If you are offended by male/male relationships, or male/male sexual relationships, then you shouldn't be here in the first place. If this conduct is illegal in your area, you must EXIT NOW. This story is not to be copied or posted elsewhere without permission from the author. If you are interested in a story about gay teenage males, then please take your time and enjoy. Feedback/comments/suggestions and even complaints are welcome at DomLuka@aol.com

Desert Dropping

Chapter ten: Calm

A/N: Thank you to Jim the editor for volunteering his time to sort through all of my mistakes to make this chapter more readable (better) it is appreciated. Also, a thank you to `Pecman,' whose advice came in handy during the writing of this chapter.

Eddie was sitting on the floor in the doorway to my room. He'd ended up there about halfway through reading my mom's letter, and hadn't moved since. When he sank to the floor, it had seemed unfortunate that there wasn't a chair underneath him, but I guess for him, it didn't make a difference. He seemed completely winded, so it was probably good that he was on the floor.

As for me, I felt like a nervous wreck, but it had more to do with the fact that Luke was standing in the hallway behind Eddie, watching us curiously, and considering that I had a pretty good idea of what was in that letter from my mom to Eddie, I had a feeling that Luke was about to hear a few interesting things. It was his reaction to them that worried me, especially after our conversation before he drove me back to the house.

"Alice never... I talked to her for months before you came here and she never said...I mean, you think she would have mentioned..."

"That I'm gay," I finished for Eddie, but as I said it, I was looking past him, at Luke, who would probably come to the conclusion that I was a hypocrite once he wiped the wide-eyed, weird expression off his face.

"That you're gay," Eddie finally said, at which point Luke suddenly pushed off the wall he'd been leaning on and after one more strange, unreadable look in my direction, he walked away. I fought down the urge to go after him. There would be time for him to yell at me later; for now, I had a confused, and apparently homosexual father to deal with.

"Yeah, and she could have mentioned the same thing about you," I pointed out, and Eddie finally looked up from the paper and met my eyes. But, he looked frustrated, and the fact that it seemed directed at me, put me on the defensive.

"You never said anything," he stated, and I immediately felt like it was an accusation, and in return flashed him an incredulous look.

"Me?" I demanded. "What about you? I'm used to hiding it from people I don't even know! Everyone around here knew about you and you had them all lying to me! And did you ever think that maybe I would have told you if I knew it was safe to? Before I came here there were only two people who knew about me and only one of them is left! You can't be pissed at me because..."

"Okay, Rory!" Eddie raised his voice to match mine, and lifted a hand, as if to surrender. "Okay... you're right. You're right. I'm sorry. This is just... a lot." He looked at the letter in his hands and then at me again. "Did... did you read this?"

"No," I replied, frowning. I'm not sure why I took offense to that question. Probably because the envelope had been sealed when I gave it to him and I was still feeling defensive. "She sent me one, too."

Eddie flashed me a curious look and I suddenly felt nervous. I was afraid that he was going to ask me if he could read my letter. I didn't want to share it. Definitely not yet. It was from my mom, to me. It was mine. I could understand his curiosity, though. I was curious to know what his letter said, too. But, Eddie didn't ask to read it, and he didn't ask me if I wanted to read his. Instead, he literally lifted himself off the floor, looking tall again as he stood in the doorway, if not very comfortable.

"This is..."

"A lot," I finished for him. "You already said that."

Eddie frowned at me. "Rory, you know... I have no idea what to say to you," he admitted, shaking his head. "I don't know what I'm supposed to say to you right now." He sounded disappointed about that.

"Maybe... you're not supposed to say anything," I said, when the silence seemed too awkward for too long. "Maybe this is the part where... I'm supposed to start yelling, and blame you for everything." Eddie looked alarmed at that, obviously, not understanding that I was trying to make a joke. "You know--for being gay: if it's genetic then I figure it's all your fault." Okay, it was a bad joke, but I didn't know what else to do. I still wanted to be angry with him, but it seemed harder to do when he looked as lost as I felt.

"Okay," he said, deciding to ignore my comments. "Rory, why don't you try telling me what you're thinking."


"You took off earlier," he pointed out. "I know that there's a lot going on, and everything is a new adjustment for you, but you can't do that. I at least need to know where you are." I inwardly groaned. A lecture now? Didn't the circumstances mean that I should get a break or something? "Tell me what happened earlier, were you angry, were you..."

"Angry... works," I cut him off. "Look, it's not my fault everyone was lying to me again. I just wanted to get away from it, and you and Jase were fighting, anyway, and..."

"Is that how you knew?" Eddie suddenly asked. "You heard me and Jase arguing?"

"I read my mom's letter," I replied. I didn't think of this as a lie, more like a half-truth. For some reason, I didn't find it necessary to bring Aaron's name into this. "Um...and you should probably know... I mean..." I fell silent, wondering if I really wanted to make my next confession.

"What?" Eddie asked.

"I was the one who left that picture out," I admitted, forcing myself to meet his eyes. "After I found out, I went into your room... I just wanted to see..."

I was grateful, I think, that Eddie only nodded, and didn't choose to scold me for going into his room uninvited. "Where did you go?"

"For a walk. Look, I'm sorry if I worried everyone, but I was angry, and then Jase started talking about leaving, and how he wouldn't have wanted me up here if..."

"He didn't meant it how it sounded," Eddie immediately cut me off. "He was angry with me, Rory, for not telling you the truth sooner--obviously, he was right." I watched as Eddie raked his fingers roughly through his dark hair and finally entered my room, pulling a chair over to the side of the door where he sat down and rested his elbows on his knees. "You're right, too. I shouldn't think that you could have told me anything. I should have been honest with you to begin with, and I'm sorry."

I blinked, not expecting an apology so soon. Somehow, I felt like it took away all my thunder, and I wasn't really sure how much I liked that. But, it did spark a question that had been on my mind.

"So why weren't you?" I asked quietly. "It's not like it's a big secret around here--why would you keep it from me?"

Eddie actually laughed at that. It was a sharp, sad laugh, but it was still a laugh, one that I didn't understand.

"Fear," he said, matter-of-factly as he met my eyes. "Believe it or not, Rory--you scare the hell out of me."

"What?" I didn't understand this. Not coming from this giant man who could crush me if he wanted to.

"It's true," Eddie insisted. "I've been scared ever since I found out you existed. I was so afraid that you had this idea of who you thought I was; and that didn't change after I found out that you hadn't known I existed, either. I couldn't even get you to talk to me on the phone before you came here... I thought you were the biggest brat; but you were my... you were Gina's son. I just wanted you to know me before I threw in anything else, since getting to know me was something that you were..."

"Completely against?" I offered, suddenly feeling guilty again. It was just another reminder that Eddie wasn't the deadbeat that I'd thought he was.

"I can understand why you wouldn't want to, Rory. You didn't have all the information... and I was afraid to give it to you. If your grandma had mentioned some things, we might have had this conversation sooner...or not at all. I just wanted you to give me a chance. I didn't realize I was making it harder for you."

"Even if I knew you were gay, and I wasn't, it doesn't mean that..."

"I know," he cut me off. "Being your mother's son I figured that I stood a pretty good chance there, actually, but we got off to such a rough start. And there's something that you should know about me, Rory. Before Jase, I was afraid to let anyone know that I was gay. For the first year we were together I swore he'd leave me because I wouldn't even hold his hand in public... and I'd never let him come to my apartment because it was so close to my school. It took me a long time to figure out that I could be myself and not have to care what anyone thought. My family... wasn't very accepting of me. They still aren't, and since then I've had a hard time being honest, especially with people who matter."

I frowned, trying to understand. I guess I could, in a way. If my mom and my grandmother hadn't been so accepting of me I doubt that I'd be as comfortable with my sexuality as I was, even if I hadn't chosen to share it with the world just yet.

"When did you tell your family?" I found myself asking.

"Not until I went away to college," he explained. "Before then, the only people who ever knew were your mom, and your grandma... and one other person."

"Josh Kemlar," I found myself saying, remembering the name from my mom's letter.

"Yeah," Eddie replied, actually smiling warmly at that. "Your mom put that in the letter?" I simply nodded. "Apart from your mom, he was my other really good friend. I met him in high school and we were together until I moved away. Josh decided to go to school in state, I met Jase... anyway, he still sends a Christmas card every year."

"But you were with my mom... when you met him?"

"I met him before that," Eddie explained. "But, we were never together when I was with your mom. I promise you."

I simply nodded to that. My mom had already explained.

"But you knew you were gay when you were with my mom?" I asked, becoming increasingly curious.

"I did," Eddie nodded. "But back then I liked to think that I could ignore it, Rory. It was just easier that way, in my family."

"But you were still with my mom, and obviously you got her pregnant, so..." I stopped abruptly and felt my cheeks heat as I realized where I was going with this question. I don't think I need to mention the disturbing images that came to mind, either. For Eddie's part, he suddenly sat up straight in his chair, looking entirely uncomfortable.


"Oh, that's gross," I mumbled, shaking my head, and he raised an eyebrow at me, almost looking offended. But, in the end, it looked more like amusement as he realized that I was probably more embarrassed than he was at the moment.

"Do you really want to know?" he asked, and I looked up at him, a little surprised. I thought the answer should have been obvious. There was no way I wanted those kind of details. But despite myself, I was curious as hell.

"It's just that... I don't get it," I blurted. "If someone put a girl in front of me I wouldn't know what to do with her. I mean... I'd know, but..." I lowered my voice and looked at him somewhat desperately, "I don't think it would work."

I was not amused when Eddie started laughing. It was a loud, amused laugh. The kind where I saw a full mouth of white teeth. He didn't let it drag on, though. Not when I wasn't laughing, too.

"No, I'm sorry, Rory. I completely understand what you mean, and to be honest, I was a little worried about it, too... when I was with your mom."

"Then why did you do it?" I asked, frowning as another thought popped into my head. "Were you just using her?"

"No," he said quickly. "Rory, I can imagine how all of this must sound to you... but I really did care about your mom."

"But you're gay. I mean, did you ever think that... is there a chance that I'm not even..."

"If Gina says you're mine, then you're mine," he stated. "And there's more than just a chance--look, back then I really thought I could be happy with Gina. I did love her. When we decided to... let's just say that I found out that it didn't take much for anything... to work, at that age. It only happened twice, and your mom was the only girl who I've ever been with."

"Then... didn't you use protection?" I asked, and Eddie blinked, and blushed at the question.

"From what I remember... I didn't really think that far ahead."

"Either time?" I asked incredulously. Not even I would have been that stupid.

"I'm pretty sure the first time we did... it was probably the second time... Look, we just didn't think, Rory. I didn't think." He suddenly looked overly tired, running a hand roughly over his face. "Maybe if I had... I would have figured out what was going on when Gina... when your mom started distancing herself after we broke up. If I had known what she was going through, or about you... well, I would have been there. I can promise you that."

I found myself looking away from him, thinking for a moment. I did believe him. I knew that my mom would have. I wondered what it would have been like, growing up with Eddie as a dad. I wondered just how different things would have been... how different I would have been, if I'd known him before now.

"I've never met anyone else who's gay before," I found myself saying, breaking another long silence.

"Never?" Eddie asked, sounding surprised. "You know, you probably have, and just don't know it."

"Maybe," I replied, shrugging. "But I've never really known anyone before."

"Oh..." he replied, sitting up straight again and regarding me curiously. "So... do you have questions... or..."

"No," I said quickly, feeling a little uncomfortable with the idea. "I was just thinking... what are the odds of all of us..."

"Yeah... I wasn't expecting it, either."

"So..." I said. "Do you think I got it from you? Like, the gay bug or something?"

Eddie smiled, although there really was some seriousness behind my question.

"I don't think it works that way, Rory."

"But, Luke and Jase are cousins. Maybe it runs in families?"

"I'm not really sure. They're cousins, but from what I understand, it's by marriage."

"Oh...so, you don't really have any answers for me."

"I'm... doing my best."

We fell into yet another silence. Maybe he was doing his best. It was strange, but this one conversation seemed to cause me to forget being angry with him at all. Maybe it was because I was still too tired to be angry. I wasn't sure, but it felt like we still had a lot of talking to do. I just had no idea where to start with the rest of it. Maybe it was fortunate, that Jase chose that moment to inturrupt us.

"Eddie?" he called, as I watched him come down the hallway.

"In here," Eddie replied, but Jase didn't see him until he was in my room, too. Even then he only spared Eddie a glance before looking nervously at me. But, I doubted that he was as nervous as I was. Seeing him only made me remember his words from earlier, and I still wasn't sure how I felt about what he'd said. The feeling of being unwelcome did come back, though, the same feeling I'd had at Seth's house.

"Are we all okay?" Jase asked.

"Um... I think so," Eddie replied, suddenly standing up as he looked at me. "Rory, I think I should go talk to Jase for a second, here. Are you hungry, ro..."

"That's okay," I cut him off, relieved for the break. "I'm actually kind of tired."

"Okay," Eddie replied quietly, and when he placed a hand on Jase's shoulder, I saw the gesture in an entirely different way than I would have a few days ago. I wasn't sure how to feel about that, either. It would definitely take some getting used to. "I'll be back in a few minutes to check on you."

I nodded, but I have no idea if Eddie came back a few minutes later. I was too busy sleeping, at that point.


After hardly eating anything all day, and skipping dinner, I really wasn't that surprised when I ended up hungry in my sleep. It made for an uneasy night, waking every so often because my stomach ached, but too tired to actually get up to fix the problem. But, I wasn't given a choice. About three hours after I fell asleep, the weight that made my mattress bounce stirred me into consciousness.

I groaned, unappreciative of the interruption, and groaned again when the bedside light lit up the room, burning my eyes before they were even open.

"Are you awake, Rory?" Luke's voice asked--loudly. Very loudly. Was I awake? I swear I thought he'd lost his damn mind. Or... maybe he was just pissed off at me. I was guessing it was the latter.

"Seriously?" I mumbled as I rubbed at my sore eyes and attempted to push myself up onto an elbow. "Now?"

Luke didn't respond until I managed to get one eye open and focused on him; and considering I was just waking up, the serious way he was sitting on my bed, dressed in boxers and a t-shirt with his blond curls tussled on his head, regarding me with a blank expression, seemed somewhat threatening. He definitely wasn't happy; but, I guess I could understand that. I'd given him an earful, pissed about the way he'd been lying to me. I imagined that I'd had him feeling pretty guilty, too, so it would make sense that he'd be upset when he found out about my secret, something we hadn't exactly talked about, yet.

"I heard what you said to Eddie," he said quietly, and I forced myself to sit up and face him, taking note of the fact that I was still fully dressed, shoes included. Apparently, I'd been too tired to strip down before I passed out.

"What do you mean?" I asked. I already knew he heard my confession of being gay. I wasn't quite sure if he was referring to that, or something else.

"Is it really true?" he asked. "I mean, I usually have a pretty good sense about these things, and I never... I mean, I didn't really get any vibes from you, and I was checking for them, too."

I found myself sitting up a little straighter, suddenly feeling perplexed, alarmed, and honestly--a little amused.

"You... were checking me for vibes?"

"I do it with everyone," he explained, shrugging as if it was no big deal. "Usually I'm right."

I wasn't sure how to respond to this. I guess I should have taken it as a compliment, considering that I'd been told how obvious I was before. At least, Grandma Alice and Aaron had both mentioned something along those lines. I also wanted to feel somewhat flattered that Luke would be feeling me out for these vibes because... well, I'd been attracted to him ever since we met. Of course, I could have chosen to feel insulted because he apparently did this with everyone. I decided to try not to think about it at all. There were definitely other issues that needed attention.

"Are you... disappointed?" I asked, choosing to use the same word he'd taken offense to earlier, and he narrowed his eyes at me in response.

"Yes... and no," he replied, shaking his head and letting out a breath. "You have no idea how bad I felt when I found out you knew... and that you didn't hear it from me, or at least one of us. I wasn't kidding when I said that I wanted to tell you, Rory. It's been bothering the hell out of me, and when I thought you hated me..."

"I never said I hated you," I said defensively, finding my voice.

"I know, but you sure as hell made me hate myself for it with all that crap about how you couldn't trust me," he retorted. "And then I find out that you've been keeping your own little secret all along? I was a little more than disappointed. I was fucking pissed. And when I heard you tell Eddie that it was different for you than it was for us, I wanted to shove those bullshit words right back down your throat."

"It wasn't bullshit..." I immediately started to say. I really did think that they should have been the ones to take the honesty step first, considering that being out was nothing new to them. And then there was Aaron. Maybe he was unable to own up to his own mistakes and destroyed his friendship with Luke. But at the time, for all I knew, Luke could have hated him for other reasons, too. Like he was gay. But, I didn't have a chance to tell Luke any of this, because he was already interrupting me.

"It was bullshit--but bullshit with a point."

"Huh?" He'd officially lost me.

"Look, I think it's fucked up that there's a double standard here. You had me feeling guilty as hell when I wasn't being honest with you, but then I find out you're not Mr. Honesty, either, but it's okay for you? That's bullshit. The point... actually, it was Eddie who made the point for you. When I heard him talking about how hard it was for him to come out, he sort of got me thinking."

When Luke fell silent, staring towards the door, which I noticed was still closed, he left me to basically stare at him, feeling frustrated as I wondered whether or not we were fighting. To be honest, I really couldn't tell if he was angry with me, or if he was about to say otherwise. The fact that I had a point inclined me to hear him out, though. Of course, I couldn't hear him at all if he wasn't saying anything. Irritating. Completely irritating.

"And?" I finally said, and Luke looked at me, blinking, as if he'd completely forgotten that he'd been the one talking. My suspense wasn't exactly cured when he yawned before continuing, either.

"I was just thinking about how hard it was," he explained. "There were always a few people who knew about me, but before I came out, I never would have told just anyone. I mean, Dave is my best friend and it took me years to tell him. You only told your mom and your grandma, right?" -- he didn't wait for me to respond -- "So, I guess I can understand where you're coming from--why you wouldn't want to tell me. I mean, you don't even know me, not really."

"It would have been different if I knew..."

"I know," he interrupted. "But, you didn't know, and we can't change that now, so...I want to let it go."

"Let it go?"

"It's either that or be pissed off at each other," he replied, matter-of-factly. "Don't take this the wrong way, Rory, because I know you have a lot to be pissed off about, but I have just as much of a right to be mad at you for that whole guilt-trip thing. Just because it would have been easier for me to tell you the truth doesn't make it cool for you to act like you're the victim here."

"I'm not saying I'm the victim," I retorted, suddenly feeling insulted by that. "I just..."

"You made me feel like shit," Luke cut me off. I opened my mouth to argue again, but stopped. The expression on his face not only looked serious, but hurt, too, and that effectively brought back the guilt I'd been feeling earlier. The fact that I'd purposely made Luke feel guilty over the whole thing, just because I was angry, didn't sit very well with me, and thinking about it forced me to reevaluate my behavior regarding him. Maybe I had been... a little out of line. Luke seemed to agree with me. "You sat there playing high-and-mighty when you knew damn well you were keeping the same secrets I was," he continued. "I don't care what the circumstances were. It was a fucked up thing to do."

"I know," I admitted. Luke met my eyes, seeming surprised, and truth be told, suspicious, so I continued before he could say anything, "It wasn't your responsibility to tell me... and, I shouldn't have treated you like it was." I stopped there, feeling a little awkward as Luke continued to stare at me, but when he didn't say anything, I added, "I'm sorry."

He smiled at that. Obviously, he'd expected an apology, and I had to admit that I probably owed him one, as much as that seemed to take my pride down a few notches. After everything I'd learned today, the last thing I'd wanted to do was apologize to anyone.

"Look," I said. "When I told you I was disappointed earlier..."

"I know what you meant now," he replied. "Actually... I'm kind of glad you didn't mean it the other way. It would have made living together harder--for everyone, I think." I just shrugged at that, mostly because I couldn't imagine anything getting harder than the last few weeks had been. "But, you know Jase is totally going to make one of us move upstairs now."

"What? Why?" I demanded, suddenly feeling alarmed.

Luke flashed me a look that suggested I'd missed something obvious.

"Because he's afraid of walking in on us naked and possibly humping each other," Luke remarked, and my eyes went wide. I was having a hard time following this new conversation. He'd completely lost me at naked and humping but that could have been because of the not-so-unappealing images that had pried their way into my mind. Luke laughed at the look on my face, and I'm sure I blushed because of it. "Seriously, Rory. Before we moved out here a few people gave Jase and Eddie a hard time for having me under their roof, especially after I came out. They won't want people getting the wrong idea about them--there's that; and I'm pretty sure both of them are going to end up freaked out about having two horny teenagers under their noses."

"I'm not horny!" I said almost defensively, terrified that Luke was reading my mind somehow, and could see the way that I was currently picturing him walking down the hall after his shower, naked and dripping--this image came to mind easily, considering that I saw it on a daily basis.

"Really?" Luke asked, as if he were really thinking about it, leaning back on my bed, locking his fingers behind his head and making himself comfortable as he stared at the ceiling. "I'm disgustingly horny. Usually, at least. Jase knows it, too, which is why he's either going to make one of us move upstairs, or he'll start threatening to lock up my dick like he did the last time we went on vacation." Luke laughed to himself, as if he were remembering something particularly funny. I made a mental note to ask him about it later, just because I'm sure there was an interesting story there. But, for now, I was more concerned with the issue at hand.

"You're serious?" I asked. "I mean, they'll make one of us move? It's not even like we're sharing the same room."

I really didn't like this idea. Maybe it seemed a little ridiculous, even to me, but I didn't want to move out of my room, unless it was to go back home. Considering the fact that Luke was there first, I had a feeling that if anyone was going to get kicked out of his room, it would be me. And other than the fact that I didn't feel like re-packing my boxes and hauling them all the way upstairs, I really didn't want to be on the same floor as Eddie and Jase. I just learned what their relationship really was, and in all honesty, I was weirded out by it. After all, I'd been under the impression that they were brothers, and now--yuck. I guess it was safe to say that I'd be more comfortable with as many floors between me and them, as possible. Then, there was also the fact that I was becoming comfortable in the basement with Luke. It was quiet, and private... and, it was a suitable place for me to run to when I had problems, and a lot more comfortable than when I chose to run out of the house.

"They'll probably try, at least," Luke replied, flashing me a small smile. "That kinda sucks, too. I'm starting to get used to your snoring."

"I don't snore!" I objected, and he sat up, laughing.

"Maybe if I talk to Jase he won't even bring it up," Luke suggested. "I mean, it would be stupid, anyway. It's not like our rooms being farther apart would stop us if we felt like doing anything."

Again, my eyes widened. What exactly was he saying? So, we were both gay--and that automatically meant that we would want to get naked, and as Luke so eloquently put it, hump each other? Well, I wouldn't exactly be opposed, because it was Luke we were talking about; but seriously, this whole conversation was seriously throwing me for a loop.

"Um..." That was about as far as I got before Luke met my eyes and I felt my face heat. How could he just sit there looking like we were having a normal conversation? He was waiting for me to get out whatever it was I was going to say, too, so I opened my mouth intending to force words out. Any words. Words were good. "You're right; so, neither of us should move--it wouldn't stop us anyway, I mean, if we wanted to..." Did we want to? I was confused. I didn't even know what this conversation was about anymore, and I swear that it had only been a few hours since I was kissing Aaron. I didn't even know if I was allowed to be mentally undressing Luke. I just couldn't seem to help it with this line of conversation. He was putting ideas into my head. As it was, I could feel my eyes drifting away from his face and towards other areas every few seconds at this point. But, Luke put an end to that, just as soon as he spoke again.

"But, it's not like anyone has to worry about any of that happening."

"Huh?" I met his eyes, to find an amused smile in play on his face.

"No offense, Rory; I mean, you're cute and all, but we could practically be related."

"Yeah, like I would be interested in you, anyway," I instantly replied, attempting to keep the edge out of my voice. I'm not sure why I was suddenly feeling so insulted. There had been a teasing note in Luke's voice. He was obviously just trying to joke around with me, but I seemed to be taking something personally. Maybe it was because I was attracted to him. Overly attracted to him. Now, I was attracted to him, and he was gay. I guess his words seemed unappealing because they suggested that he wasn't interested in me. Unless he was being sarcastic, in which case, maybe he was interested; or maybe he wasn't and he was just trying to lighten the mood. I tried to read his reaction to what I'd said. I think I was disappointed to find that he didn't seem at all insulted by it.

"So--are we going to be okay?" Luke asked, after a few moments of silence, that I'm sure only seemed awkward to me. "I mean, can we start over or something? Like I said, I really don't want us to just be pissed at each other, Rory."

"I know," I replied. This was a point I could agree with him on. I wasn't sure what was going to happen now, or how much more talking Eddie and I would do, or even if we were going to get along doing it. And when it came to Jase, I wasn't even sure he wanted me around. I wasn't going to object to having at least one friend in that house, and there were going to be no complaints if that friend could be Luke. "I think...starting over would be... is it too late to start over?"

"I don't think so," Luke replied, smiling, and then turned serious again. "But, I've got to ask--how did you figure it all out? I know there was something in that letter from your mom--I heard Jase and Eddie talking--but there's no way you could have figured it all out from that letter. I mean, how did you figure out me and Jase? Your mom never even knew us."

I opened my mouth, suddenly unsure what to say. Again, I really didn't want to bring Aaron into this. My feelings were mixed enough about him without giving Luke yet another reason to dislike him. But, as it turned out, I didn't need to say anything, because after a long moment of studying me, Luke's mouth turned down into a slight frown.

"You talked to Aaron," he said, and there was no hint of a question in his voice.

"Earlier today," I admitted, sighing. "Look, he sort of figured me out and..."

"It doesn't surprise me," Luke replied, shrugging. "I swear he's always been able to pick out any gay boy from a mile away. So is the reason why you wanted to talk to him so bad--I mean, are you... do you like him?"

I felt my cheeks growing warm at the question, but I managed to control it as I answered him.

"I just... I don't know," I admitted.

"Look, Rory," Luke said seriously. "I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I don't think you should get involved with him--especially in that way. Aaron has... problems. I wouldn't want to see you get hurt because he's a royal dumbass."

I raised an eyebrow at that, unsure of how to respond. But, he definitely had my attention.

"What kind of problems?" I asked.

"Other than being a pathological liar?" Luke replied, snorting. "He's just... not exactly a great guy...boyfriend. He sort of has a habit of not caring about anyone but himself."

"Was he your boyfriend?" I suddenly found myself asking. To be honest, I hadn't even considered it until that moment. I knew that the two had been close at one time, but now it seemed like it might make sense if they'd been a couple. Luke made a face at the question.

"It's complicated," he replied, but continued when I frowned. I was tired of hearing about how things were complicated. "Look, Rory, I already told you that when I first got here I was in a bad place, and Aaron was the one who I ended up connecting with. I never even had to tell him I was gay--and yeah, I guess you could say that we were together, for a while."

"So you were..." I said, trying to digest this. If Aaron was Luke's ex, that only placed another complication on whatever... relationship, and I use the term lightly, that I had with Aaron. Back home, my friends had always had an unspoken rule when it came to not dating each other's ex-girlfriend. It seemed that the same rule should apply here.

"At first, I thought he was the best guy I'd ever met," Luke admitted. "But, I guess you could say that I found out Aaron was never really interested in a relationship. As a result, it turned into this messy, on-and-off thing where he'd break up with me every other month, and like an idiot, I'd stay friends with him and take him back every single time he asked me to. That night on my birthday last year... we were on another break. He ended up hooking up with some other guy, and when he called, he was saying how sorry he was--that it was a mistake. And it was a mistake: mine, for believing him."

I frowned at this. The thing is, I totally believed Luke. But, at the same time, I wanted to believe that Aaron had changed, like he swore he had. I didn't realize that I voiced it out loud until I heard Luke's voice again.

"It's possible that he's gotten better; I mean, I heard he was with his last boyfriend for a while with no fuck-ups; but I wouldn't put money on it, Rory. Just... be careful around him. And seriously, I wouldn't even get involved."

I stared at Luke for a moment, frankly, a little surprised that he wasn't completely warning me off of Aaron. Sure, he'd agreed that I should make my own decisions before, but that was just when we were talking about the possibility of me becoming friends with Aaron. Now, it seemed a little different. I guess I'd expected more of an objection from Luke. I couldn't help teasing him over it.

"So, you're not going to threaten me with bodily harm if I don't stay away from Aaron?" Luke flashed me a small smile, that didn't exactly seem real to me, and I immediately regretted my words. "Why?" I found myself asking.

He shrugged. "Maybe I'm tired of hating him," Luke admitted. "But hey, if it makes you feel any better: stay away from him, Rory." I couldn't help but note the serious tone in those last words, and it definitely made the term be careful what you wish for come to mind. I found that I didn't like that warning, whether or not I'd asked for it.

We fell into a silence, which I'm sure seemed a little awkward for both of us this time. I was beginning to feel overwhelmed again. But this time, it wasn't with all of the lies. Luke entering my room to talk had definitely given me a lot to think about, and a lot to deal with, when it came to all of the new people entering my life. I glanced over at him, sitting on my bed, staring off into space as his hand seemed to fist the bottom of his shirt, granting me quick flashes of the flat stomach that he tended to show off whenever possible, which brought me back to my attraction towards him. But, based on conversation, he wasn't interested in me, and that idea seemed more bothersome to me than I would have expected. But then there was Aaron, who I was also attracted to, and who definitely seemed interested in me. But unfortunately, according to Luke, he was also the biggest asshole in the world. I found that I really didn't want to believe that part was true. Maybe he'd had problems in the past, but maybe now he really was different. According to Luke, Aaron's last relationship had lasted--and that made me think of Seth, who I detested. But, even if Seth was a prick, it was obvious that he and Aaron were still friends after breaking up . Maybe there was a reason for that. It was also easy to see Aaron as the good guy if I pictured a relationship between him and Seth.

The silence seemed to end when Luke abruptly stood up, yawning, and I sat up a little straighter, watching him.

"I think it's bedtime," he announced, and then looked back at me again. "Um..."

"G'night, Luke," I said, deciding that maybe it really was bedtime. My appetite seemed to have faded during our conversation, and now I was just tired again.

"I'll see you in the morning," Luke replied. "Hey... I'm working tomorrow--not until ten--so maybe I can wake you up and we can go for a swim or something?"

"Okay," I agreed quickly, and he smiled at that. As he left, I think I was just relieved that we weren't fighting. It really hadn't felt great the last time. So I guess, that should have made me happy. Maybe it did. But, it didn't change the fact that even as tired as I felt, I couldn't seem to fall asleep again, my mind too busy trying to digest the last twenty-four hours.


It turned out that Luke didn't have to wake me up in the morning. Eddie did. It felt like I'd hardly fallen asleep before he was shaking me awake and mentioning that breakfast was on the table. I took five minutes to change into some fresh clothes, and then headed upstairs, noticing on the way that Luke's bedroom door was closed and he was likely still fast asleep. That could have been because it wasn't even six in the morning.

I had a sneaking suspicion that Jase wouldn't be there for breakfast, either, and my theory was proved correct when I met Eddie at the table and noticed only two places were set. I wondered if this meant more talking. I hoped not. Honestly, I would have appreciated the chance to wake up first. I was emotionally and physically exhausted from the day before, and as a result, I was cranky. But still I tried not to scowl too much when Eddie smiled as he placed a plate of toaster-made waffles on the table and set out the milk for the cold cereal.

"Good morning," he said as he sat down across from me.

What was so good about it?

"Good morning," I mumbled, rubbing at my eyes.

"Did you get some sleep?"


"That's good... I think I should stay home today."

I looked up, just as I'd reached for a waffle and found Eddie watching me. I guess after last night, I shouldn't have been surprised that he didn't want me staying alone. After all, I'd run off on him again. Granted, last night I really had only intended to go for a walk. It wasn't like I didn't plan on coming back. But, last night had also been a hard blow for everyone in the house, I think. I'm sure I wasn't the only one feeling like there were unresolved issues. I'd known that Eddie would want to talk some more when he'd left my room last night. I guess he figured that staying home today would fix that. I was surprised, that I really didn't mind, either.

"Okay," I said, shrugging, and pulled a waffle to my plate as I ignored Eddie's surprised expression. He'd probably been expecting some kind of protest.

"Okay then," he replied, nodding. "I'll stay home... maybe we can get out, or something."

"Okay." I didn't object to the idea of getting out, either. In fact, company suddenly seemed better than the idea of spending the day by myself.

"Wait, damn it," Eddie suddenly cursed, frowning as he flipped through a thick black binder on the table next to his breakfast. "According to the pink post-it I'm supposed to be in court this morning." Despite myself, I felt the corners of my mouth curling up as he glared at the pink post-it as if it had just recited a particularly distasteful joke. "I can be home in time for a late lunch," he announced after a few moments, looking up again. "How about that?"

"Okay," I agreed again, and Eddie smiled, seeming satisfied.

I went to eating, my body and my mind slowly waking up. My appetite didn't need any help in the area, and as soon as I swallowed the first bite of food I realized that after skipping dinner last night, I could probably eat until my stomach exploded. I knew Eddie was watching me, and he seemed satisfied that I was eating, too, but I ignored it. Food was more important.

I did slow my pace however, when Jase suddenly made an appearance. He looked dressed for work. Not as formal as Eddie, though. I was facing the entrance to the kitchen and saw him first, feeling a little uncomfortable as he paused and watched Eddie and me for a moment. Jase was the only person in the house who I hadn't talked to last night, and honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect.

Eddie noticed that I was looking past him and turned his head. I watched a small, unsure smile come over his face when he saw Jase, which seemed to relax when Jase returned it.

"You guys are up early," Jase noted as he entered the kitchen.

"Yeah," Eddie replied. "Are you hungry?"

Jase looked over Eddie's breakfast selection and simply smiled as he moved across the kitchen to start a pot of coffee.

"I think I'll grab something on the way to work," he replied. I noticed he wasn't looking at me anymore. I wasn't really sure what to think of that. I guess it made me a little uncomfortable. After all, for all I knew, Jase could have thought I'd already caused too much trouble, and maybe he even wanted me out of there--it was another thought I didn't know how to react to. It was a little unsettling, though.

"I'll probably be working a half day today," Eddie announced, and Jase turned to face him. Now, it felt like he was purposely avoiding my eyes. Maybe I was just being paranoid.

"Really?" Jase replied, sounding only somewhat interested. He flashed a quick glance in my direction at this point, but it was only for a moment before his eyes were on Eddie again. "That's probably... good. I'm not sure when I'll be home. I'll call you later?"

"Sure," Eddie replied, shrugging, and I noticed that there seemed to be an awkward moment between the two. I wondered if that meant they were still fighting. I was surprised at how fast the guilt crept up at me over that thought.

"Can you do me a favor?" Jase asked Eddie after a few moments of silence. "Wake up Luke before you leave. I think he works today and I want to make sure he gets off on time."

"Sure," Eddie replied, and a few minutes later, Jase had his coffee in hand and Eddie was walking him out, while I wondered what they were whispering about as they went.


I took a nap after breakfast. I couldn't help it. I needed to catch up on sleep, or at least needed some sort of rest. I ended up waking up again at nine thirty. I knew that Eddie and Jase would both be gone, but I was sort of hoping that Luke would still be up for that morning swim. Last night we'd talked, but I couldn't help wondering if there was going to be an awkward moment between us now that the truth was out in the open, even if we had more or less decided to start over. I guess I was just looking for reassurance that things weren't going to get... weird... or weirder, between Luke and me. Unfortunately, it seemed that I'd have to wait to find out, because after a quick walk around the house that ended in the back yard at the pool, I determined that he'd already left to work. At least, that was probably why Chey was following me around looking confused as I walked around calling her master's name.

It took me about fifteen minutes to figure out that if I wanted to go swimming, I'd have to do it myself. I think I was disappointed by that, but I still had a few hours to kill before Eddie came home, and as I stepped over the edge of the pool and sank into the water, it occurred to me that I was a lot more nervous about that happening then I had been that morning at breakfast.

I mean, why was he coming home, anyway? He didn't trust me to be alone? Okay, maybe I could understand that, and as I kept telling myself, under the circumstances, I really didn't want to be alone. But, maybe Eddie wanted to do some more of that bonding now that the truth was out in the open. That could mean more talking. And what were we going to talk about this time? Or, maybe he just thought that we were going to be the best of buds, both of us having the queer gene and all. I wasn't sure I liked that idea much. I mean, yeah, before I figured out the truth I was trying to give Eddie a chance, but to be honest, I didn't want to get much closer than that. There was no way I was ready for it. I wasn't ready for a... relationship, with Eddie, not the one I imagined him picturing. I think I just needed to adjust. Yeah, adjust... to a new situation... again. I needed to adjust to living with three guys, one being the father I didn't know I had--three guys that were gay. Like me. We really could call it the house of queers--oh god, not good.

I was gay. Okay, old news there, but seriously, I was gay. I think the problem I was having with that all of a sudden, was that everyone here knew about it. I don't think I cared for that much. Back home, no one knew. Things were comfortable that way. But, as I thought about it, I came to realize that by the end of the summer, it was quite possible that the entire state of Arizona would know all about my gayness. As of now, everyone who I lived with knew... and Aaron... and Aaron's ex-boyfriend, who I didn't like or trust. It's not like Seth would be keeping it a secret if it came up in conversation. But what was worse, was Luke, who'd likely talked to Dave already, and if Aaron was right about him, he didn't know how to keep a fucking secret. That just sucked.

I began to swim laps, attempting to remain calm. After all, everyone I'd met so far would likely be accepting, being Luke's friends. I mean, if I was going to be out, then I was definitely in the right environment for it, but still... I wasn't sure how comfortable I was with all of this. I mean, back home, my sexual orientation had really been no one's business unless I chose to make it their business. I wasn't sure I liked the idea of that changing here, regardless of the circumstances.

I was swimming myself out of breath, making my way back and forth across the pool, and actively avoiding the pending panic attack that I was feeling. No wonder I didn't want to be alone, the way my nerves were all twisted up. I was vaguely aware of Chey barking, but I wasn't paying much attention--at least not until I realized that it sounded vicious. I stopped in the middle of the pool and looked around, catching my breath, and sight of Aaron as he walked around the side of the house, and for the first time that I could remember, I was actually glad to see him. It cured the problem about being alone. Only, for the first time I could remember, Aaron looked particularly uncomfortable, hands in his pockets and head down. I got the feeling that it had to do with more than Chey wanting to tear his head off, too, but I called her off anyway, as I swam to the edge of the pool and petted her head until she laid down there next to me, my eyes still watching Aaron as he came closer.

"Hi," he said almost cautiously, and I guess I could understand that. Normally, this was the part where I'd bite off his head for any reason I could think of.

"Hey," I replied as he stopped about five feet away from Chey and me.

"I tried the front door," Aaron explained. "Um... look, I know I probably shouldn't be here, I'll go... I just wanted..." he trailed off, and my curiosity was piqued as I watched him look around nervously--actually, he seemed to be looking anywhere but at me. This behavior was definitely new.

"Why'd you come over?" I asked, deciding to help him out.

"You just took off last night," he pointed out, and I recalled the details clearly enough. I wondered if Seth told him what happened. Maybe Aaron was sorry he'd brought me over there. If he was, I wanted to hear it. "Seth told me what happened." Well, that answered that question.

"Oh yeah?" I replied, trying to sound casual, but fuming inside as I remembered what an ass that guy had been. I didn't look forward to seeing him again anytime soon.

"Yeah... Rory, look, if you weren't into me, you could have just said so. It wouldn't have hurt my feelings and it probably would have saved me the trouble of embarrassing myself when I asked you out. Shit," he cursed. "I feel like such an ass. I would have been cool with just being friends, you know."

Huh? I didn't recall telling Seth any of that.

"What exactly did he tell you?" I demanded. I could only imagine. It obviously wasn't anything good.

"You know... that you think I'm a jerk, that I'm coming on too strong. Look, I'm really sorry. I know you have a lot of shit going on, it's just when I like someone... I sort of like to let them know it."

I stared at Aaron for a long moment, feeling completely pissed off at Seth, the lying prick. Figured he'd tell Aaron something like that. I guess it really did make him the jealous ex. Only, it might have backfired on him... just a little bit. Which, is probably why I neglected to tell Aaron what a liar Seth was.

I guess Aaron had had his moments before, of coming on a little... strong. But, this time he actually seemed troubled. Entirely troubled, and sorry. I guess it was a side that I hadn't been aware he had. More than that, I got the feeling that he really liked me. Really liked me. It was concept that I hadn't really thought about before, and I guess... it felt kind of good. It was strange, the way that this shy, sad, pathetic behavior actually warmed me to him.

"You do come on kind of strong," I admitted, and he blushed a little, looking embarrassed as his eyes strayed from mine again. That was just cute, even if he did have a certain, irritated edge in his voice when he spoke again.

"Well, like I said, I'm sorry, okay. I'm gonna go... and, I'll leave you alone. Maybe... maybe when you get things sorted out we can go hang out or something--as friends. I didn't mean to come off as an ass. I just... I guess I thought you were into me."

I blinked and lifted a hand to wipe away the water running from my hair, down my face as I curiously watched Aaron as he started to walk away. I wasn't sure what annoyed me more, the fact that he was walking away without letting me respond, or the fact that something Seth said could actually affect him, when he seemed to laugh off pretty much everything that came out of my mouth. Either way I didn't like it--him walking away, I mean. Especially when I hadn't even made up my mind when it came to whether or not I wanted to go out with him. I guess it was safe to say that I already didn't mind the kissing.

For a moment, I thought of calling after him... rudely. I'd probably make references to him being an idiot or something like that. But, instead, I decided to take a different approach. After all, I kind of liked seeing a side to him other than cocky... or angry... or just annoying.

"Hey Aaron?"

Chey lifted her head and looked at me like I'd ruined her day when he stopped walking and turned back around, but I ignored it and pushed her away as I kicked off the side of the pool, wading out into the middle as Aaron regarded me curiously.


"Do you swim?"

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