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 8

I couldn't move. Not surprising, considering I couldn't fucking think. I mean...I was with Shane. Everything was okay with Shane and then Ryan was there and ...I'd just...shit, I'd almost just kissed my best friend. His lips were so close to mine that I actually felt it when he said my name. If he'd have stayed asleep just a second longer, Ry would have woken up with my fucking tongue in his mouth and I couldn't think.

Shit. It was the one word in my head that actually made any kind of sense and I couldn't even say that much. Because Ry was staring at me and there was nothing accusing in the look he was giving me, but...he knew. I felt like he knew. He had to know and there was nothing that I could fucking do about it. My heart was pounding in my chest and...I wasn't fucking awake enough to deal with anything. I was with Shane. Things...Shane and me, we were good. And we fell asleep together and I was with Shane. I couldn't think clearly enough to factor Ry into the equation. He was just there, and I couldn't figure out why.

I wanted to go back. I wanted to go back to making out with Shane in my bed and kick him out of it. I not be in this situation. I didn't even have any idea how I'd gotten here, I just wanted out of it.

"Jake," Ry said, still looking at me and I thanked whoever was listening for the darkness in my room. I didn't want to see him. I wanted to disappear.

"What the fuck, dude?" he asked, incredulously. "That just..." he trailed off, apparently unable to even say it and I really couldn't blame him. He sounded a little sick. I felt sick. And more than a little.

I couldn't answer. There were plenty of things that I could have said and I didn't know how to say a single one of them. I mean, a simple `my bad' would have been fucking great. Ry and I could have laughed it off and he would have said something like `no big deal' or he'd have told me that I needed to get laid and everything would have been okay. Shit happens. Things would have been awkward for a minute but Ry wouldn't have thought twice about it, but I wasn't getting that right then. My brain still hadn't caught up and I just sat there, shaking my head in shock, unable to comprehend anything.

There were only a few pieces that I'd been able to piece together since I'd thrown myself off of my bed. I'd fallen asleep with Shane, woke up and tried to kiss Ryan. That made absolutely no sense to me and all I could think was that I'd fucked up and now Ry knew.

He didn't. I mean, he probably just thought it was an accident and would have shrugged it off if I could have told him as much, but like I said: my brain? Not exactly functioning.

"Jake?" Ry said, no longer sounding incredulous, but a little worried. I heard my bed creak as Ryan shifted and the next I knew, my light was on. I cringed, my eyes squeezed shut against the light, but Ryan either didn't notice, or didn't care.

"Jake," he repeated, sitting on the edge of my bed, looking down at me. Not that I could see him. I was purposely looking down at the mess underneath my bed so I wouldn't have to see him. But I could feel him looking at me. Waiting for me to say something.

"Are you okay?" he asked and he actually reached out to touch me...but he stopped short, thinking better of it. Because he knew. He wouldn't want to touch me anymore. He wouldn't want to come near me.

"Did you, like, hit something?" he asked and I shrugged, shaking my head. I couldn't make my mouth work. Like he cared anyway. I waited for him to explode on me, call me queer, like I'd seen him do to every boy we'd ever seen that he thought wasn't man enough to be called anything else. But it never came. I couldn't understand why. It wasn't clicking and I'd all but convinced myself he was trying to lure me into...a false sense of security or whatever.

"Jake?!" he shouted and then he touched me. His foot collided with my knee cap and it fucking hurt. I gasped and scooted back away from him, leaning against the stand beside my bed, praying that he'd just leave. I couldn't handle anything right then. I couldn't think. I couldn't wrap my brain around the situation enough to be able to answer the simple questions.

"I'm sorry," Ry said, and there was something in his tone that confused me. "It'd help if you fucking said something," he added and I actually knew that but nothing was working.

I opened my mouth a few times but nothing really came out. And Ry just sat there, waiting.

I sighed. "I," I started and then swallowed. And swallowed again because my mouth was drier than it'd been since I decided to find out what the sand on the playground tasted like. But at least I was making actual sounds. I wasn't really getting further than that, though.

"I..." I tried again and still nothing.

"What?" Ry pushed, looking frustrated with his hands clenched in the blankets on my bed.

I cleared my throat. "Accident," I croaked, finally, looking up slightly, but I couldn't bring myself to actually look at him. "It was an accident." And thank God, an actual sentence. "I wouldn't...I..."

I couldn't complete that sentence. Apparently the first was a fluke.

"You're my friend...I..." I said, shaking my head and dropping my hands to the ground a little helplessly. It was a stupid thing to say, but in my defense I was still trying to piece everything together in my head.

"Yeah," Ry replied sardonically. "I hear the sky is also sort of blue. What the hell? Why are you acting so..." he trailed off again and that was freaking me out just as much as anything else. Ry wasn't the type to not know what to say.

"I'm sorry," I said, shaking my head once again. I was doing that a lot. I felt like it was all I'd done since I'd woken up. I just...couldn't fucking believe I'd almost kissed my best friend.

"Why didn't know...stop?" Ryan said, sounding a little lost.

"I did stop," I said suddenly finding my voice. I stopped. I knew that much. I didn't really know most of what was going on but I knew that much. I stopped.

"I stopped when I realized it was you."

"Who the fuck did you think it was?" Ry said, but he didn't sound angry. He sounded shocked and a little amused.

God, would he be disappointed if I actually answered that question. But I was back to not speaking. I was really sort of stuck on how I'd gotten there. Sleeping with Shane, waking with Ryan. I was too tired to make anything click into place.

"Jake!" Ry shouted after a few moments and I jumped into action, moving without even thinking about it.

I slammed my door, which Ry had left wide open, and glared at Ryan. It was the first time I'd looked at him since I'd woken up and it wasn't really so bad when I was pissed at him.

"Jesus," I said, angrily. "Shut the fuck up." I really didn't need my parents to come and listen in on the conversation. Ry just shrugged, completely unapologetic.

"Talk, then," he said, smirking. I sighed, racking my brain to try and figure out what I was supposed to say. It was much easier to think standing up. Or maybe it was easier to think after I'd actually moved, but I'd pretty much gotten that Ry was just as confused as I was. I still didn't understand how I'd gotten myself into the situation, but he didn't know. I just had to answer his questions and everything would be fine. The questions though...It took me a minute to remember what they were. Who did I think it was? Right. I couldn't answer that. At least, not truthfully.

"Tracy," I said, shrugging because really, there wasn't any other answer that would make sense. He'd either laugh his ass off or hit me if I said Chloe and I didn't know any other girls well enough to have them in my room. At least Tracy and I had dated. Or...'dated' may be a little strong but that's beside the point.

Ry snorted skeptically and rolled his eyes and my heart was back to pounding in my chest. I had no other options. If he didn't believe that one, I was screwed.

"You haven't talked to Tracy since your date," he said. "She's telling everyone that you're an inexperienced asshole and she's sick of waiting for you to call."

Fuck. I really didn't have anything else to say. I could tell him that I was dreaming about Tracy, but I wasn't sure if it'd make things worse to change my story. Plus, he already knew I was sort of awake when I...fuck.

He rolled his eyes. "Jesus, bro, why are you lying? It's not like I'm gonna run and tell your parents what a naughty little boy they've got up here. Seriously, just tell me."

I sighed, closing my eyes for a moment before opening them and saying, "Ry...I just didn't know it was you okay."

"Yeah," he snorted again, standing up to punch me in the arm, playfully. "Obviously. It's not like you're a fag or whatever, right?" he added, laughing like it was the most ridiculous thing he'd ever heard.

My eyes widened all on their own and I couldn't speak again. I knew he was kidding, but I still...he'd just hit way to close to the mark. Like, right on it. And I had no idea how to deny it with him looking right at me. I clenched my jaw shut tight and I closed my eyes and waited, because Ry knew me. I wasn't good at hiding things and...I knew it was coming. He didn't know before, but that didn't matter. He'd know now and it didn't matter how I'd gotten there. What mattered was that I wasn't sure there was a way out anymore. If there was, I couldn't find it.

Ry's laughter died down until he was just as silent as I was. I should have said something. I should have laughed and told him we both knew he was the only queer around. Or, I should have just laughed. If I could have just laughed it could have been over. But I didn't.

"Holy shit," Ry said suddenly, turning around and hopping over my bed to grab his shoes and I actually felt like I was going to cry. Why couldn't I have...said something? Anything would have worked; it didn't even have to make sense. He was...Ry. He didn't care if I made sense.

"Ry..." I said, quietly. A few minutes ago, I would have given anything to have him gone, but I couldn't let him leave anymore. I needed him to stay long enough for me to figure out a way to deny it.

But Ry didn't even pause. "Never mind," he said, with a laugh that was clearly forced. "You're not...of course you're not. It was stupid. My bad. But I've gotta jet. I've got homework."

"Ryan," I said again, moving toward him. "I'm not..."

"I know. Of course not, it was stupid. Look, I'll see you later, right?" he smiled at me, stepping backward toward my door. "I gotta run bro. No big deal, right? Everything's cool. Way cool. I'll see you later, Jake."

"Ryan!" I yelled, because he wasn't listening and the way he was acting had me more scared than I would have been if he were attacking me. I would have expected him to attack me. But now...he was acting almost the same way he'd acted when he came over after his mom died. Except...without the tears and the mass destruction. So I reached out for him, grabbed his shoulder to keep him from leaving like I had when he'd come over the day she'd died.

The reaction was way different.

"Don't. Fucking. Touch me," he said, ripping away from me violently. His voice had lost that fake cheerfulness and he was glaring at me with a look I'd only ever seen him use on the people he'd gotten suspended for beating the shit out of.

"Ry?" I said, completely shocked and he closed his eyes and sighed.

"I've got to go, Jake," he said, firmly. "I'll see you tomorrow." And he left, slamming the door behind him.


I wasn't sure what it meant. Ryan knew. That was kind of obvious. I didn't even say anything, but I was pretty sure he knew. And after sitting up in my room for an hour staring off into the empty air in front of me, I finally pieced together the rest of what happened. It wasn't really all that complicated. I don't wake well. Sue me.

Just because I knew what happened, didn't mean I had any idea what to do about any of it, though. I couldn't talk to Ryan. I picked up the phone at least four times before I realized I never called his house and I wasn't even sure he had a phone. His cell phone was still on my night stand. He'd left it in his hurry to get away from me.

I couldn't go over to his house. I was positive he wouldn't want to see me and even more certain that he wouldn't react well at all if I climbed into his window in the middle of the night. Yeah, that'd really help.

I couldn't talk to Chloe about it. She didn't come over for homework and I was grateful for it. I was not about to have that conversation. `Hey, Chloe, I tried to kiss Ryan. Don't worry, I'm totally not interested, but I am gay and now Ry knows, so what do I do?'. Ha. That'd go over really well. Plus, I wasn't even sure if I could say it. I'm gay. I could hardly even think it.

I'm ashamed to admit, it took me a full two hours before I even considered calling Shane. He was the only person I could talk to about it and I needed to talk to someone about it. I couldn't figure out how to fix it myself. I needed help and Shane was my only option.

And I kind of wanted to hear his voice. It sounded ridiculous even in my head and I'd never say it out loud but it was true. I wanted him close. I wanted the comfort. I was scared shitless. Ry...I wasn't sure what he'd do. He could tell everyone. He could tell my parents. But things were bad even if he didn't. Because he knew and I wasn't sure whether or not we were still friends. I wanted Shane to make me forget that. Or I wanted him to help me fix it. Or...I just kind of wanted him there.

It occurred to me that he should be the last one that I wanted around, all things considered, but...I wasn't going to try and get rid of him. I'd spent all of five minutes blaming him before I realized that it wasn't going to help anything. And...I didn't want him out of my life. The thought already scared me. When I thought he was going to...break up with me or whatever, I actually felt sick. There was no way I was going to go back to pushing him away. I wasn't sure I'd be able to even if I tried. It hadn't worked even when he didn't mean much of anything to me.

So I called him. Twice. And when he didn't answer the phone either time, I called him twice more. Then I quit. I think there's some kind of rule somewhere that says you can't call someone more than that without seeming like a stalker.

There was a sinking feeling in my chest. Not because Shane wasn't answering the phone, I'm really not that lame. But...Ryan. I couldn't...I couldn't remember not being his friend. He'd always been around.

Everything in me itched to just get up and go over to his place, but my mother had promised to ship me off to boot camp if I ever `pulled another stunt' like the last one and ran off without telling her. She wasn't around to tell, but I doubted she'd accept that when she came up to tell me to take my ass to sleep and found that I was missing. And I just...didn't feel like talking to her. She's my mom and she...knows things. She'd know I was upset and she'd ask questions. More questions I couldn't answer. I just didn't want to deal with it.

I resigned myself to the fact that it'd have to wait for school in the morning. I could talk to Shane when he came to pick me up for school and he'd help me fix things then. Or whatever. I really didn't know what to do. I couldn't even think about Ryan. Not without feeling sick, so I focused on Shane. And talking to him. And I lied to myself until I was convinced it'd be better in the morning.

I still didn't sleep, though. I couldn't. Every time I started to relax enough to drift off, I thought of toilet paper conversations and swing sets and period pamphlets and learning to swim and collecting fucking cockroaches.

And I just...couldn't sleep.


Shane didn't show up to pick me up for school the next day. It wasn't the first time it'd happened but he usually called or something first. I actually woke up early and waited on my porch for him for over a half an hour. I was pretty pissed off when he didn't show. I mean, yeah, it's not like I own him or anything. I'd just...come to expect him to be there. He always was.

Ryan however did show. Not at my house. His car pulled into Chloe's driveway and she came running out to meet him, waving me over as she did, but I didn't move.

"Lazy ass," she called, laughing as she got into the car. She was the only one that was shocked when Ryan sped off without pulling up to get me.

Surprised or not, though, it still sucked. It didn't even make me feel better to know that Ryan clearly hadn't told Chloe. Or that the fact that he hadn't told her meant he probably wasn't going to say anything. Yet. I got that sinking, empty feeling again and decided I couldn't sit there and wait for Shane. So I walked. All the way to school, cursing Ryan and Shane out the entire way. I still planned to find him when I got to the school, though. I wasn't that mad and he was still the only one that I could tell.

Unfortunately, walking to school takes a hell of a lot longer than driving and I was late to homeroom. I didn't have time to look for him.

Not that it would have helped if I would have had the time. He was avoiding me. I'm pretty sure of it. I wasn't just being paranoid either. It was pretty obvious by lunch that he was avoiding me.

"Shane!" I'd called to him as I ran up to where he sat with Caydence in the quad. He took one look at me, got up and took off before I even got close.

"Hi, Jake," Caydence said through a mouthful of her turkey wrap when I reached her. "Shane has a busted lip."

I rolled my eyes at her, taking off after Shane, not even pausing to wonder what the hell `busted lip' meant in Caydence speak.

I caught up to him in the Science building. Actually, I didn't catch up to him so much as I tripped and fell while I was chasing him and he turned back to see if I was okay.

"Fuck," I said, declining the hand Shane offered to help me up. I got up and paced back and forth, trying to walk it off. I was on the verge of tears and not because the fall actually hurt all that much. Everything was just...too much. It was turning out to be possibly the worse day I'd ever had. Ever. Including my joke of a `date' with Tracy. Shane was avoiding me...and I had no idea why and Chloe kept giving me looks from across the hallway, clearly asking what was up and Ryan....I couldn't even think about Ryan.

"Are you alright?" Shane asked, leaning on the brick wall next to the bathroom. I sighed.

"Why the fuck are you running from me?" I asked finally looking at him. I mean, the fall was kind of embarrassing. I blush. It wasn't something I wanted to show off.

Shane shrugged. "Why do you think?"

I rolled my eyes. "Is this about yesterday still? I said I'd try harder. And...I totally just ran up to you, in the middle of the quad, I think that definitely counts as being...friendly." I was really glad the hallways of the school were always deserted during lunch.

"What?" Shane asked frowning. "No...that's not..." he sighed, glaring at me. "Don't play stupid, Jake."

"Uhm...okay," I said, a little lost. "I don't know what the fuck you're talking about."

Shane narrowed his eyes and cocked his head to the side, studying me again. It didn't even faze me anymore; I was so used to it.

"I'm sorry," he sighed. "I just thought...never mind. But, for the record, I wasn't running from you. I just sort of didn't want to have this talk in front of half the school."

"What talk?" I asked, frowning. There was no way he knew about what happened with Ry. I was pretty sure I hadn't left any messages when I called and...he'd been too busy avoiding me to actually let me tell him about it. I was actually willing to talk, for once, and he was too busy avoiding me to appreciate it.

"Well...actually, we don't need to talk anymore," he said, smiling. That's when I noticed it. The smile made it kind of obvious. I'd memorized that smile, obviously I'd notice when it was broken.

"Caydence was being...serious." It felt almost weird to say. Caydence was never serious. At least not with me.

"What?" Shane asked, confused.

"What the fuck happened to your lip?" I asked, stepping closer. I lifted a hand to touch it but he smacked it away.

"Sorry," he said, when I glared at him. "It hurts're the one that doesn't want anyone to know. Touching me--or my lips--probably isn't a good idea if you want to keep it secret."

"Really?" I said, sarcastically. "Neither is kissing Ryan. Which, I did by the way."

Shane really doesn't hide his shock well. Or at all. He kind of gaped at me for a solid minute without saying a word. It really did nothing to help my nerves. I just...blurted it out. Right there where anyone might be listening. Anyone could have walked in, whenever they wanted.

"What?" Shane asked, and I was shocked to find he actually sounded pissed. At me. Like I did something wrong. As far as I was concerned if anyone was to blame, it was him for leaving me to make the mistake in the first place.

"Are you fucking kidding me?" he asked, his voice dangerously low.

"What?" I asked, frustrated. "Why are you pissed now?"

Shane actually laughed. And not in the `ha ha, you're so funny' kind of way either. It was almost...cruel. Angry. "So, is that why he came over to my house last night?"

"Ryan came over to your house last night?" I asked, my eyes widening. What the fuck was going on?

"Yeah," Shane said, rolling his eyes. He turned to walk away from me but I grabbed him and pulled him back.

"Ry...hit you?" I asked. It's not like it was unheard of, Ryan fighting. But I had no idea why he'd go hit Shane. I mean...yeah, he knew I, but as far as I knew, he had no idea that Shane and I...

My eyes widened even more before I could even complete that thought. It'd only just occurred to me that Ry could have thought I was...into him. Not Shane, him. It was better if he somehow figured out it was Shane, but still...

Jesus fuck the day really couldn't get any worse.

"Yeah, he did," Shane said, jerking his arm away from me. "Why are you even trying with me? Yesterday you said...and then Ryan...why would you even bother if you just..." he shook his head, looking about as lost and confused as I felt when I was talking with Ryan the night before. Only...Shane also looked pissed.

"Shane," I snapped, because I hated when we did this. Tried to talk without actually saying anything that made sense. Yeah, it was usually me doing it but that didn't make me hate it any less.

"What?" Shane snapped back, glaring at me.

"What is going on?" I all but screamed and stomped my foot. I was just...tired. Shane was supposed to make things better and things were not going the way that I'd thought they would.

"I know we haven't really talked about it, but this is kind of fucked up," Shane said, no longer trying to walk away from me. "I mean...I know we haven't said we're together...but you act like it and..."

"What does that have to do with anything?" I asked, getting more frustrated by the minute. I knew we hadn't said we were together...or Shane had and I'd gone along with it because I couldn't say it. Not out loud. But I thought it was pretty obvious whether I said it or not and I had no idea what the fuck he was talking about.

"I get it," Shane said, seemingly talking to himself, like he was reasoning out an equation of some sort. "It was just a kiss. And it's probably stupid to freak out over a kiss when we're not even really...whatever."

I shook my head, trying to clear it and trying even harder to tune him out. "It wasn't just a kiss, Shane," I said, trying my damnedest to get on the same page that he was on. "I like you," I said and it was true but that didn't make it any harder to say. Out loud. In the middle of a school hallway. I continued anyway. "A lot. And I like...the kissing." I lowered my voice. "I like kissing you."

"But you like kissing Ryan too? Whatever," Shane said flatly, laughing angrily again and I widened my eyes. He shook his head and turned to leave.

"Shane!" I snapped, finally catching up. "I didn't actually kiss him! I almost did. And it was a fucking accident."

Shane stopped and turned back to face me. "What?"

"I thought it was you, asshole! You left and I was sleeping and I woke up...and...I thought it was you. It wasn't, obviously and now everything is fucked up and Ryan knows. And...he was my best friend. Was..."

I was out of breath by the time I finished and I was kicking myself for all the screaming I'd done. Jesus Christ, what happened to being careful? I was fucking myself over with everything that I did. I'd be better off if I locked myself in my bedroom closet and stayed there until graduation.

"Damn it," I whispered, closing my eyes with a sigh, and then I turned to walk away.

I didn't get far. I took about three steps before Shane grabbed my arm and yanked me into the bathroom.

"I'm sorry," he said and he was standing way to close for comfort. I could only really see the sinks from where I was standing against the wall next to the door and I just...didn't feel comfortable not being able to see that the room was actually empty.

"I'm sorry," Shane repeated and he kissed me. It was quick. Soft. Like he knew I wouldn't let him kiss me for longer than that. "I like kissing you too," he whispered and I would have smiled. Any other time, I probably would have smiled like an idiot because I'm lame and its nice hearing but...right then, I had other things on my mind.

"Ryan knows," I said, hating the way my voice broke. "He was my best friend and now he knows. I'm so fucked."

"I'd say it probably isn't as bad as you think, but he did come over to my house last night really pissed off," Shane said, frowning. He stepped away from me moving further into the bathroom to hop up on the counter. I didn't comment on how he was probably going to have a wet ass when he got up.

"Why did he hit you?" I asked; glad to be back on track. "What happened?"

Shane shrugged. "He probably hit me because I hit him. "

"Why the fuck did you hit him?" I snapped, on instinct and then shot Shane what I hoped was an apologetic look.

"I have...anger issues," he said, shrugging. "And he was being a dick. He told my little sister to mind her business and get her ass back into the house. Mykel started crying. So, I hit him. He hit me back. And then he told me to stay the fuck away from you and that you didn't want anything to do with me. He called me a few names, apologized to my sister, and he went home. The end."

"What?" I asked, frowning and I moved to sit down on the wet counter. I missed the time back when the world made sense and everything was all about school and keeping my parents from finding out that B's and C's weren't actually amazing grades.

Shane shrugged. "You should talk to him," he said, like it was the easiest thing in the world and the most obvious solution.

"Yeah," I said, rolling my eyes. "Piece of cake."

"No, seriously. He's your best friend, right?" he said, sounding way too chipper. I hated it.

"Was," I muttered, sighing. "He was my best friend. You may not believe it but this is actually a big deal, Shane. You don't have to blow it off like it isn't."

I didn't even have to be looking at Shane to know he was rolling his eyes at me. "Don't be so dramatic. I know it's a big deal. I just don't know what to say," he said, dropping a hand onto my arm. "It happened. The damage is done. And you don't know what'll happen if you try talking to him. So, do it. The worst that could happen is we'll have matching lips."

I snorted, laughing grudgingly. "Actually, I think he went easy on you. I've seen him do worse."

"Or," Shane said, smirking. He leaned forward, lowering his voice. "Maybe he knew he couldn't take me."

I laughed again. "Maybe," I said, smiling. "Look, you should probably eat something. There's like...five minutes till lunch is over."

I lied, though. Either my watch was slow, or the bell was ringing just to spite me. "Or not," Shane said, frowning. He shrugged. "I wasn't hungry anyway."

"Liar," I said, elbowing him in the stomach.

"Drama queen," he shot back, hopping off the counter. He frowned as he ran his hands over his ass. "Huh," he said, looking at his ass in the mirror and the giant wet spot I knew he'd find. "Well, it's not like my reputation was know...existent before. It'll be nice to be known for something."

I snorted, rolling my eyes at him. It felt good to be laughing. I wouldn't have thought it was possible. This was how things were supposed to be. This was what I wanted when I'd gone chasing Shane. This was why I'd needed to see him.

"I'm gonna go," I said, hopping off the counter to stand next to Shane. I'd made sure the space where I'd been sitting was dry, but I ran my hands along the back of my pants to make sure.

"What's your next class," Shane asked, smiling at me.

I shrugged. "Doesn't matter. I'm gonna blow it off."

"You're skipping?" he asked, frowning. I laughed. I'd have never guessed that Shane would be the type that was uncomfortable with breaking rules. Not even Chloe scolded me for it. Like, you could get away with being `good' all the time as long as you didn't say anything to those that weren't.

"Yeah," I said, smiling at him. "Wanna come?"

He actually looked like he was considering it.

"I'm kidding," I said, rolling my eyes. "I just...can't be here. I can't think and I haven't heard half of the shit that's gone on in any of my classes so far. I just...I'm gonna go and wait for Ry to get out. But I don't really expect you to come with, it's cool."

Shane sighed. "It's not gonna kill me to miss a couple classes. My father might die of a heart attack, but I'm sure my family can get by without him."

I snorted. "No, bro," I said, turning to walk away. "It's cool."

"All right," he said, softly and he reached out to grab me and pull me close before I even took a step toward the door. And he kissed me again. Only this time, it wasn't quick.

It occurred to me that this was probably why I was in the situation I was in. I was being careless. Stupid. I was kissing Shane in the school bathroom. If I went on like this it wouldn't be long before everybody knew.

"Shane," I said pulling away from him and he sighed, nodding.

"I know," he said. "Sorry."

I shrugged. "I'll call after I talk to Ryan, alright?" I asked, moving toward the door once more.

"Yeah," he said. "Jake?"

"Huh," I asked, my hand on the handle to the bathroom door.

Shane sighed. "We are, right?" he asked, frowning.

"Are what?" I asked, a little impatiently. I wanted to get off campus before everyone was in class and my walking off would be obvious.

"Together," Shane said, shrugging. "You and me. We are, right?"

I don't know why my first instinct was to say `no'. It was just hard to admit it. I opened my mouth but I couldn't say it. It was odd, considering I'd practically been screaming things that were probably worse out in the hallway, but I just couldn't.

I sort of smiled instead and gave him a nod and a half shrug.

He grinned. "Alright. I'll see you later."

I rolled my eyes and stepped out of the bathroom and headed toward the student parking lot where there wouldn't be anybody to stop me and hand me a detention or whatever you got for sneaking out of school early. I'd never actually been caught in the act before but I didn't think they'd give me much for it. It'd seem kind of counter-productive to suspend me from school to get me to stay in school. Whatever.

I went to Ryan's house. I couldn't go to mine, not when my mother could just pop in any minute. Ry's dad would be at work until after Ry got out of school and I wouldn't have to worry about him, so I went there, climbed into Ry's window and waited.

It was weird. Shane hadn't told me a single thing I didn't already know. He didn't give me any great advice and he didn't even help me with figuring out what to say to Ryan, which is actually what I wanted. But...he still helped a little. He helped calm me down or something. And I could do it. I could talk to Ry...or let Ry do the talking. Or...just figure out what he was actually thinking. Either way, things couldn't possibly get any worse.


I waited at Ry's house for two hours after school let out, driving myself crazy playing the same computer game over and over again, but he never came.

I didn't even really want to talk to him, I just knew I had to. It'd drive me insane if I didn't. I had to know what was going to happen next.

But Ry never showed. Asshole. I mean, obviously he didn't know that I was waiting for him, but I still felt like he hadn't showed just to spite me. Where the fuck was he, anyway? I knew he wasn't with Chloe and we didn't have swim practice. I had this whole speech prepared for when he came home, just so that I'd at least have something to say and he fucking ruined it.

I finally gave up and went home when I'd eaten all of the potato chips I found in Ry's room. I'd gotten tired of them about halfway through the bag, but I was hungry, and Ry didn't deserve potato chips if he was never going to be home to eat them.

I spent the two minute walk from Ry's house to mine calling him every dirty word I could think of, one for each letter of the alphabet. It was more satisfying than you'd think.

I was on `S' when I got to my house and found him sitting on the steps of my front porch, elbows on his knees, looking straight at the ground.

"Shithead," I said, but I swear it was an accident. I was having trouble thinking of anything for `S' and I sort of just said it out loud.

"What?" Ry asked, looking up at me. I immediately saw the dark red mark under his eye and cringed. It looked painful. So had Shane's lip, though. I wondered if that meant they were even.

And then I wondered what I'd have to do to make it so Ry and me were `even'.

"Nothing," was my delayed response to Ry's question. I was nervous. I'd thought talking to Ryan would be hard but it hadn't occurred to me that I'd be so fucking nervous.

Ry turned away from me. "Whatever," he muttered; shrugging and he didn't say anything else. Neither did I. I had a speech, really didn't work this way. Ry was supposed to find me waiting for him, not the other way around. I really had no clue what to say, so I sort of just stood there, waiting for him to do something. Anything but leave. I didn't figure he would, seeing as how he was obviously waiting for me, but still. I was a little worried about it.

"Are you gonna sit down?" he asked, flatly, still not looking at me.

"Are you gonna stay?" I asked, quietly, fidgeting with one of the safety pins on my book bag.

Ry shrugged but he didn't answer. I sighed and moved to sit next to him on the steps. And we were quiet again.

I didn't want to say anything. Ry was there and he was either to going to tell me to eat shit and try and beat the shit out of me, or...I don't know, but I couldn't help but be hopeful. He was there and while he wasn't necessarily being friendly, he wasn't being an asshole either. So, I held my breath and waited, trying to `tune out' the unnerving silence. I didn't want to ruin it, if there was any chance...

"Remember Trevor Novak?" Ry asked suddenly, turning a piece of paper in his hands. I hadn't seen it there earlier, but he was staring at it and I was curious as to what it was. It looked old and...dirty. Really dirty. Not like `dusty' dirty either, there was crusty red stuff on it that looked a little like really old spaghetti sauce.

"Yeah, I remember him," I replied, staring at the piece of paper. Trevor Novak was the one and only kid I'd ever gotten into a fight with. I beat him in tether ball in the sixth grade and he got pissed about it when everyone started laughing because I was so much shorter. He shoved me up against the wall, I shoved him back. And then we fought.

I lost miserably. It was pretty obvious that I was going to lose after the first punch was thrown and I'd expected Ryan to jump in, but he didn't. He just stood there, watching the whole thing with everybody else. I was so pissed at him; I didn't talk to him for a week. Or...I didn't talk to him, for the three days that I was suspended or the weekend that followed. I refused to talk to him and slammed the door in his face the few times he'd come over.

That Monday before school, Ryan cornered me on my way to class and punched the shit out of me. I thought my nose would never stop bleeding.

"If you don't hit me back, everyone's gonna think you're a queer," he had said, glaring at me. No one was even really around, but I hit him back anyway. It was the longest fight I'd ever had with him and I still didn't know what the hell had happened, but we were friends again after that. We had a fight with the ice the school nurse gave us, launching the chips at each other from across the nurse's office.

"What about him?" I asked Ry, suddenly. I mean, it wasn't exactly my best of memories with Ryan and I wondered if he brought it up because he was about to bloody my nose up again.

"I don't know," Ryan said, shrugging. "I was just thinking about it. You don't really act like a queer. You never have."

"Ryan," I said, quietly because my throat was closing up and I wasn't sure I could speak any louder. I knew it was best to talk. Things only got bad when I didn't talk, but I wasn't sure how to deny it anymore. I needed to deny it, though. I didn't know how to do it, but...I didn't want him to think I was gay, true or not. We couldn't be friends if I was. Just sitting there with him, knowing that he knew, made me feel like I was...wrong. Like something was definitely wrong with me. It was so different from the feeling that I got with Shane. Shane didn't think there was anything wrong with me, for obvious reasons.

I wondered which one of them was right.

"Ry," I started again, sighing. "I'm not..."

"I got in a fight with Shane," Ry interrupted me, suddenly and I quieted again. I already knew about the fight, but I kind of wanted to hear what Ryan had to say about it. I wanted to hear his side.

"He fucked up my eye," Ry said, finally turning to me and I'd already seen it, but I pretended to check it out anyway. "You know," he continued. "He doesn't act like a queer either. He definitely doesn't hit like one." He laughed. "You kind of do, though."

"Shut up," I said, shoving him playfully, and he stopped grinning.

"But you are, right?" Ry asked, voice losing all tone, going flat once again. He turned to look at me. "Shane and you. You both are."

I couldn't say yes. I wouldn't say yes.

But I couldn't say no, either. I just sort of stared at Ry like an idiot, hating myself more every second. I'd practiced. For hours, in Ry's room, I'd practiced. `No, I'm not gay.' I'd said it over and over again and I didn't understand why it was so hard all of the sudden.

Except, Ryan knew me. Just because, up until recently he didn't know that little bit of info, doesn't mean he didn't know me. And he'd know if I lied. I wasn't really good with direct questions. I could bullshit my way around most things, but I stumbled over direct questions when I tried to lie. And Ry knew that. Ry knew me.

He sighed. "If I wanted to have this conversation by myself, I could have just gone home."

I snorted. If he'd done that, I might have had a bit more to say. "I'm sorry," I said, shrugging. The whole conversation was...awkward. I didn't know what to say, because I couldn't figure out whether or not we were fighting. Whether or not we were friends.

"Whatever," Ryan said and he leaned back against the stairs, looking up at the roof, instead of down at his feet. "Look," he sighed. "I don't want to talk about it. Last night, I mean. Ever. But I feel like I have to say it's just not on. I'm not..."

"I know," I interrupted quickly, cringing. "I swear to fucking God, Ry, I didn't know it was you. And..."

"I know you didn't mean to," he said simply. "I sort of figured after I went to bitch at Shane for turning you that you were telling the truth about that part. I just...wanted to get it out there, just in case."

"Jesus," I sighed and I stood up. "I'm sorry, Ry...I really can' this. Like...I actually can't keep talking about this. I swear, I didn't mean to. I fell asleep with...I just wasn't expecting to wake up with you."

"You were expecting to wake up with him," Ry finished. "Right. Weird. Really fucking weird."

"Ryan, I'm not..." I started desperately, but he just laughed, not letting me finish.

"Chloe gave this to me," he said, waving the piece of paper. "It's from when we all decided to be blood brothers, but Chloe didn't want to mix her blood with ours, so we decided to get a tattoo when we were eighteen instead. Remember?"

I frowned, frustrated and angry and confused all at once. He wanted me to talk, but the second I open my mouth to finally get that sentence out, the one sentence I need...he interrupts. "Yeah," I snapped. "I remember."

"I couldn't believe she kept it," he said, shaking his head, not bothered in the slightest by my attitude. "It's...lame. And the tattoo we drew is lamer. And...I'm not sure, but it looks like something's growing on this piece of paper and--,"

"Ry!" I yelled, cutting him off. "What's the fucking point?"

"I don't know!" he yelled back, standing up. " and Shane? It's sick and it's fucking weird."

"Fine," I snapped, and I didn't even bother trying to deny it anymore. He wasn't going to buy it anyway and he was pissing me off. I wanted to hit him. Not in the way that I usually wanted to smack him, I actually wanted to fucking hit him. I wanted to hurt him. "Why are you even here, Ryan? You made your fucking point this morning. Why did you come here with all the bullshit?!"

"Because," Ry said glaring at me. "You're my only friend." He sighed. "I mean, I have other friends, but... I don't really have a family. Just you and Chlo and Mom's headstone. And now you''re fucking ruining it and I came to beat the shit out of you for it, but it's not working the way I planned. So, shut the fuck up and sit down, while I figure out how to do this!"

I raised an eyebrow. I wanted to be angry. I wanted to yell some more. And I still wanted to hit him but I almost wanted to laugh at the same time.

"You want me to wait for you to figure out a way to kick my ass?" I asked, incredulously. "No, thanks."

Ry laughed a little crazily. "Shut up. That...didn't come out like I meant it to."

"I hope not," I snorted.

Ry sighed. "I don't know if we're...I don't know how to deal. And this talking for queers. I don't want to do it anymore."

I really wasn't about to argue.

"You and me, Jake," Ry went on. "We're not cool."

I closed my eyes, angry all over again. "Then, why the fuck are you here, Ryan?"

"Because," Ry snapped. "I hate you, but I still hate everybody else more. Except Chloe. I hate making `friends' and I don't know how to make a new brother."

I didn't know what to say to that, but...I wasn't really angry anymore. I hated it, but that stupid hopeful feeling was back and I wondered if maybe everything would be okay, eventually. It was...weird. I'd never considered that Ryan could know and still be my friend. Not once. The best that I'd hoped for was that I could convince him he was wrong. That I could convince him that I wasn't really gay. It was a weird thought, but I couldn't help hoping it might be okay.

"Then," I said, slowly, carefully. "What now?"

Ry bit his lip, shaking his head as he turned to walk away. "I don't know," he said. "I don't fucking know."

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