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 13

"Jude Landon?" my mom repeated, just as I reached the top of the stairs. She was looking between Bree and Jude, obviously confused.

But, there was no way she was more confused than I was. Either Bree didn't hear mom tell me that she didn't want Jude around, or my sister was better at getting herself into trouble than I was. And why did she bring him here? What was she thinking? And, was he actually Bree's date?

I stared at Jude, in my house... with my mom. Yeah, logical thinking was beyond me at the moment. On one hand, I felt a little hope, maybe even excitement, over Jude being there. On the other, I was terrified over how my mom would react to this. And, I don't think it was just my imagination that Jude looked a little nervous when he stepped forward and extended his hand to her.

"Hi Mrs. Moore."

When my mom hesitated, I held my breath. The few seconds that it took her to actually take his hand seemed like an eternity to me as I wondered if she was about to tell him to get the hell out and never come back, not that I'd known my mom to ever do anything that rude in front of company, even company she didn't care for.

"You're Jude Landon?" she asked again. She sounded somewhat skeptical, probably because she'd expected Jude Landon to be a drug dealing freak who'd tried to corrupt her son, not the gorgeous blonde with the shy smile that he seemed to be wearing now.

"Mom!" Bree groaned.

"Sorry," my mom replied with her polite, yet cautious smile. "It's just that, I thought you were a friend of Quinn's, Jude. I didn't expect you to be coming home with my daughter."

"Quinn and I do have a lot of the same friends," Bree replied, sounding a little irritated.

It was Jude who decided in that moment, to look in my direction, and when he caught my eyes he paused, his smile fading into something that looked like uncertainty, or concern. For my part, I just stared right back, wondering what he was doing there. But, when my mom and my sister both followed Jude's eyes, up to where I was standing I suddenly felt put on the spot, like I was supposed to say something, especially when my mother began to glance curiously back and forth between Jude and myself.

"I have to go to the bathroom." I announced, right before I retreated down the hall.

I admit it. That wasn't my best display of manners, but I suddenly felt like hiding. It was something about having Jude and my mother in the same room together that I found utterly upsetting. I would have liked to think that I'd grown past the need to grow suspicious of everything that Jude did, but just his being there... with my mom... put me on edge. Or having him there with my sister, for that matter. Bree had gotten another ride after school today, but, was it with Jude? That had been hours ago. I was terrified to know what they'd talked about if they'd been together for that long, especially since Jude had told me before that he thought I should come out to my sister. What if he came out to her for me? What if he hinted at it? I couldn't help thinking along these lines, even if deep down I couldn't believe that he'd do that to me.

This whole situation was just frustrating. I had no idea what was going on, and I couldn't exactly find out with my mother around. All I knew was that I'd have to go back downstairs and face this before my mom decided I'd been in the bathroom too long and remove that door too.

I hid out for about five more minutes, trying to get my head together before I braved moving back downstairs, where I found my mother and my sister in the living room, talking to Jude. The first thing I noticed was that Bree was sitting next to Jude. Close to Jude. Her arm was hooked through his... she was leaning against his shoulder...she was practically on top of him!

So, maybe I was overreacting, but I couldn't help the way my eyes narrowed and I found myself scowling at the pair.

Once again, Jude noticed me first. When his eyes met mine, I didn't let my glare fade away, hoping that the look on my face was telling him to get the hell away from my sister. I definitely didn't like the idea of Jude and Bree together, for various reasons. But, Jude's only response was to smile at me, looking out from under his lashes. Damn tease.

"Hi Quinn," he said, and my mom and sister also looked in my direction. I almost felt like an intruder, being the only one standing.

"Hi," I replied casually.

"Jude was just telling me about your sleep over last week." my mother commented, and my shoulders stiffened at that.

"I was just saying that I needed to thank you for helping me with that History project," Jude added.

I raised an eyebrow at him, and then automatically looked at my sister. Something was definitely going on here and I already knew that I didn't like it. There were more lies involved. More complications. But, at least I wasn't the only one who seemed uncomfortable with it. I'd just learned something about Jude; he was a terrible liar. It was obvious that he was uncomfortable with it, which is probably why he was straightforward most of the time.

"Jude..." mom said, "I'm glad that Quinn was able to help you out, but he didn't have permission to be there last week."

"He didn't know that," I said quickly, and was a little surprised at how fast I'd wanted to go to Jude's defense.

Unfortunately, I don't think my effort did much good because my mother only spared me a glance before her attention was back on Jude.

"Weren't your parents curious about one of your friends staying over on a school night?" she asked suspiciously.

"I don't really see much of my parents," Jude replied cautiously, and I suddenly began to worry. I didn't want to hear my mom's reaction to finding out that Jude lived on his own in that little apartment.

"What do you mean?" Mom frowned, "do they both work?"

"Yeah," Jude shrugged. "My mom works a lot of late nights and my dad owns a small.. restaurant. It keeps them pretty busy."

That seemed like a good enough excuse on his part, and I was a little curious about what my mom had to say now. She could hardly disapprove of his parents being at work all the time. It would be hypocritical. The look on Bree's face suggested that she was thinking the same thing.

"What restaurant?" My mother wanted to know. I inwardly groaned, and wondered how long she planned to interrogate Jude for.

"Just a little place down on Union." Jude replied. There were about ten restaurants on Union Street.

"Isn't dinner ready?" Bree suddenly asked before my mom could ask anything else, and I decided that my sister had the right idea.

"I'll set the table," I offered, and then went to do just that, leaving everyone else to follow.


I frowned as I watched my sister place her hand on Jude's arm while she flirtatiously giggled at something he said. Jude had been nothing but charming since we sat down, complimenting my mother on her excellent cooking and her beautiful home. I noticed that his tactics seemed to be working on my mother, though. All of the flattering seemed to keep her questions at bay.

Jude even complimented Bree too, and that led up to him and Bree explaining how he'd been over to dinner once before. My mom seemed surprised by this, but not displeased. Her caution and suspicion towards Jude seemed to have passed. She even told him how much she liked young men with appetites as healthy as his... and then mentioned that my appetite had been lacking lately and she'd like to see that change. But, all in all, by the time we were finished eating my mother was gushing over Jude just about as much as Bree was.

Meanwhile, I was contemplating the idea of throwing myself off a cliff. Don't get me wrong, the fact that my mom was taking a liking to Jude was like a huge relief for me. At least this way she wouldn't think I'd been blowing off my friends to go hang out with delinquents. That, and maybe talking to Jude wouldn't be so much of a problem now... if I still wanted to talk to him after tonight. His interaction with my sister was frustrating me to no end. I think it was worse this time because I was no longer hiding behind my own refusal to admit that I did have feelings for him.

Maybe I was still confused about what I actually felt for the blonde, and I even felt guilty for having those feelings most of the time. But I was very aware that seeing my sister flirt with him.... and seeing that Jude wasn't stopping her, was definitely upsetting. I guess it was fair to say that I was jealous as hell.

But, there was something else that bothered me about this situation. It was my mom. She was completely comfortable with Bree's flirtatiousness with Jude. I guess it hurt, knowing that my mom wouldn't be as comfortable, or sportive, if it was me sitting there next to him, instead of Bree. If it was me, hanging on his every word.... and that was another problem. Bree definitely had more than a friendly interest in Jude. But even so, Bree wasn't the one who was upsetting me.

I feeling some hostility towards Jude for allowing her to act like they were on a date...or because they were actually on a date. I hadn't figured out which it was, yet. Either way, I didn't like it. It didn't help that when Jude caught me staring at him and my sister, all he'd do was smile one of those annoying, small smiles at me.

"Do you have any brothers or sister's Jude?" My mom asked, in a way that suggested she was making friendly conversation.

"I have an older brother," Jude replied, and then took a long sip of his drink, as if to cut off his answer from there.

"Is he in college?" mom asked, even while Jude continued to drink.

"Are you guys dating?" I abruptly asked, before Jude could even answer my mother. I couldn't help it. The question had been running through my mind, and I wanted an explanation for why Jude had shown up tonight with my sister.

"Quinn," Bree frowned, obviously embarrassed about something, "it's not like I've never brought friends home."

"So you're just friends, then?" I asked Bree, but I was looking at Jude, who now regarded me with a subtle look of amusement. "I mean, neither of you mentioned that you were spending... time together."

"Yes, we're friends, Quinn." Bree said shortly.

"And how long have you been friends?" I continued.

"Leave them alone, Quinn," my mother scolded me, although she said it with a smile on her face. Obviously she didn't think I was behaving any differently than I did when Bree had any guy over. But, what she didn't know, was that Jude wasn't just any guy. "Bree behaves when you have girls over."

"That's only because he's never had anyone over besides Marissa." Bree admitted. "But who knows," my sister smirked at me, "maybe I'll be nice to the next girl, too."

"You never know, Bree," mom said, looking fondly at me, "the next girl could be Marissa. You two really did make a handsome couple, Quinn."

If there was one thing that could make me leave the room, it was this discussion. I knew my mom had always liked Marissa, but I had no interest in hearing her thoughts on the matter. To be honest, I was somewhat afraid of this topic. The way my mom had been acting lately hadn't exactly been very reasonable as far as I was concerned, and I wasn't sure if I'd put it past her to actually demand I get back together with Marissa. She'd already tried to tell me who to be friends with, what would stop her from telling me who to date?

"I think it's my night to do the dishes." I said as I suddenly stood up with my plate, and started to gather some of the others on the table.

"You can do it later, Quinn." my mom said with a slight frown.

"I'll help." Jude said, causing my eyes to snap up at him. He just smiled at me, and then at my mom. "It's the least I can do for such a great meal, Mrs. Moore."

"You don't have to, Jude." Bree frowned.

"I really don't mind," I heard him say as I headed to the kitchen. I was suddenly feeling nervous. I knew it was ridiculous. I'd been waiting for an opportunity to get Jude alone, just so I could ask him what was going on, but now the idea of being alone with him felt... intimidating.

I turned on the sink, and wasted no time on starting the dishes, but before I even had the first plate in the dishwasher I heard that familiar voice, just next to my ear, and I could feel Jude standing so close behind me that the hair on the back of my neck stood on end as I momentarily paused in my work.

"You're cute when you're jealous." he remarked.

That was all it took for any nervousness to wash away as I turned my head and glared at him.

"I'm not jealous." I hissed.

"But you do agree that you're cute?" he teased.

"Jude..." I warned as he moved up next to me and rolled up his sleeves before he lifted a dish and held it under the water before handing it to me.

"Oh, and when you're angry," he remarked. "You're definitely cute when you're angry."

"Will you stop it?" I frowned at him, and he gave me a sympathetic smile.

"Sorry, it's what happens when I get nervous, remember?"

"What are you doing with my sister?" I demanded, not believing for a second that Jude was nervous. I was the one turning into a wreck.

"What do you mean?" he asked innocently.

"Damn it, Jude!" I snapped, but in a controlled whisper. "I'm serious... what are you doing with her?"

"Quinn, if you're asking if we're on a date, then you should already know the answer to that." he said irritably.

"Are you leading her on?" I frowned.

"No," Jude replied, becoming more serious, "I told her I'm not looking for anything right now. She is persistent, though," he added with a thoughtful frown. "You know, she's a nice girl. If she keeps trying with me, I'll just tell her why I'm not interested."

I gave him an incredulous look after the casual way that he made that suggestion.

"You can't tell her!"

"Yes I can." he shrugged. "You're the closet case, Quinn, not me. And, I don't exactly keep it a secret, anyway. Besides, if I tell her about me then maybe you can get an idea of how she'll react to you if you ever do tell her... I can do it tonight, if you want."

"Jude, no."

"Oh, right." he rolled his eyes, "you don't want anyone to know you're gay and you don't want anyone to know you're hanging out with someone who is."

"We're not hanging out." I retorted. "What the hell are you doing, just showing up here in the first place?"

Jude paused with the dish he was holding and turned to face me, the same look of concern and uncertainty that he had shown when I first saw him tonight appearing over his features, and I realized that the last thing I said had come out completely wrong. Maybe I had nothing to do with Jude being there, in my home, but the reality was, I really was happy to see him.

"I was at the school, to talk to Trina, but I couldn't find her," Jude explained, "I ran into Bree, and I sort of asked about you..."

"You asked about me?" I asked, some of the frustration fading from my voice.

"Yeah, I tried to call you over the weekend, but your phone's been turned off. I thought maybe you didn't want to talk or something, but then your sister told me you've sort of been in trouble. We ended up hanging out for a while, she knows you and me have been spending some time together... so, she pretty much spent the whole time complaining about you, and then she invited me over for dinner .... is it okay that I'm here, Quinn?"


"You seem kind of upset, that I'm here." Jude explained as he moved his attention back to the dishes. "I really didn't come here to cause trouble."

"I'm not." I sighed after a moment. "I mean... it's been sort of rough, lately. I didn't understand why you were with my sister. But, I'm not... unhappy to see you."

"Really?" he smiled. "I wasn't sure. Bree told me a few things, about what's been going on here. She mentioned that your mom said something about how she didn't want you around me..."

"Bree told you that?" I guess my sister had heard it after all.

"Yeah, your sister said that if I came over to dinner your mom probably wouldn't make a big deal, and I could see you. I wasn't sure that you'd want me here, though. I mean, I know you keep saying that you want to put things right with your family. I wasn't sure if showing up tonight would... make it harder for you."

I let out a breath and looked over my shoulder, before I responded to Jude in a hushed tone.

"The fact that you're here... is kinda nerve-racking," I admitted.

Jude handed me another dish and shifted closer until his elbow was gently resting against my side. The contact was subtle, but evident enough to make me want to lean into him.

"You're sister thought it would be a good idea," he replied, with a hint of blame in his voice. "She thought you'd want to see me."

"She should mind her own business."

"She's worried about you, Quinn." Jude said softly. "She's not the only one, either."

"Why can't everyone stop worrying about me and leave me the hell alone?" I demanded. I didn't mean to snap at Jude, but the truth was, I really was tired of people worrying about me... a good example was my mother, who'd taken the door off my room because she was worried about me. I think it was safe to say that I'd be sore about the door thing for a while.

"Do you want me to leave?" Jude asked.

It took me a full minute to answer that question as I thought about how much I hated the idea of Jude being around my mother, and how much I hated Bree flirting with him. But then I thought about the long weekend I'd just spent confined in my room alone, until my privacy was taken away.... I'd been thinking about Jude from the beginning, wanting to talk to him, wanting to spend time with him, and wanting to hear his thoughts about everything I'd been through in the last few days. I turned my head to see that he was still watching me, waiting for an answer.

"Please don't leave yet."

"Okay," Jude nodded, with a glance over the shoulder of his own. "Is there somewhere where it would be easier to talk?"

"Will you guys hurry up already?" Bree called as she suddenly stuck her head into the kitchen with a smile. "We're playing Scrabble."

"Nope," I answered Jude's question with a small shrug. He just smiled at me.


"No names, Bree." I complained as my sister earned herself another twenty points on the scrabble board. Usually I didn't lose at this game, but Bree was blowing me away, and Jude wasn't far behind her.

"Names are words, Quinn." she stated.

"She has a point," Jude smirked at me, and I just glared at them both.

That was about the time my mom walked into the living room, and it was a little relieving to see her smiling at us, but when she spoke, I was completely put on edge.

"Quinn, why don't you get a coat on, we're going for a little ride."

All three of us looked up at my mother, confused, but I looked up at her with concern. It was already eight thirty, and the idea of going anywhere with her was scary, considering the last two times I went with her it was for a drug test and then to see Mr. Johns.

"Where are you going?" Bree asked.

"Quinn and I need to talk about a few things," my mom explained, and then looked at me, "come on, get your coat. It'll just be a short trip, but you might want to say goodbye to Jude now. Don't you still have some of his clothes over here?"

I looked at Jude, feeling torn. I didn't want to go with my mom, I wanted to stay in close proximity of him and make sure that Bree didn't flirt with him anymore.

"Can't we do whatever we're doing tomorrow?" I frowned at my mom, making it no secret that I wasn't pleased with this sudden announcement.

"Quinn," she replied with a hint of a warning in her voice, "let's not argue right now. We're leaving in ten minutes. Why don't you run up and get Jude's clothes for him."

"I studied my mother for a moment, taking note of the seriousness of her posture. I didn't care for the idea of leaving the house with her so late to go on another errand, and my stomach knotted up at the idea.

"I actually do need those," Jude said, standing up, and my attention turned to him as I stood too, realizing that he planned to go with me. I just nodded, and there was no objection from my mom, or Bree, who was cleaning up the board game, as I silently led Jude up the stairs.

"Where do you think she's taking you?" he asked quietly as soon as we were out of earshot.

"Who knows," I said bitterly, "at least it's too late for it to be another drug test."

Jude raised an eyebrow at that but didn't comment on anything until we reached my bedroom and he paused, when he saw the curtain in place of my door.

"This is new." he smirked.

"Yeah," I frowned as I went in, leaving him to follow. "It's been kind of... rough, around here."

"Do you wanna talk about it?"

I turned and looked back at Jude as I lifted his clothes, where they were clean and folded on top of my dresser, and I couldn't help smiling at him.

"I don't have time to talk about it." I pointed out. "You're probably sick of hearing about my problems, anyways. I would be."

"Maybe," Jude shrugged and then crossed the room until he was facing me. A strand of blonde hair fell over his eyes and I resisted the urge to brush it away as he reached for the clothes, but instead of taking them I felt his hands come over mine, and I looked down to see his fingers moving lightly on my knuckles. "Quinn," he said pointedly, bringing my attention back to what I could see of his eyes. "If I come see you tomorrow, will you meet me?"


"Can we get together tomorrow... alone."

Alone? Tomorrow? The first thing that popped into my head was how much I'd love to see him again, and spend time alone with him, like on Thursday when I'd spent all of that time in his apartment. It had been... peaceful, then.

"I can't... I'm sort of grounded for the next fifty years, but if you're free then..."

"At the school," Jude laughed. "You have the same lunch as Trina, right? Can you meet me then?"

"I really can't." I shook my head. "I have an appointment at eleven thirty..."

"I'll be by the tracks at twelve." he interrupted. "Just meet me there if you can make it. If not... I'll try to call. I think I made a good impression on your mom. Maybe she'll let me talk to you... if you'd like me to call you."

"I would," I slightly nodded, averting my eyes from his, "and you did...but you know my mom's going to want to go to the restaurant your family owns, right?" I added, remembering his earlier lie.

"Well... she can, but I doubt she'd like it very much."

"You're parents really do own a restaurant?" I asked, surprised.

"It's an establishment," Jude grimaced, "and they do have food, but it's not really a family place... maybe I'll show you sometime. So, tomorrow?" he slid his hands down mine until the clothes were in his hands, and he took the smallest of steps away from me.

"I'll try," I agreed after a moment, and he smiled.

It was really strange standing there with him. A few hours ago I'd been outraged that he'd shown up with my sister, a few hours before that I had no idea when the next time I'd see him would be, if ever, and now I was anticipating seeing him again tomorrow, and hoping that I could do it. I was also clasping my hands together, warding off the tingling sensation where his fingers had been. Sometimes it felt like every time Jude touched me something like that would happen, and I wondered; if it felt so good, especially inside, how could it be unnatural?

"Quinn! Hurry up!" my mom called from downstairs, and the sound of her voice made me jump a little, snapping me out of my thoughts, and when I realized that I'd been staring at Jude and blushed, he released a small chuckle before heading out the open space where my door used to be.

"I'll see ya, Quinn," he called over his shoulder with a smile, and then he headed back downstairs without me.


I glanced over at my mother as we passed through another green light. She hadn't said a word since we left the house, and if she was trying to make me nervous, it was working. I had no idea where we could be going so late, and the fact that I couldn't even imagine the bad possibilities was not a good sign.

"Can you please tell me where we're going?" I asked as politely as possible, pulling my coat more tightly against my body. I couldn't stand the suspense anymore.

My mom looked away from the road for a moment to glance at me, looking somewhat tired, but when she saw the look on my face she actually laughed out loud.

"Quinn, please don't look at me like I'm taking you to your own funeral." she shook her head.

"Then where are we going?" I demanded. "It's kind of late, mom."

"I know it's a little late, but I thought that maybe we could spend some time together."

"Like the quality time we spent together while I was peeing in a cup and you were waiting outside the bathroom door?" I remarked before I could stop myself, and then cringed.

"Quinn, you can be angry about that all you want," my mom replied firmly, "but I won't apologize for making you take that test. Obviously something's been a little off with you... I'm just glad that it wasn't drugs."

"I told you I wasn't using them." I reminded her.

"I needed to be sure, Quinn. Now please... I didn't bring you out here to argue with you."

"Then why did you bring me out here?" I demanded. "Where are we going?"

"I told you, I thought we could spend some time together... over ice cream."

"You're taking me out for ice cream?" I asked skeptically.

She raised a perfectly sharp eyebrow as me as she pulled into the parking lot of the same place I made a point to bring Bree too at least once a month, and then silently got out, where she waited for me to do the same. I looked around first, still feeling suspicious. I'd been paranoid a lot lately, about a lot of different things. This time I think it was mostly nerves speaking. It felt like it had been a while since my mom wasn't screaming at me, or telling me what to do, and I think I was still looking for traps in everything she did, even when she was acting perfectly normal. I eventually got out of the car, though, and when we went inside the shop my mom turned to me before we moved up to the counter.

"You still like one scoop of raspberry almond and two scoops of chocolate, right?"

"Yeah," I shrugged, "as long as..."

"As long as the raspberry's between the chocolate and if the cone's dripping you want a cup." my mom rolled her eyes at me. "You know, Quinn, just because I'm not around very much doesn't mean that I don't know my kids." I sighed as she turned to the counter and ordered, and once we had our cones she directed me to a booth near the window overlooking the parking lot. "I do know my kids," my mom nodded, saying it more to herself than to me as she tasted her cone and looked out the window. "I didn't know you, though," she suddenly said, directing her eyes at me. "Lately Quinn... I just don't know you."

I stared at my mother, feeling a little hurt by her words, as true as they might be. It was also upsetting to see her look... sad, defeated even, like she didn't know what to do. I don't think I'd ever seen my mom look like that before, and I didn't much care for it now. I also didn't like what she was saying. It made me feel like she was disappointed in me, and I really hated that.


"Quinn," she said calmly, "it's true. Lately I just... don't know you. What I'd like to know, though, is.... have I ever known you?"

"Mom, yes," I insisted, even if it wasn't completely true. There had always been something about me that she didn't know, but then again, that something was still something that I was trying to accept about myself.

"Then did this change happen recently? Quinn, I know our little family isn't exactly like the ones your friends have, but I always thought that it's worked for us."

"And it has..." I said, but she kept talking.

"I can't be home as much as I'd like to, you know that. When your dad died, I had these two, beautiful little babies to take care of, and I promised myself then that I'd give you and Bree both the best possible life that I could. But even though I haven't been around as much as I'd like to be I'd always thought that we were close. You have no idea how... scary it was for me, to feel like I didn't know you. These things that you're doing... it's scary, Quinn. But... I think I might have been trying a little too hard to get you to talk to me."


"You're seventeen," she replied with a small smile. "Obviously there are several things that you don't want to discuss with your mother. Mr. Myers reminded me of that today... he's a nice man. Quinn, you have always been responsible, I won't argue that. I think with you... sometimes I forget that you're just a boy. I was reminded of that this last week, and I think since you were finally acting your age, I might have overreacted just a little bit. I'll never say that it was okay for you to hit Brad, that was completely inexcusable... and whatever your reasons were for it need to be worked out, that's why I still expect you to call those counselors tomorrow. But... I was wrong about Mr. Johns. I should have listened to you when you said you weren't comfortable with him... actually, it was pretty stupid on my part to force you into that office..."

"Mom..." I started to protest. Even if I agreed with her, something about hearing my mom call herself stupid left a bad taste in my mouth.

"It's true, Quinn," she replied with a bitter laugh, "I expected you to talk to that man about your problems without taking into consideration that you couldn't talk to him... so, I'm sorry for that."

Sorry? I guess you could say that an apology hadn't been what I was expecting. But, it was something that I appreciated. I still wished that she'd lift my house arrest, apologize for the drug test, going through my room, taking my door, and a lot of other things... but this was a start, and I had no intention of dragging it out.

"I don't have to go back there again, right?" I shrugged.

"No, you don't," she smiled. "But, I would like to know what it was about Mr. Johns that you didn't like. I really saw no problem with him."

I licked my cone, both because it had started to drip, and I was stalling, before I let out a breath and looked across the table at my mom.

"I didn't think he was that bad, either, at first." I admitted. "But it was a lot of things... mostly I think, it just felt like he didn't like me... like he was judging me, and it made me feel worse, not better."

"Now, I couldn't imagine anyone not liking you," mom remarked in her motherly tone, and I had to smile at her.

"You're biased."

"Maybe just a little... so, can you tell me what you think of Mr. Myers?"

"I like him." I admitted, and then explained how I had an appointment with him tomorrow, and how he was going to help me so I didn't end up falling behind on school work.

"That sounds like a good idea. Let me know how it goes. I'll probably want to call and talk to him a little more, myself."

"Sure," I shrugged unenthusiastically, and then decided to switch topics. I didn't really feel like talking about me and the professional help that my mother thought I needed, especially after how good her apology had felt. "What about Jude?"

"What about him?"

"You told me to stay away from him," I reminded her, feeling annoyed. I'd been thinking about Jude ever since we left the house, and the more I thought about the possibility of seeing him again tomorrow, the more I looked forward to it. We hadn't really been able to talk about anything tonight... not that I cared whether or not we got into another discussion about my life... I just wanted to see him. I wanted to be around someone who I felt like I could be myself with. With Jude, the knots in my stomach that I got with everyone else as I wondered if they could see that I was different, maybe even smell it, or sense it, disappeared. With Jude, the way my stomach knotted was completely different.

"Well, maybe I overreacted with that too," my mom slowly admitted. "He is a nice young man... very charming. Maybe a little too charming. I'm not sure how I feel about Bree dating him, but, he is nice. However, if he's going to be around more, then I do want to meet his parents. And you're still grounded."

I sighed, neither of those last two statements surprised me. I figured that I was still grounded, and as far as Jude's parents went... well, that was one thing I could say about my mother. Maybe she wasn't home a lot, but I had hardly any friends who's parents that she hadn't met. Neither did Bree, for that matter. Now that I thought about it, I wondered if that was a way for my mom to keep an eye on us-to know who our friends were. I'll admit, I was concerned about her wanting to meet Jude's parents, but at the same time I decided that I'd figure it out later if it became a problem. Besides, I didn't really even know how often Jude would be around, or if he'd be around at all.

I looked up at my mom and gave her a small smile, rather than arguing the fact that I was still grounded.

"Thanks for the ice cream."

The rest of our visit was... pleasant. Probably, because the events of the last few weeks weren't really even mentioned. We just caught up. I told my mom how I was doing in school... or, at least how I'd been doing in school before I started skipping it, and she talked about a few entertaining patients that she got at the hospital. It was nice, just talking to her like that again, and by the time we went home, I was feeling good about the short amount of time that we'd spent together.

It was when we got home that I remembered that there was another conversation that I'd need to have, if I expected to get any sleep tonight, and that's why I found myself knocking on my sister's door as soon as I was up the stairs. Jude was already gone, and it looked like Bree was getting ready for bed when she answered in her pajamas. She took one look at the serious expression on my face and frowned.

"You can't be mad about Jude." she said, matter of factly, but then opened her door wider so I could come in.

"I'm not exactly... mad." I said carefully as I entered and took a seat on the fluffy chair she kept in the corner, and she sat across from me on the bed. "I told you before my opinion of Jude has... changed since the last time he was over here."

"I know," she rolled her eyes. "Half the time I call your cell phone he's the one who's answering it. I know you were upset when mom said that she didn't want him around, so I figured... I'd make it better. And I did, by the way. I figured that you'd want to see him."

"I did." I admitted. "He's my... we're friends, okay? And, I'll admit that it was cool of you to get him over here like that... mom seems to like him now."

"Then what's the problem?" Bree demanded. "And don't tell me there's not a problem. I know that look, Quinn."

"You were all over him!" I blurted. "Just because he's my friend doesn't mean I think you should be interested in him, Bree."

"Oh shut up." she rolled her eyes. "You complain about every guy I'm interested in. I mean, you like Jude, why can't a like him too?"

I wanted to tell my sister that our interests in Jude Landon were completely different, but unfortunately, that wasn't the case.

"I just don't think it's a good idea." I reasoned. "And... he's not interested anyways."

"You're telling me," she complained, "he definitely doesn't know how to take a hint."

"Bree." I frowned.

"Quinn, I like him, okay? You haven't exactly given me one good reason why I shouldn't, so just drop it, alright? God, I thought you'd be happy, he is you're friend. Obviously you approve of something about him."

"That's right, my friend. I like Brad too, but that doesn't mean I want him dating my sister!"

"Eww! Quinn, that's gross, Brad's practically my brother!"

"Not the point." I frowned. "Look, can't you just forget about Jude? Whatever happened to Chad? Date him. Just... you can't be interested in Jude. Please, Bree, can you just forget about him?"

My sister studied me for a minute with a thoughtful expression on her face just before she went to pointedly hold open her door.



I opened my locker and began to trade out books, ready to head to my second class on Wednesday morning. It was actually turning out to be a pretty good day. Brad drove Bree and I to school this morning, and with Bree's suggestion, agreed to come over after school, since he was somewhat annoyed when I mentioned I couldn't meet him for lunch today.... actually, I almost decided to forget about meeting Jude just so I could tell Brad that I'd try to meet him after my appointment in the counselors office. I definitely needed to do something as far as Brad was concerned, especially if I wanted to keep his friendship.

But, having him over after school would work just fine, and it wouldn't hurt that both my mom and my sister would be there. Maybe having them around would keep things light, even with my mom, because she loved Brad almost as much as she loved Marissa. It could also keep whatever serious conversations that Brad wanted to have with me, stalled for the time being. Although, logically I knew that he had questions for me that I couldn't put off forever. Sooner or later I was going to have to come up with answers for him.

I was just trading my dull pencils for the ones I'd sharpened this morning when a flash of purple caught my eye and I looked over my shoulder to see Taylor passing by. He was looking straight ahead, as if he didn't see me, and carrying an overloaded backpack that looked painful on the shoulders. Normally, when Taylor ignored me, I took it as a blessing and left it at that. But now, things were different, especially after yesterday. I actually found myself reaching out and touching his shoulder.


He stopped and turned to me, looking mildly surprised.

"Quinn?" he replied, glancing down at my hand on his shoulder and I immediately pulled it away. "Is there something I can do for you?"

"No," I said quickly, "I mean.... you already did. I wanted to say thanks, for talking to Myers. That was... helpful of you."

"Oh. Well, glad I could help... I'm gonna go now. You're girlfriend's giving me the evil eye, and these books are heavy."

I gave him an inquisitive look before I looked over my shoulder and realized that Taylor really did have reason to complain. I hadn't noticed that Marissa was in the hall, although she wasn't very far from us, and she was looking suspiciously at Taylor. I'm not exactly proud to admit that having Marissa looking at us put me on edge to the point that I was suddenly uncomfortable talking to Taylor. I guess you could say, that I was afraid to be seen with him, and I experienced that moment long enough for him to notice.

Taylor shot me a disgusted look as he rolled his eyes, but it was when he started to walk away that I realized that it was pointless to care about what Marissa or anyone thought about me talking to Taylor... Trina Ashpock's friend. Because, they were just going to think whatever they wanted to, anyways."

"Taylor," I said quickly, this time reaching out to give his overloaded backpack a tug until he turned to face me. "Um... what are you doing with all those books anyways? Why don't you use your locker?"

I was just trying to make conversation, trying to ignore the stares in our direction. Taylor gave me a long, measuring look, probably wondering what I was doing. It took what seemed like minutes before his shoulders relaxed and he let his heavy backpack drop to the ground beside his feet.

"My locker isn't exactly located in the best hall." he shrugged. "I can never make it there and then be on time to my classes."

I just nodded silently at that, wondering when Taylor started to care whether or not he made it to class on time.

"Do you want to use mine?" I asked, and then looked just as surprised as Taylor did at my own offer.

"What are you doing Quinn?" Taylor asked in a lowered voice, although he did seem amused with the situation.

"Look," I sighed, "I just feel like I owe you, for what you did yesterday," and that was true... "and even before that."

"You don't owe me anything." he shrugged.

"The offer's still there," I replied, holding open my locker. "Besides, I don't even use the bottom shelf, it's yours if you want it... just, make sure no one goes in it but you, I'll give you the combo."

"You're serious?"

"I'm serious, Taylor. Now, are you moving in or not?"

"Alright Moore," he smirked, "but don't expect me to alphabetize my books."

I forced a smile at him, deciding that I'd categorize his books later as he knelt down to unload some of them into my locker. As he did this, I retrieved a piece of paper so I could write down the combination for him. Admittedly, this was probably the worst idea I'd ever had. After all, it was Taylor I was offering to share my space with. But, I did credit Mr. Johns's abrupt departure from my life to him, and I really did feel like I owed him something.... even if I did regret it later... or sooner.

"Quinn, what are you doing?" I jumped at the tap on my shoulder and spun around to face Brad.

"Hey," I said, trying to act casual. Brad was standing there, looking down at Taylor and regarding the top of the purple head curiously while I was filled with a sense of dread. Maybe I knew that it shouldn't matter if I was seen with Taylor... Trina's friend, Taylor... gay Taylor... even if he wasn't out at school....but, that didn't mean that I exactly felt it, especially with Brad, who I was still pretty much on thin ice with. When Taylor only spared him a short glance, Brad looked back at me with an inquisitive expression. "This is Taylor," I explained carefully.

"Hi," Taylor said with a short upwards glance. I wondered if he was uncomfortable with Brad towering over him. It was sort of difficult to tell. It looked like he just didn't care.

"Hi," Brad said, and then looked at me, "what is Taylor doing?"

"I'm moving in," Taylor answered for himself. "Quinn asked me to."

"You're sharing your locker?" Brad replied, giving Taylor a disbelieving look. "With him?"

"Brad..." I frowned, hoping that I wasn't about to get myself into more trouble.

"Are you out of your damn mind?" Brad demanded, and I jumped at his sudden outburst.

"I'm just...." I started to protest, but when Brad knelt down until he was at Taylor's level I paused and looked down.

"Seriously," Brad said "Are you crazy? I guess you'd have to be, to agree to share any type of space with Quinn. You do realize that he's a wicked control freak with anile tendencies, right?"

"Hey!" I frowned, surprised for more than one reason.

"That's okay," Taylor replied, looking up at me with a lecherous grin, "I love anal.... and Quinn's locker is at a better location than mine."

"Hey, whatever man." Brad replied. "Just don't complain to me when he starts trying to iron your homework."

I wasn't sure which bothered me more, the fact that Taylor had just all but propositioned me in front of Brad, or the fact that my best friend was making fun of me with Taylor.

"I'll remember that," Taylor smirked as he finished putting his books away, and they both moved to their feet.

"I gotta get to class." Brad laughed. "See you after school, Quinn."

I just silently waved him off, wondering what the hell had just happened as I looked back at Taylor, who now had his head tilted curiously as he watched Brad disappear down the hall.

"Well, he has more personality than I ever gave him credit for. Not a bad ass, either. Brad Clair." Taylor drawled out, licking his top lip. "Hey Quinn, any chance he's..."

"No," I said shortly, right before I slapped the locker combination in Taylor's hand and walked away, before I could change my mind about the whole locker buddy idea, and kicked him out.

The rest of the morning left me a lot of time to think. Mostly, I thought about Brad and Taylor. Something about that whole situation seemed off to me. Sure, Brad had always been rather friendly. He could go up to anyone and start a conversation. But, he hadn't even asked any questions about Taylor, which was strange considering that Brad knew I didn't like to share. When Marissa and I were dating I'd complain to him all the time about how I hated her messing up my locker. But, he hadn't seemed the least concerned that I was sharing it with a guy who had blue hair, and who was often seen tagging along with Trina Ashpock. I guess it didn't make sense to me, considering Brad had asked plenty of questions when he saw me with Trina. Maybe he just didn't want to talk about it in front of Taylor. That sounded reasonable. Maybe Brad was just waiting to ask me about it later... maybe he was waiting to demand an explanation later. I guess I would just have to wait and see, and meanwhile, worry about it.

The rest of my morning was pretty much uneventful. I passed Marissa in hall a few times and once she even said hi to me in her usually cheerful manner, despite the fact that she saw me with Taylor. But, she was with her friends at the time, so I assumed she did it so they would think everything was still okay with us. After all, if Brad was speaking to me, then she would figure that she should be too. And the truth was, I still did miss Marissa's friendship, and I hoped that when I got everything else sorted out I could go back to at least being her friend again.

At eleven thirty, before I walked into Mr. Myers office, I was already thinking about Jude. It was strange, the rush of excitement I felt, just thinking about seeing him, even if it was only a small one. I'd also decided that it was important to talk to him again, especially before Bree did. Last night I'd pretty much figured out that my sister's attraction to him could be a problem, and as far as I was concerned, it would be a bigger problem if Jude ended up telling her that he was gay, just because she refused to stop showing her obvious interest in him.

I brought Mr. Myers my schedule, just as he asked, and to my surprise, that's all we talked about. We made a list of the assignments that I still needed to catch up on-and there were a lot of assignments-and then Mr. Myers helped me come up with a schedule to get them all done in a timely manner. He did ask if I'd called any of the counselors yet, and after I told him that I was supposed to call some of the numbers tonight, he asked me if I could come back on Friday, and then he let me go. It was a pleasant surprise, and after thanking him again, I was headed out to the train tracks to meet Jude ten minutes early.

As I crossed the street, I realized just how nervous I was about seeing Jude. Sure, he'd been at my house just last night, but so had my sister, hanging all over him. It occurred to me that I'd never seen Jude before without some circumstance resulting in the two of us being pushed together. This time it was planned. He'd asked me to meet him. I hadn't exactly given him a definite yes, but considering I was on my way to meet him, it was pretty obvious that I wanted to see him.

But why?

To be honest, while I felt the need to tell him how the last few days had gone for me and listen to what he thought of all of it, I really didn't want to get into all of it. I had less than an hour before I'd have to get back to class, and I didn't really want to waste my time with Jude, complaining to him about my life. Besides, I felt... better. Brad was at least speaking to me, Marissa was pretending that nothing was wrong. Bree brought Jude to me. Maybe her own personal motives were involved, but she'd brought him. And my mom.... I was still at odds with my mother, but we'd shared a nice visit, and at least now I felt like I could walk into the same room as her without having to put myself on edge. Of course, there was also the fact that Mr. Johns was as good as a bad memory. I didn't have to talk to him. If I was forced to go see him on a daily basis, the man, in all likelihood, would make me feel worse about the fact that I was gay than I already felt. It wasn't exactly something that I wanted to face, considering all I really wanted was to truly accept myself, a task which seemed easier said than done.

But, as I crossed the street to meet Jude, I not only felt nervous, I felt uncomfortable with it, too. I even knew why. It wasn't something that I was willing to fully admit, but I wasn't just walking across the street to meet Jude because I needed answers and I thought he had them, and I wasn't meeting him because another disaster had struck and I was eager to tell him it was all his fault, and he started this when I first saw him by the tracks-at the very place his car happened to be parked now. No, I wasn't going to meet Jude for any of those reasons. I was going to meet Jude because I wanted to have the same look on my face that my sister had last night when she thought he was there just for her. I wanted him to say, or do something that would put so many of those damned, obnoxious butterflies in my stomach that I wouldn't be able to think straight. Maybe that's what I wanted: not to think. I just wanted to meet him, and not think about what was going to happen next.

Of course, I did wonder what was happening when I reached Jude's car and he wasn't in it. A quick look around told me that he wasn't anywhere in sight, either. I felt a little ridiculous, realizing this, standing next to an empty car on an empty street. I wondered if Jude had gone into the school. Really, it seemed like the only place that he could go. It was still a little early. Maybe he'd gone inside to see Trina or Taylor. I wasn't really sure. I was just beginning to wonder if I should wait for him or go back inside when I heard a sharp whistle coming from the brush behind the train tracks. I would have ignored it, deciding that it was just a really loud bird, but the next whistle was followed by my name.

"Back here, Quinn."

"Jude?" I called, walking towards the mix of bushes, half dead trees, and monster weeds. "What are you doing?" I pushed my way through, trying to avoid being scratched. The bushes had always been there, they didn't always smell like smoke, something I could clearly smell as I grew nearer, but they had always been there. Of course, I'd never bothered to go to the other side. I knew that all that was there was a large field, you could see it from the freeway. But, as I reached the other side, I not only found the field, but the source of the smoke as well.

Jude had a cigarette in one hand. That didn't surprise me, though. The surprise was the marshmallow in his other hand, that he was toasting over a small fire. It was quite the interesting sight, the way he sat in front of the fire like that, still dressed in his work jumper.

"What are you doing?" I immediately demanded. "You've got to be breaking more than one law right now!"

"Will you just sit down?" he laughed, glancing over his shoulder at me. "I used to do this all the time with Taylor....come on."

I stood and continued to take in the sight, wondering how much trouble this could land us in if someone else caught wind of the smoke, wondering if the people from the freeway could see us, and wondering how Jude's hair and face stayed so perfectly flawless and clean while his jumper was covered in smudges from his job. When he gestured for me to sit again, I let out a long breath and inwardly shook my head.

"Are you ever normal?" I remarked as I finally took a seat near him on the ground and reached for the half smoked cigarette between his fingers. He handed it over without protest and I tossed it into the fire.

"I'm always normal," Jude responded, and then held up the utensil with the marshmallow on it, offering it to me. When I didn't even try to take it from him he simply stared me down with an expectant look until I did, and then set about toasting another one.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"I'm glad you decided to come," he responded, instead of answering.

"I came, because we have to talk about my sister." I stated, and then mentally cursed myself. Why did I have to make everything business, or a crisis with him?

"What about your sister?"

"She likes you, Jude."

"And you don't like that because... you're jealous?" he suddenly turned his head and grinned at me.

"No." I insisted, which was a complete lie. "I just don't want Bree to get hurt. It's like you're leading her on." That part was true.

"I'm not leading anyone on, Quinn. Like I said before, if you think it's a problem with Bree, I'll just tell her I'm gay. That should get the point across."

"You can't do that!"

"Quinn, I told you, I don't exactly keep it a secret. The only reason why I haven't spelled it out for her yet is because you seem terrified by the idea."

"I'm not terrified of anything!"

"Yes you are. But look, even if I don't tell her she's probably going to figure it out eventually. And if she asks, I won't lie about it."

"Jude... Let's.... just, let's not talk about this."I didn't want to think about what Bree's reaction would be if she did find out about Jude. I didn't want to think about how I was afraid that she'd connect it to me. Thoughts like that would have my mind spinning for the rest of the day. It just wasn't something I needed.

"You brought it up," he pointed out, and I frowned at him. "So... what do you want to talk about?"

"I don't know," I replied after a moment. I knew that Jude was probably expecting me to jump into a million complaints about my life right now, but I definitely didn't want to talk about that. "How about you?"

"Me?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Yeah, like... what do you at work all day? And, how did you end up working there, anyways? You're boss seems kinda... I don't really like him."

Jude laughed and pushed his hair out of his face as he gave me a studying look, and feeling like I should be doing something under the pressure of that gaze, I decided to try the browned marshmallow. I suppose, under normal circumstances, I'd never let anything that looked so gross near my mouth. I wasn't exactly fond of marshmallows in general, so I'd never actually tried one like this. The closest I'd ever had were s'mores pop-tarts. So, I was surprised when I actually liked it, so much in fact that Jude was temporarily forgotten as I continued to eat the substance.

"Not everyone likes Murphy," Jude admitted, pulling my attention back towards him. "But, he's always been there for me, that's why I work for him... I wouldn't even have a place to stay if it wasn't for him. His ex-wife owns the building I live in. They get along just fine as long as he pays his child support on time, so he got her to cut me a deal. The paperwork isn't exactly all legal, but she's alright with it as long as he promises to take responsibility for me until I turn eighteen."

I put down the utensil, which I had pretty much cleaned, and looked at Jude, not really sure which question to ask first. He was staring at me with a strange look on his face, his eyes focused on my mouth, and it was distracting enough, so I decided to start with the easy question.

"Murphy has kids?" somehow, I just couldn't imagine that.

"Uh-huh," Jude replied softly. "Four of them." he slowly lifted his hand, but I was almost afraid to look at it as he raised it to my face, and I hardly prevented myself from jumping when I felt his thumb brushing over my chin. It took me a few moments, but I realized that I had marshmallow stuck to my face. Instinctively I wanted to wipe it away, but that would mean pushing his hand away too, and I was too frozen to do that. "He sees them on the weekends, they're pretty cool."

"Oh," I swallowed. "And... what's illegal about you living there?"

"I'm underage," Jude replied, definitely staring at my mouth now, and as his thumb brushed over my bottom lip I couldn't help the way they parted as I stared at him, wondering what he was going to do next. Feeling his fingers softly exploring only a small part of my face had me holding my breath. "But... my parents never reported me as a runaway. They probably just wanted to keep the tax break... as long as I'm careful, I don't really have to worry."

"Worry?" I repeated, feeling his fingers move with my mouth. I was only half paying attention to him now, I was hearing him, but not really digesting the words. It occurred to me that he was doing exactly what I'd wanted him to do, making it so I couldn't think straight. Only now, it scared the hell out of me. I already knew what happened when Jude made it so I couldn't think. "What happens if you're not careful?" I asked, trying to keep up with the conversation. But, I realized that I wasn't the only one who wasn't thinking straight, because instead of answering me, Jude let his hand slide to the side of my face and I closed my eyes as he suddenly leaned forward and placed his mouth over mine. It was surprisingly gentle, considering how quickly he'd moved.

And I successfully stopped thinking. I just let my lips part, and felt him as he pulled back only momentarily before he was kissing me again, lightly, almost hesitantly. But, there was nothing hesitant about the way I felt his tongue brush against my chin a moment later, as if he were licking away the marshmallow that his fingers had already taken care of. My breath hitched at the shocking contact, but I didn't pull away. Next, I felt his tongue against my lips as he kissed me again, just barely slipping into my mouth, and I felt his fingers moving down my neck, the effect making me want to lean into him. But before I could even think about doing that, he pulled back slightly and I opened my eyes, a little startled at the way that I was letting this happen... and completely surprised at the way he was looking at me. This time, it didn't look like Jude had any intention of apologizing later.

"It's okay to kiss me back, Quinn." he said softly.

So, I cupped the back of his head, and I did.

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