I definitely had some fun with this chapter, and I hope you guys do to! Let me know what you think at Comicality@webtv.net or stop by the website at http://comicality.gayathors.org/" and say hello!

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"New Kid In School 48"

I almost kinda wished that I had accepted that ride from my mother now. It was a bit more windy that I expected it to be, and waiting for the bus seemed to take forever. My teeth were practically chattering by the time I saw the lights of my transport creeping up at the other end of the street.

And yet, the entire time that I was waiting...I was doing all I could to keep my mind from wandering back to Ryan and Sean and how things just totally fell apart this morning. I mean...it was ridiculous how much I loved that boy. Frightening, even. Because I honestly can't remember much of my life at all without him in it. Before he came walking into my History class that morning...life just didn't have the same thrill. The same importance. I guess it wasn't as memorable, outside of learning how to ride a bike and maybe a couple of fun birthdays. So trying to concern myself with anything that didn't include Ryan...it was more difficult than I ever expected it to be.

What did they do when I stormed out of the school? Did they laugh at me for being petty? Did they talk about how crazy I was for thinking that something was going on between them? Or did Ryan get really upset at what I said to him, and start venting all of his frustrations to Sean while he smiled and nodded...probably looking for opportunities to say, 'Well, Ryan, if that's how you feel, why don't you just dump Randy and move on to someone else? Someone who will appreciate you more.' I can totally see him trying to pull something like that. And I can see Ryan actually considering it. Because...sighhh...because I was being a jerk. And I know I was being a jerk, but...I just...

Whatever. I'm not supposed to be thinking about this anyway.

I've got a group of overgrown 'toddlers' to look after. And a monkey. Sighhhh....

I pouted the entire bus ride. Bottom lip stuck out, repeatedly sighing with frustration, practically wiggling in my seat in order to contain my useless rage over the situation. I even sulked on my walk over to Wilson's house from where the bus let me off, kicking every rock and pebble that I could find for distance. I'm surprised that I didn't knock a crack into a car window or something. But...before I could even get close to the house, I saw some excited ripples in the curtain covering the front window. Wilson's mom barely had time to yell out a word of caution to her son and his friends before they came pouring out of the front door like a parade of pint sized circus clowns out of a compact car! Next thing I knew, I was up to my nipples in 'Wilson hair' as he hugged me tight around the waist. He was soooo happy to say that I kinda felt bad for being upset. I mean, I wasn't going to be happy about the whole thing, but...you know...there's no reason to be a grump all night. I might as well just do this and get it over with. Besides, it's not like Wilson is going to let me frown for more than a few seconds before he hops up on my lap and starts asking a bunch of questions that he wouldn't understand the answers to even if I told him.

I guess I just wanted to sit somewhere and isolate myself from the world for a while. My mom has the house to herself, Ryan doesn't know where to find me, and the boys have their video game. That's all the thinking time I could possibly ever ask for on a Friday night after finals. Right?

Wilson finally stopped smashing his little face into my chest with his eyes closed and death grip around my middle, and he says, "I thought you'd NEVER get here!!! Come on!!! Come on, come on!!!" I felt myself being pulled by Wilson's surprisingly strong arms in the front, and being pushed by a flurry little 'puppet hands' in the back. I take it they're anxious to get started with their evening.

Wilson's mother seemed a little embarrassed by the kids' sudden assault on me, but it didn't seem to last very long. She was dressed up and just trying to keep the boys as far away from her hair and her dinner dress as humanly possible. "Thanks for coming over, Randy. I really appreciate it. Wilson didn't want anybody but you."

I looked over her shoulder to see the boys already setting up the video game system and squirming as they waited impatiently for her to leave. I almost felt a certain responsibility to let her know exactly what was going on here tonight. But then again, what kind of 'super awesome homo buddy' would I be to Wilson if I ratted him out to his mom in front of his friends? That would just suck.

Besides...I'm thinking that, if she found out, she'd probably confiscate the video game and take it with her. In which case, I'd be sitting in this house for god knows HOW long with a cluster of angry ten year old boys. I'd be totally outnumbered, and they'd be about as cranky and unruly as the occupants of a freshly smashed beehive. NOT my idea of a good time.

I'll just chalk this up to a balance of necessary evil in order to keep the peace.

Yeah. That works for me.

Conscience clear...

"I left some money and a menu on the dining room table. The boys wanted pizzas tonight. Get TWO pizzas, no more. And no appetizers. They always ask, but they never eat them. And little Stuart can only have cheese. So no matter how much they argue with you for meat on both pizzas, you make sure he has something all to himself." She told me while putting in her earrings. "Don't give them too much soda. Do NOT let them touch the energy drinks in the pantry. Randy...I can't stress this enough. You're playing with dynamite here. The pantry doesn't have a lock on it, so you've got to WATCH them! Ok?" I nodded, and noticed that she was doing anything and everything that she could do to get out of that house. She was hopping on one foot trying to get her shoe on, inching towards the door with every jump. Umm...why am I starting to get the feeling that I've been suckered into something serious here? "All of the emergency numbers are on the fridge. Police, Hospital, Fire department, Animal Control, and two or three neighbors who are a little more experienced with Wilson's...uhh...'boyish curiosity'." His what??? What is that supposed to mean! "I've unplugged the washer and the dryer, and I hid the ladder in the garage. you should be fine..." She said with an unconvincing smile. "Oh...one more thing...there's been rumors going around the neighborhood that Wilson..uh...may, or may not, have a small...personal stash of...um...fireworks." Did this chick just say FIREWORKS??? "I've been all over this house three times, and I haven't found anything! But...if he disappears outside, or if you hear any loud noises...just take what you can from him and hide it until I get home. I'll offer a reward for anything you find. Ok?" She's offering me a....? Oh Jesus! What the hell did I get myself INTO tonight!

"Well, I mean...should I, like, call you if anything goes....?"

"NO!!!" She said, almost in utter horror. "No. Randy...no matter what happens, I don't want you to ever, ever...just...you don't have to...I won't be able to even...listen..." She gave me a sudden smile and gripped my shoulder firmly. "...I need to be away for a little while tonight, Randy. Ok? Just for a little while. I'll be back before you know it. You'll be fine. Everything will be fine. He's a good boy. You guys will have fun." She sounded so...brittle. Almost as if my questions were denying her a weekend parole from prison! What the heck is wrong with our mothers? Do we really drive them THAT crazy? I mean really?

"Mom! You're gonna be late to your thingie!" Wilson said, now coming up to the door and practically pushing her out into the street while his friends peeked suspiciously from around the corner.

I'm pretty sure that she suspected something was up, but she was so anxious to get out of that house and make that MY problem, that she didn't put up much of a fuss. She kissed Wilson on the top of the head and told him to behave himself...then I saw her hightail it out of that place like she was escaping the Amityville Horror!

Great. Like THAT wasn't an omen for bad things to come.

I was careful not to make any noise as I looked to see what the little scamps were up to. Luckily, they didn't seem too concerned with me at all. Instead, all six of them were huddled around various parts of the TV and wiggling their butts like puppies fighting over a saucer of buttermilk. I couldn't help but to watch the whole 'operation' unfold right behind my eyes. One boy with the strategy guides and magazines, one boy setting up the controllers, one handling the remote and setting the TV up for a long night of game playing. Only a top notch team of green berets could have been more efficient.

Since neither of them were showering me with introductions, I had to figure out who was who just by hearing them talk to each other. Johnny was the snippy sandy blond boy with a slight attitude. Franklin was the preppy cut brown haired boy who couldn't seem to stop talking for more than a few seconds without getting restless. Stuart was younger than the rest by a few years. He wanted to help, but they basically just found his pleas as another reason to bump and knock him around without paying him much more attention than the time it took them to say, "Watch it!" Then there was Benny, a red head boy with glasses who was coughing and wheezing every 15 seconds. I don't know what kind of cold he had, but I swear that I could hear something rattling around in his chest with every cough. Then he'd cough it up, and swallow it right back down. And he's gonna share a controller with everybody else? And people wonder why kids spread germs like wildfire. And the last was Vince, who seemed mixed with an Asian ethnicity. He was probably the quietest of them all, but was physically just as hype as the others.

Six against one. Not good. It's best if I just try to stay as hidden as possible for right now.

That's when Franklin opened up the secret pocket on the side of his backpack...and the apparent Holy Grail of inappropriate video games was held high in the air, for the other boys to marvel at with mischievous grins. Just moments before they bowed and paid homage to the electronic monstrosity.

"Open it up!!! Open! Open!" Wilson yelled, and they all looked on with impatience and discomfort.

The wrapper was torn to bits, and the plastic box nearly met the same fate. Then the game was put into the machine, the TV was turned way up, and they backed away to bear witness to the next level of childhood corruption.

I had to admit, I folded my arms and found myself being just as eager to see this as they were. Wilson always knows how to bring out the kid in me.

The screen lit up with a few game studio logos and the like, then an old man's face appeared in the center of the screen. It said, "Hey, kids! Can you tell me what day it is?"

"IT'S MONKEY BLOWTORCH DAY!!!!" They all screamed in unison, starting the shit out of me!"

"Thaaaaat's right, kids! It's Monkey Blowwwwtorchhh Daaayyy...." The face said as I watched it begin to melt on screen. Not in a claymation kiddie way either. I'm talking a full blown, horror movie, acid bath, blood and puss, dissolving of the old man's face! My mouth dropped open, and I couldn't speak until one of his eyeballs dropped out and rolled towards the screen, the pupil of the eye opening up to the first scene. Jesus!

The whole game started off with a giant robot with muscles and a beard, walking through a hospital maternity ward with a sledgehammer. At first, I was wondering why a robot would need muscles. Then again, why would it need a beard. And furthermore...why the heck would it need a sledgehammer. I'm sorry that I asked that last one.

The robot went from baby to baby, lifting the sledgehammer, and splattering the infants like ripe tomatoes until blood covered the walls! What the fuck kinda game is this??? "Whoah...um...Wilson..?" I said, my conscience starting to get to me now.

"Shhhh!!!! Randy! This is the opening story! We've gotta pay attention to this part!" Wilson whispered loudly.

After another few gratuitous splatters, I asked, "Is there a REASON why this giant robot is smashing babies with a giant hammer???"

Franklin answered, "He's trying to find the chosen one, but his circuits got scrambled after he fought the frog people! Don't you read the comic book?"

"There's a COMIC BOOK of this?" I said.

"Homos don't read comic books, goofy!" Johnny told him, and Franklin agreed.

"Oh, right. That's true."

"Hey!!!" I protested, but got another frustrated hush from Wilson.

"SHHHHHH!!! C'mon you guys! I'm watching this!" He said, so I kept my mouth shut.

The next thing I know, there were some soldiers in the hospital, and they were wheeling this big gorilla down to the basement on a gurney. I guess the gorilla was...pregnant? "Breath, Chim-Poppy! Breathe!" The soldier said. Soooo, yeah, I guess it's pregnant. I don't know how a gorilla named after a chimp is going to give birth to a monkey...but I was still stuck on the smashed baby thing.

The soldiers took it into a dark room and shined a spotlight on it. Then a hologram of a giant goat wearing a HAZMAT suit appeared, and it said, "I want that baby alive! Bring it to me, and there will be soup for everyone!" Ummm....wait....what?

My thoughts were interrupted by the wailing screams of a gorilla giving birth! With, like...full on animated gorilla vagina and everything! And the monkey was born, dripping in afterbirth, which one soldier wanted for his sandwich....??? Then an army of robots burst in, and there was a gun fight while one of the soldiers escaped with the monkey baby. But there was an explosion and the monkey baby was covered in fire, and he had to save it...I had absolutely NO idea what the heck was going on, but I was so fucking shocked and horrified that I couldn't turn away. I had to sit down in a chair across the room and stare in confusion as I watched further events unfold. From the soldier swimming from Florida to Brazil....does that even work?....with the baby in his teeth, no less. To the goat thing calling him a jackass for damaging the baby and denying him his soup. All the way to the monkey having to get cybernetic part to repair the damage that was done. Why would someone graft a blowtorch on a baby monkey's arm? What the hell is the MEANING of all this? I can't even say this game was teaching them something bad. As far as I could tell, it wasn't teaching them a goddamn thing! Omigod...does that octopus have it's tentacle stuck up that donkey's ass??? Oh no! It's dragging the octopus as it runs away! Wait...no. No, Randy. Don't you dare get involved in this. There is some freaky shit going on in this game!

Despite the vile nature of it all, the boys seemed to understand every last sentence of what was being said. They gasped, they laughed, the cheered each other on...whatever the creators had in mind with that game, they had certainly accomplished it. Because they were fascinated with every disgusting second of it. Great...now they're pulling the prostate out of an 800 pound clown to use as a weapon. Are you serious? What kind of mind would think this shit up? Seriously.

I, on the other hand, began to let the shock wear off a little over time, and my mind began to wander. The boys were so involved that I didn't have much to worry about other than a bit of rough housing when it came to who got the controller next. This will probably be the easiest babysitting job in the history of babysitting jobs. But it still didn't solve my problems. Not a one of them.

Regret. It sinks in so fast sometimes. What if I had handled things differently? What if I just...gracefully left the table, didn't fight with Ryan, and took that last final exam like I was supposed to? I mean, I could have talked to Ryan tomorrow and patched things up. Or..or I could have waited until I cooled down to talk to him about it, instead of flipping out like a jackass. Now I don't know what I'm gonna do when I see him again. I don't even know if he's still talking to me at this point. I never should have let him go. Never.

I swear, if I find out that Sean put his filthy hands on my boyfriend, I'll kill him. I will literally KILL him!

"Randy!" Came a whine from in front of me, and little Stuart was standing there with the saddest little pout on his face. I was surprised he even knew my name.

"What? What's wrong?"

"They won't let me play..."

With him being even younger than the others, I felt REALLY bad about helping him out. Bu with a sigh, I told Wilson and the others, "Hey...you guys, let Stuart play. You got your turns, now let him get one."

Wilson said, "He doesn't even know how to play! He just gets his turn and he jumps off a cliff and dies. Every time."

"Well...then you won't have long to wait for your turn again then, will you?" I said, and it was like I could see the light bulb go on over his head.

"Oh yeah!" He said, "Here Stuart. Your turn." Sure enough, the little kid lasted all of 12 seconds before he jumped off of a cliff into a molten hot stew of snot and chicken lips. Yeah....snot and chicken lips. Should I really be surprised at this point? "DEAD! My turn!" Wilson said, snatching the controller. Stuart angrily folded his arms and grunted in anger pouting as hard as his cute little face would allow. Not that the others paid him any attention.

Going back to my thoughts, I started to wonder, like...can I just beat him up? I mean, can I just corner Sean in the locker room or something and tell him to step off before I fuck that pretty face up permanently? I can do that. I could take him, easy. Unless...unless he can really fight, that is. What if he ends up kicking MY ass instead? And then him and Ryan walk off arm in arm while I lay on the floor coughing up blood. That wouldn't be good. Not good at all.

I guess I just....I wish I knew what he was thinking right now. I wish I hadn't left things so open. I'm definitely going to stand up for the man I love, but what did I solve by attack him when Sean was the problem? This whole thing got so complicated, so fast. I need to talk to Cody. I need to know more about what I'm dealing with here. He might be biased in a bunch of ways, but nobody knows Sean better than he does. He's the only help I've got.

I noticed Johnny staring at me from the couch while the other boys were playing the game. Then Vince started staring too. I looked back at them, and I said, "What is it?"

And without missing a beat, Johnny told me, "My Gramma says people like you are going to hell when you die." What the???

"Excuse me?" I said.

"My Gramma says all homos get AIDS and die young. Then Satan comes to take your soul, and you boil in a lake of fire forever." He said, and I saw Vince nodding his head in agreement.

They're playing a video game right now where an Italian zombie is vomiting pasta sauce into a fish tank in order to drown a talking duck....and *I'M* going to hell???

How do I debate my sexuality with a kid who's testicles haven't dropped yet? I just told him, "Well, that's not really true, Johnny."

"Uh huh. I heard it too." Vincent said. "Are you gonna try to molest us?"

"Sighhh...no, Vince. I'm not going to try to molest you." I just wanted them to turn back to their stupid game and leave me alone.

"You're a liar." Johnny said out of the blue. "You're not a homo. Wilson said you were a homo."

Ok, this kid is getting on my nerves now.

Wilson turned his head and said, "Leave him alone. You don't know nothin'! Vince, it's your turn. Do you know how to beat the wolf hookers?"

"Yeah! Hold on!" Vince went back to the game, but Johnny was still staring at me with a dirty look.

"If you're a homo, then where's you lisp? Where's your rainbow bracelets and leather pant and stuff. You liar, Wilson. He's just a normal boy."

"Nu unh!!!" Wilson said. "He IS a homo, I saw it! He kissed his boyfriend right in front of me once! And stop calling me a liar!"

"Hey!!! Both of you...knock it off!" I said as they got louder. "Johnny....gay people are people too. JUST people. We're not going to hell, we don't all talk with a lisp, and we don't all have rainbow stuff to flash around town all day. We're just as normal as you are, ok?" Then I hollered at Vince, "And we're NOT all child molesters, either!" Doubt he heard me. He was frantically pressing buttons to strangle a Nazi chipmunk at the time.

"I don't believe you, Wilson. He's not girly at all. You just made it up to be cool." Johnny said, and turned back around to watch the TV again to wait for his turn.

Wilson was furious at this point. "I'm telling you the truth! If I say that my friend Randy is a fag, then he's a fag! And he can prove it, too! I swear he can!!!"

I had to get up and hush him up before this got any worse. "Wilson!!!! Wilson, Jesus, why don't you....here...come with me to the kitchen, and we'll order something to eat. Ok?" He was still angry, but if I had to pull that boy up by the ears to get him to follow me, I would have. "Wilson?"

"I'm comin'..." He grumbled. "Don't nobody give away my turn! I'm gonna be right back!"

I pulled Wilson into the kitchen and gave him a stern look. It was amazing how Wilson could go from being the angry little demon he was just a few moments ago, to the most innocent little blond angel on God's green Earth in a matter of seconds.

"Wilson, dude...what's going on here? I thought we had a deal about this?" I whispered.

"It's not me, it's buttface, Johnny Mulligan! I told him you were a homo and he doesn't believe me. He's just being a jerk!"

"Wilson, Wilson...shhh. You weren't supposed to tell ANYBODY about me being gay! Not ANYBODY! Do you remember that?" He looked so hurt when I said it. Sighhh, how is it that *I* feel guilty about him betraying my trust? "No no no....don't do that. Don't give me those eyes. You promised me you would keep my secret a secret. You promised."

"I didn't mean to tell them nothin'." He said. "I told you, it was Franklin that went blabbing it to everybody. I wouldn't have said anything. I think you're the coolest."

Arghhh...not since the Garden of Eden has the been a more charming serpent in the world. I lowered myself a bit to look Wilson in the eye, "Listen...you HAVE to stop telling people my secret. Ok? It's not your secret to tell. That's a very bad thing to do. Do you understand? You wouldn't like it if your mom found out about your little Monkey Blowtorch game tonight, now would you?"

"NOOOO!!! I'd get in all kinds of trouble! You're not gonna tell, are you?"

"No, I'm not gonna tell on you guys. But, now do you see why it's so important to respect somebody else's privacy? Just don't do it anymore ok?"

He whimpered, "Mkay. Are you mad at me, Randy?"

"No way. I'm not mad. Just...keep 'buttface, Johnny Mulligan' off my case tonight, k?" I giggled, which almost made Wilson laugh out loud. "Don't you tell ANYBODY I said that!"

"K!!! I won't!" Then somebody shouted out that it was his turn, and he charged back into the other room with a gallop while I ordered the pizza. Making sure that I had cheese, just for little Stuart. I doubt they could holler very much with their mouths full. Another plus in what could have been a very unfortunate evening.

The next hour or so went plenty smoothly. The boys stayed glued to the screen, and I kept squirming in my seat with misery. I didn't pay much more attention to the game itself, but I believe it began to make a warped kinda sense to me. That either means that the story got a lot easier to follow, or the 'cut an elephant into tiny pieces with a chainsaw' bonus round had seriously affected my sanity. Whichever one it was, I was able to get away without doing much more than occasionally yelling out, "Let Stuart play! I'm not gonna tell you guys again." Of course, five minutes later, I ended up tell them again, but...whatever. I didn't need to answer any more gay questions, and I certainly didn't want another germ spray from Benny. I swear, every time that boy sneezed, he made sure that he was pointing his hurricane Katrina storm in my direction. Not to mention he just 'touched' everything, and kept a plastic bag of snotty tissues next to him. I tried to avoid him as best as I could, but who was I fooling? Had it been the Black Plague, the whole CITY would have been wiped out by now.

"We did it!!! It's Baron Von Anal Rape!!! You've gotta beat him to get to level four!" Vince cheered. "Wilson, dude you take it! Beat him!"

Wilson took the controller, looking as determined as ever. But I didn't even look up from the floor. I think the hurt in my heart was actually getting worse. Every breath I took made me feel even heavier than the breath before it. I'm losing him aren't I? I had all that time to be with the boy of my dreams...and now that it's almost over...I'm not ready to let go.

"He's got you by the hips, Wilson! Oh no! He's RAPING YOU!!! Get away! He's RAPING you!!!!"

"I'm TRYING! I'm trying! He put that red ball thingy in my mouth! Look I'm pressing the button! LOOK!!!"

"Use the blowtorch!!!"

"I'm out of fuel! AHHH!!!! I'm being butt raped!!!"

"Give it to Johnny then before his white goo meter reaches the top!!!"

How could I honestly be hearing all this mayhem and remain so unaffected?

I was almost fighting back tears when I heard the phone ring. I kind of thought that Wilson would naturally get up to answer it. It was his house, after all. But he was in a whole other world, and I was worried that it would be his mom wondering what we were up to. So I wiped my eyes, and I walked over to answer it.


"Hey....." Said the boy on the other end. I have to admit that I was a bit confused at first.

"Ryan?" I asked.

"Yeah. It's me." He was quiet. So soft spoken that I could barely hear him. Then he said, "Listen...can we talk for a minute, you and me? Please?"

"I don't....I don't get it. How did you get this number?"

"I remembered you said you were babysitting Wilson tonight...so I called your mom and I kinda told her that I needed to talk to you about an urgent school matter."

I felt a stray tear fall from my eye, but I caught it quickly as a sniffle and a silly smirk crossed my face. "Did you actually use the words, 'urgent school matter'?"

"Heh...yeah, believe it or not...I did." He said.

"I'm surprised she didn't give you the third degree first."

"I think she could tell that it was pretty important." He said, and we stopped talking for a second or two. Something definitely needed to be said here, but neither one of us knew what it was yet. We just couldn't reach it. Finally, he said, "I never wanted to hurt you, Randy. You know that, right?"

I breathed for a moment, and I said, "I used to. Nowadays...I don't know. I'm not so sure." Which seemed to hurt his feelings from the way he was breathing. I said, "I don't like him, Ryan. I know that I can't tell you who you can and can't be friends with, but...Sean makes me uncomfortable. Ok? If I didn't say anything, it would eat me alive. Don't you get that?"

"I don't know why you get so sensitive about his teasing..."

"It's not teasing, Ryan. Not for him." I said, and there was another moment of silence to follow. "Why did you call me here, Ryan? Why?"

"You know I can't sleep when you're mad at me." He replied. What was I doing? I spend all day and night, whining and crying about how much I love him and don't want to let him go...and now that he calls me, I'm gonna make him 'work' for it? No. No, I'm not gonna be that selfish. I'm not gonna let my pride screw this up for me.

"I love you, Ryan. I love you soooo much it hurts. And I don't ever want to share you with anybody else. I guess...I've felt so confident that I was yours for so long...that I guess I kinda want to feel just as confident that you're mine too." I told him. Then I added, "I'm sorry for everything I said today. I was angry....and I just...I just..."

"Me too. I can't tell you how awful I felt about...you know, bringing up what I did. I was a jerk."

"I was a bigger jerk, ok?" I said, and we kinda jumbled our words together, back and forth, for a while before we had to stop and share another silence. And emotional, but enjoyable, silence. "Ryan?"


"If I was...more like him...I mean, if I wasn't in the closet, and just pranced around all day talking about boys and being all...open with my feelings in public...would you maybe think better of me? I mean...would you rather I be...out?"

"What?" Ryan seemed really surprised by the question. Strange, considering that I was under the impression that he needed more from me in terms of being more visibly gay. "Randy, God...no. Dude, I would NEVER ask that of you. Do you understand me? Not ever."

"But...whenever he's all flashy about his sexuality and bragging about boys and stuff, you jus seem so...fascinated. All I do is hold you back and make you feel dirty..."

"You have NEVER made me feel dirty. Randy, where is this coming from?" He asked. "Listen, what worked out for Sean is Sean's business. That's his life. Not yours. I love you no matter what. I don't adjust how much I love you by what you will and won't do for me, that's not how it works." While the pain tried to linger on, I couldn't deny that I felt relieved by his answer. "Dude, do you really think that I would ask you to do that before you were ready? Do you really think that I could just skip around town, happy and smiling because I got what I wanted while you were feeling miserable and exposed? No. Not at all. It's not about my happiness anymore. It's about both of us being happy...together. Just us. The rest of the world be damned. All I ever wanted was you."

"You're...all I ever wanted too..."

"Then why are we even doing this? Just...I miss you, ok? It hasn't even been 12 hours yet, and I feel like we've been apart for months." He said, and it made me smile...even as more tears dripped from my eyes. "I let Sean have it today. After you left. I told him that it just wasn't cute anymore. I think he got the message." Now THAT...was awesome news.

"Did you push him out in front of a truck on top of it?" I said with a sad snicker.

"Hehehe, I like to build up to that with a couple of threats first. Kinda leaves you with nowhere else to go." He giggled, and we reconnected with a few moments of halfhearted laughter. But when they giggles stopped, Ryan's voice got more serious. And he said, "You know...I just can't see the rest of my life without you. You know that, right?"

I was slightly choked up just hearing the words. I took a few deep breaths to keep from crying, and I said, "Yeah...ditto."

"So...we still have a date for tomorrow night?"

"You...you still wanna go?" I asked.

"I've got the hottest boy in town. I might as well show him off every chance I get, right?"

At that moment, Wilson threw down his controller in anger and started stomping his feet like a madman! "Arrrgh...awwww, FUCK!!!!!"

"WILSON!!!" I shouted.

"I mean...'MARBLES'!!!!" Somehow, I don't think that was much better. Not with the rage I saw in his eyes. "Every time I try to fight fair, that stupid Baron just gets behind me and RAPES me to death!!! This game CHEATS!!!!"

"Ok, well...Uhhh...take it easy, k? Relax." I said. What the hell else was I gonna say? I got back on the phone, and Ryan was giggling to himself.

"Did Wilson just say what I think he just said?"

"The 'F' bomb, or the Baron Von Anal Rape thing?" I smiled.

"Baron Von WHO???"

"It's a long story that, believe me, you don't wanna hear." I said, but tried to get back on track before saying goodbye. "So tomorrow night, you and me...a 'date'. Like...a real date. I'll be there."

"Sounds good. Call me when you get home tonight to let me know that you're safe, k?" My Ryan...always looking out for me.

"I will." I said. Then I lowered my voice, and held the phone close as a warm shiver ran through me. "I love you, Ryan..."

"I love you more." He said. And with a gentle, audible, kiss...he was gone. Gone but still with me.

'Hope'. That delicate little light inside. It waivers and it flickers...but it only takes a single phone call from my one and only to refuel it again.

How amazing is that?

::Giggles:: Life Is FUN! Smile For Me! :)