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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 15 - by Nick

Nick blinked and started to open his eyes as he wondered if he had been dreaming or not. When his eyes finally focused, he smiled and realized that he hadn't been dreaming. His head was still on Taylor's chest, and he was wrapped in Taylor's arms. He put his nose to his friend's neck and inhaled slowly, and then he sighed. He used his hand to rub Taylor's warm stomach as he enjoyed the feeling of being in his embrace, then he closed his eyes again and fell back to sleep. He woke up when he felt his head being moved off Taylor's chest, and he felt Taylor crawling out of the bed.

"Where are you going," he asked as Taylor headed to the door.

"I have to go pee," Taylor yawned. Nick got up and followed him to the bathroom so he could go too. When they were finished, they walked back to Nick's room to get back under the covers.

"I'm cold Nick," Taylor complained as they got back under the blankets.

"Me too," Nick said shivering. When they curled up together under the covers for warmth, Taylor's cold feet hit the back of Nick's legs and a chill ran up his body.

"Hey!" Nick whined. "Your feet are cold."

"I know," Taylor said with his teeth chattering. "I'm freezing"

Nick used his hand to feel Taylor's stomach, which was still warm, and he smiled.

"Your tummies nice and warm," he said as he ran his hand in a circle over Taylor's mid section, hitting his belly button and making him giggle.

"Your hands feel cold," Taylor laughed as Nicks hand hit his belly button again. "It tickles."

"Want to watch TV?" Nick asked as he started to warm up. He reached for the remote and turned the TV on. While they watched, Nick could feel Taylor's hand rubbing his neck and back, and it was making him feel good. He turned and smiled at him, then he snuggled closer and thought for a while. He knew that his feelings for Taylor were something big, but he didn't really understand them. While he laid there, his thoughts ran back and forth, between his feelings for Taylor as a good friend, and his feelings for Taylor in a different way. He really wanted to tell him how he felt, and what was going through his mind, but he was scared that if he did, Taylor might get weirded out and not want to be his friend anymore, so he just stayed quiet and let him rub his back. Every once in a while, Nick would look up at Taylor and smile. When Taylor would smile back at him, Nick's heart sped up for a while.

Eventually, Nick turned back toward Taylor and away from the TV so he could snuggle up closer to his chest. Taylor wrapped his arm around his shoulder, and it made him feel like he was on a cloud. Nick moved his hands back down to Taylor's stomach and looked up at him with a grin on his face. Taylor looked back down at him with his own grin and that's when Nick decided to go for it. In moment that happened in a flash for him, he quickly extended his neck just far enough to put his lips up to Taylor's and steal a fast kiss, then he pulled away and blushed.

In reply, Taylor quietly wiggled around a little, getting comfortable with Nick still wrapped up in his embrace, then he sighed as Nick closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around his friend lovingly.

"I like that," Taylor said with a smile. "It makes me feel so good."

"Did you like it when I kissed you," Nick asked a little nervously.

Taylor didn't answer him. Instead, he smiled shyly at him and wrapped his arms around him for a hug. Nick felt so good in Taylor's arms that he decided not to say another word about it. They lay together that way until they heard the toilet flush in the bathroom, and they knew that James was up. They both got up to go to the bathroom again. Nick wanted to hold Taylor's hand so bad as they walked down the hall, but he didn't know for sure, if it was something Taylor would want to do after the kiss they just shared, so he just walked with him instead.

When they finished in the bathroom, they went downstairs to see what James was doing. As they approached the kitchen, they could hear James on the phone.

"But why," they heard him say as he started to cry. They turned around and headed back to the stairs.

"I have to tell my dad," Nick said. "I hope he's not going to get mad."

They went back upstairs and down the hall to Jim's room, where Nick knew that he was sleeping next to Lori. Nick knocked, but there was no answer.

"Daddy," he said through the door. "Daddy, wake up. I need help."

There was still no answer, so Nick knocked a little harder. Finally, he knocked as hard as he could, then he opened the door.

Lori must have heard the knocking, because when Nick opened the door, she was sitting straight up with no top on at all, and nothing covering her boobs. Nick turned his head as fast as he could, but it was too late. He saw everything. He looked for Taylor, but he was nowhere to be found.

"Nick!" Jim said angrily as he sat up. "I told you to knock goddamnit!"

"I did," Nick said, starting to cry. "You didn't answer."

Nick stood and cried out of embarrassment, and out of fear. He was sure his dad was going to whip him for what he walked in on. Jim got out of the bed and took Nick into the hallway.

"I'm sorry daddy," Nick sobbed as he waited for his spanking.

"You need to knock first," Jim said softly. "I'm sorry I yelled at you. What did you need son?"

Nick was still sniffling as he told his dad about James on the phone, so after he got a hug, his dad went downstairs to check on James.

Nick went into his room to see if Taylor was in there, and when he walked in, Taylor looked at him nervously.

"I'm sorry, Nick," Taylor said with a sad voice. "Did you get in trouble?"

"A little," Nick said. "It's not your fault though."

"I got scared and ran away," Taylor explained.

"I know, it's ok," Nick said. "I was scared too."

"Is Miss Lori mad at me," Taylor asked.

"No, I think she might be mad at me though," Nick said sadly. "I know my dad was at first."

"Is she going to yell at us," Taylor asked, almost on the verge of tears.

"Maybe she'll just yell at me instead," Nick said, feeling worried. He hadn't thought about whether or not Lori would be upset with him. The idea of her yelling at him or being mad at him made him feel awful.

"Let's just stay in here and watch TV," Taylor said. Nick sat down on the bed and worried about what Lori would say to him when she saw him. His bedroom door was still open, so he could see out into the hallway as Lori walked passed his door to the stairs. He looked at Taylor, who looked relieved, which was how Nick felt.

"At least she didn't come in here and yell at us," Taylor said.

"Yeah," Nick said. "I wonder if her feelings are hurt."

"I hope not," Taylor said sadly. "I don't want her to be sad."

Nick sat still and watched the TV for a while, trying not to worry about whether or not Lori was mad or sad. When a commercial came on, he looked over at Taylor, and he noticed that he had tears running down his cheeks.

"What's wrong?" Nick said as he moved closer to his friend.

"I don't want Miss Lori to be mad at us," Taylor sobbed.

"It's ok, Taylor," Nick said, putting his arm around him. "I'll go talk to her if you want."

"What if she yells at you," Taylor asked through his crying.

"It'll be ok," Nick said. "I won't cry. Wait here and I'll go talk to her."

Nick got up and walked downstairs, feeling nervous the whole way. On the way down, he thought about what he was going to say to her, but nothing he thought up seemed right. Finally, he reached the bottom of the stairs. From the kitchen, he could hear his dad and Lori talking to James, trying to make him feel better, so he walked slowly and quietly to the entrance of the kitchen. When he looked inside the kitchen, he could see James sitting on Jim's lap, still crying a little, but he had a small smile on his face. Lori was sitting in a chair next to them running her hand over James' face and talking to him.

"Miss Lori," Nick said cautiously. "When you're done, can I talk to you if you aren't mad at me?"

"Honey I'm not mad at you," she said sweetly. "Come here." She held out her arms for him, so he walked over and gave her a hug.

"Will you tell Taylor you're not mad at him?," Nick asked.

"Taylor thinks I'm mad at him?" Lori replied.

"Yes ma'am," Nick answered. "He's crying."

Lori sighed with a sad look on her face, then she got up and took Nicks hand and together they walked upstairs. When they got to Nicks room, Taylor was laying down on the bed sniffling. It looked to Nick like he started crying harder when Nick left to go downstairs.

"Taylor, why are you crying sweetie," she asked.

"I don't want you to be mad at us," Taylor said sadly. "I'm sorry."

Lori sat on the bed and hugged Taylor. "It's alright," she said softly. "We didn't hear you guys knocking."

"Are you mad," Taylor asked, still sniffling.

"No," Lori said. "I was never mad at you, or Nick."

"Mr. James was," Taylor said.

"He just yells," Lori said. "He wasn't yelling at you anyway. I don't even think he saw you."

"Do you want to stay in here with us and watch TV?" Nick asked.

"Sure," Lori said. They let her sit down on the beanbag first, and then they each sat next to her, one on each side and watched TV.

"Miss Lori," Nick said as the commercials started. "Is James still sad?"

"Yes he is sweetie," she answered. "I think he's going to be ok though."

"Did he call his mommy and daddy," Taylor asked.

Lori nodded with a sad smile, then she looked back toward the TV.

"Does he want to be alone with my dad right now," Nick asked.

"I think he just needs to be with someone who loves him," she said. "He misses his family."

"Are you going to cook us breakfast today?" Nick asked with a grin. He was hoping that she would, but he wasn't sure. He knew that she cooked better than anyone he knew, and that included his grandmothers.

"Maybe we should go downstairs and see what James and your daddy want to have," Lori said with a smile. "How about you guys? What do you feel like having?"

"Can you make me grits," Nick asked.

"Sure I can," she said. "What are you hungry for Taylor?"

"I liked what you made us last weekend," he said with a smile as he looked up at her. "It was so good."

The three of them got up and went downstairs together, and Lori cooked breakfast. After they ate, Jim told Nick, James, and Taylor that they needed to get some fresh air, so they got dressed and went outside.

"Let's ride our bikes," Nick said.

"I don't know if I can," James said. "I'm still grounded, remember?"

"But didn't dad say that it didn't count this weekend?" Nick reminded him.

"What if I go and he didn't mean that I could ride my bike though," James asked nervously.

"Why don't you go ask?" Nick suggested.

James went back inside while Nick and Taylor walked around the side of the house to the garage. They got their bikes out and took off. Nick figured that James would catch up to them on the trail. As they rode their bikes, Nick lost track of time, and soon he realized that James never caught up to them.

"Let's go back and see what's taking him so long," Nick said. Taylor followed him back to his house, and after they parked their bikes in the garage, they went inside to see what happened with James. When they got inside, the house was quiet, except for the sound of the washing machine running, which was coming from the laundry room. They looked around for everyone, and finally they found them sitting in the back yard on the patio. When Nick and Taylor went out there, Jim looked angry.

"Nick, you need to come inside so I can talk to you," he said irritably. Nick followed his dad inside and as soon as Jim shut the door, he took Nick by the hand and forcibly led him to the couch.

"Why the f**k did you guys leave without James?" Jim said angrily. "I could have sworn that I asked you to be nice to him!"

"We thought he was going to catch up," Nick said as he tried not to start crying. "We weren't being mean to him, daddy. I promise."

"Well, you two really hurt his feelings," Jim said with a disappointed tone. "He went back out there and you were just gone. How do you think that made him feel?"

"Bad," Nick said sadly as he thought about how James must've felt when he realized that they were gone. "I thought he was going to catch up to us."

"Would you like to tell me where the hell you think James knows how to go around here?" Jim asked sarcastically. "He just got here son. You know better than that."

Nick put his head down and started to sniffle. He didn't want to start crying, but the way his dad was talking to him, plus the way he knew he had hurt James' feelings, made him feel awful. He looked up at his father, who was giving him a disappointed look, and he fell apart.

"I'm sorry daddy," he cried. "I didn't mean too."

Jim sat next to him and wrapped an arm around him, rubbing his back and trying to make him feel better.

"Son, you don't have to cry," Jim said as he lifted Nick into his lap. "I'm sorry if I made you feel bad, but I wanted you to know how you made James feel. His feelings were really hurt."

"I know," Nick sobbed as he laid his head up against his dad's chest. "I don't want him to be sad today. He already had his feelings hurt this morning and now I did it again."

"What happened early this morning wasn't your fault, honey," Jim said softly as he ran his fingers through Nick's hair. "I know you didn't mean to hurt his feelings. I'm not mad at you. I was just upset because James took it hard. He thinks you guys are teaming up on him."

"But we're not," Nick said defensively, still sniffling.

"I know you're not, son," Jim said. "But you need to talk to him. I want you to get yourself together and then I want you and James to have a talk all by yourselves. Is that understood?"

"Yes sir," Nick said, wiping more tears from his eyes.

"Good," Jim said as he gave Nick a tight hug. "After you two talk, I have a surprise for the both of you."

"What is it," Nick asked.

"That's none of your business," Jim said jokingly. "You'll see it when you get it."

Jim set Nick down and told him to wait on the couch while he went back out to the patio. A few moments later, James walked inside and closed the door. Nick got up from the couch and went to him, wrapping his arms around him and giving him a hug.

"I'm sorry James," Nick said as he started to sob again. "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I thought you would know how to find us."

"Don't cry," James said in a sweet voice. "It's ok, Nick. I'm not mad."

"But I'm stupid," Nick said, feeling discouraged. "I didn't even think about you not knowing your way around here."

"You aren't stupid Nick," James said. "Don't say that."

"It's true," Nick said sadly. "I'm stupid and I'm ugly."

"You aren't ugly," James said. "Oh my god, don't say that. You're cute, Nick."

"No I'm not," Nick said sadly. "I used to be cute when I was a baby, but not now."

"Stop it," James said. "You are so cute. Trust me."

Nick didn't really think he was ugly, but he was being hard on himself for the way he messed up. He did feel like he was stupid, but mainly because when Jim was yelling at him, the things he was saying to Nick made him feel that way. Nick was ashamed that his dad had to make him stop and think about something as simple as James not knowing his way around. He wondered what his dad must've thought of him, and how stupid his dad must've thought he was.

"You don't think I'm stupid?" Nick asked.

"No way," James said as they walked back to the couch together to sit down.

"You really think I'm cute?" Nick asked.

"Of course I do," James said with a smile.

"Taylor said he thinks I'm cute too," Nick said with a grin.

"I think Taylor's kind of cute," James said. "Do you like him?"

Nick looked shyly at his cousin and smiled, then he looked away.

"We're just friends," Nick said.

"If you like him you should tell him," James said.

"He's not gay," Nick said. "I don't want him to not be friends with me anymore."

"Maybe he likes you too," James said grinning. "He told you that he thinks you're cute."

Nick started to feel nervous, and he didn't want to talk about it anymore, so he changed the subject.

"Dad said he has a surprise for us," Nick said.

"I know," James said. "He won't say what it is though."

"Let's go tell him that we want it right now," Nick said as he jumped up off the couch and pulled James up by the hand, and they went back out to the back yard to beg Jim for the surprise.

"First you need to take a shower," Jim said. "We have to go get it, and I'm not taking 3 smelly boys out in public."

Nick and Taylor waited for James to shower, then they took theirs. When they were finished, they got dressed and Jim did Nicks hair. While they waited downstairs, Jim and Lori took their showers and got ready. Nick noticed that Lori seemed to take forever to get ready, and he wondered why. The shower had stopped a long time ago, but for some reason, she took longer than anyone to get her hair ready. Jim was already downstairs waiting with them when Lori finally came downstairs. Nick thought she looked beautiful.

"You look really pretty Miss Lori," Nick said as he climbed into the back seat next to Taylor.

"Thank you sweetheart," she said.

On the way, Nick and James tried to get Jim to tell them what the surprise was, but he wasn't cooperating. Nick noticed that he was taking them out toward the country to an area that Nick had never even seen before. He watched as the signs started to say that the North Carolina state line was only a few miles from where they were. Finally, they pulled into a driveway and drove down. When they got out, and woman came out of the garage to greet them.

She talked with Lori and Jim for a few moments, then they all followed her into the house. As soon as they walked inside, Nick could hear yelping coming from another room, and as they walked through the house, the yelping got louder. When the woman opened the door to the room where the yelping was coming from, Nick's eyes got big. There were about five puppies curled up together, and they were the cutest things Nick had ever seen.

Nick looked up at his dad, who was smiling down at him and James.

"You two need to decide which one you want," Jim said. James had a huge smile on his face as he and Nick looked over all of the puppies. They all looked so tiny that Nick was scared he would hurt one if he tried to pick it up. Finally, James lifted one up and looked it over. It was a boy, and Nick looked him over with James. It was brown all over and it had a red nose and sad eyes. Everything about him was so small, even his tail and his ears. Nick reached out, took his little paw in his hand, and rubbed it with the tips of his fingers.

"He's so cute," James said. "I love him."

"What are we going to name him?" Nick asked.

"Do you like this one," James asked him.

Nick nodded and smiled, so James handed him the puppy. Nick was so nervous as he held it that he almost forgot how to handle it, but he finally relaxed and cradled it in his arms.

"Let's give him a Greek name," Nick said.

"Like what," James asked.

Nick thought about it for a minute, then he looked up at his dad, who shrugged. Finally, a name popped into Nicks head.

"His name is Skalaki," Nick said with a proud smile.

"What kind of name is that," James asked with a giggle.

"It means dog," Nick said.

Taylor was laughing as Nick and James went back and forth about the name of the dog. Nick gave him a smile and held the puppy out to him.

"Hold him Taylor," Nick said. "He's soft and cuddly."

"I wish I had a puppy," Taylor said as he took it from Nick. "They're so cute."

"Well, when you come over, he's your puppy to play with too," Jim said. Taylor looked up at him with a smile, and then he pet the puppy again. Finally, he handed it to James, who gently took it and gave it a kiss.

"I love you," James said as he rubbed his nose up against the puppy's nose. While Jim and Lori were busy talking to the lady, James, Nick and Taylor stayed behind in the room and played with the other puppies.

"I wish we could have them all," Nick said. "They're all so adorable."

Finally, the adults came back into the room and Jim told them it was time to leave.

"He's not ready to come home with us yet, boys," Jim explained. "We'll be able to take him in about two weeks. He's still nursing."

"Can we come back and see him," James asked sadly.

"Sure we can," Jim said. "I promise."

On the way home, Nick and James pouted about not being able to bring the puppy home, but Jim talked to them about it, and they cheered up. When they got home, it was starting to rain, so they stayed inside and played cards with Jim and Lori. When they got tired of playing cards, Jim took them to the movies.

When they got home, Taylor called his parents and asked if he could spend the night again. His dad talked to Jim, and then he said it was ok. Nick got excited when Taylor told him that his dad said it was all right to stay the night again, and he started making plans in his head about what they could do together. The rain stopped, but it was chilly outside, so they ate inside. After supper, Jim went out onto the patio and started the grill. James and Lori were outside with him, so Nick and Taylor decided to go see what he was doing. When he had a good flame going, he went back inside and came back out with some marshmallows. He had a skewer for everyone, and they all held their marshmallows over the flame until they were roasted and gooey. As it got later, they went inside to watch a movie in the family room.

Jim and Lori took the love seat while Nick, Taylor and James sat on the couch. As the movie was starting, James moved to the floor where he laid on his stomach to watch. Nick snuggled up next to Taylor and relaxed. After a while, it started to get chilly so Jim paused the movie and went upstairs to get a few blankets. He gave one to James and one to Nick and Taylor to share, then he sat back down next to Lori and they covered up under their own blanket. As they watched the movie, Nick looked around the room and noticed that everyone was paying attention to the movie, even Taylor. When he looked over at his dad and Lori, he noticed that they were sitting together in a romantic way that he really wouldn't have been able to explain, except that he knew that it was how two people who were dating would sit. It looked like Lori was almost sitting in his dads lap. He wondered if Taylor would ever want to sit like that with him, so he decided to try something.

He slipped his arm down under the blanket and ran his hand down Taylor's back. Taylor stopped watching the movie for a moment so that he could adjust himself to where Nicks hand could rub his back. He smiled at Nick, and then he went back to watching the movie. Nick responded by putting his hand up the back of Taylor's shirt. Feeling Taylor's warm skin was making Nick feel sexy, so he used his other hand to hold onto Taylor's shirt from the front side, then he started rubbing Taylor's stomach. Taylor laid his head on Nicks shoulder and smiled, but he kept his eyes on the movie. Nick was feeling so sexy at this point, that he wanted to plant a kiss on Taylor's lips, but he didn't dare try it with his dad, Lori and James in the room. As his hands ran all over Taylor's back and stomach, he felt Taylor's hand start to rub his back. He looked around the room and no one was watching, so he put his nose up to Taylor's and rubbed it the way he saw James do with the puppy earlier in the day. Taylor giggled and moved his hand a little lower down Nicks back.

Nick curled up closer to Taylor, so that he looked to be in the same position with him that Lori was in with his dad. As he snuggled up closer to Taylor, he pretended to himself that Taylor was his boyfriend and that they lived together. Being so close to Taylor was making him wish they were alone so he could steal a kiss, but he knew there was no way. He didn't mind though, because he felt like he was dreaming. Just being able to be Taylor's boyfriend, even if it was just in his head for a while, felt like a dream that had come true.

"Who's thirsty?" Jim asked as he started to get up halfway through the movie. Nick and Taylor pulled their hands out and sat up, and everyone spoke up that they needed a drink. Jim brought everyone soda, then they settled back down for the rest of the movie. This time, James sat down on the couch with Nick and Taylor, so as the movie started, they had to try to keep their hands to themselves. As the movie wore on, Nicks eyes started to get heavy, and when he looked at Taylor, he saw that he was already asleep.

"Let's go to bed," Nick said as he shook Taylor awake. Taylor yawned and got up to follow Nick up the stairs. When they got upstairs, they went to the bathroom. On the way down the hall to Nick's room, James came upstairs and went into the bathroom.

"I'm gonna go tell my dad goodnight," Nick said as he watched Taylor strip down to his underwear.

Nick went back downstairs and gave his dad and Lori a kiss goodnight, then he walked back up the stairs. As he walked to his bedroom door, he noticed that James was still awake, so he went into his room first to say goodnight.

"Goodnight James," Nick said as he gave his cousin a hug.

"Goodnight," James said. "I love you."

"I love you too," Nick said.

"What are you and Taylor going to do," James asked, sounding like he wasn't ready to go to bed yet.

"Probably just talk and stuff," Nick answered. "Maybe we'll watch TV or something."

"That's all I'm going to do," James said. "I'm going to see what's on TV and go to sleep."

"Taylor might already be sleeping," Nick said, feeling a little disappointed about that. He was hoping that when he got back to his room, Taylor would still be awake so that they could snuggle up close before they fell asleep.

"I saw you guys when we were watching the movie," James said. "You looked so cute together."

"We were just snuggling," Nick said almost defensively.

James grinned and sat down on his bed.

"You want to kiss him, huh," James asked.

"No," Nick said, but he knew that James could tell that he was lying.

"I think you like him," James said. "I think he likes you too."

"We're just friends," Nick said. "I swear."

James gave Nick a look that said that he didn't believe him, and Nick decided to go to bed.

"I believe you," James said right before Nick walked out. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight," Nick said as he walked out of James' room and down the hall to his room. When he got there, Taylor was under the covers, but he hadn't fallen asleep yet. Nick stripped down as fast as he could to his underwear, then he got under the covers with Taylor. As he started to get comfortable, Jim opened the door and walked in.

"I wanted to tuck you in buddy," Jim said as he kissed Nick on the forehead.

"Goodnight daddy," Nick said. "I love you."

"I love you too son," Jim said as he pulled the covers up over them. "Goodnight Taylor."

"Goodnight Mr. James," Taylor said sweetly. "I love you."

"I love you too pal," Jim said. "You two get some sleep now, ok?"

"Yes sir," Nick said. "Are we going to church tomorrow?"

"Yes we are," Jim answered. "We're going to get up early and have breakfast."

Jim got up from the bed and turned on the lamp by Nick's bed, then he turned off the light switch for the main light in Nick's room before he closed the door on his way out.


"Do you think papu's going to be hot," Nick asked as Jim pulled into a parking space at the airport in Norfolk.

"He'll live," Jim chuckled. "It's not so bad here."

As they got out of the car, Nick took the time to stop and feel the heat that he had become so used to, and he realized that compared to California, the weather was miserable and his papu was going to hate it. Nick held onto his dads hand as they walked through the entrance and got on the escalator to the second floor, and when they got to the gate that his papu was supposed to be exiting from, they found a place to sit down and relaxed. The arrival time came and passed, and there was still no sign of the flight, so they got up and went to a monitor to see if the flight was delayed. The screen still said that the flight was on time, so they made their way to A&W to get something to drink.

As soon as they got their drinks, they were back at the gate, waiting patiently for the flight to arrive. While they waited, Nick noticed another family waiting at the same gate. It looked like a husband, wife and son, and Nick thought that the son was especially good looking. He had brown hair and pouty lips, and when he stood up, Nick noticed that he had a bubble butt. Just as he was thinking to himself that he couldn't take his eyes off him, Jim spoke up.

"There he is," he said, snapping Nick out of his trance. Nick looked up and saw his papu walking toward them with a huge grin on his face, so he hopped up and ran as fast as he could toward him.

"Papu!" Nick almost yelled as he ran into his arms. "I love you."

"I love you too, my little polakia," his papu answered as he wrapped his arms around Nick and lifted him off the ground. "I missed you so much."

"I missed you to papu," Nick said as he started to cry a little.

"What's wrong," his papu asked as he hugged him close.

"I want you to live by us again," Nick cried. Earlier in the day, Nick had no idea that all of this was going to come out, but now that he was actually with his papu, he couldn't help how he felt. He just wanted to let it all out.

Jim walked up and wrapped his arms around his dad, and Nick thought he heard his dad sobbing a little, but he wasn't sure about it.

"I missed you dad," Jim said.

"I missed you too, son," the elder Nick said.

"I'm glad you came," Jim said. "Are you hungry?"

"I'm starving," said the elder Nick. Then he lifted Nicks head off his shoulder and asked, "What about you, little one? Are you hungry?"

Nick smiled and nodded, and then he put his head back on his papu's shoulder and held on. They walked down to the baggage claim area, and as soon as they collected all of the luggage, they went to the car.

"Jesus Christ!" big Nick exclaimed as soon as they walked outside of the airport. "What are they trying to do, kill us?"

Nick giggled and smiled at his dad, who looked embarrassed.

"I told you he wouldn't like it," Nick said.

"Dad, it's not that bad," Jim said. "You'll get used to it after a few days."

They got in the car and headed to a restaurant so that they could find something to eat. They stopped half way back to the house at Fudruckers, a place that Jim, Nick and James found by accident a couple of weeks before, and they ate. After they ate, they got back in the car and headed home. On the way, Nick couldn't stop asking his papu questions about California and their old house. He knew that his uncle Brandon had moved in it, but for some reason, he had this idea in his head that he had painted it or chopped down the trees in the yard.

"Everything's still the same, buddy," his papu said. "You're uncle Brandon is way to lazy to do anything like that."

"What about my yard," Jim asked. "Has he been keeping it up?"

His dad cleared his throat and smiled.

"Let's just say that someone has been keeping it up, but I wouldn't say he has."

"That's what I thought," Jim said with a grin. "I'm going to kick his a** if I go back there next year and my house is f***** up."

"Son, I'm not going to let him do anything stupid to it," big Nick said softly.

As they pulled into the driveway, Nick noticed that his papu seemed impressed.

"Wow, son, this is nice," he said as they got out. They unloaded his luggage from the trunk and went inside. Once they were inside, Jim took his dads bags upstairs to the spare room and called for James. Just as Jim was calling out for him, Nick found a note on the counter in the kitchen from James saying that he went next door for lunch, so after Jim was through getting his dad settled, he called Tom and Linda to let them know that they were home. While they waited for Tom and Linda to show up with James, Nick took his papu by the hand and dragged him around the entire house. Showing him that there were 'two living rooms,' a refrigerator that spit out water and ice from the door, and all of the other things that he was still fascinated by about his new house.

Just as Nick was opening the back door to show his papu the backyard, he heard the front door opening. James slowly made his way into the family room and smiled shyly at Nick and his papu, and right behind him, Tom and Linda walked in and greeted them both.

"It's good to see you Nick," Tom said as he walked straight up to his old friend and shook his hand.

"How are you," the elder Nick replied. "It's been to long, Tom."

Linda stepped forward and gave him a hug, and as Nick watched, his papu and his grandparents from his moms' side of the family greet each other, and he felt relieved. He wasn't sure why, but he wasn't expecting them to remember each other.

As he listened, Nick realized just how well his papu knew his grandparents. Tom and Linda were asking him questions about Nick's big papu, about Nick's uncles and his Yia Yia, and they talked about certain roads and lakes in California that Nick knew about, but that he figured his grandparents didn't know about. But they were sitting there with his papu, acting like they were just there yesterday. Eventually, they made their way out onto the patio again, and Nick listened while his papu complained about the humidity. Everyone told him not to worry, that in a few days he wouldn't notice it anymore, and eventually, they changed the subject again.

"What are you two doing for dinner tonight," Jim asked Tom and Linda.

"We'll probably eat out," Tom said.

"Why don't you guys come to dinner with us?" Jim said.

While they were discussing dinner, James got up and went to the garage. When he came back, he was holding the new puppy.

"This is Skalaki," Nick said as he took him from James. "He's our new puppy."

Nick handed him to his papu, who lifted him up into the air and smiled. He said something to the dog in Greek that Nick could barely understand, then he handed him back.

"Have you fed him today," Jim asked.

"I fed him before I went next door," James said. "I let him out for a while, too."

"Nick, it's your turn to take care of him tonight then," Jim said sternly.

"Yes sir," Nick answered. He knew better than to argue the point with his dad. After they brought the dog home, Nick tried to get away with having James feed it and clean up after it all of the time, but eventually, James spoke up, and Nick got stuck doing all of the chores for a few days by himself to make up for sticking it to James. Now they took turns, and Nick made sure that if his dad said to do something for the dog, he did it.

As the afternoon wore on, it got hotter outside, so everyone went in and sat in the AC. Eventually, Tom and Linda went home and Nick's papu settled into the recliner. Nick knew that he wouldn't be able to stay awake, and he was right. Almost as soon as he put his legs up, he fell asleep. Nick crawled into the recliner with his papu and watched TV for a while, but eventually, he fell asleep as well.

As they all sat together at the restaurant, Nick looked around the table and beamed. He felt so proud to be sitting there with everyone that he loved, so he soaked up the moment. They were all talking about different things, but all of the things they were talking about seemed to relate to Nicks life somehow. When the food came out, the conversation died down a bit while everyone ate, but after a few moments, it started again. Nicks papu started talking to James about the last time he was at his house, and they talked about the stream in the backyard that James remembered swimming in.

"You went swimming in the stream?" Nick asked.

"Yep," James answered with a smile. "I still remember it."

"You couldn't have been older than 4 or 5," Jim said. "I can't believe that you remembered that."

Nick listened patiently for more stories about California as the conversation went on. He noticed that James was calling his papu "Big Nick", and it made him smile. He never thought about anyone calling his papu that before, and he wondered if that made him "Little Nick." After giving it way too much thought, Nick shrugged and concentrated on the conversation again.

That evening when they got home, James went upstairs to take a shower and Jim checked the voice mail to see who called while Nick and his papu went to the garage to get Skalaki and bring him inside.

"Taylor called," Jim said. "I guess you didn't tell him you wouldn't be home tonight."

"I forgot," Nick said. "Can I call him back?"

"Go ahead, but use the cordless and go outside with Skalaki," Jim said. "Make sure he goes before you bring him in."

"Yes sir," Nick said. He picked up the phone and walked out the back door with his puppy. As soon as he closed the door, he set the dog down and dialed Taylor's number. Taylor answered the phone on the first ring, and Nick smiled as soon as he heard his voice.

"Hello," Taylor said.

"Hi," Nick said sweetly.

"Hi Nick," Taylor said. "How are you?"

"I'm ok," Nick answered. "My papu came today and we went out to dinner."

"How long is he going to be there," Taylor asked.

"Just for a week," Nick said sadly. "I wish he was going to live here. How are you?"

"I'm doing good," Taylor said. "I'm bored though."

"I wish you could spend the night," Nick said. "We could camp in the family room."

"I don't think my dad will let me tonight," Taylor said. "He says you have company and that it's rude to go over there right now."

"It's not rude," Nick said. "You can come over if you want."

"My dad already said no," Taylor said sadly. "Maybe we can ride bikes tomorrow."

"Ok," Nick said, feeling disappointed. "This is going to be the first weekend since I moved here that you didn't spend the night."

"Can you ride your bike here tonight and just come over to play," Nick asked.

"I'll ask my dad, but I don't think he'll let me," Taylor said. Nick waited while Taylor asked and when he heard Charles tell him no, his heart sank.

"We'll ride bikes tomorrow then, I promise," Nick said. "We can build a jump on the trail."

"Ok," Taylor said. "It'll be fun."

"Yeah," Nick said as he tried not to let his disappointment get to him. He really missed Taylor all day long, and he felt like he was about to cry.

"What time do you want to meet at the trail," Taylor asked.

"How about early in the morning?" Nick said.

"Ok," Taylor said. "If you get there and I'm not there yet, ride to my house."

"I will," Nick said, feeling better. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Ok, I'll see you too," Taylor said. "Goodbye."

"Goodbye," Nick said as he hung up the phone. As sad as he felt about not seeing Taylor at all today, he felt good about getting to see him tomorrow. As he thought more about it, he wondered if they were going to church. If they were, he would get to see him there as well, and that brought a smile to his face. As he waited for Skalaki to go to the bathroom, the back door opened and James came out.

"What's talking so long," he asked.

"I don't know," Nick said. "I guess he doesn't have to go."

"We better wait," James said. "Remember what happened last time we didn't?"

Nick giggled as he thought about the incident that happened earlier in the week. James and Nick were tired of waiting for the dog to go, so they brought him inside and said he didn't have to go. A few moments later, Jim caught him in the corner, going on the carpet, and he exploded at both of them.

"Me and Taylor are going to ride bikes tomorrow morning if you want to come," Nick said.

"On the trail," James asked.

"Yeah," Nick said. "We're going to build a jump."

"Cool," James said. "I'll go."

"It's going to be early," Nick said. "Before we go to church."

"I'll be up," James said.

"Taylor's dad said he couldn't come over tonight," Nick pouted.

"I don't know if Uncle Jim would want him to spend the night tonight, Nick," James said. "We have company."

"Yeah, but Taylor's like family," Nick said. "I miss him."

"He can stay next weekend, can't he," James asked.

"Yeah," Nick said quietly.

"It'll be ok," James said as he put an arm around Nicks shoulder and gave it a squeeze.

"I know," Nick said. "But I just like spending time with him."

"You'll hang out tomorrow," James said. "Besides, big Nick's here now, so you should go inside and visit with him."

"I have to wait for Skalaki," Nick said.

"I'll wait," James said with a smile.

"Thanks James," Nick said with a smile. "I love you."

"I love you too Nick," James said.

When Nick got back inside, he talked to his dad about riding his bike with Taylor the next day.

"I don't care, as long as you guys are careful," he said. "Is James going with you?"

"Yes sir," Nick said. "Are we going to church tomorrow?"

"We sure are," Jim said. "So you need to be back in time to get ready."

"We will," Nick said.

"So who's Taylor," asked big Nick.

"He's my best friend," Nick said happily. "We're like brothers."

"He spends the night every weekend," Jim added. "He's a good kid. We started going to church with his family."

After a while, Nick went upstairs to take a shower. When he got out, his dad helped him get ready. When they went back downstairs, Nick's papu was sleeping in the recliner, snoring loudly. James was sitting with Skalaki on the loveseat grinning, and Nick noticed that the dog was watching his papu snore with an odd look on his face.

"Don't worry Skalaki," Nick said as he sat next to James and reached out to pet the dog. "He's just snoring, that's all."

That night, Nick lay awake and wondered if James was able to sleep at all. On one side of the hall, Jim was snoring loudly in his bed, and on the other side, Nicks papu was snoring twice as loud in his bed. The noise seemed unbearable to Nick, and he wondered how James was doing. He got up and crept across the hall to James' door, and he could see the light from James' lamp under the door, so he knocked.

"You couldn't sleep either," James asked. "This is ridiculous."

"I know," Nick said. "I never knew they both snored so loud."

"I'm used to Uncle Jim," James said. "But big Nick is killing me."

Nick giggled and sat down on James's bed. They stayed up and talked about different things, especially boys, and Nick realized after a few hours that this was the latest he had ever been up in his life.

"Who do you like at your school," James asked.

"I don't know," Nick answered shyly. "There's lots of cute guys there, especially in the 5th grade."

"Do you think Taylor has a crush on anyone," he asked.

"I don't know," Nick said. "I don't know if he thinks other boys look cute."

"He said you were cute," James reminded him.

"But that's just because we're friends," Nick said. "I don't think he likes boys like that."

"You like him like that though, huh?" James said with a grin.

Nick smiled and looked down. He really did like Taylor that way, but he was afraid to tell anyone. If he did, everyone would figure out that he was gay, and he was afraid that his dad wouldn't let Taylor spend the night anymore. Finally, he just shrugged.

"It's ok if you do, Nick," James said. "He's so cute, how could you not like him?"

Nick looked up at his cousin and smiled. He knew that James was right. Taylor was the cutest boy Nick knew, and he was the sweetest person he knew.

"I kind of like him," Nick finally admitted.

"Does he know," James asked.

"I don't know," Nick said. "He might."

"Did you tell him," James asked.

"No, not really," Nick said shyly. "But I think he knows."

"I think he likes you too," James said. "You guys always hold hands and stuff."

"Can I tell you something and you won't tell anyone else?" Nick asked.

"I promise," James said.

"Sometimes I like to pretend that Taylor's my boyfriend," Nick said. "There's something else too."

"What," James asked with a smile.

"I kissed him a couple of times," Nick admitted.

"On the lips," James asked.

Nick nodded and smiled, and then he looked away.

"Are you going to tell anyone," Nick asked.

"No, I promise," James said. "Nick, can I ask you something?"

"Yes," Nick answered shyly.

"Do you think you know if you're gay or not," he asked.

Nick nodded and said, "I know."

"Are you," James asked.

"Yes," Nick said. As soon as he said it, he felt his head whirl. It wasn't a good whirl, or a bad whirl, it was just a whirl. "I can't believe I just told someone."

"I won't tell unless you want me to," James said.

"I'm not ready to tell anyone else," Nick said. "I only told you because it's easy to tell you stuff, and I love you."

"Awww," James said sweetly as he hugged Nick. "I love you too, Nick. I swear I won't say anything."

For the rest of the night, Nick and James sat on the bed and talked about boys. Nick told James almost everything about him and Taylor including the way he tried to give him a French kiss. James talked about the cute guys at his school in Tennessee, and about the cute guys that were at his new school, Corporate Landing Middle School. Nick smiled as he thought about going there one day and getting to see the cute guys in the locker room, the way James did. As they talked, James had Nick sit in the chair by his bed and he styled his hair, then he filed Nick's nails and soaked his fingertips. As the sun started to come up, Nick didn't feel tired at all, so he and James got dressed and got on their bikes to go meet Taylor on the trail.

When they got there, Taylor hadn't shown up yet, so Nick led the way to his house. Just as they were riding up, Taylor was coming out of the side gate to his backyard on his bike, and Nick's heart fluttered when he spotted him. Taylor smiled sweetly at him and James, and after they talked for a few minutes, they rode back to the trail. When they got there, they noticed that someone had already built a ramp, so they took turns jumping it. It wasn't a very high ramp, so they decided to look for some more boards to raise it up with. James went one way while Nick and Taylor went another. While they were looking, Taylor surprised Nick by grabbing his bottom.

"Hey," Nick said playfully.

"No one can see," Taylor said with a grin. Then he reached out and did it again.

Nick turned around and did it back to him, just to show that he liked it.

"I wish you could've spent the night last night," Nick said as he rubbed Taylor's butt through his jeans. "I missed you."

Taylor gave him a smile, and Nick had an overwhelming urge to give him a kiss.

"I missed you too," Taylor said. They both looked around for James, who was nowhere to be seen, and Nick decided to go for it. He wrapped his arms around Taylor's waist and grabbed his butt again, then he planted a kiss on Taylor's lips and held it there. He could feel electricity running through his body as his lips pressed against Taylor's, so he opened his mouth and turned his face a little, then he tried to move in with his tongue again. Taylor had a naughty grin on his face as Nick pushed his tongue inside of his mouth, but he never used his tongue to push back. Finally, they broke the kiss and Nick rested his head on Taylor's shoulder. He could feel Taylor's arms wrapped around him and he smiled. He felt so good at that point, he didn't care if anyone saw them or not, but he eventually let go and they went back to looking for boards.

When they got back to the ramp, James was grinning at Nick like he knew what happened, but he didn't say anything. They raised the ramp and jumped it over and over again, and finally, Taylor's watch started beeping and he knew that it meant that he had to go home and get ready for Sunday school. Nick and James rode with Taylor to the edge of the trail that emptied out into his neighborhood, and then they started back down the trail to go home.

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