This is, it turns out, a story about fear and cowardice. Standard disclaimers would apply if there were any actual sex in this but, as it turns out, there isn't. So, if relationship stories freak you out, or you're looking to get your keyboard sticky, now would be a good time to run away. No, really. Probably the best time, thinking about it.

Many thanks to Ashken, Ender, and Kitty, intrepid editors.

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On any day without rain I run in the morning. Saturday was nice, so it was out for an hour, even with the bruises from the beating I took on Thursday. I got back from my run to find a girl sitting on the front steps to my house.

"I'm Steph," she said, standing up. Even on the steps she barely looked me in the eye. She was dressed sensibly enough for the weather -- t-shirt, denim skirt, and a patchwork quilt vest, a navy beret pulled down over her head with bits of red hair sticking out from underneath it. Next to her feet was a bulging olive green canvas bag that looked like it was made from an army surplus tent or something. She had the feel of a mad Irish Munchkin. "And you're the Ken doll I get to dress up," she said, looking me up and down slowly. She let out a whistle. "Nice. Sure I can't just undress you and leave it that way?"


"Nudity," she said, as if that explained everything. "It'd suit you."

"Uh..." I don't know if strange girls showing up on people's front steps was normal or not, but I was leaning towards the not. Especially ones who were this... forward.

"How cute. Ricky said you were kinda shy."

Ricky? "You're the person Rick said had taste?"

She grinned at me. "Yeah, I'm Steph. I'm here to make you over. Ricky didn't warn you about me?"

Warn me? That wasn't a good sign. "What? No. He just said he knew someone."

She gave me a big grin, though it wasn't very reassuring to see. "That'd be me. Okay, let's see what you've got," she said as she stood up. I just looked at her blankly. "Clothes," she said slowly, sounding like she thought I was an idiot. "I need to see your clothes."


She gave an exasperated sigh. "I need to see what we're starting with," she said.

"Oh." I didn't know what else to say, so I just went past her and opened the door to the house. When I looked over my shoulder I saw she was standing still and staring at my ass. "Are you coming?"

She shook her head and put on a wicked grin. "Maybe soon." I had no idea what she meant by that, and I didn't think I wanted to. I did notice she was three steps behind me the whole way through the house.

When we got to my room Steph marched over to my closet and started rummaging through the stuff I had. There wasn't much there, just some flannel shirts and a suit I didn't fit into any more. She just gave a snort and started digging into my dresser. The contents of that apparently didn't impress her any more than my closet did.

"Okay, so we've got jeans, t-shirts, and flannel. That's not a lot to go on." She thought for a moment. "What are we trying to accomplish here?"

"Um... what?"

"Accomplish, Justin. To what end are we seeking?"

"Oh, OK. Sex."

She raised an eyebrow at me. "You're awfully forward. We've hardly just met."

"No, no!" I took a step back from her and held up my hands. The look in her eyes made it clear she might just jump me right here. "I want to dress sexy. Be attractive, you know?"

"Damn," she said with a smirk. "Pity. So you want to attract the girls, huh?"

"No. The guys."

"You're gay?"


"With this wardrobe?" She looked at me like she didn't believe me. "You sure?"

"Why, do I have to prove it?" As soon as the words left my mouth I knew I'd just made a mistake.

"Okay, sure," Steph said with a leer.


"It's OK, Justin," she said, patting my arm. "You don't have to. But don't let me stop you if you want." She sighed and looked around the room again. "What else do you have?"

"You mean clothes?"

"Yes, Justin," she said. "I mean clothes. You haven't given me a whole lot to work with here."

"I've got my things from last year," I said, thinking of the trunk of clothes down in the basement.

"Please tell me it's clothes you've grown out of. I'd hate to think you traded up to that stuff," she said with a dismissive wave at my dresser.

I wasn't sure how to describe it, exactly. Last year was something I didn't much feel like talking about, definitely not to a total stranger. "Something like that," I said. "Packed away in the basement."

"To the basement then!" She sounded far too eager.

Our basement wasn't much, mostly a small storage area. Nothing like the one from our old house, but Dad had said they'd had to look pretty hard for a house with anything at all, so we were making do. Some of it was filled with boxes we hadn't unpacked yet, and I'd taken over the rest for a practice space.

"Geez," said Steph, looking at my gear scattered around the basement. "You some sort of ninja or something?"

"Um, yeah, I guess. Something like that." What was I going to do, disagree? I had wooden swords, kendo padding, a couple of sticks, and some nunchaku scattered around.

What I was looking for was buried in the back corner of the basement. I dragged out the trunk of clothes I'd brought back from last year and let Steph rummage through it. It brought back some bad memories but I tried hard to not think about them. I wasn't sure it was a good idea to let Steph look at it.

She thought otherwise. "Hey, you've got a yukata!" Steph held up the thing.

"You know what they are?" Most people don't. A yukata's a light-weight kimono, though if I wore it around here everyone'd think it was a bathrobe with a nice pattern in the fabric.

"Yeah, I've been trying to get The Griff to do Madame Butterfly. She keeps saying there's too much death and Italian in it. Oh, and Justin! Japanese schoolboy uniforms? Kinky."

"What? No, it's not that..."

"Sure, sure. I get ya. Gay anime geeks. Right, then," she said, standing up and shutting the trunk, "that was unhelpful. D'you like that sort of thing," she asked, pointing at the trunk.

I'm not sure that 'like' was the right word, but I'd worn it all last year, and it was at least comfortable. "More or less," I said.

"Well, it's different, and that's a start. Gives me a few ideas, at least. Now," she said, looking me up and down. I felt like a piece of meat. "Do you know your measurements?"

Given the way she was looking at me, that question made me very nervous, especially because I didn't have an answer. "Um... no."

Steph's face lit up, and I knew that was the wrong answer. "Oh, good! Let me get my tape measure."

Getting measured sure seemed an awful lot like getting felt up, only with a tape measure involved. At least I think there was a tape measure involved most of the time.

"Hey, watch the hands!" That time she wasn't even making a pretense of measuring me. There wasn't any way she could be using the tape measure if both hands were grabbing my ass.

"I am," she said with a grin. "Don't want to miss."

I sighed in exasperation as she groped me a little more while she took my measurements. This was my own fault, I guess -- if I knew what size I was I wouldn't have to be doing this. Or maybe not. I was beginning to think that Steph wouldn't pass up a chance to grope.

"Okay, I've got what I need. Now just stand there for a minute," Steph told me. She grabbed a pad out of her bag and started scribbling. After a minute she shouted out "turn to the left!" and scribbled some more. I ended up doing a full 360 that way. I felt very much on display, far more than the times I'd been nude in public, and it was making me really uncomfortable. Still, I'd asked for it. Asked for something, at least. I was pretty sure that I hadn't asked to be groped or leered at.

"We're doing the hair too, right?" That question came out of the blue while Steph was still scribbling on her pad.


"That's the word of the day, isn't it?"


"Nevermind, you're getting your hair done while we're out. You have a car, right?"

"The grey thing out front, yeah."

"Good. Got nothing to do today?"

"No," I said, wondering where this was going.

"Even better. Got cash?"

"I have a credit card that's empty."

"Sold, to the sweaty guy in the gym shorts!"

When Steph said that I remembered that I hadn't showered or anything after my run, since she'd grabbed me before I'd even made it into the house.

"I think I should go shower and change before we go. And no," I said quickly, before she could say anything, "you can't watch."

"You're no fun," she said with a pout.

That was depressingly true. "Not usually, no. Sorry," I said with a shrug.

"Still," she said, "eye candy works for Keanu, so it can work for you! You shower, Justin," she said, patting my ass, "and I'll make some calls."

I took the quickest shower I could manage, wrapped myself in three towels for cover, and ducked into my room. I half expected Steph to be there to watch while I dressed, but I got lucky and she wasn't. I considered dressing up, but given Steph's opinion of my wardrobe I wasn't sure there was anything in there that counted as dressed-up. I settled for a clean t-shirt and jeans instead.

Steph was waiting for me in on the couch in the living room, sketch pad in hand. It looked like she'd already gone through a half-dozen pages, but I couldn't tell if she'd done them just now or if they were older. I resisted the temptation to peek over her shoulder at them.

"Ready to go?" she asked as she got up, putting the pad into her bag.

"Yeah," I said as I made my way to the front door. "Where are we going, exactly?"

"You know where Atlanta is, right?" Steph followed my out.

"More or less. It's over that way?" I waved east.

"Close enough," she said, getting into the front passenger seat. "Drive there. I've got some work to do on the way. Tell me when we get close, and shut up until then."

Not only could I do that, if it meant I didn't have to try and hold my own in a conversation with her I was all for it. "Gotcha. I can do that."

That left me driving towards Atlanta with a growing sense of dread. Steph was sitting next to me with her sketchpad, scribbling like mad as I drove. She'd occasionally look over at me and mutter something, and more than once she held bits of cloth up to my face. I was curious, but asking meant running into a conversational minefield. I decided I didn't want to know that badly.

Actually getting to Atlanta didn't help any either. Steph was still spending most of her attention on whatever she was drawing, so her directions were curt, and we ended up doubling back twice because she didn't tell me to make a turn in time.

The neighborhood we ended up in was one of those newly trendy ones -- you know, with bizarre shops, specialty art stores, and little boutiques sandwiched between buildings that look like they ought to be torn down.

"Park here," she said, pointing down an alley.

I wasn't entirely sure about it, but I wasn't going to argue. The alley was next to a hair salon that looked closed. Closed, apparently, didn't slow Steph down any. She grabbed my hand as soon as I got out of the car and barged right in.

"Hi Rafe!" Steph pushed me into the salon. "The Ken doll's here. We ready to apply some style?"

"Hi Steph," said the guy who I assume had to be Rafe. He walked over to Steph and gave her a hug and a peck on the cheek, then turned to look at me. "What style are we looking for?"

"Gimme a sec," said Steph, as she ran out of the place. "I'll be right back."

That left me alone with Rafe. The situation probably would be less awkward if Steph had actually introduced us. Not that Rafe was bad to look at by any means -- as eye candy went he was just fine, being a little taller than I was with a nice smile, his black hair cut short and spiked up, wearing a black button-down shirt, thin red tie, and tan chinos. He couldn't have been more than twenty or so, and the body under the clothes looked like it would be worth a second look without the clothes over it.

Still, me ogling him wasn't the plan for the day, though I wasn't sure what the actual plan was.

"Um... hi," I said hesitantly. "I'm Justin."

"Rafe," he said, walking over to me and holding out his hand. I took it and shook. I was relieved that I wasn't going to get a hug and kiss.

"Well," said Rafe after an extended awkward pause, "we probably ought to get started while Steph runs her errand. You shower this morning?"

"Yeah," I said. "Conditioner too." My hair was still wet from the shower, even after the drive here. That's one of the disadvantages to long hair, it takes forever to dry. Still, hair drying from a soaking in the shower beats hair drying from a soaking of sweat.

"Good," said Rafe. "Might as well get you into the chair and start cleaning you up." He spun one of the chairs around and took the oversized bright purple bib off the chair and fastened it around my neck. I settled down into the chair and Rafe started brushing my hair back.

"Nice," he said as he worked. "Been a while?"

"Couple of years," I said.

"Well, you've kept it in good shape. We ought to be able to do whatever Steph wants done."

I wasn't sure what we would be doing exactly, as all I was going to be doing was sitting there and letting things happen, but that was really all I was up for right then. As Rafe started working I heard the door open.

"I'm back!" The voice and enthusiasm was unmistakable. "Got what I was looking for, too. Rafe, I was thinking something like this," Steph said. Since I was stuck in the chair I couldn't see what she was holding, but Rafe could.

"Are you sure?" he asked. "That'd need a lot of gel. He could kill someone with those things."

That is not what you want to hear when you've put your head in someone else's hands. I was getting really nervous -- I wouldn't be too surprised if Steph was thinking of spikes or a Mohawk or something.

"Yeah, I know, we can tone it down a little. Still, he's got the hair for it."

"But braiding? That's a lot of work, and I don't know that it'll go over too well."

That was more than enough for me. I had visions of some sort of bizarre dreadlocks or something, and I didn't care how good she was supposed to be -- there was no way I was going to do anything like that. When I turned around I could see Steph had a DVD case in her hand.

"Please tell me that's not a clown movie," I said.

"Nah," said Steph, showing me the case. It was worse. Anime. Full Metal Alchemist, of all things. I didn't recognize the cover art, but it was Ed, one of the lead characters, in a no-shirt beefcake pose, complete with swirling cloak. Ed, unlike me, was short, blonde, and animated. He also had most of his hair back in a braid, with a bunch of it swooping around in front in a gravity-defying style you can only get when there's no actual gravity involved.

"You want me looking like him?"

"Sure. It's different, looks good, and matches your fetish."

"I don't have a fetish. And he's thirteen! And animated."

"Thirteen? Really? Wow." Steph took a good look at the picture. "Killer abs for thirteen. They grow 'em nice in Japan," she said with a leer. "I think I want to visit."

"Trust me," I muttered, "you don't. Anyway," I said, continuing on, "I'm not blonde, and I'm not going to braid my hair."

Steph frowned at me. "Hrmph. You're not being very cooperative."

"He's right," Rafe said. "A braid won't work. Still..." he trailed off, looking back and forth between me and and the box, thinking. "I can work with that. Give me forty-five minutes. An hour and a half if you want highlights."

"Highlights, definitely highlights. We need to get rid of the mousy look."

I was getting a little tired of them talking past me. "Don't I get a say in this?"

"Nope," Steph said with a smile, patting me on the shoulder. "You don't. You put yourself in my hands, remember?"

"Don't worry," said Rafe. "You'll be safe with with me."

"You'll protect me from her?"

Rafe looked at Steph and shook his head. "No way. You're on your own with her."

Steph snorted at us. "Rafe, you get him fixed up. I'm going to go see about getting his wardrobe started. Justin, you will stay here if you finish before I get back, right?"

Like I had much of a choice there. "Right," I said.

"Good." She gave me another pat and left.

"Just you and me," Rafe said. "Lie back and relax, it'll all be over before you know it."

"I wish," I muttered. Rafe started talking but I just tuned him out and tried not to fall asleep, though I'm not sure I succeeded, since I was brought back to the real world by a poke in the shoulder.


"You're not much for conversation, are you?" I could see Rafe grinning at me in the mirror. Unfortunately I wasn't sure how to respond to that, and I really didn't want to offend the guy who was hovering over me with scissors. I figured the truth was probably best.

"I never really got the hang of it," I admitted.

"Well," he said, "you're trimmed, and it's time for the chemistry. Gotta look good for the girls, huh?" Rafe had a few plastic squeeze bottles and a lot of tinfoil. This was making me more than a little nervous, but he was the professional, so I had to trust him and hope for the best.

"What? No," I replied.

"Oh, I just assumed," he said with a little frown. "Steph called me but she didn't tell me why we were doing this. Some special occasion?"

"No, nothing like that?"

"General makeover?"

The questions were making me really uncomfortable. I mean, yeah, hairdresser and all, but I didn't know this guy and I wasn't sure I wanted to talk about what I was doing this for. I wasn't even sure I was comfortable with what I was doing this for.

"Um... well..."

Rafe gave me another grin. "It's OK Justin. Nothing you say can be worse than whatever Steph would come up with. Besides, if you can't trust a total stranger you've just met, who can you trust?"

That, I had to admit, made absolutely no sense. In its own way that fit in with the rest of the day. Besides, I'd gotten this far, it wouldn't do me any good to not finish it properly, and Rafe could probably do a better job if he knew what it was he was supposed to be doing.

"You won't tell Steph?"

"My lips are sealed," Rafe said. "Promise."

"I'm doing this for revenge."

Rafe just looked at me. "That," he said slowly, "doesn't help choose a style, unless you're looking to strangle someone with your hair."

"Okay," I said with a sigh, "there's this guy at school. He's a total ass, and he's been making my life hell since school started. He's also a closet case, in a big way. I want to look good -- really good -- and I want to jerk him around. Steph's doing a makeover on me to help, though I haven't told her why, exactly. I figure I look good, I dress well, I flirt like hell, and I make him squirm. A lot."

Rafe raised an eyebrow at me. "Interesting plan. People are going to think you're gay, though, you know."

"I am," I said. "So I don't care about that."

Rafe laughed then, long and hard. "Justin," he said, patting my shoulder, "you've got guts. I like that. Between Steph and I, I think we can make this guy wet his pants over you. There is one thing though," he said as he started in on my head with bottles of foul-smelling gunk, "there's more to being sexy than just looking good and dressing well. That helps, but you need the attitude too."

This made no sense to me. I'm pretty sure it showed on my face, since Rafe chuckled.

"Okay Justin," he said, "object lesson time. Look at me. I'm attractive, right?"

"Well, yeah," I said. That was something I noticed when we were introduced.

"Look again," he said. "Look closely."

I did, and... well, he wasn't that attractive. OK, sure, he was far from ugly, but his nose was shaped a little oddly, his eyebrows were kind of bushy and he had a ragged scar on his left cheek. Yeah, his hair was short and done up well, and he was dressed nicely, but still, when I looked I could see he was just a little shy of ordinary. It was when I stopped looking so close that he turned back to attractive.

"Oh," I said. "I see. I think. Why?"

"There's more to being attractive than just how you look. There's the way you act, and the way you move, your attitude. It's all important. You can be the most beautiful person in the world, and believe me we get some really good looking people in here, but if you're angry or unhappy or nasty, you won't look good. And you don't have to be beautiful to be attractive, either. The looks help, sure, but dressing well, being confident and happy, engaging people, and moving like you're relaxed all make a huge difference. I mean, look at me," he said with a lopsided smile, "admit it, you thought I was hot when you walked in here. It wasn't until you looked close that you noticed that I'm just ordinary."

I think he had a really good point. I wasn't sure, since this was all stuff I just didn't understand, but Rafe seemed like a nice guy and his little demonstration made it really clear that there was more to this than just looks. That was going to put me at a big disadvantage, since I didn't do social things too well. I could move, though, and I knew how to relax if I worked at it. Maybe with a good smile and the assumption that I could pull this off I actually could pull it off.

"Now this kid you're doing this to. Basically you're looking to seduce him, right?"

I thought about that. I wasn't looking to actually get him, but I was looking to make him think he was being gotten. Or something like that. "That sounds about right," I said.

"You always want him to know that you're in charge, that you know what's going on, and you know what you're doing. You've got to be..." Rafe fished for the right word, "engaged with him. Watch him, see what he's doing, make him go the way you want him to, you know? Be friendly, touch him a lot, when you can't touch him with your body touch him with your eyes. Just... stay in contact. Make it clear that you like what you see when you do it.

"You could tell Steph, you know," Rafe said as he rinsed the chemical gook out of my hair. "This is the sort of thing she'd get a big kick out of."

"Yeah, I got that feeling," I said. I could imagine what she'd do if she knew Bobby was gay. The thought wasn't pretty. "I don't like this guy, but I don't not like him that much. If Steph found out she'd make this guy's life a living hell, and I don't think anybody deserves that. Besides, this is a private fight. I don't want anyone else involved."

"I can respect that," Rafe said as he toweled my head off. "I won't say anything to Steph."

"Thanks. We done?"

"Almost," said Rafe. "Just some gel in the front and a tie-up in back and you're set. I assume," he said with some amusement in his voice, "that you've never done this before, right?"

"I usually keep my hair tied back, so I'm used to that. I brought a spare tie," I said, fishing a length of leather out of my pocket.

"That'll do," said Rafe, taking the tie. "Now, sit down and watch." He plopped me down in a chair and spun me sideways. In the mirror I watched his hands as he first tied most of my hair back, then worked in some gel and shaped the hair in front. It looked pretty straightforward, though I was sure I'd have messed it up if I hadn't watch him do it.

"Done," he said with a flourish. "You're officially ready to break some hearts."

I looked at myself in the mirror. I was... different. The shaggy mouse look was gone, and in its place was something that looked, well, attractive. Rafe had done an amazing job. The chemicals had turned my dull, nondescript brown into a collection of highlights that made it look like I'd been in the sun all summer and lightened up. He'd chopped a few inches off the back and pulled it back into a pony tail. The hair on the front of my head was swept forward and to the sides, framing my face. They weren't exactly bangs -- they hung down past my cheeks -- but the gel kept them out of the way without making it look like I'd soaked them in glue or anything.

"Wow," I said. "Thanks, Rafe, it looks great."

"You gave me something to work with and an interesting challenge," he said with a grin. "It was my pleasure. You can handle the styling?" He took my credit card and swiped it as he asked.

"Sure. You were clear enough. Shouldn't be a problem." I signed the receipt and threw on a big tip without really looking at the total.

"Good," he said. "You'll need to come back in about a month to keep it up. You can let me know how it all works out too."

"I will," I replied as Steph dragged me out of the salon.

"Well, we've got the hair," she said as she took me down the block. "Now it's time to get the clothes." The place we stopped at looked to be a combination vintage clothes shop, costume shop, and tailor shop

While I'll admit that getting my hair done ultimately was an OK thing, I can't say the same about getting the wardrobe. It didn't take quite as long, but it was a lot more involved and a lot less comfortable. The first half hour consisted of the woman running the shop, someone Steph called Elaine, though we were never actually introduced, redoing all the measurements that Steph had taken, then poring over a stack of pages torn out of Steph's sketchbook. It would have been OK if either of them had said anything, but they didn't, and I was left standing on a stool while they did whatever it was they were doing.

That was nothing compared to what happened when they were done. Elaine wheeled out a full rack of clothing, started pulling out pieces and handing them to Steph, who in turn started handing them to me. "Try these," was all she said, though she said it a lot. Every time I came out of the dressing room she and Elaine looked at me for a few seconds, pulled out more things, and sent me back. Most things went back on the rack, the rest getting piled up on a table. I only hoped the smaller pile was the ones we were keeping -- I didn't want to go through them all again.

"God, you suck as a clothes horse, Justin," said Steph as I came out of the dressing room for what felt like the hundredth time. I looked down and saw I'd managed to mis-button the shirt again.

"Sorry," I said. I was trying my best, since I had asked for this, but I didn't have the hang of it. She was right, though. I hated doing this and it showed.

"Don't worry about it," sighed Steph. "You're trying, I know." She shuffled through the clothes she'd picked out. "We want simple. Maybe some day when we've got you better trained you can manage something else." Steph looked at Elaine, holding up a couple of pieces. "What do you think?"

"Not the Chinese buttons," said Elaine. "That's too much for every day."

"Fine," Steph said, tossing aside the shirt she was holding. "Banded collar?"


"Okay," said Steph. I watched her go over to the racks in the store and pull out a half dozen shirts, pants, and vests.

"We've got you a style, Justin," she said. "We're going with simple." She showed me the clothes she'd selected.

"So I wear a vest, shirt, and pants," I asked, as I looked at them.

"Right. The ones I have here," she said, wagging a handful of colored shirts at me, "they all work with your hair and coloring. You should be good there."

"Okay," I said, holding up the light blue shirt and green vest I had in my hands. "I can do that."

She looked at me, then at the clothes I was holding, then at the collection of colored shirts in her hand. "Okay, nevermind," she said, taking the vest and shirt away from me. "We go with white. White is good. You're OK with the pants and these vests?" She waved at a small pile of clothing on the counter.

"Yeah. They're tan. No problem."

Steph stared at me like I was nuts. "Not tan, Justin. Beige, brown, and... nevermind. I'll make cards. Elaine!" Steph turned and strode towards the front of the shop. She came back a minute later with a bunch of pieces of cardboard with cloth stapled to them.

"Okay, Justin, these combinations here?" She waved a handful of the cardboard at me. "These are good. These here? These are bad." She was talking to me like I was a child or an idiot. "I better label the cards," she muttered. "I better label the clothes." I had a feeling I'd better pay a lot of attention or I was going to be in a whole lot of trouble.

Luckily for me we were done. The final style Steph had gone with for me was simple -- white banded collar shirts, a collection of beige pants made from some lightweight cotton cloth, and some beige linen vests. According to Steph I could use any of the vests with jeans, too, so I had a style if I didn't mind being a little repetitive. That was OK with me, since I liked the way it all looked. I could even move well in it, and everything fit really nicely. I'd see if it was worth the hassle and the cost at school on Monday.

The one thing I didn't expect to see when we left the store was Bobby. So of course, there he was, coming out of one of the stores at the end of the block. I had no idea what he was doing here, of all places, but then I guess I didn't really care.

What Rafe had said to me earlier floated through my brain, and I decided that now was as good a time as any to start things. I slouched back against the store, my shoulders touching the cool brick of the wall, my feet a ways out so my torso was at a small angle. I stuck my hands in my back pockets and, so help me, I grabbed the back of my t-shirt between my thumbs and tugged it down a little so it was tight against my body. I figured that'd get Bobby's attention -- it certainly got Steph's.

"Can we take a second before we go?" I asked. It seemed like a reasonable request and would give me a chance to see if Bobby'd notice me. If not we'd go, but if we did I'd do... something. I wasn't sure what.

"Yeah," she replied. "It's been a busy day." And it really had, I realized. It was almost four in the afternoon, and I was feeling the day. "It's really a pity you play for the other team," she said with a sigh.

I noticed Bobby'd noticed us, though I pretended I hadn't seen him. He'd just stopped and stared at me and I had an idea that'd kill two birds with one stone.

"Well, thanks," I said. Then I pushed off the wall, leaned forward, and gave Steph a quick kiss on the lips. I grinned at her as she just stared at me in shock. Bobby, I noticed, had turned and hurried off. "Shall we head for home?"

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