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 j.rosswrites@gmail.com




Chapter 4



I can say awkward in three different languages. Four if you count the gibberish I learned from Sara in ninth grade.

Not one of those four languages does the word justice. You have to feel it to get it.

It's funny how being in a room with just two people and having nothing to say can actually feel worse than being in front of a crowd of hundreds and forgetting the words to the speech you'd promised to give. Except you can't run away.

Ryan made it worse. If he would have just shut up for a second, Shane could have excused himself, or I could have tactfully--or not--shoved him out the door. But Ryan wouldn't shut the fuck up. He just kept talking about random, stupid shit that didn't make the least bit of sense.

Shane wasn't helping. He was talking back.

The worse part, was that it was just me feeling the awkwardness. Shane and Ry didn't seem to have felt it at all. Not after the first couple of minutes.

We'd both jumped to our feet and Shane's eyes darkened the second Ry set foot into my backyard. His brows furrowed and he glared, directly at Ry, through the small slits in his eyelids. It made even me feel cold inside.

"What are you doing here?" Shane said as soon as Ry got close. I glared at him and, instinctively took a step away from him to stand next to Ryan, on right side.

I mean, I hadn't wanted Ryan around with Shane there, but I'd never ask him to leave. It was almost his house as much as it was mine. Ryan was welcome anytime and it threw me, hearing Shane speak to Ry like he was some kind of an outsider.

I was more confused than mad, though. He'd asked to go to Ryan's not two minutes before and I really didn't get why he was being so cold. I mean, yeah, Ryan had stolen his clothes once, but he hadn't really seemed all that upset about it when he'd mentioned it. I would have thought that the entire situation amused him. And Shane had said that Ryan didn't like him. He never said anything about having a problem with Ry.

I'm not sure how long it was quiet. Long enough for the silence to start screaming it's presence in my ears. Long enough for me to want to run away. We all just stood there looking at each other. I was actually shuffling my feet.

Shane spent the time glaring at Ryan.

Maybe running away wouldn't be such a bad idea after all.

"What's up," Ryan finally asked, looking confused. I was right there with him.

I wasn't used to seeing Shane so...cold and closed off. He was an open person and he sort of...broadcasted everything he was thinking or feeling. I just usually had trouble understanding any of it. I wasn't having trouble now, though.

I shrugged at Ryan, before turning a questioning glance on Shane.

Shane simply turned his glare on me and it gave me chills. Not the good kind that I was accustomed to. Not the kind that I hated to love. The bad kind that made me feel like Armageddon was coming. Very soon.

But it was gone just as soon as it'd come. Shane took a deep breath and shot me a small smile before turning back to Ry.

"Sorry," he said stepping forward. "You caught me off guard."

I wondered what that meant. I'd heard people say it all the time. I never really understood the phrase.

Ry shrugged again, holding out his hand for Shane to shake. Shane took it.


"I'm over the pants thing," Ry said suddenly, smile still firmly planted on his lips. "I mean, yeah, fucked up, but I'm way over it."

Shane snorted. "You deserved it."

Ry laughed. "Probably. I deserve a lot of things."

"That's what I've been telling people," Shane said, crossing his arms across his broad chest.

Ry nodded, almost approvingly. "Good. They need to be warned. It's only fair."

"Kind of like it was fair for me to take you pants after you stole all of my clothes," Shane said smirking. Smirking. Like he was having a good time all the sudden. And this couldn't possibly end well.

Ryan grinned back at him. "Something like that. Except...I stole your clothes while you were in gym class. Which meant, you still had clothes on your body. You stole my pants in the middle of school and left me damn near naked for half the world to see. It never really felt even to me."

Shane shrugged. "What would you have done?"

"I'd have taken you're shirt too," Ry said immediately. "But no one will ever call me fair and if someone does, please let me know so I can have a talk with him about the importance of keeping secrets." He glanced at me, with raised eyebrows and Shane laughed at the two of us.

"I will," he said chuckling. I was used to people that didn't know Ry being intimidated by him. Shane, however, didn't seem intimidated at all. He seemed amused and maybe just little surprised.

He cocked his head slight to the side, studying Ry in the way that I'd grown so used to in the past weeks and it didn't bother me in the slightest. I wasn't jealous or anything like that. I swear. So, I have no idea where the sinking feeling in my gut was coming from, but I wasn't jealous.

Just thought you should know.

Ry handled Shane's studying gaze far better than I had in the first days that I'd known Shane. Ry even met Shane's eyes and stood there silently waiting for Shane to make the next move.

I may have felt slightly left out. Not that it bothered me. Much.

Then Shane confused the hell out of me and held out his hand. I just sort of stared at it, wondering what he was doing.

Ry, however, was a few steps ahead of me apparently, because he stepped out from behind me almost immediately, and grabbed Shane's hand to shake it.

"Cool?" Ry asked grinning slightly.

Shane shrugged. "Yeah," he said. "Whatever."

"Good," Ry said and nodded. His grin turned mischievous then and he was giving Shane a speculative look that made me a little worried about what he was going to say next. And why the fuck hadn't they let go of each other's hands yet? Normal hand shakes were not that long.

"You're in Chloe's science class, right?" Ry said suddenly. And he dropped Shane's hand. Finally.

"Yeah," Shane replied. He glanced at me, for the first time in what felt like forever. I was beginning to wonder whether he'd forgotten that I was there. Shane smiled at me. It was soft and I couldn't quite put my finger on what was different about the smile, but it hit me hard in the chest. Shane's smiles almost always affected me, but not like that. They usually made me warm. This one....felt like a pull.

In front of Ryan. Jesus.

"And before you ask," Shane went on, talking to Ryan but looking at me. "Jake already roped me into helping him with his write-up for the science lab you guys just did. Ask him for help if you need it. I'm done."

Blue, blue eyes and I was getting lost. Right in front of Ryan. I wanted to run again. It was definitely a relief when Shane looked away.

"I wasn't going to ask for help," Ry snapped, sounding thoroughly insulted.

"Oh," Shane said, frowning. "Then--,"

"I was going to ask you to do it for me. I'll even pay."

Shane snorted. "Uhm," he said. "No. No thanks."

Ry sighed. "Worth a shot," he said shrugging. He plopped down in the grass and Shane and I quickly followed suit. I took this to mean the two of them, at least, were comfortable. I, however, was not. I didn't even feel like I was really there. I certainly wasn't a part of the conversation.

"So," Ry said to Shane once we were all situated. "You placed second again last week."

Shane laughed. Loudly. And he looked at me again. "Even he remembers me and he hated me."

"You traumatized him," I said and it was weird hearing my voice again. "Of course, he'd remember you."

"Traumatized?" Ry nearly shouted, elbowing me. "Remember that thing we talked about? About keeping secrets," he whispered, loud enough for Shane to hear him. Then he turned to Shane, shaking his head. "I was so not traumatized. And what the hell are you talking about?"

Shane explained and once again, I found myself being left out of the conversation as the two of them laughed about the many ways in which I was clueless.

I've always hated it when people talk about me like I'm not there, and it definitely bothered me that my best friend, who knew this, and Shane...who was supposed to be my new friend...were doing it.

But I didn't say anything. They were getting along. I was a still a little worried that Ry might notice something was...off with the way I behaved around Shane, anyway, so I was almost happy to blend in to the background. It was best for me not to get involved. If I didn't say anything, I couldn't give myself away.

We did eventually move the conversation into the house and my mom actually brought us snacks at one point, shocking the hell out of both Ry and I. My mom wasn't the type to bring snacks or do laundry or any of the shit you see mom's on TV do. Neither Ry nor I mentioned it, though and Ry dove right back into chatting with Shane like they'd known each other for years. And just as it was starting to get dark out and Shane suggested that it was time for him to go, Ry actually asked him to stay a little longer and volunteered to go get Chloe for a game of basketball on the hoop at the end of my driveway.

"He's...not like you at all," Shane commented as Ry dashed across the street.

I shrugged. "He's Ry," I said simply and Shane looked at me like I'd just said something deeply significant.

"Okay," he said slowly and he moved closer to me. I couldn't really see a reason for it, but Shane did that kind of thing a lot. He was always sitting closer to me than necessary and it hadn't bothered me before. Not after I calmed down with Shane a little. I just figured it was...part of who he was. I figured he was just a...tactile kind of person.

I'd grown used to it, for the most part. It still gave me the warm feelings but I didn't freak out about it anymore.

But Ry would be back soon.

"I really do have to leave," Shane said. "How long do you guys usually play basketball?"

"We don't," I said, shaking my head. "We stopped playing after Chloe got good enough to kick our ass. It's never pretty."

"Then why did Ryan want to play," Shane asked smiling.

I smiled back. "Because," I said, chuckling softly. "He's going to be on Chloe's team."

Ry would be back any second and my parents weren't far away either, but Shane had a way of making me forget all that. Besides, I was the only one having bad thoughts. Shane was probably being completely innocent. The conversation, at least, was innocent enough. Maybe nobody would think anything about how close we were.

I was thinking about it, though. And there was that pulling feeling in my chest again when he looked at me. The pulling...I liked it better than the warm fuzziness. The fuzzy thing made me feel pathetic. Like a little girl with a crush. The pulling though. It was like a quick rough tug and...it felt like something I could get used to.

I heard Chloe laughing from just outside my house and I had the sense to get up, and away from Shane. Maybe they wouldn't have thought anything of the closeness. But I wasn't ready to risk it.

"Ready to get you're asses kicked," Chloe said, green eyes sparkling, when they entered the house.

"Watch your mouth, Chloe!" My mother shouted from upstairs.

We all laughed and Chloe shook her head. "Mom ears. Creepy," she said smiling before looking at Shane. "You any good?" She tossed him the basketball.

Shane answered her question by spectacularly fumbling with the ball before dropping it.

I'm only going to say this once; I had a lot of fucking fun. Which is saying a lot because I hate basketball. It was my dad's sport and he bought the hoop to try and get me into it. It didn't work. Ry, Chlo, and I used to play but Chloe was the only one that really liked it. Ry didn't mind it, but I hated it. But playing with Shane, Chloe, and Ry that day was fun. We joked around and we didn't keep score (it was obvious who was going to win after about five minutes) and we worked up a sweat chasing each other around. We didn't even really play basketball and it was...just a lot of fucking fun.

Okay, I said it twice. Whatever.

Shane left as soon as it got dark and Chloe followed suit not long after to finish up the homework she'd ditched.

Ry stayed though, and the two of us sat on the swing on my front porch. It was nice, sitting there and I didn't even mind the quiet. The cool breeze drifted across my still sweat damp skin and it felt good. I'd had a good day, all things considered. Shane liked my friends, and they liked him and the world hadn't ended and nobody knew my secret. Things could have been so much worse.

"You were quiet today," Ry commented as we sat there on my porch listening to the crickets and the creaking of the swing.

I shrugged lazily. "I was tired," I lied.

"Liar," Ry responded snorting.

I sighed. "I didn't have anything to say," I said. "I couldn't have gotten a word in edgewise even if I did, anyway, the way you two were going on and on."

Ry chuckled softly. "Yeah. Shane's cool. I like him."

I smiled. I knew that already, it seemed obvious after the way they were that day, but it felt good hearing it. I don't know why. I hadn't realized I wanted them to like him until that moment.

"You shouldn't talk to him anymore."

What? That made about as much sense as the physics Chloe was always going on about.

"You just said that you liked him," I pointed out, carefully, trying to act like his statement hadn't bothered me in the slightest. "So why should I stop talking to him."

"Just because," Ry said calmly.

I rolled my eyes. "That's bullshit, Ry. You're not making any sense."

"Maybe you'll decide you don't want to be his friend," Ry offered. I had no idea where the fuck any of his crap was coming from.

"If I ever decide that," I replied. "Then I won't talk to him anymore."

"Jake," Ry almost snapped at me. "Don't hang out with him anymore."

I was not the type of person that liked being told what to do. I tolerated it from my parents and teachers and shit like that. But not from Ry. Ry had never tried before, not really. I almost wanted to laugh at him.

"What the fuck is your problem, Ry?" I snapped. "Is this about the pants? Even you laugh about it now. And you got a date with Brittany after she saw you without your pants. And you said you were over it."

"It's not about the fucking pants," Ry was actually getting frustrated with me. People got frustrated with me all the time. People, not Ry. He was one of the few people that always put up with me. "It's just..." Ry went on, sighing. "You just shouldn't hang out with him anymore. I'm not trying to be an asshole right now, Jacob. I'm trying to be your friend. Don't fucking talk to him anymore."

"Why not?" I asked. I was done pretending it wasn't a big deal to just ditch Shane. It was. It felt like a big deal in the beginning when I barely knew him and it definitely felt like a big deal weeks later. But if Ry had a reason....

He was Ry. But I was going to need a reason. I'd promised myself I wouldn't let myself be gay. I didn't do that because I had a problem with it. I did it for Ry. For my dad. I wouldn't ruin my life like that. But I could be Shane's friend. Nobody had to know about my secret feelings. I'd get rid of them eventually, but for now, no one had to know. I could be Shane's friend. That wouldn't hurt anyone. That wouldn't make my family hate me.

Ry really shouldn't have a problem with it. I was definitely going to need a reason. A good one.

"What the fuck is up with you, Ry?"

Ry groaned, exasperatedly. "You don't get it, Jake, you're...you're a good guy...just don't talk to him. He's..."

"He's WHAT?!" I was actually getting worried and I found myself wondering what the hell Shane could have possibly done, crazily wondering whether or not Marco, Ry's dead dog, was really hit by a car and there were terrifying scenes running through my mind wherein Ry walked in on Shane brutally butchering poor Marco. "What's your issue? What's wrong with him?"

"He's a fucking queer!" Ry snapped, throwing his hands in the air, defeated.

It's weird...but that was more terrifying than the dead dog scenario. Even worse, was the way that Ry had said that word. Queer. I had suspected that he might have a problem with it. Suspected, but I wasn't sure. It sucked being sure.

The thing is, though, I sort of already knew that. About Shane I mean. I suspected at least. There were... clues. Just small things that Shane did when we were together. The way he'd sit close and the way he touched me more often than was strictly necessary. There were the smiles...the special smile that felt like they were just for me. Smiles that lit up his face, his eyes and made me feel like I made his day better.

Smiles that I'd been telling myself were no big deal. People smiled. So what? But there was something different about the way Shane smiled. Or rather, the way he smiled at me.

And there were the looks he gave me. When Shane looked at me, I could almost feel his eyes, roving over my body, almost like a physical touch. No one else ever looked at me like that.

But these were all small things. Things that could have easily been my imagination. Or possibly the result of wishful thinking.

If you could call it wishful thinking when I desperately wished I wasn't wishing for that particular thing.

God, I don't even make sense to myself anymore.

Whatever, the point is, none of what I'd noticed was really a big deal. Shane could just be different. And it was easy to tell myself that I was imagining it when I thought his looks, smiles, or touches might mean something more. It was easy to push it to the back of my mind and brush it off as no big deal. There was no way I could be sure.

Besides, the thought that Shane might be gay was way too much for me to handle. It was tempting and it took away some of that fear of rejection. And that was dangerous. I needed the fear to keep myself in check. I needed it to keep from leaning in...

I tried to tell myself not to think about it too much. Ry didn't lie to me but he could have false information. Who knew if it was even true? We were in high school for fucks sake. Who hadn't been called a queer at least once. You? You're lucky.

I had no idea what to say to Ry though. I wanted to tell him that he was wrong. That he couldn't possibly know for sure. I...I wanted to act like it disgusted me. Like there was something wrong with it.

Then I grew a pair. Good for me.

"So what?" I snapped after long minutes of silence and Ry raised his brows so high that they disappeared behind the hair that he absolutely refused to cut no matter how much coach goaded him.

"So," Ry pushed. "You shouldn't hang out with him. It's just not a good idea. Not for you."

"Who would it be a good idea for," I snapped again. It was an accident. I hadn't meant to show it but I wasn't happy at the moment.

"I don't know," Ry shrugged. "It's just not a good idea for you. I get it, alright? He's cool. He's funny. I like him too. It's just...I know you. You're a good guy."

What the fuck did that mean? Ry could be a fucking lunatic sometimes.

"Whatever," I said, rolling my eyes. "Maybe you don't know me as well as you think."

I wanted to take those words back before they even fully left my mouth. I wanted to shove them back down my throat and choke on them. They weren't true. Not really. Ry did know me better than anyone else. Even if he didn't know all the details.

"Of course I do," Ry said, and I let out a relieved breath, because Ry wasn't the only one that could be a lunatic sometimes and I was glad that he, at least, let me get away with it.

"I'm not going to stop hanging out with him. Not for that," I said, and I hadn't even realized that I'd made the decision until I heard the words coming out of my mouth. Imagine that.

"I know," Ry answered quietly, with a sigh, hands reaching up to grab the ends of the shirt he'd slew carelessly across his shoulders. "I knew you wouldn't. I do know you, Jacob. And you...you're a better guy than me. That's why I don't think you should hang out with him. I know what you...never mind. I get it though."

"Good," I said. My voice sounded so much steadier than I felt at the moment. I had my hands clenched in the material of my shorts, muscles straining, trying to keep still. I felt like if I relaxed even a bit, I'd start shaking. My heart was pounding, and not in my chest where it should have been either. My heart was in my fucking throat. Why? No idea. I just...I'd stuck up for Shane. I wasn't even sure if it was true and I stuck up for him. I was torn between feeling good about that and being terrified. Because Ry...he really does know me. And he might suspect.

Apparently I have no attention span or will power or discipline or whatever the fuck, because I swear I had a plan when this whole fucking disaster started. I was going to be straight. Heterosexual.

I'd completely forgotten what that plan entailed. I'd abandoned that plan and I'd gotten completely wrapped up in Shane. The way he looked. The way he smelled. The way he laughed at throwaway lines in movie's and rolled his eyes at the outright funny ones. The way he stuck up for random kids on the walk home from school and made that toothy little freshman Carolyn feel better about her fucked up hair, and how, two seconds after that, he was openly hostile to a guy he didn't know that stood at least a foot taller than me.

Plan? Whatever, it's not like it would have worked anyway.

But I should have stuck with it. Because now, I'd dug a hole...the type that would soon have my ass in China and I had no idea how to get out. Things were easier before. I could ignore it before. Maybe then...I still had a chance at being straight. Maybe then...

But now? Now was what mattered. And now I had no idea how to turn away from Shane and act like I'd never enjoyed his company. The sound of his laugh.

I had no idea how to pretend anymore. I couldn't remember how I did it before.

When I first realized that I might be gay, it was scary, but I was pretty sure it would pass. And after awhile of waiting for that to happen, I thought...you know maybe I needed to do something to force it to pass. I mean, it's not like I'd ever done anything with a guy. I couldn't really be gay unless I had right. So, all I had to do was stop thinking about it and it would go away. All I had to do was think about the right things, act the right way and everything would be okay. I lied to myself and everyone around me. I told myself over and over that I wasn't and every time an inappropriate thought crossed my mind, I pushed it away. I'd mentally berate myself if I ever fucking looked at another guy for too long. I'd become so good at ignoring it...fighting it, it was pathetic.

But I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't remember how.

I couldn't stop thinking about Shane long enough to scold myself for it lately. And when he was around, it was like--like he drugged me and I couldn't hate myself. I couldn't be angry with him or me for the fact that I liked him because I was too busy just being happy being around him.

I was scared. Sitting there, on the swing on my front porch with Ry...I was terrified. Because the gay thing...it felt...it was starting to feel less like a little problem I'd eventually get over and more like something I couldn't change.

I had to get away from Shane. I had to distance myself from him.

But I fucking couldn't. And I was terrified. I was terrified of him. And I was terrified of me.

Mostly, though, I was scared that the gay thing might be permanent. And that I'd no longer be able to hide it. Hell, I'd just stood up for Shane, to Ryan, the best that I knew how. And he was Ryan. I never had to stand up to Ryan. He never made me feel like I had to. And now, when I did for the first time, it was about this.

Fuck. Just... fuck.

I heard the swing creak dangerously and I jumped when I realized Ry had stood up. He pulled his shirt from his shoulders and shook it out before putting it on.

Then he turned to look at me. And I couldn't stop the shaking.

He put his hand on my shoulder. "You're a good guy, Jakey," He said softly, smiling at me. And he turned to leave.

I still have no idea what the fuck he meant by that.


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My house was quiet when I went inside after Ry left. Quiet was not good. Quiet meant my thoughts would be the loudest thing going on. I couldn't have that. Not just then.

I solved the problem quickly, putting a good mix CD Chloe had made me into my fathers stereo and blaring it through the living room. My mother would be there soon to tell me to turn it down, but I could enjoy it for a minute.

Gay. Shane was gay. I wasn't lying when I said I'd had my suspicions but hearing Ry confirm them made everything seem real. True.

Gay. God, what loaded a word. When I first heard it and found out what it'd meant, I never really gave it much thought. I didn't really think it was that big of a deal.

Until I heard my dad talk about it. The `downfall of good society', whatever that meant. He referenced drugs a lot too. And sex. Funny that the only time I ever heard my father talk about sex was when he was talking about how much of it those `dirty queers' had.

I loved my father. He could be a dick, no doubt, but he was a good guy for the most part. People respected him. He was one of those people that you knew you could count on. If he said he was going to do something, he'd stick by what he said. He worked hard for mom and me and he still made it to every single one of my meets, cheering in the stands louder than even my mother. And if I ever asked him for something, he worked hard to get me what I needed.

I loved him. And I knew he loved me, even if he never said it, but he'd fucking hate me if he knew. I just...couldn't stay gay. I just needed to get it out of my system or something.

How weird does that sound? Guess what? I don't care.

The volume on the stereo dropping had me looking up to see, not my mother, but my father, like he knew I'd been thinking about him. I actually jumped when I saw him standing there across the living room, looking at me over the rims of his glasses.

I almost thought I was in trouble.

Then he grinned.

"Sinatra's the only one that gets to be blasted throughout the neighborhood. You know that."

I snorted, shaking my head. "Lame, dad," I said. "Way lame."

My dad laughed and moved to sit at the other end of the couch. "You're mother thinks you're up to something," he said, but he was smiling at me. He looked like he'd just been scolded and how weird was it that my tiny ass mother could tell a man his size what to do. "I promised I'd have a talk with you."

Oh god. Please no. I was having flashbacks of the time he'd come to `have a talk' with me. I'd almost died of humiliation and I had to sit through the entire awkward conversation because I didn't have the balls to tell my dad that I was pretty sure I knew how everything worked and that Ry and I had sat through quite a few...'educational' movies on the topic.

My dad laughed at whatever expression he saw on my face. "I'll make it quick don't worry," he said amused and then cleared his throat. All business like. "Don't do drugs, stay in school, and don't get anyone pregnant."

I am so glad I didn't snort out loud at that. Pregnant? Ha. That was one thing he definitely did not have to worry about at the moment. I mean, lately, the only person I'd thought about was Shane. He was the only person I wanted to...

God, whatever. Just the pregnant thing did not look like it was something I was going to have to worry about for awhile yet.

"Uhm, I won't," I said, fidgeting with the tassels on one of the throw pillows.

Dad nodded. "And you know where the--,"

"Yes!" I said immediately. Jesus, parents were supposed to tell you not to have sex. They were not supposed to stock the house with condoms and make sure you knew where to find them. But no, not my parents. My parents are insane.

"Good," Dad said chuckling and he stood up. I thanked whatever god was listening. "Be sure to tell you're mom we had this conversation."

I looked at him like he was crazy. "What -- no! I'd rather go to church naked."

My dad laughed at me again so I threw the remote at him. Only because he seemed in a good enough mood not to ground me for the rest of my life for it.

He caught the remote. I needed to work on my throwing. Obviously.

"You're a good kid, Jake," My dad said, sobering and his words reminded me so much of Ry's earlier repetitive statement that I froze. "I'm proud of you," he added and walked away before I could respond.

Not that I had anything to say. I mean, I knew my parents were proud of me. They'd always been proud and not because I was this amazing student or because I did well in sports...which, I didn't by the way. I hated school and swimming was the only sport I was any good at. But my parents had always been proud. I never had to do anything to earn it. They just were. I always knew that.

Just...hearing it, first from Ry and then from dad, it was like they both knew where I was heading. That I had a `problem' and they wanted me to know why I shouldn't make any bad choices.

I really didn't want to let them down.

It was a long while before I actually fell asleep that night, the lyrics of Fa├žade blaring from my headphones.

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So much had changed between me and Shane since we'd first met and it'd only been a few short weeks. I could almost always handle it when he stared me down. I was okay when he leaned into me during a movie to whisper one of his smart aleck comments in my ear, even if his breath on my neck never ceased to send shivers down my spine. I didn't even mind it when he'd touch me.

After what Ry said, I went back to the spazz I'd been in the first days of knowing him, overanalyzing everything that he did. Freaking out whenever he got too close. Because if he made a move...I wouldn't be able to walk away from that.

How do you spell pathetic? J-a-c-o-b. That's how.

The day after Ry's little revelation was a disaster. From start to finish.

Shane had come to pick me up for school in the morning, like he'd been doing every school day since we met, without fail.

"You look like shit," he commented when I opened the front door to let him in. "Did you sleep at all last night?"

"Yes," I lied defensively. I really needed to stop that. It wasn't Shane's fault I couldn't sleep. I mean, yeah, I'd been thinking about him most the night, but I had pretty much decided that it was all Ry's fault.

"Okay," Shane said, holding up his hands in surrender. "Chill, Jake. It was just a question. You ready to go?"

"Obviously," I muttered, stepping around him toward the front door. "What does it look like?"

Shane shook his head, smiling. I knew I was being a dick. I knew he didn't deserve it.

I also didn't really care.

"Can't say what it looks like, but it sounds like I should leave your ass alone until you wake up," Shane said following me out the front door. I ignored my mother when she told me to have a good day and slammed the door before she could get the words out.

"There's this thing. It's called coffee," Shane commented as he unlocked the doors of his car. "Look into it."

"Whatever."

He didn't try talking to me again until we got to school.

"So, I'll see you at lunch?" he asked as we walked toward the quad. He'd taken to walking me halfway to meet Ryan, before running off to find Caydence.

I ignored his question, picking up my pace. I wasn't trying to avoid him. I really was tired and just pissed at Ryan and I didn't want to be around anybody. I was confused and frustrated and having Shane around just wasn't helping anything. And I didn't care if it wasn't his fault.

I'm a selfish bastard. Shit happens.

"Hey," Shane sighed. Then he touched me. He just lightly laid a hand on my shoulder, I assumed to slow me down and he squeezed gently when I tried to keep walking anyway.

Touching me, right then, was just a really horrible idea on his part.

I ripped away from him. "Back the fuck off, Shane. I wanna get to class."

He didn't say a word to me. He glared at me for all of a second before turning around and walking in the opposite direction.

I felt like the lowest kind of shit my first four classes. I promised myself I'd apologize at lunch. And that I'd stop treating him like shit just because he had to go and make everything ten times more complicated and confusing by being, you know, gay.

Jesus, I'm such a fucking idiot.

Shane didn't meet me for lunch. I had to go and find him, but it wasn't hard. I knew where he'd be.

"I'm sorry," I said as soon as I was close enough for him to hear me. "I had a shitty morning. I took it out on whoever was closest."

Shane shrugged. He looked up at me from where he was sitting with Shane and I swore he was going to tell me to fuck off. Then he sighed.

"I think the fries here are made of grease and cow shit," he said, picking one up from his tray. "Mostly grease."

I plopped down next to him in the grass. Caydence actually looked surprised, but I didn't blame her. I saw Shane for lunch everyday. I stopped by, said hi, and ran off to join Chloe and Ry. I never sat down to have lunch with the two of them.

Shane just smiled at me. I swallowed and looked away immediately.

"Jake," Caydence nodded at me. I smiled at her. She, at least, was safe

"Caydence," I said. "How's your bird?"

"Dead," she said, looking out at the sky. "Today, anyway. Scotty's gone."

"Oh," I laughed. Yes laughed. I was pretty sure Caydence didn't have a bird and if she did, I knew nothing about it. It was an experiment of mine. I could ask that girl any question in the world and she'd always have an answer. I liked being around her. It was always...interesting. I would have felt bad for laughing if I thought she might actually have a dead bird, but I think Caydence had figured out my game right in the beginning.

Shane shook his head at us. "Scotty is not dead," he told me, rolling his eyes. "He's out sick for the day."

"I--wait, what?!" I said. "He's real?"

Shane laughed at me. "Obviously."

I looked at Caydence. "I'm sorry," I said, in the sincerest voice I could muster.

Shane laughed harder. "I told you, he's not dead. Also, he's my brother, so even if he was, I don't know why you'd apologize to Caydence."

I hated them both. Why couldn't they be...normal when they were together?

"Fuck you both."

"Kinky," Caydence laughed.

"He's all talk," Shane told her. "He's a total prude."

"Go to hell. Please and thank you," I shot back, stealing one of Shane's greasy fries. I'd totally forgotten food in my hurry to get to him. He owed it to me to share.

"Hey!" he shouted smacking my hand. "That's my grease and cow shit. Get your own."

"Ow," I said, rubbing my hand where Shane slapped me. I winced dramatically. It hadn't hurt, not even a little bit, but I was great when it came to faking pain. I had lots of practice. I can't tell you how many times I'd tricked my mother into letting me stay home from school.

"I'm sorry," Shane said automatically, and he put his hand over mine, rubbing the skin of my wrist gently, with his thumb.

I froze, biting my tongue until the pull in my chest passed and frowned at Shane's hand lying atop mine.

Shane didn't seem to notice anything.

"I didn't think I hit you that hard," he said frowning. I pulled my hand away, trying to be discreet about it.

"You didn't," I said. "Uhm, look; I'm gonna go find Ry and Chlo," I said, standing up abruptly. "See you at practice."

Maybe I wasn't mad at him. But being around him was too hard. I couldn't handle it just then.

"Jake--," Shane said, moving to follow me. I walked away before he could get to his feet.

"Later!" I shouted over my shoulder.

I was extremely glad that he didn't follow me.

No, he wasn't doing anything wrong. He was behaving exactly the same way that he always had. I was confused though. And...scared. And he just...couldn't touch me anymore. I couldn't handle it, not yet. I needed time to get over it. It was so stupid, I mean, Ry could have been wrong. It might not even be true.

But it was. It was easy enough to figure out once I was paying attention. Funny how easy something is to find once you're looking for it.

I wondered if he'd be mad at me when I saw him next. I almost hoped he would be. Maybe it would be best if I didn't see him. Just for awhile. Just for the day. I wasn't kidding when I told Ry that I wasn't going to stop being Shane's friend. I wasn't. But I couldn't let things go to far and I fucking knew I would do something stupid if Shane kept touching me. Or smiling at me. Or just...existing. I needed to get away from him for a little while. Just long enough to cool down. I could be Shane's friend. Nothing more.

Not that he wanted more. Just...the possibility that he might seemed so much greater than it had before. Too much temptation and I just wasn't ready to be around him yet.

I didn't go find Chlo and Ry after I left Shane. I went to the library and tried my damndest to not think about Shane cool fingers against the skin of my wrist. I stayed in the library all through lunch. I wasn't sure I could have eaten much anyway.

I had way too many thoughts in my head to be able to focus on anything, much less French class. My teacher was doing flash cards and had demanded that everyone participate. So I did. She held up random cards and I shouted out random words along with the rest of the class.

She held up a card.

"Cope," I said.

"Sharp," said the rest of the class.

Another card.

"Run," I said.

"Table," said the class.

It wasn't long before the teacher was glaring at me and the class was having a good laugh.

"Where have you been all year, Jake?" she shrugged after I shouted out guitar, for word that meant cake.

I shrugged. "Here," I said.

"Clearly you haven't been paying attention," she said, clucking her tongue.

"Not much," I retorted. It was true. I never felt the need to pay much attention in a class that taught a language I could already speak.

Mrs. Carter gasped like I'd just called her mother a whore.

She also gave me detention. For the next morning. Like it was actually possible for me to get up that early the next morning. Ha. I wasn't going.

Swim practice couldn't have come soon enough and when I finally got to the locker rooms, Ry took one look at me before shaking his head and saying. "No," he said, "You can talk to me after you swim. After you cool off."

Sometimes, I hated that he knew me. I was really, really looking forward to yelling at him. For fucking things up and making it hard to be around Shane just when I was finally learning how to be around him. For making me even more confused and for fucking with my head and taking my sleep. I really just...

I would have hated him if he were anyone else.

I was in the pool as soon as Edgecombe stopped talking and blew his fucking whistle.

Bliss. Pure unadulterated bliss. Water running smoothly over the skin of my back as I attacked it with heavy strokes, arms cutting through the water harshly. My forearms stung and I knew that there were easier ways to make it across the pool and back but I wanted it to hurt. It quieted the thoughts swirling around in my head.

I beat Ry across the pool three times. Damn near tied the fourth. And when we got out of the pool, coach shook his head at me muttering something about stage fright being my downfall.

What stage? Ask him.

We did a couple drills and I didn't complain once. It was good. Coach could be a hard ass, but it was cool as long as I got to be in the water. And by the time practice was over. I felt better.

Slightly.

I had planned to leave Shane behind. Go home and take the time to cool off so I could be his fucking friend again. We had been friends. Even if I'd had a hard time with it. Even if I'd wanted more. We'd been friends. I missed that. It'd only been a fucking day and I missed it. I missed when things were easy and it felt like Shane and I were right back where we started. I hated that, so I was going to leave without him, and take some time to cool off in the hopes that everything would be okay in the morning instead of waiting for him outside the locker room like I always did.

And I tried to leave. My feet just wouldn't cooperate.

I blame my attitude towards Shane when he finally joined me on the fact that I was pretty pissed off at the world in general and I always take it out on whoever's most convenient. Ry would have been ideal.

Shane was closer.

"What the fuck is wrong with you today?" Shane asked as we walked across the school parking lot after swim practice.

"Nothing," I answered moodily. You know that tone that people have when there's something wrong with them and they don't want to talk about it? I had that.

"Right," Shane snorted in response. "You're acting all moody again. It's weird."

"Whatever," I muttered, and I sped up on the walk to his car. Yeah, I was practically running from him--toward his car. Because that made a lot of sense.

"Seriously, dude," Shane said, speeding up to catch up with me. He grabbed my arm when he did, pulling me back.

It's funny. That single gesture made my mind go into overdrive and it was one of the few things that I wouldn't have thought twice about before. Not even in the beginning when we first started hanging out. I was thinking about it now though. Going over it in my head and trying to figure out what it meant.

Because, clearly, I was a whack job. Totally insane.

I shook his hand off and continued walking. He sighed. "Your dog died. That's what this is about, right?"

"I don't' have a dog," I snapped, damn near stomping my way to his car and waiting at the passenger's side for him to unlock the door. "You've been over my house every day since we met. You know I don't have a dog."

Shane grinned, pulling out his keys. "Exactly. So, you shouldn't be at all upset to find out that he died."

And I laughed thinking of Caydence and her `bird' and how weird she and Shane were together. Now they weren't and he was still being weird, acting like her, but it cheered me up and I couldn't help the laugh. It came out sort of strangled and I resented that he forced it out of me, but it was still a laugh.

"You're insane," I said shaking my head.

"You love it," he said with a wink and I was back to overanalyzing and racking my brain to figure out whether or not any other guy had ever winked at me before. "You should be grateful, anyway," Shane added. "I wouldn't be able to handle you if I wasn't insane."

He opened the door to the driver's seat of his broken down Festiva and threw his book bag over the seat into the back.

"Get in, Jake," he said, voice muffled from inside the car. I heard the lock on my door pop open as he reached across the car to unlock it.

I did get in. But instead of commenting on the lack of space or the smell or the mess and how he was a slob like I usually did, I stayed silent. It was the most awkward ride we shared yet.

"You were good in the pool today," he tried as we pulled out of the school parking lot. "You're the only person I know that performs better when they've got something on their mind."

I frowned, wanting to snap at him for making stupid assumptions. Only, that would probably make it obvious that his assumption was right, so I kept my mouth shut, muttering a noncommittal "Hmm," in response.

"Coach thinks that if you swam like that at meets--,"

"Whatever," I cut him off.

"I have an idea," Shane said, in a tone I'd never heard him use before. "How bout you cut the shit and tell me what the fuck's wrong with you. This shit's getting old, Jake."

"Really," I shot back. "No one told you that you had to hang out with me."

"And no one told you to wait for me today. No one told you to get in the fucking car either."

I wasn't used to Shane snapping back at me. I was used to him laughing when I snapped or being disgustingly understanding but I wasn't used to him fighting back.

I didn't mind at all. I needed to vent.

"You told me to get in the car," I argued. "But pull over and I'll get out," I said, unbuckling my seatbelt.

"Stop being a little bitch or I'll throw you out."

I opened my mouth to respond but was abruptly cut off when the car jerked as Shane turned the wheel violently, pulling onto the side of the road.

Yeah, I told him to do it. But I didn't mean it. Duh. I got out of the car and slammed the door and I was actually surprised when Shane turned off the car, got out and came around to my side to stand next to me. He leaned against the car.

I waited for him to say something, but he didn't, not after first. He wouldn't even look at me, opting to stare at the ground like it was the most interesting thing in the world.

"If you don't want to tell me what you're problem is, that's fine. But take it out on someone else."

I glared at him, but it wasn't really as satisfying when he didn't even know I was doing it. "How do you know it's not your fault?" I asked, angrily.

Shane opened his mouth, possibly to snap at me, and then closed it again almost immediately, looking thoughtful. "Is it?" he asked, turning to face me.

I sighed, moving to lean tiredly against the car. "I don't know," I answered honestly. "I don't' think so."

Shane gave me one of his calculating stares and his shoulders slumped as he let out a breath. "Jake," he said, quietly. He sounded tired. Tired of me.

I didn't know until right at that moment that I didn't want that to happen. I knew I was a pain in the ass and little much to deal with, but I really didn't want Shane to...I don't know...give up on me or something. I didn't want him to be tired of me.

"I'm sorry," I said immediately. "I've just...I'm..." I sighed closing my eyes tight, trying to pick my words right. I came up with nothing. "I don't know," I finished lamely.

"I know you don't," he answered nodding and he turned to face me, looking me in the eye.

And he held me there. I'd gotten better at meeting his eyes over the past weeks but I always had to look away before long.

But just then...I couldn't look away. And Shane's hand moved up to my face and he was touching me all of the sudden and I couldn't fucking breathe, much less move.

I knew being around him was dangerous.

He was touching my cheek with the backs of his fingers, lightly stroking and my brain screamed at me to run away, to hit him, or yell at him, or at least ask him to stop. To tell him I'm not into that. But I didn't say a word and when I felt his fingers brush my lips, they parted completely against my will and he leaned in and I could feel his breath and my fucking mouth was so dry. My heart was pounding so hard I swore it wouldn't be long before I need some kind of medical attention and just before his lips touched... I fucking finally moved.

I stepped away.

"Fuck," I breathed as I watched Shane's hand drop back down to his side and he put it in his pocket, almost as if to keep from reaching for me again. "Fuck, fuck, fuck."

"Jake..." Shane started carefully. "I'm sorry. I wasn't...you weren't...look, I'm just sorry."

"Forget it," I said backing away from Shane carefully, like any sudden moves might set something off. Don't ask me what. "Just forget it," I repeated. "No big deal."

"Jake," he sighed.

"Seriously," I said, laughing almost hysterically. I backed further away from him. "It's nothing," I went on. "I'll see you later."

"Jake," Shane tried again and took a step after me.

I wasn't having that. So I turned and ran, not even thinking about the fact that he could have easily caught up to me with his car, even if it was a piece of shit. I just ran.

And he didn't follow me.


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Long ass chapter to make up for the wait (hopefully). Hope y'all enjoyed. Sorry about the rawness of this one.



Comments/Complaints/etc are all welcomed and appreciated. Let me know what you think at j.rosswrites.gmail.com