Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
If you like my story, shoot me an email! Dearpetersfo@gmail.com
Alex directed Jill through the streets of his affluent suburb, past the Hugos and Tabithas and Porsches and Teslas, while Harry remained silent in the passenger seat.
Along the way, he answered Jill’s questions about the events of the past week. About his mother confiscating his phone and laptop, about how she’d guessed his phone password and deleted his social media accounts, about the Cold War-like atmosphere that now prevailed in the household.
Not even the return of Alex’s father had improved the situation. He’d flown back into the country on Thursday, but they’d barely spoken in the 24 jet-lagged hours he’d been home. According to Alex, he let Jennifer do most of the parenting anyway.
“Now second driveway on the right.”
By the time they arrived at Alex’s front door, Jill was ready to give both Wyatt parents a piece of her mind. She didn’t have to wait long, as Jennifer came rushing out the moment the car stopped.
“Alex, you’re home!! We were so worried!”
She made a beeline for Alex as he climbed out of the car, determined to put on a show for his unfamiliar driver. The facade began to crack as she spotted Harry sitting in the passenger seat.
“Oh, you’ve brought company.”
“Hi.” Jill stepped forward as Alex stepped in front of the passenger door, shielding Harry from Jennifer’s glare. “You must be Alex’s mum?”
“Yes. Who are you?”
“Jill Delaney, Harry’s mum.”
Jennifer looked down at Harry again. Until a few seconds ago, he’d been a nameless object of disappointment.
“I’m guessing my son stayed at your house last night?”
Jennifer stared Jill down. However, Jill was more than up to the challenge.
“Were you aware that he’d run away from home?”
“I only became aware this morning.” Still Jill maintained eye contact. She was determined not to blink first. “I also know why he ran away.”
Jennifer had no comeback for that. She finally blinked first, then turned to Alex with a flinty glare.
“Why didn’t you tell us where you were going? We were worried sick.”
“I’ll bet you were.”
Jennifer feigned offense at the comment. “You should have at least called.”
“With what phone?”
At that moment, Alex’s father appeared on the front steps. He showed a flash of confusion, looking between the mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces, before focusing on his son.
“Alex! Where have you been?”
Alex rolled his eyes, choosing to ignore the question.
George Wyatt looked between his wife and son again, before cutting his losses and stepping toward Jill with an outstretched hand.
“I don’t believe we’ve met?”
They shook hands.
“Thank you for bringing Alex home.”
George looked through the windscreen towards Harry. He slid deeper into the passenger seat, praying for a sinkhole to swallow him whole.
“Would you and your son like to come inside?”
“That boy isn’t welcome in our—”
“Excuse me.” George cut Jennifer off without hesitation, before turning back to Jill. “I believe we have some things to discuss.”
George ignored his wife and turned to Alex.
“Alex, you need to go inside.”
“See what I meant about his attitude—”
George more resembled a traffic cop with every passing moment. He turned back to Alex, who was still shielding Harry’s passenger door.
“Alex, please take Harry and go inside.”
Alex considered his options. He looked between the tense adults, the open front gate, then finally down at Harry. The younger boy looked terrified of the conflict that was about to erupt.
“Harry, let’s go.”
Alex opened the car door, still shielding him from Jennifer. He then took Harry’s hand and led him up the front steps, as all three adults watched.
Once they were gone, George turned to Jill with an apologetic smile.
“Please, follow me.”
Jill then followed George up the front steps, as Jennifer trailed behind with a scowl.
* * * * *
“What do you think they’re talking about?”
Alex shrugged his shoulders as he paced the bedroom floor. His eyes were downcast, denying Harry the reassuring eye contact that he needed in that moment.
“Do you think your dad’s gonna help us?”
“I don’t know.”
Still Alex paced, seeming unsure of what to do with himself.
“Harry.” Alex finally made eye contact, but it only served to heighten Harry’s anxiety. “Can we just… not talk about it for a minute?”
“Okay.” Harry began to fiddle with a loose thread on Alex’s desk chair instead. “What do you want to talk about, then?”
They stood in awkward silence, until Harry picked up a textbook off Alex’s desk.
“How about this? The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age?”
“Oh god. Anything but that.”
Harry turned the book over, ignoring Alex’s protest.
“What’s it for? A school project?”
“Yeah.” Alex’s face looked like he’d just sucked a lemon. “The impact of World War One on individual artists.”
“That doesn’t sound too bad?”
“It’s supposed to be a group project.”
Harry looked at the sheets of hand-written notes scattered across Alex’s desk. An awful lot of notes for one group member’s contribution.
“I’m guessing your partners aren’t pulling their weight?”
At that moment, George’s deep voice rumbled down the hallway.
“YOU DID WHAT?!”
Harry looked to Alex, wide-eyed.
They both strained to hear George’s next words, but the conversation had returned to muffled volume.
“It sounds pretty heated.”
Alex looked back to the door, thinking for a moment. He then turned and motioned for Harry to follow him.
“Wait, we can’t go out there.”
“Because they’ll hear us!”
Alex shook his head and kept moving forward, leaving Harry no choice but to follow him.
* * * * *
“Why would you do something like that?”
George was demanding answers of his wife as Jill watched on silently.
“Tell me, what were you trying to achieve?”
“I was trying to protect him.”
George waited for Jennifer to elaborate, but her jaw was set.
Jill chose that moment to interject.
“Were you aware of how many followers your son had?” George shook his head, prompting her to continue. “Over three hundred thousand, apparently.”
“It wasn’t that many—”
“That’s the number Alex told me.”
“I don’t even care what the number was!” George turned to Jennifer, eyes blazing. “You know how important social media is to Alex. The modeling opportunities it’s created for him. Why would you jeopardize his future like that?”
“I did it to protect him.”
Jennifer went silent again, setting her jaw.
“Tell me, what?” Still she remained silent. “You need to start talking, Jennifer—”
“I was protecting him from pedophiles!” The dam wall finally burst, as Jennifer’s volume and pitch rose in equal measure. Tears began to form in the corners of her eyes. “Have you seen the comments they write on his photos? The private messages they send to his inbox?”
“It’s disgusting!” Jennifer kept rattling words off, now on a roll. “And that photographer, Chris Perez. Always encouraging Alex to strip off—”
“You’re not suggesting…” Jill went wide-eyed, wondering what she’d sold Harry into.
“It’s not exactly far-fetched, is it?” Jennifer was gesturing wildly now, tears falling down her cheeks. “A thirty-something man, photographing teenage boys—”
“WHAT THE FUCK?!”
Alex came storming into the room, having heard more than enough. Harry trailed meekly behind.
“No, stop talking.” Alex’s glare was a mirror image of his father’s. “How could you even suggest something like that?”
“I was protecting you!”
George took a step forward, preparing to referee his wife and son.
“Alex, you need to leave.”
“Alex, please.” George placed a hand on Alex’s shoulder. “Go back to your bedroom. I’ll come and get you when we’re done.”
“Done with what?” Alex immediately shrugged George’s hand off. “Making up stories about how I’m being groomed?”
Alex glared at his mother, who was now crying even harder.
“That’s not what I said—”
George grabbed his son’s shoulder again, this time with more force.
“Let me go.”
George placed a hand on both shoulders now, imploring Alex with his gaze.
Eventually, Alex turned and stomped his way out. Harry stayed behind briefly, offering his mother a look of concern, before treading the same path as his boyfriend.
“Now, where were we…”
* * * * *
Alex stomped into his bathroom and slammed the door, leaving Harry stood awkwardly on the other side.
“Are you… okay?”
Alex didn’t respond.
Harry continued waiting, growing more worried with each passing second, until Alex eventually opened the door. He attempted a smile as he tried to push his way past, but the clench of his jaw made it look more like a grimace.
Harry placed a hand on Alex’s shoulder, causing Alex to briefly lean into the contact. He then continued further into the bedroom, taking a seat on the edge of his bed and gesturing for Harry to sit alongside.
“I feel like an idiot.”
Harry took Alex’s hand and squeezed it, encouraging him to continue.
“I knew she’d deleted the accounts. She fucking told me she’d deleted the accounts.” Alex shook his head, as tears began to form. “But for some reason, there was still a part of me that hoped she was bluffing.”
A few stray tears began to leak out as Alex fought a losing battle. Eventually he gave up and covered his face, before allowing himself to be drawn into a deep hug by Harry.
He spoke his next words into Harry’s collarbone.
“What am I going to do? She’s ruined everything.”
“We’ll figure it out. I promise.”
“What if they can’t be recovered?”
“We’ll just build bigger, better, new ones.”
Harry kissed the top of Alex’s head, holding him until the tears began to subside. Eventually Alex leaned away, embarrassed by the huge wet spot on Harry’s shoulder.
“God, I’m such a cry baby.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
Alex held Harry’s gaze for a long moment, feeling his resolve strengthen with every breath. He leaned in for a soft kiss, and when they disconnected, he felt absolute clarity in his mind.
“I love you.”
Harry froze. Nothing could have possibly prepared him for hearing those words.
The boys sprang apart as they heard footsteps in the hallway. They were at opposite ends of the bed by the time George rounded the corner, but Alex’s red eyes and the dark wet circle near Harry’s collar left George in no doubt of what he’d walked in on.
“Sorry, guys. We’re ready for you.“
“Okay. Give us a minute.”
George gave Harry a small nod of appreciation, before turning and exiting.
Alex looked uncertain as they resumed eye contact.
“You don’t need to say it back or anything. I just… needed to tell you.”
“No, it’s okay.”
Harry fought the urge to pinch himself. Or slap himself in the face. Whatever it took to confirm this once-in-a-lifetime moment wasn’t a dream.
He didn’t need to think long about his response, though.
“I, uh, love you too.”
Alex released the breath he’d been unconsciously holding. He’d had no intention of speaking the words aloud, but to know that Harry felt the same way brought a level of joy unlike any he’d experienced in his sixteen years to date.
He pulled Harry into another tight hug, before finally releasing him and straightening his clothes.
“We should probably get out there.”
Harry’s response drew a small laugh from Alex.
“We should probably get it over with, though.”
Still neither boy made a move. They held each other’s gaze, until Alex leaned in and placed one more soft kiss on Harry’s lips.
Alex stood up and lifted Harry along with him, via their still-interlocked fingers. He allowed Harry a moment to get his emotions under control, before giving his hand another squeeze.
“Let’s do this.”
They leaned in for one more kiss, then turned and set off down the hallway hand-in-hand.
* * * * *
When they arrived in the lounge room, they found Jill and George sitting side by side. Jennifer was nowhere to be found.
“Take a seat, boys.”
George gestured to the opposite couch. As they sat, George placed Alex’s laptop and phone on the coffee table.
“So, we’ve discussed your punishment—”
“Let me finish.” Alex bit his tongue as George continued. “Regardless of what your mother has said or done, you still ran away in the middle of the night. You could have been kidnapped for all we knew. That’s not acceptable.”
Alex crossed his arms, but didn’t argue.
“Because of that, I’ve decided to ground you for a week.”
“Oh come on—”
Alex tried to argue, but George cut him off again.
“This isn’t up for discussion, Alex.” George reached over and handed Alex’s phone back to him. “I understand why you couldn’t contact us, which is why I’m also giving you your phone back, but we can’t have another situation where we’re unable to contact you.”
“Whatever.” Alex rolled his eyes, but accepted the phone nonetheless.
“I’m also giving you your laptop.” George held out Alex’s laptop this time. “Make sure you use it for schoolwork and nothing else.”
“Yes, Dad.” Alex was more enthusiastic this time, buoyed by the knowledge that his dad would have no way of tracking any ‘extracurricular’ activities he got up to.
“Finally, your mother.” Alex and Harry both tensed, drawing a sympathetic look from Jill. “I understand that things are difficult between the two of you right now, so I’ve decided to take a couple of weeks’ leave from work.”
“You don’t have to do that—”
“No, it’s the right thing to do.” George’s mind was clearly made up. “I have some leave owing to me, anyway. It’s not an issue.”
“Okay.” Alex saw no need to argue further.
“Now, regarding your modeling.” Alex sat up straighter. This was the part he’d been waiting for. “I understand that you work exclusively with a man named Christopher?” Alex nodded, still tense. “Despite what your mother said earlier, I see no reason why that can’t continue.”
Alex’s shoulders relaxed, while Harry reached across and squeezed his hand.
“Your mother deleting your social media accounts is a setback, but I see no reason to place any further obstacles in your path.”
Harry squeezed Alex’s hand again, while Alex fought a losing battle to contain his smile.
“Do you have any questions?” George looked to his son expectantly. “About anything. Not just the things we’ve discussed now.”
“Is Harry allowed to visit?”
George hesitated. A fact that wasn’t lost on neither Harry nor Alex.
“I don’t see why not.” George’s words seemed at odds with his body language. “Once you’re no longer grounded, of course.”
“No, that’s non-negotiable.” George wasn’t budging for anybody. “Everything we’ve discussed takes effect once your punishment is over.”
“What about my phone and laptop?”
“Except for those.”
“Okay.” Alex looked across to Jill now. “Am I allowed to visit Harry at home, Mrs. Delaney?”
Jill showed pleasant surprise at the question. Alex kept growing further in her estimation.
“One more thing, though.” Alex tensed at his father’s words. “Sleepovers are off the table.”
“You heard me.” Jill watched as Harry turned crimson at George’s words. He shrank further and further into the couch cushions. “You violated my trust last night, Alex. Until you earn that back, sleepovers are off the table.”
Alex was quick to lodge his protest. “You can’t stop us from seeing each other.”
“I know. And we don’t plan to.” George was walking the fine line between parent and ally. “But you snuck out in the middle of the night, Alex, and actions like that have consequences.”
George turned to Harry with a muted smile.
“You’re welcome to visit during daylight hours, Harry. In fact, I’d love to get to know you better.” George turned back to his son with a pointed glare. “But until Alex earns my trust back, daylight hours are the only time you’ll be allowed to see each other.”
“This is such bullshit.”
“I understand that you’re upset. I promise you that we’re not punishing you for being in a same-sex relationship, though.” Even in the grips of embarrassment, Harry felt a surge of pride at hearing acknowledgment of their relationship. “But like I said, actions have consequences. None of us are immune.”
Alex knew he’d get nowhere by arguing further. “When will sleepovers be allowed?”
“Once we decide that we can trust you.” George nodded to Jill, then looked between the two boys. “Both of you.”
Harry kept his eyes down, this time not meeting George’s gaze.
“Anything else?” George didn’t want to discuss his son’s sex life for a moment longer than necessary. “No? Okay, we’re done.”
Jill offered George a grateful smile, before standing up and looking to Harry. “We should probably get going, Harry.”
“Okay.” Harry nodded, knowing a good escape route when he saw one.
Jill offered George a firm handshake. “Let me know if you need help with anything.”
Alex then followed Harry out to car, with their fingers still interlocked.
“We’ll get through this, I promise.” Alex kept his voice low as Jill climbed into the car, waiting for Harry to join her. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.”
The boys shared one more kiss, before Jill opened the passenger and called out.
“Come on, you can talk on the phone later!”
Alex finally let go of Harry’s hand and watched him climb into the car. They maintained eye contact for as long as they could, until Alex was left just staring at the empty parking space.
“Come on, let’s go inside.”
George placed a comforting hand on Alex’s shoulder, but it was no substitute for Harry’s touch.
Meanwhile, Jennifer watched the entire exchange from her bedroom window, pondering her next move.
Thanks for reading the ninth chapter of Model Behaviour.
This one took a lot longer to write than usual. Lots of moving parts, and lots of things that needed setting up for future chapters.
You'll be glad to know the story is nowhere near over. In fact, most of my writing time over the past fortnight has been spent mapping out the next ten chapters. You'll start to understand the bigger picture as the next couple of chapters unfold. Hopefully my posting frequency will improve again as those chapters unfold.