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shadowgod last won the day on October 27 2010

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  1. shadowgod

    Killing your babies

    It is weird to revisit stories written. Kind of like wondering down the street you used to live on as a kid. There are a lot of memories bound up in the words. The gloss of nostalgia is tempered with the clarity of experience. Its hard to say what my aim was with the stories I wrote. I do know that if i were to write them today they wouldn't be the same. Who knows maybe there is yet still another draft or two living inside of Living in surreality. Decimate it to the basics of the story, and build it back up stronger and better than what it is. I spent too much time trying to emulate domluka, trying to mimic CJames. the truth is I can't. I get lost in Dom's interrelationship intricacies. I utterly lack Cj's flair for plot building and tension. So I have to wonder what am I left with? a characters personal struggles, seems the most obvious. Perhaps that is what I should focus on. Jacob and Matt both want to ditch there past. Poor Valerie is just along for the ride. She needs to fight harder against the change that rushes at her. Can she accept that change in the end and remain a friend? That seems a more compelling story than just a willing cheerleader. But everyone needs a cheerleader, especially Matt who seems so left without. And then there is Cody, suck waiting to find who is outside that door. Trouble with Cody is that everyone wants him, when he truly wants no one. I need to cut out all the chasing boys and focus on Cody. The big problem is I just don't know where to start. from the beginning. Thats always the best place.
  2. shadowgod


    lol it isn't Cody I want to recreate, its the world around him. it needs to be better, and more believable. =)
  3. shadowgod


    Ive heard its best to pick up where one leaves off. It makes sense, but it was never a philosophy given to writing. Especially when there is a prolonged gap. You just can't get back to it. The rhythm changes, any cadence established gets lost. You can try, Im sure, but the fracture of time will stand like the grand canyon in the story. Plus I know I write better now then I did two or three years ago. I am however not sure any of the characters are as good as some I have left here sitting on a shelf waiting to be read again. So what's next? the rewrite. I tried to emulate DomLuka in a little way with DnCW Multiple characters and story threads. Spur interaction with readers as they tried to guess who was going to end up with whom. I failed. I built a story that became top heavy. A story that was sitting on a single central character. The story became unstable, and began to lack a defined direction. It needs to be rewritten. From chapter 1 onwards. somethings may stay. Others may go away. Im not sure, but I know it has to be done, because as the story is now, I can't write anymore of it. It's hopelessly broken.
  4. Miss you and yer words Steve.

  5. I think its bound to happen Lugh. We always make mental comparisons He has his deceased wife to make this comparison to. Having this mental connection will keep him a rounded character.
  6. time to start dusting things off

  7. feels like I have been gone too long

    1. TalonRider


      Long time no see oh Shadowy one.

    2. Toast


      Hey Shadowgod.

  8. shadowgod


    dick =p
  9. Steeeeevveeee.. where are you? :P Hope everything is ok...

  10. chapter 21: : edited by viv : Jacob held his breath, waiting for Cody's response. It had been, what, two years since he'd last seen Cody? "Yeah," the voice on the other end of the phone answered, and continued after a prolonged silence, "Long time no talk, huh?" Jacob nodded numbly, figuring that was answer enough, not taking into account that Cody wasn't standing in front of him as he looked at his mother. Joanne had set her fork calmly down on her plate when Jacob uttered Cody's name, and had since been carefully watching her son, searching his face and body language for signs of trouble. "Yeah," Jacob mumbled, shaking his head free of the stupor that had swallowed him with the unexpected call. Cody collapsed back on his disheveled bed expecting Jacob to say more, feeling uneasy with the silence he found instead. The awkward silence continued, the dead air having the same affect on both sides of the line as it grated on both sets of nerves. "So..." Cody spoke, trying to salvage a phone call he already felt was a mistake, "How's life been?" he asked, wondering why he had even gone through the trouble of tracking Jacob down in the first place. "Good," Jacob stated, not willing to give an inch more in the conversation. He knew his attitude was wrong as he delivered it. Cody didn't really deserve the attitude Jacob found himself leveling in his direction. Even if he hadn't tried to contact Jacob in almost two years, external forces had pulled them in different directions. "I guess I deserve this huh?" Cody questioned with a morose laugh, referring to the short one-word answers he was receiving. Jacob frowned, not liking how Cody could still know what he was thinking. "No," Jacob said, exhaling the defenses that had his shoulders held rigid. "It's just..." "It's cool," Cody interrupted. "It's just not every day I run into a ghost from my past," Jacob continued. "Ghost?" Cody inquired, not catching the meaning in Jacob's reference. "You disappeared into thin air," Jacob blurted out, not bothering to run his thoughts through that inherent self-censor before they rushed through his lips. "You were there, and then you were gone. No calls, no emails, just... gone." "I'm an ass, Jacob," Cody sighed, hearing the truth blurted through the phone line. "I was then, still am now. You knew that. It wasn't anything I hadn't done to you in the past." Jacob choked out a mean chuckle, "Yeah, except there's a big difference between a week and a couple years." Cody's jaw set, the muscles of his mandible bulging as his eyes eased shut in remorse. "I'm sorry," he said, the words rushing out quickly and laden with emotion. "We got caught, the secret was out..." "I'm sorry too," Jacob ceded. "I'm sorry you got caught with another guy's head in your crotch." Cody's eyes flew open as he bolted upright on his bed, "It wasn't like that." "No?" Jacob questioned with a heavy dose of skepticism. "No," Cody assured, sounding panicky. "Moms' flipped, the school board flipped. I had to go to counseling; Moms' even got our priest involved." "You weren't alone," Jacob said, feeling for what Cody went through, he had been through half of the same crap. "She always liked you Jacob," Cody said, speaking of his mother, "The school never told her who I was caught with, I never told her," he confessed. "She asked about you, said you were a good influence. I stopped talking to her after that, stopped talking to pretty much everyone. That's why they shipped me up here to my grandma." Jacob chuckled; the sound was lighter than, and not as acidic, as it had previously sounded. "So how do you like Oregon?" Jacob asked, easing into a casual conversation, figuring the past was behind him. "It's chill," Cody shrugged absently. "I'm outta here at the end of the summer." "Pennsylvania?" Jacob asked with an amount of trepidation, knowing full well that the two of them had planned to attend Penn State together before their world changed without their consent. "You remembered," Cody smiled, thrilled that Jacob had. "Are you still going?" he asked, even though he already knew somehow that Jacob wouldn't be. "Nah," Jacob sighed with a touch of remorse over the dream that died back in that high school locker-room. "I never played football again, never got a chance at the scholarship." Cody nodded, the smile he was wearing fading into oblivion. "I figured as much, you got the rough end of the deal, getting tossed out of school." "It's alright, it all ended for the best I guess," Jacob answered, not allowing the pity to spread beyond his collegiate aspirations. "I'm gonna do this firefighting thing at the local community college, see if anything else grabs my interest, if it does, maybe I'll be able to transfer to a bigger school in a few years." "Firefighter?" Cody asked, a grin spreading across his face allowing his blue eyes to sparkle in the low light of his bedroom. "I could see you doing that," he decided, "all sooty... carrying a big hose..." Jacob laughed slightly as he felt warmth spread across his cheeks. "Shuddup." "Things are going good down there huh?" Cody asked with a wide smile, knowing he had Jacob blushing. "Better than good," Jacob freely admitted. Cody's smile faltered for a brief moment over what he was foolish enough to give up. "I'm glad," he answered, choosing to think of Jacob over himself. "You deserve that much." Jacob didn't know what to think about the sentiment; he didn't know how he felt about anyone thinking that he deserved good things, especially when it was coming from a person that he felt for at some point in his past. In the end, Jacob decided to take it as the compliment Cody meant it to be. "Thanks," Jacob said. "No thanks needed," Cody remarked. "The continuation school must have sucked, so if you're doing better down there, I'm happy for you." "It did suck," Jacob agreed. "Six months of reading comprehension packets dealing with out-dated pop stars like Annie Lennox." "Who's that?" Cody laughed. "Exactly my point," Jacob laughed with Cody, finding it both weird and good how the two of them could easily fall into casual conversation after losing contact for so long. The thought gave him pause as he listened to Cody's laughter on the other end of the line, realizing the sound was one he once enjoyed to a great extent. "Cody?" Jacob said, his tone turning solemn. "Yeah?" Cody asked, his tone matching Jacob's as he noticed the change with ease. "Why now? After all this time?" Jacob asked, conflicted about how the simple sound of Cody's voice could rouse something he thought was gone. Cody paused, not answering right away, and all Jacob could hear was a sharp intake of breath, before Cody exhaled slowly. "I got to thinking about you the other day," Cody admitted, leaving out the questioning stranger who brought the thoughts on. "I thought about you for a year and nothing came of it," Jacob admitted, not putting much thought into the conflicting power roles at play in his relationship with Cody, and his current with Matt. "So is it okay I called?" Cody asked, concerned about the direction the conversation had turned. Jacob shrugged; he had to think about the question a little. While the call had been unexpected, Jacob knew some small part of him would always wonder what happened to Cody, even though he knew he had found a better person in Matt. "Yeah," he answered, aware that he wasn't just saying the word to be nice, somewhere inside he actually did enjoy hearing Cody's voice again. "What's it like down there, and you're really doing okay?" Cody asked, the guilt he felt apparent in his voice. "It's cool, laid back, except if you get on the freeway, that's sorta' scary," Jacob laughed, remembering Valerie screaming at one driver while flipping another her slender middle finger on a recent trip. "I miss the green though; it's kinda brown down here." "Brown?" Cody asked, not understanding what Jacob meant by the statement. "Yeah, the grass is green for like a week in the spring then it dries out and you're left with brown," Jacob explained. "That doesn't sound nice," Cody noted with a touch of disappointment in his voice. "Yeah, that's what I thought when I got here. We're surrounded by brown hills, and I live on this long street with perfect lawns, it was just weird, I thought it was gonna suck," Jacob said, remembering his first impression of Oak Meadow and Lily Ct. "It didn't?" "The whole car ride down and the first few hours did, I changed my mind later that night though," Jacob said with a smile. "Oh?" Cody inquired, curious as to what had changed Jacob's mind so quickly. "What happened? Lots of pretty people or what?" he asked with a sarcastic chuckle. "Only one that matters..." Jacob admitted. "Really..." Cody teased, the grin plastered across his face evident in his voice. "Yup, met him the first night, he gave me a hand with some boxes. I thought I was interrupting his date," Jacob smiled. "So does Mr. Handsome, whose date you interrupted, know you like him?" Cody asked with a joking laugh. "It wasn't a date, they are just good friends," Jacob laughed along with Cody, "and yeah he does know..." Jacob admitted, flushing with pride. "Cool," Cody said with enthusiasm, he wanted to go on and say that he thought Mr. Handsome was lucky, but he thought better of the remark and stopped himself from saying it. "So tell me about him?" "He's got green eyes," Jacob sighed, smiling as he though about Matt. "He's funny and quick, but brooding sometimes." "Brooding?" Cody asked, hoping the guy wasn't an ass or anything. Jacob smiled at the concern in Cody's voice. "He's had a rough few months. There's some issues with his dad and then..." Jacob's smile faded as he thought about his own actions. "And?" Cody asked, getting comfortable on his bed once again. "You're not the only one of us that's ever been an ass," Jacob admitted, feeling sheepish. "Everything is working out okay though?" Cody asked, sounding hopeful as he rolled onto his side, lying on his bed and propping his head up on his hand. "Yeah, things are going great with Matt," Jacob assured. Cody laughed, "How about Matt aside, school and everything else, your mom?" "Mom's good," Jacob smiled, looking over to his mother for the first time since he had answered the call. Joanne, for her part, was trying not to eavesdrop on Jacob's phone call, but hearing Cody's name and knowing what Jacob went through the last time around, she couldn't help sitting there quietly; listening to the one side of the conversation she could hear. She had her doubts, hearing the first half of the phone call, with Jacob being stiff and standoffish. Her worries eased some as he began to laugh, but she still had concerns about Cody popping into her son's life so unexpectedly. Noticing her son was watching her, his head leaning towards his shoulder as he studied the creases in her brow, Joanne offered him a wan smile, trying to reassure him, but lacking sufficient assurances herself to deliver the message with a convincing effect. "School's been good. I also got a job working at Valerie's Dad's garage," Jacob continued, rambling off events of the past year. "The job sounds cool, definitely better than flipping burgers or something, but who's Valerie?" Cody asked, hearing his grandmother holler for him through his bedroom door, telling him dinner was ready. Jacob found an easy chuckle over his omission of Valerie. "She's the girl I thought Matt was with when I met him the first night. She's cool. Can you believe she drives around in a vintage Mustang?" "No shit?" Cody snorted, finding league with Jacob's envy of the girl and her car. "Hold on a sec?" Cody asked as he heard his grandmother holler again, sounding even more demanding the second time around. "Be right there Gram!" Jacob heard Cody shout back. "Dude, can I call you back sometime, soon?" Cody asked, not wanting to cut reconnecting with Jacob short. Jacob didn't hesitate in answering. "Sure." Cody may have been many different things to Jacob at varying stages of his life, but the one constant was he always was a true friend, probably the best Jacob had ever had in Sacramento. Cody smiled, pleased with himself for actually having the balls to track down Jacob, and pleased that it had gone better than the hundreds of times he'd played similar conversations out in his head. "I'll catch ya' later," he said, using the same line he had always said when he and Jacob were parting company, before disconnecting the call on his end. "That was Cody," Jacob said, unable to hide the small smile that curled the corners of his mouth. "I heard," Joanne responded, feeling more then her share of trepidation as she picked through what remained of her meal. "How is Cody?" she asked, feigning interest. She wanted to know of his motives more than his well-being. "Good," Jacob answered, detecting his mother's true intent and finding it annoying. Instead of calling her on being a mother, he decided to ignore it and eat. "I think he's ready to get out of Oregon though, sounded like he's looking forward to moving to Pennsylvania," he continued while cutting the piece of roast on his plate. "He just called to catch up suddenly?" Joanne continued her subtle interrogation after watching Jacob eat for a few minutes, not bothering to touch anymore of her own plate while she did. Jacob stopped mid-chew, struggling to swallow the chunk of meat that he had just began to eat. It wasn't that he didn't know where his mother was coming from, he did. Jacob too had questioned the phone call when it first began, as the sound of Cody's voice churned up a mix of emotion that had lay dormant in him for a while. All the feelings of hurt and rejection seemed to dissolve as the call progressed until he was happy to have heard from Cody again. "So when do we get the bike?" he asked, trying to steer the conversation away from the surprising phone call, and on to brighter things that didn't make him feel as if where being interrogated. "As soon as you graduate and pass all the required courses to ride one of them," Joanne answered, "and stop dodging the bullet when I ask you a question," she finished, her gaze never wavering from her son as he stared at her. Jacob buckled under her glare, chastising himself for not having a response at the ready had she brought the subject of the phone call up again. He didn't know why he didn't; he knew better than that, having fallen prey to this tactic of his mother's countless times in the past. Instead of just blurting out the truth, that part of him had been longing to hear from Cody again, he couldn't. Jacob felt the need to gloss over the feelings he still had where Cody was concerned, as if he needed to wrap them up in pretty paper, tied with billowing bows. "He was a good friend," Jacob started, his voice meek as he questioned his own answer. "I have no doubt about that, Jacob," Joanne started, effectively cutting her son's speech off. "The two of you made plans for college and your futures. In the end, he left and you abandoned the dreams you had." Jacob's shoulders slumped with the weight of the truth. "I know," he murmured, staring at his plate. "Kiddo," Joanne cooed in a gentle voice as her hand reached out and grasped his shoulder, rubbing it with ease. "I'm not trying to be mean, I just... I just don't want you making the same mistake and abandoning whatever dreams you have found here." Jacob's head bolted upright, his eyes locking with his mother's in an instant. "I wouldn't," Jacob stammered as he shook his head with growing gusto. Joanne sighed, wanting to believe his conviction as much as he did. She just knew how impetuous her son could be when he wanted his way, his tendency towards rash thinking had gotten him into trouble before, and she wasn't keen on witnessing it again. "What did he talk about?" she questioned, thinking she could help him navigate the minefield of his past, having been in the same situation herself more times then she cared to confess. "He asked if I was doing okay, and if I liked it down here," Jacob answered with a shrug of his shoulders, content to dig into his cold diner again. Watching her son eat, Joanne stood gathering her finished plate in one hand and her son's head in the other, as she planted a quick kiss on the side of his head. "Of course you're doing okay," she stated with a wink and the best reassuring smile she could muster. "Better then okay." Jacob grinned at his mother. "That's what I told him," he said, happy that his mother had decided not to worry about the phone call. "Oh, is it okay if Matt stays the night?" he asked, grabbing up his plate and meeting his mother at the sink. "With school in the morning?" Joanne laughed begging off the notion. Jacob just smiled as he took over Joanne's task of washing the dishes. "Actually there are no classes tomorrow, some sort of teacher meeting or something." Joanne appraised Jacob in disbelief as he held up a set of soapy hands, signaling his surrender. "Honest, check the calendar on the website," he defended as he went back to cleaning the two dishes and roasting pot. "Does Viola know?" his mother asked, as her skepticism continued. "I'm sure she does," Jacob answered with a shrug. "As long as there is no school, and Viola knows her son hasn't been kidnapped. Should I dig the leftovers out and make him a plate?" she asked. "Nope, I think he's going home first anyway," Jacob answered as he began drying dishes. "We should do this whole 'you want something' thing more often," Joanne chided as she watched her son putting away the dishes. Jacob answered his mother's statement with a confused look. "You realize you just did the dishes without being asked to, right?" she laughed as she walked away from Jacob's blushing face. Jacob finished the kitchen and took a shower, even managed to mess around with the homework that he had been assigned for the long weekend before he found himself dozing off in the middle of watching a show about the Mongol dynasties on The History Channel. A small smile played across his mouth as he felt a pair of warm lips graze his cheek. "What took you so long?" Jacob asked, his eyes still closed, feeling the couch sink with Matt's weight. "Mom and I went out to dinner with Valerie and her folks," Matt answered as his fingers tickled at the gap of Jacob's exposed flesh between his shirt, which had ridden up, and the elastic band of his light blue plaid boxer shorts. Jacob squirmed at the tickle of Matt's grazing fingers, twisting around, his eyes slowly opened as he turned and faced Matt. Jacob just laid there on the couch, content to look at Matt and have him in such close proximity. As he did, Jacob tried to remember ever having a similar feeling about Cody, and as much as he searched for the familiarity, it wasn't there, not with Cody, not as it was with Matt. "What?" Matt asked, his head lulling to one side matching the awkward angle Jacob's was in. "Nothing," Jacob smiled, reaching his hand to Matt's shoulder and letting it smooth down the length of Matt's bicep, coming to a comfortable rest at his elbow. "You're looking at me funny," Matt observed, closing the distance between their faces, brushing his nose against Jacob's before giving him a soft kiss. "I like waking up to your smile," Jacob whispered, feeling his cheeks heat as his answer earned another small kiss from Matt. "Staying the night?" Jacob asked, sounding hopeful. Matt looked thoughtful for a moment, his lips pursing in contemplation as if he had to think about the cost and benefit of sharing a bed with Jacob. As his silence wore on, Jacob's eyes widened in disbelief until, he noticed the beginnings of a sly smile playing on Matt's lips. "Jerk," Jacob chided, slapping Matt on the elbow where his hand had been resting. Jacob's response brought out Matt's smile full force as he pulled away from Jacob and grabbed the backpack, which held a change of clothes for the morning. "I thought that was the plan," Matt said while standing and offering Jacob his hand. "Unless, of course, you don't want me staying the night," he continued, pulling Jacob by the hand off the couch. "Oh yeah," Jacob mocked with a smile as he hit the green power button on the remote, killing the image on the television, "I want to hit that," he continued, as his eyes theatrically roamed over the length of Matt's body, "and then tell you to hit the road." "Prick!" Matt's mouth fell open as he shouted the word with a smile a little too loudly before dropping his bag and rushing towards Jacob, tackling him and pinning him to the couch, where Matt's fingers sought out the tender, ticklish ridges of Jacob's sides. Jacob howled in laughter, with Matt's fingers assaulting his rib cage, He tried squirming out from the pin Matt's arms had him in on the couch, Jacob's arms trapped between his torso and Matt's, he grabbed hold of the first thing his fingers found, which happened to be the fly of Matt's jeans. Matt's eyes widened, his fingers halting their siege as he stared down at Jacob. "You play dirty..." Matt said, observing a devious twinkle in Jacob's eyes as he felt the grip on the front of his pants tighten as Jacob let out an evil chuckle. "Guys!" Joanne hollered from the doorway to her room, looking irritated over the ruckus disturbance. "Keep it down. There are other people in this house, and in the state that do have to work tomorrow." "Sorry, Ma'," the two giggled in sheepish unison as they disentangled themselves from one another, Jacob's hand, however, not releasing his grip on Matt's crotch. Joanne shook her head and turned back into her room, calling good night over her shoulder before she shut her door, just in case the hi-jinks failed to cease. The two ignored Joanne's farewell, staring instead at each other, panting, with some inkling of expectation from one another. Jacob's fingers loosened as he smirked, so he could adjust his grip on Matt's fly as he watched Matt bite on his bottom lip. Matt's reaction was lightning quick and unexpected by Jacob. His grip on Matt's groin faltered as he moved to protect his own crotch from the blur of Matt's attacking hand. Matt laughed in triumph as he made perfect contact with Jacob's groin, causing Jacob to curl his legs up and his torso down protectively. In a flash, Matt was off the couch taunting Jacob with his tongue from beyond the protection of the armrest. "Bitch!" Jacob shouted, springing forth from the couch, pausing briefly to divine which route Matt would attempt for escape before giving chase. Matt faked to the right at the front door, only to veer to the left and the staircase that lead up to Jacob's bedroom. Jacob compensated for the deception, changing his course with split second timing that resulted in two pairs of feet thundering up the steps in close chase. "Guys!" Joanne shouted again, her door flying open as the heavy footfalls were heard rushing their way towards Jacob's bedroom upstairs, followed quickly by the harsh sound of his door slamming closed. Matt knew Jacob was quick on his heels, the sound of the bedroom door being slammed only confirmed that he was, and Matt now found himself willingly trapped in Jacob's bedroom. Giving up, or giving in, Matt flopped down backwards onto Jacob's bed, his arms and legs splayed out, just in time for Jacob to jump on top of him, beaming in victory as Matt, equally, smiled in defeat. "I win," Jacob proclaimed his triumph. "That just depends on how you look at the situation," Matt smiled, wrapping his legs around Jacob's hips and hooking his ankles as he adjusted his position below Jacob. Jacob took a second to ponder Matt's statement before ultimately deciding that Matt spoke the truth, as Jacob would gladly swap positions with him. Not saying a word, Jacob still delivered truce with his lips as he leaned down and began kissing and nibbling the side of Matt's neck just below his jawbone. Matt emitted a gasping giggle at the sensations Jacob's truce was causing. Instinctively, his head bent in towards Jacob's assaulting lips as his hands wrapped around Jacob. One hand grasping at Jacob's back, pulling him closer, while the other grasped at the back of Jacob's head, running through his hair, applying pressure there, pulling Jacob closer to himself as he ground his crotch upwards into Jacob's. Jacob grunted as he broke the contact between his lips and the now salt-less flesh of Matt's neck. "Have you given anymore thought to USC?" he asked, having been curious to know all day if Matt had. "A little," Matt sighed, knowing he had given almost no thought whatsoever. Jacob smiled lightly as he peered at Matt below him. "I just want you to know, L.A. or San Francisco, you won't be able to escape me so easily...," he said, accentuating his words with a thrust of his pelvis into Matt's groin. "Oh?" Matt questioned, liking the sound of Jacob's threat as he began tugging at the hem of his t-shirt. "Yup," Jacob answered, raising his weight onto his knees to finish what Matt had begun. "Mom is getting me a bike for graduation," he smiled, tossing the shirt aside and leaning back into Matt. "Cool," Matt decided, concerned more about the present than four weeks in the future, as his hands began playing with Jacobs's belt. "Cool?" Jacob asked, smacking Matt's hand away and pushing himself off Matt, disbelieving the shallow utterance over him getting a bike. It was so much more than just 'cool'. "It's great," he said offering Matt a hand and pulling him off the bed before pulling Matt's shirt off. "Great," Matt echoed as he kicked off his shoes, wanting to get back to the whole lying down thing. Jacob chuckled, amazed at how both Matt and Valerie could claim he only ever thought about sex, when that was clearly Matt's objective right now. "Horny much?" Jacob asked, watching Matt shake his legs free of his pants. Matt stopped undressing, leaving one leg stuck in a tangle of jeans, wondering if he was being too direct. "It's not my fault," Matt blushed, cupping his hands in front of the obvious excitement tenting his boxers. "Whose fault is it then?" Jacob asked, shuffling forward and grabbing Matt's wrists, prying them away from hiding his cotton shrouded erection. "Look in the mirror," Matt answered with a smile. "Ever since I left for work earlier, it's just been there... I'm glad I was working the drive-through tonight cause I swear..." he finished, shaking his head as Jacob began to chuckle. "Good," Jacob smiled before giving Matt a quick kiss and nuzzling his nose. "And," he said looking down between their bodies, "you don't have to hide that from me," Jacob continued, releasing his hold on Matt's wrists before tweaking one of his nipples. "I like seeing that I have that effect on you." Matt only smiled, wanting to say that he enjoyed Jacob's effect on him, but he thought it would sound lame and agreeable. While he didn't mind the agreeable part, that was physically obvious, he still didn't want to seem lame to Jacob. "Say it," Jacob whispered, more of a plea then a demand. "Say what?" Matt questioned, as his hands roamed up Jacob's nude chest. "Say that you like the effect I have on you," Jacob pleaded in a hiss as Matt's hand swept over his flesh. "I like the effect you have on me..." Matt admitted, feeling Jacob's fingers wrap around his wrist as he dragged his fingers across Jacob's chest. "It's the best feeling in the world," Matt breathed. "Just doing nothing, being content in the fact that, as crazy and big as the world is, that someone loves me, and sporting wood in the drive-through because of it," Matt said, his eyes washing over Jacob's bare skin and the movements of his musculature underneath. "I do," Jacob said, his finger guiding Matt's chin upward so he could look him in the eyes. "I love you," he whispered before leaning in and kissing Matt. Matt smiled loving the words, and the kiss, which Jacob had just pulled back from, his eyes watching Matt. "I know," Matt said taking a moment to tweak Jacob's exposed nipple again. "I love you." "Something else interesting tonight," Jacob admitted, wanting to be honest with Matt above anything else in the world. "Besides the whole me getting a bike and you being all aggressively horny," he smiled. Matt chuckled, swatting Jacob on the ass as he stepped away from him and took a seat on the bed waiting for Jacob to continue. "Cody called out of the blue," Jacob said, hoping Matt wouldn't get mad, but understanding if that was Matt's initial reaction, after all it would probably be his. "Cody?" Matt asked looking at Jacob curiously, suppressing the urge to be fearful of whomever Cody was. Matt's look had Jacob realizing he had never given either Matt or Valerie his complete history. In fact, he had pretty much misled Valerie when he initially told her about Cody and his relationship. Thinking on that he knew he'd face Valerie's wrath for that, eventually, but right now he wanted to talk to Matt about his past. Taking a deep breath, he started telling Matt about Cody. "Cody was the guy I got caught with," Jacob said, watching Matt carefully. Matt sat there, clad in only a pair of red checked boxer shorts, looking confused before realization slowly dawned. "You mean..." he started, but couldn't finish, as he watched Jacob nodding his head. "I told Valerie it was just a thing, but that was kinda a lie," Jacob said looking pained with the admission. "He was my best friend and it turned into something else that ended badly when we got caught." Matt nodded, feeling broadsided by this revelation. He wanted to ask Jacob if they had slept together, but knew it was a useless question because he already knew the answer. Resolving not to get too worked up, he managed to ask a more pertinent question about Cody. "Did you love him?" Matt asked, his gaze never wavering from Jacob's face. "I thought I did," Jacob answered honestly. "I thought it was going to be Cody and me forever. Then he disappeared and everything changed." "And the phone call?" Matt asked, uncharacteristically calm, scaring Jacob because of it. "He was asking how I was doing, and..." Jacob began to answer, feeling a bead of sweat trickle down his side. Matt shook his head, dismissing Jacob's answer. "How did you feel?" "I was mad, mad that it took him so long to call, but in the end, I was glad that I had heard from him again," Jacob answered. "Did you tell him about me?" Matt asked, trying to quell the nausea of fear in his stomach with information. Jacob's straight lips blossomed into a slow lopsided smile, "Leave out the best thing that has happened to me, ever?" Jacob answered, moving into kiss Matt. "Of course I told him about you." Matt stopped Jacob's advance with his hand, having one more question. "He's not moving down here, is he?" Matt asked with a smile. Jacob laughed with ease, "No he's moving to Pennsylvania." Matt shrugged. "Okay," he said leaning back on the bed as his fingers traced the waistband on his boxers. "Okay?" Jacob asked, confused. "What? You told me he called, you told him about me. He's not moving here, so I don't see a problem with it," Matt answered. "You could have lied, or just not told me about it, but you did," Matt said tugging at Jacob's arm. "So you're not mad?" Jacob asked as he gave into Matt's tug, spinning around until he was lying on top of Matt. "I will be soon, if you don't finish getting undressed," Matt smiled before kissing Jacob hard. Raul stood in the park watching the group of late teens play a game of touch football, thankful that enough sun had peeked down on Klamath Falls to require a pair of sunglasses and a Bermuda hat. He gave the youth approaching him an even nod, as he slapped the envelope against his thigh. "Hello," he spoke with a smile, watching as Cody pulled his shirt from where it was slung over his shoulder, using it to wipe the beads of sweat from his face, and then from his lean, sculpted torso. "Nice day today," Raul commented, making small talk. Cody spared the man a sarcastic smile. "Nice shirt," Cody smirked; panning the loud Hawaiian print shirt Raul wore with the top four buttons unbuttoned revealing the white A-shirt he wore underneath. "You didn't call me out here to mock my shirt," Raul observed, receiving a surrendering half-smile from Cody in the process. "I take you called me out here to talk." Cody took a moment to think about the guy's assessment. Figuring it was mostly true, he gave Raul a cocky nod, accentuated with an even cockier smile.
  11. chapter 13: : edited by viv : Matt and Valerie were greeted at Jacob's front door with a canary yellow post-it note. They had noticed the small piece of paper attached to the siding of the house, just above the doorbell, reading 'Come in' in black marker. "I thought you said he went out of town with his mom," Valerie's suspicious gaze switched from the simple hand-written note to Matt, his earlier revelation not far from her thoughts. "He told me that he and his mom were driving up to Sacramento for the weekend when I called him about going to the mall this morning," Matt shrugged his confusion at Valerie before depressing the thumb latch on the door and entering the still house. Valerie entered behind him, paying little attention to the hat on his head which had been missing during their trip to the mall earlier. Together, they explored the cool interior of the quiet, vacant house. There was no sign of Jacob, nor anyone else, anywhere, save for a second small canary post-it note affixed to the banister of the staircase. "Come up," Valerie read the note written in the same neat scrawl as the first as she plucked it from the finished wood. Matt falling into step beside her, Valerie's eyes drifted up the length of the staircase. "Jacob?" she called out, her voice questioning. The only response her call received was the distant baritone chime of a grandfather clock. The sound of it startled her. Valerie flinched at the unexpected noise as it resounded four times through the house. A slow grin spread across Jacob's face as he heard Valerie call his name. He wondered how this would play out, scared of the possibility of rejection, yet confidant that neither Matt nor Valerie would walk away. Curiosity, tinged with fear, propelled Matt and Valerie's slow ascent up the narrow length of stairs, both suspicious as to what was going on, and why Jacob hadn't responded. "Jacob," Valerie called again, her voice lower, and laced with concern this time. Still no answer, only the random sound of the house settling, which pulled both sets of their eyes in the direction the sound emanated from. Satisfied that the creaking snap of wood was nothing more than the groan of the old house, Matt and Valerie crested the top of Jacob's ladder, cautiously turning their attention towards Jacob's room. Matt and Valerie rounded the corner in an offbeat unison. The moment their bodies were in Jacob's line of sight, the nervous still of the house was assaulted with the triumphant wail of brass, and the soul shattering boom of bass. Its melody was playful and erotic, reminiscent of a slow strip tease. The beat was radiating from Jacob's room, the scream of the highs so loud, the pair couldn't hear themselves think. Valerie and Matt stared wide eyed at the visage of Jacob standing in front of his window. The afternoon light streaming through the window in such a way, it filtered through the thin mesh fabric of his shorts and jersey, leaving little of his build to the imagination. Jacob's eyes fell on Matt, as he pushed himself off the windowsill. He crossed the room with a slow sultry saunter. "Baby, take off your coat..." he sang with the song. "Baby, take off your shoes..." he continued, before turning his attention to Valerie. "I'll help you take off your shoes." Jacob dropped to the ground, his fingers slipping around Valerie's ankles, pulling off her shoes. So aggressive was his action, Valerie almost lost her balance and she grabbed a hold of Matt's shoulder in an effort to remain on her feet. Matt twisted his head quickly at the touch, his eyes locking with hers, seeing the shy smile cross her face. Jacob slid slowly back up her body, his fingers blazing a tentative trail along her sides. Once he was standing up in front of her, his hand lightly pulled her chin in his direction. "Baby, take off your dress," he echoed the words blaring from the stereo. His hands pulled the neckline of her shirt down, his lips sending a spark to every nerve ending in her body. "Yes... Yes... Yes..." Jacob smiled as his lips murmured the words into the flesh of her collarbone. With his lips still in contact with the sharp contrast of bone and flesh of Valerie's collar, he turned, locking eyes with Matt who was staring at the brazen display in heated disbelief. "You can leave your hat on," Jacob's eyes sparkled at Matt, before he began lightly dragging his teeth along Valerie's skin, eliciting an excited groan that reverberated from her throat. He gave Valerie's collarbone a soft kiss, breaking the contact with her skin. As Jacob's lips pulled away from Valerie, his eyes locked on Matt, who stood there, quickly shuffling his feet out of his shoes. "You can leave your hat on," Jacob repeated with a small devilish smile. Matt looked down as he kicked his shoes away, looking up just in time to see Jacob's face approaching his. He couldn't even blink before Jacobs lips attacked and sealed on his own. Jacob swept his tongue across Matt's lips, applying pressure, demanding entry, while his hand tugged at Matt's belt. Matt allowed Jacob entry without hesitation, reveling in the feeling of Jacob's tongue assaulting his mouth. Matt quickly got the hint and his hands flew to his waist, where Jacob's hand fumbled with the buckle. Once the belt and top button were free, Matt's loose jeans fell into a pile on the floor around his feet. With the cumbersome denim gone, Jacob's hand followed the curve of Matt's rear, his index finger dragging the cotton of his boxers through the cleft before he grabbed an aggressive handful and held it. Matt inhaled sharply with Jacob's action, greedily sucking on the offered tongue before Jacob pulled it away. Separating their lips, Jacob's forehead rolled along Matt's until their faces were pressed cheek to cheek, watching Valerie watch them. "Go over there, turn on the lights," Jacob's voice matched the voice of Tom Jones radiating from the speakers. Valerie did as commanded, an unusual thing for her. She was usually too dominant to take orders lightly. Flicking the light switch on, Valerie turned, waiting for another cue from the song, and from Jacob. "Come back here, stand on that chair," Jacob sang as Valerie watched him. His hand, now openly stroking Matt's erection through the red and blue check boxers he was wearing. Matt's head lulled back on his shoulders, letting out a pleading whimper as he struggled to keep eyes from clamping shut. The sight of Jacob and Matt caught Valerie by surprise; she had never seen Matt so... heated, that was the right word to describe what she was seeing. There he was, the boy next door, her best friend, reduced to a writhing mass, so worked up, that he clung to Jacob to avoid falling to the floor. Misreading the look on Valerie's face as one of envy, Jacob planted a stalled, sweet kiss on Matt's lips as his hand slid off of Matt's concealed erection. His hand lightly rubbed Matt's flat belly before he gave it a final tap, the touch moist from Matt's sopped boxers. Leaving Matt to rest against the wall, he crossed the small distance to Valerie. "You're still dressed," he whispered, leaving the song to play out in the background, his hand gently cupping her breast. Valerie inhaled sharply as he cupped her breast, his fingers slowly playing with the sensitive nub of flesh shrouded in the layers of fabric. Jacob hesitated before kissing her neck, while his fingers continued to massage her breast, working his way up to her jaw line, his tongue following the ridge from her earlobe to her chin. Matt stood back, watching Jacob manipulate Valerie like a violinist would play a Stradivarius. He was sure such a sight would have made him self-conscious and unsure, but in this moment, he found the exact opposite to be true. Seeing Valerie so willingly give in made his already aching erection throb even more. Matt couldn't stand to be an idle wallflower any longer, he decided, as he watched Jacob and Valerie work at pulling her shirt over her head, abandoning the piece of clothing to the floor, leaving her standing there in her jeans a black lacy bra, which was again obscured by Jacob's hands as he resumed kissing her. Matt quickly shucked the shirt he was still wearing before crossing the short distance between them and dropping to his knees so his head was level with Valerie's navel. His fingers began to pop the button on Valerie's tight jeans in a stalled mix of caution and wonder. Valerie broke away from Jacob's kiss peering down at Matt, who was kneeling before her. The two stared at each other for a few moments, Matt looking for reassurance, and Valerie thinking he looked good in the submissive posture he was in. Each of them saw something in the other which neither had ever seen before. Valerie smiled encouragingly as Matt began to peel her pants down. Leaning up to kiss her belly button, he felt the flat of her stomach spasm at the unexpected but welcome touch. She groaned, her hand reaching down, running her fingertips through his hair. It was an awkward task, pulling her pants off while his tongue skirted the edge of her navel. After a few tries, and Valerie's stumbling help, Matt managed to toss the pants over his shoulder, allowing them to land somewhere behind him. Matt left a glistening trail as his tongue snaked its way down to her panty-covered mound. He nuzzled the tepid flesh with the tip of his nose, making Valerie squirm and moan from the attention he was giving her still clad pussy. Suddenly, and with out warning, he opened his mouth as wide as he could and buried it between her legs. His tongue making, broad slow strokes across her lacy black panties. Valerie cried around Jacob's tongue, her body stretching, pressing her toes into the ground, her back arching, trying to stretch for the ceiling. Her reaction to Matt's ministrations was so great, that Jacob broke this kiss to figure out just what in the hell had happened. "God damn," Jacob said breathlessly, as he saw Matt's mouth covering Valerie's pubic area with his hand shoved down the front of his boxers, stroking his erection languishingly. "That's fucking hot," Jacob exclaimed in a hoarse whisper, the tent in the flimsy mesh shorts he wore much more evident. Matt spied the situation developing in Jacob's shorts from the corner of his eye. He slowly pulled back from Valerie, leaving her to whimper in a mixture of relief and remorse. His eyes gazed with longing in the direction of Jacob's crotch, as he nervously swallowed. Valerie looked down when his mouth vacated her pelvis, and seeing the look of desire on Matt's face, she reached over to Jacob's waistline, her fingers teasing Jacob with her touch, teasing Matt with the sight. Grabbing at the waistband of Jacob's basketball shorts, she yanked them down, dragging the elastic band to rest beneath Jacob's scrotum. Jacob hissed as his erection was exposed to the cool air, giving an involuntary shudder, as Valerie encased his erection in her graceful, long fingers. With a deliberate, slow stroke, Valerie slid her hand from the base, to the flared head, milking a dollop of silky clear fluid. Matt watched Valerie's hand slowly stroke Jacob's length before peering up nervously at the two sets of eyes watching him intently. Without letting go of his own erection, Matt shuffled to the right so Jacob's monster was only inches from his face. Valerie gasped, anticipating correctly what was happening as she maneuvered Jacob's dick towards Matt's mouth. Matt inched forward, feeling drawn to the droplet that had collected stubbornly to the slit on the head of Jacob's erection. Pausing just before his lips met with Jacob's glands, he found himself torn, wanting to engulf Jacob, scared of the action and its implications. His hand, however, was running the length of his own concealed erection as fast as the muscles in his arm, at an awkward angle of attack, would allow. Valerie sensed his apprehension, and unwilling to be denied this sight, guided Jacob's dick forcefully along Matt's mouth, smearing the precum across his lips. Matt groaned without opening his mouth. His body tensed as Valerie smeared Jacob's glands across his lips, causing his face and upper chest to flush red as he violently erupted into the confines of his boxers. Matt exhaled, resting his forehead against Jacob's abdomen, as he did Jacob's erection smeared precum along his cheek. Breathless, Matt kissed the course hairs on the edge of Jacob's groin, as he pulled his slick hand from his boxers. "Its okay," Jacob cooed, running his fingers through Matt's hair lovingly. Matt shook his head, refusing Jacob's notion. Matt was hesitant, as his hand approached Jacob's erection before he took hold of it, stroking it. His eyes focused on it, seeming impossible and huge, and only inches from his face. Matt pulled his head away from Jacob's body. He peered down his nose at the head of his challenge. Valerie held her breath, watching as Matt leaned forward at a languid pace until his lips collided with the tip of Jacob's erection, offering this god a gentle kiss as his eyes drifted shut. Valerie and Jacob watched as Matt's lips pursed around the head of Jacob's erection. Matt's tongue slithered from between his lips and up the slit in the head, making Jacob's knees buckle with the slight touch. Receiving the desired reaction, which Matt felt through Jacob's flesh, Matt slid forward pulling Jacob into his mouth inch by excruciating inch. Matt pulled back in a rush preparing to dive back down, his teeth lightly scraping Jacob's dick as he did. The scrape caused Jacob to take in a sharp gulp of air which sounded like a hiss as the oxygen rushed through his gritted teeth. Matt tried to pull off in fear he had hurt Jacob. Jacob, however, held him in place. "It's alright," Jacob spoke softly, his hand gently guiding Matt's head forward to a point and pushing back. "Accidents happen," he groaned as Matt began to find his pace. "That's good," Jacob spoke softly, his hands abandoning the sides of Matt's head. His body wavered in its stance as Matt began flicking the head on each withdraw before plunging forward again, each time progressing a little further, as he got used to the idea of having Jacob's dick in his mouth. "Oh Christ," Jacob gasped, his head twisting towards Valerie, his lips capturing hers in a passionate kiss. Jacob unabashedly groaned into her mouth when Matt tugged his shorts down further and began to fondle his nuts. Jacob's hand coaxed the satin strap of Valerie's bra over her shoulder and down her arm until her breast was barely contained in the cup. He broke the kiss, looking into her eyes while nibbling at her chin, a sly smile curling his lips as his fingers trickled down the valley of her breast and the expanse of her flat stomach coming to a rest at her hips. His fingers danced along the waistband of her panties as he continued to kiss and nip at her chin, and slowly, with each pass across her hips, his hand drifted further into their confines. Jacob eased his fingers into Valerie's underwear, feeling the moist heat of her sweat and Matt's saliva. His lips dove down to the crescent of exposed areola that peeked just above the confines of her bra, his tongue teasing her nipple as it wedged into the fabric. Valerie gasped at the touch, her arms clutching his head to her chest, as his hand dredged further into her panties, grazing her clitoris. Jacob smiled to himself, pleased with her reaction. He pulled his tongue back into his mouth, and biting down on the fabric of the bra, he pulled it further down as best he could being held captive in Valerie's grasp. It took a few tries, but when Jacob had her whole nipple exposed to his mouth, he wasted no time making sure that's where it was. He flicked his tongue at her engorged nipple, gracing it with the occasional light bite. While he gave her nipple what he considered expert oral care, his finger had blindly found the spot and slipped into her. Valerie gave a shrill squeal as he found her entrance and invaded it with abandon. She began to moan as he made small circles along, and around the opening, going as far to spread her legs further apart granting him better access. Jacob continued to tease her entrance lightly, his utmost attention waning however, due to the efforts of Matt's lips and tongue. Jacob pulled his hand from Valerie's underwear realizing the feelings building in his groin. Jacob coaxed Matt off his erection with a moistened hand. His action receiving one of the most pathetic sets of puppy dog eyes he had ever seen, it was as if he had just seized Matt's favorite toy. Jacob smiled at the face below him, reveling momentarily in its precious mixture of anger and sadness. He thought if Matt would only let out a huff and cross his arms, the picture would be perfect. He caught Matt's eye and gave a slight nod to Valerie, who stood there silently, watching the two of them. His unspoken communication was complete as Matt pulled himself up from his knees. Valerie studied him as he rose to his feet and turned to face her, giving her a mixed look of accomplishment and shame. His eyes stumbling over the words 'did you see what I did?' and 'I'm sorry' as they spoke to her. Valerie smiled with ease, leaning in to kiss his worries away, tasting the remnants of Jacob as she did. "That was fucking sexy," she whispered breaking the kiss, reassuring Matt with the excitement sparkling in her eyes. Matt beamed with pride, "Yeah?" "Oh yeah," Valerie moaned as a flash of Matt's head buried in Jacob's pelvis burned through her mind. "You know what would be better?" Matt questioned, finding confidence in her acceptance. "Nothing," she shook her head, refusing the notion that anything could top what she had just witnessed. "You, on the bed," Matt whispered before suckling on her bottom lip. Valerie pulled away from them, a giggling groan escaping her as she took her bra off and dropped it scandalously on the floor. Four eyes watched the rounded globes of her swaying ass as she sauntered toward the bed. Finally, she cast the pair a set of bedroom-eyes over her shoulder as her knee graced the bed. Valerie needed give no further encouragement, giggling as she watched Matt struggle to escape the soggy pair of boxers that began to stick to his skin. Using the blue and red fabric, he cleaned off the remnants of his previous climax. Jacob quickly pulled off the golden jersey he was wearing, pausing momentarily to flex his chest and blow a kiss at Matt before kicking the loose shorts the rest of the way off. Jacob began to walk toward the bed and Valerie, and pausing in front of Matt, he gave a gentle lick along the length of Matt's jaw line, ending at his earlobe, which he teased with a playful nibble. "Ready?" he questioned, his tepid breath cascading down Matt's bare flesh. Matt nodded his head submissively. "Top drawer of my night stand," he whispered. Matt made an attempt to move, but halted as Jacob grabbed hold of the erection jutting from his groin, tugging on it in a playful, aggressive manner. Again, he slowly chewed on Matt's earlobe. "You know what you're going to do?" he questioned between nibbles and the occasional kiss to the nape of Matt's neck. "No," Matt gasped, fighting for the strength to even utter the word. Jacob's lips moved away from Matt's earlobe, placing small kisses on his way to Matt's full lips. Rendering Matt to mush with a passionate kiss, a shiver ran the length of Jacob's spine as he thought of the words coming. His teeth gently held onto Matt's bottom lip as he pulled away. "Fuck me" he whispered into Matt's mouth, it was not a plea, more a demand actually, that Matt, no matter how timid, could not refuse. Matt pulled away, his eyes seeking Jacob's, he found them glistening wildly, even though they were heavy with lust. He began to shake his head in protest, only to have Jacob squeeze his erection with force as he slowly nodded his head, effectively quashing Matt's initial protest. "Top drawer of my nightstand," he repeated with one last kiss and a broad stroke of his thumb across Matt's glands before he let go and walked up behind Valerie where she stood at the foot of Jacob's bed. As he approached her backside, he moved her hair away from her neck allowing his tongue to cut a moist path along the base of her neck, his hands running down the warm skin of her sides. "Sorry," he spoke as his nose drifted through her hair, his fingers maneuvering between the fabric of her panties and, the smooth texture of her bare flesh. Valerie turned her head, questioning Jacob with her eyes, ready to ask of his regret, when she felt the muscles in his arm tense, followed by the sound of the fabric giving way to his demands. His fingers grazed across the small of her back and repeated the action on the opposite side, his lips kissing her shoulder blade as she felt the shreds of her panties fall to the bed beneath them. Matt watched the scene for a second before he began his trek to the nightstand, watching their discourse as he went. He gave Jacob one last look as he approached the nightstand, receiving a sly smile accentuated by a wink from Jacob. Matt watched as Jacob's hand slithered down her belly before becoming obscured in the apex of Valerie's thighs. Matt pulled open the nightstand drawer. There was no need to rifle about to find what Jacob was talking about. Right on the top was a package of condoms and a white tube. Jacob's knee pressed in between Valerie's legs, coaxing her to spread them open. She willingly complied, allowing Jacob to tease her with the head of his erection. She would groan intermittently as he toyed with her, gliding his dick in just to the corona, before pulling it back out and smearing it across her exposed lips. So intent was Jacob on making her whimper and gasp, that he failed to notice Matt creep up on the two of them. It was not until he felt Matt's fingers tickle through the dimples of his clenched rear that he even knew he was there. "Now you're getting the idea," he smiled as his head turned towards Matt. "Maybe," Matt answered coyly, looking down as he did. Smiling, he produced a small foil wrapped package, the serrated edge of which he lightly drew across the small of Jacobs back sending a shiver up his spine. "No," Jacob gritted through the tingling sensation, "I definitely think you've got the idea," he paused looking at Matt sideways. "Help me put one on?" he said stepping away from Valerie. Matt grinned devilishly as he brought the silver package to his teeth and ripped it open. After he had pulled the rubber from its wrapping, he brought his other hand to his mouth and gave his palm a slow long and broad lick. Matt inspected the palm of his hand as Jacob gave him a curious look. Not satisfied with it, he let a dribble of spit drop into his palm. Matt scooted right up behind Jacob and wrapped his arms around his chest, so close was his embrace, that his erection pushed the back of Jacobs dangling nut sack. One hand cupping his slick saliva, the other, gently holding the condom, Matt ran his forearms down Jacobs sides, receiving another excited shiver from him. Jacob leaned back, resting his upper body on Matt's chest, as Matt used his saliva-slicked hand to perpetrate a painfully slow series of strokes to Jacob's erection. Once he felt that he had Jacob wet enough, he ceased his exquisite torture of Jacob's glands. Blindly, Matt positioned the rubber at the head of Jacob's erection. Careful to depress the reservoir tip, he slowly unrolled it down Jacob's length. A sigh escaped Jacob's lips as Matt's hands abandoned his dick, his fingers slowly traveling through the patch of trim pubic hairs, until Matt's palms rested on the flat of his stomach. Locked in their embrace, the two of them shuffled the short distance forward to Valerie in unison. Matt refusing to let go, Jacob never wishing he would. "Aww, how cute," Valerie giggled from the bed where she had taken up residence, watching the moment they shared. "I'll show you cute," Jacob smiled menacingly, an act which only made Valerie giggle more, already knowing the eventual outcome of this game. "You will huh?" she asked, amusingly intrigued. "Yup," Jacob said as he pulled free from Matt and climbed onto his bed, crawling in-between Valerie's legs as they spread for him. He gave her a questioning look, asking if she was ready. "It's now or never," she playfully teased, looking at an imaginary wrist watch. "You're not the only stud in my schedule." Jacob chuckled and gave her a soft kiss, breaking it to concentrate on guiding his shaft into her. Valerie lightly whimpered as Jacob slowly slid inside of her. He again kissed her lips as he began a series of slow deliberate thrusts causing her to moan around his tongue as he slowly began to fuck her. The inner spring mattress jumbled softly as Matt climbed on, the movement catching Valerie's attention as she kissed Jacob. "You're... so... brave," she said around his kiss. Jacob stopped his gentle thrusts and gave her a quizzical look. "Every guy I know would be freaking out if they knew another guy was approaching them wearing a rubber and holding a tube of lube," she giggled. Jacob gave her a knowing smile, one tinged with excitement, before he gave her cheek a quick kiss and looked over his shoulder at Matt. "Be gentle," he said in mock fear before his voice deepened to finish his sentence, "Stud." Matt smiled, even laughed lightly, as he opened the tube in his hand and squeezed a healthy portion, or what he thought was one, onto his index and middle finger. Closing the tube and leaving it fall to his side, he shimmied up the bed until his knees were even with Jacobs. With one hand, he spread Jacob's ass cheeks apart, and the other slid the greasy substance around Jacobs pucker. Jacob gasped at the touch of Matt's fingers running small circles around the rose bud slowly increasing the pressure he was applying. Jacob groaned as Matt finally pressed a lubed finger into his rectum and began rocking it back and forth. Jacob instinctively pushed back towards Matt's finger, causing Valerie to gasp at the sudden movement. He chuckled slightly and kissed her. Matt worked a second finger in as he watched them kiss, slowly opening Jacob for himself. The kiss ended abruptly a few minutes later when he felt Matt's fingers exit his hole. Jacob held his breath in anticipation, feeling the bed jostle with movement, and then Matt's hand again spreading his cheeks. He gave Valerie a look of longing realized, before his eyes slid closed. Valerie craned her neck trying to see what was happening at his bottom, finding this whole exchange very interesting. Matt pressed the head of his erection up against Jacob's hole before he paused with a reluctance that did not last long. Slowly he pushed forward, watching in amazement as his dick disappeared into Jacob. 'Your sins into me...' The lyrics of a different song drifted out of the speakers whose volume had been lowered at some point, When, Matt could not remember. 'Oh, my beautiful one...' Valerie switched her view from Matt at Jacob's rear, to Jacob's face, taking a moment to memorize the look he wore, the way his eyes were screwed shut in pain, contrasted with the slack jaw of pleasure. Jacob exhaled slowly, his breath beginning and ending with a grunt as his head slowly came to rest on Valerie's bosom, a tear leaking from the corner of his eye. "Your sins into me," he echoed as he felt Matt's balls come lightly to a rest on his own sack. Matt held still for Jacob, letting him get used to the feeling. The only movement he made was to lean in and kiss Valerie with vigor. They continued to kiss as Jacob laid deathly still, his breathing even as he slowly began to thrust into Valerie and push back against Matt. Valerie moaned around Matt's tongue, the slow movement sending a shock through her system. Matt noticed Jacob's return and slowly began to thrust in and out of him. "Christ," Matt sighed, vocalizing the feelings that were rushing through him as he watched himself slide back and forth in Jacob's grasping ass. The first few moments were awkward, and a bit unsettling, as they found their pace. Jacob ended up being treated like a tennis ball being hit between two racquets. The mish mash of the start evened out as both Matt and Jacob began to thrust at the same time. Valerie let out a hoarse grunt and began squirming beneath them. Matt's thrusts into Jacob driving him deeper into her then he had been before. Valerie's head rolled back, her fingers clawed at a fleshy arm, whose it was she didn't care, as the rippling waves of heat shot from her pelvis like ripples in a pond, their speed slowing the further they traveled from the epicenter of her orgasm. Her ecstasy didn't slow Matt and Jacob, more or less Matt, as he began to ruthlessly pound into Jacob. "Fuck, fuck" Valerie let out a rattled cry as the intense pleasure gave no hint of ending. All too soon it seemed, the sound of the CD playing in the background was drowned out by three voices moaning in a cacophony of pleasure. The constriction of Valerie's pussy was quickly taking Jacob to the edge, and even if he had wanted too, he couldn't escape. He was no longer controlling his own thrusts, he had surrendered that power to Matt instead who was doing his damndest to meld Jacob's flesh with Valerie's. Jacob was trying his best to hold off the impending orgasm he felt building at the base of his nuts. His position of sweet willing surrender however, wouldn't allow that. Valerie's velvety-hot vice, the hard steel of Matt ramming in and out of him, the squirming of Valerie underneath him, as Matt held onto his shoulder with what seemed like all his strength. Jacob let go, ramming his ass back towards Matt, his neck craned back and he let out a stifling cry as he filled the condom he wore. Matt's grip on Jacob's shoulder tightened impossibly, the constriction of Jacob's ass as he fired those powerful bursts drug Matt, fighting, over the edge. Spent, Matt collapsed onto Jacob's back, further crushing Jacob into Valerie. "Holy fuck!" he huffed panting, before tonguing Jacob's shoulder. Jacob kissed Valerie lightly, his fingers curling round her cheek in an unspoken thank you. Matt rolled off Jacob and crashed onto the bed beside them. "Oww, my shoulder" Jacob gave a mock cry as he rubbed at the spot Matt had held in a death grip. "Your shoulder?" Valerie questioned as he pulled himself up. "I thought it would be your ass that hurt," Matt made the comment as he lay on the bed, his hand settled contently on his chest, making no move to cover himself. "No," Jacob punched Matt in the arm playfully. "That hurt good." Matt smiled, his eyes half closed, looking dreamy, or stoned, Jacob couldn't decide which, but he found the sight impossible to resist as he leaned in and kissed Matt with a passion that blossomed before Valerie's eyes. She watched Matt and Jacob cuddle and kiss, joke and laugh with each other, with a smile which was content and sad all in one. Sliding from the bed, she counted her shredded panties as a willing sacrifice to the moment as she searched out her bra. It wasn't until she had recovered her jeans and had them zipped up, that either Jacob or Matt had noticed her absence. "Sweets?" Jacob's brow furrowed with caution as he sat up on his bed. Issuing the pair the same accepting smile she had worn as she watched them be the lovers they were, she slid onto the bed and ran her hand down the side of Jacob's face, cupping his chin as she pulled him into a soft kiss which she abandoned as quickly as it was initiated. Jacob's head fell to the side as he appraised her with unspoken curiosity. "You don't touch me like you touch him," she whispered, offering the same mournful smile. Jacob opened his mouth to protest the truth Valerie spoke, only to be silenced by her fingers and a short shake of her head. Grasping the back of Jacob's head Valerie pulled his forehead to her lips in gentle gratitude before releasing him and retrieving her shoes and shirt from the floor. "Val?" Matt questioned concerned as he watched the silent interaction between she and Jacob. Jacob spun around on the bed, his face mere inches from Matt's. "I love you, Kid," he explained, "and now she just knows how much."
  12. chapter 17: : edited by viv : Jacob appraised himself in the mirror, his hands smoothing over the red tie he had opted for, over the black tie Matt would be wearing with a similar suit. The last two months had been a blur, and a fantastic one at that, Jacob reminisced, sparing a smile at his reflection. School had be going surprisingly well, Jay had still been up to his normal snide remarks every week, but Brendon had laid off on the constant harassment of getting Jacob to join the GSA. While Jacob could have done without Jay, Brendon backing off was indeed welcomed. Matt had openly wondered if Valerie had more to do with that than she claimed, there were moments when he could have sworn Brendon was about to give a small wave, only to see Valerie and turn in the direction he came from. Free of outside influence, and ignoring those who would have something less then nice to say, Matt and Jacob were doing great. His mother had been making trips back up to the Sacramento area at least once every other weekend, leaving plenty of time for he and Matt to have fun. His mother had mentioned is passing that she 'ran into' someone up north, and Jacob was glad that she had, She always seemed overly anxious when getting ready to drive up, and smiled more when she returned. His only worry was that his mother would want to pack up house and move back. The mere thought of that brought a grimace to Jacob's face, and then there was Valerie... but Valerie purposed a completely different set of challenges... The only time he had really seen her in the past few weeks was at school or at the shop when she ran the front office on the weekends and he was lucky enough to be scheduled. "You look handsome," Joanne said with a sigh of contentment from behind him as she rested her shoulder against the doorframe of the bathroom. Jacob craned his neck, casting his mother a reticent grin over his shoulder. Joanne took the flushed grin as an invitation and entered the bathroom properly, stopping in front of her son and taking a moment to straighten his tie and pull an errant thread from his shoulder before smoothing wrinkles that weren't there away. "Thanks Ma'," Jacob beamed before pulling his mother into a hug. The smell of Jacob's light cologne, tinged with other perfumed products, wafted through Joanne's senses as Jacob folded his arms around her, reminiscing as he did, of the day he lost his first tooth. In the face of the reality that was encircling her as she stood in his arms, Joanne begrudgingly thought he had grown up too quickly, glad that he still took the odd moment to include her in his life, even if he would now rather spend weekends with Matt rather than with her on her trips up to Sacramento. "That's enough of that," Joanne said pushing her son away. "Don't want you to get all frumpy," she continued, her fingers smoothing the lapel edges on his coat once again. "You're going to turn every head in there," Joanne beamed with pride. Jacob regarded her with a small adoring smile that curled the corners of his mouth and sparkled in his clear light brown, almost golden, eyes. "There's only one head I want to turn," Jacob replied before a thought twisted his lips to the side. "Maybe two." Joanne chuckled, issuing a playful shove on Jacob's shoulder, "Get out of my house," she smiled, "you're going to be late." Her peace said, Joanne turned away from her son, pausing briefly at the threshold of the bathroom. "I'm proud of you boy," she turned and said, reminiscent of the name her father used for Jacob, the truth in the words evident in look she gave him. The feeling the simple phrase brought welled in the pit of Jacob's stomach and burst forth in a stupid grin and blushing cheeks, mired by a knot developing at the back of his throat. He wasn't a hero, and he had probably caused more trouble in the last few years than he rightly should have, but just hearing the turn of phrase he had always known, always taken for granted, meant the world and so much more. Luck, or maybe just the reassuring smell of his mother's perfume, that is what Jacob was searching out when he found his way downstairs fifteen minutes later having fought off the watery eyes she had given him. The familiar scent of lavender and sandalwood, tinged with something else which was unique to his mother, it had always chased away demons in the night and offered strength when he found himself lacking. The kitchen was empty, as was her room, even if the scent was there, a ghost on the air of her sanctuary, obscured by the cool air it lingered on. He found her, standing with a measure of intent on the front porch, her gaze fixed on the two houses across the street. "Seeing me off?" he asked suspiciously, loving the fact that she was. "A lot of things can happen between here and there," Joanne replied with a reserved smile. Jacob nodded his assent, "I could get scared and run away," he smiled. "Or you could get kidnapped by space aliens," Joanne quipped. "What kind of mother would I be if I didn't ensure you got to your destination safely?" she smiled, a playful spark brightening her eyes. "It's just across the street," Jacob said, heaving a theatric sigh for her benefit. Joanne laughed as lightly as the perfume of Jasmine, which floated on the air as she turned and pulled her son into the hug she knew he was after but too old to initiate. The nervous tension that was building inside of him melted with the warm scent of his mother. He needn't take a deep breath for the effect; he only had to let the perfume lap at his senses. "I love you Ma," Jacob said with ease as he held her in the loose hug. "Have a good time tonight kiddo," she answered with a final squeeze before stepping out of his arms. Her heart ached, receiving the grin he gave her, before he stepped off the raised front porch and headed across the lawn to the street beyond. It wasn't a bad ache by any means, just the mourning of his childhood in the first vestiges of light in the dawn of his adulthood. A bittersweet realization, in spite of what life had thrown at her; she had raised a good child, and soon, would have to watch as he set out into the world on his own. It wasn't the end, she knew that, but it was one of the signposts on the highway of life that you couldn't help but notice with some iota of reflection. "Jacob," she called out, watching him stop in the middle of the street, an impatient look plastered on his face. "Don't talk to strangers," she shouted with a smile. Jacob gave his mother an amused grin before turning away from her and breaking into a canter up the manicured lawn and disappearing through the front door before he even knocked. The house was quiet, as it usually was, just like his house, only lacking the hourly chime of a grandfather clock. Their houses were a stark contrast to Valerie's house where there was always a television or some other apparatus running to fill the void of silence. Jacob wasn't surprised to find Viola gone as evidenced by a small stack of receipts abandoned to a book of hair styles. She had preening all week, looking at different hairstyles, calling different limousine companies before arranging one. In the end Viola was what Jacob would classify as 'All Girl', she held a quiet stony exterior, Jacob wondered if the facade had always existed, or if it had evolved out of being married to Richard, but when it came to frilly fancy things, Viola would often get overly excited and giddy. Jacob found Matt sitting on the edge of his bed. His lips tight and void of a smile or a frown as his eyes focused on the amber pill bottle in his hands, reading the prescription label again and again, focusing on the date the bottle was filled. "Hey kid," Jacob grinned as he ambled into Matt's room, plopping down on the bed without regard to the pressed finery he wore, knocking his shoulder into Matt's. "What ya' got?" he asked noticing the prescription bottle. A smile developed on Matt's face as Jacob's shoulder jabbed at his. "Nothing," he muttered, deciding to focus on Jacob instead of the bottle. "You look good," Matt decided, taking a moment to study Jacob. Jacob's chest puffed as a large grin replaced the small smile he almost always wore when he was around Matt. "And you look damn fine yourself," Jacob beamed, causing Matt to blush. "Have you been practicing?" Matt asked, standing up and setting the small bottle on his desk. "Or do I have to worry about you scuffing my shoes?" Jacob chuckled and blushed as he pushed off the bed. "You really gonna dance with me in front of everyone?" he asked sliding up to Matt and slithering his arms around Matt's waist, using the hold to pull Matt to him. Matt shrugged an answer, unsure if he was really ready to be what he still felt amounted to a sideshow attraction. Jacob chuckled in the face of Matt's reticence. The truth was, he didn't care if they danced in a room full of their annoying peers, or in a more private setting. In fact, he almost preferred the latter, a tingling jealousy had him, in moments, wanting to lock Matt away from the world as his own personal treasure. Jacob had no qualms in kissing the worried look on Matt's face away. "You taste like toothpaste kid," Jacob observed breaking the kiss. "Mmmm..." Matt mumbled, opening his eyes. "You can dance with Valerie," Matt observed, "It'll be interesting to see what she does the first time you step on her foot." Matt learned quickly that he was in too precarious a position to be making jokes about Jacob's skill on the dance floor, or lack there of. A howl of laughter filled the room, as Jacob's fingers attacked his sides with out mercy. "Stop," Matt gasped, in between fits of laughter, finding his knees had become weak so he was now clinging to his attacker. "Do you think," Jacob began, as he held on to Matt while he found his legs, "I mean, has Valerie seemed a little distant ever since..." Matt's face twisted with the question. "She was at first," Matt answered nodding his head in general agreement. "But, I think she's coming back around to the dark side." Jacob chuckled at Matt's response but his face grew serious again, "You don't think she should have gotten a date with someone else?" Matt didn't hesitate in the answer he gave, which was nothing. Pulling Jacob by the hand instead, over to his desk where he rooted around the drawer, producing a black permanent marker. Matt issued a small smile to the look of curiosity Jacob was giving him as he removed the cap. With a steady, determined hand Matt wrote a letter on the face of four of Jacob's knuckles. He then turned Jacob's right hand over and wrote four more letters on the backside of the same knuckles. The brand complete, Matt tossed the marker on his desk and issued another kiss to Jacob's lips. "Come on," Matt said grabbing the prescription bottle he had set aside, "all we have to do is grab the flowers and get next door." "Flowers?" Jacob asked following Matt to the kitchen. "Boutonnieres..." Matt clarified, "and Valerie's corsage." "Ohh..." Jacob said, remembering why he didn't usually do the whole 'dance' thing, watching Matt set the amber bottle on the table right in the middle of Viola's paperwork. "That's cool!" Jacob yelled fifteen minutes later standing in Dan's den, reaching for the antique firearm Valerie's father had meant to use as a sort of intimidation. Matt was indifferent to the whole display, he'd seen the rifle several times. It was one of Dan King's most prized possessions. "Can I touch it?" he asked enthusiastically. Valerie giggled to herself as she stood at the top of the stairs, hearing Jacob's enthusiastic voice coming from the den. She knew what her father was planning, to put fear in the hearts of the boy's, especially Jacob. It appeared that his plan was backfiring in a big way. Annoyed with the development, Dan handed off the rifle with a dejected look on his face. He had been looking forward to seeing Jacob swallow hard at the mention of the gun. Now the kid was inspecting it closely. "This is so cool," Jacob repeated, excitement sparkling in his eyes as he accepted its heft into his hands. "Have you ever fired it?" he asked in passing while he held his face to the sight, careful not to point the muzzle at anyone. "Yes," Dan said taking the gun back. "I usually go down to the range once or twice a year, just to keep it in order." "That's neat," Jacob said, watching Dan King put the rifle back into its case. "Couldn't scare him off could ya' Daddy?" Valerie said playfully as she entered Dan's den. Not that it was much of a den or office, the room was more of a catch all for the King household. Her father's real workspace was his garage and his shop. He always felt more comfortable in a greasy pair of coveralls, than in a suit and tie. He knew engines, transmissions, and anything automotive like the back of his hand, but would stare in bewilderment at the simple task of booting a computer. Dan's eyes traced the cluttered room to the doorway where his daughter stood, his smart-ass retort caught in his throat. She offered a shy smile at his reaction, her hands smoothing over the sleek red dress smoothing wrinkles that didn't exist. Matt pulled himself away from the sliver of wall he was occupying the moment he heard Valerie's velvet voice pierce the room's testosterone. He beamed proudly at her while grabbing at the small plastic box which held her corsage. Jacob's giddy excitement over the Winchester repeater dissolved as his eyes were drawn to Valerie like a honeybee to clover. The big grin he had been wearing melting into a shy smile as he gazed at her appreciatively. Dan set the rifle case down and stepped to his daughter, giving her a hug. "You look so beautiful," he whispered kissed her cheek, his eyes threatening to water. "Thank you Daddy," she whispered happily as a blush colored her cheeks. Matt, meanwhile, was struggling with the flimsy plastic box, nervously trying to remove her corsage from its stubborn enclosure. Valerie giggled at his struggle as Jacob stepped up and tried to help Matt retrieve her flower. That's when she noticed the writing on his fist, a little black letter on the knuckle of each finger. "What's that?" she asked grabbing Jacob's hand, inspecting the letters that spelled out 'HATE' across his knuckles, turning Jacob's hand over in her inspection, baring his palm, she saw four additional letters, which spelled 'LOVE' written on the backs of his knuckles. "Matt did it," Jacob answered pulling his hand away as he spared a glance in Dan's direction. "With a marker, before we left his house. He said one side is for love, the other for hate." Valerie shot Matt a questioning look, while Dan looked at the two young men with a suspicious eye. "I'm going to get the women," Dan commented in passing, his eyes still appraising Matt and Jacob curiously as he left the room. Matt waited for Dan to disappear from the den before he answered Valerie's appraising look. "One side is for us, the other is for anyone who would question it." Valerie pondered Matt's answer before crossing the room and retrieving a black marker from the desk and presenting it to Matt along with an offered hand. Moments later, all three shared the same scrawl across the knuckles of their right hands. Jacob fixed Valerie's corsage to her dress just in time to pose for a barrage of flashes from the three different cameras. Pictures taken and best wishes handed out like water, the trio filed out of Valerie's house and into a waiting limousine. Jacob didn't know what to expect, he had never been to a dance, let alone a senior prom. Whatever he was, or wasn't, expecting, he never imagined the large hotel the limo pulled up to, he was thinking maybe it would have been the school gymnasium or something. This was anything but that, the hotel itself was reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright's block houses in the Los Angeles area. The building itself was constructed of cement blocks cast with a geometric design, giving the building a unique character beyond that of more typical materials. If the facade of the building was impressive, the ballroom the prom was being held in was truly awe inspiring. The walls were the same cement cast blocks found on the exterior, while one wall was almost completely glass, large windows stretching from the ground up a good twelve feet high. The windows were separated with columns of the square cast blocks. Each of the columns held a frosted glass sconce that was at least as tall as Jacob, a series of chevrons reaching towards the gold gilt ceiling that gave the room a warm luscious glow. Valerie made her grand entrance in style, the perfect dress, perfect hair and make-up, and the perfect set of guys hanging off each of her arms as they entered the room. The decorations were sparse, mostly just bouquets' of silver and gold balloons draped in white netting. Beyond the fancy room and adjoining patio where the prom was being held, the school dance was a typical one, and current music, which was hard to dance to, filled the air accentuated with the occasional classic mixed in. The punch was red, and despite every movie the trio had ever seen that featured a prom, this punch had never been spiked. The cake was white and way to sweet for their taste. The hours were filled with the usual good natured bickering broken up with bouts of dancing to the loud cumbersome music. Matt danced with Valerie for the most part but, Valerie managed to drag Jacob and his two left feet out a few times as well. Matt giggled, the first time Jacob stepped on Valerie's foot, the effort earning him a quick jab in the ribs, just as he did every time Jacob winced from Valerie's acrylic nail tipped finger stabbing Jacob in the flesh between his ribs. By the third time Valerie dared to venture out with Jacob to the dance floor, only to have her foot stepped on again, she'd had enough. Matt out right laughed as Valerie roughly shoved Jacob in the chest, pushing him away from her and her sore feet. "I swear he is doing that on purpose," Valerie commented as she staggered on wobbly footing, taking a seat in the empty chair a seat over from where Matt was sitting and enjoying the show. "Once I could see," she continued to whine as she reached down and began rubbing her sore foot, "but every other freakin' word is..." "Sweets," Jacob chuckled out Valerie's nick-name as he ambled up and dropped in the open seat between Matt and Valerie. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to..." Jacob started but failed to finish as he began to laugh. Valerie issued a scathing look accentuated with the smallest smile as she slipped her shoe back on. "Somehow, I don't believe you," she snickered. "I'm hurt," Jacob feigned shock, clutching his hand over his heart for effect. "I see you brought your pansies out to play," Jay Henderson sniggered while approaching the table where the three of them were sitting, leaving the clingy looking blonde plastered to his side giggling with contempt. Jacob's fists balled as he started to stand from his seat, ready to silence this oaf for good. It was only the pressure of Matt's hand curling around to Jacob's inner thigh that halted his advance on Jay. Jacob followed Matt's unspoken directive and received a light squeeze and pleased pat to the flesh of his thigh as a reward. Jay and Wendy Carmichael watched the display with a mix of shock and repulsion. Her eyes were wide, as her mouth threatened a nice home to wayward insects, while Jay just leveled the pair with a disgusted sneer. "Not tonight," Matt said simply, turning his attention from Jacob to Jay "You can berate me anytime you want," he said, noticing Jay's eyes hadn't left the vision of his hand resting comfortably on Jacob's thigh. "Hell, I might even take offense at it, but not tonight." Matt's words came out cool, lacking the intensity of emotion his eyes delivered. Jay found himself dumbfounded for a moment; he didn't know how to respond to the statement from Matt's lips, or the casual way in which Matt was openly rubbing Jacob's thigh. Jay's mouth opened several times to deliver a scathing retort, only to be struck dumb at the last possible second. Matt watched with satisfaction as Jay turned his attention away from Matt and Jacob, the dumb jock didn't even spare Valerie a second glance as he retreated into the writhing crowd before disappearing all together. Jacob sat back in his seat, smiling as he watched Jay and his, whatever she was tonight, walk away and meld into the crowd feeling nothing but immense pride in Matt and the way he disarmed Jay with just a few simple words. "God," Valerie huffed. "I so wanted her to say something," she said in reference to the ditzy blonde that clung to Jay as if he were the last great lie, "it would have been funny to point out that her beau has asked me out every week for the last three years. I bet she would have gotten so confused," Valerie laughed; at least Jacob hoped the strangled sound was a laugh. As the devious snigger ebbed, Jacob knew one thing for certain; he never wanted that manic chuckle ever aimed at him. "So who wants to dance?" Jacob asked, breaking the silence that had descended onto the small group. Valerie issued Jacob a sideways glance and a slight shake of her head. "Count me out," she replied, "you've done enough damage for one night." Matt chuckled with Valerie's response and accusation, earning Jacob's attention in the process. "Well?" Jacob asked with an arched eyebrow, his eyes twinkling in the glowing low light of the ballroom. "Well what?" Matt asked, unsure of what he may or may not be agreeing to. "Would you like to dance?" Jacob asked with a small playful grin. Matt scoffed. "Dance with me," Jacob said, grabbing Matt's hand as his head motioned to the dance floor. Matt looked first to Valerie and her sublime excited smile, before turning back to Jacob, feeling a heated blush rise from his jaw line to the top of his cheeks, Matt nodded his head in acceptance to Jacob's request. The smile that bloomed on Jacob's face was both electrifying and contagious as Matt felt it mirrored on his own face as he stood with Jacob and together they headed to the dance floor. The music was slow as they found space, the steady, molasses like, murmur of bass mimicking the cadence inside of Matt's chest. That surprised Matt, he was sure his heart should have been beating a hundred times per minute, shaming even a hummingbird. He was however, oddly calm, as Jacob moved into him and started a slow swaying dance. They were being watched, some smiled, others stared, but in the end it was Jacob's shoulder Matt's head rested upon, and he didn't care about anyone else in the room, or the world. The perfection was fleeting as Matt found the end of the song came all too quick, but capped with Jacob's warm lips brushing tenderly against the nape of his neck before leaving a feather of a kiss, a kiss which Matt curled into instinctively. The absence of the Jacob's lips as they left Matt's neck left the tiny patch feeling uncommonly cold as Matt began to notice the sounds of cheering. It wasn't a loud thunderous roar one might hear in a stadium crammed to bursting, it was closer, quieter, aided by the congratulatory pats he felt being issued to his shoulders. Those weren't Jacob's hands he felt on his shoulders, his hands still lingered where they were wrapped around Matt's hips. Matt raised his head to see the faces around him all smiling, clapping like he was David having slain Goliath. All except for the sour visage of Jay Henderson whose dark eyes bore into Matt with a sinister intent. Jay, minus his blonde leech, meandered through the dispersing crowd as the next song started, stopping only when he knew he was in perfect earshot. Jay's elbow nudged one of his fellow team-mates in the lower back. "Hey Adam," Jay chided as Adam turned around with an annoyed look. "What do you think about this years prom queens?" Jay laughed, his head motioning towards Matt and Jacob. Matt could feel the blush dissolve from his cheeks as he blanched under Jay's snarl. He felt shame, not shame in Jacob, or for enjoying the moment they'd just shared, but shame at the innate way he pulled away from Jacob's loose hug under Jay's accusing gaze. Jacob looked confused, his arms that still hung limply open, ready for Matt's return, falling with the light shake of Matt's head. All the movement around them ceased as couples quit their own private little worlds and intruded on Matt and Jacob's. Adam looked stuck in thought for a fitting derogatory remark to add to the melee, the brown-haired, and brown-eyed young woman he was dancing with wore a constipated, thin lipped expression as her eyes switched between Matt and Jacob. Meanwhile Jay laughed with an arrogant roar. A diminutive smile perked Adam's angular face as it was lit for a moment in a wash of red light. Matt tensed, taking small steps backwards until he felt Jacob at his back. He didn't know what to expect from Jay now that he had a willing audience in Adam. Jacob gave Matt's shoulder a quick squeeze as he guided Matt behind him, ready to take on the pair if that's what it came down to. So preoccupied was Jacob, running through a series of actions and their reactions, he failed to notice Valerie and a series of chaperones pushing their way through the perimeter of stalled dancers. "Grow the fuck up and quit being an Ogre." In all the scenarios that plagued both Matt and Jacob's minds, that phrase wasn't one of them, nor was the way in which Adam shook his head in disappointment at Jay before turning and resuming the dance he was having before Jay had interrupted. "Fuck yeah," a familiar voice shouted from somewhere in the crowd. "Do we have a problem here?" Ms. Frost asked, ignoring Matt and Jacob, her eyes focused on Jay. "These two f..." Jay started pointing beyond Ms. Frost's back to Matt and Jacob. "Jay," Ms. Frost interrupted, with a wave of her hand, the patience in her voice wearing thin. "I'll remind you that there is no tolerance for harassment. So you may want to rethink your words carefully." "They came in here and ruined 'my' dance and..." Jay growled with displeasure, forgetting that the young woman he was issuing his tirade to, was not a student. "That's it Henderson, you're out," Ms. Frost shouted, louder than any woman of her petite build should have been able to. "NOW," the teacher continued, her arm tipped with a pointed finger jutted towards the exit doors, when Jay failed to move fast enough. "Fuck you and your queers bitch." Jay yelled without notice of Coach Jacovy or the Vice Principal, Mr. Decker, approaching from behind. With the poise of a saint, Ms. Frost calmly shook her head. "Keep digging your hole, Henderson." Whatever scathing slur was about escape from Jay's mouth next was silenced with sharp wince as his neck was seized in the strong grip of Coach Jacovy. "You heard the lady," Jacovy whispered into Jay's ear tightening his grip on Jay's neck for added effect. "Out now," Jacovy sneered, tossing Jay's neck from the palm of his hand like a piece of litter. Coach Jacovy and Mr. Decker didn't hang around, following Jay as he slinked out of the ballroom like a beaten dog. Ms. Frost watched Jay's exodus with some modicum of pride before turning her attention on Matt and Jacob. "I'm sorry guys," she said with a sympathetic smile. "Don't worry about him anymore, you guys just have a good time," Ms. Frost smiled, reaching out and grabbing Matt's shoulder as she did. "OH MY GOD," Valerie huffed, rushing up once all the teachers had cleared out. "Are you okay?" Jacob turned, asking Matt. "You're here," Matt answered with a smile, trying to play it cool even though he was slightly trembling over the encounter. Jacob smiled, knowing Matt too well to believe he was alright over the exchange. He still pulled Matt to him in a tight hug, delivering a kiss to Matt's cheek. "Hey, not on the dance-floor," Valerie chided. "Jealous?" Matt asked pushing Jacob out of the hug. "Whatever," she giggled rolling her eyes, issuing a playful shove to Matt's shoulder. "Hey," Jacob interrupted as his eyes followed Adam off the dance floor, "I'll be right back," he said giving Matt another smile. "Where are you going?" Matt asked, an edge in his voice despite the smile Jacob offered. "To say thanks," Jacob said, giving Matt's hand a quick squeeze before releasing him to Valerie. "Guard him with your life," he winked at Valerie before walking away. The trip across the room to where Adam had landed at a table to people watch would have been a lot faster without Jacob's new found popularity. Too many times his progress was halted by some one offering congratulations or wanting to know what had happened. "Hey," Jacob offered as a greeting to Adam after navigating the dance floor. Adam spared Jacob a look; looking bothered that he even gave him that. "Hey," he responded in a gruff voice that had Jacob second guessing his effort. "I just wanted to say thanks; you didn't have to do that," Jacob stammered, rubbing the back of his neck. "It was nothing," Adam answered with a dismissive shrug that earned a quick swat on his side from the brunette that was his date. The slap she issued with such little effort in turn earned her a sharp annoyed glance from Adam before he continued to look out at the dance floor. "It had to cost you a friend," Jacob muttered, not liking the less than welcome responses he was getting. Jacob's comment pulled Adam's eyes from scanning the dance floor, "One of my best," he shrugged. Jacob stared at Adam while Adam looked back, both at a loss for words before a velvety voice broke the constricting silence. "Adam," the brunette cooed, "aren't you going to introduce us?" "Jacob right?" Adam questioned, looking away from the girl at Jacob. Jacob nodded. "Jacob, this is my sister Chrissy," Adam nodded his head to his left where his brown haired date sat, now rolling her eyes. "Chrissy, that's Jacob." "Christine," Adam's sister clarified as she held her hand out to Jacob. "Nice to meet you, don't let sullen here bother you that much, he's just eternally moody." Jacob took her hand, giving it a light shake, "I just wanted to say thanks and sorry for ruining your night," Jacob blushed. Christine giggled, "Shuddup, you made it exciting," she winked, while Adam rolled his eyes with an exasperated huff. "That was great," a new familiar voice broke into the conversation. Jacob turned to see a pair of glacial blue eyes and a smiling face, pointed directly at Adam. He watched as Adam looked up and smiled, before looking away only to have his gaze go right back to Brendon Murphy. "You think so?" Adam blushed. "Yeah," Brendon beamed. Jacob gave Christine a small wave as the two guys began discussing something else, before he wandered off in search of Matt and Valerie. Adam Conner; that was an interesting turn of fortune, so interesting that Jacob wanted to shout it as he strolled up to the table where Matt and Valerie were sitting; instead, he bit his tongue as he sat with a knowing, happy smile on his face. "What's that smile for?" Matt asked as Jacob sat in the reserved chair next to him. "Nothing," Jacob shook his head, keeping Adam's secret. Matt accepted the answer with little fuss, he knew Jacob would tell him later, if not, he had learned a few tricks over the last several months that would aide him in obtaining the reason for the knowing smile. Once the prom had ended and the limo had dropped them off back at home, Matt, Jacob, and Valerie climbed into the pony and cruised by a few of the after parties, running into friends, and chatting, recounting the night's excitement, while having a few drinks but, as it always happened, the trio gravitated towards each other for the most part, ending up at the not so secret quarry with a handful of people that opted to tag along. Away from the larger group, they sat reminiscing over the past year. Valerie even got so bold as to share embarrassing stories of her and Matt growing up in the small town. Mostly, they were embarrassing for Matt, who was skipping rocks into the placid waters of the quarry, all by the light of paraffin fire logs thrown into a shallow pit and lit on fire. Valerie slowly began to nod off as the final fire-log was fighting to stay alive, and the stars slowly began to fade into oblivion while the skies above them lightened with the approaching dawn. The voice of Gene Austin was floating out of the mustangs speakers with a simple melody in the background. "Dance with me?" Jacob asked, using a stick to stoke what was left of the fire. Matt laughed at him lightly while shoving their shoulders together, "Get real." "I'm serious," he said sounding sincere. "How do I tell the kids we never danced on prom night?" "We did," he reminded Jacob with a light chuckle. Matt continued to laugh lightly, watching Jacob as he stood and held his hand out to Matt, who reluctantly allowed Jacob to pull him to his feet. Valerie opened her eyes and watched the two of them dancing. Their tux's disheveled after the long night, white shirts slightly unbuttoned, ties long since abandoned to the back seat of the Mustang. Shoes and socks off in a pile to the side as they danced cheek to cheek in the soft decayed granite sand of the quarry beach, their bodies moving in perfect rhythm with each other and the melody drifting from the radio. She smiled quietly to herself with Matt's laughter as Jacob dipped him, then returning him to the point where their noses were touching as they stared at each other. The dance they shared lasted long after the song had faded, leaving the call of birds twittering in the dawn as their symphony.
  13. chapter 19: : edited by viv : Grey, perpetually dreary, but the dismal state of the skies is what gave the emerald color to the surrounding hills covered in pine. Raul Montega had never appreciated Oregon; too far removed from bright skies and desert sands, he figured it a back-water, filled with people too scared, or too slow, to live in more metropolitan areas. Still, this is where he found himself, driving in circles looking for Bixby Lane. He had been in Sacramento yesterday, talking with a high school football coach, and learned a great little tid-bit that would have Catherine giggling with malevolent excitement. The day before, Monday, had been spent asking questions around Oak Meadow. Raul smiled with relief as he turned his Taurus onto the small side street that bore the name Bixby. The street was short, lined with quaint, clapboard sided houses, all painted white or light blue, and it didn't take long to pull to a stop in front of the number he had found in a quick public records search. Carol Ann Bixby had long lived on the street that bore her husband's surname, ever since the day she'd lovingly said, "I do." Moving into a house he and his father built, she raised five children, and watched with a pang of longing as one by one, they wandered off to five different states. The closest being her daughter Susan, some six hours south in Sacramento. Unannounced visitors were rare ever since Herbert died two years ago; she received the occasional phone call from one of her children, and entertained the local ladies with a bridge game every Saturday. So, Carol Ann took notice of the dark blue Taurus that stopped in front of her home as she worked on a small flower bed near the street. "Hello," she said, passing the man who got out of the car a quick glance before she returned to digging a hole in the dark rich soil for a new pansy. "Hi," Raul responded, sounding friendly enough as he leaned on the short fence that surrounded the front garden. "If your selling vacuum's or those satellite TV's, I ain't interested," Carol Ann said tersely as she shoved the small flower baring plant into the hole and smooth the earth up to its edge. Raul couldn't help but chuckle at the old woman's assumptions. "Actually, I was looking for Cody Williams," Raul continued with a helpful smile. The name caught Carol Ann's attention as she backed onto her haunches and gave the man before her a long stare. "Cody is my grandson," she said giving the stranger a measuring look. "What do you want with him?" she asked. Raul thought for a moment, thinking of the best story he could to go along with his appearance. In the end, he figured that a twinge of vicarious fame to grease the engines of people would work the best. "One of his teammates has been signed by Notre Dame and I'm doing a story on the kid, he has a very bright future and I want to show my readers how a local boy made good." "Sacramento isn't such a small town," Carol Ann replied, her eyes narrowing suspiciously. Raul chuckled, "True Ma'am, very true, no where near as small as Klamath Falls, but everyone likes when a local boy does well." "Regardless Mister..." she paused, waiting for the stranger to give her his name. "I'm sorry," Raul grinned. "My name is Larry Marquez. I write for the Sacramento Bee." "Regardless, Mr. Marquez," Carol Ann said, rubbing the dirt off her gloved hands. "You're barking up the wrong tree, my grandson lives with his mother and father in Sacramento." Raul stared at her intently for a moment, wondering if she was boldface lying to him, or if the investigating he had done in Sacramento had given him wrong information. "I find a problem with that, Mrs. Bixby. Everyone in Sacramento is saying he moved up here with you at the beginning of the summer." "Everyone?" she questioned, becoming ashen. "Everyone, even the school, they claimed his father signed a release of his records to bring them up here." Carol Ann stood, looking shaky as she did, "If you'll excuse me Mr. Marquez, I cannot help you." "I'm sorry for interrupting," he said politely, satisfied that Mrs. Bixby was in fact telling the truth in the way she was reacting to his news. Raul continued to watch as the elderly woman drifted into her house. This development didn't bode well for him. If this Cody wasn't where pretty much everyone had committed that he was, where the hell could he have disappeared to? Then again, Catherine wanted dirt, and now she had it, but edging on being thorough, Raul decided on using some of his resources to see if the kid's name came up anywhere else. The ruckus noise of a lawn mower sounded out of place in the quiet neighborhood. The noise usually broke the air on Sundays when it was an endless form of background music that lulled on the breeze, along with the smell of fresh cut grass, as the choreographed show of homeowners mowing their lawns filled almost every front lawn. Matt didn't get to that particular chore this past weekend, spending the time in Jacob's room instead. The whir of his motor had just stalled as Matt released the lever on the lawn-mower. He gave Dan King, who had just pulled his truck into the driveway next-door, a wave as he bent down to retrieve the catch bag, intent on emptying it into the green waste can. "Hey Kid," Dan said, siding up to Matt as he emptied the catch bag. "Hey Dan," Matt smiled, genuinely happy to see Dan. "Funny time to be mowing the yard," Dan commented, looking on the fresh cut lawn. "After school on a Wednesday," he noted. Matt shrugged, "I didn't have time to do it over the weekend with prom and all," he responded. Dan nodded, understanding. "Besides, you went and scheduled both Jacob and Valerie today, so I had nothing better to do," Matt chuckled. "Speaking of," Dan said, glad that Matt broached the subject so he wouldn't have to. "We've missed you around the shop, why didn't you come to me for another job when you wanted one?" Dan asked, hoping the offer would entice Matt into asking for another job. What he was really hoping for though, was to get Matt and Valerie to spend more time together. He hoped that would fend off the threat he felt Jacob represented to his daughter. "I've never been too comfortable around tools," Matt shrugged. "I always have to take four or five sockets out before I find the right one for the nut." Dan laughed; he'd seen trained mechanics that couldn't eyeball a nut for size. He wasn't willing to let go of his hopes of having Matt working with Valerie over that. "You could work in the front with Valerie, bringing in cars and charging people," he offered. Matt liked the sound of it, working with Jacob and Valerie, no longer having the funk of stale fast-food seep out of his pores, but he didn't give Dan an answer. "I'll think about it," Matt promised. "Well, let me know either way, you'll always have a job in my shop," Dan smiled taking a moment to ruffle Matt's hair. With that out of the way, Dan took a moment to get serious. "How's Valerie doing?" he asked, looking a little agitated. The question caught Matt by surprise. "Fine, I guess," he answered, looking bewildered by the question and how it had appeared out of thin air. Dan sighed, "I know you're her best friend Matt, I just want to make sure she's okay, even in the things she decides not to share with her old man." Matt glanced at Dan, the confusion still evident on his face, before replacing the catch bag on the mower. An exasperated look washed over Dan's face, he was obviously going to have to spell it out no matter how much he didn't want to. "She asked me how she could tell she was in love," Dan said. Matt bolted upright, his eyes wide. Valerie in love, she certainly hadn't said anything to him along those lines, and he wondered idly who it could be that had caught her attention. The last person he had known for a fact that she was dating was Jay, and since then, she'd acted somewhat put off with the rest of the guys that approached her. There was always John or Nathan, both of them had girlfriends though. Then there was Deacon. Valerie had always had a flirty, teasing relationship with the fifteen year-old, but Matt couldn't imagine it being anything beyond that. "She hasn't said anything to me," Matt offered at a loss. "I was thinking that it may have been..." Dan paused, not wanting to really dash Matt's hopes even though he didn't know if Matt was just covering for his two friends. "I was thinking maybe Jacob," he said watching Matt intently for the truth. Matt's eyes widened slightly, but faded along with the small smile that was barely perceivable at the corners of his lips. He wanted to laugh at the notion, but suppressed it well enough as he answered. "Jacob flirts with her a lot," Matt allowed, "but he's just goofing around. Valerie knows it's nothing serious, that's why she plays back." Dan watched Matt for a second, convinced that he was covering for Valerie and Jacob, either that, or he really didn't have a clue where Jacob and Valerie were concerned. "Are you sure?" Dan asked using his most stern face as he crossed his arms over his chest. Matt chuckled at Dan's attempt at authority. If there was one thing Matt was sure of, it was that Jacob and Valerie were not sleeping around with each other, which is what Dan was asking in the most polite way possible. Then, Matt got to wondering why Dan seemed so intent on Valerie and Jacob being together. His brow knit as he had a distressing thought of Dan not liking Jacob. "How's your mom doing?" Dan asked, letting go of thoughts about his daughter for a moment. Matt looked up, the question ripping him from his thoughts, "Oh, uh, she's back on the anxiety meds," Matt admitted, the furrow on his brow deepening with the admission. He shook his head and looked away from Dan. That was one truth Matt had been trying to avoid for the last several days, feeling in some way as though he was at fault for it. Sure his mother seemed fine with his relationship with Jacob, but she had seemed fine about many things in the past, only to run and hide behind some chemical or another. Matt turned away from Dan, intent on hiding his burning eyes, and trying to busy himself so he wouldn't have to face the possibility that his mom wasn't as fine with things as she played. He couldn't move after his fists closed around the handle of the lawn mower, all he could do was stand there and try to control his breathing as he squeezed his eyes shut. Matt stood there, telling himself that it had to be something else, thinking if he said it enough, it would be the truth. So lost in his inner mantra was Matt, that the strong hand that collapsed on his shoulder startled him as it spun him around with abnormal ease. Dan pulled Matt's limp body into a hug, giving him a squeeze for added strength. "Its okay bud," Dan sighed in a gruff whisper. Matt shook his head, fighting off Dan's notion of 'it', being 'okay', and in effort to chase the sting from his eyes. The reaction worked on neither front. "No it isn't," he said weakly as his arms closed around Dan's back. Dan pushed Matt away just far enough that he could look into his red eyes, "Yeah it is, your mom is going through a rough spot right now with the divorce and all. So she needs a little help facing that anxiety, so what? At least she isn't polishing off a bottle, or two, a night." Matt offered a meek nod to Dan's words, he hadn't even thought of the divorce side before, having always figured his mother was just as happy with his father's absence as he was. He still harbored the suspicion that it had, at least, something to do with his relationship with Jacob. Jacob and he, the abstract of thoughts, one leading to a distant other, lifted Matt's chin as he pulled away from Dan and scrubbed the back of his hand across his itchy eyes. He wanted to ask Dan, to tell Dan the truth, but he was scared of Dan's reaction. Matt knew that he could smile in the face of anyone else who scoffed now, but Dan, his surrogate, his 'Man's Man', Matt wasn't sure he would be able to smile in the scrutiny of that disappointment. Mustering his courage after a long void filled only with twittering birds, Matt asked, "Suppose Jacob and Valerie were dating, would it be such a bad thing?" It wasn't the question Matt wanted to ask, but hoping Dan felt he was a son, just as Matt thought of the man standing before him as a dad, he would glean some insight to Dan's final reaction. Dan Scrubbed a hand down his face, not ready for the question, or the inevitable answer he knew would come. Was it a bad thing, no, not if Valerie wasn't his daughter? If she were some other girl he wouldn't care, it wouldn't matter to him, but she was, and he didn't like the prospect of them dating one bit. Matt took the opportunity of Dan's silence to push the question further, "What if Jacob wasn't a guy, but a girl, and I ended up dating him?" Matt pressed. "Would you feel the same way?" Dan's shoulders dropped as he sighed. "Honestly?" he asked arching a brow in Matt's direction. Matt gave Dan a firm nod. "You're a smart kid, Matt," he said with a small smile, grabbing Matt by the shoulder and pulling him into a single armed hug. "No, and I know it's a double standard and it's not fair, but it is what it is. When you have a teenaged daughter becoming a woman, faster than you want, you'll understand." "So it would be alright if Valerie was a guy and Jacob was a girl?" Matt asked just to be clear. Dan pulled away. "I thought we were talking about Jacob being a girl and you dating him?" Dan kidded with a smile, a warm playful smile which Matt readily mimicked. "Right," Matt said, his smile widening as there was more truth in Dan's statement than he realized. "Let me put it this way, Matt, if you were a girl, and he was after you, I still wouldn't like him. I'm just looking out for mine," Dan answered, finding Matt's face twisted in confusion. "You and Valerie may not believe this, but I remember what it was like to be your age. It wasn't much later down the road that Valerie was born." "So you don't actually hate Jacob?" Matt asked. Dan smiled and ruffled the hair on Matt's head, rocking the youth's head side to side as he did. "Nah, he's a smart guy, good worker. He seems honest enough, other than the fact that I'm worried about him getting Valerie into to more trouble than she is ready to handle, I rather like him. He reminds me of myself when I was his age, and that's what's scary." Matt's smile beamed brightly, he couldn't hide the pride he felt burst in his chest at Dan's veiled approval. "That's good," Matt admitted, "because I like him." Surprised that he had just admitted that to Dan, no matter how ambiguous the statement was, Matt watched Dan keenly for any hint of a reaction, but there was none. The meaning of the words failed to penetrate Dan, sliding off instead, like water from a ducks back. "You should come over more often," Dan said noting Matt's absence in his TV room on Friday nights lately. "The house has too much estrogen without you." Matt laughed, feeling better about some things and deciding not to worry about others. "I'll try," Matt smiled. "And think about the job, not that I suffer from too many women at the shop," Dan reminded him as he was walking away. "I will," Matt chuckled. "Oh," Dan said again, his look becoming serious, "If you ever need to get away, and maybe talk to someone about stuff, I'm next door, okay?" Matt nodded as he chewed on his bottom lip, "Thanks Dan, I appreciate it." "No problem bud," Dan answered with a warm smile before he turned his back on Matt, leaving him to finish his yard work, while Dan found his way into his house to harass his wife. "You couldn't find him?" Catherine asked in a heady voice as she quickly ran through what Carlos was able to find. It was good, well good for her, not necessarily good for Jacob Keats. "I didn't say that," Raul replied. "I found him just fine, the old woman lied when she said he was living with his parents. I found him enrolled in the high school." "You approach him?" she asked rapidly as she set the manila folder containing Raul's report in the center of Richard's desk. "Yes, he didn't buy the whole story I fed to his grandmother though. The kid took obscene pride in telling me that he knew for a fact that the subject doesn't play football anymore, and hasn't played, since the coach ripped him off his cock," Raul relayed the information using the same phrase Cody Williams had when he spoke to the youth just a few hours before. Catherine emitted an almost sinister chuckle, finding herself very pleased with the salaciousness of the whole affair. "Any lingering feelings on Mr. Williams' part?" she asked. "Doubtful," Raul answered, "I had to pry him away from his girlfriend, who looks like a step down on the evolutionary ladder. That, and I asked, he said Jacob was a warm willing body, but that was it." Raul said taking a sip from the glass of water and setting it back on the table before him. Catherine's face fell slightly with that revelation, but she was no less determined. "Did you put forth our proposition?" Raul gave a nod, "He said no, but he thought about it for several minutes before he came to that conclusion, I'm sure if the motivation was right, he would." Catherine had to sit back in her seat and think about that development. Richard was playing it safe, he was planning on confronting his son with the information Raul dug up and hoped his son made the right choice. She didn't take lightly to that approach, so she had a back-up plan. To her it was simple; if the problem persisted, she'd introduce an outside influence to sway one part of the problem. Her only thorn in this improvised outline was the proper motivation for the outside influence. There could probably be budget issues beyond the amount she had already authorized Raul to offer. "What kind of motivation would be right?" Catherine asked tersely. Raul gave a shrug, guessing his best, "Double." "Sixty?" she nearly screamed. "Hey I dunno, I didn't haggle with the little shit okay?" Raul responded, not liking the way Catherine was staring at him. "I offered like you asked, he said no, but I'm sure if you upped the rate he would be back down here in a second dropping his pants and picking up where they left off in Sacramento." "Sixty is a major problem Raul. Can't you just go to his woman and tell her about his past?" Catherine scoffed. Raul nodded, "I could, but when did human wreckage become less important than money?" "This is politics Raul, it's the assembly in six months, and the senate in two years. I'm not going to let a cocksucker get in the way." Catherine stood and smoothed the hem of her tight Armani skirt, "Forty-five, and if he doesn't bite, tell his bitch. When he comes crawling, throw him fifteen, and put his ass on a plane." Catherine turned and headed towards the office door, "Coach," she added, pausing at the door before she rushed through it. Raul was quick to follow her out of the office, rushing behind to catch up to her quick pace. "So this re-negotiation, do I start right away or?" he asked. Catherine turned on her heel, taking a moment to let her scrutinizing gaze wash down Raul's stocky physique. She opened her office door and pushed through, holding the barrier open long enough for Raul to scurry through, before she shut it securely. "No, let Richard play Daddy first, and when then unreasonable teenager is predictably unreasonable, we'll play it my way," Catherine answered, liking the idea of having Richard owe for more then he could ever possibly repay. Raul gave a short nod and turned towards the door. "Raul," Catherine cooed, her demeanor turning three-sixty to sweet and amicable, "You don't work for this campaign, just remember that." He didn't answer, just stepped out of her office, and out of her life, until she needed him again, and she knew she would. "Does anyone else work here?" Jacob asked, sneering at the swaying rear of the Pizza-Nazi while grabbing a piece of pizza off the pan that had been dumped in the middle of the glass topped table. "Apparently not," Valerie said, casting the waitress an annoyed look as she reached across Matt, salvaging a piece of fallen sausage off of Jacob's plate. "I was going to eat that," Jacob commented around a mouthful of pizza. "Your dad wants me to come back to work at the shop," Matt announced out of nowhere, determined not to talk about the rude serving wench. The lady had done enough to ruin his life; he didn't see giving her actions any attention as worthy discussion anymore. "Really?" Valerie asked in a giddy high pitched squeal, while Jacob was busy cleaning his mouth, ready to grab hold of Matt. Matt nodded as Jacob's arms wrapped him in a crushing sideways hug. "You said yes, right?" Jacob asked, happy at the prospect of working with the two best people in the world he could think of. "I said I'd think about it," Matt chuckled, pushing Jacob off of him and grabbing for a piece of the three meat pie. "C'mon Matty, it would be better then cleaning out grease traps and smelling like a day old hamburger," Valerie said eyeing Matt, having twisted around in the crammed one side of the booth that contained one body more then it was designed to comfortably contain. "And smell like he does?" Matt questioned, throwing his thumb in Jacob's direction. Jacob's bottom lip pushed out in a pout, he took a moment to sniff first, the front of his white T-shirt, then his left arm pit. "There's nothing wrong with the way I smell," he observed. "I smell sexy," he finished with a deviant grin. "Ughh," Valerie choked, rolling her eyes at Jacob's suggestive smile. "Get a room already you friggin' rabbit." Matt collapsed back into the red vinyl clad back rest, grabbing his chest as he laughed. "I'd rather push all this food off the table and show these people they're not the only ones that can slam things around," Jacob retorted, the mischievous glint in his eyes the only clue that he was kidding. Matt leaned forward; trying any position he could to contain the laughter that was wracking his body. Valerie's mouth dropped with Jacob's comment as her eyes widened in shock, "Pig!" she admonished as she visualized Jacob's threat. It was Jacob's turn to become slack jawed with Valerie's accusation. "I'm not the one forming mental pictures here. Seeing Matt like that... for shame!" A weird noise emanated from Valerie's throat, sounding like a startled choke. She was about to respond over Matt's laughter, but his fist pounding on the table drew her attention. "It's no wonder your dad thinks you two are sleeping together," Matt gasped between his laughter. "Sleep with a girl?" Jacob asked with a pronounced lisp he'd never had before, "Ewwww!" he cried, holding a bent wrist to his chest. Matt stopped mid-laugh and just stared at Jacob's camp act. He slowly began to shake his head, "That was just," Matt paused, looking for the right word, "scary," he continued shaking his head, wearing a subtle smile. "Flamer," Valerie chided from her corner with a smile. "Jealous-s," Jacob shot back, carrying out the end in a hiss. "Why would my dad think I was sleeping with that?" Valerie asked Matt, pointing a dismissing finger at Jacob. Matt shrugged as he grabbed a slice of the pizza, "He said something about you asking about love." Valerie's eyes squinted and her lips pursed with an annoyed expression, "I was talking about the two of you," she mused. "Wait," Jacob interjected, "first I stink, and now I'm un-bed-able?" he asked. "The two of you know how to cut down a guys self-esteem, don't you?" Valerie shook her head and went back to her piece of pizza. "You are completely bed-able," Matt smiled at Jacob. "In fact, I know of a bed that's empty right now." "Now you're talking," Jacob said in a restrained shout as he pushed his plate away and grabbed at his napkin. "Don't you ever think about anything other than sex?" Valerie chided before she took a bite of her slice of pizza. "Umm..." Jacob said not wanting to make Valerie sound stupid, his eyes searching from left to right, "teenage guys... hello," Jacob answered, holding his arms up in a loose shrug. Valerie cast him a withering glance before returning to her dinner. "'Sides," Jacob continued after sticking his tongue out to Valerie's back, "Why would I bed Sweets, when I got you Kid?" Jacob asked. "Jacob," Valerie commented paying more attention to her plate, than her two friends cramming her into the small booth. "You remember your comment about self esteem? And if you stick your tongue out at me again like some five year old, Matt just isn't going to have as much fun in the bedroom anymore." "Dan doesn't know?" Jacob asked, figuring he didn't want to challenge Valerie on the whole tongue front, it was best for Matt in the long run. "It's not my business to tell him," Valerie offered, even though Jacob's question wasn't directed at her. Jacob's questioning gaze wandered from Valerie, who was busy grabbing a second piece of pizza, to Matt searching out an answer. Matt gave a single shake of his head, and averting Jacob's look, Matt moved his focus to the glass protected red and white checked table-top. "Why?" Jacob asked, more curious than hurt at this revelation. "Probably 'cause it's none of my dad's business..." Valerie said, receiving a short glance from Matt, pleading her to go someplace, anyplace else. "Right," she said, picking up on Matt's silent cue before he was finished delivering it. "Out," she said pushing on Matt's shoulder. "I have to go to the bathroom." Jacob dutifully stood and backed just out of the way, giving Matt room to exit the booth. and Valerie right behind him. Matt and Jacob watched as Valerie trotted off to the bathroom before Matt sat back down in the booth, sliding all the way across the warm cushion until he had claimed Valerie's abandoned seat. "Well?" Jacob asked, knowing that Valerie had abandoned the booth more to give them a chance to talk in private, rather than any actual claim of having to use the restroom. "I'm afraid," Matt admitted. "My father took it bad, Mom seems okay with it, but I just don't know if I could handle Dan not being okay with it," he said as he plucked a piece of pepperoni off Valerie's piece of pizza. "Your mom is fine with it," Jacob reassured him, pressing his side into Matt as he placed his hand on Matt's leg. "That's what I thought," Matt agreed, pushing his torso into the warmth Jacob provided. "Then she went and got her prescription refilled, I'm not so sure she is as okay with us as she is saying." Jacob's heart sank. No matter what, he always knew what his mother was thinking. If she was happy or sad, trying her best to hide some disappointment, Jacob always knew, and it pained him that Matt couldn't tell if his mother was truthful in her stance on their relationship. He didn't respond for a moment, just threw his arm over Matt's shoulder pulled him close and kissed Matt's temple before leaning his forehead on it. "It'll be okay Kid, you'll see," Jacob said, doing his best to reassure Matt. Matt nodded, "I know, I'm pretty sure I'm just being insecure, but I can't help it." "Have you talked to her about it?" Jacob asked, releasing the squeeze he had on Matt slightly. Matt gave a small, bitter chuckle, "No," he shook his head. "I'm afraid of the answer she'll give." "I can ask Mom to talk to her about it," Jacob offered. "I'd say yeah, but I have to face it. It can't possibly go any worse than my father, and she hasn't exactly said I can't stay over your place anymore or you can't stay over ours," Matt answered, talking himself into discussing his relationship with his mother. "So you think you're just being paranoid?" Jacob ventured. "Yeah," Matt realized with a nod. "And Dan?" he asked, pressing Matt just a little further. "I can't," Matt responded in a whisper. "He taught me how to ride a bike, how to hit a ball. He played catch with me, and cheered the loudest when I was in little league," Matt reasoned. "Most kids in my kindergarten class wanted to be fire-fighters or cops. I wanted to be Dan," he chuckled. Jacob squeezed Matt to his chest again, placing another lingering kiss on Matt's temple. Damn the waitress, if she wanted to make a snide remark, or anyone for that matter. Jacob was simply doing what he knew Matt needed at the moment. "It's okay," Jacob assured. "He doesn't have to know." "He'll find out," Matt smiled to himself. "He's smart; I'm just not ready for him to know yet." Jacob agreed, while thinking it was going to be obvious if Matt did eventually decide to work at the shop. "Does this mean I can't flirt with you while you leaning over an engine compartment?" Matt laughed, "If Dan doesn't figure it out then," he started but didn't finish. "He'll be a dad looking out for the daughter he thinks he still needs to protect," Jacob finished. "He likes you," Matt offered feeling comfortable leaning into Jacob, relaxed as he was. Jacob chuckled shortly, "I don't believe that, but I'll buy it if you say so." "Good," Matt said, nudging Jacob off of him so he could actually eat before the food was too terribly cold. Jacob pulled back and offered Matt a smile. Valerie returned to the table a few minutes later muttering about restaurants with dirty restrooms, as she sunk into the end of the booth blocking Jacob and Matt in. Jacob was quick to slide her plate in front of her, swapping it for his own. The ride home was short, but filled with all the joking and laughs that the back booth in The Pizza Joint had seen. Valerie was quick to rush inside after she pulled into her drive and parked, leaving Jacob to walk Matt to his doorstep. Their fingers were laced as Matt and Jacob approached Matt's front door, stopping long enough for Jacob to reiterate his earlier offer. "She would," Jacob whispered, pulling Matt to him by Matt's pocket. "If I asked her to talk to your mom, she would. She'd prolly tell me we're crazy, that your mom is fine with it, but I know my mom, she'd do it if I asked, she'd do it for you." Matt imagined that scene, sitting in Jacob's kitchen while Joanne paraded around telling them they were both off their rockers. "Thanks, but I'm gonna go in and talk to her about it," Matt said, realizing he really was going to do as he said. "Right now." Jacob leaned back on his heels, appraising Matt carefully in the low light. "You want me to go in with you?" Jacob asked. Matt laughed and shook his head, "Nah, only one blubbering idiot at a time." "I wouldn't blubber!" Jacob admonished, pulling away from Matt, "Throw myself at her feet and beg maybe, but never blubber." "C'mere," Matt chuckled, using one of Jacob's tactics and grabbing him by his pockets, pulling him until their chests were touching before planting a soft kiss on Jacob's lips. "Goodnight," "Night Kid," Jacob said, surrendering to Matt's wishes as he pulled away. Jacob lingered long enough on the porch to watch Matt open his front door and slip through. Hearing the deadbolt throw, Jacob sighed, wishing Matt all the luck and courage the world had to offer, before backing away from the house and crossing the street. Once inside, Matt leaned against the door, fighting with himself to actually do this. Resolving that he had to, no matter how much he dreaded the least likely prospect, he pushed himself off the door and headed through the house, making a bee line for the kitchen cabinet where his mother stored the prescriptions. Opening it, he snatched out the bottle he was looking for, and headed down the hall. Matt rapped lightly on her bedroom doorsill before he stepped through the open door. Viola was lying in bed watching the news when the light tap at her door caught her attention. "Hey hun," Viola greeted. "How was dinner?" she asked. Matt fidgeted slightly, shifting from foot to foot, "It was good." "That's good," Viola replied, her attention drawing back to the wall mounted television in her room. "Mom?" Matt squeaked, digging the pill bottle out of his pocket where he had stashed it on the walk down the hallway. "Yes dear?" Viola answered, looking sideways at the TV after her head turned in his direction. "Are you," he stammered, "are you okay with Jacob and me?" Matt asked. "Because I found these and I..." the words came out of his mouth like water falling over a steep cliff before they dried up and failed to produce even a squeak. Viola's gaze jarred from the TV to her son, standing as vulnerable as she had ever seen him. Slowly it drifted to the amber bottle in his hand, before it climbed back up to his worried face. She felt strangled by his question as her head fell in shame.
  14. chapter 24: : edited by viv : "USC?" Valerie questioned with a pout while adjusting the gold and white scarf that hung over her shoulders and down to her mid back. Matt had heard the same simple question many times in recent weeks, ever since he decided on USC over the art school he had previously planned on attending in San Francisco. "USC," Matt confirmed, grinning at Valerie's encroaching sense of loss. "You've been dreaming of attending The Institute for the Arts since eighth grade," Valerie complained. She hadn't tried the 'killing one of your longest dreams' approach before, and hoped it might have some resonance on their graduation day. Matt's grin faded into something less exuberant, and ultimately more assured, as the reserved smile just curled the corners of his mouth and twinkled in his eyes. "Sometimes, dreams change," he said, feeling a rush of color to his cheeks. Valerie opened her mouth to argue, but in the end she conceded his point with a resigned smile. "I'm going to miss not having you there every day." "Geesh, Val, I'm not dying, just going to a different school," Matt said crinkling his nose, making a stupid face in effort to bring Valerie to chuckle at the absurdity of this conversation. "Besides," Matt continued, realizing the lame faces weren't working, "we still have the whole summer before it comes to that." "Most of which, you and Jacob will spend shacking up," Valerie said, turning to look at herself in the mirror again, her voice tinged with a trace of bitterness. "Speaking of, shouldn't he have been here by now?" Matt smiled to himself, shying away from Valerie's gaze in the mirror. He liked the fact that Valerie showed regret in their separation, if only because it showed that she was going to miss him. He felt level in that respect with her, a feeling Matt didn't often get in respect to the young woman he was standing next to; she had always been the leader. Always the one to instigate their combined actions through the years they'd spent growing up, growing together and now, growing apart. Neither of them were sure if it was a conscious choice or not, but it was there, hanging around them, a disparate growing fog blurring the life they once shared in unison, urging them along two separate paths. Matt knew he could still see her, maybe not as clearly as he once could, and in times of need, he could reach out and feel her, knowing that she would be there forever, as would he. "He's out taking his road skills test," Matt answered finally, shaking the visual of a fading Valerie from his mind. "You got the jacket right?" she asked, her mind changing to the black leather jacket with red racing stripes down the left chest panel. Matt nodded; the gift was securely hanging in his mother's closet. "He's going to look hot in it," Valerie observed, echoing the exact phrase Matt had used when he picked it out. "Well he is," Matt defended his statement as his cheeks colored. Valerie beamed, glad she could still make Matt blush so easily, thankful for the next few months before the pursuit of higher learning stole them from each other. "Have you heard from your dad?" Valerie asked, switching the direction of conversation with natural ease. Matt frowned. "His office mailed me a copy of his itinerary for today last week, other than that, not a peep out of him in three weeks." Valerie sighed for Matt, draping her arm over his shoulder and she pulled him in for a quick, tight hug. She knew all about the words that Matt and his father had exchanged, and knew that even though Matt was sticking to his guns, a certain sadness and regret crept into his voice whenever anyone brought the subject up. She, herself, could have given a care less, but she didn't care for Richard on many levels. Her empathy came from realizing what it would be like if her dad was no longer there. "It'll be okay Matty," she whispered, taking a moment to kiss his temple. "I know," Matt responded with a sour chuckle. "It's just..." "I know," Valerie said, soothing him with both her voice and a hand rubbing his upper arm. "Clear my schedule," Richard said, throwing on his sport coat. "Mr. Porter?" the assistant questioned, unsure of what he implied. Taking a moment, he back-pedaled and looked down at the young male college sophomore Catherine had insisted replace Mary. Speaking clearly and slowly, Richard repeated himself as if he were giving instruction to a kindergartener. "Clear... my... schedule." "But," the young man attempted, pointing at the revered appointment book. "Listen," Richard said with growing impatience, "my son is graduating today, and I'm not missing it," explaining himself no further to the assistant Catherine had thrust on him. Richard walked away; annoyed that he should have to explain himself to some low-level staffer. Richard had made it a whole twenty feet before he spied Catherine stalking up to him in his peripheral vision. He thought twice about staying his course and ignoring the woman, but relented at the last second. "I thought we talked about this," Catherine said as she sided up to him, a smile on her face, but venom on her lips. "We did," Richard agreed with an accompanying nod. "I thought we decided it was best if you just didn't go to this function," she purred with malice. Again, Richard nodded; this nod however was only acknowledging her statement. "You and Matt decided, completely separate from one another," Richard corrected. "I only agreed not to speak at his graduation; I never agreed not to go." Catherine crossed her arms as her eyes and lips narrowed, clearly not amused or impressed at Richard's double talk. "It's a bad idea," Catherine hissed. Richard took a moment to scan the room, making sure others weren't watching him before he stepped in close and seized Catherine by the elbow, shaking her slightly. "No," he said in a gruff low voice, "the bad idea was listening to you, where my son was concerned in the first place." "At least you realize it was your mistake," Catherine cooed with a sneer as she pulled her elbow free of Richard's grasp. Richard stared at the woman in silence, having no way to fight back at the accusation she leveled at him. Straightening his blazer by pulling at the hem, Richard turned and walked out the door. "Whose is that?" Valerie asked eyeing the dark red GMC Sierra that sat curbside in front of Jacob's house with a good amount of neighborly suspicion and curiosity. Matt shrugged, but had his suspicions of who the truck belonged to. "Jacob said his grandparents and aunt were driving down, maybe it's theirs," he suggested without knowing the answer. Matt's suspicions were confirmed after he pressed the doorbell instead of just waltzing into the house as he had taken to doing recently. The door flew open with so much dramatic flair that it caused both Matt and Valerie to jump in place. Holding door the open stood a woman who looked like Joanne, she had the same facial features, even if her hair was cut short, and dyed blonde, over the dark brown base. In her hand she held a tattered stuffed bear and a blue envelope. "You must be Sweets," Josie said smiling at Valerie. "Welcome to the club, hun." Josie's gaze then turned slowly to Matt. "That means these," she said, handing off the bear and the blue envelope to Matt with a devious gleam in her eyes, "belong to you." Matt accepted the stuffed bear and card with a bit of apprehension, feeling like a total jerk for receiving a gift from a person he didn't know, while Valerie received nothing. Matt gave Valerie a sideways look and a small shrug of his shoulders, not knowing how to respond to Josie for the unexpected gifts. Josie stood in the doorway blocking their progress, smiling with the same devious sparkle in her eyes as she waited for Matt to open the card. "Well," Josie commented drumming her fingers on the edge of the door, "aren't you going to open the card?" she quipped, never losing her smile. "Umm," Matt said, unsure as he handed off the stuffed bear to Valerie to hold. Nervous under the woman's gaze, even though she seemed good natured enough, Matt ripped into the blue envelope open. The cover was a typical graduation card with a mortarboard and tassel, a scroll, and reading 'Congratulations!' in a celebratory font. Curious as to why the woman would be so demanding to have him open a graduation card, Matt looked up at her quizzically. Josie just nodded down at the card again, urging him to open it as she bit back the laughter brewing within. Matt gave Valerie another nervous look just before opening the card and dropping his gaze down to the picture it contained. Matt's eyes bugged and his mouth dropped open in delighted shock as he snapped the card shut immediately. Josie broke out in the raucous laughter she had been holding in since watching Matt open the card, Matt's checks flushed red as he began laughing as well. "What?" Valerie asked, eyeing them both with suspicion, feeling left out and annoyed. Matt just shook his head as he handed the card off to Valerie. "That," Josie said with sincere amusement, "is what you've gotten yourself into." "What did you do?" Jacob asked, approaching the door for the first time, noticing the bear Valerie held as she opened the card. Ignoring Jacob's protests and letting the stuffed bear slip from her grasp and into Jacob's, Valerie opened the card. "Oh... my... God!" Valerie gasped, clutching her mouth with her free hand as she started to giggle. Jacob paled, realizing that he held Mr. James in his grasp, and remembering Josie's earlier threat. "You didn't," he gulped looking at his aunt who was smiling proudly as she nodded. "I did," Josie said with a measure of triumph in her voice. "I told you I was going to give it to him, didn't I?" "How did you get this?" Valerie asked with some measure of amazement as she continued to stare at the picture the card contained. Jacob's cheeks burned with the sly smile that crossed Josie's face. "Oh, that is an interesting story in itself," Josie commented, laying a hand on Jacob's shoulder as she turned her attention from Valerie to Jacob. "Do you want to tell them or should I?" "I..." Jacob stammered, wishing he hadn't been ribbing his grandfather over buying a GMC when he had been a Ford-guy for years. Had he left his 'Pa' alone he would have been able to answer the door ahead of Josie, and hopefully blocked the picture he knew was in the card. "I was heading down the coast with some friends," Josie began, seeing that Jacob wasn't going to be explaining anything anytime soon. "So I stopped off and picked up my digital camera that I had left over at my sister's apartment. Nothing looked out of the ordinary until I was scrolling through the pictures I had taken of Fisherman's Warf and I came across this picture of Jacob grinning like a mad man, nude with his stuffed bear covering his crotch." Josie shook her head looking entirely mournful, "Poor Mr. James." "What?" Jacob shrugged, sheepish but trying to remain macho about the story. "It's not like any of you haven't..." "No," Valerie interrupted as Matt nodded his head in agreement, then, shook it quickly disagreeing with Valerie's statement when he was sure she wasn't looking. Jacob raised his brow, intrigued by Matt's disagreement, "Really?" he asked with a sly smile. "Don't look at me," Matt rebuffed holding his hands up. "I draw," he added with a wink. "Boys," Valerie said with a huff and a roll of her eyes, astonished with what young guys do with themselves when left to their own devices. "What?" Jacob argued with a smile. "It's completely natural to be curious about your own body." "Okay," Valerie interrupted with a wave of her hand. "First of all, I can't believe you just said that in front of your aunt. Second of all, whatever!" she said shoving Jacob's shoulder as Josie looked on laughing at their back and forth. "Anyhow, Matt and I stopped by to see if you wanted a lift to school." "Pa is letting me drive his truck," Jacob said, a little too excited as the color drained from Josie's face. Completing a cross, her hands moving from her forehead to each shoulder in turn, Josie clasped her hands in a position of prayer as she commented to Matt and Valerie, "Pray for us." Matt and Valerie both laughed at Jacob's aunt's antics. "Shuddup, you," Jacob said grinning while angling Josie into the house with an elbow. "That was Josie," Jacob said with a nod of his head in the direction Josie had padded off in, laughing still. "You'll have to forgive her she's a lil' loopy when she goes off her meds," Jacob said, hollering the last part loud enough for Josie to hear. "I like her," Valerie decided, also shouting loud enough for her voice to carry to the interior of the house. "Do you guys wanna come in?" Jacob asked, beckoning them in with a jerk of his head, "You can meet Pa, and Gram," Jacob said. "We have to be heading out," Valerie answered with hesitance, as she was looking forward to meeting Jacob's family. Jacob's face fell, "I guess," he answered. "They'll be at the ceremony so..." "Boy!" a gruff voiced hollered. "You weren't born in damn barn, why don't you invite your friends in?" "They were just heading out, Pa," Jacob smiled with warmth at the barrel-chested man who, moving stiffly, came into view, staring out the door. The man took a moment sizing up both Matt and Valerie, before jutting out his hand to both of them. "Sweets," Jacob's grandfather barked, causing Valerie to jump slightly. "Yeah?" she answered sounding meek in the face of this man's authority. Jacob senior issued her an odd look as she replied. "Yes, dear?" an elderly woman said coming into view. Jacob Sr. mumbled something that neither Matt nor Valerie could comprehend, but Jacob understood as he went about making introductions. "Gram, this is Valerie and Matt," Jacob said remembering his manners, introducing the lady first where his grandmother was concerned. Matt shook the stately woman's hand, noticing how fragile it felt in comparison with the paw of Jacob's grandfather. The fingers were delicate, the skin cool and soft, as it hung on the fine bone structure of her fingers. Matt even luxuriated in the genuine smile that fired the woman's green-grey eyes. "Nice to meet you," Matt mumbled with a scant nod of his head. "Likewise, dear," Jacob's Grandmother said placing her hand on Matt's shoulder and giving the musculature there a slight squeeze. It may have been nothing, just politeness, but to Matt, the gesture felt like so much more, as if the matron of the Keats' clan had given her approval and welcomed him into her family. The welcome of her hand, the gentleness of her eyes, all made Matt feel proud to know and love Jacob. "Hey kids," Joanne said appearing at the door, handing her mother her purse. "Almost set, Jacob?" she asked as Jacob's Grandfather mumbled something in Jacob's direction again. "Yeah Ma'," Jacob said, "No, Pa, I wont scratch your truck, I promise." "Where are your parents guys?" Joanne asked as she watched Josie and her own parents shuffling down towards the large, red GMC. "Mom's with Kitty and Dan," Matt answered. "They left about twenty minutes ago." "Do you guys need a lift?" Joanne asked, looking momentarily worried about logistics if they did need a ride. "No, I've got it, Mom," Valerie smiled. "Well, we'll see you after," Joanne smiled leaning in to hug Valerie. "I'm so proud of all three of you," she said before hurrying down to her parents and Josie who were waiting by the truck for Jacob. "I'll see you guys there," Jacob smiled, feeling a mix of excitement and loss. "Yeah," Matt said shuffling where he stood, wanting to give Jacob a quick kiss goodbye but not sure how such a display would play out with the grandparents, or Josie. "Hey kid," Jacob said grabbing Matt by the arm lightly and pulling him in. "I'm happy," he said, his eyes sparkling as he leaned in and gave Matt a quick kiss. Matt's cheeks flushed. "Yeah," he said in a rush of moist breath that flooded over Jacob's chin and down his neck into the collar of his dress shirt. "So, am I ever going to see this drawing?" Jacob asked of the image Matt had hinted at in a devious whisper. Matt thought for a second as an impish grin spread slow across his face, "Only if you promise to recreate the picture for me." Jacob played at checking to his left, then his right, making sure no one was with in ear shot before settling his loving gaze back on Matt. "I think that can be arranged," Jacob said with a wink and another quick peck on Matt's lips. "See ya in a few," Jacob said giving Matt's upper arm a soft pat. "You too, Sweets." The grounds of Grove High School were packed to nearly overflowing. Everywhere the eye traveled, bouquets of colorful balloons could be seen, often topped with one or two silver Mylar printed with a jovial message of 'Congratulations!'. Beneath the floating messages were masses of people milling about, carrying flowers and gift bags of every shape and color, hugging on a family member clad in a robe of emerald green or dark yellow that was supposed to be gold. Looking down, Richard perused the printed program in his hand; it contained a list of events in the graduation ceremony of Grove High, including a complete listing of the graduating class by name. The program also urged that immediate family occupy field seating only, asking that any members of a students extended family; aunts, uncles, and cousins, to view the ceremony on the video feeds in both the little theater and gymnasium. Richard debated the merits of watching the video feed in either the gym or theater. He didn't want to watch his son graduate on a screen. He wanted to be sitting out on the sports field watching the ceremony, baking in the sun just like the rest of the deserving parents. The stage on the field was small, twenty feet long and half as wide, an arrangement of chairs in a dais around a central podium. A large white backdrop had the school's mascot emblazoned in the center, flanked by the School District's and California State seal on either side. Underclassmen representatives of the GHS student government were acting as ushers, dressed smartly and passing out copies of the program to anyone who had yet to receive one. Richard flashed his copy of the small grey-colored program with an uneasy smile at the green-eyed kid who tried to hand him another, pushing his way through the milling throngs as he headed towards the bleachers. The aluminum bench of the bleachers was hot as Richard took his seat, stinging quickly through the silk of his dress slacks. He felt awkward and oversized sitting up so high. The discomfort of the seat offered him a supreme vantage point, allowing him to pick out Viola, Dan and Kitty with ease, as they grabbed up a set of the white folding chairs placed on the field. He idly thought he should be down there with them as he watched the seats fill in, both on the field, and the stage. The high school band pumped out Pomp and Circumstance March 1 in D-minor as the graduates filed onto the field in roman columns, taking their seats between goofing off with one another and scant waves at family members that could be picked out of the crowds. It wasn't the best rendition of the march that Richard had ever heard but it was played valiantly, if occasionally off key. "Son, or daughter?" the man seated beside him leaned over and asked as the principal began giving a speech about the merits of the graduating class. "Son," Richard smiled, beaming with pride as he glanced at the man who had asked the question. "Mine too," the man smiled, a distant pride glimmering in a pair of light brown eyes Richard had never learned to appreciate. Both men held back the fact that neither of their sons knew they were there. Richard had been asked to stay away in no uncertain terms, and the other had never met the son who was about to graduate. The principal spoke, as well as the Superintendent of the school district. Valedictorians gave speeches including Valerie, who spoke of walking blindly through life, following a path filled with dreams and expectations thrust upon you. She talked of the strain such expectation puts on a person, and of a person meeting someone who challenged their path, challenged their dreams, forcing them to reevaluate those selfsame dreams. She told the graduating class to welcome such challenge, to seek it out. Valerie received a rousing ovation for the speech. Valedictorians having given their speeches and recognition given to students that had been awarded scholarships, Pomp and Circumstance began to play again as the principal read off the names of the graduating class. Each student rising in turn as their name was called, and walking up one side of the stage, receiving their diploma and shaking the Superintendent's hand. Richard clapped when appropriate names were called, while the stranger beside him clapped for everyone, maybe a little more here and there. The ceremony concluded in normal fashion, and once the Superintendent had pronounced the class graduated, a loud cheer erupted, surpassing even the din of applause and mortarboards flying through the air. Richard smiled as he stood, his legs sore from sitting on the hard metal, gave a congratulatory nod in the direction of his son before making his way down the scaffolding steps and out of the school grounds.
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