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 three: Lament

I buried my head under the pillow on by bed, wishing that it would do a better job of drowning out the sound of Eddie's voice. I was having one of the worst days of my life, and the last thing I wanted to do was have a rational conversation with a man who thought he could become a father in less than twenty four hours.

"Look, I know you're having a hard time here, Rory. But we made a deal." Eddie insisted. I felt the bed dip as he sat down. "You agreed to get to know me this summer, and if all we have is one summer, I don't want you spending the whole time picking fights, now I don't know what's going on with you and Luke, but..."

"What makes you think I started it?" I demanded, shoving the pillow away from my head.

This was unbelievable. Un-fucking-believable. I was innocent. Luke...Luke was an asshole, as far as I was concerned, acting like it was a crime that I'd actually made a friend. Just because he didn't like Aaron, didn't mean that I wasn't allowed to like him.

"I didn't say that." Eddie said calmly, "But look, if you'd just tell me what's wrong, I'm sure we can work it out. I know Luke, whatever happened I'm sure he didn't..."

"You know him, so I guess that makes him right." I cut him off, "Well if you knew me then you'd know that this wasn't my fault! But you don't know me, and you know what? That's your own damn fault! Why don't you just go away? I'm done talking. If you want to know what happened, go ask him. He's the one you're going to believe anyways."


"God, I hate it here! Why don't you all just leave me alone? One summer would be a hell of a lot easier if I didn't have to deal with any of you!"

"That's not fair." Eddie shot back.

"If you don't like it, then why don't you send me home? We'd all be a lot happier if you did that anyways!"

I pulled the pillow back over my head, dismissing him. I almost expected him to keep talking, and I was relieved when I felt him get up and walk away. But, my relief was only momentary after the door closed and I was left alone.

I was incredibly uncomfortable in this house. I didn't feel like I could trust anyone. When I had first met Luke, knowing that there was someone my age living in this house felt like a relief. I couldn't imagine it just being me and Eddie, or just me, Eddie, and Jase for that matter. I wasn't sure what to think of Jase anyways. I didn't exactly see us becoming friends.

But now, I seemed to be in a rut with everyone, and it was only my first day. For a while I had even been fooled into thinking that things might work out, that one summer wouldn't be so bad. But now I knew otherwise. How the hell was I supposed to exist with these people?

I wished that I could just go home. Grandma Alice wasn't the easiest person to live with, but she was better than this. I had trouble getting to sleep that night, thinking about the trouble I would be having in the morning. Maybe I could just sleep through the summer. That wouldn't be so bad, if I could just sleep through it...


My sleeping through it idea lasted until about ten in the morning, when my grumbling stomach woke me up. I wasn't looking forward to dealing with anyone in my new residence as I gathered some clothes and headed for the bathroom that I was supposed to be sharing with Luke.

Fortunately, there was no sign of him in the basement, so I took my shower, waking myself up before I headed upstairs to see what was in store for the day.

It felt strange, walking through a home that I didn't consider mine. I was dreading the idea of facing anyone this morning, especially Luke. But, regrettably, he was the first person I saw. And I absolutely hated that he looked so damn good in the morning.

Cousin or not, Luke was hot. I'll probably be mentioning that a lot, so get used to it.

He was wearing a pair of black jogging shirts, a good contrast to the golden tan covering most of his body. He still had an indentation of his pillowcase across his right cheek and his bare chest had that morning glow to it. His curls were tussled on his head, strands sticking up and hanging in his face. He looked amazing.

I almost forgot that I was mad at him until he looked up at me. The way that his eyes narrowed on me was a sure sign that he was still mad at me too. I looked away, having nothing to say as I walked past him and into the kitchen, and he went to take a seat at the table.

"Morning, Rory." I looked back, seeing Jase as he entered the kitchen, wearing a business suit, touching my shoulder as he passed.

"Morning." I mumbled.

"What do you eat for breakfast?" Jase asked as he went to the cupboards, "Cereal? Or do you prefer something warm?"

"Cereal's fine." I replied.

Jase held up the two choices of cereal and after pointing to the one with sugar in it, he handed me a box and I went about fixing myself a bowl. When Jase and I joined Luke at the table, he avoided my eyes entirely.

"Shouldn't you be at work already?" Luke asked Jase, "I thought that Eddie was the one who was staying home to baby-sit today."

I glared at Luke and his obvious shot at me.

"Knock it off, Luke." Jase warned, "Eddie had a meeting this morning. He should be back soon; I'll be leaving then. What are your plans for the day?"

I sat silently, listening as they talked. Neither of them were looking at me. It was easy to feel like I didn't belong there.

"Dave's coming over." Luke replied, "We were going to hang out here."

"When will he be here?" Jase asked.

"A few hours." Luke shrugged.

There was the sound of a door opening, and somewhere in the house Chey barked, before she followed Eddie into the kitchen. He looked kind of funny, wearing a jacket and tie over a pair of jeans, but I guess it suited him. He also looked tired, but he managed a smile as he came towards the table.

"Hey guys." He said.

"Hey," Jase smiled at him, "We were just having breakfast and then I'm out of here. Looks like these two are still fighting."

I frowned, annoyed that Jase would mention that, and I think that Luke looked just as disgruntled as I felt.

"Really?" Eddie smiled, talking to Jase but looking back and forth between Luke and I, "Have either of them mentioned what this is all about yet?"

"Not yet." Jase replied.

"We're right here, you know." Luke glared at them.

"We know." Eddie smirked, and then took a seat next to Jase. "Rory, I was thinking that we could go out for a while today, maybe to lunch or something. I wanted to talk to you about some things."

"Fine." I shrugged. I wasn't exactly looking forward to spending a day with Eddie, or talking to him for that matter. But, if the alternative was staying here with Luke, I could live with it. Besides, he didn't seem to be ignoring me like the other two.

After breakfast, which was mostly quiet, I ended up back in my room with the door closed, where I just sat on the bed, thinking. Mostly about my mom. I missed her. But, I was beginning to feel anger towards her for my current situation. I wished that I could see her one more time. If I could ask only one question I would demand to know why she put me here, with these people who I wanted nothing to do with.

Deep down, I believed that there had to be a reason for it. Mom rarely did anything this extreme without a reason. Unfortunately, I was too busy hating my situation to figure out what that reason was.

I looked up, realizing that I had left my door cracked open when Chey pushed her way through. Despite the way I felt about her owner at that particular moment, I found myself petting her, wondering why I never once asked to own a dog when I was younger. I guess I had always been satisfied with what I had, until now.

"You know, that's amazing."

I looked up to see that Eddie was leaning in the doorway, looking at Chey and me.

"What's so amazing?" I replied, uninterested.

"It's just that Chey usually follows Luke everywhere." Eddie shrugged, "And whenever he's mad at Jase or me, she acts like she's mad at us too. She must really like you."

"Or maybe she just knows that her owner's being a jerk." I shrugged.

Eddie chuckled as he stepped into my room.

"You know, Rory, if you would just tell me what's going on with you and Luke..."

"Forget it." I frowned, "It's no big deal."

"So is this how it's going to be?" Eddie asked, "We're going to have this tension in the house all summer?"

"Ask Luke that." I replied, "He's the one who owes me an apology."

"Why is that?" Eddie asked.

I raised an eyebrow at his pathetic attempt to get me to talk.

"Ask Luke." I reiterated.

"Okay." Eddie sighed, "Why don't we forget about Luke right now and you can come with me."

"Where are we going?" I asked.

"Well, we could go to lunch." Eddie suggested. "Unless you're still full from breakfast."

"I'm not really hungry." I replied in an attempt to put the inevitable off longer.

"Then we can go to the park." Eddie stated.

"In this weather?" I asked incredulously.

"Dress down." Eddie laughed as he left my room, "Come on, we're leaving in ten minutes."

I watched him go and then sighed, accepting my fate. I gave Chey one more scratch behind the ears and then took advantage of the time I had to dress in shorts and a tank before I went upstairs to meet Eddie. He was dressed similarly, and it was strange, how that without the jackets and ties, he actually looked younger. Maybe even younger than he was. He definitely appeared less intimidating.

I noticed that Eddie was carrying a thick, red binder as I followed him out to the garage. But before I could ask him what it was, we were interrupted as Luke passed by us with one of the guys from the night before, the one he called his best friend, Dave.

"You're going out?" Luke asked Eddie, not so much as sparing me a glance. I knew that we were fighting, but something about being so blatantly ignored, hurt.

I was still feeling very alone in my new surroundings, longing for something or someone familiar. I missed my grandmother. I missed my friends. Being surrounded by people who you hardly know isn't easy. Being surrounded by people who can't stand you was worse.

"Yup, we'll be back in a bit." Eddie replied, "Hi Dave."

"Hi Eddie." Dave replied, and then smiled at me, "Hey, it's Rory, right?"

"Yeah." I nodded.

"Well, when you get back maybe we could all..." Dave started, but Luke grabbed his arm, interrupting him before he could finish.

"Come on, Dave." Luke insisted, "See you later, Eddie."

I noticed that Eddie frowned at Luke as he walked away with Dave, who looked confused. But, at least Eddie had enough sense not to say anything and risk embarrassing me. But, when Eddie touched my shoulder on the way to the car, that comforting contact was more welcomed than I'd like to admit.

I was quiet as Eddie drove, not really paying attention to where we were going as I looked out the window. Through the glare, I could see Eddie glancing at me every once in a while. He seemed nervous again. I wondered if he would always be nervous when we were alone together. I wondered if I would always be nervous when we were alone together.

"Luke can be kind of sensitive." Eddie suddenly said, breaking the silence, "When he gets hurt, he knows how to hold a grudge. He always gets over it, though. If you give it some time, it'll get better."

"So you think I hurt him?" I asked, somewhat bitterly.

"Rory, I didn't mean it like that." Eddie insisted, "I'm not taking sides...I can't take sides. I don't even know what's going on. Except, that when you two left the house last night you were fine but when you came back..."

"Let's not talk about it." I frowned, "Why are we going out anyways? Why couldn't you just talk to me at the house?"

"I thought we could use our privacy." Eddie replied, "Besides, it's not so terrible, spending a little time with me, is it?"

"I guess not." I admitted, unenthusiastically.

"Gee, thanks." Eddie smirked, right before we fell into another silence, all the way to the park.

It wasn't the same park that Luke had taken me to before. This one was smaller, with a playground and more people. We found some shade under a tree and I noticed that Eddie still had that binder with him.

"So what are we talking about?" I asked after we were seated, "are you going to lay down the rules, or is this going to be one of those things where you tell me all of your family history so I know where I came from?"

"Well," he smiled, "How about for now, we forget about the rules? I'm new at this too, Rory. We'll have to make things up as we go in that area. And as for family, I'd love to give you all of my...our, family history, but I wouldn't want you to be completely bored on our first outing together."

"You're family's boring?"

"No." he laughed, "I wouldn't say that...but, I think we should leave talking about them until later. Today, I thought you might want to look at this."

He slid the binder over to me, and I made a point to act uninterested when I opened it. But really, I was curious. And soon, I discovered that it was a picture book, starting out with baby pictures of a dark haired boy.

"This is you?" I asked.

"Yup." Eddie replied, looking over my shoulder, "But, you can skip over the first half of those if you want...there was something else that I wanted you to see."

I flipped through the pages quickly, but not so quickly that I couldn't take note of the pictures. It probably would have surprised Eddie to know that I was actually curious about these pictures. And I was curious about Eddie, not that I was ready to admit that to him.

As I scanned through the pictures, I watched the baby grow into a boy. Surprisingly a short, scrawny boy. Even scrawnier than I was at that age. And as I looked, I realized that I was comparing myself to that boy in the pictures. I was comparing myself to Eddie.

It couldn't be helped, really. If I were to place my photos at that age alongside those of Eddie's, it would look like we were brothers. I really did look like him, and seeing it, brought back the reality that he really was my father.

I was so busy looking at pictures of Eddie that I nearly missed a very important image in one of the photos. Almost. Actually, it would have been hard to miss the little girl with blonde hair and a backwards baseball cap who had Eddie, at age six, in a headlock.

I knew that girl. There were pictures of her everywhere at Grandma Alice's house. Of course, it had been a while since I had actually seen any of her so young. I found myself absently reaching out and touching the photograph, suddenly feeling depressed.

If it weren't my mother in that picture, I probably would have found it hilarious the way she had young Eddie in a headlock while he begged for mercy. But it wasn't funny. That girl in the photograph had been so happy. She'd always been happy. She was one of those rare people who enjoyed life and made it enjoyable for others. And now she was gone. It didn't seem fair.

"She was always picking on me." Eddie said quietly, from behind me, "It was so embarrassing." He laughed, "But, she'd run off all the bullies too...Gina was my best friend."

"She never mentioned you." I frowned, flipping to the next page, only to find more pictures of my mother and Eddie together.

"It's...complicated." Eddie continued. "To be honest Rory, I don't know why she never mentioned me to you."

"Maybe that's because you were never there." I replied, looking down at another photo where Eddie and my mother were a little older. Mom was laughing and Eddie's arm was around her. He had grown taller than her since the last picture, and some of that scrawniness was gone. Mom still looked beautiful. She always did.

Eddie fell silent for a long time. I hoped that he was thinking about not being there. Served him right to feel guilty about it, as far as I was concerned. Not that mom and me weren't happy without him. We were just fine without him, thank you very much. But if he wanted to be a father now, it seemed to me that he had about sixteen years to make up for.

"Rory, there's something I need to tell you..." Eddie started.

"What?" I asked, without looking back. I was too busy looking at another picture. My mother and Eddie had their arms around each other again. But this time was different. They looked like they were my age, and while before they seemed like good friends, now it was obvious by the way that my mom looked at Eddie, that they were a couple.

And she was really looking at him, too. I had never seen her look at anyone like that. Sure, she'd dated over the years, but no one ever worked out. She had felt something for Eddie. Maybe she was even in love with him. I think I hated him more, realizing that. I hated him for leaving her.

Meanwhile, Eddie had gone silent behind me. I could feel him looking over my shoulder, looking at the photo. Suddenly, I didn't want him to see her. I didn't care if it was his book or not. I closed it. He wasn't allowed to look at her. Not her.

"Gina was my best friend, Rory." Eddie sighed. "We grew up together, and we were still really young when we started dating."

"And then you found out she was pregnant and you left her." I concluded, causing Eddie to fall silent again.

"We... broke up." He finally said, "But it was more complicated than that."

"But you broke up with her." I frowned, "Didn't you?"

"Yes." Eddie sighed. "That was my decision."

"She was a good person, you know." I frowned, "She would have...she would have given you everything, and you left her."

"That's not how it happened."

"Because of me." I frowned. "You didn't want her because of me." I didn't really know where I was going with this. But seeing the photos and brought something out in me.

"That's not true." Eddie snapped, causing me to look back at him. He looked frustrated, almost like he wanted to say something but he was holding it back.

"Rory, it had nothing to do wit h you." He insisted, "I didn't...it had nothing to do with you. I did love your mom, you know. But, in the end, it never would have worked. She was my best friend..."

It pissed me off that he kept saying that. To me, he wasn't a good father, and he wasn't even a good friend.

"Some friend!" I snapped, "You left her alone with me! But you know what? She was a good mom! I never needed you. Never! And she didn't either. We were just fine without you! I'll be fine without you."

I was getting emotional. Remembering my mother, seeing the way she smiled in the pictures, and dealing with Eddie and the feelings of anger and maybe even abandonment that I was feeling towards him, was too much. It all made me feel more alone than ever, and I was completely opposed to breaking down in a public park.

I dropped the book and got up without another word, to head for where the car was parked, leaving Eddie to silently follow. When he caught up and opened his mouth to say something to me, I turned away, hoping that he'd get the message.

He did.

The ride back was even more silent than the ride to the park. Eddie kept looking at me again. He kept gripping the steering wheel and clenching his jaw, as if he wanted to say something. I hoped that he would keep it to himself, but he didn't. We were almost home when he glanced my way and let out a breath.

"I'm sorry, Rory." I turned even more towards the window after that. I didn't want his apology. "Whatever you think happened between your mom and me...you don't have the whole story. It was complicated. I'm sorry you're mad at me, but I can't help that I wasn't there for your mom, or you. You have no idea how sorry I am that I wasn't there for you. But I can't change that I wasn't, and I can't change that your mom died, and I can't change it if you want to hate me. I don't know...maybe you have the right to hate me. But I'm here now. And maybe I can't make up for..."

"You can't." I interrupted shortly, as we reached the house and pulled into the garage. "All you can do now is make it worse. Just...leave me alone."

I was out of the car as soon as it stopped and I fled into the house, suddenly finding it very hard to think straight. I left Eddie sitting in the garage, and I was glad that he wasn't following me.

His apology did make it seem worse. I felt like he was apologizing because he thought that I wanted him to. Maybe I did want him to apologize. But, if that were true, then it would mean that I actually regretted growing up without a father. So it couldn't be true. I had been just fine, damn it. I had a great mother. I had a happy childhood.

But my mom was gone now. Eddie had just come into my life. I didn't need him. Not really. Just because he happened to be my father didn't mean anything now that my mom was gone. I didn't need him back then, so I didn't need him now.

But I felt like I needed someone. My grandmother, all of my friends, they were so far away. It seemed like I felt more alone every second that I was in this place, with these people. I found myself randomly thinking of Aaron. We had had a good time at the park last night, just talking. For a while there I had actually felt like I was welcomed. But I couldn't even call him.

Sure, there was a possibility that I would see him again. But, I doubted that Luke would be inviting me to go back to that park with him anytime soon. I couldn't remember Aaron's last name either, so it wasn't like I could look him up.

I was definitely still upset with Luke for throwing Aaron's number out the window. I mean, who does something like that? And why did Luke hate Aaron so much anyways? He didn't even give me an explanation, and I couldn't see any reason for it. Aaron hadn't said anything bad about Luke. Luke seemed to be the only one with a problem. But, I was too busy feeling depressed over my outing with Eddie, and trying to make sense of how I felt about him and my mom together, to worry about why Luke was such an asshole.

Too bad Luke was downstairs when I reached the basement. Dave was with him. They were stretched out on the sofa, laughing at whatever music video was on. I planned to just pass them by and go to my room, but I found myself pausing when Luke looked back and his smile faded when he saw me.

It was bad enough that he was an asshole. It was worse that it actually bothered me that we were fighting. I hated to think that he was angry with me and I couldn't figure out why. His hostility towards me was definitely evident on his face.

I felt like an intruder, in his home. I guess maybe I was an intruder. I was intruding into Eddie, Jase, and Luke's lives as much as they were intruding into mine. But looking at Luke made me feel so unwelcome. I guess that shouldn't have bothered me, right? I mean, I was the one who didn't want to be here in the first place. I still didn't want to be here.

But I had no choice in the matter.

"Hey, you're back." Dave smiled back at me when he noticed me standing there, "We were just going to go for a swim, do you wanna come, Rory?"

Despite my bad mood, Dave's smile was refreshing. Other than his name I didn't know anything about him, but he seemed nice enough. Then again, Luke had been nice when I first met him too. That definitely hadn't turned out well. I was reminded of how unwell it turned out when Luke opened his mouth and responded before I could answer Dave.

"I'm sure Rory isn't interested in hanging out with us," he said, still glaring at me, "he doesn't want to be here anyways, so why don't we just act like he's not."

His words hurt. Sure, I didn't want to be there, but with people like him around who could blame me? I felt horrible, just standing there, staring at Luke. After my emotionally draining outing with Eddie, and now this, I was having a hard time not tearing up. It didn't even make me feel better when Dave reached out and smacked the back of Luke's head.

"Dude, what's your problem?" Dave demanded.

Luke didn't even flinch. He just stared me down until I sadly turned away without another word, retrieving the portable phone from its cradle on my way to my room, where I promptly slammed the door.

I hated getting emotional. I hardly ever cried before my mom died, and if I did, it took a lot to make me cry. But, after she died, sometimes I felt like the smallest things could make me cry. I guess being uprooted and having everything you know taken away from you wasn't a small matter, but I still felt foolish as I collapsed on my bed and the tears began to fall.

I was a controlled crier. I didn't sob and I didn't cry openly. My tears always seemed silent, running down my face. I didn't bother wiping them away because if I did there would only be more, a moment later. The tears were annoying though, just leakage, sliding down my face, blurring my vision as I looked at the phone and dialed the familiar number.

I brought the phone to my ear and the other end rang six times before Grandma Alice's familiar voice came through the line.


I sniffled again, not responding.

"Hello?" she got a little louder. "Rory? Is that you?"

"I hate it here." I whispered.

I heard her sigh, and she actually went silent for a few moments. But only a few.

"What happened?" she asked, but continued before I could answer, "For crying out loud, Rory, you haven't even been there for one day. What could be so bad? Have you talked to Eddie about how you're feeling? The two of you need to talk. I swear I wish I could just lock you both in a room together so you could clear the air. Honestly, the things that you need to say to each other shouldn't be buried. It's just too bad that I have more sense than to tell the both of you exactly what needs to be said. It's just not my place, is all."

"Grandma, I can't talk to him!" I practically shouted. I hadn't really listened to everything that she said. I gave up trying to listen to all of her ramblings years ago. That just seemed to happen around grandma.

"Rory, do not raise your voice to me." she said in that warning tone of hers, "I raised my daughter with more sense than that, and I know she didn't raise you to be disrespectful. Now either you can tell me what's wrong calmly, or you can call back when you're able to do so."

Holy damn. You just couldn't get in a word with this woman. I was already feeling exasperated.

"I hate it here grandma!" And no, I didn't bother to lower my voice. "You don't understand, they don't want me here! I just want to come home."

"Now that's just nonsense and you know it. You listen to me. Your mother put you there for a reason. I know it doesn't seem fair to you, and God knows that I miss you. This change isn't easy for me either, Rory. After losing your mother, the thought of you being so far away...well, it's not really the point. You're exactly where you're supposed to be. Now I can't say that I think it's right that your mom didn't tell you what she was planning, but I can say that she did do right by you. Now if Eddie's given you the option of just staying for the summer, I won't argue with that. You know that you're always welcome here, and I'll always have a place for you. But not until summer's over. Now, you need to stop calling me and go talk to your father. And I assure you, Eddie does want you there."

"Only because he feels guilty." I argued. "I saw the pictures, Grandma. He showed me the pictures of him and mom. She loved him and he left her! And he actually tried to apologize! Can you believe that? Like saying he's sorry will make it all better! It's such bullshit!

"Rory Norick! Language. Honestly..."

"Sorry, It's such...bull." I replied, properly chastised but unable to keep the anger from my voice. "He had no right! I don't belong here, I know I don't. Why should I talk to him now? Why did she do this to me? Why would she send me here?"

"Now look, I know you're upset Rory, but..."

"I can't stay here." I stated. "The summer's too much. I want to come home. I can't talk to Eddie. Everyone else seems to hate me. Why did mom do this? Did she want me to be alone? I'm mad her, grandma. I can't help it. I just want everything to go back to the way that it used to be."

"Rory, you're going to have to calm down, darling."

Damn it. I hated that she was calm. My life was falling apart and she was calm. That just pissed me off more.

"I don't want to be calm, damn it!" I snapped.

"Alright sweetheart, you get it all out," she replied, in that same, irritating, rational tone, "You just be sure to call me back when you're finished."

And then she hung up on me. Again. She hung up and left me along. I didn't even have her familiar voice to keep me company. I was beginning to hate feeling alone. I guess the sad thing was that I while I didn't want to be alone, I didn't want the company of certain people, either. Like Eddie. It seemed like he wouldn't leave me alone. But, I couldn't help pushing him away.

I know that I said that I didn't need Eddie. I still maintained that. But, after seeing actual images of him and my mother together, I couldn't help questioning things. Like, why hadn't she told me about him? Eddie claimed that they were best friends. But, the incredibly vague image that my mother had painted of my father would suggest that she only knew him in passing.

But they grew up together. The pictures proved that. They were friends. And if Eddie had meant as much to my mom as it seemed, why didn't she ever tell me? And, if anything that Eddie said was remotely true, then why hadn't he ever been there? Not one letter. Not one phone call. Nothing. Even if he didn't want to be my father why had he completely stopped communicating with someone who he claimed had been his best friend? He could have come around. They didn't have to tell me that he was my father, but he could have been there.

Maybe I was putting too much thought into this. But I couldn't help it. I had no idea how to react to Eddie. I didn't think being young was an excuse for abandoning your pregnant girlfriend or your own child. He had probably been my age.

I guess I would never understand what it must have been like for Eddie or my mother. I would never put myself in a position to get anyone pregnant. But, I guess that was obvious because I wasn't interested in girls anyways. But still, I'd like to think that if I ever did have a kid, then I wouldn't just walk away. Not like Eddie did.

It was difficult for me, trying to make sense of it. I kept saying that I didn't care. I didn't care if he was there for me or not. And, a few days ago, that was true. But now, after meeting Eddie, and moving in with him, I was beginning to feel resentful towards him as a father, not just some guy who I didn't care for. Maybe that was because he insisted that he was sorry for never getting to know me before. I felt like the only reason that he wanted to get to know me now, after sixteen years, was because I had lost my mom and he felt guilty.

Well, if that was the reason, I didn't need his pity. I didn't need a father, either. I understood that I wasn't very open to Eddie from the beginning, but I felt like that was my right. The thing is though, the more I thought about it, the more that I thought that maybe, we could have at least parted as friends at the end of the summer. There would be no chance of that if Eddie kept trying to be a father that I had no interest in having.

I guess, as much as I hated feeling alone, I still wanted to be left alone. When I went back to my sleeping through it tactic, I hoped that everyone would get the point. I wiped away my tears, stripped down to my boxers, closed the curtains, and went back to bed. Maybe when I woke up again, things would be better.


Sleeping through it and sleeping can be two very different things. The problem with trying to sleep through your troubles is first, that never solves them, and second, you can't always actually fall asleep because you're too busy thinking about said troubles.

So I just sort of lad there, buried under the covers until I felt so lethargic that there was probably no difference between me and the lump of covers covering me. But, eventually I did stop thinking about everything bothering me. And the knots in my stomach disappeared. I was just sorta, numb.

After my mom died, I slept a lot. Back then, people called it depression. What I was doing now, I called avoidance. When Eddie came into my room about two hours after I had climbed in bed to check on me, I pulled the pillow over my head and pretended to be asleep. It worked and he went away.

When Eddie came back another couple hours after that to tell me that dinner would be ready soon, he actually shook my shoulder to wake me up. I managed to open my eyes that time, but I only long enough to express how annoyed I was with him for interrupting my self-pity party before I rolled over and proceeded to ignore him.

Jase was next. He wasn't as tentative as Eddie about trying to wake me up. He swung the door in and called into my room.

"Rory, dinner's ready. We're all waiting for you. Dave's staying over...you'll probably figure out sooner or later that he doesn't like waiting when it comes to his food." He was trying to make a joke, I think. I didn't care.

"Not hungry." I mumbled, tightening the pillow over my head.

"Suit yourself." Jase sounded annoyed. But, at least he closed my door and left me alone. Well, not alone. Chey somehow got trapped in the room with me and when she made a habit out of licking my feet, I kicked her out.

And then it was quiet. I think I did fall asleep at some point. I must have, because when I opened my eyes again the house was quiet. And I was wide awake. I guess after lying down for eight hours straight it was reasonable that I should be wide awake.

It was just after eleven o'clock. I guess technically, it was time for me to go to sleep. Only now, I couldn't. I found myself getting up, pacing my room, and feeling a little restless. All of my day's frustrations were creeping up again. Those images of my mom and Eddie. Luke, the way he seemed to suddenly despise me. And the air in my room seemed stale. It didn't stink or anything, but I wanted to get out.

I pulled on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and silently left my room. The basement was dark. I could hear music coming from Luke's door, but it wasn't very loud. He probably slept with the stereo on.

Despite the darkness, I managed to make it to the stairs without incident and up through the house. There was a dim hall light on upstairs, giving me enough light to find my way around the unfamiliar surroundings as I tiptoed barefoot, not wanting to wake anyone up as I made it to the back door and stepped outside.

The air outside didn't seem as hot as it did earlier in the day, but it was still warmer than it was inside. And it was fresh. I took a deep breath, and I could smell the pool, the familiar scent of chlorine.

I think looking at water had always been a calming thing for me. Even when it moved, it always seemed calm, peaceful. And swimming. I loved swimming. When I was swimming I didn't think of anything, only the feel of being surrounded by water. Water was familiar to me. I needed that familiarity now. Maybe I couldn't get back to what my life used to be, but at least I could still find some familiar aspects here.

I pulled off my shirt and my jeans, stripping down to my boxers and without a second thought I walked to the deep end of the pool and stepped off the edge. I didn't jump, I didn't dive, I just walked in. It was quieter that way.

I brought my knees up to my chest, wrapping my arms around them as I sank, feeling weightless. I liked that feeling, and how there was just enough light to see my surroundings when I opened my eyes and adjusted to the feeling of water against them.

I wasn't trying to drown myself. I could hold my breath for a really long time. So, sitting under the water to find a little peace was no big deal to me. Actually, this wasn't the first time that I'd done this.

I'd spent a lot of time at the bottom of my school's swimming pool after my mom died. My coach even gave me a key to the gym, so I could come back after everyone left for the day. I'd let myself float under the water, waiting for that relaxed feeling to take over as my mind cleared, and I'd think of my mom.

I wouldn't think of the sad memories, not about how she died, or how she wasn't there anymore. I'd clear my head and think of when we were happy. Like, the first time she ever took me swimming. Even when I was young, we'd sit under the water together. Mom would hold my hands and we'd practice holding out breath, and we'd talk to each other under the water, not that we could ever quite understand what we were saying to each other. Words always sounded funny under there.

And I remembered her smile. And her laugh. She had a unique laugh. It was sort of squeaky. I guess some would find it irritating. I thought that it was funny. Whenever mom laughed, I laughed too, just from hearing her laugh.

When she first died, and I'd plant myself at the bottom of a swimming pool, and I'd hold out my hands for her, just like I did when I was little. She was never there to grab hold of them of course, but I could remember the way it felt, for her to hold my hands and pull me up, out of the water.

I held my hands out again, trying to picture my mother as that peaceful feeling came over me. I didn't feel like I needed to breathe yet. I probably had a while to go before I did. I closed my eyes, releasing some of the air from my lungs into the water, pacing myself. I wished that I didn't have to breathe at all. I could stay under the water forever.

But the peaceful feeling didn't last more than a few moments.

I felt hands close around my wrists and my eyes snapped open. Obviously I was startled. One tends to freak out when something suddenly grabs hold of you under the water. Before I could even figure out who or what it was I was spun around and pulled against a body and an arm moved securely around my chest.

My first instinct was to panic, and I tried to fight the arm off, but as we moved towards the surface of the water I forced myself to relax and ride it out as I tried to figure out what the hell was going on.

My head had hardly broken the surface before I was shoved against the wall and I latched onto the ledge, instinctively hoisting myself out of the water. I had hardly pulled myself out before Chey's tongue was in my face and I had to push her away, groaning.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

I looked up to find Luke standing over me, looking furious, but at the moment, that was beside the point. He was dripping wet, wearing nothing but a pair of white briefs. Wet briefs. There was little left to the imagination. It didn't exactly help that his crotch was right in my face and I couldn't help staring.

"Our you out of your mind?" he shouted, causing my attention to snap back up to his face.

Slowly, I began to realize what had happened. Luke had pulled me out of the pool. But why? It didn't matter why. I remembered that I was still mad at him and I jumped to my feet, scowling.

"Me?" I demanded, "What's your problem?"

"Just because you're not happy here doesn't mean you get to pull immature little pranks like this!" Luke retorted, "God, you're such a little brat! Are you trying to get attention or something? `Cause I gotta tell you, trying to drown yourself in the middle of the night isn't exactly going to get any attention until it's too late. You really are a dumb ass, aren't you?"

Drown myself? The idea was so ridiculous to me that I probably would have laughed at him, except I was too damn pissed off for that. First he threw Aaron's number out the car window, then he treated me like shit, and then he pulled me out of the pool like he had done me a favor.

"First of all, I wasn't in trouble, so there was no need for you to play the hero." I shot back, "Second of all, if I ever did need rescuing, you'd be the last person I'd ask for help. And if you want to call someone immature, look at yourself! And yeah, I'm not happy here, but who the hell are you to complain about that? You're probably the first person around here who would offer to pack my bags if it would get me out of your lives any sooner!"

Luke opened his mouth to say something, but I didn't give him the chance. I took a backwards jump into the water, wanting to avoid him completely and get back to my peaceful place. But, it wasn't easy after that last encounter.

Where the hell did he get off trying to rescue me? Not that I needed rescuing in the first place. And he made me lose my mother. Well, not my mom, but the image that I had been conjuring of her. And I couldn't get it back either. Those pesky hormones had reared their ugly head and now all I could see was Luke in those wet briefs. Reminding myself that he was my cousin-a cousin that I didn't even like, didn't do any good either. My cock was springing right up; just like it had yesterday when he was parading around naked. What the hell was wrong with me?

I closed my eyes again, as I settled at the bottom of the pool, slightly floating as I tried to clear my head. Being under the water helped, as it always did, but when I opened my eyes I got another shock when I found that Luke was across from me, sitting in the place where I usually imagined my mom, watching me intently.

I just stared, wondering what the hell he was doing. I thought of leaving the pool, deciding that he was just trying to annoy me, but instead I remained where I was and just stared. I could wait him out. There was no way that he could hold his breath longer than I could.

Sure enough, a few minutes later his face was turning red and he suddenly kicked off the bottom of the pool and headed for the surface, seeking air. I joined him a minute later and he was still wading water and coughing.

"What are you, some kind of freak?" he remarked, wiping the water from his face.

"What do you want?" I frowned, "You made it pretty clear that you don't want me around, Luke. So why don't you leave me alone?"

"Because I don't know many people who sleep all day and then sit at the bottom of a swimming pool in the middle of the night." he shot back. "Eddie and Jase are already worried about you, if something happened to you because you're being a dumb shit..."

"I didn't ask anyone to worry about me." I frowned, "So just leave me alone."

I started to sink under the water again, but my nose was hardly under before I was startled by Luke's hands, on my arms, pulling me back up. And I was a little panicked too. The way he grabbed me placed our groins together, and mine was still semi hard. I couldn't see anything good about Luke discovering this, and in my panic, I reacted, placing my hands firmly on the top of his head and dunking him, giving myself enough of a chance to get away.

Luke came up sputtering water, looking absolutely offended. I couldn't help it. I started to laugh.

I didn't find anything particularly funny, not really. But the laughing felt good, like I was suddenly wide-awake. I ignored the way that Luke cocked his head at me, looking at me like I was insane. But, as I turned to float on my back, the right corner of his mouth turned up into a smile and he suddenly splashed me.

I saw it coming, so I moved back under the water, suddenly feeling gutsy as I swam under him, grabbing his ankle and pulling him under. Luke moved with me, trying to make a grab for my leg, but I eluded him, and before he could catch me I was in the shadows behind him.

I'm not sure why I did what I did next. Maybe it was because I was still annoyed with him for tossing out Aaron's number. Or, maybe it was just part of the mischievous mood I was in. I'm not sure what I was thinking when I grabbed hold of his briefs and yanked them down his legs and off of him.

I heard a surprised Luke curse above the water before he dove under to catch me as I swam away with his underwear. Before he could even catch up, however, I made it out of the pool and looked back down as he swam towards me, glaring.

"You are going to be so sorry for that." he warned, but there wasn't the anger that I expected to hear in his voice. He almost sounded amused.

I smirked at him and then looked down at Chey, wagging her tail wildly at my feet, and before I could think about it I held the wet underpants in front of her nose. I never expected her to snatch them out of my hand and run into the house with them, but that's exactly what she did.

"No, damn it! Chey!" Luke called.

He had just started to climb out of the pool, and I was so busy laughing that I almost forgot to run. Almost. I made it through the sliding glass door just before Luke did, and again, without really thinking about it, I locked him out.

I watched as the look of disbelief crossed his face, as he just stood on the other side of the door, naked and shocked as he pointlessly tried to pull the door open. And then his blue eyes snapped up to mine, wide and almost pleading.

"Rory!" he frowned, "Open the door! Rory!"

I thought about opening the door. I really did. But then I remembered the way that he treated me about Aaron. And the way he treated me in front of Dave, and how it felt when he had so blatantly ignored me. I decided to return the favor. I walked away. And no, I didn't feel guilty about it at all.


I heard pawing at my bedroom door and went to let Chey in after pulling a dry shirt over my head. I decided that after she'd helped me get the better of her jackass owner that she deserved a good scratch behind the ears.

But, it had been almost thirty minutes. I thought that maybe I should go let Luke in already. Maybe I was an immature, vengeful, shit, but I wasn't entirely cruel. I wasn't going to leave him out there all night. Then again, it wasn't like he was going to freeze to death outside. And maybe I'd only known Luke for one day, but it was pretty obvious that he wasn't shy about his body. I'm sure he could last another hour or so, at least.

Besides, I wasn't in a hurry to get my ass kicked. I was at least smart enough to know that Luke was bigger than me, and stronger than me. The images of him breaking me in half didn't come to mind like they did when I thought of Eddie, but Luke could definitely give me a decent beating that I was willing to put off for as long as possible.

It was the tapping at my window that caused me to stop debating whether or not I was going to let him in. I pulled back my curtains and looked up. Since I was in the basement, the windows were higher than they'd normally be. But, not so high that I couldn't see the image of Luke, kneeling down outside, holding his hands in front of his groin.

I was sort of surprised to see him there. My bedroom faced the front of the house, which meant that he had walked all the way around it in his current state. Naked. I guess he was lucky that we were in the middle of nowhere.

He was frowning, but I couldn't even laugh at him because his eyes were practically pleading with me now. I didn't even hesitate to reach up and open the window. I stepped back, and this time looked away as his body stretched out and he dropped through the window. The idea of being attracted to someone who was related to me was becoming increasingly unsettling. The idea of being attracted to someone who I was still mad at seemed even worse.

I did look back when I heard the window close, and I worked hard to keep my eyes on his face as he glared at me. I felt nervous just then, realizing that I had just let the enemy in and he would probably be more than happy to beat the crap out of me at the moment. But, no blows ever came as he just stared at me, muttered, "Thank you," through gritted teeth, and then walked to my door, not bothering to cover any part of his naked form. He stopped briefly to look down at his dog, which was still standing at my feet, "Come on Chey." But, to my surprise, and Luke's too, she sat down right where she was, refusing to move. Luke frowned at her, but then left without another word, closing the door behind him.

I looked down at Chey, and released the breath that I'd been holding as I slowly sat down on my bed. I had really been expecting confrontation after what I did to Luke. The fact that he'd thanked me for letting him in and walked away without saying anything else left me feeling perplexed. I didn't have much time to dwell on it, though. The soft knock on my door a few moments later interrupted my thoughts. Before I could give a response, it opened, and Luke came back in, this time wearing clothes.

"Okay." He said, matter of factly, looking at me, "You win."

"I win?" I frowned, having no idea what he was talking about.

"Yeah." He sighed, coming in and taking a seat on the floor across from me as he reached out to pet Chey. "When my own dog starts ignoring me I know that I must be acting like an asshole." I just stared, still not sure what to say, so Luke continued. "Look...I owe you an apology. I was sort of a jerk...with Aaron."

"Sort of?" I raised my eyebrow at him.

"Hey, I just spent the last forty minutes outside naked." He reminded me, "You got your point across. I'm trying to apologize here. The least you could do is accept it."

"Right." I sighed, "Okay, sorry I locked you out." I guess he did have a point. And, to be honest, Luke apologizing was the best thing that happened to me all day.

"It was kinda funny." He smirked, "I mean, I didn't think you'd actually do it." But his smile didn't last, "I sort of deserved it, huh?"

"Sort of." I agreed. "I mean, if we had neighbors, I don't think I would have done it."

"Yes you would have." He smiled, "But seriously. I'm sorry about the whole Aaron thing...and today. You didn't deserve to be treated like that."

I frowned, remembering how it felt the few times we had actually encountered each other during the day. I'd hated the way that he had treated me. Whether or not he was mad, he'd acted like a jerk.

"So, I'm sorry." He continued, "I know that being here...it's not easy for you. I didn't mean to make it worse. It's just that Aaron...he's sort of a sore spot with me. The idea of anyone in this house socializing with him drives me crazy. But, I guess I had it coming, huh? I mean, you were just trying to make friends and when we were at the park...I guess I sort of ended up ignoring you."

I hadn't thought of that. They'd invited me to play their game at the park. It had been my choice not to.

"You didn't ignore me." I replied. He looked like he felt guilty, and I decided that it wouldn't be terrible to let him off the hook a little. "I talked to Aaron because I wanted to. Not because I had to. Why do you hate him so much anyways? He seemed nice enough to me. And he didn't say anything bad about you, either."

"I guess he wouldn't." Luke scoffed, "But trust me Rory, the guy's bad news."

"That doesn't exactly explain why you think that." I pointed out. Honestly, I was curious to know why Luke hated Aaron so much. Maybe it seemed disloyal of me, not to automatically take Luke's side. But, the reality was that I didn't really know either of them. I'd probably spent more time talking to Aaron than I had talking to Luke the entire time that I'd been there. And Aaron wasn't the one telling me how terrible another person was.

"I guess it doesn't matter why I don't like him." Luke sighed. "I have no right to tell you who to be friends with, Rory. Look, I can't stand the guy, and I will warn you to be careful around him, but...if you want to call him, I'm not going to shun you for it."

"Oh? And how am I supposed to do that?" I smirked.

"Yeah, right." Luke laughed, "So I had an immature moment when I tossed the number." He admitted, "What happened to giving me a break?"

"I don't know, maybe I'll give you another one when you get back from searching the highway for the Dairy Queen receipt that that number was written on." I replied.

"Damn you're tough, aren't you?" he smiled, "but, fortunately, I won't have to go to extreme measures." He added as he stood up and headed for the door again. "You can call Aaron anytime you want. His number's speed-dial seven on the house phone."

Speed dial? Why would Luke have someone he hated on speed dial? It was definitely weird.

"So are we okay?" he asked, looking back at me from the door. This time Chey was with him.

"Yeah." I shrugged, "we're okay."

"Good." He nodded, "but, Rory...I meant what I said about Aaron. Be careful...I know he seems cool. But, he has a tendency to leave his `friends' hanging."

I wondered what Luke meant by that. He didn't really give me a chance to ask before he walked out, silently closing the door behind him.

Oh well. I'd ask later. But, despite the warning that Luke gave me, I was happy to have Aaron's number accessible again. Maybe I could give Aaron a call and get away from here for a while.

Maybe things would be okay with Luke, but I still had the issue of Eddie to deal with. I wouldn't mind getting away from the house, away from Eddie and having to deal with all of the feelings that came along with him. Maybe Aaron could provide that escape. Now, I just had to decide when I wanted to call him.

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