Castle Roland


by Eric Aune


Chapter 15

Published: 8 Apr 14

The group of eight boys became good friends as the days moved along closer to Thanksgiving weekend. During lunch time they usually played something together, basketball or touch football. Sean showed that while he was smaller he could still play pretty good, although he didn't really like basketball much. In their classes, Dylan arranged to have them all sit together. No one knew how he did it, but he did. His usual method was to talk to the other students who were sitting nearby and then after talking to them, and getting their okay, he would then talk to the teacher and he was able to get them to rearrange the seating chart so that the guys could all sit near each other. There was something about Dylan that was hard to resist when he turned on the charm.

For Josh there was a new development in his life. His Uncle Eric came to visit. Josh had first met his uncle when he had shown up to donate bone marrow to try to help Josh's mom, but it hadn't been enough. After his donation he stayed with them for a couple of weeks before he had to leave. When he stayed with them, he and Josh became close. Eric told him stories, of when Eric and his mom were little kids. Eric was her younger brother by a several years and he had all kinds of stories about their childhood. Josh asked about their parents, his grandparents. Eric didn't answer right away, but he did tell Josh that they had died. When Eric had to leave, Josh was a little upset. He asked him why he couldn't stay. That's when he found that his uncle was in the Army and had to report back to duty. He did promise that he would come back as soon as the Army would let him.

They had all been hopeful that his bone marrow would work, but it had not. A couple of months later when his mom got worse, Eric was able to get an emergency leave and he made it a couple of days before her death. He stayed with them for a couple of weeks to help with everything. There were a couple of times when Josh was feeling sad and couldn't sleep, so he found his way to his uncle's room. Eric heard him enter the room and when he saw Josh standing next to the bed with glistening eyes, he nodded and held the covers open. Josh slid under the cover and moved close to his Uncle. Eric held the boy and let him cry until his breathing became regular and Eric knew he was asleep. Those times helped cement their relationship. A few days after the funeral, his uncle had to report back for duty.

One day in mid November, Eric showed up at the condo for a visit. Josh hadn't seen him since his mom's funeral because, soon after that, he had then been sent to Afghanistan for a tour of duty. He occasionally sent a letter when he got a chance, to let them know how he was doing, but it wasn't often. Josh jumped up and gave him a hug when his dad let him in the door. Eric took them out to dinner and then back to the condo. It was getting late, so Josh said goodnight. The two men stayed up later and had a couple of beers while they talked.

The next morning was Saturday and when Josh got up, he saw his Uncle asleep on the couch. It was the first time that Uncle Eric had stayed over since he had been there for the funeral, but they had had a bigger house then and there was a spare bed. Josh tried not to make too much noise as he went to get some cereal for breakfast. He quietly got everything out and sat at the kitchen table to eat. He heard a noise behind him and looked up as his Uncle walked by in a t-shirt and a pair of shorts that said US Army Green Beret on it. He tousled Josh's hair as he went over to the coffee maker, got some coffee out, and started it brewing. Once that was done he grabbed a bowl out of the cupboard and sat down. He grabbed the cereal and fixed himself a bowl.

"Morning Josh."

"Morning Uncle Eric. Are you going to stay awhile before you have to go back to the Army?"

Eric grinned and nodded. "Yep, I thought I'd stay and visit for a few days anyway."


"So how are you doing nephew?"

"Okay. I've made some good friends this year in school."

"Oh, tell me about 'em"

"Well, the first guy of the group is a guy I met last year after mom died. He became my best friend and helped me when I was not feeling so good, his name is Dylan. The other guys I met this year after school started. We all have the same classes together and we usually hang out together at lunch and stuff. The other guys are Dakota and Sean, Dakota's this part Indian guy, American Indian, not Indian from Asia, and Sean is one of the smallest guys in the class; Dakota kind of looks out for him. I guess Sean used to have problems with this one guy who was kind of a bully, but I think with Dakota hanging around him that bully hasn't had much chance to mess with him. Then there's Ian and Logan, they helped Sean out when he got hurt one day. Dakota thinks it was that bully, but Sean, Ian and Logan didn't see him do anything, so there's no proof. Then there's Ethan, we just met him, but he's pretty cool. The last guy of the group is Jamie."

Eric looked up when he heard something in Josh's voice when he said Jamie's name. Josh was looking into space with a dreamy expression on his face and a goofy smile. He gazed at Josh for a few moments before he looked down to hide the smile that was on his face. Unless he was mistaken, Josh had a serious crush on another boy. Not that he was bothered by that. He had known some guys in the military who were gay and they had stuck to the don't ask, don't tell policy while that was in force and never exactly admitted it to anyone, but a lot of guys knew. When you spent that much time with someone and depended on them, you learned a lot of stuff about the guys in your unit and you learned that it didn't matter. They were your buddies and nothing else mattered. You knew that they had your back and it didn't matter who they liked.

By the time he looked up again, he saw that Josh was looking down at his bowl. Eric could see the slight reddening of his neck and cheeks and he had to stifle a chuckle. The rest of the breakfast was finished in silence. When he was done, Josh rinsed out his bowl and put it in the sink. He then went to get some clothes on. Eric put his bowl in the sink when he finished, before he poured himself a cup of coffee. He went into the living room to watch a morning news show while he drank is coffee.

They heard Derrick getting up and as he walked by he greeted Eric as he went outside. He returned a minute later with the paper in his hand and went to the kitchen to get himself a cup of coffee. He sat down at the kitchen table to drink his coffee and read the paper. Josh came into the living room and plopped down on a chair.

Eric looked over at him. "Josh, you want to go somewhere with me today. I want to show you something. I asked your Dad last night and he said it was okay."

Josh looked at this dad at the table. Derrick had looked up when Eric spoke. "Is your bed made up Josh and your room picked up?"

Josh had an apologetic look as he got out of the chair. "No sorry Dad. I'll go do it right now."

Derrick nodded and returned to his paper. His Uncle made a shooing motion with his hands. Josh grinned and hurried to take care of his room. Eric, meanwhile, got some things out of his overnight bag and went into the bathroom to clean up and change. By the time he was done Josh was waiting in the living room for him. Eric grabbed his keys and a light jacket and the two of them left the condo.

"Bye Dad."

Derrick waved vaguely in that direction as he read his paper. They went out to the street where Eric had his Jeep parked. They got in, Eric started it and hit a button on his satellite radio and soon some classical music was coming through the speakers.

Josh just looked at him with a mock scowl and put a little whine in his voice, "Oh man, Uncle Eric, do you have to play that?"

Eric got a shocked look on his face and spoke in a fake Russian accent. "Wat? You are nekulturny boy, Da?"

Josh cocked his eyebrow puzzled. "What's knuckletu….what you said?"

Eric laughed before explaining. "There were a couple of times in my career that my team interacted with some Russian soldiers. Nekulturny is a term they used to say to someone that means they have no class or culture. They said that to us a lot, usually joking, but I think that they did mean it at least a little."

"What about if you were cultured?"

"Easy. You are kulturney, cultured."

"Well, I think I'll stay knuckle…whatever if it means I don't have to listen to that stuff."

Eric chuckled and ruffled his hair before hitting another button on the radio and soon George Strait's voice came out of the speakers. He glanced over at Josh and Josh sort of looked at the radio and kind of had a sort of "I guess that's okay" look on his face. Eric smiled and hit another button and there was a little radio station jingle playing, "Seventies on seven."

Then a song came on soon Josh was smiling and bobbing his head as Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody came on.

"That's better. If this means I'm knucklewhatever, then I'm knucklewhatever."

As they drove, both of them started singing along with the song. Eric was soon driving past Josh's school. "Is that where you and your friends go to school?"

Josh looked past his uncle and nodded as he continued to sing along with the song. Eric continued driving north on Cawston until he got to Esplanade just north of Tahquitz High School, then Eric turned left. Half a mile down the road Eric turned into a newer housing development called Stony Mountain. By this time the song was over and another had started, it was one of Elton John's hits from the seventies, but Josh didn't pay attention to it. He was looking around at the houses and then the large park as it passed on his side of the Jeep. He was curious as to why they were driving through this neighborhood. It looked like a nice one. It was kind of like the one they use to live in before his mom died and they had moved to the condo. He didn't ask anything as his uncle continued to make a few more turns, the last one brought them into a cul-de-sac. Eric drove to the end of the cul-de-sac and pulled into the driveway of a house on the left side at the end circle. He stopped the car and motioned for Josh to get out. Without waiting for him, Eric strode up to the front door and chose a key from his key ring and quickly unlocked the door. Eric then turned, smiled, and waited for his nephew to join him.

"What's this?"

"This…is my new home."


"Yep. Come on in."

Josh entered and Eric shut the door behind him. Josh looked around at the living room with its high vaulted ceiling. Right behind it was a raised area with a dining room table and chairs. There was a flight of wide stairs to the right heading up to the second floor and another doorway straight ahead that appeared to have a smaller table and chairs. He looked up and could see some doors behind the top landing.

"C'mon, I'll give you a tour of the place."

Josh followed as his uncle led the way through the living room to the doorway. When they walked through he saw that besides the table and chairs straight ahead, there was a kitchen to the left with a door from that to back to where the dining room table was. To the right was another smaller area with a fireplace and a couch, chairs, a TV and a small desk.

"So, as you can see, out there was the living room and dining room. In here is the kitchen and den. There is a laundry room and small half bath through there with a door to the garage." He was pointing at a short hallway next to the desk. He then led the way to the glass doors that led outside and unlocked them. "And out here, the pool."

"Sweet," Josh walked past his uncle to look at the backyard. There was a good sized patio and large pool surrounded by a pretty good sized backyard. Josh walked all around while Eric sat down and watched him inspect everything in the yard. The pool was kind of like two circles with a diving board on the deep end about thirty by fifteen feet. There was a large covered spa near the pool. The back yard was huge, especially compared to the other houses nearby, because of the corner lot that it was built on.

After looking at everything he headed back over to his uncle with a huge grin. "This is so cool, but what about when you have to go back to your army unit?"

Eric just smiled, "Well, that won't be happening anymore. I've retired. I decided twenty years was enough and put in my papers a few months ago."

"Really, awesome, so you're going to be living here all the time now? Why didn't you tell us before?"

"Yep, I talked to your dad about it last night and asked if it was alright for you to come over here and see the house. I wanted to get all settled in first before I told you guys. I decided to move closer to the only family I have left, but I had some…uh, last minute things to take care of before I moved out. I had to get all that taken care of before I moved here and let you guys know what was going on."

"But what are you going to do now?u Are you going to get a job?"

"Yeah, I'm looking around. I have some feelers out. I'm not worried about it. I should have something soon. When I do, I'll let you know. C'mon, let me show you the rest of the house."

Josh nodded and followed Eric back into the house. He led him upstairs. He showed him the master bedroom that had a master bathroom attached to it. In the other direction he showed him another bathroom and two large bedrooms and one other room that had shelves full of books, a tall safe and a desk with a computer setup on it.

He headed back to the bedrooms. "One last thing. You get to choose which of these bedrooms is going to be yours."


"Yep. That way, whenever I have my favorite nephew visiting overnight, he has his own place to stay."


Josh started comparing the two rooms. He went back and forth for a few minutes while Eric stood nearby leaning against the wall watching him. He finally chose the one nearest the bathroom because it was in a corner and had two windows. One looked down on the pool and the other looked out towards the large grass area of the backyard.

"Okay, it's all yours. However you want to decorate it we'll do that. You can change the color if you want, put up some pictures or posters, whatever you want to do."



"I've got some posters at home, if that's alright?"

"Sure. Do you want to get them now and bring them back here?"

"Can we?"

"Let's go."

They left the house and drove back to the condo. Josh's dad was watching a football game on TV.

"Hey dad, Uncle Eric took me to his new house. It's really cool with a pool and he said that one of the rooms is mine for when I visit."

Derrick looked up at the excited Josh. "That's good."

"Yeah, he's going to let me hang some posters up in the room and decorate it the way that I want to."

"That's nice Josh."

Josh turned away smiling and headed to his room to get some of the things he wanted to bring to his Uncle's house.

Once he was gone, Derrick looked at Eric, "You shouldn't spoil him so much. Don't let him be a pest."

"Derrick. I really want a chance to get to know my nephew. I missed a lot of his life."

"There was no choice Eric and you know it. We explained all of that after we contacted you, when Christine got sick. We had to."

Eric held his hand up and nodded because he could see that Derrick was frowning a little and he didn't want to get in an argument with his brother-in-law.

"I know, I hate that you had to do that, but I understand it and I supported you then, and now. My biggest regret is that our parents never knew about what happened. They were upset for a long time after what they were told."

"You didn't tell them did you?" There was a suspicious tone in Derrick's voice.

Eric shook his head. "Not even when I knew they were going to die soon. I kept the secret as you requested. No one knew. Someday I'd really like to tell Josh…."

"Uncle Eric, I'm ready to go." Josh walked into the room and the two men saw that he had some rolled up posters under one arm and his backpack on his back. Eric looked at him and smiled. He looked over at Derrick and he still had a little bit of frown, but he quickly covered it and gave Eric a significant look that said, there would be more discussion on the subject they were talking about another time.

"Okay, let's head back. I'll bring him back in a little while Derrick."

Derrick nodded and turned his attention back to the TV as they left the condo. A short time later they were pulling up to the house again and went inside. Josh headed upstairs and started looking at the walls and figuring out where he wanted the posters. Once he had decided he started putting them up. He only had a few, some big, some small, so it didn't take long. Eric went back downstairs and left him alone.

Half an hour later Josh came back down. "I'm done, do you want to come see?"

"Sure." Eric followed him back upstairs. He looked around the room. He saw that the posters were up and there was a framed picture on the bedside table. He walked over to see it. It showed Josh and his parents when he was about eight or nine. He could see the Grand Canyon behind them. He knew they had only been living here since Josh was eleven, so he didn't know where they had been living when that picture was taken. Maybe they had lived in Arizona then. Derrick and Christine had not filled him in on everything, but had told him a little. He still felt a little frustration that he missed so many years of their life, but he accepted what they had asked of him, even if it was reluctant acceptance. He hoped to get the complete story someday. He put the picture back down. Josh was standing by the door.

Eric turned back to him with a smile, "It looks great Josh. That's a nice picture of you and your parents. It looks like the Grand Canyon."

Josh nodded, "We went there during spring break when I was in 4th grade. We were living in Phoenix then. That was where we lived before we moved here."

Eric filed that piece away. Maybe he could carefully get a little information from Josh, but not today. "Let's go back downstairs and have a drink."

Josh nodded and led the way downstairs. Eric grabbed some cans and went outside. He handed Josh his and went to sit on one of the lounge chairs in the backyard. Josh sat in the other one.

They sat there relaxing in silence until Eric broke it, "So, tell me about Jamie."

Josh choked a little as the statement surprised him and the coke went down the wrong pipe. Eric leaned over and patted his back before sitting back in his seat.

When Josh finished coughing he looked over at Eric who was just looking towards the pool. "I, uh…what do you mean?"

"Well, it sounds like he's a good friend."

"Uh, yeah he is…a good friend."

"Good, you can never have too many good friends."

Eric was quiet then, but he noticed out of the corner of his eye that Josh was looking at him a little nervously. Eric hid the smile that threatened to break out by taking another long drink before he said anything else. "Do you think he might want to come over and see your room?"

"Uh, maybe."

"Why don't you call him and we'll go pick him up."


"Sure. Maybe we can grill a couple of burgers and sit in the spa. It might be a bit cool to swim since it is November, but sitting in the spa might be nice. It will give you a chance to christen it." A funny thought occurred to Eric and he chuckled a little.

Josh looked at him with speculative look, "What's funny?"

Eric just looked at him, "Oh nothing, I just thought of something from when I was in the Army, it's nothing."

Josh narrowed his eyes suspiciously but decided to accept it. "Could I ask another person too, just those two?"

Eric nodded, "Sure, why not. Who?"

"My other friend, Dylan."

"Do you know their numbers?"

Josh nodded.

"Okay there's a phone on the desk in the den, give 'em a call and see what they say."

Josh went inside and found the phone and dialed Dylan first.

"Hey Dylan…yeah it's Josh…hey, my Uncle asked…Yeah, my Uncle Eric…Yeah, he just moved here…yep, anyway he just asked me if I might want to invite a couple of my friends over to his house for a little barbecue and hang out in his spa...Just hamburgers and stuff…Yeah, you'll need your swimsuit…Jamie…Yes…Uh, huh, I'm going to call him next…No, just the three of us…No it's not…Three is not…You better come…Because I want you to meet my Uncle…Well, you are my best friend…No, he isn't, you are…But, okay, yeah, he is too…What's that supposed to mean?…What do you mean nothing?…Watch it…My Uncle has a pool too, and it's probably pretty cold…Don't bet on it…Okay, so it's okay?...I'll wait…Cool! I'll call Jamie and we'll be by to pick you up soon…He lives near Tahquitz High School…Yeah, pretty close….Okay see ya."

Josh hung up and dialed Jamie's number. A lady answered the phone, "Oh, uh hi. Is Jamie home…Yes, this is Joshua Stuart from school…Yeah, I'm a friend of Jamie's…Thank you…Hi Jamie, this is Josh…Um, my Uncle just asked me if I wanted to have couple of my friends over to his house for a little barbecue and hang out for a little while…Okay…She said it was okay? Cool…Dylan's coming over too…No, we'll come pick you up in a little while…Okay, see you in a little bit. Oh yeah, bring your swim suit, bye."

Josh was smiling as he went back outside. "Their parents said it was okay."

"Well, let's go get them. Oh, wait, do you have your swimsuit?"

Josh's face fell as he realized that he didn't.

"We'll drop by your place and get yours, okay."

"Yeah, we can stop there on the way to Jamie's house."

"Okay, let's go."

They drove off and soon were pulling up in front of Jamie's house. Eric and Josh both got out of the Jeep and went up to the door. Josh knocked on the door. A lady answered the door, "Yes, may I help you?"

"Hello, I'm Eric Barrett and this is my nephew, Josh. He called a little while ago about your son, Jamie…" Eric glanced at Josh who nodded, "…Jamie, coming over to my house for a barbecue this afternoon. We're here to pick him up."

Margaret smiled at them both and opened the door wider. "Won't you come in?"

They stepped into the house and Margaret went to a nearby doorway. "Jamie! Your friends are here."

They heard a muffled answer, "Coming."

She turned back to them, "He'll be right out. Would you like something to drink?"

"No thank you, ma'am. We'll just wait for Jamie and be on our way."

A few moments later Jamie came out of the doorway with a towel under his arm. When he saw Josh he got a big smile on his face. Behind him came two younger boys. He came over to them with the two boys following him.

"Hi Josh."

"Hey, Jamie. Jamie this is my Uncle Eric."

Jamie stepped up and shook Eric's hand.

"It's nice to meet you Jamie. Who are these guys?"

"Oh, these are my foster brothers, Shane and Mark."

Eric shook both of their hands. "It's nice to meet you guys. Well Jamie, are you ready to go?"


Eric shook Margaret's hand. "Thank you for letting Jamie come over, I'll make sure he gets back home safe."

She gave him a wave that said, not to worry, and smiled as she walked them to door. "Not to worry, you can bring him home when he's done."

Eric nodded and led the way out to the Jeep. Jamie and Josh got in the back of the Jeep. Eric took off. They stopped at Josh's condo building so he could get his swim trunks. He soon returned with his trunks in his hand and jumped in the back seat next to Jamie. They shared a smile.

Eric glanced in the rear view mirror and smiled. "Where to next Josh?"

"Oh, yeah. Just go left on Madrid and then left on Sydney, then right on Nashville."


It was just a couple of minutes before they were pulling up in front of the house that Josh pointed out. Eric stopped the Jeep and they all went up to the door. Josh knocked on the door and opened it. He went in with Jamie and Eric behind him. Dylan and his parents were in the living room when they came in. They all got up.

"Hello Joshua."

"Hi Missus Robinson. Hi Mister Robinzson. We're here to pickup Dylan."

"Yes, of course. This is your Uncle?"

"Yes ma'am. This is my Uncle Eric."

As she got closer to him, she narrowed her eyes a little and cocked her head, like she was trying to figure something out. "Have we met?"

Eric shook his head. "I don't think so. I would probably remember it."

She shook her head still puzzled. "You look so familiar, like we've met before."

"Sorry ma'am, I can't think how. Until recently I was in the Army. I just retired after twenty years."

"Oh, well I'm very glad to meet you. Do you know when you'll have Dylan home?"

"Whenever you'd like him home."

"Just so it isn't too late."

"Of course, is six okay?"

"Sure, that will be fine."

"Okay guys lets go."

"Bye mom. Bye Dad."

"Bye honey, behave now."

"I will."

They left the house and once again the Jeep was on its way, but this time to Eric's house. When they got to the house, the three boys went up to Jamie's new room and quickly stripped their clothes off and changed into their swim trunks. As they changed Dylan felt some weird feelings, they were a mix of things. There was some nervousness, excitement, anticipation, and some happy feelings as well, but what was really strange to him was that these feelings didn't seem to be his. He didn't know why he thought that, but it seemed right to him. He didn't think they were his feelings. He looked at his two friends as they changed and shook his head in a little bit of wonder. He didn't know how, but he felt that he was somehow picking up these feelings from them. He shook his head again. That was nuts, how could he know that. He quickly looked away and finished getting undressed. They tossed their clothes on the bed and hurried back downstairs.

In the backyard, Jamie and Dylan looked around the backyard and how big it was. Josh took them all around the yard to show them everything. Even though it was only about seventy degrees outside, not exactly cold, it was a little cool with a breeze blowing. And since they were walking around in just their shorts they felt the cool air, so they went to the spa and got in. When they first got in the spa, they entered a little gingerly because of the difference in temperature between the outside air and spa water. Once they got used to the water, they all unwound. Josh sat near to Jamie. Dylan sat across the spa from the two of them. They just talked about school and other unimportant things. Other than that, they just relaxed. Eric came over and joined them as he leaned against the side of the spa and got to know his nephew's friends.

Inside Josh was jittery and he tried very hard to hide it. It was because of Jamie. He was trying to figure out if the vibes he had been getting from Jamie were anything. He felt something for him and of course was scared that he might scare him away or freak him out. He remembered his mom saying something once about sometimes you have to take a chance. That time had happened while his mom wasn't feeling very good after a chemo treatment and he was sitting next to her hospital bed holding her hand while his Dad was getting some coffee. His mom had been kind of drowsy and she had wanted to tell him something.

*** Flashback ***

{Last year}

"Josh, remember, don't be afraid to take a chance. Some real good things can come of it."

"But what if it was a…someone I wanted to be friends with, but they didn't want to be friends with me?"

"Think about it. If they don't want to be friends, then it's their loss, because I know you're a great kid."


"Okay, honey. I understand, but there is just as much a chance that it could go the other way and if you hadn't taken the chance, then you might miss out on someone who might have been your best friend."

"I know. It makes sense when you say it like that, but it's not that easy."

"Yeah, I know. Sometimes, as scary as it is, you just have to take the chance anyway, otherwise you could miss out on something wonderful. A long time ago, I took a chance on something and it turned out pretty wonderful."

"Was that Dad?"

"Well, no, but yeah he's pretty wonderful too. No, it was you."

"Me? What do you mean?"

He saw a kind of faraway look in his mom's eyes. He thought maybe that the pain medication was starting to take effect. They had told her that it would probably make her a little drowsy. But his mom had started to tell him something, and he was curious.

"Mom, what did you mean?"

"Huh, oh, nothing really. I think the meds are starting to get to me. I think I'm going to rest now. It's getting a little late anyway, so you and your Dad should probably go home and rest. We'll talk some more in the morning. Okay, honey."

"Sure Mom. Get some rest, see you in the morning."

His mom nodded as he gave her a kiss and then sat back to wait for his dad to return.

{Present Day}

Josh remembered that he never did get to ask her anything more and it never occurred to him to ask his dad, but he did remember that she always said that you should take a chance. So, he decided to take a chance. Jamie was a nice guy besides being cute, so he thought that at the least, Jamie wouldn't do or say anything mean to him. Besides, he was sure that he felt some kind of connection between them.

As they sat and talked, Jamie felt a slight pressure against his leg and he jumped a little. He glanced to the side at Josh who glanced back with a sort of apprehensive look. Jamie just smiled and looked back at Dylan who had just asked him a question. Jamie had to ask Dylan to repeat what he had said, because he hadn't been paying attention. Josh took the smile as an invitation to try something else. Using the bubbling water of the spa to hide his movement, he slowly moved his hand over towards Jamie. He ran into Jamie's hand and he stopped, just letting his hand touch Jamie's lightly. He waited a few moments to see what would happen. When Jamie didn't pull away, he moved his hand over on top of Jamie's hand and let it lightly rest there, ready pull it back if Jamie pulled his hand out from under it. Jamie waited just a moment before he slowly turned his hand over and the two boys closed their hands around each other. When Jamie did that, Josh had to almost grit his teeth to keep from letting a huge smile come on his face. He glanced to the side and saw a little blush on Jamie's cheek and neck. He felt the heat come to his face as well.

While talking Dylan had to pause for a moment before he continued what he was going to say because of a sudden feeling of excitement that had hit him. He looked at his two friends and saw that their faces were a bit red and probably not because of the steam coming off the water. Eric excused himself about that time and started the barbecue grill built into the patio so he could start cooking. The boys continued to talk. Eric soon had the burgers grilling and the smell started to get the three boy's attention.

A short time later he yelled over to the boys, "Burgers are about done."

The boys got out of the spa and wrapped their towels around their waists. They started to head over to get a burger, that's when they realized that it was kind of cold in the outside air now that they were out of the spa. The towels didn't seem to keep them very warm. The three of them were shivering a little as they stood there waiting to get a burger and their teeth were even chattering a little.

Eric noticed this, "Hey why don't you guys go get dried off and changed. You look cold."

They nodded in agreement and hurried back inside the house to change. In the bedroom, they took off their swim suits and although they had done this so many times in school, Jamie and Josh both picked up their underwear and at what seemed like lightning speed turned away from each other, dropped their shorts and towels in one swift motion and pulled their underwear up as fast as they could. Since they hadn't really dried off, it didn't go as fast as they wanted. The underwear stuck to their skin a little and rolled up some. So they had to unroll it and then pull them up. Dylan noticed this because he suddenly felt his cheeks flushing like he was embarrassed, but couldn't figure out how, since he didn't feel embarrassed himself. He shook his head to clear it and finished drying off before pulling on his underwear and then the rest of the clothes. The other two got their jeans on before drying off their upper bodies and putting their shirts on. The two still had their backs to each other and Dylan was a little confused.

"What is with you two?"

"Huh, what are you talking about?"

"You guys are acting weird."

Josh and Jamie looked a little apprehensive as they looked at each other and then Dylan. Josh sort of stammered out something.

"Um, I…don't know what you talking about. Come on, we don't want those burgers to get cold, do we?"

He took everyone's suits and put them in the bathroom to dry out a little. Jamie followed him out of the room and Dylan once again just shook his head in confusion. He felt a wave of relief. Once again, it was like a separate feeling and that only confused him more.

The boys returned to the backyard to get their burgers. They sat at one of the patio tables. Jamie and Josh sat next to each other with Dylan and Eric sitting across from them. While they were eating Dylan again got some of those funny feelings he'd gotten before, but there was a little something else as well, a feeling of relief again. He looked across at his two friends and saw that both of them seemed to be blushing again and had shy smiles on their faces. What he didn't see was that Josh was rubbing his foot gently on the top of Jamie's foot while they ate. It was tickling him a little but it was also making him tingly and it was causing a reaction to another part of his body. He looked over at Josh and gave him a stare as he tried to use his eyes to get Josh to stop. Josh just gave him a mischievous smile and kept doing it. Jamie gave him a little bit of a glare and motioned slightly with his head at Dylan and Eric. Josh finally relented and with one final gentle rub he removed his foot.

While all that was going on between the two of them. Eric noticed a little of what was going on. He saw that his nephew and Jamie were blushing a bit as they stole glances at each other from time to time as they ate and talked. The boys helped clean up after the meal was done and they retired to the den to watch TV. Jamie and Josh sat on the small couch next to each other, while Eric and Dylan took the two chairs. Eric flipped through the channels until they found a comedy show to watch.

While they watched the show, Josh repeated his actions in the spa, and slowly moved his hand over towards Jamie's. Once he felt Jamie's pinky finger he hesitated for a moment before hooking his pinky with Jamie's. They sat close enough to keep their entwined pinky fingers hidden between them.

Once the show was over Eric announced that he should probably get the boys home. "Well guys, it's getting a bit late. I should probably be getting you guys back to your homes."

The boys nodded and reluctantly got up and went to Josh's room to gather up their wet swim suits and towels so that they could go home. Outside Dylan started to climb in the back, but Josh told him to get in the front seat because he would be the first one that was dropped off. Dylan shrugged and got in. Josh and Jamie got in the backseat. Eric started the Jeep up and pulled away. As he drove he glanced in the rear view mirror and saw the two boys in back sitting close together with their heads almost touching. He could tell that they were talking but he couldn't hear anything.

"Are you sure it's okay Jamie?"

"Yeah, real okay. So does that mean you're…?"

Josh nodded, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure. Girls don't do much for me. Are…are you sure."

"As far as I can tell."

"How long have you known that you were?"

"A few months ago. In the spring, I think. I noticed that the cute guys in my class, especially in PE, got my attention. They kept talking about the girls in the class, but I didn't care about them so much."

"Was there anyone of them you liked most?"

Jamie didn't say anything right away as he thought about it. He pictured some of the boys he'd known in Idaho and he remembered there were some pretty good looking guys but he also knew that there were none that made him feel the way that he had when he saw Josh for the first time in class at the beginning of the year.

"No, not really. I had a couple of good friends but nothing like a best friend or anything. To tell the truth, I was glad when my mom got the job out here. I figured it would be better to be gay here than where I'm from. A lot of the boys at my school were always saying things about fags going to hell and other such crap. I knew if any of them found out about me, I was toast. So I kept that to myself and didn't really try to make a close friend, just in case."

"Yeah, probably safe, but it might not be too much different out here. I know its California as other people have said "The Land of Fruits and Nuts", but there are assholes here too. You've met at least one of them, Ricky."

"Yeah, that's what I thought. I had no intention of taking out an ad or anything, but I hoped it wouldn't be as bad."

"Well, we have a group of friends that are probably okay with it, at least as far as I can tell."

"Maybe, but I'm not ready to make any announcements, yet. I feel it will be okay, too, with our friends. I never felt connected with my friends in Idaho, like I do here with you guys. I kinda feel like I belong here."

"I think I know what you mean. It sorta felt that way when I met Dylan when we first moved here. Then when my mom died, he was there."

Jamie hesitated as he glanced at Dylan's profile.

"Did…did you and Dylan ever…?"

"Wha…no, I never even thought of him that way. I mean, I know he's pretty cute but I only ever thought of him as my best friend, that's all."


Jamie glanced at Dylan again before he turned to Josh with a small smile.

"He is cute too, but I think I like your eyes better."

"Just my eyes?"

"Well, that's a start. The rest is a bonus."

The two of them giggled softly. They turned toward the front and Jamie got worried because he saw that Josh's uncle was looking at them and there was a little twinkle of amusement in his eyes. Jamie quickly looked out the window as if he was just watching the scenery go by. A few minutes later they pulled up in front of Dylan's house.

"Bye guys. Thanks Mister Barrett for inviting me over. It was fun."

"No problem Dylan. I'm sure we'll see you again."

"Bye Dylan, see you at school."

Dylan waved as he stepped back. "Yeah, see ya."

The two boys watched as Dylan went to his front door as Eric pulled away. Just before they finished turning around in the cul-de-sac, Dylan stopped at the door and watched them as they drove away. Josh asked Eric if they could drop Jamie off first before going home. Eric nodded and headed in that direction. The two boys sat quietly for the rest of the trip to Jamie's home and looked out the windows.

Dylan watched them pull away until they turned the corner before going in the house. He greeted his parents and went to his room. He flopped down on his bed and thought about what he had felt while at Josh's Uncle's house. He was pretty sure what he had been feeling was from Josh and Jamie and if that was true, then how was he able to do that? He had heard of ESP and all that, and he kept wondering if it was something like that. He wondered if he could get those feelings by trying to feel them. Could he make himself 'tune in' to the feelings of others? He wondered if there was a way to find out more about it.

A few miles away Eric pulled up in front of Jamie's house and both boys got out. Josh wanted to walk him up to the door, but he thought it might look weird. Outside the car Jamie turned to Josh.

"I don't know for sure, but I think your uncle was watching us in his mirror."

Josh looked over his shoulder at his Uncle, but Eric was looking down at his phone while he waited for Josh to get back in the Jeep.


"On the way to Dylan's."

"Well, we were just talking so I wouldn't worry about it."

"I don't know. It was the way he was looking at us."

"Well, he didn't say anything, so I'd forget it."

"Okay, if you say so. See ya at school. Thanks for inviting me."

"Yeah, I'm really glad I did."

"You better hurry up and get in, or he might be suspicious."

"I don't want to but…okay."

They bumped fists and Josh got in the front seat.

"Ready to go."

Josh nodded his head absently as he watched Jamie walk up to the door and go inside the house. Eric glanced at him and then with a smile he turned the jeep around and headed back towards Josh's home. He debated whether he should say anything, but figured he would only embarrass Josh, so he kept quiet about his suspicions.

"They seem like nice friends, Josh."

Josh looked at his uncle and nodded.

"Yeah, they are. There are some other guys at school that we're all friends with too. They're all nice like that. I think we're all good friends."

A short time later Eric parked at the curb in front of the condo building and let Josh out, "See you later Josh."

"Yeah, you to Uncle Eric."

Eric waited until Josh had gone into the complex before he pulled away to drive home.

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