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 five: A very long epilogue

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.

Waking up with Jude... and??

It was early Saturday morning, and I smiled to myself as I watched a thin layer of goosebumps appear over Jude's skin, over his arms, down his back and disappearing under the comforter currently tangled over his bed and hanging off his hips. His apartment had always been a little cooler than what was comfortable when it came to temperature, but I doubted that the chill he was experiencing had anything to do with the heater being turned down.

I placed a hand on his covered hip and shifted closer to him, my usual morning erection against the cleft of his ass as he softly hummed in his sleep. It had recently become a thoroughly enjoyed habit of mine to wake up before him when we ended up in the same bed, just so I could wake him up. It had also become a habit of his to pretend to be sleeping when he really wasn't, just so I'd try to wake him up. I suspected that was exactly what he was doing this time as I moved my mouth down over his back, licking my way from between his shoulders to his neck where I gently closed my teeth over the skin just below his ear and I heard his breath hitch.

When my mom said that she thought it would be best for Bree and me to follow the same rules we did when she was working all the time, I'd expected there to be adjustments to those rules since she was mostly home now. But, over the next weeks, I felt like I'd suddenly regained my freedom, and I couldn't begin to describe just how much I'd wanted that. I don't think I even knew how much until I got it.

Moderate phone calls when I was out and an announcement that I was going to be sleeping over at Jude's every once in a while on the weekends was all I needed to do to keep my mom happy enough to give me my freedom; although, I admit that she wasn't thrilled about the sleepovers at Jude's at first. I think she preferred him to stay the night at our house, because of the lack of parental supervision at his. My mom didn't put up too much of a fight, though, and in return we kept it down to every few weekends; although, Jude had made a habit of sleeping in my room almost every weekend that I wasn't in his. For a while I was worried that my mom would think so many sleepovers was suspicious, at best, but when she commented that it was probably good that Jude wasn't alone so often I relaxed some.

I slipped my hand under his arm and moved it over his chest, pausing to catch his nipple between two fingers and as a result, his hand came over mine, holding it there as he pressed back against me. Yup, he was definitely awake. I pulled my hand out of his so it could continue its descent downwards, over his navel until I found the head of his cock, already feeling wet and hard against his stomach. I took hold of him abruptly and Jude practically jumped, tilting his head back as I moved my mouth over his neck again. It was when I slowly started to stroke his cock that his hips began to rock somewhat impatiently.

"It's too early to tease me," he mumbled, and I bit my lip to keep from laughing. I'm sure he knew that I had no intention of teasing him. In fact, I fully intended to flip him over sometime in the next few seconds so I could take him in my mouth, something that I could do more confidently than I had the first time. Jude had taken to telling me practically every time we were together how much better I'd gotten at it since then. He couldn't get the words past his lips without causing me to blush a few shades of crimson, but he sure as hell knew how to stroke my ego.

It was the loud groan, that didn't come from either of us, that stopped me. I felt Jude's body freeze against me and I found myself releasing him as he turned to face me. We exchanged a few very confused looks before we scrambled into sitting positions, making sure that we remained covered in the process. I think I was practically hiding behind Jude as we looked across the room to where a suspicious lump under a blanket on the sofa was moving. I frowned as Taylor pushed the blankets off of his head, and looked at us through swollen, sleepy eyes.

"Whoa," he said hoarsely, holding his head. "I think I was drunk last night... Please tell me someone took advantage of me."

"What are you doing here?" Jude demanded, grabbing one of my shoes where I'd neatly placed it against the side of the bed. He threw it at Taylor, who laughed as he dodged it, falling from the sofa in the process.

"I was at a party and it was too far to walk home," he explained. "Don't worry, I let myself in."

"Don't you lock your door?" I remarked, giving Jude a disapproving look.

"He has a key," Jude explained, and I flashed him an incredulous look. Jude had given me a key, too, I just never used it.

"Are you working today?" Taylor asked Jude as he made himself comfortable on the couch again and turned on the television.

"Yeah," Jude replied. "You want a ride home?"

"Please," Taylor replied.

Jude glanced at the clock and his eyes slightly widened.

"Shit," he cursed as he reached over the bed for his boxers, which he slipped on under the covers. "Sorry, Taylor, I don't have time... maybe you can talk Quinn into it."

I hardly had time to blink as Jude turned and kissed me roughly, and a little sloppily, on the lips before he was out of bed and rushing to the bathroom for his morning shower. I regarded Taylor grudgingly. This was not how I wanted to start my morning, according to the erection still throbbing between my legs. I obviously wasn't going to be getting out of bed for a while, but I sure as hell could put some clothes on. The only problem was, the sweats I'd worn over the night before were just out of my reach. Taylor followed my eyes to the pants and laughed at me as he stood up and crossed the room to pick them up. I did my best not to retreat fully under the covers as he tossed them to me. I'd finally graduated to kissing Jude in front of him, but being naked was completely different, and a whole world of embarrassment attacked me as I realized what Jude and I almost did while Taylor was in the same room.

"Thanks," I mumbled, and then did my best to dress under the comforter, even if Taylor did surprise me by turning his back.

"So how `bout it?" he asked. "Wanna give me a ride home?"

"I guess," I replied, glad to have my pants on. I still didn't get out of bed, though. I had a lot of cooling down to do before that happened. I needed to think about something else. "Was my sister with you last night?"

In an interesting turn of events, Bree had ended up in a huge fight with her best friend Kara shortly after she made up with my mom. I don't remember what the fight was about, only that it was over something stupid and my mother and I had left her to work things out with Kara on her own. As a result, Bree had chosen to confide in Taylor, of all people. I remembered that Trina had been somewhat annoyed about this, especially when Bree and Taylor started hanging out on a regular basis; but in the end he got my sister and Kara talking again, though now he had them both following him around practically everywhere. I spent most of my time with Jude, but the last I heard, Trina was beginning to warm up to both of the girls.

"Nope," Taylor replied, and I was relieved to hear that Bree had yet to join the party scene that Taylor occasionally got involved in. "But according to her we're meeting later."

I simply nodded. "Just... give me a few minutes," I said; "I'll give you a ride home when Jude leaves for work."

Taylor turned to face me, and I tried not to recoil too much when he took a seat on the end of the bed and regarded me curiously. I wasn't used to being horny unless Jude was the only one around, and I found it necessary to hide the fact that I was from Taylor. It became an awkward moment only on my part, because he seemed oblivious when it came to what was going on under the covers.

"So did you do it?" he asked.


Taylor's brow shot up and I blushed again. I knew exactly what he was talking about.

In another interesting turn of events: I figured out that other than Jude, Taylor was really the only other gay guy I knew. I'd also found that as my relationship progressed with Jude, there were certain things that I had a hard time discussing with him, especially when it came to certain... intimacies. Jude and I had grown more comfortable with each other. That much was apparent, but whenever we were together, in a sexual situation, there still seemed to be lines that neither of us would cross. I knew that this had a lot to do with me, too. I was still wary when it came to what I was ready for with him. Jude, I could tell, was a ready for a lot more than what was happening. And I had to admit, that those lines were getting harder and harder to stay behind. The problem was, we hadn't exactly talked about it, and I got nervous every time I brought it up with him. Once or twice I'd even thought about not talking to him at all. I figured I could just do something while we were in bed together that might clearly tell him that I was ready to cross a few lines... but, then there was the problem of not knowing what to do. And I certainly had no intention of going out to buy a book on Gay Sex for Dummies.

So, why was Taylor, of all people, now asking me if I'd managed to cross those lines? It was simple. A few weeks before I'd gone over to Brad Clair's house. His mom had finally gone into labor--for real this time--and while she was out giving birth to yet another little brother for Brad, he and I had spent a night of watching movies and talking like we used to...something we'd been working on for a while. During this time, we'd done a few shots together. I wasn't at all drunk by the time I went home, but tipsy enough for the honesty to come pouring out when I found Taylor talking to my sister on our front porch. He'd never really been to my house before, so it had surprised me. Bree had run in to call Kara, and the next thing I knew I was doing the unthinkable: I discussed my sex life with Taylor. I was surprised that he was actually pretty cool about everything, and even more so that he hadn't repeated what I said to anyone, but that didn't stop me from regretting it.

"No, we didn't," I answered his question testily.

"Still freaked out, huh?" he said, smirking.

"Taylor!" I hissed. "Look, can we just... never talk about this again?"

"Oh relax," he remarked, rolling his eyes. "I think I have something that might help you out. I don't want to take it to your place... what are you doing next Saturday?"

"I don't know..."

"Get my number from your sister," he insisted. "Give me a call when you can meet me here, while Jude's at work."

I was definitely curious now, but I didn't say anything else on the matter. Jude chose that moment to reappear from the bathroom wearing only a towel as he rushed to find his work clothes. The sight did nothing to help my erection. Taylor just laughed at my expression, and Jude flashed me an apologetic look as he returned to the bathroom to dress. When he came out again a few minutes later I reached over the side of the bed and lifted the heavy book bag that had been left there.

"Don't forget these," I reminded him and he smiled as he took the bag, leaning down for another kiss in the process.

Jude had passed the one-month point when it came to trying out school again. I was actually under the impression that he was enjoying it. He seemed to do most of his studying during his breaks at work, and I noticed that he'd become annoyed when he forgot his books. I'd also noticed that Jude was still working as many hours as he was before, despite the money that he was getting from his parents. When I'd asked him about it, he'd said that knowing it was there if he needed it was nice, but it didn't mean that he intended to slack off. It made for a pretty busy schedule on his part, but he did seem okay with it. And, every once in a while when I'd call in sick to my own job just because I didn't feel like going, Jude would do the same just because he could, now that the pressure of needing to get his bills paid was gone.

I wasn't sure how much Jude was getting from his parents, nor did I think it was any of my business. But, there was one thing I found a little suspicious, and that was the fact that it was my mom who always gave it to him--in the form of cash. Bree and I had wondered if his parents were really doing anything at all, but when my sister finally asked my mom about it, all she confessed was that most of it came from his parents. This of course, was something that I'd never tell Jude.

"I'll see you tonight," Jude told me, and then waved to Taylor as he went out the door. "Start knocking, Taylor, or I might end up wanting my key back."

I smiled at the incredulous look on Taylor's face. There were definitely some lines that needed to stay in place, and I was glad that Jude could appreciate that.


The announcement

"I think I want to do it," I said quietly, stirring my hot chocolate as I looked across the cluttered table at the short woman with dark hair. Her belly wasn't round and bulging anymore. Instead, she cradled a plump, pinkish baby against it as she stared back at me.

"Are you sure about that, sweetheart?" she asked me, and I shrugged in response.

"Yeah, it's not like you don't have time to think on it some more," Brad said as he took a seat next to me, across from his mother.

Brad and I weren't as close as we once were. There was no getting around that fact. Even if we had resumed hanging out every Saturday afternoon, when I wasn't working at least. We were working on things, though. I couldn't tell him everything anymore, but he seemed to like that I left out certain details of my life. It wasn't bad, just different. For example, I never fully returned to my table in the cafeteria. I'd taken to sitting with Taylor and Trina on a regular basis, something that probably confused the hell out of them. It probably confused them more when Brad would join us at least once a week. Marissa never did go to that table, but a few times over the next few weeks I did join her and Brad at a table separate from everyone else... and it felt nice to laugh with both of them like we used to. I was also relieved in a sense, to see that Marissa had been true to her word, in more than one area.

She'd been truthful when she said that she didn't care I was gay, and it showed. It was almost like nothing had changed between us, the way she constantly ordered me around. I didn't listen half as much anymore, though. She also surprised me in a very big way. I'd let her off the hook when it came to her telling everyone the truths surrounding our breakup. The way I saw it, it was no one's business, anyway. I figured that Marissa would love me for that. But instead... she did exactly what she said she was going to do. She told the worst gossips in school that she'd cheated on me. They came to their own conclusions from there. I don't think it was as bad as Marissa thought it would be, though. The rumors surrounding her only lasted for about a week before someone else became the focus of the rumor mill.

Brad and Marissa were also the responsible parties for finally getting me to sit down with Brad's parents. It had taken over a month from when Brad had first told me I could talk to them, but I finally did it. When it came to Jude and me, it had been a constant stress, wondering whether or not it was time to tell my mom the truth. I knew that Jude didn't like to keep secrets. It seemed the only time he wasn't truly himself was when he was around my mom, and I could tell it was weighing on his nerves because he was actually beginning to feel close to her, something he didn't want, considering she could very well slam the door on his face when she did discover the truth. He would have much preferred to have everything out in the open, and of course, I was the only reason why he didn't just tell her the truth. It was because I'd continued to insist that as soon as she found out about Jude, I'd be telling her about me, too--and I wasn't ready for that. Which, is exactly why I'd agreed to talk to Brad's parents. I knew that the inevitable would have to happen sooner or later, and since Jude had reached the point of avoiding dinners at my house just to stay away from my mother and any bond with her that the two might be developing, I decided that I'd better have my backup plan ready. If Jude was unhappy... well, I tended to be unhappy, too.

Brad had been exactly right about his parents. It still shocked me, though, the way that the Clairs accepted me for what I was without question. They were definitely surprised; but, they were helpful. Thinking back on it, I felt stupid for actually throwing up before I told them, I was so nervous. Mrs. Clair had given me a hug, the kind that I could only pray I would get from my own mother after she learned the truth, and Mr. Clair had told me that their door was always open to me. As if that wasn't enough, the next time I went over to their house they'd moved an extra bed into Brad's room and said that it was there for when I needed it. To top it all off, Mrs. Clair had given me a key. In fact, I think that's why I'd gotten one from Jude, too. He'd acted almost offended that I wouldn't consider staying with him first, after I told him about it. The very next weekend we spent together I'd woken up with his key on my key ring. When I asked him about it, he'd refused to talk about it, but later gave me the simple instruction of use it. I'd introduced him to the Clairs shortly after, and luckily, he found them to be as kind as I did.

"Jude wants to tell my mom," I explained to Brad and his mother. "He hasn't said anything lately... but I know he does, and I want to be ready for that."

"Just because she knows about him doesn't mean that she has to know about you, Quinn," Brad pointed out.

"No," Mrs Clair agreed, "but I think Quinn means that he doesn't want to be put in the position of having to choose between his mom and Jude if she reacts badly."

I smiled at Mrs. Clair. I found it amazing how well that woman understood me sometimes.

"Pretty much," I said.

"But are you sure you're ready to do it?" Mrs. Clair asked. "Jude's obviously willing to wait a little longer."

"I want to do it tomorrow, when she gets home from work," I forced myself to get out, and ignored the chills that I gave myself with that announcement. My mom had found another job. She was only working every other day, but she enjoyed it. She would be working a half day the next day, a Sunday. I'd chosen it mostly because I wouldn't be working...and neither would Jude. I hadn't told him what I planned to do yet, but I knew that when I did, he'd want to be there. In fact, he'd probably demand it.

"Tomorrow?" Mrs Clair repeated, sounding a little surprised. "I thought we were still on the subject of thinking about this, Quinn."

"I can't think about it anymore," I told her quietly. "I just need to get it over with."

She looked thoughtful for a moment, and then nodded, but Brad was the one who spoke up.

"Dad was going to take everyone down to the arcade tomorrow night," he said. "Maybe..."

"Right," Mrs. Clair replied, smiling at him, and then at me. "Would you like me to be with you when you tell her, Quinn?"

I opened my mouth to say that it was something I needed to do on my own, but instead, something completely different came out.

"Could you?"

"Of course, sweetheart. It's probably best, anyway," Mrs. Clair replied. I hadn't been expecting this. I had to admit that the idea of having as many people on my side as possible was an appealing one, but it also made me aware of another problem that I might have to face.

"I don't know..." I said. "If you're there... it might upset her. I mean, that you knew and she didn't." My sister's reaction to finding out I was gay inspired this thought.

"It might," Mrs. Clair agreed. "But, this isn't about her, Quinn. She's just going to have to accept that." The baby began fussing in her arms and Mrs. Clair rolled her eyes as she abruptly stood up. "Always hungry, this one. He's going to be taller than both you boys, I just know it... Quinn, you call me when you want me over there."

"Thanks, Mrs. Clair," I replied as I watched her leave, and then at Brad, who seemed to be staring a hole into my head. "What?"

"I want to be there, too," he announced, and I leaned back in my chair to see him better.

"Since when?" I asked. We were working on things, but Brad and I--we still had our issues.

"Since you said you were going to do it," he replied casually.

"Brad... I mean, I don't know if that's such a good idea."

"Why not?" he asked incredulously.

"Because it's not like you don't... I mean, you still have problems with it, don't you?"

"The gay thing? No," he replied, shrugging before he regarded me more seriously. "I think it's more that... I have trouble seeing you the way I used to. I know you're still the same person, Quinn, it's just... in some ways, you're not."


"But hey, maybe that means I'm the right person to be there, you know? Your mom can see I'm dealing with it; and hey, if you chicken out I'll probably end up slipping up anyway, so you don't have to worry about it not happening."

I frowned at that very bad joke, but Brad laughed as he got up and headed for the counter.

"I'm starving," he said; "wanna help me raid the cookie jar?"

I rolled my eyes, but nodded.



The Intervention

On Saturday night when I spent a few hours with Jude before I went home to sleep in my own bed, I'd had plenty of time to tell Jude what I was planning to do when it came to my mom. But I didn't.

He'd been tired after work, and more focused on his school work. He might have had shorter classes, but it seemed that he had over double the homework that I did. We'd moved the coffee table in his living room aside and placed blankets on the floor, where he'd spread out with his books and put on a movie to keep me entertained. But, I'd been more interested in trying to count every hair on his head as I cuddled up next to him and constantly ran my fingers through it. I'd managed to distract him from his work several times over the next few hours, but didn't feel the least bit guilty about that. And... I'd become so relaxed that I didn't even want to bring up my mother. But on Sunday when Jude came over early for dinner, that left me with a dilemma.

"Is that the Clairs?" my mom called from the kitchen where my sister was helping her with dinner. I'd already invited Brad and his mom over to eat with us. I figured that at least that way, they'd have a reason to show up, and of course my mom thought it was a great idea.

"It's Jude," I informed them as I opened the door wider so he could come in.

"Hi Jude," my mother's and sister's voices came in unison. Jude smiled as he called back to them before he looked at me.

"The Clairs?" he asked.

"Brad and his mom are coming over tonight, too," I explained.

"You didn't mention that."

"Yeah, there's a few things I didn't mention," I mumbled, and Jude regarded me curiously. "Look, I asked you if you could come early because we need to talk."

Jude's smile faded completely with that announcement, and I mentally scolded myself for sounding so grim.

"What's going on, Quinn?"

"I'm sorry," I replied, shaking my head. "I'm just... nervous. Can we... can we just go talk before my mom suckers us into helping with dinner?"

"Sure... your room?"

"Yeah," I agreed, feeling that we'd have privacy there.

"You're starting to make me a little nervous here, Quinn," Jude let me know about halfway up the stairs, and I glanced back at him.


I wanted to tell him that there really wasn't anything to be nervous about, or even that what I wanted to talk about wasn't anything bad. But, that wouldn't be completely honest, so I chose not to say anything more as I continued my way up the stairs and he followed. I had no doubt that Jude likely thought I was acting weird. But obviously, I had no idea what was going through his mind because when we reached my room and closed the door he said something that surprised the hell out of me.

"Are we breaking up?"

"What?" I demanded, rounding on him as we reached the top of the stairs. I took a step back when he actually jumped and I was worried he was going to fall backwards. "Why?"

"I don't know. You tell me," he replied, suddenly sounding irritated. "I mean... I thought... things are going good, right? But now you're asking me to come over early, and pulling me aside to talk like you're about to give me some really bad news..."

"I'm not breaking up with you," I said quickly, going from alarmed to amused with the misunderstanding. The fact that he'd even think that struck me as funny for some reason. Jude was less amused. "I'm sorry, Jude. I wouldn't... I'm sorry I'm acting weird, I just..." I took a small step forward and watched him relax somewhat as he lifted his hands to my waist and invited me into a hug.

"Now I feel stupid," Jude mumbled. He sighed as he pulled me closer against him and momentarily rested his chin on my shoulder before he pulled back to look at me. "If we're not breaking up, then what's wrong?"

"Oh, that," I replied, trying to sound a lot more casual and a lot more confident than I was actually feeling. "Brad and his mom are coming over tonight because I'm going to tell my mom... that I'm gay."

Jude froze, simply staring at me for the longest time, and when he spoke, he sounded a lot calmer than I would have been.

"When did you decide this?" he asked. It was a fair question.

"I've been thinking about it for a while," I admitted. "Like... the last few months. I knew I was going to do it yesterday when I went to Brad's house."

"But that was before you and I...you couldn't have told me last night?" he suddenly demanded, stepping away from me. "Quinn..."

"I know, and I'm sorry." I cut him off. "But, I'm kind of scared out of my mind right now and I figured that not thinking about it would be easier, okay? And... and you're right, things are... fucking great between us right now and when I'm with you, I don't want to think about things that are going to fuck me because things are so fucking great!"

Jude's eyes widened slightly at my outburst, but he didn't shout back at me. I was actually kind of disappointed by that. I deserved to be yelled at, screamed at even. I knew that I should have told him. I knew it when I wasn't telling him. Besides, if he yelled at me it would be another blissful distraction from what I'm facing.

"You really want to do this?" he asked.

"Want seems to be too strong a word in this situation, but yeah."

"Why?" he asked, and I shrugged.

"Because I have to."

"No... you don't. Why, Quinn?"

I sighed and shook my head.

"Because it has to happen eventually... and I know you hate lying..."

"Stop there," Jude actually pointed at me as he took a step back in my direction. "You can't do this for me, Quinn. It has to be for you. I don't want anything to do with it."

"But it has everything to do with you," I argued, although I'd given up yelling. "If I wasn't with you, Jude, things would probably be a lot different, okay? I admit that. I would probably wait until I was out of the house and on my own before I even considered telling my mom. But, I am with you..." Jude's expression suddenly darkened, so I added, "I want to be with you." I reached for his hand but he wouldn't let me. I hated that, but ignored it for now. "That's why I'm doing this. You hate lying, and sooner or later you're going to stop. When that happens, whether or not things go bad with my mom, I'm going to have to stop, too. Because I'm with you."

"But that's not happening now, and you're not ready now. And even if you were you shouldn't do it because..."

"You're the best reason I have," I informed him. "And the only one I know I won't regret. Maybe... I am ready. Everyone else who matters already knows. There will be three of those people with me tonight if things go bad... and you. I think I'm ready. I think I will be."

I frowned at the way that Jude suddenly looked uncharacteristically shaky, and at the way that he couldn't seem to look at me at all for a few very long moments.

"Does all that mean you want me to go first?" he finally asked.

"No... I wasn't planning... I think it should be me," I concluded, and then moved forward. This time when I reached for his hand he didn't pull away, which was a good thing, because when I realized that he actually was shaking I came to the conclusion that he needed the contact as much as I did. It also made me think of something that I hadn't exactly considered before that moment. "Jude... are you ready for this? I mean, I thought..."

"I'm okay," he insisted. "I wasn't expecting it... I mean, you know that no matter what, this is going to change everything, don't you? Whatever happens with your mom I doubt we'll be sleeping in the same room anymore; there will be ways to get around, it, but..."

"Is that all you're worried about?" I asked.

"No," he admitted, and I found myself pulling him closer to me as I realized something else I hadn't considered. This was going to be a bigger deal to Jude than I'd thought it would be. Currently, my mom was the go-between between Jude and his parents. She was helping him out in school, making sure that he got the support he needed... and that could all end. I hadn't exactly thought of this because Jude had always been pretty clear when it came to how he felt about being in the closet. But now, I was wondering if I had the right idea about that.


"No," he cut me off, obviously understanding what I was thinking. "It'll work out. If this is what you want... okay. You're right about me, Quinn. I don't want to keep lying about it. I just hate to think that you're only doing this if..."

"I'll be ready," I repeated, although I was feeling even less confident now than before.

"Come here," Jude suddenly said, stepping around me, and before I could even turn around his arms were around me from behind and he was leading me backwards about twelve steps until my bed hit the back of his knees and he practically pulled me down until I was seated between his parted legs. I might have found the action odd, if I hadn't enjoyed the feeling of leaning back against his chest so much. "Let's um... I think we should have a plan, in case things go bad tonight," he announced, sounding reasonable. "Can you meet me tomorrow after school if we can't talk later tonight?"

"I'll be able to call you tonight no matter what," I informed him. "If my mom freaks out on me I'll probably be staying with Brad's family for a little while."

Jude became still for a moment, and then leaned his chin on my shoulder.

"Even if your mom isn't okay tonight, doesn't mean that she won't come around."

"I know...but I don't know if I can stay here if..."

"Okay. I get it."

"And staying with you would probably be a bad idea," I said. "I wouldn't want to cause any more problems than..."

"I know," he agreed, nodding. "But you can call me tonight?"

"Yeah. That shouldn't be a problem."

"Okay. So... when are you going to do it?"

"I don't know," I admitted. "At some point tonight. I figure I'll pick the best time I can and get it over with."

Jude let out a breath and I leaned more heavily against him as he held me tighter.

"Do you want to just... stay right here until you're ready to go down?" he asked.

I simply nodded and we fell into a long silence, and waited.

I'm not really sure how long Jude and I sat in my room, but I don't think I'd ever spent such a depressing amount of time with him before. We were both silent, except for when we were talking about the consequences of what was about to happen, mostly focusing around Jude.

If I was having any second thoughts, it was because I was afraid of how all of this would affect him. He, however, assured me that he was still putting in the same amount of hours at work and had decided a while ago that he'd finish school no matter what happened. Basically, he wouldn't tell me not to do it, and he wouldn't tell me to do it, but he still managed to be disgustingly supportive.

We didn't leave my room until we heard the doorbell downstairs, alerting us to the fact that Brad and Mrs. Clair had arrived. Things seemed to move strangely fast from there. Everything seemed so normal. Mrs. Clair went to help my mom and Bree with dinner, and the three of them dragged Jude, Brad, and me into the kitchen to help set the table. Brad and Jude hadn't had very much contact with each other except on a few rare occasions. They had always been polite to each other, but wary. I noticed that it was different tonight. Brad was more friendly towards Jude than normal, and I noticed that Jude seemed to warm up to him in return.

I noticed a lot of things that night, like the way that Mrs. Clair acted completely normal, almost as if she was giving me the option to back out, except for the few times that she'd flash me reassuring looks or when she put her hand on my shoulder more than normal. I think I was relieved to see that Jude was getting the same treatment from her, and I think that made him feel better, too.

The trouble didn't come until we actually sat down for dinner. First, I noticed that the seating arrangement seemed strange to me. Somehow, Mrs. Clair ended up at one head of the table and Jude at the other. I was on one side of Jude, next to Brad. Bree was next to Mrs. Clair, and my mother next to her--directly across from me. I suddenly found that I couldn't look at her.

I'd also noticed that my appetite had completely disappeared. For the longest time, I just sat there, picking at my food and feeling numb. I heard my mom asking Jude about school, and I heard Mrs. Clair telling everyone how she swore her new baby was trying to form words already, at which point Brad rolled his eyes and Bree scolded him for it, insisting that his newest little brother was already smarter than he was. There was laughter, and raised voices, everyone trying to talk around each other.

I said nothing.

I felt Jude tap my foot with his under the table, and when I looked at him he gave me a small, reassuring smile. It didn't really help, especially as the numb calm I was feeling began to wear off. I felt like the conversations around me were going in circles, and frankly, it was giving me a headache. I could hear the clock in the corner. I felt like I was glancing at it every single second, but each time I did, ten minutes had passed. Once, I thought time had actually moved backwards and had to blink hard to straighten myself out. My mom's voice was the one cutting into my thoughts, above all else, which is probably why when she said my name, it caught my attention.

"What do you think, Quinn?" she asked, attempting to pull me into a conversation that I had been unable to concentrate on. She was smiling.

What did I think about what?

I'm not sure what she was asking me. I wasn't sure why she was talking to me. Everyone else around us was still wrapped up in different conversations.

"I'm gay." I don't think I said it any louder than a whisper, and I hadn't realized that I was the one who actually said it until my mom flashed me an odd look from across the table.

My mother responded with something that sounded like, "Very funny," with a disapproving look before she turned to continue her conversation elsewhere.

"I'm gay." I said it a little louder, hoping that I wouldn't have to repeat myself again. I didn't have to. Maybe I said it too loud this time. Everyone was looking at me, and there was silence now, all except for the ringing in my ears. I felt like all the blood had rushed to my head again.

"Quinn," my mom scolded, very clearly this time, "we're trying to eat."

Something about that remark, irritated me.

"Maybe I should leave then. I wouldn't want to ruin your dinner by existing. I'm gay."

I wasn't sure where that came from. My mouth. My mom dropped her fork and stared at me. Everyone stared at me, except Bree; she was currently spewing the drink of soda she'd just taken across the table and Brad had to shield himself before she composed herself and flashed me a shocked look. Oops. I guess Jude wasn't the only one I'd neglected to share my plans with. I had a feeling that I'd be owing my sister an apology later. For now, though, I wanted to thank her. She'd managed to draw the attention away from me, to herself.

"For heaven's sake!" my mother said, frowning as she passed napkins across the table towards my sister before looking at me again. "Quinn, what's the matter with you?" She was confused. That was clear enough, and I was going to have a lot of trouble if I had to repeat myself again.

"Brenda," Mrs Clair spoke up from across the table, speaking to my mom almost gently, "I think Quinn's trying to tell you something."

My mom looked at Mrs. Clair, and then me, her frown deepening by the second.

"It's not funny, Quinn," she said seriously.

I had to swallow past a knot in my throat before I could speak again.

"I'm not trying to be, Mom... I'm gay."

I wondered if anyone was counting how many times she was making me say it. It felt like more times than I'd said it my whole entire life.

"What do you mean?" my mother asked carefully, and I felt myself becoming flushed. I was becoming unnerved with all of the attention on me, almost like I was on display. It not only made me uncomfortable, it was physically making me sick.

"Brenda..." Mrs. Clair started, but my mom held up her hand, her eyes still trained on me as I took a deep breath and forced myself to answer her question.

"I mean I'm gay," I said quietly, suddenly unable to bring myself to speak any louder. "I... I'm just gay, Mom. A homosexual. I like guys. Not girls. Gay."

My mom stared at me for the longest moment, brow furrowed, eyes narrowed, and then said, "No you're not," scoffing like someone was playing a joke on her. I didn't know how to respond to that.

"Mom," this time it was Bree, "it's true."

My mom flashed her a look that silenced her immediately before she faced me again, leaning back and crossing her arms as if she dared me to argue with her.

"You're not," she said, matter-of-factly, as if she expected to leave no room for argument. I raised my brow at that. How the hell was I supposed to respond to that? I was beginning to feel the way I had when I broke up with Marissa and she told me no. What was with these females? It seemed wrong that I had to sit at a table and argue the fact that I was a queer. I suddenly found myself looking around for some sort of assistance. "Look at me!" my mother's voice suddenly became sharp... loud. My eyes snapped to hers. "You're not," she said firmly, as if that made it true.

"I'm sorry, Mom," I whispered.

"No you're not." It was Jude's voice. Firm. I looked at him only to find him looking at my mom rather angrily. She turned a surprised look on him, but he looked at me. "Don't you apologize for something you can't help," he said, speaking to me more gently before he turned on my mother, adding a certain edge to his voice that I hadn't heard before, not even when he'd been angry with me. "You shouldn't make him apologize for it."

"Quinn!" my mom snapped at me, like she was expecting me to jump in and say she was right, that this was just a bad joke.

"It's true." It was all I could get out, and my mom opened and closed her mouth a few times, as if to say something. I watched as anger, confusion, and a few other emotions played across her face before she actually got anything out in a very controlled, but rough voice.

"You don't know what you're talking about, Quinn. Obviously boys your age can get confused. You're too young to..."

"Trust me, Mom, as much as I've tried to make it not true, I know it is. I'm not confused... and I know. Please don't make this harder than it already is."

"I won't listen to this," she responded dryly. "You couldn't know..."

"I think he does, Mrs. Moore," Brad said, and she looked at him in a manner that suggested that he hadn't been invited to talk. That didn't matter to Brad, though. "I... didn't like it either. I figured that his best friend would have known something like this, but when I didn't... well, it pissed me off. But, Mrs. Moore, I've had some time to think about it and now I know that just because I didn't know Quinn was gay," I noticed that my mom flinched at the word and I frowned, "doesn't mean that he's not still Quinn."

"Brad," my mom said slowly. "You're a very nice boy and I love you like a second son, but I don't think you know what you're talking about here. Quinn, do you have any idea what you're saying?"

I opened my mouth to tell her that I did, but Mrs. Clair beat me to it.

"I don't think that's fair, Brenda. They might be boys but they're closer to young adults. Brad's right. Quinn is just the same as he's always been. He's trying to tell you something that's very hard for him and the least you can do is listen. You are his mother."

"Well, thank you, Georgia," my mother responded completely sarcastically to Brad's mom. "But with all due respect..."

"You're not listening," Mrs. Clair cut her off, rather firmly. "Your son is..."

"He is not!" my mom argued. "This whole thing is... ridiculous. Quinn, you're too young..."

"I wasn't too young to know it," Jude suddenly said, shifting the negative attention from my mother in his direction, and I found myself agreeing with my sister, who was shaking her head. Apparently, she was under the impression that Jude should keep quiet for now. It seemed my mom could only take so much at once. Bree was probably right, too... but, it was too late. "My parents knew it, too," Jude continued. "That's why they don't like me very much. If this is an example of how you feel about Quinn, maybe you should reevaluate your opinion of them... because you're starting to sound just like my mom."

My mom's jaw dropped as she stared at Jude.

"You..." she was having trouble getting words out again.

"Mom..." I said, although it was probably a mistake. "Jude was never dating Bree. I'm the one seeing him."

"Oh, here we go..." Bree mumbled, as my mom got up so fast her seat tipped backwards.

"How long?" my mom practically screamed, throwing accusing looks around the table at just about everyone until her eyes settled on Mrs. Clair.

"You knew about this? Georgia, you knew what was going on under my roof... two...two boys and you didn't see fit to tell me?"

"Don't get mad at her!" Bree said, rising to her feet and defending Mrs. Clair because I was incapable of doing it at the moment. I was more focused on Jude, who'd become noticeably pale as he stared at my mother. He probably found this whole thing unnerving. I had no doubt that he'd already gone through something similar with his own parents, and reliving it obviously wasn't on his to-do list. I found myself reaching for him under the table. I found his knee, but a moment later his hand came to mine on its own accord and I wondered if he realized just how tightly he was holding on.

"It's alright, Bree," Mrs. Clair said.

"It is not alright!" my mom argued. "In fact, Bree, you can go up..."

"Don't even start that again!" my sister cut her off.

"I'll start whatever I want," my mom retorted. "And I want everyone out of my house so I can speak to my son!"

Jude abruptly stood up with that announcement. I think he took it as a personal order for him, like my mom was throwing him out. Who knows, maybe she was, because the way she looked at him, and then down at our joined hands when I stood with him because he was still holding onto me, I got the impression that she wouldn't mind throwing him out. For a moment, I almost let Jude go because of that look, but as I looked around the room I realized that there was no longer anyone there who didn't know about us, so even when he tried to release my hand, I held onto him.

"Quinn, you know what? I think you boys should come home with Brad and me now," Mrs. Clair intervened, before my mom could say anything. She and Brad left the table together, and I was a little surprised at how fast they were both next to Jude and me. I was also appreciative to Mrs. Clair, who chose to rest her hand on Jude's shoulder, who oddly enough, seemed more shaken than I did.

"Quinn Moore, don't you dare leave this house!" my mom shouted at me as I turned to leave with Jude, Brad, and his mom. I paused to look back at her.

"I decided to tell you the truth, but if you can't even accept it then there's nothing to talk about, Mom."

"Brenda, I think you need some time to cool off," Mrs. Clair insisted. "Maybe later we can try again."

My mother looked like her head was about to explode, but before she could say anything Mrs. Clair was actually pushing Jude and me towards the front door. I think this made me more nervous than anything, being pushed out of my house, but I couldn't turn around and look back. I knew my mom was right behind us and I couldn't face her. I did look at Bree, though, when she came up beside us. I suddenly felt guilty, realizing that I was leaving my sister there to deal with my mom alone. But, as if she was reading my mind, Bree gave me a soft smile and a nod, just as Brad opened the front door and Jude released my hand, only to bring it to my shoulder, as if he refused to break contact, even going out into public. I had no problem with that.

My mother took this moment to cut all of us off, but I was surprised when it was Mrs. Clair she turned on.

"Georgia, I can't believe you would condone this! And you have no place..."

"Brenda," Mrs. Clair said quietly, "I think you have some thinking to do. When you cool off, I'm sure Quinn will want to try this again. Until that happens, I think we can both agree that it will be best for Quinn, to stay with Ron and me."

"See you later, Bree," Brad whispered to my sister, and to my surprise he took over for his mother when it came to pushing Jude and me along. Jude, of course, began to head for his car, but a moment later, after my front door slammed, Mrs. Clair was gently grabbing his arm.

"You too, sweetheart," she said. "Let's all go calm down for a few minutes. Your car should be just fine right there."

Jude looked at me, appearing uncertain, and I gave him a nod and flashed him a look that I hoped said I wasn't ready for him to go anywhere just yet. He forced a small smile, and together we walked with Brad and his mom down the street to the Clair house.

Georgia Clair officially had four boys and a husband in her household that undoubtably, took up most, if not all, of her time. How she managed to add Jude and me to her list, I'd never know. I certainly wouldn't have had the patience, but I was forever grateful that she did. It brought me a newfound appreciation for my friend's mom. Or, maybe I should say my best-friend's mom.

Unfortunately, my newfound appreciation for Mrs. Clair also brought me face to face with some disappointing qualities about my own mother. I hadn't expected her to react well when I told her the truth. I think the fact that I wasn't surprised really helped in that matter. But, what I hadn't expected, was denial. I think that I'd been hoping we would be able to work things out, at least eventually. But, the fact that she was convincing herself that I was playing some sort of joke, or that I'd lost my mind, didn't make it seem like we'd be working anything out anytime soon.

"I was hoping that you were wrong," Jude admitted as he took a seat next to me and leaned heavily against my shoulder. We'd invaded Brad's room for the time being, and were currently sitting on the twin-sized bed it seemed I'd be occupying for a while.

"So did I," I replied. "But I knew I wouldn't be."

"Yeah, how? You were wrong about pretty much everyone else," Jude remarked, but at least he was smiling.

"I had to be right sooner or later," I pointed out. "It just sucks I was right about my mom."

"Are you okay?" Jude asked, and I shook my head, looking at him.

"No, but that makes two of us, doesn't it?"

"I'm okay," Jude replied.

"Yeah, you're a bad liar... I'm sorry."

"Will you stop apologizing?" he said irritably. "I've been listening to you apologize all day and it was probably necessary only half of those times. There's nothing you need to apologize for, Quinn. I wanted this to happen, remember? I didn't want it to happen like this, but I still wanted it."

"Sorry," I automatically said as a result of feeling scolded. Jude looked at me, and a moment later we were caught in the middle of an abrupt fit of laughter.

I think it was necessary to laugh at a time like that. Personally, I thought it was the only thing that was keeping me from feeling all of the pain I was on the verge of experiencing. Ever since I'd sat down on the bed that wasn't mine, I'd noticed that my entire body ached. It was like leaving my house, walking out on my mom who acted as if she didn't even want to know me, had left me physically traumatized. But, the laughter ended as abruptly as it started, as soon as I caught Jude's eyes, and the next thing I knew, he was holding my head to his shoulder and hugging me in a way that suggested he wanted me to stop breathing.

"It's not over yet," he said quietly. "Your mom's just going to need some time. I'm so sorry that you weren't wrong, Quinn."

"Stop apologizing," I remarked, in an attempt to continue our small joke, but when Jude didn't laugh I released a breath and submitted to the comfort he was offering me. "I don't know what to do...about any of this. Fuck, Jude, it could mess things up for you, too. Maybe I shouldn't have..."

"I told you, Quinn, it's not going to change anything for me. Not really. And, I think you did the right thing."

"You do?"

"Yeah. I mean, I have to admit I didn't think you were ready--not really. But the way you handled your mom... I think it was good. It could have been much worse. Now... I should have kept my mouth shut a few times, but that's a different story."

"No," I said firmly, pulling back to look at him. "I'm glad you were there... and said what you said. Thanks."

Jude granted me a small smile and leaned forward, kissing my forehead, just as there was a tap on the door. We released each other, although we didn't rush about it, and a moment later, Mrs Clair was entering with hot chocolate. I think the woman was under the impression that hot chocolate could make anything better. I guess she could have had a point. We thanked her as she handed us each a cup, but I for one, tried to ignore the sympathetic way she was regarding me.

"How are you guys doing?" she asked us, sitting down across from us on Brad's bed.

"Not too bad," I shrugged. "Thanks, Mrs. Clair.

"Don't you worry about anything, Quinn," she insisted, and then sighed as an eruption of noise came from downstairs. "It sounds like Ron's back with the rest of my boys. Sorry, guys, it might get loud around here. I'll try to get them to keep it down until bedtime. If you guys feel like coming down I think I'm going to make some soup."

"I'm not really hungry," I said, and Jude nodded to agree with me.

"Well, if you'd like some obnoxious company, then," she said, smiling, and then regarded us more seriously. "Jude, there's an extra bed in the baby's room. I'd put you in here with Brad and Quinn, but... well, I don't need Brenda to be any more upset with me than she already is, not that I don't trust you boys to..." She left the sentence unfinished and I think both Jude and I blushed.

"Um, thank you, Mrs. Clair," Jude finally said. "But, I was planning to go home, anyway."

"Are you sure, Jude?" she asked him, looking concerned. I was a little surprised. I don't think either Jude or I had counted on her invitation for him to stay. "If you're not feeling up to going home you might as well stay here."

"I should go home," Jude insisted, and although I'd expected it, that disappointed me.

"Alright," Mrs. Clair said, nodding, although she seemed skeptical about the idea. "Then why don't you come by tomorrow when the boys get home from school. You can stay for dinner if you want."

I smiled at her offer, appreciating it more than she would ever know, even if I already knew what Jude's answer was going to be.

"I actually have school tomorrow night," he explained. "I'm usually home around nine. If that's not too late to call Quinn..."

"Sweetheart, you call whenever you want," she cut him off, and I watched Jude's eyes widen slightly when she suddenly stood and then knelt down to hug him. It only took him a moment to return the gesture, and when they were finished, I got the same treatment.

"Quinn, you know where the extra towels and blankets are if you need them," Mrs. Clair said. "I'd better get down there to make sure my wonderful husband isn't sugaring up the boys before I have to put them to bed. I hate when he does that." She left shaking her head, but she was smiling, and I noticed that she didn't even leave the door cracked when she left, as if she trusted us entirely.

"They seem like nice people," Jude remarked, taking my hand again.

"They are."

"You know I should go pretty soon, right?" he asked, causing me to look in his direction.

I nodded, but I wasn't happy about it.

"I forgot my cell," I admitted. "I won't be able to get hold of you until tomorrow night."

"You can call before you go to school tomorrow," he suggested. "I can be a little late to work."

I smiled, and met him halfway when he leaned forward for a light kiss before we went downstairs together. I think we were both grateful that we didn't run into Brad's family as I walked Jude out the front door. They were nice people, but I wasn't really in the mood for a crowd at the moment. I doubted Jude was either.

"Let's say goodbye here," Jude started, looking through the darkness towards my house where his car was parked, but I quickly interrupted him.

"I'm not going to make you walk over there alone, Jude."

Jude looked at me as if to argue, but ended up smiling instead, and together we walked in silence towards the house that I would not be sleeping in tonight. I found myself keeping an eye on the door the whole way to Jude's car, just in case my mom decided to come out, but we seemed safe enough... except for when the door opened.

Jude and I both paused, and I felt him move a little closer to me as we stared. I was nothing but relieved when my sister appeared in the doorway, carrying a few bags, one being my school backpack. She saw us and as she closed the door Jude and I moved past his car to meet her.

I looked at Bree, once again feeling guilty about leaving her with my mother when I saw that her eyes looked a little swollen, but overall, she appeared to be more annoyed than sad.

"Here, Quinn," she said, passing me the bags. "I thought you'd want some of your stuff over there." As soon as she'd successfully handed me the bags and my hands were full, she proceeded to hug me while I struggled to return the gesture. "Your journal's in there, too," she added quietly. "Just in case Mom decides to snoop."

"Thanks, Bree," I said as she stepped back. "Are you okay?"

She shrugged. "I'm fine, I wish you would have told me you were going to do that, though. Mom's been going crazy since you left."

"Sorry," I replied, and I really meant it. "So... is Mom..."

"She's really mad, Quinn," Bree replied. "I mean, I think she's starting to get it...but she's not happy. I think what Jude said is getting to her, though. Just... give her some time."

"What I said?" Jude asked, sounding alarmed.

"Yeah," Bree replied, with a slight smile. "She really hated being compared to your parents. Oh... and when I told her I was going to bring Quinn some stuff, she said to give you this."

Bree lifted an envelope from her pocket and I looked over Jude's shoulder as he opened it. Inside, was the same amount of cash that he'd been getting every month around the first. Jude definitely seemed surprised; I was relieved. Maybe it wasn't a lot, but it was a sign that my mom was still somewhere in there.

"It's a good sign, right?" Bree said. "Like I said, give her some time... and I won't stop working on her."

I found myself smiling at my sister, knowing full well that when she said she was going to work on my mom it meant that she was going guilt the hell out of her...and that was pretty much okay with me at this point. If my sister was as good at guilting at my mom as she was when it came to me, all I'd have to do was sit back and wait.

"Thanks, Bree."



"Are you okay?" It was the first time I'd seen Jude in three days, and the first thing he said to me as he walked into the room that Brad and I had been sharing since Sunday night.

I put aside my homework and sat up on my new bed, shrugging in response to his question. "Fine," I mumbled.

I wasn't surprised to see him. He didn't have school tonight and he'd accepted an invitation from Mrs. Clair to come over to dinner. She'd been true to her word, welcoming all calls from Jude, no matter how late they came. Even Brad wasn't supposed to get calls after ten o'clock on a school night. Jude had called me much later than that over the last few days and the Clairs had been practically ecstatic to give me the phone. Of course, that probably had a lot to do with the fact that I'd been depressed over the last few days, felt like a mess that even I couldn't clean up, and hearing from Jude seemed to be the only thing that brought me close to smiling.

"Liar," Jude remarked as he moved to sit next to me. I was actually a little self-conscious about him being so close, considering the only shower I'd had was Monday after gym class. I'd managed to brush my teeth twice a day, but like it had before, depression had taken over and simple things I did every day no longer seemed necessary... either that or they seemed like too much work. In fact, I wasn't even sure that I'd bothered to run a comb through my hair that morning before I shrugged on clothes that were wrinkled from being in the backpack that Bree had brought me. It was funny, how Jude walking into the room could suddenly make me think of all of the little things that I'd neglected to keep up with, and for a moment I couldn't even bring myself to look him in the eye as I ran my fingers through my hair, wondering when I'd last brushed it. The result didn't seem good when my fingers became stuck in my curls and I had to forcefully pull them out. Jude's fingers didn't get stuck, though, when he lifted his hand and followed the same path that I had, and I guess I didn't smell that bad because he even leaned in closer, and suddenly, the fact that he was there dawned on me and I forced myself to look at him.

"I'm having a really bad week," I admitted.

It was true. If I'd thought that nothing could top those hellish weeks of admitting to myself that a was a big fat homo then I had another think coming the day I decided to walk away from my home...and my mother. I hadn't heard from my mom since I saw her Sunday night. I hadn't even seen her. Her car would appear and disappear at random times, but not once did I actually see her. Maybe it had been foolish, but I honestly hadn't thought that this would last as long as three days. Everyone else I cared about had accepted me eventually. Even Marissa. Sure, my best friend had taken some time, but now he was sharing a room with me, where we slept no more than three feet from each other, and he'd been completely welcoming about it. I could understand my mom needing time, too. But, how much time did she need? She was my mother. I'd thought that her giving Jude his money had been a sign that she'd ask me to come home soon. But three days without seeing her... it left me a little less confident.

"You don't like it here?" Jude asked quietly.

"No, it's fine here," I replied. It was actually more than fine with the Clairs. It was a little louder than I was used to, and a little messier; but, that was only because I hadn't exactly been motivated to clean up myself, let alone an entire house--not that I hadn't thought about it. But, it really was nice staying with the Clairs. I felt like I was with extended family. Bree came over just about every night and every morning to go to school with Brad and me, so I wasn't exactly missing her. It was also nice not being outnumbered by females for once. Mr. Clair included me every time he took his boys out to the park, or even into the back yard for various ball games before dinner. I didn't always join them, but the idea that I could... was nice.

"Are you getting along with Brad?" Jude asked. He looked concerned, and he was definitely nitpicking. The way he was studying me closely indicated that he didn't just want to come out and tell me I looked like crap, so instead he was digging for information. I couldn't really blame him, though. Over the last few days, either he was at school, or I was at school--or he was at work, or I was at work. That left only phone calls. But, every time Jude asked me how I was doing over the phone, I'd change the subject. If he asked me about my mom, I'd especially change the subject. I didn't want to think about that when I talked to him. I didn't want to think about any of it.

"Why wouldn't we be getting along?"

Brad was the one who happened to answer Jude's question, looking irritable in the process, as he came through the door, which Jude had left open. Jude appeared uneasy for a moment as Brad took a seat at his computer, but I managed to give Jude a small smile.

"We're fine," I insisted. "Everything's... fine."

"He's lying," Brad said, glancing at us over his shoulder.

"I know," Jude replied.

"He's miserable," Brad continued.

"I can see that," Jude said, nodding.

"Okay," I interrupted them, quickly getting irritated. "Jude... do you want to... go outside or something, where we can talk?" I flashed Brad a mutinous look and he smiled at me.

"What's wrong with talking here, Quinn?" he asked, but he was smiling, obviously teasing me.

"Maybe we should stay here," Jude said, only he was completely serious as he nodded to indicate Brad. "At least he's talking to me."

"Hey, give him a break," Brad insisted. "He's just upset because he hasn't heard anything from his mom."

"At all?" Jude asked, looking at me.

"No," I said flatly.

"Well, has Bree said anything?" he wanted to know.

"She won't tell him anything," Brad answered for me. But, I really didn't mind it. It seemed all I thought about was the fact that I was being rejected by my own mother. If someone else wanted to talk about it that was their business, as long as I didn't have to do it. "And that probably means that things aren't going all that great over there. I keep telling Quinn to try to forget about it for a while. It'll be easier to wait for his mom to grow a brain if he figures out that she's the one with the problem and not him. Seriously, Quinn. You need to get out and forget about this shit for a while."

"My mom has a brain, Brad," I retorted, feeling offended. "And I don't need to get out. I'm fine..."

"It wouldn't hurt to get out and do something to get your mind off things," Jude interrupted, and I flashed him an incredulous look. You know, just in case he didn't know that he was my boyfriend and was supposed to take my side. The smirk appearing on his face over the look didn't exactly score him any extra points. "I'm serious, Quinn. I'm not saying that you should ignore it... but, I think you need to stop worrying."

"I'm not worried," I argued, but then realized how stupid that sounded. Everyone in the room knew that I was worried. I, Quinn Moore, was a worrier. That's just how it was. "Okay... so I'm worried. I thought she would have at least sent Bree over with some sort of message by now... even if it was to ground me. I mean, how long am I supposed to wait? Brad, your family's great but..."

"Don't even say it, Quinn," Brad cut me off. "My parents already told you that you could stay as long as you want, even if it is...permanent. So, unless you really hate sharing a room with me, knock it off and forget about it."

"I don't hate sharing..." I started to say, but Brad's smile stopped me. He was making a joke. "It's still not my home," I concluded.

Brad turned his chair to better face me. His smile faded somewhat, and I wondered if he was attempting to look sympathetic. It sure seemed that way.

"I know," he finally said. "But just try to think of it as your home away from home for a while; your mom will get her act together, Quinn, I know she will." I let out a breath and simply nodded. Everyone kept saying that. Unfortunately, it was getting harder and harder for me to believe.

The soft knock on Brad's opened door brought all of our attention towards it, to where my sister was leaning against the doorframe with her arms crossed.

"This isn't one of those no-girls-allowed things, right?" she remarked.

Brad smiled at her. "Get in here."

"What are you doing here?" I asked. I hadn't been expecting to see her until tomorrow morning.

"Mom went to get take-out," she explained as she moved into the room and I scooted over on the bed to make room for her. Conveniently, this placed me even closer to Jude, who didn't bother to move an inch once I was pressed up against his side. "I thought I'd come say hi."

"How are you doing?" Jude asked her, and she gave him a smile and a small shrug.

"Currently, I hate my life," Bree announced. "But I guess it could be worse." She looked at me after she said that and I frowned.

"How's Mom?" I asked, before I could stop myself.

Bree looked a little surprised at the question, but after a moment of staring at me and then noticing that everyone else's attention was on her, too, she gave a slight nod.

"Not good," Bree admitted. "I've tried to talk to her, Quinn... she just gets mad every time I say your name."

That was information, that I could have gone without. I felt Jude's hand go to my back, but as sweet as the gesture was, it hardly made me feel better.

"Bree--not cheering him up, here," Brad commented.

"I wasn't aware that I was supposed to be," my sister retorted, somewhat defensively, and then looked at me again. "I know it sounds bad, Quinn... but I also know she misses you. Yesterday when you helped Mrs. Clair bring in groceries she was watching you out the window... and she was in your room last night."

"Snooping?" I immediately demanded.

"No," Bree said quickly. "She was just sitting there. She knows I've been feeding your fish, so she didn't really have a reason to be... I mean, she misses you, Quinn."

"Really?" I remarked. "Because I thought she was avoiding me."

Bree frowned at that, but she didn't comment. Neither did anyone else. It was probably because they thought the same way that I did: If my mom missed me, she sure as hell had a funny way of showing it.

Jude was the one who didn't let the silence drag on for long. He changed the subject towards food, and what we were having for dinner. We found out not long after when Mrs. Clair called us down, and Bree returned home. I think the only reason why I bothered going downstairs that night was because Jude was there. Unfortunately, he was gone again shortly after we ate.

Thursday I managed to actually shower before I went to school. I'd sat with Brad alone on Monday because I was hardly in any shape to even be at school, but the rest of the week I'd chosen to sit with Trina and Taylor. I'd noticed that at their table things seemed quieter... at least, the rumors weren't flying around. They knew exactly what had happened between my mother and me, but to my relief, they never brought it up. On Thursday Taylor asked me if I'd still meet him on Saturday, something he'd done every day that week. Trina kept asking what he was up to, but I was sure that it was threatening looks from me that prevented him from telling her. I finally told him that I wasn't up for it, and to my surprise, he dropped it.

Brad had been driving us to and from school, and Thursday afternoon, as we were on the way to his car, Marissa approached Bree, Brad and me. Of course, I was her focus. Apparently Brad told her everything that had happened with my mom and she wanted to know how I was doing. The gesture of asking was a nice one, but when she began to insist that she be the one to talk some sense into my mother, Brad had to drag her off and convince her not to interfere. I really didn't need that kind of problem arising. If my mom wouldn't even listen to Bree, I doubted that she'd be happy to hear from Marissa. That's why I was more or less relieved when Marissa returned with Brad and promised that she wouldn't do anything as long as I promised to call her and let her know how I was doing. We gave her a ride home, and I got a hug before she got out of the car.

And then it was Friday.

The highlight of my week was that morning when Jude called to tell me that his school would be canceled because the regular teacher had come down with the flu. That meant that he'd be getting home from work about an hour after I got out of school, and when he asked if I wanted to do something I was more than willing. Mrs. Clair had laughed when I asked if I was allowed to go out and said she'd drive me herself if it would put a smile on my face and get me out of the house for a while. She did mention that Brad's normal curfew was eleven-thirty, though. Oddly enough, I found that I didn't have a problem with Mrs. Clair giving me a curfew. Now that just about everyone knew that Jude and I were dating, it made sense that our sleepovers would have to end. After all, Marissa and I never would have been allowed to sleep over at each other's houses when we were together, not that we'd want to. If there was anything normal about the relationship I had with Jude, those same rules would apply. Actually, and I'm sure he'd disagree with me on this, I was happy about it-- being somewhat normal--even if it did mean that it seemed like it would be a long time before we ever had the chance to wake up together again.

But, we could still see each other, and the idea of spending some real time with Jude pretty much carried me through school. He was supposed to meet me at six o'clock and we were going to get dinner somewhere together, and then probably end up at his place. But, by four o'clock Friday afternoon, the entire idea of going with Jude was shot to hell when someone knocked on the Clairs' door and I happened to be there when Brad answered it. I wasn't sure what to think when I saw my mom standing there, looking both tired and serious, but, she didn't give me much of a chance to think about it.

"I want you to come home."

Those were her exact words, her only words, before she turned around and walked away.


There's nothing wrong with the corn, but something's wrong here

I picked up my cell phone, somewhat happy to see that someone had placed it on its charger near my bed. As I dialed the now familiar number, I wondered why I hadn't asked Bree to bring me my phone before. I guess it didn't matter now, though.


"Jude? Hey..."

"Quinn, I was just walking out the door," he explained. "I'll see you in about fifteen minutes, okay?"

"Wait," I said quickly, before he could hang up on me. "I can't go out tonight."

"What do you mean?" he asked, sounding concerned.

"Um... I'm home."

And as I explained to Jude, I'd only been home for about fifteen minutes. The last two hours had been hectic ones. It was strange; as much as I'd wanted to go home, to be invited back home, I was a little disappointed with how it had happened. I guess it was fair to say that I'd fantasized about my mom asking me to come back ever since Sunday night. And I'd fantasied about more than I got. I wanted her to tell me that she missed me... or at least that she loved me... or that home wasn't the same without me. Anything.

I wasn't the only one who'd been disappointed, either. Brad actually became angry when she didn't at least apologize for her behavior over the weekend, and he tried to talk me out of going back. His parents seemed concerned when I made a quick decision to pack up my things and walk back down the street. They didn't try to stop me, but they did offer to come with me. This time, however, I decided to face my mother on my own, so I thanked them for everything and they told me that the extra bed would be available any time I needed it. Only five minutes after I got home, I was questioning how soon I really would need it.

Something wasn't right. I'd walked through the door, not finding it necessary to knock, and I'd immediately gone in search of my mom. I fully expected a deep, long, drawn-out conversation and probably a lot of arguing to accompany it. I was scared shitless, but I wanted to face her this time. If it meant putting things back together, I was ready to face her. What I wasn't ready for, was the cold manner that in which my mother regarded me when I found her in the kitchen.

She didn't say anything. Not, Welcome home. Not, I'm glad you're back. Not even, We need to talk. Instead, she looked up from the dishes she was putting away and said, "We'll be having dinner around eight o'clock. Your sister's out with her friends. She'll be home soon."

"Mom, I'm..." I was going to apologize again. I wasn't sure what for, but it felt necessary, the way she was speaking to me in a cold, flat voice. But, before I could even get the words out she interrupted me.

"You should do your homework if you have any. No need to wait until the last minute." And then she walked away from me. The whole encounter had left me entirely confused, and more than a little worried, which is why I immediately went upstairs and called Jude, who was surprised to hear I was home. But, when I told him how my mom was acting he suggested that she still needed time and she'd probably talk to me later. He was wrong.

I'm not sure when Bree got home, until she made the fact known by barging into my room and hugging me while I was in the middle of putting my things away.

"What are you doing here?" she demanded. "I didn't even know. Mom just told me to come get you for dinner!"

"You didn't know she was going to ask me to come back?" I asked. This information only troubled me more for some reason.

"No," she replied. "So did you guys talk? Is everything okay now?"

"I don't think so," I said honestly.

And things weren't okay. That became apparent during dinner. Tension was definitely high around the table. My mom refused to even look at me as we silently ate. Even when I complimented her cooking she only hummed her response and promptly began to ignore me, asking Bree how her day went. That's how I felt: ignored. Even when Bree tried to help by asking how my day went, my mom swiftly got up, commenting that the corn was cold and she needed to go reheat it. There was nothing wrong with the corn.

I didn't sleep that night. I was too busy trying to figure out why my mom had asked me to come home if this was how she was going to act, and regretting that I hadn't gone out with Jude. I thought about calling him around midnight, but Bree chose that time to sneak up to my room with the cookies she'd baked the day before. She seemed upset about the way my mom was acting, but my sister also made it clear that she was happy I was home. At least someone was. We spent the next two hours playing board games, and trying to erase some of the tension from the last few hours. Unfortunately, over the next week, it became apparent that our efforts were wasted.

Being home... was difficult. I was constantly on the verge of going back to the Clairs', and it had nothing to do with my mom being overbearing. It was exactly the opposite, actually. She wouldn't talk to me, not unless she was telling me I should do my homework, or that dinner was ready. The way she ignored me even when we were all at the table, made me feel so unwanted that I was on the verge of another breakdown. All week long it felt like she was only aware of my sister being there. In fact, she was being incredibly nice to Bree. She'd ask my sister how her day went, showed concern over whether or not she had enough to eat, and even offered to help her with homework. I was just the guy on the other side of the table, the one that didn't exist. Even when Bree found a way to pull me into conversation, my mom would manage to push me right back out, much to my sister's chagrin, not to mention mine.

I tried to talk to my mom. Repeatedly. Every time I tried, she'd make some excuse to get away from me, though, and for the time being, I was at a loss. After school on Wednesday I ended up having dinner with the Clairs because I couldn't stand the thought of being ignored anymore. When I told them how things were going at home they first suggested that I try to talk to my mom. When I explained that I had, and what the result had been, Mrs. Clair became uncharacteristically angry and insisted that I come stay with them again. I don't know why for the life of me, but I declined, deciding to ride it out for at least a few more days. When I got home that night, Bree and my mom weren't speaking and things were more strained than ever. Later, Bree explained that it was because she'd confronted my mother on my behalf, and when my mom tried to change the subject Bree had informed her that if she was going to ignore me, she could ignore my sister, too.

By Friday, things hadn't improved and I'd gone from being frightened and uncertain over the situation to incredibly hurt and angry. I'd finally gone to see Mr. Meyers, at Taylor's suggestion, and I made a point to tell him everything. He, of course, suggested counseling again. He also seemed annoyed that I still hadn't gone. But, he was supportive and asked if I wanted to try to talk my mom in his office. I surprised myself by telling him that I didn't want to talk to her at all anymore, and was surprised even more because I meant it. It was probably the anger talking, but I'd reached a point where I didn't care anymore. Johns handed me another phone number for a family counselor and I put it on the refrigerator when I got home, but I didn't bother to even say hi to my mom, something I'd made a point to do every other day that week. Once again I was ignored at dinner, but this time, I was so fed up with it that I left the table without excusing myself. Bree looked angry, but not with me, and my mom didn't try to stop me.

It was around eleven o'clock when I decided that I couldn't sleep and had to get out of that house. I got dressed, grabbed my car keys, and made it all the way to the front door before a voice that spoke to me very rarely these days stopped me.

"Where are you going?" my mom asked quietly.

I turned around to face her. She was still displaying that cold demeanor, and I couldn't read her. But, for some reason I found it highly amusing that she cared about what I was doing now when she'd made it a point to act like she didn't care about anything I'd done the whole week.

"You've made it pretty clear that's none of your business anymore," I replied, and turned to continue on my way. I half expected her to follow me out of the house screaming at me for talking to her like that. She didn't.

It was almost midnight on Friday night when I used the key Jude had given me to his apartment for the first time. I'd been talking to him over the phone all week. He was aware of what being back in my house was doing to me. He'd even offered to come over and talk to my mom himself, which was definitely a bad idea. So, instead he remained positive. But, when I'd talked to him earlier that night and told him what the Clairs had said he had slightly changed his opinion on the matter. I was a little surprised, the way he told me that it might be a good idea to go stay with them again for a little while.

Although he'd stopped by the school twice during lunch that week, we hadn't made any definite plans to see each other outside of those short visits, so he hadn't known that I was coming. I think I was both disappointed and relieved to find that he was already in bed. I was disappointed because I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to visit, and make up for the last few weeks, which at this point seemed like an eternity. But, I was relieved because seeing Jude sound asleep under the covers made me realize just how tired I was. How tired I'd been. After stripping down to my boxers and placing my clothes in neat stacks at the foot of his bed, I crawled in with him as he stirred slightly in his sleep and leaned further back into me as I placed an arm around him, gently kissing the back of his neck before I closed my eyes and slept better than I had for two weeks.



As I drifted out of sleep I noticed that my legs felt cramped. In fact, I was pretty sure that the pain in my thighs was what was waking me up. But, it was far from unpleasant, considering that my cock was so hard that it ached, and it was enveloped in something warm, wet, and overall, excruciatingly pleasant.

My eyes snapped open and I lifted my head from the pillows only to find that the reason why my legs were cramping so bad was because my heels were digging into Jude's mattress, my knees locked up. But, I was more interested in the blond head bobbing on my erection more than I was anything else. It took me a moment to realize where I was and why I was there, but as soon as I remembered, I became relaxed and slowly dropped my legs, my fingers reaching to run through Jude's hair as I dropped my head again, closing my eyes to take advantage of his wake-up call. The way my hips were already thrusting uncontrollably off of the bed and my heart was racing was a good indication that I didn't have long before it was over, and I was right, because a second later I swear I had the orgasm of my life. At least, it hit me so hard that I was shaking afterwards and was completely incapacitated. The room suddenly seemed cold because my body had become so warm, so I was grateful when Jude came to me. I think he meant to lay next to me, but I wrapped an arm around him and pulled him up until he was over me, dragging the blankets with him.

"You didn't wake me up last night," he said accusingly. In response I cupped the back of his head and pulled him down until his lips were over mine. It was all the encouragement he needed before he was kissing me, and by the time he pulled back there was a goofy smile on his face in place of his accusing look. But still, he repeated, "You didn't wake me up last night."

"You were sleeping."

"You didn't wake me up last night. I'm supposed to be at work in fifteen minutes... unless you want me to call in sick. Do you want me to call in sick? You know what? I'm gonna call in sick."

Jude suddenly sprang out of bed, leaving me to pull the covers back over myself as I wondered where I'd misplaced my boxers, or where he'd misplaced them, as I watched him head for the phone. If I'd known last night that he was as naked as he was now, I probably would have woken him up.

"You don't have to call in sick," I called after him, and he turned, giving me a sideways view of the erection slanting upwards from between his legs, almost touching his stomach. "Or... you could."

Jude smiled and reached for the phone again, but before he grabbed it I came to my senses.

"No... go to work," I insisted. "I sort of have to go home, anyway."

Jude's brow lifted as he studied me curiously, but in the end he picked up the phone. He didn't call in sick, but I listened to him tell Murphy that he was going to be late, and the next thing I knew, he was crawling back into bed with me. Only now, he wasn't smiling.

"Your mom doesn't know you're here." There was no question in his voice.

"She probably has an idea," I admitted. "But, it doesn't really matter, does it?"


I turned into Jude, wrapping an arm around him as I did so and shifted until our bodies were pressed together tightly enough for me to feel his cock pressed firmly against my stomach.

"Why does she hate me so much?" I asked quietly, and he kissed my forehead. "I'm so sick of this, Jude. I couldn't stand to be there anymore last night so..."

"That's what the key's for," he informed me. "But next time--wake me up."

"I'm sorry," I replied, sighing as I dipped my head down and kissed his chest, while I allowed my hand resting on his hip to move around until my thumb brushed the head of his cock. Jude jumped slightly and his hand went to my shoulder, but obviously my movement wasn't enough to end this conversation.

"When are you going home?"

"When you go to work, I guess."

I moved my hand lower, tracing his length with two fingers until I reached his balls, staring at his chest as he tilted his hips forward into my hand and his body stiffened. I was sure that if I looked up I'd find him biting his lip in an attempt to muffle the inevitable moan.

"And how am I going to see you now that you're going to be grounded?" he managed to ask before I grabbed hold of his cock, firmly stroking him until that moan came.

"I'll meet you here after you get off work," I said, deciding that it no longer mattered whether I was going to be grounded or not. My mom couldn't ground me if she was ignoring me. That seemed to be answer enough for Jude, because he suddenly stopped talking long enough to tilt my chin up and place his mouth over mine, his tongue teasing my lips until I opened, and a few minutes later he was coming into my hand. I got one more kiss before he hurried off to the shower, needing to get ready for work.

It was ten thirty before I got home. I think I was glad that it was already so late. That meant that my mom had the better half of the morning to wonder where I was when she woke up and I was still gone. I'd probably had better ideas, but when I went home that morning, I fully intended to start a fight with her. I was pretty sure that she'd at least yell at me for being out at night. When I opened the door, I expected her to come running down the stairs, ready to ground my ass off. And I wanted it. At least it would be something. But, if I was expecting a fight, I was in for disappointment. I didn't even see my mom when I walked through the front door. I even stopped to listen for a minute. If she was anywhere in the vicinity I'd simply have to go to her... but, nothing. In fact, the house seemed almost too quiet. Usually on a Saturday morning there would be voices in the kitchen around this time, or at least the smell of food.

I was just about to head up the stairs when there was a loud knock on the door. I turned back, wondering who'd be visiting before noon on a weekend. I found out when I opened the door and stared at Taylor standing there, hands in his pockets. Just behind him there was a little white car parked behind mine in the driveway and it looked like someone with long, dark hair was in the driver's seat, waiting for him.

"Hey, Moore, your sister ready yet?"

"Ready for what?" I asked, eyeing the car suspiciously.

"Laser tag... it was her idea," Taylor turned suddenly, following my eyes to the car. "Dude, it's just my sister. She's driving us... unless you want to do it."

I blinked, moving my attention back to Taylor.

"Huh? Um... no. I'll see what Bree's doing."

I turned to head back into the house without inviting Taylor in, but wasn't all that surprised when he followed me, anyway. I was surprised, though, when he suddenly grabbed my arm and pulled me back as he shut the door behind us.

"Hey, wait a sec," he insisted, reaching into an oversized coat pocket. "I've got something for you to look at."

"Taylor..." I started impatiently. I really was in a hurry to go fight with my mom, but, as soon as he held up an old video I was shocked into silence as I stared at the worn cover of two male figures in a... compromising position. He smirked at the look on my face.

"What? Look, you said you had questions. Just think of it as Gay Sex 101."

"You brought me porn?" I hissed, snatching the video out of his hands and shoving it into my own jacket. I didn't do this so much because I was interested in it... I was more interested in hiding it.

"Why not?" he shrugged. "It's not exactly like the real thing but you'll get the general idea... and I want it back when you're done."

"Want what back?" my sister's voice interrupted as she came down the stairs. I turned to look at her, feeling a little red in the face.

"Nothing," I said quickly.

Bree raised an eyebrow at me as she got closer.

"Are you just getting home?" she asked.

"Yup." I shrugged, and Taylor's eyes widened slightly on me.

"Maybe you don't need it anymore," he mumbled, and I shot a glare his way.

"Well, Mom was really mad last night," Bree informed me. "Fair warning."

This information actually had me smiling.

"Good," I said.

My sister looked at me disapprovingly and shook her head as she looked between me and Taylor.

"Maybe I should stay home," Bree suggested. "I don't think I should leave you alone with Mom."

"Just go," I insisted. "I'm not going to be around long, anyway."

"Quinn..." my sister said in a warning tone. "Just..."

"Look, I'm fine," I said. "Just... go. I'm going to try to talk to her again and if I can't I'll head over to Jude's. So where is she?"

"In her room, I think," Bree said, still looking cautious. "You're still going to live here when I get back, right?"

I sighed and tried to give my sister a reassuring look.

"It'll be fine, Bree," I replied, hoping that I sounded more convinced than I actually felt. "I'll see you later, okay?"

Bree let out a breath, obviously not understanding why I didn't seem more concerned. But, she didn't stick around to find out as Taylor opened the front door for her and he followed her out, but not before throwing a pointed wink in my direction.

"Don't forget I want it back, Moore. It's my favorite."

I involuntarily cringed, trying to ignore the fact that I had Taylor's favorite porn under my jacket as I closed the door on him and turned to head upstairs. I didn't run into my mom on the way up to my room, either. It was strange, how I felt calm as I waited for it to happen. It was like I really didn't care anymore. I guess being ignored had taken its toll. But, while I wanted something to happen, I didn't exactly have any desire to go in search of my mom, so I used the time to take a quick shower and change. By the time I made it downstairs to fix something for lunch I was beginning to wonder if I'd even see my mom before it was time to go back to Jude's again... which I'd decided that I would do, no matter what.

She finally turned up just as I sat down at the kitchen table with my sandwiches, and for a moment as she entered the kitchen and stood behind the chair opposite from me I had a moment of apprehension and suddenly found it difficult to look her in the eyes, so I decided on using one of her own tactics: I ignored her and took a bite of my sandwich, hoping that when she yelled at me I wouldn't jump and choke on it.

Because, I was expecting her to yell. It only made sense that she would. Except... she didn't. Instead, what I got was a very quiet, controlled voice aimed in my direction.

"You didn't come home last night," she said simply.

I wasn't really sure how to respond to that, or if I should even respond at all. But, I found myself taking another bite of my sandwich and talking around it.


There was a long silence and I focused on swallowing my food, something that seemed abnormally difficult all of a sudden. I could feel her staring down at me, but I refused to look up. I knew that if I did, she wouldn't look away and I would be forced to, something that couldn't happen if I wanted to hold my ground here. I was suddenly feeling very annoyed with myself, because for all the numbness and anger I'd felt when I'd wished that my mom would just scream at me, I was sure acting like a chickenshit now.

"Were you... with Jude?"

I abruptly put down my sandwich, not liking the note of disapproval in her voice, but I still didn't look at her.

"Yeah, I was," I responded coldly.

There was another long silence, and then in that same, controlled voice, she said, "I don't want you leaving this house again before telling me first." And then she started to walk away. Again. Only this time, I wasn't going to let her as some of that anger returned and I found myself on my feet.

"And what makes you think I even care about what you want?" I snapped.

My mom stopped, and turned to face me. This time I did meet her eyes. There was definitely anger there, but she was still in control of it. My anger, was a different story.

"Your curfew is nine o'clock," she added.

"No," I said simply, and she narrowed her eyes on me in a way that under normal circumstances, would make me back off. "If you want me out of here, fine. Just say so. But, don't pretend to be my mom if you're not going to act like it."

"You're grounded," she tried, her voice raising slightly.

"Okay," I shrugged, "then I'll be grounded over at Brad's house."

I started to walk away from the table, but she suddenly moved to step in my path.

"You're not allowed to leave this house right now, Quinn Moore!"

"Why not?" I shot back. "You're not tired of ignoring me yet? You've made it pretty clear that you don't want me here, Mom. And you know what? I'm tired of it."

"You can not..."

"You know what else?" I cut her off, suddenly feeling more control... and maybe a little bit of power. I had her flustered now, and something about that seemed satisfying to me. "I was so afraid to tell you the truth. Do you have any idea how hard it was growing up in this house? Do you have any idea what it did to me, listening to you talk about those people? I am one of those people. And it scared the hell out of me because you... I never thought you'd be okay with it. I guess I was right. But you know what else? I was stupid, Mom. I was stupid for ever caring what you'd think because there are other people who accept me for me... and even if they aren't my own mother. That's something." She crossed her arms and just glared at me, while I shook my head and walked past her. "I don't know why you even asked me to come back here. I'll go back to the Clair's tonight."

She didn't speak, or try to stop me, as I headed back to my room.



I felt a little shaky as I neatly stacked two more pairs of jeans into my suitcase and lifted my cell phone. When I'd expected some sort of confrontation, I really never thought it would end in me leaving my home again. I was disappointed by that. When I dialed Brad's number Mrs. Clair answered, but Brad was the one who I asked for.

"So let me guess," he said, "Jude's busy and you need a backup plan? When the hell did I become a backup plan?"

"Hey," I said, and found myself smiling, and then rather than jumping into my current problem, added, "Actually, I have about four hours to kill. Wanna catch a movie or something?"

"Sure, but I should probably warn you that Mar just called and asked me the same thing. I turned her down."

"Call her back," I suggested. "We can all go."

"Seriously?" he sounded surprised. I guess he had reason to be. The time I made for Marissa had been... limited.

"Yeah," I replied. "Why don't you pick her up and I'll meet you guys down there. I'll need my car afterwards."

"Okay, but you know she's going to want to pick the movie, right?"

"Yeah, and yell at us for putting extra butter on the popcorn--which she'll end up hogging," I replied. "I'll see you guys down there."

"Alright, just give me a ten-minute head start."

"Yeah, no problem. Um... hey, Brad, if I needed my best friend, I mean..."

"Then you dialed the right number," he replied when I paused. "What's wrong, Quinn?"

"I was wondering if that bed's still available."

"You know it is. Why? What happened?"

"Things aren't working out with my mom. Not like I thought... I mean..."

"Do you need me to talk to my parents?"

"Could you?" I asked, feeling relieved.

"Not a problem... Hey--sorry, Quinn."

"Yeah," I said, shrugging to myself. "Look, I'll see you at the theater, okay?"

As I hung up the phone I looked down at my packed bag and felt a sudden sinking feeling in my gut, and out of pure procrastination I decided that I'd get it after the movie, which hopefully would take my mind off of everything for a few mindless hours. I left it open, on my bed, grabbed my keys, and Taylor's porn, which seemed safer in my glove box, and went to meet my friends.

Marissa did pick the movie... and she hogged the popcorn. Brad didn't even bring up my mom, and for a while, everything felt exactly how it was supposed to. Normal. But, when the movie ended and Brad went to take Marissa home, I was faced with going back for the bag I'd left in the first place. I was hoping that Bree would be home. I wanted to explain things to her on my own. I was worried about whether or not she'd understand. But I knew that staying at home was no longer an option, not unless my mom was willing to work at it... and I got the general impression that she wasn't.

I didn't run into her on the way to my room, and when I got there I looked around for a long time. Other than my school stuff and my clothes, the only thing that was going with me was my journal. I did take a few minutes to carry my fish tank into Bree's room, though. It would save her the walk up the stairs to feed them for me.

When I lifted my bags and headed downstairs I wondered if it was too late to call Brad and ask him to tell his parents I'd be there tomorrow night. Things were obviously going to be changing for me again, and the idea of spending one more night with Jude sounded more than a little appealing.

I had the front door open and was stepping through it when my suitcase suddenly felt a lot heavier than it had a second ago. I started to yank it out the door, but stopped abruptly when a hand suddenly fell on my shoulder, and I didn't have to look back to know whose hand it was... or that her other hand was holding my suitcase back. I didn't look back either; instead, I felt my whole body go rigid as I wondered what she could possibly want now.

"I love you, Quinn." I blinked, not expecting to hear that. In fact, it pretty much shocked the hell out of me. "You're my baby... and nothing will ever change that. And, I understand if you feel disappointed in me, and I'm sorry I didn't tell you that two weeks ago. But... I need you to understand that this isn't exactly easy for me, either. I don't know what to say to you. Right now, I don't even know how to talk to you, but I am... I will try. But, I need you to give me some time. Maybe for right now--just for right now--we can pretend that I don't know anything about this whole gay thing, because I've got to tell you, that's a lot to get past."

I waited for her to say more, and when she didn't, I started pondering what she had said. She wanted to pretend? That translated into denial to me. Something I could understand--after all, I was the king of denial. Only, now that my mom openly wanted to be in it, I wasn't sure how to react. I guess if she wanted to pretend... for a while, then maybe... maybe I could deal with it. But, if she wanted me to pretend too, then it was never going to happen. If I knew anything, it was that it was impossible for me to go back at this point.

"I'm going to Jude's," I said in response to everything she'd said. And then I waited. If she wasn't okay with this... then I'd know. But, my mom never said anything. Not one word. Instead, her hand gently patted my shoulder where it was sitting, but she didn't release my bag. Instead... I did. I let go right before I walked out the door. I didn't look back. It seemed that I'd have plenty of time to face her later.


Crossing the lines

I wasn't sure why I felt relieved as a drove over to Jude's. It wasn't like I'd really accomplished anything with my mom. I think we'd simply come to a truce, the kind where the problem gets ignored. The more I thought about that, the more annoyed I became. I'd been so angry. Hurt. The way my own mother had treated me for the last few weeks was still fresh enough in my mind for all of my frustration with her to demand more than what I'd got. Sure, she apologized, but the farther away from home I got, the more none of it seemed like enough. So why had I settled for less than what I'd really wanted? I wasn't really sure. Maybe because a truce allowed me to stay home, with my sister... and my mom, too. Maybe it was because despite my frustrations, I wanted to work things out with my mom. I guess what it came down to, is that I wanted her to accept me, and I wanted to give her the chance to accept me. For now, this would have to be my compromise.

By the time I got to Jude's, I was trying to will away some of the aggression that I was feeling. The problem I had with my mom obviously wasn't going to work itself out overnight, and since she'd agreed to at least try, I supposed that the least I could do was give her the benefit of the doubt and wait to see what would happen when I went home... which regrettably, would be tonight, since I wasn't going to be moving in with the Clairs after all. I'd have to remember to call Brad later and let him know.

I knocked on Jude's door before I looked at my watch and realized that he wasn't there. In fact, he wouldn't be for another hour. I'd been in such a hurry to get out of my house that I obviously hadn't paid attention to the time. Unfortunately, as I used Jude's key for the second time, I decided that one hour seemed like too long to wait for my boyfriend in an empty apartment. Especially one that seemed even colder without him in it.

I found myself looking around, feeling annoyed that I'd made the bed this morning so I didn't even have that to keep me busy, and for once Jude didn't have any dishes in his sink. I glanced over at the television, not really in the mood to flip through channels, although I was desperate at this point to get my mind off my mom, and what would happen when I went home. But, that's when another thought crept into my mind and I stood in the doorway for a whole minute debating it before I gently closed the door to Jude's apartment and headed back to my car.

Even as I got the movie out of my glove box, I was telling myself that I wasn't going to watch it. I just wanted to bring it upstairs. If anything, I could show it to Jude, maybe even explain to him that I'd been nervous about talking to him so I'd managed to ask Taylor a few questions instead... and this was Taylor's own special way of explaining gay sex to me. Jude would probably think it was funny. Yeah, we'd have a good laugh and maybe I'd get brave enough to have a real conversation with him. That's why I was retrieving the movie. It made perfect sense.

But, it didn't explain why I locked the door to his apartment when I walked back in and went directly to the television. I had to move the DVD player aside to get to the VHS player, but that only took a moment and the next thing I knew I was popping in the movie and pushing play.

I sat back on my heels and watched as the image of not two, but three naked male figures took over the screen and the room was instantly filled with loud, exaggerated moans. I practically leapt for the volume and turned it down so low that I almost couldn't hear it before I scrambled back to the sofa and stared.

Obviously, Taylor had neglected to rewind the tape all the way, because I suddenly felt like I'd walked into some sort of sexual Olympics and the guy with too many muscles and long black hair was going for the gold, which happened to be a skinny brunette's ass.

Now, I'm not going to lie. The video scared the hell out of me and managed to turn me on no end at the same time. First, all I could manage to think was ouch, and then it was more like... oh...

Other than the dirty magazine filled with pictures of naked women and that one man I used to keep behind my headboard, I'd never actually been exposed to anything like this. I never would have allowed it before, and as a result, my only real sexual experience with another person happened with Jude Landon--not that I was complaining.

I found myself wondering if he'd ever watched something like this. I'm sure if he had, he wasn't turning as red as I was, attempting to act like it was no big deal when clearly I couldn't remove my eyes from the screen. Somewhere in the midst of feeling my jeans tighten at my crotch, an uneasy feeling formed in the pit of my stomach as I wondered if this was what Jude expected if we ever... did more than we'd been doing, minus the third person. I found myself paying close attention, studying detail--where hands were going, where mouths were going. It was like I was studying for a really important test and during the process I think I deluded myself into thinking that I could do some of those things to Jude just like a porn star. That in itself made me hornier than hell.

It felt like I watched forever before I glanced at the clock and found that it had only been thirty minutes. But, by then I was forced to get up painfully and turn off the TV. I needed to cool off. I definitely needed to cool off. It was bad enough that I was about to form a big old wet spot on my pants, and for some reason, the idea of beating off didn't appeal to me as much as jumping my boyfriend as soon as he came in the door did. I tried walking around for a while, pacing the apartment. That only lasted for ten minutes before I got bored with it and ended up picking up my phone. I called Brad's house in an attempt to get my mind off the aching in my pants and ended up talking to Mrs. Clair, who told me that Brad was at Marissa's still, but he'd apparently already talked to her about my situation. I explained that things had changed slightly since this afternoon, and somehow the topic managed to cool me off enough that my jeans were less tented by the time I hung up. When I was finished with that I decided to order a pizza. Thinking about food helped a little, considering that I was tempted to turn that movie on again. But, I was resolute in waiting for my food. For most of my life I'd managed to block out the type of thoughts I was having, so it wasn't going to be too much of a problem now, although now, I was doing it for completely different reasons.

My reason happened to arrive the same time that the pizza did. When the delivery man knocked on the door and I opened it, already having the money ready, Jude was standing behind him, still dressed for work and looking a little confused. He smiled when he saw me, though.

"Thanks," I said quickly to the delivery guy as I shoved the money in his hands but neglected to take the pizza. I suddenly couldn't stop looking at Jude. It felt like I'd been waiting for him to get home forever, even as I reached past the delivery man and grabbed my boyfriend's arm. Jude's eyes widened slightly at this as I pulled him into the apartment, but not before he managed to grab the pizza for me from the annoyed-looking man at the door. I'm sure he appeared even more put out when I slammed the door in his face.

"Quinn..." Jude started to say, but as soon as he was inside I had an arm around his back and my mouth was on his as he struggled to keep the pizza upright between us. I'm sure he was wondering what had gotten into me, but I was grateful that he at least had the decency not to say anything and kiss me back like he meant it. He was the one to break it, though, long enough to set the box on the back of the sofa, but to his credit he didn't seem the least concerned with the food as he placed his hands on my waist and drew me back to him. "I don't know what your problem is," he said pointedly, "but I like it."

Well, that was a relief because any cooling down I'd managed to do was gone the moment he got there. I closed my eyes as he dipped his head down and I found his tongue pressing against my own again. My entire body was definitely demanding some sort of physical exertion. The movie could probably take credit for exciting me, too. But I'm pretty sure that it was all Jude that had my hands impatiently working to get him out of the suit he was wearing as I unzipped it and pulled it off his shoulders. I found the fact that he smelled like he'd been under the hood of a car all day particularly pleasant, too. I'd only just seen him that very morning when we woke up together, so maybe it was the last two weeks of hardly seeing each other at all that made me feel incredibly impatient as I slid my hand down his back until I had a firm grip on his ass and aggressively ground my hips into his, half-wincing and half-gasping as my cock, which had sprang back to life at some point, came against two layers of zippers. In response I was quickly unbuttoning his pants until they joined the one-piece suit he wore to work at his ankles, and I was reaching for his boxers when he suddenly grabbed my mid-section at my ribs and pushed me back. For a moment I was worried that he meant to stop me, or slow me down, and neither idea sat well with me; but instead his hands seemed to make their way all over my ass, and he cupped my erection firmly as his mouth abruptly moved from my lips to my neck and I found myself up against the back of the sofa next to the pizza as his fingers worked to relieve me of my belt, and then my jeans and my boxers in one pull.

I moved my arms around him, urging him closer so my mouth could more easily find his as he lifted his head and Jude took it upon himself to remove his own boxers. Unlike me he seemed to have the patience to step out of his shoes and clothes, leaving him only in a white t-shirt before he leaned into me. Our cocks came to rest firmly pressed together and I released a sigh, becoming slightly light-headed as my entire body neared something that could only be described as relief.

Jude, as sensitive as ever, groaned as I abruptly thrust against him twice before he braced his hand on the sofa and matched the rhythm. He moved his hand between our bodies, holding us together as I pressed into him. For the better part of an hour I'd been fighting off my own body as my cock ached in my pants, and when his hand touched it was about as much as I could stand. I gasped as I spent myself, as if the inevitable had actually managed to surprise me; but even as my legs grew weak and shaky beneath me I didn't feel quite finished as I deepened our kiss and reached down to take his erection, firmly stroking him efficiently enough to cause him to lean heavily against me, his fingers digging into my shoulder as his body arched up and he found his own relief a few moments later--at which point I found myself leaning heavily against the back of the sofa and most of Jude's weight against me.

I didn't bother to move, not even when he reached for the napkins that came with the food so he could clean us off; but I did manage a weak protest when the warmth of his body left mine, and I did lift my feet one at a time as he kneeled down to help me out of half of my wardrobe, which was still tangled around my ankles. I found myself smiling right back at him when he stood and faced me, too.

"Hi," he said, as if he'd just walked through the door.

"Are you hungry?" I half-laughed.

Jude looked at the pizza and smiled as he suddenly lifted it up and hopped over the back of the couch, seemingly not concerned that we were both still naked from the waist down. I decided not to care either as I resisted the urge to pick up disregarded clothing and I walked around the couch, where he grabbed my wrist and pulled me down next to him.

"So, where did that come from?" he asked casually as he opened the pizza box and inspected what I'd ordered. I saw a slight flicker of a smile pass over his face for a moment, likely because I'd ordered mushrooms, something that he liked and I generally detested. I focused on his question. It was a good one; after all, I had never, ever jumped him like that before. He seemed rather pleased with himself over this.

"I guess I missed you," I replied just as casually.

Jude regarded me somewhat skeptically as he lifted a slice and picked off the mushrooms before passing it to me.

"Did something happen today?" he asked.

"I don't know," I replied, shrugging. I took a small bite of my pizza and swallowed it before continuing. "I went to a movie with Brad and Marissa... and I talked to my mom..."

"Really?" he asked, definitely interested now.

"Yeah, she thinks we can work this out if she gets to ignore the fact that I'm gay for a while."


"I don't really like it," I admitted. "But... I don't know, I'll try."

"As long as she doesn't try to send you on any blind dates with girls," Jude said under his breath. For some reason I found this highly amusing.

"But guys are okay?"

He shot me a look that said it clearly wasn't. I laughed as I went to take another bite of my pizza, but before I could get it into my mouth Jude suddenly turned on the sofa, moving a knee over me as he straddled my lap and took the food from my hand. I found myself looking down, rather than up, at the way that his flaccid cock had come to rest directly against mine, which was already beginning to stir again.

"So you're staying at home?" Jude asked, and I forced my eyes up to his, only to see that he seemed to be in a more serious mood than I was. I decided to correct the situation and join him.

"Yeah," I replied. "For right now. I was actually going to go back to the Clairs' tonight, but my mom said a few things and... I don't know, we'll work on it."

"Good," Jude replied, nodding. He seemed to approve of the idea. But, as he fell silent and his eyes drifted a way from me it seemed that some things were still on his mind, and I'm sure he was wondering how my mom felt about him. The truth was, I didn't really know the answer to that, and I wasn't going to make something up in this situation.

"She knows I'm not going to stop seeing you," I decided to say, and he regarded me again. "I can't say she'll ever be okay with it... but she isn't going to stop me."

He gave me a small smile, and I didn't object at all when he put down the slice of pizza I'd planned to eat and he leaned forward to kiss me. I sighed, cupping the back of his head as my lips caught the corner of his mouth before landing more accurately over it, and I found myself shifting upwards, placing more pressure between our pressed-together cocks as he leaned into me, shivering slightly as my hand slid up his back and into his hair. It was only after a few moments of this contact that Jude suddenly pulled back and looked at me, seeming somewhat amused, but that could have been because my erection was back to full attention and ready to go again. I relaxed back against the sofa, but in all honestly, I wasn't as amused as he seemed. Actually, my thoughts had turned to something else that had been on my mind for quite a while as I glanced past him, towards the TV, where those images had been before he came home.

Sex was a topic that I'd wanted to bring up with him for a while now. It wasn't that what we were already doing wasn't good, it was. Actually, I probably would have been satisfied with not changing anything. But I truly did feel like I was ready for more, and if anything, I thought he should know that. Only, I still didn't quite know how to bring it up with him. I guess it would have been easy to show him the video and explain why I had it, but the thing was, I didn't really want to.

In fact, as I sat there beneath him, I didn't really want to talk about it at all. But, I did want to let him know, and as my mind tried to think of a way to send him some sort of signal to let him know that I was ready for more he leaned down again, his mouth moving slowly over my neck in a way that had me tilting my head back, giving him better access. It was my hand that seemed to have a mind of its own as I slid it back down his back and over his ass, where it seemed to linger, my fingers just lightly dipping into his cleft.

We'd touched each other like this before. It had always been a brief thing, hardly noticeable when we were more focused on rolling around in bed together. But, this time my hand remained, feeling somewhat hesitant as he lifted his head and dropped his lips over mine. He pressed his groin into mine, moving his hand over our cocks as his slowly grew erect. But, instead of focusing on that I found myself moving my fingers deeper before they became still again. I felt like I was in new territory here, and I almost expected Jude to sit up and ask me what the hell I was doing, but when he didn't, and my hand didn't move, he suddenly lifted himself up on his knees, pressing back against my hand and I abruptly found that my fingers had come into contact with his hole. Jude released a small moan and broke the kiss, pulling back to look at me curiously, as if he wanted to know what I was going to do next. For a nervous moment, I didn't do anything at all. Instead, I just sat there, remaining completely still--and so did he. It was when I finally took the initiative and sought out his ring with my index finger that he started kissing me again, this time more aggressively than before, and it was all the encouragement I needed to move an arm around him before I suddenly turned him sideways. Jude momentarily braced himself as his back hit the sofa, placing him under me, with his knees still at my sides. I braced myself with one knee on the sofa, glancing down at the same view I'd taken in the first time he'd ever been naked in my bed. Only, this time, instead of focusing on his erection I was more interested in the small pinkish ring below his balls.

I heard Jude's small, intake of breath as I brushed my thumb over it before tracing a small circle, becoming somewhat more accustomed to the feeling of rough skin. I was vaguely aware of the way that his chest had begun to heave with the contact, and the way that he was starting to squirm beneath me. It was his hand moving over the hand I'd left on his knee that brought my attention back to his face, and for a moment I found myself blushing at the way he was watching me. There was definitely a boy-caught-with-his-hand-in-the-cookie-jar effect in the air.

"Um..." I'm not sure why I was talking. I felt like I needed to say something. Unfortunately, I didn't know what. "Can we... I've been thinking about..."

Jude's smile only caused me to turn a deeper shade of red, at which point words were not working for me. I moved my hand away from his ass, placing it on his opposite knee, and he sat up to face me directly.

"You've been thinking about what?" he asked, and I couldn't help resenting that sly smile on his face. Something told me that he knew exactly what I was talking about, given my recent actions, but he was obviously going to torture me into saying it, which annoyed me as well, because I really didn't want to talk.

I released an exasperated sigh and sat down on the sofa with him, but when I suddenly reached for the remote Jude regarded me more curiously than anything. After pressing a few buttons the television was on and the images that I'd been paying such close attention to a little while ago were playing on the screen.

I think I took satisfaction in the surprised look on Jude's face as he directed his attention to the movie, but as soon as he was tilting his head, following one of the men on the screen I flicked it off and his eyes snapped to mine, looking wide and more amused than confused.

"So, what else did you do today?" he managed to ask through the laughter he was holding back.

I groaned and covered my face. Leave it to him to find all of this funny.

"I'm sorry, Quinn," he said, and there was definitely a smile in his voice as he moved closer and moved his arms around me, hugging me closer. "But I wake up with you in my bed this morning; and then I come home from work and you're here; and then you have my pants off before you even say hello; then there's the pizza; and when I think I'm about to get seconds, and I'm not talking about the food, you turn on a porn. I'm having a pretty good day."

I dropped my hands and despite feeling incredibly serious at the moment, I found myself smiling at his attitude, but it faded away as I responded.

"I think I want to have sex," I blurted, and then waved towards the television. "And I didn't think I'd know how, so Taylor gave me a porn."

The smile disappeared from Jude's face and for a moment he just stared at me, but then he cleared his throat and the next thing I knew he was biting back another smile that I'm sure was meant to turn into laughing at my expense at some point. I gave him a disapproving look as he did his best to keep his face serious and said, "So, do you think you know how now?" That was as far as he got before he was laughing at me. I guess in all actuality, I couldn't really blame him. The whole thing was ridiculous. I was ridiculous. But I think my embarrassment was what kept me from laughing at him.

"Yes, I do," I responded indignantly over his chuckles, and he paused to look at me before it started all over again. "It was very educational!" I insisted.

I sighed and leaned back, shaking my head as Jude let go of me and continued to laugh. Somehow, I'd always thought that the moment I brought up talking about sex with him, there would be less amusement involved.

"I can't believe you're laughing at me right now," I mumbled, crossing my arms, and in response Jude placed a hand on my thigh, reminding me that I was still naked from the waist down, and somehow that little fact made the entire situation even more ridiculous.

"Don't be mad," he insisted, slowly sobering. "It's just... why would you listen to Taylor?" He laughed again at this, and for a moment I was relieved that he found Taylor's involvement funny and not upsetting. "I'm sorry, Quinn..."

I sighed as he started to get hold of himself, but when I was sick of waiting I finally turned towards him and leaned forward before he could do anything about it, and blissful silence came as soon as my lips touched his. It was the perfect way of getting his attention, and I knew I had it when his hand came to rest against the side of my face and he hummed in approval.

We broke apart slowly, that overly relaxed look back in Jude's eyes as he regarded me, and finally something serious came out of his mouth.

"It's not like the movies, Quinn, especially that one. I mean, sure, the general idea's there, but... look, we can talk about this if you want."

"No, I just want to do it," I said matter-of-factly, and Jude's eyes went wide.

"You mean now?"

"I have hours before I have to go home," I informed him.

"Wait, Quinn... you don't even want to think about this? You can't just..."

Apparently, I'd managed to surprise him.

"I have thought about it," I insisted. "I mean... do you need to think about it?" I hadn't considered this. But apparently, Jude was doing some kind of thinking because he opened and closed his mouth a few times before he finally said something.

"Come here," he insisted, suddenly grabbing my hand and pulling me to my feet; but once we were standing, we didn't move anywhere as he continued to stare at me. "You really thought about it?" he asked incredulously. "And you want to?"

"Don't you want to?" I asked, suddenly feeling confused and a little worried. "I mean, it's not like you haven't done it before, right?

"That was different," he explained, and for a moment he actually sounded offended that I'd brought it up. "I didn't care about anyone else enough to want to take my time."

I took in that information, suddenly feeling both touched and offended by it. Just hearing him say that he cared about me spoke volumes when it came to whether or not I was making the right decision, and in all honesty, while Jude was very good at showing me he cared, I couldn't really remember him ever saying it. Something about that seemed special. But, I was also a little disappointed, and a little jealous, to think that caring about me was the reason why he wouldn't share something that he'd shared with others who meant... less, if he was being honest with me. And if Jude had always been one thing, it was honest.

"So you don't want to?" I asked.

"I didn't say that," he said quickly, his hand tightening on mine. "Come on." I suddenly found myself being pulled across the apartment. I might have paid more attention to where we were going if Jude hadn't ended up walking in front of me so that my eyes were trained on the two round cheeks of his ass peeking out from under the bottom of his t-shirt. When we reached the bathroom and he let go of my hand I didn't even care why we were there because the next thing I knew, he was bent over in front of me and looking into the counter under the sink. I found my hand reaching out on its own accord, and I was just about to take hold of one of those cheeks when he suddenly shot up and turned to face me. He probably would have caught a pretty goofy look on my face, too, if the things he was holding hadn't wiped it away. In one hand, there was a bottle of lube, and in the other, a condom, as he faced me directly. But, he didn't say anything, and a moment later I was taking in a breath as it occurred to me what was happening.

"Then... you do want to?" I asked, feeling both relieved and nervous.

Jude opened his mouth, but instead of answering me he walked out of the bathroom without saying a word. More confused than ever, I stood there for a few moments before following him, and when I left the small room I found that he was sitting on his bed, facing me.

"Yeah, I want to," he said, but if I didn't know any better, I would have thought he wasn't very happy about this admission. "But that's me, Quinn. Yes, I want to take my time with you, but some of that is also because you said that you needed it." He suddenly held up the condom like it was a tiny flag. "If we do it, there's no more thinking about it. There's no more taking our time."

I moved over to the bed and took a seat next to him as I thought about what he was saying.

"I know," I finally said, and I was surprised that the acknowledgment didn't scare me as much as I thought it would. "But it doesn't feel like we'd be rushing into it, either," I decided. "Look, Jude... maybe it was stupid of me to just spring this on you. I just wanted you to know I'm ready. But, if it would make you feel better... if I thought about it some more, I will. I mean, I think I can wait until... tomorrow, or something." I flashed a small smile in his direction and he actually laughed before shaking his head.

"I think... I'm just afraid of pushing you, Quinn. You're saying that you're ready for this... I understand that. But, I think about the first time I kissed you--I actually thought you wanted to kill me then. This is a lot more than a kiss. I don't want you to end up regretting it."

I frowned at the idea of our first kiss being held against me. After all, I was a completely different person then... and as it was, we were already doing a lot more than kissing. But, I shook away the annoyance I was feeling, because it had no place just then, and I was as honest with him as I could be.

"I don't want to regret it, either," I agreed. "That's why I want it to happen with you."

Jude's expression softened towards me, and he attempted to return my small smile before his eyes suddenly narrowed in my direction.

"Was that a line?" he demanded, but he was obviously teasing me.

"Did it work?" I responded, but before he could think to answer I leaned towards him until my lips had made contact with his. When he pulled back a moment later, his eyes were still on me and his smirk was in place.

"It might have worked," he admitted. "But... we can't just do it. Were going to have to talk, Quinn." When my expression became disgruntled he was once again showing me the condom. "For example, which one of us is going to wear this?"

Well, he sure as hell knew how to ruin a moment.

To be honest, in all of my thinking, I'd always thought that I would be the one to... wear the condom. I mean, I felt it went without saying that eventually it would be Jude. It was hard for me to imagine him trusting me with his body without me being able to do the same. But still, that didn't mean that I was ready for... that. I was definitely ready to move our relationship forward, though. I guess when it came to some things, Jude was right in thinking that I needed more time.

"I'm thinking you want it to be you this time," he continued, reading my mind. "And that's probably good. I can talk you through it and it shouldn't be a problem... But, if you're afraid that you don't really know what to do... then..."

I followed his meaning, suddenly feeling horrified. The confidence I'd felt earlier had quickly faded away and I began to wonder what would happen if I were to make a mistake. What if I hurt him? It would ruin the entire experience for me, I was sure of it. For a few long moments I debated, weighing what I was comfortable with and what seemed like the better idea.

"What did you do, your first time?" I finally asked. It somehow seemed relevant at the time.

"I bottomed."

I looked at him, and with my thoughts racing the way they were, it took me a minute to understand what that meant.

"It's what I wanted," he went on to explain. "I figured I was safer that way?"

"Were you?" I asked, his reference to safe alarming me.

"Look, Quinn... if you're not ready for that, I think I should talk you through it. You still want to do this, right?"

"Right," I said, this time without hesitating. "I just..." I frowned, not liking that the conversation had suddenly become impersonal. "Can we..."

Jude suddenly smiled at me and I immediately felt better when he moved closer and placed his arms around me, pulling me back until we were lying on the bed, facing each other.

"Relax?" he replied. "Yeah... and if nothing happens right now, that's okay, Quinn. It's not like we don't have time. Let's just..."

Relax. It was a good idea. For a few minutes, I needed to get my head out of this topic, which is exactly why I pressed my chest up against his and attacked his mouth with mine, determined to do just that. And as Jude responded, sliding his hand up the back of my shirt as he kissed me back, it started to work.

Only, a few minutes turned into several minutes... and constant petting and rubbing. By the time we came up for air his hand was between my legs, fondling my cock, which had sprung up again at some point, and I was flushed from head to toe and desperate for air. But, rather than using any words at this point I slid my hand down his back until I was gently kneading his ass and he suddenly released my erection and shifted closer so that our bodies were firmly pressed together. In response I snuggled into him, content with the way that his arm moved around me, and I found myself smiling when he copied the motion of my hand, and moved his own to my butt; only, Jude went a step further, allowing his fingers to dip into my cleft, and like I'd done before on the sofa, he allowed them to linger deliberately as he slowly began to grind his cock against mine, causing more tension between my legs and I became eager to follow his rhythm.

He kissed my mouth, gently, and not as nearly as heatedly as he had been only moments before; and I closed my eyes, returning the soft gestures as it continued. It was when his fingers moved deeper into my cleft that my eyes snapped open to find that he was watching me carefully, waiting for my reaction as his fingers brushed against my hole.

My reaction, at first, was to jump. But, it wasn't exactly in a bad way. I felt like I'd just been tickled. But, when he did it again, I felt something else, especially having my cock in contact with his own--and it was a good something else. I found myself copying him now, moving my hand deeper, only I pointedly reached for his ring, my finger remembering it from before; and when I slowly began to trace it, I found the same pattern being placed around my own entrance, and suddenly, I understood why Jude had been squirming when I did it to him earlier. The sensation had my cock aching, which was why I didn't understand it when he suddenly pulled his hips away from mine, although this did push his ass back against my hand. I tried to move forward, intending to follow him, wanting that contact back; but when he readjusted his knee to separate us, while still giving me the room I needed to continue touching him, I got the idea that he was doing it on purpose. I disapproved, but before I said so he was kissing me again, his digit continuing to trace my ring, so I did my best to follow his lead.

Only about a minute later, I'd decided that this was torture. I was already squirming, his finger providing an unexpected stimulation that had me wanting to escape it and experience it all at the same time. I was obviously having the same effect on Jude, because his normal vocals had come into play; but he still had more control than me, refusing to allow our erections any contact.

It was the sudden pressure against my hole that had me blocking all of that out, and all I had time for was a surprised gasp when his digit slipped past my ring. To be honest, whenever I thought about anything like that happening I thought about pain, too; but other than that unfamiliar pressure there really wasn't any, so I was left to my surprise as I adjusted to how it felt having something in me. It wasn't unpleasant, I was aware of him there, moving inside me, but other than being incredibly horny already, I didn't exactly feel a whole lot of sparks. It sort of made me wonder what the point was. But, even so, as I got past the initial surprise I found myself exploring his entrance somewhat more thoroughly as I allowed my finger to roam, and the moment I pressed against it the small smile Jude flashed me was indication enough that it wouldn't be a bad idea for me to follow his lead, which is exactly what I did, if somewhat hesitantly. I pressed in slowly, a little surprised at how smooth he felt as I pushed through what felt like a tight tunnel, but as soon as I was on the other side it was as if the flesh there had become warm, soft and flexible. Curiously I began to explore, but I had only started when Jude's digit pressed deeper... or maybe it was the angle that changed. Either way, whatever he touched had me literally jumping and a strong sensation seemed to go straight to my cock. I looked at him, somewhat awed, only to find that he was pleased with my reaction as he hit that place again, and suddenly, that was all I could feel as my eyes rolled back and I leaned forward, meeting his mouth as he kissed me and continued to tease that spot.

It didn't take long before I reached the point where I was tempted to reach down with my spare hand and touch myself, my cock practically drooling down as he continued to nurse my body. But, before I could, Jude suddenly turned, and before I realized what was happening he'd dislodged my finger from his ass and he was over me; and in the process his movement had caused his finger to come up against my prostate aggressively and I released a groan that couldn't have been held back if I tried. I actually thought that I was going to come right there. It seemed like a completely miracle that I didn't.

When I felt him pushing my knees up I focused on Jude long enough to see that he was reaching for the lube, but while something that seemed as important as that potentially could have alarmed me, I found myself completely relaxed, and horny as hell, and went as far as to lift my knees higher, hoping that he'd hit that spot again. He did, too, a moment later, keeping me on the edge as he opened the bottle. I was only paying attention to this enough to notice that he was only applying it to and around the finger which he was already slowly thrusting into me, and there seemed to be a noticeable difference. It was like I suddenly felt looser than I had a moment before, which is why I wasn't bothered when I felt an unmistakable second finger pressing at my ring... until it pressed in. For a moment, there was definitely some discomfort, but it was minor, and I felt stretched more than anything; but it was a feeling that I wasn't focusing on a moment later when he angled both fingers and sent sparks to my cock again.

I found myself reaching for him, wanting him closer and Jude obliged, leaning towards me as he lifted my shirt with his free hand. My hands moved to the back of his head as he dipped down, pulling one of my nipples between his lips and I began arching, beginning to feel overwhelmed by the way that his fingers were thrusting into me, stretching and moving in a way that made me completely aware of their presence. I was also aware of the tight sensation when he hit that spot again and my body actually tightened on him for a moment.

When Jude lifted his head I grabbed it and pulled him to me, attacking his lips with my mouth, my teeth and tongue sloppily landing on him until he opened and returned the gesture; but when his other hand finally moved to my erection, gripping the base, I had to drop my head back on the pillow, drawing in a ragged breath to suppress another moan.

"Do you want to keep going?"

His voice cut through the haze I was in and I found myself staring at him, repeating his question in my mind until I actually understood it. But, it took me another moment to realize his full meaning, and when I did, the only thought I had was that the matter of who would be wearing the condom this time was already settled, and not by Jude, really, but by the way my body felt. I swear to god I thought that if he removed his fingers I was going to die.

I didn't die, when he suddenly withdrew them. Instead, I found myself whimpering a weak protest that had me feeling like a spoiled brat, but I didn't care. I was suddenly more aware of my body than I'd ever been, my erection throbbing so bad that it hurt, and even the way that my hole seemed to be twitching, as if it wanted to clamp down on something now that his fingers were gone. But, his fingers, I noticed, were busy tearing open a condom. I felt a moment of apprehension upon seeing this, but it quickly turned to panic and shock when he suddenly placed it over the head of my cock.

"What are you doing?" I demanded, paling in the process, but Jude only smiled at me as he poured a generous amount of lube into his hand and began to apply it to my sheathed cock, the contact sending another tremor of pleasure through me. But, even as my body responded, my head was spinning. I'd become so relaxed through all of this... so ready... and now I was wearing a condom. I felt like a whole lot of responsibility had just been placed on me and I wasn't sure I was ready for it, which was why it came to mind that I never should have wanted to wear the damn condom in the first place. The fact that things were probably going this way because Jude thought it was what I wanted only helped me gather my feelings enough to push his hand away.

"Don't," I stated, lifting myself onto my elbows to better face him.

Jude instantly pulled his hand back, suddenly looking worried. He opened his mouth, probably meaning to ask me if I wanted to stop, but before he got the chance I reached for his hand, promptly guiding it to his own erection, and he regarded me curiously as he caught my meaning.

"Quinn, if you want your first time..."

"I kind of like the way it's going already," I insisted, trying to sound braver than I actually felt when it came to my abrupt decision. Jude continued to study me for a moment, but rather than saying something he leaned forward, briefly touching his lips to mine before he sat up, and I watched as he rolled the condom over his own organ before he lifted the lube and began to apply a generous amount to his sheathed shaft, his eyes never leaving me when I leaned back again, wishing that I could feel as relaxed as I had a few moments ago. It got better, though, when he moved over me again, resting his weight between my legs as his mouth found several places over my face and his fingers returned to trace my shaft. I released a breath as one slipped inside of me again, seemingly even easier this time. It somehow seemed familiar now, and as I slipped my hands up his shirt, suddenly feeling the need to get it off, I found myself becoming more relaxed, especially when he found that spot, just before I got the remainder of his clothing over his head.

He dropped his mouth over mine and I pulled him even closer, suddenly requiring less distance between us. It seemed to give Jude less space to work with, but he didn't seem to mind at all, slipping one arm under me, around my back, as he suddenly withdrew his finger. But, this time there was no stopping, or even a pause as I felt something much larger and thicker than a finger sliding against my cleft. I braced myself, feeling like I needed to be prepared, but nothing happened, it just rested there as he continued to kiss me, allowing me to pull him as close as I wanted; and when nothing happened, I released the breath I'd been holding, the tension that had arrived leaving slowly. That's exactly what he was waiting for.

Jude suddenly pressed forward, and my head shot up, my fingers digging into his shoulders as a tearing pain shot through me. For a moment I didn't understand what was happening. I could feel Jude kissing my neck, whispering words of encouragement that I couldn't quite seem to grasp... that I didn't want to grasp. Actually, for a moment there I wanted to tell him to shut up because it wasn't his ass that had just been impaled with a hot poker. But, before it came to that, I noticed the pain I'd felt fading away and I was left with feeling incredibly stretched, even more so than I had before. I dropped my head back down, noticing that my expression wasn't the only strained one; but for Jude, it looked more like he was straining to hold back and stay as still as possible, which I was truly grateful for as I waited for my body to adjust. Just feeling his cock twitch put me on edge, as I expected more pain to come. But, as the pain left almost entirely I felt a sense of accomplishment--he was in. I took in a few deep breaths, relaxing further. I felt his fingers brush a few strands of hair off my forehead as I closed my eyes, glad that the worst was over. So, I was surprised when I felt him pushing forward again and realized that all we'd accomplished before was getting the head of his cock past my ring.

My body instantly clamped down at him in response to the movement, even if the pain was more like a dull burning sensation now, and a glance down between our bodies told me that I'd somehow managed to completely lose my erection, which wasn't at all encouraging. But, as soon as my body protested, Jude had stopped moving again, even if it had been accompanied by a frustrated moan as he breathed heavily against my neck.

I closed my eyes tightly for a moment, trying to will myself to relax. It seemed better when I was relaxed, at least more comfortable. But, as soon as I accomplished that, the process started all over again and repeated itself. What was realistically only a few minutes, felt like forever before he finally slipped into me to where I could feel his balls brush against my ass.

Jude had started to kiss me again, and I was responding, but suddenly, I felt tired. I didn't even want to move. The pain was gone... but I was tired. It was when I felt his erection flexing inside of me that I became more aware of it, and for a moment I focused on the feeling of being completely full. As I felt Jude's hand move between our bodies to fondle my flaccid cock, I found myself lifting my knees slightly, becoming accustomed to the overly stretched feeling... which no longer seemed as uncomfortable as I thought it would be.

I tightened my muscles around him experimentally, now that they were no longer locked in place, and in response he released another small moan against my ear; but he still remained still, as if to be sure. Being still didn't stop him from continuing his exploration over my cock, though, which was slowly springing back to life in his hand. Unlike me, it seemed to have forgotten about the pain I experienced, and within moments, I found myself shifting beneath him, wishing that I wasn't wearing a shirt so I could feel more of his skin against mine. My small movements, seemed to have Jude straining even more, until he suddenly released my erection, my aghast protests following, and he started to move.

I noticed that my body didn't automatically go rigid this time, as he slowly began to withdraw and then push forward again. Instead, it reacted to the new sensations running through me as I became more aware of his presence, every inch of him thrusting at a steady, controlled, slow pace.

Jude slid a hand up the back of my thigh, upwards until he lifted the back of my knee, and I tried to relax that particular leg as he moved it upwards, over his shoulder. As a result my body arched towards him, and just like that, I could feel his organ sliding over a different place, and when he thrust in again a blinding sensation that wasn't pain shot through me and I clung to him, groaning out loud at the effect his cock had over that same newly discovered spot. I clamped down around him again, but this time he didn't stop, nor did ne need to as he kept his pace, aiming for my prostate until I'd lifted my other knee firmly against his side in an attempt to give him better leverage and reached for my own cock, needing to create some sort of friction against it. But, Jude beat me to my erection, taking it in his hand and firmly stroking to match his thrusts and I tilted my head back, enjoying the feel of his mouth moving aggressively over my throat, his tongue dampening my skin.

As I became restless beneath him, needing more than all of these slow, calculated motions, Jude released a small moan, the arm he was using to hold himself up shaking when I pushed back against his cock, interrupting his rhythm. Almost like it was in retaliation, Jude thrust in harder, deliberately coming against my prostate and the jolt he sent through me had me clinging to him again; but I didn't mind at all, and neither did he as his tongue came up against my lips, pressing until I opened for him as I started the pattern of lifting me to meet each of his thrusts and swallowing down his soft moans, and some of my own as well.

This wasn't exactly how I'd envisioned my first time, and he was right, it wasn't at all like the movies, but it was something that I was enjoying. In fact, I looked forward to exploring this new aspect of our relationship each and every time the occasion presented itself. Maybe I wasn't doing anything to him, the way I'd imagined it, but it occurred to me that he wasn't doing it to me, either. I was doing this with him, and as I clenched my muscles around him, squirmed beneath him and matched his rhythm the best I could, I found that Jude was affected by the result as much as I was. I felt almost relieved as he picked up his pace, my breathing becoming more ragged every time he slipped hard and deep. His hand suddenly tightened on my erection, squeezing as I felt his body go tense above me, and at the same time I felt the fluttering sensation inside of me as he came, giving my cock one final stroke and without warning, I spent myself between our bodies.


The end

When I first met Jude Landon, I'd never kissed a boy before. In fact, I'd never done a lot of things before. If I thought about it, meeting him was the beginning of a long series of firsts for me. There had been a time, where I would have preferred to hate him for this. But now... I think I was grateful. To Jude. I'd envied him at one point, for being brave in a way that I never could be. But, while I doubted I'd never gain some of the qualities about him I admired, just knowing him had caused me to face my worst fears, and not everything turned out as bad as I expected it would.

Over the next weeks, I noticed a few things. Bree and I became even closer than we were before, and I hadn't been aware that it was possible. I know a lot of it had to do with my mom being a more constant presence in our lives, though; and that wasn't necessarily a good thing because the reason Bree and I were getting so close, had a lot to do with the way that our mom had drifted away from me, and then Bree, when she began to discover my sister's unceasing support of what my mom liked to refer to as my lifestyle.

Don't get me wrong, my mom did try, like she said she was going to do, and for a while, ignoring the problem worked for us. She stopped ignoring me and I did my best to talk to her when I found it necessary. We could laugh at the dinner table, I could kiss her cheek when I said goodnight, and I could gripe and moan when she handed me a grocery list and told me that she needed the things on it right away. But, like all serious issues that arise within a family, this one couldn't be ignored forever.

It took a few months, before my mom unexpectedly asked me to invite Jude over for dinner. The only time she'd ever mentioned him was when she was asking me to give him the money from his parents, so I wasn't sure what to think. But, I did as she asked. I'm not sure Jude was very eager to come over to my house, but he did anyway, and through that first dinner it became very clear that when it came to my relationship with Jude and my mom, things were going to be strained between us, especially when she kept inviting him over after that.

Ignoring things just wasn't happening anymore, and on several occasions with my mom I felt that I had to defend who I was, which became both easier and more disheartening every time. Even when she took the initiative and dragged Bree and me both down to family counseling she didn't seem to grasp the fact that I wasn't going to change; but we all continued to go twice a month, and eventually we found a happy medium, where my mother would simply ignore the fact that Jude and I were a couple when she saw us together, and she actually reached the point where she was attempting to have a relationship with both me and my boyfriend--separate relationships. I think Jude was more comfortable with that than I was. Things were definitely strained. I'd come to accept that they probably always would be.

But, apart from the ups and downs with my mom, I found that I had another whole set of parents just down the street. I was learning to talk about my problems, and the Clairs happened to be willing ears every time I needed them. It was also nice to know that each time I had a disagreement with my mom I could simply grab my pillow and take a quick walk down the street where a spare bed was waiting for me. But, sometimes I went just to stay up all night talking to Brad. Not that we didn't see each other enough already. The new semester started at school and we had practically every class together, not to mention he'd picked up a job in the mall, just across from where I worked. I think I liked being around him that much--it felt like old times, like there had never been a rift in our friendship at all. It felt even more like it when we'd take our breaks together at work, and Marissa would show up to sell sunglasses for me.

As for Jude and me, other than spending every moment we could together and developing the most comfortable yet exciting relationship that I'd ever had, we began a weekly tradition involving me waiting for him in his apartment on Saturdays before he got off work. I'd always order a pizza, and by the time we got around to eating it, it was always cold. And Taylor kept asking when he was going to get his movie back. Jude and I decided: he wasn't.

Official site/More stories: <http://domluka.gayauthors.org/>

Mailing list: <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DominicLuka/>

A/N: So, that's the end. Yep. Thanks to everyone who wrote to me on this one, and for all the support. And to Jim, who helped A LOT with the last few chapters. (You'll notice the lack of mistakes to point out to me) :) Anyways, I hope you all liked it, especially if you've been able to put up with all of Quinn's whining this long. :)

Smiles, Dom