May I come in?"

I didn't really answer. I don't think he was expecting an answer. He just came in and sat on the edge of the bed.

"Josh?" he asked again gently putting his hand on my shoulder. "I'm sorry."

"What? You're sorry? Why are you sorry? I freaked out. I'm sorry."

"Come here," he said pulling me up, wrapping his arms around me. "Don't apologize. I wasn't thinking. I'm not him Josh. I'd never hurt you. I could be three sheets to the wind, which I wouldn't be, but if I was, I still wouldn't do anything to hurt you. I love you."

I didn't know what to say. I wanted to believe that. I did believe it, but saying I did out loud was hard. It was too soon. I should believe it. Aaron had seen how I lived and he knew his father. He told me. Maybe this was like the belief Mr. and Mrs. J and my father need in order to see Aaron in the pictures. They want to believe, but something is holding them back. What's holding me back?

"Thank you," I said. "I really didn't think that. It wasn't that you were drinking wine. It's just the last eight years came flooding back when I saw you," I said with tears in my eyes.

"Josh… that's all in the past. I can't even imagine what things were like for you but that's over. I promise. You're my son."

"I know," I said, feeling comforted in his arms.

"But do you know what it means? It's not just a word."

"What?"

"You being my son. It's more than a word. It's special. One thing it means is that I love you like I've loved only one other person. He's not with us anymore, but if he was I'd love you both the same. I do love you both the same."

"But, how could you?" I wanted to believe him, but how could he love me the same as he did Aaron? "You and Aaron had sixteen years of being father and son. How..."

"Josh… do you believe Dan loves you?"

"Yes, of course."

"Do you think he sees you as a second choice, as second best?"

"We've talked about that. I did, but not anymore. I know he loves me."

"Exactly. It's the same for me. You're definitely not a second-place son in any way, shape or form. That we didn't have those sixteen years together is something we can't change, but it doesn't change my love for you. Or that you're as much my son, who is loved as a son, just like Aaron."

"I've never had that. I'm not even sure I know what it feels like."

"I know. But you have that now. And you'll learn it's real, just like with you and Dan."

"What's going to happen now? Are you going back to Chicago after Thanksgiving? Am I going?"

"That's something we want to talk with you about. In fact, we all wanted to sit down with both you and Dan tonight to tell you what we're thinking and to get your thoughts. Your mother and I have been talking with Kevin and Diane and discussing our options. I think we have a plan. I know you're anxious but can you wait until tonight? It's time for dinner and your friend is here. I'm pretty sure you'll like what we're thinking."

They had a plan? I knew they'd have to decide something, but somehow, having to decide was one thing, while having decided was something else. It felt more real, more immediate. I liked living with Dan, but I know that couldn't last forever. At least until we're older. Plus, if the Michaels were really going to be my parents, my real parents, then we'd have to live like a real family, wouldn't we? I was only sixteen. It's not like I had a choice anyway. I wanted him to tell me what he was thinking but I could wait a couple hours. Besides, I wanted Dan with me.

"Okay," I said as I pulled away.

"Why don't you go run some water over your face and then we'll go downstairs. I'm sure Dan is anxiously waiting," he smiled.

He looked around while I went across to the bathroom and splashed some water on my face. It occurred to me we had been sitting on Dan's bed and we still hadn't changed the sheets from the night before. Good thing I hadn't thought of that when we were talking. Thinking about what Dan and I had done in those sheets last night got me looking forward to later, if you know what I mean. I guess there was no point in changing them now.

When I returned, my father was looking at the small picture of Aaron I had suggested Dan to leave on his bureau. "I remember this day," he said. "At least I can see him in this picture."

"He is in the other pictures too. Don't give up," I said. "Scott thinks it's because you don't believe it could be true."

"What?"

"Scott sees things simplistically. We were talking why he and Mom were able to see Aaron and you and Mr. and Mrs. J couldn't. He said it's simple, you and Mr. and Mrs. J don't believe it could be true. It is true, Dad. Maybe if you believe it's possible then you'll see too."

He looked at me smiling. "Did you hear what you just said?"

"I said if you believe what we told you is true then you could see Aaron too."

"You called me Dad," he said smiling. "I hope that wasn't a slip of the tongue."

I hadn't even been thinking about it. We were just talking and it just came out… naturally. I smiled. "No, it just naturally came out when we were talking. I can't remember the last time I called anyone Dad. It was definitely before I knew what a Dad is and that I didn't have one."

"You have a Dad. Maybe I haven't been there for you like I should have..."

"That wasn't your fault."

"There hasn't been a day in the last sixteen years that I haven't thought about you. I visit your grave… Wow, it seems pretty strange to say that."

"Yeah, maybe we can visit it together and say something to whoever is buried there. He shouldn't be forgotten. He was robbed too. I hope he's in a good place, just like I know Aaron is. It's true Dad. He told us he obviously didn't want to die, but he's happy. He's in a good place."

He smiled sadly. "I hope you're right. I want to see those pictures again. Right now though, let's eat."

Dan was indeed waiting at the bottom of the stairs. I smiled. I know he had wanted to come upstairs but was giving my father and me some privacy.

"I love you," I said.

"I love you too," Dan said. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. We talked. I just panicked. I'm sorry. It was stupid. I thought I'd put all that stuff in the past."

"Don't be sorry. You have nothing to be sorry for. I get it," he said giving me a kiss. I forgot where we were or who was around and pulled Dan into a hug and returned his kiss… passionately. It was only after Scott giggled that I remembered where we were. Nick was smiling, but Mr. Wade had an astonished look on his face. It was probably the first time he'd seen two boys kiss, especially like that.

"If you ever had doubt he loved you then you can rest assured," said my Dad.

"Who are you talking to?" asked Dan.

"Both of you," he smiled.

"That was so hot," said Nick, smiling, as we walked by.

"Sorry," I said to Mr. Wade, who looked a little embarrassed.

"Don't be, I think I'm beginning to finally understand," he said, looking at Nick.

"It's time to eat," called Mrs. J from the dining room. We'd never used the dining room since I'd lived with Dan. We always ate at the table in the kitchen but with so many of us, we wouldn't fit. The dining room was definitely more formal but not overly so. It wasn't like I expected a housekeeper to come out and serve us or anything, but it was like the fancy houses I imagined that happening. Mr. and Mrs. J weren't like that however. This was just a family meal with friends.

I lingered behind holding Dan back while everyone else was sitting down. "I called him Dad," I said. "I didn't even realize it. It felt good."

He smiled. He knew what it meant. "I'm happy for you," he said giving me another kiss.

"Can we separate you two long enough for us to eat?" asked Mr. J. "Does someone have to sit between you during dinner?"

He was joking. At least I think he was joking. He did have a smile on his face. I still felt my face getting red though. I was self-conscious. Everyone was looking at us. At least Dan didn't say anything. If it had just been our friends then I could imagine him making some comment right back, but even he held his tongue. He did smile though.

Dinner was good. Mom and Mrs. J made chicken piccata, lemon buttery angel hair pasta and broiled asparagus wrapped in prosciutto. I never ate like this growing up. Not only was the food great, but everyone was talking and laughing. I don't think I'd ever eaten with so many family members and friends before. Even when my adoptive mom was alive we rarely ate with anyone besides the three of us, and I usually ate alone, making my own meals, after she died. This was a new experience. It reminded me how much my life had changed… and I was beginning to believe it would last.

It was good the table could sit so many people. There were three sets of parents along with four kids and there was still room for at least two more although we'd be cramped. Dan was sitting next to me and Nick was sitting next to him. They were talking, but it didn't bother me, especially when Dan reached over under the table and squeezed my hand. I know I don't have anything to worry about anyway, but that simple gesture made me feel so relaxed and loved. It told me that even when he's talking to someone else he's thinking about me. It's the same for me.

That's how it is between us now. While I loved it when Dan had his arm around me or I had mine around him, that wasn't always possible. However, we could make eye contact across a crowded room and I'd see a look that was just for me. Maybe others saw the look on his face but it was for me and me alone. I hope he saw the same thing when I looked at him because his looks generally went into my brain, through my heart and down to my dick. That had its pluses and minuses, mostly pluses, but given we were eating a family dinner, I'd prefer not to get hard.

One thing I noticed was there was no wine on the table. I know that was for my benefit and I felt bad about it. I shouldn't have panicked. I had to remember it wasn't the alcohol that made my adoptive father an asshole. It might have accentuated it, but he was an asshole to start with. I was also somewhat embarrassed everyone knew I freaked out.

"It's okay if you guys want to have wine," I said. "I'm sorry I freaked out. I know it's not the same."

"I, for one, have had enough," said Mr. Wade. "I still have to drive home."

"I'm good," said Mr. J.

"Thank you," I said.

Another difference was that we didn't go around the table to reflect on our day. We hadn't done that since before Dan got hurt. I can understand that since we were in and out, always running back and forth between the hospital. It was also probably a family thing. Families have their own traditions… from what I've heard. I hadn't known what to make of it the first time they'd done it, but it felt good. It helped me see what a family was like.

Mrs. J did ask me about lunch. She asked if Scott behaved himself.

"You mean the human garbage disposal?" I asked smiling, looking at Scott. "He was fine. He felt like a little brother."

"You want him?" asked Dan laughing.

"Hey!!!" said Scott. "Maybe we'll trade you."

Mr. J laughed. "Nobody is trading anyone. Did you have a good time Scott?"

"Yeah, we had pizza… and bread sticks… and, hey," he said. "You said we were going to get ice cream."

"We might have if we could have dragged you away from the video games," said Dan.

"I forgot."

"There will be other times," said Mrs. J.

"Dan said he'd take me back this weekend."

"He did?"

"It was the only thing I could think of to get him out of there," Dan said. "He'd still be playing video games if he had his way."

"I like video games."

"There are other things," Dan smiled.

"Did that woman bother you anymore?" ask Mrs. J.

"No. They left after talking with you. Thanks. Actually, it was Ryan's mother."

"She was weird," said Scott. "Why did she think I shouldn't be with Josh?"

I guess Scott understood more than I thought. At least he didn't know what her problem was.

"She just didn't understand sweetheart," said Mrs. J. "Ryan? Your friend Ryan?"

I explained how they had been there for lunch and how their daughter was in Scott's class and had come over to say hello. I left out the part about how she was the girl who kissed Scott. I don't know if he had told his parents about that or not. I wasn't going to say anything if he hadn't.

"We were wondering how all that came about. You handled it well."

"Thanks. It wasn't my first instinct, but I thought it was better."

"I'm sure," said my Dad. "I'm proud of you son."

Nick's dad looked confused. He was looking back and forth between my father and me. Evidently nobody had told him the Michaels were my parents. I guess I just assumed that since Nick knew, it only seemed logical his father would know too. I looked towards Mr. J. He'd noticed the bewilderment on Mr. Wade's face as well. I think everyone noticed because nobody had said anything for a few seconds.

"I still can't believe it," said Nick. "And I thought I had a lot going on."

"Believe what?" asked Mr. Wade, looking at Nick.

"Umm, I can't believe Mr. and Mrs. Michaels are Josh's real parents..."

"What the h......???"

"It's not common knowledge yet," Mr. J. interjected. "We were keeping it quiet until after the holiday. It looks like someone told Nick."

"I did, at lunch," said Dan. "I didn't think it would be a problem. We were talking about things. It didn't seem right for me to expect him to open up if I was keeping secrets from him. He's our friend. A close friend."

"I get it," said Mr. J. "It's okay. We're just trying to keep it quiet until we can get things straightened out legally. That won't happen until after the holiday. Does anyone else know?"

"Chris, and maybe Ryan," said Dan. "They won't say anything."

"My aunt and cousin do too," I said. "I talked to them when Dan was in the hospital."

"Okay, there's nothing we can do about that now. It probably doesn't matter, but it would be better if this doesn't become public knowledge until we file motions."

"Motions?" asked Mr. Wade. "Should we be talking about this? Whatever we're talking about."

"Everyone here knows," said Mr. J. "Everyone but you evidently. Josh is the boy Jon Kinkaid is representing."

"I assumed that, but I thought that had to do with an unfit father. You were awarded temporary custody, right? What's going on? How can Chris and Jackie be Josh's real parents?"

"Josh is my son," said Mr. M.

"But you live in Chicago. Doesn't he live here?"

"Nick, this did start as an abusive home situation," said Mr. J. "It's evolved. And technically, Diane and I do have custody and Jon is handling all the legal aspects. Before I tell you, I want you to know there could be questions of conflict of interest with my involvement. That was why I initially got Jon involved, but things got more complicated last week."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Josh, you have nothing to worry about. Someone could question my involvement. That's all. First, there was and is your relationship with Dan, but Chris and Jackie are our best friends. Don't worry, any potential conflict is on me. It doesn't affect you. And, Nick, it won't affect the firm."

"Dad?" asked Dan, with a worried look.

"Relax Dan. Everything will be fine. We were actually going to talk to you and Josh tonight letting you know what is going to happen… Nick, the short story is that Josh is really Chris's and Jackie's biological son. He was kidnapped sixteen years ago, two days after he was born. Jon has DNA tests that prove it."

"What???" asked Mr. Wade. "That's… Are you sure? How did you make that connection? The boy Jon is representing just happens to be the son of your best friends from where you used to live? Yeah, I'd say there might be a conflict of interest issue. Even if there is none, there is the appearance of impropriety to worry about."

"Nick, we can talk about that after dinner. I've taken steps to mitigate that potential. That's why Jon is involved. The firm is protected… But, that's not my top concern. This is personal to me. Chris and Jackie come first. I'm doing the right thing here. And for the record, I didn't know, or seriously consider, the possibility of all this when it started, despite Josh's physical appearance."

"Kevin, relax, I'm on your side. I'm just surprised. I wasn't expecting this. I don't get it though. I see some resemblance between Chris and Josh but they don't look that much alike, at least to me. How did you connect the dots that Josh is Chris's and Jackie's son. What am I missing? You just moved here. It's like finding a needle in a haystack."

"It's okay Kevin. You can tell him," said Dad.

"Nick, there were actually two needles in that haystack. Chris and Jackie had another son... Josh's identical twin… he died two years ago. His name was Aaron."

"Aaron? Dan's friend Aaron? The boy you told me about? Holy shit!!!! Sorry, but I've changed my mind. I will have that wine… This is incredible. And now Dan and Josh are boyfriends? Nicky is right. I thought we had a lot going on."

"Jon is handling most of it."

"Thank you for telling me, but we should talk," said Mr. Wade. "I'd like to help. And you telling Nicky," he said, looking at Dan and me. "Well, it says a lot about your friendship… thank you."

"You can talk later. Enough of this for now," said Mrs. J. "Does anyone want anything else? Nicky, you've been pretty quiet. Have you had enough?"

"Mom, he prefers Nick," said Dan.

She smiled. "Nick, do you want anything else?"

"No, thank you. I know there is pie for dessert. I saved room for that."

"Me too," said Scott.

"There's no doubt you have room for pie. Does everyone want pie now or should we wait?" asked Mrs. J.

"Now," said Scott causing everyone to laugh.

Mrs J and Mom went to get the pie. Mrs. Wade offered to help but Mrs. J told her to sit. It didn't take long before they were back with two pies, plates and a pot of coffee for the adults. I had had coffee before, but I wasn't a fan.

"I want to thank you for inviting us for dinner," said Mr. Wade. "It's been eye-opening."

"In what way? Besides Josh being the Michael's son?" asked Mr. J. "It's just family dinner."

"Don't take this the wrong way, but I've been worried how things are going to be between Nicky and me. I've accepted he's gay but I've been worried things are going to change between us. You treat Dan and Josh like anyone else."

"They are like anyone else, Nick."

"I know. I know. That's not what I meant. Seeing you all interact has been enlightening. Maybe it's the difference between walking the walk and talking the talk. I just hope Nicky and I can be like you are with Dan and Josh. Especially when he brings home a boyfriend."

"It hasn't always been easy Nick. You'll be fine."

"And I have brought home a boyfriend, Dad. You just didn't know. I hope to bring him home again."

"I hope you can. He, or anyone you bring home, will be welcome."

After dinner, Dan, Nick and I went up to Dan's room to talk. I still wasn't used to calling it our room even though it was ostensibly mine too. At least until my parents decided what was going to happen. They were all downstairs having another cup of coffee and Scott was, you guessed it, in the family room playing Nintendo. Of course he wanted us to play but we'd had enough video games for the day. That was an impossibility as far as Scott was concerned. And, since it was just the three of us we did have a chance to talk more openly. Even though people know we're gay, conversation is different when other friends and family are around.

"Your father won't get in any trouble will he?"

"He said not to worry. I hadn't even thought he might be doing something he shouldn't in helping us out. We can talk to him about it later. How are you doing Nick?"

Nick was swiveling around in Dan's desk chair while Dan and I sat back on the bed. Dan had his arm around me and I was leaning against, him but we weren't doing anything inappropriate. Nick was taking everything in however. He was looking around the room, gazing at Dan's trophies, and even looking at the dirty clothes in the corner. We weren't the neatest teenage boys.

"Dan, do you play the guitar too?" asked Nick.

"That's actually my guitar, but we both do," I said. "Dan's guitars are in the closet. Do you play?"

"Sorry, I assumed it was Dan's. I didn't know either of you played. I've been playing since I was eight."

"We both do," said Dan. "Maybe we can play sometime."

"Sure, that would be fun," said Nick, but then getting a serious expression. "Can I ask you something?" he asked.

"Go for it," said Dan.

"Well, I know you're living here Josh. I, ah, was wondering… when Chris said you already had a room… do you guys actually get to share a room?"

Nicky was a little hesitant with his questions. Dan just smiled.

"Technically, my room is across the hall," I said. "At least that's what the woman from social services thinks. And please don't tell anyone otherwise, but yes, I've pretty much moved in with Dan. I've only slept in my room once."

"He still won't call it our room though," Dan smiled. "I'm working on that."

"Wow! And your parents are cool with that? I'd be happy just to be able to put my arm around my boyfriend in front of my parents. Did you see the look my mother gave you when we got home and you kissed Josh?"

"It was probably the first time she'd seen anything like that. She didn't look like she disapproved though. She was probably just imagining you with a boy."

"Maybe, but that's still not sharing a room."

"At first we tried to hide it," I said. "Dan's mother knew though. She said something as we were going out the door for school to let us know we hadn't fooled her."

"But you guys get to sleep together," said Nick. "You're so lucky. I can't imagine my parents allowing that."

"It doesn't suck," Dan smiled. "But we do."

"Dan!!" Like I said, conversation was different when it was just us.

"Oh come on. Tell me Nick didn't know that. At least I didn't tell him about your leash," he laughed.

"What??" asked Nick. "Are you serious?"

I just shook my head. "No, he's not serious," I said. "Dan thinks he's funny. He better not try comedy as a career. It's definitely not his strength."

"Ouch," he said, pulling me against him. "I guess I'll have to fall back to porn."

"You better come up with something better than that too. Your cock isn't big enough. You'll starve."

"Asshole," he said smiling. "You weren't complaining last night. Scott said you woke him up with your noise."

"He did not… did he?" I asked. I didn't think that was true, but it could have been. God, that would have been embarrassing. Not as embarrassing as my parents hearing me, but embarrassing nonetheless.

"No," he smiled. "Seriously, Nick, we are lucky. Not everyone's parents would let their sixteen year-olds who they know are gay sleep together. It's probably a double standard. Tim would say so. I doubt my parents would allow it if Josh was a girl. They'd have less to worry about if he was a girl. I'm not going to complain though. Yes, we have sex. I'm sure our parents know that, but they also know we'd find a way regardless. Sex aside though, the best part is falling asleep and waking up with Josh in my arms… not to mention his hard cock against mine.

"I know what you mean," said Nick. "I don't know if my parents will ever let me sleep over with Danny again, assuming that could ever happen, but Danny and I always slept naked when he slept over. We had sex, but just being close was the best part. I love him… so much. We learned as we went. Everything was new to us. We learned together. It was hot."

Nick had a starry look in his eyes. He was definitely thinking about the times he and Danny had been together. If the look on his face didn't give it away then the bulge in his jeans certainly did. Nick was thin and not very tall. Small framed I guess you'd say. Yeah, he was young, but some guys just look good in jeans. His were faded around his crotch and they bulged out in the right place. His jeans fit like one of the kids you'd see in a jeans ad on TV. I probably shouldn't have stared, but I am gay and it's not like Nick noticed anyway. His mind was definitely somewhere else. Dan noticed though. He was smiling… and hard. We both were.

"Don't give up, Nick," Dan said. "I know it sucks and it's bleak and you're hurting, but miracles can happen. Look at me. Yesterday, I was practically wrapped in bandages and today I'm fine. I'm not saying you'll wake up tomorrow and everything will be wonderful, but don't give up."

"I can't imagine what he's going through. What if they convert him? What if they convince him it really is wrong for him to love me? What if it really is wrong? We say this is how we are, that God made us like this, but how do we know?"

"You can't think like that Nick. Don't doubt yourself. Besides, I know," Dan said.

"I do too," I added.

"How do you know for sure?"

Dan looked at me. I knew what he was thinking. He was holding his phone, silently asking me if we should do this. I just nodded.

"Nick, I want to show you something. And I'm going to ask you something that will seem strange, but just answer me, okay? I'll explain. You have to promise you won't tell anyone though."

Nick gave Dan a funny look, but nodded. Good thing the door was shut.

"What do you see in this picture?" asked Dan, showing Nick one of the pictures we took last night.

"Huh? What do you mean?"

"Nick, I know it's a strange question. Humor me. Just tell us what you see."

"It's a selfie. There's you and Josh and some other guy. He looks like Josh, but a little younger. You're standing in front of a cabin or something? What's this about?"

"Does he look like this?" asked Dan, getting one of the pictures of him and Aaron together from his desk drawer."

"Of course he does. You can see that as well as me. He's right there. What does this have to do with anything?"

"That's Aaron," I said.

"Aaron? Your boyfriend Aaron?" he asked, looking at Dan.

"The one and only," he said, smiling. Nick obviously hadn't connected the dots yet.

"Okay, that's cool, but I still don't see what that has to do with anything."

"We had to make sure you saw him in this picture," Dan said, indicating the picture on his phone. "Not everyone does. Of course we do. Scott and Josh's Mom do too, but my parents and Josh's Dad just see Josh and me.

"What?? That doesn't make any sense. He's right there. How can they not see him?"

"It's true," said Josh. "You can ask them if you want, but hear us out first. It's important. We don't want them or your parents asking why we're telling you this."

Nick looked totally confused. I knew he was getting frustrated. If it wasn't us telling him then he probably wouldn't even listen but he knew we wouldn't be joking about a thing like this. Still, the look on his face was questioning.

"Nick… think for a minute. Didn't I tell you Aaron died almost two years ago??"

"Yeah, that sucks, but what does that have to do with anything?"

"And Josh has lived here all his life and never knew him?"

"Yeah."

"Then how could Josh and Aaron be in the same picture?"

That made him pause. You could see him thinking. It was like the gears were turning inside his head as he stared at the picture. It was kind of cute. Of course Nick is cute anyway.

"He couldn't. It has to be fake."

"Would we do that to you? And even if we did, then why do only some people see Aaron?"

Nick was definitely trying. He wanted to believe. He knew Dan and I wouldn't do something like this if it was all fake yet his mind wouldn't go there to accept the truth.

"It's not fake," I said. "It's Aaron, Dan and me. It was taken last night."

"What???? Now I know you're making this up. How could it be taken last night?"

"You saw me yesterday. Right?" asked Dan.

"Yeah, of course."

"Did I have bandages and cuts and other wounds?"

"Yeah, I couldn't believe it when I saw you today."

"Right, now there's nothing. Do you see anything wrong? It's like nothing happened… Get ready to catch him Josh… That's because Aaron healed me."

"What??? Is this a joke? Are you both crazy? Why are you doing this?"

"A couple of reasons. One, I was curious. When we told our parents what we're about to tell you, we told them the next part first and tried to use the pictures as proof. Everyone saw different things but they knew what to expect. You didn't. I was curious what you'd see. And two, because we need you to believe miraculous things can occur if you're going to believe what we're going to tell you next."

"Do you have any other explanation?" I asked. "People don't heal overnight. Do you want us to get Scott up here? He can tell you about the picture. We care about you Nick. We wouldn't play a joke on you over something as serious as this."

"Next you're going to tell me you talked with Aaron and he told you God said being gay is okay."

"Well, I wasn't going to get right to that, but yeah, that's exactly what we were going to tell you."

"Close your mouth Nick," Josh smiled.

"Maybe I should explain."

Dan spent the next twenty minutes explaining how Aaron came to him when he passed out at school and again when he was in the hospital. He told him about the in-between, how we had both gone there last night, about Aaron's 'trial', the pictures, of which he showed him more, including a video where Aaron was talking like he had died. I hadn't even seen that one yet. Even though I knew what to expect, it was still weird watching. Nick just looked at us."

"We're not joking with you Nick. It really happened," I said. "I understand your doubt, but I promise, it's all true."

"Anyway, I asked him," Dan said. "I asked him if we were right about being gay. I believed we were talking to Aaron and he had to know about the afterlife and all that, so he should know, right? He wouldn't tell me yes or no, but what he did say was that he's gay and he's not in purgatory. He said things are good and he's happy. He told me to follow my heart… and to love his brother. And that's exactly what I'm going to do… on both counts," he said giving me a kiss. "Given that, I have to believe whatever God is out there has no problem with us being gay."

"I know this is all hard to believe," I said. "I would have my doubts too, but, it is true. I was there. I talked to my brother. We took a walk to the waterfalls where he died. He showed me the rocks he fell from. Dan and I were both there. If we were dreaming then we both had the same dream. I promise you it's real, Nick."

"You promise you're not making this up just to see how gullible I am?"

"We wouldn't do that Nick. We might tease you, but not about something like this. Josh might, but I wouldn't"

"Asshole," I said. "Honest Nick. It's real."

"You guys are either crazy, high or telling me the truth. It's so unbelievable, but I believe you. I know you wouldn't lie to me. And even if the picture was fake, then what about the video? And you being healed... And moving here… Wow!!! But how does this help Danny?"

"We need more information," Dan said. "I want to know more about what they're doing to him. I've heard about all kinds of gay conversion 'therapies'. It's more like abuse. I can't believe they're legal. He said he has to meet with that reverend and pray. Are they making him do anything else? We can't speculate. We need facts, but if they are, then someone will help… my father, your father, Lieutenant Henderson… someone."

"He may not tell us," said Nick. "He was pretty reluctant to say much when we texted."

"Let's take it one step at a time. He might tell us things he might not tell you. He doesn't want to hurt you. Plus, it was the first time he was able to text. He was probably worried he'd get caught. Remember Nick… Operation Save Danny. We'll figure this out."

"Operation Save Danny?" I asked. "Who came up with that?"

"Dan!!!" yelled Scott while banging on the door. "Mr Wade said they're leaving and wanted me to get Nick. What are you guys doing in here," he asked when I opened it.

"I laughed. We're just talking Scott. What have you been doing?"

"Playing tennis," he smiled.

"There's a surprise. Tell Mr. Wade we'll be right down."

"Okay," he said running down the stairs.

"You ready?" Dan asked looking towards Nick. "Remember, no telling anyone what we told you."

"Like anyone would believe me," he laughed. "It's cool though. I wish you could get Aaron's help with Danny."

"I don't think it works that way," said Dan. "If we could, we would."

"You ready Nick?" asked Mr. Wade when we got downstairs.

"Yeah, thanks Dan," said Nick, surprising me, giving Dan a hug. "Thanks for today. I needed it. Call me if you hear anything?"

"Anytime," said Dan, returning Nick's hug. "Hang in there. We'll figure it out. We'll talk to you soon."

It surprised me even more when Nick gave me a hug. "Thank you too, Josh." I returned his hug looking at Nick's parents who were watching while they were saying good-bye to our parents. Hopefully, they will be as cool about things once they're alone with him as they appear now.

"Hey Nick," said Dan, hopefully quiet enough so nobody else heard. "Hands above the waist."

Nick just smiled. "I'm shorter," he said. "It was an accident."

"Nick, time to leave," said Mr. Wade. I don't know if he had heard us or not. He didn't seem upset.

"Have a good Thanksgiving, Nick. We'll be in touch."

"You're going to see each other Thursday," said Mrs. J. "We invited them to spend Thanksgiving with us."

"Really?" asked Dan. "That's cool. We'll have a crowd."

"That's one of the things we want to talk with you about," said Mr. J. "Your cousin isn't coming."

"What?? YES!!!!! There is a God... Why not?"

"Don't be so upset," said Mr. J. "We'll talk later… and you're still not off the hook."

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