Begin Anew: A Friend In Need

By dabeagle - Chapter One

"So you'll be here in like two weeks?" I asked excitedly.

"Yup, we'll start driving in four days and we'll be there by the fifteenth. It rocks, don't you think?" came the enthusiastic reply.

"I dunno, having you around full time again? I guess I'll have to alert Stacey!" I grinned evilly.

"Dude, I will pound you! Put Case on the phone, moron. No, wait, you want to know the best part of this move?" he asked.

"What's that?" I asked through my giggles.

"My sisters are flying out in two days, so you'll have 'em all to yourself!" he laughed.

"Chris, that's so not funny!" I exclaimed.

"Get used to it smartass, cause they have their tickets. Now put Case on." I handed Casey the phone unhappily and he began talking animatedly with Chris, waving his hands for punctuation as he spoke. Not that Chris could see, but it was funny to watch.

In the three months since Chris and his family left us there has been a void. Don't get me wrong, I was still a pretty happy guy. Who wouldn't be with Casey next to you? But Chris and Casey meant two different things to me, and I have to admit I felt a little off without him around. His sisters on the other hand, I could do without. Chris was just one of those people you need in your life, he's the glue that holds you together in a lot of ways. I knew I needed him almost as much as I needed Case.

Casey and Chris were making fun of me, so I decided to get even with who I could at the moment. I walked up behind Case and wrapped him in my arms gently, then began to tease his nipples slowly through the cloth of his shirt and grind into his backside. I noticed the conversation was getting a little disjointed, and Case seemed to be having trouble sticking with the flow of it until he finally rang off.

"You asshole! How cruel can you be?" he asked with a smirk.

"I think you know the answer to that." I smiled in return. Have I ever mentioned that he's a fantastic kisser? Well he still is, in case you were wondering, and he was definitely in the mood to kiss after that little bit of sweet torture. And boy did he! Forget all the clichés about tongue wrestling, calisthenics, dueling, sparring or whatever! This was an all out assault, and I wilted under him as he grabbed my ass to hold me in place until he was good and ready to end the kiss.

"Aww, how cute," came a female voice.

I jumped and Casey started for a moment, then decided to put on a show for whoever had intruded and began pawing me, kneading my cheeks and then moving a hand around to my crotch while using his tongue as if he were trying to asphyxiate me. I twisted under the pressure, partly from arousal and partly from embarrassment, finally managing to get a breath. He backed off, feigning surprise as he glanced at the doorway where an open mouthed Kyle and Sheila stood. I sat down on the bed, hard, with a dazed expression on my face.

"You know, it was cute until you started to trying to kill the boy," Sheila said, striding into the room and draping her coat on the bedpost.

"Can't help it, he makes me crazy," Case said while taking a seat next to the window, a huge innocent grin on his face. I was so embarrassed!

"And you? What do you have to say?" she asked me. I looked at her blankly.

"Urg?" I grunted. She tried not to laugh, but it was futile.

"You're so in love it's too funny," she said between giggles. Kyle stood in the doorway, leaning against the frame and just shook his head.

"Looked like rape to me," he said with a grin.

"You can't rape the willing," Casey said matter-of-factly.

"So what's up?" I asked, if only to change the subject.

"We're going to the pool, thought we'd see if anyone else wants to go," Kyle said, "Unless you're too busy."

"Smartass!" I said, "Sounds good. You want to?" I asked Case.

"Sure, I need to cool down after that," he said rising to his feet. I narrowed my eyes.

"You're lucky I like you," I said.

* * * * * * * *

We met up with the rest of the group outside of the town's new indoor pool, Grant and Cris waiting at the counter just inside the doors while they chatted with Ashley, who had gotten the job at the pool for the summer. It was light duty, paid decently, and we got in for free, so everybody's happy. Besides Chris, the only one missing from our group was Harry and Blair, and with those two you never knew where they'd turn up next.

"Hey, there's the rest of them,." Cris said as he spotted us. "Did you have to pry these two out of bed or something?" he asked Sheila.

"Please! They don't even make it to bed, Casey turns into an animal in the middle of the floor!" Sheila said. I reddened with the thought that they had seen us like that. I guess my only saving grace was that we had our clothes on.

"You sound jealous," Casey said with a smirk.

"Ha! I am training my man to be gentle and loving," she said, turning her nose up and looping her arm through Kyle's.

"Then how come you keep telling me to slap your ass, sweetie?" Kyle asked innocently.

Her look was priceless, and we burst out laughing, even Ashley who hadn't been smiling that much lately. She pushed him away, then smacked him in the arm, calling him a few choice names as he continued to put that innocent, sweet look on his face. The group filed in, Sheila shooting daggers at Kyle, and headed for the changing rooms while I hung back to talk to Ash for a minute.

"Hey bud, how ya feeling?" I asked while playfully punching him on the shoulder. He grinned back at me.

"Pretty good, actually. My folks are all worked up about the surgery and stuff, but the doc says it'll be fine," he said, sunny smile firmly in place.

"So you're not worried? I guess the rest of us are worried enough, huh?" I asked.

"Yeah, why should I? All you guys have plenty of worry to cover me."

"Well, did they nail down when this is happening?" I asked.

"Yeah, tomorrow," he replied.

"Tomorrow!" I exclaimed. "And exactly when were you going to tell us?" I asked in irritation.

"Um, next Tuesday?" he said timidly.

"That's foul man!"

"Well, I don't want everyone worried and fussing and stuff," he said quietly.

"Well, sorry pal, comes with the whole friendship thing, y'know? I mean, if it was a hangnail or something I could see not mentioning it, but it's fucking heart surgery, and I'm a little worried for my friend, ok?" I said earnestly.

"OK, I guess. Not like I can stop you, huh?" he asked. "Justin, I just don't want a big deal made out of it, ok? Please?" he asked plaintively.

"Well, we'll be there in the morning and wait. What time?" I asked.

"Surgery starts at nine," he replied.

I reached out and squeezed his shoulder. "We'll be there."

I headed into the locker room to get changed, shoes tapping on the tiles and echoing through the room. The room smelled of chlorine and that musky smell that accompanies any changing room. I put all my clothes into the cubicle locker and then took that freezing shower you were supposed to take before getting in the pool. My feet made that flat, slapping sound as I walked over the cold tiles and onto the pool deck. Grant was leaping off the high dive, glistening in the sun as he arced gracefully into the water below. Man, that kid's got so much physical beauty it isn't fair! I know I'm not bad, but he could be a model I think, 'cept he isn't interested. He's pretty modest really, doesn't even take his shirt off on a hot day. Case came up next, and ungracefully cannon-balled about three feet from where Grant surfaced. I shook my head as the lifeguard blew her whistle and upbraided Case for his behavior.

I made my way to the towels they had laid out, Kyle and Sheila stretched out next to one another holding hands as the sun came in through the glass roof. Cris walked up to me and put a finger to his lips to keep me silent while he walked over to Kyle and Sheila, then began shaking his wet head over them spilling water droplets all over them and calling out insanely, "I'm all wet!" before turning and racing for the pool.

Kyle was up like a shot and after Cris, who wasn't a very fast swimmer. Soon they were tussling in the pool, laughing like loons. Kyle pushed Cris under, then Cris swam up under Kyle and dumped him in the water.

"You guys are so weird," Sheila said shaking her head. I sat down next to her.

"What do you mean, you guys?" I asked, "And what's weird?"

"Well, men always want to play rough, make crude jokes and generally make asses of themselves," she remarked matter-of-factly.

"So women make more sense to you?" I asked.

"Yes," she said

"Wow." I said. "Does Kyle know?"

"Know what?" she asked.

"That you're a lesbian?" I asked.

"What? How the hell did you get that out of that conversation?" she asked.

"Well, you said women make more sense to you……" I trailed off grinning.

"You are so sick. See? Crude jokes," she said tossing her hair and laying back down. Kyle approached from the pool, dripping wet, and motioned for me to remain silent as he crept in stealthily on his girlfriend.

He moved in from the side and then more or less rolled onto her, instantly drenching her with pool water.

"Hi! I'm all wet!" he said to her.

"Get off! You're cold, oh gawd get off me you jerk!" she shrieked as she pushed him onto his towel. He just giggled as he watched her stand and glare at him.

"Why do I put up with you?" she asked herself.

"Cause you think I'm cute," he said with a knowing smirk. Her cheeks brightened a bit, then she got an evil look on her face and knelt down next to his prone form. She began seductively running her fingers over his stomach and tracing around his nipple with out actually touching it, and it had it's desired effect as he began rising to the occasion and getting goose bumps all across his skin.

"Now that cold pool water will he helpful to you," she said, smiling sweetly at him as she stood and headed for the pool.

"Oh, that is so cruel," he said softly. I was trying not to stare at his shorts, and mostly succeeding.

"Hey, quit checking me out! She got me so worked up I might just jump you!" he said laughing. I guess I got caught, huh?

"Well, when I have something to look at……" I trailed off, "But hey, you're hard and I'm the only thing in sight, what does that say for you?" I grinned evilly. "Hey guys, look! I told you Kyle was in the closet!" I said as I headed for the pool.

"You are so dead, Corcoran!" Kyle yelled as I heard him hit the water right behind me.

I joined the others in the pool, splashing and carrying on and fending off Kyle, which was more fun than I'd care to admit to. We had chicken fights, where you get on your friends back and try to knock others off their "mounts" if you can. I'd like to say we kicked ass, but it was pretty even with us all getting very, very wet and spending more time falling off the ones carrying than anything else.

As we battled, Grant disengaged and got out of the water to go greet a staff member from the house he used to live in, who had a kid with her. The girl was pretty, chestnut hair cut short but stylish. She smiled and hugged him with one arm so as not to get soaked, and he returned the gesture, laughing as she tried in vain to stay dry. They spoke animatedly while the rest of us carried on, splashing and whatnot. After about ten minutes he rejoined us. He had a new kid in tow, the one that had been with the staff member. He was kind of small, straight brown hair that was parted down the middle, fair skin and a shy appearance to him.

"Guys, this is Drew. Drew, this is the guys." Grant said to us, gesturing back and forth. "Drew just moved into the group home, he's from south of here near Tahoe. Angela asked me to help him meet some good people. You guys know any?" he asked with his crooked grin firmly in place. If he thought he was wet before, oh man we practically drowned the boy. Drew stood by uncertainly until Case grabbed him and brought him into the fray where he quickly began to fight back, drop for drop. At that frantic pace it didn't take long for our arms to tire and for a truce to be called. We climbed out of the pool and dragged Drew with us, sitting him down between Sheila and Case.

"So, Drew, welcome to our little burg, man," Grant started off, "That there is Casey Fremont, that's Justin Corcoran, this here is Sheila Connolly, and her boyfriend Kyle Pritchard. This guy here is Cris Teague, and I'm Grant Killian." Drew looked around shyly tucking his legs up to his chest and wrapping his arms about them. He gave us each a nod and a weak smile as Grant introduced us, then Grant looked at us in general and said, "And this is Drew Maloney."

Drew turned out to be pretty cool once we broke through his shy facade. It turns out he was from Chicago originally, his folks weren't too great I guess. He had come to live with his Aunt after his mother's death and she had passed suddenly in the storm that had pounded the higher elevations where he had just been, leaving the lowlands largely untouched. But it was frigging cold, let me tell you, because the dead of winter in Nevada is starkly different from the communities in the higher elevations. Tahoe, famous for skiing will get hammered, and we might see a flake.

"Wow, so you don't have any relatives left?" Cris asked, and not unkindly I might add.

"No, I only have two people left anywhere that care about me," he said, voice trailing off into a lonely whisper. Sheila tucked an arm around him and sternly informed him he had more than that now.

"Who are they?" I asked gently, "And where?"

"My……friend, Quinn. I was at his house when the storm hit. And my friend Kody, he used to live at the house I live in now. Only it's not really living, it's just existing," he trailed off again, disappearing into some private place.

"Kody Rowan?" Grant interjected.

"Um, yeah. How'd you know that?" Drew asked, brows knitted together in surprise.

"I used to live there too. Kody was a special case from Illinois I think. Chicago. He said the state couldn't keep his folks at a safe distance, not because they wanted him back but because they were into a bunch of bad shit and they were unpredictable. His dad found him twice, so they sent him to this house on a special deal. I guess Nevada was cheaper than some other states to send him to, so here it was. Kody was cool." Grant said.

"Where is he now?" Drew asked, hope creeping into his voice.

"I don't know," Grant shook his head, "He disappeared along with Aaron Becker a few months ago, just after school started." he said soberly.

"Hey, this Quinn guy. Is that Quinn Andersen?" Casey asked thoughtfully.

"Yeah, that's him," Drew said slowly.

Casey smiled at him, "Hey, it's a small community among the affluent. His chauffeur used to bring him to a private club to swim laps a year or two ago. My dad took my brother and me there a few times. We met, he seemed like a nice guy."

"He is. He's very nice, and I miss him," Drew said quietly.

Angela wandered over to collect Drew and we walked them to the front of the pool, giving him our phone numbers and promising to call later on. I felt pretty bad for him, he was a really nice guy and had all this bad shit happening to him. I gave Ash a shot in the arm as we went by, and he just smiled companionably as we left.

The winter wind was whipping around us something fierce, and we went to my house because it was closest to the pool. The winters here were far from mild, the wind whipping at abominable speeds over the desert, not much in the way of anything to block or break it, and that made the wind that much icier when it bit right through you. It looked like another storm would be coating the Sierra Nevada, but down here it would just get cold as hell. We trundled into the back of the house, taking off our shoes and hanging the coats on the service porch before entering the kitchen. Everyone took seats around the table while I started to make some hot chocolate, which is always better than coffee right after you come in from the cold. The wind howled and screamed outside like some mad banshee looking for vengeance. I shuddered.

Everyone took seats around the table, waiting on the hot water in the tea kettle when Grant spoke up, voicing a few thoughts that I'll wager a few of us were having.

"Do you think this Quinn guy knows where he is? I mean, they don't allow long distance calls from that house, unless it's an emergency so Drew can't really talk to him. That is unless……" Grant trailed off, looking at Casey while I walked around the table setting cups down and cocoa packets.

"What?" Casey said somewhat suspiciously.

"I feel bad for him." Grant said, "You don't know what it's like to live in that place, and he's lost so much. Imagine being cut off from your family, having no privacy at all. If you take a shower you better dress in the stall if you don't want half of them to know your dick size. Sorry Sheila," he said to her apologetically, "But that's the reality he's facing. I just think if we got in touch with this guy, maybe let Drew talk to him on a cell or something, you know? Give him some hope, Hell who knows? Maybe this Quinn guy misses him too?"

"How do we do that?" I asked.

"Casey knows how to find Quinn!" Sheila said triumphantly. Casey looked at her doubtfully as he thought, brows knitted together. The tea kettle began to shriek and I lifted it from the stove and began to dispense the hot water into the waiting cups before refilling it and replacing it on the stove.

"Well, I met him but I don't know if we can get in touch or not. I never had his number I don't think." Casey drifted into thought.

"Hey," Cris broke in, "Did anyone think to ask Drew if he has the number by any chance?" Kyle slapped his forehead and made a "doh" sound like Homer Simpson.

"Good idea, Grant why don't you call him?" Casey said, "Ask him a few questions and see if he knows Quinn's number." Grant nodded purposefully and went to grab the phone in the hallway.

"You know, your boyfriend is a sweetheart," Sheila said to Cris, " I think he deserves some extra loving." She winked and Cris grinned at her.

"I can do that," he said, " And I know he's sweet."

The tea kettle began shrieking again and I got up to concern myself with refills. Grant's voice could be heard as a soft murmur in the hallway. I have to say I was really impressed with Grant as a person. One might think he wouldn't have respect for other people's things or privacy due to the nature of the environment he was in, but if anything he was doubly aware of our feelings and issues.

We sat at the table in quiet contemplation of the conversation, sipping the hot cocoa and letting the chill work out of our bodies when Grant reappeared.

"So?" Kyle asked.

"Well, I thought this was suppose to be like a surprise, and I couldn't figure out how to ask for Quinn's phone number with out giving it all away. So I asked about the place he had been staying at, and he described the Anderson house. If we drive out I don't think we could really miss the place," he said.

"So we're going for a ride, huh?" Casey grinned.