The Scars Above My Heart

by Sean English

Chapter 12

The Next Stage of Existence

It took most of the month of July for Gina to recover from her accident, thus hampering many of the activities the Edwards family had planned. Although she remained hospitalized for almost a week following the surgery, the girl was gradually, but also happily, on her way to a full recovery. Her only regret was that the surgery itself had left her no choice in adopting a new hair style, one which she was not keen to embrace. Arriving home, she wore a scarf for some time, hiding the shaved and re-arranged areas of her hair. She hoped it would not be too long before her hair re-grew at least enough she could try something uniquely different.

The scheduled birthday surprise was quietly canceled, with both Roger and Brenda fearing the excitement of the evening might be too much for her to cope with so soon. Although Gina's spirits were reasonably stable, the girl had become simultaneously self-conscious and embarrassed. The planned party might induce more questions and attention to her than might be helpful, so in its place the family opted for a quiet dinner to celebrate the event. To add a little fun to the evening, Brenda let her daughter determine the food courses and birthday cake, something that made Gina squeal with delight. Brenda's sister and husband, along with Kristen, joined them for the evening, as well as the girl from the pool she had visited. Of course, at Gina's insistence, Alex and his parents were invited, too. Using her daughter's guidance, Brenda had prepared home-made egg rolls, rice noodles and a roasted sweet-and-sour chicken dish no one within the family had tried before. The combination was met with raised eyebrows, especially considering the fact it was for a dinner party, but Gina insisted - and her mother did not disappoint. Although unusual, all agreed that not only was the combination exceptional, Brenda's mastery in creating it was exquisite. Several even enjoyed second helpings before they finished.

The cake that followed was also a unique home-made creation, a dual-layered ice cream combination that both Brenda and Patty had to put their heads together for. It was made with ample helpings of strawberries and pineapple, and contained a butter pecan-based center. When Alex heard the ingredients it comprised, he stole a glance in Brett's direction. "She's your sister, right? I mean, you do claim you're related, right? So, where does she come up with these combinations and everything?" he teased.

Brett shrugged, grinning right back. "I don't know. Sometimes I think Mom and Dad kidnapped her from some Chinese orphanage, really. You should see some of the other things she comes up with!" he quipped, causing all around the table to burst out laughing. Gina, standing next to him, began punching him hard on his arm. He laughed while raising his hands between them, fending off the attack. "Okay, okay! I'm s-sorry sis, I'm sorry!"

"Just you wait, you ... you bulbous lump of fish-bait!" Already used to the girl's knack for poetic declarations, most around the table laughed again, before she finally heaved a huge sigh and backed off. Blowing out 12 brightly-lit candles, however, changed her mood for the better. Brenda then proceeded to cut and place huge wedges of cake and ice cream onto paper plates, before passing them around to the group. Once again, Alex was impressed by the oddly tasty combination. "You know, maybe you should consider a career in the culinary arts or something," he suggested politely.

"Huh?" Gina looked up to him in confusion, to which he stopped and explained the field of cooking, celebrity chefs and more. The young lady seemed interested, as if she had never considered it before, and began asking him a few very pointed questions about it.

Alex, however, had to throw his hands up. "Look, sorry girl, I really don't know that much about it, other than some of the basics. If you want to learn more though, I'll help you look it up online sometime," he offered, politely excusing himself from any further discussion. She seemed satisfied then, which allowed Alex an inward sigh of relief. He noticed Brett grinning at him, to which he rolled his eyes good-naturedly in response.

When it came time for presents, Gina was delighted to receive her very own cell phone from her parents. Even though it one of the more restricted models, she still squealed loudly and hugged their necks fiercely, before calming down and listening carefully as both of her parents laid down the rules. Alex inwardly smiled at himself, recalling when he had received his first cell phone, also at the same age. He had to go through a similar session of promises and stern warnings from his own parents, not much different to what he heard now. It made him glance and smile at his mother, who returned a knowing look at her son. They had trusted him though, and although they had other ulterior motives driving their choice, Alex knew he had never given them any doubt as to his maturity in managing the device. Besides, it wasn't that uncommon for kids to receive phones at such young ages anymore, he figured. In most cases, it depended upon the maturity of the kid involved, and as that thought struck him, he actually grunted to himself. How many times, in recent weeks or months, had those thoughts occurred in other various conversations? He and Brett had noted it before, as well as their younger camp-mate Brad, at both camp and the car show. He shook his head silently, before focusing on the moment at hand, with the young lady of the hour standing only a few feet away. He wasn't exactly sure where Gina fell on the maturity scale, but he did know she seemed to be pretty responsible for her age. That, at least, was a good thing, and maybe her parents saw it too.

Gina opened another gift, this one from her cousin. Although she did not squeal, she was delighted at receiving a set of art pencils and other drawing tools, all fitted within an attractive, treasure-like chest. Her best friend, Melissa, then gave her an envelope with a birthday card, which also contained some money. She started to apologize about not having bought something instead, but Gina quickly hushed her by giving the girl a fervent hug. "I don't care, really. I'm just honestly glad you're here, that's all." Gina had spoken softly, with feeling, but was still loud enough that everyone else in the room could hear. Melissa calmed down and smiled, hugging her right back.

When it was time for Alex and Brett's gift, however, they asked her to wait. Both teens had walked over and bade her to sit down, pulling a chair around. Complying, she watched as they both knelt in front of her, with the occupants of the room looking onward. It was Alex who made the first gesture, quietly holding a small box out to her and smiling wordlessly as he encouraged her to take and open it. Without a word, she slid the ribbon from its edges and, opening it by pulling the top away, the young lady discovered a necklace inside with a pendant - or rather, half of a pendant. "Gina," Alex began as she reached to pull on the chain. "Brett and I both need you to understand something, okay? We both had a kind of hard time finding you something special, at least until we found this. If you look at it, it's in the shape of a heart, but kind of cut in half, right? Well, if you'll open Brett's present..." He paused as Brett handed her a similarly wrapped package, to which she opened and immediately gasped upon finding the other half of the pendant inside. Looking up, she stared into Alex's eyes as he continued. "You see, if you put them together, they kind of spell something out. We know boyfriends and girlfriends do stuff like this, but Brett and I, well... You'll see, it's different. When we saw it, we both knew it was something we wanted to give to you. Go on, put them together and read it..."

Gina glanced at them both briefly and then did as was requested. On the front of the pendent, the assembled halves created a heart-shaped design, layered with tiny crystals that overlapped at the edges and sparkled brightly in the room's light. Across the space though, were two simple words: Our Sister. When she read it, her mouth opened, but no words found their way out. Brett then whispered to her, "Turn it over, Sis."

As she did, she found an additional, single word scrawled on the back: Forever. When she finally spoke, her eyes watered and her voice was barely above a whisper. "Our Sister, Forever". She looked up, finding them both smiling at her as the remaining people in the room continued to observe the trio in silence, with their own happy expressions.

"Of course, this kind of comes with a sort of condition," Alex added, interrupting the moment. "I mean, in order for me to count you as a sister, you have to sort of adopt me or something, right? Like, as a step-brother maybe, or friend-brother, or… you get the idea, right?" Upon hearing the words, Gina scoffed and launched herself into his arms, causing everyone to finally break the silence and laugh aloud. Alex braced himself just in time, and shifted to keep from being knocked backward onto the floor. He then giggled as he slipped his arms around her waist, and then held the girl close. After a few seconds, he moved to whisper into her ear, "I take it that's a yes, then?"

"Shut up, you big fluffy pup!" she murmured into his ear. "I love it!" she exclaimed, much louder. Within seconds, she glanced across at her brother, and then let go of Alex before tackling him in a similar manner. Brett was not as lucky as his friend though, as both he and his sister soon crashed to the floor, hugging each other deeply. Laughs were heard all around, but there could be no doubt to how much she liked their gift. She let Brett put it on her, before kissing him on the cheek, then repeating it with Alex. Her eyes sparkled, and her sense of happiness was all the two teen boys needed to see to know they had done a good deed.

Not long afterwards, as the conversations grew all the way around, Brett leaned in close to Alex. "Sheesh, you know, I have no idea how we'll top this one next year!"

Alex nodded. "Well, at least we have eleven-plus months to figure it out."

Both boys were found relaxing later on Brett's bed, watching another movie. Alex was lying at an angle across the head of the bed, propped on his elbow while Brett used his best friend's belly as a makeshift cushion. Both were contented with the evening, as everyone had finally broken up and headed their separate ways. Upstairs, Gina was filled with the excitement of having both Melissa and her cousin stay the night, so at Brett's invitation, Alex remained behind as well. Both were undressed to their briefs and t-shirts, with a t-shirt Alex borrowed readily from his friend. The ensemble was normal between them anymore, especially for late at night when one was staying with the other. Since being together at camp, neither had any fear or modesty in the presence of one another - at least when they were alone. That night the only light in the room, other than that generated by the TV, seeped from a nightlight plugged in off to the side, creating a tranquil effect.

The room was also somewhat chilly too, despite the night-time heat and humidity that pressed in from the world outside. Since they were on the lowest floor of the tri-level structure, once again the air conditioner's efforts to cool the upper levels meant that a lot of the cooled air eventually made its way downward. Alex loved it, as it always felt like an early spring or late autumn night when he was there. This particular night was especially cool, enough so that Brett had pulled a light-weight blanket from nearby and covered them both loosely.

Neither spoke until the end of the movie, contented with being able to relax together for the time being. As the credits began to roll up on the screen, Brett finally broke the silence. "Gina seemed to really like her present, didn't she?"

Although phrased as a question, it was apparent to Alex it was more of a statement or comment. "You could say that, yeah," he replied, nodding.

Brett stretched, pushing back into his friend briefly before rolling to face him more directly. "You know, when I first told Mom about the necklace, and then showed it to her, she gave me this weird, kind of funny look and all. I had to kind of explain what we were thinking when we decided on it. You know, about how close the three of us were getting to be these days, and about how we wanted to do something a little different, too, since she was growing up more. She kind of nodded then, you know, accepting it." He grunted. "For a while though, I'm not sure she really understood. Then when you said that stuff to Gina tonight, about her going to have to adopt you or something, I saw my Mom smile. She got it then, I think. I mean, I think she really understood."

Alex looked away momentarily, becoming thoughtful. "When I showed my Mom, she didn't find it that strange at all. She asked me if I really felt like that, her being a sister and everything. I told her that meeting and finding you both were kind of like having the brother and sister I never had."

"Wow, that's a heavy statement, I think! What did she say to that?" Brett asked.

"Well..." Alex hesitated before he continued. "She got kind of misty-eyed and everything, and started apologizing. She told me that she and Dad always wanted more children, so I wouldn't feel like I was alone and everything. It was then I kind of realized what I had said," Alex explained, and then sighed. "I didn't mean it to be anything bad, see, but I think that's how she sort of took it. I remember getting up and sitting down beside her, and then told her I didn't care, and that I still loved them both all the same. It just wasn't in the cards for us, I guess. I mean, I would have liked having somebody, a brother or a sister like you and Gina, you know? But... yeah, it just wasn't in the cards for us."

Brett thought about that for a moment. "I'm sorry, too. Sometimes I think I'd rather be an only child, but then again, after having Gina around, I can't really imagine not having her here. Does that make sense?" When Alex nodded, he went on. "The night we went to the hospital, and they were doing the surgery and everything, I think it hit me the hardest then. All I could think about was the times I fought with her, or argued and everything. Like, all the bad times, you know? If she hadn't made it, I would have been hurting, Alex. Really bad."

Alex glanced over and nodded yet again. "I understand, and I don't blame you. I would have felt the same way, I think, and I'm not even a part of your family."

Brett grunted. "You want me to whip your ass for that? You know better, bro."

Alex laughed. "Yeah, I know better, but Brett..." He hesitated, searching the face of his friend. "No matter how much we like and feel and live with each other now, there is still another truth under it all. We're not blood-brothers or anything, we're not related by family, or anything like that. I mean seriously, I can pretend all I want, and don't get me wrong, I like pretending, Brett. It's what brings us so close to understanding what we feel and everything, especially lately. But underneath all of that though, well..."

"Alex, when someone is accepted and loved, then whether or not they're related by blood inside doesn't make any difference. Take away the difference of being a boy or girl, we're all basically the same physically. Being in a family isn't always just a matter of blood; it's caring and respecting one another, and well, it's love, too." Brett smiled. "I mean, think about kids who get adopted and everything. They aren't bound by blood to their family, but a lot of them would swear otherwise, and probably beat you to a pulp if you tried to convince them any differently, you know?"

"Yeah, I guess I can see that," Alex admitted, rolling back and pulling a pillow in to prop himself up with. "Maybe you're right, but it still seems, I don't know, different."

"If you were younger, I don't think it would be any different, unless your new parents just mistreated or ignored you. Maybe if you're older, I might understand some of what you're saying, but even then," Brett replied, halting and thinking about it before continuing. "Even then, I'm not so sure, because if they supported you, and you were learning to grow up and everything, then at least you wouldn't be alone."

Alex nodded. "Not being alone, that's worth everything sometimes, I agree." He sighed deeply. "Speaking of which, that makes me wonder if Mom and Dad ever thought about adopting or anything. As far as I know, they've never talked about it around me any. I should probably ask them sometime."

Brett nodded. "You could, if you wanted to. Uh, can I ask you something else though? You said it wasn't in the cards, or something like that, like maybe there was a reason or something. Did something happen to prevent them from having more kids, or...?" As soon as the words were out, however, the teen immediately regretted having uttered them. He held a hand up to stop Alex from answering. "No, wait - I'm sorry. That's none of my business, and I know it." Noting the look of curiosity that met him in return, the teen hastened to explain. "Mom is always reminding me that my curiosity gets a little too personal sometimes, and... I just, I don't know, I don't think quick enough, you know? Or maybe, I think too quick before opening my big mouth. Whichever, but the fact is that I was asking really kind of private stuff. Private like, between your parents and everything, you know? I shouldn't have asked that." Brett took a deep breath before grunting. "I mean, I'll bug the shit out of you sometimes, I know, asking about stuff between you and me and all. That's just because it's us and everything, though. When it comes to your parents, well... it's different."

Alex considered his friend's explanation before relaxing, burrowing deeper into the pillow. "So? I admit, I kind of see what you're saying, but it's not like some deep dark secret or anything. We trust each other, right? Believe me, if you ever ask me something I can't or shouldn't answer, then I'll tell you, okay? Besides, remember our promise to each other? The one we made in this room?"

"Oh my God, do I ever," Brett whispered. "It was the first time you ever held me close, and we promised we'd always be here for each other. It might even be the first time you started to let me inside of you."

Alex smiled. "I know, I remember it, too. That hug, it was as personal as we had ever gotten before, and you proved what you said was the truth, that you weren't scared of me." Alex paused for a moment, and then continued. "So, Dad told me that when I was around two or three years old, Mom got a kind of bad infection or something. It messed her up on the inside and all, and she had to have a his-, uh, hister-botomy, or maybe it was a hysterectomy - yeah, that's it. It's one of those female-like things you have to have surgery for and all. Afterwards, it stopped her from having any more kids. Dad always described it that way, about it not being in the cards for them to have any more kids after me." Alex fell silent briefly as he reflected on that fact, before it was his turn to grunt. "Of course, maybe that was for the better anyway. I mean, she and Dad certainly had their hands full with just raising me, I think."

Brett stared at his friend for a long time, before speaking again. "I doubt that, Alex," he commented distantly, as he reached for the TV remote and turned the device off. "Don't ask me why, but somehow... I really just doubt that."

"Brett, I..." Alex paused yet again. This topic had been broached before, and although lightly discussed, Alex knew it had not run its course. "Look, I know you see me sometimes as this special kid or something, but believe me, I'm not. The truth is, I'm no different than you are." Seeing the look of disbelief that met him, Alex held up a hand. "No Brett, just listen to me, please? I'm being serious. The only thing different about me is that I grew up being home-schooled, you know? That doesn't mean I wasn't a handful to deal with. I got in trouble, earned a few spankings along the way - which I probably deserved, mind you - and even had a kind of wild streak sometimes."

"That's enough though, bro," Brett whispered, but Alex shook his head. "And that may be the past, but it isn't what I see now."

Alex stared at his friend for a moment before replying. "Look, I had parents who loved and tried to do their best for me, Brett. I don't discount that, really, because I know there's a lot of kids not that lucky. But me, Mom and Dad - we were a trio, and it meant I spent a lot of time with them both. I mean, it's like I've told you before: being home-schooled and all, I didn't meet a lot of people, or have a lot of friends. Things happened that just, well... we kind of just winged it, you know? Beyond that, I'm no more different than you are. In some ways, I might even be worse, things you haven't seen so much of yet. I mean, the other day, when I left you like I did, I was… I don't know, I was losing it, okay? That's just a part of me, you know? I don't fault it, although I wish I could push it aside sometimes."

"But..." Brett started to interrupt, but then fell silent as Alex stopped him.

"No, Brett, that's really all there is. Sometimes you say things that make me think you're putting me up on this pedestal or something, and I just wish you would stop. Between us, I mean, come on - I'm still kind of figuring some of this stuff out, you know? The good thing though, is I have a friend in you who is patient and kind, and understanding me and all. We like each other, a lot, and you know something else? I'm glad we do."

"Me, too," Brett whispered. "Only, I don't think of it so much as just liking one another."

"You're right, it's a whole lot more than that," Alex admitted. "But, don't you see? I'm kind of getting to live a little now, with some of the things you take for granted every day. It's sort of like I said, I'm winging it as we go along, but I'm happy - I wouldn't trade anything for this, honest. You're the best brother I think I could have ever wanted, you know? Even if we aren't a part of the same family." He sighed, and then moved himself closer to his best friend. "You know, you and Gina, you're the lucky ones. I mean that, too. You both have parents who love and take care of you, but gave birth to you both so that you and your sister wouldn't have to be alone like I am. Maybe they didn't think about it that way, but it's still a gift. I'm just glad you two are close enough to see it for that. I mean, I don't ever hear or see you fight or anything..."

"We have," Brett admitted, then sat up and scooted even closer. "Alex, I- I understand that, I think - all of it. But you don't give yourself enough credit sometimes, you know? You are special, and to a whole lot of people. Look at what you do for me and all, and for my family. Remember the look on Gina's face tonight, right before she tackled you? And look at my Mom and Dad, who have both fallen for how mature and, and... whatever it is that you are."

Alex listened to the silence between them for a moment before he spoke again. "Brett, I'm just - I'm me, bro. You see me from the outside, but what makes that any different than me seeing you, or your family, from my side? I'm on the outside too, when I look at you guys. You're special to me, too, remember? And a whole lot of other people, too. Because you just are," Alex stated, before slowly pivoting himself around until he now sat in front of his friend. "My parents like you a lot, too, you know? Mom absolutely loves the fact that you and I have grown so close, and that we have each other to hang out with. It was only a couple of weeks ago that she admitted to me she was always worried about how lonesome I got. Now though, she doesn't have to worry about it anymore."

Brett smiled. "Same here. My parents talk about us sometimes, when they don't think I'm around, about how glad they are we met and everything," he whispered.

Alex smiled. "Brett, the night I sat down with her and showed her that necklace, I told my Mom that in my heart, you and your family were the closest that anybody from the outside has ever gotten, especially inside of me. So much so that it didn't even feel like you or your sister were outside anymore. I told her that's why I felt like the sister/brother thing was okay, you know? I knew we were just being close friends and all, and kind of pretending I guess, but we had something more connecting us, too. That was why I felt like being a part of that necklace was okay. I've never had any kind of a relationship with anyone like that until we moved here."

"You told her that?" Brett whispered, surprised.

Alex nodded. "You know, you and I talk a lot about stuff sometimes, but there are still things I talk about with my Mom a lot, too. I mean, until we moved here and you guys came along, she was about the only person I could talk to about most stuff. It's not the same with my Dad, even though we have a pretty open relationship, too. With Mom, it's just different - probably because, well, she's my Mom and all. I'm not afraid of her or anything, because I think she gets me more than anyone else has - up until you came along. So, yeah, I told her, and she understood me then. As far as you and I go, she has said more than once that she was really happy for us. She asked me once how you felt and all, and I told her up front that you were a lot like me. Maybe a little nuttier at times, but you needed another guy to hang around and grow up with, too. Growing up with your sister was one thing, but having another guy around was something, too." He smiled again. "You see? She totally understood that, and she told me to just keep on being the boy I was meant to be, and to grow up having some fun. That's what she and my Dad have always wanted for me, you know?"

Brett looked on a moment before he spoke again. "I'm glad, really. I wouldn't want to do anything that would hurt them, or you, that would make them lose their trust in me."

"You won't," Alex replied softly. "So, how about it? You and me, we're kind of on the same planet and all, you know. Quit putting me up on this pedestal thingy, okay? I'm just like you, an all-natural, 100% boy, complete with all the boy parts, as you already know." Alex added the last with another smile, attempting to alleviate some of the seriousness between them. Brett smiled back, but was still bothered by something else.

"Alex, tell me something. Do you even realize how smart you are, or how much you have your shit together? Especially compared to most other guys like us?"

"I'm not smart-" the teen started to object, but Brett cut him off.

"Ah, shut the fuck up and listen to yourself sometimes, will ya?" Brett exclaimed in a hushed voice. Alex, surprised at the suddenness in his friend's expression stopped in bewilderment. Brett chastised himself internally before leaning in to explain. "If there's anything that annoys me sometimes, it's how stupidly modest you try to be, you know?" he whispered, smiling as disarmingly as he could. "Think about it - who would have thought about cleaning cars at our age, and then actually coming out of the blue, into a strange town of all places, and selling the idea like you did to the people we're working for? And oh, let's not forget the way you stood up for us and handled that overgrown, fat ass who was bullying us. And shit, what about the swimming lessons, and... and the archery, and the other stuff you probably haven't even told me about yet? I've known you for months now, but I still discover new things around every corner, you know? And there's another thing, too: you have this memory thing, like some elephant or something, that's unlike anything I've ever heard of! The way you recall people, and events and everything else - it's unreal!" Brett paused to look deep into his friend's eyes. "Alex, those are all signs of a totally smart person, and you don't have to take my word for it. Ask Gina, or my parents, or Bob May, or whoever you want to - they'll all tell you the same thing!"

When Alex remained silent, Brett shook his head. "You have this... I don't know, this 'gift' I guess, about how people just warm up to you and all, too. Do you know how hard it is for guys to hug somebody, especially out in the open and everything? But not for the guys in our camp, or Ethan, or Brad… I'm not jealous, mind you - if anything, it makes me glad others see these things, too. Then… I don't know, they know you and me, we're like this team together and all, and..."

"We're more than just a team, Brett," Alex whispered.

"I know that! Seriously, but don't you see? I know all that sounds like I'm putting you - how did you put it? - like, on a pedestal or something? I'm sorry, but I do it because it's the truth, and I think you need to stop being so fucking ignorant about it!" He stopped and poked a finger at Alex's chest over his heart. When he spoke again, however, his countenance changed to one of surrender. "I'm sorry, bro. You can beat the shit out of me if you want to. God knows I've been beating you over the head enough now as it is. I feel like, I don't know, like I've made a total mess of things, you know? It's just - I love you, and you know it. I've quit trying to explain why I feel that way anymore, because I just know that I do, so live with it. I love you because you are kind, you're funny, and you're interesting to be around, and… I love you because you let me inside of here too, in your heart, and you let me inside of this... this thing we have between us. You let me inside of you, and you don't care about all my stupid quirks or anything that goes along with me."

"You don't have stupid quirks, Brett," Alex finally spoke up, his voice soft in the stillness of the room.

"See? That's what I'm talking about, bro! I do have them, and you know I do! I mean, look at all the sex stuff we do, and... and..."

Alex scoffed. "If that's a stupid quirk, Brett, then I'm just as guilty as you are! That's not a quirk, it's... it's..."

"It's a part of something that's not normal, Alex," Brett whispered. "It's sex, plain and simple, you know?"

"So? Does it look like I care? Have I ever given you a reason to think I worry about it? In case you haven't noticed, I happen to LIKE it, too, remember? Especially when I'm with you," Alex offered. A sudden thought hit him. "Are you afraid you've corrupted me or something with all this? Is that it?" For the first time, he saw that maybe he had hit home, as Brett suddenly stilled in the quietness that followed. "If that's bothering you, then stop it, Brett! I've corrupted you just as much back, then. I could have easily told you no, way back in the beginning. I mean, getting and being naked around each other was one thing, and we did seem to have a knack for that as it was, remember? But, when we gave in that night, don't you remember? I didn't say no, because I trusted you, and I trusted us. And you know what? I still do - that has never left me. I don't see that as something bad, you know. I honestly don't."

Another silence fell between them, and somehow Alex felt maybe he finally understood where some of this was coming from. "You want to know something? It was cool being at camp with you, seeing all those dicks and nuts and everything swinging around with the other guys, even if they were a few years younger than us. But honestly, do you know who I watched the most, at every chance I got? It was you, Brett, I got to see your ass and your plumbing without being afraid or anything, in public. At least, as public as camp was, I guess. The other guys, they were okay, and I admit, I was curious with some of them, but YOU were the one that I watched the most. And don't forget, you're the one I did things with, in our bed, together. Things that only you and I shared, remember? Those weren't quirks, Brett. Those were things where we were just being us, and I would do them a hundred times over again with you, in a heartbeat."

Brett finally let out a long breath. "Maybe, I don't know. Maybe I do worry about it more than I should, I just..."

"You just, what? You get scared, is that it?" Alex whispered. "Sometimes, I do too, Brett. I'm scared that all of this is going to end, and we won't have each other anymore to lean against, you know?"

A tear escaped down Brett's cheek as he looked up. "Yeah, I get scared, Alex. I mean, we've been so busy with things, and somehow, the last few days have just felt like maybe, I don't know..." The teen heaved another huge sigh. "I'm sorry. Before we met, I don't think I ever fell apart like this. I do worry about it sometimes though, and I worry about what will happen if we ever do lose one another, you know?"

Alex nodded. "I know, and it's not any fun. But heck man, we're together seven days a week now almost, you know? I figure what the hell, let's ride the magic carpet for as long and as far as it'll take us. If we have to get off, we'll deal with it when that time comes. Until then though, as long as you're willing, and as long as we really have our trust for each other, then in our rooms..." Alex looked around before his voice fell to a whisper. "I like it here, especially when it's just us, you know?"

Brett finally smiled at that thought. "Don't you see, Alex? That's what is so special about you sometimes, to me. You just look at things and you size them up, and... and things between us just all of a sudden seem better." Brett reached out finally and took hold of both of Alex's hands. "I'm sorry, honest. Me and words don't always get together like they do for you. At least you listen to me with your heart, and that says something. In the four months or so that we've known each other, I mean... fuck... You're my best friend... you're my brother. That makes you special all by itself, you know?" He sighed before smiling. "I'll try to stop putting you on a pedestal, but you have to do something for me, too. You have to not put yourself down, or make yourself out to be less than what you are. I've got news for you, bro: there are a whole lot of people who see you the way that I do. Brad, Ethan, my parents... even Gina."

Alex silently sat there, staring before slowly nodding. "I promise then, I'll try. As long as you do, too."

"I will, I promise," Brett whispered back. "It's like Ethan told you that day, remember? He said 'I don't get you.' I mean, you're so sweet and gentle sometimes, yet so stubborn at others, you know? But I promise, I'll try not to fuck up so bad trying to explain stuff."

"Your words are fine, Brett," Alex whispered. "You know, if we're going to talk about smarts and all, I think you're a lot smarter than you give yourself credit for, too. Don't forget, you're the one who taught me about trust, and how it has so many layers and everything. That was all you. You're the one who taught me that, Brett. And you've taught me other things, too, like how to stop being withdrawn and everything with people around me." Suddenly Alex laughed quietly. "We are something, you know? Listen to us and all this, err… yeah…!"

Brett nodded, before looking over at the door again, still shutting off the outside and letting them keep their little world to themselves. "Outside our rooms, I can't really tell or show you what it means to me when we talk things out. But in here? I have nothing to hide from you. You know that by now. We can say and do most anything we want, because we know we have this thing between us. I'm so glad you and I made our pact that night, you know?"

Alex smiled. "And you say you're not smart? Fuck, Brett," Alex whispered, before leaning in and giving his best friend a well-earned kiss, slow and sensual, which Brett returned fully, melting into the intimacy they had with each other.

Brett slowly moved his hand inside the hem of Alex's t-shirt, rubbing the exposed skin underneath. When their kiss broke and Alex nuzzled his shoulder, he engulfed his best friend and pulled him into his lap. "Maybe it's quirky, but right now, holding you is everything..."

Alex giggled before hugging him back harder. "It's not quirky, Brett," he whispered, before finally letting go and sitting back. Lifting it up, he removed his t-shirt in the hushed shadows before tossing it aside. Brett grinned and did likewise, before Alex pushed him gently down onto his back. "It's no quirkier than me wanting to strip you naked, and yeah, I do think about it sometimes, I promise." With a little maneuvering, the teen quickly had Brett's underwear pulled down and off of his feet. It was there the teen stopped and smiled, admiring the view just then of his friend displayed in all of his birthday glory.

Brett spread his arms and legs wide before giggling quietly, until he saw Alex's expression change. "What's wrong? Haven't you seen a naked boy before? Scratch that - haven't you seen ME naked before?"

Alex rolled his eyes, then moved forward until he hovered over Brett's mid-section. "Something has changed. You're, I don't know, different down here," he whispered before laying a hand just above the groin and fingering the pubic growth residing there. Seconds later, the realization hit him. "Wow, you've shaved or something, haven't you?"

"I'm glad you noticed," Brett replied amusedly before bringing his hands up and behind his head. "I, uh, didn't exactly shave, but yeah, I did trim things down there somewhat. What do you think?"

Alex grinned. "It's kind of awesome, really. Now you don't look so wild and everything, like some jungle book character, or Tarzan," he quipped.

"What, you think Mowgli had a hairy dick?" Brett asked, referring to the jungle book movie Alex referenced. "I always thought he was, well, you know, a pre-teen, kind of someone too young to have any - mmmffppphhtt!" Alex had grabbed a pillow at that point and plopped it over Brett's face to silence him.

"You know what I meant! And I don't care about Mowgli's dick, especially when I've got yours here!" the teen hissed, before leaning down and taking Brett's rapidly inflating member into his mouth, suckling and running his tongue around the tip. Brett sighed deeply, moaning loudly into the pillow, but resulting in a sound only muffled throughout the rest of the room. Alex kept it up for a few minutes before pulling off and running his nose along the length of the shaft and into Brett's trimmed pubes. He simultaneously removed the pillow, allowing his friend to breathe normally again. He remained there, playing for minutes, breathing in his best friend's scent and reabsorbing the intimacy of their play, until he finally sat up and grabbed Brett's feet.

Turning Brett around in the bed abruptly, Alex quickly arranged his friend's legs wide apart again, thus opening his crotch completely. Diving in, he began a comical, but vigorous attack around his friend's testicles and inside his thighs, tickling, licking, kissing and suckling both under and all around. More than once, he let his tongue go to work, starting from Brett's crack and tracking all the way up the middle of his groin, poking, prodding and nuzzling everything he encountered, until he reached the tip of his friend's large and pulsing member. He repeated the performance twice more before rapidly descending on the head, consuming the enlarged mass almost in its entirety without gagging.

Brett reacted by spreading his legs wider, suddenly marveling at the attention focused in his groin. "Oh my God, Alex!" he moaned, groaning once again. In all their play, never had there been as much pent-up intensity as what his friend exhibited now. He moaned yet again, but in a more reserved fashion as Alex suddenly stopped and clamped down tighter, as if sending him a warning. "Sorry," he whispered, his breathing becoming ragged and unstable.

Alex pulled off and then grinned, sliding up next to Brett's ear before whispering quietly. "So, do you want to cum or not? "

Brett, his eyes closed, almost sighed hysterically. "Oh, fuck yeah," he whispered back, which made Alex giggle.

"Bad?" Alex teased again, and this time seeing Brett nodding, he knew what he was going to do. "Then don't hold back, bro," the teen whispered before returning to the steel rod that awaited him. Before mounting again, however, Alex pushed the teen's legs as wide as he could before gently probing underneath. Once in place, he slowly sucked Brett's cock inside his lips, while simultaneously pushing his finger against the newly found hole within the folds of his friend's butt. Being as gentle as he could, Alex first pushed just inside, moving with what freedom he could muster, until he could create a friction that allowed him to move in and out. He timed each move as he plunged his lips around the head of the cock.

As the finger pressed deeper, so did Alex's attempt to go down even further on Brett's manhood. Although Brett had tensed up initially, sharply constricting his sphincter muscles as he felt the entry, he then stilled himself and relaxed. The feelings he was being treated to were cause for him to be beside himself, as Alex took advantage and burrowed inside even further. Before long, the teen's finger was concealed as far as the second knuckle. Wiggling it around, Alex also decided to clamped down hard up top, drawing Brett's shaft further in until his friend's pubes began tickling his nose. Once there, Alex made one last effort, pushing his finger and penetrating even farther. That was when he heard Brett make a new series of gasps and sounds before he seemingly clamped down. There was no warning, not precursor to what happened next, as Brett's body took over. The pent-up intensity building inside the teen's loins took on a sudden, steel-like hardness as it expanded, and then began erupting. The spasms that took over filled Alex's mouth rapidly with the same warm nectar the teen had already sampled before. As he began to swallow, Alex felt his friend suddenly take his hand and push harder, not on Alex's head, but instead on the hand that palmed his balls and the finger buried beneath, forcing it to still itself as the surrounding muscle constricted.

Alex was pleased, but he did not slow or stop. Instead, the teen wiggled his finger and created as much stimulation as he could, though that was saying something. He could barely move it now as it was, given how tight Brett was bearing down on him. Eventually, however, he did begin gyrating it little by little, something Brett evidently liked. 'Oh, Gawd…' the boy muttered through clenched teeth. More than once, the teen could be felt trying to grind harder, jamming Alex's finger up inside. Alex, however, had nothing more to give. "That's as far as it goes," he whispered into Brett's ear, to which the teen finally nodded before stopping to relax.

Brett's manhood had already given up all the cum it was going to release just then, so the two stilled themselves. The entire episode lasted only minutes, though both would swear it seemed much longer. Alex propped his head upon his elbow, and just sat watching the once enlarged, swollen member as it slowly retracted. The wonders of such a simple part of the human body, and its perpetual sensitivity, never ceased to amaze him. He had taken a more intense interest in recent months now, especially with himself, but he found watching Brett's manhood was just as interesting, perhaps because of their inherent differences. Glancing up, he saw Brett watching him, which made Alex blush for some reason as he slowly withdrew his finger from below. Instead of succumbing to his embarrassment, however, the teenager leaned in and nuzzled his nose into the trimmed pubic bush there before sitting back, turning himself sideways and bringing Brett's feet and legs back to a more normal position.

He watched Brett for a moment, observing the smile that enhanced his look of pure bliss meeting him. Alex was feeling happy, too - happy that he had succeeded in doing something new, yet equally as satisfying for his friend. Despite Brett's fears, Alex knew they were totally into this with each other, because once again, it had proved how much trust they had between them. It wasn't just sex, really; it was sharing something more. Although Brett's confidence was still shaky at times, Alex knew his friend realized it, too, and that was what made him feel he liked the teen even more. For him, he was willing to do almost anything. That was how much he believed in their relationship, and he wasn't afraid to show it.

Alex rose from the bed for a moment and entered Brett's bathroom, where he could be heard washing his hands at the sink. When he returned, the teen then stretched out beside his friend, and began to run his fingers up and down Brett's chest, belly and loins. He marveled at feeling the softness of the pubic hairs there that met his touch, and the texture of the other parts of his crotch exposed so freely. "Do you believe me now? I told you, I like what we do, too. Sometimes maybe even more than you do," he whispered.

Brett smiled in response and looked into the eyes that met him thoughtfully. "What... How did you come up with that idea? You know, using your finger like that?"

Alex shrugged. "I don't know. I was in the bathtub one night, and ... well..."

Brett's eyebrows rose when he noted his friend was blushing. "And? You did 'it', didn't you? You know, jacked off... right?"

Alex grinned, and then stuck his tongue out. "Why would that be a surprise to you? You know I do, Brett. I've told you that before."

Brett laughed aloud, then grabbed and pulled his friend over on top of him. "God, I so love you, you know? Yeah, you've told me, but somehow, it just... I can't imagine you doing it by yourself, for some reason," he whispered, before grabbing and sucking on Alex's earlobe, almost biting it.

Alex giggled. "Why? I keep telling you, I'm no different than you are! I jack off and stuff!"

"Yeah, I know. Sorry bro, I know better, it's just... it's cool when you so freely admit it, at least to me. I guess it makes it sound like you still trust me and all," Brett whispered.

Alex cocked his head to the side. "How much more do I have to do to convince you of that? Sheesh, Brett, I just sucked your dick!" he whispered between giggles. It was Brett's turn to blush then, making Alex laugh and hug his friend even harder. "So, are you going to tell me?" Seeing the quizzical look that returned, he added, "You know, how was it? Poking you inside and all?"

Brett grinned. "It's something I've never ever done, to be honest. Then again, when you take showers all the time like I do, it's not something very easy to try out, I think."

Alex nodded, trying to move his earlobe out of reach as Brett tried to follow and latch onto it again. "That tickles!" he breathed, then laughed. "Yeah, I can understand that. It's not impossible, but yeah, it's a lot easier if you're like, lying down on your back or something. More fun that way, too, I think." Seeing his friend's eyebrows climb in surprise, he blushed again. "I take showers too, in the summer time anyway."

"Have you tried it that way?" Brett breathed, but Alex shook his head.

"Seriously, I've only done it a couple of times, and both times, I... uh... well, I like baths better. I'll fall asleep a lot of times in the tub and all, and warm water makes my muscles feel better and all, and... and..." When he didn't explain any further, Brett nodded in understanding. "I know, not really that normal, is it?" Alex mused afterwards.

Brett thought about it for a minute. "I don't know. I think most people like showers better, because they're quick and everything, and especially when it's hot outside, they cool you down really quick."

Alex nodded. "Yeah, I know. Like I said, I take showers then, too - probably for just those reasons." When a silence fell between them again, a sly look crossed his face. "Well? You still haven't answered me… Was it good?"

"Couldn't you tell?" Brett whispered, before sighing. "I don't know. I mean, it felt great. If that's what finger fucking is all about, then maybe I should do it more often. Or rather, get you to do it to me more often," he added with a smirk. Leaning up, the teen's voice lowered again to a whisper. "Did I like it? Let me answer you this way: Alex, you can fuck me that way anytime you want to, bro." He added a hug to show he meant it, too. "In fact, you could do the real thing to me, too, sometime... if you wanted to. I wouldn't care, I swear. That's how much I trust you. You know, trust us."

Alex smiled, then leaned forward and kissed Brett by way of reply. He wasn't sure exactly how he felt about that, but at that moment, with Brett in his arms, he knew he didn't care. It was another sensual, intimate kiss that lasted several minutes, and when he finally pulled back for air, he broke the silence. "Only if you would do it, too." He saw the look of surprise, and it made him giggle. "You know, we're already into each other Brett, in every way possible. Why should screwing be any different?" He rolled off of his friend then, but pulled him with him until they lay side-by-side again. He let his hands float all over Brett's naked body, enjoying the feeling as he pressed forward, grinding their groins together. The kiss had energized him yet again, and his own cock was at full attention. "Right now, I'm just happy to be with you again! And that you let me do that and all. It was awesome."

Brett felt the hardness and pressed back. "You know," he whispered, "I want to make you cum, too. Right now..."

"Really?" Alex whispered back amused, then giggled as within seconds Brett had pushed him onto his back and stripped the rest of his clothes from him, leaving the teen as bare as Brett was himself.

"Oh yeah," Brett whispered, pausing only for a moment to look at the burn marks and scars that were visible in the subdued lighting upon his friend's shoulder and side. He reached and ran his fingertips over the ridges and valleys, smiling as he did so, caressing each texture lightly. Alex closed his eyes, enjoying a freedom between them, not having to hide himself anymore. He knew Brett's interest was genuine, but the loving touch made it even more intimate. When those fingers reached Alex's nipple, Brett stopped and played briefly before moving his hand further south to the naval, and then beyond. Brett looked upon his friend's groin and thought, maybe he wasn't quite as big as he himself was, but it still served every bit the same purpose they both desired and wanted. The already rock-solid, throbbing cock awaited him, and as he touched it, there was a pulse that vibrated up through his fingers. Brett smirked, but then rolled himself away and out of the bed, leaving Alex to open his eyes in bewilderment. "Don't worry, I'll be right back," Brett whispered, before disappearing into the bathroom.

Almost immediately he returned, carrying something that Alex could not make out, even after the teen set the container aside on the nightstand. Climbing back into the bed, Brett returned to his previous position, but this time not without grasping one of Alex's feet and pulling it up and away. That action effectively opened Alex's groin underneath with a wide, unobstructed access. Brett first closed in and within seconds, began prodding along underneath his testicles and down into the folds behind them, until he found Alex's sphincter.

Alex giggled at first, until he felt a certain slipperiness in that was working its way in small motions. "Brett, uh, I-"

"Shhhh," Brett turned quickly and whispered in reply. "I promise you, bro, I'm just going to do the same thing you did to me, that's all. Well, except I'm going to use a little vaseline," he added with a smirk. "I'm not going to beat around the bush though, because I know from the way you're already throbbing you're ready to be milked, big time! And I want you to cum... Oh yeah, I want to suck your dick, hard!" he murmured, whispering toward the end as he leaned in and giving his friend another wet, sloppy kiss. Alex could say nothing then, gurgling as he kissed back, with no worries as to what was happening. He knew fully well some sort of reciprocal action was coming, but it felt... different. Brett's reassurance though, was all he needed to cast away any thoughts as his friend continued to kiss him deeply again, but this time with a round of both eagerness and sensuality that was surprising. The longer they kissed, the more Alex relaxed, and the more he relaxed, the further he felt Brett's finger begin to slide up inside of him. "Oh, maaannn..." he finally gurgled at one point, pulling his knees up along his sides and becoming motionless.

It was then Brett pulled his lips away and sunk them instead around Alex's firm shaft. Here, he felt the all-to-familiar skin that covered the glans, and with care he used his lips and tongue to push it back with little resistance. He started then to lick and gently suck in places, playing with the glans that was now fully exposed, and tasting the essence of what made Alex so unique. All the while, he moved his finger inside underneath, much like Alex had done to him but with a more intense twirling motion, pumping it in and out in a steady rhythm. Unlike Alex, it was not long before he, too, could sink it inside all the way, his palm resting on and just below the testicles that hung so freely between the legs.

Alex realized quickly that Brett had made it a lot further inside than he had accomplished, and a lot quicker than he had progressed, too. He felt ecstatic, thinking it was all so much better than he had done to himself before. As he lay there, trying to relax, it was difficult to not respond to the constant friction of the finger, and the warm wet mass surrounding his manhood. He understood what Brett had meant then, how utterly undeniable it felt having this kind of stimulation being given to him. As his breathing became shallower, he started panting, moaning ever so softly while sucking in his gut. Brett pulled off to the end of his friend's overly sensitive tip then, and gave it an extra dose of attention, his tongue going into obvious overdrive.

As he cummed, Alex clamped down on the finger beneath and inside him, drawing and keeping it in place while at the other end his dick practically exploded. With tightly closed eyes, the teen let himself be carried away for the moment, undergoing something newer to him than anything the two had done yet. It was a sweet intensity, something that defied description as he thrust upward with a feeling of elation not previously experienced. The practical side of him begged to keep his noise in check, but the other side wanted so much to tell Brett how good it felt, how completely it had engulfed him. Brett already knew though, as he savored and swallowed every bit given up to him.

When Alex came off of his high and stopped to gather his wits about him, he grabbed at Brett's head and pulled him away from his groin. Bringing the teen up beside him, Alex clamped his lips across the other's, pushing his tongue inside for another deep kiss. He couldn't help it, really. To Alex, there was a deeply satisfying bliss to this feeling. It was one thing to jerk someone and suck them, taking their essence on the spur of the moment like that. But to have the favor returned, with as much completeness as they had made it each and every time? Since the beginning, neither held back from the other. It mattered not who got their special treatment first or last, because they each knew there would be an urgent need and craving hunger that both would feel and satisfy. That was the trust, that was the exchange. They could have sex all they wanted, Alex thought, and still feel that way in the end. The moment was awesome, and he wanted Brett to know he felt it as he gently clawed his friend's body at every place he could reach, pulling and tugging and wrapping themselves as close as they could, becoming one.

They remained playing tonsil hockey for several minutes, until their need for air outweighed their ability to continue. As they both separated and gasped, huge gulps could be heard between them together, and after staring at each other briefly, both fell into a fit of giggling. Brett moved until they both lay on their backs side-by-side for a time, but not without a hand cupping his friend's groin. Alex reciprocated, recognizing the symbolic exchange was meant for nothing other than extending that feeling which connected the two of them together. "Wow," Alex whispered. "You know, we've got to start doing this a little more often," he smirked, turning his head to see the stupidly lopsided grin that was returned to him. "And you're worried about corrupting me? Crap, do it some more!"

Brett laughed. "I'm sorry, I guess I'm such a wimp sometimes. You're right, though... all of that was fucking awesome!" He rolled onto his side, draping a leg over Alex's. "So, was that worth the surprise?" he whispered, playing Alex's game from earlier.

Alex rolled into his friend and hugged him. "You have no idea, and honestly? I don't think I did, either."

"See what I mean?" Brett replied, nodding. "Though next time, uh, you can use the lube too, okay?"

Alex laughed. "Sorry, bro. I didn't know, honest. It was kind of a first." He suddenly stilled himself as a thought occurred. "By the way, how did YOU know about using vaseline and stuff?"

For once, Brett blushed - a rarity between them. "I, uh, well... Remember the chat-room I showed you, and where you come finding me sometimes?"

"Well, yeah... And?" Alex asked, his curiosity deepening even further.

"Ah, well... You've never stayed around in the chat itself very long, have you? Some of them in there, they, uh, they like to kid around and stuff, but they also tell stuff to others, too. Whether they want to hear about it or not, I mean," Brett replied softly.

Alex giggled. "You're right, I've never really paid much attention. So, is it a gay chat-room, or something?"

"No, not really, but it is a teen-only chat-room. At least, it's supposed to be, and most everyone that goes in there are guys so, yeah, go figure. Sometimes late at night though, they start talking about a lot of sex stuff - and I mean all kinds. Like boy-on-girl, girl-on-girl, and even boy-on-boy. There is this one guy in Australia, says he's like 14 or so, who talks about doing it with anybody and everybody he can get their pants down or off. He doesn't care, really; he says anyone who wants to come to visit just has to drop their pants and he'll be all over you." Brett laughed, then blushed. "He's one of them that gets pretty graphic about some of the stuff he does, or what someone does to him," Brett whispered. "He thinks he's a sex-king or something, and yeah, from the way he talks, he's porked and been porked a few times, sometimes even on web-cam showing off, too."

"Wow!" Alex murmured in surprise. "Maybe I ought to go in more often then. Get my, uh, horizons expanded. What do you think?" he asked mischievously.

Brett scooted in closer. "Stick with me bro, I'll blow your mind all you want."

"My mind? I thought you liked blowing something else, though," was the sneaky reply.

"That, too. I'll do anything, Alex, as long as I get to do it with you," Brett whispered in reply. "It feels too fucking awesome to even think about not doing it with you, you know?"

Alex smiled at him and then kissed the tip of his nose. "Don't hold your breath, bro. I'll bet some girls are in our future, somewhere down the road."

Brett shook his head. "I don't care, Alex. That's the future, and this is now. Like your parents told you, let's just have fun being teens, being boys right now. With or without the sex ... but I kind of hope it's with, you know?"

"You're serious, aren't you?" Alex asked, smiling again. "You're not just saying that like, to get me to do this stuff, are you?"

Brett moved in and kissed his friend lightly across the lips again, before he replied. "Fuck, Alex, you know me better than that, right? Boys can have sex a lot of times, but none of them kiss unless they really, really feel free in their heart, you know? And like I said, I don't care if you want to do it with me, you know, the biggie. Lots of guys who just mess around, they don't go that far. But I would go that far with you, you know? Because we have this thing between us. Something we promised each other we'd never lose inside our rooms."

Alex leaned in and kissed his friend back. "I believe you, bro. And yeah, it goes for me, too. I promise you, I feel that way, too."

"Good," Brett replied. "Just so you know it, that's all I care about. I mean, fuck, it's not like we do anything that's never been done before, you know? I mean, sometimes I guess that's how people learn stuff anyway, right? Or, discovering it on your own."

Alex nodded. "Yeah, big time." The teen rolled back and stared at the ceiling for a moment. "Do you ever feel like maybe that's what we're doing sometimes? Just discovering stuff by ourselves and all?"

"Fuck yeah, I do. That finger, I mean, oh wow…" He giggled, but then looked into his friend's expression and saw the feeling was reciprocated. "Discovering some of it all on our own is kind of makes it special, I know." Brett glanced and saw Alex smiling at him. "What?"

"You, bro," Alex replied. "You talk about me and all sometimes, but you have this sentimental side too, you know?"

Again, Brett blushed. "You're imagining things." He giggled, relenting before his friend could object. "I don't know, maybe there's a part of you, or side or something, that's just rubbing off on me."

Alex laughed. "I don't think it's that at all, doofus!" Sighing, he rolled onto his side, and drew Brett into him, spooning the teen close. "If anything, I think you have as much sweetness inside as anyone else does, but you're afraid of letting it show sometimes. I mean, no one sees it until you really let your guard down. When you do though, it's really awesome. I don't get to see it that much, but then again, I know it's there." He snickered. "Especially when we have sex. Then I get to see all kinds of it in you, without you trying to hide it or anything."

"Oh, good grief! Is that why you have sex with me?" Brett asked, teasing his friend.

"No, and good grief yourself! Talk about taking a perfect moment and spoiling it! Just when I'm trying to be serious!" Alex teased back.

Brett giggled, but then relented. "Sorry, bro. I didn't mean it that way." He sighed. "You know, I'm not you though, Alex," he whispered, his voice carrying just between them. "I can't always sense other people's emotions like you do."

Alex sighed deeply. "Don't start with that again, please? Unless you want me to literally bite off your manhood! Then you'd really have some explaining to do - probably starting with Gina, I think!"

Brett giggled. "Okay, okay! I know you, though. You wouldn't dare, anyway."

"What makes you so sure?"

"Because then, well, you wouldn't have a toy to play with or be able to suck anymore cum out of me," Brett smirked.

Alex scoffed before burying his face into Brett's neck. "Good grief, you're impossible sometimes!" he complained, which made Brett laugh. "It's why I like us so much, though," the teen admitted "Brett?" he whispered after a short silence.


"We've been down this road before bro, but I've got to ask you something," Alex began. "Are you sure you're okay? I mean, I don't mind our talks and stuff. I think sometimes it brings us closer, but..."

"But I keep bringing some of it up, over and over. Yeah, I get it, Alex. I know it's dumb," Brett replied, embarrassed.

Alex shook his head, however. "No, it's not dumb. It's just what you feel inside and everything, and I know that. What you feel about things is never dumb, trust me. Not with me, anyway. Especially when you're just trying to figure it all out and everything. I just... I don't want you to feel like you're competing with me or something, you know? I'm no different than you, bro."

"I know, but... I still get to feeling kind of low sometimes Alex, that's all. I don't know what I can say, other than you just have to forgive me. I'm trying to do better, by both of us. Especially before I end up chasing you away or something."

Alex giggled. "You're not going to chase me away. Not a chance, nada, no way. I need you, remember? I need you emotionally, I need you physically, I need your smarts - all of it, especially to help me get through school, and show me things I haven't yet discovered about growing up and everything. I need you to be my brother, too, and as much as you need me to trust you, I need you to trust me, too. See?"

Brett smiled, a sense of happiness enveloping him. "And the sex, too?" he teased.

"Good Lord..." Alex whispered, then ended up laughing before nodding his head. "Yes, and our sex, too."

Brett hugged his friend's arms around him, spooning back into Alex's midsection even harder. "I promise bro, just don't give up on me, okay?"

Alex hugged him close. "If you ever feel down, or need to talk about something, then I'm here. I'll always be here, as long as you'll be here for me when I get that way. It's our promise, our pact we made together, remember?" He ground his softened member up against Brett's butt, which cause his friend to push back into him further.

"Yeah, I remember, bro. I think it's the best thing we've ever made between us and all, you know?"

"Yeah, I know. Me too," Alex sighed, completely contented as they both then drifted off to sleep.

The weekend arrived finding Alex sitting with his parents in their kitchen on Saturday morning, looking at parts of the newspaper with his father. Patty was in the background, attempting to make ham-and-cheese omelets for her family, but having difficulty with them scorching in the skillet. She had already thrown away her first two attempts, the eggs becoming rather discolored and leather-like, and was contemplating her task yet again - although this time, she had reduced the heat on the stove and added a more noticeable amount of butter to the pan, with the hopes she could control the outcome more favorably.

In the background, a small TV displayed the national news, something Richard had taken a liking to watching in the mornings while sipping his coffee. It was a convenience of sort, something the family had not indulged in directly before, but as life was steadying to a more normal pace amongst them, Richard had convinced them things were on an upward swing. As a family, they were beginning to enjoy a few modest luxuries, such as the recent acquiring of cable television, which made living both affordable and more comfortable.

Although Alex had joined them on a few occasions, this was the first time he had sat back, reading the comics and listening to the newscaster ramble on with things happening both domestically and internationally. Richard eventually folded and laid his paper to the side, glancing at his son before breaking the silence. "So, are you planning to live with us for the whole weekend, or what? The Edwards went camping, right?"

Alex nodded, but blushed as he saw his father's amusement. "Yeah, I guess. You guys are stuck with me for a change," he replied sheepishly, which made his mother scoff.

"I'm surprised Brett didn't try to kidnap and take you with them, honestly," Patty remarked as she poured her egg concoction into attempt number three.

Alex shook his head. "I think he tried, to be honest, but his parents really wanted them to have a weekend just to themselves for a change. Since Gina got out of the hospital, things have been kind of hectic up there, I think."

"That would make sense, and to be honest," Richard started, then paused before continuing, "don't get me wrong son. I have nothing against you two being joined at the hip as much as you are, but occasionally it's a good thing to get out on your own. You know, be reminded where your roots are and everything, savor your independence every so often."

"Your father's right," Patty chimed in. She then attempted to flip the egg over and, for the first time, thought she had a potential candidate. With a little squeal, she exclaimed, "Finally! Now, what did I do with those ham chunks?"

Alex looked over at her. "Behind you Mom, by the sink," he announced, which caused her to turn and then nod in appreciation. Looking back toward his father, the teen commented. "I know it is Dad. Given the way the accident kind of unbalanced them, they need to get back together. For Gina's sake, and for Brett, too."

Richard looked away from the TV in surprise, but smiled. "You're more empathic than some of us realize, I think. You're correct though, there is a lot to be gained by just spending time together with one another, as a family." Glancing at Patty, he added, "I don't know, dear, what do you think? Maybe we ought to do something ourselves, too, since we've got this prince of ours returned to us for a couple of days?"

Patty grinned as she emptied the contents of her skillet into a plate. Picking up the plate she walked over and sat it down in front of her husband. "I was kind of hoping you might say that," she admitted. "Here, you're the guinea pig for my first attempt! Try it out, mister!"

Richard laughed as he looked on at what appeared to be a perfectly created French omelet. "It certainly looks delicious!" he cried as he picked up a fork. While he took a bite, Alex and Patty watched closely as he savored the texture and taste of the food before nodding. "Perfect!" he declared, which caused the woman to emit another squeal.

"Alright! I think I have it mastered now, finally! Yours is next Alex, but you'll have to give me a minute. I need to fix some more eggs before I can make the next one," she declared, crossing back to her workstation.

"It's alright Mom, I'm in no hurry," the teen replied, grinning at his father who had just winked at him. Perfect or not, they both knew Patty had been trying for ages to master this dish. Getting it advanced to this stage was not only an accomplishment for her, but a comfort for them as well. He was about to go on when suddenly the trio heard the TV newscaster's tone change.

"In other news this morning, Federal prosecutors announced today plans to finally move forward with the trial of the syndicate anchorman Nicholas Picante, the noted mobster most often referred to as 'Nick the Pick'. Picante, you may recall, was arrested some 27-months ago in connection with the brutal murder of both Harrison Dorsette and his fiancée, Anita Pitka. The story received national attention because Picante, a resident of New Jersey, has been in and out of jail on numerous occasions for a variety of infractions, including racketeering, money-laundering and suspected murder . Since the event of the double homicide, this is the first time neither Picante nor his lawyers have been able to get him released from custody."

"Nicholas Picante has had a storied history over the last decade or more. Born Nicholas Greyson Picman, the man has been known to have extensive connections with several crime organizations throughout the north-eastern United States. It has been rumored, though never proven, that he has also had connections with several international terrorist organizations in recent years, and for quite some time remained on the FBI's most wanted list in connection with several cases they were pursuing."

"What stood out in this latest incident, however, was that Picante was identified in a vehicle outside a Tanger Outlet Mall in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania . The driver had awaited Dorsette's arrival from a shopping spree, purportedly gunning down both the man and his fiancée together. DNA evidence obtained from the vehicle identified Picante as the driver. Here is more from US Attorney Jonathan Banks, as he was exiting the Pennsylvania Statehouse late Friday evening:"

"The arrest and subsequent conviction of Nicholas Picante has been a top priority of the Federal Court system for years now. No single individual has avoided being detained or prosecuted as this man has, either due to technical or other reasons beyond the control of district magistrates. We're glad to see that this time, Picante will finally face justice, and that we will be ready to prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law. Just this evening, Justice Gerald Moore cleared the way for his trial, finally dismissing the various motions thus far used to jam up the system, and clearing the court's schedule for a mid-to-late August trial date. We could not be more pleased with the outcome, as Picante will finally answer not only for this simple act of cold murder, but for other c ases pending beyond the scope of the current one. In other words, once convicted, the cascading effect will have just begun as the facts are brought out, under oath."

The newscaster's voice returned as the camera first swept away from the attorney, and then to the newsroom. "CNN has also learned that jury selections are now set to begin August 20th. We'll continue to keep you posted as this story unfolds in the coming weeks."

Richard stared at the screen unmoving for several seconds, comprehending the information just as Patty sat her bowl down and walked over to her family. Alex, like his Dad, was riveted to the screen, but without any focus as the newscaster advanced to the next story in his list. When he turned to his father, he noted the man was staring at him with an apprehensive look. It wasn't until Patty placed her hand upon her son's shoulder did the silence between the trio break. "Do- Do you think? Maybe... finally?" she whispered to her husband, as if daring either of the two to contradict her.

Richard finally broke his eye contact with Alex and looked up. Smiling, he tried to be as nonchalant as possible. "We'll just have to see, I guess, won't we?" His tone, though pleasant, certainly lacked its usual conviction, and as Alex looked onward, a sense of foreboding descended upon him as he sensed their world was about to change … again.

'Why did it have to happen so soon?' he wondered.

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