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

"I know it still needs a little work," Aiden said as he stood in front of the wide window, facing me, as I looked around the space and thought a little work was an understatement. It wasn't that the building was completely run down, in fact, it was in great shape. From the outside it looked brand new. According to Aiden, Jake had been working on it, and remodeling some of the units. The unit we were standing in, however... had no walls. "What do you think?"

"It's a great building, Aiden." I smiled, although I'm sure I didn't sound as enthusiastic as he would have liked me to be. I couldn't really help it, though. I was feeling down from my encounter with Dennis, and now I was hoping that I didn't have to talk my boyfriend out of moving in to this new building as soon as it was ready for tenants. "When did Jake say it would be ready?"

"Well, two of the units will be ready as early as next month, at least, ready for someone to move in. This one, and the other three will take a little longer." he moved away from the window and took my hand, leading me towards the door. "Come on, I'll show you."

"Show me?" I repeated, and then sneezed. Aiden just smiled at me and wrapped his arm around my waist as we moved outside and into the cold.

I hadn't changed out of my rain dampened clothes since my outing with Tony, and I was still cold. It was also still raining, and all I wanted to do was go home and go back to bed where it was warm. Aiden wanted to show me his building, though, and I guess I could understand why he was excited about it. It was something his dad left to him, and more than that... it was all his. Maybe I wasn't having the best day in the world, but it was not at all difficult to come to the conclusion that being a little cold was worth seeing Aiden look so happy. It wasn't like he'd had the easiest time lately, either.

Aiden hadn't had any contact with his mother since he moved in with us. That was kind of sad, considering that she lived right downstairs. Aiden said that it didn't bother him, but I knew better. Every time we stepped outside I could see him looking around, hoping for a glimpse of his mother. It was obvious enough that he was worried. I'm sure he was afraid that she was out somewhere, likely getting drunk.

I wanted so bad to tell him to stop worrying about her, that it wasn't his responsibility. But the thing was, worrying about Karen Knightly was second nature to Aiden. He'd been doing it for years. He was so used to taking care of her, that now that he'd gotten out of the situation, it didn't seem like he knew what to do with his newfound freedom.

We stopped in front of the next door and I found myself leaning into Aiden as a gust of wind hit us, along with more water. It didn't seem to bother Aiden, though, as he dug a key out of his pocket and quickly unlocked the door. I followed him into the unit, expecting another unfinished space, but instead I paused and looked around at the spacious apartment with four windows to light the living room, a fresh coat of paint, new carpeting, and even a fireplace.

"What do you think?" he smiled at me as he reached down to remove his shoes, and after I was finished staring I knelt down to do the same.

"Wow." I remarked, and he laughed at me.

"This is what they'll all be like when they're finished." he explained. "Ben and Leo are already claiming this one."

"Ben and Leo?"

"Yeah, I was going to move in to it, but since it looks like I'll be staying with you for a while I said they could go ahead and take it."

That announcement brought me so much relief that I couldn't help the way I smiled. Aiden saw it, and laughed at me again, but it didn't bother me as I turned to him long enough to cup the back of his neck and pull him in for a quick kiss before I moved into the apartment and started to look around. It was amazing how knowing that Aiden really didn't plan on going anywhere for a while suddenly made this outing a lot more enjoyable.

"How many bedrooms?" I asked.

"Two in here." he explained as he grabbed my arm and led me down the hall, pointing out each bedroom and even the two bathrooms, and a few minutes later we were back in the living room, which connected directly to the kitchen. "Jake still wants to put in a breakfast bar here," Aiden pointed, "and I think he said something about adding another closet... I'm not really sure, but it's great, isn't it?"

"Yeah, it is." I admitted. "Jake does good work."

"I know, I can't wait for him to finish."

"I think it's time for me to go back to work," I remarked as I looked around the space, and then at Aiden when he gently tapped my side with the back of his hand.

"I thought you wanted a break."

"I didn't want to work at the Gordon house." I responded. "But if I go back, maybe Jake will let me work here. I kinda like the idea of working on something that's yours."

Sometimes, I would say things that Aiden particularly liked. Half the time I had no idea what I said, and the other half I was trying to figure out why he liked what I said so much, so I could do it again. This was one of those times, and before I could even blink I had my boyfriends arms around me and his tongue in my mouth. I was only surprised for a second before I closed my eyes and relaxed against him, taking advantage of his body heat by sliding my hands under his sweater in an attempt to keep them warm. My fingers were obviously cold, and I could feel Aiden tremble as they moved up his chest, but rather than trying to get away from me, he tightened his arm around my back and pulled me closer. I went with it, enjoying the attention, and definitely the kissing, as hands-both of ours-began to wander and I started to warm up faster than expected.

I could feel the slight bulge beneath Aiden's pants rubbing against me, and I purposely pressed up against it as I pulled him back with me until my back was comfortably leaning against the wall and slid my hands around to his butt, holding him tightly against me, with no objection from Aiden. I shifted my hips, allowing my growing erection to grind against his, gently, because suddenly my jeans weren't the most comfortable thing in the world. It didn't take much longer for things to get heated after that point, and I had his pants unbuttoned and my hands down the back of them before I realized that we were about to have a repeat of this morning in an unfurnished apartment that Aiden was supposed to be renting to Ben and Leo pretty soon.

I pulled back, breaking the kiss, intending to tell him that we should go home and continue this before we were supposed to be at Ryan's house tonight. I didn't tell Aiden anything when he took a moment to cup the bulge in my jeans before his fingers went to work unbuttoning them, and as I leaned into him and started to kiss his neck, where we were didn't seem to matter anymore.

I was still pulling his shirt over his head by the time he had my pants down to my knees and he'd dropped in front of me, taking my cock in his hand and guiding it between his lips as I leaned back against the wall to maintain balance, my eyes rolling to the back of my head as he took me slowly into his mouth, but hardly gently.

Only minutes ago I thought I'd never get warm, but with his hands on my hips, guiding me, I found myself absently removing my own shirt as the temperature in the room suddenly began to rise and I broke out into a sweat. The way that Aiden was working me had me doubting that I'd last very long, even after our encounter this morning.

I was just beginning to anticipate a satisfying climax when he suddenly pulled off of me, and the feeling of his mouth surrounding my erection was replaced by something tight, and uncomfortable compared to it's location a moment before. My eyes snapped open and I looked down at Aiden, finding myself somewhat startled to see that he'd sheathed my erection with a condom. I guess it seemed strange to see one there, considering I had never had one on with Aiden.

"What are you doing?" I asked almost accusingly as he stood up and placed his hands on the wall, trapping me with his arms. When he leaned forward and kissed me, I kissed him back, but my questioning glare was still present when he slightly pulled back.

"I'm trying to be subtle." he explained.

"You call this subtle?" I retorted, and then jumped somewhat when his hand wrapped around my sheathed cock and squeezed.

"Well, I was going to bend over and tell you to fuck me like you mean it, but I was worried that it might have scared you away."

"Aiden." I frowned.

"Sorry," he smiled, "but I wanted to get your attention."

"Well you have it now." I pointed out.

"Good. I want you to top me. Every time I've asked you before you've avoided it."

"That was different..."

"Then there shouldn't be a problem now?"

"Aiden... maybe we shouldn't be here for this, we don't even have a bed, I mean..." I stopped myself from finishing that as soon as I realized what I was doing.

So... I don't think that I was exactly avoiding it. I mean, it wasn't like we'd even had sex a whole lot. It's just, when we did it, or when I thought about doing it, I always pictured it the way that it was the first time. It wasn't that I didn't want to top Aiden. I did every single time that he asked me too. I think the problem was, that I wanted to make it as special for him as he did for me, and I wasn't sure that I was capable of that, especially after Dan.

That was my first clue that I was being ridiculous, thinking about Dan when it came to me and Aiden. I hadn't been able to give Dan what he wanted. The sex felt good, physically. But, it didn't mean to me the same thing that it meant to him. He knew that, and I think that ultimately, it hurt him. I knew that the situation had nothing to do with Aiden and me. I loved Aiden. I guess it seemed amazing to me, that loving someone, on top of being loved, made the difference. So, instead of finishing my unnecessary excuse, I moved my arms around him and pulled him to me, kissing him soundly. It seemed to be all the signal that Aiden needed because he wasted no time pushing his own pants off before I even had a chance to get to them. When he actually grabbed my wrists and pointedly placed my hands on his ass I couldn't help the way I pulled back and laughed.

"I know what to do." I informed him. He just smiled at me, but it faltered when my own expression turned somewhat serious.

"What?" he frowned.

"We don't have anything." I replied tentatively, not wanting him to think that I was making excuses. "The condom's good, but..."

"Owen, I've been carrying around lube in my ass all day." he replied, sounding irritated, although the teasing look he was giving me was enough to say that he was just fine. "Please, stop talking now."

I did as I was told with a smile as Aiden went back to kissing me, taking over by turning until he was against the wall and I was pulled up against him, my hands wandering as if I'd lost something in a dark place. When Aiden suddenly pulled away from me and turned around, I instinctively latched onto him from behind, moving my mouth over his neck as he braced himself against the wall and I ran a hand down his back, feeling him take in an anticipated breath as I moved my fingers into his cleft and easily found his hole.

He suddenly felt tighter than usual, and while there was definitely lubrication like he said, there wasn't as much as I would have liked there to be. It was probably my nerves talking, but after slipping a second finger into him I started to take my time, moving my fingers and loosening him up until he was pushing back against me and reaching around with his arm, placing his hand on my ass and pulling me forward.

"That's enough," he urgently whispered, and while it was in my instincts to argue, I found myself withdrawing my fingers instead, and aligning my cock with his entrance, meaning to guide myself into him. I wasn't at all prepared for when Aiden suddenly pushed back, impaling himself as the head of my cock slipped into his body. I groaned as he tightly clenched around me, and as if losing all control, thrust my hips forward, pushing further into him. It was only the sudden, surprised whimper that Aiden released, which brought me back to reality and caused me to freeze, wondering if I'd hurt him. But, as soon as I began to gently rub his hip and ask if he was okay, he pushed back again, completely impaling himself with another groan, and as if he felt no discomfort at all he began to move almost immediately, rocking his hips, urging me along with him.

Every time Aiden was in me, I enjoyed every second of it. I still remember the feeling of being in Dan, but now I was reminded of how much I liked this, and better yet, it felt right with Aiden. This was the first time I'd ever fully enjoyed an experience like this. But, even as I reached a point where I thought I couldn't stop if I wanted to, and had him pushing back and groaning against me, I wasn't fully satisfied until I suddenly pulled out of him as he moaned a small protest, until I turned him around and kissed him as I dragged him to the floor, placing him on his back.

Aiden smiled up at me as I guided his knees apart and slipped back into him, wanting to see his eyes as I slowly brought him to a climax, one I followed shortly after.


I held onto the back of Aiden's sweater with one hand and held up the hood on mine with the other. The sun, or what there was of it today, was close to setting, but the rain seemed nowhere close to stopping. In fact, over the last hour it had started pouring, and it had even hailed a few times. Driving to Ryan's, I noticed that the streets were beginning to flood, and I could only hope that it wouldn't be a problem later. If Aiden hadn't insisted that we go to Ryan's tonight, I would have canceled.

"Didn't Ryan say he was barbequing?" I asked into the back of Aiden's shirt as I walked closer to him to avoid the water hitting us.

"Uh-huh." Aiden replied, and I could hear his smile, one I found irritating because I just wasn't staying dry today, and Aiden didn't seem to have a problem with that. He turned and threw his arm over my shoulders as we reached the porch and he knocked on the door, while I was grateful for the momentary warmth coming off of his body. "Stop being grouchy. You've had a great day. Start acting like it," Aiden remarked with a pointed look that actually made me smile.

"The parts I spent with you were pretty great." I admitted.

"If you're sucking up to make tonight great too, it's working." he replied. "But, the rest of your day couldn't have been too bad. Didn't you have a good time with Tony?"

"It was fine," I shrugged, thinking of my small encounter with Dennis and my resentful feelings towards him, as someone started to open the front door of Ryan's house. "I'll tell you about it later. . . We're not staying long, are we?"

Aiden just elbowed me and smiled as Lacy answered the door and waved us in as she downed a full glass of water. The first thing I noticed about her was that her dark green sweater looked wet from the rain, which couldn't be a good thing, since she probably didn't just get there. Her face also seemed a little red, but that could have been because she was downing her drink so quickly.

"Hey guys," she said a little breathilly as she closed the front door. "Everyone's out in the back."

"In this weather?" I asked incredulously.

"You look a little flustered, Lacy," Aiden remarked when he was finished rolling his eyes at me.

"Jalapeno burgers," Lacy replied with a smile. "Come on."

" Where's Angie?" Aiden asked, and I found myself looking around nervously. I guess I could admit that Ryan's mom was a nice lady, but she still made me nervous.

"Bowling," Lacy explained. "She'll probably be back in a few hours, but she wanted to clear out so Ryan could have us over."

"Who's here?" I asked curiously as I took Aiden's hand and we followed Lacy through the house.

"Did Reilly show?" Aiden asked, and I snapped my head around to look at my boyfriend. The mention of seeing Reilly outside of school took me off guard. It wasn't that I minded. I just didn't expect it.

"I ran into him this morning when I was with Jake." Aiden explained. "We had lunch together and saw Reilly with his dad. I invited him over, and Paul sort of talked him into it."


"His dad." Aiden reminded me, before he looked towards Lacy again. "So is he here?"

"He's here." Lacy laughed. "His dad dropped him off about an hour ago. Poor boy didn't know what to do with himself. You know Ryan, though, he got him warmed right up... um... actually, Reilly seems a little taken with him. I think one of you should let him know that Ryan plays for my side, not yours."

"Jealous, Lacy?" Aiden laughed. "I thought you and Ryan were just friends."

"We are," Lacy replied, giving Aiden's arm a playful punch, "I was more worried about Reilly. Someone better tell him before Ryan breaks his little heart."

"I'm sure he'll be fine." I stated, and Lacy smiled.

"You're just glad he's not after your guy anymore." she remarked.

"He was never after me." Aiden frowned, and now it was my turn to roll my eyes at him, but even as I did it I moved my arm around his waist and pulled him closer to me. I was just glad that he was my guy, and if I had anything to say about it, he would stay that way.

Lacy reached the back door first and pulled it open, and I was immediately frowning again. Seriously, what was wrong with ordering a pizza on a rainy day? I almost turned around and dragged Aiden back home when I saw Ryan outside in front of the barbeque grill, holding an umbrella up against the wind and dressed in a bright red rain coat that must have been his mother's. I probably would have thought it was funny if I wasn't already wet and cold.

"We're going out there?" I groaned.

"Stop acting like an old man." Aiden remarked, and I glared at him.

"I don't know," Lacy sighed. "I'm with Owen on this one. I figure I'll give Ryan ten more minutes before I drag his ass inside. It's cold out here."

I smiled at Lacy and then flashed Aiden a look that clearly said that I wasn't the one who was crazy, but when Lacy handed us an umbrella I took it anyways, opening it up and holding it between Aiden and myself as we followed her outside.

"Hey guys," Ryan briefly turned and called out to us as I huddled closer to Aiden to avoid the wind.

"Having fun, Ry?" Aiden laughed.

"You know it," Ryan responded, holding up his spatula. "Wanna help?"

"I'm fine right here." Aiden responded as he pulled his hood a little further over his head and leaned into me as I remained by the house for what little shelter I could get. Shelter didn't matter though, a moment later when a strong gust of wind came our way and suddenly Ryan groaned from over at the grill, making a sound like he was choking before I even got a chance to look around to see where Reilly was.

The reason that Ryan was choking was the smoke that suddenly got trapped under his umbrella, smoke that all too soon, came in our direction and had everyone coughing and gagging. Regular smoke is unpleasant enough, but anyone who has ever inhaled burnt jalapeno smoke knows that it's completely vile. Even outside, with all of the wind and open space I seemed to inhale enough of it to bring on a fit of coughing as my eyes watered and my nose and throat burned and itched like they were on fire.

"Ryan!" Lacy groaned.

"Sorry," Ryan called as he waved the smoke away from his face and moved away from the grill, still gagging.

I turned with Aiden to face the wind, away from the smoke as Ryan came up behind us, throwing an arm around each of our shoulders. I was just about to ask him what type of evil creation he was concocting when something else caught my eyes and had me elbowing Aiden, wondering what he made of it.

In the corner up against the house was a short awning covering am old, rusty porch swing, where two familiar faces sat, playing cards. Reilly was under a black raincoat with a too big beanie covering his blonde hair, and his glasses perched on the edge of his nose as he looked around, somewhat unsure about himself. He looked kinda cute like that, but there was really nothing special about it, unless you count the fact that Adam was on the seat next to him, with a big smile on his face. At least, he was smiling until he saw me, then he just looked nervous.

We would really have to stop meeting like this.

"I asked him to come," Ryan explained quietly from behind me. "It was last week... I wasn't sure if he would show or not. Is it okay?"

"Sure." I replied, feeling as uncertain as Adam looked.

"How long has he been talking to Reilly?" Aiden asked curiously.

"For about twenty minutes," Lacy explained. "I think at first Adam was a little freaked out that he was here, but they're fine now... at least, they seem like they are."

"Let's go say hi," Aiden suggested, with a hand on my back.

"I don't think so," I stated, planting my feet. Adam had made it clear that we couldn't be friends only yesterday. I had no idea why he would be here now, but I wasn't fond of situations that confused me, and this was one of those.

"Fine," Aiden sighed, and then looked towards Adam and Reilly and waved. "Hey."

Reilly waved back, and they both got up and started coming in our direction, causing me to frown at Aiden like it was all his fault. I couldn't really help the way I was feeling. It wasn't like I was supposed to be comfortable in this situation, having to be around someone who I knew disliked something about me that I couldn't help. Someone who was supposed to be my friend.

There was a long, awkward moment as Reilly and Adam reached us and everyone seemed to wait for either Adam or me to say something, so finally I did, but it wasn't to Adam.

"Hi Reilly."

"Hi," Reilly smiled. I knew that he wasn't completely comfortable here with his shy personality, but it seemed like Reilly was doing alright. He even looked like he might be having a good time. It was probably a good thing. Besides Aiden and me, he hadn't really made any friends that I knew of, and being here was probably good for him. I wasn't sure about Reilly talking to Adam, though.

If I wasn't already aware that Adam knew Reilly was gay, I probably would have been worried. I wouldn't want Adam to put Reilly through what he was putting me through. I knew how easy it was to `fall' for Adam. He just had one of those personalities that had attractive qualities when looking for a friend. It would be easy to see how Reilly, who was in need of friends, could easily latch onto those qualities. If Adam's rejection hurt me, then I knew it could hurt Reilly. All of this left me with a question that I found completely reasonable. Why the hell was Adam talking to Reilly like they were friends?

"How's it going Adam?" Aiden asked when I didn't say anything to the younger boy.

"Um, good," Adam replied, although the smile on his face seemed somewhat forced. There was another pause before he turned his attention to me, and when he met my eyes the look on his face turned into an expression that seemed somewhat... bashful. "Hi Owen."

"Adam." I replied shortly, unable to stop myself from being standoffish as I turned away from him and towards Ryan. "So Ryan, are you going to feed us, or what?"


At least we were out of the rain. Ryan still barbequed, but as soon as he was satisfied that he'd burnt enough food we all went inside, where Lacy convinced Ryan to turn up the heat and we were able to shed our wet sweaters and attempt to warm up. Surrounded my Aiden and my friends, out of the rain... it should have been a comfortable environment. Unfortunately, I was making it otherwise.

It was Adam. At least, that's what I would have liked to say; it was Adam's fault. But the truth was, I was the one making everything awkward. Adam was just fine, joining a card came that Lacy and Reilly were starting. I was the one who was brooding, and trying to force down one of Ryan's jalapeno burgers without gagging.

I think my biggest problem was that Adam was there, being nice to everyone when he talked to them, including Aiden. He was there, acting as if he'd never looked me in the eye and said that we couldn't be friends. He was acting like it never happened. It happened yesterday! And it pissed me off.

Aiden slid closer to me on the sofa we were sitting on as I watched Lacy deal out the cards to Reilly and Adam on the floor. Ryan had gone to clean up whatever mess he'd made before his mom came back, and when Aiden and I had been asked to join the card game, Aiden decided to sit out only because I did. Now, my boyfriend was placing the plate of food I was only picking at aside and reaching for my hand.

"What's up?" he asked quietly, and I glanced at him and shrugged.

"Everything's fine."

Aiden let out a breath and then leaned towards me to speak into my ear.

"Talk to me." he insisted, and I frowned as my eyes drifted to Adam. He was too close to have a conversation about him. I guess you could say that I had to problem talking about him. I just preferred to do it behind his back.

"Okay," Aiden said as he gave my hand a tug and stood up. "Let's go get some air."

"I'm not going back out there." I insisted as I attempted to pull him back down, something that Aiden didn't allow.

"Owen, come on." he stated. "Let's go talk. Please."

I groaned inwardly but got up anyways to follow him.

"Where are you guys going?" Lacy called out before we even took two steps.

"We'll be right back," Aiden told her, and Adam and Reilly's curious faces. "We're just gonna go check on Ryan."

"Tell him to hurry up." Lacy nodded.

"We will." Aiden replied as he laced his fingers with mine and led the way out of the living room and down the hallway towards the kitchen. When we were far enough away from the others he stopped and turned to me as he leaned back against the wall, and with a hand on my hip he pulled me with him. "Do you want to go?" he asked seriously.

"We haven't been here very long," I replied neutrally. "You're not ready to leave yet, are you?"

"You're not happy." he frowned at me. "When I said I wanted to come here I didn't know that Adam would be here. Is he really bothering you that much, or is it something else?"

"I'm just having an off day." I sighed. "I really didn't want to get out of bed this morning. I would have been fine just spending the day with you."

"We can stay in bed all day tomorrow if you want," Aiden replied, "but I want to know what's bothering you now. Adam?"

"Adam." I admitted, lowering my voice somewhat. "What is he doing here? It's not like he didn't know we'd be here, right?"

"He should have known." Aiden shrugged. "I think he was surprised about Reilly, but I doubt Ryan would forget to mention us."

"Then why did he come? Yesterday he had no problem telling me that he didn't want to be around faggots," I responded harshly, and Aiden frowned as he pulled me a little closer in a comforting gesture.


"I'm sorry, okay? I know I'm sort of acting like an ass, but this just isn't right. He doesn't like that I'm gay and he doesn't want to be seen together but he can sit there with Reilly and act like they're friends?"

"Are you jealous?" Aiden raised an eyebrow at me.

"No. Yes... I don't know. I'm kinda pissed. I don't know what he's doing. It's like... I feel like he's doing it to fuck with me or something. It's not right, Aiden. How could he say those things yesterday and then today..."

"Do you want to ask him?"

"No, I don't. That's another thing. It seems like every time I talk to him I just get pissed off. I can't stand it. But I can't stand not talking to him either. I don't know what to do."

"We can go home if you want."

I let out a breath. Going home did sound tempting. The last few days seemed emotionally draining to me, and I really hated the idea of trying to figure out what was going on in Adam's head. But, instead of saying that I was ready to leave because it would help my stress levels considerably, I found myself shaking my head.

"It wouldn't be right. You invited Reilly and he'd still be here... Ryan and Lacy... I just... I just don't know what's wrong with me. My head feels all screwed up."

I closed my eyes briefly and felt Aiden reaching out, wrapping both arms around me until I was practically against him, my forehead resting against his.

"I think you should talk to Adam." Aiden said. "He's the only one who knows what he's doing here... but if you want to go home, we'll go. I don't want to stay if it's just going to stress you out."

I wrapped my arms around Aiden and gave him a lingering kiss on the cheek before I turned my head to meet his lips. Maybe leaving wouldn't be a bad idea. I'm sure Ryan would understand. Besides, there were more pleasant ways that I could spend my time with Aiden if we were home. I wasn't sure what it was about today, but it was like I couldn't get enough of him, and after this afternoon, having experienced being buried inside him... I suddenly wanted to go back there. I loved it when he was in me, but after experiencing that with Aiden, I wanted to spend a lot of time there.

"Can't you two go five minutes?" Ryan's voice groaned from behind us and we both smiled as we separated and I leaned against Aiden, resting my head on his shoulder as we faced Ryan. "What are you doing back here, anyways?"

"Owen's cranky." Aiden remarked.

"I'm not cranky." I stated.

"You're just trying to figure out what Adam's doing here?" Ryan smirked at me. "Why don't you just ask him?"

"That's what I said." Aiden smiled.

"I'm not going to ask him anything." I said. "Can we just drop it? What are we doing, playing cards?"

"Unless you wanna get drunk instead," Ryan replied, "or we can get really creative and get drunk and play cards." The way Ryan smiled suggested that he was pleased with that suggestion.

"Isn't your mom supposed to be coming back?" Aiden asked. "Let's save the liquor cabinet for another night." he paused and looked at me. "Ready to go back out there?"

I sighed and nodded, even if I would have been happier standing in the hall all night leaning up against Aiden. Aiden kissed my forehead before gently guiding me away from him so he could move and I followed as he headed back for the living room, but Ryan's hand on my shoulder stopped me.

"Hey," he said quietly, "If Adam's really bugging you I can ask him to leave. He already knows that I don't stand for that intolerance bullshit."

"No, don't." I shook my head, although in a way it was oddly touching to know that Ryan would take my side over Adam's. "He's not doing anything. It's me. I just... talked to him yesterday and he said some things and now I just don't know why he's here."

"Hmm," Ryan hummed after a moment of looking thoughtful. "You know the other day when you mentioned you had lunch with him? I sort of thought everything was fine between you guys and that's why I invited him."

"That was before I came out." I frowned. "I guess he changed his mind again."

"Are you sure about that, Owen?"

"I was there when he said we couldn't be friends," I replied somewhat defensively.

"Yeah, but do you think he meant it?" Ryan asked, and I frowned, wondering what he was getting at. "Look, Owen, I'm just saying... Adam's sort of... confused. I mean his sister is Janie."

"Yeah, but..."

"Doesn't it say something that he's here? He's even getting along with Reilly. I'm not trying to make excuses for him, Owen. I think the way that he's jerking you around sucks. But I talked to him, remember? Right after Aiden came out. You already know what his sister is like, and even if Janie is the worst out of all of them, I guess Adam's family sees homosexuality as a choice. It doesn't matter to them if it's biological or what... they're against it, and they think people who are gay choose to be that way. It's what Adam's been taught. I don't think it's right, but if that's what the guy's been taught his whole life then don't you think he deserves some slack? And... look at who his sister is. Look what Janie did to Aiden... look how she's been treating you. The girl brings a whole new meaning to the term psycho bitch. It sort of makes sense that he didn't want to be seen with you because of her, even if it is fucked up."

"I get that, Ryan." I said, even if I didn't like it. "It's just that... he's here. I mean, he knew I would be here, right?"

"Well, probably," Ryan admitted. "But, maybe he's here because he wants to try again. Isn't that something you want?"

"I don't know," I said honestly, raking my fingers through my hair. "To be honest with you, Ryan, I'm tired of thinking about it. That's probably because... I never know what to think with Adam. I never know what to expect... I hate that."

"Alright," Ryan smiled, "If you don't want to think about it... stop thinking about it. You just seem so down today. Come back into the other room, and lets have some fun."

I sighed and started walking as Ryan placed a hand on my shoulder. I guess it couldn't hurt to ignore the fact that Adam's very presence was grating my nerves. I just wished that I could get over it and at least pretend that he didn't bother me. I wanted to show him that I was fine, with or without his friendship.

Only, I hated the way that he'd rejected me. I didn't understand it, either. I didn't understand how he could turn hot and cold like that. When it was just Aiden who he thought was gay, he was still willing to be my friend. As soon as he discovered the truth about me... well, it was all incredibly frustrating, and the fact that he was acting like nothing was wrong... and the way that he was being so damn nice to Reilly and my boyfriend and yes, even me... it felt like a slap in the face.

That's probably why, as much as I wanted to pretend it didn't bother me, I couldn't.

I reached the end of my patience during a game of poker, that was annoying enough because Ryan was making the rules up as we went. We were playing in pairs. I was with Aiden, of course, because we couldn't seem to go more than a minute tonight without touching each other in some way. If Adam had a problem with this, he didn't show it, and that was only one of the things that was bothering me.

Ryan and Lacy had paired up, and since Ryan was the one who was making the rules... rules that said a pair of twos beat a full house, but only every other deal... they were winning. My pairing with Aiden and Lacy's with Ryan, left Reilly and Adam together. That alone annoyed me because before we even decided to play our game with teams, Adam was the one who suggested it and then immediately volunteered to be Reilly's partner.

Just what the hell was he doing? He was being nice, that's what. When he started to smile in mine and Aiden's direction every time one of us said something, I'd had enough. So what if we were all smiling at each other? I didn't know why Adam was smiling at me.

"What are you doing?" I demanded, looking directly at Adam, while everyone else looked at me, seemingly startled by my outburst. I could feel Aiden's hand moving up my back. He was probably the first to detect the annoyance in my voice, even if it was obvious, and the contact was his way of telling me to calm down.

"What?" Adam asked, somewhat nervously when he figured out that I was in fact, speaking to him.

"What are you doing?" I demanded, this time the frustration in my voice completely evident. "What are you doing? Why are you here? Why are you smiling at me?"

Maybe I'd lost my mind, because everyone was looking at me like I had, but I didn't care. I was tired of Adam making me crazy. I had enough to deal with, enough to stress out about. I'd suddenly come to the conclusion that if he didn't want to be friends, that was just fine, but I wasn't about to let him play his game and act like we were friends only when it was convenient for him.

"Owen..." Aiden said carefully, when Adam did little more than gawk at me.

"No." I cut him off. "You said ask, I'm asking. Why are you here, Adam?"

"Am I not supposed to be here?" Adam asked, somewhat defensively as everyone else around us seemed to freeze in place, as if they were afraid to so much as breathe. I guess I'd officially created and awkward moment.

"I don't know," I frowned. "Did you know me and Aiden were going to be here? And you know Reilly's gay, right?" I paused and looked at Reilly apologetically when he blushed. "Sorry, Reilly, but it's not like it's a big secret." I turned back to Adam and glared. "Did you?"

"Yes, I knew you were going to be here," Adam frowned, "and Reilly doesn't have anything to do with this."

"Doesn't he?" I demanded. "I wasn't good enough for you when you found out I was gay, right? When you thought it was just Aiden you were still willing to hang out with me, as long as I left the queer at home. So what the fuck?"

"Okay," Aiden said and abruptly stood up, grabbing my hand and pulling me with him. I started to resist, but the look he flashed me was literally so scary that it left no room for argument. Great, now I was in trouble, too. I followed my boyfriend begrudgingly until we were back in the hall and he was turning me, this time trapping me against the wall with his body as he expectantly looked me in the eye.

"What?" I demanded.

"I said ask him, not attack him. What's with you?"

"I told you, I've had enough. I'm not just going to let this go, Aiden. I won't go in there and pretend we're friends so next week he can start ignoring me and act like it never happened. It's bullshit. . . did I ever tell you that Adam was the first person here I met who I actually considered a friend? I don't understand what he's doing."

"I'm sorry." Adam's voice sounded small, even from only a few feet away, and Aiden and I turned our attention towards him. "I don't know what I'm doing, either. I wasn't going to come here tonight. I was going to do something with Shane, but ever since Janie started going out with Phil, Shane's always wanting to hang out with him. It seems kinda fucked up, actually. Phil used to hassle us as much as Dennis.... before, Shane always wanted to hang out with you." Adam added, looking at me. "I just... everything seems so different now. I wish we could all just go back to the way it was before, before everyone turned gay."

I opened my mouth to argue that we didn't just turn gay, but Aiden seemed to catch onto the more important aspects of what Adam was saying, and he started talking first.

"Not everything is different, Adam. Everything is just like it was before."

"Except you two are holding hands and kissing each other all the time!" Adam blurted. "I'm sorry, but it's weird."

"Well we're not going to stop," I said defiantly, "so if you don't like it...."

"If it makes you uncomfortable, why did you come over here tonight?" Aiden asked, much more constructively. "You knew we were going to be here."

"I don't know." Adam replied, his brow knotting as if he were deep in thought. "I'm sorry. I don't know. I think... it's just that when I'm not around Shane, and I want to be around people who... are my friends, you guys are the first ones I think of. I don't know what that means. It's stupid, I know... but I think that I thought... maybe if I came over here-things would be the way they were before."

Adam looked at me and I wasn't sure what to say. I was angry with him. I was frustrated with him... I understood him. I wanted things to go back to the way that they used to be, too. Only, I wanted to go back, but I still wanted Aiden right where he was. I felt like my boyfriend had carved out his own place in my life and it was beginning to feel like a second skin to me. I couldn't imagine my life without him in it. Just the way he was; so much more than a friend. I guess I couldn't have both. We couldn't just go back to the way things were before. We had to deal with the right now. I think the problem was, I didn't want to deal with it. I don't think that Adam did, either.

"What do you want, Adam?" Aiden asked when I still refused to speak. "I mean, you can't just go back. You can't just expect Owen to act like you're friends tonight and then ignore him tomorrow." I looked at Aiden when he said that and found myself inwardly sighing. I guess he did understand why I was so upset, and now he was expressing it for me because I couldn't seem to do it in a reasonable way.

"I know that." Adam retorted, and then let out a breath before he went right back to looking at me again. "Do you hate me?"

The question took me so off guard that I'm sure it seemed like I had to think about it when I didn't initially respond. Aiden snapped me out of it, though, when he elbowed me.

"No," I finally said. "I don't hate you, Adam."

"But you hate that I'm here." he accused.

"I hate that I don't know why you're here." I corrected him. "You're the one who made it pretty clear that we couldn't hang out like this. Don't tell me that you changed your mind again."

"What, I can't change my mind?" Adam demanded.

"Did you?" I asked skeptically.

"I don't know," Adam said, those words becoming a frustrating theme with him. "It's complicated, okay? I just can't..."

"What's going to happen on Monday?" Aiden cut him off. "When you see Owen, are you going to say hi? What if someone finds out you were here with three gays, Adam? Will you be admitting to that?"

"No one has to know." Adam mumbled.

"That's all the answer I need," I frowned and turned to walk away, but Aiden grabbed my arm and pulled me back.

"Adam," Aiden said, "we're not going to complain that you're here. Actually, I think everyone was having a good time... except Owen. But, don't pretend we're friends if we're not. Don't pretend you're Owen's friend if you're not."

Aiden paused and looked at me, as if he wanted to know whether or not I approved of what he was saying. As far as I was concerned, he said it better than I could have, so I just gave his hand a small squeeze.

"I don't know what to do." Adam said, frowning.

"That's up to you, Adam." Aiden said flatly.

Aiden turned away from Adam completely and gave my hand a gentle tug. With Adam looking somewhat lost, we returned to the living room, where a few of our friends were waiting nervously for us. They seemed to relax once we rejoined the game, though. Even Adam returned. Just like before, he put on a happy face, acting as if nothing was wrong. This didn't make me feel better, but I didn't let it ruin my night, either. I even laughed at a few of his jokes with everyone else. It was strange, how our moment of tension actually brought about a peace for the next few hours. For a while, it almost felt like Adam and I got our wish... things felt just like they had before, if I ignored the annoyed look he'd develop whenever he saw Aiden and I getting a little too close to each other. But I guess... it wasn't so bad. If I stopped thinking about how annoying it was, it was actually nice to have Adam's smiling face around again, even if he would end up pretending that I didn't exist, when Monday rolled around.


I glanced at the clock on my dashboard as I shifted my truck into park and turned off the windshield-wipers, leaving only the sound of the rain hitting the roof to surround us.

In part, I couldn't believe that it was almost one in the morning, because the night had flown by so fast. My body believed it, though, especially after the long day that I'd had, not to mention getting up early and having sex with Aiden twice. I think that alone was enough to tire me out.

Emotionally I felt exhausted, too. I was still thinking about Ben and Leo, and all that I'd learned. I was thinking of Dennis, and my short encounter with him earlier in the day. Truth be told, I became angry just thinking about Dennis. I was almost positive that telling him to stay away was the right thing to do. Unfortunately, that confused look on his face when I did so had me questioning myself. Was it really the right thing to do? On top of all that, I had the fact that my brother was probably moving out to deal with, knowing that no matter what I told Tony it was still going to be an adjustment that I wasn't necessarily looking forward to. And Adam... I was... bummed, after my encounter with Adam.

"Hey," I turned my head to look at Aiden when he touched my shoulder. "Ready to go in?"

"Yeah," I yawned. "Sorry, I'm spacing out here."

"Still thinking about Adam?"

"Trying not to think about Adam," I sighed, and Aiden slid his hand down my arm to take my hand.

"I can help." he smiled. "Let's go inside. It's getting cold."

"Now you're cold." I rolled my eyes and he laughed as we separated to get out of the truck. Aiden was holding my hand again only a few moments later after we walked around the vehicle and headed for the apartment.

At this point, I was so used to the rain soaking through my clothes that I ignored the large droplets as they fell over us from above. I was just looking forward to a hot shower and going to bed. As far as I knew, we had no plans tomorrow, and I could sleep in as long as I wanted. It sounded like a good plan, and the idea of sleep relaxed me immediately. Unfortunately, the feeling was short lived as we reached the stairs and an unwelcome figure emerged from the apartment below ours, causing both Aiden and I to pause.

"Hi boys," Karen Knightly said quietly as she looked each of us over with an unreadable expression on her face, and then finally turned her attention to our joined hands. I noticed that Aiden and I held onto each other a little tighter in that moment. When we were both too taken off guard to respond to her, Karen looked at me and I felt my shoulders stiffen. On top of everything else... I didn't need this. I doubted that Aiden needed this, either. "How are you, Owen?" Karen asked politely.

"Fine," I guardedly replied, after a few moments of trying to figure out what was going on.

Karen looked at Aiden next, but she almost looked to timid to say anything to him. I guess I couldn't blame her, though. If my boyfriend was glaring at me the way that he was glaring at his mother, I'd be hesitant to talk to him too.

"You guys are out late tonight." Karen said after a long, awkward moment.

"So are you," Aiden retorted.

"So... where have you been?" Karen asked, obviously ignoring the standoffish demeanor of her son.

I wanted to tell her that it was none of her damned business where we'd been, even if the way she'd asked suggested that she was only trying to make conversation, not start an interrogation. But, when Aiden turned to me and gently slid his hand up my back, I forgot about being annoyed with Karen long enough to focus on wanting to scream at Aiden for what he was about to say to me.

"Why don't you go on up." he suggested.

"Aiden," I frowned, obviously not fond of this idea. Aiden leaned in closer when I hesitated, and lowered his voice as Karen crossed her arms and looked away, probably feeling a little out of place at the moment.

"Go upstairs." Aiden whispered. "I'll be right behind you."

"Why can't you come with me now?" I mumbled.

"Owen, come on.... I'll be right there. It'll be fine, I promise. Go on up- jump in the shower and I'll be there before you know it."

"I don't like this," I whispered, leaning closer to him.

"I know," he smiled and then gently let his lips brush against mine. When I pulled back, I made sure to flash Karen the most disapproving look I could muster before I respected what Aiden wanted, and made a lonely climb up the stairs.

At first, I guess you could say that waiting for Aiden this time, while he talked to his mother, wasn't as difficult as the last. Of course, the last time I'd been caught in this position, I'd been in trouble with him too. It hadn't exactly made waiting easier. This time, I pretty much expected him to be walking through the front door no more than five minutes after me.

Unfortunately, he didn't.

Fifteen minutes after closing the front door, Aiden hadn't walked through it, and that was enough to make me nervous. Why was he still down there? If he wasn't home, then he was still talking to his mother. His manipulative mother. I didn't like it.

After twenty minutes, I'd planted my feet in the living room and found myself staring at the front door, trying to ignore the ominous feeling coming over me.

What could they possibly be talking about? In my mind, the dreaded possibilities seemed endless. Maybe they were fighting again. Maybe Karen had started drinking again and Aiden thought that he was the one responsible to pick up the pieces. I tried to mentally prepare myself for when he walked through the door, just in case he needed me.

Thirty minutes later. Still no Aiden. This was beginning to drive me a little more than crazy. This was about the time that I started to worry that Karen was talking Aiden into moving back in with her. There was no way that I wanted that to happen. I guess I probably shouldn't have worked myself up over it until Aiden came back, though. He'd tell me what was going on. Unfortunately, I didn't have that much control and the next thing I knew I was knocking on, first Chris's door, and then Tony's, intending to wake someone up who I could complain to. Of course, after barging into two empty bedrooms I realized that I was alone in the house and there were notes in the kitchen, one explaining that Tony was going to be with Jake all night and Chris had paperwork at the club so he would be late. They also mentioned that Aiden and I should call if we needed anything, but I convinced myself that I was over reacting and left the phone where it was.

I finally sat down and took a few deep breaths. Aiden said that he'd be right up. I wondered if I should go down to make sure he was alright... I doubted that he'd want me to. So, I closed my eyes for a few moments, hoping that when I opened them, he would be walking through the door. When that didn't work, I decided that it was time to make an attempt at distracting myself.

Aiden had suggested that I jump in the shower, and after being trapped in soggy clothes all day, I needed one. Maybe that's what was taking Aiden so long. He thought that I was in the shower, not upstairs waiting and worrying. I guess it was a nice thought.

I couldn't have spent more than ten minutes in the shower, scrubbing myself down and washing away the chill I was feeling before I had a towel around my waist and I was headed back to the living room to stare at the door again. When there was still no sign of Aiden, I sighed as I disappointedly turned to go get dressed. I probably should have gone to our room first, because the first thing I saw was Aiden as he finished pulling off his shoes.

"You're back," I said, surprised but pleased to see him there.

"Yeah." he smiled at me.

"Is everything... okay?"

"Yeah," was his response as he held out an arm for me. I don't think he was expecting the way that I took him up on his invitation and was clinging to him a moment later, paying no attention to the way that the towel around my waist loosened, or even the way that Aiden grunted as my weight hit his chest and he toppled backwards, pulling me with him onto the bed. I shifted over him, resting my head on his shoulder as he took the moment he needed to figure out that he wasn't going anywhere, and eventually relaxed.

"Sorry it took so long," he said as he reached for the damp towel and began to dab some of the access water from my hair.

"What happened?"

"Nothing happened."

"What did she say?" I corrected my question somewhat impatiently.

"She asked me to come home." he said simply, but the words still had a chilling effect on me, and my entire body stiffened until he finished what he was saying. "I told her I was already home... I don't think I'll ever live with her again, Owen."

"Are you okay with that?" I asked, although I felt entirely relieved, especially after hearing him say that he was already home.

"Yeah," I'm okay with that." Aiden sighed as I slid my hands under his shirt and up his sides.

I smiled as I lifted my head to kiss his chin, and then I worked his shirt upwards, pressing my skin against his as more of it became available. He wrapped his arms around me as I tossed his shirt aside, and as I settled in I found myself placing small kisses on his neck as my hands roamed, sinking into the loose places of the waistline of his pants.

"Hey, Owen?" he said after a few minutes of blissful silence as I kept up my gentle petting, enjoying the way it felt every time I sent a shiver through him.


"Are you okay with it?"

"With you being here?" I laughed. "Why would you even ask?"

"No, not that." he smiled. "I mean, are you okay with not having a life with your parents... ever again?"

I glanced up at him, wondering what brought that question on. I guess I could understand why he would ask me that at this particular time, but it wasn't as if our situations were exactly the same. There was a huge difference, actually. Aiden's mom still wanted him.

"I kind of accepted it the day I got here and saw all of my things in this room." I explained.

"Yeah, but are you okay with it?"

I let out a breath and turned my head to kiss his chest before I answered.

"No." I said honestly. "I mean... don't get me wrong. The idea of going back there scares the shit out of me. But, when I first got here, the idea that I'd never go back there, seemed... wrong."

"Even after everything that happened to you?"

"Even after that," I frowned.

"Why?" Aiden asked, sounding obviously surprised.

Why? Why did he have to ask the hard questions? Actually, I guess it wasn't really that hard to answer. I'd been in such a bad place back then that the reasons were extensive. Topping the list, was the fact that in some ways, I felt like I was the one who had something to be sorry for. I mean, there must have been something that I should have been sorry for, right? I must have been a pretty terrible person, for my own parents to reject me like that. And then, there was that other reason, the one that I was constantly reminded of. They were still my parents.

Thinking about those reasons, and saying them out loud-putting them into words-seemed easier said than done.

"I don't like green beans." I finally said.

"What?" Aiden half laughed.

"I can't stand them," I explained. "They're too slimy when they come out of a can, and I hate that fuzzy feeling they have when they're fresh... I really don't like the way they taste."

"Owen... you're losing me."

"Sorry," I smiled as I slid my hand downwards, finding a comfortable place for it over the bulge rising in his jeans, I result from all of my light rubbing. "I guess what I'm trying to say is... my mom used to make this great casserole. When she made it, it was the only time I ever ate green beans. I never got tired of it, either, because she would only make it twice a year, on Thanksgiving... and my birthday... I think it was like, her grand gesture. I was never very close to my mom, but on my birthday, she'd make that casserole... and no one made it like my mom."

"So... you miss the food?" Aiden remarked.

"It was the good things." I smiled up at him. "Once you asked me if there was any good there, anything I missed. There were a few good things I remember. I guess I'm not entirely okay with never going back to that life... because I miss the good things, like that damn casserole, and a few people. When I first came here, I think my greatest fear was that Tony and Chris would get tired of me and send me back... but when I think of never going back there, it still feels wrong. That was my life."

"What about this life?" Aiden asked quietly. "Do you ever wish you could go back to what you had before... if you take all the bad out..."

"No." I was quick to say. "I wouldn't trade it. What I have now... I wouldn't trade it."

I closed my eyes as Aiden's fingers began to move through my hair, and I found myself searching his jeans for his zipper, easing it down and slipping my hand into his pants and taking hold of his erection through his boxers.

I heard Aiden take in a breath as he shifted his hips towards me, likely trying to get comfortable against the way that I was fondling him, while I thought about everything that I'd just said.

I wouldn't trade what I had now, for what I had then. I guess that was a given. I'd known that. I think I'd known that from day one. But the rest of it... good memories. It wasn't exactly what I thought about when I thought of the home I grew up in. Maybe that was only natural. It was easier to remember the bad instead of the good. Like, my brothers leaving, the constant fear of what I was, Dan's death, my parents and how it ended with them... it seemed so much easier to remember the bad. But there was good, too. Nicky, the weekends when we'd get together and bullshit the same time every week. Dan, and the time I spent with him, discovering who I was. The time before my brothers left... things were good then. It was all in the past, though. Now things were different, and it came to mind that despite the current stress I was feeling, and the people I had to deal with... I was happy.

I smiled at the thought as Aiden released a small moan, a signal that prompted me to open my eyes, just as he urged me to tilt my head and his mouth covered mine and his lips urged me into an aggressive kiss that had me thrusting my tongue against his.

I lifted myself over him, straddling his waist as I began to work his pants down, and became lost in every sensation shooting through me as he reached for my cock and pulled me towards him as he pulled away from the kiss.

"I thought you wanted to sleep tonight." he smirked.

"We'll sleep in tomorrow." I informed him. Just feeling his hand on me had me thinking of the blissful feelings of earlier when I was inside of him, and sleep could wait if it meant another experience like that. Aiden obviously had the same thing in mind because he cupped the back of my head, pulling me down again, but just as my lips brushed against his, an unwelcome sound shattered the silence of the room.

There's something about a phone ringing after two in the morning that you just don't ignore. Then again, I'm sure we would have ignored it if someone hadn't left the phone on the night stand, just in Aiden's reach. I flashed him a disapproving look as he reached for it, but before he could think to stop he'd already answered it.

"Hello?" he said as I sighed and dropped my head on his shoulder, prepared to wait it out. Only, his next words snapped me right to attention. "What the fuck do you want?"

I lifted my head, alarmed by his tone of voice as I moved off of him and studied him inquisitively as he sat up with the phone.

"Do you know what time it is?" Aiden demanded into the phone. I could hear the murmur of a voice on the other end, and whatever it was that was said, obviously had my boyfriend pissed off. He was practically grinding his teeth when he held the phone out for me and irritably said, "it's for you."

I almost didn't want to take the phone after that, but found myself curiously bringing it to my ear anyways.


"Dovan?" I immediately frowned at the sound of Dennis Gordon's voice. If anyone was capable of ruining a moment, he was, and just like that, I felt my cock deflating.

"What do you want?" I demanded, as all of those feeling from our encounter earlier came back to me.

"I need a favor," Dennis stated, his voice low but demanding.

"And I told you to stay away from me." I reminded him, earning me a curious look from Aiden that caused me to momentarily lower the phone. "I ran into him today." I explained. "I'll tell you about it later." Aiden gave me a slight nod as I brought the phone back to my ear. "Don't call me again, Dennis."

"Damn it Dovan!" he hissed. "It's not like I wanted to call you, believe me, you were a last resort. Besides, wasn't it you who told me to call if I had to?"

"That was when I still felt sorry for you, asshole." I snapped, and Aiden actually touched my arm as if I was being to harsh, which earned him a confused look from me. Either way, Dennis suddenly fell silent on the other end of the phone.

"What's going on?" Aiden whispered, and I just shook my head, because I honestly had no idea. All I knew was that after hearing about what happened to Ben I was no longer as eager to do Dennis Gordon any favors.

"Look, Dovan... I wouldn't have called unless..." Dennis started, sounding desperate for a moment before his voice took on that arrogant quality again. "I need you to meet me at my place, around the back. You can't go through the gate by the house, but if you turn on the road before mine it should bring you right to my backyard where all the trees are."

"You've gotta be fucking kidding me," I scoffed. "I said no, Dennis. I'm done with you, don't call me anymore."

"What the fuck did I do?" Dennis suddenly demanded, going back to desperate. "Look, this isn't easy for me, okay? I need help and you're the only one I've been able to reach all night!"

"Tough shit." I replied, although I was beginning to feel guilty for it. "And why don't you ask Ben what you did."

That last comment caused Dennis to fall completely silent. For a few moments, I actually thought he hung up until I heard him breathing, and finally when he didn't say anything, I hung up.

When I dropped the phone and then laid back tiredly, letting my head drop in Aiden's lap I took a moment to calm down from all of the mixed feelings I was having. On one hand, I felt like I'd done the right thing. Dennis Gordon was too dangerous to get mixed up with, and knowing what happened to Ben, and how he was somehow involved... it seemed like the decent thing-to stay away from him. I was following Leo's advice, and it seemed necessary.

Unfortunately, this little thing called a conscience prevented me from feeling at peace with my decision. Dennis had called me for help. I knew his situation, and as much as I wanted to feel like I was being loyal to my real friends by staying away from his problems, I couldn't help but think that doing so... made me just as bad as him. I was turning my back on Dennis, the way that he turned his back on Ben and let such a disgusting thing happen to a wonderful person. I felt like, not doing anything, made me just as bad as Dennis Gordon.

I looked up and sighed as Aiden ran his fingers through my hair and studied me with a serious expression.

"You're going, aren't you?" he frowned, and I released another breath.

"I don't have to go anywhere." I said, knowing that if he asked me to, I would do my best to forget about Dennis so we could pick up right where we left off, before the unwanted phone call. But, Aiden gave my shoulder a gentle push, urging me to sit up, so I did, and I watched him reach for his discarded sweater. "What are you doing?" I asked.

"You'd better get dressed," he suggested with a small smile. "No way am I going to let Gordon see you naked."

"Aiden... I don't have to go, and you don't..."

"Come on, Owen." he said softly. "You already know you're going... and if you have half a brain in that thick head of yours you know that I'm not about to stand around while you go alone."


"This is stupid," Aiden complained as we tracked through the muddy grounds behind the Gordon house. At least, I think we were behind the Gordon house. We were surrounded by trees, all dripping water that made it seem like it was raining harder than it was. It didn't help that it was so dark that we could hardly see in front of us. We were holding hands mostly to prevent separation.

"You're the one who answered the phone." I pointed out.

"Do you know where you're going?" Aiden asked. "I can't see the house."

"Do I ever know where I'm going?" I replied, feeling a lot more frustrated than I did ten minutes ago behind the heater in my truck. Aiden took my last remark as his cue to take the lead, and I gladly let him as he navigated us past some more trees and what looked like a tool shed, until finally we came to a short, chain-link fence. It was the Gordon property, still buried in the trees.

Aiden hopped over first, and then waited for me before we both moved further, until we could see the house. Everything seemed dark there, too, except for the light that was on the second floor, and I immediately recognized it as the location of Dennis Gordon's room.

"I don't know what to do." I admitted, when Aiden looked at me expectantly. "He doesn't know we're coming."

Aiden looked towards the house as he took my hand again, and I followed as he slowly led me towards it. Sneaking around the Gordon's back yard in the middle of the night wasn't exactly the best idea in the world, it definitely made for a frightening experience. I kept having these mental images of Mr. Gordon coming through the back door, screaming at us, the way that he screamed at Dennis. What was worse, I was placing him in the roll of my own father. It didn't help that I knew that this was the very place where Ben almost had the life beaten out of him, and as I thought of my own beating... I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, so loudly that it was in my ears, and I could already feel myself freezing up.

I didn't realize that I'd practically started hyperventilating until Aiden turned to me, obviously concerned.

"Owen? What's wrong? Are you okay?"

I took in a deep breath and forced myself to nod as he placed a hand on my shoulder, and when he continued to stare at me, obviously ready to turn around and go home, I forced myself to keep moving, and Aiden followed, this time a lot closer, his arm around my waist, constantly letting me know that he was there.

As we reached the middle of the yard, I felt myself calming as I focused on the one lighted window visible on the house, and I looked upwards, wondering how we were going to reach Dennis. This definitely wasn't one of our better thought out plans. I might have had more time to think about it if at that very moment, a hissing sound hadn't made us both jump, followed by water shooting up from the sprinklers, one which I happened to be standing on. I practically growled as the water hit us and we were both almost immediately drenched.

"You've got to be kidding me!" I hissed. "Who the fuck waters their lawn when it's raining?"

"Shh," Aiden insisted, grabbing my hand as we both ran from the assaulting water, which had already done more damage than the rain. Of course, after the sprinklers I didn't think that things could possibly get any worse... and of course, I was wrong. If I thought that a barking dog was the last thing I needed at the moment, a yelping, whining dog was even worse.

I wouldn't have expected Dennis's dog-the only thing in the world he seemed to care about- to be trapped in a small kennel near the house on a night like this. Aiden and I probably wouldn't have even noticed her, if one of the sprinklers wasn't hitting her cage every time that it rotated, upsetting the small animal.

"Fuck," Aiden cursed, as soon as he saw her, and before I could say anything he was risking the water and kneeling in front of the small carrier, no larger than the dog itself, and opening it up to let her out. "What kind of fucking assholes..."

"Aiden." I whispered, and he realized that he'd raised his voice, so he fell silent as he released the dog from her prison. It didn't surprise me that she immediately took to licking his face. Being trapped in those conditions, I'd probably be happy to see a perfect stranger too. I really did feel sorry for the dog, and maybe I would have been as upset about the situation as Aiden clearly was, if the whole thing hadn't suddenly alerted me to the fact that something really was wrong.

"What kind of asshole would leave her out here like this?" Aiden frowned as he lifted the dog called Valentine and moved with me towards the side of the house where we were less likely to get hit by the water.

"Not Dennis," I said quietly as I looked back up at the lit window.


"Dennis wouldn't leave her out here unless he had to." I explained. "He cares about that dog."

"You think he's having trouble with his parents again?"

"I can't think of any other reason why he'd call." I said quietly, inwardly shuddering at the mention of Dennis's parents. "But, it's not like I'll know for sure unless I talk to him, and I can't just go ring the doorbell to get his attention."

"Here," Aiden said, abruptly handing the dog to me, and as she squirmed in my arms I had a flashback of holding her paws under the sink when I was hiding the mess she'd made from Dennis's mother. It hadn't exactly been the best experience of my life, and holding a wet, squirming dog wasn't exactly fun, either.

I watched as Aiden knelt down, and just as I wondered what he was doing he suddenly stood up and pulled his arm back, as if he were about to throw something at Dennis's window. Before he could, though, I was grabbing his wrist to stop him.

"What are you doing?" I demanded, and he opened his hand to show me the rock in it. "You can't throw a rock at his window! I know people do it in movies all the time, but when you throw rocks at windows they break."

"Will you just calm down," Aiden smiled at me as he stepped away, and I had to look in the other direction when he tossed the rock. I guess you could say that I was relieved when I didn't hear shattering glass, just a tap. I was also a little annoyed with myself, for being so paranoid.

Aiden looked at me and I forced myself to smile at him as I passed back the dog, she was in his arms again just as I heard the sound of a window sliding open and looked up. I could see a shadow in the room, but couldn't make out any features. To be honest, it seemed bigger to me than Dennis would be and I felt myself slightly panicking as the figure moved away from the window and the light abruptly went off.

"Was that Dennis?" Aiden whispered, suddenly looking as rattled as I felt.

"I don't know." I admitted.

"Do you want to get out of here?" he asked.

"Yeah," I replied honestly, but instead of running, the way that my feet were urging me to do, I remained where I was, frozen in place as I stared up at the dark window.

"Owen," Aiden whispered, and I snapped my attention to him, but he was looking at the window too. I think both of us were beginning to think that coming here was a seriously bad idea, when the back door suddenly opened, taking us off guard and making me jump.

I'm not sure who was more surprised, Dennis, to see both of us dripping wet in his back yard, or us, to see him in what looked like homemade flannel pajamas with a dinosaur print.

Dennis looked between Aiden and I, with a perplexed expression on his face, but his eyes settled on Aiden when his dog started whining, and just like that, Dennis was snatching Valentine out of my boyfriend's arms and cradling her, obviously not bothered by the fact that she was as wet as we were.

"What the fuck are you doing here?" Dennis demanded, and my shock quickly turned to anger.

"What do you think?" I retorted.

"You called." Aiden pointed out as he placed a hand on my shoulder. "What do you want, Dennis?"

"I didn't call you," Dennis was quick to tell Aiden, "I called Dovan."

"Do you really think he'd be stupid enough to come here alone?" Aiden responded almost defensively.

"Forget it, Aiden." I said, deciding that I hadn't put myself through all of this to listen to Dennis argue with my boyfriend as it passed three in the morning. "Let's just go."

Aiden didn't even hesitate to agree with me, and with a hand on my back he followed as I started to lead the way back from where we came.

"Wait," Dennis called, and against my better judgement I paused and glared at him, trying to ignore the water that was running through my hair, and down my face. I just frowned at Dennis, wondering what he could possibly want now. I guess he wanted something, because he suddenly looked humbled standing there, holding his dog. He seemed to be having trouble looking anyone in the eye and it was like his entire body was slouching. "I didn't think you were coming." he said so quietly that I hardly heard him. "When you mentioned Ben... well, I didn't think you were coming."

"Neither did I." I stated. "So what do you want, Dennis?"

He fell silent again. Obviously, it was just as hard for him to ask me for a favor as it was for me to be there. He seemed to be thinking about something as he cuddled his dog to his chest and stared down at the top of her head, as if he were blocking us out, and when he suddenly moved towards me and held the small animal out for me, I was more than a little surprised... and confused.

"I need you to take her." he said.


"It's just for a few days." Dennis continued. "Until... I can figure something else out. I just... need you to take her. Please."

"What?" He wanted me to take his dog?

"I need you to take her." Dennis repeated as I looked at the outstretched, pathetic looking animal that he was still holding out.

"You called me this late, in this weather, to come get your dog?" I demanded.

"Are you going to take her or not, Dovan?" Dennis frowned. "Look, you're the last person that I want to ask... but you're the only one who I can. I need you to take her. She pissed on my mom's new carpet and now my parents are going to get rid of her. If that happens, I have no idea what will happen to her. I just need a few days. At least if you take her I'll know who's ass to kick if something happens."

"Is this actually how you're trying to convince me?" I asked incredulously.

"Come on, Owen." Aiden suddenly interrupted as he stepped past me and reached for the dog, taking it from Dennis, who seemed hesitant about handing his pet over to my boyfriend. "It's not the dog's fault that she's stuck with an asshole."

"You want to take her?" I asked Aiden, who shrugged in response.

"Take her." Dennis stated. "Just... don't let anything happen to her. And hurry up and leave."

"Hey," Aiden suddenly looked at Dennis, evidently annoyed about something. "Try saying thank you, asshole."

"Forget it, Aiden." I said, knowing that we'd never get any words of gratitude out of Dennis. "Let's just go."

I placed a hand on Aiden's shoulder and looked at the dog in his arms, wondering what we were going to do with her. But Aiden remained where he was, refusing to move as he and Dennis stared each other down.

"You did do something to Ben, didn't you?" Aiden suddenly said, and I snapped my attention towards Dennis, just in time to see the guarded look cross his face.

"Just get out of here." Dennis stated.

"What happened, Dennis?" Aiden said coldly. "Did you actually set him up? Or, maybe it just happened and you went along with it."

I watched as Dennis looked between Aiden and I nervously, his jaw twitching as if he was having trouble controlling himself at the moment. I had no doubt that if the circumstances were different, and Aiden wasn't holding his dog, Dennis would be attempting to tackle my boyfriend at the moment. Obviously Aiden had struck a nerve somewhere.

"I am," Dennis said quietly, "if that's what you're asking."

"You're what?" I asked, and his eyes lifted and focused on me.

"Guilty." Dennis nearly choked on the word when he said it, and I suddenly felt like something in me was sinking.

I'd had mixed feelings about Dennis before, but this was... an admission. Admission of guilt. Ben got hurt... and Dennis was guilty. I wasn't sure what it meant, but I don't think I realized just how badly I didn't want him to be, until he said that.

"What happened, Dennis?" I asked, and then frowned when Dennis started backing towards the door.

"I'll want my dog back, Dovan." he said simply.

I guess he wasn't going to talk. That was really no surprise- and it was disappointing. But, he did pause when Aiden suddenly called out to him. "Hey, Dennis."

"What?" Dennis responded irritably, looking towards my boyfriend.

Aiden let out a breath as he shifted the dog to a more comfortable position in his arms. "Turn off these damn sprinklers."


How it was four in the morning already, was beyond me. I knew that we'd left Ryan's house late, despite my discomfort there with Adam. It was because we'd all got sucked into one card game after another and Ryan's mom got home later than we thought she would. It was after Aiden and I got home, when time seemingly flew by.

I wasn't sure how long we'd been at Dennis's, but I knew that I wasn't expecting it to be past four in the morning when Aiden and I finally made it back to the truck, carrying along a wet dog to smell it up.

Neither of us said anything. I was still feeling disturbed over Dennis's admission. He was guilty. What did that mean? I guess it could mean any number of things. Quite frankly, the fact that he was involved in what happened to Ben didn't surprise me at all. It was the fact that he'd admit it, and actually have the decency to look sorry for it, that surprised me.

I glanced over at Aiden, and he looked just as depressed as I was. I'm sure that he didn't appreciate being called out of bed in the middle of the night, and to do Dennis Gordon a favor, no less. There was also the fact that he'd been talking to his mother a few hours before, and I'm sure that was on his mind. I was going to ask if he was alright, but when he caught me looking at him he managed to smile at me, and I couldn't help returning it, if only tiredly. I really was grateful that he'd come with me.

"Let's go home and go to bed," Aiden finally said, sighing.

I started to nod in agreement, but as I watched Aiden run his fingers through Valentine's wet coat of fur, a thought occurred to me and I found myself slowing down the truck until we came to a stop in the middle of the road.

"What are you doing?" Aiden asked me curiously as I looked at the dog in his lap. "Are you too tired? Need me to drive?"

I silently shook my head and then lifted my eyes to meet his.

"What are we going to do with the dog?" I asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Aiden, we can't take her home."

"Oh come on," he practically pouted in a way that would suggest that he was already growing attached to the creature. "Tony and Chris won't mind. It's just for a few days, and I know we can find her another home. I mean, you weren't planning on giving her back to Gordon, right?"

"Well, it is his dog," I pointed out, "and like it or not, he actually does care about her. I'm telling you, she wouldn't have been out there tonight if he had a choice about it... look, that's not our problem right now, anyway. I was talking about your mom. You said she doesn't like animals."

"So?" he frowned.

"Aiden... I don't know if I should be bringing this up, but you talked to her tonight, right? You obviously told her that you weren't moving in with her... how did she take that?"

"She wasn't happy about it." he admitted. "But that has nothing to do with this. It's not like she even has to know we have a dog around."

"She could find out." I pointed out. "Actually, she probably would find out. It's bad enough that we know she could already be evicting us. Tony and Chris haven't exactly decided if we're moving yet... or where we're moving to. Do you really want to risk pissing her off? I wouldn't want to make things worse and..."

"Point taken." Aiden sighed, although he didn't look at all happy about it.

"Alright," I said quietly, noting that he seemed agitated. I just hoped that it wasn't because of me. I did relax, slightly, though, when he reached for my hand. "So... I don't know what we should do." I admitted. "I wouldn't just leave her anywhere... but I really don't think we should take her home... not that we could find anywhere else to take her at this hour... shit."

"Hey," Aiden gave me a small smile. "It'll be okay."

"I don't know," I yawned. "Maybe... taking her home, just for tonight wouldn't be so bad..."

"No, you were right." Aiden said seriously. "That talk with my mom... it really didn't go so great. She's not happy and if she even smelled the dog it wouldn't be good."

"So what do we do? I can't just turn around and take her back to Dennis."

"No, you can't." Aiden frowned at me, as if I'd actually try it. I almost laughed at the way he was suddenly holding Dennis Gordon's dog more protectively to his chest. "I think I have an idea... can you stay awake a little longer?"

"I guess," I frowned, not liking the fact that it didn't sound like I'd be in my nice warm bed in the next twenty minutes or less. "What do you want to do?"


"Owen, wake up."

I groaned as the cool air hit my face and Aiden gently shook my shoulder, and then groaned again when I felt the cramp in my neck from falling asleep in the front seat of my car. It was bad enough that I felt clammy in my clothes, which were still damp. Apparently, I was had to be in pain too. But, at least it looked like the rain had stopped.

"Hey," Aiden said softly as I opened my eyes and looked around. I wasn't exactly expecting to see the start of sunrise.

"What time is it?" I asked as I studied my boyfriend, who was standing outside of my door, holding Dennis's dog.

"Almost six thirty." Aiden smiled. "Sorry, we both fell asleep."

I groaned again and then leaned into Aiden's hand as he reached up and started to rub my neck. How the hell did it get to be six thirty? The last thing I remembered, was pulling up to Reilly Chesely's house a little after four o'clock in the morning. We'd decided that four was too early on a Sunday to be knocking on the door and asking Reilly and his parents to dog-sit for a few days. Five wasn't much better, but we'd decided to wait for an hour and then knock on the door. I guess as Aiden said, we'd both fallen asleep, though. Now, I was ready to get this over with and go home to sleep in my own bed... as soon as I could force myself to get out of the truck.

"How did we fall asleep?" I frowned, as he stepped back so I could climb out. I sneezed as I did so, and Aiden gave me a sympathetic smile.

"Come on," he insisted. "Let's do this so we can go home and get you to bed."

I sighed as he turned towards the large house, which had at least been weeded since the last time we were there, and I followed him.

"What are we going to say?" I asked as I watched Aiden put the dog down, and she moved ahead of us warily. Obviously, my boyfriend wasn't worried about her running away.

"We'll just tell them the truth," Aiden replied. "We'll ask them to watch her for a few days. I don't think they'll mind, Owe. They've got a big enough place... and they just seem like dog people."

"They're going to know who's dog it is." I pointed out. "How are we going to explain that?"

"What's there to explain? Dennis asked us to watch his dog for a few days, we can't do it... so we'll ask them to. It's way too early for you to be worrying this much. Come here."

He placed a hand on my back and I found myself tiredly walking closer to him as he led me to the door. Oddly, although I was concerned about the reaction Reilly's parents might have when we asked them to watch the dog who belonged to the boy who bullied their son, I wasn't feeling incredibly nervous. I think for once, I was too tired to feel nervous. I didn't even flinch when Aiden rang the doorbell, which hadn't been working the last time we were there. I almost even forgot about the dog, until I saw her sniffing around some bushes just behind us and decided to pick her up. At least she'd dried off some, thanks to the heater in the truck.

"Tell me we're going home after this," I sighed, as we waited. Maybe part of the reason that I wasn't nervous had something to do with it being so early on a Sunday morning, and I didn't really think that anyone would even answer the door.

"We'll go home after this." Aiden agreed, and when I looked his way again I realized that he looked just as exhausted as I did, and something about his tired eyes, his wrinkled shirt and the strands of hair falling from it's tie had me balancing Valentine to my chest with one arm and moving the other around Aiden's back. I didn't even think about the gesture, not even as we heard the front door unlocking and someone pulled it open. That's why we were standing close together, a wet dog accompanying us, and had our arms around each other when a thin woman with short blonde hair, who couldn't have been more than five feet tall, opened the door and took in the sight of us.

Being faced with a complete stranger seemed to shake me up enough to wake me up. I hadn't exactly been publically out for very long, and I was sort of getting used to the fact that strangers intimidated me. Why I found a potentially non-threatening looking woman who wasn't even tall enough to reach my shoulders intimidating, I couldn't tell you. I just knew that her presence interrupted any hope I had of not becoming nervous. I even felt my arm dropping from around Aiden because of it, but when he grabbed my hand, I felt myself relax. If this was okay for him, then I'd make it okay for me.

"Hi Mrs. Chesely." Aiden said, as if he knew the woman, and I looked at him, wondering if he did.

"Aiden, right?" she smiled, and he nodded before she looked at me. "You must be the other one Reilly talks about. Owen?"

"Yes, ma'am." I replied, feeling somewhat wary.

"What on earth are you boys doing up so early?" she asked. "You had Reilly out so late last night."

"Sorry about that..." I started to say, my perturbed parent defenses kicking in, but obviously, there was no need for it, because Reilly's mother just smiled at me.

"Don't be sorry. I'm glad you all had fun. We've been trying to get Reilly out of the house since we moved here... he's still asleep. You guys didn't have plans this morning, did you?"

"No, actually, we haven't really gone to bed yet." Aiden admitted. "If Reilly's asleep, that's okay. We actually wanted to talk to you or Paul, if that's okay."

"Of course it is," she insisted, even as she turned her attention to Valentine, who was still in my arms. "Does this have anything to do with why you have the neighbor's dog?"

"Yeah," Aiden smiled at her. "You've met them?"

Mrs. Chesely sighed and then waved us forward, into the house. "Come on in. Are you guys hungry? Paul should be up soon, I was just about to start breakfast."

"No thank you." Aiden said. "We actually shouldn't stay long. It's been a long night and we really need to get home."

"And into the shower." Mrs. Chesely remarked, wrinkling her nose somewhat in a teasing gesture that actually made me smile as we both sheepishly apologized. "If you're not hungry," she said as she led us towards the kitchen, through the house, which was now mostly unpacked and coming together nicely, "how about some coffee?"

"That would be great." Aiden smiled, "thank you."

"Owen, you can put the dog down." Mrs. Chesely told me. "She's been here before, so she knows her way around."

"She's been here?" I asked, my curiosity immediately peaked.

"Yes, she has. With Dennis. Sometimes he stops here when he walks the dog. He talks to my husband a lot. Sometimes Reilly too... but, sometimes I think Reilly's afraid of him. . . I didn't realize that you guys were friends with him."

"We're not." Aiden said quickly, maybe a little too quickly.

"Oh, so what are you doing with his dog?"

"He asked us to watch her for a few days," I replied, deciding to jump in. "But the thing is, we can't take her where we live and..."

"You thought you'd ask us to keep her?" Mrs. Chesely replied with a slight smile as she poured three cups of coffee and I finally put Valentine down. "So, let me guess, Mrs. Gordon's finally making Dennis get rid her."

"Well..." I started nervously, unsure of what I should tell this woman.

"Yes." Aiden said flatly, and I looked to him. Obviously, we were sticking to honestly, and he seemed to have no problem doing the talking.

"What a shame," Mrs. Chesely frowned as she looked towards Valentine, who was sniffing her way around the kitchen. "You know, that woman is just awful. Every time Dennis stops here to talk to Paul she drives by a few minutes later just to yell about him walking his dog. I don't really care for her."

"Not many people do." Aiden stated. "They're whole family is... messed up."

"I wouldn't doubt it." she replied as she handed out the coffee and we thanked her. "So, if Dennis has to get rid of the dog, why do you only need to watch her for a few days?"

Aiden looked to me to answer this one and I shrugged. "I don't know." I admitted. "Dennis said that he'll figure something out. He just wants to know where his dog is, so..."

"That was really nice of you." Mrs. Chesely smiled at me. It was one of those warm, motherly smiles and for a second I felt myself freeze up as I wondered if I'd ever gotten one of those from my own mother. To be honest, I couldn't really remember. "And, of course she can stay."

"Who can stay?" a male voice asked and Aiden and I looked to see Paul Chesely enter the kitchen. Unlike Mrs. Chesely, he was fully dressed, looking as if he were ready to start some yard work in faded jeans and a torn t-shirt.

"The Gordon's dog," his wife answered, just as Valentine ran under Paul's feet. Reilly's dad looked confused, but he managed to smile at us, anyway. "Good morning guys."

"`Morning." Aiden answered for us.

"Is Dennis with you?" Paul asked, although the look on his face said he already knew the answer.

"No, sir." Aiden replied.

"Dennis can't keep his dog anymore." Mrs. Chesely explained for us. "He asked the boys here to watch her for a few days, but they couldn't do it so they thought they'd ask us. I already said yes."

"Of course she can stay." Paul smiled. "We'll need food, though."

"I'll put it on my list." Mrs. Chesely winked at him.

"Is Dennis alright?" Paul suddenly asked us, after smiling at his wife.

"I think so." Aiden shrugged. "He just asked us to take the dog, so..."

"Alright." Paul nodded. "Well, it's good to see you guys. You can tell Dennis that we'll be glad to keep her for as long as he needs us to. I think we're having breakfast soon..." he paused and looked to Mrs. Chesely for confirmation, and after a nod from her he looked at us again. "Are you guys staying? I'm going to go wake Reilly up."

"No thank you." Aiden answered, placing a hand on my back.

"We should really get home." I added, and Paul gave me a studying look that made me nervous before he smiled and nodded his head.

"Alright. Well, you guys stop by anytime you want. It's good to see you again, Owen... thanks for inviting Reilly to that party, Aiden."

"No problem." Aiden replied as Paul and his wife walked us to the door. I found myself glancing back at Valentine, who was too busy getting to know this new territory to follow us, and I wondered if Dennis ever would get her back.

"Reilly said you had fun." Mrs. Chesely commented.

"We did." Aiden agreed. "Thanks for letting him go."

"Any time." Mrs. Chesely said.

I noticed that Paul was staring at me again as we reached the door and he opened it for us. There was nothing malicious in the way he was looking at me. It seemed more like curiosity. But still... it was enough to make me want to get out of there.

"We'll see you guys later." Paul said with a smile, and we both waved tiredly. Aiden thanked them both for their willingness to take Valentine, and then finally-finally-we were headed for home.

"When did you meet Reilly's mom?" I asked curiously, interrupting the silence of the drive about half way home.

"When I invited him over to Ryan's." Aiden explained. "She's nice, isn't she?"

"Yeah." I admitted, and as I drove, I could feel Aiden's eyes on me.

"So what's wrong now?" he asked.

"What do you mean? I'm just tired."


"How long do you think Dennis has been going over to Reilly's house?" I suddenly frowned. "Do you think he talks to Reilly? Reilly never mentioned it, but I always felt like there was something..."

"Owen." Aiden abruptly cut me off, and when I glanced over at him I realized he was frustrated. The look didn't last long, though. As soon as I met his eyes his expression softened and he let out a breath. "Owen... it's time to stop."

"What are you talking about?" I demanded, sensing that he was angry, but unable to figure out what I did.

"Dennis... you saved his dog, okay? What else are you going to do for him? Please, let it go. It's time to move on."

"Hey," I said defensively, "I'm not the one who answered the phone tonight, and even after you did, we didn't have to go!"

"I know. But, if we hadn't... it would have eaten you up. You know it would of. But now... please, can you let it go?"


"When that door opened last night, and I didn't know if it was Dennis or one of his parents...it was scary, Owe. And I could see you. I could see you freezing up and I kept thinking what if? What if he'd gone alone? We know what kind of person Dennis is. We know what happened to Ben... Dennis said he was guilty, and not even that much, is enough for me. We have so many other things going on. My mom, and Tony might be moving out... we might be moving... there are so many other things to focus on. Please, can you stop focusing on this? I'm not asking you to do it for me..."

"I would." I said quietly, feeling somewhat ambushed. After all, I'd decided only earlier today that I wanted to stay away from Dennis. If Aiden hadn't answered that phone, I wouldn't be thinking about him at all. But I guess, since before yesterday I was constantly thinking of him, I could understand Aiden's concern.

"I'm not asking you to do it for me." he repeated. "That wouldn't be right... but you should do it for you, Owen. Please, move on."

We both fell silent for several minutes, as I thought about what Aiden was saying. It all brought back a similar conversation that I'd had with Ben. Maybe it was time to stop thinking about-to stop worrying about, Dennis Gordon. Aiden was right, we already knew what kind of person Dennis was. The kind that was dangerous to become involved with. And maybe Ben was right too. It was time to stop focusing on Dennis's issues... and focus on my own. Or maybe, I would have rethought the whole thing if I had any idea of just how soon I would be forced to deal with my own issues.

As I parked in the lot outside of our apartment I found myself reaching for Aiden's hand before we got out of the truck. He was worriedly studying me when I finally turned to face him.

"I think I can do that." I smiled, and the look that crossed his features was one of relief before he leaned over and kissed me.

"I know you can." he replied. "Come on, let's try to get to bed before noon."

"Good idea," I nodded, getting out first.

I led the way to the building, glancing behind me with a smile every few steps because Aiden was falling behind. Apparently, he was a lot more tired than he'd let on. It wasn't until I turned to go up the stairs, that a familiar voice distracted me from looking back at my boyfriend.

"Hey asshole."

I spun around, rightfully alarmed, just in time for two hands to grab the front of my sweater and shove me against the wall where my attacker's fist collided with my stomach, knocking the wind out of me before I could even get the next word out of my mouth.


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