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

Chapter twenty nine: Long Time Coming

He looked different. Bigger. Once upon a time, we were about the same size, but I guess I hadn't gained as much weight back as I thought, even working out with Ryan. He still looked as good as ever. He had the same face I'd spent years fantasizing about. Only, since our brief encounter at the theater he'd developed a thin layer of whiskers covering his chin. I guess Nicky had finally gotten around to needing to shave. His hair was shorter too... and he definitely hit harder. But overall, he was still my Nicky.

I only had a few seconds to focus on all of this, however. Because the next thing I knew, my boyfriend was pulling him off of me, looking pissed as hell, and throwing a perfectly aimed fist at my one-time best friend's face.

I had to hand it to Aiden. If I remembered correctly, no one had ever been able to get in a hit like that on Nicky, because he always saw it coming. He was definitely taken off guard this time, though, because his ass ended up landing on the concrete, and Aiden was over a second later, ready to give him more.

When I was eleven years old, Nicky had a pet turtle. Both of his parents were allergic to dogs and couldn't stand cats, so a turtle was a big thing for Nicky. Me? I didn't know a damn thing about animals. They weren't allowed at my house, but I loved playing with that turtle. I even remember it's name. Howie. In the summer, Nicky's mom would let us take Howie outside with us, and I remember one summer when my best friend and I played with the turtle in his backyard.

Nicky's dad was out of town one weekend, and he happened to call right before lunch. Nicky went in to talk to him, leaving poor Howie in my care. Howie was a shy turtle. Sometimes he wouldn't come out of his shell, but I knew the trick. Whenever Nicky couldn't get him to come out he'd turn him onto his back and rub his belly until he came out. It always worked for Nicky, so I decided to give it a try.

Unfortunately for Howie, at age eleven I had an even shorter attention span than I had at seventeen. So, when Nicky's mom called me in for lunch, howie was forgotten, and for the next several hours we played in Nicky's room and then went to my house for dinner. Meanwhile, the temperature outside rose to record highs, and by the time Nicky went home, Howie was no more.

I felt horrible about it, but not as horrible as I felt when Nicky found out that it was my fault. I was convinced that I'd lost my best friend then. Tony and Chris had to convince me to go over there and apologize to him, because I was too afraid that he'd never speak to me again, anyways.

I was wrong, of course. Nicky had plenty to say to me, but before he said it, he hit me so hard that he knocked out a tooth. Fortunately, it was my last baby tooth, and I had a new one by the following year. But, that one incident had led my best friend and I into a ritual. One that apparently, we still went by.

Whenever one of us fucked up royally, the other got one hit. Over the years I was pretty sure that Nicky got in more punches than I did, but then again, I wasn't exactly keeping score. I remember that Tony and Chris used to lecture us, every time someone went home with a bloody nose or a black eye. They obviously didn't approve of this behavior, but my father insisted that it built character. I'd never really thought about how I felt about it. Maybe that was because it seemed to work for Nicky and me. Was it barbaric? Sure. Immature, ridiculous and just plain stupid? Probably. But like I said, it had always worked for us.

Unfortunately, Aiden didn't know any of this. Luckily I was able to snap out of my initial shock and grab him before he was able to assault the startled Nicky again. And, it wasn't easy to stop Aiden. He even started to fight me. I had to grab him around the waist with both arms and literally lift him off the ground to pull him away.

"Aiden, stop!"

"Who the fuck are you?" Nicky demanded, rubbing his already blackening eye as he climbed to his feet and glared at my boyfriend.

"I don't think you're the one who should be asking the questions." Aiden retorted.

"What are you doing here" I found myself asking Nicky, and unfortunately, I couldn't seem to keep the panic out of my voice. What was he doing here?

"You know him?" Aiden demanded, flashing me an incredulous look.

"Um..." I started, suddenly feeling incredibly uncomfortable. This was not what I considered an ideal situation, my ex-best friend and my current boyfriend within feet of each other, and obviously prepared to take each other's heads off. "Aiden... this is Nicky Davis."

"Yeah, and who the fuck are you?" Nicky demanded, still glaring at Aiden, and then he looked at me again. "This fucker hits hard. You don't get one now."

"What the hell did you get one for?" I retorted as I rubbed my aching ribs where his fist had collided with them.

"If you actually have to ask that Owen Doven, then I'm taking another one!"

Aiden was looking at us as if we were both crazy as he finally shook me off, and I let him go when it appeared that he was under control.

"What the fuck is going on?" Aiden demanded.

"I don't know," Nicky and I said at the exact same time and then both glared at each other again.

"You're Nicky?" Aiden asked, looking at our uninvited guest. It seemed to have taken Aiden a few minutes, but he obviously realized who was here. When I told him about how Dan died, I'd also told Aiden about Nicky.

"We already answered that," Nicky said coldly. "Who are you?"

"A friend of mine." I stated, and then flinched at the look Aiden gave me. He obviously didn't like being referred to as a friend. But, I couldn't help being vague. There were so many things going through my head right now, and they all added up to me becoming suspicious of Nicky.

What was he doing here? How did he find me? What did he want? I had no idea what to think of any of this. But, when I realized that Aiden looked hurt over my last comment, I decided that I should at least correct myself. In fact, I needed to. It wasn't like Nicky didn't know about me. The problem was, I never really got the chance to figure out how he felt about it. I guess I was going to find out now.

"Your friend's a bitch." Nicky remarked, gingerly touching his eye and blatantly ignoring the way that Aiden was fuming, likely doing everything he could to hold his tongue.

"Shut up, Nicky." I retorted, somewhat angrily, and they both looked at me, Aiden seeming surprised and Nicky looking annoyed. "He's not... just my friend." Aiden appeared confused when I reached for his hand, but he gave it to me, anyway, and I forced myself to face Nicky as realization dawned on him.

"Oh," was his response as he continued to stare at our joined hands for a full minute. "Right... you're gay, huh?"

"Like you forgot." I said coldly, and Nicky's blank expression turned to annoyance again as he met my eyes.

"Of course I didn't forget, fucker, but it's not like I've ever seen you hold another guy's hand before. Give me a minute, alright? ... do you guys like... kiss and stuff too?"

"Nicky!" I said angrily, and he actually had the nerve to smirk at me.

"What do you want?" Aiden asked Nicky guardedly. "How did you even know where to find Owen?"

Since that was a question that was on my mind too, I was eager to hear the answer. But, before I could get an answer I heard a voice come from the stairs, sounding worried.

"Owen? Are you out here?"

We looked up and saw Chris, who was coming down the stairs. The look on his face suggested that he'd heard the scuffle a few moments before, but when he saw Nicky, he abruptly paused, still holding his bathrobe closed and a look of caution crossed his face. I think seeing that look on my brother's face, made me more nervous than anything, and even more so when Chris began to scan the area with his eyes, reminding me of a mother bear ready to defend her cubs. But, it didn't last long as his eyes abruptly settled on us again.

"Everyone inside, now." and to further his point, he moved down the stairs and with a hand on Aiden's and my shoulders, he gave us a guiding push towards the stairs. Nicky was next. "Nicky, go."

"Hey Tony." Nicky smirked.

"It's Chris dumbass, now move." my brother ordered. "Just because you got taller doesn't mean I can't still kick your ass. Get inside. Owen, Aiden, go."

The entire way up the stairs Chris seemed to corral all of us, probably wishing that he had more hands to place on our shoulders, and as soon as we were in the house and the door was closed he pointed to first me, and then Aiden. "You sit. You sit." he told us, giving each of us a light shove towards the sofa, and with the look on his face and the tone in his voice, neither of us thought to argue. When he reached Nicky, he held up his hand to stop him and looked down his nose at my former best friend.

"You, stop." Chris said firmly. "I'm only going to ask you once. What are you doing here?"

"I came to see Owen." Nicky replied, almost defensively. I guess he didn't like the cold treatment from my brother. The same brother who used to treat Nicky like a second little brother.

"How did you get here?" Chris demanded.

"I drove." Nicky said flatly.

"Who did you come with?" Chris wanted to know, as the interrogation continued.

"No one."

"How did you find us?"

"Your mom gave me the address." Nicky retorted, finally sounding annoyed.

"Mom doesn't know where we are." I frowned, looking at Chris after hearing that news, and Chris looked at me worriedly.

"Actually, they both have it, Owen." Chris said almost apologetically. "We had to give it to them so they could send your birth certificate and a few other things. We really never thought they'd use it."

"What's the big deal?" Nicky demanded, and then flashed a look my way. "You didn't even bother to tell me you were moving. I've been bothering your mom about the address for months and she finally gave it to me last week so I'd leave her alone. And why the hell wouldn't your parents have your address? Oh, and by the way, asshole, that was bullshit at the theater. If you were pissed off at me about something you should have said so! I'd been worried out of my fucking head about you for months, I finally see you, and what do you do? You fucking run away!" Nicky finished in exasperation.

"Theater?" Chris repeated, but I hardly even heard him, or noticed the way that Aiden was inquisitively staring at me.

"What the hell did you expect?" I demanded, focusing on Nicky and feeling angry while trying to ignore the fact that my parents had known where I was all this time. "You're the one who blew me off! I thought you didn't want anything to do with me, Nicky!" I felt myself rising out of my seat, but Aiden placed a hand on my shoulder to stop me.

"What the hell are you going on about?" Nicky demanded. "The last time I talked to you I said that I was going to call! I did call, the same damn night! You're the one who disappeared on me!"

"You never even came to the hospital!" I blurted.

"I did go!" Nicky suddenly shouted, and I immediately froze at his words. "Don't you fucking say that! I went and your dad was there! He said that you didn't want to see me!"

When I didn't respond, Chris looked at me worriedly, probably seeing a world of confusion on my face, and when he spoke his voice was calm and almost quiet.

"Okay guys... I think..."

"I need to talk to Nicky." I cut my brother off, having trouble looking away from Nicky's eyes. "I just... need to talk to Nicky."

When Nicky's expression softened, I realized that he had the same thing in mind. We needed to talk, and we needed to do it alone.

"Okay." Chris nodded after a few moments of staring back and forth between us. But, when I looked at Aiden I could see that he wasn't at all trusting of the situation, and he definitely didn't want to leave. I understood exactly how he felt. I imagine that I felt the exact same way when he wanted to talk to his mom last night.

"Aiden..." I said quietly, and that was all that was needed as he abruptly stood up.

"I'll be in our room." he said, before turning and moving down the hall, obviously wanting to get out of there before he ended up saying something that he might regret later.

"Did he just say our room?" Nicky asked, staring after Aiden.

"He lives here." I stated, and Nicky looked a little confused about that, but instead of commenting he looked at Chris, who was still standing there.

"I'm gonna go wake up Tony." Chris announced. "Nicky, how long do you plan on being here?"

"I have school tomorrow." Nicky shrugged. "I have to be back then."

"Do your parents know where you are?"

"No," Nicky replied, suddenly looking a little worried. But, Chris didn't interrogate him further as he flashed me a worried glance and then headed for Tony's room instead of his own, leaving me alone with Nicky... a situation that I never thought I'd be in again.

I can't say how long the silence lasted for. There were so many things that I wanted to say to him, and just by looking at him I knew that he wanted to talk to me, too. Only, neither of us seemed to have the guts to say what needed to be said. It was me, who finally spoke first. If anything, it was because the silence was driving me crazy.

"What did my dad say to you?" I asked quietly, and Nicky took it as his cue to cross the room and sit down on the sofa, leaving a respectable distance between us. "I didn't know he was there... at the hospital. He wasn't supposed to be."

"Well... he was sort of there when I went to ask a nurse where to find you. He told me about the accident, and then said that you didn't want to see anyone... I tried to get him to tell me why, but he called my parents and they made me come home. Owen... what happened? I don't know what I did wrong, I mean, I know that Anna heard us talking that night and opened her big mouth... you just disappeared. Everyone was saying it was because... well, you're gay. Your parents wouldn't talk and after I found out you were gone, my parents wouldn't let me go to your house anymore. I had to keep sneaking over there to get your mom to tell me where you were."

"Accident?" I said somewhat angrily. "What kind of accident did my dad tell you I had?"

"He said you came home drunk and took off driving." Nicky replied, disapprovingly. "Look, Owen, I know you were upset when you left my place, but if I knew that it was that bad..."

"There was no accident, Nicky!" I blurted.

"What are you talking about? You were in the hospital, Owen! Damn it, will you just tell me what happened? Why did you disappear? You didn't even say goodbye!"

"Nicky..." I nearly choked as so many thoughts and emotions overwhelmed me, "that night, after I left your house..."

I paused. I was so sick of telling this story. I wanted to explain things to him, but I was still getting used to the fact that I was the one who needed to explain. All of this time, I'd been so pissed off at him for abandoning me. This, was not the way that it was supposed to be. I was the one who ended up royally fucked. I was the one who'd been rejected. Nicky was the one who was supposed to be explaining things. He was the one who was supposed to explain why he'd abandoned me.

Only, the trouble was, he hadn't.

He went to the hospital. The one thing I'd been holding against him, was void. He'd gone to see me, and for some reason which had no answer, my father was there. My father was there, and as if he hadn't done enough damage already, he told my best friend to stay way. Nicky's own parents had told him to stay away... but he didn't.

I felt sick with all of this new information, and horribly guilty. I'd doubted him. I'd doubted our friendship... and it was all because I thought he'd abandoned me for being gay. But then again, why shouldn't I have thought that? Everyone else rejected me when they found out. Maybe Nicky said that it would be okay, but after everything else... I thought that it made sense for me to doubt him. And even as I listened to him tell me that it was a misunderstanding... that he hadn't abandoned me, that I had abandoned him... I still doubted him. I doubted that he could accept me, truly accept me, knowing that I happily shared my room, and so much more, with another male.

But, even if I doubted Nicky, and even if the fact that he was sitting right there next to me with that familiar smell, those watchful eyes, and his knotted brow... was bringing back distracting memories... I knew that I was the one who had to explain. I had to tell Nicky what really happened. I had a feeling that telling him my story, was the closest chance I had of getting the full story of what happened back then, or at least, something close to it.

"That night, after I left your house..." I started again. "I wasn't in a car accident. I went home... and I was still upset. Before I got there, I guess Anna talked to my parents first. She told them what she... overheard at your place."

"Shit." Nicky replied, just above a whisper as his eyes slightly widened.

"Yeah, shit." I agreed, a soft chuckle escaping me.


"They didn't take it well," I continued, before Nicky could finish what he was going to say. "My dad sort of freaked out on me when I told him that what Anna said was true. He pushed me around a little..."

I frowned to myself, not knowing why I was sugarcoating this. My dad didn't push me around. He beat the shit out of me. It wasn't like this was the first time that I was telling this story. But, it was the first time that I was telling Nicky. It didn't help that I was no longer comfortable with him. I hadn't seen him in months. I'm not sure why, but I almost felt like he wouldn't believe the truth. I didn't think that he'd believe that something like that could happen in my home-a home he'd been to, eaten dinner at, so many times before. I didn't think that he'd ever believe that my father-a man who he'd talked to, who he'd laughed with, who he knew, could do something so despicable. And I was ashamed. I hated it, that I actually felt embarrassed about what happened. I was admitting to Nicky that someone beat me...that my own father beat me, because I was a faggot. The fact that I hadn't fought back was creeping into my mind again and upsetting me. I think the fact that I hadn't fought back, was suddenly what I found so humiliating.

"Your dad put you in the hospital?" Nicky suddenly demanded, sounding somewhat awed.

"That's the short version," I shrugged, completely willing to skip over the more disturbing details, and we slipped into a reflective silence until Nicky was questioning me again.

"Well... what did your mom do?"

"Nothing." I replied. "I guess, she thought it was okay. Couldn't have a fag for a son. Anyways, Tony and Chris showed up at the hospital, because after I got away from my parents that night I found one of Chris's ex's. She called them, they brought me here and that's where I've been ever since."

Nicky sat there shaking his head for what seemed like minutes before he finally spoke again.

"Shit... you should have called."

"I didn't think you'd want me to." I said defensively.

"That is such bullshit, Owen. Look, I know that when you told me... you know, about the gay thing, I might have been a little weirded out. But come on, you were more homophobic than anyone I knew. It's not like you didn't have girls all over the place, either. You were the last person in the world who I'd ever think was gay."

"That's what I had to do!" I argued. "My dad... you know how he felt about shit like that."

"So you pretended to hate queers to cover up the fact that you were one?" Nicky frowned. "Damn it, Owen, you could have told me! You could have told me way before you did! I've been worried about you for months! And just because I was a little freaked when you first told me, doesn't mean that I ever hated you. You should have known that I'd want you to at least fucking call!"

"What was I supposed to think, Nicky? I thought my best friend would have at least shown up when I was in the hospital. When you didn't, I figured that it was because your girlfriend was busy telling everyone that you'd been hanging out with a fag for years and you didn't want anyone to think..."

"How long have you known me?" Nicky shouted, rising from his seat during his outburst, and I stood too, wanting to make him seem less threatening. "That's just stupid, Owen! I'd never do that to you, and if you don't know that then I should take you back down those stairs and kick your ass all over again! Oh, and don't act like I'm responsible for Anna. I didn't even know she was there that night until she started talking at school."

"And I'm sure you were just heartbroken about it," I remarked.

I was probably being unfair to Nicky. In fact, I knew I was. But, I was feeling guarded and bitter, and these were emotions that I couldn't seem to control.

"Jesus, Owen. When the fuck did you stop trusting me?" Nicky demanded, not only looking annoyed, but hurt, too. "Do you really think I'd be here if I just turned my back on you? I've been driving everyone I know crazy, trying to figure out where you were... and you would have known that if you hadn't been such a chicken shit and run away from me at the drive-in. And for your information, I dropped Anna as soon as she started talking shit about you. We haven't said more than two words to each other since. That wasn't easy for me, you know, first losing you, and then her. We were all friends, Owen. You know the last time I saw her was a few weeks ago. She was starting to look pregnant and her parents were talking about sending her to live with her grandparents."

"Anna's pregnant?" I asked, this news completely side tracking me.

"Yeah," Nicky shrugged as if it were old news. "The rumor is she was cheating on me with some college student. My parents checked into it and we're pretty sure it's not mine. I was always safe when I fucked around with her, anyway."

"Oh." I nodded, still digesting the information.

"Why did you take off at the movies?" Nicky asked a moment later. "God, when I saw you there... I thought you were back, you know? You have no idea how bad I wanted you to be back, Owen."

I inwardly cringed as that depressing guilt came back. I'd been so focused on how Nicky had hurt me that I never took the time to think about how I might have hurt him. I hadn't even bothered to track him down, a task that would have been easier for me than it was for him. After all, Nicky wasn't the one who'd disappeared. And yet, he tracked me down. If I got past my guarded feelings towards him, the whole situation was touching, and a reminder of why Nicky Davis was my best friend... and a much better one than I was.

I let out a breath and forced myself to face him.

"I was... surprised to see you there." I admitted as I reclaimed my seat on the sofa, and he seemed to calm down and sat down too. "I don't know. I think in some ways, it wasn't really you I was running away from. It was everything else. I thought that if I could run away from you... it would be like running away from the past. That, and I was sort of on a date. It was before I came out to everyone and to be honest with you... the idea of anyone seeing me pretty much freaked me out."

"A date?" Nicky repeated, raising his eyebrow. "Was it with my new best friend in the other room there?" he asked, glancing down the hall, where Aiden had went.

"His name's Aiden, and yeah. I was with him."

"Uh-huh... so he's like... your boyfriend? Damn, that just sounds weird."

"Yes, he is." I answered, choosing to ignore Nicky's comment.

"And he lives here, with you and your brothers?"

"Yeah. He's had some trouble with his mom, and he's known Tony and Chris since before I even got here... so he moved in with us."

"Weird." Nicky shook his head as he leaned back on the sofa and looked towards the ceiling. "This is all just so... weird."

"Yeah." I agreed.

"I mean... everything's different." Nicky said. "You have no idea. Until I saw you at the movies, honest to god I thought you were locked away in a hospital somewhere. Your parents wouldn't give me an explanation and you were upset the last time I saw you so I sort of thought that maybe you went nuts or something. . .and they said you were driving drunk, so for all I knew you got arrested and your parents didn't want anyone to find out about it. You have no idea how hard it was not knowing.


"People you know aren't supposed to disappear." Nicky continued, glancing at me. "I mean, I guess the people in your family are good at it. Your brothers did it before you, right? But that never hit me like it hit you... I don't know, Owen. I want to tell you how sorry I am now that I know how you felt when Tony and Chris went away, but I also want to strangle you for having the nerve to put me through it. . . people just aren't supposed to disappear like that. Not the people I know. Not my best friend."

"I didn't mean to put you through anything..." I started.

"You know I even started fighting with my parents about it." Nicky cut me off. "I thought they knew where you were and just wouldn't tell me. Do you have any idea how many problems that caused? Especially when they made a huge deal about keeping me away from your parents."

"Why did they do that?"

"I don't know. That's the problem. No one would talk to me! I just thought that your dad was sick of me going over there and asking where you were all the time. I almost stopped, too. It was causing too much tension between me and my parents.... but then I saw you at the theater. I mean, if you were there then I knew you had to be close, and I started bothering your mom again. Every time I saw her I'd ask and finally she wrote down an address. The only reason I wasn't down here last weekend was because I had this family thing and I couldn't exactly tell my parents where I planned on going."

"And your parents don't know you're here?" I asked. "I mean, Nicky... Anna told everyone about me, they would have found out. Do you think maybe the reason that they didn't want you to find me is because...you know, I'm..." For some reason I couldn't bring myself to finish the sentence. If I did, and the reason why Nicky's parents wanted him to stay away from me was because I was gay, it would just be another rejection, and I didn't really want to hear it.

"That's not the reason, Owen."

I looked up after hearing Tony's voice and saw both of my brothers standing in the hall. They were both dressed now, but looked exhausted. I guess they didn't expect to be woken up so early on a Sunday, just like I hadn't expected to spend my night rescuing Dennis Gordon's dog.

"What do you mean?" I asked, wondering how long my brothers had been listening as they made their way closer to us.

"I guess... " Tony started hesitantly. "After you moved here with us, dad went out and got drunk. You know how he can run his mouth sometimes... Owen, Nicky's dad was in the bar when he started complaining about you and let a few things slip... what he did to you. Nicky, that's why they didn't want you over at our parents place. They didn't tell you about Owen because they weren't sure where he was and they thought it would only upset you. I guess they even went to the police, but nothing happened with that."

"How do you know that?" Nicky demanded. "I didn't even know that. And by the way... hi. It's really...um, good? Seeing you guys again."

"Hi." Chris smiled at him, a switch from the way that he was interrogating our guest, not so long ago.

"We just got off the phone with your parents." Tony answered Nicky's question, and when Nicky flashed Tony an incredulous look because of that announcement, my brother went on to explain, "Sorry, Nicky. We had to call. You're sort of a surprise and we didn't want to end up in trouble because your parents had no idea where you were."

"How much trouble am I in?" Nicky sighed.

"Enough." Chris answered with a smirk. "But, you can stay. They want you back tonight, though. You're out of here right after dinner."

Nicky and I looked at each other, and suddenly, I felt sad. I was still in shock over his reappearance in my life, and still digesting the fact that he'd never really abandoned me... I wasn't sure how to react to this, but there was still so much that needed to be said. To think that I only had one day with him now, was depressing at best. The look on Nicky's face suggested that he felt the same way.

"Oh, get off it you two." Chris remarked, interrupting my thoughts. "We're not saying that he's leaving tonight and you'll never see him again, Owen. Nicky, your parents said that you'll be able to visit again. We won't stop Owen from visiting you, but we'd rather he didn't because of our parents."

"I think we're getting ahead of ourselves here." Tony said cautiously. "Um... you guys haven't seen each other in a while and obviously you have some catching up to do... why don't you take the rest of the day to do that and we'll take it one step at a time from there. I assume everyone's hungry... I can start breakfast."

"Um... Owen," Chris said quietly, taking a step forward and looking at me seriously. "You might want to go talk to Aiden. He was still cussing the last time I checked."

"Did Aiden do that to your face?" Tony asked Nicky, who rubbed his blackening eye in response and looked at me.

"Yeah... I guess I don't have to ask whether or not he can take care of you, huh?"

I rolled my eyes and got up to go talk to my boyfriend, but not before taking a moment to stare at Nicky, almost as if to convince myself that he really was sitting in my living room. It was sad, but even after everything that I'd just learned, I still didn't know if Nicky's being there was a good thing. I guess in some ways, it already was. I'd already learned that he hadn't just turned his back on me, and I had been struggling with that almost from day one. I had a clearer picture of what happened, during one of the darkest times of my life, and now there were things that I could stop worrying about.

I think the problem was that I was afraid. I was afraid of what would happen next. I was afraid to introduce Nicky to my new life, afraid of what he'd think of it. But I knew that this was something that I needed. I needed to know how he would feel about me at the end of the day. . . I needed to know if he was still my best friend. I think he needed it too.

But, there was something else I had to deal with first. It seemed I had a furious boyfriend at the moment, and I guess considering the circumstances, Aiden had every right to be pissed off. That's why, as soon as I walked into our room and closed the door and he turned to me as he pulled up a fresh pair of jeans, the first thing I did was hug him. I found myself pulling him even closer when I inhaled his shower fresh scent and found it comforting. It was no surprise that Aiden stiffened when I hugged him, but after a few moments I felt him relax as he allowed his head to drop to my shoulder. The peaceful moment didn't last however, because as soon as I released him his brow was knotted and he was raising his voice.

"That's Nicky?" he demanded. "That asshole is Nicky?"

"That's Nicky." I confirmed. "Aiden..."

"Tell me he's leaving." Aiden cut me off, and I paused, somewhat startled. I'd seen him angry before, I knew he was angry now, but I'd never heard that kind of demanding tone in his voice while he was angry. This could be a problem. I had no idea how to juggle this situation. It was only natural for me to want to focus on Nicky at the moment, he and I needed to talk. I had no idea what I'd do if there was going to be a problem between Aiden and Nicky.... I wasn't sure what to do since it seemed like there was already a problem between Aiden and Nicky.

"He's here for the day," I said, as carefully as possible.

"Owen! That asshole attacked you!"

"He didn't attack me." I argued, and then immediately regretted it. I guess you could say that I suddenly felt like I needed to defend Nicky, even if he did take me off guard... and my ribs still ached. I guess it was an old habit. But in this case, it was a mistake. By defending Nicky and his actions I felt like I was somehow being disrespectful to Aiden.

"Are you fucking kidding me?" Aiden demanded as he suddenly stepped forward and forcefully lifted my shirt, making a point to show me the red spot from Nicky's fist, which would probably bruise later.

"Aiden," I replied, taking his hand and guiding it away from my clothes as I pulled him down to sit on the bed with me. "He didn't... it's not like that. He wasn't attacking me like that... you just have to know him. Look, can I have a minute, please? Right now it sort of feels like I just had a bomb dropped in my lap."

I let my head drop into my hands and stared down at the floor. I really was feeling overwhelmed, and I knew that Aiden just wanted to make sure I didn't get hurt, but it was difficult not to become frustrated with his hostile attitude. It wasn't like I wasn't frustrated with Nicky, either. I was. I wasn't sure how to react to anything that had happened since last night, and while I felt a sense of excitement and anticipation, knowing that Nicky was in the other room, I was also exhausted. Physically, and now mentally, too.

"Shit, I'm sorry, Owen." Aiden sighed, as if he had something to feel guilty about. "Are you okay?" he moved an arm around me and I leaned into him, trying to clear my head.

"I think so." I nodded. "It's just weird. . . I didn't think I'd ever see him again."

"Do you know why he's here?" Aiden asked, somewhat demandingly. "Owen... he lives close to your parents, right? Can you trust him? I mean, he is the same guy who dropped you when you told him you were gay, right?"

I inwardly sighed. Unfortunately, I was partially responsible for Aiden's opinion of Nicky. It wasn't exactly my fault that Nicky showed up like a neanderthal and Aiden formed his own opinion about what kind of person my visitor was, but before when I mentioned Nicky to Aiden... I might have mentioned some things that contributed to the way that my boyfriend seemed to be feeling now.

I guess you could say that when I talked about Nicky to Aiden, it was from my perspective, of course. I told him what happened the night after I left my parents house, about my hurt and angry feelings towards Nicky for not being there when I needed him. But, in my defense, until about ten minutes ago, I hadn't exactly known Nicky's side of the story, so I took the time to tell Aiden everything that he'd told me, and to his credit, he didn't interrupt me as he listened, although the scowl refused to vanish from his face, a sign that he wasn't about to forgive my childhood friend for anything just yet, even if I shared part of the blame when it came to why Nicky and I hadn't spoken before this.

I think it was fair to say that in this situation, Aiden was biased. Don't get me wrong, I loved him for that, but it also worried me. Like I said before. I needed this time with Nicky. We needed to talk... I just needed to know how much had changed. But, only hours before I'd been lying in bed with Aiden, telling him that I'd never trade what I had now for what I had back then. I meant that. I wasn't sure if I could ever really choose between Aiden and Nicky, although the separation from my best friend probably would have some influence on such a situation.

It didn't seem like very long ago that I had myself convinced that I was in love with Nicky Davis. I guess seeing him again, did bring back some of those feelings. I won't lie. I was still attracted to him. I could still remember feeling frustrated with Dan for not understanding. Now, being so close to Nicky, remembering him... brought back all sorts of memories and brought unwanted butterflies to my stomach. But as I sat there with Aiden, trying to explain things to him, I realized that I was doing that for a reason. I was taking some of the short time I had to reacquaint myself with Nicky, to make Aiden as comfortable as I could. It wasn't exactly happening, but the fact that I was trying was enough to tell me exactly where my priorities lie. I didn't want to choose between them. But as I sat there, I knew that in some ways, I'd already made a choice.

"How do you know he's not lying to you?" Aiden asked when I'd finished. "You don't think it's strange that he'd just show up here like that? Why didn't he call first? It's common courtesy."

"I don't know. But, I only have one day to find out."

"I don't like him." Aiden said flatly, and in response I further leaned into him, not only as a gesture of comfort towards him, but a way of seeking reassurance for me, too. His attitude towards Nicky seemed disturbing, even if it was somewhat reasonable.

"Please don't be mad at me if I go talk to him." I sighed. The last thing I wanted was my visiting with Nicky to cause problems between Aiden and I.

"I'm not mad at you." Aiden said quickly, looking apologetic again as he pushed me away enough just to catch my eyes. "I just don't trust him. Shit, Owen, what am I supposed to think? I just watched him jump my boyfriend. Excuse me for wanting to kick his ass."


"Don't try to lecture me, Owen. How many times have you wanted to beat the shit out of someone just because they looked at us the wrong way?"

"I wasn't going to lecture you," I half laughed, half frowned, because I didn't like the way that he was jumping down my throat. Even upset... this wasn't Aiden. It was almost like he was acting as immature as I did when I was pissed off. I wasn't sure I liked it, and I momentarily wondered if I got as annoying as he was acting now.

Aiden must have sensed that I was growing uncomfortable with something because I heard him sigh and his body lost its standoffish posture as he pulled me back into his arms.

"I'm sorry, Owen. I'm not helping."

"You're not." I agreed, nodding my head, and then briefly closed my eyes as he kissed my temple. "I'm kinda freaked out, Aiden. I've known Nicky my whole life, but I feel like it's a complete stranger out there. I don't know what to do."

"It seems like you're pretty sure you need to talk to him." Aiden pointed out.

"Yeah... I need to do that."

"He isn't going to hit you again, is he?" Aiden suddenly asked, regarding me seriously.

"And risk you messing up his pretty face?" I smirked, "I don't think so."

Aiden pulled back somewhat and gave me a strange look. "You guys were just friends, right? I mean, I don't want to turn into the jealous boyfriend here. That's your job. But, it would help to know what I'm dealing with here, Owen."

"I mentally swallowed, wondering how I was going to work my way around this question. But then, I realized that I shouldn't have to work my way around it. Aiden had made it clear enough that he wanted us to be honest with each other. It felt like honesty was important here.

"We were best friends." I replied truthfully. "All we ever were... was friends."

"But?" Aiden raised an eyebrow.

"I had a thing for him," I admitted. "He's straight though, Aiden. Nothing ever happened. Nicky doesn't even know that I felt that way, and I don't exactly have the same feelings now, so..."

"How bad was it? This thing?" Aiden interrupted, looking somewhat unsure of himself, and that surprised me.

"Aiden, I don't think it matters..."

"How bad, Owen?"

I sighed, becoming uncomfortable again.

"I guess... it was bad enough that when I was with Dan, we fought about it. But it has nothing to do with you and me."

"Why did you and Dan fight about it?"

"What is this, an interrogation?" I frowned.

"No, it's me trying to get to know you better." Aiden retorted irritably. "Owen, please. The guy's in the other room. I know he was your friend, but I need to know what else he was or it's going to keep bothering me."

If he hadn't snuggled closer to me as a gesture of reassurance, I'm not sure I would have continued this conversation.

"We fought because... I sort of thought that I was in love with Nicky."

When Aiden abruptly let go of me and his body fell back onto the bed, his eyes focused on the mattress above and his brow knotted in thought, I started to rethink this whole honesty thing.

"Aiden," I frowned, leaning over him in an effort to force him to face me. "It's in the past."

"Do you still have feelings for him?"

"I'm confused." I admitted. "But I swear, I don't have those feelings for him anymore. I don't know if I ever really did in the first place, not like it is with you... please, just trust me here."

Aiden studied me for a long moment and then reached up to ruffle my hair before he took hold of my shirt collar and pulled me down towards him, at which point, I kissed him like I meant it. I could only imagine how I'd feel if the situation were reversed. If Aiden needed to be reassured now, then I'd make sure that he got what he needed. I only hoped that I could balance keeping my boyfriend happy and catching up with Nicky Davis. At least, for the rest of the day.


When I knew that Reilly Chesely was interested in my boyfriend, my first instinct was to go on the defensive. Maybe it was a guy thing, or maybe it was just an insecurity thing, I don't know. But, I had no intention of letting that little shit take what was mine.

I'll admit, the situation with Nicky was not exactly like the one with Reilly had been, for obvious reasons. But, I'm sure that what Aiden was going through was something similar to what my feelings had been.

It wasn't like I hadn't seen Aiden jealous before. At school, when he spotted girls who weren't Lacy talking to me for what he considered too long, he'd be sure to come up with one excuse or another to drag me away. It was always subtle before. In our relationship, I was the jealous one. But, having a boyfriend who looked like Aiden could warrant that, as far as I was concerned. And Aiden... he always seemed so confident, so secure when it came to our relationship... until Nicky Davis walked back into my life.

It probably had something to do with my admission of having feelings for Nicky in the past, and of course, Nicky's actions this morning. Aiden just didn't trust him, and he made it obvious.

I'd taken a five minute shower, in an attempt to wake myself up. I was dying for a nap, but Nicky's arrival obviously changed my plans. At least Tony had coffee ready by the time I made it out to the kitchen, where everyone had gathered. Unfortunately, the sight of Aiden and Nicky sitting at the table across from each other, Aiden glaring and Nicky with his casual, cocky, teasing expression that I'd seen him antagonize people with many times before, wasn't exactly very welcoming.

"Coffee Owen?" Tony asked, even as he passed me a cup.

"Thanks." I said, taking note of the concerned expression on my brother's face when he glanced at Nicky.

"So," Chris said from across the kitchen where he was cooking what looked like waffles, "Nicky, you'll have to forgive us for being a little unprepared here. We weren't expecting you."

"That's okay." Nicky replied after he took a sip of the juice in front of him. "Um... sorry I snuck up on you guys. I had to leave before my parents could ask me where I was going and I figured that if I just got over here... things would fall into place. You guys sort of surprised me too, though. I wasn't sure who Owen was living with, but I didn't expect it to be you guys." Nicky glanced between Chris and Tony. "I mean... you two were gone way before Owen was. You had a problem with your parents too, right? So what was that all about?"

I glanced over at Tony, who actually looked nervous. I guess my brother had mixed feelings about facing people from his past life with his own revelations. But, when Tony saw me watching him he offered me a small smile before he addressed Nicky.

"Owen and I have something in common." he replied simply.

It took Nicky a minute, but eventually he got it and turned, somewhat wide-eyed, towards Tony.

"Are you serious?" he blurted. "Your parents got stuck with two of you? I mean... I don't mean for that to sound bad or anything, but it's kinda ironic."

"They weren't too happy." Chris said as he started bringing food to the table and I finally took my seat next to Aiden, and across from Nicky. Both of my brothers joined us a few moments later. "That's why Tony and I left in the first place. When they couldn't accept Tony, I left too."

Nicky looked towards Tony with a slight frown.

"Did your dad... did he hurt you, like he did Owen?"

"No," Tony replied with one remorseful look towards me and an appreciative glance towards Chris. "I wasn't alone."

I felt Aiden's hand brush against mine under the table and found myself clinging to it, but my attention was on Nicky, who was suddenly glaring at me. At first I felt defensive, and a little panicked, thinking that it was because I was openly holding Aiden's hand. But, it soon became clear that it wasn't mine or Aiden's actions, it was what Tony said, that had triggered something in Nicky.

"You know, you weren't alone, either." he said to me. "At least, you didn't have to be."

"Nicky..." I frowned, not liking the way that he was trying to confront me in front of everyone.

"I knew your dad was an ass but I didn't know it was that bad... why did you let it get that bad without telling anyone? How could you let it get that bad without telling me?"

How could I let it? Maybe I would have had a response for Nicky if I wasn't trying to figure out what he was saying. It was my fault? Everything that happened was my fault? I guess considering that I'd had the same thoughts myself, I shouldn't have been angry with Nicky for suggesting it. Only, I was angry, and I was hurt by it. He came back to tell me that it was my fault?

"Don't act like it's Owen's fault that his dad's a prick!" Aiden snapped, making a response from me unnecessary.

"Stay out of this." Nicky retorted before returning his attention to me, and although I wasn't looking at him, I was pretty sure that my boyfriend wasn't any closer to giving Nicky the benefit of the doubt. "Why couldn't you tell me, Owen? Did I do something? Because you'd think that if we really were friends you would have told me what the hell was going on before it was too late!"

"Let's calm down guys." Chris suddenly interrupted, just as Aiden started to look like he was about to cross the distance between Nicky and himself and do something questionable.

"Nicky, you just got here." Tony said. "Let's all just... finish eating and try to talk."

"I am talking." Nicky snapped with a look in my direction. "I'm just waiting for him to."

"How are your parents?" Tony asked Nicky, in an attempt to change the subject.

"Didn't you just talk to them?" Nicky responded smartly, but continued when both of my brothers gave him disapproving looks. "They're fine. Getting divorced, but my mom's cool because she's keeping the house and my dad's excited about moving in with his girlfriend next weekend."

"What?" I frowned, and Nicky just shrugged. I was definitely surprised by this news. I never would have thought of Nicky's parents as the divorcing type. They always seemed so happy together. I didn't have to ask to know that Nicky was upset about this, either. I could hear it in his voice, and the fact that his dad was moving out was a sure sign. He'd always been close to his father. In fact, growing up, I'd been jealous of their relationship. "I'm sorry, Nicky." I said quietly when no one else offered a response. "I didn't know."

"Maybe you would have if you'd bothered to call." he responded coldly.

"I already told you," I retorted, "I didn't know that you'd want me to."

Nicky abruptly dropped his fork on his untouched plate and stood up. "That's not a good enough reason, Owen." he snapped, right before he walked away, leaving us all in silence in the kitchen, everyone looking after him until we heard the door slam in the living room. Then, everyone turned their attention to me. Aiden looked concerned, while Tony and Chris just looked expectant.

"He's mad." I said.

"Yeah, I think that's obvious." Chris replied. "Aren't you going to go talk to him?"

"And say what?" I frowned. "I don't even no where to start."

"You could start by asking him to come back inside." Tony suggested. "I doubt he's driving away right now, but he's probably waiting for you, Owen."

"And why does Owen have to talk to him at all?" Aiden remarked under his breath. "I say good riddance."

Chris looked at Aiden pointedly. "Do you mean that?"

Aiden stared at my brother for a moment before he let out a breath and turned his attention to me. I have to admit that I was curious to know whether or not he was really that ready to excuse Nicky, too.

"You should go talk to him." Aiden sighed, and for some treason hearing it from him gave me a sense of relief. "It'll drive you crazy if you don't. Just... go talk to him, but don't let him hit you again."

"I didn't let him the first time." I rolled my eyes.

"Just go talk to him, Owen." Aiden said with a squeeze to my hand before he released it. "Go. You should hurry before I say something... just, go."

I frowned at Aiden, hoping that this wasn't the attitude I could look forward to all day. He just flashed me a small, forced smile before I kissed his cheek and then left the table to go after Nicky Davis.


Maybe it doesn't seem like a big deal, but to me, it was. I was in my home, with my brothers and my boyfriend in the next room, and each step I took towards the front door seemed so surreal, knowing that I was going to talk to... or more likely argue with, my best friend, someone whose place in my life had been lost until now. Maybe it still was lost. I wasn't really sure. To be honest, I just hadn't had a chance to really think about it.

Where did Nicky fit into my life now? Were we still friends? Did he even want to be? He'd tracked me down, so that said something, but the way he was acting said something completely different. It was strange, but it almost felt like he came here to break up with me. Maybe he had. Maybe he needed some sort of closure, the same kind that I was beginning to realize that I needed with my own past life. I guess even if we kept in touch after today, I didn't see how our friendship would ever be the same.

But, I guess you could say that I was hopeful. The fact that the guy who'd meant the world to me most of my life was just a quick walk out the front door was starting to hit me. Sitting down to breakfast with Nicky present had been sobering. Now, I was a little excited, knowing that I had the opportunity to catch up with him. I was also terrified... knowing that it was time to catch with him.

When I first opened the door and didn't see Nicky there, I wasn't surprised that I felt somewhat panicked. There was that fear there, that he was angry enough to leave. I think I realized then just how much I really wasn't ready for him to disappear on me. I had to go down the stairs and across the parking lot to confirm he was still around.

I found Nicky sitting on the hood of his car; the same car he's owned since the day he turned sixteen. Actually, I was surprised that I hadn't noticed it when I pulled in that morning. But then again, I was so tired that I probably wouldn't have. Nicky only spared me a sideways glance as I approached, but scooted over so I could climb up on the car with him.

"Sorry I jumped down your throat back there like that." he said, before I could even get a word out.

" What? Nicky..." I started, surprised by his sudden change in attitude.

"Owen, come on." he shrugged, turning his head to look at me. "We only have the day, right? I mean, I have to leave tonight and I don't want to spend this time.... dealing with all the shit. We'll end up bringing each other down, you know? I don't want that. Do you?"

I silently shook my head. I guess Nicky had a point. If our time together was limited for the time being, I'd rather spend it having a good time with the friend I remembered, not dealing with the obvious tension that was between us. Avoiding that tension actually seemed like a good idea. I mean, Nicky just got there. Obviously, we had a few issues with each other, but if we spent the whole day dealing with that then by the end of it, when he had to leave, I was sure that neither of us would care whether or not we kept in touch from now on. I really didn't want that, and obviously, neither did he. Unfortunately, I had already learned the hard way that avoidance got me nowhere. I was learning to confront my problems, and it almost seemed like once I started, I couldn't stop.

"I just want to forget." I finally said, and Nicky seemed to lean closer, as if my voice was too low to hear. "But, how can we do that? How can we just be us, and pretend that nothing ever happened?"

"We can't." Nicky responded after a moment of thought that had me nervous. "I mean, we can't pretend that nothing happened. That never works. But... we can still be us. You and me... like it was before. Just for today."

"How?" I almost laughed. "I mean... I'm not trying to be difficult here, I swear..."

"You're not trying hard enough." Nicky remarked, and I smiled when he did.

"I'm serious." I shrugged, suddenly tugging at a hole I'd only just then discovered in my jeans. "I'm not exactly... I'm not the same as I was before." I stated, forcing myself look up and face him. "I've changed... I'm sure you've changed. I guess, I just don't know what to do here. I don't want you to leave, I missed you, Nicky. But... I wish I knew where we stood."

I watched Nicky for a few long moments, trying to figure out what he was thinking as he stared right back at me. His expression didn't seem to mirror my troubled one, though. He had a small, thoughtful smile that could have meant any number of things. It seemed like minutes before he even responded to me, and by then I was so busy trying to figure out what he was thinking that I'd forgotten what I said in the first place. But, when he spoke, it was definitely something that I needed to hear, even if I didn't realize how much until just then.

"I missed you too, Owen."

I'm not sure why that confession surprised me. I mean, he'd tracked me down, and according to Nicky, it wasn't very easy. He wouldn't have gone through that if he didn't miss me. But still, I think that the statement took me off guard because until now, I'd had this picture of Nicky and his life without me.

Despite all of my wondering if he ever thought about me, wondering what he was doing... I'd always had a mental image of Nicky, hardly even blinking at the fact that I was gone. I figured he'd grow up, go off to school, marry Anna Crossle somewhere down the line and I'd just be the guy they used to know. But, according to Nicky, his life was very different than what I'd imagined it to be. He seemed to be having a difficult time lately, and it was troublesome that I hadn't been there for him, something that he clearly wanted. He missed me, and I suddenly felt like I didn't even deserve that courtesy. I'd been so angry with him for abandoning me, and the fact that in reality, I was the one who had abandoned him, was hard to swallow.

"I'm sorry." I shook my head, suddenly finding it difficult to look him in the eye. "I don't know what to say."

"What?" he smirked as he placed a hand on my shoulder and I looked in his direction again. "You didn't think I'd miss you? `Cause I gotta tell you, it surprised me too."

"Shut up," I laughed, elbowing him, and grateful that the awkward moment seemed to be passing.

"So... I figure it's your turn to tell me what you've been up to." Nicky said, and then grinned at me. "Why don't you start by telling me what you were doing out all night with Mr. Friendly."


"Come on, Owen. You were just getting home this morning, weren't you? I've never known Owen Dovan to pull an all nighter. You must have something interesting to tell me."

I sighed as I leaned back against the windshield and looked upwards.

"It's a long story." I half groaned, mostly because it seemed long just to think about. Nicky being there made the night's events seem so far away. Only, my body and it's lack of sleep seemed to be a constant reminder.

"Whoa, I didn't say I wanted details." Nicky suddenly remarked. "I mean, share time is cool and all, but if you wanted to keep certain things to yourself I really wouldn't mind."

"Shit." I shook my head. "Nicky, if you think I'm about to tell you about my sex life..."

"Sex life? You have a sex life?" he said teasingly, and then glanced towards the apartment. "Does that mean there's more than just..."

"His name's Aiden, and no. It's just him."

"Huh." Nicky shrugged.


"Nothing. It's cool. He just seems... wound a little tight."

"You know, you're not exactly making it easy for him to like you." I pointed out.

"Come on, Owen. I was hardly here for ten seconds before the guy decided that he hated my guts."

"And you're actually wondering why?" I remarked, rubbing my sore ribs. "That was quite an entrance Nicky. What the fuck was it all about, anyway?"

"You know what. That's just what we do."

"You never hit me that hard before." I replied quietly. "And usually you let me see it coming. You were pissed."

"Hey, I thought we weren't going to bring up all the shit." he frowned.

"Nicky, I don't want to, but..."

"You were happy, okay?" he suddenly blurted, and I raised an eyebrow, not quite understanding. "When I saw you... you looked happy. That's what pissed me off, Owen." I stared at Nicky, still not understanding, or believing, what I was hearing. But, hearing it certainly did... hurt. It left me with only one question; why? Why wouldn't he want me to be happy? I was about to ask, but the way he suddenly slid off his car and smiled as if nothing happened caused me to pause. "Can you show me around?" he asked. "I mean, it would be cool to see where you go to school and stuff. Besides, if we stick around here your brothers are going to be babysitting us all day."

He nodded towards the building again and when I looked I could see Tony and Chris in the window, watching us. But, they were no concern to me at the moment, I had a conversation to have with Nicky, especially after his last revelation.

"Nicky, I don't think..."

"I have to piss before we go." he cut me off, and I frowned at him. Unfortunately, I was getting the idea that he wasn't as interested in having a conversation as I was. "So you'll show me around?"

"Sure." I shrugged, not really thinking about it. I was too busy wondering why the only guy in the world who I'd ever given the title of my best friend would be angry... because I was happy.


Most kids I knew growing up did everything they could to avoid school. They lived for the weekends and cherished every moment of a spring break or a winter vacation. Basically, when there's no school the majority of us count our blessings and spend every available minute thinking about anything but that test coming up, the one that's supposed to be worth half our grade. Nicky, was no exception. In fact, I remember when we were younger he was the one who taught me how to fake a fever to get out of school. In eighth grade he broke the record for the most absences. So I guess, Nicky asking me to take him to my school on a Sunday, was a little peculiar, and even more so, was the fact that when we got there, he got out of the car and proceeded to silently stare at the building for a good ten minutes.

I wasn't exactly sure what to do. I wasn't even sure what Nicky was doing, but when I got tired of standing by my truck, watching him stare at the school, I slowly approached him and hesitantly touched his shoulder.

"Hey." I said, and he glanced back at me with a small smile. "Are you alright?"

"I'm good." he nodded. "This is where you go, then?"


"Do you like it?"

"The school?"

"Yeah... do you like going here?" he asked.

"Not really." I smiled.

"I guess you never really liked the one back home, either." Nicky shrugged.

"No, that was you." I smirked.

"Probably." he chuckled as he started walking past the main building and towards the court yard. I followed at his pace, wondering how much time he wanted to spend there.

When Nicky first announced to my brothers and Aiden that he wanted me to show him around, no one seemed happy about the idea. Chris and Tony just wanted to keep us close. Chris, I'm sure, wanted to hear every word Nicky and I spoke to each other, just in case something interesting about our parents were to arise. Tony, on the other hand was less interested in playing guard dog and more interested in preserving my mental health. I think he was worried that seeing Nicky might trigger another breakdown for me. I wasn't exactly surprised when I heard Tony on the phone with Ben before we left.

Aiden... I knew Aiden wasn't happy about me going off alone with Nicky. He probably felt left out, even if I did ask him to come with us. To be honest, I probably would have been more comfortable with him there. I think I was feeling somewhat intimidated by my old friend, still concerned about what he thought of me. I think with Aiden there, I wouldn't have felt so... alone.

But, despite the fact that Aiden didn't want me going with Nicky, he didn't want to come with us, either. He felt like he'd be intruding on our time, even after my efforts to convince him otherwise. I guess, as much as I would have liked Aiden to be with me, I couldn't blame him for wanting to keep his distance. He wasn't really off to the best start with Nicky, and the last thing I wanted was for either of them to be uncomfortable.

"You were probably here for a whole week before you had this whole town wrapped around your finger, right?" Nicky said, snapping me out of my thoughts. His remark confused me for about a whole minute before I remembered that Nicky knew me during a time when I used to be a social person.

"Oh. Not really." I admitted. "Actually... it was a while before I started to talk to anyone except for Chris and Tony."

"Huh." Nicky shrugged, sounding somewhat skeptical as he took a seat at one of the stone tables and looked around. I let out a tired breath as I joined him, knowing that he expected me to do more talking.

"I mean it." I replied. "When I got here, it... I was pretty fucked up, up here," I explained, tapping my head. "Convinced myself that I didn't want friends."

"That doesn't sound like you, Owen." Nicky replied, resting his elbows on the table.

"I didn't know who me was. I just... I was messed up, you know? But... when I met Aiden, things started to change."

"Aiden." Nicky rolled his eyes. "I can't believe you fell for the first pretty boy who came along."

"It wasn't that easy." I laughed. "Actually... I met him right over there." I pointed to the exact spot where I first got into a fight with Dennis Gordon, and oddly enough, found myself smiling. It seemed like such a long time ago now, but it was strange, how much I remembered as I started to tell Nicky about that day, sitting under the oak tree with Adam and Shane... and I was surprised by how easily I was able to tell him everything.

I told him about getting suspended, and discovering that Aiden lived right downstairs. I even told him about Mrs. Knightly, and all of the times that Aiden ended up at our place when we were just friends. I left out the fact that he'd often end up in my bed, but that just seemed like a little too much information. I told him about Adam, and even Shane, although I was never really that close to him, and then how Aiden introduced me to Ryan, and Leo and Ben.

I told him about the first time I tried smoking pot, the camping trip, and then I told him about the school dance, when Lacy Chapman agreed to be my date and had a fun time dressing me up, and how I ended up getting sucker punched by Dennis Gordon... and by the time I got around to telling him about how dense I was during my first date with Aiden he was in tears laughing... and it felt good. It felt good to tell Nicky Davis all of this. It made me forget that he ever said he was angry because I was happy, and it made me remember what it was like when I used to tell him everything, or rather, almost everything.

It also helped me see something else about my childhood friend, and that was, he hadn't changed at all. He was still my Nicky. And I could trust him. I must have forgotten that somewhere down the line. Before I told him my secret, I'd been so ashamed of who I was. I couldn't help having those feelings. From the day my brothers left I'd been groomed to believe that people like me, were sick abominations. I was supposed to be ashamed of it, humiliated by it, even. I couldn't tell Nicky, because I was afraid that he'd look at me and see what I saw every single day when I looked in the mirror. A sick pervert. A worthless fagot. But, if I'd been paying attention, I think I would have known that all Nicky would have seen, was his best friend, Owen Dovan.

By the time I caught Nicky up, all the way to the night before and the reason why I wasn't home until the early hours of the morning... I felt like Owen Dovan, Nicky Davis's best friend again. All in all, this visit with Nicky was going better than I expected it to.

It was after I finished telling him everything about Dennis Gordon- from hating his guts to discovering his home life and feeling sorry for him, to learning about what he did to Ben and even saving his dog last night- that I got a surprise.

"I think you made the right decision." Nicky said.

"What do you mean?"

"To stay away from that guy." he stated. "I don't know, Owen. After everything I've heard, I think Aiden is right. You don't need that kind of shit. You've... been through enough already. It sounds like you've done everything you can for him, and playing dog-sitter was a stretch. I wouldn't want to see you get hurt again for an asshole like that."

I'm not sure why I expected Nicky to disagree with my decision to let go of Dennis and his problems. Maybe it was because deep down, I still felt like I could do more-that I should do more. As much as I wanted to deny it, I felt a connection to Dennis Gordon. Unfortunately, no one seemed to understand that connection. Maybe not even me. I think the best way to describe it was as a burden. A burden, that it was time to let go of. Rationally, I knew that it was time to let Dennis face his own demons. And I hoped that he would. I truly hoped that he would choose to face his troubles, because I knew first hand what ignoring them could do. That's why, sitting there in the school courtyard on a Sunday with Nicky Davis, I came to the conclusion that it was time to face my own.

"All those times you talked to my mom, did she ever say anything about me?" I asked, and Nicky sat up and blinked at the abrupt change in subject.

"What do you mean?"

"I'm just curious." I shrugged. "You said that she wouldn't tell you where I was, but did she say anything? About me?"

Nicky studied me for a long moment, and I couldn't help feeling disappointed when he finally shook his head. Maybe I shouldn't have been surprised, though. It wasn't like my mom ever paid much attention to me while I was there. I guess it didn't make sense that she would pay any more attention to me when I was gone.

"What about my dad?" I found myself asking, before I could think to stop myself, and what was really disgusting... was the fact that I could actually hear myself sounding hopeful. "Maybe he mentioned me, or..."

Once again, Nicky looked at me strangely.

"Owen, I could hardly get anyone to talk about you. I'm just now figuring out what happened, but...I mean, it sounds like you have shit for brain parents and I'm trying to figure out why you'd care now. What exactly are you looking for?"

"Anything." I shrugged, with a wan smile, and then released the breath that I'd been holding. "I'm sorry. Uh... so what about you? You weren't the one who knocked up Anna, but I'm sure you must have been up to something interesting. Come on, tell me what Nicky Davis has been up to."

Nicky just stared at me for several long moments as I wondered if he even heard my question, before he finally said something. What he said, was not what I expected.

"Your mom seemed sad." he said quietly. "Whenever I asked about you, she just seemed sad. She'd act like there was nothing wrong, but I could see it in her eyes, you know? Remember what it was like after your brothers left, and you kept asking her where they were? It was sort of like that. Like, she was afraid to talk about it. She just seemed... sad. I can't say much about your dad that you don't already know. He always stuck to the accident story-except for when he was drunk, apparently." Nicky paused and shook his head. "I can't fucking believe my parents heard that shit and didn't tell me. I guess I always knew that your dad wouldn't like that you were gay but I never thought that he would be that bad. Maybe I always got the feeling that he was, disappointed-in me, for wanting to find you, but I always thought it was my imagination. . . I guess it wasn't."

I could do little more than silently nod, still concentrating on Nicky's words. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't disappointed. As much as I'd come to accept the fact that my father would never change, it still hurt to hear that he didn't even miss me. It was hard to understand how a man could lose three sons because of his own hatred and hardly bat an eye. I mean, were people really made that cold? Was my own father really that cold? I guess by now, it was a rhetorical question.

I wasn't sure what to think about my mother being sad. To be honest, I think I took a twisted sense of satisfaction in the thought. It made me feel guilty to think that I actually wanted to hurt my own mother, or wanted her to hurt, but I guess that was just me being bitter. Maybe one day, I would be able to think of my parents and honestly say that I wish them the best, but, as I sat there, fisting my hands to keep them from shaking it became apparent that today, just wasn't the day.

I glanced across the table at Nicky, probably looking grateful for what little information he he'd been able to give me. Maybe it wasn't exactly what I wanted to hear, but it was something, and I had to admit, that something, was better than wondering.

I had to hand it to Nicky. He always knew how to avoid an awkward moment when he had the chance. So, when he suddenly smiled and changed the subject before the silence dragged on to long, I was grateful for that too.

"This was my last year on the team."

"You're quitting football?" I asked.

"Yeah." he nodded. "I don't know, maybe next year I'll try basketball. Something new, you know? Or maybe I'll just fuck off all year. I figure, the last year of high school should be mine, right?"

"Won't a lot of people be disappointed?" I asked, knowing that Nicky had always been a popular crowd pleaser.

"Whatever." he smirked. "I'm not really close to any of the guys from the team anymore, anyway. After you left I sort of stopped talking to a lot of people. First there was Anna, and then... I don't know, a lot of people started getting on my nerves."

"What do you mean?" I asked, frowning. "I mean... it wasn't because of the rumors, was it? I know people must have been talking about me, Nicky. Did something happen..."

"You know it did." he shrugged, as if it didn't really matter. "I think people got sick of me too."

"Because of me?" I asked, my frown deepening.

"Don't flatter yourself, Owen." he smiled. "I sort of turned into a real ass after you left. But, I guess there were a few incidents."


"Remember how we always sat together?" he asked. "Every time we had the same class, it was you and me... and remember how Mrs. Fishkin used to try to break us up all the time?"

"Yeah," I smiled, "so we'd cause even more trouble when we were apart, so she started leaving us alone."

"Yeah." he laughed. "Well, about a week after you left some new kid ended up in her class, and she tried to assign him your seat..."

"Nicky..." I frowned again, not liking where this was going.

"Yeah," he nodded. "I sort of raised hell about it. Called her a few choice words and then when she still told the guy to sit there I sort of lost it and knocked him on his ass. The only reason I didn't get expelled was because my mom came up with some bullshit story that I was suffering from post traumatic stress or something like that, since my best friend was in an accident and then left without a word... anyway, since then people have kind of kept their distance, you know? I think they've all been worried I'll go psycho on them if they look at me wrong. Not a bad deal, I mean, it keeps the assholes out of my way."

Nicky was smiling, but I was far from it. Hearing that he got in trouble over me was both touching-and completely devastating. I understood exactly what he was doing, too. And it hurt like hell.

It wasn't Nicky's fault. He was simply trying to explain to me what it had been like when I disappeared on him. He was trying to tell me how I hurt him, in his own way. It was actually a surprise to me. Maybe I could accept the fact that not everything had been as it appeared, and that Nicky hadn't abandoned me the way that I'd convinced myself that he had. I could even accept the fact that I'd inadvertently abandoned him. But, what was hard for me to accept, was that my leaving actually made his life harder. But, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed possible. Entirely possible. Maybe Nicky wasn't flat out saying it, but he'd never denied being my friend, and the fact that he was saying he vocally, and perhaps in some cases physically, never accepted that I was really gone, probably didn't help him. After all, I was just the faggot... and he stood by me, even in my absence. Unfortunately, I wasn't so naive that I couldn't understand the reality of Nicky's situation... because he was accepting of me, not everyone would have been accepting of him. And I wasn't even there for him.

"I'm so sorry." those were the only words that seemed to find their way out of my mouth as I stared at him, the boy who at one time I believed I was in love with. I'd screwed him over and fucked him sideways, and whether or not it was all my fault, I still felt responsible. I was responsible, because I'd decided that he'd abandoned me and left it at that. Nicky deserved more than that.

But now I understood. I understood why he was angry. I guess if you aren't as dense as me, it would have been easy to figure out. He was angry, and he had every right to be. While I was sinking into my new life, with my new family, and my new friends... putting everything from my old life behind me, Nicky had been holding on. He came looking for me while I let him fade into the background with everything else. When he found me... he'd probably expected something different. He probably expected me to miss him. Not just miss him, but really miss him, the way that I could never allow myself to do. God, he probably felt like such an idiot. The problem with that was, that I was the idiot. I felt sick, thinking that I was a self centered prick who never deserved a friend like Nicky.

"It wasn't that bad." Nicky replied, and he was still smiling. He was smiling and I felt a knot in my throat full of mixed emotions that involved self loathing and confusion over my feelings for someone who I really had thought abandoned me. "Do you remember Will Cover?"

When Nicky paused, waiting for a response from me I'm pretty sure that I visibly shook as I tried to snap myself out of more disturbing thoughts.

"Um... yeah... Will... didn't you used to hassle him because he jammed up the soda machines with those fake quarters of his?"

"That's him." Nicky laughed. "Shit, I remember that. Little fucker. Anyway, I've sort of been hanging out with him."

"You have?"

"Yeah. He's not so bad, actually. He's also the only one who didn't complain when all I could do was talk about you. His parents have been through a divorce, too, so he gets it, you know? So, things aren't that bad."

"Nicky, I'm sorry I wasn't..."

"You know, Owen," he cut me off, a sure sign that he wasn't interested in the way that I was probably about to get emotional on him, "I think my life's been pretty boring compared to yours."

"Your parents..." I started, still wanting to connect with him, even if he wasn't ready to hear the apology that I needed to give him.

"My parents... they made their decision. There's nothing I can do about it."

"Yeah, but Nicky..."

"I'm going to have a little brother or sister." he blurted, just as I started frowning at the way he kept cutting me off. His announcement, however, made me stop and think for a minute.

"Your mom?" I asked, accepting that he'd successfully changed the subject once again.

"Nope, my dad's new girlfriend." Nicky sighed. "I haven't even met her yet. I don't think I will, either. My parents basically made it clear that I'd be staying with my mom, not that I mind. My dad said we'll have weekends... but we'll see, you know?"

"That's just so fucked up." I shook my head.

"It gets better." Nicky rolled his eyes. "My dad's gonna marry this bitch as soon as the divorce is final, so I guess I'll have a new mommy, right? And get this, she just turned twenty-four."

My response was an incredulous stare that sent Nicky laughing.

"It's not that bad, Owen. I mean, it is, but I'm dealing. Besides, it might be cool to have a little brother. I was always jealous of yours, you know. Even after they left, I could still tell what they meant to you... I used to pretend you and me were brothers. Remember that? Just after Tony and Chris left? I said..."

"You said that you'd be my brother... and you'd never leave." I said quietly, mentally shaking myself because I couldn't believe that I had forgotten about that.

"Yeah." he nodded. "Now... if only I could have gotten you to make the same promise."

I caught Nicky's eyes after that remark and this time he just looked away, and I'd finally had enough of his avoidance as I suddenly stood up and walked around the table. I sat down on the seat next to him, where he was forced to face me.

"Nicky, I can't go back and change it, but you have to know that..."

I never got a chance to finish my sentence. It seemed that Nicky was determined to keep from talking about this, and it was entirely frustrating because there were things that I felt needed to be said. But, rather than interrupting me he chose a different method this time, one that took me completely off guard.

When we were kids, we used to wrestle all the time. Whether it was throwing each other around the back yard, playing with his dad's old boxing gloves, or just plain arm wrestling. We'd always been pretty evenly matched, but not anymore. It seemed that Nicky had been working out more than usual, because when his arm suddenly flew around my neck it felt like a vice grip, and I winced as he pulled me in and my nose hit his shoulder.

My first thought was that I was under attack, but then I found my bearings and realized that he was hugging me. He just wasn't very good at it. This was no surprise. Nicky never was the affectionate type. Once upon a time, I would have loved to be in that position, so close to him. But now, I just wished that I could breathe.

"Don't do it." he suddenly whispered to me. "Don't you start apologizing.... because I remember you're pretty good at it and if you start now we're going to do the mushy thing and we just don't do that, okay? Don't do it. I don't want you to know how hard it is for me to be here right now so just... don't start, okay?"

It took me a minute to catch up, but once I did, I understood exactly what he meant. Being around Nicky again, and talking to him like I was, was an emotionally draining experience. I felt like my past was creeping up on me all at once and for all I knew I could break down at any given moment. I guess Nicky was having a similar experience.

I forced myself to nod against him, because being smothered didn't exactly leave verbal communication as an option for me. But, it was almost comical when Nicky released an exaggerated sigh of relief, but failed to release me.

"Okay." he said quietly. "I'm gonna let go now. We're going to pretend this never happened, and we're going to talk about something else... anything else. We just... need to do something that doesn't make us look like a couple of whiny girls. Okay?"

I nodded again, and as if giving me permission to breathe, he released me. I pulled back from Nicky in a hurry and we both stared at each other for a moment of awkward silence that not even Nicky could avoid. His eyes looked a little red, maybe even misted over, but I couldn't help smiling at him. The best part was, he smiled back. The moment only lasted as long as it took for both of us to clear our throats and sit up a little straighter.

"Hey," I abruptly broke the silence, just as he wanted me to, "Do you want to meet some people?"


When I called home from the miniature golf course that Nicky had spotted-the gold course I hadn't even known existed until he pointed it out while we were driving through town-and asked Aiden if he wanted to meet us there, he wasn't exactly open to the idea. It wasn't the golfing part he didn't like, it was the being around Nicky any more than necessary part that he didn't seem very fond of.

When I asked him to borrow Tony's car and bring Ryan along, he was even more skeptical. Aiden had a hard time seeing Nicky and Ryan getting along, but that was probably because Aiden didn't see Nicky getting along with anyone.

I wanted Ryan there for a reason. I'd been telling Nicky about what my life had been and I at least wanted him to meet one of the people who I'd mentioned. After all, he had asked me to show him around and let him know what I'd been up to. Besides, if Nicky could meet anyone other than Aiden that day, I wanted it to be Ryan. Whether Aiden saw it or not, Ryan's entire nature seemed to defuse tension, and I secretly hoped that having him around might help the situation between Nicky and Aiden. I was just beginning to enjoy having Nicky there, and I wanted Aiden to be a part of it, for more than one reason.

First, I wanted Aiden to know the guy who'd been my best friend for most of my life. Something about that was important to me. And with Nicky... well, I wanted Nicky to know my boyfriend. We hadn't exactly talked about his feelings about my relationship with Aiden... or what his feelings were when it came to me and a relationship with any guy for that matter. The more time I spent with Nicky, the more I realized that he wasn't exactly homophobic, but I still wondered what he really thought about it. I don't know, maybe it was ridiculous. Maybe it didn't matter what Nicky thought about it, but either way, I wanted him to know Aiden, because Aiden was important to me. Unfortunately, by the time I hung up with Aiden, I had no idea whether or not he was going to show up.

I got my answer when Nicky and I were on the second hole. It took us over forty minutes to get there because both of us sucked at the game, but at least we were having a good time. The mood between us had become noticeably lighter, and Nicky was telling me the more amusing stories of what had been happening in my old town. I had to admit that it was interesting hearing about people I used to know, but I think having him there prevented me from missing some things more than I might have.

Nicky was just about to put at another neon green golf ball when I noticed a familiar face that I seemed to be able to pick out of any crowd these days, and I found myself grinning as I dropped my club and moved across a short sidewalk to greet Aiden. He looked almost nervous approaching us, but as soon I was in reach of him my hands were on his waist and I was drawing him to me, sighing as he moved his arms around me and returned the gesture.

"Everything okay?" he whispered.

"Yeah." I nodded. "Thanks for coming."

"Hey hero," Nicky remarked upon seeing Aiden. "It looks like you forgot your balls. You can use mine if you want."

"No thanks. I'd rather play with Owen's." Aiden retorted with a smirk, and I found myself both blushing and shooting them both warning looks.

"Is Ryan with you?" I asked Aiden, and he nodded behind him, where Ryan was in fact approaching, looking like someone dragged him out of bed too early. But, he smiled and waved when he spotted me, and I smiled again when I saw Lacy trailing along behind him, looking every bit the princess even in her fuzzy pink jogger suit with her hair in long pigtails.

The whistle that came from Nicky stole my attention a moment later, but when I glanced back at him I wasn't at all surprised to find his focus on Lacy. I'd forgotten how well Nicky knew how to drool.

"I love her." Nicky said, matter of factly, and Aiden rolled his eyes. I was rolling my eyes too when Nicky suddenly plucked a few plastic flowers from the garden-theme course we were on and held them out, just as Lacy reached us with Ryan. "I love you." Nicky announced, and Lacy smiled, but it was Ryan who took the fake flowers and pretended to smell them.

"Okay, but you're not getting lucky on the first date. I might be a slut, but I'm not easy. You have to buy me dinner first." Ryan remarked, and Lacy smacked his arm.

"Shut up." she laughed.

Nicky seemed momentarily alarmed by the remark, but a moment later he was laughing too, as Ryan introduced both himself and Lacy. While they were preoccupied, Aiden grabbed my hand and pulled me aside.

"Everything's really okay?" he asked, and I nodded again.

"Yeah. You know, Nicky's not as bad as you think. We talked some... and I think I figured a few things out."

"Let me guess, you'll tell me about it later?" he sighed, but with a small smile that suggested that he wasn't upset about it.

"If you don't mind."

He placed a hand on my back and led me back over to our friends, and over the next few hours Lacy tried to teach us all how to actually play the game. I noticed Nicky seemed to play even worse when she was around, but with her around, I don't think he cared.

When I thought of my old life, and my new life, it was always a comparison. I never would have thought that I'd have Nicky around again, let alone with my new friends. In fact, I think the idea would have scared me before. Now... it felt almost natural.

Aiden got to see that Ryan and Nicky could get along, maybe too well, even. They kept walking off together, mostly to the hot dog stand to keep Lacy fed, but a few times I saw them talking, and once I even overheard Nicky telling Ryan a few of the more embarrassing moments of my childhood. But, I shut it down before he could tell Ryan anything that might be used against me later, and all and all, it was an ideal afternoon that I wasn't at all disappointed with.

Disappointment came on the way home. It was when I began to realize that Nicky would be leaving in only a few hours, and after spending the day with him, I wasn't looking forward to it. Actually, the thought of him leaving began to scare me, knowing that there was a possibility that this time when he disappeared, he could really be gone. It seemed like such a drastic change from that morning, when I didn't know what I wanted.

I wasn't the only one who seemed to feel it, either. Nicky became quiet after saying goodbye to Ryan and Lacy, and while Aiden took them both home in Tony's car, Nicky and I shared a silent ride back to the apartment. There was no longer an awkward silence there. It was comfortable, but completely depressing. I think we were both lost in our own thoughts, wondering what was supposed to happen next.

At home, Chris and Tony probably noticed the depressing atmosphere that surrounded us, but it didn't surprise me that they didn't say anything. Nicky and I probably seemed no different than we had when we left that morning. Only, we were different. Being brought back into each other's lives like this, had changed things. There was no longer any wondering about what happened. I had my answers, and I hoped that he had his. But, when Aiden came home, and dinner appeared on the table, and the minutes seemed to fly by with polite conversation led by my brothers, I began to wonder if any of this had really been good for me.

Nicky wasn't even gone yet, but I felt sick, thinking that I was about to lose him again. It was probably premature, but I just didn't know how to see the bigger picture. I convinced myself that when he was gone... he was really gone, probably because it had become the worst case scenario.

Somewhere along the line, I'd trained myself to accept the worst before I even considered the brighter possibilities. This was my best defense mechanism. Maybe it sounds pathetic, but I was so used to being let down that it seemed easier to see the bad before I saw the good. At least that way, I didn't run the risk of being disappointed all the time. That's why, after dinner when it was time to say goodbye, and my brothers, Aiden and I, all walked Nicky down to his car-I prepared myself to say goodbye, for good. I guess at least, I'd get to say goodbye this time.

Only, as Nicky turned to face me with a smile as he opened his car door, the fake smile plastered onto my face faded, and I found that saying goodbye for good, just wasn't an option for me.

"You can't leave now." I stated, and Nicky's smile faded and a look of confusion replaced it.

"Owen," Tony said with a hand on my shoulder. "His parents want him back there tonight. He has to go."

"Hey, don't worry about it..." Nicky started with a smile, but I shook my head.

"Not yet." I frowned, taking a step forward. "Look, you can't leave yet. I know you didn't want to talk about it but there's something I need to say and if you leave before I say it..."

"Owen, you don't have to..." Nicky said seriously.

"Yes I do. If you leave now and I never see you again, I need you to know I'm sorry."

"Shit." Nicky cursed under his breath, obviously displeased with the apology that he'd asked me not to give him.

"I'm sorry." I repeated. "I'm sorry that I came here, and let myself forget... that you were my friend. You were right. I should have at least called. I let myself think that you didn't want anything to do with me and I left it alone, and I should have given you more credit than that."

"Just like I should have found way to talk to you when you were in the hospital," Nicky suddenly shrugged, and then smiled at the perplexed look on my face.


"Owen," he sighed, "You're not the only one who feels guilty."

"I'm not?" I asked stupidly. This wasn't exactly a turn that I'd been expecting.

"No, dumbass." Nicky laughed, and then became serious as he glanced over my shoulder at Aiden and my brothers. They just stared back at him as if they expected him to continue, and when he didn't, Chris took the hint first and smiled as he moved past me.

"It was good to see you again, Nicky."

"Yeah," Nicky replied as they exchanged a friendly handshake, and then he did the same with Tony when my other brother approached him.

"You hang in there with your parents." Tony told him. "And you have our number now, so use it if you need anything."

"Thanks." Nicky nodded, and then turned to Aiden on his own. "It wasn't very nice meeting you." he remarked, but with a smile as he rubbed at his black eye.

"Likewise." Aiden replied, and that was about as much as they bothered to say to each other.

I'll admit, I wouldn't have minded one bit if Aiden and Nicky could get along. But, they hadn't exactly had much time to warm up to each other. So, instead of dwelling on it, I counted my blessings and decided that I could still have the best of both worlds, provided that both of them stayed in my world. At this point, Nicky leaving was still something that I was nervous about. The uncertainty of what would happen next was unpleasant enough, but we hadn't exactly said goodbye yet, and at least that left room to be hopeful.

"I'll see you inside," Aiden said to me as Tony and Chris headed back for our building, and when I felt his hand on my back I turned to him and briefly closed my eyes as he kissed my face. It was when my eyes opened only seconds later that I was startled as I received one of the answers that I'd been looking for.

There was Nicky Davis, witnessing an affectionate moment between Aiden and I, one I hadn't thought twice about. And he was smiling. It wasn't a fake smile, it wasn't any way forced... it was peaceful. I think, if I could only take one thing away from the day, that smile would be it.

Nicky waited until Aiden was at least half way to the stairs before he took a small step forward and let out a breath.

"This is kinda hard, isn't it?"

"Yeah." I agreed sadly.

He gave me a small smile and shook his head.

"I was so pissed at you this morning. I sort of expected you to be miserable wherever you were, you know? I figured that if I just showed up it would make your day... and instead I find you smiling. I wasn't expecting that. When you started talking about all these new people in your life... all I could think about was how you didn't need me anymore."

"Nicky, it wasn't like that..."

"I know." he nodded. "I've had all day to think about it, and.... I don't know. I thought you were such an ass when you said that you figured I was just finished with you, because I never showed up at the hospital."

"I was an ass." I frowned, still wanting to apologize for doubting him.

"No, Owen. After what happened to you, with your dad, and after what Anna did... I think I can understand where you were coming from. I mean, if I was in your place and my best friend never showed up I think I would have thought the same thing."

"But it's not your fault that you didn't show, Nicky. My dad..."

"Yeah, I know. But I keep thinking... maybe I could have tried harder to see you. I know I should have tried harder."

"But, you didn't know what really happened." I shook my head. For some reason, the idea of Nicky feeling guilty really bothered me. It was sort of ironic, considering that at the beginning of the day, all I wanted was for him to feel guilty-at least a little bit.

"I know I didn't. Just like you didn't know that I was there. See Owen? There's plenty for both of us to feel guilty about. But what for? It's not like being sorry is going to change what happened. It can't change any of it. We can't get back the time, and I think the best thing to do now, is accept that... time to move on, you know?"

I think I stood frozen for a full minute. I'd been getting a lot of that lately. Move on. I could understand why moving on would be the best thing to do in most situations. But not this one.

The way Nicky was talking seemed so final. And I couldn't accept it. He was about to get in his car and... that was it? We were supposed to just move on? He was going back to his life and I was supposed to move on with mine? I didn't think I could do it, not after everything I'd learned today, not knowing that I'd lost Nicky Davis because of a stupid misunderstanding. It just wasn't right. I couldn't do it. I wasn't going to do it. I wasn't going to move on and he couldn't make me.

"That's it?" I suddenly demanded, and my outburst actually made him jump. "We're just supposed to forget it ever happened? You're just going to leave now? Just like that?"

"Well, that's sort of the plan." he shrugged, and I gaped at him, wondering if this was how he felt that morning when he hit me. `Cause at the moment, strangling him sure seemed like a reasonable idea.

"How can you say that?" I demanded. "How can you do that? I thought... we talked, Nicky. I thought we were working things out and now it's just supposed to be over? That's it? You're leaving and... you're just leaving? Why did you even come here if you were just going to leave?"

By this time, I was practically shouting at him, something Nicky didn't seem to understand because he was giving me a strange look, his eyebrow slightly raised. I got the feeling that he wanted to roll his eyes at me, but instead he just shook his head.

"Owen, did you hear what your brothers said this morning? I have to go back... there's school tomorrow, and things aren't exactly perfect with my parents right now. If I stick around here they'll just end up pissed at me and I'll never be able to get back next weekend. Look, I can call, okay? If you really need to do the talking thing, fine. But, I still say we leave the water under the bridge and move on."


"I assume we can do the talking over the phone," he said, sounding irritated. "We could always wait until next weekend but to be honest with you, by then I just want to do something fun, you know? Get my mind off of shit."

"Next weekend?" I asked, still not understanding. "You're coming back?"

"Well, yeah." he replied with a small smile. "I don't really want to be around when my dad moves out, so your brothers said it would be okay if I come here for the weekend... you didn't hear that." that last part was a statement, not a question, and as he realized why I was so upset he actually laughed at me. I didn't see what was amusing at all, but the relief of knowing that this wasn't going to be the last time I saw Nicky kept me from caring.

"I didn't know that." I confirmed, releasing a small breath. "So you're coming back."

"You couldn't get rid of me if you wanted to." Nicky grinned, suddenly pulling me into a hug, although this one was the hard slap on the back manly type of hug, and I could live with that if he could.

"I still don't want you to leave." I admitted, briefly hugging him tighter. "I'm going to miss you."

"It's just a week," he laughed, pushing off of me, but I got the feeling that he felt the same way. This visit was just way too short. "I'll call and let you know what's going on." he smiled as he finally opened his car door to get in, and I took a step back.

It wasn't so hard, watching Nicky wave as he backed out to pull away... to leave, knowing that this wasn't the last I'd see of him. It actually gave me something too look forward to. Although, I did hope that next weekend would start of better than this one.

"Nicky." I called, and a foot on his brake had him stopped and looking at me through the rolled down window. "Thanks... you know, for finding me."

Another smile and a wave from Nicky, and then he was gone. I watched him drive away, but I'm not sure how much longer I stood there, thinking about everything that had happened today. It was like everything was catching up to me again, and I was reminded of how tired I was. Actually, tired was an understatement. I was exhausted, and just about ready to fall into bed. But, I also felt a sense of peace that I probably wouldn't trade for anything. It lasted on the walk back upstairs and to my room, where I wasn't surprised to find Aiden already half asleep in our bed, and after shaking out of a few unnecessary clothing items, I was crawling under the blankets with him and opening my arms as he turned into my chest.

"He's coming back." I said quietly.

"I know." Aiden replied, his eyes still closed, and without the enthusiasm that I was feeling. "He's not sleeping in our room."

I brushed a strand of hair out of his face and smiled as he opened his eyes.

"I can live with that." I agreed, and Aiden shifted closer as he tightened his arm around my back and kissed me. I closed my eyes, finding myself completely relaxed and having no objection to the way that he turned me onto my back and moved over me, and despite my exhaustion I found myself lifting my hips as he hooked his fingers in my boxers and pulled them down, and moving my hands down the skin of his back and over his butt, once I realized that there weren't any clothes in the way. When Aiden started kissing my neck, slowly awakening senses that were ready to sleep, I tiredly groaned and opened my eyes. "I'm so tired." I complained. "Is it okay if I just lay here?"

"No." he laughed as he fondled my flaccid cock into a suitable erection and began to roll a condom over it. "You can't."



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