Everything Will Turn Out Alright

by Cy-kun

Chapter 32

For a place where an old guy who seems like he might have more than the average person's experience with serial murder lives, Vicky's grandpa's house was actually pretty awesome. Not only did all the rooms have awesome beds, not only was the kitchen fully stocked with insane amounts of salty, sugary junk food goodness but the TV room, which I somehow never stepped foot in until about an hour after we got back from the city today, had a 360, a PS3 AND a bunch of older systems hooked up to a massive fifty seven inch HDTV with a surround sound system. There was also an entire shelf filled with games and Blu-Ray's, but sadly a lot of the movies were pretty shitty (seriously why the hell would you need The Notebook in HD?). I doubted Vicky's grandpa played much Xbox so I guessed that the whole set up was there just for when family came to visit.

Now, I know what you're thinking, you're thinking "Awww! Vicky's grandpa must really love his family to spend all that money to make sure they're entertained when they come to visit. He's really kind of a sweetie isn't he?". But that would be because you've never talked to the guy. I'm pretty sure the amazing set up is the only way he can keep everybody coming back each year. Yeah, he was ok at dinner, and he might actually be a decent guy under the "I hate everyone and everything pisses me off" attitude but, seriously, there's only so much you can take before the only thing bringing you back is free snacks and a big ass TV.

Still, there were free snacks and a big ass TV. Who was I to waste that?

I was alone in the TV room. When me and Vicky got back Will, Anne and Sarah were still out doing whatever and about an hour after getting in Jack and my mom went out to do their own sightseeing stuff. I had no idea where Timothy was. Vicky, for all his teasing about me being a country boy and him being the big worldly city boy, came home with aching legs from all the walking we did and was now in bed taking a nap. I'd have said something about city boys being all soft and lazy from riding around in cabs and subways all day but I'm just as fucking lazy so I've got no idea why I'm not tired and achy. Another one of those mysteries of life I guess.

I'd been playing a racing game (probably one of the Need for Speeds but, really, they all blur together so I have no idea) when I noticed a tiny closet off to the side of the room. I was bored enough (seriously, who can play a racing game alone for more than fifteen minutes and NOT get bored?) that I paused and went to check it out. I let out a little gasp of glee when I saw what was inside.

Plastic guitar controllers. Microphones. Plastic and rubber drum controllers. Mix table controllers.

Fucking band game heaven.

Ok, so, confession time. I love band games. Fucking LOVE them. My mom won't even let me go to Best Buy with her anymore because I always spend at least an hour playing through the demo for whatever Rock Band or Guitar Hero game that got released that month. It's actually kind of embarrassing to admit how much I enjoy these things since I'm supposed to be all "jaded hardcore gamer" and all, but come on! They're so damn fun!

I grinned maybe just a little bit psychotically to myself when I saw they had a mic stand for the mic controller. Holy crap! I can finally fulfill my fantasy of playing and singing at the same time! I pulled out the guitar and the mic, put the mic on the stand and checked the game shelf again, wondering how the hell I missed that they had Rock Band 2 when I was looking for a game I wouldn't need to download my profile to play on. (If you want to know why I'd need to download my profile and how that effects games saves and achievements, too bad. Get your own system and figure it out. I'm not a tech manual.) I popped the game in and got ready to rock!

Ugh. Just pretend I didn't say that ok?

Singing and playing is......a lot harder than it looks. Even though I stuck to something I already knew all the words to. So I was deeply focused and intensely concentrated on what I was doing so you'll understand how totally not ready I was to hear a voice during my fifteenth play through of Living on a Prayer.

"So, I heard you met Ben."

I shrieked at the unmistakable, gruff voice of Grandpa Timothy and spun around to face him. Big mistake. The guitar wasn't wireless so the cord got tangled around the mic stand when I whirled around, knocked it over and hit me hard in the shoulder. I yelped a bit, tried to push it away but my feet got all tangled up in themselves and I went crashing to the floor, covered in guitar and mic stand.

Not exactly my finest moment.

My face was redder than Mars with embarrassment but the fall wasn't even the worst part. When I play rhythm games I kinda, sorta, have this tendency to . . . . . dance. Not even really dancing it's more like, shaking my ass. There may even be some thrusting involved. Which as you may be guessing right now is the real reason why my mom doesn't take me to Best Buy anymore. So! To recap: A scary old guy who already strongly hinted that I wasn't manly enough just saw me not only fall on my face like the uncoordinated dork that I apparently am but before that he got a front row seat to the "Nate's Swishy Rock Band Stripper Dance Show".

Yep. Definitely not my finest moment.

I pushed the wreckage off my back and stood up, wishing the entire time that I had Hiro powers and could teleport away. When I couldn't avoid it anymore I steeled every nerve in my body that wasn't already totally blown out and looked Vicky's grandpa in the . . . . well, facial area I guess. I have enough problem with eye contact when I haven't just made a giant ass out of myself, no way I'm looking him in the eye.

His lips were pressed tightly together and I winced, bracing myself for whatever scathing, "I grew up in the 40's so I can say whatever the damn hell I want!" comment he was sure to spew my way.

Nothing happened though.

His lips just twitched a bit and on anyone else I would have said it looked like they were trying really, really hard not to laugh. The confusion of even thinking that about Grandpa Timothy (god I can't even shorten his name in my THOUGHTS without feeling like he's gonna snap at me) trying NOT to laugh at me was enough to make me forget how scared I was of being alone with him and I shot a quick glance at his eyes. Holy shit! They were filled with mirth!

"What?" I squeaked out.

He made a sound that was suspiciously similar to a self conscious throat clearing. "I heard you met Ben." he repeated.

Oh. He must of thought I was talking about what he said and not the fact that for like a split second he looked way too much like Vicky when he catches me doing something "cute". Ok, I can go with that, because thinking about the other thing is just too disturbing. "Oh, um, yeah. I did." I realized I was still holding the guitar and mic stand in my hands and dropped them casually. They clattered to the ground because, plastic + hardwood floor = noise, but I irrationally hoped he'd ignore it.

And he did. After another lip twitch.

"I never liked him." Timothy said.

I know, right? Quick! Someone call up Fox! We need to get this on the news before five! Timothy Clarke doesn't like someone! Ok, so maybe I was a little weird from the nervous shock still but I really had no idea how to respond to that one. So I didn't. I just stood there staring at him while he looked back at me. When it became clear that he wasn't gonna say anything until I did I blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "Me either. He's too pretty."

Yeah, I still remember when he said that about me. Which is the only reason I said it. It definitely didn't have anything to do with any jealousy that Ben was actually prett-uh, better looking than me. Nope, not at all.

No lip twitch this time, just a grunt. I didn't know if it was an "I agree" grunt or an "are you still on that? Get over it kid" grunt. After another long stare that got more than a little bit uncomfortable he broke eye contact, walked over to the couch and sat down. "Yeah, he is. You can never trust the pretty ones." And then I almost forgot to breathe because he went straight past lip twitch and right into a full on smile. Ok, so it wasn't a big smile, but it was visible for more than a second and pointed right at me so it definitely counted. "At least I used to think so."

It took me a second to realize what he said but when I did I actually did forget to breathe. I'm serious. Full on, holy-shit-did-he-really-just-imply-what-I-think-he-implied-wait-why-is-my-chest-burning-oh-shit-I-need-oxygen breathing forgetfulness. "What?" I croaked out when my lungs were full again. Brilliant, I know, but I needed to be sure he really meant what I thought he might.

"Still not too smart though." Timothy grumbled and shot me an annoyed look. "Look, I'm not good at this so just listen, ok?" I nodded but he didn't even wait for any acknowledgment before continuing. "I like you. Never expected to. Never wanted to. But I do. Your mother too. You're both . . . likeable. I don't usually like the people my sons bring home. I hated Vicky's mother and Anne only won me over after giving my wife the granddaughter she always wanted, with Anne at least I tried not to let it show. But the way your mother stood up to me, and the way you stood up to that little shithead? It's hard not to like people like that." He paused. "Most people don't get the speech, just a quiet warning not to break the heart of anyone in my family. Your mother got both. But you," that tiny smile again. "I think I'll skip it with you. Not because I trust you or because we're suddenly best friends, but because even though this is still technically the city I live in a pretty close community so I know what Ben said to him. When you stood up to Ben for Vicky, you were standing up for Rita too, even if you didn't mean to, and I just can't bring myself to threaten someone who did that. So I'll just ask." suddenly the smile turned into a harsh glare. "Please don't break my grandson's heart." he snarled.

Never had something that should have been a tearful plea sounded so much like a torture filled threat. It didn't get to me though, everything else he'd said was too busy getting to me for that. I didn't know whether I wanted to tear up or laugh or just stand there stunned. There were a long list of things I could have said, if I wasn't still too intimidated by him to talk directly to his face without doing the shy, nervous boy thing. But they all would have just been something to say. A polite acknowledgment of what he said and the meaning and emotion behind it.

There was only one thing he said that I needed to respond to, and strangely enough the fact that he even said it was the thing that gave me the courage to.

"I'll never break his heart." I said firmly. I didn't even have much trouble looking him right in the eyes when I said it either. "I love Vicky. And I'd never hurt him." I didn't try to force seriousness or conviction into my voice. I just let everything I was feeling -my love for Vicky, my anger at even the hint that I could break his heart, my understanding at why he needed to make sure I wouldn't- fill my eyes as I looked into his and hoped that he saw it.

I dunno if he did. For a while we just sat there (well, he sat I stood but, yeah you get it) looking at each other. I couldn't see anything in his eyes, not in a dead, emotionless way though more like a 'best poker face ever' way so I didn't know what he was thinking. It scared me a bit, that he might not see how much I really loved Vicky. Ever since we first held hands in the movie theater during our first real date I'd kind of subconsciously tried really hard to make sure that everyone who saw us together knew how much we loved each other and it bothered me that someone might actually not get it. I didn't have long to think about it though. Apparently he made his decision about what I said because he gave me a short, brusque nod and stood up.

"Good." he said gruffly. But I thought it was maybe an affectionate gruffness. "By the way, if you want to sing and play the guitar at the same time, don't start with Living on a Prayer. Do an easier song, like My Own Worst Enemy, and do it on easy until you get the hang of it."

And with that he left.

I stood there staring after him, trying to process that whole conversation. I didn't know what was weirder, the out of nowhere praise or Grandpa Death giving me video game advice. I guess I should probably stop thinking of him that way though. Apparently my Thanksgiving impression was right. He's not that bad of a guy. But he's just "bad" enough for me to get a little bit of a thrill that he approves of me. No, not approves, LIKES. We share a dislike of Ben and a love of Vicky and he LIKES me. I grinned to myself. It felt really good having my own, personal tie to Vicky's family that didn't come from Vicky. That's, like, how real adult couples do it right? Not that I for a second thought that me and Vicky weren't a real couple, but it's kinda nice to have more "coupley" things in common, you know? And the mean old asshole liked me! Me! I don't really like this about me, but I soak up approval like a fucking sponge. I was definitely in a pretty good mood as I set up the Rock Band stuff again to give it another try.

And fuck if he wasn't completely right about the game too.


We drove home the next day.

Saying goodbye to Vicky's family was a weird experience, for me anyway. We all left around the same time so the usual "family gathering around the door to say goodbye" thing took a little over a half hour. That wasn't the weird part. I remembered that from the fucking three geological ages ago when we used to have semi-happy family holidays back in Alaska, so I expected it. The weird part was how included me and my mom were.

Somewhere in the middle of the Clarke's goodbye hug-fest, well, handshake fest for Grandpa Tim, (I started calling him that after our little bonding moment, and you should have seen everyone's face the first time I did it when instead of gutting me for daring to shorten his name he just grunted and said "what?". People waking up to find out their mom saw them naked with their boyfriends would have less shock on their faces. And I'd know.) me and my mom were pulled into the family grope session. We hadn't spent too much time with Vicky's family after Thanksgiving with us all spending most of our time sightseeing but they all treated us like we'd been getting close all weekend. Actually they treated us like we'd been in the family for years. I'm not sure if it surprised my mom as much as me, but I was almost too shocked to respond to all the "it was so great to meet you" and the "I hope you guys come back for New Years" type things.

It was a toss up to what surprised me more, the super quick acceptance and affection or how good it made me feel. For about four years now it'd been just me and my mom for everything. Holidays, birthdays, special occasions, promotions, getting first prize in a science fair (although to be fair when half the school does volcano's and half those volcano's either don't blow up or Mount St Helen's the surrounding tables it's not really worth the celebration dinner at Outback), everything that would normally be a time for family's to get together and celebrate it's just been the two of us. Well, except the, like, two times my grandma visited. But I never really missed the whole family thing. At least I thought I didn't. But standing there getting hugs and smiles and acceptance from a really close family like Vicky's had me speechless and fighting to hold back tears in three seconds flat. I was hit with a sudden feeling of BELONGING that until then I only ever got when I was with Vicky.

It was . . . . nice.

Will, Anne and Sarah left first, with the adults and my mom sharing phone numbers and Sarah demanding my email address is a frighteningly Michelle-like way. I had a feeling that keeping my landline a secret from her was probably a good idea for now, at least until I could be sure she wasn't as crazy as the girls I already know. The whole time the big goodbye was going on I'd catch glimpses of Vicky looking over at me with this huge smile on his face and looking so happy that his family liked me as much as they did. Every time I saw it my heart flipped and I finally decided that blissfully happy Vicky is the most beautiful Vicky of all.

I immediately made it my life's goal to put that look on his face as much as possible.

After they left we said another short goodbye to Tim and went to our cars. Vicky and Jack asked if I wanted to ride back home with them and before I could jump at the chance my mom practically shoved me into their car, saying something about peace and quiet and dents in the dashboard. I probably could have been offended if I wasn't getting exactly what I wanted to so I just sat there and shut up. Jack and my mom kissed goodbye (ugh) and then Vicky crawled into the backseat with me and we cuddled up together (yay).

The drive back was way better than the drive up. We only got stuck in Pennsylvania for about a half hour and after four days in the city I was a bit more tolerant of people driving a little less than perfectly. But the best and most surprising part was Jack. He was . . . . really fucking fun to be around. The entire ride back he talked with us, joked around with us and even got us to play some stupid road games that were actually kinda fun. My favorite was the one where you make up someone's life story based off their vanity plate. The whole ride was just really fun and it seemed like it passed in a fraction of the time it took to get up there.

Me and Vicky did have a lot of cuddle time too. Jack didn't make us wear seatbelts so we were pretty much in each others laps the entire time. We didn't get to do any heavy making out or any touching or anything but we got to be close for the whole drive. Even without Jack being entertaining I think the drive would have passed quicker just from being close to Vicky. It's so easy just to get lost in the feeling of being near him. Which is probably the main reason why the trip seemed so short.

It seemed like we'd just crawled into the car when we stopped for lunch with my mom (she was following right behind us) and Jack told us we only had about two hours left till we were home. After lunch those two hours passed really fast and before I knew it I was standing in my driveway waving goodbye to Vicky and Jack as they drove to their house. It sucked that Vicky had to leave so soon but it was Sunday and he still had all his Thanksgiving homework so Jack didn't stick around for long after dropping me off.

I had the same homework, but, yeah, no fucking way I was gonna be doing it so after Vicky left I waited downstairs for like a minute until my mom went up to unpack and yelled "I'm going to Jason's mom! See ya later!" and shot out the door before she could say anything. I was pretty sure she was still riding the "I'm so glad Eric didn't get Nate" train so I didn't expect her to give me too much crap about not doing the work, but it was still better not to be home for a while. Just in case.

We left from New York pretty early so it was still before dinner when I got to Jason's house and rang the doorbell.

"Oh, hi Nate!" Jason's mom answered the door with a smile. "Come on in." She stepped back to let me in and closed the door after me. "Happy late Thanksgiving." she said with a laugh.

I smiled back. "Happy late Thanksgiving."

She walked into the kitchen and I followed, not at all surprised when she started pouring me a glass of milk. She's always giving me milk when I come over. Well, except the last time when I was here with Vicky. She never said anything but I figured out about a year ago that it's because of how small I am. I didn't really mind. Hell, I kinda hoped it worked. "Thanks." I said as I wiped off the annoying milkstache.

"No problem, hon." she replied with a motherly smile. "So, did you have a good holiday?"

"Yeah, it was pretty good." I answered and took another sip of milk to hide the grin I couldn't hold back. Understatement of the fucking year.

"That's nice." she said, and we traded small talk while I finished my milk. And that's why I like Jason's mom so much. She always treats me like an adult family friend and not just her son's barely teenage friend. "So," she said after I put the empty glass in the sink. Uh oh. I knew that tone. I braced myself. "Is Jason still seeing that girl?" she asked, way too innocently and off-handedly for it to be either of those things.

"Um," Shit. I guess he never told them about the whole being a homo thing yet. I needed to walk a very fine line between holding that back and trying not to lie while trying not to seem like I'm holding something back and trying not to lie. Conversation ninja time! "No, they broke up."

"Oh." she frowned. "That's too bad. No wonder he's seemed to be down lately." she shrugged. "Well, maybe you can cheer him up." she gave me a warm smile and walked over to the doorway that lead to the hall.

Huh. That was way easier than I thought it'd be. Cool.

"JASON!" she screamed up the stairs and I winced. I'll never get used to that. There was no answer or the usual sound of sock feet and after a few seconds she called again. "JASON! Nate's here!"

Still nothing. She sighed and turned back to me. "You should just go on up. His friend Luke's already over and they probably have a game playing too loud. Sorry my son's being so rude."

"It's ok." I said. "Thanks for the milk, Mrs Capulet." Yeah, Jason's last name was Capulet. And, yeah, his parents were a little upset that he wasn't a girl. I overheard his mom telling my mom once that they still almost named him Juliet, but decided in a last minute moment of clarity that it would have been a Bad Idea and decided to go with Jason Julian. His middle name was something else I wasn't allowed to bring up.

She smiled. "You're welcome Nate. If you want some more just come down and ask." And with that she walked through the hall and into the living room. I went up the stairs.

So. Luke's here. And it seems like Jason didn't tell his mom about him being my step brother. I was glad. If he did then he'd have to tell her about my dad and there's no way he could do that without telling her a lot of other things I wasn't sure I was ready for her to know about me. Or at least that's what he'd think. Honestly by this point I didn't really care if Jason's family knew I was gay, but it was really cool that Jason would go that far to keep a secret for me. I smiled to myself. He's a pretty damn good friend, I was lucky to have him.

So of course THAT'S the thought I had to have in my head when I pushed open his closed door and saw him and Luke standing in the middle of the room clinging together with their tongues in each others throats. You know, just to make it weirder.

For a full minute I don't even think I blinked. I was totally frozen. Couldn't even really be sure that what I was seeing was real, let alone react to it. But I must have moved or made a sound or something because suddenly they jumped away from each other and turned to me with wide eyed, panicked looks.

Jason's whole face was bright red, something I would have brought out the evil laugh for any other time, and Luke was breathing rapidly like he was having a asthma attack or something. Did he have asthma? I dunno. And why is THAT the first thing I think of!?

We all just stood there, staring at each other, and it was too much for me. My mind stalled and my body took over and I just couldn't think with them STARING at me so I slowly walked backwards out of the room and closed the door behind me.

Ok. Ok. They aren't looking at you anymore Nate. So. Time to think.

What the fuck was that!?

Not the kiss. That actually isn't all that confusing. I knew Jason wanted Luke, and I was pretty sure that Luke at least somewhat wanted Jason, so, yeah, people who are into each other usually end up kissing at some point. I didn't really expect "some point" to be right when I walk into the fucking room but whatever. Jason's obviously gotten over the whole "I don't like Luke!" thing. Good for him. So, yeah, it wasn't all THAT unexpected, except for the timing. No, what was messing with my head was how totally NOT bothered I was by it.

It's not really a secret that Jason being gay kinda freaked me out. Even the theoretical gayness where he might in the future at some point get a boyfriend and do . . . . things with him was bad enough to think about. Then I spend, like, WEEKS trying my hardest not to notice the really freaking obvious "I'm completely crushing on Luke" signals that he's putting out just so I won't have to PICTURE them together. But then it finally happens, totally out of left field, and it doesn't bother me at all. There's no "Ghaa! Disgusting!" moment or anything like that. The thought of it creeped me out, but I was completely ok with the reality of Jason and Luke being together.

And that kinda pissed me off.

I'd spent WAY too much energy trying not to think about this to just not have it bother me at all dammit! And what the hell is with getting with my step brother while I'm, like, a million miles away when our last conversation was all "Noooo! I don't like Luke!"? He should have told me he was going to court Luke! Ok, maybe not the most rational way to deal with this but if anyone out there actually expects me to act rationally then they REALLY haven't been paying attention lately. Plus getting mad kinda distracted me from thinking about how hot they looked kissing.

. . . . don't judge me.

I summoned up all the righteous . . . well not really anger I guess, above average annoyance maybe, that I could, set my jaw in what hopefully was an intimidating line, shoved open the door and marched back into Jason's room.

"Debauchery!" I yelled. "There's debauchery going on in here and I was. Not. Informed!" I put my hands on my hips and glared at both of them.

I hadn't been out of the room long so they were still pretty much where I left them. Except this time Jason was looking at me like I might be a little bit crazy. Luke just looked scared. And that's when a very unpleasant thought hit me.

"Did you seduce him against his will!?" I shouted at Jason.

"What?!" Jason yelled back, finally snapping out of his daze.

"You did, didn't you!" I accused. God, even as I was saying it I knew it sounded stupid but my brain was in control and my brain couldn't stop it. Doesn't make any sense? THINK HOW I FEEL.

"Nate, I-" Jason started, then stopped and shook his head and glared at me. "You're fucking nuts. YOU were the one who told me to go after Luke!"

"What?" I yelled. "No I didn't! I just said that you liked him and you should admit it!"

"It was implied!"

"No it wasn't!"

"Yes it was!"

"Defiler!" I pointed at him.

"What?"

"Seducer!"

"I-"

"SHUT! UP!" Luke screamed.

I jumped in surprise. I'd kinda forgotten he was there I was so lost in my fight with Jason. The fear was definitely gone from Luke's eyes. He stalked over to Jason, grabbed his arm and latched onto it in a very "me and Vicky" way. "Jason didn't 'defile' me, or whatever." he said, calmly but forcefully. His voice raising as he went on. "If you really wanna know I was the one who kissed HIM. We were having a really sweet and romantic moment before you came in and ruined it and I've been waiting too damn long for this to let you ruin it by being . . . you!" he glared at me. "So just shut up!"

I was totally speechless but before I could even THINK of trying to find something to say he spun Jason around to face him. "And you!" Luke said, glaring up at him now. It was actually kinda funny to see tall ass Jason looking all nervous and intimidated by someone who was like half a foot shorter than him. "You never answered me and we are NOT letting Nate get in the way." Luke's expression softened a bit. "You know I like you Jason. I've liked you since the first time we played Reach together. But I've been doing this 'does he or doesn't he' thing for way too long and I'm risking way too much not to know how you feel. I NEED to know how you feel about me Jason. If you just want to mess around because I'm the only boy around here who's willing or if you really wanna try to have something like Nate and Vicky have." Luke's voice quieted to just above a whisper and I barely heard the next part. "Please Jason, just tell me."

I'm getting the feeling that I missed a LOT before I walked in.

But luckily for everyone involved Jason was the only one who needed to know the whole story and since HE didn't walk in on the middle of himself and Luke apparently JUST getting together he was pretty much up to date on the back story. Even without knowing everything that was going on though, I found myself holding my breath, waiting for Jason's answer.

Jason looked slightly panicked for a split second. His eyes darted quickly from Luke, to me, but just before they turned back to Luke I caught a brief glimpse of determination replacing the panic. He took a deep breath. "I do like you Luke." he said, so softly that if the entire world wasn't totally and completely still waiting for his answer I might not have heard him. "A lot." he reached down and took Luke's hand off his arm and for a second Luke looked totally devastated, like he thought Jason was rejecting him. To be honest I thought so too, but instead of dropping Luke's hand he held it tightly between both of his. "You're everything I could ever want. Hell, even when I didn't know what I wanted you were exactly what I wanted. I've been . . . . really stupid about it for a while, but that's all been me worrying about what people would think and how I'd tell my parents. It was never even for a second about me not knowing how I felt about you. I just didn't want to admit it." he smiled sadly. "Telling Nate I'm gay when we're alone in a closet together and having a few fangirls find out is a lot different than having a boyfriend and you know how I feel about the hiding thing so, yeah, I was scared and I didn't handle it well. But I always liked you. And I definitely want to have what Nate and Vicky have." Jason's smile turned warm, warmer than it had ever been even during our closest 'best friend moments', warmer than I ever thought possible. "With you." And with that he reached out with one hand, cupped Luke's tear-wet cheek and leaned down to give him a soft kiss.

It took me a second to realize that the incredibly girly, emotionally overwhelmed choke-sob that I heard came from me. Luckily the only two people around to hear it were too occupied to notice. I just couldn't help it. I'd never actually been there for a love confession before. And it WAS a love confession. Even if neither of them actually used the word. You do NOT look at someone the way they were looking at each other and you do NOT kiss someone the way they're kissing just because you 'like' them. It's definitely love, even if they don't wanna say it yet. And it was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen that didn't involve Vicky.

Somehow, I managed to wipe away the tears and got my eyes under control before they stopped their way-too-amazing kiss.

Not that I needed to bother. They pretty much seemed to forget that I was even there because when they pulled apart all they did was look at each other with identical lovestruck grins on their faces. It made me remember my first few days with Vicky. If they were even half as happy right now as me and Vicky were after our love confession then I couldn't help being insanely happy for them. Part of me wanted to just slip away and let them have their moment, but there was something I needed to do before I left.

I cleared my throat and they both jumped slightly, then blushed (and you don't even have to torture me to get me to admit that it was kind of adorable. Even on Jason) and turned towards me. I noticed that even though they were a bit embarrassed about having someone watching them they never let go of each others hands. That made me smile briefly. "Um," I swallowed and scratched the back of my head nervously. "I'm sorry. About the whole 'defiler seducer' thing. I, uh, yeah, way wrong about that." I laughed sheepishly. "Not that I really thought . . . well, I'm kinda stupid sometimes. I don't really react . . . right when I'm . . . weird." God I was screwing this up. How hard is it to say 'Hey guys, sorry for being a complete douche. I hope you're really happy together.'? Apparently, pretty damn hard. Luckily Luke took pity on me.

"It's ok." he said. The embarrassed blush was fading and he didn't even try to stop the grin that replaced it. "I'm way too happy to be mad at you." He looked up at Jason at the exact same time Jason looked down at him, wearing an identical happy grin.

Aww! Way too cute. I suddenly understood the fangirl fascination with watching me and Vicky do stuff like that.

"Yeah." Jason said as he looked back at me. "It's cool."

And with that I got the feeling that I was in serious danger of being a skinny blond cock block, so it was time to leave. But before I could I had another urge that I had to act on. Impulse control, how does it work?

I walked over to Jason and before I could even really think about what I was doing I grabbed him by the front of his shirt and pulled him down for a hug. Unlike every other time we'd tried the whole "touchy feely best friends" thing, this time didn't feel at all weird. And for some reason that didn't surprise me at all. "I'm really happy for you dude." I whispered in his ear. And then, because this was Jason and I knew him pretty damn well, added, "Don't fuck it up." Instead of the sarcastic comeback I was half expecting, he just hugged me tighter.

"Thanks." he whispered back to me. "It . . . really means a lot. And I won't."

We let go of each other at the same time and I stepped back. We shared a smile and I turned to Luke, pulling him into a hug too. It was our first brother-hug and I thought that it was a pretty appropriate setting for it. "I'm glad you guys got together." I whispered to Luke. Then took a deep breath and steeled myself for what I was gonna say next. "If you ever need any help with . . . my dad, or anything, just tell me ok?" He pushed me back just enough to look into my eyes, a look of shock on his face. I understood the feeling. After everything I'd went through recently to get my dad out of my life I was basically offering to risk having his attention turned back to me if Luke ever had a problem with him that he needed me to help with. Strangely enough it wasn't even that hard an offer to make. Even though we weren't "real" brothers and I hadn't known Luke all that long I really did think of him like a brother. My dad wasn't gonna be able to get me anymore so if I needed to deal with a little bitching and some "you are an eeeeeeevil gay boy" crap to help deflect some of that from Luke if he found out about him and Jason, I'd do it. Happily. Luke must have seen some of what I was thinking in my eyes because he smiled, blinked a few tears away and pulled me back into the hug. And that was when I thought of something else I probably needed to say. "Don't let him fuck this up."

Luke chuckled softly in my ear. "Not gonna happen." he whispered to me, before we pulled apart. When I stepped back Luke and Jason's hands immediately found each other again and I knew it was time to leave. "I'm gonna go." I said cheerfully. "I've got, um, homework. Or something. To do. Away. So!" I grinned wickedly at them. "Have fun!"

I got to see them blush again before I left.

When I got to the door I took one last look at them before going. They looked good together. Even if Jason was a lot taller than Luke, but that's a problem Jason was gonna have with anyone he was with. There was a distance though. Not between them, but between them and me. I was still Jason's best friend and Luke's step-brother, but I'd been knocked down a spot on the importance list of each of them. And that's how it should be. I did the same thing to Jason when I fell in love with Vicky, so I didn't resent them. I didn't even feel the tiniest pang of sadness. Instead I felt . . . relief. That change that I'd felt starting the night Jason came out to me in Michelle's make out laundry room had finally finished happening and it wasn't nearly the life wrecking disaster that I thought it would be at the time. It was actually really nice. I liked seeing them together and I liked the idea of my best friend and step brother being in a happy relationship and oh my fucking god I really AM one of those people that wants to see everyone in a couple just because they are. I shook my head and forced myself to leave before I started begging them to go on a double date with me and Vicky or strategize about who to set Erica and Michelle up with.

It is fucking scary how close I am to being a 12 year old girl sometimes.

Seriously.


A little over seven months later:

Has there ever been anything more unnecessary than an 8th grade graduation ceremony? That isn't like rhetorical or anything, I'd really love to know. Because I can't think of anything and after almost two freaking hours of sitting in a small, overcrowded, , boiling hot, UN-AIRCONDITIONED, assembly room listening to teachers give speeches that ever so subtly imply that if we weren't taught by them and them alone we'd all be lucky to get careers in Burger King I was getting a bit suspicious that the only reason we were even doing this was so that they could talk about how great they are. Maybe I'm being cynical but I just don't see why getting out of 8th grade needs this much . . . . production value. Banners, elaborate speaker set up, professional film crew (who's filming of the ceremony you can buy for the low low price of $49.99!), professional photographer to take pictures of us getting our diploma's (which you can also buy for the even lower low price of $35.99, with a 5% discount of you buy both the film and the pictures), the freaking high school band playing that dumb graduation song and, for some unholy reason, a snack stand for the parents. Us kids of course, you know, the people that this whole thing is supposed to be FOR, aren't allowed to buy anything from the stand. Apparently we're all too stupid to chew popcorn or Snickers without drooling all over ourselves and getting our stupid gowns sticky. Well, stickier than they were from all the sweat anyway.

I shifted around in my uncomfortable wooden seat to try and get some feeling back in my numb ass. It was a mistake. The stupid flat, square hat thingy slid forward on my head again. I growled softly and pushed it back for the fiftieth time. One size does NOT fit all and mine was apparently at least one size too big. I suppressed another growl as I felt the tassel thing slap the side of my head again. Will this never end!?

Apparently not. Just when I thought we might FINALLY get to the actual diploma part, Principal Alomar got up to give her speech. "Hello parents and graduating seniors!" she said, loudly and with a broad grin.

"Seniors." I snorted under my breath. "Sounds like somebody's in denial about being principal of a middle school."

Apparently I wasn't quiet enough because I heard soft laughter coming from the seat to my right. "At least she isn't sweating through her white blouse." Sam said wryly. "Did you SEE Mrs Kendall's nipples? Why in the hell wouldn't she wear a bra?"

Risking another hat slip, I turned to him and smirked. "One of the advantages of being gay is I don't automatically focus on the chest of every female that walks in front of me. I got to miss that horror show." I decided not to mention the massive erection that old Mr Connors was sporting through his whole speech. No need to traumatize the poor straight boy. Besides, Sam had kinda become a friend these past few months and he was a big part of the reason why more non-fangirls had stopped acting like they're gonna catch the plague if they made eye contact with me or Vicky. No need to freak him out unnecessarily.

"I swear to Aqua Buddha if she makes another joke about how hot it is I'm gonna rip off my gown and throw it at her." Carl grumbled from my left.

I laughed, nervously. With Carl you can never tell if he's serious or not when he says stuff like that. When we came back from school after Thanksgiving break we realized pretty quickly that Carl wasn't ever gonna sit anywhere else so eventually we kinda made a truce with him. I still wouldn't call us friends, exactly. I'm not even sure he knows how to be a friend, his whole "I don't know how to act like a real boy" thing was still going strong. Hell, he even showed up today with nothing on under his gown and said completely that he saw it in a movie and thought that's what everyone was gonna do. So I was REALLY hoping he was kidding about the gown throwing thing.

"I'm so glad you could all make it out for this beautiful spring weather!" Principal Alomar joked. There was polite laughter from the parents but I'm pretty sure even they were a little bit sick of the heat jokes. Especially since no one's ever gonna top when Mr Connors said "Boy, it's hot in here!" and one of the parents shouted out "How hot is it?" and Michelle yelled out "It's so hot my vagina has swamp ass!", which on the list of mental images I never needed was the new top spot but it was easily the most entertaining thing to happen today.

I shot an apprehensive look towards Carl, ready to spring into action if he even looked like he was reaching for his zipper, but he was busy creepily staring at the kid sitting to his left so I figured we were safe.

As her speech went on I tried looking around for Vicky, but he was a few rows in front of me and since we were both so short it was pretty much impossible to see him through all those people. We were seated alphabetically and with him being a Clarke and me being an Ellis you'd think we'd be somewhat close but apparently our class seating luck was still going strong and there were about 35 people separating us. For the millionth time since this whole thing started I wished he was an Edison, like Carl, or an Elton, like Sam so he could be sitting next to me.

And yes, it's a lot of evil fun knowing a straight boy with the last name Elton.

"And now before we get to the diploma ceremony," Principal Alomar said, wrapping up her speech. "It's time for the closing speech by the Valedictorian of the graduating class of 2011!"

See what I mean? Totally in denial. I at least hoped she thought she was in a high school because if she was dreaming about being principal, or dean (or whatever they call girl deans anyway), of a college then I just felt bad for her. I did smile a little smugly at the mention of the Valedictorian though. Not because I thought it was me, but because I worked really hard to make sure it wasn't. A few strategically failed tests and a whole lot of missed homework and not even my amazing test scores could shove me up on stage to make that stupid speech.

"Sadly," Ms Alomar said. "Our Valedictorian, Andrew Collins, is sick and couldn't make it today so we're going to have the closing speech given by the student with the next highest grade point average."

. . . . .what? Oh! I get it. You're waiting for me to freak out and think she's talking about me, right? Well, too bad! I planned ahead! Yeah, I know, totally out of character but it was way worth the effort. I purposely did bad enough to stay away from the top two spots. My mom was a little less than pleased when I kinda let it slip when she was asking why it wasn't me but, whatever. It's not like colleges give a shit how good you did in 8th grade anyway and there was NO WAY I was gonna get up in front of everybody and give a speech. I sat back in my chair with a satisfied smile that even pushing my hat out of my eyes again couldn't erase.

And that was when one of the teachers ran out from the side of the stage and whispered something into the principal's ear before rushing away.

Principal Alomar frowned. "Well, um, I've just been told that Kerry Smith, our second place student, fell backstage and broke her leg. Mr and Mrs Smith, you're daughter's going to be fine and we already called an ambulance. Feel free to go backstage with her. I'm so very sorry for this." Two people, a man and a woman, ran down the aisle, up a small flight of stairs by the stage and disappeared into the back. There was a low, steady murmur of conversation in the assembly hall. "Alright, alright." the Principal said, holding up her hands to try and get everyone's attention. "She's going to be fine, there's no need to worry." she smiled as the noise quieted down. "Now, we still need a closing speech." My blood ran cold and a sickening feeling of dread welled up inside me. "Luckily we have a lot of bright young students in this years class so I'd like to invite the student with the third highest grade point average to come up. I know he doesn't have a speech planned but I know he'll rise to the challenge and, in accordance with the finest traditions of Brian Blair Middle School, do his best."

Uh oh.

Remember that freaking out that wasn't happening before? Totally happening right now! Fuck! I didn't even need to wait for her to say anything else. I just KNEW it was me. That's how these things always work. And how the HELL do you manage to break your leg standing around backstage!? God! What the hell is wrong with people?! Why couldn't she wait till AFTER her speech to be all clumsy? Did she do it on purpose just to screw me over? Ok, that last might have been a stretch but I've learned never to rule anything out where girls are concerned. They're tricksy and evil and impossible to understand.

I ground my teeth and waited for her to call my name, hoping that some miracle would save me even though I'd been through enough of these fucking cosmic "fuck Nate over" moments in my life to know that's not how it was gonna turn out.

"Let's give a warm welcome to the new class of 2011 Valedictorian . . . ." I closed my eyes and tried not to scream. "Miles O'Brien!"

I'd actually started to stand up before I realized she didn't say my name. I blinked, and sat back down. I . . . . huh. I have absolutely no idea how to react to that. This . . . . has never happened to me before. I fought the hysterical laugh that wanted to burst it's way out of my mouth. I didn't have to get up on stage. I didn't have to give a speech! Life had totally missed a perfect opportunity to fuck with my day! I felt giddy. Ecstatic. Fucking fabulous. Ew. Ok, strike that last one. Way too gay. I watched as Miles walked up to the stage to give his speech and then frowned as a sudden thought occurred to me.

How fucking bad had I done this year anyway?

Oh well, who cares? I got out of a speech and that's worth whatever crap my mom gives me when they mail out the final report cards.

Miles was a tall, thin average looking guy who didn't look half as nervous standing in front of everyone as I would have. I hated him just a little bit for that. His speech was pretty good, for a last minute thing, and I wondered if he prepared it beforehand. I had sudden visions of commando raids on Andrew Collins' house to rub flu tissues on the doorknobs and secret booby traps set up backstage to catch a wild Kerry Smith by surprise and decided that I was way too bored if shit like that was starting to sound logical.

The speech was good for what it was, but boring as all hell. It was filled with the usual crap. A new stage of our lives, growing up, finding out who we are, moving on to bigger and better things. I snorted when he started in on the last bit. We were going to the high school for fucks sake. It's not like we were going to college overseas or anything. We were moving literally two miles down the road from the high school. Not exactly a big deal, literally or metaphorically.

Finally, after five really boring minutes, it ended and we all clapped. More for the fact that it was over than because it was good I thought but whatever, Miles looked happy enough and we finally got to get our diplomas and leave. Win-win all around.

Except waiting for like 200 kids to walk up on stage one by one to get a piece of paper was even more boring than the speech. Luckily I had friends to watch out for or I might have fallen asleep.

Michelle, being an Anderson, was the first of us to go up. I hated to admit it, but she actually wore the gown and hat pretty well. I had a feeling that if I ever got into trying to look good I'd end up wasting way too much time being insanely jealous of how she can wear anything. She was smiling widely and happily, like the heat and the hard chairs and the boredom didn't get to her at all and for a few seconds I hated her just a bit. Then she caught my eye, grinned her crazy Michelle grin and waved to me and then to someone a few rows in front of me, Vicky probably. I rolled my eyes, but smiled back.

It was almost weirder than me getting along with Carl, but over the past few months I'd actually gotten to be pretty close friends with Michelle. She was still a crazy fangirl and I don't think there was a single week that went by where she didn't try and get me and Vicky to do . . . stuff in front of her, but when she toned it down or forgot to perv on us she was actually pretty cool. She was another big part of getting people to treat me and Vicky normally. After Christmas break she started dating, which was kind of a surprise because up until then she hadn't even looked at a guy unless she thought he was gonna break out into homo sex in front of her. But every single guy she dated she forced to go on a double date with me and Vicky. It annoyed me at first, I hated being dragged away from quality Vicky time to hang around with her boy of the week, but after five or six dates I realized that she was doing it because she wanted to get people used to seeing us together as a couple without being able to ignore it or look away. It was deliciously cruel, using her hotness to force guys to hang out with the gay boys, and I fell deeply in like with her after that. Eventually the guys figured out that the nicer people were to us the longer they lasted with her and as a result, between her and Sam, me and Vicky ended 8th grade a few rungs away from the middle of the popularity ladder. Some of the guys even genuinely started to like us once they got to know us and we both ended up with a small, mostly overlapping circle of not-quite-friends to talk to and play games with.

Next was Jason. He didn't look nearly as good as Michelle did. His hair was messed up, his cheeks were flushed with heat and he kept having to unstick his gown from his chest and back. He looked bored and annoyed and completely done with the whole thing and when his eyes met mine and he saw the amused little smirk I had he glared at me so hard I thought I might explode. Instead I just laughed which made him glare harder until he couldn't fight the upturn in his lips anymore and he laughed and shook his head.

Jason was still Jason. Not much had changed with him. He was still with Luke, which made me happy. He hadn't gotten around to telling his parents about them yet though. It wasn't really my business but it seemed like it was way past time. I tried bringing it up with both him and Luke separately but they both pretty much told me that it was up to them to deal with and I backed off. But it was just asking for trouble. There's no way you can keep something like that a secret for long, especially with how much I knew they cared about each other, and not have it bite you in the ass. Especially when my dad was involved. I just hoped that they'd be able to deal with it when it came out. No pun intended.

Aside from that though Jason was happier than I'd ever seen him. Luke too. My dad still hadn't really gotten out of whatever slump he'd been in since losing his custody hearing so even though the whole atmosphere at his house was dark and oppressive, Luke's words, he was still fucking lit up from the inside whenever he was around Jason. I'm not sure if they told each other how completely and totally in love they are with each other yet, but it was pretty damn obvious to anyone who spent more than five minutes with the both of them. I guess it was a good thing for them that Luke was in a different school or else everyone would already know they were together.

Vicky was called up shortly after Jason and before Ms Alomar even finished saying his name all the girls jumped out of their seats and erupted with Justin Beiber levels of screaming cheers. I could tell a lot of the parents had no idea what the hell was going on, but some of them got caught up in the moment and started cheering too. Vicky got up on stage and even as far away as I was I could see he was blushing, hard. So adorable. He looked beautiful, not a hair out of place and his gown seemed to flow around him like a billowing cape or angel wings and even though I thought this whole thing was stupid I was still so proud seeing him up there getting his diploma. He looked for me as he walked across the stage and when he found me, jumping and cheering and screaming for him louder than anyone else, the blush faded a bit and a giddy, happy grin formed on his lips. Our eyes stayed locked the entire time he was up there and when he got his diploma he mouthed "Love you" to me. I grinned wildly and screamed "I love you too Vicky!" back to him at the top of my lungs, drawing a few looks from parents but, fuck it who cares? Seeing Vicky made all the uncomfortable sweaty boredom go away and I was feeling way too good to worry about what a few people I'm never gonna see after today think. Vicky's grin just got wider.

There really isn't much to say about Vicky that I haven't already said. We're still crazy in love. We still had amazing sex. We still spent every second we could together. My heart still beat faster every time I thought about him and it seemed like we couldn't be near each other for more than three seconds without needing to touch in some way. He was still my perfect Vicky, and that was never gonna change.

He did end up getting some emails from his former friends after we got back from New York. There were less than I hoped for but more than he expected and he was happy about it. Vicky didn't forgive all of them and not all of them stayed in touch for too long and one or two only emailed him to find out if he was REALLY gay but after about a month of trading emails Vicky had six of his New York friends back. Gary was the one that made the most effort and talked to him the most and even though for long time I didn't give him a fair chance he was the only one I actually ended up being friends with too. Once I got past the whole "he hurt my Vicky" thing, and trust me that wasn't easy or quick, he was actually a pretty fun guy. He was just as nerdy as us, just as into wrestling as us and he could even totally wipe the floor with us at Reach. At first I kinda thought he might be gay too with how hard he was trying to make up with Vicky and how legitimately hurt he seemed to be at how he acted back then but when he came to visit us during spring break he spent half the trip drooling over Erica after we ran into her at the pool. It was actually kinda funny, in a cute straight boy way, watching him get all red and flustered and then the second she was gone pouncing on us with questions about her that never really let up, even till now. He was coming up during the summer and me and Vicky had decided to try and get them together as much as we could while he was here. After all, Erica never really dated so he could be exactly her type.

Once Vicky sat down the thing kinda dragged on past the 30 or so people I didn't care about until the principal got to Carl. He walked up quickly and as he climbed the stage I could tell by the conversation around me that pretty much everyone noticed the two bare legs poking out from under the gown. I wondered for like the eightieth time how the hell his parents didn't catch that and make him put some clothes on but, whatever. If it didn't bother him why should it bother me? It's not like I had to see him naked.

He got his diploma and sat down just as quickly as he got up. He fiddled with the ribbon that held it closed and ten went back to staring at the guy next to him. I rolled my eyes, but then my name was being called and I stood up to the same jumping and cheering that Vicky got. I was kind of expecting it. The fangirls tended to treat us pretty equally, like pets they didn't want to make jealous by giving one more attention to the other, so I didn't blush as hard as Vicky did. But I still felt my face heat up as I got on stage.

I looked out over the bouncing, cheering girls. I sighed internally and blushed a little more when I saw my mom and Jack in with the parents cheering and jumping around too. I was actually more embarrassed for them than I was for me, they looked ridiculous and were getting a lot of stares from the other parents but not as much as I would have thought. They must have been doing it for Vicky too so it wasn't as surprising the second time around. I spotted Michelle, who didn't look NEARLY as elegant and collected as she did on stage with her face red from shrieking and her limbs flailing around as she jumped up and down, then Jason who made me laugh when he gave his diploma a blow job for some reason, and then Vicky. After that I stopped looking at anybody else.

His eyes were shining as he cheered wildly and he was so loud that I could hear him over everyone else. His face, always so expressive to me, was glowing with the same pride and happiness and love I had on mine when he was up here and I couldn't help grinning like an idiot as I walked across the stage. Principal Alomar handed me my diploma, said "Congratulations, Nate." and shook my hand. I barely noticed. I was too busy mouthing a deliberate "I love you." to Vicky and fighting back tears when I heard the expected but still heartwarmingly beautiful "I love you too Nate!" float above the rest of the noise. I went back to my seat with a light heart and a sappy smile that stayed on my face for the rest of the ceremony.

I daydreamed happily about my Vicky for most of the other kids until I heard Erica's name. She didn't look as bad as Jason, but she was definitely giving off an "I don't wanna be here and if I could I'd burn down the entire stage with the hatred in my eyes" vibe. Erica was a bit strange. She'd gotten way into the whole Hot Topic Goth thing over the past few months and was moody and sullen with everyone else except our lunch table. With me and Vicky she was still a total fangirl, squeeing and begging to watch us and melting whenever we did something cute a lot of the time, but like Michelle she'd calmed down a bit and became a pretty good friend too. She seemed a bit lonely, but most of that was really her fault with the whole "look at me and I'll kill you" attitude. Still, I hoped that she'd at least give Gary a chance. Even though he wasn't the bad boy type you usually see goth chicks with, they had a lot in common and I thought they'd get along well together. And if she got happy enough to wear a color other than black and stopped trying to get me to wear eyeliner I wouldn't exactly complain either.

The last person I wanted to watch for wasn't a friend at all. In fact, he used to be a pretty good candidate for "Nate's Mortal Enemy". Skip Williams walked down the aisle and across the stage the same way he used to stalk down the halls, but somehow it lacked the threatening arrogance he used to have. I hadn't talked to him since he left that note in my locker, if you can call that talking, but I had noticed him around a lot more after Thanksgiving break than I ever did before. At first I thought maybe he'd changed his mind and was stalking me to see if he could catch me alone but it only took me a few weeks to realize he was only showing up whenever I was around Michelle. I remembered what Erica told me, about how Michelle thought Skip was the one who broke Carl's nose and how she screamed and threw books at him and I thought maybe he wanted to beat HER up. But then I noticed the looks he was giving her, the confused, adoring, way out of place on Skip fucking Williams looks and I realized that he LIKED her. It freaked me the fuck out but then, a month or so ago, he actually asked her out. Skip Williams, the guy who'd never called me anything other than "faggot", probably the most homophobic guy in the whole school, who KNEW going out with Michelle meant going out on a double date with me and Vicky, asked her out. She yelled at him, told him he was crazy, that she'd never date a closeted loser who tried to molest her other best friend (her words) and I just happened to be there for the whole spectacular, beautiful, horrifying thing.

I blame the romantic in me for actually having the nerve to make me feel bad for Skip Williams.

But, I did, and because of that I ended up telling the truth about what happened in the bathroom. Not the whole truth, I didn't tell anyone that I lied, but I did let people know that all we did was fight and that maybe we said some things that someone overheard and misunderstood and jumped to the wrong conclusion. Michelle was confused when I told her because she'd flat out asked me what happened and I let her believe that he'd tried to molest me but I made some BS story up about not wanting to say anything because I thought he'd stay away from me if he thought people thought he wanted me or something and she accepted it. And so did the rest of the school, eventually. They didn't start dating or anything, and to be honest I kinda hoped they wouldn't, but if he got rejected again at least it would be because he's an asshole and not because of a lie I told. I watched him for a little bit after the new story started going around to see if he went back to his bullying, assholish ways but so far he hadn't and that gave me a little bit of hope for his future. Not that I really cared about his future. Well, apart from whether dragging me into a fair fight and beating my ass was part of the future anyway.

Then, finally, the last student got his diploma and the ceremony was over. We could all leave.

Well, after we did that stupid hat throwing thing. Yep. They actually made us do that. Not only that but we actually had a pre-graduation assembly a few days before the last day of school where they made us PRACTICE throwing the hats. Doesn't exactly say a lot about their confidence in the "future leaders of America" when they spend half of an hour long assembly teaching us how to throw hats in the air.

The second I got outside I tore the sweat soaked gown off and threw it to the ground with a giddy grin on my face. "Freedom!" I yelled out loud and raised my arms. A few parents nearby gave me a weird look. "What? Never saw Braveheart?" I asked them with a smirk. Wait, didn't he get his head chopped off at the end of that? I frowned.

"Nate!" Vicky called from behind me and I turned around just in time to catch him as he flew into my arms and kissed me hard. A few fangirls squealed and I heard more than one shocked, adult sounding gasp but I barely noticed. I had a slightly sweaty, gownless Vicky in my arms. How the hell was I supposed to think about anything else?

After a few seconds of dueling tongues he stepped back and grinned with a hungry gleam in his eye. "I got a surprise." he said, low and sexy.

I groaned as my dick somehow got harder. God I love Vicky's sexy voice. I swallowed to try and get some moisture in my suddenly very dry throat. "What is it?" I croaked out.

Vicky just grinned wider. "Your mom and my dad are right behind me. I'll tell you later." he promised with a wink that really should have been illegal then took another step back.

Luckily my mom and Jack walked from the crowd streaming out of the assembly hall doors holding two discarded gowns and one hat before I could think too hard (hehe, hard) about what Vicky's surprise might be and have to deal with wet, stained pants for the rest of the day.

"Forget something?" Jack asked with a small smile.

"Nope." Vicky said with a totally different, much less sex charged grin. "That thing practically melted to me. I never wanna see it again."

"Yeah." I said nodding rapidly. "Just, burn it or something. Or just leave it back in the building. I'm sure it'll be hot enough to catch fire before the end of the day."

Vicky giggled but my mom frowned. "I'm not burning your graduation gown Nate. I'm keeping it forever. Vicky's too." Then she smiled at both of us with eyes that were suddenly very watery. "I'm so proud of my boys."

I shifted uncomfortably and felt a tiny blush coming on. My mom had been . . . emotional about this whole graduation thing for a few weeks now. Apparently getting out of 8th grade means I'm one step closer to turning 18, running off to college and leaving her alone and childless with nothing but pictures and memories to keep her company in her golden years.

Oh, you think I'm joking? I'm not. I didn't just make that up, she's said that word for word at least THREE TIMES a day for the past two weeks.

"Uh, yeah." I said. Change the subject! Change the subject! "Are we still going out to eat?"

"Yes!" Jack said, a little too loudly and nodded, a little too rapidly. Guess I'm not the only one sick of the empty nest thing. "Is it too early for Outback Julia?"

My mom started, looked at Jack, then blinked away a few tears and narrowed her eyes slightly. "Don't think I don't know what you're doing." she said, then smiled. "But no, it's after four so they should have prime rib." She shook her head. "You really need to eat something else from there someday Nate."

I crossed my arms and shook my head. "Nope. Prime rib for life!"

Vicky slipped his arm around my waist. "Yeah. Long live prime rib!"

"Prime rib for everyone!" Jack shouted triumphantly and threw his arms into the air in a victory pose.

Mom laughed and shook her head wryly. "Fine. Don't expand your horizons. See if I care."

"Yay!" I cheered. "Stagnation rocks!"

Everyone chuckled, then we walked to the car and drove off for steak.


"You're not too full, are you?" Vicky asked for like the hundredth time since we left Outback.

I rolled my eyes as I closed and locked the door to my room. "No Vicky. I'm not too full." I said with exaggerated patients. "Why does it matter anyway? Is your surprise food?"

Not even the best fucking prime rib I'd ever had could make me forget that he promised me a sexy surprise. It's a good thing I'm not old enough to drive or I would have broken every traffic law imaginable, plus a few they'd have to make up just because of me, to get back here faster. Mom and Jack were downstairs getting ready to watch a movie so I knew we'd have at least ninety minutes of interruption free together time.

Vicky gave me a piercing look, probably trying to figure out if I was lying or not. Apparently he was satisfied that I wasn't because a wicked grin slowly tugged at his lips. "Nope." he said teasingly. "Not food." He walked over to my bed, got down on his hands and knees and reached under the duster thing that hung between the mattress and the floor. He dug around for a few seconds then pulled something out and held it up in front of me.

"You got me rope?" I asked, confused.

He looked at me expectantly and held the thin, soft looking rope out to me. "Yeah."

I gave him a confused look. Why would Vicky give me a surprise of rope- . . . oh. Oh! My face flushed and Vicky's look faltered a bit.

"You said a while back that I could, and, um, I thought . . ." he blushed. "If you change your mind or wasn't serious that's cool too! I mean . . ." he trailed off.

Changed my mind? I remembered that conversation perfectly now. How I told him that he could maybe tie me up one day and how fucking hard the thought made me then. Well, then and now. I went from well fed and slightly tired to horny as fuck and incredibly hungry for something that definitely wasn't food. So, yeah. "Definitely didn't change my mind." I said huskily and licked my lips.

Vicky moaned. "Good."

I walked towards him. I'm not exactly a huge bondage expert here, but I kinda thought the person doing the tieing was supposed to, I dunno, take charge or whatever but Vicky was closer to the bed and I was way too horny to wait for him to do something. I didn't even stop as I got to him, just grabbed the front of his shirt, fell onto the bed and pulled him down on top of me. I moaned as his weight pressed against me and my mouth wasn't even open for a second before Vicky's tongue was shoved deep inside. I moaned again.

Soft hands slid up my shirt and slowly traced a path over my stomach and up each side of my rib cage until they came to my nipples. He rubbed them, gently and I shuddered with pleasure. Vicky had always been great at sex but after an entire school year of learning what turned me on and what REALLY turned me on he was so far beyond a sex god now it wasn't even funny. As the slow, sensual rubbing turned into gently pinches and then hard twists I groaned and writhed and arched my back and pushed my crotch up into his trying desperately to . . . . I didn't even know. I was lost in the pleasure and didn't want to ruin it by cumming, but I still NEEDED the release.

He stopped then, and I cried out at the loss of sensation. Vicky kissed my nose, then pulled back and looked right into my eyes. He didn't have his usual wicked sex grin. Instead he looked serious and breathless and his eyes were practically on fire. "Get naked." he said softly.

My breath hitched at the sexy hint of an order that I heard in his voice and I scrambled out of my clothes while he did the same. In seconds we were naked on the bed. Me on my back breathing heavily and him kneeling above me, breathing just as hard. We'd had a LOT of sex since we got together, but this was something new. Just laying there looking up at him holding that rope in his hand, seeing a need in his eyes that I knew was met with an answering need in mine, turned me on more than any foreplay we'd ever done. I didn't really know what was going on, all I knew was that I liked it. And that was enough.

We stayed that way for several minutes, just looking at each other with both of our cock leaking like broken faucets. Then, never taking his eyes away from mine, Vicky leaned down slowly and moved his body over mine. Our breathing quickened and synched up. His face was right above mine, our lips barely in inch apart. I could feel his breath on my face and I knew he could feel mine too. It would have taken just a tiny movement from either of us to come together in a kiss but somehow I knew that wasn't what was gonna happen.

I saw everything in Vicky's eyes. Love, lust, need, fear that maybe this was too much, hope that it wasn't. I tried to let my own love shine through mine, my own need, that I trusted him to do this and make us both feel amazing.

He licked his lips quickly and then I didn't see anything else in his eyes because his head shot down the last inch of so and I felt his lips on me. Not on my lips, but in my cheek, my ear, my neck. He bit my neck, hard, and I moaned and moved my head to the side, giving him more room. He licked and bit and sucked and I hoped he left a mark on my pale skin because it would have been a total shame if there was nothing left behind from something that felt that good.

He left my neck, trailing down to my chest with kissed and licks and tiny bites, until he got to my nipples again. He went to my left one first and sucked it in. I whimpered and pushed my chest up towards him, trying to get more of it into his mouth. He'd sucked my nipples before. A bunch of times. It always drove me completely nuts but this time was different. His bites were a little bit harder than usual, but instead of turning me off the little bit of pain actually mixed with the pleasure and would have made me even harder, if it was possible without my dick exploding. Literally and figuratively.

After a minute or two my nipple was so sensitive that the slightest brush of his tongue was enough to send shocks of pleasure directly to my cock. Just when I thought I might actually cum from what he was doing he let my nipple go, licked across my chest and started in on the other one. I moaned and squirmed and I was pretty sure that if there was a video camera set up, the film of how I moved and danced under his mouth would be shown to trainee hookers everywhere as an example of what it looks like when you're giving your customer his money's worth.

When he brought me to the edge of orgasm and then stopped for the second time I decided he had to know what he was doing. There was no way that was an accident twice. I didn't care that he was torturing me though. It felt way too good and I was too busy anticipating what he was gonna do next to care about a little thing like needing to cum.

Instead of licking his way down my stomach like he usually does when he's done with my nipples he knelt back up and held up the rope. "Hold your hands out." he said in that same soft, yet slightly commanding tone. I held them out, my right wrist resting on my left one, and waited for what I knew was coming with breathless anticipation. Vicky looked at my hands, bit his lip and suppressed a shudder. I smiled slightly, loving that this was affecting him as much as it was affecting me. Then he looked above my head and frowned slightly. "I can't tie you to anything." he said quietly. I followed his eyes and saw what he meant immediately. My headboard was solid wood, no holes or anything that he could tie my hands to.

"Doesn't matter." I said breathlessly. "Do whatever you want." I held my hands up to him again.

He looked at my hands, than up to me, and gave me a small smile. Then it faded into a look of concentration as to tied the rope around my wrists. It was white and surprisingly soft and I wondered where he got it for a second until I decided that I really didn't care about that as much as what he did with it. And I was really liking what he did with it.

He finished and then asked, "Can you move?"

I tried moving my wrists and my right hand slid out of the ropes without much effort. "Uh, yeah." I said apologetically.

He stared at my hands in disbelief for a second, then giggled softly. "Ooookay." he said. "Let's try that again." My chest tightened and a grinned. As much as I liked domineering Vicky it was nice to see that my normal, playful Vicky wasn't lost too deeply in the role.

"Tie it as hard as you want." I said. "I'll let you know if it hurts too much."

"You sure?" he asked and I could see the concern in his eyes. It made my heart beat faster.

"Yeah." I said, breathing heavily. "Do whatever you want." I said again, trying to let him know that I meant it. I trusted him totally. We'd come a long way since the crown sex and I knew that whatever he wanted to do I'd enjoy it at least as much as he did.

The heat came back into his eyes and he licked his lips again. He untied the rope fully and took it off my wrists. He looked at me for a few seconds, then a slow, small smile formed on his lips. "Ok." he said, and I knew he accepted my offer from the tone of his voice. "Get on your knees."

I immediately flipped over on my stomach and got up on my hands and knees. I heard a soft groan as the position I was in spread my ass open so my hole was visible, but when he spoke his voice was as soft and steady as it been before. "Stay on your knees, but put your hands behind your back."

I moaned and felt a glob of precum leak out of my cock and fall to the bed. I lowered myself and pressed my face into the mattress before putting my hands behind my back, wrists crossed like before. Vicky tied them up again, but this time it was much tighter. Not enough to cut off my circulation or even to hurt, but more than enough so that I couldn't move. My face was flattened into the bed, my hands were bound behind my back and I was on my knees with my ass thrust up into the air and spread wide. I was vulnerable and exposed, Vicky could do anything he wanted to me and there'd be nothing I could do to stop him. I'd never been more turned on in my life.

For a few minutes he didn't do anything, and the anticipation was making my cock leak even more. The only warning I had was one soft breath before he shoved his tongue deep inside me. I whimpered into the mattress as I felt his tongue writhe around inside me. I tried to push back against him to get him deeper inside but the position I was in didn't give me much leverage. What happened to me was totally up to him and god did that turn me on. He licked my insides, jammed his tongue in as deep as it would go and fucked me with it while I moaned and squirmed. My hair was in my face and I could just imagine how fucking NEEDY I looked laying there like I was and that just turned me on even more.

Then he stopped rimming me and I groaned at the loss. My mind was all mushy. All I knew was that I wanted him back inside me. I was so close and I wanted him to keep eating me until I came all over the bed. I heard the snap of a plastic cap, but it didn't even register. I was too focused on wiggling my ass, trying to entice him to put his tongue back in it. And then, suddenly, his lube soaked cock was slammed all the way inside me.

I screamed, fucking SCREAMED, into the mattress and for the third time in my life came without anything touching my cock.

It didn't even lessen my arousal one bit. Vicky stilled inside me but before he could even ask if I was ok I was pushing back against him as much as I could and moaning "Hard. Fuck me hard. Fuck me. Fuckmefuckmefuckme."

And he did.

He pulled all the way out then thrust back deep inside me. I barely even had time to squeal my pleasure before he was pulling out and thrusting back inside me, hard and rough. I was slick from his spit and the lube on his cock and relaxed from the rimming but I wasn't stretched that much and I felt every fucking inch of that thick cock inside me. My ass gripped him tightly as he fucked me.

He grabbed my wrists where they were tied together and pulled, using them for leverage to fuck me harder. I felt . . . . I dunno, used, like a sex object, but strangely still loved. Vicky was taking me hard, probably harder than he'd ever taken me before, definitely harder than I'd ever taken him. But even though the whole set up seemed like I was just a hole there for his pleasure, he still made sure to hit my prostate on every thrust. He still slowed whenever my moans sounded even the slightest bit like pain. He still treated me like something precious even as he fucking plundered my ass. It was the ultimate combination of rough sex and making love and the feeling overwhelmed me so much that when he reached around my hips and started jerking me off it barely took three strokes before I was cumming into the pool of cum that had barely cooled from my first orgasm.

My ass clenched around Vicky's cock as I came and almost the second I started I heard a loud, high pitched moan from behind me and then his cock was pulsing in my ass, shooting his semen deep inside me. I'd always loved it when I was wrapped around him so tightly that I could feel every spurt and if I wasn't already cumming that would have set me off.

He kept thrusting as he came. Once, twice, three times and then on the fourth pushed deep inside me and held himself there until he was done. He knelt behind me, holding himself inside, until his cock softened and he fell out. We both groaned at the loss.

Then his hands were at my wrists, quickly untying the ropes. I'd had brief thoughts about them being too tight and not coming of but Vicky was apparently a really good rope tier because they came off easily. The second the ropes were off I pushed myself up just enough to straighten my slightly sore legs out then collapsed onto my stomach in the pool of my cum. Vicky collapsed to the left of me. He was on his side facing me and he pulled me until we were both laying on our sides facing each other. His face was flushed beautifully and covered in a fine sheen of sweat. He brushed the hair away from my face and rested his sweat slicked forehead against mine as we both caught our breath.

After a minute or two our breathing slowed enough to let us talk.

"That was-" Vicky panted.

"-so fucking-" I breathed.

"-perfect." We said together. We grinned at the same time.

"We are so doing that again." I said.

"Definitely." Vicky eagerly agreed.

We lay there for a little while longer, until the excitement of what we did and the rush of our orgasms faded and our eyes started to droop. I was suddenly very, very tired. Tired enough not to care that I was about to fall asleep in a puddle of cum. That's one of the best things about cum. It may be sticky and wet but it washes off pretty easily in the shower.

While I was still awake I pulled back just enough to look Vicky in the eyes. I'd always loved his eyes. They were so beautifully expressive and such an amazing shade of gray. I could look into them for hours. You'd think that after what we did that they'd look at me differently, but all I saw when I gazed into them was the same love and tenderness that I'd seen since the first time we kissed. Not that I expected anything different. No matter what we did in bed or how we acted during sex at the end of the day, he was still my Vicky and I was still his Nate.

And nothing would ever change that.

"I love you." I said softly as I felt my eyes close and sleep take me.

The last words I heard before falling sleep were a softly whispered, "I love you too."


"Hi, are you using the machine?" came a sweet voice from behind me.

I grinned and turned away from the machine, which in case you haven't already guessed is the vending machine at the pool, and turned to face Vicky as I popped the cap back on my Sharpie marker. His hair was longer than it had been the last time we were at the pool, falling over his ears as well as his eyes, but everything else about him was exactly the same as it was the first day we met. He was even wearing the same swimsuit hanging low on his hips and I knew anybody standing behind him could see the top of his ass. "Almost." I said and put the marker in my pocket. "I just need to get a drink."

Vicky hooked his thumbs casually into the waistband of his suit and not at all casually pulled it down until his entire tanned pubic area was visible. "What are you in the mood for?" he asked with a sexy smirk.

I swallowed dryly as I stared but luckily I didn't even need to think about my answer. "Lemon lime." I said softly. "And you. Nothing else can make a perfect summer day."

Vicky blushed a bit, then walked closer to me. "Yeah?" he asked, looking into my eyes.

"Yeah." I whispered. And then kissed him.

We stepped apart and he smiled at me. "I still can't believe it's been like ten months since we've been back here."

"I know." I nodded and turned around to put my money in the machine. "I can't believe that this vending machine is what brought us together." I pushed the button for lemon lime and picked up my drink when it fell.

"I still think we would have met in school." he said matter of factly as he stepped past me and put his own money in. "Even with your shirt on there's no way I would have-" he paused as his eyes caught a bit of black writing on the front of the machine, cocked his head, and turned back to me with a loving smile. "You actually did it?"

I grinned. "Yep! Told you I would, didn't I?"

He giggled as he picked up his drink, reading what I wrote in black marker again. "You know they're just gonna wash it off, right?"

"So?" I shrugged. "I'll just come back and write it again every day until they put a plaque on or something."

Vicky laughed and walked over to me. He lightly touched the back of my hand with his fingers. "You really are the best boyfriend ever."

I smiled warmly. "No, you are."

Vicky rolled his eyes but didn't argue with me. It was way too nice a day to start up a pointless, unwinnable "fight". I took his hand and walked through the crowded pool area filled with loud kids and even louder adults to our chairs. We got looks, like we always do, but we ignored them, like we always do. We pulled the lounge chairs as close to each other as possible and laid down in them, still holding hands.

"I never in a million years would have thought that the hot boy with the pale skin and the blond hair I saw standing in front of the vending machine would end up being the missing piece of my heart." Vicky said wonderingly as he looked out over the pool. His eyes slowly turned to me and I blushed horribly. "Too sappy?" he asked self consciously.

"Maybe for other people." I answered, the redness fading a bit. "But not me. Because I knew the second I saw you that you were the other half of mine."

We looked at each other for a few seconds, then burst out laughing. "God," Vicky said. "We really are lame."

"Yep." I said happily. "But we're lame together, and that's all that counts."

Vicky giggled again, then squeezed my hand. I sighed happily and leaned back in the chair, soaking up the warm sun and the even warmer hand in mine. I was happy. Truly, completely happy. The kind of happy that people spend their entire lives looking for. And I didn't need a fulfilling career, or five kids, or a billion dollars, or millions of people screaming my name. All I needed was the perfect boy laying next to me.

Yeah, life wouldn't always be easy. High school loomed in the near future, all ominous and threatening like Mount Doom, and I didn't for a second think we'd have it as easy there as we did in middle school. I worried about Luke and Jason and my dad was still on my mind a lot these days. But I could deal with it, I could deal with anything. I looked over at the vending machine and read what I'd written in big, bold letters and grinned.

"NATE ELLIS AND VICKY CLARKE FOREVER"

Lame? Yep. Cliched? Of course. Totally and completely true? Abso-fucking-lutely. And that's why I didn't worry too much about my future. No matter what happened, Vicky would be right there with me, forever. And as long as I have my Vicky with me, everything will turn out . . . fucking perfect.

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