DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.


Chapter 17, Part Two SKIP A BEAT

~*~*[[ DM ]]*~*~

14 February 2011 Monday / 10:07 PM Somewhere in the middle of the Harvard Athletic Park

The moon was shining almost half-full above the skies as my feet took one step after another. The park was emanating a certain type of serenity despite the sound of countless couples strolling along its dim-lit paths. Couples. An invisible fist punched my gut and drenched it with acid just thinking about such an intimate word. Walking along a moonlit path through a park - on frickin' Valentine's Day, for that matter - shouldn't make me feel as giddy as I am feeling right now, should it? God!

Damn Keith! Why did he have to show up? He even admitted that he followed me here. Followed me. All dressed up like me. In a tux. Like a spy. Like a very hot and sexy spy. On my date. With Bruce. Who didn't show up. Haven't seen that one coming. Shit, now I'm thinking in sentence fragments! Wasn't it enough that he keeps badgering me every chance he gets; demanding as to why I wasn't spending more time with him? Do I really have to spell it out to him that because of the current status of my 'personal life' (also read as 'unidentified relationship with Bruce') I have to make certain changes in our "BFF Time" schedule? Which also means lesser time with him?

'But you and I both know that that's not the real reason why you're avoiding him, now, is it, Danny?' my internal Jiminy Cricket drawled annoyingly.

I sighed and I cursed myself. Internal Jiminy Cricket was right. That was way too far from the real reason. Why I'm avoiding him was because I gave him something. And he doesn't even have the slightest bit of memory as to what it was - as to what happened. That was why I was avoiding him. That was the real reason. Which was also one of the reasons why I'm spending most of my time drowning in Bruce's blue eyes; my . . . would it be safe for me to say that he's my boyfriend?

Urgh. Boyfriend, my ass! That bastard!

Damn Bruce! He invites me on a date - of all days he chooses frickin' Valentine's Day - and when he couldn't make it he doesn't even have the decency to call and tell me why. I've been checking my phone endlessly for the past two hours. Nothing. Not a single call. He never even texted. Why did he have to ditch me like that? Now it feels like deja vu. I remembered a similar event. But, back then, I was in the Public Library waiting for him and thankfully the library was almost empty to notice my lingering. But now? In a restaurant? He made me look like a fool, waiting for almost two hours, sitting alone on a table surrounded by lovely couples and hearts and flowers and chocolates and . . . love. Fuck! The restaurant, though filled with happy couples and sweet-sounding music, never looked and felt as lonely and forlorn as a graveyard on a dark and windy night.

Fuck Bruce.

Fuck Keith.

Fuck my life.

To all teenagers out there, let me ask you a question. Is your life as complicated and as confusing as mine? 'Cause right now I'm feeling really lonely and troubled. I'm sure it won't be long now before I snap and kill someone.

"You alright?" I heard someone mutter beside me. And I almost forgot. I was with Keith. Walking with Keith. And now I'm thinking in sentence fragments again. I groaned into the night and I chose to ignore him.

Am I alright? If things had gone the way that it should have, I would be spending this lovely night with Bruce. I should have been talking to him right about now, laughing about something silly that he'd mention, and blushing like crazy when his eyes would mentally strip me off my clothing, thinking about our latest 'phone conversation'. That naughty bastard! But what did I get? I get my best friend instead. Which shouldn't have been much of a downside if it was not for the fact that I was avoiding him. Which just brings me back to the beginning of this ludicrous internal struggle.

"Danny?" he insisted, concern clear in his domineering tone.

"I'm fine, Keith." I gritted through clenched teeth, not wanting to talk about feelings right now. I might snap any second now.

He breathed out a desperate sigh. "Aw, come on, Danny. Stop lying. You're not alright," he stopped in front of me, blocking my way, and locked his hands on my shoulders. I watched his face. He's thinking of saying something. So, I waited with my arms crossed. "I'm sure he has a reason why he-"

"I don't believe this," I instantly backed away from him and I wanted to smack his face. "You're defending him?"

"No," he scoffs. "I'm not defending that bastard. I'm just saying-"

"Keith, stop! I'm sorry but I don't want to talk about him tonight, okay?" And he did, exaggerating it by theatrically zipping his mouth close. I rolled my eyes and, thankfully, found the strength to not smile. I sidestepped him, instead. "Just take me to dinner, please?"

So, in comfortable silence, we walked for a few more minutes. A few more twists and turns along the path, I noticed a couple sending gooey eyes to each other, maddeningly in love. Urgh! "God, this annoying!" I cursed.

"What is?" Keith asked.

"That?" I tipped my chin to the couple under the street light. "They're so in love it's starting to get annoying. Haven't they heard of too much PDA?"

Keith just laughed.

I eyed him. "Why are you laughing at me? I'm serious."

"'Cause you're funny, Danny." He answered.

"And why is that?" I countered.

"Because they," he pointed to the couple, "are not in love."

I turned my torso to him. "Says who?"

"Says me." He responded with a confidence.

"And who made you the expert in romance?"

"Danny, just look at them," he said. "Focus your attention on the guy."

I looked at the guy. Sure, he probably was twice the age of the woman with him, but he was still looking at his partner with love in his eyes. "He's so in love he can't take his eyes off his lover. What's wrong with that picture?"

Keith chuckled. "'Cause it's not her eyes he's looking at, Danny. He's drooling after her silicon twins!" then he laughed at my expression.

Well, I'll be damned! I haven't noticed that. I laughed with him, shaking my head.

"So, is that what you do with your dates?" I challenged. "You eye their melons and drool like a dog in heat?"

He turned to me with a scowl. "I'm not that kind of guy."

Oh, shit. I pissed him off. "Keith, I'm sorry. I did not mean to-"

"It's okay. You didn't mean it, I know." He smiled. "Anyway, not every guy is like that silicon pervert. Look over there."

I turned to where he was looking at. There, on a nearby bench, was a couple in their early thirties. The woman was beautiful, elegant, and her handsome man was on his knees, serenading her with nothing but his guitar and his beautiful voice. Wow. My knees turned to mush and my heart swelled with jealousy. God, I'm such a softie!

I turned to Keith, smiling. "You're right. Love is still in the air after all." And he smiled back at me.

Keith ushered me forward. "Come on. We're almost there." Then, on the corner where our road intersected another, I noticed that a mobile restaurant was parked. And I laughed heartily.

"Dinner!" Keith gestured dramatically towards the restaurant as he and I made beelines for our turns to order. I was smiling like an escaped mental case while Keith ordered. "We'll have two jumbo burgers, a regular box of extra cheese pepperoni pizza, two large fries, and a box of those special chocolate heart thingies you got there. And the chocolate-dipped strawberries, too." Keith ordered, ignoring the vendor's curious stare at our get-ups: two guys dressed in gray and dark-blue formal attires buying street food. Odd, but this is California. The vendor just shrugged and returned to preparing the food. Keith turned to me. "D'ya need anything else?"

I shook my head. "Nope. I'm fine with that," I said gratefully. More than fine, actually. Out of all the people in the world, only Keith knows me the deepest and the best, sometimes it even creeps me on how well he actually does. And it warmed me at how much he considers what I needed. I smiled at the boy standing next to me and my mind wandered to sinful and forbidden things. How easier it would have been if he could just remember the things that he said to me that December night . . .

'But he doesn't, Danny.'

He doesn't.

With a sad sigh, I shook my head for hoping for such things. Maybe he didn't mean it. Maybe it was just the alcohol . . .

We stepped back as we waited for our orders. I watched when Keith unbuttoned and removed his dark-blue Armani jacket.

Holy. Mother. Of. God.

I knew I shouldn't have watched. I should not have. But as soon as I realized my mistake it was done and it was all too late. The visuals were too much. My cock was sprouting a mind of its own and was already reacting to how well he filled his dress shirt, and I couldn't undo what has been done. Those bulging biceps. That wide chest. That flat stomach. Would he stop me if I stripped it off him and licked him from navel to neck? Oh no! I'm leaking from down below. I discreetly removed my own jacket to cover my impending humiliation. Was it dark enough? I hope it was dark enough. Down, boy! Down, you horny, stupid piece of beef!

'But Danny, you've seen him before,' Jiminy Cricket chirped amusingly in my head. 'And more.'

I choked on my own saliva. Shut up, Jiminy, you idiot! So what if I've seen him before? Oh, God!

I shook my head. "So, what about the drinks? I don't want you choking when you gulp the last slice of my pizza." I teased to reel my lecherous mind off of how hot my best friend is. God, I'm going to hell just for looking!

"How do I know you wouldn't steal mine first? Could you guarantee that you wouldn't steal mine first?" he countered with that smile of his.

"Fair enough." I shivered. With just a smile? God, I can literally feel my insides melting. That's not good, right? I'm with Bruce. Quasi-with him.

Keith chuckled. "Don't worry, Danny. It's all taken care of."

And I left it at that and just enjoyed the cool February night air.

We walked towards the deeper parts of the park carrying our orders. Well, not really deeper; just to where the tables and benches were located. Step. Sniff. Swish. Step. I can actually taste the food just from smelling it hanging in the cold, night air around me. Damn, I was hungry. Again. I chuckled to myself. But, hey, I'm now a five foot ten athletic boy! And still growing! I can't help if my stomach is working overtime to catch up with my metabolism. Food is basically a necessity.

Keith walked towards a table and I pulled him back in alarm. "We can't use that. Someone's already using it." I gestured to the beautiful table arrangement.

"Of course it is," he stated matter-of-factly, his eyes twinkling with delight. "'Cause we're using it."

I just gaped while he went on and laid the food beside the drinks on the table and sat himself down. Aside from our orders, the long table was carefully laden with candles - tall ones, short ones, thick ones, thin ones; soft, fairy lights glittered and hung from the low branches of the surrounding trees; and rose petals were scattered all around the table in a ten-foot radius. It was . . .

"Magical." I breathed to myself. I hope Keith didn't hear me. Why are we here, anyway? This is such a fucking romantic scene, I don't want to disturb its beauty, and I certainly don't want to cry in front of him. I bit my tongue. Hard.

"Well, are you going to join me here?" Keith called. He was opening containers and arranging the assortments of food on the table. "I'm getting hungrier by the second, Danny, and I don't know if I can control this hunger any longer."

Is he crazy? Why is he taking me here? Did he do this? Why is he doing this? What the hell is happening here? I bombarded myself with questions. They were flying all around my befuddled mind like bees shaken out of their hive.

I looked at him and he was looking at me. What he said was supposed to be a joke . . . but the way he said it, the way his eyes darkened . . . could he possibly remember?

"What is this, Keith?" I managed to croak as I took a step towards the table, breathing hard. I forced myself another step and I never took my eyes away from his.

"Um . . . Danny . . ."

I waited for him to explain with my heart beating a mile an hour.

"Um . . ." He took another pause. And I wanted to turn around and just go home before I do or say something stupid. Tell him the reason why I'm avoiding him, perhaps.

Keith cleared his throat. "Well . . . um . . . I figured since I have no Valentine this year and . . . and yours haven't showed up . . . well . . . I figured that we could just spend it . . . together."

"Together." I echoed.

"As best friends, of course." he hastily added.

"Best friends." My heart skipped a beat. "Of course."

"Yes, best friends," he echoed this time.

"And this," I gestured to everything that was around, "just magically appeared out of nowhere?"

Keith flinched. And I noticed that he was going red on the face. Oh ho ho! A blush? On my best friend's face? And I know for a fact that he seldom, if not rarely, blushes. Interesting . . . and yet . . . entirely confusing at the same time.

"Well . . . I had help." He said simply. Help. And I sighed with understanding. Amazing what money can accomplish even within a short period of time.

"You're blushing, Keith!" I teased innocently. He just scowled. I finally reached the table and sat down across him. This is just dinner. With your best friend. Ignore the candles and the roses and the romantic fairy lights. I breathed in the smell of the food laid before me and a part of my anxiousness disappeared. "Hand me my burger, will ya?"

Keith handed me the jumbo and I started on doing my magic. Almost in a ritualistic and instinctive manner - or maybe more like second in nature - he piled some fries on top of my beef patty while I busied myself on opening the ketchup sachets. After pouring the ketchup on top of the fries, Keith replaced the bun and "Danny's B&F is done!" he proclaimed with a dramatic flourish of his hands.

"Thank you, Apprentice. Now you truly are a master of this dish. Use the recipe well."

I don't know what hit us but it was apparent that we couldn't control it. With great concentration, we stifled our laughter . . . to no avail, and our joyful howling echoed through the park.

I took a bite from my B&F and groaned as its delicious flavor covered my taste buds.

"So how's the script going on?" Keith asked, seemingly interested with my extracurricular work. Weird, because he never showed much interest about the musicale play, even though he's been assigned with the props and decorations. I was really shocked when I heard that he signed himself for the designing staff. And now he's asking about the script? Hmmm. Maybe he's just being nice.

"It's getting there." I said. Then, to be nice, too, I muttered. "I'm thinking of sending the first draft to Mrs. Giovanni this Friday. Hopefully, she'll approve."

He nodded solemnly. "I know she will."

"You sound so sure about that," I remarked.

"Well, I've known you for almost five years now. I've basically read every poem, report, script, and essay that you've made since seventh grade and I assure you, they're all exceptional," he mentioned through a mouthful of pizza. "You could become a successful writer someday, you know. You have a way with words; oral and written. You're really good at it."

I stopped eating. He really thinks so? I was too stunned to say anything, which made him look up from his food with a question in his eyes.

"Why are you looking at me like that?" he suddenly asked.

Oh, shit! Was I drooling at his hotness? Drip. Drip. Drip. The shame.

"Looking like what?" I retorted nervously.

"Like I've just discovered the answer for World Peace, or something," he muttered.

Oh, shit. How do I turn this around? Think. "Well . . . it's just. I never knew you actually read my writings," I said sheepishly. "And that you think of me that way. You just surprised me."

"Oh," I can tell that he was pleased by my words. He shifted in his seat and twisted his face into a mischievous grin. "Well, they basically helped me pass all of my English subjects, so I have you to thank for that."

"Asshole." I threw a couple of fries at him, chuckling. "You copied them, that's what you did."

"Paraphrased, my friend. Paraphrased." He laughed.

I rolled my eyes.

"Have I told you that that's bad for you?"

"What's bad?" I asked, confused with the sudden change in subject.

"This," and he rolled his gorgeous eyes at me.

I giggled. Holy Shit! Those eyes. I could stay lost in them forever. God, now I'm sounding like such a cliche! Dork!

But they're just too beautiful.

And stunning.



I chuckled good-heartedly and retorted, "Rolling one's eyes is not bad."

"Is too."

"Is not."

"Is too."

I huffed a breath. "Now, you're just being childish."

"I'm not."

"Are too."

"Am not."

"Are too."

"Okay, stop! This is insane. Let's just eat so we can both head home, okay?" He raised his arms in surrender.

"You're that bored by my company, you're taking me home already?" I pouted.

"Yes," he answered while rolling his beautiful eyes at me.

I laughed. "You're such an asshole! I don't even know why I put up with you," and I smacked his head with an empty food container.

"Ow!" Keith exclaimed while rubbing his throbbing head. He opened his mouth as if there was something he wanted to say, but then he shook his head and took a bite off his burger. "So, how are things at home?"

Hmmm . . . He's changing the topic again. I wonder what he was about to say.

"I'm glad you asked. It's been weird at home . . . and confusing. At the same time, you wouldn't believe the stress I'm going through right now." I answered through clenched jaws and immediately the weight of my earlier conversation with my mother overwhelmed me.

"Really?" Keith raised an eyebrow, clearly he doesn't believe me, and so I just nodded. "You want to talk about it?"

I sighed. "I don't know, man. It's nothing. Really."

He straightened in his seat and he glared at me. "Aw, come on, Danny. You can't drop a bomb like that and expect me to not react." A French fry came flying towards my face. "Spill."

"Alright, alright," I chortled in defeat. "Well . . . it's about my mom." I paused, and I ran through my head the words that I'm about to say. Connecting the words to make the most simple of statements. And it came out as, "I think she may be seeing someone."

Keith looked up from his pizza, a surprised grin quickly lighting up his features. "Really? It's about God damned time," he exclaimed.

My forehead knotted. "You aren't weirded out by that?"

"Weirded out? Pfft. Of course not. Mary's fucking hot!" My eyes widened and my mouth gaped open and, going red in the face, Keith quickly added, "Oh, shit! I mean . . . your mom's incredibly beautiful and she's unbelievably available. It's not really much of a shock if some guy would take interest in her, you know." He chuckled nervously.

I solemnly nodded. He was right. My mom is not only beautiful, but also smart, sexy and sophisticated. Not to mention utterly caring and undeniably sweet. For a single heterosexual male, she was the perfect match.

"Why would you think it's weird?" Keith asked after my silence. "Don't you want your mother to date?"

Do I?

Don't I?

Why shouldn't I?

"I don't know, man. I guess, in a sense, I think I'm just being . . . hopeful."

His eyes narrowed at me. "Hopeful? For what?"

My gaze left his and the twinkling fairy lights suddenly caught my attention. 'For my father's return.' I wanted to say to Keith. I know he would understand, but I didn't want to talk about it right now. I still have my mom to deal with. And there's the matter with Bruce.

"Another thing," It was my turn to shift the subject. "My mom told me something earlier."

He ate some chocolates. "What did she say?"

I gulped before dropping another A-bomb. "She doesn't want me to see Bruce any longer."

Keith didn't react. An eyebrow never moved. A lip never quivered. Not even a blink came from his eyes. And then, "Oh," that's what he said. And I wanted to smack him again for his complete lack of vocabulary.

"So?" I tried to get a more suitable response than 'Oh'.

"So . . . what?" he asked uninterestedly.

I heard myself growl. "So, don't you think it's rather confusing? Last year when I told her about Bruce, and then about our relationship, she was all 'Go, Daniel, Go!' and basically waving a rainbow banner right in front of my face, but now she's crying and ordering me not to see him anymore. Ordering me like I'm some kind of genetically modified robot. I don't even like robots. I don't get her, Keith. It's frustrating."

Keith still hasn't said a word. He was just sitting there with a blank stare and his mouth now munching fries like a mountain goat.


My shout seemed to faze him. "I told you not to call me that!" he grumbled, glaring daggers at me.

"Whatever." At least it worked.

Still munching like a mountain goat, confusion etched on his face. "Why would your mother wave rainbow banners on your face, Danny?"

Another growl escaped my lungs. "Keith, forget about the frickin' rainbow banners!" I exclaimed loudly. Why is he suddenly talking about rainbow banners like he haven't heard them before? Oh, maybe he hasn't. Urgh! Haven't he heard of PFLAG? Parents and Friends of Lesbians And Gays?

Keith sighed. "Then what do you want me to say, Danny?"

I, too, heaved a desperate sigh and said slowly, "What do you think about my mom's behavior? I would really love some advice right now, Keith."

"Advice," he said the word as if it was foreign.

My eyebrows pulled in. What the fuck is wrong with him? I bring up Bruce and now I'm suddenly talking to a brick wall. Honestly! "Yes, Keith. Advice. What should I do? Should I follow her or should I keep on seeing Bruce?"

He seemed hesitant to answer. Which is really annoying to the fact that I'm thinking of retorting to violence to get his opinions out of him.

'Violence, like savagely smacking your lips to his?' Internal Jiminy Cricket teased me with his waggling eyebrows. I ignored him.

"Well . . . ?" I goaded.

"You haven't tried the pizza. It's really good."

Wait. What? "Keith!" I exclaimed loudly.

"What?" He replied in an equally amplified way, his arms outstretched, toppings flying all around from his pizza.

"I need your opinion, man. This is serious. Don't try and run away from the topic." I almost whined.

"I'm not running away," he retorted. "I'm just saying that you should try the pizza."

Urgh! Such a stubborn man. I grabbed a slice and chomped off a humongous mouthful. "There. It's good. Happy now?" Hmmm. He's right. The pizza's really good! My subconscious bitch-slapped me. 'Focus, Daniel Mockins.'

I shook my head. "Now, Keith . . . answer my question."

~*~*[[ KP ]]*~*~

14 February 2011 Monday / 10:5& PM Still somewhere in the middle of the Harvard Athletic Park

What should I do?

Should I be the responsible and unbiased American citizen that would tell him to listen to his mother for the sole and only reason that 'mother knows best'? That Mary has her reasons why she's doing what she's doing and he should just comply like the good kid that he is?

And damn! I shouldn't have made that comment about his mother's hotness. Totally not cool, Princeton.

I proceeded to my next choice.

Should I be his best friend and say that he should do the thing that makes him happy, be with the person that brings that happiness and face the inevitable consequences, whatever they may be, whenever they may come?

Or, lastly, should I be the selfish bastard that I am and listen to the tiny, selfish voice inside my head that selfishly says that 'Danny and Bruce don't belong together, anyways.' Damn it. If I let myself act on my selfishness, I know that it would do nothing but wrong. I don't want to add up to his worries. I don't want Danny to become more confused with his feelings. He's my best friend. I can't just corner him and ravish him to my heart's content. That's too aggressive. And I can't risk losing our friendship over my desires. But the ghosts of our pasts are now slowly peeping out of the safety of the shadows. Obviously, she knows about the truth now. But who would have told her? My dad? My mom? William?

"Keith, you've blacked out on me again." Danny complained with a groan.

I shook myself out of my reverie. I need a clear head right now. As clear as I can muster. I need to talk to my dad first on what was really happening. "Um. Sorry, Danny. I just . . . I don't know what to say." I simply said.

"You have nothing to say?"

"Oh, I have a million things to say regarding your love life." I drawled.

"Well? I'm waiting."

"I don't know where to start, man." Of course, I did know. Forget Bruce. That phrase keeps flashing under my eyelids. In bright yellow-green neon lights. And it's slowly creeping out of my mouth, threatening to come out.

"How about you start with what you think about our . . . relationship." Danny urged with an encouraging nod.

"You don't start with the easy, do you?" I teased. He just gave a tight smile. But, God, I don't want to talk about this! I sighed. Heavily. "Danny, I think that it's nice that you and Bruce have this . . . understanding."

"Understanding?" His eyebrows nearly reached his hairline.


"He's my boyfriend, Keith." Danny stated indignantly.

"Oh." Ouch! Damn that fuckin' hurt. I wasn't sure that they were 'together' together, but now . . . . Through trembling lips, I continued. "He is? Okay. I think that you should keep on seeing Bruce, then. If what you're feeling for him is genuine and true, that is." Fuck.

Danny's forehead knotted. "What are you trying to say, 'If what I'm feeling is true'?"

I closed my eyes to compose myself. Then, without opening them, I heaved a breath and said, "Do you love him?" There. I said it. Now I just have to wait for the truth to come out from him: whether it kills me or not.

Danny rested his forehead on the palm of his hands. He released a humorless chuckle. My eyes locked on him. I can see the wheels spinning in his head. Then, in a tiny whisper, I heard him say "I don't know."

He doesn't know? A great deal of baggage was lifted off my shoulders. He doesn't know? He's not sure about his feelings? He's not sure about his feelings. I kept myself from grinning like a loon. I waited for him to continue.

"I like hanging with him, I can't say otherwise. He seems simple enough but he's really great company. He's full of shit, I know," he chuckled and his eyes had this faraway look in them, it bothers me. "But when we're alone, he's sweet, and he's adorable, and he listens to every word I say. And, whether I deny it or not, we have this . . . 'chemistry' shit that they're talking about in romance novels." Danny shook his head in dry humor.

"And I don't listen to you?" I suddenly blurted out, incredulous at his implication, and completely ignoring the chemistry bull that he just mentioned about him and Bruce.

Danny's eyes bulged. He seemed surprised at my indignation. "Well, of course you do listen to me, Keith, you're my best friend. But our case is different. We're not . . . you're not . . . I mean, you're not my boyfriend. You know." He forced a smile.

Oh! Shit! That's why he was surprised. "Of course not. How silly of me!" I forced a laugh to reduce the awkwardness of the matter. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid!

He chuckled but I can feel the longing from his voice. "I just like being with him, you know. I know that Richard is like me and Bruce, too, but with Bruce, I feel at ease with my identity. Richard is shameless and adventurous about his image so I can't help but feel like any second some homophobe would bash us just for being gay. But with Bruce, I feel safer. And he makes me feel . . . special."

I nodded. But my heart ached for him. Why can't he just feel those things for me - with me? Though I wanted to be the one who makes him feel special, I just nodded.

'You're his best friend, Keith. Act like one.' Yeah, alright. I'll be his best friend. For now. Just until the dust settles. Until the ghosts are exorcised and gone.

~*~*[[ DM ]]*~*~

14 February 2011 Monday / 11:05 PM Sitting somewhere in the middle of the Harvard Athletic Park

"You know," I drawled as I sipped from my beer. "I'm starting to think that you stalking me might not be too bad after all." I paused. "I may even forgive you in fact."

He just scoffed. "Oh, you don't fool me, Danny. You're just glad for the food and drinks."

I threw a piece of roasted strawberry at him. "Now you just ruined your chances at being forgiven. You haven't even told me how you got hold of the six-pack."

"Oh, I don't have to ask for your forgiveness," he retorted as he guzzled up his third and last beer. "You love me too much."

And with that reply, I froze. Damn, I was supposed to reply - to counter - and we'd have our usual friendly banter. Just like best friends. Just like before. But I just couldn't find it in myself to joke about it. Not anymore. Because that simple word just means more to me now than before. And because he was right. I love my best friend too much. And I can't bear any moment longer being around him . . . but not being with him. It would just hurt too damn much.

Dropping the half-eaten burger on the table, I got out of my chair and strode towards the park exits.

"Hey, Danny!" Keith called for me. "Where are you going?"


"Home? But we haven't finished our food, yet."

"Screw the food, Keith." I yelled. "Actually, screw you!"

"What the hell is the matter with you? Daniel. Christopher. Mockins!" Somehow, Keith growling my name stopped me in my tracks. I turned to face him, a furious expression readily plastered on my face. But when I saw the intensity in his eyes, it froze me to the spot. I was a good twenty feet from him by now but the energy coming off of Keith overwhelmed the living crap out of me. He was just too much for me that everything suddenly receded to the background: the beautiful fairy lights, the sound of nearby couples talking, the smell of flowers and food, the freezing chill of the night. Everything vanished when he was in sight. His presence was overwhelming, too intense - yes, that's the word - for me to handle.

'Sensory Overload.' My brain protested.

Seeing his arrogant glare, he still was the same boy who saved me from my Middle School bullies . . . yet the guy walking - no, make that sauntering - towards me was totally, completely, ultimately different from that boy. My heart hammered against my chest.

Who was this guy?

But I knew the answer right before he closed the distance between us and hugged the shit out of me. And I realized. He was still my best friend. He was still my Keith. But now there was something more there. Something between us. I just can't figure what it is yet.

Keith tightened his bear hug. "I'm sorry if I said anything that made you mad," he mumbled in my ear, almost whining like a little boy, and my heart clenched at his apology. His body was folded around and against mine. Which sent a zap of awareness all over my skin.

I took a deep breath to still my nerves and his sweet, familiar scent immediately filled my nostrils. Oh, Keith. I released my breath. "Apology accepted." I stepped out of his warm embrace and my skin tingled in protest at the loss of contact. Weird.

"Let's finish the food first before you do any more dramatic exits, okay?" He teased.

"Asshole," I socked his arm hard and returned to our food, chuckling. Just like before. I smiled at the familiar feeling of friendship.

"Really, don't you love me, Danny?" he pouted along the way.

"Keith, stop it! It's not funny."

"Alright, you don't love me. But admit it. You like me."

"Keith, of course. You're my best friend. I can't hate you and be my best friend at the same time." I said.

"So, you're saying that you like me." He probed incessantly.

"Yes, Keith. I do." I answered with an annoyed drawl.

"So, if you like me, then you love me, too." He added.

I huffed. "That's not logical."

"It is in my perspective."

"Then, you have a ridiculous perspective. You're crazy!"

"In love?"

I stopped in my tracks. Damn him for throwing that word around so easily like it's worth nothing! I crossed my arms and squared my shoulders. "Mr. Princeton, you listen very carefully here," I paused and glared at him, ignoring the annoying fluttering of my heart caused by the puppy-like expression he was plastering on his face. "Just because you're incredibly handsome and have a really cute smile, not to mention you have those ridiculous stacks of rock-hard bread piled on every surface of your delicious body, doesn't mean that every one of us would fall for you. Yes, I'm gay, I'm not denying that, but I'm not falling for your hotness, Oh Keith Almighty!" I finished with a mock-bow.

Then I just watched as he bent over on his knees, clenched his stomach, and guffawed and laughed out loud. Really loud.

I smacked his head in annoyance but he wouldn't quit laughing. "Keith, get up! You're crazy!"

He paused to take a deep, steadying breath and asked me. "You think I'm delicious, bro?"

Oh, shit! Did I just call him delicious? I smacked him again. "And now your arrogant ass is just fishing out for compliments. Get up!"

His guffaws were now reduced to giggles. "Just humor me, bro. From a homosexual vantage point, do you think I'm hot?"

I tried to smack him but he caught my wrist right before I made contact. "Keith, you're such a pain in the ass." There's no double entendre in that statement, I swear.

"Nah, you think I'm hot. You've said it already."

"Fine! You're hot. You're delicious. You're irresistibly mouthwatering. Whatever." I left him kneeling there, laughing, and I stomped towards our table.

"I'm hot!" He yelled. I turned to him in horror. "I'm hot! I'm hot! I'm hot!" People from nearby tables stared and pointed at the crazy person jumping up and down behind me. "My best friend thinks I'm hot! I'm hot! I'm hot!!!"

"Keith, stop that, you idiot! People are looking!" I yelled. But he wouldn't quit. He continued jumping up and down and pumped his fists in the air as if he just won the lottery. Idiot. But irresistibly cute. I just laughed with him.

~*~*[[ KP ]]*~*~

14 February 2011 Monday / 11:49 PM Finishing up dinner somewhere in the middle of the Harvard Athletic Park

I downed the remaining few drops from my beer, still heady from the sight of Danny smiling and laughing and blushing from across the table. The candles were flickering and were almost gone now, so I put them off their misery before we accidentally set the table on fire. "It's almost midnight. What do you say we go crash a party?" I said after blowing the last candle off.

"On Valentine's?" Danny sounded incredulous. His face now looked mysteriously handsome from the glow of the dim fairy lights. Masculine. Exquisite. Beautiful. Danny.

"Yeah. On Valentine's Day. The Baseball and Football teams are having some sort of a joint Date Party by the beach and they invited me as I am on both teams. They just texted that they brought the party over to a senior's house. I declined earlier but . . . it should be fun." I said casually, hoping he'd go with me.

Danny was unconvinced. He didn't say a word, just went on putting the trash away.

"Come on, Danny. It'll be fun! I promise." Come on. Come on. Come on.

He huffed. "But you said it's a Date Party . . ."

I nodded.

"Do you know what a Date Party is?"

I blinked, then nodded. Of course I know what a Date Party is.

"And you want me to go with you?"

I nodded, then raised a brow. "Why? Do you have a problem going with me?"

"Well . . ."

"Danny, nobody cares if it's a Date Party or a Christmas Party or a Birthday Party. It's a party, nonetheless. They just make fancy titles out of it. Nobody cares. People just want to have fun, that's what matters most."

He sighed. Then "I'm a Barbie Girl in a Barbie World. Life is plastic it's fantastic. You can brush my-"

"Damn it! He's set this as his ring tone again. He thinks it's funny." Danny's phone continued ringing and he took it out of his pocket. I stifled my laughter while listening to his ring tone. Seriously? Barbie Girl? Oh, God, he's killing me! "I need to answer this." Danny seethed. He was furious. And I have a pretty good guess on 'he' was on the other end of the line. He stood and walked off to a safe distance for privacy.

I just watched him almost yelling at the phone like it was his greatest enemy. Like he wanted to kill it. His face was flushed in anger and disappointment. I almost felt sorry for 'him.' Damn it! I hate seeing him upset. And Damn him! I was on the verge of tossing the phone and holding him in my embrace when he ended the call with, "You better have a pretty good explanation for all of this or we're over! Whatever we are!" and he shut his phone off.

Danny stomped to the table, breathing heavily. "All right! Let's go! I need a drink. Or two. Or twenty!"

I just followed him back to the restaurant's parking lot - to my jeep - and we were on the way to the party. This is probably the best idea for him right now: drown his misery in booze and the company of his friends. I'm his best friend right now and we'll just deal with this in the morning. We're going to have the greatest party of the year.

~*~*[[ DM ]]*~*~

15 February 2011 Tuesday / 04:00 AM Mockins Residence

I woke up to the annoying noise of my alarm clock. I slapped the tiny button, cutting off the horrible sound it was making. It was like the sound of an animal in great agony and dying. I got up from the bed, my head throbbing something awful, and realization struck me.

Fuck! I hate running. Especially when I'm sporting a terrible hangover.

With great concentration - sort of - I strode blindly towards my drawer and put on a sweater and a pair of jogging pants. With my running shoes knotted and tied, I walked out of my room, skipped down the stairs, and stepped out of the house. I could always eat later. Or throw up. Whatever comes first.

Running has been somewhat of a therapeutic part in my daily routine. The cold, damp air of dawn refreshes not only my body but my mind as well. The idea that ninety percent of Southern California was still tucked tightly in bed gave me the temporary knowledge that "this is my hour, this is my world." My legs would take one stride after another. My muscles would strain. My breathing would become heavy. My body would shine with sweat and perspiration.

By the time that I reached our drive, dawn has already arrived. I slowed my pace down and stretched on our lawn, then took breath-in and breath-out exercises. When I felt like my heartbeat and my breathing has returned to normal, I stepped inside our house through the back door to the kitchen and saw my mother already up and preparing breakfast.

I stopped short of stumbling. Shit. I should've used the front door. Now I've risked talking. With my mother. Great.

"Morning," she greeted with a cheerful smile. "How was your night out?"

What the hell? She's not angry that I came home - wait a minute, what time did I turn in? I can't remember much of what happened last night. I quickly composed myself and said, "It was great." I gave her a forced smile and quickly went for the stairs. I still remember her tears when she tried to stop me yesterday from going out with Bruce. Why is she suddenly smiling at me? As if nothing happened. I shoved the thought out of my head, replacing it with ideas and revisions for the musicale play script. I scrambled my head for memories of last night: Bruce inviting me to a date, Bruce standing me off, Keith arriving and joining me at the restaurant, Keith taking me to dinner at the park, Keith inviting me to a date party, Bruce's phone call and the Barbie disaster, Keith and I arriving at the loud and crowded household, drowning my anger with the company of our friends, dancing, getting drunk, getting more drunk, and more dancing. But my last recollection was of Tyler and Garrett doing body shots with a couple of cheerleaders. Then, after that . . . nothing.

When I reached my still dark bedroom, I walked directly towards my bathroom and turned the showers on to set the temperature. I dumped my sweaty clothes in the hamper and fished out a pair of jeans, a white t-shirt, boxers, and a pair of socks out of my cabinet. Then I checked if my leather jacket was washed and dry. Yep! My mom probably did it a day ago. I returned to the bathroom and placed my clothes on top of the sink. I stepped inside the shower and breathed in the relaxing steam. Hot showers . . . still the best in the world!

"Mornin'," a deep voice droned behind me.

"Morning," I answered automatically, and then realizing that someone was behind me, inside the shower stall, I screamed. Like a frickin' girl. The water immediately filled my gaping mouth and I coughed out the gallons that went down the wrong pipe.

"Daniel," my mother's worried voice drifted from down the stairs. "What happened?"

Shit! Did the whole neighborhood hear my manly cry? With my heart thumping a hundred beats per second, coughing out water from my abused lungs, and my birthday suit all wet and slippery and not to mention exposed, I scrambled out of the shower and turned the bathroom lights on. From my immediate haste of leaving the wide stall, the shower curtains were opened wide. And there, under the hot, steamy shower was a sight that would forever be seared in my 'innocent' mind. Snort. "Keith, what the hell are you doing here?"

He turned his head and his brows furrowed in confusion. "Taking a shower."

"Yes, I can see that," Obviously. "But what are you doing in my house?"

He turned his head again and explained. "You let me crash in your room last night. Or I sort of crashed. Wait . . . don't you remember?"

My mind was blank.

He's in my fucking shower.

He's in my fucking shower!!!

Yes, it's happened before but I was on the other side of the door then. And we have never showered together in school because we never had the same PE classes. And we were never on the same team.

Holy shit! He's in my fucking shower!

"I let you sleep-over?" I squeaked while frantically wrapping a towel around my waist. Oh, God! I actually squeaked. Like a girl!

"Is everything okay in there, Daniel?" My mom was knocking outside my bathroom door.

I sent Keith a warning look. Then I answered my mom. "I'm fine, Mom. It was just a - rat. It just surprised me. That's all." I lied.

"A rat?" She shrieked. Girls. I could imagine my mom hopping on her toes looking for higher ground. "But we don't have rats in the house."

"Well, apparently, I have one in the shower right now. Looks dangerous." Keith's eyebrows shot up. "I'll take care of him - it. Really, Mom, go back downstairs."

"No, let me help," she said from the other side of the door. "I'm coming in."

"No, Mom. I'm in the shower right now. I'll deal with it."

But she was already turning the knob. It was a split-second decision. I dropped my towel to the floor and jumped back into the shower, dragging the curtains closed.

"Daniel?" my mom called from the other side of the curtain. Thank God, they weren't transparent.

"Mom," I poked my head out. "It's gone now."

"It is?"

"Yes. It ran away. You can put the egg beater down now. That's not of much use anyway." She glanced around in fear of the said rat. Egg beater still in the ready. I sighed. "Mom, it's okay. Can you let me take a shower now? I'll be down in a few minutes." I assured.

"Oh. Okay, honey," she said. "Listen. About yesterday-"

"Mom, I really can't talk right now. It's almost six-thirty. I'll be late. Please."

She must have seen the seriousness in my eyes because she nodded and silently went out of my room. I released my breath and turned around.

Wrong move.

Keith was standing under the showerhead, with his back to me and his head tipped back to wash the suds out of his face, and my eyes immediately scanned his raw, naked glory; planting it in my memory. Forever. His raven hair, cut medium length, was wet and streams of water were trickling down the silky waves, his biceps were bulging from massaging the shampoo into the strands. The bubbly water slid down the thick nape of his neck and continued spreading down his broad shoulders and further down his lean, muscular back and further down his - Oh God, that ass! - He had the most wonderful ass that I have ever seen; tight, muscular, decadent. Jealous of the water, I followed the streams down his thick thighs and down the light dusting of hair on his muscular calves. There was no other way to describe him - he was sex incarnate. "Oh, my God." I breathed. Or tried to.

"A rat, huh?" Keith asked over his shoulder as he soaped himself up.

And my mind instantly recoiled, returning to the matter at hand.

"You slept here last night?" I croaked idiotically. Why am I even acting this way? I've seen boys naked before. What's so different this time?

"Yes." Keith said dryly. "You were passed out from the party last night when I took you home. Thank God, Mary was already asleep when we arrived. I put you in bed and fell asleep myself as soon as my knees touched the mattress. I was wasted, too, you know. It was a great night." He chuckled cheerfully. "And you kept mumbling, 'Remember' all the way home. What's that all about, anyway?"

Oh shit!

"'Remember?' Did I say anything else?" Oh, no. I can't even remember myself saying that. Who knows what else I said? Or what I did? Shit. Shit. Shit.

"Nope. Only that. You kept on saying that during the party, on the ride home, and right up to your bedroom." He replied with amusement in his voice.

"So, you slept in my room?"


"On my bed?"

"Yes, on your bed."

"Beside me?"

He turned around and all I can think of was 'Oh, Dear God of Sausages!' If his backside was that good, then it had nothing on what was in front. "What's with the Twenty Questions?" Keith snapped, irritated with me.

"I, uh . . ." my eyes were still glued to his-

"I'm up here, Danny." He said amusingly.

"What?" my eyes snapped to his face. And warmth spread across my cheeks like an inevitable plague. Great. Now, I'm blushing. "Oh, sorry. What were we talking about?"

He just chuckled and went on with his shower.

A few minutes later, after he finished shampooing, and after at least a gallon of drool have pooled down at my feet, he asked "So, why lie to your mom? We've had sleepovers since we were twelve. Though, not recently."

"Oh . . . I-I don't know." I stuttered. "I panicked, I guess." God. Why aren't my feet moving? Stupid feet. I need to get out of here. Before I embarrass myself more. Before I do something stupid. Before I could drop myself on my knees and have my way with his delicious body.

Whoa! Where the hell did that come from? I mentally slapped myself. 'He's your best friend. Bad boy! Bad! Bad! Stop thinking about him like that.'

"Okay." He said dismissively. "Dude, you got the most annoying alarm clock in the whole State of California! Let me guess. It was your mom's Christmas present, was it?" he chuckled when I affirmed. "Did you set it to fucking four o'clock in the morning?"

"Yeah." I mumbled.

"And you still managed to run with a fucking hangover?"


"Man, I was sleeping like the dead under your covers. You're something!" and he playfully slapped me on my shoulder. Then, Zap! Electricity. And my heart thumped harder in my chest. "I'm done. It's yours." Keith motioned to the shower and his shiny, watery, dripping, nude muscular body stepped out of the stall and picked up my towel from the floor - his muscles flexing and stretching across his tight body - and wrapped it enticingly low around his waist. "I'll use our emergency exit, then. See you at school."

"Yeah." I said again and nodded like an idiot. I heard him shuffling in my drawers to get dressed - in my clothes, and then my window opening, then closing. And he was gone.

"Yeah." I mumbled mindlessly in the silence, still staring at the spot where he was only minutes ago.

God! He's my best friend. And he's ruined me for other guys already. This isn't good! Not good. Not good. My body slumped under the shower and my eyes dropped their gaze downward.

Holy Fucking Shit! I was hard! I haven't even noticed my aching hard-on. Oh, my God! Was I hard the whole time? Oh, no! What would he think of me? Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh, God!

'He knows you're gay, Danny. Your boner shouldn't surprise him.' Internal Jiminy Cricket chirped annoyingly.

'But that's Keith! He's my best friend! He's going to get the wrong impression!' The angel inside me countered.

'He didn't beat you to a pulp, did he?'

'Well, he didn't but . . .'

'But, nothing. It happened. You can't do nothing about it now.' Internal Jiminy Cricket answered conclusively.

Horror filled my body. Oh, no! Shit! Oh, shit! Oh, shit! What would happen now? I shut my eyes and prayed for answers. But as soon as my eyelids closed, Keith's stunning green eyes flashed in my mind. And his lips. And his bulging biceps. And his straining arms. And his muscular chest. And his washboard abs. And his thighs. And his calves. And the half-foot soft serpent dangling between his legs.

Oh, Keith Almighty!


*End of Chapter 17, Part Two*

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Hey Guys! So that's the end of Chapter Seventeen. What do you think of their impromptu date? Too corny, right? Haha. Well . . . I'm a novice to romantic writing and . . . well . . . I did my best. I just want to tell you guys that I love you for the support and the interest in my stories and I promise to keep on writing for all of you. Talk to me through my e-mail address [email protected] and I'll do my best to chat, and follow me on Twitter @ANerdyJock. I would really love to hear your positive and negative COMMENTS! COMMENTS! COMMENTS! - XOXO NJ


Nerdy Jock

[email protected]


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