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 5

Shane kissed me. Only, he didn't. But he was going to. And I almost fucking let him. I could still feel his thumb sliding over my bottom lip, almost like I'd been burned or cut. And I liked it. God, what the fuck was wrong with me? Everything was fucked up and I couldn't control anything, not even the way I felt. I had no plans, no great ideas. I couldn't think. Or maybe I was thinking too much. Like, there were too many thoughts in my head to focus on just one. My head was spinning and the only thing I could really focus well enough to accomplish was run, so I did. All the way home.

Shane was on the phone when I got there. I walked through the door, chest heaving as I gasped for air and I almost wanted to run back out when my mother looked at me and told whoever it was on the phone to wait because I just walked in.

Ry and Chloe don't call, they come over. I figured out who it was pretty quick.

I shook my head when my mother held out the phone for me. I was not talking to him. Jackass. I fucking ran away from him, why the hell would he call me? Besides, I couldn't talk even if I wanted to, I was breathing so heavy. You'd think that with all the swimming I did, I'd be okay with a little running. You'd be wrong. I felt like I was breathing ice particles and my lungs were going to explode any second.

"Have you been smoking, Jacob," my mother asked, phone still in hand, because she's insane. I bet she had just been dying to ask me that. The fact that I was out of breath just gave her a reason to do so. She'd been coming up with all sorts of crazy shit ever since she'd joined that book club for middle aged mothers. I was pretty sure all the lifetime she watched wasn't helping either.

"No, mom," I panted, rolling my eyes. "But I've been thinking of taking it up. Do you think it really helps with stress?" I was only half kidding.

"Don't get smart," mom replied, walking towards me with the phone. It may has well have been a weapon, the way I wanted to run and hide from it. "You're all out of breath; I'm just worried about you. You've been acting so strange lately."

"Who's on the phone?" I asked, though I already knew the answer and I didn't really want to hear her say his name. I was just not about to have another conversation about how worried my crazed mother was.

"Shane," my mom answered. "He sounds upset."

Ha. He was upset? Bullshit.

I grabbed the phone from my mother...

And promptly hung it up.

"Jake!" My mother said, scandalized. "I just told you he sounded upset."

"Bullshit," I repeated aloud. Like he had any right to be upset. The whole thing was his fault.

"Jake!" Who knew my mothers eyes could get that wide. You'd swear she'd never heard the word before.

"Yes, Theresa?" I sneered back at her, sarcastically imitating her scandalized tone. I blame my attitude on the fact that I really wasn't in the mood. I'd dealt with enough bullshit that day with Shane and school and...well--just Shane.


My mother gaped at me, opening her mouth and closing it a couple times, like she had no idea what to say to me. Didn't matter what she said. I was going to yell anyway.

"What's gotten into you lately?" She asked finally, instead of grounding me and demanding I go to my room like I'd fully expected her to do. I would have preferred it if she'd grounded me. She kept saying that she thought something was wrong with me, and yeah, I had issues, but not while I was around her. She was pulling all that shit out of her ass. She was projecting. She'd heard too many stories from the other mothers at church about their troubled kids and she was fucking reaching.

Still, she sounded almost sad when she said it. I felt bad.

"I have no idea what you're talking about!" I shouted, throwing my hands in the air. I guess I didn't feel that bad. "You're insane, mom. I haven't done anything wrong and you send dad to give me lectures and you bring my fucking friends and I snacks. And you fold my fucking underwear. You're insane. You're the one acting different. Not me."

So, I threw a temper tantrum. Nothing new there.

My mother looked like she might cry. And then, I really felt like shit.

Have you ever seen your mother cry? I hadn't, not before that moment. And it was weird what it did to me. I felt my eyes begin to sting and there was a lump in my throat I couldn't seem to swallow.

"I'm sorry, mom," I croaked. "I was serious about the stress thing. I didn't mean to...fuck, I'm just not having a good day." Understatement of the decade.

"Watch your mouth," my mother said, trying and failing to sound stern. I smiled at her.

"I'm sorry, mommy." Mommy? What the fuck? God, I was losing it and for the life of me, I couldn't stop feeling like I wanted to curl up in her lap and let her rock me to sleep on the couch, with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles playing in the background. God, maybe my mother wasn't the one who was insane. I was seriously on the verge of a breakdown.

Then my mother hugged me. And it wasn't exactly Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rocking but it'd do. I relaxed into the hug and let my mother stroke my hair.

"Don't tell Ry," I said, my voice muffled in her shoulder. I thought for a moment before I added, "Or Chloe...or anybody."

Mom laughed. "Not a word."

I felt like I could have fallen asleep standing. Even the `mom smell' was comforting at the moment.

"Do you want to talk about it?" mom asked, pulling away from me. I glared at her. What an unbelievably stupid question. What was with everybody's stupid obsession with having heartfelt conversations?

"No," I said and she frowned at me. "I'm tired, mom," I went on, cutting her off before she could object. "I'm not doing drugs and I'm not having se...well I'm...whatever, the point is nothing's wrong and I'm not going to get myself into any trouble, I swear. Stop letting Colin's mom scare you with her horror stories. I hate Colin and I'm nothing like him. Bastard."


"Whatever..." She glared at me, raising an eyebrow so I corrected myself, "Uhm, whatever, ma'am."

My mom actually laughed at that. "Go," she said. "You can run away now, Go be a teenager." I batted her hand away when she tried to pinch my cheek. She laughed her way to her favorite spot on the couch in front of the television.

"Thanks, mom," I said, and I tried to smile but I'm not sure if it really worked. "And...if Shane calls..." I couldn't finish the sentence and I really wished I hadn't started it in the first place. It was like...saying his name brought everything back and...god, he fucking tried to kiss me and I almost didn't stop him and I still felt like maybe I wanted it... And I ran like a little girl instead of hitting him or something. Whatever was appropriate in a situation like that.

"I'll tell him you're asleep, Jacob, but just this once," Mom offered as I walked up the stairs to my room. "If you're fighting with him, you should try and make it right. He seemed willing and you two were getting so close."

Yeah. That was my problem.


I didn't speak to Shane for three days. It felt like much longer and not enough time at once. I missed him and I couldn't bring myself to be around him at the same time. I hadn't been able to sleep and I couldn't stop thinking about him. About almost kisses and cold fingers and warm breath. But every time I thought about going over to his house, I chickened out, telling myself I needed just a little more time to convince myself it hadn't happened. I was really fucked up in the head and it was starting to show.

"Holy shit, Jake, don't paint the windows!" This from Chloe. Ry and I were over at her house helping with the new nursery again. It was the first time I'd been in the room since they'd started working on it. Everything was really fucking yellow.

"Sorry," I said, putting my roller brush down in the paint tray. "I'll get a razor and scrape it off when it dries."

Chloe sighed. "What's up? Spill already."

"My dog died," I replied. It just came out. I was thinking of him again and I lack that whole brain mouth filter thing.

Chloe didn't even flinch. "Shut up," she said, with a roll of her eyes. She turned away from me. "Open the other can, Ry. Please."

Chloe said please. That was weird.

Ry didn't seem to think much of it. "Sure," he said shrugging. "Where's the screwdriver thingy?"

Chloe snorted, grabbing the screwdriver and handing it to him. "You realize you just lost massive macho points, right? Thingy? Seriously?"

"Oh, bite me, Mason," Ry said grinning as he took the screwdriver.

"I think you're macho."

No, it was not me that said that. Yeah, fucking right. I'd never hear the end of it. Also, I didn't actually agree. It was Ry's new `thing' that said it. Her name was Evelyn or Ellen or something with an E. She'd hardly spoken a word since Ry had brought her into Chloe's house and she hadn't lifted a finger to help us.

And I hated her hair. It was a frizzy knock off version of Caydence's do. And...I kind of missed Caydence. I hadn't seen her since the day I last talked to Shane. She was always refreshing and her insanity always made me feel better about myself.

Fucking Shane. Why the hell did he have to go and almost kiss me and ruin everything? Asshole. It was selfish.

Ry winked at the Evelyn/Ellen's comment and that was how things were supposed to be. Boys winked at girls. Not other boys, unless there was some kind of joke involved.

"Gag me," Chloe said with a cough after the exchanged. Ry frowned at her.

"I will if you don't stop talking," he said with a glare.

"You'll try," Chloe corrected him.

"How are my boys...and my girl?" Chloe's mom asked, waddling through the door, killing whatever reply Ry may have had for Chloe. She didn't even acknowledge Evelyn/Ellen.

I loved Chloe's mom.

"We're good," Chloe said, and the frown she'd been wearing was gone. "We'll be done soon as long as Jake doesn't paint anymore windows."

I glared at her. I kind of hated her at the moment. Or the Universe. Yeah, I think I may have just hated the Universe right then. We needed to have serious words about why it was fucking me over.

"He was just messing around, mom," Ry said catching the look on my face, and I wondered why he was lying for me. "We'll fix it."

"Yeah," I nodded trying to smile. "Sorry."

Chloe's mom frowned at me. "Everything alright?"

I shrugged. I could have said `no', I guess, but--I could lie to my own parents and all my friends and the fucking pastor at the church but I could not lie to that woman.

She looked at me for awhile longer before nodding. "If you need...any..." she trailed off and closed her eyes, hand going to her stomach.

"Mom?" Chloe said, sounding worried and Ry rushed forward. I followed him, unsure of what else to do, and grabbed Chloe's mom's arm, mirroring his every action.

"Relax," she said, half smiling, half grimacing. "Nothing to worry about. This one's gonna be a rowdy one. Nothing like Chloe," she opened her eyes smiling at Chlo. "Chloe's my gentle baby."

"Yeah fucking right," Ry said the same time I snorted and said, "Bullshit." Chloe's mom was the only one of our parents that didn't give us hell for the dirty language. She'd frown at us for it and shake her head but she never said anything. It almost made me want to watch my language. If I thought it actually bothered her, I would have.

Chloe was burning holes through my head with her glare.

"I'll let you kids get back to it," Chloe's mom said, smiling at the look on Chloe's face. "I just wanted to let you know there's food downstairs if you're hungry."

"Sweet," Ry and I said in unison.

"You cooked?" Chloe snapped turned her glare on her mother.

"Yes," Chlo's mom said raising an eyebrow. "I'm pregnant, not dying," she added as she walked off.

Chloe sighed shaking her head at Ry and me. "If either of you mentioned anything about being hungry, I'll kill you both."

"You shouldn't worry so much. She's an adult; she can take care of herself. I'm sure she gets on fine when you're not around. You need to relax. You're uptight. Lots of guys think so."

Neither Ry nor I had the balls to actually say that to Chloe. Or rather, we knew we'd no longer have balls to speak of if we ever tried saying something like that to her.

Evelyn/Ellen, however, was a suicidal lunatic. And I flinched when Chloe wheeled around to glare at the girl, but I didn't say anything. The girl deserved whatever she got. Shane didn't know my friends very well either and he never said stupid things like that when he was around.


But it wasn't Chloe that snapped at Evelyn/Ellen. It was Ry.

"Keep your mouth shut when you don't know what the fuck you're talking about," he said, in his calm voice. It was scary. I'd heard him use it many times before and it was still scary. His entire body would go tense and his eyes would light up and you'd be fully expecting him to yell...but he wouldn't. He'd calmly tell you to eat shit and die. Or something. I couldn't believe he was using it on her. She was supposed to be his girlfriend and he was being harsh...even for him.

Evelyn/Ellen just stared at Ry like he'd just shattered all her dreams and told her that there wasn't, in fact, a Santa Clause. Then she muttered something about having to use the restroom and fled the room.

"Jesus, Ry," Chloe said, when the door had shut. "What the fuck? I can handle myself. That was fucking rude."

"What do you care," Ry snapped, frowning at the can of paint in front of him. "You don't even like her."

"I never said that," Chloe shot back.

"So?" Ry said and I kind of had to agree. It was obvious that Chloe didn't like her. She didn't have to say it.

"You need to apologize," Chloe said firmly, ignoring him.

"Mind your business, Chloe," I warned when Ry's eyes lit.

"Mind yours," Chloe said. She didn't even look at me.

"I'm not apologizing," Ry said shaking his head. "Eat shit."

"Bite me. She didn't even do anything to you," Chloe persisted. "Jesus, no wonder you can't keep a girlfriend."

It was odd. Both of them were kind of whispers. I hadn't known that was possible until then.

Ry through the screwdriver down into the crib in the center of the room, pulled away from the walls for painting and stood up. "So? What are you getting so bent about?" he said. "She was being a bitch to you. You would have done something."

"I wouldn't have made her cry!"

I actually disagreed, Chloe was fully capable of making a girl cry. I didn't say anything though. I doubted anyone would hear me if I did anyway.

"You don't know that she's crying," Ry sighed, rolling his eyes and sitting back down on the couch.

"Whatever, you still need to apologize," Chloe said, shrugging as if that settled the matter. And apparently it did, because Ry apologized the second Evelyn/Ellen stepped back into the room. Even if he'd done it grudgingly.

"I'm sorry, Eve," Ry bit out.

Eve. That was it.

I would never understand Chloe Mason. Seriously, she should be happy they were fighting. Her chances with Ry were better if he was single, right? It didn't make any sense for her to want Ry to apologize. She should be happy that he'd taken up for her. But no, she gets all upset and starts a fight.

Eve smiled at Ry. "It's okay. I'm sorry too."

It was on the tip of my tongue to tell her that she should be apologizing to Chloe but I kept it in. I didn't want to face the firing squad that was Chloe Mason like Ry had just had to.

Ry rolled his eyes at Eve instead of returning the smile. I couldn't blame him. Ry hadn't meant a single word of that apology and it seemed so obvious to me. I couldn't believe that she missed it and I half wondered if her apology may have been just as sarcastic. But it wasn't. Eve was completely oblivious and she tried sidling up to Ry.

Ry dodged her, more discreetly than I ever would have been able to manage and turned to Chloe and raised his eyebrows at her. Chloe smiled at him smugly.

And Ry smiled back.

I was surrounded by crazy people. But that was okay. At least I didn't have to worry about fitting in.

Ry drove Eve home not long after that, leaving Chloe and I to take care of the clean up. We'd finished painting for the day and it was getting dark out anyway.

"So," Chloe said, picking up the newspaper we'd thrown on the ground haphazardly when we'd started. "Are you gonna spill or what."

"Or what," I replied automatically. "It's nothing, anyway."

"What a load of crap," Chloe said, launching a paintbrush at me. She was so fucking lucky it was clean.

"I'm good at crap," I replied, flatly, picking up the thrown paintbrush and putting it into the bucket with the others.

"The best," she said sarcastically. "Seriously, though, you should tell me. I'll give you cookies. And it'll make you feel better."

"I feel fine, Chlo," I said, shaking my head.

"Don't bother lying to me, Jake," she said. "It's stupid and it wastes time."

It was easy to forget sometimes that Chloe knew me too. I sighed, collapsing onto the floor and shoving the bucket of paintbrushes away.

"Ask me no questions..." I let it hang. And Chloe didn't say anything else for awhile.

"I'll still give you cookies," she decided as we left the room. "Chocolate chip. I made them yesterday."

"You made them?" I snorted. "It'd be easier to eat rocks." It wasn't true and I knew it, but Chloe laughed, so it was worth it.

We had cookies and we laughed at the ridiculous clothes her mother had got for the baby and how stupid Chloe thought it was that her mother refused to ask for the sex of the baby and how much she hated Ry. When Ry got back, she talked to him about how much she hated him and I laughed at them and...everything was so simple. Easy. Kind of the way things were started to be between Shane and me before he had to ruin it. Or maybe Ry ruined it. I couldn't remember anymore. I was having a good time with Ry and Chloe, though and I didn't feel like being mad at Ry. It wasn't like he could take back what he said anyway. It wouldn't have made anything better even if he could have. No point in being mad at him anymore. Besides, it felt good to laugh and talk about stupid things again. And it almost took my mind off of Shane.


But I felt a little better, at least, when I left. Chloe had made sure I was stuffed with as many cookies as I could handle without vomiting and she knew how to make me laugh. I was even smiling--actually smiling--when I stepped out of the front door to go home. Ry had opted to stay longer, trying to avoid going home for as long as possible.

"Jake," Chloe called after me as I hopped off her front porch.

"Yeah?" I said turning around to face her, but I continued to walk backwards.

She bit her lip for a second before she said, "You'll tell me when it's cool to ask questions?"

The question confused me and stopped me from continuing my track across the street. It had come out of nowhere and I wasn't sure what she wanted to ask. But it was really cool of her, not to push me with whatever it was. I wasn't in the mood to share my feelings. She got that and she didn't push.

My friends were kind of...really awesome.

"Uhm...yeah," I responded, smiling at Chloe in a way that I hoped showed her how much I appreciated her. "Yeah, I'll let you know."

"'Kay," Chloe said smiling at me and waved before she went back into her house.

Yeah. Definitely awesome. So awesome, in fact, that I had the scariest thought as I walked away from Chloe's house to my own.

What if I just...give up and tell them?

I actually stumbled as the thought crossed my mind. No. So. Not. Happening. Ever. I was just tired...and possibly losing my mind a little.

I needed to do something. I missed Shane and I was acting like an even bigger spazz than I'd been before since I'd been avoiding him and...I just needed to do something. Anything, so that I could see him again.

So, I went to the kitchen and grabbed the phone off the charger the second I got into my house. It took me awhile to find the number that I was looking for but after emptying my backpack, cleaning underneath my bed and going through the drawer of my nightstand, I finally found it in a dirty pair of jeans that had been in the back of my closet for God knows how long.

I took a few deep breaths as I stared at the crinkled piece of paper and the faded numbers on it and closed my eyes and prayed to whoever might be listening that what I was doing would help.

Then I picked up the phone and called Tracy Marks.

Because...I needed to do something. I fucking missed Shane and it was the only thing I could think of that might make it...okay to see him again. So I called her. I asked her. And I grabbed my jacket and took off out the front door of my house, barely pausing to say goodbye and hang up the phone.


I'd been over to Shane's house plenty of times, but I'd never actually been inside. I'd waited in his car when he needed to stop there and pick something up we'd stopped there a few times over the course of our friendship when he needed to check in. He was the only person I knew that didn't just call to check in but I never said anything about it. I just waited in the car while he went inside and he never took long. And he never invited me in. It'd never bothered me and I never really thought much about it. Until I was standing on his front porch trying to talk myself into ringing the doorbell.

I ended up doing it on accident. The button was kind of sensitive or whatever and I pushed just a little too hard when I was pulling my hand away after chickening out again, which, doesn't really make sense, but that's what happened.

I almost ran away when I heard a bunch of dogs start barking all at once and a deep voice yelling at them to `shut the fuck up'.

I wished I had ran away when the door was opened to reveal a man the size of a fucking bear answered the door. I almost shit myself just looking at him.

"Uhm..." I said, swallowing audibly. "Sorry."

The man laughed at me and until then, I wouldn't have thought the man was related to Shane in any way, shape, or form. He was...massive. Fucking huge. But he had Shane's laugh and his eyes lit up when he smiled too. He wasn't looking at me the same way that Shane did though, and it's weird but I think it was then that I realized Shane told me--or showed me--so much more with his eyes than he ever actually said out loud.

"Who you hear for, kid?" The man asked gruffly.

"Huh?" I asked, because, I may have actually forgotten with all the fear and the near pissing myself.

"Carly, Shane, Scottie, or Mykel?" he asked, still smiling kindly at me, which helped with the nerves. A little.

"Uhm..." I said again. Yeah. I think I'd probably annoy the shit out of myself if I ever had to talk to me.

"It's for me, dad," said an all too familiar voice from behind the giant man. I was relieved and terrified all at once and I might have run away again -- if I could have figured out how my legs worked.

The giant smiled at me once more, before stepping back into the house. And I was alone with Shane. I almost preferred the giant.

"Hey, Jake," Shane said carefully. "What are you doing he--I mean--what's up?"

I shrugged, hoping like hell that when I opened my mouth, actual words would come out. "I went for a walk," I said, like that explained why I was at his house. Jesus, I'm an idiot.

"So, you were in the neighborhood?" He asked furrowing his brow, and I could see the corner of his lips twitching like he was trying to hold back a smile. "Do you want to come in?"

I was actually surprised that he'd asked. I'd pretty much convinced myself that he didn't want me to ever come inside. If he had, I assumed he would have invited me already. I'd been over enough times.

I nodded though. "Okay," I said.

He smiled. "My room's upstairs," he said, and then frowned, quickly adding, "We don't have to go up there...just...I have a big family and I thought..."

"Okay," I said again, trying to sound calm, but I'm pretty sure I didn't accomplish it. Whatever. If things went wrong, I figured I could always run again.

"Okay," Shane smiled again. "Come on." He grabbed my arm pulling me through his house, into a living room where a kid that looked about the same age as Shane and a woman sat on the couch watching television. Shane didn't even pause, pulling me even quicker toward the stairs.

We hadn't even taken two steps up when someone yelled at us to stop.

"Get your smart ass back here!"

I was immediately terrified and all I could think about was the fact that Shane apparently lived with giants. And I felt like shit because I had no idea that Shane might have it bad at home and I wondered if that was why he had to actually come home to check in or why he was always leaving my house before the sun even went down. And I racked my brain trying to figure out whether I'd ever seen a bruise on Shane during swim practice or the few torturous times he'd taken off his shirt over at my house.

All this went through my head in the span of a few seconds. And then Shane laughed.

"Oh, so my ass is smart today?" he said, turning around and walking back into the living room. I had to stop myself from fighting it when he pulled me along with him.

It was Shane's mother that had spoken. She had a deeper sort of voice and I wouldn't have guessed that the words had come from her. She smiled at me when Shane pulled me in front of her but she was talking to Shane when she spoke again.

"You'd better not be bringing a new friend into my house without introducing him," she said, her voice raspy and she coughed a bit after she'd gotten the words out.

Shane smiled. "Mom, this is Jake. He's a friend. Jake," he continued turning to me. "This is my mother. Unfortunately."

His mother liked to throw pillows just as much as mine and Shane laughed as one hit him full in the chest. He tossed it back at her, however gently.

"Better?" he asked her and she glared at him for a moment before smiling again and nodding. "Nice to meet you, Jake," she said.

" too," I said, in the politest voice I could muster. I hated all parents that weren't mine. Or Chloe's, but she seemed nice enough. She started coughing again and the boy that sat next to her on the sofa, immediately grabbed a cup off the coffee table in front of them and handed it to her.

I looked at Shane, expecting him to rush forward the way Ry had for Chloe's mom earlier that day, but he didn't. He looked angry. And when he did move, he didn't go to her, but stepped up to the end table and started rifling through the purse that sat there for a minute before pulling out a small box and stepping across the room to toss it into a fish tank.

I was so fucking confused.

"Shane," his mom gasped, after a swallow of water. "You'll kill the fish!"

"Better them than you," he muttered grabbing my arm, once more and pulling me toward the stairs again. I let him. His family seemed nice enough, but I really wasn't comfortable with adults that hadn't been around most my life.

Shane closed his door as soon as we were both inside, but I must have been staring at it because he coughed and asked, "We can leave it open if you want...but I have sisters I have sisters--Mykel and Carly--and they're loud. And...small."

"It's okay," I said quickly, wishing he would stop saying things that made me remember I wasn't completely comfortable being alone with him. I would have been happy to pretend everything was normal. But every time he offered to do something to make me feel more comfortable, it had the opposite effect. Everything was awkward and...I just wanted it to be over. I wanted to go back. I wanted simple and fun. I wanted to laugh with him again.

"I swear, I'll keep my distance, Jake," Shane said quietly, settling down on his bed.

"Can you just stop?" I snapped. "I'm cool, alright? Stop bringing it up! I just want to--,"

"Forget?" he asked sarcastically. "Yeah, I got that. I just didn't want you to think--"

"I don't," I cut him off. I was beginning to wonder whether either of us was going to get a complete a thought without being interrupted anytime soon.

"Fine," Shane said, sighing and it sounded relieved. "Just making sure. And...I'll stop talking about it, but I'm sorry. I wanted you to know that too."

"You said that the first three times you called," I replied and it was almost funny the way Shane's cheeks colored. I was positive I'd never seen him blush before.

"Yeah," he said. "I wasn't sure you heard. You never really stayed on the phone long."

So, I hung up on him a couple times. What did he think was going to happen when he called me? I really didn't want to talk about it. I was uncomfortable and I just...I just wasn't expecting things to be so different when I seen him again. I should have, yeah. Obviously. But I was stupid and I'd just thought we'd go back to the way we were before that day.

"Seriously, can we just forget it? I can't--" I didn't know how to finish that sentence because there were so many things that I just `couldn't.

But Shane did his studying thing for a second and smiled in that way that I used to hate. Used to. I didn't anymore.

"Did you know Scorpions can be frozen alive and still live? And cockroaches can go ten days without a fucking head? Creepy right? I hate bugs."

Maybe Shane didn't know me as well as Ry. I doubted there was any way that he could, but he did understand me. Just a little.

"At least I know not to try and freeze a scorpion if I'm ever trying to kill one. That helps. It's probably the first thing I would have tried," I said, laughing.

"Shut up, asswipe, it's creepy," he said, but he was smiling. "And weird. They can also withstand radiation that would kill people. Tell me that's not scary. They're fucking indestructible."

"They immune to being squished too?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.

Shane frowned. "I don't know. I wouldn't doubt it. The documentary didn't say anything about shoes, though."

I laughed again, shaking my head. And I sat down on the bed next to him. "Stop watching Animal Planet, Shane," I said. "It's not good for you."

He smiled and elbowed me in the ribs and just like that, everything was okay again.

Or...maybe not everything. I still tensed if he touched me for too long or got too close. I still thought about his lips and there were a few times, looking at them, that I'd almost wished that I had let him kiss me. I couldn't help wondering what it would have been like.

Yeah, things weren't exactly the same as they'd been before, but it was close. It wasn't like I hadn't had inappropriate thoughts before. Now, I just knew he might be having them too. Because he'd almost...

Yeah, definitely not exactly the same. We were laughing again, though. And we weren't talking about ignored phone calls or apologies or crazy people that ran away like girls and the crazier people that tried to kiss them. It was okay again. And I was going to go out with Tracy. Which, made me feel safer, somehow, being Shane's friend.

We talked forever. An hour at least and it was cool. I didn't do that with anyone that wasn't Chloe or Ry. I hadn't known I could do it with anyone else. And it was simple conversation, just like I wanted.

"Caydence thinks he's on drugs," Shane said, after I told him about the fight Ry and Chloe had had earlier.

"What?" I asked, confused. "Why?" I'd heard people say a lot of things about my best friend, but that was a new one. It wasn't true, though. Ry liked himself too much for that.

"'Cause he tried to ask her out," Shane laughed, staring off into space, the way he did when he talked about her. It made me wonder how he looked when he talked about me.

I pushed the thought away.

"Ry asks everyone out," I said. "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Nothing," Shane snorted. "You may have missed it, but Caydence is not what you'd call sane."

Which wasn't true. I knew Caydence was bullshitting about half the crazy things she came up with, just to see if she could get a reaction, and I was pretty sure Shane knew it too, so I didn't say anything. Or I did. I just wished I hadn't.

"Are you, love with her?" Who asks that? Who?

Shane didn't think much of it though. He just shrugged, looking thoughtful and said, "I don't know. I'll ask her."

We drifted into a comfortable silence after that. And I was okay with that because it meant I wasn't asking lame questions. Unfortunately, though, I can only handle silence for so long.

"Shane?" I asked after all of about a minute.

"Yeah?" he said, distractedly. He was chewing on his lips and I had to look away to keep my thoughts in check. It didn't stop the flashbacks though. He'd bitten his lips before he'd almost...

But I was trying to forget about that.

I cleared my throat. "Why don't you have any friends?" My foot has a very close personal relationship with my mouth. You might have noticed.

"Huh?" Shane said, turning to look at me. He lay back onto the bed on his side, legs hanging off the edge, while I sat at the other end, knees pulled to my chest. His shirt rode up a little on the side and I squeezed my knees in tighter, looking up to meet his eyes instead. It was awhile before he spoke.

"I have Caydence," he said simply.

"Yeah, one else?" I would have let it drop, but he didn't seem too offended and I was really curious. Shane was funny and nice to almost everyone. I couldn't imagine why anyone wouldn't like him,

He shrugged again in response to my question. "I like Caydence," he said slowly. "Caydence...sticks."

I really didn't understand what that meant, at all, but I didn't think I'd be getting much more of an explanation, so I didn't say anything else. Shane did, though.

"And," he said, smiling up at me. "I've got you. Two's a good number."

I thought of Ry and Chloe and I smiled back at him. "Yeah," I agreed nodding. "It's cool."

I stayed over at his house for another half an hour and probably would have stayed longer if my mother hadn't called. I fucking relieved. Shane and me...we were cool. And I had a date with Tracy and everything was going to be okay.


Shane actually walked me to the door when I left, which was good, because I wasn't sure I'd be able to handle facing his family alone.

"So," he said, leaning against the doorframe, in his tattered sweats and almost see through shirt and...god, it was too hard not to notice how good he looked right then. "Do you want to come over again tomorrow?" he asked.

"I can't," I said, and I was actually disappointed. "I'm going out with Tracy tomorrow."

Shane's face darkened. Or his eyes darkened, I wasn't sure which. But it made me feel cold inside. I hadn't told him to make him...jealous or whatever. I just thought he should know. I felt like I needed to tell him.

But I didn't want him to be mad at me. I couldn't...things just weren't good when we weren't okay.

"Shane," I started slowly. "I'm sorry."

"For what?" he snapped, glaring at me.

I shrugged awkwardly. I wouldn't leave though. Not until we were okay. I was a freak on a regular basis but everything was much worse when Shane and I weren't talking. I didn't want another three days like the last I'd just had.

I reached out and put a shaky hand on his shoulder. I don't think I've ever felt more like an idiot than I did right then, but I didn't know what else to do. I needed us to be okay.

Shane glared at me for a second longer before he sighed and his shoulders drooped. "Sorry," he said, softly. "That was--I don't know, dude. I'm being stupid."

I shrugged again. "Are we...are we cool?"

"Yeah," he said and his voice was gentler. It almost sounded like he was comforting me. Which was weird but so much more like the Shane I was used to.

I smiled. "Cool," I said and I took my hand from his shoulder. It didn't even occur to me that it was the first time I'd actually touched him. On purpose, at least. And I'd done it after he almost kissed me.

Shane smiled back at me, stepping away from the doorframe. "I'll see you later, Jake," he said and there was something weird about his voice but he was smiling. And everything was okay, so I didn't say anything.

"Later," I replied, stepping away. "I' you or something." Stupid. So fucking stupid, but I felt almost giddy right then.

Everything was going to be okay. I was sure of it.

Guess what? I'm wrong, like, ninety percent of the time.

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