By SF Writer
Copyright 2003 Stormnation, All rights reserved.
* * * * * * *
My name is Daniel Storm Marcus. Most of you already know that. Im sixteen years old. Im class president at Merlow High. I get pretty good grades. People like me. My boyfriend likes me. I have great friends. And all around I think most of the time Im a pretty good guy. So why have I been having this identity crisis recently? Lately Ive been trying to find out who it is I really am, why Im here and most importantly what it is I really want. Its been a while now since Lucas came back to me. So why is it I still feel as if we never really got back together?
Lucas has been living with us ever since his fallout with Mira. She still calls and he still ignores her. Ive tried to bring him around but he wont hear it. He says he wont let her interfere with our relationship. Little does he know that she has absolutely nothing to do with our relationship problems.
"Storm? Baby? Are you awake?" I heard as Lucas nudged open the door between my bedroom and the bathroom connecting Mikes room and mine. I guess it was Mike and Lucas room now though since he was now staying in there too. "Can I come in for a little while please?"
I didnt say anything. I didnt do anything. I just lay there and feigned sleep. I felt bad doing it but for some reason being next to Lucas right now wasnt where I wanted to be. Every time we were alone together now I felt awkward. I think Lucas knew I was awake or he sensed that I wanted to be alone because he didnt just come in like he usually did. Things had been like this since he came back from Ashleys and I didnt see how they were going to be any better soon.
Before long I heard the door close quietly and I knew Lucas had gone back to bed. Part of me felt hurt that we no longer had our connection anymore. As much as Id tried to slap a quick fix on Lucas and I when he came back, it didnt work. That much was obvious. Only time would tell what the future had in store for both of us.
* * * * * * *
Mike stirred slowly from his sleep. His eyes focused so he could see the darkness had only just begun to barely show signs of morning light seeping in. Letting out a large yawn, Mike wistfully turned on his side so he could look out the window and see dawn breaking slowly.
"Morning." Lucas voice said catching Mike slightly by surprise.
"Morning, Lucas." Mike said turning to see Lucas laying on his bed as he stared at the ceiling.
"Like a baby." Mike sighed as he lay his head back on his own pillow. "You?"
* * * * * * *
"Storm! Bro! Hey wait up!"
"Hey, Mike." I said smiling as Mike approached me from behind. "What are you doing here?"
I had just finished an early morning shift and had stopped off at the local bakehaus to pick up some breakfast. So I was quite surprised to see Mike here.
"Same thing as you. Grabbing some breakfast for Sarah and I. Were heading out on the lake this morning since we have an afternoon game. You on your way home?"
"Im not sure. I was thinking about going over to see Claire. She and I have some details to work on for the committee so I might as well do it while I have some free time."
"Wait for me, Im just going to get some food." Mike said patting me on the shoulder as he walked up to the counter.
I sat down at a table and pulled out my cellphone as I dialed in Claires phone number. "Hello? Hello, Mr. Carlyle. This is Daniel Marcus. Could I please speak with your daughter?" I asked politely as Claires Dad said hello to me before he handed the phone to Claire.
"Hi, Storm." Claires voice said cheerily.
"Hey, Buddy. I was wondering if you wanted to finish off that planning we have to do for the committee. Ill buy you breakfast."
"Well, Im at the bakehaus now so I could get us both something here and meet you at your place. We could go somewhere else if you want to."
"Can we go out to the lake? They have the dragon boat racing out there and Josh is in one of the teams."
"I forgot all about that. Dade and Carl are in that too."
"You know I hate to say this but your brother is a freak. I dont know how he does it."
"Yeah I know hes a sports freak. He has his morning hockey session then hes on Joshs dragon boat team and this afternoon hes got his baseball game with Mike."
"He said hes going to play a wide receiver this season too. And with Karate as well is there anything this guy doesnt do?"
"Ill let you know when he says no to something. So well head out to the lake then?"
"Sure. When will you be here?"
"Ten minutes? Is that too soon?"
"No thats fine."
"See you soon then."
I clicked the line off just as Mike sat down next to me and put his food on the table. He put an extra cup of latte in front of me, surprising me since I had already bought me one.
"I heard you on the phone. Figured Id save you the trouble of going back up." Mike said taking a sip of his own hot chocolate.
"Thanks Bro. Luckily Ive got enough food here for her as well."
"You know I know this isnt any of my business but its my job to watch out for you. So Ill ask is everything ok?"
"Sure it is, Mike."
"Nah nah this is me youre talking to not some idiot who doesnt know you. Whats up?"
"Nothing, Mike. Seriously. Im just confused about some things."
"Not just him. Lots of things but yeah mostly him."
"He doesnt sleep well much these days. And I dont think you do either. Whats wrong with you guys?"
"I dont know, Mike. Ever since he came back things havent been the same between us. I hate to say it but I just dont feel comfortable being alone with him anymore. We go out, we hang out and we hardly ever talk anymore. And when we do its never about things we should be talking about and when I do try to bring it up, Lucas does something to try and avoid the subject as if he doesnt want to face it."
"Hes at home right now. Hoping youll come back so you can spend some time together."
"I thought he was going swimming this morning. I already made plans."
"So call her up and cancel them. Claire will understand. She was going to watch the Dragon Boats anyway. Im sure shed rather do that than talk school with you on a Saturday. Come on, Bro."
"Yeah, youre right. But I dont want to shaft Claire out like that after Ive already asked for her time. Thats just rude."
"One word." Mike said standing up. "Priorities."
I just sighed to myself and feigned a smile and waved at Mike as he headed out to Moms car, which shed let him use fairly often since hed turned sixteen. He looked back at me and gave a reassuring smile before he drove off leaving me shaking my head in dread. But he had a valid point. Priorities.
What were mine?
* * * * * * *
"Hi " I said as I slowly stepped in Lucas and Mikes room.
"Storm!" Lucas said lighting up as he pulled himself out of the two bars holding his legs to the ceiling.
Mike, being the resourceful guy that he is, built his own custom super ab cruncher. Which involved hanging your lower legs just under the knee on one bar and counterbalancing at the ankles with the other. Mike also used this as a chin and pull up bar. Thus hanging yourself upside down and using all your ab superiority to crunch yourself against gravity. Mike had always been the resourceful type though. And coming from his fathers household which wasnt as comfortable as ours financially hed learnt how to get around money but still keep himself fit. This time around though, Mom had given him an amount of money to get certain equipment but he still added in his Mike resourcefulness wherever possible. Hed converted the basement into a fully functional training area for all of us complete with boxing bags, weight training and cardio areas. It even had a little sparring area in the center so Dade and I wouldnt have to tear each other up outside anymore and get ourselves dirty.
One thing I was glad about with Mike too is everything had to be just right. He never did anything half assed. The before and after photos for the basement ought to be enough to get Mike in a home decorating magazine. He repainted, refloored, reeverything. I was quite proud of our little super gym. This was all aside from the little alterations Mike had made to his room before Lucas had moved in. It was definitely an advantage in many ways having Mike here with us.
"Hello, Batman." I said watching Lucas as he pulled himself down.
"Wont be a minute." Lucas said struggling with one bar, not surprising considering the position he was in.
"Youre looking good." I grinned watching Lucas ab muscles flex as he pulled himself down.
"Hi." Lucas smiled breathing heavily as he landed on the ground before he stood up and kissed me hello, lingering for as long as he could.
I must admit a smile broke out across my face as he did slip me a kiss and I could tell that he was very happy to see me right now. Even happier to be getting a kiss.
"I hope Im not interrupting." I said breaking the short but seemingly endless kiss.
"Course not, Babe. I am really happy to see you. I woke up too late to say bye to you before you went to work."
"Ill let you finish the rest of your workout. Nothing worse than being interrupted mid flow. I might head down to the basement and do a set while youre finishing off. Maybe when youre done we could do something?"
"Why cant we just do something now?" Lucas said smiling mischievously as he stepped closer to me and slipped his hands around my waist.
He leant his forehead against mine and pressed himself against me in our trademark embrace. Even now it made me gulp and a little breathless.
"I dont think thats a good idea right now." I said struggling to keep my concentration in check.
"Oh come on its been so long. Were alone for once. You havent let us since I got back. Why isnt it a good idea now?" Lucas said grinning cheekily as he pulled me back in with him. "Dont tell me its that time of the month either."
"What? Ashley didnt let you when it was that time of the month huh?"
Lucas face just dropped like an anvil and his eyes fell to the ground. He just sighed in disappointment as his hands slipped off me and he stepped back. "Ok then." Lucas said in a very hollow tone. "Maybe some other time."
"I shouldnt have said that."
"But you still did anyway." Lucas sighed. "Maybe we should just go out some other time."
"Yeah maybe youre right..."
"Well thats settled then." Lucas said pulling himself back into the bars with all his might, making sure his eyes were away from me.
I knew Id said something petty and I shouldnt have. The strange thing is I didnt really care that I did. I just left the room and closed the door behind me with barely a second glance. And that was that
* * * * * * *
"Why didnt you join in with the Dragon Boats, Mike?" Claire asked as herself, Mike and Sarah sat on the edge of Lake Herrens south end along with a large and very excitable crowd of supporters and onlookers.
"I was going to but there wasnt enough room in Joshs boat and I knew Carl wanted in more than I did. I dont mind. Its just as much fun watching anyway. I love this festival."
"Busy day today." Sarah said not breaking her concentration on the events going on in the water. "Youve got your game after this and Storm and I are going up to watch the White Swan Tourney later on."
Mike lay down in Sarahs lap making himself as comfortable as possible. "Too bad there arent any parties tonight. I feel like getting jiggy."
"We dont need a party for that." Sarah smiled as she snuggled Mikes head into her, kissing his forehead as they both watched the water.
"Dont mind us, Claire." Mike said noticing Claires slight feeling of awkwardness. "Besides, Josh will be finished before you know it and you two can pretend youre not hot for each other again."
"Mike!" Sarah yelled, embarrassed with Mikes comment as she put her hand over his mouth.
"Mmmmm " Mike moaned kissing Sarahs hand with a cheeky grin on his face.
"Dont mind him."
"Josh and I are just friends." Claire said defensively. "Were just friends. You know why, Mike."
"I have a gay best friend. A bi best friend. Two bi b...nevermind. Im starting to get a good feel for these things and if you ask me, Josh has it for you."
"Yeah just like Lucas had it for me." Claire said rolling her eyes.
"Lucas is a flirt. He led you on a fair bit there. But hes a good guy overall. Dont hold it against him. I still think Josh has it for you though. Just wait and see. He might not realize it straight away but itll happen. Probably already fantasizes about you."
"What makes you such an expert again?"
"Im just really intelligent." Mike grinned as he pointed to his head. "Plus I see Josh watching your ass whenever you walk off. He probably doesnt even know hes doing it. Theres also the case of that tent in his speedos he had while he was watching you swim in gym class. That was the kicker."
"And uhh Babe what exactly were you doing looking at his speedos? Is there something you want to share with us?" Sarah said patting Mikes cheeks playfully.
"Well hey we were all wearing speedos at the time and it just kinda stuck out. I was investigating. I mean he was staring at Claire big time. And when I looked down I knew why. Basic hormones. Poor guy probably doesnt even know how to use it." Mike said starting to laugh.
"So hes kinda innocent that way. I think its sweet." Claire said blushing, trying to stop herself from letting out a small laugh.
"I mean dont you find it kinda odd that Josh hasnt once made a move on Dade or your brother? Or anyone for that matter."
"I dont know he just hasnt "
"Its none of my business anyway but I think it would be nice to see Josh hook up with someone cool and nice. And youre pretty cool at least "
"Hey!" Claire said squirting some sunscreen at Mikes face in retaliation for his comment. "I am too nice."
"Not to me. I mean I know you want me and everything and try to hide it by being mean but you just have to get over it." Mike grinned cheekily as he sat up and wiped the sunscreen off his face.
"You two want anything? My shout. Im gonna grab a drink or something. You guys want an Ice Cream?" Sarah said standing up.
"No thanks, Sarah." Claire replied.
"No thanks, Babe."
"Ok, Ill be right back." Sarah said as she walked off.
"Geez Dade is one hot stud. Look at him." Mike said as he pointed to the shirtless crew of Joshs dragon boat.
"Mike are you absolutely sure theres nothing you want to tell me?"
"Nah Im just not even insecure about any of that anymore thats why I dont bother noticing when someone looks good. Guy or girl. I have good taste I think. I can tell these things."
"I like that." Claire smiled. "I wish more people were like you."
"Thanks." Mike smiled as he lay back down again.
"Are you sure Josh was looking at me?"
Mike just let out the biggest grin he could and said...nothing.
* * * * * * *
I lay on my bed thinking about my latest tiff with Lucas and about how it just didnt bother me. I found it weird that it didnt bother me. I also found it disturbing but on the whole I found it enlightening. It was the final straw to break the proverbial camels back. Now it was time to realize the kick life was giving my ass and do something about it.
"Hi, Lucas." I said opening my eyes, having been trying to catch up on a bit of sleep since I wasnt doing anything else at the moment except thinking.
"Im just about to head off to my game so Ill get straight to it. Storm, whats wrong with us?" Lucas asked as he sat down beside me. "The truth. Please."
"The truth?" I said as I sat myself up. "Right now?"
"Im not comfortable with our relationship anymore."
"Im sorry. Ive been trying to make it work ever since you came back but I just dont feel it anymore the same way I used to. Im not comfortable with our relationship. Im not comfortable being close to you anymore. I dont even know how to fix things between us. I dont even know if I want to."
"Youre dumping me?"
"Thats the thing " I said emphatically. "I dont even feel like Im dumping you. Im not dumping you. I think its been over for a long time. Ever since you came back. I think when I let you go, I should have let you go all the way. I never should have taken you back. It wasnt fair to you and it wasnt fair to me."
"I knew this was coming " Lucas sighed, lowering his head and turning away from me as he held his face in his hands. "I just "
"Im not happy, Lucas. I feel like a fraud. Like I cheated myself."
"Why now? Why didnt you just tell me before!?" Lucas cried in frustration.
"Because I wanted to make it work!" I yelled standing to my feet before I moved away from Lucas. "I thought we could make it work but I just have this knot inside my stomach now whenever Im with you. And it eats me up more and more each day. Because what we have feels false. We shouldnt have gotten back together."
"All this time you could have said something!"
"You knew how I felt! Its just that neither of us wanted to face up to it. We both wanted things to be how they were before I found out about Ashley. Before you bothered to tell me! Before you ran off to be with her or whatever the hell it was you really set out to do."
"Then what the hell should I have done!?" Lucas yelled frustrated as he stood to his feet.
"You should have stayed or you should have gone! Or you should have told me you were coming back to me. I shouldnt have let you go but then you would have forever resented me. And then I shouldnt have let you stay. So we were fucked either way. We were damned from the start, Lucas. I just never realized it until you told me about Ashley. We were always doomed. Because of you."
"Thats not fair. You cant pin this all on me. I gave you everything I could!"
"Except the truth "
"Im sick of you blaming me for Ashley ok! Ever since Ive gotten back youve never been able to let it go. You just cant let it go even though shell never be more than you are to me. I came back didnt I? What the hell else do you want from me?"
"I want YOU! But YOU arent here anymore. You never were. Look you left me. You left me. And as far as Im concerned my Lucas never came back because he never would have left me. So that means youre not really and never really were my Lucas. Do you understand now?"
"No! I d " Lucas yelled before his eyes suddenly glimmered with the shock realization that he understood every word in an instant. "I understand "
"Lets not make this difficult. Lets not make a big noise or tell everyone. Lets just try and get our lives back on track."
"You have no idea " Lucas said shaking his head with unabashed tears in his eyes. "Absolutely no idea."
"Lucas, I dont want this to affect you staying here. I dont want to pretend well be best friends in the morning or even be best friends again. Friends even for that matter but Ill always care for you, always love you as long as I live. I may not have been yours but youll always be my first love."
"Fine " Lucas said turning his face away from me as he headed towards the door. "But first I want to ask you one thing."
"How does it feel?" Lucas said coolly making eye contact with me as he stood at the door.
"How does what feel?"
"How does it feel to know that you have the power to make my dreams come true and youve just used it to crush them?"
"Not that great "
"You know the strange thing is I find that I admire you even more for having the guts to do what you just did because I still believe you care about me. So you wouldnt want to hurt me unless you thought in the end you were doing the right thing. Youre doing the right thing for you and for me or at least you think you are. So for that reason Im going to do for you what you did for me. Ill let you go." Lucas said as he closed the door behind him.
I slumped down on my bed, curled into a tight ball and let myself sigh in relief. Funnily enough I had no regrets. This was the right thing to do. Right now my feelings are still a bit mixed up but on the whole I think if I had of stayed with Lucas with this resentment inside of me, eventually it would have exploded. Better to act now and save ourselves the trouble. I knew once Id let Lucas out of my heart when I let him go to see Ashley, Id never be able to let him back in. Never. It just took me this long to realize it.
* * * * * * *
"What a day." Dade yawned as he lay down on the changing rooms massage bench.
Dades muscles ached from head to toe. His inner thoughts cursing and praising himself for going the extra mile today. Dade always loved the way he felt after hed pushed himself. His body ached and his legs hurt but he loved all of it. He lived for the sport. For the rush. For the ache.
"You played a great game." Josh said as he moved his hands up and down Dades back, chopping firmly as he went. "I was tired enough after the dragon boat races. I dont know how you lasted all day."
"Well Im almost ready to fall off to sleep now. And if you keep that action up on my back, Ill be asleep in no time."
"Youre not tense at all. Youve really trained your body well to handle everything you do." Josh said moving his palms in rhythmic circles along the small of Dades back.
"Well youre pretty studly yourself."
"We better hurry up. Youre not the only one needing my services today. I think Robbie needs a bit of attention on his left thigh."
"Just a bit more. Then Ill get off." Dade moaned.
"Dont fall off to sleep."
"Josh, dont take this the wrong way but will you come to bed with me after this? Id really love to go to sleep during one of these sessions." Dade said yawning again as Josh patted his back to sit up.
"Sure. Off you get. Tell Robbie to hurry up. And Mike too. I wanna check out his left shoulder. I think hes putting too much strain on it."
"Will do." Dade said wrapping his large white towel around his waist. "Ill send Mike and Robbie over."
Dade headed into the main changing room and sought out Mike who was still showering. "Bro! Youre up!" Dade yelled. "Tell Robbie to get his ass moving too!"
"Ok, Bro!" Mike yelled back above the noise of rowdy young jocks still celebrating their victory.
Dade let out another yawn as he headed to the locker his gear was stored in. He let his towel slip off as he pulled his sports cologne and clothes out and began changing. Dade had just finished pulling his tearaways up when he saw out of the corner of his eye, Marty Lee and Lucas talking. Dade was already wary of Marty Lee but he was even more wary of Lucas talking to Marty Lee. He figured Marty Lee was trying to intimidate Lucas again somehow and he knew if Storm were here hed do something about it. Since he wasnt, Dade decided it was up to him instead.
"Is everything ok here?" Dade asked as he stepped up beside the two and put his hand on Lucas shoulder to show Marty Lee where his loyalties lay.
"Fine, Dade." Lucas smiled, somewhat forlornly Dade noticed. "Everythings fine."
"Why? Do you have a problem youd like to share with us?" Marty Lee said as he slid his game jersey off his taut defined form, never once taking his eyes off Dade as he did. "Because if you do. Im afraid Ill have to give it a miss for now."
"Youre a dick, Marty Lee. You always have been ever since you came here. But let me tell you something. If you fuck with my brother again in any way. Youll be leaving Merlow. One way or another."
"I am better than you. Why do you challenge me when you know you cant win?"
"As much as Id love to show you how good I am. I dont fancy being arrested for grievous bodily harm." Marty Lee said with a snicker as he turned to walk away.
"There isnt anything you could do to me that wont make me defend my brother. I will do anything to protect him." Dade said moving so that he stood an inch behind Marty Lee and so only he could hear his words. "Dont underestimate me. When it comes to Storm, Ill walk into hell before I let you hurt him. Youre stronger than I am. Youre faster than I am. You can beat me Im sure. You could probably kill me but I wont stop until you stay away from him. Do you understand me?"
Dade thought he saw Marty Lee hesitate for a moment. As if what Dade said had gotten to him somehow and made him realize something. Marty Lee just turned to look at Dade with a bewildered look in his eye before he quickly left.
"I really dont like him." Dade said under his breath.
"Hes not always like that. He never used to be anyway."
"You sure everythings ok?"
"Im fine, Dude." Lucas said patting Dades shoulder. "I can look after myself."
"I know you can, Lucas. I was ju "
"You were just looking out for me." Lucas said smiling warmly. "Thank you. I appreciate that."
"Are you sure everythings ok?" Dade asked discreetly again to Lucas.
"Dade, are you my friend?"
"Your friend?" Dade said looking at Lucas confused. "I know I was on your back for leaving Storm but I mean were still friends arent we?"
"I hope so." Lucas said vacantly. "Youre a good guy, Dade. Id be lucky to have you as a friend."
"What are you talking about Lucas? Were not friends. Friends cant get pissed off at each other like we do and still talk the next day. Ive been so angry at you sometimes I wanted to scream. And I mean I know you and I went head to head when you came back from Ashley but we got past all that because were not friends. Were more than friends. Were practically family." Dade said emphatically.
"Not anymore were not." Lucas said zipping up his bag before he threw it over his shoulder and stood facing Dade.
"Huh?" Dade said shrugging his shoulders. "Oh no youre kidding right? He didnt. You didnt. What happened?"
"I want you to give this to Storm." Lucas said putting his treasured ring in Dades hand, closing Dades fingers tightly around it. "Tell him I wont be needing it after tonight. Hes got what he wants now. Hes got what he wants "
* * * * * * *
Sarah and I stood in the center of the White Swan Civil Event Center where todays tourney was being held. Nothing too spectacular about this facility, I was more partial to Merlows event center. Although my opinion could be rather biased considering where I live aye. But we did have a new Merlow SuperDome in construction right now, due in the next year not long after our new Merlow High sports center was due to be completed. Once that was complete I knew wed be hosting the regionals and perhaps perhaps even the nationals one day. I could give Marty Lee a supreme thrashing in front of a home crowd next year. Merlow was definitely one up and coming place. And the friendly rivalry we shared with White Swan sure helped us want to be as up and coming as we could. Lest they get a too comfortable advantage over us.
There were five floor areas operating in this facility at the moment. Four floor areas surrounding one primary floor area. Not surprising considering the number of participants in this particular competition. The crowd was large and the atmosphere even larger. Just how I like it. This tourney is the last major competition before the first ever Intermix competition that would be held this year in Hamilton. With that competition being so far away from Merlow there will only be one entrant from our dojo, Sarah. Although that could change in the near future but not if I can help it. I have no need for any extra trophies and the major players have decided that if we have one representative who well sponsor for the Intermix, this year itll be Sarah. She will be a force to be reckoned with. No doubt about it.
"Hi, Drew." I asked as we walked through the area of the event center I thought would contain most of our teammates.
"Hey Boss. Hi, Sarah. Wheres Dade?"
"Hes with Josh and Claire." Sarah said as she slapped Drew a fiver. "Who else turned up to watch?"
"Just you guys so far. Oh and Marty Lee. Wendell should be here soon though. I think he said he was coming."
"Good old Marty Lee." I said sarcastically.
I turned around to see Marty Lee standing before me with a disturbingly sincere look on his face. "Well speak his name and he appears."
"Hi, Sarah." Marty Lee said smiling at Sarah as he nodded in acknowledgment of her. "Drew."
Sarah and Drew both greeted Marty Lee and my eyes remained fixed onto him. The fact that he was being sincere with Drew and Sarah didnt surprise me. The fact he wasnt doing anything to goad me in any way did. Ever since Lucas had come back and Id spoken to Ashley on the phone shed called Marty Lee for me. Since then wed constantly not bumped into each other. This is the first time hed actually spoken to me since then. Obviously Ashley had said something to him to get him to back off me but still I was wary. Even if he did try anything I had an ace card up my sleeve courtesy of Ashley that wouldnt hurt him but would keep him at bay. Hopefully I wouldnt need to use it.
"Storm can I speak to you a moment please?" Marty Lee asked as he looked me square in the eye and showed that they bore no malice.
"Well " I said hesitantly. "I guess so."
"Well wait for you here." Sarah said as she also nodded to me signaling me that shed be watching my back if I needed her. Gotta love Sarah.
I walked a step behind Marty Lee, keeping him in front of me as he led us off together. He led us to the cafeteria, which overlooked the bulk of the event center. We sat down at a table right next to the railing so we had a great view of everything. Marty Lee quickly got up and went to buy us both a bottle of OJ before he sat back down again. I thanked him as we both sat nervously waiting for someone to say something. I think this was the first time Id seen Marty Lee appear nervous. And it was at this time I realized he reminded me a lot of myself. Something about him just seemed familiar.
"Storm, I want you to know that I still want the top spot. But only if I am good enough to have it. No more games. No angst. No revenge. Just a fair challenge. Will you give me the opportunity to find out if I am?"
"Thats it? Thats all you want? Youre not planning to ambush me and beat the crap out of me or anything? No bullshit?"
"Why now? And why are you suddenly being so nice to me?"
"I figure theres not much point anymore in kicking someone while theyre already down."
Marty Lee pointed over the rails towards the eastern end of the center. I noticed right away what or rather who he was pointing at. I have to admit that at this point I was second guessing my decision to let Lucas go. Seeing him standing next to none other than the green eyed goddess herself, Ashley. They were holding hands and Ashley gave Lucas a short angel kiss before she led him off.
I put on as cool a face as I could and tried to suppress the feelings of regret and jealousy inside me. My insides were torn between anger at Lucas not waiting any time at all before moving on. Angry at myself for giving him the opportunity to be with her. Feeling sad for the future yet happy for the past. Ultimately a tiny well wishing smile passed across my face and I turned to Marty Lee.
"So thats what he meant " I said holding Lucas ring in my fingers as it hung from my necklace. "Thats what he meant "
"What is it, Storm?"
"Perhaps it was always meant to be this way." I said mournfully as I struggled to keep my composure. "There is no one to blame here except myself. But I did the right thing. Again."
"You let him go so he could be with her? Lucas didnt wait long obviously. He came here to meet her without her even knowing. I think you know the rest "
"Didnt waste any time did he "
"I think he called her right after you two went your separate ways. Didnt even let the bed get cold. Did you know all along about him and that it would be this way?"
"Lucas never came back to me. He never really did. And its obvious now that he never really wanted to either. I did him a favor."
"For what its worth " Marty Lee said putting his hand on my shoulder. "Im sorry."
"I thought youd be happy. Youve always wanted to see me hurt for some reason. Now you get what you want." I said as I gazed blankly at where Ashley and Lucas had just been standing.
"Believe it or not. I have a lot of respect for you, Storm. More than I have for him. Im sorry I went out of my way to be a jerk to you before."
"Why do I have your respect, Marty Lee?"
"Ive been watching you ever since I came here. Others respected you and I wondered why. Your team is loyal to you. Your friends are fiercely loyal to you. Your brother is prepared to ruin his life to protect you. Ill tell you about that later. Why do all these people feel so strongly about you? One day I found out. You give respect and expect it in return. You give none where none is given. You have integrity. Believe it or not so do I. Ive observed enough about you Storm to realize we are not that much unlike each other."
"What is it you want from me, Marty Lee?"
"My friends call me Marty "
I raised my eyebrow in true Dade fashion and turned to Marty Lee, feeling slightly uncomfortable with the tone of his comment. I could take a hint. He wanted to be friends. I almost smiled at the irony. Why is it my worst enemies often become candidates to be my greatest friends? Brad was fast on track to become one of my most trusted friends equal to Carl even. I wasnt sure how it would go with Marty Lee but wed soon find out if I agreed to him.
"Its not much fun having enemies. Especially when you admire them. Call me jealous but I want to have what you have. I want to be like you. Youre the kind of person Id want to be. Its not much fun being lonely." Marty Lee said feigning a smile.
"I dont get you." I said as I shook my head. "I just plain dont get you. Why now? Why now?"
"Because youre vulnerable. If everything were perfect for you right now you wouldnt give me a second look. Now is the best time for me to try. Of everyone in this town I want to be your friend the most. I think wed make a pretty tough duo dont you think?"
"Perhaps." I said smiling. "Perhaps."
"Do you really think Lucas is meant to be with my sister?"
"Well she makes him happy obviously. He wouldnt have come here to see her if she didnt. Ive got nothing on her."
"Shes here to check out the future Intermix competition just like Sarah. No doubt theyll meet each other at some point of that tournament. Ashley is a higher graded black belt but Sarah, despite her just recent ascension is very, very impressive." Marty Lee said just as he noticed I wasnt really paying attention, my eyes focused on Lucas and Ashleys last position. "Maybe you should go home early. You dont really want to be here all night seeing those two together do you?"
"What they do is no business of mine anymore." I said as I turned to face Marty Lee. "But I should get back to Sarah."
"Thats probably a good idea. Ill be down with a few of my old team mates if you want me." Marty Lee said extending his hand to me. "Will you think about what I said?"
"All of it." I said flatly as I shook his hand firmly. "Ill see you later."
"Bye, Storm " Marty Lee said after Id already turned my back to him to high tail it out of there.
He was right. I didnt want to be there right now. Not where I could still see Lucas and Ashley. That was the last thing I needed to see right now. Marty Lee would just have to wait for another time to negotiate things.
* * * * * * *
"Im going to grab a bit of fresh air, Sarah." I said patting Sarah on the back. "Ill be right back."
"Ok, Storm. Ill be right here."
I felt like grabbing a bit of fresh air so I headed to the second level where the outdoor decks were. As I headed upstairs and outside, my stomach almost did a full somersault seeing Lucas standing outside by himself. Apparently for the same reason I had. I tried to turn around to leave but hed already seen me so it woulda been a bit obvious for me to just walk away. So I just headed towards the edge and leaned on it, sucking in as much fresh air as I could.
I inhaled a large lungs full of air, my eyes closed as I tried to contemplate what this moment would become. Hostile? Awkward? Anxious? When Id opened them again I turned to see Lucas still standing not five meters away from me looking out over the edge as well. We both kinda looked at each other with an anxious uncertain expression on our faces. Neither of us had the courage or the inclination to say anything. Not one word. I was too nervous and ulcer inducing anxious to say anything and Lucas looked dumbfounded and just as anxious as I did to say anything either. So neither of us did say anything.
A stony silence had enveloped us. We just stood there staring at each other. The night sky and cool air doing little to inspire us with words. As I studied Lucas face uncomfortably I could tell now that he had that look about him as if something were right on the tip of his tongue. And thats right where it stayed.
I was just too damn nervous to even say anything. I just wanted to be away from there as soon as possible before he did say something or even worse, Ashley turned up. So before either of those things happened, I nodded bye and turned to walk away. This is what wed come to in the space of a day. How quickly things can change on you.
"Is that how it is now? We cant even talk anymore?"
I turned back to face him, still unable to say a word. Im sure he could read my face enough to see that I was saying yes to his question. I didnt think we could talk anymore. I certainly couldnt.
"Storm Im sorry."
"Huh?" I said in surprise at Lucas statement. "What for?"
"For hurting you. For everything."
I lowered my head in contemplation of what Lucas had just said. What could I say now to make this moment easier for both of us. The only thing I could. The truth. The way I really felt.
"Best hurt Ive ever felt." I said smiling broadly. "Never regret it."
"Weve been through a lot together. I dont think Ill ever meet someone like you again, Storm. I know I wont."
"Well I definitely wont meet anyone as spunky as you." I said smiling as I pushed Lucas shoulder playfully. "Or as sweet as you."
Lucas let out a small giggle, a manly giggle of course as he blushed at my comment. We both stood there smiling at each other happily, unsure of what to say or just not wanting to ruin the moment with words.
"Well I better not hold you up. Ashleys probably waiting for you. It was good talking to you like this a little strange " I said still smiling happily. "But good. Take care of yourself ok?"
"Storm, I never "
"Sshh " I said putting my finger to my lips. "This has been a good moment. Dont ruin it."
"But I "
"Can I ask you one thing Storm before you go?"
"I know you dont want to hear this but do you think you could ever love me again the way you did before you knew about Ashley?"
"I dont know. If were standing where we are now then I guess the answer is no."
"I think the real question should be can you ever love me again? In that way? At all?"
"I dont know, Lucas. I just really dont know."
"I thought so. Im really sorry, Storm. I really am. Im so sorry."
"Enough of that." I said scrunching my nose up as I held any emotion welling up in me. "I have to go. I have to go."
"Wait " I said pausing as I pulled Lucas ring from my pocket and held it in my hand.
"Whats wrong, Storm?"
"I understand." I said closing my eyes for fear that I would break down any minute now just thinking about why Lucas had given the ring to me today. Because of Ashley. He was hers now. "I understand why you gave this to me today. I understood a long time ago."
I took the ring and put it in Lucas hand, clasping my hands around his as I did. "But if you dont have this how will you remember me?" I said trying my hardest to smile through any tears but having a really hard time right now.
"Oh shit, Storm." Lucas said shaking his head at me, trying himself to keep in control just like I was trying. "I dont need this to remember you. I could never forget you. Never "
"Good." I said nodding with a smile as the tears finally began to flow freely. "Good."
Lucas tried to say something but covered his mouth when he found he couldnt make the words come out. I tried to smile at him and send him all my well wishing intent. But he just couldnt even look at me now. I knew if I wanted to leave. Now would be the time.
"Dont forget me." I said doing my best to smile. "Goodbye, Lucas "
I turned to walk away and Lucas whispered bye to me as I left as fast as I could before he turned me into a waterworks. I had to get away from him. I couldnt be near him anymore and it felt so strange. Lucas wasnt my home anymore he wasnt mine
* * * * * * *
To say that tonight had been long would be an understatement. Or maybe it was just that unshakable anxiety and uncomfortable feeling I had knowing that Lucas and Ashley were in the same building as I was. I just wanted to hurry up and leave but I know Sarah wanted to stay the whole evening.
I couldnt describe the knots in my stomach right now. I just felt so conflicted. I knew I couldnt be with Lucas the way I was before I knew about Ashley. And I knew he couldnt go back to her as long as he felt obligated to me. Now he was free and now he was with her again for real this time. Id gotten everything I wanted. I should be happy right?
"Gee, you look like youre going to explode soon if you dont relax or something." Claire said scaring the shit out of me as she walked up behind me and rubbed my back soothingly. "Youll give yourself another ulcer if you keep this up."
"Shit you gave me a fright. What are you doing here?"
"Nice to see you too." Claire said smiling at me.
"Dont mind me. My nerves are shot to hell today."
"Are you sure youre ok?" Claire said looking at me concerned.
"Im fine. I just I havent had a good day."
"Oh my god youre shaking." Claire said as she put her hands on either side of my face.
"Maybe Im just a little cold thats all. Dont worry, Claire."
"Come here." Claire said wrapping her arms around me as she gave me a big hug.
Claire rubbed her hands up and down my back soothingly as she held me close to her. I still felt anxious inside but I didnt feel as if I were going to explode now. I let out a sigh of relief and lay my head down on her shoulder.
"That feels good." I sighed. "Thank you."
"Whats got you so worked up?" Claire asked as she sat me down and put her arm around my shoulder.
"Id rather not talk about it. Ive just had a really hard day."
"You know if you ever need me, Im here."
"Thanks, Claire." I said letting out a few deep breaths but still feeling rather emotional. "I really needed that. I feel better now."
"Are you sure?"
"Not really." I said feigning a smile.
Claire gently leant me over to her so the back of my head rested in her lap. I was laying on one of those long wooden stadium seats right up towards the back of the spectator area so luckily there werent really many people around us. Not that it really mattered. All she was doing was trying to make me feel better.
"I hope you dont feel uncomfortable." Claire said as she stroked the side of my face with one hand and used her other to rub my chest. "I just figured this would help you relax."
"Its working." I said smiling blissfully. "This feels really nice."
"No ulterior motives. I promise." Claire said smiling down at me.
I looked up at her face and just smiled back, having lost all my previous anxiety and the knots in my stomach caused by thinking about Lucas and Ashley together. I dont know what came over me at that moment but something changed. I purposely and subtly undid the top button to my shirt and let Claires hand slip inside.
"It wouldnt bother me if there were any " I said somewhat nervously as I looked up at Claire.
"What about Lucas?"
"Hes got his own girlfriend. He cant have you as well." I said as Claire just looked down at me perplexed and continued to gently stroke the side of my face.
"Sorry, Storm." Claire said patting my chest as she sat me up. "Ive been there too many times with you guys. Im not catching you on the rebound."
"Thanks." I said giving a small smile to her. "Youre doing me a favor. Im sorry."
"Dont be. Youre a great guy ok? And Im crazy for turning down a chance when I have one but anyone can tell you dont really want this."
"Well you know what? You still rule for making me feel a whole lot better." I said leaning in and giving Claire a small kiss. "Thank you."
It felt somewhat liberating to kiss Claire like that. Just a small kiss but it had been so long since Id kissed a girl Id almost forgotten what it was like. Not that Im complaining about Lucas kissing. Girls just always seem to have softer skin and lips.
"Dont make this hard for me." Claire said blushing. "Youre way too good at kissing. I better go do what I came for."
"Hang out with Sarah. Thats what we came for. Josh and Dade should have found her by now."
"Can I kiss you one more time please?"
"What?" Claire said blushing again.
"Can I kiss you please?"
"I dont think thats a very good idea."
"Why not?" I said grinning cheekily. "Itll be fun."
"Youre liking this whole being single buzz arent you? You can kiss anyone you like now."
"I guess it is kinda liberating being single again. There havent been many times in my life where I have been single. So its kinda fun to be in this position and just be open to anything. I could go on a date with anyone right now."
"Well the reason I wont kiss you is I dont want to be just anyone. When I find someone Ill be the one not just anyone. Call me old fashioned but thats how I am."
"Youre not old fashioned. Youre just not a cynic like me yet. Youre very lucky."
"No offense but hopefully Ill have more luck than you."
"Call me weird but I still think I was kinda lucky to have what I had." I said smiling as I stood up. "Thank you, Claire."
"I didnt offend you did I?"
"No." I said reassuringly. "Thanks for helping me. Sarahs right down the front."
Claire stood up to leave but before she walked away she turned back to face me with a curious look about her. "You know something, Storm?"
"Single doesnt suit you."
"And what does?"
"I suppose youll have to find that out for yourself if you dont already know."
I nodded at Claire and smiled at her as she kissed me on the cheek and walked away to find Sarah. I sat back down by myself again and wondered how right or how wrong Id been about Lucas. Right now I felt like the most confused bastard in history. Maybe I just needed time to adjust. I still didnt doubt that I havent felt as strongly about Lucas since he came back but its not easy to let go of a years worth of history.
I decided that with Claire here, Sarah didnt need me to hang around anymore so I figured it would be best for me to leave. I knew Ashley would be here to watch the entire tourney and as long as she was here so was Lucas. But Id had enough of my stomach in knots for tonight so it was time to head home.
Walking towards the stairs to the main floor I encountered a voice that I recognized unmistakably as Lucas. I carried on walking downstairs, knowing that Id have to get used to walking away whenever Lucas was near me now. However my attention peaked when I could sense distress in Lucas voice. My instincts kicked in and I ran back up the stairs towards his voice. I saw a double door leading to the outside area where Lucas and I had spoken before and rushed through.
I was just about to run around the corner to him when I heard someones voice that I didnt recognize. At least not at first. It didnt take me long to figure out it was Ashley. I sighed to myself and leaned my head against the wall as Ashleys voice spoke home the resounding truth
"Me and you. Well look after each other. You want to be with me right?"
"I I guess."
"Why did you come to me first then if you didnt want to be with me? Storm was right about you. He probably knew before you did. Thats why he let you go. And you just proved his point by being here with me right now."
"I feel so bad. Ive hurt him so much."
"Dont feel bad, Lucas. Not for feeling the way you do."
"I cant help it." Lucas said sobbing heavily. "I feel terrible. Ive hurt him enough already. He doesnt deserve to have this shoved at him. And I I mi "
"I know. I know. But he will be hurt ok? No matter what. He loves you. He knows you. Thats why he did this. If he believed you loved him the way you should then he wouldnt have let you go. If you loved him the way you should have then he wouldnt have let you go. But he knew. He did it for you. You have to respect that. Dont mess him around anymore, Lucas. Hes too good to be treated that way."
"I know he is!" Lucas cried. "I know how fucking awesome he is dont tell me how good he is because I know! I know "
"Do you want me to talk to him?"
"No! No. Thats the worst thing you could do. Itd be like kicking him when hes down. Rubbing salt in the wound. I cant believe this is happening "
"Itll be ok, Baby." Ashley said softly and I could tell she was holding Lucas at that moment even though I couldnt see them. "I love you."
I could still hear Lucas sobbing gently shaking him, his breathing still resonating to me as if my head were on his chest until finally he spoke. "I love you too, Ash "
And thats the real reason why I let him go.
So he could be free. He never really came back to me. My instinct was right to let him go. But now that all my own inner denials and charades had fallen, the reality of the situation hit me like a dozen knives. The reality was I never stopped loving him. I just couldnt show him how much I cared when I knew he felt for another. I lay my head against the wall unable to lift it away as my sobs escaped me with the force of a free river.
"Oh shit." I said frantically wiping my eyes as I raised my head to see Lucas and the demure looking Ashley standing in front of me. "I I I was just leaving. I didnt mean to I have to go."
I just looked at Lucas unable to stop the sadness in my eyes from showing. My tears escaping me as my face gave away the biggest hurt Id ever felt in my life. My eyes saw right into his, taking me back to that moment so long ago when Lucas first let me peer into his soul. He could feel my pain now. His eyes drooping with sadness and sorrow as he looked back at me.
"Storm Ashley and I we "
"Dont " I said angrily, trying my best to save myself from either breaking down or bursting with rage. "Dont say anything. Just leave."
"Storm Im so sorry, Storm. Im so sorry."
"I went through this with Sarah. Tore me up inside dealing with that. Took me a long time to get over. If you think it was like that with her then how the hell do you think its going to be with you?"
"Last three sentences youve said have all begun with my name. Whats up with that? Anyone would think you actually cared about me." I said struggling to get the last few words out. "Why does this happen to me?"
"Im sorry, Storm. Im sorry "
"Last time I did the right thing. I let Sarah go. I shook Mikes hand. I stepped aside gracefully. I was the bigger man then. When you found out about Ashley again. This beautiful girl here." I said waving my hand towards Ashley. "I went out of my way to find out where she lived. Just for you. I broke my own heart and let you go. Just for you. I did the right thing then. I was the bigger man. You know what?"
"I am sick of being the bigger man. Im sick of doing the right thing when Im the one who gets hurt for it. So I want both of you to have a nice life. I want you to have great sex. And I want both of you to stay the fuck out of my life. Dont you ever say a word to me again, Lucas. You are not my best friend anymore. You are not my friend. Youre not even my enemy. Youre nothing to me now. And do you want to know the really fucked up thing, Lucas?"
"Wh what, Storm?"
"I still care about you enough not to kick you out of my house. So Ill leave. Dont say Im being rash. Dont say you give a fuck because I dont want to hear it. You stay away tonight. Ill be gone by morning. Then you can do whatever the fuck you like."
"What are you going to do, Storm? You cant leave. You cant!" Lucas yelled emphatically.
"No this is wrong." Ashley said speaking up finally. "Storm, you cant leave your own home."
"Its none of your business what I do. I hope you two have a nice life."
"Storm, I wont let you leave!" Lucas yelled as he grabbed my arm. "Ill leave. I wont let you throw away your life because of me."
"You were my life. You were my life. How does it feel?" I said softly as my eyes pierced Lucas.
"Dont Storm. Please dont say that."
"Remember when I said it was the best hurt I ever felt?"
"I lied. This sucks. If I never see you again itll still hurt just as much. Ill never forgive you for doing this to me. Im sick of being the one who has to suffer to do the right thing. Im sick of grinning and bearing it. Im sick of it. Ill never forgive you for doing this to me. Never. I hate you. I hate you." I said disappearing down the stairs before they could say anything.
That was it for me. Id had enough. Id had enough.
* * * * * * *
"Storm did that?" Josh asked as he pulled his knees up onto the chair and leant his chin on them. "He kissed you?"
"Just a friendly kiss."
"And what did you say to him?" Josh asked sounding slightly annoyed.
"Hes just on the rebound thats all. Hes confused about a few things."
"What an asshole. Not even a day is up and hes already making the moves on someone else."
"Hey thats my brother youre talking about." Dade snapped as he turned his attention from the mats to Josh. "Like Claire said, hes just confused right now. Anyone would think you were jealous or something."
"Shut up, Dade. I just dont think its very nice thats all. Im sorry for calling him an asshole."
"Yeah and Im sorry youre such a geek. Why dont you just go get yourself a boyfriend and stop hogging Claire?"
"Geez whats up with you two?" Claire said annoyed. "Josh, hes just hurting. You should have seen him, he was really shaken up."
"Just dont call my brother an asshole unless you wanna make something of it. Nobody fucks with my brother. Not you. Not Lucas."
"Just forget about it. Shit happens."
"By the looks of it. Its not your brother whos the asshole. Its Lucas. I should have known hed do something like this. I saw him here with a girl before, holding hands and everything. He must know Storm is here. Rubbing it in Storms face like that. What an asshole. Is that girl he was with, Ashley? I saw him before with this babe. Green eyes, long blonde hair. Looks like you Claire if you had green eyes blonde hair and a great figure." Josh said smiling mischievously to himself.
"Bastard." Claire smiled. "Dont say that."
"Oh come on. You know youre beautiful." Josh said grinning as he grabbed Claire and nuzzled his head into Claires neck and shoulder playfully. "Claires hot. Claires hot."
"Yeah, yeah shut up." Claire blushed shoving Josh off.
"Would you two just fuck already?" Dade said bluntly. "Im getting sick of watching you two fawn all over each other. Josh, Claire makes you horny. Claire, Josh makes you horny. You both like each other. Ever heard the term Just do it?"
"But, Im gay." Josh shrugged. "And Claires my friend."
"Well youre right about one of those things, Josh. Tell that to your dick when it watches Claires ass walk by. Speedo Tento." Dade said even more bluntly, causing both Josh and Claire to blush a beet red. "Its just hormones you say? Yeah sure. I believe that. Thats why youre such great friends as well huh? Has to be hormones. Thats why you practically cling to each other everywhere you go? Has to be hormones."
"Dade, whats your problem?" Josh gulped. "Claire and I are just friends."
"Dade, isnt that Storm over there?" Claire said noticing the quick moving form of Storm on the other side of the spectator crowd and using the opportunity to quick change the subject.
"Ill be back. Ill just see whats up." Dade said quickly jumping the rail as he ran towards his brother.
"Good save, Claire." Josh said nudging Claire. "I dont know what he was on."
"Yeah me either." Claire said feigning a smile.
"You and I. Together." Josh said stifling a small but somewhat hollow laugh. "Yeah right."
"What?" Claire said giving Josh a strange look. "Im not good enough or something?"
"No its not that. But were friends. And Im gay."
"Yeah " Claire said subconsciously giving Josh the Dade eyebrow. "So you keep saying "
* * * * * * *
"Lucas say something." Ashley said as she sat down next to a stunned silent Lucas.
Lucas eyes were dead as he stared into nothingness. His face devoid of any emotion. He was simply stunned silent.
"Lucas?" Ashley said as she took Lucas hand and tried to comfort him. "At least hes free now. He wont have to wonder or hurt anymore. You have to let him go. Hes gone now."
"He hates me." Lucas said in agony. "He hates me."
"What do you expect?" Ashley said as she took Lucas hand to comfort him. "You didnt expect him to be best friends with you, did you?"
"He cant hate me. He cant. I have to fix this. This has to stop. I wont let him hate me. This is all wrong!"
"He really loves you, you know. He really, really loves you. If you thought he didnt it was all a charade. He was just trying to protect himself."
"I know! If he didnt love me so much he wouldnt be so hurt. I did this to him. I hate myself for doing this to him."
"What the hell do you want, Lucas?" Ashley said trying not to sound as irritated with Lucas as she felt. "Stop fucking people around. I dont deserve it and neither does Storm. Ive been through enough hell for you and so has Storm. Now make up your damn mind!"
"Actually lets forget everything. Im not going to end up like Storm. I went through hell because of you, Lucas. And now were here and youre so indecisive. I dont damn well deserve that! Do you have any idea what hell you made my life? Do you have absolutely any idea?" Ashley said trying her best not to raise her voice as much as she was but eventually unable to contain her long buried anger and resentment. "You ruined my whole life! And still I stand here because I love you and I always will. But I deserve better than you can give me, Lucas. I just wish it didnt take me this long to realize."
"Youre a shithead, Lucas." Ashley said as her eyes narrowed and her face let show the years of hurt shed suffered. "Youre an indecisive shithead! You dont know what you want. So you mess everyone else up while youre trying to decide. Me. Storm. Whos next?"
"I I dont know."
"Exactly!" Ashley yelled in aggravation as her anger overwhelmed her and she grabbed Lucas by the collar, shaking him forcefully. "You dont know what the hell you want!"
"I want Storm!" Lucas cried in frustration. "I want Storm "
Ashley closed her eyes with simmering rage overwhelming her. "I lost my whole life for you?" Ashley said in disbelieving anger and disappointment with herself. "The last two years have been hell because of you. All so that it would end like this "
"Ashley Im sorry "
"Fuck sorry!" Ashley yelled letting all of her fury escape, lashing out at Lucas with a devastating punch that connected right with the left of his jaw.
Ashleys life in the last two years had been eventful at best. Devastating at worst. Shed become pregnant. Been sent away from her home, her school, her friends, her brother. Lost a baby. Shed been through the lowest times of her life. It had taken her this long to put herself back on track. And for everything shed been through to have just been for someone who never even truly loved her she could no longer contain the anger for all the pain shed had to endure. So she followed up her staggering punch with a right thrust kick to Lucas midsection, sending him flying backwards.
"That isnt even an inkling of what Ive been through because of you. Youre not worthy. And from now on youre dead to me." Ashley said as tears fell from her still vengeful demeanor.
Lucas gasped for breath as he struggled on the ground, having been winded from Ashleys purposely aimed blow. As he watched Ashley wipe her eyes and turn to leave he pushed himself to shake the pain off and stand up.
"Ash Ash please " Lucas stuttered as he regained his composure.
"Thats the first time Ive ever hit anyone in anger before." Ashley said as she lowered her head in shame. "But Ive never been hurt so much by one person before either. I pray Storm finds the courage to stay away from you. Because if he doesnt "
And with that lingering sentence, Ashley walked away from the doubly stunned Lucas. He tried to call out to her but was too weak to even stand now and he slumped against the wall.
"Please God " Lucas stammered as he sat slumped against the wall. "Dont let me be the bad guy. I have a good heart. Its just confused right now. Dont let them hate me "
Lucas closed his eyes, wishing he could just fall asleep and let everything disappear. His mind wandered into thoughts of joy from the past. Glimmers of hope for the future. Regrets for yesterdays. Sorrow for tomorrows. If only he knew what he needed to do.
"Storm " Lucas whispered to himself. "Thats it "
* * * * * * *
"Fuck off!" I yelled angrily at Ashley as I walked out onto the parking lot not bothering to look behind me.
"Get fucked, Bitch. You can use your big ass boyfriend in there to fuck you silly again and knock you up some more. Keep the fucker. I dont give a shit. Just leave me alone."
"You bastard! I just want to talk!" Ashley yelled as she caught up to me and grabbed my arm.
"Ive never hit a girl before." I said stopping sharply as I glared at her hand on my arm. "Dont make me start with you."
"Gimmie a break will you? Im not the one who hurt you. If anything youre the thorn in my side. Lucas found me and then I discovered I couldnt have him because you were around. I had him before you, you know. So just chill out."
"And you have him! So what the hell do you need to annoy me for?"
"Because I know how you feel." Ashley said putting her hands on either side of my face to try and keep me focused on her. "Now calm down ok? Getting worked up just makes you do stupid things. Ask me because I just kicked Lucas on his ass."
"I was so angry at him. I shouldnt have done it. But Ive been through too much because of him to be treated the way I have. I just snapped."
"Look " I said closing my eyes as I took a few deep breaths to calm myself. "Im sorry for what I said before. Im angry. But Im not angry at you. Im angry at him. I just wanna go home."
"Youre in no condition to drive. Give Sarah your keys. You dont really want to go home."
"Because Lucas lives there too remember?"
"Wont he be with you tonight?"
"No its over for us. Lucas came and went so quickly before we never had any closure. Im not even sure if we have it right now but I do know I dont want to be with him. And I dont think he really wants to be with me either."
"That hasnt got anything to do with me. Not anymore. Ive never really known Lucas for his decisiveness. I think its better this happened now than a year down the track. I dont even want to talk about it. I just wanna go home." I said resigned.
"Storm. I know what youre going through. You dont wanna be alone tonight. Or alone near him, do you?"
"I have a lot of people who care about me. I wont be alone."
"Come with me, Storm. My team and I are staying at the Regent Swan. I know you dont wanna go home. Look if you dont trust me, Ill pay for your own hotel room. Give the keys to Sarah. You can go back to Merlow in the morning with Marty Lee when he goes home."
"Oh it just keeps getting better."
"I really want to talk to you, Storm. Please. One night. Who else will have any idea what youre going through?"
"Ashley! Its time to go!" yelled out a voice from one of Ashleys friends in the distance.
"Come with me, Storm." Ashley said urgently. "Ill wait for you. Just come with me. Please?"
"Are we gonna sleep together?" I said grinning cheekily but not meaning anything serious by the statement, just trying to lighten the mood somewhat. "Never slept with a girl before."
"I dont even kiss on the first date." Ashley said winking back at me as she turned to walk away. "Besides Im not the one who likes you. At least not yet "
"Well are you coming?"
"Ill just give the keys to Sarah and Ill be right back!" I said feeling just a bit exhilarated right now.
"Ill be waiting "
* * * * * * *
"Sarah! Where is he?" Lucas asked almost out of breath as he ran up beside Sarah who stood in the middle of the parking lot
"You wouldnt believe me if I told you." Sarah said as she watched a large white transport van leaving the parking lot.
"What?" Lucas asked as he leant on Sarahs shoulder for support as he caught his breath from running around looking for Sarah and Storm.
"Hes gone with Ashley."
Lucas eyes grew wide and he gasped in disbelief almost choking on the very thought of Storm going off with Ashley. He shook his head, trying to refocus himself into figuring out what to do. "Sarah I need the jeep."
"Sorry, Buster. Ive got the keys, which means Im responsible for it. Besides I think the purpose of Storm going with Ashley was to get away from you. It would kind of defeat that purpose if I gave you the jeep now wouldnt it?"
"Sarah, please. I have to go after him."
"Im leaving now." Sarah said as she began walking towards Storms jeep wrangler. "I take it youll need a ride home?"
"Give him a break, Lucas. Just go home."
"I cant leave him with her. I have to go after him." Lucas said almost hysterically.
"Do you know where Ashleys staying while shes here in White Swan?"
"No I didnt ask her. But Ill call every hotel. Or Ill find Marty Lee, hell know where she is."
"Marty Lee went with them."
"What?" Lucas asked in surprise. "Storm went somewhere with Marty Lee?"
"Yes. Now tell me, Lucas. Why exactly do you want to find Storm? To make sure he doesnt get with Ashley or to make sure Ashley doesnt get with him?"
"I just need to find them. Its Storm ok. Hes the one Im going after. A lot can happen in a night. Im not going to take any risks. I want him back now."
"He hates you. He doesnt even want you back anymore."
"He doesnt hate me. Hes just hurt and angry. But I can fix all that, Sarah. I just need to see him. Ill prove myself."
"Lucas, put a fork in your relationship, its done. Storms trying to move on. Why cant you just leave him be? Havent you messed him up enough?"
"Hes not the only one whos been through shit you know? Ive been through everything with Mira because of how I felt for him. Hes not the only one whos suffered you know."
"Look. Just leave it tonight ok? Why dont you come over to my place tonight? Storms got Ashley. Youve got me. Ironic dont you think?"
"Why do you want me to come over?"
"So we can talk. Look, I really think a night to think things over wouldnt hurt. You look like you could talk to someone who isnt Storm or Ashley. I know Storm. Just give it the night to think things over ok? Ashley wants to help Storm. I want to help you."
"Yeah except youre not trying to make me hate Storm." Lucas said furrowing his brow in worry. "I bet Ashleys giving Storm 1001 reasons why he should never look at me again. Thats why I need to find him."
"And how many of those reasons would be valid?" Sarah asked raising her eyebrow at Lucas. "Besides, Storm isnt swayed by other peoples opinions. You should know that by now. He makes up his own mind."
"I wish Id never found Ashley. I wish Marty Lee had never come to Merlow."
"Youd have found her eventually. Better now than later on. Lets go home, Lucas."
"Uhh, Sarah? Can we still stay at home tonight? We can crash in Storms room. I dont think hell be that angry would he? I just I wanna be there tonight. Maybe hell come back. If he does, I should be there when he gets back."
Sarah just sighed at Lucas obvious need for Storm, something hed probably let himself forget since Ashley reentered his life. "Oh boy you really messed up, Lucas. You shouldnt have rushed back from Ashleys before. You shouldve taken enough time out to make sure youd moved on. But you rushed back for Storm and ended up making things worse because you hadnt let go of Ashley. You shoulda stayed or you shoulda gone for good. Or you should have told him you were coming back. You didnt do either of those things. Three strikes says youre outta here. Youre fucked."
"Dont say that." Lucas said tight lipped and slightly fuming at Sarahs statement. "I know what I want now. Ill get him back. Then you can all eat shit and get fucked."
"What did you say?" Sarah said high pitched, having been caught completely by surprise at Lucas verbal assault.
"Ive been here over a year and that whole time Ive gotten nothing but shit and holier than thou looks from the whole fucking lot of you. I didnt care then because Storm was more important to me than caring what the fuck any of you small minded assholes thought of this Dude. Ive had to put up with it from you, Marcel, Dade, June, Daniel Sr.. I am SICK OF IT! You all look down on me as if Im not good enough for Storm or something. Well you know what? I AM good enough and I dont need any of you guys approval to realize that. The only one of you who has always accepted me for who I am is Mike. All the rest of you at one time or another have shit all over me and Ive never done anything to you. When the hell have I ever done anything to you? Huh!? Youre all holier than thou assholes!"
"Excuse me?" Sarah said walking right back to Lucas so they were right in each others faces.
"You heard me." Lucas said feeling a pang of nervousness well up in him as Sarah stood nose to nose with him.
"Goodbye, Lucas." Sarah said emotionlessly as she turned to head towards the jeep.
"Oh shit." Lucas said cursing under his breath. "Sarah!"
"Sarah!" Lucas yelled as he ran after her, trying to open the jeeps passenger door to get in. "Im sorry."
The top was down so Lucas jumped in right over the door, landing in the passenger seat. His heart was racing a hundred miles as he looked at the blank faced Sarah who started the car even as Lucas was jumping in and now already had them on the road. She said nothing to Lucas. She did not look at him. She did not even acknowledge his presence.
And still Sarah said nothing. They drove and drove. Eventually leaving the confines of White Swan and entering the dark desolate night roads leading back towards their hometown of Merlow.
"I know youre not talking to me but I have to say I hate driving this stretch at night." Lucas said looking at either side of himself along the seemingly endless highway surrounded by endless darkness of plains, trees and roadside nothingness.
The cool air seemed to do nothing to quell Lucas sense of anxiousness. He looked to Sarahs face again and noted her staunch stony face complimenting her equally stony silence. Lucas was actually glad hed jumped in, he didnt fancy trying to find his own way back to Merlow tonight.
"Storm and I got a flat tire along here the first day he got the jeep. But that was during the day." Lucas said not bothering himself about the fact Sarah was still ignoring him.
"Ok thats it." Sarah said pulling the jeep over to the side of the road. "Get out."
"What? What did I say?" Lucas said shrugging his shoulders.
"I didnt deserve what you said to me back there." Sarah said getting out of the jeep as she walked around to Lucas side. "Get out."
"What, Sarah? Youre not just going to leave me here are you?"
"Here take my cellphone." Sarah said pulling her cellphone out before she threw it at Lucas feet. "Call yourself a taxi."
"You cant just leave me here."
"You " Sarah said waving one hand at Lucas and using the other one to rub her brow. "You had no right to call me that."
"No, youre not. Youre not sorry. You wanted to say that."
"Youre right. I did. But Im sorry I had to hurt your feelings to get my point across."
"I offered you a place to stay. Offered my help to you. Ive been a good friend to you. Look lets just get in the car and go home. Ill drop you off. Then well go our separate ways too. Congratulations, Lucas. Youre on a roll today. Whos next?"
"Sarah, Im sorry. Look, you were supposed to get angry at me and we were supposed to argue about it and vent ourselves till we worked it out. But you just left me hanging on the bad guy bit. You didnt even yell at me."
"Lets just go. Im sick of talking." Sarah said getting back into the jeep before she turned on the ignition.
"What? Get in already."
"Not till we talk about this. Once you drop me off youll stop talking to me altogether. At least here I can try to work this out with you."
"Lucas. Its dark. Its late. I want to go home." Sarah sighed. "If you want a ride. Get in. Or Im leaving you behind. You have five seconds. 5..."
"Sarah!" Lucas yelled, gasping and almost laughing in disbelief as Sarah sped off without even a second look.
She was pissed. No doubt about it, Lucas thought to himself. He knew once Sarah crossed that line from your friend to your merciless bitch, there was no turning back. Lucas just stood gobsmacked as he watched Sarah speed off into the distance.
"Great one, Lucas." Lucas sighed as he lowered his head and sat down at the roadside. "Just great "
* * * * * * *
"Your friends are pretty cool." I said smiling at Ashley as we walked into the hotel foyer, Marty Lee ever present as he walked a step behind us talking to some of his old teammates who had also come to watch the tournament. "Even Marty Lees are."
"What did you expect? That all his friends would be assholes?" Ashley said smiling back at me.
"Well I did actually." I said letting out a small laugh.
"Most everyone here has heard of you before. You have a reputation."
"As an asshole?"
"No. As a champion. A fighting champion. You just have that way about you. You dont start the fights. You finish them. Marty Lee and I were brought up in the arts. So we know who the best are. Everyone here does. We know that around this area, youre one of the best. The Storm. Thats why he wants to beat you. I think now that he realizes you had nothing to do with Lucas impact on us, he likes you. He still wants to beat you. But fair and square."
"Do you think he can beat me?"
"I havent seen you fight. But if your record and reputation stand true, Im sure youd challenge him well. Marty Lee isnt used to being second best. So its kind of an adjustment for him but he has a good heart you know. He looks after his older sister. Even when I was shipped off, he kept in touch with me as often as he could. Hes a good guy, Storm."
"Well you could have fooled me at first. But I suppose I could get used to him."
"Do you think you could go a step past that? Hes the new guy in Merlow. Dont tell him I asked you this but do you think you could keep an eye on him? He may seem hard but hes a big softie inside. Id hate for someone to take advantage of him."
"You want ME to look after him?"
"If you can. I dont think hell let Lucas keep an eye out for him. Anyway here we are..." Ashley said as we stepped out of the elevator and moved to the front of her hotel room door. "You coming in or...would you like your own room?"
"Uuuhhh ." I said gulping as my eyes seemed to make their way up Ashleys body without any need for instruction from me. "Well I didnt come here to talk to myself all night so I guess Im coming "
* * * * * * *
Lucas let out a deep breath and closed his eyes. Trying not to let the days events overwhelm him. His day had started on a crushing note and had ended on an even more depressing note. Stuck on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere with the haunting loneliness of night firmly settled in.
So he sat. Alone. Scared. Frightened. Angry. Ashamed. Waiting
Waiting for nothing. Just waiting.
Lucas looked either side of himself for any sign of headlights. Time passed. Ten minutes. Darkness. Twenty minutes. Darkness. Thirty minutes
Lucas had no desire to stand up and start walking back to Merlow. For even if he did manage to somehow hitch a ride back, how could he go back to the Marcus house knowing what hed done to Storm? So instead, Lucas turned to lay down. Simply deciding to stare at the stars. His mind was too numb to even let him cry and feel sorry for himself. All he could do was stare at the stars.
"The cellphone!" Lucas muttered under his breath as he sat bolt upright and looked down at the cellphone hed forgotten about entirely.
Just as Lucas sat up he could hear the steady sound of steps along the stony roadside. Lucas felt a needle of fear shoot up his spine as he heard the sound steadily become louder. But still he could see nothing in either direction thanks to the veil of night.
"Whos there?" Lucas called out nervously.
No response. No reply. Just the steady sound of footsteps signaling someones approach. The sound got louder and louder. Lucas called out again but still no response. He wanted to run but had no desire to get himself lost and because if something did happen, hopefully a driver would pass and help out. No response came to Lucas calls. The footsteps became louder and more impending. Lucas began taking a few steps back in fear just as he heard what sounded like the snkt of a switch blade releasing.
"Oh shit " Lucas said as his heart sped into overdrive, his anxiety overwhelming him. "God help me "
As the sound of the footsteps felt as if they were right upon him, Lucas tried to ready himself for what was to come. Then nothing. The sounds disappeared as quickly as they had come into earshot.
"Hello?" Lucas called, looking all around himself anxiously.
A chill ran up Lucas' spine as he suddenly felt the cold fingers of a hand touch his shoulder. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
"Oh man " Lucas said, holding his hand to his heart in relief as he saw who had approached him. "Sarah. Sarah!"
Lucas picked Sarah up and squeezed the life out of her in a relief filled hug. "You came back!"
"Let me go." Sarah yelled as she pulled Lucas arms off her. "The jeep got another flat tyre would you believe. These stupid drunks who leave their bottles on the road. And Storm didnt have his spare on the back. And you had the cellphone I needed to call for some help. So I came back."
"So you never meant to come back for me?" Lucas asked with a disparaged, hurt look on his face. "You really were going to leave me here?"
"What difference does it make? Youll never know either way now."
"Just tell me. A lot can happen out here you know. Apart from the fact that its freezing out here. Its dark. Some lunatic could have jumped me. I could have been dead right now for all you know." Lucas said trying to sound angry but feeling more relief than anything else that Sarah had come back and he wasnt alone anymore.
"Well, Im not saying this to make you feel better. But yeah I stopped a bit further on and waited there for a while just to let you think things over some. Then when I went turned to come back, I ran over some broken bottles that had been left purposely I think, on the road. So I had to walk all the way back here to get the cellphone to call for help and to get you."
"Serves you right for leaving me behind in the first place." Lucas smiled, nudging Sarah playfully.
"Shut up, Asshole. Its your fault were here to begin with. If you werent such an asshole to me before I wouldnt have stopped. And youre not sorry you said it so lets just get moving." Sarah said snatching the phone off Lucas. "And dont even try to talk to me."
Lucas smiled to himself as he walked alongside Sarah and quickly took hold of her hand. "You only said I couldnt talk to you. Never said I couldnt hold your hand."
"What are you? Scared of the dark or something?"
"I was actually a little scared back there. Im not a hard ass like you. But Im still holding your hand." Lucas smiled confidently as they walked along. "Just to make sure you dont try to run away without me."
"Weirdo. You better not be trying anything on me."
"You know, Sarah. If it were just you and me, Id be stupid not to try something because youre fantastic. But its not just you and me. Theres the fact youre Storms best friend. Theres the fact youre already taken. But more importantly that youre with Mike. And hes one guy Im just not prepared to screw over. I dont think I could ever forgive myself if I did something to ruin my friendship with him. Most of all betraying him like that. As appealing as you are, Sarah." Lucas said as he smiled at her. "Youre not so appealing enough that Id hurt Mike to get you."
"So its not ok to hurt Mike. But its ok to hurt Storm?"
"No thats not it at all." Lucas said shaking his head. "I never set out to hurt Storm. Do you honestly think I did?"
"No." Sarah sighed as she turned her eyes to Lucas and then back in front of her again. "No. I dont think you would. Now shut up already. I dont have anything else to say to you."
Lucas just sighed in regret and hung his head down as he and Sarah continued the long walk towards the jeep. He knew there wasnt really anything he could say to Sarah right now to make her come back onside with him. He tried conveying his sincerity by the way he held her hand tenderly in his. He hoped his respectful silence and continued presence beside Sarah would help his chances when the time did arise for him to try and make peace with her. Lucas hoped the moment would come soon as he figured theyd soon be back at the jeep judging by the amount of time theyd been walking. All the while, Sarah didnt once even glance at Lucas. She simply remained calm and steadfast, letting Lucas keep his grip on her hand as they strode along at a brisk pace.
As they continued to walk for what seemed like an eternity, Lucas could feel the shivers through Sarahs hand. The cold night obviously taking its toll on her. The opportunity had come for Lucas. He took off his stadium football jacket and gently, reassuringly put it around Sarah.
"Itll help keep you warm." Lucas said nodding assuredly at Sarah as he held the jacket around her.
"Thank you." Sarah said looking at Lucas uncertainly. "What about you?"
"Id rather you be warm."
"You trying to suck up or something?"
"Yeah." Lucas smiled.
"Whyd you say that before?" Sarah asked, holding Lucas jacket around herself tightly as they continued walking.
"I guess I was angry. I just snapped. I figured I didnt have anything to lose by saying. If I lose you as a friend for saying it then Ill realize I was very wrong. I honestly didnt mean to say that to push you away. I dont want to lose you as a friend. I meant most of what I said. But I should have done it in a better way. I was angry at you for telling me that Id lost Storm. I should have been angry at myself instead. Because if I do lose him it wont be because of any of you. Itll be because of me."
"I just I dont think he can take anymore, Lucas. But you shouldnt have said that to me before. I cant shake it from my head. When have I hurt you, Lucas? What have I done to you? I mean, Im a bitch most of the time. I know that. But have I seriously ever done anything to hurt you?"
"I dont think so, Sarah. But you dont treat me like Storm. You dont treat me like Mike. Or Marcel. Dade."
"Thats because youre not Storm. And youre not Mike. Or Dade or Marcel. I have my whole lifes history with them. The reason why you think I look down on you is because I dont put you ahead of them. Its not about looking down on you. Its about looking out for them first. For Storm. My loyalties will always be firstly to Storm. Thats just something you have to understand. But it sure as hell doesnt mean I look down on you. I mean geez. I think Im a good friend to you. And I care about you, Lucas. I mean " Sarah said stopping and turning to Lucas, smiling at him as she put her hand to his face. "Theres a part of you I really love. Im not sure if you still have it. But its the part that makes Storm happy. Right now youre not the Lucas I knew. Youre different somehow. Maybe its because Ive finally seen the side of you that doesnt love Storm. Theres a different you. And I guess I dont really know you like I thought I did."
"Come on, Sarah." Lucas said bouncing alongside her as they wandered the roadside. "You know me. Im Lucas. Dude Boy. Your buddy. Pal. Mate. Amigo. You know me."
"I dont think so anymore, Lucas. Youre just different. I dont know how quite to explain it but I just dont know you. I dont know you. I thought I knew you. But the Lucas I knew wouldnt be in this mess to begin with. Whatever happened to him?"
"I think I think he disappeared. I think he disappeared when he found out where Ashley was. But today hes back. All this time since I came back from Ashley when Marcel came back. It hasnt been the real me. It was the old Lucas before Storm. Ashleys Lucas. But now hes gone, Sarah. Hes dead. I swear it. Your Lucas is back. Standing in front of you. I swear it. Its me. Im back. Im back."
"Now THATS my Lucas." Sarah said brimming with an effervescent smile. "Thats my Lucas. I remember you."
Sarah nodded happily, a smile brimming across her face as her eyes began watering slightly. "I forgive you. Its good to have you back, Buddy."
Sarah wrapped her arms around Lucas and they hugged each other gently in the night. Another sigh of relief free itself from Lucas as he closed his eyes and smiled to himself.
"Thank you, Sarah. For helping me realize who I needed to be to win Storm back and to win you back. I understand now."
"Then lets get you back to that jeep. And well go home. And you can think about how youll win him back. He is what you want now?"
"He is. I think the part of me that still hung on to Ashley is gone now. All thats left is for Storm. If he decides he wants it back."
"He will." Sarah smiled confidently. "He will. Maybe not today. But one day. He will. No matter how much you think he hates you for hurting him. He will. And you know why?"
"Storm loves you. Right from that beautiful smile of his to that heart beating inside him. He is yours. So I dont think you realize that when you hurt him you really hurt him. Storm doesnt take hurt very well. You know that. Hes a once bitten, twice shy kind of guy. But he truly loves you. He tries to hide it lately because hes protecting himself from you. He probably doesnt even realize just how much he loves you. But you know what?"
"He loves you now even as hes thinking he hates you. He may block it out for a while. He may even ignore it. But one day hell wake up and hell break down inside because hell realize that no one can replace you. He knew eventually that youd go back to Ashley. Storm knew it."
"He never stopped loving me did he "
"No. He didnt. Hes still crazy about you inside. Hes trying to block it. Hes trying to hide it with anger. But when thats all gone. Hes going to be a very hurt Storm. You need to be there for him before its too late. Before he becomes too bitter to be with you. Before he finds someone else "
"Sarah, will you please take me back to White Swan?"
"Because, Im Lucas. And I want you to take me because I dont want Storm to fall asleep tonight thinking I dont love him. Ive got a lot to make up for."
"Oh shit " Sarah cursed under her breath. "That might be just a bit difficult right now."
"Why, Sarah?" Lucas asked concerned.
"Because the jeep its gone "
"Ooooohhh hell "
* * * * * * *
Coming Soon - SF22: Phoenix Process II
Well it's been a while! Now a lot of you are probably wondering why the events happened in this first part of The Phoenix Process. Well I think if you haven't worked it out yet you might want to read it again and realize Storm's motives. Heck you could read the whole season 3 again just to get up to speed. That was a long chapter. I didn't intend it to be this long at first but this is a big chapter in what it deals with here and also what will come in the next part. Everyone's going through their own little phoenix process. The title sets the theme.Stay Tuned for SF22: The Phoenix Process II and send me a note** to let me know what you thought of Chapter 21: The Phoenix Process