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

I just stood there, horrified with what I'd done. What the hell was happening to me? Brad. I'd hit him. That definitely wasn't me. But there was no me, anymore. At least, it didn't feel like I was me. I was someone else. A crazed lunatic who lost his temper and hit his best friend for saying something that was true.

I was a faggot.

Sure, Brad didn't mean it like that, but it didn't matter. I was one of those people. And there was no choice in the matter.

"Mr. Moore!" the voice made me jump. An adult voice. I looked up to see our vice principal coming along with a few teachers. I guess I was in trouble, huh? "My office, now!"

I looked back at Brad as a few people helped him up and Marissa even gave him a few tissues from her purse to hold to his nose. The fact that I felt a large, adult hand on my shoulder didn't seem to phase me as I looked at the people who were supposed to be my friends. And they were looking back at me...like I was a stranger.

When Brad finally met my eyes again I opened my mouth to apologize. It was instinct. The fact that I'd actually hurt him disgusted me, but one look from him shut me up immediately. He looked angry, yes. But more than that, he looked hurt. And that was devastating.

And Marissa...I'm not sure why I'd lost my temper with her. I'd put up with her for years and I'd taken it all with ease. I still cared about her. I still loved her...I still considered her a friend. And even when she'd come up to me only minutes ago, even with her attitude, I knew that she was only concerned about me, and I'd thrown it all in her face. The fact that she had a hand on Brad's shoulder, and tears in her eyes only let me know that Marissa was just as hurt by this as Brad was. And as I met both of their glares it dawned on me that things may never be the same again with my two childhood friends.

"Mr. Moore." I heard my name again, drawing me away from the glares of my friends.

I followed the older man with lowered eyes, as I started to realize just how many people were round us. It was strange, so many of them. They had to move aside as we passed. But it wasn't the usual crowd that gathered during a fight. There were no murmurs of people talking excitedly, no one encouraging it, not even anyone whispering. It was a stunned silence. I could feel eyes on me. People who thought they knew me; they were glaring as much as Brad and Marissa now.

I didn't think it could get any worse, I hated myself so much just then, but I was wrong, because having most of the student body, your best friends among them hating you too, that felt worse.


For someone like me, trips to the principal's office were rare. Actually, nonexistent would be more accurate. But, after I decked my best friend in the hall, and after my academic performance over the last few weeks had noticeably floundered, I guess you could say that I was making up for lost time, as I was lectured for the next thirty minutes while they tried to reach my mother, which proved to be a difficult task. They started talking about calling my emergency contact, which would be worse than my mother, considering my emergency contact was Brad's mom.

It didn't which of our mothers they would be contacting, either way, it wouldn't be good. I was suspended for three days, and after the principle finished telling me how that would haunt me for the rest of my life, he decided to take note of the fact that this behavior wasn't like me, and tried asking me what was wrong.

My response: "everything."

That was when things went downhill, and it was suggested I go see my councilor while I waited to see which mother would be coming to sign me out of school.

Councilor. I didn't like the idea. But, at the same time, I wondered if it would help to actually talk to someone. I had all of these thoughts and questions, swimming around my head, and maybe if I could just get some of it out...well, I guess it couldn't hurt. I mean, councilors aren't supposed to tell anyone what you talk about, right? And if I could just talk to someone...anyone...

No, not anyone. Ever since I drove away from Jude the day before it had been bothering me. He'd pushed me away, two and a half weeks ago, that's exactly what he'd done. He'd suggested I get help...but he didn't want to be the one to help me. I guess I couldn't really blame him, though. I'd been a real asshole, and if I were him, I wouldn't want me around either.

But for the last few weeks, I'd be lying if I said that I didn't think of Jude every time things got so hard to deal with that I wanted to crawl in a hole and die. He was always the one who came to mind. He was the one I wanted to go to. Why I chose him, I'm not sure. Maybe it was because he seemed to know me, even better than I did, which was saying a lot considering he was a stranger to me.

And then when he showed up yesterday, worried about me, wanting to talk...it almost seemed like a relief. For a few seconds, I felt some of that rejection melt away, until I'd remembered the rejection in the first place and I blew him off. But now...now I regretted it. I felt so lost. Jude somehow seemed like the logical person to talk to. Unfortunately, I couldn't see myself putting my pride, or my feelings for him aside long enough to have a decent conversation.

But I guess now, it didn't matter. I was already on my way to one of the three school councilor's offices, and I wasn't looking forward to it. I didn't even have a choice in who I talked to. There were three councilors in our school and we were assigned to them based on out last names. I met mine at the beginning of the year to discuss my class schedule, and I only vaguely remembered the tall man with heavy glasses and gray hair, Mr. Johns. I also remembered his office smelled vaguely like coffee and cigarettes, although I'm sure most of the staff and students chose to ignore the cigarette smell. I had.

Except, now the scent reminded me vaguely of Jude. I'd never considered it a pleasant smell, but anything that reminded me of Jude seemed to put those butterflies in my stomach, and as I inhaled the scent of the small office I found myself spacing out, remembering the expression on his face yesterday, the concern, and the disappointment when I drove away.

The old man moving behind his desk with a file that was probably mine, however, did not remind me of Jude at all when he cleared his throat to get my attention.

"Quinn..." he started, still looking at the file. "You're in here for fighting?"

I straightened myself in my seat and lightly cleared my throat as I watched him sit behind the desk that seemed much too small for such a tall man. The effect made him look almost like a giant.

"Yes sir." I mumbled.

"They say that the boy you hit was a good friend of yours." Mr. Johns said, twining his hands on his desk and looking at me intently.

"Yes, he was." I admitted, feeling my cheeks heat in response to my shame over the matter.

"Would you like to tell me why you hit him?"

I frowned. No, I definitely wouldn't want to say why I hit him. If I mentioned the word Brad called me then he would get in trouble too, and that was the last thing I wanted. The way I ended up studying my hands rather than answering the question seemed to give Mr. Johns his answer.

"Alright." He sighed. "Why don't you tell me about you then? It seems you've been having trouble in your classes lately...all of your classes, and you've missed quite a few of them lately."

"I've just had a lot going on." I shrugged.

"Hmm...at home? They say they're having trouble getting a hold of your mom. Is that normal?"

"Yeah." I admitted, but then quickly added, "she works down at the emergency room, she's there a lot, but my sister and I take care of each other. It's always been like that. We're fine on our own, though."

"And I'd be inclined to believe you." He gave me a small smile. "Up until now it seems that you've been an exceptional student... so what changed? Maybe it had something to do with this friend you were fighting with? I'm told a girl was involved...is she a friend of yours too?"

"Yea." I admitted, "Marissa and I were dating, but we broke up...it had nothing to do with her, though. Or Brad. It was my fault." I shook my head. "I shouldn't have hit him, I was just so..."

"You were what?" he asked, after a few moments had passed.

"I've just been dealing with a lot of stuff." I sighed, suddenly feeling very tired, both emotionally and physically. "Some issues, personal issues. I've been stressed out lately and I think today, I just lost it...I wouldn't do anything to hurt Brad. He's my best friend." I frowned to myself, feeling guilty about hitting Brad all over again as I absently rubbed the back of the same knuckles that had collided with his face.

"I'm sure you wouldn't." Mr. Johns replied, with another gentle smile. Something about the expression of his face seemed to put me at ease. I almost felt comfortable. It was strange, but I felt myself relaxing against the chair, still feeling weary, but definitely more relaxed. "You know, Quinn, I know it can be difficult for you young people to talk to someone as ancient as me, but I am pretty good at listening."

I actually gave him a small smile, grateful for the offer. There had been several people over the last few weeks who'd asked me if I wanted to talk, but this felt...different. Maybe it was because Mr. Johns was a stranger to me, or maybe it was because he was the only adult I'd come across who I could actually picture myself talking to, really talking to. It was strange, feeling safe with a perfect stranger, but maybe I felt that way because he was an adult, an authority figure, and if I did talk to him, there wouldn't be the complication of being attracted to him...or him trying to kiss me. It seemed I'd definitely been kissed enough for my own good lately.

"Would you like to tell me what's been bothering you?" he asked again. "I won't push you, but I will say that unless I think you're in danger of harming yourself, our conversation won't leave this room."

There was another long, drawn out silence before I finally spoke again. But, when I did, my voice was so soft that I could hardly hear it, so I was surprised that he did. I almost felt like I was in a church confessional, and it was uncomfortable...but I wanted to get this out. I felt like I'd let it go on long enough. I definitely had to draw the line when I started to assault my best friends in front of the student body.

"I've been having these...feelings." I admitted. "I have for a really long time, but...the last few weeks...I've had to..."

I frowned, still obviously uncomfortable with this. I'd hardly admitted some of this stuff to myself, admitting it to a perfect stranger wasn't exactly the easiest thing I'd ever done.

"Quinn?" he asked gently when a longer silence than necessary passed between us.

I forced myself to look up at him and I could feel an ache behind my eyes, pure emotion. I prayed to god that I wasn't going to start crying. That was the last thing I needed. It didn't exactly help that my voice sounded desperate when I did speak, either.

"I'm just trying to figure it out, you know? If it's wrong or not...it feels so...it's just so hard. It doesn't seem normal. I mean, I don't know why I feel this way..." I was babbling. I doubted he had any idea what I was talking about at the moment, but I felt like I was spitting poison here, and I needed to get it out. "I just can't help it. I've tried to make it go away, but..."

"You've tried to make what go away, Quinn?" He asked in the same gentle voice.

"That," I sighed, feeling my cheeks heat even thinking about it, "I have feelings...for other guys." I lowered my voice again, almost to a whisper. "I'm attracted to them."

I was surprised, at how foreign that admission seemed to me, hearing it out loud, coming out of my mouth, in my own voice. It was almost shocking. But, once again, I felt that weight lifted, just a little. Not that I was able to look Mr. Johns in the eye when I said it, I was too embarrassed, or afraid, for that. But, I did force myself to look after I said it, only to find that he was regarding me with a thoughtful expression. I couldn't really read him, but I was relieved to find that there was no sign of the disgust that I had expected.

"Quinn," he said carefully, "what exactly do you mean you're attracted to other guys? Do you like to look at them, fantasize about them, maybe?"

I blushed horribly, and had to avert my eyes again. But, when I looked up, I looked him directly in the eyes this time as I let out a long breath, and said something that I'd never actually imagined saying out loud before. In some ways, it was the most difficult thing I'd ever done, but at the same time, one of the easiest.

"I'm pretty sure I'm gay, Mr. Johns."

It was unnerving, how those words just seemed to flow out of my mouth. But, I was proud of myself for saying them, nonetheless. It was the strangest feeling, both fear and relief all in one. Just more mixed feelings for me to deal with. But, at least this time...I was dealing with them.

"I see." Mr. Johns nodded. But, there was something in his voice...something different than before...it made me look at him, another surge of fear flowing through my chest. "I'm glad you felt you could tell me this Quinn. It's no wonder you've been having a stressful time lately. You're at a very impressionable age and I understand how the temptation of more...destructive life styles can seem appealing to you, but I'm proud of you, for realizing you need some help."

I cocked my head at him, feeling confused. What was he saying? Only one thing seemed to stand out to me. Destructive lifestyle. All of that relief I felt before...gone. He was telling me something was wrong with me. I'll admit, part of me had wanted to hear that before. But now, with Jude's words ringing in my ears...

There's nothing wrong with you...

I'd wanted Jude to be right. I wanted to believe him.

"Help?" I repeated, choking on the word.

"Yes." Mr. Johns gave me a nod. "You're a bright boy, Quinn, an exceptional student. I think with the right guidance we can get you back onto the right path. Now, I know you're not going to be able to return to school for a few days, but when you return I'd like you to come back and talk to me again, I'd like to get to the root of this...problem. In the meantime, I have some reading for you to do. I think if you can see how destructive the path your on can be, not to mention dangerous, it might help you discover ways to correct it."

I sat there, dumbstruck as I watched him leave his seat and walk around the desk.

"Do you think I'm sick?" I found myself asking, almost absently. I was devastated. More than that, I felt betrayed. It was strange, how this man was telling me exactly what I'd been telling myself for so long, and I hated him for it.

"Well, I would say you're misguided, not sick. Although, there are many who begin on the path you're currently headed down Quinn...well, lets just say they've made their choices and that's too bad. It's not too late for you, though."

Betrayed. Yeah. That's how I felt. Maybe it was my own stupidity. I hadn't expected him to stand up and applaud me, far from it. But this...saying there was something wrong with me, was devastating. I hardly even knew him, but I'd still chosen to trust him. He was the first person I'd ever said a few very important words to, and now I just felt...wrong. The worst part was, I felt like I should believe him, believe what he was saying. I was wrong. What I was, was wrong. He also seemed to be saying that I had a choice in the matter. Last week, maybe I would have been grateful for that, but now I couldn't get past that feeling of betrayal, and horror. My darkest confession and he was confirming my worst fears. I wasn't normal; I was just a sick pervert. I was something to be ashamed of.

"You just sit tight." Mr. Johns insisted, giving my shoulder a pat that I hardly felt. "I'll be right back with that suggested reading and we'll work out a time for you to come see me again."

I absently nodded, not really looking anywhere in particular. I felt numb all of a sudden, seeing the room and what was around me...but not really seeing it at all. I was too trapped in my own head to really notice what was around me. Although, I was vaguely aware of the door opening and closing.

So I just sat there, in the tiny office, waiting for Mr. Johns to return with whatever it was he wanted to show me, whatever it was that would prove that there was something wrong with me.

And I felt so lost.

And then I closed my eyes, ignoring the sudden moisture on my cheeks. Tears. There were tears, but I didn't even care anymore. Somehow, I felt so broken. I wasn't me anymore. And now I had to live with it. Alone. It would have to be alone. Even my closest friends hated me now, and I didn't blame them one bit.

That smell.

That faint scent of cigarettes mixed in the air. It had reminded me of Jude before. With my eyes closed, it reminded me of Jude again. It was the smallest distraction, but enough of one.

There's nothing wrong with you.

I opened my eyes, blinking away a few more tears and looked around the room, over my shoulder at the closed door. And then I felt it, the need to escape. It was becoming a familiar feeling with me.

I stood up, almost forgetting why I was there as I wiped the moisture from my face and wondered if I'd feel better, if I just went home. I could go to sleep again. But, even if I did that, I'm sure someone would be home to wake me up way too soon. And then I'd be in trouble.

Damn it.

I didn't want to deal with any of this. I couldn't deal with any of this. I just wanted to be left alone. I wanted to be me again, but it no longer seemed possible. I needed an escape, any escape. If I didn't find one soon I would be dealing with more than just my inner crisis. My mom...if they got a hold of her she'd leave work for this. How could I explain to her, why I'd attacked my best friend? Worse, how would I explain it to Brad's mom if she came instead? I'm sure with the baby coming; this wasn't the stress she needed. And Bree...I wouldn't be meeting her for lunch now...she would be just as angry as everyone else.

I needed to get out of this. I needed it to go away. Escape. Just escape. Sleep. Sleeping had been a great escape from my own depression, a dark sleep, where I couldn't dream...but I had been dreaming, even with the pills. Maybe I just needed more. My prescription was almost out, but maybe I could get it refilled later if I used it all up. I could sleep. I could sleep and not be bothered by dreams. If it was a strong enough sleep I could escape everything for a while. It would be perfect, if no one could wake me up, either.

The concept of irrationality escaped me at the moment. So did the concept of stupidity as I walked out of the office, not even bothering to be sneaky about it and I strained to remember just how many of those little pills I had left.

I wasn't really noticing much around me, only that the halls were empty as I sulked my way out of the school, and no one stopped me. I made it out to my car, and spent what seemed longer than usual digging my keys out of my pocket, but once I had them and started unlocking my door...

"Hey!" I voiced my own concern, as I was pulled away from my car door and Taylor pulled the keys out of the lock. To say I was startled to see him was an understatement. It was almost enough to snap me out of the turmoil that was rushing through my head, especially with that uncharacteristically stern expression on his face. Before I had a chance to ask him what the hell he was doing, however, I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked back, surprised again to see Trina Ashpock standing there.

"Hi Quinn," was all she said as she opened the back door to the car and gave my shirtsleeve a tug. "Get in."

Maybe it was my diminished state, but I didn't even argue as I dropped into the back seat of my own car and watched in a mixture of amusement and horror as Taylor climbed into the driver's seat and Trina moved around to the other side. But, when Taylor started driving my car I seemed to snap out of things pretty quickly.

"What are you doing?" I demanded.

"We saw you going into John's office." Trina replied calmly, with a backwards glance at me.

"We couldn't just let you walk away after talking to that dumb fuck." Taylor added. "The guys a total homophobe. Fucking asshole."

"You gotta talk to Myers." Trina continued, giving me a warm smile, which seemed stranger than any of this. "He deals with the A through F students, but he'll talk to anyone...did you tell Johns?"

I just stared at Trina, sadly, already knowing what she was talking about, and after I lowered my eyes I gave her a small nod.

"You have to take everything that comes out of that idiots mouth for what it is." Taylor said, looking at me through the rear view mirror. "Bullshit."

I stared between the two of them for a few moments. In my car. What they were saying didn't exactly matter to me at the moment. Where we were going, did.

"What are you doing?" I asked, surprised at how very calm I sounded.

"We're doing you a favor," Trina threw back at me, and then looked over her shoulder. "I never thought I'd see the day when someone put Marissa Rixis in her place. Especially you. You were harsh, Moore. I like that...but that whole losing control thing..."

"Shit." Taylor muttered. "If I knew you could hit like that I'd never have gone near you."

"Now you tell me." I glared at him, and he had a nerve to blow me a kiss through the mirror. Trina giggled while I turned my eyes away, blushing again.

"Look," I frowned after a moment, "I don't mean to interrupt your little joy ride, but I need to get home."

"Right." Trina rolled her eyes at me, speaking sarcastically, "You can go home and freak out some more, make things even worse for yourself...I don't think so."

"So what am I doing?" I asked bitterly, not that it really mattered at this point. "Seeing how you ambushed me I guess it only seems fair that you get to tell me what you're going to do to fuck with my head next." That last remark was more for Taylor. I was still feeling bitter about my past experiences with him.

"Well first of all you're going to get rid of that look on your face." Taylor retorted.

"What look?" I demanded.

"The one that says you're probably about to do something stupid." Taylor stated.

"Whatever," I rolled my eyes and leaned back in the seat, "if you call going home for a nice long nap and some relaxation, stupid."

I hadn't buckled up, so when Taylor suddenly pulled off onto a side street and slammed on the brakes I had to brace myself of the front seat.

"What the hell are you doing?" I practically screamed at him, leaning forward, almost as if I planned on taking back my car. But, Taylor put it in park and suddenly twisted around in his seat to face me. Before I could say anything else he held up his right arm and pulled down his sleeve, revealing a long vertical scar heading from his palm down his wrist.

"I tried to take a long nap once too." he said calmly, as I looked at the scar, horrified by it.

"I wasn't going to..." I started to say.

"Maybe not," Taylor interrupted me, pushing his sleeve back into place. "But, you're still in trouble. Anyone can see it. And since you're obviously not going to let your friends help you..."

"What, you thought you'd give it a go?" I angrily cut him off, trying to hide the horror that I felt as I thought about that bone chilling scar on Taylor's wrist and my last thoughts as I'd left the school when I'd thought it was a good idea to put myself into a self induced coma. "Like you helped me at the theater? Fuck, do you have any idea what that did to me?"

"Oh shut up." Trina suddenly turned back to look at me as Taylor started to drive again. This time I buckled up. "Don't try to blame any of your shit on Taylor the way that you did to Jude, which was fucked up, by the way." and I actually blushed at that, feeling chastised. "You are what you are, Quinn, it doesn't have anything to do with anyone else. And, as far as what Taylor did to you...well, he's a damned good kisser, so I don't see why you're complaining."

"I wouldn't really know." I mumbled, trying to look less intimidated by all of this than I was.

"Right." Taylor sighed, feigning disappointment. "But hey, if you want to try again..."

"Don't even suggest it." I cut him off, and he laughed, but it didn't seem mocking like before. It was more...good-natured. I even caught myself cracking a smile, but it faded quickly. "Why did you do that, anyways?"

"Because it looked like you needed it." He shrugged, nonchalantly. "Besides, I'd been wanting to do that since I first saw you during freshman year, changing for gym." My eyes widened on the slightly lecherous look he was giving me through the mirror. I had never been aware of Taylor in any of my classes. "I couldn't let Jude have all the fun, anyways." He added.

Trina laughed and playfully punched Taylor's arm, while I blushed even deeper over his revelation. I shook my head and looked out the window, and when I did, I suddenly realized something and snapped to attention.

"Where are we going?" I demanded.

"Where to you think?" Trina replied.

I already knew the answer, I just didn't like it.

"No." I stated. "Look, I just want to go home, and I'm not going there. He doesn't want me around anyway."

"What makes you think that?" Trina asked, sounding annoyed. "Because he tried to help you in the first place, or because he came around yesterday to check up on you?"

Damn it. Did they know everything?

"He's the one who told me to stay away." I argued.

"Can you blame him?" Trina shot back at me. "He wanted to help you, Quinn, but when you showed up and blamed everything on him it freaked him out! Obviously he didn't think he should be the one to help you come to terms with this if you were just going to turn around and blame it all on him later...you don't know him. You don't know what he's been through. He cares about people, and he doesn't need someone like you around accusing him of being some sort of corruptor! So I'm warning you right now Moore, don't do it again or your balls will be in serious jeopardy."

My eyes widened slightly at the threat and Trina's intense glare. I didn't doubt it.

But, I'd actually listened to what she said about Jude, and it did make sense. Once again I felt guilty, for all of those things I said to him, and in many ways, I couldn't blame him for sending me away. But, that didn't mean that I was ready to face him. Even after everything this morning, and the exhaustion I was feeling now, I still felt nervous over the idea of seeing him. It was just like the day before. I knew I was a mess and I didn't want him to see me like this. Maybe it was because I still felt like he would mock me, and I just couldn't take that. Not now.

I was feeling too much, emotion. Fear, for many reasons, but mostly it was the fear of the unknown. I didn't know what was going to happen when I went home. Everyone would want an explanation and I didn't have one that I was ready to give. And I was afraid that I'd lost two very important friendships, at least, friendships that had been important to me.

And there was shock. Taylor showing me that horrible scar of his, had pierced through some of my numbness. The idea that I could have...I couldn't even say it. It made me physically sick. And there was hurt...I felt a lot of hurt. The fact that I'd been so low, and the first adult that I'd been able to talk to...the first time I'd been able to lift some of the burden, it all seemed so pointless, and left me feeling more alone than ever.

I wouldn't really think about the importance of Trina and Taylor's intervention until later. By the time we reached Jude's house I seemed to be trapped in too much of a depression to really think about it. It was strange, how I'd have moments of clarity and awareness, like when we parked next to the Green El Camino and I was aware that it meant I'd be seeing Jude very soon, but then I'd slip back into numbness, not really feeling anything except for the pressure behind my eyes, more tears that I didn't realize I was holding back.

When Taylor opened the back door and looked in at me I felt like a small child with shaking hands. Taylor, who I'd come to despise, who had tormented me, who'd been a pain in my ass for the last few weeks, suddenly seemed older than me. Wiser than me. He seemed so much better than me, and something about that made me feel more shame, and made me feel completely pathetic.

"I want to go home," was all I managed to say in a small voice, and in response he gave me a sympathetic look and reached into the car, guiding me out by my arm. I didn't resist. I felt too physically and emotionally weak to resist. It was almost like I didn't realize that I had a choice, that I could just say no, and reclaim my car keys and leave. That kind of awareness just escaped me at the moment.

Maybe I had rethought the idea of drowning myself in sleeping pills, but as we reached Jude's door and Trina knocked, it came to mind that the idea of a nap hadn't been a bad idea. I felt so tired, but once again a moment of clarity came when Jude opened the door and I remembered where I was. He was in a jump suit again, and considering it was fairly early in the morning and the uniform was clean, we were probably interrupting him on his way to work.

I managed to look at him for only a moment before I had to look away. It was just too hard looking at him. He'd opened the door, he'd glanced at Trina and Taylor and then his eyes had fallen on me. Eyes I could feel on me. But, before he could say anything, Trina was pulling him out of the apartment and Taylor was pushing me in. I hadn't realized Taylor still had my arm until then. I also realized that I'd simply been walking where he guided me to up until that point.

I brushed by Jude's shoulder, and I ended up looking at him, finding those blue eyes looking into mine inquisitively. He opened his mouth to say something, but Trina interrupted him.

"Jude." She said, pulling him out and closing the door.

I absently shook Taylor off once we were inside and found myself staring at the door. The door that Jude and Trina were on the other side of. The door that Jude was on the other side of. I stared at it for a few minutes, knowing that there was a conversation about me on the other side, even if I couldn't hear it. Generally, I couldn't stand it when people talked about me like that, but once again I felt too numb to care and I closed my eyes, taking in a breath. It smelled clean, but there was the smoky odor too. Jude had been smoking. Probably recently. It reminded me of being back in that office this time, and when I opened my eyes I was frowning, and Taylor was watching me.

"Come on," Taylor insisted, moving towards the sofa, "make yourself at home. It's what we all do around here."

Taylor took a seat on the couch and when I went over I sat as far away from him as possible. Some of the animosity I felt towards him was coming back, but mostly it just made me nervous, being alone with him.

"Why did you bring me here?" I finally asked.

Taylor just shrugged.

"Given the circumstances, we couldn't really think of a better place." He said. "And like we said before, it just wouldn't be right to leave you alone after you talked to Johns...he didn't give you any of those damn pamphlets, did he?"

I shook my head.

"He went to get me something and I left."

"Good." Taylor stated. "I think that idiot actually makes those things himself. Considering how skittish you are, it's probably good that you didn't read any of them. Anti-gay bullshit. A lot of us have been trying to get rid of Johns altogether. Last year he was actually suspended for handing out anti-gay fliers to a few of us. He isn't even supposed to have them in the school."

I was surprised, at the bitter tone in Taylor's voice and I glanced over at him. I don't think I'd ever seen him look so serious before. I wasn't really sure what to think of it.

"Mr. Johns was right, though." I said softly, and Taylor's eyes snapped over to mine, annoyance written all over his face.

"How can you say that?" he demanded.

"Because it's true." I shrugged. I didn't have the energy to match the heat in his voice. "He called it a destructive life style...and it's so true. The last few weeks have been nothing but destructive, all because..."

"That's not true, Quinn." I looked back to see that Jude and Trina had re-entered. Trina was frowning at me but Jude looked impassive as he headed over and sat between Taylor and me, closer to me, and I found myself edging away from him as he continued. "You've had a rough time of things, but that's probably because you're trying to deal with it on your own. Maybe you've been destructive but it has nothing to do with what that councilor said."

I narrowed my eyes, suddenly wanting to tell Jude that I wouldn't have had to deal with this at all if I'd never met him, but I bit my tongue. It would likely be unwise to start blaming him for everything again.

"You're an idiot if you listen to anything Johns said." Taylor stated.

"So what?" I snapped at Taylor, "I'm supposed to listen to you instead? Like you've given me any reason why I'd want to listen to you."

"You know, you are so fucking dense." Taylor shook his head at me. "Not to mention fucking ungrateful."

"Hey, I didn't ask you to fucking show up and kidnap me!" I retorted.

"Like you put up any of a fight." Taylor scoffed. "Christ, you can be such a bitch. Why can't you just accept help when it's offered to you?"

"Maybe it has something to do with the source." I retorted.

"Well that's too damn bad," Taylor snapped, "because it seems like right now, we're all you've got. Do you really think you'd be willing to talk to your little fan club about this? Oh wait, there is no more fan club, is there? People tend to see an asshole when you bitch out your girlfriend and then knock out your best friend!"

"Marissa's not my girlfriend!" I retorted. It was weak, but I didn't have much else to argue with.

"It doesn't matter." Taylor frowned. "Today you were a jackass, and by the way, I hate you for actually making me feel sorry for Marissa."

"Not that sorry." I heard Trina mumble.

"Alright." Jude spoke up, and then looked at me. "I don't really care how you ended up here, Quinn. But, I want to talk to you. Is that alright?"

I looked at Jude almost suspiciously before I gave him a slight nod.

"Finally." I heard Trina sigh, and then she walked around the sofa and she grabbed Taylor's arm. "Come on."

"Hey!" Taylor frowned at her, "where are we going?"

"We're going to get breakfast." Trina informed him as they moved towards the door.

"Fine." Taylor muttered. "As long as this isn't a trick to get me back to school, and we better be back here before Quinn says anything juicy."

I frowned towards Taylor as Trina dragged him out the door, but I noticed Jude was smiling fondly. Jude. I'd been left alone with Jude. Maybe I was glad to see at least Taylor go, but being left alone with Jude had me nervous all over again. Jude just smiled at me though, before he abruptly stood up and unzipped his jumpsuit and pushed it off his shoulders. He was wearing a white t-shirt underneath and I found myself absently staring at his chest as the suit caught at his waist.

"Do you want something to drink?" He asked. My mouth felt dry, but I shook my head no. "Alright...um...make yourself at home. I just need to make a quick phone call."

I nodded and he walked away, towards the kitchen where I heard him dialing a number and then he mentioned the name Murphy. As out of it as I felt, it did occur to me that Jude was calling in to work to say that he wouldn't be there. Maybe in any other situation I would have taken that as my signal to leave. But, at the moment the thought actually touched me. It made me realize that at least a small part of me wanted to be there with him, where it was safe. Safe for someone like me.

I'm not sure how long he was gone for. I could hear his voice, but I wasn't paying attention to what he was saying. I leaned back against the couch. It really wasn't very comfortable, but at the moment it didn't matter. My head suddenly felt heavy, just like the rest of me, and that dull ache behind my eyes was getting worse, they felt almost swollen with all of the unshed angst I was carrying around.

Closing my eyes seemed to be the biggest physical relief that I could have asked for at the moment, all of my exhaustion catching up to me. And I felt relaxed. Numb, and relaxed, and I could feel things growing dark, but it was almost a pleasant darkness.

It wasn't long before I felt trapped in that place, the place where sleep has consumed you but the conscious mind is still aware. And I was aware. I was aware of fingers unlacing my shoes and gently pulling them off my feet, and hands lifting my legs onto the couch, where I quickly became comfortable in the position, despite the couch itself being rather hard and lumpy to lie on.

And I was aware of the weight of a blanket, draping over me, and a hand running over my shoulder, tucking me in. I felt myself sigh, feeling content, and even more so when I felt fingers running through my hair before I felt soft lips brush against my forehead.

Jude. Yes, I was aware, and I hadn't felt so completely safe since my mother used to tuck me in at night when I was little. I remembered those words again, the ones that had been with me for weeks now.

There's nothing wrong with you.

Having Jude so close, I wondered if it was just a memory, or if he was saying them again. Meaning them. Because he believed it. The last thing that I was aware of before the comfortable darkness completely claimed me was the tear running down my cheek that somehow escaped my closed eyes, and Jude's thumb, as he gently brushed it away.


Chirping. That damn cell phone. Why did I ever get it in the first place? It was almost worse than my alarm clock, pulling me away from the warm, comfortable, dark place I was in. I welcomed the careful fingers, reaching into my pants pocket, removing the obnoxious device.

Only, they weren't my fingers. Cigarette smoke again, and the voice, quietly answering my phone.



"Is this Bree?" I heard him ask. "Sweetie calm down, it's Jude...yeah."

Sweetie? I didn't like him calling her that. It troubled me for whatever reason and I found myself frowning as I began to drift out of sleep.

"He's here." Jude said. "No, he's okay, a little warn out...um...I think I should let him explain that to you."

Wait a damn minute.

Jude. Bree. I could feel panic swelling in my chest as the day's events came back to me. I could feel the dull ache in my knuckles, from when I assaulted my best friend. I remembered the look on Marissa's face. The suspension. Taylor and Trina, ambushing me at my car. Jude. Falling asleep. Even the way he tucked me on the sofa. The remembrance of his lips lightly brushing across my forehead made me blush even before I opened my eyes.

When I looked around the room things seemed a little blurry. Jude was in front of the sofa with his back to me as he talked to my sister, cigarette between his fingers. I wondered if I should interrupt him. Maybe I was out of it, but I wasn't so inept that I couldn't figure out that people would be looking for me. Probably worried people, despite my questionable, earlier actions.

"Um...actually, he's sort of asleep." Jude was saying. "Yes...I know. I promise, he's fine." Jude took that moment to look over his shoulder and he saw me watching him as he took a long drag off the cigarette. He looked almost surprised to see me up, and for a second it looked like he was going to tell Bree that, and I actually found myself subtly shaking my head, signaling for him not to. He gave me the smallest of smiles and turned back again, talking to my sister as I slowly sat up, cracking my sore neck before I started folding up the blanket that he'd draped over me earlier. "Listen, Bree, are people looking for him? Uh-huh... No, he really is okay. He just needs to work some stuff out, so could you...yeah... Thank you. I'll have him call you... Yeah... I promise. Bye Bree."

I was standing up, looking for my shoes when Jude turned around again and held out my phone for me. I took it from him, making sure that our fingers didn't touch. I was suddenly feeling self-conscious. I mean, I'd passed out on him. Again. I wondered if I'd ever stop making an ass out of myself in front of this guy.

"Thanks." I mumbled as I took the phone and slipped it into my pocket. "Um...sorry I..." I glanced back to the sofa, discovering that the blanket wasn't folded as neatly as I had intended to make it. I immediately lifted it and started over until I heard Jude laughing and felt his hand on my shoulder.

"Relax." He smirked at me, taking the blanket and draping it unceremoniously over the back of the sofa. "Why don't you have a seat?" he kept his hand on my shoulder, guiding me down until I was seated on the sofa and I looked up at him. He was watching me, Making me pretty damned nervous as he took another drag off the cigarette and then slowly let it out. I wondered if he knew how intimidating he could be.

"Will you sit down?" I mumbled. "You're making me nervous."

"Sorry." He smiled, and then he did take a seat. Next to me. Closer to me than what was comfortable, given the space left on the couch.

My eyes nervously fell to the cigarette in his hand and I found myself taking it from him and promptly putting it out in an ashtray on the stand next to the couch. Jude just watched me, looking amused and obviously not minding.

"What time is it?" I asked, still unable to meet his eyes.

"Almost one. You've been asleep for a while."

"Sorry about that."

"I think you needed it." He shrugged. "Are you hungry?"

"Um, no thanks. Not really."

"You should eat something." Jude insisted, standing up.

"You sound like my mom and my sister." I remarked.

"Yeah, but I'm prettier." He smirked.

I found myself smiling up at him as he passed me and moved over to the kitchen space where he began to unload things onto the counter. I remained seated for a few more minutes, watching him as he turned on the oven and started slicing cheese and bread, and then I reluctantly stood and moved closer.

"I'm sorry you had to miss work." I said hesitantly. "I didn't mean..."

"I know." Jude cut me off. "It's fine, though. Murphy will just let me make it up."

"Yeah, well, I'm sorry. You didn't have to do this. And I should probably get going..."

"Sorry," Jude interrupted. "But you're sort of stuck here for a while."

"What do you mean?" I frowned, suddenly remembering that we'd taken my car to get here in the first place, as I checked my pockets for keys that weren't there. "My car..."

"Don't worry. Taylor will take care of it." Jude insisted.

"I'll kill him!" I growled.

"Will you calm down?" Jude laughed. "He'll be back with Trina soon enough."

"Better be." I mumbled, and then sobered as I looked at him again. "Um...when you talked to my sister..."

"She's worried about you." Jude immediately said. "But, I convinced her that you're okay. You should really call her. She said that your neighbor went to get you at school and you weren't there...I guess you're going to have some explaining to do."

"You have no idea." I groaned, running my fingers through my hair.

"You wanna tell me about it?" he asked.

I considered that for a moment. The last time someone asked me if I wanted to talk about it and I did, it left me feeling completely lost and hopeless. But this was Jude. It was almost like his voice had been in my head for the last week so that warranted reason enough for me to feel comfortable telling him things.

"My neighbor's Brad's mom." I sighed. "She's also my godmother."

"Brad's the one you hit?" Jude asked, and I ruefully nodded. "Damn. I guess you do have some explaining to do...so why did you do it?"

"I was pissed off." I shrugged. "I just sort of lost it."

"Yeah, Trina told me what happened." And then he added a little bitterly, "said he called you a faggot."

"If you knew, why'd you ask?" I smirked. "And, Brad didn't mean it like that...he was just angry. I was kinda being an ass."

"I just don't like the word." Jude replied. "So, what are you going to tell everyone?"

"I don't know." I frowned. "Something...nothing. I can't really tell them..." I trailed off and silently watched Jude flip the sandwiches he was grilling until he looked back at me. It took me a few moments to realize he was watching me, but when I did I lifted my eyes to his and sighed. "I'm gay, Jude."

The second time saying it somehow felt even harder than the first, despite the company I was in. But, this time I was able to hold Jude's eyes as I waited for him to say I told you so...or something.

"And that's okay, Quinn." He finally said, before turning back to the stove. I guess I wasn't sure what I'd expected him to say, I knew it wouldn't be anything bad, but I still stared at the back of his head for a few minutes, letting it sink in.

It's okay.

There's nothing wrong with you.

"How can you say that?" I finally asked.

"Because it's true," he shrugged, without looking back. "So what? You're gay. All that means is you're attracted to guys instead of girls. It has nothing to do with who you are."

"But it has everything to do with it." I argued.

"Why?" he asked, flipping the sandwiches onto some plates, and then turning to face me. "How does it define who you are? The only reason you feel like that is because you see yourself differently now. I mean, if you liked girls instead of guys, would being straight make you who you are?"

"No. It would make me normal."

"Why can't you be normal now?" he replied. "I mean, you're still the same person. You just can't see it because you're hung up on this one thing. That's what makes you different. You're just now dealing with this, and yeah...you're not really handling it well, but you're still the same person you were before you started dealing with this. The only difference is, you're not hiding from it anymore."

"I wouldn't say that." I sighed.

"Hey, just because you're not ready to come out to the world, doesn't mean that coming out to yourself wasn't a huge step." Jude insisted. "I know you're freaked out by all this, Quinn. But, you had to have been dealing with it for a long time, right? Doesn't it at least feel good to be able to admit it to yourself?"

"Yes and no." I sighed.

Jude just smiled at me and handed me both plates, which I instinctively took.

"Go sit down." He suggested, so I shrugged and brought the plates over to the sofa. Jude met me there with a couple of TV trays and two glasses of milk. "Now eat." He ordered.

I absently lifted one of the sandwiches from the plate and took a bite. I wasn't really expecting to become ravenous after that point. I hadn't actually felt hungry before I took that first bite. But, I guess I was so hungry because I really hadn't eaten in a while, and I found myself downing the contents of the plate, to Jude's obvious approval.

"When did you know?" I asked, after taking a drink of milk. "I mean that you were..."

"Gay. It's not a dirty word, Quinn."

"Right." I frowned.

"I think I was around eleven." He answered.

"You were eleven?" I almost choked.

"I think that's when I started noticing stuff," He replied. "Like, you know, I'd get into my dad's magazines with my friends. We didn't really even know what sex was back then, but when we started learning about jacking off...well, those magazines never did anything for me...watching my friends, though...I guess it just became obvious I was different."

"And it didn't bother you?" I asked, incredulously.

"Of course it did!" he insisted. "But, I guess I just figured out, that just because I was attracted to guys, it didn't really change me. It was part of who I was, but not who I was."

"So you knew you were gay when you were eleven." It wasn't a question, more of an awed statement.

"No." he stated. "I didn't really have a word for it then. I just knew I was different. I was around thirteen when I really started telling myself that I was gay."

"You make it sound easy."

"No, Quinn. I won't lie to you. It wasn't easy. I think I've cursed being gay a thousand times since then. But you know what? It never had anything to do with me. It always had to do with other people who couldn't seem to accept me, for me...But since then, I've accepted who I am, and that's what matters."

I frowned at that. That was my worst fear, not being accepted. Now, it was like he was telling me that people wouldn't accept me. Hell, it was probably true. But I wasn't sure how to live with that. I wasn't sure that I wanted to.

I jumped a little when Jude's hand came down over mine. Not so long ago I would have pulled away. It would have been too gay, and I wasn't gay. But now...I just took it for the comfort that it was and forced myself to meet his concerned eyes. Obviously he knew that something he said bothered me.

"You're going to run into people like that, Quinn." He said. "But not everyone. You'll never know who can accept you the way you are without confronting them."

"I can't." I shook my head.

"Hey," he squeezed my hand, "I'm not telling you to come out. I get that it's new to you. I'm just saying, it might not be as bad as you think."

"You don't know my mom," I sighed, leaning back on the couch without bothering to dislodge his hand from mine as I stared up at the ceiling.

"Is that what you're worried about?" he asked. Jude seemed to lean back with me, so that his shoulder was against mine, and oddly enough, while I noticed it, I felt comfortable with it. "Telling your mom?"

"Yeah." I nodded. "I mean, she's always going on about what a great man my dad was. She wants me to grow up to be just like him. Not a cop, but...a man."

"Please tell me you're not saying that being gay will make you less of a man." Jude frowned at me.

"Maybe not." I replied. "I really don't know what I'm saying." And that was the truth. "But, I do feel weak... because I couldn't change it."

"No more than you could change these curls." Jude smirked at me as he lifted his hand and touched my hair. It reminded me of the way he did it when he tucked me in on the sofa, and I didn't flinch away from it, either. I watched him, as an absent expression took over his features. He was looking at me, but not really looking at me. He seemed lost in thought, and I wondered if he realized that he was still moving his fingers through my hair.

"What do you think makes us this way?" I asked quietly.

Jude blinked, and suddenly dropped his hand from my hair. If I didn't know any better I would have sworn he was blushing, but he always had that confident ease about him that made it difficult to tell. But the thought almost had me smiling.

"I don't know." Jude replied. "There are a few theories. Some people say we're born like this...some say it's a choice. I wouldn't call it a choice, though."

"What about...an illness?"

Jude sat up straight and narrowed his eyes on me.

"Don't say that, Quinn." He frowned. "We're not sick, we're gay. It's not exactly contagious...look, I know you're worried..."

"I am worried." I cut him off, looking away. "I have to go home and try to explain to everyone why I punched my best friend today, and why I screamed at Marissa, and why I've been acting like a fucking lunatic for the past few weeks. I have to tell them why and I can't tell them the truth! If I was sick then it would be a hell of a lot easier! It's all fucking lies and I can't..." I stopped abruptly when I realized that I was shouting, and my voice was shaking again.

"Hey..." Jude started, but I stood up and turned away from him. I could feel that pressure behind my eyes again. It was unsettling, feeling so emotional. It was like one second I'd be completely calm and the next I'd be ready to break down. I guess the best word to describe me at the moment was, unstable.

"I have to go." I said, taking a deep breath. "I suppose you don't know where my shoes are?"

"Quinn." Jude touched my shoulder and guided me to turn back around. "You don't have to go...you don't even have your car back yet. Come back here and talk to me, maybe we can figure out something for you to tell your family about today."

"It doesn't matter what I tell them!" I blurted, suddenly turning on him. "You don't know my mom! She'll never accept this, she can't even say the word gay, much less entertain the idea of having a gay son!"

"So don't think about your mom right now!" Jude insisted. "Maybe I don't know your mom, but I do understand! Look, you're rushing this, Quinn. You need to stop thinking for a while. I know there are things you need to deal with, but no one's telling you to deal with them right now." he placed his hands on my shoulders and forced me to meet his eyes. "It's going to work out, Quinn."

"How do you know? How do you make everything sound so easy? It's not easy, Jude! Everything's so fucked up right now, I don't even know where to begin to..."

One of these days I was going to have to ask him to stop kissing me when I was in the middle of ranting. He was good at sneaking up on me with it too. I hardly saw it coming when he cupped the sides of my face and placed his mouth over mine. I sure as hell felt it, though.

It wasn't the same as before. He kissed me so hard I thought my lips were going to bruise. I felt his teeth graze my bottom lip and I hardly hand time to react before his tongue was invading my mouth. And I kissed him back, just as aggressively. I was confused as hell, but I still kissed him back.

I'd been dealing with so much today that I hadn't really taken the time to think about my feelings for Jude...or how he felt about me. I wasn't really sure where to begin. I wasn't sure I was ready to think about that just yet. Actually, I knew I wasn't ready. I'd hardly started admitting to myself that was gay, and my logical mind told me that I should at least come to terms with that before I even considered becoming more with Jude than what we already were...whatever we were.

I think at the moment I just wanted something to hold on to. Literally and figuratively speaking. I felt myself reaching out for him, grabbing his shirt with both hands and pulling him closer to me, and I realized his thumbs were moving over my face, wiping under my eyes. I hadn't even realized that the tears had finally started to fall. I think they started before the kiss, though.

When Jude pulled back I felt like such an idiot, standing there, crying like an idiot. But, there wasn't even a look of pity on his flushed face as he dropped his hands to my shoulders and I lifted a hand to wipe my own eyes.

"Look, Jude..." I started. My voice was hardly above a whisper, sounding somewhat hoarse.

"I know." he interrupted. "I should probably stop kissing you. It's just, when you get angry, you have this look...and your eyes...and your hair... I dunno. Gets me hot."

Damn him for making me blush at a time like this. When I actually laughed I realized that he was trying to cheer me up, but the glossy look in his eyes as he chewed his bottom lip pretty much told me he meant it. And knowing that, I felt those damned butterflies in my stomach again. Only now, I wasn't trying so hard to ignore them.

"It's just that..."

"I know." Jude stated, sobering. "I'm sorry, Quinn. I shouldn't have don't that, especially after I told you that..."

"We shouldn't be around each other." I finished for him. "You were right to do that, you know. After what I said to you..."

"Maybe." He nodded. "I do like you, Quinn...I think we've pretty much established that I can't change that. But, you still have a lot to work out."

"Right." I gave him a wan smile and took in a breath. "And that's why I should go."

"No." Jude stated. "That's why you should stay."


"You're obviously not ready to go home yet." He shrugged. "Stick around for a while. Call your sister, tell her you need some time, and stay...I'll even promise to keep my lips to myself."

I stared at him for a long moment, and then slowly shook my head.

"I'm just tired, Jude."

He gave me a small smile and moved his hand around to cup the back of my neck.

"It's okay to lean on someone else every once in a while, Quinn...like a friend."


"Yeah." He smiled. "You look like you could use one more of those right about now."

And he was right. Friends were in short supply for me at the moment, and I definitely needed one. I needed someone. That's why I didn't fight it when he pulled me forward until my head was resting on his shoulder and his hands moved around my back. I wrapped my arms around him and melted into the temporary safety that Jude Landon was offering me.



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