Cowboy Up

A Sanitaria Springs Story

By Dabeagle


This story utilizes characters previously introduced in various Sanitaria Springs stories. You really should read them first. Thanks to Cole, as always, for his suggestions and improvements and editing. Thank you to Ryan for his help in developing this story.

I awoke early for my first day of ninth grade; first day of high school. Thanks to Alec and his friends, I was already familiar with the school and had some familiar faces to draw on. Alec had filled me in on the slate of teachers I'd drawn and I felt pretty confident about my academic year. Yep, in terms of that, I – Lucien Rousseau – was ready to go.

I sat up in bed and stretched before climbing out and getting ready for my day. After showering I spent extra time on my appearance, checking myself out in the mirror and re-assessing my physical stature after a summer with my brother.

I still appeared active but not necessarily athletic, and I was okay with that. I didn't share Alec's enjoyment of playing football, except as a pickup game with his friends. In fact, sports was something I was only passingly interested in as a whole – I was far more concerned with having fun and being with the people involved than a game's score or if I was much good at it.

I gave my shirt a critical eye. It seems I've developed one stereotypical trait in that I take care of my appearance. Sasha likes to tease me about that, but he's also first in line to take me to look at clothes. My mom is great like that, too. She seems to enjoy having someone who likes shopping as much as she does. She loves to tell stories about Alec and how much he fought clothes shopping.

Finally satisfied I head down to breakfast and the family that was on track to adopt me. In the back of my mind I still worried that something would go wrong – that I'd screw up and all this wonderful life would be taken away from me. It was a small but persistent voice and I did my best to ignore it. Living with the Kutsenko's had been such a loving, warm experience that I felt like a crybaby sometimes if I worried or even thought about it too much.

For all my parent's love, though, it was Alec who made everything go. It was Alec who made being gay okay for me, Alec who was the first to tell me he loved me for the person I was and wanted me to be part of his family. My confidence was all built on my brother who could do anything. Some people might be intimidated by that, wondering how they could measure up. I was not. My job was to be myself, whomever that might be, and Alec never let me forget it.

“Hey, look at you!” Alec whistled as I entered the kitchen. I blushed a little, but really I loved his attention.

“Honey, you are going to get noticed today!” my mom said. Accepting her as my mom had been so easy, considering what I'd had to work with before. Mr. Kutsenko had been harder because I had good memories of my dad. He always told me that I should never feel guilty about that, that he was just there because my dad couldn't be. He told me he was honored to have me as his son, which I can't really wrap my head around. It's awfully good for the ego, though.

“I took long enough to pick out clothes, I'd better get noticed,” I said with a smile and kissed her cheek. I filled my plate and sat with my family.

“Hey, I thought I'd drop you at school, just for old times sake,” Alec said between mouthfuls.

“Alec, I can see the road through your floor. That car isn't safe,” I reply.

“Whoa, is it that bad?” Dad asked.

“He's exaggerating.” Alec waved his hand. “Storyteller!”

“Dad,” I said, “I saw the dotted line when we changed lanes the other day. Under my feet.”

“Whoa. Okay, Alec, your rust bucket has got to go.”

“Dad,” Alec said, “it's not that bad, I'm telling you.”

“Sit in the passenger seat. I guarantee you'll think the floor is about to fall out from under you and take the seat – and you – with it.”

“Hey, leave my trusty, rusty steed alone. Take the bus, you ungrateful punk,” Alec said as he stood from the table and messed up my hair with a grin. I finger brushed it back into place after sticking my tongue out at him.

“Alec, seriously, I want to see this floor. When is that car due for inspection?”

“What's that, Dad? I can't hear you,” Alec said as he drifted to the front of the house. “Have a good day everyone that isn't named Lucien!”

The door closed but Dad was out of his seat and caught Alec before he could get the car started. I shook my head and asked Mom, “What is it with Alec and that car?”

“Memories, I expect. It's the only car he's ever had and he earned the money for it himself. Not to mention it's a conversation starter.” She smiled at me and I grinned, thinking about the times I'd enjoyed with Alec and that piece of crap car.

I finished up breakfast and grabbed my book bag and went down to catch the bus. Dad's car was gone, but Alec's was still out front so I guess I know who won that fight. I reflected, while riding the bus, on the memories I had with the car and Alec.

The hole in the floor was real, and the seat moved when you sat in it – like it was barely attached and might fall through to the pavement at any moment. I was fascinated when I saw the road moving beneath my feet – it was stupid and dangerous, but Alec and I had fun with it. Before it had become quite so decrepit, or perhaps this had been the final straw, Alec had taken us all to Nathaniel Cole Park. It all started with an innocent discussion whereby Dad and Alec were debating the merits of their first cars.

Dad's first had been a VW Beetle and he told us about the contests there had been to see how many people you could squeeze in the car. That had done it for Alec and, next thing you know, he's talking everyone into squeezing in for a trip to go swimming. So there we were, Alec, Sasha and myself joined by Zap, Travis, Kale, Chase, Robin and Charlie.

Kale was not happy. I mean, he was right about it being unsafe, but he was also displeased that we were riding in 'that thing' as he called Alec's shit box. Alec promised not to hit any deer and, eventually, Kale sat on Chase's lap – saying he was doing so in protest – and frowning most of the way. Well, Alec's car groaned with us all in it and Kale was right, it was massively unsafe – and we had a blast.

Of course, my personal problems had gotten much, much worse that day.

I had very, very strong feelings for Robin before we'd left and I'd seen enough of him both as a person and physically to know he was who I wanted. However he was with Charlie and as much as I wanted to hate him, Charlie was a nice guy and they seemed happy as a couple. As Robin and Charlie's friend, I knew it wasn't my place to...I don't know, make the situation uncomfortable, I guess. I had successfully kept my longing to myself – Alec was the only one I'd confessed to. He'd gone so far as to provide opportunities for me to be friends with Robin, and that only made things worse.

You see, Robin seemed like he was damn near perfect, at least to me. He was sweet and playful but also loyal and empathetic. He was slow to anger and it seemed as though that emotion, when aroused, burned through him quickly, leaving nothing of itself behind. He would change his plans to include others, he was...I could probably sing his praises for a while but let's just leave it where it is. He'd never agree with my assessment anyway - he's modest, too.

Unless he's with Alec; then it's on. I think it stems from his protective streak when it comes to Kale. Alec loves to tweak Kale's nose and Kale plays the perfect straight man. Alec and Kale like one another and have some history that Alec never really talks about, but whatever it is, it ties them together so that Kale never gets hurt by Alec's teasing. Robin, though, is a little different.

Sometimes he just stepped up like a super hero or something and told Alec off, if he thought he was picking on Kale too much. Kale always got put in the awkward position of telling Robin it was okay, even though he'd just been jawing back and forth with Alec. I wished Alec would tell me how he and Kale had bonded, maybe then I could get closer to Robin. Hey, if it worked for one brother, why not the other? Of course that leaves out the sticky wicket of Robin's relationship.

Anyway, we climbed out of Alec's car at the park like a bunch of clowns under the circus big top and spent a great day swimming and cooking our hot dogs and stuff on the grills the park provided. Everything went great until late afternoon when my whole perception of things just...well, I guess it was the next logical step, but it felt like a shock and I just couldn't get past it.

So, to be clear, not only did I love Robin for who he was as a person, but he had a body that just made me whimper to think about. I got that not everyone would feel this way about him - he didn't work out, but he did like lacrosse and so he ran a lot which gave him a lean, supple look. His chest was all hard planes, not bulged with muscle, and his legs were dusted with dark hairs over his pale, porcelain like skin. A shock of dark hair capped his head accompanied by the most amazing blue eyes. He hit every single physical button I had in terms of attraction; his personality made him my perfect, dream guy. I'd had plenty of fantasies about him that left me a breathless and sticky mess, but that was nothing compared to what I was like after that day.

I'd had a sudden gurgling in my belly after lunch and had run off to the shower/changing room. We'd all worn our bathing suits, assuming they'd dry before we left, so I didn't expect anyone from our group to be in the changing room when I stepped into it from the adjoining bathroom, my stomach still gurgling. I still don't know how it happened. No one will tell me, either, but all anyone ever calls it is 'The Cheez-It Incident'. Regardless, Robin's bathing suit had a gaping, ragged hole and he'd come in to change into clothes he'd brought in case he got cold.

He didn't see me. He thought he was alone. I should have left, I know that. I shouldn't have watched, but in my defense, I couldn't seem to move. He dropped his bathing suit and stomped his feet a few times to shake it down his legs. Oh my god, his legs that ended in the most...I hadn't seen any porn star with a better ass. I could try to describe it, but just take the best butt you've ever seen and multiply it by ten. No, twenty. More. It had dimples. Leg gap was so sexily in evidence and then...he bent over. He stayed that way, rummaging through his bag and I had to untangle myself from the liner of my swimsuit.

His freaking ball sack was dangling right in that leg gap and I broke out in an honest to god sweat. He straightened, his muscles moving under that pale, supple skin and he held out the ...underwear...from his bag.

“What the fuck?” he muttered, stretching out the, well, garment. “Really, Charlie? This is what you make in Home Ec?” he giggled. It was a G-String but the crotch seemed to be made of candy on a string and the rest was a normal – oh, wow. I pictured myself eating the candy from the front with him wearing them and felt a damp spot form on the front of my shorts. I pulled the fabric away, not willing to turn my face away, yet.

He giggled and started to put a foot through. His foot must have snagged on one of the strings and the cheap thing snapped, dropping candy all over the floor. As it bounced he dropped his foot to the floor, stepping on the little candies, swearing and hopping. As he did his gorgeous ass shook with each impact of his feet and I was torn whether to laugh or completely mess my shorts.

He lost his balance, slipped and threw a hand out to catch himself on the lockers. He half turned and his flaccid penis flopped in and out of view. I turned and ran out the door, slamming it backward on its hinges in my panic to get away before he saw me staring at him and called me out for being the the world's biggest pervert. I couldn't look at him, afterward. I avoided him everywhere except in my fantasies, which were now far more explicit. Before I'd always thought of him in the active role, with me submitting under him. Him strong and nurturing, making me feel safe even in the bedroom. But now...I pictured myself behind him, my knees pressed to the meat of his thighs and pushing in just a little farther as I lay on his back, nibbling his ear. He'd tilt his hips, allowing me that extra depth and...

I'd gone from a nearly – okay substantially – emotional love for him to adding in a layer of raving, moaning lust. But I couldn't be around him, now. Not only did the image of him in that...luscious...state of undress come instantly to my mind's eye, I couldn't look him in the eye knowing I should have turned away and not perved on my friend. He was someone I was supposed to treat as something more than... some wanking object.

So, as I arrived at school, the only thing stressing me was that I might run into Robin and make a fool out of one or both of us. I was sure that, if he looked into my eyes, he'd know – everything. Thank goodness he didn't know how badly I wanted him both physically and emotionally – being needy isn't a turn on for anyone, I don't think – and he didn't know I had seen him in all his beautiful, sexy glory. Jesus, it made me hard just thinking about it.

I exited the bus and milled around out front, waiting for the buzzer to sound that the school doors were unlocked. I people-watched, looking at the new faces. Not just the upperclassmen, mind, but the high school had feeders from all over the county what with it being so rural. There were smaller schools that were elementary and middle school combinations and they fed into Columbia High, so there would be all those faces as well.

“Ugh. Hey, Cowboy. Can you pretend to be my boyfriend for, like, five minutes?” It took me a moment to realize I was the one being spoken to and I turned to the speaker, a pretty girl with long chestnut hair in capri's with a snug scoop top and sleeves that came down just past her elbows.

“I'm sorry?” I asked.

“My ex is here and I told him I was seeing someone else, but he won't leave me alone. I put a few people between us, but I need a body to convince him. So, be my fake boyfriend for five minutes? I'll be eternally grateful.”


“Seriously? Aren't all you country boys about helping a girl in danger?” she asked.

I looked down at my clothes and wondered how, exactly, she thought I was a country boy. I voiced the question.

“It's more a state of mind. You know, a way of looking at the world. It's not about cowboy boots and a piece of wheat hanging from your mouth – or worse, chewing tobacco.”

“Hey, Lu,” Chase greeted me. He'd approached my unguarded flank, along with Kale and ...oh dear God. Robin.

“Hi, Chase,” I bobbed my head. “Hi Kale. Uh, Robin,” I said, dodging his eyes.

“Cowboy, introduce me,” said my new acquaintance.

“Uh, fake girlfriend, this is Chase, his boyfriend Kale and Kale's brother...Robin.”

“Boyfriends? Very nice!” she smiled and shook their hands. “And Robin? Very nice, too.”

Hey! Back off, bimbo!

“Calling you 'fake girlfriend' could get awkward,” Robin said with a sunny smile that made his eyes...focus, Lucien!

“I'm Sophia,” she said, shaking his hand and holding it longer than was strictly necessary.

“Which school are you coming in from?” Kale asked. I said a silent thank you for Kale's academic interest. At least she let go of Robin's hand.

I went to the 'Path of Life' school,” she smiled.

“Oh, I heard of them. Different church than ours; how did you like it?” Kale asked.

“It was school. Hated the uniforms and I'm thankful they don't offer high school classes,” she said with a giggle. She was still looking at Robin and I was, stupidly, jealous. “So, Robin, can you talk to my new friend? Cowboy here is hesitating to be my fake boyfriend.”

She was flirting up a storm with Robin and I felt myself gritting my teeth.

“Cowboy?” Robin asked with a giggle. “You mean Lucien?”

Lines ran through my head about showing him how much a cowboy I could be if I was riding him. I wouldn't care if he were riding me, as long as he didn't laugh at me. Point of fact, as long as it was him, I wouldn't care who was in what position. His giggles kind of shattered my macho ideas and I felt my cheeks light on fire.

“He's making me work pretty hard to get a fake boyfriend,” she agreed.

“Why do you need a fake...?” Kale asked with his trademark frown.

“Soph! Hey, there you are. What the hell?” A tall boy with flyaway dark hair and an unfortunate outbreak on his skin appeared at her side. She clutched my arm and sighed at the newcomer.

“I told you, Todd, we're over. I'm with Lucien, now.”

She was what? I heard a snicker and saw it was Chase, his pretty yet goofy smile spread across his whole face. I couldn't bring myself to look at Robin, but even Kale's dour face had a grin.

“Soph, come on! It was one time!”

“Bye, Todd,” she said and turned her back to him.

“She didn't mean anything, seriously! It was just fun and we'd all had something to drink...”

“Maybe you should have more respect for your girlfriend, then.” Who said that? Me? Oh, shit. Why did I say that?

“Hey, butt out!” Todd replied and turned his attention back to Sophie.

“Come on, Cowboy,” she said, tugging my arm. The school buzzer went off and we lurched, like zombies, towards the school doors. Todd continued to trail behind, making his case, but she ignored him. At last we separated in the crush of people, all moving towards our own classes. I was grateful that Robin, being a year ahead, would not be in any of my classes. I was mortified enough as it was that he would suspect me.

Settling into classes was easy and my confidence perked up as Alec's description of each teacher rang true. I felt like I was ahead of the game and was in a pretty good mood until the bell for lunch rang. Unfortunately this was the first opportunity I'd had to hit my locker and I was anxious to drop off all the things I'd acquired so far – from handouts to text books. My locker was not receptive to this idea, however. No matter how much I spun the dial and reset it, it refused to unlock. With a sigh I went to the office to ask them to fix it and hauled my baggage to lunch.

Exiting the line with my tray I was wondering where to sit when I heard a female voice call out, “Hey, Cowboy! Saved you a seat!”

“Yee haw!” someone called out to the amusement of others. I spotted Sophie sitting with, presumably, some of her friends - and Robin. For the love of donuts, was the universe conspiring against me? I glanced around desperately, thinking maybe I could pretend I didn't see or hear her – but she was not that kind of girl. No, instead she came to meet me and escorted me to the table to sit by her. At least I wasn't next to or directly across from Robin.

“Marsha, Jen, Kevin and Christa – this is Cowboy, my fake boyfriend.”

“I thought you already had one of those?” Christa joked. “Not a fake; a real one.”

“He's a cheating boyfriend, but close enough,” Jen replied.

“Marsh, want to go outside?” Kevin asked. She nodded with a smile and they left the table.

“Can you hear the face sucking now?” Christa laughed.

“How's your first day, Lu?” Robin asked. Of course, he was too nice to leave me out.

“Okay, no problems. Uh, locker is stuck.” I indicated my heavy bag. I decided to bite the bullet, since we were talking – because shutting down is just as big a flag that somethings up as over doing it, right? “Where's Charlie?”

“Guidance office, getting a class switched.” He shook his head. “They put him in French instead of Spanish where he was supposed to be.”

“Oh. I didn't know he was interested in language,” I said. Except for speaking in 'dueling tongues' with Robin, I assumed anyway.

“I don't know about that,” Robin allowed. “But he took Spanish last year, so it only makes sense. Which one are you taking?”

“With a name like Lucien Rousseau you have to ask?” I replied, making sure I didn't make eye contact. I'd probably just spill my guts to him right here at lunch. Pass that salt? Sure. By the way, I want you body and soul.

“Oh, French cowboy,” Sophia said. “Thanks for the help this morning, by the way.”

“S'okay,” I replied. “Not much of a boyfriend I guess.”

“Well, you're supposed to be a fake,” she smiled and patted my forearm. Was she flirting?

“I, uh, meant him.” Why was Robin grinning at me? I wiped my face with my napkin and, when it came away clean, blew my nose just in case I had a booger or something.

“Well, he was pretty good before this,” she said. “A little over the top – you know, two week anniversary gifts and silly, romantic things.”

“Then along came that skank,” Jen said.

“Yeah, I know,” Sophia replied. She looked at me. “Where do you stand on acts of romance, Cowboy?”

I made a guilty, furtive glance at an unsuspecting Robin before replying. “I'm single.”

“Yeah, but, how would you feel about things like that? Robin? Does your boyfriend do things like that?”

“Um, actually, that's more me,” he replied. Jesus Christ he's a sweet romantic too? I dropped my forehead to the table.

“Cowboy, what was that for? You think he's being silly?” Sophie asked, poking my arm. Shit, right, everyone just saw that.

“Uh...” I put a bite of food in my mouth and Robin laughed.

“I think that's a 'no comment',” he added, continuing to chuckle at me. I felt like a fraud, but to cover it I kept shoveling food in my mouth. I was so relieved when the bell rang and I was able to go to my next class. Tomorrow, I decided, I would eat lunch outside. Sophie was in that next class, as it happened, and plopped down next to me.

“So, Cowboy, I'm guessing no one ever asked you to be their boyfriend before.”

I glanced at her and replied, “True.”

“Why not?” she asked. I was saved as the class started and papers were handed out. I didn't expect Sophie to be so direct with me, but I was thankful – once again – for Alec and the wide range of topics he'd covered with me. What to do if found myself in a situation where my sexuality came into question was one topic. Between the two if us we'd decided I should just be myself and not go through all those 'should I come out or shouldn't I come out' contortions. I felt reasonably good about it, especially since it seemed like the first person to ask was so accepting. Once the teacher had covered what he wanted to, we were allowed to talk quietly among ourselves.

“So,” she said expectantly, as if the intervening class hadn't just happened.

“Are you always this nosy?” I asked instead, smiling at her.

“Yeah, pretty much,” she laughed. “I like to laugh, I like people and I'm naturally inquisitive.”

I raised an eyebrow at her.

“Okay, okay,” she held a hand up, “Nosy. But hey, I'm going to need your fake boyfriend services for a little bit longer.”


“Now, you're committed, Cowboy,” she said with a smile and a hand on my arm. “I already had this social thing on my calendar and I can't show up stag.”

“Ah, well, Sophie...” I said.

“Cowboy!” she gripped my forearm and smiled brightly, “Damsel in distress, here. Cowboy up.”

“I'm not so much of a cowboy, really,” I demurred. “I also don't like misleading anyone.”

“Oh, I get it. You have your eye on someone,” she purred. “Who is it? Do I know them?”

I liked that she left the pronoun open to either gender, giving me space to be myself.

“Yes, you do,” I allowed. “But...'they' are dating someone else, so the whole thing is off limits.”

“Oh, I see.” She patted my arm. “You're a real Cowboy, no matter what you say. They want the people they love to be happy, even if it isn't with them.”

“Yes,” I said, but I wondered. It was true that I wouldn't – couldn't – cross that line. I knew it would make a mess and I didn't want Robin hurt, not even if it meant I could have a chance of making him see me the way I wanted him to see me. But was I really okay if he was happy without me? Does that mean I don't actually love him if I'm not?

“So, I'll see you then?” Sophie said as she stood up with the ringing of the bell.

“Wait, what? I didn't hear you!” I said.

“Two weeks from this Friday, dance at my church's pavilion. We'll figure out the details.” Then she was gone. A church dance? I was supremely unhappy with this, given my recent past with religion. Besides, I was still technically a foster child until I was adopted and that had its own set of peculiar rules.

After school I hung back, knowing Kale and Chase would offer me a ride home – because they were looking out for me – and being equally sure Robin would be there. So I waited and then dashed for my bus at the last minute. I clamored up and took a seat, looking out as the stragglers made it to their buses or took their time walking to their cars. Chase and Kale were leaning on Kale's car, side by side with Robin nowhere in sight. I sighed and figured that was okay, anyway. Eventually they'd realize something was wrong and it just wasn't in them to let it go. I knew it was because they cared, but this had to be let go.

I did my homework and played a few video games before wandering up to my room to read before dinner. It was late because Dad had had Alec out looking at used cars, but I didn't mind. When they got back, they hadn't found a car. Dad claimed it was because Alec wasn't taking the search seriously and Alec claimed that Dad wasn't serious about a real replacement.

“I know I'm going to regret this,” my mother smiled as she looked at Alec. “But what are you talking about?”

“I told Dad if he wants to replace my car because he thinks it isn't safe...”

“Hey, the safety inspection expired eight months ago. There's a reason - nobody will put a sticker on that death trap!”

“Like I said, if that's his issue, then we should be looking at cars with great safety ratings,” Alec said. He sounded like he was being perfectly reasonable, so there was a catch, obviously.

Mom and I looked at Dad, who was looking back at Mom over the top of his glasses. “He wants a Mercedes.”

“What?” my mom laughed.

“Hey, Leafy had a BMW. Now it's an Audi. I presume it's because his parents care about safety,” Alec said with a grin.

“Alec,” I said , matching his grin. “Are you trying to be like Kale?”

“No! No, no sir,” he said. “I just need a safe car.” He paused, “one that will make Leafy jealous.”

We laughed at him and, after some more car talk, we discussed our days. Everyone's attention zoomed to me when I mentioned the dance.

“Who is this girl?” Mom asked.

“Yeah. I'm curious what she looks like. Dark hair, pale skin, blue eyes?” Alec asked. That rat, he thought I was trying to...that rat!

“Her name is Sophie and she needed a fake boyfriend this morning,” I explained, eyes boring into Alec.

“ a great trick,” Alec said in awe. “If I didn't have Sash, I'd totally use that.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked uneasily.

“Yes, please explain,” Dad said, putting his fork down.

“Well, come on!” Alec said, spreading his hands out. “She likes Lu! Easiest way to get close fast is to invent some way he can protect her – the ex. Lu,” he said, smiling, “she's got the hots for you.”

“She knows I like someone else,” I blurted and then sucked in a breath. I hadn't come out to the folks. I think, in the back of my mind, they were hoping for a son that would make babies for them. How disappointed would they be if they knew they were going to be oh for two.

“And this person would be?” Mom asked.

“Mom. You know you can't ask that,” Alec chided. “Look, he's all embarrassed now.”

“Well,” she said with a smile, “all right. I'm very curious though.”

“Mom!” Alec said.

“I'm sorry!” she laughed.

“Mom, I said you can't ask him! Ask me!” Alec laughed.

“Alec, no!” I cried, my voice filled with a nervous laugh.

“Lu, it's okay,” he said with a grin. “He's just like I described, Mom – pale, dark hair and blue eyes.”

“He?” Dad asked. I nodded glumly, shooting Alec a baleful glare.

“Thank God,” Dad said with a large exhale. “If you have boys you have to worry about one dick, if you have girls you have to worry about all of them.”

“But...we're not girls and you still only have two dicks to worry about,” Alec said in confusion.

“True,” dad said and pointed the tines of his fork at Alec. “But your mom and I are happy both our handsome sons are gay. That means no risk of making us early grandparents.”

“Dad. Are you serious?” Alec asked.

“He is,” Mom said with a laugh. “When you went on that first date with Sasha we were so relieved,” she said, putting her utensils down and laughing. Dad was laughing too and Alec was frowning at them.

“Why is that so funny?”

“Because...” Dad said, tears starting in his eyes. “You'd been sneaking around so much we thought you'd knocked some girl up and were afraid to tell us!”


“Not funny, Parents!” Alec announced. I started to laugh and he pointed at me, “Not funny, Lu. Not funny! Hey, can we get back to this girl that is after my baby brother?”

“She's not after me, Alec,” I said through my giggles.

“I beg to differ. I talked to Kale who was telling me what Robin thought of your time together at lunch. Yeah, she's on your tail, Lu.”

“Alec,” I said with a frown. I hoped he wasn't serious, but then another thought troubled me. “Why are you talking to Kale about me?”

“I have to check up on you,” Alec said breezily. “My parents are no good at it. Have you seen the stuff I get away with? No way, I got my eye on you.”

“Hey!” all three of us said. Alec smiled smugly, enjoying tweaking three noses at once. I worried, though. If Robin suspected me, would he tell Kale? Would Kale talk to Alec about it? Would I ever know?

The week went on that way until Wednesday when Alec came home with a four-year-old VW Passat. He showed me all the features and, after I was loving the car, offered me the old rust bucket.

“What for? Scrap price?”

“Hey, you could learn to drive in that car!” Alec grinned.

“It won't last long enough for me to get a permit!” I laughed. “As it is cold air comes up from the holes in the bottom of one door panel and goes out the holes on the other side!”

“Hey, air conditioning is an added feature. Only the best cars have that.”

I just laughed at him and he grinned. “Scoot, I'm going to go show Sash. Then I'm gonna suck on his face for a while.”

“Okay, bye,” I said with a roll of my eyes.


The week went by and it was more of the same. More people knew me as 'Cowboy' than by my real name, which was bizarre. I continued to dodge Robin, which was easier in lunch now that Charlie had his schedule fixed. Sophie and I started to practice our French during lunch, since that was our shared class afterward. Outside of that, I was doing pretty well until this stupid school fundraiser and, of course, Sophie's dance, came along. Both of them were Sophie's fault, kind of.

Sophie began with me on Tuesday, telling me how she was going to work on the school fundraiser for a school dance or something. They were selling roses that had been dyed different colors and you could have them delivered to other people during the day. My first thought was to send one to Robin and I immediately slapped that insane thought down. It was something romantic, sort of, that I longed to do, but it was a really bad idea. What if he recognized my handwriting or something?

I puzzled to myself, wondering if there was a way I could do this without tipping my hand? What if someone saw me writing his name on the message and told him? What if I wrote something that tipped him off? My brain scrambled to find a way – I desperately needed an outlet to express how I felt to him without actually telling him. I finally decided that he'd never know it was me and bought him a rose that was blue, like his eyes. I took the mini card and envelope aside as I walked away from the table and the giggling people who were buying roses for their crushes. I sat down with my back to my locker and stared down at the card, wanting to write something heartfelt but that wouldn't give me away – something that would let me safely express this deep yearning for him.

Finally, I wrote: Robin- Your eyes are the windows to the most beautiful soul I know. -C

I smiled to myself, a little sadly. He didn't know me as 'Cowboy' and I never referred to myself by that name. Besides, he'd assume the 'C' was Charlie and then they'd have a forgettable mystery on their hands. I wrote 'To Robin Kirkwood' on the envelope, then tied it firmly to the stem with the ribbon provided, running it through the hole punched in the envelope. Then, making sure to turn the name tag down so no one could read it, I dropped it into the box for delivery the next day.

When I got home Friday after school, I started working on laying out my clothes for the dance. Sophie'd said it wasn't formal, so no tux or anything crazy. She suggested a shirt and tie. Alec came bustling into my room, and flopped on my bed. Right on the clothes I was considering.

“Doofus, do you mind?” I asked, shoving him aside and pulling the clothes off the bed.

“You know, you'd think you were dressing for someone special everyday,” he remarked. I ignored him, no matter how close to the truth he was. I knew my sartorial choices weren't going to win Robin to me, but then again I was being very passive-aggressive about the whole thing, what with telling myself no while spanking to the memory of him every chance I got.

“Anyway,” Alec continued, “since you're going on your first date I brought you some things.”

“It's not a date,” I said, not that it would matter. Facts never matter where Alec is concerned.

“First, the condom. Do you know how to put this thing on?”

I looked at him and raised an eyebrow. He smiled widely and said, “I can go down and get a zucchini or something to demonstrate on.”

“Aren't we the optimist?” I replied, laughing.

“Yeah, I can't imagine a zucchini. Cucumbers are tough enough,” he said with an innocent look.


“Hey, it's why kale is so sexy, man. Everyone knows produce has dual purpose – salad or sex toy.”

“And how would you use kale as a sex toy? ”

“First, I'd make sure Chase never found out. Then...”

I laughed, shoving him and he laughed as well.

“Now, you need a gift for your date.”

“It's not...”

“Right, I know. But this girl asked you to take her, so be a gentleman since you accepted her invite.”

“You didn't bring Sasha a gift on your first date,” I reminded him.

“Hey, did you forget I took pictures of Sasha sans shirt on our first date? I think I know what I'm doing.” So saying he presented me with a small bouquet of colorful flowers.

“I hope she doesn't get the wrong idea,” I said to myself.

“I think she knows you're a 'Brokeback' kind of cowboy,” he said with a wink.

“Maybe. We haven't discussed it.” I glanced up at him, waiting expectantly. “What?”

“She's your friend, don't you think she should know?”

“It's nothing deliberate, it's just never come up is all,” I shrugged. “All she knows is...I have my eye on someone out of bounds. I think she respects that I'm in love with...someone.”

“Okay, well, one more thing,” he said and reached into his pocket and withdrew a smart phone. “I put mine, Sasha's, Kale's, Chase's and the folks' numbers in it. If something happens and you need evac, call.”

“Evac?” I asked, quirking my eyebrow again while accepting the phone.

“Yeah. You know, like someone thinks you tipped over a porta-potty or something.”


“I said thinks! You know, as in alleged? As in unproven, no witnesses.” He stood up, “Remember, no witnesses.”

I just shook my head as he left. I love my brother.


To say I was shocked when I saw Robin at the dance would have been the the mildest way to put it. I spotted him a few minutes after I had arrived and had just given Sophie the small bouquet.

“Aw, you're good for a girls' ego, Cowboy.”

“Ma'am,” I said, tipping an imaginary hat. She laughed and hooked my arm to walk around and meet her friends. And there he was – I'd know him anywhere – dancing with Jen.

“Soph, you didn't say Robin was coming.”

“I didn't know,” she replied. “I guess Jen didn't want to go stag, either.” I lost sight of him as I was introduced to people from her church and her parents. Then it was to other kids that I hadn't met at our school, and whose names I wouldn't remember later tonight. Then we were on the dance floor and she pushed in close to me, head on my shoulder for a slow dance.

“You never did say who that 'they' was you have your eye on, Cowboy,” she said, tilting her head up to look in my eyes.

“I know,” I said.

“You're a great slow dancer – they don't know what they're missing,” she said, putting her head back and murmuring, “Does he know?”

“Who,” I asked neutrally.

“Whoever 'they' is.” She patted my chest. “I'm not being completely honest. I delivered your flower. You have good taste, Cowboy.”

I didn't see her at the table where I bought the flower and hadn't noticed her observing me, either. She'd taken it upon herself to deliver my flower – so now she knew. “No, he doesn't know. I've been very careful.” I said, quietly.

“That's got to be hard, to have him so close and yet so far.”

“He's my friend and he's dating another friend. I can't hurt either of them like that,” I said, slowly swaying to the music. “That's why I have to keep it a secret. You didn't say anything, right?”

“No, not my place,” she said. “It was a pretty picture when he read the card, though. Whatever you put hit him square in the old feelings.”

“I...I'm glad,” I said, not sure if I was.

“Honey, your heart has to go out and get broken once in a while,” she said.

“Why would you say that?” I asked, looking down at her. We swayed gently, her face snuggling into me.

“It's so you have something to compare it to when someone loves you back.”

We moved slowly until the song ended and the lights came up a bit as a faster song started. She pulled away and smiled, perhaps a sad smile. She reached inside her dress, between her breasts and as I was about to ask what she was doing, she withdrew her phone. Making a few taps on the screen she turned it towards me. It was Robin, the rose in one hand and the card in the other. He was looking at the camera, a smile like sunshine on his face.

“Thanks for the dance, Cowboy. You'd better go find your man.” She stood up on her toes and kissed my cheek, patted it and walked towards her friends. I stood in confusion, wondering if she'd been referring to me with all that talk about heartbreak. I didn't know too many people at this dance, but I felt like she clearly wanted some space from me. I was confused as to why, though. I scanned around for Robin and saw him sitting off by himself, face on one hand as he put his phone away. He looked dejected and I decided it was time to walk the walk of someone who is supposed to be his friend.

Or as Sophie would say, time to Cowboy up.

“Hey,” I said, stopping a few feet away from him. He glanced up, not sure if he was the one being spoken to. He nodded and slid over a bit, making room for me to sit by him.

“Like the party?” he asked.

“It's okay,” I said, sitting down. “Are you all right, Robin? You look kind of down.”

He tilted his head toward me and said, “You don't want to hear it, Lu.”

“Robin...” I licked my lips. “I'm your friend, or I'm supposed to be. You don't have to tell me, but I'm here if you want.”

He pulled his lips inward, nodded once and then shook his head. “I'm supposed to be looking out for you, not the other way around.”

I sat, not feeling the need to repeat that I was trying to be his friend. His feet tapped on the concrete and he glanced at me from the corner of his eye.

“It's Charlie,” he said and let out a long breath.

“Is he...okay?” I asked. I hated myself for the mix of excitement, fear and guilt that I felt.

“I don't know. He's not talking to me very much. I thought things were getting better today, he sent me a flower at school with the most...well, it was really cool.” He let out another heavy sigh and said, “It was a nice romantic gesture, and I thought it was a step in the right direction. But he says he didn't send it.”

Guilt raged through me, my blood turning cold. I felt my heart ache because my selfish act had hurt him. I was trying to open my cowardly mouth to confess when he continued, placing his hands together as if in prayer.

“Stuff is going on. When Jen asked me to come as her friend tonight she told me Marsha was asking Charlie to do the same. I guess I misunderstood – or was mislead - but I guess he said no. He didn't reply to my text when I told him I'd see him tonight, which is just...not good.” He covered his mouth with his hand and shook his head. “I mean, he tells me things that happened, the progress of his case, he was in court Wednesday and his dad surrendered his parental rights. Can you imagine?” he said, lifting his eyes to mine. “I thought he'd be thrilled for days to leave that guy behind.”

I decided to take this up, where I could be useful, but promised myself to tell him about the flower before he left. “Well, I might know a little about that.”


“With my mom, not so much. But I have some very good memories of my dad. It's been hard getting used to calling Mr. Kutsenko 'dad', even though he puts no pressure on me to do that.” I licked my lips again and glance at his face, which was rapt with attention. “I'd imagine that, whatever his relationship with his dad now, he has some good memories and that's making for some conflict with him; and even though it might make no sense, he may blame himself a little for whatever happened.”

“That's nuts, though. His dad is a douche!” Robin said. He pursed his lips and glanced back at me, “I have to admit, the rest sounds like it could be pretty spot on.”

“There's something else,” I said, only risking the smallest of glances at his face. “Do you know if the people he's with plan to adopt him?”

“They seem to love him and he them. My guess would be that they will, but they haven't discussed it with me. He hasn't talked about it lately, though...” Robin put a hand on my arm and said, “You don't think they are going to get rid of him, do you?”

“I can't know,” I replied. “But let's assume that things are more like what you said – if we assume that they will adopt him, then...” I sighed and looked between my feet as I said, “he may be afraid he's going to do something to screw it up and they won't want him.”

“That's crazy!” Robin laughed. “I don't think they'd give up on him any more than the Kutsenko's would give up on you!”

I stayed quiet, looking down at my shoes.

“Oh man, you can't believe that?”

“Robin...when you have time to think, you can't help but hear that little voice in the dark that says your own family was so fucked up or didn't want you, why do you deserve a new one?” I said quietly. “In his case, he may be wondering if he is damaged so as to have lost his own family and is worried that the people he's with won't follow through and keep's not too much of a stretch for him to think he doesn't deserve the perfect boyfriend, either.”

“So...maybe the problem isn't me or us. It's that he needs some more support? Some perfect boyfriend I am,” he snorted.

I kept quiet, but the confession about the flower was burning in my mouth. I had already dodged a bullet by letting the perfect boyfriend comment slip.

“So, when you say these things...Jesus, you're telling me that you...Lucien, they are going to adopt you. They love you, man.”

“I know. Most of the time,” I say.

“So I guess...if you were Charlie, would you want me to call or come over?”

“If I was Charlie I'd want you there,” I said without hesitation. I closed my eyes, the pain of telling this boy I loved to go to the arms of a friend – his boyfriend - almost too much to bear. “He's doubting himself and his value to you and his family. He's pushing you away, but not because he doesn't love you. It's because he's afraid he doesn't deserve you – all of you. I mean,” I smacked my forehead. “His adoptive family and his relationship with you, personally.”

“Thanks, Lu. This makes a lot of sense, I wish I'd talked to you about it sooner,” he said as he stood. “Kale's on his way to get me, but I should just go right over, right?”

“Yeah, you should,” I said in a husky voice. “One thing before you go, though.”

“Sure, what?”

“Robin...I...” Dammit it wouldn't come! I have to tell him, it's not right that I hurt him. “I sent the flower.”

“Really?” he said. He squatted down in front of me and smiled. “I knew it had to be someone from our lunch table – remember Sophia was asking about romantic gestures? I never knew you were such a good friend, Lu, to send a flower in Charlie's name. I tell you what, it cheered me right up. You're the best,” he said and hugged me. I shuddered at his touch, but if he noticed he didn't comment. “I have to run, but I'll call ya, Lu.”

He walked away briskly, armed to soothe his boyfriends troubled mind. I, on the other hand, felt like I had just torn my heart out to spare him. I could have been an evil bastard and helped things deteriorate, but what kind of person would I be, then? Not someone worth Robins' time – and I knew it would eat at me if I did that to him; betrayed him. The pain of that had to be worse than what I felt, right? I pulled my phone out and texted Alec: evac.

I sniffed, glancing at the people dancing under the lights. Was it too much to wish that I could be under such lights with Robin? Why was that too much? The phone buzzed.

Please tell me there are no porta-potties involved.

My lip trembled, wanting to smile and cry all at once.

Evac. Please, Alec.

On my way

I walked around the edge of the revelers, making my way to the front of the pavilion. I waited in uncomfortable silence, running the exchange over and over again in my head. There was nothing else I could have done - not and kept a shred of self respect. Alec pulled up shortly, by himself. I climbed in and leaned back into the seat and looked out the window.

“Party looks okay. No chemicals mixed with crap smell. Want to talk about it?”

“No. I'll cry like a baby and it won't change anything,” I replied stonily.

“Lu, that sounds like something you should talk out, man.” He drove aimlessly while I stared out the window into the darkness, thinking of Robin as he walked away from me to Charlie's arms. My breath hitched and shuddered and I wrapped my arms around myself. The car came to a stop and Alec tapped my arm, telling me to come sit with him.

I climbed out and saw we were at the old Sanitarium ruins, a place Alec liked to take me to talk. He was sitting on his rear bumper and I sat beside him. I coughed, shuddered through another deep breath and sighed.

“So, what happened?”

So I spilled out the conversation with Sophia, the one that had seemed so prophetic, and then told him about the conversation with Robin. Even the flower. Alec put an arm around my shoulders and I leaned into him, grateful he didn't think me weak or pathetic; at least he still cared for my dumb ass.

“One of the biggest components of love, Lucien, is that you have to do what's right for the other person. Sometimes at your own cost.”

“ think I did the right thing?”

“Not only the right thing, but I guarantee you...Robin knows, now.”

“Knows what?” I asked, leaning back.

“He knows you love him, and how much. Not many guys would send a flower just to perk up a friend.” He chuckled before adding, “and the note? If he didn't know before, he does now. Good line, by the way. I gotta remember that.”

“Jesus,” I said, covering my eyes. “I'm mortally embarrassed now. I can't go back to that school, ever.”

“Lighten up,” Alec chuckled. “You won't be the last person to fall for Robin.”

“You know I didn't send it to him on Charlie's behalf,” I replied miserably. “I can't help it, Alec! I didn't want to make problems but I can't look at him without wanting to be his! Fuck, I figured that he'd assume it was from Charlie, yeah, but I never meant to hurt him...”

“Lu, sending someone a flower isn't the worst thing you can do, for crying out loud. I mean, you said something great to him and he even told you it made him happy.”

“Yeah. Tell me this, though. If I did the right thing, the thing 'love required of me',” I said sarcastically, making air quotes, “why does it hurt so much?”

“Because you got your heart broken,” he said. “On the bright side, you may have just made your self a best friend.”

“That seems unlikely.”

“Think about it. When his own heart was breaking, you gave him hope. Maybe only you know how much it tore you up to give him that – but you did it anyway.”

“I want a lot more than to be his friend,” I said. “I saw him, you know.”

“You...I don't get it.”

“When we went out to the state park this summer? Clown car in your rust bucket? Remember how I wasn't there for the 'Cheez-It Incident'?”

“Oh, yeah. I know, you were in the bathroom and everyone was sworn to silence, so I still can't tell you. What about it?”

“Robin came into the changing room to get rid of his torn swimsuit.” I looked at Alec, knowing he'd hate me for being a pervert and looking at my friend. “He didn't know I was there.”

“You mean...”

“Alec, he's so fucking beautiful,” I said and waited for his lip to curl. It didn't. Well, not in disgust. Instead the corners of his mouth turned up.

“You saw, naked?”

“I saw everything.” I looked right into Alec's eyes and said seriously, “Everything. I couldn't look away. You got lucky,” I said as I lifted my butt off the car and looked down the road we'd driven up to get here. “You almost had a pervert in your family.”

“Hey, I'm a pervert. At least Sash says so,” Alec smiled as he pulled me back to him.

“Alec!” I hissed, spinning to look at him. “I saw his butt-hole! I saw his dick! His body is burned in my memory and all I ever dream about in that stupid candy g-string!”

“Okay, first – a candy g-string? Really? That's genius. But let me understand this - you want to punish yourself because the guy you've been crushing on hard core for most of a year got naked in front of you?”

“He didn't know I was there!”

“So?” Alec laughed. “It was a changing room, Lu! Anyone could have walked in and gotten an eyeful!”

“But I stayed! I didn't leave when I saw...I was perving on him.”

“Big fucking deal. I probably would have too. You know what he'd have said to me if I did? He'd have laughed and called me an asshole.”

I looked at him uncertainly and then, I don't know why, but I blurted, “I used to want him to fuck me. After I saw that, all I could think about was fucking him.”

“Again, so what?” Alec held up a hand, shaking a finger at me. “The guy turns you on. Hell, you love him. You love him so much you let him go. You want me to tell you about my sex life?”

“No!” I said, taken aback.

“Hey, you could at least sound a little interested! It's not like Sash and I are Mom and Dad,” he said, feigning hurt.

“I just...that would be weird.”

“Maybe so, yeah. But what you want from Robin? Hey, lots of gay guys want that. Your...desire is normal.”

“I...I thought you'd hate me. He would, if he knew.”

“Nah. Listen, Sash and I did some reading – and you know I have to love you if I did reading,” he said with a smile. “Kid in your situation, like you said about all the things Charlie is going through – you are sabotaging things right now. Let me tell you, we are adopting you. You're my little brother right now, even before it gets all legal. We're not letting you go and I can prove it.”

“What does this have to do with me drooling over Robin?” I said, avoiding what he was telling me.

“Because, you keep thinking I'm going to reject you. You think I care if you're a top, a bottom or are versatile? Hell no! In fact, I don't want to know because then, you know, I'd picture it. And that would be creepy. Agh!” he smacked his forehead, “too late!”

I smiled in spite of myself.

“To my point, though, you are acting like you did something with some kind of malice behind it. You didn't,” he said, dropping his hands on my shoulders. “You saw your crush in his birthday suit – maybe more than a crush – and he was everything you hoped he'd be. It would have been weird if you didn't take a long damn look!”


“No, no but! Now, back to what I was saying, haven't you noticed Sasha and I aren't in college?”

“Uh, duh. What does that have to do with...”

“Don't you think that's weird? I mean, we're not exactly stupid.”

“Well, sort of...actually, no I didn't,” I admitted. “I've been so wrapped up in Robin and, I didn't think twice about it.”

“Well, you know, your adoption date is coming.”

“Yeah. December 20th.”

“That's right,” he said and pulled me into a half hug again. “Sasha and I put off school so we could be here in case you freaked, like you think Charlie is freaking now.”

I felt small and very, very grateful. “You guys did that for me?”

“Lucien, didn't I tell you? Love is doing what the other person needs. You need love and some reassurance, and I'm here to give it to you in spades.”

I leaned against him, a light breeze stirring my hair. I whispered to him, “Do you think Robin will ever love me back?”

“I don't know, man. It's high school – who knows how long he and Charlie will last? You might get involved with someone else. Anything could happen.”

“Odds aren't very good, you know. In a school this size, statistically, there probably aren't any more gay boys. Besides, it's not enough to be gay. Like,” I sighed, “Chase is pretty cute – great smile. But I don't...feel the same way towards him as I do Robin – even before I saw know...”

“Looking like sex on a stick?”

I allowed myself a small smile. “Yeah, something like that.”

“We just never know what the future brings, Lu,” he ruffled my hair and said, “The important part is you cowboy'ed up and showed your love for him when he needed you most. I have a feeling he knows what you did for him tonight; he won't forget it.”

I nodded. “He hugged me.”


I nodded again and thought about him standing in the changing room, light from the high window slanting across him. I shuddered against Alec.

“It hurts, Alec,” I said as the first tear fell. “It really, really hurts.”


We drove home shortly afterward and I barely got out of my clothes before I fell asleep. In the morning I was awakened by an insistent dinging noise. Rolling over with a groan, wanting nothing more than to make it stop and go back to bed, I found the culprit in the pocket of my pants from the night before. Stupid cell phone, is that an alarm or something? I woke the screen and saw I had an waiting text from a number I didn't recognize. Well, that wasn't saying much, I didn't actually know anyone's number. I fussed with the screen to get it to unlock, the notification of the waiting message continuing it's persistent dinging. I had to find that setting, pronto.

I finally unlocked the screen, but the message was gone. Crap. Where do the new text messages go? I touched the 'Contacts' icon and a new screen opened. The list was mystifying, and yet I knew who they all were.

Super Hero Brother

Leafy Superfood

Super Hero Brother in-law

That One Blonde Kid

You're in Trouble 1

You're in Trouble 2

I closed the list, not seeing anything to indicate a message from any of my contacts. A small envelope was blinking at the top of the screen so I touched it. Nothing. I swiped it from side to side to no avail. Swiping down, however, revealed an intermediate screen that showed some kind of icon. I pressed it and the dinging stopped, replaced by text.

You were right! Charlie and I had a great, great talk. We both feel so much better, thanks to you. I owe you, Cowboy!

I felt sick. I read it a few more times and sighed heavily. I thumbed the response icon.

I'm glad it worked out for you, Robin. I was just trying to be a friend and you both deserve to be happy

I tossed the phone on my desk and flopped onto the bed. Moments later Alec was pushing his way in the room.

“I thought I heard you moving around. You getting up any time soon?”

“No,” I said into my pillow. “I just want to lie here and die.”

“Drama queen,” Alec snickered. “What's the problem now?”

“Phone,” I said, waiving a hand in the direction if my desk. I heard him cross the room and then silence as he read the text.

“Okay. Well, he says he owes you. Ask for a blow job.”

I giggled into my pillow and sat up. I stretched and Alec shoved me. “Hey, I'm glad you said they both deserve to be happy. I'd also like to point out, you didn't say they had to be happy with each other.”

I burst out laughing and shook my head. “You know I didn't mean it like that.” The stupid phone started to ding incessantly again and I groaned. “I have to figure out how to make it stop doing that.”

Alec was busy looking at the message, and then he looked at me and said, “Aw. I think he likes you.”

“Alec, don't be a dick,” I said and took the phone from him. I looked at the message: We want that for you too. We'd like to come support you on your adoption day, I think it'll be good for Charlie to see that happen. Can we celebrate with you?

“Phone's insured against breakage,” Alec said. I glanced at him and then hurled the phone into the desk, smashing the screen and sending bits of plastic from the case spinning off into corners of the room. “Not sure about that kind of damage, but it was used so we'll worry about it later. Feel better?”

“No. I feel like a stupid ass that just smashed his phone,” I said.

“Come on, I have plans. Sasha will need waking so, let's go.”

I didn't even bother to ask. I took a fast shower and Alec promised to buy me a donut. We picked up one fully awake Sasha who had his camera and said he hoped for some good shots today. I began to get suspicious when he said that, but they both ignored my questions. We were quickly out of town and into the countryside. Alec pulled off the pavement and onto a dirt lane that gradually led out to a large, dirt and mud field. His old bucket of bolts was sitting there, looking like an abandoned vehicle.

“Okay,” Alec said as he hopped out of the car. “There is a sacred duty all big brothers have,” he said as he approached me.

“I already know where your porn is,” I smiled.

“Did you find the candy g-string?”

“Excuse me?” Sasha asked.

“It's not for me,” Alec smiled broadly. My face felt like it was burning, but Sasha was focused on Alec.

“And just who is it for?”

“Let's not get bogged down in details,” Alec said and slung an arm around my shoulders. He marched me over to the car with Sasha muttering behind us. It was actually kind of funny. Standing in front of the sad little shit box, Alec spoke solemnly.

“This car carried me everywhere I needed to go – like to hook up with Sasha. It also took me places I didn't need so much, like school.”

“Hooking up with Sasha?” Sash raised an eyebrow to him.

“Yes. The awesome booty call...calls and this car let me answer.”

“Booty call.” Sasha put a hand on his hip. Alec smiled sunnily and said to me, “We have to send her off the right way. I go first, in case you break it.”

He hopped in the car, which squeaked as rusty bits of metal rubbed against one another. The car engine turned over slowly, caught and then blatted horribly loud each time he revved it. Then he popped the clutch and dirt flew as the car lurched forward. “Yee haw!” he yelled. Sasha snapped a picture of Alec screaming his battle cry from behind the wheel and spinning the tires as he ran in large circles in the open field.

Letting his camera down, Sasha looked at me askance. “What does he mean, candy g-string?”

“You know Alec,” I said with a straight face, thinking I'd pick on Sasha. “I'm sure it's just one more kinky thing he wants to do with you.”

“Oh, you think you know so much?” Sasha laughed and nudged me. “I'll have you know your brother is very vanilla and likes someone else in charge, mister smarty pants.”

My face tried to frown and laugh all at once and I said to Sasha, “I don't need to know that! I don't want to picture – gah!” I smacked my forehead, “Make it stop!”

Sasha burst out laughing and I did as well. We watched Alec race around for a minute and then he rolled the car over to where we waited. He hopped out, the hinges screaming as he opened the door.

“Okay, you're turn Lucien. Hop in!”

“What? I can't drive, I don't have a permit or a license!” This did not stop me from moving towards the drivers door.

“I know! That's what I was talking about! Big brothers are supposed to let you drive illegally for the first time!”

I got behind the wheel and Alec flopped into the passenger seat, which actually made a snapping noise. “Holy shit, that thing's dangerous,” Alec said before climbing in the back. Sitting between the seats he explained the clutch and gas to me. I tried it and the car stalled. I tried again and gave it too much clutch and too little gas, making the car buck wildly as it tried to stall and end its misery.

Eventually, though, I got it moving. I drove recklessly, running the engine loudly while Alec screamed at me to shift, laughing maniacally. Instead I stomped on the gas and spun the little rust bucket wildly around in the dirt. Sasha was taking pictures and Alec was laughing, hooting and hollering encouragement. All of a sudden there was a huge 'pop!' and the engine revved up ridiculously high before a sound like metal parts grinding off one another came from the engine. With one final, massive squeal we came to a stop. The dash lights glowed dully. I turned the key and nothing happened.

“Woo!” Alec screamed from the back seat. “Took her out in style! My man!” Alec scrambled out of the back seat, covered in dirt from the open windows and whatever had come up through the various rust holes in the body. He high fived me and we posed in front of the car – dirty, smiling and laughing.

Cole says not to forget to put 'The End'.