The Triumvirate

Part III

When I woke up the next morning, I didn’t feel so good. I was warm and even sweating a little. I called Mam. She took my temperature and told me it was 102°, so I stayed in bed that day. Mam tried to get me to tell her what happened, but I didn’t; I couldn’t. I didn’t say anything about it for three days. Oh, we talked some, but not about THAT.

By Sunday I was feeling better and went downstairs for breakfast. I didn’t go to Mass. Instead I went back upstairs and worked on some homework that was past due.

In the afternoon, all my brothers went out for one reason or another while Da sat in the living room reading the newspaper.

Mam and I were at the kitchen table. “Liam,” she said, “it’s time you talked to me.”

How could I? I’d be embarrassed, and I was still really hurting and ashamed. But I knew I had to try.

“You know I’ve been getting help from Ryan Ackroyd for my writing,” I began.

She just nodded, forcing me to go on.

“Well…” I hesitated, trying to think what to say. “Well,” I continued slowly, “Ryan and I began to do things together…on his bed.”

She just nodded. I began to wonder if she already had it figured out.

“I don’t wanna say what we were doing but I think maybe you can guess. I began to think I loved him, and he told me that he loved me. I was in heaven. I finally had a true, gay boyfriend. Those Tuesdays and Thursdays became special for me.”

I stopped for a minute to gather my thoughts. There were tears in my eyes.

“Anyway, last Wednesday I got my essay back and I was so happy I wanted to show it to Ryan, even though it wasn’t my day. I went to his house and walked in and up the stairs. Barging into his room I began to talk about the essay, but then I realized he was on top of a naked boy, going at it like crazy.

“Everything became clear to me. Ryan didn’t love me. He maybe didn’t even care about me. He was just using me like he was using the boy on the bed ─ for sex.”

At that, I burst into tears. Finally I blurted out, “I’m sorry, Mam. I’m really sorry. I feel humiliated and dirty, and terribly, terribly hurt. How could I have gotten it so wrong?”

Mam came to me and gave me a long, hard hug. She was crying, too…for me.

When we had both recovered some, she said, “Liam, for some strange reason, a lot of teen boys go through being hurt by someone they think they love, no matter whether they’re gay or straight. I know that doesn’t help, right now, but eventually you’ll be able to move on from here. Oh, it’ll take time, but you can and will do it.”

“I don’t think so,” I said, sadly. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to trust anybody again.”

I stood and went up to my room.


Later in the afternoon, I heard a knock on the front door. Then I heard Mam and someone talking for a minute before the person came upstairs and into my room. It was Dylan.

If there was one person besides Ryan who I didn’t wanna see just then, it was Dylan.

As he stood uncertainly in the doorway, I said, “Go away. I don’t ever wanna see you again.”

He paused for a moment and then seemed to make a decision. He walked into the room, closed the door, and sat on my bed.

“Liam, we’ve gotta talk,” he said quietly.


“I know you hate me and you don’t wanna talk with me, but what I have to say involves another boy who’s gonna get hurt like we did.”

Another boy? I wondered. Who? But I didn’t say anything.

Dylan waited a moment and then went on. “I figured that between the two of us, Ryan was having sex every day of the school week except for Friday, and I wondered if he was doing someone else then.”

I hadn’t thought about that. I was so full of my own hurt and anger that I hadn’t thought about anybody else.

When I didn’t say anything, he continued, “I stood across the street behind a tree outside Ryan’s house on Friday. Sure enough, I saw a boy come down the walk, look around to see if he was being observed, and then walk into Ryan’s house. It was Howie Marshall. Do you know him?”

I shook my head.

“Well, he’s a sophomore like me, and I’m sure he’s being used the same way by Ryan. The question is, what do we do about it?”

I noticed he said, ‘we’.

Neither of us spoke for a time until I finally said, “I’m not doing anything about it. Let him figure it out for himself.”

“But he won’t until something happens like it did with us. Do you want him to feel as awful as we do?”

After a long pause, as I thought this all over, I said quietly, “No.” Then I asked, “So, what do we do?”

“We tell him, in as kindly a way as we can before he gets in any deeper.”

“But why won’t he be hurt as much as we were?”

“He will be hurt, but it won’t be as much of a shock as we felt. It won’t be so totally awkward and humiliating if we tell him gently.”

I thought about it for a moment. I was sure that anything we said would probably be as much of a shock, but I asked, “How do we tell him gently?”

“Well, here’s my plan. We tell him at lunch tomorrow that we have to meet with him after school in the coffee shop. Then we tell him as gently as we can about what we discovered about Ryan, about how hurt we both are, and that we hope he doesn’t yet have a crush on him the way we did.”

Is that what it was? A crush? I wondered.

Aloud I asked, “Do you think that’s any kinder than what happened to us? He’s bound to be hurt and embarrassed.”

“Yeah, I do, because he’ll be with two boys who’ve been through the same thing and who care enough about him to intervene.”

I thought for a bit before finally saying, “Okay. I guess it’s worth a try. At the most, it won’t be any worse than what happened to us. So then there will be three hurt, gay boys.”

Dylan nodded and then smiled, saying, “Maybe we should start a club.”

Hurt and angry as I was, I thought that was pretty funny.


My fever was gone and I was back in school on Monday. At the end of lunch, Dylan and I managed to get together and find Howie. Dylan told him we needed to talk together. When he asked why, Dylan told him we couldn’t talk about it in school and asked if he could meet with us at the coffee shop after dismissal. Howie looked a little doubtful but said he’d think about it.

The coffee shop was in a small shopping area not too far from the school. Dylan and I walked in together. I ordered a coffee mocha and Dylan went for hot chocolate.

While we waited at our table, I said, “Dylan, I don’t get it. If you’re gay, why did you gang up on me in the woods?”

Looking sad, he answered, “I didn’t really know I was gay then, but I was beginning to fear that I was. I joined up with Wyatt thinking he was the most macho boy in our class, and I tried to be like him. Of course, I failed, and eventually I figured out who I really was, so I stopped hanging with Wyatt. I don’t know if he’s figured it out or not. He hasn’t said anything.”

We sat, not saying much, and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Just about the time we’d decided Howie wasn’t coming, he walked in the door. He ordered a drink and, when he’d picked it up, he walked over to the round table in the corner where we were sitting. He looked at Dylan and said, “So, talk.”

Dylan began, asking, “Howie, how long have you been visiting Ryan Ackroyd?”

Howie visibly paled.

“That’s none of your business,” he said and began to get up.

Dylan took hold of Howie’s wrist, gently, and said, “You really need to hear us out.”

Still pale, Howie sat back down. But he didn’t answer Dylan’s question.

Dylan went on, “Howie, would it surprise you to know that Liam and I have been visiting Ryan every week?”

If it was possible, Howie grew paler.

“Let me guess,” Dylan went on. “At first, you went to Ryan’s to play video games. Then he asked you if he could help you with your homework. Am I right so far?”

Howie nodded.

“What was the work?” I asked.

“Algebra. I was having a hard time with it.”

“But as time went on, that wasn’t all he did with you, was it?”

Tears were in Howie’s eyes as he shook his head.

“He began to seduce you,” I put in.

Howie nodded, but he also looked really, really scared.

“Don’t be frightened,” Dylan said. “This is purely among the three of us. We won’t tell anyone else.”

Howie looked from him to me and back again. “Promise?”

“We promise,” answered Dylan as I nodded agreement.

“Look, Howie,” I said, “Ryan’s been doing the same thing with both of us. And the same way. He helped me with my writing, and I gotta admit he was a big help. But then things slowly started to change, and as we did those things together that he was doing with you, I began to think I was in love with him.”

“He was doing the same with me,” said Dylan. “I had Mondays and Wednesdays and Liam had Tuesdays and Thursdays. Neither of us knew about the other until last Wednesday, when I was in bed with Ryan, and Liam came into the room.

“Howie, Ryan doesn’t give a shit about either of us. He was just using us for sex, and I’m afraid he was doing the same with you. That’s why we had to meet, so you could get out of it as quickly as possible.”

Howie was crying by then. Finally, he said very quietly, “He said he loved me, and I believed him. He was lying, wasn’t he?”

Dylan and I both nodded.

I said very gently, “It hurts, doesn’t it, Howie?” He nodded. “My mam says I’ll get over it in time,” I continued, “but right now, we’re all hurting and it’s really hard to trust anybody.”

Howie looked from me to Dylan and back again. “Can I trust you? Really, really trust you?”

We both nodded.

And that’s how the group we called “The Triumvirate” was born.


While I was pretty certain I could trust Howie, I wasn’t so sure about Dylan. I still hadn’t forgiven him for the night in the woods, and, in the back of my mind, I guess I hadn’t forgiven him for what I saw him doing with Ryan. I knew that was crazy, but it was how I felt. I blamed him some for the hurt I was feeling.

We had agreed to meet again at the coffee shop on Wednesday after school. I decided that as long as we were in public, I couldn’t be hurt any more.

When we were all together, Dylan asked, “So what do we do about Ryan?”

“Why do we need to do anything?” I asked.

“Two reasons,” Dylan went on. “First, he doesn’t know yet that Howie has talked with us and he’s gonna figure that out on Friday. That could give us a chance to stop him, but there’s no knowing what he’ll do then. Second, we need to be sure that he doesn’t do this to other boys.”

“Why couldn’t I just not go on Friday?” asked Howie.

“You could,” Dylan answered, “but that doesn’t do anything about other boys. I think Ryan’s a predator and he won’t quit.”

“How about if you come with me on Friday and the three of us deal with him?” Howie asked.

“Okay but deal with him how?” asked Dylan.

“Well, we could tell him he’s being watched and he’d better not hurt any other kids,” Howie suggested.

“Yeah,” said Dylan, “and we wouldn’t have to watch all the time because he’d never know if he was being watched or not.”

“But I for one don’t think that’s enough,” I said. “I think he needs to be punished for what he did.”

Neither Howie nor Dylan wanted to do that. They argued that if we did it, we’d somehow be as bad as he was. I didn’t really get that, but I said, “Okay, but I’m gonna tell him what’ll happen if he does it again.”

“You have something in mind?” Howie asked.

“Yup. But I’ll save it for when we see him.”

So it was agreed, and we all pulled out our homework and started working.

After a few minutes, Howie said, “I’m not sure I’m gonna pass algebra without Ryan’s help.”

“Let me help you,” I said. “I know I’m only a freshman, but I’m in advanced math and I’ve had two years of algebra.”

Howie looked surprised but turned his book so we could both see it. I worked with him on a couple of problems and then suggested he do one on his own. When he did it successfully, I went back to my work.

At the end of school on Friday, The Triumvirate met in an empty classroom so there was no chance that Ryan would see us together. We gave Ryan some time to get home before we started for his house. When we got there, Howie went in first. We waited across the street, thinking that Ryan would offer him a snack first.

We gave them thirty minutes, and then walked to Ryan’s front door and silently opened it. He never did lock the door, I observed. We crept up the stairs, hearing Howie say, “But I just don’t wanna do it today. Okay?”

We couldn’t hear what Ryan said back, but we stood in the doorway and looked. Howie was facing us, and Ryan had his back to us.

“Howie,” said Dylan quietly, “what is it you don’t wanna do with Ryan?”

Ryan turned, stared at us, and then slumped on the bed. Looking at Howie he said, “They told you, didn’t they?”

“Yeah,” said Howie, staring down at him. “They told me how you seduced them which was exactly the way you got me. There was no love involved, was there?”

“But Howie, I do love you.”

“Bullshit,” Howie nearly yelled. “You told Liam and Dylan you loved them too, but it was all just…bullshit!”

Dylan and I both stared down at Ryan. “We talked about punishing you,” said Dylan, “but, even though Liam wanted to, Howie and I wanted to give you a last chance to clean up your act. We’ll be watching, Ryan. You’ll never know when or where, but we will. And if we ever see you with a younger boy outside of school again, we will do something that you won’t like.”

“Like what?” sneered Ryan. “I’m older and bigger than you and you can’t do a damn thing.”

“Tell him, Liam,” said Dylan.

“Well,” I began, “the first thing I’ll do will be to tell my five brothers what you did to me. Two of them are older and much bigger than you, and the others all know how to fight. I can promise you it won’t be pretty.”

By then, Ryan was no longer sneering.

“Then I’ll start a rumor in school that you like to fuck younger boys and have a record of doing so. How long do you think that’ll take to get around? You’d be a pariah, Ryan.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” he said, shakily.

“Oh yes we would, and in addition, we know that you just turned eighteen, so if you have sex with a younger boy, it’ll be a felony and we’d be happy to call the cops.”

Ryan just sat there, defeated.

“So again, know that we’ll be watching,” said Howie. And with that we left.


Meanwhile, I decided to quit the drama club. Yeah, building the sets was fun, but I didn’t wanna run into Ryan there, and besides, I was now taking an extra science class and I really didn’t have the time.

In bed at night I still usually jerked off, but I wasn’t getting the high from it that I’d gotten when I’d pictured Ryan. In fact, some nights I didn’t even do it. I lay there, just feeling hurt and angry and not knowing what to do about it. Occasionally I cried. It was taking me a long time to get over Ryan.

At the coffee shop on Monday, the three of us set up a rotation for watching Ryan’s house. We made it so that he was watched on different days each week. Even if he saw us once or twice, he couldn’t always know when we were there.

The snow began to melt and the trees started to bud out while we continued to watch.

One day, Howie said, “Hey guys, I don’t miss Ryan at all, but I do miss sex. I guess I’m kinda horny.”

Dylan and I both laughed, but then Dylan said, “Yeah, I know what you mean. I’m not ready to love somebody but I’m sure ready to have sex with someone. What about you, Liam?”

I blushed, but I finally nodded.

“Why don’t we just get together sometimes and screw around?” asked Howie. “We’d have to agree that no love was involved, that we were just getting off, but it could be fun.”

“Where could we do that?” I asked. “My mam’s always home in the afternoons and usually some of my brothers are, too. I’m sure they’d get suspicious pretty fast.”

“Well, my house is out,” said Howie. I’ve got two younger brothers and a younger sister and no privacy at all.”

We both looked at Dylan. “Any ideas?” Howie asked.

“Well, yeah. We could use my house. My dad doesn’t get home until nearly 6 o’clock so we could be alone until then.”

“What about your mam?” I asked.

“Don’t have one,” said Dylan, sadly.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t know.”

“No reason you should,” he replied. “Someday, maybe I’ll tell you what happened, but I’d rather not right now.”

So we all agreed to go to Dylan’s house.

After school the next day, we rode our bikes to Dylan’s house, where he unlocked the door, let us in, and then locked it again.

“C’mon,” he said as he started up the stairs.

By the time we were in his room, where he had a king-sized bed, my willy was getting hard. I looked at the other two and could see something happening in their pants as well.

Without anyone saying anything, without any kind of a signal, we all began to undress and were soon naked, our willies pointing out, except for Howie’s, which pointed up. None of us had ever really seen the others bare-assed, so we just stood looking at each other.

Howie had the longest willy of us. It was also circumcised, like mine. Dylan had a shorter, fatter one and he wasn’t cut. I guess mine was about the length of Dylan’s but not quite as fat.

Dylan went over and lay on his bed. We followed him and were soon kissing and hugging and tasting each other. Dylan had had the foresight to buy lube. He suggested that he do Howie first. That was okay with me, and as he did it I found I enjoyed watching.

When they were done, Howie did me and then I did Dylan. In addition to the anal sex, there was a lot of jerking off, sometimes ourselves and sometimes each other.

At last we lay back on the bed, satisfied and weary.

“C’mon,” said Dylan finally, “I’ve got something to show you.”

We followed him out of his room and across the hall to the bathroom. There was a combination tub and shower in there easily big enough to hold all three of us.

“Shower or bath?” asked Dylan. We opted for a shower but agreed that we certainly needed to try the bath another time. We didn’t have sex in the shower that day, but we certainly had fun scrubbing backs and washing asses. Of course, by then we were all hard again, but we decided that if we did anything more, we’d probably not be strong enough for me and Howie to ride our bikes home.


We kept pretty busy, what with homework, watching Ryan’s house, and having sex. I’d finally decided that I really did forgive Dylan about the time in the woods and I told him that one day. He smiled, hugged me, and then kissed me on my cheek.

“Thanks,” he said. “That helps me a lot.”

Trust him? Well, trusting was harder. I trusted the two of them as far as what we were doing, but I still had no desire to trust anyone with my love.

One evening when I was home, I got a call from Dylan, who told me that Howie had been watching Ryan’s house that day and thought he’d seen something. Howie wasn’t sure, but Dylan thought we should meet and talk about it.

After school the next day, The Triumvirate gathered at the coffee shop. By then, the people who worked there had come to know us pretty well, so when the first one of us entered, they got our three orders ready.

When we were all at the table, Dylan said, “Spill it, Howie.”

“I was sorta behind the tree across from Ryan’s house and just watching the road and the sidewalk when I caught a glimpse of someone out of the corner of my eye. The person walked from the back of the house next door to Ryan’s back door. I didn’t see much. The person was a boy and on the smaller side, I thought, and I caught a flash of red hair, but other than that, I didn’t see anything.”

“Do we know any boys with red hair?” Dylan asked. We shook our heads. “Are you sure it was a boy?” he asked. Howie nodded.

“So it’s a redheaded boy who’s small, one we don’t know and have never seen before,” he concluded.

I had a thought. “You know, earlier this year the people next door to Ryan moved out and someone new moved in. Could that explain why we haven’t seen the boy?”

“Yeah, if he’s not in high school,” Howie said, “but that means he’s only fourteen or so, or maybe even younger.”

“So what do we do?” I asked.

“We need to see if we can get a better look at the boy and find out who he is,” Dylan said. “I think maybe we need to watch with a camera.”

We agreed and set up a watch rotation. Dylan had a good, fast camera and he agreed that we could use it. Each day during school we would pass the camera to the one of us who’d be watching that day.

Nothing happened on the first day, when Dylan watched.

Nothing happened on the second day, when Howie watched.

On the third day, I stood behind the tree, watching the space between the two houses. There was a tall fence at the rear of the house next to Ryan’s. Finally a red head poked out from behind the house. I quickly took a photo. He looked around and not seeing me, he walked quickly between the two houses toward Ryan’s back door as I took more photos.

When he disappeared, I checked the pictures in the camera and found I had a couple of good ones that showed him clearly.

That night I called Dylan and Howie and we arranged to meet at the coffee shop the next day.

At the table in the afternoon, I handed the camera to Dylan who looked at the photos before passing it to Howie. When we had all seen the photos, we looked at each other and Howie asked, “What’s next?”

“It’d be good if we got some pictures of them on Ryan’s bed together,” said Dylan.

“How could we do that?” I asked.

“Well, Ryan used to be pretty careless about locking his front door,” said Howie. “Maybe we could just sneak in while they’re doing it and Dylan could take some quick pictures before they knew we were there.”

So that’s what we agreed to try. We all lurked out of sight near Ryan’s house for four days. Eventually the boy again crossed from his house to Ryan’s. We gave them some time in case they were snacking, and then we went to the front door. It was locked. Dylan reasoned that perhaps the back door was unlocked and that’s how the boy got in. Howie tried the back door and it swung open, soundlessly.

Inside, we crept through the hall and up the carpeted stairs.

Dylan had the camera. We paused before going into Ryan’s room until we were sure by the sounds that they were having at it on the bed. Dylan stepped in and took three or four photos really quickly. When Ryan looked up, Dylan took a couple more, including a good closeup of the boy.

“Oh, shit!” Ryan exclaimed.

We all walked into the room and Dylan went over to Ryan, holding out the camera and asking, "Wanna see?”

I could see Ryan think about jumping up and grabbing the camera, but with three of us there and him being naked I guess he knew it was hopeless.

The boy on the bed was crying, so I went over to him and said, quietly, “I’m Liam. Ryan has done the same thing to the three of us. You’re not in any trouble and we’ll try to keep it that way. Why don’t you get dressed?”

The boy crawled out of bed, held his hand in front of his privates, and went over to where his clothes were on the floor. When he finished dressing, he looked at me anxiously and asked, “What should I do now?”

“Just sit at the desk.” I suggested. Silently he obeyed and I perched on a corner of the desk. “I told you my name was Liam,” I said. “What’s yours?”


“How old are you, Teddy?”

He blushed and looked at his lap before saying, “Fourteen.”

“What grade are you in?”

“Eighth. I’ll…I’ll be fifteen this summer.”

Looking at him, I didn’t think he looked fourteen. He was small, and he had just begun to fill out a little.

“Well, let me tell you what Ryan has done to us and you see if it sounds familiar.” I told him about the video games, the homework help, the casual kissing, the getting naked, the talk about loving, and all the rest of it. Then I asked, “Does this all sound familiar?”

By then, Teddy was crying again. He nodded but didn’t say anything.

“You see, Teddy, “Ryan doesn’t really care about any of us. He just wants sex, so he targets younger boys and has sex with them. That’s what he was doing with you.”

While Teddy and I talked, Dylan and Howie were dealing with Ryan, who was clearly very upset.

Walking over to them I heard Dylan say, “Ryan, we’re gonna tell the cops what’s been going on. You’ll probably be arrested, or you could wind up with a head doctor, but the cops are gonna know.”

I added, “We have the photos. Whether or not we show them to the cops is up to you. We’d rather not involve Teddy with the cops if we can help it. The decent thing for you to do would be to go with us to the cops and tell them about everything except Teddy. If we have to tell them about Teddy, we’ll at least put it off as long as we can.

Ryan was silent. Tears were flowing from his eyes, but none of us felt sorry for him.

Finally, Ryan, still looking down, said, “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. After you guys talked with me, I promised myself I wouldn’t do it anymore. But when I saw Teddy, I just couldn’t stop myself. I know I should have. I’m sorry, Teddy. And I ‘m sorry about you three too. I’ve hurt a lot of people, and all because I couldn’t control myself.

“I’ll go with you to the cops. Maybe I do need a head doctor. I don’t know.”

We didn’t want to take the camera with us, so we decided we’d drop it at Howie’s house, which was the closest.

Before we left, I said to Teddy, “I think we still have some things to discuss. Would you be willing to meet us after school at the coffee shop tomorrow?”

He thought before replying, a little reluctantly, “I guess so.” With that settled, we all left.


The three of us and Ryan rode our bikes to the police station. When we started telling the officer on the desk why we were there, he stopped us and got another officer in plainclothes who took us into a back room. He introduced himself as Detective Simmons.

We sat at a table with him and told him what had happened with us and that Ryan had agreed to confess. The detective asked us our ages. When we told him he said, “Well, in most cases, the age of consent in Massachusetts is 16, so while Ryan was wrong to have sex with Dylan and Howie last year, the only person he was wrong with this year was you, Liam.”

“So what’ll happen to him?” I asked.

Instead of answering, the detective looked at me and asked, “Why did you decide to come today? From what you’ve told me, you figured this out a few weeks ago.”

I looked at Dylan and Howie, who reluctantly nodded, and said, “Sir, we caught Ryan today having sex with a fourteen-year-old.”

The detective was silent for a minute and then asked, “Is this true, Ryan?”

Ryan looked down at the table and answered very quietly, “Yes, sir.”

“And who is the boy?” he asked.

“We don’t want to give his name,” I replied.

The detective looked at us for a moment and then said, “So you’re withholding evidence?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Okay, here’s the problem. The boy will have to be visited by Child Protective Services. It’s the law and we can’t avoid it. What I can do is delay alerting them for a few hours which will at least give you time to warn him.”

Finally, reluctantly, I gave him Teddy’s name and address.

He wrote that down as well as our contact information and then let the three of us leave, saying he wanted to talk more with Ryan.

When we left, Howie and Dylan went home while I went to Teddy’s house. He met me at the door. I told him what the officer had said. Teddy wasn’t happy but he realized he should tell his parents before anyone came from CPS. He thanked me for alerting him and said he’d see me at the coffee shop the next afternoon.


The Triumvirate was gathered at the coffee shop when Teddy walked through the door and looked around. I went to him and took him to the counter, where I told him to order anything he wanted, that I was paying.

At the table, he settled into the extra chair we had corralled and just looked at all of us.

It wasn’t until that moment that I was struck by how beautiful he was. My heart did a little flip. He was very pale, and his red hair seemed to go all over the place. I knew he had just the beginnings of a nice body, but that day I took a moment to really look. His chest was beginning to fill out a little, but his arms and legs were still spindly. They’ll grow out too as he matures, I thought.

“You’re probably wondering why I asked you to come today,” I said.

He nodded.

“Well,” I said, “I thought there might be some questions you had. But first, have you told your parents and been visited by CPS?

“Yeah,” he murmured quietly, gazing down at the table. “When my parents found out, they were pretty upset. They said they were disappointed in me but really angry at Ryan. They know I’m gay. They’ve known for a long time, but they didn’t want an older boy taking advantage of me, which I guess is what he was doing.”

“What did CPS do?” I asked.

“Mostly, the lady just talked with me and my parents. She wanted to be sure I was safe, and she wanted to give me support if I had problems dealing with everything. But she seemed to be satisfied that all was okay at home, so I guess that’s the end of it.”

I wasn’t sure why I was doing all the talking with him except that I was the only one who’d spoken with him at Ryan’s.

“So you’re gay and you’re sure of it.”

“Oh, yeah.”

“Have you done anything with boys before you met Ryan?”

“God, no.” He paused for a moment, still gazing at the table, before saying, “I’ve crushed on lots of boys, but never one like Ryan. I really thought I loved him.”

“It hurts when you find out, doesn’t it?”

He nodded and blushed, a beautiful red suffusing his pale cheeks. My heart flipped again. He said, “Yeah. I trusted him and, like you said, he didn’t care about me at all.”

“We know,” Dylan put in. “We all trusted him, we all thought we loved him and he loved us, and we’ve all been hurt by him. I guess that’s part of what we wanted to say today. You’re hurting. We’re hurting too, although the pain seems to be getting a little less now. But it’ll be awhile before we can trust enough to love anyone again. We want you to know that you’re welcome to join us. We understand what you’re going through, and we want to help you if we can.”

Nobody said anything for a bit. At last, Teddy nodded before he looked up and asked, “How often do you meet here?”

“It’s usually a couple of days a week,” said Howie, “although it was more while we were spying on Ryan.”

“We’re all gay,” put in Dylan, “and we like to have sex together. It doesn’t mean anything. There’s no love involved. It’s just that after Ryan, we all missed it, so we started to do it together.”

“Yeah,” I said, “the three of us. I wasn’t sure I’d like that at first, but the threesome’s really fun and satisfying.”

Howie looked at him and added, “You’re welcome to join us at Dylan’s house if you want to.”

There was just a little twitch of his lips before he said, “Maybe like to join you all here in the coffee shop if I could.”

When we got up to leave, Teddy turned to me and shyly hugged me. “Thank you so much for yesterday and for making me feel welcome here.”

“I’m glad we could help,” I said. “Anytime you have a problem, we’re here.” And then I pushed the envelope just a bit, saying, “I know that beginning high school can be a little confusing. I’ll be a sophomore next year, and I’ll be around if you feel a little overwhelmed like I did.”

He thanked me again, and then he left. It was then that I saw his cute bubble butt and again my heart flipped.

Go slow, Liam, I said to myself. What will be will be.

Author’s notes:

A sequel to this story will appear in a few weeks. Watch for it.

As always, I want to thank my editors who find all my little errors, as well as some major ones. I also want to thank Mike for running such an excellent website and giving us authors a chance to post our works.