Friday seemed to drag. The classes didn't hold my interest; conversations were superfluous. My focus was on Kyle and seeing him at lunch and then in class and finally at the game tonight. I flew through the line at lunch and sat down beside Kyle at our table.
"Hey, Ky," I greeted him.
"Hey," he replied, a little quieter than his usual voice. Giles was telling us how Anna had aggravated him and he'd broken up with her.
"I missed something, G-man. How did she aggravate you, exactly?" I asked.
He put his hamburger down and looked at me, to Kyle and back again. "I'm not a 'phobe, okay? Anna's sexuality seems to be 'human'. She was kissing Tonya Kirkpatrick."
"And she didn't ask you to watch or what?" I deadpanned.
He tilted his head down and looked at me as if over glasses. "Really? I don't care if she likes girls, but I do care if she's making out with someone besides me when we're supposed to be dating, right?"
"Yeah, true," Kyle said quietly.
"So, what's next for you, then?" I asked idly.
With a pleased expression he replied, "I asked Moira Green to go with me to the game tonight. She said yes!"
I let out a low whistle and smiled at him. "G-man, who knew you were such a Lothario?"
Kyle was uncharacteristically subdued. I wanted to ask if he was all right but there were a lot of people around and I didn't want to push him in case he didn't want to say in front of others.
I ran into James Murphy in the hallway after lunch and called out to him. "Hey, James. You coming tonight?"
He paused, a surprised look on his face, but he recovered quickly. "Football isn't usually my thing."
"We have the table. You should come. I have to go, see you tonight?"
"Uh, maybe," he said as we parted.
Later in class Kyle remained quiet. He wasn't unfriendly, but seemed like he might not be feeling well. I tried to joke with him a bit but he just gave me a wan smile. I tried to catch him after school, but I was stymied when a staff member from the group home showed up to pick me up early. I hadn't been told I'd be picked up and the staff member didn't know why.
Upon my arrival at the group home I was directed to head down to Henry's office. A little frustrated I went down and knocked on his door. He opened it and smiled at me.
"There he is! Come on in, Drake. I think you know Pam and the Benoits."
I looked around in slight confusion. "Uh, did I do something wrong?"
Pam smiled. "Anything you want to confess to?"
"No?" I ventured.
Pam finally let me off the hook. "We're actually here to have a chat and make a decision."
"Um, okay. Can I make a call? Kyle wasn't himself and I was going to talk to him," I glanced at the Benoits, "I'm supposed to work a booth at the game tonight for the GSA with him, by the way. I'm sorry, did I tell you that already?"
"Yes, Wednesday night," Mrs. B said with a little laugh. "Slow down, you can talk to your friend as soon as we get done here. I think you'll want to hear all of this."
"Um, okay," I said, unconvinced.
"Drake, what's the GSA?" Mr. B asked.
"Uh, the Gay-Straight Alliance. Kyle is the vice-president, and I have to help him tonight."
"You mentioned," Mr. B said with a chuckle. "I guess you're looking forward to seeing Kyle. Is this a date or something?"
I paused. Here it was. I hadn't given much thought to coming out to anyone. Maybe that was a side effect of having hidden it for a lifetime, literally. But the Benoits weren't my birth parents, nor were they anyone else who'd sat in judgment over me before. My sudden flare-up of nerves didn't dissipate but it did abate, slightly. So much could rely on how the next few minutes went. I swallowed and said, "No. But I hope it's heading in that direction."
Mr. B looked at me and shook his head with a look of mild wonder.
"What?" I asked. My stomach clenched, trying to strangle the butterflies that had taken wing; a futile effort.
"You," he said. "Ever since I've met you I've had things I believed challenged. From what I knew of your past, to my worries about you being violent to...well, your sexuality."
My gaze flashed around to each of the room's occupants. "Is that...a problem?"
He smiled wryly. "I never considered you might be gay. You...are an athlete, a good one. Smart, loyal, more mature than I'd give a kid your age credit for. I know, none of those things should mean anything - at least that's what I hear. But, the proof is before me."
Mrs. B put a hand over her husband's. "It's not a problem with us, sweetheart, is what he's building up to say."
He glanced at his wife and back to me with a smile. "What she said."
I looked down a little, smiling at them. I was right - they're good people. Those butterflies which had been roiling in my gut could now have lifted me on a bed of their soft wings. Elation rose through my body and relief flooded me immediately afterward.
"Well. Can I assume that you'd like to move forward, Mr. and Mrs. Benoit?"
"Move forward with what?" I asked.
"With you moving in with us," Mr. B said. I stared at him for a moment, feeling a bit of magic as I realized I'd be done with the group home and in with a real, honest to goodness family. I may have screamed again. There were a few administrative things that had to be handled. While that was done, I went up and packed all of my things. There were a few curious looks shot in my direction, but these kids probably saw a lot of people coming and going. It was sort of amazing how much I had in the way of clothes. After loading up I turned to Pam.
"Hey, Pam. Is there any way I can get some of my stuff? Like, maybe from my room at my old house?"
"I'm sure something can be worked out," she replied. "I'm sure you know, though, that anything you brought would need to be approved by the Benoits."
"Yeah, sure," I replied. "What might there be that would be a problem?"
"Maybe a computer or TV that they may not want in your room. Things like that. I'm sure it can be discussed once we know more."
"Okay, works for me," I replied.
I spent some time at home putting away my clothes in the closet and bureau. I didn't have things - sports stuff, knickknacks or books to put away, except the ones that belonged to the library. Ramses sat on my bed and did his best to keep me from folding anything I'd stacked there to be put away. The twins saw that I was, in their eyes, cleaning my room and so avoided me.
We had an early dinner and I helped to clear afterward. The Benoits decided to take their kids to the game so we could all have a night out. After we arrived I texted Kyle to find out where our table was, but I tumbled to it before he responded. It was set up with a few other clubs along the side of the school, next to the flow of traffic in and out of the bleachers.
"Hey, Ky," I said as I slipped behind the table. "What do you want me to do?"
"Um, I just got the table set up. Spread the table cloth, and we can put the cookies out," he said quietly.
"Okay. Uh, I wanted to ask you all day - are you feeling okay?"
"Yup," he replied. I frowned but dropped it for the moment. We got the cookies set up on trays and I hung the GSA sign from the front of the table with tape. Kyle had set little cards out to indicate what kind of cookie was in each grouping; a special section was marked gluten-free. Someone had already stepped up and Kyle was engaged with them when I spotted James in the crowd. I was glad he'd taken the chance and come to the game, despite his statement that it wasn't really his scene.
"James! Hey, Murph!" I called out and waved my arm in the air. He looked around in confusion and then spotted me. He actually pointed to himself, wondering if I meant him. "Yeah, you! Come here and say hello!"
He glanced around as if to see if anyone else had heard my request. He walked with his hips swinging more than most boys over to the table. "Hey, Drake. I didn't think you were serious."
"That's me. Have a cookie, on me," I told him. "They're all good and I made them myself."
"Hey!" Kyle protested.
"Okay, Ky helped. A little." I leaned forward and stage whispered, "Not really. He just stood there and looked pretty."
James cracked a smile and thanked me for the cookie. Our shift wasn't that long but soon I was ready to scream. Kyle was stiff and seeming very sad. I wondered if something had happened to his grandmother. Giles showed up with, I presume, Moira and he treated her to a cookie. By this time it was obvious that something was wrong between Kyle and I - enough so that Giles commented on it to our faces.
"What is up with you guys? Kyle, you've been down all day and Drake, you look frustrated."
"It's nothing," Kyle snapped.
"Okay, yeah it's something, Ky."
"Stop calling me that!" Kyle said and turned from me.
"Hey, Drake? Um, I can start my shift. Fix him, will you?" he asked as he slipped behind the table. I nodded my thanks and moved in front of Kyle's field of vision.
"Ky, talk to me man. Let's go inside, away from everyone, and just work this thing out, okay? Please?" I felt a little like I was begging, but it worked. Kyle crossed his arms and stormed past me. I didn't care as he was moving, so I followed him through a side door and into a quiet, deserted hallway.
"What is your deal?" Kyle snarled as he turned on his heel to face me. "I thought you'd changed?"
"I'm a different guy, yeah," I told him. "Please tell me what I did to make you so mad?"
He wiped an eye and glared at me. "I don't know what's going on with you. I swear to God it's like someone just yanked Draco off to oblivion and dropped a new guy in his body."
I looked at him in puzzlement, wondering if he'd somehow figured out this multiverse thing the old barman had said we'd discussed at a bar in another universe.
"Isn't that a good thing? I was a pecker head, remember?"
"Oh, I remember," he said and looked away from me. "Drake Mathews was left handed, was mean for the sake of it and straight as an arrow. He messed around with plenty of girls, who all seemed to fall for his pretty face and charm right up until he screwed them and moved on. It was like a game to him, a notch on a bedpost."
But he wasn't done. Lifting his gaze to meet mine and with wet eyes he said, "But now Drake is right handed, as nice as can be and screwing with me by holding my hand. You can learn to use another hand, you can choose to be nice but your sexuality doesn't just...change! You're straight and you shouldn't screw with...with people's emotions."
I looked at him, channeling my affection for him. "Ky. People used to know me and hate me. When I got this second chance, you know, I figured that I didn't like the guy people were describing to me. I wanted to be better. Then I met you and I had a purpose, someone that gave me a tangible reason to try. I have to tell you, though, I wonder if I wasn't really the person getting the second chance."
He sniffed. "What do you mean?"
"Ky," I said and reached out slowly, taking his hand in mine. "Giles is doing so much better, Murphy is...well, a work in progress. Jeremy has backed off people. And, of course, there's you."
I leaned with my back against the wall and he slumped beside me, still hand in hand.
"What about me?"
"When all this started, Ky, you thought you knew me. Then you found out...you don't know me. But I wanted you to. I think you've developed some feelings for me, and I sure know I've developed feelings for you. So maybe my second chance was really about everyone else."
He looked down at our hands and whispered, "So now you're gay? And you're interested in me?"
"Completely," I said firmly. He looked up at me and studied my face.
"I want to...how can I be sure, Drake? I don't know what to think. Help me."
"Kiss me," I told him.
"Kiss you?" He shook his head. "How does that help me? Why are you telling me to kiss you?"
"Couple reasons. First is because, yeah, I've done things with people. Girls. I don't remember any of it. As far as I'm concerned, I've never been kissed. By your own statements, I've certainly never kissed a boy." I tilted my head toward him and gave him a sly smile. "Second, I could just come over there and try to plant one on you. But I want this to be about you, not me.
"I figure I've got one first kiss in me. You want it?"
He looked at me, perhaps assessing me. I waited patiently for him to feel it was right. He took a deep breath and squeezed my hand before releasing me. His eyes moved over my features, maybe looking for a reason to kiss me or not. He reached up and tentatively placed his hands on the sides of my face before leaning in and gifting me with the most beautiful kiss I'd ever experienced. I placed my hands on his hips and gently held him while he lengthened our first kiss. There was no rush to it, just a gentle repetition of pressure, coupled with opening and closing of his mouth. It grew in intensity as our tongues made some contact, but this couldn't be termed a make-out. It was tender, slow and sweet - something I'd measure any kiss against for the rest of my life. It was a kiss from someone who really wanted to kiss me and I him.
His lips slid to one side, breaking the kiss, and he placed his head on my shoulder, wrapping his arms around my neck. We stood still, holding each other loosely. He let out a long sigh and dug his chin down a little into my shoulder.
"That was nice," he said quietly.
"Nice?" I replied, matching his tone. "I never wanted it to end."
He let out a sharp breath, a contained bark of laughter. "I can't believe I just kissed you."
"I'm a little amazed myself," I admitted.
"Never thought you'd kiss a guy?"
"Not that, no," I said and smiled. "Because it was you kissing me. I'm so happy right this minute."
Muted sounds from outside the building were overshadowed by the stillness of the hallway. I focused on his breath as it moved past my ear and I imagined that our heartbeats were synchronized and reaching toward each other, straining to become one.
"I used to hate you. For the things you'd done. Said to people," he said haltingly, a voice meant just for my ear. "Giles is my best friend and when you hurt him last year, I felt like it hurt me, too."
"Don't." He pushed his cheek against me as if he were going to cover my mouth. I hoped it was because he didn't want to let go of me to do it. "I know you're sorry it happened. We were both nervous about the new you, but I think he was more scared than I was."
"Why?" I asked. My voice was a whisper and I was scared to think what Drake may have done to Kyle that I didn't know about.
"I was always a little ashamed that I, kind of, had a thing for you. Giles was afraid I'd set myself up to get burned."
I smiled and squeezed him lightly. "I'm glad you did. Have a thing for me, I mean."
"I guess it was some of that bad boy thing," he continued as if I hadn't spoken. "I guess I hoped one day I could tame you. Isn't that stupid?"
"It's a nice idea," I conceded. "Even better if it comes true."
He leaned back and studied my face. He looked vulnerable, a look I'd never seen on him. "Now what, Drake? Where do we go from here? Will you disappear, now that you know how I feel about you? Am I one more flaming wreck of a relationship in your wake?"
I tilted my head to the side as I regarded him. "I know you still worry Draco will come back. But I'm willing to work to show you that's not me anymore. This guy, right now, is who I want to be. Holding hands with you and hoping like hell you're going to kiss me a whole lot more."
He smiled, a gentle smile and his cheeks grew red. "Are you actually saying you want an us?"
"Pretty badly," I confirmed.
"Like how?" He gestured around us. "In empty hallways like this where no one can see?"
"No. I want everyone to know I'm in love with you, Ky."
His eyes grew wide and his voice dropped in disbelief. "You love me?" His tone was more statement than question.
"Yep. I'm sure of it." I moved my hands up from his hips to his sides and nudged him the slightest bit closer to me. "I know you're still catching up, since last night. But I've been liking you more and more. When you came out to me last night I knew I had to try. So I'm not just saying that. I've been slowly falling in love with you since we met."
He looked down and away slightly, a little smile on his face. "I don't know what to say."
"Are you okay with that? I know we're just...you're supposed to wait to say something like that, I know," I told him. I was getting nervous that I'd just put a bunch of pressure on him. "But I can't lie to you. You make me want to be better."
He smiled a bit more and chuckled softly. "I am just a little...I'm still struggling to find the words."
"Well, I want to date you. I want you to be my boyfriend. Can you come up with words for that?" I asked.
He smiled again, with a touch of red coloring his cheeks. "Yeah. I want to be with you."
My heart leapt. My hands were still on his sides, a remnant of our hug. I worked my hands around his back and pulled him toward me. I leaned in and was gratified that he met me halfway and I enjoyed another sweet, slow kiss. His style of intensifying the kiss without speeding up and letting lust take over was incredible. I probably could have stayed that way for a very long time, had Giles not let out a strangled yelp as he came upon us.
"Erp! Um, sorry! I didn't mean to interrupt!" he said and started to back up.
Kyle laughed lightly and placed his forehead on my shoulder. I looked over at Giles and grinned. "Get used to it, G-man."
He stopped backing up. He'd been backing up quite slowly, so clearly he was hoping to get an explanation rather than to actually leave us be.
"I said fix him, Drake. Not kiss him," Giles said dryly and then shook his head with a little laugh. "I can't believe I'm seeing this."
Kyle stepped away from me, though I managed to snag one of his hands so he didn't get too far away. He addressed his friend. "You? I'm still wondering if this is happening!"
"Well, um," Giles said as he slowly backed away. "I was just checking to see if you guys were okay. I guess you are. So I'll just head back out."
"Giles? Who is running the table?" Kyle asked.
"Um, Jim Murphy. I told him I just wanted to check on you guys." He widened his eyes and smiled. "Really, though, I still can't believe I saw you guys kissing."
"I think he's asking to see it again, Ky." I teased.
"I'm good," Giles said with a laugh as he put his hands up in mock surrender. He turned and, still chuckling, headed back outside.
"We should go out there. Check to make sure Giles isn't eating the profits. Maybe watch the game."
"Like this?" he asked, squeezing my hand.
"Oh yeah, like this. Uh, wait!" I leaned over and used my free hand to turn his face toward me and kissed him, gently but with intent. Breaking the kiss I looked into his eyes and said, "For luck."
We'd walked into that hallway in disarray, but when we walked out we were a newly minted couple. We checked in at the table, but the next shift was there and we were free. We held hands as we walked through the crowd and sat down with my new family. Mr. B smiled and gave me a thumbs up when he saw our hands, and Mrs. B cooed at us. The twins teased us about being in love, but I didn't mind. I knew I was.
After the game the Benoits gathered the twins to get them home for showers and bed. I asked if it would be okay if Kyle and I walked home. The Benoits smiled broadly and told me to be home by nine-thirty.
"For the love of....seriously?"
I turned to see the speaker, James Murphy, looking at me with surprise and then disgust. I was confused, to say the least.
"I'll say," he snarled. "How is this fair? You go from banging cheerleaders to getting Kyle? Why the hell are you so lucky and I'm fucking not?" he spit out and stormed off. I looked at Kyle and he shook his head, looking mildly irritated. Kyle and I helped to break down the GSA table and turn the funds over to the treasurer. There were a few leftover cookies, and I grabbed a few to take home to the twins. Once our duties were done Kyle and I strolled slowly along the streets we'd walked together so many times before on our way home from school.
"I think Jessica has a crush on you," I told him.
He gave me a crooked smile. "What makes you say that?"
"Are you kidding? She demanded that you be the one to read to her. She cuddled you during the movie the other night. She's having an awakening, dude."
"Oh, my God," he said and laughed while covering his face.
"I saved the twins a few cookies. I'll tell Jess they are from you."
"Jerk," he said and snorted out a laugh.
We walked for perhaps another forty feet in an easy silence. Somewhere a dog barked and a door slammed. A TV blared briefly; maybe someone opened a door or window. And then he reached out and took my hand in his. I squeezed gently and moved to walk closer with him.
"I saw you talking to James at the meeting. I started to wonder, last night after you'd left."
"If he was...next for you." He paused and I stopped, pulling him gently to face me and resting my palm on his face. He brought a hand up and placed it over mine. "I've always wondered if it was my fault. Was I too hard on him? Was there...?"
"When I spoke to him at the meeting I told him I'd say hello to him in the halls and stuff. Trying to make up for what I did to him." The corner of my mouth turned up in amusement. "You know, after I talked to James at the meeting I felt like I should tell you about him. You know, to do right by you."
His brow furrowed in confusion. "Do right by me? What does that mean?"
"Well, that I'd do what was right for you before what was right for me. But I figured you already knew about old Jimmy, since you were both in the GSA. But my second reason was totally self-serving."
A smile played about his face as he waited for me to continue.
"I wanted you for myself."
Nodding he smiled and cleared his throat. "I'd have reacted pretty badly if you'd picked him, you know."
"Oh? Jealous?" I asked in a teasing tone.
"I told you, I always had a thing for you," he said in a playfully daring tone. "That's...kind of putting it mildly. I think you're the...uh, hottest guy in school."
I moved my hand so that my fingertips were pushing slightly on the back of his head, nudging him forward. "Isn't that convenient? I thought you were hottest."
"Liar," he said, his cheek moving under my hand letting me know he was smiling.
"Okay, fine," I said with a sigh and kissed him lightly. "I thought you were the cutest, nicest, kindest guy. Hot is kind of rolled into all that, right?"
Chuckling he whispered, "I just can't believe Draco Mathews is my boyfriend."
"Drake. All that old stuff is gone. Drake Mathews is a new guy...and he's in love with his boyfriend, Ky."
We held one another and a kind of peace settled on me. I had more work to do, more good work. I was convinced that my second chance wasn't about just me. It was about the people Draco had hurt and the healing I, as Drake, could achieve. Loving Kyle, returning what he was giving to me, was part of that. For some people it wouldn't be the biggest part. For me, holding Kyle and knowing this special person had fallen in love with someone like me....
We started walking again, strolling really. "Drake?"
"How do you see this going?"
"You mean tonight or our future?" I asked in a teasing tone.
"Our future," he asked, bumping me.
"I'm not sure," I confessed. "Being your boyfriend was my goal. I haven't thought about anything else, yet. Why? What do you see?"
He responded with a light kiss. "That. Lots of that."
"The future is promising," I said with a grin.
We walked for several feet in silence. In a quiet, contemplative tone he said, "I also see...graduation. College. World travel. A...house. Marriage." He cleared his throat. "Kind of a lot, I guess."
"Can we have a dog?" I asked. "I love dogs."
Chuckling he said, "Yeah. We can have a dog."
"Sounds good, then. I'm in."
He pushed in close to me and I wrapped my arm around his shoulder. "That's a lot of commitment, Drake. You want a second to think about it?"
Thinking of how I'd led my life before, staying a course I'd not chosen for myself yet providing both emotionally and financially, while leaving a vital part of my own needs unmet...well, I knew I could commit. Would we last? I wasn't sure of the odds. But I knew I could commit myself to Kyle and, one way or another, I'd try like hell to make it work.
"No. You're my boyfriend, Ky. I love you. I'm in love with you. I want to be where you are. You want to think about that?"
He came to a stop again and met my gaze. "Most couples don't make it out of high school."
"I don't think we're most couples," I told him.
"No? I think people would warn us not to get our hopes up." He paused and tilted his face as he studied me. "I think I'd tell them to screw off. You?"
I smiled in the gloom. "I'd tell them they don't know us." Then I kissed him and kept kissing him. And, by God, he kissed back.Next Chapter Previous Chapter