Ok, here it is, the season premier of everyone's favorite story. Read it and tell me what you think, enjoy! :)

Cruising for Love 12
Copyright; 1999, by Derek Schachter

All rights reserved

 We walked through the streets of Fresno, enjoying the fresh winter air with each step. The coolness flew against my upper lip and ears. I had to cross my arms as my boyfriend held them for security. He felt safe with me, I just felt silly having forgotten to bring a jacket. It was about fifty degrees outside, not bad for a December night. But at any rate, I could still feel the tiny hairs rising on my arms, like goosebumps. I wanted to cling to my lover for more warmth, but we were already making enough of a spectacle to out ourselves. It was hard enough looking normal again as we walked under another street lamp, which illuminated a tiny circle on the ground five meters in radius. But most of the time no one was passing us anyhow. I wouldn't say we were walking along the most popular or nicest street in the city. Another breeze whisked by us, causing me to let out a tiny quiver. I begged him not to, but he wrapped his arm over my shoulder tight. What was I supposed to do about that? The warmth of his neck and chest comforted me. It kept my fingers from getting too cooled off. I'd need my fingers in prime condition tonight.

It didn't usually get this cold where I lived last year, I guess I still had to get used to it. Not that it was hard or anything, I would have traded my old life to be a water tester in Mexico City. Pity, I was never offered that dream job, but then I would never have been offered to go on a cruise. My parents? Bringing ME on vacation with them? I guess they couldn't reach my brother, wherever he was at that time, and send me to him. He didn't even give me his address or telephone number, was I a bad guy, too? No, don't think like that, he loves you, he was probably protecting you in case our parents found out I had the number and tried to forcefully take it from me. Yeah, that had to be it.

I could almost laugh out loud as I thought about it. Bringing me on a cruise was the most inane thing my parents had ever done, yet at the same time being one of the best things that ever happened to me. I just wanted to turn to the ground and say, "Your worst nightmare has come true, bastards! I'm the one who's happy now for a change, while you're rotting in hell. I hope the devil hasn't started avoiding you yet, but he'll get the point sooner or later." With a lifetime of slaps and scars and stitches and my dad saying to the doctor, "He fell down the stairs again, he keeps forgetting to pickup his roller-skates." Yeah, losing my parents was the hardest thing I ever went through. I'm sure Lizzie Borden would have loved to have someone off her parents, leaving her high and dry. Maybe then she could have had a life to live, like me. Fifteen years, fifteen fucking damn years of torment and mayhem and `You don't want to turn out like your brother' and `You've been outside all day' right after the `Get outside, I don't want to see you in this house all day'. And now it's my turn to smile. So long suckers, I've gotten away from you three years earlier than I had originally expected, and now I have someone who loves me the right way. Not that I am a psychopath or had enough malice to kill my parents, but man, to see the look on their faces when they saw an intruder enter their room, hear the screams and moans of pain muffled by a pillow, and see two lifeless bodies sent into the Gulf of Mexico, possibly chopped into little pieces by the propeller blades of the cruise ship, would just put my mind at ease. I know, two wrongs don't make a right, just because they inflicted so much pain on you doesn't allow you to see pain in them. Wait, maybe it does. Or maybe I just want to prove to myself that they are really gone, and not like in some horror movie in which they really aren't dead, maybe faked their deaths, and then come back to kill everyone else around you.

I took the time to feel Richie's presence next to me. He was a fighter, but only for me. He had heart, but didn't have the wits to protect himself, not like I did. I shook the thought out of my mind. My parents were no more. It's been half a year already, if they were alive I would have seen them by now. I'm just letting my mind get carried away again. I have to force the thoughts out; I can't risk having more nightmares. Those lasted a good solid month. I was an insomniac for a week. Laying, walking, pacing, snuggling, anything to help me relax and sleep, but the fear would always return, and I was afraid to go back to sleep, because my subconscious haunted me with thoughts, bitter thoughts. No matter how hard I held onto Richie I still felt like he was gone, taken away from me, or never there to begin with. Was he worried about me? Of course he was! He stuck by me whenever he could. He bathed me if I couldn't stand in the shower and held me so tight, I just melted in my arms. I got so relaxed, it was like my medicine, and for a split second I forgot about my parents and almost dozed off. I think that was his plan though, but before I could I'd remember my nightmares, so horrifying and every successive dream just made them more and more worse, so I would spend another night awake.

The first few days were ok. I'd lie in the bed, watching Richie sleep, or I'd stay still for five hours at a time while we held each other. Nothing could get me to sleep, nothing. During the day I was a zombie. Sunlight made me more tired than darkness. At times I could almost throw up I felt so bad, and I was making Richie feel bad just the same. Our lovemaking wasn't the same during that time. Sure, I couldn't wait to get him off, but it was harder more me. Right before climax I'd experience these intense migraines, like someone was pulling my brain out with pliers. I wanted him to stop, but didn't at the same time. I needed him and I needed release. I would try to contain my feelings but the moment of orgasm I'd spasm and almost blackout. I'd clutch my forehead while Richie held me in his arms lovingly. When my eyes opened I would slowly regain sight. Seeing red and black dots slowly begin to evaporate. I'd lay back down while the pain deteriorated, praying for sleep. That was only the second week.

By the third week the world looked different in my mind. I could almost see every individual ray of light converging at my eyeball, with every particle in the wave and wave in every particle. Movement seemed to go in slow motion, frame by frame was slowed down and I could picture every single one of them. It was as if my life was a movie in a fluid, never ceasing slow motion.

At night I would stare at my feet as I paced the bed. Going in one direction, turning around, then going in the other, scaling the three open sides. I would continue the pace for hours. Start at left end, turn 45 degrees right, walk along foot of bed, turn 45 degrees right, walk along right end, stop at wall, turn 180 degrees, repeat in opposite direction. Over and over, I eventually counted the number of times I did that, and then the average number of seconds for each, and eventually I would get so into it that I could mathematically approximate, within a probability of error of more or less five minutes, the time it was. On other nights I would take my net amount of revolutions and keep subtracting it, so when I got to zero that was when Richie normally woke up. And then I would return to my daytime habits, it was good enough to keep my mind at ease for five hours.

By the fourth and final week I was lost completely. I had no control over my mind and thus my sanity. I didn't know what was real, what was part of my mind, and what was both. During the day I would cling to Richie like super glue. He would go somewhere and minutes later I would find myself there. I wouldn't remember leaving the house, or walking there, or entering the place. I saw things moving and yielding to me, like I was the Supreme Being. I could start sensing things before they happened, but not at the same time, almost as if I could call hunches with a snap of my fingers. In my disconnected mind, the universe the way I saw it was a large finger paint mural that could change by my touch and my touch alone. During the evening when Richie was asleep, I would transport into different rooms of the house without my consent and look into every mirror as if it was a part of a funhouse. In these mirrors though, I would appear in any form that my mind chose, an animal, person, bug, bottle, God. Anything I wanted.

Some rooms were so far away from the bedroom that I couldn't hear Richie's soft snoring any longer. Everything was quiet, dead quiet. It was the kind of silence that made you go crazy. You'd wish for a burglar to come in and try to rob your house. That never happened though thanks to a house alarm. Without anything to hear, there were only my thoughts. My thoughts would speak to me as if separated from my body. Sometimes manifest themselves as apparitions that I could see and hear at the same time. I had full-length conversations with my own mind. Since I couldn't receive any knew information; I would talk to the ghosts about various things that I did know. It was as if I had reached a new level of spirituality. My mind taught me things, but not new things, just things that I always knew but could never figure out, as if I was reorganizing my mind to be more simplistic and catch onto ideas more efficiently. Believe me or not, but a month I was insane, and my own mind purged the nightmares in me. My thinking process changed, and a new world was given to me, by myself! Using my new logistics to my advantage, the laws of average and dealing with human emotions and reactions, poker. And I've never had a nightmare since.

We turned the corner into a back alley, but there was a small wooden door on the side of the building, all false. Behind the wooden door was a slightly nicer, normal looking door, which was self-locking and could only be opened with a key, which we had. We went through both doors and stopped at the last inner door, an airtight steel one. I gave the secret knock and a small eye panel opened up. I prepared to give have the same conversation I had every other week. The man would show his shifty eyes and say...

"What's the password?" Said in this deep, heavy, scary sounding voice. Which was also fake. I would reply.

"Liberate tutemae ex inferis." Yeah, classy all the way, but everything around here was. The door would open and he would greet us, then greet everyone there. Sometimes we'd take extra time to meet the new people around, if any. After that we would declare our seats and when the quote was reached, begin. It happened that way, just like every other time we'd been here. The door opened and the eighteen-year-old `bouncer' greeted us. He looked Latino, with a very finely cut, but still adolescent mustache. He took Richie's jacket and hung it up with the rest. It was nice and warm in the room, as usual. It created a nice sense of tension in the room. The first person my eyes noticed once I was in there was Jimmy. He was a year older than us, and owned the whole place. His dad was some rich tycoon whose life task was to spoil his offspring rotten. Jimmy was rotten, but nice nonetheless. His dad gave him anything he wanted, no questions asked. I'm sure he won't have trouble finding a girl to fuck over once he has the urge to. We walked over to him around the circular table and hugged. It was brief though, he was nice and all, but not gay. He knew about Richie and I, everyone there did. I was a high player, though, nobody bugged us. Richie was smart enough not to talk also while playing, though he'd help me with the game and everyone trusted him that he never cheated or let anyone cheat off me. You wouldn't believe how many games I've one or saved money from because of his judgement. I don't love him for just looks or luck or money, but you should know that by now.

We took our seats and waited to meet the other people joining us, sitting directly across from Jimmy. There were two tables in the entire place. Whatever table you were seated at, when you left you were destined to leave with twenty percent of everything you won, no exceptions, ever. Jimmy kept that fifth, as a price to pay for letting you use his place. I'm serious when I say no exceptions, once someone was crazy enough to bet a twenty-gigabyte hard drive. The winner of that game didn't leave until Jimmy was ensured four of those. Not in dollar form, in byte form, on a computer chip. Also something to make you feel better if you didn't win any money, then you didn't have to give Jimmy shit. One was the table we were sitting at, you had to be either prestigious, bet lots of money, or have been coming here long enough to be elite. I was all three. The other table was for everyone else: cheapskates, newbies, or just someone Jimmy didn't like. We were lucky to have Jimmy like us, with his dad, he could take out any sort of revenge he wanted.

It didn't look like many would be joining us tonight, and I use that term `many' loosely. There was only room for six players at each table. Many was if there was half that maximum capacity. There were two other people in the other than me, Richie, the bouncer, and Jimmy. They were talking off in the shadows, away from us. It wasn't clear enough for me to make them out. One of them sat down and I noticed right away that it was Link. He was our age, went to our school, too. He wasn't even close to hanging out with us though; he was a freelancer, all the way. He didn't talk to many people, if any. The over smothering by his parents caused his solitude. He hated them with a passion; different from the way I hated mine though. A few months before we met he changed his name to Link. It was previously Bernard. He never had the guts to tell them to fuck off, and now he unwinds that by having almost no human contact. He talked to some people, very selective. He had a nasty habit of keeping a toothpick in his mouth. His parents would murder him if he smoked or even looked at alcohol. Poor bastard. Bad for him, good for us, though. Richie's best trait is finding patterns when I can't. Last week he said that Link always flicks his toothpick in his mouth with his tongue and rolls with his teeth when he got a good hand. When he bluffed it didn't look quite as real though. The toothpick would flick unnaturally, so you knew he was doing it on purpose. Only Richie would spot that. Jimmy bluffed almost every time when he didn't have a good hand. He only folded when he had a pair of eights or worse. He made more money than lost. He couldn't care either way. He just wanted to have fun.

The next and last person to sit down before we started was my old friend Max, directly to my left, across from Link, who was to my right. We weren't enemies after that summer day, but not the same friends either. He was scared of me, and scared of Richie. We had influence over him. Mostly because we beat the crap out of him. Around us he was as timid as a mouse, unsure of if the next thing he did would ensure a punch in the stomach by Richie. Yeah, Richie had confidence in that now, like I said before though, only to protect me.

We waited another fifteen minutes to see if anyone else was to join us, but no one did, so it was just four playing this evening, and we began. It started out normal, us taking the money we had out of our pockets to bet with. We weren't allowed to declare any possessions we had before any game started, because then the people with more money could out bet the ones with less money and thus win every game. Jimmy respected his rules, and for the sake of business never tried to cheat or out bet anyone too much. As always, he just wanted to have fun. And, like always, we did have fun. I always brought enough money to stay at least three hours, which was about two hundred bucks or so. I know we were only kids, but we were rich kids. And it's only a couple hundred here or there. I know my Auntie could compensate for anything I lost. Well, not this week though. Since we were on Christmas vacation she was taking a trip to Las Vegas with her boyfriend. So, Richie and I had the house to ourselves. Not that we weren't alone many a time already.

The first two hours went by smoothly. We talked, joked, lost money, and won money, all the good stuff. All of the money evened out for everyone more or less, so no one left sooner than expected. Most of the money I won was from the help of Richie. He counted cards and gave me suggestions on what to do. He was correct in his assumptions on who was bluffing due to bets wagered and facial expressions. He also could give rough guesses on how likely it was that I could win a hand or not. If I didn't have him, there was a good chance I would have been gone already.

Five hours gone by, I had half of what I came in with. Link won lots of hands, but Max won more. Jimmy and I were about equal. It was almost one in the morning. Since we were just kids, we were a little tired. It was our first weekend of Winter break, so our nocturnal sleeping habits hadn't kicked in yet. Thus, we all agreed this was the last hand. It was Max's turn to deal. He called five-card stud, deuces wild. He dealt the cards. I had two deuces, a three, a five, and a six. The last three cards were all hearts. I didn't make any sudden movements to alert anyone. I sort of bit my lower lip. No one knew what that was, let them interpret it. I had a straight flush, the second highest hand in the game. I could feel Richie's breathing down the side of my neck increase. I felt no signals from Richie, which meant that he didn't see any facial expressions yet. Jimmy bet first with thirty dollars, then Link called him and raised the bet by thirty. It was by turn then. Richie quickly tapped my leg, two short taps, then three long ones. Which meant to make people think I had a good hand now, but not after we traded cards in. Having them think I'm bluffing then. I raised the bet by thirty more dollars, leaving me with only sixty more to bet with. Max folded his bet, then Jimmy called his sixty he owed, and Link his thirty. Jimmy and Link kept the hands they had, I was about to, when I felt Richie tap my leg three times, indicating to trade in my third card. I knew when to trust him, and I did. I traded the three of hearts I had, possibly eliminating my straight flush. Max dealt me one card and I nervously put it back into my hand and looked at it. `Holy shit' I wanted to scream. It was the seven of hearts! My own heart beat faster, and I stuck with the plan. How did he know? It was the luckiest break ever! Not only did I increase the value of my hand, but they probably think I have a worse hand also, which I didn't! Jimmy raised the bet another thirty, and Link raised it thirty again. Uh oh, this wasn't good. I called the sixty I had left; hoping no one would raise. Jimmy didn't raise, but Link did! Fifty bucks! Either he was bluffing big time or had a good hand. I had a REALLY good hand now, but what could I do. I announced I was out of money and was about to fold when Jimmy stopped me.

"Wait!" He said. "I'll spot you the extra money, dude. If you pay me back. Deal?" I didn't have to think twice, I was gonna use this good hand and get every penny I could out of it! I accepted and he gave me the extra money, then folded! All of a sudden I saw Link's sign of a good hand. Oh man, what if he beats me? I was almost sweating. Link called and I called, too. Since he was the last person to raise he laid down what he had. He swiftly put down all his cards at once, and I looked at them one at a time. They were all clubs, oh my, this couldn't be good. Then I saw the numbers: 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8! I was almost leaping for joy; I had won the bet! I slowly laid down the 5, 6, and 7. Then put down the two deuces, showing a straight flush also, but having one card higher than he did! He looked down at my cards while I couldn't control the grin on my face. His eyes widened and he slammed his fist down on the table in rage. Then he composed himself and stood up.

"Good game, Danny." Link said. And shook my hand, a little tighter than a normal shake though, then got up and walked over to Max to sulk.

"Nicely played, Danny." Jimmy said as the rest of us stood up and counted our cash. I think I made the most money out of everyone there. Usually the person who wins the last game gets the biggest payoff because the biggest bets are made then. So I was very happy about that. I turned to Richie and hugged him tight. I wasn't just hugging him because he won me money, but because I just loved him for being Richie, smart, reliable, quick witted, like touching my leg. I knew the guys didn't like it, but I felt I had to anyway. So as I released my hug on him I leaned in to give him a quick kiss on the cheek. He blushed, surprised that I had the audacity to kiss him there. I didn't care though. I loved him more than life itself. I'd gladly spend all this money on him. I held Richie's hand in mine as we walked over to Jimmy to do our usual business.

"Here is the fifty bucks you loaned me, thank you very much for it." I said to Jimmy as I handed him the fifty. He took it graciously with a smile. I think he didn't expect me to return it to him.

"Hey, what are friends for." Jimmy said sincerely. Then I handed him a hundred, which was the twenty percent of what I had. He looked at it, then looked at me in confusion. "Dude, you're short ten bucks." I looked back at him in confusion. I turned and saw Richie with the same confused look. What was he trying to pull?

"No, I have five hundred here, which I won. A fifth of that is a hundred. And there you go..." I said, trying to explain it to him. Did he have a few screws loose or something?

"No, no, no. You won, that plus fifty dollars, which I lent you. So you owe me a fifth of five hundred and FIFTY bucks." He said and crossed his arms in annoyance. I looked at him, but his eyes didn't budge. He was serious!

"Wait, I don't think what you gave me counted. And even if it did count, it's only ten bucks." I thought this was ridiculous.

"It's not the money, it's the principle that counts. The rule is twenty percent of what you win. And you won $550. Come on, Danny. Just give it to me and we can all go home." He sighed. I led Richie to the door, but he stopped me before I could open it.

"You know, if you say `what are friends for?' and then complain about ten measly bucks, it doesn't show you're much of a friend. Let's just consider it a nice gift, ok?" Richie said in his best tough guy tone to Jimmy. Then I quickly opened the door, but then Jimmy stopped me at the door. He put his arm across it to keep us from continuing. God, I hoped he wasn't going to send Mr. Latino Bouncer on me. I could take him if I had to though, I think, I hoped.

"I'll let you go, Danny. But you'd better watch your boyfriend's mouth more carefully, something bad could happen to him one day." He said with a cold stare in his eye, then he let me go. Richie and I exited into the alley silently, still holding hands tight. I don't think either of us knew what to say. Maybe it was best not to think about it. Or maybe we should think about it. He wouldn't do anything, not for ten bucks. I mean, it was only ten dollars, right? I felt a cold chill down my spine. From fear? >From the fact that it was almost below freezing? I opted for both. Richie's hands trembled in mine.

"I have a bad feeling." He said softly. His fingers were so cold, like icicles, I could only grip him tighter as we walked. I had a good mind not to believe intuition, but Richie's track record was pretty good when it came to us. So I had to take it with a grain of salt. A very big grain of salt. When we reached the end of the alley, Richie leaned against the building and pulled me into him closely. I didn't know what came over him, but I decided to go with it anyhow. Maybe is was to reassure himself about things, or just plain feel better about his intuitive feelings. Our lips were so close I could almost taste his. His pail pink lips, almost like a shade of lipstick I see girls wear. Supple lips, wet, warm inside, and cold outside, the sweetest things on earth. I just had to have them. Eternity in hell for just one taste, one snog of them. I couldn't take it anymore; I just had to have them. Did he know what he was doing to me? Even if he didn't, I knew. Our eyes locked and I slithered my hand around to the back of his head and cradled it gently as I leaned in and kissed him with the softest kiss. I was in heaven. It was like a jolt of electricity, a surge of power. He smiled at me and pressed his lips against mine passionately, wrapping his arms around me tight. The coldness around me was forgotten. My warmth was right here in front of me. I smiled back at him and we turned to continue home. We exited the dark alley and were about to walk off when we heard footsteps behind us, two pairs of them, muffled voices at first, then a definite one directed towards us. We turned around to discern the figures. One of them threw Richie his jacket, which he forgot inside.

"See you next week fly boys, you earned your keep." Link said in a hint of sarcasm. Appearing out of the shadows and into the light, accompanied by Max. But before we could react...

 "You know. We would have massacred you if you didn't have your boyfriend here to help you the entire time. Sometimes I wonder what you'd do without him." Max said coldly to us, looking almost as scary as...no I shouldn't say it...yes I should...Zack...

"Well I'll always have him, so that's a hypothetical question." I replied with a smirk. They took a step towards us. I ready myself in case I had to get into a kung fu stance quickly, as if I knew what one was.

"Don't be so sure about that." Max said with a smart allec way, then walked off with Link. I was in awe. What was THAT supposed to mean. Was Max threatening us? I watched as they walked off. Link wearing some sort of vampire-like trench coat. I hoped he didn't have guns for shooting up our school under there. Richie tugged on my arm, walking in the opposite direction back home. I eventually stopped gazing at them as they left and let Richie lead me home.

There was more silence as we walked off. I didn't know what to say. There was an unshakable feeling in my stomach. I couldn't get rid of it. I felt like I was going to be sick, so I walked faster, dragging Richie with me. My pace was quickened and urgent. I need to get further away from those two. Closer to home. It was one in the morning, and no one was around. Well, I at least didn't see anyone. I'm sure there were people who didn't want to be seen. Robbers, rapists, murderers. I wanted to stoop to their level. I didn't want to be seen. I wanted to hide. Hide and protect Richie. Five blocks to my house, I started running. Richie didn't question, only complied. He ran with me, holding my hand tight. Or maybe I was holding his hand tight. Either way, my nightmares started getting the best of me and I raced to my house. No, they were not my parents. Not my parents! My parents were dead, and no one would ever match them! Two blocks from home, I was running like a monster was at my back. For all I knew there was, which made me run faster, almost ripping Richie's arm off in the process.

Before long I was completely lost with myself. I stopped and found that I had passed by my house. Richie had stopped in time and was standing at the driveway, looking at me in amazement and confusion, resting his hands on his knees and catching his breath. I had forgotten how I had better agility than he did. I walked back to him slowly as he started getting back to normal physically. At the same time I was getting back to normal mentally. What was I doing? Was I really scared of those two punks? I don't think so! When I reached Richie I looked down in shame. I think I was hurting him more than they threatened. Before I knew it, he stood up straight and wrapped his arms around me tight in a loving embrace. All I could do was lay my head on his shoulder as he swayed me gently. He really did love me, not that I ever doubted it. Well, not recently anyway, but that wasn't important right now.

After a few minutes of that, he walked me inside and led me up to the bedroom while holding me still. I felt so safe in his arms; I really wondered what I'd do if I didn't have him. He laid me down on the bed and stripped me down to my boxers, then got me under the covers. He left to get ready for bed, telling me he had to check his e-mail, walking into the next room. I waited for him in the bed, resting idly. Wow, he was so wonderful. I couldn't even begin to describe it. Richie understood when I couldn't sleep and we couldn't make love. He didn't complain once about it, or sulk about it. He helped me through every single day of it, and never showed any signs of indifference towards me. He never questioned my ethics or what I did, and always stuck by me. I couldn't ask for anything more from him, my life was complete. Things were just so perfect ever since Richie moved in. Yes, his parents let him legally have two residences, this being his primary one. If we had more friends we could host parties and stuff, but I guess that will have to wait until we find some. Right now I had everything I needed. A live-in boyfriend, no parents to tell you what to do, almost complete independence from adults, and a big, gorgeous house to stay in. Yeah, I was pretty much set for a boy of sixteen.

As I thought about my assets I relaxed more, waiting for Richie to get into the bed with me. I heard him typing on the computer, no doubt an email to his net `buddy', which I'd heard about so much. What was his name? Joseph? Yeah, that was it. And Richie could talk  for hours on end about him. I didn't understand it though. It's only someone on another computer. Chances are he wasn't even who he said he was. Maybe some fifty-year-old pervert in Alaska who liked hearing about kids' sex lives. I wasn't too worried though; it's not like Richie was meeting this guy. I yawned and wondered what was taking so long. Geez, I never thought it was such a big deal, but I guess it was for many people. Finally Richie came back into the bedroom and shut the light off. Wearing only his boxers, and showing off his oh so sexy chest, he slipped under the covers with me, wrapping his arms around me and kissing me on the lips passionately. Mmm, just what I needed. I wrapped my arms around him and kissed him back, snuggling into each other tight.

"So, how is Joseph doing?" I asked him, making small talk as our bodies pressed against each other. These moments I loved. We were past lust sex, I loved doing anything with him, and talking in bed was one of my favorite things to do.

"You mean Justin..." He replied. My mistake. "He's doing pretty good. He and his boyfriend are ok, I told him how we were and all. He wants to see a pic of you." He giggled.

"Why does he want to do that?" I asked him. Stupid question. He probably told Justin I was some God or something, exaggerating every part of my ordinary body. I always hated letting people down.

"Because, it's only fair since he showed me pictures of himself and his boyfriend." He smiled, I could have sworn I saw a grin appear on his face. I looked at him suspiciously.

"Hmm, either you saw nudie, naughty, and sex pics, or Justin and his boyfriend are pretty hot." His face turned bright red when I mentioned the latter. "Well?" He shook his head and I tickled his sides, making him squirm on top of me, in my arms. He was so ticklish it was adorable. "Come on, or I won't quit!" I grinned. Then he caved.

"Ok, ok! Justin and Deke are well...kinda...pretty cute." He blushed more.

"Ohh, I get it now. Are they cuter than me?" I asked him. I just wanted to hear him say it though. It was a dumb query, I know.

 "Well...maybe Justin...he just has this quality that makes me feel so..." And then he sighed happily. I looked at him with a blank and unconvinced stare. "Well ask a stupid question!" He giggled and kissed me again. My heart skipped a beat. He made me feel so good.

 "Well, it's a good thing they are so far away from us. I can't have this guy stealing you away from me." I joked.

 "Hehe...don't worry honey, no one could ever steal me away from you." He smiled his lovely smile at me. My heart melted. I could only smile back. "That's right, they live pretty far from us."

 "How far?"

 "Ohh...all the way down south, in Florida. Hehe, is that far enough?" His eyes gazed into mine. Such a sweet sparkle in them.

 "Oh yeah! I'd say." I looked back into his eyes, just being in love. And we both joked some more until we were too tired to stay up any longer, and dozed off in each other's arms. I was at such peace with myself, until I fell asleep though. I had the most unnatural feelings while I slept. Footsteps, pain in my arm, voices, pressure being lifted from my body, muffled voices, crying, whispering, tugging, pulling, erratic noises, confusion, and then...nothing. Nothing at all. Darkness...

 I woke up in bed the next morning...alone. I looked around quickly...alone. Where did Richie go? I got out of bed and shook the tiredness out of me. As I started to walk I felt woozy. I noticed immediately that I could not walk right. I sat down on the chair to get my balance back. Man, did I have something to drink last night? I don't remember doing that...

 I turned and looked at the clock on the wall. It was almost noon! Man, I've never slept that late before. That didn't answer where Richie was though. Then I laughed at myself in stupidity. Richie must have gotten up hours ago! He probably woke up and tried to shake me awake, but went downstairs when he couldn't. How did I manage to sleep for that long? I didn't even wake up once the entire night. I guess I was more tired than I thought last night. I laughed to myself and went to stairs slowly. I was still a bit dizzy, but I could walk better now than a few minutes ago. I grabbed onto the post at the top of the stairs, then retracted in a knee-jerk reaction. Pain, immense pain...in my arm! I cursed out loud and fell to the ground in agony. I felt like I was shot in the arm. I grinded my teeth together and my eyes started watering. I wasn't crying or sobbing, it was involuntary. Sort of like how people chopping onions get watery eyes. I called for Richie. No one came. Maybe he left for a while, I'd just check the note. Ok, ok, pain was subsiding, slowly, but surely. I looked at my arm. Geez, there was a big red spot on it. That couldn't be causing the pain, could it? I smelled something around the spot...alcohol? No, not booze, rubbing alcohol. I looked closer. Was that a...no it couldn't be...fuck...it was! There was a hole in my arm, forming into a tiny lump. I knew that feeling now, in my arm. I hadn't felt like that in years, ever since my injection for chicken pox. Someone gave me an injection last night? Oh shit! I got down the stairs as quickly as I could, yelling for Richie. I ran into the kitchen and through the den. Damn, he's not here. Returning to the kitchen, I found no note, not one note at all. He always left me a note, every single time he left the house. What the hell was going on here? I got a shot in my arm and Richie was no where to be found. Before I could think about it more thoroughly, the telephone rang. I jumped for it and picked it up hastily.

 "RICHIE??" I shrieked into the phone nervously. Come on baby, please be on the other end of that.

 "Richie can't come to the phone right now, he's a bit tied up over here." A dark, obscure voice said. "By our approximation, you should just have just gotten up. I hope you slept well, you won't be for a long time!"

 "W...who is this?" I asked. It sounded like a prank at first, but how did he know Richie was gone and that I had just gotten up? It couldn't have been a coincidence, I hoped it was.

 "It's not important. You'll figure it out soon enough though. Though you won't be able to find me...or Richie...anytime soon." Then a devious laugh. For a second I couldn't speak, and barely breathe. I was in denial. This wasn't happening. Not to me, not now, not with the person I loved.

 "What the fuck have you done with Richie? If you lay a finger on him you'd better get on your knees and beg I don't find you!" I screamed into the speaker. I know I shouldn't let my rage and madness get to me but, fuck that. There was an extended silence on over the line, then the voice again.

 "Too late." It said. I heard the click on the other line. I sweared again and slammed the phone down on the receiver, almost smashing it to pieces. Then I threw the entire phone and it did smash to pieces. I screamed out loud in anger. I was so fucking mad. If they were here right now I would literally rip his heart out, or die trying. What the fuck were they trying to pull on me. They? They who? The person on the phone said they. They, as in, they who took the one thing I had built was my entire life around. The person who I loved most in the world...was gone. Gone forever...fuck! My body started to shake and I couldn't keep myself from crying. I slid onto the floor against the wall. I really couldn't breathe this time, my lungs were inflating but I had forgotten how to retract them. This was not happening it wasn't, it wasn't, and I can prove it. I'll just go down to Jimmy's and get Richie back. Yeah, that's where he is. This is just one big joke. I'd go down there looking sad and Richie would jump out and hug and kiss me, yelling `Merry Christmas'. Yes, it's my Christmas present, like that movie...The Game. I just need to get a gun. Yeah, a gun, and shoot everyone until I see Richie again. I could handle that...I'll go over to Jimmy's. Yeah, he'll have Richie, Richie will be there, Jimmy is the only one who could do this. Yeah, this is not happening to me, it can't happen because I love Richie with all my heart and soul and stuff like this just doesn't happen to people! I'm a good person, I never did anything wrong. Well, not to anyone who didn't deserve it, malice here and there is ok, but I never took action, only when self-defense was necessary. Maybe it's time to change. You can't take something so pure and sweet away from someone and expect them to handle it in the best possible way. Because nobody fucks with Danny Truman or his boyfriend! Nobody...nobody...and then I really couldn't stop crying, taking huge breathes, one hundred every minute. I couldn't see straight, and not because of the drugs. All of what I had accomplished in curing in myself in my mind was all tumbling down, right here, right now. I don't need a therapist, I need a gun! A gun so I can...oh who am I kidding...I just wanted Richie back!

I sat there, balling my eyes out in sorrow, until I mustered the strength to prop myself up on my feet and walk out the door. It wasn't until the door slammed behind me that I realized I was only in boxers. Clothes Danny, you're a raging psychopath right now, but that doesn't mean you don't have any common sense. Funny, I always thought it meant you really didn't have any common sense to be one. I turned around to run back inside. That's when I saw it, right on the door handle, hanging there like it had been there all week, strained in red, wanting to drip off but not enough of it to, one drop of it was already too much. It made me mad, it made me want to cry, it made me sick. It was the essence and proof of everything evil that had happened in our house last night. It hung there at a thirty-degree angle, and that was my true breaking point. There was no God. I walked to the door handle and took it off, letting it dangle freely in the afternoon sun. A necklace that, for the first time in over six months, was removed. This was happening. It looked ancient to me, drops of blood, bright red, salty, blood. The type you'd see coming out of prizefighter's mouths. I immediately felt the convolutions coming on, inside my stomach I ran inside as quickly as I could, into the bathroom, then puked my guts out, releasing whatever sickness was created by the thought of all of this. Punching, beating, I didn't know which. I flushed and coughed and rinsed, then cleaned off the blood from the necklace. It looked shinier than ever after some hot water spilled over it, too bad its rightful owner wasn't here to appreciate it. I had to stay strong though; I could find Richie even if it meant looking at the furthest ends on the earth and back again, because I know he would have done it for me. I dried the necklace that signified our undying, and still not dead, love for each other and put it on. This would be my good luck charm, my incentive. Never forgetting my task at hand. I will not return to this house until I know more information. And I knew someone who always had information...

"Jimmy! How are you this afternoon, good I hope." I said as I walked through all three doors. They were only guarded or locked at night. During the day Jimmy used it to get some peace and quiet. No one ever came in except to play poker, which was only at night. Jimmy was reading a book when I came in, glasses on and everything. Funny, I didn't see him as a person who wore glasses. When I entered the room he was so started he fell back wards in his chair. Whether it because he was usually alone at this time, or because it was me he was seeing, I was about to find out. I kneeled in front of Jimmy before he could get up again, still in a sitting position but knocked over onto the floor. He smiled at me nervously.

"Danny, what a pleasant surprise. What's going on bud?" Jimmy said with a sly grin and smile on his face.

"Like you don't know! Is this what happens over ten fucking dollars?" I responded loudly in rage, maybe a bit too loud. I think I spit on him too a little.

"What about the ten dollars? Know what?" Jimmy said. I didn't like the punk's attitude. He was a good actor, I had to admit. I actually believed he didn't know what was going on for a split second.

"Don't toy with me, know about Richie of course!" As soon as I mentioned Richie's name, Jimmy's eye widened.

"Y...you mean they. Oh my god, they were serious? This is fucked up, royally." Jimmy said as he stood up. Then looked at me in concern. "They took him away?"

"Yes, THEY took him away. Whoever THEY is, is it you?" I asked cold-blooded in my stare. Jimmy thought for a second, stared pacing real nervously. He went into a `thinker' position, wrist up to his chin.

"Last night...after you left...Link and Max came to me...I thought they were joking. They said they wanted to see what would happen if you didn't have Richie with you. It was the stupidest and most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard, I didn't think they'd actually do it."

"What did they come to you for?" I asked him.

"They needed...they needed money." He replied.

"Money for what?" I shot back in haste.

"For...for..." He sighed and looked at me sincerely. "They needed money to buy...airplane tickets. To take Richie far away from here."

"To WHERE?" I screamed at him.

"I don't know! I'm sorry, I didn't give them the money." He said. I cursed out loud and kicked the wall. It hurt. Good!

"Well, you have to give me something, ANYTHING I can use. The three of them are off somewhere that I don't know and..." I started to break down. "I don't know what to do." And I started sobbing, no matter how hard I tried to keep it inside, I kept crying. This was bullshit! I was trapped, what would I do? I looked up and found Jimmy grinning at me.

"What?" I asked, wiping my tears and trying to return to normal.

"They needed money for two plane tickets. One of them must have stayed."

"Who stayed?" I said, with apparent hope in my speech.

"I'd guess Max. Link is the crazy one. Max wouldn't have the balls to stick with it long enough."

"Max knows where they are then!" I shouted happily. "I have to go over there...thanks." I was about to leave when Jimmy blocked the exit.

"Wait." He said. "Take my blade. It's not monogrammed so it's ok to have. Use it for whatever you need to do, just don't kill anyone." He slipped it into my back pocket. And I nodded and he stepped to the side. "Good luck...and if you need anything just ask. I'll be here."

"Thanks, dude. You're a true friend. I'd kiss you if I wasn't on an agenda."

"That's ok, just go, ok? This is Richie we're talking about here, and he's in trouble!"

 "Right..." I said, and then left. My next destination was Max's house. I wasn't going to use the knife on him; I had a better idea. I still had to do whatever was necessary to get Richie back. I'd kill him if I had to.

 I ran to Max's house. I'd cooled off much more since an hour ago. I was in control of my body, and I knew what was going on. No confusion, no nothing! I stepped up to Max's doorstep at his house and rang the doorbell. I prepared myself as he opened the door. I soon as I saw him I grabbed him by the collar and unsheathed the blade, putting it close to his neck, just millimeters away from his skin, and I quickly went inside the house, closing the door behind us. It took him a moment for his eyes to focus and realize who I was and what I was doing to him.

 "Shh! Scream and you die!" I said harshly in his face. I wasn't really planning on killing him, but the more scared he was, the better chance I had at making this work.

 "Help!" He screamed. Then I pushed his body hard against the wall. His head banged into it and he stopped screaming. I think he felt the tip of the blade at his neck too. I pulled him onto the ground with brute force. When he was sprawled on the ground I sat on his legs and held his neck down tight in my wrist. I little more pressure would have been choking him. I was mad, but having things go my way was fun, especially with this little fucker!

 "Now, we're going to play a game. I call it, do whatever the FUCK I say." I said, making sure some spittle got on his lip. I could tell some did because of his grimace. "Answer this question. Where is Richie?" He tried to struggle but I was too strong for him. I brought the knife over his eye and he immediately stayed still. "Now, I just HATE repeating myself. I'll let you have this one repeat, but every time after that, you lose something round and white. I'm sorry to say I can only do this twice with you, and that's counting your eyes and balls."

 "I'm not telling you shit! Richie can burn in hell for all I care!"

 "Wrong answer!" I shot back. He got me so mad I found myself punch him in the jaw, just WHAM! A quick one, it didn't really hurt either. IF he got me any more fired up I was sure to give him some more punches. He wailed out in pain and I held his neck again. "Try again!"

 "Oh, I just loved seeing Richie spew his guts out after I gave him a nice sock in the stomach. I can still hear his girly crying. Please wake up Danny, please!" Then I hit him again, and again and again, like a punching bag. I even hit him in the nose and blood trickled out. I hated him. I hated him so damn much! I wanted him to hurt, just like I threatened over the phone. He was the one who called me!

 "You have one more chance, and then I swear you're going to be sorry." I pulled down his shorts and boxers and brought the tip of the blade directly over the tip of his...well let's just say I could have been a regular Lorena Bobbit. "If the next words out of your mouth aren't EXACTLY where Link took Richie, you have my word I'm going to do what it looks like. Try me, just try me!" I was in so much rage and my heart was beating so fast that a part of me wanted him to try me and see if I would really do it. Adrenaline was rushing through my body. He looked at me with his blood trickled face.

 "Fine." He caved, I knew it. "They took him to Fort Lauderdale, ok? It was just a prank. Now back off!" He pleaded.

 "What state?" I demanded.

 "Florida. There, he's in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. That's all I know!" And then I put the knife away and got off of him.

 "Clean yourself up and put your shorts on, you make me sick." I said and got a towel from the bathroom and threw it on him. "I'll deal with you later if I have to. I hope I won't, but if I do, I'm going to make you really sorry for screwing with us, got it?" He nodded sheepishly and I left as quickly as possible. I had my information, and hopefully I wouldn't have to deal with Max anymore. I bet I scared him enough with that knife trick. My work wasn't over now; I still needed to get to Richie. I had a little bit of money from last night, but in case I needed more, Jimmy said if I needed anything just ask. Money wouldn't be a problem, finding him would be. I would have to work fast though, every second counts. If I was lucky I could get a flight out by the morning. I went back to the house and cleaned everything up. No time to pack, well maybe a few clothes. Where to stay though...I can't be a hobo or anything. If only I knew someone who lived in Florida. Where was that city Max told me? Fort Lauderdale...I looked it up on the map. My eyes blinked in disbelief, it's right next to H...Hollywood. Things might work out better than I had planned. Seconds later I was on Richie's computer, desperately trying to guess and improvise my way into his Internet and e-mail account. Minutes later I found my fingertips of cyberspace. Whoa, what a feeling. Now, addresses...address book. Ahh, here it is, looked like a list of e-mail addresses, too. Let's find a name now...Justin...Justin. Ahh, there we go. Well, that was easy, seeing as how he only had one address saved in that thing. Then I set myself up to write a nice e-mail, I hope they didn't mind company on such short notice...

Uh oh, paradox is a brewin in my stories hehehe! You'll have to see what happens in the next episode of well, CFL AND Deke hehehe! Cool huh? One story coexisting in two different series. You'll love it! That will come after I come back from vacation in two weeks. So until then, tell me what you thought of this, please! :)
And visit my BRAND new site, too! :)

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