by Cynus

Chapter 5

Asked and Answered

My school week passed mostly without incident until Friday morning. I was ready on time most of the days, meaning Greg didn't have to come into the shower room to fetch me. On Friday, however, he arrived uncharacteristically early, and he was there to help me out of the pool at the end of my swim.

I swam to the edge and rested my arms on the side, staring up at him. "What are you doing here?" I asked, glancing at the wall clock. "I still have plenty of time."

"Yes, but," Greg said, alternating from my face to staring at the door leading back into the house. "I felt I should run interference."

I raised an eyebrow and scoffed at that, "With who? My mother? What's going on, Greg?"

"Clint's going to be here soon," Greg said, shrugging. "He texted me this morning and said he was planning on walking to school with us. He said he wanted to surprise you."

"And you ruined it?" I asked, sighing as I started to climb out of the pool. As my good knee settled on the tiled edge of the pool, I let Greg take my hand and pull me to my feet. He handed me my towel and I began drying myself off.

Greg shrugged again, this time wearing a helpless expression. "I didn't want him to walk in on you when you were naked," he said quietly. "I wasn't really trying to ruin the surprise, I just thought you'd want to be prepared."

I gave Greg a level look and said, "You know, I think sometimes you let your Christian morality win a little too often. How long have you known me?"

"Many years," Greg replied, "And what do you mean about my morality?"

"Dude, I've never given two shits if someone saw me naked, and I definitely wouldn't care if Clint saw me naked. The first time we talked to each other he asked me if I liked skinny-dipping. Jesus, Greg! Why would I care?" I shook my head and shuffled toward my leg brace to begin the next stage of my morning routine.

"Yeah, but, I didn't know if you'd be ready for that," Greg said slowly. "I didn't know if you were taking it slow, or if . . ." he shook his head and muttered, "I'm sorry for caring."

I gave him a hard look then noticed the sincerity in his expression and immediately felt guilty for how I was treating him. "I'm sorry, Greg. I thought you were cock-blocking me. I thought, for a moment, that you might be trying to prevent my boyfriend from seeing me."

"I would never do that, Zane," Greg said, smiling slightly, though I could see the hurt in his eyes. I'd questioned his loyalty, the most important thing in Greg's and my relationship, and that crossed a line I needed to step back over quickly or risk causing permanent damage.

I nodded and replied, "I know, and I'm sorry. Please, I don't know why I said that, I'm just working through today and wondering what's going to happen, and I'm a little nervous."

"Oh?" Greg asked, the hurt dissipating as curiosity replaced it.

"Clint said he's doing something for my birthday this weekend, but he won't say what," I said as I adjusted my leg brace then began moving toward my cane hanging on the wall. "Plus, today's our first GSA meeting, and we have to worry about that as well."

Greg followed close behind me but made no move to help me with my cane. I didn't mind, and probably would've snapped at him if he had handed it to me. He knew better than to think I needed help, though not better than to keep his mouth shut.

"Wait, you just called Clint your boyfriend, didn't you?"

I snapped toward him, ready to bite his head off, but then realized he was right. I had said that, and for the second time that day I'd jumped to a conclusion. Clint and I hadn't made anything official, even though we'd spent every day together since the week began.

We'd spent each of them at his house, since his dad had been upset about how late it was when Clint came home on Monday night. Even though we'd been studying at first, Mr. Fjeldsted made it clear that until he saw Clint's grades improve, he needed to keep us in a more controlled environment, so we'd stayed at Clint's house instead.

Not that being in Clint's empty house instead of mine made any difference to the amount of kissing we engaged in, but we did make more of an effort to keep our focus on the books. Clint's understanding was improving in every subject except for one: math. He'd been telling the truth when he said he didn't understand the concept. I'd done everything I could think of to explain it to him in different ways, but he still couldn't put it all together.

Travis had been there for one of those times, and I'd hoped since he was a natural with STEM, he'd be able to help Clint as well, but that hadn't gone over any better. Clint had a supernatural ability to completely ignore the existence of numbers, which made me wonder if it had been his courage or his math skills that made him stand up to three bullies a few weeks ago.

Despite all the time we'd spent in each other's company over the course of the week, we hadn't discussed our relationship once. Everything was happening naturally, and there was no doubt in my mind that Clint would agree instantly to becoming my boyfriend, but it hadn't happened yet. Still, thinking of him that way had my body responding, and I liked the sound of it. Perhaps this was the day to make it happen.

"Maybe I did, maybe I didn't," I said, grinning at Greg. "What would you think if I had?"

"I'd think you'd made an excellent choice," Greg said, glancing down briefly. "And if talking about him gets you this excited, maybe you're right and I shouldn't have come by early."

My cheeks colored and I subconsciously hid my erection behind the towel in my hands. "There must be something in the air today if you of all people start making sex jokes," I replied, sticking my tongue out at him. He rolled his eyes as I continued, "All joking aside, thank you for your concern. I'm going to go shower so I'm ready when you guys are. Feel free to keep Clint company, but if he wants to find me, let him."

Greg bowed his head and replied, "As you wish, my liege."

I watched him go, shaking my head in wonder. That was one strange straight boy, but he was my best friend, and that was one thing I could count on, strange or not. With a smile and I nod, I walked into the shower room and prepared to meet Clint for the day.

Clint didn't show up while I was showering, though the idea of him doing so nearly drove me wild. I didn't get the zen-like experience from my shower I usually do, as I spent most of my time trying to control the urge to jack off. Clint walking in on me naked was something I could live with and even encourage, but if he walked in on me masturbating, likely knowing full well he was the cause . . . that was a different matter altogether.

Once I was squeaky clean and ready for school, I headed toward the kitchen to join Greg. I stopped as I heard Clint's voice in the kitchen followed by my mother responding. Inching closer so I could put my ear to the door, I quietly eavesdropped on the remaining portion of their conversation.

"I promise to have him back by midnight," Clint said. I could hear the mischievous grin in his voice as he added, "Or tomorrow, if you prefer."

My mother laughed then replied, "Have him back? I thought you said you'd be staying here!"

"Well, yeah," Clint replied without skipping a beat, "But I was under the impression you didn't want any sex in the house, so . . ." Greg snorted with disbelief, and my jaw dropped at his brazen comment. I knew Clint was fearless, but this was downright suicidal!

But my mother surprised me, apparently seeing the real Clint behind the mischief and joked back with him. "You're right, so in this case his curfew is immediately after school."

"Damn," Clint replied, "So I can't take him out for dinner?"

"Of course you can," she said, "I'm just playing with you. Well, other than the no sex part. You can sleep over, and I trust you to be respectful of the rules in this house, and that means no sex until . . ." she paused and cut off whatever she'd been about to say and finished with, "no sex this weekend, period."

If Clint were bothered by her tone or words, he didn't show it and replied smoothly, "Understood, Mrs. Thompson."

I pressed against the door and stepped into the kitchen then, earning an immediate glance from everyone in the room, though only Clint's eyes lingered on me at first. He smirked and his eyes told me he knew I'd been eavesdropping. I returned his smirk with one of my own and shrugged slightly.

"Hey," Clint said, crossing the kitchen to greet me. The door opened behind me and I started to turn toward the sound but was stopped when Clint kissed me on the cheek, then pulled me into a hug. When he pulled back he added, "I was just getting to know your mother. She's a nice woman." He then glanced behind me and said, "Good morning, Mr. Thompson."

I stiffened instantly as I recognized my father's presence, and this wasn't lost on Clint. He gave me a quizzical look before returning his smiling face to my father's. I couldn't see my father's face, and didn't want to, but his disinterested tone was enough as he addressed my mother and only my mother. "I'm going in for a swim, honey."

"Okay, dear," my mother responded, as my dad exited the room. I glanced over my shoulder at last as the door swung shut, and then I began to relax. Clint was still holding onto my shoulders, his inquisitive stare intensifying.

I smiled at him meekly and then returned his earlier kiss on the cheek, giving him a matching one. Blushing as I realized my mother and Greg were watching us, I quickly moved to get us out of the house. "It's time to get to school, isn't it?" I asked, directing my stare to Greg. "We wouldn't want to be late, would we?"

"No, of course not," Greg said, snapping to attention and reaching for my backpack which he walked over and placed in my waiting hands. After slinging my backpack over my shoulder and switching my cane to the opposite hand in order to don the other strap, I walked over to my mother and gave her my usual morning hug. She returned it and said her goodbyes, and then we were on our way.

Clint's hand slid into mine before we reached the sidewalk, and I immediately squeezed it, welcoming his physical proximity. The warmth of having him so close put me more in tune with my senses, which gave me the acute awareness of being watched. I glanced back toward my house to see the drapes falling closed in my father's study. He hadn't gone swimming at all. What a prick.

Why was he watching me all of a sudden? His level of interest hadn't seemed to increase at all when he was speaking with me, but he did seem to show up a little more often. Was it because of Clint? Did my father have some special interest in my crush?

"So . . ." Clint began hesitantly causing me to turn toward him and notice his gaze was also on my house. He'd also caught my father's movement, and I knew what was on his mind.

For some reason I couldn't comprehend, the thought of his potential assumptions enraged me. "You want to know about my dad, don't you?" I asked, unable to keep the dangerous edge from my tone.

"Yeah . . ." Clint said, meeting my eyes, a nervous smile on his face. Something in my eyes made his smile fade immediately, and he said in a rush, "Sorry, probably shouldn't ask."

I pulled my hand away from him gruffly closing the subject, "You're right, you probably shouldn't." I increased my pace, shuffling away from Clint as quickly as my legs could carry me.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to—" Clint said, stopping short as I moved too far away. He rushed to get in front of me, his expression stricken as he put his hand up to stop me. "Zane, I'm sorry. Please, let's just drop it."

I glared at him for a moment and then stepped around him. My normally cool demeanor was somehow shattered by Clint's innocent curiosity, which I just couldn't handle right now. It was just one more thing I didn't want to deal with, one more burden to weigh on my mind.

If Greg hadn't been there, I might've walked away from Clint, consumed by my boiling rage, but thankfully, my best friend knows what I need, and he wasn't about to let me do something I'd regret for the rest of my life. He hustled to get ahead of me, then turned and faced me, holding his arms out wide so I couldn't easily step past. "Zane, what the heck, man?" he asked, then paused to catch his breath. "He deserves to know about your family. You're dating him. Don't fu . . ." he caught himself before he swore. Good ol' Greg. "Don't do something you'll regret. Walking away isn't the answer."

I stopped walking, meeting Greg's eyes as I took several calming breaths. My rage subsided slowly, but eventually it did, and I turned toward Clint. He'd stayed where I'd stepped around him, but had turned to look at me, his face a mask of absolute misery. "Greg's right, and I'm sorry, Clint," I said slowly, "My dad has always been a bit of a sore subject with me. We've never gotten along."

Clint didn't move, but he did respond. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."

I closed my eyes and took another calming breath. When I opened them again, Clint was still watching me carefully, though some of the worry had disappeared from his expression. "Clint . . . my Dad . . ."

He walked toward me as I stumbled over my words, and then he wrapped me in a tight hug, slipping his hands between my backpack and my jacket. I stiffened at first and then relaxed in his arms, wrapping my free arm around him.

"Zane, really, it's okay if you don't want to talk about it," he whispered in my ear, then kissed me just below my ear, just a light peck. "Just, please, promise you'll tell me so instead of walking away from me?"

I don't know why, but I chuckled, and it was just the release of emotion I needed. Clint continued to hold me as a rare sensation struck me then; a tear rolled down my cheek. I didn't want Clint to see me crying, but then again . . .

With a brief surge of courage, I pulled back from him to let him see my face. I tried to smile at him, but could only manage my usual smirk. I opened my mouth to respond, but before I could, he reached up and wiped my tear away, then kissed my cheek where it had been. I chuckled nervously again then said, "Okay. I promise. No more walking away."

He kissed me on the lips then, a lingering kiss which touched me more deeply than I'd thought possible, and when he started to pull away my mouth hungered for more. My hand moved from his back to his head, and smashed our mouths together as I devoured every ounce of strength I could take from his beautiful lips. He pulled our bodies together again at the waist, causing as much physical contact as he could manage.

I heard a noise from behind me, but ignored it. Then it came again, and again. It sounded like someone coughing. I ignored it still and continued to make love to Clint's mouth until Greg finally said, "Guys . . . Guys!"

Pulling away at last to snap my head toward him, I said, "What!?"

Greg rolled his eyes and said, "As touching as this moment is, we really have to get to school. Can you figure out some way to make out and walk at the same time?"

I sighed and slipped my hand into Clint's before starting after Greg. As we caught up to him, I said, "I'm surprised you didn't just walk off without us."

"I couldn't abandon you," Greg replied. "Besides, without me, you two would never get anything done, if that was any indication of what happens when you forget where you are."

Clint snickered at that and said, "Monday night was worse."

I blushed and was about to respond when Greg said, "Really? Zane didn't tell me anything. You'll have to give me the details."

"Well, we started off with tutoring . . ."

"Oh? Is that what we call 'making out' these days?" Greg chuckled.

My cheeks were glowing crimson, but I wasn't going to run and hide. I'd made a promise, and I intended to keep it, no matter what. I was just glad I didn't have to talk about my father anymore.

Most of the school day passed without fanfare. All of my classes were standard; lunch had minimal impactful discussion, except a bit of excitement concerning the meeting after school. Several of my friends seemed somewhat withdrawn, particularly Angie, Travis, and Rebecca, but Clint and I were too busy with each other to pay much attention. I did note it, however, and kept it in the back of my mind throughout the rest of the day.

At two-thirty in the afternoon, we held our first GSA meeting. It was scheduled to be more of a planning meeting than anything else, as we hadn't had the time to put up many fliers or to spread the word, but we had a better turnout than I expected. Along with myself, Clint, Greg, Celeste, Rebecca, Angie, Travis, Donny, and Brent, several of my other friends had managed to make it.

Carlos Rodriguez and his girlfriend, Amy, whose last name I did not know, arrived early, and were waiting for me before I even made it to the classroom. Shortly after we walked inside, Greg and Clint showed up at the same time, with Celeste coming in shortly after and making a direct line for Greg. Travis and Angie walked in next, and there was some visible distance between them, and neither looked happy to be there, though I doubted it was the GSA which had them in a foul mood. Rebecca walked in immediately after that, talking with a couple of our other friends, Matt and David Sterling, brothers we'd all known for years but who generally hung out with a different crowd. Donny and Brent arrived last with a couple of other football players who'd likely been intimidated by Brent into coming at all, but at least they were here.

Last of everyone to arrive was Ms. Singh, who smiled broadly as she walked into the room, taking the sight of all of us in and beaming. Her eyes settled on Clint and me in the front row, and then she said, "I'm surprised you haven't already started the meeting, what with your enthusiasm earlier this week."

"I waited for you, Ms. Singh," I replied smoothly, rising from the desk and leaning into my cane. "I didn't want you to miss anything. I know you wanted to do this, too."

"It's true," she said, "And thank you. I'm sorry I'm a few minutes late. I'll just take over the teacher's desk if you'll get us started."

I smiled and nodded, but still I asked, "Are you sure? You're the administrator, here."

"Yes, but this is definitely your show, Zane," Ms. Singh said, then moved over to the teacher's desk and sat down. "Whenever you're ready."

Grinning, I turned to address the group. Nearly everyone there was someone I knew well, though there were some people I was excited to get to know better, hoping they'd continue to attend as weeks went by. More importantly, however, I hoped the group would grow. I still had a lot of time left in this school, and if we were beginning this strongly, I was certain we'd be able to build the club to something truly amazing by the time I graduated.

"Thank you, everyone, for coming today," I began, sweeping the room with my gaze and taking everyone in, one by one. "I'm extremely excited to see this level of turnout. We had quite a few people sign our petition to support a GSA, but I didn't expect this many to show up; I'm grateful to all of you."

"Well, some of us would've had consequences if we didn't come," Clint said. My smile faltered as I turned toward him, annoyed that he'd make a joke like that at this time. He noticed my expression shift and added, "I would've come anyway, regardless."

I nodded and pushed my annoyance to the back of my mind, returning to the matter at hand. "We have a few matters to attend to first, which I'd like to do democratically with the whole group. The first order of business is to decide the day of the week we'll be meeting."

I opened up the question to suggestions, and a number of different days were thrown around the room. The one that reached the largest consensus, however, was Wednesday. I quickly quieted the room by rapping my cane lightly against the desk in front of me.

"Wednesday seems to be the day that will work best, but just to clarify, how many votes do we have for Wednesday?" I asked. Nine hands rose, though I found that Clint wasn't one of them. We'd compared our weekly schedules some time ago, and I knew he didn't have anything on Wednesdays, so I addressed him directly and said, "I didn't think you had anything."

"Well, I'd rather see everyone on every day of the week," Clint said nonchalantly. "I like all these people."

I frowned again and said, "We can't meet every day of the week, Clint. That's not going to be effective for anyone . . ." I trailed off as he started laughing.

"Wednesdays are fine," he said, raising his hand. "I'm sorry. I'm just trying to lighten the mood." He noted my frown and added, "I'll try to rein it in; sorry, Zane."

I smiled politely and said, "It's okay. This is a new setting for everyone. Just try and remember this isn't a class, it's mainly a social club. Once we get the important business out of the way, we can talk and joke all we want, okay?"

"Sure," Clint said, then made a zipping motion over his lips. "I'll be quiet."

Satisfied for the moment that Clint would behave, I announced, "All right, it looks like the majority has determined Wednesdays will be the best day to meet. Now, for the next order of business, we need to elect some form of leadership—"

"I nominate Zane for president," Clint blurted out. I rounded on him, exasperated with his chain of outbursts, but then Greg joined in.

"Seconded," he said, then stood up and addressed the rest of the group. "All those in favor of Zane running uncontested?"

Every hand raised immediately, and it took me a moment to recover before I could speak. "Um, thanks, everyone. I was thinking more of a council—"

"Someone still has to head the council," Clint reasoned, "And we all think that should be you. Just accept the honor."

I sighed and nodded slowly. "Very well, but we're going to open the position back up in a few months, just to give other people a shot. Now, who else will help me run this club since you're so insistent on me being president?"

Clint smiled at me, but I wanted to smack him. I kept myself in check, though, since it wouldn't be proper for me to act any other way as president of the club. I'd have words with him after the meeting. I was so distracted by Clint that I failed to notice no one had answered my question. I again called for nominations to the council.

"I nominate Travis!" Clint said boisterously. Travis stared at him like he was crazy, but then Angie enthusiastically raised her hand and seconded the nomination. He looked between them and, with a resigned sigh, he nodded his acceptance of the nomination.

I smiled at him encouragingly and was about to ask who else, when Rebecca raised her hand and said, "Can I nominate myself?"

"I don't see why not," I replied smoothly. "You'll need someone to second you, though. Since I'm the president, I'm exempting myself from the vote, otherwise I would."

"That's okay, Zane, Rebecca would be great," Greg said, raising his hand. "I second her nomination."

Nodding appreciatively, I said, "Awesome. Anyone else?"

Matt Sterling raised his hand and said, "I nominate David."

I'd known the Sterling brothers for a decade, and though Matt was in our grade and David was a senior, I related more to David. He was tall and lanky, a bit nerdy, and as far as I knew he had a great shot at being valedictorian for his graduating class. By contrast, Matt had always been more of the athlete in the family, playing on both the soccer team and running cross-country. He had a lot of friends and moved from group to group, while David, not nearly as popular, often tagged along with his little brother. Whenever they sat with us at lunch, I enjoyed chatting with David about all sorts of scientific trivia, but I wished I'd get to see him more. With him on the council, maybe I'd have that chance.

As far as I knew he was also straight, which would make him a great representative of the 'S' in GSA for our council. I also knew he'd keep us inclusive, as I had often bowed to his wisdom over the years. In this particular case I wished I hadn't withheld my ability to nominate or second nominations, because I wasn't sure anyone else held the same connection to David that I did.

"I second that," said someone I hadn't expected to even participate. Brent Niven nodded toward David and said, "This smart bastard tutored me last year. He's the only reason they still let me play football. I owe him."

David blushed but met my eyes, pushing his glasses up his nose before nodding to accept the nomination. I was glad it worked out that way and was impressed Brent had spoken up at all. If all our meetings went this smoothly, I didn't have anything to worry about.

"Okay, any others?" I asked. The room was silent as everyone looked at each other, and so I moved to vote. "All right, this is pretty informal, so we'll just vote by show of hands on each person individually, just to make sure they'll be supported on the council."

I needn't have worried, as each person was voted in unanimously, and suddenly we had a popularly accepted council. We spoke a bit more about writing up a general constitution, and between Ms. Singh and me we pulled up resources from other GSA's to generate ideas. By the end of the day we had a full set of rules and an agenda for the next week's meeting, which would be a general meet and greet with treats to entice new members. Several people were assigned to help make fliers, and then we called the meeting closed.

As everyone started to gather their things, I made one final announcement. "I don't have any official invitations yet, but I'll be hosting a Halloween party the weekend before the holiday, and I'd like all of you to be there if possible."

"Nice!" Clint said enthusiastically. "I'm definitely in."

His earlier outbursts already forgotten, I smiled at him, glad for his excitement and hoping it would be contagious. Greg, Celeste, Rebecca, the Sterling brothers, and Carlos already knew. My Halloween parties happened every year, and there was no way I'd miss holding one this year. After Clint's excited response, they each voiced their eagerness to attend. Brent and Donny said they'd have to check the football schedule but would likely attend otherwise, and Travis and Angie both said they'd get back to me once they knew their plans better.

The meeting broke up then and everyone left, thanking me as they walked out. I was filled with pride as Clint and I left the room last of all the students, with Ms. Singh following right behind. "You did good, boys," she said as she locked the door behind her. She glanced at Clint then met my eyes and said, "And Zane, I think you made a great choice."

"Thanks," I replied, and she chuckled before departing with a wave.

"What did she mean by that?" Clint asked.

I gave him a hard look, wondering if he'd seriously missed her implication, then noticed the color in his cheeks. He'd caught it, all right, but his eyes seemed uncertain. He caught me staring and smirked, then started walking down the hallway toward the front of the school.

"Clint, wait up," I said. He turned and stopped, smiling at me as I joined him, but there was uncertainty in his eyes. "Are you all right, Clint?" I asked.

He glanced down, and I followed his gaze. His hand hung between us, open and waiting for mine. I put my hand in his and squeezed him gently. His gaze traveled back up and met mine, but then he looked away almost immediately. "No . . . I'm not."

"Why?" I asked, biting my lip nervously. Was Clint going to break up with me before we'd even decided we were dating? His gentle squeeze told me I had nothing to worry about on that front, but still . . .

"Do I . . . do I annoy you, Zane?" Clint asked. He didn't meet my eyes, but he didn't have to. I could hear the pain in his voice.

What made the question so awful was the answer which immediately came to mind; he did annoy me, and more often than I cared for. But was that his fault or mine? Should I tell him that?

"No . . ." he said, shaking his head. "I know I'm annoying. I annoy a lot of people . . . Am I . . . do you want to be with me?"

This time the answer was a resounding 'yes' in my mind, and I didn't hesitate to tell him so, "More than anything, Clint."

He smiled at me but didn't seem convinced, and so I showed him what I felt. In the empty school hallway, I pressed him up against the locker and locked our lips together. Letting my cane clatter to the floor, I reached up with one hand to run my fingers through his hair as my other hand slid around his waist. I stumbled slightly as I shifted my weight, but caught myself against him, falling into his chest.

His arms wrapped around me then, hugging me to him, and I let my hand fall from his head to his collar bone, idly stroking his neck with my index finger as I turned my head and rested it against his chest. "Clint," I said quietly, "I definitely want to be with you. I know it's fast, but I was hoping you'd be my boyfriend."

Although I was hoping he'd answer with an immediate 'yes', instead he asked nervously, "Even though I annoy you?"

I thought more about that and realized it didn't matter. Him blurting things out at inopportune times was part of what made him who he was. He wouldn't be the courageous boy I knew who stood up for his friends if he reigned that part of him in. Clint's bravado was one of many things which made him special, even if it could get on my nerves from time to time.

"Definitely," I said, pulling back from him to look him in the eye. "Yeah, you can get on my nerves, but I'm sure I'm going to do that to you, too. Maybe we can just focus on being honest with each other, and we'll be able to work things out."

He nodded enthusiastically and then said, "I can do that."

I smiled at him then stooped to pick up my cane. Even though I'd performed the same maneuver thousands of times, the universe was playing tricks on me and I started to lose my balance. I ended up crashing into Clint's legs before he caught me. He steadied me and helped me straighten up, then said, "Let me get it for you, please?"

My head was shaking before he even finished his sentence, and I opened my mouth to protest, but he put his finger to my lips to silence me. His eyes were pleading as he said, "I'm not getting it for you because I think you need my help, I'm getting it for you because helping you makes me happy. Please?"

I was at a complete loss for words and nodded numbly. He grinned and bent down, grabbing my cane from the floor and then rising to hand it to me. As I took it from him, our hands touched, and he kept his grip on the cane for a moment, letting the contact linger. "Thanks," he said quietly. "You already do so much for me, I . . . don't want to be a burden."

"You're not," I said, though I mentally slapped myself for all the times I'd judged Clint differently so far. I needed a reality check and hoped I'd be able to keep this new understanding in mind through my future with Clint. "Clint, you're probably the most uplifting force I've had in my life for a long time."

"Is that why you want me to be your boyfriend?" he asked.

"Part of it," I replied. "But there's so much more."

"Oh really?"

"Yeah. You're a great kisser," I said, snickering.

He laughed, too, then said, "You are, too. Not that I've had much experience."

"I've only kissed Celeste before you," I said, snorting at the thought. "But that was really her kissing me. Most of what I know is either stuff I picked up from the internet or—" I cut myself off with a nervous cough, completely caught off guard by the words which had been about to leave my lips. I hadn't even known I felt that way!

But Clint wasn't about to let me off the hook that easily. "What's the or?" he asked.

I sighed. Hadn't I just said I'd focus on being more honest with him? "Kissing you, touching you, doing . . . what we almost did on my bed Monday night . . . it's instinctual. I've never felt that way about someone. I mean, I've had crushes, but it's nothing like what I experience with you. I literally don't have to think when I'm with you in these moments, my connection to you just takes over."

"Yeah . . ." he said, nodding slowly. I met his eyes and he flashed me an innocent smile. "What?" He asked.

I crossed my arms over my chest and said, "Well, do you feel the same way or not? You still haven't answered my question."

"Did you ask a question?"

Now that I thought about it, no, I hadn't, and this annoying lover of mine was playing games with me. Well, two could play at that. "I suppose your answer is no, then? You don't want to be my boyfriend . . . sad, I guess I'll just have to hold someone else's hand . . ."

He kissed me quick and hard, then pulled away and said, "Don't you dare! Yes, I'll be your boyfriend, Zane Thompson, and we're going to be the best fucking couple this school has ever seen."

"Please," I said dismissively. "We already are."

Clint nodded sagely and replied, "Truth."

I laughed and extended my hand to him, and he took it, but before settling into our walking stance he lifted it to his lips and kissed the back of it. Giggling at the archaic gesture, I let him take the lead as we started walking again.

We walked to the front of the school where his father's car sat idling in the drop-off zone. I stopped and stared at it, then raised a questioning eyebrow at Clint. "So, your dad is picking us up. Is this the start of our big plans for the day?"

"Well, the grand finale is already out of the way," Clint said, shrugging. "I suppose I'll have to wing it from this point forward."

"Grand finale?" I echoed.

He nodded, grinned, and said, "Yep. Tonight I was going to ask you to be my boyfriend. It was going to be after our first official date, since we haven't actually had one yet, but this'll do just fine."

"And what are the rest of our plans?" I asked.

"Don't worry," Clint said, winking at me dramatically. "I'm all full of ideas."

I'd heard about Clint's ideas before, and for the first time since we'd known each other, I was terrified.

But it felt good, and like so many wonderfully, terrifying things about Clint, I found it pleasantly surprising, and couldn't wait to see what madness my boyfriend had in store for me.

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