Kaiser's Pack - Next Gen

by Bensiamin

Chapter 5

David drove Matt home after their session and filled Jackson in on the details when he got home. When the boys got back from the hospital, they were incredibly curious, and David gave them a high-level summary. "I know it's not much more than you already know, but the details need to come from Matt, not from me. You know it's confidential, and he's opening up. I don't think he'll be hung up about discussing it."

"We're going over there to see Nate in a little while. We'll see if Matt's around or even says anything. If not, we'll avoid the 'twenty questions' approach in the morning."

"Good idea," Jackson quipped. "Who says there isn't a functioning brain in that skull!"

When they got to the Willis home, Matt's mom answered the door and thanked them in advance for coming again to visit Nate, and then said, "Thank you so much for befriending Matt. I didn't know what happened to him. I know things changed back then when he quit Little League, but I thought it was how he was dealing with his dad dying. You have no idea how thankful I am that you two boys, and David and Jackson, are in his life."

"David's the psychologist," Jerrod said. "We're just a couple of high school kids trying to help our friends out, that's all. We're all lucky we've got Kaiser. He's the one that breaks down the barriers and connects people."

"I see that, and I think it's wonderful. Matt's down in Nate's room. He helped him to the bathroom when David dropped him off, then I took them lunch. Go on down, you know your way around."

Jerrod had been holding Kaiser's collar, so he didn't charge down the hall, and they quietly walked down to the door to Nate's room. Slowly and as quietly as he could, Jerrod opened the door a foot and then let go of Kaiser's collar. He went straight in, and a few seconds later they heard Nate cry out, "Kaiser! You're here. Good boy."

When they walked into the room, Kaiser was up on Nate's bed, Matt was sitting on the foot of the bed, and they were both patting the dog. All three of them looked happy.

"Well, there's a sight for sore eyes," Roger said as they walked over to the bed. "Is your mom cool with having a dog on the bed?"

Nate grinned. "I don't know about before, but she is now!"

They caught up about the last couple of days, and Nate asked how the hospital session had gone.

"It was pretty standard stuff today. No amazing new patients, you know, like gay ones with cancer from Pendleton or baseball stars in body casts. Just your typical cancer, ortho and neuro patients." Jerrod tried to keep a straight face but failed.

Matt was listening, and when the hospital conversation tapered off, he said, "I was just filling Nate in on my meeting with David. You know some of it but, he only knows a little, so I figured since I told mom the other day, it was time to start the 'no secrets' approach in this house too."

"Good plan."

Matt caught them up to where he'd been explaining to Nate what had happened to him, and went on from there. They were mostly quiet, and it was Nate who was full of questions. Matt did a great job of being candid about what happened with Coach Evan, even when Nate said, "He jacked you off and had you jack him off, too? Wow!"

"Yeah, wow is right! I was hurting and David helped me understand I had this hole in my life he stepped into and then took advantage of… with the friendship and sex stuff." Nate seemed not to be able to let it go. "But he jacked you off and stuff? You know he was getting really friendly with me before he left?"

"Yeah, that's one of the things that put me over the top, 'cause I could see where it was going. I confronted him, but he got caught 'cause some other kids told their parents before I could do anything. Anyway, what David told me is that stuffing away all that shame and fear is what made me so angry and turned me into a bully."

Nate paused and then said, "So, you were looking out for me back then, too?"

Matt just nodded.

"How come I didn't know my brother had become a bully?" Nate then asked.

"Because you're two years behind me and we're not in the same groups at school. I also didn't want you to see it. You know?"

"Yeah, I do. Embarrassing huh?"

"Sure is."

"And you almost died that day on the mountain?"

"Yeah, if not for these guys. I was just too big a jerk to admit it, let alone tell you about it."

They kept talking and finally Nate said, "So, now what?"

"I'm going to keep meeting with David till he thinks I'm fixed."

"Is that really possible?" Nate was grinning, devilishly.

"You know, if you weren't in that cast, I'd probably pick you up, carry you in the bathroom and stick your head in the toilet."

"No way!"

"Yeah, no way, really. Kaiser would throw me out of the Pack, and these two would fight to the death to defend their friend. Right?"

Everyone laughed, and another bond had been formed based on a new level of trust and openness. Jerrod asked if Matt had seen Tom and Steve since the confrontation, and he shook his head. With football season over he could avoid them and did. The conversation turned back to Nate and how he was handling the boredom, and if he was keeping up on his homework.

"I think I'm on top of the homework, but the boredom is a drag. Like the highlight of my day is when you guys come over from school so Matt can carry me in for a piss." He grinned wickedly. "It's been close a couple of times."

"But you made it?"

"Yeah, but I was having to hold it there at the end. I probably need to drink less water during the day or something. It'd be bad enough to pee the bed, but pissing on the cast would be really hard to clean up. You know, it comes down to right above my cock, so there's not much room to work."

"Well," Jerrod said with a sly grin, "isn't your cock pointing away from the cast, so you'd piss down your leg and onto the bed, not up onto your cast. That wouldn't be so hard for Matt to clean up." He grinned at Matt. "He maybe wouldn't even need to touch your junk."

Matt rolled his eyes and said, "No way. He'd be on his own."

Nate then acted hurt, and playfully said to his brother, "But you said you'd help me with anything I needed."

"Well, up to a point. I don't hold your cock for you to piss, and I'm not cleaning your junk either if you pee the bed. Like I said, you're on your own there."

"Well, be that way. You should try wearing this thing. Worrying about pissing in it isn't the only problem, you should try and have a hard on with this thing on."

All of their faces went blank.

"What?" Nate continued, "You hadn't thought about that. It's not much fun, I'll tell you. My cock can't stand up straight and the cast on the leg is right there, so my balls are pushed off to the side." He was warming up to the task of making them pity his circumstance. "Then there's trying to jack off with this thing on."

He grinned at them all evilly, letting the images develop in their minds.

"It's like almost impossible. You guys didn't think about that either, did you?"

"Actually, no," Roger said, in a very sympathetic voice. "Our bad. Does the cast interfere if you get a hard on? I mean like it causes pain?"

"Yeah, 'cause it goes so far down where the body part ends, and the leg part begins. I mean, I can barely see my cock. Want to see?"

He didn't wait for an answer, just flipped the sheet back to expose his groin and show just how crowded his genitals were.

"Wow! I saw a picture of the cast on a girl, but I didn't think what it would be like for a guy," Jerrod said. "And it's way different for you at fifteen with a good-sized cock, compared to some kid who's seven or eight with a little dick and small balls."

Roger quietly said, "I had no idea the cast extended so far down. It actually ends out over your cock, like an overhanging cliff or something. It only gives you enough room to kind of angle your cock out so you don't piss down your leg."

"Welcome to my world," Nate said triumphantly, then continued, "I guess the doc doing the cast was only thinking about taking a piss, like all you need to piss is for your cock to hang straight down. The way this cast is shaped, my cock can't stand up straight when it's hard. You can guess that besides the mess, jacking off is not easy with the cast."

"Have you tried?"

"Yeah, but I gave up 'cause it can't stand up. It just turned into stroking a few times when I was hard. Even that's not so fun, 'cause when it's hard it rubs on the cast where it overhangs, and that hurts. So, it hasn't worked too well." He paused, enjoying walking them through his misery. He could see he was getting sympathy, and continued, "I figure I'm due for a wet dream pretty soon, and that'll be a mess I'll need help with." He looked at his brother and smiled innocently.

Matt grinned back. "I'll clean you up, but I'm not jacking you off. That'd be too gay."

Matt immediately tensed, then looked at Jerrod and Roger and said, "Sorry guys. That was stupid to say. I've got to change my vocabulary."

"From you we'll put up with it," Roger said, "for a while! We'll allow you two or three fuck ups like that."

Matt smiled back, a touch of embarrassment on his face.

"Can I ask you guys something?" Nate was looking at Roger and Jerrod.

They both nodded. "It's about sex. I was thinking since you guys are gay and together and your parents accept it and stuff, that means you can just get it on when you want to, right? I mean it's not like all the stuff you've got to go through with girls. I mean, you know, dates and finding a place and stuff, and worrying about the parents."

They glanced at each other, then Jerrod said, "In a way, yes. But, Roger's parents only let him sleep over at my place a night or sometimes two in a week, and we alternate back and forth from his house to mine. They know we have sex, but they don't want to know the details, and even at home with David and Jackson, it's not wide open or anything."

"What he's trying to say," Roger added, "is that the adults expect manners and decorum, so we can't fuck like rabbits. Is that the question you were really trying to ask? If we fuck like rabbits, anytime we want?"

Nate blushed, but smiled. "Yeah, it seems like you guys are in this really cool situation, you can pretty much have it when you want it or need it."

Matt cleared his throat and said, "This is getting too personal for me. I'm going to go see if Mom needs help in the kitchen, or look at my homework, or something. Then you guys can keep on talking."

When the door closed, they both looked at Nate and laughed. "He's coming around, but he's still hung up about what happened and if it'll make him gay," Jerrod said. "It won't. He's not gay, but he's got to work through it."

"I figured."

"Nate, has Matt had a girlfriend or gone on many dates?"

"Not really. Meaning no girlfriend and only a few dates I can remember. And sorry if I embarrassed you guys asking about having sex and stuff. I'm just really curious."

"You didn't embarrass us. We can talk about pretty much any of it," Jerrod said. "You were talking about wanting or needing it. You haven't been able to jack off?"

"No. The first week I had too much pain from the surgery. Now the hip doesn't really hurt much, but a hard on rubs on the cast and I'm right-handed, so trying to do it with the cast so close is hard because it means reaching over and that hurts a different way."

He looked frustrated.

"Have you tried left-handed?" Roger asked.

"Yeah, and I can get to my cock, but it can't stand up so it's awkward and I'm hitting the cast all the time. It's the pits."

He saw Roger glance at Jerrod and lift his eyebrows. Jerrod smiled back at him and wiggled his. Roger looked at Nate and said, "Want a hand?"

"What do you mean?"

Roger held up his right hand. "I'm right-handed, and from here I'd have pretty clear access to help you out. We're your therapy team, after all!"

"What? You'd do that for me?"

"Yeah, unless you were too weirded out about being handled by a gay guy and having his boyfriend watch. Or unless you're worried about it making you gay or something."

"Fuck, I'm not worried about any of that. Since we're doing this honesty thing, I told you I had a crush on a kid on the baseball team last year, and he's not the only one. So, I've thought about being with guys, you know."

"So, do you want a hand?" Roger looked at him with a face full of innocence, and blinked his eyes. Nate was slow answering, and Roger looked down at his rapidly hardening penis. "Looks to me like your cock is answering for you. Are you good with this?"

Nate nodded, an expression of disbelief on his face. It deepened and then changed to pure pleasure as Roger's hand settled on his cock, slowly stroking. He could feel it fully hard and heard Jerrod call Kaiser down off the bed. Roger said, "For the record, you have a nice-looking cock, and see, I can hold your cock so it's pointing away from the cast, Nate. But now I've got to get in a more comfortable position." He turned so that he was sitting alongside Nate up on the bed, his hand slowly going to work. He made sure to point away from the cast.

He stroked his thumb in small circles below the head of Nate's cock. "Is that okay? Does it feel good?"

"Oh, fuck! It's awesome."

"Just relax then, lay back, close your eyes and dream about whomever."

Roger kept slowly stroking, and watched Nate relax with his hands at his sides. After a minute he began clasping the sheet. He glanced at Jerrod who grinned at him and taunted him by shaping his mouth like an O. Roger wasn't sure what Jerrod was thinking but saw that he was heading to the bathroom. Hopefully, that meant for a washcloth because it seemed like Nate was getting closer. He softly said, "Nate, do you use spit?"

Nate's eyes popped open, but he nodded yes, and Roger dribbled some spit onto the top of his cock and then concentrated his strokes with the new lubricant. Nate groaned, and a few seconds later groaned again, this time louder. "O god, I'm going to cum."

His hips couldn't buck with the body cast, and that was probably just as well after the surgery, but he shot four or five times down his leg and on Roger's hand. The strokes slowed, and then Roger let go, setting Nate's cock on the top of his thigh, and took the washcloth Jerrod handed him.

As he wiped up the cum, he could see Nate's head lolled back in complete relaxation, his panting slowing. After half a minute Nate opened his eyes and said, "That was righteous, so good. You have no idea how much I needed that." He took a huge breath and laid back on the pillow with his eyes closed. Roger went to rinse the washcloth and then came back for a final clean up.

"You look like you could take a nap now."

"Man, you don't know how good that felt. I've been wanting that all week. You guys are amazing friends, you know?"

"Hey, we don't do this for just anybody. Only for members of the Pack who are in need. And don't get any ideas. Jerrod and I are boyfriends and soulmates forever. We're just helping you out. No romance, no attachment."

Nate nodded, "Got it. I understand. Just thanks, is all."

Jerrod said, "So, Nate, who were you thinking about when Roger was stroking you?" He was smiling mischievously.

Nate blushed momentarily and then said, "Truth? It was Michael. We're talking on the phone a lot now and he's cute and cool and stuff. I really like him."

"You've got good taste, bro! I told him he needs some good friends and a boyfriend."

"What'a ya mean, boyfriend?," Nate asked.

"Just saying that's all. He told us he thinks you're cute and cool, too."

Roger put the sheet back up over Nate's waist and said, "We've got to get going. You get to figure out if you're going to tell Matt or not. See you tomorrow."

They stuck their head in the kitchen, where Matt was sitting talking to his Mom while she was cooking, and said their goodbyes. Laurie thanked them for coming by, and they told Matt they'd see him in the morning for school.

On the walk out to the car Jerrod took Roger's hand and said softly, "Do you think she'd have thanked us for coming if she knew the kind of cumming that was happening?"

"Good question. Let's hope Nate knows how to be cool, because besides the hand job, I think our young friend is bi."

The next morning on the drive to school Matt told them that one of the things that blew his mind was when David was talking to him about sexual identity and how most of what he said was like his talk at GSA.

"Why's that such a surprise?"

"Well, I mean I didn't know most of it. I mean it doesn't get talked about, does it?"

"No, and that's the problem that needs to be fixed. All kids need to know the full story," Jerrod said. "It would have made my life a lot easier about accepting I was gay if I'd known the facts. It probably would have made you less inclined to hassle gay kids, too."

"I figure I should be going, like you want me to. Why don't parents talk about this stuff or why don't they teach it in Sex Ed classes? I mean kids need to know this shit if they're to sort out their problems."

"Good point," Jerrod said. "I'm betting it's 'cause the parents don't want their kids to learn too much about sex. Plus, most adults see sex as something to be ashamed about. And then the kids, meaning us, end up feeling the same way."

He could see Matt nod his head in the rearview mirror, but he didn't reply.

Roger turned in his seat and said, "Did we ever tell you about the gay 'birds and bees' talk Jackson and David gave us after we got together?"

"No. What is that?"

"Just what it sounds like. You must have had the sex talk with your parents. Well, David and Jackson knew my parents were open and accepted I was gay, but they had no experience about being gay. They also knew Jerrod's parents were slowly coming around to accepting he was gay. You know, they knew we were together, and they agreed to let him stay here for his senior year and live with two gay guys. So, David and Jackson assumed that if we'd had a 'birds and bees' talk it would have been the standard one about making babies. So, when Jerrod came back from Philly for good, to stay here and go to school, they sat us down and had the gay version of the talk with us."

"Are you shitting me? There's a gay version?"

"No, man, we're not shitting you! It's the kind of guys they are. They care. They wanted us to be clean and be healthy and be happy. Gay sex is different from straight sex in a lot of ways. So, they gave us the talk and a book called The Joy of Gay Sex, and told us they'd talk about anything we wanted to ask about."

"That must have been a trip. David said something to me about how so much of this stuff isn't talked about and that's part of the problem. You know, like parents telling their children that when they grow up, they might be straight or bi or gay."

"And even more basic than that is the whole subject of sex," Roger added. "Like, why is it basically taught that it's dirty and everyone is supposed to be embarrassed about it all the time?"

"I don't know, man," Matt responded. "My parents didn't talk about it much. My dad did the sex talk thing, but it was pretty basic. You know, just don't get a girl pregnant. That was embarrassing. I guess Sex Ed classes are because most parents don't teach their kids, right?"

"That's what David says. Guess what though, giving us the gay sex book wasn't all of it," he continued.

"What does that mean?"

"After the talk, and they gave us the book, they'd gotten permission from Roger's parents for him to stay over. Meaning to sleep with me in my room in my bed. Before, the closest we'd gotten was when we were camping in the back yard. Anyway, when we got down to my room, in the bedside table was a box of condoms and a couple of bottles of lube!"

Matt gaped, then started laughing. Finally, he said, "Now I know where the craziness comes from. They're just as crazy as you are. That's where it comes from, right? Oh, and by the way, thanks for taking care of my little brother yesterday."

He stared at Jerrod in the rearview mirror, and then continued, "You know what I mean. Helping him jack off. I thought about it listening to him, but just couldn't get there. You know, with the shit I'm sorting out. But I think you guys are great for helping him out."

"No worries there, Matt. We're glad we could help. So, you know, it only happens in the Pack, and only when we're both there. It's therapy, not romance or attachment, like we told Nate."

"Good to know."

"So, don't forget when school is done today," Jerrod said, "don't panic if we're a few minutes late. We've got PE for our last class, and since we're on the tennis team that's when we practice Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You know how it goes if the coach is doing drills or whatever?"

"Oh, yeah. No worries there. I'll see you when you get here."

Matt asked the about practice on the drive home, and they were happy to report that they were in better form than most of the team, excepting Eric and Kim, since all four of them had been playing tennis once a week since ski race season ended.

"Good on you guys! Nothing like off season training."

Tuesday passed uneventfully, but during the drive home at lunch on Wednesday, Roger asked about GSA.

"So, Matt, are you still coming to GSA with us today after school?"

"Well, yeah. I said I would. Is there a problem?"

"No, no problem. I'm just checking."

Jerrod grinned at him in the rearview mirror and added, "I'll zip you home after class and Roger will save us seats. Then after you take care of Nate we'll zip back to school."

The GSA meeting was anticlimactic once everyone got over the fact that one of the bully football jocks had just walked in with Jerrod. Then everyone understood why Roger had kept two seats open next to him, as they walked over and sat down.

"Sorry we're late. We had to run home to Matt's house 'cause his brother Nate had hip surgery and is in a body cast and has to be carried to the bathroom."

"You mean to pee?" one of the girls asked.

"Yeah, he can't put any weight on that leg yet and it's pretty cumbersome. But Matt can just pick him up and carry him."

He looked around the group. "Does everyone know Matt Willis from the football team?"

Everyone nodded, many in awe, others suspicious.

"Do you guys want to introduce yourselves, since it's his first time here?"

They went around the group with everyone saying who they were, the grade they were in, who they were with if they were with someone, and then it came around to Matt.

"You know who I am. I'll tell you straight off, I wouldn't be here except for these two guys. You probably know they do dog therapy work, and they were my little brother's dog therapy team when he was in the hospital. That's where I ran into them and their dog, and… well… what happened is they started doing dog therapy on me, too. I didn't know I needed it, but it turns out I do."

He looked around at everyone and then softly said, "I know I've got the reputation of being the bully, and have harassed some of you. I was a jerk and I even harassed Jerrod for being gay, and he was on the ski team with me. Anyway, that's done and over. I still don't know for sure why they say they like me and I'm their friend. But I want you to know I've changed. I've got two really good friends who are gay, and that means I can't be a homophobe anymore, right?"

It took a few seconds, then a couple of people laughed, and then more, and finally everyone got the joke.

"Thanks, you guys. I've got lots to learn. I'm straight, and these two even had to tell me what GSA stands for, but I want to be part of it, if you'll let me."

Matt got a light round of applause, then the sponsor started the day's talk about recent changes in Oregon's laws protecting LGB youth.

On the drive home Matt had to admit it was pretty non-threatening.

Roger grinned at him, "You mean you weren't worried you'd get the gay disease by being in a room full of us?"

"No, man. I'm not a bigot who does stereotypes anymore. Thank you, very much! They were all nice, even nice to me. And there were other straight people in it."

Thursday morning passed as usual, but on the drive home at noon Matt was quiet, and finally Roger turned in his seat and simply said, "What's up? You're way quiet."

"It wasn't a good morning. I had a run in with some of the football team, and they were giving me shit about going to GSA. You know, like that means I've turned into a wimp or become gay or something."

"How did they know?"

"I guess good news travels fast. Like a lot of the kids in GSA were probably totally surprised I was there, and talked about it, and word got around. So, these assholes were basically wanting to know why I'm hanging out in the gay group and especially with you two fairies. That's what they called you."

"They actually said that to you? What did you do?"

"I told them they were full of shit and that you two could beat them academically, and in most sports, so they could shove it. Any way I ran into them on the way to the athletics office where Coach told me he'd heard from U of O, and I'm not getting a scholarship. So, I won't be going there. That probably means I won't get one at Oregon State either. If that happens, it means I can't afford college. So, suddenly things look pretty shitty."

Jerrod, as another athlete, understood the hurt Matt was dealing with, and they both tried to cheer him up about the two other scholarship prospects he still had.

"Yeah, maybe. I told you Washington State was kind of a long shot 'cause it's out of state and I didn't make All State or anything like that. U of O and Oregon State are in the same conference, so if Oregon said no, the odds are good it'll happen at Oregon State, too."

They were silent the rest of the ride, and Jerrod knew better than to bring the subject up again. However, after Nate's bathroom run was complete, Matt and Roger went to the kitchen to put lunch together, and Jerrod stayed with Nate.

"Did Matt tell you about U of O?"

"Yeah. The letter was here when he got home yesterday. He was totally down after he read it. I mean he told me and then mom, but he couldn't hide how bad he felt. I thought he was going to cry at dinner, and my brother doesn't cry! And the worst is that he thinks the same thing will happen with Oregon State."

"You've got to work on keeping his spirits up. We can't let him get depressed over this. It's only the first school, right?"

They could hear Matt and Roger coming down the hall with lunch, and Nate said, "Hey, man, I'll try."

As Jerrod hoped, the whole vibe changed after school when they picked up Kaiser and headed to the park to meet Sean and his Mom. Matt dropped one of the rear seat backs, and Kaiser lay down with his head in Matt's lap after licking his face. Matt didn't look any happier, but he looked more peaceful with Kaiser's head in his lap. The vibe changed again when they met Sean. It was a repeat of the previous week's session, Matt and Sean working on commands in tandem and Kaiser fetching the ball. By the time they were done not only was Sean supremely happy with Kaiser and his new friend, but it was clear Matt's disposition had improved greatly, too. He was smiling and joking with the young boy.

They said their goodbyes and loaded Kaiser in the back of the Cherokee. Matt put the seat back up since his paws were muddy, and they headed home.

Roger said softly, "Are you feeling better now?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you've been dealing with downer news, but it looked to me like you were having a good time with Sean and Kaiser. Sean was sure thrilled to have his new friend spend time with him again."

Matt was quiet, and then said, "He's so happy, so… so, I don't know… sweet. I guess that's it. He's a sweet kid, isn't he?"

"He is. He's got a learning disability that goes along with cerebral palsy," Jerrod said, "but all he asks is that you be his friend, and he probably doesn't know it, I mean, couldn't explain it, but all he wants is to be happy."

Matt was silent again, then said, "Being happy is a good thing. Can I tell you guys something I just figured out? I don't want to sound stupid, but I just figured out I'm happier than I've been in a long time, since I met Kaiser and you guys and Kaiser let me in his Pack."

"That's very cool," Roger said. "You should turn around and tell Kaiser that directly. You'll be amazed just how much he understands. Maybe not the words, but the emotion, the intention."

Matt hesitated. "Really? Tell a dog he made me happy."

"Try it, Matt. You'll be surprised."

Jerrod could see Matt look exasperated in the rearview mirror, but he heard the seat belt unclip and saw Matt turn on the rear seat, weighted on his knees, looking into the rear cargo area. Kaiser had seen the motion and sat up to see what was happening.

Matt reached into the rear over the seat back, holding his weight on his elbows, his hands grasping the side of Kaiser's head. He ran his fingers behind the dog's ears, and he said, "Thanks, Kaiser, you make me happy."

Kaiser leaned forward and licked the side of Matt's face a few times, then leaned further forward and put his head on Matt's shoulder. Matt's arms went around the dog's shoulders and he said, "I love you too, Kaiser."

When he turned back around and sat down, Jerrod could see tears in his eyes. When they pulled up in front of Matt's house, Jerrod turned off the ignition and walked around the Cherokee to meet Matt as he got out of the rear. He didn't give him a chance to do anything, he just pulled him into a hug and whispered in the larger boy's ear, "It feels good to be loved, doesn't it?"

"Yeah, it does."

"Now, can I make a suggestion, Big Guy?"

Matt nodded.

"Why don't you go inside and do the same thing with Nate and your mom. Tell them you love them, too. I'm not saying you don't, but if you're anything like I used to be, you don't say it much… and people need to hear it."

Matt stared at him coolly, and Jerrod wondered if he'd offended him. Them a wry smile spread across Matt's face. "You're right. I can't remember the last time I said that. I guess if I can tell Kaiser, I can tell my mom and my brother, right?"

"For sure, and if it makes it any easier, I went through the same thing last summer with David when he and Jackson were straightening out my shit."

Matt hugged him and headed for his house.

When they picked him up the next morning, the high from being with Sean was gone and Matt had reverted back to being down. Jerrod gingerly quizzed him, and he basically got told that his mom and Nate both told him to stay optimistic, that he had two other options. "They sounded like you guys."

"So, what are you thinking?"

"That you guys are optimists and I'm not. Maybe it's karma."

"What does that mean?"

"It means maybe this is payback for being such an asshole for so long."

Roger spun in his seat and said, "Matt, you know that's bullshit. It doesn't work that way. Yeah, things happen, good and bad, but that's just life. You can't go getting down on yourself like you deserved this. You didn't choose to be that way, you had shit happen to you."

They'd pulled into Jerrod's preferred parking space and Jerrod added, "Roger's right. Beating yourself up won't do any good." They left it there and split up to head to their first class.

"What happens if he doesn't get one or both of the other scholarships?"

"I don't know," Jerrod replied, "but if he's right about the money stuff, it won't be good. We can't let him just beat up on himself, agreed?"

Roger nodded and they said goodbye till lunch. They were both in the Cherokee at noon, waiting for Matt, who was late. "Something's up. He's usually here at the same time or thirty seconds behind us."

"Yeah, I hope he just forgot his coat or something."

Four minutes passed and then Jerrod said, "I can see him coming out the door. We'll pull around and pick him up."

They met Matt as he was starting across the parking lot, and he looked flustered and emotional. "This doesn't look good," Jerrod said softly.

After they stopped the Cherokee, Matt got in the back seat and simply said, "Sorry, for being late."

"Did you forget your coat or your books?"

Matt was slow to answer, and Jerrod could see in the rearview mirror that he was pained.

"No secrets, huh? That's the formula? It sounds like a good plan till there's something you don't want to talk about."

"Meaning what," Roger asked.

"Meaning I was talking to Coach about the Oregon State scholarship and it's bad news. They've been competing big time with Oregon for a few years. A lot of the athletics program at Oregon get funded by Phil Knight, the guy that owns Nike. Oregon State doesn't have as much money, so they've had to put out a lot more than usual to recruit top athletes to keep their program competitive. You know, like quarterbacks and offensive line and running backs. So, they ran out of scholarship money."


"Yeah! They say if they had the money, I'd have a scholarship, but they're already over budget and can't do any more scholarships. So, I'm up shit creek without a paddle."

"But you said they'd give you a scholarship if they hadn't run out of money, right? So, you're good enough they want you on the team, right?"

"I guess. If I choose to go to Oregon State, I'm on the team as a tight end, but what they don't know is that without a scholarship I'm not going anywhere."

"Matt, don't be so down about it, there's still Washington State, and there must be other options," Jerrod said as they pulled up in front of the Willis house.

"It's reality, boys. No scholarship, not enough money, no college. Welcome to my world!"

Matt was quiet over lunch, and Jerrod and Roger decided to let him tell his family his own way and in his own time. It was obvious to Jerrod that Nate was aware something had changed, and as they were leaving, he asked Nate to give him a call later.

Jerrod's phone rang before dinner and the response to his 'Hello,' was Nate saying, "I know why you wanted me to call you. Matt told us about Oregon State. He's totally bummed."

"That's what I was worried about. How hard is he taking it?"

"Hard. Like almost in tears again. He told us, choked up and went to his room. Mom said to let him be for now, that he needed time. I've never seen him like this. Not even back when he quit Little League. What do we do?"

"We all work hard not to let him get totally down. He still hasn't heard from Washington State, so there's hope."

"Yeah, but we all know that's a long shot, right?"

"Yeah, it is, but it's still possible. Meanwhile, we've got to see what other options there are."

"What do you mean 'other options?' Are there any?"

"I don't know, man. I don't know. But we're going to find out. You do your part about trying to keep him from going off the deep end, okay? I can see him getting totally depressed about this and fucking up his grades and stuff."

"Yeah, I know. Okay, it's a deal. We all work together on it."

"Cool. I'll let you know as soon as I find anything out… if I find anything out. By the way, Roger and I may come by tomorrow to see if we can help. You know, give you a break and stuff."

Over dinner, Jerrod and Roger filled David and Jackson in on the consequences of the Oregon State scholarship rejection. They discussed it and Jerrod threw out the hypothetical question about what other options there might be. After a couple of minutes, David said, "I think we need to look into two different approaches. First, after dinner, you call Sam and fill her in. She's not just a coach, but she's on the Board of the State High School Athletic Coaches organization. She may have some ideas. The second one is finding out what, if any, other non-athletic scholarship possibilities exist. How were his grades?"

"Okay, but not great. He's not a dumb athlete, but it sounds like B's and C's, probably no A's. You know what I mean?"

David smiled and nodded. "Sure do, I've seen lots of them. Okay, let's pool our knowledge. You'll see what Sam suggests, I'll look into other general scholarship opportunities, what else?"

Jackson asked, "What company did his dad work for?"

"Why does that matter," Jerrod asked?

"Because even though his dad is dead, he died as an employee and we need to find out if they have any kind of educational benefits for employees or survivors. The company I work for has a couple of educational funds for employees to advance their education. It may be a long shot, but it's worth a try."

Jerrod said he'd find out about the company Matt and Nate's dad worked for. Roger said he'd talk to his dad about any possibilities at Portland State. "He has no connection with the athletics department, but they do have a football team. Maybe they've got other scholarship possibilities, too."

Jerrod's call with Sam began with apologies that she'd been so busy with the start of the quarter that she hadn't been able to get back to visit Nate.

"No worries, Sam. We all understand. You've got that whole family to take care of, too."

"Right, like that's an acceptable excuse. Anyway, I've got a couple of ideas, but they're programs I don't know a lot about since I'm kind of new to the Board. We've got a Board meeting next week, so let me do some research and I'll get back to you."

"Thanks a lot, Sam, that's very cool."

"No problem. How are you. You sound worried."

"I am. Matt's been on this new and upbeat track the last few weeks. He's over the homophobe and bully stuff, he's in the Pack and become our friend and started going to GSA. Most importantly, he's been happy. He even said he's happier than he ever remembers, especially after working with Kaiser and Sean each Thursday. So, things were going well and heading in a new direction. This could derail the whole thing."

"I understand how it could. We'll just all have to do our best to make sure it doesn't happen. Would it help if I go visit Nate over the weekend and just happen to be able to spend some time with Matt?"

"Yeah, I think it would. I don't think he's like suicidal or anything, but I worry that this all going the wrong way could really screw things up. He told us the other day maybe it was karma because he'd been such a bully and asshole for so long. That's not good, kind of a payback thing."

"You're right. I'll be by there to see them both sometime this weekend, and see what I can find out next week, okay?"

"Yeah, that'd be great. Roger and I will go by tomorrow after tennis, and then we'll stop by again on Sunday after the hospital like we always do."

"Good plan. If nothing else, Matt's got the best support group in town." She laughed, but Jerrod was silent.

"Jerrod. It was a joke. Lighten up a little bit. It's not the end of the world, you know!"

"You're right. I'm just worried." They agreed to talk on Sunday evening and compare notes.

After tennis the next day, they all stopped for a quick lunch at Burgerville, then Jerrod dropped Eric and Kim off at their homes and he and Roger picked up Kaiser and headed over to execute the first part of their weekend plan.

Matt's mom let them in and quietly told them that a rejection letter from Washington State had come in the morning mail. The boys just rolled their eyes, and Matt's mom said he was in his room and asked them to spend some time with him, too. First, they went down to see Nate. Kaiser immediately jumped up on the bed. Nate confirmed that Matt was now in a deeper funk, and acting totally down and staying in his room.

"When the letter came today, he was like emotionless, like it didn't matter! It's like he thinks it's all over and life's going down the shitter or something."

They talked about whether he'd acted like this before and what he did, and piecing together what Nate said, Jerrod decided that the anger and bullying had been his outlet to deal with previous hurts and losses.

"Nate, I called Coach Sam last night and she apologizes she hasn't gotten back to see you, what with the start of spring quarter and stuff. But she's going to come see you this weekend sometime, and her plan is also to spend some time with Matt. Will you try to make that happen?"

Nate nodded.

Jerrod glanced at Roger and wiggled his eyebrows. Roger smiled back and did the same, then turned to Nate and said, "So, buddy, are you as horny as you were this time last weekend?"

Nate's eyes widened, and then a salacious smile slowly spread across his face and his eyes glinted. "How did you know?"

Roger grinned in response. "It's one of those gay boy things. Jerrod's going to go talk to Matt for a little while, and I'm going to see if you need to be taken care of… unless you've figured out how to jack off since last weekend."

Nate smiled softly and shook his head, blinking his eyes all innocently.

Jerrod figured Matt had heard them all come in the house and go down to Nate's room, and not joining them was a message about how he was feeling. He walked down to Matt's room and knocked on the door and heard a weak "Yeah?" from inside.

He opened the door and leaned in the doorway and said, "Matt, it's me. Can I come in and talk for a few?"

Matt was sitting on his bed, leaning up against the headboard, and gave him an unenthusiastic nod of his head. Jerrod sat down next to him and tried to make conversation, but it was like pulling teeth. He recognized the symptoms from his own experience the summer before and finally said, "I know you're bummed, but I'm your friend. If you're not careful, I'll go get Kaiser and sic him on you and make him force you to be nice."

"Be nice?" Matt paused, then his face flushed in apparent anger, and he said, "What'a ya mean I'm not being nice?"

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