Vicky and Jack hadn't even been gone twenty minutes the next day before the doorbell was ringing rapidly.
I growled under my breath, annoyed because my mom went out to pick up lunch and I was the only one here to answer the stupid thing. It didn't seem like it was gonna stop anytime soon either so I threw down the controller without bothering to pause the game I was barely paying attention to stalk downstairs and rip the door open ready to kick some Jehovah's Witness ass. To my surprise, fresh faced acolytes where nowhere to be found. Instead, there was Jason.
Who hit me.
"Ow!" I cried, rubbing my shoulder. "What the hell?"
"You didn't tell me what happened with your dad." he accused as he pushed his way in my house, closing the door behind him.
"Wha-" I started.
"Luke told me." Jason cut me off and hit me again in the same damn spot.
"Ow! Stop hitting me!" I rubbed my arm again and jumped back, eying him warily.
"You're supposed to tell me these things Nate." he said, ignoring my pain. "I'm your best friend remember?"
"Best friends don't beat each other up!"
"Oh please, I barely even tapped you." he said dismissively.
"My arm is numb!" Ok, maybe a slight exaggeration but I was making a point.
He just rolled his eyes. "Why didn't you call me Nate?" he asked insistently, then hesitated and added, "I'm still your best friend, right?"
"Oh for-" I shook my head in disbelief. "Is that why you're assaulting me? Of course you're my best friend, idiot! What kind of stupid question is that?"
"Well then why the hell didn't you call me?" Jason said in frustration. "I thought we were cool after, you know, everything and I had to find out from Luke that-"
"I'm sorry! Ok?" I cut him off. "Jesus! Vicky JUST left, next time I'll jump on the phone the second he's out the door, ok?"
Jason huffed. "You could have called me last night. I was . . . . . " he trailed off and looked away. "Worried, ok? I was worried."
"You were worried so you came over here at 1:30 in the afternoon and started punching me?"
"Fuck, Nate, I-"
I held up a hand to cut him off. "Whatever. Look, we fell asleep last night and I kinda had other things on my mind before Vicky left, ok?"
"Other things on your mind?" he asked incredulously. "Like what?"
"My ankles." I said flatly. I was more than a little bit annoyed so I figured I'd go for shock value over discretion.
"Your-?" he cut himself off with a tiny squeak as he realized what I meant. "O-oh." he said softly, his anger deflating. "Ok."
Mine quickly did the same as I had to fight not to laugh at his embarrassed blush. I shifted a bit to hide the quarter-on I was getting thinking about just exactly why my ankles were up by my head and felt the smallest twinge in my ass reminding me that I wasn't completely recovered yet. Luckily Jason didn't notice, he was too busy-what the hell?!
"You're getting turned on!" I accused loudly as I pointed to the incredibly suspicious bulge in his jeans he was trying to hide.
Jason blushed really hard, something that I might have been proud of causing if this were any other situation. "Shut up." he mumbled. "It's not my fault. Ever since I figured out I was gay the stupid thing won't stop doing that."
Hm. Well. As someone with the same problem I guess I could understa- "No! Do you have to do it when you're thinking about me?"
Jason blushed again. Or more. I wasn't really paying attention that much. "I. Can't. Help. It." he ground out between clenched teeth.
I was so close to telling him he needed to get laid, but a rare attack of common sense stopped me. Nothing that followed a comment like that would be something I wanted to talk about. "Whatever." I said. "But now you can't be mad at me for not telling you about my dad."
"Fine. Great. Anything if we can just not talk about this-" he gestured downwards "-anymore." he said quickly.
"Done." I agreed.
There was a short, awkward silence after that and for once I decided to be the one to break it. "So, did Luke say anything about what happened after he left?"
"Um, not really." Jason shrugged. "We kinda spent most the time talking about what happened with you." Jason half smiled. "He uh, definitely doesn't hate you anymore." he added with a chuckle.
"I know. We made up after Vicky threw him against the wall-"
"What?!" Jason yelled.
"What?" I asked.
"Vicky THREW Luke against the wall?"
It's weird, I couldn't tell if he was surprised or pissed. "Yeah dude, I guess Luke left that part out?"
"Damn right he did." Jason growled. Ok, definitely pissed. "Why did he do that?"
I sighed. "It's kind of a longish story, maybe we should go upstairs or in the living room or somewhere that isn't right in front of the front door?" I asked, fighting the urge to rub my still tender shoulder again as I replayed some of the less pleasant memories I had of the last few minutes.
"Fine. But you're telling me everything."
I just nodded and started walking up to my room. I heard the sound of shoes being flung off feet and then feet fast walking to catch up so I didn't even bother to make sure he was following me. If there's one thing Jason isn't, it's silent.
When we got in my room he went right over to my computer chair and flopped down just like he always did and it suddenly hit me how long it'd been since I had Jason in my room. At least since the middle of summer. I might have felt bad about that if it wasn't because I was too busy being with Vicky to invite him over. Jason may have been my best friend, but Vicky was my boyfriend.
Whoever said "bros before hos" was a total idiot.
"So." Jason prompted after I jumped onto my bed and rolled on my stomach.
He seemed pissed still and I figured that he was feeling a little left out. Honestly, I didn't blame him. I could have done without the physical abuse (I may not burn but I do have the whole 'pale skin bruising easily' thing going on) but I knew I would have been annoyed if I had to find out about something like this from Jason's cousin or something. So, I told him the whole story. Everything that happened over the weekend starting with my drenched and ruined school bag, through the talk me and Vicky had with my mom and then to the confrontation between Vicky and Luke before he stopped me. He asked a bunch of questions about that but they were pretty much all just different ways of asking "Did Luke get hurt?" and after spending like ten minutes telling him over and over again that, no he didn't, he finally started to relax and he didn't seem so pissed anymore.
An uncomfortable suspicion started to form in my head but my old friend Avoidance showed up and dragged the thought away to a dark corner of my mind to do unspeakable things to it.
So instead of thinking I told the rest of the story. When I was done Jason just sat there for few minutes staring off into space before getting up, walking over to me and giving me a hug. It was quick, and to my credit I kinda saw the hug in his eyes so I didn't flip out and push him away or stiffen up or anything, but I still wasn't totally comfortable with touchy feely Jason. It wasn't that I thought he was trying to grope me or anything, it was just an unexplored part of our friendship. And I wasn't in any rush to be Lewis and Clark.
"I'm sorry man." Jason said after the hug was over. "Your dad's an asshole."
"I kinda noticed." I cleared my throat. "And, uh, . . . . thanks."
We shared an awkward smile.
"So, what else did Luke say?" I asked, breaking a silence for the second time today. Go me. "Did he really not say anything about what happened after they left?"
"No, dude, nothing. We really mostly just talked about dinner."
"Mostly?" I asked. "What else did you talk about?"
"Nothing." Jason said quickly and -dear sweet Jesus- was that a blush? Avoidance wasn't paying close enough attention and Suspicion made a break for it before being tackled by Willful Ignorance and hauled away again. I just shrugged.
"Ok." I said, not at all wanting to pursue that any further.
"Oh!" Jason exclaimed like he just remembered something. "I'm supposed to give you Luke's email address."
"Yeah. He told me he's not allowed to talk to you anymore and your dad kept picking up the phone while we were talking to make sure it wasn't you so email's pretty much the only way you'll get to talk to Luke."
"Oh." I didn't even think about that. "Yeah, ok, give it to me." He went over to my desk got a piece of paper, wrote something down and handed it to me. I looked at it, let out an amused chuckle and raised my eyebrows. "davidteninch at sonicscrewdrivehim dot com?" I asked. For someone who terrified about his family finding out he likes dick that's a pretty damn gay email address. Wild guess but I don't think dad knows about this email.
Jason laughed. "Uh, yeah, he has one of those custom email things. It's a Doctor Who reference."
I groaned. "Please don't tell me you watch that show too." I begged.
He shrugged. "Luke got me into it." he said. "It's not bad." he added defensively.
"Oh my God! I tried to get you into Star Wars for YEARS and you barely sat through the original trilogy. What the hell dude?"
"Really? You're still-" he rolled his eyes. "I just don't like Star Wars, ok?"
"But you like Doctor Who?" I asked incredulously. This just didn't make ANY sense to me.
"Yeah, I do."
I shook my head. "I feel like I should be the one hitting you now."
"You never let anything go." he huffed.
"I haven't brought up the 'watching' thing, have I?"
Jason blushed and looked away. "Shut up." he mumbled.
Now, I ask you, would you ever let anything go when holding onto it gets a reaction like that? Thought not. And, seriously, Doctor Who? Come on! "Whatever dude. You know Star Wars is better, you just don't want to admit it. But don't worry, it's cool. I won't force you or anything." I smiled. "Today."
Jason just stared at me before slowly shaking his head. "You're insane. You do know this, right?"
I nodded happily. Jason shook his head again.
"You'd think this thing with your dad would maybe be more important than whether or not I like Star Wars."
He said it offhandedly. Joking even. But the second the words were out of his mouth my good mood disappeared. "Maybe I'm trying not to think about it." I snapped.
"Oh." Jason said sheepishly. "Um, sorry."
I sighed heavily. "Doesn't matter. I'm not really doing a good job with the not thinking about it thing anyway." And just like that my moroseness was gone. If I could have squeezed another worry into my head I'd be pretty damn concerned about the possibility of being bi-polar right about now. "Wanna play some Reach?"
Jason blinked, obviously thrown by my mood swing. "Um, sure?"
I grinned. "Awesome."
And that's what we did for the rest of the day. It was nice, playing Reach with Jason sitting next to me. For those few hours we played and taunted and laughed and shoved each other it almost felt like nothing had changed from the old days. No dad, no fangirls, no Skip, no custody crap, no drama. Can you be nostalgic for something that's less than six months gone? I might have been if I didn't have Vicky. He's more than worth everything I'm going through. Still, it was nice to pretend things hadn't changed. Just for a little while.
Jason stayed for dinner. It was funny, because he spent like twenty minutes begging me not to even hint to my mom about his gayness and then he goes and blushes like a schoolgirl the first time she mentions Luke. Suspicion started cackling madly from his cell until Avoidance went in and shut him up. My mom kept giving him weird looks the whole time we were at the table and it was so hard not to laugh.
After he left I sent off a quick email to Luke's ridiculous email address asking him to tell me what happened after they left, another one to Vicky just telling him that I loved him (insert "aww's" here) and then went to bed.
"Maybe telling him wasn't the best idea." Vicky said nervously the next day at lunch.
"Yeah. I'm starting to think so." I said as I absently folded and unfolded the paper I was holding.
It was a printout of the email I'd gotten from Luke when I woke up this morning. It was . . . . . not encouraging.
"Your dad is seriously nuts." Jen said. I might have regretted reading it to everyone, it's Jason's fault for asking about it five minutes after we sat down anyway, but it had the amazing side effect of completely shutting Michelle up. She hadn't said anything since I read it. "I mean, my grandma practically lives at church on Sunday's and even she's never sounded like that."
The sick feeling I had that morning after reading it for the first time started to come back. "Great. Even by religious nut standards my dad's crazy. Awesome." I snapped. And that was really the problem. It wasn't the talk about sending me to a therapist or putting me in one of those pray the gay away camps or even the part about trying to get my mom brought up on some kind of charges, (that one would have been funny at a different time. "Officer! Arrest that woman! She turned my son gay by divorcing me.") the thing that got me feeling like I was going to throw up was when he made his whole shiny new family sit down for a full hour to pray for my soul.
Who the hell does that?
Crazy people. That's who.
And this crazy person was pretty damn close to getting legal control over my life.
"My grandma's not really a religious nut." Jen said defensively, but weakly.
"Isn't she the one that keeps buying you a Bible in Latin every year for Christmas?" Erica asked pointedly. "And those bead things on your birthday?"
"Rosaries? Yeah but it's, like, getting the same sweater every year. Not really nutty or anything . . . . " she trailed off, apparently realizing her argument wasn't all that good.
Religious people like that scare me. Not because they believe in God or anything, religion itself isn't evil, but because you can pretty much find a justification for anything in a religious book and if you believe hard enough that justification turns into a holy duty. Jen's grandma's holy duty is apparently to send her bibles that she can't read. My dad's is to completely suck the gay out of me.
I know, bad choice of words. Let's just get past it, ok?
"Can we maybe get back to the original topic?" Jason cut in. "My best friend getting shipped away to some brainwashing camp is a little more important than whether or not Jen's grandma is a nut."
I winced. I knew he was only trying to help, although what the hell he thought talking about it was gonna do I had no idea, but the wording could have been better. My already upset stomach did another flip.
Jen glanced briefly at Jason before looking away. That was as close as they'd come to talking to each other since the party and thank god THAT awkward situation was still going on. I dunno what I would have done if I could have actually felt relaxed at lunch. Probably something crazy like maybe feel a little less horrible about this stupid court thing. Can't have that . . . . .
"You have to live with me!" Michelle suddenly blurted out. Great. Knew that silence couldn't last forever.
"What?" I managed to get out without feeling too much worse. But I could already feel the saliva building up in my mouth. Why is it that talking about something with people other than Vicky just makes you feel worse about it? Or is that just me?
"When your dad wins you need to run away and live with me. You can live in the basement and Vicky can come over and visit and I could-"
"You aren't watching us." Vicky said sternly.
"I didn't mean-and why not? If you were there I could just-but I didn't mean that! I just don't want Nate to get shipped away and never see us again."
Now my stomach twisted after the flip. Could that really happen? I mean, joint custody kinda implies that one parent can't just ship me away or take off with me but what if I get sent to some hidden camp and they can't find me? Is my dad crazy enough to risk kidnapping charges just to make me not gay? Oh God of course he is! Shit! Now I'm really freaking out!
"That's not gonna happen!" Jason yelled.
"It might." Erica said quietly and shot me a worried look. "His dad's nuts. He could do anything if he gets Nate."
Oh no. I'm gonna be sick. I groaned.
"Are you ok?" Vicky whispered to me. All around us everyone except Carl started arguing about whether or not I was gonna be taken away and never seen again. But even through my sudden haze of wanting to die-ness I noticed that he followed the conversation very closely.
"N-no." I said shakily. "Gonna be sick."
Vicky stood up and gently helped me to my feet. He ignored the sudden questions, put his hand on my waist and guided me towards the cafeteria exit. The walking didn't exactly help my stomach and I started swallowing every few seconds to keep my mouth from filling up with pre-puke saliva. We just got to the door when a stern looking old lady stepped in front of us.
"Where are you two going?" the lunch monitor asked. "Lunch isn't over for another twenty minutes."
"Bathroom." Vicky said shortly without stopping and started to walk us around her.
"Together?" she said skeptically and sidestepped so she stayed in front of us.
"Yes." Vicky ground out between gritted teeth.
She let out a disbelieving snort. "Right." she put a hand on Vicky's shoulder and stopped him. "There's only one pass left so if you really are going to the bathroom you can go one at a time." she smirked. Jesus fuck! Didn't she see that I was about to blow? Did she seriously think we were trying to cut fucking LUNCH of all things? And go where? Math?
"Look," Vicky snarled. "My boyfriend is about to throw up and if you don't get the hell out of the way he's gonna do it all over you so can you please just MOVE!"
Her eyebrows raised almost to her wrinkly hairline, but she didn't move. "Boyfriend?" she frowned. "You're THOSE two?" she sniffed. "Well, then I'm definitely not letting you go to the bathroom together."
It happened quickly. I felt Vicky tense up next to me and start shaking with fury. He opened his mouth and shouted "GET THE FU-"
And then I threw up.
It wasn't nearly as funny as, say, my dad doing it to a bailiff but somewhere in the small part of my brain that wasn't occupied with panic and trying very hard not to get any of it up my nose started to laugh it's ass off at the way the monitor jumped back and shrieked as the first volley hit her directly in her ugly beige dress pants. It was a good thing my brain was so busy because normally I would have died of humiliation. Vicky's shout drew everyone's attention to us so I'm pretty sure there wasn't a single person who didn't see me hurl all over the lunch monitor. Including the other lunch monitors.
Vicky was quick though. He barely wasted a second shooting off a "told you so" smirk at the dripping lady before pulling me by the arm out of the cafeteria. I was still feeling like crap, but I was better enough to move at a quick walk so we were down the hall and around the corner before any of them caught up with us.
I managed to keep from spewing again until we were safely locked in a bathroom stall.
"You ok?" Vicky asked, rubbing my shoulders. I was on my knees with my head resting on the toilet seat, something I'd most likely freak out about later considering how many times I've pissed on one of them by accident. It had been five minutes since my last dry heave and I didn't think anything else was coming up.
"Define 'ok'." I groaned.
I felt a pair of lips brush softly against my hair, hair that Vicky had thoughtfully held away from my face for the past however-long-we-were-here, and despite everything I felt a small smile form on my lips. "You gonna throw up anymore?"
I shook my head, which was a mistake with it resting on a hard plastic seat. I lifted my head and was happy to find that moving didn't make me want to die. "Probably not." my voice sounded a bit strained coming out of my raw throat. "I hope not."
I gave my sore knees a rest and sat my ass on the floor. Vicky sat down behind me and held me against his chest. "You wanna talk about it?"
Somewhere I noted that we were sitting on the floor in a stall in a very public bathroom where anyone could walk in at anytime, but couldn't bring myself to care. Getting shipped away and never seeing Vicky again kinda took the top worry spot over getting caught cuddling in the bathroom. "It just kinda hit me all at once." I said softly. "He's really crazy enough to send me away to get 'fixed'. If he wins I might never see you again. Or my mom. Or anyone. At least not as me." I shuddered in his arms. I was seriously regretting reading up on those ex gay camps a few days ago now. My imagination can do a lot of damage when it has facts to work with.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"Those places can change you." I said and shuddered. "There are a few that just try to make you suppress your feelings with prayer and reading the bible and stuff but those are the ones you go to on your own. The ones that people get sent to mess with your head. They don't feed you, don't let you sleep much, brainwash you into not wanting guys. Make you think different, or not at all." I laughed humorlessly. "The power of Christ through Soviet 'reprogramming'." Somehow my mind even managed to make the sudden image of a chibi Josef Stalin chasing me around yelling "Like girls! Like girls!" that popped into my head seem menacing and scary.
Vicky held me tighter. "I don't know what to do." he whispered so low I doubt he even knew he said it out loud. He sounded so helpless and desperate that I wanted to comfort him, but I couldn't, it did make me know exactly how he felt though which was an awesome feeling to have on top of everything else.
I didn't say anything. Just sat there soaking up the small comfort I could from being held by my Vicky.
"You could run away." Vicky said quietly. "Like Michelle said. Just come to my house. Your dad won't find us there."
"That's the first place he'd send the cops after he reported it as a kidnapping."
"But he wouldn't be able to report it! Not if he doesn't have custody of you. Not if your mom says you're alive and well and over at a friends house or something."
"The hearing will still happen whether I'm there or not." I said patiently. "And if he gets me even partially he'll send the cops after me. If he doesn't then there'd be no point hiding."
"Ok. Fine. Not my house then. Michelle's, like she wanted. Or Erica's. Anywhere! You can-"
"No." I cut him off. "It won't work. I can't hide from him." I said softly.
"I fucking hate this." He growled with frustration. "I can't lose you Nate and there's nothing I can do and I just fucking hate this!"
I placed my hands over his and squeezed gently. "Me too."
I heard a soft sigh and then his head rested against mine. I felt his breath on the back of my neck as he spoke. "I'm sorry. I'm not really doing a good job with the whole 'comforting boyfriend' thing am I?"
"You are." I said seriously. "Just you being here helps."
He squeezed me again. "I love you so much Nate." He kissed the back of my head.
I smiled. A real, genuine smile. This is probably one of those times for a metaphor about the sun cutting through the clouds or something but I managed one of my rare, 'holding back the cheese' moments. Hearing the words did lift my mood a bit though and somehow, at that moment, I doubted there was a single brainwashing facility in the world that could ever erase the love I had for Vicky. The feeling wouldn't last, I knew that. In fact I could pretty much pinpoint the exact moment it would end (when Vicky left my house after school, if anyone was wondering) but I was gonna enjoy the hell out of it while it lasted. "I love you too." I said and rested my head on his shoulder. "I always will. No matter what."
I cried silently. All the emotions I'd been feeling since waking up were being pushed over the edge of the dam by the love I was feeling from Vicky and I just needed to let it out. Vicky never said anything about it, just held me, and soon I felt a suspicious wetness drip onto the side of my neck where Vicky's head was. I didn't say anything either. It didn't last long. Maybe a minute. But I felt a lot better after.
Just then the bell rang.
"Shit." I muttered and wiped at my eyes. "What time is it?"
"Um." I felt Vicky shrug. "Ninth period?"
"Dammit! I have a test this period." I started to get up but stopped when Vicky burst out laughing. "What?" I asked confused.
"You're like a week away from possibly getting sent away to a Christian brainwashing camp by your dad and you're worried about a test?" He giggled. "I'm sorry. This isn't funny but I can't stop laughing."
I chuckled. Wow, maybe I should look into that bipolar thing. "No. It's funny. I just kinda don't wanna fail."
Vicky snorted. "You? Fail?"
I shrugged self consciously. "It could happen. Plus I haven't been doing the homework so I really need a good grade."
"Why haven't you been doing it?"
I turned around in his arms and gave him a pointed look. His eyes were a little red but there was no trace of any tears.
"Oh." he said and blushed. I giggled and we shared a small, knowing smile. His faded quickly though. "This is such a stupid question but are you gonna be ok?"
I didn't even have to think about the answer. "As long as I have you." I said.
He smiled. "You always will."
"Good. Then let's get out of here. I have class." I stood up as Vicky laughed again. I helped him up and we walked out of the stall together.
And found ourselves face to face with Skip Williams.
Right then was when I decided to become an atheist and believe that things aren't part of some divine plan, just a series of coincidences and random events that happen by chance. The only other explanation for Skip catching me and Vicky alone in a bathroom on today of all days, the one where there IS a God who controls everything and he totally and completely despises me to the point where he'd put Skip Williams in a bathroom with me and Vicky ON TODAY OF ALL FUCKING DAYS, was just way too depressing to think about.
We both froze, noticing him at the same time. He was standing next to the urinal that he probably came in to use (no idea if he did, not going to inspect it for unflushed piss thank you very much) just staring at us with an unreadable expression on his face. He looked pretty much the same as he did the last time I saw him, in this same damn bathroom no less, except the set of his shoulders was just a bit less confident, the air of menace and promised beatings that clung to him like the smell of a dead skunk on your car tires was almost totally gone.
Still, this was Skip, the only person in the world I can say has a legit reason to wanna kill me. Not just kill me, but probably torture me first. And, oh shit, the best way to torture me was standing right next to me. Visions of being tied to the crappy bathroom radiator and being forced to watch as Skip beat the crap out of Vicky danced through my mind and I moved so I was standing in front of Vicky, blocking him. There was no way I was gonna let anything happen to him. Plus he could probably run for help while I was being murdered.
Or not. Vicky wasn't having any of that. The second I got in front of him he pushed past me to stand in front of me. I was torn between wanting to hit him for putting himself in the danger zone and kiss him for wanting to protect me. Since I couldn't decide I just pushed in front of him again. He got back in front of me and I would have pushed past him again but I realized that we were getting closer and closer to Skip every time we moved. Looking up and suddenly realizing that I was within an arm's length of my soon to be killer understandably freaked me out and I jumped back. Vicky looked surprised until he realized why and then quickly joined me.
Again, something that'd be funny any other time.
I stood there, looking at Skip and waiting for the first punch to fly or someone to walk in the bathroom (where the hell WAS everybody? The bell rang. And, yeah, this is a kind of out of the way bathroom but it just seemed cruel that no one had walked in and saved us yet) when I realized that no punches were coming. He didn't charge us, he didn't reach for us, he didn't take out a gun and start spraying bullets around the bathroom True Lies style. He didn't even move. He just looked at us, me actually I don't think he even looked at Vicky once, with that same weird expression.
Then he turned around and left.
Without killing me.
What the fuck is up with that?
"What the fuck is up with that?" Vicky asked.
I turned to him and shrugged. "No idea. I thought he was gonna kill me if he ever got me alone again."
"Me too!" I felt a smack on my arm.
"Hey!" I rubbed it. What's with all the hitting?
"Don't you ever put yourself in front of someone like that again to protect me." he glowered.
"You did it too!" I smacked him on the arm. "What the hell were you thinking? He could have really hurt you!"
"Ow!" he rubbed his arm too. "I was trying to protect you."
"So was I!"
I opened my mouth, then paused thoughtfully. "Then why are we yelling at each other?"
Vicky cocked his head, then let out a breath. "I have no idea." he said and blushed a little. "I'm sorry I hit you." he said sheepishly.
"Me too." I gave him a small smile. "We were cornered by Skip Williams and somehow we ended up being the ones beating on each other. It's kinda funny if you think about it."
Vicky let out a snort. "Yeah." Then he frowned. "Why didn't he do anything though? That was just too weird."
Ok, I know what you're probably thinking. Since I didn't hear him come in he had to have done it while the sound of me retching up everything I ate for the past decade would cover up the sound of footsteps and an opening door so he had to have heard everything we said and saw us under the stall. Seeing me and Vicky as a couple for the first time plus a weird expression and strange behavior obviously has to equal another Jason situation, right? Well, here's the thing. I couldn't identify the look he had on his face because I'd never seen it before. Ever. The look that Jason had is pretty much seared into my brain. I find myself unconsciously looking for that look on EVERYONE'S face these days. If I'm bringing out the gay in people I wanna know it before the uncomfortable, tearful coming-out-while-I'm-locked-in-a-small-room-with-them thing. So if that was what the look was about, I would have fucking noticed it. And then probably jumped out of a window. It would have been the cinder block that broke the camels back in thirty seven places. No, this look was about something totally different. Which is exactly what I needed right then. A mystery.
I shrugged. "I have no idea."
"Um," Vicky winced. "You don't think he's . . . . . you know? Like Jason?"
I sighed. Sometimes it can get a bit frustrating how much we think alike. I just got done explaining all this in my head and now I gotta go and do it out loud again and-screw it. "No." I said and explained why. He didn't argue. He just nodded after I was done, looking a bit relieved. And that was when the second bell rang.
"Crap! I'm gonna be so late!" I moaned.
A pair of arms wrapped around me and I sank back into them even though I was still panicking about my lateness. "Do you want me to walk you to class?" Vicky asked tenderly.
"What? But your class is on the other side of the school from mine."
Vicky kissed the back of my head. "I think you need me more than I need English right now."
I sighed happily and relaxed. A small smile formed on my lips. "Have I told you that I loved you in the last ten minutes?"
"Actually, you did, but I could hear it again." he said playfully into my hair.
"I love you."
He kissed the back of my head again. "I love you too." he said and released me.
His hand slipped into mine and we walked to my 8th period with happy little smiles on our faces.
Everything kinda evened out and stayed pretty much good for the next two days. I got a good grade on the test, if anyone cares. Which was actually even more of an accomplishment since we'd both left our books in the cafeteria and it was an open book test. So, go me. I didn't hear anything more about my dad. I emailed back and forth with Luke a few times but there was nothing new there. Just that my dad was still pretty intense about the whole gay thing. Which was, you know, expected. My mom talked a lot with her lawyers and Jack and she seemed to be pretty confident about the hearing when I asked but I couldn't be sure if she meant it or if she was just acting that way for me. I decided to not pry too deep and just take it at face value. Yeah yeah, I know, avoidance again. Whatever.
So, yeah, the past two days had been pretty good, considering.
And then came today, when everything started going to shit.
It was just before 6th period. Vicky and I had gotten in the habit of going to our different lockers (which were no where near each other even though we were in the same freaking homeroom. I dunno, you try figuring out how schools organize things) and I'd just opened mine when I saw a strange piece of paper sitting on the top shelf. I grinned to myself. Vicky was so sweet. If this was a romantic little love letter he was so gonna get the best blow job EVER before lunch. I opened it up and my grin vanished.
It wasn't a romantic little love letter.
The writing was big, but surprisingly neat and pretty. After the first few words I skipped to the end and read the signature. My eyes widened in surprise and I started from the top again.
'Look, fag, I hate you, ok? Don't ever think different. Because of you, assholes that used to go out of their way to make sure I didn't notice them now start fights with me because they're (that's how it was written) stupid whore sluts tell them to and my dad put me in the hospital for four days. It took me weeks to get better from that.'
Here there were a few words heavily crossed out. I couldn't read them but I guessed he was having trouble figuring out what to write next. Or how to say it.
'After that, he left, because he couldn't hide what he did. Left me, left my mom. And that's why I never went after you. He left because of you and now we never have to see him again. We never have to put up with his drunken beatings. I never have to hear about how I'm not good enough at sports to be a coach's son. None of that crap. So I left you alone. But if I ever got you alone again I was gonna kick your ass for the rest of what you did.'
There was some more crossed out words here.
'But then I walked in the bathroom Monday and heard you and your little fairy friend talking about your dad and all the shit he was doing to you and fuck I felt bad for you ok? It pissed me off and I wanted to beat your ass after you stopped crying and got out of the stall but I know how it feels to have a dad like that and I felt bad for you so I didn't. I hate having something in common with a fag like you but I'm feeling good about myself for the first time in a long time since my dad left and if I beat your ass I know I'll feel guilty or some stupid shit like that so you just stay away from me and I'll just stay away from you and that'll be it. Unless you show this note to anyone. If any of this gets out I'll kick your ass and everyone you knows ass. Your fairy, that weird kid with the creepy eyes, the basketball loser, everyone. So just burn this or something. I hate you. Good luck with that shit with your dad.'
That last part was written much sloppier than the rest of the letter, added quickly like he didn't wanna think too much about what he was writing. It was signed simply.
As I folded the note back up and stuck it in my binder I had no idea what to think. My mind works weird because the first thing I got out of it was suddenly realizing that his dad must have been my gym teacher. We suddenly got a new one a few days after the first bathroom thing with Skip and, wow, I guess calling him "Coach Williams" all these years probably should have been my first clue. The next thing I thought was "holy shit, Skip is a real person", which, yeah obviously he's a real person but I never thought of him that way. He was always something dangerous to stay away from and a way to stroke my ego when I remembered how I won our fight. But now he's, you know, a human with actual emotions and problems and crap like that.
I'm not sure how I felt about that.
Yeah, I was glad that he had enough humanity to apparently not wanna kill me anymore (unless I showed the note to anyone. I resolved to burn it after showing it to Vicky. He can keep a secret) but I didn't like the way he talked about Vicky. "My fairy"? It made me wanna track him down and kick HIS ass! But even my epic lack of common sense wasn't enough to get me to do something THAT stupid. The whole thing was a bit confusing and left me with a lot of conflicting feelings.
I shook my head, trying to clear it. Fuck it. I needed to meet up with Vicky at his locker anyway. Maybe he can help me figure out how I'm supposed to feel about this. I switched out my books, closed my locker and started walking towards Vicky's. Even though the note was folded up and out of sight I couldn't get the damn thing out of my mind. I wrestled with it until I came around the corner into the hall where Vicky's locker was, looked up and saw Vicky standing in front of his locker with Carl.
I froze, my mind completely shutting down for a few seconds.
All I could think was, So. This is what this feels like.
Very fucking painful.
I couldn't move, only watch as Carl pushed Vicky away and took a hurried step back. I wasn't too far away to hear him say "What the hell?" before looking over Vicky's shoulder and spotting me. His mouth dropped open in horror and he started taking deep, panicked breaths. Vicky immediately followed his gaze, saw me and all the color drained from his face. He looked like he was gonna throw up.
"Nate!" Carl said, loud enough for me to hear even though I wasn't exactly near them. "I swear I didn't-he kissed me! Oh God, I'm so sorry!"
Vicky tried to speak, but if he said anything I was too far away to hear. Hell, I barely heard what Carl said. All I could think of was how much this icicle of betrayal that was lodged into my stomach fucking HURT. I was numb. But it was the painful kind of numb you get when you're about to get frostbite or your circulation is cut off for too long.
I replayed the image of Carl and Vicky's lips touching over and over again in my head and it didn't take long for the numb pain to get melted and consumed by the ball of white hot rage that started in my heart and quickly spread to my entire body. I was stalking towards them before I even realized I could move again.
As I neared them Vicky finally found his voice. "N-nate," he said, trembling. "He ki-"
I didn't even wait for him to finish the sentence. I stopped in front of them and never taking my eyes away from Vicky's raised my fist and struck out with all the strength my double digit body weight could put into a punch.
"OW!" Carl screamed as his nose exploded with a gush of blood. I absently noticed everyone around us go completely silent as they watched but I didn't give a shit. Carl fell down to the floor, covering his bleeding nose with one hand as tears streamed down his cheeks. "Wuh tha hell?" he managed, the obviously broken nose messing with his speech. "Bicky kissed me! I dibn't-"
"BULLSHIT!" I screamed and started towards him again. He quickly backed up until he was against the far wall. The anger had lessened just a bit after the satisfying crunch of his nose and the spray of blood but only enough to where I didn't jump on top of him and try to choke the life out of him for touching my Vicky. I leaned down close to him, so our faced were only inches apart. "Vicky wouldn't do that." I snarled.
He kept up the innocent act for another few seconds, then his shoulders slumped a bit with defeat and he spit a gob of blood out of his mouth to the side. His whole demeanor seemed to change. Aside from massive amounts of pain the only thing I could see on his face was annoyance. There was no trace of the shy, hesitant Carl I was used to or the panicked protesting Carl I'd seen a few seconds ago. "Whateber." he said, the words laced with irritation. "I can't beliebe you broke mah fugging nose ober a stubid kiss."
I snorted with disgust, both over what I thought was going on and over the blood that was getting everywhere. Gross. I stood up, not wanting to look at him or his icky bloody face and walked over to Vicky.
He looked at me, his expression somewhere between awe, fear, worry and relief. He started opening his mouth to say something but I cut him off before he could start by grabbing the edge of my shirt and wiping his lips off. Then I dropped my shirt and kissed him as hard as I could. It was a bruising, claiming kiss, one that I hoped would wipe every single bit of the invaders taste from Vicky's mouth. My Vicky.
I let him go after a few seconds and he swayed a bit before catching his balance. "Wow." he said breathlessly as his eyes stared off, unfocused. They cleared up pretty quickly though and he looked at me. "Nate I swear I never kissed him. He just walked up to me and kissed me and then pushed me away and started acting like I kissed HIM. I never-"
"I know." I cut him off with words this time. "I never thought for a second you did. It just hurt so much seeing someone else touching you and I always thought Carl was a friend-" I let out an angry growl. "I never thought he'd do something like that." I pulled Vicky to me and crushed him in a tight hug.
I honestly couldn't tell you if it would have been worse if it was some stranger kissing Vicky instead of Carl. I really did think Carl was our friend and it was just such a betrayal that he would do this to us. It almost upset me more than the fact that he was kissing Vicky. Almost.
If nothing else though it did make a few things I'd noticed over the past several weeks make a bit of sense. A look or two I'd just barely saw him give me and Vicky when we weren't looking at him. The way he seemed to always pay close attention to everything that was said about us even if he never joined in the conversation. How he was always around Vicky when I wasn't, and quickly left when I showed up. The looks he gave me that first day after being outed. Things started falling into place and I could suddenly see everything leading up to this with total clarity. Too fucking late to do anything about it but my mind is usually kinda useless like that.
He was trying to get me jealous. Trying to plant a seed of suspicion so when I did catch the kiss I'd think Vicky was the one who kissed him. I had no idea why he did it. If he just wanted to break us up or if he thought he could get me on the rebound or something, I dunno. But I was 100% sure I had the rest of it right. And if Vicky and me weren't as close or honest with each other as we were or I didn't completely and wholly trust him the way I did, it might have worked.
I shuddered at that thought and held Vicky tighter. I didn't let go until a passing teacher pulled us apart and dragged us to the office behind him.
"How's your hand?" my mom asked from the front seat of the car. She was pissed at first, getting called away from work by the principal to come take me home because I broke Carl's nose wasn't exactly the best way to keep her happy with me, but she softened up a lot when I told her the whole story
"Fine." I said. I read somewhere once that punching someone in the face is one of the stupidest things you can do because you usually just end up doing more damage to your hand than the other persons face but I must have hit him just right because other than a small scrape on my pinky knuckle where I think I grazed a tooth my hand didn't hurt at all.
I grinned as I remembered the oh so satisfying crunch of his breaking nose.
I wanted to do it again in the worst way after seeing Principal Alomar again. She kept us waiting for a good twenty minutes while she talked to Carl in the nurses office before he went off to the hospital. He must have been playing it up real good because when she finally got to us she was pissed. It took us another half hour to get her to listen to our side of the story and at the end of it she didn't seem completely convinced. I doubt she would have listened at all if either of us had any kind of disciplinary record or anything like that but the whole "why would I just punch some guy out of nowhere if I've never done anything like that before?" argument seemed to work with her. In the end she sent me home and suspended both me and Carl for the rest of the week and Monday. Me for the punch and Carl because the schools zero tolerance fighting policy forced her to give equal punishment to everyone involved in a fight, regardless of who got hurt more or who started it.
I didn't care. I was just glad I wouldn't have to see him for the next four days and that Vicky didn't get in trouble.
We pulled into the driveway about ten minutes later. I started to get out of the car but my mom called me back. "Hey, wait a second."
I stopped with my hand on the door handle. "Yeah?"
"You really should be grounded you know." she said off handedly.
I rolled my eyes. If she was gonna ground me she would have already done it. With lots of yelling and "you should know better's". "But I'm not."
"No, you're not." she sighed, like she was sorry she couldn't. "It wouldn't be fair. Especially since I kinda wanna punch this Carl kid myself for trying to break up my boys."
I grinned. It doesn't happen a lot, but sometimes my mom is really, really awesome. "That's you, mom. Always reasonable."
She snorted. "I'm bringing this up the next time you're yelling at me for asking a perfectly innocent question."
I opened my mouth to, you know, flip my shit because, well, if you've been paying attention at all I don't even need to explain why, but I had another attack of common sense and clamped it shut again. "Can I go now?" I asked finally.
"Yes, you can go." I was out the door before she even finished talking. "Hey!" she called after me.
I sighed and turned around with an impatient look on my face. "What?"
"Do your homework!" she yelled with a way too happy grin. I groaned. "Yeah yeah." she said with an "I don't care" hand flip. "I want it done by the time I get home and don't forget that I'm stopping by your school tomorrow to pick up your work for the next few days."
I groaned again, louder this time. "I thought you said I wasn't grounded?" I moaned.
"You're not. You can do whatever you want." she smiled evilly. "After your work is done."
And now we're back to not awesome. That didn't take long. "Fine." I grumbled.
"Bye sweetie!" My mom said, way too sweetly, waving as she pulled out of the driveway and went back to work. I picked up my heavy bookbag and sighed dramatically even though there was no one around to appreciate my suffering. Whatever, it wasn't like I had anything else to do until Vicky got out of school and came over anyway. I went inside, took out my books and got to work.