Castle Roland


by D'Artagnon


Chapter 2

Posted: N/A

Days, Nights & the Curious Bits In Between

Confused yet? Boy, I sure was! In one afternoon I had gone from having no enemies, no friends and no problems to a life of complications. That and a sudden case of the everlasting blue balls, two ways. I can't explain it. Hell, I'm not even sure if I want to explain it. Things aren't supposed to be this tough at thirteen. Then again….

I shouldn't really complain. I was doing something really dumb against a trained athlete. I was toying with him, using a skill I barely understood, and didn't even know I had. And when it came down to it, I paid a price for letting my guard down, wicked. But that was then, this is now.

So, I'm waiting on the front steps of the Y, waiting for Mom to come by in our family truckster-mobile and pick me up. It had been a good day, I had to admit, right up until Juan gave my marbles a jingle with the pommel of his sword. I was still sore from that, and had it in my mind to definitely get some proper equipment. I'd never used any sports gear before, though. So I was about to go into uncharted territory for the second time today.

Fortunately, I didn't have to wait alone. Kenny sat beside me, both of us draining bottled waters. We talked idly, if that can be said. You know, the usual stuff. The relative merits of different X-men. The things we hated about school. Movies we liked. Typical stuff you talk about when you meet someone who changes your life forever. I didn't even realize that Mom had walked up behind us as we talked away until she gave over the old "Uhm ahem!" move.

"You ready, Robby," she said, pitching her eyes back and forth between me and Kenny. When you live in a small family of energetic extroverts, like my clan, you learn to pass wise with the best of them. James Bond has nothing on my family for passing signals and hidden meanings. Word to the wise, never play canasta against any combination of us. We rule!

Anyways, I got the hint. Mom wanted an introduction without having to openly ask me for one. I groused for a moment, but I knew I had to let her in on things. I just didn't want to let her gloat for too long about me making a friend.

"Uh, Mom, this is my friend Kenny. He's the coach's son. Kenny, this is 'the Mom,'" I said, my hand gesturing back and forth.

"Nice to meet you, Kenny," Mom said, smiling broadly. She was definitely in what I call "make an impression" mode. But I was happy she wasn't pressing things… yet.

"Good to meet ya," Kenny said back, smiling. I wonder if he knew what that smile of his does to people? I know what it's done to me! Oooh, yeah!

"Mom!" I said, hoping to get her attention off the fact that she was right. "I need to get some stuff for class."

"Like what stuff?"

"Um, I dunno. But Kenny does!"

"I'll bet!" she replied. "We talkin' a lot of stuff, Kenny?"

"Just some second hand hockey and lacrosse gear should be alright. The stuff here doesn't fit all that well and you never know who's had it before you. Plus, um, I dunno how to say this but, um, Robby?" he asked, differing to me.

"Mom, I got sacked today," I blurted. She didn't understand, I could tell. No lights were flashing above her head. "Um, I mean, I got tagged low, as in low blow." Still not comprehending. "Aw, Mom! I got hit in the crotch!" Kenny burst into a giggle fit, covering his face with his hand almost as soon as he started.

The lights finally went on in her head. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah, the nurse made me put ice on it, er, them. The cup they gave me was too small."

"Cup?" Mom asked, clearly not knowing what was going on, or what that was.

"Uh, he means the plastic protector piece in a boy's athletic supporter, ma'am," Kenny bailed me out. He was accurate and blunt without hammering her over the head. Which is a good thing, since that's my job anyways.

"Oh!" She looked back at me. "Does it still hurt down there?"

"Mom!" I said, giving her the warning look. This was a public street, after all. Anyone walking by could hear just about anything we said. It's bad enough that the contents of my underwear were now being discussed out here, now she wanted a status report? Sometimes, I wish, just for a day, that mom's would have a set of balls, just so they would understand what we guys go through having them ourselves, 24/7. But, that would make them dads, I guess, huh?

"So when is next class?"

"We meet again on Wednesday, Mrs. French."

"So I guess we can go ahead and get you some gear before then. We've got a day in between."

"Can Kenny go with us, Mom? He knows how it all should fit and what stuff I'll need."

"That might be a good idea. Your father will be about as clueless as I am about sports stuff. But we'll have to talk to Kenny's parents first," she said, and her reproving eyes fell on me. Shouldn't have asked in front of him, I knew, but I had to strike while the iron was hot.

"We'll, I don't see any problem with it, Mrs. French," Master said from behind all three of us. "You about ready, son?"

"Yeah, Pop. Um, can I go with them to the store?" I nudged Kenny getting his attention. Then I did the rapid eyes back and forth between his dad and my Mom. "Oh, um, Mrs. French, this is my Dad, Mitch Tannagord."

"Pleasure to meet you," Master Mitch said, holding out his hand.

"Oh, likewise," my Mom replied, her eyes twinkling a bit. Oh MIgod, did my mother just check out Kenny's dad? "And it's Anne. I heard that Robby took one for the team today?" she asked, suddenly hip to all the various hints about getting ones testicles bashed into by an opponent.

"An unfortunate incident. I dealt with the other boy quickly and firmly. It won't happen again, I assure you. I hope that Robby decides to stay with us. He's got a genuine talent for fencing."

"He does?" Mom said, bold faced knocked over by it. Got to admit, I was a little shocked by my sudden lack of sucktitude at something physical. I was even terrible at kickball in elementary school.

"Yeah, he's really good," Kenny said. "Wanna see?"

"Oh, this I have got to see with my own eyes," Mom said, looking down at me. "Okay, Robert. Stand and deliver!"

"Here? Now?"

"Kenny, go get the sabers from the car. You two can go dry at half speed," Mitch commanded. Kenny took off for a cream and tan SUV on the other side of the street, and I went with him. Mom and Master Mitch talked for the few seconds it took us to retrieve our favored blades.

There was a large expanse of public park about a block from the Y. It has all the kind of things that a public park in New England is supposed to have. War memorials, a pair of cannon, a statue in greened copper, criss-crossing footpaths and well manicured lawns, all set on a rolling patch of uneven ground shaded by ancient elms, oaks, some evergreens and a smattering of white birch clusters. Mitch nodded to the park and he and my Mom started walking towards it.

"You'd think she wasn't married," I said bitterly.

"Hey, I've seen my Dad talk to dozens of moms. It's pretty much how they all act. Like he's something special or something." Kenny was clearly not seeing this from the point of view of the kid whose mother was practically flirting with his dad.

"What does your mom think of all that?" I asked, kind of letting my automatic argument sense kick in. Almost immediately I regretted it and was about to say something to let him know I wasn't as ticked as I sounded when I saw the look that passed over his face. It was a kind of pure sadness, distilled by years of familiarity. I felt lower than the Titanic.

"I never knew my mother. She died when I was born," he said simply. I was about to reply when his sad face seemed to come into a sad smile. "I guess she'd be pretty pissed," he agreed.

That was something I was going to have to get seriously used to about Kenny. He never, ever let his temper out. He was always quiet, calm, contemplative. Even in the middle of a sword battle, he was calm. Happy, almost joyful at times, but calm. He was one of those rare people you meet that has the patience of a saint, a will of iron and the gentleness of a teddy bear.

"I'm… I mean I… Um, Kenny, I'm a dick. Sometimes I say things without thinking about them, really. I mean, it all sounds like I thought it out, but it's like it's on automatic."

"I know," he smiled, and this time it was his more genuine smile, the one that makes my palms sweaty and my chest shake as my heart skips a beat. Yeah, that's right, I'm so much a geek that my heart can make my ribs shudder when it does weird things. Get over it, okay?

We got to the park, commonly called either GAR park or Canterbury Commons, and selected a patch of grass for our duel. We agreed that we would go until first touch, and that we would pull hits, since neither of us was wearing armor of any kind. Well, mostly I agreed. Kenny was calling the rules and I was just thinking what he said made sense. He could have been really mean about it, but he was cool. Mom and Mitch crossed the street in time to watch as we stood our ground, blades just engaging in the outer third.

"Ready?" Mitch asked, getting a curt nod from both of us. Almost at the same time, strangely enough. I was beginning to wonder at this odd synchronization between us. I mean, here we were, having met only a few hours ago, and we were reading each others body language like twins. Freaky.

"Begin!" Mitch commanded. Nothing happened at first. We just stared each other down over our crossed blades. The air hung tense between us for several seconds.

Then… whoosh! No other words can adequately describe the sounds our blades made as we circled and parried and thrust and dodged and turned and spun and slashed at each other. The air was bending around us as we clashed several times. He was like a dervish, clearly taking the offense right from the start, but it didn't make a bit of difference, because I was blocking all his shots and making him chase me to boot. I wasn't giving ground, I was offering it to him, deliberately coaxing him in. I hadn't realized it yet, but I was trying to trap him.

It didn't work, though. He got wind of it and backed off, circling. I took the moment away from the battle to wipe my forehead with the back of my left hand. In the Y we had air conditioning, at least marginally. Outside, we had Mother Nature and the beating power of the afternoon sun. The breezes weren't enough to take the heat away.

Kenny came set, which is to say that he stopped moving and assumed a stance. He had had enough of chasing and he was going to wait for me to attack. And damnit all if I was gonna make him wait. I charged in, took a long swipe at him and did something else that totally stunned and amazed me. As I swung in, high, Kenny ducked under the sweep and lanced in low, going for my right thigh, which was in perfect striking range for his outer third. As his blade sailed in, I was too far out of position to counter or block with my own blade. I suddenly felt an urge, and without pausing to analyze it, I went for it fully.

I dove over his incoming blade, tumble rolled through a somersault that ended up with me half turned to face Kenny again. But before I could contemplate exactly what made me do that crazy stunt, I had to fend off a renewed attack from Kenny. He came in and swung hard four times, each from a different direction, each with speed I thought I'd never be able to match. All four shots banked off my blade, at different directions. He stopped again, assuming a movie stance, crouched, his blade held out, front leg long and low to the ground, his free hand up over his head.

I took that as a challenge and leapt in, feinting over my left shoulder and then switching up to come at him from below as I landed. He parried and spun inwards, his blade covering his back as he whipped around. I barely caught his slashing blade in my inner third and slipped under his strike, turning and moving. We came set away from each other, him dropping into his favorite ready stance, me looking like I was posing for the cover of some martial arts magazine.

"Stop!" Mitch called out. My Mom had this look on her face like she was totally blown away. This day was having a bizarre effect on everyone. We had dueled for about 45 seconds, and that alone had impressed my Mom to the point of making her speechless. Not an easy thing to do, and for once, I'd done it without getting into trouble. I must have had a one hundred percent shit eating grin plastered on my face, even as I felt like a sweaty pig staring at an open oven.

Kenny and I relaxed and walked back over to our respective parents, both of us grinning like idiots. We suddenly didn't need words. Some friendships are like that, where you can just be in the same room and feel, know what your pal is thinking and agree without having to say anything. Later I was to learn how fencers talk about a series of hits and passes with words like "phrases," and "conversations." I guess that's what Kenny and I had been doing while we were showing off. Talking with our blades.

Mom was suitably impressed. "And where, exactly have you been hiding this talent, Robert?" she asked. When she gets that smile and the formal English speech patterns going, I know she's totally amazed at me. I haven't heard that in a long time and I got to admit, that kind of praise from her felt really good. Mom, if you ever read this, I love ya!

Mitch was talking again as Mom hugged me tight against her hip. Kenny was leaning against his father, with Mitch's hands dropped onto his narrow shoulders. My eyes locked with Kenny's and I nearly fell into them. I mean it! Gazing into his amazing eyes is like staring into a bottomless waterfall, only while you feel the terror of the height and the power of nature in that gaze, you want to leap down it just the same. To this day it still shocks me how his eyes affect others, myself included.

"He's really got a talent for it, Anne. A knack. It's uncanny how he's had no training but is giving Kenny here a run for it. I've been teaching Kenny how to fence since he could pick up a foil and he's probably my best student ever. But Robby's ability is just raw genius. I've never seen anyone take to the blade so quickly."

"Seriously?" Mom replied.

"Without a doubt. Right, Kenny?"

"He's pretty damn good, Dad," Kenny agreed, grinning at me ferociously. "But I can still take him." That he said with a little more than just playful edge. Kenny was my friend, but that didn't mean we weren't competitors and rivals as well. Thing is, for once in my life, while I did find that I wanted to compete with him, I also found myself hoping that I'd lose sometimes. Explain that one anyway you want Freud, but I'm sure it has something to do with just wanting to be friends and not beat him so much that he'd want to stay away, but… oh hell, I don't even know why I'm writing this story out, let alone why I felt that way. Some things just are and you take them at face value. This was one of those things, even if I tried to piece it out for myself.

And strangely enough, the only response I gave to his challenge, was to narrow my eyes, smile and tap my blade against his. Curious? Yeah, I guess I was too, but it felt right to reply that way. Words would have just made it into an argument, and Mom and Master Mitch were talking over us. No need to complicate what they were arranging by being noisy brats.

The parent's settled on Kenny coming over tomorrow morning at about 10 so that we could go gear shopping. I asked if I could hold on to the saber over night, but Mom said no, firmly and without reservations. She might be willing to let me swing a stick around and bash into other people away from home, but she didn't want me going Darth Vader around the house. I kinda see her point, but it eventually became moot anyways. But that's another issue. Wait for it.

I was almost bouncing around the room as I got home. My nuts occasionally would spasm, however and make me sit down and just breathe. I even went and got a drink and let the glass rest between my thighs as I went online, lefty and righty snuggling up against both my body and the icy-cold glass. Mr. Pickle kinda tried to suck up inside my body, but I don't have a whole lot of what you'd call baby fat. I got a cold tippy and had to adjust, even though the ice felt good on the old bag.

I searched the net for fencing sites and Star Wars sites that dealt with lightsabers. The Star Wars side was very deep, and they even had this one place where some guy in California was building customized sabers, with light-up blades he claimed were practically indestructible. The price tag was kinda well outside my allowance, and even then, with the probable price of gear we were going to get tomorrow, I would be pressing my luck to even ask. Still, some of those blade handles looked mad nice!

Sometime after dinner, and after giving Dad a huge play-by-play of the fights that day and the sacking incident, I felt all of the energy I'd spent kinda creep up and hit me at once. I was exhausted, knackered and slightly bruised. My body felt stiff and tight and kinda sore, but in a good way. I wasn't much for exercises, but this was kinda like that.

Of course, Mom noticed and sent me up to the bathroom, telling me to soak for a while. She even offered to let me use her fizzing bubble bath pellets. I turned down the bubbles, however. I just wanted to sink into a hot tub and let my body drift. Besides, I lifted my armpit and sniffed. I was definitely whiff at that point, but I didn't want to smell girly. Just clean.

In the tub, I lay silently. I know this is kinda corny, but I don't do the tub that often, so this is a ritual with me. I had my portable CD box plugged in, playing old music. Yeah, I know, I'm thirteen and supposed to be an MTV freak. And I do like some of the current music, but….well, there's something about old rock that just gets me, inside. It's got a soul to it, I guess, even the silly stuff or the stuff that's just there to give you the happy feet. I was listening to a mixed CD of old stuff I had made a while back. Strangely enough it was a one hit wonder song by a band called 10cc that got me thinking. I don't get the band name reference, but the song was something that had been a road trip favorite with my parents since I was young and I knew the words by heart, well most of them anyways. "The Things We Do for Love."

Oh, and I had the light turned off so the automatic nightlight was the only glow in the bathroom aside from the CD player's running lights. That's the whole description. Floating, listening to old rock and roll, in the dark, water hotter than I normally like it, with only my belly, the tops of my thighs, my chest and my face above the water. Drifting.

Oh, and there was another part of me that stuck up from the water, but since this is that kind of story, you probably already guessed that.

So I was drifting, thinking, remembering all at once and I kept seeing Kenny's face before me. And his awesome eyes. I still couldn't fathom that he was my friend. Or that we'd known each other such a short time and we hit it off so well, and he was so killer with that sword and… and I liked him a lot.

Okay, so friendship implies "like," but I was feeling something more. Call it a foolish presumption, but the three full out fencing exhibitions we'd put on together didn't seem so much me, or him compensating for me, as it felt like us. That with anyone else it would have been spectacular, but with him and me together, we were on another level entirely. Beyond the scope, as it were.

And other parts of me were in agreement. I still felt too sore down there to throw down and have a full on jack off, even though Mr. Pickle was practically trying to mimic the Bunker Hill Memorial. One hand was there, idly stroking, but not seriously. I wasn't trying to get off. For some reason, it just seemed to be more of a calm and reflective moment.

He's affected me, I remember thinking. Parts of his personality have rubbed off on me in only one day. Can it be possible? I thought about asking Mom about it, but would have to come at it obliquely. She'd be a terror to handle when I asked her, but she'd be that way about such a subject anyways, whether I was thinking about a boy while tickling my dick or a girl. I just had to deal with things gently, which would only make her more concerned.

I must have been in the bathroom, soaking, for the better part of an hour and a half, because by the time I got out, not only was I wrinkly, but the second game of the Red Sox double header was over. Split games. Oh well, can't win them all. Mom was poking around the movie stations, looking for something worth popcorn to watch. Dad was reading the paper, picking out things to go back and check up on.

Dad makes lots of money, I should point out. He's what you call a "Spin Doctor." That's a fancy term for someone who sets a tone for media coverage on news stories and political events. He worked for a state senator up on Beacon Hill in Boston and did part time stuff for the Congressman from this area. His consultant fees for lesser politicians were enormous. From what I understand, Dad had the house paid for in less than eight years, and he paid cash for the three family cars.

Mom paid cash too, but her own job was far less stressful. She was, believe it or not… a librarian.

Yeah, My Mom, the female motor mouth, was a librarian. I guess that's why her and Dad click so well. They both know the power of words, and how to choose them properly. It's probably why we argue so much and can pass wise without other people knowing. Communication is the key to any relationship, I have often heard. My folks knew how to communicate, and weren't afraid to do so. That's probably where I get it from.

I got dressed, simply. The air outside was nice, and the folks had the windows open. Good sleeping weather, as the old timer Yankees say it. So I dressed light, but I was too old to just walk around in my underwear anymore (or so Mom insisted). Boxer-briefs, two-color shiny workout shorts that went to just above my knees and a University of Massachusetts T-Shirt that also went almost to my knees. Socks were optional and I opted not to.

"Ah, here's Zorro now," Dad said as I came bouncing down the stairs, taking them two at a time. I stepped over to the desk he was working at and planted a kiss on top of his hair before bounding into the kitchen to rummage around for some tonic. Er, that's a New England word, it means soda, pop, fizz, or just Coke, depending on where you live.

"Want some popcorn? Movie's about to start."

"Yeah, I'll be right there, Mom. Gonna get a drink. You want one?"

"I'm covered, thanks," Mom replied. "You had a call while you were in the tub."


"Yeah. Kenny. He said he'd just talk to you later. Left his number by the phone." My heart skipped, my ribs shook, my knees felt weak.

"Uh, okay," I called back, trying to cover my reaction. Thank god there was a solid wall between the kitchen and the living room as I opened the fridge door for a Coke. "He say anything?"

"Nope, just wanted to talk to you. Bring your father a Diet Coke, Robby."

"Thanks, dear," Dad said, not looking up. See what I mean about communicating. He hadn't said a word and she knew he wanted one. That's how awesome my parents are!

After passing Dad a fresh one I found a comfy spot on the couch and curled up. I know that I was tired, but I didn't understand how tired until I looked up and discovered that I had fallen asleep on the couch. Sunlight streamed into the living room. Sometime during the night, Mom had pulled a blanket off the back of the couch and covered me. Good thing, too, because the windows were open all night and it was early morning chilly. Of course that didn't stop good old fashioned morning wood from creeping in with the sun.

I tried to remember the last bits of my dreams. Strangely, they weren't about fencing, Kenny or even just plain weird school type dreams where I walk around naked. No, I remember being able to leap great distances and about dancing around a fire at night, some kind of party, and the people were all like fairy tale creatures. Some kind of double barreled recorder was being played, sounding two distinctly different yet complimentary notes at once, along with the sound of drums. I bounced and leapt and danced around the bonfire, touched and touching the others who were there, eating grapes fresh from the vine and even pouring huge silver urns of wine over my head, mouth open, and letting the liquid course over my chin, chest, belly, thighs and legs as I drank. Weird, but that's what it was.

I sat up, probably looking like something better left asleep and stretched. My arms were still sore but they felt somehow different. Tighter, stronger. I was running my hand along the length of my skinny bicep when I heard a familiar tread down the stairs. Mom has a way she walks. It's kinda hard to describe, but I know the difference between her stair climbing and Dad's. He's heavier on the steps anyways, and it makes more noise. Mom is more of a two step pattern, like the glub-glub of a heartbeat, with a little pause in between. Step-step, step-step, step-step, like that.

"Morning, sleepyhead," she beamed. I tend to be a lot like Mom in most respects, all save one. She's a morning person. It's embarrassing to admit it, but it's true.

I grunted something approximating a greeting, or more like a hibernating bear being prodded by a stupid Aussie who ought to know better than to piss off big, sleeping predators and other dangerous animals (okay, so I hate that Croc Hunter guy. His movie even sucked). She began busying herself in the kitchen, which aroused my suspicions about a hot breakfast. I dragged myself off the couch, draping the blanket across my shoulders. I needed to hit the bathroom for the morning ritual of the falling yellow waters, else I anger the porcelain god. Plus I had to do it through a stiffy, so I had to take care.

"Want some pancakes? I'll even throw in some chocolate chips."

"Okay," I said in passing, heading towards the room for pissing. I looked out the window as I walked to the downstairs toilet and noticed that Dad's car wasn't in the yard. Must be off in a meeting. I reflected that I was really some kind of mutant since both my parents were morning people. I guess every silver lining must be attached to a cloud.

After relieving the bladder and paying homage to the little Charybdis in the bowl, I wandered into the kitchen. Almost immediately my thoughts were on Kenny. I remembered that Mom said he called last night. I glanced at the clock on the microwave. Only twenty after eight. I should probably wait to call him after nine or so, I thought. But at least I had his number. Hell, at least I had a friend to call this early in the morning. I was having a great daydream imagining what it would be like to have someone to do things with during the long summer break.

And no, I wasn't thinking about hopping all over Kenny while we were both naked and covered in olive oil, either, you perverts. Not every waking moment of my life is a walking hard-on. I mean, c'mon, there's more to life than just getting your rocks off.

So, Mom kind of notices my mood and she gets this look. This is one she rarely shows me, but I caught it just the same. It's kind of a sneaky look. I mean, she's busy making the stove give over pancakes and bacon and at the same time she's watching me like she's waiting for me to sprout wings and glow or something. It's freaky and unnerving, but it was also like she knew something (or at least suspected, suspicious mind, my Mom has) and wasn't going to tell me.

I must have had that dopey look on my face, so I quickly schooled my features. Not a good time to let Mom know I was thinking about olive oil and… Damn-it, I really wasn't!

Oh, hell, parts of me were. The other parts were just wanting to finally go out and be like normal kids and make the most of what I was already calling "my last kid summer." Next summer would be the summer before high school. This was my last chance to be wild and crazy and get away with it, allergies permitting. Soon enough, I'd have to buckle down.

"Kenny seems nice," Mom opened. From this harmless seeming question she intended to launch an entire campaign of information gathering from me. I wasn't really going to let her get away with it. I had secret feelings and I was going to keep them to myself this time.

"Yeah, I really like him," I heard my mouth say. Once again, the autopilot control was set to Mouth, and I spoke without thinking. I really have to get that under control one of these days.

"His father was very informative about you at the Y yesterday."

"Really?" I adopted the puppy-dog eyes and the slight head tilt. Usually it works. Mom remained a cautious adversary in conversations where she was fishing. I had to pull out all the stops.

"He was wondering what you might think about changing to a regular sword class, possibly even going to competitions."

Okay, had there been a cup in my hand, near my mouth, with liquid just one tongue movement from being swallowed, I'd have spit it all over the kitchen table. Yes, that caught me completely flat footed. I completely gave up the defensive argumentative position and became an over excited kid. Actually, since the morning wood wasn't totally a thing of the past yet, I was already over excited, I just now didn't care if I showed it.

"No Sir!" I exclaimed. "Really? Competitions?"

"He thinks you are that good. Dad and I talked about it last night."

Uh oh! Now I knew that there was something serious going on. I knew they talked about things for me all the time, but the fact that she was now divulging the secrets of such conversations with me… I'm not really sure what it meant, but it was unprecedented. I was truly out in the midst here. "And?"

"And, well, we wanted to know what you thought about it. Juice?"


"I'd like some juice on the table for breakfast, if you don't mind."

"Oh, right," I said, and jumped up and snapped open the fridge. A fresh half gallon of juice sat next to the milk and I pulled the whole thing out. Something hadn't dropped into place yet.


"So what? Oh, the competition thing?"

"Yeah," she said, sliding a plate over in front of me. Fresh chocolate chip pancakes have a way of focusing a guy on things. Especially with nice crispy bacon on the side and Vermont Maple syrup.

"I dunno. It's only been one day at Jedi. It seems like a big step to start using real swords already."

"Well, perhaps you can talk it over with Kenny today while we're out shopping."

I had totally forgotten about that. My heart skipped a beat, along with the requisite chest shaking sensations. Sometimes I really hate being so thin. I wonder what happens in a fat person's chest when their heart skips a beat. On second thought, maybe I don't want to know. I think of some pretty weird things some times.

For example, right then I had this weird image of Kenny and me fencing while wearing shiny bits of armor and loin cloths, sweating like hogs in high summer. We were wading in chocolate and tapioca pudding, mixed, and each had lightsabers that changed colors, the handles made of carved crystal. I blinked a few times to clear that image and got another one of just Kenny, leaning back on his elbows, wearing only a towel around his middle.

I felt myself blushing. Must have been one hell of a blush too, because Mom gave me the eye. I quickly stuffed a whole strip of bacon into my face in order to partly cover my embarrassment.

"You forgot we were going looking for cups today," she said, nodding. Whew! If she only knew that it was Kenny's cup I was daydreaming about instead… I didn't even want to think about it.

"Sorta. Yesterday still seems like a dream to me," I said, and it wasn't a lie. "I guess he'll be coming over about 10 then?"

"That was the plan. But you are avoiding the question, kiddo."

"You didn't ask one," I returned. Damned autopilot was getting fired after this conversation!

"About competition fencing? Would you like to try it out? Mitch say's he'll train you over at his house."

That about set it up for me. Being at Mitch and Kenny's house meant I would be spending time with Kenny. Lots of time. "Um, okay, I guess."

"You guess," she said, sliding a plate of pancakes onto the table for herself. I poured both of us some juice and took a huge forkful of pancake.

"I mean, I like Kenny and all. We really hit it off yesterday and all…" but before I could continue, Mom had two cents to lay down.

"See, I told you you'd make friends at the Y!"

"Okay, Mom. You were right. I liked it, right up until I got smashed in the nuts." Oooh, I fired the autopilot right there. I'd never, ever said anything remotely that dirty to my mother. I blushed again, almost certain I was about to feel her lash out and give my cheek a fresh one. The seconds ticked by and no attack. I risked a look up and saw Mom casually cutting a wedge out of her pancake stack, swirling it in syrup. "And I wanna go do stuff with Kenny, but I just don't know about real fencing. I mean, with the lightsabers it's just for fun. And with Kenny it's really fun. I think we're reading each others minds when we fence."

"Yeah, so?"

"SO! Mom, c'mon! Real fencing means real swords! It means really getting bashed and bruised, wicked!"

"You are so into the drama right now. Eat your breakfast and listen to me a moment." She was calm, which was far from what I was at the moment. I suddenly had an image of Juan staring across a rapier blade at me, doing Antonio Banderas as Zorro. I can admit it. I was afraid. Sue me!

"I talked with Mitch while you were in the tub. Your father was on the extension and we three had a long talk. Mitch thinks you have an extraordinary talent. And it's clearly something you enjoy. He would like you to consider it."

"Yeah, being a pin cushion for thugs with three foot Ginsu's," I snapped with a good bit of sarcasm. I hate having to use English system equivalents, but Mom doesn't understand metric. She'd never get the reference.

"Mitch explained it all to us last night. It's not like that at all. Besides, the way I saw you move yesterday was, well…" And she blushed this time. I mean really blushed and had to look away. "It made me so proud of you, Robby. You found a talent you never knew about and you were so happy doing it. The look on your face was pure joy. I just want you to consider what Mitch has to say, alright?"

"Okay," I answered, suddenly feeling lower than dirt because she was trying to support me on something she thought I was really into and I was balking. But, my mind works in rapid gears and on many levels. "Does this mean I can stay over at Kenny's tonight?"

Apparently the autopilot was taking a parting shot as he was heading out the door.

"If he asks you, yes. And don't tell him to ask you in front of me, either, Robert," she said, raising a forkful to her mouth. "Now eat up, you need to get dressed and I want a shower before we go shopping."

I finished breakfast and hopped about doing the dishes, generally cleaning up. I don't have many chores around the house. Mom isn't much into clutter and the house is easy to keep clean. But she expects me to get things done. After that I dressed and spent a few minutes with my CD player, listening to old music again. It was just that kind of mood. Oh, and somewhere in around all that I took my allergy medicine. I have really nasty reactions to living things, I guess. It's a good thing I have my Mom, because Mother Nature seems to be out to get me.

To make a long story short (too late, heheheheh), Kenny knocked on the front door at three past ten, his father already heading to the Y for his classes. I let him in and shouted up to Mom that he was here. She was in the shower and probably didn't hear. But that didn't matter, Kenny was here and I was suddenly immensely happy.

"I brought something for you," Kenny said, his eyes glittering. He had brought both our lightsabers. My eyes seized first my bright blue blade then his clear gray eyes for what seemed like eternal seconds. Something passed between us, and I almost acted on it. Almost, but not quite.

"Awesome!" I said, taking the blade and going through a few practice swings.

"Prepare to die, Sir Robyn the Blue!" Kenny hissed, adopting a stance that was all drama and totally inappropriate for traditional fencing. Somehow it suited the odd phrasing and voice he was using.

"Not this day, Lord Kenneth Steel-Eyes!" I replied back, spiking the words with overblown British backspin. "Taste my edge and tell Lucifer that I shall be sending all his vile servants back to Hell soon!" I vowed. Without further ado, we joined battle.

Now, this time I'm not even going to tell you what moves we used, or how fast we were striking and parrying, turning and ducking and jumping. All I will tell you is that if we had taken it to another level at the park yesterday, this time we were soaring past that mark by leagues. We must have been at it for about ten minutes when my Mom let out a high, piercing wolf whistle. We both halted on a spinning move and stood staring at each other, chests heaving, blood singing in our ears, sweat drenching our shirts.

"Robert! Kenny! Both of you, get upstairs and get into some clean shirts this instant! I am not taking you two hooligans out shopping smelling like gym shoes!"

We marched up to my room and quickly changed into two shirts from my closet. This was the second time I had seen Kenny's chest bare. And while it wasn't a really big thing to see another boy without a shirt on, it was turning me on. I threw him one of my Patriots Championship tee's and pulled a "Property of University of Maine Black Bear's Hockey" tee shirt on. My head poked up through the collar and I noticed he was looking at me. Staring, actually, with that kind of hungry gaze.

"Kenny?" I asked, worried.

"Oh, sorry. My mind was wandering. Cool room!" he said, slipping his borrowed shirt over his head. I wondered if he was wandering about the same thing I was wandering about as I watched him struggle into the shirt. I always buy over-size shirts so I practically swim in them. It's a slacker thing, I was perfecting an image. Kenny was one of those who always wore the exact right size. I guess he was showing off his lean muscles. God, but I wanted to touch him!

We popped down the stairs, racing outside. Mom was sitting there, leaning against the hood of the car, holding my lightsaber and trying to make it move like I did, only she wasn't holding it right and she wasn't moving the right way and her balance was all over the place and…

Suddenly I realized, right then and there, that I did have a natural talent for fencing. Not just with the lightsaber, but that I was analyzing her like a coach might. Like a seasoned pro. Lots of things made sense suddenly. A few things were still muddy, but lots of other things dropped into place.

"You two knights ready?" she asked, putting my saber (I guess it was mine, Kenny had basically brought it to me) down by the door.

"Yeah," I said. Kenny nodded beside me, his smile coming up, but looking a bit distracted. I figured that I'd get the chance to talk to him later about what was bugging him. We hopped into the back seats of the family truckster. Mom loved this old Jeep Cherokee, and I kinda liked it too. The thing was tough and tuff at the same time, and it didn't need a snowplow rig to blast through deep banks in wintertime.

It was a longer than usual trip to the used sports gear shop in Plaistow, New Hampshire, just a border hop from my home town. Actually, the towns rub shoulders, but that whole state line thing kept them firmly separated. The only thing that kept Plaistow so well off, economically, was that curious bit about New Hampshire having no sales tax. That and they had a Wal-Mart, which pretty much means there's money to be had.

The actual search time in the store was rather fast. We didn't shop like a Mom would. We shopped like boys who know what they were looking for, tested it out and made decisions quickly. Mom just wandered about looking at things and asking stupid questions to the cashier. The poor guy must have the patience of a saint.

In short order we had found me a set of grieves that fit snug and let me have decent movement through the knees and ankles, a second hand hockey chest protector and shoulder pad rig that was practically fresh from the packaging, and a really cool lacrosse helmet. The leather gloves from the Y weren't a problem, so I didn't even look for those.

The hardest part (no pun intended) was when we went looking for a cup. I was kinda worried about it all. I mean, how do you test one out without making it unfit for someone else to buy later? And if you think I was gonna get a used cup?! Not after the sacking incident! No SIR!

Kenny and the desk clerk came through for me though. After a brief word, Kenny picked up a fresh bubble packed athletic supporter and took me to the bathroom. The clerk covered for us with Mom, asking her about what other activities I was in, generally distracting her with conversation and hints about local sports leagues and the like. I'd have to be sure to drop a fin with the guy as I left. He was cool.

In the bathroom I was confronted with yet another difficulty. Kenny looked at me as he locked the door and said, smiling, "Okay, Robby, drop 'em." It hadn't occurred to me that when he said he'd help fit me with my gear that he was going to help me literally gird up my loins. Talk about embarrassment! And, unfortunately, he was turning me on. I had a semi during most of the other fittings for gear, because his hands were constantly on me, helping strap the Velcro on the grieves at the back of my knees, helping tighten the back strap on the chest protector, even his gentle, strong fingers brushing against my face as he helped me sort out the helmet. We went through about six helmets before we got it right.

So it was with some reluctance that I began lowering my pants. Kenny spent that time opening the bubble pack, ripping the tape on the back of the seal. He unrolled the supporter from its tuck inside the cup. I stepped out of my jean shorts and watched as he bent over and brought the cup down near my crotch. Mind you, I was still in my underwear, but I wasn't exactly in a relaxed condition. This was the closest another person aside from my Mom had been to my crotch without trying to injure me in a while.

"Looks like it'll be about right." He straightened up and blushed. "You'll have to go all the way in order to know for sure, though." His smile was kinda half embarrassed. "I'll turn around til you're ready," he said and faced the door. I kept my eyes on him as I lowered my boxer-briefs. Mr. Pickle was straining at this point. Here I was in a small cubicle, naked from the waist down with the one kid I was having passion attacks for just a step away. I felt myself going flush, my breathing drawing shallow. I could hear my heart racing in my ears. Mr. Pickle was more alert than he'd ever been before and I swear I could probably have pissed ten meters through him at that moment.

Focus, Robby! I screamed at myself. I quickly assessed the straps and all of the supporter and clambered into it. The pouch was cool and soft, sliding like silk on polished wood (and what an image that brings to mind!). I had it up and in place, all necessary articles tucked away, even if some of them were stretching up almost to the waist band. But I didn't have the cup in the front pouch. That was the selling point, after all, protection. Almost reluctantly, I called to Kenny.

He turned around and I saw, heard and felt his breath catch. It's a weird thing to see someone else do. You'd think it only happens in movies or trashy stories (hey, I heard that!). Our eyes met for a moment and then both flicked away, almost as if by mutual decision. "Um, how…how does that feel?"

"Good," I replied. You know how sometimes you just don't know what words to use, or how to use them or how to talk.? That was where we both were suddenly. It's a point of no return. You can't back out of that kind of moment, only ride it through, no matter where it goes. We were talking, but it was through a sort of fear and desire and emotion that neither of us understood. I certainly had never felt it before. My damn heart was knocking out a drum solo on my breastbone.

"You'll have to slip this in, uh, in there," he said, holding the cup out towards my groin.

"Oh, right," I said, and reached for the cup. Now I must have taken a step, because the lower end of the cup now was touching my dick through the supporter pouch, and my hand brushed his as I reached for the cup.

Okay, cliché again, I know, but at that instant, time stood still. I felt this kind of shuddering through my whole body as I touched his hand while his hand was holding that cup that was touching through to my hard cock. I think it passed through him too, because we both kind of looked up and matched gazes again, this time with him quickly licking his suddenly dry lips.

On an impulse I didn't understand and still can't explain, I smiled. No we didn't suddenly leap into a long, deep tongue wrestling match, nor did we paw at each other, seeking to drive each other crazy with lust and heat and tracings of fingers on supple skin. We didn't' need to. Well, let's just say we did need to, but we decided not to. Once again, we were communicating without words. Somehow, we just knew and just accepted the truth about each other without needing to say a word.

He smiled back. And that was perhaps the most transcendent moment I had yet experienced in my life. No bullshit. We had connected in a primal sort of way, and we hadn't done anything totally sexual yet. "You probably should put that in and see how it feels all together," he whispered. I nodded. We might have been communicating, but I wasn't quite capable of verbalizing at the moment. My throat was trembling too much, and it hurt.

I took the cup from him and started the process of sliding it past Mr. Pickle and the Twins, getting it to sit under, in front and to the sides all at once. The feeling was incredible, like the cup was somehow molded exactly for me. There was room inside it, but all my bits and pieces were protected. I looked down once all was set and saw that it stuck out in front of me a good 5 centimeters. I looked up at Kenny and he nodded. "Everybody inside?"

"Yeah," I managed, squeaking. He nodded again and reached out with his hand, his knuckles curled, and rapped right above my rock hard cock. The cup absorbed it all, and all I felt on me was a slight pressure. It was great! I suddenly felt invincible.

"Okay, that looks….eh, like a good fit. You want to wear it out, get used to it?" He had been momentarily flustered, but he covered it well. Or at least I let him think so. I wasn't sure entirely what was going on between us, but I was certain that I was going to have to talk to him about this when it was just him and me. I made a mental note and tacked it on my mental "to-do" list.

"Can I?"

"Well, as long as someone pays for it," he smiled back. "You can put your underwear on over it if you want. Just don't do that while we're at the Y. You'll be too hot and your underwear will be sweaty."

"Oh, okay." I quickly re dressed, the cup still in place. Once I had my jeans back up, I gave the cup a solid knock-knock with my fist. Nothing. Total nirvana.

Kenny smiled back at me. "Armored for battle, Sir Robyn?"

"Aye, lad," I quipped back, this time adjusting my accent to the Scottish side. I have to admit that my own knowledge of Scottish dialect is limited to old, old, old Star Trek re-runs and Brave Heart. Please don't hate me, Scotland. Just make equal fun of me back if you must. I've got a thick skin for that sort of kidding. I can take it.

We grinned up at each other and I decided before we left the bathroom I'd take a risk. I mean, hell, he'd just seen me practically naked, so, I guess there wasn't much he wasn't privy to. As he turned to open the door, I reached out and brushed my hand against the back of his neck, in the tangle of black curls gathered there. I don't know if he felt it or not, but I quickly pulled my hand back as he bent over, peering around the door. Even in the empty sports store, it wasn't a good idea for two boys to be seen coming out of a single toilet bathroom. He popped out and then motioned for me to follow.

Mom was very suspicious of the huge bulge in the front of my jeans. "Whaddya think?" I said, hands on hips. She burst out laughing.

"Better take two," Kenny suggested as Mom recovered her wits. "One to wear, one to wash."

"Oh, yeah, that makes sense," I agreed and picked up a second from the same rack he had pulled the first bubble pack from. The total we spent on gear was almost a hundred bucks. Thank god most of it was second hand gear or else it'd be far more.

"You two ready for lunch?" Mom asked as we exited the store.

"I could eat," I said noncommittally. That was a joke. She knew I was a bottomless pit at times. And I never gained so much as a gram. Weird how that is, huh?

"Burgers okay, Kenny?" Mom asked.

"Sure, anyplace."

"Good, because I'm starving for a decent bacon cheeseburger and a huge root beer," she smiled. She and I shared looks for a second and shouted at the same time "Barnie's!" For those that don't live in my home town, Barnie's is a local hot spot. A traditional drive in restaurant where all the car guys hung out during summer nights, checking out each others rides. The waitresses rolled around on skates and brought orders right up to your window. It even had a playground where I had played since I was able to walk. It was the coolest place.

Kenny smiled as we took off for Barnie's, and Mom dialed in the local oldies station. We were soon singing at the top of our lungs as we drove back into Canterbury. We pulled up beside this beat up Mustang rag top that had the same station playing and we just sat there singing, pointing and generally carrying on until the waitress rolled up. The two brothers in the Mustang were laying back in their front seat and just grooving to the music, the older one apparently lost in an air guitar fantasy.

Did I say bottomless pit before? Seems me and Kenny had that in common, and we each polished off two burgers each, fries, and matching huge jamocha shakes. Mom wasn't a potato person, so she let Kenny and me split her fries. Even after chowing down so hard, though, we still had energy, and Mom told us to go tackle the playground for a bit.

I was rapidly getting used to moving with the cup. It took a moment to realize that something hanging on my crotch could still leave me with so much mobility. In all fairness, the cup wasn't covering much. Oh, I might brag and just lie and tell you I was bigger than a baby's arm, but it wasn't true. I didn't have any hair yet, well, none to speak of other than peach fuzz. And I wasn't going to be winning any length contests anytime soon, or swinging small children around like Tarzan. But when you're thirteen and feel invincible in your one truly weak point, you don't care. You suddenly have a battleship gun between your thighs and can piss buckets of flaming napalm at will.

We chased around for a bit, dropping into the Lord Kenneth and Sir Robyn routine, even breaking into a few verses of that dumb song from Monte Python's Quest for the Holy Grail. "Brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Robyn! When danger reared its ugly head, Sir Robyn bravely turned and fled, Brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Robyn!" We were all giggles and sweat as we got back to the SUV. Mom was unimpressed and insisted that we take off our shirts and open the windows. We'd cool off by the wind while driving Kenny home.

It was almost like a sock on the jaw when she said that. The day had just clicked to 1 pm and now it was going to be ending. I didn't want to leave Kenny. We were just having too much fun together. I felt a sudden lack of enthusiasm for the ride home. Kenny looked equally crestfallen. And for once, I understood all the little innuendos and snide remarks one can make when using a word like crestfallen. Mr. Pickle decided to give up the ghost and shrank inside the cup.

I looked at Kenny and saw that he was thinking. His thinking look is different from mine. I normally get this blank expression, I mean totally slack in everything except my mouth, because I don't like leaving my mouth open for bugs. But Kenny's expression of thought was a subtle pinching of his brows, a slight frown that tilted to one side of his face, making his nose get taut and pull a little. I hate to say it like this, but he looked a bit like Ren from Ren and Stimpy.

"Uh, Mom?" I began, uncertain how to phrase this. "We forgot the sabers back at the house,"

"And my shirt," Kenny chimed in.

"Boys, you don't really want me to get angry at you, now, do you?" Uh oh, the shields snapped up. Mom had something in mind.

"No, ma'am," I said, deferentially. That alone should let her know I was on guard too.

"Then get this straight, right from the start. I don't miss a trick, a dodge, a look or a hook. I've already done more sneaky, underhanded and deceitful things than either of you is likely to do in your entire lives, combined." And she said that with the dead-level seriousness of a Mafia boss about to lay down the law. I was suddenly so very afraid. My heart tried to rearrange my insides, and I risked a quick glance at Kenny. He was looking confused more than scared, but he had only known Mom a day. He didn't know what she could be like when she wanted to be. What was she up to? I thought. The wind outside the Jeep's window suddenly seemed too hot compared with the cold lump of dread forming in my gut.

"I know perfectly well that the swords are back at the house, and that the both of you want to test out Robby's new stuff. Don't think for a moment you are fooling me."

And that was what she had meant. My overactive imagination had skipped ahead too far once again. I thought that she had somehow gotten a look at both of us when we were staring at each other. I let go of a tightly held breath and glanced at Kenny. He smiled back at me and punched me lightly on the shoulder.

I never understood the appeal of that move until just then. I mean, you see it in movies, read about it in stories and see it on the street all the time, but I never internalized why anyone would want to do that, or have it done. A lot of things were clicking for me. The last two days had been a revelation. I punched back, feeling the dense resiliency of his shoulder muscles, both of us grinning.

We pulled up in my front yard and immediately Mom told us to keep our shirts off if we were gonna fight some more. Well, of course we were gonna fight some more! It was how we had fun! She went into the house and started some simple paper work for Dad. See, once again they were communicating on levels I'd never even dreamed of. She was researching things for him while he was out with a client. My parents are just plain awesome!

Kenny and I got into a long duel, me only wearing the cup I still had on as armor. And it was great just like that. I mean, I have no idea how long we actually were trading cuts, but we were fully damp and exhausted when we stopped and just kind of fell to the ground after mutually killing each other, again. We fell almost on top of each other and my knee was touching part of his forearm from how we crumpled to the ground. After a few minutes we started talking. You know, Guy-Stuff. Cars, music, going to the beach, rides we wanted to go on at Six Flags New England, that sort of thing. Fencing never came up in the conversation. We were just laying in the grass beside each other, talking.

Now as hard as all that seems to believe, it really happened in just that way. No warning, no deep staring into the eyes, no clutching desperately at each other. Nothing. I just looked over at him and smiled and said what I felt in my head, heart and soul.

"I know you from someplace, don't I?" I asked him.

"Seems like it, huh?"

"I'm not kidding. Maybe in a former life?"

He got quiet. Not just the kinda no talking quiet, but the "I've got a secret and you've just almost guessed it," quiet. It scared me a bit to see him like that and I turned and looked past him.

"I'm right, aren't I? There are no coincidences. We were meant to meet."

He looked over at me, and I could feel the power of his gaze, but I couldn't bring myself to meet it, not yet. I had to get something from him, some truth, and he wasn't sure if I was ready for it. You see, that's one of the things about Kenny that draws me in. He's always worried about what I want or need. If we all had friends like him, then none of us would need to fight.

Of course that would mean we'd never need to fence and that Kenny and I'd never have meet because there would be no fencing class and… oh, damn-it, you know what I mean!

"I think so," Kenny replied, staring at me. And it was with conviction that he said it. It wasn't a guess given vocal shape and vibrational form, it was what he truly believed. "I'd swear it on my soul, if you want me to." I was to learn later just how serious he was about that.

"Kenny?" I said, or asked, or, I don't even know what words fit how I said it. "I really like you. I know we've only known each other for a day but I think you're, like…"

"My best friend?" he finished for me.

"Yeah," I said, getting my confused dog look. "Does that make any sense?"

"A lot, actually." He rolled over on his belly and I felt our gazes lock. "There's stuff I want to tell you about, but I can't yet."

"Why not?" I asked, but I kept it from being an accusation.

"Because it's about you. It's about a lot of things, Robyn, but its stuff you have to live and accept. I can't just tell you."

"You can tell me anything," I replied, not quite catching that he'd called me Robyn.

"Not now. I promise to you that I will tell you when the time is right." Now I know that girls are supposed to hear bells when they kiss the man they are supposed to marry, and some people claim that truth has a particular ring to it… but never in my life have I ever actually heard a sound like a clear, pure bell tone when someone says a soul deep truth to someone else like that. Describe it? I don't even know how. It's a simple, pure tone, one that you feel inside, outside and throughout the universe, all at once. If that sound had a flavor, it would be the sweet taste of pure sugar and cream mixed together and laid on a pristine glacier until perfectly cold, mixed with honey and vanilla, drank from a silver goblet.

And where that image came from, I'll never know.

Now before I could even ask him to explain how I heard that sound, or how I felt that truth to my core or even if he loved me like I was beginning to believe I loved him, his father drove up. Kenny leapt to his feet and chased across our meager lawn to the driveway and soared into his father's arms as he got out of the truck. Left to my own devices, I hopped up and followed my friend over, although with less enthusiasm. I mean, I liked Mitch, but his arrival signaled the end of our time together today. And I still wasn't ready to let go of Kenny yet.

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