Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to everyone! I hope you guys like the long string of new chapters for all of your favorites! I'll be adding a BUNCH of new stuff to Nifty over the next few weeks! So let me know what you think of 'em at or just stop by my website at and say hello! We're having a 'Teen Pop' prediction for 2011 next week! Come cast your votes! Hehehe, and just join the party! Love ya lots, and I'll seezya soon! Enjoy!

"New Kid In School 45"

"No! Dude, I'm serious! Hahaha! Jack Bauer totally just shot this guy in the face! He's, like, going off this year! One of the coolest seasons yet!" Ryan giggled happily on the other end of the phone. He always made me smile when he was talking about '24'. It's like one of his cutest habits, you know? I'll come clean. The REAL reason that I called Ryan and continued talking to him for so long the night before our finals is because...well...I didn't want him talking to Sean. Ok? There. I said it. And I KNOW that it might sound paranoid and wrong, but the idea of some openly gay hottie having my boyfriend's phone number when he's notorious for sleeping seriously bothers me. I mean, I'm not gonna fool myself into believing that I'll be able to keep them from talking to each other every minute of every day. That's just not possible. But for now, I felt good knowing that Ryan was a bit more preoccupied with me, and less concerned with 'Mr. Flirty Pants'. Ryan is the one thing in my life that I allow myself to be shamelessly selfish with.

"Omigod, Randy! There are bodies EVERYWHERE! Jack is kicking ASS right now! Are you watching this?"

"Hahaha! Totally!" I said.

"I'm seriously thinking about trying out that choke hold on somebody at school tomorrow. I wanna see if it works."

"Try it on Coach Martin! That would be awesome!"

"Nah...I have a feeling he might, in to something like that." Ryan said with a smile. Then..."Sean thinks Coach Martin is an undercover sugar-boy. I'm starting to wonder myself. I don't know how he does it, but every time Sean says somebody has 'tendencies', he's almost always right. It's like, I start seeing clues everywhere. He has one hell of a gaydar. Even better than Cody's, I'm sure of it."

Grrr! Instantly, I tried to change the subject. "Cool. how many episodes are left in this '24' season anyway?"

"Hmmm...I don't know. I forgot what the clock was on when it started. It can't be too many more though. Maybe 4 or 5, I guess?" Good. That's it. Just...keep your mind off of Mr. Perfect. That's all I want.

It was weird, but I found myself constantly searching for some kind of enhanced connection that would lock Ryan's focus onto us alone and keep Sean out completely. Something that he couldn't touch. It's like...I wanted to be better than Sean, and I wanted Ryan to notice that. I wanted to be smarter, sexier, funnier, friendlier, more in tune with his heart, than anyone else ever could be, no matter how hot they were. I just wanted enough of Ryan's love to help me fight back the insecurities in my own heart and help me to be 'ok' with him and Sean being close friends. Or friends at all, for that matter. If I could just get that awful foreboding feeling out of my system...I might find a way to handle this a lot better than I am now.

We watched the last few minutes of the show in silence, waiting to see what happens, and gave the appropriate screams when the cliffhanger hit us square in the face. Hehehe! can love them and hate them at the same time. Weird. I kinda wished that I could have gone over to Ryan's house and watched it with him, but the last few weeks...well, his dad is there. And he's still uncomfortable having me in the house. I can tell. And since my mom has been acting...'weird' herself, it's become uncomfortable having Ryan over here at my house too. I just wish that it could just be the two of us, somewhere private. Even having time together at Sam and Matt's basement isn't really enough, because Sam and Matt are still in the next room.

I think about it sometimes, though. What it would be like to just find a place of our own and just...'move', you know? A whole house to ourselves. I imagine me and Ryan just existing in this totally comfortable place, kissing each other whenever we're close enough to do so. Sharing a shower, cuddling up on the couch under a soft blanket, eating dinner at opposite ends of the same table every night. Heh...don't get me wrong, I think about random moments of hardcore sex too. Trust me, I think about that a LOT! I'd never have to masturbate ever again. But more than anything, my fantasies have matured into this really stable, domesticated, concept of Ryan and I building a life together. It hardly feels like a fantasy at all anymore. More of a 'goal', if you ask me. As long as I get to climb into bed with my Ryan every night and wake up to his kiss the next morning...what else could I ask for? It's a really amazing feeling to know that you belong to somebody. And he belongs to you. That's my dream.

Unfortunately, prying eyes keep trying to wake us up. I hate that.

I heard a knock on my door, and I covered the phone as my mom peeked her head in. "Randy? I need to use the phone to call you Uncle Jake."

"Um...right now?" Rats! It's still early enough where Sean could still call. Or even worse, for Ryan to get bored and call him first. Not that he doesn't have call waiting, but still...I was kinda hoping to keep him busy for a lot longer than this. "I'm talking to Ryan."

"Oh..." What does that mean? What does 'oh' mean in Mom-speak??? "...Well, finish up, ok? Just let me know when you're done." She said, closing my bedroom door back. "Don't stay up too late tonight. Your first final is in the morning. Get some rest."

Did she say 'oh' like I think she said 'oh'???

"Randy?" Ryan asked.

"I'm here." My mind kept trying to replay what just happened. And that shiver went through me as I pictured my mom figuring out the whole thing, from day one. It made me extremely nervous.

"Hey, my dad wants me to take the car in tomorrow when I get out so he can have some work done on it. But why don't you come over for a little while after Wednesday tests? My dad will be running around town going to meetings and stuff all day, so he won't be pestering us. Maybe it'll keep you from being so darn fidgety."

"Nah, your dad, he's...he's alright."

Ryan giggled. "Come on, Randy. I know he makes you uncomfortable. I can tell when you're avoiding me, remember? It's no biggie. Sometimes I feel like I wanna avoid him and run out of this house screaming too."

"I just feel like I'm ruining his whole game plan for his only son every time I show my face over there. I feel guilty."

"Well don't. His only son's game plan wasn't his to plan in the first place." He could be so laid back about this kind of thing. I wish I could join him in that solace. Ryan took a breath and asked, "So...have you thought anymore about what you were gonna tell your mom? About possibly...'seeing' us and all?"

"No. Not at all." I said. "I'm sort of avoiding it until I have a chance to sort things out in my head. I think I want to figure out what she knows first and maybe go from there. It's a conversation that I'm NOT looking forward to."

Another brief pause. "It won't be so bad, you know? I know it feels like it will...but when I told my dad...I was so relieved. There was soooo much weight taken off of my shoulders that I cried for DAYS afterwards. It's like you get to start all over again from scratch. You get to breathe a lot easier. You get to relax. You feel free." Ryan seemed to talk about coming out with so much passion. As though the very idea of it just soothed him inside and out. I think it would have spoiled his peace of mind for me to tell him that being out was an entirely different nightmare for me.

"Yeah. I guess." I told him. Not really committing to anything, and secretly hoping that he wouldn't push the issue any further.

"Sean said he didn't have a problem with it at all. Not with anybody. Friends family, school...he just told them how he really felt, and he says it lost all power over him after that."

Sean...right. "Good for him." I tried to hold back my snotty tone, but it was like trying to swallow a brick without chewing. "Maybe after finals are done, I'll..." I stopped, and grinned. "...Find a whole new way to chicken out again."

"Hehehe, I thought you were gonna tell me a bold faced lie there for a second." It made me smile, but the trembling fear remained. "It's alright, Randy. We've got all the time in the world, you and me. I just hope that someday you'll see that...sometimes it's harder NOT to come out than it is."

"Yeah..." Again, I tried not to show any emotion for it or against it. I think I need to push myself harder to do this. The gap between us is growing wider all the time, and I think that's a major factor in making that happen.

I think Ryan could tell what I was doing. But instead of being disappointed in me being a total coward...he grinned to himself and lowered his voice to the cutest little flirtatious tone. "You wanna know something? I think I get a serious thrill out of kissing you in public. Between the park and doing it in front of your mom, I'm thinking of more places to make out with you all the time. I think I might be developing a fetish."

"Hehehe, is that so?"

"Uh huh! You make it feel so naughty. You were shaking the entire time. I felt like I was molesting you. Which was kinda hot." He said.

"I was NOT! Shut up! Hehehe!"

"Yes, you were. But don't worry. It was sooo cute. You have no idea how sexy it was to have you do something like that just for me. I stayed up half the night with a goofy grin on my face."

I blushed, biting my bottom lip. "I'd do almost anything for you. You know that, right?"

"Yeah. I know." He said. "It's just something else to let me know that I've got the most amazing, most beautiful, boyfriend in the world."

"Lucky you."

"Definitely. Lucky me. And I'm never giving you up." Ryan and I shared a short, romantic, silence...and then I heard my mother calling out from the living room for the phone again.

"I'm sorry, babe...but I have to go. My mom, you know?"

"That's ok. I understand. I'll catch up with you tomorrow, cool? We might have a cross lunch period between finals or something."

"Sounds like a plan." I said. I began to get this powerful little tingle in my stomach just seconds before I said, "I love you, Ryan." We say the words all the time. To the point where they've become a part of our normal vocabulary. But every now and then...the emotional expression of what those words really mean to us takes on a life of its own. And whenever that happens, it was like saying it to him for the first time all over again.

And always followed by my sweetheart echoing, "I love you more." Then he gave me a tender kiss, and we hung up.

I made sure to adjust my clothes so that nothing was 'poking out' anywhere. I'm not ashamed to admit that just hearing Ryan's voice in my ear still gets me as excited as it always did. He has a voice that can lull you into a hypnotic trance easily, every word warming your heart from the inside. But I didn't exactly want to walk around the house pole-vaulting over furniture. So I let my t-shirt hang low and corrected myself down there so I could hand my mother the cordless phone.

She gave me a look a first, and with a bit of a fake smile, she asked me, " is Ryan?"

It wasn't a strange question for her to ask, really. It's something she's randomly asked before. But again...the 'tone' felt different. "He's fine. We were just....watching '24' together, that's all. Just...chit chatting about stuff."

"Oh. Ok." She said. "You know...he's more than welcome to come over here. I thought you guys had a routine of watching it together every week."

"Yeah, we did." I said, wondering where this was leading, if anywhere. "I mean...we DO. Just...he was doing other...'stuff', so..." She nodded, and there was a pause from both of us. This really uncomfortable moment where it felt like we both had something more to say, but were both too afraid to get into that particular conversation. So I started backing up to go back to my room and she turned her attention to the phone to make her call. And we just left it at that. My room never felt safer.

I'm beginning to wonder how long my mom and I can continue this standoff between us. It was a confusing feeling that I couldn't quite define, but in my mind it was as if an imaginary countdown had just been activated. A timer with a limited amount of days on it...waiting for the inevitable detonation. There was no way to stop it. I only had two from it...or wait for it to blow up in my face. And let's be honest, what good would running do? Miss one explosion, the timer just starts all over again somewhere else. Probably with even less time on it than the last one.

Sighhhh...God, I wish this was easier.

The next morning rushed by me rather quickly. I opened my eyes, took a shower, had a bowl of cereal and some toast, and before I knew what hit me I was racing to get my ass ready to go. I wish that I could have taken a few extra moments to study my notes a bit more at the last minute, but I couldn't be late. All other classes were cancelled during finals week. So it was just testing and that was it. Once the morning bell rang, the test monitors locked the doors and no other students were allowed in. You'd be LUCKY to get a make-up exam at a later date. And that was only 'if' you had a generous and understanding teacher. I don't have many of those myself, so being punctual was a must.

However, when I got there and started heading to the big study hall for my History final, I saw Sean in the hallway. I guess his locker was just outside of the room, even though he was going elsewhere. You know, it doesn't matter what that boy wears, he always looks like he just stepped out of a boy band fan magazine. His blond hair was always perfect, never a hair out of place. Never too short, never too long, never a split end, never a bad day. I don't even think it GREW, because it was always the perfect length. You'd think he cut it every day. He was what you would call frustratingly gorgeous. Especially when he smiled.

Which is exactly what he did when he saw me in the hall. "Randy, what's up, man? They caught you with the early final schedule too, huh?"

"Unfortunately. Some kids got to sleep in until noon today." See? I can be polite. No big deal. He's not that scary.

"True. But they've gotta stay for the rest of the afternoon. To hell with that. I just wanna get it out of the way and be 'free' for the rest of the day. You know?" I noticed a duo of cute boys walking past us and going into the study hall for the same test. I gave them a quick and secretive glance. Hey...I'm gay. I notice. But I'm always fast to lower my eyes again once I drank in the pretty picture. Sean, on the other hand...was guiltless. He actually stopped talking and STARED at them! Like nobody else was watching. Thank God he didn't say anything, I would have crawled into his locker and died right there on the spot. "Mmm, I LOVE this school! Did I mention that?" Shhh! Stop it, stop it, stop it! Geez! Sean closed his locker up and flashed me a sexy grin. "Well, best of luck to you, dude. I've gotta get to the downstairs gym for my first final. I hope the eye candy is just as good as you've got it."

"Thanks. You too." It was a bit nerve-wracking at first, but I attempted to appear 'cool', just for the sake of keeping my head clear of the whole situation.

Then...Sean messed that plan up completely.

"Oh, Randy...before I forget. If you talk to Ryan before I do, tell him that I've got those changes written out in my locker. I talked to him about it last night, but I wasn't sure I'd be able to finish it this early."

"Last night?" I asked.

"Yeah, I called him about 10 o'clock or something. We just needed to go over our project. Which is hard to do. All we do is end up laughing and being silly anyway. But that's cool too. He's really awesome, Randy. I mean that." He said, and even though he kept his composure like a pro...I found it harder to keep my blood from boiling. "Just talking to him for an hour gave me enough energy to get everything done in one sitting. What can I say? That boy inspires me. Hehehe!" As always, it was difficult to guess whether he was doing this to purposely get to me, or if he was just being his usual self and I was looking at his comments from all the wrong angles. But whatever it was, it felt wrong. So very wrong. "Anyway, pass on the message for me, will ya? And tell him come to see me today during test. I'll be around. I want some company."

Do you have any idea how...HURT I was??? All they did was talk on the phone, sure...but about what? And what was so funny that they were laughing instead of just doing their class work like they're supposed to. How do I know that they're not brazenly flirting back and forth with one another? How do I know that Sean isn't really pouring it on thick when I'm not around? I'm practically heartbroken by what he does right in front of my face...what does he do when he gets to talk to Ryan all alone?

Sean turned around to walk away, and never once looked back to see if I even acknowledged his last statement. He just glided off to his test room...perfect ass swaying back and forth, blond bangs gently gliding across his flawless face, highlighting his dazzling blue eyes. Like I said....frustratingly beautiful.

My head was instantly filling itself up with nonsense and I couldn't seem to keep the mental garbage from swelling up to epic proportions. It seriously was digging its way into my heart from every angle. Did he say an hour? They talked for an hour? I went to sit down at my desk and immediately began tapping my pencil. Partially from frustration, partially from anxiety, partially from fear. Yeah...actual fear. It's one of those things that I should be able to let go of and just have faith that Ryan meant every word he told me about him and Sean just being friends. He doesn't have any reason to lie to me about that. Besides, if Sean had so much as held hands with Ryan, he'd probably gloat about it all over school. Ugh...I CAN'T be thinking about this right now! I have to do well on this test. I have to.


I struggled through half the test, trying to block out the images of Sean and Ryan giggling happily about...whatever it is that they talk about all the time. We were only given an hour to complete the whole exam, and that was it. No more than that. And yet, I found myself zoning out, staring off into space as I pictured my boyfriend laying back on his bed...having this hidden conversation with another boy who is not only hot, but gay, a close friend, with common interests, who obviously finds him attractive and isn't afraid to tell him to his face. It bothered me. It bothered me sooooo much. And I was clutching my no. 2 pencil hard enough to almost snap it in half.

I forced myself to focus and get back to my History exam...but after a minute or two of intense mind was wandering again. Enough is enough. Me and Ryan can talk about it tomorrow when we get some privacy. I'm sure that this 'phone call' thing will be a lot less worrisome when it's less of a secret. People tend to fill in blind spots with worst case scenarios. My brain is just making it out to be much worse than it actually is. I'm sure that's it. Concentrate, Randy. Keep your head. Finish the test. Keep thinking, and we'll get through this. Plenty of time to pull your hair out later.

I finished with only minutes to spare. I had to rush through some of the questions, but it was better to hurry and actually finish than it was to go slow and leave half the questions empty. I think I did well, but...who knows? I wasn't thinking straight to begin with.

I literally had a full blown head buzz by the time I walked out of that study hall. A million unfocused thoughts just swimming around in my head with no real direction or purpose at all. Maybe Cody was right. Maybe I'm working too hard and stressing too much. I need to to relax. And I have to stop letting Sean rattle me with the simplest of comments. I'm better than that.

I was lucky enough to catch sight of Ariel before he left the cafeteria for his next final. It was only a quick 20 minute break between tests, but he was being especially...'odd' this morning. Not only was he shoving a full sandwich into his face faster than any other human I've ever seen before...but he was drinking, like...pineapple juice. But I mean, like, a LOT of pineapple juice. An abnormal amount of pineapple juice. I was trying to talk to him like I always do, but the second he finished one plastic bottle of juice, he'd put it down on his tray, reach into his backpack, and pulled out another one. He did that THREE times in a row, and finally I was like, "Ariel! Jesus, what's with the juice?"

"Huh? Nothing. I...I like pineapple juice." He said, blushing furiously at the very mention of it. "This will be the last one, promise."

"Well you don't have to stop, Ariel. I seem to be drowning yourself in it."

"Yeah...I guess so. Maybe." He kept his eye on the clock the entire time, and then, after a few minutes of small talk, Ariel asked me the strangest question. " I look...backwards at all to you? I mean, can you like...'tell'?"

"Can I 'tell' what?" He looked like he was shivering at the time. HAD to be Tyler related. I was sure of it. But before he told me anything else he said, "Gotta go. Can't be late. My teacher hates me."

"Is that the one you dropped a VCR on his foot?"

"Yeah...he still walks kinda funny. Now he always backs up when I come into a room. He's mean."

"Hehehe, well maybe he had it coming." I told him, and that made Ariel smile bashfully, lowering his head a bit to let his dark hide the sparkle in his eyes.

"Ummm...hehehe...I never thought of it that way. Maybe." He tilted his tray, and one of his empty pineapple juice bottles fell to the floor. I don't know what made me do it a moment of 'hormone induced curiosity', but when Ariel bent over to pick it up, I checked out his ass. Hahaha! Honestly, I just wanted to know what all the fuss was about. Ryan had clearly expressed his love for its shape, size, and look. I had taken a glance or two in the past...but evidently I was missing out by not perving him all over the way I should have. Hehehe! So yeah...I kinda peeked.

Let me just say...Ryan was right! I took a shameless look at it as Ariel bent over...and WOW! It was, by far, the cutest butt that I had seen in God knows HOW long! I mean, it 'stuck out' a little bit. Like...the small of his back was flat, then there was this totally seductive curve that jutted out from there, and sensually came back down to connect at the top of his thighs. It really was round. I had never noticed that before. It was like smashing two balloons together. Where most boys have a bit of a sag in the back of their pants, Ariel filled them out to a point of fitting to his form, making them smooth and shapely. It wasn't 'chubby' really, was really nice! I'd even go so far as to say that it was fucking HOT! It was one of those asses that you look at and can't think of anything else but sinking deep into it and going for the gold until you're a few strokes short of a heart attack. Way to go, Ariel! You're a total 10 in the sexy butt department.

Ugh! After the embarrassing feelings I was feeling after watching Sean do the same thing earlier this morning, I was surprised that I was getting such a kick out of doing the same. Maybe I'm the one who's backwards. Not Ariel.

I tilted my head a bit to get a better look at the pert little baby buttercup cheeks as they wiggled a bit to pick up his bottle. But then Ariel turned his head and looked back up at me. I tried to look away before he caught me staring, but I think he might have caught me anyway. Or maybe he just saw my face turning bright pink when I smirked and turned my head. The look on Ariel's face...hehehe! It was like...a bit of shock, mixed with a touch of shyness, mixed with the sweetest look of residual infatuation. I don't think Ariel has looked at me like that in forever. It only made my blush worse. What the hell am I doing looking at his butt anyway? I'm such a creep. But that doesn't mean that I didn't like what I saw back there.

Ariel straightened up instantly, the items on his tray rolled around a bit as his hands quaked with an emotional tremor. He giggled, and after a few seconds, he got a weird look on his face and quickly sat back down at the table.

"You ok?" I asked.

Ariel paused for a few sheepish moments, then he took a deep breath and said, "Yeah. I'm...hey, I'm totally..." Then he sighed, and played with his hair a little bit. "Um...hi. Hehehe..." He squirmed a bit more in his seat, and peeked up at me through his hair, breathing shallow as he tried to regain some kind of control over his own shivers.

"Don't you have to go to your test?" I asked.

He waited a few seconds and said, "Yeah...Ummm....yeah..." He said. "I'm going." He started to stand up again, then he stopped and sat back down. "Wait...uhhh.." He closed his eyes for a bit, then he grabbed his backpack and said, "Ok...gotta go I'm going now. I'm...I've gotta...bye, Randy..." Then he took off. Like I said, he was being a real WEIRDO today! But, just like everything else with came off as being extremely cute. That boy can do no wrong in my book. He's what angels aspire to be.

I had another test that afternoon, and Ryan had to leave before I finished my last exam so he could take the car in. It sucked because it meant a whole other night of suffering without getting this paranoid, envious, trash off of my chest. But in the end, I guess it only worked to make me more anxious for tomorrow. I tried to call him that same night, but his dad answered the phone. Sighhh...I hung up...but I felt like an idiot for doing it. He'd be able to see my number on the Caller ID anyway. And now I look like a total jerk for hanging up in his face. Stupid. There's no winning when it comes to that man. I hope he stays gone all DAY tomorrow.

I did spend some quality time with my mom, just watching TV for a bit and having a few laughs. But at one point, one of the sitcoms kinda made a 'my son decided to be gay' joke, and for some reason I felt like it was at my expense. It wasn't really over the top or excessively rude or anything...but I kinda took it to heart anyway. Maybe I'm just sensitive about it due to the situation that I'm going through with my mom at the moment. It's hard enough for us to even strike up a conversation about this without some comedic joke writer indirectly taking lame shots at my sexuality right in front of her and making fun of it. It makes everything so damn tense and awkward. It might only be for a few seconds...but I KNOW that she knows. And things like that make me feel totally naked in front of her. Whatever...maybe She's just as weird and out of place as I am over this. I probably look like Ariel did to me today with his juice fetish. I'm trying to make things smooth and easy...but the world just doesn't seem to wanna wait for me to be ready. Ugh! How did Ryan DO this with his dad, anyway???

The next morning I got up extra early. I didn't sleep all that well. I sent Ryan a few emails, just to say 'I love you', but then I felt like I was getting clingy and dumb, so I stopped. Besides, he didn't answer me. Which is my clue to pretty much quit bugging him. He'll probably tease me for it later. It'll be worth it though. Anything to see my baby smile. My mom and I kinda 'crossed paths' a few times this morning as I got ready for school and she got ready for work, but we didn't really talk much. The pressure was building. My hopes of this just peacefully going away were dwindling fast. I don't know...I's not like my asshole father was around anymore. And my mom? She didn't, like...JUMP me the second I walked in the door on Saturday after maybe seeing us kissing. And it's not like she left a 'Pray The Gay Away' church pamphlet on my bed. So what if...she's cool with it? I mean, what if Ryan is right, and coming out actually sets me free? I have to admit that the idea crossed my mind a bunch of times in the past. If waking up in Ryan's arms in a house of our own was one major fantasy...doing so and having our friends and family support us would be a close second. If only a two boys in love looked as normal to them as it does to us.

What a world, right?

I got to school early this time, trying to avoid the stumbling rush to get to school and calm my nerves down before sitting down and taking a test that will count for almost a third of my semester grade. I went to the vending machines for a juice and noticed that the pineapple juice supply had been completely exhausted. Hahaha! That boy's cute little habits...I swear, it's like watching a newborn puppy play with a squeeze toy sometimes.

"Quit holding up the line, asshole!" I turned around and saw Cody standing behind me with a grin.

"Hehehe, wait your turn, bitch." I said.

"Thatta boy. So far so good on the tests?"

"No. I've got too much on my mind right now to deal with this. We should have finals AFTER Spring Break instead. It gives us a break from the drama, you know?"

Cody scoffed as he moved past me to get a soda. "Are you kidding me? Spring Break is the KING of teenage drama. Parties and alcohol and random hook ups and vacations and whatnot? Hell, some people fight just out of pure boredom. It's ridiculous. I doubt anybody would relax for finals after Spring Break." He stood up and opened the can to take a sip. "So, are you between tests, or what?"

"Nah. My first final of the day doesn't start until 11am. I was kinda rushing around yesterday, so I figured today I'd get here early and..."

"Shit!" Shh shh shh...turn around." Cody said suddenly, and he shoved me until we were both facing the vending machines.

"Umm...what are we doing?"


Then I saw another boy come by, and he said, "Hey, Cody. What's up?" I don't know if I was 'allowed' to look at him or not, but when Cody gritted his teeth and turned around, I figured that it would be ok.

"Hi, Brian." Cody said, barely making an attempt to hide the fact that he was upset at getting caught out in the 'open' like that.

"What's up?"

"Just taking tests today, Brian. Just like...everybody else."

"Ah...k. Well, I'll see ya later." The boy said.

"Right. Later." The boy left, and Cody instantly rolled his eyes. That's hen he caught me smiling at him. "What the hell are YOU smiling about?"

"Who's Brian?" I giggled.

"Don't. Ok. The LAST thing I need is you making me out to be some kind of sucker."

"I'm not making you out to be a sucker, Cody. What's going on? He seems...interesting. Hehehe!"

"Yeah, well...he's not." Cody pouted slightly, but I refused to let him leave it at that. "OK! Alright! Look..I didn't do anything to inspire that. I don't even KNOW him. He's in two of my classes, and once I came back from suspension he started...'talking' to me. It's really creepy and weird."

"How is that creepy and weird? Maybe he likes you." I said.

"Oh, well in that case, I change my mind. It's more like perverse and psychotic. Sound better?" He frowned up in the cutest way, and it made me laugh. "You're always making fun of me. What's with you?"

"I'm not, I swear. I just think...I mean...why not?" I whispered, "He's cute."

"Can you just...can you stop, please? You're freaking me out." He said defiantly as we walked out into the hallway. "Besides, that's no longer my goal. Cody Monreau is out of the 'love' game for good. I don't do that anymore."

"Anymore?" I asked.

"Nope. No more. I'm done. Don't need it."

"Somehow, I highly doubt that." I told him. "You've gotta have a crush on SOMEBODY."

"Nobody important enough to completely slaughter me emotionally and turn me into a hopelessly pathetic suicidal wreck of a human being. I'm happier being alone." He said. "Besides, people in general suck ass. The vast majority aren't even worth the time it takes me to insult them with anything significant. So very few are worthy of me giving a shit."

"Am I one of those people?" I smiled, hoping to break the growing distaste in Cody's mood.

He sighed and rolled his eyes again. "Let's just don't...totally disgust me."

I looked him in the eyes, and I saw him effectively block a smile from crossing his lips as well. Even though a hint of a smirk escaped regardless before he could catch it. "Did you just pay me another compliment?"

I kind of expected Cody to respond negatively and tighten up his defenses again. It's adorable to see him unsuccessfully try to cut himself off from my friendship. But instead of the usual playful exchange, Cody looked over my shoulder with a certain level of interest. It made me turn around, and I looked down the hall to see Ryan...coming to meet me like he said before our finals...but.....FUCK!!!! SEAN was with him! AGAIN!!!

I sighed out loud, and felt my fists clenching up as I turned away from them. "I can't...fucking believe this." I mumbled.

"Believe it." Cody answered. I refused to watch them interacting with one another. Even though they were heading our way. Cody shook his head. "You still need more proof, don't you? You're the kinda guy that Sean loves to take advantage of. By the time you finish second guessing's already too late."

That was the last thing that I needed to hear today. "I know what you're going to say, Cody, but don't. Ok? Me and Ryan...we're gonna talk about it, and things will be ok. I trust him."

"This isn't about trust, Randy. It's about 'opportunity'. Ryan is sweet...but he's human. We all are. You'd be surprised how many futures have been erased by the actions of the present. And Sean knows that better than anybody." I tried to block him out and stop him from badmouthing Sean in such a way where my thoughts about him got even worse than they already were. But then he said, "They're together, that means he's moving in further than before. Am I right?"

"What do you mean?"

"Communication. He's increasing his communication with your boyfriend, and decreasing yours. Am I right?"

"I don' did you...?"

"That's what he does, Randy." Cody said. "He's hammering that crowbar in right now. Believe me. If you let him find a weakness in you...he'll use it. You can bet on it." He leaned in closer to talk softly in my ear, "Do yourself a big favor, Randy...DON'T fight."

"Don't what?"

"Fight. Don't fight with your boyfriend. If I know Sean, he's gonna keep pressing buttons until you guys start fighting. It breaks the communication, you see? And while you and Ryan are angry and hurt and not speaking to one another...he's gonna wiggle that sexy ass of his right in the middle and 'console' him over it. He'll agree with him, comfort him, point out and reinforce your flaws. He'll edge closer to Ryan's heart by approaching him when he's vulnerable. When he's open." Cody turned to look me in the eye, and he said, "I'm not making this up, ok? Sean wants you 'distant'. It's the only way to break you two up. I've seen him do it before. He can do it again."

I saw them laughing and playfully shoving one another in the halls, but I tried to straighten up. "Ryan's not like the other boys. He's better than that. We're better than that. I'm not saying that I don't believe you, I'm just...I'm saying that we can handle it. We've been through worse."

That's when Sean said, "To mirror your own words, bud....somehow I doubt that."

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