Castle Roland

Everything Will Turn Out Alright

by Cy-Kun


Chapter 22

Posted: N/A

Define awkward.

Webster (and who the hell IS Webster anyway? Some guy that just woke up one day and thought "I wanna leave my mark on the world but I have no talent, friends or social life so I think I'll just write a dictionary and hope it sticks."? And how do you research a dictionary anyway?) would probably say it's something like 'causing embarrassment' or 'not easy to handle or deal with' complete with 'adj' and that weird way of spelling out a word the way it sounds that usually makes it more confusing to say than the original spelling. But Webster's dead, I think, so I'm gonna politely disagree with his definition and make up my own.

Awkward is standing in your room less than 5 feet away from a disturbingly attractive boy who just happens to be your secret step-brother who's existence you've just discovered while your mother and your father and your father's shiny new surprise wife have what is probably the least fun conversation ever right downstairs in your living room.

Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue the way 'causing embarrassment' does though.

At least Luke (and don't for one second think I wasn't insanely jealous of his name. The only way it might have been worse is if it was Han) seemed to be feeling just as awkward as I was. He stood there, glancing from the chair by my desk to the bed to the door then back to the floor in front of his feet as if he was trying to decide whether to sit down or run away but couldn't get himself to move either way. The one thing he didn't look at was me. Which was totally cool with me, I was not at ALL ready to have a stilted conversation forced out of us because we accidentally made eye contact and couldn't pretend we were the only ones in the room anymore.

We should hate each other, you know? I'm the bio son who will always have a real connection to the person married to his mother that he can never have and he's the replacement me, a little taller, a little cuter, a little tanner, probably perfectly straight and amazing at at least one socially acceptable sport. I should resent the hell out of him. But I don't.

It was that nervous, embarrassed look that did it. He wasn't barging in here all hostile and defensive trying to take my place in my dad's life (although he was more than welcome to it) and he wasn't staring daggers at me because his family was uprooted and moved down here just to, presumably, get closer to me. Instead, he was embarrassed. He knew that my dad and his mom were making an unnecessary and tense situation a million times worse and he was humiliated for them. He didn't want to be here anymore than I wanted my dad here, and that made him an automatic ally. Which was where most of the awkwardness came from.

Hostile I could deal with. Scathing sarcasm? I'm friends with Jason, my skills are the stuff of legends. But cute nervousness? Totally threw me off my game. I had no idea how this conversation was supposed to go. And we all know how well I deal with the unknown.

Still, it didn't seem like he was going to be starting any conversations anytime soon so it looked like it was going to be up to me.


"So......." I said, then stopped. Yeah. That was all I had. God I suck. And now I'm thinking about Vicky which is so not what I want to do right now.

Obvious half bulges were NOT going to lessen the awkwardness at all.

Luckily for me that pathetic little bit of talking seemed to break Luke out of his shell a bit. "Um, hi." he said hesitantly.

Well, it was a start. I'm good with starts.

"Hi." I said back. Not so good at getting beyond starts though.

Thankfully my step-brother (ok I need to shorten that. SB? Or maybe SSB for secret step-brother? Step bro? Stair bro? Stair broski? Ugh. Must stop thinking) seemed to be better at this. "I'm Luke." He even looked at me. He still seemed to be giving off a 'I wish this wasn't happening' vibe but it had more of a 'but I can deal with it I guess' edge to it.

"Nate." I said, then realized when he frowned a bit that that might seem slightly stand offish so I tried out a smile. It seemed to work.

He stuck his hand out. We shook. I'd comment of the softness of his hand but, come on, we're adolescent boys we're supposed to be soft. Plus, thinking about softness and boy skin kinda automatically turns my thoughts to Vicky which doesn't help with making sure other parts of my body stay soft. "Well, this isn't weird." he said. I laughed. Things got less awkward.

"Nope." I said. "Not at all. It's actually kind of a slow day. I usually get three secret stai-um, step-brothers by now." We shared a small smile. I even managed to keep the conversation going. "So, you lived in Alaska?" Yeah, I already saw the plates but that's what small talk is. Stuff you either already know or don't care about.

"Yeah. Anchorage." he sounded wistful.

"City boy, eh?" I said with a grin.

He smiled slightly. "I guess you weren't?"

"Nope." I said happily. "Lived in a small town by Juneau actually."

"Do you miss it?"

"Not really." I answered honestly.

"Why not?" he sounded a little more than passing curious.

Now, this was dangerous territory. The full answer is, of course, Jason and Vicky. And I guess Erica now too........and even though I'd never admit this to her face, Michelle isn't totally annoying all the time either. I could say that, but then the logical next questions would be about my friends and I'd need to make some choices I wasn't ready to make. It's not like Vicky would be hurt or offended if I referred to him as a "friend" but I'd still feel bad. It would be like denying what he meant to me and even if he never found out, I'd know. On the other hand I still didn't know what I wanted to do about the whole "hey dad I'm gay" thing so I couldn't gush to my dad's step-son about my boyfriend without risking it getting back to him. Plus, despite my insane luck with this, I couldn't just assume Luke would be cool with it either. On top of that, even though I hate to admit it, Luke is definitely 'my type' and I was just self aware enough to know that if I didn't have Vicky I'd probably be crushing on him right now and getting into any conversation about Vicky or possible gayness would just bring back the awkward. Still, I needed to say something. I decided on vagueness. Always a good stand by.

"I have good friends here." I said and still managed to feel a small pang of guilt at lumping Vicky in there by not following that up with 'and a really awesome boyfriend'. "Plus the weather is awesome. I never realized what summer was supposed to be before I came here."

Luke's eyes lit up at the mention of summer. "I know! I couldn't believe how hot it was when we moved down here. Mom said maybe next year we could get a pool for the backyard. Do you have a pool?"

"Nah. Don't need one. We have a town pool where everyone hangs out during the summer. I actually usually end up spending the whole summer down there checking out-" I choked. Shit! Back track! Back track! "Um, swimming and stuff."

Smooth. As. Gravel.

My slip didn't go unnoticed though. (I know, big fucking shock, right?) Luke got a sly smirk on his face. "Checking out....?" he trailed off suggestively.

Shit! Damn his perception! And, you know, me not thinking about what I say before I say it I guess. I felt myself blush slightly and I don't think I've ever wanted to kick my own ass more than I did right then. "Um, the snow cones?" Lame, I know. Oh, how I know.

Luke just grinned an awfully Jason-like grin and I made a mental note never to let them meet. Somehow I don't think I'd survive that team up. "Snow cones, huh?" Crap. "Are these snow cones sexy?" Shit! "With wet swimsuits?" I'm fucked. "And big boobs?" Son of- wait, what? I just barely managed to keep the surprise and confusion off my face.


Luke took my silence as something else though and laughed. "Oh, wow. You DO perv on girls at the pool, don't you!" I almost let out a laugh of my own, one filled with relief and a bit of surprise. I guess I shouldn't be surprised though. I mean, that's what nice, normal straight kids think, right? That a boy their age would naturally be just as nice, normal and straight as they are and if they were perving on someone at a public pool it would have to be something with tits. It's just been so long since anyone I talked to thought I was even the smallest bit straight that I didn't think that way. I tend to think it's obvious, despite how much I might protest that.

Now, I could easily pretend to be a good little straight boy and play along. It can't be hard. Just slip the word 'tits' or 'pussy' into the conversation and remember to say 'her' and not 'him', but I hesitated. It was bad enough that I was, kinda, sorta backhandedly implying that Vicky wasn't anything more than a friend but this would be outright denying that I was even gay, which is even more insulting to him in a way. But I couldn't just say "Ew! No way!", no matter how much I might want to, since we were both way past the 'girls have cooties' age. Luckily, Luke once again took my silence as something it wasn't. This time probably embarrassment. He laughed again. "Heh, my big brother the pervert."

Well, maybe if I just don't comment either way I can get away with it. I still felt a small pang of guilt for not-wait, what did he just say? "Big brother?" I cocked my head, not sure if I heard right.

"Yeah." Luke said. "You're 13 right?"

"Um, yeah." I frowned. "How old are you?"

"12. My birthday was last week."

"Jesus Christ!" I groaned. I tried to guess just how many inches he had on me. 2? 3? I didn't have to look up as far as I did when talking to Jason so he wasn't that much taller but, come on, I can't even be taller than someone who was fucking 11 a week ago? There's just something seriously wrong there. I wonder if I need to see a doctor? Or maybe a therapist because I think this height thing just went from a complex to a neurosis.

It was at this point I noticed that Luke was gaping at me. Like, full on eyes wide, mouth open gaping. "What?" I asked and somehow managed to keep the self conscious blush from covering my whole face. Did he really just notice how tiny I am? Is that why he looks so surprised? Or, oh fuck, did I leave out in the open and he saw it? I had to fight to keep my head from shooting around to frantically check my nightstand for any evidence of homoness. If there wasn't anything there getting all panicked and looking would be a hell of a great way to say 'hey, there's something Nate wants to keep hidden in the nightstand! Why don't you go look?' and why wasn't he SAYING anything? "What?!" I asked again, this time louder and with a less than manly voice crack.

Luke blinked and closed his mouth. "Oh, uh, nothing. It's's been a while since I heard someone take the Lord's name in vain."

It was my turn to blink in surprise. How the hell does someone respond to that? I didn't have time to think about it though.

"Nate! Luke! Dinner's ready!" my mom yelled up the stairs.

I jumped, gave Luke a slightly embarrassed smile and headed downstairs.

Define rage.

Wikipedia, which goes into WAY more detail than that loser Webster ever does, says it's a mental state that is one extreme of the intensity spectrum of anger. Sorry nameless geek with way too much time on your hands but I disagree with that one too. Rage is the result of my dad existing and being in the same room as me for more than 5 minutes causing someone who probably couldn't punch out a 4th grader to suddenly seriously think about leaping across a table and ripping out someone's throat with his fingernails.

Yeah, dinner didn't go that well.

Let's start from the beginning.

Honestly, when we first got down there I thought I had a whole new definition for awkward. My dad sat at the head of the dining room table like he belonged there with his peroxide blonde sitting to his right like a good little wife. My mom sat at the other head of the table, glaring at him. I couldn't help rolling my eyes. On the very, very few occasions when we actually used this table no one sat at the head. My and my mom usually sat across from each other. It was a bit childish really, kind of a "my dick is bigger than yours" thing between a man and a woman. Which was seven different kinds of stupid if you ask me.

Like my dad could win one of those against my mom.

My dad cracked first, like I knew he would. He broke eye contact with my mom and took Caroline's hand. "Who's going to say grace?"

I choked on the cream soda I was drinking. Is he for real? I looked over at Luke to ask but he already had his head bowed. Holy shit he WAS serious. People still did that? I looked at my mom for some indication of what I should do but she just gave me a small shrug and raised her eyebrow. "Since when did you get religious, Eric?"

My dad didn't say anything for a few seconds, just squeezed Caroline's hand. She squeezed back and I guess that was what he was looking for because he started talking. "Since I accepted Jesus into my heart and he helped me overcome my dependence on alcohol." He squeezed his wife's hand again and she gave him a small smile. He smiled back. I wanted to gag. I guess the smile was some kind of signal because the next thing I new it was life story time. "Caroline and I met in AA. We joined up at around the same time and kind of just fell in together. After a few weeks we started dating but no matter how much we tried to keep strong the temptation of alcohol was getting to be too much. It was lucky that we had each other to talk to or we might have slid back down the dark path. One day we were talking about the program and why it wasn't working when we got into a discussion about faith. The meetings were run by the local church so faith was always pushed as a part of the recovery process but we never really payed attention to it, thinking it was just the church trying to drum up donations or something. But things were getting bad and we decided we might as well give it a shot. Three days later we attended our first service and a month after that we were ready to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. It was the best decision we ever made. With the help of Jesus we haven't had a drop of alcohol in almost two years. I have a new wife and a great stepson and I'm truly happy. The only thing missing is you Nate." He looked at me. "You're my son and I want you to be a part of my life. You deserve to grow up with a mother and a father, like any child." He held up his hand when I opened my mouth. "I don't want an answer right now. Even though she may not have the best reasons I'm glad Julia invited us over tonight and I just want to get to know you. We can talk about the heavy stuff some other time." He smiled at me briefly. "So," he said and clapped his hands together. "Will you mind if I say grace?" He looked at my mom. So did I. She looked at my dad for a long moment then nodded.

While everyone's head was bowed and my dad went on about Jesus and food or whatever I stared at the table and thought about what my dad said. I never really gave any thought to his life since he came back into mine. I always just kinda assumed he was still drinking and honestly I kinda suspected him coming back was at least partly alcohol fueled. I never considered he might be sober and I never thought he might have a story like that. For the first time ever I felt like I understood my dad a little bit.

Now, this is the part where I wipe away a tear and make a silent promise to at least give my dad a chance and take that first step down the road to forgiveness, right? Well, it might have been. Really. Except for a few things.

The first thing is that during his whole story he never once actually apologized. To me or my mom. He hinted at wanting to take care of me and made it clear that his new wifey was a good influence on him but he never once even came close to admitting that he's the reason my childhood wasn't 'normal', let alone approached anything that even looked like an apology.

The second thing was the creepy way his eyes lit up whenever he talked about Jesus. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those people who thinks that religion is the root of all evil and needs to be wiped out so we can all hold hands and kiss puppies under the rainbows but it's a known fact that some people tend to get a bit too wrapped up in their religion. Especially if they're converts. The way my dad's eyes gleamed when he talked about it made me really uneasy. I dunno for sure what about it made me feel that way but considering fact that Luke seemed so surprised that I used Jesus Christ as a curse and the whole, you know, gay thing I was really wary of Born Again Dad.

Third, and I'm ending with the most important one here, when he said I deserve a 'mother and a father' I saw a few glances that gave me the impression that he wasn't talking about him and my mom. He was talking about him and Reformed Alkie Wife. That wasn't gonna fly with me. Even if I wanted to reconnect with him there was no way in fucking HELL that I was gonna let him come between me and my mom ever again. She may be annoying, frustrating and, at times, pure evil but she raised me. She loved me and I never had to question that.

My dad finished up and dinner kinda settled into a pattern. I talked quietly with Luke and the adults did their own thing. Which was mostly trading bitchy comments. I think. I dunno. I kinda tuned them out.

I found out a lot about Luke though. Including one, incredibly important, friend-and-brother relationship defining fact.

"You never saw Star Wars?!" I screeched. I absently noticed the conversation stopping around me but I didn't care. How the HELL could someone never have seen Star Wars? That's it's like someone saying they've never seen Star Wars! It's the thing you say when someone says they've never seen, like, Die Hard or Predator or something.

"Um, no." Luke smiled weakly. "I guess you have?"

"Who hasn't? It's like, only the greatest thing ever put on film! Are you sure you've never seen it?"

"Yeah. I'm-"

"Never even on TV when you were flipping channels or anything?"

"No, I-"

"You never saw it sitting there in a video store and thought 'hey, this looks cool maybe I should rent it'?"


"I-you-but-" I shook my head. "I'm letting you borrow the DVD's. There is no way I can let you walk out of here without all 6 movies."

"There are six of them?!" Luke exclaimed.

I shook my head sadly. "You poor boy." His childhood must have been hell. I shot a venomous glare at Neglectful Abusive Mom but she was too busy making some catty comment about my moms cooking to notice. "You need help."

Luke looked a little nervous. "Uh, thanks, but, um....I don't wanna take your DVD's....I mean if you like them so much I might lose them of some-"

I waved his words away. "It's cool. You're getting my spares I don't care if you lose them."


"Yeah, of course." I gave him a condescending smile. Poor, poor boy. "I got them for situations just like this. Plus I'm not gonna risk accidentally scratching one up and being without a complete, working set until I get get out to a video store."

"Um, ok, thanks." He took a bite of pot roast.

I sighed. "And you have to watch them in the right order."

"Uh, ok."

"Do you know what the right order is?" I asked, dreading the answer.

"Um. One to six?" he said with an implied 'duh' at the end.

I groaned. "You're hopeless. Pay attention. You watch them four to six then one to three ok?"


"That's New Hope, Empire, Jedi then Phantom Menace, Attack and Revenge ok? It's important!" I said forcefully. Some might say I'm coming on a bit too hard but if you don't experience the saga in the right order it totally ruins the experience. Especially for a virgin.

"Ok, ok! I got it."

"Good." I'd just have to trust him. "If you forget just give me a call. I'll write my number down and put it in the box for A New Hope."

"Ok." he said quietly and I noticed that his chair was a few inches further away from me that it was before this conversation started.

"Oh for-look I'm not crazy ok. Get back here." I pulled his chair back towards me. "Just trust me on this. You'll thank me later."

Luke just looked at me for a few seconds. "You're obsessed."

"I know." I said casually. "What? You don't have anything you're obsessed about?"

Luke blushed a bit and gave me an embarrassed smile. "Well, yeah I guess."

"Really? What?" I asked eagerly. This was always the best part about making a new friend. Finding obsessions to bond over. It was even more important now considering Luke was pretty much family.

"I'm really into Doctor Who." he said with the eager grin unique to a nerd when someone shows even the tiniest bit of interest in his obsession.

"Oh." Poor, poor, poor boy. Don't get me wrong, Doctor Who gives you decent to great nerd cred these days but he couldn't find something American or Japanese to obsess over?

"What?" Luke's eyes narrowed. "You don't like Doctor Who?"

"It's not really my thing." I said honestly.

"Have you ever even watched it?" Luke asked, glaring and with a little hostility creeping into his voice.

"A few episodes. It was ok. Just not something I liked." I was really trying to be diplomatic here. I didn't wanna come out and say the show sucked because then he'd get defensive and probably attack Star Wars and since he's not Vicky it'd end up with fistfights, flying food and trips to hospitals.

And not a word out of anybody about taking an obsession with a movie too far. If you're thinking that then you just don't know.

"Which episodes? Which Doctor was it?" Luke's eyes were gleaming, like he was trying to find some hidden secret to why I didn't love his show.

I shrugged. "I dunno. It was one of the newer ones."

"Was it the 11th Doctor?"

"Dude, I don't know. It was on SyFy a while back." I tried to remember something about the episode other than that it was boring and all the characters seemed to say 'finkin' instead of 'thinking'. "Doctor Who had, like, poofy hair and was kinda skinny?" I think.

"His name isn't 'Doctor Who'," Luke said exasperatedly. "It's just the Doctor."

"Just the Doctor? He doesn't have a name?"

"Yeah. Just the Doctor."

"Then why is the show called Doctor Who?" I asked confused. "Shouldn't they just call it The Doctor?"

Luke let out a frustrated growl. "It's kind of a running joke. He introduces himself as the Doctor and people say 'Doctor who?'."

"And that's how they got the title?"


I shook my head. "Brits."

"Hey! It's a great show! It's a classic. The people who made it were even smart enough to have a reason for changing actors built in to the backstory without changing the main character himself. Do you know any other show like that?"

I didn't know what he was talking about and, against my better judgment, I was about to ask when my dad interrupted us. It was probably for the best.

"So Nate," my dad said. "What did you do this weekend?"

Not for the best! Not for the best!

Goddammit! I should have known that question was a possibility. Why can't I be better at lying? That's it. Close to the end of the year New Year's resolution time. From now on I'm never talking to my dad without having a lie ready for every possible question he could ask me about any possible subject. How hard can that be? Can't possibly be any harder than doing what I have to do now. I gave a mental sigh of defeat and decided to just get it over with.

"I slept over at my friends house." Ouch. Sorry Vicky.

"Oh," my dad said. "Did you go to church with his family?"

Well, that's not something I would have thought he'd ask. Doesn't exactly roll out the confidence about my resolution. "Um, no." I tried to keep the 'why the hell would I do something like that?' out of my voice. I'd rather get into a Star Wars/Doctor Who argument with Bad Taste Step-Brother than get into a religious one with Divinely Obsessed Dad.

My dad frowned. "So you skipped?"

This time the sigh slipped out. "No, dad."

"We don't go to church, Eric." my mom cut in.

My dad's frown deepened. "Julia, you-"

"Eric." my mom's tone was the verbal equivalent of a rattlesnake's tail, a very clear 'back the fuck off'.

"Alright, alright." he held up his hands. "I didn't come here to fight." He turned back to me. "So, what's your friends name?"

Didn't come here to fight my-wait, what was the question? Oh. "Vicky. You met him the other night."

My dad frowned again. "Oh." he said.

Oh? What the fuck does that mean? And what's with that fucking frown? My boyfriend defensiveness started to kick in and like someone flipped a switch anger started to simmer in my chest. "What?" I asked sharply.

"Are you sure you want to be hanging around with him? A teenage boy calling himself Vicky seems kinda.....swishy, don't you think?"

"You asshole!" I screamed as the anger boiled over. I tried to launch myself across the table to do the aforementioned throat ripping but I kinda forgot to get up first and ended up slamming my stomach into the edge of the table. "Shit! Ow!"

Luckily my mom was there to take over. "ERIC!" she yelled, causing Luke and his mom, who had stood up at my scream and had almost identical looks of shock on their faces, and my dad, who was opening his mouth to say something, to freeze and stare at her. "You do NOT get to insult my son's friends in front of him in my house!"

"I'm looking out for him!" my dad yelled back, his face turning red. "It's hard enough going through school as small as he is and not playing any sports but he needs to watch out who his friends are or he'll be the target of abuse until he graduates high school! I don't want that for him."

My mom was so pissed she was shaking and I had a sudden image of her leaping across the table to finish what I started. She just had too much self control to actually do it.

Too bad.

"Nathan can choose his own friends." my mom practically snarled. "He doesn't go around worrying about what other people think or trying to make everyone like him and that makes me more proud than I could ever say." Even with how totally and completely pissed off I was I couldn't stop my eyes from watering up. "If that's how you would have raised him then I thank God that you left when you did." Ohh, the God thing was a nice touch, mom. "Get out of my house. Now."

My dad shook his head, not in refusal but more like he couldn't believe what he was hearing. "I don't like the way you're raising him Julia. I'm more convinced than ever that he needs my influence in his life. You'll be hearing from my lawyer."

"Get. Out."

"Fine. Caroline, Luke, come on." my dad walked past me, into the hall and out the front door.

Caroline got up to follow, looking almost as pale as me. "It was nice to meet you." she said absently as she followed. I might have laughed if I wasn't so mad.

"Dude," Luke whispered to me. "Your mom's kinda awesome." Then he followed his mom.

I barely heard the door close behind them.

Swishy? Swishy?! My dad meets the sweetest, most perfect boy in the world and all he can say is that he seems swishy? Because he doesn't have a butch name like Buck or Grant or John? How fucking dare he! He doesn't know Vicky. He barely talked to him and never spent any time with him. He didn't even TRY to get to know him before making a snap judgment that he wasn't the 'right sort' to be my friend. And where the fuck does he get off telling me what kind of people I should be friends with anyway?! I had a crazy desire to run outside after them and tell my dad that he didn't need to worry about me being friends with Vicky because he was my boyfriend and see how his judgmental, religious ass likes that.

I didn't though. In fact, it only made me even more determined to keep him from finding out. This Eric Ellis wasn't the drunk I remember or the attentive, fun guy he was when I was little. He was new. And he scared me just a little bit. Which really only pissed me off even more.

"Nate?" I jumped, my mom's voice startling me. "You ok." She placed her hand comfortingly on my shoulder and I didn't even realize that I'd been shaking until her touch calmed me enough to stop.

I took a deep but very unsteady breath. "I'll be in my room."

I got up and walked out without a backward glance or another word. Mom didn't say anything or try to stop me and I loved her for it.

I got to my room and closed the door, my last thought before collapsing against it and crying tears of rage was that I never gave Luke my Star Wars DVD's.

"Your dad really said that?" Michelle asked the next day at lunch after I got done explaining what had happened. It was the first thing she'd said in a while, which was pretty shocking itself. In fact I think the last thing she said had been "Holy shit you have a dad?!". I looked at the clock. Wow, lunch was almost over.

Time flies when you're airing personal drama in public.

I took a look around the table and saw that everyone was hanging on my every word. Except Jason. He already knew the whole story. Last night after I was done crying I tried for a half hour to call Vicky but his phone kept doing that ringing-while-not-going-to-the-answering-machine thing so I guessed Jack must have been on the phone. I ended up throwing the phone across the room and screaming about idiots not having call waiting. I don't think my mom heard. If she did I'm pretty sure I'd be seeing a therapist right now. Probably while two roid head guys stood behind me with Thorazine and a straight jacket ready to go.

Strangely enough that really didn't make me feel any better. I felt like if I didn't talk to someone about what happened I'd literally burst so despite the weirdness of our last conversation still bothering me a bit I sucked it up and called Jason.

When he realized it was me I got the impression that he wanted to hang up so instead of letting him think up an excuse I just started telling him everything that happened. It was the second time that weekend he put aside whatever shit was bothering him to try and help me with something that was seriously fucking me up and if it didn't feel so damn good just to TALK to someone I probably would have felt worse about that. He really is a much better friend to me than I ever was to him.

We ended up talking for about an hour and when we finally said goodbye it took me less than 5 minutes to fall asleep. So, yeah, he knew everything and actually looked kinda bored sitting there hearing it again. I guess I could understand but I was kind of annoyed at him since all damn day he'd been acting weird again. Like he was avoiding me without actually avoiding me. If that makes any sense. Which it doesn't. But that's still how it was.

Just pretend you get it.

"Yep." I answered and gave Vicky's hand a squeeze. He squeezed me back and since his arm was already around my chest he gave me a little hug at the same time. I nuzzled my head further into his chest and soaked up the comfort of being held by Vicky.

Yeah, we were in the middle of lunch where literally everyone in our grade could see us but I didn't give a shit. I felt so bad about pretty much denying what he was to me twice last night that I needed to be close to him to show him how much I loved him. Of course, he didn't know that at first so when I crawled into his lap in homeroom and buried my face in his neck he was more than a little bit surprised.

Didn't stop him from copping a feel though. I love my Vicky.

I think the only person who was more surprised than Vicky was Mrs Philips when 10 seconds later I dragged Vicky towards the door of the room. "I need to be consoled, page 15, not breaking the rules you can't yell at us bye!" I shouted to her as I dragged him out and down the hall.

They really need to update that rule book.

I dragged Vicky into the nearest bathroom (ok so it wasn't the guidance counselors office or an unused detention room. Sue me) pushed him into the nearest stall and crawled back into his lap before smashing my lips against his. After a minute of kissing I pulled back and told him what happened and apologized to him and cried and all he did was hold me and whisper soothing words into my ear until I calmed down. He told me that he wasn't gonna accept my apology because there was nothing to be sorry for and before I could even start to argue he started kissing me again.

We ended up skipping first period.

I felt better, if a bit weak in the knees, after that but I still needed to be as close to Vicky as I could be all day. I stopped short of sitting in his lap during class but every second we were outside a classroom I was holding his hand or tucked under his arm or hugging his waist. Yeah, maybe I was acting like a needy little bitch but I didn't care. And neither did Vicky. He soaked up the attention like it was the only thing keeping him alive.

"Wow, that's such bullshit." Erica said. The amount of sympathetic disgust in her voice made me immediately update her status from "lesser evil" to "tentative friend". "Your dad sounds like a total asshole."

"He is." I agreed and burrowed closer to Vicky. I was practically on top of him and I was looking at the small bit of space between Vicky's thighs and the bottom of the table trying to figure out how I could get into his lap without the rough metal digging into my legs when Carl spoke up.

"So, what are you gonna do?" he asked.

"Gonna try to, just, squeeze in here-uh, what? Oh. Um, I dunno." I reluctantly took my attention away from the table space. "Try to avoid him as much as possible I guess."

"But what if he, you know, gets you?" Michelle asked. "Will he make you leave Vicky? Will he take you back to Alaska!? Oh no! We have to stop him!"

"Calm down! Look, even if he wins it'll just be joint custody. He can't take me away or anything like that." Yeah. That was me, being the voice of reason and rationality. Don't get used to it. Oh alright, fine! I'm quoting Vicky ok? Jesus!

Vicky knew it too. I felt a slight shudder as he suppressed a chuckle. "You're completely, totally, one hundred percent right." He gave me a squeeze. I grumbled and half heartedly swatted his thigh but nuzzled his chest again after.

"You guys are too damn adorable." Erica mumbled.

"I know, right?" Michelle said. "I wish I could take them home with me and just watch them."

"Yeah," Vicky said. "That isn't creepy at all."

"You might wanna tone down the stalker vibe there. We've been cuddly all day, you should just enjoy it instead of giving us reasons not to do it in front of you." I added.

Michelle sat up totally straight. "Okok! Sorry! Sorry! Don't stop!"

I felt another suppressed chuckle from Vicky as I grinned. Looks like prostituting our cuddles gets her to go easy on the crazy. Who knew? My grin faded as I got pissed at myself for thinking about using our affection to get Michelle to shut up. Wow. Not only am I a terrible best friend but I'm turning into a crappy boyfriend too. I leaned up to whisper in Vicky's ear. "I love you." It made me feel a little bit better.

He surprised me by turning around and kissing me quickly. "Me too."

"OH! MY! GOD!" Michelle shrieked.

"What?" Erica's head shot back around from where she was looking at.....something.

"They kissed!"

"I missed it?!" Erica whined. "Fuck!"

Maybe I need to rethink that status upgrade....

The bell rang then, as it tends to do, and we all got up to leave. Jason was the first one out, Jen just behind him and I couldn't decide whether or not to catch up with him and make him tell me what the hell this sudden strangeness between us was about. I decided against it. He was the one with the problem and when he wanted to talk about it he would. I wasn't gonna go hunting him down and beg him to talk.

"Nate! Vicky! Wait up!" Michelle called right after we left the cafeteria. Hand in hand of course.

Vicky looked at me questioningly, leaving the decision of stopping or running like hell up to me. I stopped. She really hadn't been that bad today. Probably because she was listening to me talk most of the period but still, her voice didn't make me cringe so why spend the extra energy?

"Hey," she said brightly as she stopped in front of us. "I didn't get a chance at lunch but I wanted to ask you...." she frowned.

After a few seconds of silence Vicky asked, "Ask us what?"

"Um, promise me you'll think about it before saying no, ok?" She answered, but was looking at me.

I sighed. Nothing that follows that is EVER good. Still.....wasting energy and all that. "Ok, fine. Promise."

"Ok, cool." she took a calming breath but I could see the tension/excitement/general Michelle hyperness making her body practically vibrate in place. "So, I'm having a Halloween costume party at the end of the monthandI'dreallyloveitifyouguyscame." She must have seen my expression change and forced out that last bit before I could say no.

She shouldn't have bothered.

"Sure, sounds awesome." I said excitedly.

"Look, you thought you'd hate the dance too right and look how much fun you had! Well, except for the end but I promise there won't be anything like that there."

"I said yes."

"And I promise there won't be too many people. Just everyone at our table and a few other people I know. 10, 25 tops I swear!"

"I wanna go."

"I won't even ask you to dress up if you don't want to, you can just show up and-"

"Michelle!" I yelled, loud enough to cut her off and turn more than a few heads our way. "I said I'll come. Like 5 times."

She closed her mouth, cocked her head, then opened it again, closed it, blinked and finally spoke. "R-really?"

I glanced over at Vicky to see if he was as amused as I was but he was just staring at me with his mouth open in surprise. I looked back and forth between them "What?" I asked finally.

"You really WANT to go?" Vicky asked quietly, like saying it would make me change my mind.

"It's a costume party right? Of course I wanna go!" I gave a little 'duh' head shake.

"You like costume parties?" Vicky asked.

"Dunno. Never been to one. But I LOVE Halloween and cospl-uh, wearing costumes so a costume party sounds fucking awesome."

Vicky's eyes lit up. "You almost said cosplay!" he accused.

"No, well, maybe." I crossed my arms while still holding his hand. "So what?"

"No, nothing. I just didn't think you'd, you know, go for that."

"Well I do, ok? Is that a problem?" I was suddenly feeling a bit defensive.

"No! That's really awesome!" He giggled.

"So, I take it you wanna go too right?"

"Hell yeah! I'd never miss seeing you all dressed up and sexy." He shot me his wicked grin and licked his lips.

Yeah, my pants suddenly got a lot tighter. But for once it didn't distract me too much. "We should have the same theme for our costumes. Like, Star Wars or something."

Vicky stuck out his tongue. "What about Star Trek?"

I stuck out my tongue. "Why would I wanna do that?"

"Skintight uniforms?"

Hm. If anything could get me to switch camps, at least for a night, that would probably be it. "Let's talk about it." And we did, all the way to our next class.

It was only after class started that I realized we left Michelle standing back in the hall in shock and we didn't have any idea where the party was gonna be or when we should show up. Oh well, that's why tomorrow exists.

The next few weeks passed pretty quickly.

I could have kissed Michelle for inviting me to her party because it gave me something to think about besides all the other crap going on in my life. Not that I would ever actually kiss her. Aside from the whole 'she girl, me gay' thing it would be like kissing a really annoying cousin. Plus I'm pretty sure the second my lips touched hers she'd go into a fangirl adamantium sex rage and end up ravaging me on the spot. So, yeah, not kissing her.

I could have though.

I hadn't heard much from my dad since that night we had dinner. His lawyer called like he promised and my mom bitched him out for like an hour before hanging up on him and forcing him to call back. I only hoped the guy was billing my dad according to how much time he spent on the case and if I had to guess from the satisfied smirk on my moms face after they were finally done talking she was thinking along the same lines.

Still, my dad ended up getting his way in the end. A judge ruled that he deserved another custody hearing and one was scheduled for the middle of November. I didn't pay much attention to it. My mom, her lawyer and sometimes even Jack would talk about it endlessly but I couldn't stand to even think about it so mostly I just let costume concerns and Vicky's general awesome perfectness distract me.

Jason was also pretty distracting but not in a good way. We still talked, we still hung out but there was always this feeling of uncomfortableness in the air when we were together. It got worse when me and Vicky were together with him and there were so many times when it was on the tip of my tongue to ask him what the fuck the problem was but I always held back. I didn't want anything else to deal with until after this shit with my dad was solved and I had the feeling that whatever was wrong with Jason would be a bitch to deal with. Vicky disagreed with that but this was one of the few times where he didn't sway me. Deep down I knew he was probably right and that talking about the problem would be better than ignoring it and letting it get worse but Reasonable Logical Nate had been tied up and gagged and now Deal By Avoidance Nate was firmly in control.

Those were the big things going on in my life. But the small stuff was no less important.

Carl kept up his habit of showing up at my locker between classes and talking with me and Vicky. He still never said much at lunch but when it was just us he seemed really open and sometimes even funny. I had no idea why he acted so shy around anyone but us but I never asked. I also started to notice that he'd sometimes be talking with Vicky at his locker alone when I'd try to meet up with him after the few classes we didn't have together but he always left before I got close. Vicky never mentioned it and I never asked but it stuck in the back on my head and I'd find myself thinking about it at odd times.

The same week of the Dinner From Hell was also the week of the return of Skip Williams. I only saw him once and then only briefly before I turned around and strategically withdrew.....ok fine fled like a pussy in the other direction but from what I overheard and what other people told me he'd pretty much been shunned by everyone he used to hang around with. No one started anymore fights with him but he didn't start anything with anyone else either. He was almost a nonentity roaming the halls, noticed but ignored as long as he kept to himself.

Part of me kinda felt bad for him.

Like I said before, I didn't talk to my dad since that night but I did talk to Luke quite a bit. One of the three times my dad called my mom he managed to pass along Luke's email address before the shouting match started. We emailed pretty regularly after that and everything I found out about him made it clear that he'd fit in perfectly with my friends. With his sarcasm, sense of humor and love of video games he almost seemed like a shorter Jason in a way. He was fun to talk to, but it was exhausting trying to keep the conversation away from anything that might lead to girl or relationship talk. I have no idea how the hell people do this closet thing their whole lives. It's fucking hard.

The one mistake I made with him was letting him play Reach with me, Jason and Vicky. Even though it ripped me apart to do it I made it clear to both of them that they needed to keep me and Vicky's sexuality and relationship a secret with him. It didn't seem to bother Vicky at all but that was ok, I was bothered enough for the both of us. That wasn't why it was a mistake though. The mistake was ever going against my first instinct and letting Jason and Luke meet.

I was totally right about them being alike and it took maybe 5 minutes before they teamed up in the insult game and verbally ripped me and Vicky apart. It kinda annoyed me. I mean, a little brotherly loyalty would have been nice, you know? It didn't help that he was better at Reach than all of us and when it turned into a two on two game (guess the teams...) the barrage of friendly abuse turned into a tsunami.

The one good thing to come out of that meeting was that Jason seemed more like his normal, pre-weirdness self. At least while we were playing. It was nice and even though I ended the night wanting to punch a hole through the nearest wall with how pissed I was at how badly I was getting owned I decided to invite him to play with us again.

Maybe I'm not such a bad friend after all.

Like I said though the time passed quickly and now here it was 6 days before the party and Vicky and I still hadn't decided on what we were going to wear.

"Why can't we just do Star Trek again?" Vicky groaned as he flopped back on my bed.

"Because the costumes they sell at the store are cheap and my mom's too busy to make them for us. Unless your dad is gayer than we are and can sew us up a couple of skintight jumpsuits we're out of luck." I sighed. "Can we just move on from Star Trek, please? We really need to pick something today or we won't be able to get ready by Sunday."

"Fine! But no Star Wars!"

"Awww come on!" I whined. I'd been subtly pushing the Star Wars alternative for weeks and I thought I was making some headway. "You'd look awesome as Han. And I could be your bright eyed Jedi farmboy, eager to do anything he had to to go out and see the galaxy with you." I licked my lips suggestively.

Vicky stared at my lips for a few seconds before violently shaking his head. "No! Your sexyness isn't gonna work on me!" he buried his head in the nearest pillow.

"You think I'm sexy?" I asked and shuffled closer to him. I lightly ran my fingers up his leg and over his hip. I felt him shudder.

"God, you know I do." He moved his head so he was looking at me through a curtain of hair with one eye, the rest of his face still buried in the pillow. It was my turn to shudder. No! Keep strong! Don't let him counter-seduce you!

I moved even closer until our bodies were touching before brushing my lips lightly across the back of his head. "So why are you resisting me?"

Vicky groaned and turned his head a little more. His other eye was still hidden by the pillow but his mouth and nose were visible now. "I'm not." he said softly.

I leaned in again and barely grazed his lips with mine. "Really?"

"Ohhhh!" Without warning he grabbed me by the back of my head and pulled me in for a searingly hot kiss. Our tongues danced and we moaned at the same time and I could practically feel the blood rushing into my crotch. "You are so hot." he breathed. Yes! I had him! "But we're still not doing Star Wars."

"Gaaaa!" I rolled away from him as he laughed. "You're a bastard."

"Me? You're the one who got me all hot and bothered trying to get me to dress up as Han Solo."

"You'd look hot as Han!"

"But I don't wanna dress up as Han. If we can't do Star Trek I don't wanna do Star Wars."

"Fine!" I growled, then slumped in defeat. He really would have looked hot as Han too..... "So what do we do then?"

Vicky thought for a few minutes. "We both like Firefly, right?"

I considered. "Yeah. Yeah we do."

"Sooooo?" he trailed off and cocked an eyebrow.

I sighed. "Ok, it's the next best thing to Star Wars anyway."

"Ok, so who are we gonna be?"

"You can be Mal. My hair's too long to pull it off right and you'd look better in a duster anyway."

Vicky grinned. "Awesome. So who are you gonna be?"

"Ummm." I tried to think of a cast member that I could even sort of pass for. "I got nothing." I said finally, slumping in defeat again.

"What about Jayne?"

I gave him a look. "You really see me pulling off Adam Baldwin?"

"Point." He looked me up and down. "If you cut your hair you could be Wash?"

"No way!" I covered my hair protectively. "I look terrible with short hair. It's not worth it. Even for Halloween."

Vicky sighed. "Well then I dunno. The only other person you could be is Kaylee-" I threw a pillow at him. "Ow. Ok, no Kaylee."

"No girls."

"Ok, no girls." Vicky agreed. "Even if you would look hot as-" I threw another pillow. "Ok! Ok! No girls!"

I grinned. "Good boy."

"So I guess Firefly's out then?"

I frowned. "Yeah, guess so."

Vicky sighed. "Ok, what about Babylon 5?"

"Never saw it."

"Stargate SG-1?"

"We could build the costume from the military stuff at the store but wouldn't be able to get the SG-1 patches in time. Everyone would think we're trying to be plain old soldiers and we'd be spending all night correcting people."

"Ok. How about Highlander?"

"Hey, that's a-wait, never mind. We wouldn't be able to get the swords."

"Grrr!" Vicky huffed. "We're running out of shows here."

"Ok, well how about a video game?"

"Cosplaying as a video game character? The only thing more cliché would be dressing up as an anime character."

Well, there goes my next suggestion. "Ok then, how about non sci-fi movies?"

"Like Lord of the Rings?"

"No, like Fast and the Furious or Commando or something."

"That's...." Vicky broke off and looked thoughtful. "Hey, what about Simon?"

"I've never seen it."

"No, idiot." Vicky threw a pillow back at me. "Simon from Firefly."

"My hair isn't black." I said like it was the most obvious thing in the world. Which it kinda was. I mean, my hair is pretty fucking blond.

"You could dye it."

"I....." I frowned as I tried to think of an argument for that. I didn't have one. "I could, yeah."

Vicky grinned. "Awesome! So we'll go as Mal and Simon?"

I thought. "Well, I'll have to creative with my hair. It'll be longer than I want but....yeah, sounds good." I smiled.

"Great!" Vicky sighed happily. "Fuck that was hard."

I giggled. "No, that was the easy part. Now we gotta go to Craig's Costume Castle and put the outfits together."

Vicky groaned. "Can't we just stay here and fuck?"

"Nope." I said cheerfully. Happiness at getting Vicky back for before was enough to help me ignore the sudden boner.

Vicky groaned again and I felt a bit sorry for him.

"Buuuuuut," I grinned suggestively. "When we're done we can come back and try them on. Maybe Simon will disobey Mal's orders and need to be..." I licked my lips. "Disciplined."

Vicky swallowed. "How far away is the store?"

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