By Julien Gregg
Edited By Rob Hawes

Author's Note: This story does not endorse a way of life. It merely describes one. The reader is left to form his or her own conclusion and make their own choices. The characters in this story do not practice safe sex. I can't urge my readers enough to always be safe. Life is precious. Why chance it?

Chapter Six:

"So on the days that I take you home why don't you just study at my house?" Andy asked as they were standing in line to get their lunch on Monday.

"That sounds all right," said Ian, thinking about Sebastian and Carl's warning to keep Andy from talking him into anything he didn't want to do. He still didn't know what they were warning him off of. "I'll discuss it with my parents."

"Cool," he said as they carried their trays to the table and joined the others.

"Ian, what are you doing tonight?" Sebastian asked as they sat down.

"I have to study for these tests that I have to take on Monday," he replied. "I'm challenging a bunch of classes to get credit for taking them when I didn't. It's really confusing." He noticed that everyone at the table had gone completely silent and were staring at him. "What?"

"Ian, nobody challenges a class they haven't taken," said Carl. "Only geniuses do that."

"Well I'm not a genius," he said, wanting them to stop looking at him like that. "I'm just book smart."

"Right," replied Sebastian with a huge smile. "It's nothing to be ashamed of Ian. It's actually very cool."

"This all started over a stupid test when I got here," he said and without thinking about what he wanted to keep quiet he went on. "Nobody wanted to get my transcripts from Illinois and sort all of that mess out so they just had me take a placement test and I completed the whole test. I didn't mean to get every answer right."

"You got every answer right on the placement test?" Carl asked with wide eyes.

"Yeah," he said with a sigh. "I didn't mean to."

"You don't understand what this means Ian," said Sebastian. "You're in classes that are only offered to seniors or kids that get that far by going to summer school every summer. You're fifteen years old and a senior in high school. Do you know what that means?"

"Yeah," he said with another sigh. "It means that I'm going to graduate at the end of this year if I pass all of these tests and then I'm stuck with nothing to do until I'm old enough to go to college."

"That's not exactly what it means Ian," said Carl. "You can go to college at sixteen."

"You can go to college at fifteen if you got the high school credit to do it," said Sebastian. "I think that we should start studying with you."

"Yeah," said Carl. "We might be able to help you."

"That's nice guys, but what about football?" he asked.

"We only have practice three times a week," said Sebastian. "One of those days is Saturday. So that means we wouldn't be there on two school nights to study with you."

"I told him he could study with me at my house on the days that you guys are at practice," said Andy. "It's no sweat."

Conversation stopped again as everyone looked at Andy. Ian watched their faces trying to figure out just what was going on. He noticed that Paul Tate looked like he wanted to hurt Andy. Paul had rarely talked to Ian so he didn't really know the boy. There was a lot about this group of boys that he didn't know. He wanted to know what was going on with Andy though. What was it that made them all look at him like that?

"I told him I would discuss it with my parents," Ian said into the silence. "I'm going to need all the help I can get if I'm going to pass these tests. Maybe if I pass them my parents will be willing to let me go to college."

Conversation went back to normal after that, but Ian still wondered what it was that was going on with them all staring at Andy like that. He thought that if he could get to know Paul Tate that he would ask him what was going on. From the murderous look on his face while he stared at Andy, Ian thought he would be the one to open up and tell him what was going on. He wasn't so sure that Sebastian or Carl would tell him anything more than what they'd already told him when they warned him about Andy.

"Are we all going to the diner tonight?" Paul asked when everyone stopped looking at Andy.

"I have to work tonight so I'll already be there," said Sebastian while Carl and the others all said they would be there.

"Are you coming with us Ian?" asked Amy Peterson and then they were all looking at him.

"I'll have to ask my parents," he said slowly.

"Well your dad will already be there," said Sebastian. "We're going over the stock order tonight. I don't think it'll be a problem for you."

"Well then, if they say it's all right I'll be there," replied Ian.

When Carl took him home that afternoon his mother not only said he could go to the diner, she gave him money. She kept smiling at Carl who did his best to charm her. They settled into the dining room with their books and Carl began to go over the material he had to cover to pass the tests. They were still sitting there when Alex came in the door.

"We're not supposed to do our homework on the dining room table," he said instead of hello.

"I told them they could study there, Alex," said their mother as she came in from the kitchen with glasses of tea. "You can do your homework at the table today if you like. This is only a one-time thing."

Both Ian and Carl watched Alex. He didn't look happy but he sat down at the table and got his books out. They went back to studying for the tests after that and all but ignored Alex. He didn't add his voice to any of the conversation between Carl and Ian either. When they were satisfied that Ian had all he could get from the math books they decided to head over to the diner and meet the gang. Alex watched them without saying anything as they took their empty tea glasses to the kitchen and thanked his mother for them.

"Have a good time, Ian," said their mother and Ian saw Alex's eyes go wide.

"Thank you," Ian replied, dragging his eyes away from his brother and following Carl out the door.

They talked and laughed all the way to the diner and Ian was happy and comfortable for the first time since he'd reached Bryarwood. Carl made him feel like a regular guy. Of course Carl didn't know the sordid truth about what had really gone on in Illinois but Ian didn't think that was important anymore. He was just content to have a real friend again after so long.

When they got to the diner everyone was already there. Ian saw only one boy he didn't know. He was sitting next to Paul Tate and the two were laughing about something. The dark haired boy he didn't know had a delighted smile on his face as Paul told him something that only he could hear. He wondered who he was because he'd never seen him at school but before he could ask Carl, Sebastian was telling them to sit down.

"Ian I'm glad you made it," said Sebastian. "Your father decided to let me off for the night so I could be with my friends."

"That was nice of him," Ian replied as he sat next to Ryan Jackson. Carl sat across from him.

"So how was studying?" Ryan asked, smiling at him.

"Not so bad," Ian replied with a chuckle.

"I thought Alex was going to have a cow when he came in and saw us at the dining table," said Carl with a smirk.

"What? Alex doesn't like you hanging with Carl?" asked Jason Oliver.

"I don't know what his problem is," replied Ian. "I'm not all that worried about it though."

"So you and your brother aren't close?" asked Ryan.

"Not hardly," Ian replied with a sigh, thinking about Alex's view on homosexuals. Ian had thought it over for the last week and decided that he really was a homosexual. Alex would never be able to deal with that so even if he wanted to be close to his brother he knew it wasn't going to happen. That was all there was to it.

They all talked back and forth about this and that and Sebastian finally introduced him to the dark haired boy he didn't know. His name was Dyllan Long and he was going to another school for some reason. No one commented on it though. It was a bit of a shock to hear Paul say that Dyllan was his boyfriend but Ian tried not to show it. When Jason proudly announced that Ryan was his boyfriend Ian was sure he looked at least a little stunned.

"I think I understand why you guys don't get along with my brother now," Ian said slowly and Sebastian grinned at him.

"Alex has a backward view of how the world should work," he said. "That's his problem though. The rest of us understand that not everyone is the same and diversity isn't something to be afraid of."

"Well said," laughed Ryan.

"Thanks," Sebastian said with another grin.

Ian noticed that Andy wasn't with the group and he thought about asking why, but then he thought of the warning that Sebastian and Carl had given him and decided not to even mention his name. He was afraid that they would try to warn him off again and he didn't want that. He liked Andy so far. Until he had a reason not to he would continue to like Andy. He had decided that he wouldn't go by what others had to say about a person. He would form his own opinions and go from there.

The evening was fun for Ian and he got to see different sides of his friends. The revelations about some of his friends' sensualities had made the evening interesting and by the time Carl was getting ready to drive him home he was about to add his voice to the chorus of the homosexuals. He thought that it was still a bit early in these recently forged friendships to come out to any of them though.

But that evening started a pattern that continued for quite a while. Carl would study with him every time that he drove him home and then they would head to the diner to have a bite with their friends. On the days that Andy drove him home he would study at Andy's and then go back to the house and listen to Alex complain because they were letting him go just about everywhere he wanted at fifteen when they'd made him wait until his sixteenth birthday to go out with his friends whenever he wanted.

Alex had started to make such a scene the last three times that Carl was there to study that their father decided that Ian could move out of their room and into the finished basement if he wanted. Ian jumped at the chance to have his own room and Carl helped him move his things down to the basement before they settled in the unused family room down there to study. Alex wasn't allowed to come downstairs for any reason other than laundry. Ian had the basement pretty much to himself.

The family room had a carpeted floor, paneled walls and a dropped ceiling with a ceiling fan. There was an entertainment center along one wall with a thirty-six inch television, DVD player and VCR. Right across from the entertainment center was a fluffy brown couch and two matching recliners. Carl and Ian settled on the floor on opposite sides of the coffee table to study.

"This is great," said Carl, looking around the room. "My folks haven't done a thing with our basement and when it rains really hard it leaks."

"I didn't know anything about the basement until my father said I could move down here if I wanted," Ian said. "As far as I knew there wasn't a basement."

"That's wild," Carl said with a chuckle. "Alex sure seems to have a burr in his ass about something."

"Alex and I don't get along very well at all," Ian admitted. "We did the first two days I was here and then we came home one day to find our uncle in the kitchen. His name is Evan and he's gay. Alex had a real problem with his being here and called him a fag. I didn't like it and we haven't really had anything nice to say to each other since."

"That sucks," said Carl. "I know what you mean though. Alex and his friends like to give Ryan and Jason a hard time from time to time. They talk about Paul behind his back but they're not stupid enough to say anything to his face. He'd pound them and they know it."

"So that's why you guys don't care for Alex," Ian said, putting another piece of the puzzle together in his mind.

"That's part of it," said Carl. "The other part isn't my story to tell. You'd have to talk to Sebastian about it. I'm sure he'd tell you if you ask him away from the diner and not here."

"Sebastian has only been over here that once," said Ian.

"That's not true," said Carl. "He and Alex used to be pretty friendly, but like I said it's his story to tell so you'll have to talk to him."

"Yeah," said Ian. "I'm sure Alex would just lie to me about it."

After Carl left, Ian decided to put his things away in his new room. The bedroom was actually bigger than the one he'd been sharing with Alex. Carl had helped him set the bed up but they'd just stacked things on top of it after that. Ian liked the fact that the same blue carpet that covered the floor in the family room also covered the floor in his room. The same paneling was on the walls in his room too.

He hung his clothes in the huge closet and stacked his folded jeans on the floor under that hung shirts. He put his socks and underwear in a box that he stored at the other end of the closet. He thought about asking for a dresser but decided that he'd make due with what he had so far.

There was a desk and computer in his room and he was delighted to find that it was connected to the net when he opened the browser. He thought it might help him with reports and things when the time came and turned it back off. He headed upstairs to see about supper and found his mother about to call him up when he got to the top of the stairs.

"I was just about to call you upstairs," she said with a smile. "Did you get your things situated?"

"Yes, ma'am," he said. "I like the room a lot."

"Well, we never used it for anything after Evan moved out," she said. "That was his little apartment down there. The computer and television equipment are all his."

"Well I'll have to remember to thank him for leaving them," he said.

"You're a good boy, Ian," she said, smiling at him. "Come to the table."

He followed her to the table and saw that the food was already there. He sat down at the table and took the folded napkin and placed it unfolded on his knee. His mother smiled at him again as she passed him the bowl of potatoes. He noticed that Alex was watching him as he spooned potatoes onto his plate and passed the bowl to his father. He wondered what Alex's problem was this time but decided to ignore him.

Both of his parents asked questions about his friends and readily agreed to letting him continue to have the freedom that they'd given him already. His father told him that all of his friends were welcome to come to the house, but Ian wondered what he would think of he found out that at least four of them were gay. Would he feel the same? Would he continue to allow him to hang out with any of his friends once he found out?

Then he thought about Alex. Alex knew that Ryan and Jason were gay and a couple. Jason had told him that Alex was one of the most outspoken people when the truth was revealed about their relationship. He said that Alex and his friends constantly gave him a hard time and Paul Tate said that they had given Dyllan a hard time before he transferred to another school. So what he wondered was why Alex hadn't said anything to their parents about it. As it turned out he didn't have long to wonder about Alex's silence.

"You both need to know that three of the friends that he hangs out with at school are gay," Alex suddenly said. "Ryan Jackson, Jason Oliver and Paul Tate are openly gay at school."

"Alex I don't think that this is a topic for the dinner table," said their father, making Alex's eyes open wide. "I won't have this discussion with you again. What I will say is that Matthew's friends are his business and none of yours."

Everything was quiet after that and Ian was both angry and confused. He was angry enough to kill his brother for opening his mouth. He was confused over his father's statement. Alex had made it seem like their father hated their uncle because of his sexuality. If that was the case why was he so ready to allow Ian to hang out with gay people? He knew better than to say anything about it at that time because his father had said that it wasn't a conversation for the dinner table. He didn't think it would be the end of the discussion though.

Sure enough, when he got downstairs after supper his father came down just seconds after him. Ian was sure that he was going to be told to have nothing to do with Ryan, Jason and Paul. He was ready to defend his friends to his father, but scared of what his defending them would tell the man. He wanted his father to love him. He wasn't sure he would if he even suspected that Ian was a homosexual.

"Matthew I want to talk to you about something," his father said as he came down the stairs.

"Yes, sir," he said, sitting down on the couch to wait for whatever would come next.

"I'm sorry about your brother's attitude toward you and your friends," he said. "I know why he's upset about the freedoms we've given you and I know why he thinks we've given them. He's partly right about why, but that isn't important. His statement about your friends is."

"Dad, I don't want to stop having anything to do with any of them just because of their sexuality," he said, surprising himself by calling him Dad. It was usually just sir.

"I'm not asking you to," he said. "Alex has a problem with homosexuals and that is partly my fault. I said some bad things to and about your uncle when I first found out that he was gay. I've since changed my opinion because I've gotten to know a few gay young men who work at the diner. The problem is that Alex still thinks that I hate Evan when the truth is that Evan and I have had several conversations since he moved out of this house. I've apologized and he's forgiven me. Now he doesn't come around because of Alex."

Ian was floored. He'd been prepared to defend his friends, but his father wasn't upset about them. He seemed to be upset about something, but Ian wasn't sure what it was. Could it be just Alex's attitude? He hoped so but then he thought he was starting to understand part of his brother's attitude toward him.

"I didn't know that," he said finally. "Evan was here a while back when we came back from Tanner's and Alex said that you would be angry about it. Evan left quickly."

"Well I knew that Evan was going to be here that day Matthew," said his father. "I sent him over here because Alex was next door. I'm about to have a conversation with Alex that is long over due."

"Yes, sir," he replied.

"Now about his being upset over the freedoms we've given you," said his father. "You have to understand how terrified we were after you disappeared that the same thing could happen to your older brother. I'm afraid that we've protected him a little too much over the years and he's been suffering for it for the last ten years.

"We need to lighten up on him a bit," he continued. "It's hard to do when he keeps showing us the attitude that he's shown the last few weeks. I want you to understand that we're not going to restrict your freedom at all. Alex will gain more freedom when he can show us even an ounce of the maturity that you've shown us since you've come home."

"Thank you," he said.

"Now let's talk about your schooling," said his father with a smile. "I'm very proud of you Matthew. I've talked to your counsellor and he's told me that you may well graduate from high school at the end of this year. What I want to know is if that is what you want to do."

"I've talked it over with Sebastian," he said slowly. "He says that if I get all of the credits and graduate I can go to college next year instead of waiting until I'm eighteen."

"He's correct," said his father. "I'm really happy about your friendship with Sebastian Landry by the way."

"Thank you," he replied. "If I can get the credits and graduate at the end of this year I would very much like to go to college next year."

"I will allow that under one condition," said his father. "I want you to apply to the university here in Bryarwood. If you are accepted I want you to live at home. You have to understand that for one you are only fifteen years old. Another thing I want you to understand is that your mother and I are not ready to give you up so soon after getting you back."

"I do understand that," said Ian. "I'm happy to stay home and go to the local university as well. I don't want to leave any more than you want me to."

"You're a good son Matthew," said his father with a smile.

"Will you do me a favor?" he asked.

"Name it," replied his father.

"Could you please call me Ian?" he asked. "It isn't that I don't like the name Matthew. It's just that when people call me that I sometimes don't realize they're talking to me. It gets confusing. Everyone at school calls me Ian. Everyone but Alex."

"I think I can live with calling you Ian," said his father with another smile. "Don't get angry with me if I slip though."

"No, sir," replied Ian with a smile of his own. "Thank you."

"I love you Son," he said.

"I love you too Dad," replied Ian. He surprised himself with that reply, but surprised him even more was that he meant it.

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