Val 'n Tyne

by Hans Schreiber and Flip McHooter

Chapter 19

Warning! This story is a work of fiction written by a legal age adult. Any similarity between the fictional characters and any live person is purely coincidental. This story contains fictional descriptions of sexual activity between consenting minor youth. If you are under the age of 18, and/or if you are offended by this content, and/or if it is illegal in your jurisdiction to possess or read such material, please leave now and do not read this story as neither the internet host nor the author can be responsible for your actions. Please, always practice safe sex; no momentary thrill is worth your life.

All rights reserved. No part of this story may be transmitted or reproduced in whole or in part in any form or by any means, mechanical or electronic, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the Author or Publisher, except where permitted by law. Copyright (c) 2012 by Hans Schreiber and Flip McHooter. This work is a collaboration between Hans Schreiber and Flip McHooter.

"Tyne what happened back there?" Noah asked as he turned onto Amber Way.

Tyne didn't answer. He couldn't. His throat was swelling and his face was burning hot with anger and embarrassment. His stomach ached as his intestin es twisted themselves into a giant knot.

"Tyne, it's me baby. Talk to me. Pour it out."

Tyne shook his head slowly and said haltingly, "Take me home. I just want to go home."

"How long have we been friends, Tyne?" Tyne didn't respond. Noah pushed on, "Since we got out of diapers, that's how long. Well, since you got out of diapers, I still wear them sometimes when I'm in a mood." He glanced over expecting that to make Tyne crack a smile, but there was nothing. Just a blank stare. Tears trickled slowly down Tyne's cheek and it broke Noah's heart.

Noah sighed and stared silently out the windshield. There was a mile of silence before Noah couldn't stand it any longer. "Tyne, dammit girlfriend, talk to me. This is unacceptable." Noah swerved to the curb and slammed on the brakes. Tyne shot him a scowling glare. Noah shut off the engine and folded his arms across his chest. "I'm not driving you one more fraction of an inch until you spill it."

"All right." Tyne knew he was being unfair to Noah. "Val wasn't home."

"So? Why is that such a big deal? Where was he? Did he go to see the doctor? Is he back in the hospital? Is he dying or something? Why are you so upset?"

"I wish he was dying. I wish he was already dead." Tyne started crying. Noah reached over and threaded his fingers through Tyne's thick golden locks and twisted his head so he could look into Tyne's aqua marine eyes, swimming in teardrops. Tyne swallowed a wad of mucus and stammered, "He went out with Sylvia. He isn't sick at all. He lied to get out of our date so he could go be with her. His mom came right out and told me he was with her. Oh god, Noah, I've lost him. I've lost him to that … that girl." He spoke the word 'girl' as if it were a dirty word.

Noah couldn't help it and started to cry along with Tyne. He pulled Tyne's head to his and they sat there forehead to forehead shedding tears together. A crack of thunder broke up the melancholy moment and they sat back in their seats. Noah reached over and took Tyne's hand in his just as heavy raindrops began pounding on the rusty sheet metal of Noah's ride. "I'm sorry Tyne. I truly am. It was bound to happen and I hoped for your sake it wouldn't, but now you have to move on." Tyne grimaced and shook his head slowly in acknowledgement but didn't speak. There was another crash of thunder as Noah started the car and pulled slowly from the curb.

When they pulled in the driveway, Tyne cursed under his breath. "My mom's not home. I didn't think she was working tonight. Fuck, I'm always alone, I hate it. I need her now. I just fucking hate it."

Tyne burst into tears again and tried to get out of the car and run into the empty house, but the door on Noah's piece of shit car stuck and Tyne had to shove his shoulder hard against it. On the third battering, it finally flung open, spilling poor Tyne headlong onto the driveway. He stood up and slammed the door shut and rushed to the porch. He fumbled with the key, trying to get it into the lock when he felt Noah taking it from his hand. Noah unlocked the door and led the way into the dark house. He slid his hand along the beige wallpaper until he found the light switch to light up the room, then went around turning on every light he could find. Tyne followed him into the living room and dropped onto the couch. He grabbed and hugged a brown throw pillow to his chest and blubbered about Val and his dead father and his absent mom and then Val again. There was a brief incoherent section about Val's sister, Vi and then it was back to Val. When Tyne started debasing his own self-worth and questioning the value of his life, Noah started to boil. Noah sat across from him and listened as long as he could stand to.

Suddenly, Noah stood up and walked over directly in front of the blubbering mess that was his best friend in the whole world, put one hand on his hip, which was cocked sideways in a way only Noah could do, and pointed a long, skinny finger at Tyne. "Okay. Enough. Now let me tell you something mister man."


"Val, wake up." Val's mom shook her son's broad shoulder and Val woke up with a start.

"What?"

"It's 8:00 and we need to leave in half an hour if we're going to be there on time to get a good seat at Sylvia's church. You still want to hear her sing, right?"

"I'm not sure I want to go after last night and all," Val grumbled. "And she can sing anytime. It's no biggie."

"Well, I'm sure we're going to see her and listen to her song. We're all going, even your father, if you can believe it. So get your lazy butt up and get ready now. We leave in 25 minutes. No argument."

Val recognized the tone of her voice and knew he had no real choice. "Okay." He sat up and tossed the covers off his naked body. His mom watched him from the doorway until he was definitely vertical and then she left. Luckily he didn't have a raging piss hard-on; it was just sort of chubby. He stretched out his arms and legs and then fumbled around until he found some clean boxers out of the laundry basket to pull on. He'd failed to put away his clothes as usual. The chosen pair had characters from that stupid Family Guy show on Fox on them, and they certainly weren't his favorite ones. His great Aunt Sophia gave them to him a year or so ago. She was pretty old and they never really saw her all that much. He had no idea how they were related, but she always brought presents when they did. It seemed weird she would bring him boxers of all things, but he guessed his mom probably suggested it. They certainly were better than the Sarah Palin t-shirt she brought when he was twelve. Anyway, the fly was too short and tight and it was hard to fish his big dick out through the pee hole to take a wiz.

He rushed to the bathroom only to find Vi in there primping and preening. "Leave, shortstack, I gotta shower," he said with a disgusted sigh.

"No way doofus, I have to do my hair still. Use Mom's bathroom if you're in such a big hurry."

"Uh-uh. I'm older than you so get lost. Geez. Girls and their stupid hair. I don't have time for this. Just look away." Val resigned himself to her being there. He could have easily physically tossed her out, but it wasn't worth all the resulting drama when she cried to their mom about it. So he just turned his back to Vi as he slipped off his Family Guy boxers he'd just put on. He stepped into the shower spray, which wasn't quite warm enough yet, and yelped from the shock of the tepid water. Vi, of course, was staring intently at his hot body and even caught just a glimpse of his dangling balls and long dick between his taut buns as he spun around out of the cold shower spray and closed the frosted glass door with a hard slam.

She returned her attention back to her hair and started wishful thinking that she could find some nice boy at church who looked like Tyne, maybe, to make friends with and help her forget about Danny. She didn't expect anything like that, though. It was church, after all, and all of the guys were probably married to Jesus and wore those stupid chastity rings. She wished she was older or Tyne was younger so he'd be interested in her. She had such a crush on him. She'd give up her V card in a minute to him, Val's lectures be damned.

Val rushed his shower and shut the water off quickly, barely getting all of the Axe washed off his body. When he opened the door and found Vi still there, he rolled his eyes and let out a long sigh. Won't she ever get lost , he thought to himself? She got a full on frontal view of her big brother as he reached around for his towel and slid the glass door quickly closed behind him. "Get the hell out of here," Val growled. "You're pretty enough."

"It's not like I haven't seen one of those dangly thingy's before," she snapped. "I even touched one, remember?"

"Yeah, well, I'm not interested in you seeing mine. And you're definitely not gonna touch it. You're my F'n sister for god's sake. That's just so freakin' weird. So get the F out before I have to throw you out." Then he added, "I need to fix my hair," in a fake falsetto.

Vi grinned and left, slowly, pulling the door shut behind her with a bang. Val finished drying off, and then stepped up in front of the mirror and quickly combed his hair and smeared some pit wax under his muscular arms. He bent down and pulled Stewie and family up over his privates and then hustled back to his room. He found some clean jeans and a collared shirt that wasn't too wrinkled. He even sported a skinny black Sacramento Kings tie and black dress shoes instead of his regular Air Jordan's. He came out just as his mother was coming to get him.

"Now what?" he asked when he saw her.

"Jeans? Really? Shouldn't you wear the slacks we got you for your cousin's wedding last month?"

"Nobody my age wears slacks to church. Trust me. And they look stupid. Plus, she didn't even care what I wore to her stupid wedding and I was overdressed compared to the other kids there. She just wanted to open up all of her wedding gifts so she could go get laid by that tatted up freak she married."

He followed his mom, who was rolling her eyes at his comment but not arguing with it, out of his room to find his father dressed up in his best clothes, which was something he rarely did. He was tugging at his collar and wouldn't stop complaining; he was bitching like a fifty-year-old getting his first colonoscopy. Polly was used to his bellyaching and was totally ignoring it. Buford asked why he had to wear a stinkin' suit if Val could wear his dress jeans. Val found that so ridiculously funny that he was using him as an excuse to try and get out of something. Usually it was Val saying things like that. Like when he asked, "How come I have to be in at eleven if Nick can stay out past midnight?" What was really funny is that his mom gave the old man the same answer he'd gotten, namely, "Because I said so!" Dad, son, both totally whipped! Val made a silent promise right then and there that he'd never let another woman control him like that. It just wasn't right.

They piled into the car, the two guys still bitching and moaning, and once on the road to the church no one said much else. When they finally turned the corner at First and Main, they saw the Virgin Hills Redemption Church marquee positioned in the middle of the half-dying weedy lawn that read, "The Bible is a Thriller. It will scare the HELL out of you!" Val read it out loud to everyone who all snickered, albeit quietly.

"At least the pastor must have some sense of humor," Mrs. Hardcastle said. "I've heard he's very young. I guess we'll see."

They filed in the huge warehouse-like room and found a dusty vacant pew about three rows from the center front. The ones in the back were already mostly full with early-birds or full enough that they couldn't sit without climbing over a few people. Val wondered why nobody wanted to sit up front. Since they didn't know anyone, it was a little uncomfortable to sit up there, and when they did, they all hunkered down together, somewhat self-conscious. Val had entered first, then his mom and dad with Vi sitting on the aisle, squeezing in next to the wooden arm rest.

Once situated in their seats, and after looking all around, Buford leaned over to Polly and whispered in her ear. "They must have had some sort of rock concert in the chapel last night. They didn't even bother cleaning up their beat up old equipment for the Sunday service," he whined, with a tone of disapproval. He was referring to the ancient Ludwig drum set, cheap guitars and beat-up microphone setup on the right side of the chapel. Val smiled to himself, hoping that the guys would play some tasty licks and make this at least somewhat bearable. He always wished he had learned to play an instrument.

Vi glanced over and caught a young, Nordic-looking blond boy across the aisle who had nicely styled hair sweeping way down low over his forehead, sneaking a peek at her over his shoulder. He looked quickly away when he got caught by Val, making Vi blush. Sometimes she really hated her brother as much as she loved him. She shot Val a dirty look and mouthed the words, "Stop it." Val didn't really care or even know that the kid was checking out his sister. Val was actually staring at and creeping out over the grotesque statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, up on the wall right behind the kid. It made him shudder. It looked like she was staring right through him and scowling like she knew what was on his mind.

The young, blond boy's dress shoes hung down with just the toes touching on the cold, marble floor, which was strange since he wasn't all that short. The pews seemed to be abnormally tall, and he guessed that they made them that way so the parishioners would be too uncomfortable to sleep during the pastor's sermons. After looking all around, he saw Vi blushing again at the blond kid who quickly turned away, while Vi looked back down at her program. He followed her sight-line, and looked hard at the cute little dude who was dressed super sharp in a crisp, Oxford shirt and a nice striped tie. He started noticing how throughout the service the two of them stole secret glances, occasionally making eye contact. It was apparent to Val that Vi had more interesting thoughts in her head than Jesus and the sermon.

At the beginning of the service, the four or five twenty-something band members filed in quietly, one behind another, shoulders slumped like they'd rather be playing downtown at Pike's. One of the three long-haired guys, who had big gauged earlobes, picked up his electric guitar, slung it hard over his shoulder and after a few seconds of tuning it, ripped into a thundering riff. The tall and skinny dude to his left, with slightly greasy, cranberry-red hair, was playing an ancient bass, but adeptly followed the guitarist's lead, while the rest of the band kicked in seamlessly one after the other. Their reverberating wail bounced off the sterile walls of the building and made the congregation come fully to attention. Even the most die-hard church-goers had to admit this band was good, even if they didn't all like the way they looked.

Buford looked like he'd been struck over the head with an electric guitar when they started playing a lively gospel rock song about standing up for truth and defeating Satan's horde. The audience started clapping along and soon the choir members started to file in, single file along both sides of the concrete church walls. Sylvia was searching the congregation frantically and smiled wide when she finally caught Val's eye, who himself was looking all around for her. He gave her a shy little wave and she cracked a radiant smile. Val noticed that she had done her hair and makeup nicely again, while Vi asked her mom, "Doesn't Sylvia look nice? We really showed her how to look pretty." Mrs. Hardcastle agreed with a curt nod of her head and they both beamed with satisfaction. Once in place on the loft, the choir sang a lively song about Angels in a Cadillac along with the band's accompaniment. Buford sat there totally mystified.

The next song that they played really hit home for Val and made him squirm all around in his seat so uncomfortably that he thought he was going to have to run out of the hall to get away. He didn't know what the name of the song was, or who it was by, of course, but it sounded like some sort of country/ rock/folk/indie mash-up. He liked the tune, and he was way feeling the thundering bass and the bitchin' guitar lead, but when he caught a section of the lyrics, it made him shudder – a deep, drilling down feeling, yawning hard into his bones. The lead singer with the droopy 'lobes and the shiny wa-wa guitar, plus the skinny girl with the shiny black hair on keyboards, started to sing:

From across the great divide, in the distance I saw a light

Of Jean Baptiste's – he's walking to me with the Maker

Oh my body, my body is bent and broken by a long and dangerous sleep

I can't work the fields of Abraham and turn away

I'm not a stranger in the hands of the Maker

That was exactly how he felt when he woke up out of his head injury in the hospital, not knowing whether he was dead or alive, comatose or aware and in or out of his unmoving body but only wanting to reach out for Tyne to save him. "TYNE", he thought, "His one and only. Oh my God. What am I going to do?" He slunk as low as he could into the hard church pew, his knees uncomfortably pressed against the pew in front of him, eyes closed with his knuckles shoved hard into them to keep from crying.

The band drilled to a loud and garish finish to the song, and then the youngish but pudgy pastor came out at the end of the tune to welcome the congregation, hands flying all around in the air like he had too many cups of Starbuck's coffee or he was trying to land a jet fighter on a flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Then he told everyone to take their neighbors' hands in their own while he led them in a loud and boisterous prayer. After the head-scratching prayer finally ended, Buford leaned over to Polly and said, uncomfortably loud enough for those immediately around to hear, "What the hell is that about? Rock music in church? That's just plain wrong. Uncle Bartholomew, that crazy Baptist preacher back home in Tennessee, would be rolling over in his grave right about now. And that prayer! What the hell was that all about?"

"Shhh," Polly scolded him with her finger to her lips while giving him the evil eye. Vi didn't notice what was going on with her parents because she was too busy checking out the cute young blond kid again, who smiled and blushed whenever they caught each other peeking. Val missed all of the amusing family business because he was busy picturing Sylvia naked underneath her pretty choir robe. Disturbingly, his thoughts morphed to Tyne being in the choir with Sylvia and also being naked underneath the purple satin robe. His little fantasy ended with what he'd like to do to him if he could sneak up underneath the cloth and fondle his holy candle and bells. What a crazy thought that was. He shook his head hard to clear it out.

The pastor welcomed everyone and told them to take their seats, and then introduced another choir number and Sylvia's solo. The song was beautiful. It was titled My Life is in Your Hands . Sylvia sang a beautiful Alto solo on the chorus. It struck Val hard when she sang in that angelic voice:

Oh
I know that I can make it
I know that I can stand
No matter what may come my way
My life is in your hands

It felt like she was singing directly to him and it made him uncomfortably nervous once again. He didn't want anyone's life to be in his hands and certainly not hers. He was way too young for that kind of drama. He reflected on the scolding he'd gotten from his mother when she warned him about Sylvia and Tyne both having experienced enough loss in their young lives. But so had he – and recently, too. He'd lost his sport and his truck and his pride and his dignity and his balance. But from the loss had come some gains too, he had to admit. But unfortunately, the gains were so complicated.

He smiled thinly back at her as she stared at him after the song ended from up on the center of the choir loft. Then the preacher tore into a rousing, but quick, sermon on the importance of having faith and keeping it even through adversity and hardship. It barely registered with Val as he was too preoccupied with his problem with Sylvia and Tyne. He had to honestly admit he had feelings for both of them. Finally, the pastor put a cork in it and announced a 'cookies and Kool-Aid' mix and mingle event on the back lawn behind the chapel. Suddenly, the rock band ripped into another swinging bluesy-gospel ballad while the ushers passed around the collection plate. Val's dad, Buford, commented loudly again as he tossed a Jackson onto the plate that it felt to him like he was buying a concert ticket rather than donating to a church. It seemed more like seeing a Rolling Stones cover band down at the local bar when all he really wanted to do was have a quiet drink. The pastor said another quick prayer of Thanksgiving and then thankfully climbed down from the dais and disappeared quietly out the back door while the choir sang an upbeat closing number about heaven in the clouds. It seemed to the Hardcastle's that this church was incredibly heavy on song and extremely light on inspiration. Val wondered what Jesus would do if he popped down from paradise for a minute to check this place out.

Sylvia made her way down out of the choir loft and caught up to the Hardcastle's climbing out of the pew and into the crowded aisle. She convinced them to go out on the back lawn so she could introduce them to some of the congregation and church elders. In reality, all she really wanted to do was show her hot boyfriend off to her church friends. Who could blame her? She grasped her choir robe on either side and pulled it upward, off over her head and Val momentarily reacted to it with shock. Then he realized her being naked underneath was just his little fantasy. She was nicely dressed in a pair of jeans and a soft beige top.

Val winced inside and tried not to show his displeasure outwardly as she introduced him to person after person as her new boyfriend. He reconciled that he was a 'boy' and he was her 'friend' and didn't bother to correct her. There was really no polite way to do so anyway. It did punctuate his growing problem over what to do about her and Tyne, though. Everyone commented on Sylvia's new look and gave Val a wide-eyed 'OMG - how did SHE get YOU' look. That unspoken, shallow attitude sort of pissed Val off. He started getting more affectionate toward Sylvia, holding her hand and smiling at her lame jokes and even giving her an occasional peck on the cheek, just to make a statement.

Over by the pergola, Mrs. Hardcastle found a woman she had served with on the PTSA board at Vi's grade school and they struck up an excited conversation, catching up on the latest dish. Completely ignored, Buford peppered the woman's husband with questions about having a rock band in a church service. Vi kept peering between her parents to see if she could spot the cute boy with the sweeping, long blond hair like Tyne's and an adorable freckled nose. He was nowhere to be seen. Then suddenly, she felt a nudge on her shoulder and turned to find the shorter version of Tyne standing there balancing two cups of Kool-Aid and a couple of flimsy paper plates filled with cookies.

"Umm, excuse me," he said. "My name's Tim. You're new here, right?"

"Yeah, it's our first time at this church," Vi said demurely. "My brother's girlfriend is in the choir."

"Oh, that's cool. Well, umm, my mom thought it would be nice if I brought you a cookie and some Kool-Aid, like as a welcome thing, you know? Would you like some? It's good. It's purple flavored." He held one of the two plates out so she could see the chocolate and vanilla cookies. Mrs. Hardcastle immediately drifted from her conversation with the school mom and smiled at the exchange going on between Vi and this cute young man. Tim was spit and polish clean in a starched, pale blue, Oxford dress shirt, blue and green striped tie and navy blue slacks. The pants hung perfectly and were professionally tailored over a pair of highly polished, expensive, black, wing tip dress shoes. Vi thought he was totally fly.

Vi had a wickedly funny thought pop into her head when he told her his name. She had to really struggle to stay composed and not giggle. "He's Tyney Tim," she thought to herself, with a muffled snort, which she covered up like a fake sneeze after he said his name. He was shorter than Vi by at least an inch, but he probably hadn't hit his growth spurt yet judging from his parents and two older brothers that he had been sitting with. They were all tall and striking, and very well dressed. Vi accepted the drink and cookie and gratefully accepted his invitation to introduce her to some of the other church youth kids that were milling about. Partly because she wanted to get to know Tyney Tim better, and partly because she wanted to get out from under her mother's big, snooping ears and potentially dangerous mouth.

Vi was happy to be quickly included into the group of younger church kids. They all seemed friendly and happy to include her into their circle. On the other side of the lawn, Val pulled Sylvia aside for a quiet chat. He was sick and tired of meeting everyone Sylvia could possibly introduce him to – she even introduced him to the church's custodian. Finally alone, he looked her hard in the eyes while she gazed dreamily back up into his big chestnut eyes, making his resolve melt. "I hate to take you away from all of your friends, but I need to talk to you about last night."

"Oh Val, I told you not to worry about it. It's fine. I love you. It was really no big deal. Well, it was big, but you know what I mean. We can do it again sometime and you won't be so nervous then," Sylvia interrupted. Then she added, "I've never been so happy since before I lost my mother. You've transformed me. You and your family together have changed my life so much. I love you and I'm so glad you all came today. I'm a very lucky girl."

Val drew in a deep breath and smiled at her. Then against his better judgment, he leaned down and kissed her. "Better go, I guess. Your song was beautiful by the way."

"Thanks. I love to sing that one. When can we get together again?"

"I don't know. Tuesday, I guess. Isn't that your night for homework or are you on for tomorrow? I forget. My head's starting to pound again. But you know, I can't wait to go back to school, headaches or not."

"Neither of us was assigned Monday's. You gave Tyne Tuesday and Thursday and I got Wednesday and Friday, but no one is doing Monday. Guess you forgot. So, I'll just go ahead and take care of it because I can't wait clear until Wednesday to see you again." She smiled, and gave Val a hard peck on the lips. Then they walked hand in hand over to Val's family and Sylvia thanked them all for coming. Afterward, they all parted for home.

Once inside his house, Val headed straight to his room to change. He was sitting on his bed in only his jeans with his ear buds plugged in and spacing out to some new tunes when his mom walked in and sat next to him. Reluctantly, he pulled the ear buds out. "What?" he asked. He was in no mood for one of her crazy interrogations.

"It looked like you and Sylvia were still a couple at the mix and mingle after service. I thought you were going to talk to her about last night and your concerns."

"Mom, I tried but she just kept dragging me around introducing me and it was like …" Val paused, then restarted. "I'm not saying this to be all braggy, all right? But it was like all those people were kind of amazed that I was with her, you know. Like I was too good for her or something and that got to me, because I'm really not good enough for her. So I just couldn't rain on her parade there. You know?"

Mrs. Hardcastle took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I get it. But it's never going to be easy to do. Eventually, you are going to have to hurt her, or Tyne. It's better sometimes just to rip the Band-Aid off quickly and get it over with. But I will agree with you that church really wasn't the place for that."

"Okay. Just let me sort it out. I promise. I'll take care of it when I know the right thing to say and the right place to do it. In the meantime, I promise not to do any sex stuff with either one of them. Right now, I have to figure out how to apologize to Tyne. I really blew it with him."

"Yes, you did."

"Will you pull the door shut when you leave, please?"

"Is that your way of telling me our conversation is over?" Val's mom asked.

"Pretty much." Val smirked.

"Sure." Val's mom kissed his cheek and left pulling the door shut behind her.

After his mom slipped out of his room, Val stripped to his boxers, snuggled deep down into his messy bed, pulled up his Kings quilt over his head and took a long nap. He tossed and turned uncomfortably and didn't really feel all that rested once he fully woke up in the late afternoon. He didn't even feel like fondling his man-bits, which he always liked to do when he first woke up – in fact, his boner wasn't even sticking out of Stewie's big mouth. The twilight, late-winter sun cast a gloomy, tangerine glow through his dirty window, making him feel even more hopeless and melancholy. His stomach ached, and he almost felt like he was going to be sick. But the urge never took over and so he stayed there wrapped up in the blankets, tight like a mummy and seemingly safe from his overwhelming problems. His mind spun like a bad car-chase phone app and for a long while he just lay on his back and glowered at the bumpy, cottage-cheese ceiling, following the faint shadows and making out imaginary shapes and images in the shadowy patterns, while trying to sort things out. Next to the shadow that resembled a turtle, one popped out at him of Tyne frowning. He rolled over and buried his face deep in his Angry Birds pillow.

He still had no idea how he was going to apologize to Tyne for ditching him and he wondered why this was so F'n difficult for him. If it was anybody else, like Nick or even his goofy sister, he wouldn't be getting all worked up over it. His mind told him that it was simple, really, just something better had come up. No big deal. So what if he made up a little white lie so he could go out with Sylvia, and maybe get some action?

But for some reason, Tyne had some kind of mystical hold on him that he just didn't quite understand, and while he had told him a lie, it wasn't white, nor was it little – at least not to him. Whatever was going on, he was sure that he couldn't go on very long without making up to Tyne. He was positive that it would drive him crazy. In the few short weeks that they had known each other, Tyne had captured a special place in his mind. Or was it his heart? He wasn't sure which. "God, what's going on with me?" he thought. "I think I'm truly in love with this dude."

He thought back to church earlier, when he was hopeful for some kind of answer or direction to his problem with Tyne and Sylvia. Unfortunately, going to church had done nothing for his psyche, and in fact, it had made him feel even worse. The pastor of the church seemed too self-absorbed to really care about the parishioners, and instead, seemed more interested in gossiping with the church ladies. He had heard somebody say once that going to church didn't make you a Christian any more than going to the garage made you a car. He wondered if maybe that wasn't true. But then, there was that faith thing, and while he didn't quite grasp all of it, he did know there was a lot more to this church and faith stuff. Plus, Val was completely annoyed at Sylvia for trotting him around out on the back lawn like a prized thoroughbred at Belmont.

As a family, they had never really gone to church all that much. They usually just attended for the usual holiday stuff at Christmas and Easter at the big old church downtown, and a few other times during the year. But when they did go, he always felt uplifted and he completely enjoyed it, taking motivation and encouragement from the old, gray-haired Pastor's comforting and encouraging words. He liked it best when the old dude went off on a wild tangent, telling an eloquent story that had meaning for today – and not some thee, thou, and whatever from a book written two-thousand years ago. That inspirational feeling stayed with him for days and he always liked to think that he was all the better for going and sharing a special sermon with his family. This time was way different, though, and instead of inspiration, all he came away with was confusion. And pain. His head was starting to really hurt, so he got up shakily, wobbled slightly across the room and dry-swallowed another pain pill. His dad was right – rock and roll didn't belong in church and Virgin Hills Redemption Church was scary. Being with Sylvia was both enjoyable and miserable. Sort of Ying and Yang. Maybe he should check out being a Buddhist, he wondered.

Val picked up his phone and scrolled to Tyne's contact line. He stared at the word, 'Mobile', and tried to will himself to push it. He wavered and he dithered. He wondered and he pondered. If he did call him, what he would say? Just saying sorry seemed so inadequate. Could he tell him that he loved him? He didn't think so. That would seem so phony and bogus. He didn't know if he should say it, even if he felt like he did. Wasn't it too soon to be saying something like that to anyone? And yet, Sylvia had said it to him when they were naked. Did he say it to her? Had he said it to Tyne? He couldn't remember. Maybe some people recognize love earlier than others, and kudos to them. But shit, true, really true love shouldn't be like that. He always felt that when he met the right person, it would be instant and immediate for both of them. And yet, he'd always read that you had to work for it. He wondered if his dad had fallen so easily for his mom as she said she'd fallen for him. The more he thought about it, he kind of did fall quickly for Sylvia, but he'd also felt instantly excited over Tyne. Neither relationship was forced or strained like with Lizzy or the other girls he'd dated. He stretched his neck from side to side to work out a kink from laying on it wrong while he contemplated whether to call and what to say.

Stretching his big arms out and waving them around the room trying to fully wake up, he was startled by his phone ringing. He thought he really needed to get a new ringtone badly because he was so over that song by Fun that had been played to death lately. It had been a fun thing to do with Tyne putting it on their phones together, but he'd grown tired of it – the ringtone, not Tyne. His friends, for the most part, had abandoned him recently, and he was afraid the caller was either Tyne or Sylvia. He just couldn't deal with either one of them right then. He didn't know what to say to Tyne and he didn't want to talk to Sylvia at all for the moment. But looking down at the display, he was surprised to see that it was Tyrell calling. He smiled and answered it.

"Hey, dude, whatsup? Long time no hear."

"I know, I know. This is a lame excuse, but that Sheena girl has me totally pussy-whipped. But I don't mind too much, she's got one helluva fine pussy to whip me with. She's got a family thing going on tonight so I caught me a break. My balls sure do need the rest, man, let me tell you! So what's up with you, bro? How you feelin'? When you coming back to us?"

"I'm good. All good. Every day a little better. Going F'n crazy though. It's so boring hanging around the house all the time. My depth perception keeps improving, so that's a good thing. I think I get to go back to school a week from tomorrow." Then Val added, "So did you just call to brag about all the fine black ass you been getting or did you have another reason?"

Tyrell laughed out loud. "Nah, man, I didn't call to brag, I don't need to do that shit! I was just thinking about my fly homey and wondered if you needed some bro time. I heard you can't drive yet, so howz 'bout I pick you up and we chill at the mall for an hour or two? Bet you'd like to get out. Evan and Carlos are gonna be there – they just texted me. Maybe some others. It's the usual end of the weekend hangout crew. We're gonna meet up at the food court at The Commons to switch it up from the mall. Besides, we heard Sunday nights are usually babe-a-licious over there from yer homey Dane who works at the Subway. He said if we came over, he'd hook us up with some 'buy one get one free' sandwiches. You down with that?"

"You're on, dude. I'm totally down to get the hell out of here and hang with my ballin' crew. Hey, I thought Carlos was still doing community service?"

"You've been outa the loop too long, bro. That girl recanted and his sentence got waived. Can you believe they still hang out together? I'd kick her fugly ass to the curb so fast her tits would pop and splatter all over the sidewalk. I can't stand peeps that lie. Know what I'm sayin'?"

"Um, yeah, I do," he said quietly, feeling guilty all over again about what he did to Tyne. "So Carlos is really dating that ho that sold him out with a lie? What's F'n wrong with him?"

"Pussy power, dude, pussy power! They fuckin' get us by the balls and your brain goes to mush. I swear, Sheena just drags me around by my boner all day long. I should just get it pierced and attach my dog's leash to it and let it hang out of my fly to make it easier for her to tug around. But then all you short white boys would be jealous."

Val laughed. "Dude, leave me off that list. You know I'm a mile bigger than you. But yeah, women definitely mess with your head, or heads, I should say. Give me fifteen and I'll be outside. Thanks bro, I appreciate you getting me outa here."

"No problem. I'm just glad you're getting back to your old self. Laterz."

Val bounced around his room, the pain pill kicking in and happy to be going out and meeting up with the guys from his team. It would give him some much needed distraction from all of the crunk he was dealing with. Maybe this was just what he needed – straight bro time.


On the other side of town, Tyne was rocking restlessly back and forth in his creaky faux-leather computer chair, pounding his keyboard and surfing around on the net. He wasn't really finding anything that interested him all that much and he was starting to go barmy, like his e-mail friend from down under always said. Even his favorite sites like Nifty and IOMFATS and Ponyboysplace weren't doing much for him this late in the afternoon, even though there were some really good stories there. He checked out a new site called Saberpeak he'd heard about from some Facebook friend. Sometimes it took him a few tries to wade through the muck to find a story he really liked, and usually he found something that hit close to home or made him super horny and happy. He needed to escape into a fantasy and leave his fucked up, lonely life behind. But not today. He realized he'd been reading the same damn paragraph for ten minutes without comprehending any of it and just clicked the red X. No, today, he was fucked, totally fucked and not in a good way.

He had gotten over being pissed at Val after Noah took him home once he'd delivered his famous chicken soup to Val's front door and gotten the Sylvia nuclear bomb dropped on his head. Val's mom was totally clueless at covering up for her son. And Val's creepy little sister, Vi, kept winking at him, and sticking out her little boob-ettes, making him totally uncomfortable and grossed-out. Yuck and double-yuck! He wondered what her deal was, because she seemed really strange and not like Val at all. What the fuck was up with her anyway? They didn't even look the same, now that he thought about it. Even though the anger and borderline hatred was passed, he still didn't want anything more to do with Val or any of the other Hardcastle's.

Tyne reflected on how once they were alone and safely inside Tyne's house with the lights all on, Noah had royally ripped into him big time about falling for a straight boy. He really, really, busted his chops, like pulled-pork about to be shredded into a killer sandwich at the greasy-spoon diner on Main Street. At first he was really pissed and angry at him, but after almost 20 minutes of Noah's non-stop histrionic verbal assault, bordering on an Academy Award worthy performance, Tyne had to keep himself from busting out and laughing his ass off at his BFF.

Tyne loved him so much, just like he knew how much Noah loved him, so he just couldn't be pissed any longer. He never could stay mad at Noah for more than a minute. Anybody who would stand there in his living room, waving his arms around and screaming obscenities into the air in his best friend's hour of need, well, it just worked and finally wore him down. He knew that, without a doubt, he and Noah would always be there for each other. Forever and ever, even when their lives took them different places. They just seemed to be soul-mates. He pictured them 90 years in the future in some crazy, computer-generated, modern town-house sitting in robotic wheelchairs while they overlooked Central Park from the 318 th floor, reminiscing over the shit they were going through right then as bewildered teens. With husbands or not, they'd be best friends forever.

Tyne stopped thinking about the previous night at the Hardcastle's and started to think about Noah's advice. Noah wanted – no – Noah demanded that Tyne drop Val "like a used condom in the toilet and get it going on with the copper-haired, yummy-boy Dane", to use his exact words. Tyne feared that he had drug his feet with Dane far too long and that it was probably too late, and the cute point guard wouldn't be interested in him any longer. Tyne felt resigned to spend the rest of his high school days alone, without a boyfriend. He started down the same self-pity path from the night before, but then Noah got in his skull again. His words from last night slapped him upside the head. "Stop it right now, Tyne," Noah had said while wagging his finger at him. "You are not worthless or unlovable. You are very, very special. Your dad didn't abandon you, he died and he loved you. Your mother is struggling herself but she loves you more than you realize. And god dammit, you better know that I love you. You are NOT alone. I will always be there for you. I swear."

His mind said that was all okay and good, but his heart pined for a hard male body to go to the prom with. And his dick, well, it pointed to all the hot jocks at school. But going to the prom? With another guy? Like that would really happen. But anyway, a boy could dream, right? Maybe there was something to what Ms. Harris was trying to accomplish in her Contemporary Lifestyles class. Tyne wondered if someday in the future there could be enough tolerance for boys like himself and Noah to live free of the prejudices that abounded them in high school. Would it ever be acceptable to go to a prom with a same gender person? It was allowed already, of course, because it wasn't required to have a date and any combination of guys and girls could attend together. But the social stigma was always there and the fear of retaliation was very real. Tyne was fading into another dark funk when he thought he heard a car in the driveway. He checked the time but it was too early in the afternoon for his mom to be home. He listened carefully but when he didn't hear anything more, he dismissed it.

His phone chirped that insidious Fun song and he was going to just ignore it, but for some reason he reached over and looked at the display. Surprised at who it was from, he read the text message from Dane. "I no u arnt interest in me but pls pls give me anothur chance :-(. I really like you :-). Lot's & Lot's. Let's grab dinner and just talk. No prssur. Pls? Im not a bad guy. I get off Subway at six. Come over & cme!!!"

Tyne let out a sigh, half of relief and half or despair. It amused him that even Dane's text messages were wordy. Finally, the swirling images in his head solidified and he yelled out into the empty house, "Fuck you, Val! If you don't want me then you can go suck yourself! Your loss!" He squeezed the phone and texted back to Dane, "Yeah, I would like to. I DO like u, just wanna go slow, K? But, I got no wheels. Another time???"

Tyne waited for a reply, but none came. His heart sank, and as fast as his spirits had lifted, they crashed down again all around his feet. Suddenly, there was a knock on the front door. Tyne stuffed his limp dick back into his jeans and pulled himself together. The internet sex story thing hadn't worked out and the little guy had lost interest in the whole self-pity muck Tyne had been wallowing in. Tyne trouped through the quiet house and opened the door to find Noah standing on the porch in his new black Utilikilt that he had wanted for so long. It was an interesting sight to behold, because the kilt, paired with his old black Doc Martens, actually made him look rather butch. Tyne could only roll his eyes and shake his head. "Was I expecting you?"

"No. Spur of the minute emergency. I need your consulting advice. Nicolito and I have agreed to exchange gifts to show our commitment to each other. We're getting gold chains and we're exchanging at school tomorrow. I need your help to pick one out. It has to be delicate and rugged at the same time to fit his personality. Throw some shoes on and let's head out. I want to go to The Commons to get it. While we're there, we can swing by and let King know the car wash is off."

Tyne flashed with a sudden burst of annoyed anger. "Who says it's off? Just because Val chose Sylvia over me doesn't mean I don't still care about him and want to help him out. Besides, I'm responsible for him rolling his truck. The car wash is NOT off. Got it?"

"Okay, chill, baby. It's not off." Noah bobbed his head back and forth and waved his hands around.

It took only a nanosecond after Noah's little retraction to get Dane's reply on Tyne's phone: "AWESOME!!! Cant wait 2CU! Maybe u cud get a ride from Noah or Nick!! Cum over 2nite pls pls pls."

Tyne had to laugh. He eyed Noah suspiciously and asked, "Did you put him up to this?" Tyne held the text out for Noah to see.

"Who me?" Noah feigned denial, "Just coinkidinky, that's all." He smiled.

"This is why I love you – and hate you." Noah was a sweetheart, but sometimes he could just kill him and what a cutie Dane was, even though he wasn't sure he was up for it. But, this other hot jock had the hot's for him just like Noah tried to tell him, and the best part was that unlike Val, he knew exactly what his sexuality was all about and he didn't make any bones about it. Well, maybe bones wasn't the correct word, since Tyne hoped Dane did get some bones over him. His spirits were instantly uplifted. His mind slipped, and he wondered what Dane's bones looked like. He pulled Noah in and hugged him, hugged him hard, and trotted to his room, stripped off his clothes, threw them into the laundry basket in the corner and ran down the hall naked into the bathroom for a quick shower. Once he got out, he took special interest in drying and styling his long blond locks into a perfect swirling mess. He thought twice about using Noah's womany pheromone spray that he'd given him, and instead put on a quick spritz of his favorite, Fierce. A real gay boy wouldn't be attracted to a woman's scent. Tyne's little mijo between his legs pudged up a bit.

Taking a second to text his mom at the hospital that he was going out for a couple of hours, he headed out the front door following Noah and they headed to The Commons. Tyne and Noah actually did do a little shopping and Noah picked out a nice gold chain from the jewelry counter in Nordstrom's for his lover boy. Tyne had to veto three or four before Noah settled on a simple Cuban link, twenty-eight incher. To Tyne's astonishment, Noah, who was usually tighter than a Jewish cantor boy in Alaska, shelled out three Jacksons for it. Then they headed over to Subway to find Dane, who would be getting off work in a few minutes.


Over at The Commons' tiny food court, located deep in the quaint, multi-story Spanish building's bowels next to the tired old Macy's that nobody would be caught dead shopping at, Val was shifting restlessly at a big table with Tyrell, Evan, Carlos and Matt, all guys on his basketball team. They were alternating between watching the hot girls giggle at them and observing the haughty rich MILF's and even richer GILF's on insanely high, spiky heels and tight-assed jeans stroll by while the boys shoved pizza and wings into their gaping pie-holes. Occasionally, they'd spy some unfortunate geeks headed into the nerdist colony across the concourse called the Dragon's Lair, where you could actually still get into a game of Dungeons and Dragons in the back room. Those kids became perfect fodder for abuse and derision by the table full of jocks. The funny thing was, these geeks were probably going to be next year's zillionaires, while the jocks would all end up working at Burger King. Val found he'd lost interest in all the people watching sports. It all just seemed so trite, rude and unkind instead of funny like it used to be. Tyne had cured him of that kind of attitude about other people.

The conversation had been so easy and free-flowing when they all had first met up, but as the night wore on it became super-strained and awkward. Val scrunched up his Subway trash and walked it over to the trash bin and stuffed it in. At least this mall cleaned out the garbage every half-hour, he noticed. It was always overflowing at the Hartsdale Mall food court and that bothered Val a lot. He hated germy stuff. He walked over to the Subway counter and got a refill on his Diet Coke from Dane, who looked surprisingly relaxed. "You about to get off? I need a real human like yourself to talk to. The troglodytes are getting boring."

Dane laughed and leaned over the counter, "I didn't know you had such a vast vocabulary. Yeah, about that. I'm actually not going to come hang with you guys after all. I'm meeting up with someone else."

"Oh, you serious? Damn. Someone special? It's not that I almost crushed your wrist when I pulled you off of Nick in the locker room is it?" Val inquired as he sipped the Diet Coke.

"No. Not that. I can hold my own. I'm trying to forget that whole thing ever happened. But I think it might be someone special who I'm meeting with instead of hangin' with you guys. I'm hoping, at least," Dane said with a toothy grin.

"Good for you. She's a lucky girl. Tell her I said so." Val turned to head back to the Flintstone's table that was basically silent, save for a bunch of burps and a couple of farts. Val thought to himself how simple that had been for Dane to cancel his plans with the guys for a better offer. It was totally no big deal, and he was a bit annoyed that it had become such a big ordeal when he had basically done the same thing with Tyne.

Tyrell tried to pick up the slack once Val sat down, but it was obvious that the easy banter just wasn't there anymore between Val and all of the other guys. Val figured he was just out of the loop for too long, or they were secretly pissed at him for not being at practice and thereby ruining their chances in the playoffs. Or maybe some of the guys still thought he was actually gay. If that was the case, they could all go and F themselves, he thought.

So after a while, he stopped following the conversation and instead started thinking again about his way overdue apology for Tyne. He still had no idea what he was going to say, or where and when he'd say it. He wasn't surprised that Tyne hadn't even called him today. After all, it was all on Val to make the call and he hadn't found the words or the courage yet. His little 'straight bro' outing was turning into a 'straight bore' outing and he missed his new group of friends. They laughed easily and talked about real things that mattered like politics and science and the national debt … and sometimes, quietly, sex. In just the last week, not only had Tyne and Sylvia helped him with his homework and get him more excited about learning, he'd helped Tyne and Noah script, film, direct and edit a short film documentary about American's lack of fitness for their Video Arts class. Noah almost creamed his pants filming Val doing bench presses on his garage weight set wearing only a tank and shorts. Val also assisted Sylvia in making posters for her presentation on nuclear fission on one of her visits. He'd started learning math and science and history like never before with both Tyne and Sylvia's amazing tutoring and all that was at risk now.

He not only felt bad over all of it, but he knew he would miss the cute little dude with the fly hair and sparkling eyes most of all. He was so fun to talk with and so easy to be around. He left Val feeling good about himself and about life in general.

A couple of times, he thought he'd seen Tyne down the concourse a ways with what looked like Noah in a dress with him, but when he took another hard look around, he didn't see him again. He just thought his mind was shitting on him once more, or maybe the guilt was really hammering away at him, hard now. He worried that maybe his brain was swelling again and that thought scared him. He had to fix this boy/girl problem – and F'n soon.

He was picking at the Sea Salt chips and lazily pulling on his Diet Coke while listening absently to Evan as he blathered out some lame story about this freshman girl in his homeroom class who dyed her hair magenta one too many times and now it was falling out in big patches. When he zoned out of the story, he looked up for a minute and saw a couple of guys taking seats at an empty table way on the other side of the food court. This time he knew he wasn't imagining it, because he was positive one of the guys was Tyne. He could tell by the beautiful and sexy blond hair, and just for a second, he caught a glimpse of those awesomely gorgeous azure blue-green eyes. A third unmistakable figure was Noah standing by the table and speaking in his animated way, flipping his hands all about, with his cell phone in one of them and a package in the other. Amazingly, even for Noah, he was actually wearing some kind of weird skirt! Val just stared in utter disbelief.

The bile quickly rose in the back of his throat in a putrid rush when he realized that the other guy he was seated with was Dane. "Why the F would Tyne be with Dane?" he wondered. "Dane's not gay. Or is he?" He felt like he was about to go out of his mind and melt down right there in the mall's food court. Dane's words about meeting someone special at the counter earlier slapped Val hard in the face. At the very least, he was sure that he was going to puke all over the table any second now.

"Hey! Isn't that Dane over there?" Matt asked loudly, jolting Val out of his funk. "Why isn't he sitting over here with us? Is he embarrassed to be with us? And who are those guys he's with? Or is … what the fuck is that next to them? A guy or a fugly girl? "

"I don't know. I can't really see them from here," Carlos said. "Maybe it's a couple of co-workers. You know, his sister just had that big litter so she probably can't work in the Subway anymore. Maybe he's helping interview more helpers. Tyrell, you should apply. You need some bank to keep up your condom habit. You must run through them like candy, or do you recycle?"

"Stuff it, asshole. You're just jealous. But, yeah, I do recycle. Need to borrow a couple for you and your boyfriend?"

"NO fucking way, Dude. Gross. I'm not gay, and I'm not jealous of you being all pussy whipped either."

"Hey, Val? Isn't that your friend, Tyne, he's with? The one got naked on the mountain with and you came to the Val 'n Tyne dance with and his freakish little friend?" Evan asked, sarcastically. "I think he's two-timing you, dude."

"Shut the F up. It doesn't look like him. Besides, why would he be here with Dane of all people?" Inside, Val was seething. He liked Dane, but if Tyne was pulling some kind of stunt to get even with him, well.... "Besides, I don't own him. He can do whatever the F he wants, if that's even really him." That last part sounded sick and came out wrong, so he quickly added, "And you know, we're just classmates. Just doing that stupid assignment in Creative Lifestyles class."

"Well, I like Dane, and that kid Tyne seems like a good guy, too. I used to give him and that Noah kid shit in junior high and I've never apologized for it. He and his faggy friend sure were fun at the dance. I'm gonna go over and tell them to hang with us," Tyrell said, and before Val could tell him not to go, he was up and out of his seat and walking across the food court.

On the other side of the food court, Tyne and Dane had just settled into their seats and were beginning to dig into their Kung Pao Chicken. Noah was excusing himself on some pretense that he had to go home and was leaving Tyne stranded with Dane for a ride home. Not that Tyne really minded all that much. They were having a good time together and were talking about the different songs that they liked, pretty much ignoring Noah. Dane was raving over a band called Slightly Stoopid, while Tyne was commenting on an obscure 80's performance artist his dad liked named Laurie Anderson. He was trying to tell him about her song called Let X=X, but Dane just didn't get it. He'd have to play it for him sometime.

"Hey, boyz, whassup?" Tyrell said, interrupting the two teens as he slid smoothly into an empty chair across from Tyne and Dane.

"Hey, Ty. How's it going?" Dane said, unfazed to see his hunky black and super-straight classmate. "You guys enjoy the subs?" He didn't act the least bit uncomfortable being seated next to Tyne with Tyrell there. Tyne, on the other hand, could only squeak out a shy and quiet, "Hi," completely freaked out. Noah, being his curious self, put off his escape, just stood there silently and waved at Tyrell. Tyrell looked Noah up and down and just nodded back.

Tyne didn't really know Tyrell all that well, other than that he was on Val's basketball team and that he had heard that he and his brother had a thing for all of the hot, black chicks in school, sometimes double teaming them. And he remembered, back in the day, that Tyrell bullied all of the wimpy kids like Noah and himself calling the two of them Pinky and the Brain. He had avoided him mostly in high school and from what he could tell now, he wasn't much of a bully. But Tyne had to admit, he was a sizzling hot and sexy stud, in a one-nighter kind of way. Not that he'd do him, actually. He still wanted romance, after all. But he could still look, right? Eye candy is eye candy, and Tyne definitely had an eye for the hard bodies. Hot, athletic studs was his gay porn of choice when he did his fantasy surfing at nights in his room.

"Watcha doin'? On a date?" Tyrell asked, meaning to be funny and looking all around the mostly empty, but spotless, food court and then back at Dane.

"Yeah, as a matter of fact, we are. We're having a three way later in fact. Is that a problem for you?" Dane replied curtly and with just enough vague inflection to make it impossible to tell if he was serious or being sarcastic. Tyne almost gagged on the chunk of slimy, fat laden, genetically-engineered chicken going down his gullet at the time. Noah just giggled.

Taken aback, Tyrell could only say, "Um, no, not really. Whoa, dude, not a big deal. I'm cool with whateva, you know me?" He was totally surprised this jock he'd known for so long was acting kind of gay all of a sudden. He never saw any signs of it. Not that it mattered all that much to him. He really was a live and let live kind of guy nowadays. He stared at Dane for a while and tried to decide if he was serious or not. It was odd he was hanging out with Noah and Tyne instead of the ballin' crew. He thought about how Nick took a pic of him whacking the bishop in the locker room bathroom. That was like the only thing he could even remotely think about that was any sign of gayness and that wasn't really that gay. Before Sheena, he'd pulled one off in there himself a few times. Whatever, he decided. To each his own. Tyrell leaned back in the yellow plastic, swivel chair and smiled.

"Good then. So what's up?" Dane asked, shoveling another bite of Chinese mystery meat between those luscious ruby-red lips.

"Um, not much. All the guys from the team are talking about going to Wetzel's for a cinnamon sugar pretzel. Wanna join us? You too, Tyne." Noah cleared his throat and Tyrell quickly added, "Umm, yeah I guess you could come too. Is that a dress you're wearing?"

"No. It's a Utilikilt. They're great. Even big tough guys like you wear them. It's the rage."

"Mmm, don't think so." Tyrell turned his attention to Dane and quickly sized up Dane's sincere attitude toward Tyne. Then he observed Tyne's nervousness over his intrusive presence at the table. After putting two and two together, and getting sixty-nine, he warmed up to the idea of the hot point guard and the class geek. It was obvious that Noah was the odd man … no, make that the odd … whatever out. They seemed to make a good enough couple. It confirmed to Tyrell that Val must not be all that gay after all. Things were getting weirder and weirder with the Hartsdale Ballers.

"Maybe later. We want to finish eating first," Dane said.

"How's Val feeling?" asked Tyne. He just couldn't help himself.

"He's all good. No worries," Tyrell answered, non-committedly.

"Great," Tyne said, shoveling in another sporkful of chicken so Dane wouldn't freak on him. "What a fucking mess," he thought. Then added in his head, "Val, Dane – Dane, Val. What the fuck am I going to do?"

His question was quickly shortened, sort of, when Val showed up at their table, standing shyly behind Tyrell slightly. "Hey Dane; hey Tyne; hey Noah. Tyne, can we go outside for a minute and talk? Something has been bugging me and I need to talk to you about it."

"Can't it wait? I'm kinda busy right now," Tyne said, taking another bite of food and avoiding eye contact. "I'm with my friends."

"It'll only take a minute. I just want to ask you something about a… school thing," he lied. He wondered why he just kept digging this hole even deeper. "Please, just for a second." He didn't give Tyne a chance to respond and instead walked off towards the triple set of automatic doors heading outside.

Tyne didn't have much of a chance, so he turned his head around to Dane, let out a sigh, and said, "I'll be right back. Don't let Tyrell eat my food." Noah took Tyne's arm as he stood and gave him a glare that communicated, "Don't you dare screw this up."

"No worries, dude," Dane said. "But if you're not back in two minutes, I'm gonna come out there and get you." Dane flashed that killer smile again. Tyne could see that even though he was smiling, he was completely serious. That made Tyne happy and so he quickly pulled free of Noah's grasp, eager to get this over with. "Okay, be right back," he said over his shoulder, with a quick smile. Then he followed Val outside.

When he got there, Val was sitting on a low wall of a big planter in the middle of a patio type area, staring at him. He had a strained look on his face and Tyne couldn't help but feel bad for the big guy. Even though he was still partially mad at him for lying the night before, he felt pained to see Val looking so miserable. He just knew, somehow, that Val was really hurting. "Hey, Val. You all right?"

"No, not really. My life is so F'd up right now," he said, letting out a long sigh. "Listen, about last night…"

"Val, I'm so over it. I was really mad at you at first, but I'm over it. I'm at fault too for playing along and pretending like we.... Just forget it," Tyne said, hopping up on the wall, but not real close. "It's not a big deal…"

"Yes it is. I lied to you so I could go out with Sylvia. That was wrong and I'm sor…"

"Well look at all the pretty FAGGOTS sitting on the wall," a voice shouted from over in the shadows, but walking quickly towards them. Neither Val nor Tyne had heard anybody approaching up behind them. "Humpy and Dumpy gonna have a great fall." He laughed sarcastically adding, "Don't Val and Tyne look pretty? You should be on a fucking Hallmark card."

"You know these two?" another male voice said. "I thought you said we were going gay bashing. How the hell do you know them?"

"Yeah, I know them real well," the first one said, coming out of the shadows completely now and standing about 15 feet away, but out of the direct overhead light. He slurred his speech slightly from obvious intoxication. "The pretty boy over here is the one I told you about, turning all the guys at school queer. The big one was first in line, drooling to get hims some hard dick. He's the fucker that gots me kicked off the team." To Tyne and Val's further shock, Lizzy brazenly stepped out of the shadows along with the other guy they didn't know. Then she slipped her arm through Lukas's.

"Shut up, Lukas, don't start something here," Val said, "I'm warning you!"

"What are you gonna do, faggot? Kisses me to death?" Lukas said, sounding even more drunk than before.

"Don't give him a chance, Lukas. He'll fuck you up the butt right here," Lizzy said, spinning all around the group.

"C'mon Val, let's go inside. We don't need a fight," Tyne said, standing up and trying to avoid a bad scene. He wasn't so scared of fighting as he was about Val getting hurt again. "Let's just go."

"They sure are a couple of pussies, that's for sure," Lukas's friend said. He had a big mouth, but Tyne could sense he didn't really want to fight someone Val's size. He was sure they were underestimating him, though. That was good because his training and past bullying experience was telling him to be ready for something bad from Lukas.

And that's just what happened.

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