STORM FRONT
By SF Writer
Copyright 2003  Stormnation, All rights reserved.

Chapter 18: Breaking Down

* * * * * * *

I sat here in the tree house again, waiting for the sun to rise. Only today it wouldn’t. The wind howled and brought with it a bitter chill that caused me to rub my arms for warmth. The gray skies were filled with the clouds that signaled the coming of rain. They would also be what stopped me from seeing my sunrise this morning. I guess nobody told the gray skies how important that sunrise was to me. Of all the days, why today?

I dangled my feet over the edge of the tree house and felt the first drops of rain as they hit my toes. It actually felt quite cool. Strange as it sounds I’ve always been quite partial to rain. I leaned my head out past the edge and let the rain hit my face. The rain fell soft and steady. I looked down at my feet and down towards the ground, watching the rain trickle down and off me towards it.

"Storm…Bro? Are you ok?"

"Dade." I said in surprise as I looked down to see Dade standing at the back door of the house. "Oh hi, Dade. What are you doing up so early?"

"Why don’t you tell me what you’re doing sitting half naked up there in the rain. It’s cold as hell out here."

"I was hoping to catch the sun before I went out on a run with Mike once he wakes up. I guess the rain had other ideas."

"Well that’s great and all but get your butt down here, Bro. Come on, I need to talk to you before Mike and Mom wake up."

I pushed myself off the edge and grabbed a hold of a rope that hung off the tree house just before I touched the ground. Jumping out of the tree house wasn’t usually a good idea since it was almost level with our second storey. But I always liked pushing things to the edge so over the years I’d mastered the art of leaping out of the tree house and grabbing the rope just before I touched down on the ground. It gave me quite the rush. Although there’d been a few times I’d missed the rope over the years and caused myself a bit of hurt but hey it’s all fun to me.

"Morning, Dade." I said as I rushed up to the door, rubbing my arms to shake the cold away.

Dade wrapped a towel around me and rubbed my arms and back to help warm me up. We walked inside and headed towards the kitchen where Dade already had two cups of hot chocolate out along with some toasted muesli and warm milk.

"Yum!’ I said as I sat down and starting digging into my muesli. "Thanks, Bro!"

"No sweat. I woke up early this morning to talk to you and you weren’t in your room. And you weren’t in my room. Then I saw you outside so I figured I’d make us some breakfast before I called you down. You may as well relax and take your time. It’s 5.30am. It’s wet outside so you can’t go for your run. Mike won’t be up for another half hour and Mom will probably sleep in till seven since she has another day off."

"She deserves it." I said in between mouth fulls. "Oh man I tell you, there is nothing like warm milk in toasted muesli and a hot chocolate to wash it down. Especially on a cold, wet morning like this."

"You trying to give yourself a cold sitting out there, Brother. That wet stuff is called rain. Most people try to get out of it when it hits them. Especially when they’re only wearing their boxers."

"Hey I love the rain. They call me Storm!"

Dade gave me a wry smile and raised his eyebrow, as he looked at me suspiciously "Why are you in such a good mood?"

"Why wouldn’t I be?"

"I can think of a few reasons."

"I’m a free man. I’m single. I’m good looking. I’m pretty cool. I’m popular. I can get someone if I want. Did you know this is like only the second real time that I’ve been single? There’s the break between Sarah and Lucas. Now this is the break between Lucas and whoever is next."

"Aren’t you holding out for him to come back?"

"Not really. I think pretty much once I’d learnt I wasn’t his first love I knew that…things were different. I’m just trying to be realistic. I gave Lucas everything he needed to move on including my four wheel baby. Now it’s time for me to do the same for myself." I said still chomping heartily on my breakfast, obviously I was starving or at least I was eating like I was.

Dade walked into the laundry and came out a few minutes later with one of my track jerseys. "Here, put this on. It’s cold." Dade said throwing the jersey over to me.

"Thanks, Mom." I said throwing Dade a weird look as I slid the jersey over my head.

"Storm. I want to talk to you about something."

"Have a seat. Your hot chocolate’s really good, Bro."

"Thanks." Dade smiled at me as he took a small sip from his own cup. "Storm. I love you. You know that. So please try to understand what I’m about to tell you."

"What’s that, Bro?"

"I’m bisexual."

I almost had a spoonful of muesli in my mouth, it was a good thing I didn’t because I think I would have choked. It took me a few moments to absorb what Dade had just said to me but a smile soon made itself evident on my face, growing wider and wider. "Coooool." I smiled.

"Really?"

"Wow. I mean…I’m trying to absorb this. I always thought it wouldn’t be a big deal. I guess I really hoped that you wouldn’t be like me. It’s just easier if you’re not. But the fact that you are…feels really cool. How do you feel about it?"

"Well…" Dade said taking a deep breath as he rubbed his hand through his hair. "I’m not sure. I don’t like guys as much as I like girls. I know that much. In fact, to be honest there’s only really one guy who does it for me. Like I can walk past a girl and think ‘wow she’s cute’ but that doesn’t happen to me with guys. But I mean even the fact that I like one guy means I’m bisexual."

"I’m the same. Lucas…I mean Lucas…wow…you know how much he does it for me. It’s odd then that I don’t find many other guys attractive to me that way the same way I do girls. I kinda like the fact I’m bisexual though. Twice the options. Twice the fun."

"Nice way of looking at it."

"Dade, you know I love you right? No matter what. You didn’t expect this to actually be an issue with me did you? I hope you didn’t because you’re not just my brother, Dade. You’re one of my best friends. I hope you know that."

"I do." Dade smiled, squeezing my hand. "That means a lot, Bro. Thanks."

"Wanna go out again tonight? Just you and me this time."

"For real?"

"Yup."

"That’ll be sooo cool. We’re gonna be hitting on chicks aren’t we?" Dade grinned mischievously.

"Well it’ll sure be interesting to see if you and I still got it. So yeah we might just see what we can get."

"Oh wow. We’re going to have some fun tonight. Thanks, Bro. I think we both need this."

"I think we do too. You know on a night like tonight I really wish I still had the jeep. That thing is a chick magnet."

"Well you shouldn’t go giving it out to your ex boyfriends who are leaving you to go shag their ex girlfriends, should ya?"

"He better not shag IN it. I don’t care if he shags but he better not…"

"Yeah you care. You’re working yourself up an ulcer wondering if he’s getting with her."

"Shut up! I’m in denial here."

"You know way back when you and Lucas had that little break and you went up to Abby’s for the weekend. Well I took Lucas out then. It’s ironic that I’m going out with you when he’s the one out of town. I made sure he had a good time then. I’ll make sure you have a good time now."

"We’ll see…"

 

* * * * * * *

 

As I sat here in the school library supposedly studying, I just couldn’t help analyzing the current state of my life over and over again. I’d say right now that life was weird at best. I felt weird. I wasn’t sure whether I was supposed to be sad or happy. Strangely enough right now I felt a strange sense of ‘not too bad’. In fact I felt quite free. For the first time in forever I felt unattached, single, some would say alone. And that feeling didn’t particularly bother me. I’m not sure whether it was my own sense of denial or whether I was just enjoying the space away from Lucas.

I think if he were here things would be a lot more uncomfortable for me and I can imagine the knots in my stomach would be churning double time. I guess with him not being around it’s easier for me to try not to think about him or what was going on. Not that it’s working, I mean I’m thinking about him right now aren’t I? That might all change tonight though when Dade and I hit the town. I was planning on hitting it hard too.

I guess when it comes down to it I do feel a bit low, but I refuse to let it drag me down. I’m intent on trying to remain upbeat and I’m going to have a good day today. At least until I have to face Marty Lee this afternoon…

"Storm? Storm, are you ok?"

"Huh? What?" I said shaking myself from my thoughts as I turned to face Carl. "What is it, Carl?"

"Nothing, Dude. You just look a little lost or something. Everything ok?"

"Don’t say ‘Dude’."

"What?"

"Don’t say ‘Dude’. It doesn’t suit you."

"Ok, Man. Whatever."

"And don’t say whatever to me. I hate it when people say that. I find it rude and agitating."

"Geez, what’s with you today?"

"You’re with me today. Do you see anyone else sitting beside me right now?"

"You won’t have anybody sitting beside you soon if you don’t stop being a crabby guts."

"I’ve just got a lot on my mind, ok? I don’t mean to be a drag."

"Don’t sweat it, Storm. It’s no biggie."

"Thanks. Hey, you doing anything tonight? Wanna hang out?"

"Oh sorry. I can’t man. I got a date."

"What?" I asked in surprise, a disbelieving grin passing over my face. "You have a date?"

"Hey, don’t be so surprised. I’m a good catch. My Mom says so."

"She probably says you smell nice too. Can’t believe everything your parents tell you." I said grinning cheekily.

"Bastard." Carl said smiling back. "I don’t care what you say, Rain Boy. I have a date with the hottest girl in town."

"Sarah already has a boyfriend." I said without pausing to think before I just blurted that out. I guess I must really think Sarah’s the hottest girl in town. That’s probably because I have good taste and because she is the hottest girl in town.

"Ok the hottest girl in town that doesn’t have a boyfriend."

"The hottest girl in town that doesn’t have a boyfriend…and is interested in you…Super Bitch Stacey Peters!"

"Ha ha you are sooo…not funny." Carl said shaking his head.

"So who is this unlucky victim of misfortune?"

"Claire Carlyle. And she’s going out with ME." Carl said boasting proudly.

"Whoa. How the hell did you get her?" I asked in complete disbelief. Not because I doubted Carl or his girl wooing abilities. I mean, Carl’s great. I know I rib him a lot but I wouldn’t hang with him if he were a loser. He’s definitely a catch. I just didn’t believe he’d gotten a date with Claire. I mean, Claire. She’s so hot. "How’d you do it? She’s probably just being generous to you for getting your Dad to support her fundraising initiative."

"No, no it’s not like that. I just…asked her. We were talking about which Disney movie we thought was the best ever and she kept saying Lion King and I said Toy Story."

"I like Disney."

"Don’t interrupt, I’m boasting here. Anyway I said we had to see for sure which was better and it just so happens that there’s a Disney marathon tonight. So I asked her if she would come with me and she said sure."

"I bet you knew about the Disney marathon beforehand and I bet you started the conversation about Disney aye."

"I do my research yeah. But a girl like Claire. She’s worth it."

"Well…all I can say is…wow. Good for you. I hope it works out."

"Me too. I really like her. She’s so…nice. Every other girl here seems to have an agenda you know? But not her. She just seems genuinely sweet."

"She is. She’s a great girl. You better be good to her though or her bodyguard Josh will rip you up, Boy."

"What’s the deal there? Am I stepping on toes?"

"They’re just friends. Like Sarah and I."

"That’s good. Josh could kick my ass."

"Ok well get lost. I need to get this essay done and you’re distracting me so beat it." I said ushering Carl away. "Go on, beat it. I’ll see you later."

"Geez, not even a goodbye hug. I’m crushed."

"Carl…"

"I’m leaving! I’m leaving!" Carl said rushing off before I hit him.

I returned to my writing and tried to refocus my thoughts on the piece of paper sitting in front of me except all my inspiration seemed to have left me. I was stuck on trying to describe what impact technology has had on mankind’s social development and what I saw in store for the future.

I sat here in the school library having absolutely no clue what to write. What impact technology has had on mankind’s social development? Huh? I have no clue! Who comes up with this shit? And how the hell will it help me pay the bills when I get older. What does it have to do with the price of milk?

"Excuse me, according to our records you have two overdue books."

"What books?" I said clearly annoyed at my second subsequent distraction before I was taken by surprise from who stood before me. "Brad?"

"Hi, Storm."

"You’re a librarian?"

"Yeah. Miss. Hatcher said it would be helpful to my studies. And I had to do it or else she would have failed me for a past assignment."

"That’s too bad."

"Not that bad. It has actually been pretty helpful. This is actually a pretty nice place to collect my thoughts and study well. I kinda spend a lot of time in here now. Part of my duties are to collect some of the overdue books."

"A book repo agent huh? Should be right up your alley."

"Actually I’m not very good at it."

"Oh I didn’t mean it like that. What books do I owe you? I always forget."

"Walking with Dinosaurs and The Joy of…"

"Thank you." I said quickly interrupting Brad with a blushing smile stuck on my face. "I’ll bring them back tomorrow."

"Are you sure you’ll remember?"

"Why don’t you come by and pick them up just to be sure?"

"I could if you like."

"I was kidding." I said shaking my head at Brad before a thought popped into my head. "Why don’t you come over though? You could pick them up tonight or you could pick them up in the morning on your way to school. Just to be sure I don’t forget. We could come to school together."

"Aren’t you driving?"

"I don’t have my jeep right now. So you gonna stop by?"

"Ok, I’ll come by before school tomorrow and pick them up."

"Sounds good."

"I’ll see you tomorrow then. If you need any help finding anything…"

"I’m pretty sure I know where everything is. But if I have any problems…"

"Ok then. Well I’ll see you later."

"Bye, Brad." I said smiling as Brad walked away, looking back once with an uncertain look on his face.

Now I felt better. I knew this was my chance to get Brad back on side and make him one of my friends again. I felt pretty excited about that too. I don’t know why but I do. Why am I so keen to have Brad as one of my friends again? I don’t know. I really don’t. But I know I want it. Maybe it’s the challenge of trying to make one of my former worst enemies into one of my best friends. And I could just see something in Brad’s eyes. Something that made me believe we could be good friends. He’d changed a lot over the last three months or so. He didn’t seem to care as much what other people thought. He wasn’t trying to put himself over and make sure everyone feared and noticed him. He even seemed to give a shit about his schoolwork. And on top of that he even seems to have good manners and courtesy now. To me all that is impressive.

Maybe that’s why I want to be his friend again. It wasn’t because I felt pity. The only thing that gave me pause to reconsider trying to be his friend again was that one beating he and his lackeys gave me so long ago. That shook me more than I cared to concede, most likely because I’d never ever been beat down before. I’ve always managed to hold my own. They took me from behind and outnumbered me, and I lost. Sure I came back to exact justice and broke Brad in more ways than one but the event left its mark. Even just thinking about it makes me doubt that Brad and I could ever truly be friends again.

I realized sitting here thinking about everything else except my essay, that I wasn’t going to get it done. I decided to give it the flick and go to the cafeteria instead. Gotta love free periods.

I packed up my books and shoved them into my bag as I headed out of the library, acknowledging Brad as I went. I got two steps out of the library when I realized I forgot to email Marcel on the library’s computer network. I pondered whether to go back in or not but decided I didn’t feel like going back in. I’d have to email him later. Always later. I suck at keeping in touch.

"Mike!" I yelled in pleasant surprise as I saw Mike turn around the corner as he headed down the hallway.

"Hey." Mike said detached as I ran up beside him and patted him on the shoulder.

"How goes it, Mate?"

"It’s going. Not that great."

"How come?"

"Don’t worry, Bro. It’s not important."

"Tell me. It’s important to me. Just like you. Come on, share."

"It’s Sarah."

"I knew it. Where are you off to right now?"

"Well I was supposed to be with Sarah."

"So you’re free. Come with me. Let’s grab an OJ and sit down." I said as I pulled Mike into the cafeteria and sat him down at our regular table before I ran to get us a bottle of OJ each.

I sat down at the table and tossed Mike his bottle, which he looked at uninterested before he set it down on the table and stared at it. Luckily the cafeteria was mostly empty so no one would be around to hear Mike’s problems. I took a swig from my bottle, looking at Mike the whole time. Mike was never one to show when he was down or depressed but when you know someone for over sixteen years you tend to learn how to pick up on their moods and feelings. And right now the blank look on Mike’s face said he wasn’t feeling his usual smiling self.

"So…come on. What’s up?" I asked finally.

Mike sighed, his eyes remaining fixed on what must have been a very interesting bottle of OJ to hold his attention for so long. "It’s Sarah. I don’t know what the deal is with her lately. It’s like she doesn’t seem to care as much about spending time together or even talking. She’s distant. And you know she’s going completely overkill about getting herself into the best shape ever. I mean she’s already buff as hell but she keeps pushing herself. I’m worried about her."

"That’s where she is now, isn’t she? She’s in the gym when she was supposed to meet you?"

"Yeah. I’m not sure whether she’s in there because she wants to work out or because she wants to be away from me. The first time I didn’t think anything of it. This is like the tenth or something. I’m worried about her and I’m worried about us. But mostly I’m angry. I mean if she doesn’t want to be with me why doesn’t she just say so instead of blowing me off all the time with the whole gym excuse."

"Have you talked to her about it?"

"No. I was just hoping it would pass but I mean I’m sick of it. I don’t like feeling like she doesn’t want me."

"You know she’s trying to get into shape for the upcoming intermix competition. I’m sure that’s why she’s putting in the extra effort. She hasn’t said anything to me about any problems with you guys. Maybe she’s just having an off period. I’m sure she’ll come around."

"Well I don’t see why I should have to wait for her to come around. It seems I’m always waiting for her to come around lately. She spends more time with you than she does with me."

"Hey!" I said raising my hands in the air in a peace gesture. "Don’t bring me into this."

"I don’t mean to. I’m just angry. I don’t know where I stand with her. If she doesn’t want to be with me she should just dump me. I just wish she’d tell me where I stand. I hate not knowing where I stand. It’s like whenever I ask her to spend time together she’s busy or something. Working out, running track, organizing the sports committee, studying, always something. You think I’d fit in there somewhere at least."

"Sounds like you better do something, Mike. Soon. You just have to talk to her. Drag her out of class if you have to. Do something today."

"You’re right. I can’t handle this much longer. I’ll do something today."

"What?"

"I’m not sure yet. But I’m not going to let her keep doing this to me. It ends today…"

 

* * * * * * *

 

Sitting at the front of almost the entire student body in the assembly hall, Claire surprisingly had little jitters at all. In fact she almost relished her upcoming speech. Claire had always loved working in the spotlight or with large groups of people. It had taken her a long time to hit her form in Merlow but she believed she’d almost firmly established herself here now. Having secured the head of the fundraising committee thanks to support from class president Storm and sports captain Sarah, Claire now had the opportunity to work with lots of people and help fundraise for whatever causes came up. Claire always loved to help out a good cause and she felt she was perfect for this job. Thankfully everyone else did too.

"I will now hand you over to the student head of our fundraising committee. She is also the brains behind what is by far the biggest and most ambitious fundraising initiative ever undertaken by Merlow High. Claire Carlyle."

Claire snapped to attention as she heard her introduction from the school’s deputy principal, Mr. Brooks. She took a deep breath and turned to smile at Storm and Sarah who both sat to her left on the stage. Claire was greeted with the mandatory Sunday school claps which were broken in some places by a few wolf whistles to which Claire blushed. A sudden butterfly rush came over Claire as she stood at the podium and adjusted the mic for her slightly shorter height than that of Mr. Brooks.

"Good morning everybody." Claire said in a clear, confident yet softly spoken voice. "For those who don’t know me, my name is Claire Carlyle. I’m the head of the fundraising committee, which is behind this latest initiative. We’re raising money for our new sports center. As you have noticed, construction began over the break and is set for completion before we begin the new school year. Funding for this new sports center has come from our own school and the local council as well as several other parties. The fundraising we do will help outfit the new center once it is complete. Twenty percent of what we make will be donated to the City Mission. They do an excellent job of helping the less fortunate and I have worked with them first hand and seen the great work they do. I know they will appreciate every dollar we give them, as will the people they help."

Claire took a deep breath and smiled to herself proudly, extremely happy with her first speech to such a large audience. "Your home room teachers will issue you with the lucky scratch tickets and your work day forms. They will also explain the details and finer points of this drive. That way you will all be able to ask any questions to them you may have and you’ll all be able to have your say as opposed to turning this assembly hall into a roaring Q and A session. It’s my job now to explain what YOU have to gain from helping our school and the City Mission. On top of being able to use one of the best sports facilities in the region. And I know how many of you sports nuts there are out there. Our school prides ourselves on not only our academic successes but our extreme sporting achievements also. Marcel Lewis being a prime example of some of the talent we’ve had at this school. One thing I think is so sweet about this fundraiser is that we’ve managed to get McDonald’s to support us. That means every person who sells one full set of tickets or raises more than $25 through their workday form will receive a free combo voucher. And this is just the start of what you can win…"

Claire stepped off the podium and into the middle of the stage area where the curtains were being pulled aside. This exposed an array of items all neatly displayed. From shampoo packs to tennis rackets.

"As you can see, we have exactly one hundred prizes here. These prizes are AWESOME! From movie tickets and tennis balls to a Sega Dreamcast or a full set of golf clubs. Most of our prizes have been kindly donated to us by local businesses. Our first major prize will go to the person who sells the most lucky scratch tickets. This prize is a one year gold card for Village Force cinemas, donated by our local Village 12 Super Center. The winner and a friend will be able to see any movie they choose. This card can be used at any Village Force cinema complex in the country. Not only will you receive a gold card but you will also receive one free McDonalds combo a week for a year, for both you and a friend, donated kindly by you guessed it, McD’s. They have been extremely generous in supporting us this year. No doubt in part thanks to Carl Bentley getting his father the manager on side to help us. So thank you, Carl. Now come on, how’s that? Free dinner and a movie for you and your girlfriend, boyfriend, gay friend, babe friend, whatever."

A loud uproar of laughter erupted from the sea of students and Claire herself had a large smile on her face. Until she spied the disapproving look being sent at her by Mr. Brooks. Claire tried to shake herself of the smile on her face as she continued on with her speech.

"And the prize for raising the most money through work day is…drum roll please…a two week summer cruise for you and a friend on the Oceania Princess. Unfortunately that friend will have to be a guardian if you are not sixteen by the time you take the trip. This prize is donated kindly by Holiday Shoppe. Some guy is going to make his girlfriend very happy…or some girl will tick her boyfriend off by taking her best friend instead." Claire paused once again as she was greeted with an outburst of laughter but quickly went back into her speech, lest she receive any more disapproving looks. "The rest of the prizes will be randomly drawn from the names of people who have either sold one set of tickets or completed one work day form. Your home room teachers will have more details. So what do you think everyone? Is everybody keen?"

 

"YES!"

"Great. You will be issued with your tickets and workday form today. Remember workday is next Wednesday. If you do your work before then you get a free day off come Wednesday! You have two weeks to sell as many tickets as you can. Two weeks from now we will have the prize drawings. Now it’s my turn to sit down and let someone else speak. Here to tell you about how your fundraising will help us is our school Sports Captain, Sarah Leo."

Claire stood off to the side of the mic until Sarah had taken over, before she returned to her seat. Claire let a little tinge of jealousy rush through her as Sarah was greeted with the loudest cheer of wolf whistles and applause ever given for someone who spoke on stage. Sarah had always been everyone’s favorite pin up girl. She was without doubt the queen of the school and the only reason she wasn’t class president was the fact she did not want to clash with Storm.

"G’day." Sarah said smiling as she responded to the loud applause and wolf whistles she received. "Your fundraising will help go towards the outfitting of our new sports center. This new sports center will cater to both our school and to the local community by offering top quality facilities for our students and also giving the community and outside sports groups access to those facilities. By upgrading our current facilities to the new sports center we will be in a better position to host tournaments and competitions that we would normally not have been able to be considered for. A prime example of how this is now changing is we have been granted the rights to host the next regional athletics meet which will be held two weeks after the completion of the new facilities. This is just the first of many new events we will be able to host. Many of these events are not only district, but also regional events. The athletics meet in particular is usually held by our neighbors White Swan."

Claire smiled as did Sarah when a loud murmur of boos filled the hall showing the student’s disapproval at their rival, White Swan. Claire listened intently as Sarah continued on talking to a seemingly captivated audience about a subject which she seemed extremely excited about. Sarah still awed Claire even more so than when she had first met Sarah. Sarah still seemed to have life firmly under control, she was popular, she actively participated in a lot of sports activities including captaining the school’s basketball team and a strong martial artist. She was also a very successful student academically. Although on top of all that, the main thing Claire liked about Sarah was her strong attitude. Claire believed that trait had rubbed off on Claire somewhat since the two of them had been hanging out.

Claire seemed to lose interest in the presentation once both Sarah and Storm had made their speeches and the ‘old fogeys’ were back on the mic again. She even let out a little yawn until finally everyone was dismissed and Claire was free to leave the stage.

"You were really great up there, Claire." Josh said smiling at Claire as she walked down off the stage. "This is going to be a great success for you."

"Not for me. For the school. For the community. Everyone. This is going to be great."

"That was really good what you did for the City Mission. Organizing that twenty percent donation for them."

"I agree." Marty Lee said as he stepped up beside Josh and Claire.

"My father and I have always supported them. I knew this would be a good opportunity to support them some more. I don’t believe we’ve been formally introduced. I’m Cl..."

"Claire Carlyle. I heard you up there. I’m Marty Lee. Miller to be exact."

"The new guy. Nice to meet you. This is Josh." Claire said pointing to Josh.

Marty Lee extended his hand to Josh and they shook hands firmly. "Nice to meet you, Josh."

"You too." Josh replied with a smile. "Are you settling in ok?"

"Great." Marty Lee said smiling broadly. "I’m settling in fine. There are a lot of good people here. And not half as pretentious as the crowd I’m used to. It’s quite refreshing. And this town is so beautiful. I mean this place is like a hidden paradise. I went out canoeing on the lake when I first got here and it really is beautiful out there. I wanted to go hiking but I didn’t think it was such a good idea until I became more familiar with the area or had someone to go with. But this place is amazing. I think I’ve fallen in love with it already."

"Hiking? You like hiking?" Josh asked enthusiastically.

"Oh yeah, I love it. Except I come from the city and there aren’t many places around there to get outdoors."

"What are you doing this weekend?"

"Nothing yet."

"Would you like to come hiking this weekend? Me and my best friend Dade are going out there. And Claire if she’s up to it."

"Dade? Dade…Marcus?" Marty Lee said apprehensively.

"Yeah that’s him. You know him?"

"I sparred against him on Monday night. I just transferred to his dojo. I’ll have to get back to you on that hiking thing, Josh."

"Oh, ok. Well just let me know. We’ll probably go up Saturday afternoon. That’s if Dade doesn’t end up going out that night. Do you want my phone number? You could just call if you end up wanting to come."

"Sure, I’ll give you mine too. Maybe you can call me up if you wanna come over or maybe I could come over to your place and you could show me around this town. Maybe you could join us, Claire. Anyway here’s my phone number." Marty Lee said pulling out a pen and taking Josh’s hand. "May I?"

"Sure." Josh replied nervous from the tingling sensation Marty Lee had on his skin.

Marty Lee proceeded to write his phone number on Josh’s hand and then gave his pen to Josh for him to write his phone number on Marty Lee’s left hand. Josh did so, taking his time while he copped a feel of Marty Lee’s skin. For a short instant Josh thought he felt Marty Lee stroke his thumb every so slightly against Josh’s skin but he couldn’t be sure whether there was anything there but wishful thinking.

"Hey while we’re swapping phone numbers why don’t we swap numbers with each other too?" Marty Lee said offering his pen to Claire.

Claire smiled knowingly to herself as she wrote her number on Marty Lee’s other hand and promptly returned his pen. "I’ll get your number off Josh." Claire said just as Marty Lee was about to write on her hand.

"Well, I better get going to class." Marty Lee said. "It was nice meeting you guys. Maybe I’ll see you later. You guys just feel free to call me if you like. Bye."

"Bye, Marty Lee."

"Bye…" Claire said raising her eyebrow at Marty Lee as he walked away by himself. "Hmm. Why does that guy remind me of Brad?"

"He’s nothing like Brad. For starters he’s ten times cuter."

"Brad’s buff as hell though. Not as buff as you of course, Josh. Hmm, I think you’re cuter than Marty Lee too. Why oh why are you gay, Boy? You’d make my dreams come true if only you just swung a little more UP when I walked past instead of when Storm or Dade walks past."

"I can’t help it. The guys make me drool."

"Admit it, you’d take either one of them if you had the chance."

"And you wouldn’t? But I don’t like them that way. They just turn me on."

"I suppose you like this Marty Lee character then."

"Well…yeah. Do you think he’s…you know? I mean that whole phone number thing. He seemed really interested."

"Oh he was interested alright. He pulled that whole phone number stunt just to get my phone number. I’d say it was a pretty clever idea."

"Wow. you’re right. But for a moment there I had myself fooled." Josh said smiling happily.

"Oh don’t worry, Josh. With my track record I’m sure he’ll be gay in no time. Then he’ll be all yours." Claire said sarcastically with a wry smile on her face as she patted Josh on the back and began heading off to class.

 

* * * * * * *

 

Sarah and I sat next to each other in our English class reading text passages from a book I neither liked or saw any benefit that would come from reading it. Then again I never did quite catch on to reading. Whenever I had to do book reports or read a book, I’d go over to Sarah’s and she’d actually read the book to me. Or she’d tell me the finer details so I had a fair idea of how the book went. We’d been doing this for years with Sarah always trying to help me in my English class. It was my absolute worst subject. I just plain sucked at it.

Over the last year or so Lucas had been the one to make sure I read as much of a book as I could and he’d read me the rest. Or he’d try and make sure I understood as much of the book as I could so when it came time to do a report on it or something, I’d at least have a better chance of passing. Since he isn’t here today though I guess that duty has fallen back to Sarah. Ahh the perks of being my friend!

"Storm, would you stop doing that." Sarah said nudging me with her elbow.

"Do what?"

"Looking over my shoulder to see what page I’m at."

"I can’t help it. You’re almost like a hundred pages ahead of me. I don’t even know why I bother. I’m gonna fail this class anyway."

"Storm, you’re 16 for crying out loud. You should be able to do this now. We’re not 12 anymore you know."

"So I’m stoopid. So what. I have a short attention span or something. I just can’t do it. I’ve never been able to."

"Is that so? Well let me tell you something…"

"Ahh saved by the bell!" I said jumping to my feet as the familiar ring of the bell echoed through the school.

Sarah and I both packed up our books before we headed out of class. I got a little nervous as I looked over at Sarah and saw the serious face she had. We headed out past the courtyard and I actually spotted Marty Lee in the same spot I saw him yesterday. I gave him an acknowledging look with just the slightest hint of menace as Sarah and I walked past him. Seeing Marty Lee reminded me of our impending rematch this afternoon and also why we were having it in the first place. There just didn’t seem to be any getting away from thinking about Lucas. A forlorn sigh escaped me as my spirits fell for the umpteenth time today.

"Storm, are you ok?"

"Why is everyone asking me that today? First Dade then Carl and now you. Do I have a sign on my head that says ‘I am not OK’ or something?"

"You do actually. But only people who care about you can see it. So, are you ok?"

"I guess not. But I don’t plan on letting it get to me."

"I’m really sorry things didn’t work out with Lucas. I really thought he was the one."

"Call me crazy but I still think he is." I said mustering a feeble attempt at a smile. "I just wish he was here. I’m going through serious withdrawal. I see couples together today and I just…hey I really think you should talk to Mike."

"Nice attempt at a subject change."

"Seriously, he’s really upset. You gotta cut him a bit of slack, Sarah. Just let him know where he stands."

"What’s the problem?"

"Oh come on, Sarah. You keep standing the guy up. Blowing him off. It’s like you don’t even care about him anymore. He’s really upset."

"How upset?"

"He said he was going to do something today. You might end up single like me this time tomorrow."

"Nah…he wouldn’t." Sarah said stopping in front of her locker. "Would he?"

"Well he’s really upset ok. I think you should talk to him." I said as I unlocked the combination to Sarah’s locker and opened it for her.

"Thanks, Storm." Sarah smiled as she threw her books into her locker. "Hey what’s this?"

Sarah pulled a plain white envelope out of her locker that had her name on it. Mike and I were the only other people who knew Sarah’s locker combination so if she didn’t put it there and I didn’t, it was fairly obvious who did. I turned away to give Sarah a little privacy but she quickly turned me back to her as she opened the envelope and pulled out a greeting card with a cartoon boy sitting all on his own on the front. He had a lonesome look as he sat on a park bench. Sarah opened the card slowly and looked as if she were about to melt as she read the only three handwritten words on the inside. ‘I miss you’.

I smiled slightly as Mike stepped behind Sarah, putting his finger to his lips to make sure I never said anything. He wrapped his arms around Sarah and snuggled into her from behind, kissing her neck gently. "Hi."

"Hey." Sarah replied with a smile on her face as she turned around and jumped up on Mike, wrapping her legs around him as she locked her lips onto his and gave Mike a zealous kiss. She smiled at Mike as she wrapped her arms around his neck and sighed. "I’m sorry."

"It’s ok. I just missed you."

"You’re so sweet. I promise I’ll make time for us. I’m sorry if I’ve been neglecting you. Forgive me?"

"Of course." Mike grinned happily.

Well that’s my cue to exit stage right. Mike and Sarah seemed firmly locked into one of those ‘moments’ where you seem to forget about everything else around you. Your only focus being the person you’re with. I’ve had my fair share of those moments. "Well, I’ll see you guys later." I said as I waved seemingly to myself as I walked off to my next class.

I didn’t fancy standing around like a third wheel while those two got goo goo over each other. Plus I guess seeing them like that just reminded me of what I didn’t have. I turned back to see them still making lovey dovey with each other and I hate to say but it made me feel miserable. I stomped off with my head down and a strained feeling of frustration over me. Why the hell is everything reminding me of Lucas today? I feel like I’m being inundated with reminders that I don’t have him anymore. If I have one more reminder I think I’ll snap.

"Hey, Storm. Where’s Lucas today?"

I looked up to see Lucas’ team mate, Bobby ‘The Bruiser’ Weiss standing in front of me. Well there’s that one more reminder. Snap. "What am I? His fucking keeper or something!?" I said as I stormed off.

I had to go somewhere to cool down. I headed straight into the guy’s bathroom and leaned over the basin as I splashed my face with water. I took a few deep breaths as I looked at myself in the mirror. The face that stared back at me in the mirror didn’t look like anyone I recognized. Since when have I ever looked so drawn and strained. "Breathe, Storm. Calm it down." I whispered to myself.

"Why the fuck did you have to do this to me, Lucas?"

I realized my hands were shaking now and I couldn’t help my impending breakdown. Tears streamed down my eyes as I sobbed heavily. I locked myself into a stall and slid down against the wall, sobbing profusely. I sat slumped against the stall wall as I let my sobs overwhelm me. Lucas. Lucas. Everything Lucas. Why me? Why the fuck did this have to happen to me?

I knew time would heal my wounds. But right now time seemed to be ticking over like a snail in first gear. I guess until time passed enough, this wall would be my solace. Lucky me.

 

* * * * * * *

 

I stood looking into the vast body of water that was Lake Herren. I couldn’t even see the other side properly it was so far away. I could make out the snowy mountains in the distance, and the main town center across the lake to my right. I’d been waiting anxiously for Marty Lee to arrive. I knew he would be nothing but prompt and our ‘meeting’ was scheduled for two minutes from now.

"Hello, Storm."

"You’re two minutes early." I said turning to face Marty Lee. "Let’s not waste any time."

"As you wish." Marty Lee said throwing off his bag before he moved straight into a ready stance.

I assumed my own ready position and made sure my guard was focused and tight. This was for real so I wanted to make sure he got through my guard as few times as possible. "Let’s go."

"STOP!"

Marty Lee and I both turned in surprise to see Dade standing beside us with an extremely disappointed look on his face. "This isn’t how it’s done. And I’d expect you two to know that. Now unless you want me to report you, stand down now."

"Dade, we were just…"

"You were just what, Storm? Practicing? Save it. Both of you stand down now." Dade said firmly. "I won’t ask you again."

"And what happens if we don’t stand down?" Marty Lee asked raising his eyebrow at Dade.

"Test me and you’ll find out." Dade replied by raising his own eyebrow at Marty Lee.

"Very well, Dade Marcus. I’ll stand down. Save your brother some embarrassment."

"Marty Lee, if you want to prove how good you are. Do it on the mat. Otherwise, shut the fuck up."

Marty Lee picked up his bag and turned to walk away "On the mat then. Our rematch will come. See you at school." He said almost smiling as he walked off.

Dade watched Marty Lee walk off intently. I picked up my bag and put it over my shoulder as I waited for some kind of response from Dade. When Marty Lee had finally gone, Dade turned to look at me with his eyebrow raised and his eyes giving me the once over as if in disgust or disappointment. "I’m not very happy with you, Storm. You shouldn’t have done this."

"You don’t understand, Dade."

"I understand perfectly. Lucas told me what you planned to do and he asked me to make sure nothing happened. I was just hoping you’d come to your senses and realize this wasn’t the way to handle things. You give someone like Marty Lee a rematch on the mat, not out here. The amount of damage you two could do to each other is just crazy. People like Brad are one thing, Marty Lee’s another story. And especially when he’s fighting for payback."

"Sorry, Dade. But I had to get that address off Marty Lee for Lucas. This was the only way he’d give it. And I had to keep my word to Marty Lee. If I can’t keep my word, what kind of person am I?"

"Human. Now let’s go home ok? I’ll make you one of my awesome smoothies and you can make us a Storm Sub. How’s about it?"

"Thanks, Dade." I smiled, putting my arm around Dade’s shoulder as we headed home. "That was really cool what you did back there too. I wasn’t really up to fighting."

"I know." Dade said nodding his head. "And for the record. If Lucas doesn’t come back for you. He’s a bloody idiot. He was lucky to have you. Can I be honest with you?"

"Sure you can."

"Let him go. He’s not worth it. Let him have Ashley. If he didn’t have the certainty to realize what he had before he left. He won’t have it even when he gets back. You deserve better. I think Lucas is a nice guy. But that’s all he is. And he proved that in the last two days. Let him go."

"I already let him go."

"No you didn’t. You set him free but you didn’t let him go. Don’t torture yourself. You know he’s probably shagging the girl as we speak."

"Why are you so against Lucas now?"

"Because of what he did to you. You see he’s leaving his options open. If he really loved either of you he would’ve known before he left. Then he would’ve set you free or given you the certainty that he was only going to clear up things with Ashley. He did neither. He’s got you hanging on by a thread in case he decides he doesn’t want Ashley or if she rejects him."

"He’s only human. It’s not like that."

"Yeah it is. But I don’t want to argue with you about it. Let’s just go home. We can talk more about this later."

 

* * * * * * *

 

Dade sat at the dining table munching away on his Storm Sub. He was so caught up in eating he didn’t even notice June as she walked into the kitchen.

"Son? Where are the guys?" June asked as she sat down next to Dade at the table.

"Mike’s over at Sarah’s and Storm’s gone over to Lucas’ house to take Lucas’ gear back and pick up his own gear from Lucas’ too. You want Storm’s sub? He made him one but didn’t take a bite before he left." Dade asked as he bit into his own Storm Sub. "It’s really good."

"No thanks."

"Want me to make you a smoothie, Mom? You sure you’re not hungry?"

"I’m fine." June smiled, pleased at her son’s attentiveness to her. "Thank you for asking. Actually, I will have his sub and one of your smoothies, Son. Thank you."

"No sweat." Dade smiled as he jumped out of his seat and proceeded to make his mother one of his favorite smoothies. "Just gimmie two ticks, Mom."

Dade quickly whipped his mother up a banana smoothie, throwing all the ingredients into the blender and turning it on. He threw in a small drop of Hershey’s chocolate sauce, knowing his mother loved it. He poured the smoothie into a tall glass and topped it off with a tiny sprinkling of grated chocolate before he placed it on the table in front of June.

June took a small drink of the refreshing treat and smiled broadly. "Excellent, Son. As always."

"Nothing but the best from the best for the best."

"Aahh yes. That’s my boy, Dade. The cocky one."

"Only sometimes, Mom!" Dade blushed with a mischievous grin. "Besides, modesty is for people who have nothing to brag about. And it’s not like I rub in everyone’s faces how great and awesome I am."

"What will I ever do with you, young man?"

"Sign me on to a model or talent agency? I’m sure that would be great for scoring girls."

"I know some people who could hook you up."

"I was kidding, Mom." Dade said giving June a strange look.

"I wasn’t. I think you’d be great. You have great skin. You’re a good looking boy. You’re charming. You’re cool. You’re f…"

"Hey! You just said I’m cool. That means I suck." Dade said vehemently. "Oh man."

"Hey yourself! If I say you’re cool. You’re cool. Why? Because I damn well said so that’s why. You have a problem with that, little man?" June said raising her eyebrow at Dade.

"I am NOT a little man." Dade said blushing again with his trademark dimply smile. "At least I know where I get that raised eyebrow thing from."

"You know I think you should consider getting a portfolio done for yourself and we can look at getting you signed up."

"Oh, Mom. That’s so superficial. I don’t think I’d get into it."

"Well just think about it. You might find it interesting and it could be something different for you to do on top of what you already do now."

"I’ll think about it."

"You mentioned girls before. Call me over observant but I notice you haven’t had a date or a girlfriend for the last few months. I just found that strange because you’ve always been active with the ladies. You don’t like any of the girls in your grade?"

"Actually…no I don’t. And all the ones I did like, I’ve been out with before."

"You’re going to make some girl very happy one day. They’ll be very lucky to have you."

"What if it’s a guy?" Dade said without even skipping a beat or flinching as he took another bite of his sub.

"What?" June said taken aback.

"What if it’s a guy?"

"Why are you asking me this? Is there something you want to tell me?"

"Just answer the question please, Mom."

"I’m a bit…caught off guard. I wasn’t expecting that. But if it’s a guy I’d still love you of course and they’d still be very lucky to have you. Now why did you ask me that?"

"I wanted to see if you’d freak out on me or if you’d treat me the same way you did Storm."

"Dade, I thought we were past that. I don’t love your brother any more than you or Abby. I love you all the same."

"I know, I know, Mom. I just wondered how you’d handle having two sons the same."

"Well you’re still young…"

"Storm was 15 when he met Lucas. I’m 15. I don’t think I’m confused. I don’t really like guys all that much. I think it’s genetic. I mean both Storm and I. People have different theories but I think it could be that genetic thing."

"So you like another guy in your grade?"

"No, I don’t. But the fact that I feel comfortable talking to you about this should say something about what an awesome Mom you are, don’t you think?"

"I’m not trying for best Mom award. But I am glad you feel comfortable talking to me. I wish Storm had of felt the same way."

"Oh we all know how anal Storm is. Of course he wouldn’t talk to you back then."

"Back then…my goodness. It seems like forever since we found out about him. Just realize Dade that whoever you end up with is fine with me. Sure I’d love grandchildren one day." June smiled. "But I’m sure Abbie will take care of that."

"You’re the best, Mom." Dade said giving June a kiss on the cheek.

"Dade…" June said as a lightbulb went off in her head.

"Yeah, Mom?"

"You and Josh aren’t…"

"Oh HELL no!" Dade said trying to stifle his laugh. "No, Mom. Josh and I are great friends but that’s it."

"I guess with Lucas and Storm I figured you might be in the same boat."

"Oh no. Josh and I are just friends. Which Storm and Lucas will be lucky to be once their whole shi…tuation blows over. I have a feeling things won’t work out for them."

"Well I have a feeling Lucas will be back sooner than Storm thinks. Lucas loves Storm a great deal. I could see it the day he left. He’ll be back. I’d almost bet on it."

"Wouldn’t you be happy though if things didn’t work out? I mean I don’t think Storm really likes any guys apart from Lucas so he’ll be back to girls. I know that will make Dad happy."

"Strange as it may sound, it won’t make me happy. Your brother loves Lucas more than he cares to let on. I don’t want to see him unhappy."

"I want Storm to be happy too. I just don’t want Lucas to take him for granted and just think he can walk out and walk in and claim Storm back as if nothing happened. Storm deserves better. I want Storm to be happy I just hope Lucas realizes how damn lucky he is."

"You feel strongly about this don’t you."

"Storm’s my brother. I have to protect him."

"You make me proud, Son." June said holding Dade’s cheek. "Very proud."

"Thanks, Mom."

June got to her feet and kissed Dade on his forehead, stroking his hair and face as she smiled at him. "You’re a young man. Not a little man. Now tell me, is everything ok with you? Is there anything else you want to talk to me about?"

"I’m ok, Mom. Thanks."

"Anytime, Baby. Thanks for the smoothie." June said as she ruffled Dade’s hair and left the kitchen.

Dade sighed to himself and smiled. "Life is good, Dade." He said quietly to himself. "Even if you did just get dumped."

 

* * * * * * *

 

"Dade, you ready?" I asked knocking on his door.

"Come in, Bro." Dade yelled.

I opened the door and walked in to find Dade standing in front of the mirror holding two shirts in front of him. One green and black shirt and the other a dark maroon. Both were of a velvety nature and I think either one would have looked great on Dade but I think he was going for the mature look tonight.

"I like the maroon, Bro."

Dade handed me his green shirt and I hung it back in his wardrobe as he slipped the maroon shirt over his head and onto himself. "Maroon it is."

"Looks good." I said as I did up the last few buttons of his shirt and adjusted his collar. "Are we good to go?"

"We’re good to go. I just gotta put some smeller on and do my hair."

"You wanna use some of my cool water or jazz, or you gonna go with the CK?"

Dade leant forward and sniffed my neck to see what I was wearing, it didn’t take long to work out which. "Ok you got the cool water, I’ll go with the jazz."

"The Jazz is on my dresser. You go use it and do your hair and I’ll wait for you downstairs."

"Hey, Storm. Where are we going?"

"You’ll see when we get there. Don’t be long." I said heading out the door.

I ran downstairs and into the kitchen so I could grab the keys for Mom’s Holden that sat on the fridge. When I asked Mom for the car she gave me the same ‘why’d you give Lucas your jeep’ look that Dade gave me this morning. I’ll tell you what, right now I missed my four wheel baby. I felt more comfortable driving my own wheels than using Mom’s.

"Hurry up, Dade!" I yelled as I hopped into the car.

I beeped the horn and began reversing down the driveway just as Dade ran out the front door and jumped in beside me. "Sorry, Bro." Dade smiled. "I just had to make sure everything was perfect. I have a feeling you’ve got something special planned don’t you?"

I pulled out of the drive and began the trip to the heart of Merlow. "You’ll see. We shouldn’t really be doing this on a school night but I think we both deserve it. Considering we both just got dumped."

"What?" Dade said looking at me wide eyed.

"Everyone had been telling me how they were worried about you lately. That you’d been down. Especially the last two days. When you told me what you did this morning I figured you were down because of this whole bi thing. That was until I talked to Marcel this afternoon and talked to him about how down you seemed to be. He seemed very quiet all of a sudden when I mentioned you being down. Didn’t take long for me to work it out by pressing the right buttons and soon he pretty much spilled the beans. He felt pretty bad. Especially after I yelled the hell out of him for taking advantage of you in the first place."

"You WHAT?"

"Chill. I’m kidding. But yeah he felt bad. And YES I felt weird. I mean you and Marcel. I couldn’t believe it. He told me why he broke up with you."

"I can’t say I didn’t expect it. I always knew it would be hard for us to keep it going long distance but I just hoped, you know? I don’t blame his reasons. Anyway it’s over now. I’m ok. Really I am. I’m glad it’s over. Less stress for both of us."

"It was always…you that wanted him more wasn’t it?"

"Yeah…"

"Dade, I hope that’s not one of the reasons you resent me. You know, about Marcel and all."

"It used to be. A long time ago. I’m sorry."

"Don’t be. Anyway we’re nearly there so let’s just enjoy our night."

We didn’t say anything to each other the rest of the trip but I could feel Dade’s eyes on me every so often with words on the tip of his tongue. But still nothing was said. I’m glad too. Dade was looking to apologize for something he didn’t need to be sorry for. I didn’t see the point in him saying anything.

"Ok we’re here." I said as we pulled into parking lot in front of tonight’s venue. "H20."

"Whoa. We can’t go in there."

"Don’t worry, it’ll be fine. Let’s go."

I jumped out of the car and waited for Dade to hop out before I set the alarm and locked it. Dade had a nervous look on his face as he and I headed towards the line of people who stood waiting for entrance to Merlow’s hippest club. I slotted into line and pulled an anxious Dade alongside next to me.

"I don’t know about this, Storm."

"Trust me, we’re going to have a great night."

Eventually the line made it to us and a hulking bouncer with a shiny bald scalp stood aside of the door. "Are you 18?"

"What do you think, Bubba?"

"You look familiar…hey I know you." The bouncer said as he pointed his index finger at me. "You’re that Marcus guy."

"Storm Marcus."

"Yeah, that’s right. The Storm. You competed in the under 19 all round competition last month didn’t you? You beat my little brother in the final."

"He wasn’t good enough to win." I said flatly, trying to be as staunch as possible.

"You’re probably right. You must be 18 if you competed in that competition." He said as he leaned into me. "And even if you weren’t. I’d still let you in. You kick ass with the best of them. You could teach my brother a thing or two."

"I already did." I said smiling. "May I go in now?"

"Go ahead, Mr. Marcus."

I walked past the bouncer and then turned back realizing Dade hadn’t come through with me. "He’s with me."

"Oh, ok. Go on ahead."

We walked into the fabled H20 that only the coolest high schoolers seemed to be able to get into. If you knew the right people you could get in even if you were underage. I’d been in here one other time with Sarah and her two older brothers, Carey and Damon. I got a rush coming in here before but nothing close to that this time around. The modern club itself was one big dance floor in the center and two levels surrounding it. Loud remixes and techno music joined forces with the strobing multi colored lights to create the pumping atmosphere that it’s patrons craved.

"That was so cool!" Dade said as we stepped through the front door and into the booming wall of music and lights. "How’d you know he’d let us in?"

"I didn’t. I just hoped he would. And if he said no. We would’ve just gone down to the diner or something. Couldn’t hurt for us to try. I’m just glad he recognized me."

"It was a good thing you competed in that tournament. Wow, I can’t believe we’re actually in here." Dade said excitedly as we mingled through the dancing crowd. "This is so cool!"

"Now we can meet some real babes. I came here to party and damn I plan to party!"

"This place is chick city. Check it out man."

"Dade, here’s the deal. No drinking. No smoking. And if anyone offers. NO DRUGS. I just brought you here for something different and because I really need this. We’ll go home as soon as you feel like it."

"Bro, you don’t need to tell me. I don’t do any of that shit. I just want some tits n’ ass."

"Dade!" I yelled letting out a surprised laugh.

"Relax. Just thought I’d give you some shock treatment. Storm, did you notice all the guys dancing with each other and girls too?"

"Yeah, Dade. This place is where everyone comes to. Straight, bent, whatever. The crowd’s just a little older than what we’re used to. Come on, let’s dance." I said pulling Dade along.

We broke our way into a set of three girls dancing with each other and before long we were all getting our groove on. I had one chick to myself and Dade had the other two dancing with him. The girl I was dancing with had dark hair and green eyes with a tan and face like Carmen Electra. Dade had a blonde and brunette on either side of him and I could tell by the look in their eyes they were more than happy to be dancing with him.

My dance partner wasn’t shy; in fact she was putting the bold moves on me so strong even I was surprised. We were practically glued to one another chest to chest, one of her legs moving up mine and her hands seemed to have a hard time getting away from my ass. I wasn’t sure whether I should slow down or pick up the pace.

My breathing quickened and heart raced as my hands held onto her bare back. She didn’t flinch as her eyes bored into me intently, mesmerizing me in our rabid dance. Her hands had now moved up to either side of my neck as she stroked my skin seductively. She slowly pulled me closer to her as she flicked out her tongue and licked the tip of my nose. I knew what was coming next as her lips strayed an inch from my own, teasing me with their lingering presence. I wasn’t quite ready to take that step just yet.

"Why don’t we go and sit down?" I asked a little breathless.

"Ok."

The girl signaled her friends and I signaled Dade and we all headed towards the bar. I sat down on a barstool next to a psyched up and grinning Dade and the three girls sat to my left.

"So what’s your name?" asked my dark haired dancing partner.

"I’m Storm. This is my buddy, Dade." I said putting my arm around Dade as we sat at the bar with our three dancing partners. "What are your names?"

"I’m Rachel. This is Jenny." Rachel said pointing to the blonde girl before she pointed to the brunette. "And this is Karen. We’re not from around here. We’re just here with friends. You guys from around here?"

"Yeah, we are. You girls just in town for the night?"

"Yeah. We’re just looking for some action." Rachel said as she winked at me. "You guys look like you’re up for some action. What do you say we buy both you fine looking gentlemen a drink?"

"What do you say we buy you fine ladies a drink?" I said putting my hand over Rachel’s just as she was about to put a twenty dollar note on the bar. "What’ll you ladies have?"

"Black Russian."

"Absolut. Citrus."

"I’ll have an absolut too please."

The keen bartender already had the drinks on the way before I even said anything to him. I put my money down on the bar as he served the drinks. "Would you like something to drink, Boss?"

"No thank you. We’re fine." I said for both Dade and I.

"Not thirsty?" Rachel asked as she took a sip from her glass.

"We don’t drink. Like you…we just came here to find a little…action." I said smiling teasingly.

"We’re just going to go freshen up. We’ll be right back. Don’t move."

"Before you go. I hope you don’t mind if I ask how old you are."

"We’re all 21."

"Thanks." I said grinning. "You just looked much younger. If I had of seen you anywhere else I would’ve sworn you were 18. Well don’t let me hold you up."

The three girls picked up their handbags and left us with smiles on our faces. Dade and I both looked at each other grinning before we slapped a mighty high fiver. "WOOOOOO! We are in business, Bro."

"Can you believe it? Those chicks are 21 man. Wow this is soooooo cool. Storm, you are the best. I can’t believe how much fun I’m having. You sure looked like you were having fun back there. Was she tasty?"

"Oooh yeah…that. I sorta got a bit carried away."

"Who cares. You’re a single guy. You can do whatever you like. We’re both single for that matter. We should both be living it up."

"You’re right. We came here to have fun. And that’s what we’re going to have."

Rachel and her two friends soon came back, all with mischievous smiles on their faces. Jenny and Karen skulled both their drinks before they grabbed Dade and dragged him back on to the dance floor just in time for a severe remix of Mariah Carey’s ‘Heartbreaker’. Rachel smiled at me as she drank the last of her drink also. "They wanted him. I want you."

Rachel took my hand and led me back onto the dance floor. It didn’t take long before we were back into our borderline dancing and a rising sense of lust within me as my hands explored her body. "Why don’t we leave these three to play and you and I take a little walk up to my hotel room. We’ll be back before they know it."

"I can’t leave him here by himself."

"Oh, come on. I don’t think he needs a babysitter. Besides, my friends will look after him. We’ll be back."

"No, look. I’m sorry I can’t leave." I said firmly, knowing exactly what I was missing out on. "Sorry."

"Don’t be. I can think of a lot more ways to have fun." Rachel said letting her tongue slip across my lips before she stole a quick kiss. "We both know that’s why we came. I think I came up trumps when I stumbled across you. I find you extremely…appealing."

"Cool." I said smiling.

"Come on. Let’s go for a little…walk."

 

* * * * * * *

 

"I wonder how Storm is." Sarah said as she lay with her head laying back on Mike’s chest as they watched the stars at the edge of Lake Herren. "I hope he’s ok."

"Me too. He’s been so happy lately. I’d hate to see him get down on himself."

Mike and Sarah were enjoying the evening sky in Sarah’s family’s own little corner of Lake Herren. The back of her house opened up onto the edge of one of Lake Herren’s more secluded spots. A beautiful little bay area that Sarah and her friends had spent a lot of time at over the years. Often having family barbeques or just clowning around a lot during the summer. This had once been Sarah and Storm’s favorite make out spot and now it belonged to her and Mike.

"I was really hoping they’d last." Sarah sighed.

"I…I just want to be there for Storm either way. Storm’s my brother and Lucas is my best friend. I just want what’s best for both of them."

"Mike…do you trust Lucas? I mean really trust him."

"He’s never given me reason to doubt him. Why do you ask?"

"I guess I’ve always had this little doubt about him. I know he’s a good person but I never really believed he’d last here. If he isn’t with Storm I mean. Storm is really the biggest tie he has to us and this town. I think if he wasn’t with Storm he’d have no problem leaving."

"Well he isn’t with Storm and he left."

"I don’t think he’s coming back. I just have a feeling."

"I think you’re right. I don’t think he’s coming back."

"Will you miss him, Mike?"

"Hmm. I’m not really sure. I won’t miss him as much if I know he’s ok. I’ll miss seeing him nearly every day. I’ll miss his dudeisms. I guess I will miss him. Not half as much as Storm though."

"You realize we’re the ones that will have to clean up Lucas’ mess."

"Doesn’t really bother me. I’ll do anything I have to for Storm to make sure he’s ok. We always watch out for each other. We always look after each other. If there’s a mess to clean up, I’ll clean it."

"You really love him, don’t you?"

"I do. I love Dade. I love Mom. But Storm will always be special to me. I’ve always felt close to him. Ever since we were kids. He and I were the best of friends before Lucas came along too. I don’t regret Lucas becoming Storm’s best friend though because it’s actually made Storm and I closer and more like brothers. I really do love him."

"I do too. You, Storm and me have been friends our whole lives. I think we’re really lucky. Not everyone gets to have bonds like we do."

"I hope it never changes."

"The only constant is change, Mike. Just look at Storm and Lucas."

"What about you and I?"

"Change takes a lot of forms. Change for us could just mean we end up washing each other’s hair in the shower or something. It doesn’t mean we’ll break up."

"Sarah, do you remember when I got back from football camp a few months ago. You asked me something. Do you remember?" Mike said nuzzling his nose into Sarah’s hair as he whispered into her ear.

"I remember."

"Now it’s my turn to ask." Mike said as he stroked his hand across Sarah’s stomach.

"Ask me." Sarah said softly.

"Sarah, will you…"

 

* * * * * * *

 

My insides burned as if they were on fire. My face devoid of emotion save for the angry glare in my eyes. I sat here again at the bar fuming inside about the way my life had changed so rapidly in such a short time. I was angry, no doubt about. At life? At myself? At Lucas? Maybe. Who knows. All I know is I would kill to be able to drink a beer right now instead of behaving myself with a glass of OJ. I’m sitting at a bar, drinking OJ. Oh, Storm you are so cool. Yeah right.

"Storm, are you ok?"

"For fucks sake. I wish people would stop asking that." I snapped back as I took a swig of my drink.

Dade took a seat beside me and put his elbow on my shoulder. "Well I’m your brother. It’s my right to ask."

"Ok, I’ll give you that one. I’m just sick of people asking me that today."

"It’s obvious that you’re not ok. Tell me what happened with Rachel."

"We went to one of private side rooms they have here. I really wanted to do it. I thought it would make me get over Lucas. She had me almost naked. But I couldn’t do it. My dick is angry with me for not doing it. But inside I feel like I did the right thing by not sleeping with her. I just didn’t feel right being intimate with someone that isn’t…Lucas."

"I don’t really know what to say to make you feel better. I just know that in time, you’ll heal. I’m here whenever you need me."

"This morning I was in denial. This afternoon I was hurt and an emotional wreck. Now I just feel angry. Damn him for doing this to me. Damn him for putting me through this. I wish I’d never met him." I said angrily, closing my eyes before they got the better of me.

"I think it’s time we went home."

"I don’t wanna go home." I said taking another swig from the orange juice concoction in front of me.

"Storm, what are you drinking?" Dade asked looking at me suspiciously.

"What does it look like? Orange juice."

"Then give me some." Dade said taking my glass from me and having a drink.

"Like I said. Orange juice."

"Good. I know you’re depressed but you know you’re not allowed to have alcohol. It’s not good for your condition."

"My ‘condition’ aye. This is the first time in a long time that I’ve wanted a beer. But I’m not stupid, Dade. It’s only OJ for me tonight."

"I really think we should go home, Storm. You look terrible. We tried to take our minds off things. It didn’t work. Let’s just get out of here."

"What about your two friends?"

"They wanted the same thing your dancing partner wanted. A good romp in the sack. They almost had me but I didn’t want it. I was actually making out with one of them and she tried to slip me a tab off her tongue without me noticing. She said it would loosen me up. I spat it out and ditched the both of them. I’m not sure if it had any effect on me though. I do feel a bit flustered. Some of my friends have tried that shit but I’m not one of them. I don’t plan to be either."

"Oh man I am really sorry. I should never have brought you here. I thought we’d have a good time. I’m sorry, Bro. Let’s go home." I said standing up and taking Dade by the arm.

"Next time we go out, Bro? Let’s just stick to the undeRage bar back in the teenybopper section of Merlow. Deal?"

"Deal. Thanks for coming though, Dade. I really like hanging out with you. You’re just about my total best friend."

"What do you mean ‘just about’?" Dade said raising his eyebrow at me. "Just kidding. Thanks, Bro. I love you too."

"You’re clever." I said smiling back at Dade as we exited the club and headed back to the car.

Although this night had been far from a roaring success and did jack all to help me figure out where I stand in the scheme of things, I had to say I’m still glad I came. Especially with Dade. I have one cool little bro and I think that’s pretty damn fantastic. I knew if Lucas did leave, Dade would take his place as my best friend. And as for who would take Lucas’ place as my partner…how bout that Claire chick?

 

* * * * * * *

Well folks that was Chapter 18: Breaking Down.  A fairly low key chapter for everyone to take a breather following Chapter 17.  Most of this story revolved around Storm with his handling of the whole Lucas situation.  It also dealt heavily with his relationships with other characters, in particular his brother Dade.  I tried to devote more time to the other characters also, like Dade, Mike, Sarah, Claire, Josh etc.  Dade, Mike and Sarah in particular.   You can expect the same amount of time between 18 and 19 as there was between 17 and 18.  Chapter 19 will see the resolution of the faith storyline, one way or the other and will have a lot of Storm focus.  Then Chapter 20 will be a bumper chapter since I think it's a significant number, the 20th chapter.  And the 20th chapter I hope will carry Storm Front off in a different direction and focus.  We'll just have to wait and see.

Stay Tuned for SF19: Last Call for Lucas Sheridan and send me a note to let me know what you thought of Chapter 18: Breaking Down.  Or add your comments to the SN Board

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