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 Twenty-four: In Company

A/N: Thanks To Jim for editing!

All day long, I'd been planning to meet Eddie when he got off work. I'd been thinking of it as a way to get out of the house. Only, I hadn't been home all day, and it wasn't like I didn't have company. I didn't need to meet Eddie the way I thought I did anymore. But, somewhere along the line, I began to realize that while I didn't need to meet him, I sort of wanted to. In fact, I'd been looking forward to it. That surprised even me. It also surprised Eddie, I think. He was in a particularly good mood when he picked me up at Brian's. He only stuck around a minute to say `Hi' to Luke before we were leaving.

"You know, if you want to make it a short lesson I could drop you off back over there when we're finished," Eddie offered.

"Do you have other plans or something?" I asked.

"No," he said quickly. "I just thought you might want to spend some time with your friends, that's all."

"Well, we made plans, right? I can do that another time."

"Yeah," Eddie agreed, and smiled. "We made plans."

We'd learned a thing or two since the last time Eddie had attempted a driving lesson. This time, I didn't even touch the steering wheel until we were so far back on the road we lived on that I couldn't even see any houses. Driving seemed a lot easier when I was only afraid of hitting cactuses. Once I was in the driver's seat, Eddie would instruct me to turn down a back road every once in a while, pretending that a plant here or there was a stop sign, and every time I forgot my turn signal it resulted in some good-natured bickering. It was probably a half-hour later when we ended up in an actual neighborhood with paved roads. There wasn't much traffic, and I actually got to stop at a few real stop signs, and I got to go through a real stop light. We ended up at an empty elementary school to practice parking. I wasn't very good at it. The lines seemed way too close together, and unless I made a really wide turn I couldn't get between them. Even then, I didn't end up between the lines I was aiming for. At least Eddie was patient. He even looked disappointed when his stomach started growling and we decided it was time to go home for dinner. But, that was okay, because Jase called within the same minute, furious because Chey had eaten his chicken when he went to switch out a load of laundry. Eddie told him that we'd pick something up, and I turned the driver's seat back over to him.

"Okay," Eddie said, as we left the nearest drive-thru where we could pick up fried chicken. "We need to talk about your grandma, Rory."

That came out of nowhere.

"Well, if we're done having a nice time..."

"I'm serious," Eddie said, offering me a small smile. "I got a phone call from her today."

"Oh. She's okay, right?"

"She's Alice," Eddie remarked. "And she's just fine--except she wants you to call her."

"Oh. Why didn't she just call me?"

"Maybe because she thinks you won't talk to her," Eddie suggested.

"I will if she apologizes," I said. "And, she has to tell me why she lied."

Eddie sighed at that.

"Rory, I agree she needs to apologize, and I'd like to know why your grandma did what she did as bad as you do; but, I've got to tell you, I don't think she's going to talk. I tried. She just wants to move on from the whole thing and maybe..."

"Please don't say she's right," I cut him off. "Eddie, I have to know why she did it. And plus, she can't even admit she was wrong. She can call me when she can."

Eddie was silent for a few moments before he spoke again.

"I'm not sure she's going to do that, Rory. Your grandmother can be... stubborn. I think you need to make the first move."

"Well, I think she needs to," I argued.

"Okay," Eddie replied after another moment of silence. "I can understand that. But, how do you expect to go back to her in a month if you're not even speaking to her?"

Now I was the one who was pausing. That happened to be a very good question. I just wished that I didn't get so uncomfortable every time Eddie brought up my going home.

"We'll work it out before then," I insisted.

"Because, you know, you don't have to go back if you're not ready to, Rory. If you wanted to stay longer, it would be no problem to get you enrolled in school; and later on, if you decided that you wanted to go back... You don't have to rush into any decisions. Actually, I think maybe you should..."

"Eddie," I cut him off. I really wasn't interested in the discussion.

"Promise me you'll think about it, and that we can sit down and actually talk about it before you do leave, and I'll drop it--for now," Eddie offered.

I considered it.

"I promise," I decided, feeling a little relieved to be rid of the topic.

"Okay, but I still think you should call your grandma," Eddie insisted, and I groaned and rolled my eyes. "Rory, wouldn't it be easier to just forgive her now, and let her come around in her own time? I know she was wrong, and she owes you an apology, but she was your mom's family, and you know she loves you."

"Yeah, but she still lied to me, and she won't even tell me why."

"I know, but there's the chance she will when she's ready to. All I'm saying, is that you should give her a chance. If you don't, you may never find out what you want to know. You should try to call her, Rory. Believe me, it could be worse."

"Right," I remarked irritably. My grandmother just wasn't my favorite person lately. I didn't see that changing until I either got an explanation, or she admitted to being wrong for what she did and apologized.

"Hey, you haven't met your other grandmother yet," Eddie remarked. "Believe me, Alice might have her flaws, but she's an angel compared to my mother."

The sudden mention of Eddie's mother had me looking over at him curiously. Other than mentions of how he worried over what his parents thought of him, Eddie hadn't really mentioned his family, except for back when I first arrived and he mentioned that he'd love to tell me about them sometime. Now, I wondered if love was too strong a word.

"Because she doesn't like that you're gay?" I asked.

"There's that... and then some," Eddie replied quietly. He was silent for a few long moments, until he realized that I was looking at him expectantly. He shrugged to himself, and then continued. "My mom is a very hard woman to please," he explained. "I'm the youngest of three, but my dad wasn't my real father. That was the first strike against me as far as any of them were concerned."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"My mom had an affair," Eddie explained. "I never knew who my real dad was, either, Rory. Because of that, my mom always wanted my father--her husband--to approve of me. He happens to be a minister, and it never really worked out that way. Don't get me wrong, he treated me just like my brother and my sister growing up, but my mom was just harder on me. She was always trying to point out things that I had in common with him, but as I grew up, that became harder to do. She started pointing out what she saw as my flaws instead, and I never really had a great relationship with my dad. My sister wasn't too bad. She just blamed it on me every time my parents fought, and I got along with my brother up until I told them all I was gay and living with another man."

"Oh--so do you talk to them now?"

"Sometimes," Eddie admitted. "My brother lives about two hours away; he sends me a Christmas card every year, but he won't introduce me to my nieces. My mom calls every six months like clockwork. At Christmas, and on June, for my birthday. She and my father live about fifteen minutes away from my brother. I get an invitation to Christmas every once in a while, but I never go. Jase is my family, and unless they're going to accept that, then I don't need to accept their invitations."

"So I guess they don't know about me, huh?"

"Actually, yes, they do. I called to tell them when I first found out about you."

"I don't have to meet them, do I?" I asked worriedly, and Eddie laughed.

"Not unless you want to."

"Do they want to meet me?" I asked curiously.

"My mother asked if I'd send her a picture. I haven't done it yet. Would you mind?"

I had to think about that for a moment.

"I guess not. What about your sister? Where's she?"

"I'm not sure," Eddie replied. "I haven't heard from her since she was about eighteen. She got into drugs for a while, my parents kicked her out; she writes them every now and then, but I don't think they see her. The last I heard she was sober and living in Texas."


"Look, Rory; my family doesn't like who I am. They've chosen not to accept a few things about me, and because of that, we don't talk. I know your grandma. Maybe she made some mistakes, but she does love you, and you know she'll always be there for you, even if she isn't being entirely forthcoming. Just... think about letting her off the hook a little for now, okay?"

"I'll think about it," I agreed, sighing. "But, I'm not calling tonight... and I still want an apology."

"Fair enough."

I looked out my window for a moment, and then back at Eddie.

"So, am I going to work with you tomorrow?" I asked.

"I only have to be in court in the morning," he replied, shrugging. "Then, I have meetings for most of the day. Do you want to come?"

"Are you going to take time off for lunch?"

"I should be able to."

"Okay, then."

Eddie regarded me curiously for a moment, and then smiled.

"I'll wake you up in the morning."


On Thursday I went to work with Eddie again. At lunch, he found a mostly empty parking lot and continued my parking lessons before we ate. I almost parked correctly once, and Eddie said he was proud of me. The rest of the day generally sucked, until work was over and we went home. That afternoon before we had a late dinner, I ended up back at the park with Eddie and Luke for more baseball. Only, this time Jase came, too, and when Eddie was pitching, he made everyone wear a face mask. It was actually all a stress-free, nice time. That was probably because I was in a good mood. I'd noticed that I was thinking about Aaron less, even after seeing him on Wednesday. Maybe that was because I was no longer worried about how I'd react if I did see him. I already knew, and I wasn't disappointed in myself, either. I was disappointed in Aaron.

"If you were stupid enough to stick with him like I was, that would be a feeling you'd get used to," Luke said on Thursday night when I voiced this to him. We were lying out on the warm concrete, waiting to dry off after a late night swim.

"Why did you?" I asked quietly. "I mean, it doesn't make sense."

"Why not?"

"Because you're supposed to be smarter than me."

"True," Luke responded smartly. "But, when I was with Aaron... I didn't have me telling me to be careful, and Eddie and Jase didn't know the difference at that point. They thought Aaron was a nice kid who got into a little trouble sometimes. Dave was the only one who ever liked to tell me Aaron was an asshole. Aaron introduced me to Dave, you know. I think that's the one thing I've never hated him for."

"I don't even know if I hate him," I admitted. "It's like, before yesterday, I think I actually wanted to see him just because I wanted some answers, you know? But then when I saw him, it didn't matter because I knew he wasn't going to give me any honest answers, anyway."

"Sometimes I think he doesn't know how to be honest," Luke said after a moment of thought.

"What do you mean?"

Luke shrugged.

"I don't know. I've never really been able to figure out Aaron. He makes you feel like you're the most important thing in the world to him one minute, and the next, it's like he doesn't know you're there. When I was with him, I always thought he cared, but didn't know how to show it. But sometimes, like, when I caught him lying to me, sometimes it was like he believed the lie to the point that he couldn't tell me the truth. Does that make any sense? It was like... he'd convince himself that everything he said was true. It's what makes him a good liar, I think."

"I don't care why he lies," I said honestly. "I just want to beat the shit out of him for it." Luke turned his head, studied my serene expression for a moment, and then burst out laughing until I joined him for no reason whatsoever. "I couldn't do that, though," I added more seriously, when we slowly sobered. "The way he treats people--he'd deserve it. But I couldn't do it."

"Give it some time," Luke said thoughtfully, and then smiled at me. "You know what? I don't think anyone needs to beat the shit out of him. Aaron will get his, eventually. Laws of karma and all that crap."

"Yeah? You really think so?" I asked with interest.

"Oh yeah," Luke insisted, and then after another moment, he asked, "Feel better?"


"You will," he insisted, standing up, and I followed. "You wanna go for another swim?"

"We just dried off," I pointed out.

"So?" Luke responded, right before he gave me a shove backwards and I fell directly into the deep end.

"You're a bastard," I remarked when I surfaced, to find him standing over me, just before he jumped over my head and into the water. "Don't you have to work tomorrow?" I asked him when he surfaced.

"Yup, but I don't care. I feel wired."

"I'm getting tired," I admitted, but then smiled. "But I could swim for a while."

"You could always swim." Luke grinned at me, splashing a little as I turned onto by back and drifted away from him. "Are you going to work with Eddie again?"

"I think so. He didn't mention anything, but I hope so. I don't really feel like hanging out here all alone."

"Because of Aaron?"

"He's part of it," I admitted. "But I really don't think he's coming back."

"Did you tell Eddie?"

"No," I admitted. "I don't think it matters, though."

"Probably," Luke agreed.

"I just want something to do tomorrow, you know? At least when I go with Eddie there's people to talk to."

"What about Seth?"

"What about him?" I asked innocently. I'd been trying to avoid that name ever since Wednesday.

"It sounded to me like he wouldn't mind keeping you company," Luke replied, smirking.

"I can't just start hanging out with Seth," I insisted. "It's too weird, plus, he..."

"He likes you?"

"He's Seth," I finished irritably.

"And he likes you," he said seriously.

I splashed at Luke, but there wasn't anything playful about it.

"Can you please stop saying that?"


On Friday morning, I was up bright and early, dressed in some of my less-faded jeans and a polo shirt, ready to go to work with Eddie. He hadn't mentioned taking me along with him today, and I wanted to make sure I wasn't left behind. I figured that there was no chance of that, since I was awake at five o'clock and upstairs, making breakfast at five thirty, before anyone else was even up. I stuck to what was simple. French toast. Some bacon. Sliced fruit. I was just finishing up and loading dishes into the dishwasher when Jase entered the kitchen first.

"It looks like you're feeling inspired this morning," Jase remarked, smiling at me as he grabbed a piece of bacon. "I didn't think you'd be up so early. You and Luke were up kind of late, weren't you?"

"Yeah, swimming."

"Does that mean Luke needs a wake-up call before I head out?" Jase asked.

"Probably," I said, smiling.

"Thought so," Jase replied, lifting a pile of plates from the cabinet. He handed me one. "Nice job with breakfast."


"Are you working with Eddie today? I thought he was going to be in court again."

"Oh, I didn't know that," I admitted, and Jase gave me a measuring look as he slowly began to fill his plate.

"Did you want to go to work with him?"

"It doesn't really matter," I replied indifferently. For some reason, I found it difficult to be as honest with Jase as I was with Luke about why I wanted to go to work with Eddie. If Eddie and Jase knew the reasons behind it, they'd likely feel sorry for me, or start worrying. That was the last thing I wanted. Plus, I didn't want Eddie taking me to work with him just because he thought he had to.

"Okay," Jase replied as he watched me lift a few slices of French toast onto my plate. "So, I hear your driving lessons are going pretty good."

"Yeah," I replied, smiling again. "But I can't park."

"You know, my car's not that big," Jase said. "Maybe this weekend you and Eddie can take it to practice parking. It might be easier."

"Yeah? Thanks, Jase," I replied, taking my seat at the table, just in time to see Eddie walk in. He didn't see me, though. That would probably explain why the first thing he did was stop in front of Jase--who was on his way to the table--and kiss him directly on the mouth. This, was the first time I'd really witnessed something like that between the two of them, and I had to admit, it was a little embarrassing. It was like I suddenly understood what all my friends had been complaining about when they mentioned their parents getting mushy. The closest I'd ever come to an encounter like this, was in seventh grade when Grandma Alice found herself a boyfriend. My mom had insisted that it was adorable. I could have gone without seeing my grandmother kissing a man fifteen years her junior. She dumped him a week later when she discovered he was also spending time with one of her bingo partners. Things got a little ugly after that.

At least, when Eddie noticed I'd witnessed it, he had the decency to blush a little. Not Alice. She really had no shame. Jase just looked amused as Eddie and I momentarily had trouble looking at each other.

" `Morning, Rory," Eddie managed to get out. "Um... what are you doing up?"

"He made breakfast," Jase pointed out as he sat down across from me. "It's good, too," he added with a smile.

"Thanks, Rory," Eddie said as he went to fix his own plate. "This is really great. I don't have much time this morning."

Jase looked at me curiously, probably wondering if I was going to ask Eddie if I was going with him. I didn't plan on it. Eddie hadn't mentioned it, after all. But, when Jase raised an expectant eyebrow and aimed it in my direction, I reconsidered.

"Are you going alone?" I asked.

Eddie paused where he was standing at the counter, turned around, and looked at me.

"Uh...yeah, I was planning on it," he replied, now regarding me curiously. "If I want to take any time off next week, I've got to stay late tonight, and I have court again. You're welcome to come if you want to, I just don't see you being all that entertained. There's also a chance that we won't be back home before nine tonight." Jase flashed Eddie a look that suggested that this was news to him, and Eddie flashed him an apologetic look before turning his attention to me.

"That's okay, I don't need to go," I decided, and even if I was a little disappointed, I sort of meant it. I didn't need to go, not to sit in Eddie's office bored out of my mind all day, and he probably wouldn't even be around. Being there late didn't sound appealing at all. Besides, if I was there, Eddie might start worrying about how bored I was, and he probably didn't need the distraction. I'd risk finding something to do all day on my own.

"Rory, if you want to get out of the house for a few hours I can drop you off somewhere," Jase offered. "I can pick you up when I go to lunch."

I looked at Jase, honestly appreciating the offer, but I shrugged and shook my head. I couldn't think of anywhere I wanted to be for that long. Actually, at the moment, I was visiting the idea of going back to bed for a few hours before I decided anything.

"That's alright," I insisted. "I'll find something to do."

"Are you sure?" Eddie asked me.

"Uh-huh," I said around a mouthful of food, nodding. "I'm fine." I decided to smile for good measure. They seemed satisfied.


Eddie, Jase, and Luke were gone, Chey was passed out in the living room at the house, and I was standing outside of Seth Fisher's house twenty minutes after I'd woken up from a morning nap. It would be ridiculous to say that I didn't know what I was doing there at this point. As Luke had put it, Seth Fisher wouldn't mind keeping me company. In all actuality, I was fully aware of it. Of course, when I said it to myself, it sounded a lot better than when Luke had been teasing me with it. And Seth wasn't so bad. We'd been getting along. Plus, it was Friday, I was bored, and I didn't feel like talking to myself all day.

Now that I was standing in front of his door, I just had to stop hesitating when it came to knocking on it, because he didn't come walking out as soon as I got there this time. At first, I made excuses to myself. For example: I was lost. I meant to go home but forgot where I lived. Seth wasn't home, anyway, although that one was hard to convince myself of because his truck was parked out front. The last excuse I used before I knocked on the door, was that he was busy again. He already had plans. But the only way to find out if that was the case, was to knock. So I did. Actually, I rang the doorbell. That was usually more effective, and this time, it was. Only, Seth wasn't the one who answered the door. It was the red-headed midget who he called a sister. Okay. That was harsh. She was actually kinda cute, especially when she shot me a smile that was missing two teeth.

"Who are you?" she asked.

"Um... hi." I wasn't one of those people who knew how to talk to little kids, even when they were the ones who were asking the questions. As a result, she continued to look up at me expectantly with chestnut eyes that reminded me a lot of Seth's, until I did a better job of it. "I'm Rory. Is your brother home?"

She nodded, and I waited. She just stood there.

"I'm Gail," she informed me, as if I should have asked for her name on my own.

"Hi, Gail. Can you get Seth for..."

I was cut off by the sound of Seth's voice, which was probably a good thing, because otherwise, I had a feeling that I would have been there a while.

"Gail? What are you doing? You know you're not allowed to answer the door by yourself," Seth said as he appeared behind his sister, but paused and looked twice when he saw me standing there.

"Hey," I said.

"Hi," he replied, as he placed a hand on his sister's shoulder and moved her aside to take her place in the doorway. "You came over."

"Yeah," I replied, trying not to laugh at the awed tone in his voice.

"Do you want to come in?"

"No," I said quickly, and he frowned at that. "I mean... the swimming thing, the other day I asked if you wanted to... but if you're watching your sister now..."

"I'm not watching her," he cut me off. "My mom's home."

"Yeah, my mom's home," Gail echoed.

"Do you wanna come over?" I asked him.

"Sure. Just, give me a few minutes to grab some stuff?"


"Do you want to come in and wait?" he asked, just as I heard Seth's mom call for Gail, who immediately went rushing off. The sound of that woman's voice made me uneasy.

"That's okay," I replied, taking a step back. "I'll wait out here."

Seth regarded me curiously for a moment, and then shrugged.

"I'll be right back," he said, closing the door and moving back into the house. I went to the bike I'd ridden over to wait, satisfied that I'd acquired company for the next few hours, at least. I was guessing Seth still had to go to work at some point today. But, that was okay; and in the meantime, well, we were hanging out. I was going to hang out with Seth. I'd invited him over, like I would any friend. I guess that's what I could call Seth Fisher. A new friend. It worked, mostly because I was running out of reasons to hate him. Plus, he was sort of easy to be around. In fact, it occurred to me that I was a lot less stressed out around him than I'd been with Aaron, just talking on the phone. I guess that alone made it okay to consider Seth a friend. That, and the fact that I was warming up to him. Now, if only I didn't know that he liked me, the situation would have seemed a lot less nerve-racking.

Because, Seth did like me. At least, I was almost positive of it. I did leave room to tell myself that I was imagining things, though. I wouldn't want to be entirely presumptuous over something like that. But, Luke thought the same thing, and besides, Seth had to like me. There was no other explanation for why he was being so nice to me. Until recently, I'd made a point to be insufferable around him. He had no reason to like me, unless he liked me. That made me nervous. Now that I was admitting that I was aware of it, it made me nervous to be alone with him. I didn't know Seth very well, but what if he made a move? What if he was as brazen as Aaron and decided that my invitation to go swimming was an open invitation to try to kiss me or something? The first time Aaron kissed me, he certainly didn't have an invitation--actually, the last time he kissed me, he didn't have an invitation to kiss me, either. But that wasn't the point. The point was, I didn't want Seth to make any moves. I didn't really care if he liked me, as long as he didn't try to make it obvious. In fact, knowing that he liked me--it felt kinda good. It felt good to know that someone did. But, that didn't mean I wanted to acknowledge it.

I turned when the garage started to open, and spotted Seth pushing a mountain bike out. He had a backpack on his back and he'd finally taken off his baseball hat, only to replace it with a black fisherman's hat. I did my very best not to roll my eyes at him.

"Ready?" I asked. He nodded, and we headed away from his house.

It didn't take long to get home. That's probably because within two minutes of leaving Seth's house, it had turned into a race. I won, but it was one of those unspoken victories that granted me the right to look triumphant and cocky as Seth and I walked around the house to the pool. He in return, got to roll his eyes and give me a playful shove when I puffed out my chest in an attempt to look tough. The way I almost ended up against the side of the house was a good indication of who the tough one was. But, I wasn't at all intimidated. Not anymore.

"Are you working tonight?" I asked Seth as he parked his bike on the back patio and hung his backpack over the handlebars.

"Yeah, but not until later. You didn't go today?"


"What about yesterday?" he asked curiously, and I wondered if it was because he'd expected me to show up the day before, when I'd actually been invited.

"Yeah, I went yesterday," I replied. "So do you need to change?"

Seth glanced down at his jeans and unbuttoned the front, showing that he was already wearing swim trunks that looked oddly silver in color.

"Well, I've gotta change," I said. And then, as an afterthought, "You can come in if you want."

I left the glass door open as I went in, Chey making a point to greet me, and then Seth. She only barked at him once. When I turned around, she was already wagging her stubby little tail and presenting her belly for him to scratch.

"My room's downstairs," I said. "I'll be right back."

Seth nodded, and I left him there in the kitchen. It took me five minutes to change, and when I left my room, Seth wasn't in the kitchen anymore. He'd made his way down to the basement where he was looking over Luke's assortment of video games, and Chey was still following him around, looking for more attention. Seth didn't even seem to know I was behind him, I noticed, when he picked up one of the games and studied it with interest. I got the feeling that it was going to take us a while to actually go swimming.

Seth liked video games. As it turned out, going to that arcade was more than a hobby for him. He'd confessed that it was ritual for him to stop by at least twice a week to make sure no one had beaten any of his records. It was only one of the assortment of things I'd learned about him over the next few hours as we sat in the basement and played. He liked dogs, and he'd always wanted a boxer, which was why he was partial to Chey. He said the dogs at his house belonged to his mother, and they'd owned six of the same breed since he'd been born. He made me laugh when he explained that his family couldn't have a fish tank because fish made him paranoid. Apparently, they looked at him funny, and he swore the gold-fish he'd unwittingly won for his sister at a fair had been plotting against him. He was relieved when the thing died after two days. He mentioned that he didn't like eating fish, either.

He talked about school, and how most of the friends he'd had his entire life stopped hanging out with him once he'd met Aaron. Or rather, he'd stopped hanging out with them. I got the feeling that Seth wasn't really comfortable talking about the relationship he'd had with Aaron, so I didn't ask many questions. But I found it interesting that he hadn't been out at school pre-Keslin, as he called it. It just sort of happened. He also mentioned that it hadn't been that big of a deal, because people started to notice his preferences to date guys around the time that Luke came out to everyone, and apparently, Luke's coming out had been a bigger deal than Luke had ever let on. Apparently, no one had ever really suspected him, and there was a lot of rumor spreading once people figured out that Aaron and Luke had been an item. My guess was that none of this affected Luke as badly as it might have if he hadn't made a point to make sure his friends knew the truth first.

Another thing I learned about Seth, was that he wasn't a year older than me, as I'd figured he'd be. He'd be turning seventeen at the end of the summer. When I pointedly looked him over because he looked older than me he blushed and insisted that he was just tall. I told him that he was a lot more than just tall, and he blushed again. It was a desired effect. But, that was because the whole time we played, Seth had been looking at me. It was subtle. I don't think I was even meant to notice, but I was aware of a lot more around him than I'd been before I figured out that he liked me. Maybe I was even looking for it now, I don't know. Either way, it was there. I noticed that his eyes were often drifting to my swim trunks, and I swear, my right nipple. I decided that it must be the freckle above it that was drawing his attention. At first, I felt like I should go put on a shirt, feeling a little self-conscious, but as we sat there and he showed me how to play the game, and we talked, I realized that I wasn't all that uncomfortable with it, and the fear of Seth making some kind of move on me became a minor one. He'd sit close to me, but never touching; although he did make a point to touch me, I noticed. It was usually in the form of elbowing when I made a bad joke, and once he even flicked my ear. I wasn't uncomfortable with it. Just aware. Actually, the more time I spent with Seth, the more comfortable I became. It was an unnerving feeling, unlike the way everything seemed natural with Luke. This felt like something else, I just wasn't sure what it was.

It was almost one before we went upstairs. Seth had mentioned going home soon for lunch, but I didn't see any reason why he shouldn't just eat there. When I made sandwiches and asked him to stay, he seemed surprised by the invitation. He always seemed surprised, but I liked that about him. After we ate, we found a frisbee outside and tossed it around to Chey for a while, before we were both beyond sweating and I insisted that it was time to actually go swimming. Seth didn't object.

I went inside to grab a few cold drinks, and when I returned, Seth had Chey presenting her belly again, and he was giving her plenty of attention. I was giving Seth plenty of attention when I noticed he'd stripped down to his funky silver shorts. In other words, I was checking him out. It was only fair, though. He'd been checking me out all day.

Once again, I wondered why Aaron would see anything in me after guys like Seth or Luke. Oh, wait. He hadn't seen anything in me, had he? But, whatever. Seth wasn't hard to look at. He wasn't as tan as everyone else around there, but he looked good that way. And Seth really was big for our age, I noticed. He wasn't overweight, or overly muscular, it was just the way he was built. His shoulders and chest were broader; his legs were long and toned and his arms seemed naturally built, but even then they looked half a size thicker than mine. And there was chest hair. Not much, but some. A very thin layer between his pecs that narrowed down to a thin trail leading down his navel and disappearing into his shorts. It looked light brown, almost blondish, and shiny under the sun. I wondered if that was what I'd find under his hat. The hair on the sides of his head was really too short to tell, and he was still wearing that fishing hat. I wondered if he was buzzed, like me. Thinking about it had me lifting a hand to my own hair, which seemed over an inch long now. I decided that warranted a haircut. I decided to think about it later, though, when Seth's eyes abruptly lifted and caught mine.

"So, I think I should probably tell you something," he said conversationally.

"Let me guess. You can't skate, and you can't swim."

"I can swim," he insisted. "I took lessons. But, I sort of have to make sure my feet can touch the bottom."

"So, you can't swim?"

"I said I can," he insisted. "My feet just have to touch. Still wanna go with me?"

"Wait... why do your feet have to touch?" This was all very strange to me. Either you could swim, or you couldn't. In my opinion, everyone should know how to swim.

"Because if they don't, I'll panic," Seth replied unapologetically.

"Oh... You know, we don't have to go in the water," I decided. There was no sense in him doing something that he wasn't comfortable with. Although, I wondered why he hadn't mentioned this quirk when I asked him to go with me in the first place.

"But you want to."

"Yeah, but I didn't know you couldn't swim. Plus, I can go anytime, so..."

"I can swim," Seth insisted, looking amused. "I just wanted to tell you about... I mean... look, I didn't want you to think I was weird or anything."

"You are kinda weird," I pointed out, but there was no malice behind it, and Seth smiled before he abruptly changed the subject.

"Is it true you can hold your breath underwater, like, forever?"

"No," I responded, but then jumped in to demonstrate how long I could hold it. When I surfaced and looked to where I'd left Seth, he wasn't there. Just Chey, stretched out on the concrete and panting away. I turned my attention to the shallow end of the pool. Seth had managed to get into the water, and he was swimming, but I started laughing when I realized that he was still wearing his hat.

"I can swim," he said again, as I moved towards him, and as I reached him he stopped against the wall and stood up, as if testing the depth, satisfied that the water only came up to his shoulders. He smiled at me as I moved next to him, holding the wall.

"Yeah, I guess you can," I agreed, studying his face the best I could under his hat. I'd moved closer to do so, and for a moment, Seth looked a little uneasy; but I didn't pay much attention to that as my eyes focused on his hat.

When I lifted my hand, Seth did the same thing anyone who had fingers with an unknown purpose coming towards their face would do: he lifted his hand defensively, but stopped and lowered it the moment I touched the brim of his hat before he relaxed and regarded me calmly as I lifted the object directly off his head. I just looked at him, watching as long strands of hair from the top of his head fell over his face, reaching the tip of his nose. The soft, dark-blond coloring and highlights that looked nearly white in places were a nice contrast against his dark brows and chocolate eyes. He didn't have any horns, just a smooth forehead proportioned nicely to the rest of his face. Go figure.

Then, I realized that Seth was looking right back at me. Uh-oh. I knew that look. He was meeting my gaze, but the longer I looked at him, the more I noticed that his eyes were drifting lower, focusing until I could practically feel them on my lips. I'd seen that look before. I'd seen it practically every time Aaron kissed me. It seemed strange coming from Seth, but it had me swallowing and biting at my lips nonetheless, until I realized that he was making me nervous and abruptly looked away, distancing myself from him a few inches while I was at it.

"I thought you'd be a redhead," I said, handing his hat back and breaking the moment.

"Gail's the only one," Seth replied quietly. He lifted the hat, as if to place it on his head, but instead, he abruptly reached out and dropped it on mine. I had to tilt my head back just to see him out from underneath it.

"Do I look like I'm going fishing?"

Seth made a face.

"Fish suck--give me back my hat."

I raised an eyebrow, held the hat on my head, issued a challenging look in his direction and started swimming backwards.

"You look ridiculous," Seth remarked, laughing as he reached out and grabbed my arm, easily hauling me back as I tried to prevent him from snatching his hat off of my head by dunking myself under the water, hat and all. When I came back up, it was thoroughly drenched, and before he could do anything about it, I pulled it off of my head and plopped it right back onto his.

"You're going to pay for that," he warned, and I believed him, since his hand was still firmly around my arm, but I laughed anyway.

I was just about to plan my escape when Seth unexpectedly released me. I turned to look at him, only to find that the hat was now in his hands as he rung it out, looking past me, seeming surprised at something. I followed his eyes and felt a little surprised myself when I saw Luke, sitting cross-legged on the concrete on the other side of the pool. His jeans and t-shirt looked like they'd done more work than he had today, stained with dust and sweat as he scratched Chey's ears, and watched us with a blank expression.

"Hey," I said, recovering and wondering what time it was. "What are you doing here?"

Luke glanced back at Seth, and then focused on me again with that same strange look on his face before a familiar smirk replaced it.

"Enjoying the view," he remarked. I rolled my eyes as Luke looked past me again and waved to Seth.

"Hi Seth."

"Luke," Seth nodded.

"What are you guys doing?" Luke asked curiously.

"Just cooling off," I replied. "Are you coming in?"

It surprised me that Luke actually looked surprised by the invitation.

"No, that's okay," he replied, suddenly standing up. "I'm gonna go shower. See you later, Seth."

Seth waved, and I suddenly noticed that he didn't look anywhere as comfortable as he had a few moments before. As I looked back at Luke, I also noticed that his usual smile looked forced, and he didn't even look at us as he called Chey into the house with him.

I frowned, wondering what was up, and made a mental note to ask Luke if he'd had a bad day or something, later. For now, I turned back to Seth, wondering if I wanted to snatch that hat off his head again, but found that I couldn't have, even if I wanted to because he was hoisting himself out of the water.

"What are you doing?" I asked curiously.

"I've gotta get going. Work."

"Oh." This time, I was disappointed. No doubt about it. "I'll walk you out."

"My bike's right there," Seth pointed.

"Right," I nodded, but got out of the pool, anyway.

I watched Seth go to his things. He slipped on his sandals, pulled on a shirt, and placed his now-floppy hat back on his head. He didn't bother with his jeans, probably because he was still dripping wet.

"I'll see you later," I said as he climbed onto his bike, and Seth paused, regarding me curiously.

"So did I pass the test?" he suddenly asked.

"What do you mean?"

"You know--have you had enough, or are we going to hang out again?"

I found the question peculiar, yet reasonable.

"We can hang out again," I said casually. "If you haven't had enough."

Seth looked thoughtful for a moment.

"I'll have to think about it."

That, I hadn't been expecting.


For a moment, I expected him to make a joke out of it, but all I got was a small wave before he turned his bike and rode around the house, out of view.

I stood there for a minute, not knowing what to think, before I moved into the house, suddenly feeling very put out. He had to think about it? Now, what the fuck was that? I was the one who was supposed to think about it. Seth had had a good time with me today. I was certain of it. Hell, he liked me. He wanted to kiss me. There'd been a moment. A moment! There was nothing for him to think about, damn it. This was all very insulting--and it kinda hurt. Maybe he didn't like me. I don't think that thought was supposed to bother me as much as it did.

I was just about to start referring to him as "bastard-boy" or even "asshole" again when the doorbell rang and I went to answer it, coming face to face with bastard-boy and/or asshole as he looked at me from under his drooping hat and smiled.

"So, do you want to hang out tonight?" he asked. I just bit my lip and tried not to laugh at him as he continued. "Sometimes when I get off work, I go bowling with Angela and a few other people. It's right across the street from the mall. Um, we're going tonight--probably around nine. You can call me if you want to go. I wrote my number in your dirt." He pointed to the side of the walkway and there was, in fact, a phone number written in the dirt. "So call me--or don't. Later, Rory."

He waved, and left smiling as he took off for his bike again. Asshole. I watched him go, and as soon as he was gone, I went back inside for a few minutes before I was outside with a pen and a piece of paper, salvaging Seth Fisher's phone number from the dirt.

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