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The Talon House

What's the difference between me and you?

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What's The Difference Between Me And You?

Chapter 13 - by Nick

Nick looked out the window of the bus as it pulled up to his stop and he saw his dad waiting for him. This was the first time Nick rode home without Taylor, and he was bummed out about it in a way. Earlier in the day, Cindy picked Taylor up from school so he could go to the dentist. Nick thought that maybe she would bring him back to school after his appointment, but she never did, so he got on the bus and sat by himself. When he got off the bus, he walked over to his dad, who had a curious look on his face.

"Where's Taylor today," Jim asked.

"Miss Cindy came and got him out early for his dentist appointment," Nick said.

"Well, come on," Jim said grabbing Nick's hand. "We're going home first, but then we're going over to grandma and grandpa's house."

"Why," Nick asked.

"We're just visiting," Jim said. "Is that ok?"

Nick looked up and smiled at his dad as they walked. When they got to their house, Jim opened the door and they went in.

"Where's James," Nick asked, noticing that he was nowhere in site.

"He's next door," Jim said. "Listen, son, he had a rough day today, so I want you to be on your best behavior, ok?"

"Yes sir," Nick said nodding. "What happened?"

"Never mind," Jim said in a stern voice. "I just want you to be nice to him."

"I will," Nick said.

Nick took his backpack upstairs and went to the bathroom. When he came out, he went downstairs and sat at the table, where Jim had his snack waiting. While Nick ate, he watched his dad look out the window with a worried look on his face, and it made him nervous. He could tell that he was in a bad mood about something.

"Daddy," Nick said trying to get Jim's attention.

"What babe?" Jim said, turning to face Nick.

"Are you ok," Nick asked. "You look worried."

Jim sighed and smiled. "Everything's ok son."

Nick didn't ask his dad anymore questions while he ate. When he finished his snack, he and his dad walked next door to Tom and Linda's house. When they walked in, James ran up to Jim and gave him a hug.

"Hey, buddy," Jim said as he hugged James back. "Have you been having a good visit with your aunt and uncle?"

James looked up and nodded with a smile on his face, and then he put his head back up against his uncle's chest.

"I missed you Uncle Jim," he said.

"Well I missed you to buddy," Jim said as he ran his hand over James' face and smiled.

The three of them walked to the family room and sat down with Tom and Linda. Everyone's attention turned to Nick, and he told them all about his day at school. They talked about what he was learning and about how he was finally getting used to the difference between the school in Virginia Beach and the school he went to in Modesto. After a while, they started taking about Nick's papu coming to visit.

"I met him before," James said smiling. "When Nick was a little baby."

"You remember that?" Jim asked.

"Uh huh," James said smiling. "We went to his house in the forest."

Nick listened to James talking about his papu, and he couldn't believe that he had actually been to his house.

"How does everyone know each other?" Nick asked finally. In his whole life, he had never seen anyone from his dads side of the family anywhere near someone from his moms side of the family, but they seemed to know each other so well.

"Well, kiddo," Tom said. "Grandma and I have been friends with your papu for years. At least since your daddy was a little boy."

"Really?" Nick asked. "How come you never visit each other?"

"We moved, kiddo," Tom answered. "You were still a baby."

"Did you miss him," Nick asked.

"Of course we did," Linda said. "We missed you and daddy too."

"I wish my papu lived here," Nick said sadly. "Then we could all be a family like I want."

Jim put his arm around Nick and gave him a squeeze.

"We are a family, buddy," he said. "Papu's part of it too. He always will be."

Nick looked up and smiled at his dad, who leaned down and gave him a kiss on the lips.

As it got later, Jim asked Tom and Linda if they wanted to go to Red Lobster with them.

"We're going to Red Lobster," Nick asked excitedly.

"I didn't tell you?," Jim asked. "I guess I didn't. James picked it out today, so that's what we're doing."

"Please come," Nick pleaded with his grandparents. "Pretty please."

Tom and Linda laughed and said yes. Jim told them when they would be leaving, and then he took Nick and James home to get them ready.

Jim took Nick in his room with him and they got in the shower together, then he picked out an outfit for Nick to wear and put it on him. When Nick came out of his room with Jim, he noticed that James had a brand new outfit on with the tags still hanging from it. Jim grabbed a pair of scissors and cut all of them off, and then he took the brush to Nick's hair. As they were about to walk out the door, the phone rang. Jim picked it up, then he brought it to Nick.

"Hello?" Nick said.

"Hi Nick," Taylor said.

"Hi Taylor," Nick said happily. "Why didn't you come back today?"

"My mom said I could just go home with her, so I did," Taylor said.

"I sat alone on the bus," Nick said. "I was hoping you were going to be back."

Nick and Taylor talked for a little while longer, and then they had to hang up because Jim was ready to go. James sat in the back with Nick and Linda while Jim and Tom sat up front, and Nick noticed that James crossed his legs like a girl did. In fact, when he looked over at his grandma, she was sitting the same way.

When they got to the restaurant, Nick noticed that James was hanging on his dad and it was starting to make him jealous. When they were waiting to be seated, Jim sat down on a bench and James sat next to him as fast as he could, and when Jim stood up, James seemed to always want to hold his hand or hug on him. Nick knew better than to say anything about it, but inside, he was exploding. Finally, they were seated, and James jumped in the booth next to Jim, and Nick had enough.

"I want to sit next to my dad," Nick said to him.

"But I was here first," James said.

Nick stood still and glared at James for a minute, and then he spoke again.

"James!" he said, unable to control himself. "You have to move. I'm sitting there."

James gave him a startled look, and then it turned to a hurt look.

"Nick," Jim said in a whisper that was somehow still a shout, snapping his fingers one time to get his sons attention. "You need to talk more respectfully than that. Sit down next to James and don't say another word."

Nick did as he was told, but he knew that he was going to cry. His feelings were hurt, and he couldn't control himself. He didn't make any noise; he just sat there and let the tears run down his face. Finally, Jim said, "James, will you trade me places?"

Nick got up so James could get out of the booth, and Jim got up as well. James slid back in, Jim slid in next to him, and he pulled Nick back into the booth with him. Nicks feelings were still hurt, and he kept crying. Finally, Jim got up and walked with him to the bathroom.

"Son, what's the problem?" Jim said in an irritated voice when they were in the bathroom.

"I hate James," Nick cried, knowing that he was going to be punished for saying what he did.

"You what," Jim asked, giving Nick a chance to take it back. Nick didn't take his opportunity.

"I hate his guts," Nick said bitterly. Jim spun him around and gave him a swat on the butt with his shoe.

"Say it again, and you'll get another one," Jim said. "You can feel however you want, but you will NOT say that again. Do you understand me?"

Nick cried and nodded his answer. Jim put his shoe back on and knelt down so that he was looking Nick in the eyes.

"Son, I expect you to be on your best behavior tonight," he said. "You are going to sit on one side and James is going to sit on the other. Is that understood?"

Nick nodded again through his tears. Jim wiped the tears away from his face and pulled him into a hug, lifting him off his feet.

"I want you to calm down now, son," Jim said. "We'll talk about this when we get home. You and James are not going to start fighting. I'll make sure I talk to him too."

When Nick stopped crying, Jim gave him a kiss and put him down. They walked back to the table and no one talked about what had just happened. After dinner, they got up to leave and Nick made sure he grabbed Jim's hand before James could. When they got home, Jim took Nick straight to his room to get ready for bed.

After he dressed Nick, Jim took him to the bathroom and waited while he sat on the toilet.

"I want to know why you're acting so jealous of your cousin," Jim said while he sat on the edge of the tub.

"I'm not," Nick fibbed.

"Oh yes you are," Jim said, letting Nick know with his tone that he wasn't buying his lie.

"Why does he love you so much?" Nick asked. "You're my dad, not his."

"Nickolas James," Jim said with a disappointed tone. "Your cousin needs a family to love him, and for your information, I happen to love him very much. Now, I already told you that I could never love anyone like I love you, and I mean that. But I love James, and I'm not going to let you be jealous of that."

"Yes sir," Nick said.

"Son, I think you really hurt his feelings at the restaurant," Jim continued. "You owe him an apology. You also owe one to grandma and grandpa. I don't ever want to find out that you spoke to him that way again. Is that understood?"

"I'm sorry, daddy," Nick said starting to cry a little. "I don't want you to love him more than you love me."

"That's never going to happen," Jim said running his hand through Nick's hair. "I love you more than anyone in this whole world."

"I love you too daddy," Nick said.

"Good," Jim said smiling. "Now hurry up and finish pooping so we can go downstairs and watch TV with James."

Nick giggled at his dad, who plugged his nose with one hand, reached out, and tickled his ribs with the other. After he finished, he got up and washed his hands, then brushed his teeth, and finally he went with his dad downstairs. Nick sat on the recliner while Jim went into the kitchen for something. He looked at James, feeling uncomfortable about being alone with him, but when he looked into the kitchen from where he was sitting, he saw Jim sitting at the table talking on the phone.

"James," Nick said nervously. "I'm sorry for how I acted tonight."

James looked at him and smiled. "It's ok, Nick," he said in a quiet voice. "I understand. I should have let you sit with your dad."

"No," Nick said, not wanting James to feel bad about what happened. "I get to sit with him all the time. You can sit next to him if you want to. I don't mind."

Nick got up and walked over to the love seat that James was sitting on and climbed into the spot next to him.

"Can I sit next to you," he asked.

James smiled and nodded.

"I didn't mean to hurt your feelings," Nick said.

"You didn't," James said. "I know you love your dad."

"I do, but it's ok if you love him too," Nick said.

"Thanks," James said smiling. Nick looked up at his cousin's face and noticed how cute he was. James was smiling back at him and Nick wondered what kind of parents wouldn't love him. He thought about the night before, when James was crying while his grandmother hugged him, and it made him feel sad. He realized that the way he acted tonight probably made James feel as bad as he was feeling when he first showed up last night, and he started to feel really bad.

"James," he said looking at him sadly.

"Huh," James replied.

"I love you," he said suddenly. It was something he never thought about before, but he was sure that he did.

"Awww," James said. "I love you too, Nick."

Nick reached out and hugged his cousin as he tried his hardest not to be emotional.

"I'm glad you came to live with us," Nick said.

"I am too," James said.

"Hey guys," Jim said softly as he walked back into the family room.

"I told James sorry, daddy," Nick said as he smiled up at his dad. Jim sat down on the love seat and Nick crawled into his lap.

"That's a good boy," Jim said. "Why are you crying?"

"I'm not," Nick said, trying to wipe away the tears he had in his eyes.

Jim kissed him on top of the head and gave him a small hug, then he reached over and pulled James into his chest for a hug.

"I'm glad you boys made up," Jim said. "James, I know we already had this talk, but you're part of our family now, and we love you very much, ok?"

"I love you too Uncle Jim," James said hugging his uncle. Nick leaned over, gave James a kiss on the cheek, and smiled at him.

"Awww, that was so sweet of you buddy," Jim said. "I'm so proud of you."

"I told James already that I love him," Nick told his dad. "He said he loves me too."

"That makes me proud of both of you," Jim said smiling at them. "I'm glad my boys are getting along."

Nick looked at James when his dad said that, and he could see that what Jim said made him happy. James was smiling up at his uncle with his head up against his chest, and Nick realized that James may have never had a chance to snuggle with his own dad. After a while they all turned their attention to the TV and before long, Nick noticed that James was sleeping. He looked up at his dad and gave him a kiss on the cheek, then he pointed down at James. His dad smiled when he saw James sleeping, and he held Nick closer and rubbed his back. Soon, Nick was feeling tired and before long, he closed his eyes and went to sleep.

Nick sat straight up out of his sleep when he woke up, and when he did, he realized he was in his own bed. He pulled his covers back and walked [R1] to the light switch. He found it, turned on the light, and looked down at his soaked pajamas. He walked back to his bed and felt his sheets, which were also soaked. He walked across the hall to his dad's room and shook him awake.

"Daddy," he said sadly. "I need help."

"What's wrong baby," Jim said still half asleep.

"I pee'd in the bed," Nick said, ready to cry. Jim reached over and turned on the lamp by his bed, then he rolled out of his bed and reached down with his eyes still closed, feeling Nicks pajama bottoms.

"I'm sorry, buddy," Jim said. "I didn't take you to the bathroom before I put you in bed. It's my fault."

He took Nick by the hand and led him into his bathroom, where he stripped him down and had him sit on the toilet.

"Try to pee, son," Jim said as he gathered Nick's wet pajamas up. "I'll be right back."

Nick did what his dad said, and soon Jim was back with a dry pair of underwear and a washrag. Nick got up so his dad could use the rag to wipe the pee off him, then he stepped into the clean dry undies.

"Just sleep with me tonight," Jim said as he led Nick to his bed. They crawled into the bed and Nick curled up with his dad.

"I'm sorry I pee'd my bed daddy," Nick said, feeling sad about his accident.

"Don't worry honey," Jim said. "It's ok. It was daddies fault anyway."

"I love you daddy," Nick said.

"I love you too sweetheart," Jim said. "Go back to sleep, ok?"

Nick felt Jim rubbing his back and soon, he fell asleep again. When he opened his eyes, Jim was snoring loudly next to him. Nick looked at the alarm clock and panicked. He was almost late for school, and he definitely missed the bus.

"Daddy, wake up," Nick said shaking Jim. "I'm going to be late for school."

Jim lifted his head and sighed, and then he put his head back down on his pillow.

"I'm not going to send you today, son," Jim said. "You had a long night. Go ahead and go back to sleep."

With that, Jim started to snore again. Nick crawled out of his dad's bed and went into his bathroom to pee. When he was done, he went downstairs to look around for something to do. As he came around the corner to the kitchen, he saw James sitting on a stool at the breakfast island holding the phone and crying.

"What's wrong," Nick asked as he walked up to his cousin. James didn't answer. Instead, he just sat there and cried harder. Nick walked over to him and started rubbing his back, then he snuggled his head up to James' shoulder. James looked at Nick sadly for a moment, then he started to cry again.

"I'm going to get my dad," Nick said as he walked out of the kitchen. He went back upstairs and woke his dad up for the second time.

"Daddy, wake up," Nick said. "James is crying."

Jim sat up and yawned as he stretched his arms out.

"What's he crying about," Jim asked as he started to wake up.

"I don't know," Nick said. "I think he was talking on the phone or something."

"Oh s**t," Jim said as he got up and headed out of his room. Nick followed him down the stairs and to the kitchen, where James was still crying.

"Hey Buddy," Jim said softly as he wrapped an arm around James. "What's the matter?"

"My mom hung up on me," James cried as he put his head against Jim's chest. Nick watched from the entrance to the kitchen as his dad wrapped both of his arms around James and hugged him tightly. Nick put his head down and walked to the family room to give his dad and James some privacy. He sat on the couch and looked for the remote, but he couldn't concentrate on finding it because he could feel a large lump in his throat. He felt so bad for James that he wanted to cry, but he decided that he would stay strong.

Jim and James made their way into the family room where they sat together on the love seat. Nick watched for a while as James cried and clung to his dad, but eventually he had to look away or he was going to cry himself.

"Nick, sweety, why don't you turn on some cartoons?" Jim said with a small smile on his face. Nick got up to look for the remote, but he couldn't find it anywhere. Finally, he walked up to the TV and used the buttons on the front of it to turn it on. He found the cartoon network on the cable box, and then he took his seat. Every once in a while, he would look at his dad and James on the love seat, but he would always turn back to the TV before they could see him watching.

"So who's hungry?" Jim finally said after a while.

Nick turned and smiled at his dad, and James looked up and smiled to.

"I am," Nick said as he got up from the couch.

"How about you buddy?" Jim said smiling down at James, who was still clinging to him but not crying anymore. James nodded with a happy grin on his face, so Jim got up and walked into the kitchen. Nick and James both followed behind him and watched while he cooked breakfast. Every time Jim would turn to get to the stove, or he moved around, he would run into one of them, and finally, he put them both on the counter so he could cook without bumping into them.

Nick and James smiled at each other while they sat side by side on the counter, and Nick couldn't help but notice how cute his cousin looked in his tee shirt and underwear. He hadn't taken the time earlier to notice him, but now that things had calmed down, he was able to. He looked down at James' fingers, and he noticed that his nails were short, just like his. He wondered if his dad got a hold of James and cut his nails for him the way he did Nicks nails. Nick lifted his cousin's hand up off the counter and smiled at him, then he looked at his nails up close. He held James' hand up against his hand and compared the two.

"Did daddy cut your nails," Nick asked. James nodded yes and started giggling, making Nick giggle as well.

"What are you two silly boys giggling about," Jim asked playfully. "You don't like my nail cutting skills?" He reached out with both hands and tickled Nick and James at the same time, making them both laugh. Finally, Jim turned back to the stove while Nick and James sat and talked about music. James had a totally different taste in music than Nick and his dad had. Nick had never even heard of some of the bands James talked about, and James seemed uninterested in Nick's favorites. Nick always liked what his dad listened to, rap. Not just rap, but gangster rap. Or R&B. If they weren't listening to rap or R&B, they listen to light rock music from before Nick was ever born. In fact, most of it was from when Jim was a baby or not much older than Nick was.

"Are you guys ready to eat," Jim asked as he took the food to the table. He walked back to the counter and attacked James and Nicks ribs again with his hands, tickling them until they begged him to stop. He stopped to let them catch their breath, them he attacked again, making them laugh uncontrollably. Finally, he stopped tickling them, wrapped an arm around both of them, and hugged them tightly.

"I love you guys," he said softly. "Come on, let's go eat."

After breakfast, the three of them rested on the love seat together and watched cartoons.

"Do you play Pokemon," James asked Nick.

"No, but my friend Taylor does," Nick said. "I don't like it."

"Do you think he'll want to play me," James asked hopefully.

"I think he will," Nick said. "I think he's good. I don't know how to play, but he knows all about it."

"I can teach you," James said. Nick giggled and said, "No thank you. I'd rather ride my bike and stuff."

"I have a bike at home," James said sadly. "But I couldn't bring it."

Jim looked down at James for a minute, and while Nick watched his dads face, he could tell he was thinking.

"How about if we go buy you a bike today, buddy?" Jim said.

"Really?" James said with an unbelieving tone in his voice.

"Really, James," Jim said smiling. "This is your home now, and I want you to have a bike here."

Nick felt so proud of his dad. Jim had always been a good protector to Nick, and he made sure that Nick had all of the things he needed in his life, and Nick knew that. Somehow, he never thought that his dad was such a thoughtful person. James leaned over and gave Jim a long hug, and Nick thought he could hear James crying a little bit, but he wasn't sure.

"Thank you Uncle Jim," James said. "I love you."

"You're welcome pal," Jim said. "I love you too."

They sat on the love seat a little longer, and finally Jim stood up.

"Let's get ready," he said. "Nick, you can shower with me. James, you need to take a shower too. I'll get you a towel."

Nick stood up on the love seat so his dad could grab him and carry him up the stairs. Jim lifted Nick up, and as they headed toward the stairs, Nick looked at James, who had a sad look on his face.

"What's wrong, James?" Nick asked, causing Jim to turn around and look.

"Nothing," James said. "I'm coming."

"I think he feels left out daddy," Nick said as he laid his head on Jim's shoulder and looked at James.

"Are you ok buddy?" Jim asked as he walked back toward the love seat where James was still sitting. James nodded but didn't say anything.

"Come here," Jim said as he held out his other arm for James. "Come on, I'm going to give you a ride."

James smiled and stood up on the love seat. Jim wrapped his arm around his waist and lifted him up. Nick watched as his cousin smiled and put his head on Jim's shoulder, closing his eyes and hugging him tightly. Jim carried them both upstairs and when he got to Nicks room, he opened the door.

"Pew, daddy," Nick said as the smell from his sheets from the night before hit his nose. "It stinks like pee in here."

James giggled as Jim set them both down and Nick walked over to his bed, held his nose to his sheets, and sniffed. Nick looked up at James and smiled, and then he told him, "I pee'd my bed last night."

"I guess I should have changed your sheets already," Jim said sighing. "It was just too late last night for that."

James walked to his room, and Nick followed him. When they got to James' room, Nick stopped at the door.

"Can I come in," he asked.

"Sure," James said. Nick went in behind James and they both sat on James' bed.

They saw Jim walk down the hallway with a laundry basket full of sheets and blankets, and James giggled again.

"You're funny, Nick," he said smiling.

"I am," Nick asked. "How?"

"You just are," James answered. "You make me feel good."

"I do?" Nick said, starting to smile.

"Uh huh," James nodded. "You're a good cousin."

"Aww, so are you," Nick said feeling emotional again. "You're really sweet."

Nick leaned into his cousin's shoulder and he felt James wrap his arm around him. He looked up at him and said, "That feels good." James just smiled back at him and gave him a squeeze with his arm.

"I'm glad you stayed home today," James said.

"Me too," Nick said. "What grade are you in?"

"I'm in eighth grade this year," James said. "But Uncle Jim said I don't have to go until next week."

"My daddy loves you a lot," Nick said. "I do too." Nick reached up and gave James a kiss on the cheek, then he smiled at him and gave him a hug.

James turned on the TV and they watched cartoons while they waited for Jim to come back upstairs. A commercial came on while they watched, and Nick noticed how cute the boys were in it.

"Those boys are so cute," Nick said as he watched.

"You think they're cute too," James asked.

Nick nodded as he watched the commercial.

"That one has a cute butt," Nick said pointing to one of the boys.

"Do you like that kind of stuff," James asked.

Nick shrugged and kept watching TV.

"I guess I do," Nick said. "Do you?"

"Yeah," James said. "I love looking at cute guys."

Nick looked out the door into the hallway to see if his dad was coming, and when he saw that he wasn't, he asked James, "Are you gay?"

James didn't answer at first, and it got quiet in the room, except for the TV. Finally, James shrugged and said, "I guess so."

"Daddy says it's ok to be gay," Nick told him. "He said he loves me the same, no matter what I am."

"Are you gay too," James asked.

"I don't know," Nick said shrugging again. "I kind of like looking at cute boys."

"Are you going to tell Uncle Jim on me?" James asked nervously.

"I promise I won't," Nick said. "He'll still love you the same though."

"What if he doesn't want me to live here anymore?" James asked with a worried look on his face. Just then, Jim walked in and said, "What would make you think that?"

Nick froze and looked up at his dad, who was looking right at James. Nick turned back to his cousin, who looked like he was about to start crying.

"What's going on in here?" Jim said as he walked over to the bed and sat down. "James, do you want to answer me?"

James looked down at his bed and started to sob. Nick moved out of his dad's way, and Jim moved over to sit next to James, hugging him with both arms and telling him that whatever it was, it would be ok.

"Nick, why don't you tell me what happened?" Jim said as he hugged James. Nick looked at his cousin, who looked up at him with a scared look. Nick looked back down at the bed and felt like he was going to be sick. Finally, Jim looked back down at James and said, "James, I want you to know something. Part of being a family is talking about everything, no matter what it is. I don't think I'd like it very much if I knew that you were keeping a secret from me, especially if it's one that makes you cry."

Nick snuggled close to his dad and waited to hear what James was going to say. Finally, he spoke up.

"Well, me and Nick were just talking about some stuff," James said shyly.

"What kind of stuff," Jim asked.

"Boys and stuff like that," James said.

"What about boys," Jim asked.

"I don't know," James said shrugging.

"You forgot already," Jim asked. "I don't think it's been that long."

James sighed and looked away from Jim, who had been looking him in the eye and wiping his tears away with his hands.

"I want you to know that there's nothing in this world that you can't tell me," Jim said. "I'm never going to judge you or stop loving you or stop caring about you. I promise."

"Anything," James asked.

"Anything, "Jim assured him.

"Can Nick tell you what it is," James asked. "I'm too ashamed."

"You don't have to be ashamed of anything in this house," Jim said. "But if you think that you'd rather have Nick tell me, you can."

"Nick, will you?, "James said starting to cry again.

"Ok," Nick said. "It's that he's gay."

As soon as Nick said it, James fell apart. His sobs got louder and he had tears running down his cheeks. Jim lifted him up into his lap and rocked him like a baby, the way he did it for Nick when Nick needed to be held. James never seemed to stop crying, and Jim just held onto him the whole time, rocking him back and forth and telling him that he loved him and that he was proud of him. Nick watched from beside his dad as his cousin cried uncontrollably, and he wondered if that was how he was going to feel one day if he decided that he was gay.

"Honey, go get me some Kleenex, ok," his dad told him as he held James in his arms. On his way out to the hallway, Nick turned around and looked one more time, and he saw his dad kiss James on the cheek. He could have sworn he saw a tear running down his dad's cheek, but he didn't stop to make sure.

He came back with the whole box of Kleenex, and Jim wiped away James' tears with them, then he held a Kleenex up to James' nose and told him to blow in it. When James finally seemed to be calming down, Jim told Nick to go get them all sodas. When he got back, James was still hanging on with his arms to Jim's neck and every once in a while, Nick could hear a sniffle.

Nick opened his soda and lay down on James' bed, behind his dad who was still holding James. Jim opened a soda and took a drink, and then he asked James if he was thirsty.

"A little," James said quietly.

Jim opened James' soda for him and held the can up to his mouth so that all he had to do was drink.

"Is that better," Jim asked softly.

James nodded and looked at him with sad eyes while Nick watched from the bed.

"Do you still feel like going to get your bike today," Jim asked.

"I still get to have one," James asked.

"Well of course you do buddy," Jim said as he ran his fingers through James' hair. "Why wouldn't you?"

"I thought that maybe I was in trouble," James said.

"For what, pal," Jim asked quietly.

"Because I'm gay," James said starting to cry again. Jim sighed and rubbed his back.

"Why would you be in trouble for that," Jim asked. "That's no reason for you to get into trouble."

James looked down, and as Nick gave it some thought, he suddenly realized James' problem at home.

"James," Nick said. "Did you get in trouble at home for that?"

James nodded slowly and a few more tears ran down his cheeks.

"My mom and dad don't love me anymore," he said.

"Well, I love you more than I can say, son," Jim said as he hugged James again. "You're safe here, ok?"

"Ok," James said. Nick got up from his spot on James' bed and put his head next to James'.

"I love you James," Nick said, kissing him on the cheek.

"I love you too Nick," James said, starting to cry all over again.

Nick wrapped his arms around his dad and around James and hugged them both as hard as he could. They stayed that way for a while, and finally, James had to go to the bathroom, so they got up.

"Daddy, I feel bad for James," Nick said as Jim carried him to his room so they could get in the shower.

"I do too baby," Jim said. "But we're all here to love him, and that's what we have to do, ok?"

"Ok," Nick said.

"I love you Nick," Jim said as they got to his bathroom.

"I love you too daddy," Nick said as Jim gave him an extra hard squeeze. "Are you going to be James' daddy too?"

Jim sighed and nodded, and Nick smiled at him.

"I don't mind sharing you," he said. "As long as it's just with James."

When they got out of the shower, Jim got dressed and did his hair while Nick waited on his bed, wrapped in the towel that he dried off with. Jim finished his hair, looked in the mirror one last time to make sure it was perfect, then he walked over to the bed and sat next to Nick.

"Let me finish drying you off, son," Jim said as he grabbed the towel from Nick and ran it through his hair. "I really want to have a talk with you later, when we're alone, ok?"

"About what dad," Nick asked.

"About what just happened, son." Jim answered. "We'll talk later. I promise."

Jim grabbed Nicks hand and helped him hop off the bed, and then they went to Nick's room to find him an outfit. While they were in there, Jim closed the door and sat down in the chair at Nick's desk, facing the door. He held out Nick's underwear for him to step in to, and then he did the same thing with his shorts. He put Nick's shirt on over his head, and waited for him to put his arms through the sleeves. He grabbed the brush off the desk and Nick turned around so his dad could brush out his hair.

"Let's talk right now," Jim said as he brushed Nick's hair.

"Ok," Nick said as he waited for his dad to start the conversation.

"Son, I'm sorry you had to see that," Jim said sadly. "I should have asked you to leave the room. I wasn't thinking."

"No, it's ok daddy," Nick said. "I'm sad for James, but I'm happy in a way."

"Oh yeah," Jim asked. "About what?"

"It's not a secret anymore," Nick said. "And James knows that it's ok."

"Well, I'm glad for that reason too," Jim said. "But, there something I want you to know."

"What daddy?" Nick asked.

"Nick, no matter what," Jim started. "I want you to know that there is never going to be a reason why you can't come to me about anything. I'll never treat you the way James' parents treated him. Do you understand me?"

Nick turned to face his dad, and then he nodded.

"I love you Nick," Jim told him as he lifted him up off his feet and into his lap with a hug.

"I love you too, dad," Nick said.

"If you ever have something like that to tell me," Jim said as he rubbed Nicks back. "I want you to promise not to hold it all inside like James did."

"I won't daddy," Nick said, starting to cry.

Jim gave him a kiss on the lips, then he set him down. They got up and walked out to the hallway to see if James was ready.

"Get this one James," Nick said as he ran up to the first bike he saw. He spotted another bike, and then he ran up to that one and said, "Wait, get this one instead!"

Nick looked around at all of the new bikes and he felt like he had died and gone to heaven. He had been to look at bikes with his dad before at places like Toys-R-Us and large stores like Wal-mart, but this was the first time he had ever been to a place that actually sold bikes exclusively. Jim walked up from behind him and squatted down, putting his arm around his shoulder.

"Do you like that one the best, buddy," he asked.

Nick smiled and nodded at him.

"Look around a little more to be sure," Jim said.

Nicks eyes got big as he looked at his dad, who was grinning at him.

"I get one too," Nick asked.

"Of course you do, buddy," Jim said. "Pick one out that you like."

Nick slowly walked around the store, looking at all of the bikes. He couldn't believe his dad was going to buy him a bike today. He looked at as many bikes as he could find, sitting on each one and pretending that he was sliding with his back tire to a stop. Eventually, he found the one he wanted.

"Can I have this one," he asked hopefully.

"Is that the one you want," Jim asked.

Nick nodded and smiled as he ran his hand across the chrome. He used his fingers to push down on the soft seat, then he gripped the handles at the end of the handlebars.

"Let's go see what James is looking at," Jim said.

Nick followed his dad to the other side of the store, where James was looking at mountain bikes. When Jim and Nick found him, he was sitting on a bike and smiling.

"Do you like it buddy," Jim asked.

"Yeah, but it's too much," James said.

"Says who?" Jim said, giving James a playful shove. "If it's what you want, we'll get it."

"Really," James asked.

Jim made a goofy face at him. "Really?" Jim said in a silly voice, mocking James playfully and smiling. "Yes, really," he finally said in a normal voice.

James didn't say anything. He just looked at Jim and smiled at him. The look he had on his face was loving, but it was also one of respect. Nick watched from his dads side as James got off the bike and took Jim's hand, and the three of them walked together to find someone to help them with the bikes.

Jim had to call Tom so that he could get the bikes home. Jim's Camry was new, and he was determined that it wouldn't get scratched. Tom's explorer was perfect for the bikes, because it had a big backspace where the bikes could go. While they waited for Tom, James had a nervous look on his face.

"What's wrong James," Jim asked.

"Are you going to tell my Uncle Tom about it," James asked nervously.

"Yes I am," Jim said softly. "But I'll do it in private, ok?"

"Is he going to be mad at me," James asked.

"No," Jim said with a confident voice. "James, you don't have to worry. I've known your Uncle Tom and auntie Linda since I was 10. They aren't that way."

They waited a while longer, and eventually, Tom pulled up in his explorer. They loaded the bikes in the back, and as they got ready to leave, Nick jumped in the front seat of Tom's car.

"Son," Jim said quietly through the window as Tom was in the back closing the door. "You need to let me tell grandpa and grandma, ok?"

"Yes sir," Nick said, understanding that he was to keep his mouth shut about James while he was alone with his grandpa.

Nick held out his lips for a kiss from his dad as Tom got in on the drivers side, and after he got his kiss, they pulled off.

"How come you didn't go to school kiddo," Tom asked.

"Daddy said I didn't have to go because I had a bad night last night," Nick answered.

"Did you get into trouble when you got home?" Tom asked.

"No, not really," Nick said. "Daddy had a talk with me about it though."

"Well, why did you have a bad night," Tom asked with a concerned voice.

"Well," Nick said shyly. "I wet my bed last night and I had to get changed. It was late."

"Uh oh," Tom said. "You didn't sleep good after that?"

"Not really," Nick said. "I woke up and it was almost time for school. Daddy said to just stay home."

"Have you been having a good day," Tom asked, giving Nick leg a rub.

Nick looked back at his bike and smiled.

"Yes," he said with a huge grin on his face.

"It looks like you and James have both been having a good day," Tom said smiling.

Nick didn't say anything else. Instead, he just smiled at his grandfather the rest of the way home. When they got home, Jim unloaded the bikes and Nick and James rode off. James followed Nick around the neighborhood, and Nick took him down the path to the golf course.

"You can't tell my dad about this trail," Nick said as they stopped near the golf course.

"How come," James asked.

"He won't let us ride on it anymore if he knows about it," Nick said. "He thinks trails are dangerous for kids to be on."

James made a silly face at Nick, and said," Let's race."

Nick jumped on his bike and got behind James, but James was too fast for him. They both came back onto the road and Nick pedaled as hard as he could, trying to catch up to James, but it was no use. James beat him back to their driveway by a long shot, and Nick was out of breath when he got there.

"Let's go tell Uncle Jim to watch us," James said.

"I have a better idea," Nick said. "Wait here."

Nick handed James the handlebars to his bike as he ran into the garage. He found some wood posts and a large flat piece of wood, and he dragged them all out to the driveway.

"What are you doing," James asked.

"You'll see," Nick said as he piled the posts up on top of each other in the street. He laid the flat piece of wood down on the pile he made, making a ramp. He got on his bike and rode almost all the way down the street. When he got to the end, he pedaled back toward the ramp with all his might, gaining as much speed as he could. Finally, he hit the ramp, and his bike sailed through the air. When he landed, he did a power slide with his back wheel and looked back. James had already started to ride his bike to the end of the street so that he could hit the ramp fast and get good air. Nick watched as James picked up speed, and soon, he was sailing through the air on his mountain bike, which didn't get as much air as Nicks bike did, but still got high enough. Just as he was watching James land, he heard Jim holler from the front door.

"Hey!" Jim shouted angrily as he made his way toward the boys. "What the hell are you two doing?"

He looked angrily at both boys and then he turned his head back to the ramp Nick made.

"Well?" he said in an irritated voice.

"We're sorry dad," Nick said. "I just wanted to try it."

James had a look of terror on his face as he looked at his exploding uncle. Nick felt bad for him because he knew that this was his first time ever seeing him mad like this, and unfortunately for James, he was one of the people Jim was mad at.

"I want both of you to take your bikes, your brand new bikes," Jim said, raising his voice when he said brand new, "and put them in the garage. Then you need to take this crap and put it back where you found it. Then you need to come inside. No one told you that you could jump your bikes!"

Jim stormed back toward the house, and Nick knew that he was furious. He looked over at James, who had tears in his eyes as he walked his bike up the driveway. Nick followed him to the garage, and they put their bikes away. When they were done putting all of the wood away, Nick hit the button for the garage door, closing it before they went inside.

James walked straight upstairs when they got inside and Nick heard his bedroom door close. He was sure that James was crying alone in his room, and he felt bad for him, but he wasn't sure if James wanted to be alone or not, so he didn't bother him. Instead, he went into the family room, where he saw Jim sitting on the couch talking to Tom and Linda. When Nick was sure that his dad could see him, he gave him an angry glare.

"You didn't have to yell at us, dad," Nick said angrily. "You made James cry."

Jim snapped his fingers at Nick, motioning him to come closer.

"What did you say?" Jim said, looking like he was ready to snap.

"You didn't have to yell at us," Nick said. "You could've just yelled at me or something. James is crying now."

"Well, I didn't spank you guys," Jim said looking frustrated. "Why is he crying?"

"You hurt his feelings," Nick said.

"He told you that," Jim asked.

"No," Nick said, getting irritated with his dad. "I know because you always do it to me. You hurt people's feelings all the time when you yell."

Jim sighed and looked down shaking his head.

"I'll go talk to him," he said as he got up. "Do you guys want to come upstairs and talk to him?" he asked Tom and Linda before he went upstairs. They got up and followed him up the stairs, and Nick stayed downstairs in the family room. He lay on the couch and waited quietly for his dad and his grandparents to come back downstairs. While he was lying on the couch, he thought about what he knew his dad was telling Tom and Linda just moments before. He wondered how his grandparents took the news, and how they would take the news about him if he was gay. After a while, his mind wandered to Taylor. He hadn't seen Taylor since he was called out of class by the hall monitor, and he was really starting to miss him. He looked at the clock and it was just a little bit after one in the afternoon. His mind wandered again, and soon he realized that he hadn't eaten lunch yet. He wasn't hungry, but he wondered if that was the reason Jim was in such an awful mood all of the sudden. After a while, when Tom, Linda and Jim hadn't come back downstairs, Nick decided not to worry about Jim's bad mood anymore. He closed his eyes and thought about the things he liked the most about his day and the one thing that his mind kept wandering back to was Taylor.

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