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Chapter 6

Jack and Brian rushed into the cabin, both speckled with the rain that had just started to fall.

"We made it." Brian said past a laugh.

"Yep. Safe and sound." Jack happily agreed as he closed the door.

"That rain sure is cold!" Brian said as he walked to the stove to check the fire.

"You can pretty much count on that when it's coming from the northeast. When it comes from the south, it's usually warm. Sometimes, if it's warm enough, we'll go out and just get soaking wet and enjoy it." Jack said with a smile at the memory.

Brian walked up to Jack and pulled him into a firm hug.

"What's that for?" Jack asked curiously.

"Just because." Brian said quietly.

"Is something wrong?" Jack asked with concern.

Brian chuckled, then said, "No. I just... can I just hold you like this for a little bit?"

Jack put his arms around Brian and said, "Sure, Brian. Everyone needs a hug sometimes. All you ever have to do is ask."

Brian nodded into Jack's chest and held him firmly.

* * * * *

Jack and Brian had been standing silently, holding each other for some time when Brian quietly asked, "Is there something else that we should be doing right now?"

"Not a thing." Jack said gently.

Brian slowly released his hug, then said, "I don't know what that was. But thanks."

"That was a whole lot of new things catching up to you all at once. Don't worry about it, that happens sometimes." Jack said with an assuring smile.

"Does it happen to you?" Brian asked uncertainly.

Jack thought for a moment, then said, "Now and then. I remember something like that happening about three weeks after Dillon died. One minute I was fine, then it hit me, all at once."

"That he was really dead?" Brian asked in a whisper.

"Yeah. That was part of it. But I think it was also that so much had happened and I'd been on emotional overload for so long that I finally reached a point where I had to let it out." Jack said distantly.

"It sucks that he died." Brian said quietly.

"Yeah. It does."

* * * * *

"Since it looks like we're going to be inside for the rest of the night, why don't we change into our sweats so we can be comfortable?" Jack asked casually.

Brian shrugged, then went to his side of the bed to get his clothes.

Jack watched Brian carefully, trying to gauge his reactions and detect any nervousness.

As far as Jack could tell, Brian wasn't the least bit bothered.

"Brian." Jack said to gain his attention.

With his pants half-way down, Brian looked over to see Jack standing completely naked.

"Take off your underwear." Jack said quietly.

Brian rolled his eyes, then pulled his pants the rest of the way off, followed by his underwear. When he was done, he spread his arms as if to say, 'Go ahead, take a good look'.

"Tell me how you're feeling right now." Jack said seriously.

"My butt's cold." Brian said flatly.

Jack chuckled, then asked, "But are you feeling afraid?"

"Nope. Cold butt. That's it." Brian said frankly as he crossed his arms across his chest impatiently.

"I guess you'd better cover it up, then." Jack said with a grin.

Brian rolled his eyes, then picked up his sweat pants and stepped into them.

"Just a couple days ago, you'd be on the verge of a panic attack even thinking about being completely naked in front of me." Jack said casually as he started to dress.

"Yeah. I guess. But it's different with you. I'm still not sure how I'll do around the guys in the locker room." Brian said thoughtfully as he pulled on his sweat shirt.

"I'm sure you'll feel nervous. But if you can just remember how nervous you were when you undressed with me and realize that nothing bad happened, then maybe you'll be able to make yourself do it anyway." Jack said reassuringly.

"I don't know. I mean, I know that you won't make fun of me. They will." Brian said quietly.

"And what will you do?" Jack asked as he sat down on the edge of the bed.

"I don't know... make fun of them back, maybe?" Brian ventured.

"I suppose you could do that." Jack said with a nod, then quietly added, "But teasing them back is bringing you down to their level; Playing on their field. I think some attitude and honesty might be more likely to make it so that the teasing will completely stop."

"So if someone teases me... what should I say?" Brian asked cautiously.

"How about, 'Yeah, it's big. Real big. So what've you got, little boy?'" Jack said with a grin.

Brian thought about the words, then broke into a smile as he said, "Wow. I can't even imagine what the guys would say to that!"

"They'll probably be too stunned to say anything. But once they get over the shock, they might try to provoke you one or two more times. If you can just keep turning it around on them, it'll stop being fun for them, real quick." Jack said frankly.

Brian slowly nodded, then quietly asked, "Is it too big?"

It took a moment for Jack to figure out what Brian was asking, but once he did, he said, "No. You're perfectly normal. I'll bet that within a year, the rest of your classmates will have caught up to you and no one will even think twice about it."

Brian absently nodded that he heard.

"I guess there's one other thing that I should mention while we're on the subject." Jack said hesitantly.

Brian looked up at Jack curiously.

"You're what's known as a 'shower'." Jack said carefully.

"What does that mean?" Brian asked hesitantly.

"Some guys are showers and some guys are growers. Being a shower means that your cock is pretty much the same size when it's limp or hard. So, at first glance you might look like you're a lot bigger than some other guys." Jack said honestly.

"How do theirs work?" Brian asked curiously.

"They usually look fairly small when they're limp, but when they get erect, they grow... a lot." Jack said frankly.

Brian seemed to be lost in thought, trying to process the new information.

"Realistically, I don't think it matters which you are, as long as it works. But if I had to choose to be one way or the other, I'd stay with being a shower... well, except that I can never wear spandex bicycle shorts. It looks like I'm trying to smuggle a kielbasa." Jack finished with a grin.

Brian chuckled, then said, "I think I can live without spandex."

* * * * *

"Would you get me a stick of butter from the ice chest?" Jack asked from the stove.

As Brian carried the butter to Jack, he asked, "Why did you bring so much butter?"

"Because I use it for just about every meal, either in the main course or on the bread that goes with it. Besides, it doesn't spoil at room temperature, so it doesn't matter if I bring a little bit too much." Jack said honestly.

"Are you going to be needing any toast?" Brian asked curiously.

"No. But you could butter a few slices of bread for each of us. It'll still be about half an hour before the soup's ready, so you can do it whenever you feel like it." Jack said frankly.

Brian nodded, then carried the butter over to the table.

"I'm going to be needing that butter when you're done with it." Jack said casually.

"Okay." Brian said as he picked up the loaf of bread, then said, "We're running low on bread. Are you sure you want me to butter it?"

"Yes. When the bread runs out, we'll just eat something else. Don't worry, I've got it covered." Jack said with a grin.

Brian couldn't help but smile at Jack's easy going nature.

* * * * *

Once the bread was buttered, Brian sat quietly at the table and watched Jack cooking.

"This'll be ready soon. Would you pour us some water to go with dinner?" Jack asked before taking a taste of the soup.

"Sure." Brian said, then pulled his headband down to cover his right eye.

"Are you planning to have to catch something?" Jack asked curiously.

"No. But I think that whatever's wrong with my eyes makes me clumsy when I do certain stuff." Brian said casually.

Jack absently nodded as he slowly stirred the slightly bubbling kettle of soup.

"It's funny. The guys who've been teasing me, I always thought they were my friends." Brian said as he carefully filled two glasses with water.

"Friendship is a funny thing. It doesn't really follow any logical rules, as far as I can tell. It just happens the way it happens and you make the best of it, however it ends up going." Jack said quietly.

"You're thinking about your computer zombie friends again, aren't you?" Brian asked as he placed the glasses of water on the table.

Jack slightly nodded, then said, "I was thinking about what you said before. I've been hanging onto my old friends, even though we've been growing apart... and that's not really a bad thing. It's important to accept people as they change. But I think my mistake has been in not putting myself out there where I might be able to make new friends."

Brian gave a weak chuckle, then said, "Yeah, being lazy and blaming the world for it can really become a habit."

Jack smiled at Brian's words as he nodded, then said, "Soup's on."

Brian took his place at the table and watched as Jack placed a bowl of soup in front of him. It was steaming hot with a dollop of butter in the middle of it.

"What is it?" Brian asked before taking a spoon of soup and blowing on it to cool it a little.

"Potato soup. This is one of my cold weather favorites." Jack said happily as he carried a bowl to his side of the table.

Brian thought for a moment, then said, "I don't think I've ever had potato soup before."

"It's awesome." Jack said with a smile, then took a spoon of soup to blow on it.

Once the soup was cool enough to put into his mouth, Brian took a taste and paused to analyze the flavor.

Jack enjoyed his first spoon of soup, then waited to see Brian's reaction.

"This is great!" Brian said as he looked at Jack with his uncovered eye.

"Yeah. On a cold rainy day, I can't think of anything that compares." Jack said warmly.

"And you just added water?" Brian asked before getting another spoonful and blowing on it.

"That's it. Boil water. Add mix. Cook fifteen minutes." Jack said happily.

"I always thought that cooking was complicated. You know, that you had to cut and chop and time and measure each little part of each dish in the meal." Brian said honestly.

"Well, I suppose that actual cooking is like that. Some people enjoy it, and that's great for them. Me, I'd rather just make something simple that tastes good." Jack said frankly.

"Seriously, Jack, I need for you to teach me how to cook like this. My mom is a good cook, but I've seen her work for two hours on making a meal that took about five minutes to eat. It always seemed so... difficult, that I never wanted to try to cook for myself." Brian said seriously.

Jack smiled at Brian's appreciative words and responded, "There's not much to teach. If you can get water to boil, you've pretty much mastered my style of cooking."

"When I move out on my own, I'm going to need for you to go shopping with me or make me a list or something. Because your food is great."

"Sure thing, Brian. I'll be there whenever you need me." Jack said warmly.

* * * * *

When they had finished doing the dishes, Jack took a large kettle from the rack by the stove and put it on the kitchen table.

"Are you going to cook something else right now?" Brian asked curiously.

"This is for tomorrow. Bean soup is another meal that's perfect on a cold rainy day." Jack said casually as he poured the dried beans onto the table, then added, "You can help me if you like."

"Sure, just tell me what I need to do." Brian said as he sat down in the chair next to Jack's.

"We need to sort through these beans to make sure that there aren't any stones or twigs or anything like that mixed in there." Jack said casually.

"That sounds easy." Brian said as he poured some beans from the bag and began sorting.

"Yeah. It seems like kind of a chore, but really, it only takes a few minutes and the payoff is some really excellent soup." Jack said as he kept the majority of his attention on his sorting.

Once he had a good portion of the beans sorted, he picked up the kettle and moved it under the lip of the table. Brian watched as he scooted the sorted beans off the table and into the kettle.

After another minute of sorting, Brian took the kettle from the table and did the same.

"What do we need to do when we're done sorting?" Brian asked casually.

"I'll put water on them and let them soak overnight." Jack said absently as he concentrated on his work.

Brian nodded as he continued to sort.

"Do you still need that eye patch?" Jack asked curiously.

"Yeah. I think doing something like this is easier with it than without it." Brian said as he concentrated on his sorting.

"I think that, until we can get an eye doctor to look at you, that you should probably only use the eye patch when you really need it. I'm afraid that if you keep it on all the time, it might make whatever's wrong get worse or throw it farther out of whack or something." Jack said with concern.

"Okay. As soon as we're done with this, I'll take it off. I mean, unless you're planning to throw things at me." Brian finished as he looked up with a grin.

"If I plan on throwing anything, I'll give you enough advance notice so that you can put your eye patch back on." Jack said with a smile.

* * * * *

Once the sorting was finished and the kettle of beans was set aside, Jack announced, "I need to go behind a tree."

"Me too, but it's raining." Brian said as he glanced at the window.

"Yeah, but it's eased up a little. I'd rather go in a light rain than take the chance of it being a full on downpour when I 'have to' go." Jack said frankly.

Brian nodded in resignation as he walked to the door and took his coat down off the peg.

"You're doing well enough now, that you don't need to go with me. I mean, I don't expect it." Jack said frankly.

Brian shrugged, then said, "I know. I just need to go."

Jack smiled at the casual response, then led the way outside.

* * * * *

"Man! That rain's cold!" Brian said once they were back inside the cabin.

"Yeah. It's kind of a shock to the system." Jack said as he took off his coat.

"It feels so nice in here." Brian said as he walked to the stove to soak in some of the heat.

"It's a whole lot different from being in a temperature controlled house that's always within a few degrees of being the same temperature." Jack said with a grin.

"Oh yeah. But I think this is better. I mean, how can you appreciate warmth like this if you never let yourself get cold?" Brian asked speculatively.

"This is what's waiting outside the 'comfort zone'." Jack chuckled.

Brian thought about that for a moment, then said, "The comfort zone is kind of a trap, isn't it?"

"Absolutely." Jack said emphatically. "The longer you linger in the comfort zone, the more mediocre and complacent you become. Until, eventually, you just drift from one bland day to another, because you're too afraid of doing anything that might disrupt the 'peace'."

"I think you just described my family." Brian said with a chuckle.

Jack smiled a wicked little smile, then said, "I wouldn't count on things being the same when you get back."

Brian looked at Jack curiously.

"I have no idea what's going to happen. But I just have a feeling that now that you've found your voice, things are going to be different." Jack smirked.

"Either that, or I'll slip back into the comfort zone." Brian said a little bit anxiously.

"That's not going to happen." Jack said with certainty.

Brian looked at him hopefully, silently asking for assurance.

"Remember, you can't go back. Growing up is a one way street. Your perception of the world has changed. There's no way that things will be the same when you go back because you're not the same." Jack said honestly.

"I just... I don't know what I'm going to do." Brian said quietly.

"And there's no way that you can know until you're in that moment." Jack said frankly.

Brian slowly nodded.

"We're all warmed up now. What do you feel like doing next?" Jack asked gently as he took a seat at the table.

Brian also took a seat, then asked, "Do we have any other horrible lessons that still need to be done?"

"Not that I can think of. I may come up with something else later, but that's all I've got for now." Jack said thoughtfully.

"What about the condom thing? You said you wanted to talk about that later." Brian said hesitantly.

"Yeah! That's a good idea. Since we don't have anything else going on, now would be the perfect time to do that." Jack said happily.

Brian looked at Jack and waited expectantly.

After a moment of thought, Jack quietly said, "I didn't bring any condoms with me."

"Well then, no sex for you!" Brian said playfully.

Jack laughed at the statement, then said, "It looks like I don't have to teach you when to use a condom. That was exactly right!"

Brian nodded, then thoughtfully said, "Yeah. I got that part. You always use a condom unless you're going to be with only one person and that person is only with you."

"Right. And if either of you have been sexually active, then it's also important that you've been tested before you take that step." Jack said seriously.

"Yeah. I get that. 'When' to use one isn't the problem. 'How' to use one is the part I really don't get." Brian said frankly.

Jack thought for a moment, then broke into a smile as he walked to the neat stack of clothes on his side of the bed.

Brian watched curiously as Jack returned to the table, carrying a tube sock.

"You're going to have to use your imagination a little bit, but I think we can make it work." Jack said as he started rolling up the sock.

Brian looked at Jack uncertainly, not able to imagine what he was about to do.

"Okay, this is our condom." Jack said as he held up the sock that now looked sort of like a white, fuzzy bagel.

Brian slowly nodded that he understood.

"When you take a condom out of its package, it's rolled up something like this. You need to pay attention to which way it's rolled, so that it rolls down correctly." Jack said, then demonstrated by unrolling the sock slightly.

It took a moment, but Brian finally realized the difference and said, "Okay, yeah."

"Put your hand up and I'm going to show you how to put it on." Jack said seriously.

"So I'm pretending that my hand is my cock?" Brian asked to confirm.

"Yeah. Now, do you see how I'm pinching the tip?" Jack asked as he placed the sock over Brian's hand. "That's to leave a little reservoir for your semen to collect in when you cum."

Brian nodded that he understood.

"Then you roll it down, all the way down to the base." Jack said as he demonstrated by rolling the sock down Brian's arm.

"Do condoms come in different sizes?" Brian asked curiously.

"Yes. I think you could probably use a 'regular', but if that turns out to be too loose, you might try 'snug fit'." Jack said, then continued, "Some condoms are lubricated, but either way, having some water based lubricant handy wouldn't hurt."

"I wouldn't know what kind to buy." Brian said thoughtfully, then hesitantly added, "And that's if I could even make myself go in and buy it. I mean, I'd be really embarrassed to buy condoms or stuff."

"Well, I won't buy it for you. But I'll go with you to see that you're getting what you need." Jack said seriously.

Brian smiled, then said, "Yeah. I think that if you went with me, I'd be able to do it."

"Um, I'm sure I'm forgetting something." Jack said slowly, then shook his head and said, "It wouldn't hurt for you to do a little research on the subject, just in case."

Brian nodded that he would.

"Okay. Condoms have expiration dates. Don't use an old one because it's more likely to break. Don't keep a condom in your wallet, for 'just in case', for the same reason." Jack said seriously.

"Yeah. I remember hearing that before." Brian said thoughtfully.

"Okay. You've got the condom on. Let's just say you've already got in there and shot your load. The next thing you really need to pay attention to is correctly removing the condom." Jack said as he looked Brian in the eyes to convey his seriousness.

"Wouldn't you just roll it back up and take it off?" Brian asked curiously.

"Yes. But there's something else that you need to do first. Once you've had your orgasm and shot your load, you need to take good hold of the condom at the base of your cock..." Jack said, then demonstrated by grabbing around the sock on Brian's arm, "...and withdraw from your partner. Once you're out and away, then take off the condom. If you can, try to withdraw while you're still mostly hard, it'll just make it easier."

"It sounds complicated." Brian said quietly.

"Hearing about it all at once like this does make it sound that way, but most of this stuff is 'how to'. As long as you start off learning to do it the right way, it's not all that much to remember." Jack said with a smile.

Brian slowly nodded.

"Okay. So you've withdrawn. Now, we take it off." Jack said as he rolled the sock up Brian's arm. When he got to the hand, he gathered the sock at the end and slid it off, then tied a knot in the sock and set it aside.

After a moment of consideration, Brian said, "Okay. I think I understand."

"Good. Because it's your turn." Jack said as he untied the sock and started to roll it up again.

"Thanks for teaching me this, Jack. I don't think my dad would ever talk to me about something like this." Brian said thoughtfully.

"Yeah. You're probably right about that." Jack said with a chuckle, then handed the sock to Brian.

"Pinch the tip." Brian said as he held up the sock by the toe.

"Right. And remember to always use a fresh condom for each individual sex act. Never take a condom off and then put it back on, even if you didn't cum." Jack said as Brian put the sock over Jack's fingers and started to roll it down his hand.

"Is that right?" Brian asked as he finished unrolling the sock.

"That's great, Brian." Jack said with a smile.

"Okay. I used a water based lubricant, screwed, cummed, and now I'm ready to take it off." Brian said seriously, then took hold of Jack's forearm and said, "I hold the condom at the base of my cock until I'm completely out and away. Then I roll it up..."

Jack smiled as he nodded.

Brian mimicked Jack's earlier action of gathering the sock at the end to contain the cum, then tied the sock before setting it aside.

"That's great, Brian. Like I said before, you'll need to do a little research to make sure you have up-to-date and accurate information. But I think that now you have enough of the basics that you should be able to understand what they're talking about." Jack said seriously.

"Yeah. I think that's what was so confusing before. I'd read or hear something, but I didn't know enough to make sense of it." Brian said thoughtfully.

"I don't know if people are intentionally vague about this stuff, but I really think a lot of kids have the same problem and just need to be shown." Jack said honestly.

"You know, I'll never be able to look at a rolled up sock again without thinking of this." Brian said with a smile.

Jack smiled at the comment, then said, "You know what? You've really accomplished a lot the past few days. I'm in a mood to celebrate!"

"Really? How?" Brian asked curiously.

Jack smiled, then said, "Hot chocolate."

* * * * *

After sitting for a while and sipping hot chocolate, Brian quietly said, "This is weird."

"How so?" Jack asked curiously.

"Just sitting here, doing nothing, I feel like I should be bored out of my mind, but it's nice. I can't think of anything else that I'd rather be doing." Brian said honestly.

"You know, even if this was the only thing you got out of being up here, I think it would make the whole trip worth it." Jack said warmly.

Brian looked at him curiously, silently asking for more of an explanation.

"It's hard to explain, but I think it's important." Jack said thoughtfully, then continued, "I've noticed that people seem intent on filling every waking moment of their days with distractions so that they never have to deal with a quiet moment in their own company."

"Yeah. If I had my phone here, I'd probably be listening to music or playing games until I ran the battery out." Brian said honestly.

"What benefit do you think you'd get from doing that?" Jack asked curiously.

"None, I guess. I'd just be wasting time." Brian said thoughtfully, then grinned at Jack and added, "Like I'm doing right now."

"I don't think this is a waste of time. We're having a meaningful discussion, voicing our opinions, and considering each other's points of view. That's not just a positive thing, but in your situation, it's an important skill that you need to develop."

After a moment, Brian quietly said, "I guess I never thought of talking to people, you know, like, one on one, as being a skill."

"I know. A lot of people just assume that their kids will pick up their verbalization skills and develop their cognitive abilities while they're at school. And I suppose that most of them do. But as far as I can see, there's no one watching to see that ALL the kids are learning to express themselves in meaningful ways. In every group there are outliers and it seems that no one is trying to help them."

"What about the teachers?" Brian asked thoughtfully.

"How many kids do you have in your classes, you know, on average?" Jack asked seriously.

"I don't know, about twenty-five or thirty, I guess."

"And how much time do you spend with each of your teachers each day?"

"Forty-five minutes for each class period." Brian answered immediately.

"Okay. Then how many class periods do you have a day?"

"Seven, if you don't count lunch." Brian said slowly as he realized the way the numbers were adding up, even though he wasn't really sure of the point Jack was leading him toward.

"So, let's say that in one day a teacher sees about 200 students. How many of those students do you think he or she has time to sit down with and talk to, one-on-one?"

"Not many." Brian said with a nod.

"Besides, kids who are having difficulties usually do their best not to draw any attention, so it makes it that much more difficult for the teacher to spot them."

"And that's assuming that the teacher even cares at all. Some don't. They're just putting in their time so they can draw a paycheck." Brian said frankly.

"I guess when I talk about teachers, I usually hold up my dad as the standard. But you're right. There are some who couldn't care less about the students. Those are some of the most boring classes ever."

"Tell me about it. Mr. Young just sits there and reads aloud from the text book. I think the whole class could drop dead right there in front of him and he wouldn't even notice as long as we were quiet about it. He'd just keep droning on and on." Brian said with a slight smirk.

"Yeah. Well, he's, like, a thousand years old. My dad had him as a teacher when he was in high school and he said that Mr. Young was an old man then." Jack said frankly.

"I have him for my first period social studies class. What a thing to wake up to." Brian chuckled.

As Jack was about to respond, his words were cut off by the sudden and violent sound of rain pounding the roof.

"Wow." Brian said in a small voice as he looked upward.

"Don't worry. It should just last a few minutes, then it'll probably slow to a drizzle." Jack said a bit loudly, to be heard over the deluge.

Brian gave no indication of hearing as he stared mutely at the ceiling.

Jack watched Brian carefully and determined that, while Brian was understandably shaken by the sudden swell of the storm, he didn't seem unusually frightened.

After a moment, Jack quietly said, "I know it's early, but why don't we go ahead and get into bed?"

"Do you really want to go to bed already? I mean, I'm not even sleepy."

"Going to bed doesn't necessarily mean sleeping." Jack said with a grin.

Brian arched an eyebrow at Jack, hesitant to ask what he meant by that.

Jack laughed at the expression, then said, "We can get undressed and get in our sleeping bags, then I'll turn out the light, then... we'll see what happens. Think of it like a sleep-over. We can talk or tell ghost stories or... who knows? But on a rainy windy night, being toasty warm in a sleeping bag sounds like a pretty good idea to me."

"Oh, okay. I thought you meant we were going to be jacking off or something like that." Brian said frankly.

"Well, what does or doesn't happen inside your sleeping bag is none of my business. Just be sure to clean up after yourself." Jack said honestly.

Brian blushed a little as he said, "Let's go to bed."

"Give me a minute to take care of the fire and I'll be right there." Jack said with a smile.

Brian skinned out of his clothes and climbed into his sleeping bag while Jack fussed with the stove for a minute before adding wood.

"Comfy?" Jack asked with a grin as he approached the bed.

"Yeah. This is nice." Brian said contentedly.

Brian watched silently as Jack undressed. Just a day or two before, Brian would have been nervous and trying not to look. But Brian was comfortable enough by now to watch Jack without shame.

As Jack pulled off his sweats and underwear, he noticed Brian watching him and was happy to see that Brian wasn't nervous and embarrassed, neither was he leering at him lecherously. Brian's look was simply one of mild interest.

Once Jack was comfortably ensconced in his sleeping bag, he turned to Brian and said, "I thought that maybe we could talk for a while or maybe tell stories."

"What kind of stories?" Brian asked curiously.

Jack shrugged and said, "Whatever kind you like."

Brian thought for a moment, then said, "I can't think of anything."

"I've already told you all kinds of stuff about my dad, but being here like this reminds me of the times that we've come up to the cabin. Would you like to hear about that?" Jack asked curiously.

"Sure, that sounds nice." Brian said with a smile as he snuggled a little bit tighter into his sleeping bag and got comfortable.

"I guess I was about nine or ten when we came up here for a few weeks during summer vacation." Jack said distantly.

"It must be nice having a dad who is off from school at the same time you are." Brian said absently.

"Yeah. I guess so. That's the way it's always been, so I never thought too much about it."

Brian nodded that he understood.

"Well, when I was about ten, Dad and I came up here and I thought it would be like all the other times we visited. But I guess he figured out that I was growing up and he wanted to have a 'man to man' talk with me."

"I thought you said that you asked about that stuff and already knew most of it." Brian said with interest.

"Yeah. But I didn't know to ask about everything. So Dad decided that it was time to fill in some blanks and tie all the bits and pieces together so I could see the bigger picture." Jack said thoughtfully.

"I wish my dad would have done that." Brian said quietly.

"I do, too, Brian. But like I told you before, it's not too late. It's just now getting to the point where you need to know this stuff, so you haven't missed out on anything. By the time we're done, you'll know all that you need to know and you'll probably be in a much better place than most of your classmates." Jack said frankly.

"Thanks." Brian whispered appreciatively.

Jack was silent for a moment, then finally said, "You know how I told you about me and my dad always sharing a bathroom and stuff?"

Brian nodded.

"Well, I guess he noticed the changes in my body. He could see that I was growing up and knew that it wouldn't be long before I needed to know at least the basics."

Brian watched as Jack seemed to be lost in thought.

Finally, Jack continued, "I don't know how it is for anyone else, but that trip was one of the best that I can ever remember. I felt so close to my dad. It's like he was entrusting the secrets of the universe to me."

"Um, I don't want to make you mad by asking. But I'm kinda curious." Brian said timidly, then asked, "Did your dad show you how to jack off?"

Jack gave an embarrassed chuckle, then said, "He didn't show me, but he explained it well enough that when I was ready to try, I was able to figure out what to do."

"I just wondered. I mean, I can't even imagine my dad talking to me about something like that, so I didn't know how a real dad would handle it." Brian said honestly.

"Well, the only thing close to that that happened was that we went to the hot spring and while we were naked, he pointed out the differences between us, so I'd have a good idea of what changes were about to happen."

As Brian looked down sadly, Jack noticed the expression.

"Brian, you didn't miss out on anything. I'm doing for you what my dad did for me." Jack said gently.

"I know. And I really appreciate that. I guess it just bothers me that my dad didn't care enough to do it himself." Brian mumbled.

"I can understand that." Jack said gently, then continued, "Sometimes, life's not fair."

Brian chuckled and nodded his agreement.

"I guess the reason I wanted to tell you about the trip with my dad was so  I could share with you what it was like. It was a really special thing for me and I want for you to share in it." Jack said with difficulty.

"I understand, Jack. And thanks. Listening to the way you talk about spending time with your dad makes me feel good. I mean, it's like you said, you're 'sharing' that with me. I feel like a part of it and it makes me happy."

"You are a part of it Brian. What my dad did for me is what I'm trying to do for you. They're not separate events, they're part of a chain. You're a part of that chain now, back into history and on into the future."

"You get poetic when you're naked, don't you?" Brian asked playfully.

Jack chuckled and said, "Yeah, I guess I do."

* * * * *

As the evening continued, Jack shared more and more stories about his life and how it was to grow up with a single father.

Brian mostly listened, occasionally interjecting a comment, but for the most part just absorbing the warm and loving tales of a family which was so foreign to him and yet a family of which he was also now a part; A link in the chain.

While telling about a scuba trip he and his dad had taken in the Florida keys, Jack glanced over and noticed that Brian had fallen asleep.

He smiled at the sight.

Brian looked so innocent and untroubled.

Jack couldn't help but worry if what he was doing was going to be enough to prepare Brian for the realities of the world when he returned to his old life and his old school.

Even though he was incredibly comfortable and the sound of the rain outside was soothing, sleep was elusive.

Jack kept going over and over everything he had witnessed and been told, in an effort to do all that was in his power to help Brian.

If there was any advice he could give, any skill he could help Brian develop, if there was any nugget of wisdom he could impart, Jack wanted to be sure that Brian received it.

If, for some reason, Brian wasn't able to cope... Jack didn't know how he would deal with it.

Jack had been told repeatedly by his father and others that Dillon's suicide wasn't in any way his fault. And for the most part he accepted it.

But there was still this little voice in the back of his head that told him that if he had done more, if he had cared more, if he had been a better brother, if he had done something, that his brother would still be alive.

Helping Brian wasn't a burden and Jack was genuinely happy to do it. But he was finally realizing the position he had put himself into. If they returned to the 'real world' and Brian couldn't handle it or, even worse, if Brian... Jack forced himself not to pursue that train of thought.

He just knew that if anything happened to Brian, he would feel largely responsible and it might ultimately destroy him.

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes:

It looks more and more as if Brian and Jack are beginning to become part of a family of sorts.

Brian still has regrets, and possibly a bit of resentment toward his father for not seeming to care enough about him to give him the simple information that Jack has been giving him.  I do think that Brian will eventually forgive his father for his lack of interest in Brian's problems.

Unfortunately, far too many parents are like Brian's and simply have either not thought of how they should teach the life lessons that their children need to know, or figure that the kids will simply pick it up on their own. They may just be too embarrassed to bring up the subject of what happens as you grow up.

In any case, I suspect that a lot of teen suicides have at least some roots in the lack of communication from parents who are not really bad people, but are simply not equipped, or willing to take the time to give their children that knowledge.

In any case, we can just be thankful that Jack is there for Brian and is willing to help him get through the tough times. For Brian, I am sure that this is a turning point for him, and what he does with the knowledge that he has received, and will receive, will impact his life for years to come.

I can hardly wait to see what happens next.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher