When Shadows Pass

by Sean English

Chapter 14

The World According to the Candy Man (Part II)

During breakfast the following morning, there was an air of enthusiasm that permeated the Flavell household. The boys ate quickly and, having already acquired permission from their parents, rapidly prepared for the day to come. True to form, the weather outside was rainy and cold, but it did nothing to dampen their spirits. When they finally descended from the flat mid-morning, with Simon in tow, they set off. The elder Flavell had once again agreed, due to the weather, to drive the boys up to the stadium. Upon arrival, they bade their farewells, and quickly jogged to the far end of the field. There they found other members of the team already gathering underneath the stands.

"Oi there, Flavell!" one of the guys called out, a rather large fellow by size as Jason noted. As they approached, the teen raised his fist into the air between them by way of greeting, and Derek met it in return. As they bumped, he continued. "Glad you made it. I take it this is Elliot?" The younger brother grinned and met the offered fist as well.

"Yeah! Michael, right? What's up?" Elliot spoke up. Before the larger boy could reply, however, the sky seemed to open suddenly, and let loose a drenching downpour. They moved further inside the imperfect shelter, up close to the building where they were protected from most of the cloudburst. There, Derek introduced the boy as Michael Lawson, the team captain. When Jason was introduced, the bigger teen grinned wide. "So, you're the one who stood up to Crap-Ass, right? Way to go brother, way - to - go!" To emphasize the point, he purposefully made a high-five, which Jason recognized and met with a sheepish grin. Michael grinned back. "Been hearing about you some. I take it you're from the States, right?"

"Yeah, guilty as charged," Jason replied, to which the older youth laughed.

"Hey, nothing wrong with the Yanks as far as I'm concerned, so no worries mate. Hey, Allen!" Michael called another teen over, who had just arrived. "Meet the new Yank here, Jason I think. Was that right?" Jason nodded and then exchanged greetings with the newcomer, a tall, dark-skinned kid who was visibly shivering. Noting this, Michael shrugged. "Don't mind him, he's always freezing when it rains," he quipped.

"So what, Mike? Its fucking wet out here man! Where is coach, anyway? Blimey, I'm freezing my balls off as it is!" the teen exclaimed.

The boys laughed out loud, then noted two adults rounding the corner of the building. As they approached, one called out. "Morning, boys! Come on over!" The group hurriedly complied, as the man unlatched the door's padlock, and then stepped back once the door was free. The cluster quickly moved inside. "Bugger of a morning out there, ain't it?" the man said, before closing the door. "Ready for the big match?" he asked, turning to face them. He then noticed Elliot and Jason. "Ah! Hallo boys, I'm Coach Walton. I think you're Elliot, right? We've met a time or two as I recall." Elliot nodded, and then the man turned his attention to Jason. "This other one here... Is he your new boarder?" he asked, directing his attention to Derek.

"Yeah, Coach. This is Jason Mathews," Derek introduced.

This caused the coach to grin widely. "Ah, yes! Hallo Jason! Been hearing a lot of good things about you this week! How's it going?"

"Err, uh... going good I guess, sir," Jason replied.

They chatted for a few minutes, and then the older man looked at his watch. "Others should be getting here any time now. All you boys want to head on down to the lockers?" He dug a set of keys from within his coat pocket and, singling one out, handed the whole ring to Derek. "Go on, open it up and bring the keys back. It'll be a little warmer down there than it is here, too. I'll fire the heat up when I get down there, if it isn't already on."

"Sure, coach!" Derek led the way down the corridor and turned right, the boys following as he approached another set of doors. Inserting the key and unlocking it, he then stepped inside and flipped the lights on. The other players entered as well, but Elliot held Jason back. Both hesitated, unsure until Michael turned to them and jerked his head, as if to say, 'What are you waiting for?' Both smiled at each other as they followed him inside, and the door shut behind them.

Jason never had the luxury of seeing, or being in, a locker room quite like this before. The room was of reasonable size and could hold as many as 25-30 people comfortably. Stacks of square, enclosed lockers stretched the length of the room along two walls. Overly wide benches extended in front, providing places where players could sit if desired, presumably while they changed. Jason noted that all sorts of shoes and other paraphernalia were already stored and huddled underneath the benches – more than there were people present to account for. Each of the room's corners held coat racks, designed for holding jackets or other specific weather gear. Various coats and hoodies from the group were already beginning to lodge there.

The room was also brightly lit, with a flow of long LED lights overhead. They illuminated the bright, contrasting colors of both dark red and white that trimmed the room throughout. The floors hosted a like-new carpet, with a close-cut, rugged outdoor meshing. When he and Elliot stepped onto it, Jason found it was much softer than it looked. The coach was correct in surmising the room was warmer. Although outdoors it was damp and chilly, this room was warm and cosy. And very, very dry.

Looking beyond, a sizeable archway was cut into the framework of the far wall, opening into another well-lit room beyond. At first glance from their vantage point, little could be seen inside, other than that it did not seem to be carpeted, or have some of the rich colors as the one where they stood. Jason did see concrete floors, and basic off-white paint along the wall. He moved, drawing closer to the room out of curiosity. On one side, there appeared to be a large, low-slung sink of some sort, stretching about half the length of the room. Just as he was starting to study and wonder about its purpose, one of the team members happened to step up and push the front of his shorts down. As he began to pee, Jason realized it was a large communal urinal. Glancing quickly at Elliot, who was watching him with the slightest of grins. Jason grinned sheepishly, embarrassed at not realizing what the porcelain structure was. The urinal was totally open to the room and to anyone standing around, a fact that registered with Jason, but not without a sense of surprise.

Elliot slipped up beside him and whispered into his ear just then. "Told ya, mate! That's sort of like the ones we have in the gym, too. Well, for the boy's lockers, anyway. I'm sure the girls lockers are different."

Jason smiled, shaking his head before turning toward the room again. At the far end were two, door-less alcoves that faced them. Inside, Jason could see toilet bases, and he immediately understood they were there for non-urinating purposes. The alcoves did not offer much in the way of privacy, but Jason figured that probably wasn't considered necessary.

On the other side of the room, which Jason could now plainly see, were open-floor showers. The showerheads were evenly spaced along the walls, with shelves underneath holding a variety of bottles, presumably soaps and shampoos. Along the floor leading up to the shower section were stretches of benches again, but not nearly as wide as the ones in the locker area. They stretched the length of the room, with breaks along the middle, creating clear paths onto the shower floor itself. As Jason stepped to the edge of the archway, he saw that on wall to their left, just inside the opening, a large stack of towels was situated on a wide trolley. On the opposite wall, next to the toilet alcoves, were three rather large bins. Elliot pointed to them and whispered again, "That's for the team's dirty clothes and everything." Jason nodded.

Before turning back into the outer room with the lockers, Jason noticed what both Elliot and Derek had been telling him all along. In this room, there were no walls, no dividers, no curtains - nothing that even remotely suggested privacy in any way. There was open space around everything. He once again concluded that, perhaps in this room, modesty had no place among the players and their fellow teammates. It was cool, in its own way, but it also left Jason feeling a little funny inside. He quickly shook that off, however, as Elliot led them back the other way.

Other team members began arriving by now as Elliot and Jason moved closer to where Derek was chatting with some of the guys. Thanks to Michael's infectious attitude, the other team members also turned and warmly welcomed Jason and Elliot both. Many laughed and congratulated Jason on his handling of Mrs. Crabtree, and a few minutes were spent extracting details from him about the encounter. Others were also paying attention by then, and when Jason recited the part about her blindness and age, all cracked up loud with laughter. Some of the teens even offered Jason the traditional high-five again, which he met without shyness or anxiety. Most also expressed pleasure at seeing Elliot, and were grateful he survived his episode against 'Big Eric'. The ease with which the team included the two, made Jason begin feeling much more comfortable around them. He decidedly liked Derek's teammates, and was glad that he and Elliot could come and hang out with them.

As the minutes passed, the room came alive with chatter from all four corners, people joking and laughing, or horsing around. The excitement for the game was also brewing, but Jason noted the guys seemed to purposefully be waiting for something. A few of the teens had removed their shoes and placed them under the benches, but that was the point where they stopped. No one, Jason noted, made any move to undress or prepare for the upcoming match. At first he figured it might be because he and Elliot were there, so he glanced at Elliot, wondering if perhaps they should leave.

Elliot saw this and surmised his cousin's thinking. Leaning close, so that only Jason could hear, he explained. "They're not allowed to change while there are adults in the room, like the coach. See, they have to wait until he comes in and talks to them, which he always does. Then when he leaves, it's like the signal that no one else will enter, unless someone on the team is running late or something. That's when they start stripping down and putting on their uniforms."

Jason raised an eyebrow at that. "Really? That's- that's cool, then."

Elliot nodded. "I don't know about the States, but adults are looked at funny over here, especially coaches. When you're in school, most peeps don't want to take the chance of being checked out by coaches, or teachers. Any adults, for that matter. You know, being ogled by some perv or anything." He grinned. "Not like us, we can perv all we want to! But, once you're out of school, it's um, well, it's different."

Jason nodded his understanding. "Yeah, okay, I get it now," he replied. He suddenly spied a very tall teen in the group with red hair. Nudging Elliot, he asked quietly, "Is that him?"

Elliot followed his gaze and then quickly nodded. "Oh yeah, that's him. Sean Hester – 11th year beanstalk! Tall – in more ways than one!" he added, nudging Jason in the ribs and grinning. Jason once again blushed, but he let the moment slide.

Just then the door suddenly opened and the coach entered alone. Approaching the center of the room, he began speaking out with a clear voice. "Okay, listen up boys," he beckoned. As they quieted, his voice changed to a more normal level, but it seemed to easily project itself into every corner of the space. "As you know, this is the final game of the year, and we're tied on the neck with the race. So, the game is going to go on as planned, even with this nasty weather we're facing. The good news is that forecasters are saying we should get a break about 90-minutes in. If so, the back half of the game should be a little better overall - though I am sure the field will still be just as wet and muddy as ever."

The man drew himself up and looked deep into the eyes of every person present in the room as he continued. "We all know there is nothing special at stake here today. This is only the mid-season break until after the holidays. I couldn't get us well enough along for anything special, yet. For that I, not you, take responsibility. You boys play with your hearts, and no one could ask for any better. We've had our successes, and we've had our tough ones. But, like many of you, I think there is so much more to enjoy and celebrate when we put one away, right? That's what I want to see today. I want you to be ready! I want you to put your heart into it, and I want you to show them..." The others started to raise their own voices in a low chant. It made the man grin. "I want you to show them our pride, and I want you to show those buggers we dare them to come here, on our turf, and think they can walk away with an easy victory! I want you to show them what you're made of! Show them you've got more balls than they've got tits, you hear me? Make them go home respecting us boys, win or lose, and I guarantee you they'll be talking about this game for months to come!" A roar went up from all those in attendance. Jason could not help but grin, not so much at the salty language, but at the overall short speech itself. It was intended to pep them up, and it succeeded. For a game he really had never taken an interest in before, Jason found himself gradually changing. He was clueless about what they did, or what the rules were, but Jason couldn't wait to see these guys in action. He listened as Derek and Elliot joined the others until the crescendo reached a high note, then climaxed when they all broke out into thunderous applause. The coach finally waved them down and spoke up. "Okay, there seems to be a bigger crowd today than I expected, despite the weather, so prep up boys. Be ready to go to the field in about 20 minutes!" With that he turned and headed to the doorway, and then was suddenly gone.

True to Elliot's description, the scene changed rapidly. All the boys in the room, except for Elliot, Jason and two other younger teens nearby, assumed to be brothers of other players, started peeling and shedding their street clothes. Various cupboards on both sides of the room were being opened, where within each lay an assortment of clothing matched up to the respective sizes of their players. Elliot had engaged one of the other youths in conversation, while Derek began changing. For some reason, Jason felt funny being where he was, isolated and sitting alone on the bench. He tried to act nonchalant, but he found it awkward watching the others in their various state of undress.

That is, until he suddenly felt someone sit beside him. Turning, he saw Michael had once again sidled up to him. This time however, the youth was clad only in a set of boxers. As he put his watch and other items away into a small bag, he turned to Jason. "Ever been to one of our football games before?" he asked, smiling.

Jason shook his head. "Uh, no, not really. I haven't uh, had much of a chance."

Michael nodded as he then pushed his street clothes into his locker, which Jason noticed was on the bottom, right in front of them. He thought about scooting sideways somewhat, but Michael had already finished and was closing the hatch. "That's still cool, though," Michael mused as he donned his jersey. Jason could not help but freeze momentarily, because as the teen pulled the jersey on, his legs happen to spread in such a way that his whole groin was displayed in the opened gap of the youth's boxers. Jason blushed, but could not help admiring the view just then as the older teen stood up and pulled on a pair of shorts. The garment hugged his legs tightly. "Sheesh, why do they have to be so tight?" he mused absently, then returned his attention to Jason. "You'll get to see what it's all about. We've not been a very good team this year. It's not his fault, but like coach said, we've just gone up against better teams and players, that's all. We still like to play, still like to try. That's all that matters." Jason agreed with him, trying shyly to keep eye contact with him and not watch 'other' things happening around them.

Elliot noticed, however, and nudged Jason's elbow. Smiling, he moved close and cupped his hand to Jason's ear. "Relax bro, everything is cool. This stuff is nothing, they're not even getting naked or anything. Honest, this is no different than you or me changing in Phys Ed, or even getting ready for bed." Jason had not realized how rigidly he had been sitting, but at those words he visibly relaxed. He saw Michael smile at him once more, and wondered if the teen had caught on to him. However, Michael moved off to chat with some of the others on the team, leaving Jason to sigh with relief.

The group moved outside at last to the team box, and it was from here both Jason and Elliot were about to head up into the stands. As they stood searching for Simon and Natalie, however, the team coach quietly came up behind them. "You two can come into the dugouts, too, if you want," he muttered to them. "Since it's the last game and all, it's okay with me. I don't think the guys would mind either, but be mindful, hmm? Try to not get in their way, that's all."

Jason looked up. "Y-You sure, coach?"

"Yeah, go on," the main replied, grinning. "It'll be more fun, I'm sure. Get along!" Both he and Elliot grinned widely as they thanked the man, who just smiled back and waved them away.

Jason discovered very quickly that the game was very much like American-based soccer. Stretched over a two-hour period, it consisted of runners moving up and down the fields in all sorts of patterns and directions. The rain, which continued to fall heavily at times, lasted throughout most of the first half. The standing water and slick grass made it tough for the players of either team to get any upper hand. There was much slipping and sliding in the field, and along the non-grassy edges, which resulted in many players getting plenty of mud spats throughout the game. At one point, Derek had to come into the team box on rotation, and physically removed mud from various places on his body. It caused some of the teens to laugh and jibe him, but he was good-natured about it. He wasn't the first, nor would he be the last.

Once the clouds parted, other players faced interminable odds with the colder breeze that followed. During the intermissions, the coach huddled everyone together in the team box, distributing rainwear amongst them. There were not quite enough to spread around for all the boys, so many huddled up and shared, utilizing their body heat in the best way possible. Derek stepped up behind Elliot and Jason, with the intention to help shield the two, but all were surprised and pleased when Sean Hester joined him by his side. Jason glanced up with a wide grin to the tall teen and nodded his thanks. Sean stared at him briefly before grunting and nodding in return.

Throughout the game, Jason was mesmerized watching how it unfolded. He asked a ton of questions, not to just Elliot or Derek, but some of the other players, too. Slowly Jason began to understand the various rules, discovering why certain players played the way they did. Gradually his excitement was building, and those who watched him from the sides found it both amusing and cool. Knowing that he had never been in a place such as this, they understood the feeling all too well. Derek and some of his friends watched as Jason would stand atop the benches so he could look out further onto the field, and how he would cheer their successes, yet belittle their losses to the other team. It was his attentiveness, and sharp focus, that pleased the other guys as the game progressed, and there were times they began to join him.

Whether Jason realized it or not, it was his genuine enthusiasm that won the approval of his team mates. They stood with both him and Elliot, every minute of play, explaining things, encouraging, high-fiving and celebrating their victories, as if the two were already members of the team. In the greater sense, Derek realized at one point how true that was. His brother and cousin truly were a part of the team then, and the guys had accepted the American as much as they did the two Flavell brothers. By the end of the game, all were cheering with Jason, as he cheered and encouraged their mates on - all with a sincerity unmatched by any newcomer before.

Unfortunately, when time expired for the final half, Derek's team had lost by a score of 2 to 3. As in American athletics, both teams met together mid-field for handshakes and praises of jobs well done. Even Elliot and Jason, with the coach encouraging them, marched along through the line, bumping fists and giving the occasional high five to the winning group. It had been a tough battle, but neither team seemed to mind it. Derek's team maintained a level of high spirits, despite the outcome.

When they had finished, their coach gathered them all together into the team box for one final time. As they bunched up, he beamed proudly at the group. "I could not be more gratified with you mates, than if you had won a blithering championship! I tell you, without a doubt, this team has the heart of a champion. And after that performance, today? You'd better believe you're all bloody champions! Just wait until the schedule starts back up again after the first of the year! We've still got some surprises in store for anyone stomping our grounds, I tell you!" He paused as everyone grinned back at him. "Now, take your muddy arses and hit the showers! How about we get together one evening next week for a group celebration?"

"Not going to today, coach?" one of the players asked.

"Afraid I can't boys, duty calls me to London this afternoon. But one evening next week, I promise we'll get together. My treat, too! Okay?" Everyone laughed but agreed, and then clapped the man on the shoulder as they each filed out and started heading back to the locker room.

Jason, totally still caught up in the excitement, looked out across the field one last time. The adrenaline was real, and the experience residing inside stayed with him as he relished the action of the game. It stirred something like nothing before, and he found a feeling of euphoria long overdue. He briefly wondered if this might be something he could get into eventually, maybe getting to play and compete as Derek did. Jason had never been a sport-minded individual, but the events of this day had changed his outlook on everything. Maybe, after all, it wasn't so bad.

Hearing someone call his name, he abruptly turned and started following Derek and Elliot back underneath the stands. Without even realizing it at first, they all ushered themselves back inside. As they were moving along, Jason had become separated from his cousins, but was keeping up with the rest of the team. When they reached the locker room, he stopped suddenly and sought out Elliot, who had moved on ahead. It was then one of the players clapped him on the shoulder, all the while chatting with another player. Jason thought for the briefest second, that perhaps he was blocking the way. Instead though, there was a guiding tug, and before he realized it, amongst the press of bodies around him, Jason was steered inside the locker room with the rest of the guys. A sudden feeling of butterflies fluttering in his stomach enveloped him while he was looking onward, but once inside, he and the other teens separated. Jason quickly saw Elliot standing near Derek, so he hurriedly moved to join them. Elliot looked pleased to see him. "Glad you could make it," he stated simply, but winked at his cousin.

"Sorry, kind of got separated," Jason replied.

Derek nodded. "Yeah, it can happen." Elliot gave Jason another brief glance, raising an eyebrow as they stood there nonchalantly, but Derek eyed both boys with a smirk before shaking his head. As Derek sat down, Jason could now see firsthand how much of the field Derek had brought in with him. At some point during the second period, Derek had tried to skid to a sudden stop, only instead sliding and rolling out of control along a long stretch of grass that ended in mud. His whole left side was literally caked, dried mud extending from the tips of his shoes to his shoulder and neck. Adding further insult, the mud made his uniform stick to him now like hardening plaster. Elliot laughed, as he observed his brother's full plight for the first time, which drew the attention of several others nearby. As he kicked off his shoes, Derek peeled off mud that had somehow worked its way into the upper cuff of his sock. Some of his teammates teased him, but he good-naturedly just waved them off. "Don't you blokes know, yet? I happen to like mud baths!"

Derek eventually turned and good-naturedly stuck his tongue out at both Elliot and Jason. Reaching up, he tried to wipe some of the slush that had dried on the side of his face and neck. Then he grimaced. "Hey, how about you buggers giving me a hand in getting this jersey off?"

The scene became interesting as Elliot stood up and moved in. Grunting, he tried to help Derek by grasping the hem of the jersey and pulling it up from his brother's waist. They ran into problems right away, however, as the jersey did not necessarily cooperate. Upon inspection, there were renewed laughs and hoots, as several other teammates started taking notice of Derek's plight. Mud had worked its way inside the seams of Derek's shorts, and as a result it acted as a binding to the garments underneath. The two were quite comical in pulling the matted pieces apart. Before they progressed too far, however, Michael whistled and called out them out. "Hey, guys, take it in the other room, will ya? If you don't, you're gonna sling all the mud and dirt on the floor in here!"

Once again, Derek stuck out his tongue at his team-mate, but rose to his feet. "Yeah, I guess you're right," he acknowledged, and started walking toward the shower room, Elliot following close behind. Jason, not wanting to be left alone, hurried after them and approached the archway. Once at the entrance, he just stopped and leaned against the wall. From there, he could observe his cousins take up the cause again, giggling at their antics. Elliot finally succeeded in pulling the jersey from his brother's head. As predicted, much of the loose dirt fell to the concrete floor. Once Derek's bare skin was visible, it was much easier to imagine why the problem existed in the first place. Elliot stood by as Derek sat on the bench and removed his socks, taking each as Derek gave them up. Then, with a quick glance to the entrance at Jason, Derek winked at his cousin and quickly, in one swift motion, shucked his shorts and boxers simultaneously. Standing as naked as the day he was born, albeit with very grimy skin to bare, Derek handed his last pieces to Elliot. Before entering the showers, however, the older brother walked up next to Jason and grabbed a towel from the shelves. He grinned at his younger cousin, who blushed while observing him the whole distance. "No sweat, see?" Derek whispered ever so softly, before turning and marching back the way he had come.

It wasn't until then that Jason noted there were several others moving into the room as well. Most were as bare as a newborn baby, which made Jason blush again and start to turn away. However, Michael came up beside him and paused, also lacking any clothes. Speaking in a low voice, he nodded toward the far wall. "How about you and Elliot go around and gather up the uniforms, then take them to the hampers over there?"

"Uh, sure!" Jason acknowledged, almost too readily. Before he could have second thoughts, Jason quickly started back into the locker area, lest Michael see the reddening behind his ears. He then started to go through various piles of people's clothes, picking out the uniforms from different perches around the room. Elliot joined him a moment later, grinning. He was about to say something, but then thought better of it. Instead, he bumped shoulders with Jason, who looked up and smiled at him. "Thanks for not leaving me alone."

Elliot smiled back. "Like I told ya, no sweat bro."

Jason giggled. "That's what your brother said."

Elliot grinned before leaning in close. "Hey, everything is fine. Trust me, okay?" Jason nodded in acknowledgement.

By the time Elliot and Jason returned to the archway, the showers had been turned on. The room was alive with what looked to be almost everyone on the team, standing beneath the streams in groups of two to three. Some, like Derek, were trying to clean the dirt and grime away. Others stood about in a leisurely way, soaking up the warm water as it poured over their skin. Some chatted with their mates, laughing or joking with one another. Jason gulped as he watched this, awed at the carefree attitudes each had while they just stood naked, oblivious to everything around them. He glanced at Elliot as he stepped forward, the look of surprise plainly on his face. His cousin just grinned and smirked at him in return. It was hard for Elliot to keep a straight face, but he loved watching Jason right now. It was a new world opening for his cousin, and it felt like there was finally some living proof now. Proof that what he had been telling Jason all along, was coming to pass.

The two moved across the room and started dumping the team's clothing into their respective bins. Upon turning around, there was no way Jason could avoid looking into the showers and the mass of bodies there. If these teens knew or cared that he was in there now, they didn't show it. Many were focused on Derek at that moment, as he was making some joke about the mud getting into one of his ears. While they were giving all their attention to Derek, curiosity got the better of Jason. He glanced around from one youth to the next. None of the teens attempted to shy away or hide themselves. Their loins offered a smorgasbord of uniqueness, yet also similarities. There was nothing Jason could see that was really unexpected, but he was fascinated nonetheless.

Some of the teens had large, dark patches of pubic hair, while others had patches with a lesser fullness. One of the younger-looking boys, even appeared to have no pubic hair at all - which surprised Jason. As he saw one such youth start to turn, however, under the lights he could just make out a small, thin patch. Perhaps he was just a late bloomer, Jason thought. Jason also noticed some of the guys sported partial erections, while others were just as soft and 'normal' as one might imagine. As the guys moved, their penises and scrotums flopped about, with no particular pattern or method, and it caused Jason to do a double-take. He struggled briefly not to giggle or smile at how silly their antics seemed. He spotted one teen in the far corner just then who, for some reason, had a full-on erection. The two he was teamed with, however, didn't seem to pay it any attention.

Lastly, Jason could not help but notice the one thing that fascinated him the most: as far as he could tell, practically every one of the guys was uncircumcised. He couldn't tear his eyes away as readily as he would have wished, bouncing from one to the next as he checked them out. He did eventually turn away and glance towards Elliot, who was taking in the view, too. They exchanged smirks, then Jason glanced back again across the crowd. If anyone noticed them or what they were doing, they didn't let on, which was a huge relief as far as Jason was concerned. He finally joined Elliot at the last of the bins, where they completed their task.

Turning slowly, he and Elliot both paused and watched the guys again briefly. Most had started to use soap by now, and were in the process of scrubbing down altogether. Elliot grinned at Jason, then started back across the room. About halfway over, Jason suddenly noticed he and Elliot had dropped some of the team clothing on the floor. Stooping to pick them up, Jason turned back toward the hampers. It was then, however, he was stopped by a tall, lanky youth coming from the stalls. They collided with one another, going down to the floor in a tangled heap. Elliot turned and saw them, before stopping and giggling.

Jason was so startled, it took him a few seconds to realize what had happened. Glancing over, he saw the red-haired teen he had met earlier. Like the other guys in the room, the teen was stark naked. Sean grinned at him as he disentangled his legs from under Jason's and climbed to his feet, grasping Jason's hand along the way. Pulling him up, Jason came dangerously close to Sean's loins, and at that quick, immediate view he gasped. The teen's package was big, in every meaning of the word. It wasn't any different, natural-wise, from anyone else in the room, but the size was something almost unnatural. Surrounded by a thick, dark set of red pubic hair, Sean's uncircumcised penis hung low, with a length that Jason was sure had to be unmatched. It was even in its natural state, leaving one to only wonder what it was like boned up. Behind it, a thinly-veiled scrotum stretched down almost the same length, carrying two rather large-sized testicles that were clearly visible behind. Jason was unable to keep from visibly gulping as he stared, then sheepishly raised his eyes to meet Sean's as he got to his feet. "Uh… t-thanks!" he said weakly, before looking away.

Sean saw the sudden blush and grinned. "No problem, more my fault than anything mate. I had to use the loo first, so I came out without really looking where I was going," the tall teen spoke. Before letting go of Jason's hand, however, he moved to hold it a second. "I'm Sean, by the way. Sean Hester, Gladstone Heights."

"Uh, yeah, uh…" Jason swallowed hard, then shut his eyes. "I'm J-Jason, Jason Mathews." He quickly shook the hand holding him before letting go. He could feel the other teen's eyes boring into him, and he suddenly felt as if he could die just then. In the span of those few short seconds, Jason had been taking Sean in all over, and there was no mistaking where his eyes had traveled the most.

Jason heard Sean laugh just then, causing him to open his eyes and look upward. There was a brief display of amusement, and even though Jason started turning beet red, he half-smiled in return. Sean then stooped down to pick up the towel he had dropped. Standing, the tall teen shrugged and continued in a low voice, directed at Jason alone. "Don't worry with it, mate. I don't mind, it's okay," he said quietly, before winking at him and moving on towards the showers.

If not for Elliot suddenly standing by his side, Jason felt he would have fainted. He was dismayed with himself at having been so obviously caught, especially after the warnings Derek had so explicitly laid out. When he glanced at Elliot, however, he saw a look of amusement. "Guess I screwed that one up, didn't I?" Jason said, barely whispering.

Elliot, however, shook his head. "Nope, I doubt it. In fact, I'm jealous."

"Huh?"

Elliot leaned in and whispered. "I wish I had been the one to collide with him! Did you see how big he is? Wow! And you got a front row seat, to boot!" He giggled, then picked up some of the items still dropped on the floor. Jason stopped to help him, and then he and Elliot deposited the items into the bins.

Retracing their steps again, Jason did glance at the teens once more. This time he tried to focus on them more as a group, watching how they interacted with one another. Several, in fact, did have partial erections, more than he had realized at first. Quickly glancing down at himself, he was glad that the stiffness he was feeling inside wasn't visible. A side glance at Elliot showed his cousin wasn't showing anything either, but Jason recalled that Elliot had been through this before a lot more than Jason had.

As they were on their way out, Jason listened and was surprised at the snippets of conversation that drifted their way. Although there were some laughs, none of the guys were teasing, or seemed to make references to each other. In fact, it was more tidbits about the game they had just played, or what they were going to do after they finished. Once through the arch, now in the empty locker-room, he made that observation to Elliot.

"Meh," Elliot replied. "You have to understand, these guys do this stuff all the time, Jase. They're already comfortable with each other. Just like that guy sporting the boner in there, he's probably done it lots of times before. Guys may see him and stuff, but heck, they have all probably had boners before, too. They just don't think anything of it, see?" He stopped to sit on the bench. Bending over to tie his shoe, he glanced back up to his cousin to see him thinking hard about something. "What gives?" he whispered.

"I don't know, just… wow," Jason replied. "I mean, I never thought about it being like this, you know?" He suddenly grinned as he blushed. "I don't think I ever really believed you guys, either. I mean, I listened and everything, but now that it's happening? Just … wow!" His expression suddenly changed. "And then I had to go and do that with Sean, of all people."

Elliot laughed. "Jase, trust me, everything was cool. I would have been gawking, too, if it had been me. Heck, I bet others would have too, being up that close to him!"

Jason shook his head, but didn't reply. That was the hardest part he seemed to be coming to terms with. He had no doubt that, if he had been out among them, he would have most likely sported full wood. It would have been uncontrollable, and despite what Elliot had coached him on before, he would be embarrassed. The "why" is what he wasn't sure of. Was it his innate curiosity about the others that would make him pop a boner? Or was it something more? Could he be having the beginnings of something more serious?

Regardless, he was going to have to deal with that later, as some of the guys started coming back into the room just then. Most were drying off, some with towels wrapped around them. Most however, walked as free as if they had just arrived, with no attempts at being modest. Elliot nudged his shoulder with his own while sporting a wide grin, but neither said anything as they observed different ones coming through the open arch.

When Derek came through, he was a completely different person than when he had first entered. What had been muddied and grimy before, was now clean and unsoiled. As he approached them, he sat down while drying his hair. "You guys got all the uniforms up? That's awesome," he commented. Jason stole a glance at Derek's groin, and saw it again was as soft as ever. Glancing around, he saw most everyone else to be in a similar state. He thought about what Elliot had just told him, about the guys being comfortable with one another, and it hit home what that meant. He and Elliot were comfortable with one another now, in their bedroom and other places. It was no different, he guessed, with these guys who played on the team. That thought made him smile and finally relax. Elliot noticed the change, then bumped his shoulder again. "See? No big deal, right? Just relax, bro," he whispered.

"I am, Elliot. At least, I am now," Jason replied in a whisper.

Before he could think anything further, Sean entered through the archway, slowly moving forward while mopping his face. When he dropped the towel to his chest, he saw Jason and smiled at him. Once again, Jason started feeling funny in his stomach, blushing again as he lowered his eyes to the floor. He was uncertain how he was going to feel about this afterwards, but then Sean did something totally unexpected. After stopping briefly by his locker, the lanky teen crossed over and sat down between Elliot and Jason. For a moment, Jason steeled himself, unsure if he was about to be chastised or worse. He still couldn't avoid the fact that the naked teen was now sitting next to him, and quite closely at that. As Sean roped the towel around his back, there was nothing left to the imagination. Jason got a glimpse and then turned back to staring at the floor.

Sean, however, leaned close. "Don't sweat it man, lots of blokes have done it before, and I'm sure you won't be the last. Besides," he added with a grin, "I don't care who sees me in general. I know I'm somewhat different in the downstairs department."

Jason finally looked up at the teen incredulously. "Y-Your s-serious?" When the teen nodded, he began to sigh with relief. "I th-thought you were going to kill me or something!" he whispered.

That made Sean laugh. "Nah, it's cool. You're the Flavell boarder, right? You told me your name while ago, I think. Mathews?" When Jason nodded, he wrinkled his nose. "Glad to meet you, finally, without twisting up like a pretzel." When he saw Jason's look of confusion, he lowered his voice. "In there, when we fell into each other and got tangled up."

"Oh, yeah," Jason replied, blushing again. It caused Sean to laugh again. The teen stood then, and propped one leg upon the bench where he had just sat. Taking his towel to run the length of his thigh, he went on.

"So, first time to one of the games? I saw you out there. You were eating it up, I think. Was it fun?"

"Oh yeah, t-totally! Honest, I've never been to anything like this before in my life. I thought it was really c-cool!" Jason replied, noticing that Elliot was silent, trying to act as naturally as he could. From his point of view, Sean's entire groin was now exposed at face level in front of him.

Sean nodded. "It is, I think. At least you were enjoying it, win or lose. Bummer we lost, but every game must have a winner and a loser. This time we came out on the bottom, that's all." Sean then hiked the other leg up and repeated the performance. This time, however, the angle was straight into Jason's view, up closer than even before. Jason involuntarily gulped again, but this time he grinned as he took it in, finding his initial conclusions unchanged. This boy really WAS hung, as Derek had put it. Glancing at Elliot, he saw a look of surprise meeting him as well. Sean followed the gaze, then smirked. "Okay you two," he spoke softly, so that only the three could be heard. "I'm not THAT different, am I? I'll bet you have the same equipment, just maybe in a smaller package," he quipped quietly.

Jason gulped, but nodded. "Yeah, mostly," he replied, surprising even himself. He looked up at the face peering at him. "I'm sorry though, Sean. It's - it's just a kind of new thing to me and all, even being in here with you guys. Honest, just… yeah…"

Sean paused briefly, then nodded. "Like I said, no sweat. It's okay, I understand." He finished before sitting back down again and grabbing his boxers. "You're from the States, right?" When Jason nodded, a knowing look crossed his features. "Thought so. I had some friends from Michigan once. I learned a few things from them. They were a lot more ogle-eyed than you were, so it's okay. Don't worry about it."

Elliot finally spoke up. "Uh, me too, Sean. I didn't mean, like... I didn't mean to stare like that. Sorry."

"Of course, you did, doofus!" the taller teen teased. He reared back as he pulled his boxers up. "Like I said, I'll make an exception for you two. I trust you. Besides, I really don't care." He wrinkled his nose. "You know, first time I was in showers, everyone bunched around me and all. Even when I was younger, I guess I had the biggest then, too." He grinned. "It's cool, though. You guys can have a free pass, at least this time."

"Thanks man. I- I owe you," Jason muttered, but then blushed. "For not killing me, I mean."

Sean smiled. "You don't owe me anything, honest." Jason saw an understanding then, and was tempted to give the teen a small hug, but he refrained.

It was Elliot, however, who leaned in close. "Um, do you think I could a-ask you something? I mean, it's really personal, and you don't have to answer if you don't want to." His voice was quiet, and he glanced about to see if anyone was listening in. Derek was busy talking to Michael, and no one else seemed to be paying them any attention.

"Sure. What's up?" Sean replied, curious. He leaned across Jason to retrieve his towel, causing Jason to suck in his breath at the closeness. He could smell the tall youth, not just the cleanliness, but actually breathe his scent. The teen even touched him along their sides, which conveyed something more about his carefree attitude with Jason. Sean truly didn't seem to care, which made Jason smile. Seeing everything there, feeling and sensing it all – he suddenly felt happy and carefree himself.

Elliot hesitated, but Sean nodded encouragingly, so he leaned in closer. Discreetly, Elliot finally broke the silence. "Um, like I said, I know it's kind of p-personal and all but uh, well … how big? You know, how big do you get when you're boned up and stuff?"

Sean snickered as he leaned back. He did not answer right away, and that began to make Elliot nervous. Sean rose from the bench and walked over to his locker, retrieving a t-shirt before turning and walking back. Donning the shirt, he suddenly closed in toward Jason, jerking his head toward Elliot. "Is he always that bold?"

Jason grinned at him in response, shrugging. There were times, he admitted, he wondered the same thing. "I don't know, but... you have to admit, it's... um... yeah."

Sean giggled again and then nodded. "Yeah, I know," he responded. Watching Elliot squirm uncomfortably, he finally relented. He knelt between them and leaned in again so he could speak quietly. "I get up to about 26 centimeters when I'm going good," he replied with a wink. He then put a hand on Elliot's knee briefly and added, "Listen, no sweat Flavell, not to me anyway. Honest, you can ask me anything you want, your buddy, too. I mean it, anytime. Just be careful where we are is all I ask. Okay?" He motioned around the room. "Too many ears, too many eyes here. You understand, right?" he added as he winked at them both again. Looking at Jason, he added. "I mean that, same for you. If you're curious, just ask me. Oh, and don't sweat what happened out there. Others have done it too, plenty of times."

"Thanks Sean. Honest, thanks for being so cool about it all." The older teen nodded, then rose and walked across the room, back to his locker, this time to stay.

Elliot sighed with relief, letting a deep breath go that he hadn't realizing he was holding. "Wow! I thought for a second he was going to kill me!" He looked up at Jason and then repeated it again, "Man, did you hear what he said, though?"

Jason nodded, also breathing his own sigh of relief. "Yeah, I know. Sheesh Elliot, and you were telling ME to be careful!"

Elliot grinned at him. "Yeah, I know, but did you see how he just came over and... and... you know! I figured what the hell, me and Derek have always wondered, so... why not ask him, you know?" He left it at that for the moment.

Looking around the room again, Jason saw that most of the guys were already half dressed. A few were sitting, still naked but unwinding and drying off. They just sat and chatted with those around them, which struck Jason as curious. His thoughts weren't so much on their state of dress - or lack thereof - as on was something else. He and Elliot were not the only ones looking around and taking everything in. He spotted some of the other guys doing it, too. Albeit they were always looking around in a nonchalant way, but there was no mistaking that some were taking in the views, too. They didn't get boners, not that he could tell anyway, but they were being lookers.

Jason felt much better overall, because now it seemed there was another level of trust implied by everyone in that room, right then. No one tried to hide, no one seemed bashful or in a hurry. That was huge to a newcomer such as himself. Most of the guys had made eye contact with him at one point or another since they returned. Some smiled, some even spoke or nodded - but no one let on that him being there was any big deal. He no longer felt out of place, even though he was one of the few who still had his clothes on all the while. They saw him, and knew Jason was an outsider. Yet they let him stay anyway, on the inside, with them. They did it without worry or question. Jason scooted over on the bench, sliding up next to Elliot and gave him a friendly smile. Elliot was already accepted here; he was, after all, Derek's brother. The guys were already comfortable with him. But he, Jason, was an American - the new kid. Yet they were okay with him, too. In that little way, it made his chest swell up inside with a bit of pride. These guys were not being like the jerks a lot of Americans would be. Instead, these guys were being something so much better.

Derek finally started to don his street clothes, all the while standing in front of Jason and Elliot. He was in no hurry, taking his time while they waited. Someone walked by and leaned down, whispering something to the older brother which the other two could not hear. Derek and the teen suddenly broke into laughter about something, then the other teen walked on. Derek grinned at the two though, and gave them both a quick thumbs-up, as if saying 'everything's cool'. When he sat down next to Jason, he started to pull on his socks and shoes. "So, you enjoy the game?" he asked Jason nonchalantly, using a quiet voice.

"You have no idea," Jason replied. "I mean, the game, the playing and everything! I've never been to anything like this before, and you know what? It was-" He lowered his voice, "It was fucking fantastic!"

Derek laughed, but lowered his voice, too. "You want to know something else? It was fucking great with both of you just being here, too." He tied his shoes before standing up.

As Derek was closing his locker up, Elliot leaned close to Jason and whispered in his ear, "I think you and me are going to have some fun talking tonight."

Jason grinned at him. "Mmm hhmmm. I think there will be a lot more than just talking, too!" he added slyly.

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