If you are offended by male/male relationships, or male/male sexual relationships, then you shouldn't be here in the first place. If this conduct is illegal in your area, you must EXIT NOW. This story is not to be copied or posted elsewhere without permission from the author. If you are interested in a story about gay teenage males, then please take your time and enjoy. Feedback/comments/suggestions and even complaints are welcome at DomLuka@aol.com

Chapter twenty-five: When it happens

"What was that all about?" Aiden asked me.

We had been in my truck for less than two minutes, I could still see Karen Knightly glaring at us from the rear view mirror, but I was hardly paying attention to her. My thoughts had already wandered back to Dennis Gordon as I wondered why he had called me. Unfortunately, I was so busy thinking about Dennis that I had no idea what Aiden was talking about.

"What?" I replied.

"That look you gave my mom."

I glanced in his direction, surprised to see that he seemed annoyed. What look? Okay, maybe there was obvious hostility between Karen and I a few moments ago, but I didn't think that Aiden had noticed. And the fact that he seemed to have noticed the one challenging look I gave Karen and none of the hostile glares she had given me, did not escape my attention.

"What look?" I replied innocently. I didn't want to fight right now. After last night, having Aiden with me again, made everything seem right between us. Besides, I had enough on my mind, thinking about Dennis.

"You know what I'm talking about." He said shortly. "Look, I know you think she doesn't like you, but I'm telling you, Owen, your wrong. And you know, I get it if you're not ready to sit down and talk to her, but it wouldn't kill you to be a little friendly."

I bit my tongue, frustrated. I wasn't the one who had trouble being friendly, Karen was. But, like I said, I didn't want to fight with him. And even if I did, now wasn't the time. I'm sure Aiden was waiting for a response, but I fell into a silence and didn't even realize it until he reached over and took my hand. At least he wasn't mad at me. He even gave me a small smile when I glanced his way again.

"Hey, I know it's not easy for you," Aiden insisted, "but you know, you're not the only one having a hard time with it. I had a long talk with my mom about you."

"You did?" I asked cautiously.

"Yeah, she was worried that the reason why you weren't exactly thrilled about coming over for dinner was because of your...previous impressions of her. They weren't exactly flattering, you know? Owen...that's not the reason, is it?"

I ground my teeth together. Karen was pissing me off. It was one thing for her to tell me to stay away, but to tell Aiden the opposite to make me look like the asshole was just about all I could take from her.

"No, that's not it." I said, honestly.

"Good." Aiden sighed, squeezing my hand, "that's what I told her. I think she's just being impatient. She really wants things to work out, and she knows you mean a lot to me...I think she's just eager to get to know you...sort of like, she wants your approval or something, because of what you mean to me."

I had to bite my tongue again, this time to keep from laughing out loud. Somehow the mere thought of Karen wanting my approval threatened to throw me into a fit of hysterics. But, my anger towards her was what kept me from laughing.

"Anyways, I told her that you just weren't ready." Aiden explained, "So...I guess she'll keep inviting you over until you are."

Now that was an interesting thought. Maybe Karen assumed that if I turned down these invitations too many times Aiden would get fed up sooner or later and lose interest in me. To be honest, I was sort of worried about the same thing. I guess you could say I was beginning to realize that avoiding this issue wasn't getting me anywhere. Karen obviously hadn't put much thought into what I'd told her the other day. And I was sure that she put even less thought into whatever it was that Chris told her. That little old saying actions speak louder than words seemed to come to mind as I glanced towards Aiden again.

"Okay." I nodded, "okay...I'll go."

"You will?" Aiden asked incredulously.

"Yeah." I nodded.

"But just last night you said you needed more time." Aiden pointed out, looking skeptical.

And I did need more time. But, when dealing with Karen Knightly, I didn't see how any matter of time would help my situation. She didn't want me around her son, I already knew that. It wasn't like having dinner with her was my chance to `impress the folks,' so to speak. But, maybe it was my chance to show her that I wasn't going away.

"I'm aloud to change my mind, right?" I shrugged, "I'll do it, okay? I mean, just let me know when. I'll be there."

"Alright..." Aiden said slowly, "but hey, if you're doing this because you think I'll be angry otherwise..."

"Hey," I interrupted, "I'll do it."

"Really?" he finally gave me a smile, "because if you want to back out later, I'll understand..."

"I won't back out." I stated. "Trust me."

And I meant that. I wasn't going to back out, in more ways that one. I guess maybe I could understand that I probably wasn't handling this the best way, and maybe going over to Aiden's to get to know his mom better was the worst mistake that I would ever make. But, the way I saw it, if Karen Knightly wanted to play her games, I was going to show her that it wouldn't be so easy to beat me. Especially if she wanted to beat me right out of Aiden's life. At this point it seemed she was pretty determined to do just that, and it seemed to leave me with one conclusion: Chris and Ryan were right. I had to tell Aiden.

Only, I felt like it was Karen's place to tell him, not mine. She was the one who started this mess, and maybe if she told him, then things wouldn't turn out as bad as I thought they would if I told him. If Karen could just be honest with him, maybe they could sit down and talk about it. I didn't think that Aiden would leave me just because his mother said she didn't approve of our relationship. Obviously, Karen didn't think that either; otherwise she probably would have gone to Aiden instead of me. So maybe if she just told him, they could talk and hopefully work things out. Maybe Aiden could convince her that our relationship wasn't a bad thing, better than I could.

Unfortunately, I knew that if Karen didn't come clean to him in the very near future, which I doubted she would do, I was going to tell Aiden myself.

"Aiden," I added, as an afterthought "When you tell your mom, let her know that I'm looking forward to getting to know her, too."


"Please, just let me go on my own." I frowned as Aiden watched me shove a few books into my locker.

"No." he stated, looking particularly stubborn.

"Dennis probably won't talk to me if you're there." I pointed out.

We'd been arguing for five minutes. I still hadn't had the chance to tell Aiden everything that Dennis and I had talked about, and ever since we got to school and I suggested that I go find Dennis, alone, Aiden was insistent that he go with me.

"I don't trust him, Owen." Aiden frowned, "it's weird enough that he called you."

"I know." I agreed, "but that's why I'm worried. I don't think he would have called if he wasn't in some sort of trouble...just...let me go see if I can find him, okay? I swear I'll tell you everything later."

"And explain why you had lunch with Gordon in the first place?" Aiden's brow arched up and I couldn't help smiling. He was jealous. Why he was jealous, I'd never understand, but he certainly was cute with that look on his face.

"I already told you that," I smirked. "He just showed up." I reached out and touched his shoulder, probably for a little longer than I should have in the hall, but it was my way of showing affection for him. "Just go to class. I'll tell you everything later. I promise. And you know I'll call Chris if there's anything I can't handle."

Aiden frowned. He was obviously trying to decide whether or not he wanted to argue with me. Finally his face softened and he relented.

"Fine, just watch your back around him, okay? Maybe he does need help, but that doesn't mean he won't turn on you while your trying to give it to him."

"I know." I nodded, and unfortunately, I did know. I thought Aiden was exactly right about Dennis, and that was unfortunate, but I still couldn't walk away. "I'll see you at lunch, okay?"

He reluctantly nodded and after I flashed him one more reassuring smile I went to look for Dennis.

I had about fifteen minutes before I had to be in class, and while it wasn't a whole lot of time, I was determined to at least try to find Dennis. Not that I had any idea where he'd be. We weren't exactly friends. Actually, we weren't even close to being friends, which was why it seemed so surreal to be looking for him in the halls rather than spending every last moment I could with Aiden.

And speaking of Aiden, as I continued my search, I wished that he was with me. It wasn't that I was trying to keep him in the dark when it came to Dennis. Actually, it would have been nice to have him there with me. Dennis wasn't exactly the easiest person to talk to, and I'd be lying if I said that the topics we discussed when we did talk were easy for me to handle. I never knew what to expect, and my worst fear would be to find Dennis was hurt if I ever caught up to him this morning.

I could picture it in my head, finding him...damaged. The idea struck too close to home for me. It was strange how I could feel old aches in my body when I thought about the abuse that I had suffered. At this point I knew that I was only making assumptions, but I wasn't sure that I was fully prepared to see Dennis actually hurt, injured.

If there was something wrong, really wrong, I could admit that I was probably not the best person to help him, especially if I, for some reason, couldn't keep a clear head. I began to realize that as I made my way towards the weight room, where I decided to look for him after being unable to find him in the halls. Maybe I should have let Aiden come with me...or even Chris, for that matter, just in case something happened and I ended up freaking out again.

Only, deep down I knew that it was best for me to approach Dennis alone. It wasn't like he was friends with Aiden, either. And, as much as Dennis and I couldn't stand each other the majority of the time, I had enough sense to know that he had singled me out to talk to. I guess in a way, he had trusted me. If I showed up with Aiden or anyone else he'd probably feel like I'd betrayed him. I guess if the situation were reversed, I'd feel the same. He'd confided in me, in his own way, and I'd accepted it in mine. I couldn't back out now just because the situation scared me.

When I reached the weight room and found it empty I stopped for a moment to think. I had no idea where I could even find Dennis, and then there was a sinking feeling in my gut, realizing that there was the possibility that he might not be in school today...and if he wasn't in school, my mind could only really see the more disturbing possibilities.

I started to think about that night with my parents again, when I'd somehow managed to make it to Gina Leto's house. I hadn't even talked to her since Tony...no, Chris, had been dating her. I was too out of it that night, to fully see her reaction to finding me bleeding at her front door. I hadn't thought about it really. I never even saw her after I blacked out that night. But I was grateful to her. She'd gotten me help. She'd gotten my brothers back for me.

As the strange, sudden desire to send a thank you note to Gina Leto hit me, I began to think about the day after, when I had been absent from school. I wondered if there had been anyone there, wondering where I was, the way that I was now wondering where Dennis was.

Anna Crossle didn't count. She'd practically handed me my sentence from my parents. I wondered if she thought about it. I wondered if she knew that I was lying in a hospital bed because of her need to cure me. And if she did, did she even care? No. She was too busy telling everyone I was gay.

And Nicky. The night before I'd told him everything. Well, not everything. He'd practically begged me to leave out certain details involving Dan. But he'd made a promise too. He promised friendship, the same friendship we'd shared as far as I could remember.

Damn liar.

I wondered what Nicky's reaction was when he discovered his girlfriend was telling everyone she possibly could about me. I wondered if he walked around the school, like I was now, looking for me, wondering...I wondered if he even thought for a second that I was in trouble. I guess he would have had to find out at some point. He would have known where to find me, in that hospital. He would have probably been told the same thing as everyone else. It was an accident. But he would have known.

And he didn't come. Not once. He just disappeared from my life, like everyone else I used to know.

I wondered if the fact that my best friend never walked into that hospital would bother me for the rest of my life. I guess I still felt abandoned by him. I guess I was. In a way, everyone I knew had abandoned me. Including my best friend.

Well, Dennis and I weren't best friends. Hell, we weren't even close to being friends. But, I knew that I wouldn't abandon him. I would be the one wondering, worrying, looking for him. I would be the one who cared. I guess I figured, how could I be anything less?

But, even with my determination to find Dennis, I hoped to god that my search wouldn't end up bringing me back to that house, with his mom...with his dad. I was relieved when I was heading towards my first class, about to skip it in order to find Dennis, when I ran into the familiar figure in the halls. He was still wearing the same ball cap as yesterday, shadowing his face, so I couldn't really tell if he was all right or not.

And Dennis saw me. He stopped walking and looked in my direction, even if I couldn't see his face. It was subtle, the way that he suddenly turned into the restrooms, leaving me to follow, which I did, just as the bell rang.

Despite feeling relieved that I'd found him, I couldn't help feeling a little guarded as I entered the bathroom. After all, the last time I'd ended up in a bathroom with Dennis Gordon it hadn't exactly ended well. If I remember correctly it had ended after our confrontation outside the dance when I'd been stupid enough to turn my back on him and I ended up with that black eye.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Dennis, but as I looked around the bathroom to see if we were alone I realized that he was using the urinals with his back to me as I heard the flow hit the bowl. Something about being so close to Dennis Gordon while he did something as private as take a piss made me uncomfortable, and while I waited less than patiently for him to finish I looked away, even if I couldn't see anything in the first place.

"What do you want, Dovan?" he finally asked, irritated as he finished up.

"Jake said you called." I answered shortly. "I was just wondering...are you alright, Dennis?"

He let out a sarcastic laugh as he zipped up and then turned around to face me. Under his ball cap, I felt relieved to see that other than the black eye Phil had inflicted, physically, Dennis seemed fine.

"I didn't call you." He said flatly, causing me to raise an eyebrow. "So why don't you just leave me the fuck alone?"

I narrowed my eyes, my concern and sympathy towards him turning into anger and frustration. He was blowing me off? He calls in the middle of the night, and now he's blowing me off? It was definitely annoying. I felt like I'd wasted energy being concerned about him, deciding that I wanted to help him. It definitely could be difficult trying to help someone who didn't want it, and from the way he was glaring at me, it seemed safe to say that Dennis didn't want it.

"Fine." I frowned at him, not in the mood to argue. He'd wasted enough of my time and now I was already late to class. I didn't hesitate to turn to leave. If Dennis wanted to talk he could seek me out later. Right now, I wasn't really in the mood for his games.

I should have known I wouldn't be walking away so easily. I was just about to open the door when I heard Dennis's voice and turned back to face him.

"What the hell are you doing at one in the morning that keeps you busy, anyways?" Dennis mumbled.

I sighed, staring at him for almost a full minute while he unwaveringly met my eyes.

"Why did you call?" I finally asked, ignoring his question.

My question at least seemed to change his demeanor somewhat. His eyes seemed to glaze over for a second and drift off, like he was trying to decide whether or not he really wanted to talk to me. I frowned and moved over to the sinks, leaning back against the counter, and I watched as Dennis moved the furthest sink away from me to wash his hands.

"It was the wrong number." I said, when he didn't speak. "The one I gave you was on the back of the card. You called the one on the front."

"Yeah, I figured that out." he rolled his eyes. "It was that dip-shit's, the one working over at my place, wasn't it?"

"His name's Jake." I snapped, not bothering to cover up my anger regarding the way he talked about Jake.

"Whatever." Dennis shrugged. "So do you live with him or something?"

"No." I replied shortly. And I wasn't about to explain Tony and Jake's relationship to him, either. "So are you...okay?"

"Don't act like you care about me." he suddenly glared. "We're not friends, Dovan."

"You keep saying that." I smirked. "But you still called."

"Lapse in judgment. Temporary." He shrugged, not looking at me again. "Why did you track me down, Dovan?"

"Maybe I was curious." I shrugged, but then frowned. "When Jake said you called this morning I thought...I thought maybe you were in trouble." I admitted.

"Would you really care if I was?" Dennis asked, causing me to look up at him. "You know, last night, when I picked up the phone, that's what I was thinking about...I wanted to see if you really... I called...just to see if I could." He shook his head and then glared at his own reflection in the mirror. "I'm not supposed to use the phone." He continued, quietly. "If I do. I have to ask first, and then most of the time someone's listening in. My mom doesn't even try to hide it; she'll sit there right in front of me and listen on the extension. Do you have any idea how fucking hard it is to listen to your friend talk about whatever bitch he's fucking with your mom there listening in? It's so...it's fucking humiliating...I called last night because I wanted to see if I could do it. My parents are probably going to know as soon as the bill comes and they're going to want an explanation..." he shook his head again, while I began to realize just how much control Dennis's parents had over him. At least mine had given me some privacy.

"But I had that card." Dennis continued. "And while I was dialing that number I couldn't stop thinking about why you gave it to me...I mean, you hate me, Dovan." His eyes suddenly snapped to mine with a stern expression. "Don't deny it, I make a point to be an ass to you."

"I wouldn't think of denying it." I assured him, although hate was beginning to feel like too strong a word to use with Dennis.

"I just don't get it." Dennis frowned. "No one's ever actually given a damn before. I don't invite friends over so they don't know...but there have been relatives...my grandparents were down for Christmas. They've always made a big deal over me. I think they even like me better than my brother," he smirked, but then his brow knotted. "They heard my dad tearing into me over something stupid, just like...just like you did. And no one even said anything. So I guess what I don't get is, why people who are supposed to care don't give a damn, and you do." He said that last part like it was an abomination. Maybe it was. It was definitely sad.

There was a long silence as he went back to staring in the mirror, and I really didn't know what to say to him. I tried to picture myself back in that situation, of being so helpless, wondering when the next harsh word was going to come, the disapproval, the harassment, the abuse. And I thought about what I'd want someone to say to me. Only, I couldn't think of anything. But, there was something there that I did want to say. Maybe it would be a little too friendly for Dennis, but I decided to risk one of his insults or sarcastic remarks.

"I do." I said quietly. "I care...and you can call, if you ever need to know that someone does." He looked at me again, his expression warning me that he was about to remind me how we weren't friends, but I quickly added, "Just make sure you get the number right next time, dumb ass."

Dennis actually smiled. And then more silence. But, these awkward silences were beginning to feel more comfortable. I was the one who broke it this time.

"Why do your parents do that to you?" I asked. "I mean, you can't even use the phone. I get that they want control, but your eighteen. I could understand it if you were always getting into trouble... but..."

"It wasn't always like that." he said quietly. "When I was younger I had a few friends...my dad didn't approve of them. Some stuff happened and...they just want what's best for me."

"Stop saying that." I suddenly snapped, surprising him. "Best for you my ass. They've got you fucking programmed to think that every time you get pissed at them, and it's not going to fucking help you, either."

I'm not sure when I'd gone from sympathetic listener to angry Owen. But, it had happened in a matter of seconds, as soon as he mentioned that what's best for him bullshit. I felt like that particular phrase was a trigger. I guess it was. It was something I said to Dan a lot when my parents did or said something that was less than descent. Of course, when I said it I used to say for my own good. Same damn thing, though. And hearing it pissed me off. It was just another reminder of how...weak, I'd felt back then, trying to justify the actions of parents who were supposed to love me. It was just another way to convince myself that they really did care about me.

"What? So you're going to help me? Right." Dennis retorted, his shock from my outburst wearing off. "Fuck. You know what, Dovan? I don't even know why I bother talking to you."

"Neither do I," I said flatly. "But you do, and I listen. And no, I can't help you. You don't want help anyways, as long as you decide to stay in that house. And even if you did want it I probably couldn't help you, not by myself, but I know people who could."

"I don't need help." Dennis stated. He was obviously pissed about the way I was talking to him, but his objection didn't sound very convincing, and that only fueled me more.

"Maybe you don't want it, but you definitely need it." I retorted.

"You're pushing it, Dovan." He warned, turning to face me better. He had that look, the one he usually got before someone ended up hurt. In many ways I was still more comfortable with that look than I was with having a civilized conversation with him. But still, I didn't want this encounter to end badly, so I toned it down.

"Someone needs to push." I replied, quietly. "You need to get out of there, Dennis."

"I can't." he hissed, his voice draining down to a whisper, like he had just stumbled into a forbidden topic. "You don't understand." He shook his head.

"I do understand." I stated. "That's probably why you're talking to me."

"Fine, then you understand," He spat. "But it's not like I should be taking advice from you, asshole, you didn't get out until your old man beat the crap out of you! So don't fucking stand there and act like it's supposed to be easy!"

I flinched, annoyed that he brought up my father. But, I wasn't done talking. I wanted him out of his house, and even if Dennis didn't see leaving as an option, I was still determined to convince him that it was a necessity. Unfortunately, as soon as I opened my mouth to make more suggestions that he'd probably turn down, the bathroom door swung open and we both turned to find Phil Clayton walking in on us. I didn't have to look to know that Dennis had gone as rigid as I had.

In the time it took Phil Clayton to walk through the door and stop dead in his tracks when he noticed us standing there, all thoughts of why I was there in the first place vanished as I realized what a bad situation I was in, being trapped in the restroom between the two people in this school other than Janie who under normal circumstances wouldn't hesitate to start trouble with me.

Aiden's words came back to haunt me, too. Dennis couldn't be trusted. Hell, I knew that. Just because we had been talking and I found it necessary to help him didn't mean that he wouldn't turn on me in a second if he thought talking to me would harm his reputation. But, I tried not to get ahead of myself as I remembered that the black eye marking Dennis's face was from Phil Clayton. Maybe they still weren't getting along for some reason and I could just blend into the background.

No such luck.

I glared at Phil as his eyes narrowed on me for a brief moment before he looked at Dennis.

"What's going on?" Phil frowned, taking a few slow steps forward.

"Was taking a piss." Dennis replied smoothly. "Why Phil, wanna watch?"

"Fuck you, Gordon." Phil retorted. "What the fuck are you doing with this faggot?"

"Did you come in here for a reason, Phil?" I interrupted. "Because if you're going to stink the place up I'm sure we'll be glad to get out of your way."

"He's already stinking the place up." Dennis mumbled, surprising me.

"What was that fucker?" Phil demanded, and then I was surprised by the way Phil stalked up to Dennis, almost as if he expected him to cower. But, if that was what he expected, he was going to be disappointed. Dennis ended up right in Phil's face, and I wondered if this is what me and Dennis looked like during our confrontations.

"Get the fuck out of here, Phil." Dennis warned.

"Who's gonna make me?" Phil smirked. He was getting cocky. The way he was looking Dennis in the eye, sneering at him, trying to make himself look taller. I guessed that his ego was all inflated, knowing that he was the one who gave Dennis that black eye.

It was trouble.

"Do you really wanna test me?" Dennis hissed, glaring at Phil. I was growing uncomfortable, feeling trapped in the room. If either Aiden or Ryan was on the other side of this I knew I'd be trying to break it up already, but with Dennis and Phil I felt out of place. I felt like it was none of my business to interfere, even with all of the tension in the room. "Go ahead." Dennis taunted Phil, that familiar smirk coming back to his face. "Find out if you can get another lucky shot in."

Dennis was threatening him. I knew that much, and something about the way Dennis was nose to nose, towering over him, seemed to put Phil on edge. He was wavering, and then he seemed to snap, shouting out a tantrum.

"What the fuck is wrong with you?" Phil practically screamed. "I know about it, Dennis! Everyone fucking knows! You flunked that test on purpose! Even coach fucking knows, he's going to make you take it again and you're going to be back on the team!"

This was about football?

"I'll flunk it again." Dennis shrugged.

"Why?" Phil demanded. "It's your fucking game! And it's not just the team, Dennis! You're fucking avoiding us! The guys are pissed too. You didn't even show up to Ray's birthday last weekend!"

I noticed that Dennis flinched at that, maybe even seemed regretful, and I frowned, knowing that he probably didn't show up to his friend's party because of his parents. It was strange, noticing that he actually cared about people, maybe even stranger than it seemed when I saw him with his dog.

"I couldn't go." Dennis said flatly.

"Right." Phil glared. "You would have rather spent your time with the little faggot who was perving on you in the showers."

That got my attention. There was only one person Phil could have been talking about, and the way that Dennis suddenly paled and glanced my way to see my wide-eyed reaction was all it took for him to know that I knew Phil was talking about Reilly.

"That's right." Phil smirked, noticing the panic in Dennis's face. "Janie saw you with him. She said you two were looking pretty friendly. You're fucking lucky she came to me with it first, otherwise it would be all over the school...Here's your chance, Dennis. Tell me what the fuck is going on! First that little bitch, and now I find you here with fucking Dovan? Are you fucking turning queer on me?"

"You have that bitch girlfriend of yours fucking spying on me?" Dennis practically growled.

"Don't fucking talk about her like that!" Phil spat.

"Why not?" I suddenly interrupted, wanting to defuse the situation between Dennis and Phil, even if it meant that I was dragging myself into it. Besides, I didn't have a problem insulting Janie. "She is a bitch. Nasty one, too. I mean, what's with you people? You can't entertain yourselves without sticking your noses in everyone else's business?"

Phil turned on me, just as I expected and I straightened myself as he got in my face.

"Shut your fucking mouth, Dovan!" Phil hissed. "What are you doing here anyways? Trying to turn Dennis into a fucking queer? Everyone knows there's something going on between you and that faggot, Knightly!"

"Yeah, Phil." I smirked. "That's exactly what I'm doing. I've decided to start a club. Anyone with a fuckable ass can join. I was just telling Dennis about it, he wanted nothing to do with it at first but you know how tricky all those queer germs can be, highly contagious and all that. I'm sure he'll come over to my side eventually. What about you?" I suggestively raised my eyebrows and advanced on him, causing his eyes to go wide as he took a step back. "Wanna come over to the dark side, Phil? Come on, give us a kiss." I winked at him and his jaw dropped, his expression looking scandalized.

Dennis was staring at me with wide eyes, also looking shocked and I was feeling highly amused with the whole situation.

"You're fucking sick!" Phil screamed at me.

"Aww, that's not nice." I pouted. "Come on Phil, where's the love?" I took another step in his direction, but did it cautiously enough to be ready in case he decided to hit me, but all he did was back up more and look between Dennis and myself with a confused, disgusted look on his face.

"Why don't you get out of here, Phil." Dennis suggested. "If you stick around Dovan might just decide to kiss you, and I don't think my stomach could handle that."

I tried not to look too surprised as I looked at Dennis, but it wasn't easy. Maybe I had been being completely sarcastic but Dennis actually sounded like he believed I'd kiss Phil, and...eww. Either way, it was enough to get Phil moving towards the door, looking at Dennis like he'd just pissed in his cereal.

"You're both fucking sick!" Phils spat. "Everyone's going to know about this Dennis, and you're fucking going to be sorry."

I held my breath until Phil was gone and then I let it out, feeling relieved. Then I just stared at the door for a few minutes, wondering what rumors would be floating around today. I'm sure they would be good ones.

"Is it true?" Dennis asked quietly. I jumped and turned around to look at him.

"Is what true?" I asked.

"Are you queer?" he replied, as if it were obvious.

"I was just trying to get rid of Phil." I shrugged, suddenly feeling nervous.

"That wasn't the question, asshole." Dennis narrowed his eyes on me.

I frowned at him, the words, no, it's not true, on the tip of my tongue.

"Yes." I said, completely surprised with myself. The last person I ever thought I'd come out to was Dennis Gordon, but somehow, it just didn't seem right, lying about it anymore. Not even to Dennis. And now I was simply waiting for his reaction, not really even thinking about the consequences, not thinking about how I'd just practically outed myself in school, whether or not I was being sarcastic with Phil.

Dennis just stared at me for a long time and I steadily held his gaze, wondering if there was going to be a fight in this bathroom after all.

"You know, Phil was right," he finally said. "It's been obvious there's something going on between you and Knightly."

I just shrugged at him, still waiting for all of those homophobic remarks to come, but then something came to mind.

"What were you doing with Reilly?"

"That's none of your fucking business." Dennis suddenly snapped, his posture becoming defensive. "I swear if you..."

"I won't say anything." I interrupted, and then studied him for a minute. "Doesn't it bother you?"

"What?" he frowned at me.

"You know, that I'm...gay. I mean, usually you can't wait to tell me what a fag I am, and here I am, admitting to you that I'm..."

"Shut up, Dovan. I don't care what you do with Knightly, or anyone for that matter as long as you keep it to yourself."

I wasn't sure that I could have been any more floored as I wondered where the hell the hateful bully I'd grown accustomed to was. Where was the guy who should be in my face right now, telling me what a sick pervert I was? Where was the guy who should be threatening to kick my ass right now? And did I really want to know?

"I'm going to class." Dennis announced, moving towards the door. "Don't come looking for me again at school, after that stunt you just pulled everyone's gonna think you were in here hitting on Phil, and I don't need to be seen with a faggot." There he was.

"Dennis, wait a second." I called. "You still have my number, so if you..."

"I got it, Dovan. Now piss off."

I let out another breath as he left me alone in the bathroom, and after a few moments I lifted Chris's cell phone from my pocket and dialed home. It hardly rang once before I heard my brother's concerned voice coming through.


"Hey, Chris." I said. "Um, everything's fine with Dennis...he's not hurt or anything."

"Good." Chris sounded noticeably relieved. "Are you okay?"

"I don't know." I admitted. "I uh...Dennis knows about me."

"What do you mean?"

"I sort of just came out to him." I said slowly, the realization of that, just now sinking in.

"You what?" Chris asked incredulously.

"He knows." I repeated.

"Okay...is he going to start trouble for you, Owen?"

"I don't know yet." I admitted. "Um...I gotta go Chris. I'll see you after school."


"I'm okay." I insisted. "I'll talk to you later.

I hung up the phone and took a second to clear my head. This day just getting weirder. I actually trusted Dennis Gordon not to say anything about what had happened in this bathroom. He knew I was gay, and I honestly didn't feel worried that he'd go tell everyone. If he did it would associate him with me anyway and that was probably the last thing he wanted.

Phil Clayton on the other hand, was a fucking idiot. He'd probably take the sarcastic way I'd handled him seriously. Dennis was right, everyone was going to think I tried to hit on Phil. Oddly enough the idea that people were going to be talking about me liking Phil was more disturbing than the fact that I'd potentially been outed. Yeah, I was terrified of what people would think now, how they would react, but I was surprisingly calm, considering the circumstances.

I think I learned the definition of paranoia during my next few classes. I couldn't help looking over my shoulder, and I couldn't help the way my stomach would turn to knots every time someone looked in my direction as I wondered, did they know? Was I out? I think it would have been easier for someone to just scream faggot at me so it could be done with, so I could stop wondering.

I wondered if this is what Aiden went through, while he was waiting for Janie to out him. The waiting was horrible, and I made a note to myself that I'd have to give my boyfriend a huge hug later on now that I was getting a taste of what he'd gone through. I'd been nervous for Aiden before, but now that I was going through it I was beginning to realize just how strong he'd been. Sure, he'd had moments where he looked close to breaking down, looked like he was ready to fall into a depression, but he'd hung in there. And so would I, because deep down I knew that when the rumors started, there would be no taking it back this time. There would be no denying it. And this time, I wouldn't let Aiden deny it either.

I was out.

Not how I expected it to happen, sure. But, it was my own fault. I never had to open my mouth in the first place; not that it wasn't worth it to see the look on Phil's face when he thought I was propositioning him. But now, I had to live with the consequences.

I'd thought about coming out before. I'd been thinking about it for a while, each time I got sick of having to hide my relationship with Aiden while we were in public, each time I wished that we could be just like every other normal couple. I just never thought it would be so soon.

I waited for that first blow to come, waited for someone to call me a faggot, not because they didn't like me, but because it was true. I wondered if it would feel any differently now, I wondered if that word would have any more of a meaning to me.

But, through my next few classes, there was nothing. Nothing different, nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing happened. Except now I was dying to see Aiden. I tried to track him down again, needing to talk to him, needing to tell him what happened, but I seemed to miss him every time, and then finally, lunch came around.

I was supposed to leave campus for lunch with Aiden today, but he was waiting at the table we'd been using with Reilly, and I think part of me was happy to see both of them. I was finally in the same boat that they were in and they'd both understand what I was going through. I felt so relieved, to see Aiden especially, that when he looked in my direction and frowned, I stopped in my tracks, startled by his expression, wondering if he was upset with me about something. I don't think I could have handled it at the moment.

Fortunately, it wasn't me he was frowning at. Unfortunately, as I reached the table I realized that the reason was right behind me.

"I told you I'd prove it."

I cringed at the sound of Janie's voice and I glanced over my shoulder, glaring at her and that smug smirk on her face.

"Fuck off, Janie," was my short response.

"I knew you were a fag." She stated. "I'm surprised Phil didn't kick your ass for trying to kiss him, he fucking should have." There was a trace of anger in her voice, but I wasn't really paying attention to it as my eyes flew to Aiden's. He'd just taken a drink of soda, but when he heard that last remark it was sprayed all over the table, and all over poor Reilly's face, as the younger boy sat there with his mouth opened and eyes wide as he watched the whole encounter.

"Tell Phil not to worry, Janie." I replied, trying to keep my voice calm, despite my nerves, "there's only one person I'm interested in kissing." I moved and straddled the bench where Aiden was sitting, so that I was facing him as he struggled to recover, and suddenly it was Aiden glaring at Janie.

"Why can't you just leave everyone alone?" Aiden spat at her. "Seriously, do you have nothing fucking better to do, Owen's not..."

"Yeah, Janie." I quickly cut Aiden off, "Go bother your own boyfriend, and leave mine alone."

Aiden's shocked face turned towards me just in time for me to lean forward and place a soft kiss on his very opened mouth. It wasn't the jaw-dropping, hot, sweaty display that Leo and Ben had apparently used to shock the entire student body, but the strangled sound coming from Janie was enough to tell me that I'd made my point, and as I pulled back from the abrupt kiss and looked into my boyfriend's startled eyes I tried to appear calm despite the way my heart was pounding and the audience around us were staring, making me feel more self conscious than I ever had in my whole life.

Don't let them scare you, I kept telling myself. But damn it, it was easier said and done. My hands were shaking, but Aiden was the only one who knew that because he felt it when I sought out his hand and laced my fingers with his. He gave my hand a tight squeeze, gesturing silent support that I was grateful for, and when we both turned back to Janie, Aiden had at least been able to hide some of his surprise.

"There you go, Janie." I said quietly. "You got what you wanted. Aiden's gay. I'm gay. We do things together that would probably make your unborn children blush. So leave us alone now, and go spread the word around to whoever you want. I don't care anymore."

I looked away from her to Aiden, who was attempting to question me with his eyes. My only response was a nervous smile before I leaned forward to kiss him again. This time Aiden responded, lifting his hand to cradle the back of my head, and the kiss was deeper, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't awkward.

I felt like I'd taken leave of my senses and I was waiting for the bomb to drop, but I didn't pull away. I closed my eyes and tried to block out everything, everyone around us. I was kissing my boyfriend in public and trying desperately to appear like nothing was out of the ordinary. It was the best and worst thing I'd ever made the conscious decision to do.

Finally, the sound of someone clearing their throat broke us apart. Janie was gone, apparently scared off, and Reilly was still sitting on the other side of the table trying not to look at us, his cheeks flushed pink.

But Reilly wasn't the one I found myself looking at. Behind Reilly, across the courtyard there were two familiar faces. Shane was standing there catching flies, with a look mixed with shock and disgust on his face, but next to him there was Adam, just staring at me with an unreadable expression on his face. As soon as I caught his eyes he turned away, with Shane following him, and I sighed.

That wasn't the way that I'd wanted Adam to find out. But, I guess if he had been telling the truth, if he meant it when he said he wanted to try being friends again, he would have had to know sooner or later, I reasoned with myself.

"Owen." Aiden said softly, just as I started taking a paranoid note of everyone else looking in our direction and I finally felt myself panicking. "Owen." I finally turned my attention to Aiden, who looked genuinely concerned. "Owe, let's get out of here."

I slowly nodded and turned my attention to Reilly.

"Um, we're going for lunch." I said. "Do you want to come with?"

"Uh...yeah. Thanks." Reilly stammered, obviously surprised by the invitation. I just forced a smile at him and then looked down at my hand, my fingers locked with Aiden's, and I held it tighter, refusing to let it go even as we made our way across the school, past the staring eyes of our piers and to the student parking lot.


I gave Aiden a small smile as he took another fry off the plate we were sharing. He looked just as amused as I did as we listened to Reilly's laughter across the table. I don't think I'd ever heard the younger boy laugh before, but after I replayed the majority of what had happened in the bathroom with Phil and Dennis this morning we couldn't get Reilly to stop laughing, especially after I explained the look on Phil's face. I guess it would make sense though, for Reilly to be amused, Phil had become his biggest tormenter. Bigger than Dennis, and speaking of Dennis...despite everything else, I was still thinking about him.

His reaction to my confession had been startling, and he hadn't exactly told me to stay away from him, either. He just said to stay away from him while we were at school. I had also noticed that he never denied that he'd been with Reilly. Now, the only question for my curious mind was why.

"So what did you do this weekend, Reilly?" I asked.

He took a puff off his inhaler as his giggles came to an end and shrugged as he took a drink of his soda.

"Nothing, really." He replied. "It was kinda boring. You guys probably had a lot more fun. How was your trip?"

"It was okay." I shrugged.

"Just okay?" Aiden elbowed me.

"Better than okay." I smiled at him, and hesitated for only a few seconds before I moved my arm around him and pulled him closer to my side. We shared a knowing look. It was strange, for both of us, I think, to be able to be open in public. Aiden kept giving me questioning looks, wondering if I was handling this alright, and while being out was scary and it would take some getting used to, I had something that Aiden didn't when he came out: Aiden. Maybe I'd been there for him, but not in the way that he was able to be there for me now, because he was already out.

"That was so cool how you handled Janie." Reilly smiled, watching us. "You should have seen the look on your face, Aiden."

"Yeah, that was classic." I remarked, and Aiden narrowed his eyes at me.

"You could have warned me." he stated.

"That wouldn't have been any fun." I smiled, and then turned my attention to Reilly again. I was supposed to be subtly interrogating him. "So when did you and Dennis Gordon start hanging out, Reilly?" Okay, not so subtly.

"What?" Aiden frowned, looking up at our young friend who suddenly looked like a cat trapped in the fish tank.

Reilly opened his mouth to speak as he looked at me, wide eyed, but only a few strange sounds came out and a panicked look crossed his face. When he looked like he was going to hyperventilate I started to worry and Aiden flashed me an annoyed look.

"Reilly, calm down." I insisted.

"No one's supposed to know!" Reilly huffed. "Dennis can't find out!"

"Relax, Reilly, I found out when I was with Dennis." I explained, "and I'm not going to say anything, I just want to know why you were with him."

"We weren't doing anything." Reilly said almost defensively. "I found his dog on Friday, she wandered into my yard...my dad sort of put up fliers and someone called on Saturday. I didn't even know who it was until I met him down at the park. We were just talking for a while..."

"Well Janie saw you." I informed Reilly. "She told Phil."

"You were talking to him?" Aiden interrupted, looking at Reilly curiously.

"Yeah." Reilly admitted. "Look, I know he can be...mean. But, he's not as bad as you guys think."

"Isn't he the one who caused your panic attack when you had to leave school?" Aiden frowned.

"Well, yeah..." Reilly admitted, "but it's not what you think! He was just trying to talk to me that time. He really wasn't trying to start anything...it's just...he's different than what you think. He's not really all that bad."

"So you're friends with him?" Aiden asked cautiously, looking somewhat put out.

"Well..." Reilly started cautiously, looking terrified under Aiden's glare. I knew that Aiden didn't like Dennis, and I guess the idea of any of his friends being on friendly terms with the school bully annoyed him. I knew that he definitely didn't like it that I talked to Dennis. Apparently, it was no different with Reilly.

"Did Dennis tell you about his family?" I asked Reilly, curiously as I began to move my hand over Aiden's back in a calming gesture.

"Some." Reilly admitted. "He was really worried that his parents would make him get rid of Vallie since she got out of her kennel."

"Vallie?" Aiden repeated.

"Dennis's dog." I smirked. "Her name's Valentine. So he didn't tell you anything else, Reilly?"

"Not really." Reilly frowned, "why?"

"Just curious." I shrugged. "You and Dennis live pretty close to each other. Did you know that?"

"I kinda figured it out." Reilly replied. "That's how his dog ended up in my yard."

"Where are you going with this, Owe?" Aiden frowned at me.

"I don't know." I admitted. "I guess I was just curious."

Aiden was giving me a measuring look and Reilly was staring down at his soda. I really didn't know where I was going with this line of questioning, but for some reason the idea of Dennis being friends with Reilly intrigued me, if they were even friends at all.

"We should probably get back to school." I suggested after a second, looking at Aiden again.

"You sure you're ready for that?" Aiden asked me, and I frowned.

Leaving for lunch had been a good distraction, but the truth was, I wasn't exactly looking forward to going back to school. I'm sure anyone who saw me kissing Aiden during lunch had made a point to tell someone else, and by now, everyone knew. Maybe I didn't have many old friends at this school, the way that Aiden had when he came out, but I was still nervous about the reactions I would receive. But, I couldn't hide from it, I knew that much. So, I did the only thing I could do and I went back to school to face it.

It felt strange, walking through the halls holding Aiden's hand. I knew that we didn't have to, it was only drawing more attention, but the moment I started looking nervous Aiden just smiled at me and said, "Let `em look."

And it felt good to be able to hold his hand, just like it had at the zoo. Only at school it didn't take long before someone shouted a few choice words at us and I was turning around to tell the person where to shove those words before Aiden stopped me and pulled me along with him. I guess I was going to have to get used to things like that, and it bothered the crap out of me. My annoyance over the incident was short lived, however, when we ran into Lacy on the way to Aiden's next class.

She didn't stay to talk, she was rushing to her next class, but she took one look at our joined hands and let out one of those high-pitched squeals that only girls can make. We both got a kiss on the cheek before she went on her way, but she left us both smiling.

We stopped in front of Aiden's class and he smiled at me. I fully intended to kiss him, but this was just...weird. Probably one of the most awkward moments of my life. I wondered if I would have felt the same way on our first date if I had known I was actually on a date.

"You alright?" Aiden whispered.

"Yeah." I smiled. "I'm just not...used to this...it's um..."

"Scary." Aiden finished for me, and I nodded. "We'll talk later?"

"Yeah." I nodded as my eyes started drifting again, I couldn't seem to help looking over my shoulder all of a sudden, wondering if anyone was watching us.

Aiden's lips suddenly coming over mine was a good distraction and I closed my eyes, forcing myself to relax as he kissed me. When he pulled back he was still smiling, and it was contagious. "Maybe this won't be so bad." I admitted.

Aiden gave me a thoughtful look and gave my hand a squeeze.

"Everything's going to be fine, Owe."


"You've been busy."

I looked up and smiled as Ryan threw an arm around my shoulders when he caught up to me in the hall. I was on my way to my last class and grateful to see Ryan. We hadn't met for our normal workout after lunch because he mentioned having to meet Leo for some reason, so I'd gone for a short jog by myself, using the school track. It had given me some time to clear my head and to not think about the fact that I was actually out at school. It had only been a few hours and I already felt like everything had changed. I just wasn't sure if it was for better or if it was for the worst yet. If someone had told me this morning that I would be publicly gay by the end of the day, I probably would have stayed in bed.

My first class after my jog hadn't been great. I could definitely feel the change around me there. People hadn't been hostile, but I found myself sitting in a very lonely corner, the desks around me vacant, and I was disappointed to find that the teacher in that class even treated me differently. She seemed to point out every little mistake I made and whenever she called on me, she acted like she was put out by it. I really hoped that it wouldn't affect the rest of my year. By the end of the class I'd felt terrible, nauseous even. I'd found myself back in the bathroom, wanting to hide. It wasn't very hard to be alone, because as soon as I walked in everyone else walked out. I think that was the lowest part of my day, being shunned like that.

My next class wasn't as bad. I was almost surprised to find that no one had moved away from my desk, and a few girls even talked to me. Of course, they wanted to know what it was like to kiss Aiden Knightly. I couldn't exactly blame them though, and I told them that with a smile on my face.

But, after class, in the halls, I'd become somewhat paranoid again, noticing that people made a point to be on the other side of the hall while I was walking by. I was getting a lot of mixed reactions from people. Some looked scared, some looked disgusted, some looked confused, some even smiled, as if offering their silent support, and I found myself wondering about those people, wondering if they were like me and like Aiden and like Reilly. But, having so many people suddenly paying attention to me, watching me, it was enough to put me on edge, and that's why I was so happy to run into Ryan. Walking with a real friend, even for only a few minutes was enough to put a smile on my face.

"Hey." I said.

"Don't hey me." he smirked. "What the hell happened today? What happened to being too afraid to come out?"

"It just sort of happened." I sighed. "Just this thing with Phil Clayton this morning. I could have denied it and it might have blown over, but...I don't know, I guess I just didn't want to. I'm tired of lying to people."

"Leo will be proud." Ryan smiled at me. "I am. You know I'm still here for you, right? No matter what."

"I know." I nodded, but it meant more than he'd ever know, just hearing it. "Thanks Ryan."

"So, how's Aiden handling it?"

"I think he's happy about it." I smiled. "I mean, he keeps asking if I'm alright and he's probably a little worried, but I think he's glad I did it."

"Yeah... are you?"

"I don't know." I sighed, looking around the halls, which seemed less friendly than before. "It's not how I thought it would be."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, so far a black hole hasn't appeared under my feet to swallow me whole." I pointed out.

"I guess that's looking on the bright side." Ryan laughed. "So what are you doing after school, are you and Knightly going out? When Leo came out at school, him and Ben went out the same night, everywhere and anywhere because they wanted to do all of their mushy crap in public just because they could."

That was an interesting idea that made me smile. I hadn't really thought about what things would be like for Aiden and me out of school and away from our less tolerant piers yet, and I had to admit that I liked the idea.

"We cant go out." I frowned, "Aiden has to work. But, maybe this weekend. What are you up to?"

"This weekend? Probably nothing. Ben and Leo are celebrating their anniversary. Four years, so I guess that means I'll have to entertain myself. Why, you guys wanna get together again?"

"Maybe." I smiled, "I'll ask Aiden. I told him that I'd go over at some point and have dinner with his mom. It could be this weekend, but other than that I think we're both free."

"You're going over there with his mom?" Ryan raised an eyebrow at me. "Would that mean that you finally did the right thing and told Aiden what she said?"

"No." I frowned. "But, I've decided that...hey!" I glared at Ryan, right after he took it upon himself to smack me upside the head. Literally. "What was that?" I demanded as I rubbed the back of my assaulted skull.

"You have to tell him." Ryan stated. "It's not right not to."

"I don't want to fuck up things with him and his mom." I retorted. "But...if you would have let me finish...I was going to say that I'm gonna tell him, I just wanted to give his mom one more chance to do it."

"Not you're brightest idea." Ryan frowned at me. "You know she won't tell him, Owen. And, the longer you keep it from him the more pissed off he's going to be when he finds out you kept it from him in the first place. And he will find out. You need to tell him. Soon."

"I know." I sighed, and I also knew that Ryan was completely right. Unfortunately.


All fears, depression and paranoia aside, if I had known how Aiden would react to me coming out, I would have done it a lot sooner.

I'd been tempted to beg him to call in sick to work after school. There had been a lot of stress during the day, and although I knew that it could have been worse, I felt emotionally exhausted nonetheless, and quite frankly, a little clingy when it came to Aiden. I just didn't want to be alone. But, I'd taken him to work anyways and I'd gone to the club to see Chris and drop off his phone.

When I told my brother everything that had happened he was obviously worried, wondering what it meant for me to be out at school. Actually, I think Chris was more concerned about it than I was. He just didn't want me to get hurt, and I loved him for it, but his concerns only ended up tiring me out even more.

I had just decided to leave the club so I could go home and take a nice, long nap when an unexpected phone call came through the club that would change my night for the better. It was Aiden, explaining that he got off work early, and he asked that I meet him over at his place.

I was there in ten minutes.

Aiden was all over me from the minute I walked in his door. I'd hardly been there for fifteen minutes and he practically had me panting on his living room sofa. My lips were swollen from all of his insistent kissing and my neck had turned red in several places from all of his attention. He seemed to touch me everywhere he could and he'd done everything short of ripping my clothes of and christening his living room. Then again, we were probably heading in that direction before we lost our balance at one point and ended up falling uncomfortably onto the ground. I landed on my back after hitting my head on the coffee table and then had the wind knocked out of me when Aiden fell directly on top of me.

We laughed as we struggled to sit up and I ended up with my back against the sofa and Aiden straddled my lap, my knees up behind him, pressing him so close to me that there was a dull ache in my stomach where his erection was pressing against me.

I smiled up at him as I pushed a few loose strands of hair from his flushed face and a moment later his mouth was covering mine again and his tongue was against my lips, demanding entrance. I groaned against his mouth when he lifted my hand and bluntly pressed it against his jean-clad erection, and I forced myself to pull back and look at him, which didn't seem to be easy considering he didn't want to stop kissing me. When I took my lips away he settled for sucking on my ear instead, and it sent a strong chill through my entire body.

"Do you think we should go somewhere?" I mumbled, even as I placed my hands on his waist and pulled him more firmly against me.

"Why?" he replied, his mouth still against my ear and his hands moving to the back of my head, cradling me close to him.

"Why do you think?" I chuckled. "What if your mom walks in?" Saying that thought out loud seemed to bring me to my senses and I found myself gently pushing him back, sucking in a breath as his weight moved over my own erect cock.

"You're ruining all my fun." Aiden complained with a smile.

"So come home with me." I replied. "Chris is at the club and Tony's out with Jake...there's no one there."

"Too far," was Aiden's murmured response as he pushed his hips forward, firmly pressing his cock against me.

"Well we can't stay here." I laughed.

"Uh-huh." He argued as he dropped his mouth to my neck and I tilted my head as he nipped at my skin. Obviously he wasn't going to be easily persuaded to move anytime soon. Not that I was complaining, I loved him like this. Unfortunately, I couldn't be as uninhibited as he was, especially there, where Karen Knightly could walk in on us at any second.

"Aiden...if we don't stop..." I was coincidentally interrupted at that very moment when we heard a key in the front door. Aiden was off of me so fast that I whimpered in surprise when the weight of his body left me, taking the pressure from my engorged cock, which had grown quite comfortable with him there.

Before I knew it, he was grabbing my hand and pulling me up onto the sofa, next to him, where he surprised me again by leaning in for one more, hard kiss before we both dropped our hands into our laps in a very poor attempt to hide our otherwise obvious arousal.

Honestly, I'm not sure why we bothered trying to hide what we were doing. Probably because we were teenagers. But, it would have been fairly obvious what we'd been up to, to anyone who cared to look at us. Aiden's ponytail had nearly fallen down, his eyes were glassy, his lips were red and swollen and his clothes were terribly rumpled. I'm sure that I looked even worse, and I know that we both looked guilty as hell when Karen walked through the front door and her eyes slightly widened at the sight of us. She recovered quickly, though. The scornful look she gave me shortly after was just about enough to kill the erection straining in my pants.

"Hi boys." She said with a rather forced smile.

"Hey mom." Aiden said quickly, trying and failing to look casual. "I got off work early and invited Owen over."

"I can see that." Karen replied as she came in and dropped her purse on the nearest shelf. "Well, I'm glad you're home early, Aiden. I wasn't looking forward to having dinner alone...you are going to be here for dinner, aren't you?"

"Yeah, sure." Aiden smiled.

Karen seemed to pause for a moment as she looked around the room, and then her eyes fell on me with another forced smile on her face. I was almost dreading what I knew was coming next.

"Would you like to stay, Owen?" she asked sweetly. "Aiden and I would love to have you."

I glanced at Aiden, who was already smiling at me. I almost disappointed him by turning down the offer that had practically forced its way out of his mother's mouth, but I had made the promise earlier that day. I just didn't think that dinner with Karen Knightly would have come so soon.

Oh-well, after my day a little more stress probably wouldn't make much of a difference.

"Yes, thank you." I replied, looking back at Karen. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't take some satisfaction in the shocked expression that registered on her face for only a moment. But, it quickly faded and turned into annoyance and a fake smile.

"Wonderful." She replied. "Let me get cleaned up and I'll start dinner."

"Thanks mom." Aiden called as she disappeared down the hall, and then he looked at me. "And thank you." He reached for my hand and as he took it I gave him a small smile, but I was suddenly having trouble meeting his eyes.

I knew that most of the reason why I was staying for dinner was for Aiden. But, that wasn't the only reason. It had very little to do with the fact that my boyfriend wanted me to get to know his mother and a lot to do with the fact that Karen Knightly had told me to stay away from him and I refused to do so.

Now, it was obvious that she would just be playing along with this whole thing. She wouldn't come clean about it and I doubted she would drop it, either. If she would just forget about it and leave me and Aiden alone, that might be able to solve everything...but like I said, I was beginning to see that it wasn't going to happen, and I knew now, without a doubt, that I was going to have to tell Aiden the truth.

"Hey," he said as he shifted closer and kissed my cheek, which I leaned into, "are you doing alright? You've had a long day. If this is too much for you now them maybe we can do dinner another night."

"Aiden," I frowned, turning so that I was facing him and our noses were practically touching, "there's something...I need to tell you something, and it's not easy."

"Okay," he said slowly. His brow was already knotting and his dark eyes narrowed curiously, but he waited patiently for me to speak.

"You know when we got back from our trip, and your mom was here?"


"And, you asked me to wait while you went to put away your bag? I was alone with..."

"How does chicken sound to everyone?" Karen's voice interrupted and Aiden's eyes were torn from mine as he looked back at his mother. "It's easy and it's defrosted."

"Sounds good." Aiden called. "Anything we can do to help?" he didn't wait for an answer from Karen before he turned back to me and lowered his voice. "What were you saying?"

I frowned, not liking the idea of this conversation in such close proximity to Karen, but I opened my mouth to speak anyways, only to be cut off again.

"Actually, there are a few things." Karen called. "Aiden, if you could run the trash out real quick I would be entirely grateful, and Owen...if you know your way around a kitchen there should be some potatoes over the fridge, you should be able to reach them better than I can."

"Sure mom." Aiden called, still looking at me, obviously expecting me to continue, but with all these interruptions all I could do was force a smile and shrug as I got up. I'd have to tell him later.

"It's okay." I insisted, Aiden frowned, but accepted my answer and followed me to the kitchen where I retrieved the potatoes and he tied off the garbage bag, that I noticed wasn't really full. It appeared that Karen was trying to get me alone again.

"You can put those on the counter, right over there." Karen instructed me, so I placed the large bag of potatoes where she wanted them and looked at Aiden before he moved out of the kitchen.

"I'll be back." he winked at me.

As soon as he moved out of sight I turned to face Karen. She was scowling at me, but neither of us said anything until we heard the front door close behind Aiden.

"What do you think you're doing?" she demanded. "I thought I made myself perfectly clear."

"If you wanted to be clear, you shouldn't have invited me to stay for dinner." I pointed out.

"I want you out of here." She hissed at me. "I gave you a chance, Owen, you should have listened. You're no longer welcome in my home. When Aiden comes back you will make an excuse and you will leave."

"No." I said flatly. "If you want me out of here you can tell me to go when he gets back."

"You listen to me," she frowned, waving her finger in my face. The action caused me to step back; I couldn't help thinking of it as threatening, probably because she wasn't the first mother who's regarded me with the particular gesture. "You are nothing but trouble. Aiden and I do not need you around here! If you cared about him at all you'd stay away. I told your brothers and now I'll tell you, if you can't stay away from my son then I'll be telling your whole family to stay away. Aiden is my son..."

"And if you really knew what was best for him you'd let him make his own decisions." I interrupted.

"I'm not going to tell you again, Owen. I want you out of here."

"Believe me, I know." I replied. "But I don't need your permission when it comes to Aiden, and if you haven't noticed, I'm not asking for it."

"You don't have a choice. You know I own this building, don't you?" actually, if I remembered correctly Aiden was the one who owned it, but I didn't correct her, I was too busy dreading where she was going with this. "The lease on your apartment is up next month. I'm sure your brothers would be disappointed if they were to discover they have to find a new place to live, as busy as they are."

"You would evict us to keep me away from Aiden?" I asked incredulously, even if I knew that such a tactic wouldn't work. The idea was completely ridiculous.

"You're damn right I would." She raised her voice at me.

"Why?" I demanded. "Why am I am I such a big threat to you? You don't even know me!"

"I don't need to know you to know that you don't have a place in my son's life. He's too young..."

"You're too old." I cut her off. "Way to old to be relying on him for whatever it is you think you need. He's almost eighteen, and if you knew anything you'd back off and let him make his own decisions.

"I don't need a little brat like you telling me how to raise my..."

"What's going on?"

Karen and I both looked to see Aiden standing in the kitchen, frowning at us. We hadn't heard him come in, and I found myself wondering how much he heard as a panic began to rise in me. It was obvious that I was arguing with Karen. Even if he hadn't heard anything the way we were both rigidly facing each other was enough for Aiden to see that something was amiss.

"Mom?" he asked, moving forward, glancing between us. I lowered my eyes, finding it very difficult to meet his.

"It's nothing, sweetheart." Karen insisted, turning back to the stove. "Owen and I just had a misunderstanding, everything's fine."

Karen had turned away, leaving Aiden to stare at me, looking angry.

"It wasn't a misunderstanding." I said after a moment, causing Karen to turn back quickly.

"Then what happened?" Aiden demanded, still looking between his mother and me.

"It really was nothing." Karen insisted.

"She told me to stay away from you." I continued.

"What?" Aiden demanded, his eyes snapping to his mother.

"I did no such thing!" Karen looked thoroughly insulted, and I was beginning to see what a damned good actress she was. "Owen, I know you don't like me but that's no reason to..."

"I'm not lying!" I cut her off, and then found myself looking almost desperately at Aiden. "It's what I was trying to tell you before. Right after we got back from our trip, she told me she didn't want us seeing each other anymore and told me to stay away." Aiden's eyes were narrowing on me as I spoke, and I was beginning to worry.

He didn't believe me.

"Why are you doing this?" Karen screamed at me. "Aden, you know I'd never do anything like that. Owen, I'm sorry that you can't accept that I've changed but it's no reason for you to come into our home and do something as malicious as this!"

I wasn't really paying attention to Karen, or her words. I was too busy staring at Aiden, and the furious look on his face as his eyes practically burned a hole through my head. I was terrified. He didn't fucking believe me. It was my own damn fault too. I never should have kept it from him. If I had just told him in the first place then maybe I'd stand half a chance. Now he didn't believe me and it was startling, how much it hurt. I could feel my breaths coming deeper, almost panicked and my eyes glazed over with emotion, making the room seem blurry.

"It's true." I pleaded with him. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you, I didn't want..."

"Now that's enough." Karen cut me off. "Aiden..."

"Shut up!" Aiden suddenly snapped, looking at his mother but shocking both of us. His eyes were back on mine in a second, and when he spoke again his voice was low and controlled. "You need to go, Owen."

I just stared at him, hesitating, searching for something to say.

"I think that's best." Karen said when I hesitated for too long. "I'm sorry, Owen, but I think you should..."

"Shut up!" Aiden snapped at her again. "I believe him."

"What?" Karen demanded, although I think I was more shocked than she was.

"I believe him." Aiden repeated, and then looked at me again. "I believe you. But you need to go. Please." His voice had softened enough to give me some hope, but I still didn't want to leave him here alone. He was clearly upset, and the idea of leaving him alone to deal with this was an unsettling one. "Please, Owen...go." Aiden insisted.

I hesitated only another moment before I silently passed him, refusing even a backwards glance to Karen. When I passed Aiden he seemed cold, distant. There wasn't a doubt in my mind that he was furious with me, just as Ryan had predicted, and it was completely unnerving as I left his apartment. It felt even worse than it had when I outed myself at school, that event seeming so far away now.

The only thing that kept me from having a nervous breakdown before I even reached the stairs was the sound of a door opening and Aiden's voice.


I immediately turned around to face him, wanting to say so many things, but it was all I could do to watch him slowly walk towards me with his head down.

"You should have told me." he said flatly.

"I know." I replied. "I'm sorry...Aiden, look..."

"I have to take care of some things here." He interrupted. "I just...you need to go home."


"Please, Owen." He frowned, finally looking up at me. "Just go home."

"I love you." I said, suddenly feeling like I needed him to know that more than I ever had before.

Aiden let out a breath and met my eyes, but the blank expression on his face was something that I couldn't read. He took the smallest step forward, so I could feel his breath on my face and I found my entire body just begging to lean into him.

"I know you do." He said quietly, right before he turned and disappeared through the opened door to his apartment.



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