This story is based in the Fearless/Weghtless universe created by Cynus and continued in the serial The List.
Mornings are different for me than they once were. I used to try to go back to sleep and loathed the idea of getting out of bed, even if I were wide awake. Now I find it to be a peaceful alone time when I can let my thoughts chase each other like hamsters on a wheel. I also did a fair amount of soul searching and thinking about how I was changing. If you'd asked before my dad killed himself and left me to die, I'd probably have said I didn't standing up for myself much. Standing up for Parker had been the high point of my bravery to that point.
That had changed, though. I had changed, and I wasn't sure it was for the better, in some ways. I wasn't nearly as tolerant of Ake's crap anymore, for instance. I knew I was more direct, perhaps harder on people, with few exceptions - my mother, with whom I was rebuilding our relationship. Parker because....well, Parker. And Travis, who was rapidly filling up empty places inside me.
Yet this new 'me' was also brittle. I was prone to crying, when alone, or just being emotional. I knew it was just me, not something anyone else was doing, and I tried to keep it to myself. It was kind of interesting to know I was a little unhinged and to be able to stand back and look at it as if it were happening to someone else. I stretched and decided to start my day by going to wake Parker up. If I wasn't sleeping in anymore, why should I let him?
"Stop being a pussy."
"I'm not," I grumbled as I pushed the skateboard with the toe of my shoe. I shivered in the brisk air and hunched inside my coat.
"But you are," Parker said, his voice bubbling with laughter. "You wouldn't hesitate if it were me."
I narrowed my eyes at him. "There are so many things I'd like to say to that, my mind is in overload and I can't choose just one."
"I bet one of them is 'Take me, Parks! Take me!'" He broke down in laughter and I rolled my eyes. Well, he was probably not completely wrong. Sex with Parker would probably feel pretty comfortable, and I'd be happy afterward, except I'm kind of in love with my boyfriend, so there's that.
"Look." I paused and gathered my thoughts. Or tried to. They were like grains of sand, and I didn't really get to examine any of them before they slipped by. Oh, well. I guessed this would be another stream of consciousness talk. "Travis doesn't stand up for himself. I'm afraid if I ask him to fool around he's only going to do it because I asked him to, not because he wants to."
Parker tipped his head to one side. "Have you seen his tits yet, even?"
I stared at him and willed myself to not laugh or choke him. "How is that a measure of anything?"
"It's been like, what, three weeks or so? I know you want to get in his pants, but if you haven't even gotten his shirt off him...."
"It's not a game," I snapped. "Travis has very little self-esteem. The last thing I want is to 'get in his pants' because he feels he has to. Jesus, Parks! Don't tell me your whole goal with Angie was to get a handful."
"Okay, I won't," he said agreeably. I stared at him and his mouth curled up a bit. "Look, Shane, our relationships are different. You're looking to make love, and at this point I'm looking for a blowjob just to shut her up."
My jaw dropped. "What? She's blown you?"
He rolled his eyes. "Typical, Shane. All you hear is that my dick got some action without you being there."
I narrowed my eyes again. "I just thought you'd have said something, that's all. Not like I own you or your dick."
He sighed and nudged me, so I took a step and started to balance myself on the skateboard. He was standing behind me, so I couldn't see his face. Which is very Parker when he wants to say something that actually means something to him.
"Of course you do. But seriously, why can't you talk to Travis about a kiss or six? Don't you trust him enough to have a real conversation about this?" he asked and then started to push me along, while holding me so I didn't fall. He was determined to get me over my fear of his skateboard.
I wobbled on the board and tensed up while Parks got me steadied.
"In some ways, no. I mean, he can be very honest about a lot of things. He told me about how he and Clint almost fooled around and how nervous it made him."
"Did you tell him we fooled around?" he asked, barely containing a snicker.
"Of course. Did you tell Angie?"
"Yeah," he replied, a little subdued. "I don't think she really cares, as long as I'm not fooling with anyone while she and I are dating. It's hard to tell. She's kind of high maintenance."
I looked over my shoulder and immediately snapped my head forward as I began to wiggle dangerously on the skateboard.
"Eyes front, Shane. I'm still fully dressed, so no need to look at me."
"Shut up, Parks," I growled. "I was just going to ask if everything is okay with you and Angie is all."
Parker let go of me, and I rolled forward unsteadily for a few feet before coming to a stop. I put a foot down on the pavement and turned to face him. He was looking at me contemplatively, and I waited for him to put his words in order.
"It's not trouble, exactly. You know how I am, who I am, and you know I act a little different with her because she likes the challenge. I'm just not like that all the time. I kind of feel like I'm not being myself."
I pressed down on the back of his board, and it flipped up and hit me in the knee. I yelped and glowered as Parker smiled at my attempt to copy him. Picking up the board I walked back to him.
"Do you like her, Parks? I mean, beyond her tits."
"Yeah," he said with a single bob of his head. "I like she's not a girly-girl. She's not a stereotype, and she's not going to let someone walk all over her. She has brains and isn't afraid to use them. I just...I guess it's me, maybe. I get tired of the sparring and arguing. It's fun, sometimes, but other times I wish she was a little more like we are. Just able to chill together and not have it all be about who's winning right then."
I really tried not to smile at him right then, because I knew he'd take it the wrong way, but I couldn't help myself.
"Fuck you, Shane," he said with the corners of his mouth turning up. "I'm not saying I wish she were you."
"It's okay, Parks. I know you want me, but I'm seeing someone right now," I told him demurely and he pushed me.
I sobered. "I'm glad whatever we have you want in your own love life, Parks. That's actually what I was smiling about. Have you tried talking to her?"
He shrugged and looked off to the side. "She doesn't seem like the type to talk feelings."
"You're not either, not really," I told him. "But if you want to try to make things work, you have to put some of that out there. Wait," I said and narrowed my eyes. "How are you getting blow jobs without putting some feelings out there?"
He smiled. "Jealous?"
"Yes," I grumbled. "I don't even know how to bring that up with Travis. I just..." I threw my hands up in the air and sighed. "I don't want him to feel pressured. I want him to want me."
Parks hopped on his board and started moving around me, singing, "I want you to want me. I need you to need me. I'd love you to love me." He didn't get any farther as I pushed him off his board and onto someone's lawn. He laughed as he regained his feet.
"Shane, you're being stupid. You can only go on what Travis tells you, so ask him, and tell him you're good with waiting," he told me as he popped his board up into his hand effortlessly. With a sly smile he said, "I'm okay if you use me for leverage, though. Tell him I'm willing if he isn't."
I glowed inside, even if it wasn't true. Or maybe it was. Hell, Parker and I were like that, I guess. "Slut," I told him.
He laughed. "Tombstones never say 'I wish I'd had less sex.' Anyway, didn't you say something about loving the little guy?"
I tilted my head to one side. "Yeah. I mean, it seems like it's early to say something like that, but there's something going on there."
"Well, you better find out what."
I went home around noon. Since my dad had killed himself and tried to take me with him, my mom had been trying to make some changes. First on her list was her job and the schedule that went with it. Unfortunately that wasn't easy to change. She was bidding for a job on the day shift, but there was stiff competition for it. She was also looking at other jobs and talking to me about the reality that we had less income. In the short term it meant she was still working nights, so I'd go out in the morning while she slept to keep the house quiet.
"Hi, kiddo," she said tiredly from her perch on the couch. Her hand was curled around her coffee cup, and she was rubbing her face with her free hand.
"Morning, Mom. You're up early. Couldn't sleep?" I asked as I took a seat in the chair next to the couch.
"Couldn't stay asleep. My mind keeps thinking about what we're going to do." She waved a hand and said, "I had to get up anyway. That guy is coming today to see about buying the guns and bullet-making equipment."
I flopped back. "I hate that just anyone can walk in and buy that stuff."
She nodded slowly. "I don't like it, either." She smiled, an odd little smile and said, "This guy has something to do with a gun shop, so I'm thinking he's a little less crazy. Not much, but enough. Besides, the fact is he has money and we need it."
We sat in silence for a moment with that sobering thought. Reality has a way of doing that, slapping you in the face and destroying your philosophy or dogma.
"This house is bigger than we need. It has some bad memories too, I'd say. What would you think about moving?" she asked and sipped from her cup.
I glanced around as I gave the idea consideration. She was right. The house was bigger than we needed, and I realized I didn't really care about the house. I'd grown up here, true, but it meant very little to me. Although I loved my mother, my 'home', or the sense of security I associated with the idea, now belonged to the people important to me rather than a building. Parker might be the most important single person to me right now, with Travis occupying that special space of the person I was falling in love with. Anything I was unsure about with respect to Travis, I took to Parker.
Being in love is kind of a rocky place, I think. So much changes if the other person doesn't love you back or if that love changes. I was still feeling my way forward with Travis, but I was finding all sorts of things to love about him. One small thing was how he could look so adorably distracted if you just observed him, but as soon as you engaged him he was focused like a laser. Some people look quite owlish when they look at you with their glasses on, but Travis's glasses only made his eyes clearer and cuter to look at.
Pulling myself back to the present I turned to look at my mom. "I just want to stay close to Parker and Travis. Other than that, I don't care where we live."
"Well, that makes for a lot of possibilities." She sipped her coffee and looked around the room. "I remember when we bought this house. I was thinking about all the memories we would make, the children we'd have and the life we could live. So often things don't go the way you hope."
"You were going to have more kids?" I asked.
She smiled. "Yes, originally. But kids are a lot of work. It doesn't change loving them or the regret of not having had more but...it was hard. We were both working, money was tight and a second child would have been irresponsible - especially to you. It just wasn't in the cards."
I'd never thought about having a sibling. Considering Parker's experience, maybe that was for the best.
"You have plans today?" she asked.
"Travis invited me to watch a movie at his house tonight. He hasn't told me what, yet. Parker was going to see Angie. I think they were going to head to the skate park or rock climbing thing or something. I don't know. I stopped listening at some point," I told her with a smile.
She chuckled. "Jealous?"
"Of Angie? Nah. Parker is still Parker. He's my best friend."
"Travis is kind of a strange choice for a boyfriend," she said over her coffee cup. "After Parker I'd have thought you'd be interested in someone more outgoing, more athletic."
"But those aren't the things I like about Parker," I told her and pulled my feet up in the chair. I felt slightly rankled that she'd referred to Travis as strange. "I like who Parker is. I always thought he looked nice, no question, but I liked him more for how under the radar cool he is. Travis is different, true, but he's just as interesting."
"Well, tell me about this interesting part. He's been polite but quiet when I've seen him," she said and coughed lightly.
"He's super smart. I think everyone could use more smart in their lives. He's also not full of himself for being smarter than other people." I paused and looked at her. She looked back steadily over her cup and sipped, waiting for me to continue. "Travis is adorable, and he's been on my list of 'guys I'd date' for a long time. He's into classic movies, and they're actually fun to watch with him. He gets all excited with certain scenes and likes to explain them to me."
She smiled at me, sipped her coffee and said, "He has a nice butt."
My eyes widened and the corners of my mouth twitched. "And why are you looking at my boyfriend's butt?" I asked.
"Just wondering what kind of taste my son has," she replied and smiled at me before drinking again. Placing the cup on the coffee table she smiled at me. "In truth I'm just getting used to knowing this new side of you. I feel, in a way, as if I've been asleep for a long time. I'm waking up now and trying to catch up. I'm glad you like both Travis and Parker for something other than how they look. I like Parker, too. I'm grateful you were smart and lucky enough to find each other. I'm hoping for lightning to strike twice with Travis. You've had enough heartache."
I nodded slowly in understanding. She was right about Parker, and I had my hopes for Travis as well. I left her to her coffee and went into my room. It was kind of a mess, so I started to mindlessly straighten it out. As I did my mind wandered back to my conversation with Parker and his issues with Angie. Shortly after the big fight we'd all been in where Joey and his buddy had ended up in the tender arms of law enforcement, Angie'd found out Travis and I were a thing. She'd caught up to me during a study hall.
"So you and your list." She gave me an amused look and then smiled. "How did you let Parker get away?"
I raised an eyebrow at her and deadpanned, "I had him. Time to move on."
She burst out laughing and the teacher told her to quiet down. I smiled at her and she shook her head. "Nice. He's interesting. I hear you're dating my ex."
There were those who could sew the delicate threads of a conversation with precision, like a needle adding colorful embroidery. Then there were people like Angie. She was more like trying to slip a harpoon where a needle should go.
Just to screw with her I asked, "Which one?"
She tilted her head down and fixed me with a look.
"Yeah. Travis and I are dating. Why?" I asked.
Taking on a smug look she said, "Going to date everyone on your list?"
I raised an eyebrow at her. "I think I'll stop with Travis."
"Didn't you date Parker?"
"No. I just wanted in his pants," I told her. She stared and I started to laugh, drawing another warning from the teacher. "Hey, seriously. Why did you and Travis break up?"
She frowned and then sighed as she looked away. She started to fiddle with a pencil, bouncing the eraser on the desktop. "I never should have dated Travis."
I felt a stab of anger and wanted to leap to his defense, but before I could she continued, "My brother essentially told me I was being a judgmental bitch and I was looking down on Travis for no reason. He was right. That wasn't a good reason to date, though." She sighed and looked at me. "Travis is a good person. But we definitely weren't a good match. I don't like nerdy things or people - or maybe I should say I don't find them attractive. Some of it is bullshit, I admit, because it's about vanity. Being popular. So I dated Travis. It was...an over correction."
I felt stiff and cold toward her. "That's shitty, Angie. I guess I don't really know you."
She glanced at me and her face softened slightly. "You're right, you don't. Sometimes I don't know myself. I seem to be going through some stupid fucking changes. I hate my brother sometimes, you know it?"
"I...don't know what to say to that. But I don't like you badmouthing Travis."
She nodded. "I'm sorry. What I'm saying is I dated him for the wrong reasons. Travis saw me in a fight and he was distracted by these," she said pointing to her ample breasts. "I'm perfectly willing to use my tits to attract a guy I like, but they can be more trouble that they're worth, between us."
The corner of my mouth pulled up a little. It was how Parker thought of her for a while. I knew Parker inside and out, though and it would take more than a pretty face - or big boobs - to keep him.
"That doesn't mean I don't want things to be okay for the squirt. It's just not with me." She paused and pursed her lips. "Travis asked me, too, why we were breaking up and the fact is he thinks everyone is so much better than he is that A) you find it easy to believe and B) it's annoying to be on a pedestal perpetually. Although, you know, Parker could do that a little and it won't hurt my feelings."
"Good luck with that," I muttered and turned over what she'd said about Travis. He did put himself down and I know he's got some baggage with his mom that weighs heavy on him. Maybe he needs someone to treat him like he belongs on a pedestal.
She shook her head. "I don't get it, though. Parker looks like he's got a banging body under those clothes. How could you let that slip away?"
It amused me a little that she was speaking about Parker the way he'd spoken of her - focused on the physical. Of course, I knew Parker wanted more than that no matter what came out of his mouth.
"Parker looks good, I know," I conceded. "But that's not what makes him worth someone's effort. I get the whole attraction thing - he's on my list, after all," I said with a smile and a small snort. "But he's genuinely the most decent, loyal person I've ever met." I fell silent for a moment and then continued, "I know that sounds easy to say but...when I was up in my dad's truck, thinking I'd end up freezing to death or something all I could think of was Parks. I typed out a text to him and...told him how important he was to me. I'd do anything for him."
"Even let him go?" she asked softly.
I turned slightly to look at her. "So he could be happy? Of course. We belong to each other by choice, and I think if it was what he thought would make me happy or what I needed Parker would even try to do the boyfriend thing. But I know that isn't really him, and I love him for who he is, not who he'd pretend to be to try and make me happy."
She let out a breath. "That's a lot to say. Tough to believe."
"If you know him long enough, you'll see," I told her and looked away.
I was pulled from the memory by the sound of the doorbell. I assumed it would be the guy who wanted to buy the guns. I didn't want anything to do with the guns or the ammo and equipment my father had owned, but I also didn't want to leave my mother to deal with it alone. With that thought I walked out into the living room as my mom opened the door. She admitted a man who looked vaguely familiar, but if he'd been one of my father's friends then I'd likely avoided him. He had a close-trimmed brown beard, a round face with a pleasant smile. He wore a snap-back hat and a puffy vest over a flannel shirt. Jeans and boots completed the redneck look.
"Thanks for calling, Maddy," he said and doffed his hat.
"Thanks for coming, Cliff," my mother said and closed the door behind him. He spotted me and nodded his head.
"Hi, Shane. Sorry about your dad," he said. I thought about telling him I wasn't and opening that can of worms, but it didn't seem worth it. Not for Cliff. Not for me, either. I just nodded at him, and he returned his attention to my mom.
"I don't want to take up too much time, Maddy. I brought the pick-up and my checkbook. Unless you feel like having coffee and talking, I'll do this and get out of your hair." He kept his cap in his hand, and I appreciated his brevity. I'm sure my mother wasn't excited about this other than the cash it represented.
"Thanks, Cliff," she said with a tired smile. "I did make coffee, though, and how rude would I be to take your money on an empty stomach?"
He smiled and nodded his head once, and I felt a twitch in the back of my mind. Was he flirting with my mother? Or was she starting whatever this was?
They sat at the kitchen table. I made a cup of coffee, but didn't drink it. I don't care much for coffee at the best of times; in this case it was just a pretense.
"Did he have any insurance?" Cliff asked quietly.
My mom shook her head. "He didn't believe in that sort of thing. I took out a small policy after Shane was born, but it doesn't really cover much. Shane and I...have no use for the guns or the equipment, but we do need the money."
Cliff glanced over at me, his eyes full of sympathy. "I still have my grandfather's Colt 1911. It just feels right in my hand, aims true. If you want to have one of these firearms-"
"No," I said quickly. "No, I...don't want anything to do with guns."
He nodded, seeming to understand. And then he spoke and ruined that idea. "They're just tools and they can be misused. You may change your mind later, after the shock of it all wears off."
Along with my newfound brittleness and lack of patience, I've discovered I have a great deal less interest in what others think of me. I crossed the kitchen, leaving my cup behind, and sat down by Cliff. "What you call a tool, I call a weapon. Something designed to kill. You can't screw anything in with it, you can't dog down a bolt or break a rusty one free. If I had a choice I'd melt down every one of them and pour them over his ashes and piss on them. But thanks for the offer."
His lips pursed slightly and he nodded. "I understand. I can't imagine how you've managed to get through all this. I'm still close with my folks, so it really is outside my realm of understanding." He paused and tilted his head to one side. "I have lost people, though. Not like you did. I'm just offering to help, if I can."
"That's kind of you," my mom said, and I slumped a little.
"I didn't mean to be rude." Not true, but his reply was about as reasonable as you can be. No sense being a dick about it.
"You weren't," he replied. "Things are still raw. It was probably a bad time for me to say something. Not everything in the world is bad right now though, right? I hear you got yourself a dating life."
I frowned lightly and looked at my mother, who had the grace to color slightly. If Cliff knew that likely meant they'd spent a lot of time talking. Talking about who your kid is dating wasn't exactly the first subject likely to come up, and it irritated me. My mother can move on if she wants, but I don't want a new dad, and I don't like being the subject of gossip.
"I don't think my love life is anyone's business but my own," I told him, frost tinging my words.
He raised a hand and ducked his head. "Say no more. Maybe we should just get this over with?"
My mother flushed a bit more and stood. "Sure, Cliff. I'll just show them to you."
They got up and headed out the back door to my father's workshop, where he stored the vast majority of his weaponry and other paraphernalia. Cliff left about forty minutes later. Considering how my mom had 'talked out of school' about me, I didn't mind hitting her up for some bucks so I wouldn't show up at Travis's empty-handed.
I hope you enjoyed chapter one! There are four more chapters and, as a final reminder, the rest of the story can be purchased ahead of time for as little as a dollar. Just go to the Donate button on the main page and make sure to include 'Wild Heart' in the note!Next Chapter