When Shadows Pass

by Sean English

Chapter 26

Learning Has Many Sources (Part III)

Elliot and Jason sat, gazing at their host in stunned surprise. "No!" Elliot finally gasped. "Seriously?"

Ron nodded, as he sighed sat back between them. "You see, after I was born, I was what most people would call an unwanted baby. I mean, I was given up to a group shelter before I was even a week old. Supposedly, I stayed there for about 3 to 4 months, before Mum and Pops came along and fostered me. Then, a couple of years later they, like, formally adopted me." Ron looked at first one and then the other of his two guests. Sitting up, he reached out and grasped Jason by the hand, dragging him into the center of the sofa, before he rose and swapped places. Pulling his feet up, he sat cross-legged facing his friends. "There, that's better. Now I don't have to get all split-eyed while trying to talk to the both of you," he explained, grinning.

Jason laughed as he and Elliot shifted as well. Glancing behind first, Jason moved to lie back against his cousin, and together both faced their host. Ron rubbed at his right eye, as if something were caught within it, before he continued. "For my family, I've never known anyone other than those two, and my step-sister, of course," he stated, indicating upstairs above them. "Seriously, as far as I'm concerned, they have always been my parents and my family, and they always will be. They love me, they take care of me, and they treat me like I'm someone. You know, not like I'm just a dead body floating around space." He grunted. "Even my step-sister does, although she's different. She tolerates me, which is all I can really say about her, but it's okay - I mostly just tolerate her back, too. But our parents, it's totally different."

"I think that's cool, then," Jason remarked, as he subtly relaxed, backing even further into Elliot. His cousin grunted good-naturedly, but then slipped an arm around him.

Ron nodded. "I don't think it's really all that different than it is for you. You were orphaned, but at least you found family here to stay with. I mean, I kind of feel like I know this family already, especially Elliot. They're all good people, and I think they'll be great for you, too. Don't ask me how I know it, I just do. "

"Yeah, I think so, too," Jason replied with a smile, glancing briefly to see Elliot smiling behind him.

Ron studied them both for a moment. "Listen guys, there's a reason you two are here tonight, and it's because of that." He frowned. "No, that didn't come out quite right. Let me try again." Ron paused again, but then shrugged. "I mean, I guess I could have invited a few more people and everything. To tell the truth though, I'm not interested in just making friends – not for the sake of a party or whatever. I hope that makes sense. I'm a little old for real birthday parties anyway, at least like ones I used to have. And honestly, some of the parties these teens do with all the dancing and drinking and whatever else they can get away with - that's just not me. Not right now, anyway. Maybe that makes me weird, I don't know, but I just wanted something quieter, with people … well, like we've talked about before. I just wanted to spend time with people I trust. Mum wanted to do something special though, so we talked about doing it this way, and I said okay. That's why it might have seemed a little different to you. I hope it was okay…"

"Are you kidding? It was perfect, if you ask me!" Elliot exclaimed. Ron smiled in acknowledgement.

"You guys are here, with me, tonight because that's what I think of you. It's how much I like you. I'm not ashamed to admit that, you know. I'm not gay or anything, but… sometimes you just get a feeling, you know? And you kind of learn who people are, and you learn if they're the kind of people you want to be around and everything." Ron looked away. "You learn who will be good to you, and you can be good back, you know?"

An awkward silence followed, until Jason leaned forward slightly. "Are you okay, Ron? What's wrong?"

Ron grunted, but then smiled as if he was brought out of a reverie. Turning to his friends again, he smiled. "I'm great, Jason. Honest, I couldn't be happier right now. I just- I'm trying to explain something, that's all, and it's not the easiest thing to put into words. You know?"

Jason nodded. "More than you'll ever know, yeah."

Ron stared at them both. "You know, I even thought about asking you guys if you would want to spend the night with us tonight. Me and Pops, though, we have to get up early in the morning and go into London for some special supplies and everything. I didn't think it would be fair asking you to stay then, not really. Not to you guys, or to me. I do want you to know, though, I'd really like you to come back sometime. Just you guys and me – nobody else. That is, if you would want to. "

Elliot finally spoke "Does a zebra have stripes?" he giggled, causing Jason to grin.

"Okay, okay, I know... I'm just being goofy," Ron replied, blushing. "Anyways, the other day we were talking, and I promised you I would explain what happened and everything-"

"Stop," Elliot interjected. "You don't just get to say something like that and then just change the subject. First, you're not being goofy, at all."

"And, of course we would want to come over," Jason added, before shaking his head. "Why would you think we wouldn't?"

Ron hesitated. "Honestly? Because a lot of guys wouldn't give a rat's arse about someone like me, Jason. I mean, when people know you're adopted, it changes things. They start treating you different, because they think you're on the outside of the norm or something. Believe me, I know."

"Really?" Elliot asked. "Does being adopted really change people that way?"

"I guess…" Jason started, then hesitated before continuing. "I guess I understand that. I mean, after my Dad died, and I started back in school last year, the kids treated me a lot different, too. They weren't mean to me, not really, but it was like, a lot harder to make any friends or anything. It was even harder to get a seat on the bus, too."

"Exactly! That's what I'm talking about! See, with me, I guess I wasn't sure how it would be with you guys, at first. I mean, we knew each other from the shop and everything, but when we ended up together at school I wasn't sure how you or anyone else would react. And honestly, I just … I got nervous, I think." Ron wrinkled his nose again before leaning forward. "But see, I look at you two now, and I realize you don't care. I took a chance telling you that, and honestly? It makes me feel a lot better inside, now that you know. I mean, I don't have to hide it from you, you know?"

Jason nodded thoughtfully, thinking about that. "I would hope you'd never be afraid of us, Ron. You know, that you'd never have to hide anything from us."

Ron giggled before letting out a big sigh. "I'm not afraid of you, I swear."

Elliot finally spoke up. "Good, because neither of us is afraid of you, either." He wrapped his arm around Jason just then, holding him. "Jason is my cousin, but he's my brother, too. We won't treat him any different, no matter what." Leaning forward, he lowered his voice. "It's the same for you, you know. Jason and I both really like you, too. Nothing is going to change that part of us, or our feelings, either."

Ron smiled. "Thanks, man. That means a lot to me, especially after…" He hesitated again. "Listen, I promised to tell you what happened, if you still want to hear. It's not that long of a story, but it'll take a few minutes."

Jason glanced at Elliot before turning back. "We're game, if you are, and if you want to tell us." His cousin nodded in agreement beside him.

Ron took a deep breath. "Well, I guess I need to go back a little to get started. See, we've only been in this part of town for 3 to 4 years or so. Pop loves it here, and I must admit Portsmouth is a pretty cool place. For the first year or so, I was pretty much alone in this part of the neighborhood. There were no guys close by that were my age, or girls for that matter. But after about a year or so, a family moved in across the street and they had two boys, Roden and his older brother. Roden was about my age, and we kind of hit it off at first and got to be good friends and all. His older brother had his own circle of mates, so for the most part it was just the two of us."

"Roden he was like most other kids, except for this one weird thing about him that popped out. I don't know how to really describe it, other than he would have these kind of wild, crazy streaks where he'd say stuff out of the blue. And it was all crazy stuff, you know? Like, 'Man, we ought to cut that dogs' balls off and serve 'em to so-and-so'., or 'Ever seen a cat die? They don't have 9-lives to save them then!' You know? Just crazy shit that would come out of nowhere, and at the oddest times, too. We might be playing ball or something, and he'd pull that crap out of thin air. I used to think he did it to just shock me, you know, so he'd get the ball or something from me. Actually, now that I think about it – he did."

Ron laughed and shook his head. "Anyway, it was the kind of stuff that made me nervous about him. Enough so I couldn't, like, get close or anything, you know? I couldn't trust him, not like I do you guys. It wasn't just me, though. Mum and Pops didn't really care for him much, either. I mean, they left us alone for the most part, but you could tell they didn't really like him. He had, uh, a hard time controlling his mouth around them, I think. You know, he'd say a lot of things you really don't want parents or adults to hear about, especially when he'd talk about balls and boobs and dicks and all that stuff."

"Seriously? For real?" Elliot scoffed.

"Oh yeah, for real," Ron replied, before continuing. "Okay, so that's enough about him. Later, another family moved in down the street, and they had a boy named Terry. He was kind of a pushy bloke, not exactly a bully, but yeah. He was the type who always had to be in charge, always had to be the boss – you get the idea. Anyway, for whatever the reason, Roden seemed to like him – a lot. So, for a little while, Terry sort of worked his way into our little 2-man show, and then tried to take it over."

"How old was he? Terry, I mean?" Elliot asked.

"A couple of years, at least. He was more like Roden's brother's age, but he fell back a year in school. I mean, he was older than most of the guys in his classes, which is something he used to brag about. At first, he was just hanging around us, but then he met Roden's brother and that's when things started to change. It didn't take very long then, before I caught on that they were into drugs, street drugs even, and drinking. Maybe even more." Ron sighed deeply.

"Why? What happened?" Jason asked.

Ron fidgeted somewhat before he answered. "Well, Roden started acting spaced out at times. You know, overly slow to react to things," Ron explained. "He also stopped taking showers or baths, too. He would wear the same clothes practically every day, all the time. You know what that's like, right? He started to smell, and sometimes worse than others. I teased him about it once, in the beginning, but he gave me this weird look and told me to fuck off. I was like, 'whoa'!"

"Then, there were other things, too. Like, they would all go away 3, maybe 4 days at a time, nowhere to be seen by anyone. Including his parents. I know, because there were times they would call over here to see if I knew anything about where they were. Then, they would show back up, or at least Roden did, like nothing ever happened. If I asked him anything about where they'd been and all, he'd get all weird and start yelling at me and shit." Ron paused, grunting. "After he did that a couple of times, I just … I'd had it. I started ignoring him."

Ron drew a deep breath, then let it out slowly. "I left him alone and all, but the only thing is, HE wouldn't leave me alone. He'd still come over out of the blue, sometimes way late at night, banging on the door like there was nothing to it. One night, he woke Pop's up after midnight and all. Pop was so pissed, he sent Roden home and told him never to do that again." Ron grunted. "The next day, Roden caught me on the way to school, and gave me all kinds of shit about it, like it was my fault or something. All the signs were there, see? He had no idea what he was doing, or why. He was spaced out, acting weird - I knew he had to be getting into drugs and all. I wanted nothing to do with it - or with him!"

"Good for you, Ron," Elliot intoned softly. "What happened next?"

Ron sat lost in thought for a full minute before he continued. "One afternoon, last year, I caught them, Roden's brother and Terry, in Roden's bedroom. They were shooting needles." He looked them directly in their eyes. "You understand what I mean, right? Before, I just kind of assumed it all, especially with Roden. This time though, I saw it all."

"Oh shit," Elliot intoned under his breath.

"You see, I went over there one day because Roden had some of my video games, and I wanted them back. So, like I used to always do, I went inside and greeted his Mum. We talked for a minute or two, and when I told her what I was there for, she told me to just go on upstairs. I didn't think anything of it, you see, and his Mum was nice and everything. She told me to go on up, right? So, I did. It's not like I was trying to spy on them or anything." Ron shook his head. "Anyway, I got to the top of the stairs and I heard these noises and everything, like moaning and laughing. Honestly, it sounded like sex, in a way, and I remember thinking he must have gotten Tracy to come over or something. He was always shooting off his mouth about her, and how he wished he could do this or do that. You know, have his way and all." Ron snickered just then. "Honestly, she was probably the kind of girl that would do it, too. For some people at least. Anyway, I should have turned away, I guess, but… was curious, see? So, I kind of sneaked up to the door and peeked inside. I figured why not, you know?"

Elliot grinned at him. "Perving isn't too bad of a sin, not at our age anyway!"

Ron acknowledged him with a half-smile. "I know, but - it wasn't Tracy I saw. Instead, it was Terry, Roden and his brother. They were all in their boxers, stretched across the bed and running high with one another. And … there were syringes on the table beside them, and … and…" Ron fell silent as the memories returned to him. It was obviously something that disturbed him, in multiple ways. When he spoke again, his eyes were unfocussed. "If ever there was something that just warns you to get away, then that was it. Every alarm in my head just, like, went off all at once. I can still see them, you know? Practically naked, except for their boxers. Terry was super tented, too, and his nuts were hanging out the gap in one leg. He was horny, I guess." Ron sighed and made a face. "I don't know guys, it just crushed me."

"It's like, everything you had between you, you felt like it was gone. Right?" Jason asked softly, finally speaking up.

"Blimey, you're not kidding, Jason," Ron nodded. "I was just so glad he didn't get me roped into that shit. I mean, he already knew I was dead set against drugs of any kind, so maybe that's why he left me alone, at least at first. But when I saw that, everything just kind of flew out the window. I knew before I couldn't trust him, and now, seeing that, I knew it even more." Ron stopped to look up at Jason. "You know something else? All the times we were around each other, I never got in any showers with him. I'm serious, even at school, I never once got naked anywhere around Roden. Even when we stayed at each other's house, we were never skinned. I mean, we might have changed shirts or something, but that was all. That's how I felt about him, the whole time we were friends. I couldn't, I mean, I didn't feel being safe with him, you know? Like I've been telling you two, I trust you both because I feel like it's cool with us, that everything is okay. I didn't feel that around him, though."

Both Elliot and Jason nodded again, mesmerized by the tale. "We understand, Ron, honest," Elliot whispered.

Ron glanced at both teens and grunted. "That's why I've been trying to tell you what I did, Jason. I don't know if it helped you or not, but it's what made the difference in all of it to me, when I had to shower with the guys. I had a couple of friends that I did feel okay with, you know? And that's how I kind of, um, eased my way into all of it." A kind expression crossed his features. "You know, I joke about stuff sometimes, especial when it's around us getting skinned and everything. Even with you, Jason, like being the first to, uh, get that close to my junk and all. But ... anyway, yeah, I just wanted you to relax. I figured, if I could be your friend, maybe I could be someone you would be more comfortable and all. Does that make sense?"

Jason nodded, deep in thought while Elliot raised an eyebrow. "Uh… junk?"

Jason suddenly rolled his eyes before elbowing his cousin. "I'll tell you about it later," he whispered, which caused Ron to finally grin.

"It's nothing Elliot, don't worry. I didn't corrupt him or anything!" their host explained. Elliot glanced at Jason, but just smirked, nodding.

Jason turned back to Ron. "So, is that it? It still doesn't explain-"

"I know it doesn't, Jason. Just, I know I'm rambling a little, okay? There's a little more, but I'm almost finished," Ron explained, then pulled his knees up and resting his chin on them before continuing. "So, that day I caught them, I just left and came home. All afternoon I was upstairs, angry, kicking myself and everything. It was like, I only started to realize how much Roden had changed, compared to when we first became friends and all. And for a while, I felt like maybe it was all my fault. I mean, if I had been a better friend, maybe I could have stopped it all." He saw Elliot start to object, but held his hand up instead. "I know, Elliot. It didn't take me long to realize I was wrong, but for a bit, it was hard seeing all that, you know? Anyway, later that night Roden came over, trying to act like nothing happened and all, but still spaced out and everything. He brought my games back to me, so I guess he must have talked to his Mum at some point. He was trying to be all friendly, though, and trying to talk me into hanging out more often. He said there were 'things' we could do. I wasn't interested, and I told him so straight away. He suddenly got mad then and started spewing shit all over again. When he wouldn't shut up, Pops overheard him and threw him out of the place. Even told him not to come back, unless he had his mouth first washed out with carbolic or something, you know, soap."

"Wow," Jason whispered.

Shaking his head, Ron's mood returned to being somber. "Roden was mad as hell, though. Over the next few days, he started to threaten me and stuff, on the way to school, in classes and at lunch. All because I didn't want to buddy up with them, you see. He kept at it, constantly, like every time we met in the hallways, or in lunch and stuff. Not just teasing, either – he would do it loud, too, sometimes at the top of his lungs. One time, we had just got out of classes for the day, and I was getting ready to head home. I was at my locker when he comes up to me, smacks me on the back of my head, and then starts screaming. I'm like, 'What the fuck is your problem man?' Then he calms down suddenly and starts telling me about all the fun he had been having for the last couple of weeks. He tries to get me to go with him and everything, but I wasn't buying it. I think I told him something like 'Yeah, your butt-buddies do everything under the blankets and in the arms, I imagine. No thanks.'"

"Things got real ugly, then. You know, he could have spewed that stuff of in a heartbeat to me before, and he would have expected me to just take it as a joke. Give it back to him, though, you'd think I must have hit him in the balls or something. He got really pissed, and as I walked away, I could hear him hitting the walls and lockers and everything around him. He tried again a few days later, hounding me about why I didn't come over to hang out with him anymore. I told him, 'You know why.' Man, he got red-faced and everything, again."

Elliot was about to say something, but he saw a tear falling down Ron's cheek. He subtly poked Jason, who nodded in acknowledgement. When the silence continued, the American was about to intervene when Ron looked up, smiled, and then shook his head. "There is one other thing, too. Roden made this comment, once, about something else. You know how I said he would talk weird crap sometimes? Well, right at the end, he made some of them about how his trips to the loo, how they were becoming more interesting. Now, I figured he was talking about going and stroking or something, you know, some crazy shit like that. But… one day I noticed him walking kind of funny sometimes. He saw me looking at him, and grinned. 'Want to try it out?' he'd ask. Then it happened more, and he was bragging about it. Mind you, I never saw it, never asked him about it, or anything – but I think I had it figured out eventually. Especially when I saw him and Terry coming out of the loo one day, together." He looked hard at Elliot just then. "I think he was being their fuck buddy, or something like that. Maybe even more, I don't know. You know, shagging." He turned to Jason. "You understand that, right? Remember what I told you that night?"

"Yeah," Jason whispered. "I remember."

"I'm sorry, guys. I promise, there's not a lot more, but I keep, well, getting off track and everything. I know, I need to finish this, okay? I just… I wanted to make sure you understood and everything." Seeing them both nod, Ron continued. "So, Terry somehow found out later that I knew what they were doing, to Roden and everything. The next thing I know, all three of them gang up on me, and start pushing me hard, trying to get me mixed up with them and their gang. I told them to leave me alone, I didn't want any part of that life. It didn't matter that I could care less what they did, or didn't do, you know? Just leave me out of it, that's all I wanted. But, they couldn't, or wouldn't."

Elliot whistled as he nodded. "Oh man..."

"Yeah. It pissed the absolute fuck out of them. So, next thing I know, they dragged me out behind the school and beat the shit out of me. They threatened me to reconsider, or else. Then, the next day, Roden starts spreading all these rumors at school. Things like, how easy a 'lay' I was, or how I could take just about anybody, you know, up the arse. Or how I would 'blow' anyone that would unzip for me. You get it, right? You understand?" Ron was now fighting to control his emotions as his voice broke low. "Out of nowhere, he was telling peeps I was gay, and I'm like, what the fuck!"

Ron stopped, and stared toward the front door just then. His lower lip visibly trembled, and both Elliot and Jason were worried. Before they could react, the teen turned to them and smiled, taking another slow, deep breath. "You know, I honestly didn't think peeps would believe it, not at first. Remember when I said I had a few friends? Guys I could be comfortable with and everything? That started changing. If you knew Roden, well, he can put on quite the act sometimes. He kept at it, and a lot of people must have started thinking there was some truth to it and all. I know, because that was when they started avoiding me, including those 'friends' I had." He stopped and wiped at his eyes before he continued. "That was getting to me. They were breaking me, see? Roden knew how to do it to me, and in the worst possible way. You understand, right? He knew how to hurt me the worst, and that made it even harder to live through." He looked up as another tear escaped and trailed down his cheek. "Should I stop? I mean, I told you guys I'd explain, and... I know, this may be more than you bargained for."

"You don't have to go on, if you don't want to. We understand, honest," Jason replied, his voice barely above a whisper as he reached out and gently grasped Ron's sock-covered foot. It was his way of acknowledging the fact he and Elliot were there for him. Ron looked down and smiled, before extending his legs and laying them across the laps of his guests.

"I know I don't, honest." Ron studied for a moment, wiggling his toes that were still inside Jason's grasp. He gently pushed his foot forward, deeper into the connection between them. "Here's the kicker, I guess. About that time, somehow Terry, Roden and his brother - all three found out I was adopted. That's where the answer to your question comes in, Elliot. I didn't think it was so bad with other kids, until all this started to happen. You see, in all the time Roden and I were together, hanging out or whatever, I never told him. How the guys found out, we haven't got a clue. Mum and Pops didn't tell anyone, I know, and even that bag-headed step-sister of mine swears she didn't do it, either. Not that it was some big secret or anything, it's just - well, it's never been needed, you know? Like I told you before, as far as my parents are concerned, I'm not adopted - I'm their son, period. See? That's why I told you, around here and with my parents, it's totally different. I don't feel like I'm dead weight or anything. They care about me, and I'm a part of their family. Our family," he added, another tear escaping down his cheek.

"But, you have no idea how they found out?" Elliot asked.

Ron shook his head. "Maybe my sister's boyfriend found out, and spread it out or something. Really though, we don't know, and honestly it doesn't matter. They found out, so that was that. Shit really hit the fan. See, Roden and his brother had new stuff to throw lies around, about me, and they took advantage of it. It worked, too. Guys in school, they really started treating me like a plague or something, and I started hearing stuff in the halls, the locker room, at lunch… everywhere. No matter how much I tried to ignore it, or fight back, it just kept building up and getting worse. That's when I got really depressed, and ... and I had to come home early one day and give in. It tore me up so bad inside, I was crying and screaming into my pillow, cursing and everything. Mum called Pops, and when they found me in my room, they knew something was wrong. It took a while, but I finally gave in and told them everything, about what had been going on. Pretty much what I just now told you guys. Pops, he was so mad... I don't think I had ever seen him that way before."

"Wow," Jason said.

"Yeah, it wasn't a good thing. I mean, I was losing my friends, left and right, and I was getting more depressed as each week went on. All I had left was the shop, and the games, to really give me something to do." Ron grunted. "Even some of the guys, they quit coming to the games and all, you know? How stupid is that!" Ron suddenly smiled and visibly relaxed. "So, at the end of the term, Pops said enough was enough. He transferred me to a new school - your school. I didn't even know about it until, like, the day before term started. Even then, it didn't hit me about where I really was going, until I saw you two the next morning. Then to find out we had some of our classes together? Oh wow... I can't describe how that felt inside!"

Another silence enveloped the trio, until Ron pulled up and shifted around, now laying against Jason and Elliot both. Jason was somewhat surprised, but then again, he felt their friend was laying everything on the line with them. Tentatively, he reached out wrapped an arm around Ron's waist, then pulled him in closer. "You know, it really was a good thing in the end. It's good because, see, I found you guys, when I started to feel like I had nobody left anymore. That's why I said it, Elliot. You know, about whether you'd want to spend the night or anything. That's what I meant about being adopted. See, I don't see the big deal, and obviously you guys don't either. Some people do, though, and… yeah…"

Elliot leaned forward and snaked his arm around their friend, too. "Ron? We're glad we found you, too. Honest."

Ron listened to Elliot, then grasped both arms around him, holding them tightly. "All I ask, guys, is … just don't be afraid of me. I'll tell you anything you want to know, help you in any way I can. Just – don't abandon me, okay? Not right now." He blushed, but then suddenly turned around to face them. "Listen, I know this thing between us, it's kind of sudden and all. I mean, Elliot and I have known each other for a while now, but not you and me, Jason. It's kind of new and everything. And this friendship thing, maybe I'm laying it on a little thick, I don't know. But this is why it is guys. I've – I've got so few people in my life right now, people I care for and feel anything with, outside of my family. Do you understand now? It's why I keep saying, I'm glad you came, that you're still my friends and so much more. And you…" Ron paused, turning his attention to Jason. "I know you're scared I'm going to bite your head off or something, especially for checking me out and stuff. I'm not, Jason - not even close. I know you find some things strange and weird over here, but … it's okay, honest. I want to help, you know? I want to show you how grateful I am that you're here, both of you. And I want you to know why, too. I mean, I have no idea what Roden has told peeps behind my back, but it must have been bad for them to leave the games and everything. You know?"

Jason nodded. "I'm not going anywhere, Ron, I promise."

Elliot agreed. "Neither am I, man. I promise, too." Seeing their friend smile, he nudged Jason. Both reached out and pulled Ron into their laps, where they embraced him warmly, holding him close. Nothing was said for the next few minutes, each lost in their own thoughts. Ron, happy tears trailing down his cheeks, hugged them back. For himself, he had no words left anymore. He had bared everything, and these two truly seemed to understand. He couldn't be happier.

"Does he still live across the street?"

The question came from Elliot, and when Ron connected the dots, he nodded. "Yeah, he does, but so far I haven't seen him anymore. Pops had a long talk with Roden's parents. They called me a liar and everything, which meh, isn't unexpected. I mean, they denied their sons were like I made them out to be, and that they were bullies and roughnecks and all." He shrugged. "I think they all just agreed to disagree, but Pops made them promise to leave me alone." Looking up, he found Elliot staring down at him. "I know Roden's Dad somewhat, and he's a serious bloke. If Pops came down on them hard, then… well, yeah… I just hope Roden and his brother stay the hell away from me, that's all. So far, it's been almost 5 weeks, and I haven't seen them anymore."

There was a silence that enveloped them while they stared at one another, before Ron cleared his throat. "That's it guys, there's nothing more to tell really. I think I've told you everything. If I've missed something, it's not intentional or anything. For me, it's just ... it's reality. It's my story. Maybe," He hesitated, turning his attention toward Jason again. "Maybe that explains why you think I'm always so open and up front about everything. I mean, don't get me wrong, I've always been that way. For all I know, maybe that's what gave Roden the idea he could get away with calling me gay and everything. I've said it before, though, I'm nothing special. I'm just me - but I'm also not cow dung. I just, I don't like hiding anything, you know? I mean, you guys are seeing inside of me right now, and I figure, well, if I tell you all this up front? Then, if the rumors ever reach us over here …"

Elliot nodded. "Then we'll know the real truth."

"Yeah," Ron replied, smiling. "Peeps at school won't even know half of what I just told you, unless it just comes out in some way. I mean it, I know I'm more open about stuff, like you and Elliot are to me, but not to everybody. Understand? It's not because I have to be, but because I want to be. You guys don't really hide anything from me, either. After all that happened? With those other guys?" He let out a slow breath. "And having you both here, with me right now? It just... it really means a lot." He looked down at his feet. "I just hope, now that you know everything, it won't change anything with us."

It won't," Jason whispered. "Do you really think that would make us turn you away? If so, you have a lot to learn about us, Ron." Jason tenderly wiped away another tear he saw falling on their friend's cheek.

"That goes double for me, man," Elliot whispered, filling the silence.

Ron relaxed between them. "Okay, okay. I admit, for once, I didn't really know what you guys would think, or how you'd react. I- I took a chance, okay?" He cuddled into them gently. "Thanks… both of you. I mean it, really. Outside of Mum and Pops, I – I don't get too much of this, but yeah… thanks guys."

Jason sat back after a minute. "Before my Dad died, I was kind of in the same boat. I felt like, well, I was on the outside from the kids at school and stuff. I felt like I was alone. And… we didn't do much hugging or anything either. But since then, well, sometimes it's just really nice, you know? Because then, you know how much people really care."

"Yeah. That's exactly how I feel sometimes," Ron whispered in reply.

"Well, you don't show it. I mean, every time we're around you, you always seem so happy and easy going. And the stuff you pull on us? On me, especially? It's just... it's fun stuff." Jason wrinkled his nose. "Being on the outside isn't any fun, I know. It's why Elliot and me are so close, I think. He gives me a lot of what I missed out on. And it changes me, on the inside. It honestly makes me feel a lot better about trusting and believing in people. I don't feel so way out in the ocean anymore."

Ron saw Elliot smiling at him. "I always knew there was something different about you. I mean, you could horse around and stuff, but you never picked on anyone. And... you always helped guys a lot. You know, with different stuff."

Elliot just shrugged. "Maybe. I don't know. Like you said, I'm just me."

"Well, you've got a good heart, that much I know." Ron paused, and then asked, "So guys, tell me something? What's the deal with Scott? Is he like us, or ….?"

Elliot wrinkled his nose. "Scott is okay, but deep down he's different. He's just been ragged most of his life because of being in a wheelchair and all, because he can't walk. Deep down, he's pretty strong on the inside, I think. Jason and I also think part of his thing has to do with him moving around so much. Kind of makes it hard to find good friends you can settle in with, you know?" Elliot scoffed. "Honest though, we've only kind of just started getting to know him in the last couple of weeks."

"Really? Is that all? That's a shame, since he has to move now. He seems to be a decent sort of mate."

"Yeah," Jason admitted. "He is."

Ron studied for a moment, laying back and relaxing in their care. "You know, outside of Mum and Pops, nobody ever seemed to care about me that much. I don't mean that in a bad way. It's not like I was ignored or anything at all. I just, I kind of grew up on my own. In most ways, it never even bothered me, but every once in a while..."

Jason nodded. "Every once in a while, it just feels good to care, and know you're not a nobody. And to know that somebody else does see you, and feel you, and... care."

"Exactly." Ron turned to Jason and smiled again. "I guess you do know what this stuff is like for me then."

"Where I grew up," Jason explained, "we didn't have much to do with people touching and stuff, or being close. When I came over here though, and started trusting Elliot? He kind of showed me I didn't have to be such an asshole about it."

Ron giggled. "Asshole? I doubt that, but I think I understand." He took another deep breath. "I'm just... happy, okay? Like I said, I trust you. I'm just glad you two trust me, too."

Elliot grunted. "Ron, we've been in the showers together. That says quite a bit about how much we trust one another, right? At least on one level…"

Jason giggled, but then turned a shade of red. "Especially afterwards. I mean, as much as you've had to forgive me."

Ron grinned. "'About time, don't you think?" he whispered. That made Elliot giggle, but then Ron got serious again. "Look, I know there's this kind of magic thing we've built between the three of us. I'm not blind to it, and I'm not ashamed of it, either. Just, this trust thing, it goes a lot deeper than the showers, guys. Skinning is one thing, but this is something else completely, you know? At least, it is for me. Understand?"

"You bet we do," Jason whispered.

"It's a lot deeper for us, too," Elliot added.

Ron hugged their arms one last time before sitting up. "You know, everybody has a story of some sort, especially at our age. Scott has his, you each have your own, and that's mine. If you were spending the night, we could talk about this all night long, if you wanted." He looked down toward his feet. "We still will sometime, if you want. Soon. I would like nothing more than to get the three of us in bed and just talk all night long." He smirked. "That is, if you can stand to be in bed with just me and my boxers."

Elliot fell backwards into the sofa, giggling, while Jason rolled his eyes. "Well, all we wear is briefs and t-shirts - most of the time," the American grunted in reply.

"Most of the time?" Ron asked, surprised. "You two sleep together then, or something?"

"Yeah, we share a bedroom, and we have a queen-size bed we share, too," Elliot answered.

"Really? Cool! Mine's a queen-size, too!" Ron whispered. "Okay, so you have nights without t-shirts, big deal. That doesn't make you that different."

Elliot glanced at Jason, and seeing the returning smile, he added in a soft whisper. "Sometimes, we don't wear underwear, either."

If Ron was surprised, he didn't let on. "Uh, okkkaaayyyy..." He smirked. "Must be some horny nights in there somewhere, then." Their host giggled, so Jason spoke up.

"Just so you understand, we don't screw, Ron. You know, we don't-" Jason looked around before also lowering his voice to a whisper. "We don't fuck, okay? We don't do anything like that. But, what we do most nights, honestly, is just cuddle. You know, kind of spoon up to each other. He holds me, and I hold him." He smiled. "I think you know I wouldn't tell you that, if I didn't trust you, right? Especially after what you just finished telling us?"

Ron nodded, a knowing expression on his face. "Yeah, I know. And thanks, both of you."

"For what?" Elliot asked.

"I don't know, just… for being honest with me and everything, and talking with me." A thoughtful expression surfaced before he continued. "Look, if you'll let me, I want to tell you guys one more thing while we're here, before you have to leave." When Jason nodded, the boy took a deep breath.

"After the other day, I realized I said something that weirded you out. I got home and started worrying, you know?" Seeing the look of curiosity on Jason's face, Ron explained. "I told you that day, that I checked you out in the showers, remember? Both of you. And yeah, I admit it, I'm guilty." Seeing their amused looks, he blushed. "Anyway, I thought you both were being really cool about it, not being afraid of me and everything. See, I've been in showers before, just like I told you guys, and yeah - I was like you at first, Jason. Kind of nervous, but I didn't care so much anymore. That day for us, there was something different. As close as we were, physically and all, it seemed - different. I mean, if you notice, most guys sort of keep their distance and everything, you know? But you two didn't care, especially after we went up and dried off and everything. We were close, practically touching and everything, remember?" Ron snorted. "Some guys I think would have been all weirded out, but you two weren't."

"Okay, but what does that have to do with…?" Jason asked.

Ron lowered his eyes. "I don't know. Sometimes I can get too cocky, I guess. I said some things, intending them to be jokes, but maybe they didn't come across that way. I was being kind of careless and everything, but I was trying to make you feel better, you know? I knew you were nervous, and I didn't want you to be, not around me anyway. So, the things I said? I'm sorry if they were, like, not right or anything. I didn't mean them to be that way."

Jason shrugged. "They weren't, trust me. You've forgiven me for a lot worse than that. Besides, you know I checked you out, too. Best I could, anyway," he added shyly.

"Good," Ron grinned, but looking relieved. "Then I can't wait to pay more attention to you, again - next time."

Jason was surprised. "Really? Why?"

Elliot giggled, and as they both turned to see him smirking, he explained. "He's already told you Jase, remember? You have no skin like we do!" he smirked, whispering.

Ron nodded in agreement, giggling. Seeing Jason raised an eyebrow at him, he shrugged. "Yeah, okay. I admit it, I was curious. I still am, I guess."

Jason fell back into the sofa, a look of stunned incredulity crossing his face. His mouth gaped in astonishment, but no words escaped. It was Ron's turn to be surprised this time, and it showed. Elliot chimed in to explain. "Ron, if you only knew how many talks we have had, about curiosity and stuff, you'd understand then. Derek and I keep telling him there's nothing wrong with being curious about stuff. He's just having a hard time accepting it, I think."

Ron giggled. "So, does this mean I can still shock you every once in a while? If I keep it in a good way?" Ron asked quietly.

Jason finally found his voice. "Are you kidding? You've always done it in a good way." He grinned. "You mean it, though? You're really curious? Even about me?" When their host nodded, Jason turned to Elliot. "Wow, it's just... I dunno, it's hard to believe."

"I can believe it, doofus," Elliot replied. "I keep telling you Jase, you're cool, and you also look cool down there." Jason shook his head in disbelief as Ron giggled again.

"I agree, 100%," Ron added. As he sat there, he watched the exchange, and could feel the closeness between Elliot and Jason. What he had suspected all along was proving to be the genuine thing. It made him feel happy beyond belief. He had guessed right about their character, and he felt ecstatic how things had turned out this night. Even as he listened to Jason, he saw a level of sincerity and honesty in how he reacted to things that could only come from someone inexperienced, and opening their eyes for the first time.

Just then, the ringer on Elliot's mobile went off, and he answered it. After exchanging pleasantries, he nodded and hung up. "We have maybe 5 minutes, then Mum will be waiting for us outside."

The boys reluctantly got up and donned their coats before beginning to hold a vigil, looking out for Natalie's arrival. Ron stepped up quietly behind them and put an arm around each. "Guys, thanks for coming tonight, thanks for listening to me, and thanks for talking back with me. Honest, it's made this the best night of my whole life, I think. All of this, coming together like this, has been awesome."

Jason turned around. "You're welcome, man." He hesitated, then threading his arms around the youth, he pulled him tight once more. Ron responded by holding the teen just as warmly.

"By the way, you guys don't have to ask me about this, okay? Just do it," he whispered after a moment, and then pulled away and gave an identical embrace to Elliot. "I like hugs, too."

"We do, too," Elliot replied. "Thanks, for everything you did for us tonight," Elliot responded. "It's been an awesome night for us, too."

"Ditto," Jason added.

Just then Natalie showed up directly in front of the flat. They left Ron standing in the doorway, but noted as they were getting in the car, the birthday boy had a huge smile on his face.


"Okay Jase, out with it. What's up?"

Elliot lay by Jason's side, half propped upon his elbow, while his cousin lay back and stared at the ceiling. It was dark, and both had undressed for bed, climbing in like so many nights before. This time, however, Jason lay on his back in deep thought. He had been brooding in silence ever since leaving Ron, mulling their evening over. Elliot was also lost in thought at times, but for some reason, he felt Jason was more quiet than common. "Out with it," he repeated, softly.

Jason turned and observed his cousin, easily making out the eyes that met his own in the darkness. A gentle smile also greeted him, and in the bliss of the moment, Jason smiled back. Rolling onto his side, he threaded his arm around the boy he had come to love and respect, drawing him in close. "Just thinking, that's all," he replied just as quietly.

"About Ron?" Elliot asked.

"Yeah, kind of. You?" Jason responded.

"Yeah," Elliot replied. After a short stretch of silence, he spoke again. "Tell me something, and be honest with me, okay? Am I... Am I going to lose you? To him?"

The question surprised Jason. "No! Why would you even think that?"

"I dunno, just... I don't know," Elliot mumbled. "I know, we've talked about it before, I just… I guess, I watched you two tonight and, well…"

Jason thought about it before he smiled. "Talk about me and my insecurities, sheesh!" He wrinkled his nose. "No, you're not losing me to him, period. I promise, cross my heart and hope to live. I will admit one thing, though. It's kind of nice to have some friends that we can be sort of open with. I didn't expect that could ever happen, especially with how close you and me are. But then, when Scott came around, and now Ron, well – it's different." With his free hand, he cupped Elliot's chin gently. "But you know what? It's even nicer to have you here, someone I can love and trust to be with me."

Elliot was relieved. "Yeah, I know." He paused, but then, "You know I love you, too, right?"

"I hear it almost every day, and not just with my ears either. You tell me, yeah, but when you do, I hear it with my heart, too." He took hold of Elliot's hand and guided it up under his t-shirt. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to make you feel like, you know, there's some kind of competition or something, about having me love you back. There isn't any, not with our friends. I can like them though, can't I? We can like them?"

Elliot grabbed and hugged him back. "More than that Jase, we can love them, too. I- I really don't mind that at all. I just - I just don't want to lose us. I don't want to lose what we have, together. That's all. At least while we're here and... you know?"

Jason listened to Elliot before he rolled over, pulling the teen with him. He embraced him fully, this time, wrapping his leg around and sealing them even tighter, making Elliot grunt. Every time they did this, there was no shame or hesitation at what touched between them physically. Each could feel the other in more ways than one, but it was personal, and it was a part of them now. Moreover, emotionally it opened a well of feelings that could only be felt by the uninhibited bond they shared. After a moment, a tear fell from Jason onto Elliot's cheek. As Elliot felt it, he heard the unmistakable sound of a sob coming from beneath him. "Hey now... don't cry, please? I mean, it's not worth that, I'm not worth that ..."

Surprisingly Jason pulled away and pushed Elliot over onto his back. Even in the dim lighting from the window, Elliot could see the youth was both hurt and upset. "Don't! Don't ever say that to me again!" Jason hissed, jabbing a finger into Elliot's chest with an intensity that made Elliot freeze. He started to open his mouth, to explain, but Jason cut him off. "Don't!" Jason warned. A few seconds later, he took a deep breath to calm down before continuing.

"You've given me everything, Elliot. You gave me love, and a place to feel safe, and a place to not worry about so many things that have happened to me. When I was scared, you helped me not to be scared anymore. When I was ignorant and dumb and ... and being stupid, you helped me get myself back together. You don't know what it felt like, to watch my Dad, sitting dead in that chair on the porch, and feeling powerless as they took him away, never to see him alive again. I was gutted, feeling like I was nothing, and every day that I survived since then, I was feeling even more less than nothing. Don't you get it? When I was so fucked up in the head, you helped me make things better! You've given me my life back, even as shitty as it had gotten to be. YOU did all of that, right when I was ready to give it all up. You don't know how worthless I felt, what living like I did with those people, either. You made all of that, ALL OF IT, go away for me. Don't you see? YOU gave me that, Elliot! YOU gave me a reason to try again, and not be afraid. Not your brother, not your family - YOU did!" He eased back, tears escaping freely. "Okay, I know, alright? They helped, and yeah, they get some credit, too. But it was YOU, you're the one who taught me the most important thing I've ever learned I think. YOU taught me I could love again. YOU taught me how to trust again. I owe EVERYTHING I am, right now, to YOU! So never, EVER tell me you're not worth it! Even as a joke, never say that to me again!"

Elliot felt admonished as he fought back tears of his own. "I- I'm sorry Jase, I really am." More than once his mouth opened, but no words would come out, until he took a deep breath and started to cry, too. "It's just me, you know? Talking out of my head sometimes. I don't... I-I don't know where it comes from, I don't know why I do it. It's just weird feelings I guess, that's all. I didn't m-mean for it to be li-like that, honest! I didn't, I didn't m-mean to hurt you like that!"

Jason then hugged Elliot and held onto him. "Don't let feeling like you're not worth something, do something like that to you. I know what it feels like, to feel like no one cares anymore. To feel like you're going to get screwed in the end, no matter what you do," he whispered. "And you know it, too, because I'm the one that did get screwed. For a while, anyway. But Elliot - a lot of other people, besides me, care about you, too - a lot. Trust me, you're every bit worth it. Quit putting yourself down so much like that. You're supposed to be my rock, you know, my hard place. Someone I can fall back on when I get depressed and everything. In my world, you're everything, inside and out!" They lay for a few minutes, before Jason finally pulled back and sat up. He wiped at his eyes and then removed his t-shirt. Jason also stripped his underwear off, before he turned to Elliot and gently undressed him, too. When they were both bared to each other, Jason slipped back underneath the covers, before pulling his cousin back into his arms. "I was crying, bro, because I felt like I hurt you. God knows, I never want to do that."

Elliot closed his eyes before he whispered back. "I'm sorry Jase. I shouldn't have said it. I guess I was just feeling weird and all. I'm sorry."

"But you wouldn't have felt weird, if things with Ron hadn't been so, uh, open and close, I guess. Right?" Jason asked. "So, I think it was my fault, too."

"No, we were both open with him. Trust me, you did fine, honest," Elliot replied, pulling back. "I think, I don't know, I just think we've had so much go on these last few weeks. It kind of makes my head spin sometimes, even makes me jumpy, I guess. I mean, I thought I could handle letting you go, especially if we found friends to hang out with and stuff. I know I don't, like, own you or anything." He looked deep into the eyes that met his. "I just, I didn't know how hard it would hit me, like it did tonight. Ron... being and seeing him like he was tonight, it was really nice, you know? I never thought he had that kind of a story, or a big heart like that, you know? He was always, well, just Ron. Happy, friendly, not afraid to be around or anything. Tonight, I think he poured his heart out to us, in a way. I just got scared. I don't know, scared maybe you might end up liking him more than you liked me, and... and..."

Jason put a finger to Elliot's lips, shushing him. "Okay, I get it..." Jason leaned in and nuzzled their noses together before he gently closed the distance and kissed him. He did it softly at first, but then they became more engaged as he parted his lips. Jason experienced a surge of happiness when Elliot met him in the gesture. For the next few minutes, they shared that one thing they knew was theirs, and theirs to keep. "This is what I keep coming back to Elliot," Jason said softly, after taking a break to breathe. "You know, we can lay here naked, grind each other, let our dicks make out, do whatever feels good to us. All of that. But when we do this?" He leaned in and planted another soft kiss again on Elliot's nose before continuing. "This is what I know makes us connect together, this is what I know makes us trust one another, more than anything else we do." He giggled. "I don't think anyone else can ever have that. I don't think anyone else can ever get close enough to me, on the inside, that I would do that with them."

"Even Ron?" Elliot asked sheepishly.

"Especially Ron. I mean, I can't help wanting to, I don't know ... Just don't get too jealous if I hug him some, okay? He's ... you heard him tonight. In a way, it sounded like he's a lot like me," Jason offered. "And I don't know, he gets physical with both of us, but in like, subtle ways and stuff. Nobody else, besides Derek, is even willing to do that, you know? And it just, it feels nice because he's letting us get inside with him as much as we let him get inside with us. Does that make sense?"

Elliot nodded. "You bet it does. I would never get jealous over that, Jase ... honest. I liked it, too."

"I admit, even after tonight, he does seem pretty special, but ... he isn't you, Elliot. Nobody can replace you, or the way I feel about you," Jason said softly. He hugged Elliot again, squeezing them snugly together. "God, I wish sometimes I could just take you inside me, you know? Because holding you, like this, everywhere, feels so good, so… so…"

"Special?" Elliot was moved to the point he almost started crying happy tears just then. "Thanks Jase, that means a lot to me."

"You're welcome." Jason studied the face for a minute. "Besides, I get the feeling Ron's someone we can both share, you know? I think he likes both of us. I mean, I'm kind of glad. We've finally got someone without all the baggage like I've had, or..."

"You don't have any baggage, Jase. Talk about you wanting to shut me up, for putting myself down? You have to do the same thing, too. Quit making yourself out to be somebody you're not, at least in that way." He wrinkled his nose in the dark. "You have had some things happen, I know. And yeah, okay, you got raped and everything, but... You're not the same person as you were when you first got here, bro. You've gotten past all of that, and you're a whole lot stronger now. I know you had to work some of it out, and I respect that. Derek does, too. I watched him that night you told him everything. Did you notice? He was fighting it, hard, but there were times he wanted to cry, or just reach out and grab you. But he understood when you were done. He understood why it was so hard, and he respected you a lot more for it. Just like I did, when you told me."

Jason nodded. "I know, I saw it, too."

"But Jase, you don't have to hang on to that anymore. You don't have to be so afraid. I don't care about anything that was in your past, because I know you were used. I just think you had a hard time getting through some things, with people who didn't give a shit about you. Don't YOU see? It's not like that now, and I thank God that you're here, with me. I care about you, I care about the boy I've come to love, who is in my arms right now, letting me hold him. He's also the one holding me together, too. You know?"

Jason thought about that for a moment and then nodded, the tears welling in his eyes again. "I love you, too. You know that, right?" He sniffed and then sighed. "Okay, you're right. I'm working on it, honest, but... it's still hard Elliot. It's easier than it was before, but it's still hard to relive it sometimes. And with your Dad coming home this weekend..." Silence fell between them as Elliot felt the gears of their conversation changing. He was about to speak, but Jason shook his head and continued. "I know, I made a promise to you and your brother. I don't know about you guys, but I keep my promises. I have to live through it again, but this time I have to do it with your Dad. That's the part I'm really freaking out about, especially now. He'll be the first grown-up that's going to know it. All of it." Jason took another deep breath and let it out slowly. "But I'll do it. I think now I have to, not just for you guys, but for me, too."

Elliot hugged him again. "I'll be there with you, you know. You won't have to be there alone," he whispered. "Derek will be with us, too."

Jason nodded again. "I'm glad." He leaned in and kissed Elliot again, then just collapsed, leaning to one side and pulling Elliot with him. That resulted with the two clasping together, closely again, with everything they could muster. In their shared warmth, he began to rub Elliot's side and back, moving his hands up and down gently, as he had done many times before. He could reach and feel every curve within his friend's back and side, and the intimacy felt good to him. He wrapped his leg around the youth again so they could snuggle even tighter, while nuzzling into the teen's neck and shoulder. Jason felt as content and free as he ever had, and Elliot responded in kind.

Within their nakedness, something else started to happen that was as natural as one could have expected. Jason whispered. "You know something else?"

Elliot paused before looking up at him. "You love me?" he replied, causing Jason to roll his eyes.

"Come on..." he whispered before he slowly started grinding their groins together. "Our dicks really are making out tonight. I think they are in love with each other, too."

Elliot grinned as he ground himself back against his cousin. "I know mine is. I love this," he whispered back. "Not just how good it feels, but I also love how you're not afraid of me when we do it."

Jason stared back. "What's to be afraid of? It's just your breakfast sausage and my hot dog, right?" he teased.

Elliot laughed before he leaned in, and this time shared a very wet and passionate kiss between them. Both teens absorbed each other for the next minute or more, grinding and swallowing the huge hunger building between them. When Elliot finally broke, he leaned back with a mischievous look. "Want to try something different?" Seeing the raised eyebrow, he explained. "Remember that morning, you told me we had a problem, because sometimes just one of us ends up doing something and the other doesn't?"

Jason answered silently with his own mischievous look. Elliot pulled away and sat up about midway down in the bed, before quietly telling Jason to scoot down some. Once done, Elliot then lay back down, but this time with his head pointed toward Jason's feet. Shifting only slightly, he positioned himself right in front of Jason's groin, and his own groin came to within inches of Jason's face. Jason's eyes lit up as he realized what Elliot had in mind, but before he could act on it, his cousin had already latched onto his throbbing member, suckling him and pulling it slowly and deliberately inside. As he let his tongue play across the tip of Jason's glans, he heard his cousin moan appreciatively as it began to slowly lubricate up. The feeling was so sensual that Jason was lost at first, relishing the sensations coming from below. Shortly thereafter, though, he reciprocated, drawing on Elliot's stiffened dick and sucking him inside. It was like a double treatment for both, as they continually moaned softly from both ends. It consumed them in new ways, both physically and emotionally, as they progressed. Each floated an arm around the other's lower waist and used it to pull even closer. It added to the feeling of contentment, and the excitement that was building. It added to the ultimate culmination, too.

Later, after both had climaxed, they found their way back to cuddling again. The only difference was this time, Elliot spooned up to Jason from behind. His breathing returning to normal, Jason spoke quietly. "That was ... I don't know, that was just ... awesome!"

Elliot raised his head up and looked over his friend's shoulder. "I think Derek told me it's called a 69, or something like that. I had forgotten about it mostly."

"Did you and him ever...?"

"Nope, not that one. We came close to doing it I think, but something happened. I honestly don't remember exactly what it was, though. I think he may have creamed me before we really got started."

Jason giggled, then shook his head. "So, I guess I learned something else then. You know, I think I do remember hearing about 69's, like back where I lived in Tennessee. I don't think I really knew what the guys were talking about, though."

Elliot grinned in the darkness. "Guys and girls, like, do it sometimes. The guy gets to, you know, eat the girl out down there, while she gives him a blow job."

"Eat her out?" Jason scrunched his face up as he turned back to look at his friend. "You mean, like lick her and everything in the... you know?"

Elliot could see his friend's eyes widen as he nodded in acknowledgement. It caused him to giggle even more. "Yeah, her cunt. Up inside, even. I know, kind of... uh... yeah, weird, I guess."

Jason thought about it, but then shook his head. As he turned back to face forward again, he pushed himself back even closer into Elliot's grasp. "No, not really. No weirder than two brothers who suck each other off and... and swallow each other's cum," he whispered. "And who lets you put your dick right up against my ass, hard or not, without being afraid you'll try and stick it up in me." He smiled as he pulled Elliot's' arms even tighter. "Not that I would care anymore, you know?"

In response, Elliot giggled again while he gave his cousin a tender hug. "I know bro, but I love you. I wouldn't do that to you like... you know. As much as it might feel like it sometimes, I wouldn't rape you, bro."

Jason sighed, before he whispered. "It wouldn't be rape, Elliot. Trust me."

"Maybe not, but, I just wouldn't Jase. I love you too much to hurt you." Elliot sighed as he nuzzled his friend's neck. "Hey Jase? One more thing, okay? Thanks, for like, treating me like a brother lately. Especially around others and everything, I mean. You even told Ron, tonight, which kind of surprised me. It made me feel, you know, really good inside. About me. About us."

"Well, you are, right? Okay, maybe not technically, but if your Dad doesn't back down from what he said he was going to do-"

"He won't, Jase. He loves you, too." Elliot looked up one last time. "It just means you're going to be stuck with us more than ever then, that's the only difference." He grunted. "I wonder if that will make this stuff we do, like, incest or something?"

Jason giggled at that thought. "You really want to worry about THAT right now? Besides, I thought you had to, you know, screw in order for something like that to be called incest."

Elliot buried his head into the youth's neck and shoulder, then giggled. "Nah, not really. If so, I still don't care anyway. Especially if it's just you and me, right?" He felt Jason nod, and then thought of something else. "Hey, I've been meaning to ask you something. If we adopt you, I mean, WHEN Mum and Dad adopt you, are you like, going to change your last name?" he asked curiously.

Jason thought about that, then shook his head. "No, I don't want to. I mean, don't get me wrong Elliot, I love you guys and everything, all of you. I really do, but I'd really like to hold onto something that's me, something that was given to me by my parents. My real parents, I mean. Is that ... Do you think that will be okay?"

"Yeah, I know it will be okay, bro." Elliot lay his head back down again. "You know, we've got the whole weekend ahead of us, and no homework!"

"Yeah, I know," Jason replied, stifling a yawn and then settling in. No more was spoken between them, and within only minutes, they were both sleeping soundly.

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