Disclaimer: This is a work of complete fiction.  It does not and will not exist outside the fantasy world.

Matt Caper



Chapter 9

I couldn't think of a single time the entire summer that I hadn't shared a bed or sleeping space with Nicholas.  So when I had the bed all to myself the night of their sleepover, I hardly knew what to do with all the extra room I had.  I think I was so used to having someone there, that being alone made me restless the whole night.  I slept fitfully for only a few hours and finally, reluctantly, heaved out of bed.  My alarm clock read 3:30am.  I padded to the bathroom, and while in there, I heard boys' laughter coming from Noah and Landon's room.  It sounded like the whole gang was still in one room together.

I decided to check in on them after finishing my business, forgetting I was still in my underwear.  But it turned out that all of them were undressed, too.  That was the first thing I noticed when I opened their door.  The next thing I saw was Nicholas and Pete, the youngest and the oldest of the group, making out, while the others looked on.  They were all seated on the bed and didn't notice or hear me come in.

I gasped and suddenly felt very heavily rooted to the floor, unable to move.  "Holy shit," I uttered, causing everyone's heads to jerk in my direction.  My gaze was particularly on Nicholas.  He suddenly looked terrified and scrambled to get to me.

"Grey!  Don't be mad!"  He stumbled and nearly fell flat on his face as he stepped off the bed, but recovered quickly.  "We're just playing!"

I gave him a hard, unbelieving stare.  "Playing?"

Pete stood and cautiously approached me.  "Spin the Bottle.  It was just for fun."

I took a couple of deep breaths.  Spin the Bottle.  That made me feel a little better.  "Oh.  I see."  There was awkward silence in the entire room for a few moments, until Nicholas spoke again.

"Wanna play?"

I laughed.  Not because the idea was so ridiculous, but because I just didn't know how to react.  "Um.  I better not.  I probably would, if I weren't the parent here, for all intents and purposes.  Hell, it's a fun game."

Nicholas smiled softly, relaxing after my calm response.  "I asked Pete to teach me how to kiss for real this time.  I really wanted to learn."

I lifted a brow.  "You couldn't ask Noah?  Or Dane?"  Dane was in Noah's class and also just a couple of years older than Nicholas.

"Pete's a good kisser," he blushed.  Pete, I noticed, blushed too, but looked kind of proud.

I sucked in oxygen and exhaled slowly.  "You know what?  As long as you're - you know - playing nice and not hurting each other, I probably don't need to know what goes on in here.  I think...  I think it would just drive me to drink.  Carry on."  I turned and left, closing the door behind me.  Now if only I could get that image of Pete and Nicholas out of my head, I thought.

I went back to bed but couldn't sleep.  Not for a long while, anyway.  Again, I was restless.  But I also now had worry for Nicholas.  That might've been useless, but that didn't stop me from worrying.  I hadn't been able to protect Noah from getting involved with another boy at a young age, but I constantly still held hope for little Nicky.  I wondered if this meant he was developing attractions for boys.  Or was it just normal experimenting?  Maybe it was too soon to tell.

To take my mind off things, and because I couldn't sleep, I sat up in bed and studied for a while.  It was at least more productive than worrying.  And I turned on shuffle in iTunes so I wouldn't have to hear any noises from the boys.  An hour and a half later, though, I was sleepy again.

It was probably about 5:30am, and I was finally drifting into slumber, when Nicholas crawled into bed with me.  I stirred and turned to face him, and we snuggled up with each other.

"I didn't mean to wake you up," he whispered.

"I was having trouble sleeping anyway."

"Are you mad at me?"

I found his forehead in the dark and kissed it gently.  "No, of course not.  Kinda pissed at Pete, though.  Really pissed, actually."  I hadn't fully realized that until that moment.

"No!  Don't be!" he whined.  "I asked him to do it!"

"How old is he?  Eighteen?"


"Whatever!  Same difference.  You're only twelve!  He should've known better."

"So what if I'm only twelve?  Does that mean I can't kiss who I want to?"  He pushed away and peered at me through the thin blackness.

"Yes, as a matter of fact!"  I was getting angry without intending to.

"Why?" he demanded.

"Because I said!  That's why!"  I could hear my dad in my words even as I said them.

"Well, that's stupid!  It wasn't even a real kiss, anyway.  It was just for practice!"

"So practice with someone your own age!  Or better yet, wait until you fall in love.  Then practice with him or her."

Nicholas sat up, which prompted me to do the same.  "Oh really?  You mean like you did?  You're such a hypocrite!"

"I'm trying to protect you from making the same mistakes I made!" I cried.

"Well, let me make my own mistakes!"  He was nearly yelling now.

"Would you calm down?  I don't know why you're getting so mad about it!"

He threw back the covers and tore out of bed.  "'Cause you're being an ass, that's why!  I'm going to sleep somewhere else!"  He stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind him.

I sat balking at the door.  What the hell had just happened?  I felt angry, sad and guilty all at the same time.  I eased my head to my pillow, but after a few moments I raised up and started punching the poor pillow.  When I lay down again, tears clouded my eyes.  And they continued to until I fell asleep.

It was right at Noon when I awoke.  I hadn't slept in that late in ages.  But I was never up 'til six in the morning, either.  I staggered to the bathroom, showered, and threw on a pair of shorts.  Even with the AC running, it was too dang hot to wear a shirt.  Autumn was around the corner, but I sure wished it would hurry up.

It appeared that the boys were still sleeping, but I figured they'd want lunch soon after getting up anyway.  I decided en route to the kitchen I'd fix a couple of plates of various sandwiches; that would be easy.  As I passed through the livingroom, I noticed someone had occupied the couch and moved closer to see who it was.  I found myself looking upon Pete and Nicholas wrapped up in each other, fast asleep.  Immediately my anger burned.  I felt hurt, worried, and even a little jealous.  Then I felt ridiculous for being jealous.  But illogical or not, I felt like I was being replaced.

I seethed as I stormed to the kitchen.  While making the sandwiches, I made as much noise as possible.  I left the stacked plates in the fridge, washed my hands, and stamped my feet back to my bedroom.  And for my final dramatic effect, I slammed my door as hard as I could.

It wasn't long before I heard boys in the bathroom.  And soon after that, their voices filled the front part of the house.  I refused to make an appearance, however.  I couldn't while I was still angry.  So I buried myself in studying once more.  It was nearly impossible to concentrate on anything, but I plowed ahead nonetheless.

About an hour into reading and doing Biology worksheets, there was a knock at my door.  "Come in," I called dryly.  I looked up to see Pete standing in the doorway.

"Can we talk for a sec?"  He stepped in and closed the door without waiting for me to respond.

"What is it?" I asked curtly.

"I just...wanted to apologize.  You know...  For last night."

"Fine," I said and returned my gaze to my worksheets.

"Please don't be mad at Nicky," he pleaded.  My anger rose when he used the name 'Nicky'.

"I'm not mad," I said shortly.

"Then why do you sound like you are?"

I snapped my head up, hurting my neck in the process.  "What the fuck were you thinking?"

"Come on, Grey, it wasn't a big deal.  It's not like we had sex or anything.  I don't get why you're so upset about it."

I tore out of my seat, and Pete took a step backward.  I got in his face, prepared to blast him with sharp words, but my brain couldn't form any.  I merely found myself breathing heavily and staring for a moment.  Finally I spoke with a low growl.  "If you can't figure it out, then I suggest you fuck off.  Go the fuck home."

Pete seemed hurt, but then anger overrode anything else.  "Fine."  He left the room.  I heard voices in the kitchen but couldn't make out what was being said.  In a moment, Nicholas came running down the hallway and stood at my door, staring at me in disbelief.


"What?" I snapped.

He emitted a guttural sound, openly revealing how hurt he was by his facial expression, and retreated.  There was a lot of shuffling and banging around in the bedrooms, which I soon learned was because Will and Dane were also leaving with Pete.  He was their ride, after all.  And then all was quiet.

But not for long.  Nicholas soon stormed into my room once more and went straight to the dresser.  I watched in horror as he began emptying it of his clothes.

"What are you doing?!"

"I'm moving into the other bedroom.  I'm not sleeping in here anymore."


"DON'T CALL ME THAT!" he screamed, throwing armloads of his things into the hallway.

"Hey!  I'm sorry, okay?  I was only trying to look out for you!  Please don't move!"

"Too late!"  He was crying, but still resolute in his task.  "You're a jerk, and I don't want to be in here anymore!"

"Come on!  Can't we make up?  I'm sorry!"

He turned toward me, anger raging in his eyes.  "Fine!  Then call Pete and tell him to come back!"

"No way!" I said automatically.

"Then fuck off!" he spat and went to throwing his things out of our closet.  I said nothing else, and neither did he.  And when all his belongings were piled on the hall floor, he exited and slammed my door shut.  I immediately broke down and wept.

I didn't come out of my room for hours after that, and I heard nothing in the rest of the house.  I was afraid everywhere I walked out of that room would be covered in eggshells.  I hated that feeling. Despised it.  Especially when it was with people I truly loved.

Sometime in the evening, Landon entered my room.  He was obviously nervous about approaching.  "Grey?  You okay?" he practically whispered.

I was lying on my bed staring at the ceiling.  I shook my head, not looking at him.  Noah arrived a moment later, and they both eased onto my bed.  With a heavy sigh, I finally sat up and faced them.  "I fucked up," I said.  "Sorry, guys."

"It's okay," Landon said tenderly.  "We're sorry we caused all the trouble."

"No, you didn't do anything wrong.  I don't know what my problem is.  God, I can be so stupid sometimes.  I guess I wanted Nicholas to be innocent forever, and that's just not gonna happen."

"I think he does have a crush on Pete," Noah said quietly.

"Yeah, I gathered that.  Does Pete have a crush on Nicholas?"

Noah giggled, and Landon grinned.  But then both grew sober again quickly.

"What's so funny?" I asked.

"Um..." Landon began.  "Pete was crushing on you.  Like, big time."

"Oh god," I groaned.  "I really fucked up, didn't I?"

"Yes," said Noah, who promptly covered his mouth with his hand.  "Sorry," he muttered.

I managed a small smile.  "Hey, you're right.  I can't blame you for telling the truth."  I sighed heavily and pondered the situation.  I had to do something to fix this.  Something drastic.  "Okay.  I've got a plan.  I'm going to make things right, dammit."

The boys grinned.  "Tell us!" said Landon.

"Landon, go get your phone.  Don't tell Nicholas what you're doing, either.  Stay in your room.  Call Pete, call Will and Dane, call whoever you want.  Ask them if they want to spend the night again.  Tell them I'll make it up to them for being such an asshole.  Oh, and if possible, invite someone over who Nicholas might like.  Someone younger."

They immediately scurried off.  In the meantime, I got fully dressed and prepared to make amends.  I didn't know exactly how I was going to do that, but I would just make it up as I went.  Whatever I did, it had to be good.

I realized I was starving, not having eaten anything all day.  Not even when I made lunch for the others.  I guess I had been too angry.  But that gave me an idea.  I'd begin the rectification by taking them all out to eat.  I just really hoped Pete would be gracious enough to return.

Several minutes later, Landon and Noah burst into the room excitedly.  "They're all coming back," Landon whispered.  Noah squeaked and bounced excitedly.  "Nicholas hasn't come out of his room, so he probably doesn't suspect a thing."

"Good!  You two get dressed and be watching for them.  I'm taking us out to eat tonight.  But when they get here, I want to talk to Pete first."

"Okay.  Oh!  Sam is coming this time, too.  He's in mine and Will's grade," said Landon.  "And Noah thought we should invite TJ.  He's in eighth grade."

"We used to be in Theater class together in middle school," Noah added.  "Neither one of us really had any other friends back then, so we stuck together.  We rode the bus together, too.  Everyone thinks he's gay, but I don't know for sure, like a hundred percent.  But I bet he is."

"That's cool," I said.  "Let's not try too hard to get them together.  We're only creating the opportunity and letting them find their own way.  Okay, off with you two."

While they dressed and waited for their friends, I freshened up and prepared a few words to Pete in my head.  And more than a few words to Nicholas, too.  Of course, what was in my head and what came out of my mouth were far too often two very different things.

I was in my room when they arrived.  My door was open, so I could generally hear what was happening.  Nicholas emerged from his room, presumably hearing them as well.  He reacted with excitement, as I predicted.  They exchanged a few words, and presently Pete arrived at my door.  I urged him in and closed the door.

As I turned to address him, my heart was banging mercilessly against my chest.  "Okay, Pete.  Now you know what a fucktard I am.  I have no excuse for my behavior, and I'm really sorry.  I overreacted.  I hope you can forgive me."

Pete took a deep breath and exhaled loudly.  "Whew.  I didn't know what you were gonna say.  Yes, I forgive you.  You must love Nicholas a lot."

"Yeah, definitely.  So much I want to protect him from the natural course of growing up.  I haven't quite figured out this role model thing yet.  And honestly, maybe you can be a better role model for him than I can."

"Bullshit," he answered.  "Landon and Noah and Nicholas do nothing but talk about how great you are, how you're the best effin' dude in the world.  Nicholas just plain adores you."

I chuckled.  "Yeah, well, it's you he has the crush on."

Pete grinned.  "I know.  I think it's kind of cute.  But I promise, I'm not attracted to him.  I just want to be his friend."

"And I want you to be his friend!  I don't know why I got so mad.  I wish I did.  I suppose I've got some issues to work through."

"Who doesn't?  But it took guts to get me back here and apologize.  That means you're as good a guy as they say."

"Thanks," I smiled.  "If it's okay with y'all, I wanna take us all out to eat.  As long as I can make up with Nicholas."

"Oh, I know you can," he winked.  He reached out and hugged me then, catching me off guard.  I had to admit, it made me feel really good.

"Thanks," I said again, blushing a little.  "Hey, will you do me a favor?  When we go in there, give Nicholas a good kiss on the lips.  Not passionate or anything, but just so he'll know I'm okay with it."

"Are you okay with it?"

I laughed.  "Yeah.  I think so, anyway.  Let's go find out."  He rubbed my back briefly, and I walked on ahead of him and down the hallway.  My heart was racing again.  Everyone stopped talking and looked at us when we appeared.  Pete went straight to Nicholas, bent down, and offered him a tender, sweet kiss.  Longer than I would have liked, but sweet nonetheless.  Nicholas beamed up at Pete when they were through, but then - as I suspected he would - he turned to gauge my reaction.  I smiled.  "I'm jealous.  He looks like he's a good kisser, like you said."

I glanced at Pete, whose face was crimson.  Nicholas was quiet, not yet knowing how to respond to me.  "To everyone here, I apologize for the debacle earlier," I continued.  "I got mad over nothing, and I'm sorry.  If y'all are hungry, I wanna take us out somewhere to make up for it."  They all responded with exclamations of affirmation.  All except Nicholas, who was still silent.

I approached him and put both hands on his shoulders.  "I'm really, really sorry.  I am so asinine, it's not even funny.  I acted like a total douche, and you have every right to be mad at me.  But I hope you will forgive me, because I love you so much.  I cannot stand it that I hurt you.  I'll even let you come up with a punishment for me.  Anything you want.  As long as you'll forgive me and be my friend again."

Nicholas rammed into me, clinging desperately.  It knocked the air out of me, but I truly didn't mind.  I hugged him fiercely, while all the others breathed sighs of relief.  "I'll have to think about your punishment.  But I forgive you."

"God bless America," I breathed with a smile.  "Thank you."  I looked around at everyone and took notice of new faces.  "Ah.  Sam and TJ?  Welcome."  I shook hands with each of them.  "Never a dull moment around here.  How about we go eat?  I'm starving!"

We all had a great night from then on.  And after enjoying an awesome steak dinner, we had ice cream sundaes.  I was already planning to swim laps the next day to work off the calories.  Lots of laps.  When we finally retired to the house, we were too stuffed to do anything for a while but sit around and chat.

There was an interesting mix of personalities among us.  Will was Landon's age and very talkative.  He and Landon dominated a lot of conversations.  Dane had plenty to say, too.  He was Noah's age and rather intelligent.  He had an exceptional vocabulary for one his age.  I noticed, also, that although Will and Dane had just met the night before, they seemed to be a couple now.  My boys were apparently matchmakers.

Interestingly enough, Nicholas and TJ chatted almost exclusively with each other all through the meal.  They hit it off stupendously, though I doubted they had any thoughts of a chemistry of attraction.  And boy was TJ something!  Nicholas was an animated boy, but TJ took the cake!  He was as flamboyant as could be, and he far outdid Nicholas in voice volume.  And that was really saying something.  Several times I had to shush them in the restaurant.

Also, everywhere TJ walked, he practically sashayed.  He was only thirteen, but he definitely liked to show off his ass.  I was pretty sure what he was wearing were girl jeans.  Unlike Dane, who had a plump rear end but also somewhat of a pudgy body, TJ was rail thin everywhere except his butt.  Major ghetto booty.  It occurred to me that if he were my son, I'd want to lock him away and never let him out.  I'd be afraid he'd be too much of a temptation for boys and men alike.

Sam was a quiet fellow, the quietest of the bunch, and a real pretty boy, too.  Long, auburn hair, which I'm sure was colored, curled beautifully around his face and sat like golden sunbeams on his shoulders.  He walked, talked and gestured delicately.  He didn't smile often, but it was really special when he did.  His eyes sparkled, and dimples broke the otherwise smooth porcelain of his face.  I later learned that although he was a Junior with Landon, he had skipped a grade in junior high, which made him only fifteen.

Then there was Pete.  He didn't stand out in any particular way.  He was very good-looking, but not in the way Jordan or Landon was.  He was just a normal guy, light brown hair with blond highlights, brown eyes and a slender body.  I eventually noticed he was very self-conscious about his body, though I couldn't see why.  Still, he was kind and compassionate, and to me that made him all the more attractive.  He treated all the boys with respect, even though he was older than all of them.  I found that to be appealing, too.

The high school boys were all in Theater together.  That, I learned, is where they began gravitating toward each other.  That mere fact made for quite a motley crew.  As we recuperated from dinner and dessert, all I had to do was watch to be entertained.  Noah and Landon took control of one recliner, and since we'd bought an additional recliner when we moved in - for which I was now thankful - Will and Dane possessed it.  The rest of us crowded onto the couch, Pete and me on opposite ends.  We barely even moved for the next hour.

"I wanna watch a movie," Noah finally suggested.  Everyone affirmed the idea, but we browsed through many selections on our Netflix box before the majority agreed on one.  Some sort of thriller.  And for the next couple of hours we still didn't move.  I personally enjoyed it, but I also realized I was missing being snuggled up to someone.  Usually it was Nicholas, but he opted to sit between Pete and TJ.  I sort of kept an eye on them without trying to be obvious.  At the beginning of the movie, Nicholas was snuggled up to Pete, but I watched as he gradually gravitated toward TJ.  Sam was the only one sitting next to me, but he also seemed attached to TJ.  In the end, TJ and Nicholas were clinging to each other, all the while leaning against Sam, who had his arm around both boys.

Right when the movie ended, I caught Pete's eye, and we exchanged glances.  He, too, had noticed the situation between us.  They didn't move away from each other even as I used the remote to turn off the credits.

"Can we have another?" TJ asked, and Nicholas echoed the sentiment.

"Sure.  You choose this time."  I handed TJ the remote, and soon we were subjected to an entirely different genre, a romantic comedy.

In the midst of this movie, however, there was movement.  The couples in the recliners started being affectionate with each other, and when Will and Dane began making out, I decided that was my cue to exit.

Quietly I stood and eased away, but Pete quickly came after me.  "Can I come with you?" he whispered.

Nicholas, of course, sat up and watched Pete and me, which prompted TJ and Sam to take notice of us.  The other four were otherwise occupied.

"We're going to my bedroom," I explained to the three of them.  "You're welcome to come, too."

"I want to stay," Sam murmured.

"Me too," TJ said immediately.  Nicholas seemed like he couldn't decide what to do.  "Nicky?  Will you stay too?  Please?" TJ pleaded.

Nicholas faced them and looked to Sam for confirmation.  "Yeah.  Stay, Nick," Sam purred.  And so he did, settling back against the other two.  I gave him a quick kiss on the top of his head, and Pete and I made our way out.

"Wow," breathed Pete, once we were alone in my room.

"Wow what?"  I eased onto the end of the bed, and he sat beside me.

"Those boys.  All of them.  I mean, they're so..."

"Sexual?" I finished.

"Exactly!  I mean, gosh.  I was sixteen before I even...you know."

"Yeah.  I think I was fifteen.  Except I had to hide it from my parents, so it didn't happen too often."


There was an awkward silence while we just sat there, looking at our hands or the wall or nothing in particular.

"So you're seventeen?"  I wasn't great at small talk, though I truly did want to learn more about him.

"Yeah.  I'll be eighteen in October.  On Halloween, no less."

"Scary," I quipped.  "So you're, like, nineteen months younger than I.  Cool."  We exchanged small smiles and experienced another awkward silence.  Finally I stood.  "I'm...gonna visit the bathroom.  Help yourself to whatever."  As I left the room, I realized I was feeling extremely nervous.  I hadn't really anticipated that.

When I returned, Pete was merely walking around the room looking at things, but not touching.  "My turn," he said, and then I was alone again.  I did a brief email check, read a little Facebook to see what my Austin friends were up to, and Pete returned by the time I was shutting down.

"Um.  I'm gonna get comfortable.  Not really sleepy, but...  Is that okay?" I asked carefully.

"Yeah, man, totally."

"Did you...wanna sleep in here tonight?  Or...?"

"Sure," he agreed nervously.  "I can sleep on the floor if you want."

As I removed my shirt, I saw him blush and look away.  "Hardly," I said firmly.  "I have a big bed.  Nicholas usually sleeps with me.  But even if he does tonight, there's room.  If you don't mind snuggling."  I shed my shorts, and he refused to even look at me.

"I like snuggling," he admitted with a shaky voice.

"Me too," I smiled.  "Are you going to get comfortable, too?  I won't look if you don't want me to."

He attempted a bit of a chuckle, which faltered.  "I'm a little shy."

"You shouldn't be.  You're an attractive guy."

"Not like you are."  Slowly he stared undressing, still not looking at me.  I crawled in bed and continued to watch him.

"That's a bunch of bull.  Anyway, aren't you in Theater?  I would think you'd have to be comfortable with yourself to do that."

He revealed a pair of butt-hugging boxer briefs under his shorts.  I couldn't help but stare.  "It's different when I'm on stage," he said, turning to face me as he slid in next to me.  "When I'm someone else, I don't think about my flaws."

"You don't have any flaws."

"Whatever," he dismissed me.  "Is it true you went out with Jordan Kendall?"

I nodded somberly.  "Yes."

"He's physically perfect in every way, I bet."

"Yeah, he's gorgeous," I admitted.  "And super nice."

"Then how can you say I don't have any flaws after seeing him?  I know it's none of my business, but why aren't you still with him?"

I sighed and idly rubbed circles on my chest.  "I broke up with him because he's going off to college next year.  It was probably the stupidest thing I've ever done.  But then again, I couldn't bear the thought of falling for him and then being apart from him after only a year."

Pete nodded with apparently no advice to offer, which I appreciated.  I continued.  "And just because he's as good-looking as he is doesn't mean you're imperfect.  One thing I've already learned about you is that you have one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know.  I treated you really badly, and you forgave me without even thinking about it.  And the way you help your friends in a bunch of little ways; it's so incredible.  I wish I was more patient and kind like you."

"I think you're great just like you are."  Again we exchanged smiles, much warmer this time.  "But you're not over Jordan, are you?"

I frowned and slid farther under the covers, turned on my side, and propped up my head with my palm, elbow on my pillow.  Pete followed suit.  "I don't know.  Maybe not.  I miss him so much, Pete.  He had tears in his eyes when I broke up with him, and I haven't talked to him since.  I can't stop thinking about that."

Pete gazed at me compassionately and briefly caressed my hair, as I often did to Nicholas.  "Are you going to go back to him?"

"I doubt it," I said sadly.  "As much as I miss him, it would be worse when he left in a year."

"Isn't it better to love and lose, than not to love at all?"

"Depends if you ask me when I'm loving or when I'm losing."

He leaned forward and kissed my forehead, and I was suddenly overwhelmed with his tenderness.  "If you're not opposed to snuggling even with just the two of us here, I promise not to make any inappropriate moves on you," he whispered gently.  "I'd like to simply hold you."

As I turned to my other side and was enveloped in his embrace, my heart melted.  I had never known such tenderness before, and I was immediately addicted.  I had the great fear of making the same mistake I made with Jordan and moving too fast, but I absolutely had no willpower against this kind of gentle affection.

I didn't know what was going on in the rest of the house, and I really didn't want to know.  I was completely content in Pete's arms.  We slept like that, remaining chaste the whole night, even though no one ever joined us in bed.  But already I was hoping for a repeat performance the following weekend.