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Subject: Little Me – Ch. 10 Little Me by RJ This fiction involves the sexual relationship between an adult and a minor — specifically an uncle and his young nephew. If you have any questions or comments about this piece, want to know about any of my other works, or just want to reach out, please don’t hesitate to email me. A list of my works, including links and descriptions, can be found here: https://bit.ly/2S5IYDI. If you would like to be added to a mailing list for this story (or all stories) and receive emails about any updates, let me know. Please also consider donating to Nifty if you fty/donate.html ~ CHAPTER 10 ~ California. Sweet California. After a long set of flights (first stopping in Chicago and then flying directly to San Diego), it’s good to be on solid ground again. But what really excites me is when we finally leave the hustle and bustle of the airport and step out into the sunshine. I actually stop for a moment to let that perfect warmth beam so gently down onto me, sighing blissfully. “Feel that?” I ask Eli. He just looks up at me, confused. “Feel what?” “That California vibe, baby.” He laughs. “Um. No. I feel hungry though.” I chuckle, stroking his hair before putting a hand on his shoulder. “Soon.” First stop is the hotel, so that we don’t have to lug our bags around all day. I snag us a cab before checking into the hotel and heading up to the room with Eli. It’s a fairly nice setup: two queen-sized beds, art worthy of a four-star hotel, a large television, and an impeccably clean bathroom. Eli likes the bed closest to the window, and says “We’ll sleep here” before tossing his bags on top of the mattress. We spend a little time freshening up, but hunger takes us back outside soon enough. Once we’re out of the hotel, there’s a spring in my step. God, imagining all winters being like this is practically giving me a hard-on. I’ve always hated the cold. We’ve had a few snowstorms already back in Massachusetts, and it’s not even January yet, so I’m nervous for what’s to come. But for now, I want to soak in the sunshine while I’ve got it. “Where do you wanna eat?” I ask. He shrugs. “Feeling basic or adventurous?” He looks up at me and smiles slightly. “Adventurous.” I laugh, patting his back. “Atta boy.” We walk side by side down the street, in the direction of the water. I’m keeping my eyes peeled for interesting restaurants or shacks, but I’m biased towards Mexican food. Obviously I love my family, but the most adventurous they’ll get is Chinese takeout. Eli’s parents are too quick to do what they’ve known for their whole lives, Dad doesn’t like anything spicy, and Mom absolutely loathes anything that’s not Italian or American. I want to expand Eli’s palate a bit, so in the interest of that, I choose something pretty basic as far as “being adventurous” goes: a taco shack. Eli looks up at the menu with a confused expression, telling me to order for him. I ask him if he’s ever had a taco and he says no. I can’t believe it. Never had a taco? I get him something I’m positive he’ll like, and a few other types for him to try out. If he doesn’t like them, then fine. I’ll devour the rest myself. Once we get our food, we take a seat on one of the circular tables on the patio, enjoying the calm Pacific breeze. I unwrap a few of the tacos, checking which one is which before handing him a simple beef taco. “This one’s yours,” I say, passing him some sauces as well. “What are these?” he asks, picking up the rectangle packets and inspecting them. “Good,” I say simply, and he laughs. “You trust me?” “Yeah.” “Then try them.” He hesitates before ripping open two of the packets and squirting some on top of the chopped veggies in his taco. I watch with amusement as he brings the food to his lips, sniffs it, and then takes a bite. He chews slowly, looking up at nothing in particular as he ponders the taste. Then, his face brightens as he looks at me and smiles. “Iss good,” he says, mouth full. I laugh. “Told you,” I say before grabbing my own tacos and starting to eat. Damn, I missed this. Brings me back to all those years I spent out on this side of the country, exploring the Pacific coast and dining on authentic Mexican foods. Despite the stupid affair, I was pretty happy here. Being back in Massachusetts has it’s perks, namely being close to family, but I can’t help but think I’ll end up here again. “You like it here?” I ask him. He nods and smiles. “It’s weird that it’s winter.” I laugh. “Yeah. You get used to it though.” “Do you miss it here?” he asks, fixing his glasses before he takes another bite. I smile. “Missed it more than I thought.” “I’m glad you got to come with me,” he says, chewing slowly. “And I’m happy it’s just us.” It’s like he’s reading my mind. “Me too, buddy,” I say, terribly thankful that we get to have this experience together. I got to take him on his first plane ride, his first trip across the country. It’s almost an honor. “Me too.” I watch Eli chew curiously on his food for half a minute before he asks a surprising question. “Do you miss her?” I look at him with a confused expression. “Who?” “Aunt Lisa.” I feel that sharp tap against my chest whenever the past is brought up. It’s a curious question, to which I don’t really know my answer. On some level, sure, I miss her, because I miss my old life. I had felt so sure of myself for a while, and living it up on the West Coast was a dream with a woman who matched all of my needs. And still, I cheated on her. There’s a mix of joy and incredible guilt whenever I think about her, and the consequences of my actions. But reconnecting with Eli has been so worth the trouble it took to get back home. So I smile and shake my head. “Not really.” He ponders my answer for a bit before asking another question — this time, with a little smile on his lips. “Do you miss me?” I laugh. “You’re right here, doofus.” “I mean when we’re not with each other,” he clarifies. “You saying you miss me?” I tease. “Yeah,” he says. “I miss you all the time.” I smile gently at Eli, feeling my heart throb. He’s so cute. “You think about me a lot?” He nods without hesitation. I lean over the table, holding the back of his head as I kiss his forehead gently. “You’re my boyfriend, remember?” I tease, and he giggles. “Of course I miss you.” He nods once before picking up his taco, a bright smile on his face. “Good.” Since the EXPO isn’t until tomorrow, we spend most of our first day at the beautiful Balboa Park, walking through the gardens and small museums, and even taking a trip through the zoo. Seeing the crocodile swimming around seems to be Eli’s favorite part. He gasps and points, tugging me to the edge of the fence and making sure I’m looking exactly where he’s pointing. As per Tanya’s request, we take plenty of pictures while we’re out and about (with a camera I bought myself for Christmas), and it’s funny to see Eli switch back and forth between camera-shy and eager to be the star of every photo. She’ll have a wide array of pictures to laugh over, that’s for sure. But there are plenty of adorable ones, some of which I might keep for myself. There’s one in particular that would make for an excellent wallet photo: just Eli flashing his pearly whites at the camera under a cherry blossom. We spend our night picnicking on the beach, relaxing in front of the sunset while we take slow bites out of a fruit salad I bought for us. The temperature couldn’t be more perfect. There’s a light breeze brushing by us at all times, but it remains warm and cozy. Eli still cuddles up with me a bit, sitting up straight as he watches the sun slip under the horizon. I smile and kiss his cheek, breaking his concentration but making him giggle. Without thinking, he leans in and gives me a quick peck on the lips. Nothing major. Nothing serious. But it’s enough to make my heart leap a bit. I glance around at the passerby, but no one seems to pay any mind to us. Besides, what would they even say? We just look like a father and son. Sure, kissing on the lips is a little weird, but it’s not unheard of. So I let myself enjoy that sweet little moment, hugging him to me as dawn takes over. Throughout the day, I had fantasized about what will happen once we get back to the hotel. I imagined his little clothes littering the floor, him on all fours in the middle of the bed, me mounting him, both of us going at it like dogs — playful but insistent. By the time we get back to the hotel, though, I’m absolutely beat. Jetlag is catching up to me and hitting me hard. I do little more than shower and brush my teeth, and by the time it’s nine o’clock, I’m already resting under the covers in just my underwear and an old t-shirt. Eli’s much more energetic than I am. While I lie lazily against the headboard, completely slouched, he keeps trying to engage me in conversation. Eventually, I try to steer his attention towards the television, which is playing some movie I don’t recognize. “Just watch something,” I say, nudging the remote towards him, my eyes fighting to stay open. “Uncle Leo needs to sleep.” “Nooo,” he whines, shifting his body towards me. I feel his hand on my forearm. “Stay up.” “I can’t, buddy,” I tell him, yawning. “My eyes won’t stay open.” “But I won’t be able to sleep,” he says. “Why not?” “I’m nervous about tomorrow.” I sigh a bit. “Why you nervous?” I ask. “You’ve been preparing for this for weeks. You’ll be fine.” “But there are a million more people this time, probably,” he says, playing with the hem of his sleep shorts. “Yeah, but I’ll be one of those million people,” I say, smiling gently. “I’ll be there the whole time,” I assure him, yawning again. “Promise?” “Absolutely.” He smiles a little at me before nodding a couple of times. “Okay.” I slide myself under the covers more, getting more comfortable as I speak. “Now can we please try to get some sleep?” He huffs a bit but relents. “Fiiine,” he whines, but he hops off the bed. “Where are you going?” I ask. “Brushing my teeth!” he says matter-of-factly, and I just sigh, closing my eyes. At least he cares about his hygiene. I get cozy under the thick blanket, finding my head sinking deeply into the pillow. I hear Eli in the bathroom. First, the faucet is turned on, ejecting a short burst of water before I hear Eli scrubbing away. But I can’t stay conscious. More quickly than I anticipated, before Eli even gets back to bed, I drift off into sleep. I hear talking when I wake up. It confuses me, since I’m still practically half asleep. At first, I think Eli left the television on, but it sounds too close and too clear to be coming from the TV. Then I realize that it’s his voice. He’s having izmit escort a one-sided conversation with himself, right next to me. I turn my head towards him, still resting on my back as I eye him curiously. It takes me a second to notice he’s holding up my cell phone to his ear. He smiles at me before saying “I think I woke him up” to whoever’s on the other line. I can only faintly hear the other voice, but it sounds female. “Who are you talking to?” I mutter, glancing at the time. It’s not even ten PM yet. Jesus, when did I even go to bed? An hour ago? Guess traveling seriously takes it out of me. No wonder Eli was so reluctant to go to sleep. “Mom,” he says to me. “Do you wanna talk to her?” “No, it’s okay–” I start to say, but Eli’s already telling his mom that I want a chance to talk. He puts the phone in front of my face and I groan a bit before taking it and bringing it to my ear. “Hey,” I say in a tired voice. I hear her chuckle. “You sound sleepy.” “And you don’t,” I say with a small laugh. “What time is it there, almost one?” “Yeah, just about,” she says. “What are you doing up?” “The baby,” she says. That’s all the explanation I need, anyway. I can only imagine how often that little girl cries out for attention in the middle of the night. “And I decided to call to see how you guys are holding up.” “Things are pretty good here,” I say, smiling as Leo starts to cuddle up with me. He climbs under the covers and gets as close as possible. “He was telling me about the zoo and tacos and everything,” she says, and I hear her shushing the baby for a moment. “I hope you took lots of pictures.” “Of course I did,” I say with a grin, kissing the top of Eli’s head. “I’m a man of my word.” “That you are,” she says with a chuckle. Then she switches topics. “Is it really sixty degrees there?” she asks. I chuckle. “Yeah. You jealous?” I hear her groan dramatically, which makes me laugh. “It’s damn freezing here,” she mutters. “I’m incredibly jealous.” “I wish you guys could have come,” I say, but mostly out of courtesy. I’m happy that Eli and I can spend time alone together, far away from the house. “Me too,” she says. “But I’m sure Eli is happier with just you.” I look down at the boy who’s nuzzling into my chest and can’t help but agree. “How’s Wes?” I ask, testing the subject. “He’s… alright,” she says, deciding on that word. “He’s been keeping his distance still.” Ever since Tanya told him off right in front of me, Wesley has switched from snippy to brooding. He talks in small sentences, never really going out of his way to offer his opinion on anything, and doesn’t stay in the room for too long unless he’s required to. It was a stark, surprising change — one that made me worried, initially. But Tanya hasn’t seemed concerned. In fact, she seems to be refreshed by this change of pace. She’s hoping that he’s at least looking inward for once. “Better than arguing,” I comment. “Yeah, that’s true,” she says with a sigh. “I just wish he was more involved during the holiday.” “Yeah, I get that,” I say. Wesley didn’t have much Christmas spirit just a few days ago, but my parents more than made up for that. Even though it was still a successful, loving holiday, it would have been nice if he was more of a part of it. “But I think he’s trying,” I add, attempting to give my brother a little bit of credit. “On some level.” “I noticed that too,” she says, agreeing with me. “He seems to be getting somewhere, but… he needs to get there on his own.” “That’s fair,” I say mid-yawn. Tanya catches on to my sleepiness. “I’m not keeping you up, am I?” “No, no,” I say, though I sound incredibly tired. “I’m just beat from the trip, and we were out all day, and–” “Get some sleep then,” she says decidedly. After saying goodnight to her, I pass the phone back to Eli, resting close to him. I can still hear her speaking to her son, probably wishing him luck tomorrow, and at the end, she says “Be nice to your uncle, you hear me?” I chuckle a bit as Eli gives me a little grin before saying that he will. He tells his mom that he loves her before snapping my cellphone shut and setting it aside. “You gonna be nice to me like you promised?” I tease, already closing my eyes as I wrap my arm around him. He giggles slightly before pecking my cheek. “No.” I laugh, tickling him briefly before I relax my whole body. “Sleep.” “But–” “Sleep, Eli,” I say more insistently, reaching up to his face to grab his glasses. I take them off of him and set them on the nightstand before relaxing again. “Can I have a kiss at least?” he asks politely. I sigh, trying my best not to smile as I lean over, hold his face in my hands, and kiss him gently on the lips. I hold for a few seconds before pulling back. “There. Sleep now.” “Okay,” he says, and without even looking I can hear the smile in his voice. “‘Night.” “Love you,” he says softly, snuggling up to me again. I smile as I keep my eyes closed, loosely draping a protective arm over him and keeping him close. “Love you too, Eli.” I’m almost delirious when he wakes me up again. I was dreaming that time, and now that he’s pulled me from the deepest REM cycle, I feel groggy as hell. And annoyed. I feel his finger poking my back before I hear his voice saying my name a few times. “Uncle Leo?” he whispers. Somehow I ended up facing away from him, so his voice is coming from behind me. “Mmm,” I grunt. “What?” It comes out as a heavy, irritated mumble. “I had a weird dream,” I hear him say. “I bet,” I mutter. Why won’t this kid let me sleep? “I dreamt that my dick was all huge.” I snort. “Really, now?” “Yeah. Bigger than yours.” I let out a little laugh, envisioning a substantial, adult cock between his legs. “Impressive.” But he just has questions. “When’s mine gonna get bigger?” he asks, and I can envision the pouty face he’s probably making so clearly. I sigh before slowly rolling over onto my opposite side and facing him, my body feeling incredibly dense. I reach over and pat his hip. “We’ve talked about this, buddy.” “I know,” he says, “but I hate waiting.” “There’s no rush,” I tell him, knowing he’s eager to hit puberty. “Besides, I like your little knob the way it is,” I tease, slipping my hand into his briefs to give his cock a little fondle. He giggles immediately. It was meant to be a quick touch, but I notice he’s hard. Rock hard. I arch my eyebrows a bit. “Damn boy.” “Sorry,” he says. I pull his briefs down slightly and take his hard-on between my fingers, feeling him up a few times. “Must have been some dream,” I tease, chuckling. But Eli just whimpers softly, and I feel his small hand resting on the back of mine as I touch him. I bite my lip a bit as I keep lightly stroking him, debating. “If we play around for a bit will you–?” “Yes,” he interrupts. I laugh. “You didn’t let me finish what I was gonna say.” “I don’t care,” he says, pushing his hips forward, eager for more contact. “What if I said you had to go to the EXPO naked?” He looks up at me with a mix of fear and skepticism. “You wouldn’t say that.” I smile. He knows I wouldn’t torture or embarrass him. I glance down as he grinds up against my palm. “I was gonna say, if we play around, will you finally let me sleep?” “Okay,” he says quickly, clearly only focused on one thing: getting off. I just shake my head. This boy. Regardless, I can’t stop, now that I’ve started something. I have to finish him off. I wouldn’t be a very nice uncle if I just left him hanging like this. So I muster up as much energy as I can and move lower, sliding the covers down with me as I go. We both stay on our sides as I lift his shirt and kiss his tummy — something that always makes him giggle a bit. He’s just ticklish there. But I make my way steadily lower with my lips until I finally reach his groin, and after kissing his little pecker once, I take him into my mouth. Eli mewls, putting his hands on my head and already rocking his hips back and forth. I can tell how horny he is just by how insistent his movements are. I suppose this is what I get for making him wait. I’m sure he had the same expectation about the hotel as I did: sex, sex, sex. After all, we have the privacy we need to do it as much as we want. I wish I wasn’t so tired so I could give him that, but he’s enjoying himself regardless. I let my tongue swirl around his sensitive glans as I repeatedly take him all the way. As he thrusts, I keep a firm grip on his soft bottom, gently stroking the supple skin and often squeezing my fingers together. Soon, he pulls away though, and I give his cockhead a few teasing licks before he calls for me. I look up at him. “Yeah?” “Can I try to fuck you now?” he asks. I chuckle slightly, still finding those words to be incredibly adorable coming out of his mouth. “It’s been a while since you asked me that.” “We have privacy now,” he points out. “That we do,” I say, wondering. I guess there’s no real reason to say no to him right now. I’m showered and clean, and I’m feeling particularly lazy, so it seems like a good opportunity to just lie back and let him test the waters. “Okay,” I say. He arches his eyebrows in excitement. “Really?” I laugh. “Yeah.” I slide up and peck his lips before I roll over with a grunt. I shift onto my stomach, kicking the blankets off my backside. Eli is quick to roll on top of me, already grinding against my ass. I chuckle. “It’d probably be easier without my underwear on, kiddo,” I tease. “I know that,” he says, sliding off me. I lift my hips to make it easier for him to pull my boxers down. He removes them completely, tossing them to the side before I feel his hands on my ass. Then, I hear him spit before I feel his saliva running down my crack. I smirk slightly, seeing that he’s copying a few of my tricks. He puts his finger between my cheeks to rub the spit in. I reach back and spread my cheeks a bit to make it easier for him. Now, he gets a good look at my hole, and he pets it gently with his finger. He giggles. “It feels so weird.” “Yeah?” He prods it with his index finger a few times. “Will I get hair on my butt too?” he asks. “Probably. It’s norma– Mmf!” I grunt, feeling Eli push a finger in. “Easy, kid.” “Sorry,” he says, holding his finger mostly still. He wiggles it around slightly though, feeling me out. “It’s so warm!” “You’re warm there, too.” “Yeah, but you’re extra warm,” he says, and I shake my head, laughing slightly. “Spit on it more before you finger-bang me to death, okay?” He does as I ask, removing his finger and adding more spit before being gentler with the penetration. His finger is small, so it feels like a mild, tickling discomfort more than anything. yahya kaptan escort But I let him explore, closing one of my eyes. He goes slowly for me, and I quickly find myself relaxing and adjusting to the sensation. When he tires of fingering me, he mounts me, rubbing his boner between my cheeks a few times and occasionally just grinding against me. I half-expect him to just push his boy cock right into me, but he just grinds his life away, and after a minute, I turn my head towards him. “Gonna stick it in?” I ask with a chuckle. “Huh? Oh, yeah,” he says distractedly. I feel him reach between us to grab his cock and try to push it inside me. I have to reach back and spread my cheeks again and allow him to target himself better, but once he finally does, he pushes into me and moans. He lets out the most surprised little whimper as he gets as deep in me as he can. “Whoa,” he says. “This is what it feels like? When you do me?” I grunt but laugh slightly. “Yeah. Good, right?” “Mhm,” he says, trying to find a rhythm. I just let him do what feels good to him. Since his cock is still small, I can handle it easily enough. He mostly grinds like he’s humping a pillow, but soon he starts to do things that I’ve done to him like grabbing my hips or spreading my cheeks or rocking his hips in more fluid back-and-forth motions. It’s a strange sensation, having Eli inside of me. It doesn’t quite hurt, I’d say, but it’s nice to do something new with him, especially because I know he’s been curious about this for a while. Eventually I have him pull out so I can move onto my back, since my hard-on is being smushed uncomfortably between my body and the mattress. I lift my legs a bit for him to easily position himself in between, and he does so with fluidity. I watch his focused expression as he holds onto my thighs and works his cock in and out of my hole. He just goes with the flow of what feels good to him, letting out breathy little moans, an adorably slack-jawed expression on his face. “I’m gonna shoot, Uncle Leo,” he says after a while, glancing up at my face for the first time. “Do it,” I tell him, giving him the go-ahead. He nods a little bit before licking his lips and glancing down at his cock in action. Just a dozen or so more thrusts and Eli lets out a tighter moan, pressing his cock deeper into me as his body quivers. His hips twitch a touch while he reaches climax, but quickly he composes himself, blinking a few times and then smiling up at me. “That felt cool,” he says. I laugh. I guess “cool” is one way to describe it. “So you liked it?” I ask as he pulls out of me. “Yeah,” he says with a big smile. I relax my legs as he sits in between them. “What do you like better, you doing me or me doing you?” “Umm…” He thinks about it for a moment before deciding. “You doing me.” I arch my eyebrow, smirking slightly. “Really?” “Yeah,” he says with a nod. It surprises me at first, but the more Eli and I fool around, the more I can’t help but feel like he was made for my cock. We just have a flow about us, and he has taken such a liking to my dick that I can’t really picture him being a “top” when he gets older. “Do you want to do it to me now?” he asks, glancing at my semi. I shake my head. “I’m too tired, buddy,” I say with a sigh, scratching my chest lightly. But he doesn’t seem to hear me. He reaches forward and starts to paw at my cock before gripping it and stroking it. “I said I’m too tired, Eli.” “I know,” he says. “I just wanna make you feel good.” I smile before I sigh heavily, my body quickly responding to his familiar touch. Well… if he wants to make me feel good before bed, I guess I won’t complain. I relax, just enjoying the sensation of his hand. Soon he adds a second, fondling my balls individually before he adds a grip to my cock, working each inch with both hands. I close my eyes and sigh softly, letting out gentle, pleased moans. Such a good boy, he is. He knows exactly how much pressure to add, how to vary his grip and his stroking technique, where his fingers should end up… And then I feel his mouth. The shocking sensation makes my cock throb and my eyes open. I look down, seeing him just leaning over and sucking hungrily on the head of my cock. That’s his focus — two hands on my shaft, and his pretty lips on the tip. He swirls his tongue eagerly, lapping up any precum I’m giving him. I just sink into the bed as he blows me. I love the little sounds he’s making, including the whimpers and sucking noises. I love the feeling of his soft hands keeping a firm grip on my manhood. I love his tender tongue and lips working effortlessly together. I love the way he closes his eyes and enjoys my cock. I love his messy hair swaying whenever he tilts his head. God, he’s so fucking cute. And bringing me so close. When I say his name, he opens his eyes and looks up at me, saying “Hm?” while his lips are still firmly attached to the head of my cock. I tell him I’m going to cum, and he nods, slowly pulling off and continuing to stroke me a little faster. He leans forward, sticking out his tongue and lapping at the slit over and over and over, and it drives me right over the edge. I grunt, tensing a bit as I shoot my load. The first shot hits him right in the face, and he flinches and closes one eye but starts laughing as the rest gets all over his hand and between his fingers. “You hit me,” he says, slowing his strokes to a halt before finally letting go of my now-sticky cock. “Sorry,” I say with a chuckle, still panting slightly. I reach forward and wipe the cum off his eyelid with my thumb so that he can see. “Should’ve just kept your mouth on it,” I tease. “I wanted to see it,” he says, stroking the underside of my cock with just a fingertip. I’m still a little hard, and his teasing touch makes it twitch, which in turn makes him giggle. I watch him as he slowly licks his palm clean, sucking my cum off each individual finger. And before I know it, he’s leaning forward to clean off my cock too. It’s a slow process, but one that’s incredibly hot to watch. He continuously nuzzles his face into my crotch as he licks and kisses, making sure I’m completely clean before he smiles up at me. “Now you can sleep.” The space is incredibly daunting, even to me. The ceiling is at least three times higher than where Eli first did his presentation, which makes the space feel intimidating. Plus, there are a multitude of kids (and their parents) from all across the country setting up their equally-well-done posters. Eli looks overwhelmed, and I don’t blame him. We check in before we’re directed to where we’re supposed to be setting up. We find ourselves sandwiched between a cute girl with a cheery smile and a grumpy-looking boy with horrible B.O. The girl says a sweet hello to Eli, and he merely nods impolitely. To make up for it, I say hello to her and compliment her on her poster (which she clearly appreciates me doing) before watching Eli set up. Eli was all words on our way over, but now that we’re here, he’s silent, just going through the motions of setting up his poster and accepting my help with only a simple nod. I rub his shoulders as it gets closer to time. I’m chock full of compliments and reassurances, and it seems to calm him down a bit. But still, once the event actually begins, he doesn’t want me to leave. I’m curious to see what the other projects are, but I promised Eli I’d stay by his side. So I do just that. Once things get going and a few people come up to his poster, he regains a bit of his normal self, talking eloquently about his project and being charming with strangers. It does my heart good to see him doing something like this. I think all he needed was that focus and a few people to look genuinely interested and impressed with what he brought to this EXPO. Soon he’s back to his smiley self, excited about his work. Hours go by, and I mostly just stand around with Eli until he’s given a chance to check out other posters. We walk around a bit, and I scan each poster critically. Understandably so, the caliber of work is much higher here than at states, which makes me wonder how he’ll fare this time around. In Massachussetts, I believed his win was completely valid. This time around though… Finally, the EXPO comes to an end. Most people just walk around with complimentary snacks in their hands, ogling some of the posters. But Eli is nervous and would rather sit with me until the judges are done deliberating and tallying up their scores. So we sit on the side, talking about things that serve as good distractions for him. He’s particularly interested in hearing about my life in California, before I was arrested. I tell him about my marriage, how we ran a company together (I handled the business side of her fashion boutique), how easy things were here. He seems fascinated by that, and I tease him with “Maybe you can be my wife.” That gets him laughing and relaxed. Soon, though, they have the results. Eli leaps to his feet, looking at me anxiously before taking my hand. I stand up, letting him squeeze on my fingers as the announcer’s booming voice blares from the speakers. A brief introduction, a cordial thank you, and a congratulations to all the kids who made it this far. He talks about the importance of STEM, and encourages all the kids here to keep at it. “You guys are the future!” he cries. Then, the results. First comes third place: a stout girl with red pigtails and an even redder face. She’s so overcome with surprise and pride that she screams, and her mother is practically weeping. Second place is another girl who simply looks intelligent. She has those sharp, librarian glasses and a tall, thin frame to match. She looks a little too stern for her age, but all the more to her. Then, first place. Eli squeezes my fingers with both hands now, rocking on his feet and whispering “Please please please” over and over to himself. He wants to win. He wants to win badly. “And first prize goes to…” The announcer adds a dramatic pause before yelling the name “Stephen Cromwell!” Everyone cheers for Stephen, whoever he is. I look down at Eli before I can get a good look at the boy, and I see the crestfallen look on my nephew’s face. His first major loss. I sigh, squatting down in front of him and turning him towards me. “Hey,” I say, adjusting his shirt. “You okay?” He shrugs, looking down at his feet. He almost looks like he might cry. “Listen to me,” I say, tugging on his shirt for his attention. “I’m so proud of you. You hear me?” I ask when he doesn’t glance my way. I take his face in my hands and make sure he’s looking at me, eye-to-eye. “I’m so fucking proud of gebze escort you, Eli.” He blushes, his eyes watering behind those spectacles of his. “Really?” “Really,” I insist. “You made it here. Do you know how hard that is? Do you know how special that makes you?” And, there they are. The tears. I didn’t want to make him cry. I just wanted him to not take this as such a defeat. Losing is a hard thing to accept the first time around, so I have to make sure I guide him through this and remind him what’s really important. I wipe the few tears off his cheeks with my thumbs. “I know you wanted to win, but I want you to know that I couldn’t be prouder for how hard you worked.” I smile, stroking his cheek still. Eli sniffles a bit before rushing forward to hug me. I grunt and laugh but quickly wrap my arms around him as he hugs my neck tightly, burying his face in it. I rub his back slowly, soothingly, before kissing his cheek. “I love you, buddy.” He hugs me a little tighter for a while before finally letting go, looking a bit flushed but mostly composed. He lifts his glasses to wipe his eyes a bit and smiles. “Thanks, Uncle Leo,” he says. I pat his hip. “I’m here for you. Always.” “I know,” he says with a little nod. Then he starts to frown slightly, pondering something. “Do you think Dad will be proud of me too? Even though I didn’t win?” Is that what this is all about? Wanting to make Wes proud? I wish he would stop vying for his father’s attention so much, but I know how exactly he feels. I was in his shoes once. I craved any attention I could get since I usually didn’t get any. “He better be,” I say, nudging his stomach playfully, “or else I’ll beat him up.” That makes Eli laugh. “No you won’t,” he says, nudging me back. I smile. “Watch me.” We spend our last hours on the West Coast trying out different ice cream shops, tossing a frisbee on the beach, talking long walks around the city, and, of course, having lots of sex in our hotel room. I do everything I can to ease Eli’s disappointment, and I can’t help but feel like I’m doing a great fucking job. In no time, Eli’s all smiles, all playful touches, all jokes and conversation and fun. Knowing that I’ve done my part well brings the most satisfied smile to my face. Going home is bittersweet, to say the least. Even Eli suggests we just “stay here forever,” and I almost tempt the thought. But we have to return home. Eli’s starting up school again soon, and before that, Tanya’s throwing a little New Year’s Eve get-together. Plus, even if I wanted to push our mini-vacation an extra day or two, I can’t really afford it right now. So we stick to our scheduled flight and make the six-hour journey back to Massachusetts. Wesley’s the one who picks us up from the airport. He meets us by the bag claim while we wait for our luggage to appear on the conveyer. I see him coming over from a distance, and I eye him curiously. He looks different somehow. His body shape hasn’t changed or anything of the sort — it’s more so how he’s carrying himself. He’s smiling slightly, standing upright, not dragging his feet. I don’t know what it is, but he looks brighter. “Hey!” he says, waving a bit when he gets closer. Then, when he glances at Eli, he opens his arms. This surprises us both. Even Eli looks at me with a confused expression before setting his carry-on bag down onto the floor and stepping forward to receive the hug from his father. “How was the flight?” Wes asks. “It was good,” Eli says before looking up at his dad when Wesley steps back. “Hard to sleep though.” Wes laughs. “Yeah, flying’s not easy.” Then he looks at me and smiles. “Hey, man.” “Hey,” I say, stepping forward for a quick hug. “Thanks for coming to get us.” “Of course, of course,” he says as if it was nothing. Tanya made it seem like Wesley was reluctant to give us a ride, so I’m surprised to see this unbothered side of him again. “I wanted to hear all about the EXPO anyway,” he adds, glancing down at Eli. “Heard you kicked ass.” Eli blushes. “Not really,” he says. “Don’t be modest,” Wes says with a grin. “I’m not being modest,” Eli says. “I didn’t win.” “You won the state comp, didn’t you?” Wes reminds him. Eli hesitates before saying yes. “Sounds like you’re kicking ass to me.” Eli glances at me for a split second before nodding. “I guess so.” I can tell he just doesn’t know how to respond to his father right now. Wesley reaches over and tousles Eli’s hair, but in a gentler motion than I’m used to seeing. “Just know that you made Massachusetts proud.” Eli blushes even more now, looking shier than ever, and I can’t blame him. Where is all this coming from? Suddenly Wesley is full of praise? Even though it’s in his own way, it still feels strangely genuine. I don’t sense a front, and it doesn’t feel forced. But it’s weird, I can’t deny that. It’s so weird to me that I even question it. “You okay?” I ask. Wes looks at me, confused. “Yeah, why?” “Just… I don’t know,” I say, looking him up and down. “You seem good.” Now HE looks embarrassed, probably because of my implication: that he wasn’t good before. “Yeah,” he says, nodding slightly. He looks away before clearing his throat and then leaning closer to me. “Listen, Leo. I wanna apologize.” Apologize? Wesley? This must be a Christmas miracle. What happened these past few days? “To you, specifically. You’ve been here for my family when I haven’t been, and I’ve been doggin’ on you for it.” “It’s okay,” I find myself saying. An automatic response. Part of me regrets saying that, because I don’t want to let him off easy. But if he’s being sincere right now, there’s no point in arguing, is there? “I just… Yeah,” he says, rubbing the back of his neck and sighing. “I just wanted to apologize.” He’s clearly uncomfortable, and I don’t want to make him sweat it out. I’m sure Tanya’s done enough of that on my behalf. “It’s all good,” I say, giving him a smile. “I’ve just been worrying about you. We all have.” “Yeah,” he says, nodding a bit. “I’m… I’m making a lot of changes. No more drinking,” he says, and I arch my brow with doubt. “And I’m stepping down.” That’s even more surprising. “From your job?” When he nods, I don’t know what to say. Frankly, I’m almost speechless. His career has been… well, it’s been everything to Wesley. He’s been nothing but work work work and now, suddenly, he’s stepping away from it? “Why?” “It’s not good for me, man,” he says with a heavy sigh. “I think all the stress from it was fucking me up, which made me fuck everything else up in my life.” I nod, understanding now. Maybe it’s a good thing he’s getting rid of that source of strain in his life. I don’t know what he’ll do instead, but I’m sure he has enough financial security to give himself ample time to reevaluate. “I’m just working on patching things up with, you know, you, and Tanya… and you,” he adds, looking at Eli. “I know I’ve been…” He struggles to find the appropriate word. “I know how I’ve been acting,” he decides to say, “and I want to try and make it up to you. Both of you. I was hoping we could have a boy’s day or something.” I almost laugh. “A boy’s day?” “Yeah,” he says, gauging our reactions. “I don’t know. It’s too cold to camp, but we could do something fun. Just the three of us.” Eli smirks slightly. “No girls allowed?” Wes smiles. “Hell no.” Eli laughs a little. “We should go sledding at that place you and Uncle Leo used to go to!” “Camp Revenant?” I ask, glancing at Wes. We used to travel up there all the time when we were kids. It’s a snazzy lodge that rents out ski and snowboarding equipment, but mostly people go up there to sled down the various hills. It’s the go-to place for classic, winter fun, and it’d be a great place to spend a snowy afternoon. He looks at me curiously. “Is that place still even in business?” I shrug. “We could look into it,” I say, and at that prospect, Wesley smiles. There’s definitely a different energy between the three of us now. After we pick up our luggage, we leave the airport with Wesley, planning our little trip for the day after tomorrow so that we get some “boys time” in before the New Year. Seeing Wesley get excited about it makes me excited, bringing my energy way up. In the car, even Eli seems more animated in front of his father now, and while we’re driving back home, he takes the lead and tells his dad all about the EXPO, his first taco, and our other miscellaneous adventures we had in San Diego. I’m somewhat proud to see Wes responding with just as much enthusiasm. Seems he really IS making some changes. I think stepping down from his job (which will be official in about a month) will be good for him. It’ll give him a chance to focus on what’s really important: his family. When we’re close to the house, my cell phone buzzes in my pocket, and when I pull it out, I smile slightly at the name that appears on the screen: Vince. We talked a bit before Eli and I left the hotel, and I told him I’d give him a call when I got back. Seems he couldn’t wait. I answer the call, bringing the phone to my ear. “Hey, man.” “Yo! Leo!” I laugh at Vince’s excited tone. “Landed safe?” “For the most part,” I joke, and he laughs. “I wanted to catch you before you made any plans,” he says. “I’m a little busy the next couple of days, but… you free tonight?” Before I can respond, though, he adds “It’s cool if you’re like, tired or whatever.” “I should be okay,” I tell him. “Just left the airport about an hour ago, won’t be home for at least another one.” “Okay,” he says, and I smile a bit. We’ve become quite close, especially over the past few weeks. We hung out a couple days before I left for California with Eli, and Vince (having forgotten I was leaving after Christmas) frowned in a disappointed way but said he’d be anticipating my return. “I have a belated Christmas present for you. Slash New Year’s gift.” I laugh. “You didn’t have to get me anything.” “Okay, well, it’s less of a present and more of a surprise.” “A surprise?” I ask, grinning. “Yeah. Something to show you,” he says quietly. I can’t help but notice a suspiciously mysterious tone in his voice. “I was gonna show you earlier but… I don’t know.” I squint slightly to myself. The hell is he talking about? “Anyway, if you wanna chill, let me know.” “Uhhh…” I glance towards Wes in the driver’s seat. I wish I was alone in this car right now so I could ask details. “I’ll be home in an hour or so,” I repeat. “Mind if I come to you?” he asks. “For, like, privacy and stuff.” I clear my throat a bit, shifting in my seat as I speculate why he’s being somewhat secretive. It’s piquing my curiosity, though. “Sure,” I say. “Your TV plays tapes, right?” Suddenly, my lips feel dry. I lick them a bit, my heart starting to race. Is he talking about what I think he’s talking about…? “Yeah.” But I get no more than that. All Wes says is “Good. See you in an hour.” And with that, he hangs up.

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