Candy & Kisses

Chapter 1

By Dabeagle


"So stupid that you have to be there. It just makes no sense," Cathy said to me.

"I know, right?" I replied, wedging the phone between my shoulder and head. "What do they think will happen in Highland Estates? Someone will steal the wifi they don't have?" I pulled open the door to the freezer and rummaged around. "They don't even have ice cream to steal. Just some...frozen juice bars or something."

"Jesus, you'd think they could leave shit for you since they're totally inconveniencing you," she said.

I pulled a juice bar out. They had left me a bag of M&Ms, but that would hardly last an entire weekend. "I wish my aunt and uncle had had kids of their own."

"Julie just got home," Cathy informed me.

"Was she on a date with Hunter?" I asked with a sigh.

"Yes, the bitch," she said under her breath. Hunter Christiansen was probably the hottest guy in school and Julie was probably the biggest bitch, and she was my best friend's sister. How Julie rated climbing Hunter mountain, we couldn't figure.

"So, you think she puts out to keep him or does he shove it in her to shut her up?" I asked distractedly.

"Either way, I'm jealous," Cathy replied. Music caught my attention and I wandered to an open window to see where it was coming from. The house next door, reasonably concealed by the foliage between houses that was a trademark of this development, was lit up from every window. The music grew muted suddenly, and then returned just as loud. My guess was someone had opened, closed, and then left a door open.

"Do they have Netflix?"

"No," I said sullenly. "I don't think they even have a device to stream to."

"Can't you watch on your phone?"

"Sure, if I want to burn all my data. If only I could tap into their wifi, but they didn't leave the password." I paused and looked out the window again, seeing people milling about on the deck of the neighbors house. The music was coming from the open doors on the deck."Looks like there's a party next door."

"You should totally crash it," Cathy said with a laugh. "Go drink all their booze, throw up in the living room and pass out at your aunt and uncle's," she said, laughing harder.

"Sounds good, except the throwing up," I said and unwrapped the frozen juice bar. "Hey," I said suddenly, forgetting the juice bar. "Looks like someone called the cops on the party. This could get entertaining."

"Nice. Call me back; I'm going to Ginnie's."

"Going to talk hot guys all night?" I asked distractedly.

"Well, not like you're here to do that with," she said with a snort and hung up. I frowned. Glancing at the clock was a little surprised to see it was after ten. Time had felt like it was dragging. I wandered out onto the back deck to watch whatever was going on next door. Idly I sucked on the juice bar and its mild flavor was a metaphor for this entire house. My aunt and uncle must prefer everything to be bland. Everything was some earth tone, no color and no possibility of clashing. I wouldn't be surprised to find their closets and drawers filled with identical clothes so that they would never have to make another choice about what to wear. Khakis or khakis? Should I wear this white blouse or the other white blouse? Christ, they looked like retail workers.

I don't normally mind my aunt and uncle much. They were nice enough - nice was a good word for them, actually. It's such a weak, flabby word. Nice. No character at all. Anyway, I only saw them a few times a year and I've never spent any significant amount of time with them. I wasn't now, either. Apparently their house-sitter had bailed on them for some reason - probably couldn't stand another bland minute in that house - and my parents, in a stunning display of jackassery, suggested I could fill in.

It was the last few days before the official start of my junior year in high school, and at seventeen, I so did not want to be here. I say official, by the way, because we had exactly two days of school before getting a long weekend off. Apparently you can do stupid shit like that and still get paid. I need a job like that. Beats the hell out of flipping burgers. But that's neither here nor there, I thought, as the blandness overwhelmed me once more.

Physically, I could handle it. Mentally - this place would make a sanitarium look too stimulating. Neither of which was the point. I just didn't want to. Cathy and I would normally hang out and just talk about whatever. Plus it was nice to watch Hunter when he dropped off or picked up her royal stuck-upness, otherwise known as Julie. You could always pretend he was there for you, you know?

I was pulled from my mental flagellation by the sound of someone stumbling through the greenery between the houses. I heard the sound of a fall followed by a muttered curse and I chuckled. Drunk people could be entertaining.

"Stop!" I assumed a cop was yelling at someone, but couldn't see enough to know. Privacy was nice, but not when you wanted to be nosy.

I turned again when someone stumbled out of the greenery and fell flat on the lawn. He, for I could now see that much, awkwardly got to his feet. He was dressed casually in darker pants and a button-down shirt with sneakers. From his slight sway I figured he'd had a few. His front was a little wet due to the dousing the automatic sprinklers had inflicted on the lawn earlier.

"Hey," I said conversationally. "The cops are over there. If you hurry through the bushes, you can still catch them." I snickered to myself as he glanced in the direction of the shrubs as if considering taking my advice. As I snickered again the juice bar slid off the stick onto the deck. "Damn Karma, anyway," I muttered.

There was a squelch from a loudspeaker and I glanced over, still unable to see the goings on. I looked back over at the intruder and he shambled toward me, stopping at the bottom step of the deck.

"I...." He stopped, looking at me blankly, then he made this unusual, undulating movement, followed by his eyes opening wide. He followed it up with a bit of throw-up jumping from his mouth and down onto his shirt. He looked down, as if puzzled, and the rest of whatever his body wanted to expel flew from his mouth, down his shirt and pants and onto the bottom step.

"Oh, eww," I said and wrinkled my nose.

"Ah. Ah, shit," the guy mumbled. He glanced up, and I guess it was the semi-miserable, kind-of-lost expression on his face that did it. Besides, he looked familiar. I probably just wasn't used to seeing him covered in puke.

I sighed. "Okay, hang on," I said and went in through the back door to find a bag. I did not want to touch his clothes, but I couldn't let him in wearing them, either. Fortunately my aunt and uncle are as original as my parents when it comes to storing bags and I grabbed one from the box under the sink. I went back out to find he'd climbed to the top of the stairs and was holding himself up on the railing. Under the clearer light I recognized Zack Rowan from school. His face looked a bit paler than usual and his hair was a little disheveled. I held the garbage bag open to him.

"Zack. Put your shirt and pants in here and I'll wash them."

"Ugh. Uh. Okay," he said uncertainly. Then he paused. "Why?"

"Uh, you threw up on yourself," I told him. He looked down.

"Oh. That's the smell." He continued to look down for a minute and then unbuttoned the shirt slowly, tossing it more or less into the bag. He undid his belt and pushed the pants down, only then realizing he couldn't get them off but not seeming to understand why.

I sighed again. "Let me help." I set the bag down beside him and squatted down, then pulled my head away at the sour smell. I leaned away to gasp some clean air, held my breath and turned back. I lifted one foot and pried his shoe off, then the other. I stood and backed away as he stood awkwardly with his pants around his ankles, looking slightly confused.

"Zack. Pants in the bag," I prompted him.

He glanced up and nodded, stomping his feet lightly to get out of the pants. He crossed his arms and shivered, his nipples standing out interestingly. I'm a very visual person and I notice things like that. I sighed again, picked up his pants between thumb and finger and deposited them into the bag.

"Come on," I said and headed back to the house. Zack trailed behind me, shuffling his feet in his socks. I brought him to the bathroom, which was near the door. "Why don't you wash your mouth out and maybe drink some water. Do you still feel sick?"

"Um." He ran his fingers through his hair. "Not so much, no. Mouth tastes like ass, though."

"Okay, well like I said, go in and rinse your mouth out. I'll go put your stuff in the washer."

I left him there and hoped he wouldn't slip and knock his head against anything hard. I descended the basement steps and crossed the creepy area toward the washer and dryer. My aunt and uncle seemed to store everything down here and it made for weird shapes and shadows. I'm not normally such a pussy about dark places, but this basement creeped me out. I emptied the bag into the washer, then remembered the belt. I fished about a little and pulled the stupid thing up, but it was being defiant about being separated from the pants. I pushed between the belt and pants and did okay until the end of the belt slid past my fingers and I felt them get wet. Fucking eww. Belatedly I thought of a phone or wallet and lifted the pants, but they didn't feel heavy enough o contain anything. I steeled myself and patted the pockets, shivering with revulsion at the idea of touching any more of his mess. I added soap and set it going, barely, before dashing back across the basement.

Once upstairs I went straight to the kitchen sink and scrubbed my hands with soap and hot water. Once I was satisfied the memory of touching puke was - nope, wash just once more. At last I headed back to the bathroom. Zack had both hands on the sink and his head down, breathing slowly.

"Zack? Feel okay?" I asked.

He was quiet for a moment and I actually wondered if he'd passed out standing up. "Better. Little cold," he said quietly.

"Okay. Well, come on. As long as you're done throwing up, I'll put you on the couch." I don't think I'd have done this for a stranger, but Zack was always an okay guy. We didn't know each other, really, but his reputation was of a nice guy who got along with just about everyone. He followed me out into the living room and I pointed to the couch while diverting toward the stairs. "Let me grab you a blanket or two," I said. "Be right back."

He sat on the couch and lay down on his side, curled up slightly. I took the stairs two at a time and went to the hall closet. My whirlwind tour of the house had included where to find spare sheets and linens, which I was thankful for now - though at the time, I couldn't imagine needing more than what had been on my bed. Somehow I doubt my aunt and uncle had thought I'd be using these items for a nearly naked drunk boy. I grabbed two throw blankets, and then an extra pillow from my room, and headed back downstairs.

Zack opened his eyes as I approached, though he didn't react beyond that.

"Here's a pillow," I said, placing it at one end of the couch. He stretched a little and shimmied up to rest his head on the pillow.

"Thanks, Jerry," he said and closed his eyes.

Huh. He knew who I was. Well, I guess a lot of people did - when you have a rhyming nickname like Jerry the Fairy, people remembered. I pursed my lips at the thought and shook out the first blanket. I looked down at Zack, who had an average, kind looking face that was relaxed in sleep. His body wasn't really built, but he was slender and was worth looking at. It wasn't everyday you got a decent looking guy in his underwear to look at, so I don't care who thought I was perving for a minute or two. I grinned a little and laid the blanket over him, then shook the second out and layered it over the first. Zack's hand emerged, curling in a loose fist around the blankets and pulled them close while making an unintelligible mutter.

I moved over to the side chair and sat down. I decided I'd sit watch for a little bit, just to make sure he didn't wake suddenly and need to puke again. I pulled out my phone and screwed around with it for a bit before growing tired. I walked out onto the front porch, pulling my shirt around me as the cool night air went by in a stiff breeze. In curiosity I walked over to the green barrier and tried to get a look next door, but it seemed most of the excitement had died down. The flashing lights were gone, anyway, but I did see a cop car still in the drive.

I snorted to myself. For once it was a blessing to be unpopular and not be invited to a party. I retraced my steps, checked on Zack - who hadn't moved - and then headed upstairs. My eyes were heavy, probably worn out from all the earth tones around here. Although, I thought to myself as I undressed for bed, having some eye candy to break things up wasn't so bad.



I came awake slowly, stretching under the covers. I wasn't used to the light streaming through the windows. I turned my head and reached for my phone, flicking it on to check the time. Eight fifty-five. Ugh.

"Um. Hello?"

Shit. Zack. "Yeah," I said groggily and climbed out of bed. Jesus, I hope he didn't throw up, again. I wasn't a fan of early mornings to begin with, but to start it off by mopping up puke would truly be the worst. Though, maybe you wouldn't really notice it. Puke is sort of beige anyway, right? The thought spurred me and I padded downstairs quickly. He was in the hallway, a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. His hair was mussed and his expression was one of confusion.

"Hey. Um...Jerry?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said with a nod and a yawn. "How you feeling?"

"Uh. Little headache. Um," he looked around for a moment and then back at me. "Did something?"

I blinked at him a few times. "Something?" I asked, my brain trying to catch up.

He shrugged a little and said, "I don't know where I am and my clothes are gone. Did we, you know...hook up?" He looked distressed to be asking and I frowned.

"No. Your virginity is intact," I snapped, suddenly more awake.

He winced. "I'm not trying to be a dick. I'm just...kind of confused."

"Yeah. That's what happens when you get smashed at a party and crash through the underbrush to avoid the cops," I grumbled.

His eyes opened a bit wider. "Oh. Shit, I...damn," he said as if several things dawned on him at once. I imagined I could almost see the thoughts crashing, tumbling and piling one atop the other. He rolled a hand at me and slowly said, "I wasn't trying to be a dick, like I said. It's just...I'm almost naked, you're almost naked...seemed like a thing I should ask."

I frowned. "I'm gay, but still human. I don't take advantage of drunk boys," I said. "I'll get some clothes on and put your shit in the dryer." I turned and headed back upstairs, conscious he was watching me go. That was awkward. I don't think I'm bad looking, but I also wasn't used to being dressed down where anyone could readily see. I pulled on pants and a shirt and hit the bathroom before heading back down. Zack had retreated to the couch and was wrapped in the blanket.

"Are you cold?" I asked.

"A little, yeah. Um, can I use the bathroom?"

"Of course," I said. "Over here." He followed me deeper into the house and I left him at the bathroom door. I went into the basement and crossed the still-creepy space to put his clothes in the dryer. Kid better appreciate me crossing this room a few times for him. I shivered and headed back upstairs. I put some coffee on and poked around for something to eat. They had breakfast cereal - bran this and fiber that. They had oatmeal, continuing the bland theme, but that was all.

"Jerry?" Zack called out.

"Back here," I replied. Moments later he shuffled into the kitchen, blanket around his shoulders and he glanced around.

"You have a nice house," he said.

I grunted. "It belongs to my aunt and uncle. I hate it. Are you hungry?"

"I could use something warm," he said quietly.

"Well, oatmeal it is. Breakfast of the bland families of America," I said with a scowl.

"If you put a little sugar on it and some cinnamon, it tastes pretty good," he said, again in a subdued tone.

I turned to look at him. "Yeah? Sounds better than plain. Sit down, Zack. You look like crap," I said with a slight smile. He raised his eyebrows and let out a breath.

"I bet." He sat down at the small table and chair set and I studied the instructions for oatmeal. "Want coffee?" I asked idly as I started to prepare the food.

"Please," he said. "And a glass of water? I think I'm a little dehydrated." I set water to boil and grabbed coffee cups while waiting for that. He gulped down the water and I got him a refill that he sipped from. I filled both cups and brought them to the table, then grabbed sugar and cream from the fridge so he could doctor his cup. Next I hunted through the cupboards for cinnamon, and was a little surprised to find it. I mean, it's sort of red - seemed like too much color for this house.

Minutes later I brought two bowls of steaming oatmeal to the table and Zack thanked me, then I watched how he prepared his and I copied him. Hmm. It wasn't horrible.

"What do you think?" Zack asked, again his voice soft.

I swallowed the spoonful in my mouth. "It's better than plain, Zack. I'll take it."

He nodded. He ate slowly and sipped his coffee periodically. It was sort of cool, really. I only hang out with Cathy, for the most part. Ginnie once in a while, though the two could be interchangeable at times. Zack was very different from either; a damn sight quieter, though maybe that was because he was hung over.

"Can I...ask an awkward question?" Zack said, breaking my train of thought. "Or maybe one that's just none of my business?"

I frowned lightly. "I guess."

He looked up at me, light hazel eyes that were now fully awake. "Are you out? Like to your family?"

I snorted. "Was hard to hide. Not a choice I made, but yeah."

He winced slightly. "How did they take it?"

I turned the spoon over a few times, twirling bits of oatmeal. "I don't think it bothered them that I was gay. The three pussies that beat the snot out of me, that they minded." I looked up. "Being a social outcast and called Jerry the Fairy, I've grown used to. That what you were looking for?"

He looked down for a moment. I'm not sure why I felt so touchy about it. Zack had never done anything to me, or for me. I'd had my share of crap, and it had taught me to keep my circle small. I didn't make new friends. I'd long ago cut out anyone that had made me miserable. For all that, it was a bit hard to be angry with Zack. It would be like kicking a puppy, sort of.

"None of your friends stood by you?" he asked quietly.

Why would he ask such a thing? How might this apply to him? What...oh. I crossed my arms. "Are you coming out?"

He met my gaze and blinked owlishly. "Uh, no. Just...probably too much thinking with this much of a headache."

I frowned. "Not a real answer." I waited for a moment and then shrugged. "Well, I guess I can try to find some aspirin or something."

"Thanks," he said quietly. I scooped the rest of the oatmeal, whose flavor was growing on me, into my mouth and brought my bowl to the sink to rinse. I left Zack with his breakfast and coffee while I went upstairs to the bathroom so I could raid the medicine cabinet. On the way I wondered how I might have felt had he actually been coming out. He was nice enough and reasonably good looking. I could see myself being interested. There were a few out kids at school, but they all seemed to be joiners. GSA, something with the local Gay/Lesbian community center, and probably other things I wasn't aware of. I wasn't much of a joiner. I didn't want to be asked to go with them to this meeting or that alternative dance. I didn't feel like I was alternative; I just wanted a guy for my own.

Opening the cabinet I was kind of stunned. How much Midol, Geritol and stool softener does one couple need? Were they on sale in bulk? Did they rob a container ship? I pushed bottles aside, finding a weird order to it as vitamins seemed to be the second row of essentials. At last I spotted an Advil bottle and shook three out before replacing it.

"Here you go," I said as I returned to the kitchen.

"Thanks," he said with a sniff and wiping his eye. "I, uh, just have to blow my nose." He popped the pills into his mouth, took a sip of coffee and then wrapped the blanket around himself before heading back down the hall toward the bathroom. Huh. What was that all about? I glanced around the kitchen in mild confusion, but saw nothing but the same old bland kitchen I had left a few minutes before. Maybe I'd cooked the oatmeal wrong? That could be why I never had liked oatmeal - I had been doing it wrong.

I refilled my coffee cup and he padded back in a few minutes later.

"So. Did I screw it up or what? The instructions seem pretty straightforward," I said to him and sipped from my cup.

He looked at me, slightly puzzled. "Screw what up?"

"The oatmeal."

He frowned lightly. "The oatmeal was good. My stomach is holding it down, which I think is also good."

"Yeah," I said with a grin. "You made a freaking mess last night."

He sat down and the blanket slipped from his shoulders. He glanced up at me. "I remember drinking a lot. Way more than I ever have. I think I remember puking, but that's kind of fuzzy."

"It was memorable," I agreed. I glanced at the clock. "I figure your clothes have about twenty more minutes or so. You have a ride home?"

He grimaced and put his head down. I waited, sipping my coffee and wondering what sort of drama was playing out in his head. I also admired his shoulders. Huh. I guess he has just normally perky nipples. I allowed myself to look as long as he wasn't covering himself. I wasn't saying anything to him about his nipples or trying to touch him, so I felt on pretty safe grounds.

"Did you tell anyone? Before those guys...jacked you up?"

I frowned lightly, not really enjoying the memory. "Why?"

He looked up at me and his face just seemed...sad. There was no sparkle in his eyes, not that there had been so far, but I could imagine one. Zack seemed like a normally happy sort from what I could recall of him around school. I wonder what's eating him?

"I just...I'm trying to work something out in my head, and I'm not coming up with anything...good."

I nodded slowly as if I understood, but I was clueless. I guess, since I'd already mentioned it, it couldn't hurt to let him know how alone I'd been. "Well, you remember James Plessy?"

His brows drew together and he appeared to be in thought. "Straight brown hair, kind of on the tall side? Bowling team or something?"

"Or something," I agreed. I gathered myself to tell a story I rarely brought up. In fact, when it had happened I'd barely fought back, I was so stunned. My parents had forced me to make a report and get the school involved. Things were handled quietly; no one wanted a fuss. People still found out, and the rumors were sometimes worse than the reality, though not by much. "We were together on the down low. One afternoon he and I were sneaking into the janitor's closet under the basement stairwell. A couple of his friends saw me go in with a guy, but they didn't recognize him. Later they went to get him, all fired up to teach the fag a lesson." I sighed. "If you don't remember, James was one of the three guys who kicked the crap out of me."

Zack looked at me with wide, wet eyes. "How could he do...that?"

I pursed my lips. "Because he's a weak fuck. He has no spine, no nut sack and I hope his sorry excuse for a dick has withered and fallen off."

Zack leaned back and sort of slumped. Yep, both nipples had that perky thing going on. His face, though, seemed to be troubled. I wished I knew how I could note and appreciate his chest, yet still recognize and roll with the fact he was obviously tied up about something.

"Not that I don't enjoy talking about getting my ass kicked, not to mention being betrayed by a guy who said he loved me, but what does this have to do with anything?" I asked.

Zack sighed and slumped a bit more. "I don't usually drink. I'm not a big fan of parties, but I go once in a while just to be sociable." He paused and took a few breaths. "I wasn't planning on going last night, really. But then something happened, and all I wanted to do was...forget. I wanted to be so drunk I couldn't speak or think." He paused and blinked a few times slowly. "I just couldn't think."

I raised an eyebrow. "Okay. Still not seeing the connection."

He shook his head. "I just have to figure out how to...fix it, I guess." He glanced up and said, "You have a best friend, Jerry?"

"Sure. Cathy Fontana is my hag. We talk guys and hate on her sister. Why?"

He nodded again. "I have one. Had." He swallowed and placed his elbow on the table and used his hand to support his head. "We've been friends for, like, four years." He paused and glanced at me. "Were you offended I asked if something happened last night?"

I tilted my head to one side. "A little. I'm really over the 'predatory fag' idea some people have." Not liking the direction this was headed, and starting to feel guilty for looking at him a little, I decided to push the issue. "I mean, I noticed your body. Hello! Gay boy here, has nearly naked guy in front of him. Hard to miss, you know?"

He rolled his shoulders and sat up a bit, but made no move to cover himself. "I guess that sort of makes sense. I mean, I'd probably look if it were a girl."

"Sure. A nice glance, but that's where it stops. I do have self-control," I replied and blew out a breath. "What is with all the questions? It's like we're friends having a talk."

He looked up at me and sighed. "Maybe we are? You're probably the one person I can think of that would give me some...perspective. See," he said with another sigh. "My best friend came out to me last night. I, um, didn't take it well."

I pushed my tongue into the side of my mouth and bit back my sharper replies, but only because he was clearly remorseful. "So. What? You accused him of perving on you? Hitting on you or trying to feel you up or something?"

He wiped his face and then rubbed both eyes. "Something like that. I don't know why I went there, first. I just thought he was going to say he had a crush on me or something, and I knew even less how I'd handle that. I guess I panicked."

"Fucking heteros." I shook my head. "You all think every gay guy wants you. Get over yourself." I leaned forward and said, "I can think of only about four guys in the school that I'd be seriously interested in. I'm sure as hell not going to go ask them out, though."

He looked at me with a slightly puzzled expression and I had to admit, I had no idea why I'd said that last bit. Even though my school had its share of assholes, there were plenty of average, decent guys.

"Point is, there's like a million of you straight boys at school and I'm not drooling over all of you - and I'm sure you don't drool over every girl, either. Maybe you should cut your friend some slack - or you know what? Maybe you don't deserve him as a friend if he did want to say he thought you were all that, and the best you could do was get drunk off your ass to try and forget."

He frowned. "It wasn't really - okay, yeah, it was like that. Still, I've never done this before. Care to stop with the judgment?"

"Please," I said with an eyeroll. Unwillingly my mind slipped back to fourth grade. I was on the playground with, arguably, the prettiest boy in the history of forever. As he grew older, Brandon McCall would become a slender, lithe little godling with golden brown hair and pristine green eyes. In the fourth grade, he was just puppy dog cute, and I kissed him in a fit of, I don't know, emerging hormones? He'd knocked me down in the dirt, called me a booger-something and half the class laughed at me.

Some kids got sent home or talked to for kissing the girls. I got ridiculed for kissing a boy. I guess I'm a little sensitive when it comes to how people deal with 'coming out'.

"You know," I said. "If a little boy kisses a little girl, they put a stop to it, but the adults all think it's cute. 'Aww, he has a girlfriend' or something stupid like that. If a little boy kisses a little boy, look out! Pervert! Deviant!" I leaned forward a bit and looked him in the eye. "If he had liked you, all you had to do was let him down easy. Just like any girl you weren't into. Why is it so hard for you straight boys to see us as human?"

His eyes went out of focus and he nodded, moisture welling up in those pretty eyes. There was something about seeing him sad that made him beautiful. Not sexy, but like a work of art. He wiped them roughly and nodded his head again. "You're right. I screwed this up completely." He glanced at me. "After those had no friend to stick with you, though?"

I wanted to continue being snarky about his dumb decision, but his beaten expression took the heat out of me. He was hurting and he was guilty, which was more than James had ever done after he'd turned on me to protect himself. I let out a sigh. "I have a long history of not having many friends. Something...happened in grade school, and I kind of closed off. I...kind of thought James would be different." I looked at Zack, who was looking at me, rapt with attention. "I believed him. I snuck around. We fooled around, but were never really seen together." I looked at him steadily. "Unless James is your best friend - and fuck him if he is - then you should go apologize and admit to being stupid. Your friend probably feels like..." I closed my eyes and said softly, "his world is ending. I know I felt like that when I was nine."

The room was quiet for a moment and I was a little irritated to find I needed to wipe one of my eyes.

"I'm sorry that happened to you," he said softly. "Um. If...your friend had - I mean, if you'd had...fuck," he said softly and put his head down on his arm.

There is a difference between someone who is mean, and someone who just made a dumb move. Malice versus an honest mistake. That thought hit me and I felt even less like being snarky and wanting to say the right thing. After all, did I want to become what I despise in the world?

"Zack, if you're asking if I'd have wanted my best friend to come apologize and support me...yeah. More than anything."

We sat quietly for a minute and I thought about what might have been different for me had I had a friend like Zack who had swallowed his pride and come back to apologize. I probably wouldn't have the attitude I did. Maybe.

"I think I remember what you mean by that thing that happened in grade school. Kissing Brandon, right?"

I pressed my lips together slightly. "Yes."

He nodded slowly and took a deep breath. "I remember hearing about it. Some kids were giving Brandon shit for a while. It's weird. I remember we made friends one day when he was just crying. Tears of rage, I think."

My gut twisted as I thought of Brandon.

Zack sat up slowly and looked at me, eyes wet. "Would you have forgiven your friend?"

Pulled back to the present, I bit my lip. "Yeah. But I'd have probably yelled at him first."

He sighed and nodded. "Fair enough." He stood slowly. "I guess I should get my clothes."

"I'll bring them up," I said as I also stood.

"I know I've already asked a lot of you," he said, gesturing with his hand. "Not everyone would have helped me out last night."

I put my hands in my pockets. "It's cool."

"Do you think I can shower before I go? I kind of...stink."

"Sure. I'll get your clothes and take you upstairs." After getting Zack settled in the shower I'm not ashamed to admit I pictured him naked. Again, not many chances at seeing a real live nearly-naked guy. And, damn it, he was nice. He fucked up, but he was clearly sorry. I hope his friend can see that. Meanwhile though, I'm kind of anxious for him to leave so I can shower and get some of this sexual frustration out. Damn straight boys, anyway.

It wasn't until later that I started to wonder who had come out to him.

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