While I have been away from this story to work on others for quite some time, it is one of the series that I'm most proud of. "New Kid" will always be a part of me, and it will always be the foundation on which everything I've written since was based on. That said, I truly want to thank you guys for giving me the chance to come back to it after a long hiatus. I have to admit, I missed my little cast of characters here. Hehehe! Writing this was like reacquainting myself with old friends. So...without further adieu...enjoy the newest chapter! And look for the spinoff story, "Kiss Of An Angel" on the website to see more of Ariel and Tyler! I'll seezya soon! Please let me know what you think at Comicality@webtv.net or stop by my website at http://comicality.gayauthors.org to leave a note on one of the forums there! I'm always reading! :)

"New Kid In School:"
38th Chapter

I didn't really sleep all that well last night. I don't know why. Maybe because it was the rain storm that swept over us in the middle of the night. It couldn't have lasted too long, but the thunder and lightning was enough to interrupt a good night's sleep. That's for sure. I practically abused my snooze button this morning, waiting until the very LAST minute, where it became a matter of getting out of bed, or missing school altogether. Shit...if I didn't have so much of a conscience...I might have stayed in bed. I tell you, I must be brainwashed or something.

I lazily dressed myself, looking at myself in the mirror and seeing my hair so out of whack that I hardly bothered to do anything to it. What would be the point? It was a bad hair day, plain and simple. Nothing I could do to it would make it look right now. So I patted it down as best as I could with my hands, and washed my face, hoping that the water would do something to help me wake up. It barely worked. It didn't so much 'wake me up' as it just 'kept me from passing out'. I yawned and did my best to stumble downstairs to grab a few slices of leftover pizza from yesterday for breakfast. I slipped them onto a paper towel and put them in the microwave for about a minute, and that's when I heard the doorbell ring.

I bumbled my way towards the back door, and saw Ryan standing outside, waving happily. It looked like he was awfully happy today. And, no matter HOW cute they are, the last thing a groggy, half asleep, teenager needs...is a 'morning person' revving to go. I opened the door, and said with a yawn, "Please tell me you're not happy."

"Hehehe, well SOMEBODY didn't sleep well last night." He grinned.

"How could I? Didn't you hear that thunderstorm last night?" I said, turning on the radio. Maybe some music would pull me out of this muddy fog that I'm in.

"Nope. I slept right through it, actually." He walked over to me, and slipped his gentle hands around my waist. Then, he pulled me gently forward for a kiss on the lips.

"Whoah...what are you doing?" I whispered, looking around the kitchen.

"Don't sweat it, your mom left five minutes ago. I saw her."

"She did?" Was I THAT far out of it? "Hold on a sec..." I said, and walked out into the living room. "MOM?" I yelled out. No answer. Wow...empty house. Cool. "Did she say where she was going?"

"Didn't talk to her." Ryan said, moving up behind me to wrap his loving arms around my stomach. "All I knew was that she was leaving...and that we'd have a couple of minutes before school. You know...if you 'wanna'." His voice was like a sensual moan in my ear, and I felt his soft kisses landing on the nape of my neck. The texture of his tongue, gently giving me delicate little 'kitty licks' from beween the warmth of his soft lips.

"You know...she might just be driving down to the post office to mail a package or something. What if she comes back?" I told him, just above a whisper. I closed my eyes, as his nose and lips tickled the side of my neck in the cutest way.

"Then we'll just have to hide in your room, won't we?" We both shared a sensual giggle, and I craned my neck back a bit to kiss my boyfriend sweetly on his lips. Once our eyes connected, his hazel wonders making me melt inside, he knew I'd eventually cave in completely.

"Ryan..." I whined softly, hypnotized by the feel of his hands on me. "...I'm...I'm soooo tired right now."

"Mmm-hmm...whatever." He said, continuing to kiss and lick at me while I whimpered helplessly in his arms.

"Hehehe, are you even listening to me?"

"I'm listening to your heart right now. And it's telling me...'Ryan...take me. Take me now.' Hehehe!"

"Sighhhh....dude..." There was no fighting it. Let's be honest, I was his from the moment he touched me. Even moreso when I pushed my hips back and felt his hardness pressing firmly against me. "Ok. Ok...alright. We'll just be a little bit late today." He grabbed the front of my pants, feeling how hard it was getting beneath his fingertips. "But not TOO late, ok? TEN MINUTES, that's it! Our teacher is going to totally put us on the chopping block if we miss too much of our history video today." I told him, but his hand was already busy rubbing small circles on my tummy, his kisses landing lovingly behind my right ear.

"You're the boss." He grinned. And he released his grip on me from behind, taking me by the hand to turn me around and kiss me passionately on the lips. Then he bean to lead me back to my room, as visions of my hair getting even MORE messed up danced in my head. Ryan certainly did wake up a feisty one this morning.

He could hardly wait until we were in the bedroom, kissing me like he was hungry for more. And our hands roamed over each other's backsides without limitation. My heart felt like it stopped, waiting for the moment when his pulse would catch up so the two hearts could beat in unison. The magic of his kiss washed over me with such a powerful rush that it made my knees feel weak and unstable. Then...as soon as he lowered me down to my bed and let his slim weight bear down on me, our tongues twisted around each other in early morning bliss....the front doorbell rang.

I broke our tender liplock to listen closely to what was going on outside. But Ryan was anxious. "Just ignore it."

"I can't. What if..."

"What if WHAT?" He said, kissing me again. "Your mom wouldn't use the bell. And there can't be an emergency of ANY kind at 7:30 in the morning. They're just CAN'T be. Not one that requires someone to ring the doorbell." Ryan made a good argument, and after waiting a couple of seconds in silence, he lowered himself down on me again. This time, our kiss got more heartfelt, with my hands now gripping the tight globes of his ass as he made circular motions with his hips to push into me. Our lips parted only long enough to take short breaths, or allow a slight moan to escape between tongue aerobics. And my legs reached up to wrap around his trim waistline, pulling him further into me as our mouths made love to one another. His kisses moved down to my neck, and I held onto him for dear life as I gasped and wiggled beneath him.

"God, I love you...." I had barely gotten the words out of my mouth before the back doorbell rang! This time, with a bit more desperation. Ryan stopped his determined grind into my pelvis, and I felt his warm breath on my neck as he sighed outloud. My whole body was tingling, and hard, and spasming tenderly from having Ryan's body friction touching me all over. But whoever it was at the door, they weren't giving up. "Shit...dude, I'm sorry." I said.

"You're not really gonna 'answer' it, are you?" He said, just a little frustrated.

I gave him a kiss on the lips and told him, "We will have all week to do this, and a LOT more, when we get to Spring Break. K, baby?" Ryan gave me the most ADORABLE pouty face when I said that. His bottom lip poking out slightly, his expressive eyes practically crying out for me to stay wih him. He looked like a beaten dog, and his sad face made me giggle at how cute it was. "Awwww....hehehe, I PROMISE, sweetie! Ok? Quit it. I can't stand it when you're this sexy." It only took another angelic kiss to his lips before he regretfully rolled off of me and let me get up to answer the door.

I had to re-fix my hair a bit, and reach down the front of my pants to readjust my erection so that I wouldn't put somebody's eye out when I opened the door. I walked into the kitchen, and saw Tyler outside peeking in through my kitchen window. He knocked at the glass and I moved quickly to open the door. "Ty? What's the matter? What's wrong?"

He walked in swiftly, and he seemed a little bit flustered. "It's Ariel. He didn't come by this morning. Why wouldn't he come by? We walk to school together. We ALWAYS walk to school together, Randy."

"Wait...wait, Tyler, calm down."

"I think I screwed up." He said, his eyes looking down at the tile of my kitchen as he paced back and forth in a near panic. "I must have pushed things too fast. I was being stupid. I knew I should have waited. I KNEW it! Dammit, Randy...why did I have to listen to you?"

"Listen to ME??? What did I do?" I asked, wondering how I got trapped as the badguy in this seemingly random event.

"You're the one that told me to invite him over to my house."

"But...he said 'yes'." I pointed out.

"That's not the POINT!" Tyler was literally trembling, and that's when Ryan came into the room after hearing the conversation.

"Um...yeah, Tyler. That kinda IS the point." He said, and Tyler looked at the both of us and paused for a moment.

"Great. Just great. Ariel's missing, and you two are over here kissing and rolling around before school. How can you two think of 'hanky panky' at a time like this?"

"Dude...chill out. Ariel's NOT 'missing'. Maybe he got tied up with something before school. Maybe he overslept..." I tried to inject some logic into his thought patterns, but it wasn't necessarily sinking in.

"Or maybe he's HURT. What if he hurt himself somewhere, and he needs help?"

Ryan put a hand on his shoulder. "He's FINE, Tyler. Ariel's not going to get hurt. He might 'accidentally' send a hundred OTHER people to the hospital...but he's not going to get hurt. Ok?" I think Ryan might have chipped a little hole in his fragile state of mind. And while he was still worried, he did his best to hide it. "Everything is ok, Ty. Seriously. We'll see him at school, and you'll get all giggly and happy and again, and you'll wonder what all this fuss was even about. Ok?"

"I'm just...." He started, almost whimpering from not having the words. "...I can't afford to mess things up, you know? Honestly. I want things to be perfect, you know?"

"I know. And they will be, as long as you just calm down and enjoy it." I told him. Then I gave him a playful little shove. "Geez...the hottest blond heartbreaker in school, and he's over here shaking like a wet cat over a couple minutes worth of tardiness." I smiled, and he didn't wanna join me at first, but Ryan and I shoved him back and forth a bit until his grin became uncontrollable.

"Alright. Alright. Whatever." He blushed, probably feeling silly for having a heart attack about it all. "Let's just go. Maybe we can catch him in the hall before the first bell."

"Actually...." Ryan said, "...We still have some business to take care of in Randy's room. You wanna wait out here? Or...do ya wanna watch?"

"Dude!" I elbowed him in the shoulder and grabbed my backpack.

"Actually, I was gonna ask if I could 'participate'." Tyler joked.

"Not unless you bring your cute little boyfriend with you."

"He's NOT my boyfriend. We're just....we're trying to...figure things out." He protested. Ryan and I both looked at each other for a brief moment.

"Suuuuure." we said in unison.

"I MEAN it!" He demanded.

"Ok. I believe you." I said sarcastically, and opened the front door.

"I'm telling you the truth." He pouted. And we both smiled at him as we walked out of the house. Ryan started whistling the Tootsie Roll theme and I giggled out loud. "STOP IT!!! I KNOW what it means when you guys do that!" We both started whistling together now, which is hard to do when you're trying not to laugh. "KNOCK IT OFF!" Ahhhh...we do enjoy our pleasant little tortures sometimes.

We actually got to school on time, which surprised us since we left late. And while the walk was pretty ordinary, we could tell that Tyler was being extremely quiet that morning. He was looking over his shoulder every ten seconds, as though he expected Ariel to come running up behind us any moment. It made me wonder whether or not this afternoon would go well for the both of them. I mean, they are OBVIOUSLY in love to Nth degree. The affection between them is so strong that it practically knocks you ever whenever they get within ten feet of each other. I'm surprised that the other kids at school haven't caught on yet. But I suppose, when you're the one in love, with all of those rapidly swirling thoughts and constant confusion...it's never as easy for you to recognize personally. It's like...everything that made sense in your world suddenly gets flipped upside down, and you find yourself not knowing who you are anymore. Or better yet, who you are without this person pleasantly invading every moment of your life. Everything quivers and quakes, and you find yourself enveloped in this blind fever that you can't escape from. I remember that feeling. I remember it well. And while I may get my jollies out of teasing Tyler for being so head over heels for his favorite boy...I really do understand. Who am I to tell him he's being irrational? Love's very foundation was built on 'irrational'. And that's what makes it so real. So unbelievably rare. To actually fill someone's heart with fear, confusion, insecurity, and a crippling sense of self doubt....and then make them enjoy every minute of it...that's something worth trembling for. Something you can both pity and envy someone for simultaneously.

We went our seperate ways as we entered the hall. Ryan and I had our first History class together, of course, and Tyler was on his way to English. I just really hope that he and Ariel get over their clumsy fears long enough to maybe express how they feel. I mean, Lord knows that it's been long enough. I long for the day when we can officially call them a couple. It can't be that far off. Something tells me that getting the opportunity to spend time alone with one another will help.

As Ryan and I sat together in History, taking a test on the Trojan War, I found myself looking over at him with a sense of true awe. It was almost like seeing him for the first time again, and I can't explain the feeling it gave me. I had to squint my eyes a bit, not really believing that he was really there. Wondering if I had made this whole amazing relationship up in my head, and that he'd vanish in the blink of an eye. Returning me to the strangely forgettable existence that I led before he came riding into my life on the back of a lightning bolt from God. I analyzed the very look of him. The sensuality of his eyes, and the softness of his skin, and the spongy tightness of his waist and stomach. I thought about the taste of his warm breath as he kissed me, and the gentle vibrations that occurred whenever he moaned in my arms. I thought about how I could never hug him close enough, or kiss him with enough passion, to make my felings known. To express my love for him on such an infinite level seems almost impossible. But he sees and appreciates my efforts to do so, and it keeps us both beyond satisfied. God...it's so WEIRD looking at him right now. How in the hell did I get so lucky?

"Mr. Stephens...eyes on your own paper, please." Our teacher said outloud, and I was suddenly snapped back to reality. The rest of the class hardly paid any attention to the disruption, but I was a bit embarrassed anyway. Ryan sorta looked over at me for a moment, and the flirtatious smile that spread across his face let me know he knew what I was doing. The cutest blush appeared beneath the creamy skin of his cheeks, and he turned away from me before he giggled or something that would draw any more attention to us. I had no choice but to smile in return, and try to get my focus back on the test before time ran out. Okaaaay...maybe a History exam is a bad time to be gawking at my boyfriend. But I plan to pick up where I left off later. Most definitely.

I'm pretty sure I secured myself a pretty respectable 'B' on the quiz, and passed it up to the front of the row with all the others once the time was up. However, looking behind me, I could clearly see Hailey giving me dirty looks from the back of the room. I'm hardly the one to give her the time of day anyway, but I was kinda upset that she would suddenly be giving me the evil eye as well as her 'ex-boyfriend'. Why won't she just get over it already? How long has it been since they dated anyway? A month? TWO months? She could have fallen for three or four other guys by now. Why is she so obsessed with MY boyfriend? I looked back again, and she turned away. She was really hurting over this. And I can't really understand why I would even CARE. She's never been necessarily nice to me, she treats Ryan like complete shit....she's even mean to Ariel most of the time. I mean, come on, what did HE ever do to hurt anybody? Still...whatever kinda black magic voodoo stare she was giving me, it had done its job. And for a few short seconds, I almost felt sorry for her.

When the bell rang, Ryan and I both gathered our stuff and were ready to leave. I asked him, "You think Hailey hates me too? I mean, just for hanging out with you and all?"

"If she does, I doubt it's as much as she hates me." He answered.

"Well, yeah but....that's not cool."

"I'm sorry, Randy."

"Well, it's not your fault, I just...I wish she'd move on already and leave it alone."

Ryan was quiet for a moment or two as we walked down the hall. Then he said softly, "You know, I kinda thought about this...and..." He took a breath. "...What if I, like...told her? You know, about us."

There was a moment of absolute shock that ran through me, and I nearly lost my voice. "Are you SERIOUS?" I asked in disbelief.

"Well, it beats having her think that I just dumped her to be 'mean'. I mean...I don't like 'that type'. She can't hate me for just being who I am, right?"

"Ryan...dude, think about this. She's not only a ad 'risk', but she's an ENEMY. Imagine what would happen if she took it badly and decided to get back at you or something. She'd tell the whole school." I said, already quaking from the thought of being exposed in front of everybody. Ryan and I wouldn't be able to walk down the hall together anymore without people whispering and giggling and giving us a hard time.

"I dunno, Randy...I don't think it would be so bad. Just letting her know the truth." He said.

I don't know if it was fear or common sense that was guiding me at that moment. But I told him, "Look, I just think it's a bad idea. That's all."

There was another pause between us, and I heard him sigh quietly to himself. "Yeah....maybe you're right. I guess I'll just have to wait things out then." We came to the end of the hall, and were ready to go our seperate ways for now. "I'll see you later on, k?"

"Sure thing."

"If you see Ariel, tell him to send Tyler a nte or something so he can stop freaking out, will ya?"

"I certainly will." I stood there, and our eyes met for a moment. I couldn't really read the emotion in his eyes, but it was something slightly different from the usual 'I wish I could kiss you right now'. It was more like...'I'm tired of not being able to kiss you whenever I feel like it'. Some freshmen came down the steps making a bunch of noise and walked in between us. But we never lost eye contact. And we waited for them to pass before Ryan gave me a small wave and told me he'd meet up with me at lunch. His parting words were so...'blue'. I guess he was really looking for some loving attention today, and now I've turned him away twice. I should really fnd a good way to make it up to him. I don't think this can wait until Spring Break.I should do something this afternoon. Or maybe tomorrow. Maybe I can talk to Sam and Matt and go to their basement to spend some time together. Not just for sex and privacy. But just...to 'exist' for a while together in a place where who we really are isn't such an issue. A little bit of time to unwind without ducking, dodging, and hiding out, would do us both some good.

The school day was CRAWLING by at a snail's pace, and by the time I had gotten to my art class, I was begging for the last bell to ring for the day. It was a comfort to see Ariel timidly walking into class with his bag slumped lazily over his shoulder though. He had a bit of a sour look on his face when he sat down beside me, and didn't give me much more than a nod and a whispered hello. "Ariel? Are you ok?"

"Um...yeah. I guess. Just....got a lot on my mind."

"You sure?"

"Yeah. I had a little mix up last period. That's all." He said, his head down, and his hair falling gently into his face to hide his eyes from me. "It's a long story, but I don't think I'm allowed to ever touch the AV stuff ever again."

"Wow...TVs, projectors, and VCRs...sounds 'heavy'." I was hoping to get a smile out of him, but I think he was too preoccupied to really hear me.

The teacher started the class, and wanted us to work on drawing things in dynamic perspective today. She gave a short lecture and passed out some worksheets of what she wanted to see. Then she left us to work on our own until the end of class. But Ariel was being so amazingly withdrawn that it actually began to worry me.

"Are you sure you're ok?" I asked in a cocerned whisper.

"No. Not really." He said in an even softer whisper.

"Do you wanna talk about it?"

"Not now." He said, and went back to his drawing. I left it alone for a minute or two, and he then turned his head to give me an apologetic look. "It's not you, ok? Really. I don't wanna be stupid about it....I just...I hate being such a geek about everything. I really do."

"You're NOT a 'geek', Ariel."

"Yes, I am." He was SO harsh on himself. Jesus! It almost looked like he wanted to cry. "I can't help it. I try..I just...." He stopped and let out a sigh. "I don't think I'm going to Tyler's afterschool today."

"WHAT? No! You cannot back out on Tyler today! NOT today!" I whispered louder.

"Randy...I can't....I just can't, ok?"

"Yes you CAN! Just go! What's the worst that could happen?"

"I could break his foot with an old VCR."

"You...you could WHAT???" I asked in confusion.

"Boys...concentrate on your artwork. You can socialize later." Our teacher quieted us down, and Ariel basically gave me the signal that we'd talk later. Although, no matter what he threw at me in terms of an excuse...even random VCR violence...I wasn't going to let him shy away from Tyler today. They had planned this. It was GOING to happen! Tyler wold be shattered if he thought Ariel was having second thoughts now.

When class was over, I found myself rushing to get my stuff together so I'd have a decent chance to talk Ariel out of running away from Tyler. This might be my last chance before lunch. And Tyler would BE there at lunch, so that wasn't much time to talk at all. I made sure to wait for Ariel by the door, and his eyes were weighed down to the tile on the floor instantly. He walked by me while I followed him towards his next class. "Ariel...come on...talk to me. What's wrong?"

"Nothing. I'm just...I'm a klutz. I'm a walking hazard in everything that I do. If I go over to Tyler's today, I'm probably going to end up burning his house to the ground."

"Dude, listen to me...Tyler WANTS to see you. He's been waiting all morning for this. Maybe even longer." I could see Ariel melting behind his eyes, and his inner conflict between being 'safe' and disappointing the boy he loved more than anything began to wage a fierce battle in his heart. "Dude, he talks about you all the time. Today, when you didn't show up to walk with him to school...he nearly went into hysterics. He really wants to spend some quality time with you. Don't you get it?"

His knees got a bit weak, and he scrunched up his face a little as he whined, "I don't wanna hurt him, Randy. I just...I can't...I mean..."

"Look, if you're waiting for this to one day become magically 'easy' for you to go over to Ty's house and tell him how you feel...then don't bother. It's not gonna happen. You're going to continue to be worried and clumsy and confused and afraid until you finally just suck it up and TALK to him." I said. Ariel sulked beside me, wishing he had another excuse to give me. Anything that would keep him from looking foolish in front of his sweeheart. "C'mon, Ariel...I mean, this is what you've been waiting for. You've GOTTA go. This is your chance to truly be happy." He gave me an almost desperate look, and I put a hand on his shoulder to ease some of that frightening doubt out of him. "I promise you...as long as you follow your heart, everything will turn out ok. Just go. See what happens. K?"


"Just GO!" I told him, and he rolled his eyes in a huff.

"Fine." He pouted. "But if this goes all wrong, I'm putting all the blame on you."

"I'd be happy to hold it for you." I smiled, and patted him again before pushing him off in the direction of his class. He gave me a bashful wave, but didn't say anything else as he walked softly down the hall. He'd better not chicken out. I'll strangle him if he chickens out now.

Thankfully, lunch came quickly once my art class was done with. I was seriously looking forward to getting some grub, as my belly had been rumbling for three class periods now. I should have grabbed at least a LITTLE breakfast before leaving the house today. Anyway, standing in line, impatiently waiting to tear into whatever meaty treat they were serving that day, I felt a slight absence in my day. It reminded me that Cody was on suspension. And without his outbursts, fights, or verbal venom, being spit in the direction of whatever bully that took it upon himself to pick on him, the day seemed a lot less uneventful. Even seeing him in line was a missed pleasure. What can I say? He was cute. Cute in the way that it brightened up the whole room when he walked by. I guess a part of me was just expecting to see him there. I hope he's ok. After that savage attack yesterday, it was hard not to worry. Even if just for a little bit.

I paid for my food and saw Ryan already sitting at our table. Neither Tyler or Ariel had shown up yet, and I began to wonder if maybe they were avoiding each other. They had both been hurt before, with ME being responsible at least once for each, and they just seemed so terrified of it happening again. I wish I had some idea about how to keep them from being so paranoid about the whole situation and just let it happen. They can be SO damn difficult sometimes.

"Sup?" I asked, as I put my tray down on the table.

"Nothing. Just hungry." He still seemed a bit...I dunno...restrained somehow. Like he was bottling something up inside, and it was ready to burst. It wasn't as strong as the vibe I felt from him this morning, but traces of it were still there.

"Ryan?" I said in a low voice.


"You know I love you, right?" It wasn't really loud enough for anyone else in the cafeteria to hear it, but it was a touch louder than I would usually say it in public. The words had an effect on him, and he looked up from his sandwich to meet my eyes. "Seriously. I do."

He smiled, a twinkle of excitement in his eyes. "I love you too." He grinned. And we stared at one another for a minute, just...feeling our hearts reaching out to one another. It made him so happy, just to hear me say that outloud. I suppose it takes that kinda random admission of love every now and then to really...display how much he truly means to me. I was happy to do it. Take nothing for granted. One lesson I don't want to learn the hard way.

"You know..I was thinkng, maybe tomorrow we could call up Sam and Matt and go over for a while. Just to hang out. Maybe spend an afternoon together."

"Yeah? Sweet!" Ryan's smile got wider, more genuine, and it made me wiggle inside just to feel his joy being absorbed into my heart from across the table. It was magical. "That sounds excellent! I can bring over a movie or something."

"We can get in a couple of video games..."

"It'll be awesome!"

"And then...?" I smiled.

"Hehehe, and then...we can find something else to kill the time we have left." His voice had been laced with that sensual haze that let me know what he was thinking. And I was instantly drawn into his amazing eyes all over again.

"Sounds like a plan to me." I said, and we broke our eye contact as Tyler came to sit down at the table with us.

"Hey." He said quietly.

"Before you flip out, I saw Ariel a few periods ago, and he's doing great. So, no worries." I told him. He didn't seem to be too comforted by that idea. "NOW what?"

"Nothing. Really." Tyler attempted to hide whatever it was that was bothering him now. But as I noticed many times before, he's not a very good liar. Still...I decided to leave it alone. I supposeif I push too hard, he'll just shut down even more. I guess I can give him a little space to think for now. But I have to admit that I can't WAIT for him and Ariel to get this day overwith. They're just being plain ridiculous now.

We sat in silence for a moment or two as we gulped down our cafeteria slop, and I lifted my eyes for a second while drinking my soda. It was then that I saw Cody's sister, Veronica, sitting at a table over in the corner all by herself. As usual, she was dressed down in the most 'un-feminine' clothes that she could find, and her unkept hair was flopped into her face as she ate her sandwich in peace. At first I didn't really pay her much attention. Afterall, Cody and his sister weren't necessarily known for their 'welcoming' attitude to people trying to be friendly to them. But...my eyes continued to glance around the room, and were magnitized to her position time and time again. She just seemed....'lonely'. But not in a cry for help kinda way. More like a comfortably 'leave me alone' kinda way. Still...it sorta bugged me to see her like that. After a few minutes, I decided to make an attempt to go over. "Hey guys...I'll be right back." I said, and scooted out from under the table. Veronica and I had only met once, and we didn't really have anything to talk about as 'friends'. But since Cody was her only companion in this place on a day to day basis, I figured I could at least send her a smile or two. Besides...I was a bit curious as to how he was doing at home. I kinda...missed him. I doubt the suspension bothered him at all. If anything, he was probably enjoying the vacation.

I took my time going over. Approaching her like an animal would approach a sample of free food in a bear trap. And I eventually made my way close enough to speak. "Hey..."

She looked up through her ratty strands of hair, and mumbled, "Hey, back..."

"Um...do you remember me? We met a few days ago?"

"Oh right. The freaky stalker kid. Yeah, I remember." She replied.

"I'm not all THAT freaky!" I said. "At least, I don't think so."

"Yeah, well YOU wouldn't, would you?" She said, and went back to her sandwich. The problem with the Monreau siblings....you never knew if they were being 'playfully sarcastic' or 'angrily standoffish'. So I waited a moment or two, and she looked up at me again. "Yes? Can I help you?"

"Actually...I mean..." I wasn't sure how to ask, but I made an effort to try. "...Well...my friends and I are sitting over at the other table. That is..I know you and Cody usually eat together, but since he's not around today..."

"You thought I'd jump at the chance to be in your wonderful 'company'?" She said, trying to finish my sentence for me.

"Yeah. Something like that."

"I'm fine." She said quietly.

"Veronica...you know you really don't have to...."


"What?" I asked.

"You called me 'Veronica'. I prefer Ronnie. Veronica makes me sound like such a...girl."

"That's strange...considering that you ARE a girl."

"Merely a genetic defect, believe me." She hardly looked up from her lunch, but her eyes did meet mine briefly when she saw me still standing there. "Look..I know it seems like I'd be really lonely over here, but I'm surrounded by tons of other high school kids all day long. I don't mind having a little peace of mind every now and then. I enjoy the silence, it helps me think straight."

"Oh...ok." I said, but didn't want to leave just yet. I paused for a second, and then pulled out a chair to sit down across from her. "Listen....I don't wanna be nosey or anything, but how is Cody doing? I was kinda worried about him after yesterday."

I think that caught her attention, and she looked up from her lunch tray again. "What do you care? Are you stalking him long distance now?"

"I just....I wanted to know if he was alright. That's all."

She gave me a rather inquisitive look. "He's ok." She answered after a long pause. "Probably running around the house half naked, watching tv and playing video games."

"He didn't get into any major trouble with your parents, did he?"

"You mean our FOSTER parents? No. He didn't. Not by much, anyway. 'Donald' and 'Claire' are a little too busy running an agency to do much more than pretend to be concerned about it. They put on a decent show though. So, in theory, Cody's grounded until his three day suspension is over. After that, he's free as a bird."

"Oh...I'm sorry, I didn't know you had foster parents."

"It's not exactly something we broadcast on the school radio station." She said, taking a sip of her chocolate milk. I remained in my seat, and she gave me another strange look. As though she were trying to figure out what made me tick. "Do you....want me to pass on a message or something?"

"Um...actually...can you just tell him that Randy hopes he's ok. I guess that's it."

Her eyes continued to search mine for some kind of strange 'angle' or ulterior motive...and when she didn't find one, she seemed almost impressed. A bit confused, but impressed nonetheless. "He'll be....happy to hear it. I'm sure."

"Well, I know some of the other guys give him trouble around here, but he doesn't usually react that badly. I seriously thought they were going to have to sedate him after the tantrum he threw in the lunch line." I said.

"They said something about our mom. He doesn't really have much of a tolerance for that kind of thing. He'd jump on a rabid grizzly bear if he thought for a second that it was disrespecting our parents."

"Your foster parents?"

"Our REAL parents." She said.

"Oh..." I said. It might have been rude, so I tried to be as careful with my next choice of words as I could be. "...Um...are they...your parents....still around?

"You mean, are they alive? No." She said simply, taking another bite out of her sandwich.

"Oh.......I'm sorry."

"It's ok. That was two or three years ago. We've gotten used to the idea of them being gone. It was just a freak accident, that's all." She seemed to be taking this extremely well. Then again, neither her or Cody were really know for being openly emotional people.

"Ver..." I started, and corrected myself, "...Ronnie...just let him know I was thinking about him. K?"

She stopped eating for a moment, looking me in the eye. "You're not faking this, are you? You're actually...concerned." She said, with a certain level of surprise.

"Of course I am. He's...like...my friend."

"Someone with genuine heart. Very rare." She replied. There was a pause, and she reached into her backpack to pull out a piece of paper. "Gimmee a pen." I handed her a pen out of my pocket, and she wrote something down on the scrap paper in front of her. "Here...this is our address. The number 203 bus will take you pretty much right up to the front door. He's not supposed to have company, but I'm willing to bet that Donald and Claire won't be home until late. I'm sure you'll be able to catch him there. He's a homebody, hardly one for sneaking out. Being grounded is more of a blessing than a punishment where he's concerned."

She gave me the directions, and I have to admit, I never expected this. "Wow....um...thanks. Do you think I'll be able to cheer him up?"

"Cody? No. But perhaps you'll be able to slightly elevate his bad mood into something more tolerable."

"Um...shouldn't I call first, or something?"

"Oh God no. Just go over. You'll never get anywhere with my brother if you give him a chance to say 'no'. Trust me on this."

She zipped her backpack up again, and went back to eating. "Great. Thanks Ronnie." I said, and let her have her silence back.

Just before I left the table, she said, "Don't go telling him that I 'care' or anything. I'll never hear the end of it."

"Cross my heart." And I went back to our lunch table, only to find Ryan sitting there by himself. "What happened to Tyler?"

"Ariel didn't show up again."

"But...he's here in school...I just saw him not long ago."

"Exactly." Ryan said. "Which means...?"

"He's avoiding Tyler specifically."

"Bingo." Ryan wiped his mouth with a napkin, his face mirroring the kind of disappointment that must have een showing in my eyes. "Ty is really convinced that Ariel is going to back out of going to his house today. And you know what? I'm starting to believe that too, dude."

"I don't understand this at all. I mean...Ariel didn't even peek in for a bit or anything?"

"No, not a whisper. I thought you talked to him, Randy."

"I DID. I kinda thought he was going to be ok with this. I didn't expect him to just vanish on us again."

Ryan sighed to himself. "You know...Tyler is ging to e completely heartbroken if that boy doesn't show up this afternoon. It's going to knock everything back to square one in terms of them finding the courage to even talk to one another."

"I know. I know." I thought for a moment or two, and had to basically throw my hands up. "You know...maybe we should just let things run their course this time around. I mean...Ariel really wants to go, and Tyler really wants him to go...the odds are completely in their favor. I think Ariel will go. I really do." I was trying to have some faith here, but Ariel's freaky behavior wasn't really helping me keep it stable.

"Alright, suit yourself. I just hope they don't end up hurting each other...trying not to get hurt themselves." He said, and we let it go. There wasn't very much left for us to do. We've done everything we could possibly do to bring those two boys together, and it's entirely in their hands at this point. They'd better not 'drop' it!

We finished lunch and walked outside, ready to split ways for the rest of the afternoon. "So did you talk to Sam and Matt yet?" He asked me.

"Not yet. But I'll be sure to do it later. It's hardly something that I'd forget." I smiled, and he lightly let his hand brush against mine. Such a soft and valued contact, it gave me a boyish thrill, and I giggled a little without even knowing I was doing it. I think it makes Ryan smile to see me blush with so little effort. "I'll make plans though. Promise."

"Ok. Good. Can't wait." He said. "I'll see ya later. I've got to get to drama before I'm late."

"That reminds me, no Sean today? I'm surprised."

Ryan turned to face me as he walked backwards towards his class. "He's not here. He's ditching out. I think he's got himself a 'date'." Ryan grinned.

"Another one? Geez, how does HE find all the gay boys in this school?"

"They're not all gay...just interested. There's a difference." He gave me a big smile and then turned to run off. "Later." Just seeing him trotting away from me, I couldn't help but feel lucky. Have you ever noticed that love just seems to hit you like a semi-truck sometimes? It's always there in your heart, and you can call upon that love whenever you need or want to. But every now and then...for no reason at all...it just rises up like a tidal wave and completely washes over you with a flood of emotion that you weren't prepared to deal with at that particular moment. It's amazing. And now I don't know how I'd ever live without it.

The remainder of my school day was pretty much a no brainer. One easy pop quiz and a study period that I spent drawing doodles in the back of my notebook. It was just a matter of getting to that final bell today, and then hopping on the right bus to go see Cody at home. I was wondering what his house would even look like. Or what I'd say to him when I got there. This isn't 'stalkerish' is it? I guess it's just a bad habit of mine. The more Cody tries to keep me at arms length, the more I try to get close to him. The more bashful and timid Ariel gets, the more I try to pull him out of it. Not to sound too insecure...but I hope I'm not being a TOTAL pest.

The bell rang, and I grabbed my stuff, heading towards the back door and out to the bus stop. Ronnie's directions were a bit hazy, but the address was clear, so I shouldn't have too much trouble finding the house. It was located in a pretty nice neighborhood. One of those slightly urban, but still residential, neighborhoods where the kids go door to door to mow lawns and shovel snow for money. Tall trees and green grass, white fences and patio furniture. It was a bit of a step up from where Ryan, Tyler and I lived. Just a little step, but a step nonetheless. I liked it. I take it Cody's foster parents made a nice living, whatever it is they do.

The bus let me off right where Ronnie told me it would, and I tried to follow her chickenscratch to tell me which way to go. She was right, the house was practically right there on the corner, and I walked right up and rang the doorbell. I waited with a bit of a tremble in my chest. I hope I'm not making a mistake by coming here. I should have called first. I really should have let him know that I was coming.

I heard the sound of sock feet pounding their way down the carpeted steps in his house, and then heard the top lock of the door unlatching itself. I straightened up a bit, and then Cody opened the door wearing nothing but socks and a pair of shiny dark blue soccer shorts. Um...wow...ok. He was a bit more 'developed' than I thought he would be. Infact, he had a pretty clearly defined six pack, and nice pecs too. Not super strong or bulky, but cut...as though molded, sculpted, and then delicately carved out of clay. And two small puffs of hair under his arms, but barely enough to notice. I was so busy looking at his naked chest, that I almost didn't notice the bewildered look in his eyes. "Randy? What the hell are you doing here?" He asked.

"I, uh....was just wondering if maybe you needed some company." Ugh! Did I just say that the way that it sounded. Stupid.

He gave me such a confused look. Like I was the corniest boy on Earth. But then he shook his head and said, "Come on in."

He shut the door behind me, and I was instantly blessed with the smell of hot buttered microwave popcorn coming from his kitchen. "I heard that you might be grounded...so if I'm causing you any trouble..."

"No trouble. I don't care. They don't care either, really. I think they just do it because they see it on tv and think it's the hip thing for parents to do." He said, walking past me. "Do you want something to drink?"

"Um...sure, thanks." He grabbed me two juice boxes from his fridge and then took a handful of popscicles out of the freezer.

"Come on up." He said, and started bounding up the stairs in front of me. Ronnie was right, he was definitely running around the house half naked. And the half that I saw was pretty damn yummy, if I do say so myself. He had this really small, really tight waist, and a nice healthy butt that jiggled wildly in front of me as I walked up the stairs behind him. His back and shoulders were as smooth as a puddle of cream, lightly tanned, and strong legs with the kinda of calves that looked so suckable you had to lick your lips. His eyes were an awesome shade of green, but never seemed to be the same green two days in a row. It was a mystical look for him, it really was. He was just so damn pretty to look at.

He led me to the top of the stairs and into his bedroom, which had clothes thrown all over the place, cds on the floor and on top of the dresser without cases. Scraps of paper, notebooks, dusty tv screen...hehehe a warzone in the making. He had an XBox controller on his unmade bed, and was had a game of Doom 3 paused on the tv. And right where he was sitting, a half empty 2 liter bottle of strawberry soda. "Sorry my room is such a mess. I wasn't really expecting company." He said, as he picked up a few clothes off of the floor to clear a path for me towards the bed.

"That's ok." I told him. Actually, the room seemed to fit him nicely. Not because it was messy, but because it just...had his essence in it somehow. Hard to explain.

I watched him pick up a shirt from out of the corner, give it a little sniff to deem it 'fresh enough', and he slipped it over his head. A read shirt, with raggedy cut off sleeves. I took a guilty pleasure in watching him suck his smooth stomach in as he stretched and twisted his way into it. He almost looked cuter with the shirt on than he did with it off. "Cop a squat. I was just playing a few games."

I sat down on the foot of his bed as he went back to his game. "So...I take it the suspension isn't really bothering you an awful lot."

"Nope. Why would it?" He said. "If anything it'll give me an excuse to do an awful job on my finals next week. Since I'm missing all of the study groups and all." Then, he lost his last man and growled outloud. "ARRRGH!!! Dammit! Fuck this game. You wanna play?"

"No thanks." Hearing my voice, I guess he knew I had something on my mind. So he leaned over to turn off the game and everything, and stood up.

"Music. Any preference?" I shook my head, and he just searched through his stack to put something on. I leaned back on my hands, and found a towel under my hand in his bed. I sorta fiddled with it a little bit, and Cody turned around. "Um...you may not wanna touch that."

"Why?" I asked, and he sorta gave me a look as some kinda silent signal. I didn't get it at first, but he cleared his throat and I thought about it. Towel, teenage boy, tangled in the bed sheets. "OH! Oh dude..." It was a little embarrassing for the both of us, but once he moved the 'splash rag' out of my way, he giggled a bit to himself at my reaction. Cody's smile was such a rare thing to see. The fact that it only showed itself in the most extreme cases of jubilation, gave it this kind of priceless value. And although I was blushing furiously, it made me smile too.

"C'mon, seriously, Randy....what are you doing here?" He grinned.

"Do you...do you want me to leave?"

"Honestly...if I wanted you to leave, don't you think I would have told you that at the door?"

"Good point." I sat up comletely, and sorta rubed my hand off on my pants. There wasn't anything on it, but just in case it. "I guess...I was just really got worried about you. You know...after what happened in the cafeteria."

"Aw, worried about little ol' me? How flattering." He said, and he turned away from me as though it was no big deal.

"Yeah. I just...was hoping you were alright." I guess I was hoping to push him to see the little openingI was giving him to talk. But as always, he pretended to not need it.

"I'm fine. I'm great. I did find out that daytime television sucks ASS though! How many fucking tv judges ARE there anyway???"

"A lot, I guess." I said quietly, and there was a silence between us. It only lasted about thirty seconds, but it seemed like forever. Cody had his back to me, and was ruffling through a pile of books and papers on his desk. Not really doing anything, but keeping his back to me. The room was so quiet that it became uncomfortable, and I started looking at the walls to distract myself from the extended pause.

"So..." He started, not turning around. "...I take it Ronnie told you how to find me?"

"Um......" I wasn't sure if I should drop her name, but who was I kidding? Who else would have told me? "Yeah. I saw her at lunch today and asked how you were, so..." I trailed off, and there was another pause.

"Did she say anything else?"

"No...not much. Not...not really."

He looked over his shoulder briefly at me, then turned back towards his desk. "From the tone of your voice, I'm betting she told you about my Mom and Dad. Am I right?"

"Well...yeah. Sorta. But not much though." We both stopped talking, and I sorta regretted even knowing about it.

"You don't have to get all quiet and sad, you know. I'm fine. We're both fine. So don't go getting all 'poor Cody' on me, because I hate that shit."

"I'm not. Promise." I lied. The truth is, seeing him push the issue even further away from himself, and hide it further away from me at the same time, seemed kinda...'miserable'.

"Good. Because I don't wanna talk about it. It happened, it's done, it's overwith, so....save it. K?" He said. "I mean it."

"Ok." What else could I say? I tried to change the subject. "So when are you coming back to school?"

"Not until Friday. But I might ditch that day too. Just to make it a complete week's vacation, you know?" He turned back around and gave me a halfway decent smile, and then sat at the foot of the bed with me.

"That's too bad. We're gonna miss you at the lunch table."

He rolled his eyes. "You know, I still haven't agreed to eat lunch with you guys every day. It was just a couple of 'visits', that's all."

"A couple of enjoyable visits, right?"

"ONE enjoyable visit. The rest have all been tainted by the ever menacing presence of 'you know who'."

He sat back on his elbows, and I sorta nodded my head. "You really hate Sean that much?"

"Gee, what gave me away?" He said sarcastically. "You know, at some point he's going to do something to show you exactly the kind of person he is, and then you'll see why it's best for me to stay as far away from him as the walls of that school will allow."

"So you told me."

"I mean it, Randy. He's no good. Take my word for it."

I was a little curious, so I asked. "You guys were like...boyfriends before though, right?" With that he sat up again, and somewhat dirty scowl on his face. "I mean...he had to be alright at SOME point for you to like him."

"A convincing LIAR is what he was. And I knew it all along, but I didn't want to believe it. So...I guess that makes ME the idiot. But if he son of a bitch fell off of a cliff tomorrow, I wouldn't lose any sleep over it." I sorta giggled a bit at his reaction, and he leaned back again. "Sighhh...whatever. It's exhausting talking about him."

"Well, before we switch subjects again...can I ask what happened?"

He rolled his eyes again, pausing before saying anything. "I fell in love, he CLAIMED to be in love, it worked for a while...he cheated on me over and over again, and then he dumped me before I came to my senses and told him to get lost. End of story."

"Wait...Sean did all that?"

"You make it sound like it's hard to believe." He said. "He's cute, he's flirtatious, he's practically fearless when it comes to getting the boys that he wants. I was...stupid to think that he'd settle for me when he has the whole world wanting a piece."

"So....you were...in love?"

"Of COURSE I was in love. He was gorgeous. He was....sweet. And for the time being, he at least pretended to care about me." He said, now covering his eyes lazily with his arm while he talked. "You know...I really thought he was just...amazing. It was shortly after my parents..." He stopped a second, "....Well....he was there. He listened, and he understood. Then...he kissed me. He was...my first. My first boyfriend, my first kiss, my first....everything."

"So what happened?" I asked cautiously, hoping that I wasn't bringing up too many bad memories here. This is probably the most open Cody has ever been with me, I didn't wanna spoil it now.

"We dated for about four months, and everything seemed...great, you know? And then...I started noticing little things. Like...other guys giving him smiles in the hallway. Or him suddenly not having as much time as he used to have to talk to me. I'd say I love you...and he sorta...stopped saying it back like he used to. I mean, I'm not stupid. I was just 'blind'." He said sadly. "I knew he was fooling around on me. Not with just one boy either. He was doing it pretty regularly. But I didn't wanna let go, you know? For the first time, I was in love with someone who loved me back. And he was cute. And the sex was AMAZING!" He smiled a bit, and it lightened the mood a little.

"I'll bet it was." I grinned. But his face soon dropped again.

"And then...one day I caught him red handed at a party. Making out with some guy on the back porch. Somebody I considered a friend. I can't tell you how much that hurt. After that, I kept telling myself that I should put an end to everything, and he kept telling me that he didn't mean to hurt me. I tried so hard to believe that, but he kept doing it, I kept getting my heart stomped on, and the next thing I knew...he dumped me."

"He dumped YOU?"

"Yep. He called me on the phone one day, and told me he was in love with somebody else, and not to call anymore. I think the other guy was there at his house with him when he did it." Cody sat up again. "He dumped me before I came to my senses and told him to fuck off. And he hasn't changed. Nothing matters to him except for whatever selfish persuit he's going after at the time. He doesn't care if he hurts me, if he hurts you, or anybody else. If you know what's good for you, you'll just...stay away from him. And I'd watch your boyfriend too. He won't hesitate to steal him away from you if he thinks he can have him."

"Not Ryan. We've sorta already been through that ordeal." I said.

"Are you sure about that?" He answered, and when I didn't answer, he got up to change the cd. "I hate this song. Sorry. I need something a bit more 'rough around the edges'." He put in some rock music before sitting back down.

"I'm sorry that things went so sour between you two, Cody. I really am. That sucks."

He thought for a moment, and used his fingers to brush his hair back a bit. "Actually...you know what hurt the most?"

"What's that?"

"The fact that he never once felt guilty about hurting me like that. Not once." He said, almost sadly. "You know...you give your heart to somebody, and try to be everything they expect you to be and more...then they just stab you in the face and walk away without ever looking back. To this day, I doubt he even gives a shit. He probably doesn't even remember."

"I'm sure he feels a LITTLE bit bad about it. Somewhere deep down, that is."

"Ha...somehow, I doubt it." He said. "He's still fucking his way through all the pretty boys he can find, and I'm still here...."

"Thinking about him?" He gave me a quick look after finishing his sentence, and after a brief hesitation, he said...

"Whatever." He looked down at his fingers as he fiddled with his shirt. "I guess a piece of me just...wants to believe that I meant something to him. At least for a little while. That one day in his hopefully MISERABLE fucking life...he'll look back at the time we spent together...and remember me as someone special. You know? I keep thinking that, if he ever does find a permanent boyfriend, he'll use me as some kind of blueprint as to how things should be. I know it sounds selfish...but I can't handle just being ignored and forgotten. I can't handle him just being happy with somebody else and never once thinking about me for the rest of his life. I guess that's pretty fucking stupid, huh?"

"No. God no, Cody. I think that's beautiful." I told him.

"Yeah, well...it's not gonna happen. So whatever. I hate his putrid fucking guts anyway. I wish I could go back in time and kick his pregnant mother in the stomach until it messes up that pretty face of his!"

I couldn't help but burst out laughing. "Hahahaha! JESUS, Cody! Is it that serious???"

"You have no idea dude! I feel like my nuts are caught in a bear trap everytime I have to look at him. He makes me SICK!" I kept laughing, and after a few seconds, Cody started giggling along with me. "I'm glad my hatred amuses you."

"Yes, it does! Hehehe! Very much so." I felt Cody lean over a bit and give me a shove. And I reached out my arms to give him a hug.

But he sorta jumped back when I did that. "Whoah, wait a minute, what are you doing?"

"I...I was gonna give you a hug."

"Don't be GAY, what, are we having a 'moment' here? Get outta here." He said pushing me away. He still had half a smile on his face, but I don't think he likes hugs much. "Listen, Claire and the 'ox' are gonna be home soon. The last thing I need is to get into more pretend trouble. So...you'd beter go."

"Are you kicking me out because I tried to hug you?" I smiled.

"Take it however you want, just take it with you on your way out, huh?" He said, and started turning on his video game again. I stood up and said goodbye. He responded with, "Yeah, you too." Then added, "I'd walk you out but...I don't want to."

I gave him a shove and found my way out to his front door. I guess Cody had plenty of reasons to be mad at Sean, but he didn't really seem like such an awful person the couple of times I met him. Being hurt like that and having to see that same person all the time...I guess it would be pretty painful to live with. I probably wouldn't have been able to survive something like that. If Ryan just one day told me to get lost and never even acknowledged that we were once in love...I'd feel really empty inside. Sometimes...I think Cody feels really empty inside too. He hides it well, but it's practiced. I can tell. Now that I've seen what his 'true' smile looks like, all imitations won't do anymore.

I just hope that somewhere, deep down...he knows he's got a friend in me.

While this may be one of those chapters that's used to simply 'set up the dominoes' for future events, I certainly hope you guys enjoyed it! It has been a long long time coming, and I wish I could give it more attention than I do. But I'm writing more and more all the time now, so look for more chapters from this series and many of your other favorites soon! And stop by the website to check out the spinoff series, "Kiss Of An Angel", to read more about Tyler and Ariel and they love they share! Cool? Thanks so much for reading! And take care! Feel free to drop by the website at http://comicality.gayauthors.org and stop by the Shack messageboard! Have some fun with us! :) Seezya!