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

The Ordinary Us

Chapter twenty four: It comes down to this 02/02

A/N: Thank you to Jim the editor for volunteering his time to sort through all of my mistakes to make this chapter more readable (better) it is appreciated.

"Oh God..."

It was over. It was all over. All I could think, was that--it was over. I don't think I realized just how terrified I was of my mom discovering the truth until I came face to face with it, and technically, it wasn't even my truth that was about to come out.

There was only one reason in the world why my mother would walk into a strip club. Jude's parents owned it. There was no doubt in my mind that they wouldn't keep quiet about Jude. My mom was about to find out his whole truth and there was nothing I could do about it. All I could do was wait for her to come out and tell me that she didn't want me around him anymore. After all, why would she want those people around her children?

"Hello... Quinn!"

I blinked and looked at Brad, who'd taken up waving his hand in front of my face in an attempt to get my attention.

"What?" I snapped, irritated that I had to look away from the dark doors my mother had disappeared through in order to pay attention to him.

"Dude, why is your mom going to a strip club?"

"She's not going to it, she's just going in... I don't fucking know," I responded, glaring at Brad in a way that obviously suggested that he should stop looking so amused. Immediately.

"You didn't know she was coming here?"


"Then why did you follow her?"

"I thought she was going... shit, I don't know, Brad, I just did."

I abruptly removed my keys from the ignition and got out of my car. I wasn't sure what I was doing at this point. I definitely wasn't going into that club, but somehow just standing there to wait didn't strike me as appealing.

"Quinn, what..."

"Give me your phone," I ordered, turning to Brad, who'd followed me to the front of my vehicle, and conveniently, too, considering I'd just thought of calling Jude. I at least had to warn him, but my phone was still in my bedroom.

"What? Why?"

"Brad, just give me the phone! Please."

"I don't have it," he replied, uselessly checking his pockets. "I think I left it at home."

"Shit," I cursed, looking around frantically for the nearest payphone. I remembered seeing one at the restaurant where Jude and I had spent a disastrous lunch with my mother and sister only a few days before, and immediately headed for it.

"Will you just tell me what's going on already?" Brad demanded, jogging to catch up to me.


"Jude's mom works there," I said, as if that explained everything.

"Wait.... Jude's mom is a stripper?"

"What? No... I mean, I don't think...no," I decided, although the question made me wonder. "Damn it, Brad!"

"What? Why are you yelling at me?"

"Will you just... shut up."

"Hey, excuse me for being curious," he retorted. "It's not like I know what's going on here, Quinn. I'm just along for the ride, remember?"

"You were uninvited," I reminded him, and Brad frowned at me.

"Will you at least tell me where we're going now?"

"A phone," I said, as if it were obvious. "I have to call Jude."

"Because your mom just went into the strip club that his mom works in?"

"Yes," I said, feeling frustrated with all of the questions. I couldn't deal with answering them and my nervous breakdown at the same time. "And I don't think she works there, his parents own the place."


I shot Brad another look. He was no longer looking amused, but interested, and I doubt his interest was in my problem.

"Don't you get it?" I hissed, stopping so I could properly face him. "My mom's going to know everything! Jude lives on his own for a reason, you know. His mom's going to tell her he's gay and she's going to freak out!"

"What the fuck are you talking about?"

I blinked, pausing. I wanted to scream. Why was he bothering me now? Didn't he know....



He didn't know. Brad didn't know anything. I hadn't told him anything. He had no idea what was going on because we hadn't been speaking, and suddenly, all of his annoying questions made sense.

"I have to get to a phone," I said, attempting to calm myself. "My mom's about to find out that Jude's gay, and when she does she's probably going to want to know why I spend so much time with him."

Brad's expression darkened slightly and he looked like he was going to say something else, but I didn't have time to offer him anymore explanations and I abruptly turned and continued towards the phone until the receiver was in my hand and I was desperately searching my pockets for quarters. When Brad suddenly dropped a few coins into the machine I looked at him again, to see that now he was regarding me more seriously. I took the time to flash him one grateful look and then quickly dialed Jude's number, hoping that he was still home.


I was definitely relieved when he picked up after one ring.

"Jude? You can't come over tonight," I said, somewhat rushed. There was a pause before he responded.


"I followed my mom," I hastily explained. "She's at your parent's club."


"I think she's talking to your mom, Jude. I thought you said she'd talk to you before she did anything!"

"That's what she said," Jude responded, sounding irritated, but obnoxiously calm. Why was he so calm?

"Jude, if your mom tells her..."

"Quinn, don't say anything to your mom, okay?"

"What?" I demanded. What would I say to my mom? I was more concerned with that Jude's mom would say to her.

"Don't tell her anything you're not ready for," Jude stated. "I'll see you later."

"Jude, you can't..."

He hung up before I could even finish saying it and I must have paled, because Brad suddenly looked at me with concern.


"He hung up on me," I said disbelievingly.


"I don't know," I frowned, looking back towards the club. "Shit."

"What are you going to do?"

"I have to wait for my mom," I stated. "If she finds out anything...shit."

"Yeah, shit. We've established that," Brad replied, sounding as irritated as I did, and that only added to my stress. "Now why don't you explain to me what's going on and maybe I can actually help."

Help? How the hell was he going to help me? I didn't see that happening, but even so, as I headed back towards the club with Brad following at my side I found myself giving him a more detailed explanation than I already had, blurting out everything from Jude living alone to my mom finding out, along with all of my fears when it came to why I didn't want her knowing I was gay.

"You really think your mom's going to be that bad?" Brad asked as we reached my car again and looked towards the club.

"You're actually asking me that?" I responded. "Look how you're reacting, Brad! My mom is not going to be cool with this."

Brad frowned at my reference to him but wisely chose not to comment on it.

"Look, I think you need to calm down. Your mom might not be happy but give her some credit, Quinn. She's not like Jude's parents. I've known her for as long as I've known you and she's not going to hate you."

"It's not me I'm worried about, Brad!" I retorted, although that wasn't entirely true. "If she figures out Jude..."

"You don't know what she's going to do," he cut me off. "You won't know until you see her."

And as if on cue, my mother suddenly emerged from the club's dark doors and we both fell silent as we watched her move towards her vehicle. I nervously tried to read her, but from that distance it was difficult. All I knew was that her shoulders seemed even more stiff than they'd been when she entered the building and instead of a determined, pointed walk she seemed to be stomping through the parking lot with the body language of someone who was about to start a brawl.

"Okay, so maybe you don't want to know," Brad mumbled, obviously having the same reaction to my mom's posture as I was having. It was actually kind of scary. I literally jumped when her head suddenly snapped up and she looked directly at us.

"Quinn Moore!" she shouted, and a few people looked in our direction as she rapidly changed direction and came towards us. "You give your keys to Brad right now! He's driving your car home."

Feeling trapped, and unaware of what was going on or what she knew, I held my keys defensively.

"No," I stated, and her eyes narrowed on me dangerously as she reached me. At that moment, my mom looked taller than I was. Maybe I knew it was physically impossible, but it intimidated the hell out of me, nonetheless.

"Give Brad your keys now! If you think I'm going to let you out on the streets while you drive like a maniac you have another think coming! And I am way too busy to make any trips to the emergency room."

It took me a moment, but when I realized that she was talking about the way I'd been driving to get there I looked at her, surprised.

"You saw us?" I asked.

"Of course I saw you! How could I not see you? Driving like a madman! Honestly, Quinn," my mom said, looking at me disapprovingly; but more than that, she didn't seem composed at all. It was unsettling to see her like that, red in the face and shaking with what could only be rage. "Give the keys to Brad," she said shortly, and when I looked at Brad and he was holding out his hand, obviously agreeing with her I began to feel somewhat outnumbered and dropped the keys in his hand. The only consolation I was offered was my mom's nod of approval. "Where's your sister?" she wanted to know.

"I dropped her off at Kara's," I replied, and then better judgement eluding me, I suddenly found myself furious with my mother. I wasn't there so she could ask me questions and order me around. "What are you doing here?" I demanded.

"I should be asking you the same thing," she snapped. "Is there a reason why you chose to follow me?"

"I asked you first," I retorted, and Brad actually took a step back, not wanting to get involved in this argument. It was a wise choice. "You actually came here to talk to Jude's mom when you promised him you wouldn't do anything without talking to him first? Real nice, Mom! You had no right..."

"Quinn, I will not stand here and argue with you about this. Brad, take Quinn's car, will you? Quinn, you're coming with me. We're going home."

"I'm not going anywhere!" I insisted. "Not until you tell me what you were doing in that club!"

I wasn't sure if my panic or anger was coming out more. It seemed mandatory that I find out what my mother had learned from Jude's parents. I kept waiting for her to drop the big bomb on me, the one where she told me that she didn't want me around him anymore. I was waiting for that... or something negative. I was terrified of it, but at the same time, I was pissed off to no end about it, too.

My mom might have been a lot of things, but the last time I checked, a liar wasn't one of them. If she told Jude that she'd wait to talk to him before she did anything-and I was pretty sure that going to his parent's club was supposed to be included in anything- then she was definitely a liar now. Jude never would have been okay with this. Add to that the fact that only a few hours ago I'd informed her that I wasn't okay with her meddling in Jude's life, and I thought that I had plenty of reason to be angry. I was definitely regretting that I even thought about apologizing to her.

"Oh, right," my mom said coldly. "I forgot you stopped listening to me. Fine, stay here then, but when you decide to leave make sure Brad's the one driving."

"What?" I demanded. That was not the reaction I was expecting.

"Do whatever you want, Quinn," my mom said, turning towards her car. "I'm just too tired for this."


"Quinn," Brad hissed at me, but I ignored him.

"Mom!" I shouted, and she turned to look at me as she reached her door and opened it.

"Quinn, when you choose to come home I'll see you there," my mother said in a controlled yet shaky voice. "I've just spent the whole day trying to help a young man out of his current situation, a situation, that has nothing to do with you. I've been on the phone with six rude and unhelpful people, and pretty much got nowhere. All I wanted to do was go home and spend a nice quiet evening with my family, and instead, my children attacked me and walked out." She paused and momentarily looked away, drawing in a ragged breath. She was definitely laying on the guilt, and Brad was looking at me as if I'd conjured Satan. "If you must know... I did try to call Jude first, after I finally found a school that would suit his... needs. The catch is that he has to be enrolled by the end of the week or wait until the end of summer. The only way to enroll him would be with his parents' cooperation, which is why I'm here. Satisfied? Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm sure your sister is going to come home as soon as she gets hungry enough and I need to get dinner on the table."

"No, I'm not satisfied!" I replied, trying to digest all of this information, looking for clues that my mom knew something I wasn't ready for her to know. "Why couldn't you have waited until tomorrow? After talking to Jude? And what did his parents say?"

"Jesus, Quinn, will you just knock it off?" Brad was glaring at me. He obviously thought I was out of line. Hell, I probably was. But, I needed information and I couldn't bring myself to just shut up.

"I was going to wait!" my mother informed me, raising her voice. "I looked up that awful club and called it to see if I could make an appointment but it seems his parents are leaving on vacation tomorrow. And his... that... that stupid idiot of a woman, she said the most terrible things..."

That was it. All of that shaking my mom was doing came to an end and she rolled her eyes backwards in order to contain her tears, but a few fell regardless and she quickly lifted her hand to wipe them away with a finger, minding her mascara.

I hated tears. Especially when they were coming from my mom. It never mattered why she cried, it was always hard for me to see and the majority of the time I'd experience guilt over it, whether or not it was my fault she was crying. This time... it was my fault. At least, I knew I had something to do with it. I'm sure Jude's mom had something to contribute too, and that's why my anger was directed more at her as I forgot about being mad at my own mother and instantly stepped forward to hug her, that apology I'd planned to give her before escaping me as I gathered her tense form in my arms until her chin was against my shoulder.

"I'm sorry. Mom, I didn't mean to..."

"Oh, hush, Quinn. I know you didn't." She sniffed into my jacket. "I'm sorry, too. I know that something has to be wrong if I have you and your sister tired of me."

I think it was the sad way she said that...and the tears... that only added to the guilt factor.

"It's not that we're tired of you, Mom..."

God, I wished that she'd stop crying.

"Yes you are," she insisted. "And maybe you should be..." She sniffled again as I looked back at Brad, who seemed a few paces further away from us than he'd been only a few minutes ago, and looking entirely uncomfortable. "I'm sorry, Quinn. We really shouldn't be talking about this here. I'm just so angry. I can't believe the things that woman said about her own son."

I couldn't help the way that my whole body went rigid at the mention of Jude's mom. It definitely ended the moment of affection I was feeling towards my own mother as I realized why we were here. But I still didn't release her from the hug...or maybe it was she who wouldn't release me.

"What did she say?" I asked casually, and Brad flashed me a look that said my casual tone was probably overly casual--and way too obvious. But, at least my mom didn't seem to notice. She did step away from me, though, wiping at her eyes as she attempted to compose herself.

"Nothing that needs to be repeated," she replied, and for a moment my nature to analyze everything went into overdrive.

Why didn't it need to be repeated? I wanted it to be repeated. Hell, I needed it to be repeated. Sure, I was fairly certain that I knew what kind of things had been said, but I needed to know my mom's full reaction to it and I couldn't get that if she wouldn't repeat it. Or at least tell me... something.

Maybe she knew the truth and she was trying to shield me from it. Maybe she didn't want me to know that Jude was one of those people. Maybe she wanted to confront him alone and tell him to stay away from her family. It was possible.

The other possibility, the one that I wanted to believe and hoped was true considering she still seemed sympathetic towards Jude, was that she knew the truth, but it didn't make as much of a difference to her as I assumed it would. Maybe she simply didn't want to mention it to me because she preferred to keep Jude's private matters private. Of course, all of that would have been a miracle as far as I was concerned, and I had trouble believing it because I hadn't seen many of those lately.

"But, Mom..."

"Quinn, please. I meant it when I said I was going home. I'm tired. But, I still expect to talk to you and your sister about what happened this afternoon. Just not here."

"But I'm not trying to talk about that!" I argued. "I just want to know what Jude's mom said about him." The look my mom flashed me was an annoyed one. She'd already given me her response to that question, and as far as she was concerned, the matter was closed. We obviously disagreed. "At least tell me what happened," I tried, in an effort to keep her talking. "Are they going to help with the school thing?"

My mom narrowed her eyes and set her jaw, actually looking pretty scary for a second there. I decided to be grateful that the look didn't seem to be directed at me.

"Oh, they'll do that and then some," she insisted, before pausing for a moment to look between Brad and me. "I'll see you when you decide to come home, Quinn. Brad, as always, you're invited to dinner. Tell your mom I said hello, will you, sweetheart?"


My head hurt. I guess it was a side effect from stress. All of the blood had rushed to my head at some point and left me with a throbbing pain in my temple, making it hard to even think straight. And there was no relief. And no relief coming, at least none that I could see. My mom knew. She had to. There was no way she could have left Jude's mother without finding out, at least about Jude.


Brad's voice seemed obnoxious as it broke the silence. But, he was driving, and it was probably a good thing considering I couldn't concentrate on anything, and he'd also been silent since we got back in the car to go home, shortly after my mother left. I decided that I could at least respond to him, even if it wasn't very enthusiastically.


"This probably isn't the right time, but I was wondering... did you mean what you said before?"

"What I said before?"

"Yeah, you know...how you said you didn't want a friend who can't...can't accept everything now."

I looked over at him, unable to understand his thought process.

"That's what you care about?" I suddenly snapped. "Do you have any idea what's happening here? My mom knows, Brad! Maybe she doesn't know everything... but she knows something. And you want to fight with me?"

"What are you talking about?" Brad retorted. "I'm not trying to fight, you idiot. And what the hell does your mom know? She seemed fine to me."

"Oh, she knows something," I said, matter-of-factly. "There's no way that Jude's mom wouldn't have said something to her. She knows." I paused to reflect for a moment, but as I did, another question came to mind that just... confused me. "But why isn't she saying anything?" I practically whined. "She knows about Jude, she has to, and I know she has an opinion..."

"Look, Quinn, I'm kind of knew to this, okay? And, I could be completely wrong here, but... what if she doesn't know?"

"It's not possible. I've met Jude's mom, and after everything he's told me about her...she would have said something, Brad."

"Okay, so maybe she did say something... but maybe... it was just words."

"What are you talking about?"

"You know..." he insisted, beginning to look a little flustered. "Maybe she just...called him some things. Sort of like the things I'm an asshole for calling you."

I temporarily ignored the apologetic note in Brad's voice and thought about what he was saying before I finally shook my head.

"I mean, yeah...Jude's mom probably called him a few names," I agreed. "But, even if that's all she did my mom would know what those words meant. She's not stupid."

"I didn't say she was stupid," Brad said defensively, although I hadn't really been accusing him. "I'm just saying, think about it, Quinn. She probably heard those words, but...even if she knew what they meant, doesn't mean that she knew what they meant in this situation. Maybe she doesn't know anything."

I had to think about that for a second. I was pretty sure that Jude's mom had probably referred to him as a few things that my mother didn't approve of in polite conversation or otherwise. It would explain why she was so upset... I guess it was possible that my mom had heard the words, but didn't think anything of them. But still, I had a hard time believing that even my mother was that naive.

"I don't know," I mumbled.

"Come on, Quinn... maybe she's just hearing what she wants to hear. I mean, you said that she's become kinda obsessive about wanting to help him, right? And she obviously doesn't like his parents. She probably just thinks that his mom was being...a bitch. I mean, a few days ago I overheard her telling my mom that you had a girlfriend you weren't telling her about. I thought it was pretty funny at the time, but maybe your mom's just seeing what she wants to see... and nothing else."

I looked over at Brad, something he'd said striking me. Maybe my mom was only seeing what she wanted to see. It would make sense, considering the way she'd been acting. It felt like she was trying to control everything around her lately, and then seemed shocked when she found out that not everyone was very happy with this. At least, that was the impression I got after Bree and I had confronted her.

"Fuck," I mumbled, leaning back hard against my seat. I felt like I didn't have any energy left. "She doesn't know, does she?"

"I don't think so," Brad replied, seeming satisfied that he'd finally gotten through to me. "But, that's a good thing, right?"

"Yeah," I said, nodding blankly. "I think so."

We fell silent as Brad turned into our neighborhood. I wasn't really surprised when it came to how much I wanted him to be right about my mom. There were just some things that I needed her to stay in the dark about, at least at this point.

"So..." Brad said quietly after a few minutes that seemed longer than they really were. "Are you going to answer my question?"


"Did you mean it?" he asked, and this time, I knew what he was talking about as I looked in his direction and let out a breath.

"No," I replied. "I mean, at the time, but... to be honest with you, I could really use my best friend right about now, too."

I'm not sure why it surprised me that Brad looked relieved at that announcement. In all honesty, just saying it had a relieving effect on me, too. We definitely had issues that we would need to deal with, but for the time being, he was back, and that was all I wanted to focus on. If the smile he flashed me was any indication, he felt the same way. We'd have to deal with any problems in small doses, I think. I'm sure we both had plenty to be sorry for. We'd probably have to redefine our whole friendship, and only time would tell if it would work out in the end. For now, I made a mental note to ask Brad later about what had been going on in his family. He obviously wanted to talk about it, but since he was temporarily willing to put it aside to deal with my problems, the least I could do was remember that the world didn't revolve around me. Of course, this concept was difficult to grasp as we pulled past Jude Landon's car to get into my driveway.

"Shit," I mumbled. I'm not sure why it surprised me that Jude was there, especially after I called him.

"Is he here?" Brad asked, and I nodded.

"If my mom knows anything... she'll say something to Jude."

"Are you going to go find out?" Brad asked as he turned off the car and held the keys out for me. I nodded, but didn't move. "Do you... want me to go with you?"

I looked at him, feeling both surprised and appreciative of the offer, even if he did look entirely uncomfortable about making it. Actually, I think the fact that he was uncomfortable and did it anyway gave him more credit in my book.

"Shouldn't you get home?" I replied, letting him off the hook. "Mar's probably going crazy right about now."

"Right," he said, nodding. But still, we both remained seated until I finally unfastened my seat belt and took the keys from him.

"Maybe I can call you later," I suggested. "You know...to tell you what happened. If you want to know."

"Yeah, that sounds good... maybe tomorrow at lunch we can get together?"

I forced myself to smile at Brad. The fact that things were so awkward only meant that I was right about having plenty of things to work out with him.

"Okay," I nodded. "Then... I'll see you tomorrow."

I reached for the door, reminding myself that I didn't really have time to stay and continue this conversation, anyway. I doubted that my sister was home yet, and that meant Jude was alone with my mom. If she'd discovered something, I wanted to know about it and now was the likely time to find out. But, just as I got my foot out the door, Brad suddenly grabbed the sleeve of my jacket and held me back.

"Hey, Quinn..." he started, but paused long enough to release my jacket, looking almost apologetic that he'd grabbed me in the first place.

"Yeah?" I asked, when he didn't continue.

"I just wanted to say... I'm really sorry about how Bree found out. The way it happened wasn't right."

"Don't worry about it," I insisted. "It actually turned out... okay." And that was the truth.

"Good," he said, sighing. " Just... one more thing. When you tried to talk to me before... I don't really have a good excuse for acting like that."

"Maybe we can talk about that later," I suggested. I really did need to get inside, but when he frowned I added, "Maybe we can talk about all the ways that I've been acting like a jerk, too."

"That'll be a lot of talking," Brad remarked, and I smiled at the smirk that played its way across his face.

"Smart-ass," I mumbled as we both got out of the car.

"I'll see you later, Quinn," Brad waved, before heading down the street to his own residence and left me to mine.

As soon as he disappeared I thought of Jude again, and wasted no time getting inside. I stopped in the doorway, listening for voices, but when there were none I followed the scent of food coming from the kitchen. But, I didn't find my mother there. In fact, she was nowhere in sight, and I temporarily forgot about the way that my stress level was skyrocketing when I saw Jude standing over the stove, wearing my sister's kiss the cook apron. I was so happy to see him without my mother there telling him to stay away from our family that I almost followed the instructions on the red material, but I wasn't that brave.

"What are you doing?" I asked as I approached him, and he turned to look at me.

"Apparently I'm responsible for dinner now," he explained, and by his tone I could tell that he didn't know what to make of that idea.

"Where's my mom?" I asked.

"Well...as soon as I got here she handed me an apron and mentioned something about a long, hot bath...so, I haven't really been all that interested in looking for her. I thought you said she went to see my parents."

"She did!" I insisted. "She talked to your mom... she hasn't said anything to you?"

"Nothing," he said, frowning, looking as troubled as I felt. "Fuck, I came over here ready to tell her everything, too."

"Everything?" I croaked, probably going pale in the process.

"Everything about me," Jude replied, looking exasperated. "You know I wouldn't do that to you."

"I know," I said quickly, coming to my senses and feeling rather guilty over the hurt expression on his face.

"Look, Brad sort of thinks that my mom doesn't know anything."


"Yeah, he was with me," I explained. "I'll tell you about it later. Anyway, he said that if your mom called you a few things when she was talking to my mom..."

"Trust me, she did," Jude said, crossing his arms and frowning.

"Well...if she did, then Brad thinks that my mom...didn't get it."

"What do you mean?" Jude asked, and his confused expression was so similar to mine when Brad first brought this up that I couldn't help but smile, but it faded quickly.

"I mean, she might have heard the words but didn't put two and two together."

"Oh... so maybe she doesn't know?"

"Maybe..." I said. "But, a lot's been going on, so..."

"Mom!" my sister's voice interrupted me as I heard the front door slam, and a moment later, Bree was barging onto the kitchen. "Mom, I'm going to say I'm sorry because I shouldn't have yelled at you, but even you have to admit..." Bree stopped abruptly when she saw Jude and me standing there, but her eyes continued to wander, looking for my mother.

"I think she's upstairs," I said quietly, and Bree frowned.

"Oh... you came home to apologize, too then?"

"I guess you could say that," I admitted, although there seemed to be a lot more to it than that. "Could you... take care of this, Bree?" I suddenly asked, waving to the food scattered around the kitchen that Jude was responsible for. "I want to talk to Jude."

"Fine," Bree said, looking put out, but she practically tore her apron from around Jude's neck.

"Don't burn my noodles," he teased her, and she playfully smacked his arm as I grabbed his sleeve to pull him out of the kitchen.

"Where are we going?" he asked, as I led the way up the stairs.

"I want to be able to talk without people barging in," I informed him, and he simply nodded. Not another word was said until we reached my room and I locked the door before following him up the stairs. "A lot's been going on, Jude," I continued right where I'd left off before the interruption. "If my mom does know something, she hasn't said anything, and that just doesn't seem right."

"So she doesn't know, then?" he asked, but he actually seemed to be disappointed about this. "Look, Quinn... maybe I should just tell her anyway."

"What? Why?"

"Because I hate dealing with this!" he stated. "Your mom's been really cool to me. I'd rather her find out now than later--about me. You know, I already like her, and if she reacts badly later..."

"What if she reacts badly now?" I cut him off. "Jude, if she told me that she didn't want you around anymore... I couldn't deal with that. I mean, would that be okay with you?"

"No," he replied, frowning. "But, it's not like we'd never see each other."

"We'd be sneaking around, I can't..."

"It's not like we aren't doing that now," he responded almost bitterly, and somehow I took that remark personally. The last thing I wanted was for any relationship we were starting to feel like a burden for Jude. I'm not sure where it came from, but the feeling that he was about to break things off with me took over, and I found myself sitting heavily on my bed, not at all surprised by how alone I suddenly felt. Jude Landon was quickly becoming a part of my life, and we were so different in so many ways that it almost made staying together feel impossible as it was. I wasn't ready for it to end like this.

"I don't want you to disappear on me, Jude. I'm not ready for her to know, but..."

"Quinn," he said, sighing as he seated himself across from me on my bed, leaning forward so that our knees touched. "I understand, okay... this is just getting... really hard. But, I'm not going to just disappear...and... if she doesn't know now, I won't tell her. But, you know I'm going to have to eventually, right?"

I let out a breath. I really hated that reality.

"I know," I said, "I just need more time."

"Quinn, it's not like telling her about me is going to mean she finds out about..."

"Yes it will," I interrupted. "When you tell her, Jude... I know she's not going to like it, and I won't be able to deal with it if she doesn't want me around you... so when you tell her about you... I'll be telling her about me, too."

I think I shocked myself with that announcement. But, it was true. Deep down I knew that if I had to tell my mom the truth in order to keep Jude in my life, then I would. And whether or not it was premature guessing, I still believed that she wasn't going to react well to any of it. But it suddenly made more sense to me to keep someone I cared about in my life, than to let him slip away because the concept of complete honesty escaped me.

"Quinn... that's just stupid," was Jude's response, and I opened my mouth to protest, but he slid his hands up my thighs and leaned forward with a small smile as he continued. "You don't have to tell her anything until you're ready... and like I said, if she has a problem, there will be other ways to see each other."

"Maybe," I admitted. "But it won't be enough--it's already not enough for you. I mean, you're out. Don't tell me that it doesn't annoy you that I'm not."

"But it's not something I can't deal with. And if you're saying that you'd come out just for me, then that's stupid, too. Quinn, I don't want to be responsible for you doing anything you're not ready for."

"Then I'd better get ready," I replied, but it came out weaker than I'd intended.

"When you're ready you'll know it," Jude insisted. He was beginning to look irritated with me. "Look, this is ridiculous. Unless your mom confronts me tonight, I won't say anything to her, okay?"

"Not tonight, at least."

"No, not tonight," he agreed. "You'll have more time, Quinn. Just promise me you'll use it to think about this. If you want to tell your mom, fine, but don't do it just because you think you have to."

I opened my mouth to continue arguing but before any words could get out, Jude's tongue cleverly slipped in. It wasn't that being kissed when I was stressed out wasn't nice. Actually, it served as a good distraction. But, it was a distraction, and I didn't want any of those when I thought that we were supposed to be having a serious discussion.

"Jude," I said, my voice smothered against his lips as I placed a hand on his shoulder to push him back, but rather than moving away from me Jude came forward, until I suddenly found him straddling my lap on the chair and my head tilted back as his fingers found their way into my hair.

"Let's not worry about it until we have to, alright?" he said, leaning back somewhat to look at me. "You worry too much, Quinn."

"Yeah, but this time you're worried, too," I pointed out.

Jude smirked. "That's because you're rubbing off on me... and not in a good way."

He suddenly shifted his weight forward, pressing against my groin and I gasped, before laughing at the lecherous look he was giving me as he bit at his bottom lip. When he brought his mouth down over mine again, this time I met him halfway, closing my eyes as I allowed my tongue to brush over his lips before it met with his, and I slid my hands all the way down his back until I was holding his ass, pulling him closer to me. Jude released a small moan that had my cock nearly jumping to attention, but as his mouth became softer over mine and I felt more of his weight leaning against me I moved my arms around him, holding him tightly until he broke the kiss and I rested my head against his shoulder, enjoying a moment of feeling warmly relaxed.

"I don't want you to leave tonight," I said quietly.

"We don't even know what's going on with your mom yet, Quinn... and I shouldn't stay, anyway. You have school tomorrow and I..."

"Then let's go find out," I cut him off. "I don't want you to leave tonight."

Jude moved his arms around my neck, hugging me and I felt a slight shiver move down my spine as his breath hit my ear. But, a moment later the warmth disappeared as he left my lap and took my hand, pulling me to my feet.

"Maybe we can do something next weekend," he suggested, and I knew it was because he saw the chances of him staying another night at my house to be slim.

"Okay," I agreed, although I still didn't want him to leave. I felt like I'd just been through one of the longest days of my life and it wasn't over yet. I wanted his company, if anything, and if I could help it, he wouldn't be going anywhere tonight.

Jude gave me a small smile before he finally dropped my hand, and together we made our way downstairs. I wasn't sure if my mom had made an appearance or not just yet, but it smelled like dinner was ready, which meant that Bree was probably bored out of her mind waiting for someone to come downstairs. Only, when we reached the kitchen, it became clear that my sister wasn't bored at all, but red in the face, looking like she was being smothered, the way my mom was tightly hugging her.

My mom's back was to us, but Bree flashed me a pleading look that made it difficult for me not to laugh; but still, I cleared my throat just to help her out. My mom released her, turning around, and any smile I might have had faded when I saw that she'd been crying again. She wasn't anymore, but the evidence was definitely there.

"Is everything okay?" I asked hesitantly, as my mom looked between Jude and myself.

"No," she replied after a moment of thinking, and then motioned us towards the table. "Why don't we all sit down and eat. I'm starving. Quinn, was Brad coming over?"

"No," I replied, concerned now over my mom's previous answer of no. Jude looked worried, too, as he followed me to the table where the four of us took our seats and my mom began to pass the food around the table.

"Jude... I take it Quinn's told you what I've been up to?" she finally asked, after what seemed to be an eternity of silence.

Jude looked in my direction before he nodded.

"Yeah, he did."

"Are you angry?" my mom asked straightforwardly, and I was a little surprised by the question.

"You said you'd talk to me first," Jude replied, looking uncomfortable.

"So I guess Quinn didn't mention that I tried to call you?" my mom asked him, while throwing me an accusing look.

"I haven't gotten around to it," I replied, somewhat defensively.

"Mrs. Moore, my mom can be..." Jude started.

"Sweetheart, you don't have to say anything more about that woman," my mom cut him off, and the endearment she used caught my attention--in a good way. It was enough to tell me that she wouldn't be demanding that he get out of our lives tonight. "I'm almost sorry that I went to talk to her... but, it was worth it. She's going to be meeting me tomorrow to enroll you in school."

Jude looked alarmed at that announcement, and when he threw me an accusing look, too, I felt bad for not mentioning it.

"Sorry," I whispered.

"You don't have to be there, Jude," my mom insisted. "And I know you're worried about your job, but this will be more like a night school. It's four hours, three days a week. You'll miss some work, but not much."

"But I can't miss any," Jude responded, and for the first time I heard him speak to my mother as if he were annoyed with her, and he didn't seem the least bit sorry for it. I wasn't sure why I found that attractive. "Mrs. Moore... I appreciate your help and all but I can't miss work or I lose the roof over my head."

"I understand that," my mom replied with a small smile. "I was paying attention when you told me, you know. But, that shouldn't be a problem because you won't have to worry about your rent at all any more." She paused and held up her hand when Jude automatically started objecting. "Jude, I'm not suggesting you move out of your apartment, and I know you don't want to accept money from me..." I suddenly found myself looking between Jude and my mom. I didn't know that she'd offered him money. "But, I was hoping that you'd accept some help from your parents, considering that they should be the ones taking care of you in the first place."

"My parents?" Now Jude sounded really annoyed, and I was getting worried.

"Yes," my mother explained. "Your parents. If they've seen fit to make you so miserable that you don't want to live with them anymore, then the least they could do is to help provide for you, something that they should be doing, anyway."

"Even if they should, they wouldn't," Jude responded shortly, as if that settled the matter.

"Oh yes they will," my mom responded almost determinedly. "Your mom will be bringing me a check tomorrow when you're enrolled in school. It will be at Quinn's high school, so I assume you'll have no problem finding it when it's time for you to go."

"I'm not going, because I don't want anything from my parents," Jude responded, as calmly as he could, which seemed pretty hard for him to do considering at this point he'd narrowed his eyes on my mother and he was clutching his fork until his knuckles turned white.

"Jude, why not?" I asked, and then immediately regretted it when his glare turned on me.

"See," my mom said. "If Quinn's agreeing with me then I know I'm not being unreasonable."

"It sort of sounds like a good idea to me, too," Bree said quietly from across the table.

"It's not," Jude replied; he obviously felt like he was being ganged up on, and for a moment I wanted to take back my little question and take his side, but for once... I agreed with my mother. Maybe I didn't like her meddling, but the way I saw it, this would solve a lot of problems for Jude, and get rid of a lot of complications for him in the process, especially if his parents agreed to this. "I don't want anything from them," he insisted. "I don't want to owe them anything!"

"But they owe it to you!" my mother argued, and once again, I agreed with her. "Jude, you said you didn't want this to get complicated. "This is the best way to handle it in that case. You'll be eighteen soon enough, and then you can do whatever you want, but if you finish out school they'll be providing some financial support until you turn nineteen."

"How did you do this?" I asked my mom, feeling somewhat awed.

"Let's just say that they don't want the legal system involved any more than Jude does," my mother responded.

"You blackmailed them?" Bree asked incredulously, and then smiled. "How?"

"I did no such thing," my mom replied innocently, but I had a feeling there was more to it than that. "Jude, you can't just stay where you are or you're going to be stuck there for a very long time. Take the help while it's being offered to you. God knows you could use it."

"I don't..." he started, but this time I cut him off.


"Quinn, no," he said firmly. "I'm fine right where I am."

"You hate where you are," I accused him, feeling a little annoyed. Only that very day he'd mentioned that he liked someone like my mother caring about him. I wasn't sure why he was objecting now. "Just because you get help from your parents doesn't mean that you'll have to see them, either. You definitely wouldn't owe them anything."

"He's right, Jude," my mom said. "Why not just give it a try? We'll get you back in school, make sure you don't lose anything... and let's say... in a month you can decide if you want to keep the arrangement. I can't force you to do anything but the least you could do is give it a try."

I looked at Jude, who had fallen silent. He was obviously thinking about it. He looked annoyed as hell, but he was thinking about it. As for me, I felt stupid about getting angry with my mom again. Obviously, Brad was right and she was still blind to some things, but she did know how to get her way, especially when it counted... and this time it really was helpful.

"You'd still have your own place," I said quietly. "Your job... your life. Jude..."

"One month," he said quietly, without looking at me. "But I don't want anything from my parents that I don't need."

"Think of it this way, Jude... it's money that they would have been spending on you if they were any kind of real parents," my mom said. "Your money, not theirs. And you really won't have any kind of real contact with them."

"Because they don't want to see me, anyway," Jude said flatly, and there was a moment of silence before my mother spoke again.

"I think they're doing you a favor," she said. "No one needs people like them around...you're not my son, but I hope you know that you're welcome here anytime. In fact, I insist you come over for dinner more often."

Jude glanced across the table, his expression softening somewhat as he regarded my mother.

"I don't know," he concluded, and she smiled at him.

"Let's just give it a try, okay? Why don't you give me a call tomorrow after your mom signs what she needs to and then you and I can figure out the best time to go finish things up. Your classes would start a week from Monday. I think that gives you plenty of time to talk to... Murphy, doesn't it?"

Jude just shrugged, but after a moment my mom obviously took that as a positive answer and nodded before she went back to eating her meal, and soon everyone else followed suit.

Dinner was a little strained. Jude was quiet, but as we sat there I saw him relaxing. Bree was watching him, too, probably wondering the same thing that I was: were things going to get better for him? I was beginning to feel hopeful that they would. I was also feeling hopeful that things would work out for me and my mom. Each time I met her eyes during dinner she'd smile at me. We still had unresolved problems to deal with, but I had a feeling that it would happen soon and that actually made me feel better. As for whether or not she knew that her only son was gay... well, maybe for now it didn't matter. I wasn't ready for her to know, and she probably wasn't ready to know. I guess keeping that in mind, it was best that for the time being, she didn't.

"I'll get the dishes tonight," Bree offered as we finished eating. She'd obviously already apologized to my mom and had decided that a little sucking up wouldn't hurt. As for me, I was motivated to be selfish for a few more moments, before I once again apologized to my mother in hopes that I wasn't grounded for my behavior that afternoon.

"Can Jude spend the night?" I asked quickly, and Jude shot me a look that clearly said he wanted my head to explode. "It's kind of late," I added, ignoring him. The way I was feeling, I would have rather had him close and hating me than gone while I wished he was there. I'd probably regret it later, but I really had meant it when I told him that I didn't want him to leave.

"Sure... I think that's a good idea. Just remember you have school tomorrow, Quinn. The air mattress is still in your room?"

"Yeah," I nodded, glancing at Jude. He still didn't look at me, but the objection that I'd expected never came. Bree just rolled her eyes at us as she reached across the table to stack our plates.

"Well, in that case," Jude said, still looking irritated, "if you don't mind, I think I just want to go to bed now. Um, thanks, Mrs. Moore... for dinner."

He obviously didn't want to thank her for anything else just yet, and I couldn't really blame him. His life was about to change and if I were in his position, I'd probably be uneasy about it, too. I wasn't exactly someone who liked change. But, my mom seemed to be okay with this and gave him a small smile.

"Goodnight, Jude. Quinn, I think..."

"Yeah, we can talk," I agreed, feeling resigned to my fate. Jude didn't even offer me a sympathetic look as he got up and walked away. Again, I couldn't blame him. "Look, Mom..."

I was interrupted by the sound of the doorbell and looked towards my mom, who appeared to be annoyed by the interruption.

"Oh, just go see who's here," she told me. "I'll help Bree with the dishes, but..."

"Yeah, I know," I replied as I got up. "I'll be right back so we can... talk."

She flashed me an approving smile and I headed for the door, somewhat grateful for the intrusion. I was beginning to realize that I owed my mom an apology and it wouldn't hurt to have a little extra time to work something up. But, as I opened the door, it wasn't the one that I owed my mom that came to mind.


"Hey," he said with a small wave, looking nervous, as if he didn't know whether or not he should be there.

"Um... hi. Do you want to come in?" I asked politely.

"No," he said quickly. "I was going to call... look, I just wanted to know if everything worked out okay."

Something about his concern for me seemed to make any hostility I'd felt for him over the last month fade away and I found myself stepping outside and quietly closing the door behind me.

"Actually... everything is fine," I replied, sounding somewhat awed because it was as if I'd just realized this myself. "You were right... she doesn't know anything."

Brad smiled at this and when I took a seat on the steps he sat down too and looked over at me.

"Good," he said. "I mean... it is good, right?"

"Definitely," I replied, nodding.

Brad simply nodded and seemed to study me for a long moment.

"Hey, Quinn... you really think that your mom's going to freak out...you know, if she finds out?"

"I don't want her to know, Brad," I replied, suddenly feeling a little shaky just thinking about it. "I know my mom. She's not okay with...gays. If she found out I was one..."

"I don't know, Quinn," he cut me off. "I know your mom can be a little set in her ways with some things, but she's still your mom. I couldn't see her freaking out... but I've been thinking and...maybe you should talk to my parents."

"What?" I demanded, feeling alarmed. He'd better not be suggesting what it sounded like he was suggesting.

"I didn't tell my parents anything," he said quickly. "And I'm not going to. I'm just saying... if your mom ever found out... or if you wanted to tell her..." he said carefully, waiting for my reaction, but when I didn't give him one he continued, "you could talk to my parents first. I mean, what I'm trying to say is... they might be able to help."

"By telling my mom?" I asked defensively. What was he getting at?

"No! But... if your mom did freak out... well, I know you'd have somewhere to go, okay? My parents... they'll be okay with it."

"You don't know that," I stated, thinking of Johns. "Just because someone acts like they might..."

"No, Quinn--they'll be okay. Trust me, they..."

Brad stopped, suddenly looking uncomfortable, and that only made me curious.

"What?" I demanded, and he mumbled something under his breath that I didn't quite catch. "What did you say?"

"I said..." he spoke up, sounding irritated, "they thought I...was gay."

"What?" I demanded.

"I swear to god, Quinn, if you repeat this to anyone...fuck... it was when I was like, thirteen."

"You're serious?" I was having a little trouble digesting this.

"You remember my cousin Andrew?"

I nearly flinched at the name. It brought me right back to the journal entry that I despised. I'd spent a long time hating that name.

"Yeah," I replied.

"Well, remember how he used to follow us around, and how sometimes he'd fuck around and..."

"I remember," I said shortly.

"Well, apparently he had a girlfriend, and this one time we were in my room talking about her and he sort of started showing me how she'd jerk him off... and then he said he had these friends, and sometimes they'd help each other out, so when he asked me..."

I'd watched Brad touch Andrew's cock before, so hearing this now wasn't exactly surprising, but definitely odd.

"Anyway, I was... um..."

"I get it," I said, saving Brad and myself from turning any redder than we already were.

"Well, my dad walked in," he announced, and my eyes widened.


"Yeah," Brad agreed. "Anyway, he was really cool about it, and so was my mom, but... they sort of thought..."


"It took me like a year to convince them otherwise," he continued. "It didn't matter how many girls I went out with my mom was always telling me that they loved me just the way I was. I swear it was enough to give me a complex... and I've never told anyone about this, so..."

"I won't say anything," I promised, and then almost regretted it because I found that this would be an interesting conversation to share with Jude.

"Thank you," Brad said, sounding relieved. "So anyway... you can talk to my parents... if you want to."

I'm not sure why, but this information gave me a new sense of security that I didn't have before. Brad's parents had always been nice to me, and it seemed strange that I never thought of confiding in them before. If Brad was right... then I could. I wasn't sure that I was ready to, but it was nice to know that it was possible to have an adult on my side other than Mr. Meyers.

"I'll think about it," I finally decided, glancing in Brad's direction.

"Okay," he replied. "I guess I should probably get going. I just wanted to see if you were alright." I nodded, standing up with him. "So... are we okay, Quinn?"

I looked at Brad for a long moment, unsure of how to answer that. I wasn't sure that we were okay... but I had a feeling that we were going to be.

"I think so."

He simply smiled at me before he turned to head home. He'd only reached the end of the driveway before I called out to him.

"Hey, Brad... thank you."


When I entered the kitchen, my mom was there alone finishing up the dishes. I guessed that she had relieved Bree of it just so we could be alone for when I returned; I wasn't sure whether or not to be nervous about that. But, I did feel strangely confident. Brad mentioning his parents made an impression on me, and while I'd just received the information, it suddenly made talking to my mom about anything seem... safer.

She put down the plate she was drying off and turned to face me as she heard me near her. There was a pause, and it occurred to me that my mom didn't seem to know what to say anymore than I did.

"So... am I grounded?" I asked, deciding to start with something easy. I already knew that I had to be, and strangely, I wasn't that upset about it.

"No," she replied, and I blinked, wondering if I'd heard her right. "As much as I hate the way you and your sister talked to me today... you made a few good points."


"I think your sister was right... I've gotten a little too involved since I've been home. I didn't realize that I was acting like I didn't trust either of you. And you were right... you've made progress, Quinn, and I'm proud of you. I should have let you know that."


"But... I still think you were out of line today." She paused and let out a breath as she leaned against the counter and studied me for a moment. "Sweetheart, I know you care about Jude. I also know that you and Brad have drifted so this new friendship... means a lot to you. But, you're not the only one who cares about Jude. Bree cares about him, and believe it or not, I'm kind of fond of him myself..."


She held up her hand for a moment, silencing me.

"I know that you were angry because you want to protect him. He's afraid of his parents, I can understand that. But, it would be nice if you had a little faith in me, too. Every once in a while I do know what I'm doing. Listen, let me ask you something: if Jude was still living with his family and they were hurting him, would you tell me about it?"

"Yeah," I said instantly. "But that's different!"

"It's not different, Quinn. Think about it... think about what Jude's life is right now. He's trapped, and he's doing what no young man should be forced to do to survive. I only wanted to help him make things better. I would never do anything to hurt him, and the way you talked to me today..."

"I know," I cut her off, closing my eyes for a moment and sighing. "Look, I'm sorry for that. You... did make things better. And... I'm sure I shouldn't have yelled at you, for many...many reasons, but mostly because you were just trying to help, and I should have trusted you to. I'm sorry."

She looked at me for a moment as if she were weighing my apology, and for a moment I thought that I'd have to do better than that. But, before I could say anything more she gave me a small smile, and that made me feel a lot better.

"Good," she said nodding. "But, you and I aren't finished yet, are we? You're not grounded, but..."

"I'll let you know what I'm doing," I said before she could get to that. "And I'll call you... but Mom, I need some space. You can't babysit me every time I'm out with a friend."

"Then I'll try... not to," she responded hesitantly. "As long as you do let me know where you are. I don't expect you to call me every ten minutes, but..."

"I'll call," I agreed; and when she smiled again I asked hesitantly, "Is... there anything else?"

"As a matter of fact, yes," she replied carefully. "I want to talk about your friendship with Jude."

"What about it?" I asked, suddenly swallowing a knot in my throat.

"Well, I assume since you care about him you can see that he's a nice young man," my mother responded. "If your sister starts dating him, I want you to be nice about it."

I wasn't sure if I should feel relieved, annoyed, or if I should laugh. I chose to smile.

"Don't worry, Mom, I'm not worried about Bree and Jude anymore." And that was definitely the truth.

My mother seemed satisfied with that, and after a few promises that we'd do a lot more talking, she kissed my cheek and I headed up to my room, feeling better than I had in a long time, despite the fact that I fully expected Jude to start yelling at me as soon as I got there.

Not so long ago, I'd been worried about not being normal. But, maybe I was more ordinary than I thought. As I thought about the day, and my friends--the ones that I thought I wouldn't have anymore; and my sister, the one who I thought for sure would hate me if she ever found out that she had a gay brother; and my mom, who I figured would never trust me again--I had to admit that I did tend to overthink things... and the constant tendency to panic had never really been on my side. Maybe if I had looked at the situations I'd overcome sooner and more rationally, then I would have seen that there would never be a world where Bree and I weren't close, or where Brad and I weren't going to be friends, regardless of our differences, because we were willing to work them out. Maybe I would have seen that sometimes things weren't always what they appeared to be, and that Marissa Rixis still retained some qualities that I'd always liked about her. The important ones, at least. And maybe, I would have seen that my mom cared about me as much as she always had, only now she was adjusting to a new situation as much as I was.

Or, maybe I wasn't that normal. I didn't know any other seventeen-year-old who crawled into bed next to their naked boyfriend on a school night. And when I did, rather than expressing his annoyance towards me, Jude's hands immediately found their way under my shirt, his lips to mine, and I leaned back, closing my eyes as my arms moved around him in the dark. No, this couldn't be normal at all. But I figured it was as ordinary as I was going to get... and there was nothing wrong with that.

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