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 Nineteen: Very, Very Bad

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.

I couldn't get in the pool. Not when I could risk running into Eddie, and not after he'd pointed out that hickey. But, that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to sink right to the bottom, where it was safe, with all that water over me. I wanted to take back everything from the moment I'd met Aaron, and then I wanted to randomly meet him on the street and kick his ass for no reason. It hurt. It hurt worse than I wanted to admit; that I'd trusted him and it had gotten me here. It seemed so stupid now, that I'd actually believed that he liked me. That he even cared about me. Every smile he'd ever flashed me, every kiss, everything seemed empty. And wrong. And I was stupid. My stupidity had gotten me here. I hated that, because I didn't know if I should be more pissed off at him, or me.

Probably me. Aaron was just an asshole. I was an idiot, and that was worse. It was worse because despite all the warnings, I'd let myself get fooled. I was the one who didn't listen to the only friend I had there. I was the idiot who'd been stupid enough to think that Aaron was something special, just because he was my first kiss. He was my first for a lot of things. Regrettably.

I couldn't get in the pool, so I settled for getting under my blankets. I kicked off my shoes, I crawled into bed, I pulled every cover I could over me, and I tried to catch my breath. That's what I needed to do. I needed to breathe, because it felt like I'd been holding my breath ever since I'd walked out of the house earlier that night, and I needed air. Granted, it would have been easier without all of those covers over my head, but more than needing air, I needed calm. I needed to just stop. Stop everything, especially thinking. I didn't want to think anymore, because I couldn't think. Everything was a mess. Everything in my head felt like a bigger mess. I kept wondering how I was going to face Aaron. I never wanted to see him again, not after the way he treated me tonight, and not after what he said to me. But, I kept wondering if I would--or when I would. I wasn't sure how to face him after tonight. I didn't know how to face a few people after tonight. Luke was one of them, and with Luke, the trouble wasn't going to be in admitting I was wrong. The trouble was--that I'd been wrong.

"It's a hickey!" This, was Eddie's voice coming from outside of my room, getting my attention. I shoved the covers off my head and sat up to stare at the door.

"Yeah. You keep saying that," Jase's voice responded, and I had to bite my own tongue to keep from groaning out loud.

This is not what I needed right now.

"It's on his neck!" Eddie said, in a voice that I'm sure he thought was hushed.

"A good place for a hickey," Jase replied calmly. There was a silence that followed, and if I wasn't so mortified, I might have laughed at the look I imagined Eddie giving Jase.

"Jase, this isn't funny."

"It really is," I heard Jase say. "Do you realize you reacted the exact same way the first time Luke came home with a hickey?"

I pushed the blankets the rest of the way off, and found myself silently moving closer to the door. I wondered if Aaron was responsible for Luke's hickey, too. I frowned.

"Well..." Eddie started.

"It didn't go so well with Luke because you barged in trying to scare him half to death," Jase reminded Eddie.

"He was thirteen! He should have been scared."

"And, instead he ended up giving you the sex talk."

"I told you we shouldn't have let him on the internet," Eddie said in response.

"Eddie, Rory's three years older than Luke was. Look, just calm down, okay? You can't go in there and talk to him if you're not calm."

"But you didn't see the kid he was with," I heard Eddie say. "He was shady."

Well, at least I could give him that. Only, if Eddie thought Seth was responsible for the hickey that I'd been too terrified to look at as of yet, then he was mistaken. Of course, matters would probably be a lot worse if he knew where I really got it.

"Shady? Eddie, you don't even know anything about the kid. Rory might tell you about him, though... if you approach the subject reasonably."

"Reasonably, Jase? How am I supposed to do that? Who knows what else they've been doing--I can't handle this."

"Yes you can," Jase insisted. "Just... go in there, ask him how his night was... and talk."

"Talk," Eddie scoffed. "What am I supposed to do, give him the talk? His mom probably already did that."

"The other talk," Jase replied calmly.

What other talk? I didn't like the sound of this.

"What if he just gets mad?"

"Come on, Eddie," Jase insisted. "He won't get mad; maybe he has questions--questions his mom couldn't answer."

Oh god. Gay sex. They were talking about gay sex! I felt my cheeks heating at the very thought of trying to talk to Eddie about something like that.

"Jase, I don't know..." he replied. Go with it, Eddie. You don't know. Walk away. "He's too young to be doing this kind of stuff, anyway. Can't I just tell him not to?"

Wait. Too young? Who the hell was he to tell me that I was too young?

"Why don't you just explain why he shouldn't?" Jase suggested. "Eddie, I hate to break this to you, but you're the father of a teenager. You can't just lock them up and tell them they can't do something. Give him the facts, and trust him to make the right choices. Do you want me to get you the books?"

"I don't need a book," Eddie responded grudgingly. "I'll just... talk to him."

"You know where to find me if you need me," Jase replied.

There was another long silence on the other side of the door, and I waited. My door was locked, so I knew that Eddie wasn't just going to walk in, not that he tried to. By the time he finally did knock, I was ready for him. I opened the door, seeing that he was now alone in the hall. Nervous and alone.

"So," I said, before he had a chance to say anything at all. "You got my mom pregnant when you were only, what? Sixteen, right?"

Eddie opened his mouth. Then he closed it again. Now, instead of looking nervous, he looked more embarrassed. My job here was done. True, maybe it was a little cruel, but I just couldn't have this conversation with him right now. Especially with Luke appearing in the hall behind him.

"Um... so I'll get one of Jase's books for you to read then," Eddie said, and then abruptly turned. "Hey Luke," he said, pausing momentarily before continuing on his way--quickly--down the hall.

"What's with him?" Luke asked, glancing over his shoulder as he neared me.

"You don't want to know," I replied, suddenly feeling some nervousness and embarrassment of my own, especially when Luke looked at me and his eyes drifted directly to my neck. He frowned, and I started to worry about the extent of the hickey on my neck. But, Luke never commented on it as he met my eyes again.


"Hey," I replied. "What are you doing home? I thought you weren't going to be back until later."

"I dropped Dave off after you called. I wanted to make sure everything was okay."

That wasn't what I wanted to hear. I frowned, and found myself retreating back into my room, but Luke was right on my heels, even as I turned my back to him. I was really afraid of this conversation.


"Yeah?" I replied, turning back to face him as I took a seat on my bed.

"So what did he do?"

I looked at Luke, wondering how he did that. Of course, his past experience with Aaron likely told him that something happened, and Aaron was at fault.

"It doesn't matter," I insisted. "You were right. You can say I told you so, and I'm not going to see Aaron again. It's over, okay?"

"What did he do?" Luke asked again, this time sounding a little irritated as he took a seat next to me. Only, I didn't get the feeling that he was irritated with me. Still, I was having a lot of trouble meeting his eyes.

"He just wasn't who I thought he was; listen, it's been a really long night, and..." I paused when I met Luke's eyes. I couldn't just tell him I was fine and send him on his way. "I'm sorry."

"Why are you sorry?" he asked, and the fact that he looked genuinely confused only made me feel worse. Luke really was a great person. Sometimes, I thought, too great.

"For not listening to you," I replied. I thought it would have been obvious. "Luke, everything you ever told me about him, was true. I was just... fucked up. I'm sorry I didn't listen to you."

"Rory, what did he do?" Luke asked again, this time looking not only curious, but determined.

I let out a breath and leaned back on my bed, staring at the ceiling as I thought over everything that had happened since I'd met Aaron... and everything Luke had told me about him.

"You know what else was really fucked up?" I said, as Luke sat next to me and watched curiously. "It's not just that I didn't listen to you when you warned me about him. I should have stayed away from him after you told me what he did to you. I mean, it shouldn't have mattered that I wanted to believe he was different now, right? If I was any kind of friend to you..."

"You are my friend, Rory," he cut me off. "I mean, yeah, I kind of hate it that you like Aaron, but for all I know, he could have changed, and maybe you saw it..."

"He didn't change," I replied, and he frowned.

"Okay, seriously, what did he do to you?" Luke wanted to know as he took my arm and pulled me back into a sitting position, as if he meant business, and I suddenly remembered his threat to kick Aaron's ass. Maybe I wouldn't have minded seeing something like that at the moment, but the last thing I wanted was for Luke to get involved in this. His past was full of enough Aaron bullshit.

"Nothing," I replied, and when he issued me a challenging look, I sighed. "Look, he said we were going to a party, okay? It's my fault for not asking what was going to go on there."


"He was drunk. Really fucking drunk, and things just went bad."

Luke narrowed his eyes at this, and he seemed far from satisfied.

"I've seen Aaron drunk, Rory. Did he give you a hard time about something?"

"I just wanted to leave, and he wouldn't," I said, deciding that Luke didn't need to know what happened in between all that. "I mean, he said some things I didn't like, and I got a ride home with someone else. No big deal."

"It is a big deal," Luke responded, sounding annoyed again. "For him to even put you in that position..."

"Luke, please; it's over, okay? Just..."

"Fine," he replied, not sounding happy about it at all. "But it's not cool, Rory. He fucked up, and you shouldn't feel bad..."

"I'm done with him, Luke. I swear. I just... wanna forget about it. And I am really sorry."

I ran a hand over my face, wishing that I could just make the whole situation go away.

"Stop apologizing to me, alright?" Luke suddenly said, moving an arm around my shoulders and pulling me towards him. I had no objection with leaning against him. In fact, I was more than appreciative for the comfort. I was feeling like shit, and after Aaron, I wanted all the comfort I could get, whether or not I deserved it. "We're okay, really--are you?"

I let out a breath, ready to tell him that I was fine again, but stopped myself at the last moment.

"It kinda sucks, Luke," I admitted, and he pulled me in a little tighter for a moment.

"Hey, if it's worth anything, I really am sorry he wasn't different with you."

I let a small smile move over my mouth for only a moment, even if Luke couldn't see it with my head on his shoulder. I was sorry about that, too. I was just having trouble saying it out loud. It was like remembering how bad it hurt, and right now, I wanted to block out the hurt factor. I was already feeling shaky, and just wanted it to stop.

"Hey Luke? I'm kind of ready to crash..." I said and he let his arm drop from me and just smiled.

"You're sure?"

"Believe me. I'm tired."

Luke seemed a little reluctant to leave, and went as far as asking if I wanted him to sleep on my floor again. I might have taken him up on that, if I wasn't so afraid of completely losing it overnight. I could still feel those stupid tears that had been there when I realized what an asshole Aaron was, and I had no intention of letting Luke see them if I couldn't hold them back. Besides, in some ways, I just wanted to be alone. I felt like I had a lot of thinking to do, and I was afraid that if Luke stayed, I might just do that thinking out loud. Unfortunately, after he left, I was far from alone.

When Jase showed up in my room with a few books under his arms, I got worried. When he said that since I scared off my `dad' I was stuck with him, I was really worried. I had reason to be. For the next two hours he went through books with me; one that had illustrations of sexually transmitted diseases I didn't want to see again anytime soon. He told me that if I didn't want to see them, I shouldn't get them, and the best way to accomplish that was to keep my dick to myself, although, he did word it a bit more subtly. He also went over safe sex, and why I should have it safe if I was going to have it at all. I was way too embarrassed to ask any questions when he asked if I had any, but I'll admit, the conversation was informative. I think he was surprised at the end of it when I thanked him. He even asked why I was thanking him. When I explained that it was much easier coming from him instead of Eddie, he found it interesting, but didn't elaborate, or say it was a bad thing. And I did find it easier to hear coming from him. It was hard enough talking to Eddie about how he and my mother had been together. I didn't want to discuss my potential sex life with him. After Jase left, Eddie came in to say goodnight. He didn't mention my hickey again, and when he left, I finally got to go to sleep. I didn't do as much thinking as I thought I would. I'd be grateful for it in the morning.


It looked horrible. The hickey, that is. It was as purple as the bruise on my face. And big. For such a small, cute mouth, Aaron could leave a pretty large mark. Unfortunately, one that would remind me of him every time I looked in the mirror over the next few days, and if that was going to happen, then I'd have to stop referring to him as cute, I decided. I'd also have to stop looking in the mirror for a while.

I took a long shower Saturday morning. All of the thinking I didn't do the night before was catching up to me, and I spent the first ten minutes of my shower simply staring off into space, thinking about Aaron. I couldn't help thinking about it. It was like I was suddenly remembering random moments with him, from our first kiss to losing my shorts at the swim park, to the way he'd looked at me last night and said those things; and I relived the emotions that went with every event. I wondered if that was normal for a breakup. Honestly, I didn't really care for it. I didn't like thinking about it. It was over, there was no doubt in my mind about that. I just wished that it being over, meant that I was over it.

But, I wasn't over it. Not by a long shot. I wasn't just not over any good feelings I might have had for him, I wasn't over the bad, either. But, why would I be? I reasoned that it had just happened the night before. It was still new. For a moment, though, I wished that I could be as unfeeling and uncaring as Aaron was, just so I could get rid of the knots in my stomach as I spent the rest of the time in the shower scrubbing down from head to toe, spending extra time on my neck. It didn't occur to me until after I was out that I was trying to wash Aaron off.

If it wasn't Saturday, I would have just gone back to bed. But, by the time I felt somewhat clean and got dressed, I realized that Luke's bedroom door was open and he was gone. The smell of food was coming from upstairs, and it was nine o'clock. If I didn't go up, I had a feeling that someone would be down to get me soon enough, anyway, and I went upstairs to join everyone for breakfast.

Jase seemed to be in a good mood. He had made plans to go out to lunch with some people from his office, and kept trying to talk Eddie into going with him. Eddie kept looking at my hickey, making me self-conscious, as he objected to spending lunch at a table full of shrinks. Jase wasn't offended; I think he was actually amused, and happy in the end when Eddie finally smiled at him and agreed. Luke kept smiling at me. Small, reassuring smiles. I must have been sulking. His smiles didn't make it better, they just reminded me that I had something to sulk about. I didn't hint it was bothering me to Luke, though. Instead, I returned them every once in a while and focused on eating my breakfast, something that seemed difficult with no appetite.

And then it happened. The worst reminder in the world.

"When are you guys going?" Eddie asked, looking between Luke and me.

Going where?

"Probably right after we eat," Luke replied, looking at me, as if to confirm this.

Where were we going?

"It's really great of you guys to help Tom out," Eddie said, glancing first at Luke, and then looking at me. "He's had a hard month, with his back out like that."

"Tom?" I asked. Really, I was confused.

"Tom Conner," Eddie replied. "He works in my building." I still didn't get it.

"Angela's dad," Luke said, shoveling more eggs into his mouth; and it all came back to me. Came back to haunt me.

Shit. It was the weekend. I'd been volunteered to go to Angela's house to help her dad out with a project for her mom. Shit again. Seth was going to be there. I was supposed to figure out how to get out of this. Unfortunately, I'd been too fucking sidetracked with Aaron lately, and I'd completely forgotten. I looked at Eddie, wanting to speak up, wanting to say I didn't want to go. Unfortunately, he was smiling at me. He knew Angela's dad. This sucked. I looked at Luke. Maybe I could still get out of this. I could tell him my issues with Seth now.

Only, I wasn't really sure what to say about Seth now. I still didn't like him, I knew that much. But, last night, I'd be lying if I said that he hadn't given me something to think about. I'd had him pegged for a jealous asshole. He was still an asshole, it was the jealous part I wasn't so sure of anymore. Last night he could have easily stayed with Aaron, taken over the situation. But instead he'd driven me home. It didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. He said that he'd been through with Aaron for a while now, but that didn't make sense to me either. It didn't explain a lot of things, like why he'd stayed at the theater that day. Even if he was being honest, and Aaron had invited him, no one in their right mind would have actually stayed in that situation. He did. It just didn't make sense. I started to wonder if he'd lied the night before. Maybe he wasn't through with Aaron at all. Maybe he was just pissed off at him, and wanted him to know it. I guess I shouldn't have cared. But, it was hard not to care when I was going to be forced to see the guy. I didn't want to see him. I didn't want to see anyone or anything that would remind me of Aaron. Too bad I didn't seem to have a choice. When Eddie started to explain how Tom Conner was the one at work who kept everyone smiling, and what a great guy he was, I pretty much figured that any refusal to go would require an explanation. Saying that I didn't like one person who would happen to be there, didn't seem like a good enough reason. Besides, if Eddie asked who the person was and I said it was Seth, he'd probably start asking why I let him give me hickey if I didn't like him. It just seemed like a bad idea to bring any of it up at the breakfast table. I'd have to go.

"Hey, Luke?" I stepped into his room, just as he finished lacing his hightops.

"I know what you're going to say," he informed me, and I raised an eyebrow at that.

"You do?"

"You don't want to go," he said, standing up and moving towards me. This was true. "But trust me, you really want to, you just don't know it."


"Look, Rory, I've been through enough breakups--and most of them were with Aaron--to know that all you want to do right now is stay home and do your best not to feel like shit." Also true. "But, you should get out. And, I think today will be fun. The guys will be there--Dave's gonna be a little crazy--but that can have entertainment value. Plus, it'll get your mind off of things."

"No it won't," I said instantly.


"No, it really won't," I insisted, and then explained, "Seth Fisher."

"Yeah, it sucks he's going to be there," Luke agreed. "But Dave..."

"Not Dave, me," I cut him off again. "Luke, I have a problem with Seth."


I stared out the jeep window as we reached Dave's neighborhood. The last time I was there, I'd almost expected to see Aaron drive by us. This time, I hoped he wouldn't. I hoped he had such a bad hangover that it would prevent him from even leaving him house for a week. Two weeks if I was lucky. And I hoped he was miserable. Really, fucking miserable. Okay, I'll admit it. I was bitter. But, the more I though about the night before, and his remarks about my lack of sexual skills, the more I couldn't help it.

"So, do you think he likes Aaron or not?" Luke asked.

I'd told him everything. At least, everything about Seth; from the first time I'd encountered him when he warned me off Aaron, to the theater, to seeing him at the mall, and then finally, last night. I'd tried to leave out as many aspects of my relationship with Aaron as possible, but I think Luke got the general idea that I was annoyed with this guy for his interest in my boyfriend... or ex. I wasn't really sure what to call Aaron. Either way, I had to admit that it felt good to finally talk about some of it.

"I don't know," I said. "I think he still does. Seth was just... acting weird last night."


"He was being nice to me."

"Okay, under the circumstances, that seems a little strange," Luke reasoned.

"Aaron probably just said something to piss him off last night, so he was getting even," I decided.

"That, I'll believe," Luke replied. " He wouldn't be the first person who Aaron's pissed off after drinking too much. But if Seth still likes him this could be a good thing for Dave."

I frowned at Luke, and he rolled his eyes at me.

"Hey, I don't care if Seth and Aaron get together or not," he said honestly. "They're both jerks anyway, right?"

"I guess..."

"What I'm interested in is that Seth's into guys--maybe more than girls. More than Angela. All I've gotta do is help her figure that out."

Something about the way Luke said that, was sending alarm bells off in my head.

"What do you mean all you have to do?" I asked. "Are you going to talk to her?"

"Nope. Don't need to talk to her," Luke replied as we pulled up in front of Dave's house. "I just have to show her."

I didn't have a chance to ask Luke what he meant by that before Dave climbed into the back seat and leaned back in it as if he'd just been defeated.

"Shoot me now," he remarked.

Luke just smiled back at him.

"Don't worry. It's gonna be a good day."

As we drove to Angela's house, Luke kept smiling at me, as if we were sharing an inside joke. I was clueless.


Tom Conner was a nice man. He was short, and round, but not fat. More like pudgy. He had grey hair, and reminded me of the happy and wise grandpa from most Christmas movies. He was one of those people who was soft-spoken, but knew how to get his point across; completely approachable, and appreciative of just about everything. Especially all of the teenagers that showed up to help him build a patio for his wife. Angela's mom was out getting a massage and some other stuff done that girls did, another gift from her husband on her birthday; and according to Angela, we had three hours to finish before she got home. Tom was confident that with everyone there, time wouldn't be a problem.

Brian and Rick had shown up, and so had Cathy and Meg, but the girls seemed more interested in watching than helping. And then there was Seth. I wasn't sure what to expect from him after last night. I think I liked that he didn't so much as look at me. While Tom introduced himself to everyone. But, I had to look at Seth. Not by choice, either. Apparently, Tom wasn't in charge of this little project at all. Seth was. Apparently, Seth was the one who'd put all that flagstone in his own backyard; and while I admit it didn't look all that bad, I wasn't sure what to think of being involved in any project he was in charge of. Neither did Dave. Dave seemed to roll his eyes at everything Seth said. It didn't matter what it was, Dave would just find something he didn't like about it. Luke continued to smile, only now, I was recognizing that smile for what it really was. Luke had something up his sleeve. I wasn't sure if I wanted to know what that was, but the way he started watching Seth as if he were studying him, was making me very nervous. I think all things involving Seth made me nervous, or angry.

The Seth I was used to was quiet and kept to himself, unless he was being an asshole. As the actual work began, I saw a very different Seth. Seth could also be decisive and he could bark out very clear instructions. There was more to building a patio than I thought, and according to Seth, the first step was to get the ground somewhat level where the patio was going to go. He recruited the girls for this job. All of them. I learned something else about Seth then. He could be charming. I hated that, and from what I could see, so did the rest of the guys as we watched him use a straight, white smile and a dimple on his left cheek as he passed out shovels to Meg, Cathy, and Angela and explained to them what to do. My only consolation was that Brian looked like he wanted to break Seth in half when he made Cathy giggle, whispering something into her ear. He didn't even have to work with Meg, who was batting her lashes at him as she explained she'd never used a shovel before. But, he spent the most time with Angela, much to Dave's chagrin. For a while, Angela and Seth were laughing with each other as if no one else was there. I think Dave was shocked when Seth stopped flirting and handed him a shovel, telling him that he could help with this job, too. Rick insisted that he should have that job when he found out what the rest of us would be doing, but Luke saw the opportunity for Dave to talk to Angela and elbowed Rick firmly in the ribs.

The rest of us, meaning Luke, Brian, Rick and I, got the more tedious job, as Tom explained to us. Maybe Tom wasn't running things, but he had no problem with getting them moving, asking us if we wouldn't mind bringing the supplies left out front on the sidewalk and on the street to the backyard in wheelbarrows. The materials we'd need turned out to be flagstone and what looked like a mixture of red, tiny rocks and sand. It was called breeze, according to Seth, who unfortunately joined us just as Rick and I finished filling the first two wheelbarrows for Luke and Brian, and Luke referred to the stuff as sand.

"Can you handle getting this back there?" Seth asked Luke, referring to the second wheelbarrow, as Brian left with his. If I didn't know any better, I'd say Luke was offended by the question, but that could have been because Seth had the nerve to sound skeptical. I sat back and waited for a smart comment to come out of Luke's mouth. But instead, Luke completely surprised me by flashing a smile at Seth that I'm sure would have most girls melting--because it nearly had me melting--as he stepped up to the wheelbarrow and paused for a moment, still looking at Seth.

"No problem," Luke replied. "Just a sec."

I watched, and then watched as Seth watched Luke lift his shirt over his head. But, it wasn't just Luke taking off his shirt. I'd seen that plenty of times. It was Luke, making a show of taking off his shirt--for Seth. He moved slowly, and very deliberately, stretching out as he pulled it over his head, and when it was off, that same devastating smile was aimed at Seth again, who suddenly seemed very quiet. I think he was even blushing under his normal hat. When Luke licked his lips and Seth swallowed, it was all I could do to keep from laughing, suddenly understanding why Luke was in such a chipper mood.

"It's hot out here, don't you think?" Luke remarked, but before he could get a response from Seth he lifted the wheelbarrow and began pushing it up the driveway, making sure that all his muscles flexed appropriately while he was at it. Seth watched him, but only for a few moments before his eyes left Luke and seemed more focused on the ground than at Rick or me. I rolled my eyes, feeling amused by all of this, and had the pleasure of sharing a look with Rick, who seemed to be having a difficult time controlling an amused smile.

"You guys can help me with the flagstone," Seth said cooly, and a moment later, we were doing just that.

Flagstone was heavy, especially some of the larger pieces, which took all of us to carry. I was sweating by the time we picked up a second load, and Rick already looked miserable, but began chatting my ear off about his party, which would be tomorrow night. I didn't mind this, because it helped me ignore Seth.

In the backyard, the girls were following instruction well enough, and Tom had joined in. He was on his knees installing the border that the patio would go in. His job looked easy enough, but every once in a while I heard Angela insisting for him to take it easy. As we worked, Rick, Seth and I were constantly passing Luke and Brian with their wheelbarrows. Every time Luke passed us, he would aim more smiles in Seth's direction. First, they were small, subtle smiles, but then he got worse, flashing his teeth and lowering his lashes in more obvious ways. It was when Luke actually winked at Seth that Rick and I both shot him dirty looks, mostly because we were carrying a rather large piece of stone and Seth nearly lost his balance and dropped it on us. By the time everything was in the backyard where it needed to be, and so were we, Luke had Seth looking like a nervous wreck, nearly jumping every time my blond friend passed.

When the ground was level, the border was intact, and the breeze was spread, Tom left us to finish up, needing to get out of the sun. I noticed that without him around, Angela was the only one who seemed eager to take more orders from Seth when he told us to start laying out the flagstone in a way that the pieces fit together without looking uniform. That is, Angela was the only one who seemed eager if you didn't count Luke, who started laying it on even thicker with Seth now that Tom wasn't there.

At first it started with Luke asking Seth to help him with every piece of flagstone he picked up. Seth tried to just tell him where to put it, but Luke purposely played dumb until Seth would leave Angela, who he'd been helping, to help Luke. Luke was crowding his space in no time. But, Seth was all business. Luke didn't seem happy about this at all, and the next thing I knew, he was touching Seth's arm, or shoulder, or making sure their hands brushed together whenever he could. I could see Seth getting nervous, but he still didn't react to Luke, and if Angela noticed anything was going on, it didn't show as she joined me, Dave and Rick in passing pieces of flagstone to Brian and Cathy, who both seemed to be laying them out like a pros.

At this point I was distracted by Meg, who'd ambushed me, asking if I had a date for Rick's party. Dave saw this, and knowing my idea of what a date should be, started rolling his eyes. But, he hadn't exactly heard what had happened between Aaron and me yet. I did my best to convince Meg that I wasn't interested in a date, but it was Cathy who figured out that I was in distress after Meg started asking about my hickey, and she pointed out to Meg that the birthday boy was the one who should have a date; so Meg redirected her attention to Rick, who decided he wanted to take a break in the shade and asked her to come with him.

It was the sudden, deep laughter that pulled me away from all of this and redirected my attention to Luke and Seth, and I was surprised to find that Seth was laughing. Actually, I was suddenly surprised by a lot of things, and reevaluating how amusing I thought Luke's attempt at seducing Seth really was. The way that their heads were now close together as they moved various pieces of stone while they chatted, and the way that Luke was smiling at what Seth was saying, was not amusing at all, I decided. Neither was the way that Seth touched Luke's arm after Luke said something funny. When the hell did that happen? I guess it must have started when Angela disappeared, because suddenly, she wasn't there anymore, and Seth seemed to be flirting with Luke as much as Luke was flirting with Seth.

"Okay," Dave spoke up, looking over at the pair. Obviously, I was not the only one who'd noticed what was going on. "Does someone want to explain to me what the hell he's doing?" I could only assume he was speaking about his so-called best friend, who looked very much like he was doing his best to get into the enemy's pants.

"The same thing he's been doing all day," Brian replied. "Isn't it obvious?"

"No," Dave responded, definitely annoyed. "Because if Luke's into that guy he'd know I'd have to kill him."

"He's trying to give you an opening with Angela, dumbass," Brian replied. "She's not really going to be interested in Seth if he's into other guys. Go talk to her Dave, she went to get drinks."

Cathy actually gasped.

"Luke's doing what? That is so wrong. Seth isn't that bad."

"What do you mean?" Brian asked her accusingly.

"Actually, he's an asshole," I commented, before I could stop myself, and went back to staring at Luke and Seth. I didn't like this at all. Maybe that was because Luke was beginning to look like he was enjoying himself, and I got the feeling that this wasn't exactly a game anymore. I didn't like that. I hated that.

I was suddenly feeling sick to the stomach, wondering what Luke was doing. If he was trying to get Seth to flirt with him in front of Angela, it wasn't working, since Angela wasn't even there. Angela wasn't there. I'd bet anything that Seth had waited for Angela to leave before he started showing his interest in Luke's attention. That just proved he was an asshole. A smart asshole, but still an asshole. What was worse, was that Luke seemed to be falling for something. This was a disaster. After what I'd just been through with Aaron--who I was refusing to even think about--this new development between Luke and Seth hit me in a way I didn't expect. I wasn't only annoyed about it, I was pissed off. In fact, I was more upset over Seth flirting with Luke than I'd been over him trying to get Aaron back, right under my nose. This guy had to go.

"Will you just go talk to her?" Brian was saying to Dave. "Ask her if she'll still be at Rick's party." Dave seemed to consider this for a minute.

I watched as Luke leaned even closer to Seth as Seth explained something about the larger piece of flagstone they were working with and almost gagged. What could be so interesting about a rock?

"I can't," Dave finally said, sighing.

I passed one more piece of flagstone to Brian and finally stepped back, my eyes still on Luke and Seth. I'd had enough.

"I will," I said, and abruptly headed towards the house, not bothering to explain myself to Dave, Cathy, or Brian, who'd all looked at me strangely. I just needed to stop looking at the train wreck for a few minutes.

I hadn't really expected to talk to Angela, but when I reached the back door of her house, it was open, and I was looking into a kitchen where she was in front of a table with eight glasses of ice and lemonade and working on putting together a tall plate of sandwiches. She saw me and smiled before I could walk away.

"Hey, Rory."

"Need some help?" I asked, trying to be polite.

"Sure," she replied. "I was starting to wonder how to take all this outside--or maybe everyone should come in," she pondered as I entered her house. "It's hot today."

"It's not that bad," I replied, even as I wiped the sweat off my brow. Angela just smiled at me.

"They can come in," she decided. "That way we don't have to carry it."


"Hey; thanks for coming to help. My mom's going to love it."

"No problem," I lied as she passed me a block of cheese and a knife. I figured out on my own what to do with it, and started slicing as Angela continued placing ham on slices of bread and we fell into a short silence.

"So, do you think Luke really likes Seth?" she suddenly asked, and I came way too close to cutting myself with the knife. This, I hadn't expected.

"What?" I asked nervously, wondering if Angela was onto Luke's game.

"Because that would be cool," she continued. "I think Seth's kinda crushing on him. I mean, they're getting along."

"What?" I said again. It seemed appropriate. "Isn't Seth... aren't you and Seth, I mean...you seriously don't care that your boyfriend's into Luke?" I asked incredulously.

Angela stopped what she was doing and gave me a funny look--and then burst out laughing.

"Seth's not my boyfriend."

"He's not?"

"No," she replied, still laughing. "I mean, don't get me wrong; if he was my type, I'd be all over him. I just like to stick to guys who like girls." I was still giving her a disbelieving look when she rolled her eyes at me. "Come on, Rory. You of all people know Seth's gay."

Something about the way she said that had me thinking that Angela knew more about me than I would have given her credit for, but it was only a number of things thoroughly confusing me at the moment.

"You're not with Seth?"

"No," she said seriously. "He's just a friend. I take ballet at the same place his little sister does. We only started talking a few months ago, and he was as gay then as he is now."

"But Aaron said..."

"Yeah, he told me what Aaron was like last night. That really sucks, Rory."

Okay, she did know a thing or two. And Seth had told her. I suddenly had all sorts of questions for this girl. I just didn't know where to begin. Unfortunately, I never got the chance as Meg suddenly walked into the house.

"Okay, Angela," she said. "I need water."

"Lemonade?" Angela offered her, and Meg moved forward to down the glass. "Hey, Meg, can you help Rory with these?" she asked. "I'm gonna get everyone to take a break."


"He's gay." I'd caught Luke alone before he got into the house, and these were the first words out of my mouth.

"Yeah, I'm starting to think that, too," Luke responded, looking very satisfied with himself.

"No, he's gay, Luke," I tried again. "He's not going out with Angela. He never was."

This, seemed to get Luke's attention.

"You're serious?"

"Yeah, I just talked to Angela."

"Nice," Luke said, grinning as he patted me on the shoulder and continued on his way into the house.

"Where are you going?" I called after him. He hadn't told me that he was finished flirting with Seth now that he knew what was really going on. I needed to hear that he was through flirting with Seth now.

"I'm gonna go make Dave's day," he responded, as if it were obvious.

And indeed, Luke did make Dave's day. I wasn't there for it, but Dave started smiling pretty quickly through lunch, even if he was nowhere near Angela. I did my best to stay away from everyone, especially after Luke joined Seth and Angela at their corner of the table and joined in their conversation. This was not good. Luke was not supposed to be smiling around Seth. Not at all.

Halfway through lunch, I found myself back outside, sitting under the same tree that Rick and Meg had been under. I didn't care that it was hot and there was hardly any shade. I was too busy experiencing an early heart attack to care, as I wondered if Luke liked Seth. He couldn't like Seth. I forbid it! It just wasn't possible.

I nearly slapped myself because of my own thoughts. If Luke liked Seth, there was nothing I could do about it, especially after he was so good about Aaron and me. I found myself wondering if this was how he felt, when he saw Aaron and me together. I imagined it was close, and found myself feeling even worse about the whole situation. I had no right to be upset about this.

Only, I was upset, for various reasons. Seeing Seth and Luke together had me feeling sick to the stomach for reasons I couldn't explain. But, what I could explain was why I thought the idea of the two of them together was a bad one. First, I didn't trust Seth. The fact that he wasn't going out with Angela didn't change anything, except that Aaron had lied to me about it. And even then, maybe Aaron didn't lie about that. Maybe Seth had told him he was with Angela to make Aaron jealous. It's something I could believe. It seemed like something Seth would do, especially after everything he'd done with Aaron and me. If he was interested in Luke, there was no way he could have good intentions. I quickly developed the theory that Seth saw an opportunity with Luke and intended to take it. After all, going out with Luke would probably be the perfect way to get Aaron's attention. I just wished that I knew how to tell Luke all of this without coming off as an asshole. I was so busy thinking about all of this, that I hardly noticed the shadow that had fallen over me.

"Have you talked to Aaron?"

I looked up, instantly glaring at Seth.

"Why don't you go ask Aaron?" I responded coldly. Seth frowned at that.

"Because you're here and he's not."

"In that case, it's none of your business."

Seth stood over me for a few moments, silent as I continued to glare at him.

"I told you, I'm done with Aaron; I was just wondering if you are."

"If you're done with him, then why do you care?" I retorted.

"You really hate me, don't you?"

"Gee, where'd you ever get that idea?" I responded as sarcastically as possible, and Seth shook his head, but didn't respond as everyone started to come back out. Instead, he walked away, going back to work, and to my horror, he and Luke seemed to pick up another conversation easily, and Luke didn't stop with the flirting. I was gonna be sick.