The Storm That Turned the Tide

by Sean English

Chapter 33

The Turning of the Tide

"Sheesh, do we really have to have this many different colors of paint?" Noah asked in bewilderment.

Jesse sat back and laughed. Both boys had moved Noah's desk out and away from the wall, so that it could be used purposefully as a hobby table for assembling the rather large model Noah had received for Christmas. Scattered about nearby, on both the bed and the floor, were various collections of parts from the kit, some untouched and still attached to their plastic ribs. The main fuselage for the spacecraft's launch-tank, and its supporting pieces, lay upon the desk pushed to one side, while the assembly instructions, far more detailed than that of the average model, were spread out between the boys. The booklet detailed a large number of 'suggested' paints, alluding that their use would make the modeling effort resemble its real-life representation as closely as possible. There was no table or list of parts by category to be found, so the two boys had set about gathering them onto their own list and found the result to be staggering.

"The good thing is, you don't have to get all of them, you know," Jesse remarked, before sitting forward again. "You see, the modeling companies always do stuff like this, just so they can try and sell more paints. Then, by selling more paints, they get to make more money in the end. Sometimes it's worth it for people like us, but then other times, well… meh."

"Well, okay, but… how do you know what you need or don't need, then? Is there a way to like, determine what you have to use or not?" Noah asked, skeptically.

"Well, the first thing you do is get hold of a paint chart, okay? Something that sort of shows what each color is, so that you can then compare them next to each other, like on a same page," Jesse explained. "I used to have a poster that did that, but it got lost in the tornado. Come to think of it, I don't think I've seen one printed in a long time. We can probably find one online though, or at least find a website that does something similar. Anyway, with that you kind of get the idea of the basic colors you need for a project, see, and then you gauge whether or not you can mix other colors with them in order to achieve the one close to what they recommend. You won't always get it exact Noah, but you'll find it's pretty close by the time you finish it in the end."

Noah thought about that for a moment before finally acknowledging that it made sense. In the meantime, Jesse scooted his chair around to sit next to his friend, before plopping down with a dull thud. "So, think about it. Let's say we get a medium-sized bottle of dark orange-colored paint, like for the main fuselage, and use it as a base. If we mix a little bit of red and white with it, then we get a brownish, rust-like color. Get it? If we don't completely blend it, then you'll get a kind of weathering technique, too, which always looks nice on outdoor type stuff. Then here, the base around where the rockets attach, calls for two or three variations of a rich blue-like paint. So, if we have a dark blue to begin with, we can probably mix it with, I don't know, some white or gray paint to get slightly lighter shades and all, without having to spend a bunch of money for a color you won't be using but a very little of anyway."

A look of comprehension settled across Noah's features. "Ah, now I get it! So… some of these in this list here…" The teen paused to pick the list up that they had made and hold it between them. "They're just like variations of the basic colors, then. Almost like the way computer screens work – they use mixes of red, green and blue like that."

"Yep, exactly!" Jesse replied, seemingly pleased. "We do the same thing to get the different colors applied on a model. We don't have to start with primitive colors though, like a computer does with red, green and blue. See, some colors are already made for us, which is why I call them the base colors. Then, by mixing like I described, we can get varying shades and then voilà, there you have it! Like I said, they may not always be exact to what was originally intended, but they'll be close enough by the time you get done."

"Okay, cool. But… Jess, how do we figure out all the real colors then? And then… how do we figure out what I have to order and all?" Noah asked.

"It's not as hard as you think. So, look here again at the fuselage. The instructions suggest using a rusty-orange-like scheme, see? And the boosters get mostly light grey tones. Oh, and the shuttle itself, it's like a snow-white top with a dull, coal-like black for the bottom, right? So, right away, that says we need each of those colors for a kind of base to start off with. We'll get a spray paint for the bigger stuff, and then use bottles and brushes to create the others," Jesse explained.

"Oh," Noah responded, thinking, before glancing at their list they had made out. "Just, how many were on our list again?"

Jesse grunted and then counted them again, before both eyebrows rose. "Wow, I think I counted 68 in all! That is a LOT, believe me!"

"Are you kidding? Holy… uh… yeah!" Noah exclaimed, quickly lowering his voice when he realized he almost cursed. It was a good thing, too, as in less than a minute later, Allen poked his head through the open doorway leading from the room.

"So, how is it going in here?" the man asked pleasantly, before entering and walking over to the desk and whistling. "Whoa boy – that's quite a mess there! What skill level did it say on the box?"

"Level three," Jesse answered before he smirked. "It won't be all that hard, though." Noah glanced at him dubiously though, causing his friend to laugh. "That is, once Noah gets over the shock of it!"

Allen laughed as well. "Well, it's good to know we've got professional help here to assist big-britches then," the man remarked, causing Jesse to scoff. Seeing their list of paints, he picked it up to look it over. "Whew – and the bottles are, what, two-something each?"

"Yeah," Noah replied. "Jesse says we don't need them all, though. Something about we can just get a set of base colors, and then mix some of them down into the other shades they recommend."

"Now, THAT sounds like good, old-fashioned common sense," Allen replied with a nod, before handing the sheet back. "That's the way they create different colors of paint you buy for walls, houses or other structures, you know. I don't know how many bases there are, but you can take 20 or so, and combine them with white paint to get a whole smorgasbord of options."

Jesse nodded. "That's the idea, yep."

Allen laid the list back down and then addressed the two teens. "Okay, so you both know the deal. Don't burn the house down, keep the doors locked, and stay out of trouble. The big TV is all yours if you want it, but don't set the volume too loud. There's also a $20-bill on the refrigerator upstairs, for using whenever you two want to order a pizza, but be aware - it's party night. That means there are probably a LOT of people who will be ordering pizza see, so don't be surprised if it takes an hour or more before it gets here, alright? You might want to time it to order a little earlier, so it gets here when you want it."

"Sure, Dad, we understand," Noah replied. "What time do you think you and Mom will make it home?"

"Oh… somewhere after midnight and before six in the morning," Allen replied with a grin, chuckling as he watched his son roll his eyes. "Preferably a little while after midnight though, say around one or so."

"Okay, cool," his son replied. "We'll have the party mess cleaned up by then, for sure. And don't worry – all the strippers were booked up already, so no dancing girls will be around," Noah added, teasingly.

Allen chuckled, shaking his head as he turned to leave, but not without giving the boys one final reminder. "Seriously, boys… keep the doors locked. I don't really think anyone around here would get into mischief, but that doesn't mean it can't happen, alright? Some kids do crazy things these days, and well… You get the idea."

"Sure Dad, we will. Have a good time!" Noah reassured him as the man left the room. Seconds later they both heard footsteps ascending the stairs.

Noah glanced at his best friend then. "Okay, can we go ahead and figure out what I need to order for now? Maybe I can get Mom to put it in for me tomorrow, and have the paints here by sometime next week."

"Sure," Jesse replied. For the next half-hour, the two searched and sketched out each of the prime colors, while looking up the other more uncommon color descriptions online with their tablets. Noah was impressed to see his friend create a matrix on the paper, and grade each according to their coverage and use. When they finished, Jesse regarded his scheme carefully before nodding. "There, that will do for a first round, if not for all of it. The way I see it, you'll need six bases, one of which is a silver, chrome-like paint. That one you won't be able to mix down really at all, see, but that's okay. If we can, we'll use a spray paint for it, and then weather it a little at the end."

"What do you mean by weathering?" Noah asked.

"Oh, well… you see, if you want everything to look like it just came from a factory or something, like a new car does in a showroom, then you don't do anything. The paints are just fresh and all," Jesse explained. "Outdoor stuff though, like ships, planes and everything, they're exposed to weather and elements and all, so they never really look fresh or anything. In those cases, with certain parts and all, you can do light blemishing with the colors and everything, in order to make them lose some of that 'new' effect of being freshly painted and all. That's called weathering them down. Oh, and notice – of all the paints we listed, none of them are glossy or shiny, see? That helps it to look more realistic when we get done."

"Wow!" Noah's eyebrows rose, impressed again. "And… we're going to do some of that here, right?"

"Yeah, if you want to," Jesse replied, before studying his matrix again. "There are three… six, seven… uh, nine more colors here altogether, aside from the base colors, but we can just get smaller bottles for them… except the white. We'll use a lot of that one, I think. So, all in all, that shouldn't add up to more than $32-34, plus shipping and so forth. How does that sound?"

Noah nodded. "A lot better than a hundred! I can handle that much!"

Jesse suddenly appeared humbled. "Sorry, bro. To be honest, I- I didn't think about the paints and everything at first, and I know Dad didn't either when he gave the go-ahead to buy this."

"I don't mind, really," Noah replied, shrugging before he lowered his voice tentatively. "So, what does a model like this normally go for, anyway?"

"I think I saw one a few months ago, in a catalog or something somewhere, selling for around $100," Jesse replied. Seeing the look of surprised that met him, he hastened to add, "That isn't how much we paid though, Noah. Remember what Dad told you that night? The lady he works with came across it as being some kind of a special deal and all. Although Dad never told me exactly, I got the idea it was something around $60 or so." He smiled when he saw the look of relief that met him. "Like I've told you, though, I wouldn't have cared. I mean, I would have given a hundred or more, if I could have afforded it. I- I'm kind of sorry you got it this way, through my Dad instead of me directly, but… you're worth every penny of it, Noah."

It was Noah's turn to scoff. "That's not fair, though – and you know it."

"Yes, it is," Jesse argued, shaking his head. "Dad said so, and I agreed with him. Besides, remember that when it comes to this time of year, it's the thought that counts, and… well, you already know what I think of us," Jesse whispered.

Noah reached out and placed an arm around his friend's shoulders. "Yeah, I know, Jess," he whispered. "Just as much as I do, I'm sure." They stilled for a moment before his gaze fell across a plastic bag that Jesse had brought with him earlier and set upon the corner of the desk. "Okay, so… what's in the bag?"

"Oh!" Jesse exclaimed as if coming out of a trance. Blushing, he picked it up. "Sorry, I forgot about this…" Opening it, the teen extracted a package of modeling paint brushes, followed by plastic cement and super-fine sanding paper. In addition, he pulled out a can of spray paint and handed it to his friend. "This is the stuff Dad had at the store already, see, and this paint is kind of like a white primer. We can use it underneath some of the real paint so that everything starts off with a similar base. See, some of the parts here are cut with different colored plastics, like grey, black or white. Now that we've pulled all of these pieces out and grouped them, I don't think we'll have to worry about them all that much, but he included it anyway, just in case."

Noah nodded. "That's cool. So, how much do I owe for this?"

"Nothing," Jesse replied. "As he put it, it's 'on-the-house'. According to him, they don't sell a lot of this stuff anymore, so it kind of just sits back out of the way. Even if they did, there's only about five- or six-dollars' worth here, so not that much at all." He tossed the now empty bag itself into Noah's trash can, before opening his notebook to a new page. "Okay, we've got the matrix, so what say we transfer it into a list that your Mom can understand and order from." Seeing his friend nod, the two then began transferring the results of their research to the new sheet, along with quantity and type. Noah was once again impressed at how Jesse came up with the results, and at how easily he assembled the information onto the new page. When they finished, his friend studied the list for a short period before nodding. "That should be good enough. You and your Mom, or anyone for that matter, can go to Amazon or one of the hobby sites, and just put it all in. Like you said, if they have it in stock, they'll probably ship it out pretty quick. I always got mine in three to four days or so."

"Sounds good," Noah acknowledged.

Jesse once again surveyed the pieces on the desktop. "Come on, we can actually put the fuselage together, if you want. It will take it a while for the cement to set anyway, and we can also do the same for the cylinders to the booster rockets. Then, I say we put everything else back in the box until the paints come in." Noah nodded in agreement. The two boys then engaged themselves with the project, finding other parts along the way that Jesse identified could also be assembled.

So engrossed with their tasks, before both boys knew it, a couple of hours had passed. When Noah finally glanced up at the clock, he whistled. "Sheesh! I didn't know it was getting that late! No wonder my stomach is grumbling!"

Jesse laughed. "See? I told you, this kind of stuff is sort of addictive once you get into it. If you look, you can also see parts of the whole thing starting to take shape already!"

Noah nodded. "Too bad we can't just go ahead with some of the other pieces."

"Actually, we can," Jesse mused. "That is, if you don't care about the finish painting as much. All of this is up to you, really. It's kind of good to paint into some of the tight spaces though, before adding them into the larger structure. I know, you can't tell a whole lot about it right now, but when the whole thing is finished, you'll start to admire it more and everything. That's when you'll be really glad." He glanced around the room. "Normally, you could hang the shuttle from the ceiling and all, but since this one has the boosters and rockets, I figure you'll want to set it up somewhere, like, on your dresser, or a shelf or something."

"That's what I think I'll do, yeah. Maybe get a shelf for it on the wall over there somewhere," Noah answered, before stretching. "Okay, want to order our pizza now? There's some kind of holiday special going on, like two mediums for $15, I think."

Jesse nodded. "Sure, I guess… but, you do know I won't be able to eat a whole pizza… right?"

"Yeah, I know. I won't either, but Mom & Dad will probably dig into the leftovers tomorrow. Besides, the special is cheaper than getting a single large-sized one, so meh," Noah informed him as he picked up his cell phone. Moments later, he hung up after putting the order in. "Dad was right – they're saying it'll be about an hour or more before it gets delivered. They're supposed to text me when it's on the way."

Jesse grunted. "Being New Year's Eve, I guess that's to be expected." He took a turn stretching as his friend did then, his shirt rising to expose his abdomen, which Noah duly noted with an amused expression. He teasingly reached out and lightly poked his friend in the belly button, causing Jesse to rapidly bring his arms back down.

"Hey, now!" he laughed. "That tickles!" Jesse tried to return the favor, but their playful melee resulted in considerable shuffling and twisting about, eventually causing one of them to bump into the desk. When one of the assemblies they had just completed toppled over, they both finally stopped. "We better put this stuff away…" Jesse murmured, and his friend agreed.

Moments later, both boys finished and Noah announced he had to take a pee-break. Jesse watched his friend disappear into the bathroom, before he sat down on one of the bean bags and grabbed the TV remote. As he was flipping through the channels, he failed to take notice when Noah returned. The teen stealthily sneaked up beside Jesse and tackled him onto the floor, causing his guest to laugh out loud at first. At least, until he noticed his friend was wearing nothing but his briefs and a t-shirt. "Whoa…! Nice!" he exclaimed, pulling back and snapping the waistband from Noah's backside.

"Yeah, no kidding. You finally noticed," Noah breathed, before suddenly twisting and shifting until Jesse was pinned beneath him. With a sly grin, he then proceeded to undo his friend's belt and jeans, before grasping and removing his socks. Then, without a word, he reared back and took hold of each pant-leg and pulled. Easily enough, they gave way and were hauled free, as Jesse continued to giggle. Once completed, Noah was about to rejoin his friend and stretch out again, when he looked down and happened to notice something that caused both eyebrows to stretch upward. "Hey! When did you switch back?" Instead of the boxers which had become commonplace lately, Jesse was instead wearing what appeared to be a new pair of briefs.

"Last night, actually," Jesse replied quietly. "After we hung up, Benji went to the bathroom and I got ready for bed. When he came back, he asked me if I was going to continue wearing boxers, and we talked about it some. Then, I told him to get me a pair of briefs out and I would try them on again for the night. Turns out they didn't bother me at all anymore, so…"

Noah grinned. "That is so awesome! That means, well, it's another sign you're getting better," he whispered.

"Yeah, finally," Jesse agreed. "It helps, that's for sure." He ran a finger along the band that grasped at his right leg then, as if to pull the elastic back into place. Although elsewhere the garment seemed to fit normally, there was still a slight bulge filling out the crotch underneath.

Noah sank to his knees then and motioned for his friend to sit up. When his friend obeyed, Noah made a special effort to separate Jesse's sweatshirt from the t-shirt he wore underneath, before lifting it up. With arms stretched forward, the garment cleared the tips of Jesse's fingers and was tossed aside, before Noah took a moment to observe him peacefully. Disrobing each other was nothing new between them, but there was a change in the atmosphere around them both this time. With Benji away with friends his own age, and their parents either gone or accounted for elsewhere, there was no one expected to be back for hours. Though the TV remained on behind them with its volume rather low for the time being, neither paid it any attention as they focused on each other. For some teens, it would have just been a fun moment, possibly filled with euphoric frolicking or fooling around as desired. Not for these two, however. With the desk lamp now extinguished, the lighting around them was serene with a softened hue. Outside the lone bedroom window, there was nothing revealed in the darkness, except for that illuminated by the security light shining in the distance. Noah's room, although cool overall, wasn't uncomfortable for either of them, even in their now sparsely clad state. It was a norm almost for Noah, a reality he had always appreciated since the first night of moving into it. Jesse, once exposed to it the first night he had stayed with his now best friend, had grown to love it as well.

As Noah moved closer stretching out once again, Jesse stared into the eyes that observed him in return and smiled. His best friend was waiting for him to guide what would happen next, and once the teen realized it, he knew what he desired. Unlike the last few days, this time he had no reservations to hold him back. Reaching forward, he grasped Noah by his sides and pulled the teen on top of him across his lap and on his stomach. Once there, he lifted the band of the briefs, and stared briefly at Noah's butt inside, before popping the band back into place. Noah, laughing, squirmed to roll over and smirked at his friend, before reaching out. It was then both boys stretched until they were side by side, engulfed and sharing each other's warmth and more. As their bodies became as one, each pressed against the other while their arms enveloped to express their affection. Neither had inhibitions as both ground their groins together, all the while their legs tangled and wrapped to draw the other closer.

That moment stood out, it seemed, compared to others they had had before. Subconsciously, it was as if it was the ending of the year, and yet the beginning of a new one that drove them together as they were. Noah nuzzled into his friend's neck, breathing passionately. All the while, Jesse buried his own nose into his friend's shoulder, kissing softly in places that also led to his neck and then back again. Neither had spoken while putting the model away, but they didn't need to, really. It was as if they read the other's mind, and in turn spent those few precious seconds, enjoying the feeling of just being together. It was something each craved all by itself, and it underlined an act that separated what they were doing, or about to do, from just getting off. They loved each other, and had a complete feeling of trust and contentment within the other's arms. It wasn't the stirring in their loins that drove them, but instead the intimacy and passion they had come to feel since finding they shared something so similar that few in their age-group did. Taking his cue from Jesse, Noah finally pulled his head back slowly and started to kiss along Jesse's neck and shoulder, until he reversed direction and found his way up to the teen's earlobe. Once there, he quietly sucked it in and tongued it all over, before moving to other parts of his friend's ear. Jesse sighed as he slowly set his head back, turning and stretching so that his ear in Noah's direction could be reached without any hindrance. It tickled, but then it also felt inviting, and satisfyingly fun.

It didn't take long before Noah's lips started the short journey to Jesse's nose, which he found and kissed lightly and caused his friend to smile. Then without warning, Jesse jutted his chin forward and pushed upward until their lips met in full contact. How many times, before he and Noah had ever reached this point, had he dreamed of kissing another person, he couldn't count. Not only kissing, but doing it with no self-conscious awareness of himself being with another boy, attaching his lips firmly onto the other and being as mesmerized and awed by the magic that accompanied it. He lay there briefly before parting his lips, and finding Noah doing the same thing in return. The young-at-heart were susceptible to youthful feelings, something known as puppy love in many circles, but as Jesse started tentatively at first, then extended deeper into the open connection Noah gave him, he felt like it was something more. They both had deep feelings for one another – otherwise how could anyone explain why the desires that each brought could be satisfied so completely?

Jesse extended his hands downwards, both rubbing and caressing Noah's back and sides as he went, feeling the smooth, warm skin underneath, and curving perfectly in all the right places. Eventually the teen reached the waistband of his briefs, where he hesitated only slightly, to play and tease, but again Noah ignored him, instead focusing on their lips and what lay behind them. Jesse finally inserted both hands inside, before pushing further down until he held a buttock firmly in his grasp. He both kneaded and caressed the area, which stirred Noah to slow down and moan in response, before pushing his groin down even harder. The vibration that moan sent through their connection above, in their tongues and lips especially, conveyed an erotic trigger for Jesse. He instantly pressed their lips together harder, and pushed his tongue deeper into the open cavity, all the while squeezing and rubbing the firm buttocks below until Noah repeated it again.

It was then, as if on cue, Noah finally pulled back, sucking Jesse's bottom lip gently as they separated, before hovering and looking down at his best friend in the whole world. They stared at one another smiling again, followed by rubbing their noses a few times. Neither said a word to the other, knowing the other liked it just as much as they did themselves. In the silence that followed, however, both gradually began pressing their groins together more than ever, each making already engorged hard-ons rub and bump, as if in some sort of blind play behind the cloth of their underwear, all the while trying to mate in some way. It was Jesse who then made the first move, pushing Noah's briefs down first from behind, before moving to the sides and extending them further. Noah obliged by lifting himself upwards, just enough so that Jesse was able finish the maneuver carefully. Freed completely of the garment, he settled his groin back down on top of Jesse, pressing firmly against the other's briefs which were still in place. Jesse could feel a renewed sense of excitement though, and a given amount of heat between them, which in turn was beginning to take over giving them feelings of both lust and hope.

Noah remained for a moment longer, relishing his own feelings in their naughty play, before slowly pulling back completely. Sitting on his knees again, this time between Jesse's legs, he quietly reached out and grasped hold of Jesse's hands. With a gentle tug, the teen was then pulled upright, but was surprised when Noah kept going, using the leverage between them to assist and continue on until they stood up. There, in that single motion, Noah removed first his own t-shirt, and then did the same for Jesse. In his final act that followed, the teen grinned and pushed forward, backing Jesse up against the bed, before he slipped his own fingers into the waistband and denied his friend the continued use of his underwear. Quickly dropping them to the floor, he waited patiently only long enough for his friend to step out of them before he moved in closer once more. Their fully enraged hard-ons began touching and rubbing side to side, connecting and feeling each other at full mast. They both giggled as their cocks began their own level of sword-like fighting, freely bouncing against each other in animated play.

Jesse stopped them at one point, however, and pushed, grasping hold of both their thickened shafts and pointing them end to end. He then pulled back on his skin and released it, letting it roll over the Noah's glans in the process. Because Noah was so much thicker and bigger in his way, the extra skin could not cover the helmet completely, but as Jesse pushed forward, it was enough to cause the boy to close his eyes and hold his breath. 'So, this is what it must be like," Noah thought to himself. He, too, pressed in, but then understood there was only so much that could be done, especially with Jesse holding them both in place. He likened it to being as if their two boy parts were kissing each other, and not letting go. He felt Jesse begin to stroke them both, and true to form, Noah knew if they kept that up, he would be creaming really quick.

Noah, not wanting to succumb to that just yet, finally pulled back, separating both boys until he could close and sandwich their groins again. With nothing to separate them now, the teen slowly pushed one hand behind Jesse's neck and head, before leaning in once more for yet another passionate kiss, all the while pressing their groins together ever harder. It was a struggle to keep from climaxing, but somehow the teen found a way to prevent it. He wanted this night to be about Jesse, at least initially. His friend hadn't had any such fun for weeks now, and Noah wanted to change that, if he could. If Jesse was ready.

Their breathing became raspy, shortened in the moments that followed, as they sucked and playfully nibbled at each other up top. Noah had finally grabbed Jesse's buttocks and was pulling, twisting and squeezing as well, just as his friend re-applied himself to the same task as before. Their passion increased even more when Jesse gurgled, fighting for air and giggling when he broke free. Their contact, their heat… their intimacy felt so incredible to him, and it showed. Noah wasn't done, though, as became evident after giving his friend a short break to get a few gulps of air. He leaned in again and began an all-out assault once more, his tongue forcefully extending itself into the waiting cavity to which Jesse readily responded. The exploration and eventual wrestling match that their tongues continued with carried on for some minutes, neither seemingly ready to end it. That is until Noah, who kept ever slowly pushing harder against his friend, suddenly felt Jesse lose his balance and fall back onto the bed.

Jesse giggled then, already beginning to hold up both his arms and legs somewhat in defense, expecting the other boy was going to topple over on top of him. Surprisingly, however, Noah had other plans for the one boy in his room, naked as the day he was born and freely displaying every part of himself in their private little world. With a grin, he grasped his friend by the legs and maneuvered him to the edge of the bed, before stepping between them and pushing them wide. Looking down, he saw that Jesse's long, slender boy toy was rigid, so stiff that it hovered just above his abdomen and pointed toward his navel. Noah admired it briefly once again, always fascinated it seemed by the extra skin that covered the end, to which he got a small taste of how it must feel having it, just moments before. Only that night, he was pleasantly surprised that, unlike before, Jesse's glans was now partially peeking out, all on its own. The usual slick-like surface was visible, and one could still tell where the rim stretched underneath the edge. It gave Noah the impression that maybe his friend's dick was getting longer and outgrowing its sheath, which for some reason pleased him. Noah reached in and gently grasped the sides, pulling it back until the head was fully exposed again, before reversing to let it return to its natural position, partially covering the tip as before.

Jesse watched, but did not speak, choosing instead to relish the sensations that were beginning to take hold. The position he was in was definitely different, almost missionary as he had come to learn about it. As he observed Noah though, he saw nothing but kindness and curiosity there, along with an underlying expression of playfulness. As his friend glanced up and placed his hand upon Jesse's chest, he felt the gentle push and obliged, throwing his head back and collapsing onto the bed. There were no plans, no preconceived steps that dictated what they would do next, or how. No guidebook as to what should come first, or second, or more. Instead, they both were not letting just their desires drive them, but their penchant for spontaneous play to take over.

Noah looked on for a brief instant, observing the throbbing appendage as it periodically pulsed, not unlike his own. He ignored the feelings and aches in his own groin, however, and carefully dropped to his knees between Jesse's legs, initially pushing both legs back and apart before playfully diving in. The teen started by pushing his tongue in and around Jesse's navel, before slowly coming down to his prize. Surprisingly, he ignored sucking it in and instead moved up on top, playfully nibbling with his lips along the sides as he progressed down even further. As he moved and nuzzled his nose all throughout the area, he was pleased with something else, too. Whether or not Jesse had had a recent shower didn't matter, because the muskiness he found there was captivating, and driving his own heightened senses to the edge.

Jesse did his best to relax and lie still, knowing that his best friend was enjoying his 'treat', as they often referred to it. He wanted to be sucked, wanted to actually fuck his friend's mouth at some point, but at the same time, he wanted Noah to do whatever he wanted. Jesse was mostly successful, at least until Noah suddenly backed away and grasped Jesse's thighs, pushing them up and back even further, spreading his friend as wide as he could do so. He observed the set of testicles that hung there briefly, and noted that although they were not totally back to their normal size, the word 'normal' was definitely subjective. Still, using caution, he lapped and caressed them with his lips and tongue, before taking one of them in his mouth, frolicking it from side to side before letting it go and doing the same to the other. Jesse couldn't help but react then, moaning and wiggling slightly. At first Noah thought maybe he had gone too far, perhaps inducing some sort of uncomfortable state. One quick glance upwards to see his friend's expression, however, dispelled his fears. There was a pureness in the bliss there, along with an increase in his breathing, proving it wasn't anything uncomfortable, but instead pleasurable. Noah bent down and did it again then, for a second time with each one, leaving his friend to whimper this time. Noah was lost for the moment however, by the muskiness he found ever stronger. It drove him to nuzzle the whole area again when he let the nuts fall free, drawing in deep breaths of the scent and letting his breath go slowly.

Eventually Noah dropped below Jesse's testicles, and started letting his tongue work along in several crevices he found there. Jesse, spread and completely exposed, could feel both the earnest, yet caressing nature of his friend's attention, but it did little to distract his surprise. He felt the hot breath exhaled all around his nether regions, along with Noah's hands massaging in places few hands ever reached. Without question, this was new territory for them both, but it seemed to just fit the moment, and Jesse was going to be far from one to complain. Noah, on the other hand, took his time by never hurrying at any pace. He knew that given his friend's long period of abstinence, as soon as he spent any length of time with his main prize, all would be given up quickly. By taking the circuitous route that he did, Noah was helping to hold out for the inevitable because he wanted to.

That changed, however, when Noah finally started up the hardened shaft and reached the tip of Jesse's cock. There was no pre-cum there, but that wasn't really surprising. Instead, the teenager quickly sucked it inside, but in the process held onto the skin firmly with his lips as he pushed down. That had the effect of pulling that extra skin free of the glans, which then took the full brunt of hot breath as it blew across. Before Jesse could even process that sensation, however, Noah's tongue touched his slit at the tip and started going to work. Jesse jerked slightly before sucking in his gut and shutting his eyes.

That was where Noah found the muskiness and taste to be the most intoxicating, and he used what skills he had to take advantage of it. He was giving Jesse his best efforts, and it did not go without notice. His friend was beginning to constantly turn and wiggle beneath him, as well as letting short gasps escape from time to time. It drove Noah, in a sense, for his own purpose and pleasure, too. This was a part of something he had had a yearning towards for a long time - well before he and Jesse had met. Since leaning toward the fact and accepting that he was gay, Noah had read things online, or chatted with people regarding a lot of experiences with their peers, especially regarding boy sex. They were experiences, however, he never trusted himself to ever indulge in, regardless of the natural curiosity they created. After all, he lived in Kentucky, in the middle of a wide bible-belt, right? Society there was far from accepting of such behaviors between boys, especially those that might want to mess around – or so he thought. So, figuring he was alone, it had been a part of what made him so miserable for so long. Given their attitudes, he would never be able to break out of that mold - at least until he entered college.

What was so different and special now, however, was how that had changed with Jesse. He no longer felt alone, and was accepted as he was. More than that, Jesse had been ever so patient with him figuring out his feelings and all – which, in Noah's eyes, was the best part of it. Combined with the fact that Jesse was like him only made Noah love his best friend more. When Noah took his friend's member in deeply, there was a naughtiness in the act, but there was also a deep feeling of satisfaction. It was one thing when Jesse was in charge and performed his own acts of intimacy and wants, but it was another when Noah was in charge, as he was now. As he moved on top again and swallowed his friend's throbbing member deep, he took a new step. Gently, the teenager pressed a finger into the almost exposed rosebud beneath which he had just left. After listening to 'friends' online, and even calling one aside who spoke freely and frankly about it, Noah had decided to go for it with Jesse – not as a 'have to', but as a 'want to' for his friend, knowing it would 'enhance' their experimentation even further.

That feeling of 'enhancement', as Noah began to wiggle his middle finger easily up and inside to the first knuckle, ended up being an understatement. Unbeknownst to the teen, Jesse's eyes bulged wide as shock took over. "OOhhh gggggggrgrrrrr…" he gurgled aloud, clamping down briefly on the finger that invaded him. He saw Noah atop him, sucking him practically to the base, all the while simultaneously cupping his testicles and pushing what felt like his finger even deeper below, and that combined to suddenly take his breath away. Before he could register the moment further, Noah somehow pushed inside even deeper. Jesse shut his eyes and willed himself to release the constrictions of his bowels, only to find the finger invading him further. This time there was no question that his friend had found his way as far as he could, as his palm now rested just below and atop the base of his scrotum. He fell back whimpering, totally collapsing but grasping both of his feet, as if to keep them pulled backwards.

What happened next defied the logical laws of description, as Jesse continued to both whimper and moan. Being totally attacked on two fronts, one by the slow, wiggling invasion in his butt, and secondly by alternating the hard and soft caresses of Noah's tongue around the head of his dick, was more than he could control. 'To hell with the doctor's advice, and to hell with all that had happened to him in recent weeks', Jesse thought. He had been patient, trying to do what was right, but the pressure behind his loins had gradually been building the last few days. He was going to give in this time, and he didn't care if that act set him back again physically or not. He hadn't been sexed like this before, but he didn't mind it for the fact his whole crotch felt as if it were ready to explode. The sensation showed a whole new dimension of trust he had in his friend, too. Noah was going all out for him, and as he gasped for breath and glanced downward, the teenager knew it was nothing short of what Jesse would be doing if their roles were reversed. He couldn't help but succumb to the pressure he felt that started low and began working its way up. The intensity was incredible, causing Jesse to moan even more, his voice gradually building louder. As if it couldn't get any better, however, it was magnified even more as Noah started bobbing up and down on his shaft, while simultaneously pulling and pushing his finger to the hilt, synchronizing the actions together.

Jesse could then hold out no longer. "Oh my God!" he rasped out, as he suddenly, uncontrollably, thrust his hips upward and started emptying himself, erupting beyond his ability to describe. In those first few seconds, he felt every part of his loins electrify as one, as if a charge coursed forward, connecting his testicles to the probe inside his butt, then even deeper as it spread inside and up his shaft to the end. In another glorious instant, the teen once again clamped down on his one orifice, causing Noah to stop his plunging motion and instead simply wiggle as far as his finger could manage. Jesse sucked his gut in yet once again, just as the semen arrived, moaning loudly. Noah, in turn, had to back away somewhat and pull up to the tip, just to keep from being choked on the amount of hot, sweet-salty cum that hit his palette and throat, and then dripped downward. From the first to the last, each splurge arrived intensely, filling the cavern waiting to capture it and causing Noah to begin wondering if was going to be able to take it all. Take it all, though, the teen did, swallowing skillfully and enjoying the sensation.

Once the first few seconds passed, Jesse began to whimper. The electrical sensations, the spontaneous explosion behind his loins, and the crescendo that culminated in the ecstasy he felt, were already slowly beginning to ebb away. He wanted to cry even as he slowly collapsed back onto the bed again. It felt as if it was the strongest orgasm he had ever had, and for the moment that followed, all he could do was try to capture the feeling into his memory, and enjoy the bliss that followed. Noah had stilled himself, turning his head slightly to rest against Jesse's inner thigh. He had intended to lie there in wait, until his friend had returned to their reality, but he could detect the heaviness in the legs and thighs now, and his own body was protesting at the awkward position it had fallen in. So, with a sigh, he slowly backed off, letting Jesse's rapidly deflating manhood quietly escape from his lips, before gently taking hold and lowering his friend's feet back toward the floor.

A moment later, Noah moved up and grasped his friend around his waist, and lifted, pivoting him further up into the bed, and turning him in such a way that his legs were now stretched out comfortably upon the mattress. The whole while Jesse had his eyes closed, either because he was still spent from the actions of the moment, or he was reliving the experience for all it was worth. Either way, Noah hovered above him for a moment, smiling, before stretching out to his side. He scooted himself up on the inside to Jesse's shoulder, where he laid his head quietly and waited, but the only reaction he got was the arm that hugged him close. It was a sweet embrace, punctuated by the occasional rubbing Jesse made upon Noah's side and back, as the two lay still. The only sound in the room was from the TV, its volume still low since neither had taken the time to start watching earlier.

When Jesse's eyes finally opened, his first sight was that of Noah's pleasant expression observing him. He smiled, and his friend returned the smile in unison. Throughout the whole adventure, neither had spoken – at least, if you didn't count Jesse's vocal reactions and moments punctuated with cries as he splurged. Neither needed to, really, but Noah finally decided it was enough. "So?" he whispered. "I take it that was a good thing, then?"

Jesse continued to smile, if not wider. "You… that was… wild," he whispered back. "I mean, you… you fucked me, Noah! Well, finger fucked me, I mean! It was… it was…" The teen fell silent, with both a look of disbelief and amazement alternating as he lay there.

Noah giggled. "From what I could tell, you seemed to like it, though," he noted, before placing a finger on his friend's lips. "Don't… you don't have to explain, Jess. I know, it was kind of taking another step and all, but… I wouldn't have done it without some advice first. I just thought, well… you were due to have something special, you know?"

Jesse slowly shook his head. "Noah, you just sucked my dick! Don't you know how special that already is?" He had continued whispering, although he had no idea why. They were the only two home, so there was no real need to be cautious. Yet, Noah seemed to understand as he nodded.

"So? You've sucked mine, too!" he breathed. "Besides, I'm happy to report, you're still just as tasty as you ever were, if not better."

Jesse finally laughed before wrapping his friend inside both his arms. "Oh my God, Noah… at least… at least I can still do it!"

Noah laughed, too, before rearing back. "What, were you afraid or something?" When Jesse didn't respond right away, he looked amused. "Seriously? Did you think you'd never jack off again or what?"

Jesse hesitated, but then shook his head. "No, not that. I… I don't know what I felt. It's like, I was almost afraid maybe, somewhere, like I was being punished, you know? That, maybe what happened to me was because I was gay, and doing gay things before I really should. That maybe…"

"That's ridiculous," Noah stated, but then his expression softened. "And here it is, you're the one always telling me I'm the one that's over-thinking things!" He shook his head as well. "You want to know something, Jesse? I'm glad we do these things. I don't care if it's right or wrong, you know? Besides, you told me something once, remember? If it feels so right, how can it be so wrong? Maybe not in those exact words, but that was what I got out of it. Like… when that girl wanted to have sex with me, remember? That didn't feel right to me – not because I'm gay, but… because I just didn't connect with her, at least not that way. You know, half the people or more in our class are having all kinds of sex, but I bet you most of them just do it for fun, or just to get off. What we do is fun yeah, but… it's also something a whole lot more important between us, you know?"

Jesse smiled, suddenly feeling better. Noah was one of those who could be just as insightful as anyone, and it showed. "Yeah, I know."

Noah grinned. "You better. I wouldn't just stick my finger up your ass for nothing!" he teased.

Jesse laughed. "Where the heck…? Wait, did you talk to someone in the chat room, or…?"

"Yep," Noah confessed. "Remember Tim? He's our age roughly. He's the one who gives all the free shows every once in a while, to everyone in the room, and he's had his boyfriend Kyle on the video, too. I told you they talk about all kinds of kinky stuff they do, remember? So, I kind of, well, I asked him about it. Kind of felt embarrassing though, because he laughed his ass off forever, I think."

"Really?" Jesse asked, his curiosity piqued.

"Yeah. He couldn't believe neither of us hadn't ever done that yet. He said he's been fingering himself since he learned all about jacking off. Then when Kyle started fingering him, and then… you know, doing the real thing with him… you get the idea."

Jesse laid his head back into the pillow even further. He studied Noah's amused expression for a moment before nodding. "You know, if doing the real thing is anything like what you just did with one finger to me, then… I might have to reconsider how soon I might want to do the real thing, too - with you."

Noah's eyebrows arched upward. "Seriously?" he whispered. "It was really THAT good?"

Jesse rolled in closer, until their noses almost brushed against one another. "You have no idea, bro. Trust me though, you're going to find out tonight, and then you can tell me. If that's what it feels like getting fucked though, then I might seriously be all for it, and a lot sooner than we talked about before." He then acquired his own amused expression. "Do you think you might want to be a topper then? Isn't that what we heard the guys talking about the other night?"

Noah giggled. "Tops and bottoms, yeah. The, uh, receiver is a bottom, and the quarterback is the top. Oh, and to do it, I was told to be sure we get some petroleum jelly, or something like it." He paused as Jesse rolled his eyes, but then shrugged before leaning up and rubbing their noses together for effect. "I don't know, Jess. I think we'd both have to try it out, both ways, before we decided, and honestly? Who knows, we might both just like it both ways anyway!"

Jesse nodded. "True. I mean, if not, that fat dick of yours might be too big for me to handle anyway."

Noah scoffed, giggling again. "And what about yours? It's so long now, it probably wouldn't even reach all the way up inside me without hurting or hitting the end!" Both boys then laughed.

In the silence that followed, both boys rubbed noses again before Jesse leaned in and began kissing Noah again lightly on the lips. "I love you," he whispered between kisses. "Of all that's sane in my life, you really are a brother to me, and a whole lot more. I'd do this stuff any day with you… suck with you, fuck with you, I don't care bro. Anything you wanted." He finally pulled back and stared deep into the eyes that met his. "Thank you, for everything."

Noah, still feeling light-headed, nodded. "You're welcome. I'm glad three weeks didn't hurt you any. I was wondering if it was going to make you change in some way."

"Are you kidding? No way! That was… that was…" Jesse sighed. "I didn't think jacking off could get any better, honest. I mean, it is fun, and personal… and it's us, you know? But… THAT… was so… so…"

"Fucking incredibly awesome?" Noah whispered, causing Jesse to nod.

"Yeah, fucking incredibly awesome, literally!" He giggled. "And no, don't tease me about using the word 'fucking' and saying it's not me, alright? I know what I'm saying, bro."

Before Noah could retaliate, however, they both heard his cell phone begin to vibrate on the nightstand. Rolling over and reaching for it, he grinned. "What do you know? Pizza is supposedly on its way, set to arrive in about 15 minutes!" He glanced at the clock. "Didn't quite take the hour they predicted, though."

Jesse sat up in the bed. "Wow! That's… hey, that's not so bad. You're right - we ordered it… whoa, only 40 minutes ago? Have we been… you know… that long?"

Noah laughed and then sat up beside him. "Time flies when we're having fun, you know!" he murmured. Both giggled before he reached out and pulled his friend into his lap. "So, want to go greet the delivery guy naked?"

Jesse laughed, but then made a face. "He'll probably be an old man, or a woman… so, not really…"

Noah laughed. "That guy I was talking about online, Tim? He ordered a pizza last night too, and said he went to the door stark naked. I think he was telling the truth, because as he walked out of the room, I saw his reflection in a mirror, and he looked, well… you know, he had kind of a cute butt."

"You have GOT to be kidding me!" Jesse responded, cracking up. "And you say I'm the one noticing butts more than you!" He traded a few jibes with Noah before finally shaking his head. "You and Benji, you're the only ones allowed to see my family jewels, Noah – no one else. At least for right now."

"What about the basketball team? Seeing as they, you know…"

"They don't count," Jesse replied quickly. "Besides, they're mostly our age anyway, and we kind of know them – at least we know them a little. Honestly? I can live with that, really." He leaned in and bumped shoulders with his friend. "I mean it though, you and my brother - Or, should I say 'only my brothers' - get to see me for now and play and whatever. And the last time I checked, that only includes you and Benji."

"And the doctor, and the nurses, and…" Noah teased, until Jesse rolled his eyes. "I'm sorry, I promise… I'll be good. I know what you're saying…"

Jesse gave him a look out of the corner of his eye. "You better…"

Noah pulled both of his knees up in front and wrapped his arms around them, looking onward for a moment before he spoke again. "You know all of that goes for me too, right? I mean, I trust you sssooo much. I always have, since you and Benji first taught me what it feels like to be in a family and not feel alone. You both taught me what it felt like to be wanted and loved, you know? On the inside."

Jesse smiled and then reared back until he pivoted, moving until he was behind his friend. Once there, he wrapped both legs and arms around the still naked body, hugging him close before leaning in and speaking in a low, seductive voice. "Wait until after the pizza gets here. I'll show you what it feels like being loved and wanted so much, your balls will probably go blue and ache after giving up all your boy cream to me."

Noah grinned as he turned to glance at his friend again. "Whoa, what's this? Are you talking naughty to me again? Wow!" he whispered.

Jesse just shrugged. "I think I still have a set of promises I have to deliver on, remember?"

"Oh, I remember them, alright," Noah replied slyly as he turned and leaned into the embrace again. "Well, maybe we should eat first, don't you think?"

"We'll see," Jesse replied, his voice still low. "Right now, though - I think I might want my dessert first, if you catch my drift…"

"Oh wow," Noah whispered, hugging the arms around him tightly. As he glanced at the clock, however, he let out a big sigh. "I better get some sweatpants on at least, so I can try to cover up this sausage of mine. The delivery guy should be here almost any time now, I think."

"Or girl," Jesse teased, before letting go and scooting to the edge of the bed. "Come on, I'll put mine on too and go up with you. That way, if someone gets the idea of attacking you, then I can tell them 'No – you're all mine!'" Seeing the bemused expression that met him, he laughed before shrugging. "Hey, you never know! Especially given that whoever does show up, will be pretty much getting a 'topless' show… right?"

Both boys then giggled again. A sweet, full-sounding chuckle that was filled with both fun… and happiness.

"This doesn't look too bad," Jennifer commented, looking over the list of paints Noah set down in front of her. "Does this include everything?"

"We think so, yeah," Noah replied. Both mother and son were seated next to each other on the living room sofa, going over the list of paints that he and Jesse had filled out the evening before. It was the first day of the new year, and it turned out to be a cold one. Outside it had begun to snow, and although it descended in light waves at times, the tops of buildings, trees and shrubs were already beginning to turn white. The forecast had been updated overnight, taking into account a weather front that was moving through the area much faster, and had dropped further south than anticipated. Being both a Saturday and a holiday, most businesses in town had already closed for the entire weekend, so local travel was at least light. That was considered rare, really, especially in the retail realm, but it was still appreciated by the people in most regards. Only the big-named chains seemed to ignore the holiday and/or calendar and remain open, and of course the necessity services, such as hospitals, law enforcement and the like.

Jennifer, rose from the sofa then, with a glance to her son. "Stay here, I'll be right back," she announced, before disappearing toward her bedroom. A moment later she returned, carrying her laptop, which she placed into her lap after retaking her seat. "Alright, let's see if Amazon has all this stuff you want to get," she murmured. After the device finished booting and connected to the internet, they both smiled when a page of modeling supplies began showing up after her first query. Instead of continuing to look for herself, however, she moved the laptop onto her son's lap. "Here, you can do this as well as anybody. Just put everything in the cart, but don't complete the order yet. I might want to add an item or two myself before we submit it."

"Sure, Mom… thanks!" the teenager replied enthusiastically.

While her son started searching for the individual supplies listed, Jennifer picked up a cooking magazine and started to thumb through it. Before long, she found a section on Mexican chili dishes which caught her interest. After studying several, she finally leaned over and pointed one out to her son. "What do you think? It looks kind of appetizing, doesn't it?"

Noah stopped to observe the picture she pointed out. "Yeah, kind of. It looks like lots of meat, cheese and stuff…"

"I agree. Combine that with some spices, green chilies, and more… I think it might make a good supper for us," his mother remarked. "I think we even have all this stuff in the pantry in there, too! What say we give it a tackle after you get finished there, hmm?"

Noah smiled and nodded, returning to his task at hand. Before long, he started noticing something. "Hey, Mom? What do you think about me doing this? There's a kit here, that has ten different colors of paint in it, of which six or seven of them belong to what we listed yesterday. We were going to try and just mix some stuff down anyway, but if I buy the kit here… see?"

Jennifer leaned in and nodded. "Is it cheaper that way?"

"That's the funny thing, really. Each of those by themselves would add up to almost $20, but the kit is just $12. Plus, it comes with thinner, some kind of primer, and then some brushes, too. The other colors might be something we can use to mix, too, once we get started on it," Noah explained.

"Well, that sounds logical to me," the woman remarked. "How much do you have in the cart now?"

"I don't know… let me remove two items I just added, then put this in… then we need some kind of dull-based sealer, I think," Noah spoke, more to himself than his mother. When they started to appear, she pointed to a can of spray sealant just a little way down the list of results. "That's a lusterless finish, so it will probably do the job for you guys."

Noah nodded and then added it to the cart. Opening the page, he scanned the items in the list before answering. "Just under $40 for everything," he breathed. "Wow, I didn't know it was going to be so much." He looked up to see her smiling. "I don't care, though. I'll pay for it, I promise."

Jennifer shook her head. "Don't worry about it. I think your father and I agreed to cover this one for you, as part of your Christmas. We know models and the like aren't that cheap to have as a hobby anymore. At least not compared to when we were growing up."

Noah glanced back to the list. "Well, okay… I won't argue, but… I just hope it comes out looking good enough after putting all this stuff into it."

Jennifer slipped an arm around her son and pulled him closer. "It will, you'll see. According to Makalah, she said Jesse really had a knack for these things. The first model or two he put together was more of a learning exercise, according to her, but afterwards he started reading books and magazines, leaning about all these techniques and everything with painting and making them look used instead of brand new. He really got in to it for a while, see. Evidently he had some really nice ones hanging in his room before the storm hit."

Noah nodded, before looking up at her and leaning into the embrace. "We did really good this year, didn't we Mom? I mean, Christmas and all, and with the McAllisters, and Dad and… and…"

Jennifer laughed. "Yes, we did, kiddo… We all did really well, all things considering. I am quite happy at how it all turned out."

"I am, too," Noah whispered. "Even though it took a storm to whip my butt and realize what a, well, sorry to use the word, Mom… but yeah, realize what an asshole I was being before."

Jennifer smiled at him. "You're growing up, honey. Your dad and I knew it wouldn't be all red roses and green grass, though. Every family, and I mean all of them, have hiccups along the way when it comes to teenagers and the like." She squeezed him gently, placing her chin down upon his head. "I'm just happy… I'm happy you found someone to trust, and believe in enough to be a true friend. Or, as you put it that day at the table, you found some boys who became like brothers to you. When you said that, your father and I couldn't have been prouder, you know?"

"I know, Mom," the teen replied, hugging her back. "Thanks, for letting me find myself again, and letting Jesse help me out."

There was a pause in the conversation as a tear escaped to roll down Jennifer's cheek, before she spoke again. "I'll tell you something, if you like. Jesse is, well, he feels like one of my own boys, too. That may sound strange, but-"

"It's not, though," Noah interrupted her, looking up again. "There was something Makalah said to me once, about having three sons now instead of two. I think she must have felt the same way, you know? I don't think it's strange at all."

Jennifer smiled. "She did, and still does. Just like their two boys are with your father and me. Both James and Makalah, and your father and I, now have something deeply in common. I doubt we'll ever lose out on our friendship again. Not the way it happened before, anyhow."

"Why did that happen, Mom? I mean, I remember you said that you guys had a kind of falling out or something, but… what happened?" Noah asked softly.

"Well, after your Dad recuperated from that accident, for a while there we were all still good friends. Our jobs all changed though, and then you and Jesse came along. We should have stayed closer together, I think, but we kind of started going down different roads was all. Don't get me wrong, we still talked and all, but… we each found places to live and, when we moved out, it just tapered off more or less. That, and the fact that life seemed to just get busier, too," Jennifer explained. "No one intentionally ignored the other or anything, it's just that we each had our own lives to deal with and they didn't necessarily cross up again like they did before. None of us wanted it to be that way honey, but I guess we just sort of drifted apart after a point."

Noah thought about that for a moment, but then nodded. "I understand, I think. I just… I just wish you hadn't. Jesse would have been a good friend to have around while I was growing up, you know? Things might, I don't know… might have turned out different for us, or at least for me."

"We know, honey," Jennifer agreed. "Your father and I realized that not long ago, and I wish we had all stayed in touch better than we did, too. But… life just doesn't always work out that way, you know?"

"Yeah, I know…" Noah fell silent for a moment before letting go a huge breath. "Mom, I think that's what happened to me, with school and… and, other things and all. I think… for a long time, I didn't think I was worth very much to myself, or to anyone else, really. That was something I wasn't ready to deal with, especially at school like I did, with everyone growing up around me so differently. I think… I, well, I kind of wanted to find a way to fit in somewhere, but I always felt like I didn't belong, and that made me… it made me…"

"Made you act like an ass?" his mother replied with a hint of amusement. Noah glanced up quickly in surprise to see her smile. "Yes, honey, I know what you mean, and I understand what you're saying. But I have a secret to tell you…" She then leaned in close to his ear, and spoke ever so softly in a voice her son had to strain to hear. "You weren't an ass. Your father and I were the ones being assholes, really."

Shocked, Noah turned completely so he could observe his mother closer. "Huh? How the heck do you figure that?"

With a knowing look, she hesitated only slightly. "We knew you were feeling lonesome, honey, for a long time – probably longer than you think we did. It's just, your father and I didn't know what to do about it, or how to help. I mean, we tried a few things, but… in the end, we're the ones who failed to find the right thing that could help you. Then while we were so tied up with trying to make life easier for you, and just be here to hold you up, we failed to look deeper when we knew you were hurting so bad." She sighed before shaking her head. "Parenting isn't a textbook course you can just take and pass with a grade, honey. That's the only excuse we have, really – because every single individual has different needs. We did the best we could, but we both know we failed - at least for a little while."

Noah stared at his mother indifferently for a moment, reflecting on her explanation, but then slowly shook his head. "No, I don't agree. No way," he uttered, before smiling. "The way I see it, you both found your friends again, and in turn you brought me to Jesse and Benji. I didn't realize it then, but… yeah. You didn't fail Mom, neither of you, really. You brought me the very thing I needed the most, see? That's not failing anybody."

Jennifer was pleased, another tear escaping to run the length of her cheek before she reached up and wiped it away. The lump that developed in her throat kept her from responding any further, so instead she pulled the boy in close and embraced him again. They sat there for a few minutes, just mother and son, enjoying each other's company in a way they hadn't done in a long, long time. She already knew Noah to be an insightful and thoughtful boy, growing up in his own right.

She just hadn't realized how deeply those traits were ingrained within him. If it were possible, it made her love him even more, and take pride in the fact he was going to be alright now.

"JJJeeesssseeeee! Mom wants ya!"

Benji yelled out, responding to his mother's request to go get his brother, but then withering under her glare as she turned and stared him down.

"If I wanted to wake up the neighborhood, I could have yelled all on my own, young man!" Makalah chastised her son, all the while shaking her head.

Before she could continue any further, however, Jesse's voice rang out from elsewhere in the house. "Coming, just a second!"

Makalah glanced up at the ceiling in annoyance. "Oh, good Lord…" she muttered. Seconds later, however, the older teen entered the kitchen at a brisk pace. She pointed to the oven. "You and your brother get that ham out of the oven and set it up here on the counter. Benji, get some towels stretched out for your brother to put the pan on, too."

As the younger brother zipped to one of the kitchen drawers, Jesse opened the oven door and then stopped as the heat from within escaped right into his face. "Ugh!" he exclaimed, stumbling backwards briefly before grasping two potholders and leaning in again. The roasting pan came out easily enough, though the teen had to struggle slightly under its unusually heavy weight. "What did you do, puts some weights in here with it?" he teased, getting the pan up and onto the countertop.

Makalah scoffed. "Ha-ha… Go ahead and take the top off and you'll see. Be careful though, it'll probably have a bunch of steam inside," she advised, all the while attending to her own task of mashing a large pot of potatoes.

Jesse closed the oven door then before obeying, picking the lid up with the potholder again, but holding it so the steam escaped on the opposite side. What he found inside though, caused his eyebrows to shoot up. "Wow, that's a big ham, Mom! And… yeah, I see, you've got all kinds of stuff in here with it. I guess that's why it's weighs like some kind of battleship or something."

"Correct on both accounts," Makalah informed him. "Although, I'm not sure what a battleship truly weighs, but I suspect it's far heavier than you suggest." Hearing her son laugh merrily at her weak attempt at humor, she couldn't help but join in with him afterwards.

Benji also noticed the food before looking up in curiosity. "What's the special occasion, Mom?"

"Well," Makalah started, but paused when a timer she had set in the background expired, filling the air with sound of a sharp ring. Reaching out to silence it, she then stood tall and stretched. "Remember our neighbors from the old place, the Davies? Bill, Alice and Addison? They're coming over for a while this evening, and I thought I'd fix a little supper for all of us."

Jesse grinned. "Yeah, I remember. That's awesome!"

"Yeah, it'll be fun to play with Addison for a while!" Benji added enthusiastically. Glancing at his brother, he saw the eyes roll just in time to make him laugh out loud. Whether or not the play on his words was intentional or not, Jesse couldn't help but shake his head in silence.

Makalah gave her younger son a funny look, but then giggled before returning to her task. "Well, just make sure you boys mind your manners, that's all," she replied, before issuing new instructions and commands to enlist their help with. For the next half-hour, both boys began setting the table, collecting food and preparing drinks. Then each was sent to put on respectable clothing – or at least something besides just sweatpants and t-shirts. Initially Benji pouted, "But… Mom!!!" One look from his mother, however, silenced the protest that was obviously building up.

Before long, their guests arrived and were warmly greeted by all four of them. Bill Davies made it a point to shake each of the boy's hands, which by now Jesse was getting used to. Benji, on the other hand, was surprised at the gesture, especially when he compared the massive size of Mr. Davies' hands to his own. When Bill's huge hand engulfed the youngster's smaller one, Benji brought his other hand up to join the grasp as well, causing several to take note and chuckle aloud. Benji, sheepishly, shrugged it off and joined in the laughter.

During dinner, a lot of laughs and stories were exchanged, some regarding holiday adventures, while others were of memories of events long past and gone. It did not take long, however, for the younger generation to politely escape and, with Jesse's insistence, introduce Addison to their private little lair. She looked about the boy's bedroom briefly, seemingly impressed as she helped herself to one of the bean bags and sat down. "Hey, this isn't bad at all!" she offered aloud with an approving nod, as she stretched out and made herself comfortable.

Benji laughed at her. "Don't worry, we put away all our dirty underwear in the hamper before you got here," he piped up, then ducked to miss the pillow thrown at him by his older brother. Addison laughed before grabbing the boy and pulling him into her lap, before flipping him over on his stomach and initiating an all-out assault on his ribs and sides. "AAAiiyyyeeee!" he squealed, both laughing hysterically and squirming pitifully. In the meantime, Jesse pulled the other bean bag up close by and situated himself beside their friend. During the ruckus, Benji eventually twisted himself around and stretched his legs into his brother's lap. Although Jesse didn't join the battle directly, he did grasp hold to keep them in place.

"Ohh… OOkkaaayy… s-stopppp… hahahaha, no… n-no more… stop! I'm g-gonna p-pee on my… myself!!" Benji pleaded. Evidently, the warning was enough to gain Allison's sympathy, as she gradually pulled back and held onto him until he settled. It was almost a full minute before the boy recovered, at least well enough to pull himself upright. With a quick motion, he pivoted out of their laps and ran for the door, instantly disappearing down the hallway. Addison and Jesse both giggled when, seconds later, they heard a stream of water obviously being emptied into the toilet.

Jesse timidly shook his head. "He, uh, yeah… sometimes he doesn't make it in time to get the door closed," he offered quietly.

Addison turned with a grin and observed her ex-neighbor closely, before nodding. "It happens, I know. I have some little cousins who wait far too long before rushing to the bathroom, and yeah – sometimes the door is wide open for anyone just passing by to peek in!"

Jesse giggled, before asking, "Are they boys or girls?"

"Both really, but uh… it's usually the boys who get all excited and flustered," Addison responded. Lowering her voice, she added, "He's fine though, Jesse. You don't have to worry about him so much around me, you know. I've been around this stuff plenty, and all kinds of silly antics enough. Your brother isn't anyone I can't handle."

Jesse sighed. "I know, Addison. I just…. I mean, Benji's a pain in the butt sometimes, but… he's a good kid. I just, I don' think some people would understand what he's like and all… if that makes any sense."

Addison smiled. "If it helps any, I can tell you he's not any different from a bunch of other younger kids I know."

Jesse glanced up and smiled. "I'm glad. Not that I would know about others, but still… he's my brother, you know?"

"I know he is," Addison replied. "You're close, and sometimes you feel like you have to protect him. That's nothing I haven't known for a long time already, Jesse. Probably back to even before school started."

"Huh?" the teenager asked in surprise, his brow creased in curiosity.

Before Addison answered, they heard the younger brother leave the bathroom, but instead of returning to the bedroom, he ran back toward the kitchen, leaving the older teens alone for a moment longer. "He's your brother, and unlike a lot of other guys, I've never seen or heard you being cross or mean to him even once, or trying to cut him out of your space for that matter. You know what I mean, you've never told him to 'F'-off, or tried to cut him out of your life. That kind of says something about you, really, but then not everyone knew you as well as I did while growing up next door." The girl then relaxed. "That was then, though. People know you a lot better now, Jesse. I mean, if you could have heard yourself that day in the cafeteria, well… you'd understand."

"You were there?" Jesse asked, frowning as he thought back to that day. As long ago as it now seemed, he had a hard time remembering if she had been somewhere in the crowd.

"Yeah, I was there," Addison replied with a smile. "I know, they messed up the schedules for a lot of the junior and senior classes that day, but I was still there, and yeah, I heard and saw everything. Remember? I saw you beat the shit out of Pete and those other guys, and then I heard what you told everyone else in that room – especially after they started laughing about you taking showers with your brother, and accused you of being gay and all that crap. At least, so they thought." She observed the teen closely for a moment, seeing him begin to blush and look away. She smiled, however, and then tentatively reached out, taking hold of Jesse by the hand. When he turned back to her and she had his attention, she continued in a softer tone. "Jesse, I have to tell you something - that day… you taught me a lesson. Not just me, either – you taught everyone in that room something that practically kicked them in their own balls like you did Pete - at least for the guys. Girls too, for that matter, but uh… maybe in a different place." She added the last as a tease, but quickly saw that it didn't have the effect she had hoped for.

Jesse looked on at her with bewilderment, obviously still trying to connect the dots. His innocence registered with the girl, however, as something sweet. She smiled at him again, encouragingly. "Yes, I know what I'm saying, but that's not the point. Jesse, don't you realize it yet? You taught everyone something that day about family, and what it means when you have someone who gives you their total, unabashed and innocent trust. Brothers, sisters, and yes… even friends do sometimes, because I know we can sometimes get close to people who will make us laugh, cry… and yet still hold onto one another at times. Like you and Noah, see? You two have grown close, right? You see, you put something into words that a lot of people assume, or take for granted, but don't realize outright when it comes to trust. You made everyone that day face the fact that trust wasn't something you gamble with. It isn't like some kind of prize in a game or something. I mean, aren't prizes just for display, mostly? A lot of times they eventually get put up on a shelf or somewhere anyway, and just forgotten about."

"That's not what trust is though, when it comes to the people you eat, live and breathe air with, you know? It's something you earn, and when you have it, it's kept inside your heart almost forever. That's why you always hear about kids, you know, the little ones - having what's called the 'faith of a child'. When you earn their love and trust, it's always unconditional, and they always give it back to us completely. That's why they'll run around naked sometimes, or leave the bathroom door open, or whatever. They don't care, because they know you, and they trust you. Just like our friends, or cousins do sometimes, too."

Addison leaned in a little closer. "Don't you see, Jesse? You made people see all of that, in just those few short minutes that day. Even more, you made them see it because of the lengths of what you were willing to do, or go through, to protect your own brother. Believe me, there was no one - not a single person in that room that day - who didn't get it by the time you were finished."

A tear suddenly appeared and dropped down Jesse's cheek as he turned to stare out the open doorway again. "I- I… I love him, Addison, I mean… he's…" In his mind, he was briefly uncertain if it was Benji or Noah he was referring to, but he decided in the end it didn't matter. He felt the same about them both, and her words only reinforced the bond they held.

"He's everything to you, yeah. I know that. You don't have to explain it to me, honest. I get it, and so did everyone else. What they couldn't hear or listen to, they felt it on the inside because of what you did. I think that's why so many people are finding you more approachable now, you know? More friendly, or… or… I don't know what the word is. The point is, you taught us all something that day that we should have known for ourselves, but we had forgotten somewhere along the way. You taught us to stop looking at the outside of a person, and look inside them. You taught us that having that faith, having that connection with someone, and then being willing to stand up for it, protect it and everything else - was worth a whole lot more. I'm telling you Jesse, a lot of people were not only impressed, but pretty grateful for it afterwards."

Jesse brought his gaze back to her smile again, and then returned it. He didn't trust his voice completely yet, but he was able to squeak out a timid thanks to her. Addison, on the other hand, saw the raw emotion coursing through him and likened his reaction to that of a lot of boys she knew. Pushing it aside though, she sat up and leaned over completely, taking him in her arms in an uncharacteristic move, and holding him close to her chest. "Stop being a jock and come here," she coaxed him, to which he obliged. When it was obvious that he was still nervous and taking certain precautions around her breasts, she scoffed at him again. "I won't burst, I promise," she whispered, before drawing him in completely. Timidly, he relaxed and enjoyed the moment with her. "I've wanted to tell you that, you know… ever since the day it happened. I know you sometimes look at Benji and then feel like, I don't know, that you have to explain away everything, why you watch after him the way you do and all. I'm just telling you though, let that part of it go, okay? We know it, we understand how you feel, and none of us think there is anything gay-ish or wrong about it. We all know it now, and it makes us all see our own little brothers and sisters a lot differently than we did before. Maybe even our older ones, too." She suddenly giggled. "I even know of one girl who used to fuss about having to give her little sister a bath some nights, but she supposedly went home after that day and dragged her little sister into the tub with her that night, together. All because you made her see her siblings in a whole different way."

"No… no way! Seriously?" Jesse whispered, though hoarsely.

"Oh, yeah. She told me and Linda all about it the other day. She, uh tried to make out like it was no big deal, but then she finally confessed that it made her feel different about it now," Addison confessed. "I probably would, too, if I had a little sister. But, that's not in my fairy tale."

"It's nothing big in one way, but in another, well…" Jesse whispered. They both giggled as the boy, feeling more confident, still blushed.

Addison pulled back and stared at him amusedly. "That doesn't mean I haven't done it, Jess. After all, I have a few cousins, and some friends I'm close with." Glancing around, she then leaned in close once again and dropped her voice low. "Please don't tell anyone I said that though, okay? That's just for you and me."

Impressed and surprised, Jesse nodded. "I promise, I won't. Addison? I… I mean, well…" He leaned in and then kissed her on the cheek. "Thanks, girl. I really mean it," he finally whispered.

Nothing more was said in that moment as she nodded and hugged him again, until Benji suddenly reappeared, bouncing in from the doorway. Finding his brother embraced with the girl, however, made him pull up short and then scoff. "Hey, wait a minute, now!" he exclaimed, although rather quietly. "I don't get it… where do you come off tickling the pee out of me, but then giving Turtle-Butt a huge hug? That's just doesn't seem fair!!"

Both Jesse and Addison separated then, giggling at each other incessantly, before Jesse reached out and grasped the youngster, then pulling him back into their laps. Once there, they both smothered the boy with hugs, with Addison adding a few quick kisses in places. "There, now you got something Jesse didn't get!" she teased.

Immediately Benji stopped, however, and stared up at her with a deep frown. "But… well, that's not fair either, is it? I mean, I know he likes you as much as I do, and… and…" he whispered.

"Oh, is that so?" Addison replied, turning her gaze up at Jesse, who was trying his best at the moment to turn invisible. Without any hesitation, she leaned over and then planted a quick, but heartfelt kiss upon Jesse's lips before pulling back. The three stared at one another briefly, before they all broke out in laughter again. She glanced down at the boy in her lap. "Okay, so… is that good enough then?"

"Was that Addison I saw leaving last night with her parents?" Noah asked.

He and Jesse were sitting on the swing outside, bundled and dressed warmly, watching a light snow fall across the valley. There were already a few inches built-up, with the promise of more to come that afternoon. Both had been out with Benji earlier, sledding down the incline of their front yards from the roadway using saucers that Noah already had from previous winters. After some time, Makalah had called for them to at least come in for a while and Benji obliged, but the two older teens had decided to sit outside on the porch for a while.

"Yeah, they came over for supper last night," Jesse replied. "It was really kind of nice. I mean, Mom and Dad have had people over to eat before, but… honestly? It's been a long time since they did that – other than for you guys, I mean."

Noah nodded. "Same here, present company excluded." He smiled. "She's nice, I know. Linda liked her a lot, even talked about her some on the bus and at school, but… I never really knew her."

"She is nice, I agree. I guess if I were straight, or bi or something, I would even try to ask her out," Jesse confessed. Seeing the amused look that returned to him, however, caused him to reach down and take Noah's gloved hand within his own. "No, I'm not changing on you, Bubble-Butt!"

Noah suddenly snickered before it developed into a hearty laugh. "Now, now, Benji…" he teased.

"I know, I know…" Jesse grinned, but then gently squeezed the hand he held. "You know something? After what we did the other night, I don't really have any interest in girls at all… It was, uh… what's the word…" he hesitated, thinking hard, before it hit him. "It was kind of fulfilling, just you and me, you know?" With a quick glance at the window beside him, he sighed. "If Dad wasn't sitting in the living room right now, I'd sneak you a kiss."

Noah nodded. "I know. I already thought about that," he confessed, his voice also low. "Plus, I think your Mom is messing round in the kitchen with you brother."

Jesse smiled as he turned to observe his friend closely. In that moment, his heart felt free, and it showed. "I love you, Noah. I know, I don't really tell you very much, but I do. Not because of the sex, either. We could both be straight for that matter, but I'd still sit here and I'd still tell you the same thing. I love you because… well, because I know I have nothing to hide, and when I put everything out there, you see me like I really am. Then to beat everything, you love me right back, in the same way, in a way I can feel inside."

Noah became quiet for a moment, before he squeezed his hand and sent a message of reassurance back to his friend. "Same here, Jess, and ditto. Our messing around isn't what makes us who we are. It's like you and the little squirt inside the house, you guys taught me from the beginning – we're brothers. I know I never had a brother before we met, but maybe that's for the better. I mean, sometimes all I can think about is how awful or mean I would have been if I had, you know? I like to think that now though, it would have been a lot different."

"You can always borrow Benji if you want," Jesse whispered. "I'm sure he'd be more than willing to take a few showers with you, play with your hairs down there, and give you all the hugs and love he can come up with. Oh, and sleep with you - if you can get used to his farts!"

Noah giggled but then scoffed. "I know he would, and yeah, I'd probably do the same. Well, maybe not the hairs part, but…" They both giggled, but then he peered closely at his best friend. "I wonder if any other guys and girls… you know, people our age, ever face this kind of stuff."

Jesse grinned widely before sitting up straighter in the swing. He looked out over the falling snow before he replied. "Noah? I guarantee there are some, bro. I mean, I have it on the best authority…"

Noah laughed, and then inconspicuously slipped his arm around his friend and pulled him in close. He then sighed, and when Jesse finally glanced at him, he saw a tear had escaped at some point, falling off Noah's chin. Noah knew he was seen, too, so he sighed before explaining. "Mom told me something yesterday, bro. I mean, you know I was a real ass for a long time, and they… they were trying to figure out how to help me and all last year, but didn't know how. They worried about me, and I… well, you know my part in it all. She said they failed me, but then I told her they didn't. They got back their friendship with your parents, which is what made them bring you and me together. I thought about it all day yesterday, you know? They didn't fail me at all. Meeting you, and then Benji, are among the best things that have ever happened to me. When I needed it most, you ended up helping me turn things around, you know? I'm… I don't know, I just get to thinking sometimes how thankful I am about that."

Jesse studied for a moment before staring out into the falling snow again. "It was the tornado though, Noah. That storm turned us both around. It brought us together, so that we wouldn't have to be so alone anymore. It's kind of weird how that all worked out, you know? All that destruction and… and losing everything… but, you know what?"

"What?" Noah whispered.

"What I got in return is so much better," Jesse whispered. "So… much… fucking… better," he added timidly.

Noah smiled. "Me, too. And don't swear, it-"

"Yeah, I know," Jesse cut him off. "It isn't me, as you like to tell me. You know something though? I don't care, really. The way I feel inside right now, it's like if I could channel it into a fart, it would send us both to the moon and back." He sighed at the giggle that remark elicited. "Not sure I said that right, but… I did mean it in a good way, you know," he whispered.

Noah stared for a few seconds before nodding. "Oh yeah, I know, bro. And… yeah, just so you know, I love you, too, doofus," he added, before the two fell silent and sat in the stillness, watching the snow continue to fall.

Before long the door to the porch opened, and Benji appeared, still wearing his coat, but also carrying with him three steaming mugs. He approached and handed each of the two older teens a mug each, before stopping and curiously observing them both. Then, without preamble, the youngster turned around and sat, scooting back into the swing while straddling each of their legs. As he leaned back, he began slurping the contents of his hot cocoa, causing the older boys to glance at each other in amusement. Then, exercising care, they both adjusted their positions to accommodate the younger boy, supporting the smaller youth between them closely before taking sips of their own steaming beverage.

As they settled in, however, all three looked across the lawn quietly, each lost in their own thoughts, until they heard Benji sigh. "You know something guys?" he asked, his voice penetrating the stillness around them.

"What's that, little brother?" Jesse replied.

It was a few seconds before Benji replied, and when he did, it caused them all to take note. "This is so the best… you know?"

Noah leaned over and whispered into his ear, "Yep, you're right… You said it, Short-Stuff."

It was the moment, with all three of them hanging out together as they were, that sunk home the most. Neither Noah or Jesse could deny it, nor did they want to.

That moment, on the swing, looking out and being together… It was, indeed, the best of all.

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