Broken Trust

by Rob Warr

Foreword: The trust between two friends can be a wonderful and almost tangible thing, but what happens if one of those friends violates that trust? Can the two friends ever reconcile, and even if they do, will they ever achieve the level of trust they once had? This story will attempt to offer an answer to that question.

Their names were almost as exotic as their looks, 11-year-old Zane, with baby blue eyes, a long mop of blond hair, a sleek muscled body from years of boarding and playing sports, and Dakota, brown-haired, brown-eyed, a full inch taller and ten pounds heavier than his best friend, all of it muscle. Both boys were cute, and the girls in sixth grade at Madison Elementary were attracted to them like bees to flowers.

However, neither boy was especially interested in girls, and in fact, were quite content to play just with boys, specifically each other. But it wasn't just the usual games boys play, for Zane and Dakota had discovered early on in their relationship that they enjoyed a little sex play, and lately they'd begun to explore even further.

Both boys, being children of the internet, had explored a number of sites, marveling at the variety of sex offered there, and though disgusted by most of it, some things did peak their interest. For Zane, it was foot play, for Dakota it was frottage, and...light bondage. In fact, Dak (Zane's nickname for his best friend), was so obsessed with the idea of being tied up, that he actually bought a soft nylon rope and brought it to the next sleepover at Zane's house.

Although Zane wasn't as keen on the idea of being tied up, he went along with Dak's wishes and lightly bound him as he tickled his feet (which he did like) before proceeding to their usual sex play.

When it was time for Dak to tie Zane up however, Zane balked, and the two had what might be described as: a mild argument. However, it was quickly forgotten as the two discarded the ropes and snuggled into bed for some kissing and fondling and the usual stuff.

Zane thought Dak had forgotten all about the bondage thing, as he never mentioned it again after that night, but he would soon find out that was not the case at all. In fact, Dak was becoming somewhat obsessed with the idea of tying up his best friend and having his way with him. However, after being met with such resistance the one time he'd tried, he wasn't sure how to make this happen. Then one afternoon he got his chance when he received a call from his best pal.

"Hey," Zane said excitedly.

"Hey," Dak replied, always eager to hear from his best friend.

"Can you come over? The rents are gone for the afternoon, and Kiley is at her friend Donna's house." Kiley was Zane's 14 year old sister, who these days was obsessed with boys, and spent a lot of time at her friend's house discussing them.

"Hell yeah!" Dak said, the wheels in his head spinning so fast he was dizzy, "should I bring my sleep over, I mean?"

"Sure, why not? I know mom and dad won't care. Just clear it with your folks."

"Got it, I'll be there in twenty, bye," Dak said ending the call abruptly.

On the other end of the line, Zane shook his head and laughed, "Goodbye...I guess."

Quickly tidying up his room, Zane awaited his best friend's arrival as he thought about their past. They'd met when Zane first moved to the neighborhood when he was nine. They hadn't met right away, even though Dakota lived only a couple blocks away, but rather later, on the school bus taking them to Madison Elementary.

Zane had been especially nervous that day, his first day at the new school, no friends, a million fears and worries plaguing him, and now the dilemma of where to sit on the bus.

"Over here," a brown haired boy said suddenly as he stood and looked directly at Zane.

Blushing, as he realized the boy was talking to him, and that half the bus was now watching him, appraising him, judging him. Maybe that was why he'd obeyed, just to get out of sight quickly, but in retrospect, he realized that even then, as now, he'd been drawn to the cute boy with the infectious personality.

"Hi, I'm Zane, Zane Mathews" Zane said, still blushing as he offered his fist to bump. Even he knew kids didn't shake hands these days.

"I'm Dakota, Dakota Stevens. You're new, huh?"

"Yeah, we just moved here from Ohio."

"Nice, I've been here all my life..." Dakota said, then went on to give Zane a rundown of his life so far.

They'd talked the whole way to school, and by the time they'd arrived, their friendship had officially begun. It didn't hurt that they were both in the same third grade class with Mrs. Simmons, and once they learned they lived within walking distance of each other, they began to hang out outside of school as well.

Two months into the friendship, the sleepovers began, and now they occurred so regularly that their parents just expected them. They took turns sleeping over at each other's house at least twice a month, and even more during the summer, and this summer, the summer of their 11th year, they'd already racked up ten sleepovers, and tonight would be number 11. 11, what a magical number, Zane chuckled.

Just then the doorbell rang, but Zane didn't even bother to go down and answer it. Soon, he heard the door open and moments later Dakota's noisy footsteps coming up the stairs.

Rushing into Zane's bedroom through the open door, Dakota tossed his backpack on the bed and fell down in a heap beside his friend.

"I rode hard all the way," Dakota panted, his sweaty face and labored breath proving his assertion.

"You stink," Zane said making a face, but the truth was: Dakota smelled just fine, like sweat and boy, and it actually excited Zane a little.

"I'll shower later, let's ride our bikes, then later we can play in the backyard or something."

"Bossy much?" Zane laughed, but he was used to Dakota being in charge, and the truth was: he liked it that way.

"Okay, wiseguy, what do you want to do?"

"Ride my bike and mess around in the backyard," Zane laughed.

"Okay, great idea, glad you thought of it," Dakota said sarcastically.

They spent the next hour or so riding bikes, practicing jumps at the park, and just goofing off, but eventually they got bored and headed back to Zane's house. Dakota knew if he didn't act fast Zane's folks would come back from their shopping excursion, so he decided now was the time.

"Hey, want to play some while your folks are away?" Dakota said wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.

Zane didn't have to ask what kind of 'play' Dakota had in mind, and the truth was he'd been a little horny all afternoon.

"Okay, but first: we shower."

"Sure, problemo," Dakota said stripping off his tee shirt so quickly he caught Zane off guard for a moment.

The very sight of Dakota's smooth, naked skin was enough to give him a boner, but he didn't worry about his best friend seeing it or teasing him about it, for the tent in Dakota's shorts said he was already there.

The boys took a moment to enjoy the sight of each other's naked bodies before Zane led the way to his ensuite bathroom, where he started the shower. Once it was just the right temperature, Zane stepped in and invited Dakota to join him.

"Ah, that feels great," Dakota said as the warm water cascaded over his naked body.

"Yeah, here, let me wash your back," Zane offered.

"Just my back?" Dakota pouted.

"I thought you'd rather wait to do it in bed...but...whatever..."

"No, I was kidding. Def in bed," Dakota said quickly as he mulled over what he had in mind.

"Okay, there...all done, now wash mine."

Soon the boys were squeaky clean and dried off, and without bothering to put on clothes, they headed back to Zane's bedroom. Zane fell down on the bed first, knocking Dakota's backpack off the bed and spilling out part of it's contents, including the rope.

"What's that?" Zane chuckled, "do you take that damn thing everywhere you go?"

"Nah, but...I know you said you didn't want to try that...but, please, please, pretty please...can we just try it this one time?"

Zane looked at his friend's pleading face, and despite not being sure about the bondage thing, he wondered if he wasn't being a little selfish by not entertaining his friend's fetish. After all, Dakota had gone along with his foot play and actually seemed to like it. So...therefore he thought, maybe if I give this a try I'll learn to like it too.

"What did you have in mind?" Zane said, surprising the beejeezes out of Dakota.

"Oh...well...I don't know exactly," he said running various scenarios through his brain, "I promise I won't tie you too tight, and I won't do anything you don't like."

Zane sighed theatrically, "Okay, just this once, but hurry. I don't know how much longer mom and dad will be gone."

"Gotcha, so...umm, lay on the bed, I guess," Dakota said, his hands trembling now that this was actually happening.

"Okay, back or front?"

"Uh, lay on your stomach, I guess," Dakota said, then gaining some confidence he added, "yeah, def on your stomach," he said, finally retrieving the rope from the floor.

"This is called hog-tying," Dakota said, a slight tremble in his voice as he proceeded to tie his friend up, being extra careful not to hurt him in any way.

Once Dakota was finished, he stood back and looked at his handiwork. Laying on the bed, naked to the world, ass up, his hands and legs tied together, then his legs pulled up to meet his wrists, he was completely helpless, and that was such a turn-on for Dakota that he was practically ready to burst at any moment.

Despite feeling a bit exposed and panicky, Zane allowed Dakota to finish tying him, thinking the whole time how horrible it would be if someone was tied this way and left to struggle. An image of what some perv might do to a kid if they had them tied this way caused him to shiver, and he almost asked Dakota to untie him. But in the end, he decided to give Dakota a few more minutes in hopes he would do something sexy and make him feel good.

"I'm gonna take a pic," Dakota said grabbing his phone from his discarded shorts, "but I swear no one but us will see it."

"You better make sure, or you'll be in big trouble, that's child porn, you know?" Zane reminded him.

"I know, I know, I have a file locker, and no one but me can get to it."

"Okay, but hurry, my arms and legs are beginning to hurt."

"First, some fun," Dakota said laying his phone on the bedside table.

"Well, hurry, Dak" Zane said, but it was a little exciting to think about what Dakota might have in mind.

"Do you trust me, Zane?"

"Well, sure...but it's kind of scary..."

"Do you think I would ever hurt you?" Dakota asked, sounding hurt.

"No, course not...not on purpose...I guess."

"I'm gonna roll you onto your side now," Dakota said, accepting Zane's words at face value.

"Okay, careful..." Zane said, but it did feel a bit less straining now that his legs could rest on the bed.

"Nice boner," Dakota said twanging Zane's hard penis.

"Ugh, careful...I might fire off and put your eye out."

"Oh, no...we're not wasting it. How about if I suck the juice out of it?"

"Well, there usually ain't much, but it's all yours," Zane said excitedly, for the moment forgetting his uncomfortable position.

Kneeling by the bed, Dakota proceeded to fondle, then lick Zane's hard, almost 4 inches of perfectly sculpted boy cock, causing the tied up boy to moan.

"Mmm...deee...licious," Dakota said coming up for air, "but I think you need to cool off a bit. I'm gonna go downstairs and grab us a drink. Hold that thought."

"Dak!!" Zane cried out, but it was too late, Dakota was already headed downstairs, and it was at this point that things suddenly took a turn for the worse.

As soon as Dakota hit the landing, he heard the garage door going up and he froze. His brain turned to mush as he realized he was about to get caught bare-assed naked in his best friend's house, and the only thought that came to mind was, flee.

He gave no thought to the fact that his best friend was tied up, helpless, and would also be found naked, his brain had turned to mush and his body was reacting as if in self-preservation.

However, as soon as he was outside, escaping through the sliding glass door to the patio, Dakota realized just what he had done, and what he should have done. What he should have done, he realized, was to bound back upstairs, lock the door, untie Zane, and get dressed as quickly as possible. Only now, it was too late. All hell was about to break loose and he'd be ruined anyway, despite running away.

And now, here he was: naked as the day he was born, cowering behind the shrubs at the back of the house and wondering how he was going to get out of this mess.

A scream from somewhere above him, brought Dakota's head up and he moaned lowly as he realized his best friend had been discovered, hog-tied and naked. How would he explain that? Would he make up some story about an intruder, who made him strip, tied him up, and did god only knows what to him? No, no...Zane was too honest for that. Even now he was probably spilling the beans, and Dakota thought without any uncertainty that he was dead. Once his folks got hold of this piece of information it would be off to therapy, or worse: military school, and worst of all: he'd never see Zane again.

Tears filled his eyes as he realized just how he had failed his best friend, the friend that he loved more than even himself. So much so in fact, that he'd recently began to entertain notions of them becoming boyfriends. They already did the messing around, and it only seemed natural that the emotional part would come next.

But now, was all over. Even if somehow he miraculously escaped banishment or major prosecution for his crime of stupidity, he was quite sure Zane would never talk to him again.

With these feelings weighing him down and tears filling his eyes, he was barely aware of the patio door sliding open, and then a somewhat bemused Mr. Mathews speaking to him in a soft voice, much more gently than Dakota would have ever believed possible.

"Dak, come in son, before someone sees you. Here's your clothes," he said handing the boy the clothes he'd discarded on Zane's floor.

"I ca...can't," Dakota wailed, "I'm so sorry...I'm so ashamed..."

"Come in, get dressed, then we'll talk," Mr. Mathews insisted.

Nodding, Dakota grabbed the garments and used them to cover his privates as he followed Mr. Mathews inside. Once inside, Zane's dad pointed to the downstairs bathroom off the mudroom, and Dakota headed that way, placing a hand over his backside almost modestly.

Mr. Mathews chuckled to himself. As if he hadn't already seen plenty of the boy. In fact, over the years he'd caught glimpses of both boys in various stages of undress and even naked. He'd followed their progress from skinny little boys to healthy strong tweens, and he knew puberty was fast approaching.

Now, some parents might have been upset, even freaked out to find that their 11-year-old son and his best friend were engaged in some kinky sex play, but the Mathews were parents of the new millennium and very open-minded. In fact, they had played out this very scenario themselves, taking turns being the victim, and enjoying the rush of the resulting feelings.

It was actually pretty funny, Mr. Mathews thought, though he couldn't for the life of him figure out why Dakota had ran away rather than go untie Zane. Panic does crazy things to people, he supposed, and it was obvious from Dakota's tears and his lingering at the scene of the crime, that he'd regretted his decision.

Once dressed, Dakota stalled a few minutes, but he knew he'd have to come out eventually, and he took a deep breath and stepped out of the bathroom. Head lowered, tears still glistening on his cheeks, he steeled himself for the worst. Surely, they'd already called his folks and they were probably on the way now. There would be shock, angry words, maybe even physical violence, but the worst part would be when word got out at school and he had to face his peers everyday.

"Are you okay, son?" Mr. Mathews said, his voice full of concern, "you look pale.
Would you like a drink of water or some juice?"

", sir," Dakota said looking up to make sure he'd heard the man right. He wasn't angry at all, how could that be? he wondered.

"Okay, well...suppose you come on into the family room with me and we'll all have a long talk...about what happened. Zane and his mom will be down shortly."

What choice did he have? he thought bitterly, I'm on trial here, and the three will be my judge and jury. They'll pass sentence, and when my folks get here, the real torture will begin.

"Did...did you call folks yet?" Dakota managed to stammer. He didn't want to be blindsided if they came rushing in in the middle of the interrogation.

"No, we thought it would be best to keep this between the four of us, is that all right?"

"What? Yes! I mean, thank you," the boy said, still not believing his luck.

His train of thought was interrupted however by the sound of footsteps on the stairs, and moments later Mrs. Mathews and Zane joined them. Unable to bring himself to look either in the eye, Dakota stared at his bare feet and wished he was a million miles away.

"Hello, Dak," Mrs. Mathews said, her voice soft, but neutral.

"Hi, ma'am," Dakota managed to squeeze out past his trembling lips.

"Well, where to begin?" Mr. Mathews said, sounding a bit amused and uncomfortable.

"I think we should begin by discussing what Zane has told us, then we'll go from there. How does that sound?" Mrs. Mathews said, taking charge as usual. For when it came to the boys, she was an expert at maneuvering through the bullshit.

At this point, Dakota began to panic, his breathing became labored, his face reddened even further and he felt ready to pass out. Noting his discomfort, Mrs. Mathews gave him a gentle smile.

"Relax, son," she said gently, "no one is in trouble, we just want to make sure we have the facts right and lay out some rules for the future."

Dakota did relax a little, but this was still damned embarrassing. He'd tied up his naked friend and he was naked too, what must they think of him? By now they must know what a freak he was.

"Okay, so...this magic trick..." Mrs. Mathews said, looking over at Zane, who thus far had said nothing and was avoiding eye contact with his friend just as vehemently as he had, "Zane says the idea was that he had five minutes to escape the ropes and that you went downstairs to get them something to drink."

"I guess at that point, we came home and you panicked," Mr. Mathews said jumping in, "the only thing we didn't really understand was, why you were both naked. That is, until Zane told us you'd just finished your shower and just hadn't gotten around to dressing yet."

"I get that, even though I'm just a dumb old girl," Mrs. Mathews said, though she was pretty sure there was really more to the naked part than they were being told, she considered it to be harmless boy stuff, "but...Dakota, dear, when you heard us coming why didn't you just run back upstairs and untie Zane and get dressed?"

"I...I don't know," Dakota said, finally daring to look into his friend's eyes, the pleading look there undeniable, "I just panicked, I guess. Once I was outside, I realized how stupid I was, but it was too late then. I heard someone scream, and then Mr. Mathews came for me..."

"So, you agree then that what Zane told us is the truth? It was just a prank, or a trick gone bad, and there were no sinister intentions there?" Mr. Mathews chuckled.

Both the adults knew Dakota well enough to know he was a gentle and loving boy, and very loyal to their son.

"Yes, sir...yes, ma'am. It was stupid, and I'm really sorry. It was my idea, and Zane didn't want to do it at first, but I talked him into it, then I let him down, and I'm really sorry. Zane, can you ever forgive me?"

Then came the words that cut Dakota as surely as if someone had slashed him with a knife.

"I don't know. I'm not mad about you tying me up, I'm mad cause you left me there, helpless, and...that's how my folks found me...and I don't know if I can ever forget that scream my mom let out when she saw me..." Zane said, then dissolved into tears.

"Oh man," Dakota said, the tears running down his face as well, "I'm so sorry..."

"Boys," Mr. Mathews said, somewhat concerned at how hard both were taking this, "maybe you need to give each other a little space for a day or two. I know you boys have been spending a lot of time together, and maybe you just need a rest."

"Fine by me," Zane said standing, "can I go to my room now?" he said angrily, wiping tears from his eyes and giving Dakota a go-to-hell look.

"I suppose, but don't you want to talk to Dakota alone first?" Mr. Mathews suggested, hoping that one on one they could work this thing out.

"No, I'll just say goodbye now. Can I go?" Zane said stubbornly.

"Yes, I suppose so," Mrs. Mathews said, looking at her husband with concern.

"I'll throw your backpack into the hall," Zane said as he turned to go.

"I'm sorry, Dak, buddy," Mr. Mathews said, feeling the need to apologize for his son's rude behavior, even if he understood where it was coming from, "he'll get over it. Just give him time."

"You're not...mad?" Dakota said then, wanting to make sure he understood where everyone stood.

"No, not mad. Maybe a little concerned. Tying someone up can be dangerous if you leave them unattended, especially the way you had Zane tied. What if you'd fallen down the stairs and hit your head? There would be Zane all tied up, unable to help while you bled to death. Or what if the house caught on fire and you'd have run out like you did when we arrived? Would you leave our son to burn to death?"

"No, no...I swear. I'd die before I'd let him get hurt. I'm so stupid," the boy said wailing now.

"Shhh, you're 11, 11-year-olds aren't supposed to know everything yet, but that doesn't mean you're stupid," Mrs. Mathews said, finally coming over to sit by the boy and slip an arm around his shivering form.

"I agree with my wife, you're not stupid. You're actually a very bright boy, and a good friend to our son, and a welcome visitor in our home. Don't take it so hard, but learn from your mistake, okay?"

"Ye...yes sir," Dakota said sniffing back a few tears.

"Are you okay, honey?" Mrs. Mathews said, smoothing back the hair from his forehead and placing a mother's kiss there.

"I...I think so, but...Zane hates me now," he said with a shudder.

"No honey, he doesn't hate you. He's just a little upset, a lot embarrassed, and confused right now. Yes, you could have acted differently and saved him those feelings, but what's done is done, and your friendship will weather this: just like it has all the other storms you've both endured."

"I dunno," Dakota said wiping at his runny nose, prompting Mrs. Mathews to reach over and grab a few tissues, which she handed to him. After blowing his nose, he continued, "I've never seen him so mad before. It's like he hates me, and I don't blame him."

"Give him time, son," Mr. Mathews suggested once again, "let him stew a few days then text him or call him. I guarantee he'll be happy to hear from you."

"Yes sir, I'll try. I should go. I was gonna stay over...but, now I guess I need to get home. I'll just go get my stuff..."

"All right sweetie," Mrs. Mathews said, giving the boy one last hug, "if you need us for anything, anything at all, just call, okay?"

"Yes, ma'am, thank you...thank you both. I'm such a dope, but you treat me really nice..." he said fading off.

"Sport, we love you," Mr. Mathews said sincerely, "you're like a son to us, so don't ever worry about us giving up on you."

Before he could stop himself, Dakota threw himself into the man and gave him a quick hug, then pulling away, he practically ran up the stairs to retrieve his stuff.

As promised, Dakota's backpack was leaning against the wall in the upstairs hallway, and beside it were his socks and shoes. Sitting on the top step he pulled on his socks and laced on his shoes, then turned to stare at Zane's closed bedroom door. Dare he go over and knock, to try to talk to his best friend and fix things, or should he do as the adults had suggested and just let it go for now? Sighing, he decided he didn't have the strength to argue his case, or the heart to see the look of sadness, anger, and disappointment that he was sure he would find on his friend's face.

Sadly, Dakota rose, and with one last glance at his best friend's closed door, he started slowly down the stairs. At the bottom, he paused a moment to look around at the all too familiar surroundings, etching them in his mind as if this was his last visit here, then he slowly opened the door and stepped outside.

Grabbing his bike, Dakota started for home, his body on autopilot, his head a million miles away. Blindly, aimlessly, his mind wandered over the events of the last few years, before finally coming to land on the devastating debacle that would no doubt haunt him for the rest of his life.

"You're home early," his mom said as he walked in the front door, "I thought you were sleeping over at Zane's."

"Change of plans, I wasn't feeling too well." It wasn't a total lie, he did feel ill, in fact, he felt as if he would die at any moment, but not from some disease, but rather from his emotional pain.

"Hmm...probably that bug that's going around. Why don't you lay down for awhile and I'll check on you in a bit? Do you want something to drink?"

"Nah, I'm fine," Dakota said waving her off, "I'm gonna lay down now. Call me when dinner is ready, I guess."

"All right," his mother said looking at him curiously. Something wasn't right, but she knew better than to pry. Prying usually led to an argument and hurt feelings, and she wasn't in any mood to deal with that right now. If her son needed her help, she was there for him, but she knew from experience that he usually worked things out on his own.

In his room, Dakota fell across his bed and closed his eyes. He was all cried out, and all that was left was a feeling of dread and fear. He'd never seen Zane look at him that way and it scared him. He knew he'd messed up, messed up big time, but the look of hate and scorn on his best friend's face said there was no coming back from this one. That thought was so devastating that at that moment Dakota even considered taking his own life. Thankfully, the thought passed quickly and the boy wallowed in his misery till he finally fell asleep.

Despite being upset by the events that had led to his coming home early, Dakota found he was hungry and managed to eat a decent portion of the spaghetti and meatballs his mom had prepared. If his parents noticed his somber mood, neither mentioned it, nor did they try to draw him into their conversation.

Without being told to do so, Dakota began to clear and load the dishwasher as his parents watched on with interest.

"What's gotten into him?" Mr. Stevens chuckled.

"I dunno, he said he didn't feel well earlier, but he seems all right now."

"I can hear you guys, you know?" Dakota smirked.

"Sorry, son," Mr. Stevens said sincerely, "are you all right? Cause, if there's something bothering you... You and Zane didn't have a falling out, did you?"

Oh God, even they can see how upset I am, and it's not hard to figure out why.

"Nah, just got bored over there, plus I didn't feel well, but I'm better now."

"Uh huh, okay then, carry on," Mr. Stevens said rising, "I'm going to go watch some TV."

Mrs. Stevens helped her son finish up, and when they were done, Dakota excused himself to his room on the pretense of playing video games. Mrs. Steven shook her head as her son left the room, but she didn't say anything. She knew something was wrong with her son, but until he decided to share whatever it was with her, he was on his own.

In his room, Dakota sat in the floor before the 32" flat screen TV attached to his gaming system, but he still hadn't powered either on. He thought about the times he and Zane had played video games together, but the best times were the times they played ball or wrestled outside in the fresh air. Both were athletic and enjoyed riding bikes, shooting hoops, or just messing around outside.

"I wonder what he's doing," Dakota muttered to himself, "I should text him..."

For a moment he panicked once again, he'd laid his phone on Zane's night stand, was it still there? Then quickly digging through his backpack, he let out a sigh of relief when he found it there. Good old Zane, even as pissed as he'd been, he'd remembered to put his phone in with his other stuff.

But as he grabbed his phone he remembered something else, the picture he'd taken of a naked, hog-tied boy, who used to be his best friend. Staring at the photo was almost painful, and for one brief second he considered deleting it, then with a sigh he moved it to the encrypted file locker.

He threw his phone down on the floor then and finally switched on the game system and TV, and for the next hour or so he immersed himself in idle game playing.

The aftermath

Despite Zane's folks' prediction, Zane did not get over his betrayal by his best friend as quickly as they'd hoped. Dakota had waited two days before texting Zane, but when no reply came by the third day, he tried calling, only to have the call go to voicemail. He left a brief message, which also went unanswered, then tried texting again, but also without success.

On Friday, he rode over to the Mathew's house, only to find the cars gone and no one home. He considered leaving a note on the door, but he had no paper or pen, and instead he rode to the park and sat watching the ducks and geese till it began to get dark. With his head hung low, the boy made his way home, went straight to his room and didn't emerge till he was called to dinner.

Speaking of dark, Dakota's once bright and sunny disposition was now as dark as night. His parents had noticed his surly mood and depression right away, and it didn't take them long to figure out that it had something to do with Zane. After all, the two had been best friends forever, and it was rare for a day to go by without them getting together, especially during summer break.

However, no amount of questioning brought the answers they sought, and on Saturday Mrs. Stevens decided to give Mrs. Mathews a call.

"Hello, Ruth," Mrs. Mathews said, "How are you and Joe doing?"

"Fine, Mary, it's Dakota that's not doing so well, and I think we both know why."

"Yes, I was hoping things would have leveled out by now, but Zane is being a bit stubborn this time. However, I think it's only a matter of time before he comes around," Mrs. Mathews said, without revealing the true nature of what had happened.

"May I ask what happened?"

"Well, Ed and I promised we wouldn't talk about what happened, but let's just say that Dakota violated Zane's trust and it's taking him a while to get over that."

"Hmm, well...I won't pry, but I've been hoping Dakota would tell us what went on. I'm assuming it was something embarrassing, but not dangerous..."

"Yes, and to save the boys any further embarrassment, Ed and I thought it best to let them work it out. However, if things don't get better soon we may have to change our strategy."

"Well, I trust your judgement, but I have to tell you, I have one very sad little boy moping around here, and I certainly hope things get better soon."

"I know the feeling, Zane hardly talks to us anymore, he picks at his food, and he's not sleeping well. He looks like a zombie, ambling around the house, and he seems to have lost interest in everything that was once important to him. I don't think he's been outside the house for more than five minutes since this whole thing went down."

"Oh my, perhaps it's more serious than you're telling me then. Are you sure we shouldn't be trying to figure this out together?"

"How about this, Ruth? If there isn't a significant change by next weekend, then we'll get together and have a talk, how's that sound?"

"All right, as I said, I trust your judgement, but it just hurts me so to see Dakota this way. He's always been such a happy and lively boy."

"I know, so has Zane," Mrs. Mathews sighed, "Let's give them a few days, then we'll talk again. I'm hoping they can work this out on their own though, that would be the best course of action."

"Do you know if the two have talked or texted?"

"I'm not sure, but I did see Zane staring at his phone one day and frowning, so I was guessing maybe it was a text from Dakota. I haven't asked him point blank, but maybe I will, just to make sure he's doing his part to patch things up. I can understand his side of it, but I can also understand Dakota's, and I still think in the end they'll work it out."

"All right," Mrs. Stevens sighed, "please keep me advised, and I'll do the same."

"I will, Ruth. Tell Joe I said hello, and don't worry too much. There just boys and they have tender feelings, but they also heal quickly."

"Yes, but they're growing up so fast. Soon they'll be crazy teenagers," Mrs. Stevens chuckled, "and then all hell will break loose."

"Don't I know it," Mrs. Mathews laughed.

"Well, I won't keep you any longer. Thanks for the info, and I'll keep in touch. Goodbye for now."

"I'll do the same, goodbye Ruth."

At the top of the stairs, Zane stood silently listening to his mother's conversation and it didn't take him long to figure out who he was talking to, or what they were talking about. His feelings vacillated between anger, hurt, and betrayal. How dare his mother take Dakota's side in this. Dakota had betrayed his trust, left him tied up and humiliated, and he could never forgive him for that. That his mother thought he was being unreasonable cut him like a knife. Didn't she understand just how awful this whole thing was? After all, she was the one who'd found him, bound up like some animal, naked for anyone to see. He felt as if his soul had died a little that day, and he had Dakota to blame for it, and as far as he was concerned, Dakota was no longer his friend.

Slipping quietly back to his room, Zane checked his phone once more, only to find yet another text message from his ex-friend.

Dakota: Please, to me. I'm dying here. I miss you sooo much and I am soooo sorry. Please don't hate me😭

For a moment, maybe just one mili-second, Zane was touched and actually felt bad for Dakota, then his anger and need for retribution kicked in, and he frowned and threw the phone down on his bed.

"How dare him, text me and make it all about him," he fumed to himself.

"Zane, honey," his mom said as she came down the hallway, "Your sister and I are going to the mall, want to come with us?"

"No thanks," Zane said politely, "I have some reading to do."

"Are you sure? It will do you good to get out for a while."

"I'm fine just like I am, mom," Zane insisted.

"All right, I won't force you, but...I just hate to see you moping around the house like this, day after day."

"I'm not moping, "Zane said, trying to keep his voice even and not let his anger seep through, "I just don't feel like going anywhere, that's all."

"All right dear, we'll be back before your dad gets home," she said, coming over to give her son a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

At first he stiffened, then relaxed into her hug and accepted the kiss with gratitude. Despite his mom finding him in such an embarrassing situation, she continued to act as if everything was normal. If only she knew, he thought, she probably wouldn't be so quick with those hugs and kisses, and it's all Dakota's fault.

"Kiley, dear, are you ready?" Mrs. Mathews said as she exited Zane's room in search of her daughter.

At least Kiley was so into her own stuff that she hadn't caught on to what was happening and wasn't giving him any grief, Zane thought. If she ever found out what had happened, he knew he'd never hear the last of it from her, and what was worse: all her friends would know, then it would be all over school, the town, and who knows? maybe even social media.

He would simply die if anyone else ever knew what had gone on with him and Dakota. Then suddenly, he remembered the picture Dakota had taken as an icy fear gripped him. What if Zane became so desperate or so angry that he shared the photo with others? Nah, that was crazy, he reasoned, that picture was basically child porn, and even a child can go to jail for having that stuff, right?

"Damn, I am so screwed," Zane huffed as he fell down on his bed, "I wish I could just crawl into a hole and die."

Not far away, 11-year-old Dakota Stevens was having some of the same feelings. He'd blown it, ruined a long and happy friendship by being a spineless idiot and leaving his best friend to face the music all along, and what was worse: all tied up and naked.

How could he be so stupid? he moaned. I've ruined everything, he lamented, as the tears came once again. His life now was just one miserable day after another. He stared at his phone and reread the latest pathetic attempt to reconcile and the tears came in earnest now.

He was glad no one was home, his mom had gone grocery shopping, and his dad was at work. Ordinarily when left alone like this, Dakota would find interesting things to do, including that thing that most boys his age do when they have a bit of privacy. But ever since he and Zane had broken up he found he had little interest in that particular activity.

Suddenly, his phone alerted him to a message and with his heart nearly pounding out of his chest, he picked it up, hoping beyond all hope that it was Zane texting him, only to feel a complete letdown to find it was another of his friends.

Mark: hey weirdo, want to go swimming with Pete and me, Zane can come 2

Dakota: Nah, busy right now

Mark: you sure? Betsy and Carol are gonna be there

Girls were the last thing on Dakota's mind, but he couldn't tell Mark that.

Dakota: damn, just my luck. Thanks anyway, but no can do...this time

Mark: k, what about Zane, he there too?

Dakota: Nah, feel free to ask him if you want

Mark: weird not finding you two

Dakota: yeah, like I said, I'm busy

Mark: okay, laterz then dude

Dakota: yeah, later

Dakota stared at the phone for a moment and almost wished he had said yes. Maybe getting out and doing stuff with his other friends would help him forget about Zane.

"Fat chance of that," he said aloud, "things are never going to be the same."

A few days passed, and Zane slowly began to come out of his shell and interact with his family more, but everyone, including his sister could see the strain he was under. Kiley had quizzed her mom and dad about what was going on, but they'd only given her a generic answer which only peaked her interest. Despite what Zane might think about her however, she was concerned about him, and she had to admit, she missed Dakota hanging around.

At last the weekend arrived, and it became apparent that Zane wasn't going to budge an inch and try to talk things out with Dakota, and as promised, Mrs. Mathews finally intervened.

"Zane honey, your father and I want to talk with you," She said that Saturday, while Kiley was at her friend's house.

"Uh, okay," Zane said, dreading what came next. He was pretty sure they were going to talk to him about the incident, or perhaps about Dakota, and he really wasn't in the mood for it. But what could he do? He was just a kid and subject to the whims of his parents, even if they were pretty decent to him most times.

"Sit," Mr. Mathews said when Zane finally made it to the living room.

His folks were side by side on the couch and he chose to sit in his dad's recliner, though he sat on the edge and didn't recline.

"I guess you probably know why we asked to talk with you," his mom said, giving him a concerned look, "it's been almost two weeks since, well...since you've last spoken to Dakota, and your father and I think it's time we talked about this thing some more.

Zane let out an involuntary moan and fell back into the chair, seemingly swallowed up by the huge recliner.

"We're not talking about the, umm...thing that happened, but rather about the way you've reacted to all this," she added quickly, "have you even tried to work things out with Dakota?"

"There's nothing to work out," Zane said stubbornly, "we're done, that's all there is to it."

"Son, that's not very fair," Mr. Mathews said frowning, "Dakota has been a good friend for a long time, and I...we, think he deserves a chance to redeem himself. And truthfully...we miss having him around. His parents are very concerned as well."

"He has other friends," Zane reasoned.

"So do you, but what you and Dakota had was something special. A guy is lucky if they have two good friends in their lifetime, but even luckier if they have one great one, like Dakota once was."

"Was, that's the thing," Zane said stubbornly, "he quit being a great friend when, did what he did."

"I know we said we weren't going to talk about the actual incident, but since you seem to harbor such ill feelings about that, maybe we do need to talk about it," Mrs. Mathew said suddenly, causing Zane to blush.

"I think it's pretty obvious that Dakota didn't overpower you and tie you up against your will. You had to have cooperated, or he could never have gotten you bound up that way. So...whether it was a magic trick, or just some innocent playing around, we will assume that you both were into it and no one was forced, am I right?"

"I told you, we were just goofing around..."

"And...except for the fact that Dakota left you tied up and helpless, it seems pretty harmless. Look, son, we're not stupid," Mr. Mathews said, his own face burning a bit as he confronted the truth, "we pretty much figured out from the start what was really going on, and though something like that is...well, sort of advanced, I understand that the kids of today have the internet and are exposed to things my generation never were."

"Oh man," Zane moaned, "I'm a freak and even my parents know it."

"You're not a freak, young man," his mom said soothingly, "and we're not here to judge you, or Dakota for what took place. But we wouldn't be good parents if we weren't concerned, especially about your safety. I don't believe you were in any real danger, and if we hadn't come home when we did, I'm sure Dakota would have come back and freed you and no one would ever have been the wiser. That being said, we don't harbor any ill feelings toward Dakota, and...we don't think you should either."

"But you're not the one who had his mom find him naked and tied up," Zane said growing agitated.

"I admit, I may have overreacted a bit," Mrs. Stevens said, "but my first thought was that someone had broken in and tied you up and, well..."

"I know," Zane said softly, "I'm sorry you had to find me that way. I should have said no."

"Look, son, what's done is done. We're not going to dwell on it, and we don't think you should either. All we're asking is: give Dakota a chance to explain and to apologize. I know he's been trying to contact you, and that you've been ignoring him, and that's not really fair. So, what we're proposing is a face to face meeting, tomorrow somewhere neutral, say....the park."

"Do I have to?" Zane whined.

"No, we can't force you, but we're asking you as your parents to please do this for us."

Zane sighed, "Okay, but I can't promise anything."

"I know that, honey, but at least we'll have tried, and most importantly, you'll have tried. We've already talked to Dakota's folks about this and they're waiting to hear from us. So, can we tell them you're willing to do this?"

"I said yes," Zane pouted.

"All right, I'll set it up then," his mom said holding out her arms, "now, come here and give me a big hug."

Later, in his room, Zane wallowed in self pity and resentment at being manipulated so easily. He just wouldn't talk to him, he fumed, yeah, that's it, I won't say a word. He can do all the talking. Then he thought about all the things he'd wanted to say, all the damning words he'd come up with, and he wondered if he could really keep quiet. No, maybe he'd go off on the dork and really let him have it, make him cry like a little bitch, but why didn't that make him feel good? Truth was, no matter how upset, how disappointed he was with Dakota, he still had feelings for him.

Lately, before the incident, those feelings had begun to change from just friendship to something much deeper, but, he wasn't sure how he felt anymore. Could he ever get close again to the boy who had betrayed him? Could he resurrect those feelings, or were they gone forever? He sighed as he fell back onto his bed, a million thoughts going through his mind as he both dreaded and anticipated his meeting with Dakota the next day.

Sunday was cloudy but warm, with rain predicted for later in the day. But for now it was dry, and as Zane loaded into his mom's SUV for the short trip to the park, he was a mess of emotions.

"Do I have to go?" he said, making one last plea.

"No, but you'll disappoint a lot of people if you don't."

With logic like that, how could he refuse?

"Okay," he sighed, "let's get this over with."

At the park, Zane could just make out a lone figure near the pond, and even from a distance he could tell it was Dakota. He looked sad, even from this distance, Zane noted. Something about his posture, and he was sure if he could see his face he'd see that sadness multiplied ten fold.

"Call me when you're ready to come home," his mom said, reaching over to pat him gently," I love you, son.

"I love you too, mom," the boy mumbled before climbing out of the SUV. Then with one last look at his mom, he shut the door and started toward his rendezvous with the boy he'd once called his best friend.

The walk seemed to take forever, and halfway there Zane was aware that Dakota had turned to face him and was watching his advance with trepidation. When at last Zane was close enough to make out the boy's features, he found not only the sadness he'd expected on Dakota's face, but also a look of fear, or at least anxiety.

"Hey," Dakota said nervously.

"Hey," Zane said, avoiding eye contact for now.

"Want to sit down, over there?" Dakota suggested, pointing to a park bench beneath a huge oak tree.

"Sure, okay," Zane said, heading that way without waiting for Dak to respond.

Once seated, the boys studied their feet as they each waited for the other to start.

"Thanks for coming," Dakota said at last, daring to glance at his friend for a moment.

"It's okay. My folks made a big deal out of it, so I caved."

"Oh," Dakota said, feeling as if someone had slapped him, " didn't want to come?"

"I don't know," Zane said truthfully, "I'm kinda confused right now."

"Oh, I'm sorry. And I'm sorry about what happened, that day at your house too. That was totally my fault, and if I could go back and do that stuff over..."

"I know, you've said your texts."

"So, you read them?"

"Of course, I'm not stupid."

"I know, you're way smartern' me," Dakota said, hoping he wasn't being too obvious with his flattery.'

"This isn't about being smart, this is about being loyal," Zane suddenly blurted out.

"I know, I know, and I swear I am as loyal a friend as you'll ever find, but I messed up, Zane. I messed up big time, and I am sooo sorry," Dakota said wiping a tear from his eye.

"It's just..." Zane said turning to the boy beside him and frowning, "can you imagine how humiliating it was to have my mom find me like that, naked and tied up, with...with...a semi boner?"

"Oh god, I'd have died if it had been my folks. But your folks are so much cooler than mine and they didn't freak. Heck, they made me feel like everything was going to be okay, only I guess they didn't realize how much it affected you at the time. I think I did, but...but I just figured we'd work this thing out. That we were too close, too good of friends to give up."

"Is that what you think, that I just gave up?"

"I...I don't know, I know I haven't given up. I've been trying, but you won't answer my texts or my calls..."

"Maybe I didn't answer cause I didn't know what to say. Did you ever think of that?"

"I guess I can see that, but you don't know how hard it is, not knowing what you're thinking, or if I still have my best friend in the whole world," Dakota said, breaking down completely at last.

"Don't make it all about you," Zane scolded, though it was hurtful to see his best friend crying like that. Wait, did he just think of Dakota as his best friend?

"I know, I'm sorry. I'll shut up," Dakota said, wiping the last of his tears away and sniffing back some snot.

Zane sighed, "You know what really hurts the most?" he said, then went on before waiting for an answer, "I was really starting to like you, a special way."

"What, um, what do you mean?" Dakota asked, hoping Zane was talking about the same kind of special feelings he'd begun to have for his best friend.

"Do I have to spell it out for you?" Zane huffed, "ever since we started, umm...messing around, I've had these feelings for you. The kind of feelings guys usually get for girls, not other boys. Do I have to spell it out for you? Okay, I will: G.A.Y. feelings."

"Oh," Dakota said, managing a sad smile, "I was hoping that was what you meant, cause...well, I feel that way too. That's why it's been so hard not knowing what's going on with us. I was afraid I'd lose you forever, and well...I'm not sure I could go on without you in my life."

"That's kind of dramatic," Zane said, but he was grinning, "you, umm...haven't thought about doing anything stupid have you, know, suicide?"

"Nah, I'm too much of a coward for that, besides...I was still hoping and praying that you'd forgive me...someday."

"I don't know if I've completely forgiven you, but...I want you to know I don't hate you or anything. In fact, I guess deep down inside I sort of love you, I'm just mad at you, that's all."

"You, you love me?" Dakota said brightening for the first time since the incident in Zane's bedroom, "that's awesome, cause I know I love you, with all my heart."

Zane brought his head around to look into Dakota's eyes then, and he saw nothing but sincerity there. Smiling, he reached over and took the other boy's hand, then looked away, a bit embarrassed by his boldness, but happy to finally get his true feelings out.

"So, can you forgive me?" Dakota pleaded.

"In time," Zane said, making eye contact once more, "but trust is something that you have to earn. You lost my trust, and now you have to earn it back."

"I will. I will do anything I have to to earn it back, and I swear I will never let you down like I did that day."

"Well, I guess we can start hanging out again then."

"Awesome, umm...since we love each other now, does that mean we're boyfriends?"

"Whoa, one thing at a time, first: we get back to being friends, then we'll see about that," Zane chuckled.

"I can wait," Dakota said happily, as he gently squeezed Zane's hand.

"What are you doing this afternoon?" Zane asked blushing.

"I got no plans, you?"

"No, no plans. Want to come over and play some video games?"

"Yeah, I'd like that."

"Okay, you call your folks and I'll call my mom to come get us," Zane said grinning.

"Awesome," Dakota said as he pulled his phone from his pocket and walked a short distance away to make his call..."Mom, it's me...great news..."

The End

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