The Storm That Turned the Tide

by Sean English

Chapter 26

Benji Gets An Early Present

It was the 23rd of December, the day before Christmas Eve, and the valley surrounding Columbia's little place in the world seemed to have come to a standstill. There were really very few vehicles on the roads by late afternoon, the exception being last-minute shoppers flocking their way to the local Walmart or grocery. When compared to many other evenings that found life bustling with anticipation here and about, this one seemed to have brought an unexpected stillness. That caused people in general to sit up and take notice – especially since there was only one more day remaining ahead before the big holiday itself. It might have had something to do with the weather, however, in the way it continued to put a damper on things. Many residents were probably staying in their homes and watching Christmas specials, which were plentiful on both cable and the national networks. Some might have also been enjoying popcorn, or perhaps sipping hot chocolate, or other tasks that allowed them to just unwind from the activities of the day. Others, however, were gathered in full cold-weather dress, many in groups, walking the halls of nursing homes, patio homes, or the like, and singing Christmas Carols for others to enjoy. Some churches also were holding services, early enough so that families could spend their Christmas Eve evening together, in the safety of their homes this year.

For the Cook and McAllister families, however, it was a quiet drive to a neighboring town, where they easily found the subdivision they sought after. Not many rural communities made any concerted attempt to participate in a combined effort such as those at Applegate, but its residents had decided years before to build Christmas displays that dazzled both young and old alike. As they turned in, a sign at the entrance asked that everyone switch their headlights off. Additionally, it encouraged them to leave only their parking lights active, and follow the trail of signposts carefully to get the easiest and fullest viewing pleasure that awaited them within. Obliging, Allen drove in, but found he didn't have to worry about the signs at all. Instead, the man simply followed a long line of vehicles already present, all of whom were already set upon the predestined path. Oh, what a path it was! They passed houses containing both decorations and simple illuminations of straightforward scenes, then moved on to others that were decked out in full holiday array. The entire neighborhood opened up a winter's wonderland for all to behold. It was a dazzling display of bright colors, some themed for the real meaning of Christmas, while others obviously catered more for the kids. There were several displays of Santa and his elves, some of whom were waving merrily at those passing by, plus workshops, reindeers, sleighs and more scattered about. Walking along the sidewalks were people of all ages, presumably the neighborhood's residents, dressed as elves or other holiday characters, and cars approaching to hand out candy canes to anyone within. In the background, the bells and carols of Christmas music could be heard playing outside, all of which combined and added to the spectacle of the season.

The neighborhood display was unmistakably a concerted effort, envisioned and made possible by a lot of people who came together for a common cause. It took the two families the better part of an hour to make it through the entire route, but no one was disappointed. As they approached the end, an area with a large concession-like trailer was set up, where inside there were more women and children dressed warmly, offering steaming cups of hot cocoa and holiday cookies to those who wanted to enjoy them. Allen pulled over, and before long the entire group was feasting on the sweet treats. As they left, the man dropped a twenty-dollar bill in the donation bucket, knowing it would help with shouldering the expense of making the spectacle even possible. It was a simple trip – but one that seemed it would not be forgotten for quite some time.

Upon returning home, as the two families made to separate and go their respective ways, Makalah pulled both of her sons aside. "You two better be on your best behavior over there, alright? Especially you, Jesse – not because I think you necessarily get wild and crazy or anything, but you need to remember – you're still recuperating all the same, and you need to continue taking it easy for a bit longer."

"Don't worry Mom, we'll be okay. I'll keep a leash on the puppy here, too," Jesse responded, causing Benji to look up initially with an air of annoyance. Instead of complaining, however, the boy rapidly changed his stance and started panting, while holding both hands curled in front of him before emitting a couple of short barks. Makalah could not help but laugh, but after repeating her warning for him to be good, she leaned forward and kissed them both on the forehead. James nodded to them both, and then carefully began following his wife as she hobbled across the lawn and toward home.

"I think your Mom and Dad were hoping to have some alone time tonight," Jennifer whispered to the brothers as they entered the Cooks' residence. "I don't blame them, really. We all need a break sometimes in order to just unwind, so we can recharge again afterwards." She smiled at the two as they pulled their coats off. "That doesn't mean they needed to get rid of you though, not in the slightest."

"We know that, ma'am," Jesse replied.

"Yeah, we understand," Benji chimed in afterwards. "I can be a hand-full sometimes," he added good naturedly, which caused all of the others to suddenly break out in laughter. Jesse ended up bumping shoulders with the youngster as a show of loyalty, but otherwise said nothing more.

Moments later, the trio of boys headed downstairs to Noah's room, where Benji skipped ahead and plopped himself down hard onto the bean bags. "Ah, finally!" he declared, before making exaggerated moves with his arms and legs, as if swimming in place through an open ocean of bliss.

Noah laughed in amusement. "Oh? And what do you mean by, 'finally'?"

Benji rolled over onto his back and grinned, but then simply shrugged. "I don't know. I've just been wanting to do something all day. I mean, it was kind of boring being with Dad up at the store today. Mostly just standing around a lot, although I did help get some stuff moved out of the back and into the windows and all. Otherwise though, there wasn't all that much to do, you know?"

"Yeah, I know what that's like. Dad did take you out for pizza though, didn't he?" Jesse asked amusedly.

Benji blushed. "Okay, well, that was kind of cool but… you know what I meant, Jess!"

"Yeah, I know," his brother acknowledged. He and Noah kicked off their shoes and placed them by the door, before Noah headed toward the bathroom. "Board game or Xbox? Or movie, if you prefer? Doesn't matter, you two set it up, and I'll be right back." In his absence, Benji removed his shoes as well, before moving over to the bed and taking a seat next to his brother. That was when Jesse turned to him.

"Okay, sport… what's it going to be?"

Benji made a face for a few seconds, before deciding. "I don't know… do you think we can play that racing game again? It has kind of been a while since we've done that."

"Sure, I don't see why not," Jesse replied. "Go ahead, you know how to set it up, right?" Benji nodded and then leapt up, moving quickly to do as he was asked. In the meantime, Jesse glanced around the room and noticed that, on the far side of the bed, a pallet had been made up on the floor, complete with a sleeping bag. He inwardly smiled, recognizing that Noah must have prepped it earlier, anticipating letting Benji sleep in the room with them for the night. When Noah finished and returned, he saw his best friend observing the makeshift bed, and raised both of his eyebrows as if seeking approval. Jesse made sure Benji was preoccupied first, but then gave his friend a veritable thumbs up.

The next couple of hours were spent playing ferociously, the boys creating a tournament of tournaments between them since the game only allowed two players to compete simultaneously. The one sitting out their turn recorded and kept the statistics, recording not only the winner of the match, but who acquired the most points for their various configurations. Jennifer appeared at one point and sat with them for several minutes, laughing and teasing as cars flipped over or crashed, scenery flew by, and other antics – all of which she claimed tended to make her dizzy. After one particular set of crashes seemed to occur successively, she teased them. "I am so glad we don't have to worry about car insurance for any of you yet!" Noah gave her a sly look, but otherwise laughed it off. The trio even took a break from the competition and let the older woman try a few of rounds for herself, but eventually she shook her head and handed the controller back to them. "My brain isn't built to operate as quick as you guys, I think!" she declared, before wishing them a good night and leaving the room.

When the tournament was completed, the boys evaluated their scores, basing the results on a points-system that they had used before. It was quickly determined, however, that although Benji took the lead in a few of the categories, the ultimate winner was Noah. Jesse, too, had fared well, but as the evening continued, the teen gradually grew tired, and it began to show in his slower reactions and lackluster zeal to compete. He hated it, knowing full well that it was not a normal experience for him. The teenager could have played well into the early hours of the morning previously, but nonetheless he couldn't help but acknowledge, all the same, that which his mother had already pointed out: 'you're still recuperating'.

The group put the game-system away and turned the TV over to a cable channel afterwards, finding 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' just beginning to play. At one time, it was a movie that James and Makalah didn't particularly want Benji to see, but Noah and Jesse both agreed their 'brother' could handle it just fine. It wasn't that it had a sinister tone or such, just that the content was a little off-normal, if nothing else. Although it was after half-past-ten, neither Noah nor Benji was really that sleepy, either - something unusual for Benji, but totally understandable given his excitement of the evening and the approaching holiday. As he had done for most of their visit thus far, Jesse lay across the end of Noah's bed, while the other two boys made use of the bean bags below.

It wasn't long, however, before Jesse began to yawn, and it was at that point Noah knew they shouldn't wait any longer – especially if they were going to put the plan into action that the two had agreed to do. Exactly how to approach it, however, Noa was uncertain, but he rose and walked over to the door leading from the room. Disappearing through it, he returned a moment later with a satisfied expression as he closed it. "Yeah, Mom and Dad have gone to bed. The whole house is dark right now," he voiced pointedly to Jesse, but the underlying message that the coast was clear was well received.

Benji happened to look up, but then only nodded as he settled back onto the bean bag, on his stomach for the moment. He had scooted closer to Jesse at one point earlier, reaching up at times to reassure himself that his brother was still there. Now, however, the younger boy suddenly wrinkled his nose and looked up at Noah. "Um, where am I gonna sleep tonight?" he asked with curiosity.

"In here with us," Noah announced as he continued to move over and open a drawer in his dresser. "That is, unless you want to go out on the couch out there. Haven't you seen, yet? I fixed a sleeping bag for one of you over here." Benji then rose to his knees and observed where Noah was pointing.

"No, I never saw that! That's awesome!" the youngster exclaimed, before glancing up at his brother with a quizzical look. "I guess we could flip for it, but somehow I think you need the bed tonight worse than I do."

Jesse laughed, thinking about how bold his brother was being, in believing he had as much right to the bed as himself, but then he quieted. Perhaps, in a way, he did have an equal right to sleeping with Noah as Jesse assumed for himself. Instead of making an issue out of it though, the teenager extended his fist and bumped it mid-air with his little brother. "Maybe we can trade next time," he offered, but Benji's mind was already turning back to the TV.

Noah caught Jesse's attention and winked, as if telling his friend that he understood the point, but also acknowledging that this was not the time to make a big deal out of it. Instead, he chose to return to the floor, but this time sitting down cross-legged and close to the other two. "So, anyone interested in playing some cards?" he asked nonchalantly, pulling the deck from the box and beginning to shuffle them thoroughly.

"Sure!" Benji replied, sitting up. "You gonna play, Jess?" he asked his brother, who grunted and then pivoted his feet to the floor, before sitting up.

"Sure, he is," Noah acknowledged for his friend. "Go on, you can use my bean bag," he invited, which Jesse hesitated and then nodded before moving to it. Once he was settled, Noah began dealing the cards between the three of them.

"So, what are we playing?" Benji asked.

"Do you know how to play poker?" When the younger boy nodded, Jesse scoffed.

"Careful, he knows that one almost too well," the older brother declared, causing Benji to giggle.

Noah smirked. "Well, then… One-eyed jacks are wild, and both Jokers count as loose Aces," he declared.

"Huh? Oh… okay!" Benji chimed in as he took his cards. He glanced up to his brother. "I've never heard of it played that way though, have you?"

"It just means, the Jack of Hearts, or Spades, can be treated as wild cards, that's all. Like the jokers are, when we play at home," Jesse explained. "Sometimes the dealer can call seven-card, or nine-card fold, too… meaning you get seven or nine cards, but have to discard and draw so that you only end up with five cards in the end. It helps make the game more… uh, interesting, I guess."

"Whoa… that sounds wicked!" the younger brother chimed, then turned with a renewed interest to his hand. Across the short distance between them, Noah smirked as glanced at Jess, but then picked up his hand. In the first round, it was Jesse who won, followed by Benji, leaving Noah with the lowest hand. With a grunt, he handed the cards to the winner, which was customary as it allowed them to shuffle the deck for the next round. The teenager then stretched and yawned, with his shirt rising at one point to expose his belly. Benji, seeing it, reached out and poked the older boy's exposed belly button, making the teen sharply gasp and suck his gut in. "Gotcha!" Benji giggled.

Noah grunted, but then casually removed one of his socks and set it aside. Benji, however, seemed not to notice, or at least he paid no attention as the next hand was being dealt. Picking up his cards, however, the youth frowned, clearly thinking hard about his set. When it came time to discard, he passed three cards off and, upon receiving his replacements, his countenance changed into one of excitement.

Jesse saw the enthusiasm and scoffed. "Buddy, if your expressions were any plainer, someone would bet you hit the jackpot over there! Haven't you ever heard of keeping a poker face?" Benji stuck his tongue out, but then smiled while holding his hand close to his chest, and watching the others complete their exchanges. When Jesse finished and finally turned his hand over, they found he held only a pair of eights. Benji laughed and played next, revealing three queens. Noah looked on, glancing down at his hand briefly and then grunted. He had nothing in this round, and his disappointment was clear, which caused Benji to cackle like a witch at having won the hand.

"That's two for me! I'm on a roll!" the youngster squealed.

"Shh! Not so loud, Short-Stuff!" Noah hissed, but then chuckled all the same.

"See?" Jesse interjected with a look of amusement. "I've told you before, this little fart knows how to play cards like you wouldn't believe!"

"Yeah, I know, you told me," Noah grumbled, but then removed his other sock. This time he bunched them together and tossed them over to one side of the bed. It was then Benji took his first notice of what had happened, but he had yet to still connect the dots that anything was going on. Having won the hand though, he quickly shuffled the deck again and dealt another round for the three. At the end of that round, it was Jesse who ended up with the lowest hand of the three, so he mimicked his best friend and removed one of his own socks before setting it aside.

"Uh… huh?" Benji finally asked, fully taking notice this time, and glancing up at his brother with a look of innocent curiosity.

Jesse only smiled, saying nothing initially, but when he saw his brother begin to frown, he thought better of it. "What? Is something wrong?"

"Well, you, and then Noah, he… whoa, wait a minute! Are we…" The youngster hesitated and then lowered his voice to that just above a whisper. "Are we doing what I think we're doing?"

"Well, you're the one who said you wanted to do it, right?" Noah asked him just as quietly, which caused Benji's eyes to practically bulge from their sockets. "That is, unless you don't want to," Noah added for effect, but not without displaying a grin.

"What? No way! No 'effing way!" Benji exclaimed in a hushed voice, a certain level of excitement now obviously building.

"Oh, so, does that mean you don't want to?" Jesse asked, mocking him. Seeing the astonished look, he added, "What? You're the one who said no way, like, in no way are we going to do this… right?"

Benji couldn't tell initially if he was being teased or not, but when the smirk re-appeared that Jesse could no longer hide, the younger boy reared up on his knees and delivered a playful punch. "You KNOW what I meant, Bubble-Butt!!!" he whispered hoarsely. He then propped himself up on his hands from behind. "So, what are we waiting for? Come on, let's go!" he hissed, causing Noah to laugh outright once again before shuffling and dealing the next hand.

Jesse once again lost the round, and so he then removed his other sock and set it aside. Benji, who had lost nothing as of yet, simply giggled quietly as he watched the other two older boys, glancing back and forth as if in disbelief. He had won the hand however, and as it was his turn to shuffle and deal, he resumed his duty, as he called it. In that hand, Jesse finally won a round, with Benji then getting the low hand. He looked smartly at the other two, and then pulled off one of his own socks. Jesse paused, however, with a smirk.

"Nuh-uh, Short-Stuff – the other one, too. If I count right, you have a t-shirt on under that sweater, right? Noah and I don't have two layers, so you have to go ahead and take the other sock off too. That way, we can all be evened up and everything," he explained. Benji nodded his understanding and then did as he was instructed.

Noah's bedroom, as usual, suffered from being fairly cool down on the lower level, but that did not stop the group from continuing. Benji lost again, but only barely, and then removed his outer sweater and set it aside. The next three rounds found each one of them losing yet again, this time causing each to shed their belts. It was the next round where things would begin to get more serious, and Noah, ever wanting to be certain the youngest member of their trio understood the stakes, spoke again. "Okay, are you sure? This is it… This is where it starts getting, uh… you know."

Benji grinned at the teen. "Yeah, I know. This is where it gets cool, right? This is where we get to see if anyone pops a boner!" He giggled again. "Well, what are we waiting for then?" he concluded, asking the question for the second time that evening.

The other two laughed, and then Noah took the deck, shuffling it before dealing the next hand. Once again, Jesse came out on top, but this time Benji held the lowest hand. "So, what do I lose?" the boy whispered. Jesse reached out and tugged at his brother's t-shirt, which Benji then proudly removed and discarded. The next hand found Noah losing again, so he did the same thing. Another round, and unfortunately Noah lost again, causing him this time to scoff.

"What gives? Are you both trying to team up against me or something? Sheesh!" Noah quipped before laughing. He glanced at Jesse's smug expression, and then to Benji's, which was one of anticipation. "Okay, squirt, okay…" The teen then climbed to his knees and unfastened his jeans, before pushing them down onto his thighs. While he did it, the other two noted the clear boner that was pushing and tenting his briefs outward, but Noah made no attempts to hide it. Benji's eyes were glued to the bigger teen's groin as Noah rocked backwards and pushed his feet into the air, removing the jeans completely from his feet before tossing them aside. When he rolled back into his usual place, he was clad in nothing but his underwear, and as he maneuvered to sit Indian-style once again, his widened legs left little imagination to his state underneath. Benji was even startled at how, more than once, a gap would appear, revealing quick glimpses of the teen's testicles inside.

Noah grunted again, however, ignoring Benji's obvious fascination with him, and instead admonished the boy. "Well, Short-Stuff? What's wrong, you never seen another boy in his underwear before? Come on, it's your turn… are you going to shuffle or not?"

Benji finally tore his eyes away, embarrassed. "Sorry," he muttered, and as he moved to quickly shuffle the cards again, Noah winked at Jesse. He initially felt shy about being the center of attention, as Benji continued to steal multiple glances at the teen's crotch. It didn't last long though, as the next hand was dealt between them. That time saw Benji lose, which made him giggle. With only a sly look, however, he didn't hesitate. Instead, the youngster stood up completely and shucked his own pants. In the process of pushing them down, however, he almost lost his own underwear as they were dragged along inside, but the boy quickly corrected the issue by pulling them up again before anything was exposed. "Nuh uh, you guys don't get to see me unless I lose completely!" he quipped. Afterwards, he sat down and mimicked their host by sitting Indian-style.

"Careful little bro, that might be in the next hand, you know!" Jesse whispered.

"I don't care," he replied, staring down at his own crotch. He even briefly pulled the waistband out so that he could peer inside, but whatever had drawn his attention quickly evaporated. Noah and Jesse couldn't see anything inside, but neither were concerned about it. Although the youngster was much smaller by proportion to the other two, there was still no mistake that he, too, was sporting a seven-year-old boner that was tenting just as hard as the larger one Noah sported. He glanced up just in time to see their host's willie flex all on its own, and that surprised the youngster to no end. "Did you just… whoa! It moved, by itself!"

Noah blushed, but then nodded. Why he was finding this so arousing, he wasn't exactly sure. He played the game though, and was committed to seeing it through to the end. "Sometimes mine has a mind of its own," he whispered, which ended up causing the two brothers to snicker.

As luck would have it, Benji did indeed lose the next hand by only holding a pair of sixes, next to Noah's pair of eights. "Oh wow… uh, well… uh oh…" he whispered.

"Ruh roh, Shaggy, me thinks you're about to get naked!" Jesse whispered.

"Lose them," Noah commanded, grinning widely.

Benji blushed, hesitating, until Jesse nodded in agreement beside him. "That's the way the game is played. Don't play it unless you're prepared to be seen by any and all."

"I don't care about that. I mean, I'll show and all, but… will that be the end of the game then?" Benji asked with a distinct display of disappointment.

"No way," Jesse replied, already understanding what was going on in his brother's head. "Are you kidding? I want to finish it all the way to the end, too, and get Noah's scrawny butt as naked as yours, you know?" In turn, this time he gave Noah a wink, who only responded with mock indignation, but grinned afterwards. "Go on, strip 'em, Ben," Jesse said again, encouragingly. "I promise, we won't make fun of your or anything."

Benji smiled in relief and then climbed to his feet again. He lowered the front of his waistband halfway, to just the top of his hairless crotch and then hesitated, before shrugging and pushing first the back side and then the rest, dropping what was left of his clothes now to the floor. Standing, bathed in the overhead lighting that beamed down upon the three of them, he stood briefly with his hands on his hips, sporting a good two-and-a-half to three-inch boner himself, that stood practically straight out and stiff as a rock. Jesse giggled as he reached out and pushed down on it with his finger, only to watch it pop up again and throb. "Um, can I hang my shirt on that?" he teased. The youngster stuck his tongue out at his brother, but then sat back down. Neither teen was observing anything particularly new to them, but for the sake of letting Benji at least think they found him fascinating, they purposefully pretended to take an interest in the youngster by making a few casual, but encouraging observations and remarks. Initially it was welcomed, but eventually the youngster began blushing and started to covertly withdraw.

"Hey now, you can't do that! You've got to spread your legs and everything, and you can't cover up anything, either," Noah informed him. "Remember? You're our prize for last place, see?"

Benji blushed even more, but then giggled before doing as he was told. Secretly, he loved the attention. "So, now what?" he finally asked.

"Now, you get to watch me and Noah play, until one of us loses it all," Jesse announced. It did not take long, as the next two rounds went to Noah. Jesse was finally at his own end, having lost completely. "Huh, and you were worried we were tag teaming against you!" he teased. "I think you just wanted to get the two brothers au naturel so you could do your own bidding!" For the first time in a while, he stretched his legs out before waving Benji to move closer. With his brother's help, Jesse then got his jeans pulled down and away, and like the other two, there was no mistaking the long, stiff prize his boxers held inside. He was surprised his prick didn't go ahead and pop out completely through the overly large hole in the front of the garment, but it didn't matter.

It was the next round, when it had come time to go all natural, that Jesse rolled off of the bean bag and climbed to his knees. If not for the night before and showering with his brother, the teenager might have hesitated. Not because he sported a boner that his brother was certain to goggle at, as that had already happened before. Rather, his injuries and the reminder of their viciousness between his legs, would be on full display again. He knew his brother would be okay, though, and because of that, the teen had no inhibitions remaining. Smiling at them both, he pulled the boxers out and away, letting them fall first to his thighs. Rotating back onto his hips, he finally worked them off with no assistance. Benji, as expected, did not hide his fascination. In fact, he rolled up to his knees again and leaned in closer, taking in the view quickly. Jesse chose to lean back against the bed then, separating his legs only partially as they stretched forward. Unlike the others, whose erections were pointedly jutting outwards, his own very rigid and parallel rod lay back against his pubic hairs instead, and stretched upward toward his navel. He already knew he had the longest erection of the three, especially considering the extra skin which hung off at the end, but that wasn't what seemed to catch the other two's attention. Instead, it was once again the overly bulbous size of his scrotum that ballooning underneath. Even Noah had paused too, to minutely lean forward. Combined with the darkened discoloration of the skin, it not only made the older teen wince, but caused Benji to drop his jaw in awe.

Glancing up, the youngster sighed before scooting up closer. "Jess, can I, like… you know?" he whispered, as if fearing the answer might not be what he wanted.

"Sure, go ahead," Jesse replied. What followed for the next minute was a thorough handling of sorts, as Benji first picked up the heavy, long shaft there and weighed it in his hand. Although he had showered the evening before, Jesse still noticed that somehow the musky scent of his groin reached him and the others. As Benji moved down and very gently began to lift Jesse's testicles, the older teen suddenly sucked in his gut. For some reason, the teen found the sensation to be erotic, and it showed as his dick suddenly throbbed and became harder than ever. Benji noted it, too. "You can do it, too! Like Noah did!"

Jesse giggled. "He sometimes has a mind of his own, too," he whispered. "Especially when he's being played with," he added for effect. It wasn't exactly the first time his brother had had such a fascinated interest in him, but nonetheless the moment still was one that drew his attention. For now, at least, Jesse was kind of proud of that fact, although he figured he'd have to reconcile sometime later regarding what that necessarily meant.

"Does it … like, do they hurt any?" Benji whispered, once again cupping the jewels from below, that easily filled the palm of his smaller hand.

Jesse shook his head. "No, not as much as they did. Just… be easy with them, okay? They're still, I don't know, they still ache a lot and all. Not so much from what you're doing now, they just… well…"

Benji nodded. "It's okay, I understand," he whispered, but continued for another half-minute or more. "Whoa!" he whispered once more, as he saw Jesse's willie throb again, but otherwise the youngster said nothing else until he finally sat back. When he looked back and saw Noah sitting there with a smirk, he sighed. "Okay, so what about him, Jesse? Since he won, does that mean…?"

"Nope. He has to show all, too," Jesse whispered, grinning at his best friend who rolled his eyes.

"Now, hold up… I won the game see, and… and…"

Jesse shook his head though. "Yeah, I know, but it's less fun that way."

Benji giggled at the exchange. "Okay now, be good! You've seen us, and you heard Jesse - it's your turn. Sure, you won… though I'm not sure exactly what that means yet… but still, strip 'em! Get naked!" he commanded in a low tone.

Noah scoffed. "Well, technically it means the winner isn't supposed to have to do this and take everything off!" the teen explained to Benji. "I mean, that's what being the winner means. Everyone who plays and loses has to skin completely, except the last one who won, see? That's kind of like their reward for not having to show, see?" he informed, but seeing the look of combined amusement and expectation on Benji's face, he relented. "But, for you and your brother…" He slowly thrust his hips forward, lying back against one of the bean bags and raised his whole midsection into the air. He took his time, however, as he watched the eyes that were glued upon him, especially Benji's. He tried to do it slowly, as if to make a dramatic show of it, but Benji grew impatient. Reaching out, he grasped Noah's waistband and lifted it away from the skin, while using his other hand to pull the garment down. As Noah became exposed fully, he felt his underwear clearly get pulled down to his ankles. "Holy shit!" he heard the young boy exclaim, before Noah sat his butt back onto the floor. Amused, he kicked the garment from his feet and then propped himself up on his elbows. With a knowing glance at the other two, he then spread his legs, causing Benji to gasp even further.

Benji, now beyond the fascination with his own brother, moved closer. "Oh… wow! Look Jess, he's… he's… big! Crap, he's more than just big, he- he's huge!" he whispered.

Jesse could not help but laugh at listening to his little brother. Jesse himself had been mesmerized that first night he got to examine Noah up close. After a moment though, he moved and scooted up close to his friend. Without any hesitation, and to Benji's total surprise, he then reached out and took Noah's rigid member in hand and pushed it so that it would stand straight up. "See? His isn't as long as mine, I know, but yeah – Noah's is definitely what you'd call a fat one," he whispered. Benji nodded and then gulped, before tentatively reaching out himself. He didn't have the comfort level like his brother did, however, and he withdrew his hand quickly with an amount of uncertainty.

"Shit… it's… it looks so huge!" the younger boy repeated, his astonishment not waning as he looked on. He did lean in closer and note everything from the sack of marbles beneath, to the jet-black pubic hairs that surrounded the base. "Oh… wow! He's got, uh, more than you, and… and… he doesn't have skin like we do!"

"You knew that, though," Noah whispered. "From when we showered together." Benji glanced up and blushed, nodding in agreement, before turning back again.

Jesse reached out and took hold of his brother's hand then, before gently pulling it forward and up toward Noah's cock. Noah even rotated his hips toward them, before feeling two hands grasp him simultaneously. Both the larger and smaller could be felt distinctly and, thoroughly stimulated, Noah sucked in his gut and held it. It was almost enough for him to let go and cum, right there on the spot. "Ohhh… ssshhiiitttt…!" he muttered, followed by a low, deep moan.

Benji suddenly giggled, this time feeling the heat in his hand, and the throbbing he had so expertly noted earlier for the first time. Like his brother, he could detect a distinct muskiness there too, similar to Jesse's but also different. He turned to glance at Jesse's crotch for only a second, before turning back. "So, do you, like, make the white stuff, too? Like Jesse does?" he whispered.

In reply, Jesse placed his brother's hand on the shaft first, before wrapping his own fingers around them so that they both had hold of Noah's stiff rod. With confidence, he began guiding his brother in such a way that they both slowly began massaging it by pushing and pulling on the shaft gently, sliding up and down. Once Benji got the message though, and showed that he could do it without any problem, Jesse withdrew and smiled encouragingly, all the while leaning into his brother's ear. "Why don't you go ahead and find out," he whispered encouragingly. Then for the second time in recent months, the younger boy proceeded and watched, fascinated as he felt a change begin taking shape in front of him. Other than his own, and Jesse's at least once, the youngster was holding another boy's toy in his hand, and for some reason it felt…. Awesome. As he started to get into it more, Noah slowly let his gut back out with a huge, satisfied sigh as his stiffness took on a new life of its own.

Noah had begun to leak from the end, a clear liquid in small amounts, but noticeable enough as it slipped to Benji's hand. He glanced up at his brother, who nodded to him. "It's okay. I promise, it isn't pee. It's called pre-cum, something that older guys make when they're having sex. It comes out when they're feeling really good and worked up and everything." Leaning in, he added once again. "See? You must really be making him feel good, or he wouldn't be leaking like that."

"Would you guys just shut up and… and… oh, yeah… oh…" Noah muttered, but then his head fell back as he shut his eyes and sucked in his gut again before letting it out. This felt different to him, Benji's smaller hand wrapped around him and, although lacking experience, was still all the more effective at doing its job. He wasn't complaining, nor was his groin, as the youngster began to work faster. In fact, he had little time to even contemplate the change in direction the evening had taken, as he opened his eyes to stare at first Benji, and then Jesse's nakedness. Somehow that excited him further, especially as his body began to take over and before long, he was slowly thrusting himself deep into the youth's palm.

When Noah had started it all, his intent was only to have a simple game of strip poker, doing something he knew was on Benji's horizon at some point anyway. With things unfolding as they had the last few days, the teen thought it would be cool to do something a little special, and intimate, to show how much they both trusted the youth. When Jesse voiced similar thoughts, and they talked about it briefly, it sealed the decision. When he stripped piece by piece during the game, however, Noah found himself getting aroused, but he really didn't care. He didn't know why he was in such a state – he had seen both brothers in their birthday suits enough as it was, right? Still… there was something about the moment though, perhaps the naughtiness of it, that had sparked a change within him somehow. With each now baring all, and seeing the other two with equal erections of their own, the momentary feelings of lust and direction was inevitable, and his dick hardened, throbbing one more time. The feeling began behind his navel, and as it surged through his loins, it ultimately became overwhelming.

"OOhh… ffuucckkk…" Noah gurgled as he erupted quickly, holding nothing back. The entire time, behind closed eyelids, images flashed of how everything had changed the first time he and Jesse had done this simple act together. He had been manhandling himself for as long as he could remember, but once he found someone else – someone with whom he could share it, and who had no hesitation in returning the favor – it took on a different life of its own. Everything about the act - the trust, the intimacy, the internal urges that met together – culminated all at once. He shoved his hips forward, arching up tighter into the young boy's grasp, who smartly pulled back from the end. Gobs of cum sprang forth, splattering on Noah from his chest to his belly button. Benji was awed watching the almost snow-white eruption, keeping his fingers wrapped down at the base and slowing his movements. For a few seconds, he could feel something within the hard shaft contracting as each load spurted forth, before the intensity subsided and the remaining dribbles then leaked down the sides and onto Benji's hand. "Oh wow! That is… is so awesome!" the boy announced excitedly in a hushed tone, absolutely mesmerized. He eventually glanced up at his brother and saw a wide grin meet his own, along with a nod of approval. Benji then blushed, but turned back and slowly gave Noah's dick a few final tugs before stopping altogether.

Jesse looked about and retrieved one of his own socks then, before handing it to his brother. At first Benji frowned in confusion, but then Jesse made a motion that silently instructed him to use it and clean up the mess. Quickly learning, the youngster obeyed not only for himself, but for the blobs that had reached Noah's chest and belly, too. Noah had opened his eyes by then, gradually returning from his heightened state, and watched them both with a faint smile. In the silence, Benji giggled again as his eyes remained glued and watched the fattened sex tool begin to soften in front of them, actually returning to more of a normalized state and size. He reached out once and thumbed it to one side, but then withdrew again.

"Thanks," Noah whispered to the brothers. "That was… friggin' awesome, Short-Stuff!"

It was Benji who scoffed. "What's friggin? Come on, you've already said the F-word, you know - so quit being so nice about it around me! It's not like I don't hear it a bunch anyway!" he complained in a hushed voice, though with a smirk.

Noah sat up on his elbows then, and rearranged the bean bag once again, before pulling the boy over and smothering him with another hug. "Okay, then thanks - that was fucking awesome," he repeated in a louder whisper, making the boy giggle even more.

"Look, Jesse, it's not so huge now, is it? I don't mean that in a bad way bro, just," the boy hesitated, turning his gaze back to Noah again. "I just mean, well… when you get hard, it's really… uh…"

"Yeah," Noah nodded. "I know, it's like your brother said, 'fat'."

"That's not a bad thing, though," Jesse reiterated, and Benji nodded his agreement. He could think of nothing else to say however, so he thus quieted.

During the play, Jesse had sat back and became more relaxed. Throughout the session, his erection had remained hard, but it was now becoming less aroused. Benji noted it first when he turned to look back again, which then caused him to suddenly sit up and reach out. At first Jesse let him touch all he wanted, but when it became clear that his brother had other plans, he gently grasped the youngster's hand and pulled it away. He had already shared with Noah the restriction he had to live under, something his friend had accepted solemnly, but now it looked like Jesse needed to explain it to his brother, too. "I can't, Ben," he stated simply. "It's not that I don't trust you, or want to let you do it, I promise. It's only because, just… well, Doc told me not to, like, do anything like this – at least until my nuts get better. Do you understand?"

"Really? You mean… Is that where the white stuff comes from? From your balls?" Benji asked, still frowning, but sitting back and contemplating the excuse with uncertainty.

"Yeah, that's where sperm comes from," Noah answered in a low voice, as he sat up again. Benji made a face, but then glanced up to his brother once again with an even deeper frown.

"But... it's not fair to you. I mean… you know?" he whispered.

Jesse giggled. "It's okay, though. You know, just watching you two do it was enough for me tonight. I promise," Jesse observed his brother's disappointed expression. "I'm not holding out on you, I promise. I trust you completely – you know that. It's just… I really can't do it right now, not for a while anyway. Not until I get better and all down there. You know, not until it's less ugly and everything."

"It's not ugly, Jesse," Benji declared with a level of finality in his voice. "I wish… I wish they hadn't done it to you, but … it's not ugly." He looked up again, this time accepting the situation. "You know, if we could, Noah and I would find those bastards and chop their dicks off, but… but… well, okay…"

Jesse, although surprised, was expecting some reaction to come out eventually. "I'd cut their dicks off too, if I thought it would help. But… it won't, Ben. What happened is over, okay? Everything will be back to normal, maybe in another couple of weeks or so, I promise."

In the silence that followed, Jesse reached out and grasped his brother, pulling him into a full-body hug. "You know something? Just feeling you here, like this and everything, that's almost just as awesome!" he whispered.

Noah watched the two, and then slid over and pulled himself behind Benji and added his own embrace to the brothers, effectively sandwiching the youngster between them. Benji giggled, but then melted. "This… this feels awesome, too, guys." After a moment, however, he popped his head up and then crawled out, effectively swiveling behind his big brother and letting him reside in the middle while he grasped him from behind. "See?" Benji whispered.

For some reason, Jesse smiled, especially when Noah understood and slid up just as close. He closed his eyes momentarily, and wished he could keep the feeling forever. "Mmm, this is kind of warm this way," he remarked, causing Noah to chuckle. "What?" Jesse asked, opening his eyes to a bemused expression. Noah simply shook his head, before he suddenly felt Benji climbing over both of the bigger teenagers to crawl in behind Noah.

"He's just jealous, Jess, because he doesn't know," Benji remarked, but in pulling up close, he grasped onto both and squeezed in tightly.

The three-way intimate embrace they each shared briefly changed the ambient mood of the evening, shifting from one of naughty play to that of fascination and curiosity, then to seeming disappointment and acceptance. It wasn't to made light of, and all three knew it. Before long, however, Benji started crawling again, and when it was obvious that he was squeezing himself back into the middle, all three giggled as if it had become a game. Noah scooted back just enough to oblige him, before embracing both of the brothers together. "I love you guys, you know that, right?"

Benji nodded and whispered, "We love you too, Bubble-Butt!" That caused all three of them to giggle again, until the two older boys took advantage and started tickling, pinching and more to the youngster between them, causing him to wiggle about profusely.

"So, did you get your curiosity finally satisfied?" Jesse whispered, once they had settled down. Benji's reaction to the question was almost as priceless as the evening itself had become, as his face transformed once again into one of bright cheerfulness.

"You… you surprised me," the youth said. "Both of you, and… and you taught me more, too." In the silence that followed, Noah moved away and sat up, rearranging the bean bags where both he and Jesse could sit, but no before pulling Benji into their laps.

"Well, good - we wanted to surprise you," Noah finally offered. "So, is there anything else? Any more questions, or…?"

The youth leaned forward and brushed his fingers through Noah's pubic hairs once again, before pulling back to shift around and do the same to his brother. In his silence, Jesse felt he at least knew a part of what was going through his brother's mind. "You'll get them, bro, I promise... and when you do, you'll probably end up with even more than either Noah or I have."

"Yeah, just wait, you'll see. It won't be that long, either," Noah added.

Benji glanced up briefly, but then turned his attention back before speaking. "It's not that, guys. I mean, I don't think I really care about that so much anymore. Not like I did, anyway," Benji admitted, before looking up again, this time to Jesse. "I don't know, I still think he has more than you do, though."

Jesse rolled his eyes. "Figures," he whispered, knowing it would make them laugh.

Benji giggled again. "Yours are softer, though," he whispered, but it made both teens laugh afterwards. The youngster stared complacently into Jesse's eyes before he leaned up and whispered into his brother's ear. "Thanks, bro." Not intending to leave Noah out, however, he pulled back and in a louder whisper, added, "Both of you. I… like, really, this was so awesome, you know? Thanks – a lot! Thanks for doing it with me, even."

"You're welcome," Jesse whispered, as Noah added his own sentiment. Jesse relaxed before he spoke again. "We wanted to, Benji, and see? We even checked you out the whole time, too, so we didn't just do it for you."

"Ditto!" Noah added, taking his own finger and rubbing it along the inside of Benji's inner thigh for effect. "It kind of makes me think this is how your brother must have looked when he was your age."

Benji blushed, but then lay back and relaxed once again. "He might have looked like me, yeah. I mean, we both have the skin stuff that you don't."

Noah glanced up, then lowered his voice. "Is it okay if I check something out?" The question was directed at Benji, causing him to glance up with curiosity.

"I guess so," he whispered. "What is it?"

Noah reached out and very carefully placed his fingers around the youngsters softened member, pulling the skin back carefully. Jesse and Benji looked on, as the youngster's purplish head became exposed and rolled into view. Noah nodded, holding it for only seconds before letting it retract to its previous state. "Like yours, but it's a lot shiny-er, I think," the teen commented, obviously referring to Jesse.

Benji smiled, feeling elated actually that he could offer something of himself up to the two older, more experienced teens. Settling back against his brother's chest again, he sighed. "I'm glad for you both, really. So, tell me, is this all there is to the sex stuff that everyone whispers about?"

"Well, kind of," Noah answered him. "There's still more, but that's not anything you need to worry about. You've got all the basics down pretty good."

"I do? Then… that's cool, I guess." Benji then grinned. "Of course, I know about the eff-ing stuff too, that supposedly goes on with girls. You know… like, real sex."

Jesse giggled. "I don't guess we have to wonder where you learned that from, do we?"

Benji grinned sheepishly. "Some of it from you, but… yeah…"

Jesse nodded. "I've never held back from you, have I?" When Benji shook his head, Jesse added, "And you know I never will, right?" This time Benji nodded, then looked up and touched his brother on the end of his nose with a finger.

"You know I'm glad you're my brother, right? Both of you," he whispered.

"Yeah," Noah answered, his voice just as soft as the others.

"You know, you're lucky. I think it was, I don't know, not till I was eight or nine before I started to learn about girls and sex and all," Jesse remarked, thinking. "What about you, Noah?"

"Uh, I think I might have been nine or ten," their host replied. "Dad gave me the birds and bees talk, or at least part of it."

"Yeah, but Mom did mine, which made it… awkward, I think," Jesse confessed. "Don't be surprised when it comes your turn, Short-Stuff. I know she's told you a few things, but… yeah, there's more. Just be sure when you talk to her, if you're going to ask stuff, make sure it doesn't include stuff with guys, like me and Noah, okay?"

"Yeah, I know bro." The youngster then shrugged. "I've heard enough already, I think. Maybe not everything, but there's enough that goes on at school, and with Petey and others," Benji announced quietly.

Jesse's curiosity was aroused then. "How much? What have you heard?" When Benji just shrugged, Jesse pressed. "Come on, after tonight? You know you can tell us anything, right?"

"Well, not that much actually," Benji started, and then blushed. "I know boys and girls are made different, like between their legs, and that when they have sex, the boy pushes his willie up inside the girl in some way. Right? That's what the sex part is all about, isn't it?"

Noah giggled, relaxing a bit. "Yeah, that's what sex is, little buddy."

Benji then shrugged again. "Okay, then. I'm not sure what all the fuss is about, but yeah… that's what we hear about on the bus and everything, right Jess?"

"Yeah, little bro. That's what we hear," Jesse agreed, but then pulled his brother in closer. "Listen, you understand it and everything, and that's cool – honest – but be careful, okay? Other kids, like you just heard Noah say, don't find out about it for a while, sometimes not until they're older. So, don't go around telling that stuff to any little kids, alright? Just…"

"I won't, Jess. I understand, honestly … I do."

There was such a sweetness in his expression that Jesse couldn't help but smile. "Okay, little bro, I believe you." A thought then occurred to him. "Um, while we're at it, you know you can't, like, tell anyone about this stuff tonight… right?"

The young boy scoffed. "Of course, I do! Give me a break, Jess!" he replied, clearly annoyed, but accepting the fact all the same. "Sometimes I think you worry too much, Bubble-Butt!"

"He's right, though," Noah added. "What I did here, Benji, what I let you guys do to me…. It's because I trust you, and think of you as my best buds and a whole lot more. I mean, I'm not scared to be around you or anything. Other people though, they probably wouldn't understand that."

Benji nodded, lying his head back against his brother's chest. "Believe me guys, I know and I understand. I know what those creeps were talking about now, about the fairies and everything they kept calling you. Well, at least calling Jess."

"It's okay," Jesse whispered. "They didn't know. They just wanted to make life hard for me, so they made you become a part of it, too."

Benji nodded. "I know. I promise you though, both of you, no one will ever know about us, okay? But…" He glanced between both teens before he continued. "Just, at least promise me we don't have to give up on any of this stuff between us, okay? I mean, we don't have to do the naughty stuff, but… just don't let me lose the other part of it. You know, the trust stuff like Jesse is always teaching me about. Like, don't be afraid to take a shower with me, and let me, you know, see and everything. Okay? I think that's all that matters anyway. Then when I finally do start, you know, growing hairs and… and becoming like you two, then…"

"You won't lose us, I promise," Jesse replied, hugging him again. "I'll never be afraid to be skinned around you, and doubt Noah ever will either." Noah nodded in agreement beside him. "There's also something else we'll both promise you, too – and that is that you don't have to be alone, little bro. We'll always do our best to be around here for you, especially when you're feeling down or ever need us to. No matter what."

"Ditto!" Noah agreed. "And hey, don't worry about whether you're seven years old, or not having any hairs down there yet, or any of that other shit, okay? You're my adopted bro, just like you two adopted me. We're tight, Short-Stuff… and I think it's something we're always going to be, alright?"

"I hope so," was the whispered reply. The grin had returned and, carefully, Benji extracted himself and moved over to hug Noah's neck. The fact they were all still naked and rubbing skin to skin bothered no one, and once done, the trio even ended up chatting for a while longer. They chatted about different things, oblivious to their state of undress, but the intimacy added to their feeling of acceptance, something priceless in many ways. Before long though, Benji had settled down considerably, and eventually began yawning. When Jesse glanced at the clock, he saw that it was already half-past eleven. "Come on Benji, let's get your basics back on and get you into bed. Noah and I are getting tired, too."

Benji did not complain, but as he sat up, he surprised the older boys by straddling them both in such a way that he could hug them around their necks, together. When he did, he did not let go right away, choosing instead to thank them one last time. "Best…. Christmas… Ever! Thank you, both you Bubble-Butts!" he announced softly. When he did finally pull back, he sat briefly but made sure not to press in or hurt his older brother's groin in the process. "I'm serious, okay? This was awesome!"

Jesse smiled. "On a scale of one to ten?"

"Um, try a hundred!" was the quick reply, causing all three to giggle again. Jesse reached out and retrieved the smaller set of briefs and t-shirt nearby, before he and Noah both helped Benji pull them on. Then the youth crawled around to the other side of the bed, and inserted himself into the sleeping bag waiting for him. Jesse followed to be sure all was right, but before he could step back, Benji pulled his brother once again by the neck and gave him a kiss on his cheek. Then, without another word, he rolled over and curled up.

"Are you ready, too?" Noah whispered from beside him, having stepped around to check on them both. He had been surprised that Jesse had lasted this long, to be quite honest, but he was happy nonetheless. Jesse nodded, and then Noah found their own underclothes before pushing Jesse down onto the bed. Donning his own first, the teen then helped Jesse to get his own pulled back into place. Then, after turning out the lights, they both climbed into the soft bed and settled in on each side, but not before noting the soft sounds of snoring, accompanied by deep, slow breaths coming from the floor beside them. "Wow, that was fast – especially for him!" Noah whispered.

Jesse sat up to peer over his friend for himself and then nodded. "Sometimes he does that, like when he's really happy and stuff. He goes out like a light bulb."

Noah giggled. "Did we do that much for him, then? No, don't answer that…" he declared, already feeling the retort building beside him. "I guess if I were him, I'd be pretty happy, too," he replied, before sliding down under the covers. As Jesse did the same, they both lay on their backs, looking toward the ceiling. It was inevitable that they could not remain apart though, as Jesse slowly began inching himself closer, with Noah doing the same from the other side. Before long, they were not only holding hands, but lying next to each other completely as well.

"Sometimes I wish my bed was this big. You're right, now that I'm in it again, I guess Benji could have slept in here with us, couldn't he," Jesse finally broke the silence. "What did you tell me once, it's a queen or something?"

"Yeah, the mattress is queen-sized. Mom and Dad have a king-sized one upstairs, and it is really big!" Noah replied back before considering. "I don't know though, your bed isn't that much smaller, is it? Besides, even if it is just a full-sized mattress, it has the benefit of letting us cuddle up closer, right? I don't know about you, but I'm NOT complaining about that at all!"

Jesse giggled quietly. "I guess I'm not either. I happen to like it when you spoon up behind me, or when I spoon up behind you."

Noah finally rolled onto his side and faced his friend. "Me, too." He slowly moved his hand to the waistband of Jesse's boxers. "So, sex or no sex, do you, uh, want to get rid of these tonight?" he whispered. Their eyes had adjusted by then, and as Jesse turned to look beside him, he nodded. Noah then propped himself on one elbow and carefully did the deed, stripping the garment off once again before removing his own. As he dropped both beside the bed, Jesse rolled up close again and draped his leg over his friend, before pulling them snugly to one another.

"Thanks, for tonight. For Benji, for me… for all of us," he whispered, before leaning in and placing a soft kiss on the lips he sought for, and found, waiting for him. Noah kissed him back, and for the next few minutes, they frolicked and found their passion once again, fueled by the intimacy and desire that had never left them. Jesse pushed his hand up inside of Jesse's shirt, to his chest and sides, rubbing and caressing at times, while grabbing firmly at others, while Noah did the same with Jesse's back. So much was shared between them once again that, in fact, it was no time before Noah was stone-hard once more, pressing up against the side of Jesse's leg. Jesse began sporting a hard-on of his own, too, but he was making an extra effort to keep anything away from pressing against his scrotum. It wasn't long before Noah realized that, and thus he began to pull back. Surprisingly though, he found Jesse pursuing him. "Don't you dare pull away… I need you," his friend whispered.

"But… I don't want you getting hurt, that's all," Noah replied softly.

"You won't, I promise. Especially if I'm the one doing this," Jesse's soft reply reached his ear. At first the teenager sucked on Noah's earlobe, finding something enticing in it, but then he pulled away. "No, not that… that was just the appetizer. Now I want the main course," he whispered ever so lightly. That was when Jess slipped his head beneath the covers and headed directly down Noah's torso, pulling the t-shirt up and letting him lean in to suck on the nipples he found there. Then on to Noah's navel, which Jesse wasted no time in attacking with deep, playful jabs of his tongue, before finally heading for that spot between his friend's legs. The prize there was waiting for him, and as such Jesse wasted no time taking it between his lips. Noah heard a soft moan escape, as suddenly he felt a warm mouth and slick tongue take over, engulfing him almost completely. The veritable sensation took hold almost instantly as he shut his eyes and fell into the bed complete, sucking in his gut and letting Jesse do whatever he wanted. It mattered not to Noah, as he fell into a deep pool of contentment, as his friend attacked the end of his boy toy and went all out sucking hard and swift all along the shaft. What had happened earlier was unique and satisfying in its own right, but this was something else entirely. More soft moans of satisfaction were heard coming from below, but Noah was gone by then, his body beginning to take over once again.

Jesse, by then, had come to understand the immense pleasure of having no foreskin, contrary to what he and his brother had. It was that understanding that caused him to engulf and lick the crown of Noah's glans the way he did, all the while using his hand to massage underneath – from cupping Noah's testicles and rubbing between his legs, and moving up to the base and all around the crotch. Noah whimpered as he spread his legs wider, and Jesse found a sensitive area underneath and behind the testicles. The teen did not hesitate to rub and massage those places that he could reach, and though he did not bury himself deep, finding the crack there and massaging it seemed to make Noah stretch and react harder than before.

Noah whimpered, hardly believing he was getting so worked up again, and so soon. He had read, even heard how girls could have multiple orgasms all the time, but that guys, after puberty, usually couldn't do it again very quickly. As Jesse laid his head just above the pubes though, and worked his tongue while simultaneously rubbing, feeling, and massaging below, Noah reached a second climax in short order. The teen shot again, erupting just as forcefully as he had earlier, but this time without as much volume. Jesse still sucked it all in, licking him clean afterwards and leaving nothing behind. Ever since tasting and sucking him clean weeks before, Jesse had wanted to do this again badly, so when it happened, he almost cried. With pleasure he rolled the substance around his mouth, savoring the flavor and swallowing everything that arrived. He never understood the why of it, really. He had tasted his own cum before, lots of times, but to have it coming from his friend made it all the more special for some reason. Jesse didn't care about why though, he was just glad to get it once again, as if it were something long lost.

Jesse finally sighed when nothing more was being milked out, but he stayed where he was, just resting, letting Noah's softening tool just hang within his lips. Surprisingly, he was rewarded with another drop that seeped out, which he gladly licked away and sucked up, before finally pulling away. Before coming out of the covers, he nuzzled into the pubes and around the other areas of the crotch, and even proceeded further down, taking first one and then the other testicle in his lips and tonguing them before pulling away. The musky scent was the most profound there, and so he stayed, enjoying breathing it in for a moment before sighing again.

When his head reappeared outside of the covers, he almost laughed when he saw Noah, lying there oddly positioned against the pillow and bearing a wild-eyed grin. Instead, however, he leaned in and kissed his friend again, pushing his tongue inside quickly and sharing another intimate moment with Noah before pulling back. He observed the peaceful expression that met him. "You look like you're really happy," he finally whispered. "You must have gotten laid or something tonight," he added with a grin, to which his friend nodded.

"That was incredible, and if that's what getting laid is like then… wow!" Noah paused, blushing slightly. "I'm just happy because you're here. Besides… How can I not be happy tonight, after getting one hell-of-a-hand-job, then followed by one of the best blow jobs I've ever had? And believe me, you give me some of the best!"

"It could be you're just saying that because I'm the only one who's ever given you a blow job, though!" Jesse teased. "Who knows? Girls might give better ones!"

Noah shook his head. "No way! No, eff-fucking-way!" he whispered, biting Jesse's ear lobe.

Jesse giggled but then pulled back so he could stare into his friend's eyes once more. "I wanted to do it the first time tonight, you know. Just so you wouldn't lose all that gunk, but… I knew I couldn't, or at least shouldn't." He saw the nod, before turning to glance over the edge of the bed again. He could only make out the faint outline in the floor, but the continued alternations of deep breathing and snoring left no question to the fact his brother had slept through it all. Pulling back, he found Noah sliding up close to him again, but pushing him to turn away into the opposite direction. Jesse complied, but immediately found himself grabbed and pulled back again. Quietly, neatly… and with the most profound of connections, the two spooned together with Jesse's butt snuggling back against Noah's groin, and the soft member that was now there gently working its way to nestle between his cheeks.

"Don't worry, I promise not to poke you," Noah whispered into his best friend's ear, before sucking on the lobe once more.

"I wouldn't care, Noah. Honest, if you tried to poke me, I'd probably just slide back even tighter," Jesse whispered. He felt the embrace grip him tighter, but when it finally eased off, he purposefully rolled onto his back again so he could talk unhindered. "You understand what I mean, right? We never talk about that part of sex, mostly because I'm… well, I'm not sure if I'm ready to go that far right now. But… just so you know, if I did, and you wanted to do it too, then… you're the one I would want to do it with, bro. I mean... I trust you. I need you… I love you."

It was everything Noah could do to keep from crying just then, but as he held his friend, he reeled him back in. He didn't trust his voice just then, but the tears that escaped and dripped down onto Jesse's neck were sincere. When he did feel like he could speak again, he raised up and placed his head next to his friend's ear. Through the shadows and darkness that surrounded them, Jesse could not help but hear the emotion behind his friend's next words. "Same here, Jess. I feel the exact same way. If we ever want to do it, then yeah… you're my bro, through and through. I'd give my virgin ass up to you any day. But - only if we both want to."

Jesse smiled. "I think for now I'd settle if you just let me bite your butt sometime," he whispered, before cupping the side of Noah's face. "You know, that's really not worth crying about, Noah," he whispered.

"Maybe not," Noah agreed hoarsely. "But what you said after that was. You know I trust you too, and that I need you with me now, to keep me sane and … and not go crazy sometimes. But it's also because that's how much I feel for you inside. It's because I love you, too."

Jesse embraced him again, but then giggled after a moment. "Do you realize how much we're all sounding like… like… I don't know, like people do in the movies and everything?"

Noah giggled too, understanding the implied sentiment. "Ah, fuck… I don't care, Jesse. It's Christmas! We can be as mushy as we want to right now, alright?"

"Oh yeah," Jesse agreed. "Most definitely!"

They lay in silence then, but before long Jesse detected the familiar deep rhythm that changed in his friend's breathing. Smiling to himself, and already exhausted, he closed his eyes and followed him into a deep, peaceful slumber.

Late that evening, Jim Hunt received a call from one of his deputies, at which he pulled on his coat and left the house to talk outside. Pete watched him curiously, wondering if that was something common, but if Martha thought it was anything out of the ordinary, she didn't show it. She had just had the teen finish retrieving two folding tables from storage above the garage, and then clean them, before setting them into corners of the dining room. She explained to him that one would be used to place the various desserts on for serving, but the other would be reserved for the smaller children so that they could have a place to sit and enjoy their meal with everyone else. Pete noted the table was rather larger than most he had seen. With its double-leaf insertions, it could easily seat ten people, which in his eyes was impressive.

Although Pete had only been in the house a few hours, he already saw that life here was totally different from anything he had experienced in the past. Martha Hunt kept a tidy residence, where everything inside had its place, and each room was vacuumed, dusted and basically clutter free. None of the furnishings were fancy, by any means, but there was a mixture of both old and new, which was more of a reflection of the couple's aging years. The teenager had been in the homes of some of his friends before, and although many failed to be ship-shape, most were maintained in an orderly fashion – certainly more so than Pete and his father ever invested in their own place. Not only did the Sheriff's wife keep a neat household, but her demeanor seemed to be both warmly embracing and relaxed. He had never met the woman before, but within minutes of his arrival, he could see her outgoing personality was exceptional.

Martha Hunt had smiled and welcomed the teen happily, telling him she was thrilled that he had decided to come along and give her a hand. At first, he had his doubts, those along the lines of 'what does she think I can do?', but as they spent more time together, his reservations began to disappear. After the Sheriff had disappeared for a time, the teenager and Martha sat down for a few minutes, exchanging idle conversation, letting the woman get a feel and learn more about him. Pete didn't mind, really, as she seemed genuinely interested, and the way she spoke to him wasn't like he was some vagrant, lost soul being parked somewhere out of the way. Instead, he found himself warming to her because she spoke with him like an equal, and with a great deal of respect – something Pete had not experienced in quite some time. For some reason, the impact that made upon the teen ended up causing him to relax and return to her an equal courtesy. Afterwards, the two had spent the evening together, performing various tasks that ranged from cooking and baking, to light cleaning – though the latter he questioned whether it was even required. Jim had brought in leftovers from the day's lunch, which the trio eventually feasted on, saving the need for any actual meal preparation that evening.

Another remarkable moment occurred when Pete was shown to the room where he would stay over the next few days. As he entered, he had outright pulled up short with surprise. From what the Sheriff had informed him earlier, he expected it to be a room fashioned after that of a girl's preferences. In glancing about, a certain aspect of that description was true: the walls were indeed a pale yellow in color, and the hard-wood floor was covered with a large, bright sandy-colored rug. Those two fundamentals alone certainly lent themselves to a more feminine feel, but the room itself was far from being a 'girlie-like' place. The walls were adorned with various photos and décor that were very gender neutral, and the furniture was styled after that of weathered barnwood.

More interesting to note was that, in the far corner from where he stood, an antique-looking gun cabinet was placed, housing what appeared to be a couple of guns inside its glass encasement. He nervously walked over to observe them closer, and with interest he reached out to test the glass door, which opened with no resistance. Looking up in surprise, he saw the Sheriff observing him from the entrance with a smug expression.

"Don't worry, there's no ammunition in there," the man announced, slightly amused.

Sheepishly, Pete closed and latched the cabinet's door back in place. "I'm sorry, I was just… well…"

Jim Hunt laughed, before crossing the floor to stand by his side. "Let me guess: the thought probably occurred to you to wonder why in the world we, or rather I, would put you up in a room that has weapons in it, hmm? Especially since you're a stranger, for the most part anyway, right?" When the teen blushed, the man's expression became gentler as he considered. "Well, I can actually think of a couple of reasons, really. One, those old guns are antiques more than anything else, just collectibles I've come across and acquired over the years. I like to keep them in this thing, an old specialized cabinet handed down to me from my parents years ago. My Dad was an avid gun collector, see. Me, I don't get into it like some, but… I do keep what I have cleaned up, and well-oiled for the most part. They're still usable, but I don't think either of them have been fired in a long, long time. Another reason is, like I said, I don't keep any ammunition close by, and anyway, if you look closely, you'll see that they each have trigger locks installed in them. That way, if any of the grandkids were to get one out perchance, even for curiosity's sake, they'd still be more-or-less unusable."

Pete, both impressed and interested, leaned in and took a closer look once again before nodding in agreement. "Yeah, I can see what you mean. That would keep them safe from most anyone, at least." He hesitantly glanced at the man. "Would it be okay if I, like, got one of them out?"

"Sure, go ahead," Jim answered, this time reaching out and pulling the cabinet door open himself. For the next few minutes, Pete extracted each gun and felt it, weighing it in his hands and then pulling it up to his shoulder to look down the sights of the barrel. "Now, those sights you're seeing there aren't made like most rifles and guns are these days, which gives you a hint to how old the guns actually are. You see, back in the older days you had to practice lining things up, and then adjusting your point-of-view, based on how many yards away your target is."

"I… I wouldn't know, really," Pete said, placing the last of the two rifles back into the case and closing the cabinet for yet a second time. "I've never held a rifle before now. Dad never owned one, as far as I knew. He did have some compound bows though. You know, those types that take a lot of muscle to draw back on them and everything, but I wasn't allowed to touch them, really. I did try it once, but it was too big for me, and I couldn't pull it back very far." Pete stepped back from the cabinet. "I did think it was pretty cool, though."

Jim Hunt suddenly broke into a wide grin. "You don't say? Well, why don't you set your things down for a minute and follow me," he announced and, after Pete complied, he curiously followed the man out of the room. As he was led through the house, they passed through the kitchen and into the back porch. There, on the wall above a large chest freezer, hung another sportsman's rack, but this one held three archery bows, one of which was a compound that looked familiar to the teen. To his surprise, the Sheriff walked over and picked it up from the rack, before handing it over to him. "Was it something like this one, by chance?"

Pete grinned, before slowly taking the device and inspecting it with appreciation. "Yeah, very much like this… except Dad's was older, I think. A 'Bear' brand, too. I remember it because the name seemed kind of strange to me and all, and it had a funny logo on it."

Jim nodded. "It probably was. Those were pretty popular years ago. That one is a Diamond, given to me by my brother and his wife for Christmas a few years back. He and I used to shoot arrows a lot when we were growing up as teenagers. Back when they first started becoming more popular, he even got into a couple of local competitions. He won a couple of them too, if I remember right." Pete nodded before handing the bow back to the man. "Tell you what, while you're here you can give it a try, if you like. My only condition, is that you promise to make sure no one is in the way, especially the kids. There's a shed out behind the garage, with some bales of straw in it that you can use. Set it all up on the far side though, so you'll not be aiming toward the house. I think that way should be fairly safe. Be mindful of Justin, too – my grandson. He's 13, and he loves getting these things out, too, which is perfectly fine. He could probably show you a thing or two about how to shoot them, too, if you need it."

Pete listened, but then frowned. He observed the man for several seconds before speaking again. "I don't… I don't get it," he finally said, shaking his head.

"Don't get what?" Jim asked.

"Well… for one thing, why are you being so nice to me? I mean… I – I don't know… it's just…" The teen finally fell silent, perplexed and unable to voice the mixed emotions he was experiencing.

"Believe me, son, I can be a pretty big old grizzly bear when I need to be," the man mused before leaning back against the doorway. When he settled, he looked the kid over and laughed, but then shrugged. "Well, why not? I don't reckon you're some kind of two-timing hardened criminal, are you?" When the man noted the teen's reaction to that statement, capped by pure puzzlement, he paused. "Okay, not the best of jokes, I get it. Still, perhaps that's it then, you reckon? Listen, just face it: so far, you haven't shown me any reason not to be nice, have you? Other than being the tenth-grade bad-ass up there at school, what is there for me to really worry about, hmm? You're just as human, I daresay, as anybody else, I'd think."

"But, I'm not just anybody else. How can I be? I mean, I… you guys arrested me that day, and… and I ran. I… I escaped from your deputies, and… and I- I've stolen, and…" When Pete didn't continue, the man regarded him curiously, folding his hands across his chest.

"Well, I thought we had been through most of this already this morning, but I guess we didn't get it all out in the open, did we?" the man stated kindly. "Yes, I know. I know all those things, and probably even more than you realize, but - do you see me worrying about it? You know, I don't take incidents like that lightly young man, but like all things in life, I happen to believe everything generally occurs for one reason or another, good or bad. We don't always take everything we see at face value, either. You see, one of my jobs is to keep an open mind on everything that happens in this county. I like to think perhaps one of the reasons I've remained the Sheriff for this long, is because I try to always look at the bigger picture. Keeping a perspective means seeing not only what a person does when stuff happens, but also what may have led up to those incidents or events."

"So, let's talk about them for a moment. Yes, you escaped custody on us that morning - but considering those two boys of mine pulled into that quick-mart and left you unattended like they did – well, I can't say that was a very smart thing to do, can you? They got a proper ass-chewing for their negligence, for sure, but… you took off when you saw an opportunity, probably scared as a jack-rabbit, or worse. Not the smartest of moves in my opinion, but I think I understood why. Then there's that night we tried to hunt you down, remember that? Someone spotted you, down near Mesker's field off old Timberline road, I think."

Pete frowned. "Yeah, I remember. You almost got me, too. If I hadn't found one of those paths leading back into the forest, well…"

"I thought as much. Then a few nights later, we went through it all again. Even though I had a large party of people that night, I knew there was no way we could have continued back through that swamp in the dark. We did try though, somewhat at least, but it was fruitless. Anyway, about the stealing: I admit, you could have done worse… a lot worse, in fact. I got reports of break-ins and food missing from all sorts of places, and it didn't take me long to figure out it was probably you. One couple even admitted to having some money stashed in the pantry, but it didn't get touched – just some cans of food, more or less."

Pete briefly became thoughtful, before blushing. "Th- yeah, that was me, I remember it…" he whispered.

Jim Hunt smiled. "You know, I can imagine, a person on the run like you were, starving and half-scared out of his shits, resorting to stunts like that in order to stay alive. Leaving the money was confusing for a bit, I think, but nonetheless it said something about character and all. It's still a crime, mind you, to steal anything - but it's one of the few that was at least understandable to someone going hungry. I doubt any judge would throw the book at you for it."

Jim then turned slightly, thinking carefully as he relaxed. "Then, there's that whole mess of you turning yourself in. I admit it, I was ready to lay it on you pretty heavy son. Because by that time, the scenarios kept changing, but some of them just didn't jive, they didn't fit, see? And, for lack of a better expression, you kept surprising me. Think about it: for all we could determine, you had crossed a line with terroristic threatening, wanton endangerment, destruction of property – and others, all because of this vendetta of yours. A vendetta we believed you were stubbornly holding on to against that McAllister kid and his friend. In fact, I think that was the worst of your real crimes, and face it for what it was: being a bully is one thing, but what happened to that boy went far beyond bullying. I was ready to pull out all the stops when that happened, because at that time, I believed you had found that line and crossed it. You see? I swore if I found you, I'd make you wish you'd never messed with anyone again if I could, just to get you to leave the kid and his family alone."

"But… I… I mean…" Pete started, feeling panicky again for some reason as his stomach begin to sink. Jim Hunt, however, lowered his voice.

"Like I said though, the thing is you surprised the hell out of me and a lot of other people. Harland said he almost peed in his pants when he read your note that morning. If that's not enough for you, he practically crapped when you told him you wanted to turn yourself in. That got Harland first, and then a lot of others - including me - to start thinking about things and not jumping to conclusions too quickly. Even those two men, McAllister's and Cook's fathers, told me they felt there was something different about you. Don't you see? Nobody, including myself, saw the boy in you that we expected to find. Something was different, and now thank goodness, we all know why."

"Then, to beat it all, you told me about how those old water pipes could have been busted by someone else. Turns out, I checked in with my predecessor and he recalled arresting a pair of kids from the high school some years back, for the exact same reason. With his help then I looked it all up, and you know, yep - the timing worked out to be consistent with what you hinted to me. So, it looks like you may be off the hook for that one completely, other than being in the wrong place, with the wrong people, at the wrong time."

Pete fell silent, thinking through those scenarios carefully. He had no idea of what had happened with the water pipes short of what he'd been told, but he nodded slowly when a realization suddenly hit him. "I do remember that night, getting back to camp and… and one of Dad's weirdos was sitting there, warming up by a fire. I remember thinking it was kind of funny and all, because I figured he must have been running or something. But he looked like he was drying out and warming up, now that I think about it."

"I see…" Sheriff Hunt paused, making a mental note regarding this uncovered fact before he continued. "Well, I guess there's just one more part to this you need to understand son, and it may be the most important of them all." He watched Pete turn his attention back to the man, and Jim hesitated. In the light of the room, where he stood and how he presented himself, the boy before him certainly looked and felt different in some way than his old self, reaffirming what he and Martha had already sensed. "You see, I've been watching you up close now these last few days, as also have my my deputies. Badass or not, I get the impression there's a little something more with you. Your father, forgive me, but there's no sense hiding it - the man was a jackass. I mean, you probably don't even know how many times he's been through my jail and hauled up before the judge over the years. It has been a lot, I can tell you. I've also heard a lot of stories regarding the way he treated your mother. So, truth be told, it wouldn't surprise me one bit that he neglected you as much as I'm beginning to believe now."

Pete stood, looking dumbfounded. "But… well, I guess, but…"

"Believe it or not, you have one job to do, right now, while you're staying here - and that is to take it easy and relax. Try to enjoy something I doubt you've ever had a real opportunity to appreciate before. Seriously, I had a long talk yesterday with Martha. She is fully aware of who you are and what your background is like, and she understands why I invited and brought you here. Believe me when I tell you, she is not one to take in a stranger on a whim - especially with this being Christmas weekend, and with us having all our young'uns coming together. When we talked, however, she understood like I do, that you needed something good, perhaps something at least half-way pure in your life, to get you away from that hell hole you were living in. Now, I'm not saying we have the purest of homesteads, not by far, but compared to what you had before? It's simple, really. We both felt you needed a safe place to hole up for a few days, you see. Not that you're in any real danger, but… like I've already told you, we can't let you go back to the life you had before. That is no way to live son, see? So, like I said, she may seem like it, but she's really no softie… no siree! But for you though, she was all for it. Understand? You're here because you needed somewhere to be safe, and because, well, perhaps I consider myself a pretty good judge of character." Jim Hunt's thin smile met the teenager evenly. "I could dare you to prove me wrong, really, but I've already told you - I'm seriously not worried about it. I know you'll keep your word."

"But… why? Nobody else has ever… I mean, would ever…" Pete's voice had fallen to just above a whisper, the confusion more evident now than ever before.

Before Jim could reply, however, it was Martha who suddenly appeared, stepping through the doorway from the kitchen. Standing beside her husband, the woman observed the teenager with a kind expression. "Because of that very reason, honey. We know what it's like - nobody ever gave you the time of day much before, right? Well, that's not your fault. The way I figure it, it's more of their loss than yours. Listen, you're here because of what Jim just told you, and believe it or not, you're our guest. Um, maybe one who is going to be helping me out quite a bit tomorrow, but still a guest nonetheless! Unless you intend to prove to us you can't be trusted otherwise, then I suggest you try to enjoy it for a little while. There is no hidden agenda here, no one is lurking in the shadows to snap at you or drag you away, alright? Just accept the fact that we're two old crows, people who felt it would be okay for you to spend the holidays with us and our family. That is not something you need to worry about though, alright? We've got this, and you do too, as long as you behave, and I'll tell you that I agree with Jim – you don't seem the type not to. We'll all be fine. Otherwise, I'll be taking Jim out behind that old shed and giving him a good switch'in!"

Martha added the last with a smile, intending to disarm the boy, as the remark brought a chuckle from her husband. Although Jim shook his head, both he and his wife were relieved to see Pete finally smile. Stepping forward, she took the teenager by his hand. "If something feels odd to you, then… just try to look past it all for now, okay? All we're trying to do is make you feel welcomed, but we know that won't succeed unless you're willing to accept it. Besides, we figure if we do succeed, then you won't necessarily try to run away on us, or wake us up in the dead of night, ready to bludgeon us in our bed!"

Pete finally laughed at that thought as he looked into her eyes. He was really warming to this woman. "Far from it, I think," he muttered, then accepted as she placed an arm around his back and gently steered him toward the kitchen. As they approached her husband, however, he purposefully stopped. "I… thank you. I mean, just… thanks. For everything."

"No problem, kiddo," the man nodded and moved out of the way.

"Good," Martha announced, before continuing on. "Now, if you will, there are two folding tables I need next, out above the garage I think, for you two to find and bring in here…"

Pete suddenly snapped back to the present when he observed the Sheriff entering the house again, all the while putting his cell phone back into his pocket. Pete was about to ask if all was okay, but glancing up and seeing him standing there, the Sheriff simply shook his head, as if saying 'now is not the time.' The man crossed to the sink and kissed his wife on the cheek before whispering something into her ear, to which she nodded. Then without another word, the man left. The teen crossed the floor to watch from the window as the man quickly backed his car out the driveway. "Does that, like… happen a lot?"

Martha approached the teenager and observed her husband's departure with him. "Sometimes, I guess. It's usually something important though, when he takes off like that. Not necessarily dangerous, but at least urgent." She sighed. "Being the man that he is and all, he's the boss, as some of them say. That is the life you get used to I guess, as it comes with the job of being the Sheriff, more or less." She looked around the kitchen then, and began removing her apron. "You know what? I'm thinking we've accomplished enough today. Why don't we just go ahead and turn in a little early, hmm? By the way, we don't have a TV in the other bedrooms, but you're welcome to stay up and use that one in the living room. As for me, I've got some last-minute ironing I'm going to do before I turn in."

Pete nodded, then regarded the woman and did something that surprised even himself. "Mrs. Hunt? I meant what I said. Thanks, for what you said earlier, and for… for letting me come. It really does feel good. A little strange maybe, but kind of good."

The woman turned to him, her smile accepting. "Then remember what we suggested, hmm? Just be yourself, but be your good self, alright? Everything will be fine in the end, you'll see."

As he turned into his usual parking space at the station, Jim Hunt quickly switched off the engine and made to step out. He could see where along on one side of the building a transportation van, along with two dark-colored SUVs, was parked at the lower level. That suited him just fine, as he assumed it was the FBI finally arriving to take charge of the prisoners. The text that had been sent earlier that morning indicated it would be late afternoon, but Jim figured the weather had delayed their travel somewhat. What was strange, however, is that one of his deputies had called, telling him that one of the prisoners refused to leave the building without first having a word with the Sheriff. Normally, the man wouldn't consider any person under arrest, having the right to make such an outright request, but when the man indicated it had to do with Pete Jr., Jim Hunt had paused. With much of Pete's story now out, he couldn't imagine what else there was that needed to be said. On the pure chance it could be important, however, the federal men indicated they could wait a short period if the Sheriff wanted to see it through. That was when Jim left the house and made the short journey as quickly as he could.

Entering the station, Jim Hunt immediately turned to his left and descended a stairwell to the lower level. Stepping through the double doors at the bottom, he was quickly intercepted by his deputy, Phil Turner. "Hey, Boss. He's down here to the right, back in the booking and staging pen," the deputy announced, falling into step beside him.

"Did he indicate anything at all regarding what this is all about?" Jim asked.

"Nothing boss, no more than what I told you on the phone. He put up a considerable resistance when he was being pushed out with the others, which is what initially got my attention. But then he told us he needed to talk to you first, and then told us why, that's when I called you. He said it would be very worth our while," Phil explained as they rounded a corner. "I didn't, I mean… Sorry boss, I wasn't quite sure of what to do otherwise."

"That's fine, don't worry about it," Jim announced as they rounded a corner. The two then entered a room where most detainees were brought in to be booked and processed. There were two distinct areas, divided by a reinforced, bullet-proof partition. On the other side of the barrier, the Sheriff saw the man in question seated at the end of a long bench, isolated away from the men standing guard. He was hunched over with both elbows resting upon his knees, and with his head bowed low. If he made any note of the Sheriff having entered the room, he didn't show it, as he seemed oblivious to the world around him. Jim noted there was no sign of the other prisoners, so he approached the gate and stepped through to the other side. Two federal officers standing nearby nodded in his direction, which he acknowledged in kind, before turning in the entryway to his deputy. "Keep an eye out on me, just in case," he remarked guardedly. Phil nodded and took up a position just inside the gate's doorframe, ready to react in an instant.

Jim Hunt approached the prisoner cautiously, although he was surprised to see who was sitting there. The Sheriff took up a position on the same bench, not far away from where the man sat. When nothing was said at first, he folded his arms. "Alright, you've got my attention, Walter. What's this all about?" he said simply, with a neutral tone.

Walter Bushong, a.k.a. John Bush as they had first encountered and acquainted themselves, finally looked up at the man before sitting. "About time you got here," the man announced with a sneer. "You'd think you could have walked faster than it took you to drive in."

The Sheriff looked pointedly at the man before replying, his own tone turning low. "I don't think it matters, does it? But if you want to take potshots with that kind of attitude, then hey - I'd just as soon be rid of your sorry ass than sit here. So, one last time… what the hell do you want?"

Walter glanced at the man, and then visibly relented. "Alright, alright… keep your shirt on, old man." He paused briefly before he continued. "I overheard one of your deputies this morning, saying you got Pete senior's kid here. Is that true? You fellas finally found him and all?"

Jim Hunt considered, briefly, simply standing up and walking out. It occurred to him though, that acknowledging what was pretty much common knowledge by then, wouldn't necessarily hurt anyone, so he decided to play along. "Maybe. What's it to you?"

Walter turned a wary eye toward the man. "It might mean quite a bit, for his sake." He regarded the Sheriff briefly before sighing deeply. "Look mister, what about we play a game, just you and me. For the next five minutes, you tell me the truth, and I'll shoot straight with you in return, regarding the boy. Afterwards, I give my word that I'll be on my best behavior, and you can be rid of us all afterwards. Like I told that deputy over there, I think it'll be worth your while, but not if we're going to trade barbs all night. So, how about it? Is five minutes agreeable?"

Observing the man, the Sheriff's curiosity got the best of him. "Alright, I'm game, as long as you don't start some kind of stupid foolishness. Yes, Pete Haskell Junior, or more correctly, Pete Haskell the Third, has been found and is now under our care."

"Good," Walter announced, his voice sounding surprisingly relieved. "I was hoping you would get him before it was too late. That boy has had a rough go of it ever since he escaped your boys. Not the brightest bulb in the lighting department though… but, he's not a bad kid. Just kind of slow sometimes."

Jim Hunt uncrossed his arms and, in a stance of ease, hiked his foot to sit cross-legged on the bench. "I think I can agree with you, for the most part."

"There are a few things you probably need to know about, if you don't know them already. One, it was our job to look after the kid. That is, his old man promised that there would be hell to pay, see, if we didn't look after him all this time, ever since senior got sent to the pen."

"Why is that?" Jim asked.

"Shit, if I know! I think the old man seemed to worry that the kid might know too much about us, if he got caught. That's how the rest of us reasoned it out, at least. The reality is though, that boy probably doesn't know jack shit. He was never around when we were at the house much, always out getting in trouble of his own, or spending time with those stupid assholes he thought of as being friends." Suddenly, Walter sat forward, catching Phil's attention immediately. When he only seemed to stretch, however, the Sheriff waved his deputy back. The reaction and following signal did not go unnoticed, causing the man to laugh once again. "Seriously, you think I'm going to bust your head or something old man?" He chuckled again.

"Not really, but you can never be too careful in this line of work." Studying the man, Jim raised an eyebrow. "Why does any of this mean so much to you?"

Walter shrugged. "I'd like to say it doesn't, but in a manner of speaking, I think all the boys here want to make sure the kid comes out of this clean. I'm not saying he's any kind of an angel, hell no, but to borrow another metaphor, he's not the sharpest tool in the shed. He's seriously stubborn, and he can be a handful at times, but… we made it a point long ago to minimize whatever we did around him. To his credit, the kid wanted nothing to do with us or the drugs – mostly because he saw a few people here and there get screwed up so badly from them. Damned idiot wouldn't even take over-the-counter crap, unless it was Tylenol or something for a headache. That's my point here – whatever you think you have on him, or may have on him… reconsider it. He's had a tough life, with no one really looking out for him as it is. He's been handed off to first one, and then another of us for months at a time. He's been yelled at, abused, screwed over, even porked – although, that one none of us knew about until long after it happened."

"You mean, assaulted," Jim Hunt said quietly.

"As in molested, yes. In truth, some of us suspected it, but the old man came down hard on him for a while. We didn't figure out the details until much later, see. I can tell you this much, too: the Boss wasn't a happy man then – probably one of the few times I ever saw him get really worked up over something… and I'm not talking about Pete Senior, either. You don't want to get on Abe's bad side with something like that. He's more likely to put a bullet through your head than have to deal with you for that. That someone though, he's one son-of-a-bitch that's never going to do anything like that again, to anyone. You can take it to the bank, if you want," the prisoner said smugly.

Jim Hunt frowned. "Not from what I gathered. As I understood it, the perpetrator is still out there in the van, waiting for you now."

Walter turned to him and smiled sadistically. "Oh, we know – trust us, we know all about it. But… also believe me when I tell you that jack-head is never, ever going to fuck anyone again for the rest of his life - period." The statement held a note of finality to it, which caused the Sheriff to pause and wonder exactly what he was being told. The man fell silent though, and afterwards there was little doubt in Jim's mind that he probably, really didn't want to know about it. Disturbing as it was, he let it go.

Sitting up straight again, Walter spoke again. "Is there anything you need to know, specifically, regarding the kid? I can tell you, he stayed with us on the boat a few nights after he escaped, but then he got into an argument with one of the fellas and got his ass kicked off. What he did outside of that, I don't think any of us really knows. All the time while he did stay with us, he mouthed off about some kid he thought was gay, and who had made life miserable for him in one way or another. Another one of us took it upon himself to have some fun then, but it was mostly just a bunch of juvenile mischief, more or less. Otherwise, none of us ever saw the kid that much, except before all that went down and we'd hole up at the house for a spell."

"Was it that Edwards fella who kept breaking off the water faucets? Contrary to what you may think, that's not exactly what I'd consider being a bunch of mischief, but… I agree, it has more of a school-yard ring to it than anything else," Jim Hunt stated, trying to fish for details.

"I won't say who it was or not, officially. I mean, hell man, that has nothing to do with the kid, right? But… I will say that you've got the right line of thinking," Walter announced emotionlessly. "It certainly wasn't the kid, that much I'll attest to."

There was a pause as Jim Hunt became thoughtful, but then suddenly spoke up again. "The night at the gym, at the end of the ball game."

Walter fell quiet momentarily before looking up. "That… was, well, a couple of the boys who had been drinking, and let things get out of hand. I wasn't there, so I can't give you a lot of details, but the way I understood it, they spotted the kid with the team, and then someone called Pete and asked him if he wanted to have some fun. If I heard right, they saw him leave the gym earlier. Got spooked or something, I guess."

"How did they call him?" Jim asked, curiously.

"When he stayed on the boat, one of the guys gave him an old wicker that still had some minutes left on it. Wicker as in a prepaid phone, and told him to keep it near in case someone needed to reach out to him," Walter explained. "I assumed that was it, at least, but if not, then I have no other idea." He paused for a second, and then scoffed. "Like I said, take a few half drunks, who hate fairies with a passion – like the most of us – and, well, that night got way out of hand. I heard the kid even left after getting belted, chickening out. Of course, that wasn't being chicken, given what they were doing, but still, you know what I'm saying."

Inwardly, Jim Hunt sighed with relief. When the two fell silent for a moment, he finally nodded in acceptance, realizing that the interview had run its course and was coming to a close. Eventually he climbed to his feet slowly, but then turned to address the man one last time. Surprisingly, he extended his hand. The man before him, for whatever his crimes were in the past, present or future, he at least had a sense of character about him that wasn't totally lost. That earned something or another, and the handshake was the best gesture the Sheriff had to offer in that moment. As the prisoner rose to his feet, he accepted the offered handshake warmly. "I'll tell you," Jim spoke again. "That I was already aware of parts of this, but not quite all of it. Thank you for clarifying it for the better, and certainly for his sake. Tell your 'boys' that you have my word. I'll personally see to it, this time around, that the boy does not slip through the cracks like he did before. He'll be well cared for, at least as best that anyone of us around here can provide."

Walter smiled, and for some reason, a sense of relief could be felt emanating from the man. "Believe it or not, I'm sure you will. I've always thought you to be a decent man of your word, unlike a lot of other people we've encountered over the years. When dealing with the bunch of us, this is one side of the fence the kid doesn't need to be messed up in. It's like I told you, pure and simple: the kid needs a break. We all agreed long ago that, if something like this should ever happen, one of us needed to make sure he stayed clean of it. That's why I'm here now, speaking to you, with as few ears around us as possible."

Both of Jim's eyebrows arched high. "You got elected, huh? Even your big boss man, Gallardo?"

Walter grunted. "Abe couldn't care less really, as he has much bigger fish to fry, to be frank. He's one of those who doesn't have any need to care about people, especially those he just ups and steps on. The rest of us though, for the most part, agreed that life could get a lot tougher from here on out for the kid - unless someone steps up. So yeah, that's me - I'm the one stepping up. In a way, that's why I was camping out back there, in that mess like I was, for so long. But don't get any fancy idea - I will give you my word and answer anything regarding the boy, on anything I can that you need to know. I'll do it behind the scenes and unofficially, but I draw the line there. Anything else you try to pry out of me, you'll fail. I'm saying nothing - period. Hopefully, unofficially at least, you understand the significance of what that means. My ass is on the line here, otherwise, and let's be honest – I'm quite attached to it as it is, and do NOT need someone ragging it! You get my drift?"

"Yes, unfortunate, but I do," Jim replied, nodding. "Then, if nothing else, let me wish good luck to you." The other man nodded and then turned around. The Sheriff then waved for the two agents to come forward, who approached and then began escorting the man through the lockup. With another of Jim's deputies, they proceeded to disappear, and from the sounds that reached their ears, it seemed Walter had been loaded into the transfer van without issue. Jim had stood with his arms crossed the entire time, thinking about what he had just learned, staring at the man as he was led away. It wasn't until Phil approached that he was shaken from his reverie. "Everything alright, boss?"

Jim smiled. "Everything is just fine, and honestly, thank you for calling me. Just as he said, I think it was well worth the visit."

"You're welcome, boss. I'm just glad to be rid of the bunch finally."

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