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 Thirteen:

Snow began to fall early Christmas morning and Ian was happy to see it. He helped his mother in the kitchen as much as she would allow. Alex still hadn't come down from his room. His mother had told him that they'd wait for Evan and Jory before they opened gifts and Ian excused himself to go downstairs and get the gifts that he'd hidden behind the entertainment center. He was putting them under the tree when Alex came down the stairs.

"Merry Christmas, Alex," he said, trying to be nice.

"Merry Christmas," Alex replied and then walked out of the living room.

Ian settled himself on the couch and stared at the tree as he thought about how much better it would have been if he and Alex could have been close. He wondered if they would have been had he not been taken away for so long. Would Alex be the boy that he was if Ian had grown up as Matthew Keller instead of Ian Schultz. Would Ian?

"Merry Christmas, Ian," said his father as he came into the room and broke Ian's line of thought.

"Merry Christmas, Dad," he replied with a smile.

"Breakfast is ready guys," said his mother from the doorway, and they got up to follow here to the dining room.

They quickly took their seats and passed plates of sausage and hash browns around the table. Toast was on two saucers, one at each end of the table. They ate in silence as Alex stared at Ian once again. Ian wished the boy would just say whatever was on his mind. He was tired of being in a fish bowl. He was of half a mind to ask Alex what his problem was but he was determined not to let him spoil the day for him this time.

He helped his mother take the dishes to the kitchen when the meal was finished. Alex had gone back up to his room as soon as his plate was empty, so there was no staring. Once the dishes were all stacked on the counter his mother told him to go and enjoy the day while she worked on dinner. He went back to the family room and sat on the couch. He'd been down there no more than ten minutes when Evan and Jory arrived.

Once everyone was in the living room Alex was called down and he paused in the doorway when he saw Evan and Jory. Ian was thankful when his brother said nothing as he walked in a sat beside him on the couch. Their father was seated on the floor in front of the tree. He began to pass out the gifts and then there was the sound of the wrapping paper being removed from the gifts. Ian's first gift was from his parents. He opened it to find a notebook computer and just stared at his father as the man smiled back at him.

"We thought you could use that to help you with your studies," said his father.

"Thank you very much," he replied, smiling. He saw Alex's matching notebook and felt better about the gift.

Then he was handed a gift from Alex and he was shocked that his brother had even bothered. When he opened it he found a sweater in just about the same style as the one that Alex was opening from him at the same time. Ian's sweater was green while Alex's was blue so they weren't exactly the same. He was astonished to find his brother smiling at him when he looked at him. He smiled back and almost believed that the day would be all right.

"Ian, this is amazing," said Evan as he held the watch that Ian had bought for him in his hand. "I love it. Thank you."

"You're welcome," Ian replied, beaming at him just as Jory began to open the gift he'd bought for him.

"Thank you, Ian," Jory said with a delighted smile on his face as he opened the box and carefully pulled the statue out.

"How did you know?" Evan asked, smiling at him.

"I had a little help from a friend that knows you both," he replied.

"Sebastian," Jory said with another smile.

"Correct," laughed Ian. Then he was handed the gift from both of them and he opened it to find The Matrix box set. "Thank you!"

"You're welcome," said Evan. "That's not the entire gift though. The stuff that you've been enjoying in the basement is yours, Ian."

"What?" he asked in shock.

"All of it, Ian," laughed Evan. "The bedroom stuff as well as the entertainment center and everything in it. The furniture in the family room isn't mine to give you but the rest is."

"Thank you, Evan," he replied with wide eyes. "Are you sure?"

"Positive," replied Evan. "I'm positive."

"Ian, this is great," said his father, commanding his attention as the man held up the electronic organizer. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," he replied with a huge smile.

"Oh, Ian," gasped his mother as she looked at the earrings that he'd bought for her. "Thank you, Sweetheart."

"You're welcome," he said.

Once the gifts were opened and the mess cleaned up Evan and Jory followed Ian downstairs to watch a movie. Alex went back to his room which was fine with Ian. If he wasn't down there with them he couldn't say anything that would upset his uncle or Jory. They got all the way through the first movie in the box set before they were called back upstairs for dinner. When the meal passed without any unpleasantness Ian thought that maybe they'd have a successful family day together. Again after the meal Alex went to his room while Evan watched football with Daryl and Jory returned to the family room with Ian.

"It means a lot to Evan that you're so accepting of his sexuality and our relationship," Jory said when they were seated on the couch.

"He's my uncle," Ian replied with a smile.

"You have no idea how excited he was the day that he found out that you'd been found," said Jory. "Ian, your uncle hasn't told you this yet but when you were little the two of you were very close. Evan took it very hard when you disappeared. When we first got together he told me all about that day."

"I don't remember any of that, Jory," said Ian. "I'm not sure that I want to remember it. I'm happy to know that Evan and I were close and I hope that we can be that close again very soon, but I don't want to remember being taken. I have too many memories that I don't want."

"I understand," Jory replied. "I'm sorry for bringing it up."

"Don't be," Ian said, smiling at him. "I'm just happy to know that I was close to my uncle."

Ian and Jory spent their time together going through the stack of movies that were in the entertainment center. Jory told Ian about different movies that he'd seen and thought Ian would like and the two agreed to get together sometime during the break from school and do a little movie shopping together. Jory went upstairs to get them both a piece of his mother's famous pumpkin pie and just a sliver of ice cream on the side and then they settled in to watch a movie together.

Then they were upstairs again for picture taking. Ian had never had his picture taken so much in his life but he smiled for each one. He even smiled when he stood next to Alex while both of them stood in front of the tree holding the sweaters they'd gotten each other up. He sat between Evan and Jory for a picture and his mother promised to have triple prints done so that Evan and Ian could both have a copy of the photograph.

Ian was sad to see his uncle and Jory go home that evening, but he was happy that the day had been peaceful. He'd had a great time with them and he couldn't wait to hang out with Jory and go shopping for movies. He told his mother about that while she was making ham sandwiches for everyone that evening. She told him to let her know when and she would make sure that he had money for the movies.

The break moved fast for Ian as he divided his time between his friends and Evan and Jory. Jory took him to the mall to find movies two days before they were to go back to school. Ian had spent the new year holiday with Evan and Jory and had a blast. Now they were browsing through Suncoast to find the perfect movies. Jory was shocked to learn that Ian had never seen Titanic and bought him a copy of the DVD along with several others. He wouldn't let Ian spend the money in his wallet and in the end Ian took home seven more movies to add to his collection.

He'd hung out with Andy a few times since the night that they'd slept in Ian's bed together. They never went past holding hands when they hung out and Ian was comfortable with that. Andy remained his friend and that was the important part. He decided that he liked Andy a little more than he should but there was nothing he could do about that. He certainly wasn't telling Andy.

When school resumed semester exams were all anyone could talk about. They had one week to study before the exams would be held and everyone, including Andy, met at Sebastian's house. There wasn't near enough room for everyone at the kitchen table so both the kitchen and dining room of Sebastian's house was filled with the group. Sebastian's mother made snacks for the studying teenagers and his brother, Dalton, went for soda twice.

On the nights that Sebastian, Carl, Paul and Ryan had football practice the group met at Ian's house. They assembled all over the family room and it was Ian's mother's turn to provide snacks and sodas. They didn't talk much other than to quiz each other on various subjects. By that Friday they'd declared themselves ready for the exams but a Sunday afternoon cramming session found them at Sebastian's until almost nine that night.

The following Monday they were handed copies of their second semester schedules while classes met in the library. The exams were broken up into three days and Ian and his friends used the nights before certain exams for one more cramming session. By the time they'd taken all of the exams all of them were fairly certain that they'd at least passed them all. Ian was comfortable with his own exams so they decided to celebrate that Thursday at the diner. Sebastian even had the night off so he could celebrate with is friends.

Grades were posted the following Monday while report cards were handed out the next day. Ian was happy to find that he had scored very high on each of his exams. He was even more happy when he got his report card and found A's all the way down the page. His parents were so thrilled with his report card that they took him to dinner in a restaurant that he'd never been to.

Then it was time to travel to Illinois for the trial. Ian was a nervous wreck while he packed his duffle with clothes for the trip. Evan had gotten time off from work to go with them and he was helping Ian get ready. Alex was already at Greg's so there was no worry about what the boy would say to their uncle.

"Relax, Ian," said Evan as they packed. "It's going to be all right. We'll all be there for you."

"I know," replied Ian. "It's just that there is so much that's going to be brought out in court that you and my parents don't know about. I'm ashamed of a lot of those things, Evan."

Then for the next hour and a half he told Evan all about his life in Illinois. He told Evan more than he'd told his parents and he was shocked to find Evan crying with him when he was done talking. Evan now knew about the friends that had trusted Ian and come to spend time with him only to be hit on by Thomas Harvey Schultz. Sometimes those friends were actually molested and they never wanted anything to do with Ian after staying at the trailer even one night. Ian was so ashamed but Evan told him that he hadn't lured them there at all. He made Ian see that he was striving for friendships and didn't realize the danger that came with each newly formed friendship.

The two stayed up late into the night talking about it all. Evan slept on the couch in the family room and Ian was so thankful to know that he was just outside of his bedroom all night long. He had nightmare after nightmare in that short time he was asleep and some how Evan was right there beside him each time he woke up crying. He loved his uncle for that and he knew that they had forged a special bond in the course of that night.

After breakfast they climbed into the van and headed out for Illinois. Evan sat with Ian and continued to tell him that everything was going to be all right. Ian was starting to believe him as they left Bryarwood. He just hoped that after all of the testimony his parents would still love him. That was what really had him worried.

Two hours into their journey they stopped at a gas station for bathroom breaks and gas. Evan bought them all fresh sodas and a few snacks and Ian had to fight the urge to just run away. There were campers and trucks all over the lot of the gas station and he thought about just climbing into the bed of one of the trucks and going wherever it took him. At least then he wouldn't have to face what was in Illinois. Evan must have sensed his nephew's thoughts because he put his hand on Ian's arm and told him once again that he would be all right. Ian climbed in the van ahead of Evan and they were off again.

Ian watched the scenery pass him by as they drove. He stayed silent for the most part. A million thoughts were racing through his head. He wondered if he'd have to face the boys that had tried to be his friend in the court room. He wasn't so sure he could actually do that but he knew he had no choice. He couldn't run from this. Thomas Harvey Schultz had to pay for what he'd done to Ian. He had to pay for what he'd done to Ian's friends as well.

He thought of those friends all the way to the next stopping point. They had reached Chicago when they stopped for gas the next time. Again they used the restrooms of the gas station and bought fresh sodas. No snacks on that stop. Ian didn't think his stomach could handle anything more anyway. They had two hours left to go and then he would be in Gainesville once again. He wondered how he would feel crossing into the city limits. They'd have to pass the trailer he'd lived in just to get there.

Two hours later he sighed in resignation as they crossed into Gainesville. They passed the trailer court where he had lived and he was shocked to see that the trailer itself was no longer there. He supposed he was happy about that. Perhaps it's not being there was a signal that everything really would be all right now that they had arrived. He thought about that while his father drove to a hotel and parked the van in the lot. They waited while he went in and secured rooms for them. It had been decided that Evan and Ian would share a room of their own and Ian was thankful for that.

They put their bags in the rooms they were sharing and then went back to the van to go and find a meal. Ian didn't offer any suggestions on where to stop and his father finally found a Red Lobster. They were seated at a table in the back, but Ian quickly saw that there were a group of kids not far from them. He recognized a few faces, but so far they hadn't seen him. He hoped that they wouldn't even recognize him.

They ordered their food and were just starting to eat when Ian saw two of the boys from the other table look over at them. The entire table started talking at once and then they were all looking over at them. He tried to pay no attention to them in the hope that if he pretended not to notice them they would leave him alone. He was to have no such luck though. Two of the boys got up from the table and made their way over. Dennis Bausch and Nick Shear came to stand just a few inches from where he sat.

"Hey, Schultz," said Dennis. "I wondered where you went. Talk all over school is that you ran away."

"I'm sorry," said Ian's father. "Who are you boys?"

"We're friends of Ian's," said Nick. "We've been wondering where he got off to."

"Are these friends of yours, Matthew?" his father asked, talking just a bit louder when he said his name.

"No they aren't, sir," he said quietly.

"Yeah, we were your friends before you let your dad loose on us," snapped Dennis. "I hope you burn in Hell."

"Why is that guy calling him Matthew?" Nick asked Dennis who shrugged.

"I don't know who you boys are but I'm going to have to ask you to leave my family alone," said Ian's father firmly. Ian noticed that a waitress was on her way over.

"Your family?" laughed Dennis. "This is Ian Schultz. We know him really well, don't we, Nick?"

"Maybe it isn't him, Dennis," said Nick, looking from Ian to Dennis and back in confusion.

"It's him," asserted Dennis. "Just because he's wearing nice clothes and got his hair colored doesn't mean it isn't the same old freak from Kayser Oaks."

"Is there a problem?" asked the dark haired waitress as she got to the table.

"Yes ma'am," said Ian's father. "These two young men have mistaken my son for someone else and they're harassing us."

"Gentlemen, I'm going to have ask that you return to your table or leave the restaurant," she said, turning to Dennis and Nick.

"This isn't over, Schultz," said Dennis, glaring at Ian as he turned to walk away.

"I believe we'll have the check now, ma'am," said his father. "And if you could bring us go containers I would appreciate it."

"Right away, sir," she said and turned and rushed away from the table.

Ian was no longer hungry. His stomach was rolling and he just wanted to get out of there. The only place he knew he would be safe was the hotel. If they had to stay in Gainesville he hoped they wouldn't be going out for more than court. He didn't think he could handle another run in with any of his former friends.

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