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

Chapter 19b: Redefining Faith

* * * * * * *

"Hello, Storm."

"Ugh. What the hell do you want?" I said turning to face Marty Lee, instantly recognizing his accented voice.

"Oh I just wanted to see how you were doing. Little brother got you all wrapped up nice and warm for school? Is he going to wait for you at the gate to protect you from the nasties like me?"

Marty Lee used to intimidate me but seeing him now just made me realize how much he had in common with the Brad of old. Full of air and full of shit. Brad was intimidated by me but I just didn’t realize it until it was too late. I read all the same signals from Marty Lee and now he just didn’t seem all that daunting after all. Just a little punk who needs to be put in his place.

"Let’s just get things straight here before you embarrass yourself any further." I said confidently as I stepped up towards Marty Lee. "I am the best. You want to be the best. They call people like you ‘wannabes’. Why don’t you take your full of air bravado and do some more training? You can’t beat me and that’s all there is to it. And why you ask? Simply because I am that…damn…good. And you aren’t. Have a nice day."

"Why don’t we see if you really are…that…damn…good?"

"You really are eager to fight me aren’t you?"

"You owe me a rematch." Marty Lee said coldly.

"Patience is obviously a virtue you don’t have time for." I said rubbing my chin in contemplation. "I suggest a…laxative. It’ll take that cramp out of your attitude. Keep you regular too."

"I’m the best. I didn’t come here to be second place to you."

"Get used to it."

And with that short statement I left Marty Lee standing like an idiot. I even had a small smile on my face as I walked away. I headed to the cafeteria to get me an OJ before I went to find Mike and Sarah for class.

"Well you’re still one hell of a babe."

"Yeah, I know t…" I began saying as I turned to face who was talking to me and when I did I ended up spitting up all the OJ in my mouth when I nearly choked from shock. "What the fuck? Blondie?"

"Hi, Storm." Marcel said smiling at the mess I’d just made all over myself from being in such shock to see him.

"The fuck are you doing here!?" I said in wide eyed disbelief.

"You haven’t seen me in person for three months and that’s all you have to say to me."

"I’d hug you but I’m all messy now because you scared the shit out of me!" I said shoving Marcel playfully.

"So take your shirt off then." Marcel grinned adding in a subtle wink.

"Can I hug you anyway?" I said, begging with my eyes and my ‘can I?’ smile.

Marcel wrapped his arms around me and squeezed the life out of me with a giant bearhug. "Oh man I missed you so much."

"Ok, you’re killing me now." I said patting Marcel firmly on the back.

"Storm, you look great. Your hair’s different. Oooh you got a perfect tan too. Wow, you look really awesome, Bud."

"Thanks." I said blushing.

"Wow you really look fantastic. Man, you are such a stud."

"Well gee…thanks." I said raising both my eyebrows. "What’s with you?"

"I don’t know. I guess I’m just really happy to see you. You don’t seem real happy to see me though."

"I’m sorry. I’m just like still in shock. I…I can’t believe you’re here. It hasn’t hit me. You know Marcel…you say I look different…have you looked in the mirror? I almost didn’t recognize you. You look…incredible. You look like the academy is really bringing the best out of you."

"Lucas said the same thing."

"Lucas?" I said in surprise. "What do you mean? You’ve seen him?"

"Yeah. I’ve seen him."

"Wait a minute let’s start from the top. What are you doing here? I still don’t believe you’re actually standing here." I said squeezing both of Marcel’s arms to be sure I wasn’t imagining him. "You’re here. You’re really here. Now tell me what the hell you’re doing here. I talked to you yesterday and you didn’t mention any of this."

"Well I wish I were here under better circumstances but I’m not. I got a call from Elizabeth last night to say that her mo…my grandmother died. You remember, Alice? You saved me more than a few times by coming with me when I had to stay with her over the holidays."

"Oh man…I’m so sorry. I remember her. She was always nice to me. She used to love pinching your cheeks. I’m really sorry, Marcel. Are you ok? Is there anything I can do?" I asked concerned.

"Not really. I’m ok. I wasn’t that close to her. I’m sad she’s gone but I kinda feel bad that I’m not overly affected by her passing. I guess it’s hard to miss what you never really knew. That’s actually what is kinda sad. My parents are strangers to me. And I think what would I feel if they died? I’d feel sad but it scares me to think I wouldn’t be devastated. Now if I lost you or Dade or Mike or Sarah or Mom, I mean your Mom then I’d be completely shattered. I’d be devastated."

"You thinking of trying to make better communication with your parents?"

"I don’t know. They’re not just strangers to me they’re strangers to each other. I’m not sure there’s any sort of relationship to salvage because there never really was one. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to burden you with all my troubles."

"It’s ok." I said smiling as I put my elbow on Marcel’s shoulder and sat up on a stool to get comfortable. "I’m all ears."

"Well…Elizabeth rang me about 2am this morning and told me. I had to take the 4am flight back here to make it back in time to meet Elizabeth and Conrad later on tonight. Just so the three of us could make a united front before we fly out to Larraine tonight. I’ve got knots in my stomach because I’m really not looking forward to it. I don’t hate my parents or anything like that I just hate being with them. It’s so awkward. We’ll be like three strangers trying to act like a family for the next few days just so we keep up a good image to the rest of the family. We’re like strangers. The thing is…I’m not all that interested in getting to know them better or being closer. It’s all business to them and the thing is that I’m fine with that. I don’t really care. Is there something wrong with me?"

"Well…to be honest if my family was like yours I’d be so scared." I said putting my hands together and raising them to my mouth as I tried to think carefully about what I would say. "My family is my anchor. My support. The thought of my family being strangers to me…it just scares the hell out of me. I couldn’t handle it. I don’t even know how you do it."

"But you guys are my family."

"Wow…I…I don’t really know what to say. Your parents I’m sure they care…I’m kinda dumbfounded. I don’t really know what to say to make things better. Mom’s the best person for advice. She’d know exactly what to say."

"She’d tell me I need to try and spend more time with Elizabeth and Conrad."

"Maybe she’s right. Just see how you go the next few days. Maybe Alice’s death will bring you closer. But remember no matter what, you always have a home with us. You know that, right?"

"Yeah, I know. Trust me, it keeps me sane sometimes knowing that you guys are back here and that you care about me. People like Mike and…man I really have a hard time not calling her Mom." Marcel said with a distressed look on his face. "Can’t I just call her Mom?"

"I don’t have a problem with it. Let me guess though, you talked to Mom about this and she wanted you to call Elizabeth your Mom, right?"

"Yeah."

"Sounds like Mom. Marcel…I’ve known you since you were like nine. My Mom’s wiped your snotty nose. Cleaned your scraped knees. Taken you to parent teacher evenings when your parents couldn’t make it and asked her to. She’s fed you. She’s looked after you when you’ve been sick. She’s given you a bed to sleep in and put a roof over your head when your parents have gone away on business and asked her to look after you. She’s patted you on the back when you got a good report. She’s cheered you on from the sidelines because your parents couldn’t make it. She’s wiped your ass when you shit your pants for crying out loud."

"Don’t remind me. It wasn’t my fault. I had to go. I was ten. It was a long trip, ok?"

"The point is. If you don’t think you can call her Mom after all she’s done for you purely out of love for your blonde ass, then I really don’t know what you can call her. You and Mike will always be the only ones I’ll share my Mom with. Mom loves your blonde ass, you know that right?"

"I love her too. Man…I don’t know what I’m ever going to do to repay her for what she’s done for me."

"You’re going to see her before you leave right?"

"Are you crazy? Of course I am. Right after this. I’m going to visit her at work and hope she can have some lunch with me or something. I really really really really reeeeaaaallllyyyy want to see her. Man I just really don’t have enough time here. I want to do more with you guys."

"Why won’t they let you come back on holiday? Your academy sucks. They’re like a prison."

"Well, Mike came to visit me. How come you didn’t visit me?"

"Well I wanted to come out with Mike but he wouldn’t let us. And then Dad took me and Dade away on holiday when we were due to come out and see you."

"I guess. I’m not exactly close am I? Being on the other side of the country has its downfalls."

"You couldn’t come back here though could you. Not after being out there in the big bad world. It’d be like a backwards step coming back to Merlow. I don’t think you’ll ever come back to stay."

"Don’t say that. I really miss you guys. Just being here now makes me want to throw away my whole training and just come back here and be a teenager again and hang out with you guys. I feel so old there. I’ve had to grow up so fast. Learn how to be mature 24/7. It’s like push push push push push. Grind after grind after grind. I knew this is the price I’d have to pay to be the best but honestly I’m not sure I want to be the best now. I’d rather be happy with my friends. I know that doesn’t make sense but I really do just want to come back."

"You seemed ok when I talked to you over the phone all the time. I mean you said you missed us but I didn’t know you MISSED us. I thought Mike had gotten you all settled in there."

"Mike…now there’s another great guy. Man he made me so happy when he came to visit me way back when I first arrived at the academy. I was so homesick, I wasn’t settling in at all. If he had not of come I would’ve come home."

"Ahh so we have him to blame. He really busted his ass to get enough money to come out and visit you. He wouldn’t let Mom or anyone else help him, he wanted to do it all himself. Only because he knew you left on bad terms and it really ate at him. So he had to fly out and surprise you so he could make sure things were ok between you. "

"See…now that’s what friends are. People like Mike. I have to see him and that big smile of his. Where is he anyway?"

"I was just about to go look for him and Sarah. Come on we can go together."

"No, not yet. I need to talk to you about something."

"Oh, I gotta hug you again!" I said jumping on Marcel’s back so he had to piggyback me. "I’m so happy to see you!"

"Storm, Storm. Come on. I gotta talk to you." Marcel laughed trying to pull me off but I kept holding on tight like a little kid.

"Geez you’re so big and strong now, Marcel. Whatta man. Take me for a piggyback ride, Champ!"

"Storm, Storm come on. I need to talk to you. About Lucas."

"Ugh. What do I want to talk about him for?" I said disgusted as I jumped off Marcel and sat down.

"Look when I arrived this morning at the airport, I bumped into Lucas. He was about to leave."

"To go to Ashley right? What a fucken loser." I snapped, shaking my head. "He was just going to disappear without even saying goodbye. Wow, what an asshole. Where’s my Jeep?"

"It’s actually what I used to get here. I hope you don’t mind."

"Oh hey sweet as! No worries, Bud. Just as long as Lucas brought it back. Just keep using it for the rest of the day and drop it off before you have to leave and I’ll take you to meet your parents. Just don’t even worry about it. Anything you need of mine just take it."

"You’re good to me." Marcel smiled. "Thanks, Storm. Anyway…Lucas."

"Fuck Lucas. Ugh. Who cares about Lucas!? I don’t care what he does anymore. I’m fast losing any respect I had for him."

"You’re just hurt."

"I’m past hurt. I’m past caring. Lucas just…I can’t be bothered. Who cares about him? Let’s just go find Mike and Sarah."

"Storm. Shut up and let me bloody finish, will you? Just shut up for five minutes so I can say what I need to say and then we can go and find Mike and Sarah."

"Make it quick." I snapped back, fuming with anger at Lucas getting someone else to do his dirty work for him.

"First of all. Lucas did not ask me to talk to you. I found him at the airport. You went out with someone else last night didn’t you? Lucas seems to think so. He found your shirt on the floor along with someone else’s scent and perfume."

"Not that it’s any of his business but yeah I went out last night. And yeah I met someone. It was just a one night thing. I’ll never see her again. That won’t help his chances though."

"Well he went a bit nuts when he found out. Then he saw that you’d taken all his stuff out of your room. He went back to his house and got into a massive fight with his Mom. He said he’d had enough of her cruelty and interference. He told her he wasn’t coming back. He’s homeless. He knew he hurt you Storm. And he knew you’d be angry like you are now. He thought leaving would be what’s best for you."

"There he goes trying to be a hero."

"Storm, shut up!" Marcel snapped at me, taking me by surprise. "Sure you’ve been through hell. Both Lucas and I know that. Yeah he fucked up. Yeah he hurt you. But he’s been through hell too. He had to leave you, go and find Ashley and make peace with her. Close his past. He hasn’t slept in almost two days. Why? Because he wanted to drive straight back to you. He arrived back here not only to find that he’d lost you but he didn’t even have a home anymore. He was going to leave because he thought it would be right by you. He didn’t want to hurt you anymore. He only turned to Ashley because come on let’s be serious, if he couldn’t turn to you here then who can he turn to? No one. Ashley was the only one he could turn to. She offered him a home until he could sort things out. I found him at the airport. I talked him into coming home with me and I told him he wasn’t doing the right thing by you and that he’d regret leaving. He hasn’t slept in two days but he still can’t sleep because he’s so cut up about you. He’s at my house now trying to work out what he’s going to do to try and win you back. He’s been through hell. I told him he could stay at my house as long as he needed to. Elizabeth won’t mind, she’ll hardly be around anyway. Just try to cut him a bit of slack before you decide what you’re going to do next."

"Is…is he ok?" I asked, betraying my intended mask of anger.

"Well I’ll be. He actually cares."

"Is he?"

"He’s ok. He’s just in a bad place. He’s homeless. He lost his guy. He’s not exactly going to be in the best of spirits."

"Maybe I should go and see how he is. Make sure he’s ok."

"Well gee I’d hate to let him see that you care. We don’t want that now do we?"

"Why don’t you fuck up!" I snapped back at Marcel angrily. "Who the hell told you to interfere anyway? Why don’t you mind your own fucken business and work on your own love life? You know, that guy you dumped? Dade? My brother? You might remember him. Sort your own shit out before you mess in other peoples."

"Storm, that’s not fair. You know why I did it. It was for Dade. I thought I was doing the right thing."

"You’re no better than Lucas. When are people gonna stop thinking and start feeling? If you felt for Dade you wouldn’t have let him go. But you let your head get the better of you. Let me tell you though, you hurt my brother. That means you’re walking a fine line with me. Maybe you better go and see Mike and Sarah by yourself."

"Storm, you know me." Marcel said putting his hands on my shoulders. "You know I never wanted to hurt Dade. I bet he’s already moving onto some other chick. I did the right thing, don’t you think?"

"I guess. It’s just…you’re fantastic. Dade’s fantastic. What’s the problem here?"

"Distance."

"Marcel, listen to me. Dade is one of the greatest people I know. Regardless of whether or not he’s my little brother. He’s mature, he’s intelligent, he’s loyal, he has a good heart. I hate to say this because he’s my brother and all but he’s sexy as hell too. He’s great looking. He’s the total package. Why the hell would you even consider giving him up?"

"Because as great as he is. It makes no difference if you’re not together. And he was starting to get depressed because of that. And I didn’t like it. I wanted to hold on but I didn’t want him to start getting depressive or anything because we couldn’t be together. I had to do it. For him."

"Ok. I see your point. I’m sorry for yelling at you. I just wish Dade didn’t have to go through the whole thing."

"You don’t approve do you? You think I shouldn’t have gotten involved with Dade."

"Well…Dade’s 15. He’s the same age I was when I met Lucas. The age difference between you two is about the same as Lucas to me and Sarah to Mike. Plus he’s no newbie to relationships. He’s had his fair share of girlfriends. I think he knows what he’s doing and what he wants. I trust his judgment. And come on, he can do a lot worse than you, Marcel. But not much better. As far as guys go, you’re right up there with the best."

"Thanks, Storm. That means a lot. Look, why don’t we go and find Mike and Sarah. We can hang out for a bit. It’ll be just like old times. Pack style."

"Why don’t you go on ahead?" I said smiling slightly. "I just wanna be alone for a bit."

"Ok. Look, Storm. Lucas wanted me to sneak this into your locker but I think I’ll just give it to you now. Have a read and remember, he’s not perfect…but he’s real. Somewhere you have to find balance between what you would like to happen and the way things simply are."

Marcel gave me an ‘ok?’ face and I nodded back at him slowly to show I understood. He handed me an envelope with my name on it in Lucas’ handwriting. I took the envelope and held it in my hands when I felt inside it what I knew could only be the necklace. "The necklace?" I asked as felt its presence through the envelope.

"I’ll leave you to it." Marcel said as he turned to walk away.

"Marcel…it’s really good to see you. Thanks for doing this." I said holding the envelope up. "You’ve helped both of us out a lot. Especially Lucas. He must be your biggest fan by now."

"No…he’s your biggest fan."

Marcel promptly left me with my own thoughts as I looked over the letter. I took a deep breath and ripped one edge of the envelope off and pulled the folded letter out that lay inside. Call me weird but I had half a mind to rip the letter up into small pieces and just been done with the whole Lucas situation. I knew opening it would just add to the unnecessary stress factor. Right now there was a certain clarity that came with not wanting Lucas back and I didn’t want to confuse that by opening this letter.

I opened it anyway.

 

Hi Storm,

If I know Marcel he handed this to you himself instead of putting it in your locker. I have so much I have to say to you but I think if I just splurge all my thoughts out I’ll just sound like a mess. I’ll get to the point. I need you. I don’t just love you. I need you. I need to be with you. I need to have you with me. I need you to know how much I love you. I need to hold you. I need you to hold me. I don’t just love you. I don’t just want you. I need you.

I’ll be honest with you though. I feel like I’ve already lost you. And to be even more honest, I don’t know how or even if there is a way I can get you back. I’m so tired right now I can’t even think straight. My life is so messed up. I don’t have a home anymore. I don’t have a bed to sleep in. All I have are the clothes on my back and my wallet. Thing is, I don’t really care about that. I just want you.

Storm, I’m sorry. For everything. I never meant to hurt you as much as I did. I never meant to hurt you at all. I didn’t mean for this to happen. But if I lose you…I know I won’t have anyone to blame…not my mother…not Ashley. Just myself. I just want you to know, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not giving you any certainty before I left. That is by far the stupidest thing I have ever done in my whole life. I wish I could say I wasn’t thinking straight and maybe I wasn’t. But the bottom line is I just didn’t know. I didn’t realize what I was doing to you and I just didn’t know if I’d really let go of Ashley and my past. I know it might not make you feel better but I knew you were the one before I even met back up with Ashley. I knew when I was driving away and how much I hurt for you that you were the one. I just wish I had of said something to you before I left but I didn’t.

Ok here comes the sappy stuff. Straight from the heart.

Once upon a time there was this guy and his name was Lucas. His parents made him move with them to a new town and he didn’t want to go but his girlfriend was long gone now and he had nothing holding him back. Lucas really hated having to move and thought he would hate this town and his parents for the rest of his life. But then Lucas saw this person sitting in the school bus who had the warmest smile he’d ever seen. Lucas just had to sit next to this person. Turned out this person had a really wicked name and it was Storm. Lucas was instantly attracted to Storm and they became best friends. Storm became the best friend Lucas ever had and even though Lucas was attracted to Storm he didn’t want to risk losing his friendship. Three months passed and Lucas and Storm were inseparable. They hung out everywhere and spent all their free time together. One day this new girl came to town and Lucas was attracted to her and he thought it would be the only way he could get his mind off being in love with Storm. Things didn’t exactly go Lucas’ way and he ended up making a fool of himself at a party. See Storm had been trying to distance himself from Lucas and Lucas didn’t know why but he knew it was eating him up inside. Lucas was a bad boy and drank lots of alcohol thinking that would drown his problems. Eventually Lucas couldn’t help himself and he had to find out why Storm was avoiding him. Lucas found Storm and asked Storm why he was ditching Lucas. Lucas poured his heart out to Storm and they both told each other they loved the other. They nearly kissed but Lucas was so drunk he passed out. The next day Lucas had forgotten everything he did while he was drunk and he set up a date with Claire. Little did he know how much this hurt Storm inside. Storm was so hurt he wanted to go and stay with his sister a while to clear his mind. Lucas nearly kissed Claire but when he did, it was Storm’s face that he saw. Lucas remembered everything and went after Storm. Lucas found Storm at the train station just as Storm was about to leave. When the train left and Lucas couldn’t see Storm anymore, Lucas just froze in despair. When Storm came up behind Lucas, Lucas almost fainted. Lucas asked Storm why he was leaving and Storm wouldn’t answer properly. Lucas soon found out why when he remembered what Storm had said to him the night before. Storm was in love with Lucas. Lucas was in shock and couldn’t believe it. But Storm for some reason had this petrified look of fear in his eyes as if he believed Lucas was going to hurt him. Lucas never forgot that look of fear in Storm’s eyes and to this day it still haunts Lucas. Lucas wondered what could make Storm think that Lucas could ever physically harm him. It killed Lucas on the inside and when Storm began to run away Lucas had to go after him. Storm almost fell off the train platform but Lucas pulled him back just in time. For some reason Storm was still scared, Lucas didn’t know why. Storm ran away again and Lucas chased him and finally caught him. Lucas can still remember the way the way Storm was crying and begging for Lucas not to hurt him and to please let him go. That really killed Lucas to see Storm so scared for his life because of Lucas. Lucas just broke down but he wouldn’t let Storm go until Storm knew how he felt. Lucas told Storm how much he loved him, how much he believed Storm was his soul mate. And although Storm didn’t believe him at first, Lucas made sure Storm knew. When that happened, Lucas and Storm finally gave in to each other. For the first time they kissed.

On that day everything changed. And just in case you didn’t get it, you’re Storm in this story and I’m Lucas. That night is still one of the most special days of my life, Storm. And do you know why?

On that day my best friend became my greatest love.

That’s why. I know it sounds corny but it’s true. It’s all you. I love you, Storm. I knew from the first moment I saw you on the bus to the day I told you how I felt right through to today Storm. I love you.

Please forgive me. I’m not afraid to beg if I have to because I know It’s worth it to hold on to the greatest love you will ever know, don’t you think? Please forgive me.

Please.

Love always…and then some,

Your Lucas.

P.S. I’ve made sure that your necklace will never belong to anyone else. Even if you don’t come back to me, it’s now yours forever.

P.S.2. I’m so tired right now, forgive me if this whole letter sounds like complete pap.

I guess by the way a smile had etched its way across my face that Lucas’ letter had had it’s intended effect. I brushed my fingers along the letter feeling where the pen he once held had touched the paper and etched it with his eloquent handwriting. I studied the words again, letting them slowly absorb into me before I decided what I would do next. No sense in rushing anything.

I picked the envelope up again and tipped out the necklace Lucas had given me so long ago. When I held it in my hands now I couldn’t help but let out a tiny sigh of relief that it once again belonged to me. That fact still hadn’t sunken in properly yet but it was starting to. I looked over the silver full circled head of the necklace and discovered just what Lucas had done to make sure the necklace never belonged to anyone else. He’d had my initials engraved into the back of the necklace ‘D.S.M’ underneath the tiniest inscription ‘Always you’ that had only just managed to fit. I guess it meant, ‘Daniel Storm Marcus, Always you’. I think I knew what that meant.

Funny how things that once seemed so important just didn’t seem to matter now. Like being angry or placing blame or feeling rejected. Sure they had their place but right now they weren’t the first thing on my mind. I guess it was time to decide once and for all just what I wanted.

 

* * * * * * *

As Marcel and Sarah sat drinking milkshakes on a table outside the local undeRage bar overlooking Lake Herren, they both appeared lost in deep thought and concentration. Dozens of students sat around at the ritual after school hang out joint. The sun blazed down and brought with it the searing afternoon heat that both Marcel and Sarah reveled in. Marcel wore his favorite romeo model x metal Oakley glasses whereas Sarah preferred to use her hand to block out the glare of the sun at this particular moment.

"I wish I’d have brought my sunglasses." Sarah cursed. "This sun’s a real killer today."

"Wait here." Marcel said suddenly getting out of his seat and running off, leaving a puzzled Sarah behind him.

Sarah shrugged her shoulders and continued sipping her milkshake as she contemplated the events that had transpired today. Marcel had returned albeit for a brief period. Lucas had also returned even though so far only Marcel had seen him. And Mike was about to make the first contact with his father that he’d made since he’d moved into the Marcus household. Mike’s father promised he would get sober and stay sober, refusing to see Mike until he’d sorted himself out. Sarah had an unsettling feeling in her stomach as she wondered what Mike was doing at this very moment.

Sarah took a deep breath and sighed to herself, holding her face in her hands. There was also another reason which gave Sarah cause for concern but it was one thing she’d never let on to anyone unless she absolutely had to. Somehow she felt that she’d soon have to.

"Sarah? You still worried about Mike?" Marcel asked, bringing Sarah sharply back to reality.

"A lot." Sarah choked trying to keep a brave face. "A whole lot."

"It’ll be ok, Sarah." Marcel said rubbing Sarah’s back reassuringly. "I slipped Mike my cell phone. If he needs anything he’ll call June."

"She doesn’t even know he’s going. He should’ve waited for her. Or me. He wasn’t supposed to see him this soon. Not by himself."

"I didn’t want him to go by himself either. He’s just doing what he has to do. The best we can do here is…sit…and wait…and then sit some more…and then wait some more…until we drink milkshakes till we’re practically cows or until we’re worried shitless we call him ourselves."

"I’m going to take him out tonight. Or make him dinner at my place. I feel like keeping him to myself for a whole night as soon as he gets back. I just want to make him feel special. Because he is. He’s so under appreciated you know."

"Not by me. Not by you. But trust me…I know how he feels and I know what you mean. But he is loved. I know that much."

"I miss him." Sarah whimpered longingly as she rested her head on the table.

"You big wuss." Marcel smiled. "Harden up, Girly. People might think you’re human."

"I don’t care." Sarah sighed. "I just want my Mikey safe by me. That’s all I want."

"Oh hey, this is what I ran off to get." Marcel said handing Storm’s blue lensed oakley’s. "Storm left them in his glove compartment. I’m sure he won’t mind if you wear them. Should get rid of that glare for you."

"Thanks, Marcel." Sarah smiled as she slid the oakley’s over her eyes. "That’s better. I love his glasses. They really suit him too. This is the Juliet model. Plasma frame. Ice lens tint. They have Storm written all over them. Cool. You know, yours is the Romeo model, his is the Juliet. Does anyone else find that weird?"

"Well…no. Lucas has a pair of the Romeo titanium model too. Although it is pretty strange when you think Romeo-Juliet. Storm’s Juliet huh? Well…"

"Don’t let him hear you say that. Besides the Juliet models are unisex."

"And what are the romeo models? Gay or Straight?"

"Oh my goodness." Sarah said stamping her hand on the table mockingly. "That was sooo funny."

"Hey do you feel ok? You look a little pale." Marcel said putting his hand to Sarah’s forehead. "You feel a little hot too."

"Duh. It IS hot. Look at the sun, check out my tan, see all the melting ice creams. It IS hot. Thank you." Sarah said taking Marcel’s hand off her forehead.

"You sure you’re ok?"

"I’m fine." Sarah smiled. "Thanks for asking."

"Ok then. It’s really good to see you and Mike again." Marcel smiled as he sipped the last of his shake down. "I’m so glad I got to see you guys."

"You know it really is good to see you too, Baby. I’ve really missed you. We’ve all really missed you. Things just haven’t been the same since you left. No more tree house gatherings. No more pack parties. When Mike and I hang out with Storm and Lucas now, it’s more like two couples getting together rather than just five friends like how it was when you were here. It’s not the same but we’re all ok because we know that you’re doing what you love and trying to be the best you can be. Something I’ve always loved about you, Marcel. You live up to your reputation, Forget the rest…Marcel’s the best. I wish I had my own catch line like that. You have no idea what a legend that one line makes you. You are so the man. Carl and Storm try to lead the athletics squad in your shadow but it’s no easy task. Forget the rest, you really ARE the best."

"Sarah…I have to tell you something. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time and it’s really been in my mind today."

"What is it, Babe?"

"It’s about Drake. And Merlow. And how I want to leave the first and come back to the second."

"What?" Sarah said in surprise.

"I’ve always missed you guys. There hasn’t been a day, a week, a month that’s gone by without me wishing I was here and wondering what you guys are doing and whether you miss me. This is my home. Have you seen how easy it’s been for me to just slide right back in as if I’d never left? Mr. Brooks letting me join in gym class today with you guys has just made me realize I really miss it here. I wanna come home."

"But you can’t. You’ve already been at the academy for over three months. You can’t come back. I’d love to have you back but you can’t. You can’t quit now. You have to stick it out or you’ll never forgive yourself. Two years down the track you’ll be wondering what would have happened if you had of stayed at the academy. Marcel, I know you’re doing really well there. You’ve told me yourself how much you’ve improved and I can just see by looking at you that you have. You’ve grown. You’ve changed. I don’t just mean physically. Your whole aura, your demeanor has changed. I miss my Marcel but I love the new one. You know for selfish reasons I would so much love it if you came back. But think long and hard about it before you decide anything."

"I have been thinking about it a lot. And I look at it like this. What means more to me? Being with people who make my whole world, or just trying to be the best athlete in the world. I am missing out on so much here. It’s so different at the academy. I have to be so responsible and mature and grown up and disciplined and dedicated and punctual and precise and persevering. Day after day after day after day after day. I eat it, I live it, I sleep it, I shit it for crying out loud. Technique, desire, consistency, dedication, endurance, persistence, power, speed, strength. That’s it. That’s it. That’s all there is. I’m burning out. I’m 16. I’m too young for this shit. I just wanna have fun with my friends. I wanna be immature, I wanna be late for class, I wanna fuck up and go get plastered one night all night. I wanna be with Dade. I wanna come to school and just be an ass. It’s so rigid. So structured. I know it’s good for me. I know it all just depends on how badly I want it. But how badly DO I want it? Not that badly. I just wanna be with you guys."

"This is serious now. Let’s look at all your options. Very carefully. Ok. Tell me what you think your options are?"

"The way I see it, Sarah. I’m 16 years old. I could finish my initial six months which means I have about another three months left. If I choose to, and if I successfully compete in the sectionals. They will advance my training and ask me to stay on for a year at least. Now what if I finished the time I have left and ask for one years leave so I can finish my final year in high school with you guys. I can be a kid and an ass for one more year. Be immature as hell, rip some serious shit up and just generally have fun. I could still compete for Merlow high and for the districts and regionals here. Plus I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at a few triathlon events too. Maybe compete in a junior ironman competition. Then when our final year is done and you guys head off to college, I’ll head back to the academy."

"Marcel! That sounds BRILLIANT!" Sarah said doing a little jump and clapping her hands with excitement. "That sounds excellent! I love it, I absolutely love it. You get to come back here with us and still compete and train, and when it’s time for us to head to college you can go back to the academy! Oh I absolutely love it!" Sarah said jumping on Marcel and giving him a great big hug, her eyes almost watering with joy. "Oh, Marcel I am so happy. I can’t believe you’re coming back. Wait till you tell Mike, he will be so happy. He really misses you. So do I. So does Storm. So does Lucas. ESPECIALLY your hubby Dade. I still haven’t gotten over you telling me about that one. But I’m so glad you’re coming back! Oh man you’ve made me the happiest girl on earth today. And you’re not even my future husband."

"Thanks, Sarah. It’s good to know I’m still wanted here. Now I just have to make it through the next three months. But that’s good because it means I’ll get back in time to start next semester."

"You know Marcel when you told me on the phone that you won’t be coming back after your first six months I cried when I got off the phone because I really thought I wouldn’t see you again. I thought you wouldn’t come back at all. I thought things would never ever be the same between all of us again. I really cried I was so cut up. I’m so happy you’ll be coming back. I really am." Sarah said tapping over her heart as she smiled at Marcel with one or two tears slipping away from her, which she promptly tried to cover up. "It’ll be just like old times. Me, you, Mike, Storm. The fantastic four. The Pack."

"Don’t forget Lucas and Dade."

"Of course I can’t forget Dade. My little spunk of a hunk. He’s not really part of our little group though because Dade has his own circle of friends. A mighty big one at that. He’s only interested in being best friends with Storm. Trying to be best friends with his own brother. Go figure. That’s just plain weird. Those two have always been close though. Dade’s fantastic. And as for Lucas…he turned our foursome into an odd numbered pack. He’s like the odd man out. I just don’t know whether he’ll still be around next semester. I don’t even know if he’ll come back at all."

"He’s already back."

"What?"

"He’s back. I saw him this morning. He’s staying at my house. He got into a fight with his Mom and told her he wasn’t coming back. I offered him my room until he finds somewhere. He’s even thinking about dropping out of school and getting a job so he can find his own place. He doesn’t have much options right now."

"Oh man…that’s terrible. He can’t drop out of school just to get him some place to live. Oh man. Nah Storm won’t let him. None of us will. Somehow we’ll find a way to make sure he has somewhere to live and he can still come to school and hopefully get a scholarship like Mike so he can get into college if his parents don’t help. We have to make sure he has somewhere to stay. Carey and Damon are both at college right now. Their rooms are free. I’ll see Lucas and if he has nowhere to go, I’ll talk to my parents tonight. He can stay with us. That’s one option."

"Elizabeth and Conrad are hardly ever home, they won’t even notice if Lucas is there. I’ll tell them he’s staying in my room for a while. It’ll be fine."

"Yeah but he’ll get lonely by himself in your big house. Heck you got lonely in that big old house. You spent all your time at Storm’s because of that, what makes you think Lucas won’t either? Besides I’m sure he could do with the company and my household is friendly. He’d settle in ok. Even if Storm took him back there’s no way he could stay with Storm. Their house is full now with Mike living there full time. I think that just leaves you and me, Marcel. But I think my house is a better option. Let him stay at your place for a few days while I work things out with my parents. But we have to make sure Lucas realizes that he doesn’t have to drop out because he’s worried about putting a roof over his head. I won’t have it. So we’re both copasetic on making sure he has somewhere to stay?"

"We are."

"Good. Oh man, how long before you and your parents fly out to Larraine?"

"Not till tonight about nine. We still have plenty of time. I was hoping some of us would be able to have dinner together or something."

"Yes!" Sarah said giving Marcel a squeeze and kissing him on the cheek. "Oh man, I am still so happy you’re going to be coming back after your three months is up and you’re not staying on at Drake an extra year. I miss my blonde babe so much."

"I miss you too." Marcel smiled.

"Hey you’re right about doing something tonight. I think the pack should get together tonight sometime or maybe later on this afternoon at your house. I was going to say the treehouse but I think since Lucas is at your place we should meet up there. All five of us and Dade too if he wants to come. I just want to make sure Lucas is ok. I mean this is for real. He’s one of us now, even if I did doubt him for a little while. We have to make sure he’s ok. Plus we can all catch up and you can tell everyone your plans. So if you bump into Storm or Lucas before I do, let them know ok? Say 6pm."

"I still have a few other things to do like visit June while I’m in town but 6pm should be fine. I’ll make sure to let Storm and Lucas know."

"Do you think we could have a barbeque poolside at your place, Marcel?"

"Course we can." Marcel said giving Sarah an annoyed look. "You don’t have to ask. Ok well I’m going to go and see Mom now so tell Mike I’ll see him at my place tonight ok? And don’t worry. Mike will be fine."

"I know." Sarah smiled. "Thanks, Babe. I’m gonna go pick up some food for us all tonight. I’ll see you later on."

"Bye, Babe."

 

* * * * * * *

 

 

I knocked on the front door of Marcel’s house but no one was in sight. I rang the doorbell but still no one answered. It had been a while since I had been to Marcel’s house but ever since I was 12 I’d been given the keys and entry codes to get into the house. Since I was Marcel’s best friend and we came back and forth so often plus the fact his parents depended on my Mom so much I’d had access to the house along with my Mom. I still knocked because that’s just good manners but if nobody answered it was just habit to let myself in just like Marcel did at my house. I punched in the access code to let myself in and looked around to see if anyone was inside but still no sign. I ran right up the large staircase to Marcel’s room and noticed the door was slightly ajar.

As I gently nudged the door open I could see the slumbering form of Lucas on Marcel’s bed and realized why no one had answered the door. Lucas was sound asleep. If I knew Lucas though I bet he tried to stay up as long as he could, hoping I’d come back. I suppose if I skipped class I could’ve made it back in time but I purposely stayed in class so I’d have time to think.

I walked in quietly and locked the door shut before I turned to face Lucas. I just stood there leaning against the door while I watched him sleep. A tired, tense and drawn look on his face. He was curled into a fetus position and lay snuggled up to one of Marcel’s pillows. He looked so cold lying there but I knew he wasn’t, he was just sleeping in one of those ‘if you see me sleeping like this, cuddle me’ positions. He always was that sort of person who liked to cuddle up or be close to someone. I walked over to the bed and took a deep breath before I sat down on the edge.

No sign of stirring from Lucas but I wasn’t surprised considering how long he’d been without sleep. I tentatively reached my hand out and gently brushed a strand of hair from Lucas’ face. His skin felt so soft beneath my fingers as I let them linger down his face. I touched my fingers to his lips and almost skipped a few beats as I remembered what it was like to feel those lips.

I pulled the letter out that I’d written for Lucas and placed it on the pillow next to him. I brushed my fingers through Lucas hair once more before I leant down and softly kissed his forehead. Seeing Lucas sleep I just didn’t have the heart to wake him. I knew he’d be asleep right now and probably till tomorrow so I figured a letter would be the best thing. I told myself to get up and leave but my body wasn’t listening to me. It seemed content to just stay here by Lucas. Finally my willpower won out and I pulled my hand away from Lucas’ face as I went to leave.

"Storm…" Lucas mumbled, his eyes still closed and his voice tired and strained. "Is that you?"

"Sshh it’s ok. Sleep. Go back to sleep. Everything will be ok when you wake up. Just sleep."

"I…I’m…so…tired. I’m…sorry."

"Ssshh. Sshh." I said soothingly as I brushed the side of his face tenderly. "It’s ok. Sleep."

"Storm…storm…stor…"

"Sshh. Sleep."

"I love you…"

"I…I know. I know." I said leaning down to kiss Lucas’ forehead again.

Just as I went to pull my head away, I felt Lucas’ hand on the back of my neck pulling me down gently. He raised his head to meet mine, his eyes still closed as our lips met for the first time in what seemed like forever. It felt like Lucas barely had the strength to carry the kiss and I almost burst into tears feeling how weak my baby was beneath me. I sucked gently on Lucas’ bottom lip and pulled away even though I could feel Lucas’ hand urging me with what little strength he had to lean me back in.

"No…no. Sleep. You need sleep. You stayed up too long."

"I’m ok. I’m ok. I’m up now." Lucas said struggling to get his eyes open.

"Lucas, you need sleep. Please. Why can’t you just go back to sleep?"

"Because you’ll go." Lucas whined with a barely audible voice, his eyes beginning to water.

"You need to sleep. I only came to bring you this letter. I didn’t mean to wake you. I’m sorry. Go back to sleep."

"No. No." Lucas said shaking his head. "I…won’t. I…wo…"

"Sshh. Sleep."

"So…tired…hurt…miss…you."

"Lucas?" I said as I saw Lucas’ eyes fall shut again and his hand went limp around my neck. "That’s good. Rest well, Lucas."

I stood up to my feet and took a deep breath, trying to quell the tears welling inside me. I hated seeing Lucas in such a weakened and distressed state. He was so tired, so weak. But I’d come to do what I needed to do. Now it was time for let Lucas be and just rest.

"Bye, Lucas." I said looking back at his sleeping form before I quietly slipped out of the room.

 

* * * * * * *

 

The reception area to Merlow District Hospital was abuzz with activity. People all walking around in some kind of frantic hurry. Everyone walking around like they had some place to be and they had to get there yesterday. Marcel stood at the reception desk, leaning over the counter as he waited for the receptionist to finish talking on the phone. He always knew the worst part about visiting June at work was waiting for someone to page her and then waiting for her to have a free moment. A break was too haphazard to plan for so Marcel just crossed his fingers and hoped he’d generally arrive at a good time.

"Hi, I’m looking for Dr. Marcus." Marcel asked as the receptionist smiled at him after hanging up the phone. "June Marcus. Could you tell me if she’s able to see a visitor?"

"Let me page her. You’re just in time. I think she’s almost due to be relieved. May I say who’s visiting?"

"Marcel Lewis. Hopefully she should still remember me." Marcel smiled to himself.

"One moment please."

Marcel took a seat next to one of the tables that had a myriad of old magazines that seemed to be a staple requirement in hospital and clinic waiting rooms. He yawned to himself and sat back so he could relax for seemingly the first time today. Luckily he didn’t have to wait as long as he thought he would when June walked in through the foyer double doors with a large smile on her face.

"Hello there, Stranger." June smiled as she opened her arms to Marcel.

"Mom!" Marcel grinned as he jumped to his feet and kissed June hello before he embraced her in a tight hug.

"This is a very nice surprise." June said kissing Marcel’s forehead.

An unabating smile was plastered on Marcel’s face as he rested his chin on June’s shoulder and kept hugging her. "Oh man, this is so great. I am so happy to see you. I’m home!"

"Marcel, why are you here? I didn’t know you had a holiday coming up. You didn’t tell me you were coming back this soon."

"Well I’m only here because Grandmother Alice died. She died last night apparently and I had to catch an early flight back today. My parents and I are flying out to Larraine tonight. But I had to do the rounds and see everybody before I left again. Especially you. I hope I’m not interrupting anything."

"Actually I’ve just been relieved. Unfortunately it won’t be for the whole night. Dr. Arraway asked me to cover for him tonight because his daughter has a very special recital. He doesn’t often ask for favors so I didn’t mind too much. However, I am free for the next few hours so would you like to join me for a meal, Mr. Lewis?" June smiled. "I hear the cafeteria might be serving edible food today."

"I…would…LOVE TO!" Marcel said doing a little jump before his face went a little red with embarrassment at his overexcitedness.

"Then let’s go." June said squeezing Marcel’s hand before they headed off to the cafeteria. "I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother. You ok?"

"Fine actually. This is going to sound terrible but if she didn’t die I wouldn’t have been able to come back to visit."

June and Marcel both walked into the cafeteria, not being too impressed with what was on offer to eat. Hospital food never much excited either of them and as they both stood in line to order something to eat they decided to settle instead for just plain old chicken soup. The one thing this surprisingly busy cafeteria seemed to make extremely well.

"I’m very happy to see you." June said as both her and Marcel took a seat at an empty table. "I just wish it were under better circumstances. Oh now look at you. I can tell they’re really working you. You look fantastic, Marcel. Everything going ok out there?"

"Everything’s going well. I’m doing excellent."

"So why don’t you seem too happy then?"

"One word: homesick."

"Well…I suppose that’s the price you have to pay if you want to be the best. I’m sure it’ll all be worth it one day."

"Lately I don’t feel like I want to be the best anymore. I just want to be happy."

"And what will make you happy, Marcel?"

"Being here…with my friends. Going to school with everyone. Just being here. Being able to be with you guys anytime I want. I miss that so much."

"There must be something you can do to feel happier about things."

"Actually there is one thing."

"What’s that?"

Marcel took a deep breath and tried to summon up the courage to ask what he was about to; June’s permission to go out with Dade. The knots in his stomach and shakiness in his fingers gave away the anxiety he felt inside. He knew he could very well be risking his relationship with the woman who’d been the biggest maternal figure in his life. But for the first time in his life he was decidedly certain that he wanted Dade back, all the way this time. If he was coming back to hopefully be with Dade, he didn’t want to have to keep it secret from anyone. Least of all, June.

Marcel closed his and took a deep breath again. "Well it’s like this…"

The loud beeping of June’s pager broke both her and Marcel from their train of thought and conversation. June pulled her pager out and gave an irritated look as she put the pager back on her belt buckle.

"Oh damn. I’m sorry, Baby. There’s a delivery here for me that I have to sign for personally. Give me two minutes and I’ll be right back."

"Sure." Marcel gulped.

June ran off and left Marcel in a state of stomach churning anxiety. Marcel wondering whether he should just forget the whole idea of telling June or whether he should ignore his overwhelming fear and bite the bullet. Too soon for Marcel’s comfort, June soon appeared back inside the cafeteria with a bunch of flowers in her hand and a smile on her face.

"Are those from a patient?" Marcel smiled as June approached with her flowers in hand.

"No, they’re from Storm. We had a little fight this morning and I think he still feels guilty about it. So he sent me these." June smiled as she smelt the scent of the flowers. "He sure knows how to butter his mother up."

"He sure does."

"I think he gets his sweet side from his father. His father would always find some way to make me feel special. That’s one thing I miss about Daniel Sr."

"What else do you miss? Do you wish you and Daniel Sr. were still together?"

"Yes…" June smiled. "I miss him. I’m 38 years old. I don’t think I want to spend four more years trying to find another love of my life. Besides, I don’t think anyone could truly sweep me off my feet like Storm’s dad could. And to be honest I don’t think I’d really want anyone else to either. I’ve never been with anyone else in my life except for Daniel Sr.. I’m a bit old to start learning how to date don’t you think?"

"Yeah, whatever." Marcel smiled as he shook his head. "You’re superwoman. There must be literally thousands of eligible bachelors out there who would love to be with you."

"Well…we’ll see I guess. Anyway we didn’t come here to talk about me. We came here to talk about you. You were about to tell me the one thing that could make you happier right now before I was paged. So why don’t you let me know what that is?"

"Ok but first why don’t you tell me what you and Storm were fighting about? Not Lucas I hope."

"Mike actually." June frowned.

"Oh…I see. Touchy subject. Oh man…umm I think there’s something…umm oh boy."

"What is it, Marcel?"

"It’s Mike. Umm he went to see Bill today."

"He what!?" June yelled in shock. "When? Where is he?"

"He’s with Bill now. I don’t know where they met. Mike rang him up today and asked if they could meet. I gave him my cellphone so he could call you if he needed anything."

"Mike called him?"

"I think Mike won’t admit it. But he misses him. Even after all he’s done to Mike. Mike still loves him."

"I think I need something just a bit stronger than coffee right now." June said distressingly.

"You only ever want a cigarette these days when you’re worried about one of your kids. I’m really sure Mike will be ok."

"Why didn’t he tell me? I should be with him. What’s your cellphone number? I have to call him. I have to see him. Make sure he’s ok."

"Let me come with you then."

"I’m sorry I ruined our get together. I just get so worried when it comes to Mike and his father."

"With good reason I know." Marcel frowned. "Don’t be sorry. I feel exactly the same way. Besides, I know you still love me."

"I sure do." June smiled, kissing Marcel again on the forehead as they both got up. "I love you very much. You know there’s one thing I really appreciate about having you and Mike as my semi surrogate kids."

"What’s that?"

"I didn’t have to carry you for nine months and you both came ready made. A woman couldn’t ask for anything easier." June said with a big smile on her face. "Now let’s go find your brother and make sure he’s ok."

 

* * * * * * *

 

Mental note: try not to get on so well with Lucas’ mom. As I pulled into our driveway and saw her car parked outside, I knew she’d come to see me about Lucas. I still don’t have it quite figured out just why she gives Lucas such a hard time. Blatant bigotry? Disappointment with Lucas’ so called failures? Menopause? Oops better not think that last one out loud huh.

I jumped out of the jeep and headed straight inside, wondering just what Lucas’ mom had said to my Mom. I sighed miserably to myself at the doorway before I finally walked through and headed to the kitchen where Mom would probably have made Mira a cup of tea or something.

"Hello?" I called as I walked into the kitchen. "Mom?"

"Good Afternoon, Storm." Mira replied as she sat at our table sipping on a cup of tea. "I’m afraid your mother is still at work."

"Oh. Well, hi."

"Your brother let me in. I hope you don’t mind I asked if I could wait here for you."

"Aaaahhh… well what can I help you with?"

"Have you seen my son?" Mira asked flatly.

"Yes."

"Where is he?"

"He’s sleeping. He needs his rest. He hasn’t slept since yesterday."

"I just need to talk to him. You see we had a fight."

"I know." I said bluntly. "I know you did."

"Then maybe you can help him understand."

"Understand what exactly?"

"That he needs to come home. He’s too young to be out on the streets by himself all alone."

"He’s not alone. There’s more than one person willing to give Lucas somewhere to stay. He’ll never be on the streets. And he’ll never be alone."

"Where is he, Storm? I need to see him. Just tell me where he is."

"No. No. Look, you’re Lucas’ mother so I’m going to try and be tactful about this. I never said anything to you before because I didn’t feel it was my place to interfere but I don’t think you get it. Someone has to tell you that…you’re a terrible mother. You’re manipulative, controlling, interfering and just downright nasty. For as long as I’ve known you, you look at Lucas like you’ve got some sort of chip on your shoulder. Was it because he got Ashley pregnant? Was it because he told you he’s bisexual? Was it because he got involved with me? Is it because he doesn’t meet your standards or something? Is it because you had to move here because of him? Why do you treat him so bad? He’s so awesome, he’s such a beautiful person with a good heart. He doesn’t deserve the shit you give him. Why can’t you see how fantastic your own son is? You should be proud of him. I don’t understand." I said with a bewildered look on my face.

"You’re right. You don’t understand. You don’t understand. And neither does Lucas. But he needs to come home. I can help him."

"You still don’t get it. Lucas isn’t going home. His home is where his heart is and let me tell you, it’s not where you live. Until you realize what you’ve done to him. There’s no chance he’s even going to talk to you again."

"So who’s going to take care of him then? Who’s going to make his dinner? Who’s going to feed him? Who’s going to clean his room? Do his laundry? Pay for his education? Clothe him? If Lucas cries at night because he can’t be with the girl he loves, who’s going to call her parents and beg them to let him see her? And when those people tell you that your son isn’t good enough for their daughter and that he’s ruined her life, who’s going to hold him and tell him everything will be ok? Who’s going to cry at night knowing your son’s heart is breaking and there’s nothing you can do about it? Who’s going to relocate their entire life so their son can have a fresh start and try to move past his pain? Tell me who’s going to do all that for their son?"

"Oh…my…" I said in disbelief, unable to fathom the significance of what Mira was telling me. "You…you did all that? But…I don’t understand. No…no…you’re supposed to be…"

"The evil mother who doesn’t love her son? Let me tell you a few things, Storm." Mira said taking my hands and squeezing them tightly in her own as tears filled her eyes. "I wasn’t always like the woman you think I am. I used to have a very good relationship with my son. This may be hard for you to understand. And even I don’t. But the real reason we moved here wasn’t because our reputations were tarnished by our ‘baby making’ son. I tried to make the Miller’s see reason. When they sent Ashley away and Lucas was doing terribly in school, he was depressed, unhappy, I knew what I had to do. He’d been through a lot and it was my decision for us to move. John didn’t want it. And to be honest neither did I. I didn’t care about the gossip and judgmental looks, I could have survived that. But I knew Lucas was unhappy. So I decided for us to move."

"Does Lucas know any of this?"

"No. I’ve never told him. It’s not important. There is more I need to tell you so you understand. Now I won’t lie to you. Finding out about Ashley’s pregnancy and then Lucas being bisexual and then our whole move here, it took its toll. I didn’t handle Lucas’ bisexuality very well at all. Ashley’s pregnancy I could handle but then finding out Lucas was bisexual. It was too much. And the move here put a great deal of stress on my marriage. It put John and I under a great deal of stress, emotionally and financially. I think I started blaming Lucas after he told us he was bisexual. I started feeling bitter towards my own son. The move here was rough, my marriage was under stress, we weren’t settling in well. We were financially strained. I was under so much stress I began channeling it towards Lucas. Blaming him. Feeling bitter towards him. I’ve felt so bitter towards him for so long it became a part of me. I didn’t know how to feel any other way."

"There’s no black and white story here is there. Just shades of gray. I…I don’t know what to say."

"I know I have to change. I still have a hard time with him being bisexual. I’m sorry it’s just how I was brought up to believe that it’s wrong. And I believe it is. I don’t think anything will change that. I’ll try…but Lucas has made things so difficult for himself. He comes from one difficult situation right into another. He always had to do things the hard way."

"I guess that’s one thing we have in common."

"You’re a good young man. I know that. I know how strongly my son feels about you. I just wish he didn’t."

"You were secretly hoping he’d get back with Ashley weren’t you?"

"I know he cared for Ashley a great deal. She’s a fine young woman just like you’re a fine young man. I think she could make Lucas happy."

"No she couldn’t. She couldn’t." I said flatly. "When are you going to understand? It’s m…"

I was interrupted by the phone ringing but I couldn’t be bothered answering it. I was too busy caught up in a heated moment with Lucas’ mother. Someone with whom I was becoming fast unenamored. I tried to take a few deep breaths before I blew off the handle and just told her to get out.

"Storm! PHONE!" Dade yelled from upstairs.

"Tell them I’m busy!" I snapped back with a yell.

"It’s important! You want to take this call, Bro!"

"Who is it!?"

"It’s Ashley!"

"Holy shit…" I said in disbelief as I shot to my feet, my heart doing double time and my head starting to feel a bit light.

I gulped as I stood to my feet and was soon greeted by Dade who’d run down the stairs to bring me the handset to his cordless. "She wants to speak to you." Dade said handing me his phone, shrugging his shoulders at me and looking as shocked and dumbfounded as I was.

"Ashley?" Mira said in just as surprised shock. "Lucas’ Ashley?"

Both Dade and Mira watched me anxiously as I stood completely caught off guard and almost losing my breath with anxiety. My stomach was turning knots and I almost felt like I was hyperventilating.

"Hello?" I stammered a little breathless and extremely nervous as I put the phone to my ear.

"Storm?"

"Ashley?" I gulped.

"So…you’re the guy that stole my Lucas’ heart. It’s…a pleasure to finally hear your voice. Lucas has told me so much about you."

"Really? Until a few days ago I’d never even heard of you."

"Really? Until a couple days ago I’d never even heard of you either."

"Well…not to sound rude but…how the hell did you get my phone number and what do you want?"

"Sharp. I like that. Lucas called me today from your house. I got your number off my Caller ID. I actually called for Lucas. He was supposed to fly up here to stay with me but I never heard from him. I just wanted to make sure he’s ok. I’m hoping he never came up because you two sorted things out and he sorted things out with his mother."

"Actually…a friend stopped him from leaving. I haven’t had much of a chance to speak with Lucas. He’s sleeping at a friend’s house right now. I think he’s got a lot of sleep to catch up on."

"Yeah he had a little sleep up here when he came. But he didn’t sleep again before he left so he should be pretty tired. He was in a hurry to get back."

"Well he’s ok, Ashley. I’ll make sure someone tells him you called. I’m sure he’ll call you back as soon as he can."

"Storm…do you mind if we talk awhile? I would really appreciate it."

"Uhh ok. Could you just hold the line one minute please?"

"Sure. I’ll hold."

I pushed the hold button and turned to face Mira who still sat listening intently. "I need to take this call. You’re welcome to wait but I believe we’ve said everything we need to."

"Storm, I need my son. Today. Please ask him to call me. Or at least his father just to let him know he’s ok. And could you please tell Ashley I said hello and I hope she’s doing ok."

"I will tell her and I will make sure Lucas calls you or his father. You have my word. Now if you’ll excuse me…" I said bluntly as I left the kitchen dragging Dade along behind me as we headed upstairs. "Dade, it’s Ashley! Lucas’ Ashley!"

"Duh. I answered the phone, remember?"

"Oh yeah. Hey, Dade…" I said putting my hands on Dade’s shoulders.

"What?"

"Uhh I’m not sure how to say this but…Marcel’s back."

"WHAT?" Dade yelled in surprise, his face looking at me as if I had of just told him I got a girl pregnant or something.

"Marcel’s back. He’s here in Merlow."

"And I suppose I’m the last to know?" Dade asked a little pissed off.

"Well…I…I think so. I just thought I should tell you."

"Nice to know where I fit in the scheme of things." Dade fumed storming back into his room, about to slam the door shut.

I held his door back just as it was about to flatten my face. "Dade, it’s not like that. He was scared to see you. He’s nervous ok? He’s saving you for last. Save the best for last or something. I’m sure that’s it."

"Why’s he here? A few days ago he dumps me because he doesn’t think he’ll be coming back after his first six months and now here is like three days later back in Merlow. You’ll excuse me if I feel like I just got played."

"He’s only here because his grandmother died. He’ll only be here in Merlow tonight. He’s flying out to Larraine with his parents tonight. He is going to see you though. I know that much. Just be prepared and try to think about what you want and what you’re going to say before he actually gets here. You don’t want to be wasting any time now."

"Geez here I am going off like an ass and Marcel’s grandmother just died. I suck."

"No you don’t. You rule and you know it. So does Marcel. I have to finish this call ok? But just…think happy thoughts ok?" I said smiling at Dade as I patted him on the shoulder. "Everything will be fine."

"Thanks, Storm. She sounds nice so don’t go on the offensive too soon, ok? Now get outta here." Dade smiled as he sat back on his bed and pulled out his guitar.

He didn’t need to say anything more. Once Dade pulls out that guitar, he’s in his zone. I quickly departed and went back to my own room. I closed my door behind me before I flopped down onto my bed and put the phone to my head. "Ashley?"

"Hi."

"Sorry about that. Lucas’ mother was here. I just had to get rid of her. She says hello and says she hopes you’re doing ok."

"Mira? I did not realize. That was nice of her to say hello. Tell her I said hi and I’m doing fine. I would have called you back so you could deal with her. How is she?"

"Well…she’s ok I guess. Worried about Lucas. You probably knew her before she turned into super bitch huh?"

"Bitch? Lucas’ Mother? Menopause?"

I couldn’t help bursting out laughing when Ashley said menopause but I quickly stifled myself. "You know I thought exactly the same thing. I’m not sure if she’s old enough to get it though. I know my Mom definitely isn’t."

"How old is your Mom? If you don’t mind me asking."

"She’s 38."

"Wow! She’s really young. Lucas told me you had an older sister…uhh Abby was it?"

"Yeah Abby. She’s 22 now. Mom had her when she was like 16 or something."

"Your Mom sounds really impressive. Lucas seems to be very fond of her. Apparently not everyone including Lucas is fond of his own mother anymore."

"Well she’s changed a lot. She’d still rather Lucas be with you than me but she told me your parents didn’t like Lucas."

"My parent’s are image people. They didn’t think Lucas was up to scratch. He was too free and easy for them. Wasn’t alum material. They didn’t think he was smart enough for me. His parents weren’t…affluent like us. He didn’t come from our circle of ‘acquaintances’. Lucas was the complete opposite of everything my parent’s wanted for me. I didn’t care. You and I both know how sweet he is. How we can both just melt when he smiles at us. How he makes us feel so special. What a big heart he has. Lucas was everything I wanted."

"And now?"

"Well…now things have changed. A lot has happened to me as I’m sure you know. I’m a lot stronger and more independent. Less na´ve. I’m not the same Ashley he used to love. And he’s not my Lucas. He’s so different now. Twice as sweet and just as special. When I saw him again…I cried. I cried so much. I never thought I’d see him again. See he’d already moved once I was away from my parent’s and there was no way I could find him. I thought he’d come back for me. I could tell though when I saw him…he didn’t. I could see the look in his eyes that said he didn’t even want to be there. He used to dote after me so much, he used to want me so much and it was like nothing had ever happened between us. He just wasn’t my Lucas anymore."

"I’m sorry."

"Don’t be. It’s not your fault. I wish he hadn’t come back though."

"Why?"

"I liked thinking about Lucas the way I used to know him. I didn’t want to see a Lucas that didn’t love me. It just hurt to not have him feel the same way about me because he was the first guy I really loved. I lost my vi…"

"Really? You too? Maybe we should call him the cherry poppin’ daddy."

"I doubt he’d like that."

"Do you want him back?"

"That’s a tough one. No…I don’t think so. I’m a much different person now and so is Lucas. Seeing him just made me realize that. I don’t think I’d want to go back there. To the past I mean. We’ve both changed. Although is it just me or is Lucas just a lot more of a hunk?"

"I won’t argue with you on that one." I said letting out a small laugh. "He sure is that."

"From what I’ve seen, so are you."

"Seen?"

"Yeah. Lucas has a whole bunch of photos of you in his wallet."

"Oooh, scary. I never knew he carried photos of me around." I said getting a case of the shivers. "That’s creepy."

"Why? Is it a bit too binding for you? A bit too cutesy couple like? A bit too long term maybe? I mean a person doesn’t carry photos around of the person they’re with unless it’s really serious."

"I knew Lucas and I had something serious I just didn’t realize it was like that. I mean, I don’t carry pictures of him around in my wallet."

"Was that your brother I spoke to before? Dade was it? He was in one of the photos. Is…is he single?"

"Dade?" I said beginning to laugh at my brother’s draw power. "Is Dade single? Well it just so happens that he is. Only just."

"Do you think it would be too weird if I asked him out on a date sometime?"

"Dade? You want to ask my brother out on a date?"

"Well he’s so cute. He looks so spunky and he has a confident smile. I was looking at the photo and you know I wasn’t looking at Lucas. Go figure. My eyes were stuck on your brother."

"Oh this is too weird. Dade will really need an ego check after this. Not that he has an ego mind you. My brother’s great. He’s the captain of his hockey team. He’s loyal. He’s popular. He’s really mature and pretty intelligent. Did I mention he’s popular?"

"You don’t need to sell me. Lucas already told me all about him. Of course he didn’t know why I was asking. I was just curious…of course. But from what I hear and see, I’d love to go out sometime with your brother."

"But you live all the way in Hamilton."

"I’m coming down to visit Marty Lee not this weekend but the weekend after. And if Dade and I click well…I’ll be visiting my brother quite often." Ashley said with slight mischief in her voice and I could tell she was smiling on the other end.

"So do you want to talk to him on the phone or do you want me to ask him out for you?"

"What do you think I should do?"

"If you want to make sure you get a date, let me ask him. If I ask him he’ll go out with you."

"You’d do that?"

"Well why don’t you call me back tomorrow and we’ll see how things go? Dade’s sorta got something going on tonight that might change whether he’s single or not tomorrow. Call me tomorrow though and I’ll let you know."

"Thanks, Storm. I will. I hope he likes me."

"Well I’ve seen you and I like you so I’m pretty sure he will too." I said smiling.

"You probably think I’m weird ringing you out of the blue and asking you if I can go out with your brother. I didn’t mean to, I just started talking to you and figured what the heck. I actually wanted to talk to you about Lucas. I just wanted you to know that I’m not a threat so don’t worry about that. And I wanted you to know how much in love Lucas is with you."

"Why?"

"Because I still care about him and I want him to be happy. And Lucas has told me so much about you I feel like I already know you a bit. I want you both to be happy. Lucas told me about the necklace. He told me how you gave it back, gave him your car. Which I would never have done by the way. Of course you love him more than I do so that’s probably why. I thought that was a really big thing of you to do to let him go like that. Lucas thinks so highly of you. He always seemed to find a way to talk about you. And he’d blush when he did talk about you. Every conversation would somehow end up having you in it and something you did for Lucas, or something he finds so attractive about you, he even told me how you irritate him sometimes because you’re so stubborn and bull headed. He knows your strengths and weaknesses. He doesn’t have some false impression of you. He’s seriously in love with you. Not infatuated like he was with me. He never whispered my name in his sleep that’s for sure."

"Oh yeah…" I smiled. "He does that sometimes."

"Well he was pining for you a lot while he was up here, Storm. Seriously. He was scared to go back to you because you might not take him back but I think he was even more scared of not seeing you. I just wanted to say that I’ve never seen Lucas like this with anyone before. Not even me. He really cares about you a lot. More than that. He loves you. We both think you’re the one for him. He even called you his soul mate. That must mean something doesn’t it? Please give him another chance."

"YOU are asking ME to give him another chance? How’s that for a plot twist. I think it was easier with me thinking you’re the perfect girl who’s going to kick my ass all the way to singleville. Well…I will give Lucas another try. I’m just giving him time to rest and I’m giving me time to think. I think a bit of space will do us both some good. Things will work out though. I’m positive."

"Ok, well I should let you go. I just wanted to hear this Storm persons voice that I’d heard so much about. I wanted to make sure Lucas was ok too. But I’m sure you’ll look after him won’t you?"

"I will."

"Good." Ashley said conveying the ‘or else you’ll have me to deal with’ tone without actually having to say the words. "Ok, Storm well I’ll s…"

"Wait, Ashley. I want to talk to you about some things too. I wanted to ask you about your brother, Marty Lee…"

"Why do I get the feeling this will be the downpoint of the conversation?"

"There’s some things I need to know…"

 

* * * * * * *

 

"There they are." Marcel said taking June’s arm as he pointed to Mike and his father Bill.

June saw that Mike and Bill were sitting at a picnic table just on the edge of Lake Herren. This was one of Mike’s favorite spots to think and it was a generally populated area during the day being part of the most popular park in Merlow.

"Wait…" June said holding Marcel back from approaching Mike. "I don’t know why I’m here."

"Because you’re worried about Mike."

"But…I’m not his mother..." June said taking a step back as she watched Mike and Bill talking seemingly pleasantly together.

"Do you have any idea how much it would hurt him if you said that? Right now you’re the biggest anchor and influence on his life. Surely you must have noticed how much happier he is since he’s been living with you. His grades are the best they’ve ever been, he seems a lot happier with his football game. Even Sarah tells me how thankful she is that Mike’s living with you. You’ve always been the mother in his life. Don’t take that away from him. You have a right to be here." Marcel said firmly.

"Look at them. Bill seems so happy to see Mike." June frowned, feeling a pang in her heart that caused her face to show pain she never meant to.

June felt a flood of nervous anxiety wash over her as she watched Mike and Bill hug before bidding each other farewell. She didn’t want to admit it to herself but the idea of Mike maybe leaving her was something that killed her inside. June loved him as if he were her own son. She’d always tried to be unbiased by helping Bill get himself back on track and by making sure Mike didn’t completely turn away from his father. However inside she often felt that ever since Mike had been living as a permanent member of her household, she would have a very hard time living without him. Seeing Mike and his father make such a big step forward in their reconciling made her fear that his time to leave was coming sooner than she would have liked.

As Mike sat back down at the picnic table, Bill began walking away to his car before he noticed June standing with Marcel watching them. Bill smiled and raised a small wave as he headed towards her. June straightened herself up and Marcel cursed in distain as Bill approached both of them. A large man with broad shoulders and strong build. His years of drinking evident in his slight pot belly but apart from that he was man with an intimidating stature. Looking at his face, June actually found it comforting that Mike received most of his looks from his late mother, June’s best friend. It was a reminder that June often found brought a reflective smile to her face but just as often it was what brought the rage out of Bill. Mike looked too much like his mother. That was the problem to Bill. Mike was a constant reminder of what he didn’t have anymore. In Bill’s often drunken states that was not often a good thing as Mike had frequently felt.

"Hello, June." Bill said civilly, nodding in acknowledgement as he stepped next to June and Marcel.

"Bill." June said flatly.

"Hello, Marcel." Bill said extending his hand to Marcel.

"Fuck off, Dick." Marcel snapped bitterly as he walked off towards Mike, leaving June and Bill standing by themselves.

"Well, he still doesn’t like me. He never was shy about sticking it to me."

"Neither was I." June said angrily. "You know what our deal was. You were supposed to tell me before you saw Mike. I was supposed to be here when you met."

"And you’re here. What’s your problem, June?"

"Did Mike tell you I had no idea he was going to meet you?"

"He just told me he wanted to see me. I’m his father. What am I going to say? No?"

"Of course not. But you could have called me. You know you’re not supposed to be alone with him."

"I’ve been sober for two months. How am I supposed to make things right with Mike if I’m not even allowed to see him?"

"By not fucking up in the first place." June said vehemently. " Believe me, Bill. I am doing everything I can on my end to make sure Mike doesn’t end up hating you. And as you can see it’s obviously worked."

"And I am very grateful for that. Believe me I am. I just want my son back. I know how to do things right now. I’ve done all the counseling, been with AA. I’ve done everything I’m supposed to. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t love Mike."

"Don’t…" June said raising her index finger to pause Bill from speaking any further. "Don’t use that word. As far as I’m concerned you’re a sick bastard. You lay your hands on your own son. Beat him stupid as if he’s your property and you don’t need to worry about the ramifications of your actions. It makes me sick to my stomach to think I have to help Mike not think of you as a monster. Because that’s what you are to me. A monster. Nobody should hurt someone as beautiful as Mike, let alone their own son. People who hurt their own children whether it’s physically or psychologically, like you and that bitch I spoke to the other day. You all make me sick."

"Ahh save it. I want my son back. And I’m going to get him back. You’ll just have to get used to it."

"Don’t force my hand, Bill. And next time you want to see Mike. You call me first. Those conditions are now non negotiable. I make the rules."

"Fine. I’ll call you tomorrow, June. There are a few things we need to talk about."

"Like what?"

"Like me making sure you don’t raise my son to be a faggot like yours."

"WHAT?" June yelled almost blown away by what Bill had just said to her.

"You heard me. I want my son out of your house as soon as possible before he ends up like a faggot. I know about Storm and who knows how long it’ll be till that other one turns out to be queer too. I don’t want my son ending up like that."

"You’re an idiot, Bill." June said surprising herself as an unphased smile broke out on her face. "A stupid half wit idiot. You have absolutely no idea. Here’s a messed up drunk loser of a father telling me that I’m raising my kids wrong? I practically raised your kid, Buddy. If you think my kids are screwed up, then he must already be screwed up. You see that smile on his face? You see the grades he’s getting? You see how happy he is? Oh yes my kids are all screwed up, Bill. Here I am getting parenting critiques from the child basher. Get lost, Bill. You’re an idiot." June said leaving an angry Bill standing on his own.

June looked back as Bill shook his head in anger and frustration before he pulled his keys out of his pocket and walked away. She turned back to see Mike and Marcel deep in conversation before she sat down at the table next to them and let out a deep breath of tired relief. "Well, I’m glad that’s over."

"Mom, are you ok? You look tired." Mike said stroking his hand through June’s hair.

"I am tired." June sighed. "Very tired."

"Why don’t you get away for a few days? We’ll be ok. You haven’t had a break in so long. Come on, Mom. I’m worried about you. You need a break."

"I agree, Mom." Marcel piped in. "Do what the man says. Take a break!"

"I can’t leave you by yourself, Mike. Not now. You should have told me about wanting to meet your father, Mike. I really felt out of the loop not knowing about it. I’m supposed to be your…the person who looks after you."

"I’m sorry, Mom. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. Honest. It was completely out of the blues. It had just been on my mind a lot lately and I had to see him."

"Mike, I always knew that someday you’d go back to your father. I tried to keep telling myself it was for the best. But…it won’t be easy for me to let you go. I just hope you don’t ever forget how much I love you. No matter what happens. I’m not a perfect Mom. I just try to do my best. Just don’t forget the way I feel about you ok?"

"What about me?" Marcel said shoving Mike playfully. "Forget the rest! I’m the best!"

"Mike, are you ok?"

"I’m fine, Mom. I promise. And I’m sorry for not calling you."

"It’s fine, Mike. He’s your father. I can’t stop you from seeing him. It’s not my place to."

"If you told me not to see him…" Mike said putting his hand on top of June’s as he looked her in the eye. "I wouldn’t. And just so you know. I love living with you. I love living with my brothers. And I don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. I’ve got a good thing going on. I wanna keep it."

June just smiled proudly back at Mike before she kissed him on the forehead and stood up. "Why don’t the three of us grab ourselves a big ice cream sundae? Marcel, I don’t think you and I even ended up eating a spoon of that chicken soup. Maybe we should grab ourselves something substantial to eat while we’re at it."

"Oh I’m not sure. Sarah’s getting lots of food ready for a barbeque tonight at my house by the pool before I have to leave tonight. Why don’t you come? We’re meeting at six. What time do you have to be back for your next shift?"

"You’re working another shift!?" Mike said sounding a little irritated and angry. "Oh come on, Mom. You gotta be kidding. Give it a rest for crying out loud. You’re not superwoman. If it’s for the money you know Storm and I will both do whatever we have to do to contribute."

"Mike, I’m just filling in for a friend so he can spend time with his family. You know I make more than enough to support all of us. I work hard so none of you kids have to worry about anything. Sometimes that means I have to work extra hours but Mike, I only do it so none of you ever have to worry. I’ll make sure you’re always well provided for."

"And who makes sure you’re well provided for? Slow down, Mom. Please. Just slow down."

"I agree. Tell Dr. Arraway he has to come back in to work and then you come hang with us for the evening. We’ll make you dinner."

"Tempting but I can’t. Sorry, guys."

"Ugh. Let’s go get that sundae then."

 

* * * * * * *

 

Lucas slowly opened his eyes and began surveying his surroundings. He soon realized he was in Marcel’s room alone. No Storm in sight. Lucas knew Storm was here before but his weakened state left him powerless to do anything to stop Storm from leaving. Lucas turned his head and saw the envelope Storm had left behind on his pillow.

"Maybe I should just leave you closed and save myself some grief." Lucas sighed, fully aware of the fact that Storm did not feel the same about him now.

However, Lucas continued to take the envelope and carefully slipped it open and pulled out it’s contents. A single letter. Lucas closed his eyes and took a deep breath, solitary tears escaping him as he realized the importance of what he was opening. "Please  forgive me, Storm. Please."

Dear Lucas,

I don’t know much anymore. But this is how I feel.

I don’t know if you love me
I don’t know if I care
I don’t know if I love you
I don’t know if you care

I only know I want to see
If indeed you do belong to me
I want to look into your eyes
And see what lurks behind the lies
Is it love? Is it hope?
Is it some sick demented joke?

The truth is, I don’t really care
I just have to be aware
Of how you feel and how I am
See if our love was just a…dream

Find me before the sun sets. I’m closer than you think. This is it, Lucas.

-Storm.

 

* * * * * * *

 

"Dade…can I come in please?" Marcel asked nervously as he stood at Dade’s door.

"No."

"Please, Dade?" Marcel begged anxiously. "Please."

"No."

"Dade…" Marcel said barely audibly. "Please…"

"Ok…"

Marcel walked in to see Dade sitting on his bed with his guitar in his arms. Dade’s room was filled with the light that poured in through the window, casting a radiant glow on Dade. Marcel managed to raise a bittersweet smile as he realized how beautiful he thought Dade was and how much he’d missed seeing him in person.

"You look good." Dade said flatly.

"You look better." Marcel replied as he leaned back against Dade’s closed door.

"I’m sorry about your grandmother."

"Thanks." Marcel said taking a deep breath. "I’m sorry for dumping you."

"Yeah well, shit happens." Dade said as he leant his head down to play a few chords, trying to distract himself from feeling what Marcel was feeling.

"You know…I really don’t know what to say. I feel like Lucas. Hopeless."

"I…I don’t know what to say either. Maybe we should just stay away from each other."

Marcel took a few steps towards Dade and took the guitar from his hands before he placed it on the bed. He took Dade’s hands and pulled him to his feet before he slowly pulled Dade towards him while he slid his arms around Dade’s waist. Marcel leant in and smelled Dade’s hair and then slowly wrapped his arms around Dade tighter and tighter until Dade was completely in his arms. "You don’t really want that do you?"

"Yeah well, I didn’t want you to dump me either. You can’t always have what you want."

Marcel leant in and gently kissed Dade on his lips, just enough to let Dade know how he still felt as their lips touched for a brief moment. "I love you."

"That’s nice. That still doesn’t change how I feel about us."

"I’ll give you anything you want. Anything you want. All I want is you." Marcel said almost in a state of bliss as his hands wandered and he inhaled in every scent of Dade’s clean hair and soft skin as he could. "I’ll do anything."

"Stay."

"Huh?" Marcel said caught off guard.

"Stay."

"Ask me to stay. Ask me to stay and I’ll stay."

"If you want me. You have to stay. That’s the only way I’ll get back with you. I’m sorry but that’s just how it is. Long distance relationships suck. I’m not going through another three months of that again."

"I’ll stay. For you. You don’t mean I can’t go to my grandmother’s funeral though right?"

"Of course not." Dade said shaking his head. I just mean I can’t go through another three months of being away from you and still having you be the first thing on my mind. I can’t ok? I’m sorry."

"Don’t be. I’m not. I’ll stay, Dade. I’ll stay. I’ll call Drake as soon as I get back from Larraine and I’ll tell them I can’t go back. I just want to be with you."

"You’d stay for me?" Dade asked, looking into Marcel’s eyes for the first time since he walked into the room.

"I would. But only if you kiss me." Marcel smiled.

Dade smiled back at Marcel as he leant forward and pressed his lips against Marcel’s. Making slow steady work of Marcel’s eager lips. Dade’s hands wandered up underneath Marcel’s shirt, his fingers dancing like feathers on Marcel’s skin. Marcel let out a small whimper as Dade pinched his left nipple just as their tongues met and entered a full make out session. Suddenly Dade pulled away just as his fingers circled Marcel’s right nipple.

"Hey did I say you could stop kissing me?" Marcel asked a little breathless. "Oh man you are still the best kisser I have ever met."

"You never told me you got your nipple pierced?"

"You never asked."

"Take your shirt off. I wanna see it."

Marcel slowly slid his shirt up over his head exposing his strong well built chest and tanned supple skin that gave away how much time Marcel spent in the sun out at Drake. A single small silver ring pierced Marcel’s right nipple causing Dade to stare uncontrollably.

"Damn, that’s cool." Dade grinned, playing with the ring softly between his fingers. "Does it hurt?"

"Tickles. When I first got it, it did hurt a little. But I really like it. When we do swim training or just hang out in the sun, people tend to stare. And you know how much I like attention." Marcel smiled.

"Not as much as people think you do." Dade said wrapping his arms around Marcel’s neck as he slipped a small angel kiss.

"It feels really good to be with you again, Dade. I’ve been waiting for this for so long."

"I know. I’m really happy you’re here too. Can you tell by the way I’m beaming right now?" Dade smiled.

"What happens now?"

"What happens now?" Dade grinned mischievously. "I’m going to blow your mind. Try not to scream…"

 

* * * * * * *

 

Water is to me what air is to a bird. I love floating in it, gliding beneath the surface, swimming in it. And right now that’s where I was. Gliding beneath the surface of Marcel’s huge pool. Sometimes I wish I could breathe underwater and just glide here forever. Or lie beneath the surface and see the world from the outside looking in. But as always I had to come up eventually.

As I looked up out of the water just as I came to the surface, I saw a familiar figure standing at the pool edge. When I came up through the water surface and used the steps at the shallow pool end, I saw that it was none other than Lucas. Still looking tired, still looking drawn and drained.

As I stepped out of the pool, Lucas silently stepped toward me holding my towel. I extended my arm to take the towel from him but instead of giving it to me he gently began drying my arm. He didn’t make eye contact with me, perhaps fearing that if he did he would have seen the ‘stop’ look in my eyes. I didn’t stop him though.

He began softly drying my shoulders and chest with the towel, begin as gentle as he could and making sure he didn’t miss a spot. I just stood motionless, letting him do what he wanted. I almost shuddered as he brushed the towel gently across my abs and waist. I’m pretty sensitive and ticklish around there, I think Lucas knew this and was playing on it.

He stepped behind me and rubbed my back down with the towel. When I felt the towel leave my body I thought he was done but he picked up a completely dry towel and exceedingly lovingly wrapped it around me. Rubbing my arms as he did, trying to warm me up as I shivered slightly.

"Thank you." I said raising a small smile.

Lucas just barely managed to smile back at me. His face seemed so sad I wonder how he managed to even make a tiny smile.

"Have I lost you?" Lucas asked in a whisper, still unable to look me in the eye.

I sat down at the edge of the pool and let my legs and feet dangle in the water. My eyes gazing into the water as I tried to contemplate what Lucas had just said.

"Storm?"

I put my finger to my lips and said nothing, hoping that Lucas would soon catch on. Lucas slipped off his sandals and sat down beside me as we both dangled our feet in the water next to each other. I wanted this to be over and done with and this was the only way I could think of. I had to know for sure.

I turned to look at Lucas and he slowly turned his face to meet mine. Our eyes locked onto the others and I bore my way through Lucas’ exterior and into those eyes. The one place the truth always lay. I’m sure he was doing exactly the same thing to me as I was doing to him but we both had to know. Was there still anything there?

My eyes poured passed Lucas’ own and began the familiar journey into his soul. We peered into each other, searching for answers. I found desire. My own.

As I looked into Lucas’ eyes I realized he meant every word he said. He loves me. I am his ‘one’. Lucas’ eyes were soon sad and downcast as I believe he saw that I did not love him. He was wrong.

"Lucas…" I said quietly as I turned away.

"Yeah, Storm?"

I put my left hand down at my side and extended my fingers. Lucas slowly and tentatively slid his fingers along the palm of my hand. His face laiden with pain and silent tears as he reinitiated himself with my skin as if for the first time. I closed my eyes and finally Lucas’ hand fell completely on top of mine and I locked our fingers in an intertwining clasp. Our hands holding onto the other and squeezing for an instant as if our very lives depended on it.

We held hands and I knew we were back together now. Journeying on our rocky road to a renewed coupling. We both looked at each other again. This time in acknowledgement and bittersweet joy. Nothing was said. Not exactly the reunion I hoped for. No declarations of love or long wanted embraces. Just this.

And for now this was all I needed.

 

* * * * * * *

 

We all sat around in a group beside Marcel’s barbeque, each with a glass in our hand. Dade, Marcel, Sarah, Mike, Lucas and I. We were all anxiously waiting for when we could just dig in and have some of the awesome spread Sarah had prepared for our get together tonight. She sure knew how to plan her parties whether they were big or small.

"Ok, ok, Guys. I suggest a toast. So everyone raise their glasses." Sarah said with a slightly amused smile on her face. "Chenin Blanc for the big people and OJ for the little people."

"What the hell does Chenin Blanc mean anyway?" Dade asked looking over the bottle of wine that Sarah had brought. "I’ll take OJ over this fancy piss any day."

"Me too." Mike chimed in.

"Well…I guess that just means Sarah and I are toasting with this stuff then." Lucas said picking up his wine glass.

"I’ll stick to the OJ." Marcel said raising his glass.

"Yeah well even if I wanted to drink the stuff I couldn’t. OJ for me too." I said raising my glass.

"This is for us." Sarah said raising her glass. "For Lucas FINALLY realizing that he will never ever get away from us. You’re stuck with us forever, Pretty Boy. So get used to it. AND for Marcel finally deciding to come back to see us. It only took his grandmother dying to get him back here. This is for Dade for just being so damn spunky you want to lick him all over. For Mike being the greatest hubby I’ve ever had. No offence, Storm."

"Oh none taken." I said smirking with a ‘hmpf’ look on my face. "Just don’t expect me to nibble you in all the right places again…" I said grinning mischievously.

"And for Storm. For just being that…damn…good." Sarah said smiling at me almost proudly. "My best bud in the whole world and the reason why most of us are all friends today. You’ve been playing it a bit low key lately, Storm but I haven’t forgotten what you mean to me and to us. What we all mean to each other. No matter what seems to happen we always find our way back to each other. All of us. Just when we need each other most. A while ago we all except Dade, asked where we’d be in five years. Here’s what I think. Storm and Lucas will still be together. Lucas will be a model or something. Storm will be a…personal trainer or teacher…screenwriter…movie producer…any of the above. Something unusual anyway. Dade will be…a musician…or an actor. Marcel will…still be blonde." Sarah smiled. "He’ll either be a triathelete, an athlete competing nationally or something else to do with sports. Mike will be a pro footballer or a teacher. And I’ll be…well I’m still not sure about that yet. But I know one thing I will be…"

Mike gulped and took this as his cue to stand up and put his arm around Sarah while we all watched on anxiously trying to work out what they were about to say. "You’re pregnant!" I yelled shooting to my feet, surprising even myself.

"Holy shit." Marcel gasped almost choking on his drink. "Sarah’s preggers?"

"I’m gonna be an uncle!" Dade smiled proudly. "Wicked cool!"

"A baby?" Lucas said looking down at the ground in reflective mourning. "That’s great."

"No!" Mike said putting his hands in the air. "Sarah’s not pregnant."

"I’m not pregnant." Sarah said with her own look of forlorn disappointment.

Right at that moment I saw something in Sarah’s eyes. Something that made me worry about her. I don’t think she wanted to be pregnant…but there was something else. Something else behind her distant eyes that seemed full of sadness. Something’s not right here.

"I asked Sarah to marry me."

"WHAT?" I yelled, once again being the first person to respond to Mike and Sarah’s attempts at making their announcement. "Are you crazy? You’re too young. Does Mom know about this?"

"Storm…" Dade said grabbing my hand. "Sit the fuck down."

"Married?" Marcel said taking another drink of his OJ. "Maybe I’ll have some of that wine after all."

"Come on you guys. I thought you’d be happy for us."

"We are, Bro." Dade said flatly. "But if you’re so sure you and Sarah will be together forever which I personally am betting on. What’s the rush? You’re still both so young. Good things take time."

"We never said we were getting married now. In a few years maybe. But I’ve asked Sarah to marry me. She asked me to marry her. We both want this. We’ve been through a lot together and I want Sarah to be my wife." Mike said both his arms around Sarah from behind almost defensively. "I love Sarah. We just wanted to tell you guys."

"I’m sorry, Mike. I was just surprised. I’m sorry for going off at you like that. I’m happy for you guys. I’m sure all of us will be happy once you two tie the knot. How many years from now are you thinking?"

"Well…maybe two years from now. We’re both pretty set on what we want. I’m not letting this chick get away from me that’s for sure." Mike said with a big smile on his face.

"I think you guys make a great couple." Lucas said smiling sadly but still genuine.

"The best." Dade said raising his glass and hinting at us to raise all of ours.

"I’m with the Dadester on this one." Marcel said raising his glass. "The best."

"The best." I said raising my own glass. "To Mike and Sarah."

"Mike and Sarah."

It felt a bit silly toasting with OJ but since the majority of us didn’t drink, that’s what we went with. Mike and Sarah both seemed happy that we supported them. Right now I felt really lucky to be surrounded by all of my closest friends and some of the people I cared most about in the world. I think we were all feeling the same thing as we looked at each other with lingering smiles and glances. Even Dade who doesn’t usually hang with us, seemed to be really enjoying himself.

"Ok, ok. A quick photo guys." Marcel said grabbing his camera and setting it directly opposite the six of us. "It’s on auto time."

Marcel came and quickly stood beside us as we all put on our most ridiculous poses for the camera. Sarah put on her ‘I am cool’ stance while Mike and I tried our best to look as stupid as the other by doing superhero poses. There was no doubt about it. We were all certifiably crazy. But damn it felt cool.

"Ok everyone say…Storm loves wearing lipstick!"

"What the fuck?" I yelled in surprise just as the flash went off and caught my not too happy face.

"Woo, ok there’s two more coming." Marcel said getting into position again.

"Marcel likes Hanson!"

"WHAT?" Marcel yelled as the flash went off, giving the same reaction I just did when he’d gotten me.

"Hey you two dipshits." Sarah said perturbed. "Behave."

Well that pretty much did it. We managed to get the final photo off without a hitch and I had a funny feeling that this would be a photo we’d all love to remember. This just felt like one of those moments we’d remember for a long time. Just the six of us. Together. Being jackasses. What more could a guy want?

"Well, I dunno about you guys but I’m hungry. How about I get this barbeque fired up. How long till your parents get here, Marcel?" Mike asked as we broke out of our photo positions.

"About an hour or so. We fly out at nine."

"Well let’s pump up the sounds and have our own little pool party while we can!" Mike said turning Marcel’s stereo that we’d moved poolside on full bore.

Mike began cooking us all up some grub on the barbeque to go with all the food that Sarah brought. Mike had some of his awesome burgers and steak on the grill that we all dug so much. Mike was definitely the best cook in our group. He just had a way with food, seemed to be able to whip up anything from ingredients I’d just look at and go ‘duh’. And he’d make it taste goooooooooood. So naturally whenever we had these little gatherings between ourselves or even when we all had dinner at my place or something. Mike was the cook.

Sarah had made a few salads, chips, drinks, sides, deserts, everything we needed to go with what Mike was making. My stomach was making a few noises right now, telling me to hurry up and feed it. I realized I hadn’t had anything to eat all today. Seems to happen often with me. I just forget sometimes. Right now my stomach was telling me to remember and damn I wanted to listen to my stomach. The smell wafting out from Mike’s grill wasn’t helping either. Feed me. Feed me.

I walked up beside Mike to get a closer look at what was soon to be partying in my stomach. "Damn that smells good, Bro." I said patting Mike on the shoulder. "Can’t wait to sink my teeth into that."

"I’m with you, Bro." Dade said resting his arm on my shoulder. "That looks dee lish."

"So, Dade. I hear you’re a really happy guy now."

"Happy?" Dade asked having no idea what Mike was talking about.

"Yeah…happy." I said with a mischievous grin on my face, knowing just exactly what Mike meant. " *Ahem* You know in the thesaurus there are several other words that may be used in exchange for…happy."

"You know, Mike?"

"I do." Mike said nodding his head knowingly as he tended to his grill. "I do. And there’s only one thing I have to say…"

"What’s…that?" Dade asked meekly.

"You know there’s a reason I was adopted into this family." Mike said with a burgeoning smile on his face.

"Huh?" Dade said once again having no clue what tangent Mike was on.

"I’m the only son who’ll give Mom grandchildren."

"Haha! That’s a good one, Mike." I said laughing. "You might be right there."

"He’s probably right, Storm. He’s our backup in case neither of us has any kids. Mike, you’ll have to change your last name to Marcus just in case. That way Abby carries on the genes and you carry on the name."

"You mean, that would be ok with you?"

"What do you mean OK?" Dade said raising his eyebrow at Mike. "Why haven’t you done it already?"

"Yeah what he said. Just hurry up and do it already so we can be three bad boys or something." I said putting my arms around both Dade and Mike’s shoulders. "The Marcus Boys. I don’t think Abby would mind either. You know how much she loves you, Mike. She’s always treated you like her little bro."

"She’s just lucky she moved away before Mike tried to jump her pants." Marcel said shoving Mike playfully as he joined in our conversation. "Come on, we all know you had a crush on her. You used to follow her around like a bad smell."

"Oooh so that’s what the bad smell was." I said nodding my head.

"Damn that was one potent smell. I remember that one." Dade said pinching his nose.

"Wow, I’m going to have fun eating this food all by myself." Mike said closing his eyes and inhaling the stomach rumble invoking smell.

"Oh we love you, Mike." We all said patting Mike on the back. "You’re the best cook."

"How quickly they come back." Mike teased. "Storm, beat it. Someone over there looks like he needs a friend. Marcel, Dade. Plates."

"Yes, Sir. Boss, Sir." Marcel and Dade both said mock saluting Mike.

"And see where Sarah’s gone after you’ve checked out your mate. Ok, Storm?" Mike asked as I turned to leave.

"You got it." I said nodding my head as I headed off towards Lucas.

Lucas sat at the edge of Marcel’s pool with his feet wading in the water. His eyes were downcast, staring aimlessly towards his feet. I could tell by the look on Lucas’ face that he was really feeling down. I felt really bad for everything he’d gone through lately. Ashley, his mother, me. We’d all somehow contributed to the stress Lucas was feeling. He just looked really down and I hated seeing him like this. But it felt even weirder because I didn’t feel like I could comfort Lucas the way I used to be able to. I didn’t know how to act around him yet. But I had to try. Somehow.

"Lucas, are you ok?" I asked as I sat down next to him, dangling my feet in the pool.

"I’m just thinking about my baby." Lucas said getting a little emotional. "I miss him. And I never even knew him. I feel a longing. Pain inside. I miss him. Is that weird?"

"No…I don’t think so. I think it’s very…you. I know I’d feel the same way."

"Ashley never had an abortion you know. My Mom got that part wrong. She miscarried. She saw the baby. She said he had my eyes."

"I’m sure he was a beautiful baby."

"She gave him a name." Lucas said now with a few silent tears streaming down his cheeks. "Joel. Joel Miller Sheridan. My baby."

"I’m sorry, Lucas. I really am. I wish things had of worked out for you. Maybe…Joel is up there. Watching. Maybe if you try not to think of him as someone you lost…but a guardian angel you gained."

"You always have a way of looking at things, Storm. You always know how to make me smile. Thank you for saying that." Lucas said with a small smile as he looked at me.

"Joel…that’s a beautiful name."

"I know." Lucas whispered softly.

I put my hand on Lucas’ back and rubbed it gently. "Do you want to be alone for a while?" I asked resting my hand on Lucas’ shoulder.

Lucas nodded back at me as he let out a little sniffle and wiped his nose with a handkerchief. I rubbed his back again and then stood to my feet. "I’ll be around if you need me. Just…take your time."

I walked away, looking back as Lucas waded his feet beneath the surface of the pool. I really had no idea what Lucas was going through and I know sometimes you just need to be alone. I know when I can be a help and I know when I’m a better help being absent. This was one of those absent times.

Now on to round two. Sarah. Maybe I should start my own counseling service. I can make money off what I do now for free. Except I wouldn’t charge my friends. And I think that’s the point. You have to be there for your friends. Or you aren’t really a friend. Besides, I actually like being there for people I care about. Makes me feel needed, and loved in that they all respect and appreciate what I say. Even when I’m wrong.

I found Sarah standing up on the large upstairs deck just outside Marcel’s room. I don’t think she saw me looking up at her from down here below on the main entertainment area, but I had a feeling she knew I was watching her. I quickly made my way up the deck stairs towards the upper deck and approached Sarah from behind just as she let out a small yawn while watching the stars.

"Sarah…" I said tenderly wrapping my arms around Sarah from behind as I leaned my head on her shoulder. "How are you?"

"I’m ok, Storm." Sarah replied softly, gently tapping my hand on her arm.

"Sarah…I’m your best friend, right?"

"My best friend." Sarah said quietly with a small smile.

"Why do I feel like I’ve missed something? Why do I get the feeling there’s something bothering you that you’re not telling me about? And why do I get the feeling it’s been a long time coming? I saw it in your eyes tonight. Something’s wrong. It’s all kinda falling into place now. Something’s been bothering you for a long time. Why can’t you tell me?"

"Because…you don’t need to know. Some things…a woman keeps to herself…unless she absolutely has to tell you. Ask your Mom and she’ll tell you exactly the same thing. Some things…a woman has to keep to herself. One day you’ll understand." Sarah said in an eerily haunting soft spoken tone as she gazed out at the stars.

"I can respect that. Can I ask you one thing though, Sarah?"

"What’s that, Storm?"

"Are you ok?"

"Right now? I’m fantastic."

"And tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow…I’ll be…better."

I held Sarah close to me and snuggled in as tight as I could, not wanting to let her go. Feeling like there was something she wasn’t telling me but still knowing that she had no intention of telling me. And I respected her wishes for that. I knew this was one thing I couldn’t…and had no desire to push. I trust Sarah. She’ll tell me when I need to know. Until then I just had to show her how special she was to me.

"You know, Sarah. You are…and always will be the most important girl in my life. And I love you so very much." I said kissing Sarah’s cheek softly.

"I love you too."

"You were there…all through that shit I went through when my Dad left. You were there to keep my spirits up when I’d get depressed and worry about Mom. When I used to cry in my tree house all alone. And you’d come and hold my hand. When I didn’t understand why Dad left. When I blamed myself. Those were bad times. You were there. You were so sweet to me. Always watching out for me. I’ll never forget everything you’ve done for me, Sarah. Never."

Sarah turned to face me and wrapped her arms around my waist as she leant in and gave me a small kiss. I wrapped my arms around her again as she leant her head against me and just stood there letting me hold her. I rubbed her back soothingly, the both of us saying nothing the whole time. I think just standing there holding each other made the both of us feel better. I could almost feel our spirits lifting. I knew something was up with Sarah and that’s what had my spirits down, and I knew hers were down. But now they seemed to be letting themselves rise and soon enough Sarah was rubbing my own back and patting it in indication that it was time for us to head back to the party.

Sarah held my hand as we slowly wandered back down to the main area and she waved at Mike with a smile on her face. As I saw the smile on her face when she waved at Mike and saw the look he was giving back to her. I had absolutely no doubt at all that those two really were made for each other. That smile she gave when she saw Mike just made her whole aura seem to lighten and glow.

"You gonna be ok?" I asked putting my hand on Sarah’s shoulder.

"I’m gonna be just fine." Sarah said smiling contentedly back at me. "I’m gonna be just fine."

"That’s good. Well let’s go grab us some food. I’m starved. I think your man is waiting for you."

"I think your man is looking for you."

"Lucas?" I said looking around.

"Do you have another man I don’t know about?"

"Yeah, his name’s Mike. You might know him." I said with a cheeky grin. "Damn he’s sexy.

"If only you were so lucky." Sarah smiled, quickly departing as Lucas walked up beside us with a plate of food in his hand.

"Hey, Buddy." I said smiling. "How you feeling?"

"I feel much better thank you. I…I thought you might be hungry. So I brought you some food. I made you a chicken salad sandwich just the way you like it. Have you eaten today?"

"No. I just…I dunno…forgot to I guess."

"Well there’s a burger and some steak. Some salad and other stuff too. I know you probably won’t eat it all but I just wanted to make sure you had a bit of all your favs." Lucas said handing the heaped plate of food over to me. "I’ll just run and get you a drink."

"Lucas…there’s too much. I can’t eat all this. It’s too much for me."

"Oh…I’m sorry."

"You know…I think there’s just enough for two though. Wanna share?" I said smiling at Lucas.

"I’d like that. I’ll make that two drinks then." Lucas said smiling happily to himself as he rushed off to get us both a drink.

I sat down on the edge of a raised garden square with a small tree in the middle that was surrounded on all sides by wooden seating. I was practically drooling in anticipation of finally being able to eat something today. I was tempted to start stuffing my face right then I was so hungry but I thought it better to wait for Lucas to arrive. Lucas didn’t take too long and arrived back with a glass of coke in each hand.

"I forgot to ask what you wanted so I grabbed us a coke each. I hope you don’t mind."

"Relax, Lucas. Of course I don’t mind. Thanks for dishing me up a plate." I said smiling at Lucas. "I am sooo hungry."

"Do you remember that picnic we had ages ago? I think it was just after we first started going out together." Lucas said with a warm reminiscing smile on his face. "You remember? The one by Lake Herren?"

"Yeah. I remember." I said smiling broadly to myself. "That was one big picnic. That was really nice. I remember it. We messed ourselves up real good. I had to walk back to your house shirtless. And then Mike and Marcel came over and I had to high tail out of there. Jumping over fences. That was a good day. A great day."

"I guess just looking at all this food for some reason reminded me of that picnic we had. That was really sweet of you to spend all that time with me and surprise me with that picnic."

"I like spending time with you." I said warmly. "You’re my best friend. I miss you when you’re gone."

"I really missed you while I was gone, Storm." Lucas said choking up, his eyes moving away from mine. "I missed you a lot."

"I know you’ve had a hard few days. Really hard." I said rubbing Lucas’ back soothingly. "I just want you to know that no matter what happens between us. I will always be here for you. When you need me. I just…I would really like to know how you feel."

"I…still feel as if I’m alone. I know you’re with me here now. But you’re not really with me. You’re still keeping me at a safe distance from your feelings. I understand and I don’t blame you."

"Why do you think that?"

"Because you lost your faith in me. In us. I changed everything. Nothing can be the way it used to be. I’ll never have you back the way I used to."

"You’re right." I said leaning my head on Lucas’ shoulder. "You won’t have me back the way you used to. Everything changes, Lucas. Even us. Maybe our relationship is being redefined or something. We’re both a little older, a little wiser. I’m a little less eager to get close to you. But I still want you to be happy. That hasn’t changed."

"I’ve been thinking too. I really want you to be happy. And I’ve been acting from what I want. Which is you. But I haven’t given consideration to whether you actually want me back. Or whether I can make you happy again. I don’t want you to be with me to make me feel better. I want you to be with me because you still care about me. Storm…I want you to be happy even if it’s not with me. You gave that to me when I went to see Ashley. Now I’m giving it to you."

"I love you." I said gently stroking Lucas’ cheek, leaning my head more comfortably against Lucas’ neck and shoulder. "I do."

I didn’t think I’d be saying those three words again so soon but there they were. Lucas managed to push the right buttons and out they came. I was still weary of getting too close to Lucas so quickly but I think he had to know I did still love him. The rest would come with time.

"Then…I guess it’s us again." Lucas said with a small smile.

"Yeah. Us again."

Lucas nervously put his hand around the back of my neck and leaned in to kiss me gently. A soft kiss, short and sweet. I smiled as he pulled away slowly, his tense breathing giving away how nervous he was to even try and kiss me. I leant back in and let my lips steal another taste of my favorite strawberry lips, lingering long enough to put my…my baby at ease. No overwhelming passions, just sweet angel kisses. And with Lucas those angels were heavenly.

Lucas smiled as we pulled away the second time, his nervousness steadily fading away the more time we spent together. Lucas took my hand and interlaced my fingers in his own. A blissful smile streaking ever increasingly across his face.

"Suddenly. I’m not so hungry anymore." Lucas said squeezing my hand.

 

* * * * * * *

 

"Oh that’s so gross." Dade said scrunching up his nose as he watched the two love birds making out. "How’s the food, Lucas!? Tasty!?"

"Dade!" Sarah said putting her hand over Dade’s mouth. "Be quiet."

"I’m just teasing." Dade said taking Sarah’s hand off his mouth, but not without giving it a cheeky lick. "You know you’re pretty tasty yourself, Sarah." Dade said winking at Sarah with a mischievous grin.

"Behave. And stop looking at me like that. Horny little bastard." Sarah said shoving Dade playfully.

"I love it when you talk dirty."

"Ok that’s it. You know what happens when you defy me, Boy." Sarah said jumping to her feet and wrapping Dade up from behind, disabling his arms.

"No, no, Sarah don’t!" Dade begged, trying his best to get free.

"Too late." Sarah said thrusting Dade into the air so he landed in the pool with an almighty splash.

Dade disappeared beneath the water, coming up at the pool’s edge and hauling himself out with his arms. As he rose up out of the water he let a large fountain of water emerge from his mouth, spraying Sarah with it. Dade parked himself at the edge of the pool and grinned at Sarah.

"Why you little punk. I’m gonna kick your ass now, Boy." Sarah said kicking off her shoes as she dove into the water.

"Pool fight!" Mike yelled shrugging off his shirt and shoes before he jumped into the air and curled himself into a bomb position, crashing into the water with a powerful splash.

"I’m in!" Marcel said kicking off his sandals and pulled his shirt up over his head, unexpecting of the attention his nipple ring would bring.

"Woo, Marcel’s got a nipple ring!" Sarah yelled in surprise as she watched Marcel’s diving form.

Marcel glided beneath the water before he surfaced next to Sarah. Mike and Dade were still busy trying to out dunk each other as Sarah proceeded to give Marcel’s recently exposed piercing a thorough looking over. Marcel cringed slightly as Sarah’s finger teased him unintentionally. She soon noticed the effect her inquisitiveness was having and promptly pinched the ring just enough to cause Marcel to yelp sharply.

"And that’s why I don’t have one of those." Mike said swimming over to Marcel and Sarah. "That looks like it’s gotta hurt. Looks really good on you though, Marcel."

"I’ll say." Sarah said nodding her head. "Looks fantastic. Why don’t you get one of those, Babe?"

"Wouldn’t look as good on me as it does on Marcel." Mike said getting a good feel of the nipple ring himself.

"Geez, what am I some kind of exhibition?" Marcel said with mock annoyance.

"I’d get one of those but chances are it’d get ripped out in a game. And that would definitely hurt." Mike said as his fingers seemed to wander slightly away from Marcel’s nipple ring and around his pecs. "Gee, Marcel. You have really nice skin."

"Uhh Mike?" Said a nervously bewildered Marcel.

"Just an observation. Not an advance." Mike said smiling reassuringly at Marcel. "Don’t worry. I’m not swaying anywhere else but towards the female end of the spectrum anytime soon. I’m confident in my sexuality. I just wanted to comment on how nice your skin feels."

"Thanks, Mike." Marcel said smiling broadly. "You know I think you and I are the only two people here who know for sure which way we swing. I’m gay. You’re straight. Everyone else is bi. Oh and except for Sarah too."

"Lucas! Storm! Come on in!" Sarah yelled.

"Shh, Sarah." Mike said putting his finger to his lips. "They’re making up. Give em some more time."

"They’ve got plenty of time to make up. We should all be hanging out with Marcel before he has to go again."

"It’s ok, Sarah." Marcel said as he waded in the water with Dade wrapped in his arms. "Let them enjoy themselves. Let’s just relax and enjoy each other’s company."

"Looks like you two are enjoying each other’s company." Mike said looking at Dade and Marcel inquisitively as Dade lay back in Marcel’s arms, floating blissfully together in the water. "Interesting."

"You’ll get used to it, Mike." Dade smiled, his eyes closed as his hands waded gently in the water. "Eventually."

"I don’t have a problem. I’m just…observing. Hey where’d Sarah go?" Mike asked anxiously, suddenly realizing that Sarah was no longer in the water. "Where’d she go?"

"Maybe she went to get out of her wet clothes. Maybe she had to go to the ladies room. Maybe she’s taken a trip to the moon." Marcel said letting out a slight yawn, his eyes also closed as he lay back in the water with his arms wrapped around the front of Dade. Both of them seemingly drifting in their own world together.

"I’m sure she’ll be back." Mike sighed as he began floating on his back in the water, looking up at the stars as he drifted gently. "This is nice. What a great night. Just the six of us. Low key. Mellow. Cool. Just how I like it."

"Everything is just as it should be." Marcel whispered softly.

Dade smiled contentedly, opening his eyes just in time to see a shooting star streak across the night sky. "Just as it should be…"

 

* * * * * * *

 

"Sarah, are you ok?" Lucas asked as he entered Marcel’s living room to find Sarah laying sprawled out on one of the sofas.

"Oh hey, Lucas." Sarah said groggily as she opened her eyes and sat herself up. "I just got changed into some dry clothes and I was on my way back out and just sat down for a bit. The next thing I know you’re waking me up. It’s been a long day. I guess I’m just a bit tired."

"I know how you feel." Lucas said slumping himself down next to Sarah. "I’m pretty tired myself."

"How are you, Lucas? Haven’t seen you properly since you got back."

"I’m so rude sometimes." Lucas said leaning over and kissing Sarah on the cheek. "Hi, Sarah. I can’t believe I didn’t say hi before. Sorry."

"You had a lot on your mind. Just tell me how you’re doing now."

"I’m really tired. I really want to sleep. But I don’t want to because I know as soon as I do go to sleep. Storm will go home. I don’t want him to go. I really miss him. I know he’s here but I miss being with him the way we were. He’s still keeping himself at a safe distance from me. And it really sucks. I just don’t know what to do. It doesn’t help that I’m so tired."

"You can stay at my house if you want, Lucas. You can have Damon or Carey’s room. That way you won’t have to drop out of school to get a job so you can get your own place. You can stay with us as long as you need to."

"Really? Sarah that is so…wow. Man everyone is been looking out for me so much. I don’t know what to say, Sarah. Thank you."

"So you’ll stay at my house?"

"Uhh can I get back to you?"

"You hoping to work things out with your mother?"

"Storm actually."

"Ooooh. The mighty Storm. I hope things work out. I really do. Just know…" Sarah yawned. "the offer is there if you need it."

"Sarah you’re so cool. I don’t know what to…"

"Sarah?" Lucas said smiling to himself realizing that Sarah had drifted back off to sleep.

"Thank you, Sarah." Lucas said kissing Sarah again on the cheek.

Lucas sighed to himself and put his hands behind his head as he leant back. He let out a large yawn and closed his eyes. Just for a moment Lucas thought. Just for a moment. He was so tired he had to close his eyes, even just for a moment. Just a moment and then he’d go and get that jersey for Storm. Just a moment…

 

* * * * * * *

 

"Marcel, your parents are here!" I yelled as I saw the lights of Conrad’s bmw down below heading up Marcel’s drive.

"Let them wait a bit. I’m busy" Marcel said lowering his head as he tasted Dade’s lips little by little, taking his time as he savored the moment.

It was pretty strange seeing Marcel with my brother like this. But I couldn’t really deny that the two of them definitely had some kind of connection. Marcel seemed so gentle with Dade as he lay on top of him. Taking his time with Dade as he kissed him almost excruciatingly slowly. It was as if Marcel didn’t care about the fact his parents had arrived outside and were waiting for him. The only thing that seemed to matter to him was the slow, tender seduction of my brother.

I could almost feel Marcel’s body language and eyes saying to Dade ‘you’re the only thing in the world’. No wonder Dade was so hooked on him. Marcel sure knew how to make you feel special.

"What do you think, Bro?" I whispered leaning my head towards Mike.

"Weird. Still weird. Stranger than you and Lucas. Maybe it’s because it’s Dade and Marcel. Our best friend and little brother." Mike whispered back.

"He’s not exactly little anymore though is he."

"No, he’s not. He’s 15 now. I don’t even think he’s a virgin."

"You mean, him and Marcel?" I said in surprise.

"No. Natalie. You remember? He went out with her last year. One day he came home about six in the morning. And I was the only one up. He begged me to cover for him. I tell ya. He looked like he just got laid."

"Holy shit. The little devil. I better have a talk to him."

"Not now. Let them enjoy the last bit of time they have together. You can grill Dade tomorrow."

"Come on then. Let’s go find Sarah and Lucas. I wonder what the hell they’re doing."

 

* * * * * * *

 

"I love you." Marcel said as he leant down once again to taste Dade’s sweet lips.

Dade smiled and let his fingers dance softly against Marcel’s back as he moved his hands up towards his shoulders. "Time to go."

"I don’t have to go. I can tell them to go by themselves. I’ll catch a flight out tomorrow to Larraine."

"Come on." Dade said pulling himself to his feet.

"I don’t want to." Marcel moaned as Dade took his hand and hauled him to his feet.

"Marcel there’s something else I want to talk to you about." Dade said as wrapped his arms around Marcel and flicked their noses against each other.

"What is it?"

"It’s about Drake. I’ve been thinking and…I can’t ask you to stay. I want you to go back and finish what you started. I don’t want you to stay behind for me."

"What?" Marcel asked in disappointment and surprise. "But I thought you wanted to be with me."

"I do." Dade smiled. "At the right time. When it’s right for both of us. I don’t feel right expecting you to stay because of me. There’s still so much for you out there. When it’s time you’ll come back. I just don’t feel right asking you to stay when I know you’re not supposed to be here."

"But I wanna be with you, Dade. Please don’t do this."

"Marcel, have I told you how proud I am of you?"

"All the time."

"I mean it. I’m proud of you. You’ve never been a quitter, Marcel. You’re halfway there. You can’t finish until you’ve at least finished the final three months. We both know that."

"But if I go back. I lose you."

"If you leave now. You’ll fail. You’ll get all f’s. You can’t quit now. You won’t lose me."

"I won’t?"

"No. I’ll wait for you."

"No. I don’t want you to wait. If I go. It’s over. No hanging on. No waiting."

"You don’t make it easy do you?"

"No. Neither do you. But…I think I know you’re right about me not quitting. I just wish you weren’t right. But I won’t make you wait."

"And I won’t make you stay."

"Sucks doing the right thing huh?" Marcel said stroking his fingers through Dade’s hair.

"A lesson I learnt from my brother. I’m glad I waited to tell you though. I didn’t want to ruin our night."

Marcel just lowered his head unable to make eye contact with Dade. His hands began to shake as the drift down Dade’s face slowly until he held Dade’s chin. He leant in and kissed Dade’s lips softly, lingering on an eternity. Unable to breathe. Unable to move.

"We’re doing the right thing." Dade said trying to keep a brave face as he slowly pulled away from Marcel. "We’re doing the right thing."

Marcel nodded in response and said nothing. Dade sighed and kissed Marcel one more time before he left Marcel and walked away without looking back.

"That’s the end." Marcel said with his eyes downcast, trying to hold back the tears that only Dade seemed to be able to bring out. "That’s the end."

 

* * * * * * *

 

I stood out by the jeep, pulling my jersey out of the front seat when I saw Dade walk quickly out the front door of the house and was about to walk straight past me. Probably unable to see where I was standing under the cover of night without any light. He seemed as if he was about to burst into tears and I put my hand out to grab his shoulder before he walked past me.

"Dade?"

"Storm." Dade cried realizing it was me.

Dade’s eyes welled up with tears and he began sobbing hard as he without hesitation, walked right up to me and wrapped his arms around me. Using my shoulder as an outlet for all his tears. I rubbed his back anxiously and kissed his head trying to figure out what was wrong with my bro. He didn’t say anything, he just held onto me as tight as he could and sobbed his heart out. The emotive sound of his cries and the intensity of his tears and shaking were starting to get to me.

"Dade, what’s wrong, Bro?" I asked

Dade didn’t respond. He just cried. Wept. Sobbed. Shook. Shivered. And when he’d done all that. He did it all over again. He had me going now with a few tears escaping me as I tried to comfort my brother. Dade just didn’t cry like this. He never did. There have only been a very few times when I’ve seen him cry like this. And it’s usually always when he hurts inside so much it’s overwhelmed him and he hasn’t been able to keep it in anymore.

I’m not sure just how long I spent holding him but it felt like forever before his sobs became gentle and sporadic. He still shivered and sobbed but now his head leaned on my shoulder as if now he were just tired and drained. I rubbed his back and kissed his hair, hoping he would soon speak to me and let me help him. He did.

"Are you proud of me?" Dade asked, finally speaking to me as his gentle sobs subsided.

"Of course I am. What’s this about?"

"I did the right thing." Dade said softly, his voice broken and empty. "I let him go."

"Oh, Dade." I said kissing Dade’s forehead as I pulled him tight to me again. "I’m so sorry, Bro."

"You and I. We’re the same. I didn’t think I could be strong enough to do the right thing. But I did it. Just like you." Dade said croakily. "Sucks being me."

"Oh, Boy." I said rocking Dade gently in my arms. "Let’s just knock that on the head right now."

"I gotta go." Dade said pulling his arms away from me as he backed away. "I’ll see you at home, Bro. I’ll see you later."

"You can’t walk home. It’s dark."

"Please, Storm. I just wanna be alone for a while. I’ll be ok."

"Are you sure? I don’t want to leave you alone like this."

"I’m fine, Storm." Dade said faking a small smile. "I’ll be fine."

And with that Dade began the long walk down Marcel’s driveway. My heart literally broke watching my brother walk away into the cold night, the wind blowing through his hair, his hands in his pockets as he eyes were fixed downcast. Cold and alone. That was my brother, Dade.

I unwantingly headed inside just as Dade disappeared from sight. I wanted to go after him but…I just didn’t know what to say or do. And I know if I were him I would have wanted to be alone too. I just hope he’s ok. My poor Bro. Something has to go his way soon.

"Ok, Guys." Marcel said as he came in to the living room with his bag over his shoulder. "Time for me to go again."

"You suck, Marcel." I said shaking my head. "One of these days you better bring your ass back for good."

"I plan to." Marcel said wrapping his arms around me and giving me a tight hug.

"Everything ok, Bud?" I asked as I rubbed Marcel’s back, sensing the tension he was trying to suppress.

"I’ll be fine." Marcel said letting me go.

Marcel walked over to Mike and hugged him goodbye. It didn’t take me long to workout that Marcel must have had a hard time saying goodbye to Dade again. I know I wouldn’t have handled it well if I were one of them.

"These two fell off to sleep. Probably bored each other to sleep." I said sitting down next to a sleeping Lucas and prodded both he and Sarah. "Lucas, Sarah. Marcel’s going now. You gotta say bye."

"It’s ok, Storm. Let them sleep." Marcel said leaning down to kiss Sarah bye. "I love you, Babe. Sleep well."

"You too, Dude Boy." Marcel said ruffling Lucas’ hair as he kissed his cheek.

"Look after him, Storm. You guys will be fine." Marcel smiled.

"I know. I know." I said smiling back at him.

"Tell Lucas my parents will be back here in three days. But I’ll call him before then. If Lucas ends up going with you back to your place, Storm. Don’t forget to lock up the house ok? The patrol know that someone will be staying here so let them know if there isn’t."

"Ok. I’ll check in here every day till your parents get back. Just in case. Now get outta here. Your parents are waiting."

"I love you guys." Marcel said wistfully as he opened his large front door and looked back at us. "And don’t forget…I’m still the best."

Mike and I both smiled and waved at Marcel as he closed the door behind him and left us once again without our Blonde Bud. We both sighed and flopped ourselves down either side of Sarah and Lucas.

"Shall we just stay here tonight, Mike?" I asked letting out a yawn of my own as I leant my head on Lucas’ shoulder.

"I’ve gotta get away early tomorrow morning. Plus I wanna see Mom when she gets home from work tonight. So I’d rather go home."

"Ok then. Sarah looks a bit tired to drive. Why don’t you drive her home in her car. And then I’ll put Lucas to bed here and then come pick you up from Sarah’s and we can go home."

"Ok. Let’s go clear up outside and then we’ll put these two sleepyheads to bed."

Mike and I headed outside where we expected to find Dade but he was nowhere in sight. We quickly cleared away all our food and gear from outside, both anxious to get home to bed I think. I was so tired right now, I just wanted to close my eyes and drift off.

"Dade must have gone home." Mike said as we packed away the last of the barbeque gear.

"Yeah. Man, that was such a nice spread. You and Sarah really know how to treat our stomachs."

"So, Storm. Are you and Lucas ok now?"

"We didn’t really get a chance to talk but there wasn’t really much to say. We love each other. That’s the most important thing. The rest can wait till the morning."

"That’s great, Bro." Mike smiled. "Sounds like you handled things well. A lot differently to perhaps the Storm of a year ago."

"Yeah…I know. Come on, let’s get outta here." I said putting my arm around Mike’s shoulder.

We made our way back to the living room where both our partners were still slumbering peacefully. Mike gently slipped his hands beneath Sarah and brought her effortlessly into his arms. "Hometime, Baby." Mike said as Sarah nuzzled into him and he kissed her gently.

"I’ll be there in about ten minutes, Mike." I said holding the door open for Mike as he carried Sarah out.

Mike nodded back at me in acknowledgement and I closed the door behind him. I let out a deep sigh as I watched Lucas sleeping peacefully, his chest rising and falling with every breath he took. I strolled over and sat down next to him, letting his head fall onto my shoulder as I wrapped my arms around him and held him gently.

"Bedtime for you, Big Guy." I said stroking Lucas’ face gently.

I slipped one arm under Lucas’ and the other under Lucas’ legs as I stood up and lifted him into my arms. "Woo, Baby. Mike makes this look so easy."

"I’m not that heavy." Lucas mumbled groggily.

"I know you’re not. But you are taller than me. And you are a football jock with all the big muscles. You’re supposed to be carrying me." I said trying to get Lucas into a more comfortable position and smiling at my own strength…or lack of. "It’s ok. I can carry you no sweat. I am the mighty Storm."

I carried Lucas towards the large staircase that led up to his room. Looking up the stairway from the bottom end of it I thought how much fun this would be. No seriously. Ok sarcasm. "It’s a good thing I love you so much, Baby. Otherwise I’d park you right there on that seat and let you sleep there."

"Take me with you." Lucas mumbled, pulling himself out of my arms and to his feet.

"Hey, did I say you could stand up? I actually liked carrying you."

"So carry me home." Lucas asked with his pouty pleading face as he leant his forehead against mine and rest his weight against me, still obviously tired. "Don’t leave me here by myself."

"You wanna come home with me?" I asked uncertainly.

"It’s where I sleep best remember. Please. Take me home."

"You have the cutest way about you when you’re trying to get what you want." I smiled.

"Is that a yes?" Lucas asked sheepishly.

"Let’s go home." 

* * * * * * *

That sure was a long chapter and it should keep you all tided over until Chapter 20 hits.  Marcel has come and gone.  Lucas is back.  Things aren't how they used to be but that's just the way it is.  Don't expect Chapter 20 too soon.  I have a few other things I need to work on before that will be released.  Can you believe we're already halfway through Season 3?  And we're just about halfway through Storm Front as a whole.  Well that's all from me folks, until next time.

Stay Tuned for SF20: Losing Dade and send me a note** to let me know what you thought of Chapter 19
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