Someday Out Of the Blue

By LittleBuddhaTW


Special thanks to Kitty (PiscesRising) from for editing!





I was extremely thankful on Monday morning when Maggie came into my room and announced that I would be able to go home, or at least what would be my temporary home for the next week or so. I was most definitely not a fan of hospitals, as I'd had some bad experiences with them after being beaten by my mother. This time had definitely been the worst, though. I hoped that I would never have to go back to the hospital, and considering that my mother was now dead, which I still didn't feel any intense amount of grief over, it seemed likely that I wouldn't be in that position again.

I felt a little silly being wheeled out to Ryan's car in a wheelchair, but apparently it was hospital policy. Ryan had taken the morning off from school to drive me home and get me settled in. He also informed me that he had worked out a schedule with all of our friends, where they would take turns taking half days off of school to look after me during the week, bring me my homework assignments, and hang out with me so I wouldn't be too bored. I thought that was really nice of them, and it would give me the chance to get to know some of them a little better.

I wasn't an invalid or anything, but I was still in quite a lot of pain (when I wasn't drugged up, that is), so I had to lean on Ryan to get up the stairs and to his bedroom, where I would be staying. I was glad that Maggie had prescribed plenty of pain medication for me to take, and that's what I did as soon as I got into bed. Unfortunately, by the time Ryan got me home and all settled in, he had to go back to school for the afternoon. I might have been a little depressed about that, because I'd gotten used to having him next to me 24/7 over the past few days while I was in the hospital. But when he reminded me again that he loved me (woo-hoo! -- he really loved me!) and gave me a soft kiss on the forehead, that was enough to tide me over for a few hours.

At least I wasn't going to be alone that afternoon, as Cody showed up right before Ryan had to leave. I was very pleased to see that they seemed to be getting along just fine after the whole "kissing thing." Ryan even gave him a hug and thanked him for coming over.

Cody brought my homework assignments from Thursday and Friday that I had missed. It wasn't that much, since we'd just gotten back from our winter vacation, but I was pretty much wiped out from the pain medication, so I didn't feel like doing it then. Instead, I ended up taking a nap while Cody studied on the bed next to me, only waking up once to ask him to bring me a glass of water. I felt bad that I wasn't very good company for him, but he told me not to worry about it, so I didn't ... and went back to sleep.

I was happy when Ryan and Toby got home from school that afternoon, and I managed to stay awake so I could chat with them for a while. All things considered, I had been in a pretty good mood since waking up in the hospital and finding Ryan there by my side. Perhaps most people wouldn't have been, and I did wonder why I wasn't shell-shocked or anything, considering what I had been through, but I tried not to dwell on it too much. The large amounts of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication that Maggie had been giving me may have had something to do with that, though.

The only thing that I did worry about was where I would end up after I had healed. I didn't want to upset Ryan, though, so I decided not to mention it until the time came, which Maggie had said would probably be on Friday or Saturday when the social worker showed up to discuss my case with me. I was pretty sure that Ryan would come visit me as often as possible, although if the foster family was religious or anything, and realized that he was my boyfriend, I was worried that they might not let him see me. Plus, I'd never really had any restrictions placed on me before. I'd always come and gone as I pleased when I was living with my mother, and it would be hard to have to actually accept being "parented."

When Maggie got home that evening, it was time for me to get a check-up, which turned out not to be a very pleasant experience, since I hadn't taken my next dose of pain medication yet. She poked and prodded me, and I winced every time she touched my ribs. She said that the bruises on my face were already starting to heal, though, and that the swelling on my nose had gone down considerably. She also said that they had done a good job setting my nose, and although it might be slightly crooked, that would be hardly noticeable. Not that I was overly concerned about my face, though, since I never thought it was particularly nice-looking to begin with. But that was still pretty good news.

The worst part of the examination was when she had to check my ass, and then apply two different kinds of ointment -- one was an antibiotic to prevent infection, and the other was a kind of salve to soothe the pain. Once she had thoroughly examined the inside of my ass, which was embarrassing enough with Ryan standing right there watching, she was at least kind enough to ask if I would be more comfortable with Ryan applying the ointment for me.

Even though he was my boyfriend, for some reason I was more embarrassed to have him perform that task than Maggie. At least with Maggie, I could tell myself that she was a doctor. Also, I had no idea how my ass really looked, and I was scared that it would gross Ryan out. Needless to say, it wasn't a positive experience to have a cotton swab stuck up my butt, but after she applied the salve, at least it felt a little better. Unfortunately, this process would have to be repeated twice a day (Maggie said the salve could be applied more often if I thought I needed it), and I wasn't particularly looking forward to it.

Having now had a foreign objected inserted into my most private of orifices, I had thought the awkward part of the examination was over. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

"Connor," Maggie started, "I think that it would be a good idea for you to go see a counselor once you're feeling better to talk about what happened to you."

I was a little offended by that. I wasn't crazy, I'd just gotten beaten up and raped. I hadn't exactly been raped before, but I'd been beaten up plenty of times, and I thought I was fine. Hell, I was feeling happier now than I had in a long time. Plus, Maggie had prescribed the anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. Wasn't that enough to keep me from losing it?

"I don't need to see a shrink," I muttered indignantly.

"I think my mom's right," Ryan jumped in.

I just scowled at him.

"I'm not crazy," I protested. "I feel fine. I'm not going to have a breakdown or anything. I'm used to getting beaten up."

"I know, Connor," Maggie said gently, "and that's part of the reason you need to talk with someone. Not just about this most recent incident, but about everything you've had to go through."

"Why can't I just talk to you about it?" I asked.

"Because I'm a pediatrician, not a trained psychiatrist," she replied. "You may think you can handle all of this, but you're really just repressing it, trying to convince yourself that everything's okay. But one day when you're least expecting it, it's going to start affecting your life, and you may not be able to regain control. If you start to deal with everything that's happened to you now instead of later, you'll be in a much better position to cope with it."

"Do I even have a choice?" I asked, with the scowl still firmly imprinted on my face.

"Well, I'm going to recommend to your social worker that you see someone, so I guess you really don't have a choice. But I promise you that you will have a choice when choosing a therapist. It's important to find one that you like and feel comfortable talking with."

"Okay, fine," I agreed.

I wasn't happy about it, but at the same time, deep down inside, I knew that Maggie was probably right. I hadn't let her help me before, and I saw the results of that bright decision. Maybe it was time to start trusting her more. Trust -- that was a hard thing for me to do.

The highlight of the evening was when Ryan helped me take a bath. I was still a bit unsteady on my feet, so I wasn't quite ready for a shower yet, although the idea of being in the shower together with Ryan was certainly tempting, and a good reason to try to get better quickly. He did, however, put me in the tub and wash me, spending a little extra time making sure certain areas were especially clean. Of course, that got a reaction out of me, and I realized that it had been a while since I'd gotten off last.

"You want me to take care of that for you, babe?" Ryan asked, giving me a devilish smile and wiggling his eyebrows.

"Please!" I practically begged.

"Your wish is my command," he said, as he took hold of my hard-on and started stroking me gently.

My ass hurt a bit when I came, but it was definitely worth it.

As I lay cuddled up in Ryan's arms that night, listening to the gentle, rhythmic sound of his breathing, feeling his warm skin pressed up against me, I realized that he was the best medicine for healing my wounds, both inside and out.



I was disappointed when Ryan had to leave on Tuesday morning, even though I knew I would see him after school. It was Toby's assignment to look after me in the morning, and he took to his job with gusto. Unfortunately for me, a bit too much gusto. Right after Ryan left for school, Toby came in carrying what he affectionately referred to as my "ass cream." I'd totally forgotten that I had to have it applied twice a day, in the morning and at night.

Maggie had already left for work, and Ryan had just left for school, so that left only Toby to apply the medicine for me. I would have tried applying it myself, but Maggie had told me before that that wouldn't be wise because I couldn't see back there (duh!) and might end up tearing the stitches or something. Needless to say, I thought I was going to die from embarrassment.

"C'mon, Connor, be a good patient and turn over on your stomach," he said with a wry grin.

"You know, maybe it would be okay to wait until later. In fact, it doesn't hurt at all," I lied.

True, Toby had seen me naked already that one time in the shower at school, but there was a big difference between having someone see me naked in the shower, and sticking my butt out for him to shove something inside of it. Hell, I didn't even want Ryan doing that!

"You know, mom'll pitch a fit if she finds out you didn't take your medicine, so just pull down your pants, spread your cheeks, and it'll be over before you know it," Toby said.

That damn grin never left his face. It seemed like he would be getting a lot more enjoyment out of this than I would. Sadly, though, he was right. I would most definitely get chewed out by Maggie if I didn't get my treatment like I was supposed to. I tried telling myself that this was for my own good, and there was nothing sexual about it, and nothing to feel awkward about. So I finally acquiesced, turned over onto my stomach, and pulled my pajama bottoms and boxers down.

I wasn't amused, however, when Toby made a low whistling sound upon my revealing my ass to him.

"Shut up, Toby," I snapped at him. "Let's just get this over with."

Without another word, Toby sat down on the bed next to me, and before I knew it, he was spreading my cheeks apart and I felt the cotton swab gently poking into my hole. I muffled my shriek by burying my face in the pillow, as he swabbed all around the inside of my butt. It was not a pleasant experience. Shortly after the cotton swab was removed, I felt him poking at me again, this time with the more soothing salve. However, it didn't feel like the cotton swab being inserted in there, and I soon realized that it was his finger moving around inside of me!

I craned my neck to look over at Toby, who was obviously trying his hardest to maintain a straight face, but not very successfully.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" I yelled at him.

"Me?" he retorted, feigning an innocent look. "I'm just helping you with your medicine."

I was royally pissed off that he would do something like that. And it hurt, too. Both physically and emotionally. I knew that it was just his way of trying to tease me, but part of me still felt ... violated. And I didn't want to feel that way about Toby, because I loved him so much. I wasn't in much of a position to fight, though, considering I was still pretty much bed-ridden, not to mention the fact that his finger was already firmly implanted in my ass, so I just scowled at him and let him finish. But I was definitely not a happy camper, and I didn't want to be around him at that particular moment.

After he was finished, he swatted my bare butt and helped me pull up my boxers and pajama bottoms. He then gave me my pain pills and tucked me back in to bed. Once the pills kicked in, I was out like a light, hoping that I could forget what had just happened.

When I woke up, I found Mikey sitting on the floor by the bed, doing his homework.

"What time is it?" I asked.

"Oh, you're awake," he said, smiling at me. "It's about twelve-thirty. Toby just left a few minutes ago to go back to school. How're you feeling?"

"A little groggy," I replied. "But thanks for coming to stay with me."

"You're welcome, bud," he said, giving me another warm smile.

He had brought my homework assignments for me, which again were pretty short and easy, and I finished in about forty-five minutes. For the rest of the afternoon, we just hung out and watched television. I realized that I really enjoyed just hanging out with Mikey, without any drama. He was really a sweet guy, very smart (I had noticed the numerous AP text books he was studying from), and definitely easy on the eyes.

It was surprising to me that Ryan never fell for him. Mikey would have really made a good boyfriend for someone. Unfortunately, thinking about that made me start to feel guilty again about Ryan and me screwing things up between him and Toby. I still felt like an ass about that.

But it was hard to stay in a bad mood with Mikey constantly cracking jokes about the idiots we were watching humiliate themselves on the trash that they passed off as "talk shows" on afternoon television. Mikey also filled me in on the latest gossip at school. Apparently, Stacy Feldman, the girl who'd gotten knocked up by her thirteen-year-old brother, gave birth shortly after Thanksgiving, and they just found out at school that she was pregnant again. Lo and behold, it was the same brother who did it before. You'd think they'd have learned their lesson!

Also, Eleanor Van Epps, probably the geekiest girl in our grade (even geekier than me!) had come in to school on Monday with dyed purple hair, a spiked dog collar, multiple piercings in her ears and nose, and a t-shirt with a picture of a dog and the slogan, "No, seriously, who let the fucking dogs out?" If you'd known this girl, who always got the highest grades in our classes, was very quiet and unassuming, and wore thick, geeky glasses and clothes that went out of style ten years ago (not that I was really one to talk, before I finally got some nice clothes for Christmas), you'd have been shocked, too. It was like Barbara Walters suddenly dressing up as an S&M dominatrix or something.

According to Mikey, she was now supposedly dating this tall, thin goth boy named Dominic, who also happened to be totally gorgeous. At least I thought so. He was seventeen, worked as a lifeguard, and there had been rumors that he was gay. I could definitely picture it. Maybe he was bi or something. But Eleanor Van Epps?! Yuck!

"So how are you feeling, Connor?" Mikey suddenly asked me.

"Other than the pain, not too bad, I guess," I replied.

"I bet you're glad to be out of your house now," he said.

"Yeah, I am," I admitted. "I probably should have tried to leave a long time ago. I was just too stubborn, I guess."

"Well, at least you're in a good place now," he said, smiling at me.

"For now, at least," I said with a wan smile. "But this is only temporary. They're gonna put me in a foster home as soon as I'm better."

"That really sucks, dude," he said. "Do you think you'll at least be able to stay at the same school?"

"I don't know. I guess I have to wait to talk with the guy from Social Services. Dr. McCormack said she's friends with him, so maybe that will help me get a better placement or something," I said.

"Well, wherever you end up, we'll all make sure you get to spend plenty of time with Ryan. We're all really happy that you two found each other," he said, ruffling my hair.

"Thanks," I said, blushing.

"So, would you like a massage or anything?" Mikey asked suddenly. "I am supposed to be your 'nurse,' after all."

When he said that, I immediately thought of how things had gotten out of hand earlier with Toby and my "ass cream," and of course there had been that whole mess with me and Cody kissing. But I had to admit that a massage would definitely feel nice, and Mikey had never tried to hit on me before. So I decided that it couldn't hurt.

"Okay, but be gentle. I'm still pretty bruised," I said, pulling off my shirt and rolling over onto my stomach. I normally would have been too shy to take my shirt off in front of Mikey, but after hanging out with him and getting to know him better, I felt comfortable around him. I still didn't know a whole lot about him and his life, but he made me feel kinda safe.

Mikey sat astride my body, resting gently on my butt. He started moving his fingers tenderly over my back, his touch feather-light. It tickled a little, but as he gradually began to increase the pressure, kneading the muscles in my shoulders, working his way down to the small of my back, it felt really great. He was extremely gentle and thorough. I figured that given this opportunity, Toby probably would have tried to cop a feel, but Mikey was strictly "professional," and it felt great. Not only did he massage my back, but also my thighs, calves, neck, and scalp. By the time he finished about twenty minutes later, I was completely relaxed.

"You like that?" he asked after he'd finished.

"Yeah, that was incredible. I feel so relaxed right now," I said dreamily.

"I'll have to tell Ryan about that," he said, grinning. "You two could have lots of fun together giving each other massages."

I blushed at the thought of that.

I was elated when Ryan came back right after school. Despite having a nice afternoon with Mikey, I was more than ready to see my boyfriend again. I was starting to realize, however, that if I missed him so much after being separated from him for just the length of a school day, how was I going to be able to handle it when I had to leave, and to God knows where?

I'd also discovered that afternoon that despite a bit of discomfort, I was able to get out of bed on my own and hobble into the bathroom by myself. That was a good thing, since I wasn't so sure about having to ask Mikey to help me pee. We'd gotten along great, and become better friends, but I didn't think we were at that point in our friendship yet where I'd be comfortable with him holding my wang for me while I pissed. However, I decided to play the part of a cripple at least a little bit longer so that Ryan would have to continue helping me to bathe. That was definitely one of the little benefits of having had the crap beaten out of me.

Fortunately, that night, Maggie was available to apply my medicine for me. I made sure to tell her to wake me up before she left for work in the morning to help me put it on, so that I wouldn't have to go through the embarrassment that I did earlier with Toby. Without even really thinking about it, I just blurted out what had happened earlier. I'd never been a tattle-tale in my life before. Heck, I put up with the abuse from my mother for six years and hadn't told a soul. But something about what Toby did really affected me, and I guess I needed to tell someone.

Needless to say, she was extremely unhappy when I told her what Toby had done, and based on the expression of rage on her face, I immediately began to regret even bringing it up. I didn't want Toby to get in trouble, especially for something that I was sure wasn't intentional. But before I had a chance to protest, Maggie went storming out of the room, muttering something about "totally uncalled for" and needing to "get something through that boy's thick skull."

About a half hour later, Toby came into the room, looking very much like a dog with its tail between its legs, and from his red, swollen eyes and the tears stains still visible on his face, he had obviously been crying.

"I'm so sorry, Connor," he choked out. "That was really stupid of me. I didn't even think about ... you know ... that. I guess I just thought that joking around with you like before would make you feel better."

"It's okay, Toby," I said softly, not wanting to upset him further. "Just please don't do it again. I've always trusted you, and you've always made me feel safe. But when you did that, I didn't feel that way anymore, and that just made me more upset."

"I'm so, so sorry, Connor! I'm such an asshole. I never want you to have to feel the way that man made you feel. Shit! I'm so sorry!" he blurted out, starting to sob again.

"It's over now, Toby. Just come give me a hug ... gently," I said, motioning for him to come closer. When I finally managed to coax him over to the bedside, I gave him the strongest hug I could manage in my weakened condition. And if this makes any sense, I could somehow feel from the way he held on to me that he really was sorry.

But I realized then that when it came to my ass, I was definitely sensitive. I wasn't even ready to let Ryan put that cream on me, either. I only managed to tolerate Maggie doing it because I could tell myself that she was a doctor. Nevertheless, once I'd completely healed, I was hoping I wouldn't mind Ryan sticking something else up there. I'd been really worried that Ryan wouldn't want to touch me like that again after I'd been tainted by that disgusting man. But Ryan had made it a point to tell me many times in the hospital and since we'd been home that he didn't look at me any differently.

It was hard to accept at first, but Ryan was getting to understand my personality and insecurities better and better, and he kept drilling the point home until I had no other choice but to believe that he really meant it. I also found out that he'd been worried that after what I'd been through, I wouldn't want to have sex for a long time. Maybe I shouldn't have wanted to, but perhaps the fact that I was passed out cold by the time the deed had actually happened had something to do with it. The only thing I'd remembered from that night was the beating itself, and not the rape. I figured that was probably a good thing. I just hoped I could get past my little "ass phobia."

Even though I was still in a fair amount of pain on Tuesday night, Maggie had said that she was very pleased with my progress, at least physically. She still insisted that I would need counseling later. Apparently, most of my wounds were only superficial, with only the cracked ribs and torn ass hole being more serious. As the CT scan had shown, I didn't suffer a serious concussion, and my having been unconscious was more a result of the drug and shock than any real damage to my head itself. I was thankful for that.

So after receiving such a positive prognosis from Maggie, getting that heartfelt apology from Toby, and knowing that things would eventually go back to normal with Ryan in our relationship, I was feeling pretty good that night. That is, until Maggie informed me that the guy from Social Services would be coming over on Saturday evening to discuss my placement. She insisted that he was a very nice guy and a personal friend of hers, but since he was the one who would be taking me away and sticking me in some foster home, I was sure that I wouldn't like him. The thought of that spoiled my good mood very quickly.

That night in bed, as I lay there lost in my own thoughts, Ryan informed me that if I was feeling well enough on Saturday morning, we'd all been invited to go over to Cody's house for something called a "sweat lodge." It was supposed to be some kind of Native American spiritual ritual, and Cody's mom had insisted that it would help to heal my spirit. It seemed like everyone was worried about my mental state. But at least it would get me out of the house, and I'd get to spend the day with my friends before I got shipped off that night, so I agreed to go.



The rest of the week went by pretty smoothly, and I was extremely flattered each day when someone would come over to stay with me, even though I was healing pretty quickly and didn't think it was all that necessary. But it made me feel good, so I wasn't about to tell them to get lost or anything, especially on Wednesday morning when the gorgeous twins, Ben and Derek, came over. Thank god they'd missed my morning "rectal probing" from Maggie, otherwise I would have most likely died on the spot from embarrassment.

Aside from seeing them at lunch every day, and the quick kiss I got from Ben at the hospital, I'd never really gotten to know the twins very well. Unfortunately, they weren't gay ... although that might have been a good thing, considering the trouble I tended to find myself in. They turned out to be two of the coolest guys I'd ever met, and the close bond between them was even more apparent than the one between Ryan and Toby. They were constantly leaning on or hanging all over each other, and often finished each other's sentences. I also found out that they even slept in bunk beds!

I also finally discovered how to tell them apart, when Derek pointed out a very small mole on the left side of Ben's face, right above his upper lip. Ben was also more outgoing and direct, and he didn't hesitate at all to start questioning me about what exactly had happened to me. I figured there was really no sense in hiding anything any more, so I told them all about my fucked up life after moving in with my mother, the beatings, her drug abuse, the conditions I'd had to live in, and even as much as I could remember about what happened that final night. For the first time since I'd woken up in the hospital, after Ryan found me lying in my room unconscious, I actually started to cry when I talked about that.

I guess I'd kind of figured that one day I probably would end up crying about it, but I'd always thought that it would be in front of my boyfriend. But it happened when I was with the twins, and I wasn't even embarrassed. The fact that they both immediately wrapped me up in a huge hug and gently stroked my hair made it easier, too. For two sixteen-year-old straight guys, they were incredibly sensitive, and it became clear why Ryan would enjoy hanging out with them. I also decided that I'd like hanging out with them more, too.

And so continued the process of me finally getting to know the people that I'd been spending time with for the past few months, but never really understanding. I realized that opening up wasn't actually a bad thing.

At around eleven-thirty, Natalie, who was supposed to be coming over in the afternoon, called and said she had something come up and couldn't make it, so the twins offered to stay for the rest of the day. I wasn't about to protest, because any normal, upstanding teenage boy would do anything for a good excuse to get a whole day off of school. And it wasn't that I didn't like Natalie. She was one of the coolest girls I'd met. But being around two studs like Ben and Derek, even if they were straight, was a lot easier on the eyes. Between Ryan, Toby, Mikey, Cody, and now the twins, I was definitely enjoying my "hot guy therapy."

"I don't mean to bring up a touchy subject or anything," Ben said, "but do you know what's going to happen to you next? I mean, are you still gonna be going to school with us?"

"I don't know," I admitted. "I'm trying not to think about it. I don't really want to go live in a foster home or anything, but it's not like I have much choice anymore."

"So when are you gonna find out?" Derek asked.

"Maggie said the social worker is coming over on Saturday evening, so I guess I'll find out then," I said.

Normally, I would have thought that simply the suggestion of being separated from Ryan, who had become my lifeline, would have instantly sent me into a massive panic attack. I knew that it was the fairly strong doses of anti-anxiety medicine that Maggie had me taking that were helping to keep me calm throughout all of this. At the same time, though, it made me feel like I wasn't feeling what I was really feeling. It's not like I wasn't upset about leaving Ryan, because I was. But I wasn't totally freaking out about it, and that was strange. It made me a little uncomfortable because it wasn't a familiar reaction to me.

"Well, it doesn't really matter anyway," Ben said. " 'Cause I doubt they'd take you out of the state, and Ryan has a car, and I don't think there's much that could keep him away from you."

"Yeah, that's what they tell me," I said with a sigh.

"Don't worry, bud, it'll all work out," Derek said with a reassuring smile, and giving my shoulder a gentle squeeze.

"Thanks," I muttered, forcing a smile.

We spent the rest of the afternoon playing video games. Well, actually, the two of them spent the rest of the afternoon playing video games, acting much the same way Ryan and Toby did when they played. They were very competitive and constantly bickering, and both had extremely out-going and cheeky senses of humor. I divided my time between working on my homework assignments and watching the two of them. I also decided to ask them if they'd like to go to that "sweat lodge" thing at Cody's house on Saturday. They'd never really met Cody, except for seeing him briefly at the hospital, and I thought it would be nice if all of us could become friends.

I'd called Mikey earlier and asked him to go, but he politely declined. I was pretty sure it had something to do with the fact that Toby and Cody were going to be there, but I didn't push it. I would've loved to try to hook Mikey up with a nice guy, but unfortunately, I didn't know any more gay guys. But Mikey had gotten plenty of "dates" on his own before (although I didn't really like the idea of him dating college guys), so I figured he'd find someone eventually. I'd still keep my eye out, though.

I'd heard rumors that our school would finally be starting up a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) sometime in the spring, so that might be a way for him to meet guys. I was kind of excited about the idea and thought it would be cool to join. Even Ben and Derek said they would attend -- to represent the straight guys, of course. The only problem with that, though, was that I wasn't sure I'd even be at the same school come spring.

And what would I do at my new school? Should I be "out"? Would I be willing or able to even try to make new friends? It took me long enough to make the friends that I had now, and that was pretty much all because of Ryan. And I'd only met Ryan by accident. Making friends on my own definitely wasn't my strong point.

By the time Ryan got home that afternoon, I had gotten myself all worked up about having to start out at a new school. For the past few days, I'd tried to pretend that nothing was wrong, and that I would be able to handle everything all right. But now that my impending meeting with the social worker was drawing closer and closer, I was getting myself worked up into a nervous frenzy. The fact that I hadn't taken my next dose of Klonopin wasn't helping, either.

"What's wrong, babe?" Ryan asked, lying down next to me on the bed and rubbing my back.

"I'm scared about having to go to a new school. I really don't wanna leave you," I sobbed. Between crying in front of the twins, and now with Ryan, today was turning out to be a real sob-fest for me. I felt like a baby, but it was like I couldn't control it. I just felt so emotional, and for some reason, I wasn't able to hold it back anymore like I used to.

Ryan's gonna think I'm such a wuss! I thought.

"You'll make new friends, Connor," he said soothingly. "You've already come so far already. You just need to have a little more self-confidence."

"That's easy for you to say. You already have a great group of friends, and you're not the one who has to go live with some strange family and go to a new school. Why did this have to happen to me?"

"I don't know, babe. Life just sucks sometimes. But you going to live with a new family and going to a new school doesn't mean anything's gonna change with us. You know that," he said.

"I know, but it's still not easy. I mean, the foster family could turn out to be real jerks. What if they don't let me keep working or try to keep me away from you or something?"

"Well, if they do, I'm sure my mom will have a few choice words to say to them. You know how tough she can be. Besides, she's good friends with the director of Child Protective Services. I'm sure everything will work out fine," he said. I wished I felt as confident as he sounded.

Fortunately, after my little crying spell, it was time for me to take my anxiety medicine, and within a half hour, I was feeling much better. But I still didn't like the fact that I knew I was really upset underneath, and the medicine was just hiding that. Even if I was going to be an emotional wreck, at least it would be my real feelings. Part of me wanted to stop taking the medication, but I knew that Maggie wouldn't let me, and I was sure she would be able to tell by the change in my mood.

On Thursday, both Delcondris and Tuwanda came over to spend the morning with me. I wasn't in a very cheery mood, though, and didn't really feel like talking much. Tuwanda spent most of her time painting her nails, but Delcondris decided to take it upon himself to get me to start doing some exercises, since I'd been pretty much bed-ridden for most of the week. It was nothing too strenuous, and it actually felt good. He also told me that if I ever wanted to work out with him, like lifting weights and stuff, that I was welcome to come over to his house and he'd teach me. But to do that, I'd have to be there at five o'clock in the morning, and that didn't sound very appealing to me. And since I would probably end up moving to another town soon, there wasn't much point anyway.

I explained this to him, and he basically gave me the same speech that everyone else had, saying that I would still see all of them, Ryan and the twins had cars, so it wouldn't be a big deal, blah blah blah. I really liked Delcondris. He'd always been really nice to me and stood up for me when Trent Lomax was being an ass (not seeing him in school anymore would be the only good thing about moving). But even the huge football player's reassurances weren't getting through to me. Ever since the day before, I seemed to have made the decision to get depressed, and I didn't see that changing in the foreseeable future.

Toby came by in the afternoon to stay with me, but I wasn't really feeling up to having any company, so I told him I wanted to take a nap. I didn't wake up until Maggie came into the room after work to check me over and put the ointment in my ass. It hurt much less now, though, which I guessed was good, and meant that I was healing okay down there. That was probably the one bright spot of the past two days. In bed that night, Ryan tried asking me what was bothering me, but I didn't feel like talking, so I just took my anxiety medicine and went back to sleep.

When I woke up on Friday morning, I was surprised to see that Ryan was still in the bed, with his head propped up on his hand ... and staring at me.

"Shouldn't you be in school today?" I asked groggily.

"Nope," he said with a grin. "I'm taking the whole day off to spend with you."

I had been pretty determined to stay in my bad mood from the previous couple days, but I couldn't help smiling when he said that. No matter how hard I tried to be stubborn, one smile or one little hug from Ryan was usually enough to make my worries go away. And I knew in my heart that he was serious about coming to see me as often as he could. He'd proven to me how much he cared about me, even when I was being an ass, or kissing other boys, or crying like a baby ... he was always there. Of course, he wasn't perfect, but he was as close to perfect as I could imagine anyone being. There were quite a few times when I thought I didn't deserve his love, or his patience, but I was a selfish little bastard, so I just clung on for dear life and hoped that one day I could return some of what he'd given me.

We stayed in bed for pretty much the rest of the day, just holding each other, talking about my fears and worries, and sharing a few gentle kisses. Although my body was continuously getting better, I still wasn't up to all out sex with Ryan, but he didn't complain, and swore that he was content just to be next to me. I was okay with that, too, because the medicine had kind of been sapping my sex drive over the past few days, and I wasn't in the mood for much more than cuddling and kissing.

Eventually, though, we had to get up and get showered, since we were both smelling a little ripe. And even though it was a little late, Ryan applied my ointment for me, and it didn't even bother me. Between now and the time that I would be taken away, I didn't want to spend one second away from him. Hell, I'd have even sat in the bathroom with him while he took a dump if it meant spending just a few more minutes being next to him.

When Toby got home after school, he immediately went to his room and started working on his homework, something he'd never done before. When it came to homework, Toby was one of the worst procrastinators. So, of course, that piqued my curiosity. I received my answer, though, when he stopped by Ryan's room, with gym bag in hand, to say good-bye.

"Where are you going?" I asked.

"I'm gonna spend the night at Cody's. You know ... uhhh ... to help him and his mom get started on the sweat lodge thing early tomorrow morning," he said, blushing.

"Are you sure that's the only reason you're going to spend the night at Cody's?" I asked, giving him a knowing look.

Toby glared at me, then haughtily thrust out the palm of his hand in my direction. "Talk to the hand, biatch!"

I just shook my head and rolled my eyes. But inside, I was dancing a little jig, happy to know that things seemed to be progressing between Toby and Cody. Exactly where things were progressing, I wasn't sure, though. Cody had never exactly said that he was into guys. Yeah, we'd shared a few passionate kisses before, but he was just ... well, Cody. You never really knew with him.

So that night, it was just me and Ryan home alone. Maggie wouldn't be back from the hospital until late. I was looking forward to the whole "sweat lodge" experience the next day, because it sounded pretty cool, even though I wasn't exactly sure what it was all about. Actually, though, Maggie still hadn't given me the official go-ahead to leave the house. She said she'd check me out in the morning and then decide if I was well enough yet to go out. We were supposed to get there at around ten o'clock in the morning, and wouldn't be finished until the late afternoon or early evening.

For the rest of the evening, Ryan and I just vegged out on the couch downstairs and watched a couple movies on HBO. I had spent so much time in bed upstairs over the past week, only venturing downstairs in the last couple of days for meals, that it was nice to get out of bed. I was definitely getting cabin fever. By eleven o'clock, before Maggie had even gotten home, we were back upstairs and asleep in bed. And no, Ryan didn't forget to apply my "ass cream."



As we pulled up in front of Cody's house on Saturday morning, Cody was standing on the front porch waiting for us with a big grin on his face, along with the twins, Ben and Derek, who looked gorgeous as usual. That morning, before Maggie left for work, she'd checked me over and determined that it would be okay to go to Cody's today as long as I promised not to exert myself. Despite her being a Western-trained physician, she was also a believer in more holistic approaches to healing, and agreed that the sweat lodge might be a good experience for me.

It was a cold morning, and there was a light snow falling, although according to the weather report, they weren't expecting much accumulation. Nevertheless, Ryan and I were both bundled up snugly in our winter jackets, beanies, and gloves. Instead of going into the house, Cody led us around the house into the backyard. We then headed towards the woods that backed up to their property, and began following a narrow trail through the forest. After walking for about ten minutes, and getting whacked in the face a few times by some stray branches, we suddenly came upon a large clearing in the forest, where we found Cody's mom and Toby already there.

The first thing I noticed was a hole dug in the ground, and about fifteen feet away, Toby and Cody's mom were starting to assemble some large branches to create what appeared to be a tee-pee style hut. There was also a large pile of old, worn blankets on the ground, and next to the hole in the ground there was a large stack of rocks. I immediately recognized them as being some kind of pumice rocks. I guess that lesson on geology in the fourth grade paid off after all!

The next thing I noticed was Cody's mom. Unlike the rest of us, who were all bundled up to keep from freezing our asses off, she was wearing a skimpy pair of cut-off jean shorts and a black t-shirt that said, "Sodomy: It's All About Respect." And that was it. She wasn't shivering at all, and her color appeared totally normal. Even with my coat, beanie, and gloves, I was still cold. Like I said, she was a strange woman!

Before approaching them, I quietly asked Cody what his mother's name happened to be today, not wanting to offend her.

"Since we're going with the whole Native American theme, today she's chosen the name 'Golden Eagle'," he said.

I just nodded, for some reason not finding that out of character for her at all.

With that, we walked over to say hi, and Cody, Ryan, and the twins were quickly put to work, although I was given a reprieve, since I had been given orders by Maggie not to exert myself. The twins helped Toby assemble the rest of the wooden frame of the tee-pee, while Cody and Ryan began putting the rocks into the pit, then traipsed off into the forest to collect firewood. Cody's mom explained that the rocks would be covered with firewood, which would burn slowly over the course of the day until the rocks reached a high enough temperature. While they were doing that, Toby dug out a small pit in the center of the ground inside the tee-pee, which was where the hot rocks would be placed during the sweat lodge ceremony.

Once the fire had been built, the rest of the group began covering the tee-pee with the old blankets, making sure that there were no small spaces where the steam could escape. I thought it would be more 'traditional' to cover it in some kind of animal skin or something, but the blankets would work just as well, I supposed. It took about two hours to get everything set up, and when we were finished, we headed back to the house to have tea and wait a few more hours for the fire to get the rocks hot enough.

After having a couple cups of hot tea to warm up, we all headed downstairs to Cody's room to hang out. As soon as I laid my eyes on Cody's keyboard, I felt the urge to play. I hadn't touched a piano in almost two weeks, and didn't know when I'd be allowed to go back to work (if I was at all), so naturally, I asked Cody if we could jam for a bit. Everyone seemed to like the idea. Other than Ryan and Cody, the only other time they had heard me play was back in November at the talent contest, and none of them had heard Cody and me play together yet.

I didn't want to strain myself, since it would probably hurt my ribs to sing too hard, so we just messed around a bit, going through a few of my favorite classics, like Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'," Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee," The Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash," Elton John's "Indian Sunset" (which fit perfectly with the whole Native American theme for the day), and a couple newer ones, such as Bonnie Raitt's "Circle Dance," and Ben Folds' "The Luckiest," which I, of course, dedicated to Ryan. It was a short session, and Toby and the twins laughed at us for playing a bunch of "old people's music" that they didn't know. Sheesh, some people just couldn't appreciate good music when they heard it. But it was still fun.

At about three o'clock, Cody's mom ... errr ... "Golden Eagle" came down to tell us it was time to go start the sweat lodge ceremony, so we all got bundled up again and headed back outside. The snow was coming down a little harder, but I figured it would be nice and warm in the sweat lodge, so I didn't mind. That was, until Cody's mom told us to strip. I think my eyes must have about popped out of their sockets when she said that so nonchalantly. Cody must have noticed my astonishment, as he explained that when we eventually came back out of the sweat lodge, which represented the "womb of Mother Earth," we would be "pure" like babies. And since babies obviously came out of the womb naked, we would have to be naked as well.

That didn't make it any easier, though, since not only was it freezing cold outside, but I didn't exactly want to be buck ass naked in front of everyone, nor was I too keen to see Cody's mom in the buff either. But when everyone else started stripping down, I figured I didn't want to be the odd man out, so I took off my clothes, too. When we were all standing there naked, I noticed everyone (except for Cody's mom) had some definite "shrinkage" going on, although I had to admit, the twins and Cody looked even hotter without their clothes on. Fortunately, it was so cold that I didn't have any embarrassing reactions from seeing that.

Ready to begin the ceremony, "Golden Eagle" instructed us to all stand around the fire outside the tee-pee, and we each tossed a pinch of tobacco into the fire in gratitude for the Earth. Fortunately, she instructed us in every little step, and explained the significance of what we were doing, because I really had no clue what to do. Cody's mom informed us that the sweat lodge ceremony was not just about cleansing our bodies and spirits of impurities, but was also to get in touch with the "feminine" side of ourselves.

So we were all instructed to give blessings to our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers. Giving a blessing to my mother was a little difficult, considering I hated her so much for what she put me through, but I did realize that she was the one who gave birth to me, and I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her. It was much easier to give a blessing to my grandmother, though, who I truly missed and was very thankful for. I also gave a blessing to Maggie, who had become kind of a second mother to me in many ways.

Next, we faced each direction of the compass, north, south, east, and west, and gave our thanks. We were then each handed a bundle of mountain sage, which Cody's mom lit on fire, and we took turns "smudging" each other with the fragrant smoke to cleanse our bodies and minds. Finally, we entered the sweat lodge one-by-one. The inside was pitch black and still cold, since none of the hot stones had been brought in yet. We sat closely together in a circle, trying to use our body heat to keep warm.

Finally, Cody's mother entered with a shovel full of hot stones that she had just scooped out of the large fire pit outside, then dumped them into the hole in the center of the lodge. She poured a ladleful of water onto the heated stones, which immediately brought forth bursts of steam and heat into the air, and the inside of the lodge began to grow hotter and hotter. She repeated this several times, with more rocks, and more water, until the steam and heat were almost suffocating.

She then began chanting in what I assumed was some sort of Native American language, while Cody beat rhythmically on a pair of small drums he had brought into the lodge. Even though I couldn't understand what was being said, the sounds of the chanting and beating of the drums became hypnotic, and I felt my whole body relaxing, despite the intense heat. The chanting and drumming continued on for a while as we just sat there, taking in the whole experience. We were only interrupted briefly when Cody's mom went out yet again to bring in more of the heated rocks, and pour on more water, adding even more heat and steam to the small enclosure.

Cody's mom then informed us in a somber voice that it was now time to begin the second round of the sweat lodge ceremony. We were instructed to invite our Native American "medicine wheel" totems, such as the bear, the buffalo, the eagle, and the elk, to enter the lodge and communicate with us, helping to guide us in bringing out our negative "issues," and replacing them with positive qualities. I asked that my anxiety be replaced by happiness. I wasn't sure that it would work, but it was certainly worth a try.

More water was then added to the stones, and the heat grew even more intense. I was sweating profusely by this point, and for a moment considered bolting out of the lodge, but I managed to hold myself together and tried to forget about the discomfort. I had been in a sauna before, but this was much hotter. We were then instructed to take turns saying what we were grateful for in our lives. That was an easy one for me.

"I'm grateful for all of my friends and how much they've helped me, even when I haven't made it easy for them," I said.

Next, it was Ryan's turn. He grabbed onto my hand and said, "I'm thankful for Connor, who I love very much. And for my mom and brother."

"I'm thankful for meeting Cody, who is one of the most incredible guys I've ever met," Toby said in a very serious tone.

Even though I couldn't see anything in the dark lodge, I could almost feel Cody's blush.

"I'm thankful for my mom and everything that she's taught me," Cody said. "And also for the new friends I've made who have all become my teachers as well."

I think I was hoping that Cody would admit his "undying love" for Toby, but I guess it wasn't to be right now.

"I'm grateful for my brother, who I love very much," Ben said.

"And I'm also grateful for my brother ... who I love even more," Derek chimed in, with a slight chuckle.

I almost felt myself saying, "Awwwww," because the two of them were just too cute, but I figured it probably wouldn't be appropriate, so I kept my mouth shut.

Finally, Cody's mom said, "I'm thankful for the spirits for joining us in the lodge tonight, and for helping to heal and guide us. And I'm grateful to Mother Earth for giving me such a wonderful son, and for the beautiful friends he has made since we moved here."

With that, "Golden Eagle" left the sweat lodge once again to gather another shovel full of heated stones, and after dumping them into the pit, poured more water on them, further increasing the steam and heat. It was now time for the final round of the ceremony, which consisted yet again of chanting and drumming.

Between the intense heat of the lodge, the pitch black darkness, the smell of mountain sage that permeated the air, our naked bodies all pressed closely together, and the feelings we had so openly shared with each other, I was feeling very emotional, yet completely relaxed, almost as if I was in some kind of trance-like state. As I closed my eyes and let my body absorb the heat, the enchanting sounds of the strange words and drumming were accompanied by a colorful display of lights and images dancing around in my mind. I felt like I had entered into some other kind of world.

Eventually, though, the chanting and drumming ended, and it was time to leave the lodge. Once we were all outside, we again gave our thanks to Mother Earth and the four directions, then quickly got dressed and headed back to the house to get warmed up. I asked if we should stay to help clean up the lodge, but Cody and his mom insisted that they would take care of it themselves the next day.

When we got inside, I realize that it was only around four o'clock, meaning that the entire sweat lodge ceremony had only lasted about an hour. Us six boys went back down to Cody's room to hang out for a while before I had to be back home to meet the social worker, which I was now dreading less and less after the incredible experience we had just shared.

Cody dimmed the lights, lit some candles and incense, and put on a CD of traditional Native American music to keep the mood going. I was glad to be able to draw out that feeling of peace and serenity just a little while longer. I couldn't say that I understood the whole experience, or the significance of the ceremonies and chanting and stuff, but I knew that it brought an incredible sense of calm over me, and I didn't even need to take my anxiety medication to feel that way. It just seemed so ... natural.

Ryan sat down on the futon in the sitting area in Cody's room, and I lay down with my head in his lap, as he gently stroked my hair, causing me to make a soft cooing sound. The twins lay down on the floor, their chins propped up on their hands, and also looking very relaxed. What surprised me just a little bit was Cody sitting in Toby's lap on the cushy recliner across from the couch. That was the most intimate position I had ever seen them in.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one who noticed this new, open display of affection between the two.

"Well, aren't you going to kiss him?" Ben chided Toby.

"Who says I haven't already?" Toby shot back with a smirk.

Even in the dim candlelight, I could still make out the deep blush on Cody's face, and I heard a slight chuckle from Ryan.

"Well, we haven't seen two guys kiss yet in person. Not even Ryan and Connor have kissed in front of us. We wanna see," Derek demanded cheekily.

Toby glared at him momentarily, but then suddenly brought his hand around to cup the back of Cody's head and pulled him gently into a very passionate lip-lock. From the movement of their mouths, it was clear that there was some serious tongue action going on there, and although Cody's body had tensed up when Toby first placed his mouth on his lips, he soon relaxed and seemed to melt right into Toby's slightly larger body. What I thought would just be a quick kiss for Derek's and Ben's entertainment ended up turning into a good ten minute make-out marathon. All the rest of us could do was sit there with our mouths hanging open.

When they finally pulled apart, Toby looked over at the twins with a wry grin.

"So how was that?" he asked.

Ben looked completely dumbfounded. "Ummm ... uhhh ... I .... uhhh ... SHIT!"

After we all had a good laugh at Ben's expense, Toby's mom came down to tell us that Maggie had called and we needed to get heading home for dinner. I would have liked it if Toby could've stayed with Cody for a while longer, but I knew that Toby would want to be there when the social worker arrived. Unfortunately, the spell of that magical afternoon had been broken, and my fears and anxiety over my impending departure from the McCormacks' house -- what I had already begun to think of as my new "home" -- came rushing back.



Dinner was a quiet affair, with no one saying much. Even Ryan and Toby looked nervous. I'd been so busy thinking about how all of this was going to affect me, and never really stopped to think that they'd be upset, too. Maybe that was the insecure side of me still trying to convince me that I was over-staying my welcome or being a nuisance, even though none of them had ever given me that impression. Apparently, I still had a lot of work to do on my issues. I was thinking more and more that Maggie was right about me talking to someone. Not just about the beating and rape, but about everything that was wrong with me.

By seven o'clock, Ryan, Toby, and I were all sitting nervously in the living room, awaiting the arrival of the social worker. I'd taken my anxiety medication right after dinner, but my stomach was still doing somersaults. I guess that was a sign of how nervous I really was. I didn't want to leave, but I also knew I had to. It was hard enough on Maggie to raise two boys on her own, especially with her insane work schedule. It wouldn't be fair to expect her to take in a third one, even if she'd wanted to (although she'd never mentioned it). I wouldn't exactly feel okay with it either. The last thing I wanted was to feel like a burden. And even if she had wanted to keep me, if something happened between me and Ryan, and we ended up breaking up, what would we do then? That would certainly make for a very awkward situation.

"Are you okay, Connor?" Ryan asked softly, breaking me away from my thoughts.

"I think so," I said, trying to manage a slight smile. I didn't think I was hiding my anxiety that well, though.

"Don't worry, Connor. Nothing's gonna keep us away from you," Toby jumped in.

"Thank you," I mouthed back to him.

It always seems like time moves especially slow when you're waiting for something bad to happen, and I was practically going nuts just sitting there, not knowing where I was going to end up, what kind of people I would be staying with, or where my future would lead me. It wasn't a good feeling at all. At that moment, I just wanted to be back in Ryan's room with him, cuddled up together on his bed, the only place besides sitting at the piano where I felt safe.

Just as I thought I couldn't stand waiting any longer, the doorbell finally rang, and Maggie immediately went to answer it. A few moments later, she walked back into the room along with a very large black man. Although he had a friendly face, I couldn't help but dislike him, knowing what he was here for.

"Connor, this gentleman is Dwayne Jackson, the regional director for Child Protective Services," Maggie said. "And also a good friend of mine."

"Hi, it's nice to meet you, Mr. Jackson," I said cautiously, standing up and shaking the hand that he had offered me.

"It's nice to meet you, too, Connor," he said with a bright smile. "And please call me Dwayne."

I noticed Maggie turn to look at Ryan and Toby. "Why don't you two go on upstairs so we can talk privately for a little while?"

"No, it's okay," I jumped in immediately. "I mean, I want them to stay ... please."

"That's fine," Dwayne said, turning to Maggie. "Let's all have a seat and get started."

"Okay, boys, you can stay. But keep quiet, alright?" Maggie said to Ryan and Toby.

They both nodded in agreement.

Dwayne took a seat in one of the recliners and looked around at all of us, who were in turn looking expectantly at him.

"So, I guess everyone knows why we're all here tonight," he said, as he placed a stack of file folders on the coffee table in front of him and put on a pair of reading glasses.