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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 14 - by Nick

"f**k you Taylor!," James screamed as he grabbed a handful of Taylor's hair.

"I'm telling on you," Taylor cried as his head jerked back and forth wildly from James' hand, which still had a full grip on his head.

"Give me the f****** cards right now!," James hollered, but Taylor refused.

"I won them from you fair and square," Taylor said through his tears.

Nick had seen enough. He moved from his spot on the couch to the family room floor, where James was trying to strong arm Taylor.

"Let him go, James!," Nick yelled.

"No!," James yelled back at him. "I want my f****** cards back right now!"

Nick tried to pry James' fingers from Taylor's hair, but James was to strong for him, so he did the only thing he could think to do. He brought his leg back and aimed, and with all of his might, he planted his foot in James' crotch.

From where Nick was standing, it looked like James was trying to cry, but he couldn't. His face looked like he was gasping for air, unsuccessfully at first, then he sucked in a big gulp of air and started crying.

"I told you to let him go!," Nick screamed in his face as he laid on the couch crying.

"Just leave me alone," James cried. "I hate you both."

"Come on, Taylor," Nick said, taking Taylor by the hand. "Let's go upstairs so we can be alone."

Taylor gathered up all of his Pokemon cards, including the ones he won from James, and they went upstairs to Nick's room. They sat together on the beanbag for a while, watching cartoons and calming down, then Nick's door swung open and Jim was standing there, looking furious.

"Turn the TV off, boys," he said angrily. "I want to know what happened while I was gone, and I want the truth."

"Dad, James was beating Taylor up," Nick said. "I tried to tell him to stop, but he wouldn't."

"He pulled my hair, Mr. James," Taylor said as he started crying again.

"You're a god damn liar!," James said from behind his uncle.

"James!," Jim said sharply. "You don't say that word in this house. Is that understood?"

"He's lying, Uncle Jim," James pleaded, starting to cry himself.

"Listen," Jim said, starting to look very irritated. "I don't know what happened, but I intend to find out. While Taylor and Nick are telling me their side, you need to not interrupt them. You'll have your chance to tell me your side. Go on, Taylor."

"James said I cheated, but I didn't," Taylor said, still crying a little. "I won those cards from him fair and square, and he beat me up and told me I had to give them back to him."

"It's true, dad," Nick said. "I told him to stop, but he wouldn't. I even tried to undo his fingers from Taylor's hair, and he wouldn't let go. So I kicked him."

"James?," Jim said, looking at his nephew for an explanation. "Is that true?"

James shook his head and looked up at his uncle.

"He didn't win them from me fair and square. He cheated," he said through his own tears.

"How did I cheat?" Taylor demanded from the beanbag.

"Shut up!," James screamed back at him.

"Go to your room right now," Jim said in a serious tone. James turned and stomped to his room, slamming the door once he got there.

"Taylor, I want you to do me a favor," Jim said in a soft voice as he sat down at Nicks computer desk. "I would appreciate it if you would please give James back the cards he lost to you. I'll buy you a new pack of what ever kind of cards you want if you do."

"Here Mr. James," Taylor said as he handed Jim the cards he won. "You don't have to buy me new ones. It's ok."

"Are you alright?," Jim asked him as he examined the top of Taylor's head. Taylor nodded sadly, then he got a vicious look on his face.

"James said the F word a bunch of times," Taylor tattled. "He said the F word to me a lot of times, and the S word and the B word too."

"I'll take care of that," Jim said. "I'm glad you didn't say those words."

Taylor sat back down on the beanbag next to Nick, whose mind was racing back, trying to remember how many times he and Taylor cussed while Jim was across the street at Lori's house. Jim left the room and walked across the hall to James' room. Nick heard his dad knock on James' door before he went in, then he and Taylor got up and walked out to the hallway to listen at the door.

"I never expect to hear language like that come out of your mouth again," Jim said angrily. "You are not an adult. Is that understood?"

"Yes," they could hear James say through his crying.

"James, you're bigger and stronger than they are," Jim continued. "You have no business putting your hands on them, for any reason."

"I didn't," James lied.

"James," Jim warned. "Do not lie to me! I spank Nick for lying, and I'll spank you for it too."

"Uncle Jim," James pleaded through his crying, which was sounding hysterical through the door. "I don't want a spanking."

Nick and Taylor got up and scrambled back to Nicks room when they heard footsteps coming toward the door, but no one came out for a while. Finally, they settled back down and watched TV in Nick's room until they heard the door to James' room open up. Jim walked past the door to Nick's room, and Nick saw him holding his belt in his hand. Nick looked at Taylor, who's eyes were big.

"I wonder if James got a spanking," Nick said quietly.

"I hope he did," Taylor said bitterly. "He deserved one."

"I'm going to find out," Nick said. "Wait here."

Nick got up and walked across the hall to his dad's room. The door was open, so Nick walked in.

"Daddy?," he said softly. "Is James ok?"

"He's fine, son," Jim said.

"Did you spank him," Nick asked.

"Not this time," Jim said.

"I'm glad, daddy," Nick said. "I don't want him to get a spanking."

"Well, buddy, he has to follow the rules just like you do," Jim said. "Just because I'm not his dad doesn't mean I won't make him follow the rules. If he breaks the rules, he has to be punished."

"Yes sir," Nick said.

"Listen son," Jim said. "I know you tried your hardest to make James stop. I believe you when you say that, and I know that you hate to see James get in trouble. But if he deserves it, he's going to get it."

"Am I in trouble for kicking him?," Nick asked.

"No," Jim said. "You did what you had to do to make him stop hurting Taylor."

"Is it ok if Taylor spends the night tomorrow night?," Nick asked his dad.

"If it's ok with Mr. Charles and Miss Cindy, I don't mind," Jim said.

"Thank you daddy," Nick said as he hopped onto the bed so that he could hug his dad at eye level. "I love you."

"I love you too sweetie," Jim said. "Now go play."

Nick jumped off of Jim's bed and ran back across the hall to his room, where Taylor was still watching cartoons.

"Do you want to spend the night this weekend," Nick asked as he sat next to Taylor on the beanbag.

"Will James be here," Taylor asked quietly.

"He won't bug you, I promise," Nick said. "I'll beat him up again if he does."

Taylor giggled when Nick said that, and finally he said yes. As it got close to dinnertime, Nick got on his bike and followed Taylor home, and then he rode back to his house. When he got home, he went inside and washed his hands, then he found his dad out on the patio starting the grill.

"Son, I'd like you to please go wake James up and tell him to get down here," Jim said.

Nick wasn't crazy about the idea of waking up his cousin, who was probably still angry with him, but he did as he was told. He walked upstairs and knocked on James' door.

"Come in," James said sleepily.

Nick opened the door and walked in.

"My dad said to come wake you up for dinner," he said. James didn't say anything. He just sat up and looked at the clock, then he put his head back down on his pillow and curled up in a ball. Nick shrugged and closed the door. When he got back downstairs, he told his dad what happened.

"He'll be alright," Jim said. "I want you to talk to him about it, though."

"Yes sir," Nick said.

"Right now, I want you to go next door and tell grandma and grandpa that dinner's going to be ready in about 15 minutes," Jim said. Nick smiled on his way next door. For some reason, he couldn't wait to tell his grandfather that he beat James up, even though that was far from the truth.

He opened the back door to his grandparents' house and walked inside.

"Grandma, grandpa?," he called out.

Nick thought he could hear a loud thump from upstairs, and a few moments later, they appeared at the top of the stairs. Tom was holding a hammer and Linda was holding some kind of booklet in her hand.

"Hey kiddo," Tom said as he started down the stairs.

"Hi grandpa," Nick said as he ran up to give his grandfather a hug. By the time he pulled away from his grandfather, he felt a kiss on his cheek from his grandmother, who's stomach looked bigger than it had the day before.

"Dad says to tell you that dinner's almost done," Nick said smiling.

"Alright, we're on our way," Linda said.

"Me and James had a fight today," Nick told them both. "I won."

"You had a fight with James and won?," Tom asked, looking impressed. Linda gave him a smack across the arm and cut him a mean look.

"Why did you guys have a fight?," Linda asked.

"He was beating up Taylor and cussing him out," Nick said. "So I tried to stop him, but he wouldn't stop, so I let him have it."

"I don't like that Nickolas," Linda said with a disapproving tone. "You should have found your father."

"He was at Miss Lori's," Nick said. "James was watching us."

"What did your dad do when he found out?," Linda asked.

"He had a talk with us," Nick said. "But we didn't get spankings."

"Why was James beating up on Taylor?," Tom asked.

"They were playing with their Pokemon cards," Nick said. "Taylor won a lot of James' cards, and James said he was cheating."

"Was he," Linda asked.

"I don't know, ma'am," Nick answered honestly. "I don't play Pokemon."

"It sounds like James got what he deserved," Tom said. "He's five years older than you boys. He ought to know better than that."

"He's not talking to me now," Nick said sadly. "He said he hates us."

"He doesn't mean that," Linda said. "His feelings are probably hurt, that's all."

Tom and Linda gathered their things, then they locked the front door and went out the back with Nick. Jim was still cooking at the grill when they got there, and when Nick looked through the back door, he saw James sitting on the couch with Lori, who he figured must have shown up while he was gone. It looked like he was crying, and she was hugging him and holding his head. Linda walked into the house when she saw them on the couch.

After dinner, Tom and Linda stayed and visited for a little while, but eventually they had to leave. Nick watched Tom pull James off to the side and talk to him alone. They sat down together on the front porch and talked while Linda, Lori, Jim and Nick walked out to the road so they could look back at the front of the two houses. They were talking about the color of the siding that they had, and how Tom and Linda's house still looked brand new. Finally, Nick watched as his grandfather stood up with James and gave him a long hug. The two of them walked over to where everyone else was and Nick noticed that James walked over to Jim, wrapping his arm around his waist and holding on to him as he stood and talked to Tom.

"Son, I want you to go inside and get in the shower," Jim said to Nick after a few minutes. "I'll be in there before you get out to help you."

Nick gave his grandparents both a hug and a kiss, then he gave Lori a hug and a kiss as well, then he went inside to do what he was told. When he got out, Jim was in his room like he said he'd be, setting his pajamas out and pulling back the covers in his bed.

"Did you wash good," Jim asked as Nick walked in the room.

"Yes sir," Nick answered as his dad took the towel from him and finished drying him off. Jim held out Nick's underwear for him to step into, and then he patted the bed with his hand. Nick laid down and let Jim put his pajama bottoms on him, then he sat up while his dad slid his top over his head and helped him guide his arms through the sleeves. Nick crawled into his dads lap and let him brush his hair out while they talked.

"Son, we're going to go back downstairs," Jim said. "I want you to talk to James. You don't have to take the blame for what happened, but I expect you to at least listen to what he says and be polite. Can you do that for me?"

"Yes sir," Nick answered, and he looked up and smiled back at his dad. Jim smiled back down at him and planted a kiss on his forehead, then they got up and went downstairs. When they got to the family room, the TV was off and James was sitting alone on the recliner, so Jim and Nick took the love seat. Nick sat on his dads lap and stretched out to get comfortable.

"Come sit over here, buddy," Jim said to James as Nick got comfortable in his lap. James sighed and moved over to the love seat with Jim and Nick, and Jim put an arm around him.

"We need to talk about what happened this afternoon," Jim said. "I don't want the two of you to be upset with each other. We're a family, and we need to settle this. Nick, what do you want to say to James?"

"I'm sorry I kicked you," Nick said quietly. "I didn't know what else to do."

James didn't say anything. He looked at the floor and shrugged, then he put his head up against Jim's shoulder.

"Is there anything you would like to tell Nick," Jim asked him.

"I don't know," James said.

"Do you accept his apology?," Jim asked.

"I guess I do," James answered.

"Son, if you're still mad, you need to say why," Jim said as he looked down at James. "I mean it when I say we're going to settle this tonight."

"Why didn't you kick Taylor instead?," James finally asked, looking at Nick. "He's the one that started it."

"But you were pulling his hair," Nick answered. "You wouldn't let go, and he was crying."

"But I'm your cousin, not him," James said. "You were supposed to be on my side."

"Taylor's like my brother though," Nick said. "I love him a lot and I don't want anyone to hurt him."

"You love him more than you love me," James asked.

"I love you the same," Nick said. "I would've kicked him if he was the one hurting you and he wouldn't stop."

"He was cheating, Nick," James said, starting to cry a little.

"But you didn't have to beat him up for it," Nick said.

"I wasn't going to, but I wanted my cards back," James said. "You saw him. He wouldn't let me have them."

"You could've told dad," Nick said. "He was going to be home soon."

"I hate Taylor," James said.

"You what James?," Jim said sharply. "I have already told you about that. You don't ever say that in this house again."

James put his head down in his hands and started to cry hard, and Jim reached over and rubbed his back.

"Buddy, I'm sorry I had to get on your case," Jim said. "But we don't say things like that in this house. Now, I mean it."

James leaned into his uncle's chest and cried a little more. Nick felt bad for him as he watched, and he wondered if there was a way that James could possibly have a worse day.

"Uncle Jim," James cried. "Am I grounded still?"

"Yes you are, James," Jim said softly. "I'm sorry I had to do it, but you can't go around hurting people and cussing at them when you're mad."

"How long am I grounded for?," he asked through his tears.

"I haven't decided yet, buddy," Jim answered. "I know you don't understand, but I want you to know that I'm not doing this to be mean."

"Does that mean I can't call my mom and dad tomorrow?," James sobbed.

"No, that's not what it means, James," Jim said. "You can always call them if you feel like you need to talk to them. But you can't go outside, and you can't watch TV, and you don't get your Pokemon cards back until I decide you aren't grounded anymore."

Nick felt bad for James. He knew what it was like to be grounded by his father. There was never a definite time period. Every time he was grounded, Jim would always tell him that he was grounded until he said he wasn't anymore. That could mean a day, or it could mean a month, depending on what he was grounded for. Nicks guess was that James was at least grounded for a week. Between his cussing, beating up on Taylor, plus the fact that Jim caught him in a lie, there was enough dirt to keep him grounded for at least a week, though it might be longer.

It was starting to get late, and Nick knew that Jim was going to tell him that it was bedtime soon, so Nick decided to settle down. He laid his head on his dads shoulder and let him run his fingers through his hair. Soon, Nick was yawning.

"Are you ready to go to bed?," Jim asked him.

Nick nodded and put his arms around Jim's neck. Jim leaned down and gave James a kiss on the cheek before he got up.

"You need to come to bed to, James," Jim said, lifting Nick up with him as he stood up. "Come on buddy. We'll talk a little more before you go to sleep."

James stood up and wrapped his arms around Jim's waist, and they headed upstairs. When they got to James' door, he went inside his room and laid down on his bed while Jim carried Nick to the bathroom. Nick peed, then his dad took him to his room.

"James seems so sad," Nick said as his dad laid him down on his bed and pulled the covers up over him.

"He'll be ok," Jim said. "I'm going to talk to him alone before I tuck him in."

"Is he going to be mean to Taylor tomorrow," Nick asked.

"No way," Jim said. "If he does, I'll take care of it."

"Will you spank him," Nick asked grinning.

"Only if I have to," Jim said, reaching down to tickle Nick's ribs a little. "Is that what you want?"

"No," Nick said. "But if it makes him not beat up Taylor again, then yes."

Jim leaned down and kissed Nick goodnight.

"I love you sweetheart," Jim said.

"I love you too daddy," Nick said smiling.

"You have sweet dreams, ok?," Jim said as he ran his hand gently over Nicks face.

"I will," Nick said. Jim leaned down and gave him one more kiss before he got up and turned off the light.

***

"I don't know, Nick," Taylor said as they rode the bus to school the next day. "What if he tries to get me again?"

"You don't have to worry about it," Nick said. "My dad already said that if he tries he'll get a spanking."

Taylor sighed and sat back in his seat.

"Please," Nick pleaded. "I promise you nothings going to happen."

"Do you swear," Taylor asked, giving Nick the most serious look he had ever seen him with.

"On my life," Nick smiled. "My dad already said so."

"Ok," Taylor finally said. "But if he does anything, I'm going home."

"He won't," Nick assured him.

That afternoon as they got off the bus, both Jim and James were there. Nick looked at Taylor, who looked uncomfortable at the site of James.

"It's ok," Nick said. "He's not even mad at you anymore."

They walked together to meet them, and Nick noticed James giving Taylor dirty looks.

"Are you still spending the night tonight, buddy?" Jim asked Taylor.

"If it's still ok," Taylor said politely.

"Of course it is," Jim said smiling. "It's always ok for you to spend the night."

Taylor smiled at Jim while James seemed to be sneering at him. Nick had a bad feeling in his gut, but he just ignored it, and James.

"Can I ride to Taylor's after I get home to help him with his bag and stuff," Nick asked.

Jim shrugged and said, "Sure, why not?"

Taylor crossed the street and Nick grabbed his fathers hand as they watched. When Taylor turned the corner, they started walking home. Nick stayed quiet the whole way, and when they got home, James went upstairs and closed his door without saying anything.

"Is James mad," Nick asked.

"He'll get over it," his dad answered. "I already let him know that he is to be on his best behavior while Taylor's here. You need to speak up if he starts trouble."

"I will," Nick said. "Why does he still hate Taylor?"

"He doesn't son," Jim said. "He's just pouting about yesterday, that's all."

Nick sat at the table while Jim fixed him a snack and they talked about his day. After Nicks snack, he went upstairs to go to the bathroom, then he changed and came back downstairs. Nick gave his dad a kiss goodbye and then he rode his bike to Taylor's.

When they got back, Lori was there cooking dinner in the kitchen.

"It smells so good in here," Taylor said as they walked through the door from the garage.

"Thank you Taylor," Lori said.

Nick and Taylor hung around the kitchen long enough to find out what Lori was cooking and where Jim went.

"He's in James' room," Lori said quietly. "They're having a talk."

Nick grabbed Taylor's backpack from him and carried it up to his room as Taylor followed him. When they got there, Nick closed the door and turned on the TV. They sat down on the beanbag and watched Rocket Power while they waited for Nick's dad to pop his head in to check up on them and tell them when dinner would be ready.

"If I tell you something, do you promise not to say I told you," Nick asked Taylor when a commercial came on.

"What is it," Taylor asked.

"First you have to promise not to tell," Nick said.

"I promise," Taylor said.

Nick got up and walked to his door. He opened it and looked down the hallway to be sure no one was coming. When he saw that the coast was clear, he closed his door and sat back down on the beanbag with Taylor.

"It's about James," Nick said, knowing that he wasn't supposed to tell Taylor what he was about to tell him.

"What," Taylor asked almost in a whisper. Nick looked both ways, then he moved in closer to Taylor's ear and half whispered, "He's gay."

"He's what," Taylor asked, starting to giggle.

"He's gay," Nick said, giggling a little himself. Taylor threw his head back and let out a loud laugh, making Nick laugh loudly as well. As soon as Nick realized how loud they were being, he panicked and held his finger up to his lips.

"Shhhh," Nick said, on the verge of cracking up again. "I'll get whipped if my dad knows I told you."

"Why," Taylor asked quietly.

"Because it makes James feel sad and ashamed," Nick said, suddenly feeling guilty for telling his cousins secret.

"It does," Taylor asked with a little bit of compassion in his voice now.

"Yeah," Nick said. "He cried a lot when my dad found out."

"Did he get in trouble," Taylor asked.

"For what," Nick asked.

"For being gay," Taylor answered. "Did your dad get mad?"

"No," Nick said shaking his head. "He told James not to feel ashamed."

Taylor sat quietly for a while as Nick watched him. Nick could tell that he was thinking about everything that they just talked about, and he wondered how it made him feel. Nick was feeling bad about laughing at his cousin, especially after seeing how bad it made him feel. He wasn't sure why he started laughing with Taylor after he told him, but he knew now that it was wrong of him.

"Taylor," Nick asked. "Let's be really nice to him this weekend."

"Ok," Taylor said. "Does that mean he likes other boys?"

Nick nodded and smiled at his friend.

"Is everyone who likes other boys gay," Taylor asked.

"I don't know," Nick said. "My dad said that gay people are boys who like other boys."

Taylor didn't say anything after that, and neither did Nick. The whole subject seemed to go away, and soon they were back to watching cartoons. After a while, Jim popped his head in the door the way Nick expected him to.

"Are you boys hungry," Jim asked.

Taylor and Nick looked at each other and smiled.

"Yes sir," Nick said. "We were in the kitchen and we smelled what Lori was making."

"Well, wash your hands and come eat then," Jim said.

During dinner, Nick could hardly look at James. He was feeling terribly guilty about telling Taylor that James was gay, but it was too late to take it back now. James didn't look at Taylor one time, even when Taylor passed James a plate of food he was trying to reach. Lori and Jim were looking at Taylor, Nick and James, and Nick could tell that they knew something was up. He started to panic for a minute, wondering if they had figured out that he told Taylor about James. After a few minutes of silence, Jim spoke up.

"So what are you boys going to do tomorrow," he asked casually.

"I don't know," Nick answered. "Were we going anywhere tomorrow?"

"Not really," Jim said before he took another bite of his food. "Why? Is there something you guys wanted to do?"

"Can we go to the movies tomorrow," Nick asked.

"Maybe," Jim said. "We'll see what's playing. What about you James? Is there anything you wanted to do this weekend?"

"No," James said quietly. "I'm grounded, remember?"

"Well, I'm sure we can forget about that for a day," Jim said smiling. "If there's something you want to do, speak up."

"Not really," James said shrugging. "I don't really know what there is to do around here."

"Are we going to church again on Sunday," Nick asked.

Jim nodded and said, "The church sent us a card. I think we should go every Sunday."

"Are you going to join the church Mr. James," Taylor asked.

Jim smiled at Taylor while he finished chewing his food. "I'm not sure, Taylor," he finally answered. "I think we should go for a while before I decide something like that."

After dinner, they had cake for dessert, and as they were all eating, Nick looked at Lori, who was watching everyone proudly.

"Miss Lori," Nick said politely. "Thank you for making us all dinner and cake. It was good."

"Yeah, thanks babe," Jim said, leaning over to kiss Lori on the cheek.

"You're welcome," Lori said. "I'm just glad to see you all enjoying it so much."

"You cook really good Miss Lori," Taylor said sweetly. "I like eating your food."

"Thank you Taylor," Lori said. "That was really sweet of you."

"You're welcome, ma'am," Taylor said blushing.

"How about you buddy," Jim asked James. "Are you enjoying your meal?"

"Yes sir," James answered quietly. "Everything's delicious ma'am."

"I'm glad you like it James," Lori said.

As everyone was finishing their dessert, Lori got up to clear the plates, but James spoke up.

"I'll do it for you ma'am," he said. "You cooked and made everything so good. You don't have to clean up after us."

As James was clearing the table, Taylor got up and took his and Nick's plate over to the sink. He started rinsing off all of the plates that were in the sink and putting them in the dishwasher while Nick and Jim watched from the table. James brought all of the glasses over to the sink, and Taylor pulled the top rack out of the dishwasher and started to load them. Nick couldn't believe that James and Taylor seemed to be working so well together, and he just watched in amazement. Jim and Lori got up and moved to the family room and Nick followed them.

"You aren't going to help out, son," Jim asked.

"No," Nick answered. "I don't really know how. Besides, they're doing something together and they aren't fighting."

Jim let out a small laugh and sat back on the love seat with Lori, grabbing the remote and turning on the TV. Nick nervously tried to pay attention to the TV, but he kept looking back into the kitchen to see if Taylor and James were fighting yet. There was no commotion, so Nick finally relaxed and let his meal settle. At first he thought he was hearing things when he heard a giggle come from the kitchen, but then it happened again. He looked around the corner and his eyes almost bugged out of his head. James and Taylor were sitting at the table talking and laughing.

"What's wrong, honey," Jim asked him as he looked back at his dad.

"Nothing's wrong," Nick said. "I just can't believe it."

"What," Jim asked.

"Taylor and James," Nick said. "They're sitting down at the table and laughing about something."

"Good," Jim said with a smile. "It's about time."

Nick wanted to go in the kitchen to see what they were talking about, but he decided against it. Every once in a while, however, he would peak around the corner to see what they were doing. Eventually, Jim and Lori stood up holding hands.

"What do you say we go for a walk," he asked Nick, who was feeling lazy from his delicious meal.

Nick shrugged and got up, and Jim stuck his head in the kitchen.

"Come on, we're going for a walk," he said. "We need to get some exercise. Grab your coats."

Jim went upstairs to grab his and Nick's coats, and James followed him upstairs to get his. Taylor and Lori's were already hanging by the door, so they didn't have to go upstairs.

"What were you guys talking about," Nick asked Taylor with a smile on his face.

"Just stuff about teachers," Taylor answered. "We were talking about math."

"Nerds," Nick said with a grin. Taylor giggled and put his coat on. Soon, James and Jim were back downstairs, and they were out the door. While they walked around the neighborhood, Nick, Taylor and James played tag. Jim and Lori were walking slower and holding hands. Nick saw them smiling at each other and lean in for a kiss, and he thought it was romantic. They walked until the sun finished going down, then they headed back home. When they got there, the five of them sat on the front lawn and talked for a while. The air felt good to Nick, and he lay back on the grass to relax. It was the first time he had felt the lawn, and it was nice and soft. Taylor and James were sitting cross-legged, talking to Lori and Jim about something that Nick wasn't interested in, so Nick rolled over and over until he worked his way between them.

"Nick, you're going to be all itchy from that grass," Jim said shaking his head.

"I'll take a bath," Nick said.

"Whatever," Jim laughed as he shook his head. "You better wash good to get the itch to go away."

Nick positioned himself so that his head was in Taylor's lap, and his feet were in James' lap, and he listened to the conversation everyone was having. From his lawn, he could see his grandparents' house, and he noticed that their car was gone.

"Where did grandma and grandpa go," Nick asked.

"They probably went out tonight, buddy," Jim said. "It's Friday and you know they like to eat out."

"Grandma hates to cook huh," Nick said, making light of what everyone already knew. His grandmother was a good cook, but she hated to be in the kitchen, so instead of eating at home, Nick's grandparents usually ate out.

"You look comfy Nick," Lori said.

"I am," Nick said. "It feels good out here."

"It does, doesn't it." Lori agreed. "It's to bad it couldn't just stay this temperature all the time."

Nick looked up at Taylor, who was smiling down at him, and his heart skipped a beat. He reached up and grabbed Taylor's hands so that he could put them in his hair.

"Run your fingers through my hair," Nick told him. He smiled as he felt Taylor's fingers working in his long hair.

"Is that better," Taylor asked.

Nick smiled and nodded as he let everyone else talk around him. Every once in a while, when Taylor would talk, Nick would look up at him and feel like he needed to catch his breath. Taylor looked so cute to him as he spoke and ran his fingers through Nick's hair, and it was staring to make him feel sexy. He looked over at his cousin, who was talking to Jim about something, and he wondered if this was how he felt. Nick turned his head toward Taylor's stomach, and he started playing with the zipper on his jacket, running it up and down while everyone else was talking.

"What are you doing buddy," Jim asked.

"Just making noise with his zipper," Nick answered, turning his head back toward his dad.

"Well, you're going to wear it out and break it son," Jim said.

"I'll stop then," Nick said shyly. "I'm sorry Taylor."

"It's ok, Nick," Taylor said. "This jacket's old anyway."

Nick grabbed onto the bottom of it and rubbed it against his face.

"It feels soft," he said.

"I guess we should go inside," Jim said just as Nick was beginning to think that it had gotten colder outside. Nick felt James push his feet out of his lap, so he started to move. Slowly, he got up and reached down with his hand for Taylor to grab on. After he pulled Taylor up, they all went inside and took off their coats.

"Who's going to get in the shower first," Jim asked.

"Can we take a bath instead," Nick asked.

"I doubt very much that James wants to get in the tub with you two," Jim said rolling his eyes. "If you guys want to take a bath that's fine, but let James have a shower first."

While James was upstairs in the shower, Nick and Taylor went out to the garage to make sure the side door was closed and locked. When they came back inside, Jim called Nick to the laundry room.

"Give me your clothes, son," Jim said, brushing the grass off Nicks jacket and pant legs. Nick stripped down to his underwear and gave his dad all of his grassy clothes. After he stripped, he ran into the family room where Taylor and Lori were watching TV and waited for James to finish in the shower. It seemed like it was taking forever, but James finally finished his shower and Jim went upstairs and started Nick and Taylor's bath for them.

"Can we have bubbles." Nick asked as he walked into the bathroom behind his dad.

"Sure buddy," Jim said, walking out to the hallway to get the bubble bath out of the closet. He came back in and handed Nick the bottle. Nick turned the bottle upside down, purposely putting too much soap in the water.

"Hey!" Jim shouted, taking the bottle from Nick. "What the hell is wrong with you boy?"

Nick looked up and grinned at his dad, and then he looked back at the bubbles that were forming on top of the water.

"I wanted to have lots of bubbles," he said with a smile.

"Well, you're going to have plenty now," Jim said in an almost angry voice. Nick knew his dad might yell, but not much else. This was like jacking up the car and taking the tire off. It was something he knew he could get away with, even if it was naughty.

Taylor walked in the bathroom and looked shocked at how high the bubbles were, then he smiled at Nick and started getting undressed. Nick pulled his underwear off and got in the tub, testing the water as he slowly lowered his body to the bottom. Taylor finished getting undressed and walked toward the tub as Jim walked out and closed the door. Taylor sat down in the tub facing Nick, and the bubbles, which were flying everywhere when Nick and Taylor ran their hands over them, covered up his privates.

Nick stretched his feet out until they met Taylor's feet, then he pushed up against them, using his toes to tickle the bottom of Taylor's feet. Taylor giggled and did it back to Nick, and soon they were having a foot fight. The water was splashing wildly, causing the bubbles to fly up from the tub and drift back down toward them and on the floor, but Nick paid it no mind as he made his next plan of attack in gaining an advantage over his friend. The two of them struggled in vain for a few more moments to claim victory, but eventually, they stopped when their kicking and sliding around created a wave of water big enough to slosh over the side of the tub and drench the rugs on the floor.

"Oops," Nick said with a huge grin, then he stuck his tongue out at his friend, who cracked up at his antics. Taylor's laughter was contagious, too, because before he knew it, Nick was giggling along with him, leaning forward and resting his head on Taylor' shoulder for support while he tried to regain his composure.

"I'm having so much fun," Taylor said as his laughter started to subside.

"Me too," Nick agreed, taking a breath that halted his giggles somewhat. "I wish you could spend the night during the week, too."

The feeling of Taylor's wet, slippery skin against his face felt funny, so Nick made no move to lift his head from his friend's shoulder. Instead, he brought his left hand up and used his fingertips to feel Taylor's other shoulder, then he thought of a devious plan to get Taylor good.

He heard his friend sigh, and as the sounds of his light breathing filled Nick's left ear, he brought his right hand around. As soon as he had both hands on Taylor's rib cage, he dug in with his fingertips, knowing that his friend would squirm under the force of his tickling.

"Hey no fair!" Taylor yelped through his new set of giggles.

"Ah Ha!" Nick roared teasingly as he increased the pressure of his tickle. "I've got you!"

As Taylor tried to escape, Nick held on tightly, causing them both to glide along the bottom of the tub for a raucous moment until more water sloshed out of the tub and Nick knew they needed to stop. He let up with his tickling but didn't pull his arms from around Taylor. Instead, he tightened his grip a little and indulged in a hug.

Taylor wrapped his arms around Nick and hugged him back, then Nick turned away from Taylor and leaned back into him. Taylor's arms felt good around his chest, so he grabbed both of his hands and held them while he relaxed. Finally, he let go, grabbed the shampoo and handed it to Taylor.

"Will you wash my hair," he asked.

"Sure," Taylor said, taking the bottle from Nick and squeezing shampoo in his hair. While Taylor was scrubbing his head, Nick was thinking about how good it felt to have Taylor running his fingers through his hair when they were out on the lawn.

"I like it when you do that," Nick said. "It makes my head feel good."

Taylor didn't say anything back. He just kept scrubbing Nick's hair, taking his time while he did it. Nick relaxed up against Taylor's chest and smiled. If there was one wish Nick could have that night, it would have been for him to never have to move from that spot. Unfortunately, the water was getting cold and Nick had to move. They both stood up and Nick used shampoo to wash Taylor's hair for him, then while they both still had soapy heads, Nick let the water out of the tub, then he turned on the shower and they both rinsed off. Nick rinsed first, then Taylor got under the water and rinsed off.

"Did you have fun?" Nick asked as he and Taylor dried off.

"Yeah," Taylor answered with a smile. "We made a big mess, but it was funny."

"Me too," Nick said with a grin as he threw his towel around his neck. They walked down the hall to Nick's room, and when they got in there, they both put on a pair of underwear and a tee shirt. Nick turned on the TV and sat down on the beanbag with Taylor to watch. While they were watching TV, Nick snuggled over into Taylor's shoulder and reached for his hand. Taylor turned and smiled at him, and then he put his cheek up against Nicks for a moment. Even though Nick had never really kissed anyone before, he felt like he wanted to give Taylor a kiss like he saw his dad give Lori. He was starting to feel sexy again, and he wasn't sure how to act. He was thinking about whether or not he should kiss Taylor when his door opened.

"I didn't know you were out of the tub," Jim said as he walked in with the brush in his hand. "Let me brush your hair, son."

Nick got up and walked over to where his dad was sitting on his bed. While Jim was brushing out his hair, Nick was watching Taylor on the beanbag.

"I hope you two plan on wearing pajama's tonight," Jim said. "You're going to get cold."

"We'll be ok, daddy," Nick said. "We're comfy right now."

"Well, alright," Jim said shrugging his shoulders. "But if it gets cold, I expect you to put on some pajama pants."

"We will," Nick said. "We aren't going to get cold tonight though."

"Why don't you two come downstairs and keep your cousin company," Jim asked.

"Do we have to," Nick asked. Jim gave him an angry look, and he looked down.

"It's not going to kill you, son," Jim said. "He's your cousin, and I don't expect you to ignore him."

Nick and Taylor followed Jim downstairs to the family room, where Jim sat on the love seat next to Lori. James was sitting alone on the couch, so Nick and Taylor sat by him. Nick thought that James looked uncomfortable, so he crawled over to him and gave him a hug.

"I love you," Nick said as he hugged his cousin.

"Awwww. I love you too, Nick," James said. "You are so sweet."

"Will you massage my feet," Nick asked him.

"Sure," James said shrugging. Nick lay on his back and put his feet in James' lap, like he did in the front yard, and James rubbed Nick's feet for him.

"Taylor, do my hair again," Nick said as he lifted his head up. Taylor moved down the couch and let Nick lay his head down in his lap. Taylor's fingers started moving through his hair, and Nick watched his face as he worked.

"This feels good," Nick said out loud to no one in particular.

Taylor was smiling down at Nick as he ran his fingers through his hair, and Nick thought about being in the tub with him and how special it was to him. He was starting to feel like every moment that he got to spend with Taylor was special, and he felt lucky to have met him.

While they were watching TV, everyone started to fall asleep. Nick had stopped paying attention to everything but his thoughts about Taylor, and when he finally stopped and looked around the family room, he saw that Lori, James and his dad were asleep. Taylor was awake, but Nick could tell that he was trying hard not to fall asleep.

"Are you sleepy," Nick asked as he sat up.

Taylor nodded and yawned, and Nick stood up and stretched.

"Let's go to bed," Nick said.

"Ok," Taylor said as he stood up and stretched his arms. Nick walked over to the love seat and gave his dad a kiss goodnight.

"Hey, Buddy," Jim said as he opened his eyes. "Are you going to bed?"

Nick nodded and gave his dad a small hug, and then he followed Taylor up the stairs to his room. When they got upstairs, Nick could hear his dad waking Lori and James up to tell them to come upstairs. He walked behind Taylor to the bathroom and stood next to him at the toilet to pee. When they were done, they walked out of the bathroom just in time to see Jim carrying James, who was sleeping, down the hall to his room. They went into Nick's room and crawled into bed, and soon Jim was in there to tuck them in.

"Goodnight boys," Jim said as he pulled the covers over them.

"Goodnight daddy," Nick said as he reached up and kissed his dad on the cheek.

"I love you, son," Jim said as he kissed Nick back. "I love you too Taylor."

Taylor smiled shyly and said, "I love you too Mr. James."

"You two have sweet dreams, ok," Jim said as he stood up. "I'll see you in the morning."

Jim turned off the light as he walked out and shut the door behind him. Nick snuggled up to Taylor and asked, "Are you comfy?"

"Yeah," Taylor answered.

"Taylor," Nick asked.

"What?" he replied.

"Do you like spending time with me," Nick asked as he laid his head on Taylor's chest.

"Yes," Taylor said wrapping his arm around Nick. "You're my best friend."

"Can I rub your tummy," Nick asked as he ran his hand under Taylor's tee shirt and started rubbing his warm stomach.

"You already are, silly," Taylor said with a warm smile that Nick couldn't seem to pull his eyes from. "It feels funny."

Nicks hand kept rubbing over Taylor's belly button, which stuck out, and Taylor would giggle every time it did. Taylor wrapped both of his arms around Nick and held him while they got comfortable again. Nick finally put his head on Taylor's chest again and caught his breath, just in time for Taylor to give him a kiss on the cheek.

"I love you, Nick," Taylor said.

"I love you too Taylor," Nick said as he snuggled up to his chest. Nick lay still for a while and thought about the kiss they just had. He wondered if it was wrong or not, and he wondered if Taylor was going to tell anyone what happened. This time was different from before. He and Taylor had always kept the feelings they had a secret, but he felt like this was way more important than that. Nick was starting to realize something important about himself tonight, and even though he always felt like Taylor was cute, now he realized that he really did have a crush on Taylor, and he knew what that meant.

Nick didn't feel ashamed of himself, but he wasn't sure if he was ready to tell anyone. He was scared that if he did tell anyone, especially his dad, that Taylor wouldn't get to spend the night anymore. Then he started thinking about Taylor. What did he think about all of this? Did it really mean what Nick thought it meant about him? Should he ask him? Nick wasn't sure what to do. He knew that he needed to talk to Taylor about it, but what if Taylor didn't feel the same way. After a while, Nick started to panic about what he was thinking. He looked up and saw Taylor's beautiful face, and he decided not to say anything to him. Maybe if Nick didn't bring it up, Taylor wouldn't care. Besides, Taylor had fallen asleep as soon as he wrapped his arms around Nick, so there was no use in waking him up. Nick snuggled closer to Taylor and decided to wait for a better time to tell him that he was gay.

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