Castle Roland

The Apprentice

by Sahypo

In Progress

Chapter 34

Posted: 14 Apr 16

The Apprentice

Copyright © by Sahypo

Today was the last day of school before Thanksgiving break. Everyone was looking forward to being out for the rest of the week, and Timmy's visit to Wesley had gone well and the boy's folders and audio tapes had been filed for the teachers. Timmy was on a bathroom break and returning to his class when he saw an older student trip a smaller boy, and slam him into the bank of lockers. The smaller boy did not seem to see the bully coming up behind him. Neither of them had been aware of Timmy's presence in the hallway.

Before the bully and victim could react, Timmy grabbed the bully from behind in a full Nelson and lifted hard on the aggressor to take him off balance.

"Get the fuck off me or I'll kick your ass." the bully yelled and struggled. The boy was lighter than Timmy thought he would be.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, and then I'll have to kick your ass back and it goes on and on, right?" Timmy said calmly.

"Who the fuck are you? let me go!" the aggressor yelled.

Timmy looked down at the small blond boy on the floor who was bleeding from a cut above the eye where he hit the locker, and was licking his lip, obviously cut on the inside of his mouth. Timmy recognized the freckled blue eyed kid as one the students on his own bus. The boy made eye contact with Timmy and glared at Kurt. Timmy motioned for the boy to take off while he could escape, and the younger student fled at top speed.

"What in the hell are you thinking, dude? Are you trying to get expelled?" Timmy asked.

"Like I give a shit! Fuck school, asshole! Let me go!" The belligerent teen screamed.

"I'll let you go when you calm down and tell me why you did that." Timmy replied.

"It's none of your motherfuckin' business why! Let me go!"

"What's his name?" Timmy asked

"What? Who the fuck cares! He's a little pussy!" the bully spat.

"WHAT'S HIS DAMN NAME?" Timmy yelled, squeezing down on the bully's neck

"Ow! God damn it, I don't know! Who cares!"

"You attacked some kid you don't even know? I care...What the fuck is wrong with you, dude?" Timmy asked.

"It's none of your damned business...You better let me go."

"Or what? And it is my business....I know who he is...and I'm not going to let you fuck with him like that. He didn't do anything to deserve what you did."

"You better watch your back!"

"Yeah, I can see you're just surrounded by friends...when you're not trying to ram people's heads into lockers."

"What the hell do you know, you don't know nothin' about me."

The bully was still pissed off, but struggling less as he expended energy trying to gain his footing. Timmy was sweating bullets, hoping the other boy would wear out and calm down, or at least let him gain some separation to prepare for a fist fight if he had to let the boy go.

"I know you're going to wind up in jail or get killed some day if you keep this shit up, dude. You need help, man."

"Yeah, right, like you can fuckin' help me..." the bully boy said sarcastically.

"I will if you ask." Timmy spat back. "Look dude, I'm letting you go, but if you want to fight, I'm going to hit you back twice as hard as you try to hit me, got it?"

Timmy knew the bully would hesitate to square off with him, because he wasn't intimidated, and wouldn't make an easy target. The bully was also weighing his options

and decided he would rather get out of the embarrassing position he was in, rather than escalate things.

"Who are you?" the bully asked, in a civil tone for the first time.

"Timmy. What's your name?"


"You cool, Kurt?" Timmy asked. Kurt nodded and relaxed and let his grip on Timmy's wrists go where he struggled to get out of the hold Timmy was using. Timmy released Kurt, wary that the boy might spin around and renew the fight, but he put his head down and moved away from Timmy. Kurt had medium brown hair that hung down below his ears and partially obscured his face. Timmy could now see that Kurt was wearing dark sunglasses and had what appeared to be a black eye, and numerous bruises on his arms before he had a chance to slip his sleeves back down.

"Kurt, I know I didn't do....." Timmy began

"Don't didn't." Kurt cut him off, as he rapidly put distance between himself and Timmy.

Timmy quickly put the incident in the back of his mind, and rode the bus home that afternoon. The small boy in the hallway was not on the bus today. Timmy got off the bus at home and stripped to his briefs and waited watching TV as William showed up a short time later, then Sean. All three boys were in briefs watching a wilderness survival show in the high mountains as Isaac came home next with two plastic bags full of small boxes, and said

"I need a volunteer to help get dinner out of the car."

Sean got up and grabbed a pair of Timmy's shorts and went out barefoot and came back in with the last of the Chinese take out order, as William and Timmy scrambled to set the table and get tea and lemonade out. Soon, they had spread a feast out on the table, and everyone picked what they liked and William got a big kick out of trying teach Sean how to eat rice with chopsticks. His nimble fingers made it look easy, and Sean figured that if he could fret F chords on a guitar which is one of the most difficult things to master on the instrument, he could damn well pick up rice with two sticks...

There was a knock on the front door, followed by a mad dash to the bedroom for shorts and shirts as Isaac answered the door. He found a small boy with a cut on his face and fresh bruising, and the boy's mother standing there when he opened the door. Isaac looked at the kid, and wasn't sure where this might be going....

"Yes?" Isaac said.

"Good afternoon, I'm your neighbor up the street, Sharon Jarvis, and this is Nicky"

"My name is Isaac, ma'am, glad to meet you and Nicky."

"Thank you, Isaac...Uh, we came to see if we could talk to ..."

"Timmy, mom. He's from my bus" Nicky said, more for Isaac's benefit.

"Come in, please." Isaac offered. "Timmy, you have company in the living room." It was Isaac's way of letting the boys know not to dress down at the moment.

Timmy came down the hall barefoot and clad in a T shirt and shorts, and was surprised to see the boy from the incident at school in his living room with his mother.

"Nicky? Hey, are you okay?" Timmy asked. Nicky nodded.

"I'm fine."

"Timmy, I'm Sharon. I just wanted to thank you for stepping in to help my son today. You didn't have to risk getting yourself in trouble."

"Well, yeah I did....and it wasn't a big deal." Timmy said.

"Mom, Timmy put that dude in a wrestling was so cool."

Isaac was listening to all this in total bewilderment. "Timmy, what happened?" he asked.

"Some guy tried to jump Nicky at school and I stopped him. Not much to tell."

"It was awesome!" Nicky stated, looking at Timmy with admiration in his eyes.

By this time, Sean and William came out to see who was in the living room.

"Nicky? What are you doing here, what happened to you?" William asked.

He knew Nicky from elementary school days, before the eleven year old moved on to Central Middle School, and the sixth grade. William would attend Nicky and Timmy's school next year.

"Hey William! Oh, I got in this fight at school." Nicky said.

"No, you got sucker punched by a jerk." Timmy said. "If it was a fair fight, you would have had a chance to defend yourself."

"Why did he do that? I don't even know who he is." Nicky said, shaking his head.

"His name is Kurt. And he doesn't know either, Nicky."

"Really? How do you know?" Nicky wondered.

"I asked him. I wanted to know why he did it too." Timmy admitted.

The thread of this conversation soon ended as William was anxious to renew an old acquaintanceship.

"So, Nicky, do you live around here?" William asked.

"Just up the street, where do you live?"

"Right least for a little while....long story." William replied. "Wanna see the pool?" William offered.

Nicky grinned "Sure!" and the boys left the others to talk in the living room.

"I suppose we should let you boys get back to supper....Nicky!" Mrs. Jarvis called.

"Nicky's welcome to stay and catch up with William if you're okay with it...we'll send him home before dark." Isaac offered.

"Really, is it okay? I don't want to impose" Sharon said.

"Adding Nicky to this zoo is no problem at all, really." Isaac replied.

"Okay. Well, thank you, Isaac. And thanks again, Timmy. Nicky couldn't wait to tell me the whole story when I picked him up at school. I think you're his new hero." She winked and Timmy blushed. This was getting out of hand.

"The school called you?" Isaac wondered.

"Yes, they did." she said somewhat dismissively. "I had to pick him up in the principal's office. Anyway, you guys have a Happy Thanksgiving, okay?" she said as she stepped through the door.

"Happy Thanksgiving, Mrs. Jarvis." Timmy and Isaac said almost in unison. After she left, Timmy and Isaac looked at each other.

"How bad was this thing?" Isaac said.

"Nicky got knocked down and slammed into a locker. It was bad enough" Timmy replied.

Meanwhile, when Kurt got home, he was greeted by a very angry, very drunk mother. The trailer stunk of dirty dishes, dirty clothes, stale beer, whisky and cigarettes. Kurt's thin chest tightened in response to the onslaught of sour odors as he entered the shabby single wide.

"Go get me some goddamn cigarettes!" She croaked in his face, jamming a wadded up ten dollar bill into his sternum, hard enough to knock him off balance. He reeled back and the money fell to the floor.

"I can't...the man won't sell me any cigarettes. He said he'll call the cops on me the next time....I told you that."

"Don't gimme none of your bullshit, you little bastard!" The inebriated woman spat as she swayed and weaved as if the trailer was riding heavy seas. Kurt made quick work of darting down the hall and ducking into his room and blocking his door with a chair. Sure enough, she came down the hall and kicked on his door for ten minutes, while swearing at Kurt about how useless and rotten he was, and how she wished she had had an abortion, all because he couldn't or wouldn't purchase cigarettes for her. She was too drunk to walk let alone drive, and usually attained an advanced blood alcohol level between ten and ten thirty in the morning, if she could be troubled to get up so early.

Kurt had heard this speech many times in his thirteen years. She had left many bruises, welts and black eyes on him over the years, and the ones he carried now were nothing special or out of the ordinary.

Soon the kicking and screeching stopped, and Kurt knew that she had probably passed out. He un-barricaded the door and peered out into the hallway. Sure enough, she lay in the hallway. He stepped over her inert body and walked to the kitchen. He could care less if she died there. It would be a relief to get it over with.

A quick survey of the grimy refrigerator proved that nothing would be forthcoming for dinner. He found the money in the hallway and left, walking to a Burger Chef close to the house.

He bought a combo meal and sat in a corner seat and ate his food. The events of the day came back to Kurt.

Who was this asshole that butted into his business? If he hadn't gotten the drop on me, I would have knocked the living shit out of that bastard...Who did he think he was to talk to me like that? Help me....what the hell would he know about helping anyone? Kurt became angry and agitated and threw the rest of the fries and drink away and stormed out of the restaurant and began walking. He kept going, fueled by anger and flashes of rage. He wound up back home at 4:30 in the morning. His mother was not in the hallway when he arrived. He didn't care one way or the other.

Kurt blocked the door again, stripped and went to bed. It was going to be a long weekend. He found himself thinking about Timmy again. What would Timmy's weekend be like? He couldn't possibly know anything about what I go through...

Timmy, Isaac, Sean and William were invited to Thanksgiving with Dennis and Debbie. They were about packed, and would be moving to the new house between now and Christmas. It was good to catch up with family. Thanksgiving was on Friday this year, so the boys took William to the hospital on Saturday to spend time with Claire and Wesley. They were about to be discharged from the hospital early next week. Wesley's arm had been cast and the apparatus removed. His skull had been patched with coral, and his own bone would take over and absorb the coral over time. Claire was antsy to get out as well.

The rest of the weekend went by quickly. Kurt came to school Monday morning looking like hell. He had hardly slept the entire four day weekend, and felt like he was at the end of his rope. He would make his move at lunch time.

Timmy was getting used to the hospital visits, and Wesley was doing very well, and catching up. He wanted to be on track when his class broke for Christmas, and worked very hard. Timmy watched him very closely, and Wesley began to understand that Timmy would catch things he missed or didn't see that caused him a lot of trouble on his tests. He began to pay attention to these things, because he wanted Timmy to think well of him. The boys were beginning to bond as friends.

Kurt found Timmy in the hall on the way to the lunch room and fell in behind him when they lined up. "Hey" he said to Timmy.

Timmy turned around to see the person who had addressed him. He was surprised to find Kurt behind him. He was even more disturbed at the boy's appearance and condition.

"Hey...Are you okay?" he asked. Kurt kept his eyes down, and wouldn't look at Timmy.

"What makes you think you can help me?" Kurt whispered.

"We'll talk after we eat...Sit with me." Timmy said. Kurt nodded, but did not look up. Timmy pulled a tray, but Kurt did not. Timmy looked over at Kurt, who refused to make eye contact with Timmy. Timmy pulled a tray and pushed it in front of Kurt on the rail, as Kurt began to protest

"I have no money, man..."

"Go in front of me and get whatever you want, Kurt" Timmy said as he let the thinner boy pass him.

"Are you su....?" Kurt started.

"Yeah, just don't take the last chocolate pudding after I let you cut line, that would be a dick move." Timmy said, smiling. The barest hint of a smile cracked Kurt's lips, but it was a start.

When the boys reached the cashier, Timmy told the lady "I got these two, ma'am." and paid with a ten dollar bill. He and Kurt found some seats and sat down to eat. Kurt still didn't say much.

"Thanks, ...for doing....that." Kurt said haltingly.

"It's okay. I remember not eating on weekends too." Timmy said. He tried to engage Kurt's eyes, but the boy kept his face down as he ate. They ate without saying anything else. When they were finished, Timmy said. "I need to show you something. Come on." as he stood and took his tray to the tray return. Kurt followed Timmy as they left the cafeteria and went to the boy's restroom. Kurt wasn't exactly sure what Timmy had in mind, but went along. After all, Timmy had paid for his lunch...

As soon as they entered the bathroom, Timmy looked around to find the place empty, and lifted up his shirt so Kurt could see the record of abuse etched in Timmy's skin.

"I know what it was like to be beaten, too."

"Used to be, what happened?" Kurt asked. He was shocked at what he saw, but tried not to show it. Timmy was the real deal after all. His mother bruised him and blackened his eyes, but she never burned him or left scars from beatings on Kurt's back.

"Somebody helped me when I needed it most, Kurt." Timmy said, as he left the bathroom.

When Kurt got home that afternoon, he carefully cased the trailer they rented as usual, to avoid any confrontation with his mother, barricaded his bedroom door and packed as much as he could fit into an athletic bag.

Kurt was not ready to trust Timmy completely, but the fact remained that during their altercation, Timmy had not tried to hurt or fight Kurt, and had only applied as much force as needed to keep Kurt away from Nicky. Timmy outweighed Kurt, and truth be known, Kurt was relieved that he hadn't had to defend himself against Timmy. Timmy had an opportunity to not only physically attack Kurt, but gang up on him with Nicky and get him expelled from school. But he didn't do that. Most of the other kids at school that would hang around with Kurt would have, and Kurt knew not to trust those boys whatsoever. It was the law of the street. Instead, Timmy bought Kurt's lunch when he could tell Kurt hadn't eaten. The more he thought about things, the more he realized how stupid attacking the eleven year old had been.

Kurt had come to two decisions, but Timmy would actually determine if Kurt's plan would come to fruition. He hoped that Timmy had been honest with him, and would indeed do what he said he would.

Kurt undressed to get a shower. Like most teenagers, Kurt was somewhat unkempt and needed a haircut. His skinny body had no hair save a small patch under each arm, and a small bush above a thin, uncircumcised penis. His grape-sized testicles were smaller than those he had observed of his classmates, when he could sneak peeks without being caught. He was not sure at the age of thirteen what his orientation was. His disastrous relationship with his mother left him cold to females, whom he saw as cruel, vindictive and hateful. He was terrified that his occasional sexual interest in boys would be exposed, and infrequently masturbated when his troubled thoughts would not let him sleep. Tonight it took Kurt less than a minute to reach an unsatisfying climax, but he was able to drift off to sleep.

When Timmy got to school the next morning, a note fell out of his locker when he opened it.

Timmy, I have to talk to you. I'll buy lunch. Kurt

Timmy put the note in his pocket, and hung up his sweatshirt. He closed the locker and gave the combination lock a twirl, wondering what Kurt wanted.

When he met Wesley, he found out that the boy would be discharged Wednesday or Thursday that week, and gave Timmy the address to his house. He had taken to wearing a light blue stocking cap that William brought him several days ago, although it now covered a fresh bandage from the surgery on his skull the other day.

Back at school, Timmy found Kurt waiting for him outside the cafeteria, and the two fell into the short line together. Kurt motioned Timmy to go ahead of him.

"I got your note." Timmy said. Kurt looked down at the floor and mumbled

"That's good. Not sure what I would do otherwise..." Timmy barely caught the almost inaudible words. Timmy looked at Kurt, or rather, at the top of Kurt's bowed head. Timmy leaned over and whispered in Kurt's ear.

"Kurt, are you in trouble?" Kurt nodded very slightly. "You know, you don't have to buy lunch today."

"No....It's okay...I can, and I want to. Really." Kurt replied, and Timmy could see that this was a matter of preserving Kurt's dignity. It was an offer best accepted.

"Thank you." Timmy said, and Kurt looked up and smiled for a second or two. The boys loaded the trays, Kurt paid the cashier and they took seats at the far end of a deserted table, to afford them some privacy. Kurt sat and ate for a few minutes and neither of them said anything until Timmy decided to crack the ice. "What did you want to talk about?"

Kurt steeled himself for Timmy's reaction, drawing in a big breath, and letting it out.

"Two things. I need a place to stay." There, the big one was out.

"Got your things?" Timmy asked, not even looking up.

"They're in my locker." Kurt replied.

"Meet me after school and we'll catch the bus to my house. What's the other thing?"

"Um, I need to talk to that kid. What is his name?" Kurt asked. Timmy nodded.

"Nicky. He should be on the bus after school. You can talk to him then." Timmy said.

This was a lot less traumatic then Kurt had imagined it would be. He still had to face Nicky, but Timmy hadn't batted an eye when Kurt asked him for help. What was in this for Timmy? he wondered...

"Meet me at my locker with your stuff after the first bell, okay?" Timmy said. Kurt nodded.

"Don't you have to ask your folks and stuff?" Kurt wondered. Timmy shook his head.

"Don't worry about all that, Kurt. I got it. It's going to be fine. Look, I'll see you at my locker."

Kurt nodded as Timmy got up and put his tray in the window, and left the cafeteria. He went to his locker to retrieve his cell phone and went to the outside courtyard to call Isaac. Students were only allowed to use phones in case of emergency, but Timmy felt that he could stretch the story a bit if a teacher caught him. Fortunately no one was watching him and he wouldn't get in trouble unless another student snitched on him.

"Timmy, are you all right?" Isaac sounded concerned that Timmy was calling in the middle of a school day.

"Yes, I'm fine, Isaac, but I need help with something."

"What's going on?"

"A boy I know needs a place to stay tonight. Somebody's beating him at home."

"We can put him up on the bed that William was going to use. Who is he?"

"He's the one I got into it with...the one that tried to beat up Nicky the other day."

Isaac was silent for a few moments. "You guys are cool now, though, right?"

"Yes, we're good. And I think he wants to make amends to Nicky, too."

"I guess we knew that wouldn't be the end of it the other day."

"Nope. Um, he's going to be on the bus with me today."

"Okay. We'll figure it all out when we get there, big guy."

"Thanks, Isaac. Bye.'


Timmy went back in to his 12:30 class, and the clock slowly wound its way to the first of two bells. The first bell announced the end of school for the day, and the second bell was a five minute warning for bus riders. Kurt met Timmy at his locker with a gym bag so stuffed that it looked like the seams would split open if Kurt tried to cram an aspirin into it.

"Ready?" Timmy asked.

"Yeah" Kurt was scared and nervous, but excited as well. On one hand, his mother wouldn't scream at him and hit him, at least tonight, but on the other hand, he was in the hands of total strangers, and also had to square things with Nicky. Part of him wanted to call the whole thing off, but he knew he couldn't do that. His instinct told him that doing this was the correct thing. If things went sideways at Timmy's house, he could always bolt and hitchhike back to the Shangri-La trailer park, or the Chancre, as the older boys that lived there called it.

As they boarded the bus, only a few students had boarded before them, and they took a seat in the very rear of the bus. The bus began to load, and Nicky's head popped up as he climbed the steps. He made his way down the aisle, and froze for a moment as he saw Kurt in the back next to Timmy. He sat down about three seats in front of the older boys, and looked back occasionally at Kurt as the bus ran its route. Kurt was looking down and never made eye contact with Nicky.

After the first few neighborhoods, the bus had cleared out, and Timmy nudged Kurt, as he got up and sat in the seat behind Nicky.

"What's he doing on our bus, Timmy?" Nicky said, obviously not comfortable.

Timmy leaned forward to talk quietly. "Nicky, Kurt needs a place to stay, and I'm letting him come home with me tonight."

"Oh." Nicky said. Timmy continued.

"Kurt also needs to say something to you. Please hear him out, okay?"

Nicky nodded, but didn't say anything. Timmy motioned for Kurt to come up, and Kurt lugged the overstuffed bag up the aisle, tossed it into the seat across the aisle and sat next to Timmy. Kurt looked down avoiding eye contact, and kept pulling at his long shirt sleeves. Nicky looked at the bag. It appeared to contain everything Kurt had.

'Nicky....Um, I'm so sorry for what I did to you the other day...I felt like shit about it ever since, and its been eatin' me up. I had to tell you I was sorry." Kurt looked up, and Nicky could see a very tired pair of eyes, red and moist.

Nicky didn't say anything immediately, but could see that Kurt was in pain, and that Timmy must have decided to help him. He looked to Timmy, who nodded in reply.

"I don't hold grudges, Kurt." Nicky said, extending a hand across the seat back to Kurt. Kurt took the hand, and his shirt sleeve slipped down his arm, exposing a trail of new and old bruising. Nicky could imagine Kurt cowering on the floor, his arms over his head to fend off the rain of blows that caused those bruises.

"Friends?" Nicky asked with the innocence of an eleven year old.

"Not sure I deserve any." Kurt said, as a tear rolled down his cheek. He was feeling overwhelmed at the kindness Nicky was showing him, when he had expected the boy to lash out in retaliation. Once the tears started, they were hard to stop, and he put his head against the seat back. He felt Timmy's hand on his back first, then another hand as he cried until he could regain his composure. Nicky always packed his lunch, and had extra napkins in his book bag. He passed some to Timmy, who offered them to Kurt.

"Everyone deserves a friend, Kurt" Timmy said softly.

"I have a real problem trusting people." Kurt replied. Timmy knew Kurt wouldn't admit it, but he was beginning to open up a little, talking like that.

"A lot of people you know probably don't deserve to be trusted." Timmy replied and Kurt nodded.

"Yeah. lots."

By this time, the bus was slowing to stop at Nicky's house. Nicky got up and said

"Umm, maybe I'll come down later?"

"Sure. I know William would love to hang out with you." Timmy said.

"Cool. See you guys." Nicky said as he went down the aisle.

"We're next, dude" Timmy said as the bus began rolling, stopping again six doors down the street.

Timmy let them into the house, and said

"Lets put your stuff back here" leading Kurt down the hallway to the spare room and the air bed they had set up for William. "This is actually a pretty damn good bed, Kurt."

"I would sleep on the floor if I had to, Timmy. Thanks for letting me come home with you."

"No problem...Um, I usually get more comfortable when I get home. The others do too when they get in. It's not very formal around here." Timmy went to his room and took off his clothes and stood in briefs as put his favorite gym shorts on and a tee shirt. Kurt took notice of his classmates physique, and his basket before Timmy slipped the shorts on. Kurt averted his eyes, but it was too late. Timmy knew Kurt had checked him out.

"If I was worried about that, I would have closed the door." Timmy said.

Kurt blushed a bit, but Timmy didn't seem to have been offended at all. "You, umm, look really big, Timmy."

"Thanks. Want some tea?" Timmy replied. Kurt opened the overstuffed duffel and dumped the contents out on the bed.

"Sure, I guess so." Timmy left to get them tea, and Kurt riffled through the clothing to find an old pair of gray gym shorts, and a t-shirt. He took his shoes off, and unbuckled his jeans just as Timmy returned with two glasses of tea.

"I'll just leave this here while you change." Timmy said, setting the glass down.

"Timmy...hold on a minute." Kurt said, as he took the shirt off. He held out his arms to Timmy, exposing all the bruises. He was very thin, and had no muscle definition or tone. Timmy thought it was no wonder it was so easy to pick Kurt up the other day and keep him off balance.

"How long ago?" Timmy asked, gently touching the darkest bruising.

"Two days ago, maybe." Kurt murmured.

"Your Dad?" Timmy probed.

"Mom. I don't know my dad." Kurt said.

"I'm sorry." Timmy replied.

"Don't be. It's just the way it is." Kurt said, as he pulled his pants off and stepped out of them. There were no bruises anywhere else on Kurt's body, and no signs of hair anywhere on his legs. He put the gray shorts on, and slipped on a tee shirt.

"Who did it to you, Timmy?" Kurt asked.

"Stepfather....and his drinking buddies." Timmy replied. "It seems like a long time ago. We're safe here, Kurt. You're safe. She can't do anything to you here."

"How did you make it stop, Timmy?"

"I found Isaac, and he helped me. Then my stepfather died and Isaac's folks adopted me."

"Who is Isaac?"

"My big brother. He should be home pretty soon. Then William and Sean."

"Are they your other brothers?"

"No. William is staying with us for a while, and Sean's my best friend. He lives next door...but mainly here." Timmy chuckled. Just then, they heard the door open and Isaac came in. He saw Timmy in the hallway, and put his keys and wallet in his bowl on the kitchen counter, then came down the hallway.

"Hey big guy", he said putting his hands on Timmy's shoulders.

"Hi bro. I want you to meet a friend, Kurt. And this is my brother, Isaac." Timmy said.

"Kurt, welcome to the zoo, and it's good to meet you."

Kurt smiled weakly and said "Thanks for letting me come here."

"Kurt, whatever it is that's going on, we're here to help you work it out, okay?" Isaac said, and Kurt just nodded.

"Well, since we have a special guest, what do you think about steaks and bakers tonight?" Isaac asked.

"Sounds great. Want me to bake the taters?" Timmy asked.

"Yeah, they will take 45 minutes, so why don't you start them now. I'll unfreeze the meat." Isaac said.

"Cool, come on, Kurt." Timmy said, as he led his barefoot friend to the kitchen. They got some baked potatoes and rinsed them off in the sink, and poked them a few times each with a fork.

"Why are we doing that?" Kurt asked.

"Isaac says it keeps them from exploding when they bake."

"Oh. Um, ever seen one explode?"

"No, but I always poke them." Timmy replied. Isaac came in from the garage where he pulled some meat out of the freezer, and put the packages in the sink and ran water over them.

Timmy turned on the oven and lay the potatoes on the rack inside. He set the timer for 50 minutes, and the boys went out on the back deck beside the pool and cleaned the grill on the Weber with a wire brush. He put wadded up newspaper in the charcoal starter as Kurt watched.

"Ever done this before?" Timmy asked, as he added a handful of briquettes to the newspaper.

"No. We don't grill." Kurt muttered.

Timmy lit the paper with a match and the boys watched as the flames licked the charcoal before it began to burn. After a few minutes, the charcoal had started and Timmy dumped a neat little pile in the middle of the grill, and put the starter down where it wouldn't burn anyone. He arranged more layers of charcoal on top of the burning pile, and when he had it the way he liked it, he put the lid on the Weber.

"Now we wait until the meat is ready and the potatoes bake." Timmy said as he slid the door open. "Isaac! The charcoal is on when your ready."

"Roger that, Timmy. Thanks" Isaac's voice leaked through the cracked door as Timmy closed it.

"How do you like your meat?" Timmy asked.

"Ah, uh,....juicy and pink? I guess." Kurt replied.

"Bloody pink?" Timmy asked

"Not that pink"

"You like yours rare to medium, then." Timmy said. "I do mine the same."

The other boys had arrived and William and Sean came out on the patio to see who was here.

"Kurt, this is William, and this here is Sean. Guys, this is Kurt."

"So this is why we're having steak tonight? Good job, Kurt!" Sean teased, causing Kurt to break out into a smile.

"Hey Kurt, are you staying over like Isaac said?" William wondered.

"I guess, uh, yeah, I am." Kurt answered.

"Cool!" William beamed. He liked Kurt instantly. The little boy could sense fear, insecurity and pain in the teenager eyes, and he knew Kurt was in some sort of trouble.

"Who's got homework?" Timmy asked. Sean and William both went inside and got their books out. "We get the homework knocked out before we eat." Timmy said, and Kurt went back in the house and pulled his assignments out of his pants pocket. The boys all assembled at the table and Timmy gave Kurt a pencil, and began his chemistry homework.

When Nicky got off the bus, he went inside and took his school clothes off and walked around the house in briefs, grabbing a snack and turning on some TV until his mother got home. Nicky was Sharon Jarvis's only child, and she had recently drawn the line about nudity around the house when Nicky began to develop pubic hair. She wasn't ready to let go of her little boy just yet, and was surprised to see these changes just after his eleventh birthday. At least now he wouldn't be picked on for being a late bloomer, but damn...couldn't he have waited until he was ....hell, even 12 before he began to mature?

When Sharon got home, she had several bags of groceries, and Nicky put on some shorts and walked out barefoot to get what he could carry in. As soon as that was done, they went back inside and Sharon began to stock the kitchen.

"Mom, can I ask you something?"

"Sure Nicky, what is it?"

"I want you to do something for me." The tone of his voice and directness of his look into her eyes told her that this wasn't something frivolous. She paused in her tasks and gave him her full attention.

"All right, what is it, honey?"

"You know how you said you wanted to find that kid who busted my lip the other day?"

"Yeah, I remember."

"I don't want you to do that...please." Nicky said.

"Why? Did he threaten you or anything like that?"

"No mom. I met him today and he's really sorry for what he did. He's gonna spend the night at Timmy's 'cause he can't go home. Please don't do anything right now, okay?"

"Are you sure that's how you want to handle it?"

"Yes, Mom. Getting him in trouble isn't going to help. He's all beat up and stuff."

"What do you mean, Nicky?"

"He's got bruises all over him, I couldn't tell how many"

"From fighting at school?"

"No, with all those bruises, we would have heard about a fight that bad."

"What do you think is going on, Nicky?"

"When a kid brings his clothes to school, I think maybe he can't go home, mom."

Sharon looked at Nicky and didn't say anything for a few moments as she digested what her son had told her.

...Um, can I go down and see William after supper?"

"Homework?" Sharon asked.

"I got a math sheet. I can do it in ten minutes."

"Well, get that done, and we'll both go after supper, okay?"

"Thanks, Mom."

Around five o'clock, Jerry Jarvis came home from work and kissed Sharon, and braced himself as Nicky came at him in a run. "Nicky! How was school, champ?" as Nicky clamped him in a hug.

"Good, Daddy. How was work?"

"Fantastic, little buddy. What's mom making for dinner?"

"Pasta stir fry" Sharon said. It was a family favorite. Chopped onion, tomatoes, green and red peppers, minced garlic, mushrooms, broccoli and spinach leaves are heated in a skillet with a small amount of oil, while small cubes of beef and chicken are cooked separately. Add a small wad of cooked spaghetti or Penne pasta, with the meat and marinara, and serve.

After their dinner, Sharon and Nicky left the house and walked up the street to Isaac's house. Sharon wasn't sure what she would find, but part of her wanted to bully Nicky's bully to even the score. But she promised Nicky that she would let him handle things his way, and she would keep her word.

Inside the house, the boys had finished the meal and put the dishes in the sink, and Isaac decided to make sure Kurt's mother knew where he was. Given the circumstances and what Timmy had told him, Isaac decided to record the call on his cell phone. He asked Kurt for his mother's number and dialed then put the phone on the counter on speakerphone.

Just at that moment, a knock sounded at the front door, and William answered the door, letting Nicky and Sharon in.

"YEAH!, WHOIZZIS?" the phone bellowed into the kitchen. Kurt could tell his mother had been soused for hours,

"Um, it's me, Kurt."

"Yeah, whadda......uh, whaddya want?"

"I won't be home tonight, don't wait up or nothin'." Kurt mumbled.

"Like I fu-... I.....would wait up on your stupid little ass?....I'm fu...fuckin' busy here." She croaked in a smoker's rasp and the phone went dead. Kurt just turned away and went out on the patio without saying anything.

Sharon and Nicky heard the whole thing. They just stood there for a moment staring at Isaac's phone.

"I'm really sorry you had to hear that." Isaac said, his head bowed. "Can I get you guys some tea?" Isaac offered.

"Thank you Isaac. Is it all right if Nicky and William spend some time together?" We didn't want to barge in on anything."

"Oh, you're not. The boys are free until bedtime, and Nicky is welcome here anytime, Mrs. Jarvis...Um, I wanted to make sure Kurt's mom knew where he was, but you can see that doesn't seem to be an issue."

"Uh, Yeah...Would you make a glass for Kurt, please?" Sharon asked. "I want to talk to him."

"Mom, you said you..." Nicky began.

"It's all right, Nicky, you and I have a deal. You wanted to see William, right?"

Nicky nodded. "Nicky, I won't kill him. I promise, okay?" Sharon smiled and Nicky knew his mom would keep their bargain. He smiled back at her, and left the kitchen to find his little friend.

"Isaac, Nicky told me that Kurt apologized and made up with him. He asked me not to pursue anything further on their...uh, scuffle at school. I said yes, but should I trust Kurt?"

"He's in trouble, Mrs. Jarvis. He asked Timmy for help and Timmy trusts him, and I think Nicky does too. It's up you if you do, but I will give him the benefit of the doubt until he shows me that he doesn't deserve it. Right now, I think he does."

Sharon nodded and took the tea from Isaac. "Thanks Isaac" she said as she went to the door.

When she stepped out on the patio, she found Kurt sitting on the concrete in a ball with his arms over his head and his head between his knees. He was crying quietly. Sharon sat down on the pavement and put her hand on Kurt's bony back.

"Would you like some tea?" Sharon asked. Kurt shook his head and brought his hands down in front of his face. Sharon could see the bruises on Kurt's forearms now in the light of the single bulb beside the sliding door.

"What do you want?" Kurt asked softly.

"Just to sit here with you for a while" she answered.

"Why?...Who are you?" Kurt wondered.

"My name is Sharon, Kurt. I'm Nicky Jarvis's mom."

"Oh God, no...Lady...I'm sorry I hurt him...It made me feel awful inside and if you hate me I can understand." Kurt's eyes were full and tears were streaming down his face. "Why did I do that? I just want to die."

Sharon decided not to overreact to the last remark. She didn't want to undermine what connection she might make with Kurt by not acknowledging his depressed state of mind. She put an arm around him, and Kurt didn't avoid her embrace.

"Kurt, feeling awful and like there's no way out for you tells me you're a good person dealing with too much right now. Nicky doesn't hate you and I don't either. Nicky has forgiven you, and he's asked me to do that too."

"Really...why would he do that after I...?"

"Because you need a friend."

"I don't have any friends."

"Exactly......Except you're wrong about that. Think about it, Kurt. Timmy could have finished that fight instead of just holding you back. And Nicky could have told on you at school, or brushed you off when you talked to him. He let you make amends and get this off your chest."

Kurt nodded. "Timmy could have kicked my ass if he wanted to...He said he wouldn't fight unless I made him....Then, I didn't think he meant it when he said he would help me, you know? I though he was just blowin' sh....sorry. But today when I asked him for a place to go, he just said "you're coming home with me." Like he does that everyday."

Kurt's breath caught on occasion interrupting his words as tears continued to flow.

"And Nicky....He said he doesn't hold grudges and asked if we were friends now. " Kurt confided.

"What did you say to that?" Sharon pressed gently.

"I don't deserve to have any."

"It doesn't work that way, Kurt. Sometimes you have to just let people who want to be a friend do that."

"I don't trust people much."

"Trust is like respect, Kurt. People have to earn both those things. It's good that you protect yourself, but there are people out there that won't try to hurt you. Timmy, Isaac and Nicky to start with. No one wants you to die, Kurt."

"I, um, I didn't really..." Kurt began.

"I know what you meant, which is why I didn't freak out all over when you said that. Do you think about dying a lot, Kurt?"

"Some times, yeah." the teenager admitted. "Like when it seems to go on forever."

"You mean when you get these?" She said, rubbing the bruises lightly with a finger. Kurt's head bobbed up and down between his knees.

Piss on this! Kurt thought. I'll tell her about the bruises, it's not like the whole fucking world doesn't know this shit anyway...why should I protect her so she can keep doing it?

"Uh-huh. It's not like I can hit her back. I just have to cover and take it until she passes out or whatever." Kurt said.

"Are you ready to make it stop? When you asked Timmy to stay here, were you ready to leave?" Sharon asked.

"I don't know. I'm scared. I don't know what to do." Kurt replied.

"Kurt, we're all going to help you if you let us....But this isn't going to stop unless your mother quits drinking and gets help. This always gets worse. Now she's slapping you while you try to cover up and wait her out. Sooner or later, she's going to start hitting you with more than her hands, Kurt, and someday you WILL hit her back. One of you is going to end up dead."

Kurt began to sob heavily at this point.

"I...I killed her a hundred times in my nightmares....Oh God, those dreams won't stop...I can't do this anymore....I can't ..." Kurt broke down completely and Sharon held him and rocked him until he stopped crying.

"Kurt, it's over if you're ready for it to be over. It's your decision. I can't make the choice for you, and no one knows if your mother can be helped. Is that something you're prepared for?"

Kurt nodded. "I don't have a mother anyway. Someone I hate and fear and dream about killing isn't a mother. I got nowhere to go and nothing to lose...I got nothing."

It was the saddest thing Sharon had ever heard a boy Kurt's age say. He had given up, had no hope left, no options.

"It's getting cold out here, and you only have on those shorts...Come back inside, Kurt."

Kurt got up and put his arms around himself to ward off the chill. Sharon led him back inside and closed the patio door behind them. Kurt heard the other boys in the bedroom and decided to go to the living room. The lights and TV were off and Kurt curled up on the couch in a ball. Sharon paused in the kitchen where Isaac was working on homework at the table. He looked up and Sharon motioned to him with her head to come back out on the patio.

Timmy, Nicky and Sean were playing a game in Timmy's room, and William went in to the kitchen to get a drink. He saw Kurt sitting on the couch by himself and wandered into the dark living room. The dark eyed little boy crawled up next to Kurt and put his arms around the teenager, who wasn't sure what was happening.

"What are you..." Kurt started to say as the smaller child hugged him.

"Don't cry, Kurt." William pleaded. Kurt relaxed and after a moment, put an arm around William. He wasn't used to this, but William's demonstration of affection made Kurt think how brave the little kid was to love and trust like this, while the thought of doing that scared Kurt to death. He could learn a lot from this ten year old. They stayed like that, close in the dark room for some minutes before William asked

"Kurt, do you want to come and play with us?" Kurt nodded, and William let go, and they made their way back to Timmy's room, where Nicky made room for Kurt to sit next to him.

Meanwhile, outside on the patio-

Sharon closed the patio door behind Isaac and said

"He can't go home, Isaac. Maybe not ever...His mother is unfit and his life is in danger in that home. He thinks about suicide, and fantasizes about killing her. He's just about shut down emotionally and is scared to death. I've never seen a boy his age so depressed. He's ready to leave her, and asking for help. We have to protect him and report this."

"I still have some phone numbers from the CPS people we worked with on Timmy's adoption." Isaac replied.

"Oh...He isn't your biological brother?" Sharon was surprised to hear this.

"No, his adoption was finalized a few weeks ago. He was in a situation like Kurt when he found me...long story."

"He's very special."

"I agree."

"I know that you and Timmy have things worked out for Kurt tonight, and we can also put him up at our house if you have too much going on with William."

"No, William has been great, and it seems his family will be going home sometime next week, so we should be fine. It's going to be really hard to give him back." The both laughed a bit. "But this was just a short term favor for a friend who's helped Timmy and I a lot this last year. Part of the long story again."

"Okay. So...we set up a meeting with CPS?"

"Yeah, we do...let me call Roger in the morning. I'll let you know what he says."

"Great. Isaac, I have some things to do before tomorrow...Is it okay if Nicky comes home in an hour or so?"

"Sure, say send him home around 8:45?"

"Perfect, thanks so much."

"Good to see you again, and thanks for talking to Kurt like that." Isaac said. "You probably persuaded him to break the cycle." Sharon paused at the front door, and let the door knob go as she turned and replied

"No, I wish I could claim that, but he decided to make changes before he approached Timmy about staying here. He's working a plan, and it's up to us to help him." Sharon said. "When Timmy stood up to him but didn't try to hurt him, and then offered his help, Kurt saw two things he desperately needs; limits and stability and also compassion. He bullied Nicky because he lives with a bully who has no boundaries on her behavior, and wants to be loved and shown compassion like everyone else."

Isaac was impressed with Sharon's assessment of Kurt, and also surprised that she hadn't come down to tear into Kurt' ass for roughing up Nicky.

"I'm not sure I would have been so understanding if Kurt had smacked Timmy around." Isaac said. Sharon nodded.

"Nicky begged me not to get involved in the incident at school. I gave Nicky my word that I wasn't here to pursue a vendetta. His judgment was to help Kurt, and after talking to him, I support my son's decision. This boy is teetering on the edge like so many I see."

"Oh, what sort of work do you do?" Isaac asked.

"I counsel at-risk youth, and substance abuse cases."

"Oh, that's awesome...are you with the county?"

"Private practice....the patients are mostly country club, private school rich kids, and trust me, business is booming. Which is why I need to get out of here and prepare for tomorrow."

"All right, I won't keep you. Talk to you later"

"Good night, and thanks for watching Nicky."

When Sharon left, Isaac looked in on the crowd in Timmy's room. They were sitting on the floor, and Timmy, Sean, Kurt and William were each holding a hand of cards. Nicky was sitting close to Kurt, explaining the game to Kurt and helping him with strategy the first few hands. Kurt was listening intently to Nicky and nodding to show that he understood. Nicky was pointing to certain cards in Kurt's hand and giving Kurt some tips.

Nicky's hand was on Kurt's back so he could pull Kurt over to whisper tips in his ear, and to a casual bystander, they appeared to have been friends far longer than they had actually known each other. Nicky's laughter and easy going personality were relaxing Kurt, and he was actually enjoying himself, an unfamiliar feeling. This was the second time that day that Kurt had felt Nicky's hand on his back, and he decided that he liked the feeling. He wanted to let Nicky in, and allow himself to accept Nicky's friendship.

When it was time for Nicky to head back up the street, Kurt decided to walk him home. Nicky said his goodbyes to Timmy, Sean and William and left with Kurt. Once they got past the front door, Kurt said

"Thanks for sticking up for me with your mom, Nicky. And teaching me the card game. I really like being with you guys...You're so different."

Nicky looked at Kurt "Different? What does that mean?" he wondered.

Kurt hesitated a moment before explaining. "There are guys at the Chancre that hang out, but they all want stuff to be your friend, you know?"

Nicky asked "Um, what's a chancre?"

"It's what we call the Shangri-La trailer park....It's a sore on your dick when you got VD and shit."



"So you live there?"


"What kind of stuff do they want?"

"Cigarettes, dope, booze...sometimes other stuff."

"Other stuff, like?"

"Um, well, like nasty things."

"C'mon Kurt, what things?"

"Well, sex stuff for cigarettes, whiskey or dope."

"Whoa" Nicky said. "Guess we're pretty boring compared to them dudes."

"I'd rather be with you guys." Kurt said and they fell silent, each in his own thoughts.

Nicky was curious enough to overcome his embarrassment in asking

"Um, Did you ever have to..."

"No...I don't hang out with those dudes, Nicky. They're not people I trust."

"Yeah, I guess not" Nicky replied. "We'll this is my house. Do you want to come in?"

"Um, maybe tomorrow after school if I'm still here? Um, Nicky?"


"I do want to be friends...I never had any before." Kurt said. Nicky turned to Kurt and gave the taller boy a big hug.

"Kurt, we're good. No grudges, and I meant that. Okay?"

Kurt smiled and nodded. "Okay."

"I guess I'll see you in the morning then." Nicky said, letting Kurt go.

"See you then, bye" Kurt said, as he began to walk back to Isaac's house and Nicky went inside his door.

When Kurt came back to the house, Isaac was in the kitchen and asked Kurt to come to his room. Isaac shut the door and asked Kurt to sit on the bed, while he prepared his camera.

"Kurt, do you think you would like to stay with us or Nicky's folks until some things are worked out?" Isaac asked.

"Um, sure...I mean, if it's okay if I know...I hope asking Timmy didn't get him in trouble and stuff."

"Timmy will never be in trouble for trying to help someone, Kurt. I helped Timmy because I had to, and now he has to pay that forward by helping you. I know why he invited you to stay, and I back him up all the way. I don't want you to worry about that, okay?"

Kurt nodded.

"Kurt, we have to take some steps to get you out of your house, and away from your mom so she can get some help. You understand that?"


"I need to get pictures of your arms and anywhere she hit you or did things."

"Are those going to the cops?" Kurt asked.

"No, There is somebody who will need these to help you." Isaac said. "Kurt, this isn't about just getting your mom in trouble. It's about getting you both help and saving your lives."

"I guess it's really that bad, isn't it?" Kurt asked.

"Kurt...You know that most people don't live like you and your mom, don't you? I'm not trying to be an asshole or talk mean to you, but you've never lived in a normal and healthy situation. Look, I had to learn what being in your shoes is like from Timmy. I had no clue what abuse and endangerment were. I guess you won't really get how bad it is until you have been away from this stuff for awhile."

Kurt thought about everything, and took his shirt off. "How do you want me?"

"Hold on a second." Isaac went to the door and called for Timmy. Timmy appeared in the doorway a moment later,


"Can you hold that lamp for us? Kurt, sit on the corner of the bed and hold your arm out. Timmy, hold that lamp over his arm to light it up.....yeah, just ...Zo! as zee Franch zay!"

"Zee Fwench do not zay Zo! Zay say Voila!" Timmy argued, causing Kurt to giggle.

"You're making my subject jiggle, Timmy. Bad Timmy!" Isaac scolded behind the camera.

"Good help is hard to find" Timmy retorted.

"Especially for what I pay you." Isaac said.

"You don't pay me anything!" Timmy exclaimed.

"I rest my case! Okay, other arm, jiggling subject!" Kurt had been giggling the whole time.

"When your ready" Isaac chided.

"Okay" Kurt said making a concerted effort to stop laughing. That lasted several seconds and he burst out laughing again, as Timmy adjusted the lamp again. When Kurt calmed down a little, Isaac snapped off more shots and asked Kurt if he had any other injuries. Kurt shook his head, and Isaac announced that he was done. He reviewed the shots on the camera's LCD and thought they were as good as he would get.

"That's it Kurt. You guys should be heading to bed soon."

"Good night, Isaac" Timmy said giving Isaac a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Kurt was a bit surprised to see that, but just said,

"Um, what should I do after school tomorrow? Go home?"

"No, Kurt. Come back here on the bus again. Until things are worked out where no one is hitting you anymore, I don't think you're safe. I want you here for the next few days or so."

Kurt nodded. He knew Isaac was right, and now the burden of worrying about what he would do after tomorrow was lifted from him.

"Thanks again for letting me stay, Isaac."

"Welcome to our weird ass family, Kurt." Isaac said, patting Kurt on the back. "Good night."

The boys went down the hall to Timmy's room, and Isaac looked through the photos of Kurt's bruised arms again. He thought about what he would ask Roger in the morning.

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