In Due Time

By J.Ross

This story and everything found herein is the property of the author. Any similarities to real people, places, etc. are strictly coincidental.
This story is not to be posted anywhere else without permission from the author.

Warning: This work of fiction contains sexual contact between two males. If you are opposed to reading something like that, or if it is illegal for you to read this type of material in your area, please leave.

Otherwise, I hope you enjoy. All comments/questions/complaints can be sent to


Chapter 10


I don’t fucking know.

What does that even mean? He doesn’t know? We’re either friends or we’re not, it’s really not that difficult. Seriously, I didn’t get the big issue, it’s not like I wanted to fuck him...or anybody. I didn’t want to fuck anybody.


I got that it wasn’t...’normal’, but I sat on my porch forever, just staring at the spot where Ry had been standing, asking myself the same question over and over. What difference did it make to him? It didn’t affect him at all. Not in any way that I could see. I mean...maybe others at school would talk if they found out about me, but Ry wasn’t the kind of person that cared about shit like that.

Ry went over to Chloe’s when he left. He didn’t go home; he walked right across the street to Chloe’s house, without once looking back at me. I can’t say why that pissed me off so much. It’s not like I wanted to go over to Chloe’s to cry on her shoulder or ask for advice, or anything. Just...the fact that Ry went over there made it feel like they were both against me.

Whatever. They would be as soon as Ry told her what happened. Chloe probably wouldn’t take it any better than Ryan. I’d always known that. I’d always known that if they ever found out, I’d lose my friends, but for the first time ever, I found myself asking why. Why did it even matter to them? I was the one that had to deal with it all.

I’d never really stopped to think about it before. About being gay and why I had a problem with it. I mean, obviously, I didn’t think it was disgusting. One look at my sheets after one of my...better dreams was enough to let anyone know how much I really didn’t think it was disgusting.

I did think it was wrong, though. Or...I felt like I was supposed to think that it was wrong. That it wasn’t normal. It’s what everyone was always saying. It’s what my dad was always saying.

And’s what he was always saying too.

I never questioned it before. What they thought, I mean. I never stopped to question whether or not they were wrong about any of it. I just accepted that I was fucked up and that I needed to change. I’d listened to all the bullshit for so long, I think I actually believed it. didn’t really make sense to me anymore. Not normal? I had to fucking force myself to kiss
Tracy and I still didn’t feel anything for her. There was nothing there. With Shane...with Shane, I almost couldn’t help myself. Shane felt normal. Shane felt right.

For me, Shane felt right. And I really didn’t understand why that mattered to Ryan, or why it would matter to anyone else. It had nothing to do with any of them.

It was so frustrating. I couldn’t change it. I tried. I tried so fucking hard, for so long and nothing worked. And...I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to change it anymore. Not if it meant getting rid of Shane.


It felt like I was supposed to choose. Shane or Ryan.

If someone had asked me a week before, or even the day before...I think I would have chosen Ryan. It would suck and I’d hate it, but if someone told me I had to choose...I would have chosen Ry. He’d always been there. Always. He’d been my friend for as long as I could remember having friends. I’d have hated giving up Shane, but I don’t think I could have given up Ry.

But he made the choice for me. He walked away. He didn’t fucking know.

Nothing about our ‘conversation’-- if you could call it that-- made any sense to me. I couldn’t even really be that upset about it. It didn’t even seem real. Ryan wasn’t my friend anymore? It was so ridiculous, I wanted to laugh. Ry had always been my friend. It was too hard to believe that he just...wasn’t anymore. It felt like a fight, but Ryan and I fought all the time. It never lasted long. I almost expected him to come back, glare at me for a minute before telling me to get off my ass and get it over to Chloe’s so we could get homework done. It didn’t seem real.

But it was.

He said he hated me...and that I was family. That I was his brother.

What the fuck did that mean?

My answer, when I asked myself that question...was exactly the same as Ryan’s.

I don’t fucking know.

I must have sat on my porch well over an hour, watching Chloe’s house like the walls were just going to magically disappear and I’d see everything that was going on inside. They were talking about me. I knew they were and it bothered the hell out of me to not be able to hear what was going on. What they’d decided. When Ryan left...I thought there might be a chance. He walked away but I couldn’t help but feel hopeful that there might be some sort of chance that things might be okay.

So, what the hell was he saying to Chloe? Was he feeding her the same bullshit he’d fed me about family and...whatever else?

I wanted to pretend like I didn’t care, even if no one was around to see my act. I think I just thought that maybe if I acted like I didn’t care...I’d eventually believe it.

Because that had worked so well for the gay thing, right?

Right. Whatever.

It got dark while I was sitting there, seemingly in the span of a second and I got up reluctantly to go inside, taking one last look across the street at Chloe’s house before I did.

I felt like I should be upset, but I wasn’t. How could I be when I didn’t even know what was going on? I had no idea if we’d ever be okay again, but I couldn’t...I couldn’t stop feeling hopeful. I fucking hated it, because I knew I’d probably end up being disappointed. I was right back where I’d started that morning, I’d made absolutely no progress. But...the hope? I really couldn’t help it. I couldn’t make it go away. He didn’t promise that we’d be cool again. He didn’t even say he’d try.

But he didn’t say he wouldn’t either.

The whole thing was fucking exhausting and I just wanted to forget about it. I wanted to...sleep and forget about it until morning. It was early, but I really didn’t give a shit. I walked into my house and grabbed the phone from the kitchen before running upstairs to my room. To call Shane. And not just because he was the only one of my friends that was still speaking to me.

He was also the only one I really wanted to talk to. Besides...I’d told him I’d call.

He answered halfway through the second ring.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” was the first thing I said when he answered. “I talked to Ryan, and I don’t want to talk anymore.”

I could almost hear him smile. Bite his lip. It’s what he does when he thinks I’m being ridiculous. “You called me because you don’t want to talk anymore?” he responded. “I see where that makes sense.”

“I wanted to talk to you. Just not about Ryan,” I said, sighing as I lay on my bed.

“Oh,” he said and he sounded surprised. “That’ Did you want me to come over?”

I hadn’t thought about it before, but...I did. Ryan had Chloe; it seemed unfair that I should be alone. And I wanted to see him. I wanted him close and it’s not like I really had to worry about Ryan walking in anymore. He probably wouldn’t be coming over any time soon.

“It’s cool if you’d rather be alone,” Shane offered when I didn’t respond right away. “I have Caydence here anyway--,”

“You didn’t tell her, did you?” I asked, jerking up in bed. I know it’s stupid, but with Ryan...I could almost hope that he wouldn’t say anything to anyone besides Chloe. I couldn’t believe that he’d tell everyone at school when he knew how they’d react. What I’d have to go through. I...fuck, I trusted him. I couldn’t help it.

I didn’t trust Caydence, though. I hardly even knew her. It made me nervous as hell to think she might know and when Shane was silent, it only got worse.

“She’s my best friend, Jake,” he said after a minute, voice low. “But no...I didn’t. She knows about me, though.”

I let out a relieved breath and lay back on my bed. “I thought you said everyone knew about you,” I said.

“No...I mean, yeah, they do, but that’s not what I meant,” he said, his voice still low. And I was worried all over again because I thought it might mean I’d pissed him off again. “I meant,” he went on. “That she knows that I like you. She knew before you did.”

That shocked me. I’d figured out pretty early on that Shane liked me, but I...sort of suppressed that or something. It made me smile, though; to hear that he’d told her. I wondered what he’d said about me.

“She...she did?” I asked, trying to casual. “Really?”

Shane snorted. “Yeah. Remember that day I helped you with your lab write up? I sort of ditched Caydence to do it and she was pissed. So, I told her why.”

I laughed, and stretched out on my bed. “I thought you said you were only helping because I was doing it wrong and you were annoyed.”

“Well, yeah,” he conceded. “There was that, too.”

I rolled my eyes. “Geek,” I said.

“Whatever, fucker, do you want me to come over, or not?” The smile was back in his voice.

“I want,” I said, softly. “But I don’t want to talk about Ryan.’s cool if you don’t want to ditch Caydence. I mean...”

But I didn’t get to finish that sentence. Because someone opened my door, shoving so hard it swung around and collided with the wall. Loudly. I was surprised the doorknob hadn’t punched a hole through the wall.

“Chloe,” I said softly, looking at her. She looked pissed.

I groaned inwardly. Why not? My day was going so well already.

“What?” said Shane, sounding bemused. “What about her?”

“I’ll see you when you get here,” I said and without waiting for him to respond, I turned my phone off.

Chloe just stood there in my door way, green eyes alight with fury. I was actually afraid to speak, at first.


But I didn’t get to finish that sentence either.

You know, I would have thought that if anyone was going to hit me, it would have been Ry. Especially since I’d almost fucking kissed him. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that Chloe would do the hitting. She was always hitting me anyway; I really shouldn’t have been surprised.

“Asshole,” she said as she stormed into my room and punched me right in the stomach. It hurts when a weak person punches you in the stomach if you’re not ready for it. And Chloe wasn’t exactly weak, even if she was tiny.

“Jesus, Chloe,” I said, my stomach muscles tensing after the fact. “I get it, okay? Just...go.”

She punched me again. “Asshole,” she all but growled at me. “You’re an asshole. I like him, Jake. You know that. And...fuck, I hate you.”

Wanna know how much of that I understood? Not much. Or...any of it.

“Ryan?” I asked, raising my eyebrows. “Seriously, Chlo, I told him it was an accident. It’s not like I was trying to--“

“What are you talking about?” she asked, and I cringed when she sat down, making herself comfortable.

I shrugged, shifting on my bed. “The thing with Ryan,” I said, unable to meet her eyes. “I didn’t mean to do it. It’s not like I like him. Not like that.”

Chloe rolled her eyes. “I know that, jackass, but...” she paused to punch me again. At least it wasn’t my stomach anymore. Not that my leg was much better. I was going to have a bruise in the morning.

“Christ, Chlo,” I snapped, sitting up and pulling my legs into my chest to get away from her. “I fucking get it. I already went through this with Ryan, can you just go?”

Asshole,” she said once more, and moved closer to hit me again. The girl has...aggression issues that obviously needed to be worked on.

“I think...” she sighed, miserably. “I think he was finally going to kiss me. Ryan, I mean.”

I was quiet. I wouldn’t have known how to respond to that on a good day. I was confused. She liked him, any kisses there were a good thing, right? So, why was she freaking out about it?

“Uhm...”I raised an eyebrow. “Yay?”

She rolled her eyes. “He didn’t. He was yelling--about you. And then he said some stuff about me and you that only makes sense if you speak ‘guy’ and I don’t...” She sighed. “Then I told him, everything was going to be okay and that you guys would get over it...and that I wasn’t going anywhere, so he didn’t have to worry about that...” she paused, biting her lip. “And...he got all quiet and asked me if I was sure and I told him I was. That’s when he...almost...but he didn’t. I haven’t decided how it’s your fault, but I know it is.”

And she thought guys had a language. Wow...

“Uhm,” I said, slowly nodding. “Okay...

She flopped back on my bed so that she was lying across it sideways, sighing as she said, “I know, right?”

I had no fucking idea, but I nodded carefully again anyway. “Right.”

“Yeah,” she said, smiling. “You’re right. Fuck it I wouldn’t know what to do with him if I actually got him, anyway.” She sighed and turned to look at me. “’re really gay?”

I had pretty much convinced myself that she didn’t know. I mean, if she knew, why hadn’t she flipped out and ended our friendship the way Ryan had...or hadn’t...whatever. She was being insane and...more than a little abusive but that wasn’t really out of the ordinary for her, so I just...assumed that all she really knew was that Ry and I weren’ and that the only kiss she knew about was the one that didn’t happen between her and Ryan. Not the one that didn’t happen between me and Ry. Or the ones that constantly happened between Shane and me.

Her question caught me completely off guard. I froze and that whole ‘inability to speak’ issue I’d had with Ryan was back with a vengeance.

She sat up after a minute of my silence and moved closer to me. I cringed and waited for her to hit me again, but she didn’t. What she did was...way worse than that.

She fucking hugged me.

I sort of just sat there. It was awkward. Chloe didn’t do hugs. Ryan hugged more than Chloe did. It wasn’t that she was...distant or anything like that, she was constantly putting her feet in my lap, or looping her arm through mine as we walked at school. I just couldn’t remember her ever hugging before.

Besides, she knew the rules. No comforting people that were pretending not to be upset. It was a rule and she wasn’t following it.

“Is this it?” she asked softly when she let go. “Is this the thing I wasn’t supposed to ask questions about?”

I wasn’t sure what she was talking about, and I was still way too shocked by the hug and her first question to actually say anything. Plus, I wasn’t used to actually admitting it, so I just shrugged, staring down at my knees.

“Oh my God,” Chloe said suddenly, her eyes widening and I wondered if she was having some sort of delayed reaction. “Do you think Ryan is too? Do you think that’s why he didn’t...?”

I think that’s exactly what I needed to hear to stop my freak out before I ended up the mute I’d been earlier. I started laughing. Hard. It wasn’t even funny, not really. It made me think of my conversation with Ryan, which I was trying my damnedest not to think about. And how I knew he definitely wasn’t gay and what he would have thought if he heard her say that.

It should have been upsetting, but it wasn’t. I couldn’t stop laughing.

“I’m pretty sure that’s not it, Chlo,” I said, almost tearing up.

“How do you know?” she actually sounded genuinely worried. “Is it, like, that gaydar, thing? You’re positive? I mean, just because he says he’s not, doesn’t mean...”

“Chloe!” I snapped, mostly because I really needed to stop laughing so that I could breathe and I couldn’t do that if she kept going.

“Ryan’s not gay. He didn’t kiss you because you’re his friend.” I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that he didn’t want any more than that. Though...the fact that I knew he didn’t want anything more did have me wondering why the hell he’d tried to kiss her in the first place. But then, Chloe was crazy, it’s entirely possible she imagined the whole thing. Not that I was about to say that to her.

I smiled at her. “He doesn’t want to start anything with you because he doesn’t want you to end up like Kyler, or Stacy, or Sheila, or Evelyn...”

“Eve,” she corrected.

I rolled my eyes. “Whatever.”

“How do you know that, though?” she asked, looking skeptical.

“Uhm...” I said, because I just remembered that I wasn’t supposed to say anything to Chloe about the conversation that I wasn’t supposed to have had with Ryan.

God, that’s complicated.

“He was my best friend, I know everything about him,” I tried, hating the ‘was’ in that sentence, and she rolled her eyes.

“Yeah, that’s what Ry would have said about you yesterday, but he didn’t know you were gay,” she said, and I froze again on instinct. I couldn’t just...sit there and talk about it like it was no big deal.

“He’s...” I forced, trying to stay cool. “He’s not gay, Chloe. I promise.”

She rolled her eyes and shoved me. “Whatever. I’m supposed to believe you? Apparently, you’re one big, fat’re really gay?”

I really wished she’d stop bringing it up. I bit my lip and refused to meet her eyes.

“Jesus, Chloe,” I said, quietly.

I was grateful, obviously, that she was okay with it. It just kind of threw me. I hadn’t expected her to be and I still wasn’t entirely comfortable talking about it. I know it’s crazy, but I almost felt like it was a trick and the second I admitted it, she’d freak.

I do paranoid very well.

“Huh,” Chloe said, apparently taking my ‘not answer’ as a yes. “Didn’t see that coming. So, is there a guy, or did you kiss Ryan because you hate me? Or...” She paused and I actually got scared when her eyes widened. “Oh, my God. You don’t...You don’t have, like, feelings...”

“Holy fuck, Chloe, shut up,” I said, closing my eyes and letting my head roll back to collide with my head board. “No, I don’t. And I didn’t kiss him... I thought he was someone else, so just drop it and shut up.”

Who?!” Chloe screamed, which was definitely not shutting up.

“No one,” I answered immediately. I knew she wouldn’t believe me, but I wasn’t actually trying to convince her. It just sounded better than ‘I’m not telling you’. Much better.

Unfortunately, Shane has terrible timing and he decided to pick that moment to just show up uninvited...or maybe he was technically invited but a decent person would have waited until Chloe was gone and not around to make assumptions.

Even if they happened to be right.

“Oh. My. God.” She said when he walked in. I swore I’d hit her if she said those three words one more time. Fuck my mother and all her lectures about not hitting girls, I’d hit her and I’d hit her hard.

“Uhm,” Shane said, standing in the doorway, shifting under our gazes. “You hung up on me and I thought...” he paused and frowned. “Never mind. Obviously, I was wrong. I’ll come back later.” He turned to walk out.

“No, wait!”

I didn’t say it, Chloe did. I was perfectly okay with him coming back later. I liked that plan. Or...I wanted Chloe to come back later. That one was even better.

I glared at Shane when he turned back around and smiled at her. “Hey, Chloe,” he said, like they actually really knew each other. “What’s up?”

“It’s you, right?” Chloe said, ignoring his greeting’s in her nature to make me as miserable as possible. “Jake thought it was you last night.”

Shane’s eyes widened and shot over to meet mine. I just kind of shrugged, helplessly. I couldn’t really tell either of them to get the fuck out. Chloe wouldn’t listen and...I wasn’t about to say it to Shane.

I don’t know why it made me so uncomfortable, having the two of them there. I think it was...habit. I wasn’t used to Chloe knowing and the whole situation made me feel awkward as hell.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Shane answered Chloe carefully, still looking at me.

Chloe ignored him. Again. “So, you two are...I mean, you and Jake are... wow, I don’t know if I can say it.” She shook her head. “That is’re fucked up, Jake.”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Shane snapped at her immediately and my eyes widened. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with what Chloe said. I knew her well enough to know she wasn’t trying to be a bitch and I didn’t get why Shane was snapping at her. It’s not like she was even talking about him, anyway.

“It means,” Chloe said, her smile still firmly in place. “That it’s weird. Way weird. And unfair. I get one tiny, little hint of a kiss and you--,” She turned to face me. “Are sleeping with Shane Tickersine? Not on, Jake. Not on.”

My eyes widened further than I thought possible and I think I may have choked on my tongue for a second. “Who said anything about sleeping? No one, Chlo. No one has been sleeping. Not together. There has been no sleeping. At all. Ever.”

The room was quiet and they were both staring at me like I’d just had a minor breakdown. It’s possible that they weren’t exactly wrong.

And then...came the laughing. I hated them both. Assholes.

“Shut up,” I muttered, my ears burning. “And while you’re shutting up, please fuck off.”

Chloe rolled her eyes and leaned in to give me another hug. Thankfully, it was over a lot quicker than the last one had been.

She smiled at me. “Right. I’ll fuck off. Have fun...’not’ sleeping,” she said, laughing as she got off my bed. And then surprised the hell out of me when she gave Shane a quick half hug before she moved to leave.

“And Jake?” she said, pausing in my doorway. She wasn’t smiling anymore.

“What?” I asked. I was trying to snap at her but it wasn’t working. She’d made me uncomfortable, on purpose, and I wanted to punish her a little for that, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t be mad at her. Not right at that moment, at least.

She was still my friend. She was a bitch but she didn’t hate me. She wasn’t walking away from me... or she was, technically, but not the way Ryan had. Which only meant more hope, but this wasn’t the bad kind. The kind that I knew would only have me disappointed.

“I’m not taking sides,” she said, fidgeting in the doorway. “I’m not saying he’s...right, or anything, okay? I just...can’t take sides. I’ll make sure he’s not going to say anything, get it, right? It’s not like I haven’t had your back when you were wrong before. I’ll try to talk to him, but I’m not going to ditch him.”

I just nodded. I did get it. It sucked that there were sides to take, but I got it. And...I still wasn’t mad at her. .

She didn’t hate me. She knew far as I could tell she didn’t give a shit as long as she could torture me with the information.

She offered me one last smile before she finally left my room and closed the door behind her, leaving me alone with Shane. Finally.

He smiled at me when I met his eyes. “I like her,” he said, decisively as he moved to take her spot at the end of my bed.

I smiled, laughing softly. “Me too,” I replied, nodding.

“And Ryan?” he asked as he made himself comfortable on my bed...way too far away from me at the other end. “How’d it go with Ryan?”

And my smile was gone. I felt almost...drained on the subject. I spent forever obsessing about it myself on the porch and...there was the actual having of the conversation and then everything with Chloe. I wanted Shane to help me relax, not make me have to obsess some more.

“Nothing happened. Not really,” I said. I really didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to think about it because I still wasn’t sure how I was supposed to feel. But Shane was looking at me expectantly and I figured I should tell him something. Like...the important stuff. Just to get it out of the way.

“Ryan...he said he hates me. But he isn’t sure what he’s going to do about it. Or if we can still He said he doesn’t know how to find a new...” I paused, frowning as I thought about it. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t want to tell Shane what Ryan said. Brother? I’s not really a big deal, but I didn’t want to say it.

“Uhm,” I went on when Shane nudged me. “Friend. He doesn’t know how to find a new...friend,” I finished lamely.

Shane snorted. “Ryan Lucas hangs out with new people every week,” he said, raising a skeptical eyebrow. “And he said he doesn’t know how to find a new friend? Bullshit.”

“That’s not what he meant,” I responded, desperately wanting to change the subject. “And none of those people are his friends. Not really.”

Shane didn’t look convinced. “So? I don’t know him like you do, I get that. But...he’s not the kind of guy that looks like he’d have trouble making friends.”

I sighed biting my lip. The ‘family’ thing? It sounded...lame, somehow but that’s not why I didn’t want to tell Shane about it. I kind of knew it was something about which Ry wouldn’t want me telling everyone. fucking what, right? He told Chloe the one secret I didn’t even want to tell myself about... or...whatever. It’s crazy but that totally made sense to me.

I sighed and turned to look Shane in the eye. “He...didn’t say ‘friend’ exactly. It was more than that.” I was still hesitating, though I have no idea why and Shane’s eyes widened and he sat up a little straighter.

“What?” he asked his voice flat.

I shrugged. “He said...’brother’. That he didn’t know how to make a new brother.”

Shane sighed, frowning, as he lay back down, letting out a breath. “I think...that doesn’t sound like a ‘bad’ thing, Jake,” he said, reasonably. “Maybe...”

“Yeah,” I interrupted, rolling my eyes. “I already went over a whole shit load of ‘maybe’s’. I don’t want to think about it anymore. And I’m done talking about Ryan.”

I’m not sure why I snapped, but...for the night, I was done thinking about it. I’d think about it the next day and deal with everything then. I wanted to relax and I couldn’t do that if we kept talking about Ryan.

I was being an ass and I knew it. I just couldn’t really help it. I expected him to get up and leave, pissed off at me for it, but I shouldn’t have. Shane...he never really pushed.

“Alright,” he said after a second and he stretched out on my bed, making himself comfortable. “It’s cool. What did you want to talk about, then? When you called me, I mean?”

I shrugged. “I didn’t really want to talk about anything,” I said, distractedly, looking at the bare inch of skin where his shirt had ridden up with all that unnecessary stretching. “I just wanted you here.”

He looked surprised for a moment and smiled, though I really couldn’t tell you why. “You should probably stop saying things like that,” he said, so quietly I almost didn’t hear him.

Not that it would have mattered if I didn’t hear it. As it was, I wasn’t really paying all that much attention. “Uh huh,” I responded, staring at his legs.

I wanted to touch him. It’d been the longest fucking day and just seeing him...relaxed me, somehow. Made it better. Everything with Ryan had been so exhausting and confusing and I just wanted to forget about it. And I could forget, with Shane, as long as he wasn’t bringing it up. When he was around, I never really thought about anything else. It was just...good to have him there and I felt like I needed him closer. Like I needed some kind of contact.

I still didn’t have any idea how to initiate that contact, though. I think I stared at him for a solid five minutes before I decided on a course of action.

I grabbed one of his feet, pulled it into my lap, and started undoing the shoelaces. I’m a pussy. Don’t act like you didn’t know.

“What are you doing?” he asked, sounding amused as I tried yanking his shoe off with little success.

I shrugged. “You’re wearing shoes in my bed,” I said, like it mattered one way or the other. I was pretty sure he wouldn’t buy that lame excuse, I was still wearing my shoes, but I really didn’t give a shit whether he believed me or not. I was touching him...that was the point.

He laughed. “I can take ‘em off, if you want,” he offered, and yeah, I knew he was being ass; he knew exactly what I was up to.

“I’ve got it,” I said, rolling my eyes, still yanking, but he laughed again, taking his foot away as he sat up.

“No,” he said, softly, as he toed off his shoes. “I’ve got it.”

I was only disappointed for the few seconds it took for Shane to get rid of the shoes himself and move up to the head of the bed to lie next to me.

I smiled. It was, you know--that I didn’t ever really have to say anything for him to get it. It had annoyed me at first, how well he could read me, but, I was definitely starting to like it.

He didn’t really touch me, not like I expected him to. I’d expected him to get close or kiss me, but he didn’t. He just lay alongside me, his shoulder just barely touching mine.

And that was cool too. More than enough. I was...exhausted. I wasn’t sure I had the energy for anything more.

Okay, so, I’m lying, but still. Just that little bit of contact felt good.

“Sorry,” Shane said, staring at the ceiling. “I thought you’d want ’space’ after everything with--well, everything.”

I didn’t respond to that right away. Mostly because I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t want space and I wondered when I had gone from blaming him when things went wrong to wanting him around to get me through it. It didn’t seem like that long ago that I was running from him and blaming him for everything that happened to upset the ‘normal’ life I’d been so fond of. I snapped on him for everything, from the shivers I got when he looked at me for too long to my disastrous joke of a date with
Tracy. None of it was really his fault, but I was an ass to him anyway, and I’d run away from him almost every single time.

It made me feel like the lowest kind of shit. Even lower than I felt when
Tracy was smiling at me in the car and all I could think about was getting the fuck away from her.

I was an asshole. Jesus.

“Shane,” I sighed, turning on my side to face him. He didn’t look at me. His kept staring at the ceiling and he tensed up. I wasn’t sure why but it definitely didn’t make me feel any better.

“I’m sorry,” I said, quietly, reaching out to touch him, just the backs of my fingers against the side of his ribcage. “I’m an ass,” I went on, cringing as I did my best to explain myself. “I...I don’t want...fuck.”

Shane laughed, finally turning over to look at me. “It’s cool, Jake, I get it,” he said and that ever present ‘just woke up’ rasp in his voice still made me shiver.

I sighed. “I don’t do it on purpose, you know,” I said, still determined to give him some kind of explanation. I felt like...I don’t know, like he deserved one. He was always there. Always understanding, even when I didn’t understand. I was a dick to him from day one and he was still there. I just...I really didn’t want to fuck it up.

“Do what?” Shane asked, sounding amused. I glared at him.

“You know what,” I said, flatly. “The running thing...I don’t do it on purpose., I do do it on purpose, but it’s not because...” I sighed, frowning. Talking--it’s harder than you might think. I wasn’t even sure what I was trying to say, but I wanted him to know, I didn’t want to...lose him.

Christ, I am so pathetic.

“I like you,” I pressed on and it was actually easier to say the words than it had been earlier that same day. I meant it and if it made him feel anywhere near the way it made me feel when he said something similar...I wanted him to hear it.

“I know,” he said, raising an eyebrow and it was so obvious that he was trying to hold back an amused grin; I don’t know why he even tried. I almost didn’t want to continue...not for him, anyway. Asshole. But, I think I just needed to say it. For me.

“Just listen,” I said, shoving him gently and he bit his lip and nodded, looking attentive. Or...Almost attentive.

“I do,” I started again. “Like you, I mean. A lot. But I didn’t want to.”

“Really?” Shane asked, not even bothering to hide his amusement anymore. “I didn’t notice.”

I sighed and rolled onto my back, staring up at the ceiling. “Fuck off,” I said, softly. He grabbed my arm and tried to pull me closer, but I shrugged him off.

“Jake,” he sighed and he stopped trying to pull me close to him and just rested his hand at the center of my chest. “I’m sorry. know you don’t have to say any of this, right? I get it.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t,” I said, turning just my head to look at him. “I still don’t get most of it.”

“Most of what?” he asked, frowning and I laughed, hoping that I could say something intelligent before we did that thing where we lost each other in the middle of a conversation.

“Me,” I answered after thinking it over. “I don’t think I get ‘me’. Or Ryan. Or you most of the time.”

“Uhm,” he said, brow furrowing. “Okay?”

I turned on my side to face him again. “No, seriously, listen,” I said, and I took a second to try and figure out how to explain myself. I thought I had all the words ready and they sounded good in my head.

Then I fucked up and tried to actually say them. It didn’t come out at all like I’d planned.

“I don’t wanna be gay,” I said, and Shane actually snorted, but he composed himself pretty quickly when I shot him a glare. “I don’t,” I went on carefully. “I never did. I didn’t want things to change. I knew what would happen if I let myself--,”

Let yourself?” Shane interrupted, raising an incredulous eyebrow.

I frowned. “Well...yeah. I thought I could change it. And then...then I met you and--,”

“And I fucked everything up for you,” he finished and I glared at him.

“Jesus Christ, will you shut the fuck up?” There’s no way he was more shocked than I was at my outburst, but he looked it. We both fell silent and he sort of stared at me, eyes wide, his mouth slightly open.

And this time, when he started laughing, I laughed with him.

“Sorry,” I said, shaking my head. “Just...look, I like you. I didn’t want it, but, I do and I want to keep liking you. I was having issues because I couldn’t stop thinking about...well, you, mostly and I didn’t want to be gay. I wanted it to go away and I couldn’t stop thinking about it with you around. But, I’m over it...I think. I don’t want you to, like, get lost or anything. Not anymore. I just didn’t want to...fuck things up with my family. Or Ryan...”

“He’s an asshole,” Shane said, sobering as soon as I said Ryan’s name. “Seriously, Jake, he’s a dick. There’s no--,”

“He’s my best friend,” I interrupted because it’s just not in my nature to not say something when someone’s insulting Ry. At least, I didn’t snap at him.

“Right,” Shane snorted, rolling his eyes. “Whatever.”

I almost wanted to argue with him, but our conversation so far, wasn’t working out quite like I’d planned and I didn’t want to make it worse.

“Just,” I said, biting my lip. “I want you, okay?” Shane’s eyes widened and I was quick to add. “Around. I want you around. I don’t want you to get lost. And I’m sorry I’m an ass.”

And a fucking idiot. He was laughing at me again and I rolled onto my back again to stare at the ceiling once more.

I have a very interesting ceiling. I especially like looking at it when I make an ass of myself.

“Jake,” he said, chuckling softly. “You get that I already knew most of this, right?”

I shrugged, not meeting his eyes.

“Okay,” he said slowly and he moved closer to me, lying down on the bed as he grabbed my hand and held it. I couldn’t remember ever holding his hand before. It was weird in a way. I definitely wasn’t used to it. I almost wanted to pull away, actually, but I didn’t. I let him hold my hand and the room was silent but for the sound of our breathing.

It wasn’t so bad.

“Hey, Jake,” Shane said after awhile and I could hear the mischievous tone in his voice. It warned me not to answer.

But I never listen when I should.

“Yeah,” I replied absently, enjoying just being close to him.

He leaned in close to my ear, lips almost touching and I shivered when I felt his breath on my neck.

“I want you,” he whispered, so softly I barely heard him and my fucking mouth was dry in an instant. Three words. Three fucking words and my body tensed almost automatically and I was more turned on than I could ever remember being in my life. I wouldn’t have thought it possible after the day I had, but I was and I really didn’t give a shit if he noticed.

“H-huh?” I asked, my grip on his hand tightening almost against my will.

“I,” he whispered again and my chest shook when I felt his tongue against the shell of my ear as he licked his lips. “Want. You.”

I might have made a noise that may have slightly resembled a squeak, but if I did, there’s no way I’ll ever admit it.

I turned toward Shane, and my nose bumped his as I did. I tilted my head up to kiss him, because, really it was the most logical move to make, but he didn’t let me.

Around,” he said, the beginnings of a smirk pulling at his lips and I frowned as I tried to figure out what the hell he was talking about.

He laughed, presumably at the look on my face.

“I want you...around...too,” he said and moved away, breaking all contact with me, leaving me completely dazed.

And...what the fuck? I want you...around?

Not cool, Shane. Not cool.

I decided to be mortified over my reaction and hate him for teasing me later, though. Right then...I just wanted to kiss him.

Shane laughed, surprised, when I grabbed his shoulder and practically yanked him back toward me, and maybe I was a little rough, but it was totally on purpose.

He raised an eyebrow, opening his mouth to speak and he had that look on his face like he was going to say something completely sarcastic, so I cut him off. I pressed my lips against his a little harder than I meant to but I pressed harder still when he mumbled whatever he was going to say against my lips anyway.

If I had stopped to think about it, I might have been shocked at how bold I was being. Actually, I probably wouldn’t have done it at all. I was slowly getting used to the idea of being gay. I wasn’t exactly happy about it, but I was getting used to the idea. That didn’t mean I was comfortable initiating anything, though, and the fact that Shane had resisted, laughing for the first couple seconds of the kiss, should have been enough to make me retreat. But I didn’t. I kept with it, pressing my lips firmly against his until he relaxed into it, kissing me back.

I want you. It seems like almost nothing. They’re just words, right? But the way he said them sent me reeling. It made me dizzy and I had chills, which seemed impossible with how hot my body suddenly felt. Just from hearing those words. It was pathetic.

Not as pathetic as the pile of fucking mush he turned me into after that. It got...intense. I hadn’t expected to get so into it when I first pulled him into me, but as soon as he started participating I got a little...or a lot caught up in it.

He was laying half on top of me, with his chest against mine, but the rest of his body off to the side.

You know how you can be in a room with someone, having a decent time, laughing and having fun, but then something happens that just...changes the mood completely? Like, the person you’re with will say or do something and everything is just different all of the sudden? Well, it happened.

Shane had been laughing at me when I first kissed him, but he definitely wasn’t laughing anymore. He shuddered--I don’t know why--while he was kissing me and everything just...changed. It was like the air was suddenly thicker...warmer...and it was hard to breathe.

Even he changed, gripping me tighter, kissing me harder. I’d been turned on when we started...I’d been turned on since he said those three little words but it was nothing compared to what I felt after the...’change’.

Remember when I said I’d never get tired of Shane’s kisses?

Well, I lied. I was already tired of the kissing. Or rather, I was already tired of just kissing.

I wasn’t even sure if I was ready for more. It was just hearing him say those words and the way he kissed me that night--lips pressed hard against mine, tongue thrusting into my mouth almost viciously, his chest writhing against mine--it was almost too much.

But not enough. Definitely not enough. It had me desperate. I clutched at him, pulling him so close that it was hard to keep from breaking the kiss, but I couldn’t help it. I wanted him. I just didn’t know how to say it.

He sighed, breaking the kiss and leaning his forehead against mine, eyes closed. “Jake,” he whispered, breathlessly. “I should probably take off.”

What? Take off? Who leaves right in the middle of...whatever it was we were doing? It was definitely not the time and besides, he just got there. I reached up to cup the back of his head to pull him back in but he shook loose, sitting up.

“Wait--what?” I asked and my voice was...husky. I was sure my voice had never been anything that could be called ‘husky’ before.

“This...” he paused and leaned down to kiss me. “It’s been kind of” He had to know that didn’t make any sense. “I mean,” he went on, getting off my bed and forcing his feet back into his shoes. “This probably isn’t the best day for...this.”

That wasn’t much better and I wanted to question it, but he didn’t really give me a chance.

“I’ll see you in the morning,” he said, and he leaned down over my bed to kiss me once more and I swear to fucking god, I wasn’t imagining the way he reached down to adjust his erection, wincing as he did so.

“Shane,” I said, but he kissed me again and I sort of lost my train of thought.

“Later,” he said, breaking the contact with my lips and stepping away. He all but fucking ran out of the door.

“Fuck,” I said to my empty room as I dropped my head back against my pillows. “Fuck.”

It was probably better that he had left. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for more, even if everything in me was currently screaming that I was.

Whatever. It’s not like I was a stranger to getting myself off, but as I slid my hand down the zipper of my jeans and reached in to grab my was the first time I could remember actually being bitter about it.


Once, when I was a kid, Ryan and I got it into our heads that we were going to build a pool in his backyard. We’d just learned how to swim and Chloe’s mom didn’t want younger kids swimming in the pool. She didn’t want any accidents. Not even Chloe was allowed in the pool.

So, we decided to build our own. We even drew up plans the night before...or actually, we drew a picture of the pool, but we called it our ‘plan’. We figured we’d dig a hole, really deep and put the camping tarp down at the bottom so it wouldn’t be muddy. We grabbed everything that we could find from his garage the second his parents left. Shovels, gloves, hammers (we had no idea what we were going to use them for, but we thought they looked cool), we even got one of those metal weed pullers but we ditched it after Ry almost caught me in the shin with it.

We took all of our stuff in the backyard and got to work. We figured, if we worked nonstop, we could have the whole thing finished by the time his dad got off work.

Want to know how much we didn’t succeed?

If our idea would have worked in the first place, we couldn’t even dig a hole. It was really hard to get through all the grass, for one, but once we ruined most of that with shovels and spoons and...our hands, it was just...really hard to get a hole started at all. There were rocks and the ground was hard.

So, no, we didn’t build our pool. We did ruin Ryan’s back yard, though, and his parents were fucking pissed. Even his mom, still alive back then, looked like she was about to throw a fit.

She didn’t, though. She stopped looking angry right around the time Ryan explained the plan to her and told her not to worry, because it didn’t work. We were both pretty upset about that and shocked, too. We had thought it was a great plan, and we were so sure it’d be a piece of cake.

Ryan had looked so miserable when he finished the story, and he threw his hammer, saying, “We just wanted to swim, mom, but we couldn’t make it work.”

I thought they were going to yell. I stood behind Ryan and waited for it to start. From his dad, especially because I couldn’t recall Mrs. Lucas ever yelling.

But she just laughed and pulled both me and Ryan into a hug and told us we just ‘needed a little rain’ to get started and she went and got the hose. Ryan’s dad objected at first, but one look from Mrs. Lucas shut him up and he even grabbed a shovel to help me and Ry, while Mrs. Lucas sprayed water over everything.

And the four of us, turned the backyard into a swamp of sorts. It was all watery mud with grass floating at the top and, obviously not a pool, but we had a blast anyway. And afterwards, Mr. Lucas took us to the Community center to swim there.

This all seems kind of pointless, right? It is, mostly. Ryan and I did some pretty stupid shit when we were younger, so what? But...that day was the first time I could remember him ever calling me his brother.

Ever since then, he’s just sort of thrown it into random conversation whenever I did something he liked. I never really thought he was serious. I thought it was kind of...a best friend thing. Just something you say. But when Ry said it while we were fighting, it threw me. He was pissed at me, he said he hated me so why would he say it then? It was fucked up and I felt like he was trying to trick me into hoping.

It was totally working.

When I woke up for school the next day, I purposely waited on my porch for Shane. Or...I was partially waiting for Shane. I may have also been waiting for Ryan. To see what he’d do when he came to get Chloe and saw me sitting there. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was definitely disappointed.

He pulled into Chloe’s driveway and honked like he always did and Chloe came running out, waving at me like she always did, but it wasn’t her usually ‘I’m way to much of a freak to be suitably miserable in the morning’ wave. She kind of lifted her hand and gave me a sad sort of smile, which, I had no idea how to read and she mouthed something to me like I could actually read lips as she walked to her driveway. But instead of climbing into Ry’s car, she went to his window to talk to him.

I sat up straighter in my seat, leaning forward like a couple of inches was actually going to help me hear better. It didn’t, obviously. I couldn’t hear anything other than the sound of Ry’s car running and the music he always kept way too loud, but I could see it wasn’t going well. Chloe was getting more annoyed by the second and ended up throwing up her hands in defeat and turning away like she was going to walk to school.

She got as far as the sidewalk before he got out to follow her, without taking one look in my direction and when he spoke to her, grabbing onto her arm to stop her, I could hear the sound of his voice but I couldn’t make out any actual words.

Chloe, though--I knew her well enough to know that what he was saying was getting to her. I was actually a little worried for a second that maybe he was...I don’t know, convincing her or...whatever. She held her ground though and he finally said something I heard.

“Fine,” he said and he turned away from her, toward me. “Just get in the fucking car, please,” he said, and though he was facing me, it was pretty obvious that comment was for Chloe. And she did get in the car, leaving Ry and me to stare at each other from opposite sides of the street.

My heart picked up it’s pace, pounding inside of my chest. I mean, I didn’t want to ride to school with him, especially not just because Chloe threw a fit, but I wanted him to say something. I didn’t even care if he started yelling, I just needed something. I wanted to know where the hell we were or what was going on because ‘I don’t fucking know’ isn’t really an answer. I felt like I was...stuck. I couldn’t be upset or angry and I couldn’t be happy or relieved either. I was just...stuck, waiting for him to tell me something that made sense.

“Jake,” he snapped at me to get my attention like I wasn’t already completely focused on him. “Do you want a fucking ride?”

You know how some people ask questions and sort of tell you what answer they want to hear with their voice and their glares? That’s what Ryan did. It was pretty clear my answer was supposed to be a solid ‘no’. But...I almost said yes, anyway. I wanted to force it. It’d only been one night but it was already driving me crazy and I wanted an answer. A real answer. If Ry and me weren’t...’Ry and me’ anymore, he was going to have to fucking say it.

I actually stood up to go across the street, but I didn’t even get a chance to take the first step.

Shane. I guess it was better that he showed up before I could actually ditch him would’ve been really fucked up if I just left without him. I was still upset, though. And when Ry sneered at Shane’s car and then me...I wondered if that might be an answer.

I still needed to hear it, though. It wasn’t that I wanted to hear it...I just needed to. It was the ‘hope’ thing. He said I was his brother. I was latching onto that and I knew I shouldn’t have been, but I couldn’t help it. Ryan...he doesn’t say things he doesn’t mean, not when he’s angry, unlike most people. He said I was his brother and if I wasn’t anymore...I needed to hear it.

“Jake?” Shane called out of the window of his car.

Ryan laughed derisively from across the street, turning to walk to his car, saying, “Guess not,” as he did. I’d heard Ryan use that tone of voice so many times before. Just never on me. It was...painful. More so than I cared to admit.

“You can go with him, if you want,” Shane said when I walked over to his car. “It’s cool, but he looks pissed.”

I shook my head. “I’m riding with you,” I said simply, giving Shane a look and he dropped the subject without any question.

Ryan sped off before I was even fully in Shane’s car and I sighed as I sank into the passenger seat, trying to ignore the sinking feeling in my stomach.

“Are you good?” Shane asked and if I didn’t feel like complete shit at the moment, I would have laughed at how he was trying to sound casual.

I forced a smile, but I’m not sure it really worked. “I’m fine,” I assured him.

He studied me for a second, in that way that he had before he shocked the hell out of me and leaned in and kissed me. It was short. Quick. Just the brush of his lips against mine and even though my parents were home...even though we were in my fucking driveway...I relaxed. It should have made me nervous, but it didn’t. It was good. I hadn’t even known I’d wanted it until he gave it to me.

“This kind of sucks,” he said as he put the car into reverse and pulled out of my driveway.

“Huh?” I asked. “You mean Ryan, right?” I really hoped not. State the obvious much? Of course it fucking sucked.

“Well...yeah, kind of,” he said, shrugging. “I mean, you and me--we’re still pretty...’new’, I guess. This is not supposed to be the hard part. It’s supposed to be the fun part.”

I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but I nodded anyway. “I had ‘fun’ last night,” I said, smirking. I have no idea where it came from. It was not me to bring it up. It wasn’t like me to even participate in a conversation when someone else brought it up.

Shane didn’t think it was like me either, if the way his eyes widened were anything to go by. “Uhm,” he said, taken off guard. “Well...yeah, that’s what I mean. It’s supposed to be more like that. Without all the drama.” He paused, turning to grin at me. “And...I had fun too.”

I grinned. The ‘drama’ sort of followed me around, but when I was with Shane--when he was kissing me, or smiling at me, or even just looking at me--I could almost let all of it go.

Almost. The sinking feeling in my stomach was still there, but for the most part, with was almost easy to ignore for the moment.

The rest of the ride was spent in silence, but not the bad kind that I’m so good at. It was comfortable. Shane kept turning to smile at me, or possibly check on me, which was kind of annoying and--someone shoot me in the face, because I’m gonna fucking say it--cute. Or hot. I’m not sure you can call Shane ‘cute’.

Though...I would’ve sworn there was no way in hell I’d ever call him hot. Jesus, what the fuck was happening to me?

I felt okay about it all, though--about Shane, or rather about Shane and me--until we got to the school.

Shane had been driving me to school pretty much every day since that first time the day after we met, but we always parted ways the second we got to the school. I’d run off to find Ryan and he’d go wait for Caydence.

But, I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea to go find Ryan. I wanted to force it, yes. I wanted him to talk to me, but not there. Not where the entire fucking school could hear any slip ups either of us had. There’s no fucking way I was doing it there.

Unfortunately, I had no idea what to do, if I wasn’t going off to find Ryan and Chloe.

“You know,” Shane said, pulling his book bag out of his car. “You can always stick with me today. Now that you don’t have an excuse to run off.”

I knew he didn’t mean anything by it, but it still sucked hearing it but he looked immediately sorry for it, so I didn’t make a big deal.

“Nah,” I said instead and I walked around his car to stand next to him. “Ryan’s not my only friend.”

It was true, too. was kind of true. There were other people I could hang out with. People that I guess you could call friends. They just weren’t really ‘important friends’ like Ryan and Chloe...were, but I knew other people.

“Alright,” Shane said, nodding. “See you at lunch?”

“Yeah,” I said, but I didn’t walk away. We both stood there, staring at each other silently and it’s crazy but I think I wanted to kiss him. Not for any reason other than it felt wrong just to walk away.

I didn’t, obviously. We were at school, I didn’t even feel comfortable looking at him for too long. I settled for dropping a hand on his forearm, squeezing lightly before saying, “Later,” and walking away.

God, I had no idea what was happening to me. What he was doing to me. Like, before Shane, I was to afraid to even think about another guy alone in my room and now I was having strange, insane impulses to kiss him in the middle of the student parking lot. Jesus Christ.

I wandered around the school alone, for the most part, before school, which, by the way, is totally lame in the worst way. I really did have other friends besides Ryan and Chloe, but I’d have to go to the quad to find them and that’s where Ry and Chloe would be. It’d just be weird. They weren’t really friends, more like people I talked to when my friends weren’t around and if I sat with them when Ryan and Chloe were right there, it would look weird. They’d ask questions.

So, I wandered aimlessly through the halls trying my best to look like I was actually doing something and not like I was a fucking loner. I think I pulled it off alright, but still. Lame. Really fucking lame.

I didn’t have any more luck paying attention in my classes than I had the day before. Probably because, even though Ryan and I had talked, we didn’t really get anywhere and I was right back where I started, wondering what the hell was going to happen next. And the only times I wasn’t preoccupied with thinking about Ryan, I was thinking about Shane, which really didn’t help me concentration any.

I did have Chloe for a couple classes, which was cool. I mean, she looked kind of upset and it sucked that she had to deal with it too, but it was still cool to see her. I’m not sure why. It’s not like it’d been that long since we last talked but it was just good to know that she didn’t hate me and wouldn’t hate me even if I couldn’t change.

Even if I wasn’t sure I wanted to anymore.

She laughed at me when I smiled at her. “Happy to see me?” she asked, taking a seat next to me.

I rolled my eyes. “Milk it,” I said, sarcastically. “It won’t last.”

She slapped me, which was predictable, but that was cool too. With Chloe, nothing had changed. It was comforting in a way that impromptu hugs could never be.

“Are you coming to lunch?” she asked me halfway through fifth period. It was a weird question to hear from her and I almost told her so, until I realized why she was asking. I frowned.

“I think you should,” she went on. “You guys should talk, Jake.”

“He hates me, Chlo,” I whispered, wincing at how pathetic I sounded.

She rolled her eyes. “Bullshit,” Chloe said and Mrs. Kirsh turned to glare at us. We quieted, waiting for her to turn away and when she did, Chloe repeated herself, much quieter, “Bullshit, Jake.”

I shrugged. “Not today, Chloe. I’m...doing lunch with someone else.”

She didn’t ask any questions but the smirk on her face was enough to have me glaring at her. It definitely wasn’t going to take long for me to get over my inability to get annoyed with her.

Lunch with Shane was probably the highlight of my day, if you didn’t count the way Ryan glared daggers at me when I bypassed him and Chloe to go sit with Shane and Caydence. If looks could kill and all that, right?


I couldn’t even really enjoy swim practice. Everyone, coach included, noticed that Ry and I were avoiding each other. A few people even asked about it.

“Did he, like, steal your girlfriend or something?” Toby Miller asked as we stepped up to the edge of the pool, getting ready to fist swim, coach’s new favorite drill.

“No, bro,” I said, shrugging. “It’s nothing. We don’t need to be together all the time, you know.”

“Yeah,” Toby snorted, smacking my stomach with the back of his hand. “Right, dude. It’s not like you’re fags or anything.”

I sort of laughed, awkwardly, but that little incident ruined swim practice for me. didn’t ‘ruin’ my swimming, it just made it so I couldn’t enjoy it. Coach actually shook his head at me, stopwatch in hand, when I got out of the pool in the disappointed way that he does when he wants to ask why I never swim that well at actual meets.

“Try pissing him off,” Shane told coach, having witnessed the exchange. It was weird, but I’m pretty sure it was the first time I ever heard him speak during practice and from the looks on everyone’s face, I was pretty sure I wasn’t the only one.

“What’s that?” Coach asked, gruffly.

“Try pissing him off,” Shane repeated, hoisting himself out of the pool. “He swims better when he’s pissed off.”

Coach looked at him for a moment before nodding thoughtfully, but I wasn’t really paying attention to Coach.

Ryan was looking between me and Shane with a look on his face that was somewhere between disgust and...well, anger, but that wasn’t anything new. He’d been angry all day.

That look, hit me hard in the chest. I’d been impatiently watching the clock all day, waiting for school to get out so I could find a way to talk to him again, but after that look...I wasn’t so sure I wanted to anymore.

I didn’t really have much of a choice, though. He was waiting in the parking lot for me after swim practice and he glared when he saw Shane walking with me.

“Jake,” Ryan snapped in the same tone that he had that morning, as he walked over to me.

Shane actually took a step in front of me. He didn’t really block me from Ryan’s view; he just sort of stepped forward.

Ry raised an eyebrow at him and snorted. “Move,” he said, simply and there was nothing in his voice that Shane would see as threatening, but...he didn’t really know Ryan.

“Or not,” Shane replied, crossing his arms over his chest and the whole thing was kind of ridiculous. Seriously, what the fuck were they doing?

I sighed. “What’s up, Ry?” I asked, trying to keep my expression blank. “What do you want?”

“What do you think,” he snapped, still completely involved in a glaring match with Shane. “I’ll give you a ride.”

Right, because I totally should have known that after the way he’d acted that morning.

“I have a ride,” I said and yeah, not even I could believe I went there. Plus, it was counter productive. I’d been waiting to talk to him all day. I just...wasn’t sure it was a good idea what with him acting like he was going to castrate me as soon as he got me alone.

“Now you have a different ride,” Ry said, finally turning to face me. He stepped passed Shane, actually shoving him out of the way. “Come on, Jake. Get rid of him, I want to try...’talking’ again.” He said the word like it was actually causing him pain.

I was...worried, I think, after the look he’d given me during practice, and with the way he was acting but...he was trying, right? It was something. If he was going to tell me to fuck off, he could have done that earlier that morning or even right then and be done with it. He didn’t need to get rid of Shane if that’s all he had to say.

“Fine,” I sighed, looking past him at Shane, who really didn’t look happy at all. “Give me a second.”

“For what?” Ryan asked, incredulously and I glared at him.

“I’m coming, alright, just give me a second.”

Ry glared at me, but he turned away. “I’ll be in the car.”

“Shane,” I sighed, not even bothering to wait for Ryan to get out of earshot.

Shane shook his head. “Whatever,” he said, shaking his head. “, okay?”

“I’m sorry,” I said, biting my lip. “Just...I should probably at least try...”

“Yeah, I get,” he said, shortly. “I still think he’s an ass and I’m pretty sure it’s not a good idea for you to go with him, but I get it.”

“Are you pissed?” I asked, frowning, but Shane shook his head.

“You’ll call?” he asked, stepping closer and I nodded.

And...there was that urge again. The one to kiss him. I shook it off, fully intending to ignore it, but Shane, grabbed the front of my shirt and pulled me in, so quickly I barely had time to react.

“Shane--,” I started but he kissed me. Hard, but quick, right in the middle of the fucking parking lot.

“I’ll see you later,” he said, releasing me and he walked away before I had the chance to snap on him for it. Which, I fully intended to do the next I saw him. After I talked to...

...Ryan. He was standing outside his car, leaning against the trunk, waiting for me, jaw visibly clenched.

“Just get in the fucking car,” he said, shaking his head at me as he walked around to the driver’s side. “Don’t say anything and just...get in...”

I probably shouldn’t have...but I took a few deep breaths as I walked the distance across the parking lot and did what he said.


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