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`I didn't want any flowers, I only wanted
To lie with my hands turned up and be utterly empty.
How free it is, you have no idea how free--
The peacefulness so big it dazes you,
And it asks nothing; a name tag, a few trinkets,
It is what the dead close on, finally; I imagine them
Shutting their mouths on it, like a Communion tablet.'
Tulips (Sylvia Plath, 1961)
Bobby sat alone in the bright-lit boys' dressing room looking into the wide mirror. He studied his reflection; the long planes of his cheeks, the nose that always seemed too large, the brown hair that framed his face in a mussed halo of curls. Much too long a face to be handsome, he thought, and his eyes were too small. He felt more tired than he ever remembered feeling and a rough sleepiness was overwhelming him. His stomach ached; a heavy hurt that pulled him downward, made him want to curl up tight and small on the floor. His face in the mirror seemed flat and unreal.
"Bobby, what do you see?" Was that Angel's voice? He frowned.
As he stared, his face seemed to grow darker, a shadow drawing across and obscuring the features. His eyes shrank and mouth enlarged, growing wider and somewhat grotesque, almost leering at him from the flat glass.
"Face it, honey, you're gorgeous." said the voice. The shadows deepened, casting his cheeks into darkness, and a rough stubble showed up on his jaw. His eyes looked sunken, haunted.
"What do you see? Who are you, Bobby, who are you really?" came that voice again, in Angel's light cadence. The room was empty but the voice seemed everywhere, surrounding him. "What is it that you see, Bobby?" the voice insisted.
The room grew lighter, a white glow filling the corners and dimming his face in the mirror. He stared into his reflection, seeing darkness there in the squinting brown eyes that peered out from the unshaven, rough skin. Pockmarks and pores were clearly visible, the visage was frightening. An ugly face, an ugly person.
`Why won't you let me kiss you, Bobby? Why won't you ever let me kiss you?' Jaye's voice sounded hurt, sad. There were tears in his eyes. Bobby felt a pain in his chest. Don't touch me. Don't. Just don't. I'm not like that; I'm not like you. His face loomed large in the mirror, impossible to ignore.
HURRY, CALL 911.
What do I see? Bobby repeated. I see... I see a monster. And I'm afraid.
The reflected face looked dangerous and dark. Was this really him? Something ugly seemed to pull the mouth downward into a grimace, contorting the features even further. Teeth showed, sharp and pointed. He bit his lip and tasted blood.
What do I see? he wondered, straining to think clearly, to see clearly. Mother always said I was handsome, that I looked just like her father. Was her father as ugly as this? He heard Angel's voice laughing, a cruel edge to the sound. Who said you were handsome? Echoing voices overlapped, confusing his ears. The white light grew brighter, almost painful, glaring off the mirror and into his eyes.
IN HERE. ON THE BED.
His father's voice, harsh and loud. `What do you mean, `queer'? What've you been doing? Have you been messing around with some other boy?' Disgust was plain in the voice. `This will kill your mother.' Bobby's face seemed lost in the brightness of the mirror, a smudged spot of dark and light in the glare. `Answer me! What have you been doing? Have you touched another boy? Has someone touched you?'
The voice hurt his ears so he covered them with his hands, squeezing shut his eyes, blocking out the sounds and light.
HE'S NOT BREATHING. STAND BACK.
`Did you hear what I said? This will kill your mother!' the sharp voice cut into his head. `Do you want to kill your mother? Were you thinking of us, at all?' Bobby pressed his hands tighter against his ears. `What were you thinking? What have you done? Why are you doing this to us?'
The voice lowered, became menacing.
`Shut up! No! Don't say it again! You're too young to know what you're saying, you don't know what it means.' The voice pushed in past Bobby's ears, a knife cutting into his brain. He shook his head, over and over. Stop it. Stop it. Stop. It.
NO RESPONSE. AGAIN.
`What the hell is going on here?' called a strong baritone, cutting through the confusion of noise. Bobby looked up, squinting in the light. Gene stood beside him, points of light in his hair like stars.
`Maybe this faggot is his date!' said a harsh voice near his ear. The word `faggot' seemed to echo in the small room, doubling back again and again, repeating as an undertone to the rest.
CLEAR. AND AGAIN.
`Bobby, you're the most beautiful guy I've ever seen.' whispered a soft voice gently. `I've always wanted to tell you that.' He felt lips brush against his like butterfly wings. He turned to the sound. There was no one there. Light winked in Bobby's eyes; glittering drops of brightness. Gene's voice?
`What the hell is going on here?' the same voice asked again, more quietly, intimately. `Just what the hell is going on here, babe?'
ADRENALINE. OKAY. NOW.
Reba ran up to him on a spotlit empty stage, wagging her entire back end hard in her excitement. Her eyes were dancing with happiness; she pranced from side to side and let out a joyful bark.
He laughed aloud and knelt down to her, running his hands through thick black fur in their familiar, ritual greeting. She leaned up and licked his face. He caught a quick vision of her lifeless in his arms, body broken and limp, blood on her muzzle. No. No. She was here, right here, and alive.
ADRENALINE. AGAIN. DO IT.
Bobby ruffled her fur, the feel of her warm body soothing him, calming his mind. She licked him again. He looked up and saw a brilliant light beyond her in the wings. The light seemed somehow inviting and safe. He felt a pull from it, like the warmth from a fire on a cold night.
Reba danced again and yipped happily. Bobby stood, moving towards the brightness offstage, Reba Rose at his heels.
Reba bit his calf gently. Startled, he stopped and looked down at her, her furred black face shining in the light. `Reba?' he asked. Her black eyes were clear and steady as she gazed at him.
She sat down in front of his legs and raised her right paw, holding it up just as he'd taught her so long ago. Her fur looked soft and smooth. Dear God, he'd missed touching it so much!
Her bright eyes were filled with that uncommon intelligence so common in border collies. He loved this dog and felt her love in every glance, saw it vivid in her eyes. If he could only be half the person she thought he was, he would be all right. Why do our dogs love us so much?
Lost in her gentle eyes, he felt a calmness overtake him. The light beyond her dimmed and went out.
And there was only Reba.
HEARTBEAT. WE'VE GOT A PULSE.
Masturbating a glitter,
He wants to be loved.'
Death & Co. (Sylvia Plath, 1961)
Angel sat in a plastic chair against the wall of the ER, his head in his hands, Jaye beside him. Bobby's mother stood talking in a low voice to a white-coated staff member nearby. Angel's own mother sat on his other side, silent, a worn leather purse on her lap. Angel felt the sharp migraine that was threatening him press into the back of his eyes. He was dizzy, his stomach queasy. Bobby's mother walked towards them.
"Boys, he's going to be okay. They have him stable now and I can go in, they said, in an hour or so. But he's fine." Her voice was tired but steady. She looked to Angel's mother.
"Thank you so much for coming in, Mary. I...don't know how to thank you, how to thank all of you." There was a catch in her voice as she spoke.
Mary stood and took put her arm around the other woman's shoulders.
"It's all right, Jeannie, it's all right. Everything's going to be fine now."
Both women had tears in their eyes. Mary was a pretty woman, short with sleek black hair twisted in a loose braid down her back. She wore jeans and a loose white cotton blouse that made her dark skin seem to glow. Jeannie was much older, hair graying, and wore a fitted linen dress and low pumps, a gracefully aging suburban housewife.
"Mary, I just don't know what to do. Bob says we have to send him to that camp but I'm worried now, after this. I want to be able to watch him, to take care of him. And what if he does this again while he's there?" her voice shook.
Angel's mother hugged her close.
Jaye spoke up "What camp, Mrs. Boyd?"
The two women started, pulling apart slightly, and looked down at the boys seated near them. Bobby's mother hesitated before answering. Were these boys queer, too? She wondered if they'd had anything to do with her son being the way he was. Being queer. Angel certainly looked, well, a little funny. Boys shouldn't wear makeup; what was Mary thinking? She wasn't sure about Jaye.
"It's a camp for boys like Bobby, called Refuge. Exodus International runs it and its supposed to be wonderful. I called yesterday and talked to one of the counselors. All the people who work there are, or used to be...well, they used to be like Bobby, like Bobby thinks he is." Her voice trailed off, nervously. She shifted on her feet, looking uncomfortable. She met Mary's gentle eyes and took a deep breath.
"It's run by people who used to think they were gay, or, I suppose, who used to be gay. They can teach kids to get over it all, to get control of their lives. It's all supervised and very safe. They have counseling and peer groups and even sports and..."she hesitated, looking from Angel to Jaye and then back.
Angel was scowling at her, saying nothing, hands folded across his chest. Jaye looked stricken, eyes wide and sad. Angel's mother coughed.
"Jeannie, he's your son and we know you and Bob love him." She paused, choosing her word with care. " It's just that, well, this whole Exodus idea seems a little...extreme." Mary said.
Angel snorted and looked away. His mother shot a look at him but said nothing.
"Jeannie, " she continued, ignoring Jaye's pleading look, "Angel and I went through a lot when he first told me. In fact, it was pretty bad for a long, long time."
Angel hunched over in the chair a little as she spoke, frowning at the scuffed tile floor. Jaye put his hand on Angel's knee. Bobby's mother stared, looking at the contact with evident distaste. Jaye saw her face and pulled back his hand, his face flushing red with embarrassment.
Mary continued. "When Angel's father moved out two years ago, we had a long talk. A lot of long talks, really, and I had to make a decision. Jeannie, they aren't babies anymore; they aren't children. They're young men and...well..." she looked into the other woman's eyes, searching for something.
"Look, finding out your kid's gay isn't the end of the world, Jeannie, it's just not. It takes getting used to and I won't say it's not something that takes time, but it doesn't mean that you've made any mistakes or done anything wrong. And..." she paused again and sighed, looking at her son.
"Angel can't help it, Jeannie, and I had to realize that, that being gay isn't something anyone can help. It's just the way it worked out. Angel's gay and I don't have a problem with it, not anymore." said Mary.
Bobby's mother was frowning. She looked at Angel, taking in the tight tee shirt across his slim chest and the lavish eye makeup. He was even wearing lip-gloss.
The boy looked ridiculous to her, someone should make him wash his face. And that gold bracelet on his wrist, it looked like a girl's charm bracelet, of all things, like the sort of gift you give at a sweet sixteen party.
Angel seemed to be looking at something in the far room, eyes distant, as if ignoring his mother's words. Jaye watched the two women intently as they spoke.
"Jeannie, I had to take a serious look at my own life and how I was going to treat my son. I love him and I don't want him hurt. The things that had been going on at home, with me and with his father, those things were hurting Angel, hurting him a lot. We talked, Jeannie, and I really listened to him, probably for the first time.
"We ended up going to a meeting, a group for parents and kids, called PFLAG. That's the first time I met other people who were going through the same thing and I just can't tell you how great that felt." Mary smiled at her son and shook her head.
Angel looked over at her and nodded, face expressionless. Jeannie pursed her lips, saying nothing. Mary looked at her and sighed.
"Why don't I call you later, Jeannie? I have to drive the boys over to school for the eight o'clock show. You have my cell number; call me if anything changes, alright?"
Jeannie nodded and Mary reached for her purse.
The two boys followed Angel's mother out of emergency room double-doors that closed behind them with a soft whoosh as they stepped into the early evening sunshine. Jaye looked back to see Bobby's mother staring after them with a frown.
There was something wrong with teenage boys who did things with other boys and dressed like that. Something very seriously wrong.
John Ironwood, the short and wiry Northside dance teacher, sat in the tech booth, listening to the techies call sound and lighting checks. He scarcely noticed the sound and fury around him, it signified nothing except that a performance was in progress. He'd spent most of his life in and around theatres, from his own school days through college and now, as a teacher, he still felt most at home amid the controlled chaos of a production.
He could hear Trey's voice on his headset, talking to the booth from somewhere above the stage, directing techies through a complicated set of light placements with occasional questions from other mic'ed voices. Everything seemed on schedule.
The only hitch he knew of was that one of the principals was a no-show and an understudy was taking the part of Lysander tonight. He'd gotten a call from Mary, Angel's mother, to let him know that Bobby wouldn't be here tonight, might not be here any night, that he was in the hospital after an accidental overdose of something. John had doubts about that story but kept them to himself. Students' personal lives were just that, personal, and he didn't pry.
He'd noticed Bobby acting distant lately and wondered about his mood but John never initiated discussions like that. He just didn't feel it was part of his job description. There was more to it, really, because he felt uncomfortable around some of the drama kids, they made him uneasy.
So many of the drama kids were openly gay or bisexual and it made him a little nervous. John clearly remembered being called names in school for his interest in theatre and his dancing. God, the dancing had always made people talk. Women could dance but let a boy put on tights and the whole world had to speculate. He'd started dance lessons when he was five and never stopped but how many times over the years had he been forced to defend himself, defend his masculinity? Too many times to count.
John wasn't gay, he'd never even thought about doing that with another man, but men who dance, let alone boys who dance, well, they were obviously fags, right? What crap it was, always having to insist that he wasn't gay, wasn't a queer, that he just loved to dance. He learned to fight dirty and run fast. He learned to keep to himself.
His mother had been so understanding, always paying for his endless lessons and attending amateur recitals in drafty auditoriums all through his childhood. She never missed a single one as he grew up. She even came to his college and saw him dance in two surprisingly good modern dance productions that the ancient Russian dance professor had managed to choreograph. John had talent, the old woman had thought, and she had showcased him in both of them. His mother had been proud and taken snapshots of him with his friends afterward, in costume, just as she'd done when he was a little boy. Jesus, he missed her.
Her death four years ago had left a hole in his life that he still felt keenly, a pain that only made him redouble the energy he put into productions after that. Even now, he drove himself hard and his drama students with him, earning a reputation for being tough and demanding. It was true but he was no less demanding of himself. He slept little and worked hard with no time for a social life outside of the Northside High School Theatre Department. Very simply, it was his life.
The usual rumors floated around the school about his sexuality but he'd had long practice ignoring those. He wasn't gay. He didn't need to prove anything to anyone. He kept personal contact to a minimum with students and faculty alike, busy with production after production, going home late night after night. Only a few of the athletic coaches kept such late hours so regularly but he never questioned why he did it. Long ago, he'd given himself over to theatre and it never once occurred to him that he might have given too much.
John walked down the stairwell from the booth and out into the front of the theatre building that doubled as a lobby during shows. He went outside the building to his car in the small staff parking lot beside the door, unlocking the door of the sleek gray sports car in the first slot.
He leaned in and felt around in the back seat for his gym bag, finding the webbed handle and pulling the bag out, hefting it to make sure he'd not forgotten to pack his change of clothes. He locked and closed the door, glancing around the parking lot as he did so, a teacher unconsciously checking for problems as he started back to the building door.
He saw Angel in the smoking area alongside the lot and stopped, watching him ground out one cigarette and immediately reach for another. Angel lit the second cigarette and looked up as the lighter's flame died out. He met John's eyes across the few feet of nearly bare ground where countless smokers had trampled down the grass. He caught the look in John's eyes and winced. Damn.
"Angel." John's tone was sharp as he spoke.
The boy shifted against the wall, holding the cigarette away from his body nervously. Angel sighed.
"Angel, we've spoken about the smoking." John's handsome face was unreadable in the early evening's dim light.
Angel desperately wanted to take a drag from the cigarette in his hand but knew better, so he dropped it and pressed the toe of his boot into it, grinding down into the dirt and scuffed grass.
"Look, John--" began Angel but John put up a hand to stop him.
"Don't tell me. I don't want to hear it; I don't want to know it. What I do want is what we talked about--I want you to quit. Now. Right now, Angel, and I'm not willing to debate this again. Discussion is over. If you don't think I'm serious, just try me." John's voice was level, his face impassive. He wasn't known for emotion any more than he was known for going easy on others.
Angel exhaled slowly.
"What if I can't quit?" he asked John, defeat in his tired voice.
"Then you aren't cast in anything at this school until you do. Period. No discussion. If I see or smell a cigarette anywhere near you, you're out: no readings, no performances, no rehearsals, and no exceptions. I'm not going to spy on you but I'm sure I'll know if you're following my instructions. You usually smell like an ashtray, Angel. I expect that to stop, starting tonight. Starting right now."
At that, John walked inside, leaving Angel standing alone, miserable and angry. Nothing could make him quit smoking; nothing, that is, except a threat to his participation in Drama Club. It was the center of his life and he couldn't lose it. He turned and slammed the flat of his hand hard into the concrete wall. He moaned in frustration, pulled the pack out of his back pocket and, with an angry shake of his head, threw it on the ground as he went back into the theatre. John's timing, uncharacteristically, really sucked.
Angel stalked down the hall towards the drama room, sending hapless first year students, forced to volunteer on the production, scurrying for cover. He just could not believe this day was happening. And Bobby...he didn't want to think about Bobby and Mrs. Boyd right now, he needed to concentrate on tonight's show. He needed to relax. He needed a fucking cigarette. As he passed by the debate room, the door opened and Gene stepped out into Angel's path, nearly hitting him.
"Oh, fuck, not you, asshole." spat Angel. Gene stopped, startled, and stared at Angel's flashing black eyes and stiff posture. Just great, he thought. Friday night debate rounds cancelled and now this. More drama.
"Inside." ordered Gene.
He jerked his head towards the room he'd just vacated, setting his briefcase down just inside the door. Angel glared at him. Gene stood looking at Angel for a moment, thoughtfully. He reached out his hand carefully to Angel's back and gently placed his hand onto him, pulling him slowly inside the doorframe.
Angel first resisted, then relented and, with an exasperated sigh, allowed himself to be led to the worktable. Gene pulled out two chairs, sat in one and pointed to the other. Angel sat, crossing his arms in front of his chest and looking at the wall. Gene smiled and shook his head.
Gene spoke gently. "So...I'm an asshole tonight, am I?" He couldn't help liking Angel, despite everything, but he was certainly temperamental. Angel's mouth twitched.
"Do you need to hit something, Angel? Me, for instance?"
Angel laughed, despite himself, and looked over to the debater. He relaxed in the chair and smiled at Gene.
"Okay, you got me. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have acted like that. I just...well, I just had another `talk' with John about my smoking." Angel said, foot twitching as he spoke.
Gene arched his eyebrow. Angel laughed again, more easily this time.
"Cut it out. You know damn well you look just like Mr. Spock when you do it."
Gene grinned. "At least you're laughing. And, hey, I don't blame you for being pissed off. Just the idea of no cigarettes would make me a lot less pleasant to be around, believe me. How long did he give you to quit?"
Angel shook his head. "Worse than that, he just said quit now, cold turkey. Or I'm out of the show, out of all shows."
"Can he do that? Legally, I mean?" he wondered.
Angel shrugged. "Fuck if I know but I'm not gonna chance it. Anyway, its not like he's kicking me out of class, just out of the plays, and those are completely up to him and Ms. Robi. They don't have to cast anyone, it's all voluntary."
Gene nodded. "Extra-curricular, yeah. I guess he can insist on it although you could make a decent case for harassment or perhaps infringement of personal liberties. I could argue it for you with the principal but I think you're right, it's better just to try to go along with John. Damn, I hope my coach doesn't hear about it and get any ideas."
"Fat chance, he smokes more than you do."
Gene snickered. "No kidding. Besides, I've got more on Friedman than even he knows so I doubt he could make me do anything I didn't want to do." Angel looked annoyed so Gene patted his knee. "Just kidding, Angel, no offense. He's nothing like John. John's kind of a hardass. I wouldn't fight him either. You'll do okay."
"It's not gonna help me to see you out there smoking every day, Gene." Angel said sourly.
Gene nodded with a sigh.
Angel smiled slyly. "You could quit, too."
"Yeah, and Hell could freeze over."
Angel laughed just as Michael burst through the door, carrying two Burger King bags and a Dr. Pepper. He saw Angel and stopped short, looking from one to the other of them, confused. He blushed finally, and looked at the floor as he spoke.
"Um, am I interrupting anything?"
Angel frowned and stood up.
"No, I was just leaving."
He hadn't seen Michael since Trig class this morning and there hadn't been any time to think about what had happened. He remembered Michael's smile when he'd handed him the phone number and felt his face grow hot. Gene saw and put a hand on Angel's arm before he could think to escape.
"Actually, Angel, I was the one just leaving when you, ah, ran into me. In your own charming way. I'll just divest Mikey of some of his burden and be on my way home. Have a nice night, kiddos." He smiled at Michael's confused expression. Gene could see the wheels turning but was way ahead of him.
With any luck, he'd get out of here with a burger and be home in time for West Wing while Michael had his talk with Angel. A long overdue talk, in Gene's opinion, but no listened to him anyway, he thought wryly. Time to boogie.
He deftly plucked one of the bags out of Michael's hand, picked up his briefcase and was out the door before either of them could object. The door closed behind him, leaving Angel and Michael looking at one another awkwardly in the silent room.
Michael set the other bag and the drink on the nearest worktable and stood beside it, fidgeting and looking anywhere but at Angel, who stood silently studying him.
"I didn't know you knew Gene." said Angel, finally.
Michael bit his lip. "Yeah, we know each other." He said without elaboration.
Angel nodded, unable to decide whether to be curious or be annoyed. He flipped a mental coin and it came up tails.
"Sure, lots of jocks hang out with debaters. Happens everyday." Angel said sarcastically. He was starting to think of cigarettes again and the smell of food, which he couldn't eat before a performance, wasn't helping.
Michael winced at the other boy's tone.
He looked at Angel standing there, tapping his foot, and tried to think of something nice to say; something, anything to make Angel smile at him again the way he had this morning. He could only think of one thing. For months, he'd had only one word in mind whenever he looked at Angel. One small, single, impossible word.
I think I'm in love with you, he thought, looking at the slender figure now leaning against the long table. Angel looked so beautiful right now; dark skin flushed under his white tee, black hair loose and shining under the light, his eyes on Michael's.
The gold-chained crucifix against that smooth throat drew his eye and Michael wanted to reach out, to touch it, to touch him. Every move the boy made was elegance itself, those graceful fingers tapping against his thigh, the weight of his hip on the table, his lashes rising and falling over dark eyes. Michael felt his interest twitch. He sucked in his breath and tried not to encourage it.
Angel regarded him coolly. Michael seemed jumpy, his green eyes kept flicking around the room, moving away from and then back to him. Fuck this, I have to get into makeup, thought Angel. As he moved to go, Michael spoke.
Angel wondered what Michael was thinking, why he was staring like that. It made him nervous. He was used to jocks treating him like crap and this was starting to seem like more of the same. Michael was Ryan's friend...but he also seemed to know Gene. Not that Gene was Angel's best buddy or anything but at least he was in Performing Arts. That's assuming you could agree that debate was an `art', he thought with a smile. Clean Gene usually rose to that bait.
Angel shook his head to clear it, to get back on track for the show. He didn't have time for this, whatever `this' was. What was this, anyway? After Trig class today, he didn't know what to think about Michael. He reached for his cigarettes automatically and then, irritated, stopped his hand. He needed gum. Candy. Something, anything in his mouth. He tapped his fingers on the tabletop.
"Listen, Michael, I have to get into costume and then it takes--"
The other boy interrupted him.
"Angel? Can we talk for a minute? Please?"
Angel frowned, "Listen, can't you just email me or something? I really have to go." This was starting to get annoying.
"Just for a few minutes, Angel. Want to grab a cigarette outside?" Michael pleaded quietly. Wrong thing to say. Angel pushed away from the table and glared at him.
"Fuck off, Michael, I said I'm busy." He went to the door and, as he reached for the knob, the football player covered the distance between them faster than Angel would have believed possible, placing a hand on his arm, holding him back. Angel whirled, incredulous, and saw Michael's frightened face.
"Go out with me? Would you? Please?" he blurted. Angel's eyes widened in shock. What? He thought dumbly. He coughed, stared and found his voice.
"What?" Angel squeaked aloud, then giggled. They were both starting to blush now, eyeing each other; each amazed.
Michael's voice shook slightly as he asked, "Please, Angel, would you go out with me sometime, maybe...I dunno, next weekend or something? Anywhere, wherever you want? Dinner or... whatever, a movie, maybe?"
Angel let his fingers fall from the doorknob. He stared at Michael.
The boy was blushing furiously and stammering a little as he spoke, only a foot away from Angel. God, his green eyes were gorgeous. Angel felt the heat of the other boy's body and smelled his cologne. He inhaled slowly and released the breath.
Angel spoke carefully. "What? I mean...uh, no, I heard you, Michael, but... what?" He searched the athlete's face in amazement. "I mean, what the fuck, Michael, you're a football player. You can't be gay!"
Michael choked out a laugh and grinned, then bit his lip, looking worried. Angel snickered, still in shock. This has to be a joke, Angel thought. Michael smiled, red-faced.
Angel felt dazed. A date...with Michael? `Study' my ass, he'd wanted a date. Damn. Angel couldn't picture it, couldn't imagine it; was he serious? Michael was still smiling, and his smile looked so inviting, so sweet. Angel wanted to brush his fingers across those lips and feel their texture. They looked so soft. Angel realized his heart was racing and tried to slow his breathing. The front of his jeans felt tight. Damn, he needed a cigarette.
"No one knows about me," said Michael, "well, almost no one, um, you're practically the only person. To know. No one else much knows. My parents don't know." He swallowed.
Angel drew in a careful breath and reached towards him, hesitated, then dropped his hand back to his side. He spoke softly.
"Michael, if you went out with me, if you went out with Angel de la Torres, a lot more people would know. Everyone would know." Angel said quietly.
"I know they'd all know." He said simply. He took a shaky breath and looked straight into Angel's eyes. "It would be worth it, Angel."
"You don't know what you're talking about." said Angel gently.
Michael shook his head. "I think I do. I know I do. So...will you? Go out with me?"
Angel studied the other boy's face and smiled sadly.
"I don't think so." said Angel.
The color drained from Michael's face.
"Drama kids don't date jocks."
Angel opened the door and left him alone in the debate room.
Michael eyes closed; he felt tears against the back of his eyelids.
It was amazing to him how much he was hurting.
`For each ecstatic instant
We must an anguish pay
In keen and quivering ratio
To the ecstacy.'
Emily Dickinson (1891)
Jaye scrunched up his pillow and nuzzled it, trying to get comfortable. He rolled over and saw that Angel was also awake, staring at the ceiling. He put his hand on Angel's bare chest and stroked gently. It'd been months since he'd had spent the night at Jaye's house but after today at the hospital and tonight's exhausting three-hour performance, Angel hadn't really wanted to sleep at home. He was embarrassed and very wary of his mother trying to have another one of her `talks'. He didn't need that, not tonight.
"Can't sleep?" Jaye asked.
"No. Looks like you can't either."
"Why don't ya tell me what you're thinking." Jaye suggested, cuddling down onto his friend's shoulder.
Angel smiled. Sometimes Jaye was so cute, it was like they were still kids together. Well, sort of like kids. He felt Jaye's fingers against his belly. Sleepovers had certainly changed in the last few years.
"Okay, where do you want me to start? Our best friend nearly dies and his mother wants to pack him off to some reprogramming center out of Manchurian Candidate. Assholes at school are out of control but no one's doing anything about it, no one cares. Maybe Bobby wouldn't have done it if that crap with Ryan hadn't happened. I mean, I know his Dad's a dick but its not just that, its everything." Angel frowned as he spoke.
Jaye made circles with his fingertip across Angel's skin in the dark. "You know, Gene was pretty cool yesterday in the parking lot. I tried to find John but didn't even think of Gene until I came back out and saw him there. Probably he's the only guy on campus that shithead Ryan would listen to."
"They probably wouldn't have listened to John even if you had found him, Jaye. You know how John is, he's tough with us but to those jockstrap assholes, he's just a short little faggy dancer guy. Like they'd listen to him. Gene, though...well, you know what he's like." said Angel. Jaye nodded.
"Angel, I had an idea today."
"Well, there's a first time for everything, honey." Angel said with a grin.
Jaye pinched his thigh.
"Ouch!" He laughed.
"Serves you right." Jaye said into Angel's ear.
"Wanna hear my idea or not, dorkface?"
"You sweet-talker, you." Angel said with a smirk. Jaye poked him.
"Okay, what's your idea, Jaye-bird?"
"Be serious and listen." Jaye sat up against the headboard to explain.
"You've been talking about the jerks at school and stuff but you know what? Someone can fix it. What we need is one of those school groups, those straight and gay groups, what're they called? Gay-straight? Straight-Gay?
"Either way, we need one at Northside. Someone needs to organize the group and then start getting people to join from all over the school, not just drama and not just gay kids.
"We could get PFLAG or somebody in there, to help out and all, and I'm sure the principal would approve it. It'd be like another club, like drama, just for this one thing. Getting people together and talking and stuff. I bet the paper would print it up and maybe a teacher sponsor or something. John, maybe. No, probably not interested. Dr. Friedman might do it, he's cool. We could ask Gene to talk to him. Gene's no homophobe and neither is Friedman. So...whatcha think, babe?"
Angel was sitting up now, staring at Jaye.
"Jesus Christ, you modest bastard, you really did have an idea."
"How long have you been thinking about all this?" asked Angel.
He shrugged. "I dunno, since yesterday, I guess."
Angel shook his head in wonder.
"Damn. Well, okay, who'll we get to start it? You really think Friedman would do this?"
Jaye looked at him. "Yeah, I do, but he's not the one who can organize it and get kids to join. A teacher can't do that. But yanno what? You could do it, Angel."
Angel snorted and pushed Jaye. "Don't be stupid, Jaye. I don't do stuff like that."
"Hey, I'm serious, Angel, you could do it. And what's more, you should do it. What about what happened to Bobby? You want someone else to--"
Angel slapped him lightly. "Shut up! Don't try to guilt me with Bobby. I don't do group things, I don't do political things and I don't do straight-anything things. Fuck, I don't even like going to class outside the drama building. I don't want to know those people, Jaye. Why don't you do it?"
Jaye sighed and pulled Angel closer.
"Because, Princess, people don't know who I am, but they know you."
"Yeah, they know me all right, they know me as the big Drama Fag. How's that gonna help? And by the way, Jaye, fuck you, you're the `princess', Princess. Who used up my purple Hard Candy mascara last month?" asked Angel.
Jaye snickered, then turned serious again.
"Angel, you could dooooo this, babe. Seriously. You'd be great and, yeah, I'd help. Everyone would help, I bet. I want you to think about it, okay? Before you just say no." Jaye said earnestly.
Angel sighed resignedly.
"Fine, fine, I'll think about it. Not that there's much to think about, really, but whatever." said Angel.
Jaye propped himself up on an elbow and smiled down at Angel. The moon came through the mini-blinds to fall across the bed, washing the two boys in pale light. Angel smiled up into the eyes of his best friend. It felt wonderful to know another person so well, to be so comfortable.
It wasn't the same as having a boyfriend, Angel felt sure, despite never having had one. But it was still good, still peaceful. And sometimes it was something more than just peaceful.
Eyes in shadow, Jaye leaned down to touch his lips against Angel's.
"Angel Eyes..." he whispered into Angel's mouth. Jaye slid his tongue inside and pressed his lips close, feeling the other boy pulling gently on his tongue. He was hardening against Angel's smooth abdomen. His left hand reached for Angel, who groaned as he felt the warm handclasp. Their breathing quickened, soft sounds escaping their kiss.
Jaye pulled back and buried his nose in Angel's neck, smelling the scent of his skin. Angel reached his arms around and pulled his friend close, arching up his pelvis. They moved slowly, sleepily, savoring the gradual incline into passion that they both seemed to need.
Jaye's breath felt hot on Angel; against his neck, the join of his shoulder and down to his nipple. Jaye's tongue flicked the tip and Angel groaned aloud. Angel reached for his friend but was gently pushed away, and Jaye moved himself out of reach.
He pressed his mouth against Angel's left nipple and sucked gently, pulling at the hardening skin; making soft wet sounds against the flesh. Angel leaned his head back into the pillow as he moaned, sighing quietly. Sucking harder, Jaye began to stroke Angel feather-lightly with his left hand, fingers fluttering down to the root and up to the underside of the head in a slow rhythm. Angel was breathing hard now, fast and loud in the quiet room.
Jaye pulled his lips from Angel's nipple, now hard, erect and wet. He moved his mouth downwards, licking his tongue along the skin, tasting salt, until he reached Angel's pubic hair. He pulled up and looked at the other boy in his tender grasp, the organ twitching in the air as Jaye's fingers teased and stroked it to an ever-harder state. Angel writhed, faced contorted, eyes closed.
He drew the bottom of his tongue roughly against the tip, feeling the engorged opening there and then sliding his tongue inside it; once, twice. Angel cried out softly, lifting his pelvis up and into the delicious pleasure. Jaye pressed him down with his left hand wrapped tight around the base of Angel's steel-hard organ, holding him flat against his body's need to thrust, his tongue invading and surrounding the tiny entrance.
Jaye pulled back again and looked down at what was in his hand. He smiled at Angel and bent over slowly, engulfing the head and squeezing it tightly inside his mouth, coating it with saliva, then swirling his tongue around that swollen head. Angel was panting; trying to thrust upward, needing to thrust but held down by Jaye's hand at the root. His hands grasped around, feeling for Jaye, his eyes closed.
Instead, Jaye laid his body over Angel's and rolled them both over, pulling Angel on top of him in the moonlight. Jaye's erection slid along Angel's skin, leaving light stickiness in its wake. Angel wrapped his arms around Jaye's shoulders, pulling him close against his own chest. Jaye moaned, lips pressed to Angle's, his eyes barely open. They kissed, groaning into each other's mouth.
Jaye spread his legs and wrapped them around Angel's slender body. Grinding against his friend, he pulled Angel's shoulders to him; wanting Angel, needing Angel, who hesitated.
"Please." Jaye breathed. "I need you."
And the stars came out as the Moon went down.
[End of Part 6]
Thanks again for your support! I'm still learning and all of you are helping me even if it's just by reading Drama Club or joining the list, but the emails really keep me going TragicRabbit11@aol.com
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