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 9
Letters To You


I stared at the boy in front of me in disbelief.  A thousand possibilities had run through my mind about who could be at the door and Chance wasn't one of them.  A small smile played over his lips, masking the uncertainty that loomed in his eyes.

"Um, surprise?"  I laughed a little, still slightly in shock.  He had a large bag slung over his shoulder and a roll away suitcase on the ground beside him.  "Can I come in?"  He asked with amusement in his voice.

"Oh, yeah.  Sorry, I just-"

"Didn't expect me to show up on your doorstep anytime soon?   I know."

"I'm glad you're so entertained by my shock."  His teeth pierced through his lips, breaking his smile wide open while he walked into the condo.  I closed the door behind him then watched him set his bag down on the table.  He rummaged around in it for a moment, giving me a few seconds to gather my thoughts.  His curly mop had grown quite a bit, but it suited him, only accentuating his facial features.  The past months seemed to have matured him physically, his boyishness still evident, but a sign of being older loomed over him.  I guess I wasn't the only one that life had taken it's toll on.

After he settled with his bag, he stepped back and surveyed the place. I couldn't read the look on his face, but if I had to take a guess, it was as if he was reminiscing.  Taking in what had once been.. after all, we had gotten the place together.  His eyes scanned the room until they came to rest on me.  Silence filled the room and I would be lying if I said it wasn't an awkward one.  I didn't know what to say, so I sat on the couch, letting the exhaustion of my body seep into the cushions.  It had been a rough night and now morning.  Chance tentatively walked over and sat on the couch as well, leaving a good distance between the two of us.  "I'm sorry for just showing up like this.  I should've called first.  I just wanted to get back here as soon as I could and I guess I got a little overly anxious.  I'm not the best planner apparently."

"What was the hurry?"

"You know how my parents are."  I nodded in the affirmative, "They were totally out of control once I got back.  I mean.. I was pretty much on house arrest aside from work.  I was actually happy to get back to school as long as it was away from them."

"Yeah, I got the impression they weren't going to win parent of the year awards."  I fought off the recollection of the last time we had spoken.  It wasn't the time to bring up the wounds that that day had ripped wide open.

The side of his cheek sucked in a little bit bringing his lips into a small half smile.. or half frown.  The latter would seem more appropriate, "It sucked, but going back to school got me away from them.  I wasn't their problem anymore as long as I stayed on campus.  I guess word got around school that I took off with my boyfriend across the country and you know how it goes in high school.  That turns into some guy kidnapped me and held me hostage against my will and so forth."

I frowned, "I'm sorry I didn't fight for you, Chance."

He moved closer to me and laid a hand over my wrist, "Hey, I told you to let me go, Blade.  I could handle my parents and the guys at school because I knew that having to deal with them was temporary.  I wouldn't have been able to deal with you being arrested because of me.  I would never forgive myself."

I didn't know how to respond to his words, the feeling of his hand gently holding onto my arm started to make me anxious for some reason, "Now you're back."

He must've felt me tense a bit, his hand withdrew calmly, "Yeah.  I'm back."

"Why did you choose to come back here?"  I already knew what the most likely reasoning was going to be, but I guess I needed to hear it from him.

Chance took a breath before responding, "I liked it here.  It felt more like home than New York has since.. well, since Jamie died.  I know that sounds stupid, but.."

"It's not stupid."

"I was here for a couple of months tops, Blade.  Most people would think it weird that I would think the way I do."

"Well, I never said I didn't think you were weird."

He giggled lightly before his expression became more serious.. sad even, "I missed you.  A lot."

Our eyes met like they were magnetized before darting away from each other.  "I've missed you too.  God.. you don't know how hard it.." I stopped myself realizing that he did know.  He felt the same way I felt when we got ripped away from each other.  I sighed, "So much has happened since you've been gone."

"I don't expect things to be the same as they used to."

I blinked my eyes hard, willing the sleep away that was so valiantly fighting them.  They burned like an unseen fire had been set ablaze within them, "I just never expected you to be back here.  I guess I didn't think I'd ever see you again."

"Blade?"  My eyes abruptly awakened, more alert than they had been in hours.  The sudden intrusion of a sleepy voice cracked through the air like thunder to my ears.  Chance looked at me with confusion plastered all over his face.  Zach emerged in the hallway, sleepily stumbling toward us clad in nothing, but a pair of red and white boxer briefs.  He propped himself up against the wall, rubbing his eyes before they settled where Chance and I were sitting.  "Oh, uh, sorry.  I didn't know that there was company."

I watched Chance's reaction to Zach's presence carefully.  His face went from confusion to recognition as if a light bulb had appeared over his head.  "Yeah, um..."  I struggled for words, feeling extremely uncomfortable with the two of them.  "This is Chance, he's um..."  I sounded like a blabbering fool, but it seemed like my shortened vocabulary wasn't going to let up anytime soon, "And this is Zach..."

Zach snickered while he made his way over to the couch.  He extended his hand to Chance who hesitated slightly before accepting the gesture, "Nice to meet you.  I think Blade is suffering from lack of sleep, he doesn't usually talk like he's three."

"Yeah, I know.  Um, I guess I should let you guys get to bed.  I shouldn't have come here so early without calling."  Chance stood hastily, "Do you know of a hotel that will let me check in this early?"

"Hotel?  You didn't really come out here and plan on staying at a hotel,"  I stated.

"Well, no, but things obviously change, Blade."  He looked at Zach while he spoke, who looked puzzled as ever, "I don't want to intrude."

Zach's eyes lit up, putting two and two together, "I'm going to leave you two alone.  I, uh, don't think it's my place to be involved here."

"It's okay,"  Chance spoke without wavering, "I didn't mean to make things awkward."

Zach nodded, but for some reason looked a little shaken, "Me neither.  It was nice meeting you, but really, I'm going to go back to bed."

Chance gave Zach a polite smile before Zach retreated back down the hall and into my bedroom.  Chance turned his attention back to me, "He's very cute."

I felt guilt start to flood through my body, "Chance, he's.. We're not... You see.."

Chance put a hand on my shoulder, "We'll talk when you can form a coherent sentence."  He smiled brightly, reminding me of how much that exact smile used to light up a room and my heart, "So, about that hotel.."

"I'm not going to have you living out of a hotel.  You can stay here, it's okay really."

"I don't know if that's such a good idea.  I'd feel like I was making things even weirder than they already are."

I grasped his arms firmly, "Chance, we both know that I'm the stronger one of us two, so you can choose to stay quietly or I can throw you over my shoulder and lock you in a room."

"The second way sounds more fun actually."

I smirked, "I didn't know you liked it rough."

Chance smiled, but his eyes portrayed a different picture, "If I stay where am I sleeping?"

"Well, you can bunk with Cameron for tonight, then we'll figure it out from there."

"What about Zach?"

"Zach doesn't live here.  He just uh, comes over.."

"And stays in your bed.  It's okay Blade, I'm not Cameron okay?  You don't have to tip toe around me because you're with someone else."

"We're not together.  It's complicated."

"Then I guess we really do have a lot to talk about.  Later though, you need some sleep.  You're going to look like the Crypt Keeper soon."

"Oh thanks a lot," I playfully punched him in the arm, "You go 26 hours without sleep and tell me how you look."

Chance grinned, "I'm sure Zach can help you get some sleep."

"Low blow."  The cheeky grin didn't leave his face for a moment, so I returned it in kind.

"Goodni... er.. good morning. Wait.."

I laughed, "Now who can't form a sentence?"

"You know what I mean," His face flushed a bright pink, "Get some sleep and thanks."

"For what?"

"Letting me stay,"  He walked over to me and placed a soft kiss on my cheek.  Before I could say anything he grabbed his bag and disappeared into Cameron's room.

"CHANCE!!!"  Cameron's voice rang through the otherwise quiet house a few moments later. Chance popped his head out for a second and gave me one last smile before he shut the door, obviously so Cameron wouldn't take his excitement out on me.  I shook my head and lazily willed myself down the hall to my bedroom.

I stopped in the doorway and looked at Zach's sleeping form.  He was sprawled out on the bed with the comforter half way wrapped around his body, like he had gotten in a wrestling match with it.  His boxer briefs were riding up on one side exposing his left butt cheek.  I laughed before stripping down the remainder of my clothes myself.  I left the clothes where they fell, being tidy wasn't on my agenda.  I didn't want to wake Zach, but he was taking up the whole bed so I gently nudged him.  He lifted his head and looked over at me with an adorable sleep filled smile. "Mmm, is it my birthday?"

I looked at him puzzled, "Not that I'm aware of."

"Really?  I'm pretty sure that this happened on my birthday last time I dreamed it."  I must've looked even more confused because he started laughing to himself, "Well, you are standing there naked at my bedside."

I felt my face get warm, "Like I ever wear anything to sleep and this is my bedside."

He pouted, "Ruin my fantasy."

I slipped into bed and snatched the covers from him, "I'm too tired to be your fantasy boy."

"Aw, you can never be too tired for that.  It'll help you sleep," He grinned, wiggling his eyebrows at me.

"You're perpetually horny, you know that?"

"Well, I can stop if you like."

"You're a brat.  I don't want you to stop, just shut up and go to sleep before I jump you."

"Haha, what kind of threat is that?  I thought I was the one that was perpetually horny,"  I just rolled my eyes and pulled the covers up to my neck.  Not five seconds later I felt them yanked away.

"You are asking for it."

"Yes, yes I am."  He pushed the covers away then crawled over to me before draping an arm over my waist and laying his head on my chest.  He looked up at me with the cutest pout.


"What?"  He asked innocently.  I ran my hand down his smooth back and over his butt cheek, "Mmm," He purred under my touch.

I stared straight into his eyes before I tugged his boxer briefs back into place, covering his exposed flesh. I smacked his ass lightly before promptly taking my hand away from his body, "Didn't want you to be cold."

He pouted even harder, "Tease."  I tilted my head and gave him a smug grin, before bringing my face down to plant a light kiss over his lips.  "So, that's Chance, huh?"

"Yeah," My eyes fluttered, the sleep finally starting to win out.

"He's cute."

"He said the same thing about you."

"Oh yeah?  Say why don't we.."

"We are not having a three way."

"I never said such a thing,"  His face portrayed innocence, but his eyes screamed mischief.

My eyes closed a little more, barely leaving Zach in sight, "Zach.. I'm really ti--red"

"I know,"  He reached down and pulled the comforter back over the both of us.  He settled in next to me, keeping himself wrapped around my body, "Sweet dreams, Blade."  Zach kissed me one more time before laying his head back down on my chest.  Emotionally and physically exhausted, there was no time to stress about how things had became even more complicated.

Following Monday.....

There's always days when you would prefer nothing more than a nice long nap.  An extended absence from life and the stress it brings along with it everyday.  Everyone has those days, but most aren't fortunate enough to actually take those breaks.  Whether it be commitments that had been made or just the musings of the mind that won't allow for rest, there's usually one reason or another to keep us all from getting the time for ourselves that we need.  Then there's those who prefer to take that me time and use it during their sixth period World History class.

Erik laid his head on the hard surface of his desk, making no effort at all to hide his lack of attention.  He normally was a decent student academically, but as of late his willingness to pay attention or participate in class had dropped substantially.  The impending doom he felt about his home life made it hard for him to concentrate on much of anything else.


Erik jumped slightly, his head popping up off of the desk at the sudden intrusion of sound.  His gaze immediately met the perturbed look of his very unamused teacher.  "Am I boring you Mr. Dupri?"

"Kind of, yeah," Eric muttered, not really looking for a fight, but not really avoiding one either.

"Well then, since you're so bored, you must already know everything there is to know about history.  Is that right?"  Erik rolled his eyes causing some girls around him to giggle.

"Yeah, I must.  What part of history are you from again?"  Erik knew he was in for it when he saw the look of rage flash over the teacher's face.  She was fuming, the image of a cartoon spouting smoke from it's ears came to mind.  This was no cartoon and Erik had crossed a line.

"Office! Now!"  Erik grumbled to himself under his breath, shoving his books and pen into his bag with frustration. He nearly knocked the teacher over while throwing his bag over his shoulder, but before she could say anything else he stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

The hallways were desolate and secluded, just about everyone was in class save for the few ditchers or people running to the bathroom.  Erik pulled out his Ipod and put the ear phones in his ears.  He was in no hurry to get to the office knowing he would be due for a detention regardless of when the principal got ahold of him.  He instead walked through the nearest exit doors and headed for the grassy area outside.  A few guys jumped at the sound of the doors opening, hurrying to hide whatever it was they were smoking.  Once they saw it was just another student and not a teacher they cursed and yelled something out to him, but Erik only saw their mouths move, the music drowning out their voices.

A tree stood grounded in the overly green grass, casting a mass of shadow in its stead.  Erik dropped his bag on the ground and took a seat in front of the tree, casually resting his back against the large trunk.  He sighed to himself, closing his eyes trying to get lost in the music flowing through his ear phones.  It was a moment to try and let the weight he had been carrying around inside subside, but it wasn't easily accomplished.  The social worker's calls had become more frequent and it was getting harder to keep getting to the answering machine before Blade did to erase the evidence.  The only reason it had been possible at all was because Blade had been so preoccupied with Chance coming back and trying to juggle keeping him comfortable while still having his rendezvous with Zach.  To say the home life had become complicated was an understatement.  Eventually things would settle down and Erik knew it would be sooner rather than later.  Then the life he had finally started to become accustomed to would be taken away.

For once in his life he felt like he had found a place that he could call home. Sure his home life wasn't exactly what most would call typical for obvious reasons, but he knew that he could be himself and no one there would put him down for it.  No one there would berate or hit him for not being the perfect child.  He refused to go back to a situation like that, no matter what he had to do.

"Shouldn't you be in class?"

Erik's eyes opened quickly, the voice cutting through the the music filling his ears.  "Shouldn't you?"

Jordan smiled before taking a seat next to Erik, "Well, the bell rang, so no.  How long have you been out here?"

"Not long.  I got sent to the principals office."

"When did his office become a tree?"  Jordan teased.

"Well, I didn't feel like going yet, so I came out here to think.  I figure I'm getting detention either way, so what's the hurry?"  Erik forced a cheeky smile.

Jordan shook his head, "What'd you do?"

"I got annoyed by my history teacher, so I kind of shot my mouth off."

"That doesn't sound like you.  Is there something on your mind you want to talk about?"  Erik eyed Jordan wearily.  Jordan had always been nice to him, the more mature half of Jordan's relationship with Kai.

"Nah, it's nothing that you can help me with."

"You never know.  I'm pretty smart or so that's what they tell me," Jordan grinned.

"It's not really something that can be solved by smarts.  I guess it's sort of inevitable." Jordan furrowed his brow, trying to figure out what Erik was referring to, but he couldn't be any more vague than he was being at the moment.

"Not many things are inevitable, Erik.  If you have a problem you have people here that will help you figure out how to solve it."

"I know, it's just.. everyone has their own problems to deal with right now.  Blade's going crazy trying to not step on anyone's feelings now that Chance is back.."

"Wait, what?  Chance is back?"

"Yeah, um he showed up the morning that Eric went to the hospital.  I didn't get too many details since he came in so late.. or early."

"Wow, that must be awkward."

Erik smirked a little bit, "Not as awkward as it was when Zach came out of the bedroom in his underwear to introduce himself to Chance."

Jordan's eyes widened, "What?!?"

"Haha, yeah.  Chance asked me about him and told me how they met."

"It really shouldn't surprise me all that much that Zach was walking around in his underwear.."

"Are you implying something, Jordan?"  Jordan and Erik looked up and caught Zach standing there feigning a look of annoyance. He was dressed to impress as always, the sun accentuating his eyes and hair just right.

"Of course not. Whatever could I be implying?"

Zach growled, "I think you're trying to say I'm a whore."

"I would never say that about you," Jordan put on his best innocent face.

Zach scoffed dramatically, "I don't call sleeping with one person being a whore."

"Yeah, most people would call that a relationship," Erik chimed in.

Zach narrowed his eyes, "You know too much for your own good, so be a good little jail bait and be quiet."

Jordan laughed, "He is right you know?"

Zach pulled out his cigarettes, knowing full well smoking wasn't allowed on the grounds, but did it anyway, "You two shouldn't gang up on me."

"You shouldn't avoid the subject," Jordan challenged.  Zach gave him a look while he lit his cigarette.  He took a puff and then offered it to Jordan who declined.

"What about me?"  Erik questioned.

"Blade would kill me if I let you smoke."

"How would he know?"

"He's got Jedi mind tricks or something.  You shouldn't smoke anyway, it's bad for your health."  Erik rolled his eyes and Jordan laughed.

"Such a role model, Zach.  Maybe it would be more efficient if you didn't smoke while preaching against it."

"Hey, I have bad habits, sue me.  I'll quit someday," Zach took another drag as he spoke.  "Anyway, if we're done bashing Zach now, what's going on with you two? I haven't really had any time for hanging out lately."

"Yeah, I'm surprised to actually see you at school for once," Jordan teased.

"I have to come here sometimes, I heard it's required or something.  I have my tutor when I have a show, but if my attendance is really bad I won't be able to go to prom, so I'm doing my duty.  I've got to be around for the football games too with Eric out of commission or Coach will have a coronary.  Not enough hours in the day."  Jordan gave Zach a look of sympathy while Erik had all, but zoned out of the conversation, staring off into space lost in his thoughts.  Zach glanced over at him, studying the expression upon the younger boy's face.  "Are you ok, Erik?  You seem a little preoccupied."

Erik looked to Zach, raising a corner of his lips to try to smile, but the emotions in his heart were making it near impossible.  His mind was getting the best of him and he didn't want anyone to know.  The problem was, the one person that knew what was ailing him was sitting right in front of him.  He quickly adverted his eyes from Zach's, "I'm fine."

"Mmmhmm," Zach said while tossing the butt of his cigarette to the ground, "Should we go talk somewhere?  No offense, Jordan.."  Before Jordan could say anything he was cut off.

"Mr. Dupri, I believe I sent you to the principal's office, not outside to lounge as you see fit."  Erik's history teacher had exited the building unnoticed, spotting him before he could make a move to get out of sight.

"Well, I was going to..."

"Going to isn't good enough.  I'll see to it that you get a week of detention for disobeying me."  Erik shook his head before flinging his bag over his shoulder violently and standing up.

"You're going to give him a week for not going to the office right away?  That's a bit harsh, no?"  Zach questioned.

"I don't believe I asked for your opinion, Mr. Ferreira."

"I don't believe I asked for your opinion on my opinion.. Miss.." Zach retorted.

"Mrs. Hertz.  Now unless you want detention along with your friend, I suggest you watch your tone."

"For one thing, Mr. Ferreira is my father.  I'm Zach and last time I checked you can't give someone detention for speaking.  It's in something you should probably know about being a history teacher and all.  It's called the constitution, you might want to check it out."

Mrs. Hertz fumed, "I may not be able to give you detention for speaking, but I'm sure that smoking on school grounds would be more than enough to put you where you belong."

Zach smirked, "Prove it."

Jordan leaned in over Zach's shoulder, "Zach, you should quit while you're ahead.  She could take her anger out on Erik because she can't do anything to you."

Zach just shrugged his shoulders and turned his back on the teacher, "Hey Erik," Erik looked to Zach who walked over to him, looking at Mrs. Hertz over his shoulder, "Um, you're dismissed teacher."  Mrs. Hertz stomped her feet and walked off hastily grumbling to herself.  Zach turned his attention back to Erik putting a hand on the boy's shoulder, "Are you really okay, man?"

Erik shrugged, trying not to look Zach in the face, "Just the usual, I guess."

"Remember, we talked, we're tight.  You come to me when you feel like this, I don't want any excuses.  I told you we'll get you through all of this and you'll see that you were worried for no reason."

"I'll try.  It's just hard, you know?"  Erik paused and looked over to Jordan who was trying to act like he wasn't listening to what they were saying, and in reality wasn't.  "I better get to the office, I don't want to be in detention for the next two weeks for not showing up at all."

"Okay, I'll probably see you later, but if not give me a call and we can talk."

"Thanks.  Bye Jordan.  Zach," Erik nodded before walking on his way to the office.  Zach was met by Jordan's questioning gaze when he turned back to him.  He just shrugged and lit up again.

"What was all of that about?" Jordan asked.

"He's going through some things.  Just trying to help."

Jordan narrowed his eyes suspiciously, "You're not trying to get in his pants are you?"

Zach gave Jordan a look of murder, "Of course not.  Not everything with me is about sex, you know?"

"Okay, okay.  I suppose it's just the image you portray."

"What image is that?"

"Well, you don't exactly seem like you consider sex to mean much of anything other than fun."

"Jordan, not to be rude, but you don't know me that well.  I like sex, who doesn't?  I'm young and there's a lot of people out there who I could sleep with.  It's not about being cocky, I'm not.  I'm just realistic.  What are the chances I'm going to meet the person I'm going to be with forever right now?"  Jordan flashed his ring to Zach with a smirk, "Okay, you're an anomaly."

"What about Blade?"

Zach took a long drag and let the smoke settle in his lungs for a few moments, "Blade's a really good friend."

"Whom you find attractive and have sex with.."

"It's complicated."

"I don't think it is."

"If you have it all figured out then why are you asking me about it?"

"I don't have it all figured out, I'm just trying to understand you."

"You're making something a big deal that really isn't.  Blade and I are friends and we enjoy each other in other ways.  We were both upfront with each other."

"Were you?"  Jordan kept pushing, knowing by the irritable tone Zach had taken up that it was most likely going to cause trouble than anything.

"Look, I just can't. Okay?  I'm not going to fight with you about something like this.  There's nothing to fight about and I don't want us getting into it then things being awkward for this weekend."

"If you say so.  You might think it's nothing, you might not, but you need to open your eyes wider than they are to your situation.  I'll see you, Zach."  Jordan grabbed his school things and walked away, leaving Zach to himself.  He leaned up against the tree finishing up the last of his cigarette.  He pressed the end against the tree trunk, the ashes flaring their last burst of light before vanquishing into nothing.  Nothing.  Such a firm word in terms of things.  Sex is sex, nothing more for him... The loud outburst from his phone indicated a text message had been received.  Zach flipped open his phone and read it, "Thanks for the message on the back of our photo.  It made my day  =) Hurry up and get out of school already. You're probably standing outside smoking anyway --- Blade"  Zach smiled widely, shaking his head a little that he was so predictable to Blade already.  Zach put his phone away and headed off to the football field, the smile still plastered across his face.  Yeah.. sex is just sex.. right?

Pierce Residence...

The floor was virtually non existent, buried in piles upon piles of clothes, papers and cds among other things.  If someone walked in they would wonder if the basement had been ransacked and the aftermath was the mess that covered the floor.  No, there was no robbery, no intruders rifling though belongings and leaving carnage in their wake.  That particular piece of work belonged to the owner of the living space.

"MOM!!!"  Tyler yelled at the top of his lungs, frustration brimming in his voice.  He tossed clothes out of the way, rummaging through the mess he had made looking for something or other.  Footsteps bounded down the stairs with an urgency.  Mrs. Pierce rounded the corner of the staircase before stopping dead in her tracks.

"TYLER!! Look at the mess you made!!"

Tyler took moment and surveyed the room, taking in the explosion of belongings he had scattered all over the place, "Um, I'll clean it up.  That's not why I called you."

"You know that you aren't going to have time to clean all of this up before you have to leave with the schedule you're on, so who do you think is going to have to do it?"

Tyler smiled sheepishly, "Sorry.  I'm just freaking out.  I didn't know that I would have to be ready so soon and I can't find it!"

"Find what, honey?"

"My bracelet."

"Why would your bracelet be in your clothes?"

"Well, I thought maybe I left it in a pocket or something," Tyler spoke softly, feeling embarrassed for making such a mess for his mother.

"Tyler, you need to calm down.  You still have the rest of the week to find it.  If you don't find it, I'm sure it will turn up and I'll get it to you."

"But it's..."

"I know, Sweety.  It's the matching one to the one you got him for Christmas."  Mrs. Pierce watched the emotions play over her son's face.  The evidence of his unhappiness was evident, causing her to frown in response.  She went over and kneeled next to him, putting an arm around his shoulders, "Are you sure this is what you want to do?"

Tyler didn't look up at his mother, just tried to disappear into her embrace.  He wasn't sure of anything, especially this time.  "I have to."

"Why?  No one can force you to go, Tyler."

"I have to for you and our future.  It'll make things easier for you, you won't have to work anymore and I'll be able to take care of you."

Mrs. Pierce smiled sweetly, "That's sweet of you, but do you know what part of your answer was missing?"  Tyler shook his head, "The part where you say you're doing what's best for you."

Tyler sighed, feeling his chest get tighter with anxiety.  "Mom, I don't know what I'm doing anymore.  I've always wanted to be famous, you know that.  I've been singing and acting all of my life and that's all I've ever wanted..."  Tyler paused, biting his lower lip.

"But when you were younger you didn't realize that there would be other priorities, like a certain young man we both know."


Mrs. Pierce took her hand and gently nudged Tyler's chin so that he was looking at her, "Listen to me, kiddo.  You shouldn't have to choose between the things you love.  I know you want this career to take off badly, and it is.  Sacrifices are part of that business, but at some point you have to know what your top priority is.  You love singing, but you also love Blade."

Tyler felt like his heart had been stung and the tears danced along the edge of his eyes, "I want Blade to be happy, Mom.  The only way that that's going to happen is if I let him go.  He can't find what he's looking for with me hovering around the picture."  The tears flowed freely down his cheeks, the sound of his own words cut him deeply inside.  Mrs. Pierce hugged him tightly to her, desperately wanting to take away his pain.  "I feel lost, Mom."

"Honey, You're only lost if you're alone.  You're surrounded by people who love you, you'll find your way."  She kissed his forehead, before the doorbell startled the two of him.  "Sit tight."  She got up from the floor and hurried up the stairs as not to keep whomever was at the door waiting.  Tyler sighed, grabbing an old T-shirt from the pile on the floor to wipe the tears from his face.  His phone rang somewhere in the mess, causing him to start tearing through things to try and find it.  He moved closer with each ring until he found it laying under a couple pairs of pants.  He  picked the phone up and looked at the caller id..  Blade.  He fought the urge to pick up, knowing that it would only be harder to hear his voice.

"You know, you're supposed to answer that, not try and guess what someone wants while it's still closed."  Tyler turned his head, not expecting anyone other than his mother to be there.

"Kai," Tyler stood up slowly and made his way over to his oldest friend.

"Surprise," Kai smiled, opening his arms wide before wrapping them around the Tyler's frame.  Tyler held onto Kai firmly, feeling a bit of the turmoil inside relinquish itself.  "How are you doing sweetness?  I love what you've done with the place by the way."

Tyler giggled and playfully swatted Kai on the arm, "I was going for a more deconstructed style."

"Looks like you succeeded there."  Kai looked at Tyler for a moment, taking in his presence.  It was obvious that he was stressed, his face looked rather tired and his eyes a bit red.  "So why didn't you answer the phone?"

Tyler scrambled for an answer, "Would you believe that it was a telemarketer?"

Kai smiled before snatching the phone from Tyler's hand and flopping down on the bed, "Nope.  You need to think of a better lie than that."  Kai flipped open the phone and saw the missed call was from Blade. His eyes shot to Tyler who stood beside the bed looking at the ground.  "You have voice mail," Kai offered the phone to Tyler, but he made no move to take it, "Okay then, is your password still the same?"  Tyler shrugged, "I'll take that as a yes."  Kai keyed in the password and waited for the message to play.

"Hey, Tyler. Well, um, I guess you're pretty busy huh?  I've called a few times and haven't been able to get ahold of you since dinner the other night.  I guess I just wanted to umm.. talk about things.  So, could you give me a call back, please?"  Blade's voice cut out and the voice mail ended.  Kai closed up the phone and patted his hand on the mattress to indicate for Tyler to join him.

"So what's with avoiding Blade?"

Tyler knew he couldn't fool Kai, there was too much history between them for either of them to get away with fibbing.  "The truth?"

"You know it."

"It's easier if I don't talk to him."

Kai furrowed his brow, "Why's that?  Normally you talk to the person that you love and are trying to win back.  I mean come on Tyler, you're pretty and all, but you still need to throw a little substance out there every once in awhile."

Tyler smiled meekly, "I'm leaving."

"You're leaving to go where?  Vacation?"

"Um, kind of..."  Tyler stalled.

"Come on, Ty, spit it out.  Wow, I think that's the first time I've ever said that to you.." Kai kept a straight face.

Tyler snickered, "Yeah, well, it wasn't that bad, I managed."

"You're such a little pervert.  That's why I love you."  Kai's smile caused Tyler to finally break out his pearly whites.  His smile faded quickly when his thoughts returned to the upcoming trip.

"I'm leaving for tour at the end of the week."

"Oh yeah?  Where's it going to be?  I want to come to your first show.  I'll gather everyone and take them, they all love my freeway games," Kai joked.

Tyler down turned his eyes, "Well, unless your car has wings, I doubt that's going to happen.  The tour is in Europe."

Kai's eyes widened in surprise, "Europe?  Whoa.  For how long?"

"Three months, but potentially I could end up there for a lot longer if things go well."

"And you were planning on telling me this when?'

"Uhhh.. now?"  Tyler smiled innocently.  Kai growled and pounced on him before Tyler could get out of the way.  Tyler struggled a bit, but Kai had always been stronger than him, so he gave in.  Kai leaned up against the wall the bed was against, pulling Tyler up so he was between his legs, leaning his head back on Kai's chest.

"You suck.  I can't believe you're leaving.  You should've said something," Kai pouted.  He felt a pang of sadness enter his heart at the thought of Tyler's apparently imminent departure.

"I'm sorry.  I didn't know until Friday night if I was going or not.  I still don't know if I'm making the right choice, but I guess it's not really in my hands anymore.  Contracts are signed and binding."

Kai let his arms gently wrap around Tyler, holding him firmly against his chest, "What did Blade say?"  Tyler tensed unintentionally giving himself up before he could even think about it, "Tyler!  Don't tell me you didn't tell him!"

"I don't want to say goodbye to him, KK.  It's too hard."

"Do you love him?"

Tyler closed his eyes, toying with Kai's hands with one of his own, "Yes.  I love him."

"Then you can't do this.  You have to go to him and tell him that you want to be with him, Tyler.  You can't let him go again because this time he isn't going to come running back and you know it."

"That's why I have to let him go.  So he can be happy without the thought of me looming in his mind."

"Tyler, do you even hear what you're saying?  You leaving isn't going to make him happy, it's going to hurt him."

Tyler turned his head a bit so he could see Kai's face, "He can't move on with someone else if I hold him back.  He deserves more than I can give him right now and I know that he really cares about Zach.."

Kai shook his head, "Regardless of Zach, you know Blade isn't going to choose anyone over you."

"That's the point, Kai.  He shouldn't have to.  I fucked up so bad with him.  I've fucked up every relationship I've ever had and I can't even say for sure that I wouldn't do something to fuck things up with Blade again."

"Stop it.  It wasn't just you that fucked up with Blade.  WE fucked up.  You know as much as I loved you when we were together, I wish that what happened that night at the beach could be replayed.  It wasn't worth all of this.  That one night really tore apart something that could be and should be great between you two."

"If it was meant to be it wouldn't be this hard, KK"

Kai hugged Tyler tighter, "If you come back and he's with Zach or whoever, you can't do this to him again.  This isn't just about now, Ty, this is gong to make or break your love with Blade forever."

Tyler swallowed hard, the tears once again ready to flow freely, "I know.  I saw the way he looks at Zach and the way Zach looks at him.  They could be happy with each other and ultimately that's what I want for Blade.  For him to just be happy and not have to worry about any of this back and forth shit anymore.  I love him more than anything.  It's never been a question of love with us."

"It's been a question of when do all of the bad things stop and the good begin.  I know that you're tired and frustrated.  Things have been rough, I mean pretty much anything that could get thrown between you two has.  Joey, Marcus, Chance, Me.."  Kai paused taking a deep breath, "Now Zach.. and ultimately you.  You have to be sure Tyler, I'm serious.  Blade wouldn't let you go if he knew what you were thinking."

Tyler smiled sadly to himself, "Yes he would.  He'd never put himself over what he thinks will make me happy.  He'd never ask me to choose between him and my career."

"Maybe, maybe not.  Either way, you have to tell him that you're going."  Tyler turned his head away from Kai, "Tyler, I mean it."

"I'm scared."  Tyler cried, his body shuddering with the slight tremor that it brought on.

Kai ran a hand over the side of Tyler's face, wiping away the tears as they fell, "You always have a choice.  Think about it and make the right decision, Tyler.  Your happiness rides on this as much as Blade's."  Kai placed a soft kiss on Tyler's forehead, trying to calm the blonde boy.

"Take care of him when I'm gone okay?"  Tyler asked, his voice shaky yet firm.

"If that's what you decide, then you know I will.  He's my boy.  It's weird, not that long ago we were the three amigos and now look at us.  It went from me being with you, then you being with Blade to me being married, Blade having a kid and you running off to be a pop star.  I guess we can't stop change, but it really does suck sometimes.  I'll always love you, Tyler, you were my first love and I hope that we'll never lose touch."

"So we're going to do the goodbyes now, huh?"

"Yeah. Then we can get naked and have some farewell sex," Kai quickly ran his hand down under the waist band of Tyler's pants, before Tyler slapped the hand away.

"You always were a sex fiend," The room got quiet for a moment, "Kai, I'm sorry for hurting you.  I never meant for things to happen the way they did.."

"Shh.  It's ancient history and things worked out for me in the end.  I got me a wife you know?"

Tyler laughed, "I know and I'm glad.  I'll miss you a lot."

"You better,"  Kai leaned down and planted a tender, caring kiss on Tyler's lips. "That's your parting gift.  So.. how about a slumber party for old times sake?  I'll spend the rest of the afternoon and night.  I swear I won't molest you."

"I don't know, I think I might have to put my chastity belt on," Tyler stuck out his tongue.

"Whatever floats your boat, but my penis could totally bust that thing wide open," Kai pulled out his phone while Tyler chuckled to himself, "I'm going to call the wife and get my permission to sleep over.  You better still have those Hello Kitty pajamas because those are so mine tonight."  Tyler smiled and relaxed himself in Kai's comforting arms while he talked to Jordan on the phone.

We meet a lot of people in life, but there's only a select few that we carry with us through the entire journey.  Tyler and Kai started off as friends that became lovers before fate stepped in and separated them in that capacity.  Through everything, their comfort with each other never diminished and their love for each other as people never faded.  Friends show us who we are, where we've been, where we're going and both of them knew that no matter where their paths may lead, they would always be a part of the others' world.



Legs went up fast and furious with every call out from the instructor.  Sweat slid down over skin, the heat from the intense movements bringing the heart rate in the room up to the max.   People were breathing hard, doing their best to stay with the pace, some tumbling, others taking long breaks.

I kept pace, throwing kicks in each direction, the burn gripping my muscles, working them to the brink   As the exercise came to an end I glanced to my right seeing a curly mopped boy sitting on the floor with a feigned look of annoyance on his face.  His breathing was heavy and his cheeks were flush with a tinge of bright pink.  I grinned and walked over to him, "Hmm.. I don't think you were supposed to be on the ground for that last move."

Chance scowled and extended his hand toward me, "We can't all be machines like some people around here."  I giggled a bit at him and grasped his hand in mine.  I went to pull him up, but he had other ideas, using all of his weight to pull me down in a heap beside him.  "At least that proves you're a little bit human."

I narrowed my eyes to his amusement and slapped him on the ass as I stood up, "Jerk."

Chance stood up next to me and leaned in close, "Right here in the middle of the gym?"

My mouth moved, but no words came out.   Chance laughed before walking off toward the showers, "Jerk!" I yelled and he laughed even louder.  I brushed the debris from the gym mats off my clothes and made my way to the showers myself.

Chance was by the lockers, his shirt stripped off and thrown on the bench.  He ran a towel over his face, obstructing his view of me.  I watched him for a moment, the sweat glistening over his thin frame, each muscle gently pushing against his soft skin.  He was a beautiful boy, no one could deny that.   He dropped the towel from his face and gave me a look, "What?"

"Nothing."  I smiled innocently.

"Yeah right.  I know that look."

I kept my best angelic look up, "I don't know what you're on about."

He furrowed his brow and walked over to me, stopping a few inches away.  He had a twinkle in his eyes and before I knew it his right hand reached up and grasped my crotch, "That.." He gave a gentle squeeze to my slightly aroused state, "Is what I'm on about." He withdrew his hand and walked past me, apparently going to wash off.

I laughed to myself, surprised at how bold he was.  It wasn't something I would expect from Chance, but we had been apart for so long, people are bound to change in some ways.  I sat on the bench pulling my gym pants off, giving myself a chance to cool down before getting a shower.  Chance coming back wasn't anything I had prepared for.  When that knock came upon my door he was the last person I expected to be behind it.

Our relationship wasn't given the time to mature into what it could have been.  What we had was good.. really good. It was my new beginning and his, a way to escape the pain that had plagued us both from our past.  He was with me when I got Cameron and Erik, and he never even flinched at the idea of having a package deal.  He loved them both as if they were an extension of me.  I loved him and when he got ripped away, part of my heart went with him.  I used to wonder what my life would be like if I had found a way to keep him from going.  Now he was back and everything had changed.

Music played, muffled behind the locker door letting me know I had a phone call, breaking me from the blanket of thoughts. I opened the door and pulled the phone out.  Ben's name lit up, so I touched the screen to answer, "Benjamin, what's up?"

"Nothing much.  Just wanted to see if you were available for some lovin'?"

I smirked, "I dunno, my schedules pretty full."  Unfortunately, between Tyler, Zach and Chance, I wasn't exactly fibbing, "Maybe if I get a cancellation I can pencil you in."

Ben giggled, "Slut."  I laughed along with him, "I'm at school for practice and Coach asked me to give you a call."

"Oh yeah, I knew I forgot something," Recalling the message Ben had left me the night everything went down with Eric, "So what's going on?"

"Well, actually he wanted to know if you could come by.  Our practice is until 5, so we'll be here for awhile more."

"I'm at the gym with Chance right now.  I have to grab a shower and then I'll stop over.  Any idea what it's about?"

"Not really.  Maybe he just missed his superstar," Ben teased.

"Har Har. Funny man.  I'll see you in a bit.."

"Okay, bye."  The call ended and I got moving.  I pulled my hipsters off and wrapped the towel around my waist before walking to the shower.  I stopped mid step at the sight of Chance in front of me.

The water cascaded through his hair, dripping down over his taught back.  Patches of soap suds slid down over his perky butt, sending the blood rushing from my brain to the southern regions of my body.  I tried to keep it under control as I unwrapped my towel, thinking any number of gross thoughts, but by the time I stepped under the water I was still in a semi state.  Chance glanced over and smirked, "I see some things don't change.  Horny boy."

I blushed and pretended not to hear him, letting the water rinse my own body.  I listened to him snicker and gave him a playful growl, "I can't help it.  If you saw you like that you'd get hard too."

"Haha.. I see me like this all the time and I don't get hard," He turned the shower head off that he was under and moved closer to me.  "I can't say the same about seeing you like this."  I glanced over at him and let my eyes wander downward and sure enough he was rising to attention.  He smiled at the look on my face, then leaned over and gave me a quick peck on the cheek before heading out to get dressed.

I took a moment to compose myself before finishing up getting my body clean.  I didn't wash my hair because there was no way I was going out in public with it a mess.  Call it the gay side of me or what have you, but that's just how it is.  I turned the knob on the wall and the water slowly went from a stream to a drip before disappearing completely.  Chance was being a lot more forward than I expected and I can't say that I prepared myself for it.  I shrugged to myself and walked back to the locker to get dressed.

About ten minutes later we were in my car headed over to my old stomping grounds Arrowhead High.  It would've been where Chance had finished up his last half year of school if he hadn't been taken back to New York.  It was a little strange being back at the building, so many memories stirred up just from the sight of it. It was where I had met Tyler, Kai, Jordan, even Scott.  A bit of chill ran up my spine at the thought of him.  Chance looked over at me as the car pulled to a stop in the parking lot.  I must've had an unreadable look on my face because he spoke up about it, "So this is where you were king, huh?"

I gave him a weak smile, struggling with my own memories, "I wasn't king of anything.  There's a lot of bad memories here."  I thought back, remembering the hell that Sean had put me through, everything that went down between Kai, Tyler and myself.. then Joey.  I frowned, remembering how happy he was here.. before he was killed.

Chance put a hand on my shoulder, "There must've been some good ones too, Blade."

I smiled weakly, " There was.. I mean, hell, I had my first boy on boy kiss in this parking lot." Chance smiled, "I guess we just always look back and remember the bad more than the good."

"Human nature.  Trust me, I know."  I knew he was referring to his own life back in NY, with the parents that hated who he was and most of all Jamie.  To love and lose.. isn't better. Not to me, not to most people.  That saying was invented by someone that had never loved anyone and had them taken away.

"We should go in,"  Chance nodded then we stepped out of the car and made our way into the building.

The halls were pretty deserted, school had been over for over an hour, but there were still some students wandering the halls, most likely coming from or going to their after school clubs or sports.  A couple of girls passed us and gave us sneaking glances.  I looked at them funny and their faces turned bright pink.  Chance smiled widely, "Looks like you still have some admirers."

"Who says they were looking at me?"

"I do, because they're standing behind us pointing at you."  I looked back over my shoulder and they quickly looked away. I shrugged not really paying it much attention.

"I don't know them," I said, stopping in front of the hockey locker rooms entrance.  "Try to keep your hands to yourself, they're all jail bait."  Chance shook his head and followed me inside. The room was empty minus the hockey bags lying around. The strong scent of hockey equipment filled the air and it wasn't something most people would be used to.  Chance's face contorted as the smell hit him.

"Oh my god," He brought a hand over his mouth and nose, "Do hockey players always smell like that?"

I laughed at his reaction, "Just the equipment and before they take a shower.  You try wearing all that stuff, sweating into it 7 days a week and tell me if you smell like roses."  Chance made a gagging noise, so I grabbed his wrist and led him through the doors that led to the players bench.

There were a few players sitting on the bench who looked over at us, seemingly freshman who hadn't been on the team with me.  I nodded at them and stepped up to the door, watching the team run a scrimmage on the ice.  They seemed to be a much younger team than last year, but there were still some upper class men.  I recognized Mike immediately, wearing the 'C' on his jersey, taking my former role as the captain.  Ben was on the opposing side, sporting an 'A' for assistant captain.  He stole the puck from one of the young defensemen and skated in on goal.  He made a sweet between the legs deke but Tony was in top form, stuffing him and playing the puck to the corner where one of his defenseman picked it up.  He skated it to the top of the circle and flung the puck up in the air.  It went off the glass and made a bee line for Chance.  He didn't even see it coming, but I reached out and snatched it out of the air about a foot from his face.  Chance jumped back, finally reacting, the sound of a whistle blowing echoed through the arena.

Ben skated over, taking his helmet off, grinning at me, "Dude, your reflexes are crazy."  I shook my head and tossed the puck back over the boards onto the ice.  I turned to Chance to make sure he was okay.  He took a deep breath and shrugged.  I smirked at him.  Ben reached over the boards and hugged me.

"Ew, hockey stink," I made a face.

"Aww, come on, you'll give me a complex."  His dark eyes glimmered under the light.

"How's it going, Ben?"

"Eh, you know.  Everyone has their problems."  I nodded at him, "Have you heard anything on Eric?"

I frowned slightly, "He's still going through withdrawal, but the doctors said its normal.  They don't really want anyone in there seeing him for now, not until the first phase of his detox and counseling is done.  He hasn't called and since it's limited visiting, I figured I'd let Matt be the first to see him.  He's a wreck."

"Yeah.. boyfriend stuff."

"So I heard through the grapevine that you had something you needed to ask me," I grinned slyly, watching him think before it dawned on him.

"Oh my god.. which one of them said something?"

"I'm no rat," I leaned in close to him and whispered, "For the record, you're very nicely equipped down there, so stop worrying."

Ben blushed a deep crimson, "Uh.. thanks."  His smile spread across his face no matter how hard he tried to hide it.

"Ben, can we get you back in the game today?"  Coach Rollins barked skating over to us.

"Sorry, Coach!  Gotta go.  Thanks, Blade."  Ben skated off and Coach Rollins stopped in his place.

"Good to see you, Blade," He looked behind me and nodded at Chance, "Chance."

"Same here.  You wanted to see me?"

"Yes, just give me a few minutes to make a phone call and I'll call you into my office."  He stepped onto the bench and headed into the locker room area.

I turned to Chance, "You okay?"

"Yeah.  Nearly got a hockey puck in my eye, but other than that, just great."

I nudged him with my shoulder, "You want to take off?  You can take my car and I'll catch a ride with Ben."

"Hmm.  Yeah, I guess so.  I'm a bit tired from that insane torture you call a work out and I owe Cameron a game of something or other on his Playstation.  I'll see you when you get home."

I smiled warmly at him, "Drive safe, Curly."  I ruffled his hair before he ducked out.

I watched the play on the ice, one skater in particular.  He moved around the ice with a considerable amount of finesse, making his opponents look like they were standing still.  He skated in on goal, then lifted the puck and batted it into the net.  He came skating over to the bench where I stood and gave me a cocky grin.  He pulled his helmet off and wiped the matted shaggy hair from his brow, "So you're the famous Blade right?"

"I don't know about famous, but yeah, that'd be me."

"Think you could do what I just did out there?"

I cocked and eyebrow, "I don't play anymore..."  I paused looking for a name...

"Brent, and why'd you stop?  Didn't get any attention from the scouts?"

"A lot more stuff came before hockey."

"Man, you're crazy.  I have a shit load of scouts watching me.  I'm going to be the next Crosby."

"It's going to take more than a trick move to get to that level," The kid had an ego that was for sure.

"I'm not a one trick pony.  I bet I could take you.  You know I'm going to break your points record this season."

I gave him a challenging smile, "Is that so?"

"Definitely.  I'll bet I beat it by at least ten."

"I'll believe it when I see it."

"You think you're better than me?"  He laughed as if insulted by the idea.

"I didn't say anything, man.  I just hope you know that one day you're going to get schooled by someone somewhere and it's going to deflate that huge ego of yours."

"Hmm, sounds a bit like a challenge,"  Coach Rollins called through the door for me to come see him, "Uh huh, thought so."

"Pleasure meeting you, Brent," I said sarcastically.  I went through the door, not waiting for a response.  I made my way into Coach's office where he sat behind his desk.

"Take a seat, son," I did and waited for him to continue, "I know this is out of the blue and I really appreciate you taking the time to come down here.  I won't beat around the bush with you, you've always been a straight forward kid so I won't be any less straight forward with you.  My wife's condition has worsened recently.  It's to the point where I need to be away from the team and focus on my family."

"I'm sorry to hear that, Coach.  Is the prognosis that bad?"

His face grimaced, "It's not good, so I have to prioritize.  My wife means everything to me and as much as I love coaching this team, at this time I need to walk away."

I nodded in agreement, "So what does this have to do with me?"

"We are down to one assistant coach this year and he's not as experienced as I would like.  He's played a bit, knows the basics, but he doesn't have the knowledge that is normally brought to this school's team.  So, what I'm asking you to do is step in and help out.  I'm not asking you to be the head coach because I know that you have a lot going on in your life.  Basically you would have the power of my role, but wouldn't have to be here everyday for practice.  You and Coach Sheldon could split the duties and only be required to be at all the games."

I took it in for a moment, wondering if I could really handle it on top of everything else.  "Why me?"

"That's an easy one.  You're the best player this school has ever seen.  Besides that you garner a certain respect from the players, those that have played with you and the new ones who know of you from seeing you play.  I think you would have a great impact on them."

"Ha, tell that to Brent.  I think he would beg to differ on that best player and respect thing."

"Brent transferred down here from Ottawa.  His parents moved because of work and he's a bit of a show off.  I think it's his way of fitting in.  He has a lot of talent, but I've seen flashy players before.  He can move well and score, but his defensive game needs work, as well as his team work."

"Ego needs a bit of deflating.  I can't say that I can commit to this right now for sure, but I'll come by practice next week and skate with them, see how it goes."

"Great.  I'm sure it'll be a good learning experience for them.  I'll be here through the end of next week so you'll have time to think it over and decide what you want to do."  He stood and shook my hand, "See you soon, Blade."

"Take care, Coach.  I hope your wife feels better."  I turned and walked out of the office, heading through the locker room and out to the hallway.

It was a ghost town by this point, nothing but silence in the air.  I decided to walk down to the pit area and hang out there while I waited for practice to finish.  It was surreal being there again and the notion of being in the school on a regular basis was a bit daunting.  I mean we try for so long to get out of school, who wants to go right back the year after they graduate? I was startled from my thoughts when a bit of commotion broke the silence .  I looked around to see where it was coming from and saw the football team rough housing with each other, making there way through the halls apparently after their practice had ended.  I didn't pay them any mind just sat on the bench and relaxed.  I closed my eyes for a moment, getting lost in my own breathing when I was jolted out of it by a pair of hands wrapping around my waist and a head resting on my shoulder.  My eyes shot open and I looked to the intrusion and before I knew it a set of lips pressed against mine.  I knew that taste.

"Strawberry. My favorite," Zach said as he broke our kiss off. He smiled brightly and I matched him with my own.  "Fancy seeing you here."

"I had business to attend to."

"Business huh?  You're not dressed for business.  Hmm.. are we role playing?  Hot."

I snickered before hearing someone clear their throat.  I looked beyond Zach and saw Jake standing there looking a little uncomfortable.  I waved, "Hey, Jake."

"Blade. How's it going?"

"Not bad," I noticed a bruise forming under his eye, "Rough practice?"

Jake gave a weak smile, "Yeah, something like that."  Hmm. "What brings you here?"

"I had a meeting with Coach Rollins,"  I was momentarily distracted by Zach taking a seat on my lap, "He asked me to coach the hockey team."

"What? For real? That's kind of crazy."  I raised an eyebrow, "I mean... not that I don't think you could. Ugh."

"I get it.  Kind of weird for someone my age to coach a team of people a year or two younger.  I'm going to come practice with them next week and see how it goes.  I don't want to take on too much."

"That's cool.  I'm sure you'll be good at it.  At least it'll give Zach a reason to show up to school for a change."

"HEY!  I fulfill my contractual obligations to this place.  Why does everyone act like I'm a sex crazed drop out?" Jake and I both gave him a look like, do you have to ask? "Ugh.  I need a smoke.  You coming home with me?"

"Yeah.  I was going to catch a ride with Ben because I let Chance take my car."  Zach flinched a bit at that news, but didn't say anything.  "You sticking around for Ben, Jake?"

"Um, I'm not sure.  I probably should get home before it gets late," I looked at him funny, then looked at the clock on the wall that said five minutes past five.

"Well, he'll be out soon.  Wait for him, boys like that."  I patted him on the shoulder and let Zach lead me away.

Jake sighed to himself, walking down the hall. He stopped at the door to the hockey locker room which was left ajar to air out the room.  He peered inside and saw Ben getting dressed.  He looked happy.. hopeful almost.  Jake frowned and felt his heart fall.  He wanted to take Ben in his arms and hold him tight.  Instead, he did the opposite.  He gave his boyfriend one more glance, then walked away.  Unbeknownst to him, Ben caught sight of him, his own heart dropping as his hopefulness flew out the window.  He let his head drop, swallowing his sadness.  The words we leave unsaid can do more damage than the words we say.

Thursday, Inpatient Center.....

A nervous tension filled the air of the waiting area.  There was no homey feel to the atmosphere, the walls a stark white, more reminiscent of a hospital than Matt had expected.  A couple of generic looking prints were hung on the wall to try and give the room some character, but the gesture wasn't succeeding.

Matt's hands fiddled with one another, a nervous tick that tried to distract him from his thoughts.  He was out of his element and there was no one there to help him through it.  As much as he would've loved to have had Blade or one of his other friends by his side, it wasn't a possibility.  The rules prohibited multiple visitors and he had to push a little to even get himself a pass to visit so soon.  He had to do this himself whether he felt like he was strong enough or not.  He had to be.  For himself and for Eric.

A woman and what seemed to be her daughter sat adjacently to him, seemingly calm, not showing any sign of anxiety over being there.  The woman glanced over at Matt, noticing his body language, "Just relax, Sweety.  It's not as bad as you think."

Matt looked over at her, giving a slight frown, "Seems like it is.  I've never had to deal with anything like this before."

"The first time is always the hardest.  This is our third time here for my husband.  Are you here for a relative?"

"Boyfriend,"  Matt paused for reaction, but didn't get one, "I hope I don't have to ever come back here."

"Well, maybe you won't, but relapse is normal.  It's frustrating to want to help someone so much, yet they still end up hurting themselves.  Eventually you realize that you can only do so much before they have to do it for themselves."

Matt sighed, "He's never been like this before.  The way I saw him.. When we found him the night he went to the hospital.." Matt choked up a bit.  The woman gave him a sympathetic smile and moved to the chair next to him.   She put an arm around his shoulders and comforted him the best she could.

"Just remember him the way he's always been.  If you show that you're scared, he's going to feel pressured.  Just go in there and show him that you love him no matter what.  I'm sure things may have happened while he was impaired by whatever it was that he's addicted to that put a strain on your relationship, but remember that was the poison talking, not him."

"I don't know if we have a relationship anymore..."  Before Matt could continue his name was called from the reception window.  He gave the woman as much of a smile as he could muster, "Guess it's time to find out.  I never got your name."

"Sarah," She gave him a motherly hug, "Go take care of your love.  I can tell he means a lot to you.  I'd say I hope to see you again, Matt, but for your sake, I hope I don't.  Take care of yourself."

"Thank you, you take care too."

Matt stood from his seat and made his way over to a door.  It buzzed and a man in scrubs was waiting behind it.  He nodded at Matt and motioned for him to follow.  The hallway was just as bare as the waiting room, but Matt wasn't expecting much.  The people weren't brought there for four star accommodations.  They turned down a corridor to the left and came to a stop outside of a room, "Before we go in I'll have to pat you down and have you turn our your pockets."  Matt did as he was told, pulling the pockets from his pants out.  He handed his wallet to the man and watched him go through it.  "Please hold your arms up and spread your legs."  The man patted up Matt's body then back down before moving to pat his inner legs and crotch area.  "Okay, you're set to go.  You'll have half an hour.  The door opens from the outside, so I have to let you out.  If for some reason you need to leave earlier or anything else, hit the button just inside the door.  Any questions?"  Matt shook his head and the man swiped a card and opened the door.

He stepped into the room and his eyes zeroed in on the brown locks that covered the back of Eric's head.  He was sitting in a chair, facing a desk, opposite the direct that Matt had come in.  A lump formed in Matt's throat, the words choked back behind it.  He had tried to prepare himself for this moment all week, but thinking about how to approach something and then actually doing it are two very different things.  Eric hadn't made any attempt to see who had opened his door, he just sat at the desk either writing or drawing, it was hard to make out from Matt's point of view.   Matt slowly walked up behind the boy and stopped just short of the chair.  His voice came out in a whisper, "Eric..."

Eric's hand stopped moving the pencil across the paper at once.  He cautiously turned his head to peak back over his shoulder. His eyes met Matt's and his heart tightened. He stood up from his chair and turned to face Matt, but didn't make a move toward him.  Eric's eyes looked glassy, holding a certain tinge of fear in them.  He looked away from Matt's gaze, down to his own feet which started to shuffle a bit from nerves. "Hey.."

Matt could feel the tears forming and he tried his hardest to hold them back.  Be strong for him.  That's what he had to do, but seeing Eric in such a state of vulnerability was making it harder to keep up the front.  After a couple more moments of silence, Matt moved forward and in one swift move wrapped his arms tightly around Eric.  The tears leaked over the brims of his eyes, but he held back any sobs.  Eric tensed at first, then seemed to nearly fall over when he finally gave in and let himself melt into the embrace. Eric's body started trembling in Matt's arms, whimpers emitting from his mouth. Matt ran a hand over his back trying to soothe away the tears, "Shhh.  It's all right.  I'm here."

"I'm so sorry.."  Eric's words came out between his rapid breathing.

"No, baby.  I'm sorry.  Sorry for not seeing what was happening until it was too late."

"It's not your fault.  It was all just too much.  I couldn't have any peace, Matty.  I just wanted to escape myself... I never meant to push you away.. Please don't leave me."

Matt swallowed down the pain that welled up hearing his love in so much pain of his own, "I'm right here, Tiger."  He knew what Eric was asking.  He was asking him to forget the day in school when Eric had in not so many words told him to go find someone else.  He was asking him to forgive him for everything that had happened.  Most of all he was asking him to change his mind about leaving to see Corey and for most people it would be an incredibly hard decision to make.  Matt wasn't most people.  "I love you with all of my heart, Eric.  I'm not going anywhere."

Eric cried harder and no other words were needed.  Their time for the day was short and when it was up Matt fully intended on putting up a fight to stay longer.  Until then, Matt moved them over to the bed and laid back onto it.  He cradled Eric in his arms, letting him do what he needed to do all along.  Let someone else burden some of his pain.

Saturday Evening.. Mission Beach..

The week had gone by quickly, filled by one too many events to make it seem like the hours of the day just melted away. Most people love weekends because it means they can look forward to going home from a long week of work and relaxing for a couple of days before returning to the grind.  Others looked forward to the freedom for another reason.  To feel free to party the nights away until the sun arrived the next morning.

"Wooo!"  Kai jumped up on my back and pumped his fist in the air wildly.  Bass from the Electronica music thumped through the air, people bobbing their heads or doing the stereotypical raver dance to it.  The venue was wide open, under the starry sky of San Diego, the beach just behind it.  Sand and palm trees were spread out with various bars to grab drinks at.  There was a mass sea of people, but most had moved into the area closest to the stage where the DJ was playing.  I looked up over my shoulder at Kai and he grinned widely.

"Why are you on my back, Monkey boy?  You know I don't play that," I joked.

Kai laughed, "You don't know what you're missing.  My penis would make you a permanent bottom."

"Ego much?"

"Don't knock it 'til you've tried it."  I shook my head and snatched of his feet that was dangling around my waist.  I ran my finger tips over the sole causing him to thrash about and break into giggles.  "No fair!"  He broke his grasp on me and I let his foot go so he could gain his footing on the ground.

"Had to get you off somehow," He was about to open his mouth, but I caught myself first, "Strike that comment."

"Ruin my fun."  He stuck his tongue out at me before resuming his dancing, "This place is bouncin'.  Who knew Zach had the hook ups to all the hot clubs?"

My eyes fixated on Zach who was casually leaning against the bar waiting for a drink, chatting it up with the people around him, "Yeah, Zach's pretty great,"  I let the words slip out of my mouth before I had a moment to think about it.  I glanced at Kai who had a shit eating grin on his face.

"You've got it bad."

"Shut up."

"Blade's in looooooooooove," Kai teased.

I gave him a dirty look, "I hate you."

"No you don't, you love me... but not as much as you love pretty little Zachary,"  Kai smiled so wide I thought his face would burst.  He took a couple steps back, apparently preparing for me to pounce on him.

"You'll get yours Kai Kimbal.  When you least expect it," I jokingly threatened.

"Aww, come on.  I'm just teasing you."

I pouted a bit, "It's not funny."

"What's not funny?"  I turned and was greeted with a shirtless Jordan.

I raised an eyebrow, "Where'd your shirt go?"

"Someone was waving their beer around and it got all over my shirt."

"Hubba hubba," Kai put an arm around Jordan's waist and pulled him close.  He nuzzled his neck and placed a few gentle kisses on the soft skin. I stared at the scene a moment too long, feeling a pang in my heart.  I must've visibly frowned without knowing it.

"What's wrong, Blade?"  Jordan asked.

"Nothing, just being stupid."

"Hmmm, not a good enough answer."  Jordan moved away from Kai's embrace and put his arm around my shoulders, "Come on, what's up?"

I sighed, "I'm just lonely."

Kai frowned and led us to a table nearby.  We took a seat and a waitress came by to ask us if we needed anything before our conversation resumed, "What's stopping you from being with someone, Blade?  You've got quite a few options."

"That's the problem.  I don't know who's the right choice."

Jordan spoke up, "It's not really about that.  It's about who your heart longs for right now."

"What if it's just pulling in more than one direction?"

Jordan seemed to hesitate, "Do you want my opinion?"

"About who I should be with?"


Kai interrupted, "Do you really think that's a good idea?  We shouldn't sway one way or the other."

"As long as we remain unbiassed then I think that it's fine.  That's what friends are for, to give opinions and advice.  Just remember when you answer that it should be who we think is best for Blade, not based on who we're closest to," Jordan gave Kai a look.

Kai frowned, "I think that you should talk to Tyler before making a decision."  Kai grimaced in pain moments later, "OW!"

I looked at him funny, "Ow?"

"He kicked me!  Put him in time out!"  Kai pouted at Jordan.


Jordan spoke up, "Sorry, baby.  You're biassed toward Tyler."

"Of course I am, but that's not why I said that.  I think Tyler and Blade are soul mates they just need to stop letting shit interfere."

"Um.. I'm right here you know?"

Kai grinned, "Well, it's true.  I'll support you in whatever choice you make, but that's how I feel."

"And what about you, Jordan?"

"Well, they all have good qualities about them.  Chance is a sweetheart and you guys got torn apart way too soon.  You seemed really happy then, but then again Tyler was still there.  You've always loved him and I think you always will.  Maybe Kai's right and he is your soul mate, but I believe that we have many soul mates through out life, not just in the form of lovers.  Then there's Zach.  He's a bit of an enigma.  I don't know where he's coming from with his whole sex is sex thing, but as much as he denies it, I know he cares about you more than he says.  I also know that you care about him a lot.  No matter what you do, someone's going to get hurt.  That's why you can't decide based on other people.  It has to be what's best for you right now."

Kai leaned over the table, "Uh, baby, as informative and well thought out that was, you do realize you didn't say who you thought he should be with right?"

Jordan tapped Kai on the nose, "Yes, I do.  I think he should choose who his heart says to."

"That doesn't help him at all, he just said his heart is pulling in more than one direction."

"Yeah, but one more than the others."

"Who?  And how do you know better than he does?"

"Because he hasn't heard a word we've said in the last five minutes, isn't that right, Blade?"

I turned my head back from the direction it had been looking in, "Uh.. what?"  Jordan was right, I hadn't been paying attention.  I was too busy watching the bar.  Zach was standing with another guy, separate from the group that had been there before.  They were both smiling and giving shy glances at each other.  It was out of character for Zach to be shy.  They started dancing to the music, a little closer than made me comfortable.

Jordan giggled, "See?"

"You bitch, here we are trying to help you and you're off in lala land."

I smiled sheepishly, "Sorry.  I got distracted."  I glanced back to the bar area where Zach was still socializing.  "He's taking forever."

"Ohhhhhh.  I get it now," Said Kai.

"Slow, but good, baby," Jordan teased.

"Get what?"  I inquired.

"That you want Zach.  That's who you should be with,"  Jordan stated as if it was plain as day.

"You're basing this off of my looking at him?"

"No, Blade.  I base it off the way you always look at him."

"And how's that oh observant one?"

"Like he's the only person in the universe when you're together.  So tell him."

I sighed, "Why do you have to be so smart?"

"I have to have some role in our group."

"Besides the super cute, lovable one?"

"Yes, besides that," Jordan laughed.

"Hey, did you just hit on my wife?"

I smiled, "No, Kai. If I was going to do that, I'd do this,"  I leaned over and pecked Jordan on the cheek.

"Oh, you're so in trouble pretty boy," Kai growled.

Before I could respond another voice broke into our conversation, "Where's mine?"  I looked back and saw Zach standing there holding a drink in one hand and a piece of paper in the other.

"You were too busy being Mr. Popular.  You missed out," I teased.

He smiled and took a sip of his drink.  He handed it to me, "Try it, it's good."  I normally didn't delve too much into alcohol, but on occasion it was fun.  "Are you guys okay?  Need anything?"

"We're good.  I think Kai and I are going to go dance for awhile though."

"We are?"  Kai asked, oblivious.

"Yes, Sweety.  So lose the shirt and let's go."  Kai grinned like he had hit the lottery.  He stripped his shirt off and draped it over his chair before letting Jordan lead him off toward the crowd.  "Have fun you two."  Jordan winked at me before disappearing into the bouncing mass of people.

Zach took a seat in the chair next to mine then set took another sip from the drink, "You okay?"

I felt a bit nervous, hearing Jordan's words in my head, "Yeah, just thinking.  You know me."

"Yes, thinker boy."

"That's me."  A silence fell over us, at least as much of a silence that there could be with the loud music blaring.

"So, do you want to talk about what you're thinking?"

"Umm..."  I hesitated, the feeling of uneasiness still very high about the subject.

Zach smiled, "I'll take that as a you're working up to it.  I have something I want to talk about though."


"Yeah.  I'm sorry I took so long at the bar, I didn't expect to run into anyone I knew."

"It looked like you were talking to a bunch of people," I said, even though the image of him and the other guy was at the forefront in my mind.

"Yeah, but one in particular.  Do you remember when we were in the park and you asked me if I had ever been in love?"

"Yeah," I nodded unsure of where he was going.

"Well.. he's here.  I ran into him at the bar."

"Oh,"  I didn't know what else to say.

"It was kind of weird.  I mean we haven't spoken in a really long time.  He's tried to call me, but I've avoided the calls.  Protection I guess.  I still loved him when he broke up with me.  I didn't know what happened, like I said it just sort of ended.  He didn't care about anything, but his parties and friends.  It hurt a lot.."  He seemed to start reminiscing before he continued, "Anyway, I really didn't want to see him again.  Then he came up to me while I was over there getting a drink."

I looked down at the table, not liking the way the conversation had turned, "Oh.  So he just wanted to say hi or something?"

"No, he wanted to talk.  I tried to brush him off, but he was being persistent.  So I agreed to hear him out.  He apologized for ending things the way he did and told me about what he's been doing since then.  I guess he's really gotten his act together.  He used to always be high and didn't care much about anything else.  He's in school now and got a job on campus to pay for his apartment."

"Why are you telling me all of this, Zach?"

"Well.. he asked me if I would give him another chance. He said that breaking up with me was the worst mistake he's ever made. He wants to go out a few times and see what happens.  Kind of like your deal with Tyler."

I felt my heart drop a bit, "Oh.. wow.  That's um.. that's great."  I felt that familiar pain of the heart flood my chest, but I refused to cry.  I closed my eyes and held it in.

"Blade?"  He put a hand over one of mine, "Are you okay?"

I took a breath and forced a smile, "Yeah.  Grand."

He gave me a skeptical look, "Come on, don't lie to me."  His hand intertwined with mine and squeezed.  The wave of sadness hit me again, even stronger this time.  I could feel my face physically grimace and I knew I had to escape.

"It's okay.  I'm fine.. great.. yeah.  I uh, I'm going to go back to the hotel, okay?"  I tried to stay strong, but could feel myself failing miserably, "I think I left my phone there or something.  Cameron will be mad if he can't get ahold of me."  Zach continued to give me a look of disbelief and I thought maybe, just maybe I would be able to make a get away, it happened.  A single tear escaped my right eye and trickled down over my cheek.  My eyes instantly met his and my facade was blown.  I stood abruptly and pulled my hand from his.  I looked over and noticed a guy watching our table, the same one that was dancing with Zach earlier.

Zach stood as well and grabbed me, "Blade, stop it.  Talk to me."

I shook my head and felt tears burning just behind the lids, "I have to go.. I just have to go."  I pulled away from him and walked away as fast as I could without breaking into a run.  Fight or flight.. I fled because I couldn't fight it anymore.

Blade's Condo...

Standing outside on a stairwell, staring at a door wouldn't seem very intimidating to most.  Usually it's just an object that needs to be pushed aside to continue our paths.  Not a second thought to be had about it.  What makes it different for some is when they're harboring news that's ramifications will change everything.  Not just for themselves, but for the others involved.

Tyler stood looking at the door for what seemed like hours, but in reality had been minutes.  His fingers played over the edge of a sealed white envelope, while he tried to calm himself.  Kai told him to tell Blade about his venture overseas if he decided to go.  As much as Tyler tried to give himself the courage to look Blade in the eye and tell him that he was leaving, he just couldn't.  He knew that as soon as looked into those deep blue eyes and saw Blade smile at his presence, that he would lose all will to do what he had to.  It would make him want to stay and it wasn't an option anymore.  He would owe the record company a lot of money for all of the advances and finances they invested into him and his music.  Money that he nor his mother could afford to pay.  So instead of facing Blade, he decided to take the easy way out.. for himself at least.

Tyler sighed and took one last look at the envelope.  The guilt inside was burning fiercely.  He had been there for Blade through a rough time in his life.  Handling loss was the one area where Blade seemed to have a weakness.  In all other aspects he came off as rock solid, unaffected by anything.  When it came to his heart, that's where he was vulnerable.  Now Tyler was about to potentially set Blade back a good deal.  A tear started to form in his eye while he stepped forward and started to stick the envelope in-between the door frame and door itself.  He took a deep breath and turned to make his way down the stairs when an unexpected sound made him freeze in his tracks.

The sound of the door opening.

His mind told him to dash away, but his legs were frozen in place.  "Please, please not him.."  He whispered softly.  His own nearly silent pleading was interrupted by another voice.


Tyler turned around and let out the air that he was holding in.  One of the last people he expected to see stood in the doorway, the wind tussling his curls.  "Um.. Hey Chance.. What are you doing here?"

Chance raised an eyebrow and studied the boy in front of him.  Tyler is a beautiful boy and Chance never denied that fact.  The two of them never took the time to get to know one another, but what they did know made for a tense situation.  Chance was the one that stepped in and took Blade's pain away when Tyler wasn't there.  When Chance came to California, Tyler was the one that he knew would always be his competition.  Even after the time away from each other, Blade still had a weak spot for the boy he had loved since the first day he laid eyes on him. Chance was the new guy in the picture and he felt threatened.  Maybe justifiably so, but after a brief altercation, Tyler seemed to step back and let Chance and Blade try to be happy with one another.  "I could ask you the same thing.  Did you need something, Tyler?"

Tyler looked down at the ground, "No.."

Chance picked up the envelope and waved it in the air, "Then what's this?"

"It--It's just something I needed to give to Blade."

"Then why didn't you give it to him in person?"

Tyler briefly glanced up and saw that Chance had gotten noticeably closer, "Chance, please don't ask me to explain."

"You don't owe me an explanation, but I think if you're leaving secret letters in the middle of the night that it's probably something that should be said to the person when they're here."

"I can't."

"Why--"  Chance was interrupted by a small form stepping out onto the stairs.  A bear nearly his size hung down from the little boy's hand.  He rubbed his eyes sleepily with his other hand, then looked to Chance, then to Tyler.

"Tyler!"  Cameron yelled and went scampering down the steps.  Chance watched the boy carefully, making sure that he didn't stumble and fall.  Cameron took the stairs in stride, dropping his bear at the bottom before latching onto Tyler.

Tyler leaned down and wrapped his arms around the boy, "Hey, Cam."

"HI!  Where you been?  You don't play with me no more,"  Cameron frowned, causing Tyler to frown in return.

"I'm sorry.  I've been really busy."

"Will you come play with me now?"  Cameron's doe eyes glimmered with hope.

Tyler choked back the tears that were fighting hard to come out, "I can't, Cameron."  He tried to lower his tone enough so Chance couldn't hear, "You know I love you right?"  Cameron nodded, "Well, I have to go away for awhile."

"How long?"

"I don't know yet.  A few months for now."

Cameron's eyes got wide and his lip began to quiver, "That's forever!!"

"It's not forever.  I'll see you again."

Cameron didn't have the ability to hold back his emotions like an adult would.  His crying came hard and fast, throwing his arms around Tyler in the process, "You can't go.  Don't weave me.  I'll be good, pwease!"  His speech slipped back to it's previous level, his young mind not being able to take in everything at once and keep control.

Tears slid down Tyler's cheeks while he held the boy tight, stroking his hair, "It's not your fault.  You're a great kid and I love you with all my heart.  I promise I'll see you again."

Cameron cried and cried.  In his short life he had experienced more loss than he even knew.  "I love you too, Tywer."

Tyler kissed the little boy on the forehead, "You take care of your Daddy for me, okay?"  Cameron nodded.

Chance put his hand on Cameron's shoulder, "Come on, Monster.  Let's get you inside and I'll read you a story before you get back to sleep."  Cameron looked back at Tyler once more before he allowed Chance to pick him up.  He laid his head on Chance's shoulder and put his arm around his neck.  Chance watched Tyler stand up from his kneeling position, wiping his tear streaked face.  Chance went to the top of the stairs, set Cameron down and gave him a slight tap on the butt, "Go get in bed and I'll be right there."  Cameron did as he was told, then Chance made his way back down to where Tyler was standing.  Chance held up the envelope again and frowned, "This isn't going to be good news is it?"

"No.  It's not," Tyler's voice came out nearly silent.

"Do you really want to break his heart again?"

"I want him to be happy.  Whether it's with you, Zach or someone else.  I just know that it can't be with me.  I've hurt him enough for one lifetime.  This is the last time."

Chance stepped up and put a hand on Tyler's shoulder, "I hope that you know what you're doing."

"I do--and that's why it hurts so much."

"I'll make sure he's okay."

"I know you will.  You've always been good at that," Tyler tried to smile through his tears.  Chance surprised him, putting his arm around him and squeezing firmly.

"He'll never let go of you, Tyler.  He'll love you for the rest of his life even if you can't be together.  Remember that the most.  Take care of yourself."  Chance broke away from Tyler who gave him one last smile before turning around and walking away.

The people that touch our lives in ways that can never be repaid are difficult to find, difficult to leave and impossible to forget.  Tyler had been fortunate enough to be blessed by many of them.  Leaving them behind was the hardest thing he could ever imagine, but in the end what they've brought to his life would always be there inside of him.

Back at Mission Beach....

Nothing, but silence filled the room.  It was devoid of life except for me, sitting on one of the two beds that the room was equipped with.  An hour had passed since I left Zach and I had yet to do anything, but sit and stare at the ground.  My thoughts kept me from doing anything else.

I tried my best to keep my feelings for Zach at bay.  No matter what you think about your will power going into certain situations, when it comes to the heart, you have no control.  You can lie to yourself and others as much as you want, but you feel what you feel.  There's no changing it.  If we could control who our hearts beated for, relationships would be a lot easier.

I wanted to give Tyler a chance before I let myself make a play for Zach.  I guess for this very reason.  I didn't want to get hurt again by putting myself out there.  Tyler loves me and I love him, so it's safe.  He wasn't going to reject me or at least I thought.  His virtual non existence since we went to dinner said otherwise.  He wasn't ready.. or we weren't ready for each other.  As much as we both wanted to be, both of us were too scared of getting into the actual relationship.  With Zach, I never felt like there wasn't something there no matter how much he tried to act like there wasn't.  I don't know how I could be so wrong.

The sound of the lock on the door clicking ripped me from my thoughts.  Zach walked through the hotel of the door, shutting it gently behind him. I didn't look over at him, but I could feel his gaze set upon me. His footsteps quietly padded across the carpet, approaching cautiously.  The bed sunk a bit giving way to the new weight upon its springs as Zach sat beside me on the bed.  Nothing was said, the tension in the air thickening with each passing moment.

My eyes remained downcast, the feelings inside of me gripping my heart so tightly that it told me if I let my eyes meet his, there would be no holding back the tears that were burning to come out.  Zach brought his hand to my chin and gently grasped it, " Blade.." I tried to turn away, but he held firm, "Blade, tell me what's going on."

I remained defiant, refusing to let him see my eyes, "Nothing is going on. Just let me be, Zach."

He sighed and moved his body closer to mine, removing his hand from my face before sliding it sinewy arm behind me, wrapping it tightly around my shoulders, "I know you better than that.  You're not even close to being yourself.  We're supposed to be having fun this weekend."

"Then go have fun."  The words shot out of my mouth before my brain could process them, carrying a level of spite along with them that I hadn't expected.  I still didn't look at him, but could tell from the way his arm tensed that he was caught off guard as well, "I'm sorry."

"Well, that was unexpected," He paused for a moment, "So are you going to tell me what's going on with you now?"  I let out a breath of frustration, shaking my head in the process. "We're not leaving this room until you tell me what it is."

I could feel the sadness and anger fighting for position, in the process overwhelming my heart, "I don't want to leave the room, Zach.  That's why I left to come back here in the first place.  Please just leave me alone."  My voice cracked and I knew that I wasn't going to shake him after that.

Zach placed his hands on the sides of my face and turned it toward his own, this time keeping his grasp tight to show that he wasn't taking no for an answer.  "Look at me," I tried to avoid it, but my eyes darted up for a moment and as soon as he saw them, his own shined with the concern that he was trying to express, "Blade, talk to me.  Tell me why you're so hurt."

"Can we not talk about this please?"

"No. We came down here to have fun and party it up, not sulk in a hotel room.."

"I came here to have fun and party. Right."  My mouth had won out over my brain, "Do you really not know, Zach?"  He started to speak, but I interrupted again, "Or are you just being ignorant to the facts?"

"What facts, Blade?!?  We've never even had an argument before let alone a fight and you've been acting weird all weekend.."

"Since you saw your ex. Since you came to me... of all people, ME for advice."

"You're the closest person to me out of anyone.  I trust you with everything and I trust your opinion."

"You know how I fucking feel about you!"

It was Zach's turn to look down this time, unsure of what to say, "I-I knew that you were attracted to me, but I didn't know it went any deeper than that."

My eyes widened and I looked away, "I shouldn't have come here."  I stood up abruptly and walked to where my bag was.  I started pulling clothes out of the drawers of the dresser and throwing them into my bag while Zach looked on.

"Blade, I'm sorry.  I wouldn't have talked to you about him if I had known.."

I cut him off, "Don't.  Just don't okay?  Do you know what it was like for me, to see you with him?  Watching you dance with him, seeing the flirting gestures, the smile on your face.  You knew, Zach.  You just didn't care."

"That's not fair."

"What's fair man?  Nothing.  You think that everyone can be like you and be unaffected by everything all the time.  You sit there and tell me that you don't want a relationship so you can be free to do as you please.   I respected that because I know how hard it is to get over someone, but then we come here and you see HIM for a couple hours.  Then it's all 'Blade, it was so awesome seeing him.  What do you think of him?  He seems to be a lot better than before, I think he wants to get back together'. Well, you know what?  I'm tired having to stand around and smile, playing the good fucking friend role."  My words came out like venom, my skin feeling hot with the flush the anger had brought on.

"Look, I said I'm sorry okay?  I shouldn't have said anything to you about it.  I just feel like you're the one person that I can confide in.  I didn't ask you to pretend for me."

"And I'm not asking you to pretend for me either."  I zipped my bag and slung it over my shoulder, "When we kiss it might not mean much or anything to you.  Maybe you really do just want to have sex, but that doesn't mean that I can go dead to my feelings.  It doesn't mean that none of it meant anything to me."  A few stray tears escaped from my eyes, their warmth streaming down over my cheeks, "Just hearing your voice on the phone or getting a random text from you makes me smile.  When I'm with you, no matter how much other shit that's going on, I feel like it's all going to be okay."  Zach sat on the bed, making sure I knew he was giving me his full attention, "I thought you felt something for me, but I guess I was wrong and I can't stay here knowing that someone else is going to have you.  Maybe I'm being selfish, but I don't care right now.  I want you to be happy, but it's killing me to see it with somebody else."

Zach eyes seemed glassy as he shifted uncomfortably, "I..." He started then stopped, apparently at a loss for words.

"You don't have to stay anything."  I stepped over to the door, "Just be happy, Zach.  Maybe he's right.  Maybe no one else can love you like him... but I know that I would've tried everything I could to love you better."  I took one last look at him, feeling my heart sink one more time before I opened the door and stepped outside.  "Goodbye, Zach."

Zach watched the retreating form slip from sight as the door closed.  A tear fell from his eye as his body fell back onto the bed, battling with the emotions twisting him up inside.

Yahoo group:   Jaded Edge Productions