Book 1 : FRESHMAN YEAR

Chapter 9 : AWKWARD ALTERCATIONS

"But that doesn't mean anything, Keith!" I cried as a defense.

"Doesn't mean anything, Danny?" He barked mockingly. Everyone in the room looked at us. He laughed even louder. "Nothing? Like, 'nothing' nothing? OUCH! You heard that Bruce? It fucking doesn't mean anything to him!"

Bruce nervously looked around. Despite his size, he looked completely small and vulnerable right now - crouched down low on the couch with his face hidden with shame and sorrow.

"Keith, calm down. Please! Let's talk about this in your room!" I literally begged, tears shamelessly streaming down my face, "Please, Keith! Please!"

"Is everything all right here?" My mom suddenly came up to me.

"No, Mrs. Mockins! Stay out of this!" Keith hissed as my mom tried to hold me. Then in a very cold, commanding voice he said, "Danny, Bruce and I will just have a conversation in my room upstairs. Right now!"

And he marched to his room, leaving an eerie silence hovering around the room filled with our panic-stricken audience.

I looked at them - my mom Mary, my sister Stephanie, my cousin Andrew, Luke, Jake and Blake, and little Charlie - and gave them a tiny smile. Reassuring them that everything was okay.

Even though, deep inside, I knew that I was only lying to myself.

I turned to Bruce. He shakily stood up and motioned for me to follow. I, too, stood and went after the looming figure of my best friend.

Hoping that everything would be okay.

~*~*~*~*~

13 Hours Earlier

~*~*~*~*~

"I just can't believe it, you know? How can something entirely quaint and simple turn out to be so . . . difficult and hard and complicated?" I grumbled to no one in particular. "I've been staying up for most of my nights just thinking about this . . . dilemma. I don't know what to do about this whole situation anymore."

I stopped pacing and sat down.

"You know, Danny. What you need is a breather," he said. "What are you even doing here? It's Saturday. You should go out! Relax! Keep your mind focused on other things! Occupy yourself!"

"Really?" I pondered.

"Yeah. I think you're just too tense and edgy and stressed out these past few days." He replied.

"Tense . . . Really?" I raised an eyebrow. "Jake, I have . . . feelings - forbidden feelings, for God's sake - for my best friend, I just buried a dear friend three days ago, and not to mention there's this other guy sending . . . vibes or signals or whatever, and you're telling me I'm too tense and edgy and stressed out?" I retorted with heated sarcasm, "Thanks for stating the obvious, Captain Obvious!"

"See?" He rolled his eyes at me and laughed. "You're too tense, man! Even for a gay guy, you're too tense."

I stared at him. He stared back. I don't know. We must have found the whole situation hilarious, because the next thing that happened, we were both laughing our gay asses off for no damn reason like two drug addicts smoking pot and getting all Cloud Nine-y and shit on a Friday night.

"What's so funny?" someone interrupted.

I looked around and saw Bruce approaching our table, cute as usual - whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa - I didn't just think that, did I?

"Bruce!" I sort of cried out, "What are you doing here?"

"Oh . . . I got bored at the apartment. Uncle William's gone to New York for the weekend to be with his family and Mr. Simmons is supposed to be 'babysitting me', but I feel more like I was a prisoner when he's around." He sighed as he sat down, "So, what are you two doing here?"

"I have football practice in an hour." "I have a meeting later." Jake and I respectively answered.

"Oh. Okay."

The awkward silence that followed was broken by the ringing of Jake's and Bruce's phones at the exact same time. Must be coincidence.

I watched as they both read their respective messages. And as they flipped their phones shut, there was a moment or two when their eyes lingered at each other's and shared a look that says, 'Copy that!'

Now, THAT was odd!

"Who was that?" I inquired Jake.

"Blake." He simply answered.

I turned to Bruce.

"What?" He innocently asked. I kept on staring and I narrowed my eyes at him. "Fine. It was . . . it was Uncle Bill. Just . . . uh . . . just checking out on me."

Okay. I just shrugged it off.

"So what were you two talking about?"

"Oh, nothing in particular." Jake said, then gave me a wink to which Bruce haven't noticed, "We're planning on going out later. . ."

I looked at him and gave him a 'what-do-you-think-you're-doing' look. Wait. It was really more of a glare than a look.

"Really?" Bruce said. "That sounds great. Well . . . hope you two have fun." He sounded crestfallen.

"Wait! You should come with us!" Jake suggested (I'm surprised I wasn't surprised), "You have no plans, right?"

"Jake, what are you doing?" I hissed and grabbed his arm, "I thought this was supposed to be for MY relaxation!"

"It will still be! But the only difference is, Bruce will be there."

"I thought the whole reason for this 'Night Out' was to distance myself from," I whispered, "Him!"

"Uh . . . why are you two whispering?" Bruce interrupted.

We both turned and forced a smile to hide our guilt-ridden faces. "Nothing!" We gushed simultaneously.

"Really? 'Cause it's okay if you don't want me to come, Danny." Bruce muttered.

SHIT! Why does he have to make me feel guilty? Damn you, Jake Collins!

I took a deep breath and turned to face him. "It's okay, Bruce . . . you should come . . . it'll be fun . . . the three of us . . . going out . . . the three of us. . ." I mumbled incomprehensively.

I don't know if I was just imagining things, but I think he seemed to be really happy about my decision.

"Great!" he said as he stood to leave. "So, when? Where?"

"See you at three, man," Jake called. "We'll meet you here!"

"Yeah. See you."

URGH! I turned to Jake and mouthed "Bitch!" as Bruce left. He just stuck out his tongue at me, stood up, and made his way out of the double doors.

"Oh, and we're watching The Back-Up Plan tonight. Alex O'Loughlin's HOT-HOT-HOT!!!" and he got out of the cafeteria.

~*~*~*~*~

I was cursing Jake Collins as I sat waiting by the bleachers when my phone suddenly rang.

"This is Mockins, speak up."

"You sound pissed off." the guy chortled.

"Oh. Keith. I'm sorry," I hyperventilated - sort of, "What's up?" And now I wonder if I always sound so breathless whenever I spoke with or to him. God, I hope I wasn't too obvious.

"Well . . . um . . . just called to ask, are you free tonight?" He inquired.

DOUBLE SHIT! This situation seems very oddly familiar. GOD DAMN IT!

The last time this happened, Danny, you lied. And it almost cost you your friendship. My subconscious reminded. Don't try to mess it up again.

"Um . . . Keith?" I slowly started.

He sighed, "You've got plans later, don't you?" Disappointment was clearly embedded in his deep, warm voice.

"Yeah." I replied, "But. . ."

"But what?"

"It won't take my whole night out . . . I mean, my plans."

"Meaning?"

I took a deep breath and an idea suddenly popped in my mind, "When was the last time that we had a sleepover?"

"A sleepover?" He was silent for a while, thinking probably, before answering, "Uh . . . I don't know. Back when Luke had a party, I think."

"That's seems like a long time ago . . . How do you feel about me sleeping over at your place tonight?" I quipped.

"Really? That'd . . . that'd be great!" he exclaimed, quite excitedly at that. Then I heard a balloon pop. He shushed someone.

"What was that?" I asked.

"Oh. It's nothing. It's just Blake and Luke fooling around." He replied.

"Oh. Okay."

Then I heard someone that really sounded like my mom yell, "Don't you think the tarpaulins are too much, Keith? And do you really have to use that mascot?" Then Keith replied with a shush and added something inaudible.

"Keith, is it only me, or was that my mom I just heard?" I asked, "What is she doing there?"

"Oh, no," he chuckled nervously, "That was Mrs. . . . Mrs. Harper. She's our new cook."

"Oh . . . So you're having 'tarpaulins' for dinner?" I uttered with sarcasm. "And mascot? What mascot is she talking about?"

"Never mind that." He just laughed.

"So. . ."

"So?"

"So, I'll just drop by at . . . let's say . . . seven, eight tops? Is that okay?"

"Yeah! Sure. That'd give us, I mean me, that'd give me . . . uh . . . more time to prepare to . . . uh . . . to prepare your . . . to prepare your bed."

"Hey, I can prepare my bed." I offered, "That's the least I can do if I would sleep over at your place."

"I'm having none of that. Just . . . just be here, okay?"

"Fine. Yeah," I replied, "I'll be there."

"Promise?"

"Yes, Keith. I promise." I assured.

"I'll be waiting, okay? See yah!" He sounded really excited as he hung up.

"Having a change of plans?"

I turned around and stood face-to-face with Bruce in his corpulent and chubby yet incredibly cute and cuddly glory.

"Oh, no." I answered breathlessly. There goes that word again. I wonder who else makes me feel like this. "Just have more plans after our . . . thing tonight."

"Oh. Great. That's good." He grinned, "'Cause for a moment there I thought it'd only be Jake and me tonight."

I chuckled, "Now, wouldn't that be a sight to see?"

He was silent, so I looked up. I can feel the tension brewing in the air around us.

"Danny. . ." he paused to run his fingers through his hair, "We need to talk."

My heart did a double-take. I think I know where this conversation was going to.

"Do you remember the last time we went out?" He asked.

Gulp. I knew it. But I just nodded.

"Well . . . do you remember the last things that I told you, or sort of started telling you before I got called?"

My throat was too dry to create a sound. Again, I just nodded.

"Well . . . Phew!" He laughed nervously, "How can something so simple be this hard to express?" He muttered.

Hmmm. . .Those words seem kind of familiar. I wonder who said those? Oh. Right. It was me.

"Danny . . . I . . . I . . ."

"Great! We're all here!" Ever the great intruder with the greatest timing, Jake arrived, then stared at the two of us. "Oh . . . my entrance was too soon, was it?"

We both sighed; me because of gratified relief and Bruce because of utter disappointment. Secretly, I was thanking Jake. I don't want to deal with this kind of drama right now. I want to relax and have fun tonight. And not talk about boy issues. Especially that one of the said boys was going with us tonight.

"It's five o'clock and we're here now. So . . . Let's go?" I enthusiastically asked.

They both nodded and I led the way.

~*~*~*~*~

Inside the theater, my Circulatory, Respiratory, Muscular, Nervous, and certain parts of my Endocrine and Reproductive systems were working overtime.

[Why? You don't want to know . . . Oh, wait . . . You do. That's why you're reading this crap. Okay!]

Well . . . here's why.

For the whole duration of the first half of the movie, Bruce kept shuffling in his seat and I can't help but feel him rubbing his left leg all over mine. Accidental or deliberate, I couldn't know. And then there's the problem with his hand. He placed his hand on my arm rest - palm up - it was a vicious but, I got to admit, effective contraption, that, which if successfully wielded, would be able to ensnare my unsuspecting hand.

Jake, on the other hand, was the braver of the two. I don't know if he knows that I know or if he's just testing my patience or my . . . libido, but he, during the movie's climax when everyone was busy wiping their tears dry, slowly but deliberately slid his hand onto my inner thigh, slightly brushing my hardening boy-cock.

"Jake!" I hissed as I discreetly slapped his malicious hand. He just grinned at me devilishly in the dark, repeatedly pushed his tongue against the back of his cheek, and signaled that we should go to the restroom. Shit! I think I know what that means.

I just rolled my eyes at him. I can't believe the nerve of this fucking Senior stud.

I admit. Yes, I'm a virgin - and the only intimate relationship that my cock has ever had was with my left hand (sometimes my right) but I was not planning on losing it with Jake. Yes, Jake's a really hot guy, yes, he's a very dear friend, and yes, he's ultimately gay (though still in the closet), but I want my first time to be really special. I want to experience it with a special someone, my special someone, whoever that may be. And, more importantly, I don't plan on doing it here, either. The risk of being caught with my pants down even in a dark theatre was too much for me. Maybe when I'm older, more experienced.

So, I ignored Jake, much to my cock's disappointment. Actually, I ignored the both of them.

I cuddled myself into a ball of human flesh and hugged all of my limbs as close to my body as possible. "I'm cold," I said as an excuse.

And from then on, I focused on watching the ultimately cheesy movie, repressing off all dirty thoughts to the deepest recesses of my horned-up brain.

~*~*~*~*~

"So . . . How did you two guys meet exactly?" Jake asked as we were sitting over coffee. We just finished watching 'The Back-Up Plan' and Jake was still giggly with love and romanticism. Come to think of it, why did Jake choose that icky movie in the first place? He was obviously drooling over Alex O'Loughlin's body! Isn't he worried that Bruce might get suspicious of his sexuality?

"Well . . . uh . . . It was sort of an accident, actually." I supplied.

"Accident my ass. It was fate, more like it." Bruce muttered under his breath. I can't believe he just said that. In front of me, it would've been fine. But in front of Jake? I think that's a bit reckless. No one knows he's gay but me and his family, or at least Lily does.

"I heard that, you know." I turned to him.

"Well, it's true. That can't have been an accident." He stated.

"Yeah, right. I showered you with hamburger, fries, ketchup, and orange juice. Of course, it wasn't an accident." I replied with sarcasm.

"I shouldn't have brought food in the class, but I did. You shouldn't have been late, but you were. Teachers shouldn't act like bitches, but Mrs. Elmers was," he countered. "It can't have been anything but fate. We were meant to meet under that type of circumstances. Plain and simple."

"It was nothing but a silly accident."

"It was fate - twisted, yes - but fate, nevertheless."

"Accident!"

"Fate!"

"ACCIDENT!"

"FATE!"

"ACCIDENT!!!"

"FATE!!!"

"Alright, stop! Stop! STOP IT!" Jake laughed at our banter. "Whether it was a freaking accident or just some twisted fate, you're making me jealous with your ranting and your LQs!"

"LQs?" We both snapped at him.

"Yeah," he excitedly retorted, "Love Quarrels!"

"Love?", "Quarrels?" We simultaneously replied.

"See!" He giggled like a three-year old, "You're even finishing each other's sentences off. That's so sweet!"

"That wasn't even a sentence." Bruce muttered.

"Whatever." Jake said, giving the two of us a malicious grin.

"Fuck off, Jake!" Bruce snapped.

"You know what? I'm just gonna do that. I shouldn't even have been here in the first place." He said, "I think you have some . . . things to talk about between the two of you."

"No, wait! Ja-" But he was already dashing through the diner and out of the door, leaving me staring across Bruce and his grumpy face and shocking electric-blue eyes.

"You were saying?" I quipped.

"Huh?"

"He's right. Let's use this time. We need to talk. Clarify some things."

"Here? Now?"

"Yeah. What's the problem with here and now?" I asked, "Just talk. I want you to talk. Tell me what you're thinking. You never seem to talk much, so, talk. What were you saying before Jake arrived earlier?"

"When was that?"

"That was after I spoke to Keith on the phone and before Jake arrived."

"Oh . . . that. Uhmm. . ."

I looked at him. I don't know but, it makes me smile with satisfaction to see a guy who's nervous enough to can't string simple words to create coherent sentences. I can see it from the tension etching across his face.

To ease his nervousness, I did the bravest (or the most foolish) thing that I did in my life till then - I reached my hands across the table and held his slightly sweating ones.

"Whoa, you're sweating like a pig!" I remarked. At first, he sort of yanked his hands from my fingers, but I held on tight and gave him a smile and squeeze his digits gently.

He sighed then muttered, "Pigs don't have sweat glands, so they're incapable of sweating."

I just looked at him in awe. I didn't know that piece of information.

"Really?"

"Yeah." He nodded, then he looked down at our hands.

"Does this make you uncomfortable?" I inquired.

He looked around, then looked at me. "We shouldn't."

"Huh?" What does he mean?

"We can't, Daniel . . . it's . . . we just can't . . . the letter . . . we can't." He was now shaking his fingers off. I held on.

"What are you talking about, Bruce? What letter? Your mom's letter? What does the letter have to do with this?"

"I'm so sorry, Daniel. I gotta go."

"What?"

He left.

~*~*~*~*~

As I finished packing the few necessities needed for the sleepover, I pondered more on Bruce and his odd behavior.

That guy is fucking messing with your head! My subconscious was telling me. He's giving you mixed signals.

I seriously don't know what to do. One moment, he's all googley eyes and wanting to hold hands with me, and the next, he's all high-tempered and unpredictable - storming off for no apparent reason.

SHIT! Why are you even caring? It's not like you're dating!

[Excuse me, I just need to throw up. There, done. Where were we?]

I know that he's gay (or at least that's the main idea of the secrets that Lily told me a few months ago) and I 'think' he has these . . . inkling feelings for me - small and a bit questionable, but still, feelings.

But why is he acting this way? If he likes me, then isn't he supposed to at least try and make me feel like he really does?

You already feel it, Danny. You know he does. My subconscious interrupts.

Ugh! Shut up!

Anyway . . . this is what Lily wanted, right? Is this what she meant that we are good for each other? Was she hinting that we should be together?

But still. He doesn't know I'm gay. He thinks I'm straight. Right? Well, maybe that's the reason why it's so hard for him to share his feelings with me.

But, right now, what are we?

Hmmm . . . Whatever. I don't want to think about it anymore.

But I still don't like what he's doing to me.

~*~*~*~*~

The cab was nearing Keith's house - er, mansion - when I noticed another cab following mine. As the cab stopped just outside of the gate, the cab behind us stopped, too. I paid the driver and got off. Then, I waited for whoever was at the passenger seat on the other car to get out.

"What are you doing here? Are you stalking me?" I called to the guy who just got out.

"Danny, we've got to talk."

"Not now, Bruce. I'm busy." I rang for the gates to open.

I heard the familiar voice of Giuseppe, the Princetons' butler, from the intercom and I waved at the CCTV camera installed just above the gate towers, then he invited me in.

I stepped through the gates as soon as they were opened. Bruce stomped through the gravel behind.

"What word from 'I'm busy' can't you understand, Bruce? Leave me alone! You can't be here."

"I'm not leaving until you talk to me," he said sternly.

"You have thirty seconds before I reach the door. Oops! That's twenty-nine now! Twenty-eight! Twenty-seven!"

"Danny, we need to talk before you get in. We need to talk properly! Not like this." He hurriedly answered.

"You had your chance earlier at the diner, Bruce. I was there . . . listening. And what did you do? You left! Seventeen!"

"All right, I'm sorry I left! Now, will you stop walking away?! We need to talk! This is serious, man!"

"Twelve!" As I got closer, I saw our school mascot, (mascot's name), standing just a few yards to the left of the door. Must be one of Blake and Luke's ideas of a prank. I just ignored it.

"Don't you dare get in until you hear what I have to say, Daniel! Stop walking and look at me!" He grabbed my arm, but I yanked myself free. "You don't even remember what day today is, do you?"

"I don't really care if today is the fucking end of the world, Bruce! Just go away! I don't want you around me! Nine!"

I kept on walking.

"Danny, stop walking or I swear to God I would-"

"You would what, huh? You would what?" I spat at him and then I kept on walking. The door was a mere five feet from me now. "Four!"

I rang the doorbell.

"Three!"

I rang the doorbell again.

"Two!"

I rang the doorbell yet again.

"GOD DAMN IT, MOCKINS!" He growled, and then, from out of the blue, he grabbed my shoulders and spun me around. Slamming my back onto the wooden doors, he grabbed my spinning head and crushed his lips to mine.

There I stood with my back rammed against the door, my head held by two massive hands; incapacitating me of any restraint.

And then I realized - I wasn't really trying to resist his advancements.

I just stood there. Incapable of moving. Immobile. Shocked.

'He's kissing you.' My subconscious kept on shouting, 'Bruce is kissing you.'

I don't know if I should be glad or repulsed with myself for letting him kiss me. That one physical contact drained me of the difference between good and bad, or of what should and shouldn't be happening, or of how my reaction should be.

God!

I can't remember if it was an hour, a minute or maybe a second later until he broke away from the kiss.

Our kiss.

All I can remember was during that short moment I felt . . . I don't know . . . alive?

Suddenly, all of my senses were heightened. It was as if, during that brief moment, I was in an entirely different dimension. I acutely distinguished his scent as he crushed his soft, warm, luscious lips to mine. I heard myself moan as I felt his tongue snake its way into the depths of my mouth. My tongue feasted on the foreign tastes of sweetness that his hungry mouth delivered. I felt his heart pounding savagely against my own heaving chest, his fingers sliding through the locks of my tousled hair. And then, I saw a pair of the most stunning electric-blue eyes plunging into the abyss of my very deep-brown ones.

It was unbelievable. Unexplainable. But as sudden as that brand new experience began, it abruptly came to an end.

He released me from his vice-like grip, and I would've slumped onto the ground if it wasn't for the door supporting my frame.

"Fuck the letter," I faintly heard Bruce mutter as he leant his forehead onto mine and I felt his ragged breath flowing through my flaring nostrils as my lungs tried to keep up with the beating of my heart. His chest was heaving against mine.

"Bruce-" my voice broke as I started to speak. What does he mean with what he said? 'Fuck the letter'? I looked up into his eyes and they were stern yet warm and tender at the same time.

"You don't have to say anything, Danny." he rasped and he gave me a lopsided smile, "At least not now."

"But-"

"Shhhh!" He held a finger to my lips. "We can talk about this some other time. For now, I just want you to enjoy your birthday, okay?"

WHAT?!

My look must've been priceless because he immediately backed away and started howling with unrestrained laughter.

"Oh, my God! I totally forgot!" I muttered to myself, "It's my fucking birthday!"

Because of everything that I've been through for the past three days, I completely forgot that today was the 21st of February. I groaned in annoyance as I repeatedly slapped my forehead.

Bruce was still laughing his head off, pointing at me as he clutched his stomach, holding onto his sanity.

And just then the doors opened and a loud chorus of 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY DANIEL!' echoed through the quiet night!

It was as if I was stuck on the spot. Definitely stuck on the moment. My eyes and my mouth was wide with shock. My brain was commanding me to breathe but my lungs couldn't seem to understand. Every little piece of my subconscious was shouting 'Move!' but my body just wouldn't budge a single centimeter.

Jake's and Bruce's odd text message. The balloons. The tarpaulin. The mascot. And Mrs. Harper - the woman that I heard earlier on the phone who, I later learned, was really my mom. All of it now finally made sense. So this is what kept Keith busy earlier on the phone! They've been planning my 16th Birthday Party all along.

I didn't want to get all sappy and shit at that moment but tears suddenly started to fall from my eyes. I quickly wiped them off with a brush of my forearm and I tried to hide the sudden flush of emotion overwhelming my entire being with a chuckle.

From the small gathering, I saw Jake and Blake take a step forward. Separately, they gave me a hug, muttered a 'Happy Birthday', and guided me towards the heart of the party where an exquisitely designed table was laden with food. Lots and lots and LOTS of food. I squinted my eyes and saw tarpaulins and balloons hanging and floating around the grandiose living room. The place was nothing but amazing.

"Jake, you bastard." I slightly punched his arm, "Why didn't you tell me you were doing this?"

"SURPRISE!" The twins both shouted excitedly.

"There. We just told you. You happy now?" Blake asked amusedly.

I giggled and just let them guide me towards the table. My mom was waiting for me there. As soon as she could, she took me from the twins, held me in her arms and gave me a tight, motherly hug. And they sang me the traditional birthday song. At that same instant, I saw Bruce hanging out in the background. Actually, he sort of doesn't kinda fit in the background. So far, everyone was smiling and singing me a Happy Birthday. Everyone but him. I wonder what his problem was.

And speaking of everyone, where the hell was Keith?

My best friend is missing? On my birthday?

"Happy Birthday, sweetheart!" I heard my mom greet happily as she released me from her clutch.

"Thanks, mom." I answered, "But you really didn't have to do this."

"Oh, this wasn't my idea. All I had planned for your birthday was pizza and some drinks."

"Wow, mom! That's real sweet of you." I replied sarcastically as I rolled my eyes at her.

"Hey, I can't afford this!" She defended, referring to everything in the party, "But if you're looking for someone to blame, blame it on your best friend! He planned this whole damn thing in less than 48 hours!"

"Really? He did?" I asked, awe-struck, "Where is he, anyway? I'm gonna have to punch him for this. He knows that he didn't have to do this."

She just nodded with a smile, "He's . . . around. He was supposed to open the doors for you." She took a quick glance around the room, "I don't know where he's gone now. But loosen up a bit, will you? Just enjoy your party! You're way too tense."

Yep! Heard that before.

She then handed me a drink.

"Hey, who's that boy talking to Steph?"

My mom turned to look at the direction that I was pointing to.

"Oh! That is your cousin Andrew!" She answered, "He goes to Middle School with your sister. Why?"

"Oh, nothing." Shit! Too bad he's a cousin! Andrew was cute as hell! I was hoping that he'd be a good distraction, "How come I haven't met him before?"

"Oh, I don't know. You can talk to him now, if you want." My mom suggested.

"Maybe later." I then drank my juice in one gulp. I noticed I was trembling. I don't know why.

Was this because of Keith's surprise?

Nah. Can't be that. I can definitely handle surprises.

Was this because of the cute guy talking to your sister?

Andrew? Of course not! Crushes. I got tons of them. That can't be it.

Was this because of Bruce?

Hmmm. . . Well, that. . . maybe.

Was this because of the kiss?

My subconscious was silent.

Come on, Danny! Are you trembling because of the kiss? Are you? Huh? Are you?

Of course not!

"What was that, honey?" My mom quipped.

Oh, shit! I must have muttered my thoughts out loud.

"Oh, nothing mom. . . Nothing. . ." I replied.

"Daniel, your lips look pale! Are you okay?" She asked concernedly, checking me up, "And you're trembling!"

I instinctively touched my lips, my until recently untouched lips, and I saw Bruce. "Yeah. . . I'm okay, mom. . . I'm okay." I muttered, brushing her hands off.

Bruce was sitting on a couch; talking to Charles - the twins' very cute eight-year old brother - or at least little Charlie was talking to him. Bruce was just nodding and posing and shrugging and grunting like a fully-grown mountain troll.

Good luck with that Charlie! Let me see how you try to make a conversation with a statue.

"Hey." I greeted as I flopped myself into the couch.

"Unca Dan! Unca Dan!!!" Charlie immediately went for my lap and hugged the shit out of me. I wasn't really his uncle, but, I don't know, he just got used to it, I think. "Happy Birthday, Unca Dan!"

"Hey! Thanks a lot, kiddo!" I replied as I ruffled his blond curls, "But where's Unca Dan's present? I thought you got presents for Unca Dan. You got any candy for Unca Dan?"

"I'll get it for ya, Unca Dan! I'll get it for ya!" And the little tyke rushed off.

"Why are you sitting here all alone?" I asked Bruce as we sat silently, separated only by a meter or two of air.

He shrugged. "Just thinking."

"About what?"

"If I did the right thing."

I froze. He's talking about the kiss. Deep breaths, Danny. Deep breaths. Calm that freaking heart of yours. Concentrate.

"Why, Bruce?" I silently asked.

He looked up to me, confusion dominant on his face, "Why, what?"

I looked down at my feet and I stammered as I asked him. "Why . . . why did you . . . kiss me?"

For a couple minutes, I didn't hear him respond, so I looked at his face. He was only staring back at me. And it'd be too dramatic to say, but his eyes were sparkling. It was as if they wanted to say something but his mouth wasn't cooperating.

"I was there." He finally uttered.

"What are you talking about?" I demanded.

"I was there." He muttered again.

"Spill it, Bruce! You're starting to scare me!"

He rearranged himself on the couch so I can only see half of his face and he started again, "That night. In the workshop. I was there."

"What workshop? The workshop? Keith's dad's workshop?" He affirmed with a tiny nod. I felt a slight tingle at the back of my mind, "That doesn't explain why you kissed me." I laughed at him. "Bruce, just tell me!"

"Your conversation with Jake," he whispered, "I heard it. All of it."

My whole body shuddered. OH, MY GOD! He was there?

I tried to laugh my nervousness away, "Haha. Nice one, Bruce. You really think I would believe that? Haha!" But inside I was battling with my subconscious. SHIT! He heard! How? When? Where?

"'It's good to know that someone you know is playing for your team, too, is it?'" He muttered, and the tingle that I felt earlier became a scratching sensation. He WAS there. "Those were Jake's words, weren't they? Remember that now?"

"Oh, my God!" I gasped, clapping my hands to my forehead, "You were there!"

He nodded.

"You were . . . there. OH, GOD! The clanging sound! I thought that was just Prince's doing! I thought it was just the cat's doing!"

He shook his head. "That was me. I tripped on a can and tumbled on a table with wrenches filed on top of it. They fell." He explained, "I was just lucky the cat followed me there."

"Oh, shit! Oh, shit! Oh, shit!" I massaged my temple. "But that doesn't answer my question, Bruce!" I suddenly snapped at him.

"I know." He simply replied, "I still have to figure it out."

"Shit! Then why did you have to kiss me, God damn it? Ever since I met you, you've done nothing but mess with my head! Why are you doing this to me, Bruce?"

"I'm so sorry, Danny." He choked back a sob, "I don't know. I'm so sorry."

"Fuck you!" I hissed at him. So the others wouldn't hear. "Stop that! You don't have the right to cry right now!"

"Yeah, Bruce. Stop crying. What you need right now is another kiss, isn't it?" A voice spoke behind me.

I quickly spun around.

"KEITH!" I gasped.

"Go on. Kiss him. Look at how frail and sad and confused the little boy is!" He coldly snapped, completely ignoring my shock.

"Keith, what are you talking about?" I instantly paled. My whole body trembled. My heart thundered.

"Don't play dumb, Danny!" He growled.

"Oh, my God!" It suddenly dawned on me, "But how did you . . .? You saw?"

"Remember the mascot?" He supplied with a menacing look.

"Oh, shit! SHIT! But that doesn't mean anything, Keith!" I cried as a defense.

"Doesn't mean anything, Danny?" He barked mockingly. Everyone in the room looked at us. He laughed even louder. "Nothing? Like, 'nothing' nothing? OUCH! You heard that Bruce? It fucking doesn't mean anything to him!"

Bruce nervously looked around. Despite his size, he looked completely small and vulnerable right now - crouched down low on the couch with his face hidden with shame and sorrow.

"Keith, calm down. Please! Let's talk about this in your room!" I literally begged, tears shamelessly streaming down my face, "Please, Keith! Please!"

"Is everything all right here?" My mom suddenly came up to me.

"No, Mrs. Mockins! Stay out of this!" Keith hissed as my mom tried to hold me. Then in a very cold, commanding voice he said, "Danny, Bruce and I will just have a conversation in my room upstairs. Right now!"

And he marched to his room, leaving an eerie silence hovering around the room filled with our panic-stricken audience.

I looked at the people around - my mom, my sister, my cousin Andrew, Luke, Jake and Blake, little Charlie - and gave them a tiny smile. Reassuring them that everything was okay.

Even though, deep inside, I knew that I was only lying to myself.

I turned to Bruce. He shakily stood up and motioned for me to follow. I, too, stood and went after the looming figure of my best friend.

Hoping that everything would be okay.

As Bruce closed the door, Keith screamed at my face, "WHY DIDN'T YOU FUCKING TELL ME, DANNY?!"

"Keith, I didn't know how to tell you." I cried out.

"Oh! Wow! You can't tell your best friend that you're . . . GAY" he sputtered disgustedly, "But you can kiss HIM?!"

"Oh, God, I can't believe you just used your best friend card on me!" I scoffed slapping my forehead, "Keith, you really think it's as simple as that? That I'd just come up to you and say 'Hey, Keith! Guess what? YOUR BEST FRIEND'S GAY! Come on let's play some cards and while the time!'" I growled at him, "You don't know how fucking hard it is for me to even open up to you! Every time I get the nerve to start talking, I would remember all the fucking times you made fag-jokes and said horrid things about gay people and all that I can say to myself is, 'You know, Danny, maybe next time.' And you don't know how many fucking times I said those fucking words to my fucking self, thinking that it wasn't the right time, that it wasn't the right place. And now? Now, you've just proven to me how right I am to not have fucking confessed to you!" I paused, "And for the record, Keith, HE kissed ME!"

"Don't try to twist the story, Daniel! I SAW YOU!" He yelled disgustedly. Then, he slammed his hands onto the table, "I SAW YOU WITH MY OWN TWO EYES!"

"But what you saw was nothing like that!" I retorted.

"The hell it wasn't!" He growled. "YOU KISSED HIM BACK!"

"I didn't-"

"What the fuck, Danny!" Bruce finally snapped at me. He, too, was seething with anger, "I thought. . ."

"Whatever you're thinking, Bruce, it's not helping! So, just STOP HOPING, OKAY?! I may be gay, you may be gay, and you may even have covered up your freaking 'mistakes' with that tough-guy-bully act you're making, but I KNOW WHO YOU ARE! I know what you did and I know what you are! AND I SERIOUSLY DON'T FALL FOR SLUTS LIKE YOU!"

The room suddenly filled with silence. I looked at Keith. He scoffed and was shaking his head with disbelief. Bruce's face was pale with shock. I just looked at him with a shock that equaled his. He instinctively took a step back, opened the door and slammed it on his way out.

I groaned and hugged myself, my tears staining the front side of my shirt. And I instinctively turned to Keith for comfort. But he instantly backed away.

"Way to go, Daniel." I heard Keith's husky voice whisper, "You just broke two hearts in one night."

And just like the other guy who I was starting to like, he left with the door glaring angrily back at me - his words echoing endlessly in my head.

What have you done, Danny?

*End of Chapter 9*

AUTHOR'S NOTE:

The first book, 'FRESHMAN YEAR', from the 'MY BULLY, MY BUDDY AND ME' series is almost finished. YAY! And I'm really thankful to all of you, my fabulous readers. Blah blah blah [More acknowledgements after Chapter 10]

YOU ROCK, GUYS! (Seriously.)

But for now, let me entice you with this small treat that I have concocted a few days after doing my Midterm Exams. It's amazing what boring lectures can do to your imagination.

Presenting: "Short Erotic Stories Volume One: AERIAL ENCOUNTER"

COMING SOON!!!

 

Nerdy Jock

[email protected]

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