This is gay-oriented fiction. I don't like writing `bout sex, so you won't find it here. I might suggest some of it, but no hardcore. This story is not about my life, although certain people portrayed in the story may be real. There is no sex... blah, blah, blah. You know the rest. If you've come this far, I can't stop you anymore.

Kayden II

by Ryan Keith

Chapter 8 - Dreams


     After my last encounter with Kayden, I couldn't help but hate him. Winter break didn't start until after Friday. My final talk with Kayden was on Thursday; one more day to go. I was surprised to see Kayden in religion, and more surprised to see him in English. He didn't look at me or talk to me. Maya didn't try anything, which was good. She just exchanged looks with me, not only confused but probably a bit guilty. I knew she felt bad, and it hurt me that she did. I didn't want to make my friends worry, but there was nothing from stopping this from happening.

     I was more than surprised when our English teacher called on Kayden and me to read a passage from our Shakespearean play. Kayden said he wasn't feeling well, so his part was given to someone else. That hurt a lot; it was like he was going out of his way to avoid me. It was like he was angry with me. I was angry with him! He had no right! Was he trying to get me pissed at him? It was working.


     The Asian girl blocked my way. I looked up at her and tried my best not to react. I've never really connected much with Mai, so I wonder what she thought she could actually do.

     "Let's grab some lunch," she said to me, smiling.

     The move was made, and it was by Mai. I had expected Zac's friends to try something, whether it be the guys or Maya, but this really was unexpected.

     "You make it sound like we're good friends... I'm not dating Zac anymore, remember? Now you don't need to act like a friend," I told her. I knew it was true; it had to be true. It had occurred to me a couple nights before. Zac's friends had had to like me because I was dating Zac. It explained Scott's sudden change of heart towards me. One minute he treated me like scum, but when he found out Zac is gay and was dating me, and he became a friend. I wondered if Maya was the same.

     "That wasn't a suggestion or a question, Kayden." Her voice cut me. Her face was still pretty and smiling, but there was an edge to her words.

     I drew my hand forward, as if asking her to lead the way.

     We really didn't get lunch. We followed the crowd to the cafeteria, but then to the side exit to the outside. It was cold out, but the area is boxed in on three sides, so the wind didn't hit us. I was fine in my shirt, but I knew Mai was cold with her sweater.

     "I thought we were going to have lunch," I said.

     "It's too busy in there, and I don't want people to overhear what we talk about."

     "So, Zac put you up to this? I wouldn't think he'd be the type to use his..."

     Mai cut me off. "Cut the crap, Kade. What is this really about? Are you trying to play some sick game?"

     "Maybe," I told her. She just stared at me. "Life is a game. Let's just say that things are better off this way."

     "Right... So tell me, what happened to the Kayden who got exited whenever he heard Zac's name?"

     "Mai, let's stop this, okay? There are some things better left unsaid."

     "No!" she said stubbornly, as she crossed her arms. "You're going to tell me exactly what I want to know, one way or another."

     I just stared at her as she gave me a look that screamed, "Well?" After a moment, I gave in.

     "I don't love Zac. I can't..." I began.

     Her eyes were less threatening as she lifted her face to me. "Why not?"

     "I'm not gay." I lied.

     Her eyes got as big as saucers.

     "What the hell do you mean?" she yelled, lowering her arms.

     "Well, since you won't drop it, I guess there's no point holding out on you. But know this, if Zac finds out, he'll be even more upset. After you hear this, you'll agree its better he doesn't know."

     "I'll be the judge of that. Now spill it."

     "I'm not really gay. There's this girl I was always seeing. She lives in Toronto. She suggested it, and it sounded like fun, so I gave it a try," I told her.

     "You were still seeing this girl while you dated Zac?" she asked, disgustedly.

     "Yeah... I was just sort of comparing, I guess. I wanted to know how far I could really get with a guy. Call it an experiment, or whatever you want to call it."

     She looked like she was wishing death on me, but I had to push through.

     "I guess Zac was serious. It wasn't supposed to go so far, but since he really did like me, I thought I should just end it before it became too serious," I said.

     "So you played him. You played Zac," Mai said, stricken. She looked straight at me and shook her head. "You're a liar. Tell me you're lying. You loved Zac. Why would..."

     "I guess," I said, looking towards the ground, "I'm just that sort of guy."


     "How dare you!" she yelled. "Playing with people's hearts...especially someone like Zac. He trusted you! We trusted you! And we played into your sick game. You piece of shit!"

     I stepped back. I really hadn't thought she'd hit me. I guess I went too far. I swallowed and forced myself to finish what I had started.

     "Well, now you know. Are you going to tell Zac?"

     I felt like gutting myself, the way Mai was looking at me. Not with hatred, but complete despair.

     Oh shit... Did I go too far?

     Tears fell from Mai's eyes. "Please stay away from Zac. You've hurt him enough, and he still loves you. He's trying hard, but he really does love you. Please don't hurt my friend anymore. I won't tell him, but please leave him alone. You played your game. Are you happy?" she cried.

     I felt my throat parch up.

     "It's better this way," I whispered to her before walking past her and back into the school. "You should probably keep it to yourself. I know you wouldn't want to hurt Zac anymore than I have. So let the truth stay with just you. It's all up to you...just let it go."

     I was gone.



     "Soooo," Maya whispered as I played with my soup.

     I looked up at her and saw she had something to say.     Scott, Maya and I sat around our table, not really eating and not really talking.

     I smiled the best I could and took a spoonful of my soup.

     "Are you coming to school tomorrow, Zac?" Maya asked.

     "I guess so. Nothing to do at home, anyways," I told her.

     Friday was basically optional for students. No one really did any work the day before winter break started, and the day was marked by friends cutting class or going to The Christmas Follies. That's a mini concert of students and staff doing Christmas stuff; plays, songs, jokes. Nothing but bullshit. I knew I was feeling very bitter, but it was Kayden's fault.

     "You should come to the follies tomorrow. I'm playing. It would mean a lot if you guys came," she said.

     "You know we'll be there," Scott answered for us, placing an arm around Maya, "and you're going to do great."

     She gave a big smile that seemed to radiate her love for Scott. It was the type of smile I thought Kayden had shared with me, but I guess I had been wrong.

     "You guys doing anything tonight?" Scott asked. "Zac, your place? How about it?"

     "I don't know, I'm feeling kind of tired," I told him. I really wasn't, but I just didn't feel like doing anything. In fact I hadn't felt like doing anything for a few days. It was more or less like I was just living, with nothing really to look forward to.

     Why can't I just go back to when Kayden and I had never met? God, I hate him. Who does he think he is?

     My anger with Kayden had deepened that very morning, when I saw some girl talking with him as they walked together. It looked like she was talking his ear off and he was attentively taking in every word.

     "Maybe we can do something on the weekend," I suggested.

     They both seemed to like the idea. Scott tried to take a bite of Maya's sandwich and caused her to laugh. I smiled at them. They truly were in love. I suddenly felt like a third wheel and decided to give them some space.

     "Guys, I'm done with my food. I need some air. I'll see you later, alright?"

     "We'll come with you," they both said together.

     I looked at them and realized what they were trying to do.

     "Guys..." I began.

     "Oh, please don't start, Zac," Maya said, crossing her arms. "We actually want some fresh air, too."

     I gave in, and we all got up and headed for the cafeteria side doors. 



     It was the last day before winter break and the crew was moving towards the gymnasium where the follies would take place.

     I felt great around Mai and her friends. Well, my friends, too, I guess. That day when I thought everyone was giving me the cold shoulder, Mai explained to me it was about a close friend of theirs. She explained it was something important and not something she could really tell me without the person's permission. I could tell she was really upset over the way things played out, so I knew she really wanted to be my friend.

     We took our seats, Zac beside me and Jett on the other side of Zac. Mai, Shin and Scott sat in front of us, but turned their seats around so the six of us could talk before the show.

     I noticed Maya and Kayden were missing, but I knew Maya was in the follies. I wondered if Kayden was doing an act, too.

     "Hey, did anyone see Kayden?" I asked. "I thought you guys always hung out together. Where did he go?"

     I felt something cold crawl up my spine after I said that, because I could feel everyone's eyes on me. I looked around and saw some of them had pained expressions.

     I felt embarrassed and covered my mouth with my fingers. "I just asked something I shouldn't have, didn't I?" I asked, scared to death.

     "Guys, it's alright," Zac said gently. I turned to him and he gave me a gentle smile. He really is a good-looking guy. His smile was warm and embracing, but even still, there was a bit of sadness behind it. "I'll tell her."

     I noticed that Mai got these big saucer-like eyes, like she was shocked.

     "Tell me what?" I asked.

     "Lenne, I really like you," Zac said, making my cheeks quickly heat up, "but I'm not the only one who does.

     Oh, no! What have I done! I thought with horror. It suddenly occurred to me why Kayden was missing, why Zac was looking like he was, and why Zac's friends were all quiet around me. It all made sense. Kayden and Zac both have crushes on me! A beautiful friendship ruined by my own beauty. Oh, cursed fate, why have you done this to me? What a waste; they're both amazingly hot guys...but I like older guys.

     "All of us think you're a great person."


     "Which is why I know I can trust you with this. I'm gay," Zac whispered.

     "Whaaat?" I said with surprise.

     Realizing I had said that a lot louder than I intended, I covered my mouth, embarrassed yet again.

     "I am sooo sorry," I whispered back when I noticed the hurt look on Zac's face. "This is not really what I expected the great secret to be. I guess I was blowing things out of the water with what I was thinking."

     "So, it doesn't bother you?" he asked.

     "Should it?" I asked back. "I think it's great. Media portrays 'gay people'," I said in a whisper so as not to attract listeners from nearby, " as flamboyant, limp-wristed guys. Not like there's anything wrong that type, it's just that it creates a lot of stupid stereotypes."

     I watched as one by one the smiles began to surface on everyone's faces. I guess I did good.

     "And so... let me guess. You came out to Kayden and he didn't take it so well?" I asked.

     They all laughed, except Mai. She actually looked a bit sad.

     "No, Kayden and I were going out. We broke up," he said sadly.

     "Oh..." I said, quietly. Then it suddenly clicked. "Oh! You mean..."

     "Yeah," Zac said, nodding his head.

     "Kayden, too?" I wondered a loud.

     "Zac, you just outted Kayden," Scott said, smiling.

     Everyone chuckled lightly.

     "I don't care. It's not like she's going to yell it out to people, plus, I really don't care about him anymore. He can go screw himself."

     I was a bit surprised by Zac's language, and a quick look around told me that what Zac had said was completely out of character.

     No one said anything for a moment, and just as it looked like Jett was going to say something, the lights dimmed and the show started. Scott, Shin and Mai turned their seats around and no one said anything else.        

     Some of the acts were really good. They did an act with Snoopy characters, and other skits which I was sure were from Saturday Night Live or something. A few girls did some dances; a couple did a duet. Overall,

 it was turning out to be an enjoyable concert. I was really looking forward to seeing Maya perform, but I really had to go to the washroom. I got up and told the guys I would be back in a bit. Mai, wanting to do the usual girl thing, said she would join me. We got up and made it towards the exit.

     "This is really great, huh?" I asked.

     "It is. I think we have like a few minutes before Maya's piece," Mai said to me.

     "What is she doing, anyways? Singing?" I asked.

     "Oh, no, Maya has a great voice, but that girl can't sing," Mai laughed, "She's playing a piano piece. I think she composed it herself."

     "Wow, she must be amazing, then." I suddenly realized Mai was not really beside me, but had fallen behind.

     "What are you doing here?" she said past me.

     I turned ahead and saw Kayden leaning against the gym entrance. His arms were crossed and it looked like he was doing a lot of thinking.

     "I was asked to come," he said. "Is that a problem?"

     Mai looked really irritated and I tried my best not to interfere. "Just stay away from him, okay?" Mai demanded.

     What is going on? I've never seen Mai angry before, but she's pretty scary.

     "I plan on it. Looks like Maya's next," Kayden said, nodding towards the stage.

     Mai and I looked in and saw Maya sitting by the piano with a microphone in hand.    

     "I wrote this song for all my friends. It's called `Winter Wish'. For today, I would like to dedicate this song to two close friends," Maya said into the mike.

     She looked up and I could tell she was looking at Zac. She then turned towards us and looked at Kayden. I felt Mai's hand grab mine and squeeze it gently. It was like she was expecting something bad to happen and needed support.

     Maya took her seat and adjusted the microphone towards the piano.

     It was a slow piece, but the melody was magical. It was played gently, and at times the notes were dragged slightly, allowing the sound to be more dramatic. I could feel the emotion building in the song.

     I turned and snuck a look at Kayden. I wondered if he knew the song was for him and Zac. When I saw him, I didn't know what to think. Tears streamed down his face as he focused all his attention on Maya playing her heart out. Mai saw it too, and I felt her grip on my hand soften. I turned towards the crowd as I heard the sound of chairs shuffling. I watched as Zac got up and seemed to be rubbing his eyes. He was walking directly towards us. We were near the closest exit.

     When Zac reached us, he looked up and made eye contact with Mai and me. He froze midway in his step and gazed at Kayden. Kade returned the stare. For a moment I stood between them, with Mai suddenly gripping my hand tightly again while Zac and Kayden stared at each other.

     Zac made his move. He casually nodded towards us and brushed past Kayden.

     I didn't understand that; both seemed to be torn. I wondered why they had broken up.

     "Maya, that piece was beautiful," I complimented her. "How long have you been playing?" She blushed a little after Scott grabbed her in an embrace and kissed her quickly on the cheek.

     "Since I was a kid," Maya replied, the colour cooling from her face. "Do you play any instruments, Lenne?"

     "Yeah, right. My fingers are all messed up or something," I joked.

     We all laughed, except Jett.

     "Maya, what were you thinking?" Jett asked. "You know Zac's going through a lot of shit."

     Maya looked at me questioningly. I felt like I was under the scope again.

     "She knows," Mai said.

     "I'm really sorry, Lenne, but we couldn't out Zac to you without his permission. Sorry if we were a bit cold the other day..."

     "Not a problem," I replied back. "I'm just really happy you guys are even giving me a chance."

     I returned Maya's smile and she looked mighty proud, for some reason.

     "You still didn't answer my question," Jett said. "Why did you do that? Inviting Kayden, of all people."

     Mai had walked away with Shin and they seemed to be talking about something serious. I didn't know what else to do but stand around with Scott, Jett, and Maya. I thought maybe I should take off. They might not feel comfortable saying things around me, especially about a close friend like Zac. It didn't seem to bother them that I was around, though.

     "I did what I had to, and I don't regret it," Maya said, unafraid.

     "Zac is trying to forget Kayden, and all you're doing is making it harder for him," Jett said, getting angrier.

     "Hey, back off, man," Scott said, stepping in. "The last thing she would do is want to hurt Zac intentionally. Get that through your thick skull. Zac's not only your friend."

     Oh, gees, things are getting out of hand.

     "What the hell is that supposed to mean?" Jett asked.

     "It means, quit pretending to be his guardian or something. It's almost like you just want him to forget about Kayden. You don't trust Kayden, do you?"

     Scott glared at Jett for a while and Jett returned his glare.

     "No, I don't. And it'll probably be best if Zac just forgets about Kade. He's nothing but trouble," Jett answered.

     "How can you say that?" Maya asked in a voice louder than a whisper.

     "I don't know much, but we can't trust Kayden. He's hiding things."

     "You don't even know what you're saying, man," Scott said, shaking his head. "You have no fucking clue..."

     "Don't give me that, Scott. You hated the guy from day one," Jett replied.

     Scott didn't react, other than to say, "That was before I knew Zac loved him. You saw Zac, right? He was crying. Lenne," Scott said, turning to me, "you were closest to Kayden. What did you see?"

     "Uh, umm," I said, swallowing.

     "You're scaring her, Scott," Maya said, elbowing her boyfriend. "Lenne, did you see Kayden?"

     Feeling a bit relieved, I answered, "I think he was crying."

     The four of us were suddenly really quiet.

     "I might not know much, but from what I saw, I think Kayden felt really sad," I told them. "And I might just be an outsider looking through the window, but I don't think Zac would want you guys to be arguing like this."

     All three looked away when I said that.

     I can't believe I just said that. Shit! They're probably thinking I don't know what I talking about.

     "You're right, Lenne. We shouldn't argue like this," Jett said. "I don't know what I should do, though."

     "Well, again I might just be speculating, but I think Maya did the right thing," I told them. "They saw each other. They're both thinking right now, most likely. I'm sure they must have a lot of thinking to do."

     Shin and Mai were still separated from the conversation, but the other three nodded their heads.

     "You have a pretty good head on your shoulders," Scott said, finally breaking the ice. "You just saved us from all hell breaking loose."

     "Whatever... I'm full of bullshit. I don't even really know what's going on, but I hope I helped some."

     "You did," Jett replied, "and quit pretending you're outside looking in, 'cause you're already in."

     That made me suddenly felt really happy.


     "Zac, are you sure you're okay?" Sally asked.

     I tried my best to bring forth the smile that usually brings smiles out in others, but it seemed to make her face twitch.

     "Sorry, Sally, it won't happen again."

     She looked at me oddly and then nodded her head before walking off.

     I had screwed up for the third time that morning. So bad that the customer wanted to speak with the supervisor. Not only did I screw up the same customer's order twice, I somehow managed to put sandwich sauce on one girl's bagel, which was just gross. It was like I couldn't function properly, and it was pissing me off.

     "Zac, you okay, honey?" Nikki asked, as she placed donuts on the rack.

     After Nikki found out that Kayden and I had broken up, she'd been hovering around me the last two days, being all protective. I think she felt partially at fault for our breaking up. I knew she was not at fault, but sometimes I felt like blaming someone, and her name was the only one that seemed to pop up.

     "I'm okay, Nikki; just tired."

     "Bullshit," Jeff said as he brushed past me. He gave the waiting customer her coffee. We were slow at that time so he stuck around us.

     "I know you're hurting, Zac, but trying to force yourself to be happy isn't doing anyone justice. Why don't you take a week off from work -- you know, to relax? You can start again after Christmas."

     "I'm alright," I told them. "I just need to keep busy."

     They finally left me alone to get back to work. I knew the real reason why I had been screwing up all morning. I couldn't figure out Kayden. It made me hate him even more, but when I saw him at the follies the day before I forgot about my anger for a moment. I had thought his hold on me was gone, but I guess not.

[delete line]


     "You sure you're going to be alright?" Dad asked.

     "Yeah, the guys are coming by later with Jett's sister," I told him. "She's going to drop us here after the party. She won't be drinking, so don't worry about me; just have fun."

     "I really hate going to these parties. I'm the loner who just watches everyone have fun. I can't believe your grandma asked me to go for her," Dad bitched as he adjusted his tie.

     Grams is part of many organizations and groups. It happened to be a coincidence that one of the organizations she belongs to was having a large dinner in Whitby. She's a large contributor and she was expected to be there.

     "Well, she's in Vegas right now, right? She can't help it. Maybe you'll hook up tonight," I joked.

     "Quit teasing, kid," Dad answered gruffly, before smiling. "Did you open your present from Grandma?"

     "Yeah, some tacky sweater," I told him.

     It really wasn't that bad, but it had this weird coat of arms on the left breast and it looked like some kind of uniform sweater.

     "She made that. I had the same one when I was a kid. It's her family coat of arms, and she's really proud of it, so don't hate her for it. You got the other gift, too, right?"

     The other gift he was referring to was the four hundred dollars Grandpa gave me. He gave me a card with a cheque inside. He figured I might already have things he would pick out, so he gave me four hundred to spend on anything I want. It was a great gift, but gees, four hundred is a lot. Dad gave me a digital camera, and I loved it. He let me open my gifts a day ahead. We were not really in the Christmas spirit. We agreed that putting up a tree and decorating the house was too much for just the two of us. Usually, Dad and I make a large dinner for the both of us and watch a couple of movies. But this Christmas was different.

     "Yup!" I said, smiling.

     "Alright, then, have fun, kiddo," Dad said, heading for the door.

     "Later, Dad."

     As I walked into my room, the phone rang.

     "Hello?" I answered.

     "Hey, dude, it's me."

     "Hey, Jett."

     "Listen, Zac, the guys and I were thinking. Can you please try to talk your dad into letting you come to the party? I mean, the gang really isn't the same without you."

     "It can't be helped. Dad was asked to go to this party by Grams, and she promised her friends I would be there. I'm playing the guitar, you know? She told them I play, and now I gotta play some tunes with other kids I don't know. As long as I have the sheets I'm fine, though."

     I really hated lying to my best friend, but I really just wanted to be alone. I knew if I went I'd drag the mood down. I didn't want to do that.

     "Shit! So you really can't, huh? Man, you know this is like the first time we've escaped from family Christmas stuff, and it sucks that all four of us aren't together. Well, I guess it's not really four, anymore. We have more like seven, including Lenne."

     "Well, don't let me ruin the fun. You'd better have a blast, `cause I'm definitely going to try," I told him.

     "Okay, man, take care. I'll come by tomorrow and we'll do something."

     "No prob. Try to hook up."

     "Thanks, man."

     I sat on my bed, not knowing what to do. I saw my journal sitting on the edge of my table and so I reached out for it. I turned the radio on just to kill the silence.


** Friday, December 24th, 2001:

I'm lonely... I really thought maybe a miracle might happen... Kayden might come through those doors and say, "I was kidding." But it's not going to happen, is it? Were we really not meant for each other? Maybe we weren't...but then why do I feel this way? Why do I dream of him...why do I hear his voice wherever I go? Why does everything remind me of him...why can't I stop crying... I don't cry... Zac doesn't cry... But I really am crying...hurting. **

     I had to stop. My vision was already blurred because of the tears. I wiped my eyes and something glittered at the corner of my eye. It was the jewel Kayden asked me to keep for him. I picked it up and examined it.       

     I should probably give this back to him. He said it's something important.

     I looked outside and noticed the sky was clear. Really rare during winter. I had the sudden urge to look at stars. I carefully opened my window and took out the screen and dropped it on my bed. I grabbed gloves, a pair of shoes and my heavy, hooded parka from my closet. I stepped carefully onto the roof and made sure the shoes had grip. There was still some snow on the roof, but it wasn't too bad. We had had a heavy snowfall the day before, and the snow was semi-packed and fluffy. My room is over the garage but I never get scared of the height while I sit there on the garage roof. The worst that could happen was I'd fall incorrectly and break an arm and a leg. Dad hates the idea of me sitting on the roof, but he can't stop me, and he knows it.

     I lay on the cold roof, staring up. What I had thought was a clear sky was actually a partially clear sky. There were some clouds, and I could barely see stars. I didn't really think of anything as I gazed up at the dark sky.

     Suddenly, something struck me.

     Is this what I'm going to be doing for the rest of my life? Crying over one lost love? Get over it, Zac. Kayden is not coming back to you. He doesn't seem to care, so why should you?

     "But he was crying..." I heard myself say.

     I really couldn't understand why he was. Maybe Maya's song was just really sad. I cried too, but I didn't really know why.

     Realizing my butt was frozen, I decided to get up. "FUCK!" was all I could say as I started slipping.

     It all happened way too fast. I was on my back, breathing hard, my mind in a bit of a daze.

     Well, that happens when you fall off your roof, Zac.

     I couldn't believe I had fallen. I was actually shocked. I started to laugh, and stared up at the sky and thanked God it had snowed hard the day before. I figured I was at the side of my house.

     Must have slipped and slid off the side.

     It was actually pretty fun. If it weren't so life-risking I would have considered doing it again.

     This is probably why Dad worries about me sitting on the roof. Can't say I blame him. I could have died. Maybe that wouldn't have been too painful.

     I really didn't feel like moving. I stared at the sky and saw small flakes falling. I felt almost at peace. I closed my eyes and felt the flakes fall on my face and melt. Then, sudden thoughts of Kayden made me realize I couldn't just forget about him. I truly was in love with him, and it was all one-sided. Silent tears seeped from my eyes as I tried to stabilize my breathing.



     I opened my eyes. For a second I thought I heard someone calling my name. Pulling myself up, I looked out the window and watched the snow fall. Here I am sleeping my youth away. Or, maybe I'm preparing for the storm that's coming.

     Ever since I'd found out that Neil was after me, I'd really felt like I'd done the right thing. After breaking up with Zac I was able to find out a few things about Neil and his gang. It is true his sentence has been reduced, and since he was tried as a minor, he'll be closely monitored instead of going into adult jail.

     I also realized a plot was forming around me. I thought it was weird when a girl randomly approached me and started to talk to me. I didn't know her, but she asked quite a few questions. General questions that people wouldn't really pay attention to. I really had to think things through before I realized something was up.


     "So, where do you live?" the girl suddenly asked.

     I turned to her questioningly. "This is starting to get weird, isn't it? It's almost like..."

     "Like I'm a stalker?" She smiled amusingly.


     I noticed a guy watching us pretty intently. The girl also seemed to notice him.

     "Well, actually, he's my boyfriend. He asked me to do this. He said something about his cousin wanting to know some things. Really, can we just cut to the chase? He promised to take me out tonight. Either way, I can easily find out where you live. I just don't want to go through the trouble."


     I knew that the guy I ran into at the party for Shin was somehow still connected with Neil, but I didn't think he'd act so fast. It almost made me happy I broke up with Zac. At least if something does happen, Zac and his friends won't be involved.

     There are things I noticed after the breakup. I had thought I was having the time of my life with Zac and our friends. Now, I know there was always something bothering me about my life with them. A question seems to pose itself so freely in my mind since I saw Zac's tear-stricken face the last day of school before winter break. 

     "Were you really enjoying yourself?" it says.

     I had been really oblivious to it before. There's something in me. Something like ice that won't melt. It was always at the back of my head whenever I was with Zac and his friends. I sort of felt like an outsider, like no one knew who I was. How could they? I was trying to hide who I am and what I've done. I began to realize why I felt like I did when I was around them. It always felt like there was something wrong; like the calmness would be disturbed by something. It was like I didn't really feel anything, even when I laughed and had fun with my friends. It was like something was treading lightly on my heart. I began to fear in those days, but they're over, now. There are unyielding doubts in my heart. It was then I realized I truly am alone. Worries like those are always with me.

     Why did I feel like I did around Zac? After getting to know him, I realized what it was. Zac was content with himself. He didn't hold himself up high, arrogantly, like some people in my last high school. He didn't brag about what he had; he was himself. He always pushed ahead without any insecurity, like someone who chose everything for himself...a person clearly living his own life.

     Was I attracted to him because he is totally unlike me?

     Our first meeting left a great impression. At first I tried to be the guy I had been before I went to Toronto. After I met Zac I tried to be the kid I was when I was still back home. I wanted to know him. I wanted to know what he was thinking. Did he have any worries or uncertainties, like me?  Did he feel like he was isolated from the rest of the world? I wanted Zac. I wanted him to look my way. That boy...with unclouded eyes. It was the first time I had wanted something so clearly. It was the first time I fell in love...

     I felt my gut sink as a sickening feeling ran through me.

     A storm is coming.


     The party was brilliant. Not only was it classy, but also it had a great, festive feel to it. Nevertheless, I felt like I was constantly being watched. I was most likely the youngest person in the hall. Everyone was older; probably all of them were grandparents. The guests were mostly middle class to millionaires. You could sort of tell who was which.

     Drinks were served in the outer hall while the doors leading to the main dinner hall were still closed. This was where people gathered to brag about their accomplishments or where they had toured last spring. I knew I was pulling all sorts of stereotypes out of my ass, but what else was I supposed to think when people old enough to be my parents surrounded me? There were a few young faces, and I noticed one lady eye me once or twice as she sipped her drink. I wasn't out on a dating game, so I tried to just play everything cool and not send false signals. It probably wasn't a good idea to stare, because she suddenly got an amused look on her face. I couldn't help it; she was beautiful...just a bit on the materialistic side, but still doable.

     "Aren't you a little too young to be at one of these things? I thought I was going to be the only one under the age of forty here tonight." She smiled as she casually touched her face.

     I smiled kindly back at her. "I'm actually here to represent someone. She couldn't make it here this evening."

     "Oh, your wife is on a business trip?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

     "No, I'm single; I'm representing my mother." I felt like kicking myself after I told her that.

     "Your mother's on the council? That's excellent. Come this way; you must meet my mother. She helped organize this function and she probably knows your mother," she casually said as she took my arm to lead me.

     Sometimes I wonder how I manage to get into these things. There I was, at close to six-thirty, bored out of my mind and surrounded by rich aristocrats who laughed dryly. It really wasn't that bad, but it wasn't my thing. The girl, who I found out was named Emmy, was still clinging to my arm like a date. Several times I tried to walk away, but she always had more people to introduce me to.

     "So, what is Victoria up to these days?" an older woman asked as she turned to me.

     There were about ten in the little group I was with. I felt a few eyes on me. Envious people who wished they were my age and getting to know those CEOs, lawyers, doctors and other millionaires. They could have taken my place for all I cared. I wanted to keep a low profile, but leave it to mum to make a big impression on a group of people. The number of things she is very much involved in surprises even me.

     "She's with my father in the U.S. He had a deal to close in Las Vegas. They've lived in the U.S. for a while now, so I usually don't know what they're up to," I told them.

     "Victoria never mentioned she has a son," some guy said with a low drawl in his voice. I couldn't tell if it was genuine or fake. "You are far too young to be on your own. You couldn't be older than twenty-five."

     "I'm actually thirty-one," I smiled at him. The girl on my arm suddenly turned to me and I felt her grip loosen. "There are many people who survive on their own younger than even me."

     "I find that hard to believe," another man said. "I was leeching off my parents until I was twenty-eight. I had my own estate, but they were paying for it while I was attending Harvard. How can you enjoy life without money?"

     Well, man, my dad didn't really believe in pampering me past my childhood years. Unlike you guys...

     "What do you do, Mr. Hunter?" the host-like lady asked.

     "You know, a normal job. Nothing amazing like you people. It's enough to put food on the table."     

     By now Emmy's grip went completely loose and her hands fell to her sides. She was smiling, but it was a nervous smile.

     "It must be hard with a job like that," a man said with sarcasm. "Must be hard for your girlfriend." The group all laughed their stupid laughs. I felt like screwing with their minds a bit.

     "Oh, no, he's single," Emmy replied for me.

     "Really?" a tall lady smiled. "That's hard to believe. A gorgeous young man such as yourself, single? It's a crime."

     "It's true. I'm single. Just my son and me, actually," I told them.

     They stared at me for a moment or two as shock registered on their faces.

     Emmy was the first to react. "That's so sad... Was it a car wreck?"

     "It must be hard for the little one. Was he close to her?" another woman asked.

     I smiled. I had them by the balls and it was time to land the finisher. "Oh, no, Zac's already fifteen. His mother took off right after he was born."

     It took all I had to hold in everything. Their faces were priceless. I was afraid the host lady would drop her drink. I heard one of the men beside me whisper, "No wonder she doesn't talk about him."

     It was all too much; I was ready to burst into a laughing fit worse than Shin could ever do.

     A figure down the hall caught my eye.

     "I hope you people won't find it rude of me to break away for a bit. I just saw a close friend," I told them.

     I didn't wait for an answer; they just stood motionless, still shocked by what I'd revealed to them.

     That should be enough for them to gossip about. Serves Mom right...making me come to this stupid thing.

     "Kensuke!" I called out.

     The man turned to me and smiled broadly as he approached me. Kensuke is Shin's father. I was glad I had found someone I knew.

     "Mr. Hunter, I didn't expect to see you here!" Kensuke replied as he shook my hand.

     "Scott's parents are here, too, as well as Joanna," he told me.

     That really was quite a surprise, Jett's mum and Shin's and Scott's parents all at the same party.

     "That's quite amazing, isn't it?" I said.

     "It is. Come, we're all at the other side of the room. I had to go to the men's room. Lucky I did. You might have been stuck with some of these people," he joked.

     "I know what you mean. I'm sick of these doctors, designers, and CEOs. I just want to spend some time with normal people," I joked.

     Mr. Matsura saw right through my joke and laughed hard. Not quite like his son, but comparable. It was sort of an inside joke. Shin's dad is a doctor, Shin's mom is a housewife but also a clothes designer, and Scott's father is president of a company. His wife is basically his righthand man, or woman, but she's a stay-at-home mother. Oddly enough, she makes as many decisions about the company as Scott's father does. 

     Anna, Shin's mum, was the first one to notice me. "Kevin!" she said as she gave me a peck on the cheek. "You're looking as young as ever. How are you?"

     The rest of them greeted me in a similar way; a handshake, though, with Scott's dad.

     "You know me, still working," I told her. "I didn't know you guys got involved in these things."

     "You know the women, they enjoy these things," Rodney, Scott's father, said.

     Scott's mother, Katie, elbowed her husband playfully. "Quit playing; you're the one who dragged me here!"

     "Aw, shucks," Rod grinned, as all of us burst out in laughter.

     "Wow, looks like the fantastic four's parents are all united," I mentioned.

     Mr. Kendal looked around and turned back to me with a mischievous grin. "You can say that again. It's quite impressive. With the six of us alone, we have ages that range from the 20s old did you say you are, Joanna?"

     "Oh, stop it; I'm not that old," Mrs. Emerson giggled. She doesn't look a year over forty, but her eldest is already twenty-six.

     "And I'm not that young," I smiled at them. "It is amazing that our kids are all together. They even survived the transition from elementary to high school. Some kids break off into other groups at that point."

     "Well, I think we can all agree that our children are something else!" Anna proudly boasted, and we all agreed. "I Knew they were meant to be the best of friends the first time I saw the four of them together.

     Katie laughed cheerfully; she has the most amusing laugh. "Well, I'm just glad Scotty has your kids to watch out for him. He can be a handful. Remember what happened at that summer camp we let them go to?"

     "Oh, it's still fresh in my mind. When Shin told me he didn't want to go to baseball camp I almost had a heart attack," Mr. Matsura mentioned.

     "They got into so much trouble when we were called in," I said.

     Joanna had a sad, but at the same time happy, look on her face, as if the memories would were too much for her. "Boys will be boys. It's expected. They were all in tears when we got there. How could we have gotten angry at that?"

     "I must admit, it was Scotty's mischief that got them all into trouble. If he was half the troublemaker I was, he'd never have gotten caught!" Rodney beamed.

     Katie elbowed her husband again. "It's because you encourage him." 

     We all chuckled politely at their ruse, but I really wanted to burst out laughing.

     I always knew Zac depended on the other three. Their number of friends is increasing, but those four are the true musketeers.

     "I'm just really glad Zac has those three to be there for him. He really needs it right now. He's not in the best of moods," I mentioned somberly.

     Joanna had a sympathetic look on her face as she folded her hands in front of her. "I heard what happened. That Kade boy broke up with him. Jett doesn't seem to know what happened; he says Zac won't tell him."

     "Shin said the same thing. It was the first time I'd seen him get serious for a while," Shin's mother added.

     "I don't think any of them know. Zac probably doesn't want them to feel sorry for him. He always thinks of others. Has he said anything to you, Kevin?" Kensuke asked.

     I shook my head. "Not really. He always seems to switch topics. He's trying to appear happy, so that others don't think he's hurting. It might be because I'm his father, but I can see right through him...he's still hurting."  

     "I just can't believe Zac is the one who is gay," Rodney said.

     Shin's dad stepped in and sounded like he had something important to say. "I know! I was so sure it was going to be Shin. Remember, Ma, when we found him trying to wear your bra when he was five?"

     I think our laughs hushed the entire hall. I know people within a seven-meter radius turned towards us because of our disruptive laughter. They probably wanted to know what was so funny.

     Joanna wiped a tear from her eye. "Well, I think I can speak for all of us when I say nothing the boys could do would ever make me stop loving them, and I know you all feel the same way. Shin, Zac and Scott are also my sons." She raised her cup as if to give a toast to them.

     "Each and every one of them," Katie said, raising her cup.

     Everyone else followed, and we drank to it.

     "Well, Kevin? You're the 'cool' dad, so do you know of anything they're doing that they might be keeping from us?" Scott's father asked with a grin.

     "Well, you remember the Halloween dance? How old were you when you started drinking alcohol?" I began.


     I always knew I was the troublemaker among the guys. But I knew they all loved the rush we got, the same as I did. They just couldn't stand dealing with the consequences. I used to think Zac, Jett and Shin were pussies because I had to coax them to join in my fun, but that was way before I even knew what that meant. Now, I'd take a bullet for them. I knew Zac was hurting, and I'd take the bullet for him, but this one was invisible. Zac never did tell us why he and Kayden broke up, so I approached Kayden and I got my answer. I was surprised, but in a way I could understand his reasons. I chose to honor his wishes and not tell Zac or anybody.  If he trusted me that much, the least I could do was do the same for him.

     The party was great and all, but without Zac, the mood among our friends was kind of down. Maya stayed with me the whole time, but I could tell even she wasn't up to partying.

     The vibrating in my jeans scared the shit out of me, but then I coolly took out my cell phone and excused myself from the people we were sort of talking with. I headed outside as I answered it.


     "Oh, Scott, sweetie, your dad and I ran into Shin's parents and Joanna and Kevin. We might be home a little later, now. Is Jett's sister still driving you guys to Jett's place? She's not drinking, is she?" my mom asked in a loud voice. I could tell from the music in the background that she was at a pretty dull party, but she did sound happy.

     "Nah, she's fine. She's not drinking," I told her.

     "So there is drinking there?" she asked with a stern voice.

     Oh shit!

     "Scott, when you get home tomorrow we're going to talk," she said in her motherly voice.

     "Yeah...okay," I said, submitting to the trap.

     "I was just talking to Zac's dad. He's really happy you boys dragged Zac out with you tonight," she said happily.


     "Zac? I thought he went with his dad to that party."

     "Well, he's not here. His dad said Jett's sister was going to pick him up. You guys didn't forget about him, did you?"

     I was seriously pissed. Pissed at Zac, and pissed at myself.

     I tried to sound as calm as I could. "Of course not, Mom. Sorry, I were talking about someone else..."

     "You're not drunk are you?" she asked suspiciously.

     "Of course not!"

     "Alright then, have fun, sweetie, and don't do anything stupid."

     I hung up.

     "Guys, I need to tell you something," I said to my group of friends.

     They knew I was serious, because all of them put their drinks down and stood up. Some of the other people who had nothing to do with Zac just carried on their conversations.

     "What is it?" Jett asked seriously.

     "Not here," I said, as I turned my back on them.

     I led Shin, Jett, Mai, Maya, and Lenne to an empty room. In the first one we entered we found two people in a major make out session, so we went to another one.

     When I shut the door to drown out the noise, I began.       "Zac lied to us. He didn't go with his dad to a party."

     All of them were silent. No doubt they were shocked, but I guess they didn't know how to react.

     "What the fuck? I knew it!" Jett swore, as he agitatedly paced the room.

     "What are we going to do?" Maya asked.

     "What can we do? It's not like we can go to Zac and get mad at him for lying to us...I guess he just wanted some space. I think we should give it to him. Both Zac and Kayden need their space to get over everything."

     "What the hell does Kayden need to get over?" Mai said bitterly. "It's his fault to begin with, isn't it?"

     "How can you say that?" Maya said, sounding alarmed. "I agree Kayden did wrong, but he's suffering, too. I can't say anything else because I promised him I wouldn't."

     "All I said was I wouldn't tell Zac, but how can you feel sorry for him?" Mai asked, turning to Maya. "Zac was deceived; we all were."

     I looked with confusion at both of them. "I don't know what you guys are talking about, but I didn't think it was anybody's fault. If I had to point a finger, it'd be at Kade's parents," I told them.

     Mai asked me, "What do his parents have to do with anything?"

     It seemed pretty obvious to me. Kayden asked me not to tell anyone, but apparently we all knew some things, anyways.

     "His dad's getting promoted... It's not his fault he has to move," I told them.

     "Where did you hear that?" Mai asked, seeming confused but also worried. "Kayden told me he really isn't gay. He said he has a girl back in Toronto and was just playing around with Zac."

     "Whoa, wait one second," Jett jumped in. "What the hell is that about?"

     "This is weird," Maya said. We all turned to her as she continued: "Kayden told me he didn't want to trick Zac anymore. He told me that in his last high school he fell in love with a guy who looked like Zac, but he died. He said he didn't want to hurt Zac, but he knows Zac isn't his old friend. He said he couldn't stand to replace him...that it wasn't fair to Zac."

     "That's bullshit," I told her. "You believed that?"

     "It sounded far-fetched. Are you saying he lied to me?" Maya asked.

     "I think he's been lying to all of us," Shin mentioned. He had been pretty quiet the whole time, totally unlike him. He was actually serious.

     "Why the hell would he lie too all of us?" I asked. "And with different stories?"

     "Seems like we were played, for sure," Shin said. "He made up stories that would best settle our curiosities. He probably knew Scott wouldn't buy the story he told Maya. He was counting on us not to tell each other this stuff. Mai told me what Kade told her, but I found that story a bit weird."

     Everything seemed to fit into place, but that didn't explain why he would tell so many different stories, or why any of them would have anything to do with his breakup with Zac.

     "I know for a fact that he's keeping something from us," Jett said, with his arms crossed, "and I'm pretty sure it has something to do with some things he's done. He said I wouldn't be able to stomach what I ate for months if I knew the truth about him. I'm thinking that he feels like he's not worthy of Zac. But, even if he feels like that, what about this parents? He doesn't seem to be that close with them, but they can't be so shallow to just ignore him.

     "Speaking of Kayden's parents...have any of us ever met them? The only one who seems to have is Zac, but even he doesn't know much about them. Don't you think it's sort of weird that after more than three months we've never once met Kayden's family?"

     No one said anything. Lenne was sitting in the corner and didn't say a thing, but then she stepped up. "Well, don't you think you should get the story straightened out?" she asked.

     I thought that was the best damn idea I had ever heard.

     "I'm with you on that. That idiot had the nerve to lie to me!" Maya said angrily.

     "Me too. I'm going to give him a piece of...well, I already slapped him after he told me what he supposedly did, but I want to slap him again," Mai exclaimed.

     I turned to Shin, who looked at me. I turned to Jett, who did the same. We turned towards one another and nodded our heads. We knew what we had to do.

     "Hey, do you girls think you can wait here for us? We guys have a few things to say to Kayden," I said.

     " I want to go, too..." Maya said, a bit angry.

     "I know, Maya, but there's something that needs to be said, and I don't think Shin, Jett and I can truly say what we mean if you guys are there... We know Zac better, and...well, I don't know. We kinda feel like it's our right to do this."

     "You're saying this is a guy thing?" Maya asked.

     "Exactly," Jett nodded.

     "You think so, Shin?" Mai asked.

     "We'll be back soon. We won't leave you girls here all alone on Christmas Eve," Shin smiled.

     "You'd better not..." Mai said. "Fine. Lenne, Maya and I will wait here. You guys do what you have to do."

     "Well, okay, but I'll want to know what happens. And no blood or broken bones, you hear?" Maya said seriously.

     "Yes, ma'am," we all said together.

     The three of us were off. Lucky for us, Kayden's neighborhood was within walking distance. After just a few minutes we were nearing his house. None of us said much as we walked to Kayden's house, but I felt like I had to say something. We really had no plan.

     "Guys, lets play this by the ear, okay? Most likely Kayden will say something to really piss us off. Don't fall for it," Jett said.

     I nodded my head. I felt like I was about to say the same thing. Shin didn't say anything, which was really out of character for him. He hadn't seemed like himself in the past week. I think he was just feeling down, like the rest of us. That showed that even Shin is human; when his good friend is hurt and suffering, he suffers.

     When we got to Kayden's house all three of us reached out to press the doorbell button. We caught one another's expressions and we all smiled. Jett did the honours.

     Just before Jett pushed the button, Kayden opened the door, looking like he was heading out. All of us seemed to be surprised, and Kayden kind of jumped back.

     "What are you guys doing here?" he asked with some edge.

     I turned to Shin and Jett. None of us said anything. I had become a bit confused as to why we were there as well.

     "You guys need to leave...NOW!" he commanded.

     "We're not leaving," I told him.

     "Don't tell me Zac sent all three of you," he mocked. "I'll tell you what I told him. We're over. Just accept it and get over it. You all know the reason."

     "That's bullshit!" I shouted at him. Disregarding what Jett had said, I lashed out. "I'm not buying it. What the hell is going on? Why is Zac lying to us? He never lied to us before. He kept secrets from us, but never lied. What the fuck did you do to our friend?"

     He looked like he didn't know what the hell I was talking about. I was ready to crack my fist over his face.

     "You don't understand... Let's not do this now. You guys need to get out of here, please," he begged, as he tried to get past us.

     We didn't let him through.

     "Don't fucking start with me, Kade," Jett said angrily. "It's you who doesn't understand. You're so fucking lost you don't even know what to do, anymore. Come on, Kade; hit me. You did it to Ted, why not me?"

     Kayden's face changed. "Fuck you, Jett."

     "No, Fuck YOU," he swore back.

     "You don't know who you're messing with," Kayden said, his voice as cold as ice.

     As scary as he seemed, I didn't feel scared. "I think I have a pretty good idea."

     "Right now..."

     I turned around.


     "Right now, someone very important to me is hurting. So hurt he'd rather spend his Christmas Eve alone than be with his friends." Shin raised his head and I could tell he was so pissed it was scary. He was angry, but he also had tears threatening be break around his eyes. "I know you guys don't see me as the serious type, but right this moment, I'm making up for it. Are you going to tell us what's going on, Kade, or do I have to beat it out of you?"

     "Shin..." Jett whispered.

     I turned back to Kayden. The fucker couldn't even bring himself to look at Shin. Moments passed with none of us moving. Finally, Shin stepped forward. Shin is never the one to pick fights. He has only fought a few times, and that was when we were all involved. Other than our own childhood scuffles that were usually just play fighting, Shin kicked serious ass back in elementary school when Zac stood up for a kid named Brad Canning. We all did. Whoever screwed with Zac screwed with us. But this was the first time Shin was going to start something. I didn't really believe he would.

     Shin grabbed Kayden by the front of his shirt and shouted, "I'm warning you, Kade. Don't make me do this."

     I was thinking of pulling Shin back, but somehow I knew if Shin hadn't done that I would have been the one grabbing Kayden.

     The look Kayden gave Shin was the scariest glare I have ever seen. It wasn't like Maya's or anyone else's. I was sensing danger.

     Shin pulled back his fist and threw it at Kayden. He hit him across the face and Kayden fell back. Falling to the ground, Kayden grabbed his face to check the damage. He wasn't bleeding, but for sure his face was going to be swollen the next morning.

     "Get up. I'm not done with you!" Shin yelled, as he walked towards the fallen Kayden.

     Jett tried to stop him. "Shin! What are you..."

     I think I'm the one out of our group of friends who knows Shin the best. There was no way Jett was going to stand in his way.

     "Save it, Jett," Shin said to him. "I have this one. Well, Kade?  You going to say somethi-"

     Kayden's fist flew right at Shin's gut. I reached out and grabbed Shin before he could fall backwards.


     "Shin!" Jett shouted.

     "You fucking asshole!" I yelled. I was about to jump on Kayden, but Jett's arm grabbed mine.

     "Back off, guys!" Shin shouted as he got up. I think I even heard him chuckling a bit.

     "I went all out, Kade. I'm angry because I don't know why you'd hurt Zac like you're doing. I had to check something out. You act all cold, like you don't give a shit about us anymore, but you held back. There was nothing in that punch. Why?"

     No one said anything. I turned to Shin. I consider him my best friend, like Jett is with Zac. I've always known that Shin is smarter than he lets on, but I didn't know he was so calculating.

     I looked around and saw Kayden step back. There was a mask of confusion on his face. He had his hands open in front of him as he stared blankly at them.

     "Maybe I'm just throwing shit out of my mouth, but deep down, you still care about Zac, and the reason you pulled back is because you know he'd be upset to find out you kicked my ass. Why should you care? You already did the worst to him; why stop there?" Shin shouted.

     "You don't know anything," Kayden started again.

     "Really? Well, then, why don't you tell us?" Shin replied in a more gentle tone.

     Kayden was shaking as tears began to fall from his eyes. "Because you guys won't understand!"

     None of us moved, but suddenly Kayden looked up and the sadness on his face was replaced by a cold glare, but not at us. He was looking past us.

     "Who sent you?" he asked coldly.

     Shin and Jett turned to me, but then they looked past me. I turned around and saw why. There were about five guys walking towards us.

     One guy smirked as he crossed his arms. "I think you have a pretty good idea who. I thought you were supposed to be alone. That Cory guy was full of bullshit."

     "I knew you were coming. You could have done better at hiding your tracks. I know you guys have been looking for me for the past few weeks," Kayden said, calmly but dangerously.

     Kayden then turned to us. "You guys should go."

     "Is this why? This is the reason?" Shin shouted at Kayden. "Well, if we have your back, it's no problem, right?"

     "This isn't your problem; get the fuck out of here!"

     Jett exhaled mockingly at Kayden. "You don't get it, do you? You might have stopped being our friend, but we haven't given up on you, man."

     Suddenly my blood was boiling, but I couldn't help but smile. I turned to the punks before us. "You mess with Kade, you mess with us. Bring it, you punks!"

     I suspected some of them had knives, but it was like I didn't care. My plan was to beat the shit out of them before they brought them out.

     They came forward, and it was like that was the signal. Kayden flew forward, with Jett, Shin and me closely behind.

     They had more people, but suddenly I realized the four of us were hardly pushovers. Jett is massive, bigger than the largest guy they had. Three guys in their group showed muscle. The other two were wearing clothes that were too baggy for me to be able to tell.

     Kayden went after the head guy, or the guy who seemed to be the head guy. Kayden was pure speed and skill. He was so fast I was starting to think he wasn't human. Jett took off after the biggest one. Fight brawn with brawn and the stronger one prevails. I would really hate to be smacked around by Jett. He doesn't know any martial arts or anything, but still, I'd really like to see how any guy could walk properly after taking a direct blow to the head from someone like Jett.

     One of the two baggy-clothed guys tried to help his leader as Kayden smacked him around, so I took the other one for myself. I knew I couldn't take on the dude who fought Jett, so I obviously went after the weakest one. Weak he might have been, but damn, the guy pulled fast punches. Fast but weak. He caught me in the face and I didn't do anything but flinch and turn back at him. I grinned when I saw him starting to get scared. I felt a sharp pain in my side when the fifth guy kicked me pretty powerfully. It was totally unexpected, and it hurt quite a bit. As I turned to him, the guy I was fighting took the opportunity to jump on me. He was on my back smacking my shoulder with his fists. I didn't know why he didn't aim for the head. The moment he got on I was ready to throw him off. He was very light, and when I grabbed him I didn't think twice before slamming him down on the pavement. He latched onto my shirt, which ripped when he fell.

     "You fucker! This is my favorite shirt!" I yelled.

     I thought I heard Jett laugh, and from the corner of my eye I saw him wrestling with the ogre of the gangsters. It was a cheap shot, but I kicked my guy after I threw him down. I was really pissed. My aunt gave me that shirt!

     I was totally expecting the guy who kicked me to be on me instantly, but he never came. I turned to where I thought he was just in time to see a long wooden stick striking him. The stick kept coming down on him as he tried to protect himself from the blows. I couldn't help but grin. Shin is amazing at Japanese fencing. He constantly practices kendo and he owns about ten shinais. He was wielding a long, broken stick. I noticed the head of a rake a few feet away from him.

     You idiot! I could have used your help earlier, man...

     I really couldn't blame him. Shin isn't good with just fists. He needs a weapon. Anything similar to a sword is great. He probably grabbed the rake, broke it off and then jumped in.

     By the time I turned back to the first guy I had faced, he had taken off. He was running.

     The guy against Shin was trying hard to defend himself. He even drew a small blade, no bigger than a Swiss Army knife. I was actually starting to enjoy myself.

     Shin easily snapped the guy's hand, making him drop the knife. The stick then struck the guy across the face and he fell. Nice-guy Shin let the loser run off after he knew he was beaten. That left Jett and Kayden fighting the last three.

     Jett was landing blows to the huge guy's gut. The kid was probably more fat than actual muscle. He was really big, but Jett was faster and fiercer. Finally, the guy puked as he doubled over. Jett stepped back to admire his work. Like Shin and me, he was grinning.

     We turned to Kayden. Ever believe the martial arts movies you watch? I thought those moves were bullshit, but damn, Kayden can fight. He was easily taking on two guys. At one moment I though a fist was definitely going to hit him from behind, but he turned around just in time, drew in the punch and picked up the guy by the arm. I know that judo is all about shifting your weight and rotational momentum, so I know that whatever Kayden did was preformed flawlessly. I was really impressed. The guy sort of gasped and yelled as he fell. Quite a scene.

     The other guy was about to take off, but Jett blocked his way.

     "You tell this to Neil," Kayden said as he stepped toward the guy. "If he wants to come after me, tell him to do it himself. If he wants to take me on, tell him to pick a place and a time and I'll see him to it."       

     "Whatever... You'll regret this, asshole!" the guy spat.

     Kayden walked up and landed a punch to the guy's teeth. The guy fell as he clutched his face, screaming. It looked really painful.

     I looked up at Kayden, ready to question whether that was necessary, but his eyes stopped me. They were not the blue eyes I thought he had. They surely were grey. In the dim light from the streetlights they looked like they were glowing.

     "You think I'll let you off that easy? I'm just telling you this now before I kick your ass. You won't be in any position to listen after I'm done with you."

     I was scared. I couldn't move, but I wanted to stop Kayden.

     Jett grabbed Kayden from behind. Maybe Jett had seen those eyes before and the sight didn't scare him as much as it did with me, because he did it so casually, as if he didn't see the eyes.

     "Stop it, man. Let him go. He's had enough."

     I thought Kayden was going to deck Jett. I would have been all over him if he had. Instead, though, Kayden closed his eyes and turned around. His face fell onto Jett's chest as he started to shake. I heard little gasps from him, and I knew he was crying. Jett just supported Kayden and wrapped his arms around him.

     "I have you, man. You don't have to fight by yourself anymore...we're here for you," Jett whispered.

     "Get the fuck out of here!" I yelled at the three remaining guys. "Leave, before I call the cops. It'll take them at least ten minutes to get here, and during that time I'll have fun kicking your asses!"

     The big guy took the hint and helped his friend up -- the guy who had gotten his face smashed in by Kayden. They slowly walked away.

     I couldn't hear what Kayden was saying, but damn, did he sounded pitiful.

     The whole fight might have lasted only a few minutes. It went by way too fast. It was close to eight. We headed into Kayden's house. Kayden was a mess. I was hoping that by then he had understood what real friends are. I wasn't pleased by what Kayden had done to Zac, but I was starting to put things together.

     "This has something to do with Toronto, doesn't it?" I asked.

     Kayden was sitting on the sofa as the three of us stood in front of him. He had calmed down a bit, but he was emotionally wrecked at the moment, probably because he hadn't expected us to fight for him. It must have been too much for him.

     "Kade, where are your parents? Are they coming home soon? Sorry about the rake thing outside. I don't know if it's yours or your neighbors, but I'll pay for it," Shin said.

     "Don't worry about the rake," Kayden said. Why there was a rake outside in winter, I can never guess, but that didn't matter. "And don't worry about my parents. I live here alone."

     I looked at Shin when Kayden said that. There was no look of surprise on his face. I know the guy's smart, but damn, he can read people like a book. And I had thought he was just a joker...

     "Think you can tell us what's been happening?" Jett asked after a moment.

     "You guys will hate me..." he began.         

     "Kade...let us be the judge of that. What do you have to lose now?" I asked him.

     He hesitated for a moment as he closed his eyes. "I put someone in jail, and he's after me. I'm doing this to protect Zac! To protect you guys!"

     "When did this start?" Jett asked.

     "A while ago. You should know something... I'm a runaway."

     A considerable amount of time later, Kayden was wrapping up his story, which included what had happened to his friend Sean. It was pretty amazing. I wondered if he was lying, but what do you say to a guy who is remembering a friend he couldn't save?

     "After Zac went to the hospital, I found the guys who jumped you. I knew where to find them. I made it clear to them that if they ever screwed with me again, I'd have them arrested, but those guys we just fought are not the same ones. It's not like they're in a huge gang or anything...I don't think. Those guys probably owed Neil a favor. Only one of them pulled out a knife. All of them are around our age. They weren't that dangerous.

     Yeah, right. You're the one who was least hurt.

     Actually, Shin was the least hurt. I didn't know how Jett was holding up. He took some blows but I didn't think they hurt him too badly. I probably took the worst beating.

     "We need to call the police," Jett said.

     "No...we can't," Kayden told him flatly.

     "Man, unless you bring in the police they'll keep coming after you," Jett said.

     "If you call the police they might figure out I'm a runaway..."

     "What about the police in Toronto? How did you get by them?" I asked.

     "I told them it was just some random guys who were trying to mug us. I gave fake descriptions. I even gave them a fake name. As far as they're concerned, it was an insolated incident. Without a lead they can't do anything. They tend to never follow up."

     "Oh, I see," I replied.

     "Are they going to come back?" Shin asked.

     Kayden released a sigh. "I don't know."

     "Well, now that we have your back, they might back off," I joked. "You said they're just punks. I doubt they'll want to start any shit again."

     "Don't you guys get it? You're in danger if you stay near me. Same with Zac!" he yelled.

     "Is that why you pushed him away?" Shin asked as his eyes narrowed. "You're doing it again."


     "You're trying to deal with all this shit by yourself. You think this is only your problem. So what if this Neil guy is after you. Even if he is, you think you can take him by yourself? He has the advantage; he'll know where to find you and you won't see it coming. He'll have the pre-emptive strike," Shin said, getting more and more excited.

     I had to step in. "Okay, Shin, you're at your limit of play too many RPGs, man. Sit your ass down." I grinned. Shin grinned back but he did what he was told.

     "Kade, what Shin is trying to say is that you can't decide that on your own. You owe it to Zac to let him make his decision, too. You might not want to put his life in danger, but he might want it that way, for your sake. And we're not just going to sit around and let our friends be targets. We're friends. We care about you, Kade. You're part of us, whether you like it or not."


     "What?" Jett asked, raising an eyebrow.

     "Why would you put your life on the line for me? Don't you guys hate me? I caused all this shit to happen around Zac. I hurt him bad. Jett, I know for a fact you hate me!" Kayden argued.

     "Hey, I didn't say I hated you. I just didn't trust you. You kept hiding shit from us, so what else was I supposed to think? Don't try to change the subject. We're not only doing it for Zac," Jett fought back.

     "Yeah, we actually happen to like your white ass," Shin grinned. "Mai was so mad because of what you supposedly did. She kept saying that wasn't the Kade she knew. She's right; you're not like that. So, stop treating yourself like shit."

     Kayden lowered his head. He started to shake. He looked really vulnerable, and I felt like it was my place to sit beside him and put an arm around him. Nothing sexual; I'm not gay. But I knew Zac would want me to. Unfortunately for me, Shin and Jett were thinking the same thing, and Jett made it first.

     Jett put an arm around Kayden, who sort of flinched for a second from the contact. "I must say, I am a bit surprised, but now at least I know where you're coming from. I understand what you did, but it's not right, Kade. Zac needs you...and you need Zac. When was the last time you smiled?"



     Why couldn't I see it before? What was I scared of? This was too much. I needed some space. I was glad they took the hint. They left, but not before each of them put an arm around me and told me they weren't giving up on me. They said something along those lines. But this was too much. Why do they trust me? I betrayed them. I lied and I tricked them, but they were still willing to accept me.

     Scott's words probably had the biggest impact on me. He said before they left:

     "Think about your friend Sean. You didn't need to care for him. You just did, because you're a good person. Are you saying no one has ever done anything for you? Just like you wanted to protect Sean and be his friend, we want to protect you. You're our friend, man; you complete Zac, and you add colour to our lives. I could really get used to these monthly scuffles. I might have gotten my ass whooped a bit, but this night was the best night I've had in the past few weeks. I really enjoyed fighting with you. It was actually really fun."

     I didn't think I was having fun. I was very much set on the idea of killing those guys. Still, in the middle of the fight, I sensed something different between Shin, Scott and Jett, and myself. They were having fun. If it weren't for them, I might have done something I would later regret.

     I still didn't understand why they would put their lives out for me. Their reasons sound honest enough, and I saw golden proof that night. If they were to tell me this before the fight, I might have laughed in their face. They know now...but just like Zac, they didn't care.

     Do I belong with these people? They seem too great to be true...I'm not good enough for them...


     I'd just had about enough of Mr. Sergeant. Kayden and I were not talking, still, but Mr. Sergeant just kept laying it on him, right in front of the class. I could feel the sympathy that went out to Kayden at those moments. Everyone hates our religion teacher, but no one had the balls to say anything.

     "Why don't you just back off!" I yelled.

     The entire class turned to me as I slammed my fists on the desk and stood up.

     Mr. Sergeant looked at me as if I had run over his favorite cat.

     "Zac, sit down! This does not concern you. Just sit down and shut up!" he yelled.

     "Who the hell do you think you are?" I yelled back. "You think I'm going to do as you say because I'm scared of you? Well, I've got two words to say on behalf of myself and the class: FUCK YOU!"

     I swear, the moment those words came out of my mouth the entire class erupted in cheers. I couldn't really remember why Mr. Sergeant was shouting at Kayden again. I had been sort of sleeping, but I felt sorry for him. I don't even know why I reacted the way I did. I guess I really did still have feelings for Kade.

     Before I knew it, I was sitting in the main office while I overheard Mr. Sergeant ranting off complaints in Mr. Liscombe's office. Kayden and I were dragged down so fast it was almost comical.

     " dad is going to have a cow!" I said, trying to break the ice between Kayden and me.

     At first he just stared at the tiles and didn't say anything.

     "Thanks..." he whispered.

     I grinned big and hard. Finally! Words!, at least.

     "No problem," I replied.

     Things were still weird between us, but at least he wasn't ignoring me.

     "So, how have things been for you?" I asked all of a sudden.


     I sat back and sighed. "Yeah, same for me..."

     We sat quietly as Mr. Sergeant carried on and on. We heard every word, and we knew he was making up some bullshit story to get us into more trouble.

     "Hey, do you ever think about us?" Kayden asked. "I mean...what we were?"

     Before I knew what the question was, I had already answered. "All the time."

     "Kind of makes you wish you could turn back time, huh?" he said.

     "Kade, stop teasing me, man. You made your point. I'm trying to forget, okay?" I said angrily.

     "Sorry," he whispered. "Really, I am. I was hoping we could...maybe start over..."

     I couldn't believe he said that. I turned to him, confused. "What?"

     "Can we start over?" he asked again.

     "Yeah...I'd like that," I told him.

     I couldn't believe I gave in just like that. After all the shit he'd put me though, he wanted me back, and I crumbled at his feet. How pathetic am I? But it's not like I could deny him. He was smiling at could I say no? All of a sudden I forgot the reason we had broken up in the first place.

     "Zac, Kayden? Mr. Liscombe will see you now," the secretary said.

     We got up and together walked into the principal's office.


     "Zac! Zac! Wake up, man!" I yelled, trying to wake him up.

     The guys and I had gone to Zac's house to confront him about lying to us. We rang his doorbell like fifty times, but he didn't answer. The front door was locked, but we know where Zac's dad hides the house key in their backyard. We were going to get through to Zac one way or another. When we went around his house, the motion-detector light on the corner of the garage came on, showing Zac on his back on top of a pile of snow.

     "Shin, get the key! We need to take him in. He's going to freeze," I yelled out.

     It was actually not too cold for the night before Christmas, but I didn't want to take any chances. I didn't know how Zac had gotten outside, but I was worried he would have hypothermia or get pneumonia.

     As I picked Zac up, Scott freaked out.

     "Holy shit, Jett! There's blood!

     I looked where Scott pointed and sure enough, there was blood where Zac's head had been inside the hood of his parka. The hood had fallen back when I picked him up. There wasn't a lot of blood, but any blood was still a bad sign. I looked up at the roof. If he had slipped and fallen, for sure his head would have grazed the edge.

     "Scott, call an ambulance. Shin, get the door open. Call Zac's dad, too, after the ambulance, Scott," I said to them.

     I was trying not to panic, but I was freaking out. I was carrying my best friend and I couldn't tell if he was dying or not. He was breathing, but I didn't know what to do.

     God, Zac... Please don't die...


Hey! What's up. So, I've been like really busy. Haha. No threats to editor Aaron, he and the crew have been battling sickness for a couple of weeks. Glad he's back. So anyways, I hope this chapter isn't too much of a cliffhanger.

Yeah, Zac might be hanging from a thread at this point, but yeah, it's a good place to leave off. Like the Chapter? I hope you did. Give me a shout and tell me about it^^.

So exams starts soon. Begins in April for me, but guess what! I have the best exam schedule ever! Since I did some summer courses, I managed to offset my course load by one course this semester. Add to that a final project instead of an exam, plus a course with no exam, and what do you get? Only 3 exams!!! Muahhahaha. Alright! I'm done by the 13th of April. Wish me luck dudes, I'll be needing it this semester. (Damn Continuum Mechanics- WTF is a tensor! Been studying this crap for 4 months, I still don't know what it really is!)

Enough banter. For the sake of being bitter during exam period, I'm making you all suffer by holding out on you the last chapter. If I gotta suffer, so do all of you!!! Nah...jokes, it'll be done prob a month from now anyways. Sorry to make you all count the days, but, stay tuned!


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