The Circle Squared - Book One: Squaring the Circle

by Smokr

Chapter 8

"Lonely People"

Sunday

I slowly slid into consciousness. I was first aware of the sunlight shining in through the window. Then I was aware that I was alone in the bed. I wasn't worried, though. I was sure that Jeff hadn't gone home in an embarrassed, worried funk, afraid of what he had done, of what he was.

I smiled.

Last night had been wonderful! Again and again we had toyed and teased, coming close but not ending. We'd spent long minutes laying facing each other in silence, grinning, kissing from time to time, just touching. We'd changed positions many times and had spooned for a while.

Again and again I'd found myself wrapped up in Jeff's arms, my head on his chest. It felt comfortable enough, and I liked it, but I tried to end up with him in my arms. I liked that more, it felt more natural, or more desirable. But Jeff would end up cradling me instead. More than once we had struggled for position, but I had relented and ended up being held instead of doing the holding.

With Toby I had been as flexible as he was. There had been no concerns about who held whom. That didn't seem to matter in the short times we had together. Now, with Jeff, it was becoming a concern.

Does it matter? I wondered.

Suddenly I had to use the bathroom, so I rolled over and sat up. The El Farol two-pound burrito was demanding exit.

Jeff was playing the Atari with the headphones on. I looked at the clock and saw that it was after eleven. I crawled to the end of the bed and pulled one side of the headphones off.

"Why didn't you wake me up?"

"Why?" he asked with a shrug.

Why? So we could do it some more, you idiot, I thought.

I sighed and let the headphone cup slap against the side of his head. I got up and used the bathroom. I needed a shower badly, and took one as quickly as I could manage. I'd been in the same sweats since Friday, and hadn't brought anything clean in with me. After toweling off as well as I could manage to without becoming totally winded, I wrapped the towel around myself and walked back into my bedroom. I wasn't sure about changing clothes in front of Jeff. I'd done so many times in front of Tom, but never Jeff. It felt awkward, and odd. He didn't turn from the Atari, so I managed to change without him noticing.

I pulled the headphone jack from the stereo just as Greg Kihn began singing about the "Jeopardy" his love was in.

I ended up singing along with Jeff. Before it ended we were enjoying ourselves immensely. Jeff kept motioning me to sing louder, but I was still a bit short of breath, and the urge to cough was easily triggered by singing loudly. I did give a little more volume to the song, and found that it gave my rough voice an edge that almost seemed to fit the song.

"I Want Candy" began, and my surprised and embarrassed grin tipped off Jeff.

"What is it?" he asked in that way he used when he knew was going to have to work to get something out of me that I wasn't going to give away easily. "That's twice this song's made you act weird."

I recognized his tone, and I knew what it meant. I considered my options, and having just had a very good time, grinned wider and with a bit of a leer. Judging by Jeff's change of grin, I knew he was reading me well.

I'd extracted a promise of silence from Tom earlier in the week, when he caught me singing my version of the song, and I'd meant it. But now I was willing to expose that secret. "I Want Candy" came from the stereo, but "I want Jeffey" came from me. I didn't try to sing as high as the singer, that being impossible even before the fire, but instead went low with it. Jeff started to sing along with me at first, but once he heard my change of lyrics, he more listened than sang as he blushed furiously and gave me his wonderful, pleasantly stunned half-grin. I found that adorable.

As soon as the song ended, he kissed me. I returned his efforts, and we found ourselves entwined and growing heated. We had less than an hour before Tom was due, and we knew it. We rushed. We tore each others clothes off and dove right into a sixty-nine that lasted only a few minutes. We attacked each other, sucking and licking furiously, bringing each other to a nearly simultaneous conclusion that left us both breathless and sighing.

We dressed hurriedly, and then sat watching a bad Saturday morning monster movie, waiting for Tom to arrive. We were sitting on the beanbags at the foot of my bed, side by side, shoulders touching, sometimes grinning at each other. But as noon neared, he slowly shifted away from me and stopped grinning as much.

I noticed his mood change as if it were a physical change I could observe and measure. I felt it. By noon he was leaning toward the far edge of his beanbag, as far from me as he could be. I felt like pulling him over to me and laying his head on my lap, brushing his beautiful blond hair and soothing his worries away. But I knew it would not only not help him any, it would only increase his tension, and mostly likely force him further away from me, physically, emotionally, and even psychologically.

Instead, I kept him talking about anything I could think of that would make him laugh, or at least feel connected to me. I rolled several joints and smoked one with him before Tom was to arrive. He relaxed a bit at first, but that didn't last long.

By twelve-thirty he was almost rocking himself, holding his hands in his lap and seeming intent on picking at a cuticle. I made jokes about the bad Sherlock Holmes movie, to which he would grin or smile a bit, but immediately return to his quiet inspection of his hands.

The joy of the morning was being burned away by him. Or by his change in attitude, or mood, or whatever it was. In less than an hour we had gone from blissful, silent closeness to an uncomfortable, silent distance.

"Hey, Eyegore, what's up?" I asked softly, wanting to touch him, reach out and put a hand on his shoulder, or both arms around him and draw him tightly to me.

He didn't look up, just shrugged.

That shrug caused a wave of anger to rip through me. It came from nowhere, but now it was in complete control of me.

"What the fuck is the problem?" burst out of me before I had any chance to stop it.

He seemed startled; I know I was. He shrugged.

It was suddenly as if I had been trained to grow angrier every time that Jeff shrugged; like some bizarre Pavlov experiment.

I tried to quell the anger even as it rose up further. I saw it, I didn't want it, but it came on anyway. The cage had been left open, and anger prowled out, hungry for prey.

Why the hell am I so mad at him? Why the hell is he acting so weird? That's the problem, not me being mad, him being an asshole suddenly. Why?

"It's ... just ..." he shrugged again. "He's gonna know," he said as if it were some horrible thing, his brow deeply furrowed.

His reasoning only angered me more. I saw no reason to feel anything but joy that Tom knew about us. We didn't have to hide anything from him, or any of the other guys. They knew, they didn't care, it didn't bother them. So why did it bother Jeff?

As if timed, Tom's cheerful "Heya dudes," as he came to the top of the stairs interrupted my thoughts. One thing his arrival didn't distract me from was Jeff's odd glance at me and his body language. As he drew his legs up and crossed his arms over them, I had my answer. His almost normal, "Hey, Tom," seemed nonchalant, but I heard the stress in it. I also noticed he threw Tom one of his small, forced smiles, then glanced guiltily at me before seeming to be interested in the movie for the first time in nearly an hour.

He wants to be so in charge, but he's a huge pussy, I thought with disgust. Then a sudden revelation washed through and over me; it was nearly a physical sensation.

He wants to be in charge, but I can't respect that in him when he can't stand up for what we are to each other! He wants to be the one holding and taking care of me, but he can't even face Tom about us. He won't even let me fuck him because he thinks he'll lose some kind of standing or power to me. He wants all the power, kind of, but he's too chicken-shit to even deal with Tom or the Circle guys knowing about us. He wants me to look up to him and be protected by him, but he can't even stand up for himself.

I fought it, but the anger became a beast out of control.

"Oh, fuck," I said softly in disgust. "Fuck," louder in disbelief at my new-found knowledge.

"What?" Tom asked innocently.

I held my tongue and watched Jeff curl tighter into himself. I grew even angrier. The beast grew claws and fangs.

"Fuck it. I mean, if it's like that, why the fuck are you even still here?"

I was staring at Jeff, so Tom knew I wasn't talking to him, but he still stopped dead in his tracks, his coat half off; he didn't say a thing, probably trying to figure out what he had walked into.

"Don't make it worse," Jeff said softly, almost shyly, like a child's hope.

I saw that I should relent and let it go, if only to make Jeff happy, but I had no chance of doing that. The anger was in charge, and hungry.

"Worse? You're acting like you got caught killing kittens, and you think I can make it worse?"

He grimaced and shrunk a bit more into himself. He wanted to be in charge, wanted to be strong and outgoing, but he was a sissy when it came to facing himself. I was disgusted.

I fought so I could have him, all or nothin', but I can only get him partly, and now he's making it so I don't even want the part I do get to have. Fuck. Fuck!

Suddenly I didn't even want the partial relationship he was allowing.

"Fuck it. You feel so bad about it, fucking leave."

I didn't want him to leave, but I'd said it. I didn't want to be mad at him, but I was. More than just angry; disgusted. Disappointed.

I grabbed my wallet and dropped my twenty dollar bill onto the floor at his feet.

"Cab costs twelve bucks. You can wait for it out front. Don't even let my folks see you. I don't want no questions to have to answer to them at all. Just fucking go."

I had the cab company's number on a piece of paper that mom had given me in case they didn't show up on Friday to take me to the doctor's office. I picked up the phone and called. When I hung up, Jeff was gone.

"What the hell was that about?" Tom predictably asked.

I shrugged and then laughed at myself for doing so. It wasn't a good laugh, and judging by Tom's reaction, he didn't find it humorous at all.

"His problem, not mine. And I don't wanna deal with it. So fuck it," I snapped, walking to the beanbags and furiously snatching up the joint.

I hit it three times before I passed it to Tom. We silently smoked it, Tom obviously waiting for me to start talking. When the joint was done and I started watching the next bad horror movie in silence, Tom sighed, shrugged, and sat watching in silence with me.

More than once I caught him glancing at me out of the corner of his eye through the corner of my own eye. I ignored it. "The Beast With A Thousand Eyes" finally ended. There was nothing on television for hours, so I turned it off without a word. Tom was as aware as I was that there was nothing to watch, so he pulled the Atari toward the beanbags and asked what game I felt like playing.

"The one where Jeff can deal," I said bitterly.

"He'd'a mellowed out in a few," Tom offered.

I shot him an angry glance. He narrowed a single eye at me.

It was such a small gesture, a tiny change of expression, yet it performed such a large change on my mood. I tried not to grin, and succeeded for the most part, but Tom saw through my attempts.

"Christ, Tom," I said as I swayed my head on my shoulders, rolling my eyes.

"What?" he asked too innocently.

"One fucking look and you change my whole fucking mood."

He snickered.

"Wasn't much of a mood, then, huh?"

"The fuck it wasn't, man. And you give me one evil eye and I almost crack up."

He shrugged exaggeratedly, comically.

"Wish it was always that easy."

"Like you have to try very often."

His expression told me that he felt that he did have to quite often.

"Yeah, too often, huh?"

"Seems like it sometimes. You've been havin' hell lately. In tons of ways. Surprised you can even smile anytime at all anymore."

"Easy with you, dude," I said, admitting to more than I wanted to.

I'd long ago lost track of how many times Tom had deliberately cheered me up. Even the unintended times had become too numerous to remember them all. At times it seemed as if my ability to laugh or even feel happy relied heavily on Tom. Again and again.

The desire - need - to hug him swelled up. I pushed it down. I put the conversation back on the old track.

"I just never thought he'd be so worried about someone we know, knowing we was ... together."

"Maybe. I didn't see Jeff was all that bad. He looked okay, little nervous. Like he always is when he's around you."

"Around me?" I asked, stunned.

"Yeah. Always. Almost. Forgets sometimes, gets better after a little while. But a lot of the times, yeah. He'll be fine, then you'll arrive or show up, and he's all nervous, kinda."

"Dude, he's not nervous except when someone else is around. Before-" I stopped, remembering how good it had been with just the two of us. It hurt, that dichotomy of his about me. "He was cool before you got here. Right before noon he started getting, all ..."

"Paranoid?"

"Yeah! And nervous. And worried. Sitting away from me. Not talking. Not laughing. Quiet. He was hugging his knees and all fetal and shit when you got here. You saw!"

"That's why you were so pissed? I mean, you looked like ya wanted ta kill him."

I sighed, somehow releasing the remaining anger.

"I was. So mad. We was so, it was ... so, cool, before he started worrying about you coming over."

I knew the second that I said it that I shouldn't have, that I should have phrased it differently.

I looked at Tom and saw the effect on him. He didn't try to hide it, either.

"Man, I didn't mean that. You're welcome over all the time. If he can't deal, so what. I'd rather have you over here than him if he can't deal with it. Honest."

He didn't fully believe me, but he did nod and give me a smile.

"He wants to be all in charge all the time anymore, but he's a wimp about ... us." I sighed. "I really don't wanna talk about it, okay? Let's just have a good time. I need that more than some talk about Jeff's hangups. Okay?"

He grinned and nodded. The Atari came on until mom called that dinner was ready. She had already asked if Tom wanted to eat with us, to which we had simultaneously replied yes.

Dinner went by without any questions about Jeff. He was expected to have left to have dinner with his mom and brother on Sunday nights anyway. As soon as dinner was done, mom started in. I threw Tom the look that meant I would join him upstairs later, so he vacated the first floor.

"And don't forget the doctor's Friday. I already called the school and made sure they know that you will miss those last classes. And the cab company is sending a cab at one o'clock sharp. Don't miss it. You still have that number I gave you in case they mess up?"

"Good grief! I'm sixteen, you don't have to remind me of everything!" I said a bit too angrily. "And yes I still got it."

"Sure she does. She's your mom," dad said with a warning in his voice.

"Don't forget the inhaler when you need it," she reminded.

I was not going to tell her that I had found out that pot worked far better to clear my esophagus than the inhaler ever did, so I nodded.

She changed the bandages and handed me the evening pills. She asked why I didn't take the anxiety medication, and I reminded her that I didn't feel that I needed them. She didn't seem to mind that I wasn't taking the sleeping pill regularly.

"Am I done?"

I was released. Back upstairs, Tom had rolled a joint and was reading the Player's Manual chapter on outdoor adventures. He nodded upward slightly and lit the joint as I walked in.

"Figured you want another after the parental besiegement ," he said before he inhaled deeply.

"You figured right," I said, taking the joint.

We smoked it mostly in silence, my thoughts roaming the ether, mostly concerning Jeff. Until Tom looked at me with curiosity.

"What?" I asked, put off.

"I can tell something's on your mind. So what is it?" He crossed his arms, staring at me. "Well?"

"Well, it's just, well, shit. I mean, what's the big deal? So, you know."

"You mean it bothers you that much that he's embarrassed that I know?"

I didn't know why, but it was an excruciatingly difficult question. I understood, maybe, why it would bother Jeff if someone else knew, but never why he had a problem with Tom, or even the rest of the Circle guys, knowing.

"Well, more like, I don't know, like, it shouldn't bother him so much, I guess."

"What?" he asked, surprised. "That I said that the Vaseline was under the head of the bed?"

I laughed shortly and blushed at the memory. I knew then that he had said it to put us more at ease about his knowing. It was his attempt at making it a non-issue, nothing to worry or think about. Nothing.

"Yeah. But that was a joke. Ya know? I still don't get it. You're all gonna know, even if we didn't talk about it."

"Man, I know!" Tom said quickly. "How can we not know! Ya know? Geeze."

My eye winked, my hand twitched. He suddenly looked as if he had just stabbed me in the heart and caught himself licking the blood from the blade.

I suddenly felt as if he had done just that.

"Sorry," was all he could say.

"Why'd you say it that way?"

He sighed deeply and profoundly before saying gently, "I don't know. I just did. I mean, we all know it. We were there at your party when you guys got together."

He shrugged and looked innocent.

"Yeah."

The desire - need - to hug him swelled up again. I pushed it down, again.

"Does it bother you?"

"No. Don't bother me. I know you guys know. It just bothered me the way you said it. I guess. And that Jeff's bothered by everyone all knowing and shit. And can't handle it."

"What else?"

"Huh?"

I could tell he was certain of being right, that there had to be something else as well. I ran things over in my head, trying to see what else might be pushing me along. While pondering what else I might share with Tom, I remembered Tom's apparent trouble earlier in the week.

"The bus?" he asked.

"Gonna suck. But I'm not riding the bus just because we had a huge fucking fight. He's gotta deal with it. Probably worryin' about it right now."

"Call him."

"I'll talk to him tomorrow before the cafeteria. Okay?"

He didn't look convinced. I wasn't either.

"So I'm sittin' here pouring my guts out, and you still ain't told me what was your problem."

He tried to look as if he didn't know what I was talking about. I wasn't fooled. I let him know with my expression.

"I ain't got no problems compared to you, so what's my little piddly shit compared? Nothing."

"Ah, you're all normal and shit, I'm the one that's all fucked up, huh?"

We laughed.

"Not what I meant," he said, still grinning.

"So what's the deal-e-o?"

I winced at using Jeff's word.

"Nothin'. Honest. Small shit. It's you got the stuff needs worked out, messin' things up between you and Jeff."

He was insistent, and I knew him well enough to know that he wasn't going to go into anything about himself, at least not right then. I went back to examining my relationship with Jeff. The disharmony between Jeff and me came to mind. I turned it around for a bit, Tom patiently waiting.

"There's this ... something. We don't fit together right. There's this thing between us. I don't know what it is. He don't either."

"You can't tell me anything about this ... thing? I mean, like what?"

I was frustrated at my loss of words to describe what Jeff and I had been unable to name. And I wondered just why I was sharing with Tom so much of something that was between Jeff and me. Since I had no way to describe Jeff's and my differences or similarities, I shrugged.

"There's something else, too," I said suddenly, knowing that the topic would be no surprise to anyone in Jeff's gym class, so felt it safe. "Look. It's like this. I can't ... Jeff's big. Ya know? You have gym with him, right? You said he was like a log. Remember?"

We giggled like kids doing something marginally bad.

"So, he's like, just too big. Okay? It hurts. I mean, not to say you're small, or anything-"

"Oh, don't bother, Al. We know my dick is small."

"No, Tom, it ain't small. It's not big, sure, but it's about average. Okay? We both know that. I let you see the data journal," I said with another giggle. "It's just, you're no Jeff. That's all. He's fucking huge!"

We giggled again.

"So, he's hard to get in."

We giggled again.

"That's the big problem."

We were laughing more.

"And, as for me doing him, he don't like it. Okay? He's not into it. That's all."

Tom nodded.

"Like you. You didn't like me doing you. You let me sometimes, not very often, that's like this."

He nodded again.

"So there ain't no reason for you to feel anything about it. Nothing. It's nothing to do with you."

My room was silent for long minutes.

"Alex?"

"Yeah, Knight?"

"It's okay if you guys don't do that. I guess. It can't be the only way for you two guys to be, I don't know, be close. Or something."

I nodded, seeing what he meant even through the mess of the wording.

And we don't have to do anal sex, do we? Who says you have to? What rule says you can't really be going with someone unless you pretended one was a woman? Or at least tried doing it like guys and girls do it? Who says? Where is it written?

I felt even more relieved. I felt as if I'd been carrying Jeff on my back, only then released from that heavy burden. Tom had once again shown me a way through a horrible, tough situation.

And that created a whole new problem. Now I wanted Tom. More than I had thought I ever would. I wanted to be with him. I wanted to wrap my arms around him, to kiss him deeply, to writhe and twist naked together. My cock grew hard. My mouth grew dry.

I noticed that Tom's fingers were working, touching his thumb in rapid order. I noticed that he was breathing quickly, and that he was blushing furiously.

We caught each others eyes.

I saw him visibly swallow.

He pushed his glasses up his nose and quickly stood up, saying, "I got to go," and reached for his coat.

I saw that his cock was hard. It was visibly outlined in his jeans. It pushed against the material and made itself obvious as he stepped sideways, heading for his coat.

Before I could stop it, my hand shot out and cupped his groin. My hand matched the contour of his hardness and began moving up and down the length of his erection. His hand covered mine and he bent over ever so slightly.

"I better go," he said hollowly.

I replied, "Yeah, guess ya better."

He didn't. I didn't stop.

As if the past months had never occurred, as if Jeff were still only a straight friend that I emptily fantasized over, I turned Tom toward me, reached up, and unzipped his jeans. His hands fell to his sides. I slid his jeans down to his knees and placed both of my hands on the cheeks of his ass, kneading, noticing their difference.

I heard him sigh, almost moan.

With his jeans out of the way his cock pushed outward against his white briefs. It tented them dramatically. I could see the dark pubic hair above it through the material as I cupped his balls, rubbing and massaging them. The hairs on his legs were black, of course, but so fine and few that they hardly mattered. The fact that he had lost fat on his thighs was easy to see. The muscles there were almost visible, and more easily felt as my hand roamed over them. He was becoming slim and trim.

He half-moaned and half-sighed again. I saw a deep shiver run through him, and felt it with my hand again on his buttocks.

I pushed my face into his crotch, nosing his balls, then his hard cock, then above it where his hair lay behind the white material. I deeply inhaled the familiar odor of him. It ran through me, raising me up and causing my cock to throb even more painfully, tenting my sweats.

He sighed an, "Ahhh," as both of my hands roamed up his sides, feeling the changes there. Instead of angling slightly outward above his hips, now they came closer together along his trimmer waist. Further up, his stomach was smooth and flat.

Chills thrilled all through my body. My thoughts only concerned his body, his sounds, his smell, his pleasure. My teeth closed gently on the soft hardness of his head through his briefs. He jerked and whined. He pushed himself harder into my face.

My hands pulled his briefs downward, freeing his cock to bounce upward. I slid them and his jeans down to his ankles. The head was dark, broad, and prominent as ever at the end of his narrow shaft. The veins were visible beneath the pale white of his shaft and gave it contours and texture.

My mouth kissed and licked his balls. My hands roamed his chest and belly, feeling the new hardness there. The slow changes over the last months were working on his body. He was trimmer, slimmer, harder. His ass was firmer and narrower. His round cheeks were more angular, and muscles flowed closer to the skin.

His hands grasped the sides of my head and pulled me to him as my lips spread around his almost purple head. My lips tightened and slid along him. My tongue licked along the underside of him as I began to suck. One of my hands came back to cup and massage his balls while the other continued roaming over his ass.

He groaned and hissed as I sucked a bit harder, moved a bit more up and down his cock, tightened my lips a bit more. I licked the ridge around his mushroom head and probed the tip, entering his hole ever so gently. I squeezed his balls softly, repeatedly. I slid a finger between the globes of his ass and caressed his hole.

"Oh my gawd," he gasped. "Aw fuck!"

He trembled and bent over my head, pushing me onto him with both hands. He began thrusting into my face, deeper and deeper. His cock was long enough to barely touch the back of my throat, but not enough to trigger any gag reflex. He pushed harder into me, shivering and panting.

"Oh shit. Oh shit," he moaned over and over.

My tongue felt the familiar contours of his cock sliding over it. His mushroom of a head nearly left my lips with each thrust. I felt his balls rising, his body trembling. I knew he was near.

My hand rolled his balls around, softly squeezing them then freeing them to hang and swing with his motion, gently brushing over my fingers and palm. My finger circled his hole, pushed gently and teasingly against it.

I left his balls alone to slip my fingers around his cock and my mouth, wetting them. Then I switched hands, placing the wet fingers against his pucker.

At first I circled and pushed gently against it, this time spreading moisture. His panting changed from, "Oh shit," to wordless "Mmph," and "Ugh," as my finger pushed gently against his hole and he let me in. My thumb moved along between his balls and his hole, massaging, scratching, and tickling in turns. Pushing deeper over time, I had my entire finger in him and I found his walnut. He continued thrusting into my mouth and my other hand massaged his balls or roamed over his warm, smooth skin. A few bobs later, my finger working over his walnut, he pushed against it, his cock jerked, he said, "Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!" deep from his gut, and he came.

He shoved himself as deeply into my mouth as he had ever done, his cock swelling and jerking repeatedly on my tongue, his prostate pulsing between my finger and thumb. I felt and tasted his salty semen firing out of him with pressure.

He was silent, almost holding his breath, as his orgasm filled my mouth with his deep musky taste and smell. The thinness of his cum felt familiar, welcome. Only nearly silent, short gasps left his lips as his prostate and ring pulsed again and again.

My tongue licked around his head as the last of his cum oozed out of him. His cock jerked a final time and he pulled away from me. I didn't let him. I removed my finger from his ass, my other hand released his balls. I clamped both hands around his ass cheeks and pulled him deeper into my mouth. I sucked and licked him despite his attempts to pull away. His breath was catching in his throat repeatedly as I continued to lick and suck him. His concerted efforts finally removed his cock from my mouth with an audible pop and squeak.

He sucked air in like a jet engine and began panting. His panting allowed one-word expressions.

"Holy shit!" he said loudly, happily

"Aw, shit," contentedly.

Then, "Oh, shit!"

He sounded almost angry instead of the deep satisfaction I expected.

"Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" he said in quick succession between huffing breaths. He yanked his briefs and his jeans up in one fluid motion.

At first I didn't understand his seeming anger. But then I understood.

I grew numb inside.

I sat unmoving as he fastened his pants, put on his coat, and left without another word.

He was gone; my room was silent. I was unthinking for a long period of time, afraid to come back to where I would have to face what had just happened. I preferred to stay where I was. I was safe there. Away. It didn't matter there.

Nothing had happened there. I'd let nothing happen. Nothing at all. It was white, and foggy, and quiet, and still. Nothing had happened.

But There didn't want me hanging around. I was back. I was empty.

I felt my heart sink.

Oh FUCK!

I just cheated on Jeff! How am I going to deal with this? How do I face him at school tomorrow? At school? How the fuck am I going to ride the bus with him tomorrow? How the hell am I going to look him in the eye after sucking Tom like that? How?

Shit. How the hell am I going to look Tom in the eye while we wait for the fucking bus?

Shit, the bus, I thought. I'm going to be riding my bike again!

Fucking again! What the hell-e-o?

Fuck! Using one of Jeff's words and I just fucking cheated on him!

With Tom!

Ah, shit!

I fucked everything up with sex again! Again!

Holy fuck!

All I could think was that I wanted out. Out of that situation, out of my life, out of that existence.

I knew two ways that I could escape; one temporary, one permanent.

I pulled the merta weed out of the box and rolled one of the largest joints I had ever rolled. The machine barely held the amount of the damp, sticky weed that I stuffed into it, and I had to pry the joint out from between the rollers when I was done.

I didn't even admire it, I just lit it and dragged deeply. I coughed. I hit it again as deeply as I could. I coughed more. I didn't relent. I hit hard again, coughing even harder as soon as I exhaled. From then on I coughed repeatedly and deeply, taking hits between. Chunks of phlegm and something else often came up, some of it discolored with streaks of brown, black, gray, pink. My vision dimmed and stars sparkled with each coughing fit.

What'd I do? Why'd I do that? What was I thinking?

I couldn't get past those questions. They were insurmountable. I thought them again and again as I smoked and coughed.

I coughed until I gagged, the last ones tinged with red. My throat was sore and raw, and I felt the air moving through my throat in an odd way. I didn't care.

I rocked in my desk chair, thinking about going downstairs and taking a little yellow pill. There was something about being on them that repulsed me. While I would gladly be rid of the guilt and worry and even horror at what I had done, that awful emptiness and lack of any real caring about anything was worse. I knew some people liked using the pills, so they must like what they did.

I didn't.

Still, if there had been one in my room, I probably would have taken it. There was a sleeping pill, so I took it. It was agony swallowing it dry with my hurt throat. The rest of the merta joint was forgotten in the deep buzz it had created.

I raged at myself for blowing Tom. I knew he wouldn't tell Jeff, but I knew I couldn't hide it from him. I feared the ride on the bus with the two of them, the first day back at school, the breakfast table, all the classes, and the ride home. And I knew that everyone at school knew I was gay. I'd once liked school, the dork I was, but no longer. I suddenly feared and hated school far more than ever before. I had no idea how I was going to deal with Tom, let alone Jeff, and the first ride back on the bus to school, but the stress of being the school queer was too much. I feared I had ruined my friendship with both of them, and my entire life. And I dreaded facing Jeff on the weekend. Even my weekends were now likely a horror.

I tried to reassure myself that someday this, too, would be like it had never happened.

Doctor Who started. I wanted something normal, and hoped the adventures of the good Doctor could keep my mind off the horror and guilt, as well as what I was going to have to do tomorrow. I relit the merta joint, even though I was nearly comatose from the first quarter of it.

I considered smoking the entire thing, and taking another sleeping pill, as well as an anxiety pill, in the hopes of seeing Toby. It was tempting. Severely tempting. I also knew that it was wrong, and risky. But still, the temptation was there.

Though Tom Baker was enough to make it one of my favorites, this episode began with a raven-haired teen stealing fruit. He was adorable. The costume he wore wasn't revealing, but it did hint at wonderful places. His name, too, was nice; Adric. I instantly adored Adric. His raven black hair, his round, smooth face, his flashing, dark eyes, his cute smile, his sexy accent.

Eventually the sleeping pill started working. The insistent worries and horrors slowly faded away, and I was barely able to keep up with the exploits of the Doctor and Adric. Those worries and horrors were never far away, though. After a while they were displaced by darkness, then nothing, and then the smell of gasoline.

I quailed in fear.

"Yeah. Old Chevy," Dad began saying again.

Tom stood near him, staring at me coldly.

I knew he had always been there. I knew there was nothing I could do. I was fated to live it again, over and over.

"See if you can pop that hatch cover, will ya, son?"

I leaned across the sizable hump between the front seats and unlatched the the passenger side clamp easily. Knowing that I would be unable to open the other, still, I tried. I pulled and yanked, afraid I might tear it off. The van was shaking from my efforts.

Dad told me to to break the latch, but instead to try starting it again.

"At least you know I ain't even started it," I answered with a sly grin.

I didn't feel like grinning. I wanted to scream at both of them to run as I bailed from the van, never to touch it again.

He peeked around the hood at me with a grin. Tom glowered at me from the other side of the hood- somehow, having him there wasn't reassuring.

Despite my best efforts to prevent myself from doing so, I moved the Styx medallion out of the way and turned the key. The engine turned, barely beginning to catch. Dad called for another pump of the accelerator. Knowing what was to come, I pushed and released the pedal. The engine turned faster, then caught with a pop.

"Tom! Help!"

"I can't! Not now! Not after what you did!"

Another, louder pop, then a loud, whooshing boom as there was a bright, orange light, and I was knocked against the van door, the side of my head hitting the pillar.

Things went fuzzy, and wobbly, and blurred, all at the same time. I heard my dad yelling my name. The flames rose toward the dashboard. My eyes closed instinctively against the heat and smoke. I could feel the heat of the fire on my right side. I smelled the odor of burning carpet, oil, rubber, and plastic.

I reached for the key, fumbled with the Styx medallion, and killed the engine. The flames were burning the dashboard less than a foot from me and reached to the height of my face. Thick, black smoke curled up the windshield and rolled over my head.

I opened the driver's door until it hit the wall of the garage. My lungs began rejecting the air they drew in, making me cough uncontrollably. I couldn't keep my eyes open against the smoke and heat, let alone breathe it.

I heard my dad calling my name, and I tried to call back, but I began a horrible coughing fit. I tried to roll the window down, but the crank came off in my hand. I slid as far from the blazing engine and dash as I could, pressing myself against the partially open door, shoving my face out the partially open window.

I felt the heat of the fire through my clothing. Images of my charred and smoking body being pulled from the van by firemen, my grieving parents held back by police, ran in my head. I clawed at the window, knowing it was no use.

Real panic began to set in, forcing reason and rational thought to flee. I pushed the door with my shoulder, but it was as far open as it could get. There was no way out to my right, not with the fire above the engine growing hotter and closer. Flames were spreading along the dashboard, and multiple, flaming drops of it were falling onto my jeans, melting through them, and then into my legs. The pain was excruciating, but I couldn't get my legs away from the falling drops of fire without putting them into the raging fire on the engine.

Trapped!

The air was full of burning particles and ashes, hot, and toxic with fumes and chemicals. The coughing became constant, painful, uncontrollable, gut-wrenching coughs.

I tried to make my lungs work, but they refused. My heart's efforts doubled. I pushed my face into the window, no longer caring if the glass broke and I was horribly cut; I only wanted the air. I clawed feebly at the stub where the crank had broken off, knowing that I could never turn the spindle, but trying anyway.

The pain in my temple flared with each cough. I felt the familiar dizziness come, and knew I was about to lose consciousness.

And somehow, my own thoughts were to blame it on God, worry about not being with Toby in the afterlife, how unfair it was that now Jeff and I were going to be a couple, I was going to die instead, and that now Tom wouldn't be pulling me out of the van and saving my life.

The heat of the fire, the pain of my skin burning on my right side and back, the pain as flaming drops of carpeted dashboard burned through my jeans and into my legs, the pain of my lungs filled with toxins and chemicals and hot ashes, the horrible suffocation.

The pains, the smells, and even my vision all began to fade, and I knew that I was dying. Again.

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