The Right One

By Dabeagle

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My thanks to Cole for editing and Ricky and Ryan for beta reading. The feedback was crucial in the finished product.

“I'm late,” Madison said again. My jaw unhinged as I stared at her, unable to fully process the meaning of her statement. It just kept getting bigger – the meaning, the consequences.

“But...I used a condom,” I said, my voice full of disbelief.

“Yeah, I know, Corbin. How can I forget that I'm allergic to latex at this point?” she snarled.

We had been sitting on my bed but she was up and pacing while I was still seated, feeling as if' I'd been punched in the solar plexus. She was late. She could be pregnant. We were too young for kids, what would we do?

“We need a pregnancy test,” she said, pausing in her pacing. “We need to be sure.”

“Um. Okay, yeah. That sounds like a good idea.”

“Well. You get one, then.”

“Me?” I yelped.

“Yes, you,” her eyes narrowed. “If I buy one everyone will know I've had sex and that I'm worried. If you do, people will high five you. It's okay for boys – girls are the only ones that get labeled as sluts.”

I glanced away, knowing she was right. We'd been dating for seven months and just after Thanksgiving we'd been alone and it had...just happened. I always carried a condom because, hey, why not? We'd been making out in her garage and she just kind of moaned out that she was ready, she wanted to. It had been cool, sort of. Felt good. Was over too fast, but we were both up for trying it again, maybe with a little more planning.

Then, of course, she'd gotten the allergic reaction to the condom. Fortunately it wasn't a horrible reaction, just some redness and itching. Benadryl cleared it up but, she had a point when she said no one likes to be itching and stuff down there. Now, here we were two weeks later, sweating it that she'd gotten pregnant while I'd lost my virginity.

By the time she left for home it was dinner time and I brooded. After dinner and my own poorly done homework I went out to a chain pharmacy and picked up a home test. She was a little wrong in her assessment – the older guy behind the counter did not smile at me for my purchase. I guess, in his field, he saw kids like me sweating out the situation, wondering if they were about to have to confront abortion or giving birth.

Once home I hid the test. The last thing I needed was my mom finding out. Lying on my bed I crossed my legs at the ankle and put my hands behind my head and tried to think.

I knew I wasn't ready to be a dad. The idea scared the crap out of me. I was only sixteen, how could I take care of someone else? Not only that, I'd be responsible for that child for the next eighteen years – longer than I'd been alive! Not only that, having a kid would tie me to Madison for the rest of my life. Maddy was known as one of those girls that you could 'get there' with. I wouldn't call her the town pump or anything, but she had sucked off a few guys so that had been part of the motivation for asking her out.

She wasn't bad looking, either. She had long, wavy dark hair and a petite frame. Her glasses looked okay on her and she was willing to go down on me after a few months of dating. She came to watch if I played sports or something and we went to the movies once in a while and hung out at each others houses, but there wasn't a whole lot of chemistry there. Guiltily, I knew I'd asked her out to get laid and I wondered if I should stay with her now, regretting my choice.

Actually, if you think about it, it's kind a of a shitty reason to date someone. I'd been thinking about that a bit too, but hadn't seen any immediate reason to break things off. I mean, no one was waiting in the wings and, if I was single, I wasn't getting anymore blowies. But, with this latest thing, I guess it was scaring me into realizing my selfishness was creating problems, possibly life-long ones.

I decided to talk things over with one of the few people I trusted implicitly, my bud Bellamy. I picked him up for the ride to school and decided just to tell him what was on my mind without trying to gussy it up.

“Bell, Maddy might be prego.”

He turned his head quickly, his yawn disappearing. “Are you fucking with me?”

“Nope,” I said, glancing at him and then continuing. “It's freaked me out, man. I don't want to have a kid. I figure I need to break up with her.”

“Well, did you get a test?”

“Yeah, got it in my bag,” I replied.

“Okay, well, you ought to find out first. I mean, if she is pregnant then you guys have shit to decide first – you'd be a major douche to leave her right now.”

“Yeah. Yeah, you're right,” I said, nodding my head. Bell was pretty good at being my conscience when I got panicked. I liked to think I was a decent guy, but I knew I did boneheaded shit when I was freaked or stressed so I'd learned to talk to Bell before I did things.

“Is she late or something? Why does she think she's preggers?”

“Yeah, she's late. This is fucked up, Bell! I used a condom.”

“Yeah, you said,” he shook his head. “Well, one thing at a time. Use the test and then see where that leaves you.”

“You think it's okay to break up if the test is negative?”

“Well, if you want to. Why do you want to? I mean, you know she puts out, now...”

“Bell,” I said with a laugh. “I can't imagine having to raise a kid with her or something. I was just thinking and it's like – I started dating her thinking I'd get some. But now that I have it, I know she isn't what I want. Like, long term.”

“Well, short term you can do blow jobs and anal, right?”

“She won't do anal,” I said. “Her friend Wendy told her it really hurt so she already told me that was a no.”

“Damn. Well, I guess it's blow jobs or nothing, then.”

“But, Bell...isn't there supposed to be more? I mean...I'm not even sure I like her very much,” I said. I shrugged and clarified, “I mean like hanging out isn't anything special. The sex...I kind of regret. I mean, it felt good at the time but it was like...rushed and sort of like two animals rutting.”

“Well, we are animals. Sometimes just rooting around is good.”

“Sure,” I nodded, “but for your first time? Isn't it supposed to be awesome? Like, rewarding in every way?”

“Well, you came, didn't you?”

“Did you miss the 'might be pregnant' part?”

“Well, how much more special did it need to be, then?”

I sat quietly, thinking. What did I expect? Did I like getting my dick wet? Sure did. Did I want to get laid again? Duh. Did I want to do it with Maddy? I was definitely leaning to 'no' there. Why? I think, when I got down to it, I didn't like her all that much and I didn't like myself much when I was with her.

“I want more, Bell.”

“Yeah, I hear that's pretty common after you get your first piece,” he snickered.

“No,” I smacked him. “I mean, I want more out of it. The more I think about it, I just got off with her. I want to feel good about who I'm with.”

“Oh, Christ,” he said, shaking his head and chuckling, “You going to be a romantic now?”

“Fuck you, Bell.”

TRO

I saw Maddy after second period and gave her the test. She told me she'd hit the bathroom next class and text me. I anxiously tapped my foot in class, waiting for the result. Mr. Groverton was talking about some economic theory when my phone buzzed in my pocket and I nearly jumped out of my skin. Checking the screen I felt my heart leap – negative! Oh my God, it was negative! She wasn't pregnant! I stood up from my chair and pumped my fist in the air a few times before remembering I was still in Economics class.

Even that couldn't fully drown the relief and joy I was feeling. I took my seat with a wide smile plastered to my face and ignored the snickers. After class I sent a text to Bell to tell him the good news and then I set about deciding to break up with Maddy. There were too many things wrong with this relationship and it had been going on for too long.

When Bell answered my message, he completely ignored what I'd said and informed me of a party that we had to attend. Had to. I was so pleased not to be a daddy I didn't care where we went to celebrate.

When school ended I found Maddy waiting for me in the parking lot. She was leaning against the car with her head down.

“Hey,” I said. Her head came up and she nodded.

“So...” she said.

“Yeah. We dodged a bullet,” I said. She frowned.

“I want kids.”

“Yeah, but not now,” I said. “Our lives would be over.”

“Not really,” she said thoughtfully. “My mom loved babies...”

“Probably not if the baby was yours before you got out of high school,” I said pointedly.

“Still. I guess I'll have to get on the pill, now. Unless you want to try...”

“What?” I said in alarm. “No. No, no, no. Maddy, look...”

I glanced down at my shoes and then decided to treat it like a bandage and just rip it off. “Maddy, I think we need a break.”

“A break,” she scoffed. “You're dumping me. I knew it! As soon as I spread my legs, you're gone! Got what you wanted, huh, Corby?”

“What?” I said, feeling a little offended. “You think I put seven months worth of time into dating you for ten minutes?”

“Don't kid yourself, it was more like ten seconds before you lost it,” she sneered. She pushed off from the car and added a parting comment. “I'd have left you anyway with your tiny pecker.”

“Good talk, Maddy. Glad we didn't have kids together,” I said to her back. I sighed and tossed my pack into the back seat. Bell ambled up, looking at his phone.

“Did I miss anything good?” he asked absently.

“Maddy and I broke up. She said I had a little dick.”

“Yeah? Oh well, she wasn't complaining when you banged her, right?” he said and climbed into the passenger seat. I pulled out of the lot and pointed us in the direction of home.

“So this party. It's at Delia Thomas's house and I guess her folks are supposed to be gone tonight. It's supposed to be a few hours, so we'll see.”

“I never understand people who have house parties when their folks are away. Don't they almost always get caught?”

“Yep,” he said as I brought the car to a stop in front of his house. “But they throw 'em because they only 'almost always' get caught. So, there's a chance they won't.”

“Okay. It's still stupid,” I told him.

“That,” he said pointing at me, “Is why we'll never throw one. We're too smart. Pick me up at eight?”

“Yeah. See ya.”

I headed home. While I was a little out of sorts that my relationship was over, I was also relieved. Change can be good – and this would be – but it was also a little unsettling. I entered the apartment and put my backpack in my closet and kicked off my shoes. I grabbed a snack from the kitchen and basically chilled until my folks got home.

“Corbin? I could use a hand with the groceries!” my mother called from the door.

“Okay!” I called and slipped my shoes on. I headed out to the car and my dad was at the trunk, handing me a few bags.

“What's with all the groceries, Dad?” I asked. “We already went this week.”

“Your grandfather is coming tomorrow morning and staying for the weekend,” he said sullenly.

“Oh,” I said with a lift of my eyebrows and I just left that alone. I headed up to the kitchen and set the bags down. I made one more trip and then my mom shooed me out of the kitchen. From the hallway I mentioned going to hang out with Bell later and she mumbled something indistinctly.

I could probably have a party of my own and she wouldn't care because she and my father were focused on my grandfather. I'm not sure why he comes anymore, all he does is complain. When I was little I used to like him as he'd give me little presents and let me get away with things when he sat for me. But now, all he did was complain about anything and everything.

Dinner was a quiet affair and I took a quick shower before getting ready. I figured we wouldn't go for that long, especially since the parents were due back that night – I mean, how stupid can you be? I went with a pair of canvas shoes and khakis, a button up with an undershirt and called it good. Combing my hair I went to the closet for a light jacket and grabbed my keys.

“I'm going to see Bell,” I said to my parents, who were finally sitting in the living room.

“Is Maddy going to be there?” my mother asked absently.

“Uh, no. We broke up.”

“Really?” my dad said. “I thought she was a nice girl.”

“I thought she was a slut,” my mother snorted.

“Okay, well, I'm going to go then,” I said to them, and walked out. My mother is kind of famous for her tart wit and it usually is one of the things that sets Gramps off; she won't roll over and take his shit like my dad does.

I headed over and picked up Bell. As little as I liked our apartment, it was worlds better than Bell's trailer. He was almost always more than ready to leave that tin can and with his folks, I couldn't blame him. One of them was collecting disability and the other one kept getting fired for being drunk at work.

“You know where we're going?” I asked.

“Yeah. Hey, do you mind if I ask Maddy out?”

“Uh. I guess not,” I said. “Why would you want to ask her out? You like her?”

“No. I just know she puts out, now.”

“Bell, you're fucked up.”

“Yeah, I know,” he said and shrugged. “I'm planning to go on Oprah and blame my parents.”

We cracked up. He gave me directions to the place, a decent neighborhood but not fancy or anything. The houses were kind of close together with small yards and maybe six feet between houses. We could see a few people hanging out on the porch and a lot of lights were on inside. I found a place to park about a block away. We ambled back, talking about nothing, and mounted the steps.

We said hello to the people on the porch, acquaintances, and entered the house proper. There was noise from people that were milling in the hallway and some who were doing some kind of game with shot glasses in the living room. The dining room had a few bottles open on it and Bell snaked in and came back with a couple of rum and cokes.

We moved through the house, talking to people and sipping our drinks. I knew right away I couldn't finish mine, there was way too much rum in it. Bell liked his drinks stiff and I'd probably end up just handing this off to him. I'd never developed much of a taste for alcohol, but in these situations it was largely expected. Even if Bell drank the other one, I could hold his empty glass as proof I'd had something.

Bell wandered out onto the back porch with the smokers and I elected to wait in the kitchen. It was quarter to nine and I was getting bored. Some of these kids had been here for a few hours before we arrived and were a little worse off than we were. I was suddenly aware of someone leaning in from my side and encroaching on my personal space. I turned to see Ryder Tipton who was rumored to be how drugs got into our school.

“Corbin Daniels,” he said slowly with a big smile. “What are you doing?”

“Just hanging, Ryder. Looks like you've been partying.”

He waved his hand from side to side. “Yeah, I've had some fun. I heard you broke up with Maddy today.”

“Yeah, we did.”

“She's stupid, she never should have left you. But,” he said, throwing an arm in the air, “she's a stupid cow.”

“Uh, thanks for the vote of confidence,” I said and pushed off from the counter. I was going to walk away but Ryder blocked my path. “Whoa, hey easy, Ryder.”

He leaned in and smiled, “Corbin, you,” he leaned in to whisper in my ear, “You don't know what you do to me.”

I pulled back and looked at him with a frown. “What?”

He smiled again and tried to close the distance between us but I pushed him back. “Corbin, dude, I would so rock your world. Want to come upstairs? We can find some space and...”

“Ryder, shut the fuck up, dude,” I said. “Back the fuck off.”

I was completely ready to leave now. I stalked past Ryder and out onto the deck to look for Bell, but I didn't see him. I headed down the steps and into the back yard. There were a few circles of people and more than a few couples taking advantage of the long shadows under the trees. Still, there was no sign of Bell. I couldn't think why he'd go up the side of the house to the front, so he must have walked past me and I missed him. I gritted my teeth and walked back up onto the deck and into the kitchen.

There was no sign of Ryder, so maybe he took my advice and fucked off. I threaded through the people and poked my head into the dining room. It was kind of crowded and I was just thinking I wanted to go – as soon as I found Bell.

“Yo, Corby!” a deep voice called out. I turned and saw Nelson who worked at the grocery store with me.

“Hiya, Nels. Hey, you seen Bell?”

“No, man. Want a drink, though?”

“I'm good,” I said holding a hand up. I couldn't remember when I'd set down my cup, but now I was the odd one out.

I retreated from the dining room and wended my way to the hall. I pulled my phone out to see if he'd texted – and he had. Looked like he'd found some skank to hook up with. Well, at least he texted. I asked the nearest person where the bathroom was and they pointed up the stairs. I figured I'd just go and then head for home.

I headed up and was confronted with several doors that appeared to be identical. I opened one and it led into the master bedroom. Two people were making out who hadn't even noticed I'd opened the door. Closing it I tried another, which was a closet. Opening a third I found two people about to fuck – except one was flailing weakly and I was sure I heard him say 'no'. Not wanting to leave someone to get raped I stepped into the room.

One guy was on the bed, face down, with his pants down around his ankles. He was trying to get his arms under himself but appeared to be moving like he was hammered. His head was moving slowly from side to side and he was saying 'no' over and over again. The other was just finishing tugging on a condom.

“Hey, everything okay here?” I asked.

Condom guy turned to me and smiled. Ryder.

“Corbin! Let me loosen him up for you and then you can have sloppy seconds, okay?” he said cheerfully.

I glanced down at the other guy, who was blearily shaking his head and waving an arm.

“Uh, Ryder, he doesn't look into it.”

“He will be, he will be! He's a little closeted but I know he wants his cherry popped. I found out from his sister so I'm speaking with some authority here.” He turned and looked down as he moved in and lined his dick up. “I'm just going to help him out.”

“Hey!” I said and strode to the bed. Ryder was trying to force himself in and the boy under him was groaning out in pain. I grabbed Ryder's shoulder and yanked him backward. He stumbled and smacked into the wall, falling off balance, and snarled at me. Of course, snarling at someone while off balance and with your pecker waving in the breeze was way less intimidating.

“What the fuck, Daniels? If you wanted to go first, just say so!”

“He doesn't want you to fuck him! Jesus, you fucking pervert!” I leaned over the other kid and asked him if he was okay. He continued to wiggle oddly and didn't seem to have a lot of coordination.

“What did you do to him?” I demanded. Ryder was pulling his pants up, the condom on the floor.

“Gave him something to help him relax.” He stepped up and slapped the guy's ass, “You missed out!” and he chuckled and walked out.

“Kid. Hey, uh,” I was wondering what to do now. I couldn't leave him here. He had a nice ass and I could see this being an 'any port in a storm' situation. I reached down to help him up and he flopped around some. “Jesus,” I muttered as I dragged his shorts and underwear back up. He leaned on me, muttering a thank you. At least, I think that's what he said.

“Did you come here with anyone?” I asked.

“I...um..” he rubbed a hand across his face, or tried. In fact he sort of waved at his face and his hand went by.

“Right. Do you have some ID? I suppose there's no way you can tell me where you live,” I said to myself. I reached into his pockets and found receipts and lint, but no wallet or phone. I sighed.

“Okay, come on,” I said and pulled his arm around my shoulders. I put one hand behind him to support him and grabbed his hand as it dangled around my neck to help keep him in place. Then I sort of dragged him out of there. I got him out onto the porch where I could get some air and I leaned him against the railing. Carrying someone like that was a lot of work. I asked if anyone knew who this kid was but all I got were blank looks. Frowning I lifted him onto my shoulder in a fireman's carry and waddled to my car.

“Kid, you don't look like much but you're fucking heavy after a block,” I said as I leaned him up against a tree.

“Gah. Where...?”

“We left the party. What's your name?” I asked, bent over and trying to get my breathing back under control.

“De...Decl,” he paused, yawned widely and then said in a nearly normal voice, “Declan.”

“Where do you live, Declan?”

“Uh.” His head drooped down and my momentary hope that I could drop him home vanished. Wanting to get this over with I picked him up again and carried him to my car. After getting him strapped in I sat for a minute and tried to think about what to do. My only option was to take him home with me – but then what? Glancing at my watch I knew my folks would be in bed. As long as I didn't drop him on the floor, they wouldn't know Declan was there until morning, by which time I hoped the effects of whatever Ryder had given him would have worn off.

That was a big if. I couldn't leave him on the couch. I didn't know this kid and I couldn't leave him alone with all our stuff. I guess the floor in my room would have to do. That decided I headed home. He was quiet in the car but seemed marginally more aware. I told him I was taking him to my place if he couldn't tell me where he lived but he didn't seem to be big on talking. I wondered what Ryder had given him. I helped him out of the car and he was a little more mobile, moving some while I held him up. I leaned him against the wall and opened the door to the apartment. After reminding him to be quiet, I snuck us into my room.

“Corby? That you?” Shit, my mom.

He took a few steps on his own and then slumped by my bed, propped against it. That was fine, at least if he threw up he wouldn't choke on it. I stepped back out of the room.

“Yeah, it's me,” I replied.

She wandered out in her pajamas and went to the sink. “Was Maddy there?” she asked while getting a glass of water.

“No,” I said. I glanced at my bedroom door, hoping Declan would stay quiet.

“Well, why'd you break up?” she asked, leaning against the counter. “She's not pregnant, is she?”

“No,” I said with a frown.

“Oh,” she said, almost disinterestedly. “I figured she might be. She seemed like that kind.”

“That's kind of a crappy thing to say, Mom.”

“Why do you think I waited until you broke up?” she said, sipping her water.

“I knew you didn't like her but...” I said, wandering over to sit at the table.

“When I went to high school, back when dinosaurs like your father roamed the earth,” she said with a smirk, “there were girls like Maddy, too. If you liked your boyfriend and he was a decent guy you kept girls like her away from them.”

“Dad wouldn't cheat on you,” I replied defensively.

“Of course he wouldn't, not now. But at sixteen you boys are all penis and no brain,” she snorted. “All it takes is for a girl that figures that out to come along and drop a baby on you and that's it.”

I thought about what Maddy had said about wanting kids. Was she...no. I'd used a condom. How...

“What? Tell me,” my mom said, nudging me and taking a seat as well. I shifted uncomfortably. My mother was manipulative but you could usually go to her with just about anything. Even her manipulations could usually be traced back to good intentions if you looked at them later.

“Well...Maddy and I...did it,” I blushed a little and noted my mom tensing up.

“And?”

“Well, we were kind of scared because she said she was late. So I got her a test – it was negative!”

“Yeah, yeah. When did this happen?”

“Today.”

“Not the test, the sex!”

“Jeez, keep it down, will ya? Dad will hear!”

“Oh, it's okay, Corby. He knows what sex is,” she chuckled. I just covered my face.

“So when was it?” she pressed.

“About two weeks ago.”

“Well, she's just late then. You can't tell if she's pregnant after only two weeks.”

My head shot up. “You mean she still could be?”

“Yeah,” she sighed. “But you wrapped it, right? I bought you a fucking box of those things.”

“Yeah, I did,” I said.

“Well, if she gets moody...hey, Moody Maddy!” she chuckled.

“Mom...”

“Yeah, I know. I'm just saying that sweating it at two weeks after isn't going to do you any good. If she's pregnant, we'll...figure it out. Look, Corby,” she said with a sigh. “Let's hope that she's not, for now. In the meantime...you're a good looking kid and you're a decent guy so some girls like Maddy are going to try things like that. Not all of them – if they knew what they were getting themselves into they wouldn't. But...”

“But what?” I asked feeling stupid.

“Well. Some girls had a bad example. Maybe their mom told them that's how you get a man to support you. I don't think that was Maddy, not a hundred percent. But I think...” she glanced up at the ceiling and then drank down her water before continuing. “I think she started to get there wasn't much between you guys and she didn't want to lose you.”

“So she had sex with me to keep me?” I asked, skeptical.

“Yeah,” she said tiredly. “Some guys will break up with a girl and then wait for her. They know she'll put out to get them back. I think she must have figured out you were a catch and she tried to keep you.”

“You know,” I said with a smile, “hearing you're a catch from your mom...”

“Oh stop it,” she said with laugh. “I only snuck into your room that one time!”

“Mom, you are so twisted,” I said, laughing and putting my head in my hands.

“Yeah. Being married with a kid does that to you.” She put her glass in the sink and walked by me, planting a kiss on my head. “Good night, Corby.”

“Night, Mom.”

The door to her room closed and I went to the bathroom, which I'd forgotten I'd needed to use after Declan's little drama. After brushing I went back to my room. Exhausted I toed off my sneakers and stripped down to my underwear for bed. Sleep eluded me for some time with the unusual sounds Declan made. It was almost like he was talking in his sleep, but it was all garbled. Maybe he was dreaming.

I finally did drift off, and dreamed of Declan, laid across that bed but it wasn't Ryder with the condom on, it was me.

TRO

“Get up, you lazy ass!”

I tried to roll over but I was pinned down.

“Harold! Oh my God, Harold! What the fuck is going on in this place?” Shit, that was Gramp. But I still couldn't move. I felt warm and snug and...a pecker pressing into my hip. I opened an eye to find Declan snuggled in with me and he must have been wearing very little because I could feel his warm skin all over mine.

“What is he...Oh! Oh!” My father gasped from the door. My mother appeared behind him and yelled over her shoulder at my grandfather. “So what, Herb? So he likes to take it in the ass - it's not the end of the world.”

My father left the doorway and my mom leaned into the room. “Well, I guess that's another reason for leaving Maddy.”

“Mom!” I said as I tried to sit up, but Declan clutched me in his sleep, apparently undisturbed by the commotion. I untangled myself and climbed out from under the covers.

“He's cute. What's his name?”

“Declan. I can explain, it's not what it looks like.”

“It looks like he was sleeping with you.”

“Okay, that part is true. But this guy,” I said as I grabbed things for a shower. “This guy, Ryder, he slipped him something and was going to rape him. I couldn't just leave him and he couldn't tell me where he lived – all I could get was his first name.”

My mom looked at him and then walked past me, sitting on the edge of the bed and stroking Declan's fine brown hair back from his brow.

“Well, why don't you get a shower and I'll try to wake sleeping beauty, here,” she said with a sigh.

“Thanks. I have to work at eleven,” I told her as I walked towards the door. Pausing I turned back and asked, “What do I do about Gramps?”

“Oh, I'll show him gay wedding videos until he has a heart attack. Oh, hey!” she said with a glimmer in her eye, “maybe he'll stop visiting! Tell him Declan's your boy toy.”

I rolled my eyes at her laughter and got cleaned up for work. Twenty minutes later I was clipping on my tie to top off the dark pants and button-up white shirt that was dress code and getting ready to leave. Walking back into my bedroom I saw my bed was empty which meant my mom had gotten Declan up. I wasn't sure I'd have time to drop him at home on my way to work, but I guess I'd see how mobile he was.

Walking to the kitchen I found my mom seated with Declan. He looked hungover and was holding his head up with one hand; a glass of water was on the table in front of him.

“Corby, make him some toast, will you?” my mom asked.

“Sure. How you feeling, Declan?”

“Ugh,” he said. “My head hurts.”

“Yeah, I bet.” I had no idea if he'd had anything to drink, but then I didn't know what Ryder gave him either. I put some bread into the toaster and grabbed a pan for some eggs.

“Mom, you want eggs?”

“No, thanks. I don't think Declan can eat, either.”

“Oh, no. No food, please.”

“Hey, my eggs aren't that bad, Declan,” I teased.

“Yeah, they're pretty good. But you can have them the next time you sleep with my son,” my mother cracked.

“Oh. Oh, I'm sorry,” Declan said, his head coming up too fast and he winced and placed his hands on either side of his head.

“That's all right. You nearly gave his grandfather a coronary so you have my blessing,” she chuckled and pushed the water to him. “Drink up.”

The smell of cooking food was making Declan feel sick so Mom sent him to shower. As I sat down with my food my grandfather and father came into the room and sat at the table as well.

“Oh, this looks like it'll be fun,” my mother said, plastering a smile on her face.

“This is serious,” my grandfather said. “Harold doesn't allow drugs or buggery in his home – and look what's going on!”

“How about your bourbon, Gramps?” I asked as I took my plate to the sink.

“What about...don't you talk back, Corbin!”

“Alcohol is a drug, Gramps,” I said as I washed the plate and pan.

“I'm talking about that catamite in your room!”

“Oh, come on, Dad,” my mom said as she stood. “They're so cute together. Think of the wedding pictures.”

“That is not marriage!” he said in a hiss. I rolled my eyes at my mom, knowing she was saying stuff just to egg him on.

“Harold, what do you think?” my mom continued. “Is it etiquette for you to give Corby away or should Declan's dad walk him down the aisle?”

“You're deliberately...”

“I have to go. Mom? Can you get Declan home?” I said giving her a hug, a quick half hug to Dad – who looked miserable – and I waved to Gramp. No sense getting too close to that mess.

I was lucky my boss kind of liked me since the weekend shifts were easy. I was given a list and turned loose for a few hours. I went in the back room and snagged up a cart and went into the canned vegetable aisle to work cans down from the overhead. I worked steadily for an hour or so, just turning things over in my mind.

I was feeling pretty good about the breakup with Maddy, now. Even though she said that stuff just because she was pissed, I realized she must know things weren't all that great between us. The more I thought about it, the more I thought my mom was right – Maddy slept with me to keep me, not because she was in love with me. Don't get me wrong, I liked that I wasn't a virgin anymore but I also regretted that she'd been my first and I was stuck with that. But, overall, that so-called relationship was over a long time ago. In fact, I preferred hanging out with Bell than Maddy and I had realized that months ago. What does that say for me that I stuck with her anyway? Lazy? Still hoping to get laid?

I was a little more concerned about Ryder, though, and what he was up to. I figure if he'd dosed Declan's drink then it probably wasn't the first time. He'd given me the creeps when he'd come on to me so aggressively – I just didn't respond well to that kind of attitude. But would he try that again? Not only that, he'd said something about knowing Declan wanted to have sex...and that he was in the closet. Oh, wow, I'd totally walked right past that. What if Declan was gay?

What if he was gay and hanging at my house around my Gramps? Of course there was also my mom who has no filter. Oh, well. She'll take him home and probably treat him like a baby bird under her wing and that will be that. Besides, he probably wasn't gay – Ryder wasn't the best source of information and probably just said that so he could nail the guy. What slime.

“Hey, Corby, what's up?” Nelson said to me as he ambled down the aisle. Nelson was a big guy, easily six foot two and would likely scare folks who didn't know him. He was a nice guy, though, who was devoted to his long time girlfriend Krista.

“Hiya, Nels. Just get in?”

“Yup, heading over to punch in. You have the list?”

“Yeah. Come back here when you're ready and help me out here. That can sale on Thursday blew a bunch of stock out.”

“You got it.”

I pulled the list out and scanned it to verify that having him here was the best thing to do. I think if we both finished this aisle, which was easily the biggest thing on the list, we could split up on the other things.

Nelson returned in short order and I put him to work behind me on the side I hadn't started yet.

“So, you doing okay?”

“Me? Fine, why do you ask?” I said.

“You and Maddy? You'd been together a while, right?”

“Oh, yeah. It's all good – we weren't a good fit.” I replied and Nelson started to chuckle. “What's funny?” I asked.

“Um,” Nelson turned and looked at me apologetically. “She's telling people you slipped her the old two inch.”

I grimaced. “I did her, but she didn't have a problem while it was happening. Only, once I told her we needed a break, she got nasty.”

“Yeah, I figured. Every time a couple breaks up the girl always says the guy was small,” Nelson shrugged. “Not like I care what you're packing.”

“Back at you, Nels,” I laughed. We worked quietly for about twenty minutes and I decided to ask Nelson about some of the things banging around in my head – after all, he ran in different circles so maybe he knew some people I didn't.

“Hey, Nels. You know Ryder....shit. I can't think of his last name.”

“Ryder Tipton? The drug guy?”

“So it's true?” I said, turning to look at Nelson.

“Yup. I know he can get pot and sometimes some pills – prescription stuff, mostly.”

“Is he...gay?” I asked.

“I don't know. I've heard rumors he's a 'whoever is handy' kind of guy,” Nelson said. “He's pretty much scum. Why you asking? You looking to score?”

“What? No! I don't do that shit.”

“I didn't think so. So what do you care about Ryder?”

“I don't care about him – it's what he was doing last night.” I explained to Nelson what had happened and he took it in soberly.

“Declan? Must be Declan McClain. His sister Katie is friends with my Krista,” he said. “ I don't know if he's in the closet, but if he is, then he needs some protection and someone to talk to.”

I widened my eyes in surprise. “That's pretty forward thinking, Nels.”

“It's thinking like a human, Corb.”

“Yeah, but...you're on the football team,” I teased.

“Yep. Don't you forget it, runt,” he said, tossing some cardboard at me. “So you took Declan with you? Where is he now?”

“I don't know. Home, I guess. My mom was going to drop him off.”

“Hmm.” Nelson pulled his phone out and sent a text. “Krista is doing some cheer competition thing and Katie is with her. I thought Katie's folks were going – which means Declan is supposed to be staying at a friends.”

“Hey, I thought you didn't know this kid?”

“I never said I hadn't met him,” he pointed out. “We're not buddies or anything, but Krista pretty much tells me what's going on.” He held up his phone, consulting the screen. “Yep, Declan was supposed to stay with the Thomas's, where the party was.”

“Oh. That explains why he was there, then. Seemed like Juniors and up, you know? He looks younger.”

“Yeah, he's a Soph. Fifteen, I think. Pretty sure Delia is on lock-down, though.” He consulted his phone again and smiled. “Yeah. I guess Katie's folks are down there and Dec called them. 'Pears the Thomases aren't well liked as sitters, anymore, and he's staying with another friend – someone named Corbin Daniels. You know him?”

“What?” I asked and peered at his phone. Well, he wasn't lying. But why – oh, wait, I knew. My mother. She was trying to kill my Gramps, I think. Myocardial infarction, here we come.

TRO

“Sorry, Bell, no can do,” I said as I walked to my car after work. “Gramps is here so I can't go out. You can come over, if you want? I can pick you up on the way home.”

“Thanks, I think I'll just rub my junk on a pine cone instead,” he replied with a laugh.

“Come on, Bell,” I said as I got into the car. “You know Gramps loves you.”

“Yeah, like a hemorrhoid. When does he leave?”

“Sunday night, I think. No, maybe by midday since he'll try and make us all go to church and my mom will piss him off,” I replied.

“Okay, well...”

“Hey, did you get any new diseases from that skank you left with?” I asked as I drove home.

“Nah. God knows I tried, though. She was pretty cool, though. I got her number.”

“Let me guess: you won't call her.”

“No! I told you, it makes you look desperate.”

“Which you are not,” I laughed.

“I didn't say that,” he replied with a chuckle. “But I can't call first.”

“Bell, if the rest of the world followed your fucked up rules no one would ever get together – someone always has to call first. Grow a set.”

“Oh, easy to say! I heard you already got someone new, you dog!”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“Some kid you took home? That was brave – oh hey, what did your Gramps think?” he asked with a laugh.

“Same thing you're thinking,” I laughed back. “But it's not true. I just helped him out.”

“How much did you help him, Corb? That's what I want to know,” Bell teased.

“You have such a sick mind, Bell. I swear.”

“I know. Okay, so, you think I should call her, then?”

“Bell, if she was interested in you and she was sober, I think you should call.”

“Fuck you, Corb,” he laughed. “She was sober.”

“Okay then. I gotta go, I'm home,” I told him as I pulled up to the apartment.

I opened the door to find my Dad in the living room area with Gramps. Mom was over at the dining room table, but everything was pretty quiet.

“Hi,” I said, stopping in the unnatural silence. “What's up?”

“Your grandfather thinks we're a den of sin,” my mother said, looking up from her book. “I'm holding out till he names us a living room of sin.”

“Corbin,” Gramps said. “I'd like a word.”

I glanced at my dad and thought for a moment about asking if I could pick the word, then decided against it. I sat on the arm of the couch instead and said, “What's up?”

“Your father has had many challenges in this family. Even though his wonderful mother and I did all we could for him,” he said.

“Oh, you mean that wonderful alcoholic that used to be passed out on the couch when he came home from school? Her? Yeah, she was nice when she was sober,” my mother said.

“Enough from you!” Gramps said. “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. That is the good book!”

“That's bullshit, Gramp,” I said. “My dad respects my mom; he'd never treat her as a second class anything.”

“If your father followed scripture, maybe he could provide better for his family! Maybe you'd have a house and perhaps not have strange boys sleeping with you!”

“Get off Dad's back!” I said, raising my voice. “We have a nice place, food and if I want to let some boy sleep in my bed, that's my business!”

I can't believe I just said that. I will never tell Bell.

“You see?” Gramps said to my dad. “Look what has come of you not leading this family!”

“Why don't you go to your own family,” my mother said as she stood. “Oh, wait, we're it. Well I'm sick of you making my husband feel like shit so go home to your empty house.” She stood, her arms akimbo and staring malevolently at Gramps. I shook my head at him and headed to my room so I could get changed.

I walked into my room and closed the door as muffled conversation started up behind me and was startled to find Declan sitting on my bed with a game controller in hand. I guess it had slipped my mind he'd still be here. He'd paused the game and looked a little uncomfortable.

“Hi, Declan. Nice to meet you while you're not quite so hungover,” I said and put my hand out. He took my hand tentatively and his eyes darted to the door.

“Is that...my fault?”

“No. If it wasn't that Gramps would have found roughly sixty other things wrong so don't worry.” I said as I put my tie on top of the dresser and kicked my shoes into the closet. I started to unbutton my shirt when Declan moved off the bed.

“I'll wait outside,” he said softly.

“Why? I'm not getting naked,” I said.

He paused with his hand on the door. “I just don't want to make things worse.”

“Well, look,” I said. “If you go out there, you might have to listen to more fighting. If you stay here, you get watch me change.” I paused. “I'm not sure which is worse.”

He snickered and turned toward me and rested his back against the door. “Last night was a little fuzzy...uh but...” he blushed and I raised an eyebrow at him. “Did we...?”

“Uh. Sex? No.” I put my shirt in my hamper and reached for a tee. “Why?”

“Well,” he said, his face moving into a quizzical frown. “I sort of remember someone trying...to push in,” he said, his face flushing. “But I woke up in your bed without a lot of my clothes, so...”

“Oh, I get it. Well, someone did try to break down your back door last night. You know a guy named Ryder Tipton?”

“Yeah,” he said slowly. “He's a friend of my sisters.”

“Well, I guess your sister told him you were closeted and you wanted to get laid and...”

“Oh my God!” he said and pressed his hands to his face. The skin around his hands, from the neck up, was going scarlet.

“Um, holding your breath won't change it,” I teased.

“I just...ugh!” He ran a hand though his hair and brought the other down in an open slap on his thigh. “I can't tell her anything!”

“Well, I guess Ryder wasn't lying about that, then. You didn't look like you were into it so I brought you here since you couldn't tell me where you belonged. But then,” I said as I dropped my work pants into the hamper and went for a pair of shorts, “I guess you were where you were supposed to be.”

“Sort of. I guess I'm getting the blame for this party, since I wasn't there to defend myself.”

“That's bullshit. I can tell your mom; my buddy Bell got the invite right from Delia,” I said as I pulled up my shorts. “Play a game?”

“Uh. Wait,” he ran a hand over his face and said, “I really hate to ask this in all seriousness but, how did I end up losing my clothes and being in your bed?”

“Beats me. You were propped against my bed and on the floor when we got here. I woke up with you cuddling me like nobody's business.”

“I'm sorry,” he said quickly.

I shrugged. “You cuddle better than my ex. She never even tried.”

“You and Madison broke up?” Declan asked.

“Yeah. You know Maddy?”

“My sister does. Says she's...easy.”

“Well, took me seven months,” I muttered. He eased away from the door and stood awkwardly in the middle of the room.

“Uh. So I guess your mom said I could stay here till tomorrow night. My folks will be back.”

“Yeah, I heard. Want to watch a movie till we get called out for dinner?”

“Sure,” he said and tucked his hands into his front pockets and drew his arms in to himself. “Uh, I'll sit on the floor.”

“Nah, come on,” I said as I scooted over on the bed and slapped the mattress for him. “What do you want to watch?”

“I don't care,” he said as he took a seat on the bed, tentatively. I opened Netflix and went through a few items before settling on something. I started the movie and realized Declan was sitting on the edge of the bed like he was scared or something and I pushed him a little and he jumped.

“What's the matter?”

“Uh. I'm a little embarrassed,” he said, not looking at me.

“For what? Warming my bed up? Forget it,” I said.

“How can you say that?” he asked, standing and looking down at me. “My sister outed me, some perv tried to fuck me and you're just...”

“Okay, sounds like your problem isn't with me – so why are you so jumpy with me?”

“I...” he pursed his lips and crossed his arms. “It's a lot to take in. I didn't expect you – anyone – to be so...lackadaisical about it.”

“Look,” I said, rolling to my side since he was standing. “Ryder tried to take advantage. Someone will square shit with him, I'm sure. Nobody else saw anything but me and I won't tell anyone shit. As far as your sister...”

“She probably didn't mean anything but...”

“Yeah. Still, that's a necessary conversation to have with her.”

He stood for a moment, arms still crossed and head down in thought before he spoke, slowly. “You said you were the only one who saw. What did you see, exactly?”

“Does it matter?”

“Yeah. It does,” he said quietly. I sat up on the bed and pulled my legs up.

“Would you sit down, at least? I'm not the enemy and it looks like you either want to run or are standing in judgment.” I let my head drop back against the wall and said, “I didn't do anything wrong.”

He bit his lower lip and then nodded. He took a seat next to me and backed himself up against the wall so we were side by side. The movie droned on as if someone were actually watching.

“So...what did you see?” he asked quietly.

I rolled my head so that I was looking at him and he turned shyly toward me. “I opened the door because I was looking for the bathroom. I'm guessing it was the guest bedroom since it didn't have any girly stuff in it for Delia. Um, I saw this great, great ass...” I smiled at him and started to snicker. A smile crossed his face and he giggled a bit.

“So, yeah. Ryder had your pants down around your ankles and you were kind of waving your hands around and shaking your head. You sort of looked...drunk.” I looked down at my hands and said, “Still, it was pretty clear you weren't into it or in any shape to give consent. He was trying to ram it in and – hey, it wasn't your fault,” I said as he covered his face in embarrassment.

“I can't believe I almost lost my...”

“Hey, don't feel too bad. I lost mine to Madison,” I chuckled and he shook his head. He brought his hands up and placed them over his nose as if in prayer and then sighed deeply, letting his hands fall.

“What else?”

“Uh, well, I grabbed his shoulder and yanked him off you and he looked kind of funny landing against the wall with his pecker dangling,” I said. Declan snorted. “Then I pulled your pants up and tried to figure out who you were. Nobody seemed to know you and I didn't want to leave you alone for someone to make another run at you so...I brought you with me.”

We sat in silence for a few minutes, the movie running on unnoticed. Declan sighed heavily and turned his head towards me, but his face was looking down.

“Thank you. You were right, that's not what I wanted.”

“No problem,” I said.

“I'm sorry about the...cuddling.”

“Nah, don't be. Bell does it too, even when he's awake,” I said.

“Uh, he's feeling you up?” Declan laughed.

“No, he's just a clown. I've known him for, like, five years. He's just a physical guy.”

“But..how did I get there with my clothes off?”

“As far as I know you stripped and got in bed with me,” I said with a shrug. “Maybe you thought you were home or something – whatever Ryder slipped you made it seem like you were drunk.”

“I don't like hard alcohol,” Declan said. “I wasn't drinking last night, either.”

“I believe you, I'm just saying that's what it was like. You even looked like you had a hangover this morning.”

“Is that what a hangover feels like?” Declan smiled and ran a hand through his hair. “Um. So when you were at work I talked to my folks and...we talked to the cops. Your mom took me to the hospital and they tested me. They think Ryder slipped me a roofie. They're going to 'have a chat'.”

“Seriously? A roofie? That's bad juju. Your folks still let you stay here after that?”

“Your mom knows my mom, I guess. She told my mom she'd take care of it since my sister wasn't done there yet.” He gave me a crooked smile, “I guess she convinced her it was only a little more malicious than getting someone drunk and nothing had happened, so...”

We sat quietly for a minute and I let my eyes wander to the TV and the stupid comedy I'd put on. I felt the bed shift as Declan rearranged himself a bit.

“So...you regret having...sex...with Madison?”

“Yeah,” I said, my eyes still on the screen.

“Was it...”

I turned to look at him. He was the picture of shy, having turned so that his body faced me but his face was looking down and his fingers were tracing a ceaseless pattern on the blanket. His legs were kicked out so that his feet were near the edge of the bed.

“Was it what?” I asked.

“I don't know...bad?”

“Hmm. I don't know if bad is the right word,” I said. I glanced at the door, feeling a little embarrassed myself but since I'd opened up to make him more comfortable, I guess it'd be rude not to follow through. After all, I knew he was nearly raped - telling him I wasn't happy about who I lost my virginity to wasn't so bad.

“You don't have to say, if you don't want. I was just...you know.”

“It's no biggie, I guess,” I told him. I smiled and said, “We'll both know some personal stuff about the other so...keeps us honest.”

“I'd never tell!” he said quickly.

“It's all good,” I told him. “I started dating Maddy seven months ago and I admit, I did it because I'd heard you could get somewhere with her. I did, too. I'm not proud.”

“What did she...I mean, you said you lost your...”

“Yeah, virginity. It's okay, you can say it,” I laughed. “Bell busts my nuts all the time for having been a virgin but, whatever. Everyone goes through it, right?”

“Sure,” he said, nodding. He looked to be relaxing a little and I was feeling comfortable with him.

“So, anyway, she is supposed to be kind of easy and it still took me seven months to get there.”

“Was it worth it?”

“No, not really,” I said with a shrug. “Honestly, it was a whole lot of nothing. Well,” I held a hand up and smiled at him, “it was something, but not what I wanted.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, there was nothing...special. We were just making out in her garage and I thought maybe she'd blow me but then she up and says ' I'm ready, let's do it.'”

“Wow, romantic,” he said with a giggle.

“I know, right? I figured dinner, some flowers – but no, I lost it right next to her dads snow tires.” I chuckled and he joined me. “Don't get me wrong, it was okay and I want to do it again. I just want to find someone better to do it with. I kind...well, no I do wish I'd waited and found someone better instead of who was available.”

“It sounds like you were telling yourself that all along if it took you that long with a slut,” Declan laughed.

“Easy. With your ass, you'll be next!” I laughed. He giggled some more, covering his face and I smiled, looking back at the TV. My mom opened the door and leaned in.

“Boys, dinner.”

“Is Gramps still here?”

“Yeah. He's like a cockroach: no matter how many times you step on him...”

“Mom, he's going to be a jerk to Dec. Can we eat in here?”

“What? I have to cook and listen to his wit while you get away? Uh uh. Come on out and piss your grandfather off.” She grinned evilly, then said, “hold hands or something while you come to the table.”

“Mom,” I said as I slid off the bed and stood up. “You know that's just going to make it worse.”

“Breathing will make it worse. Besides, he's cute, Corby” she winked at Declan. “We can tell everyone he's cute enough to cause a coronary.”

I laughed and looked back at Declan who seemed to be sure some joke was being played on him. I held my hand out, “Come on, let's see if we can make him leave the table, at least.”

Declan took my hand and I hauled him up. He started to let go of my hand but I tightened my grip and started to walk.

“Hang on, this is kind of uncomfortable,” he said.

“This is nothing, wait till we get to the table,” I quipped.

“No...Corby,” he whined. I felt a twinge when he used my nickname, but I wasn't quite sure what it was. He wiggled his hand around in my grip until our fingers were intertwined. “Your grip was pretty strong.”

“Yeah, I jerk off with this hand,” I laughed and he giggled. “This okay?” I asked, holding our hands up.

“Yes. I just...I've never held hands with a boy, before,” he said, all shy again.

“Well, sorry I get to pop your cherry. I'll try to be gentle,” I snickered and dragged him out into the kitchen. Gramps narrowed his eyes but held his tongue. I got Declan to a chair and sat next to him so I could aggravate Gramps further. It was kind of interesting – I'd never really gotten into baiting Gramps before, but he'd been really hitting some nerves with me, today. I don't know why my dad never stood up to him but I figured if Gramps was this bad with us, how much worse was he with a little boy under his thumb all day? I guess my dad was just conditioned or beat down or something.

Secondly, I didn't like the way he talked about gay people. I didn't have any gay friends, but I figured I was on my way to that with Declan and I didn't want Gramps shitting on him. My mom passed me a bowl and I served myself and then passed it on to Dec, who traded me whatever he had.

“I'd like to say the blessing,” Gramps said and we all bowed our heads. “Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the gift of home, family and the food we are about to receive. May it nourish us so that we may better care for our families and serve your divine will. Amen.”

There were muttered 'amens' around the table and we started to eat.

“Corbin, how is school going?” Gramps asked.

“Pretty well, Gramps. I got three A's and two B's on my last report card,” I replied.

“Three A's is good. I hope you're not satisfied with the B's, however.”

“I worked hard for those B's, Gramps,” I replied tiredly.

“I'm sure you did, I'm just saying you can't stop there – not with an A within reach.”

“Well, it was a low B, not all that close to an A, really.”

“But it's achievable, Corbin. Put in a little more work and you'll reach that goal!” he said with a smile and waving his arm.

I set my fork down. “You know what, Gramps? I busted my hump to get those B's. Do you mind if I just be happy about that? Can I just have a little credit instead of being told how much more effort I need to put in?”

“Corbin,” he said, mystified. “I just want you to reach your potential. To encourage you not to stop, to not be satisfied with less than your best.”

“Trust me, getting a B was my best.”

“You're selling yourself short, I'm sure,” he began and I cut him off.

“No, no I'm not. Besides, how would you know what I'm capable of or what my strengths and weaknesses are? You come twice a year and put us all down and make my dad a basket case and think you know us?” I stared at him, daring him to contradict me. He looked at me without frowning, for once, and resumed his meal without comment. I shook my head and did the same.

I ate quickly and Declan and I retreated back to my room. We resumed spots on my bed and I scrolled through the available movies.

“Want to watch anything?” I asked.

“No,” he said quietly. “I'm fine with whatever you choose.”

I picked some dramedy and sat back to think. Why did my Gramps keep showing up just to belittle us? I know my mom needles him, but I think that's mostly in response to his crap, not just to start something with him in general. I really do hate the way he makes my dad feel, but my dad's an adult and needs to stand up to him on his own.

Declan shifted a bit and we were touching at the shoulder. I moved a little closer just to mess with him, kind of squish him some. He pushed back, leaning in aggressively so I gave up all pretense of subtlety and pushed him over and ended up lying on top of him. I was pretending to watch the TV while Declan struggled under me, but I kept shifting to keep him more or less pinned. He was laughing and I was trying to hold it in.

Abruptly, he stopped moving. I glanced down at him and he'd developed little red spots on his cheek bones which were kind of...cute. He was looking up at me now and his lips quivered. How does anyone get their lips to quiver?

“Your eyes are almost silver,” he said quietly. “Sometimes they look kind of pale blue, but other times they look more...silver.”

“You been looking at my eyes a lot?” I asked, meaning it to sound like I was teasing but it didn't come out that way. It was breathy, almost like...flirting.

“Well...you're looking right at me,” he said. He shifted a little under me and I adjusted to compensate and found myself laying flat on top of him – and his body was interested. More importantly, mine was too.

“Do you mind me looking at you?” I asked. What? What kind of question is that?

“No,” he said shyly. The bloom in his cheeks deepened but didn't spread. His mouth did this funny thing where a smile started in one corner and slowly spread across his lips. I was staring. At his lips. Then I was kissing them. Softly, chastely.

He jerked under me and I started to pull back but his voice whispered, “No. Please...don't stop.”

I glanced in his eyes, a soft hazel color, and I felt drawn into them in a way Maddy's eyes had never been able to do. I dropped my head down and met his lips again in a series of light, gentle kisses. Quieting the mental voice asking me what I was doing, I pushed my tongue out and met the soft resistance of his lips, which parted and then it became a real, honest to God, kiss. His hands were behind me, one on my head and one in the middle of my back, keeping me to him and the only movement I made was to turn my head to gain more access to his mouth.

The little voice, which wasn't all that strong to begin with, must have been as swept away by the kiss as the rest of me was because I didn't care a whit that I was kissing a boy. I was too busy processing important stuff like his sweet breath and the feel of his tongue as it danced and sparred with my own. When I did finally come up for breath his face was completely flushed and the smile was still on his face.

“Wow, Corby,” he said. I felt the twinge again at the familiar use of my nickname; a tickle in my stomach.

“What?” I asked, my breathing rapid and shallow.

“As first kisses go...that was awesome.”

“That was your first kiss?” I asked, a little excited and a little disbelief coloring my voice.

“Yeah,” he said, the smile growing a touch wider. “It was everything I dreamed of, too.”

I felt the corner of my mouth curl and I gave him a quick peck, just because it felt right and I sat back up.

“I don't know, that didn't seem like a first time kisser to me,” I said as I leaned against the wall again. He slid back a bit, propping himself against my pillows.

“I just did what you did. You're a good teacher,” he said, going back into his little shy boy routine. “Did Maddy teach you that?”

I snorted. “No. You were better for your first kiss than Maddy was on our last one.”

“Really?” he said, giggling. I smiled a little and looked at him.

“Yeah. I don't know, there just wasn't any chemistry with her. Or maybe it was because I knew I was just doing it to get laid – to mark that off some list of shit I'm supposed to do.” I shrugged and glanced at the pictures on the screen.

“So...what made you kiss me?”

I shrugged again. “Seemed like a good idea.”

“Corby,” he whined and my stomach flopped again. He pushed at me with his feet and I looked over at him.

“What?” I asked. It wasn't that I hadn't heard him, I just didn't know.

“Why'd you kiss me?”

“You kissed me back,” I told him.

“You're avoiding the question,” he said softly.

I turned my eyes back to the TV and said quietly, “I'm not totally sure, to be honest. I looked down at you and you said something about my eyes...I looked at your eyes and then down to your lips and...just did it.”

“Did you want to?” he pulled his legs up and rested his hands on his knees. “Because I don't want to be like Madison. I want you to like me for me.”

“I...” I turned over the implications of what he was saying. Did I want that? Did I want him? “All I can say is I don't feel the same way about you as I did Maddy. But,” I licked my lips, “I'm not really sure how I feel about you.”

“I can live with the truth,” he said. “If you figure out how you feel, whatever it is, just...make sure to tell me, okay?”

“Yeah,” I nodded. Wow, I just had a deeper conversation with Declan, who I've known for less than 24 hours than I did in seven months with Maddy. We sat there, both of us quiet as the movie credits rolled on the screen. I gave him the controller to pick a new show to watch and we ended up watching the first few episodes of the BBC's Sherlock.

My mother poked her head in about ten-thirty to find us huddled together watching the show. We glanced up at her, but didn't move otherwise.

“Declan, you want me to put your clothes in the wash so you can have some fresh things to wear tomorrow?” she asked.

“Oh. That'd be nice, but what do I wear in the meantime?”

“Well, you could always...”

“Mom,” I said in a warning tone. “He's not used to you.”

“Well he better get used to me, if he's going to cuddle with you,” she said with a crooked smile.

I glanced at Declan. “I'll loan you shorts and tee shirt to sleep in, if you want.”

“Okay,” he said and we both climbed off the bed. I pulled out an old pair of shorts and a tee and gave them to Declan who walked to the bathroom to change.

“What do you think of him?” my mom asked, leaning against the door frame.

“I like him. He's easy to talk to,” I replied and resumed my spot on the bed.

“He cuddles more than Bell.”

“Bell does that to clown around,” I said, waving a hand at her.

“Yeah, but this one...”

“Well, Declan's gay,” I said.

“Yeah. He making moves on you?” she teased.

“Maybe,” I said with an insolent grin.

The bathroom door opened and Declan appeared moments later with his clothes.

“Okay, I'll get these in before I go to bed,” she started to turn away as Declan slipped past her and back into my room, and then she turned back. “Hey. I know I don't have to worry about pregnancy, but let's not try to test that theory out tonight, okay?”

“Mom!” I said. “You know I don't screw on the first date!”

“Yeah, well, you slept with him already. Doesn't that count?” she laughed and closed the door.

“How do you...”

“You get used to her,” I said with a shrug.

“But...don't you get embarrassed?”

“Once in a while, but growing up with her gets you a pretty thick skin.” I glanced at Declan, who still stood by the door. The shorts were a pair I used to sleep in but had stopped wearing. They came down to about mid-thigh on him and gave me a nice view of his legs which sported only very fine hairs. The tee shirt was slightly large and, the way it hung down, made the shorts seem even smaller by comparison. I was amused to find myself noting these things and appreciating them.

“So...you want to watch another episode before bed?”

“Sure,” I said and patted the spot next to me. “Get settled. I may as well get changed, too.”

I scooted off the bed and he sat, then said to me. “Do you want me to leave or are you not getting naked?” he said, teasing me with my own words.

“You mean to tell me that if I got naked you wouldn't want to be here?” I said with a snort.

“Hey...” he said with a giggle. “That didn't work out the way I planned.”

“Like I said, I am my mothers son.” I threw my tee shirt onto the back of my chair and pushed my cargo shorts off and lay them atop the shirt. I shut off the light and climbed back into bed, sitting at the head and tucking myself under the sheet and resting against the pillows. Declan started the next episode and then leaned against me. I moved my arm to drape it across him and we watched the next mystery get solved.

Once over I struggled out of bed and said, “I'll go switch your clothes to the dryer and use the bathroom. This room gets really dark, I like it that way to sleep so you might want to go now, too.”

“Okay,” he replied and headed to the bathroom while I swapped his clothes around. Afterward I headed to the bathroom I heard him flush so I pushed the door open and asked if he wanted to brush his teeth.

“That'd be great,” he said. I dug out a new toothbrush and handed it to him. As he started to brush I stood at his back and relieved myself then joined him at the sink. Minutes later we were back in the room, the only light coming from the TV screen.

“You want me to sleep on the floor?” Declan asked.

“Why? I don't have a sleeping bag or anything. The floor would be uncomfortable,” I said as I climbed onto the bed.

“Yeah, but...look you seem to be really comfortable and everything but...I'm kind of...”

“Dude. Come to bed so I can turn the light off,” I said, forestalling what I think he was going to say. He walked over slowly, a little timidly, and climbed into bed, turning his back to the wall. My single bed was going to be a tight fit, but we made it work last night so it was doable. I used the game controller to shut off the console and the TV, then set it on my nightstand in the dark.

I pulled the covers around and grumbled at finding Declan on top of them. “Dec, move,” I said, pulling the sheet and blanket from under him while he wiggled around. The mattress was squeaking as we shifted.

“Sorry,” he said.

“Look, it's a small bed. We gotta pretty much lay like we ended up doing last night,” I told him. I heard him sit up and then he shifted around some more. I felt his feet slide down my calf as he got under the covers. I pulled the covers over us and then put my head to the pillow. He was breathing on my face.

“Are you crushing yourself against the wall?” I asked.

“Well...”

“Jesus. For a gay boy you're pretty resistant to getting close to a guy,” I laughed at him. Lifting my arm I pulled him to me, resting my hand on the warm, smooth skin of his back. “Hey, where's your shirt?”

“Well, you said just like last night,” he snickered. “Plus I don't like to wear a shirt to bed, it's uncomfortable.”

“Oh. Okay,” I said. He lay his palm on the center of my chest and then his head rested over my heart. Oh, yeah, my heart which was pounding. I could feel his breath on my skin and the heat of his hand, not to mention his chest pressed to my side. I think my heart added a few hundred beats per second.

“Are you okay?” Declan asked, his face moving on my chest.

“Uh huh,” I said, not trusting myself to actually speak. He was feeling better than he had any right to, lying against me. I recalled that Madison had never cuddled on the couch with me or anywhere else and wondered why that was. Did I have some blame in that? Was my body language saying 'don't touch me unless you're blowing me or want to have sex'? If that was the case, what kind of signals was I sending to Declan?

I stayed very still and knew I could not sleep like this. At the same time, I didn't want it to stop. Oh, well, sleep is overrated. I listened to Declan breathing, felt his breath ticking the fine hairs of my chest, and then he moved his leg. It was slow, almost stealthy, but he brought his leg up and rested it over mine – and his upper thigh was nudging my balls. Yeah, I wasn't falling asleep. In fact, I was starting to chub up.

“Corby? Are you still awake?” he whispered.

“Yeah,” I said, my breath short.

“Can I kiss you again?”

“If...if you want to.”

“I do,” he said and shifted his body, maintaining his contact with me, chest to toe, and his lips found mine. If anything, he'd lost any inhibition he'd started with this afternoon and was going full bore on kissing me, not that I was complaining. It was nice – more than nice – be kissed by someone who really wanted to kiss you. Me. Whatever.

Declan slid back towards the wall a little and I turned to keep his lips close enough to keep kissing them. His hand was back on my chest, roaming, and the hand I'd had on his upper back had drifted lower. As I pressed his lower back to keep him close, it also forced his hips to grind into me. His hand moved from my chest to my stomach and I gasped at his light touch.

He intensified the kiss and it was all I could do to keep up with his mouth. I brought my other hand up to put behind his head and then every nerve in my body lit up at once as his hand slid under the waistband of my underwear. I dropped my head back to the pillow and Declan began to stroke me slowly. I made a noise that sounded somewhere between a sigh and a groan and awkwardly worked my hand around from behind him and skimmed his flat stomach, which caused him to inhale sharply as he knew what was coming, and then I held him in my hand.

It was the same, yet different. I began to stroke him with the same deliberate motions he was applying to me and he gasped, leaning down by my ear and whispering to me.

“Oh God, Corby, that feels...oh.”

All I can think was it must be the emotion of the situation, which was a surprise to me, but we were both messy within about twenty seconds of the other. I consoled myself that I went first because he'd started on me sooner, but I also was mightily curious why a hand job from Declan felt better than full on sex with Madison. I was breathing heavily and withdrew my hand from his shorts. I let my hand fall, palm up, to the bed as I recovered my breathing.

This was made somewhat more difficult by Declan resting his forehead against my chest and trying to master his breathing as well.

“That was...unexpected,” I said. He turned his head, and nuzzled my neck, pulling himself into a full on cuddle again.

“I was advocating for myself,” he said quietly, letting out a big yawn.

“Sorry, what?” I asked.

“Well, you said you didn't know what you felt about me. So I decided to help you out with that,” he said, turning his head and resting it on my pec and returning his hand to my stomach.

“Uh, we need to clean up.”

“But I'm comfortable, Corby,” Declan whined.

“Dec, you ever had dried cum on your pubes? It pulls. Come on.” I struggled out from under him and opened the door, letting some light into the room. He was still in bed so I went over and rousted him out and got us to the bathroom. Once the door was closed I flipped on the light.

“Shit, look at my underwear!” I muttered. It was as if none of my spunk had gone onto his hand and had soaked my underwear completely. I shucked them and ran the hot water over a hand towel to clean up.

“Wow. Uh, you're naked,” Declan said, sitting down on the toilet.

“Well, you've had your tongue down my throat and your hand on my pecker. I figure I don't have too many secrets left from you,” I replied. Done wiping down I turned to Declan, who was still seated and staring.

“Come on, get cleaned up. We have to take these things back to my room, I'll wash em later.”

“You mean...”

“Yeah, lose the shorts,” I said with a snicker. He gave me an unsure look and reached for the waistband. “Does this still count as advocating for myself?”

“Depends, you look good naked?”

“You tell me,” he said boldly, pushing the shorts down. “So?”

“Uh. I'd say that's a yes. Here,” I said, handing him the washcloth. He moved to the sink and I traded places with him, sitting on the toilet and watching him. It really was amazing, I reflected, that Madison had taught me all about how dismal things could be with the wrong person. I didn't know if Declan was the right person, but I knew I was going to spend a lot of time finding out.

He turned. “Where should I put this?” he asked, holding the washcloth.

“Well, considering were going back to my room naked...maybe you should bring it with us.”