If you don't like stories involving gay male characters, this story isn't for you. If you're a minor or if it's illegal for you to read these stories, you are not encouraged to read them and the author takes no responsibility if you do. Also, the story, and all characters in it are FICTIONAL any resemblance to real life or someone you know is a coincidence. The characters and story are the property of the author, and while I don't care if you print chapters out for your own enjoyment, please don't sell or post elsewhere without permission. This includes "borrowing characters" for your own story. If you want to do it, ask first. Any comments, questions, please send to Dluka1983@hotmail.com or post them in the forum at the website here: http://domluka.gayauthors.org/

A/N: Thanks ti Jim for editing!


"Hi... Rory?"

Good guess.

"I didn't know if you'd be working or not," I replied, as I sat on my bedroom floor, leaning back against the bed with the phone to my ear. "You said three o'clock."

"I'm on my way there now," Seth replied.

I glanced at the clock. That made sense. It was just past two forty-five. But it seemed much earlier in the day to me. Maybe that was because it was one o'clock before I woke up to Eddie asking me if I wanted to go driving. We didn't spend too much time out there, though. Just long enough for me to figure out that parking was a lot easier in Jase's car, and for Eddie to talk me into getting a driver's manual to study. He insisted that I might as well be ready for the Arizona driver's license test, just in case I changed my mind and decided to stay. I'd wanted to argue with him, but decided that it wasn't worth it. If all he wanted me to do was study a little book, I decided that I could give him that.

"Right. I'll let you go then," I told Seth. I didn't necessarily want to hang up, but I didn't exactly see the point of staying on the phone, either. He was on his way to work, and the only reason I'd called him was because last night I'd suggested that I would--okay, there were more reasons than that, but I couldn't really deal with them when Seth had to go, anyway.

"Okay," Seth replied, sounding a little confused.

"Talk to you later," I said quickly, feeling entirely annoyed with myself. It wasn't like I'd promised to call him, and it wasn't like he'd expected it. And yet, that's exactly what I'd done. "Uh, maybe I'll see you later," I added, and there was a silence on the other end of the line while I waited for Seth to say goodbye. But it dragged on a little too long, and a moment later I was wondering if he'd hung up on me.

"I get off work at seven tonight," he suddenly said.

Well, that was an opening if I'd ever heard one. Too bad I didn't have the guts to take it.

"Yeah, cool. So, I'll talk to you later."

I quickly hung up the phone, and then proceeded to smack myself in the forehead.

I didn't know what I was doing. Last night, I'd been fairly certain that any attraction I had to Seth was because I was looking for ways to get over Aaron. But after Luke gave me that little kiss, I'd caught myself wondering what kissing Seth would be like on more than one occasion, and when I'd picked up the phone to call Seth, I'd been hopeful that the sound of his voice would either help me realize it was a good thing he hadn't kissed me, or at least convince me that I still wanted him to. It hadn't really done either.


I don't know when I started laughing, but I couldn't seem to stop. It was Jase's fault, I decided. Just when he was about to start dinner, he discovered that one of his ingredients had passed its expiration date and he tossed the whole thing out. Eddie had been in the middle of reading a magazine, peacefully sipping a soda at the kitchen table, when Jase snatched the magazine out of his hands, smacked him in the head with it, and insisted that Eddie didn't take us out to dinner nearly enough. Eddie was in shock. Luke and I were amused. And as I soon discovered, it wasn't beyond Jase to be completely spontaneous like this. We were halfway to finding a restaurant when Luke spotted a goonie golf course, mentioned we should go sometime, and Jase made an abrupt left into the place with no objections. There, we decided to play in teams. Luke automatically claimed Eddie as his partner because Eddie happened to be very good at the game, but Jase and I came out ahead by eight points because Jase was shameless when it came to distracting Eddie from getting his famous hole-in-ones. Once, he even grabbed Eddie's butt, and the way Eddie actually squealed was so funny that Luke and I agreed that there was no gross-out factor. We made it to dinner around seven o'clock, at which time I was looking at the clock again, thinking of Seth; but that didn't last very long because I was soon drawn into conversations around our table as we ate.

On the way home, while Jase and Eddie talked quietly in the front seat about how they could both take time off for a vacation this year, only not on the same days, I found myself in the back, asking Luke about Dave. I hadn't asked him what had happened the night before because I'd been distracted over Seth. As it turned out, he did talk to Dave, only he hadn't told his friend that he was annoying the shit out of him. I didn't understand this, but Luke insisted that there were plenty of times that Dave had put up with him, and the least he could do was do the same thing for Dave. But, he did happen to tell Dave that if Dave didn't ask Angela out soon, Luke would ask her out himself. Apparently Dave wasn't convinced, for the obvious reasons, but he agreed that the next time he saw her, he'd try his best.

It was after eight o'clock by the time we were driving past Seth's house and towards ours. I found myself taking an extra long look out the window, noticing the blue truck parked out front. This didn't go unnoticed by Luke.

When I started to follow Eddie and Jase into the house through the garage, it was Luke who grabbed my arm and pulled me back.

"Hey, I'm gonna meet the guys at the park. Do you wanna come?"

"Um... now?" We'd just gotten home.

"In a few minutes... I could drop you off at Seth's on the way."

I blinked, and noticed Luke studying me carefully after he made that offer.

"Luke...okay," I abruptly agreed, and he raised an eyebrow at me.


"Look, I don't know what I'm doing with Seth," I admitted. "But, I sorta like him. I think. I mean, I thought that I liked being around him because after Aaron he was just... well, a lot better, but I've been thinking a lot after last night and I think..."

"Okay," Luke abruptly cut off my babbling, cracking a smile. "Why don't you tell Eddie and Jase what we're doing."



Couldn't talk. Not with that woman smiling at me. I looked away from her, to where Luke had dropped me off. He was already gone. I looked back at Seth's mom, the pretty woman who was looking at me expectantly, and tried again. She'd asked me a question. "Are you here to see Seth?" it was simple enough to answer.


Thank god for the redheaded midget who fought her way past her mom, looked at me and grinned a toothless smile. It was a good distraction.

"Hi, Rory!"

I was surprised she remembered me.

"Hi... Gail."

And I remembered her name. Bonus points for me.

"I got a new dress!" she announced. "Wanna see it?"

Mrs. Fisher smiled at me again. Almost apologetically, but it also could have been one of those smiles that mothers give when they think their offspring have said something cute.

"Come on in," she insisted. "Gail, will you take Rory up to Seth's? I think he's in his room."

I stepped into the house as they made room for me, becoming startled when Gail latched onto my hand with a surprisingly strong grip for a forty-pound little girl.

"Come on, Seth's in his room!" Gail informed me, making sure that her mother's point got across.

"Hi, Randy." Mr. Fisher waved to me from their living room.

"It's Rory, Mars," Mrs. Fisher corrected him. This time, it was an apologetic look she threw over her shoulder at me, but I didn't see much of it, not with Gail hauling me up the stairs the way she was. I wanted to tell her to back off, that I already knew the way, but she seemed oddly proud of her ability to carry out her task. I didn't want to take that away from her.

I tried to stop Gail when we reached Seth's door, though. It was closed, and it was just rude not to knock on a closed bedroom door. Gail didn't knock. She opened the door, and fortunately, I managed to get out of her grip and wait outside because a moment later Seth was shouting her name. Another moment later and I found out why.

"You have to knock, Gail!" he informed her, and I stepped aside as he carried her to his door and deposited her gently outside of it. He was dripping wet and wearing a towel that was in the process of falling off his narrow, pale, right hip before he caught it.

"But Rory's here," Gail said innocently and I managed to get my eyes on Seth's face and away from everything else just as his eyes widened and he turned his head in my direction, pushing back his dripping hair as he licked a few tiny beads of water off his top lip. I couldn't help noticing the way he was suddenly holding his towel a little tighter after spotting me there, but all that accomplished was drawing my attention to a distinct tent that made me question what Gail had interrupted.

"I'll be right back," I heard him say, right before Gail and I had a door slammed in our faces. She looked up at me, shrugged, and then walked back down the hallway, leaving me to wait. I couldn't decide if I wanted to laugh or adjust myself. He hadn't looked that drenched in the pool the other day. His nipples definitely hadn't been that hard and I didn't recall his shorts clinging to his ass the way that towel had been; and I think I would have remembered seeing his very personal endowment if it had been sticking up like that. I wondered if he was taking care of that while I was out there waiting. My jeans suddenly felt a lot tighter than normal, but looking down, I decided that it could have been worse. I was suddenly very grateful for the fact that Luke had a fetish for walking around naked. It was good practice for controlling reactions similar to this one.

I tried to look as normal as possible when Seth suddenly opened the door again. He'd obviously dressed quickly. His jeans needed straightening and the top half of his shirt seemed soaked through from his hair dripping. At least he hadn't shoved a hat on his head, too. And, it was really hard to act normal with the blush coloring his cheeks as he waved me into his room. This was awkward.

"Sorry about that," I offered, trying to break the ice.

"Forget it," he responded. "Gail never knocks."

He wasn't meeting my eyes. At all.

"Hey, if this is a bad time, I can go."

"It's fine. I just didn't know you were coming."

He didn't give me a chance to respond to that as he shut his door behind me and then suddenly turned and headed back for his bathroom, leaving me alone again. I hoped that he wasn't angry. After a moment of considering it, I decided that he was just embarrassed. When he returned for the second time, I was sitting on his sofa, looking around his room, which seemed a lot more organized than the last time I'd seen it, and I was happy to find that he'd managed to compose himself. At least, he'd stopped blushing, and he'd stopped his hair from dripping everywhere and he'd combed it back. Wet like that it looked like the hair on the top of his head almost reached his neck. I found myself hoping that he didn't cover it all up too quickly. I kinda liked being able to see his whole face when I was talking to him.

"Are you sure you don't want me to go?" I asked him. "I really didn't mean to sneak up on you like that."

He shook his head as he approached me, and I found myself standing up.

"That's okay. Do you want something to drink?"

I smiled to myself, noting that Seth asked that every time I walked into his house...except for that one time that Aaron had told him to go get everyone something to eat.

"No thanks."

He took a seat on the opposite end of the sofa and only then did I sit down.

"What are you doing here?" he asked after a moment, looking in my direction.

"You said you were off at seven... and then a while ago when we drove past here I saw you were home... Listen, when you said you were getting off at seven, I wanted to see if you wanted to do something, but I didn't. I don't know if you have plans now but I figured... I'd at least stop by. Is that okay with you?" I finished, almost challengingly, and Seth managed a smile.

"I didn't make plans tonight. I'm opening the store tomorrow morning."


Seth leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees for a moment as he studied his hands, and then he looked back at me.

"I'd ask if you wanna hang out here for a while, but I have a really bad feeling that my parents are going to come up here and drag us into a game of Go Fish with my sister, so do you wanna go for a walk or something?" He ran his hand through his damp hair. "Maybe I'll dry off some more outside."

"Sure," I agreed, and a few minutes later when he started to pick up a hat, I told him that his hair would dry faster without it. He seemed uncertain about that, but he left it.

Armed with a flashlight, we headed into the landscape, none of which we could really see in the dark straightaway from Seth's house, and any awkwardness that had been there when I first arrived slowly began to fade away, leaving me open to notice that some of the ease about being around Seth that had been there the night before was still present. And as we talked some more, I noticed that it didn't take him as long this time to walk more against my shoulder than next to me. Or, maybe that was me, walking so that I was up against him as he told me more about his family, specifically his brother that I'd heard about but never seen.

Apparently, Brendan Neptune Fisher was nineteen years old, and he'd been missing from his family for the last year and a half. He'd dropped out of high school during his senior year to marry a woman three years older than him. As Seth explained it, telling his parents that he was gay was nothing compared to his brother's news. Seth insisted that his parents tried to be reasonable, deciding to be supportive of their oldest son's decision, as long as he stayed in school; but when Brendan insisted that his parents owed it to him to let him and his wife live with them--and support them--while he was finishing high school, and during a heated moment when Seth's mom insisted that Brendan get the marriage annulled, things went bad and Seth's brother moved to New Mexico to live with his wife's family.

I got the feeling that this had been hard on Seth, who'd been close to his brother. He explained that Brendan still wrote to Gail every once in a while, but since Seth sided with his parents during the ordeal, the letters he wrote to his brother were only answered by his wife, who Seth had decided was okay, if somewhat ditzy. Recently, he'd learned that his brother was working on getting his life together, and Seth still had hope that their family would be able to reconcile.

The topic reminded me of what Eddie had told me about his family, and I found myself telling Seth what I'd been told, and how I was rethinking the idea of letting Eddie send a picture of me to his mother--a woman who probably wouldn't like me, anyway. When Seth asked me if it bothered me that my own grandmother probably wouldn't approve of me, I decided that I was indifferent. I didn't see myself calling Eddie's mom grandma anytime soon, anyway. I already had a grandma, as insane as she made me. I told Seth about Grandma Alice. But, not really any of the bad stuff. In fact, I don't think I mentioned that I was angry with her once. I told him all about her bad habits; like the fact that she was a midnight smoker. Every once in a while she'd get into my grandfather's cigars at ungodly hours of the night and go smoke one in the bathroom. There had even been a few times when she didn't remember it and blamed me. I told Seth about her bad driving, and a hundred other things that I hadn't thought about while I was trying not to think about her. And when I told him how she found a character flaw in every one of the friends I used to have, Seth started asking simple questions about the people who I used to hang out with and I found myself telling Seth about them. Only, everything I told him about them I remembered from before my mom got sick. That's when they'd really been my friends, I realized. It was before she got sick. I kinda missed them. I missed everything that I'd had before she got sick. It bothered me to think about, though, and as my thoughts turned deeper, I fell silent. It was when Seth fell silent, too, that I forced myself to pull away from my own thoughts and focus on our surroundings.

It occurred to me that I didn't have any idea what time it was. I wasn't too worried, though. There was no way it was already midnight, and besides, we'd turned back towards Seth's house at some point so I could find out soon enough. Worrying about the time didn't seem very important, anyway. At some point, as we'd been walking close together the way we were, the sides of our hands had started to brush together, and I found myself focusing on that. It tickled. The next time I was conscious of it happening, I extended my smallest finger, making it more deliberate. Nothing Seth was doing changed. I wondered if he even noticed as he started talking again, saying that he'd left his cell phone at home. It was a change in topic that I didn't particularly care for. I almost made sure my hand missed the next time it passed his, but decided against it.

"Were you expecting a phone call or something?" I asked.

"Angela always calls me when I say I'm not going out," he replied. I was a little annoyed that he'd be thinking about Angela calling him now. He was with me. Although, I'm not sure if that was supposed to mean anything at this point.

"Wanna use my phone?" I offered, even if we'd be at his house in a few minutes. If he had to make a phone call, I'd deal with it. I wondered if it would be time for me to go home when we reached his house. I wondered if he'd expect me to go home. The way that he was still so close to me as we walked certainly didn't suggest that he wanted me to go home, and meanwhile, I continued to extend my smallest finger each time our hands touched, drawing out the contact just a little bit.

"No," he said quickly. "I don't need to talk to her. I was just thinking about it."

I guess that was okay. Seth moved a step away from me to avoid a plant that looked suspiciously like one of those attacking cactuses, but was back at my side a moment later. Our hands brushed again. This time, I swore he'd extended his arm, just a little, to make contact.

"What time do you think it is?" I asked.

"It can't be past ten, but I'm not really sure," he admitted, looking pointedly at his house. The lights were still on. "It can't be that late. My parents are still up... Why? Did you have somewhere else to be?" When my hand came into contact with his this time I could feel his fingers deliberately flutter over the palm of my hand, and then they were gone again. I smiled to myself as if that one little action was equivalent to getting the compliment of my life. It was actually quite pathetic.

"I don't have to be home until twelve," I replied, deciding to let him decide what to do with that information. I was under the impression that Seth wanted to go to bed early because he had to get up for work in the morning. I was also under the impression that he didn't really care, the way that his fingers were becoming bolder as our hands touched. There were pauses now as his digits took the time to feel out my knuckles before they disappeared again. I was just as bad, using my thumb to trace the space between his wrist, down his hand to where his middle finger connected to his palm. There was a long silence as our hands continued to flirt for us, and I got tired of waiting for Seth to respond to my actual words. "I'm probably gonna get going soon," I said, hoping that speaking out loud would take the attention off the way that I abruptly hooked my fingers on his, this time refusing to break contact. Our hands swung together for a few moments, and that was all it took before Seth slipped his into mine more securely. It had taken us over thirty minutes to get there, I figured, but we were holding hands. That seemed bigger than it should have, I'm sure.

"Why?" he asked.

"You said you have to get up early."

Seth took a moment.

"I'll give you a ride home," Seth replied. It sounded more like a statement than an offer. I considered it.

"I kinda feel like walking," I said honestly. I was feeling pretty good at the moment, and if I still had time before I was supposed to be home, I didn't mind at all.

"I'll walk you home."

I glanced over at Seth, biting back my amusement. He looked completely serious.

"That would defeat the reason for going to bed early," I pointed out.

"Do you wanna walk some more...and then I'll drive you home?"

I considered it.



While walking with Seth, my right hand got more action than I'd gotten my entire life. We were both aware of the way that fingers were gliding over knuckles, shyly lacing together for the briefest moments, and a warm squeeze every once in a while, but we never drew attention to it as we talked some more. I felt like we were walking around aimlessly at that point, but it didn't matter. Even when we couldn't see where we were, Seth seemed to know where his house was, and quite frankly, I was so focused on getting to know him that I didn't really care whether or not we were lost. Seth, and the way his fingers on my hand were sending chills up my arm, was really the only thing I did care to pay attention to until my phone unexpectedly rang. I grudgingly let go of his hand then to answer it. It was Luke. Apparently it was later than I thought it was and he was on his way home, wondering if I wanted him to pick me up on the way. I repeated the question aloud, and when Seth silently shook his head, I let Luke know that I didn't need a ride. When I hung up, I decided to take the initiative and grabbed Seth's hand, deciding that this time it shouldn't take a half hour. Besides, we didn't even have that long, not that you could tell. Even as we walked back to his house we continued to chat, asking each other random questions and laughing at bad jokes. I only released his hand when I actually got into his truck, and he took me home.

Luke wasn't there yet, but the garage was still open, and this time as I reached the front of his vehicle I stopped and waited for him without looking until I felt his hand slip against mine again and I turned to face him, fully expecting a kiss. I mean, it had to happen. There had been a buildup for it all night long. Plus, I was leaving myself wide open for it. All I had to do was wait.

"I get off at four tomorrow," he said, as if I'd asked for the information.

"Want me to come over?"

Seth nodded, lowering his head for a moment in a way that had his bangs falling into his face before he brushed them away, and then he looked at me meaningfully, blushing slightly. He was supposed to kiss me now. I wanted him to, and it had nothing to do with Aaron Keslin. So as his fingers studied my hand, I took a step closer, hoping that he'd just go for it. It didn't happen. I was disappointed. I guess I just should have been glad that I didn't get stuck with another playful punch in the arm. Instead, with our hands joined he briefly turned and gave me a half-hug that you'd give a friend, our chests barely coming into contact. This was very discouraging.

"See you tomorrow," Seth said quietly, and then he was gone and I was left scratching my head, but feeling oddly satisfied that I was going to see him tomorrow, and have yet another opportunity to wonder why he hadn't kissed me yet.


"So...Seth, huh?"

It was almost one in the morning, I was in the pool with Luke, and his words were a quick change in topic from discussing which girls we'd do if we were ever forced to actually have sex with one.

"Yeah, Seth," I agreed simply.

"Do you still think it's because of..."

"It's not because of Aaron," I replied certainly. "I mean... I want to get over him, but it's not like that. Seth's... different."

"But you like him?" Luke said, sounding oddly perplexed by this.

"Does that make me a slut?" I asked offhandedly, but with real concern. "I mean, is there supposed to be an actual time limit that's supposed to pass before I start liking someone again?"

Luke laughed, and then splashed at me.

"I don't think so," he replied, and then looked somewhat mischievous as he pushed a few wet curls out of his face and swam closer to me. "So, who's better?" he suddenly asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Seth, or Aaron?"

That seemed like an easy question to answer, until I noticed that the expectant look that Luke was giving me suggested that there was more to his question than I was catching on to.

"Better at what?" I accusingly demanded, and Luke cracked up.

"What do you think?" he responded, still laughing at me, but there was also a question within his question.

"I wouldn't know," I said flatly. "Seth hasn't even kissed me yet... and I wouldn't know about Aaron, really." I paused for a moment. "He's the only guy I've ever kissed--except you," I added sheepishly.

Luke flashed me a soft smile and then shrugged.

"Kissing can't be all you ever did with Aaron," he said matter-of-factly. "I know how fast he moves."

"We did more," I admitted, feeling a little surprised that Luke was open to having this discussion, that at one time had been off limits. "He said I wasn't very good at it, though," I admitted quietly. Luke frowned.

"He didn't."

"Not in those exact words... it was kinda worse," I decided, and then found myself nervously laughing over it. Luke didn't seem to see the humor, and it was becoming increasingly difficult for me not to feel self-conscious.

"Let me tell you something about Aaron Keslin," Luke said. "The first time he ever went down on me, I was afraid he was going to end up biting my fucking dick off; I swear his teeth were everywhere." I think my jaw dropped at Luke's bluntness. "Seriously," Luke insisted to the look on my face. "But then he got better--which wasn't really a good thing, because he knew he'd gotten better. It must have been... months later when he got really mad at me for something stupid. I think it was because I wanted to go out with Jase and Eddie one night instead of him, and he had the nerve to tell me that I was the one who wasn't giving it to him right. He said I should go home and start practicing on pickles or something, or he might go look for someone else. He'd already cheated on me then, and when he started cheating on me again, I thought it was because of that. So you know what I did?"

"Please tell me you dumped his ass," I said somewhat angrily, and Luke gave me an incredulous look.

"Rory, I was with Aaron up until last year when he fucking got me arrested. That's what it took. You have no idea how...stupid I was. Over and over again I convinced myself that we loved each other, and I was the one with the problem, not him. When he started cheating on me that second time, I thought it was my fault and for a month I was practicing what I thought I wasn't good enough at. I swear I was sucking on everything that I could get into my mouth. Jase couldn't understand why we were going through so many vegetables," he added, laughing for a moment before he regarded me seriously. "Look, when you started seeing Aaron, I just wanted to hit you because I was afraid you were going to end up as stupid as me; and I couldn't tell you this because I had no idea if you'd believe me. But now... don't be stupid, Rory. Aaron is so full of shit, and you shouldn't let anything he said get to you."

That night, I spent a lot of time thinking while I should have been sleeping. The things Luke had told me had been... enlightening. I'd known that Luke had been with Aaron for a long time, but hearing Aaron talk about it, I'd been under the impression that they'd actually cared for each other at one point. But the things Luke told me... I wouldn't have expected Luke to stay with Aaron because he happened to be an insecure individual--or he was at one time. Even if was a perfect reason why someone like Luke would stay with someone like Aaron. I found myself wondering if Luke was really so different now from what he'd been like, then. Obviously, he'd made some changes. But it seemed like a lot for me to try to picture him as someone willing to let Aaron Keslin walk all over him. Mostly because Luke, was nothing like me. Luke however, acted as if this shouldn't be a surprise, and it made me question what other things there were about him that I hadn't realized before.

And Aaron... I had no idea where to start with Aaron. The things he'd said to me that night at the party had definitely hurt, and it didn't exactly make me feel better knowing that I wasn't the first one he'd said those kind of things to. Although, I decided that I could be grateful that Aaron Keslin's mouth never got near my dick. I told myself that he was still all teeth. That made me feel better.

I wished that I knew what to think of him. I'd believed that despite his mistakes, he'd really cared about Luke. That was a little harder to believe now, and Luke had seemed so honest that I really had no reason to question what he'd told me. All of this just made me wonder if Aaron Keslin actually cared about anyone. At all. He hadn't cared about me, that's for sure. I didn't resent that as much believing that he didn't care about anyone else, either. Still, this was all very depressing to think about.

I turned over in bed, and forced my thoughts towards things that were easier to think about. Like being able to laugh today with Eddie, Jase and Luke, and studying to get my driver's license. Maybe I'd actually have one before I turned twenty. And of course I thought about Seth. I wished that I had met him sooner. It would have saved me a lot of trouble. Maybe if I'd met him sooner he would have kissed me by now. Maybe.

After tonight, I was under the impression that Luke was right. Seth wasn't going to make the first move. That completely sucked, because I was terrified of doing it. In fact, I was pretty sure that I didn't even know how. It had been easy with Aaron. He'd started everything. To initiate meant to face possible rejection, even if I did think I had a pretty damn good chance with Seth. I wasn't sure I was willing to put myself out there like that. Although, I was willing to try. I was happy just hanging out with Seth. That had become clear tonight when I'd stopped thinking about how cool it was that he found something attractive about me, and I'd started thinking about how I found something attractive about him. And it was more than physical attraction. He was easy to talk to. Tonight was the first time I could remember since being in Arizona that I'd talked openly about back home, even if the things I'd spoken of were in the past.

That had all gotten me thinking, too. First, there was Grandma Alice. Currently, I wanted to kick her into a premature grave, but talking about the good times with her made me remember that I still loved her. She was still my family, and she was still the one woman next to my mother who'd been there my entire life. Eddie was right. I had to try to talk to her...if only the very thought didn't stress the hell out of me.

And I'd had friends once. Jason and Nathan. Those two names had actually meant something to me at one point. The last time they'd meant something to me was when I'd told them that my mom was sick. For a while they were supportive, bringing ready-made dinners from their own homes to help out, making sure that I got out on the weekends... but then they just faded out.

Actually, that's not true. They didn't just fade out. If that had happened, I'm sure that I'd resent them. I didn't. It was me. I was the one who stopped calling. I was the one who refused to go out with them until they gave up, and I was the one who'd become so preoccupied with trying to be there for my mom that I just stopped caring about where they were and what they were doing. They were still there after she died. They hadn't gone anywhere. But, it wasn't the same. Nothing was the same after she died. I wondered if I could get it all back when I went home. I wondered if things could be the same way with them as they were before everything got so fucked-up. I guess if there was even a chance, I should probably try calling them at some point. Soon. I wondered how those conversations would go.

These things were difficult to think about, too. I let out a breath, and went back to thinking about Seth. Not what I'd talked about with Seth. Just... Seth, and what he'd been wearing when I'd shown up at his house tonight....

Ten minutes later, I was sweaty, sated, and wiping my hand off on my sheets because I was too lazy to get out of bed.


On Sunday morning, I sat stretched out on my bedroom floor, piles of pictures and my old yearbooks scattered in front of me. Most of the pictures were of my mom and me. Luke was stretched out behind me on the bed, reaching down every once in a while to lift one as he inspected them at his own leisure. I was more focused on the old yearbooks.

Thinking about old friends the night before had left me practically anxious to call one of them. I had no idea what I was going to say, really. I think part of me just wanted to tell them I was coming back. I wanted to make sure that when school started, they'd be there for me in front of the flagpole on the first day, just like every year. I figured that I'd call Jason, first. His phone number was the easiest to remember. I had Nathan's, too. I just didn't feel like walking across the room to the dresser, where it was written in my old address book.

I didn't really expect to reconnect with anyone with one phone call. But I thought that maybe if I called, just to let them know I was still around, and that I was coming back, it would open an opportunity to reconnect later. Maybe when school started, things could go back to the way that they used to be. Kinda. And, I really did need to get this call out of the way because there was only a month left of summer and when I went back home, I wanted to know what to expect.

"Here he is," I announced, and Luke looked over my shoulder as I pointed at a picture of a dark-haired guy with a buzz cut, narrow eyes and a dimpled smile in last year's yearbook.

"Jason Cross," Luke read the name under the picture. "Cute. What's he look like naked?"

I glanced over my shoulder and smirked.

"You really wanna know? He was on the swim team with me."

Luke's brow shot up, but then he laughed and cuffed me on the back of the head.

"Later. Are you gonna call him?"

"I guess so," I replied as Luke passed me the phone. But, when he didn't let go of it right away, I looked at him questioningly.

"Hey," he said, sounding serious. "I was thinking... maybe you shouldn't tell him you're going back yet. I mean, you've still got a month to decide, and it's not like things aren't different from when you first got here--don't you like it here, Rory?"

I let out a breath. I guess part of me had known that Luke would bring it up sooner or later.

"Yeah, but..."

"You're getting along with Eddie," Luke immediately pointed out, and then more quietly added, "He's your dad, Rory."

I was silent for a moment, trying to figure out how to respond to that.

"He's... a friend, Luke. I'm sorry, but... I never even knew about him. I can't just..."

"You know about him now. It'll probably take more time, but it seems stupid for you to just walk away. Rory..."

"I'm not walking away," I responded irritably. "It's not like I won't come back... I'll keep in touch, Luke. But, I've gotta go home. There are things there--you know, I have my own school, and my own life..."

"Some life," he scoffed. "Think about this, Rory. You're just now calling your friends. You never even called them to tell them you'd be back after you and Eddie made that stupid deal. What does that tell you?"

"I was going through some things. I'm better now... look, I don't wanna talk about it, okay?"

Luke frowned, and let go of the phone. I tried to ignore the way that he abruptly got off the bed and headed for the door, looking frustrated as I dialed Jason's phone number. Luke paused in the doorway and looked back at me.

"How are you gonna go back there? I mean, have you even talked to your grandma?"

"I will," I replied sternly, listening to the other line ring.

"And I guess you're gonna go right back into the closet, right? Maybe date a few girls while you're at it?"

"Maybe," I responded, more to irritate him than to tell the actual truth. I didn't like this line of questioning. "You know, I was fine before when I wasn't out, Luke, I'll..." I paused when the other line was answered, but made a face when it wasn't Jason's voice on the other end. It was a machine. Luke regarded me curiously, stepping back into my room.

"What?" he asked as I hung up the phone.

"I think I dialed the wrong number," I replied, and then tried again. A moment later, I was listening to the same message. I hung up and then stood, heading straight for my dresser.

"What's the matter?" Luke asked.

"I think Jason's number changed," I explained, opening my address book to look up Nathan's number. Jason had had the same number since I'd first learned how to dial it. I wasn't sure why it would have changed, but that was the only reason I could think of for why it had been disconnected.

Luke watched me without saying anything as I dialed Nathan's number and waited as the line rang. I didn't get a real person this time, either. But, at least it was, in fact, Nathan's phone number. His family had left one of those corny messages on the answering machine; the kind where they all said their lines as they explained how they were going on vacation and wouldn't be back for another two weeks. This, did not make me happy.

I frowned, and went to sit on the bed with the phone. I considered calling Grandma Alice. Maybe she'd have Jason's new phone number. But I was suddenly feeling very testy, and I wasn't sure now was the right time to call her, especially if I wanted our next conversation to be a rational one.

"Are you okay?" Luke asked, taking a seat next to me.

"I'm fine," I said shortly. I'm not sure why I was so annoyed that my friends weren't around now. It's not like I'd cared before I decided to call.

"Look," Luke said, sighing as he placed a hand on my very tense shoulder. "I'm sorry, okay? I didn't mean to push you... tell me what happened?"

Oh yeah. As I looked at Luke, it occurred to me why I was really annoyed. It was the subject of going home or staying there. I didn't like it. I didn't want to talk about it. I just knew that deep down, I felt that I needed to go back. Only, it had been easier to tell people so weeks ago. Now, the subject placed quite a few very uncomfortable knots in my stomach. I tried to shake it off, though. I mean, I should have been flattered that Luke wanted me to stay, right? It was a stupid thing to feel annoyed about, so I let out a breath, and explained to him how Jason's number was disconnected, and Nathan was on vacation.

"You can call him when he gets back," Luke suggested.

I just nodded. I guess that was acceptable. I could call Nathan when he got back. Two more weeks. I'd call him two weeks before I went home.

"Yeah," I nodded, and then Luke studied me for a moment. I suddenly felt like I should apologize just for being aggravated with him.

"It's not like I'll never come back, you know," I said quietly. "And it's not really easy to think about leaving anymore, but... I need to go back, Luke."

"No you don't," he responded, but there wasn't much fight in his words. "But if that's what you're going to do... Look, this is stupid, alright? I shouldn't have brought it up. It's not like you're leaving tomorrow."

"I'm not even leaving next week," I added.

"Yeah," Luke replied, nodding. "You still have time."


"Where are you going?" Eddie asked, sitting at the kitchen table as I headed for the garage. I'd asked him if I could go out for a while. I was hoping to avoid that question.

"Seth gets off at four," I replied, glancing at the clock. It was four fifteen. I'd decided to give him time to get home.

"Weren't you there last night, too?" Eddie asked casually, turning the page in his magazine.

"Yes. I was," I admitted, stopping in the doorway to turn and face him. Obviously, I wasn't just going to walk out the door.

"Oh, okay," Eddie replied simply.

I stared at him suspiciously for a moment, wondering if that was it. When it appeared he had nothing more to say, I turned to go out the door again.

"You're spending a lot of time with him lately, aren't you?" Eddie asked. I stopped again and looked back, feeling a little amused. He wasn't fooling me, flipping through that magazine and feigning boredom. He was dying to ask questions.

"I guess so," I replied.

Eddie glanced in my direction, obviously waiting for more information. I didn't give him any.

"So what are you guys going to do?"

"Probably just hang out at his house for a while," I replied. "If we go somewhere else I can call you, if you want."

"Yeah, why don't you," Eddie said, nodding. There was a pause. "Do you want a ride over there?"

I thought about it.

"Can I take the bike?"

"Sure... so you'll call if..."

"I'll call," I promised, granting him a small smile before I made my escape.


Seth was home by the time I got to his house, but he wasn't the one who answered the door. Mars Fisher was home, in the middle of shampooing the carpets. He didn't have much time to talk. He smiled at me, called me Ronnie again, and told me that Seth was in his room. As I went up, I found myself wondering if Seth even remembered that I was coming over. He'd better remember. I also wondered if it was reasonable to think that we could pick up where we'd left off the night before. I wondered if it would seem awkward if I just grabbed his hand, and I wondered if he'd actually make a move if I did my very best to leave myself completely open for it. Then, as I knocked on Seth's bedroom door, I wished that I hadn't wondered that because I was suddenly feeling nervous, and more than a little awkward. I had sweaty palms and everything. Seth's house was air conditioned. I didn't want to hold his hand in it with a sweaty palm.

I took a moment to relax as I waited for Seth to open his door; but when he didn't, I knocked again, wondering if I was interrupting another shower. It turned out that I wasn't that fortunate when Seth called out for me to open the door instead of actually answering it himself. I think he'd been expecting his dad, because he looked twice in my direction from where he was stretched out on his bed, looking like he was working on some kind of scrapbook. He was back to wearing hats again.

"Hey," I said, without actually stepping into his room. "Bad time?"

"No," he said quickly, sitting up. I took that as an okay to enter, and did so, lightly closing the door behind me before I headed towards Seth. "I didn't know if you were gonna show."

"I did," I pointed out, and he gave me a smile that more or less told me that I was being a smart-ass.

"I'm just putting this together for my sister," he explained, indicating the scrapbook, and as I moved closer, I saw pictures that had been cut up, mostly of Gail in various costumes, dancing or posing, and he was pasting them to the cover of the book. "She was supposed to bring one of these into her dance class for some project they're doing."

"So why isn't she doing this?" I asked. I wasn't necessarily interested in the topic. I was just trying to keep up conversation. I was also hoping that if I talked it would draw attention away from how nervous I was as I carefully took a seat on Seth's bed and slid back, closer to him, trying not to dip the mattress too much.

"She did do it," Seth said sheepishly. "But she left the one she made with all the old magazines and I accidentally threw it out with the trash this morning. I'm making her a new one so she'll continue to speak to me."

"Oh. Fair enough." I watched as Seth turned back over, holding himself up on an elbow as he continued to arrange the pictures. When he glanced in my direction again I stretched out next to him, feeling a little awkward. Awkward, but brave as I extended my leg just enough to let it brush against his. In turn, he leaned closer in my direction, until I could feel his shoulder against mine. He was warm. And, he smelled sort of like pastries. I wondered if they made those in his store. The scent, mixed with his deodorant, and maybe shampoo, too, had me breathing in a little deeper, finding it entirely pleasant. "Want some help?" I asked, and Seth smiled at me from under his blue cap as he passed me a glue stick.

It was quiet. I almost wanted to ask him to turn on some music as he continued to cut out images of his sister and I stuck them all over the cover of the scrap book. Some of them ended up upside down. My fault. I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing. I was paying attention to Seth, and the silence surrounding us that seemed to become more awkward by the moment. That was my fault, too. I was making it awkward, the way I was focusing way too much on how close Seth actually was to me. I think I'd leaned towards him at some point, too, because I felt like his shoulder was what happened to be holding my weight up, and if I turned my head, my nose was mere inches away from touching his cheek. I found myself studying his face, faintly shadowed by his hat. His eyes were downcast on his work and his tongue kept appearing to lick at his lips, which always seemed a bit swollen when facing him head on. Seth also had a nice nose. I don't think there's anything special about noses in particular, but I liked his. He was the kind of guy who would look good with his nostrils flaring.

Seth glanced at me from the corner of his eye and I found myself momentarily holding my breath. We were so close. All he had to do was turn his head and kiss me. For a moment, I thought he was going to, but instead he looked back at the photograph he was cutting his sister out of. I frowned to myself and went back to work, wondering what his problem was. It was the hair on his leg tickling my calf that got my attention when he moved his leg to rub it deliberately over mine; and when I glanced at him, the small smile he was trying to hide told me all I needed to know. All of this flirting foreplay wasn't just one-sided.

"I have to go somewhere," he said quietly, running his hand over the scrapbook, brushing my fingers in the process. "Do you wanna come with?"

I was actually getting comfortable, right where I was.


"I told my mom I'd pick up Gail from dance... and then Angela found out and I said I'd pick her up, too."

"Oh. You made plans with Angela?"

I felt his leg brush against mine again, this time sending chills all the way up the back of my thigh, the sensation causing me to press my hips into his mattress. That might have been a mistake.

"No, I just said I'd bring her home. Then, I'll bring Gail back here. And then..."

"You'll take me home, too," I finished for him. Seth Saturn's taxi service. Do you accept tips?"

That got him to look at me, his face only inches from mine. He smiled. I shifted my weight, trying to remember the last time having my cock pressed against a mattress felt so arousing. When Seth shifted his weight, too, there was friction involved that could result in an embarrassing situation if I rolled over.

"No, no, and it depends," Seth replied slowly. I could feel his cinnamon-scented breath on my face. I wondered if his toothpaste came in that flavor. Or maybe he'd had a mint recently. He caught my eyes and I swallowed, waiting. Still no kiss.

"What?" I asked in response to whatever it was that he was talking about.

He smiled again. It was a knowing smile. He knew exactly how he was making me feel with those batting eyes beneath his baseball hat. I guess it was only fair. I'd been playing the same game with him for days. He needed to kiss me now, please.

"I take tips if they're good tips; no, I'm not a taxi service and no... I wasn't going to take you home. Not unless you ask me to."

For a moment as his eyes drifted down to my mouth, I felt like being a smart-ass; ask him what he planned to do with me if he wasn't going to take me home. That probably would have been considered too forward. Plus, it sounded like a line that a cheap hooker in a bad movie would say. I didn't want to leave that kind of impression. I just wanted him to kiss me.

Again, he didn't. His eyes shifted back to the book that my hand was still on, and he used his fingers to smooth down a few more of the pictures. Common sense was beginning to tell me that for whatever reason, Seth Fisher wasn't going to initiate anything here. This was incredibly annoying because it reminded me of me. I wasn't one to make first moves, and it had nothing to do with the fact that I'd never really had the chance, at least with Aaron around. Plain and simple, I was a chicken shit.

Being a chicken shit didn't get you very far when it came to these things. I needed something to happen now. This was partly because I was tired of dancing around crossing that line with Seth and definitely because his leg was now steadily moving over my calf and I was about to drill a hole through his mattress. I couldn't remember my legs being so sensitive. But meanwhile, Seth seemed deep in thought as he continued to focus on the book. I wasn't sure if he was even aware of what he was doing.

It occurred to me that he was probably waiting for me to tell him that I didn't just want him to take me home--obviously. Or maybe he was waiting for me to tell him that I wanted to hang out for a while--or something. But, speaking really wasn't on my to-do list. I was focusing on his face again, specifically the corner of his mouth. It twitched, in a cute little nervous way, as if that tiny little part of his body knew the attention it was currently receiving. It occurred to me that maybe I wasn't the only one waiting for someone else to make a move.

It seemed easier for the moment, that he wasn't looking at me as I leaned closer to him; but I think I just wanted him to know I was there as I tilted my head, allowing my ear to brush against the side of his hat, and I paused only for a moment when Seth's leg abruptly stopped moving against mine. He started to turn his head, just a little, but enough so that the brim of his hat shaded my face, too, and I closed my eyes as I found my lips pressed experimentally against the corner of his mouth. The one moment I was there felt like forever before I felt Seth shift next to me, his accepting hand landing lightly between my shoulder blades before it slid upwards, pausing at the base of my neck and I felt pressure there as he gently guided me to him until I could feel that stupid hat brush the top of my head. I didn't care about the hat, though. My attention was on soft, full lips covering mine. And he kissed me. Just lightly at first, until I leaned in for more. I parted my mouth against his, expecting to feel his lips against my tongue as it tentatively left my mouth; but when I felt his--warm, wet and tasting faintly of cinnamon--meet mine without hesitation, all caution that I might have been using in this situation disappeared and I found myself kissing Seth Fisher as if we'd done it a million times over.

As Seth met my tongue, and then opened for me when I slipped into his mouth, the kiss became deeper, and then deeper again as he continued to turn his head for better leverage. It was when I realized that I couldn't feel his hat anymore that I opened my eyes and realized that he'd turned into his back, his head resting on the scrapbook he'd been working on for his sister. I broke the kiss, pulling back slightly, and Seth simply watched me as I lifted the book from under his head and placed it aside before I felt his thumb moving over the back of my neck and I met his eyes. He smiled at me. I felt his hand slide to the back of my head, pulling me down, and just before my mouth came over his again I took hold of his ball cap, guided it off his head and dropped it out of the way, moving a hand through his hair as he wrapped a tight arm around me and started to pull me over him. As I lifted my hips from the mattress, seeking better leverage, the pressure against my erection faded, but had the opposite effect than I thought it would and I released an involuntary grunt as the feeling of being fully engorged struck me. I was just settling back in against his side, my chest partially covering his, when I heard a sound that no normal, horny teenager confident that he was about to get some would want to hear in my situation: the sound of a door opening, followed by Mr. Fisher's voice.

Seth definitely heard it, too, because he shot up so fast that our foreheads painfully knocked together before my panic had me practically tripping backwards until I fell off the bed and froze, right where I was on the floor. I was grateful for two things just then. The first was that while I'd hit the floor somewhat painfully, it hadn't been loudly. The second, was that I was out of eyeshot from Seth's bedroom door.

"Seth?" Mr. Fisher called. A glance up told me that Seth was now sitting straight up on his bed, looking rather flushed as he held the scrapbook in his lap.

"Yeah?" he replied calmly. His voice sounded slightly strained, deeper, but gave no indication that we'd been caught.

"It's almost five, you're picking up Gail, right? I've gotta go to work for a few minutes."

"Yeah, I'm gonna get her. No problem."

"You'd better get going soon."

"I will," Seth insisted.

"Alright... didn't Ryan come up here?" Mars Fisher suddenly asked. Who the hell was Ryan?

"It's Rory, Dad," Seth responded, sounding irritated. "He's in the bathroom. We're gonna go in a few minutes. Angela will be with Gail, anyway. She's not waiting alone."

"Alright," Mars replied, still sounding uncertain. "I'm going. Don't forget your sister, Seth. Your mother would never forgive me."

"I've got it, Dad."

I waited there another moment, heard the door close, and then suddenly Seth was swinging his legs off the bed and reaching to help me up. I gave him my hands, not minding the assistance.

"Are you okay?" he asked, sounding both amused and a little shaken.

"Fine," I insisted, deciding that I'd just had one of the single most embarrassing moments of my life.

"I swear my door has a lock on it somewhere," Seth remarked as I found my feet and he pulled me to sit next to him, still holding my hand. I'm not sure what exactly it was that I found amusing about his comment. I guess it seemed so out of place now that I couldn't help laughing. At least Seth was able to smile. "Sorry about that," he insisted. "Hey... I really do have to go get my sister. You still wanna come with?"

He was still holding my hand. I looked down at it, and then allowed my gaze to drift towards my pants. I supposed I looked G-rated enough. Or at least PG. Mr. Fisher's interruption had all but killed my erection.

"Yeah," I decided, meeting his eyes. I was regarded with a curious expression before I leaned forward and kissed Seth Fisher again, softer this time. And, a lot faster. I was pulling back quickly, not so sure about how I'd feel if Mr. Fisher decided to step in again. Seth was smiling at me again when I did.


Awkward silence. All the way to the studio where Gail took dance lessons. It was a funny awkward silence, though. Seth and I seemed to be having some difficulty with conversation, now that the first kiss was out of the way, and I realized that in part it was probably because neither of us knew where we stood. I don't think that either of us knew what it meant. Personally speaking, I'd just wanted it to happen. I'd wanted to kiss him. Whatever was supposed to come next wasn't something I'd thought about yet.

On the way to the dance studio, Seth would look at me, almost shyly, open his mouth to say something, but then change his mind and go back to focusing on the road. Then, whenever I'd start to say something, it would unfortunately be at the same time Seth worked up the nerve to say something. Then, we'd both insist that the other go first. That was followed by Seth admitting that he'd forgotten what he was going to say in the first place, and laughter would ensue.

It was when we pulled up in front of a brick building where Angela was out front, holding Gail's hand as they waited, that Seth surprised me by getting some words out.

"Move over here," he said, and I raised an eyebrow because it didn't seem to be a request at all. Not that I minded as I unbuckled and opened the door so Angela and Gail could get in, just before I slid across the seat to sit next to Seth.

Angela looked surprised to see me there, but as always, her smile was friendly as she greeted us and helped Gail into the truck. Seth asked me if I could buckle his sister in, which I tried to do, ultimately needing Angela's assistance as Gail asked me what I was doing with her brother and if I was going back to their house. Seth told her I was. Then, she asked if I wanted to play Barbies with her.

"You can ask Amy to come over and play with her," Seth told his sister as we started to drive again.

"But I wanna play with Rory," Gail insisted.

"Well, Rory's going to play with me," Seth responded somewhat shortly, and I looked at him, brow flying up at his choice of words. But I was the one left blushing when Angela giggled. I noticed that she kept looking over Gail's head to regard Seth and me curiously as she checked the messages on her cell phone.

"Hey, Seth, instead of taking me home, can you drop me off at the park?" Angela suddenly asked. "Cathy's there, I can get a ride from her."

"Sure, it's closer, anyway," Seth replied.

For the next five minutes, before we reached the park, the truck was filled with girl-chatter and off-key singing when Angela started to sing along with Gail. Seth responded by turning on the radio. He also kept glancing at me apologetically, but I just smiled, feeling rather amused by the whole situation. Besides, it was sort of nice sitting next to him, my side practically pressed against his. He still smelled like pastries.

When we reached the park, I immediately spotted Brian and Rick there, and then saw Cathy among a large group of people hanging mostly around the parking lot. I found myself searching for Luke, suddenly feeling like I wanted to tell him every detail of the last hour, just as a bad gossip would.

"See you later, Gail," Angela said, giving the little redhead a hug before she started climbing out of the truck. She smiled at me, and then looked past me, at Seth. "You guys could stay for a while," she suggested.

"I gotta take Gail home," Seth insisted. Gail loudly groaned her objection. It was ignored.

"Okay," Angela replied, but didn't move to close the door. "Seth, can I talk to you for a minute?"

Angela was still glancing at me every few moments. It didn't take much to figure out what she wanted to talk about. I found myself turning to look at Seth, waiting for his answer. He was already looking at me, seeming annoyed, amused and apologetic all at once.

"Will you sit with Gail for me?" he asked quietly. "Just for a sec?"

I pretended to consider it for a moment before I smiled at him, and then nodded.

"Where are you going?" Gail called after Seth as he left the truck, leaving his door open. Angela closed hers, and I looked at Gail, deciding to take the initiative. It couldn't be that hard to entertain a little girl for a few minutes.

"He had to talk to Angela," I said. "I'll stay with you."

"Okay," she replied, looking reassured.

It was silent for a moment.

"You like to dance?" I decided to ask her. At least it would give her something to talk about.

"I dance with Mrs. Caroline," Gail said proudly. "And I get to be a princess."

"Yeah, and Seth is gonna come watch me dance."

"He is? That's nice."

"Yeah, because my mom says he has to."

"Oh, well, doesn't he sound lucky."

Gail smiled her toothless smile at me, just as Seth's door closed again. I turned my head to look at him, and nearly knocked into Gail a moment later when I was sliding back, as far away from the driver's seat as possible. That was because Aaron Keslin was sitting in it. It didn't make me feel at all better that Seth's keys were still in the ignition.