Bonds of Brotherhood

by Hunter Woods

Chapter 7

School seemed different somehow for me today. It was as if I felt a lot more comfortable about our move, fresh start, and new school. My dad and I had a decent conversation last night, not only about the whole sex thing, but a lot of other things as well, and I wasn't even embarrassed about some of the things we talked about. Maybe it was because of the new awareness about my own sexual awakenings and discoveries, and perhaps also due to some of the things Brendan had discussed with me over the weekend before I had that talk with my father. In a way I had felt much more prepared to have that private discussion with my dad, and I could tell he was happy how it turned out when all was said and done. Whatever the reason was for it; today for the first time in a long time I actually felt comfortable with going to school.

Brendan had greeted me first thing before school began, and we chatted for a while before we both headed off in different directions. Other kids seemed to notice our friendship, and from that point on it seemed as if many of them were willing to nod their head in greeting or even stop and talk with me for a few moments. It felt wonderful being accepted like this, and I couldn't help it as I found myself smiling a lot while I walked from one class to the next making new friends along the way.

It was lunch time, and as I had gotten into the habit from day one, I grabbed my sack lunch my mom had prepared for me heading outside to enjoy the nice warm weather. Back in Ramstein it would probably be raining already during this time of year or, if it were a nice day, not as warm and toasty as it was over here. This weather was taking a bit of getting acclimated to for me, but to be honest I was really starting to enjoy the warmer weather.

My mind was wandering, and I hadn't noticed that second bully from the other day, when I accidentally bumped into red headed boy. "Well…well, look at who we have here?" The older boy retorted pointing me out to Ezra.

My heart skipped a beat as Ezra looked at me for a moment, and then shifted his gaze away from me towards a group of kids not far off tossing around a football. "I…I'm sorry about that." I stuttered trying to go around that red headed bully whose name I still didn't know.

"Well sorry just doesn't cut it now, does it Ezra?" The red head snapped at me looking towards his fellow cohort getting the other boy's attention again.

My original tormentor from the other day just didn't seem interested in me today. I sort of saw a glimmer of change in Ezra, as if there was some sort of conflict he was wrestling with, because he just sort of grimaced before sighing, and once again looked off into the distance towards the other boys he had been watching tossing around the football. This seemed to annoy the second boy as he just glared for a moment.

"Fuck you Ezra. I always knew you were a pussy." The red headed bully scoffed at the older boy who all of a sudden seemed to react.

For a moment I thought for sure Ezra would hit the other kid as he hopped up to his feet, and squarely turned towards the boy. It even seemed to catch the red headed boy by surprise as he took a step backwards. The commotion seemed to catch a lot of eyes around the area as they all looked towards us wondering what was going on.

This was going to come to blows for sure I thought to myself wondering how I could stop all of it before it came to that. "Jackson, there you are." I heard a familiar voice as we all turned our attention towards another boy who seemed to approach us in a leisurely manner. "I've been looking for you wondering why you weren't in the lunch room." Brendan continued smiling at me as he stepped up, and looked around seemingly noticing the other two boys for the first time.

My friend's eyebrows furrowed as he recognized my two bullies, and immediately stepped between me and the other two boys. "What the hell's gotten into you lately Ezra?" Brendan asked his old friend.

Before Ezra could answer the red headed boy stepped up to Brendan. "Get lost Brendan if you know what's good for you." The boy seemed to puff up indignantly.

"Fuck you Red, and if you don't beat it right now I'll kick your sissy lily white ass like I did last year when you were bullying my little brother at the playground. If you leave now I won't tell everyone how you cried like a little baby begging me not to tell anyone that you were picking on little kids in the park stealing their pocket money." Brendan bristled with anger recalling that day and how pissed he had been at the older boy for pushing around his little brother.

Even Ezra seemed to bristle at this information as if it were the first time he had heard about it. The look Ezra shot the red headed bully, whose name evidently was Red, made the boy panic as he just swallowed hard and beat it out of there in a heartbeat, but not before he realized several other kids had witnessed and heard the exchange.

Brendan focused his attention back to his old friend. "Geeze Ezra, what's gotten into you these days?" He asked his old friend for the second time.

"Why do you even care or bother?" The other boy seemed to whisper.

"And why don't you care, or want me to bother with it?" Brendan snapped back a bit harshly realizing it too late as he started to apologize for his outburst. "Ezra…I'm…," Brendan stuttered.

For some reason I got the distinct impression they were no longer talking about me. Both boys sort of glared at one another before Ezra just sighed and looked away from his once long time friend.

"Just leave it be." Ezra shook his head as he started to walk away, and then stopped dead in his tracks looking over towards the edge of the open area.

My gaze followed the older boy's line of sight towards an empty picnic table, and I noticed an older man standing there watching us. He seemed ancient, and was leaning on a staff with a sack in his hand that he just placed on the table before turning around and walking away.

Looking back towards Ezra I noticed the boy's shoulders slump, and his head bow down as he just stood there for a moment. Brendan walked over to his friend, and placed a hand on the boy's shoulder. Ezra just looked at him for a moment, went over and picked up the small sack off the table, and then walked away back towards the school without saying a word.

"What was that about?" I asked Brendan who just looked at me and shook his head not willing to talk about it.

We both stood there for a moment before my friend just sighed and shrugged his shoulders. Looking back at me and smiling appreciatively that I hadn't probed him further for answers about Ezra and the old man; he just motioned me towards an empty bench under one of the trees. We both sat down and opened up our sack lunches before we started to eat.

"So why don't you eat in the lunch room?" Brendan asked me as a way to get a conversation going.

Shrugging my shoulders I just looked around. "I just sort of like it out here. Back in Ramstein it would probably be a bit cold, and maybe raining." I told him honestly.

"Yeah, we tend to get a lot of rain in bursts during this time of year, but even then it stops long enough to dry out and it is still warm. I guess it is kind of nice out here." He agreed as he looked around appreciating the scurry of activity around us.

"So why were you looking for me?" I asked Brendan who just sort of looked at me with a blank look on his face wondering what I was talking about. "You said earlier that you were looking for me." I pointed out reminding him what he had said when he first saw me.

"Oh yeah, I almost forgot. I wanted to tell you that earlier today I saw the diving coach because he was in to see the principal about getting permission to practice his team over here in the aqua center. Evidently, he has to formally ask for permission every year since it isn't a school team, and then the principal talks to the board about getting permission to extend his privileges." Brendan pointed out, which seemed kind of strange to me, but then again I didn't know all the particulars of this diving team and the arrangements.

When Brendan had told me the other day that the school had a diving facility it had sort of caught me by surprise. I'd never heard of a Junior High School having such a facility. However, Brendan had explained to me that this school didn't start out as a Junior High school, and had ended up going through numerous changes. At one point when it became a college for women the aqua facility was added by a wealthy female board member so that the women could compete regionally in water sports.

"Oh, cool. I didn't know he needed permission, but I guess it makes sense because it isn't a school event." I admitted to him.

"Yeah, well I got a chance to talk with him about you, and he agreed to allow you to try out for the team." He told me excitedly.

"No way, how did you manage to do that?" I gasped giving him my complete attention now. "I thought you said he normally doesn't allow just plain ole tryouts."

"He doesn't, but it's kind of hard for him to say no when the principal of the school is standing there, and he has to get permission from her and the board to continue practicing here." Brendan pointed out smugly.

Scrunching up my eyebrows I looked over at my friend not at all comfortable now with how this all came about. "I don't know Brendan…I mean I hope he won't be upset about getting sort of roped into a tryout with me." I told him seriously.

Brendan just shrugged his shoulders. "The worst thing that could happen is that he says you can't join the team, but at least you got to try out. Besides, it's better than no tryout at all." He pointed out.

"Yeah I suppose. So when is the tryout?" I asked him.

"Tomorrow, right after school lets out." He informed me which made me a bit nervous to have it so soon.

"Oh," I commented. "Um…what about the coach? What's he like?" I wondered.

Brendan just looked up at me and grimaced, which didn't bode so well. "Um…well…just what I've heard around you know. He's kind of strict about things, and I'm told at one time he had been considered for the Olympics as well, but something happened that either prevented him from going or that he just didn't do so well. I'm not exactly sure what happened, and of course it is just all rumors anyway." He started out.

"Well, that's not so bad. So was my other coach…I mean strict wise, but he actually did go to the Olympics and didn't do so bad." I responded as I bit into my Turkey on Rye sandwich, which I had to admit really was pretty good since mom put pickles in as well.

"Yeah, I guess not, but I've also heard he's kind of hard on some of the kids, almost verbally abusive at times, and really isn't all that well-liked. I don't know maybe it is because he's from one of those Eastern European countries or something. It's almost like he really doesn't care for Americans, I don't know." He stated as he shrugged his shoulders.

"If he's sort of verbally abusive why do people put up with him?" I wondered not really liking what I was hearing.

Brendan just looked at me for a moment, and then shrugged his shoulders. "I've heard the school board sort of tolerates him so that they can keep a diving program active over here and also because he has managed to win some of the tournaments. Besides, you know how it is and all. People sort of talk and say things sometimes so I wouldn't take it too seriously." He told me as we both sat there in our own thoughts finishing up our lunch.

The rest of the day went by without much incident. By the end of the school day most of the kids were taking the time to nod or wave a greeting my way. It was strange for me having so many people acknowledging me like that, and in a way kind of flattering. It was as if being a buddy of Brendan's automatically made me a lot of friends by association. At lunch I had mentioned this to Brendan, but he just shrugged his shoulders as usual stating that the kids were just starting to get to know me is all.

When I got home I told my folks all about my day, excluding the minor incident during lunch. My mom seemed to smile affectionately at how I seemed to be all bubbly with how things were going for me in school. Then I told them about the diving tryout for tomorrow. I looked over apprehensively towards my mom expecting her to say something about it, or maybe even be mad, but she seemed alright with it. As a matter of fact, she even seemed excited for me as she asked for more information. Of course I didn't have all that much to say other than what Brendan had told me. They did take pause though when I told them about what kids were saying concerning the coach's attitude and things.

"Well," my father began. "I would just wait and see if I were you Jackson. Sometimes a hard working coach gets a bad reputation. I've seen the hard paces your coach in Ramstein put you boys through, so I'm sure you will be able to handle things just fine." He nodded encouragingly.

When I thought about it I realized he was right. Our coach in Ramstein really was very strict, but also fair. He made all of us work hard putting us through our paces and pushing us to our limits. It was as if he had a sense of what we could really do before we even realized it. He was hard-nosed as well, but he had a very good reputation for being very fair, so there was a bit of a difference between what people said concerning the two coaches.

The next day rolled around quickly, and I managed to make it to school on time even though I was running a bit late. I had been nervous the night before, and couldn't get any sleep. When I woke up I was a bit sluggish, but my mom whipped me into shape lickety-split like, and had me out the door in no time.

By the time I got to my locker Brendan was already waiting for me. He was smiling brilliantly, and clapped me on the shoulder with a perky greeting. I just grunted as I worked my locker combination, and shoved my gym bag inside retrieving my books for first period.

"What's wrong with you?" He asked me seriously.

Sighing I sagged against my locker. "I don't know, just a bit nervous I guess." I managed to get out before someone passed us by, and gave us both the thumbs up. "What was that about?" I asked Brendan who also seemed confused by the other guy's action.

"Don't know." He replied as he turned his focus back on me. "Listen, there's nothing to be nervous about. Just go out and do your dives. If you make it great, if not then you are no worse off than before you knew there was a diving program. Besides, I've seen some of these kids on the diving team, and from what you've told me you are way better than them." He told me seriously.

Nodding my head, and saying goodbye to my friend, I made my way to first period. Along the way I kept on getting the thumbs up from various kids, and even though it confused me I just smiled and returned their greeting. Throughout the morning it seemed as if Ezra would pop up out of nowhere, almost as if he wanted to talk to me. Each time though something seemed to interrupt him as either a kid would come up to me and chat, or sometimes people would just wave a greeting in my direction. Whatever the reasoning it just seemed as if the boy ended up watching me from a distance. It kind of weirded me out at times, but then again there didn't seem to be any ill will directed my way, so in the end I just shrugged it off. This continued on throughout the rest of the morning until lunch time when Brendan met up with me at the picnic table with a few of his friends in tow.

"Hey guys this is Jackson," Brendan introduced me to his friends while at the same time introducing them to me.

We all got settled in around the picnic table, and I got nervous as I bit my lip realizing just how much younger I was from everyone else at the table. It wasn't so bad when it was just Brendan, but now at eleven years old I was sitting at a table filled with a bunch of thirteen year old eighth graders.

"So…," one of the older boys, Jim, started out as he munched on his sandwich. "We hear you are trying out for the diving team. Is that true?" He asked curiously while I just bored holes into Brendan for making a big thing out of it.

"What?" Brendan asked me curiously. "I didn't say anything." He shrugged his shoulders apologetically, and I could tell he was telling the truth.

"What?" Jim queried looking at Brendan and then back to me. "Was it supposed to be some sort of secret?" He asked me curiously.

"No I guess not, it's just…," I looked down at my lunch shaking my head.

"What?" The boy inquired again.

"Nothing, I'm just a bit nervous I guess." I finally admitted.

"I can understand that. After all who in their right mind climbs up to those towers, and does all those quirky twists and turns just so they can go splat on the water." He told me seriously grimacing at the imagined hurt while everyone else did the same.

"Ouch…thanks a lot." I quipped back at him just shaking my head. "That really makes me feel much better you know…" I chuckled at the look the older boy gave me.

"Well it's true." The older boy said defensively. "It takes a lot of guts to go up there. I went once, and it scared the crap out of me." The boy admitted to me. "Of course I didn't dive off or anything, just jumped, and I have to admit it was kind of fun after the fact, but still….it scared the crap out of me." He repeated. "If you look closely you'll see a small brown spot up there. That was me dropping a load." He stated seriously while everyone stopped eating; some making a disgusting look while others just sort of chuckled at the imagery of the boy dropping a load up there.

"Aw man, what you have to go and say that for?" Frank, one of Brendan's other friends groaned as he just dropped his sandwich back into his lunch bag having lost his appetite.

We all watched the boy as he rolled up his brown lunch bag, and just leaned back with a disgusted look on his face. I couldn't help it as I just busted up laughing while everyone just looked at me.

"Yeah, you wouldn't be laughing if you ever smelled what came out of his ass." Frank commented as he wrinkled his nose, and pinched it closed with his thumb and finger.

"Ain't that the truth," Brendan responded as he just started to chuckle. "But you have to admit, it is pretty funny. Shit, I bet Jackson takes a look for himself when he is up there today." He hooted as he just started to laugh his ass off followed by several of the other boys.

After we settled down I finally had to fess up to the truth. "Well actually I won't be looking, not if he went all the way up to the ten meter platform. If anything I'll probably only go as high as the seven and a half meter platform. Technically at my age I am only supposed to compete on the five meter platform, but there are some exceptions to the rule. Because of my skill level and experience I would have competed on the seven and a half meter platform back in Ramstein." I told the guys as I continued to eat not at all put off by the whole taking a dump scenario.

The table got really quiet as they all just looked at me. "What?" I asked them now that they were all looking at me.

"I was just kidding about the whole ten meter platform thing." Jim admitted to me. "I've gone to some of the competitions, and I've never seen a kid your age dive on anything higher than the five meter platform. Are you really that good?" He asked me.

Shrugging my shoulders I looked down because now it seemed like I had just been bragging. "No not really. I mean last year I did alright and all, but didn't do anything all that spectacular. My coach back in Ramstein did tell me though just before I left that he felt this would have been my year. He thought I had improved a bit so had me practicing dives on the higher platform." I told them no longer hungry with all of the attention.

"Geeze guys just leave him be already. It's bad enough he has to tryout for the team today, but now you guys are getting him all worked up about it." Brendan scolded his friends.

"Hey, no worries about it Jackson." Jim mentioned. "I'm sure you'll do just fine. Don't pay any attention to us. It's just no one from our school has ever been good enough to make the team. I think the whole school is kind of cheering for you is all." He finished off as he ruffled my hair and gave me a friendly shove.

The rest of our meal went off without any further mention of the approaching tryout session. It became kind of casual with everyday kind of kid talk, and Brendan's friends were really cool about including me in on the conversation. Of course some things they were talking about just went over my head, and I didn't understand what they were saying, but they never gave me any grief over it.

Before long the school day had ended, and I made my way over towards the large structure just up the walkway about fifty yards away from the main school building. There still was plenty of time before the actual tryout session since most of the other kids on the team had to travel here from the surrounding area. It wouldn't start for about another hour to give everyone enough time to arrive from various locations.

The door was open, and I could hear some kids in the swimming pool hidden off in the back somewhere past the closed front lobby area. The familiar scent of chlorinated water hit my senses making me eager to hurry up and get into the water. It was almost as if I was being tugged, and I smiled at the sensation of anticipation that rippled along my skin.

The boy's changing rooms were off to the left so I entered the doorway, and into the familiar type of gym style locker room area with bathrooms and shower facilities. I made my way down several rows of lockers until I came to an out of the way corner I felt safe with getting changed in. I could hear some kids joking around off towards the other end of the large locker room as I sat down and quickly changed into my small pair of swim briefs.

Before long I was looking around inside at the high ceiling structure. The diving area was separated by a retractable dividing wall from the main lower ceiling swimming area where several kids were already doing laps. Along both lengths of the walls were a set of bleachers for spectators. I stepped passed the divided off section, and smiled appreciatively at the familiar sight before my eyes. It was an older building, but the platform and diving boards still had that new look to it as if it had been well taken care of over the years, or maybe even replaced with newer ones.

Since I still had plenty of time before the others would arrive, I decided to get warmed up with my various exercises so I could be limber enough. With my mind occupied it wasn't long before some of the dive team members started to arrive. After some furtive glances one of the boys finally made their way over to me and introduced himself.

"Hello, my name is Mikah, and I'm the team captain." One of the boys who looked to be about fourteen or fifteen years old introduced himself to me.

"Hi, I'm Jackson." I introduced myself.

"Oh yes, the coach asked me to put you through some paces first before he got here. He has to talk to the principal for a few minutes." He commented as he smiled pleasantly at me. "I see you've already done some warm ups, so why don't you go ahead and start on the diving board with some practice dives." He continued while one of the other older boys sidled up next to Mikah with a sort of impish grin on his face.

There were a few other boys who were off to the side, and when I looked over they sort of looked away except for a brown wavy haired boy who sort of gave me an apprehensive look as if trying to convey something to me. Mikah seemed likable enough, but his friend didn't come off so nice and I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that something just wasn't right. It was just a feeling, and I tried to stifle it because my dad had told me to enter the tryouts with an open mind.

Still, I didn't think it was such a good idea to start doing some practice runs yet on the diving board. "I'm not sure I should start yet." I responded in a neutral tone of voice as I looked around noticing that some of the parents had taken a seat up in the stands, and were chatting amongst themselves.

"Hey listen Jackson, the coach told me to get you started, and I for one don't want to get on his bad side because you were a bit skittish. He told me that he wanted you warmed up and in form so that all he had to do was to take a quick look to see what you've got. He's really busy, and doesn't have extra time to waste on someone coming in at the last moment to try out for our team." Mikah pointed out.

Sighing I conceded the point and nodded as I made my way to the diving board. I went through some paces before Mikah indicated for me to begin on the five meter platform. I went through the motions of some basic dives taking time in-between to warm up in the small heated Jacuzzi off to the side before getting out, drying off with my shammy, and then heading back up to the platform for another dive. At this point I was in my own world, and hadn't noticed I was being watched by several students from my school along with the rest of the diving team.

At some point my head popped out of one of my routine double back flips when I heard a deep booming and resonating voice bouncing off the walls. "What on earth is going on over here?" The voice reverberated off the walls as I made my way over to a tall thin figure of a man at the side of the pool.

Climbing out of the water I quickly gathered up my shammy drying myself off as I headed towards the man who could only be the coach. I knew immediately the man was in charge of the dive team, and also new immediately that Mikah had played me because he was trying to hide a smirk behind his hand as he whispered to his friend.

The man just scowled at me as I approached him. "Who told you that you can begin doing dives without any supervision?" The man scolded me with a thick accent that was a bit difficult for me to follow.

Glancing towards the two older boys I just bristled as they smirked at me. "No one sir. I'm sorry it won't happen again. It's just I had already done my warm-up exercises, and it's been a few weeks since I've actually done some dives off the platform so I thought I would loosen up with some basic ones." I told him as he looked over to the two older boys, and I caught the coach winking at them conspiratorially.

So, it would appear as if even the coach was in on this little humiliating set-up against me. I filed away the knowledge for future reference that is if there was going to be one with this team. So far I wasn't getting a good vibe at all about this man and his team. Well, that wasn't really fair either because some of them were off to the side trying to stay completely out of the situation. I even noticed some of the parents up in the stands cringe at what had just transpired.

Yet, I couldn't just come out and expose the team captain for what he had done. For one thing the coach was in on it. Secondly, even if he wasn't in on it who would he have to believe except someone he's worked with for a while now and trusted? So in the end I just bit my tongue.

"Well you assumed wrong young man, and this doesn't start you off on a very good footing. Since you are here and already warmed up, you might as well show me what you have. How old are you?" He snapped at me.

"I'm eleven, sir?" I responded.

"Hmmm, that would make you the youngest on this team, well then why don't you climb up on the platform and show me the best dive you have. You will only get one shot at this since you have already exceeded your bounds, and be glad I am giving you one at all." He told me dismissing me while he beckoned over to the other divers so he could start giving out instructions.

My face turned red at being treated so gruffly, and I also had a bit of a dilemma. He had asked me to do my best dive which required me to be on the seven and a half meter platform, but he clearly wanted me to dive on my age group platform. Biting on my lower lip nervously, I figured if I was going to go down it might as well be on the seven and a half meter platform, and screw him if he got pissed.

Making my way over to the stairs I climbed up all the way to the second highest platform. It felt exhilarating to me as I stepped on to the familiar feeling surface. Making sure I was dried off completely with my shammy I made my way to the edge, and wiped it down as well just to be sure before tossing my small towel down to the ground.

All noise seemed to fade away as I finally edged myself all the way up to the end of the platform with my back towards the water. At this point I didn't even know if the coach was paying attention or not, and I didn't even care as all outside noise just dissipated from my mind. I bent over at the waste, and let my arms lift me up slightly as my legs rotated out over the water until they finally stopped above my head in a hand stand position with my face and body now facing out towards the water. My body paused for several seconds, enough time for the judges to recognize I was in my set position, before my arms flexed, my legs kicked out, and I began my rotation for the armstand back two somersaults, half twists in the pike position.

It was a difficult dive, but I knew as soon as I launched my body into the rotation that I was spot on as my reflexes from several hours of repetitive practice sessions on just this one dive kicked in automatically. My entry was slightly off, but I instinctively knew that it had created very little splash as my sleek body sliced through the water. Even with my entry being slightly off, I knew that in a real competition I would have received high marks for this dive. Immediately after my head surfaced from the water I heard an explosive uproar as people all around were on their feet cheering on my performance.

As I looked around it was the first time I realized that it was fairly crowded in the stands as several kids from the school must have wandered over to watch. Even several parents of the boys from the dive team had stood up and were applauding. I blushed profusely as I stepped out on the opposite side from my spectators so that I could step into the warm water. I could see how annoyed the coach was at me ignoring him, but he couldn't fault me for this action because it was commonplace for divers to get warmed up immediately after a dive so that their muscles wouldn't cramp up.

Taking my time I finally stepped out of the warm water, and got dried off with my shammy as I made my way around towards the coach. I stopped long enough to fish out a dry towel from my bag, and wrap it around my waist. I noticed several girls from my school eyeing me appreciatively before I covered up, which made me blush even more. They were kind of cute, and I could feel the familiar stirring between my legs as I tore my gaze away from them before I started to sport a full blown erection. Thank goodness I had wrapped a towel around my waist as I could feel the tight fabric of my bathing suit pressing up against my semi hard erection trying to contain that small garden snake of mine.

As I walked over towards the coach I spotted Brendan with his little brother, and they both beamed proudly at me. Brendan glanced at me, and then towards the girls that were eyeing me appreciatively. He smiled knowingly as he just smirked and rolled his eyes making me blush even more.

Somehow having both brothers there cheering me on seemed to calm down my nerves. I knew Brendan was on the swim team so I kind of wondered why he wasn't over by the other section with the other swimmers taking practice laps, but then I realized he must have gone over to pick up his little brother so they could both watch my performance. For that matter, I noticed a group of boys sitting together in the bleachers wearing those skimpy swim briefs or tight racers. It dawned on me then that the team had stopped their warm up laps, and had come over to watch my tryout as well.

"So young man it would seem as if you continue to be insolent. Who gave you permission to dive off the seven and a half meter platform when you are obviously in the Group D diver's age bracket, which means the five meter platform?" He continued to berate me, but I was ready for it this time knowing he was going to do this anyway.

Shrugging my shoulders I just responded honestly. "You did, sir."

"I did no such thing young man. How…" he started in before I cut him off.

"Yes you did sir when you asked me to show you my best dive. You only asked for my best dive, which I provided and needed to be done on the seven and a half meter platform. You never said I couldn't dive on that height, only for my best dive." I told him firmly, but without raising my voice.

The entire audience had gone deathly quiet at that moment as the coach had to concede my point, but he most definitely looked irritated by it. "Well then, perhaps next time I will have to make myself much clearer as to my intentions. Mikah, why don't you show us what the dive is supposed to look like? This new boy did a nice enough performance, but he should see how it is really supposed to look." The coach ordered the older boy who just smirked and made his way up the platform.

The place once again fell silent as Mikah got into position. Right away I could tell his hand stand wasn't as strong as mine had been, and he actually may have launched himself too soon before he was completely set in the hand stand. Some judges may overlook it at our age group, even though he was obviously older, but if the competition was tight they most assuredly wouldn't. I watched him and knew as soon as he entered into his first somersault rotation that he was off. I could tell the coach knew as well, but he didn't seem to show any emotions about it.

Mikah's entry was also flawed, more so than my own creating a fairly good sized splash that wouldn't impress the judges, but I didn't say anything as the coach rounded on me. Even the people in the stands knew that it was no where near as good as mine had been, but they still clapped for him; although, not as much as they had done for me. The boy's head popped out of the water as he made his way over to the warm heating pool. He turned and glared at me as he stepped inside the warm water.

"So, now you know what I expect from you young man." The coach stated as he handed me some paperwork. "Here, you're parents must read through the material and sign it. There are some fees involved which are itemized, and you must go to the listed doctor and get a physical as well. You can't start practicing with us until all these prerequisites have been met to my satisfaction." The man pointed out coldly to me as if trying to dismiss me as soon as possible.

Glancing through the paperwork I started noting all the fees attached to the list. Even the doctor's fees were outrageous as I looked at the number next to the doctor's name. I never even considered all the fees involved with the sport, and never gave it a second thought, but even I recognized how outrageous these were.

"Um…sir?" I spoke up.

"Yes, hurry up young man I have to get started on the drills for the team." He snapped at me.

"Well, I was just wondering about some of the fees. They seem a bit high. I mean for instance the physical. I already have my physical on file at the school so I really don't need to go get another one." I told him honestly.

"Oh really, how do I know it will stand up to the standards of this state. Did you not just move here? From where did you get the physical?" He inquired.

"Yes, we just moved here from Germany but…" I started to explain when he just exploded.

"From a different country? Of course it would be different. Are you trying to get me sued or something?" He snapped at me.

"Of course not sir, but it wasn't a foreign doctor or anything. I got it done on an American base by an American doctor." I told him taken aback by his briskness.

The coach seemed to turn purple with rage as he muttered and cursed under his breath in a language I didn't understand. "The military? Your father is in the military?" He exclaimed angrily at me catching me by surprise.

"Um…yes…I mean no. He…he's retired now." I stepped back at the obvious hatred.

"Retired?" He looked at me a bit surprised. "Isn't he a bit young to retire from the military?" He scoffed at me. "Of course this means that the taxpayers are paying for his retirement so he can sit around as pretty as he pleases at all of our expense. But no matter, since your physical was done in a different country you will need to have it done here." He told me still bristling for some reason that was beyond me.

"Sure, I guess that would be alright. I can go see our family doctor at the main military base Joint Base San Anotnio-Lackland, or over here just around the corner at smaller base facility Randolph Air Force base, and have another one done for you." I told him thinking the matter was resolved.

"Why do you still wish to be so insolent to me? I have told you that you must see the doctor I have assigned to make everything legal. Besides, I wouldn't trust those butchering military doctors. They are the worst of the lot. You Americans always stick your noses where it doesn't belong, and think you are high and mighty. Your American military people are a bunch of cowards feeding off the poor innocent people in the world for your own gains." He spat at me threateningly, but for some reason it only managed to piss me off.

"You are a liar." I yelled at him as a shocked look overcame him at my outburst. "The military doctors are excellent doctors better than most private doctors here in the states. They even saved my father's life one time years ago. Everyone always complains about Americans this, and Americans that, but when it comes down to it who do you all come to when you need something. It is us Americans, and all of you hold out your hands taking our hard earned money and then spit in our faces. If you don't like America then go back to wherever you came from." I spat back at the man as he had hit a raw nerve of mine.

"And for your information my father is no coward. He risked his life many times to save people just like you. When the shit hit the fan, it was him that flew in relief supplies in a hale of bullets before evacuating people out. The only way in was through a line of fire that the insurgents had set into place. Going out was fine, but going in he was in the direct line of fire." I turned red as I pressed forward making him back up a step.

It was as if there weren't any other people in the room except the two of us as I unloaded myself on him. "It was him that transported spoiled snot nosed winy as political people such as yourself who don't even appreciate someone else risking their lives for you. Not only did he fly in once, but three more times, four in all through all that fucking mess. Each time he came out of that place his plane was barely able to fly shot all to hell. The fourth time he flew out carrying over seventy five refugees with his plane barely able to lift off because it was shot all to hell and bleeding from bullet holes riddling his body. It was a miracle that he was even able to get the plane off the ground much less transport everyone to safety." My voice quivered as I started to cry.

This was years ago when I was still very young, and I'm sure even my dad thought I didn't know the story. "It was those so called butchering doctors that saved his life. No one else would have been able to do what they did. As for my father, he is no coward and his medals prove it. He doesn't ever say anything to anyone, but his efforts that day not only earned him the Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross…but also the Medal of Honor. Something you wouldn't even know anything about. You have no honor, after all the measure of a good coach is reflected by the character of his team captain, and your captain is a spineless lying coward who is full of himself and wouldn't know a good dive from a crappy one. My dive was way better than his…you can ask anyone watching here today, and I only regret that I won't be able to compete against him to prove my point." I told him as I tossed the papers in his face, and turned to walk away.

Something I said must have touched a nerve in the man because all of a sudden he reached out and grabbed my arm twisting it painfully. "How dare you call my son…I mean…" He stuttered, but the cat was out of the bag.

The team captain was his son so no wonder the boy got preferential treatment. "Mr. Konnikov!" I heard a commanding voice as I yanked my arm free.

My mind was swirling with anger as I ran over to my bag, and slipped into my sweats before running out of the building. I didn't even wait around for Brendan as I heard him shout out my name. All I could think of was to get my bike and head home. I must have been steaming because the next thing I knew was that I had arrived home as I slipped inside the house, and then up to my room.

Closing my door I collapsed on to my bed and started to cry. At some point my mom must have heard me because she came into my room, but couldn't get a straight answer from me. After several attempts she finally gave up. It seemed only moments later when my door opened up again and my father came into the room. Evidently he had called it an early day at work because he was eager to find out how my day had gone with the tryouts.

"Oh Jackson," my dad stroked my head tenderly. "It's not the end of the world that you didn't make the team." He tried to sooth me.

My body was wracked with tears and hiccups when I heard him trying to soothe me, and it was then he realized something more was going on. "Jackson, tell me what happened." He told me firmly trying to get my attention.

It seemed to work as I sat up and wiped away the tears. Slowly at first, I recounted to him how my school day began and how it seemed to be going just fine. Then I told him about how Mikah had tricked me, and how it seemed like the coach was in on it. I explained that I didn't let that get to me as I recounted the rest of the tale all the way to the end until I ran out after throwing the paperwork in the man's face.

My father listened the entire time not saying a word, and at the end just sighed shaking his head. "I didn't realize you still remembered about my injury Jackson. I had hoped you were young enough to forget." He told me seriously.

Out of all that happened this was the foremost thing on his mind. "What?" I asked him as I hiccupped.

"I said that I…" My father started out, but I interrupted him.

"I heard you, but why would you be so worried about that? I mean, didn't you hear anything I said about how the coach called you a coward, and how us Americans get into everyone's business?" I asked him seriously.

"Yes of course I heard you Jackson, but to me those sorts of things don't matter to me. There will always be people in our country like your coach. However, as many people that are out there like him who blame us for everything, there are just as many who do appreciate what we stand for and what we do. What matters to me…is you. What happened to me had a traumatic enough affect on your mother, and I had prayed you wouldn't remember about it." He sighed shaking his head sadly.

The incident had almost killed him not to mention almost destroyed his career. He went through rehab for months, but was only able to go back on active duty after a lot of hard work. When all was said and done, it actually helped propel his career, and he was on fast track to becoming a General in the Air Force. The military was a part of his life, and he felt it was his duty to serve our country. He did so with honor and integrity, but in the end I knew it was because of us, specifically me, that he finally retired.

Sniffling, I just shook my head. "I really don't remember dad. I mean I remember you were hurt and all, but I don't remember all that much." I admitted to him.

"But how…I mean…" He just looked at me confused.

"You don't think I noticed how all the higher ranking officers would just gawk at you when you wore your uniform at formal functions. How the enlisted men would come up to you, and want to talk with you. How people would just act around you when they saw that medal around your neck." I told him seriously.

"Yes, but I was always careful that you wouldn't hear anything about that mission." He admitted sadly to me. "Besides, I hated having to wear that thing around my neck." He told me honestly

"So…" I shrugged my shoulders. "You can get any information you want off the internet these days. One day I got curious, and just looked it up. You never talk about it with anyone. Even when people ask you about it, you never say anything. Why?" I asked him seriously.

"Because son, what I did wasn't nearly as much as what others had done that day." He told me somberly.

"I don't understand." I admitted to him confused.

"Others paid a higher price son…they paid the ultimate price. They gave their lives so that those civilians can live, and that Jackson is a true hero; one who pays the ultimate price. I may wear the medal son, but I do so to honor their memory…their sacrifice." He told me as tears started to run down his cheeks.

We both paused a moment collecting our thoughts. "Jackson, son, you have to understand something. I made the decision to go in, but in so doing I had forced that same decision on my crew members. Sure people always talk about the four different planes that I lost which had thousands of holes in them, but I lost more than just planes, son. I lost some good men, some very good friends, six in all that day because of the choice I made. Yes, I saved over 200 people that day, strangers all of them, but in the process I lost six fine young men, all of them family in a way, and in the prime of their lives. It is a burden I have to carry son, for not only my men that I lost, but also for their families." He sighed sadly.

It was strange listening to him recount that story to me. I never fully understood the magnitude of what he had endured. Sure he had been wounded and hurt badly, but those physical scars have healed, and what remained was the emotional scaring.

"Jackson, The Medal of Honor is something…well noble in its intent, but for many who have earned the medal most would agree they would rather have the men, their buddies, their comrades, their friends at their side instead. In most cases the medal is awarded posthumously, meaning after the recipient of the award is dead. That is how much sacrifice goes into such an award, but in the end I would have to say all of us who have received this award that are alive would agree we would rather have our friends back who paid the ultimate price." He finally finished as he just held on to me.

We sat there for a few moments longer when the doorbell rang. Grunting wearily, he just looked at me and I smiled back. Without a word we both got up, and headed downstairs to see who was at the door.

My mom had opened up the door, and was ushering in a large group of people including my principal. She must have heard about my outburst, and I groaned inside wondering how much trouble I was going to be in.

"Jackson…Jackson…out of my way everyone…Jackson…," I recognized a small squeaky voice shout out. "I said get out of my way." Marco grunted as he squeezed passed a large man I had never even seen before, and sprinted towards me.

There was just enough time to brace myself before the little guy launched himself at me like I had seen him do to his older brother the other day. Despite bracing myself for impact I was still much smaller than Brendan, and Marco managed to knock me on my butt as he just wrapped himself around me and held on for dear life.

"Why didn't you wait for us when we yelled out to you?" He asked me as he released me long enough to get a good look at my face before once again wrapping himself firmly around my small frame. "You look like crap where you crying?" He asked me.

"Um…yeah I guess…maybe a little." I told him honestly as I blushed with embarrassment with so many witnesses around.

"Oh…I'm really sorry Jackson. He really was a jerk, and I told him so too, well after I kicked him in the shin." He quipped.

"Marco, you didn't." I gasped in shock.

"Yup, sure did and he screamed and everything. I thought he was going to hit me so I kicked him again for good measure." The small boy told me smugly.

"Marco!" I gasped a bit shocked. "You shouldn't go around kicking people like that. He…he could have hurt you or something." I told him.

"Just let him try. My daddy would beat him up for sure if he tried." He answered me so sure of himself.

Rolling my eyes at his innocence, I finally pried myself free from him while everyone else tried to hide their laughter at Marco's spunk. Sure it was funny now, but truth be told it kind of frightened me that the boy would do something like that at all. There were a lot of people piled up all around us trying not to trip, so I motioned for Marco to get up.

"Why don't we all go into the living room where we have more room?" My mother suggested as she just looked at my father questioningly not knowing what was going on.

There were about twenty people in all including several kids from the diving team. That would mean that some of the adults were their parents. Brendan finally managed to find his way over to me, and we bumped knuckles. For some reason having him close by made me feel a lot better about things.

"Well Mr. and Mrs. Elborn, I suppose you have heard all about the little…um…exchange at the diving venue by the school today." Principal Powell began as she looked first towards me and then my parents.

"Yes, well I know Jackson came home really upset Mrs. Powell, and I still haven't been able to figure out why, but I think my husband just had a chance to talk to Jackson about it." My mom admitted a little nervously, but my father just squeezed her hand reassuringly letting her know it really was alright.

"I see," Mrs. Powell stated as she gave my mom the quick run down as she understood things.

My mom looked at me, but didn't seem all that upset about it. If anything she seemed relieved that it wasn't as bad as she had initially thought.

"Yes, well principal Powell, I'm sure Jackson is sorry for raising his voice to an adult, but from what you are telling me he was justified. Of course we will honor any punishment you see fit, but I have to support Jackson in this matter, and to tell you the truth the coach should be glad I wasn't there myself. He got off easy in my opinion, and if I had been there I would have clocked him a good one." My mom admitted, and my dad nearly choked as he looked at her.

"Oh hell, it's a good thing you weren't there then sweetheart. Mrs. Powell, believe me we should all be thankful because what you don't understand is that my wife here knows how to throw a mean punch. I've actually seen her knock someone out before." He told the principal seriously which was something even I hadn't heard before, and made me wonder what else I didn't know about my mom.

"Oh well then thank goodness for that because we sure would have a mess on our hands now if that were the case. At any rate there isn't any punishment for Jackson. There were enough witnesses around who can testify Jackson was provoked unjustly by an adult figure that was in a position of power. The coach overstepped his bounds, and abused his power." The principal assured us setting us a bit at ease.

"I see, so why…um…everyone…" My dad motioned around the room with so many people standing around.

"Oh…well I wanted to introduce you to some of the parents whose children are on the diving team, along with some faculty members, and some of the more participatory interested parents in our extra curricular school activities. Some of them have complained about the coach's behavior in the past, and they wanted to show you their support of the decision that has been made." Principal Powell stated as she introduced everyone to us.

The room erupted into everyone shaking hands and saying a short greeting. Some of the boys on the diving team took a moment to come over to me. I recognized some of them who had been off to the side by themselves at the pool.

"Hey…," one of the kids nodded towards me as we bumped fists. "That was a wickedly cool dive you made for someone as young as you." The boy admitted.

"Hell, that was fantastic for any age," another boy piped in. "Did you see Mikah's expression when Jackson practically nailed that dive? I thought the jerk was going to puke or something." He chuckled as the rest of the guys also laughed enjoying the memory.

As things began to die down the principal motioned for everyone to take their seats again. "I also wanted to let…" She began before she was interrupted by one of the parents who stood back up, and walked towards my father.

The man was a large guy standing at over six feet tall, and weighing a good three hundred pounds or so. He wasn't fat, not by any means. The man was very athletic looking, with strong long arms and muscles that seemed to ripple beneath his shirt. He had sparkling deep blue eyes, short blonde hair, and boyish like features. In a word he was quite handsome for a man.

"Yes…we just wanted to welcome you and your family into our community, and wanted you to know there are plenty of people around who appreciate the sacrifices you and your family have made on all of our behalf. Thank you for serving, sir." The large man extended his hand.

My father immediately got up as well taking the man's hand in his own, and shook it glancing over towards me in an almost 'I told you son,' manner. "No the honor was mine sir, and thanks you for welcoming my family into the community. Thank you, all of you. This means so much to us." My father replied as the two of them firmly shook hands before letting go and sitting back down.

"Yes, thank you Braxton for that. I should have welcomed you properly myself Mr. Elborn, but I thank Braxton for doing it on our behalf. As I was stating though…um…well I'll just get to the point. I have dismissed Coach Konnikov, and told him that we wouldn't renew the contract allowing him to practice at the pool. Of course the board will also have to agree with my decision, and I'm sure that Mr. Konnikov is pleading his case right now to many of them trying to shore things up for himself. I doubt the board will take his side once I explain the situation to them, but even if they did it wouldn't matter because I am the one who controls the schedule, and I could make things very difficult. Besides, most of the parents have already pulled their kids off the team right after the incident with Jackson." She told us somberly.

"I see," my father grimaced. "I take it though there is probably more to this situation." My father pressed.

"Yes, part of the funding for the building includes the diving program. Without a program in place it could jeopardize the ability for us to keep the building open for our other water sports teams." She sighed apologetically as some of the parents there had kids who were on the swim team.

"I see…" My father stated as he leaned back, and looked at my mom.

"Principal Powell…is there any special requirement in place for a diving coach?" My mom asked. "What I mean to say is of course the coach would need some knowledge of the sport, but is there anything specific in place that would prevent someone from becoming a coach?"

"No, not really regarding the coach as long as they understand the program. To tell you the truth though I don't know what all we would have to do in regards to the proper standings of being allowed to compete in various events. I'm sure there is a process we would have to go through, and Coach Konnikov is the one who handled all of those requirements I'm afraid."

My mom sighed and motioned towards my father for his phone. My dad looked at her a moment a bit confused, but handed over his work phone that the company had provided to him. Scrolling through the list of contacts my dad had transferred from his old phone on the new phone, my mother hit the call button and switched the phone over to speaker phone. A man on the other end picked up the phone and sounded as if he had been asleep.

"Hello…oh for Pete's sake it's like one thirty in the morning. Who is this, and it better be good?" The man quipped on the other end.

"Hello Peter, this is Nancy, Jackson's mother." My mom stated apologetically for waking up my diving coach over in Germany.

"Nancy Elborn?" He asked astonished. "Um…is everything alright…I mean nothing's happened to your husband or Jackson?" He asked obviously worried.

"Oh…um…no… of course not, Peter. I'm so sorry to wake you up at this time of morning for you, but we've just had an incident that requires your help and you know me. I don't like to wait to get things settled." My mom quipped as she quickly explained the situation to my old diving coach.

My coach then went over with everyone what would be required for us to form our own diving team. He stated that some of the arrangements he could help us out with, and that he would start making some phone calls on our behalf over the next couple of days. He told my dad that he would coordinate with him trying to find someone who might be able to fill in as a coach. He had several contacts in the competitive diving sport, and he was sure something could be worked out.

We all listened intently as the plans were laid out, and then it finally got quiet around the room as we all sort of digested the new information. "Jackson?" My coach asked me after a moment's pause in our conversation.

"Yes coach?" I responded.

"Did you really nail your dive…I mean after not practicing for a few weeks?" He asked me proudly.

"Yeah, it was pretty good. My entry was just off, but it would have scored pretty good." I responded feeling proud of the dive.

"I knew it Jackson. I knew you had finally come in to your own. The things we could have done together. Don't give up Jackson. You've got real natural talent, and if you hone those skills you can go far in the sport. If nothing else, you can earn a good scholarship to an Ivy League school. You've got the smarts for it, and now with the diving you have a real shot at a good scholarship." He announced proudly.

"Thanks coach. I really miss you." I admitted.

"Me too Jackson. Are you making any friends…I mean real friends?" He asked me as I looked over towards Brendan and Marco.

"You bet Mister." Marco piped in. "He's the best ever." The little boy squeaked as his older brother pinched him trying to shut him up.

"What was that for?" The younger boy quipped.

"It was for running that big mouth of yours again, and butting into other people's conversation." Brendan pointed out.

"Yes, sir I guess you could say I'm making friends." I chuckled at the coach. "That was little Marco and his older brother Brendan. They had me over at their house for a sleep over, and then they took me over to this huge water park called Splashtown. It was great." I told him.

"Yeah, I know Splashtown. I've been there before a few years back when I was in the area. You have no idea how happy it makes me that you are making friends. I know it was a bit tough for you because of your age and everything in school, but I'm glad it is better now for you." My coach told me seriously.

We chatted for a few more minutes before we said our good bye's and hung up the phone. It was quiet now around in the room as people just sat around in their own thoughts. They had remained silent while I had talked to my coach, and now we all sat around trying to digest some of the information we had just received.

"Um…sir?" I heard a calm soft voice inquire of my dad.

My gaze shifted towards the source, and my heart nearly leaped out of my throat. It was a beautiful sculpted boy about Brendan's age, maybe a little older, with lazy wavy light brown hair, deep steel blue eyes, and an angelic face. His eyebrows were the same light shade of brown as his hair. His petite nose and straight lips that curled slightly upward when he smiled made his eyes sparkle in his round almost like oval face. I hadn't noticed him before, not even at the pool, and even now it was as if he tried to remain hidden from scrutiny. Then it hit me, I did see him at the pool. He was the one I had seen a glimpse of as if he was trying to convey something to me when Mikah had tricked me.

He appeared quiet and reserved…and just fabulously gorgeous. That snake of mine immediately stirred awake between my legs as I now tried to place his familiar features. I remembered him from the pool, but there was something about his features that tickled at the back of my mind. Then it dawned on me, he must be the son of that man, Braxton, who had welcomed my father to the community. The boy had similar facial features, but with darker hair and steel blue eyes instead of those deep blue ones belonging to his father. The boy also had the same body build as his father, but just not as bulky or muscular. The boy was leaner and lankier, perhaps getting that from his mother.

The boy really was stunningly beautiful as my eyes practically raped him from the top of his slightly curly wispy locks, all the way down his sleek body, before wandering back up and settling on his crotch area. He was wearing a pair of blue polyester style of sweat pants that clung tightly around that sweet looking bulge of his. I couldn't make anything out regarding what he had between his legs, but he was showing a decent sized bulge.

There was a jolt in my side as I finally tore my gaze away from the boy's crotch, and looked over to Brendan who was just looking at me with a smug look. He had jabbed me in the ribs, and I realized that I must have just been overtly ogling the fine looking boy. Of course Brendan was eyeing the boy as well, but not as blatantly as I had been doing. I blushed, but gave my friend an appreciative smile for saving me from something that could have been really embarrassing.

My father looked over towards the boy and smiled. "Yes, young man?"

"Um…do you think…well…can we see it?" He asked timidly, obviously being on the shy side.

"I don't understand?" My father responded scrunching up his eyebrows a bit confused. "See what?" He asked.

"You know…the medal." The boy asked quietly as he hung his head down obviously embarrassed now that everyone was looking at him.

"Braxton!" The older Braxton exclaimed, which meant his son had the same first name making the boy a junior. "You must excuse my son Mr. Elborn…"

"Jeff…Braxton, just call me Jeff." My father smiled pleasantly.

"Thank you Jeff." The elder Braxton smiled warmly. "You must excuse Brax, my son," He shortened his son's name using it like a nickname, "but for as long as I can remember he's always been very interested in learning about the history of our country and things like our military force." He started out looking around nervously, not wanting people to get the wrong idea. "I mean, not necessarily the fighting and wars and things, but just the history and strategy of it all. He reads books, and collects miniature figures, and even has started putting together a miniature battle field at Gettysburg. He's so fascinated about how things were, and what things looked like. He even loves the old machinery and vehicles from the past." The man apologized for his son.

"There is no need to apologize Braxton." My father smiled reassuringly. "Brax…" my father looked towards the boy, "or is it Braxton?" My dad inquired.

"Um…Brax is fine when my dad's around. It sort of cuts back on the confusion." The boy smiled brilliantly making me quiver with how adorably cute he looked.

"Well Brax, why do you want to see the medal?" My father asked the boy sincerely.

The boy just shrugged his shoulders as he thought for a moment. "Because…it is rare…I've never seen one…and…," the boy hesitated a moment getting shy and not knowing how to put into words what was on him mind. "Because I know there is a history to it." He finished off which seemed to confuse some of the parents sitting around us.

My father leaned back and sighed looking towards me, and then back towards the timid shy boy. Brax looked down now a bit embarrassed for having asked, but it was too late now as he started to fidget about. My father scrunched up his eyes in thought as he looked towards me again, and came to a decision. Leaning forward he looked to the boy as if it were only the two of them in the room, and started to tell him what he had told me. It was quiet in the room as my father spoke solemnly, and when he was finished I could see a teardrop meandering down Brax's cheeks.

"So, after what I just told you, do you still want to see the medal?" My father asked somberly.

The boy looked up into my father's eyes, and nodded his head which seemed to catch my dad by surprise. Sighing, he got up and disappeared down the hall. It was quiet now in the room, and no one wanted to be the first to break the silence so we all just sat there awkwardly. Braxton senior looked down at his son, and patted the boy's knee reassuringly. Before long my father returned with a rectangular shaped box, and stepped over to the boy. My dad looked down at the small box with a pained look on his face before handing it to the boy, and then returning to sit next to my mom.

The boy looked down at the box he held in his shaking hands, and gently raised the lid looking inside at the contents. I had seen the medal a few times as well so knew what he was looking at and the history. There are three versions of the Medal of Honor, one for each of the military departments of the Department of Defense: Army, Navy, and Air Force. I also knew that the members of the Marine Corps and Cost Guard were eligible to receive the Navy version. Each version was constructed differently, and the components were made from gilding metals and red brass alloys with some gold plating, enamel, and bronze pieces.

The version that Brax was holding in his hands was from the Air Force. It was a gold five pointed star within a wreath of green laurel, one point down, tipped with trefoils and each point containing a crown of laurel and oak on a green background. Centered on the star, an annulet of thirty four stars represented the head of the Statue of Liberty. The star was suspended from a bar inscribed with the word VALOR above the adaptation of the thunderbolt from the Air Force Coat of Arms. The pendant was made of gilding metal. The connecting bar, hinge and pin were made of bronze. The finish on the pendant and suspension bar was hard enameled, gold plated and rose gold plated, with buffed relief.

Since 1944, the Medal of Honor has been attached to a light blue colored moiré silk neck ribbon that is 1.1875 inches (30.16 millimeters) in width and 21.75 inches (552 millimeters) in length. The center ribbon displays thirteen white stars in the form of three chevrons. The Medal of Honor is one of only two military neck order awards, and is the only neck order that is awarded to members of the armed forces. The other, the Commander's Degree of the Legion of Merit, is presented to foreign dignitaries.

It was in my opinion a very beautiful medal, but knowing now what it had cost my father I wasn't so sure anymore. There were tears running down Brax's cheeks as I watched him slowly open up the case. He sniffled a bit, and somberly smiled as he looked up into my father's eyes.

"Please tell me about them?" He asked somberly.

"What?" My father asked a bit shaken.

"About your friends. This medal honors them, and I would like to know about them." The boy whispered softly barely audible as everyone now looked on in amazement at the boy's request.

There were tears in my father's eyes now as his breath shook in his chest. My mom squeezed his hand affectionately giving him support knowing how difficult it was for her husband. My father just looked at her wondering what he should do. She nodded encouragingly at him, and he just looked over towards Brax.

Slowly at first he told the boy about his men, his comrades, his friends. He began when he first met them talking about some of their characteristics. He then shifted to their families who were left behind among the living to pick up the pieces. Some had children, some brothers and sisters, and others parents that they had left behind. He talked about all of them, and I was surprised to note that he talked about them in the present tense. It dawned on me that he had remained in contact with each and every family member of his fallen comrades to this very day. Some of the kids were older now as he talked about their birthdays or other milestone in their lives.

When my father was finished with tears openly running down his cheeks, Brax finally spoke up softly as he affectionately stroked the medal in his hands before passing it on to someone else. "Thank you Mr. Elborn. I won't forget your friends. Thank you for sharing them with us." The boy whispered as tears streaked his softly tanned features.

In that moment I saw a sort of relief come across my father's features. With that one small gesture Brax managed to bring a sense of peace to my father. It was as if a heavy weight had been lifted off my father's shoulders when he shared the story of his fallen friends with others.

You're very welcome son, and thank you for asking about my friends. I'm sure when I tell their family members about this day they will also appreciate how you have honored the memory of their loved one Brax." My father replied as we all sat there quietly while the medal was passed from one hand to another.

It was starting to get late, but there had been a bond of friendship formed this day between our small group. One by one people started to trickle out saying their good byes to one another. Brax remained silent off to the side deep in thought as I approached him. He had picked up the box that held my father's medal, and was looking at it more closely as his eyebrows furled together with whatever thoughts he must be imagining. He must have noticed my movement because he looked up, and smiled warmly at me as he got up and stood there facing me for a moment.

As he stood up my heart skipped a beat again as I noticed just how gorgeous he really was now that he was standing a mere two feet in front of me. He was taller than Brendan, maybe five foot two inches or so, and probably weighed ninety five to a hundred pounds. His physical appearance was lanky and sleek, perfect for swimming or diving, and the face that went with the body was almost too much for me as I struggled to keep from popping a boner.

All of a sudden and without thinking I just stepped forward, wrapped my arm around him, and pulled him tightly to me surprising the other boy. "Thank you." I whispered as I breathed him in.

He had a heady smell about him, similar to Brendan's, but different. There was that tangy sweaty boy smell about him, but also a sort of sweet scent that seemed to subtly cover over the other odors. The mixture was intoxicating as I breathed him in heavily. I felt a sort of tingling thrill course through my body as I felt him wrap his arms around me comfortingly. He was sleek and firm, yet still a bit yielding in my arms, but I could tell he was athletically built under his lightweight gym clothing.

Coming back to my senses I released him and mumbled an apology. "Um…sorry about that…it…it's just…" I stuttered as he smiled warmly at me.

"It's alright Jackson. I didn't mind the hug, and I'm the one who should thank you." He pointed out which confused me.

"Why?" I asked him seriously.

"Because it can't be easy for family members whose parents serve in the military. I couldn't even begin to imagine what it must have been like for you and your mom." He admitted to me, which struck me as odd.

This kid was about the same age as Brendan, maybe a bit older, yet acted so much more mature. I mean kids in general just aren't like this, but Brax, well…he seemed so…deep. In some ways he was a lot like me being on the quiet side and more reserved, yet so different at times being bold and so mature. Everything about him seemed somehow different from most run of the mill kind of kids our age. I mean the guy was drop dead gorgeous, and he had a heart of gold. He was sensitive and mature seemingly beyond his years. Despite all of this, or maybe because of it, I still liked him and was drawn to boy.

Brendan and Marco made their way over towards me and I smiled at them. "Hey have you guys met yet?" I asked as they all shook their heads no. "Well Brax this is my best friend Brendan, well I have to say best friend because he sort of is my only one unless you count this little guy." I grunted as I picked up little Marco, and squeezed him tightly in my arms giving him a peck on the cheeks.

In the past I would never have thought of displaying such a show of affection. Yet, I found myself not in the least bit embarrassed about giving little Marco a kiss on the cheek. Setting the smaller boy back down I ruffled his hair.

"This here little tiger's name is Marco. I guess you could say he's my little squirt kind of best friend." I chuckled as Marco just looked up, and smiled at me while he wrapped my arm around him forcing me to hug him.

Brendan, Marco, and Brax bump knuckles in greeting as we chatted some more. I couldn't help but admire the younger Braxton's physique. While he was occupied talking with Brendan, my eyes once again took in his sleek form, and now that he was standing up his light airy sweat pants had settle down around his bulging crotch. I was just able to make out an outline of a nice plump sized elongated bulge pointing upwards towards the boy's left shoulder. It wasn't enough to determine what he had between his legs, and more than likely he was wearing his skimpy pair of diving briefs beneath his sweats that held the boy's pecker snug up against his body. My dick twitched between my legs as I gulped down a lump in my throat and I quivered excitedly.

Thank goodness my father interrupted us at that moment when he announced Braxton and his father would be staying for dinner. He also told Brendan and Marco to call home, and find out if it would be alright for them to stay as well. A few minutes later after Brendan got permission to stay, we boys finally climbed up the stairs and into my room. Digging through my dresser drawer I quickly pulled out some clothes and excused myself.

"Um…go ahead and feel free to look around. You can put in a game and play as well if you want to." I suggested as Marco squealed delightedly and headed towards my entertainment section.

Stepping into my bathroom and shutting the door, I swiftly stripped out of my clothes, and hopped in the shower to get cleaned up real quick. I still stunk of chlorine from the pool water so lathered up my body making sure to clean my dick and balls really good before rinsing off. My pecker remained stiff throughout the soaping and rinsing off process, already having gotten used to me giving it a good wanking now every time I took a bath. This time however I had friends waiting for me so this ritual would have to wait until later tonight. Finishing up with my hair I hopped out of the shower, dried off, and got dressed in a light blue pair of reversible gym shorts and matching polo style shirt.

Feeling much refreshed I stepped out of the bathroom and back into my room. Looking around I spotted Brendan and Marco playing one of my video games, but Braxton was no where in sight. Then I heard some noise and spotted him up above my walk in closet area where my trophy and storage display cabinet was placed.

Climbing up the ladder I stepped up into the small space next to Braxton who just looked over at me and smiled. I had a small table up here, and he was looking at some of my old civil war miniature figures. They were very old, kind of beat up, and had belonged to my father when he was a little boy. Well, at least the good ones had belonged to him. I noticed Braxton admiring several pieces as he slowly picked them up, and looked them over.

There was a whole pile of them that I had found when I was in Germany rummaging around in one of the old abandoned buildings. While we were on one of our unplanned day trips we came across this old village in an out of the way location, and decided to have a picnic. We stopped next to an abandoned building by an open field, and spread out our blankets. After a while I went exploring, and had stumbled across an old box under a pile of rotting wood.

Of course thinking it a treasure box I proudly dragged it out to my parents proclaiming I had found buried treasure. It had been a heavy box, and I was barely able to drag it out by myself. After prying it open we found several wonderful hand stitched table clothes, curtains, and other items which my mother eyed appreciatively and kept for herself. Some of them were even currently hanging up on our windows now, and over some of our tables. In addition half of the box was filled with all of these old civil war figures that had been carefully and individually wrapped. How they ever came to be in this small abandoned place in a far off country was anyone's guess, but nevertheless, there they were. My father told me he had an assortment of the same type of figures so we added them to his collection.

Many of them were duplicates, and really in bad shape, but could be restored. I had thought about doing it on many occasions, but just wasn't interested all that much in them to do anything about it.

"These are beautiful." Braxton exclaimed as he held up the pieces.

"Yeah these ones over here belonged to my dad," I indicated to a few of the figures standing up on the table with several others still wrapped up in a box. "The ones that you are looking at which are kind of beat up I found in an old trunk. I thought about restoring them, but I'm not exactly sure how to go about doing it and to tell you the truth I just don't have the patience for it." I told him honestly.

"I can restore them for you." He told me sincerely. "They're very rare and valuable you know, but if done properly can maintain their value."

"Really?" I asked him curiously.

"Yeah, sure…I love these and collect them myself; although, I don't have a complete collection like these. I've even begun the battle scene at Gettysburg." He admitted as he admired some of the small metallic figures.

When I looked at the pile sitting on the table I had to admit there really was a large collection. I had a slew of union and rebel soldiers, along with horses, wagons, canons, supplies, trees, tents, buildings, and anything else you could think of.

"Geeze, I don't know Braxton. There's a lot more than you think." I told him seriously as I looked at the figures on the table.

"Yeah, I guess it looks like a lot, but I would love to do it for you." He told me admiring the pieces scattered around on the table.

"No you don't understand Braxton." I told him as I opened up a cabinet and pointed to several other boxes that held all the battle figures in them.

He exclaimed excitedly as he nearly knocked me over kneeling down next to me and looking over the contents inside the boxes. "Oh my Jackson, the historical battle scenes you can make from all of these," he exclaimed appreciatively as tears seemed to flow from his eyes.

There was passion in the boy's eyes as he looked over the figures tenderly. "Um…Braxton…can I ask you something?" I interrupted the older boy from his musings

The boy looked up at me. "Yeah sure."

"You said you make battle scenes out of these figures?"

"Yeah," He admitted to me blushing embarrassed. "It's sort of a hobby of mine, and it takes a lot of research and everything. I also have to make the grounds of the battle like all the hills, trenches, trees, and other things from Styrofoam and stuff then paint it all up to make it look more realistic. I know it's kind of geekish…," He admitted shrugging his shoulders and smiling. "It's a lot of work and difficult to actually put together these historical scenes because the figures are so rare and difficult to come by, and when you do they are so expensive. I'm working on one as well, but I don't know if I'll ever be able to complete it. I mean I could if I bought replicas, but I want to keep everything original. It will probably take me years, and then I might never be able to completely finish." He admitted. "What you have is a gold mine."

"Oh…I see, and you would really be willing to restore these for me?" I asked him.

"Of course. I would love a project like this." He answered me seriously as he looked over some of the item.

"How much would you charge me to restore them?" I asked him.

"What…no…um…nothing. I wouldn't charge you anything Jackson. It would be totally awesome for me to just be able to handle them, and know they were in good hands afterwards." He told me seriously.

"Yeah but still Braxton I'm sure it is going to take a lot of work and time. If nothing else it will cost in material and stuff." I told him.

"No not all that much material Jackson…I mean most of it just needs to be cleaned properly. The paint and everything is all still in place for the most part. There is very little damage. It just needs some TLC, you know tender loving care. Sure it will take time, but it will be wonderful to see them sparkle with life again." Braxton stated admiring all the pieces.

"Oh, I see. Um…that battle scene of yours…you know…Gettysburg, are there enough pieces here to put one together?" I asked him.

Braxton looked around and scrunched up his eyebrows. "Well yeah…I'd say way more than enough. You probably have enough here to do two or three of them, maybe more. I don't know, it would depend what all is in the other boxes, but by the looks of things I'd say easily two if not more." He admitted.

"Good, then I tell you what. If you repair these figures you can pick out any pieces you need to complete your set. Then you have to help me build one of my own." I told him.

Braxton just looked at me completely stunned. "Um…Jackson…I…I don't know. Do you really understand the value of these figures I'm talking about?" He asked me.

"Nope, and I don't care. If it wouldn't be for you I would have probably ruined them anyway. Besides, you were willing to do all that hard work for free, so I only think it fair you get rewarded for your efforts." I told him.

The boy just looked at me, and then over towards the figures as tears ran down his cheeks. We both sat there in silence as his steely blue eyes looked over some of the contents inside the boxes; the only noise coming from below us in the recreation section of my room where both Brendan and Marco battled it out on my video games. Braxton just looked at me, and shook his head.

"I don't know what to say Jackson. Are you really sure about this?" He asked me again just to be sure.

"Yeah, besides I will still have plenty for another battle scene or two. Maybe you could help me to figure out what I could do with the leftover pieces." I told him really getting excited about the prospect now, and actually able to see a battle unfold in front of my eyes.

Evidently I really had found a treasure, but hadn't understood it until now. All of a sudden I found myself flat on my back as Braxton had leaned over towards me, and tackled me placing a bear hug around my tiny frame. I could feel the weight of his body on top of me with his groin pressing up against me as he settled on top of my small frame. I couldn't be sure, but it felt almost as if he was sporting an erection as it pressed up against my own crotch which had the immediate affect of that small soldier of mine to stand up at attention. I couldn't help myself as I hugged him tightly against me as our groins ground against one another. It was difficult to tell exactly what he had between his legs, but it felt almost as if it had fattened up quiet a bit.

Feeling and smelling him so close to me made me lightheaded as I felt him ease up on his hug. When I opened up my eyes his beautiful steel blue orbs danced around mirthfully in front of me, and then all of a sudden they got really big almost as if he realized something. He quickly rolled up off of me, and sat up while I did the same thing. The entire incident had lasted only a mere few moments, but it was enough to make things a bit uncomfortable as I blushed.

Looking over towards Braxton I started to apologize, but he just scrambled up on his feet reaching down to lend me a hand. He had a huge smile on his face, and was chatting away at possible battle scenes that we might be able to do after our Gettysburg ones. It was almost as if the intimate embrace never happened between us, or if it had as if it hadn't even bothered him. In a way I was kind of glad because I didn't want to have that awkward feeling between us. I followed him down the stairs as we joined Brendan and Marco waiting for dinner.

The rest of the evening went by quickly. My mom fixed us all some pork chops, red potatoes, onions and gravy, and corn on the cob. It was a delicious meal as we all sat around the table enjoying our company. Braxton was all bubbly as he explained to his father about all the civil war figures I had found in Germany, and the deal we had struck together.

At first his father stated it was too much, and had protested wanting to make sure we understood how valuable those pieces really were. I explained to him that his son had offered to do it for free, but I didn't feel it was right so had offered the deal myself. I also informed him that Braxton had indeed informed me of the value, and had refused the deal but that I had insisted. My mom and dad also spoke up at that point saying they thought it was a fair exchange as well considering the amount of time it would take to restore all the pieces. Besides, they reminded the man that these pieces were found, and should be shared; especially, with someone who is so passionate about it.

Looking towards his son the man finally relented and said it would be fine. "You are one lucky boy." Braxton senior told his son. "First the Medal of Honor, and now the figures you never thought you would be able to collect together in a million years. Not to mention fine new friends and a fantastic home cooked meal. Indeed Susan, we do dearly appreciate it for sure. It has been a long time since Braxton and I have had a woman's touch to a fine meal." He stated sighing sadly.

"Yeah, it really was nice Mrs. Elborn." Brendan piped in.

It was at that moment I realized how fortunate I really was to have both of my parents. Brendan and Marco of course lost their mother in an accident, and from what I understood Braxton's mother had abandoned them when he was just a toddler.

The mood started to get a bit somber before my mom piped up. "Well thank you very much. The pleasure was all mine, and I appreciate the compliments every once in a while. These two lug nuts tend to forget sometimes so it is really nice to hear." My mom teased as she smacked my father with her napkin while she motioned everyone out into the living room while she cleaned up.

After she cleaned up there would be some dessert. We all piled into the living room, and sat around pretty stuffed and chatted pleasantly. Of course Marco found his way into my lap and after his dessert curled up and started to drowse a bit. I stroked him affectionately, and Braxton seemed to notice as he smiled over at me. It was as if the little boy were my very own little brother, and the affectionate interplay between the little boy and myself didn't go unnoticed by the older boy as he constantly glanced my way and smiled warmly at me shaking his head at times.

Before long it was time to go, and Marco almost whined about having to leave me. He begged to be able to stay the night, but I promised him that the weekend was coming up here soon. He relented without too much trouble, but even my mother chuckled at the interplay, teasing me how I now had gotten my wish and finally had my very own little brother. She told us if she had known it would be so easy as that she would have gone to one of the neighbors years ago to borrow a baby brother for me.

After everyone left I made my way up the stairs into my room. I still had some homework to work on before I could watch some television and then go to bed. When I finally settled into bed that evening my body just didn't want to relax. Both of my parents had already come inside and kissed me goodnight, and it was already starting to get late. For whatever reason, my body just didn't want to calm down. My mind started to wander as it always did, and before long I was thinking about last weekend and of course my first sexual experience with Brendan.

My tool immediately inflated as Brendan's sexy naked body swam into my mind. My fingers seemed to automatically work their way around my stiff shaft as I slowly started to work it giving myself those pleasant tingling sensations deep down inside the core of my body. Before long something started to change with my normal fantasy as all of a sudden those two cute girls started to swim before my eyes.

They really had been cute, and I recalled how their eyes had roamed over my near naked frame. In a way it was kind of sexy as I felt my dick start to twitch in my pumping fist so I started to increase the pace sending a more intense sensation to that hard thin boy penis of mine. I was starting to get close as my small fingers slid across the puffy veined thin shaft of mine, and was surprised at how my fantasy had changed when all of a sudden Braxton made his way into my dreamy state with his sleek firm body pressing up against mine, and his beautiful steel blue eyes looking tenderly into my own. That was all it took as I exploded into my pleasant euphoric state while my orgasm ran its course through my tiny body rattling me to my core.

My balls contracted several times as my thin hard just less than three inch erection seemed to writhe around in my fingers. All too soon it was done as my hips settled back down on to my mattress leaving me breathing heavily for air. Ever since last weekend I've been jacking off more frequently enjoying the sensation and control I had of being able to pleasure myself like this. Of course it never felt as good as when Brendan had actually done it to me, but it still felt wickedly awesome.

Reaching over to my box of tissues I wiped myself clean of the small splattering of baby batter on my stomach and hands. It wasn't all that much, but then again at only eleven years old I knew I didn't have much to complain about either. Most kids my age still didn't ejaculate anything at all. Ever since last weekend I've been doing a lot of research on the computer regarding puberty and I was really feeling much better about my body and budding sexuality.

My body was finally able to relax as I slowly faded off to sleep. It was a peaceful kind of slumber filled with pleasant dreams. Brendan and Marco filled up most of those spaces interspersed with additional scenes now with a new friend in the form of angelic Braxton. Sometime in the night though, my dreams for some reason had shifted towards Ezra as his dark features seemed to force their way into several scenes. They weren't bad dreams, and in some ways sort of sexy. He really was a good looking boy as my eyes took in his features admiringly. So it went for the rest of the night as my hormones seemed to rage inside my small body providing me with vivid dreams that even incorporated those two cute girls.

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