Not as it seems

by Benjamin J. Conner

Chapter 4

Michael walked around the living room with a curious look on his face, after receiving the good news. Peter noticed, that his borrowed clothes were a little bit dirty from sitting on the floor at the Milligans - his slightly gray socks used to be white. That reminded him of the chores he still needed to do.

"I'll switch on the TV so you can relax, okay Michael? I have to do the laundry. If you need anything, feel free and help yourself or come to me!"

The boy didn't react, walked over to the window and stared out of it, observing some kids playing on the street. Peter went to take care of his son's dirty clothes, which of course would also be a good fit for Michael, until he got some other things to wear.

During the last minute Ethan had been silently watching Michael and his dad from the upper stairs. As Peter left the room, he slowly walked downstairs and approached the mysterious boy, who had slept in his father's bed last night, from behind.

The boy had something Ethan was unable to explain; it could have been the shyness, his reserved behavior, or just the way he was standing there with his beautiful profile watching the kids through the window. Whatever it was, Ethan found it intriguing and in all his uncertainty about what to do, he tried to act like a cool gangster.

"Hey, you must be Michael, right?"

Michael turned around and bent his head a little bit to the right side as if he was looking at a twisted picture. Ethan came closer, dropped the gangster attitude and reached out with his hand.

"I'm Ethan."

No response to his friendly gesture.

"Wanna play something?"

No answer.

"We can play on my PS3....that's a PlayStation. You know what that is?" Ethan expected an answer, but there was none in sight. "Of course you know - want to? I have some very cool games....come with me, we'll go upstairs!"

Ethan reached out for the boy's left hand, turned around and wanted him to follow, but he didn't move an inch and held him back.

"What's the matter?" He asked and let got of Michael's hand.

The strange boy looked at Ethan and tried to read in his mind and heart. He was very careful about who to trust and who not to, which was more than understandable after all.

As their eyes met, something odd happened between the two boys - it was a little bit like magic. They seemed to communicate with each other, without saying a single word; no smile, no movement, no nothing. It was, as if they knew each other for a very long time and there was no need to talk.

Ethan thought, that Michael was good looking with his slightly longer hair and the spotless face in comparison to himself; however, he also noticed the similarities. Okay, there still were lots of differences between them, but nevertheless they had something in common.

Take the eyes for example - a big difference - Michael's eyes were piercing. The little black edging around the brown center bits was really special. It was attractive and scary at the same time and you wouldn't be able to resist the look of this eleven year old boy. And Ethan, with his sparkling blue eyes, was quite different, but also had his pleasing features which made him just as gorgeous. But no matter how different or similar they both were, in this very moment they belonged together - even if only for a brief period of time.

After a minute or two, Michael took a step towards Ethan, began to smile and reached out for his hand. He was ready now to go upstairs and slowly took the lead. Ethan, feeling warm and a little bit charmed, followed him with a satisfied look on his face and was thinking about what had just happened, though he didn't fully understand it.

The sun was low but still shining, and made its way through the slightly opened window in Ethan's room. It was the largest one in the entire house and a little overloaded with toys; not to mention all the other things like pencils, books and clothes, which were lying around everywhere. Besides that, there definitely weren't many wishes left open for Ethan, as far as one could see from all the modern equipment he owned.

"This is my room, but I guess you already know that. And here is where you'll be sleeping." Ethan pointed to the mattress, which lay in front of the TV.

"Dad will prepare the bed later on. Until that time, we can use it to relax and play; okay?"

Michael nodded twice and was handed one of the controllers from the PlayStation.

"You don't talk much, do you?"

The boy shrugged his shoulders and pushed the PS button on his controller - the PS3 switched on. Ethan dropped himself on the mattress and grabbed the other controller.

"I see you know how it works. Let's see how good you are at Need for Speed, huh?"

It only took a few moments before both boys were immersed in racing around the tracks of the game at more than 100 miles per hour. They seemed to have fun, even if it was mostly Ethan who laughed out loud when his competitor hit one of the barriers.

Michael seemed to enjoy it too and sometimes watched Ethan play for a couple of seconds while his own car was replaced on the track. He smiled a lot and was able to forget all about his experiences for the moment; it even looked as if he wanted to laugh when he won a race or had pushed Ethan's car off the road. But for some unknown reason he didn't.

Peter filled in the washing powder and turned on the washer which started doing its job making these disturbing suction noises.

It was time to check on the boys. He walked upstairs and, as silent as possible, opened the door to Ethan's room. The TV was in the back right corner on the opposite side of his son's bed. They weren't able to see him while he took a peek. It looked as if two normal boys were spending their time in chasing each other all around in a virtual racing world.

"What a satisfying view to see them both having fun." Peter thought to himself. From time to time Michael would turn his head a bit to the left and observe Ethan while he continued to play. They seemed to get along pretty well.

Peter sighed contentedly and walked downstairs again, to prop up his legs on the couch and relax for a moment while sipping on a cold glass of water. It was the very first time that he could really let go of anything, since he took over this case.

But one question kept creeping into his thoughts - "Did Michael ever speak before the accident?" He will soon find out.

Hearing the laughter upstairs, made it perfectly clear that it had been the right decision to let Michael stay with them; at least for the moment. And the concerns of leaving his boy alone with Michael slowly faded away, too; Ethan was the right person for the boy as long as he needed to be with anyone else but himself.

Weariness overcame Peter as his eyes slowly closed. He trusted his son would wake him if anything was needed, so he took the chance and tried to take a nap.

The doorbell rang with its intrusive sound. Susan, Peter's dead wife, had asked him a hundred times to change that thing with a melodic one - unfortunately he never fulfilled that wish.

"I'll get it!" Ethan shouted as he jumped down the stairs.

It was Frank Miller, the police detective who knew Ethan since he was a baby. The man ruffled his hand through the boy's hair as he greeted him.

"Hey sport."

"Hey Frank, how are you?"

"Not too bad, thanks."

"You want anything to drink?"

"The well reared boy as usual huh? No thanks, I wanna talk to your dad?"

"He's in the living room. I'll be upstairs with Michael then."

"Oh, the boy's here? I didn't know that."

"Yeah, he's going to stay here for a while. It's cool though, but he definitely has to learn how do drive an Austin Martin DB5."

"What do you mean?"

"On PlayStation!"

"Ahh, yeah right. You take care and pay attention to the speed limit!" He replied jokingly. "I'll go and see your father then."

"Ok, see you later!"

At a smart pace Frank approached Ethan's father who had sat up by now and already heard who it was.

"Are you completely crazy Peter?"

"Well, what a greeting. Hello Frank."

"You can't let the boy stay here for God's sake. He's part of my investigation and you should keep your distance."

"I know, but I had no choice. After I brought him to the only family who was willing to take him, he closed down completely and stopped communicating. And as far as I understand, your investigation depends on the boy and what he might have to say, right?"

"Yeah you're right, but you don't even know if he ever talked before the incident, and as a friend I have to tell you it's not a good idea. You have no clue, what he will come up with or what he could do to Ethan - think about him!"

"Why the hell is everybody telling me that I have to think about Ethan? Am I such a terrible father? I think of him all the time, cos he has always been the light at the end of the tunnel. He's the reason why I get up everyday and live my life."

"Susan would have never..."

Peter rose from the couch and made a step towards Frank with an offensive look on his face.

"DON'T YOU DARE to try telling me what to do in her name!"

"I just wanted to..."


A moment of silence; both took a deep breath sitting down next to each other and tried to relax. The last several days have been really stressful and everybody was a little on edge.

"Ok sorry, you're right. I just care about you and your son and you know that!"

"Yes I know that. And you know that it's the best for Michael to stay here and to try and live a normal life, so he can recover. You should see his progress, it's fantastic."

"Does he talk?"

"No, but he smiles and I believe I heard him laugh as the boys played upstairs."

"Well okay, do whatever you want; I'm here for you and ask you to be careful about him."

"Of course, no need to tell me!"

"Good. What about the date with Carol?"

"Not now Frank. I still need some time."

"Oh come on Peter. One day you have to move on! It has been eleven years now and there are so many pretty women out there waiting just for you. And Ethan also could use a woman in his life."

"Thanks Frank, I know that; time will tell. Did you bring the tape?"

The detective searched in his pockets and put the video tape on the table.


"Yes son?" Peter answered and turned his head to the boy who had come downstairs unnoticed.

"Can I go out with Michael? I want to show him around."

"I don't know if that's such a good idea?"

"Please dad, I'll take care of him and besides, he's cool. Doesn't talk very much, but still cool."

"What's cool about him?"

"I don't know. He just seems so friendly and peaceful. I like him for no special reason, if that makes any sense."

"It does, I know what you mean. Okay you can go out, but you stay in calling distance and away from the streets. If anything happens or if Michael doesn't like it outside, you come back. You have to be mindful around him; can you do that?"

"Yes dad, no problem."

"Okay then, off you go!"

While Ethan went upstairs to get Michael, Peter got something to drink for Frank who prepared the video camera.

"You ready?" The police detective asked.

"No wait, where's the popcorn?"

"You want popcorn, are you nuts?"

"I was joking. God Frank, calm down and press the button!"

Both men curiously stared at the TV as the video started to play. The audio guy had added the modified part at the end of the recording so they had to fast-forward.

"There it is, quiet........what name did she call? Did you understand it?"


"No, it was something else. Rewind and play it again. I'll turn up the volume."

As the speakers nearly jumped out of the TV, Peter and Frank clearly heard the name the woman was calling. And seeing the video to the sound made clear, that Michael did react to the voice of the woman or the name she called. They would have to find out what that was all about.

"And this is our garage where we store all our outdoor stuff like bikes, skateboard, fishing equipment and so on."

Michael squatted down in front of Ethan's mountain bike. Attentively he looked for all the details like disc-brakes and the 26 gear shift. It was as if he admired it and carefully stroked along its handlebar.

"Wanna take a ride? You can, if you want to!"

Ethan grabbed his bike and offered his valuable ride, holding it on the saddle. Michael slowly put one hand on Ethan's lower arm and shook his head communicating with his eyes. It was as if he wanted to say "No, I don't want to, but thank you very much for the offer.".

At that moment the neighbor boy came by and wanted to check if Ethan had time to play.

"Hey Matty, how was computer class?"

"Hey Ethan, it was boring. I already know all the stuff they tell us there, it's useless."

"Just like you, when it comes to speed cubing huh?"

"Haha, very funny. Who's this?"

"That's Michael, he's.....the son of a friend. He's staying here for a few days."

"Why?" Matthew asked full of curiosity

"His dad is....well, actually I don't know. He's one of dad's clients and has nowhere to go, so he's staying."

"Ok, cool, hi Michael."

"AND he doesn't talk much, so bear with him." Ethan added.

"Can you tell my mom how to do that?!" Matthew stated and poked the silent boy in his side.

"NO please, don't touch him!"

Michael didn't like to be touched by people he didn't know and felt a little bit uncomfortable from one second to the other. He wanted to leave the situation immediately, but was also afraid to move. Staring to the ground of the more or less dark garage, his stomach began to hurt and he felt a pressure building inside of it.

"Michael? It's okay, nothing happened. He won't touch you again, I promise." Ethan whispered after he got closer.

"What's wrong with him?"

"Nothing's wrong with him! He just doesn't like to be touched by strangers."

"That's weird." Matthew stated.

"No, it isn't."

"Yeah, it is."

"Matt, it's better if you leave now, I can't play today anyway!"

"Fine, I wish you a lot of fun with your new friend here!"

"Oh come on, he's friend."

Ethan wanted to explain it and tell Matt that he still was his best friend, but the other boy had already turned around and was leaving.

And Michael - he also got the message and understood that Ethan didn't see him as a friend; what an unpleasant revelation. He sat down in the corner of the garage and faced the wall like he had done at the Milligan's.

"Michael? What are you doing?"

Ethan had a questioning look on his face and sat down next to him.

"Listen, I didn't mean it that way. Of course you are my friend, but Matt can be very nosy and I wouldn't have had any clue what to tell him about you."

Ethan put his hand on Michael's shoulder and gently stroked it to show, that he was serious. He was afraid how Michael would react to his touch, but for whatever reason it was okay.

"Besides, I promised to take care of you and when he started to pick on you, I couldn't let that happen."

Michael turned his head and looked at Ethan. His eyes were full of fear, loneliness and hope. He didn't know what was happening to him, why he felt so shy with strangers around, and why he reacted the way he did. But with Ethan or Peter, it was different; he felt safe and was able to let go of all the bad things he had on his mind.

While he took a deep breath, their eyes met and it happened again; the silent communication between the two boys - it made them both smile.

"So it's Darren. You think that's his real name?" Frank asked.

"How should I know? But why would he react on the name Michael if it was really Darren?"

"I don't have the faintest idea - this all doesn't make sense."

"No, it doesn't. Perhaps it was only the voice of the lady who called for her son, which reminded him of his mother or something."

"Yeah, it's possible. Listen Peter, I have to go now. I'll check for any missing Darren's in the morning and we can talk then. I don't expect to find anything - it's all a bit of a stretch."

"Okay Frank. It was worth a try. Tomorrow I am continuing with the interview and will keep you updated."

"Sounds good, enjoy your evening!"

With that the detective left and drove home for a deserved quiet night.

On the outside of the wooden house, the sun was setting, the shadows became longer, and the temperature got milder.

Peter opened the front door and called for the boys to come inside. They needed something to eat and a shower before it was bed time.

"I'll prepare the bed for Michael now. Can you please be inside the house and ready for supper in 10 minutes?"

"But we don't have to go to bed afterwards right? It's too early dad!"

"No, of course not, but I prefer you were inside the house rather than running around outside. Michael still needs my attention and we have to get to know eachother better before we do anything else."

Fifteen minutes later all three were sitting around the kitchen counter eating sandwiches made with bacon, lettuce, and mustard.

"Did you finish your homework?" Peter asked his son.

"When should I've done that?"

"I don't know, just asking I guess."

"No I haven't, but I don't have a lot today."

"Good, you can do that after you've eaten and I'll use the time to talk with Michael."

"He's lucky - no homework at all." Ethan stated and looked over to the other boy with a smile on his face.

"I guess he's all but lucky being here with strangers after such an experience."

"Dad, I was joking. Are you going to be that serious all the time now?"

"No son, it's just....I don't know, just give me some time please! I've crossed over some serious boundaries in the last two days and I'm a little bit confused about the whole thing."

"What boundaries?"

"You know, the sleeping in my bed, letting Michael stay here's really okay, but I have to get used to this situation."

"But you don't have to worry; he'll be fine with us, right?"

"I hope so."

During this talk it seemed as if Ethan was trying to defend Michael's presence in their house, and Peter was trying to advocate his behavior in front of the grand jury only consisting of his son. So after all it has been the right decision looking at it from Peter's and Ethan's point of view. Whether or not this was all a good decision, was still to be determined.

Ethan went upstairs to do his homework while the other two sat down in the living room. Peter had prepared a little notepad on which Michael could hopefully write down some things in case he wanted to.

With his intriguing look, the boy watched Peter as he tried to find the right words, for the right questions. The day had definitely been good for the boy - okay not all of it, but at least most of the afternoon. He acted more free and also seemed to have opened up a little bit more. So it was time to go one step farther and give it a try.

"Can I ask you some questions, Michael?"

He answered with a nodding.

"At the moment you are communicating with us very well. I'm proud of you and thankful for your trust. But did you ever talk before the accident?"

Michael slowly nodded.

"So can you tell me why you don't talk at the moment?"

The boy shrugged his shoulders.

"There has to be a reason - it looks as if you trust me and also Ethan. So why are you not talking with us? You definitely are physically able to."

Michael didn't see any difference in the question itself; he wasn't going to answer the same question twice.

"Can you write it down? Here, take the notebook and this pen - it's a special pen. I got it from the mother of a girl who disappeared several years ago. I helped in finding her. It was a thank you present after we returned the girl from a lonely farm out in the country - thankfully she just ran away. And now I'm giving it to you to say thank you for your trust."

Michael listened and looked at the special silver pen he was just given. It seemed to work - with pride he used it to write the words "Thank you".

"Great, here we go. Can you tell me, why you don't talk to me? I mean, can I do anything about it?"

Michael wrote the words "Don't want to".

"Okay, I accept that, but you know that I can only help you if you talk to me some day, right? So please think about it, will you?"

Michael put a serious look on his face, took the notebook again and wrote "You said, you accept it!!"

"Right, that's what I said." Peter made a short pause before he continued. "Okay, we'll leave it like that. You want to watch some TV? I'll go and check on Ethan and his homework."

Michael shook his head, put the pen in the side pocket of his pants and went over to the window - he liked to look through it and enjoyed the peace.

"Hey buddy, you need any help?"

"Nope, just finished with math."

"Excellent! I just thought that, if you like, you could show me how to do the cube thing and all that."

"Yeah, that'd be cool. And I can show Michael too."

"If he likes, of course. But please take a shower before. I'll send Michael upstairs - he can take one after you."

"Okay dad."

Both turned around at the same time and said in a chorus "Oh, one thing."

It was a funny situation; like father, like son. After they stopped laughing, Peter asked Ethan to go first!

"Dad, why doesn't he talk?"

"Oh that's a fairly good question. Sometimes, when people see something really terrible, they get shocked so horrifically that they need some time to recover from that experience. And during that time, especially kids, don't like to talk, because they need all their energy to survive this terrible moment and to learn to live with it. It's absolutely fine, don't worry. One day he'll start talking."

"What did he experience?"

"It's not written in the books, but I guess he saw his mother and father die in a car crash. Afterwards he walked around in the country with blood all over his body for nearly two days, before he was found. That's quite traumatic."

"Wow, I....don't know what to say. That doesn't sound funny."

"No it doesn't."

"What did YOU want?" Ethan asked.

"Can you please let him borrow a pair of boxers and some things he could wear for tomorrow? I'll get him other stuff in the morning."

"No problem, that is, if there ARE any fresh boxers to borrow!"

"Oh yes, laundry should be ready by now, thanks. You really are the best son one could wish for, I'm very proud of you."

Ethan smiled from one ear to the other about the feedback from his father. He liked it when he said things like that and dropped his clothes right in front of his father as he always did before he went for the shower. Ethan never was shy about being naked as long as no girl or stranger was around.

Peter walked downstairs and explained to the other boy what the plan was, before he went on to empty the washer. Michael only nodded and joined Ethan in his room; he had already put his boxers back on. For an unknown reason, he thought it would be best to not walk around naked in front of him.

"You already know where the bath room is, right?"

Michael nodded and started to undress.

"Take it easy, it's my turn first. You can wait here and I'll get you, when I'm done."

The hot enjoyable water flowed down on Ethan's silky and hairless body. He was standing in the steamy, glassy shower cubicle with his hands leaning against the wall. It was the daily routine for relaxation - no matter if after sports or just after school - he loved it and never complained about taking a shower.

And it was the place where he once found out that hot water could make him feel good in the lower department, when he pulled back the foreskin of his fair-sized tool. It was also the place where he had his first orgasm. He could remember it, like it was yesterday - okay, it has just been several weeks ago, but nowadays he wouldn't feel close to fainting anymore, when he reached his climax. He got used to the feeling and loved it more than anything else.

Ethan reached for the shower gel, put some in his hand and started washing his hair. Afterwards he continued farther down and soaped up his body very carefully in pleasant anticipation of what was coming next. The last part was the most important one. He took some more shower gel, pulled back the foreskin of his penis and applied the fluid to his hard piece of flesh, muscles, and skin. Ethan's body jerked with the first initial motions he did, while he closed his eyes and imagined Matthew's naked body from their show-me-yours I-show-you-mine game. Secretly it wasn't even awkward for him to think about another boys body while he did that. He knew that he wasn't gay, so it was okay.

The water had built a shining surface on his firm body and slightly mirrored the brightness and the interior of the shower stall. It was only broken by the foam from the shower gel, which was running down his impertinent athletic legs and the sweet little bubble butt which longed for a touch. While his motions became faster and faster, he put his head back into his neck and started to breath heavier. It only took a minute or two until his eleven year old body clenched and he clutched onto the soap holder.

With a deep loud exhalation he came in several dry waves. The emotions were still overwhelming; it felt like if he was in heaven and could forget about anything for these special seconds of his short life. All his senses were focused on what was happening down there, as the wonderful feeling slowly subsided - far too fast for Ethan.

He tried to recover with short and fast breaths, still enchanted by the beauty of sex. What a wonderful, satisfying moment he was able to experience on his own, without any help and without anyone watching; at least he thought so.

After Ethan rinsed, he turned the water off and opened the fogged-up glass door of the shower cubicle. What he saw then, shocked him to death.

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