PT 16


Hi everybody! Sorry it's been soooo long since my last posting! As many of you know, we were selling our house and moving. I was "without internet" for almost two months!!!! Yes, I need therapy now. That was traumatic. So I bought a new computer, a big honkin' powerful one, but I'm still having problems... I know, that shit never ends.

Anyway, I'm now pretty much ready to get going full time on finishing this story up--- if Jae and I don't decide to go ahead and go become gay activists full time, lol. But I won't get into talking about all that. Let me just say: PLEASE DO EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER TO HELP DEFEAT GEORGE BUSH!!! PARTICIPATE!!! VOTE FOR ANYBODY BUT HIM!!!

Let me thank Rob, Jonathan and Bill for editing for me! You guys are the greatest! And thank you to those who wrote asking what the hell was taking so long to get this chapter out, lol. Honestly, it wasn't all my fault this time! My new pc wouldn't read my old slow 16X cd's and I've had hell getting everything converted, and that's besides all the time I wasn't even online.

Enough excuses. Here's the new chapter:


Tyson came into the light slowly, twisting out from the bushes, a hand, then an arm and a hip, then his golden hair, reflecting the porch light back to my eyes. While mosquitoes and suicidal moths buzzed my head, my emotions surged and my breath caught in my throat.

`Ty. Oh shit. Oh Ty... what do I... I don't know how to... Shit!'

"Ty, what's up...?" I croaked.

"Keep it down, dude, I don't wanna wake your folks up," he whisper-shouted again. He shuffled slowly over to me, still wearing my shirt from yesterday. He squinted up into the porch light and shoved his hands in his pockets, pulling his shoulders forward. His expression hovered somewhere between wary and sad.

He obviously dreaded this as much as I did, but I guess he was compelled to meet with me. I had to deal with it. Now.

`No. I just can't do this... to someone I love. I just can't. But he KNOWS I HAVE TO!'

My heart raced and I spewed rhetorical shit, stalling I suppose, "Where you been, Ty? You weren't waiting at my car yesterday after school. I went by your parent's place looking for you. Where'd you go? Why'd you...?"

He shrugged his shoulders and answered anyway, "I uh..." He watched the bugs do their kamikaze dives into the light as he spoke, "I kinda needed to get away from it all, y'know?" He forced a small quick smile.

`I can't DO this! I know what it feels like. I can't do this to anyone!'

I was still in shock at finding him here, and my mind was racing with jumbled mush, so it took a moment for his words to soak in. "Oh. No, you, uh, no... You shoulda been there. I mean, I needed... We needed to talk."

His eyes narrowed sadly as he said, "What's there to talk about, Danny? I knew you'd go back to him. I knew I..." He lowered his gaze and mumbled, "...couldn't compete with someone like him."

`No, Ty! I didn't... I wasn't comparing! I never...'

I visibly cringed as he said it. All the conflicting emotions and regrets flooded over me, zapping my energy and scrambling my thoughts.

"Ty, it's not like-- I mean..."

I stood there looking down at his feet, with no idea what to do or say. He started to move toward me, but stopped himself. I looked up at him and saw tears welling in his eyes.

"Hey, I knew the second I saw him I couldn't compete with that. I mean, what do I got to offer?"

"Oh, God, Ty! It's not like that!" I stomped my foot like a little kid. "Man, it's not about that at all!" I said, gesturing widely.

How could I get across to him that it was never a competition? It wasn't about competing at all. It's not like I stood back at some point and said, `Well, let's just see who wins!' I mean, come on!

He spread his arms and pulled his shoulders back, with attitude, "Well what is it about, Danny? He's a big fuckin' macho jock with a big dick. He's way hotter than me, an' he's rich." He jabbed his thumb at his chest, making his word crack with the impact, "What the fu-uck do I got to offer you? Nothin'. I`m just a fuckin' loser, goin' nowhere... no car, no money... no future. Them's the cold hard facts, dude."

`That's not it! That's NOT it, dammit! No, no, no, no...'

"No, Ty! That's not the reason! It wasn't a... I still love you, but I-- man, I don't..." I just stood there trembling, no idea what to do, say. I felt hopeless. He reached out toward me, but I pulled back slightly and he stopped himself. I looked at him and saw the tears about to spill from his eyes. My stomach wrenched, and my mind just seized up like an engine pushed to its breaking point. I fought back my own tears and hung my head. I think I mumbled, "I can't do this... can't..."

This is all too much! I just can't... Whooaaa, shit! What's...?'

My head in free-fall, almost hyper-ventilating, I was in an Escher painting, unraveling where I stood, revealing only emptiness inside. My knees began to buckle, and I reached to the side, grabbing at anything to hold myself up. I felt my body slump against the bricks and felt them scraping my back as I slid down the wall; the porch light faded from my vision.

I found myself sitting on my butt on the porch against the wall, head spinning, trying to focus on my Knees-- no, Tyson's knees. He was squatting in front of me, shaking my shoulder urgently but gently, sounding scared.

"Danny?! You all right? What's a matter? You ok? Danny?!"

I couldn't get my eyes to focus properly. I felt drunk. I was aware of where I was and of Tyson right in front of me, but I felt like I was somehow removed from the situation. I could hear him asking me things, but his voice was competing with a voice in my head, from my memories... from my childhood maybe... telling me I didn't have to cope with anything if I didn't want to. I could curl up and just sleep... just dream good dreams... Take to the sky. Summertime, all the time.

"Danny?! Dude, you're freaking me out, man! What's wrong? Talk to me! Danny?!"

Words were filtering through... I understood the words themselves, but they didn't mean anything...

"What's going-- DANNY! OH MY GOD! WHAT'S WRONG?! WHAT'S--"

"We were just talkin' and he kinda went limp! I swear I didn't do anything to him, Mr. Dresden! I swear! He just kinda slid down the wall and sat there. We were just talking!"

"Help me get him inside."

Ty was panicking, crying, talking fast, "I swear I didn't touch him, Mr. Dresden! I swear, we were only talking! Please, I swear, I didn't hurt him! Please don't hit me! I didn't do anything to him! We were just talking an' he..."

"Just help me get him... I got him. It's ok, I got him. Hold the screen door open, Tyson."

"OH MY GOD, DANNY! What happened, Ben?!"

"I didn't do anything to him, Mrs. Dresden!"

Summertime, all the time.

***** ***** ***** *****

"... but I love him. An' I thought he... Well... I knew, I guess."

"He felt so bad about it, Tyson. He just felt horrible about hurting you," Mom said in her most soothing voice. "He felt so guilty, especially with what the girl, uh, Celia, had said. I take it she more or less predicted it would go this way, or something, from what he told us."

"Yeah... Celia knows these things. She talked to us one at a time before we left about it." He lowered his voice and mumbled, "An' I guess I knew from the start I could never be what he wanted. I'm just a loser."

"Tyson! Hon, don't talk about yourself that way! You've been through a lot. You've had to endure things no boy should ever have to live through, and yet, you're still a kind and loving person. You have a lot to offer, and you'll find someone to share your life with someday."

"Thanks. That's nice of you to say, but... I gotta deal with reality here, Mrs. Dresden."

"Would you please, call me Lydia like I keep asking you to?" She had a smile in her voice. She was so good with people. Her tone softened even more and she said, "Ben and I care about you Tyson. So does Danny. We wouldn't care, or be concerned about you this much if you were a loser. Understand?" she added firmly.

I lay there, listening to them, the fog slowly dissipating. `What the hell happened? I blacked out. I guess that's what it was. I could hear a lot of what was being said, at first, but felt like I had missed a lot in the meantime. Weird. How long was I out? Am I ok? I think so. Yeah, I feel like shit, but I think I'm ok, physically at least. Weird.'

I didn't open my eyes. I didn't want to let them know I was back. I still didn't know how to-- didn't want to-- deal with it all. I couldn't believe I had blacked out! I really, really hadn't been so dramatic on purpose! I'd never done anything like that before in my life! I was acutely embarrassed as I lay there listening to them, trying to get up the courage to open my eyes and face them all again.

"Sorry, Mrs.-- Lydia." There was a pause, then he said, "Maybe I should go. It was me tryin' to get him to talk about all this that caused him to nod out like that. Is he gonna be alright?"

"We would have taken him to the hospital in a heartbeat, if we thought he was sick or hurt or anything," Dad said from somewhere else in the room. "From what you say, I think everything just overloaded his head. He's had just a mountain of very emotional things happen in this last month. An incredible amount to deal with, when you stop and think about it-- especially yesterday. And he didn't get enough sleep last night."

"It's a lot to deal with for both of you. Well... for all three of you," Mom added. "He was so torn up about having to tell you..."

Tyson started sobbing. "I knew it was coming. I just didn't think it would be so fast!" he cried. Hearing him in such pain because of me, made my heart constrict painfully in my chest. "I knew I couldn't hold onto him, Mrs. Dresden, but I tried. I wanted it to work."

I was shocked that he was talking so openly about our relationship to them-- but I was glad that he felt he could. Obviously, they had told him before I `came back' about my coming out and everything. I felt the shifting of the two of them on the side of my bed as Mom cradled Tyson in her arms. She murmured comforting things in his ear and rocked him gently while he cried.

I figured he'd probably never been rocked in his mother's arms in his life, and was so glad my mom could give that to him. I tried to imagine what it would be like to never have your mother comfort you, hug you, sing to you. I couldn't. The concept just wouldn't coalesce in my mind; though I knew it was reality for countless boys and girls all over the world. Tears seeped out of my eyes and ran down into my ears.

I was hoping Mom's comfort might go a tiny little ways toward making up for what I had done to him.

A couple of minutes later, when I heard his sobs die down, I slitted my eyes open and saw my dad in his house robe at the foot of the bed, all wavy through my watery eyes. He was looking right at me and I saw him notice I was back. I opened my eyes all the way and gave some kind of look that told him not to bring attention to me. He got it and was silent.

I looked up at Mom and Ty. He was clinging tightly to her, face buried in her neck, and just wouldn't let go. She was happy to give him the comfort he needed, petting down his back with soothing, maternal hands. Her eyes were closed and her expression was of empathy, feeling all of the pain he shouldered from all the different angles it weighed on him, pouring her love and understanding directly in.

I looked back at Dad and more tears rolled down my cheeks. He gave me a comforting and supportive look of his own, bent slightly and gave my toes a squeeze. I locked my eyes on his and asked him what to do. I asked him to help me.

`Dad, I'm in way over my head here. I need help! I just can't handle this. It's just too much. I'm sorry I've been trying to pretend I'm grown up. I'm not. I'm still just a kid. I don't know how to deal with all these emotions. I've made such a mess of everything. I don't want to be an adult anymore, ok? Can I just go back to being the lonely little nerd? Can I just go back to hanging around the shop with you on weekends, fantasizing about living like the other kids? Can't we just rewind the last few weeks at least, and start over? I promise I'll forget everything that's been said, everything that's happened. I just want to be your little kid again-- but I still want to have and love Jerry. I can't even imagine letting him go. God, I know I'm not making any sense, Dad, but...'

He looked down into my eyes and gave an almost imperceptible nod. It seemed like he'd heard everything I was thinking at him, like he was able to unravel the huge knot of confusion in my addled brain telepathically. He looked so wise. I felt like he would have the answers for me and fix everything. My body jerked a little when he spoke.

"Lyddie," she looked back over her shoulder at him. "We need to let them talk." My eyes went wide.

`Oh NO, Dad! What about...? What about...? Ok. I get it. Sure, I get it. Yeah, it's a cruel fucking world and I have to deal with my own shit. I get it.' I bored into his eyes, a little angry that he wasn't going to handle this for me. But, of course, I knew he was doing the right thing-- the only thing he could do. I had to deal with my own mess. Be an adult. He can't step in and tie up all my loose ends for me, live my life for me.

Like it or not, I'm living like an adult now, so I had better start thinking and acting like one. I have to face the consequences of what I've done to Tyson. Learn my life lessons and all that shit-- shit that used to mean nothing to me. Shit that, in my adolescent mind, was stuff I didn't think I'd have to deal with until much later, if ever.

`There should be a course, a program or something. Why are we expected to just KNOW how to deal with things like this? I don't know nothing! And I'm obviously doing it wrong. I don't know where to begin.'

Mom faced me after glancing back at Dad. The warmth in her eyes flooded into me like anesthesia, filling me with a sense of well being, a calmness that I didn't expect. If I hadn't felt so calm so suddenly, I would have been shocked at how instantly she calmed my mind and my heart-- like she was overflowing with that mothering energy from giving it to Tyson. Whatever it was, I was able to look in Tyson's eyes when he released his hold on Mom and turned his head back to look down at me.

He smiled through his tears and said, "You're back. You really freaked me out there, Dude." He sniffled and his hand moved to my wrist by his knee and lightly squeezed. "All of us."

"Yeah... sorry `bout that. I don't know what happened. I just kinda went blank."

"Are you dizzy? Is your vision ok?" Mom asked. I shook my head no then nodded yes, giving a little smile at how confusing that could seem. "You didn't have a temperature... Do you feel hot, or cold, or anything like that?" I shook my head as she removed the cold wet towel from my forehead and felt around my head and neck. "Here, drink some water, hon."

I raised my head and Tyson slipped his hand underneath to help support me, while mom tilted the glass to my lips. Now I was feeling like a total fucking baby and was just plain embarrassed again.

"How do you feel, Bud?" Dad asked.

"Um, I'm fine. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare everyone." I didn't know how convincing I sounded. I felt exhausted and drained. Kinda numb. But the calmness was still with me, so I kinda did feel fine at the moment.

"Well, uh... we'll leave you two to talk." I nodded at him, but still wished he'd stay and talk for me. "Uh, just remember, you do have school tomorrow. You don't have to talk everything out tonight, ok? Save some of it for tomorrow."

He looked at Tyson, sitting with slumped shoulders, and contemplated him for a moment. He knew Ty had nowhere to go, and certainly didn't want him to consider going back to his parents' trailer.

His eyes darted between Tyson and I while he asked, "You'll be staying, won't you? I, uh, understand how that might be... awkward, or... Umm, you can sleep on the couch, since..." Ty glanced up at Dad, then Mom, and she nodded her encouragement with a smile. He hung his head back down.

I propped myself up on my elbows and pleaded, "Please stay, Ty?"

He was silent, working through things in his head, trying to decide whether to stay or go. I sensed that he still wanted to talk; but how are you supposed to feel about staying in your ex-lover's house when you've just been dumped-- with the comforting complication of the ex's parents offering you love and support like you've never had? He was facing Mom, and kept looking at her and back down to his other hand on his knee. His hair kept me from seeing his face as he worked through his quandary.

Everyone waited silently for him to announce his decision. He cocked his head slightly a couple of times, like he was struggling over it. Finally, he nodded his head and mumbled, "Yeah, ok."

Mom gave him a kiss on the cheek and stood up. His hair rolled back from his face as he looked up at her and blinked several times. A new tear slid down his cheek and he started to reach for her, like he didn't want her to go, but his hand stopped in mid air. She smiled down at him with all the love in her heart. She reached out and caressed his hair and he pushed his face into her hand and closed his eyes, nuzzling into her touch.

It was heart wrenching to see this... boy... cling to the simple loving touch my mother gave so easily and unconditionally; something he'd just never gotten. My heart broke all over again for him. I saw Dad watching this. He blinked several times, tightened the sash on his robe and left the room.

Mom cradled Tyson's head in her hands and pulled his face into her stomach. She looked back at Dad as he left. She knew he had just said we needed time alone to talk, but she couldn't just walk away from Tyson when he was needing her comfort so badly. And I didn't want her to leave. I didn't know what to say to him.

After a minute or so, Ty pulled away, wiped his eyes and looked up at her, then back down, embarrassed, "I'm sorry."

"There's nothing in the world to be sorry about, Tyson. Anytime you need a hug, or someone to talk to, I'll always be here for you. We want you to stay." She smiled at him, then leaned down and kissed his forehead. She turned to me and said, "Do you feel ok now, Danny?" I nodded yes. She leaned down past Ty and kissed me on the forehead, stood back up and said to me, "I know it's important for you to talk, but really, you obviously need sleep, and you don't want to miss any more school. You've missed five days just recently. Do like your father said, and save some of it for tomorrow, ok?"

I nodded at her, then my eyes shot back up when I realized they knew about the extra two days I'd stayed home, and had never said a word about them. She looked at me, acknowledging that, letting me know once again that parents know much more than they often let on. Good parents, that is.

She looked at Tyson with love and sympathy in her eyes. "I'll put some blankets and a pillow on the couch." She closed the door behind herself, leaving the room feeling empty without her presence. Tyson stared at the door after she left. I sat up and tried to think of what to say. I came up empty handed.

I moved over so Ty could scoot fully onto the bed and we both sat back against the headboard, staring ahead at my dresser. I thought, `I guess the time has come to put away my Star Wars Action Figures, huh.' I no longer dreamed of Han Solo's hands on me, Luke Skywalker's lightsaber, or what was under Darth Vader's helmet and robe.

I remembered how embarrassed I'd been when I'd snapped that they were sitting there the morning after I brought a battered Tyson home. I remembered how I'd felt so immature, like such a little nerd when he'd noticed them that morning. I remembered how he'd surprised the hell out of me when he said how cool he thought they were, even though he hadn't seen the movie, but had of course, heard a lot about it. I remembered how his reaction had erased my embarrassment, and intensified my bond with him a little bit more. But I still wanted to put them, and all of what I considered the telltale signs of childhood away. Youth no more. I was supposed to be a man now. But then again...

We sat there in uncomfortable silence for what seemed like forever, and my mind just ground to a halt. Thoughts rippled and faded into empty space. My mind became so blank I could hear echoes in there. Well, it wasn't really completely blank; there were flash images of the look in dad's eyes, both when we'd had our little `communication' and when he'd looked at Ty, blinking back tears and walking out. And there was the image of Mom looking down at me, infusing me with a little serenity. And there was her, looking down at Ty while he nuzzled into her hand; that look that revealed how hard it was for her to imagine how void of love his life had been, and how that just broke her heart. But it was just those images. There were no conscious thoughts connected to them, just automatic associations.

Tyson finally broke the stasis, "How ya doin'? Feelin' better?"

"Um, yeah, I guess." I mumbled, "Sorry I'm such a wus. Shit, I'm worse than a little girl, lately. Sorry to scare y'all like that. I just... Man, so much has happened the last few days, and when you showed up... I guess it all caught up with me, y'know?"

"Yeah, your mom told me you came out to them, an' how they knew about you `n me... `n Jerry. But why'd you go an' tell `em all that yesterday, right after you... got back with...?"

"You don't think I volunteered that information, do you?" I chuckled, with a tinge of irritation for him thinking I would have chosen to do it that way, then said flatly, "Mom found my suicide note."

"Oh, no shit?!" He realized he had been too loud and lowered his voice to just above a whisper, "Oh, dude, that musta really freaked `em out, huh?"

"Yeah. It did do that. Like, the suicide thing was enough to freak 'em out, but to find out I was gay at the same time, and about Jerry... then you."

"Shit, you really have had a lot to deal with, huh. Maaaan." He faced forward again.

"Yeah..." I turned toward him, drew my knees over to rest against his hip and lay my forehead on his shoulder. I just dove right in, "Tyson, I swear I never thought I would get back with Jerry. I swear I thought it was over. I would never have let myself fall for you if I even thought there was a chance of getting back with him. I swear I wasn't using you! You believe me, don't you?" I implored. He didn't answer.

I looked toward my dresser and gestured helplessly, "I don't know how to explain what he does to me. I don't really understand it myself. I mean, I didn't have a choice, Ty. I just love him. More... than I could ever put into words."

He nodded vaguely and picked at something on his pants leg.

I raised my head off his shoulder and looked at him, "I was determined to tell him NO when we went to talk. I knew by then he was gonna try an' get me back. I didn't think I was still in love with him at that point. I really didn't! But... when he started talking, and crying to me... Man, it just all came back and hit me between the eyes, y'know?"

Tyson just stared at his hand, picking at unseen things on his knee as I continued, "He really went through a lot of changes, and he... he accepted that he's gay and that he's in love with me. He's totally going with it, y'know? He committed himself to me, totally. He even told Brenda about it tonight, with me right there. He told her it's as real as any love that ever was. He said those very words to her!" I pointed at the air, then waited for him to respond.

He knew I wanted some kind of response, so after a long moment, "Hey, if it's real love... I can't argue with that," he said dejectedly, a new tear leaking out of his left eye, which now had only an oval of purplish black around it.

"Oh Tyyyy..." I whined. "Man, I feel so horrible. I feel..." My voice fell away as my weakness hit home once again.

What could I say to him? What would be the right thing to say? Sorry I broke your heart? Would anybody consider that adequate? And I realized: Everything else is just an excuse, a justification. Sound reasoning or not... just an excuse.

There was another long silence, while thoughts and images swirled in my head in no particular order, and of no particular help. I decided to just say what came to mind and hope it would help him-- me-- us-- understand.

"This is all new for me, y'know? I've never been in love before, and I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I never expected to fall in love at all, let alone fall in love with two guys at the same time." I put my hand on his forearm, "And I did fall in love with you, Ty, no matter what you think of me now, or after tonight; just know that I did fall in love with you. It wasn't acting. It wasn't pretend. I still love you and I always will."

He cut his eyes over at me and back down, "Yeah, you love me... but not enough to love me," he muttered bitterly. I tried to think of how to respond while he paused, but he looked back up and continued before I could get anything out, "Is that supposed to make me feel better?" His blue eyes scorched mine as he spoke, "Is it like: You say you really love me-- just not quite enough-- and that's s'posed to make me go, `Ahhh, that makes everything ok!'?"

I hung my head, unable to meet his sad angry gaze. I had no answer for that.

I could only offer, weakly, "I'm so sorry, Ty."

His voice was flat and cold, "I am too."

That slashed into my heart so painfully I clutched at my chest. I felt crushed... but I deserved it. I started crying, and so did he. I slumped against him and he put his arm around my shoulders. Maybe he regretted being so harsh... I don't know. I wrapped my arm around his waist, lay my head on his chest and cried, my head rising and falling with his chest as he quietly sobbed.

I don't know that I was asking for it, but he was comforting me. I don't know that he was asking for it, but I was comforting him as well.

We stayed like that for a long time, tears coming and going, clinging to each other, relaxing, clinging again... It just seemed like there was nothing else to say.

Well... there was plenty more to say, but none of it would really help the way either of us felt. A little part of me died right there. A little spark, one of the precious few most of us come equipped with, was extinguished as we leaned into each other, knowing no words would make it all seem alright.

We were grieving that loss, grieving the broken connection, that deeply intimate union. We had shared feelings I was sure I would never find in anyone else.

Jerry filled so many needs in me, so intensely, but Tyson filled different ones, intensely. By this point I had accepted that I filled needs within both of them too, or I couldn't have the effect on each of them I had. But the intense and long term sharing, mutual fulfilling of those needs, could only be done with one of them, and I knew Jerry was the one I would-- had to-- share my self with. There simply was no question about that.

I wished there was a way to hold on to the intense connect with Tyson, that little spark... but there just wasn't. I never thought I would ever break anyone's heart. That just never seemed within the realm of possibilities when I thought of what kind of person I would be when I grew up, how I would conduct my life, how I would treat the people in my life. In reality, I never actually thought I could personally have that kind of impact on anyone.

And of course, falling in love with two guys at the same time was far beyond my comprehension, before it happened. Still was, really.

Just another hole in his heart. That's all I would amount to, in time. Another tear, another scar. How it kept functioning was the real mystery, the testament to human will and the nature of survival. How anyone can have so many deep holes gouged in their heart over and over throughout their lifetime and still be able to hold anything as tenuous and fluid as love in there, was simply amazing. Where most people, I assumed, would be bitter, angry and even violent as a result of his experiences, he was still capable, still wanted, to love and be loved.

I had promised him love, and broken that promise. I was the monster, the beast. I didn't think I could take it. I could never have imagined being in this position. I wasn't equipped to deal with this. I had given him my love, then snatched it back in the space of a few days. This was killing me. It was killing him too... just a little more, one more gaping wound, extinguishing one more spark that had been helping dispel a little radius in the darkness.

I had nothing to offer that could make up for that. My friendship... how could that be worth anything to him? My friendship was damaging. My love was...

We sat huddled together for what seemed like hours, gnawing on our thoughts, regretting, wishing, crying.

After dozing and jerking awake momentarily several times, Ty doing the same, we shifted in stages, down to lie on the bed and sleep. Clothed but for our bare feet, my head on his shoulder, his arm wrapped loosely around me. In one of the shifting stages, he reached over and turned off the lamp. His heart beat lulled me into Never-Neverland.

***** ***** *****

I awoke to a soft kiss in the dark.

My eyes flew open-- and I knew instantly where I was, and who I was with. I kissed him back, but...

He whispered apologetically, lips still almost touching mine, "Sorry to wake you, Danny. Sorry I kissed you. I just... needed that. Sorry."

I felt his erection in his jeans, barely grazing my hip, and my heart nearly pounded out of my chest. I was on my back and he was on his side, my right hand squished between my butt and his hip, a mere curl of a finger away from that heat.

His face hovered an inch over mine, awaiting my reaction. His shallow breath filled my nostrils as I tried to get a response out. I could feel his heart beating against the side of my chest, almost as wildly as mine. After what seemed too long-- long enough that he drew back, fearing I was upset with him or something-- I finally was able to croak out, "Don't be sorry, Ty. I... think I needed it... too." I reached up and touched his face. My breath was short and sharp, "I... feel..."

"Don't. Don't feel anything, Baby. I don't want you to... think I want you to... or..."

"What's wrong with me? Why do I want to..." I was struggling so hard to find the words I needed, but so afraid of those words, the thoughts, I tried to suppress them even as they limped out of my mouth, "...make love to you so... so bad right now? I'm... I mean I'm... totally in love with Jerry, but... I really don't... I really... don't want to let go of my love for... you." I felt so guilty and ashamed I could hardly breathe. I muttered, "I know that's so selfish. So selfish and wrong." I rolled my head away from him in agony. "What's wrong with me? Why am I so fucked up?"

My mind was swirling violently with all these conflicting emotions. `I can't believe I feel this way! What does that say about me? Here I know I love Jerry immeasurably, but I'm also thinking how much I still love Tyson, too. How evil can I be? How shallow, selfish and cruel can I get?'

"I don't think it's wrong for you to want to," he reassured me. "It would be wrong to do it, I guess... but it's just natural to want to. I mean, I know you do love me, Danny." He reached over and tugged my chin to get me to face him again. I could see his face, the faintest glow illuminating it within the dark silhouette of his hair, edged silver from the streetlight intruding from behind those shitty brown curtains. "An' I'm sorry I... I'm sorry I went off on you about how that wasn't good enough." His hand came to rest over my galloping, guilty heart.

"I been layin' here thinkin' for a long time, man. I'm sorry I been so selfish, Danny. That was really shitty of me to make you feel bad about being so in love with him. That's just not right, an' I'm sorry."

"What?! Tyson, you aren't the selfish one! You got nothin' to be sorry about! I'm the one who's selfish and horrible and shallow. I'm the one who did this to you."

"No, Danny. No, you're just in love... with a guy who... I mean, you were already in love with him, but ya didn't think you could be anymore, so you started fallin' in love with me. Man... there's no bad guy here. Really, Danny, it's no one's fault. I mean, look at how things went. Man, I ain't stupid all the time, y'know," he chuckled, but there was a sad quality to it. "I can see how bad ya feel about it. I know ya didn't mean for it to go like this."

He kneaded my chest a little as he spoke. "I know you'd never hurt me or anyone else on purpose. Look, love is so hard to find, dude, it's really shitty of me to be giving you a hard time about it when you do find it. And you told me from the start how you were still in love with him. It's not like I didn't know this could happen. I shoulda been preparin' myself for it... especially after what Celia said." He mumbled, "I know I was, in the back of my mind... preparin' myself..."

He leaned back down and kissed me again. "I'm hap-- well... I'll learn, to be happy for you." He paused, then kissed me again, a quick peck. "No. No, I AM happy for you. You deserve happiness, Baby. You really do deserve it." He pulled my right hand up from my side and pressed his scarred wrist to my wrist, whispering, "Kindred spirits, remember? We gotta support each other when we find happiness."

I reached up and pulled his head back down to mine and kissed him again, longer, as tears leaked out of my eyes yet again. When I let him raise his head back up, I said, "Thank you." I raised my head and gave him one more peck on the lips. "You deserve love and happiness too, y'know. Remember what Jet and Celia told you: You have to love yourself, Ty. Stop putting yourself down all the time."

He mumbled some kind of dismissal of the thought, but I was determined to push the point, "All I'm sayin' is... You're a beautiful person, and one hell of a sexy guy. You've got so fucking much to offer. Believe in yourself, man. You gotta believe how beautiful you are. You deserve love."

I rolled my head around and chuckled ironically, "God, I sound like Dr. Joyce Brothers or something. I'm really the one to be giving advice about life here, ain't I? Since I'm so fucking good at all this shit myself!"

His laughter jiggled the bed. "Hey, you are pretty damn smart, Danny. Maybe you should get your own talk show or somethin'."

We both laughed at that. I said, "Oh, yeah, right. That's just what the world needs: The Danny Dresden Show, 3pm after Merv Griffin on ABC. Today's topic: Housewives who give lousy head. Danny shows `em how!" We tried to keep the laughter down.

After we regained our composure, Tyson's stomach gave a long rumbling growl. I reached over him and switched the lamp on. "You eat anything today?"

We both blinked and squinted to adjust to the light and Tyson muttered, "Nah."

I grinned mischievously, "Well it's time to raid the `fridge then!" As a concession to him, I amended it, "Uh, the `icebox'," and chuckled.

"Um, Danny... I do know what refrigerator means." He slapped me on the butt as I crawled over him to get out of bed. "Like I said, I ain't stupid all the time."

We tiptoed into the kitchen and studied the refrigerator's contents in detail. We formulated a complex and aggressive plan of attack on the defenseless cooling unit. We would start by abducting the holy grail of the chilly kingdom: the pot of spaghetti. No Ragu or canned shit here, no, this was Mom's outstanding homemade spaghetti-- which gets even better every time you reheat it. Then we'd guarantee a crushing defeat with an assault on the frozen coconut cream pie, followed by Blue Bell chocolate almond ice cream and Swiss Miss hot chocolate with marshmallows, taking no prisoners. After all that, if we were so inclined, we could pillage and plunder Sarah Lee for all she was worth.

I was loving how relaxed and ok he seemed. I couldn't believe we were laughing and jostling with each other between the refrigerator and the table, like all was forgiven or something. I half expected him to, at any moment, bitch-slap me and yell, `What the fuck are you laughing about?! You think this is funny?! You cold-hearted piece of shit!'

Really, that's the type of thing I was thinking every other minute or so, while thinking how great it felt to be with him and laughing with him during the intervals. He had forgiven me. I found it hard to believe, or accept, but it seemed like he really had.

As I grated cheddar cheese over the microwaved spaghetti, I thought, `Well, I know how good it felt to forgive Jerry, once my head cleared a little. Maybe he's enjoying the release forgiveness gives you, too.' But I felt like I was getting off too lightly for my crime. I kept expecting him to rescind the pardon and lock me back up in my guilt.

Regardless, his forgiveness didn't take away all the guilt-- not by a long shot. I still felt guilty as hell about what I'd done to him, and I felt just about as much guilt from knowing I still loved him and didn't want to let him go. And I felt a sharp spike of guilt from knowing how much I had wanted to make love to him when he woke me up. I felt like a scumbag, not worthy of either Jerry or Tyson.

We stuffed our faces and laughed at each other while we tried to see who could slurp a strand of spaghetti up the fastest. I almost bragged jokingly about my sucking talent, but stopped myself. I was afraid our ease with each other was a little too fragile to make anymore sexual jokes yet; like, don't push it.

Mom padded into the living room in her slippers and nightgown after one of our laughing fits, eyed us groggily, menacingly, then turned and went back to bed without a word. We looked at each other wide-eyed like, `Oops! Shhh!' and tried to suppress naughty little kid giggles, dribbling spaghetti sauce and cheddar cheese strings down our chins.

I gradually relaxed inwardly and was feeling overjoyed that we were feeling so comfortable with each other again. I knew it could never be the same as before, obviously, but it seemed like we were evolving rapidly into a new kind of relationship. I still found it hard to accept, and kept glancing at him in disbelief as he shoveled food into his mouth.

We gorged ourselves like gluttonous pigs, vanquishing the spaghetti, pie, ice cream and hot chocolate, but ended up sparing Sarah Lee her virginity to sit another day in all her flaky, sugary splendor in her little chilled galaxy. Say `flaky sugary splendor' five times fast. Everybody now.

The couch was never brought up, ignored as we maneuvered our Buddha bellies toward my room. When we started to get undressed for bed, some of the tension came back. I debated whether I should keep my briefs on, but he didn't wear any, so it wouldn't make much difference. We were way too stuffed full to have any kind of sexual urges, as such, anyway. I remembered I had left Jerry's sweaty jockstrap in the car and my cock twitched.

As we undressed, we kept glancing at each other. We were both a little awkward about it, but managed to avoid building up too much tension; though both our cocks filled out some. At least, when we stood naked in front of each other, I had a reason to look his beautiful body over.

"Well, looks like your bruising is healing up really good," I acted like I had the right to inspect him.

"Yeah. It don't hardly hurt no more," he twisted different ways to inspect himself.

I noticed a bunch of insect bites scattered over his body. "Where'd you get all the bites?"

He looked down at himself like he hadn't even been aware of them, "What? Oh, those. Well, I hitched home yesterday after I left you `n Jock Boy," he grinned. "An' I snuck in and slept in my old tree house last night. Between the ants and mosquitoes, I got pretty ate up."

"Oh man, I'm sorry, Ty. You know you coulda stayed here. Didn't matter what happened with me `n Jerry, y'know? You're still welcome here. Mom `n Dad want you here." The look on his face registered with me and I looked down at the floor, "Well, I understand you probly weren't wanting to be around me an' all... But I want you here. Too. I don't want you goin' there... definitely not there."

He didn't answer immediately. Then he mumbled, "I kinda didn't wanna be around anyone." Out of the corner of my eye, I could see he was looking me over as he spoke. "I guess... Well, it's not like I didn't know this would happen. Celia's always right, even when she tries to say she might be wrong. But... that didn't make it much easier to take. Anyway... I had to be alone 'n think."

I sat heavily on the edge of the bed and put my face in my hands, elbows on my knees. "Man, Ty, I don't know how to handle this. I feel so bad... and so guilty. I never thought I would be the one to hurt anyone."

He sat down beside me, hands clasped and wedged between his knees. "Like I said awhile ago, Danny, it's nobody's fault. I know you didn't mean for all this to happen. It just... just went that way."

There was silence for a bit, then I said, in almost a whisper, "But I still love you."

He put his arm around my shoulders and hugged me into his side. "I still love you too, but... I guess there's nothin' we can do about that, now, huh." He was silent for a moment, "But, I mean... it's good, y'know?"

I looked over at him, confused. "Huh?"

"Well... it's good that we not only still like each other, but we even still love each other. You know, most other people... when it's over, how they hate each other an' all that shit."

I cut my eyes up at him, "Oh man, I could never hate you."

He grinned big, "'Course not!" We laughed quietly and both sensed the conversation was over.

I yawned an enormous one and stretched my arms. "I guess we better go to bed."

"Yeah." We climbed into bed and turned out the light.

We lay there groaning for a while in contented misery. But that didn't mean neither of us thought about sex. He was lying right there beside me, naked. I remembered his clothed erection when he woke me up. I felt so guilty because I did want to make love to him. It didn't mean I loved Jerry any less, or Tyson any more. It was just... I did still really love him, and really loved making love with him-- `cause it was making love. It wasn't just sex.

I knew that what I had with Jerry was so much more, was what I wanted for my lifetime, but I felt I had room in my heart for Tyson too-- and room in my bed. But that made me feel like some lowlife swine. I took just a little comfort that President Carter had `confessed' to Playboy Magazine that he had "lusted in my heart." As I had. But my lust was different than what he was referring to.

My lust was borne of love for this guy lying next to me. And that was the second biggest problem I had at that moment: The fact that I still loved Tyson. The first biggest problem I had was that I was hurting him so. But the second biggest problem affected how I dealt with the first in a big way. I know; doesn't make much sense. Him saying he was ok with everything made me feel better, but I knew it still hurt him.

I berated myself, `You can't have two lovers at one time. Are you some kind of slut or something? How can you think like this behind Jerry's back? You are such a horrible, shallow person! Your love doesn't mean a thing, when you can toss it around between two guys like it's natural or something. You promise your undying love to Jerry, then turn around and want to make love with Tyson. You fucking mongrel dog. You cold hearted beast. You don't deserve either of them.'

I lay there, feeling worse by the minute. `Stop having thoughts of him like that! Just stop it! It's not right! Ok, I don't want to make love with Ty. I don't want to. I love only Jerry. Jerry gives me everything I need and way more. I can't have two lovers. That can't be. Only Jerry. Go to sleep. Tomorrow you'll realize you don't want to love Ty that way anymore and you'll know you can never want love, and loving, from anyone but Jerry. Go to fucking sleep!'

And a fitful sleep it was. Neither of us slept well. I woke up several times with heartburn. I finally went and took some Alka Seltzer. I brought a couple in water back for Ty, as I knew he wasn't faring any better. He sat up and drank it down, then let out a huge long belch and we giggled some more and groaned. How stupid could we get, thinking we could eat something as spicy as spaghetti, along with all that sweet stuff, and go right to sleep and not have heartburn! After that, I slept like the exhausted piece of disloyal shit I was.

***** ***** ***** *****

The peal of hounds baying in the near distance piques my acute senses as I slither through the prickly underbrush, tackling and dodging meaningless whispers, stepping gingerly over the rapidly decaying corpses of newly tainted souls I've lain in my wake. Steam rises from my latest feast and his tortured, dying pleas tickle my slimy underbelly as I plant my webbed feet firmly in his warm splayed entrails and push off, leaping the mist of his rising soul to plunge gracefully back into the void of my own.

I feel the corrosive knowledge of their collective torment coursing through my veins as I throw my head back and bellow my defiant wail into the raven black syrup of the heavenless night; taunting the hounds, taunting their masters as they flail their torches blindly in their ever futile attempt to snare the beast.

I grin lasciviously under my halo of flies, drooling putrid bile down my serpentine neck. My forked tongue flicks out to taste the acrid, sulfuric air and I smell fear. I smell vulnerability, trust... the faintest flavor of love... or longing for love. I circle back and spy the source, straggling behind the mob, searching half heartedly for the beast, more consumed by his own longing. Weak. Vulnerable.

I stalk him for awhile, smelling his need. I get an erection. I lure him away from the herd, toy with his mind, effortlessly, it's so easy... and he believes me when I say I love him, because he needs to.

I shiver with anticipation, then plunge my talons in as I watch his eyes flutter and his lips quiver, rending his soft belly, twisting and grasping in the wet heat and pulse of his guts as I rip them out to devour the tastiest parts and casually discard the rest. I thrust my hand up through the convulsing, pliant organs behind his ribcage, slicing my way to the true object of my desire, wet, pulsing, beating, pumping, throbbing, hot... mine.

I stare into the terror stricken eyes of this mortal I vaguely remember saying `I love you' to, in some other dream.

His eyes begin flickering out as he beseeches me, "Why, Danny?"

I blink my mucous covered lids and mewl, "Because it tastes good... because I enjoy it... because I can."

His gasping, strangled voice knocks entreatingly at my mind with his final words, "But, I thought you loved me."

I mock him, sneering, "Oh I do, but... I'm hungry." My scaly fingers wrap around his tender heart and I rip it out with a flourish, holding it up for him to see, "Your heart, your love... nutrition. I only crave... only crave." I grin and gnash into his heart, splattering his own blood all over his ashen face and now blank eyes.

The Hounds of Hell have caught my scent and are getting closer, drowning out the baying hounds of the hunt with piercing howls, a cacophony of crushing, soulless anguish, draping everything in existence with a waking death that offers no rest, no silence, no respite. No sleep... just death.

I am their creation. They want what's theirs.

The thumping of their cloven hooves on the bog vibrates and bounces around inside my chest as I grit my reticulated jaw. I cast down the rest of my meal and frantically search for an escape route, but the thumping is causing my body to vibrate apart and I begin to know my own terror, eyes darting furiously around for a reason to exist. My last donor's lifeless body slumps to the black sludge beneath the iridescent fog that eats away at my oozing haunches... No time, almost upon me...

"Boys! Time to get up!" Mom kept knocking, thumping, on the door until one of us acknowledged her.

"UP!" I yelped as I sat bolt-upright in a cold sweat, heart racing insanely. My head darted in all directions as it began to register that I was at home in my bed. 'Morning. I am me... warm blooded. Human. Daniel Benjamin Dresden. No beast from Hell... Well, not THAT much of one.'

I tried to calm my heart and breathing as I looked back guiltily at Ty lying on his side, facing me. His eyes remained closed as he scratched his nuts, making his big morning wood bob a little, while pulling my pillow over his head with his other hand, mumbling something about sleeping all day.

I blinked rapidly many times and brought my hand to my thumping chest, as I breathlessly croaked, "Nightmare, that's all it was."

"Mm-hmm," Ty mumbled a muffled agreement into the pillow and blindly groped the mattress behind my back, trying to pull me into him in his sleep, whimpering when his hand didn't connect.

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