Posted September 8, 2021

The Brilliant Boy Billionaire

The Amazing Journey of a Remarkable Kid, by Altimexis

PART SIX – World Traveler

Chapter 4: Family Reunion

“J.J.!” Henry shouted as he ran toward me and threw his arms around me, hugging me tightly. “I can’t believe you’re finally here!”

“Damn, you’ve grown!” I exclaimed, and he had. I’d always been tall for my age and was now six feet, five inches at the real age of seventeen. Henry was nearly as tall now – maybe two inches shorter, but close – and he was only fifteen. I hadn’t seen him in a year, and the changes were striking. “You’ve got a real mustache now,” I added.

“Yeah, do you like it?” he asked, but before I could answer, he went on. “More than half my classes are at the U of N this semester, and most of the twenty-something-year-old guys have beards. Even in high school, a lot of the sixteen-, seventeen- and eighteen-year-old boys have beards, or at least they’re trying to grow them. I may be only fifteen, but I could grow a decent beard if I wanted to. Hell, I could’ve grown one even last year. However, I think it’d look pretentious. It would look like I was trying to fake it, to make myself look older than I really am. That’s just not me.”

“I think you got it just right,” I responded. “The mustache and the sideburns down the angle of your jaw, show off your manhood without flaunting it.” It wasn’t until I heard Henry’s full-throated laugh that I realized what I’d implied. It was a bit embarrassing as the people around us in the Eppley Airfield terminal turned to see what the laughter was all about. “I didn’t mean it that way,” I corrected myself. “Truthfully, you’re one of the most strikingly handsome young men I’ve ever seen. Like movie-star good-looking.”

Henry blushed furiously as he said, “Not even close, but you’re another story.”

“Just don’t let Darren hear you talk like that,” I joked, but when Henry didn’t respond and instead looked down, I asked, “Henry?”

Almost getting tears in his eyes, he finally looked up and said, “We’ll talk when we get home.” Something had obviously happened between them, but the more significant story was the way Henry was taking it. This wasn’t the boy who’d thought of killing himself a couple of years ago, nor was he even the same boy who’d still smoked a fair amount of pot a year ago. This Henry was a mature young man who was dealing with life’s challenges head on.

“Gentlemen, there’ll be plenty of time to talk when we get home,” Rob interrupted. “The Tesla is parked in a tow-away zone, and we still hafta pick up your luggage.”

“You left my car in a tow-away zone?” I asked.

“It’s in a VIP spot,” Rob explained. “The Applazon placard is supposed to let me park there for up to an hour, but I’d rather not test it.”

“Let’s go get my stuff, then,” I said.

We walked up to the luggage carousel and pulled my large spinner and garment bag off of it. My carryon consisted of a wheeled cabin bag and a business backpack. Henry grabbed the large spinner for me, and Rob grabbed the garment bag. Everything was on wheels, and I usually managed it all by myself. Still, Henry asked, “You got enough luggage, J.J.?”

“You have to keep in mind that I had to live out of these suitcases for close to two years,” I explained. “I know of people who travel much lighter than I do, but I had to be prepared to meet with executives for dinner at black-tie affairs in the evening and then get down and dirty crawling around on the floor of server rooms the next morning. In some places I had to wear thermal underwear, and in others it was only underwear. There’s also a basic toolkit and some instrumentation in there, including my own portable oscilloscope.”

“Don’t those cost, like, a couple grand?” Henry interjected.

“More like twenty grand for the features I needed,” I replied. “To their credit, Applazon sends a full set of tools and measurement equipment with the new servers. The intent is that I leave each installation a set of the latest tools with which to maintain their equipment, but I learned early on the high cost of downtime when the tools or the equipment failed. That oscilloscope paid for itself the first time I had to use it.”

We approached my Tesla Model 3, and it automatically opened, not in response to my phone, which was a new one, but in response to Rob’s phone. I was shocked, though, when it was Henry who got behind the wheel.

“You finished Driver’s Ed?” I asked in surprise. “Don’t you have to be fifteen for that? Your birthday isn’t until September, so you missed it last year.”

“I have a school permit,” Henry explained. “I decided to take some classes that had required labs at the university in Lincoln, so I needed a way to get there. Technically the school learner’s permit is meant for high school and only if you live or go to school in a town with less than five-thousand people, but I had no other way to get there, so I called the governor’s office and requested a personal exemption.”

Surprised yet again, I asked, “You know the governor?”

“Of course not,” Henry laughed, “but to paraphrase, his number’s in the phone book. It was either call the governor’s office or forget about taking the courses I wanted, so I called. I never spoke directly with the governor, mind you, but I got what I wanted, and I was able to take Driver’s Ed last summer.”

Rob got in back, Henry put the car in reverse, and we headed toward the airport exit. Henry actually did quite well driving my Tesla, showing a level of caution and confidence not typical of most teens.

“You’re growing your hair out, J.J.?” Rob asked from behind me.

“I’m surprised you could already notice it,” I replied. “I decided I was tired of my buzz cut. When I was younger, I wore it long, and I thought I might try for something in between.” Now that I knew the state of Indiana wouldn’t be looking for me anymore, there was no need to keep it so short. I figured I’d tell Henry about what happened recently in Indiana, since he already knew about my having killed my dad. I hadn’t decided yet whether or not to tell the rest of the family.

<> <> <>

Much had changed in the Gonzalez household since I’d left. Celia had finished her two years of community college and was on the back side of her junior year at the University of Nebraska in Omaha. She was still living at home but now had her own car. Camilla, on the other hand, had graduated high school and gotten a scholarship to Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, where she was in her sophomore year. She’d taken over the upstairs guest room, so that all four girls had their own rooms now. The biggest news, however, was that Rob now had a fiancé and together they’d bought a house. Apparently, Rob’s plans to see the world before settling down had gone out the window. Love does that to people. I’d not yet met her, but there would be a welcome-home barbecue on the weekend, and I’d meet her then. With Rob out of the house, each boy had his own bedroom, too, and I would have a bedroom to myself.

Rob had been keeping my Model 3 warm for me but had recently bought his own Ford Mustang Mach E, which was expected to arrive any day now. It kind of made me jealous, as it was perhaps the best electric SUV money could buy. Henry was apparently sharing Rob’s old Civic with Sammy, who was in his junior year in high school. Like so many kids, Sammy had lost an entire year of education during the pandemic, in spite of his best efforts. Some kids just don’t do well with remote education. Both boys had completed their data-center-technician certifications and had summer jobs lined up in the Applazon data center that I helped build. Henry would earn his bachelor’s degree at the end of the summer and would be leaving Omaha for Cambridge to begin work on his Ph.D. at MIT. Henry and Darren had indeed gone their separate ways but were still friends. Henry promised to fill me in on the details later.

Although Omaha was still my home in more ways than one, after close to two years of traveling all over the world, it didn’t feel like home anymore. After spending so much time in cities as large as Tokyo, considered by some to be the city with the largest metro population in the world, Omaha felt so small, so provincial. Even so, Omaha was a thousand times more my home now than Indiana had ever been, and it sure felt good not to be living out of a suitcase anymore. Although Omaha would be my home base for now, I’d be using some of my unused PTO to unwind and visit family. In the coming weeks I would visit the Rodriguez family in Kansas City, and I would visit the Hofstetters in Springfield. The Rodriguez’s had given me a home, a job and a life, and there would always be a special place in my heart for them. Visiting Larry and Greg in Springfield would be a bit more complicated as I’d not had any contact with them since Larry fixed my bike, and that was under my old identity. Still, I felt I owed them my gratitude, and I wanted to catch up with what had been happening in their lives. I imagined that Greg must have moved on by now, but he was my first boyfriend, and that memory would always be with me.

As per my discussion with Jitendra, my first priority would be to interview for a position in the Ph.D. program in computer science at Columbia University in New York City. I’d already been given a conditional acceptance based on my credentials and strong recommendation letters from Applazon’s current and future CEOs, but an interview was required and had been scheduled for the following week. If for some reason I was rejected, I had Princeton and the University of Washington as backups. All three schools were considered among the top twenty for A.I., and all three were within practical commuting distance of an Applazon campus. Top-ranked Stanford was another possibility, although Applazon’s people in Cupertino lacked an interest in A.I. Unfortunately, neither MIT nor Cornell, which were also among the top schools for A.I., were near an Applazon corporate facility.

Next, I needed to interview for a position in the new New York division of A.I. at Applazon. That would occur during the same trip as the interview at Columbia. Even though I had the backing of the friggin’ CEO and his successor, my position was not a done deal by any means. Positions were filled based on qualifications, merit and fit within the overall organization. The entire division was new and would be filled mostly with people from outside of the organization. I would be among a handful being considered from within. There was a chance I could be offered the position of division head, but I didn’t see that as likely, nor did I particularly want it. The division head would have to deal with all the responsibilities that go with managing a division, including decisions on hiring and firing, and he or she would have to deal not only with the head of A.I. in Seattle but with the corporate management directly. Those were headaches I didn’t want or need. Far better to be able to concentrate on the science and the tech and let someone else deal with the nightmare that is administration.

Applazon was expanding significantly in New York City and had bought an iconic old department store’s building on Fifth Avenue. They paid $1.15 billion for it and paid off the $750 million debt incurred by the previous owner, the embattled JobWorks. It was ironic that that Applazon had held a competition for their second headquarters and decided to award it to both Washington, D.C. and New York City, only to be rebuffed by much of the citizenry under the leadership of the infamous AOC. It was just as well, as the location in Queens was in a flood plain and would have experienced frequent flooding in a matter of decades. However, New York was quickly becoming a major technology hub owing to its combination of diversity, culture, entertainment, environment, public transportation and access to institutions of higher learning. These were all aspects favored by young professionals in the tech sector, and they were willing to pay a premium price for it, as they had in the San Francisco Bay Area. All three tech giants, Google, Facebook and Applazon, had bought up significant portions of real estate in Midtown and Lower Manhattan, and Applazon, in spite of its earlier failure, wasn’t about to be left out.

There was a soft knock on my open door, and I heard the words, “Hey, can we talk?” spoken by Henry. He was dressed in only a pair of boxers and as stunning as he’d looked in his clothes when he drove me home from the airport, he oozed sexuality when undressed. I hated to admit that I found myself attracted to him, and I felt a familiar stirring in my groin, but I suppressed my urges and smiled at him, nodding for him to enter. “Thanks,” he responded as he approached my bed, where I was sitting, propped up against the headboard with my knees drawn up and my feet flat on the bed. I was also only in my underwear, but I wore bikini briefs now as I’d found them to be much more common overseas and much more practical for travel. Henry sat right down on top of my feet, with his legs on either side of mine and with his knees drawn up and his feet flat on the bed as well. He rested his arms on his knees, just as I had done. His pose was incredibly erotic, and I couldn’t help but become aroused, which didn’t go unnoticed by Henry. But then again, it was evident that so was he.

“I’m not gonna apologize for getting a boner when you sit on top of me and are practically naked,” I explained. “Like I said, you’re one of the sexiest guys I know.”

“Likewise for you,” Henry responded, and then he started rubbing my left nipple with his right big toe. “We could have a lot of fun together if you’re interested.”

“I’m sure we could,” I agreed, but added, “later. Just keep in mind that technically it’d be statutory rape ’cause I’m an adult and you’re underage.”

“But you’re not really an adult,” Henry countered.

“Which means that to avoid a rape conviction, I’d have to plead to a felony count of identity theft,” I pointed out. “Neither option is appealing.”

“I’ll grant you that,” Henry said as he put his foot back down on the bed, “but I don’t think we need to worry about someone turning us in.”

“Perhaps we should get to know more about what’s been going on each other’s lives,” I suggested. “So, you wanted to talk?’

“Yeah, well I’m sure you gathered that Darren and I broke up,” Henry began, and I nodded. “You know how Darren was really into fringe stuff. He’s into water sports, but that was just the beginning of it. It’s not really my thing, but I got into it because it really excited Darren, and exciting Darren excited me. I had no problem with that.”

“Of course,” I agreed. “Giving your partner pleasure is half the fun of having sex. Don’t tell me Darren was into scat.”

“Yeah, and that was gross enough,” Henry replied, “but I could even get used to that for his sake if that were all there was. When I started itching and tested positive for chlamydia, that was the final straw.”

“Darren cheated on you?” I asked in astonishment.

“Apparently he’s been doin’ it for some time,” Henry responded with obvious sadness in his voice. “At least, the tests for other STDs came back negative. Chlamydia was bad enough, but if I’d gotten HIV from him, I’d have been apoplectic. There’s something wrong with that boy, J.J. I know that some people are into bondage and even S&M, but to me that’s pretty sick. He wanted me to tie him up. He wanted me to role play and to pretend to rape him, and that was the most benign of his fantasies. When he wanted to pretend to be a Jew in a concentration camp and for me to be a Nazi guard who beat and raped him, I told him I just couldn’t do that. What he couldn’t get from me, he ended up getting from hookups in the city.”

“Jesus, that’s dangerous!” I responded. “I can’t imagine anyone getting off on shit like that. You’re right, it’s pretty sick. That’s one seriously messed-up boy. They say cheating is a symptom of trouble rather than a cause. There are counselors that specialize in that kind of thing, though. Did you consider going into couple’s counseling and maybe getting Darren some more serious help?”

With a laugh, Henry replied, “I suggested exactly that when it was just about scat. I doubled down on it when he asked me to tie him up.”

“And he refused?” I asked.

“For one thing, he didn’t think there was anything wrong with it, but that was just an excuse,” Henry answered. “When I suggested talking to his parents, he had a complete meltdown. He panicked. He made me promise not to talk to them.”

“Do you think his parents are abusing him and this is how it’s coming out?” I asked.

“If so, I’ll never get it out of him,” Henry lamented. “I think it’s more likely that something happened in his past – maybe he was molested by an uncle, a teacher or a rabbi —”

“Darren’s Jewish?” I asked in mild surprise.

“Yeah, of course. Why are you surprised?” Henry replied.

“Only because you never mentioned it before,” I responded. “It just makes that concentration-camp fantasy that much more abnormal.”

“Yeah, I know,” Henry agreed. “I’d give anything to help him, man. I still love him very much, but I can’t be his boyfriend unless he’s willing to get help. Cheating was the last straw. He has to want to get better.”

“Maybe he does,” I suggested. “I’ve heard that sometimes bizarre behavior is really nothing more than a cry for help.”

“If that’s the case, I don’t know how to respond to it, J.J.,” Henry replied. “If I go to his parents behind his back, especially after promising not to, I could end up losing any hope of him getting the help he needs. I’m just a kid and I have my own life to think about. If he’d been in an accident or something, I’d stick with him in a heartbeat. Even if he were permanently paralyzed from the neck down, I’d stick with him. Even if he had brain damage. I just can’t deal with this.”

“You still smokin’ pot?” I asked.

Shaking his head, Henry answered, “I gave it up. It only made me feel numb, and it took the edge off my studies. In retrospect, I was probably always aware something was off. I think I smoked because of it, and now that I’ve decided to break it off, I don’t need it anymore.”

When a tear started to run down his cheek, I reached forward and pulled Henry into a tight hug, and I held him there and let him cry his eyes out on my shoulder. He pulled away as the tears subsided and gave me a wan smile, and said, “I’m gonna be okay, J.J. Thanks to you, I’m much better grounded, and there’s an excellent path for me forward. I’ll go to MIT next year, and I’ll get my Ph.D. and then do a post-doc. Somewhere along the way I’ll find my guy. So, I got the impression you had something you wanted to tell me?”

“I was gonna say my story couldn’t match yours, but I think I may have you beat,” I began.

“Did they find your father’s body?” Henry asked.

Nodding my head, I explained, “Apparently there was a short in a kitchen appliance – maybe a toaster or the microwave or something. The shack where I grew up burned down, and in investigating it, they found my father’s charred, mummified remains.”

“Oh, right,” Henry responded. “I forgot about that. Bodies only decompose underground. Above ground they mummify. They desiccate. They dry out.”

“They found the bullet I fired into his chest, so they knew he was shot, but they never found the murder weapon,” I related. “What I didn’t realize is that there was a shell casing ejected when I fired the gun. They were able to trace the bullet and shell casing to a gun that was used in a string of bank robberies in 2006 and 2007.”

“That’s after you were born,” Henry realized. “Do you remember him buying it?”

Shaking my head, I replied, “He always had it as far as I can remember. I remember seeing it for sure when I was in preschool, so that was around 2009.”

“So, your dad could’ve bought the gun hot just before that —” Henry suggested.

“Or he used it to rob banks,” I replied.

“But he’d have had a hard time doing that if he had a young infant,” Henry realized. “Of course, if he had hospital bills, he might’ve been desperate enough to do it, anyway. But then who would’ve been watching you when he robbed banks? No, he either had a partner or he didn’t have you back then. But you were born in 2005, right?” I nodded my head. “Fuck, he must’ve kidnapped you.”

“That’s what I believe must’ve happened,” I related. “He was a pedophile, and he took me to satisfy his needs. I wasn’t a substitute. I was the main act until I got too old for him. He didn’t try to kill me because I was gay or because he was angry with me. He tried to kill me because he needed me out of the way so he could kidnap another kid.”

“So, they don’t even know you exist,” Henry interjected. “They have no idea you lived there, and the fire probably incinerated anything that could’ve tied you to the crime scene, so you’re basically in the clear.”

“The state police have already closed the case, so no one’s gonna come after me,” I replied. “I’m actually more at risk of being charged with felony identity theft like I said, although the Feds might get involved if that happened.”

“Why would they?” Henry asked.

“I’m not sure how much you know about the server design I was working on when the accident happened —” I began when Henry interrupted.

Rolling his eyes, he said, “I remember your excitement the night you came up with an idea for automated server replacement and then figured out a way to use liquid nitrogen to cool it. I think it was the cooling scheme that was more revolutionary though. By combining the massively parallel architecture of today’s servers with a supercooled, compact design, you’ve created a supercomputer of interest to the Feds. That would explain a lot, but knowing you, you’re far from done. Having successfully employed liquid-nitrogen cooling in servers, I bet you’re working on a design using ceramic super­conductors.”

Grinning, I explained, “It’s already been built, but I came up with a ceramic that’s super­conducting at room temperature, and it doesn’t rely on the use of rare-earth elements, either. The solid-state physicists in Cupertino tweaked the structure a bit and got it to work at temperatures as high as sixty degrees C.”

“Fuck, that’s epic, man,” Henry exclaimed. “You’ll get a Nobel Prize for sure.”

I’d likely be an old man or dead before the Nobel committee took notice, and I wasn’t looking for a Nobel Prize in any case. I just wanted to save the planet from irreversible climate change and to stop the exploitation of kids in Africa. My new server design had the potential to play a role in both, but the cost was far too high to barely make a dent in either.

“It’ll cost more than a quarter-billion dollars each, though, which puts it beyond reach for most businesses and universities. Of course, the military’s interested. It’s the first true, massively parallel quantum computer. No other computer design could keep track of thousands of incoming nuclear missiles at once and target all of them simultaneously.”

Nodding his head, Henry replied, “A quarter billion would be chump change compared to the damage that could be done. It’d be more effective than a whole arsenal of our own nuclear weapons.” Then after a pause, he added, “Hey, do you realize what your ceramic supercomputer could do in space?”

“I suggested just that,” I responded. “There are quite a few issues to resolve though, such as how to keep the ceramic components from shattering when launching them into orbit.”

Rolling his eyes, Henry suggested, “You could probably build the servers in space, so you wouldn’t hafta launch them into orbit at all,” Henry added.

Laughing, I replied, “I thought of that, but that’s decades away or longer. I’ll leave that one to you, Henry. Manufacturing in microgravity is definitely beyond our current capabilities. Perhaps someday we’ll make the servers on the moon. I’ll leave that to the experts.”

“You should go into artificial intelligence!” Henry suddenly exclaimed. “Your server design provides the massively parallel architecture necessary for a true thinking machine.”

Henry’s thoughts were a revelation, and Applazon’s reasons for having me pursue studies in A.I. suddenly made sense. Yes, the application to providing a better user experience factored into the equation, but the technology had much farther-reaching potential. It was no wonder the Feds considered me to be so important to national security. I hadn’t seen the forest for the trees.

In our excitement over the direction of my career and of Henry’s too, thoughts of sex were temporarily forgotten. Unfortunately, not the thoughts buried in my subconscious. That night I had one of the most terrifying dreams yet. I screamed so loudly that both Sammy and Henry came running into my room and wouldn’t leave until I told them about the nightmares.

“You need to get help, J.J.,” Henry admonished me. “The counseling I had did wonders.”

“I know it’s PTSD,” I replied, “compounded by surviving not one but two traumatic events. The treatment involves intensive counseling sessions in which you confront every detail of the trauma that caused it all. It’s grueling, and it means trusting someone enough to tell them I killed my father.”

“You killed your father!” Sammy exclaimed. I’d forgotten he didn’t know, and I’d just blabbed to him what he didn’t need to know. Fuck. Henry and I spent over an hour telling Sammy the full story of my escape from Indiana.

<> <> <>

I couldn’t help but recognize that my life had come full circle as I sat at the great-room table, eating a fresh hamburger cooked indoors on a gas grill and smothered with provolone, bacon and grilled onions. Homemade potato salad, coleslaw and baked beans also adorned my plate. As I sipped a Coors Lite, I reflected on all that had happened during the last few years since I’d first moved to Omaha and come to live with the Gonzalez family. I’d arrived with a new identity, a few thousand dollars in a bank account and the clothes on my back. Now, I had a Ph.D. in computer science, hundreds of thousands saved that I hoped to use as the down payment on a house, millions of dollars in Applazon stock and a Tesla Model 3. I’d invented a revolutionary, computer server design that was a cornerstone of Applazon’s future plans and was considered essential to national security, and I would now be studying artificial intelligence, hopefully at one of the top programs in the world. Most importantly, I had a family now. I had people who cared about me and whom I cared about more than anything else in my life.

“You just got back, and already you look like you own the place,” Rob said as he walked up the stairs from the lower level. He’d obviously entered the house through the garage with his fiancé and wanted to make introductions. Standing up from the great-room table, where I was seated, I had more of a chance to take a good look at Rob’s future wife. Talk about contrasts! Rob was the shortest of the three brothers at around five-foot eight and slightly on the stocky side. He had jet-black straight hair, dark brown eyes, a mustache and beard over just his chin, and an olive complexion. His fiancé was taller than he was and skinny, with curly, light-blond hair, high cheek bones, grayish-blue eyes and a smattering of freckles on her cheeks. She was fair-skinned and was wearing a shiny red blouse, white shorts and flats. Her most striking feature, however, was her smile, which exuded warmth. Her smile told me more about her than anything else about her appearance.

“What do you mean about me looking like I own the place?” I replied to Rob. Then turning to his fiancé, who’s name I didn’t know, I responded, “What in the world do you see in him? You could do so much better. Why don’t you forget about Rob and we can run off together? My name’s J.J., by the way.”

“Not that you aren’t a good-looking guy, but I didn’t think that I was your type,” she began. “Gay boys tend to favor other gay boys from what I hear. And since my loser of a fiancé has forgotten to make proper introductions, my name’s Samantha, but people just call me Sam.”

“Sam and Sammy in the same family’s gonna be confusing,” I replied.

“I’ve heard that you’re pretty smart, so you’ll figure it out,” she countered. “I hear your quite the world traveler. Did you spend any time in Africa?”

“I upgraded the data centers in Monrovia and Nairobi, and I installed one of the largest data centers on the continent in Johannesburg,” I related. “Those were the highest priority. We still have about a dozen data centers that will be getting our new servers, including Lagos, Casablanca, Cairo, Addis Ababa, Zanzibar, Lusaka and Cape Town.”

“I love to travel,” Sam responded. “Cape Town is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Even the stars are more beautiful in Cape Town, especially outside the city, but the contrasts are so great. There’s so much abject poverty, and decades after the fall of apartheid, there’s still so much inequality.”

“I’ve heard Cape Town’s beautiful,” I replied, “but I never got the chance to go there. I do want to return someday. I think Melbourne was my favorite city south of the equator. Sidney was more exciting, but Melbourne had a kind of natural beauty that didn’t need all that flash and dazzle to call attention to itself. Once you get away from the light pollution of the cities, however, the southern sky at night is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. We only see the outer edge of the galaxy in the north, but in the south, the Milky Way fills the sky.

“I didn’t get to New Zealand, and I’ve heard it’s one of the most beautiful places on earth,” I continued. “I need to find someone with whom to share it first, however, as it’s not much fun to see something breathtaking when you’re only seeing it alone. Experiences like that need to be shared with someone special.”

“That’s beautiful, J.J.,” Sam responded. “I hope you find your someone special the way I did with Rob.”

“He is someone special,” I related, “but then I know he feels the same way about you.”

“Hey, Sam,” Henry said as he approached with a plate of his own food. “Hey, J.J.”

“What, I don’t count?” Rob asked his brother. “You didn’t say ‘hey’ to me.”

“Why should I?” Henry replied. “I see you all the time. You’re my brother.”

“You see what I’ve had to put up with all these years?” Rob asked of no one in particular.

“So, I heard you tell Sam you need someone to go with you on your travels,” Henry related as he looked at me. “Someone with whom to share the experience. I just wanted to let you know that I’m available.”

Laughing, I responded, “Do you have any idea how much it costs to fly to New Zealand?”

“That’s not a problem at all,” Henry replied. “I hear you’re loaded. Surely, you can afford the cost of both tickets. I don’t mind being a kept man.”

“So, you’re offering to be, what, my concubine?” I asked.

With a laugh of his own, he replied, “My presence should be reward enough. However, if you’re offering to be my concubine, I wouldn’t mind that in the least.”

“I’ll show you who’ll be whose concubine,” I answered as I got up and chased Henry down the stairs and into his room. We landed on his bed and wrestled for what seemed like forever. Afterwards, as I looked into his eyes, I had an insane urge to kiss him, but it wouldn’t have been right. He’d recently broken up with his longtime boyfriend, and he was on the rebound. Besides which, he was sort of my brother, and he was underage. The trouble was that I couldn’t imagine anyone I’d rather travel the world with than Henry. I couldn’t, though. That would be asking for trouble. Besides which, travel would hafta wait until after the interviews in New York.

The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of David of Hope and vwl-rec in editing my stories, as well as Awesome Dude and Gay Authors for hosting them.

Disclaimer: This story is purely fictional and any resemblance of characters to real individuals is unintentional. Although it takes place in actual locations, in no way are any official policies, opinions or events inferred. Some characters may be underage and at times engage in homosexual acts. Anyone uncomfortable with this should not be reading the story, and the reader assumes responsibility for the legality of reading this type of material where they live. The author retains full copyright and permission must be obtained prior to duplication in any form.