"Oh, and I got you the permission slip. You can start wearing pants now." Mr Long handed over the slip to Yao, who looked at it as if it was made of gold. Happy tears came to his eyes, and he smiled in thanks. "You sure you don't want me to ask about moving you into the boys' dorm yet?"

"No, let's go one step at a time. Like you said, this is a pretty big thing. I've only told Liz so far." Yao got up and threw his arms around the counsellor's neck. "Thank you, Uncle Wei, thank you!"

"Hey, hey, remember what I told you about professionalism, kid," said Mr Long, smiling and gently pushing Yao away. "Nice to know you're still not too manly to hug your old uncle."

Yao laughed. "Okay, same time next week?"

"That's fine. Your T shots should have arrived by then, right?" Yao nodded. "Okay, they'll come through my mail and I'll give them to you here. Can't really inject yourself in the dorms. Well, see you then, and good luck. Oh, one more piece of advice, kid; rolled-up socks aren't convincing."

Yao looked down at the groin-level bulge under his much-hated skirt and blushed. "Yeah, but I can't afford a proper packer yet. I just wanted to see what it felt like."

"Fine, but at least stick to one pair. You're fooling nobody."

Yao headed to the door, and stopped with his hand on the handle. "Um. Uncle? If I tell Mama and Dad and ... things don't go well ... can I stay at your place?"

Mr Long looked at him sympathetically. "Of course you can, kiddo. But let's not worry about that yet, okay? You don't have to tell them till you're ready."

"Okay." Yao swallowed the lump in his throat. "Maybe I should tell the twins. They've already noticed something's up, I'll have to tell them some time ... Think I can trust them not to spill?"

"Hm." Mr Long sat back in his chair, tapping the desk thoughtfully. "Xiang, yes. I don't know if he'll like it, but he'll keep quiet if you ask him to. Heck, it's hard enough to get the kid to talk in the first place. Mei ... I don't know. She's not a bad kid, but she might let something slip if she gets mad at you again. If I were you, I'd tell Xiang first."

"Okay. Yeah. I can do this ..." Yao breathed deeply. "Well, maybe I'll give it a few days."

"Take as long as you need," said Mr Long, standing up to show him out. "And good luck."