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Introduction:

"And ye shall seek and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart" Jeremiah 29:13
“…stupid…”

That was the first word I heard and the first word that popped into my head when my brain switched back on.

Stupid.

It was stupid to confront Craig alone. It was stupid to let my guard down and let him hit me.

No…it was stupid to go after him in the first place.

My vision was a swirling vortex of shapes and hints of color, mixed together in a maelstrom of confusion. I was fighting my way to consciousness, like waking up if sleep was trying to keep me chained to the ground. There was painful pressure in my stomach and on the side of my head, both of which twinged painfully as soon as I focused on them. The pain made me groan.

“Joe…king up…”

“Jack!”

I controlled my breathing and tried to bring everything into focus. The hazy shapes and colors started to resolve themselves and I became aware of other things, like a rhythmic jerking and bouncing. A car. I was in a car. I remembered seeing Joe’s face right before I passed out. It must be his car. Okay, I could make basic connections. That was a start.

Someone was hovering over me. With a huge effort I managed to bring myself back to consciousness and Belle’s face came into focus. The edges were a little fuzzy and the sound of her voice as she turned and said something was a little muted, but at least now I could see stuff.

My audio was slowly coming back. “…pen, at least. Want me to sit him up?”

“Not yet.”

“Okay.” Belle looked down at me. “Can you talk?”

I opened my mouth and, with a huge and generous offer from my lungs, managed to grunt, “Yeah.”

“Okay, so you’re not up for talking yet,” she said, adjusting something under my head, “Just stay still. How long, Joe?”

“Five minutes.”

Well, then I had five minutes to pull myself together.

Warmth was starting to spread through my limbs as feelings returned and I flexed my fingers. I felt them drum against the seat. I reached up gingerly and slowly hauled myself to sitting position. Belle put an hand on my back to steady me. “Careful,” she said, “Don’t rush.”

“I’m good,” I croaked.

“No, you’re dumb,” I heard Joe say, “What the hell were you thinking?”

“Craig…”

“Yeah, that was dumb. And now look at you. Jesus Christ, man, what if you hadn’t called me? How long would you have been there?”

I don’t know. The words didn’t come out. Wasn’t quite there yet. Belle had me sit back against the seat and strapped me in. “Thanks,” I muttered.

“No problem,” she replied, taking the sweater I had been resting on and stuffing it behind my head, “This a normal thing for you?”

“Nope.”

“Well, at least it wasn’t a boring evening.”

“Hey!” Joe said from the front seat.

“Oh, hush. I was kidding. It was perfectly fun before he called as well.” Joe grumbled darkly and Belle gave me a small smile.

I wanted to talk more but instinct told me it would probably be better if I remained silent and gathered my strength. Mom and dad would be home by now and I’d have to explain—sigh—why I thought it had been a good idea to rush out and confront Craig. Smart move, Jack. Especially when…

Kayla. Oh, good God, I had left Kayla alone.

A wave of guilt flooded over me, making me want to puke. My stomach was feeling bruised and shriveled as it was so that wave of depressing shame only made it hurt more. The point where Craig had driven his elbow into my forehead was throbbing like crazy but only in a superficial, surface way; it would heal quickly. My breathing felt shallow and harsh, probably thanks to the wind being driven out of me twice. I was bruised, battered, and weak. And it was all my fault for being so stupid.

“Why did you go after Craig?” Joe demanded.

“Kayla…was attacked…”

“Yeah, I know,” he said, glancing fiercely in the rearview mirror, “I remember that from the phone. My question is, why aren’t you with her right now?”

“What?”

Joe screeched the car to a halt and whirled around to look at me, more furious than I had ever seen him. “Why the fuck did you go charging out after Craig when Kayla needed you?! What the hell is wrong with you?!”

“Joe…” Belle put a hand on his arm.

His nostrils were flaring. “She needs you, man, and you just ran out of there! What’s the matter with you?”

“His wallet…” I wheezed, “In her room…”

Joe looked up like he was trying to remember something. “Hang on,” he said, “I thought he lost it.”

I blinked. “What?”

“Yeah, don’t you remember? Thursday, in gym. He was bitching about losing his wallet when we were getting dressed. Don’t you remember?”

I didn’t. Had that really happened? Admittedly, I had still been worried about Alan and Amanda’s situation but…God damn it, if I had just listened to that, I could have avoided the whole mess. “I don’t.”

“Well, unless he was planning on being so stupid that he was going to drop his wallet while attacking Kayla, I’d say he was being set up.” He stared at me levelly. “And so are you.”

Yeah…I was. Fucking hell, and I fell right into it.

Belle was holding my hand. “Joe, if the same thing happened to me, you’d go charging out to find whoever did it.”

“Yeah, well I’d have Jack there to stop me,” he said, turning back to the road, “I don’t know how to stop him. Did you get my messages?”

“No.” I probably just didn’t notice them. I was surprised I had been angry enough to not hear my phone. “Hey…did Brad show up?”

“Why would he show up?” Joe asked, his voice more sour than before, if possible.

“I called him after you.” My breathing was easier now but my stomach still felt like it had been kicked by a horse. “He said he’d be there.”

“Brad’s unreliable. And in other shocking news…”

We spent the rest of the drive in silence. Guilt was gnawing away at me, making me want to sink into the seat cushions and just disappear. I should have stayed with Kayla. She needed me. She was scared and hurt and the last thing she needed was me charging out of the house to go fight someone. What kind of boyfriend was I?

I had done so much wrong tonight. If I had just gone over to Kayla’s earlier…if I had been faster catching her attacker…if I had just stayed with her! God, why couldn’t I have stayed with her?! She wanted to rest, I should have lain down with her and held her. I deserved every hit Craig gave me. And more. Much more.

Part of me didn’t want to go home, didn’t want to face the anger I knew was waiting for me. Amanda would be pissed, Alan would be disappointed, and my parents…God damn it, I was supposed to wait for them to have a talk with them. And here I go, running out of the house to a fight. And Kayla…I knew whatever I pictured from her would be nearly close enough to the reality. I just wanted Joe to keep driving, to drive until the road ended and just wander off from there.

But I couldn’t. I had to face them. I had never run from stuff like this before and I wasn’t starting now.

Joe pulled up to my house and said, “You okay to walk, man?”

I’d been rubbing my legs, trying to get some feeling back in them. “I think so,” I replied, opening the door.

Joe and Belle got out and helped steady me. My legs were a little shaky but I was able to hold myself erect (wipe that smirk off your face, this is serious time). “I’m good,” I said, “Thanks guys. Sorry for ruining your night.”

“Seriously, man,” Joe said, squeezing my shoulder, “Think about this stuff next time. Talk to someone first.”

“Joe, I think he’s had enough for one night,” Belle said, then looked over at my house, “And it looks like he’s going to get some more.”

The door to my house had opened with a bang and Amanda came charging out, Alan close behind her. Fury was etched in every line of her face as she immediately started smacking my arms. “What. The. Fuck. Jack!” she shouted with each hit, “Do you have any idea how scared we’ve been?! Why didn’t you answer your phone?!”

Joe was trying to hold her back. “I think he’s been injured enough for one night,” he said.

Amanda looked at him, then back at me, noticing the unsteady way I held myself and the pained look on my face. “Did you get in a fight?” she demanded.

“Don’t know if it was a fight,” I replied, “I didn’t exactly get to land a—”

Smack! Smack! Smack! “You went out to fight while Kayla was still here?!” Amanda screeched, now aiming for my head. Alan was trying to hold her back and she was fighting him as hard as she could. “How could you be so stupid?!”

Joe looked at me. “If death looks imminent, give me a call,” he said, patting me lightly on the back, “If I can’t make it in time, I’ll give you a nice eulogy. Good luck, man.”

“Good night, Jack,” Belle said, squeezing my arm as she got back in Joe’s car.

Amanda had stopped struggling and appeared to have calmed down a little, but her stare was still full of malevolence. Alan let go of her and turned to me. “Are you okay?” he asked.

I shrugged slowly. “Got hit in the stomach a couple of times and punched. Nothing I haven’t dealt with before.”

“Well, it’s going to stop,” Amanda snarled, “I’m sick of worrying to death whether or not you’re going to come home in an ambulance.”

“Well, I wouldn’t. They’d take me to a hospital.” She took a ferocious step forward and I held up my hands. “Just kidding. Kidding.”

“Yeah, well, go on in and kid with mom and dad,” she spat, pointing at the house, “They’ve been waiting for you.”

Oh, boy. I steeled myself and walked into the house, the twins close behind me. I could hear Amanda muttering darkly and I could only hope her smack-attack had sated her desire to hurt me.

Mom and dad were sitting in the living room. As (my stomach gave a very painfully lurch) was Kayla. She looked up as I came in and I could see she had been crying. You know how it is when you feel like shit? That’s not how I felt. I felt like shit’s shit. I think they call that a ‘shisno’ in Red vs. Blue. Yeah, I felt like a shisno.

“Kayla, I’m—”

She got up, walked over calmly, and gave me a hug. It wasn’t a tight hug, or a thank-God-you’re-all-right hug. It was a hug that, if anything, seemed designed to comfort me rather than her. I hugged her back and we held each other for a second. The hug made me feel even worse. I wanted her to yell at me, to scream and hit me, to demand to know why I ran out on her when she needed me. I didn’t know how to react to the hug other than to just let it happen. It did nothing to assuage my guilt.

We sat down on the couch and I turned to mom and dad. “Hey,” I said weakly. I had nothing else.

“Hello, Jack,” dad said crossly, “Where have you been?”

“I was…” I took a deep breath, “I went out to find Craig.”

“Why?”

“We found his wallet after Kayla was attacked.”

“Now there’s an interesting point,” dad said, scratching his chin, “Kayla is attacked and you were…where again?”

I took a deep breath. I knew this was going to come and I had to face it. “I wasn’t there.”

“No, you weren’t,” mom replied. So far, no one was yelling, and that was very unnerving.

“It was stupid—” I started.

“I think we can all agree on that,” dad said.

“And I’m sorry. I’m sorry for running out like that. I’m sorry for not thinking clearly. I’m sorry…” I turned to Kayla, “I’m sorry for not being there when you needed me. I should have stayed.”

“You should have,” was all she said. It wasn’t angry, hurt, or chastising. She just said it as fact.

“Jack…you do realize what could have happened, right?” mom said.

“Yeah, I could have gotten hurt way worse.”

“No. Craig could press charges.”

I frowned. “But I didn’t even throw a punch.”

“That makes it better but is it your word against his?”

I wanted to say ‘no’, since the bouncer had been there as well, but I had no illusion that the bouncer would take my side. “Yeah, pretty much.”

“Jack, you went out to find him. You confronted him. If he wanted to, he could say you came to hurt him and he just defended himself.”

“But he can’t,” I protested, “He wasn’t hurt and it’s not like I dragged him out of the place. We were—”

“It doesn’t have to stick,” dad cut in, “It just has to be there. Now you’ve got a record of potential violence. The gun was wiped from your record because they proved you had nothing to do with it. But this…Jack, this could have turned out bad.”

I could have. Shit, I really should have thought this through. “I’m sorry,” I said, looking down at my knees, “It won’t happen again.”

“See that it doesn’t,” mom said. I nodded.

“You mentioned something about a wallet?” dad asked.

“Yeah. Kayla found it when we were grabbing some of her stuff. It was Craig’s wallet.”

Dad nodded slowly. “Did you think it was a little too obvious?”

“Not at the time. Joe said Craig lost it a couple of days ago at school. I didn’t know about that. I just…I wasn’t thinking. It was a dumb move and I should have…yeah, I should have realized it was too obvious. The same thing happened with the gun.”

“It seems like Craig is not really a problem anymore,” mom observed to dad, “Aside from…” She gestured at my pained face.

“Yes, well…” Dad shrugged. “Are you going to try to fight Craig for this?”

At one point, I probably would have. But revenge was the last thing on my mind right now. “No.”

“Good,” dad said, smiling, “That’s the maturity I want to hear. Now…I believe we had something to discuss with all of you.”

Alan and Amanda looked confused but my innards gave a jolt that brought back all the nausea of panic. Mom and dad’s decision about their relationship. Fuck.

“Well, specifically, to discuss with you two.” He looked at the twins. Their faces went white and their hands clutched each other.

Dad stood up and started pacing. He looked over at mom, who glanced at the twins before nodding. He looked at me with an unreadable expression and all I could do was send him a pleading look. I don’t know what that did but it seemed to settle something for him.

He turned and cleared his throat. “Well…this isn’t something you plan for when you have kids. You can plan for fights, lying, breaking stuff, things like that. But a relationship between two of your children? That comes out of nowhere. All you have to go on is your personal feelings brought on by…I don’t know, sets of morals you don’t even know you have until the situation arises. I hadn’t thought about stuff like this in years. I’ve never known anyone else, any siblings who were ever…well, in a relationship like you two are.”

Everyone was holding their breaths. “My first instinct,” he continued, “was to kick one of you out of the house. All I could think of was how disgusted I was by it, how revolted I was at the idea that a brother and sister were having sex. Your mother was as well. I can’t remember when I was so angry, not even the time you guys broke my binoculars.” That’s an interesting story. He had an expensive pair of binoculars. We broke them. The end. “But Jack…well, you came in just when I was about to go completely ballistic. And what you said…I’ve never heard anyone argue for incest.”

“Maybe ‘for incest’ is a little strong,” mom said, putting a hand on his arm, “I think ‘against punishment’ is more accurate. Anyway, the stuff you said about letting it be, how it was hurting no one, how they really cared for each other…it didn’t do much to make it look better but at least it gave us something to talk about.”

“For almost a week,” dad said, “And we’ve discussed this thing from every possible angle, thinking of every con and…God help us…pro of the situation. I just hope you know how very weird this was for us and please, please don’t bring up anything like this again. This is as strange as we go.”

A faint glimmer of hope was emerging. “So what did you decide?” I asked.

Dad took a deep breath and turned to Alan and Amanda. “At the end of the day, you’re my children. No matter what you do, you are my children and I love you. And…if you two are in love…I guess I should be happy that you aren’t with someone who emotionally abuses the crap out of you and smacks you on a regular basis. And you’re hurting no one, as Jack pointed out, and the only pain caused is those stupid ‘moral laws’ that don’t even technically exist. I know you two care about each other and if this is what you want…well, it’s not exactly my place to tell you the person you love is wrong.”

I had never seen such joy on their faces. “You mean…” Amanda gasped, hardly daring to believe it.

“If you want to continue your relationship, then your mother and I are okay with it. Now…”

He didn’t get any further because Alan and Amanda had jumped up and tackled him onto the couch in a hug. “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” Amanda was squealing, pulling mom into the hug as well. Mom laughed with surprise and joined in.

I glanced at Kayla and saw her smiling at them. She looked at me and slowly took my hand. I was happy as well, though looking at Kayla reminded me of my guilt and my smile slid off my face. She saw and mouthed, “Later.”

Dad managed to extract himself from Alan and Amanda. “I’m glad you’re so happy,” he said, straightening his clothes, “But…there are a couple of ground rules.” They nodded. “First of all, keep it to a minimum. Just because we’re allowing it doesn’t mean we want to walk in on you all the time. Or any time. So keep it to a minimum. Second, and I know you already know this, but be discreet. Trust me, there are people that even Jack can’t convince to be okay with this. Third, be safe about it. Amanda, I know you’re on birth control, but that doesn’t mean you can get careless.”

He put his hands on his hips and sighed. He looked over at Kayla. “I’m sorry you had to be brought into this,” he said, “You’ll help us, right?”

“Of course!” she said, smiling, “I’m happy for them. And I’m glad you’re letting them be together.”

“You know,” mom said, looking over at me, “You two haven’t thanked Jack yet. If it wasn’t for him, one of you would be on your way to your grandparents.”

They flew at me and I barely had time to open my arms before they were squeezing the life out of me in thanks. “You’re the best, Jack,” Alan said, joy making his voice squeaky.

“You’re the best brother ever!” Amanda chirruped, kissing me on the cheek.

Alan looked up. “Hey!”

“I’m just kidding!” Amanda laughed, poking Alan’s nose. She gave me another hug and whispered in my ear, “Seriously, Jack, you’re the best. I love you so much.”

“Love you too,” I muttered back.

“What about me?” Kayla said with a smile. Amanda immediately threw their arms around each other and they giggled in joy as they rocked back and forth.

I looked around and saw something I hadn’t seen in our house for almost a week: joy. It was like we’d been living under a blanket and someone had just pulled it off and allowed us to breathe. Mom and dad seemed to notice it as well, for they had their arms wrapped around each other, watching the younger generation revel in their decision. They looked at me. “Thank you,” I mouthed to them. They just smiled.

“All right,” Alan said, standing up, “After all this, I’m about ready for bed.”

“Oh!” Amanda said, turning to mom and dad, “Can I move my stuff back into our room? Please?”

“Oh, I suppose so,” mom said, rolling her eyes.

“Yay! No offense, Jack, but your bed smells.”

“Hey!”

Kayla roared with laughter. “Oh, Kayla,” dad said, “I talked with your parents. They’re trying to get back as quickly as possible but they won’t be back before tomorrow morning. So you’ll be staying with us tonight, if that’s okay.”

“I’m sure my other safehouse will be very disappointed,” she said, tossing her hair.

“You can have my room,” I said, “I’ll take the couch.”

“Or,” Kayla said, turning to me with a raised eyebrow, “Since your bed smells, you can stay up there with me and apologize all night every time I feel like gagging.”

Mom shrieked with laughter but dad frowned. “Kayla, maybe it would be better—”

“I’m fine with him being with me,” she said, “I want him to be with me. I know he wants to make up for running out earlier. As long as you guys are okay with it…”

My parents looked at each other. “There will be no…activities tonight,” mom said sternly.

“Of course not,” Kayla said seriously, “Nothing will happen tonight. I promise. And Jack promises too.”

“I do.”

Dad threw up a hand in resignation. “Whatever you guys think. I’m going to bed. Good night.”

“Good night!” Kayla said, taking my hand and leading me upstairs.

Once we were in my room, she whirled around and put her hands on her hips. “What happened?”

“I went to the Old Gin Rummy. Craig was there and he said his wallet was stolen on Thursday during gym. I…called him a dumb shit and he had one of the bouncers hold me while he punched me a bit.”

Kayla closed her eyes for a moment. “And Joe picked you up?”

“Yeah. Kayla, I’m so sorry. I know I should have stayed here. I just…” Tears were welling in my eyes and I fought to keep them in. “Seeing you looking so scared…I hate myself for not getting—”

“Stop!” she snapped, “Just stop, Jack! Don’t hate yourself! I know everything’s fucked up right now but right now, this moment, there has to be something positive. Because everything recently is just…fucked. I want some happiness. What Alan and Amanda have.” Tears were rolling down her cheeks. “And I want you to share that happiness because you give so much to me. And if you hate yourself…then all I’m thinking is that I’m not giving you any.”

“You do!” I said, a tear sliding down my face, “You make me so happy.”

She sniffed. “That tear on your cheek says different,” she said, pointing.

“No, it’s…Kayla, you are everything to me. And I just keep running off and trying to fight and you deserve someone—”

“I deserve you. Don’t you dare finish that sentence.” She grasped my hand. “This,” she said, shaking our hands, “is real. This is what I need. And if you really and truly think that I’m going to give this up so easily, I’ll kick your butt so bad it’ll look like a fucking plum. I love you, Jack. And I mean that. In my sixteen-year-old way I understand it, I love you. With all my heart. And I am not going to lose you, or have you think you don’t deserve me, just because you got angry.”

We hugged each other tightly and cried. We sat on my bed, her legs curled under her as she pressed herself to me. I stroked her hair and rocked her, kissing every part of her forehead I could reach.

“I was so worried,” she said softly, breathing hard to stop her tears, “I didn’t know what was going to happen.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for you to worry about me.”

“I always worry about you.”

“And I worry about you too.”

She brought her arms lower, around my torso, and squeezed tight. Her arm pressed into my stomach and I lurched in pain.

“I’m sorry!” she said, pulling back, “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! That bad?”

“Mmm,” I groaned, “A bit.”

She lifted up my shirt and made sympathetic noises. I looked down. Two large bruises were forming on my abs like two blue islands in a sea of white. She leaned down and kissed them tenderly, her lips brushing over my skin like blades of grass. “I could kick Craig’s ass for this,” she said, looking up at me fiercely.

“I thought you said we need to have some positive going around.”

“We do and we are. But,” she lightly ran her fingers around the bruises, “this is crossing the line.”

“Well, he did literally beat some sense into me.”

“No one should beat you,” she said, kissing my cheek, “Unless it’s me. By accident.”

“Uh huh. You mean like, ‘Let me just stick my fist out to stretch. Oops! Jack, why did your face run into my fist?’?”

She huffed. “I would never do something like that.”

“I don’t know,” I replied, narrowing my eyes, “I’ve had to dodge you a few times when you flail your arms around.”

“Flail my arms around?!” she said, sounding like she was choking, “Well, excuse my floppy monkey arms. I’m just so upset by this, I’m just going to…” She spun her body around, her arms flopping like strands of spaghetti. I just barely managed to scoot back out of the way in time.

“Missed me!” I said with a grin.

She glared at me. “You’re asking for it.”

“I give!” I cried, holding up my hands.

“Good,” she said, her smile returning. She took my hand and kissed it. “That was better.”

“Our talk?”

“Yeah,” she said happily, “We haven’t had the chance to play-fight in a while. Everything’s been so…serious.”

“Oh, you wanna play-fight?” I asked, holding up my fists.

She lowered them. “Jack…”

“I know, I know, no violence. But yeah, I was getting a little sick of being Lord and Lady Poutington.”

She made the choking noise again. “Lady Poutington?” she asked in pretend fury, “I do not pout!”

“Oh, yes you do. Not as good as me, but still…”

“Challenge accepted. I bet I can pout better than you.” She opened her eyes wide, stuck out her lower lip, and tilted her chin down to her chest. It was puppy-dog levels of adorable.

“Not bad,” I said, scratching my chin, “Now beat this.” I closed my eyes for a second, thought of how everything in the last couple of weeks was sapping my joy and energy, and twisted my face to reflect it. I felt my lower lip slide out, my body slump, and my eyes opened slowly and looked at Kayla under the lids with slightly raised eyebrows. I even managed to make my eyes watery for good measure.

Kayla gasped slightly and brought her hands to her mouth. “Oh my God, Jack,” she said, holding my hands, “Are you okay?”

I pulled out of the pout and grinned. “Yep,” I said chipperly, “Now beat that.”

She squawked in indignation and said, “You had me worried!” Then she stood up. “All right, I’ll beat that.” She closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths. She heaved in a breath, opened her eyes, and thrust her body forward, but before she could do anything pout-related I stood up and gave her a quick kiss on the lips. She smiled sweetly.

“I win,” I said, copying her Victory Dance.

Her smile immediately turned to anger. “You did not!” she shouted, stomping her foot, “You cheated!”

“You were supposed to pout and you smiled instead. Win for me!” I made an imaginary tally-mark in the air.

Kayla was quivering. “Oh, buddy, you just made a big mistake…”

“Show me,” I replied, folding my arms and sticking out my tongue.

“Well,” she said, sliding close and pressing her chest up against mine, “We haven’t played in a while.”

My eyebrow raised. So did something else. “You’re right.”

She tugged on the collar of my shirt and bit her lip. “I’m getting a little antsy,” she said, her voice lowering as she looked into my eyes, “And…well, I don’t know how much longer I can wait before I burst.” She ran her hand along the outside of my pants. “Or until you burst.”

I quivered with desire. “But…my parents…” I said weakly, barely able to resist.

She leaned in and lightly kissed my neck. “We can be quiet,” she whispered, “Or you might need to kiss me the whole time.” She kissed behind my ear. “You make me want to make so many noises.” She moaned a little. My groin shook as my erection reached full mast. It had already taken control of my brain.

My hand slid up her side. “What kind of noises?”

She ground against me a little. “Do you wanna find out?” she asked quietly, one hand gripping my back and the other running through my hair.

“I do.” Oh, God, I wanted it. I hadn’t been this hard since the first time we had sex. I didn’t even care that anyone else was home. I needed her now.

“Well,” she whispered, bringing her lips to within a centimeter of mine, “…That’s too bad.” She released me and skipped back, a huge grin on her face.

I knew, if we were still playing the pouting game, I would have given a pout that would have made Mt. Rushmore sob. My erection was throbbing almost painfully and it was all I could do to not get on my knees and beg. “But…” I stammered, “But…”

“You gonna play games fairly from now on?” she asked, her hands on her hips.

“Yes! Yes, I promise!” I was so close to begging. “Please, you can’t leave me like this! You can’t—”

Can’t leave me like this. Like I left her. And now I’m begging for sex on a night she was attacked. A wave of self-disgust washed over me and I immediately sat down. Kayla frowned in concern. “Are you all right, baby?” she asked, coming over.

I sighed. “I’m fine.”

“Okay, let me rephrase: what’s wrong?”

“Nothing.”

“One more time…really, what’s wrong? Tell me, Jack.”

I rubbed my face. “After tonight…I know sex is the last thing you want. And I shouldn’t be asking you for it.”

She pushed back my hair from my face. “Jack,” she said, kissing my cheek, “I’m here with you. I feel safe. Yeah, it was scary as shit but I’m okay. Nothing happened. You chased him away before anything could happen. And they’re not going to be stupid enough to come back.”

“I know but…I mean, if you’re still getting over it, I shouldn’t—”

“I’m not scared, Jack. I’m not traumatized. Yeah, I probably would argue very hard against going home tonight but I know I’ll be able to go back eventually. I’m strong enough to get over it.”

“Kayla…I don’t want you to feel like you have to rush to anything.”

“I know me, sweetie, and I’m not going to let this break me. I’m here with you and that’s all that matters.” She folded me softly into her arms. “I love you. And I’m so thankful you are here with me and you were there to protect me.”

“I ran out on you.”

“Stop beating yourself up about that! Yes, it was a mistake. And yes…I was angry. Really angry.” She looked at me seriously. “I was ready to shout at you when you came home. But when Joe texted me that he had gotten you and that you were unconscious…Jack, you keep getting hurt and being mad at you wasn’t going to help anything.”

I leaned my head against hers. “How did I get so lucky to have you?”

“You’re just lucky,” she replied, smiling, “Now, get those clothes off.” I looked at her excitedly. She rolled her eyes and continued, “For bed, Horny Harry. Your parents are here.”

“We could be quiet.”

“Yeah. We will. Because we’ll be asleep.”

I shook my head and smiled. She was right, of course, but I had to try.

I stripped down to my boxers, Kayla eyeing me appreciatively the whole time, and I crawled into bed, holding the covers up for her so she could slip in. “You know,” she said, reaching over to turn off my lamp, “it’s not really fair that I have more clothes on than you.”

“Kayla…no more teasing.”

She giggled. “One last time.” She kissed me softly, running a hand along my arm. “I’m glad you’re safe,” she whispered.

“I’m sorry again.”

“And I forgive you.”

“I love you.”

Her face was pressed into my shoulder and I felt her smile. “I love you too. Sweet dreams.”

I wrapped my arms around her and closed my eyes. If being awake with her felt this good, I couldn’t imagine how my dreams could possibly be better.

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I was having that dream again. The one where I was stranded in the middle of the ocean with nothing surrounding me but open water. Sunlight streamed through from above, but it was filtered by distance. Below me was an endless blue that gradually gave way to darkness. There was nothing around me but water. Yet…I had the impression that there was something just barely out-of-sight. A looming shape, huge and dark, but not defined in any way. It wasn’t coming closer but staring right at the boundaries of my sight.

I was terrified. I needed to escape.

I was feeling very wet. Something was tugging at me.

Usually I woke up from that dream gasping and sweating. This time, I woke up slowly, aware that something was different. Something was very different. I usually woke up hard (being a teenager) but I had never woke up with my erection feeling like it was…like it was…

I sat up quickly and lifted the blankets off my lower body. Kayla was down between my legs, my cock in her mouth. She was slowly taking it in and out of her mouth, her tongue sticking out above her lower lip as she went back up. One hand was gripping my shaft, lightly milking it as she blew me.

She looked up as the blanket came off and she grinned. Holding my cock near her mouth like a microphone, she said, “Good morning and welcome to your Wake-Up Blowjob, Mr. Harrison. Please lay back and enjoy and ecstasy will soon be yours.” She giggled and slowly slid my cock back in her mouth.

I gasped, my waking senses now attuned to the wonderful feeling of her between my legs, and I fell back against the pillow. “My parents…” I said, trying to sound like I thought it was important.

“They left a little while ago to go get your car,” she said, popping me out of your mouth, “So there’s only a little time. And I wanted to do something that would get you in good spirits.”

A blowjob would certainly do that. I’m sure I could have thought of something else to say but the heavenly feeling of her mouth on my cock, slowly milking it with her lips, made speech impossible. I shuddered as she swirled her tongue around the head, flicking it back and forth along the tip. She was doing it with agonizing slowness, drawing out each action for maximum pleasure.

Her other hand was stroking my thigh and gently glided up to my balls, fondling them lightly. Her touch made me twitch and she drove my cock deeper down her throat, slurping it as she twisted her head around it. The new motion made me groan. “Oh my God…” I gripped the sheets with claw-like fingers.

I heard her giggle. “Do you like that?” she whispered as her tongue glided up and down my shaft.

Rhetorical question. “Uh huh.” Hey, just because it’s rhetorical doesn’t mean I can’t answer.

She giggled again. “Then you’ll love this,” she whispered and her mouth left my cock. The cold air hit the wetness of her saliva, sending ripples of goosebumps up my body. I opened my eyes and looked up to see her slipping off her tank top. Her boobs bounced free, smooth and beautiful as ever. I reached up a hand to touch them but she swatted it away. “Uh uh,” she said, wagging a finger. The action made her breasts sway and I licked my lips. I knew I was going to burst soon.

She leaned down and kissed the crown of my cock. Then she slid up my body so she could rub her nipples along the length of my shaft. It was a different feeling, not altogether pleasurable. Then she grabbed my cock and started rubbing the head against her nipple, the hard little nub poking against the sensitive glands. That was pleasurable. Scratch that…it was fantastic.

“I wanted to try this for a while,” she said, grinning as she watched me writhe and moan, “I know how much you love my boobs.” She leaned down and sucked on the head of my cock. Her tongue hit all the spots her nipple had and it was driving me insane. The twinges and throbbings had grown to the point where I was almost numb and her tongue was flicking against a surface that registered it as resonance rather than sensitive feeling.

In short…fucking hell, that felt great!

She popped my cock out with an audible smack and looked up at me coyly. “There was something else I wanted to do,” she said softly.

“Whatever you want,” I moaned. Hurry, please! I can’t wait for more!

She smiled slowly. “I need you to sit on the edge of the bed.” I quickly complied, my legs dangling over the side and my cock sticking out long and proud. She slid out of the bed like liquid, staring into my eyes the whole way down. She was kneeling between my legs and I thought she was going to put my cock back in her mouth.

I was wrong.

She ran her hands over her breasts and smirked up at me as I watched her caress her beautiful chest. She leaned forward so my cock was resting between them and squeezed them together lightly. It was like resting my cock between two pillows…in fact, that’s basically what it was. The pressure went from soft and sensual to erotically tight as she continued to squeeze my cock between her mounds. My eyes fluttered shut as she leaned forward and managed to press her tits together as much as they could go.

She slowly lifted her tits and dropped them again, a feeling like when she jerked me off but with the alien pleasure of having it done with her soft breasts. I jerked and sighed. “Wow,” I said softly.

“Good?” she asked.

“Uh huh.”

“Good.” She grinned and slowly began to milk my cock with her breasts. It wasn’t just a simple up-and-down motion; she was leaning into each stroke upwards, a motion that almost had me lifting my hips with her. Her lips were slightly parted as she stared up at me. I stared at them, remembering the look of her wrapping them around my cock. It twitched and, if possible, got even harder. So hard I thought it was going to break the skin.

She kept up the same maddeningly slow pace as the blowjob. I wanted to go faster but somehow I knew I wasn’t in control. I leaned back and let her continue to stroke my cock, reveling in the softness of her breasts.

I couldn’t help thrusting up occasionally as she came down. She giggled as I did and asked, “You like it?”

“Love it,” I groaned.

She squeezed her breasts together harder and started to fuck faster. My dick was being pulled and tugged harder than any hand could and it was driving me nuts.

Kayla was moaning as well, biting her lower lip as she continued to fuck me with her tits. When she used her hand, it was a tight and assured grip. With her breasts, my cock molded to them. If anything, this felt even better. It was…soft and hard at the same time. I had the pleasure of being jerked off with the added bonus of her tits being the ones to do the job.

Then she stuck out her tongue and let my tongue run along it every time she went down.

That was all it took. I groaned, “Baby…cumming…”

“Go for it,” she said softly, continuing to lick the crown of my cock every time her face came close.

My balls tightened and the cum raced up my cock, filling the cockhead until it swelled and then exploded. My pearly cum flew out, spilling onto her breasts and covering her face. She had closed her eyes and was giggling as I continued to shoot. I gasped for air, collapsing back on the bed as I caught my breath.

“Good aim,” I heard her say.

I struggled to sit up. “I’m sorry,” I said breathlessly, “I didn’t…”

“It’s fine!” she said, swirling a bit of cum on her breast. She brought her finger up to her lips, looked into my eyes, and slowly sucked it into her mouth. Erection reestablished. “Hmmm,” she said, thoughtfully.

“What?”

“Salty,” she said, pulling a slight face, “But not too bad.”

“Okay,” I said, wiping the sweat from my forehead, “Now it’s my turn.”

“Your turn?” she asked saucily.

I lifted her up by her armpits and made her sit on the bed. “I’m going to eat you out,” I growled, kneeling down right where she had been, “I’ve waited long enough.”

Ohhh,” she said in delight, scooting back along the bed, “Sounds great!”

“Yeah, it does.” I wanted to taste her. The scent of her sex and the taste of her cum had driven me wild with curiosity and desire in the past and now I was going to find out what the source tasted like. I had always wanted to eat a girl out and now was finally my chance.

“Go for it,” she giggled, her cum-covered breasts jiggling as she did. She leaned against the wall and turned her head coyly.

“What’s that for?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she said shyly, “Just…no one’s ever done it to me before. Or wanted to.”

“Then I’m here to service you,” I replied, tugging at her sweatpants. I really, really wanted to eat her out. Like, just as much as having sex with her.

She was lifting her butt to help me slip them off when she suddenly gasped. She was looking out the window. “Your parents,” she said urgently.

Shit! We froze for a second and then began a mad scramble for our clothes. I helped her slip on a bra and a T-shirt (there was no time to wash the leftover cum off her skin) while I grabbed the first thing I could seize from my drawers. When I finished my mad scramble to dress, I realized I was in a muscle shirt and red shorts that I hadn’t worn for a few years. As such, they ended barely below my ass.

Kayla was trying not to giggle. “Cute,” she said.

“Yes you are.”

“Awww!” she squealed, kissing me on the cheek, “I’m so sorry we have to stop! Trust me, next time we’re alone, I’m having you lick the life out of me.” She winked.

I was still cursing inside my head (and not eloquent cursing, more along the lines of, fuck shit fucking cocksucking son of a fucking fuck! Like that) but the promise made me feel a little better. “It’ll just give me more time to practice,” I replied, sticking out my tongue and wagging it.

She shuddered and smacked me lightly. “Tease!”

We heard my parents on the stairs. “Jack!” dad called, “You finally up?”

“Yeah,” I called back, walking out of my room.

Dad was just rounding the landing. “We picked up your car from—dahhhhh!” He had caught sight of my clothes and pulled the appropriate face. “Nice outfit.”

Mom was following close behind and had to hold back a snort of laughter. “Jack…” she said between suppressed giggles, “Is that what you’re wearing to work?”

“Har har,” I snarled, holding out my hand, “Can I get my keys back?”

Dad tossed them to me, still holding his disgusted face. “Jack, you go out in public dressed like that and call yourself my kid, I’m calling you a loony.”

Dear,” mom said, smacking his shoulder, “He’s your son if he goes out in a tube top and thigh-high boots.”

“Who’s wearing thigh-highs?” Amanda asked, coming out of her room. She took one look at me and shrieked with laughter.

“That does it!” I shouted, throwing up my hands and turning around, “Time to change. I’m gonna strip nude if you all want to see that.”

Everyone bolted. Kayla was leaning against my doorframe, a smug look on her face. “Good thing I get that whenever I want,” she said, trailing her hand along my body as I passed.

“Yeah, yeah,” I grunted, dropping my hideous shorts and grabbing a pair of jeans.

I had just finished pulling on a regular shirt when a car horn blared from outside. I went to the window and saw a car pulling into Kayla’s driveway. “Your parents are home,” I said.

Kayla’s smile dropped and she looked uncomfortable. “Would you stay with me when I talk with them?”

“You okay?”

“Yeah, just…talking about last night would be more comfortable.”

I hugged her. “Of course, baby.”

Turns out we didn’t have to actually walk over to her house. Her parents came charging out of the garage and I stepped back so they could sweep Kayla up in a huge hug. Mr. Hannigan alone was able to enfold both his wife and daughter in his big arms and squeeze them until they looked like a big ball of Hannigan. Her parents were sobbing with relief, muttering things I couldn’t hear but that sounded like expressions of sympathy and questions about what happened.

I stood by, watching. At one point, Kayla said something and turned to look at me. Her parents looked at me as well. I shuffled me feet, not exactly sure what to do. Mr. Hannigan came over and, instead of the handshake I thought he was going to give me, he wrapped his arms around me and gave me a bear hug that normal bears would have thought excessive.

“Thank you,” he said wetly, his eyes still brimming with tears, “Thank you so much, Jack.”

He dropped me only to have Mrs. Hannigan grab me and give me a hug that seemed just as tight. “I won’t ever be able to tell you how grateful we are,” she wept, “Thank you, Jack. Thank you for being there for her.”

I felt a little guilty hearing that, knowing I hadn’t been with her the whole time, but I knew Kayla wouldn’t want me mentioning that. Instead, I said, “I’m just sorry I couldn’t prevent it altogether.”

Mrs. Hannigan gripped my shoulders. “There’s nothing to be sorry for. You stopped them. You’re a hero.” I made a face that suggested otherwise. “Well, to us, you are.”

“He is to me,” Kayla said, beaming. I felt myself color.

“A true hero blushes when he’s praised,” Mr. Hannigan said gruffly, patting my shoulder so hard that my knees buckled, “Jack…we have a favor to ask.”

“Okay.”

“Until whoever…broke in last night is caught, it would mean a lot to us if Kayla could stay over at your place when we go out of town. I’d offer to stay home more but…well, my wife needs me with her.” I got the feeling that the reasons were classified.

“I’m sure they’d be fine with it,” I replied.

“We are!” My dad had come out of the house, presumably to grab something from his car. He waved. “Welcome back, guys!”

“Thanks, Mike!” Mr. Hannigan called back, quickly dashing away his tears, “And thank you so much for looking after Kayla for us.”

Dad shrugged. “She makes it easy. No trouble at all.”

“Wait…we’re talking about this Kayla, right?” Mr. Hannigan said, acting confused and holding a beefy finger about Kayla’s head. She made a bite for it and he snapped his finger away.

Dad laughed. “She’s welcome any time. And so are you guys! We need to go out and do something sometime! In the mountains or wherever!”

“If you are just looking for free access to the cabin, you could try to be more subtle.”

“Damn,” dad said, sighing, “Ya caught me.” He grabbed a couple files out of his car, waved again, and went inside.

“Let’s get inside,” Mrs. Hannigan said, putting an arm around Kayla’s shoulder, “I want to…we should…well, let’s just go inside and sit down.”

“You coming, Jack?” Mr. Hannigan asked.

I shook my head. “Sorry. I’ve got work in a bit.”

“Sorry to hear that. You know you’re always welcome, of course.”

“Of course.”

Mrs. Hannigan let go of Kayla and took her husband’s hand. “Let's let them say goodbye,” she said gently, pulling him away.

Kayla watched them walk away and turned to look at me with a sad smile. “I wish you didn’t have to go to work.”

“It’ll be fine, baby,” I said, holding her hand and leaning in to kiss her, “Just think positive, remember?”

“Yeah,” she said, tossing her hair and putting on a smile, “You think positive too. No thinking about fighting!”

“I’ll do my best,” I said, laughing a little.

She kissed me again, wrapping her arms around me and letting our tongues gently flick together. “Thank you again,” she said, smiling, “For being my knight in shining armor.”

“I’m always here for you, Kayla. No matter what.”

“I know. And that means the world to me. I love you.”

“I love you too,” I said, kissing her again as my heart swelled with joy. She broke away and walked back to her house, blowing me a final kiss before she went inside.

I went back in my house and promptly changed into my workout clothes. I had to work, that was true, but not for another couple of hours. And despite my promise not to think about fighting, I couldn’t help but think getting a little bit of practice in could do some good. I went downstairs, where the punching bag waited to take the full brunt of my anger and frustration until it was an empty, battered husk.

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Amanda and Alan were the happiest I had ever seen them on Monday as they eagerly hopped in the back seat of my car, their hands tightly clasped together. Honestly, it had been impossible to wipe the smiles off their faces all weekend, ever since mom and dad consented to their relationship. “No one looks that happy about going to school,” I commented.

“They are when they have the girl they love with them,” Alan said in a tone so cheerful, Disney would have puked, “You should know that.”

“Yeah,” I said, watching as Kayla walked up to the car, giving us a happy wave as she got close.

“Hey, everyone!” she said chipperly, leaning in to give me a kiss. Then she whispered in my ear, “My parents are going to dinner tonight.” She gave me a meaningful look and I had to prevent myself from doing a fist-pump in triumph. We’d had no alone time since Saturday morning and I knew we were both feeling the itch.

“Hey Kayla!” Amanda said, hugging her over the seat, “Now we’re two couples!”

“That’s right,” I said, glancing in the rearview mirror, “At least until we get to school.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me,” Amanda said, rolling her eyes. I could tell it was affecting her more than she was letting on.

Kayla’s hand slipped into mine. “You okay?” she asked.

“Yeah,” I replied. I had been thinking about facing Craig after what happened. He had said he wanted nothing more to do with me, which was a plus, but I didn’t know how my anger was going to flare up when I saw him. I had promised Kayla I would try to work on my aggression and anger. Seeing Craig…I knew he didn’t attack Kayla (and that was something else that was bothering me: who did do it?) but he had beaten me up again and I was getting a little sick of it.

Kayla was looking at me worriedly. Using her mind-reading powers, she asked, “Is it Craig?”

“Yeah,” I said shortly.

“Forget about him,” Alan said, leaning forward, “He’s not worth it. Just let him go.”

Easier said than done.

It was nice to once again have two people waiting for us at school, rather than just Joe alone. I may not have known much about Belle before this weekend but after Friday night, she more than had my respect. “How you doing, man?” Joe asked, pulling me in for a bro-hug.

“Great,” I said. Not entirely true but I wasn’t going to be a Debbie Downer. “Hey, Belle.”

“Hey, Jack,” she said, giving me a smile, “All healed up and stuff?”

“Yeah…and stuff.”

Everyone exchanged their ‘heys’ and ‘what’s ups’ while I looked down the sidewalk to where Brad and Jessica were hanging out. It was just an automatic thing at this point. I don’t know what I was expecting, if they would wave us over and we’d all be a nice big group or something, but Brad and I had been friends for years. And it seemed like it was ending, all because of Jessica.

Jessica…she had to be behind the attack on Kayla. I didn’t like Craig but really, I should have realized that leaving his wallet at Kayla’s house was too obvious. He was…well, innocent of this stuff. He was still an asshole. But it hadn’t been Jessica who had broken into Kayla’s house. It had been a guy. Brad? No way. A brick shithouse like him would have been impossible to mistake. The boyfriend of one of her entourage? Perhaps. Or maybe it was…

“Jack,” Kayla said, touching my arm and pointing.

Near the school, next to one of the brick pillars, Craig was talking to a girl. Even at a distance, I recognized his moves: the posture, the face, the way he smiled extra large whenever the girl spoke. “Didn’t take him long to get back in the swing of things,” I commented darkly.

“Well,” Joe said in distaste, noticing where we were looking, “Annoying you two took up a good chunk of his time.”

“We’re gonna go,” Amanda said, “Have fun talking about Craig.” She subtly touched Alan’s hand and they walked off together.

“See you guys!” Kayla said.

I continued to stare at Craig, the anger I had been worried about boiling to the surface. I remembered how furious I had been when he did the same thing to Kayla, knowing that she was going to end up like all of his other conquests. His words when he confronted us later, when he said he had only tried to bang her because he knew it would hurt me. How he smacked her…

I felt my feet carrying me closer to him. “Jack,” I heard Kayla say as she caught up with me, “What are you—”

“It stops now,” I growled, “No girl is going to fall for him ever again.”

Craig finally noticed us when we were only about a foot away. His anger and irritation were obvious but he tried to bed them down. “Can I help you?” he asked.

I glared at him once, then turned to the girl. I was surprised to see that she wasn’t drop-dead gorgeous like his other conquests; if anything, ‘cute’ would have been a good way to describe her. Her long red hair was bound in a tight bun above a face with a generous spackling of freckles, a button nose, and two smoky gray eyes behind a pair of thin glasses that gave her a somewhat haunted look. She was cute. Not gorgeous, not hot, not even exactly what I’d call beautiful, but she was cute. Maybe Craig felt he had to start small.

“Excuse me…what’s your name?” I asked her politely.

“Becca,” she replied uncertainly, her eyes flicking between me and Craig.

“Becca, you seem like a nice girl. Just thought you should know that Craig, whatever he might have said to you, is only interested in having sex with you. He’s going to pretend to like you, to care about what you have to say, but all he really wants is to get you in bed.”

Her eyes went wide and she stammered, “What? But…I…he didn’t…” Craig could only stare at me in horror.

“It’s true,” Kayla said beside me, the disgust evident in her voice, “He tried to do the same thing to me. And he’s done it to at least a dozen different girls here. Go ahead and talk to any of them, they’ll tell you the same.”

Becca looked like she wanted to puke. Craig tried to make the save. “Becca,” he said desperately, “That’s not what I’m doing! Really!”

“Really? That’s not what you do?” I asked him derisively, “Then what did you try to do with Kayla?”

“That was different!”

“Wait,” Becca said, looking up at him, “So you did do it with her?”

“No!”

“Only because Jack helped me out,” Kayla cut in, “He wanted to but after he dragged me to a bar and got piss-faced drunk, I got smart.”

“Leave us alone!” Craig said to us, sounding more desperate than mad, “This isn’t any of your business!”

“I’m making it my business,” I said coldly, “If I can save just one girl from becoming a notch in your bedpost then, yeah, it is my business.”

Craig looked like we had thrown him in a cave and were rapidly sealing the entrance. “Becca, that’s not what I’m doing with you! I promise!”

“Then what did you do with her?” Becca demanded, her eyes getting misty.

“She…” Craig looked like he wanted to lie but couldn’t bring himself to do it, “Yes…I only took her out so I could have sex with her…” Becca closed her eyes and looked down. “But that’s not with you, Becca, I swear! If you said you didn’t want to have sex for a month, I’d—”

“Goodbye, Craig,” Becca said, turning away. She looked at us and said, “Thanks,” before walking away.

Craig tried to call after her but his arm fell limp and his words died in his throat. He turned back to us. I had expected him to try to roast us with a furious glare but, to my surprise, he looked like he was about to cry. “Why did you do that?” he demanded, gritting his jaw, “I really liked her!”

“Yeah, I’m sure you liked all the other girls who—”

“That’s not…what I…was doing,” he snarled, spittle flying from his mouth, “I liked her. I’ve liked her since elementary school. And this was the first time she actually showed some interest in me!”

“Well, you can’t have liked her that much,” I commented, sneering a little, “Otherwise you would have spent more time going after her than anything that wore above a C-cup.”

Craig was desperately trying to hold back tears. “Dude…I told you to leave me alone…”

“Oh, stop pretending like you care,” Kayla snapped, “You’ll forget about her the next time you can get a girl to listen to you for more than a few seconds.”

He wanted to say more. I could see that. But he shuddered as what looked like a sob wracked his throat and he turned away, walking into school with his head down. My anger slowly dissipated as he left and a twinge of guilt replaced it. “Were we too harsh?” I asked Kayla.

“If I had known what he was going to be like when he first started talking to me, I’d have wanted you to be harsher.” She gripped my hand tightly, still looking furious.

Joe and Belle had come over, looking a little put-off by our furious expressions. “Everything all right?” Joe asked.

“Fine,” Kayla said shortly, “Just stopping a girl from getting Craiged.”

“Did you just verb ‘Craig’?” Belle asked, hiding a smile.

“I did.”

“I didn’t recognize her,” I said to Joe, “Did you?”

He shrugged. “Didn’t get a good look at her. Maybe a freshman?”

“Maybe. That would explain why he hasn’t tried anything with her if he likes her so much.”

“Wait,” Joe said, holding up a hand and smirking a little, “Craig actually likes a girl?”

“Or he likes something about her. Whatever.”

That twinge of guilt hadn’t gone away. I mean, yeah, I’d been kind of an asshole but it’s not like Craig was doing something virtuous or anything. Yeah, maybe he wanted this girl more than the others…No, Kayla was right. He’d be all right by gym class once he found something else to ogle.

Right?

Wrong.

I looked for him as soon as we sat down in the gym bleachers. I expected him to be back to his normal don’t-give-a-fuck attitude, maybe with a dash of disappointment for earlier. I was hoping that was his attitude. Actually, I needed that attitude so the creeping feeling of guilt that had been eating away at me with steadily increasing ferocity would go away.

It was something very different.

Craig was sitting even further away than usual from everyone else, his expression one of devastation. His face was red, like he’d been crying, and even as I watched him, he angrily ran his wrist against his eyes. You could have gone over and poked him and I doubt he would have noticed. He was stuck in his own head, lost in his thoughts, and those thoughts looked like they were pretty depressing.

I realized, with a jolt, that he looked exactly the way I felt when I first found out he and Kayla were dating. I felt worse than ever.

Kayla noticed and put a hand on my shoulder. “Sweetie,” she said, concerned, “What’s wrong?”

“Craig,” I replied.

“What about him?” she asked looking over, “Oh.” She noticed as well. That wasn’t the look of a guy who was denied a fuck-buddy. It was someone who had their heart stomped on.

“Don’t worry about it,” Joe said, “Like you said, he’ll just find another girl to stare at and it’ll all be good.”

I doubted that. Fuck, I felt awful. And I felt awful for Craig, the guy I was convinced I’d hate for the next three years of high school. God damn, what’s going on?

Running the track gave me some time to think. Nothing like the monotony of looping around and around the pavement to let your mind wander. I tried to justify my actions to myself, to convince myself that I really thought he had been trying to do with Becca what he had done with all the other girls. But…did I? Or was I just pissed off about last week? Not that I didn’t have reason to be pissed of at him. I mean, he fucking knocked me out…after I went after him.

Why was I trying to convince myself of anything? I did the right thing. He should have told her about what he had done. Somebody needed to tell her because…Wow, that sounded bad even in my head.

Shit.

Kayla kept pace with me the whole way and I could feel her eyes on me. I didn’t know what she was thinking, if she was feeling as bad as I was. Joe was jogging slightly ahead of me, making a token effort to actually get a decent time, but his heart wasn’t in it. To be fair, no one really had much heart for running the mile unless it was for a grade. The only students who made the effort were Brad and Ted, who were surprisingly evenly matched. No one else wanted to do more than a light jog.

Kayla, Joe, and everyone else tried to cheer me up at lunch but every time I glanced over at Craig, sitting alone and barely touching his food, I felt a huge stab of guilt. Hell, it was so bad I actually wanted to go over and apologize. I probably would have done so but…well, I figured the only response I’d get was a right hook to the face.

“Fuck him, man,” Joe said, slurping up a string of spaghetti, “After all the shit he’s done, he fucking deserves it.”

“Jack, please cheer up,” Kayla said, a hand on my cheek, “Positive, remember?”

Yeah, I was trying to be positive. That’s why I decided to be a complete dick to Craig when he was doing nothing to me. I looked at Kayla and she smiled at me. I smiled back but it only helped me feel a little better.

Theater and play rehearsal went by in a blur. My limited stage time during rehearsal was a blessing and curse: my depression didn’t color my lines too much but I had a lot of down time for my mood to swallow me up. I sat in the audience, my head in my hands, mentally beating myself up. I had always tried to be a good guy…why the hell did I do that? Why couldn’t I have just thought for a second?!

Kayla sat down next to me when her scene was done and put an arm around my shoulders. “You okay, baby?” she asked.

“No.”

“Jack…she may not have wanted to date him. It’s not like you broke up a sure thing.”

“Doesn’t mean they didn’t deserve a chance.”

She bit her lip and lowered her eyes. I knew she agreed. She looked up and smiled. “Look, Jack, after this, we’re going to my place. Let’s try and be happy, okay? I know we’ll be able to cheer each other up.”

The thought of having her all to myself did cheer me up a little. “What did you have in mind?” I asked, raising an eyebrow.

“As if you needed to ask,” she replied, sliding a hand up my leg. That helped cheer me up even more. I still felt crappy about Craig but hey, when your gorgeous girlfriend is promising a wild sex session, it’s hard to think about anything else.

She saw the depression leave my face. “That’s the spirit,” she said happily, kissing my cheek.

We both remained fairly antsy for the rest of rehearsal, limiting our physical contact to just help hands but the sparks that flew between our hands spoke of so much more. Our shared glances promised more than words ever could and every time our eyes made contact, we had to shift in our seats. Ms. Locke’s notes took forever (as they often did, her being Ms. Nitpick) and we spent the entire time slowly sliding down the row of seats to the very end. When she finally dismissed us, we were banging through the door before she had finished her, “Bye.”

The drive home was…interesting. I was doing my best to stay calm and obey traffic laws but it’s rather hard to do that when there’s a hand stroking your cock through your pants. Every time she gave it a squeeze, my leg would shudder and I would have to fight to keep us on the road. “Kayla…” I groaned as her pace increased, “Maybe this isn’t safe.”

“Say stop,” she said huskily, licking her lips, “And I’ll stop.”

Well, that just wasn’t fair. How could I say stop?

I pulled…well, screeched into her driveway and had to chase her inside. As soon as the door was slammed, I pushed her against the wall and mashed my lips against hers. She wrapped her arms around my neck and kissed back fiercely, our tongues lapping at each other as our breaths became pants. I put my hands on her rear and lifted her up so she wrapped her legs around my waist.

“Ohhhh,” she giggled, breaking our kisses and rubbing our noses together, “Eager?”

“Yeah…for one thing,” I growled, starting carefully up the stairs.

She cocked her head. “What’s that?”

I just kissed her, squeezing her rear as I did so. She gasped a little into my mouth and gripped me tighter.

I managed to make it up the stairs and carried her to her room, where she slid out of my arms and onto her bed. She kept her legs wrapped around me though. “What are you so eager for?” she gasped, her face already flushed.

“Unwrap your legs and I’ll show you.” I had waited for this long enough.

“Why?” she asked innocently, sticking her pinky in her mouth and sucking it.

I slid off my shirt. “Because how else am I gonna lick that beautiful pussy of yours?”

Her eyes lit up and one of the biggest grins I had ever seen stretched across her face. “Yay!” she squealed, eagerly unwrapping her legs and tearing her shirt off. She leaned back on her hands, her shoulders squeezing her boobs together in her light red bra. “Wanna help me with this?” she asked innocently.

I grabbed her jeans instead and tugged them off roughly. She whooped and slid back down on her back, giggling as I tossed them aside. “You are eager,” she laughed, running her hands down to her pussy and covering it.

“What are you doing?” I asked, lust making my voice low.

“Oh, you have to say the magic word to get in,” she giggled.

“How about the magic this?” I seized her hands and pinned them down next to her head. I leaned in and kissed her roughly. Her back arched as she moaned into the kiss, her panty-clad pussy rubbing against my pants.

I slowly started kissing down her body, savoring the taste between her breasts, on her stomach, and finally down to the top of her panties. I lightly gripped the lacy rim with my teeth and tugged them down. She lifted her waist and upper legs to help me and I managed to pull them down to her knees before my neck started cramping and I had to pull them off with my hand instead.

I kissed back up her leg and she sighed in pleasure. “Spread your legs, please,” I whispered as I rounded her knees.

Her legs spread apart, revealing my target. Her slit was already moist, the lips parted slightly to reveal the rosy pink interior. The nub of her clit stood out proudly at the crown of her opening, waiting to be tongued and played with. The scent of her excitement, that tangy fruity smell tinged with a bit of muskiness, was entering through my nose and adding energy to my erection. Above her pussy, her pubic hair was still neatly trimmed into the shape of a small heart.

I leaned in and planted a kiss in the middle of the heart. “Very cute,” I said with a smile.

Her eyes were half-closed and she managed a dreamy smile. “Five minutes, every day, to keep it looking good.” I kissed the lower edge of the heart, just above her clit, and she moaned.

I licked my lips and planted a full-on kiss right in the middle of her pussy. Her back arched and she squealed a little. The taste wasn’t what I expect, sort of like the first time you try wine and it tastes very different than it smells. The fruitiness was there but much more subdued. If anything, it was more of a tart flavor, slightly musky but certainly heavier than I expected.

I stuck my tongue out and ran the tip along the slit, very lightly, causing Kayla to shiver. My second impression was more exciting. Now that I knew what to expect, the taste was more pleasant and I eagerly began to lick her pussy with long, slow strokes, making sure I was savoring the flavor rather than lapping at it like a dog. Each lick had her writhing and moaning loudly.

“Oh, Jack!” she gasped as I lightly parted her pussy lips with my fingers and tongued around inside, “Yes! Oh, fuck, that feels good!”

My other hand slowly crept up her body until I found one of her breasts. She had taken her bra off and I lightly pinched her nipple, rolling it between my fingers. A small scream broke from her mouth. I dove into her pussy a little deeper, sticking my tongue as deep inside her as I could and using the thumb of my finger to gently tweak her clit.

Ahhhh!” she screeched, panting as she grasped my hand on her breasts. I licked up each pussy lip individually then gently flicked her clit with my tongue, using the techniques I had practiced with to twitch her clit this way and that. Each flick sent a shiver through her body.

Wow, I had no idea she was this sensitive. Then again, this was her first time. My first time as well. Thank God for the educational value of porn.

I moved my free hand to her rear and gently lifted it up so I could roll her hips as my tongue continued its assault on her pussy. She laughed breathlessly. “Jack, if I had known,” she gasped, fighting to stay intelligible as my fingers continued to tweak her nipple and my tongue continued to stroke inside her pussy, “I would have…asked you to do…this…sooner…Oh my God, don’t stop!”

I wasn’t going to. This was turning me on just as much as it was her. I was poking my tongue around inside her, finding every sensitive spot I could and making sure to spend a little bit of time tickling each one. I was purposefully avoiding doing too much to her clit. I wanted to keep teasing her as long as I could before sending her over the edge.

Her breathing was shortening and I could feel her clawing at the bed. “Jack…” she squeaked, “I’m gonna…ohhhh…”

I knew what she meant. I immediately licked up her slit to her clit and sucked it into my mouth, letting my teeth lightly graze the nub. I tongued it twice more with my whole tongue and that sent her over the edge. With a wild shriek, unlike anything I had heard from her before, she jerked and came hard, her juices leaking out of her pussy and onto my chin. I kept nibbling her clit, hoping it would increase her orgasm’s intensity. It did.

Kayla was gasping for air, her breasts heaving as her orgasm continued to grow, shrieks occasionally tearing out when her vocal chords were able to clash together. “Don’t stop…” she gasped, “Please don’t stop.”

And I didn’t. For five minutes I lapped and sucked at her clit and each minute brought a new orgasm that had her clamping her thighs around my ears and squeezing until I thought she was going to snap my neck. My hand left her breasts and lightly ran its nails through the hair above her pussy, occasionally brushing against the very tip of her slit.

After what I think was her fourth orgasm, she was battering at my head, gasping, “Stop…stop…please, I can’t…fuck…take anymore!”

I gently lowered her onto the bed and removed my mouth. The lower half of my face was soaked in her juices and the inside of my mouth was clammy with the salty, tart taste of her pussy and her cum. I ran a hand across my mouth as I watched her shudder and gasp, her skin now the color of ripe strawberries. The air was heavy with the smell of her excitement, leaving me dizzy and wracked with lust.

I looked down to see her staring up at me with that same lustful look in her eyes. I quickly undid my jeans and dropped them to the ground. She lifted herself shakily onto her elbows and whispered, “This isn’t going to be making love. I need you to fuck me hard.”

“Oh, I’m going to,” I growled, nearly tearing off my boxers in excitement. Both of us were charged with a sexual energy unlike anything we had ever felt. Getting a blowjob from her was enough to get me ready to pound her to the moon and back, but eating her out…I was ready to split her in half. And she didn’t look like she’d object.

I crawled on the bed with her, our mouths slamming together with a loving violence that can only come from horniness. Her hand was stroking my hard shaft, rubbing the tip against her slit. It was teasing the shit out of my glands and, without waiting for her to remove her hand, I shoved myself all the way inside her.

Her mouth fell open and her eyes bugged out as her fingers turned to claws on my back and raked down the skin. It hurt, a lot. Hell, I might have been bleeding. All I knew was the feeling of my cock inside her was giving me the energy and will to fuck her as hard as we both wanted.

I lifted myself on my knees and began to thrust down into her. I knew she wanted it hard (so did I) but I couldn’t just start off trying to drill her through the mattress. I thrust in with firm, even strokes, each one reaching her cervix because of the angle. She flopped back against the mattress, looking up at me with huge eyes and moaning with every stroke.

Her arms were splayed out around her head, gripping the edge of the bed. She sucked in her lips as my thrusts became stronger, my balls slapping against her rear with each thrust with a sound slap. I licked my lips. Making love had been amazing but this primal fucking was delving into something deeper. Pleasure centers in my brain that I had never known were there. The friction on my cock alone was enough to have me groaning but combined with the force my cockhead against her walls had me seeing stars and panting like a marathon runner.

Her hands found her breasts and began to play with them, rolling them around and pinching her nipples. I seized her arms, pinning them down on the bed again as my thrusts gained speed and strength.

“Jack…” she gasped, “Why can’t…shit…I…oh, fuck it, I don’t care! Oh my…God…”

I was pushing with my legs to get extra energy into each thrust, which was making the bed rock against the wall. Her jaw was on her chest as each ragged breath exploded out. Her arms broke free from my grip and she seized my hair, gripping it tight. I leaned down as far as I could, folding her in half. It didn’t faze her. Her knees were almost to her breasts and all she was doing was squeaking louder as her orgasm neared.

I glanced down once to gauge my aim and gave her a hard spank. “Oh,” she gasped, grinning wide, “What was…that…for?”

“For having…mmm…a gorgeous ass,” I groaned, reveling in the way her pussy muscles flexed around my cock.

Ohhhh…do it again!” I spanked her again, on the other cheek. “Yes!” Another spank.

“Fuck…” I breathed, feeling my cockhead tingle as my orgasm neared.

“Let’s…do it doggy…” she gasped, still running her hands through my hair, “That way…you can…keep spanking me…”

I pulled out of her with a gasp and she scrambled onto her hands and knees, sticking her butt out at me. I gripped her hip and maneuvered myself back inside her. She moaned long and low as I reentered her, the warmth of her pussy sending shivers of pleasure through my groin. I gripped her hips and began to thrust into her, hard, just like she wanted.

She put her hands against the wall and started thrusting back against me, looking over her shoulder through her hair. God, that was sexy! My cockhead tingled and I started pounding her with all my might, not caring that I was groaning and moaning just as much as she was. Sweat poured from my forehead, obscuring my vision and filling my nose and mouth with the taste of salt.

“Jack…” Kayla moaning, “My ass…”

I looked down at her gorgeous rear, every thrust sending ripples across its smooth surface. I grinned at her. “It’s beautiful.”

“You know what to do with it,” she replied, moaning as I thrust extra deep inside her and held it.

“I do.”

I slapped her rear, leaving a red handprint on the surface that vanished after a moment. She moaned in pleasure and said, “Fuck yes…oh, that’s getting me close…”

I spanked her again, on the other cheek. I wasn’t hitting hard. Just enough to get a smart smack out of it and feel the satisfying jiggle as her skin flowed away from my hand. I was thrusting harder than I ever thought possible. My hips were flying with a mind of their own as my head lolled back, the pleasure of it almost too much for me to bear.

“Kayla!” I shouted, feeling the tingle in my cockhead again, “I’m gonna cum! Holy…shit!”

“Yeah?” she moaned, “You gonna cum in me? Oh, fuck…please cum in me…I’m gonna cum…all over your cock…”

“Fuck, I’m fucking gonna…” I wasn’t even making sense. My voice and brain weren’t meeting in any capacity. All I knew was I had to keep thrusting, to keep going. There wasn’t any control at this point. It was mechanics.

With a final, mighty thrust, my cum shot out of my cock, filling her pussy as I roared with the intensity of it. I was hardly aware I was making any sounds; my ears were clogged up and my vision was hazy. I was vaguely aware of a squeezing sensation on my cock as she came hard, but that was it.

It was almost like passing out for a moment. God made an appearance and I gave Him a nod before I returned to the real world.

Kayla was on her stomach, panting hard and twitching. I pulled out of her, my cock covered in our juices. I flopped down next to her, taking her hand. She squeezed it. That was about the only movement we could do at the moment.

I caught my breath. My chest felt tight and the skin on my groin and cock felt like it had been rubbed raw. I was also aware of a stinging sensation in my back, probably from her nails. Movement was bad now. Rest was good. Rest would give me back the energy to move.

With a huge effort, I rolled my head to the side to see she had also exerted herself and turned her head so we looked at each other. Her eyes looked just as glazed as mine felt. She managed a weak smile. “Hey,” she said. It was about as much as we could manage right now.

“Hey,” I said back. Like I said, talking was a little bit beyond us at the moment.

We just stared at each other for a bit before our brains were able to roll out a few more words for us to use. “How you doing?” I asked. Hey, I never said they were advanced words.

“Good,” she replied, “How are you?”

“Good.”

A few minutes later, talking became easier. “Wow,” I breathed, closing my eyes for a second, “I think we may need to start doing that more.”

“Count on it,” she giggled, lifting her head up onto her hand, “I love making love but just straight fucking was…oh my God.” Her eyes rolled up and her eyelids fluttered.

“Yeah.” I attempted to flutter my eyelids as well but I don’t think guys are meant to do that.

She giggled and leaned in for a kiss. After so many raw and savage kisses, having a sweet one was remarkably refreshing. “Do you feel better?” she asked, suddenly looking concerned.

I stared up at the ceiling. “A bit,” I replied, after a little thought, “I mean, I still think I should have done it differently, but…” I turned back to her. “Positive thoughts, right?”

“Right,” she said, smiling, “She can make her own decision about it. We don’t even know if she was upset by it.”

“True,” I replied, sitting up. I glanced at the clock. 5:58. “What time do your parents get back?”

“Probably a couple of hours,” she said, sitting up as well, “Just enough time to get all the sex stank out of my room.”

I laughed and took a theatrical sniff. “Doesn’t smell too bad,” I said.

She slapped me lightly on the back, an action that caused my back to flare up in pain. I yelped and stood up. “What’s wrong?” she asked at once. She looked at my back and hissed. “Jack…I’m so sorry.”

“What?”

“I kind of…well, my nails…”

I knew what she meant. I had claw marks down my back. Pain for today, badges of honor for tomorrow. “It’s okay,” I said, “Are they bleeding?”

“No, but they look pretty raw.”

“I’ll make sure to sleep on my side,” I replied, slipping on my boxers, “What are you gonna do now?”

“After I get dressed?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, say a nice, long goodbye to you, then probably try and figure out how to make The Great Gatsby make sense.”

“Sparknotes,” I replied, pulling on my pants, “The high schooler’s best friend.”

“Thanks, Jack,” she laughed as she slid on her panties, making the cute little heart above her pussy disappear, “But Ms. Jens already knows about that. That’s why we have to remember specific passages and lines and shit.”

I hissed. “Ouch.”

“Yeah, ouch. Bra, please.”

I helped her slip it on. “You gonna want my help with it? Like with the last book?”

“Jack, that’s sweet, but I wanna try and do this one on my own.” She kissed me. “Can’t have you doing homework for two. That’s not fair.”

“Well, you’re my other half, so technically it is for me,” I said with a smile.

She smiled back and drew me in for a hug. “I really, really love you, Jack,” she said quietly, “In a thousand years, I could never find a guy as amazing and wonderful as you.”

What I did this morning wasn’t so amazing but her words were sweet. “And I could search forever and never find a woman I love even a fraction as much as I love you,” I said back, kissing her forehead.

She discreetly wiped her eyes. “I’m gonna have to get you out of here before I’m tempted to toss you a quickie.”

“Are we capable of doing quickies?” I asked as I carefully slipped on my shirt, “I’m not sure I could stop after only a couple minutes.”

“Me either,” she replied as we walked downstairs on shaky legs, “Guess we’ll just have to keep doing it and see how quick we can get it.”

Our goodbye was, as she desired, nice and long. We managed about twenty ‘last’ kisses before we were able to break away. “I’ll text you,” she said, letting go of my hand, “Once I can’t read another word.”

“I’ll be waiting,” I said, stepping backwards off her porch, “I love you.”

“Love you too, Jack,” she replied, waving and blowing a last kiss as she closed the door.

I hadn’t been completely honest with her; the Craig thing was still eating away at me. Normally, if I did something bad, time was able to make it at least justified in my head. I thought about what Kayla said, how Becca wasn’t really affected by it other than being completely disgusted by Craig. I hoped that was true.

It still stunned me how bad I felt for putting down Craig. Yeah, he was an asshole and did some pretty unforgivable things but…what was it? What was making me feel so bad for him? I guess…if he really did like her, he was just trying to do what I had done with Kayla; find the One.

I needed to stop thinking about it if I ever hoped to see a smile on my face again.

Alan and Amanda were on the couch, watching a movie when I got in. They had a blanket draped over them and I could only imagine what was going on beneath that blanket. “Hey, guys,” I said as I slipped off my shoes.

“Hey Jack,” they said together.

“What you guys watching?” I asked, leaning over the couch.

The Departed,” Alan replied.

I nodded in approval. “Nice. What made you wanna watch that?”

“I don’t know.”

I leaned against the back of the couch and watched for a bit. “How was school?” I asked after a little while.

“Pretty good,” Alan said, “Except for…what’s her name. Amanda, who was that?”

“Becca Clawson,” Amanda said, watching the screen.

Shit. “Red hair? Glasses?”

“Yeah,” Amanda said in surprise, looking up, “You know her?”

“Not really.” Oh no. “What was up with her?”

“She was depressed all day. Like, I thought someone in her family died. I tried talking to her about it in Science but she didn’t want to say anything.” She sighed sympathetically. “She’s usually really sweet. I hope she’s okay.”

I was backing out of the room. “What’s up?” Alan asked, peering over the edge of the couch.

“I have to…” I gestured vaguely up the stairs, trying to keep my emotions in check, “Go do some research for a project.”

“Have fun with that!” Alan replied, turning back to the TV.

Once in my room, I immediately slammed my head into my mattress, over and over. I’d ruined two peoples’ day. Two people were now depressed because of me. Because I had to get revenge. Because I couldn’t think things through. Becca did really like him and what I said must have broken her heart.

I pressed my face into my hands, wishing I could somehow just sink into the floor. Why? Why was everything I was doing lately so impulsively stupid?

I wanted to fix it. I wanted to fix everything. But I didn’t know how. Craig was hardly going to let me explain myself and I wasn’t about to go trying to hook him up with another girl. Beg Becca to go out on a date with him? Yeah, that wouldn’t sound creepy at all.

My mind was too cluttered with emotions to think straight. I needed to talk to someone. But who? Kayla was too close to it and the last thing I wanted was for her to start feeling guilty too. Alan and Amanda didn’t have enough experience with this kind of thing. Mom and dad weren’t going to be back till late…

Tara! Of course!

I opened my phone and shot her a text.

Me: Hey, cuz. Can you talk?

I waited impatiently for the reply, my fingers drumming on my thigh. An endless minute later, I got a reply.

Tara: Of course! What’s up?

Me: Can I call you?

Tara: Is everything okay?

Me: It would probably be easier to talk over the phone.

Tara: Hey, why don’t we Skype? I haven’t seen you in a LONG time :)

That actually wasn’t a bad idea.

Me: Hang on.

I opened up my laptop and logged into my Skype account. I had hardly loaded up my contacts when my computer buzzed with an incoming call from TARA MORENO.

I accepted the call and at once my computer screen was filled with the face of my cousin. Tara really is a stunner. She has a face of bright eyes and a huge smile, with everything else stuck in as filler. Seriously, if you looked at any picture of her, you wouldn’t notice anything but her wide, gorgeous smile and her shiny blue eyes. Judging purely from a critical standpoint, her nose was maybe a touch too big and her chin maybe a bit too long, but these did not detract from the effect. If anything, they enhanced the exoticness of her features.

She was a rare-looking girl was a wonderful personality to match. Honestly, she could have been my sister with how close we were. I always had considered her my sister, ‘cousin’ just being a technical term for the relationship.

Hey,” she said brightly, a huge smile on her face as she waved excitedly to me, “How you doing?”

“Better now,” I replied, managing a small smile.

She was concerned at once. “Jack, what is it?” she asked, leaning close to the monitor, “You aren’t hurt, are you?”

“No…”

“What is it? Talk to me.”

I took a deep breath and told her everything. Everything about how Kayla was attacked, how I had rushed out to the Old Gin Rummy to confront Craig, how he had knocked me unconscious, how I had outed him to Becca this morning and how doing that had been eating away at me ever since. She listened attentively (one of her many great traits) reacting appropriately to every reveal but never interrupting.

“And now…” I said, as I was finishing up, “I don’t know what to do. I mean, I still hate Craig for everything he did to Kayla but…I don’t know, is it okay to do this as revenge? I mean, he hasn’t done anything since Homecoming and we pretty well got even with him for that. I just…it seems like they really wanna date each other and I just threw a wrench in the works. I feel like, well, if they want to date they should and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out.”

She looked at me in silence for a second, then said, “Let’s just hope I never meet Craig when I come out to visit your. He’d be chewing asphalt inside a minute. Nobody beats up my favorite cousin.”

I chuckled a little. “But seriously,” I said.

“But seriously,” she sighed, tapping her long fingernails on her desk, “I think you’ve been really obsessed with Craig because you want all this bad stuff to be his fault.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you were so used to him being the ‘bad guy’, I think you just kind of assumed he always would be. Even when he wasn’t.”

I thought about the gun. “Yeah,” I said, “I can see that.”

“I mean, you have total reason to be pissed at him. I’m pissed at him.”

I grinned. “Thanks.”

“Of course,” she said, expertly tossing her long brown hair, “But…what do you want to do?”

“I just want to give them a chance to date.”

“Why?”

“Because I think that’s what was going to happen before I barged in.”
Tara nodded slowly, looking down at her desk. “You know the guy I broke up with not long ago?”

Of him,” I replied.

“Well, before we started dating, my friends told me to not give him a chance. That he was all wrong, he was a douchebag, blah blah blah. Turns out they were right.”

I grimaced. “Sorry.”

“But you know what? I’m glad I found that out for myself.”

I blinked. “You are?”

“Yeah…otherwise I’d have always wondered if they were right. I mean, what if it was completely different with me? What if I actually was able to change him?”

“Girls are kind of obsessed with changing guys, aren’t they?”

Jack,” she said, pouting a little and lightly pounding her fist on the table, “I’m being serious here! Come on!”

“Sorry, sorry.”

“That 'what ifs' will kill you. I think…and this is just what I think…you might have to tell this girl the truth about yourself too.”

I frowned and leaned back against my pillow. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, you should tell her why you did what you did and why you want to change that. Just be completely honest. Then she’s seen both sides and can decide for herself.”

“How would I do that?” I asked.

She shrugged. “That’s where I leave it to you, Mr. Smart Guy.” She grinned. “You know, I think you’re the first guy I’ve ever known who would do something like this.”

“Like what?”

“Actually care enough to get a guy he hates together with a girl that guy likes.”

“Say that five times fast.”

She raised an eyebrow, leaned forward to the camera, and said in a rapid voice, “That that that that that.”

I laughed loudly. “Good job, smart ass.”

“Thank you,” she giggled, “Is Kayla there?”

“No, she’s back at home reading.”

“And you’re not there…why?” she asked, spreading her hands.

“Because I need to give her a break from me occasionally,” I said, sticking out my tongue, “Besides, I needed to leave so she could do her homework.”

“To leave?” Tara narrowed her eyes and grinned. “What exactly were you doing at her house that wasn’t helping her with her homework?”

I tried to keep my cool but I felt the blush coming on. “Helping her…make cookies.” Stupid brain!

Tara shrieked with laughter, falling back in her chair and almost tipping it over. She had a way of laughing that, even if she was laughing at you, you couldn’t help but love. I found myself laughing along with her. Making cookies? Wow, that was probably the lamest cover-up ever.

Tara slowly recovered herself, fanning herself and wiping her eyes. “Oh, I’m gonna have hiccups later,” she sighed, blowing out her cheeks, “You can be honest with me, you know. No judging.”

“I know,” I said, rubbing the back of my neck.

“Now I’m gonna have to start picturing you as a regular stud-muffin,” she said, snapping her fingers.

“Don’t you snap at me,” I said with a smirk, snapping at the screen.

Tara giggled. “Sorry I couldn’t see Kayla,” she said, “You two should Skype me together next time!”

“We will,” I promised, “So, hey, I should probably go. Think over this whole Craig thing.”

“Of course. You’re doing the right thing, you know.”

“I hope so.”

“You are,” she said firmly, “I know it. Yeah, what you did was kind of a dick move, but you know what? You’re doing something about it. And almost no one else would.”

I smiled a little. “Thanks, Tara. You’re the best.”

“No, you’re the best,” she said, pointing firmly at me, “And I know you’ll make it right. Let me know when you do, okay?”

“I will. Thanks, Tara.”

“Of course,” she said. She kissed her hand and put it on the camera. “Love you lots!”

“Love you too,” I replied before switching off the call.

Talk to Becca…yeah, that would probably be the best thing. But that wouldn’t be enough. I’d have to talk to her with Craig, have him there as well. That was only fair. And I’d have to apologize to Craig.

A week ago, just the idea would have put a bad taste in my mouth. It was different now. I was going to get the two of them together and have a talk…

No, not on my own. Kayla didn’t want me keeping secrets, doing things without her there as well. I was going to have her there with me and help me. She could help me fix this.

I pulled out my phone and set it on my bedside table, waiting for her to text me so I could tell her the plan.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

We were at school extra early the next day. Alan and Amanda weren’t too keen on it but I told them it was something very important. They still weren’t happy but it was either come in a bit early or walk to school and they weren’t to pass up a free ride.

Kayla had been just as devastated the night before when I told her about Becca. I don’t think she was quite as keen as I was to give them a chance to date but, then again, I wasn’t the one who dated Craig. She eventually agreed that we should at least talk to them and let whatever was going to happen from there happen. In fact, the only thing she was disappointed by was the fact that I had Skyped Tara without her.

“I wanted to talk to her too,” she had pouted over the phone.

“Next time, I promise,” I replied, “Do you want me to give you her number so you can text her?”

“Yeah!”

I couldn’t wait for the two of them to meet each other, even if it meant I was going to spend most of my time hanging in the background.

Craig’s Chevy wasn’t in the school parking lot yet and none of the buses had arrived. Good. That meant we beat them both there. We walked up onto the sidewalk in front of the school and waited.

“What are we waiting for?” Amanda asked, barely containing her irritation.

“Some people we have to talk to,” I replied.

Great,” she huffed, shifting her backpack, “And while we’re here, every other freshman is still enjoying their breakfast.”

“You know,” Kayla said, turning to the twins, “I think the band people leave the practice rooms unlocked.”

“…So?”

“Well,” she said, smiling slowly, “Seems to me like the perfect place to get a little ‘alone time’, don’t you think?”

Alan and Amanda took one look at each other and immediately scampered off. “Nice,” I commented as I watched them disappear into the school, “They won’t get caught?”

“No,” she replied, staring back out into the parking lot, “The practice rooms are at the other end of the band hall. They’d hear anyone else coming into the room long before they’re discovered.” She looked at me. “How did you not know that?”

“How did you know that?”

“I may have been scouting places for us if we decided to get risky,” she said with a sly smirk.

I raised my eyebrows. “When did you have time to do that?”

“Whenever I needed a ‘bathroom break’ during rehearsal.” Horny little minx. I loved it.

Other students slowly began filling up the parking spaces. My eyes searched for the Chevy and, just as the buses were pulling into the parking lot, I saw it pulling up. “He’s here,” I said to Kayla. She stiffened and took my hand. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” she said uncertainly, “I don’t think I’ll ever get used to talking to Craig.”

“Me either,” I said, squeezing her hand, “But we’ll get through it together.”

We watched Craig walking up, looking just as depressed as yesterday. And not in the ‘I hate going to school’ kind of way. In the ‘God, why am I still alive?’ kind of way. His eyes were rooted to the ground and each stepped seemed to cost him an enormous amount of effort. Just looking at him was making me sad.

He hardly noticed us, walking around us without even acknowledging our presence. I took a deep breath and said, “Hey, Craig.”

He looked up at us, trying to be angry but just looking resigned. “What do you want?” he growled, “Haven’t you fucked with me enough?” He tried to walk away.

I stepped in front of him. “Craig,” I said, holding up my hands, “I’m not here to do that. I’m here to apologize for yesterday.”

He looked up quickly. “Bullshit.”

“I’m serious,” I said, “What I did was wrong.”

“What we did was wrong,” Kayla said, standing next to me, “We didn’t know you liked her that much.”

“That shouldn’t have mattered,” he growled, “That was just fucked up.”

“It was,” I agreed, “I’m sorry. I want to make it right.”

“How?” he snapped. He hadn’t walked away, which was promising. I also saw a little gleam of hope appear within his miserable demeanor.

Kayla was looking at the people coming off the bus and tapped me on the shoulder. I glanced over and saw Becca walking within the throng of students, looking just as depressed as Craig had been. Craig turned around and sucked in his breath.

“We’re going to go talk to her,” I said, turning Craig around.

“Wait, what?” He looked panicked.

“I’m trying to make this right, Craig,” I said calmly, “We’re going to have to talk to her in order to do that.”

“I don’t know…”

I was already pushing him through the crowd. Some people looked at us curiously, probably remembering that we were the two guys who had got into a fight on Homecoming night. I guided him gently over to where Becca was, saying a silent prayer that everything would turn out well.

Kayla stepped in front of Becca. Becca ran into her and stumbled back. “I’m sorry!” she gasped, “I didn’t see—” She saw who it was and her expression darkened.

“Hi, Becca,” Kayla said, trying to smile but looking more pained than happy.

“Hi,” Becca replied, no hint of cheerful greeting in her voice, “What do you want?”

“We need to talk to you,” I said, letting go of Craig.

She turned to us and her expression soured even more. “What do you all want?” she asked acidly, “More nasty stuff to tell me?” Craig looked down.

“No, we’re here to apologize,” I said. I knew we were in danger of having her walk away and I needed to keep her here.

“Uh huh,” she said, folding her arms.

“Look, I handled that all wrong. I shouldn’t have said anything. I was stupid and angry and I had been holding a grudge on Craig. He hit me and knocked me out a couple of days before and I was still pissed about it.” Becca glared at Craig and I continued quickly, “But it was only when I came after him. He wanted to be left alone and I couldn’t leave him alone because I got so used to him being a ‘bad guy’. Someone’s been messing with me and trying to make me think it was Craig and…yeah, I thought it was him. It was my fault for going after him.”

“Yeah, well, what about all those other girls?” Becca asked, looking less than impressed.

“I’m not going to make excuses for that and try to explain that. It happened but I shouldn’t have been the one who told you that.” This wasn’t hurting my pride as much as I thought it would. If anything, it was making me feel better. “What’s in the past is in the past. All day yesterday, he was devastated by what happened. He wouldn’t have been if you weren’t someone he really cared about. Trust me, I know.”

Craig was staring at me like I had just been beamed down from a spaceship. Becca’s expression was softening but she didn’t look fully convinced. “What about you?” she asked Kayla, “He tried to do make you a notch in his bedpost, didn’t he?”

“Yeah, he did,” Kayla admitted, “And I still don’t like him for it. But that was with me. I can’t say what would happen with you. He really does seem to care about you.”

“Didn’t you two fight on Homecoming night?” Becca asked, pointing at Craig and me, “It was about her, wasn’t it?”

I looked at Craig. He gulped and nodded. “It was,” he said, “I just wanted to hurt him. I was pissed. I’m not proud of it. In fact, I hate that I did it.”

“Why did you do that stuff?” she asked, “To those other girls?”

He bit his lip and looked at the pavement. “I just…wanted to feel like I was special, I guess,” he muttered, “It doesn’t sound good when I say it out loud. Hell, it doesn’t even sound good in my head anymore.” He looked up. “It was stupid and shitty and I don’t expect any of those girls will ever talk to me again but I promise, that’s not what I’m doing with you. I swear.”

Becca was clearly thinking, the gears turning in her head. I took a deep breath. “Becca, I’m going to be honest. I’m still not a fan of Craig. The stuff he did with those other girls and with Kayla was shitty, even he admits it. And he’s done stuff to me in the past that I still kinda am pissed off about. But that has nothing to do with you two. He still wants to date you, even knowing that you know what he did. At the very least, doesn’t that deserve a chance? I mean, you know what to look out for. You know what would be a sign that you need to run. And he knows that.”

She looked at him. Craig said, “Becca, I promise, if I start acting like a douche, you can get out and never speak to me again.”

Kayla put a hand on Becca’s shoulder. “He really was broken up yesterday,” she said, “Even today, he was more depressed than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Becca looked at me. “Why would you want to help him?” she asked, “If you don’t like him, why are you trying to make him feel better?”

“Because…” I thought about it, “Because I don’t want you guys to always wonder what would have happened if you had a chance to date. And I don’t want to be the reason for you two to wonder.”

“Please,” Craig said earnestly, holding out his hand, “Just give me a chance.”

Becca hesitated, looked at all of us, then took his hand. Craig’s face spread into the first true smile I had ever seen on his face. He actually didn’t look too bad with it. “I’m giving you a chance,” Becca said seriously, “One chance.”

“I won’t waste it,” he replied. They walked past us, still holding hands, their heads close together in conversation. Craig looked back at us once, an expression of gratitude lighting up his eyes.

Kayla wrapped her arm around mine, looking incredibly relieved. “How are you feeling?” she asked.

“Honestly? Really good.” And it was true. I hadn’t felt this good since before they found the gun in my locker. And it wasn’t because I had been able to alleviate my guilt. I honestly felt really good for Craig and Becca. Trust me, I’m as surprised as anyone.

“You’re getting pretty good at being a relationship coach,” Kayla teased as we walked into school, “Thinking about making it a career?”

“Ha!” I said loudly, “If I start doing this consistently, I’m going to need booze to get me up in the morning.”

“I can get you up anytime,” she whispered in my ear.

“Yes you can,” I replied with a grin.

I was eager to see how Craig would be in Biology, especially since that seemed to be the class he had always been the most morose in. Kayla noticed my interest and leaned close. “Eager to see how your padawan is getting on?” she asked.

“I just want to see how much of a change it is,” I replied, keeping my eyes on the door.

When Craig finally did enter, I almost didn’t recognize him. He looked…well, normal. There was no swagger, no glumness, nothing but Craig Carter, straightforward. It wasn’t an extreme change; he wasn’t overly cheerful or giving running high-fives to everyone. He just didn’t stick out like he normally did, which was a huge difference.

As he passed us, he even gave me a friendly nod. Kayla looked at me with raised eyebrows. Well now…that was interesting.

Even during lunch, Craig didn’t seem to mind eating on his own, a small smile on his face. Joe noticed where I was looking. “You know,” he said, smirking, “If you want to propose to him, just say the word and I’ll get the doves.”

“And I’ll get the flowers,” Kayla giggled, then turned back to the eating contest she and Joe were currently engaged in. They had both gotten a plateful of the Chef’s Special and the race was on to see who could eat it all first without retching.

Craig noticed me looking and, once again, gave me a nod of the head, which I returned. It felt good that the animosity between us had dissipated but…I don’t know, it didn’t feel like enough. This was a guy I had disliked for a while now and all of a sudden I was helping him. The dynamics of the relationship had shifted slightly, but not enough.

What to do…what to do…

I knew what I needed to do.

I got up, earning a look of confusion from my puffy-faced girlfriend and best friend. I walked across the lunch room to where Craig was sitting, my head held high and my manner calm. He raised an eyebrow as I came close but didn’t look like he wanted to protest. “Hey, Craig,” I said when I was at the table.

“Hey, Jack,” he replied, the first time in a long time he addressed me without any disgust in his voice.

“How did things go with Becca?”

“Well…we’ll see,” he replied, leaning on the table, “I don’t think she’s completely let me off the hook for the other girls but…well, at least I’ve got a chance.”

“Good.”

He looked at me for a second, then took a deep breath. “Hey, Jack…thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

“No, really, thank you. I know that was really hard to do. I know you and I…well, we have a history that will take a while to work through. But I want you to know, I’m not going to bother you anymore. Trust me, I can’t fight you and Kayla.”

I laughed. “I can’t fight her either.” I looked back at our table, where Kayla was looking at me in confusion and Joe was looking like I had just dropped a grenade.

“So…thanks. A lot. It really means a lot. And that doesn’t mean you have to start liking me now…”

I nodded. “And you don’t have to start liking me. But…” I looked at the empty chairs, “It gets a little lonely around here, doesn’t it?”

He hesitated. “I don’t mind it.”

“Well, we have a couple extra chairs at our table and it would be kind of a shame if they went to waste,” I replied casually, “So…why don’t you come over and join us?”

He was shocked. “Are you serious?”

“Absolutely. Look, you’re right. We might not like each other anytime soon. But shouldn’t it be like with Becca? Shouldn’t we at least give it a chance?” He still looked skeptical. “If it doesn’t work out, we can go right back to disliking each other like we always have. But seriously, what do we have to lose?”

I held out my hand to him. He stared at it for a second, realizing we were poised on a precipice. Everything that we had once taken for granted about the two of us was about to change. Slowly he reached out and shook my hand. “Why not?” he said grandly, “We can give it a try. As long as you promise I’m not going to get my butt kicked.”

“Keep it planted on the seat and you shouldn’t have a problem,” I replied. He laughed. I led him back over to the table, where Joe and Kayla were still looking at me incredulously. “Hey, guys,” I said cheerfully, “I think we have a new addition to the table.”

Craig waved weakly. “Hey,” he said in a small voice.

Joe looked like he wanted to protest but I silenced him with a look. “Let’s give him a chance,” I said, “If we don’t have anything to talk about, we’ll kick him out.”

"Gladly," Joe muttered but still nodded his head.

We did have stuff to talk about. A lot of stuff. Stuff I never would have dreamed we had in common. Within a few minutes, we were chatting and laughing like we’d been doing it for years.

Craig Carter. We might not be friends yet but at the very least we were on friendly terms. I never dreamed that would happen. Hopefully this meant things were going to settle out. Whoever was trying to mess with me wouldn’t be able to use Craig as a scapegoat anymore, not with both of us on the alert.

Hopefully this meant we would be able to relax and not have to worry about someone waiting to try to tear Kayla and me apart.

And we were able to. At least…until Halloween.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Author's Note:

Hey everyone! Couple of quick things.

First, I'm sorry there isn't a definite schedule with the chapters. My work unfortunately doesn't have a definite schedule either so I'm working these in whenever I can. It seems like doing some postings in the comments of the current chapter up seems to be going well so I will continue to do that.

Second, I've had a couple of people ask if this is based on real life. Well...kind of :)

To explain, here is the stuff that is real:

- A lot of parts of Jack are based on me. His academic skills and theatrical interests were both taken from me in high school. In fact, everything that he does theatrically from this point on actually happened. His more noble aspects also draw from my personal philosophy, though I think he follows them a lot closer than I did.
- The locker thing actually happened to me, only it was a knife instead of a gun. I was cleared the same way Jack was (the security cameras) but they never found who did it. Letting Jack find who did it is kind of my way of closing the book on it.
- Jack's parents are very much like mine, but with different jobs.
- Craig is based on someone I knew in high school who was also the kid no one liked. Lately, I've been regretting not giving him a chance so I let Jack do it.
- Kayla is basically my wife, though Jack and Kayla's relationship is a bit different than how we met. In a perfect world, this is how we would have met.
- Joe and Brad are both amalgamations of friends I've had over the years.
- Alan and Amanda are based on a pair of nearly identical twins I knew in high school. We never proved there was anything between them but there were rumors.
- The attack on Kayla is based on something that happened to a friend of mine. They eventually caught the guy, who had been suffering from nervous attacks. Slight teaser: it is going to be different in the story.

To reveal much more would give away spoilers for future chapters so you'll just have to keep reading. Hope you all enjoy and see you in the next chapter.
320 comments

Anonymous readerReport

2014-10-17 04:18:30
Okay I'm writing this before reading the chapter. It's Brad, I'm calling it.

Anonymous readerReport

2014-09-23 14:40:40
this stry z d bst. .Keep it going

Anonymous readerReport

2014-09-03 03:16:50
I don't normally comment on stories but this is the best series I have ever read. Keep it up.

Anonymous readerReport

2014-09-02 19:03:44
Most great Riders tend to fill in the characters in your story with parts of their life. It makes the characters seem more real and the story seemed more believable........ Keep up the great work. As always

Anonymous readerReport

2014-08-31 03:43:43
looking to k1k with some guys..anyone thats interested add me on dawnsalkid7

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