The Puget Posse

Chapter 1-The Puget Academy

The Puget Posse is the story of five boys who are thrust together in a school setting and forced to work together as a team. They have little desire to become friends or, in some cases, to even like each other. But circumstances make it so that they can’t ignore each other.
 
 
Here is my full disclaimer. The story is mine and cannot be copied. Any quotes from the story must be properly identified. The story contains sex scenes between minor boys (with a couple of girls thrown in for good measure), meaning you must be 18 to read it. This story is fiction, and nobody in it is real.
 
I love getting mail from readers. You can contact me at thehakaanen@hotmail.com 
 
CHAPTER 1
THE PUGET ACADEMY
 
The Puget Academy is an exclusive school north of Seattle, sitting on a bluff overlooking Puget Sound. It is attended by students in grades five through eight, and is known by some as Tween Paradise. While most of the 250 plus students came from well-heeled families, there were quite a few deserving scholarship students thanks to a well-funded endowment. Whether a student was rich or poor, the fact that he was enrolled at the Academy meant that he or she not only had shown promise as a student, but had also gone through a rigorous examination process.
 
Two weeks before the start of the school year, the five elected officers of the school’s student council met with Mr. Vargas, the student government advisor for the Academy.
 
“Well, I see the entire Gang of five is here,” Mr. Vargas said as he walked into his classroom. Sitting at individual desks were five eighth grade boys, Patrick Gardner, Neville St. Aubin-Jones, Mikhail Larson, and Mark and Matthew Kirkwood. The five of them had met when they first entered the Academy as fifth graders. They slowly became friends. Their relationships were sometimes smooth, sometimes contentious, but were never boring. They had all been active in school government, athletics, and other school activities since the start of their enrollment. All five were top students.
 
Mr. Vargas had worked with all of them at one time or another in his role as student government advisor, and had had each of them as a student as well. He knew they hung together for better or for worse, and had taken to calling them the “Gang of Five”. He was admittedly surprised when all five of them had run for one of the five student government offices, and was even more surprised when all five of them were elected. He didn’t think they had that much pull with the rest of the student body. He figured one of their opponents would win just to prevent a coup d’état by the entire gang.
 
While the five were close friends, they could also be very competitive rivals, and one often ran against the other in what had become some heated elections. But last spring, as if by some prior agreement, they had each run for a different office. How they decided who would run for what was something they kept secret. Mr. Vargas was certain there were some passionate arguments between them, especially where the prestigious position of student body president was concerned.
 
Patrick was the student body president with Mark as his vice-president. Mikhail was the secretary and Matthew the sergeant-at-arms. Neville was the treasurer.
 
“I must remind you, Mr. Vargas,” Neville said. “that we are not a gang and have never been a gang. Nor have we been a cadre, a mob, a rabble, or a bunch of hooligans, as some members of the faculty of this beacon of education have called us.”
 
“We are a posse,” Patrick cut in. “The Puget Posse, if you will.”
 
“Which would make you a bunch of hooligans,” Mr. Vargas said with a smile.
 
“Law abiding hooligans,” Matthew said.
 
“Deputized hooligans,” Mark added.
 
“The good guys,” Mikhail said.
 
“We have been The Posse since fifth grade,” Patrick said.
 
“Which makes us The Posse forever,” Neville said in his clipped British accent.
 
“Well, the way you guys are ganging up on me right now, I have to stick with the Gang of Five.”
 
“You are impossible to deal with, Mr. V.,” Mark said.
 
“And, as you all know, I take in pride that. This is my first day in the building, and I need to make copies of some documents for you guys. You behave while I’m gone,” he said, half-kiddingly because he knew that while all five boys were as trustworthy as a crew of thirteen year olds could be, they were still thirteen and therefore prone to being stupid.
 
“You ruin all of our fun, Mr. V,” Mark said. “We had planned on totally trashing your classroom while you were gone.”
 
Mr. Vargas buried his urge to flip Mark the bird, instead he just flipped the boys a smile and a little wave and left with a handful of papers to copy. Mr. Vargas had been at the Puget Academy for ten years. He was popular with the students, and was recognized by the students, the parents, his peers, and most importantly, his administration, as a crackerjack teacher.
 
“What’s with this ‘Gang of Five’ shit?” Matthew asked after the sound of Mr. Vargas’s footsteps faded down the hall. Matthew was Mark’s twin brother. “Mr. V. started it and now everybody is calling us that. I mean it sounds like we’re a bunch of homies from the hood or something.”
 
“In your case that’s not too far off,” Mark said.
 
“Damn, bro, speak for yourself.” 
 
“Cadre would be better,” Neville said . “We are, after all, a political group.”
 
“We could even be a bloc and be called the blockhead five,” Matthew said, laughing.
 
“I think some call us that already,” Mark said.
 
“Maybe the band of five,” Patrick suggested.
 
“Except not all of us are musical,” Mark said.
 
“We could be a mob or a squad,” Mikhail said. Only if one carefully listened for it could even a trace of his Russian background be detected in his speech. His English was nearly perfect. He tried to hide his accent in the same way Nigel flaunted his.
 
“Look, we’ve been the Puget Posse forever. We don’t need new names for Mr. V. to call us,” Patrick said.
 
“Yeah, he can take his gangs, cadres, blocs, and bands and stuff them up where the sun don’t shine,” Matthew said.
 
“Must you always state things on a vulgar level?” Neville asked.
 
“We have to so you can understand it,” Mark told him.
 
“No, you have to so Patrick can understand it. He’s the one who is Irish after all, and vulgarity is the essence of who they are.”
 
“At least we don’t get all snooty and talk so nobody can understand us,” Patrick said defensively.
 
While Neville and Patrick were good friends, there was a bit of a rivalry between them, with neither one of them wanting to admit his friend might be better at something. The English-Irish enmity had been a part of their rivalry since the day they met.
 
Finally, Mikhail spoke up. “You all forget that a posse has a common purpose. It does not have to go chasing bad guys on horses.”
 
“Misha is right,” Patrick said. “That’s how we’ve operated from the beginning. This year our common purpose is to give the Puget Academy the best student government it has ever had.”
 
“If not the sexiest,” Mark said.
 
“You have such a gutter brain,” Neville told him.
 
“So does my brother,” Mark said.
 
“And we are proud of it,” Matthew said with a wide grin. “Not that yours is pure or anything, Neville.”
 
The five of them had come to the Puget Academy from four diverse backgrounds (the twins being from one family, of course). They ranged from blood brothers, to best friends, to lovers, to simply being classmates, to almost mortal enemies, depending on what is happening in their lives and their perspective on events. But through it all they hung together, and the Puget Posse, formed in the fifth grade, was now starting eighth grade at the Puget Academy. They often had their solidarity tested while at the same time learning what true friendship was about.
 
Their paths before fifth grade might have been different, but each path led them into the same fifth grade classroom. Each path led them into each other’s lives and put them on a path that created the Puget Posse.
 

PATRICK’S PATH

 
Brian Gardner was escorted into the principal’s office at Aurora Park Elementary school. It wasn’t his first visit there, and he was certain it wouldn’t be his last. His son, Patrick, was often disruptive in class. Patrick was eight and in third grade. Acting out in class was nothing new. He’d been having issues since kindergarten when he discovered he could read while his classmates were still trying to figure out what the letters of the alphabet were. In essence he was bored.
 
Brian knew that his son was extremely bright. While Patrick’s home situation was somewhat unconventional, Brian saw to it that his son lived in an environment full of love. Money was tight, with Brian having worked off and on since graduating from high school. He was currently working on the loading dock of a local trucking company. They lived with Brian’s uncle Ted and Ted’s mother, Maxine, who was Brian’s grandmother. The house belonged to Maxine.
 
Brian had fathered Patrick when he was seventeen and a senior in high school. He had gotten drunk at a party and had sex with a girl for the first and last time. Brian was gay and had no clue how he ended up under a pool table at a party fucking Rachel, a fifteen-year-old sophomore and a girl he hardly knew, other than to prove his manhood.
 
The long story short was she was afraid to get an abortion, knowing her parents would find out, and at the same time she was afraid to have the baby, as her parents would find that out as well. By the time the dust had settled, Rachel found herself not wanting to be a mother, her parents wanted nothing to do with the newborn Patrick, and Brian found himself at home with a month old baby six months after graduating from high school.
 
Brian’s mother had abandoned his family when he was eight. He had lived with his father, a man he worshipped. His father was a loving and caring man, who did his best to raise Brian. He knew his son was gay from the time the boy was ten. Brian learned about gay sex when he was eleven from his uncle Ted, who was a boy lover, and was especially enamored with his beautiful, dark haired nephew. Brian’s father knew about the relationship. He had little doubt about what would happen if he left Brian alone with his brother Ted, but as long as Brian wasn’t forced to do anything, he had no problem with what he saw as a loving relationship between his preteen son and his Uncle Ted. Brian’s father now lived in a small town in the southwestern part of the state.
 
The issue right now was Brian having to deal once again with his son creating a problem in class. He did not know what had happened since he had heard nothing from Patrick’s teacher. But he had heard from the principal, and they scheduled the afternoon meeting on his day off.
 
“Paddy didn’t say anything about being in trouble,” Brian said defensively, as he used the familiar form of his son’s name.
 
“That might be because he isn’t in any trouble,” Mrs. Woodruff, the principal, said. “The plan we set up for him after winter break has been working well.” Patrick’s teacher, who was a second year teacher, agreed to let Patrick read his own books when he finished his work. They also scheduled him to take math in one of the fourth grade classes instead of with the third graders, although even that wasn’t challenging enough.
 
“Then I don’t understand the purpose of the meeting,” Brian said.
 
“Mr. Gardner, we both know that Patrick’s behavior problems stem from increased boredom in class. We’ve found a temporary fix and Patrick’s deportment has improved greatly. But the fix is only temporary. I believe that our public schools do a much better job than they are often given credit for, but classrooms of thirty or more usually mean somebody gets lost in the shuffle. Those students are usually at the extremes, ones who are either far behind the learning curve or far ahead.”
 
The principal wasn’t saying anything she and Patrick’s father hadn’t discussed before. “So what are you proposing?” he asked her.
 
“Two things. First, I am proposing signing off on Patrick skipping fourth grade.”
 
“And go right to fifth?” Brian asked incredulously. “I don’t think so. Patrick has already had some problems with bullies. Being a nine-year-old in a class of ten year olds…I don’t think so. He has lots of friends in his peer group and moving him…” He didn’t get a chance to finish as Mrs. Woodruff cut him off.
 
“Of course I am aware of his two incidents with some aggressive older boys,” the principal said as she sidestepped the word “bully”. “Patrick is a friendly, outgoing boy who is well-liked by his peers, but being well-liked is not the key to optimum learning.”
 
“I won’t allow it,” Brian said with finality.
 
“I said I was proposing two things as you may recall, Mr. Gardner. Please hear me out to the end.”
 
“My apologies, but I get protective of my son.”
 
“Understandably so. Mr. Gardner, are you familiar with the Puget Academy?”
 
“I’ve heard of it. It’s a school for rich kids, with some pretty high academic standards.”
 
“While most of the students come from wealthy families, that is not true of all of them. Students who can meet their entrance requirements can enroll as scholarship students, either a full one or a partial one.”
 
“Are you proposing having Patrick skip a grade and apply to that school as a fifth grader?”
 
“The school is grades five through eight. Attending fourth grade here at Aurora Park would not benefit him at all. The Academy has a reputation for giving individual attention to its students and creating a caring learning environment.”
 
“We could never afford it, not even a partial scholarship. Besides that, I don’t see how he would qualify.”
 
“The Academy is doing its entrance testing next month. I have taken the liberty of sending them my recommendation of Patrick.” Mrs. Woodruff handed Brian a packet of papers. “This is the application paperwork, which I need returned to me by next Wednesday. The application includes a financial questionnaire.’
 
“What is the date of the test?”
 
“April thirteenth, which is a Friday.”
 
“Friday the thirteenth,” Brian said with amusement.
 
“I wouldn’t put much stock in that,” the principal said. “It will be the same Friday date for everyone taking the test.”
 
After doing some research about the Puget Academy online, Brian couldn’t help but be impressed. He decided he had nothing to lose by completing the application.
 
Brian, Maxine, and Ted then spent the next three weeks talking to Patrick about what the plans were and why it was good for him. Brian didn’t always put his heart in it, however. On the one hand he agreed that skipping a grade could be a good thing. He thought that attending Puget Academy would be beneficial to his son’s education. But he also felt that doing both might be too much for the young boy.
 
Friday the thirteenth arrived. Patrick was excused from school to do his testing. He awoke at seven to his own alarm clock as he had been doing since he started third grade. Patrick liked being independent. He took his shower, dried himself, and padded out to the kitchen for breakfast, wearing only a pair of flip-flops. The boy was a nudist at heart and the three adults in the house had long ago given up making him wear clothes.
 
“Morning dad,” Patrick said. “Morning, Grannana.” Patrick had started calling Maxine, his great grandmother, Grannana when he was a toddler and the name stuck. He was the only one who could pronounce it properly, at least in his mind.
 
“Good morning, Paddy,” Brian said. He was wearing nothing but boxers. He had the same feeling about clothes that his son did, but thought discretion was the better part of valor when his grandmother Maxine was home.
 
“How is Mr. Patrick this morning?” Maxine asked.
 
“Hungry.”
 
“Pancakes are on the way. We need to have a well-fed Wombat on his big day.” Wombat had been Patrick’s nickname from the time he was three and discovered wombats on a nature program on television. When he asked to have a stuffed wombat in place of a standard Teddy bear the name stuck for good.
 
“Don’t go making him nervous, grandma,” Brian said.
 
“It’s just a test dad. They don’t make me nervous.”
 
Brian knew that to be true. Patrick was always calm in academic situations. He didn’t worry before a test or during a test. But he was always nervous after taking one. He had never taken a test this big, however, plus he was a year younger than the rest of the students who were being tested, all of which made Brian ultra-nervous. Brian had taken the day off so he could drive his son to the Academy.
 
There was no school at the Puget Academy that day so the classrooms could be used for the close to 200 students coming to be tested. Between sixty and seventy students would be picked, and of those only a handful would be awarded a scholarship. The competition was tough.
 
Patrick was impressed with the big building that sat on a well-landscaped bluff above Puget Sound. “It looks almost like a castle,” he said to his father.
 
“It does indeed.”
 
“This is where I want to go,” Patrick said matter-of-factly. Brian smiled—there was no doubt his son was motivated even if he wasn’t.
 
They were met in the foyer by a volunteer parent, who welcomed them. She showed Brian where the library and cafeteria were. Those would be the waiting areas for parents who wished to stay during the testing, which would take all morning. She then escorted Patrick to a classroom and introduced him to the test proctor. The students being tested were assigned to individual classrooms and proctors in groups of around fifteen. Academy staff members served as proctors.
 
It was suggested that students bring a book. Patrick did so and opened it while he waited. But he spent more time checking out the other kids coming into the room to take the test. There was seating for fifteen and all the seats would be used. He was particularly intrigued by the identical twins who were escorted into the room. They were not only the first twins he’d ever seen in person, he also found them incredibly wonderful to look at in ways he couldn’t explain.
 
Patrick whizzed through the test. He found it challenging in places, but felt the entire test was within his own capabilities.  Nevertheless, he was feeling nervous on the ride home after the testing was completed.
 
“I think I messed up a lot of questions,” Patrick said.
 
“Would you feel better if we stopped for hamburgers and then ice cream for dessert?”
 
“Oh, yeah,” Patrick said, flashing his signature wide grin. “I’d feel lots better.”
 
Two weeks later Brian was informed that Patrick had qualified for entrance to the Academy, as well as for a full scholarship. The scholarship was based on ability and financial need. It was good for one year and had to be renewed before each academic year. The school’s headmaster and student counselor met with Brian and Mrs. Woodruff to discuss Patrick’s skipping fourth grade and entering the Puget Academy in the fall. 
 
Everyone, but Brian, felt Patrick would fit in academically and socially, even though he would be younger. For one thing, his fellow students wouldn’t know he’d been skipped a grade. Also, he wouldn’t be the first student to skip a public school grade before entering the Academy.
 
“Almost all of them were successful at our school,” Mr. Blowers, the headmaster told Brain. Brian didn’t like the sound of the words “almost all of them”, but in the end he signed the paperwork to enroll Patrick in the school.
 
As he walked out of the classic brick building sitting on the beautifully manicured grounds, he couldn’t help but stop to admire the view. He looked at the blue waters of Puget Sound and then across the waters to the snow capped Olympic Mountains. It was a gorgeous spring day and it was a day in which he knew he had changed his son’s life forever. He could only hope that it would end up being for the best.
 

NEVILLE’S PATH

 
Neville was born in London, England. He was the son of an advertising executive, who was a member of the upper class, and his full name made that fact abundantly clear. He was baptized Neville James Charles St. Aubin-Jones.
 
Neville’s father never tired of letting everyone know how wonderful he was and took pride in his snobbery. While Neville was, for the most part, a sweet young boy, his father’s ways were slowly seeping into his being.
 
Just before Neville turned eight, his mother died of cancer. Both father and son were devastated. She had been a wonderful lady and saw to it that her husband kept a veneer of polite civilization about him and that her son didn’t become too full of himself.
 
Not long after his wife’s death, Neville’s father, Reginald St. Aubin-Jones, was offered the position of Vice-President of the company’s United States West Coast Operations. He was told it would mean relocating to the U.S. He might have turned it down a year before, but the death of his wife was a factor in his taking what was a lateral move within the company. He hoped that moving to a new environment would help him and his son in their battle with grief.
 
He also looked forward to living in Los Angeles, with its warm sun, beaches, and many attractions. However, a week after accepting the position, the company decided to make its new Seattle office their west coast headquarters. Both Reginald and Neville were disappointed that they would be moving from one rainy climate to another. Reginald St. Aubin-Jones knew nothing about Seattle except that he didn’t want to live there. He was unable to persuade his superiors to keep the main west coast operation in Los Angeles. As a result, he and Neville found themselves on an airplane heading for Seattle at the beginning of October. Eight year old Neville was much more excited about the move than his father was. He could hardly wait to see the big volcanoes in Washington.
 
Neville was enrolled in the Marcus Whitman Day School, a private school in Bellevue that catered to the wealthy residents on the east side of Lake Washington. Neville was enrolled as a third grader.
 
During winter break of Neville’s fourth grade year, his father married Shelly Dean, who was an executive for a downtown investment firm. She had a son, Dylan, who was in the fifth grade. Dylan and Neville were now step-brothers.
 
Dylan was enrolled at the Puget Academy, which started at the fifth grade. Because the wedding entailed a move, Neville started fourth grade at Horace Mann School, which was pre-school through fourth grade. Reginald St. Aubin-Jones found himself impressed with the Puget Academy. He had Neville take the entrance exam on April 13, and was pleased when his son qualified for enrollment. He would be joining his step-brother at the Puget Academy in the fall.
 
MIKHAIL’S PATH
 
The director of the St. Petersburg orphanage could only shake his head as he arrived to work early in the morning. Yet another poor soul, he thought, when he saw the toddler at the front entrance, strapped into a car seat of all things. He looked to be somewhere between two and three years old. He was a little cutie, but looked somewhat malnourished. The director saw an envelope attached to the worn blanket covering the toddler. 
 
As he unpinned the note he detected the distinct smell of urine. “It smells like you need a diaper change, little one.” It was then he noticed that the boy wasn’t wearing a shirt. He lifted the blanket and saw that he was, in fact, wearing nothing. “Couldn’t even leave the poor lad with a diaper,” he muttered out loud as he picked up the car seat, which he suspected had been stolen.
 
The envelope contained a note apologizing for leaving the boy, whose name was Mikhail. It had his birth date, but no government papers. That would be too much to expect, although it happened when genuinely contrite and cash strapped parents left their offspring. Some parents brought their child in person, with all of the proper paperwork, but they were rare.
 
The note went on to say the parents could not afford to feed and clothe him and they hoped he’d have a better life at the orphanage. The truth of the matter, he thought, was that you simply don’t want to be bothered with the work of raising a child. Neglecting him wouldn’t make him go away, he thought, so you might as well dump him on us. He saw it all the time—it was how most of their residents ended up in the orphanage. The parents who dropped their progeny off anonymously were the worst.
 
That was how Mikhail became a resident of the orphanage. He lived in a barracks-like room with other boys his age. He attended pre-school and primary school, showing himself to be extremely bright. He was a quiet, inward looking boy, and was well-liked by the staff, his teachers, and his peers. He grew into a slender boy with light brown hair, bright blue eyes, and a strong handsome face.
 
On a cold November 11, just six days after his ninth birthday, his life would change again. All of the children in the orphanage knew there was the possibility of being adopted. All of them wished to leave the orphanage and become part of a family. The orphanage was a humane enough place, and most the staff were caring individuals. But each orphan felt something missing from his soul. They were all too young to describe their feelings, but they all knew that something had been taken from them when they had been abandoned at the orphanage.
 
A few months before Mikhail’s ninth birthday, a family in Seattle had come to the conclusion they would never be able to have children of their own. Ryan and Lois Larson decided to adopt a child. They also realized that at their age they didn’t want the burden of adopting an infant. They went to an adoption agency, specializing in adopting foreign children. The social worker they dealt with talked to them about adopting an Eastern European orphan. The Larsons decided a child in the six to nine age range would meet their needs. The gender was secondary to finding the right child. They were well off dinks (dual income—no kids), so money was no object.
 
They saw the reports and pictures of numerous children, but none called to them. Then they saw Mikhail’s report. “Pleasing personality…extremely bright…very good with numbers…started English lessons in school, doing well…in excellent health…has abandonment issues that will need to be dealt with.”
 
Lois looked at her husband after they leafed through his file. “He’s a gorgeous boy.”
 
“And smart,” her husband added. “He looks strong.”
 
From that moment, the process was put into motion for bringing Mikhail to the United States to live in their household on a trial basis. “There won’t need to be much of a trial,” Lois said. “I have the feeling Mikhail is the one we want.”
 
When the time came to meet Mikhail, the Larsons flew to Moscow and then took a train to St. Petersburg. Ryan and Lois were extremely excited to see their new son. What they saw was a beautiful blond nine-year-old, who stood quietly before them, looking at them shyly. Lois walked over to him, bent down, and with tears on her cheeks gave the little boy a big hug. She wasn’t bothered by his tightening up on her and not returning it. She’d been told during the counseling sessions she and her husband attended that this would likely be his behavior.
 
“He will be afraid to commit himself,” the social worker had said. “In his mind he could be abandoned at any moment and he will be putting up barriers to make it hurt as little as possible when it happens.”
 
Mikhail soon found himself flying first class to the United States with his new parents and Greg, a social worker from the adoption agency. Greg spoke fluent Russian, but told Mikhail to practice his English as much as he could.
 
Mikhail couldn’t figure out what to say for practice, so he looked out the window and slept a lot as he flew over a large chunk of the European continent, over the Arctic, and saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time. He traded off sitting next to Greg and sitting with each of his parents. He was scared, very scared. He was afraid his new parents wouldn’t like him and would send him back to the orphanage. He liked Greg, who assured him his new parents were going to love him. Mikhail wasn’t so sure.
 
The Larsons saw an example of Mikhail’s fear of abandonment a week after their new son moved in. A couple of hours after tucking him into bed they prepared for their own bedtime. Not long after turning out the lights, the door to their bedroom opened and a little nine-year-old boy tiptoed into the room carrying his new Teddy bear. He looked at the couple, not knowing and not caring whether they were awake or not. He went to Lois’s side of the bed, which had the most room, and crawled under the covers.
 
Lois put her arm around him to hug him close to her, but he pushed it away, rejecting her overture of love. On the one hand he wanted the assurance that his new family hadn’t left him, but on the other hand, he didn’t want their intimacy, fearful that they might not be in his life tomorrow. His parents had been told about the issues their new son would be battling and how to handle them.
 
Ryan and Lois did not enroll Mikhail into a school. They hired a bi-lingual tutor who was recommended by the adoption agency. The tutor, Lois, and Ryan set out to educate Mikhail, not only academically, but also in the mores of this new homeland. He also received counseling from a child psychologist who had worked with many Russian adoptees. The counselor’s goal was to help him overcome his abandonment issues and to build his self-esteem so he would come to the conclusion that he was a loved and permanent member of the Larson family.
 
The Larsons took him on frequent trips, familiarizing him with the city and its outlying regions. They showered him with tons of genuine love. That wasn’t difficult for them to do. For all of his issues, they realized quickly that they had struck the jackpot with their new son. They were confident the abandonment and self-esteem issues could be overcome, that their love plus professional help would bring Mikhail to realize that he, too, had struck the jackpot.
 
The weeks went by. Mikhail’s English improved by leaps and bounds, and he worked hard to conquer what accent he had. The Larsons gave him the news that he soon would become their official son. His adoption day was close.
 
Two nights before the big day, Mikhail came into his parents’ room and made his way into their bed. Sometimes he came in on his father’s side, sometimes on his mother’s side, depending on his mood or which side of the bed had the most room. He was pleased his parents were still there for him. Whichever side he crawled into, he knew he would get a fast hug. Only tonight, he wasn’t going to allow it to happen. Tonight he was going to show his parents that he loved them.
 
He entered the bed on his mother’s side. Before she could move he put his arm around her and gave her a quick, awkward hug. He couldn’t bring himself to tell the two of them that he loved them, but that day would come.
 
Mikhail couldn’t believe how good it felt to be officially adopted. He still came to his parents’ bed, but not nearly as often. He had days when he felt genuinely happy, and those days confused him, because he had never experienced that kind of deep feeling before. While life was good, he still had his moments when he feared everything would be snatched from him and he would be alone and unloved.
 
Lois and Ryan wanted to enroll Mikhail into a school after he turned ten. They did some extensive research on the private schools in the area. Money was no object; they could afford to send their son to an exclusive school. The school that stood out for them was the Puget Academy. They liked the idea of his starting at that school in grade five. Since it was a grade five through eight school, all of his classmates would be new to the school as well.
 
On April thirteenth, they took their young son to the testing session. They assured him that no matter how he did on the tests, they would still love him with all their hearts.
 
“Besides, you are going to be fantastic,” Ryan told him.
 
“I know,” he said with a big grin. He wasn’t trying to be cocky—he was trying to show his parents some of his new confidence.
 
That confidence was not mislaid. A couple of weeks after the test Ryan and Lois met with one of the school counselors. “Mikhail’s scores in math and science were off the charts, as were his thinking skills,” he said. “His English skills were surprisingly good. Many of the questions having to do with American culture and history gave him some problems.
 
“If he had come from a standard background, we might have given that a second thought. But, considering where he came from, he was amazing. We would be happy to have him here as a student at Puget Academy.”
 
When Mikhail learned of the result of the tests he was pleased. He loved the look of the building. It was made of brick and stone, and looked like a castle. It reminded him of St. Petersburg, Russia.
 

THE PATHS OF MARK AND MATTHEW

 
Their mother called them Thing One and Thing Two almost from birth. Even as infants they showed themselves to be a rambunctious pair—a living definition of the term “all boy”. They came three days before Christmas, an event that was sure to make Christmas a wild affair every year.
 
Mark came first, followed by Matthew a couple of minutes later. It was as if their intention was to make life interesting from the beginning, since they were the second pair of twins Kristy Kirkwood had delivered. At home were Michelle and Megan who were sixteen months old. Kristy and her husband Scott knew that life in the Kirkwood home was going to hover on the brink of chaos for years to come.
 
As the twins grew they proved themselves to be intelligent, athletic, and competitive. They competed against their sisters, against each other, and against anybody else they saw as a rival. When they were six, they actually battled to win their t-ball games while their teammates were still trying to figure out which way to run around the bases.
 
The twins loved each other deeply and got along great, except when they didn’t. While they weren’t frequent, it was not unusual for their parents to break up a physical confrontation between the two. Those fights happened when they ran out of outsiders to compete against and were rare. They never happened outside of the Kirkwood household, and the brothers quickly apologized to each other and forgave each other after a spat.
 
Upon entering school, they shot to the top of their class, until they discovered that being the smartest student in class was not cool. Even in the primary grades, being a jock was what was cool, so they made sure to keep their athleticism on display. The two were stocky boys and strong for their age.
 
They played baseball, soccer, and basketball. They tried wrestling, and, while the sport fit their personalities, they liked team sports better than the individual sport of wrestling. On top of everything else, they were a gregarious pair and had friends everywhere. It was far easier to have a lot of friends when one had a lot of teammates, and playing on a team was how they guaranteed having a lot of friends.
 
While the twin girls tended to be quieter than the boys, they had the issue of being girls, which made them more high maintenance than the often hyper twin boys. Scott and Kristy had their hands full with the girls who seemed to need constant preening and the boys who never seemed to stay still long enough to clean off the dirt they attracted.
 
The two girls had separate bedrooms in their big house on a wooded lot in a rural part of the suburbs of Seattle. The boys wanted to share a bedroom however. Their parents had wisely purchased the boys big beds when they observed that the male twins often wanted to sleep together, especially after having had an argument.
 
For the twins, life was one of sports, getting good enough grades to keep their parents happy, while not having them so good they pissed off their classmates, and trying to stay out of trouble at the same time they discovered new ways to get into trouble. As the twins made their way through fourth grade at North Lake Day School, Scott and Kristy were coming to the conclusion that a different school might be a better educational venue for twins.  North Lake had high academic standards, but there was what they felt was an overblown emphasis on athletics, especially at the intermediate school, which housed grades six through eight.  
 
Also, they had had more than one discussion with school administrators about what they called the “vigilantism” of the twins. “We simply cannot have them involved in altercations because of what they perceive as affronts to their friends,” the headmaster said. “If they think their friends are being bullied, then they should speak to a faculty member. Their current behavior is not acceptable”. The headmaster, along with one of Kristy’s friends, recommended the Puget Academy as a possible change of scenery.
 
“They push the kids to be the best possible students,” the friend said. “I know the standards are high at North Lake, but I think sometimes the kids are allowed to slide some there, especially if they are athletes.” Her son was now a junior at North Lake Preparatory School, so she was familiar with both schools. “And knowing your two little terrors, a little extra discipline can’t hurt.”
 
Kristy didn’t take offense. She knew she had a handful with Things One and Two. On the whole they were good kids. They were loyal, honest, and big-hearted. It was never their intent to make trouble, it just seemed to happen.
 
Scott agreed with Kristy that a change of scenery couldn’t hurt the boys. The twins listened to their parents without comment when they brought up the subject of taking the entrance test. Scott and Kristy worried when the twins sat quietly—it usually meant brewing trouble. The twins never accepted any decision quietly, even one they agreed with.
 
After the one sided talk with their parents, the twins ran up to Mark’s room and booted up Mark’s computer. They Googled “Puget Academy” and flipped through the website.
 
“The place looks haunted,” Matthew said as they looked at the pictures of the brick building.
 
“I wonder if it has secret doors and passages,” Mark said.
 
“We could skip class and hide in them all day,” Matthew said.
 
“Sounds like fun to me.”
 
“So far the place looks okay.”
 
They went to the athletics page and let out simultaneous squeaks. The two of them quickly ran down the stairs looking for their parents.
 
“Boys, you don’t have to leap five stairs at a time. There are civilized ways to come down a stairway,” their mother said.
 
“That works if we need to be civilized, but his is an emergency,” Matthew said.
 
“And just what does this emergency happen to be?” their father asked.
 
“There is no way we can go to that school. Their sports teams are shitty,” Matthew said.
 
Mark cut right in by saying, “And they are so fucked they don’t have a football team.”
 
“Boys,” Kristy Kirkwood said sternly. “Watch your mouths.”
 
“But mom, it isn’t cussing when it means something. And this time fuck really means something,” Matthew said.
 
“It looks like it’s time for your mouths to get soaped,” Kristy said. The twins clamped their mouths shut. They knew their mother wasn’t kidding, since she’d done it to them before. When they saw their father was nodding in agreement they could tell they had almost burst the bubble—almost.
 
But before their parents could offer a rebuttal Mark said, “North Lake has football starting in sixth grade. This dump doesn’t have anything. They have sissy soccer.”
 
“I saw they have basketball as well as baseball for seventh grade up,” Scott said.
 
“Here is what they say about that,” Mark said. Then he repeated what he read on the website word for word. “While the Puget Academy believes athletics is important to promote social, emotional, and physical growth, the emphasis is on team play and sportsmanship ahead of winning.”
 
The twins looked at their mother and father and said in unison, “That is so fucked.”
 
“Get to your room. Now!” Kristy said. “And don’t leave until we give you the okay.”
 
Scott and Kristy watched as the twins bounced up the stairs. Scott looked at his wife and said, “Do you ever get the impression that they are ten going on sixteen?”
 
“Every day,” Kristy said. “Every single day.”
 
The boys took their tests against their will on April thirteenth. They had talked about tanking the tests, but they were smart enough to know how smart they were, and that their parents would see right through them. They decided to do their best to prove to their parents they were sincere, and then use their energy to talk them out of the decision.
 
The two of them put their best effort into the tests, and scored near the top. They found they liked the old building that housed the school, liked the athletic fields, liked the view, but they still didn’t want to go there. Even though they used their best powers of persuasion, which they thought were considerable, they couldn’t change their parents’ minds. They found themselves enrolled as entering fifth graders at the Puget Academy.
 

THE PATHS CONVERGE

 
The Puget Academy held new student orientation a week before school started. The incoming fifth graders met in the school cafeteria. The twins were the first of the future Posse to arrive. They wanted to get a good look at who entered the door, wondering if they might see somebody they knew from sports.
 
“I don’t think we’ll see somebody we played in sports,” Matthew said as they climbed the stairs to the large wooden front doors. “Anybody who is any good at sports wouldn’t come to this dump.”
 
“Then what are we doing here?” Mark asked.
 
“That’s what I’d like to know. I thought for sure we’d get mom and dad to change their minds. We always do.”
 
“Except when we don’t,” Matthew muttered.
 
They followed the signs to the cafeteria. A volunteer student met them as they entered the large room. He was an eighth grader who was seated at a rectangular table covered with papers.
 
“Hi, guys,” He said. “Welcome to the home of the Pelicans. You must be Matthew and Mark.”
 
“How do you know that?” Matthew asked.
 
“You’re the only brothers on the list,” he said laughing. “And since you look identical, I would have to say that you are brothers. It’s called detective work.”
 
He pointed them to an empty circular table on the west side of the cafeteria. The table had six chairs around it.
 
They took their seats as Mark chided Matthew. “He put you in your place, bro. Ask a stupid question…”
 
“…and get egg on your face,” Matthew finished. “He does look like a stud though. He looks like he’s good at sports.”
 
“Then he must in the wrong school,” Mark said.
 
“I wonder who else is going to sit at our table.”
 
“No doubt it will be some dweebs. I bet almost everybody here is a dweeb. This place is really going to suck.”
 
It was at that moment that Neville walked into the cafeteria. The twins took one look at the thin blond with the wire frame glasses and simply nodded to each other. Neville was escorted to the twins’ table and sat across from them, saying nothing.  Matthew held up one finger to signify dweeb #1.
 
Neville took one look at the athletic twins and knew he was a better student and human being than they could ever be. He wondered what a pair of dumb jocks was doing at this school, but kept his mouth shut. He didn’t have to say anything now—they would learn soon enough who the top student in their class was.
 
A frightened Mikhail was next. Mark held out a second finger for Matthew to see, but Matthew gave a thumbs up, indicating he at least appeared to be somewhat athletic. He was also good looking, although they had to agree later that the geeky looking Neville was as well.
 
Right after Mikhail, Patrick was escorted to the table. Mark and Matthew were taken to him as soon as they saw him. They thought he looked young for a ten-year-old, not knowing he was actually nine. There was something about him they liked. Maybe it was his look of vulnerability. The twins had a way of feeling very protective of kids they deemed as vulnerable.
 
Patrick didn’t see them that way, however. What he saw was two jocks who looked threatening and were probably bullies, a skinny little blond with glasses who looked unfriendly, and a boy with short brown hair who looked to be as frightened as he felt. Just like the twins instantly saw something they liked in Patrick, Patrick felt a surge of friendliness towards Mikhail.
 
As the five of them sat, wondering which of them would break the ice, the twins saw two boys they knew enter the cafeteria. One was escorted to Mr. Nash’s section and the other to Ms. McCann’s section. Matthew looked at Mark and mouthed, “Trouble,” and Mark nodded in agreement.
 
The twins decided that since the trio of possible dweebs sitting at the table wasn’t going to say anything, they might as well open the conversation. They were in silent agreement that they probably weren’t going to like the other three, but at the moment they were the only game in town. Little did they know that the five of them would be in for a wild and sometimes crazy ride together.
 
Next: Patrick