Never Too Far Away
Time Stood Still

Disclaimer: This story involves love, relationship, and "adult" subject matter between teenage boys... so I guess that means your not supposed to read this if your under 18, but really if you are younger than that, I can't stop you. Just Don't Get Caught :)  If homosexuality offends you, then leave, or join the 21st century, and open up to it.

This Is FICTION... any character resembling a real life person is by coincidence, and in the rare event a character is based on someone in real life their name has been changed due to legal and personal protection.  You never know who's lurking around reading this. So now the little spiel is over so hopefully you'll enjoy this.  Do Not Reproduce this story, and if you would like to have it on your web site, email me & get my permission. Thanks. Copyright © Jaded Edge Productions


Chapter 6
Still Standing

"How have you been feeling the past week?  Where are you at mentally and emotionally?" A man in his mid thirties walked casually over to one of the book cases and removed a large, hard covered book.  He flipped it open and seemed to scan over something nonchalantly, before snapping it shut.

I looked up at him from my seated position.  One of the reasons I respected my psychologist was his straight shooting style.  I wasn't going to counseling sessions to play someone's sugarcoated head games.  Sometimes I had to pull the Blade card and defy his tactics, but for as much of a fight I would put up at times, he would give it right back.  For the few months that I had been seeing Dr. Andrew Davis, I feel as though I've made some steady progress from the rock bottom that I had hit during the holidays.

"I've been pretty good this week.  I think I've been so occupied that I haven't had time to think about much of anything."

"That's good.  Distraction is one of the solutions we've been talking about for the past few months.  On the other hand, you do have a tendency to think too much.  What about your sleeping habits?  Are you still feeling restless?"

I hesitated briefly, but knew that even a slight action such as that was going to give him something to prod about.  "I've been sleeping okay.  I've been working out a lot, so my body is ready to shut down afterward."

"And when you don't workout before bed?"  I slightly rolled my eyes at him, while he waited for my response.

"My mind goes elsewhere and I can't sleep."

"When was the last time this happened?"  I defiantly remained silent, apparently today was not one of my more cooperative days.  I felt a slight nudge in the side and shifted my gaze to the right of me.

"Last night..."  Tyler spoke wearily, yet firmly.

"Traitor," I muttered under my breath.  Tyler's eyes looked up briefly to meet mine.  He smiled softly, and I smiled back letting him know I was teasing.  I put a hand over his hands to calm his nerves.  He smirked at me before pulling his hand back and starting to fidget in his seat.  For some reason Dr. Davis made him nervous.

Dr. Davis scribbled on his notepad looking at the two of us briefly, "What were you thinking about last night that had you worked up?"

I winced inside, knowing that the interrogation wasn't going to go anywhere until I had answered.  "Well.. I guess I was thinking about Joey."

"Mmhmm.  Go on."

"I just.. miss him, you know?  We've been over this a thousand times and I thought I was doing fine with it.. I am.. doing fine with it.  It was just a lapse of willpower."

"Blade, if you don't' tell me the truth then what is the point of you coming here?  So, let's cut the fat out of this story and get to it shall we?"

Dr. Davis liked to play it cool for awhile, before sending his full on assault at you.  I think he gets some kind of perverse pleasure from it.  "Fine.  It's been a year since I brought Joey here. In a couple of months it will be the anniversary of  his death.  It's not my mind that can't wrap around that fact.  It's the pain in my heart that won't leave it alone."

"Blade, the problem isn't in your heart.  The problem is you can't get over his death because you still blame yourself for it happening."  I remain silent, feeling Tyler's gaze upon me.  "Blade, do you know why I recommended that you not stay at an inpatient center?"  I shook my head, "Because there are two types of people who come in here.  Those who go back to their lives and fight for what makes them who they are, and those who don't.  The fact is you need to be you.  You need to be out there being that guy that you have always been because in reality no matter what you think, you are as strong as you've made yourself out to be.  Just because you have moments of weakness, does not make you any less the man that you are meant to be.  When you let the demons inside of you continue to eat away at your soul, then you head down the path of destruction.  That's what makes people drunks, drug addicts, or even worse put a gun to their heads and pull the trigger."

I held the Dr's gaze, feeling a little angry at his implications.  His forwardness, even though it was expected, caught me off guard.  "I've never tried to end my life."

"I didn't say you had.  I didn't say you wouldn't have either."  He defies my remarks without so much as a faltering glance, "You're a talented young man, Blade.  You have made a lot of progress since the first time we met.  I don't want you to let it all slip away because of guilt that you can't let go of.  I'm sure Joey wouldn't have wanted you holding onto this, and I know he wouldn't blame you because it was not in any way, shape or form your fault.  >From what I've put in your file, it's a given that you draw your strength from those around you.  It's when you let yourself start taking on the world by yourself that you falter."

"I understand that.  I can't just forget what happened either."

"No one said you can forget it.  You just have to see it for what it was.  A tragic accident, that was going to happen no matter if you were there or not."  I nodded quietly, knowing he was right.  He was getting paid the big bucks after all.  "And what about you and Tyler?"

"What about us?"

"Has anything changed between the two of you since the last time we met?"  Apparently the Dr is not fucking around this session.

"I don't know if anything specific has changed.  I mean, if you're asking if we are a couple, then the answer is no, we're not."

"Yet, your body language with each other gives off the impression that there's more to it than just friendship."

"Well, I mean, you know our history.  We've always had a higher connection with each other than just regular friends.  Tyler has been by my side since Christmas, and without him I know I wouldn't have made it half as far as I have."

Tyler spoke up, "I guess what he means is, even though we have this.. connection, it's not the time to try to take it to the next level."

The counselor took a seat across from us and took off his small glasses, "To be honest with you guys, I can see the love there.  I understand that you're both scared, of the trials and tribulations that could arise from reconciling your relationship, but part of love is fighting for it.  If you live in fear of present with each other, how can you ever expect to have a future?"

I smiled briefly, "Are you trying to play matchmaker Doc?  Are you making a play for Dr. Phil's job?"

Dr. Davis chuckled at my teasing, "No, Blade.  I'm just giving you my professional opinion.  I think you guys are great for each other, and sometimes you have to just push past the fear then go for it."

"I know, but I'm not ready.  That's not just something I can hide."

"If you were ready, would you and Tyler be together?"  I sat back in my seat, letting the impact of that question hit me.  I furrowed my brow and thought about it when Tyler spoke up again.

"Dr. Davis, I don't think that's really the best question to ask right now..."

"I'm a straight shooter.  No secrets are to be kept in this room, and the question can be thrown your way as well, Mr. Pierce."

Tyler looked down at his hands again, biting his lip out of habit.  I smirked and shook my head at how timid he seemed to get when we came to this office.  It was his choice to come with me, I was the one with the problem not him.  "I was once told that you can't predict the future by this one guy.. I think he was a psychologist of some sort... what was his name.. uh.."  I teased Dr. Davis again.

He laughed and held his hands up, "Okay, okay.  You win this round.  Don't blame me if you guys start dating other people and complicate what could be so simple.."

"We're not in a relationship, so it's fine to date other people.  I want Tyler to be happy, and I know he wants me to be happy.  For now, we're happy with how our friendship is.  We're closer than we ever have been, and there's no relationship to complicate any of it."

"Do you agree with him, Tyler?"

"Yeah.  I mean, it seems a lot easier being friends.  I mean.. I don't know.."  Tyler stopped speaking to go back to biting at his lip.

"Mmm hmm.  You're both in denial.." DING.  The timer for the hour went off signaling the end of our session.  I stood up, quickly followed by Tyler.

"Always have to get the final word in, don't you?"  I shook the therapist's hand and he smiled.

"That's my job.  I'll see you in a week."

Tyler and I walked out of the office and out into the sunny afternoon that was a staple in Southern California.  I hopped into the driver's side of my car and Tyler stepped into the passenger side, and we started on our way.

A comfortable silence fell over us, and continued through out most of the ride.  I occasionally would take quick glances over at Tyler and he would be looking back, but no words were spoken.  A short exchange of smiles was all that was needed between the two of us.  Our friendship had come back together so fast and so strong that it seemed like we didn't even need the words anymore.  We were connected on an unspoken level.

When I showed up on Tyler's doorstep on Christmas day I didn't know what to expect.  I didn't really know much of anything at that point.  I didn't even remember how I had managed to get myself to his house or leaving the cemetery.  All I knew was I needed the comfort that only one person could give me at the time and that was Tyler.  Even after everything that had gone down between us, he still stepped up and took care of me without a second thought.  I was pretty much laid up in his bed for a few days because of the physical toll I had brought upon myself and the mental anguish that was driving me to the edge.  I cut my hands up pretty bad as a result of boxing with a tree, but to me those were the minor wounds.

The emotional wounds that had inflicted themselves upon me over the last year and a half finally caught up to me.  Everything from Joey's death, to my heart break over Tyler, to the final straw... Chance being taken away.  I'm not over it.  Any of it.. not by a long shot.  But over the past few months I have made a lot of progress and that's all that I could ask of myself.  Tyler talked to me about everything, and it helped, but when he was part of the problem in the first place, it complicated things.  So, reluctantly I decided that I needed to talk to a professional, and that's when I started to visit Dr. Davis on a weekly basis.  The problem was, by admitting to myself that I needed help dealing with myself, I knew that I couldn't handle the responsibility of taking care of someone else.

My eyes flickered slightly as my mother's house came into view.  I could feel the nerves in my stomach build up and twist inside, but I tried to swallow them back down.  I pulled into the drive way and parked the car, then took a moment to close my eyes and just breathe.  I felt a gentle touch brush against my face and my eyes opened.  Tyler was leaning over the console, looking at me with a softness in his eyes.  He ran his hand over my cheek, turning my head so I was facing him.  I looked into his eyes and knew he knew what was going on in my mind.  Our foreheads came together and our noses touched softly.  His breath swept over my lips as he started to speak, "I'm here okay?"  I nodded the best I could with our close contact, "There's nothing to be nervous about.  You'll be fine, and so will everyone else."

"What if he resents me..?"

"Blade, he's four.. he isn't going to hold a grudge against you.  He loves you, you're his father.  In a way you did this for him."

"I'm just scared.  Scared to go back to life.  Scared to go back to the responsibility.  I don't know if I can do it on my own."

"You won't have to.  You're not on your own, not this time."  I gazed into his eyes and smiled.  He grinned and ran his hand through my hair, before pulling away.  I sat back in my seat for one more moment, then opened the car door and stepped out.

Tyler stepped up to the door first and rang the doorbell.  I stood beside him and waited anxiously, bringing my hand up toward my mouth, going to bite my nails out of nervous habit, but he playfully swatted my arm back down.  I gave him a look of mock anger, but couldn't help but smirk at him.  The door swung open quickly, and Erik popped into view. He smiled widely, then out of nowhere lunged at me, wrapping his arms around my neck.  I smiled and hugged him back, all of my nerves suddenly vanishing.  "Happy to see me?"

Erik's grin grew wider, "I thought you would have already figured that out."  He hugged me again, then stepped back.  "Hey, Tyler."

"Hey handsome," Tyler's comment caused Erik to blush.  "How come you don't call me anymore?  Too busy with all of your little girlfriends to be bothered with talking to me huh?"

Erik laughed, "Shut up.  You can call too.  Besides, you're the one that's bailed on my guitar lessons the last two weeks.  And I don't have a lot of girlfriends.. just four or five.."  Tyler swatted at him as they both snickered.  I looked on, amused, but slightly uneasy.  Jealous in a way.  Tyler and Erik had become close during my absence, and it was a little hard for me to accept that I had missed out on so much.

I patted Erik on the shoulder, then let him continue talking to Tyler as I stepped inside of the house.  The living room was empty, but I could hear the faucet running in the kitchen.  Mom was washing dishes, doing her cleaning thing as usual.  She didn't notice me come in, so I walked up behind her and put my hand on her shoulder.  She jumped, startled by the sudden presence.  She turned around and saw me.  She smiled at first, then brought a hand up over her chest, and took a breath.  She then proceeded to smack me in the arm.  "Don't scare me like that!"

I laughed, then gave her a hug, "Just keeping you on your toes."

She squeezed me tight, then backed away, "How are you doing, Blade?"

"I'm okay.  Well, I'm making my way toward being normal again, so yeah.  I'm okay."

"You look thin, are you not eating right?'

I rolled my eyes, "Mom..."

"Don't Mom me.  You know if you haven't been taking care of yourself I'll find out."

"Oh and how are you going to do that Miss Chleo?"

"I'll just ask Tyler."

"Tyler's on my side, he won't squeal."

"Is that right, Tyler?"  I turned around to see Tyler leaning against the kitchen door frame with an amused look on his face.

"Well, I can't lie to you Mrs. Stevens.."

I narrowed my eyes at him, "Traitor times two."  He threw his hands up in surrender, "Besides, I eat fine.  Do you really think that you're informant would let me get away with not taking care of myself?"

My mom put on a thoughtful look, "Hmm, you do have a point."

"Okay then. I win.  Moving on.."

"I see your counselor didn't cure your illusion of always being right."

"That's because you can't cure a problem that isn't there," I smiled widely and ducked as she swatted at me with a dish cloth.  "You're getting old, woman.  Can't keep up with my cat like reflexes."  I snickered and ran for the doorway.  Tyler stood in my path, smiling mischievously.  "Oh, so that's how it's going to be?  Two on one.. okay then, I guess I'll just have to.."  I ran right at Tyler, then grabbed him around the waist, before hoisting him over my shoulder and moving into the living room.

He struggled, giggling, while I tossed him down onto the couch.  Erik sat on the same couch and looked next to him at Tyler, then up at me, "What's with the doll tossing?"

I laughed, "Him and mom decided to gang up on me, so.."

"OH! Well, thanks for the new cushion.  This seat was getting kind of uncomfortable," Erik proceeded to get up and pounce on Tyler's prone form.  He sat there on top of him and acted as if it was natural, "This is much better."  I laughed at him and watched Tyler try to wiggle his way out from under him, but Erik was having none of it.  I heard a voice come from up the stairs, and my head turned in that direction.  I turned back to Erik who just winked at me and nodded his head in the direction of the stairway.  I smiled slightly and then made my way upstairs.

I stopped outside of my old room and peered inside.  It was completely different than when I had lived in it.  Apparently Eric had moved his stuff into my room, because it was all over the place.  Not to mention the faint smell of sex still lingered in the air.  Definitely a sign that Eric was there recently.  I shook my head and snickered, then walked over and opened up the windows to let the room air out.  I then heard the voice yell again, and made my way toward Eric's old room.

I stood in the doorway and peered inside.  A video game was on the screen and apparently the computer was winning the battle.  My eyes traveled to the bed where Cameron jumped around, and mashed away at the buttons on his controller.  He yelled again at the screen in frustration, before ultimately he lost the battle and his character died. "Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"  He dropped the controller on the ground and fell back on to the bed in dramatic fashion.

I knocked on the door softly, letting my presence be known.  His head popped up and snapped toward the direction of the door.  His eyes locked onto me as he sat up, crossing his legs indian style on the bed.  He looked at me, seemingly unsure of what to do.  His eyes shimmered in the light, but the look of uncertainty on his face was obvious.  I slowly walked toward him and then kneeled beside the bed.  "Hey Cam..."

He looked down at the bed as he spoke, "Hi.."

I brought a hand up to his face and lifted his chin.  "Are you mad at me?"

He shook his head, "No.."

"I missed you."

"Are you gonna be my daddy again?"  The question was innocent enough, but it stung me deeply.  I pulled myself up onto the bed and put an arm around his little body.

"I'll always be your daddy, Cameron.  Nothing will ever change that."  I kissed the top of his head and he giggled.  He wriggled free from my grasp and hopped off the bed.  He picked up his game controller, then grabbed the companion controller and brought it over to me.

"Will you play with me?"

I smiled, "Yeah," I paused, then decided to tease him, "Just don't get mad when I beat you."

His eyes opened wide and a look of shock took over his face, before he recovered and growled, "Grrrr..."

I laughed and ruffled his hair, then the game was on.  I spent more time watching Cameron than the actual game while we played.  The feeling of guilt inside was replaced with one of pride as I watched the small life that had been given to me.  I knew in that moment that there was nothing in the world that could make me give up.  I could thank my angel for that.  Joey had left me one thing that would always be ours.. a son..

UCI Campus...

"And for homework this evening, read chapters 9-12, then go over the questions at the end of each of them.  You will not be required to have written answers, but be assured that the subject matter will be on the test at the end of the week."  The students groaned, letting their obvious dislike for standardized tests be known, "On that note, I bid you all adieu until Tuesday.  Dismissed."

The sounds of rustling school supplies being packed up filled the room, followed shortly by the commotion of a class room full of students rushing for the exit.  Unlike the other students, one seemed to be zoned out from the rest of the world, as his eyes remained glued to the text in the book, absorbing the material to the best of his ability.

"Kai," Kai jumped a little, startled by the sudden intrusion on his thoughts, "I appreciate your enthusiasm, but class is over, which means get out of my classroom."  Kai looked up and grinned sheepishly at his professor, who grinned back at him.

"Sorry, Professor."  Kai closed his book and tucked it into his backpack.  He was never a great student in high school, at least not when it came to obeying his teachers.  Academically he was in the top ten percent of his class, but his sarcastic personality got him in trouble more often than not.  With college, he seemed to have pushed the sarcasm aside.. at least until he met a professor that he didn't care for.

"It's all right, son.  I wish more of my students enthralled themselves willingly into their studies as you do.  It's a great quality, and one that will take you far on your way to getting your degree.  I hope to work with you someday, I've had the pleasure of working with your mother, and I know that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree."

Kai stood up and stretched, before slinging his backpack over his shoulder, "Well, I'm excited about following in Mom's footsteps, hopefully I can keep up with all of the work."

"I'm sure you'll be just fine.  I'll see you in a couple of days."  Kai smiled again and made his way out of the classroom.

Many students filled the corridors of the building, scurrying off to their next class or making their way out of the building for the night.  Kai walked casually greeting people as he went.   It was in his nature to be social and he was one of the most well liked students on campus, even just being a freshman.

Mrs. Kimbal had helped Kai out a little, by pulling some strings to get him into the medical school.  Kai was ecstatic about the chance to carry on the family practice, and had decided long ago that nothing would stop him from achieving his goal.  His chosen major was pediatric surgery, one that took a strong stomach and will to handle.  His mother was skilled in most kinds of surgery, but pediatric was the one part of the field that she had a hard time with.  Operating on a child and losing that child is a hard hit to take, and ever since the loss of Joey, his mother had not attempted to take on that task again.  Kai on the other hand had decided that he wanted to be able to make a difference and save the young lives that needed to be saved, no matter what the toll may be on him in the long run.

Unfortunately in the process of taking the huge step of pursuing a surgical career, Kai had to leave behind one of his other dreams, that of being a professional musician.  The developmental deal that he had signed after the music competition last year had an out clause, and he took it, even if he had reservations about the whole thing.  Medicine was his calling in his mind, and his musical career would have to wait if it was ever to take shape.

As Kai stepped outside his cell phone rang, "Hello?"

"Hey, baby," The sweet sound of Jordan's voice whisked through the receiver causing Kai to smile widely.

"Hey, J.   How's it going?"

"Okay, things are kind of crazy around here.  My mom is running around like a mad woman double checking everything.  God forbid she forget a pair of shoes or something.  I think my dad went and hid somewhere just to stay out of her way."

Kai laughed, picturing his husband's parents in such a situation, "Yeah, because you know there's no shoes in Hawaii or anything."

"Haha, yeah, I know really.  I think she's just freaked out over leaving her baby behind."

"She's leaving your dog behind?  How sad.."  Kai snickered.

Jordan pouted, "You're an ass."

"You love my ass."

"That's not the point.."  Both boys had unmoving smiles as they playfully teased each other.

"It's okay, tell your mom that I'll take good care of her baby."

"I told her that already, but she said that I'll always be her baby too... you know how mom's are."

"Yeah, I had to use a pry bar to get my mom to let me move into the dorms here.  I hope it didn't leave any permanent marks."

Jordan giggled, "You're crazy."

"Crazy for you."

"Aww, how sweet.. and corny.  But hey, when are you coming over?"

"Well, I'm heading to my dorm to pack now.  It's probably going to take a couple of trips to get my stuff over there."

"Hmm.. how can I get you to go faster?"

"Tell me your parents are gone and we have a huge house all to ourselves."

"After tonight it's just you and me."

Kai smiled widely, "I can't wait."

"Me neither.  I'm going to miss my parents though."

"I know you will.  I'll be there to make you feel better though.  I still can't believe your parents are leaving us the house."

"My parents weren't about to put me out on the street, Kai."

"But you'd be such a good little street boy..."

"I hate talking on the phone with you."

"Why's that?"

"I can't smack you when you make your smart little comments."

"Aww, you know you love it.

"I don't know about that.  I love you though..."  Jordan's mom could be heard yelling to herself about something or other that she couldn't find.  "I have to go, my mom is tearing apart my closet looking for an old stuffed animal.. This is going to be a long night."

"Haha, your mom is funny.  Help her find it, then get some rest, J.  I'll see you tomorrow morning.  I love you."

"Love you too.  Goodnight."

"Night,"  Kai hung up his phone with a smile on his face.

Jordan's father had decided to move from their estate to run a new resort that he had developed down in Maui.  It was a spontaneous decision and the events were set into motion right away to make it happen.  In the course of those events, Jordan made it known that he was not going to be tagging along for the move, and his parents understood that fully.  Even though he was so young, he was a married man, and had a life in Anaheim.  His parents weren't about to rip that away from him, even if it saddened them deeply to know that they'd be leaving their only son on his own before he hit the age of 18.  In a gesture that Jordan's father made out of love and concern for his son, he decided to not put their multi million dollar estate up for sale, and instead allow Jordan and Kai to live there together.  It made both of them incredibly happy to know that they could finally live together like a married couple, and not have to worry about not seeing each other for weeks on end.

Kai stepped up to his dorm room and unlocked the door.  He stepped inside and flicked on the lights before dropping his bag on the floor.  He went directly into the bathroom and turned on the water for a relaxing shower.  To Kai the feel of water cascading down over his body was the only way to wind down after a hard day of classes.  After all, if he couldn't be in the water surfing, then he wanted to be in it in any other way.  The water soaked his normally messy hair, setting it down against his forehead.  He picked up a bar of soap and slowly ran it over his well developed pecs and down over his enviable abs.  The water cascaded over every inch of his smooth, tanned body, and Kai loved every minute of it.  His hands wandering over his body caused him to become slightly aroused, but before he let his hand get carried away, he just smiled to himself and shook his head.  He wasn't going to waste any sexual energy without Jordan being part of it.  Besides, he planned to break in his new home very soon.

The sound of the water ceased, and a cloud of steam emanated from the shower as Kai stepped out from behind the curtain..  He grabbed a towel and dried himself off, before wrapping it around his waist and walking out of the bathroom and toward the bedroom.  As he stepped into his sleeping domain, he didn't bother to turn on the light, instead went right to the dresser in front of him.  He rummaged around inside, before pulling out a pair of boxer briefs and setting them on top of the dresser.  Kai's eyes looked in front of him into the mirror that adorned the large dresser.  They traveled over his body and back up again as if studying the perfect physical specimen that reflected back at them.  Kai reached for the knot on his towel and started to pull on it when he was startled by a voice.

"Must be nice to be you."  Kai jumped, and in the process tumbled over on the floor, losing his towel on the way down.  He rolled over and sat up, naked as the day he was born.  His eyes scanned the darkness, until he saw someone shifting on his bed.  "Yeah, it's very nice to be you," The voice said as the person apparently was scanning over Kai's body.  The unknown body stood up and flicked on the light to reveal himself.

Kai's eyes glared up from his seated position, "What the hell are you doing in my dorm, Riley?"

Riley smirked, "Just taking in the view."

"Well, take a good look because this is the last time you'll ever see it."

Riley's smirk faded, "You know, you don't have to be such a dick to me."

Kai stood up and grabbed his towel, "I don't have to be a dick to you?  Excuse me?  You, the guy who tried to get me to cheat on Jordan?  You, the guy who tried everything to have me?  Or wait, best yet, you the one who likes to associate himself with my brother.  Don't think I don't know that you had something to do with what happened to Chance."

Riley looked at Kai, as Kai tied the towel back around his waist.  He was a bit surprised to hear that Kai somehow knew that he had been aligning himself with Colin, "You don't know what you're talking about."

"I do, and you know I do.  Why don't you save me the trouble of throwing your ass out and leave.. Now."

Hurt and anger filled Riley's eyes, "You know, we used to be good friends.  Before any of this happened, but you can't let anything go.  You went and moved out of our dorm and into your own, and now you're leaving campus altogether without so much as a word."

"Hello?  I'm reality, have we met?"  Kai shot out.  "You tried to ruin my life, Riley!  What don't you understand about that?  I'm not going to just let you walk back into it like nothing happened.  Not a chance in hell."

"All I'm guilty of is loving you."

"You don't know what love is.  If you loved me, you would have let me be happy and accepted that we couldn't be more than friends.  Instead, you tried to not only crush Jordan and I, but you decided that it was your duty to destroy my best friend as well."

"Blade just got in the way.. It's not my fault that he stuck his nose where it didn't belong."

"Get out."  Kai's voice was cold and firm.  Riley stared at him for a moment, then moved toward him before Kai held his hand out signaling for him to stop, "I said, get out."

"Kai, just let me show you how I feel.."  Riley brushed past Kai's hand and knocked the towel from around Kai's waist.  He immediately started running his hands over Kai's torso.

"Riley, let go."  Riley didn't budge, but instead dropped to his knees.  "I'm warning you."  Riley looked up at Kai, but ignored his words as he leaned forward toward Kai's penis.  Kai reached down and pulled Riley up so that they were at eye level with each other.  Kai leaned forward, his lips coming closer to Riley's when all of a sudden, Kai brought his knee up hard into Riley's groin.

"AH!"  Riley yelped out before crumpling to the ground.  Kai looked down at the blonde boy  as he moaned in pain.  He leaned down and stripped him of his shirt, then unbuttoned his jeans.  After Riley was down to just his boxers, Kai reached inside the slit and pulled out Riley's cock.  He stroked it a couple of times, enough to get it hard, then pulled off Riley's boxers as well.  He then gripped Riley's cock and pulled hard on it, causing Riley to yelp again.

"Get up."  Kai yanked on Riley's cock, giving the boy no choice but to stand up.  Kai led him by the balls to the door and pushed him out into the hall.  Other students looked on at the very naked and erect Riley standing in the hallway as Kai let go of his grasp and stepped back.  "I told you to leave on your own, but you wouldn't listen."

Riley looked around uncomfortably at the onlookers.  Girls giggled as their eyes devoured his body, "Come on, Kai..."

"Don't ever touch me again."

Riley's head dropped, "F-Fine.  At least give me my clothes.."  Kai walked into the bedroom, picked up the pile of clothes, and walked out into the hallway.  Instead of giving them to Riley he opened up the window at the end of the corridor and dumped the clothes outside.

"Get them yourself."  Kai walked back into his room and slammed the door behind him, leaving Riley to be humiliated as he walked down the long corridor to the hoots and hollers of the onlookers.  Jocks teased him and slapped his ass as he walked by and the girls kept giggling away giving him suggestive glances.  Riley scowled and muttered to himself as he ran down the stairs and out of the building searching for his clothes.  Kai looked down on him from his window and smirked.  Sometimes, pay back really is a bitch.

The Next Day, Arrowhead High..

The sound of bodies crashing together echoed throughout the air, breaking the calmness of the morning atmosphere.  One of the bodies stood up and looked down upon his unfortunate counterpart who seemed to have taken the brunt of the hit.  He extended his arm to his fallen friend and smiled slightly, "Come on man, get up.."

Eric glanced up at his grinning friend and scowled, "Easy for you to say, you weigh like 700 pounds.."  Eric grasped Jake's hand and Jake started to pull him up, but then knocked Eric back down onto the ground with a smirk.

"Just for that, get yourself up."  Eric muttered under his breath and pulled himself to his feet.  He brushed the dirt off of his uniform and pulled his helmet off.  His hair glistened in the sun from the perspiration enveloping it.

"I think you broke my kidney.."  Jake laughed and patted Eric on the shoulder pads.

"Toughen up, son, I'm just preparing you for what it's going to be like every single game."

"Remind me why I let you rope me into playing football again.."

"Because you have talent, something this team has been severely lacking in the last few years.  Besides, you've got an arm on you and we were down a quarterback."

"You act like I'm actually going to be playing.  Zach is way better than I am."

"Zach is a very fine player, but better than you is an argument that hasn't been proven as of yet," Eric and Jake turned to see the football coach standing behind them.  "He's also not going to be around for a lot of the games, you both know about his situation."

"Yeah, Heidi Klum and Seal's love child.  I still don't see how he came out Portuguese." Eric joked and rolled his eyes.  Suddenly someone came running up and jumped playfully on Eric's back.  Eric swung around, caught off guard by the sudden intrusion.  He felt a hand ruffle his hair and laughter coming from his attacker.

"I could hear you rolling your eyes 30 yards away,"  Eric glanced to his right and could see Zach's wide smile beaming at him.

"Uh huh, you just like being on my back," Eric grinned.

"Oh yeah, you know it baby!"  Zach hopped off of Eric and smacked his ass.

"Ohhh, harder.."  Jake and the coach shook their heads at the two of them.

"All right, enough of that you two.  As I was telling Eric and Jake, this season we are going to be going with two quarterbacks, basically splitting the games.  It's really our only option."

Zach nodded, "Don't worry, Coach.  I mean, from what I've heard the team hasn't won a game in the last two seasons, how much worse could it get?"

Jake smacked Zach on the back of the head, "Way to keep morale up, Zach."

Zach rubbed his head, "You didn't let me finish.  I mean, with me on the team now, we're guaranteed at least 6 wins.."

Eric rolled his eyes, "Oh my god.  It's Blade part deuce."

"Who's Blade?"  Zach inquired.

"My brother.  He was the superstar athlete here last year for the hockey team, and he has that arrogant attitude like you do."

"Hmm, sounds like a cool guy, we should hang out sometime."

"I don't think a room could hold both of your egos," Eric teased.

"Hey, who says we need a room?  Are you implying I'm easy or something?."  Eric rolled his eyes again and Zach smiled widely.  He loved getting under Eric's skin.

"Okay, enough of the chit chat guys, hit the showers," Coach said and walked away.  Zach started to trot toward the locker room, when Eric ran up behind him and pantsed him.  Zach nearly tripped and fell over, now with his bottom half only being partially covered by his jockstrap.

"Whoo baby, look at that ass," Eric hollered.  Zach blushed and pulled his pants back up.  He shot a glare Eric's way, but couldn't help smiling.  He was happy to have made friends with Eric and knew what a clown he was, so it didn't bother him one bit.

"You know you want my ass."

"Damn, who told?"  Eric grinned and threw an arm over Zach's shoulders as they walked back into the school building.  Jake just shook his head in amusement and followed behind.

As the three young athletes entered the dimly lit locker room, they broke off and went their separate ways toward their respective lockers.  Eric took a seat on the stiff wooden bench and slowly peeled off the thick layers of padding that clung to his body.  His foray into football wasn't something he had planned, more like an unexpected distraction he had let himself get talked into.  Some things had been plaguing his mind for the past few months, not just dealing with his brother's state of mind, but another matter that he couldn't himself comprehend.  How do you explain a sinking feeling that you can't get a hold on?  Eric had yet to figure that out, and it troubled him deeply.  He still kept up the funny, sarcastic exterior while he felt like he was becoming darkened on the inside.  He shook himself out of his thoughts and let the last article of equipment drop to the floor, leaving him as naked as the day he was born.  He grabbed a towel and bar of soap from his locker and headed for the shower room.

The sound of rushing water could be heard hitting the hard, tiled floor as Eric approached.  Most of his teammates were just finishing up their after practice cleansing, so all of the shower heads were taken.  Eric stood impatiently, letting his eyes wander over the various shapes and sizes of his teammates in all of their glory.  A small smirk appeared on his face, but he was quickly snapped out of his daze as he felt a hard, stinging smack go across his ass.  He jumped and whirled around to see a grinning Zach.  "You asshole, that hurt!"  Eric pouted and rubbed his hands over the quickly forming welt on his ass.

"Aww baby, I thought you liked it when I got rough with you," Zach's smile grew wider as he went over and jokingly wrapped his arms around Eric, hugging him tightly.

Eric struggled in Zach's grasp, but laughed while doing so.  "Not in public, what will everyone think?"  He joked.

"That you're a kinky bitch?"

"Everyone knows that already,"  Jake's voice interrupted the two jostling quarterbacks.

Eric stuck out his tongue at Jake, then turned his attention back to Zach, "Zaaaaaaaaach, let me go, I have to shower!"

"Hmm.. You didn't ask very nicely."

Eric whimpered, "Come onnnnnnnn.  I smell."

Zach put his nose to Eric's neck then pulled his head away with a look of disgust, "Yeah, you reek."

"Hey!  I don't smell that bad."  Jake shook his head, and laughed at Eric.  He could be such a little kid sometimes.  The keyword being sometimes.  As Eric struggled, Jake noticed that Eric's not so kid like appendage was starting to come to life quickly under Zach's touch.

"Looks like Eric really is kinky, huh Zach?"

Zach looked down between him and Eric, to see Eric's penis jutting out prominently, "I guess so.  He just can't resist me."

"Oh baby, you know it!"  Eric started grinding against Zach who promptly let go of his friend.

"Okay, shower time," Zach ran into the shower acting mortified.  Eric grinned slyly and jogged after Zach, while Jake followed suit.  The three boys continued their horseplay in the shower, but soon the fatigue of their physical practice set in and they let the fun drop for the time being.  Twenty minutes later they were all dressed and making their way out of the locker room and toward the parking lot.  Zach walked up to his car and tossed his gym bag into the trunk, before turning to his friends to say goodbye.  "So, I guess I'll catch you guys tomorrow?"

Eric hit the button on his key chain to turn off his car alarm, then turned toward Zach, "How bout we go clubbing tomorrow night."

Jake leaned up against his own car and joined the conversation, "Yeah, except for that whole not being old enough to get in part, we should be all set."  Jake rolled his eyes sarcastically.

"That's what we have Zach for, he's almost famous, he has to be good for something," Eric teased.

Zach ran a hand through his long dark locks as he spoke, "I'm booked tomorrow night, bro.  I have a show at the mall."

"Awww man!  You guys are such downers!  I need to have some fun," Eric pouted.

"Well, I can't go, but if you and Jake really want to go I can probably make a call and get you on a guest list or something like that."

Eric ran up and jumped onto Zach excitedly, "You are the man, Zachary!"  Zach smiled as Eric ruffled his hair and let him go.  "So what do you say Jake, you up for a little dancing tomorrow?"

Jake hesitated, "I don't know, Eric.  I was planning on taking Ben up to the mountains for the weekend."

Eric's face dropped noticeably, "Does he know that?"

"It's a surprise."

"Then you should surprise him NEXT weekend, and both of you come to the club."

"I really want some alone time with him, bro.  Maybe next time.  Sorry."

"Urgggggh!  Fine, I'll just take Matt."

Zach started to step into his car, "Just let me know, Eric.  I'll get it setup for you and whoever.  Call me later on or tell me tomorrow."

"All right, thanks Zach."  Zach closed his door and pulled out of the parking lot, and Jake soon did the same after saying goodbye to Eric.  Eric stood there for a few moments, left in his friends' tail lights, with a dejected look on his face.  He needed his friends more than they knew, but without knowingly doing so, he felt they were leaving him behind.

JE Rehearsal Studio..

The loud thumping of bass boomed from wall to wall, causing a slight tremor in the glass mirrors that lined the large dance rehearsal studio.  Bodies moved in fluid motion, never missing a beat, everyone nearly perfectly in synch with each other.

I watched on from a seat at the back of the room, studying the movements of each dancer in the mirrors.  Some would count the steps in their head, some would mouth a number with each step, while others just spoke out loud to keep their focus.

Britney Spears' Do Something rang loudly throughout the room, and the choreographer stood at the forefront, studying each individual intently.  This wasn't any one person's rehearsal, it was a general dance session to keep everyone loose and up to date on the latest choreography.  It was my first day back in the studio since Christmas, and I had a lot to catch up on.

Tyler stood near the front, dancing his heart out.  His thin frame moved smoothly, as if he were born to dance.  Next to him was his lead dancer, and my guitarist, Lucas.  They mirrored each other effortlessly, and the choreographer couldn't have been more pleased.  He randomly called out names and had someone step out of the group if they didn't seem to be up to par.  The process kept going until it was only Tyler and Lucas left.  The rest of the dancers huddled behind them watching as they seemingly battled with their reflections.  As the music came to a halt, both of them stopped in mid stride, showing how focused they were.

"Great job you two.  The rest of you need to strive to be at the same level as Tyler and Lucas.  I know some of you feel like you have two left feet, but everyone needs to practice, practice, practice.  This is not a game, these are your careers that you all hold in your hands," The choreographer said.  I wasn't privy to his name, but he seemed like a strong guy, with a decent attitude about it all.

"And don't forget, if you don't shape up your act, then you will be on the next bus out of here, back to whatever lonely, non existent little town you came from."  Of course, that attitude is only around in so many people.  Colin stood at the doorway to the room, oozing with arrogance and power.  Some of the dancers gave each other worried glances, and whispered to each other discreetly.

"Colin, there's no need to put that pressure on their shoulders.."

"I don't recall asking for your opinion, Rick."  The choreographer, apparently named Rick, gave Colin a glare, but backed down slowly.  "That's right.  I sign your paycheck, and everyone else's that ends up working for one of our acts.  If you want to work for JE Records, then you better be ready and able to pull your weight around here.  I don't want any laggers in this company."  Colin looked past the dancers and directly at me.  I returned his look and stood from my seat.

"If you have something to say to me, Colin, then say it," I challenged.

"I believe that you're a good example of what this company should not be looking for.  You've done absolutely nothing in the last few months.  If you can't handle the pressure then get out."

I smirked through the anger brooding inside of me, "If I'm not mistaken, the reason I haven't done anything here in a few months is because of something you did."

"Blame is for the weak, Blade."

I stepped up so I was inches from Colin's face, "So is lying to save face."

"It would be a shame if you were to have something else happen to you.  I mean, we wouldn't want you to end up in a nut house now would we?"

"You would know a lot about that.  You live with your psychotic father."

Tyler walked up and stood partly in front of me, trying to calm me down, "Come on, Blade.."

"No, no.  Let the bitch talk.  He obviously thinks he knows something about me and my family.  Oh, wait that's right.  You only know the weak, faggot side of the family.  Just like your entire family.  You, your brother, your drunk mother, and I'm sure that kid of yours will turn out to be a pansy assed flamer just like good ole daddy."

My eyes flared and I went to lunge at Colin, but Tyler knew it would come sooner or later, holding onto my left arm tightly, while another grasp took hold of my right arm.  Lucas stood there, holding me back, giving me a sympathetic look.  Colin smiled with satisfaction, taunting me with his smugness.  I turned my head in disgust, then turned it back toward him, lobbing a wad of spit right into his face.  "You're a piece of shit, Colin.  Whether or not my family has it's problems is nothing compared to what's wrong with you.  You'll always be a smug, low life, bastard who hides behind his so called power at work to make up for what he lacks as a human being.  I'll take my family, the 'faggot half' of your family, or any family over you any day.  I hope you believe in karma, because it's going to come back and fuck you sideways."

Lucas and Tyler led me from the studio, while Colin stood there seething with rage, wiping the spit from his eyes.  The door closed behind us, and we made our way to the dressing room area.  Luke grabbed a towel and wiped his face down, and threw Tyler one as well.  Tyler sat down next to me, before the phone rang near the door.  Luke picked it up and answered, "Hello?"

"Hello, to whom am I speaking?"

"This is Lucas Savella."

"Oh, Luke, this is Mr. Jamesan.  I was told that Tyler Pierce had gone back to his dressing room, may I speak to him please?"

"Yes, sir.  Just a minute," Lucas waved for Tyler to come get the phone.  Tyler looked at me and squeezed my shoulder before going to take his phone call.  Lucas came over and took Tyler's place beside me, "Are you okay?"

I let out a deep breath, "Yeah, I'm fine.  I guess that's just been building up for awhile."

"Yeah, well, Colin's an asshole.  I don't even know how he can hold onto this job with the shit he pulls."

"He must be getting fucked hard by someone higher up."

Luke laughed, "Well, you did say that karma would fuck him sideways.."  I snickered at him, "And it could be some really old guy.  How gross.. his balls all wrinkled and pruned out, sticking Colin with his viagrafied cock.. sick."

I couldn't help busting out laughing.  "It would serve him right."  I looked over at Tyler, and watched him as he spoke softly on the phone.  The conversation seemed to be a good one, judging from the look on his face.  Luke followed my gaze and glanced at Tyler, then back at me.

"Are you and him.. well, you know.."

I turned my attention back to Luke, "No, we're just really close friends."

"Are you sure?  I mean, the way you guys look at each other.."

"I'm sure.  It's hard to explain."

"Okay, well, um.. if this is weird or whatever, just tell me to shutup," I gave him my full attention, "I think Tyler's really cute, and well, I was wondering if maybe you could put in a good word for me?"

I was a little taken aback by Luke's forwardness, "Uh.. I guess, I could."  I didn't really know how to react to his request.  Luke and I weren't close friends, but we were friends none the less.  I knew he was gay, so why shouldn't he like Tyler?  He's beautiful, and any guy would be lucky to have him.  He wasn't mine to keep away from anybody, I wasn't in love with him.. at least I thought.  The tugging at my stomach seemed to imply otherwise.

"Sweet, you're the best, man.  I owe you big time.  Just don't say anything to him until I'm not around, okay?"

"Yeah, sure.. I won't tell him until.."

"Tell who what?"  Tyler hopped into the conversation without warning.  A huge smile was plastered across his face.

"N-Nothing.  I, uh, better get going.  I'll see you around Tyler... and Blade, call me soon, ok?"  Luke jumped out of his seat and took off in a flash.  Tyler just gave me a what was that about kind of look, but I just shrugged it off.

Tyler slipped an arm around my shoulders, "Let's get out of here, babe.  I've seen enough of this place for the day."  I nodded in agreement and we headed out together.

Shortly after we arrived at my condo, and trudged inside, tired from the long day.  My mother had agreed to hold onto Cameron and Erik for the weekend, so the place was quiet and empty.  I headed for the bedroom, dropping my keys on the table on the way there.  Tyler said he had to take a shower, and would be in, in a minute.  I stripped off my clothes and climbed into bed.  I pulled the covers over my naked body, as it was a bit nippy from the air conditioning.  I closed my eyes and relaxed, willing the stress of the day away as I heard the faucet running in the bathroom just outside of my room.

Tyler had come up with an agreement with his mother, where she agreed that he could stay at my place with me until he felt that I was okay enough to be alone.  I insisted that I didn't need to be baby-sat, but he wasn't having any of it.  Not that I minded his company either. I didn't have much more time for my mind to run circles as I heard the sound of a door opening, and the light switch being flicked off.

Tyler's lithe, sleek form emerged from the bathroom, clad only in a pair of loose fitting nike shorts.  His eyes met mine and he grinned before pouncing onto the bed.  He laid prone on his stomach for a moment before rolling over, throwing half of his body over mine.  The smile he was sporting never left his face as I looked down at him

"What are you so happy about?"

"Mmm, nothing.  It was a good day, other than that Colin crap.  Oh, and I'm laying on top of you half naked."

I laughed and hugged him close.  My faced snuggled into his neck, feeling the slight dampness of his skin as a result of his dance rehearsal.  I playfully pushed him away and made a wry face, "You stink."

Tyler scoffed as if he was offended, "I do not stink."  He quickly rolled back over on top of me, pressing his upper body against my face.

I play struggled with him before turning the tables and flipping him over so I was in control.  "You do stink. Now I'm gonna have to have Kai's mom give me some shots.  Didn't you say you were going to take a shower?"

Tyler squirmed out from beneath me, then turned me over and straddled my waist, "Yeah, I did.  The thing is, I don't want to take a shower right now, I want to lay with you and I know you'll love me even if I do stink."

I smirked, "Will not."  Tyler laid flat against me, our bodies meshing together like a couple of pieces to a puzzle.  He laid his head on my chest and looked up at me with his saddest puppy dog eyes.

"So you don't love me just because I smell a little bit?"

I nearly laughed at how pathetic he looked, but instead wrapped my arms around him.  I pulled his face up and kissed his cheek gently, "I'll love you no matter what.. even if I have to invest in nose plugs."  Tyler giggled and playfully smacked the side of my ass, before letting himself slowly drift off into a peaceful sleep.  I ran a hand through his hair and felt his heart beating, before I started to drift off, feeling the rare sensation of contentness.  Even with the short bit of drama, Tyler was here with me.. so indeed, it had a been a good day.

Friday Arrowhead High..

The hustle and bustle of students shuffling in and out of each others' paths was the site to be seen in the overcrowded hallways.   Most people seemed to be in a hurry to get to their lockers and get out of school, while the rest were more interested in taking up space and mingling with their peers, much to the dismay of the students trying to head out for the weekend.

Matt looked around with an amused smile upturning upon his face.  People were always in a hurry, as if the weekend was going to disappear within the next five minutes. Matt himself was one of the few that was in no hurry himself, content with waiting patiently for his boyfriend to make his presence known so they could leave together.

Matt opened his locker and placed the books that he didn't need inside.  A picture of of Eric was taped to the inside of the locker door, staring right back at Matt, which caused him to smile even more.  He loved Eric more than anything, and just the mere thought of him made Matt happy.  He closed his locker door, and jumped a little when he was greeted with someone standing directly behind it.

"A little jumpy aren't we?"  Ben teased.

Matt playfully shoved him in response, "Yeah, yeah.  I was distracted."

Ben laughed, "You were staring at that picture again, huh?"

Matt blushed, "Uh.."

"Thought so.  It's nice to be in love isn't it?"  Ben spoke, while looking over Matt's shoulder.  Matt turned around to follow Ben's gaze to see what had caught the young hockey player's attention.  His line of sight caught Jake walking toward them, followed closely by Eric and Zach.

Matt turned quickly to Ben, "Now who's all love struck?"  Ben blushed, but kept quiet as his boyfriend arrived.  They gave each other a look that conveyed what the other was feeling.  Their smiles were beaming, but they held back a bit.  Eric on the other hand walked right up to Matt and embraced him tightly, planting a sweet peck upon his lips.

"Aww, how cute,"  Zach teased, while making a gagging motion with his finger.

Eric swiftly spun around and opened his arms to Zach, "Aw, is Zach feeling left out?  Come here hunnybunnywunny pie!"  Eric latched on to Zach as he tried to back away, but wasn't quick enough.  Eric planted sloppy kisses on Zach's cheek as onlookers walked by looking at them strangely, while Matt, Jake and Ben snickered.

Zach eventually wiggled out of Eric's grasp, wiping at his face and pouting, "I hate you."

Eric beamed, "You love me.  You're so turned on right now, you're trying to rub my kisses in so they never go away."  Zach jumped at Eric, while Eric ran behind Matt and peered over his shoulder, "Protect me, you're the man in this relationship."  Matt just laughed at his boyfriend's antics.

"Come on, Matt.  Just one shot, I promise I won't mess up anything that will make him look too ugly," Zach pleaded with an innocent look on his face.

Matt smiled, "Sorry, can't let you hurt my woman."

"Hey!" Eric exclaimed.


"You just called me a woman!  Have you gone straight? Have you been piledriving the poon, Matthew?"  Zach busted out laughing as did Matt.

"Dude, you did not just say piledriving the poon," Zach said between giggles.

After the laughter died down, Eric brought up his clubbing idea to Matt, "So, I was thinking that we could go to a club tonight.  What do you think, baby?  Zach said he'll hook us up, but his bulimic ass can't go because he has to go look pretty at the mall, and Jake is a downer, unless he's miraculously decided to be fun for a day..." Eric looked over at Jake expectantly when he didn't get an answer after a few moments.  Jake stood with one arm extended up against the lockers behind Ben's neck, as they stood millimeters apart, gazing into one anothers' eyes.  "Oh, for christ's sake, will you two kiss already and move on to more important things like paying attention to me."

Jake glanced briefly at Eric, then back at Ben nervously.  They had been together for a few months, but their relationship was far from a public matter.  Sure, their close friends knew and a few select others, but neither of the two felt that they could be open about their feelings for each other at school.  With Jake being the captain of the football team and Ben being the captain of the hockey team, it would be socially unacceptable for them to be gay, let alone lovers.  Their post highschool careers as athletes would be in serious jeopardy if they were to be outted.  No matter how liberal some people were, a lot of people did not and won't ever except the idea of two guys together, especially ones that could be representing their school's in the future.  Jake sighed, wanting to kiss Ben so badly.

Ben looked into his boyfriend's eyes, understanding what he was feeling, "Jake, there's no one around.. it'll be okay."  Jake glanced around quickly, noting that there seemed to be no one around except for Eric, Matt and Zach.  He refocused back on Ben, as the shorter boy started to move his face forward to meet Jake's.

"OH MY GOD!"  A loud shriek erupted through the hall, causing Jake and Ben to jump away from each other and play off their near public display. They turned to see Heather, Jake's ex girlfriend standing there with an exasperated look on her face.  "Were you about to kiss him?"

Jake looked like a deer caught in headlights, "I uh.. um.."

"Ben had something in his eye.  Jake was just trying to see what it was,"  Matt jumped in, sensing the panic in his friend.

Heather looked at Matt with a look of spite, " I don't talk to queers, so mind your own business."

Eric stepped up to Heather with a pissed look on his face, "Why don't you mind YOUR business, bitch.  I believe it was you that butted in where you don't belong."

"Whatever, honey.  Jake is MY business.  As far as being a bitch, you would know a lot about that wouldn't you?  You're the one that takes it up the ass right?"

Eric rolled his eyes, "Yes, and it feels fucking great.  What are you even still doing here, did someone leave your cage open again?"

Heather huffed, "You're living proof that men don't have brains."

"Yeah, yeah.  If I throw a stick will you go away?"  Eric waited for a response, while Heather just gave him a death glare, "No?  Okay then."  He reached into Matt's backpack and pulled out a notebook.  He rolled it up and held it menacingly in the air, "Bad!  Go lay down!  Rollover!  Play Dead!"

Heather brushed past Eric, and tugged on Jake's arm, "Come on, Jake. We need to talk."

"Uh, Heather, I'm kind of busy right.."

"You're always busy!  Funny how it's everytime I try to talk to you.  Why don't.."

"Why don't I walk you out to your car?"  Zach cut Heather off, trying to diffuse the situation before it escalated even more.

Heather reluctantly looked away from Jake, turning her attention toward Zach and sighed, "Fine.  At least one of you is a real man."  Zach's looks could be used to his advantage when needed.  She interlaced her arm with Zach's and started to walk away with him.  Zach peered back over his shoulder making a scared face.  Eric snickered, while Jake mouthed a thank you as Zach and Heather disappeared out the door.

Jake let out a sigh of frustration and leaned back against the locker, "That was close."

"Yeah," Ben said dejectedly.

Eric on the other hand wrapped his arms around Matt's waist from behind and kissed his neck softly, "So are you guys in for the club?"

"Sorry, bro.  I told you I can't this weekend," Jake responded.

"Gah!  Why are you guys such downers.  Stop sulking and make out.  It's not that hard of a concept."

Ben looked up, "It's not that easy."

"Yeah, if people knew about us, then.." Jake was cut off.

"Then what?  Then they'll know that you guys are gay and in love? My god how terrible."

"It is, Eric.  Ben and I can't just be carefree about it.  We have college's scouting us, and our teammates that look up to us.  It'd be social suicide."

Eric made a disgusted noise, "Dude, do you listen to what you're saying?  I'm a fucking quarterback and everyone knows about Matt and I.  I'm not some social outcast and neither is he.  Do you really think people care that much that I like cock?"  Jake just shook his head, feeling frustrated with Eric's attitude.  Eric moved to the center of the hallway as the last groups of people were passing by, "Excuse me, does anyone here really care if I like cock?"  People just looked at him like he had grown a second head, laughed and went on their way.

Matt stepped up and put a hand on his boyfriend's shoulder, "Come on, Eric.  Don't make a scene.  If they're not comfortable with it, then that's their choice."

Eric looked at his boyfriend, "Why can't you back me up on this?  I don't get why it's so fucking taboo for someone to be gay.  This is Southern California for fuck's sake.  There's way worse things going on in the world and people are sitting here worrying about something as insignificant as their sexuality being out in the open."

"Eric, just drop it, okay?"  Ben stepped in.  "Look, I know that you are okay with being out and that's great, but don't stand there and lecture us on it.  You don't think that Jake and I struggle every second that we're around each other?  Do you understand how hard it is for me to not be able to hold his hand, or give him a kiss when I want to?"

"That's my point, Benjamin.  It doesn't have to be that way, it's the choice that you guys have made."

"No, it's the choice that society has made, and until that changes, that's how it is."

Jake interrupted, "Look, Eric, I love you man, but you have to try and understand our point of view.  Right now, we have to go, Ben and I have plans so you and Matt have a good weekend okay?"

"Yeah, whatever. Later," Eric dismissed Ben and Jake.  Matt studied his boyfriend intently, curious as to why he was suddenly so high strung.  He walked over and put his arm around Eric's waist as he led him toward the exit.

"Are you okay, Eric?"  The concern was evident in Matt's voice.

Eric ran a hand threw his hair and sighed, "Yeah, I guess I'm just.. I don't know.  Overly sensitive lately."

"Anything I can do to help?"

"No.  Well, you can go to the club with me tonight?"  Eric questioned.

Matt nuzzled his face to the side of Eric's neck, "I would baby, but Cory is supposed to come in tonight."

"He can come with us."

"He said he hasn't been feeling well, so we were just going to watch movies at my house while his parents go out with mine.  How about you come over and have a movie night with us?"

Eric felt rejected, even though he knew that Matt was trying to keep him happy, "No.. it's okay.  He's your best friend.. you haven't seen him in a long time.  I'd just be in the way."  Matt tried to speak, but Eric just put a finger to his lips, "It's okay."

They walked out of the school intertwined together, but Eric had never felt more alone.

4 hours later.. Local Drug Store...

A refreshing breeze of cool air swept over me as I stepped out of the warm, sunny afternoon heat and into the aptly controlled temperature of the local Walgreens.  It seemed that it was a good place for teenagers to come and bum around at, as there was an abnormal amount of highschoolers just lounging around inside.  Probably to get away from the heat themselves, but then again there is that strange phenomenon that puts them anywhere other than home on a Friday after school.

I never experienced that magnetic draw to a local store or mall to spend my weekends, unless I was working. But I suppose that's because I had way too much going on in my life to have the time to do so.  I walked through the aisles, browsing casually, grasping the reason I had come to the store in the first place in my left hand.  An envelope with rolls of film that had been taken back at Christmas, that had yet to be developed.  I guess with having Erik, Eric and moreso Cameron on her hands all of the time, my mother hadn't had the time to get down to a photo developing center.

I approached the counter that surrounded the photo lab area of the store.  A few people were waiting at different sections of the counter, a couple looking fairly perturbed at having to wait.  I stepped up to the counter, and started filling out the needed information on the developing envelopes.  I glanced up as I heard a voice speaking to one of the other customers.  A guy around my age, walked toward one of the customers with prints in hand.  He smiled politely and rang the customer up, while I watched on, his looks captivating me.  His hair was a very dark brown, nearly black, and hung down to his shoulders in the back, spiked around on the top, and his bangs hung down pushed to the one side in a emoesque look.  The whites of his perfectly straight teeth lit up his caramel colored skin, and his eyes shimmered under the surrounding lights.  He finished up his transaction with the customer he was helping, and he glanced over at me.  I looked away, but then looked back, and he gave me another glance with a small smile on his face.  I smiled softly back, not knowing why I was gawking openly at this boy.

"You know, this is a place for developing pictures, not trying to take them with your mind," A voice interrupted my thoughts, and I turned to meet it.  Matt stood on the other side of the counter facing me with a sly smile on his face.

"Whatever, man.  I was um admiring the customer service."  I gave Matt my best look of innocence causing him to snicker.

"You and your brother aren't so much different after all.  Boy crazy."

"Psshhh.  I'm not boy crazy.  I didn't know you were working here."

"Yeah, for a little over a month.  I figured it'd be good for putting on my college resumes when the time comes.  Anything that will put me ahead in the photography field will help."

"That's cool, I never realized how career oriented you were.  I guess one of you has to be, Eric's going to be the house boy right?"  I teased.

Matt smiled at the image, "He does look damn good in those little shorts..."

"Haha, yeah, yeah.  How's he doing anyway, I haven't see him in ages."

"He's okay.  I guess he's been a little off lately, he was really pushing hard for myself and some of our friends to hit a club with him tonight, but we all already had things planned.  I invited him to hang out with Corey and I, but he turned it down."

"I won't ask how he was planning on getting into a club."

Matt grinned, "Connections, Blade."

"Haha.  Well, I'll have to catch up with him sooner than later.  I mean I'm going to give him abandonment issues the way I keep running off for months on end."  I tried to make light of the Christmas situation the best I could.  Matt gave me a polite grin, knowing that it wasn't really a joking matter, but enough seriousness had been going around already.  "So, I guess I should finish filling out this envelope and you can take care of me, yes?"

"Sorry bro, I'm actually just off the clock, but someone else will take care of you."  Matt snickered and looked over to the darker featured boy I had been staring at.


"Your brother loves it.  I'll see you later, Blade,"  Matt gave me a quick hug and headed on his way, leaving me to go about filling out the rest of the envelope.  Why do they make these things like interrogation forms?  Pretty soon they'll be asking for unborn children to develop photos.

"You know, you can just fill out the information at the kiosk over there and it will be in the system forever, so you don't' have to do this everytime you come in."  I looked up from my writing and my eyes met the light almond colored iris's of the guy I had been watching earlier.  He gave me a smile and I smiled back, feeling a bit of heat come over my face.

"Well, I don't really come here that often so..."

"Ah, don't be so difficult, I'll help you with the machine."  He grabbed my envelope and walked around the counter so he was on the same side as I was.  He waved me over to where he was standing in front of an oversized computer screen.  "All the info on the envelope is correct, right?"

"Nah, I like to go around to random places and give them film to send to the wrong address. Have to love prank photograph delivering."  I smirked and he gave me one back with a raised eyebrow.

"Who told you about my night job?"  We both laughed, and he pressed a few buttons on the screen.  "So basically you would enter your name, address, phone number and so on, in here, but I'm going to just do it for you since I'm already over here.  I'm Zach by the way."

I extended my hand and grasped his, "Blade."  His grip was firm, but his skin was ultra smooth.  His smile remained intact as we released our handshake and he finished up entering my information.  The machine beeped a few times, signaling that it was done and Zach proceeded back around the counter.

"It's a little late, so our one hour processing is kind of off limits according to my boss's policy.  Is that cool, or did you really need them tonight?  Because I'm totally not against breaking rules.. "  He smirked and gave a cooler than cool look like he had practiced it a million times in the mirror.

I laughed, "No, it's cool.  They've been sitting around for a couple of months, I think they can hold off for another day in being developed."

"Tsk, putting your photos to the side like any old thing."

"Oh man, another photography fanatic."

"Haha, no.  Who do you know that's a photography fanatic?  It's just a hobby, and a job that my parents make me have, even though I don't need it.  My dad always says 'it teaches responsibility Zachary.'  I think he just likes me to be out of the way.  Like I'm ever home anyway."

"I know Matt.  He's really into it, setting himself up for college and everything.  Parental issues?"

"Just a bit and yeah, Matt's got a great eye for pictures, way better than mine.   Anyway, your pictures will be ready tomorrow around ummm 2pm."  I was going to ask him if he knew Matt outside of work, but he seemed to be getting antsy and looking at the clock.

"Okay, do I pay you now or..?"

"You can pay when you pick them up.  I think Matt works tomorrow, but I won't be here,"  A young woman came out from the employees back room and stood behind Zach, "Well, I have to get going, my real job awaits."  He went over to the time clock and clocked out, removed his white jacket and came back to the customer area of the floor.  "Care to walk me out?" His smile was infectious, so being that I was heading out anyway, I courteously agreed.

We walked through the store, idly chatting and then walked through the front doors, met by a sweeping gust of warm air.  The sun shined brightly, causing Zach to squint, while I had already adorned my shades.  He put a hand over his eyes to shade them from the sun as he scanned around the parking lot.  His eyes seemed to be a bit sensitive to the light, probably from being in and out of a dark room all day.  I pulled off my sunglasses, and extended them out in front of him, "You can borrow these."  He smiled brightly and happily slipped them on, covering up his beautiful eyes.  I was envious that they looked better on him than on me.

"Thanks a lot.  We should.."  A black mercedes pulled up in front of the store interrupting Zach.  He actually seemed to clam up a little bit as an older man stepped out of the car and looked at the two of us.  "I'll be right there, Dad."

The man, apparently Zach's father gave him a stern look, "We are running late as it is, Zachary.  Let's go."

Zach sighed and gave me a shrug, "It was nice meeting you.  Stop by sometime, you know where to find me."  He smiled and walked over to the car, disappearing into the passenger side.  I gave him a slight wave and he smiled before the car took off, speeding through the parking lot.  Who would've thought getting pictures developed would be so interesting?

Offices of JE Records...

Tyler sat patiently, tapping his foot against the dark marble floor.  His eyes roamed over the open waiting room, it's decor seemingly devoid of much life.  The only movement in the room other than himself was that of a middle aged secretary who tapped away on the keys of her keyboard.  She stopped typing for a moment to glance up at Tyler and give him a warm smile.

"Would you like anything to drink, sweety?"  She asked politely.

Tyler gave her a friendly smile back, "No, thank you."

"You're not a very talkative one are you?"

"I guess I'm just a little nervous."

She smiled again, "I'm sure you don't have anything to be nervous about.  I hear nothing, but good things about you."

Before Tyler could manage a response a buzzing noise came through the intercom.  "Joy, could you please send Mr. Pierce in please?"

Joy pressed a button on the intercom, "He'll be right there sir."  She paused then returned her attention to Tyler, "Go on in and knock 'em dead kiddo."

Tyler stood and made his way through the doorway to the right of the secretary.  He took a deep breath and trekked on down a corridor, before entering a large boardroom.  Mr. Jamesan was the first to greet him.

"Ah, Tyler, thank you for joining us.  If you'd have a seat please then we will begin."  Tyler took a seat across the table from Mr. Jamesan, cautiously eyeing the others at the table.  "Obviously you know Colin."  Tyler begrudgingly gave a nod, "Then these two gentlemen are company lawyers, and of course our CEO Jonathan Edison."

Tyler remained quiet, feeling a bit intimidated by the presence of authority in the room.  Mr. Edison smiled, "I know you must be feeling overwhelmed at the moment, but trust me this meeting is nothing, but good for you and your career."

"Should I have a lawyer of my own present for this?"  Tyler questioned.

"Colin, as your acting agent will be responsible for the legalities.  If you wish to have a separate firm go over anything discussed today, you are more than welcome to do so."

Colin gave Tyler a smug look, "I'll handle everything, Tyler.  You do your part, I'll do mine."

Tyler looked on at the cocky man that somehow had spawned from the same gene pool as Kai.  Talk about the bad seed.  Tyler turned his attention back to Mr. Jamesan, who had pulled some documents from his black leather briefcase.  "So what exactly am I here about?  I was told that there was some good feedback coming in about the single."

Colin piped in, "That there is.  It will be hitting radio within the next few weeks.  The few test runs it was given were a big success."

"But the single was mine and Blade's..."

"That's true.  However, while Mr. Stevens was out on leave, you were out gaining exposure, putting yourself in the public eye.  That in turn generates a buzz, and potential to sell records,"  Mr. Edison said.

"Basically, Blade blew it," Colin stated, matter of factly.

Tyler gave him an evil sneer, "If he blew it, then it was in no small part thanks to you."

Mr. Jamesan jumped in, "Regardless, Blade will be fine.  His career is not in jeopardy.  I know you care about your friend, but right now we are putting things into motion to push your career forward."

"It just doesn't seem right.  Blade and I did everything on that song together.  We wrote, performed, and recorded it as a team, not by ourselves."

"Which brings us to the matters at hand.  We will be setting up studio time for you to re-record the single as a solo, as well as four to five other songs to get together a solid demo for you."

Tyler felt like he was betraying Blade by not only altering their song, but basically taking complete control of it.  "I don't feel comfortable recording the song over without Blade.  It's not right."

Colin stood from his seat abruptly, his eyes flaring with anger, "I need a word with Tyler outside for a moment."  No one argued, even though Tyler would have rather disappeared into his seat.  "Now."  Tyler sighed and followed Colin out of the room.  As soon as the door closed behind them, Colin stepped intimidatingly close, hovering over Tyler's smaller form.  "You listen to me.  You are not going to fuck this up for me.  You can sit there and cry about what's right and not right for Blade, but you know what?  This isn't about him.  It's about you and it's about me.  I'm not losing the payday that goes with this deal."

Tyler looked at Colin disgusted, "The only thing that you have in common with your brother is looks, because your personality is sickening.  You'd sell your soul for a paycheck."

Colin grinned, "Maybe I already have, but money does make the world go round."

"Well, we disagree on that point then.  Some things are worth more than money."

"Really?  Let's find out how much Blade is worth to you, Tyler."  Colin pulled a piece of paper from his jacket pocket and pushed it toward Tyler's face, "Is he worth giving up this?"  Tyler scanned the document as Colin continued his tirade, "It's a restructured contract, officially binding you to making two records for this company, and more importantly putting you at the top of the priority list as far as marketing and touring."

Tyler felt a wave of mixed emotions flood over him.  The direction his life would go in from that point on could rest on his decision at that very moment.  "What about, Blade?"

"He's not invited.  So it's your choice.  We go back in and sign the contract, you get in the studio and knock out a demo, then you head out on tour to get yourself known.  Or you decline and I make your life a living hell for the remainder of your time with this company."

Tyler looked at the contract, again, then brought his eyes up to meet Colin's, "I'll sign it."  Colin's face spread into a satisfied smile, "On two conditions."

"What would those conditions be?"

"One, I take this to my lawyer before signing it.  I'll sign a letter of intent when we walk back in there."

"And?"  Colin grew impatient.

"My second condition is you relinquish your rights to Blade's contract.  Meaning you cut all ties with him completely."

Colin's smug smile seemed to fade briefly, "My my, don't we think we're worth an awful lot.."

Tyler cut in, "You wouldn't be out here threatening me if this deal wasn't worth anything to you.  So I'm betting it means more than you'll tell me.  You let Blade go, completely.  Stay away from him and out of his life.  Tell Mr. Jamesan and Mr. Edison to get him another agent or I walk from this deal."

Colin stepped back, mulling over the proposition.  "You're ballsier than I would have thought, Tyler.  Who knew a little pansy like you would step up to me?"

Tyler sneered, "Do we have a deal or not?"

"Consider it done."  Tyler made a move to reenter the board room, "Oh and Tyler?"  Tyler looked back over his shoulder, "Just because I let Blade off with a free pass, doesn't mean that you can expect to be treated like a king.  I'll ride you worse than I have him if you try to pull another stunt like this again.  Got it?"  Tyler nodded before opening the door, "Good."

The two young men took their seats at the table once again, Tyler refusing to look at Colin.  "Is everything okay?"  Mr. Jamesan asked.

Tyler was tempted to go off on a tirade about Colin, but held his tongue, "Yeah, wonderful."

Mr. Jamesan narrowed his eyes, hearing the stress in Tyler's words.  "He's fine, John.  Let's get this knocked out and not waste anymore of our time."

Mr. Jamesan looked as if he was going to chastise Colin, but was interrupted by Mr. Edison, "Colin's right.  Let's not take up anymore time with the legalities of this."  He removed an identical contract to the one Colin had showed Tyler in the hallway and pushed it in front of Tyler.  "Basically, Tyler, this is a restructured contract.  It will make your original contract void, and put you on our official priority list.  We have high hopes for you.  I understand your feelings about betraying Mr. Stevens, but I'm sure he would want you to do what's best for you."

Tyler stared at the table for a moment, "I've agreed to sign the contract, but only after I have had my lawyer go over it.  It's a matter of protecting myself from being bound to something for the next few years of my life without really knowing what I'm getting into."

"That's perfectly acceptable."

"I will sign a letter of intent if necessary.  Colin will take care of my last condition."  Tyler dared Colin to back out of their agreement with his eyes.  Colin looked angry, maybe he saw more in Blade than he had let on, but he was not one to mess up the potential of the deal at hand.

"As a condition of Tyler signing this contract, I am releasing my duties as Blade Steven's acting agent."  The others in the room looked a bit shocked, but kept quiet, "I'm requesting he be assigned a new agent, and that no further dealings between he and I take place."  He paused then asked Tyler, "Good enough?"

"I want it in writing."   Tyler said determined.

Colin smirked, "Can't pull one over on you."  Tyler had figured that Colin would try to dupe him somehow.  "I believe our lawyers here can get on drawing up a termination agreement before you leave today, granted that Mr. Edison approves."

"Well, I do have to say I'm surprised by this move.  I also don't normally agree to demands like this, but given the tension and confrontations that have been rumored to have happened between you and Blade, I think maybe it will be for the best.  So, given no other arguments against this, I will sign the document myself."  There were no further objections.  "Okay, Tyler, I look forward to seeing you soon so we can finalize this, and hopefully within the next month or so we will go over the details of our plans for you."  All of the parties involved stood and shook hands.

"Thanks for the opportunity.  I will be in the studio waiting for Colin to bring his agreement down."  Tyler left the room, feeling emotionally exhausted.  He walked down the hallway with his head down, and before he knew it he felt his body bump into something solid, sending him falling backward.

"Whoa there."  An arm wrapped around Tyler's slim waist, preventing him from hitting the ground.  Tyler's eyes looked up to meet the grinning face of Lucas.

"Sorry.  I wasn't paying attention."

Lucas smiled, "I noticed.  You look a little upset, are you okay?"

Tyler faked a smile, "Yeah.. I guess, I'm just not as ready for this whole thing as much as I thought."

"You seem ready to me.  What happened at your meeting?"

"They offered me a new contract, two records, touring.. the works."

"Awesome dude!"  Tyler genuinely smiled.  At least one of them was enthusiastic about it.  "I'm so happy for you.  You deserve it."

"Thanks, Lucas."  Things got a little awkward as both boys became quiet.

"Um, so okay.  I know this is kind of random, and if I'm out of line just tell me so."  Tyler waited for him to continue, "I was wondering if maybe you would consider going uh..."  Lucas fumbled with his words, before he was interrupted by the sound of another voice.

"Lucas, we aren't going to wait all day,"  Colin made his presence known just outside of the board room.

The light in Lucas' eyes dimmed a bit, while he reluctantly shrugged at Tyler before walking past him toward Colin.  Colin stepped out of the way and allowed Lucas to enter the room.  Tyler watched intently as Colin's sickening smile sent chills up his spine.  Tyler turned and walked out of the corridor shaking his head.  He was on his way to fame, and had potentially freed Blade from a bad situation.  Unfortunately, he had signed a deal with the devil himself to get it.

Fashion Show...

The banging base of the various oversized subwoofers bounced off the walls of the abnormally packed center court area of the mall.  A massive swarm of people had lined up, surrounding a stage area that had been set up, some stood in a separate line, waiting for their turn at who knows what.

I was curious to what the commotion was all about considering Nikki said that it was just a small fashion show, but maybe she had just downplayed it.  I scanned the crowd briefly, but didn't spot her anywhere.  I planned on visiting my old workplace anyway, so I made my way into the record store, that was conveniently right across the way from where everyone had gathered.  It was the first time I had been back to FYE since the alley altercation with Shawn and his thugs that led to my short say in the hospital over a year ago.

The line of people outside the store had managed to start worming back into the entrance way, so I shuffled around, managing to slip through the droves of people and over to the checkout counter.  A dark haired girl who I didn't recognize was standing there, not looking amused by the people that were loitering in the store and not buying anything.  I gave her a friendly smile, but she just rolled her eyes and sighed, "Let me guess, you're with one of the models and think you're entitled to a discount, right?"

I gave her a weird look, "Um, no.. Well..I mean I do know one of the models but.."  She butted in before I could finish.

"No discount."

"I'm not here for a discount.  I used to work here, I was looking for Michelle actually."

She eyed me suspiciously, then reluctantly picked up the phone and apparently called the back room, "Michelle, there's someone here to see you," She held the receiver to the side and looked at me, "What's your name?"


"He says his name is Blade.  Oh.. you do.. okay." She hung the phone up and looked at me sheepishly, "Um, sorry about that.  Things have just been hectic with this stupid fashion show and.."

I smiled reassuringly at her, "It's cool.  I know how crowds can get."  I spotted Michelle making her way to the front with a smile on her face.  She ran up and threw her arms around me, then promptly stepped back and smacked me on the arm.

"You brat.  Just up and disappear on me."  I rubbed my arm and was about to speak when she cut me off, "Don't give me any of that I went off to be a rockstar thing either mister."

I smiled, "Well you know.."  She raised her arm to swat at me again and I backed away with a grin on my face, "Okay, okay.  So sue me, I've been busy."  Pssh.. an understatement if there ever was one.

"So I see,"  She reached into her back pocket and brought out a cd, "We just got these from JE Records.  Seems you're on your way stud."  I took the cd into my hand and looked it over.  It was the half and half single that Tyler and I had done in December.  The cover had both of us standing back to back just like it had been pitched.  I smirked a little, the coolness factor of seeing it in an actual store was pretty tight.

"Whoa.. so you're like.. famous?"  The cashier girl who I had not gotten a proper introduction to jumped into our conversation.

"Well.. not quite.  I'm just starting out, the other guy on here, he's probably the main reason that this is even being sent out."

"Since when are you so modest?  I listened to it, it's a great song.. sad.. but great.  I actually prefer your voice to his."

I smiled, "Well you are prone to be a little biassed.. I mean you do think I'm the sex afterall."

Michelle laughed, "Ah, there's the Blade I know."  The cashier was still standing there listening to us, "Um, why don't you go make sure that everyone is finding everything okay, Amanda."  The girl looked like she wanted to protest, but knew better, and went on her way.  "So what are you doing here anyway??"

"I actually got an invite from a friend of mine from NY.  She's part of this fashion show, and I guess involved in the organization of it."

"Ah, so I can blame her for the chaos."  I just shrugged innocently, "I'm just joking.  It's actually a charity fashion event.  I guess the outfits are going to be auctioned after the show and the proceeds are going toward cancer and other disease research."

I frowned a bit, "Unfortunately, my friend has been fighting with Hodgkin's for a long time now."

"Aw, I'm sorry to hear that.  But hey she's still fighting so that's a good thing right?"

"Yeah.  It's just weird you know?  To think that it could take her at anytime.  I don't know, I haven't dealt with loss really well lately.  So much has happened since I worked here."

Michelle gave me an understanding look, "Blade, you know that I would love to catch up with you, so anytime you want you just give me a call or stop in and we'll do lunch.  I mean that too, I don't care if you think you have some stupid problem that you don't want to bother anyone with, come see me.  I'm a good listener."

"And talker.. "  I made a yapping motion with my hand.

"Oh sure, kill the moment."  I grinned and gave her a hug.

"Thanks, Michelle.  I better go find Nikki, but I will catch up with you soon.  Take care of yourself, you hear?"

"I always do.  Have a good time, sweetie."  I turned to walk out of the store and realized I still had the promo cd in my hand.  I turned back, but Michelle just looked at me and waved me on.  I gave her one last wave and walked out of the store.

The line had been pushed out of the store's entrance, so it wouldn't interfere with business.  I stood off to the side, just trying to get a view of what they were lined up for, as the people watching the fashion show were gathered around the actual stage.  I couldn't make out what was at the front of the line with so many people blocking my view.  I felt someone grasp the cd in my hand and turned my attention to a teenage girl who was standing with three of her friends.  She wasn't trying to take the cd, she just looked at the cover, then looked up at me, then back down at the cd cover, then turned to her friends giggling.

"He's on the cover of that cd, he must be famous!!!"  She whispered loudly.  I tried to back away without them noticing, but had no such luck.  "WAIT!!" I jumped from the shrill scream that came out of the girls' mouths.  I cautiously walked back over to them.

"Um.. hey."

They all smiled and giggled like only young teenage girls do, then of course came the rapid fire questions, "You're a singer?  Do you have a girlfriend?  What's it like being famous?  Are you rich?  Do you know Kelly Clarkson?!?!"

"Uh.. whoa.. slow down.."

"Can we get your autograph???"  I couldn't seem to get a word in edgewise, so I nodded silently as each of them handed me random items to sign one by one.  "You're sooooooooo hot.  Will you go out with me?"  The one that had originally grabbed the cd, asked boldly.


One of her friends jumped in, "Of course he won't go out with you, he's a celebrity, he's probably dating Lindsey Lohan or some famous skank..."  Her comments started a group argument.  I decided to try and make my get away, but apparently the girls had drawn more attention to me than I had thought.  Others started gathering around, talking amongst themselves, speculating to who I was and so forth.  Before I knew it I had been encircled by a decent sized crowd, and was being bombarded with questions.  I tried to smile and just go with the flow, but luckily after a minute or two security had cut through the crowd and started to break it up.

"All right, what's the problem here?"  One of the beefy security guards asked roughly.

One girl screamed, "HE'S A POPSTAR!!!!"  This of course drew even more attention and soon more people tried to push into the crowd.  The security guards looked at me then the cd that had caused all of the drama.  "Okay, that's enough.  Everyone get back into a single file line and wait for your turn at the signing table.  If you do not, you will be asked to leave the building."  The crowd groaned and started muttering amongst each other.  The security guard looked at me and I just shrugged.  He shook his head, then put a hand on my shoulder and started leading me out of the crowd.  After a few moments we had broken free and I was led to the front of the line where a table was setup.  Everyone that was still actually in the line looked at me like I was some kind of sideshow freak as I walked by them.  "I think it'll be best if you stay up here with the models."   I nodded, not really knowing what other option I had.

"Um, I'm actually looking for my friend.. she's one of the organizers of the show.. Nikki.."

"Hmm.. You know, if I didn't know any better, I'd say that you were stalking me."  I turned around to the previously empty signing area and was greeted by a smirking newly familiar face.  He looked stunning, dressed in some designer threads, his hair perfectly pushed in various directions around his face and his skin looking flawless.

"Yeah.. and I almost got you too..."  I smiled, but the security guard looked a little weary by the stalking topic.

Zach laughed, and just waved off the guard, "I'm joking, man.  He's with me."  The guard sighed and walked away to cover crowd control, as Zach gently grabbed my wrist and led me behind the table.  He took a seat in one of the chairs and motioned for me to sit in the one beside him.  I set my bag and the cd on the table without even thinking about it.  Zach noticed it right away and picked it up.  "Hmm, so it seems you are somewhat of a big deal."

I blushed, "Not really.  Things just got out of hand back there.  Teenage girls and all."

Zach smiled, "Well, they swarmed you like you were Madonna or something."

"I don't think I have the figure to be mistaken for Madonna."

"Yeah, I'm not sure you could fill out the cone bra,"  He grinned, "So, what are you doing here?  I mean.. that sounded rude.  I'm happy to see you again so soon."

"I was invited, by my friend, Nik.."

"BLADE!!"  I looked up and was greeted by the sight of Nikki walking up behind us.  I smiled and stood up, greeting her warmly with a hug.  "I was wondering if you had ditched me."

"Nah, I just got preoccupied.."

"Yeah, he stole all of my fans,"  Zach joked.

"You have fans?"  I shot back playfully.

Zach gave me a look of horror, "Do you not know who I am?"

"Yeah, Blade, don't tell me you don't know of the famous Zachary Ferreira."  Nikki said sarcastically.  "You're such an egomaniac, Zach."

Zach put on an innocent look, "I'm an angel."

"You wish,"  Nikki turned her attention back to me, "So how do you know Zach?"

"Um, we actually met this afternoon at Walgreens of all places."

"And I charmed him so much that he had to come see me again.  Don't act like his appearance is to see you, Nikki," Zach grinned while Nikki gave him a look of mock anger.

"Actually, Nikki invited me.  Sorry to burst your bubble."  Zach looked like he was going to cry.  "You should be an actor, you're really good with the on cue faces."

"Maybe I will."  Zach looked at the crowd who seemed to be getting restless, "Nikki we better start signing for these people, they look like they're going to stone us pretty soon."

"Okay, let's get started then."

"Well, I guess I'll wait for you after the show, good luck you guys,"  I reached for my bag, but Zach put his hand over mine and prevented me from picking it up.  He motioned to a gentleman in a suit off to the side of the greeting area.

"Can you get another chair please?"  The man nodded and went to get a chair.

I looked at Zach, "You don't have to go through the trouble, man.  I can wait.."

"Don't worry.  It's no trouble, I think it'd be cool if you stayed."  He smiled widely, his perfect teeth lighting up his face.  I smiled back as the man brought the chair over and placed it between Nikki and Zach.  I sat down and put my bag over the back of the chair.  I turned my attention to Nikki who just gave me one of her trademark sly smiles.


She shook her head, "Don't what me."

I rolled my eyes, "You think you know everything."

"I'm pretty sure that's you, hun."  I laughed, and shook my head.  "So how have you been holding up?"

"Um, okay.  I've been um.. seeing my therapist every week for the past few months."  I glanced over at Zach, feeling uneasy talking about being in therapy in front of him.  He just gave me a wink and went back to signing autographs.

"Have you heard from Chance at all?"  I winced a bit, not expecting the directness from Nikki.

"Not since Christmas Day."

She frowned, "I'm sorry.  I thought you guys were so cute together."

I glanced to Zach again, but he seemed occupied with the girls fawning over him, "Um, Nikki.. could we keep the details on the down low?"

Nikki smirked, "Don't worry about Zach."

"Yeah, don't worry about me."  Zach startled me, "What are we not worrying about me doing?"

"Uh.. nothing."

Zach eyed me, "Uh huh.  Nikki you might actually want to sign something.  I'm doing all of the work here.  You too, popstar."

"Hey, hey.. this isn't my meet and greet."

"Well, they seem to think it is, so give them a thrill."  Zach's eyes sparkled with mischief.

"You're trouble, aren't you?  The whole nice guy thing is a facade.."  I teased.

"Nice guys can be trouble too,"  He stuck his tongue out at me.  "Why didn't you tell me you were a singer?"

"Well, that's not usually how I start a conversation with someone.  It's not a big deal, I'm not some big star, I'm completely unknown for the most part."

"Not anymore.  These girls will have your picture on the internet in no time."

I gave him an uneasy look, "I hope not.. and anyway, why didn't you tell me that you were some kind of supermodel?"

"It's not how I usually start a conversation with someone."  He smirked.

"You sound like my brother Eric."

"Eric?" Zach paused in thought, "Wait.. not Eric Stevens right?"  I furrowed my brow and nodded, "Shit, I'm so stupid.  I totally didn't put it together."

"Uh.. put what together?"

"Your name.  I saw it on the information at the photo lab earlier, but for some reason it didn't click.  Your brother even mentioned your name earlier.. man."

"You know him?"

"We go to school together.  We're actually really good friends, co quarterbacks on the football team."

I looked at him incredulously, "Football team?  My brother????  Are you sure you have the right person?"

"Unless there's two Eric Stevens that have brothers named Blade, then yeah.  Always has sex on the mind, sarcasm out the ass..."

"Okay, yeah, definitely my brother.  Wow.. I really need to catch up with him.  I would've never pegged him for playing football."

"I don't think he did either.  Jake talked him into it.  Small world that we met like this."

"I guess so."  Very small.  I continued small talk with Zach and Nikki for another 45 minutes  Zach had an infectious quality about him that just made me want to know him even more.   Nikki asked about Cameron like any mother would have. I wasn't sure how she took the fact that he had been living at my mother's without me since my breakdown, but I think she understood.  As an announcer got on stage, Nikki stood up from her seat.  The line had been cut off, and soon everyone had moved to the seating around the stage area.

"I have to get the last half of the runway show started so we can get this show finished on time.  I don't know if you want to stick around, I know you have your obligations at home."

I knew she was speaking of Cameron.  "He'll be at my mom's for one more night."

Zach put an arm around my shoulder, "Great, so that means you can join me outside for a smoke."  I put my hands up and shrugged at Nikki who snickered as Zach led me away.

We walked fairly silently through the mall, Zach never taking his arm from around my shoulders.  No one seemed to really pay it any attention either, which was strange, but nice.  We went through the exit doors and stepped out into the cooler night air.  Zach finally removed his arm from my shoulders and sat down on the curb.  I sat next to him, somehow closer than I thought, as our arms and legs were touching.  He pulled out a cigarette, putting it between his smooth lips while he held the lighter to the end of it.  A puff of smoke emitted from his mouth and he extended the cigarette to me.

"No thanks."

He smiled at me and took another drag, "You don't smoke?"

"I'm not a fan of cigarettes.  I normally find it to be really unattractive."

He held eye contact with me, "Did you just imply I'm ugly?"

I laughed, "No, that's ridiculous.  Calling a model ugly."

"If I wasn't a model would you still say that?"

"Of course.  Come on.. you're gorgeous, man."  I felt my face get warm from being so forward.  He smiled, not losing eye contact with me.

"I'm glad I met you today."

"Me too."  A calm silence filled the air as Zach tossed the cigarette butt away.  We sat there, leaning against each other, talking under the dark night time sky, practically strangers, but the calmness and comfort I felt was one that told me the one thing that I needed to know.  Things were getting better, even if in the most unexpected ways.


Green laser lights flashed around the outside of the club, the thumping of the base line echoing through the thick stone walls as people lined up down the block waiting for entry into the booming nightspot.  It was Friday night, and Surge was the place to be for young people looking to have a good time.  Most traveled in groups, whether it be as a couple, or a tight circle of friends.  One person stood in line, waiting alone, not far from the entranceway.

Eric stood in line patiently, dressed in a button down black shirt and some distressed jeans.  He wore the top two buttons of his shirt open, drawing the eyes of many of the women that passed by.  Eric didn't really flinch at the attention, afterall he was a good looking boy and people naturally look at things they find appealing.  He was however starting to become nervous as the group at the front was allowed into the club, leaving only a couple in front of him.  Zach had promised that he had made a call to the owner to get him on a VIP list of sorts, but still, Eric had never tried to get into a club before especially by himself.  He wished Matt was there.

The couple ahead of him held hands, laughing and being playful with each other, before the bouncer let them in.  Eric swallowed hard, but tried to keep up a cool demeanor as he walked up to the bouncer.  The bouncer was a large, hulking man, and he eyed Eric suspiciously.  "Shouldn't you be in school or something?"

"Uh, it's night time?"

The bouncer didn't look amused, "Smart ass I see.  We don't allow children into this club."

"I'm on the list.  Eric Stevens."

The bouncer looked through his list, landing on Eric's name.  "It is.  Now show me some identification and you'll be on your way in."

Eric looked lost.  He had an id. all right, but it was actually his.. saying he was only 16. "I, uh.. Didn't bring one.  My friend said that I wouldn't have a problem getting in as long as I was on the list."

"Well your friend..."

"Tiny.. are we giving the boy a hard time this evening?"  Eric felt a hand on his shoulder.  He glanced to his left, and there stood a strikingly handsome man.  His medium length hair fell along the sides of his face, framing his icy blue eyes.  Eric didn't recall seeing him earlier, but chalked it up to his nerves preoccupying his mind.

"He doesn't have identification.."  The bouncer seemed oddly intimidated by the newcomer.

"Wouldn't be the first time.. tonight.. that that's happened, now would it?"  The man turned to Eric, "Come on..."  Obviously awaiting a name..


The man smiled, "Yes, Eric.  Let's go inside.  He's my guest, Tiny."  The man nudged Eric forward, leading him into the club, only stopping for a moment to give the bouncer a short look.  The music inside was loud, almost to the point of drowning out the thoughts in someone's head.  Eric took in the scene, never having been inside an actual dance club.  There were people everywhere, dancing, grinding and drinking.  It was like a free for all of fun.  Eric smiled, feeling a surge of excitement go through his body.  He leaned against the bar, in awe of the amount of alcohol that was behind the counter.  "You might want to keep your jaw from hitting the bar, that might be a giveaway that you've never been to a club before."  Eric smiled sheepishly.  "I'm Ethan, by the way."

"Nice to meet you, dude.  Thanks for helping me out."

"It's no problem.  I was once your age, you know."

"Haha, yeah, I know.  Not that long ago right?  What are you like 21.. 22?"

Ethan smirked, "Eh, we'll keep that a mystery for now."  Eric just shrugged.  "Did you want something to drink?"

"Um, I'm not a big drinker.  Family history and stuff."

"You're only as strong as your mind let's you be.  So if you tell yourself when to stop, you'll be fine."

"Well.. I guess something light."

Ethan smiled and called for the bartender, "Give me a Midori Sour, and an Adios."  The bartender nodded and got to making the drinks.  Ethan turned toward Eric, "So, what brings someone like yourself out here on your own?"

Eric frowned a bit, "Well.. my friends had other plans, and my boy.." Eric caught himself, looking up at Ethan's eyes, but then figured what the hell, "My boyfriend had a prior commitment."

Ethan grinned, "I like your honesty.  Really though, you shouldn't come to these places alone.  Who knows who you could run into."

"I guess I'm lucky I found you then huh?"

Ethan's grin widened, "That you are my friend."  Their drinks came up and Ethan handed Eric the Midori.  Eric sipped it, preparing for a nasty burning sensation that usually goes with alcohol, but was was oddly surprised.

"Man, this tastes like candy."

"Haha, well, you did say that you wanted something light."  Ethan raised his drink up to the same level as Eric's lips, "Mine on the other hand, will have you stumbling after a couple glasses."  Eric tentatively took a sip from Ethan's glass, making a sour face as the liquid went down his throat.  He coughed a little bit, and raised his hand, signaling that was enough of that one for him.

"That shit is gross."

"It's quite a mix, tequila, vodka, rum gin.."

Eric downed his Midori to remove the taste of Ethan's drink, "Poison?"

"Maybe.  Everything has something bad for you in it.  But then again people don't come here to be health conscious, now do they?"

Eric shook his head, "I'd think they come here to get away from life."

"Very true.  You're a smart kid."

Eric blushed, "Don't call me kid, you make it sound like you're ancient."  Ethan smirked, sipping on his drink.  Eric's eyes roamed around the club.  His eyes kept falling upon this one couple, two teenage guys, who were holding each other lovingly.  They seemed to be in their own little world, completely separated from the night club.  They kissed with a passion, holding each other's bodies against one another like they were afraid that they were going to suddenly disappear.


Eric turned his head toward Ethan with a questioning gaze, "I'm sorry?"

"E.  They're on ecstasy.  That's why they aren't concerned with anything else around them.  Just that primal lust that's building inside of them.'

"How.. how can you tell?"

"I just.. let's say have a sense for these kind of things.  I see it all the time here."

"Have you ever done it?"

Ethan never faltered, seemingly at ease with everything, "Of course.  It's a fun little drug I suppose.  Makes you forget about things you don't want to think about."  Eric listened carefully, looking back at the couple who had apparently removed their shirts.  "You know, if you're interested, I can probably get you hooked up."

"I have a boyfriend."

"No, I mean with E.  If you want to know what it's like."

"I.. I don't think I should..."

"Let me guess, most people in your life wouldn't agree with it right?  Especially one person in particular.. a strong brotherly type."

Eric stared at Ethan, a little freaked out, "How do you know that?  Are you psychic or something?"

"Haha, no.  Like I said, I've been around for awhile.  I've seen people like you before.  They want to experience life, or find a way to temporarily escape it but they're afraid of what someone will think."

"I just.. have been having a hard time with some things lately.  Nothing that I really want to get into, I just wish that they would just.. go away for awhile."

"Come with me."  Ethan put his arm around Eric's shoulder and led the boy toward a large door at the back of the club.  "Now, anything that you see in here, stays between you and I understood?"  Eric nodded.  "I'm not going to pressure you into anything.  Anything you do will be completely your choice, and I will keep an eye on you to make sure no one messes with you.  It's your life, nobody else's.  You're free to do as you please regardless if anyone else looks down on you for it."  Eric stayed silent, a million thoughts racing through his head, "So, do you want to go in?"

Eric mulled it over for a few moments.  Ethan was right.  It was his life and he was going to do what he wanted.  He was strong enough to know his limits.  "Let's go."  Ethan opened the door and led Eric inside.  Eric unfortunately didn't know that what lied behind that door would change life as he knew it.  Sometimes the need to no longer feel.. to stop the pain.. leads down a path that we should never have stepped onto.  Life changes people, time never stands still.