Castle Roland


by Cy-Kun


Chapter 13

Posted: N/A

I whistled 'The Tale of Sir Robin' as I locked my bike in the garage and walked up to my front door.

I was actually kinda surprised I COULD whistle since I'd never really done it before, but I was feeling an awesome, 'shout to the world' kind of satisfaction and since I didn't wanna start singing or actually shouting to the world , whistling was the only thing to do. I felt good, better than good actually. Owen loved me, and I talked back to people when I wanted to and how I wanted to.

And then bravely rode away.

Still, it felt great. And it was Saturday so I had a whole other day of feeling good about it before I had to start worrying about hiding from Jarred for a week. Life was good.

"Andrew, can you come in here for a minute?" my mom called from the living room as I walked by. The whistle died in my throat but I didn't feel all that embarrassed about being overheard. It's weird, but I don't get all awkward with my parents that much.

"Yeah, what-" I stopped short just after walking in the room. My dad was in his chair, a cigar in one hand, and my mom was sitting on the couch with a book in her lap. Nothing weird there. Except the TV was off. And the book was closed instead of opened to the page she was reading. And they were both staring at me.

"Um," I swallowed. "What's up?"

"Did you have fun at your friend's?" my mom asked.

Don't grin! Don't grin! Don't grin! "Yeah." I said. I was pretty proud how clearly I was able to get that out while biting the inside of my cheek.

"Hm." my mom pursed her lips and I felt a tiny bit of apprehension. Why the hell is she pulling out her 'not happy' face? "Is he ever going to come over here?"

I blinked, confused at the out of nowhere question. "Wha-"

"Because I don't know if I like you spending so much time with someone I've never met."

"I've only been over there twice!" I said. Defensively? Yeah, maybe. But totally deserved. She didn't have any problem last week when I told her about spending the day at Owen's. Why is she suddenly acting like I just got caught sneaking out of the house?

"We got a call from your school yesterday." my dad said, talking for the first time since I got home. He gave my mom a look that I couldn't read but she tightened her lips in a way that said she didn't exactly agree with something.

I frantically tried to think if I did anything that might get a call ho- Oh crap. My "fight" with Brandon. Did Coach Williams actually report me? But that happened in the beginning of the week? Why would they just call now? "Oh?" I asked as casually as I could.

"Have you been skipping class?" he asked.

"It wasn't my-!" I cut myself off, then frowned. Wait, this is about THAT? "Um, huh?" Not the best response but I was still half trying to figure out how to justify getting in another "fight". And what does any of this have to do wit me going over to Owen's?

"Your principal said that you skipped sixth period three times this week." my mom answered. I could tell she was upset because some of her "Jersey tawk" was slipping in. 'Your' sounded like 'yaw' and she drew out the I in 'times' way longer than anyone ever should. "Is that true?"

See, I hate questions like that. They already KNOW it's true yet they still ask like there's ANY chance that if you just say 'no' they'll believe you instead of getting pissed at you for lying too. If that isn't entrapment I don't know what is.

"Um, yeah." I said. I glanced at my dad, half expecting him to fly off the handle because 'a Baxter doesn't skip class' but he didn't really seem all that upset. I guess skipping sixth period is something Baxter's actually do.

My mom shot my dad a satisfied look, but when she turned back to me she just looked mad. "You never used to skip class. Not before you started hanging out with that boy."

"It's not Owen's fault!" I yelled. Technically true. It's my fault for agreeing to Owen's suggestion that I skip. I had no idea where this crap was coming from but there was no WAY I was gonna let her blame anything on Owen.

"So you aren't skipping class to hang out with him?" she asked, raising a skeptical eyebrow.

"No!" Yes. "I'm not!" I so am.

"Then what are you doing?" my dad asked calmly.

"....." I blinked. "What?" I asked stupidly.

"If you're not hanging out with your new friend, why are you skipping class?" he asked.

"I-" I swallowed. Shit. I have no idea how to finish that. I frantically scrambled for an explanation. I was helping a teacher set up a class project? No, then they'll just call the teacher and find out I'm lying. Maybe I was hiding from bullies that were harassing me after class? More believable but that would just send my mom into a parent defense rage and I'll get dragged into the principal's office and have to give up names and, yeah, we've already been over what happens when I do that. Dammit! I need someth- Oh! I can blame Cheryl! "I was with Cheryl!" I blurted out. "We were, um," Shitshitshit! Think of something! "We were behind the bleachers in the football field, um.....smoking!" I winced, closed my mouth, and sighed in defeat. "Ok, fine, I was with Owen. But it wasn't his fault! I just skipped because I wanted to eat lunch with him and his friends and they don't eat seventh so...." I trailed off and shrugged. "Blame me?"

Yeah, kinda asking for punishment there. But it was really important that they didn't think of Owen as some kind of corrupting bad boy or something.

My eyes shot back and forth between my parents. My mom looked pissed. Which was a bit surprising because she's usually not the one leading the "let's punish Andy" charge. My dad.... I blinked again. My dad was hiding a smirk behind his hand. Badly.

"Andrew?" My mom asked sharply, my head shot around but she was looking at my dad. Sometimes it's REALLY confusing having the same name as your dad.

My dad sighed. "Sorry. But this isn't really that big a deal, is it?"

I don't know who was more surprised, me or my mom. "Of course it is! If Andrew's hanging around with people who are making him skip class-"

"No one made me do anything!" I yelled. "I WANTED to skip. I. ME. MYSELF. I DID IT."

"And that's why we have Andy invite his friend over for dinner next weekend." my dad said, totally ignoring me. "To make sure he isn't a bad influence."

My throat dried up. "What?" I croaked.

"Do you have a problem with that?" my dad asked sharply, giving me a stern look.

Well, yeah only about a freaking million, thanks for asking. But I got what the look meant. For some reason my dad was on my side. But if I didn't agree to have Owen over, that would change pretty fast. I still didn't get why my mom was getting this pissy about skipping three classes, but she was blaming Owen and I wasn't stupid enough to know exactly what my first punishment would be if my dad didn't talk her out of it. No more Owen. My heart wanted to die just at the thought. "No." I said quietly. "I'll invite him."

"Good!" he grinned. "Then that's settled-"

"No it's not." My mom cut in.

"Sarah," my dad sighed.

"He's skipping class Andrew." my mom said. "We can't just ignore that."

Another look passed between them. Again I had no idea what it meant, but it seemed important. Apparently my dad agreed because he sighed in a way I'd almost never heard from him. Defeated. "Ok, you're right." he turned to me. "No TV for the rest of the week and no going anywhere tomorrow. And NO arguments." he added firmly.

I let out a breath I didn't even know I'd been holding. He didn't take my phone away. With that being my only way to talk to Owen AND with my brand new background that would have been.....yeah, horrible. "Fine." I said. "Can I go now?"

"No." My mom said. "Give me Owen's phone number. I want to talk to his mother."

I groaned and to my horror felt a tiny blush. "Mom! Please don't. Calling up my b- friends mom? That's so....third grade." I tried not to panic at almost saying 'boyfriend'.

Thankfully she didn't notice. "So is skipping class."

"We only have one class in third grade." I shot back.

"You know what I mean." she picked up a pad of paper and a pen from the end table next to her. "Phone number." she demanded.

I scrolled through my phone and gave it to her. Luckily Amy gave me their home number before I left so I didn't have to put Owen through even more embarrassment by having my mom call his phone and ask to talk to his mother. God, what the hell is this, the nineties? Who DOES this stuff?

Actually, maybe everybody. What the hell would I know about how parents act towards their kids friends? Suddenly, I was very glad Brandon never made any effort to be friends with me. The thought of Brandon freaking Carroll sitting down to dinner with my parents was even worse than inflicting that on Owen.

"Can I PLEASE go now?" I begged when she was done writing it down.

"Yes." she nodded. I turned to go. "To your room." she added sharply, like there was anyplace else I'd go. I bit my lip to keep from pointing that out -the goal here is to LEAVE remember?- and ran up to my room.

When I was safely inside I closed my door and leaned against it. I sighed.

I was having such a great day too. Owen said he loved me. I didn't let Jarred and Amanda bother me, hell I stood up to them! And now this. My own freaking parents are the ones that mess up my perfect day. Well, maybe not my dad. He seemed pretty calm about the whole thing. My mom. I'm not really dramatic -shut UP Cheryl voice!- but I wanted to go back downstairs and scream "BETRAYAL!" at the top of my lungs while pointing at her.

Actually, no. No I didn't. I just wanted to get back to where I was before. Happy and satisfied and swimming in a pool of pure, lovely bliss. But instead of just laying in bed and reliving everything that happened in Owen's room a million times and melting into a puddle of goo, now I had to worry about Owen coming over and meeting my parents for the first time while my mom's convinced he's turning me into.....I dunno even know what. A troublemaker? Class skipper? What the hell would you ever call someone who skips one class but follows all the rest of the rules?

A normal kid. That's what.

I sighed again. This wasn't helping. Even if I did kinda like thinking of myself as normal for once. My mom was probably calling Owen's mom right now- shit! I needed to warn him!

I pushed myself off the door and stalked over to my phone charger, before I remembered my phone was in my pocket. I felt my face heat up, which was stupid because no one was around to see, then sat down on my bed and called.

"Hi." Owen answered. His voice was low and smooth and maybe a little satisfied. "Couldn't wait to talk to me again huh?" he teased.

I giggled, and totally forgot why I was calling. "Is it weird that I already miss you, a lot?"

"No." he said. "I missed you the second you left."

A sappy grin pulled at my lips and I made a little noise that may or may not have been a tiny squee. Awwwww! How can you NOT love someone who says things like that? God, I just wanted to hop back on my bike and go over and give him the biggest hug and-no! I can't leave the house. Punished. Mom calling Nurse Amy. Focus!

"Um, that's not why I called. I mean! Not that I don't love hearing that, because I do, and that's love, I mean WHY I love you, one reason and, shit, sorry, but I called because my mom's calling your mom and she knows about the skipping and-"

"Wait, wait." Owen cut me off. "Calm down, ok?" he said it soothingly and not at all annoyed but I still mentally kicked myself for not being able to put a sentence together.

"Ok. Ok, I'm calm." I said quickly and not at all calmly. "But-"

"No." he cut me off again. "You're NOT calm. Seriously. Just take a breath. I'm not gonna die if you don't get it all out in the next second." There was a short pause. "Unless you're trying to tell me that there's someone coming here to kill me then, please, keep going."

I laughed, some of the tension and not-calmness easing away. "How do you always know exactly the right thing to say to make me feel better about anything?" It wasn't what I meant to say, but I didn't really mind that it slipped out.

"I dunno." he answered. "But I'm glad I do. I always wished I could. Every time I saw you in the halls looking sad I wished I could walk up to you and say something that would make it all better. But I was too shy." he sighed softly. "I'm really sorry I didn't."

My heart fluttered the way it did every time he said something like that. "It doesn't matter. I'd go through all that again times a million just to hear you say you love me." I paused, then ruined the moment. "That wasn't too sappy, was it?"

Owen laughed softly. "No. It wasn't. And I do love you."

Our first time saying it over the phone! My heart was beyond fluttering now. "I love you too."

We sat in a happy silence for a few moments. I couldn't stop smiling and I'd like to think Owen looked the same way. He looks so good when he smiles. "So," he said eventually. "If you didn't call because you miss me so much, why did you?"

"I do miss you." I said instantly, but a million times calmer than before. "So much. But I called to warn you. The school called my mom about skipping to eat with you and she flipped out and she's gonna call your mom and try to get you in trouble, I think."

"Oh, really?" he sounded more curious than concerned. I never got a chance to ask about it though. "They told my mom before she left on Friday. She just got some make up work and told me not to do it again. Your mom's seriously calling?" he seemed amused.

"Um, yeah." I said. "Your mom's awesome." I added wonderingly.

"Eh." he answered and I giggled.

"But, um, that's not everything." I reluctantly said. "My mom, um, kinda blames you for me skipping. And, uh, you sorta have to come over for dinner next weekend and convince her you're not corrupting me."

"Seriously?" He sounded less amused this time.

"Yeah." I winced inwardly. "Sorry."

"It's ok." he said. " your dad gonna be there?"

Owen sounded worried and I immediately knew why. I'd talked about my dad a lot with him and I might have overplayed the doom bits and underplayed the good stuff. It helped me feel better venting to someone who wasn't Cheryl but I wondered if I made Owen a bit scared of my dad.

"Yeah, but it's fine." I quickly reassured him. "He doesn't even care about the skipping thing. It's my mom you need to worry about." Shit! Don't say it like that! "Um! Not worry I mean, just, impress. Ok that's not any better. I meant she's the one that you need to...." I sighed. "I don't even know. Just be yourself so she doesn't think you're a bad influence or whatever."

Owen giggled, but it seemed strained. "Ok. I'll try."

My chest tightened up. God I knew EXACTLY how he felt. I knew how freaked the fuck out I'd be if he just called and told me his mom thought I was bad for her son before meeting her for the first time. I'd probably have had three heart attacks by now. Owen was taking it better than I would, but most people probably would. It didn't mean he wasn't still nervous or scared though.

"I'm sorry." I said. "This is all my fault."

"No." he said. "It's not, at all. I'm the one who asked you to skip, so, she's kinda right. Um...."

"What?" I asked when he didn't say anything after like half a minute.

" you think your dad will....know?"

I felt a familiar cold ball of dread form in my chest, but I pushed it away. Owen had asked the one thing that scared me the most about him meeting my parents. Like my dad would take one look at us and know we were together and all hell would break loose. But something about the way he asked sparked sudden understanding inside of me. He wasn't asking because he was worried about him. He was worried about making things worse for ME. The same way I almost gave myself a stroke worrying about outing him to my friends. It made me feel so loved. And it made me want to erase any worry he had.

After all, that's what boyfriends do, right?

"No." I tried to sound as reassuring as I could without knowing-no, I tried to sound even MORE reassuring than I could. I needed to go beyond what I could normally do for Owen. "He definitely won't."

I heard a soft, relieved sigh. I didn't think I was supposed to hear it, but it made me feel almost as important as I did when we were in bed together. I couldn't stop the self satisfied grin even if I wanted to.

"Ok." he said. "Good."

"Well, unless you start molesting me the second you walk through the door. That'd kinda give it away." I joked.

Owen gave a surprised snort, then chuckled. "Yeah, that would probably be a bad idea." Yes! Mood freaking lifted! "I'll try to keep my hands to myself're pretty irresistible." His voice lowered into his flirty tone and I shivered.

"O-oh?" I croaked. I swallowed hard. "You're pretty s-sexy yourself." I was ridiculously proud at myself for flirting back.

"I could tell."

I knew exactly what he was talking about, and I flushed. Not from embarrassment, but pleasure. God, does it make me a slut that I wish I could do that with him again, right now? "I-" I cut myself off, remembering something I'd meant to ask when I got home anyway. This time the heat on my face was pure embarrassment. "Um, did you....I mean" Jesus I couldn't even ask.

"Don't worry, I hid them." he reassured and I let out a relieved breath. By the time we'd stopped cuddling and kissing after saying we loved each other we were both pretty uncomfortable and , uh, crusting over down there so we had to change. I didn't have anything else to wear so I borrowed a pair of Owen's underwear (not even going into how naughty and good that felt. They were even my first pair of boxer briefs!) and since mine wouldn't fit in my pockets without being a really obvious bulge, Owen offered to hide them for me. I wanted to shove them in the bottom of the nearest garbage, but he didn't wanna throw away anything from our 'first time', as he put it. It was really sweet.

"Th-thanks." I said. "Um, not that I don't trust you but....where?"

Owen laughed. "In the bottom of my sock drawer. Don't worry, my mom never goes in there."

"Are you sure?" I didn't wanna keep going with this, but Owen's mom finding my cum stained underwear was now one of my top three biggest fears. It actually pushed 'being murdered by Coach Williams' down a slot.

"Definitely." he laughed again, but this time it sounded slightly awkward. "She told me she's never going in there again. A while back she found a, um, 'special' sock in there....."

I choked when I realized what he meant, although I couldn't tell if it was on horror or laughter. "Oh-! God!" I swallowed roughly. "That's....horrible!" I tried to sound sympathetic, but the giggling kinda killed any chance of that.

"It's not that funny." he grumbled. I could hear the smirk in his voice, so I didn't get worried about pissing him off.

"Sorry!" I held back a snort. "No, really, I'm sorry. It's just.....that would have KILLED me if it happened to me but thinking about it happening to you is...." There is no good way to finish that sentence.

"Funny?" Owen teased.

"No! Well, yeah, maybe." I added self consciously. "I'm sorry. I don't know why I'm laughing so much."

"Don't be." he said. "It WAS kinda funny. She was all awkward about it too and wouldn't look me in the eye when she told me about finding it. Besides, I love it when you laugh."

I flushed with pleased embarrassment. "I love" God I'm such a dork.

Owen sighed happily. "I love when you get all cute like this." I blushed. "I bet your all blushing and adorable right now, aren't you?" I blushed harder.

"N-no!" I sputtered. Then I sighed when I realized how incredibly unconvincing that way. "Ok, maybe."

"I wish I could be there."

"Me too." I said.

We were quiet for a minute or two. I wanted to say 'why don't you come over?' in the worst way. If my stupid school hadn't called I might have actually done it. I missed him and it would be the perfect way for him to meet my parents. Just a quick 'Hi Mr and Mrs Baxter, I'm Owen' then I'd shuffle him up to my room and just enjoy having him there. Maybe we could even, um, DO something again. I was surprised by how much I wanted to.

I really hope I don't end up running out of underwear.

"So," Owen said, breaking the silence. I had a tiny flash of panic that he was waiting for me to invite him over that whole time and he was upset that I didn't, but the I remembered how much he didn't wanna meet my dad and, yeah, maybe we should stop trying to find things to freak out about, hm Andy? "What do you do?"

"Huh?" I asked.

"Do you have a 'sock' too?" he asked mischievously.

And there we go, zero to blush in .2 seconds. "I-um, the shower...." I stammered. God why is this still so embarrassing? I made him cum in his pants not even three hours ago! This shouldn't be this awkward. Or maybe that's why it's awkward, I dunno.

"Really?" he asked. "Wow, I could never do that standing up. And I'd rather have porn. So, what do you think about?"

Why isn't this embarrassing him?!!? Because he doesn't have half the problems you do. Still, even knowing that I was being the weird one here, I blushed even harder. Especially considering my answer. "I-I-I-, um, I.....the thing is....I swear I'm not a, you know, pervert or stalker or anything but, um, ever since we started talking....I...." I closed my eyes. Shit, I can't even say it.

Luckily I didn't need to. "You think about me?" he asked gleefully.

"Um, maybe." I mumbled.

"Ever since we started talking?"

"Th-the next morning."

"That is so sweet. And sexy." he said. "Seriously, I think I love you even more now."

"You have a weird definition of sweet." I said dryly. But my chest still got wonderfully tight. "And...thanks." I wanted to say 'for loving me' but this whole conversation was strange enough without me quoting Bon Jovi lyrics.

"You're-" he cut himself off. "Damn, my mom's knocking. I guess yours really did call."

I was suddenly worried for him. It sucked, but at least it pushed the awkward embarrassment away. "Are you really gonna be ok? She's not gonna ground you or anything, right?"

"No. She never does." Just another reason why Nurse Amy is so awesome. And now I'm jealous. "Hold on." he said, then a tinny, "I'll be there in a second!" came through the phone that I guessed he was holding away from his head. "I'm sorry, I really have to go."

"It's ok." It wasn't, but that's what you say in situations like this. "Will I see you on Monday?"

"Hell yes. I'll wait by your locker after fifth ok?"

I let out a breath and a tiny bit of tension left my body. It wasn't lunch, but at least I knew I was gonna see him. "I can't wait."

"Me either." he said. "I love you."

"I love you too." I said with a smile.

"Bye." he said.


We hung up.

I sighed and laid down on my bed. It was stupid and very teenage girl, but I hugged my phone to my chest like I could squeeze the last remaining echo of Owen's voice out of it.

I felt better. Don't get me wrong, the idea of dinner still terrified me. Despite what I told Owen, there was still a part of me that was scared my dad would take one look at Owen and me together and KNOW. And my mom was an unknown. She usually never gets this upset about something unless my dad's already there ahead of her. I wondered what the hell was going on there, but after a few minutes of thinking about it and getting stressed I stopped. Thinking, not worrying. Because, yeah, me not worry? Kinda impossible. But I still felt better. Owen just does that for me.

I tried to block all my worries out of my head even though I knew it was pointless. I turned over on my side and clutched my extra pillow tightly, remembering how Owen felt in my arms and, even better, how I felt in his. I wished I could wrap him around me right now. If I was on the bottom floor maybe I could have sneaked him in the window. But then if my mom walked in she'd just hate him even more and then my dad would DEFINITELY find out and-god, stop thinking about this! You have enough to worry about without making shit up too.

I rolled over again and tried even harder to push everything out of my head except Owen. I wasn't very successful. I tossed and turned and eventually it got dark and I tried to sleep, then tossed and turned some more. It took me a while, but eventually I fell into a restless sleep.

I didn't even get to dream about Owen.

"So, what DID you dream about?" Cheryl asked the next day at lunch.

"Huh?" I blinked, then mentally shook myself.

"This is the fifth time you complained about not dreaming about Owen since we sat down. I would think the locker or your history book or the bathroom thing would be more of a thing than your dreams, but, ok, so, what did you dream about that should have been radio boy?"

I blinked again, still not exactly ready to focus on answering questions. It wasn't the first one Cheryl asked since lunch started, but all the rest were in between her ranting about how she wanted to kill Jarred and Simon so I didn't think she wanted me to really answer. Had I really talked about not dreaming about Owen that much? Damn, I must be more upset by today than I thought.

Which is completely understandable, I guess.

It's not everyday you find the word 'cocksucker' spray painted on your locker. And even that might not have been too bad. It was a shock, sure. Even though I usually think I've been through pretty much everything that isn't a major felony that people can do to another person, sometimes I still get surprised with something new. But the black painted 'coc' that was started on the locker to my left kinda killed some of the stunned sting. Leave it to Jarred and his idiot friends to start on the wrong locker. The thought still almost made me smile. But then thinking about what came next stopped it in it's tracks.

"Hello? Shithole High to Andy?" Cheryl sing-songed with a slow hand wave in front of my face.

I blinked, but this time I shook my head for real, trying to clear my head and listen to her. "What?"

"Your dream?" she prompted with a raised eyebrow. I was probably the only person in the world that could pick out the concern behind the mildly annoyed expression.

"Oh." I wet my suddenly too dry lips. "My dad. I dreamed about my dad."

Now it was Cheryl's turn to blink. "Your dad?"

I sighed. "Yeah." I tried to hold back a tiny shudder as I remembered the dream. Well, as much as I could anyway.

"What happened?" she asked, not even hiding her concern now. I'm not usually one for nightmares and the few times I did have them they were pretty bad. Having one about my dad.....says things.

"It was...." I swallowed. "It was about dinner this week. I told you about that, right?" I suddenly had no idea what I'd been talking about all period. I wonder if that was the lack of sleep, or the stress?

"Yeah." she nodded, then added. "Three times."

Wow. I really am out of it. I wonder if any of the kids that sell drugs in the back parking lot have some sleeping pills? Eh, not like I have any money anyway.

"Ok, well, Owen had just shown up and I was introducing him to my mom when my dad ran in from the other room. He shoved me out of the way and grabbed Owen and started screaming about how he killed our family and I tried to pull him off but he didn't even look at me, just kept yelling and yelling and I was screaming for him to let go because Owen was crying and my mom was just standing there, letting it all happen." I took a few deep breaths. "Then I woke up. I think. That's all I remember anyway." I shuddered. Why couldn't I have dreamed about Owen instead?

"That's...." Cheryl said after a few moments of silence. "Weird. Not as weird as the one about Jarred and Mr Rogers, but still, weird." Her tiny smiled died when I didn't even chuckle. "Ok, stupid question, but are you ok?"

I shrugged, then scowled. Damn, shirt's still damp. "Maybe. If it was just the dream or the locker or the other stuff then yeah. But now? I have no idea."

Cheryl sighed, then got up. My eyes followed her as she walked around the table but I wasn't really paying attention. Which is the ONLY reason she got her arms around me without me bolting across the room. Over tables if I had to. "What the hell-" I stiffened and tried to pull away but her arms tightened and she wouldn't let me move. Sometimes I forget just how ridiculously strong she is. And that's compared to people with upper body strength.

"Quiet. I'm hugging you." she cut me off. "I don't think anyone's ever needed a hug more than you do right now and radio boy isn't here, so I'm doing it. Just sit there and absorb my comfort."

I let out a snort of laughter. I didn't at all feel like it, but it was either that or start bawling, so I'm happy with my choice.

"People are looking at us." I said a few seconds later.

"No they're not. And if they are so what? Maybe they'll think we're together and stop thinking you're gay."

"Because that worked so well for Brandon." I rolled my eyes, but a small smile tugged at my lips. It felt good. I think it was the first time I'd smiled all day since I saw Owen at my locker. A slightly longing sigh slipped out of my mouth.

"Ok, you can't be thinking about radio boy when I'm hugging you." Cheryl said. "That's just creepy."

"Then stop hugging me." I tried to squirm away again. "You're just getting yourself all wet anyway." Not to mention I probably didn't smell that great up close. I paused for a second. "And how do you know I'm thinking about him?"

"You're not that wet." she said, but she let go anyway. I was glad. As much as I needed to feel like there was something between me and the world right now, Cheryl hugging me was just weird. On so many levels. Still, it wasn't completely horrible, I guess. "And please," she scoffed as she sat back down in her chair. "you only ever make noises like that when you're thinking about him. It's like, one of those involuntary reaction things we learned about in health. He's your knee reflex thingy."

"Knee reflex thingy?" I shook my head. "And I ever wondered why you were single."

"Oh, so sorry I can't come up with romantic crap like-" her voice got higher and overly dramatic "-my heart is melting and I'm turning into a pile of goo just because he sounds like he's smiling over the phone."

I blushed. Why the hell did I ever try to really answer her when she asked me what it was like to be in love? "Shut up." I grumbled. "You're just jealous that I actually have a boyfriend." I tried for a glare, but I was just a little too relieved that I was feeling something besides humiliation and stress to pull it off.

"Well, if I had a boyfriend I wouldn't pussy out about telling him I loved him." she shot back smugly.

And just like that, I felt like I was back in my oasis. The invisible bubble that shielded me from the rest of the world for so long before Owen was there again, muting everyone else and letting me focus on the things that made me happy. Before it was usually Cheryl and my parents. Now, I had a lot more to be happy about. Today was suddenly bearable.

The grin was so wide it was almost painful.

I went to brush my air behind my ear before remembering that I wore it tied back today for Owen. Strangely enough, that didn't make me feel exposed. If anything it made my smile even wider.

"What? What are you smiling about?" she asked suspiciously. Then her eyes widened and her mouth dropped open. "Holy shit! Did you tell him?" Even with how surprised she was she still kept her voice down so no one could overhear us. It kinda made me wanna hug her again.

I nodded. "Yep." I chirped happily. "I did."

"Wow. I'm....impressed. I really didn't think you'd-well, whatever, you did. So, what happened? Did he...?"

I nodded again and giggled. "He said it back!" God! It felt so good telling someone. Why the hell didn't I call Cheryl last night? Maybe I wouldn't have had that! No thinking about any of that stuff. Focus on talking about Owen!

"Wow." she said again, softly this time. "I'm really happy for you. Really."

I smiled at her. "Thanks." She smiled back. We might have had a moment. Any other time it would have been creepy, like the hug. But right now I just soaked up how great it felt to be in love and have my best friend be happy for me."

"So, tell me about it." she said a few seconds later.

My smile turned into a smirk and I couldn't resist. "I can't believe you actually wanna know. Is Cheryl finally turning into a girl?"

"Oh shut up!" she stuck her tongue out at me. "Do you really wanna get into which one of us is more like a girl, or do you wanna tell me about how you grew a pair and told your boy you love him?" She arched an eyebrow. I back down immediately. She had way too much ammo for that fight. I may have had some pretty good 'Cheryl might have a penis' mortars to throw back at her, but today was probably the last day I wanted to think about my manly shortcomings.

Plus I just KNEW she was gonna bring up the time she walked in on me singing 'Love Story' into my remote like it was a microphone. …..and now you get to forget I just said that.

So I told her about our date. It was like taking a hot shower after crawling through mud for an hour. The dirt of everything that had happened today washed off me as I talked about telling the boy I loved how important he was to me. It made me wish for one crazy second that I could just tell all this to my mom. There's no way anyone that can make her son feel like this could be bad, even she'd have to see that. By the time I was done (well, a heavily edited version anyway) I almost didn't need the bubble anymore. And I wanted to see Owen again in the worst way.

"Wow." she said. "I can't believe you're freaking out actually made you say the right thing for once."

I laughed. "I know."

"I'm surprised though. I thought the first time you made out in a bed together you'd either run away screaming or cum in your pants."

Ok, before I continue, in my defense, I didn't expect her to say that.

I blushed. Hard and horribly and looking back she probably would have thought it was just my normal embarrassment about sex talk, but I had to open my stupid mouth. "I didn't!" I yelled. People heard. They looked over. They probably made comments and laughed at me too. I barely noticed. "I mean-!" My eyes locked into Cheryl's and I saw the understanding dawning in her eyes.

For the second time today her mouth dropped open. "Oh. My. God." she said slowly. "You didn't!"

Part of me knew my pants were just damp from, before, but in my mind I was sitting in front of Cheryl with my dirty underwear still filled with my rapidly cooling cum.

The blush was fucking nuclear.

"You did!" she gasped accusingly. Ok, this is WAY more of a reaction than I'd expect from just cumming in my- oh god! She thinks I had sex!

"No!" I hissed. God if someone overheard this.... "I didn't! Not what you're thinking! It wasn't sex-at least I don't think it was. I just-" The words caught in my throat and I had to force them out in a strained choke "-Ijustrubbedagainsthimandwecameinourpantstogether!"

The second I got it out I gulped down air. Shit, why do I feel like I just ran a marathon?

Cheryl stared at me. I tensed, wanting to bolt but painfully aware that I had nowhere to go. Oh god, does she think I'm a whore? She thinks I'm a whore. Doesn't she? Oh god AM I? Is there a date limit before you're allowed to rub against your boyfriend? Did I-

Cheryl burst out laughing.

"What....," I croaked out after half a minute. "the fuck?"

She held up her hand and shook her head, ponytail bouncing back and forth. "Only-" she barely got that out before she started laughing again. "Only you," she said, wiping her eyes. "would look like you just got caught having an orgy by your mom just for rubbing off with your boyfriend." she cracked up again.

I frowned. The god awful humiliation was still there, but now a bit of annoyance was creeping in. "Don't laugh at me." I growled.

"I'm sorry." she tried to sound sincere but the laugh tears glistening in her eyes and the hand in front of her mouth that was probably covering a smile made it less than convincing. "Really. But you didn't see how terrified you looked! I thought you-"

"Ok!" I held up a hand. "I really don't wanna hear the end of that sentence. Let's just.....stop laughing and pretend this never happened, ok?"

She made a show of getting herself under control. "Ok." she nodded firmly. Her hand was down so I could see the smirk she was trying to keep off her face. "Ok, I'm just, glad you didn't give it up yet."

"That's not letting it go." I grumbled. "And why the hell do you just assume I'M gonna be the one getting a penis shoved up-" I broke off with a choke. Oh god, WHY?! did I say that?

Cheryl made a tiny noise and her hands shot up and clamped over her mouth, but not before I heard the noise turn into hysterical laughing. Oh fuck, can I please just crawl in a hole and die now? Please?

And then, mercifully, the bell rang.

I was halfway down the hall before the echo stopped.

The rest of the day didn't get much better after that. It was like all the luck I'd had the past few weeks avoiding Jarred was all gone and now life was trying to make up for it by having me run into him practically every time I turned around. Even though I only had two more periods before I left I lost count of how many times I got pushed into a wall or locker and had by books knocked out of my hands and kicked down the hall.

And the less said about the bus ride home, the better.

Even getting home wasn't as much of a relief as it normally is because I got maybe three steps inside the house before my mom pounced and grilled me about whether of not I went to all my classes. I have no idea how I kept from screaming at her, especially since she apparently decided to start calling Owen 'that boy'. I mean, really, 'that boy'? 'That boy' that I love? 'That boy' that loves me? 'That boy' who's the only reason I'm not the bitter, miserable mess I used to be? 'That boy' that you're not even giving a chance before judging him because I skipped THREE fucking classes? THAT boy?

Of course, I couldn't SAY any of that, so I just stood there and took it and wondered if she'd ever notice my still kinda damp shirt and pants and what I'd say if she did. She didn't, and eventually she let me go and I trudged upstairs and collapsed into my bed.

Then I got up, changed my clothes, and collapsed again.

At 5:50 I swung my arm around and managed to fumble my radio on. I listened to polka boy talking about someone named Uncle Nimra buying a white horse, which was a cocaine reference if I've ever heard one, and then suffered through three minutes of a polka "song" before Owen came on. I called him before he got his first three words out.

"Hey." he said after he got done with his intro. "How're you doing?"

The quiet concern in his voice relaxed me. Well, more than balancing my phone on the side of my head and melting into my mattress already did anyway.

"Hey." I breathed. "I' sucked." I meant to say 'I'm better now', which was true, but I guess I wasn't as relaxed as I felt. Or something.

"I'm sorry." he said, but unlike when most people say that he actually sounded like he meant it. Like he was really apologizing that my life wasn't as good as it should be. It's things like this that make me wonder how I ever worried about how he felt about me. "Did they at least clean off your locker?"

Oh yeah, he knew about that. And why Jarred would be so pissed off, after I told him. I almost forgot. It seemed like days since we met at my locker today and he looked like he wanted to cut somebody's head off, he was so pissed off for me. He even almost hugged me right there in the hall. It was sweet, but terrifying.

"No." I rolled my eyes even though he couldn't see it. "Hopefully tomorrow."

"That is SUCH bullshit." he growled and I could just picture his outraged scowl. "I bet if somebody wrote 'cunt' on Amanda Ritter's locker it'd be off before homeroom was over."

I smiled slightly. "Sometimes I forget that you're a freshman. Fred the janitor wouldn't get off his ass to clean anything unless it was acid someone spilled on his pants. And even then only if he couldn't get out of it somehow."

I heard a soft laugh through the phone. "Ok, point. But still, I hate that Jarred did that and I hate that you had to use that locker all day." he sighed. "If I could have got over there again I would have."

"I know." I said, my heart swelling up. God I love this boy.

"I was worried about you all day." he admitted. "Chris and Juan aren't really shy about telling Jarred stories, I was scared that he did.....more."

I winced, and probably shuddered or shifted or something too because my phone slipped off my head and slid down to the mattress. I groaned as I shifted from my incredibly comfortable position to pick it up again. I decided against trying to balance it again and rolled over onto my back and held it against my ear.

"Andy? You there? What happened?" Owen sounded worried. It made me smile, even if it was shaky.

"S-sorry." I said. "I dropped the phone."

"Ok, but, what was that noise? Something DID happen, didn't it?"

Shit, I made a noise? "Um, I-" I swallowed. "Maybe?"

"Andy, please. If something happened you have to tell me. I...I don't care how bad it is, I just.....need to know, ok?"

God, he sounded like he was freaking out. Even though part of me knew it was stupid, I felt like it was my fault. "I'm sorry." I said.

"No, don't apologize love, you don't need to, ok?" Owen sighed. "I'm just....worried."

Did he.....? " called me 'love'." I said.

"I did?" he said. "Oh, um, I'm sorry, it slipped out. I won't-"

"No!" I yelled, and flushed. "I, um, I kinda liked it."

A second of silence. "You did?" he sounded like he was smiling. And, yes, I melted and turned to goo. Just a bit. "'s how I think about you, you know? In my head."

I sighed happily. "I really, really like it."

"I'm glad." he said softly. "But, can you please tell me what happened?" he pleaded.

I let out a breath. "Ok." I said quietly. I didn't want to talk about it. I'd already had my unstoppable emotional outpouring with Cheryl in the lunch room. Telling it again, especially when all I wanted to do was listen to Owen call me love for the next few hours or so, probably wasn't gonna make me feel any better than just talking to Owen would anyway. But, this wasn't about me. Owen was upset, worried. And like he'd done so many times with me, now I had to make him feel better. It was terrifying. Not talking about it, but that I had that much influence over whether or not he was happy. I never wanted that, and normally I'd have no idea what to do to make someone happy. Hell, I can barely make myself happy. But if talking about what happened today would make Owen less upset, maybe I could start there.

"It was after gym, because of course something like this would HAVE to happen after I could just change and- crap, I'm not telling this right. Sorry." I took a few quick breaths. "Ok, after gym I went to the bathroom. Jarred and two of his friends came in right as I was finishing up and they started calling me names and shoving me and I tried to push past them but Jarred just grabbed me and shoved me against the wall. I had my history book and notebook with me and Simon knocked them out of my hands and threw them in the toilet in the stall. The one that hasn't flushed right since last year. They got....ruined.

"I was pissed. I yelled something at Simon, I think I called him an asshole, but then Jarred grabbed the front of my shirt and said that I needed to learn not to talk back and he dragged me over to the urinal I was using and, pushed me in. I....I hadn't even flushed, and he just held me there and laughed. Then Kyle said that I was dirty and they should clean me up, then he flushed. They held me against the back and flushed like twenty times and I was wet and sucked. Then they walked away laughing, and left me there."

I left out the part about the crying. It was the only part of that that I was really ashamed of, letting them get to me that much. Plus I didn't think telling Owen about that would help him feel better. Actually, I kinda think telling him anything might have been a mistake.

He didn't say anything at first. Halfway through telling him the song ended and he started playing a new one without any intro at all, so I wondered if that auto disconnect thing hung up while I was talking. I was in the middle of wondering if I should call back and how much I was gonna have to retell when he spoke.

"I'm gonna fucking kill him." Owen said.

"No!" I yelled, panicked. "Don't-"

"He can't just do shit like that to you!" he cut me off. "Fuck! Just thinking about him touching you makes me wanna.....Gah!" he ended with an enraged shout.

"Please no!" I begged. "Don't try to do anything to him! You CAN'T, ok? He's older than you and stronger than you and if you start a fight with him you won't win. I-"

"I don't care! I need to do something! I can't just ignore it and pretend it doesn't happen or that just playing you a song or telling you I love you makes it all better."

"But it DOES make it better!" I yelled. "It makes it so much better. I couldn't deal with this if it wasn't for you! And one of the things about you that makes it better is that it ISN'T happening to you. He won't just stop with beating you up once. He'll remember you and start doing the same shit to you that he does to me."

"I don't care! At least if he's doing it to me then he's not doing it to you."

"No!" I couldn't breathe. This was a million times worse than maybe outing him to his friends. I had years of dealing with mean bullshit to numb me to a lot of it and stuff like this STILL got to me. If it started happening to Owen.....god, I couldn't even think about it without wanting to throw up. "I..." I searched frantically for the magic argument that would get him to drop this stupid idea. "Do you want me to be the one feeling like you are now? Because that's how it'll be if anything happens to you that should be happening to me. Do you think I'm strong enough to deal with that? Because I don't. I'm NOT. It would kill me." I sniffed. Oh god, tears, great. "Please." I begged again, my voice cracking.

"GodDAMMIT!" Owen yelled. I flinched. I'd never heard him this pissed off. Or swear this much. It was scary. But not in a 'he's so scary when he's mad' way, more of a 'I'm so scared for him when he's this mad' kind of way. "I can't....." he trailed off and let out a loud, defeated sigh. "I'm sorry, love."

My heart seized up with equal parts dread and hope. What was he apologizing for? Making me upset? Or because he wouldn't listen to me? "Don't apologize." I repeated his words back to him. "Just......please don't."

He didn't say anything for a while, but I knew he was still there because I could hear his breathing. Probably because I wasn't doing any of my own. Finally, after about a million years, I heard him sigh again. "I'm sorry."

Something started to unclench inside of me and I let out a relieved breath. Something in his voice told me it was the right apology, the one for making me practically throw up with worry. The one where he realized it was a mistake. But, honestly, even if it wasn't? No way I couldn't forgive him. He's just.....Owen. "It's ok." I said. "You don't need to apologize. But it's ok."

"Thank you." he said in a small voice, an this time he was the one that sounded relieved. There was more silence and I distantly noticed that he played another song without an intro. "Does it really help?" he asked suddenly. "Telling you I love you?"

A tiny smile pulled at my lips. "So much." I answered. "More than anything."

"Good." he said. "I....I'm glad. I love you." His first time saying it at the radio station. Smile.

"I love you too." I paused. "Playing songs helps too...." I prompted.

Owen laughed shakily. "I know. I mean, I will. Um, and I'm sorry if it sounded like I was putting down playing songs for you or something. I really like doing it, especially because it helps."

"It's ok!" I said with a small laugh. "I know. And I didn't think that. me a song so I can hug my pillow and pretend it's you and we're listening to it together." Ah shit, did I really just say that? Yeah, yeah I did. And for some reason it doesn't bother me as much as I thought.

Owen laughed, sounding more genuine this time. "Ok. I'll play you one." then he sobered. "I really am sorry."

He hung up before I could say anything back. I frowned slightly. That last apology.....

But then I heard his voice over the radio and lost whatever thought was trying to creep to life in my head. "This next song's dedicated to someone very special. I love you, more than anything."

My heart flipped and, yep, there's the sappy smile. It probably wasn't the smartest thing to be saying he loved someone on a radio show that some people actually listened to, but right then I didn't care. It was as close as we'd ever come to shouting it from the rooftops and it made me feel like flying.

I lay back as the song started to play, too lost in thoughts of a fantasy world where no one would care -and I wouldn't have a heart attack- if I walked down the middle of the street tucked under Owens arm with mine wrapped tightly around his waist. But then Meat Loaf started singing "I would do anything for love, but I won't do that." and it was like a knife slashing through my good mood. Suddenly, I knew EXACTLY how he meant that apology and why the last one seemed off. He was going to do it anyway. Like a match dropped in a bucket of ice water, my happy fantasy was gone.


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