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 eleven: I can't believe you made me do that

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.

"You're serious?" Aaron was looking at me as if I'd just asked him to shave his legs.

"Why not?" I replied, before ducking under the water for a moment and then surfacing again. "You don't have to worry about Luke or anyone being here right now. Eddie's coming back in a few hours, but if you want to hang out until then--I mean, unless you have something else to do..."

"No," he said quickly. "I just thought..."

"You can be a jerk," I cut him off. "But I didn't say I thought you were one last night. I left because..." I was about to tell him exactly what had happened between Seth and me, but stopped myself. If something Seth had said had him over here apologizing to me then I really wasn't interested in how he'd react if I called Seth a liar. "I just needed to go... and deal with things. So, if you want to hang out, then now's fine with me. You do know how to swim, right?"

He smiled at that and shrugged.

"So... if you still want to hang out... then does that mean we can still go out?"

Aaron was back.

"I don't know," I said quickly. I rather liked the feeling of being a step ahead of him and I didn't want to lose it just yet. Besides, I really didn't know if I was ready... to go out. "I want to think about it. So, do you want to borrow some swim trunks, or what?"

"Don't need `em," he replied, smirking, and I watched as he kicked off his flip-flops and pulled his shirt over his head. I didn't mind watching, either. I hadn't really seen him without his shirt off since the night we met at the park, and as I watched, I could have sworn that his tan had gotten a little deeper since then--and maybe his hair had gotten a little lighter, I noticed, as he shook his long bangs from his face after his shirt tussled them. But, I was distracted from these little details when he suddenly dropped his shorts. I hadn't been expecting that.

Aaron looked up just in time to catch me eyeing the tight white boxer-briefs covering the more personal aspects of his body, and it was all over. That smirk and my blush made it clear to both of us who was capable of keeping the other on his toes; and at the moment, my toes were aching. It didn't help when he remarked, "Maybe you do like me, after all. I'm never wrong, you know."

"Just get in here, asshole," I remarked, and promptly ducked back under the water to hide the redness I could feel in my cheeks, Aaron's laughter following me.

Once again, I wondered what I'd gotten myself into. That question seemed to come up a lot, where Aaron was involved. Maybe it was his past history with Luke that put me on edge, because when it came down to it, it really was difficult for me to trust Aaron. I never knew what he was thinking, or what he was going to do--or how I was going to react to it. It scared the hell out of me. So I guess it was curiosity, or my current desperation for company, that kept me from regretting the fact that I'd invited him to stay. Then again, it could have had something to do with wanting to get even with Seth, too. He obviously didn't want me around Aaron--or Aaron around me, would be a better assessment. I guess he hadn't counted on Aaron showing up to apologize to me. I really didn't like that guy. Or, maybe I asked him to stay because Aaron wasn't wrong. I liked him. I don't know why that was so hard to admit.

I surfaced just in time to see Aaron jump feet first into the pool, and he was smiling when he came up about two feet from me. He waved his arm, splashing the water towards my head and after failing to shield it from my face I flashed him an annoyed look before attempting to return his smile.

"So where is everyone?" he asked, pushing his now drenched hair out of his face.

"Work," I replied. "Everyone has a life but me."

"What are you talking about?" he asked, laughing. "You have a more interesting life than anyone else I know."

"Yeah? Then you can have it," I responded bitterly.

"I never said I wanted it. What happened when you got home last night?"

"I talked to Eddie, and Luke," I explained, but I wasn't really interested in going into detail. "I think things are going to be alright."


"I guess."

"Well, that's good, right?"

"Maybe... it's weird."

"I believe you," he said, with a small smile, but then he turned serious. "Um...if you did, it's cool and all...but, you didn't mention that I was the one who told you, did you? I mean, I really don't need to give any of them more reasons to hate me."

"I didn't mention it... but, Luke sort of figured it out on his own," I admitted.

"Shit," Aaron cursed, grabbing the edge of the pool to hold himself up for a rest, and I swam over and took the ledge next to him.

"Listen... don't worry about it," I insisted. "They don't really have a right to get pissed, you know? At least you told me the truth. Fuck if anyone else would."

Aaron didn't look convinced, but he also seemed happy with my response.

"At least you're not pissed about it," he remarked, flashing me a small smile, and then, "So... did Luke mention anything about me after he figured it out?"

Aaron looked nervous, and this time, it didn't take much for me to figure out what he was talking about. To be honest, I wasn't even going to bring this up with him. After all, there were simply some things between him and Luke that were simply none of my business.

"Yeah, he did," I admitted.

Aaron frowned and seemed to avoid my eyes for a moment.

"How bad was it?" he asked grimly. Obviously, he didn't think Luke had a very good opinion of him, not that it wasn't true. I decided to let him off the hook with this one.

"It wasn't that bad," I insisted, and Aaron looked at me skeptically. "It really wasn't... I mean, I don't think he'd ever go out with you again, no offense; but, it wasn't like he was talking about you like some pissed-off ex."

"But, let me guess--it was enough to keep you from being interested."

"I didn't say that," I replied, before I could think to stop myself, and Aaron regarded me curiously.

"Then you are..."

"I didn't say that either," I said quickly. "Look, Aaron..."

"Never mind," he cut me off, looking frustrated. "Shit. I said we'd hang out as friends and I'm already fucking it up, huh? Just... forget it, Rory. I know what Luke would say about me... so let's just leave it at that."

I didn't even know how to respond to that. Leave it at that? What did that mean? If Aaron knew what Luke would say, wouldn't he try to defend himself? It seemed like something Aaron would do. Or, was he just going to leave it there because everything Luke said had been true? I mean, I guess it didn't really matter either way. Luke said it had been a long time ago, and even Luke said that it was possible that Aaron had changed. I almost mentioned this to Aaron, if anything to make him feel better. But, before I could he was suddenly lifting himself out of the pool, properly distracting me as his ass came up level with my head and I stared at his underwear, now soaked through to the point that they were sagging slightly, but sticking to his skin; and being white, I could see right through them, at least enough to realize that he had no tan lines on his butt, which looked tight enough to seem permanently clenched. And as he lifted a foot out of the water and my eyes followed him upwards I traced the visible line of his cleft with my eyes, all the way to the dark shadow of hair covering his balls--another part of him his underwear was sticking to.

I decided right then and there that I liked him in white. I mean, yeah, I saw Luke naked all the time, so maybe this was nothing; but I think it was the fact that having some things left to the imagination made it almost... better. So did the idea of peeling those underwear right off of him--which was, by the way, something I didn't see myself doing because a of lack of nerve, among other reasons, but still... it would be an image worthy of showering with later.

"Do you have anything to drink around here?" Aaron asked, and I was forced back to reality, and the fact that he was attempting to change the subject. Unfortunately, it still took me a moment to respond when he turned and just like with the back, the front of his underwear was clinging to everything.

"Um... yeah, sure," I replied, tearing my eyes away from places on his body which I probably shouldn't have been gawking at. I pulled myself out of the pool, ignoring the sudden tingling in my groin. It seemed to bring me back to my conversation with Eddie the night before. Maybe at my age, it really didn't take much. But fortunately, the thought of Eddie and my mom seemed to gross me out enough for whatever I was feeling to go away for the time being. I was still glad that there were towels outside this time, though, and I made sure to pass one to Aaron first. While I dried enough to stop dripping with mine, he simply wrapped the blue towel I passed him around his waist and waited for me.

I opened the sliding glass door, allowing Chey to enter ahead of us as I looked back at Aaron. He was looking somewhat uncomfortable again, and for some reason, I felt guilty about that.

"It's not like it didn't happen a long time ago... with you and Luke, right?" I said, hoping to make him feel better. "I mean... maybe it doesn't even matter--whatever happened."

Aaron regarded me curiously, and then frowned as he followed me inside.

"Like it doesn't matter to you every time Luke comes up?" he responded sarcastically. "Whatever."

"That's different," I responded defensively. "I mean, come on Aaron, you stole a car and let him get in trouble for it--that was fucked up."

"So, you get to hold it over my head like everyone else? Great."

I frowned as I headed over to the refrigerator, where I bypassed the soda and grabbed two bottles of water. I was getting irritated. The way I saw it, the whole car incident didn't have anything to do with Aaron dating Luke. They were two different things. Don't get me wrong, I would have liked to know why Aaron did what he did--screwing Luke over--but I didn't need him running me in circles with unnecessary guilt trips. Besides, he was the one who'd brought the whole thing up, anyway. I would have been perfectly happy if we'd been able to visit for a few hours without any of the bullshit coming up. I really didn't need anymore bullshit.

"Look, can we just drop this for now?" I asked, passing him a bottle of water when I turned and found him right behind me. "I'm sort of tired of dealing with everything, you know? It's bad enough I have to worry about Eddie being home in a few hours. He's probably going to want to do more talking, and I don't want to deal with..."

"Me?" Aaron cut me off, and I found my frustration rising when he actually appeared pissed off.

"That's not what I meant. I wouldn't have asked you to stay if..."

"You know what? Forget it. I'll go," he said. "Seth was right, anyway. I'm an idiot for coming over here."

Seth again? I was getting tired of that guy. I was also getting tired of Aaron walking away from me. Wasn't this supposed to work the other way around? I think I preferred it when he was the one chasing me through the door.

"Why?" I demanded, following him outside to where he'd left his clothes. "Because I don't feel like talking about Luke? Aren't you supposed to be grateful for that or something?"

He rounded on me, eyes narrowed as he dropped his towel and picked up his shorts.

"Because you're just like him," Aaron retorted. "You take one little thing and decide to hate me over it."

"What are you talking about? I never said I hated you!"

"You don't have to say it, Rory. If you're not interested in me, fine, but don't pretend that we're friends just because you feel sorry for me!"

I blinked, feeling completely lost.

"So which is it?" I demanded. "Do I hate you, or do I feel sorry for you, because I don't really have a clue anymore!" I paused, trying to keep my temper under control. No wonder I got confused when it came to Aaron. We couldn't even argue in a way that it made sense. "Fuck... I'm having a really bad month or something, okay? I'm freaked out about a lot of things right now, and I didn't ask if you wanted to hang out just so we could fight. It was kind of cool of you to pick me up yesterday, you know, it took my mind off things... for a while. And, I guess I thought that since you were the only one who was honest with me, maybe it would be okay, to be friends. And Luke has nothing to do with it."

Aaron's face seemed to soften, but he was still looking troubled as he quietly pulled his shorts on over his drenched underwear. His eyes seemed heavier than normal, and I noticed that he was avoiding mine again.

"Luke will always have something to do with it," he said quietly, and I wasn't exactly sure what that meant, but I was pretty sure that I didn't like it. When he met my eyes, I'm sure he could see that I was getting annoyed, too, but he smiled. Smiled. And Rory Norick was officially confused again. "I know you didn't want to get into this shit," he replied casually, as if we'd just been discussing the weather. "You just wanted to go swimming, right? Sorry about that... and ruining your day and all. Maybe I'll see you around."

Maybe I'll see you around? I was too perplexed to even respond to that as he picked up his shirt and walked back around the side of the house. I let him go, too, because...well, fuck if I understood anything about him. By the time he was gone, I didn't even understand what we'd been arguing about. Only, I had a feeling that Aaron leaving had more to do with Luke and less to do with me. After all, everything had seemed almost normal before I brought Luke's name up.

I went back inside, feeling drained again as I thought over what had just happened. Maybe Aaron didn't like the idea of me knowing that he and Luke had been a couple. Maybe he felt as weird about me knowing as I did. I mean, I had to admit that the fact Luke and Aaron had been together was another negative when it came to the question of whether or not I wanted to get involved with him. It sort of just made things weirder. So, maybe it was a good thing that Aaron had left and I had no idea whether or not I was ever going to see him again. I just wished that the thought didn't bother me so much.


I shifted uncomfortably in my seat across from Eddie, staring down at the loaded chicken salad in front of me. When he said he'd be home for a late lunch, I didn't think he'd meant that he actually wanted to go out to lunch. I'd eaten so much breakfast that I wasn't really even that hungry, so I'd made the mistake of letting him order for me. Now, I was faced with a salad so large that I doubted the whole thing would fit into my stomach, and it was only the first course.

"Have you called your grandma yet?" Eddie asked, and the question took me off guard.

"Why would I call her?" I responded coldly, but couldn't seem to help it.

"I don't know," he replied, shrugging. "After everything that's happened, I just thought you would have."

"I can't talk to her," I replied, frowning. "I mean, I don't even want to. Aren't you mad at her?"

"Furious," he replied, but it seemed casual. "I think what she did was sneaky, and wrong, and pointless... but she's still your grandmother."


"So, you're all she has left, Rory," Eddie replied, and I experienced a moment of guilt that passed quickly. "And besides, if you plan to go back to living with her at the end of the summer, don't you think you should be on speaking terms? You are still planning on going back, aren't you?"

"Yes," I said quickly, feeling a little suspicious. I didn't want Eddie to think that anything had changed just because he was as gay as I was, and we actually had something in common. At the end of the summer, I planned to go back; unfortunately, that meant that he was right, and eventually, I'd have to face Grandma Alice. "I just... I'm not ready to talk to her, okay?" That came out more defensively than I'd meant for it to, but at least Eddie didn't seem to mind.

"You should try your salad. The food's really good here," Eddie suggested. I picked up my fork and did just that, if anything, because I didn't feel like talking anymore. "I actually met Jase in this restaurant." I looked up, finding myself interested, although I wasn't sure why. "I was celebrating because I didn't fail this horrendous exam at school, and I was here with some friends, probably too drunk for my own good, and I started picking up on this waiter--that was a big deal for me, you know. I ended up coming out to a few people that night because of it."

"Was it bad?" I asked.

"Not really," he replied, with a small smile.

"So... Jase worked here?" I asked, looking around. The place wasn't very big, and had sort of a bar-room feel to it. There was even a pool table in the corner. But somehow, I couldn't really picture Jase working anywhere other than in a comfortable office.

"No, he didn't," Eddie replied, and I swore that he was blushing. "That was actually the problem. He was sitting at the table behind us, but kept going up to the bar. He was wearing a shirt that looked a lot like the uniform here at the time, and so every time he passed our table, I was embarrassing myself. When he finally gave me his phone number he said it was just to shut me up, and he asked me to stop ordering drinks from him... Didn't get upset when I left him a tip, though."

I found myself smiling, trying to picture the situation. A drunk Eddie and an annoyed Jase. I guess I could see Jase annoyed, but Eddie drunk was what struck me as funny for some reason. Actually, beyond all appearances, he struck me as someone who'd never ordered a beer in his life--or at least someone who'd never gotten drunk and loud.

"You called him, even after that?" I asked, and Eddie smiled, probably because I seemed interested in his story.

"Actually, I was so wasted that I hardly remembered any of it," Eddie replied, looking sheepish. "One of my friends told me what happened but I thought he was joking. I almost died when I figured out he wasn't. All I remembered was a waiter yelling at me. But, the next time I did laundry, about a month later, I found a napkin in my pocket with a phone number on it and I think I called out of pure curiosity. Turns out it was Jase, and I guess he'd just ended a relationship with another man, so when I called he was depressed and pretty much demanded that I take him out. He didn't remember who I was until I met him here at this restaurant."

"He didn't?"

"Nope. The first thing he said to me was, `Oh, it's the jerk.' Then he ordered us a couple of drinks and we've been together ever since. Not the most romantic story in the world, is it?"

"Kinda funny," I admitted, shrugging.

"I'm not sure Jase thinks so," Eddie replied with a wan smile. "When he tells it he insists that we met on a blind date and I brought him flowers. I probably would have brought some for real if I'd known what was going to happen."

"Does he ever confuse you?" I suddenly found myself asking, thinking of Aaron. We hadn't exactly met under the best of circumstances either. I certainly didn't see myself giving him flowers, ever. That just sounded dumb. But, thinking of awkward meetings, did make me think of him.

"All the time," Eddie practically laughed. "Here's some advice for you, Rory. Never let your straight friends tell you that only women do that. Men are even worse. Ask any woman and she'll tell you men are always wrong, so you can imagine what happens when two of us get together. But, that doesn't mean it's not worth it--why do you ask?"

I blinked at the question, and Eddie was regarding me curiously. I had no intention of explaining the mess with Aaron to him. As far as I knew, he and Jase had no idea that I even knew Aaron, and I thought it was better that it stayed that way. Especially if Luke thought so too, considering he hadn't told them about it. So, I decided to use the question to satisfy another of my curiosities.

"Jase... confuses me," I replied, and Eddie seemed to sit up in his seat a little, looking alarmed. "I mean, I know yesterday I fuc--I messed up. He hasn't said anything to me, so I thought maybe he was mad or something."

I watched Eddie put down his fork as he released a breath, his alarmed expression slowly becoming troubled as he shook his head, and for a moment, his reaction made me nervous as I wondered if Jase really didn't like me.

"Jase is mad," Eddie admitted. "At me, not you. He's as disappointed as I am that you took off--again," he added, and I felt annoyed about that, but properly chided. "But, we understand that you were upset. Jase isn't mad at you, Rory. He probably hasn't said anything yet because he doesn't know what to say; and to be honest with you, he's been arguing with me since last night, so he probably wasn't in the mood to say anything this morning."

"You're fighting about me?" I asked. Maybe a week ago, this idea wouldn't have bothered me--but it really did now. The fact that Eddie looked guilty before he answered the question didn't exactly make me feel any better.

"We're all just trying to adjust to a few things," he replied, and when he saw that I didn't look reasured, he continued. "I made a mistake when you came to live here, Rory. I think Jase is still just... trying to forgive me for it."

"But... Luke said that you all agreed not to tell me," I replied. "I mean, for a few days, until you got to know me."

"We did," Eddie nodded. "But I took it overboard. Rory, you have to understand, that even when I first met Jase, it was very important for him to be himself. He's never wanted to pretend he's something he isn't and he's never seen a reason why he should have to--not even when he found out you were coming here. He only did it because he knew it was important to me, and I think over the last two weeks he started feeling like I took advantage of the situation. I've been pretending to be his brother. He has good reason to be upset about that. But, it really has nothing to do with you. It's a problem that Jase and I will have to work out, and I'd rather you--or Luke--don't worry about it, okay?"

"I guess," I replied, still feeling unsure. This didn't really answer my question when it came to whether or not Jase wanted me there.

"If you want, maybe you and I could sit down later with Jase and Luke. I'm sure we all have a lot that we could talk about..."

"No thanks," I said quickly. I was having enough trouble dealing with one of them at a time. I wasn't exactly ready for the whole family scene. "Um... I'd rather not, okay?"

"Okay," Eddie replied, nodding with an amused expression on his face. I wondered if he knew what I was thinking. But, the look faded and he seemed to turn more serious. "Rory, I know we've already mentioned you running off...but I think we need to get a little further into it. It's happened twice now, and..."

"I really was only going for a walk yesterday," I mumbled, irritated by the turn in topic. He looked amused with that, too.

"And I believe you, but it's future occurrences I'm concerned with. This whole... parenting thing is new to me, okay? Jase has always handled this kind of stuff with Luke, so I'm a little lost here, but it occurs to me that even though I don't want to sound like your jailer, I'd like to know where you are. I know it's not always possible because I'll be working this summer, and you're probably going to make friends. What if I got you a pager, would that work? Let's say... no matter what I've done to make you mad--or what the circumstances are--if you call back in, let's say, ten minutes, I'll call off the search party."

I thought about that for a few minutes.

"It's not even enough time to find a phone," I decided.

"I'll get you a phone then," Eddie replied, as if that settled matters.

"My mom did that once. I was always forgetting it somewhere."

"Then you won't forget," he replied, smirking as our actual lunch finally arrived. It looked like three different kinds of meat on our plates, and I found myself wondering if even Eddie could eat all of his. "Besides, isn't a cell phone the in thing these days? I think I can get you on my plan. We'll go when we're finished eating."

"Whatever," I replied indifferently as I slid my salad aside, hoping that Eddie didn't care I'd hardly even dented it. He just smiled, and for the next thirty-five minutes conversation turned light as Eddie practically swallowed down his whole meal, and I picked at mine.


"I don't want to," I stated, staring at the white Suburban, currently parallel-parked outside of the restaurant. I swore it had somehow doubled in size over the last few seconds, after Eddie had asked if I wanted to try to drive it a few blocks to where he wanted to pick up another cell phone. Maybe I wanted to learn to drive, but not on a city street with traffic. Okay, traffic consisted of the two cars that had passed in the last five minutes, but still, I felt intimidated.

"You'll never learn if you won't even try," Eddie insisted, still holding out the keys for me.

"I said I don't want to," I insisted, becoming irritated.

"Alright," he relented, looking disappointed. "If you're afraid, then I'll drive."


"I'm not scared!" I retorted, feeling completely insulted. I ignored Eddie's smile when I snatched the keys out of his hand and went to the driver's side. I guess I knew what he was doing, but unfortunately, I was susceptible to reverse psychology. At least being called scared gave me enough courage to get into the large vehicle and buckle up. Eddie got in on the passenger side, and it was looking down at the steering wheel that threw me off.

"Never mind," I said quickly. "You drive."

"You're fine, Rory," Eddie insisted. "You haven't even turned the key yet. Come on, turn the truck on."

I frowned, but did as I was told. It wasn't like I didn't know anything about driving, I'd just never done it before. That's why I looked at Eddie for approval as I started shifting into drive.

"Do you have your foot on the brake?" he asked me.

"Yes," I responded irritably, even as I moved my foot to press the brake. I hope he hadn't seen that. I guess the smile he sent my way meant that he had.

"Go to reverse," Eddie instructed. "The idiot in front of us parked too close, so you're going to have to back up. Check your mirrors first."

Check the mirrors? I had to adjust them, first. Damn, Eddie was tall. But, after a few moments of him helping me make the necessary adjustments, I'd shifted into reverse.

"Okay, just ease off the brake. You shouldn't need to give it any gas."

I did as I was told, but even when I had my foot completely off the brake, the vehicle hadn't budged. For that, I flashed Eddie the best smart-assed look I could come up with.

"We must be on a hill," he responded defensively. "Okay, give it just a little gas, you hardly need anything..."

I gave it hardly anything. At least, what I thought was hardly anything, so you can imagine my surprise when the back tire ended up on the curb, and Eddie shouted out, "Brake!"

I broke alright. Broke something. His warning had come just as an alarming crash came from behind, and I sat in the driver's seat with my foot pressed on the brake, my fingers turning white on the steering wheel as I waited in shock.

"Are you okay?" Eddie asked, snapping me out of it as he reached over and put the vehicle in park. I managed to nod before he got out and walked around to the back, and a moment later, I followed.

"Okay," Eddie said calmly as I reached his side and looked over the damage. "This isn't so bad."

No, I guess everything was fine, if you didn't count the big dent in the rear bumper that the fire hydrant had managed to leave.

I glared in response to the small smile Eddie sent in my direction, and all I had to say was, "I can't believe you made me do that."


I'd be lying if I said that I didn't feel guilty about Eddie's car. I tried to mask it well enough--after all, he'd been the one who wanted me to drive--but I had been the one behind the wheel. I think I was relieved when he told me not to worry about it after I finally apologized. I guess the way he saw it, he should have been paying more attention, and he should have tried this on one of the empty roads surrounding the house. I had to agree there.

I think if Eddie was upset about anything, it was the dent, but he assured me, and himself, I think, that it wouldn't be entirely difficult to get fixed. He actually made an appointment for it about five minutes after we picked up the cell phone that I accidently left in the store after it was handed to me. Well, it wasn't like I hadn't warned him that I tended to misplace those things. He actually thought it was funny. I wished that I could have been as amused.

I think I was relieved, more than anything, when we got back to the house. By then, it was already late, and Eddie mentioned that Luke and Jase would probably be home shortly. He seemed overly happy when I sat down with him to watch the news until then. I guess he'd expected me to retreat to my room.

Luke was the one who got home first, and it would have been a fact hard to miss with the way that Chey had developed the ability to bounce off walls.

"Hey," Eddie called over his shoulder as Luke entered the living room, looking tired and sweaty, his curls smashed down from wearing a hard hat all day. At least he was smiling, his teeth looking even whiter through all of the dust on his face. "How was work?"

"Not bad, actually. Not all of the guys out there are as stupid as I thought."

"That means he likes being surrounded by men all day," Eddie remarked, looking at me, and as weird as this conversation now seemed to me, I found myself smiling.

"Yeah, who woulda thunk it," Luke responded, rolling his eyes. "Hey, Eddie, do you mind if I skip dinner tonight? Dave wants me to go to the park with him tonight and he wants moral support. `Cause Angela's going to be there," Luke added, looking at me.

"Are you going to at least eat something?" Eddie asked him.

"I'll grab something on the way," Luke replied.

"Sounds fine to me," Eddie replied.

"You coming, Rory?" Luke asked me. "I'm just going to jump in the shower really quick, first."

I found myself looking at Eddie after this question. To be honest, I wasn't even sure if I was allowed to go out after yesterday. Eddie rolled his eyes at the look on my face.

"Go ahead," Eddie insisted, and then added in a softer voice, "It'll give me a chance to talk to Jase."

I nodded, but didn't comment. Going out with Luke for a while actually seemed like a good idea for me. After fighting with Aaron, and then wrecking a car, I couldn't see my day getting any worse, anyway. Besides, I was just glad that the awkward moment that I'd expected between Luke and me, hadn't been there.


"Sorry about this morning," Luke said around a bite of the cheeseburger he'd stopped off for.

"Huh?" I had no idea what he was talking about. I found myself staring out the window, thinking about the park we were going to. Aaron had been drifting in and out of my thoughts all day, and I couldn't help wondering if he was going to be there. I guess it really didn't matter, especially if he wasn't talking to me anymore; but, to be honest, I didn't know whether or not he planned on talking to me anymore. He hadn't said anything like that, but still... Maybe that was part of my problem with the whole thing.

"We were supposed to go swimming," Luke reminded me. "I sort of woke up too late, though."

"Oh... yeah, forget it."

"You okay?" Luke asked, looking over at me.

"I'm fine," I insisted, forcing a smile.

"Good," he replied. "So are you going to tell me what happened to Eddie's truck? I saw it in the garage."

I inwardly groaned, but proceeded to tell Luke that I happened to it, anyway. He was laughing by the time I was finished.

"It's not funny."

"Yes it is," he insisted. "When I was learning how to drive, he and Jase were always arguing about who the better instructor was. Eddie bribed me to say it was him, and Jase has always been sore about it. Eddie will never live this one down. So you guys talked some more, huh?"

"I guess," I replied, shrugging. "We had lunch together."

"So... are you at least feeling better?"

"I guess," I replied. "Um... Luke, you know how...I guess..."

"Yeah?" he asked, when I couldn't seem to get the words out.

"How many people know I'm gay?" I finally asked. "I mean, besides you, and Jase, and Eddie. I know Dave was around yesterday, but..."

Luke looked at me with a funny expression, which quickly turned into a frown.

"Shit, I sort of told him, Rory. I mean, I didn't think it would be a problem..."

"It's okay," I replied. Reasonably, I knew it would be ridiculous to say that it wasn't okay. Dave was apparently, safe. "It's just...I'm new to this, you know? And we're going to the park, so I was wondering..."

"I'll talk to Dave," Luke said quickly. "Don't worry about it... but, you know it's not like you couldn't..."

"I know."

"All of my friends are cool with it, Rory. If you want I could point out everyone who would have a problem with it."

"Thanks," I replied. I wasn't sure how fast the word had spread around all of the people that did hang out at the park, but I figured that if this was unavoidable, then it would be good to know who I should avoid. In fact, now that the truth was out, and I was thinking about it, I was getting a little nervous about going to the park. Pretty much everyone there had known Luke was gay as far as I was aware, and that could have meant that they were all lying to me for him. That didn't really sit well with me, and I guess I wasn't sure what to expect.

And, I was pleasantly surprised.

The place was as crowded as it had been that first night, at least around the tables. Luke had left Chey home this time, so there was one less dog, but just about everyone else seemed to be there, and they treated me no differently than they had any other time I'd met them; although, Dave did seem to flash me an awkward glance as we met him with Rick and Brian, who was sitting on a table bench and holding his large stomach, looking more than a little miserable.

"What's with him?" Luke asked.

"He challenged his dad to another hot-dog-eating contest," Rick explained, looking at his large friend sympathetically. I looked at Luke and he made a face.

"Is his dad that..." I started to ask.

"His dad weighs a hundred and forty pounds," Luke replied. "But I swear he could eat Brian if he wanted to. It shouldn't be physically possible for that man to eat what he does."

"I think I'm gonna be sick," Brian groaned.

"Be sick later," Rick insisted, nudging him. "Cathy's here."

It was amazing how any nausea was wiped from Brian's face at the mention of his girlfriend, and he stood as the tall blonde approached us, with a shorter, dark-haired girl at her side. I frowned as I remembered Meg. I actually sort of hoped that she knew I was gay, considering the last time we met. The smile she gave me as they neared suggested that she didn't know anything, though. I just hoped she wasn't going to start getting flirty again. I avoided her eyes and watched Cathy meet Brian with a kiss directly on the lips, and then as she promptly made a face.

"Ugh! Brian, hot dogs again?"

"Sorry," he mumbled, and then smiled at her. "Wanna go for a walk?"

She smiled at his puppy-dog face, but then took a seat on the bench he had been occupying a moment before.

"Can we wait a little while?" she asked. "My feet are killing me."

My attention was pulled from Brian and Cathy when Luke nudged me and subtly gestured to Dave, who was currently scanning the park with his eyes, probably wondering where Angela was. I couldn't help smiling at him. He definitely liked the girl. I actually felt sorry for him, considering the fact that he lost all ability to form proper sentences around her.

"Hi, Meg," Luke greeted the other girl. "Is Angela with you guys?" That got Dave's attention, and I tried not to laugh at the way his head spun around.

"She should be on her way," Meg replied, and then smiled at me. "Hi Rory."

"Hey," I said, deciding to be polite.

"It's kind of chilly today," she told me giving a little shiver, and I looked around, feeling perplexed because of the ninety-degree weather and cloud-free sky. I heard Luke snort beside me and looked over to find that he was trying not to laugh, obviously finding something amusing. I didn't get it, so I ignored it, and focused on the third girl coming towards our group, which seemed to have distanced itself from everyone else crowded around the tables. The curls bouncing off her shoulders told me that Dave's crush had arrived. Luke noticed too, and nodded in her direction for Dave, looking at him expectantly. Luke looked entirely exasperated when Dave suddenly sat down, choosing the farthest possible spot at the table when Angela reached us. Luke rolled his eyes at this, and obviously didn't have any trouble greeting Angela himself.

"Hey Angela, did you just get off work?" he asked.

"Yeah," she smiled at him. "How'd you know?"

"You're still wearing your name tag," Luke pointed out.

Angela rolled her eyes and smiled at him as she proceeded to remove the pin.

"So," she said, looking between Luke and me, "are you guys really having Rick's party at your place?"

Luke's eyes seemed to widen at this, and when they snapped over to Rick, I understood why.

"Party?" Rick asked, his face suddenly brightened.

"Shit," Brian mumbled.

"Oops," Angela said, blushing slightly. "Was it supposed to be a secret?"

"Yes!" everyone at the table informed her, except Rick and me.

"Sorry," she said.

"That's okay!" Dave finally spoke up, loudly. She flashed Dave a smile, but then proceeded to move forward to kiss Rick's cheek. Dave looked absolutely appalled.

"Well, happy birthday, anyway, Rick," Angela said.

"Thanks," Rick replied, smiling at her, and then instantly looked at Luke. "I want strippers."

Luke slapped his own forehead and then turned to his overeager friend.

"Sure, Rick, if you want to trust my taste in women," Luke remarked. He got a laugh over this, and I found myself taking note of how easy it seemed for him to be himself with his friends, when he wasn't keeping secrets.

"Never mind," Rick frowned, rolling his eyes.

I noticed Dave watching Angela as she struck up a conversation with Meg, and then he started inching his way towards them. He was just about to open his mouth to say something, or at least attempt to say something, likely to Angela, when Meg suddenly pointed and Angela spun around, and before anyone could say anything, she was jogging away from the tables and throwing herself into a hug with a guy who'd just arrived. I noticed that everyone else fell silent and looked at Dave, who seemed completely crushed just then...but not me. I was staring at the guy. Tall. Broad shoulders. Baseball cap. It took me all of two seconds to figure out who it was. The fact that Angela was the girl who Seth was seeing, didn't really score him any extra points with me, especially when she hooked her arm with his and they started walking off together. It was too far away to tell, but I imagined Seth sending a nasty look at me when he looked in our direction.

I found myself watching Dave, and the pathetic look on his face. Maybe there had been a little tension between us yesterday, but now I felt sorry for him. Why did it have to be Angela? Seth was obviously interested in Aaron--something that seemed to piss me off even more--so why did he have to go after the one girl that Dave liked? Not that I wanted him after Aaron.

I blinked at that last thought. I really didn't want him after Aaron. In fact, if I were going to be completely honest, I didn't want anyone interested in Aaron. I was perfectly satisfied with Aaron being interested in me. I guess that meant that I liked him. I found myself wishing that the rest was that simple.

I watched Luke move around the table and place a hand on his best friend's shoulder, and when he went off for a walk with Dave, I didn't follow. Somehow, I felt like I'd be intruding. But, I wished that I had gone, when I turned around and Meg was smiling brightly at me, as if nothing was amiss at all.

"Hi, Rory."


Avoidance. That was the best way to handle Meg, at least until she found someone else who she was interested in to latch onto. Unfortunately, no such someone else seemed to be present tonight, so as the sun set, I found myself sitting in the grass, away from the table, as I watched her look around for me. It wasn't that she wasn't a nice girl, I just wasn't interested.

I scanned the park, looking for Luke and Dave, who had been missing ever since Angela had gone off with Seth. The two of them hadn't reappeared, either. Luke had mentioned Aaron's last relationship, but I wondered if he actually knew that the guy Angela had walked off with was it. Either way, it sucked.

I momentarily closed my eyes, wondering when we'd be getting back to the house. I was feeling tired again, and in all honesty, a little bored. But, the weight that came up against my left side cured that. I opened my eyes and turned my head in a way that practically placed me nose to nose with Aaron Keslin, who was regarding me with a serene expression on his face.

"What are you doing over here all alone?" he asked.

I decided to ignore how surprised I was to see him and responded.

"Avoiding Meg," I admitted.

Aaron laughed at that.

"Cool... why don't you just tell her you're gay?"

"Because something tells me that if I did that, everyone would know before I even got out of here."


"So... I'm not really ready for that," I admitted. "It's not like I was out back home. I'm not really happy about it happening here. It's like everyone around me is out and now I'm supposed to be, too."

"Seriously?" He was giving me a really strange look now. "But, it's not like you have anything to worry about," Aaron pointed out. "Just look who your dad is."

"So? Just because he's gay and everyone knows about it doesn't mean that's what I want, Aaron. It's bad enough that people keep finding out."

"That's sort of stupid," Aaron remarked, and I flashed him an annoyed, and probably challenging look. "Well it is," he responded. "You have no idea how lucky you are. You live with people who don't care who you're attracted to. Take it from someone who doesn't have that: it's a good thing."

"It doesn't mean I want..." I started, but he suddenly cut me off, looking annoyed.

"Maybe I'm out, but my parents are clueless. They'd shit if they ever even suspected. You have no idea how much that sucks. It's fucked that you can't even appreciate what you have."

I vaguely remembered Aaron mentioning something like this before, and I suddenly felt guilty. I guess I really was lucky; at least, according to Aaron, luckier than him.

"Look Aaron, I didn't mean..."

"You said you're only staying for the summer, right? So why not give yourself the chance to be you here. Not everyone has that, and if you'd get your head out of your ass every once in a while, you'd probably figure out that you like not hiding."

I opened my mouth to make a hasty retort, but found that what he said made sense, and to be honest, I really didn't want to fight with him anymore.

"Okay," I replied calmly, and he raised an eyebrow at that.


"I'll think about it," I replied, shrugging. "But I still don't want Meg to know."

"Fair enough," he said, a hint of a smile on his mouth before he faced forward and I did the same, both of us drifting into a long silence, until he finally spoke up again. "I'm sorry about earlier."

"Forget it."

"It kind of freaked me out, you knowing about me and Luke..."

I looked at him again, feeling curious.

"Why? It's no worse than me finding out about... you know, the car thing," I said hesitantly.

"Yes it is," he replied, smiling. "Because if you haven't noticed, I kind of like you. And if I was the one who talked to Luke about me, not even I would want to go out with me--and I know how hot I am."

I couldn't help laughing at that, true or not.


"Because I know I was a jerk," he replied. "He deserved better. He knows it now, too," Aaron added thoughtfully, and I found myself studying him. It was possible that he wasn't that person anymore. I wanted to believe that, at least. "Anyway, sorry I kind of freaked out on you for a while today. It was stupid. I'm sort of glad you're still talking to me."

"Hmm... it's probably because you're the only one here," I remarked.

Aaron just smiled at that, and we both faced forward again, another silence coming over us. But, this time, it seemed comfortable, I think. Even when he leaned into me, our arms sticking together with a light layer of sweat. Maybe that's why, when I felt his hand slide over mine I turned it upwards, swallowing down a sudden rush of nerves as he locked his fingers with mine.

"Do friends hold hands?" I found myself asking quietly. I wasn't even sure that he'd heard me.

He did, though.

"I don't want to be your friend, Rory."

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