Plan A: A Kiss at Night

by Driver

Chapter 6

If you do the right thing, even with the wrong attitude, you've still done the right thing

We sat in silence for a long time, so long that I was startled when Aaron began to speak softly. "Devon was the first guy I had a crush on. He was big and tall and handsome, and he could sing like a bird. They had a band. It was Devon and Dean and two other guys. They practiced in Dean's basement, and a lot of us used to go listen to them."

I think Aaron just then realized that we were still in someone else's front yard. "Let's go to my house," he said. "This might get weepy."

We started to stand, and I said, "You don't have to, Aaron."

He said, "It's okay. You'll hear about it anyhow, and I don't want Billy to have to tell you. C'mon." He nudged my elbow, and we walked to his back yard, sitting on the swing.

Aaron kissed my cheek, then started talking, as softly as before. "Dean and Devon were best friends. They were both very musical, and they wrote a lot of their own songs together. Devon wote the music and Dean did the words. You heard what Dean was playing, and that's how good they were."

"I thought it was beautiful," I said as I slipped my arm around Aaron.

He leaned into me. "Yeah. If you knew the guys, you'd wonder where it came from. Dean and Devon were kind of crazy together, always getting into some kind of trouble, always laughing it off. Then they'd sit down and write music like you heard, really creative things, then they'd go back out and tip over garbage cans or something." Aaron chuckled, "It was hard to put that beautiful music together with the boys who wrote it, but they wrote it alright."

I said, "I'm not very creative, except in writing. I got an A once for writing a love story for an English essay."

Aaron smiled, "I'd like to read that." His look became somber again, "Anyhow, it happened the day they first played that song you heard Dean playing. I was there when they played it, and I thought it was really beautiful. I liked all their songs, anyhow, but there was something so perfect ... so haunting about that one, that I was still humming it when I went to bed that night."

"How long ago was this?" I asked.

"Three years. I was twelve. Anyhow, that night Dean and Devon got some booze and got wired up. Then..." Aaron choked, "...then Dean stole his father's car. He was fourteen, Evan. He didn't know how to drive, and I guess you know how this ends up."

"They crashed?"

Aaron nodded sadly, "Yeah, sideways into a tree. Dean got banged up, but Devon ... poor Devon. His head got all messed up, and they pulled the plug on him a week later. They said he was brain dead, and it was just machines keeping him alive."

"Jesus," I muttered, remembering the times Chris had taken his mother's car and we'd gone joyriding. We knew it was crazy and dangerous, that there'd be hell to pay if we got caught, but we did it anyhow. That made Aaron's story doubly chilling. Chris and I had done it for the thrill of it, but we could have ended up dead or disabled as easily as Aaron's friend had, and it would have been equally as senseless.

I stroked Aaron's shoulder, not knowing what to say. I asked, "Is that why Dean acts like such a goon?" thinking I knew the answer already.

Aaron nodded quickly, adding, "It's getting chilly. Do you want to go inside? I could get some sweatshirts if you like."

It was getting cool without the humidity to hold the heat. I said, "Sweatshirt, I guess. I'd rather be outside."

Aaron patted my knee, "I'll be right back. You want something to drink?"

"No," I said. "I'm okay."

He went inside, and I thought about things. Kids died all the time, and mostly from stupid accidents. I'd been lucky, because death hadn't struck very close to me. In sixth grade, a boy broke his neck falling on the stairs at school. I didn't see it, and I only knew who he was, but still it affected me. Then, the prior summer, a girl who'd been in a lot of my classes over the years died from an allergic reaction to a bee sting. I didn't really know her either, but hearing about her death really bothered me.

Chris was always better at dealing with things like that than I was. My family was intact, the only relatives dying being distant ones that none of us knew, so we just heard about them. Chris had lost three grandparents, an aunt, a cousin and a neighbor in just a few years. Their deaths bothered him, of course, but he became more philosophical about it. I didn't have that frame of reference, which is probably why I felt so bad about Aaron's friend, Devon, who I didn't know at all.

I pulled on the sweatshirt Aaron offered me when he came back, and admired how he looked in the gray one he had on. We cuddled up on the swing, silent for a few moments, then I asked, "So, what happened to Dean?"

"Not that much, legally. He had to go to court, and he's on some kind of probation now. Devon's family got some money out of it, and I think that's all."

I said, "How about his head? Is it the reason he acts like such a jerk?"

"Yeah," Aaron sighed. "He killed his best friend, Evan. It looked like he was coming back, then their mom died, and it's like Dean fell in a hole. Nobody can get through to him now, and I don't think anyone tries anymore. Can we change the subject?"

I gave Aaron a squeeze, "Sure. How's this?" I leaned in and started a kiss. Aaron joined it, and we were soon vacant of mind.

"Oh, God! You didn't tell me I'd have to watch this," we heard Huck's voice say.

Aaron and I both jumped, caught in the act, and neither of us too happy about the interruption.

Huck and Billy were standing at the edge of the patio, Billy grinning at us while Huck glared at him. Billy said, kind of evilly, "Are we interrupting anything? Are you pretty pansies playing with your pickles?"

I made a jerking off motion with my hand and said, "If that was supposed to be an alliteration, it was a piss poor attempt."

Billy smiled, "What, me alliterate? Please, it's Saturday night!" He came closer, "Don't stop on our account. I just came to tell you the game's at one tomorrow on the school field. I've been bragging you up, Smiley, so you better come through."

I put my hand on my forehead, "Oh, the pressure!" I ducked behind Aaron, crying, "Save me, Aaron! Oh, please! Make it go away." Then I started laughing.

Everyone chuckled, and Aaron ran in to get sodas for us. I joked with Billy and Huck while he was inside, and Justin showed up before Aaron came back out, causing him to run back in for another drink when he saw him there.

When I was walking home later with Aaron, I decided it had turned into a designer evening, one designed by someone who really wanted to see me happy again. It couldn't have turned out more perfectly. Aaron and I had cuddled together while we talked baseball with the other guys. Huck seemed a little antsy for awhile, but he relaxed soon enough. I was surprised that Aaron could talk so knowledgeably about a sport that he couldn't play, but he was a big fan as it turned out. A Yankees fan, to his everlasting credit.

The rest of us had teased Billy and Justin remorselessly about their love of the Red Sox, but they were resolute. When I thought about it later, it fit Billy's character as a champion of losers and misfits. I think Justin just needed a defect to offset all that perfectness.

Aaron and I went to the back landing at my place again, and it was late. I thought we'd kiss and Aaron would leave, but we got frisky and ended up on my bed and had some fun first. Heh. When he finally left it was really late, so I walked him as far as his corner, then watched him until he got to his house.

It was probably silly of me to do that, but at that hour who knew what might happen.

I slept like a log that night, then, for the first time since I'd been there, somebody woke me up. There was a bang on my door, and Kevin said, "We're leaving in half an hour if you want to go see Shane."

I called out, "I'll be ready," then looked at the clock, and it was eight thirty.

I pulled on a pair of shorts and hurried to the bathroom, which was empty. I took a quick shower and combed my hair, thinking I didn't need to shave to go see Shane or to play baseball. I had some time for a coffee, then I left with Kevin and Arnie. Eli wasn't coming because of something on television.

We stopped at a diner for a hot breakfast, which was a real treat for me, and Kevin picked up the tab to boot.

The place Shane was at seemed pretty nice, at least from the outside where we saw him. There were lots of shade trees, and the paths were all surfaced in brick. There were benches to sit on here and there, fountains to drink from at regular intervals, and there was a nice view of a bend in the river.

Shane was in a wheelchair, but said he could already put a little pressure on the foot. He had occasional pain, but nothing serious.

It was a nice visit all in all, and Shane asked Kevin to hold off on renting his room for awhile. He was healing rapidly, and the insurance company had told him they could rent a stair lift for him rather than forcing him to move. Arnie, the cynic, figured that must be somehow saving the company money, but Shane thought they were looking after him pretty well.

We stayed for just over an hour, then Shane had a therapy session to go to and we left. On the way home, Kevin and Arnie had fun with the idea of a stair lift, and how they could put it to use when they were all 'toasted'.

I felt at ease with those guys now, and they could amuse me and even comfort me. When they asked how I was doing, it was a real question, and they listened to the answer. When they wished me good luck for something, it didn't seem like just idle yak. Nothing was likely to come up, but I had the feeling that if there was ever trouble, they'd have my back.

Now I had Aaron ... someone to love, and I did love him. I had a growing circle of friends. Things were definitely up on my side.

Still, I missed my family, my home, my things, my friends. I especially missed Chris, and kind of wished he could see me now. Chris would appreciate Aaron, and the fact that we were forward about how we felt about each other. He'd like the other friends I'd made, too. He liked being with guys like himself, and Justin and Huck fit that bill. Chris would goof on a boy like Billy, and just because Billy would goof right back.

Oh, God.

I reconsidered shaving, thinking I should look my best for Aaron, then when I was ready to start I reconsidered again, thinking that what passed for stubble on my face might help intimidate opposing pitchers.

I decided not to, and instead made a couple of sandwiches and took them outside to eat.

I sat at the picnic table with my paper plate, and was accosted by Kevin's little daughter, Joanne, who took every opportunity to sit on my lap. I didn't mind because I liked her, and if there was anything I didn't like about Kevin, it was the fact that his own daughter lived in the same house and he barely did anything with her. She was a cute, sweet little girl, and she had a grandmother rather than loving parents. That steamed me, but it wasn't my place to say anything. Instead, I ate around her, giving her a bite of my sandwich when she asked.

"I have to go, Jojo," I said when I finished eating, nudging her off my knee. "I have a ball game."

When I stood, she hugged me saying, "Good luck, Mister."

I stroked her hair idly, saying, "Thanks, Jojo. I don't know what I'm up against here."

That was an honest assessment. I didn't intimidate easily on a ball field, but I had no idea of who I was playing against, or even who I was playing with. I was reasonably certain of playing on Billy's team, only because he'd seemed so curious as to whether I thought of myself as a player or not.

I figured Huck would be on Billy's team, but I didn't know that for sure. I hoped Justin would be, because I'd seen him play, and he was pretty awesome.

I wasn't worried, just the opposite. I wanted to play because I liked to play. I knew I'd have fun, and it didn't matter that much which team I was on, or if we won or lost for that matter. It was the intensity of the game that tripped my wires, and I psyched myself up on the way to Aaron's house.

When I rang the bell, Justin answered, and with a big smile. "Hey, Evan! Ready to kick ass?"

"That I am!" I said. "Is this like a real game you guys play?"

Justin said, "Yeah, for sure! Umpire and everything. Come on in."

I stepped inside and asked, "Where's Aaron?"

"He's outside with Billy. C'mon."

We walked through the house and out the back door, and there were some people there. I focused on one, and Aaron had his back to me, talking to Billy and Huck. I walked up and stood to his right, then tapped his left shoulder. Aaron looked that way, then I leaned in and we almost bopped noses when he turned around.

His smile was precious, "Evan!"

"You guessed!" I joked. "Miss me? Do we have any time?"

Aaron's eyebrows went up and he smiled, "Maybe a few minutes. Do you have something in mind?"

I licked my lips and whispered, "I have lots of things in mind. Can we get private?"

Aaron grinned cutely, nodding his head. Then he announced loudly, "I have to go to the bathroom. Come on, Evan, I'll get you a glove."

Right! I followed Aaron, and we went to his room. As soon as the door closed, we were all over each other, kissing and hugging like there was no tomorrow. Aaron started tugging at my belt, and I stopped him. Instead, I bared him.

He looked confused, and I said, "Later, Aaron. I need my hardon to play ball with," and as I dropped to my knees I said, "I'll play with the puny penis of the Persian prince for now, if you'll allow me to alliterate."

He allowed me, and only when he regained regular breathing did he ask, "Puny?"

I grinned and licked my lips, "I meant pony, but puny fit in better."

Aaron looked at me stupidly, "The pony penis of the Persian pimp?"

I kissed him, "Figure it out." I grinned, "After the game, you get to play with the royal rail of the king."

Aaron's eyes went wide, and he slapped my arm. "Oh ... you! The royal rail? Isn't that kind of exaggerating things?" He was giggling, and I kissed him again before we went back outside.

We had, of course, failed to look for a baseball glove. Billy let us know about that, but there were some more people there then, and he didn't try to embarrass us.

I'd met two of the guys the day before at Billy's. The others were Justin's friends, and I got introduced around to them. Aaron did find me a fielder's mitt, and it felt good to toss a ball around for awhile. I hadn't thrown in over a month, and it showed, so I was grateful for the extra warmup.

Billy's friend Dana showed up with some shoes for me. They weren't bad, and they fit fine. He also offered me a batter's glove, but I wasn't used to using one.

We hung around for about an hour, then piled into cars to drive to the game. Huck, Aaron and I squeezed into the back of a Neon driven by a guy named Russ, while Billy sat up front with him. I liked being tight up against Aaron just fine, but Huck seemed to be trying to paint himself onto the other side of the car.

Thankfully, it wasn't far to their school, and we walked from the parking lot to the sports complex.

It was really nice, and I was getting a bit jealous of this new town. The athletics facilities all seemed to be top notch, and the school's baseball field was no exception. We weren't technically supposed to be there, and had to jump the fence to get in, but it looked perfect. The grass was lush and the clay looked brand new. There were dugouts for both teams, and bleacher seating. I was impressed.

I got out there as soon as there was somebody else to throw a ball to, and we had the whole field so we could throw hard. Billy set up at first base, and I took third, and I guess we impressed each other. I had a good arm, and so did Billy. I loved third base for all the action I got there, and hoped they'd let me play there, but there was a regular guy of course, and I got assigned to right field.

The guys playing ranged in age from about thirteen to twenty or so, and they were all pretty good.

Russ started off pitching for us, and he was good. The other pitcher was good, too, and the first three innings went scoreless.

In the fourth, Russ walked the first batter, which wasn't a good sign. He got the next guy to pop up to short, which is where Huck was playing. The next ball came to me, and it was an easy out.

The next hitter bounced one to third, and it should have been an easy out, but the guy there overthrew Billy, and Billy had to chase after the ball. He was fast enough that the guy who'd been on first only got to second, so no big deal.

Then Hulk Hogan stepped up to the plate, a lefty. He had a sweet swing, and hit the first pitch so hard that it seemed to be still climbing as it sailed over my head. I just watched it go, because there was no point in going after it.

Three to nothing, then the next batter popped it right back to Russ.

I'd struck out my first time up, and now I was lead off. Their pitcher had an evil slider, and it did me in the first time around, so I watched for it. It was a tough pitch, and I kept tapping them foul until I ended up with a full count. I was pretty sure the pitcher would throw a fastball on the count, and that's what I got. It was kind of low, but I knocked it straight out into center field.

It was my first time on base, and I teased the pitcher, trying to get his attention on me and off the batter. After pitching two balls and a strike, he tried to pick me off, overthrowing the first baseman, and I trotted to second on the error.

I started teasing from second, taking a long lead, but he didn't try me again. He ended up walking the batter, so we had first and second with no outs. Huck came to bat, and popped his second pitch foul to the first baseman. Another kid was next, and he struck out, which brought Justin to the plate.

I was wired, because I knew he could hit, and there was a good chance of tying the score. Justin took two strikes, laughing with the umpire and the catcher about one of them, then he got into his stance. The pitch was high, but Justin sent it right out to the fence. I got a glance just before I rounded third, and the center fielder was setting up to throw it in, but I knew I could make it.

I turned up the heat and slid into home, feeling my foot hit the plate just fractionally before I heard the thwack of the ball hitting the catcher's glove, and the umpire yelling, "Safe!"

Yes! I'd scored our first run, and I was pleased with myself. As I stood up, my teammates were there patting me on the back, and I saw Aaron grinning happily while he cheered.

I hadn't met the kid who was hitting next, but he was a big unit, and we had guys on second and third. Almost any hit would get the runs in, but he popped the second pitch right to the center fielder and the inning was over.

Things didn't get better for us. Weakening pitching, a number of errors, and no hitting had us down at five to one by the eighth inning. It was a good game, not a rout yet, and I was having fun. I'd had the hit, scored the run, and had no problem fielding the few balls that came my way. I was having a good game even if the team wasn't.

Most of the guys seemed to be enjoying the game, laughing and joking, win or lose. I guess it surprised me that Billy was the one who just got more determined. The guy who always seemed to be joking around wasn't anymore, and he seemed determined if not actually angry. He'd had a bad time hitting, striking out and popping up every time. He was really good at first base, and made some great plays there, but the other guys threw past him at a few crucial times, and it was costing our team.

When he stepped up to the plate to lead off the eighth inning for us, that determination was all over his face, and I was fervently wishing him a hit.

He took an incredible swing at the first pitch, almost screwing himself into the ground with the twist of his body, but he missed.

"Eye on the ball," I called out. "Cream it, Billy!"

He heard that and looked at me before stepping back into the box, and he grinned. He took the same swing at the next pitch and hit it hard, but foul. The next one was way inside, and Billy fell down dodging it, but he got right back up. He was poised, and I was trying to will him a hit.

I should do that more often. The pitch was a high fastball, and Billy took it right downtown with a beautiful home run.

I was there to high five him when he crossed home, then I ran after him to the dugout to get the batting helmet.

Our next hitter made the pitcher throw a lot of pitches. He hit foul after foul, and eventually walked. I was up next, and I got lucky. I got a checked-swing single that blooped right over the second baseman's head. When I got to first, the baseman grinned and said, "That was a cheap shot."

I laughed, "It got me here."

We managed two more runs in that inning, me scoring one of them, and that was it for the game. We lost five to four, and nobody really seemed to mind. I thought it was a great game, with talent on both sides, and it had been a real pleasure for me to play again.

Afterwards, a bunch of us went to a Dairy Queen for ice cream, and we enjoyed them sitting on a guard rail by the parking lot. On Aaron's suggestion, I had a hot butter pecan sundae, and it was really sweet and delicious.

Billy came up to me and held his hand out to shake, "Ya done good, Grins! Good game. Push over a little so I can sit."

I was happy to oblige, because it made me sit up tight against Aaron, and his very presence was becoming a comforting thing to me. I said, "You didn't do so bad yourself. I said cream it, and you really did! That was some hit."

Billy snickered, "I wasn't sure what you meant, but I sure wasn't taking any chances."

I giggled, "Number one rule for baseball. Always play with a hardon!"

Billy laughed and Aaron clutched my arm, "You were serious?"

I laughed, joined by Billy, and poor Aaron looked left out.

After that, we finished our ice creams, then Russ dropped us off at Aaron's house. I was dirty, so Aaron walked me home to shower and change, then we went back to his house to swim.

There were still a few guys there, and we had a good time in the water for awhile. Something finally came through to me, and it had been niggling at me all afternoon. These guys, macho as they were, all seemed to treat Aaron as a friend. That surprised me, and it pleased me to no end. Where I'd gone to school, a kid like Aaron would have been teased incessantly, and respect would have been impossible for him.

Billy O'Shea had apparently slugged the right guy when he hit Justin. I was fitting it together in my mind without the real history, but I could picture these guys getting to know Aaron, a boy they would have otherwise overlooked, only because he was Justin's brother and Billy's friend. That couldn't be all, though, because I could see their fondness for Aaron, too. He had to have done that for himself, and who wouldn't fall for it. Justin and Billy could bring Aaron just so far into their circle of friends, protect him from ridicule. They couldn't make people like him, though, so Aaron had to have accomplished that on his own.

It was clear that he was liked, too. He wasn't being patronized, he was fully involved.

It made me wonder if I couldn't just raise my hand and say, "I'm gay, too. Yoo hoo, over here!" I knew I couldn't, wouldn't, and it depressed me. I climbed out of the pool and sat by myself on the lawn for awhile, thinking about it.

I'd known I was gay for a long time, and being with Aaron was proof positive, yet I was still afraid of it.

That's not the right way to put it. I wasn't afraid of being gay, and I saw nothing wrong in being what I was. What I was afraid of was other people's reactions. I would have so loved to give Aaron a hug in front of everyone, so loved to kiss him. I knew I had it better than most kids like me. Aaron and I had at least limited circumstances where we could be ourselves, some friends and family who weren't put off by it.

I was making myself miserable again by the time Billy sat beside me. He got close, too, sharing the towel. He leered, "You owe me, Smiley, and I owe you, so let's see where even falls here."


"Come on now, Evan. Fair's fair. First you take away Aaron, who was an excellent source of blow jobs, then you show me up at baseball. I think you owe me something here!"

I started giggling, then it turned into wheezing laughter. Billy was so off the wall! I gasped, my eyes watery slits, "A source of blow jobs? Stop it!"

Billy smacked my cheek lightly, saying, "Buck up, man! I'm just kidding." Then he leered, "There's still an opening for a good cock sucker. Interested?"

I was, but I wouldn't admit it in a million years. Instead, I broached new territory, putting a hand on Billy's shoulder and asking, "Do you ever talk about your brother? I heard him playing his guitar last night."

Billy kind of sagged under my touch, and said, "He's good, huh?"

I looked Billy in the eye, "Too good to be hiding it. What I heard was wonderful."

Billy looked at the ground, "I know," he choked. "I think it's all you'll ever hear. It's all he plays, night and day. It's all he does anymore."

I touched Billy's arm, thinking about how much he'd lost in his life. A little sadness would show through his demeanor once in awhile, but he seemed to be pressing forward with his life and generally enjoying himself. I could even understand Dean, thinking his rudeness might not really be that, but rather sadness and a desire to be left alone.

I wanted to know more. "What was Dean like before ... um ... the accident?"

Billy looked back up, apparently remembering. He was confused, too. "Why would you ask that?"

"I don't know, just curious, I guess."

Billy studied my face for a second, then said, "Dean was always kind of different." He chuckled, "Mom always said he was too bright for his britches, and I think she was right. He was always zinging from one thing to another, leaving everything unfinished. There wasn't a single thing that didn't interest him for at least a little while, but not many things held his interest."

Just then, Aaron sat down facing us, a happy smile on his face until Billy said, "I was just startin' to tell Evan about Dean."

Aaron smiled grimly, and for a moment I thought he might leave, but he settled back on his hands and nodded.

"Anyhow," Billy continued, "Dean had the devil in him for sure, and a twisted sense of what's funny. Devon was a lot like him, and they were always up to something. Heh, anything that would get a rise out of people. They got in trouble in school, they got in trouble in grocery stores, they even got in trouble at church. If there was something they didn't do, it's only because they didn't think of it."

"Malicious stuff?" I asked.

Billy smiled, "Not usually. They caused their share of damage, but it was usually just incidental to the joke at hand."

I liked seeing Billy smile, and asked, "Got any examples?"

"Only about a million," Billy said. One time on garbage night, they snaked a rope through the handles of about fifteen people's garbage cans, then tied it to the hitch of a truck parked down the street, and that guy left for work early in the morning."

I grinned, "Keep going."

Billy laughed, "When he took off the next day, there was trash everywhere, and I mean everywhere! Another time, they dumped flour into a big pipe in the organ at church." Billy started giggling, "When the organist hit that note, this giant cloud shot right over the nave." Billy was laughing outright, "That was so funny. People thought it was a fire at first, and it was panicky in there, then everything turned white, and there were only two choirboys still singing."

"They got caught?" I asked, laughing.

Billy said, "They always got caught! They got blamed for things they didn't do, because it was their natural-born disposition to be responsible. They had stacked detentions at school that they couldn't have served in their lifetimes!" Billy winced as soon as he said that, then became quiet for awhile.

I patted his arm, "Good stories, man." I tried to put some tenderness in my voice. "So Dean's been down since the accident?"

Billy nodded, "Yeah, well it was his fault. I think now that he'd be doing better if the consequences were worse, but he pretty much got away with it. There was hell to pay, but he got off on juvie charges. The system never gave him any real way to atone for it, and everybody was too easy on him. Even Devon's parents were really forgiving to Dean." Billy's eyes were getting teary, "I don't mean I'd want to see him in jail, but he could have got community service or something, anything to make him think he was paying for that night in some real way. A friggin' spanking would have been better than nothing."

I thought that over, and I thought Billy was probably right. I smiled at him, "You're a pretty smart guy, you know that?"

Billy smiled glumly, "Yeah, and that plus a dollar will get me a can of soda. Want me to go on?"

"Only if you want, Bill."

"I guess I don't mind, it's good for me to think things out." He smiled at Aaron, "Don't worry buddy, I won't keep Evan too long. As a matter of fact, if you want to get on with it, I could just go talk at your bedroom window."

Aaron's face took on a look of total shock, and I laughed, smacking Billy's arm. "You're evil, man! Just talk right here, and never mind that window."

"I can't watch?"

"No you can't watch! Don't change the subject, either."

Billy muttered, "Jeez, fix two guys up and they won't even let you see the results of your effort. See if I try again."

Aaron fluttered his eyelids, "It might be fun, Evan," he said with a smirk. "We'd have to handcuff Billy, of course, to make sure he doesn't try to horn in, but it might do Billy good to see how two play the game."

Billy glared at Aaron, then gave in. "Okay, Castle, have it your way. I have this ... idle curiosity, and you gotta make something of it. I would have returned the favor sometime when Charlene comes over, but no." He winked, "I know when I'm on the outside."

Aaron smiled, "Just make sure you're not on the outside looking in!"

That made us all laugh, and we decided on a piss break. Aaron and I had a chance for a kiss, and he broke it off after a moment, asking, "Why the interest in Dean O'Shea?"

I didn't have a good answer, although one had been forming in my mind since the night before, only in the form of a question. Lots of questions.

I kissed Aaron's nose, "Just curious, I guess, at least for now." I looked at him hopefully, "Weren't we kissing a second ago?"

Aaron smiled, and we leaned into a sweet one. Billy caught us at it and snickered, "I get it! It's Romeo and Romeo!" then he started walking out, going into a falsetto, "Romeo, oh Romeo! Wherefore art thou, Romeo? I only ask because I'm wondering whose dick this is!"

I shoved Billy hard enough that he stumbled the entire length of the hallway before regaining his balance, and I laughed.

I tried for a falsetto myself, and cracked out, "Oh, Aaron. Isn't it marvelous that O'Shea rhymes with gay?"

Aaron got into it, giggling, "What was that? Did you say O'Shea is gay, or O'Shea the gay?"

I laughed, putting my arm across Aaron's shoulder and walking towards Billy. "I don't know, let's ask Billy!" I pointed dramatically, "There he is! Hey, Billy!"

Billy put his hands over his eyes and said, "Oh, God, I've created a monster. Two monsters!" Then he peered out from behind a hand and grinned.

I smiled at Billy. That was the first time in my life that there was an actual moment of having a new friend. Billy had been friendly to me from the start, and we'd gotten closer and learned a lot about each other over the past week. Now we were at the point where we could give and take serious kidding, and right after getting into a discussion that might have been a real downer save for the people having it.

Billy and Aaron seemed to sense that too, and we walked back outside all entwined, me in the middle.

When we got there, everyone had left except Justin, and he was putting up the ladder to the pool deck. He turned when he heard us, and smiled. "Hi, guys. I wondered where you went."

"Just inside," Aaron said. "Billy was just telling Evan about Dean."

Justin gave Billy a curious glance, and asked, "Really?"

Billy nudged me away and said, "Yeah, well this pervert has a way of asking questions!"

I looked at him and smiled, nudging him back. "This gay is a good answerer, too."

Justin looked lost enough that I had to add, "I'm kidding!"

Justin grinned, "I knew that." He looked at his watch, then said, "Well, off to the animal show! I'll see you guys later."

He walked off, and I looked at Aaron for confirmation of what I'd just heard.

"He's having dinner with the girlfriend. He's the animal."

When I looked confused, both Bill and Aaron laughed. Aaron said, "You'd have to know Cindy's parents, Evan. When Justin comes around, I swear all they see is this baseball bat aimed right between her legs." Billy started laughing at those words, and Aaron continued, "Cindy has the most protective parents on the planet, and I'm like totally amazed that they're letting her do this play we're in, because she has to say tits, and ass!"

I started snickering, and Aaron kept going on cheerfully, "They're nice people, but so straight laced it's hard to believe they're from this century. I know it frustrates Justin, but he puts up with all the limitations they put on him and Cindy because they're really good friends."

I grinned and got goofy, "So, is he bopping her?"

Aaron grinned right back, "Only since seventh grade. Does that count?"

I laughed, appreciating Justin even more. Oh yeah, the guys who were really getting it were a touchstone for appreciation from me. Only because I could imagine it, really, but some guys did actually act out sexually at a young age, and I only imagined the guy part.

I suddenly had a vision of Justin's much younger bare ass bouncing up and down, and a pretty picture it was. My little reverie was interrupted when Billy asked, "Are we done here?"

I interpreted that as Bill wanting to talk more about his brother, and said, "Only if you want us to be done."

Billy put just enough pressure on my and Aaron's shoulders that we sat down right where we were on the lawn. He sat with us, then looked at us in turn and said, "I miss my brother, guys. Help me here."

I nodded, and I guess Aaron did too, but I was looking at Billy. He started, "After the accident ... after Devon was dead, Dean went into a shell. He played the guitar, ate and shat, and that was about it."

Billy looked at me, a rueful little smile on his face. "I should back up a little." He smiled, "When it was Dean and Devon, it was like the 'd' was important, because they were the two devils. I mean, they had my dad pissed off all the time. My mom, though ... she said that if they could cause that much trouble as kids, they were bound to cause that much good as adults, and I think she kind of liked that idea."

Billy's eyes got glassy, and both Aaron and I moved closer to him. Billy took a breath, then went on, "They were pissers for sure, but they made that music, and they had fun. Not just had fun, they made fun for a lot of people. Anyhow, after the accident, Dean went into a big depression, but he took help where he could get it, and he was getting better."

I felt Aaron gripping my arm right then, but kept my attention on Billy.

Billy grimaced, "I think Dean started to see that he was a whole person all by himself, even without Devon there." Billy's eyes dropped away from us, "Then mom got sick." He looked back up, and his pain was clear.

"You can't know what it's like, so don't even say it. Cancer eats you up, and we had to watch it happen to our mother, to my dad's wife. There are cures, sometimes, but even the medicine is evil." He heaved a breath, "She went from Mom to this ... I don't know, this dependant person in no time, then she was dying, no hope."

I leaned into Billy a little, and I sensed that Aaron did on the other side.

Billy was sniveling. "Honest to God, she was just Mom one day, then she was in bed." He calmed, "Dad brought her home. She'd been in the hospital for a long time, then in a hospice, and Daddy couldn't ... wouldn't let her die there, so he brought her home. She was on the couch in the living room, and asked for some orange juice. Dean went to get it, and when he came back she was already dead."

Billy was squeezing out tears now, and his voice was all vague sounding. "I watched my own mother die, and the last thing she did was smile and touch my hair."

Billy really choked that last part out. I was crying right along with him, as was Aaron, and we all hugged until the horror of it found its own place and we could calm down.

I didn't have any words, nor did Aaron, so we sat in silence until Billy choked out, "Dean thought he was too slow. Like if he got the juice faster she'd still be here, be okay. I know it's in his head, but he thinks he killed his best friend and his mother!"

I didn't know what to say to that. It was so sad, and I just couldn't come up with a reaction.

Aaron did. "Billy, what if Dean had friends again? Would that help?"

Billy shook his head, "I don't think so. His friends tried, but they gave up."

Aaron was persistent, "What if we didn't give up? Dean's an artist! There's something, somewhere that will wake him up. We just have to find it!"

Billy looked up, still tearful, but with some anticipation in his eyes. "What? How?"

Aaron smiled a smile that reminded me why I loved him. It was so loving and hopeful, "I don't know. Let's just try things." He shrugged, "Dean wrote words, good words, and Devon sang. Those words meant something once, can't we try them again?"

Billy seemed confused, "How would that help?"

Aaron insisted, "Dean wrote those words, Billy, and they weren't love songs, even though they were in a way. I think Dean and Devon loved the world around them, even as much as they disrupted it. Look at their songs! Like 'A Date With Nature', and 'Wading in Streams'.

Billy looked a bit confused, and Aaron pressed. "It's good music, Billy, and the lyrics came from Dean's mind. I'm no writer, but if I was going to try to write something beautiful, it'd have to be about something that I thought was beautiful already. If he really loves nature, maybe we can get him to go outside." He smiled sadly, "I'm probably oversimplifying."

Billy was interested, though. He put a hand on Aaron's shoulder and said, "I think you're on a good tack, Aaron. He won't try to deal with people, but maybe places will loosen him up. You're right, he did always love the outdoors. How do we get him to go, though?"

"Try things," I said.

Aaron added, "Yes! Maybe ask him about the places he wrote about, I don't know."

I said, "Billy, if you know exactly where he went, we could maybe go and take pictures of places, stir him up that way."

"We could go there and bring back things," Aaron added. He looked a question at Billy, "He's smart, right? We could talk about nature right in front of him, but make like we're idiots all full of wrong information. Do you think he'd try to correct us?"

Billy's eyes bored into Aaron's for a moment, then he grinned. "That's it! You're a genius, Aaron! That'll work, I know it will. It'll get him talking at least, and we can argue with him. He hasn't lost his stubborn streak. If we challenge him to prove something, he just might take us up on it. I just want to get him talking right now, I can take it from there." He leaned into Aaron, "Thanks, buddy."

I asked, "Do you know the places, Billy? Maybe tomorrow you and Aaron could go check out things, maybe bring back something to argue over."

Billy looked at me, his eyes wide. "Oh God, two geniuses! Yes! I know exactly where Dean and Devon went to write their songs!" He looked at Aaron, "Want to? You know the little woods that go down to Front Street, that's where they hung out all the time." He put his hands on his cheeks, and said, "Oh God, this is so cool!" then he looked first at Aaron, then at me. "Let's eat at my house. I have to cook anyhow, and Dean will eat. You'll get to meet him, Evan, and maybe something can start right now."

I looked at Aaron and he shrugged, and I was getting hungry anyhow, so it was a deal. Aaron poked his head in the door to say he'd be eating at Billy's, then disappeared inside anyhow, and came back out with some sweat shirts in case it got cold later.

I told Billy to go on ahead. I wanted a kiss, and didn't think I'd get one at Billy's house. Billy had me figured out though, he turned his back to us and waited.

I was kind of wired up, and for a lot of reasons. First, I liked Billy, and I'd help him with his brother if I could. I loved Aaron, but I'd never really seen him using his head until now, and I really wanted to see how it worked. This was kind of his idea, and I couldn't wait to see if he could chase a chain of ideas, learning and adjusting along the way.

The next reason was that I felt some kind of affinity to Dean himself, although I'm not sure where it came from. Part of it was me thinking 'that could have been me', but any kid could have said that. We all do risky things ... stupid things. Another part was the song I'd heard him playing the other night. I liked a lot of different music, and for a lot of reasons, but that particular tune was something I'd never forget.

I'm kind of a romantic, and hearing it unexpectedly on a dark, quiet night was probably part of it. There was more, though. The tune I'd heard Dean playing was unusual in its phrasing, almost hesitant, then exuberant, then just soft and gentle. Aaron told me that the first time he heard it, he hummed it all day, and it was like that for me, too. I had it in my head, like it was fixed in place there.

I was hearing it in my head all through our long kiss, and it was the perfect accompaniment. When we pulled apart, Aaron and I smiled at each other, and I got the feeling we'd been kissing to the same music, and that's what it was ... kissing music.

We made the quick walk to Billy's in relative silence, then Billy announced our presence loudly when we got there. We went right into the kitchen, and Billy's dad joined us. The two of them made what they called American chop suey, keeping up a cheerful chat with me and Aaron. We set the kitchen table for them when Billy asked, using paper towels for napkins, and putting out paper plates.

When things were almost ready, Billy went to get Dean.

When they came back into the kitchen, Dean nodded at me, then Aaron, and he sat down beside Aaron, who was across from me. To my surprise, the O'Shea guys bowed their heads, and Dean said a short blessing.

I'd grown up mostly without church. Oh, we belonged to one, Episcopalian, but we rarely went. I'd gotten interested when I was about ten, and I started dressing up on Sunday to go by myself, but it didn't last.

I pulled myself back to the moment when the food started getting passed around. There was a salad, bread and butter, and a big bowl of glop that actually smelled pretty good.

When I was tasting the salad, I tested Dean, saying, "I heard you playing the guitar last night."

He eyed me, "So?"

I said, trying to sound cheerful, "I liked it. I think you're really good, and I can't get that song out of my head."

Dean swallowed, and said, "When I said 'so' I meant 'so what?'. Listen, Evan. I don't care if you liked it or not, so don't bring it up again, okay?"

Their father warned, "Dean, Evan is our guest. He said something nice, and didn't deserve that kind of response, okay?"

Dean nodded, but didn't look back at me or say anything. I started glumly eating my food, then Aaron started playing footsie with me, and I cheered right back up, smiling at him across the table.

We were eating pretty much in silence when Dean suddenly spoke. "I'm sorry, Evan. Okay? It's just a sore subject right now."

I said, "It's okay," quietly, and went back to eating. If that had been an opening, I didn't know what to do with it.

Billy said accusingly, "Everything's a sore subject with you, Dean."

His father said sharply, "Don't get started, boys. No arguing at the table."

Billy looked at Dean in annoyance, then went back to his food.

Aaron cracked, "Yeah, don't get started. Did you guys have prunes for lunch or something?"

Dean actually smiled, "Dad, doesn't 'shut-up' apply to Aaron, too?"

I was really surprised by that, and I upped the ante in the footsie game hoping that Aaron would say something else. He somehow got a rise out of Dean, and I wanted to see if he could do it a second time. Instead, a war of the feet grew out of it, and we both started giggling.

Billy looked under the table and saw what we were doing, and he scrunched down to he could kick Dean's feet. I guess he did, because Dean suddenly had a 'what the heck?' look on his face, then he was wiggling too as he kicked back at Billy. They were going at it more earnestly than Aaron and I, and not as mirthfully, but Dean looked more interested than angry.

Mr. O'Shea sighed, "Boys," then smiled and put down his fork. As he stood, he said, "It's your turn to do the dishes, Dean."

Dean gave him a dark look and muttered, "Yeah."

Billy grinned and pointed at Dean, "Ha ha, Deanie beanie gets to do the dishes!"

Dean scowled back, and when he wasn't looking I mouthed the words, "Help him," to Aaron, who looked surprised and pointed at himself with a question on his face. I nodded emphatically.

Aaron stood, picking up his own dishes, "I'll help, Dean."

"Don't help him," Billy cried. "Come back tomorrow when it's my turn!"

Aaron said solemnly, "Sorry, Bill. The offer has been extended, I can't go back on my word now."

Billy slapped the table, "Well, dang! Never mind then." He looked at me and winked, "Come on, Evan. I'll show you Dean's gay pornography collection!"

I laughed, as did Dean, who said, "Yeah, right!" He snickered towards me, "I keep it under Billy's bed. You'll have to ask him why that is."

I just giggled and said, "You guys are too much." Then I thought to add, "Nice talking to you, Dean."

He looked away and said, "Yeah, sure."

Billy led me out the back door, and I protested loudly enough for Aaron and Dean to hear me, "Where are we going? I wanna see what's under your bed!" and I could hear Dean and Aaron chuckling.

Billy said, "Dust bunnies, probably. Now, shh!"

I looked a question at him, and he whispered, "Over here, we can listen at the window."

Oh Lord, he planned on eavesdropping, and I really didn't want to, so I sat solidly on the picnic bench and crossed my arms. Billy stopped short, and I said, "I don't want to listen. Aaron'll tell us if anything gets said worth repeating."

Billy sat beside me and sighed, "I guess you're right. You know, Dean and Devon both always liked Aaron. He was their biggest fan."

I smiled, "That must have been cute." I tried to picture Aaron at twelve, and decided to ask him if he had any pictures of himself.

Billy sat back and dropped his hand lazily on my shoulder. "So. Maybe I'm too curious, Evan, but are you ever going to tell me your story? I mean, I know you weren't just born here by some immaculate conception last week. I'm pretty sure you weren't transported, either, and if you're really a baby, Huey should be your name."

I snickered, "No, I came from somewhere, and I'm really Evan. I'm trying to forget though, and if I talk about it I can't do that." I smiled, "Don't worry, though. I didn't kill somebody or rob a bank or anything like that."

Billy shrugged, "I never thought that, and I think I have a pretty good idea anyhow. If you ever need to talk, I'll be around."

I said, almost to myself, "I bet you're probably not far off." I said more loudly, "You're quite the guy, Billy. I really appreciate you."

He was silent for a long moment, then asked hopefully, "Wanna blow me, then?"

I said, "You're a pisser, too," then I started giggling.

"You didn't answer my question," he protested.

If you want the honest truth, I did want to. I'd been attracted to Billy since the first time I laid eyes on him, and getting to know him had only increased that attraction. He was good looking, in a cute sort of way, he had a great body, and he was moderately demented, a quality that I admired.

I came clean. "Billy, to tell the truth, I'd love to. I can't now, though, because of Aaron. I'd be cheating on him."

Billy looked at me and nodded sadly, then he grinned and wiggled his eyebrow. "I was just kidding, you know. Well, not kidding, more like wishful thinking."

I smiled and nodded, and Billy asked, "You really love Aaron, don't you?"

I felt a dreamlike smile spread across my face, and I nodded happily. Billy smiled back and said softly, "Aaron's crazy about you, too. He's my friend, Evan, and you've made him happier than I've ever seen him." He grinned, "For that, I guess I can keep it in my pants, but give me a call if things change."

I burst out in a giggle, slugged Billy's arm, and said, "You're a real jerk."

Billy smiled, "Yeah. How do you like me so far?"

I was about to say something when the screen door opened. Billy and I both looked, and Aaron walked out with Dean, who had his guitar. Aaron was carrying a piece of paper, and smiling at us.

Billy asked, "What's up?"

Aaron said, "We're going to practice," as Dean sat on top of the table facing away from us. I gave Aaron a questioning look, and he smiled and nodded in return, sitting on the bench beside Dean and also facing away from us.

Dean was tuning his guitar when Aaron said, "It's too dark, I can't see the words."

Billy jumped up and turned on an outside light, but it was too far away to be effective. Billy said, "I'll get a flashlight," and ran inside. He came back out with one and handed it to me, so I leaned across the table and shined it on Aaron's paper.

That worked, but it wouldn't for long because I was immediately uncomfortable. I sat cross-legged on the table beside Dean, then I could light the paper more comfortably.

Dean seemed satisfied that he was in tune, and asked, "Ready? It's in G."

Aaron said, "G should be fine. Don't expect too much on the first try."

Dean started playing the same song I'd heard the night before, and it was even more impressive up close. He was very smooth, and it sounded great. He stopped abruptly and said, "You come in right after I do this," then he played a bit more and said, "There, right on that chord change."

Aaron nodded, and Dean started again. Aaron came in at the right place, and I immediately loved his singing voice. I already loved his speaking voice, and the same richness was there when he sang. He could carry a tune too, in kind of a kid's baritone voice.

He was struggling with the words, but doing okay. Then, when Dean got to a different part of the song and Aaron didn't change anything, he stopped playing, saying, "You have to kind of growl this part out."

Aaron said, kind of meekly, "I don't know how to growl." He looked at Dean and said, "I'm not Devon."

I looked quickly at Dean, seeing his face cloud briefly, and he muttered, "No, you're not," almost to himself. Then he pointed at a place on the paper and said, "Starting right here, make it gutsier," his finger traced down the paper to another place, "right to here. Try it again right from here," and he pointed at another phrase.

Aaron nodded, and Dean started playing again. Aaron came in where he was supposed to, and when he got to the supposedly 'gutsy' part he went off in a falsetto for a few measures, then he burst out laughing. "I'm sorry, I couldn't resist! Let's try it again, I have guts around here someplace."

That got us all laughing, Dean included. He smiled at Aaron and asked, "When did you get whacked out?"

Aaron grinned, "It just happened. Come on, let's get this rhyme right."

Dean looked at Aaron, smiling. "Okay."

He started playing again, kind of snickering to himself, and this time Aaron found his gutsiness, pulling a whole new tone into his voice, and, even though he was still fumbling lyrics, I could tell that it was the way the song was meant to be sung.

They did the song through to the end, then did the whole thing again. Aaron was more comfortable, and it sounded much better, though he was still reading the lyrics and losing his timing here and there.

It was an incredibly complicated sounding song, but beautiful even without simplicity.

Aaron was getting cold, as were the rest of us, and he borrowed the lyrics so he could memorize them, then we left Billy and Dean to go to Aaron's. Dean just walked inside at first, then he came back out just long enough to say goodnight.

Billy decided to stay home, hoping there was a little momentum to follow through on with Dean. He said he'd see us the next day, then he followed Dean into the house.

With a sudden bit of privacy, I pulled Aaron into the shadows and smiled at him, kissing his cheek. "You have a nice voice, you know that?"

Aaron smiled and leaned in, saying, "Thanks," before kissing me on the lips.

Uh-oh. We had the time and the opportunity, all we needed was a place. It was chillier even than the night before, so we walked quickly to Aaron's and went in through the front door. His folks were in the living room watching television, and when we stopped to say hello Aaron's dad said, "Wait a second, Evan. I'd like to talk to you."

Another uh-oh. "Sir?" I asked.

He smiled, which helped, and started to stand. "Aaron, sit with your mother, okay? We won't be long."

I looked at Aaron, who obviously didn't have a clue, grimaced, then followed Mr. Castle into the kitchen. He indicated the table and said, "Sit down, Evan. Can I get you anything?"

I shook my head no, too nervous to speak, and he sat down opposite me, half a smile still on his face. "Evan, I just want to offer my help if you think you need it. When you decide to talk to your folks about ... about being gay, we'd be happy to act as a reference point for their questions. We could even try to soften them up beforehand if you want."

I wanted to cry. That was such a kind, wonderful offer, and in return I had to lie. Well, maybe just avoid. I looked down, mumbling, "I really appreciate that, but I don't think they're ready to know."

He said gently, "They may know more than you think already, Evan." I looked back up, and he continued, smiling. "Anyhow, the offer stands."

I smiled, "Thanks."

He smiled back, "There's a group in town called PFLAG, which stands for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. We're a very supportive group, and when the time comes we'll support both you and your parents." He winced a little, "At least if they'll let us. Why don't you take a brochure home with you and slip it in with the mail?"

I did my best to smile, and said, "Okay. That's worth a try, I guess."

Aaron's dad smiled warmly, "Evan, I don't think any parent wakes up one day wanting a gay child, but it happens. Reactions are different, too, and some aren't pretty." He leaned forward, "You, though. It's clear that you're a child born of love, well-bred and well-raised." He patted my hand, "Let's make sure your folks understand that. You being gay may or may not be news to them, but you're the same Evan that they've invested their time and love into for all these years." He smiled again, "You'll be okay, boy."

God, I wished that could be true, but I knew it couldn't. Aaron's parents were saints in my mind ... so understanding and caring, yet when we made a mess the night before they made him responsible for it, and rightly so.

I smiled lamely and croaked, "I hope so."

Mr. Castle stood, "You'll see."

I stood up and he put his arm across my shoulder, "I know you're a good kid, Evan. Aaron told me so."

Continued ...

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