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    Mark Arbour
  • Author
  • 5,914 Words

Black Widow - 36. Chapter 36

August 23, 2003

Escorial, CA




I walked up to the patio in a pretty shitty mood and found Matt hanging out with Grand and Stef. “Hey there! Ready for the big party?” Matt asked.

“I just have to get myself ready,” I grumbled. “Marie is handling everything else.”

“Based on how unhappy you seem, getting yourself ready may require some effort,” Stef said in a snarky tone. He’d treated me like crap lately, and I’d largely overlooked it, but I had limited patience at this point.

“You know, ever since you found out I was a better piece of ass than you, you’ve treated me like shit,” I snapped at him.

“I most certainly have not,” Stef objected.

“You most certainly have,” I countered firmly. “And it’s bullshit.”

Matt and Grand looked at both Stef and me, probably surprised and annoyed that their quiet interlude had been shattered by conflict. “That was not my intention,” Stef said, being snippy.

“Then what was your intention?” I challenged. As soon as I finished saying those words, I realized I was being a total buzz kill, ruining everyone else’s good time, so I stood up to leave. “Never mind.”

“Sit down,” Matt ordered. I gave him a nasty look, yet I instinctively did what he said. I’d have to think about how weird that was later. “Tell us why you’ve got a bug up your ass.”

“Excuse me?” I asked, in as pissed off a tone as I could.

“I said, tell us what’s got you mad,” he said, elevating his volume. “You just about lost it here with Stef, and even though he was being pretty sarcastic, that’s not what turned you into a hot mess.”

“I was sarcastic?” Stef challenged.

“You were,” Grand said. They all looked at me, and now I was totally annoyed, since that meant I’d have to explain my issues. That could take a while, I thought to myself, and that was pretty funny, and started to mellow me out.

I sighed. “Zach’s not coming up for the party.”

“Did he say he would attend?” Grand asked.

“Well, he said he would before he moved to LA, but he’s been telling me for the last week or so that he can’t make it, and he just left me a message that made it official,” I said.

“What’s he doing?” Matt asked.

“He’s bonding with the team, as he says, which probably means he’s partying like a rock star and getting laid,” I said grumpily.

“And that makes you jealous,” Matt concluded.

“Not really,” I answered honestly. “I mean, it kind of does, but that’s not why this bothers me.”

“Alright, then why does it bother you?” He prompted.

“Because our conversations have dropped off to about once every other day, and that probably sounds stupid to you, but it’s a big deal with us. We used to talk all the time.”

“How are your conversations?” Grand asked.

“Shallow,” I said. “He’s holding back, and so am I.”

“Did you talk to him about it?” Matt asked.

“No, because I honestly don’t know if I’m unhappy about it,” I said.

“So he’s putting distance between the two of you, and you are doing the same thing, and you are unhappy about that?” Grand asked.

“You make me sound like an idiot,” I grumbled.

“Only you can make you sound like an idiot,” Grand said with a grin, the one that made him seem like he was so young he was my age. I grinned back at him.

“If I understand correctly, you and Zach are growing apart, which you both expected, and even though you knew it was coming, it bothers you now that it is happening,” Stef said.

“Yes,” I agreed, feeling like a total imbecile.

“So maybe you have what you want, and you just do not appreciate it?” Stef said.

I dug deep, and let myself really think about it. “I’m worried that things will get to the point where we’re strangers. I really love the guy, but I don’t want to be with him totally, while at the same time I don’t want to lose him completely. And I don’t know how to handle it.”

“What’s changed?” Matt asked. “I mean, a year ago you were ready to have his babies.” I rolled my eyes at his choice of words.

“I’m never going to have him, totally,” I said, then sighed. “There’s this constant battle inside him between his gayness and football. It totally fucks him up, and it totally fucks me up. I feel like I’m fighting the battle too: Sometimes I’m fighting with him, sometimes I’m fighting against him.” I sighed again. “God, I sound high-maintenance.”

“You are not being high-maintenance,” Matt said firmly, calming me down. “Sounds like your relationship with him got intense so you were all in, only he can’t really be that way with you.”

“Or he won’t be,” I said bitterly. “Every time the two come into conflict, football wins.”

“Probably going to be that way as long as he plays,” Matt said ruefully.

“Probably,” I agreed. “And I don’t think it’s good for me to be with him if he’s playing.”

“Because you don’t like to compete for his attention?” Grand asked.

“No, it’s not that. I don’t need to be number one in his life. But I need to have some kind of priority, at least once in a while.”

“At this stage in your lives, even if he weren’t playing football, a relationship would be tough,” Grand noted. I knew that, and I’d been grappling with that whole deal where he was at college and in a big new world now. “I grappled with that myself.”

“You did?” I asked, my curiosity piqued.

He nodded. “When Jeff moved to Chicago the summer before he started at Northwestern, he spent a lot of time focused on the football team, especially with practices.” We all looked at him not a little surprised, because he didn’t usually talk about Jeff Hayes.

“As I recall, you warned us all that we would lose him,” Stef added.

“I think I said we would lose him for a while,” Grand corrected. I glanced at Matt and saw that he was as intrigued as I was.

“So did you?” I asked.

“We did,” he said. “It is an intoxicating cocktail to be a college athlete, especially in a popular sport like football. I think the attraction is even more entrancing to young men who have grown up in a more sheltered and less affluent background.”

“Because now they have the ability to do things and have things they never dreamed they’d have,” Matt said, explaining Grand’s thought. “And they’re no longer the poor kid on the block, they’re the big dude on campus. I saw that with some of the dudes I played with.”

“So what happened?” I asked Grand, wanting him to get to the point.

“He got absorbed in football, his teammates, and friends of theirs,” Grand said. “He had planned to live at home with us, but in the end he moved into the dorms and I almost never saw him. The only times I ran into him were when he was on campus with the new man he was seeing.” Even now I could see how much pain that had caused him.

“That was not an easy time,” Stef said reassuringly.

“It was not,” Grand said. “I do not think you will have a similar experience with Zach, but you should be mindful of the challenges the two of you face.”

“Why is Zach different?” I asked. Even Stef looked curious about that.

“I think that Zach is able to resist peer pressure better than Jeff could, and I think that Zach is more focused,” he said. “And our relationship was different, I think, than yours.”

I could see what he was saying about Zach, but I was curious about his comparison. “Explain the relationship part,” I prompted in a nice way to tell him I wasn’t going to bite his head off when he responded.

“Jeff and I lived together, and we were raising a family,” he said. “You and Zach do not have those other responsibilities or demands.”

I was really impressed and flattered that he didn’t raise the age and maturity differences between us. “From what you can tell, which relationship was more solid?”

“What do you mean by solid?” he asked.

“Which relationship would you have predicted to still be strong ten years later?” In other words, which one would last? There was no way I expected him to answer that, but he did.

“It would seem to be easy to say that you and Zach would be the more solid couple, then, based on my subsequent experiences with Jeff,” he said. It was blowing my mind that he was talking about this without totally freaking out. “But even knowing that, I think that you and Zach are more likely to last, at least in some form.”

“In some form?” I queried.

“Jeff and I were all but married, so we didn’t have as much flexibility to let our relationship evolve into something else. You two are approaching this in a much healthier way,” he observed sagely. “You may not end up in a romantic relationship with him, but there is a connection between the two of you that makes me think you’ll manage to maintain a relationship of some kind.” We all seemed to space out for a bit, pondering what he said. I could think about that later, but it still didn’t tell me why I felt the way I did.

“And all of that makes sense, but still bothers me,” I said, expressing my frustration.

“Hard to describe, I know, but I get what you’re saying,” Matt said. I stared at him, pretty amazed. That was one of the coolest things about Matt: his ability to empathize with me when I had no idea why I felt the way I did.

“What is he saying?” Stef asked Matt, with that same hint of sarcastic disdain he directed toward me. I ignored it.

“Dude, a relationship can’t be one sided,” Matt said emphatically.

“He does stuff for me,” I objected, defending Zach.

“That’s not what I meant. You’re the junior partner in this relationship. You’re set up to take what he gives you, and you really can’t demand anything back,” Matt said.

My eyes narrowed, more in fear than anger. “You mean this is a control thing? Fuck!”

Grand laughed at that. “Perhaps you are growing to be more like your father.” He was joking, but I was terrified. I so did not want to inherit my father’s control freak ways.

“You guys are not cheering me up,” I said grumpily, getting a chuckle from them.

“So your objective is to maintain your connection with Zach, albeit at a much greater distance than it used to be?” Grand asked. I nodded.

“Ponder this,” Stef said, to make sure he had my attention. “That is what is happening, and in reality, you are much more in control of this situation than you think.”

“I am?” I didn’t see that.

“You are,” he confirmed. “In my opinion, Zach is instinctively trying to give you what you both need, but he does not know how to do it. He probably wants you to jump in and solve the problem.”

“He creates an issue, and tosses it in my lap to fix,” I groused. “Just like always.”

“Yeah, so you should do that, and not be a little bitch about it,” Matt said, being obnoxious, probably because I was almost whining.

“Alright Einstein, how do I do that?” I challenged.

“Be around for him when he needs you,” Matt said. “But don’t plan your life around him.”

“So if he calls me and urgently wants to talk to me, and I’m busy, I should make him wait until I have time and then call him back?”

“That’s what I’m saying,” Matt said.

I froze, and then I shook my head fatefully. “That’s exactly what he did to me.”

“What do you mean?” Stef asked.

“When I found out about Dad’s plane, I called Zach, but he didn’t answer. And he didn’t call me back until the evening,” I told them. That had ripped me to the core, and they had to hear the sadness in my voice. That had been a time when I’d needed him more than anything, and he had to have heard that in my voice on the message, but he’d still waited to call me back.

“Sounds like he’s doing the same thing you should be doing,” Matt said. “The other thing is this. Try to be upbeat when you’re with him, or talking to him.”

“So I’m responsible for his moods?” I asked, totally annoyed that it sounded like I was going to have to manage my interactions with Zach so I didn’t hurt his fragile psyche. I was just supposed to be another cheerleader?

“No, dipshit,” Matt said nastily. “Are there people in your life who are totally unpleasant to talk to?”

“There certainly are,” I said, staring straight at him. He started to get really pissed, but I smiled slightly to let him know I was sort of joking with him.

“And you probably don’t want to be around them,” he concluded.

“You have no idea,” I said, maintaining my focus on him.

He rolled his eyes at me. “This isn’t about managing Zach; this is about being a pleasant person so people want to be around you. It’s about you not being a fucking buzz-kill.”

“I’m very pleasant, and very popular,” I said in a slutty way, to lighten this topic up. They all stared at me, demanding that I get serious. “I see your point.”

“You do?” Stef asked, with a hint of disbelief.

“I do,” I said, and zeroed back in on him. “It’s the same way I feel when I’m around you.”

“Well then I will remove myself from your presence,” he said, being huffy, and stood up to leave.

“I would prefer that you explain this to us,” Grand said. “I do not think Will is making this up. The animosity he feels you are directing toward him seems very real to me.”

“You are saying he is right?” Stef demanded.

“Even a broken clock is right twice a day,” Matt joked, but no one laughed.

“You know, we used to have so much fun together,” I said to Stef, drilling my eyes into his. “I loved doing things with you, but now whenever I’m around you, it’s like you’re judging me. You never ask me to go places with you, and when I see you around here, you usually give me a nasty look before you say anything to me.”

I wasn’t sure what to expect from him, although my first guess would have been a tirade. Instead, he just sat there, staring away from all of us, saying nothing. Grand didn’t say anything to him, so Matt and I just followed his lead. It seemed to take forever until Stef turned back to face me. “I am sorry I have treated you that way.”

That was a huge admission on his part, but I chose to play it cool. “Thanks.”

“I do not know why I have been acting this way,” he said. “I would like to ask you to give me some time to think about it.”

It was weird, because I had just been hoping to clear the air, but it seemed like this had him digging pretty deep. “That’s fine. Take all the time you need,” I said supportively.

“In the interim, I will behave better,” he said with a smile.

“Awesome,” I chirped. “So will I.” There was an unpleasant silence, so I chose that as my cue to leave. “I have to go check on the party.”

“I thought Marie had things under control,” Matt said.

“Yeah, but I have to do some slave labor for her or she’ll make me pay later.” They laughed as I managed to escape from those intense conversations.

I thought about what they’d said as I walked back to my room, and as soon as I closed the door I called Zach. “Hey,” he said pleasantly as he answered. Based on my conversation with those guys, I was kind of surprised he didn’t make me wait until later to talk to him.

“Hey,” I chirped back. “We’re getting ready for the party.”

“I’m so sorry I can’t make it…” he began. He probably thought I’d called him to bust his balls about it. I interrupted him to nip that in the bud.

“Dude, it’s fine. You have a lot of shit going on,” I said reassuringly.

“Yeah, but it would have been fun,” he said, mellowing out about it.

“Yeah, it would, but I’ll try to get down to LA in a couple of weeks and then I’ll really show you fun,” I said, in a slutty way.

“You will, eh?” he taunted back with his husky tone.

“Oh yeah,” I said, amping things up.

“Dude, I can’t think about that now,” he said, and laughed. “I’ll walk outside tenting my pants out.”

I laughed with him. “I’ll give you a call tomorrow if there are any fun stories.”

“Call me anyway,” he said cheerfully, and then we ended our call. I smiled, so glad Grand, Stef, and Matt had calmed my ass down and helped me see what I needed to do to deal with Zach.

My phone rang, and I wondered briefly if Zach was calling me back because he’d forgotten to tell me something, but the caller-ID told me it was Dally. My conversations with him had increased at the same time my talks with Zach had declined. I think I’d actually been able to help him start to deal with losing his father, and that made me feel good, since I understood that pain, and it was a small way to do something nice for Buzz. I smiled as I answered the phone. “Hey!” I said cheerfully.

“Well howdy,” he said with his Texas twang.

“Howdy?” I challenged.

“We use words like that to freak out Yankees,” he teased, making me laugh.

“I use different words to freak people out,” I said, using my sexiest voice. I loved to flirt with him, and he seemed to enjoy it just as much.

“Tell me some of these words,” he said, in a similarly sultry tone.

“Maybe later,” I said, and then got more chipper. “I have to go get ready for our party.”

“That’s tonight,” he mused, as if he didn’t remember.

“You were invited,” I reminded him.

“Yeah, well no one here is going to be real happy about me flying anywhere right now,” he grumbled.

“I understand,” I said supportively.

“We’re planning a memorial for my father on August 31st,” he said, getting somber. “Gramps told me to let you know, in case you wanted to come.”

“I’m there,” I insisted strongly. “I’m sure my father will want to come too, and probably some other members of my family.”

“They’ll be welcome,” he said. “I’ll send you an email with the details.”

“Sounds good,” I said, even though it was depressing as hell.

“You’re all welcome to stay with us on the ranch. There’s lots of room,” he said.

“I’m not sure what their plans will be,” I said cautiously. Stef hated staying with people he didn’t know very well.

“I was thinking that even if they didn’t, you might like to stay here,” he said nervously, which was really cute.

“I think you’re hitting on me,” I accused.

“Yeah, inviting you to my father’s memorial is really a good way to mack on someone,” he said bitterly. “I’m sorry.”

“Dude, I get it,” I said soothingly, and I did. I understood all about out-of-control emotions that came with grief. “I’d love to stay with you. Gives us a chance to hang out.”

“Yeah, and you can see how handsome I am,” he joked.

“Yeah, and the answer to that is ‘not very’,” I said giving him shit.

“Come out for the weekend and stay over,” he said, almost impulsively, but I knew him well enough to know that wasn’t it. He’d thought this through, he was just nervous. “Monday is Labor Day.”

“You want me to come out on Saturday and leave Monday night?” I asked.

“Yeah, or Friday night,” he said hopefully, which was adorable.

“Alright, let me work that out,” I said.

“Really? You’ll come out on Friday?”

“I will,” I promised. “I’ll let you know what everyone else is planning too.”

“I’m really looking forward to hanging out with you,” he said.

“Yeah, well I’m not as charming in person,” I joked.

“Call me later, when you’re all fucked up,” he insisted. “I’ll bet you’re a riot.”

“If I can remember, I will, but I’ll bet you’re funnier. Shit, you’re hard to understand when you’re sober, with that accent of yours.”

“I’m actually a pretty obnoxious drunk,” he admitted. “So I don’t do that too much.”

“You don’t drink?”

“Not much,” he said. This was really bothering him, so I moved the topic on.

“If you don’t drink, what do you do that’s bad and evil?” I asked.

“There are other things,” he said suggestively.

“You gonna show me when I’m there?”

“Maybe,” he flirted.

“I’ll see you in a week,” I promised. “And I’ll call you later if I’m still sober enough to use my phone.”

He laughed. “Thanks.” We ended our call, and I thought how much fun I had with him just chatting on the phone. I wondered if I’d like him as well in person.

I took a few minutes to make sure I looked as good as possible, then detoured to find Grand before I went down to the party. I found him with Stef and Matt, along with Wade. “You are done helping Marie?” Grand asked.

“I haven’t gotten that far yet,” I said. “Had a few phone calls to make first.”

“Oh?” Stef asked.

“I talked to Zach, and with your collective supreme guidance, we had a nice conversation,” I said to all of them.

“I am glad you have finally seen the wisdom of adopting our collective supreme guidance,” Grand said loftily. He was so funny.

“I also talked to Dally. Buzz’s memorial is on August 31st. He invited me to fly out on Friday night and stay over until Monday on their ranch.”

“Someone made a new friend,” Matt teased.

“Someone did,” I agreed. “Dally’s grandfather invited us all to stay out at their ranch while we were there.”

“I think I would be more comfortable in a hotel,” Stef said, just as I suspected.

“If you do not mind, I think I will go with Will,” Grand said to Stef. That surprised all of us.

“That is fine with me,” Stef said.

“Why are you going with Will?” Matt asked Grand.

Grand gave him a condescending look. “I think it would make Will feel better to have someone there for moral support, even though he probably will not admit it.”

“Wrong!” I said, as if I was a buzzer going off. “I appreciate you doing that, and I will admit it.”

Grand shook his head at me. “The other reason is that I am wondering if there is not more to Buzz Dalby than we know.”

“You’re going to be a sleuth?” Wade asked.

“I am not,” Grand said firmly.

“I think he’s more of a spy in this situation,” I noted, giving him crap.

“Mata Hari Crampton,” Matt said, making us all laugh.

“That’s Dr. Mata Hari,” Grand corrected. I used that joke as my excuse to leave, and went down to find Marie working diligently to get ready for the party.

“About time you showed up,” Marie growled.

It’s not like she was alone. Ryan and John were here, along with the staff. “You had help.” She ignored me.

“People should get here in about an hour or so,” Marie said, looking around to make sure things were set up for our big back-to-school party.

“Cool,” I said, acting like it was no big deal, and really pissing her off.

“Maybe I’ll get hammered and let you make sure everything goes well,” she said to me acidly.

“Nope, getting hammered is my job,” I said with a smile. She rolled her eyes, but smiled a bit too. “Dude you can’t be bitchy with me. Look how cool this room is now.”

The pool area was in the lower level of the house, and had been fully enclosed with windows looking out onto the patio outside. There had been a small door there before. Last spring, I’d suggested to Stef that we replace the windows and door with those glass doors we had in Hawaii, the ones that could slide together in a stacking kind of way and stow into a side area, basically opening the whole room up to the outside. Stef loved it, and had gotten it done in his typically speedy way, and now this room was awesome. The doors could be closed if it was cold or stormy outside, but on an evening like this, where it was warm and clear, they were opened up to bring the outdoors in. “Alright, that was a good idea,” she conceded.

“Time to start drinking,” I said to Ryan and John.

“Wanna roll?” John asked, raising an eyebrow.

Ryan and I looked at each other and slowly smiled. I hadn’t really thought of doing ecstasy, but it was one fun party drug. At an event like this, for our crowd it was pretty much expected that people would be doing some kind of narcotic, or that they’d be available. “I’m in,” I said. Ryan just nodded. John pulled out some little white pills with crosses on them and handed one to each of us. I downed mine with a swig of beer.

“What about you, Starfish?” Ryan asked Marie. She tried to be severe with him, but if he smiled and tossed some charm her way, she melted pretty fast.

“Right,” she said with disdain.

“Might make you less bitchy,” John said, getting a glare from her.

“Marie isn’t allowed to have fun,” I joked, piling on.

“Fine,” she snapped, and grabbed one of the pills from John and downed it before we could give her any more shit. “Happy?”

“Not yet, but you will be,” I said, referring to the drugs.

It took a good twenty minutes for the E to kick in, and that coincided with the first guests arriving. This would be one massive party, because we didn’t do that bullshit where we only invited people we knew. Pretty much all the seniors, most of the juniors, and some of the lower classmen got invites, and we ended up with a couple of hundred people.

For a party of that size, it would normally be an open invitation for the cops to raid us, but that didn’t happen at Escorial. For one thing, it was too remote, and on too much land, to cause a problem for neighbors. Being gated helped with that too. But most of all it was because of how organized the staff was. Everyone turned in their car keys and had to pass a test to get them back. Grand and Grandmaman had set it up so the staff was around, but in the background, to jump in if anything awful happened. And the final reason was that the cops really didn’t want to mess around with Grand and Stef. They were smart enough to pick their battles.

“We’re gonna play a few songs,” John announced. Marie, Ryan, and I rolled our eyes at him behind his back, but there was no point in trying to stop him. Besides, they’d set up band equipment before the party, and that pretty much told us he’d do this.

“May be a good time to go swimming,” Ryan said, shaking his head.

“Take a snorkel so you can keep your head underwater,” Marie joked. But by now, the E had really kicked in, so I just tuned John’s music down in my brain and talked to people, having a total blast.

Matt and Wade came into the room, and that got some looks from our friends, who weren’t sure what to expect. “Hey!” I said enthusiastically, and gave them both hugs that were way too exuberant.

“Someone is happy,” Matt said, in almost an accusing way, as if he’d always lived a pure and chaste life.

“Oh yeah,” I said, refusing to let him give me shit. I got them shots and made them drink with us, and then they ended up talking to our friends. Nowadays they mostly acted like this old married couple, so it was really cool to see them reverting to their college party selves. They really came into their own when we took them over to play beer pong.

“So that’s John’s band?” Matt asked, as they started playing “Get low” by Lil Jon.

“That’s them,” I said. He grimaced slightly, making me laugh. They were set up pretty much like always, with a bunch of girls and Daniel dancing in front, cheering them on.

After they finished a horrible cover of R Kelly’s “Ignition,” John paused, panting to catch his breath, and then started talking into the mic. “We’re taking a break, but we have a special treat for you.” He looked around the crowd and shouted “Christian!”

“Here!” Christian said in a chipper way, and went up to the mic.

“Christian is going to preview a number from the play,” John said, then handed the mic to Christian. “We’ll back you up.”

“Awesome,” Christian said. John stepped back so he was hanging with the band, and they started to play the music for “Ladies’ Choice”, from Hairspray.

Christian was normally a pretty shy guy, almost a wallflower, unless he was on stage. Now that he was performing, it was like he bloomed. He began slamming out the lyrics, with John’s band doing a decent job with the music, all except their sucky drummer. Christian didn’t let that mess him up at all. Holy shit, he was amazing.

“…Hey little girl on a spending spree
I don't come cheap but the kisses come free
On closer inspection I'm sure that you'll agree
I'm the ladies' choice
The ladies' choice
The ladies' choice…”

“Dude, he’s good,” Matt said to me.

“Yeah, but he’s not exactly the ladies’ choice,” I joked. He looked at me, confused. “He’s gay.”

Christian was a junior, and we’d taken different classes so I’d never gotten to know him very well. That and I’d been pretty focused on Zach. He was short, about the same height as JJ, with a body that was almost too skinny. He did a pivot, showing off his cute little bubble butt. “How come you aren’t tapping that?” Matt asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, even as I felt myself reacting to Christian’s pert little ass. He finished singing and we all applauded loudly. I was really impressed by John, who was just as demonstrative, even though Christian had totally showed him and his band up. John really was a class act, which wasn’t a surprise, considering who his mother was.

I instinctively walked up to Christian, even though he was pretty much surrounded by admiring fans. “You were amazing!” Marie gushed, which was hilarious, because it was so out of character, and it was clearly the E making her act so giddy.

“Thanks,” Christian said shyly, looking down.

“She’s right,” I said. “You did a great job!”

“Thanks,” he said, and looked up at me with a small smile.

“Let’s get you a drink!” Marie said, and hustled him off to the bar. I found myself standing all by myself, which was kind of a luxury at a party like this, so I moved off to the side of the room where I could watch people without being seen. Ryan was hanging out with our friends, flirting with Kayla. He was pretty impressive, because he managed to do that and still be pretty good friends with Logan. I guess Logan was over her. Marie was flitting around, being the social beast that she was, only she was turbocharged by the ecstasy. It was pretty funny.

I searched the room, scanning for Christian, and found him standing on the other side from where I was, talking to Daniel. Daniel was patting him on the back, clearly congratulating him, and Christian seemed to be eating up his praise. I didn’t know what the deal was with those two. When I saw them like this, they almost seemed like they were together, but it didn’t seem to go any farther. John walked up and, while I couldn’t tell what he was saying, it looked like he was pouring compliments on Christian, then he seemed to shift his focus to Daniel. After a few seconds, John walked off, leaving the room, and a couple of seconds later, Daniel followed him. Christian stood there alone, looking pretty lost and pretty unhappy.

Seeing him look so sad kicked me into gear, and I strode confidently over to him. “Hey!”

“Hey Will,” he said.

“Come on,” I said, and led him over to the bar. “Do a shot with me.”

“I don’t know,” he said nervously.

“I do,” I insisted, and poured out some ice cold Goldschlager for both of us. I handed him the glass, clinked it with mine, and then we both downed them. He grimaced. “You don’t like this stuff?”

“It’s strong,” he sputtered, making me laugh.

“I’m gonna get you drunk and take advantage of you,” I said, using my bedroom voice.

“OK,” he said simply, raising an eyebrow as he did. We laughed and did a shot of Rumpleminz.

Copyright © 2018 Mark Arbour; All Rights Reserved.

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Thank you Mark...I didn't expect to find a chapter so soon thinking it would take you a bit to get back to a regular posting schedule, so this was a happy surprise.
I don't think you have missed a beat at all! I really love the scene with Will, Grand, Stef & Matt-there was so much going on. It would seem that the supreme collective wisdom has indeed laid out a roadmap for Will to follow, the question is how long can he follow that guidance? One call does not success make! I guess we'll have to wait and see...
Dally – Will? What an interesting next few chapters you have set up for us as we finally get to meet Dally face-to-face so speak. Wondering where it will go and if Will will be cool enough to not let raging hormones get in the way since Dally is in the earliest stages of grief. Part of me thinks it will will do just fine since he seems to be fairly self-aware and quite frankly I think he is able to control his sexual impulses. Gosh, did I really just say that since Christian is about to know Will a lot more intimately...
Again, thank you Mark!

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How great to have you writing again, Mark. And writing as good as ever I hasten to add. BTW I pm'd you back in August, but it appears you haven't read it. I most likely did something wrong! Good to have you back.

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Nice to get regular chapters again! And you haven't lost a dang thing during the time off!

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I can't tell you how much, how happy, I am to hear these characters are back. At times they are so real I could meet them on the street. I am glad Mark you seem to be better. It was great seeing Will again being Will. Thanks again. Great chapter! I feel like I am there listening to them.

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I was wondering about Will and Zach, and this pretty much gave me the answer as to where they're at. Football is always going to be the big issue. It was a good talk amongst the four... I enjoyed the back and forth. Great chapter, Mark... thanks and cheers... Gary....

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I can't wait for Will and JP to get to Texas; I have a feeling that they are both going to be in for a surprise or two... I truly feel that I am having this truly lovely visit from old and dear friends that I have been missing terribly; but they have come back into my life and made even the grey skies seem blue...

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Great chapter, Mark! It was very character-focused which worked well after the previous one that was more plot-driven. I particularly liked Will and Dally's lighthearted flirting (despite the sad undertones); it was a great contrast to the much more cautious conversation with Zach. The upcoming visit to Texas promises to be very interesting. I was a little confused by the party preparations in the beginning as I couldn't remember what the party was for, although I expect it was mentioned in a previous chapter. If I could make a minor suggestion (hopefully not too presumptuous :*) ), it would be to put the reason for the party near the beginning of the chapter rather than part-way through for those of us with limited powers of recall. I'm also a lot less tolerant these days of people's saying "wrong" like a buzzer going off, but that's not really Will's fault. :unsure:


Thanks for giving us a second chapter so soon after the first. Looking forward to more. :hug:

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Thank you for a great chapter.
And especially for my favorite boy Matt. I miss him having a lead.
I too am looking forward to Texas for Grand and Will. JP as 007.


Thanks again....

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It was a good chapter except I hate parents who enable and indulge their high school kids drinking and doing drugs.

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