This story contains male/male relationships that may or may not be sexual in nature. If that’s something that offends you, or if it’s illegal where you are please don’t read further. Any comments or questions can be sent to,




Desert Dropping

 Chapter Thirty-two: Confuse me plenty

Thanks to Jim for editing!

I tensed as Luke leaned over my shoulder from behind the basement sofa, his arms stretching across my bare chest as his hand closed over the magazine next to me; little droplets of water from his recent shower fell onto my shoulder as his breath hit my neck, the combination sending a chill down my spine as I swallowed hard and tried to ignore it. Two days ago, I wouldn’t have had to try. This would be something that I was used to. Close, comfortable contact with the best friend that I had. Now, I felt claustrophobic, uneasy, entirely fucking uncomfortable as I tried to focus on the movie playing in front of me. It was Monday night, and I wished that it was Saturday again, because on Saturday, I hadn’t made a habit of questioning every little thing that Luke did.

"What time is it?" Luke asked as he straightened himself and looked at the magazine. I turned my head, my eyes becoming level with his abdomen. Like many times when he got out of the shower and actually remembered to put on pants, he didn’t bother zipping up and I was faced with the light curls that made up the thatch of pubic hair. I diverted my eyes. Maybe at the beginning of the summer I would have paid a lot more attention to that, but now, I wasn’t supposed to notice as much. I wasn’t supposed to get flustered over various parts of Luke’s body, and I wasn’t supposed to wonder if he was sticking them in my face on purpose.

"Almost six," I replied.

Luke looked down at me, and I swallowed as I met his eyes. Blue eyes, studying me beneath dripping curls.

"Good, you about ready to go?"

I nodded. Go. Get out of the house. Be around people. Be around Seth. No more of these questions swarming around my head. Seth would help get rid of them. He was the perfect distraction. At least, he’d better be, because this was all his fault, anyway.


"What did you say?" On Sunday morning at the park, I had to repeat myself just in case Seth hadn’t heard me the first time.

"Oh, come on," Seth said. He was giving me a meaningful smile, as if I were supposed to actually understand what he was saying. Maybe he was teasing me. I decided to laugh. It was a forced, bewildered laugh, but still a laugh.

"I was being serious," I insisted, turning my attention back to Luke, who was still watching Jole-whoever walk across the field. I felt Seth move from where he was sitting on the table, to join me on the bench where he allowed me to move an arm around his waist and he leaned in to kiss my temple as I drew him closer to me.

"I was serious, too," he said conversationally. That had me looking at him again, and laughing, because I had no idea what else I was supposed to do.

"It’s not me," I said, not sure why Seth would even joke about something like this. "Luke isn’t into me."

Seth looked at me inquisitively for a moment. "Are you serious?" he asked, quite seriously.

"Are you?" I responded. "You can’t just say that Luke..."

"Likes, you," Seth finished for me, beginning to look a little concerned. "I’ve seen him. But look, I’m not upset about it, okay? It’s not like it matters, right?"

"You’ve seen him?" I repeated, only focused on one thing Seth had said. "When?" I’m not sure why I found the need to defend myself from the topic, rather than just find it funny.

Seth was frowning at me, but, then he let out a breath and spoke reasonably. "There have been a few times that I noticed it. Like, that night I was watching you at Dave’s birthday..."

"You were watching me?" I interrupted, feeling oddly touched by that.

Seth smiled. "Yeah, I was watching you," he said quietly, before he continued with his point. "But that night I kinda got the idea that you and Luke were into each other... and then a few times after you and me started hanging out, I sort of got the idea that he didn’t like me around. And, he looks at you sometimes. Like yesterday he was watching when you and me were in the pool talking."

"I didn’t notice anything," I responded, and then remembered my conversation with Luke after everyone else had left. "No, wait... he explained some things to me yesterday and admitted he was watching, but he’s just going through some stuff, and..."

"Rory, I’m not upset," Seth insisted, moving his arm around my shoulder to pull me a little closer. "Look, it’s just stuff I noticed. Like, last night, too, when you were dancing with him--he likes to get a little cozy, you know?"


"And... I could get jealous, or I could just trust you to think it was just a dance..."

"It was just a dance," I insisted. I no longer had any idea how we came into this topic, but I didn’t like it. It seemed to me that your boyfriend wasn’t supposed to make outrageous guesses about who else might like you.

"Maybe to you it was," Seth replied. He was beginning to look frustrated, but obviously trying not to unleash it. "Rory, I like Luke, okay? I mean, clearly, I can’t blame him for liking you."

"Seth, it’s not like that..."

"Okay," he cut me off, smiling to show that he wasn’t upset about anything. I couldn’t exactly match it. This was not the first time I’d been accused of liking Luke. The last time, I’d admitted to myself that I did in fact, like him, but this time... "Let’s just say for a second that I’m right," Seth insisted. "Let me ask you something. If I was right, and Luke was interested in you--would it matter?

"It wouldn’t matter," I said, squeezing Seth’s hand. I hadn’t even thought about the question. Didn’t have the time to think about it. This was Seth I was talking to, and that was the right answer. It’s the same one he’d given me when it came to Aaron.


The awkwardness around Luke due to Seth’s ridiculous assumption started sooner than expected. Sooner, because I hadn’t expected it to start at all.

I didn’t know you could have a pizza delivered to a park. Neither did anyone else, I guess, because they were skeptical when Luke got on his cell phone around noon and ordered seven of them as the group we were in continued to grow. Once the food was on its way, he held out his hand and waited for everyone to pitch in.

Seth and I were still there. We kept saying that we were going to go somewhere else, on our own, but I think by lunch neither of us actually had any specific place in mind, other than Seth’s bedroom. But it seemed that his mom was hosting a play date for his little sister, and we decided that hanging out at the park wasn’t going to kill us for a few hours. Besides, it’s not like we weren’t in good company, and I was beginning to notice that we did well in a group setting, especially in one where no one cared if we decided to ignore everyone to make out for five minutes at a time during various moments. And, it seemed comfortable, the way that we could still be together without actually having to be together, like when I started talking to Rick as we compared our swim teams while Seth started talking to Angela, and a few other guys this time, I noticed. It also occurred to me that seeing him talk to guys didn’t make me jealous, like it had with Aaron. I’m not sure whether this was because I simply didn’t see them as competition, or because Seth kept looking over his shoulder at me, as if to keep track of where I was; and because of it, I knew who he was thinking about, and who he was talking to just didn’t matter.

Seth was talking to Brian and Cathy about something that seemed to have him interested when Luke slid into the bench next to me, shirtless and sweaty and thoroughly scraped up and bruised from playing football, one of the pizza boxes that had been passed around in his hands. He held it open for me and looked at me pointedly until I finally took a slice. I hadn’t really been hungry, and the pizza looked greasy, but Luke looked satisfied as he placed the box on the table and moved closer to me, so that he was against me. He’d been sweating from all of his running around and our shoulders seemed to stick together as we ate in silence for a few moments, only half paying attention to the conversations around us.

"Dave’s making out with Angela," Luke finally said, and I turned my head towards him. He nodded over his shoulder to indicate what he was talking about and I looked. Dave was, in fact, making out with Angela. Kinda. They were sitting on the grass, holding hands and kissing rather awkwardly, almost carefully. Eyes open. It was actually kinda funny to look at.

"Well... good," I decided. "I mean... maybe now you won’t have to hear him so much, you know."

"Hmm. Maybe. It’s kinda weird," Luke replied, and I looked at him curiously.


"Yeah; I mean, before he just liked her, and now he’s with her, and it’s... weird. But yeah, good, too. I guess... Jole, pizza?" Luke suddenly called, and I found myself smiling when the guy Luke seemed to show an interest in turned from where he was talking to Rick and moved towards the table.

"Yeah, thanks," the other blond replied as he grabbed a slice, and then walked away. I watched Luke carefully during this, a little disappointed that he seemed to be more interested in his food now, than Jole.

"Who was that?" I asked him casually.


I waited for more of a response, but didn’t get one when Luke decided to take another large bite of his pizza instead, shifting one leg under the table so that his shoe was against mine. I found myself looking down at it for a moment as it made me think of what Seth had said earlier. His foot was against mine. No big deal, of course. We sat close all the time. There was nothing wrong with being comfortable with each other. Comfortable, not cozy like Seth said. Two different things.

"How do you know Jole?" I asked, and then to make sure the conversation moved in the right direction, added, "He’s kinda cute."

Luke lifted his eyes to where Jole was now talking to a few girls who I didn’t know, as if to consider what I was saying as he chewed his food, and I found myself frowning again as seconds continued to pass. He was clearly checking Jole out earlier. I felt his foot shift against mine and looked down again. It was just a foot. Stop thinking about it.

"Hmm," Luke finally mumbled. "I guess so."

He turned his attention to me, and I found myself going uncharacteristically tense as Luke suddenly reached down and picked an olive that had dropped on my thigh off my leg and tossed it aside before going back to his own food as if it didn’t mean anything. Because it didn’t mean anything. So why the hell was I thinking about it? I made a mess. He cleaned it up. Friends. There was nothing unusual about him looking out for me. I found myself looking past him, towards the other end of the bench. Empty. Across the table from us--empty. Yet, he chose to sit next to me. Close to me. And thinking about it, which I really shouldn’t have been doing, anyway, I realized that there was nothing unusual about that, either. He did it at home on the sofa, unless he was sitting on the other end of it with his feet touching me. It didn’t matter if there was plenty of room. For us, it wasn’t unusual to sit close together.

For us.

I suddenly found myself looking around, wondering if other people would think it was unusual. Currently, it didn’t look like they noticed. I immediately thought of Seth and Angela, and how it was easy to mistake them for a couple. That could have been the case with me and Luke. Maybe that’s what Seth was trying to explain to me. Maybe Luke and I just appeared to be close because we’d grown comfortable with each other.

Only, as my eyes drifted to Dave and Angela again, and the awkwardness that they were displaying, something didn’t feel quite right. Things were awkward with Angela and Dave because things were new with them. I knew the feeling well. But, if I thought back to the very beginning, things had never quite been that way with Luke and me. Maybe there was a little awkwardness during our first and only real fight, and maybe I did feel a little uncomfortable before I got used to Luke walking around naked, or moving into my personal space as if we’d known each other for years, and not weeks, but it’s not like I’d ever had a problem with it. I didn’t see anything wrong with it. But maybe... maybe something If I thought about the way that Luke interacted with Dave, it was true that they seemed comfortable in each other’s personal space. It was clear that they were fond of each other, and obviously they’d do anything for each other, but any friendly affection that Luke showed Dave seemed momentary, like jokingly planting a kiss on his best friend’s cheek, or putting an arm around his shoulder. There seemed to be thinly drawn lines there that I couldn’t quite see with Luke and me. Maybe it was because I was gay, and Dave wasn’t. Maybe we were supposed to be able to feel close to each other. I’ll admit that there was a certain bond there. But that didn’t mean that it was a romantic one. Or, maybe we felt close to each other, because from the first moment I’d met him, Luke had been stepping into my personal space and I’d grown comfortable with it to the point that I had no idea whether or not this kind of thing was unusual.

I was suddenly having a little difficulty thinking straight as Seth’s assumptions came back to haunt me, word for word. I was skeptical. I had to be, because Luke interested in me, was never an idea that I’d entertain, or even think about entertaining. We’d had that conversation. Sure, it hadn’t been for any particular reason, but Luke had brought it up. Nothing could happen between us because things could get too weird. It could ruin what we did have, not to mention I didn’t want to try to bring that kind of conversation up with Jase or Eddie. It would make everything too weird. It didn’t matter how attracted I was to Luke. Personally speaking, I’d been dealing with so much crap as it was, I wouldn’t have wanted to add sorting out a more physical relationship with Luke to the list. But just because I felt that what we’d talked about was right, and even if Luke knew that nothing could happen between us, that didn’t mean that it’s what he wanted.

I felt completely brazen for even thinking that. I looked at Luke, watching him lick a smudge of tomato sauce off of his lip. He didn’t like me. I doubted that I was even his type. Maybe he cared about me, and looked out for me, and was completely supportive whenever I needed him to be, but to think that he was interested in something more seemed so far-fetched that I couldn’t even begin to comprehend it, and the thought alone made me uneasy. I wasn’t supposed to be feeling like this--confused, and torn; and really confused, and terrified that on some level, Seth’s assumption could be true; and I was really, really confused. I wasn’t supposed to be going over every moment, every time Luke touched me, wondering if it meant something. I wasn’t supposed to be wondering why he was sitting so close to me now--because that’s what Luke did.

I jumped so bad that I ended up off of the bench, standing a good foot away from the picnic table when I felt lips on my neck.

"Hey," Seth said, turning me to face him. "Are you okay? I didn’t mean to scare you."

"You didn’t," I said quickly, looking between Seth and Luke, who were both regarding me strangely. Luke’s brow was arched and he still had a piece of pizza hanging out of his mouth, while Seth looked worried that he’d shocked me. "I’m fine. What’s up?"

What was up, was that I was suddenly feeling like I’d just been caught doing something wrong. Reasonably, I knew that wasn’t true. I’d been talking to my friend and eating a greasy slice of pizza, and my boyfriend kissed me. Nothing. I hadn’t done anything to feel ashamed of. But that didn’t change that I felt guilty standing there, between the two of them. I just wished that I knew what I was feeling guilty about. I couldn’t figure out if it was because Seth had caught me sitting so cozily with Luke, therefore furthering his point, or if it was because Seth kissing me made me uncomfortable because Luke was there to see it, and suddenly I had a problem with that, even if it appeared that Luke couldn’t care less. Either way, both were reasons to feel guilty.

"Want some more pizza, Seth?" Luke asked, pushing the box closer towards the end of the table. "There’s still a few slices left."

"I’m good," Seth replied, patting at his stomach as if he actually had a belly on him. He looked at me, and I found myself tensing when he lifted a hand to my hip, just for a brief touch. I immediately felt ashamed of myself, and prayed that Seth hadn’t noticed. My boyfriend touching me was not supposed to make me uncomfortable. I jumped again when Luke was suddenly next to me, placing a heavy hand on my shoulder. That shouldn’t have made me uncomfortable, either. This wasn’t right. This whole situation wasn’t right.

"I’m gonna find Chey and go home for a while," Luke announced. "I seriously need a shower and I think I’m gonna sit and do nothing for the rest of the day." He let go of my shoulder to rub at his own back, indicating that he was sore.

"Okay, see you later," I finally replied, when I figured out that Luke was waiting for a response.

"Hey, Luke," Seth spoke up, before Luke could walk away. "I’m sorta Angela’s ride, and her and Dave..."

"I can give her a ride," Luke offered. "Dave’s probably coming home with me, anyway, so she can come too, or I can take her home."

"Thanks," Seth replied. "You can tell her that if she does go with you I can probably take her home later, I just wanna get out of here now, too."

"You do?" I asked, looking at Seth. I’m not sure why this news surprised me. Maybe it didn’t. In all honesty, I think I was just trying to rejoin the conversation.

"Yeah," Seth said, looking at me curiously again. "We do--don’t we?"

"Oh... yeah," I agreed, nodding my head. I felt lost, and worse, they were both looking at me like they knew it. I couldn’t tell if they were concerned or amused. It didn’t help that when Seth slid his arm around my waist, I didn’t relax until after Luke walked away.


I placed two tall styrofoam cups that Seth’s and my frozen drinks were in on a small table off to the side of the sofa in his bedroom, and then took a seat. I was better now. I’d gone to another movie with Seth. It hadn’t been very long, about ninety minutes. It had been the perfect thing to do to get out of the sun for a while so we could cool off. Afterwards, we’d grabbed smoothies, and now that we were back at his house, I really was feeling better. I don’t know, maybe the sun had gotten to my head before. At least now, I seemed to see things in perspective again. Whatever I’d been feeling at the park, whatever bothersome thoughts I’d had drifting around my head, just didn’t matter now. After a few hours with Seth, I felt that I was right where I was supposed to be, and tonight when I went home, things would be completely normal between Luke and me.

As Seth took a seat next to me, momentarily lifting the remote control to flick on music videos, I leaned into him, smiling to myself as he lifted an arm to move around my shoulders. I was comfortable. Just like I was supposed to be. Until Seth started talking.

"So what’s with you?" he asked.

"Huh?" I glanced up from where my head was resting on his shoulder. He had his free hand on his hat, petting it as if it were his hair, his eyes lowered and focused on me and the expression on his face seemed like a patient one.

"You’ve been kind of quiet."

"We were watching a movie," I pointed out.

"I was watching a movie. You, were somewhere else.

"Seth..." I didn’t get what this was all about. I was feeling better. No need to think about what I’d been thinking about.

"Name just one of the characters," Seth challenged, and then when I frowned at him, he smiled at me.

"Is it because of what we were talking about earlier?" he asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Aaron," Seth replied, and I sat up to better face him. "I mean... you could be thinking about what his deal is, and why he had to come see you this morning, in which case I’d tell you that you’re probably wasting your time--unless you think we’re not done talking about last night?"

"No, we are," I said quickly. "That, and all things Aaron."

"Good," he replied, smiling, but, the smile was short-lived. "So is it the other thing we talked about, then--Luke?"

I leaned back on the sofa, narrowing my eyes at him and hating how he did that. After careful consideration, I decided against trying to tell him that he wasn’t right.

"It was just a weird conversation to have, okay?" I said reasonably. "You know, I don’t think of Luke like that, and he doesn’t... he shouldn’t..."

"I never should have mentioned it, huh?" Seth’s brow was frowning beneath his hat as he faced me. "Rory, it was just an observation. When you asked about who he liked--that was just the first thing that came to mind."

"I know you didn’t mean anything by it," I insisted. "It just, bothers me to think that Luke could..." I cut myself off, wishing that I’d opted to not talk about this. I wasn’t even sure if it was appropriate to talk about, especially with Seth.

"Hey," Seth said quietly, and I met his eyes. "Before, when I asked you if it mattered--you answered a little fast. Is this something you need to think about?"

"No," I said quickly. "I meant it. I just hope you’re wrong, that’s all. It would make things weird with Luke. You’re probably wrong."

Seth pursed his lips, still watching me. This was the part where he was supposed to tell me that I was completely right about him being wrong. He didn’t. But his face relaxed and he reached out, his hand sliding up from my stomach to my chest before he cupped the back of my neck and pulled me towards him. As I kissed him, I settled for the conversation simply being over because obviously, Seth had heard whatever he needed to hear.


I bit into a green apple as I leaned over the kitchen counter, facing the sliding-glass door. Luke was in the pool with Dave, both in the water, holding onto the edge as they talked, looking like they were doing a great job of cracking each other up. I watched, amused as Luke suddenly lunged his body at Dave in a way that dunked them both.

It was almost five thirty, and since Angela needed to be home to go to dinner with her parents, I’d decided that it would be a good opportunity to shower and change while Seth took her. She’d been at the house with Luke and Dave all day, and had called around four to ask him if he wouldn’t mind. After they left, Luke had asked me if I wanted to get in the pool with him and Dave. Normally, I wouldn’t have hesitated. This time I told him that I wanted to shower instead. Despite feeling better for about five minutes while I was with Seth, seeing Luke face to face brought back all of the questions that I really shouldn’t have been asking myself.

"Hey!" I jumped and spun around when I heard Eddie’s voice and he suddenly dropped a hand on my shoulder. I seemed to be jumping a lot today.

"Hi," I replied, collecting myself as I took another bite of the apple as I turned away from the window to face him. "Jase said you were taking a nap."

"Yeah," Eddie said, holding back a yawn as he went to the cabinet, and then the refrigerator to pour himself a glass of juice. "I’m not sure what happened. I sat down to read my book and just got so tired... What have you been up to? You guys went to the park, right?"

"Yeah," I replied. "We were there earlier."

Eddie took a sip of his juice and then cocked his head as he glanced past me, at Luke and Dave.

"Where’s Seth?" he asked.

"Taking Angela home."

"Yeah? Do you think you and Luke will be around for dinner?"

"Uh... I don’t really know yet," I replied honestly.

"Well, why don’t we just say you will be; I’ll get out the rotisserie, and if Seth comes over you guys can all eat downstairs if you want."

"Okay," I agreed, smiling at that. The fact that Eddie was trying to make sure I knew Seth was welcome without managing to intrude didn’t escape me.

I watched Eddie top off his glass before he put the juice away and looked at me again. "What are you doing now?" he asked.

I thought about the question for a minute. "Nothing," I decided.

"You wanna grab that driver’s manual, then?"

"The what?"

"The study book, for your driver’s test," Eddie replied. "Have you been reading it?"

"Um... sure," I replied. If reading the cover and halfway through the first page counted.

Eddie laughed at me. "Why don’t you go get the book. I’ll quiz you, and maybe some time this week we can go get your license. What do you think?"

"Won’t I just have to get a new one when I leave, anyway?" I asked, and Eddie narrowed his eyes.

"I want to see you get your first driver’s license," he said flatly. "Humor me. Besides, if you get it this week, you can drive us to the lake this weekend. It’ll be good practice. So what do you think? Wanna spare fifteen minutes so I can quiz you, or were you planning on doing something else?"

Eddie glanced behind me again, where Luke and Dave were in the pool, probably wondering if I wanted to join them, instead.

"I’ll get the book," I said.


I did something stupid. Something stupid, that made me feel like crap after I did it. Actually, it was more selfish, rude and insensitive than stupid. Either way, it was wrong.

When Seth called me on his way home from dropping Angela off, he asked if I wanted to go to dinner. I, of course, immediately thought of what Eddie had suggested, and asking Seth to come over to the house for dinner was just on the tip of my tongue. But just before I asked him, Luke came downstairs with Dave, towels wrapped around their waists. Luke winked at me. It wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. At any other time, I would have considered it a silent greeting from him, not wanting to interrupt my phone call. Instead, I found myself focusing on his smile, the way he watched me as he passed, the glistening water droplets running down his chest...

And I told Seth that Eddie wanted me home for dinner, and I didn’t ask him to come over. Instead, I agreed to meet him afterwards.

I don’t know what was wrong with me. All I knew was that having Seth and Luke in the same room, suddenly didn’t feel like a good idea. If Luke liked me...well, I needed to figure that out. I was still trying to convince myself that I was reading too much into all of the little things, and that I was crazy to think that Luke had somehow managed to develop feelings for me. It would be easier to laugh at myself in this situation for reading too much into things, than it would be to have to deal with the possibility that Luke really did like me.

The first time I’d met him, he’d been naked and dripping wet. That image was forever in my mind and the beginning of my attraction towards him. Attraction. But, at that time, he was also related to me, as far as I knew, and I think that was part of the reason why those feelings were pushed aside and I was able to get to know him, and care for Luke as a friend. One of the best I’d ever had. When I was with Aaron, I’d come to the conclusion that I’d probably always be attracted to Luke; but to allow myself to develop romantic feelings in him was impossible, mostly because Luke never would have been interested in it. If I ever would have thought that he might have been... then I’m not sure how different things could have been between us. All I knew, was that Luke was a guy who I could have definitely seen myself falling for. Could have.

But things were different now. There was Seth, and as far as falling for someone goes, I was pretty sure that I was on my way there with him. When I was with him, it rarely occurred to me that I was leaving at the end of the summer; and when I did think about that one small fact, I had hope that when I did come back to visit, that Seth would still be there. I saw myself keeping in touch with him just as much as I saw myself keeping in touch with Eddie, Jase, and Luke. Which is why it would be so much harder to deal with if Luke did have feelings for me, because that would be something that I wouldn’t be capable of ignoring. It was beginning to seem obvious to me that I had feelings for Luke, too, and now, I was trying to figure out what kind of feelings they were.

And I really had no right to be doing even that, not when I was with Seth. But as I sat at the table that night next to Luke having dinner with Dave, Jase, and Eddie, I found myself silent while everyone talked around me, paying extra attention to the way that Luke nudged me, or patted my back, or otherwise found a reason to touch me all through this. And I felt like scum for it. By the time Seth did pick me up after dinner and we headed to the mall because he wanted to try skating again, I felt so guilty that I found myself clinging to him, even more so than normal. He couldn’t fall on his ass without me falling on top of him, and I was running around to get him drinks before he could even finish saying that he was thirsty. It only made me feel worse when Seth seemed to think that this behavior was cute, because I felt like I was doing it for all the wrong reasons. I guess I just wanted him to know that I was with him. I cared about him. I had feelings for him. But unfortunately, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d just been cheating on him.

Things did get better later on, though. I felt confused, and I was being an idiot, but I was still having a good time skating around with Seth. I was making him blush, and smile, and laugh. I wanted to keep doing that, so I talked him into staying until the place closed.

We were on our way home when Luke unexpectedly called me and asked if Seth and I wanted to meet him at a party that someone from school was having. Angela was going to be there, so Dave wanted to go, too, and according to Luke, Brian and Rick were also going. I told him I wasn’t up for it.

"What was that all about?" Seth asked curiously, glancing over at me from the driver’s seat.

"Luke just wanted to know if we were going to some party," I explained.

"Yeah, I think Angela mentioned something about that. Do you wanna go?"

"Huh? Why?" I asked, not sure where his question came from. Seth didn’t exactly seem like the party-going type.

"Because it might be fun," he replied, cracking a smile. "And it’s only nine o’clock. I’m not really ready to call it a night yet."

"Neither am I," I insisted. "But wouldn’t you rather, I don’t know, go home and take off your pants or something?"

Seth laughed at me. "My sister has a friend sleeping over. If they’re not in bed yet..."

"We could go to my place," I suggested, and for a few minutes Seth fell silent, only glancing at me every once in a while.

"Yeah?" he finally said. "I mean, that’s okay?"

"Well, I don’t think many people will be around. Luke will probably be out until twelve, and Eddie’s always telling me that I can have someone over, so..."

"I mean, it’s okay with you? Like, I’ve kinda noticed that usually you just wanna go to my place. I know I’ve been to yours, but..."

"You don’t wanna come over?" I asked.

"No, I do," Seth insisted, and then smiled at me, shaking his head. "Sorry. Never mind. We’ll go to your place."

I sighed, looking out my window for a minute before I looked back at Seth.

"Before my mom got sick," I said, "I had friends over all the time. She knew them, and their parents, and I could have anyone over pretty much any time, as long as I could still wake up for school on time. Then, when I was with my grandma, she liked things quiet in her house after eight o’clock because that’s when she went to bed. I really wasn’t inviting a whole lot of people over then, anyway, but still... And then here... Eddie told me I could have people over, but before you, the only person I really bothered to get to know was..."

"Aaron," Seth finished for me, looking like he understood.

"Every time I saw him, I felt like I was sneaking around. It’s different with you."

"I’d hope so," Seth remarked.

"I guess I’m just trying to get used to things with Eddie, you know? I don’t even know if he’ll come downstairs and try to hang out with us--but I do want you to come over."

Seth looked over at me and smiled. I tried not to think about the way I could have invited him over for dinner, but I didn’t, and I tried not to think about what Seth would think if he knew that, and that the reason was because I felt uncomfortable with him and Luke in the same room together. Which I’m sure Seth would think was ridiculous.


"Was your mom interested in art?" Seth asked, and I shook my head.

"The only thing I ever saw her paint were the walls in our apartment."

We were stretched out on my bed, which was much smaller than Seth’s, but that was okay because it meant being close. I had Seth’s head on my shoulder and his hat was off, which meant that my fingers were free to roam through his soft strands of hair while he looked through my mom’s wish list. We’d talked about it before, and when he asked to see it, I was actually a little more than happy to share it with him. It was a way of being able to show him a part of who my mom was, and it didn’t hurt that Seth seemed genuinely interested, especially in my mom’s little drawings.

"Do you have a picture of her?" he asked, tilting his head back to better meet my eyes. He lifted his head when I sat up to reach under my bed, feeling around until I found what I was looking for, and lay back on the pillow with the head shot of my mom.

"You keep it under your bed?" Seth asked as his head reclaimed its place on my shoulder while I took a moment to look at my mom’s face.

"I’m going to frame it," I insisted. "I just... I’m waiting until I can look at her without feeling sad, you know? I’m getting there. A lot of the stuff that she left me helps--I’m just not ready to see her every time I walk in here. I took down her picture in my room at my grandma’s house, too. They were all over the rest of the house. When I first got here, I thought I’d miss them. But, I think I needed a break from... everything."

Seth rolled over until he was half over me, his chin resting on his arms, crossed over my chest.

"Can I ask you something?" he said. "I mean, I know you’re going home, and I’m not going to spend the next few weeks trying to talk you out of it. But, if you needed a break from all that--from living with your grandma, and trying to deal with everything--are you ready to go back to that?"

"It’s not like I had a bad life before I came here, Seth," I said, thinking that I’d been misunderstood. "I mean, I didn’t want to leave it at all when I first came here. I’m just saying that I was wrong, thinking that coming here would be a bad thing. It kinda put things in perspective, and I think I can go home now."

"Home. Your grandma’s house?"

"Well..." I found myself pausing for a moment. Grandma’s house. I guess technically, I’d never quite considered Grandma Alice’s house my home, but then, I wasn’t really talking specifically about her house. Just home in general. "Yeah. I’ll be living with her. Um... here. My mom."

I turned the photograph to face Seth, effectively changing the subject as he handed the little book with the unicorn on the cover back to me and took the photograph, his fingers staying respectively on the edges. He studied the picture for a minute, and then smiled at me.

"You have her eyes... She looks nice."

"She was," I replied, and after a few moments of watching Seth look at my mom’s face, I regarded him curiously. "Hey, does she, like, remind you of anyone?"

Seth looked confused for a moment, but humored my question by studying the picture further, as if he was trying to figure it out.

"Should it?" he finally asked.

I sighed. "No. Never mind."

I guess if Seth didn’t think that our mothers looked alike, no one would. It was probably me, just seeing things that weren’t there. Missing my mom.

Seth passed me the photograph back and watched me as I stretched to place it and my mother’s wish list on the nightstand. "Who did you think she’d remind me of?" he asked, lifting my hand and lacing his fingers with mine.

"No one," I insisted, not sure that he’d really want to know. Personally, I thought that if I were Seth, I would think the whole thing was weird, but he was still looking at me expectantly, probably waiting for me to give him more of a response. I didn’t. "You know, my door has a lock on it," I said pointedly.

"You don’t want to talk about it anymore?" he observed.

"We could talk about you," I suggested.

Seth smiled. "What about me?" he asked, and I shifted where I lay, hitching in a breath as he lifted himself just enough to drag his body up mine, his thigh sliding between my legs against my flaccid cock, which had been resting peacefully beneath his weight before he decided to provide a brief moment of friction. I smiled at him as he leaned down, his nose touching mine as I lifted his hat, which had been placed to my side.

"I’m still trying to figure out why you’re always wearing these things," I remarked.

"I told you. I like them."

I dropped the hat to wrap my arm around Seth’s neck when his mouth met mine, and closed my eyes, relaxing as his body became heavier over mine and lifted my knees, cradling his body as his thigh pressed more firmly against my groin, only to slide away a moment later when he made room for his hand, cupping me through my pants; and as he allowed my tongue to enter his mouth I arched against him, hardening against his hand.

Seth traced my length with his fingers causing me to wriggle beneath him as I slipped a hand up the front of his shirt, pulling at the material until he finally broke the kiss and pulled back, lifting his hand away from my erection long enough for me to get it over his head, and then his hand was back again, gripping me through my clothes while I gasped, and his tongue took the opportunity to slip back into my mouth.

"Seth," I quietly murmured, pushing at his shoulders until he released my bottom lip, which was trapped between his teeth and looked at me in an impatient way that had me laughing. "When I said I had a lock on my door..." I swallowed, narrowing my eyes at him when he suddenly pressed his hand for firmly against my cock, his fingers pointedly moving against my balls, "I didn’t say I locked it."

Seth abruptly got off me, shaking his head but looking amused as I sat up, watching him head towards my bedroom door. He reached for the lock, but stopped before he reached it, and I found myself sitting up when Seth carefully put his ear to the door, listening.

"What?" I asked, and he suddenly turned around and headed back towards me, grabbing his shirt.

"Someone’s coming down the hall," Seth whispered, and as he pulled on his shirt, I glared incredulously at the tent in my pants before I quickly reached to adjust myself, trying to hide it.

"Shit," I cursed as Seth took a seat next to me and I glanced at his pants, which were baggier than mine, and even if it was obvious to me that there was activity beneath those jeans, it wasn’t as noticeable as mine. My eyes widened when Seth reached for my pants and then tried to push my cock off to the side, so it wasn’t sticking up so much. Unfortunately, that’s not what touching me accomplished.

"You’re not helping," I hissed, but then cracked up laughing when Seth developed a case of uncontrollable giggles that only ended when there was a knock on the door.

"Sit on the floor," Seth whispered, and I did so, bringing one knee up in a way that I hoped was hiding my present condition. When Seth handed me my mom’s wish list, and then leaned, as if looking over my shoulder, I didn’t hesitate to open it.

"The door’s open," I called as soon as I felt we were settled, and wasn’t at all surprised when Eddie opened it, pausing as he stepped through to look between Seth and me as if he were actually surprised to see us both there. I wasn’t fooled by it. He’d seen us come in.

"Hey, guys," Eddie said. "We’re heading to bed. Do you need anything?"

"Nope," I answered for us. "We’re fine."

"Okay," Eddie said, but instead of leaving, he leaned against the door frame and I pulled my other knee up. I wasn’t exactly comfortable, and I was hoping he didn’t plan to stay long. "So are you guys going to be here for the rest of the night?"

"Yeah," I replied. "It’s kinda late, anyway... Is that alright?"

"Sure, no problem," Eddie said quickly. "So do you guys want to watch a movie or something? I can make popcorn," Eddie offered. He was looking at Seth either curiously or suspiciously. I wondered if that was because he was sitting on my bed.

"Didn’t you say you were going to bed?" I asked Eddie, raising an eyebrow.

He blinked, straightening himself and looking slightly embarrassed for a moment. "Yeah," he replied. "Uh... goodnight. See you later, Seth."

"Goodnight," Seth and I returned, and Eddie flashed me a you-better-be-behaving look, but managed to crack a smile before he left, leaving the door open a whole foot, I noticed.

Seth and I waited until we heard Eddie get down the hall, and then some. A good three minutes at least before I glanced back at Seth, saw the grin he was hiding as he looked pointedly at the bulge in my pants that didn’t look hidden at all, and I started laughing again.

I stood, meaning to lock the door, but Seth grabbed my wrist and pulled me back until I was face up on the bed, his mouth over mine. He kissed me briefly, and then I watched as he stood and headed to the door, pulling off his shirt in the process. I moved further up my bed, adjusting the pillows and then leaning back against them as I watched Seth, smiling when he glanced over his shoulder at me after closing and locking the door, and feeling mostly content about him being there. My smile faded, though, as he headed towards me and I started thinking about the last eleven hours. Seth took a seat on the bed, flushing slightly as I dragged the back of my index finger from the thin trail of hair that disappeared into his pants, all the way up to his chest, where the tip of my finger found its way pointedly to a nipple, tracing until the tiny bead started to harden and Seth grabbed my hand, laughing. He leaned forward, meaning to kiss me, but stopped when I spoke.

"I’m sorry."

Seth cocked his head at me, his expression suggesting that he thought I was making a strange joke.

"What for?" he asked, and I opened my mouth, not really sure what to say, so I smiled at him instead, while I waited for something to come to me.

"I’m kinda having a weird day," I decided. "And, I feel like I should tell you..."

"You’re sorry?" Seth finished, looking amused and shaking his head at me. "Just a feeling you have?"


He studied me for another moment. "Okay. Then, I’m sorry, too," he finally said, and then he was kissing me again.

I sat up, lifting my arms as Seth tugged at my shirt, eventually lifting it over my head, and then I laid back, guiding his weight over me while my hand slid down his smooth, warm back. I reached his jeans and my fingers fought their way beneath his pants, under his boxers until I could feel the right cheek of his ass, feeling flexed and firm beneath my palm as I squeezed, pulling him down against me until his erect cock ground against mine through our pants; but it was only for a moment before Seth lifted his hips, long enough to unbutton his jeans and as I pushed them and his boxers down over his ass he unfastened my pants and yanked them down, none too gently, and my eyes rolled back as my cock abruptly sank into his mouth. I didn’t get my jeans down over my feet until after he’d sated me, and any energy I had left was used to flip Seth onto his back, strip him, and return the favor.


The sound of the TV in the other room woke me, and as I opened my eyes, I slowly became aware of a few things. I was alone. Sliding my hand across my bed told me that much. And it was dark, and it seemed I’d never managed to put my pants back on, being naked and under the covers. The last time I’d checked, Seth had been there with me. Obviously, I’d fallen asleep again. I hoped that I wasn’t about to make a habit of that.

I sat up, glancing at the clock long enough to know that it was past midnight, but that still didn’t stop me from moving off the bed, feeling around for my jeans until I found them and pulled my phone out of the pocket. It only took Seth two rings to answer with, "You woke up."

"Yeah," I said groggily. "Where’d you go?"

"Home," he replied, sounding amused. "I kinda let myself out around twelve. Luke was getting home when I left."

"Oh." I was silent for a moment, trying to process all information. "You didn’t wake me up."

"You looked tired," he countered.

"Hmm. Did you talk to Luke at all?"

"Nope. I was already leaving."


"You sound like you need to go back to sleep," Seth remarked.

"Probably," I admitted. "Sorry I fell asleep on you."

"It’s okay, I think I did too for a little while," Seth admitted, sounding sheepish. "I was comfortable. Didn’t really want to leave."

"I wish you hadn’t," I said honestly as I moved across the room and flicked on the light, squinting as I adjusted to it. I frowned at my messy bed, mostly because Seth wasn’t in it anymore.

"Are you feeling better?" he suddenly asked. "You said you were having a weird day... and then earlier..."

"I’m okay now," I insisted. And I was okay, if that meant that I no longer felt like I was cheating on Seth, and I’d forbidden myself from even thinking about whether or not Luke liked me, because it really didn’t matter. I’d figured that out in my room, with Seth. He was there because I wanted him to be. I wanted to be with him, and even if Luke did have feelings for me it’s not like I’d ever know it for sure because realistically speaking, I didn’t have the guts to ask him. That made it easy to decide that Seth was wrong, and Luke didn’t. Therefore I’d been acting ridiculous all day, and should definitely feel like an ass. I could live with that.

"Good," Seth replied. "So, I’m gonna go to bed, unless you wanted to talk for a while?"

"No, that’s okay," I insisted. "Call me tomorrow when you get off work?"


I said goodnight to Seth, but I didn’t go to bed. Instead, I pulled on some black gym shorts and cautiously pulled the bedroom door open, looking down the hall. It was dark, but the light from the television was bouncing off the walls as I made my way towards the living room, wondering if Luke had just left the television on, or if he and Dave were still watching it.

I stopped behind the sofa, looking curiously at the weather channel, which was playing on the television, before I glanced down and spotted Luke stretched out on the sofa, in white briefs this time, most definitely awake, but looking rather bored as he stared at the television. I took a moment to look him over, the way his hand was stretched out over his defined chest; long legs, stretched out and slightly spread; the outline of his cock, clearly visible through his snug underwear; the hair on his legs and the light curls on his head looking soft in the dim light. There was no question about whether or not I was attracted to Luke. But as I moved to the end of the sofa where I could better see his face, the attraction came in second to the feelings I had for him. And, there were feelings. Luke was the first person who made me stop and think about how spending a summer in Arizona didn’t have to be so bad. He was the guy I could talk to when I couldn’t stop thinking about my mom. He was the same guy who could watch me make mistakes and choose not to judge me for them, offering his friendship in an unconditional way that was probably responsible for the way that I felt so close to him. Without thinking about any of the ideas that had been placed in my head that morning, the way I felt about Luke seemed uncomplicated, and exactly how it was supposed to be.

"Hey," I said quietly. "What are you doing?"

Luke glanced away from the television and smiled at me. "Trying to figure out if it’s going to be raining next weekend."


"Yeah... the lake," he reminded me. "It’s not as much fun when there’s lightning."

"Ah... yeah, probably," I agreed, walking past him to sit on the other end of the couch, but Luke lifted his knees to his chest, providing plenty of room next to him. I hesitated for only a moment, trying to remember how close I usually sat next to Luke when I was doing the actual sitting. I chose my seat about a foot away from his toes, but as soon as I was comfortable, he slid his feet forward, burying those same toes just under my thigh. I wasn’t uncomfortable with that, I guess. It was Luke. He liked to be close. He liked to be touching. I cleared my throat and looked at the TV. "So... is there going to be rain?"

"Don’t think so, but we should probably check later in the week."

"Right... Is Dave still here?"

"Nope. He went home tonight. His relatives are leaving in the morning, and I’ve gotta work tomorrow, anyway."

"Oh... so he’s doing good with Angela, right?"

"I guess so," Luke responded indifferently, giving me a small shrug. "I’m not really paying attention." I regarded Luke curiously, thinking that that was a strange thing for him to say, but before I could comment, he was speaking to me again. "I saw Seth leaving earlier. I kind of checked up on you. You were sleeping."

Sleeping naked. I found myself blushing, hoping that the room was dark enough to hide it as I wondered if those blankets had been over me the whole time. I saw Luke naked all the time, true, but it’s not like I made a habit out of stripping in front of him.

"Yeah," I admitted. "I guess I was tired."

"Uh-huh," he remarked, rolling his eyes. "And Seth had nothing to do with that. I just can’t believe you had him here in the house with Jase and Eddie upstairs."

"They were in bed," I said quickly.

"Yeah... but I still wouldn’t think you’d have the guts."

"Do you think it’s a problem?" I asked, frowning.

Luke smirked. "Not for me." He gave me a pointed look that suggested that the better part of his imagination was being used, and I laughed at him.

"You’re a pervert," I remarked, and rather than feeling nervous about the look he was giving me, I felt a little relieved. If Luke had feelings for me, it wouldn’t make sense for him to get a kick out of imagining Seth and I together.

"You have no idea," he informed me, and I laughed.

"Well, I’m sure some day you’ll find a nice guy who will fully appreciate that," I remarked, and Luke grinned.

"I’m still waiting for you to appreciate it," he responded, and my laughter abruptly stopped as I looked at him inquisitively, wondering if he meant that as a joke. Honestly, it was hard to tell. He was smiling, but his expression did have a certain amount of seriousness in it that had me looking back at the television, and once again, I was reading into things, wondering what the hell he’d meant by that, if anything at all. "Hey," he suddenly said, drawing my attention back to him. "Check this out." I watched him lift his right leg, his thighs spreading even wider as he pointed out a large bruise on the back of his thighs; but, that was hardly what I was paying attention to as my eyes fell over the way his underwear was riding up his ass, so tight that it didn’t leave anything to the imagination as the material hugged his balls and cradled his cock.

I swallowed. "What happened?" I asked, trying and failing to look at the bruise. Luke had taken his clothes off in front of me repeatedly in the past, but never before had I actually felt like he was waving anything in front of my face, like I felt now.

"Brian fell on me when we were playing football earlier," he explained, rubbing a finger over the swollen back of his thigh. "Fucking hurts. Touch it."

My eyes snapped to his, not sure what to think. I guess normally, I wouldn’t find the request odd, but as mixed feelings returned once again I found myself entirely uncomfortable with the situation; but still, I reached out, placed two fingers on the back of his thigh briefly enough to know that it was swollen, and then withdrew.

"That sucks," I said thickly, suddenly unable to look at him.

"Yeah," he agreed, and I faked a yawn and suddenly stood up.

"Going to bed?" Luke asked.

"Yep," I said quickly. "Um... see you tomorrow."

"Goodnight, Rory."


I glanced over at Luke suspiciously from the passenger seat of his jeep. He didn’t notice me, though, not my narrowed eyes, or the way I was biting at my bottom lip to hold back the questions that I was beginning to think I should ask. But Luke just glanced at me every once in a while, smiling as if he thought something were amusing. Though, that could have just been the comedian on the talk radio he currently had playing as he drove into town.

It was just past six on Monday night, and I’d had a rather long day. I’d woken up early to find that Jase was still home, and apparently, he’d come down with some sort of flu that I hoped wasn’t contagious as I spent my morning making sure he had as much soup and crackers as he wanted. He hadn’t asked me to do it. I guess it was just a habit after taking care of my mom for so long. He tried to convince me that he was feeling better around noon, and told me that I should get out of the house. That’s around the time Luke showed up, saying that he’d left work early because his leg was killing him. I ended up in the upstairs living room between him and Jase, Jase constantly covering his mouth with tissues, and Luke icing the back of his thigh, his leg elevated over my lap. And once again, things had seemed normal with him, even after he’d convinced Jase to go upstairs and take a nap, and the two of us went swimming.

And then Seth showed up. Apparently, he’d tried to call me when he got off work, but I hadn’t answered, and he’d managed to walk right into the backyard when Luke had his arms around me from behind in the pool, threatening to drown me as I laughed uncontrollably. I’d practically shoved him off when I saw Seth standing there, once again feeling like I’d done something wrong when I really hadn’t. But this time, rather than feeling uncomfortable with Seth touching me in front of Luke, I found myself clinging to him once I got him to get into the water, and I found myself uncomfortable with the way that Luke kept looking at me. He almost seemed bothered every time I hugged Seth, and that made me feel guilty, not to mention a little worried, because it didn’t seem at all like Luke to be annoyed with me clinging to Seth. But it did remind me of how Seth had mentioned he thought there had been times when he felt Luke hadn’t wanted him around.

Later, Seth had gone home for dinner, but not before asking me if I wanted to go skating again. When I’d agreed, he’d turned around and invited Luke to go with us. I had no idea what would provoke him to do something like that until he went on to explain that Angela and Dave were going, too. Luke didn’t decline. In fact, he agreed to go immediately, something I didn’t understand because his leg still hurt and he didn’t look at all thrilled with the idea of skating; but he seemed fine with driving with me, since Seth had offered to go pick up Angela and Dave.

Now that we were on our way there, I had no idea what to think anymore. I didn’t know if Luke liked me more than he’d like a friend. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel about it if he did. I wasn’t sure if knowing for a fact that he did would change things between Seth and me. I didn’t know anything. All I knew was that I had a headache, and I was tired of thinking about it. I just wanted things to go back to normal, when I could just be Rory, Seth’s boyfriend and the guy who was perfectly comfortable with hot, naked blonds walking around all the time.

But I wasn’t comfortable. All of the things that Luke normally did--throwing his arm around me, walking around indecent, sitting close, making sexually oriented remarks that usually made me laugh--all made me think twice. Made me wonder if there was more to these little actions. Made me wonder what I’d do about it if there was. I soon found out.

When we first started skating, things seemed to be going well. Dave and Angela were lapping the rink, completely absorbed in each other’s conversations; I stuck with Seth, trying to keep him from falling, even though he’d gotten much better; and Luke was lapping all of us, finding random people to talk to that he knew from school. It was when the skating rink played a song just for couples and threw everyone off the ice that I realized that Luke was the only one of us who wasn’t a couple. He’d said that his leg was bothering him again when he went to sit out, insisting that Seth and I didn’t need to go with him when we offered.

But every time Seth and I lapped the bench Luke had chosen to sit on, I found myself looking towards him, watching the way that the corner of his mouth would curl up into a wan smile when he looked at me, or the way that he’d rub at the back of his jeans-clad leg, as if to remind himself that he needed to sit out when I got the feeling that it wasn’t really something he wanted. And as Seth held my hand, throwing an arm around me every once in a while when he thought he was going to fall, or even pulled me to him to kiss my face, I began to feel like complete scum again.

What if Luke liked me? I guess that was the specific question that deserved an answer. What if Luke liked me? I guess if he had feelings for me, then I was practically rubbing my relationship with Seth in his face. If I was the guy who wasn’t interested in him, the unobtainable idiot, then I felt that I was being cruel to someone who I did care about. If there was one thing I never wanted to do, it was hurt Luke, especially after what I put him through with Aaron. But, I didn’t want to hurt Seth, either. I doubt he’d understand if I explained to him that we couldn’t act like a couple anymore because I was worried that it was upsetting Luke. That would hardly go over well. But trying to ignore what I’d been told yesterday morning, and trying to make sense of it, just wasn’t working for me.

"I need to talk to Luke" I announced, suddenly spinning around so I was in front of Seth, facing him as I came to a dead stop. Unfortunately, he was still moving, and stopping was one of the things he was still working on. Startled, he grabbed my shoulders, and together we spun, but managed to keep our balance as I flashed him an apologetic smile. "Sorry," I said.

"Luke?" he asked, glancing over his shoulder to where Luke was, before looking at me again. "Why? Is something wrong?"

I wondered how I should answer that. "No," I decided. "Look, it’ll be quick. Um... give me five minutes?"

Seth regarded me curiously, and then shrugged, although he sounded somewhat uncertain when he spoke. "Sure. I’m gonna get something to drink. You want anything?"

"Can I just take a drink of yours?" I asked, and he smiled.

"Yeah," he replied, smiling as he took my hand, and we left the rink together before Seth headed off to look for beverages and I found myself seated next to Luke, who seemed surprised to see me.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"Taking a break," I replied. "How’s your leg feel?"

"I’m okay," Luke responded, and I watched as he looked back out towards the rink, seeming almost tired.

"Hey, Luke..." I started carefully. "I wanted to talk to you about something. It’s probably going to be stupid, and I’m probably embarrassing myself, but you know how we were talking, and you said you liked someone who was... I mean, you said you liked someone, who you didn’t think liked you back?"

"Uh-huh," he mumbled, seemingly unaffected as he continued to stare out onto the ice. Feeling annoyed that I didn’t seem to have his attention, I followed his eyes to where Angela and Dave were against the wall. They’d obviously forgotten that it was a family establishment because Dave might as well have had his hand up her shirt, the way they were clinging to each other and making out like it was no one’s business. No wonder Luke couldn’t look away--it was a spectacle, especially when one of the rink’s employees tried to break them up, yelling that they needed to keep moving. I laughed at that, and looked at Luke, expecting to find him equally amused. Only, he wasn’t. He still had that blank, tired expression on his face. I frowned, and followed his eyes again, wondering if he was actually looking at Dave and Angela. It seemed he was. I opened my mouth to ask him what was wrong, but stopped as I continued to look between Luke and where his eyes were aimed.

"You like Dave." I said it out loud before I could even stop myself, and then I was surprised that Luke hardly even reacted to my words, which I’m sure came out sounding like an accusation. He turned his head towards me slowly, his blue eyes seeming downcast even as they met mine. "Dave?" I asked incredulously, needing to repeat myself in the form of a question, just in case he hadn’t heard me right.

"He’s put up with a lot from me," Luke started.

"He knows?" I demanded. Luke smiled and shook his head.

"No, I don’t think so, but..."

"It’s Dave," I blurted, and this time Luke laughed.

"I know... I mean, I know he’s Dave. He’s goofy, and has big teeth, and he fucking farts in front of me more than he sneezes... he’s my best friend."

"But you have feelings for him?" I asked, needing confirmation here.

"It’s not like it just happened, Rory. When I was with Aaron... Dave kept telling me what an asshole he was, and every time Aaron fucked me over, Dave was the one there telling me that it wasn’t my fault, and he never once said, I told you so. Not even the last time, with the car--he was just...there. He’s been there. I mean, ever since then, it’s just been me and Dave, and... it happened. I knew I cared about him, and I knew that part of the reason why I wasn’t out looking for a boyfriend was because I was happy enough just hanging out with him, because he was the one person who I could trust not to walk all over me and then stomp on my heart. I just didn’t know what kind of feelings I had for him until after it started to look like him and Angela... were going to happen." Luke paused, looking back at the rink, his eyes searching for Dave and Angela. "I sound bitter, don’t I?" he suddenly asked, his tone turning lighter. "I’m not, you know. I like Angela. And, I like that he’s happy. I just hate feeling like I’m alone."

I stared at Luke for a long minute, unsure of how to respond to that, or to any of this, for that matter. He had feelings for a straight guy. Talk about unobtainable. There really was no way to make him feel better about this, at least that I could see. I had nothing to say to him. He liked Dave. Dave.

When I tapped Luke’s shoulder he turned towards me with a bemused expression that looked somewhat forced, and since I still had no idea what to say to him, I wrapped an arm around him instead, sighing as he leaned into me, his chuckle sounding as fake as his smile had looked escaping him.

"You weren’t kidding when you said unobtainable," I finally remarked, after what felt like several minutes had passed.

"Yeah," Luke agreed, nodding his head against my shoulder before he sat up and looked at me. "I’m pretty stupid, huh?"

"Are you okay?" I asked him. "I mean... I don’t even know what to..."

"Oh, yeah," Luke cut me off. "I’m okay with this. I mean, Dave and Angela. Having feelings for him. I mean, I totally wish he was gay, but... I’m still happy just being his friend. I think I’m more disappointed that it’s not just me and Dave anymore--which is selfish of me, but I’ll get over it, and maybe... well, I’m probably going to be more active about getting myself laid."

I laughed at that.

"Something tells me you’re not going to have a lot of trouble with that."

"Yeah... if I can find one guy around here who hasn’t been in Keslin’s pants," Luke responded, and I rolled my eyes.

"Hey, I’m..."

"Don’t say you’re sorry," Luke cut me off. "I’m good, really. It’s just kinda... embarrassing, you know? I mean..."

"Dave," I finished for him, nodding. "But, that’s not what I was going to say. I was actually going to try to make you feel better by saying that I’m kinda glad it’s Dave."

"How’s that supposed to make me feel better?" Luke responded, looking amused.

"Because I thought... I mean..." I let out a breath, wondering why I was even bothering to confess this to him at all. I guess it was my way of telling him that we could both feel embarrassed together. "Yesterday, I was talking to Seth, trying to figure out who this guy you liked was, you know? He sort of said some things."

"Like what?" Luke asked, his brow arching.

"Just that he thought it was me, and some other stuff, like, he thinks sometimes you don’t really like him around," I replied, and waited for a reaction from Luke; but all he did was look at me expectantly, as if I should continue. "I actually came over here to ask you about it because I sorta believed him. I mean, not really believed it, but it’s been in my head making me crazy, you know?"

Luke grinned at me. "Seriously?"


He laughed. "So out of curiosity, what were you going to tell me before, if..."

"That I wanted to figure it out," I said honestly. "And that I have feelings for Seth. I mean, I know I’m leaving, but I don’t even want to think about that with him... and I wouldn’t want anything... you’re a really good friend. I didn’t want something stupid, like me, ruining the rest of the summer. I’d like to come back here... keep in touch. I just kept thinking that if Seth was right..."

"I want you to come back, too," Luke cut me off. "I mean... I’m here for you, you know?"

"Yeah, I know."

"It’s just that... Seth wasn’t, completely, wrong."