Randy drove his motorcycle up the long drive, to the very large two story Tudor style mansion. It sat on an acre of land like the other estates in the neighborhood. They could see lights on in various rooms of the house as they neared it. The house was in an old neighborhood and it meant old money. Many of these houses had been in their owner's families for a very long time. This particular one was painted a charcoal gray with darker gray trim around the windows and doors. Its roof was colored a dark red. There was a large fountain in front, surrounded by dark red rose bushes and grass. The fountain had four wolves at the cardinal points facing toward the middle and water shot from their mouths. Where the four jets of water hit, there was a pedestal with a small gargoyle on top.
Randy parked the bike and he and Leo got off, removing their helmets as they did. They hated to wear the helmets, but because of the local laws requiring them, they did. They left the helmets hanging from the bike. They walked up to the front door and opened it. Stepping inside they made their way through the first floor of the house until they came to a closed door. Randy knocked.
There was a muffled answer from inside, "Enter."
Randy opened the door and entered with Leo behind him. The room was obviously a study. Sitting in a comfortable chair looking at the news on a large flat panel TV was an older man who looked to be in his 40's. He wore his dark hair long. He was drinking what looked like a dark red wine from a crystal flute. Randy and Leo stood there looking at the man as the man continued to watch the news for a few more moments before he turned his attention to the two teenagers. He took another sip and smiled at them.
"So how was it?" the man asked.
Randy hesitated for a moment, "Uh…it…uh, wasn't sir," he stammered.
The man looked at the two with one eyebrow raised as he took another sip before setting the flute down on the nearby table, "It wasn't?"
He sat back in the chair and motioned them forward to stand in front of them, "Tell me," he ordered.
Randy took in a breath, "The kid is marked," he said.
The man looked a little surprised at that news, "Marked you say. By whom?" he asked.
"I think a Furginson," Randy replied.
The man furrowed his brow thoughtfully, "Furginson, hmmm."
The man got up from the chair and walked over to a large window that looked out on the backyard of the house. He stood there silently for a few minutes, Randy and Leo looked at his back.
After a few moments, the man turned around and gazed at them. "You're sure?" he asked.
Randy nodded, "Yes sir. I could feel the mark," he replied.
"How old is this kid, as you call him?" the man asked.
Randy glanced at Leo before answering, "About fourteen, I believe."
Leo nodded in agreement.
"Fourteen. What is his name?" the man asked.
"Chris," Randy replied quickly.
"Do you know his last name?" the man asked.
Randy shook his head, "No, sir," he replied.
The man nodded, "Very well. Watch him Randy, do nothing, just watch," he ordered.
"Yes sir," Randy nodded in acceptance.
The man waved his hand, "Thank you for telling me, you may go. Oh, and if you happen to learn his last name, I would like to know," he said as he turned back toward the window.
Randy and Leo nodded and left the room. Randy went outside to put his bike away.
Back in the study, the man went to the table and retrieved his flute and walked back to the window. He stood there sipping the drink while he looked outside. A faint smile of satisfaction touched his lips as he stood there.
Chris sat at his art table in his room drawing on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. He had just started working on a picture. He was concentrating as he drew what looked like a table and benches, like you would see at a park, when he felt two cold hands encircle his neck from behind. He jumped up startled and squealed, "EEEEEEK!"
He jerked free of the hands around his neck and he turned around. The tall chair that he used at his art table toppled over. He saw, lying on his bed and laughing his ass off was Travis. The bed bounced a little from his laughter as he rolled around on the bed, two cans of Coke were on the bed next to Travis. Chris was taking in deep breaths as he calmed down.
"You shoulda seen….hahahaha. That was great," Travis laughed.
Chris glared at him, "You're dead meat," he warned.
Travis was laughing so hard his eyes were closed and tears were running down his face when Chris said that, so he did not see the look in Chris's eyes. He rolled to his back and opened his eyes as Chris launched himself at Travis. Travis only had time for his eyes to widen before Chris landed on him. He let out a grunt as Chris' weight landed on him. Chris grabbed Travis' sides and started tickling him. Travis grabbed Chris as they started to wrestle and roll around on the bed. As he tickled him Travis started howl in laughter. He started tickling Chris back until both of them were red faced, sweating and laughing.
Chris starting to feel something else come to life and he quickly scooted away and off of Travis. He laid on his stomach with his face turned away from Travis. They each, by mutual consent, called a silent truce as their giggles turned to deep breaths as they caught their breath. Chris felt Travis shift and then his arm fell across Chris' back. Chris turned back to face Travis. Travis was right next to him and he was happy to see that Travis' face was as red as his felt. He smiled and shifted on his side to face Travis. As he shifted Travis' arm slid until just his hand was on Chris' side. He absently rubbed up and down on Chris' side as they looked at each other. Chris closed his eyes for a moment reveling in the feeling of Travis' hand. He could almost feel a moan starting to build in his throat, but he stopped it and opened his eyes. He started to sit up and Travis let his hand drop from touching Chris and he propped his head up on his hand as he laid there watching Chris sit up. Chris got off the bed, grateful that his shirt had pulled out of his pants and hung low enough to cover his crotch. He picked his stool up off the floor and settled it in its usual place in front of the drawing table. He picked up the drawing pencil he had been using off the floor and as he put it away he glanced at the picture he had been working on and sat down.
"Look what you did dickhead," he said.
Travis got up and came up behind Chris and hung his arms around Chris' shoulders as he rested his chin on Chris' head to look over him at the picture. Right across the picture was a thick dark mark from the pencil he had been drawing with when Travis startled him. Travis felt bad and did the only thing he could think of. He brought his arms around Chris in a hug. When he did that Chris closed his eyes and whatever little bit of anger he felt about the ruined picture flew away as a smile crossed his face.
"Sorry bro, my bad. What was the picture about?" Travis apologized.
Chris opened his eyes and glanced at the picture before twisting around in the loose hug and looked at Travis, "No worries. I was just keeping busy doing something until you guys got home anyway," Chris said.
"What was the picture about?" Travis asked.
Chris glanced over his shoulder at the ruined picture and shrugged, "I don't know really, it was just one of those pictures in my head that I draw from for inspiration. It kinda looks like a park. Probably something I saw down at the park one time."
Chris turned back around and picked the picture up, crumpled it up before dropping it in the trash can nearby. Travis let go after a quick squeeze and picked up the two cokes from the bed and sat down facing Chris.
"You sure?" he asked sheepishly.
"Yeah, no problem. But jeez, could you not do that when I'm drawing. It might've been one I really cared about," Chris said
Travis looked down for a few moments, when he raised his head back up, he had a sheepish grin, "Yeah, sorry bro. I swear it won't happen again," Travis said.
"Yeah right," Chris said with an answering grin.
"Hey, I mean it," Travis said with a mock hurt tone in his voice.
"Okay, okay, I believe you," Chris said as he held his hands up in surrender.
Travis held up the cokes and grinned, "I'm guessin' we prolly shouldn't open these at the moment?" he said.
"I'm going to say…uh, duh. I don't want sticky coke all over my bedroom. Let's go back to the kitchen and get some that aren't going to be all shaken up," Chris replied with an answering smile.
They went to the kitchen and put the two shaken cokes in the back of the others that were in the refrigerator to give them time to get un-fizzed and took two fresh ones. Chris looked out back and he saw his dad cleaning off the barbeque grill. His mom had gone to the store to get a few last items and Tyler and Jessie were with her. The three families; the Hale's, Grayson's and Sanders' had, for years, a get together on Christmas Eve at each other's house and it was the Hale's turn this year.
Chris turned to Travis, "You want to play some video games until everyone else gets here?"
Travis nodded, "Yeah, sounds good."
They went back into Chris' room and got the game and controllers out so they could play for awhile. Half an hour later they heard the front door open.
"CHRIS, CAN YOU COME DOWNSTAIRS!" they heard a yell from downstairs.
They paused the game and went downstairs. Looking out in the back they could see Tyler and Jessie with Michael in the backyard. Heather saw both boys and smiled.
"Hi Travis, glad you're here. Could you guys get the rest of the stuff out of the van and bring it to the kitchen?" she asked them.
"Sure Mom," Chris answered her.
The boys went outside and quickly got the remaining grocery bags out of the van and brought them into the kitchen. She immediately had them help her put things away, except those things that she needed for the dinner that evening. Once everything was put away, she had them help her by preparing some things for a couple of the dishes she was making before she shooed them out.
They went back to the bedroom and picked up where they left off. Tyler soon joined them and the three took turns playing against each other. The boys soon heard the sound of more people as the other families began to arrive. Once Bryce got there, he came upstairs and joined them. Within a short time they were called downstairs for dinner.
There were two tables set up, one for adults and one for the younger generation. The dinner was baked ham, mashed potatoes, green beans and bacon with pumpkin pie for desert. After dinner they gathered in the living room to visit for a little while. The boys soon got tired of sitting and went to Chris' room to play video games. Robin, Bryce's sister, went to Jessie's room with her. The boys took turns playing against each other until their parents called them down. When they boys came down they could see their parents were all standing with some presents in their arms. Chris suddenly turned and ran back upstairs. He returned quickly with a couple of wrapped presents which he handed to Travis and Bryce.
"I almost forgot about these for you guys. I hope you like them," Chris said as he handed them the presents.
"Thanks bro," Bryce said as he accepted the present held out to him.
"Yeah, thanks bro. See you tomorrow?" Travis asked.
Chris nodded, "Yeah, see you tomorrow Travis."
The boys bumped fists as they said their goodbyes. The families finished their goodbyes and left for home. Concealed in the shadows of a nearby house watching everyone leave the Hale house, a solitary figure stood in the shadows at the corner of a nearby house and silently watched the scene.
Chris was sleeping soundly when he felt a weight land on him, "Wake up Chris!"
He turned over onto his stomach and groaned before he pulled the pillow over his head and tried to hide. He felt someone pushing on him and then he started feeling little pokes in his side. Before he could stop himself the pokes started to make him giggle because he was a bit ticklish there.
"Ty….hehe…stop….hehehehe….stop….or I'm…" Chris tried to say through his giggles.
Chris tried to flip over and catch his little brother, but he got tangled in the covers and Tyler was able to scoot away. Tyler stood out of reach by the door smiling, "Mom said to get you up. We've been waiting for hours to open presents."
Chris glanced over to the clock by his bed, it showed 7:30am. He turned back and scowled at Tyler.
"Hours? It's only seven thirty…in the morning," he said accusingly.
Tyler shrugged, "Kay, maybe not hours, but it's been a long time and Mom said to get you up," he said.
"Okay, okay, I'll get up, but I'm getting you back Ty," Chris said with a wave of his hand to dismiss his little brother.
"If you're fast enough, maybe," Tyler said with an impish grin.
Chris had untangled himself by now and he lunged at Tyler. Tyler squealed as he took off downstairs. Chris let him go and went to the bathroom to brush his teeth and clean up. Fifteen minutes later he went downstairs wearing sweats. He saw everyone sitting at the table and his mom was just setting a bowl full of scrambled eggs on the table.
"Morning honey, Merry Christmas," she greeted him.
"Morning Mom, Dad. Merry Christmas," Chris said to his parents.
After breakfast was done and the dishes were rinsed and put into the dishwasher, they adjourned to the living room. Once everyone was seated somewhere, Michael started giving out gifts to everyone until they all had a pile near them. Once everything was given out, he let them open them. Paper was ripped off and there were sounds of happy kids as they opened the presents, paper and ribbons being tossed to the side. They all seemed to be happy with the presents they got. After all the presents were opened, the kids picked all the ripped wrapping paper up and put it into a large garbage bag that their dad held for them. Once everything was cleaned up, they got dressed.
While Chris was getting dressed there was a knock on his closed bedroom door, he finished pulling his jeans up, "Come in."
The door opened and Travis came in the room. Chris nodded to him in greeting, before he walked over to his dresser and opened a drawer. As he pulled a t shirt out of the drawer he felt Travis come up behind him and put his arms around Chris and set his chin on his shoulder so that his mouth was right next to Chris' ear. Chris closed his eyes and smiled as he felt the warmth of Travis' body against his bare back.
"Thanks bro," Travis said.
Travis held the hug for a few more moments before letting go and stepping back. Chris pulled the shirt on and turned around as he pulled it down over his head. He was smiling as his head came out of the shirt.
"For what?" Chris asked.
Travis punched him lightly on the arm, "The picture dummy, what else. It was an awesome present."
Chris blushed a little, "Glad you liked it," he said.
"Everyone else did too. It was real good. My mom wanted to hang it in the living room, but I said I wanted it in my room. I'm going to hang it up in my room, so I could keep it for myself. Did you do it from memory?" Travis asked.
Chris nodded, "I liked doing it, so I'm glad you like it. No, I got the idea from a picture that my mom took of us a couple of years ago and I used that as the model," Chris admitted.
"Well, like I said, it was great. It was my favorite present this year. So you get any new games?" Travis stated.
"Yep," Chris nodded.
"Well let's play yours and then we can go over to my house to play mine," Travis said with some excitement.
"Kay," Chris agreed. Chris got his new games, while Travis set up the game console.
The rest of the winter break; they did what they usually did. Played some baseball to start getting practice for when it was time to try out for the school baseball team, video games, went to the arcade or the movies. They had sleepovers at each other's house, usually it was just Travis and Chris, and sometimes Bryce spent the night as well. Before they knew it, the break was over and it was time to go back to school.
Wednesday was the first day back to school. There were the usual moans and groans as people got back into the school routine. The three friends were standing by Chris' locker as he put some books away and closed it up. Once he was done, he turned away and they started walking down the corridor. They could hear some talking up ahead in one of the classrooms. As they neared the room, they glanced in as they walked by.
"Chris, Travis!" A voice called to them. The boys stopped at the sounds of their names and looked back toward the classroom door. Dave Basem was standing there smiling at them.
"Hey guys, great to see you. Why don't you come on in?" Dave said.
He waited for their answer as they looked at each other. They had forgotten about Dave's invitation for them to come to the GSA meeting when school started again. It was silent for a few moments. They could see Dave's smile falter a bit and he waved to them.
"Hey, that's okay guys. You probably have other things to do. See ya, thanks again for your help last month," he said as he turned back to the classroom.
Chris let out the breath that he didn't know he was holding as Dave turned away. Travis looked at Chris and then shrugged.
"Why not? Let's go on in and see. They seemed pretty cool at the dance. I know you don't like bullies Chris and neither do any of us. If ever there were people that needed support against those kinds of jerks it's them," Travis said to the other two. "What do you guys think?" Travis asked
They were each silent as they thought about it when they were interrupted by Cheryl, Wendy and Jeannie coming around a corner.
"Hi Bryce," Cheryl greeted him brightly.
"Hey Cheryl," Bryce smiled.
Jeannie frowned when she saw them. Chris met her eyes with a glare of his own. Her frown turned into an angry look when she saw Chris' glare. She turned to the other girls.
"I gotta get going, see you later," she said.
"Okay, bye Jeannie, talk to you later," Cheryl said.
Jeannie gave Chris one last glare before she turned around with her nose practically in the air as she walked away stiffly. Cheryl and Wendy joined the guys.
"What are you guys doing?" Cheryl asked.
Travis spoke up first as he jerked his thumb at the classroom door behind them.
"We were talking about going into the meeting in there," he answered.
"What meeting is that?" Cheryl asked.
"Uh, GSA," Chris said.
Cheryl nodded in remembrance, "Oh, yeah, you guys were invited to come and check it out. So are you going?" she said.
"Well, we hadn't decided. We were just talking about it when you walked up," Travis said.
Cheryl looked at the three of them and then she hooked her arm in Bryce's and pulled him around. She was headed toward the classroom. Bryce pulled back for a moment, but she gripped his arm harder and pulled, causing him to follow along. Travis looked at Chris and shrugged with a 'might as well' look and turned to the room as well, followed by Chris. Wendy stayed back.
"Uh, I'll see you guys tomorrow, I forgot a book in my locker that I need for homework tonight," she said.
Travis stopped, turned to look at her and smiled, "Sure, see ya Wendy."
He turned back and the two of them followed Bryce and Cheryl. When they entered, they saw Dave standing at the front of the room, seated near him was Loren. They saw the advisor, Ms. Lyons, sitting in the back of the room. Dave stopped what he was saying as the four of them walked into the room. His face broke into a big grin and he walked over to them with his hand out.
"Hey guys. Come in and welcome," he said.
He shook everyone's hand. He escorted Travis and Chris to the front of the room and had them face the rest of the club, while Bryce and Cheryl sat down.
"Hey all, I want you to meet Chris and Travis. These are the two guys I told you about who helped Brian and Tad at the dance when they were jumped by their unknown assailants. They stepped in when others might have just walked away," he announced.
The others in the room clapped and cheered for them, causing them to redden a little in embarrassment.
"I'm glad to see that they have accepted my invitation to come to our meeting. Thanks again guys, why don't you have a seat and we'll continue," he gestured to the empty seats.
The boys sat down near the back with Bryce and Cheryl and gave their attention to Dave.
"Now, as I was saying, the dance was successful as a fund raiser for the club…" Dave continued.
As he continued to talk, Chris looked around the room. Alex and Vince were there, as was Brian and Tad. Jackie and Liz, the two girls that danced with him and Travis were also there. There was also a scattering of people that he saw around school. Brian and Tad seemed to be the only other freshmen in the room. Most of the rest were older students, juniors and seniors. Chris tried to see if he could pick out which were straight and which were gay, but he found that he couldn't. Everyone in the room looked just like any other student. As far as he could tell, any of them could be gay or straight. They were all the same. He gave his attention back to the front just as Dave finished up.
"Well, thank you all for coming. We have some refreshments for everyone and since the dance was successful, we plan to have them at every meeting. So if you don't have to leave yet, make sure you grab a snack and hang out for awhile and we'll see you in a couple of weeks at the next meeting," he invited.
There was the sound of scraping chairs as people started getting up. They moved to the back of the room to grab a snack, where Ms. Lyons had laid them out; mostly cookies and drinks. While they were getting a snack, Dave came up to them.
"Well, what do you think? Are you interested in joining us? I know you're good guys, you proved that," he asked the four of them.
"Maybe, we'll think about it," Travis replied for the group.
Dave nodded, "Good enough, thanks again for your support, guys."
Dave walked over to where Loren was standing and talking to some of the other members. They grabbed a cookie and some punch. Alex and Vince came over to say hi as did Brian and Tad. They once again thanked Chris and Travis for helping them out. Cheryl led them over to a couple of desks and sat down.
"I think I'm going to join. The rest of you should too," she started off.
"But won't people think we're, you know…gay if we do?" Bryce asked.
"I don't think that will happen Bryce. I'm sure everyone's seen you and me together, so I doubt that. Remember, we're invited too because we support their rights to have as good a time as anyone else in the school. It's only fair that gays be treated just like anyone else," she answered him.
Bryce nodded, "Yeah, okay. If you join, I will too, I guess," he said with a smile.
She looked at the other two, "What about you guys?" she asked.
Chris looked around nervously, "Uh, I don't know."
Cheryl placed a hand on his arm, "Ah come on. If Bryce and I join, you gotta join too. It wouldn't be the same if you guys weren't here too." She pleaded.
Chris looked down nervously. He felt a nudge from Travis sitting beside him. He looked up at Travis who was giving him a half grin and questioning look as if to ask 'What does it hurt?". Chris looked into his eyes for a few moments and saw something there for a moment that he hadn't seen before. He nodded and looked at Cheryl. She smiled at them.
"Okay, since you guys are joining, I'll join too. What about you Trav?" Chris said.
"Yeah I will too. What those guys did was wrong and more people should stand up against it," Travis agreed.
"Great. I think it will be fun." she said with a smile
They walked over to Dave and Loren. "Hey Dave, we'll see you at the next meeting," Chris said.
"Great, glad you came by," Dave started to say, "Wait, did you say next meeting?" he asked.
"Yep." Chris answered.
"So does that mean you're joining the club?" he asked.
"Yeah, we talked about it and decided that things like what happened to Tad and Brian should never happen, so yeah, we're joining," Travis said.
"Cool. Just a minute," Dave went to his backpack and pulled a manila envelope out. He counted out four sheets of paper and handed them to them.
"Why don't you guys take these and fill them out. Return them at the next meeting. Glad to have you with us. See you guys later," he said with a welcoming smile.
They waved as they left the room. As the four of them walked out to the bus stop, they saw Mr. Hale walking out to his car. He stopped when he saw them heading to the bus stop.
"Hey guys, how come you're still here?" he asked.
"Hi Dad, we were at a club meeting," Chris greeted him.
"Which one?" Michael asked.
"The uh…GSA." Chris said with a little hesitation.
"Oh, well good for you. I was able to finish up early, you want a ride home?" Michael said.
"Sure, thanks," they answered. Bryce turned to Cheryl, "See ya Cheryl." She nodded, "Bye guys, see you at school tomorrow."
She gave Bryce a quick peck on the cheek and hugged Travis and Chris before she headed over to where the buses were. They piled into the car and Michael drove them home, dropping Bryce off first.
Once at home, Chris went next door to do homework with Travis. Chris was lying on Travis' bed, while Travis worked at his desk. Chris stopped and looked over at Travis. Travis had his back to him as he worked on some math problems. Chris studied Travis for a few moments before he spoke.
"Trav," Chris asked hesitantly.
"Huh," Travis replied absently.
"Do you think people will pick on us? You know because we joined GSA?" Chris asked.
Travis turned around his chair and shrugged, "Don't know. Hope not," he said after a moment's thought.
"Yeah me too. Do you think, they might think we're gay?" Chris agreed.
"Probably not. If some people, like that asshole Jerry, saw us in the meeting, some might, I'm sure he would say something about it, especially about you, since he doesn't seem to like you for some reason, but it's not like we act gay or anything," Travis stated.
Chris was silent for a few moments as he thought, Travis turned back to his desk. "But what does that mean, act gay?" Chris asked a few moments later.
Travis turned back to face Chris, "You know what I mean," he said with shrug.
"Yeah, but I was looking around during the meeting and if I didn't know any of them were gay, I wouldn't know. None of them, you know, 'looked gay' or 'acted gay', you know what I mean?"
Chris made the quotes gesture when he said it.
Travis looked at Chris and nodded, "Yeah, you're right, I guess that is a little bit of a stereotype that gay people, act gay. Prance around, talk in a girly voice and wave their arms around like a girl. They're just like everyone else," Travis agreed with Chris.
"Yeah, that's what I was thinking. I can't think of anyone at school who acts that way, so there are probably others that we don't even know about," Chris said.
"Yeah prolly. One of our friends might be gay and if they didn't tell us, we might not ever know," Travis agreed.
"Oh, uh, yeah," Chris replied trying to hide a flash of nervousness.
Chris quickly looked down at his work to hide his face. Travis went back to his work.
"Trav, can I ask you something?" Chris asked after a few minutes of silence.
"Sure, you know, anything," he shrugged.
"What do you think would happen if we found out one of our friends were gay?" Chris asked.
"Nothing much that I can think of, at least as far we're concerned. It's not important. Why?" Travis asked.
"No reason, just wondering," Chris said quickly.
They were silent for a few more moments as they did their work, before Travis spoke again.
"I'll tell ya one thing bro. If one of my friends was gay and I saw them being bullied, I'd step in and help them. Wouldn't you?" he asked.
"You know I would, like we did for Brian and Tad," Chris agreed.
"Even if there were a more of them and you might get hurt?" Travis asked.
Chris thought for a moment, "Yeah I think so. I hate bullies, they're all cowards anyway. They usually attack in a group, so yeah, I think I would," Chris stated confidently.
"Me too. Well you about done yet?" Travis asked.
"Just a few more minutes," Chris nodded.
"When you're done let's throw a ball around. The season starts soon. The semester ends in a couple of weeks and we gotta try out for the team soon. I want to see if I can be a pitcher this year," Travis said.
"Sounds good," Chris agreed.
As soon as they finished they went out into the street in front of their houses to throw the ball until they were called to dinner.