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craftingmom

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craftingmom last won the day on November 24 2014

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About craftingmom

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  1. craftingmom

    Chapter 26

    Hehe, maybe just Christmas! No, seriously, thanks for the nudging; it does help motivate me. I admit to being a little lazy lately. (At the moment I'm watching the NNL (National Ninja League) qualifiers for the 13-17 age group on Facebook Live. My daughter Taylor is up to compete soon!) UPDATE: YAY! She Placed FIRST!!
  2. craftingmom

    Chapter 26

    😊 you're welcome! Happy birthday!
  3. craftingmom

    GA's Newest Promising Author: Dodger

    Congrats!!!
  4. craftingmom

    Chapter 26

    Chapter 26 --Declan— They sat for a while cooling down and resting before they tackled the last of the yard chores. As he hefted a bag of mulch with ease, Declan couldn't help but flex his muscles a little more as Bailey watched him. The bags were more cumbersome for Bailey only because his arms were smaller and the bags were bulky. They plopped them down around the flower bed before grabbing a hoe and rake to help spread the mulch. Afterwards, Bailey grabbed the hose to water the flowerbed while Declan grabbed the weed-whacker and cleaned up the errant weeds around where the mulch bags had been. He couldn't do much about the dead patch of grass left behind. However, he did regard the multitude of bugs and worms that had taken up residence under the bags with a wary eye. After he'd returned all the tools to the shed, he waited for Bailey to finish the watering the front beds. He scratched at his leg, just knowing one of those damn bugs had bitten him. "Hey," Bailey called over to him. "You know you have a spider on your shorts, right?" "What?!" Declan squeaked out at a lot higher pitch than he'd expected, but hell! A spider! He started slapping wildly at his shorts. "Hey! I got it, okay?" Bailey called out helpfully—an instant before Declan felt a blast of water smack him in the back. "What the—!" Declan jumped at the shot of cold water; even though he was hot and sweaty enough for it to feel good, the shock of it left him sputtering. He spun to find Bailey bent over laughing his ass off, the spray momentarily aimed at the ground. "You little—" Declan growled through his own amusement as he started forward. Bailey must have caught the look in Declan's eyes because his own widened in fear. The tiny smirk was all Declan saw before Bailey brought the hose nozzle back up and pummeled him with another blast of water as he started backing up. After a moment of sputtering at the onslaught, Declan narrowed his eyes and stalked towards Bailey, who nearly tripped as he tried to back away even faster. Yeah, that wasn't going to help the little shit, Declan thought as he tracked his prey. Declan's longer legs were eating up the distance faster than Bailey could back away. And Bailey seemed to suddenly realize that the blasting water wasn't slowing Declan down either. Declan had nearly cornered his quarry when Bailey suddenly dropped the hose and shot away from him. Declan took up the chase, racing after him around the side of the house. Declan thought for sure he had Bailey at the fence, knowing Bailey would have to stop to open the gate to the backyard. Until Bailey simply vaulted over it. Declan smacked into the gate nearly at a full run. Cursing, he struggled to open the gate, practically yanking it off its hinges as he threw it open. By the time he rounded into the backyard, Bailey was nowhere to be seen. Until he heard laughter from the back porch. Declan glared through the water dripping off his hair at Bailey standing just inside the screen door. Bailey just gave him a big, cheesy grin and held up a towel. "Still need a shower?" Declan stalked up the steps. "Wanna help me with that?" he taunted. Bailey rolled his eyes at the awful joke as he shoved open the screen door to hold out the towel. "You wish." "Maybe." He shrugged as he reached for the towel. "But this will have to do." Instantly, his hand snapped around Bailey's wrist, yanking him out the door before Declan pinned the smaller body against the wall with his own soaking wet one. Bailey squawked, flailing and laughing as he tried to shove Declan away. He failed, of course, as Declan's mass was no match for his futile efforts. Declan just grinned wildly, making sure as much of the cold water as possible was seeping into Bailey's clothes as well. "Thought you'd get away with blasting me with a hose, huh?" "Fine, fine, fine, stop!" Bailey huffed out through chuckles. "You win." Bailey slowed his squirming, apparently realizing he wasn't going to get anywhere and was already soaked through. Declan glanced down, his body waking up to just how close Bailey was, and how that lean little body had been wriggling against him. Fuck. Bailey dropped his head back against the wall as Declan glanced down, ready to back away, but froze. Bailey's tongue darted out over his lower lip, his head tilting just a bit. An offering, if Declan was willing to take it. Declan lowered his head, tentatively licking a stripe across those inviting lips, waiting for any sign of rejection. As much as he wanted to devour Bailey, he held back. Knowing Bailey's history, Declan wanted Bailey to know he could choose to back away, that he could trust Declan. He never wanted Bailey to feel pressured or trapped. His breath left in harsh relief when Bailey lifted a fraction more to meet his kiss. It was as sweet and agonizingly intense as before. Declan's hands dropped from the wall and snaked just under Bailey's T-shirt, his rough fingers sliding up Bailey smooth, muscular back. The synapses in his brain were firing so rapidly at the sensations of Bailey's hot mouth against his and the soft skin under his finger tips that it took Declan's brain a moment to catch up to the fact that Bailey's calloused palms were slipping up his own ribs. "Oh shit," he gasped out, nearly crushing Bailey against the side of the house as his knees almost gave out. Bailey's head buried in his neck, his teeth scraping Declan's collarbone. "We—we n-need t-to stop... Your mom..." Declan gritted out brokenly. Bailey's fingers tightened on his sides for a moment before he nodded against Declan's chest. "Yeah, yeah. You're right." Declan's heart thumped happily at the rough, gravelly sound of Bailey's voice. At least, Bailey was as agonized as he was. Declan backed away, leaving Bailey slumped against the wall while he scooped up the forgotten towel. Bailey watched him toweling off for several moments, those silvery eyes nearly fully blown black. "Yeah, um, right. So. Still need a shower?" Declan smirked. "Oh, hell yeah." A nice cold one. **** As much as Bailey had already soaked him with the hose, Declan had still opted for the shower, of course. If he was staying for dinner with Bailey's mom, he didn't want to smell like this. After drying off sufficiently enough to walk into the house, leaving his soaked shoes on the back porch, Declan had grabbed his change of clothes as Bailey showed him to the hall bathroom. Since he was already soaked, it made more sense for him to shower first rather than risk dripping on the floor or furniture. While he'd showered many times in locker rooms and his own dorm room suite where other guys had showered, this felt different. Knowing Bailey was the only one who used this bathroom, who showered naked in here every day, had Declan groaning in frustration. "Hey." Declan nearly hit his head on the shower spigot when Bailey's voice suddenly floated into the bathroom. "Yeah?" he managed to croak out. "I just put a plastic bag inside the door for your wet clothes. I'm, uh, sorry about that, man." Declan could hear the tiniest hint of amusement behind the apology. "No you're not," Declan accused, scrubbing Bailey's minty shampoo through his short scruffy hair. A small snigger floated into the small room. "Okay, so maybe not totally sorry, but I am sorry all your clothes are wet. And your shoes." Declan grunted. Yeah, the shoes were a little more of an issue, but he had a full change of clothes and deodorant with him. "I'll survive. Maybe they'll dry out some before I head home. Your mom won't care if I'm barefoot, will she?" "No, of course not. She might yell at me for how your shoes got wet, though. Extra towels and other stuff are under the sink if you need anything." Declan was about to ask 'like what other stuff?' but he heard the click of the door as it reclosed. He finished soaping up and rinsing what little dirt was left on him after his spritz in the front yard. Just imagining Bailey's lithe body as he'd so smoothly vaulted over that fence had him grinning to himself again. How many others had seen Bailey so playful like that? Declan was guessing he was one of the few based on what he'd heard from other classmates talking. From all he knew before, Bailey was pretty much antisocial, except with his teammates, quiet and unassuming. Of course, Declan now knew it was because he'd still been grieving his father's death, not because he was an aloof, pretentious asshole as Declan had thought weeks ago. Declan peeked around the shower curtain to be sure the door was fully closed before he reached down to grab a clean, dry towel. After stepping fully out of the tub, he leaned down to peek in the cabinet to see what the 'other stuff' was? Lube? Condoms? He thought humorously. He was disappointed to see just a few still-wrapped toothbrushes, a couple new deodorants, some body powder, a set of disposable razors—although what Bailey was shaving was a mystery to Declan—a box with first aid items in it, and ace bandages. Declan remembered seeing Bailey's bloody, ripped hand that day after their infamous push-up contest. Guess that was a hazard of gymnastics. He quickly dressed, using his own deodorant, but he did make use of one of the toothbrushes. Couldn't hurt, right? After hanging up his towels on the hooks and gathering up his wet clothes in the plastic bag, he shoved the whole bag into his backpack, figuring he'd take care of it later when he got back to the dorm. Bailey was sitting at his desk, flipping through a gymnastics magazine when Declan returned. Bailey jumped up with a smile. "All fresh and clean now?" Declan couldn't help a little teasing. "Yeah. What do you think?" Then he leaned in to kiss Bailey thoroughly, knowing he'd taste the hint of mint on his lips. For a second, Bailey froze but then he relaxed and even chased Declan's lips as he pulled away. "Oh, yeah, definitely fresh." Bailey stepped hesitantly back towards the door, obviously debating staying and continuing what they'd started or taking the shower. The shower won out. "Oh, hey, hand me your wet clothes. I'll throw them in with this load here, so you don't have to carry them back wet and worry about them." Declan's lips lifted in a sly smirk as he pulled out the wet bag of clothes. "You want my clothes to mingle with yours, huh?" Bailey just rolled his eyes and grabbed the bag along with his hamper. As it happened, the washer and dryer were one door over from the bathroom in a nice little laundry room. Bailey dumped everything in and set it to run. Declan hovered, feeling both awkward and a little excited to be spending time like this with Bailey. It was easy, to be with him, to just relax and be themselves, no pretense. "Okay, I'm gonna shower real quick. You can read or listen to music or something." Bailey waved his hand toward his bedroom. "Just no looking under the bed." Of course, that piqued Declan's interest, so he immediately dropped to the floor as soon as he returned to Bailey's room to see what Bailey stored under there. He pulled out a pile of magazines, getting excited, until he realized they were gymnastics magazines—Inside Gymnastics, USA Gymnastics, International Gymnast Magazine. Figured. Although... Declan flipped through a couple of them, ogling a couple of the ripped male gymnasts. But he quickly put them aside to search for something more risqué. The only other stuff under there, though, were shoes, maybe a pair of winter boots, and a pile of science fiction books. He cursed under his breath, shaking his head. Bailey had known he'd have to look, and therefore, known he'd find boring-ass shit. Bastard. Teasing him like that. Maybe he should storm in the bathroom and— And what? Bailey would be— Well, shit. That wasn't helping. Bailey soaping up, using the same soap he'd just used. Yeah, okay, he needed to get a grip, focus on something else. Declan flopped back on Bailey's bed picking up the book from the nightstand and flipping through it. A flicker of déjà vu rolled over him as he remembered picking up the same book just a few days ago... and something... something... He searched his memory, sitting up slightly as he glanced around. Something... falling. "Hmmm." He frowned as he looked where the book had been and down the edge of the nightstand. Nothing. Well, there was a small screwdriver on the floor for some reason, but Declan knew that didn't have to do with what he'd seen. It had been smaller. Not a bookmark, though it had fallen when he'd picked up the book... And anyway, it seemed Bailey was one of those who turned down the corners of the pages. A coin, maybe? It had been gray... or silver... He looked again, but nothing was there now, except the small screwdriver, and he didn't remember seeing that before. Whatever it was that had triggered his memory, it was steadfastly eluding him now. And, fuck, if it didn't somehow seem important... He put the book beside him, checking out the rest of the nightstand, willing something to jog his memory. Another gymnastics magazine. A couple of pens, some dull pencils, a highlighter, a pencil sharpener. He must do some of his homework sitting on his bed. A few coins. A power bar wrapper. How many of those things did Bailey eat anyway? Declan shook his head, frustrated he couldn't remember. "Had to have been a dime or something," he muttered to himself, even as he still doubted his thoughts. Declan picked up one of the pencils and the sharpener, needing something to fiddle with, and the pencils were an easy target. Besides, how the hell did Bailey write with them so dull anyway? Declan couldn't stand writing with anything but a sharp tip on his pencils. He turned the pencil in the sharpener, watching for the crisp curl of shavings to appear in the plastic receptacle. Except, as he turned the pencil in the sharpener, nothing was happening. No shavings falling into the plastic catcher. He frowned and popped open the sharpener. No blade. The screw was there that should have been holding the blade in, but... no blade? Odd. He went to put the pieces of the sharpener down, but stopped suddenly, glancing back down at the floor. The screw driver. Had Bailey taken apart the pencil sharpener? Why? Boredom? To see how it worked? To— Declan frowned. Pieces, slivers of memories, started to slot together. The silver thing that had fallen to the floor. Declan closed his eyes, trying to remember that moment. A thin piece of... something shiny... metallic... Could it have been the blade from a pencil sharpener? If so, why? What had Bailey needed to cut so badly he'd have to take the blade out of a pencil sharpener. Especially when he already had a box cutter available. If he had needed to cut some cardboard or someth— Realization smacked him in the teeth. Oh God. No. No. No, it couldn't— Bailey wouldn't— Bailey wouldn't be... cutting, would he? But Declan's mind's eye darted through his memories. The straight 'scratch' on Bailey's chest. The feel of something under his fingers this morning on Bailey's hip. And hadn't he seen Bailey rubbing at that spot a few times over the last few days? Hell, he knew well enough himself that healing cuts could be itchy as hell. And, yeah, yeah, what he'd felt under his fingertips could have been a scabbed over cut or scar. Jesus. Fuck. Declan had even questioned why Bailey would be carrying a box cutter in his backpack. Bailey's answer hadn't made a whole lot of sense then, but Declan had accepted it. If Bailey was cutting, then the presence of the box cutter in his backpack took on a whole new meaning. God, was he cutting at school too? Declan rubbed his hands over his head, his heart pounding in his chest as he shot to his feet, pacing in a circle. No. No. This couldn't be right. He had to be overreacting. There had to be a reason... But fleeting memories assaulted Declan's mind. And they gutted him. Because he knew with sickening dread that it could be true. But why? Was he stressed over school? Was he upset by the bullying? What would make Bailey resort to physically hurting himself like that? Declan's eyes darted around the room, thankful to still hear the rush of water from the shower. He knew Bailey would be back any time now. But what could Declan say? "Hey, dude, I know you're cutting yourself up. You should stop that, you know..." So f-ing lame sounding. And why? What had driven Bailey to it? How long had it been happening? Declan vaguely remembered the time he'd followed Bailey home after Chris had beaten him up—when Bailey's mom had yelled at him. She'd seemed pretty strict, but it could have just been a bad night. She didn't seem that way now; at least, not what Declan saw lately. His eyes shifted around the room, hoping an answer would jump out at him, but knowing it probably wouldn't be that easy. All the damn medals and trophies, certificates of achievement—all indicated high achievement, was he stressed and pushing himself too hard? Was his mom pushing him too hard, and he couldn't cope? The piles of books, running gear, power bars, gymnastics gear—an overachiever definitely. He hadn't seen any bottles of pills, so that was a good sign. Maybe Bailey was cutting as a way to relieve stress. Was that something that could make someone harm themselves like that? Declan scraped his fingers through his hair in frustration as his eyes whipped around the room. Why? Why? Why? It seemed like it should be more than just the stress of needing to excel. Then his eyes lit on the answer. Or a part of the answer, anyway. Declan reached over and picked up the framed picture of Bailey and his dad. Bailey looked so much like the man, just a lot smaller. The delighted, loving look on Bailey's father's face was undeniable. It wasn't just needing to excel. It was the need to make his dead father proud, along with the gut-wrenching loss of the only man in Bailey's life who understood him. Shit. Two months, almost three now. Bailey had been suffering silently. And then having to deal with Chris and Eric's shit on top of it. Declan's fist clenched. How many times? How many times had Bailey felt so overwhelmed, so lost that he'd resorted to cutting? Declan couldn't remember any obvious cuts except the one on Bailey's chest, and he'd been the only one to have seen that. But now he was wondering what he'd missed. Had there been others? On his arms or wrists—oh, god, his wrists, what if he cut too deep, got an artery or something...? He sucked in a sharp breath to calm himself. No. There hadn't been cuts on his arms or anything like that. Someone would have noticed—Justin, Coach Richards, anyone else on his team at least. Bailey wouldn't have been able to hide that. So maybe it wasn't what he thought, could he be wrong? He turned to the nightstand again, eyes critically searching for the evil piece of metal. Not finding it, he dropped to the floor, feeling around the carpet next to the bed and nightstand. Still nothing. He closed his eyes, trying to stave off his panic and worry. Maybe he was overreacting... He opened his eyes, staring at the side of the bed. The line between the mattress and box spring. His breath hitched as a thought struck him. And even while he prayed he was wrong, when he reached his hand under the mattress, he wasn't surprised to feel something small move against his hand. Lifting the edge of the mattress, the gleaming blade sat there waiting for its next slice into Bailey's skin. Declan sat back on his heels, clutching the sliver of metal in his hand lightly. Closing his eyes and breathing, praying he'd know what to do, what to say when Bailey— "I told you not to look under my bed," Bailey quipped with a laugh from behind him. Declan closed his eyes, taking a deep breath, while still trying to frantically figure out what to do. He moved to sit on the edge of Bailey's bed, noting Bailey's tank top and athletic shorts sitting low on his hips. Bailey was still toweling dry his hair. And Declan couldn't help searching Bailey's exposed skin for tell-tale marks. Bailey finally tossed the towel to the laundry pile, grinning down at Declan. Declan forced a smile as he looked up. "Yeah, you warned me. Nothing but gym magazines and sci-fi books." He crooked his finger at Bailey to get him to come closer. "You had me hoping to find a stash of porn or something." Bailey laughed as he stepped into Declan's space, shoving playfully at his shoulder. "Ha! See, made you look!" Declan reached out, grabbing Bailey's right hip and running his thumb slowly over the hipbone, dipping below the waistband. "You made me look, all right." While the move was slow, sensuous even, Declan was able to feel, and, as the waistband slipped lower, see several white scar lines, one of which was still pink and healing. "Fuck," Declan breathed out as his fears were confirmed. He abruptly wrapped his arms around Bailey's waist, drawing him closer and burying his face against Bailey's belly. Bailey tensed for a moment, but Declan felt Bailey's hands stroking over his head soothingly. "Declan? What's going on? Are you okay?" He shook his head. "What's wrong? What happened?" Bailey asked anxiously. Declan sat back, Bailey's hands moving to his shoulders. Declan slowly took Bailey's hands one at a time, flipping them over and rubbing his thumb against the blessedly smooth, unmarred skin of his wrists. He had a moment of relief, knowing Bailey hadn't been cutting the delicate skin on his arm where he could nick an artery or something. Of course, if he had, everyone would have seen what was happening with Bailey long before now. Justin, the coach, the rest of the gymnastics team, maybe even his mom. Someone would have noticed, wouldn't they? But Bailey had very strategically cut where no one was likely to see. "No, Bailey, I'm worried... About you." "Me?" Bailey jerked back, a frown creasing his brow. "What—what are you talking about? I'm fine." "I know you're not. Hell, I knew you weren't fine before, but now..." Declan gripped Bailey's hand, wanting to ground him, hold him, give him something else for those hands to do but hurt himself. "We've talked about some of it, and I'm so glad you trusted me to tell me everything you did with Mason and your old school, and Chris, and your dad..." Declan looked up, but Bailey wouldn't meet his gaze, was trying to pull away from him. Declan kept a hold on Bailey's wrist, not letting him draw away and hide. He slowly opened his other hand, revealing the slim blade he'd found. "I just didn't realize until now, just how 'not fine' you were." "Shit, Declan, that's just from a—" "A pencil sharpener, I know. I found it under your mattress. You know looking for porn and all," he tried to lighten the mood slightly with a joke. It worked enough to get Bailey to snort a laugh. "It's not what you think. I'm not... I don't want to... kill myself or anything." Declan dropped the blade on the nightstand. "I didn't think that. Not for long anyway. But these—" He reached forward, lowering the edge of Bailey's shorts, revealing the scars he'd seen. He ran his fingers reverently over them. "These tell me you're hurting yourself." Declan leaned forward, drawing Bailey closer, and gently kissed the scars on Bailey's hip. Bailey hissed in a breath, emotions choking him as Declan continued to caress his damaged skin. "Please tell me why. Please tell me why so I can understand." Declan knew his voice was verging on pleading, on begging, demanding, even. But he couldn't help it. "Please. I want to help; I need to help. I hate to know you have been hurting so badly that you need to do this to yourself." Bailey wrenched out of his grip. "Fuck you, Declan! You know nothing of my life! What it's been like! So you don't get to come in here and think you can wave a wand, say a few words, and make it all better." Declan rose, unfazed by the explosive anger. Hell, he'd pretty much expected it. "If I thought like that, I take this—" He held up the blade. "And the one in your backpack, and throw them away." Bailey's nostrils flared as he crossed his arms, taking on a defensive stance. Declan knew it wasn't going to be easy, but he wasn't sure how much of the battle would be won here. Declan carefully took Bailey's hand and gingerly laid the blade he was sure had drawn Bailey's blood in his palm. "But I think we both know throwing these away won't do any good." Bailey lifted a curious brow, obviously not expecting that response. It did serve to calm Bailey slightly as he waited to see what Declan was up to. Declan's lips pulled together into a tight, resigned smile. He shrugged. "What am I going to do? Tear apart your room for other pencil sharpeners that you might take apart? Take all the razors out of your bathroom? Hmmm, and scissors, have to get rid of those. Good luck cutting with those little round-end preschool safety ones. Oh, wait, I'd have to take all the knives from your kitchen too. I'm sure your mom would love that." He ended his sarcastic tirade with a roll of his eyes, causing Bailey to bark out a laugh. Bailey's shoulders dropped, and he sighed heavily. He dragged himself over to the bed and plopped down, staring at his lap, where his hands cupped the offensive piece of metal. "I-I can't," Bailey whispered after several minutes. Declan moved cautiously to sit beside Bailey, suddenly looking so fragile and tiny. At least Bailey hadn't demanded that he leave. So maybe this was a good thing. A start. "You can't what?" "I can't... stop..." Bailey slowly admitted, his hands trembling as he stared at the blade. "I can't tell anyone because no one understands. I miss him so fucking much, and it doesn't matter how much I 'talk about my feelings' to anyone," he said, using air quotes, "because they just don't fucking get it!" Bailey had started to clench his hands, and Declan quickly plucked the blade from Bailey's palm before he could rip open his hand. As Declan laid it on the nightstand, Bailey stared blankly at his hands. "I need to honor him, to remember him, to make him proud. Everyone thinks we should just move on, forget about him, and go on with our lives. No one cares to remember him but me and it hurts so fucking bad in here—" Bailey beat a fist against his chest, still trying to pull away from Declan, but Declan wouldn't let him go, wouldn't let him run anymore. "It hurts so bad, missing him, needing him, wanting to be the best for him... and IT is the only thing that helps!" "It? The cutting?" Declan hated the tortured look on Bailey's face, the tears, the anguish... "Yes! It helps me. It calms me, gives me..." Bailey's body and voice were strained, and Declan could visually see how Bailey's grief was consuming him. "I-I need to feel something other than—than this... this—" Bailey clutched at his heart, unable to find the words. "Other than what? Misery... pain... guilt... anger... failure?" Declan watched Bailey's face morph from bitter suffering to confusion at Declan's understanding. Bailey nodded slowly, drooping forward to his knees as if all his energy had suddenly evaporated. Declan slipped off the edge of the bed to catch Bailey's slowly crumpling form. For several long moments, Bailey clung to Declan, soft sobs dampening Declan's shirt. "Why the blade, Bailey?" Declan whispered against the top of Bailey's ebony hair. "I couldn't really talk to Ms. Tardin—I mean, what if she told the coach and he benched me or something? And mom... well, she was hurting as well. I couldn't burden her more with my... my problems too. And she wanted me to... to be the best... I think she thinks that's what I need, encouragement to... make my dad proud... But sometimes I felt like I was failing at everything—school, gymnastics, being a good son... And now she seems a little better. Maybe she's talked to Daniel, maybe she just wants to forget... I don't know, but she seems a little happier—and while that sometimes pisses me off—I can't make her worse by telling her anything... The-the cutting... helped. The physical pain drowns out all the other pain—of missing him, of not being good enough. It helped me feel something other than... hopelessness." "Let me help you feel, Bailey," Declan said softly, gently cupping the sides of Bailey's face. "Feel me." Bailey froze, and they stared at each other for several minutes. Tears slipped down Bailey's blotchy cheeks. Declan gripped Bailey's shoulders, shaking him slightly, and forcing him to meet his eyes. "I'm not letting you go through this alone. I'll be there for you, if you let me. Please..." Bailey's pale eyes blinked more tears, and Declan had to glance away momentarily to keep himself from falling apart at Bailey's obvious misery. He sniffed, clearing his throat before he continued. "Yeah, I think you need some help, more than the school's counselor, a real therapist. Don't make a face at me like that, I'll even go with you if you want." "Dec—" Bailey tried to interrupt, turning his head away, but Declan wouldn't let him. "But right now, I want you to look at me. Look at me." Bailey raised his eyes to meet Declan's "Right now, I want you to feel me." Declan dropped his hands from Bailey's shoulders and grabbed his hands. "When you need It, reach for me. When you can't deal, don't reach for that blade. Don't reach for physical pain to drown out your thoughts. Let me help you feel something else. Call me. Text me. Find me. I'll be there. If you really need something physical, we'll go for a run. Beat up some punching bags. Swim some laps. Hold onto me instead of that blade. Okay?" Bailey looked at him askance, not sure what to make of the offer. "It has been better the last week or so... since we've been talking. I haven't felt as much of a need for it." A crooked smile lifted his lips. "I like you, Declan. And... and maybe because of that... you've already made me feel like things aren't so horrible lately." Declan grinned, grabbing the sides of Bailey's head again and pressing their foreheads together. "I like you, too. A lot. How about instead of reaching for that piece of metal, you reach for me?" Bailey nodded, sniffing back the last of his tears. "Yeah, yeah. I can try." "Hell, even Justin or the rest of your teammates, Micah and Logan would be there too, probably even Evan once he gets to know you... You don't have to tell them everything, but maybe opening up to them a little would help." Declan sighed, his thumb stroking along Bailey's wrist again. "I hate to think of you cutting this beautiful skin. What if you cut too deep or—" Bailey dropped his hand over Declan's, stopping his worried rubbing. "I've never cut on my arms or wrists, so it's not like I'm going to cut a vein and bleed out, okay? I promise. I'm not suicidal. My wrists and arms are always too visible, which is why I stuck to my hip, my thigh a couple times—easier to hide under shorts and pants. Plus, doing gymnastics with even a paper cut on my arm is painful. No thank you!" Declan laughed and they fell into each other's arms, embracing for several minutes. "Boys! I'm back from the store. Daniel's here too. We're about to start cooking, probably be ready in about half an hour. Is Declan staying for dinner?" They sat back; Bailey staring at Declan. "Yeah, he's staying. We'll be down in a minute. We were going to watch a movie." "Okay, sounds good." They dragged themselves off the floor. Bailey picked up the blade, showing it to Declan. "You sure you don't want to take it with you? Make sure I can't use it?" Declan plucked it out of Bailey's hand and laid it back on the nightstand. "Nope. You need it for your pencil sharpener, otherwise you'll have dull pencils." Bailey cocked his head, surprised. Declan shrugged. "I could take every blade and razor I find in here, but what good would that do? Me taking them won't stop you, if you really want to do it. You'll just get more. You have to decide to give 'em up; I can't do that for you. I'm just hoping, you'll choose me instead." Bailey leaned forward, a small smile on his face. "You are a lot more fun, Jar-Jar." Declan's mouth dropped open in mock outrage. "Jar-Jar Binks! I think not! More like the wise Qui-Gon Jinn." "Hell, why not claim Yoda status?" Bailey shot back, heading towards the door. "Not so wise as that one, I am." "Smartass."
  5. craftingmom

    Story Review: Blood of the Neko

    Thank you Litlover for such a wonderful review!!!! (And thanks Tim for pointing it out.... I missed the posting yesterday because I was at Kings Dominion, and pretty exhausted afterwards!). Kayden is still one of my favorites as well!!!
  6. Just spent the last two days at kings Dominion with my girls.  After being told repeatedly, the weather would be raining and bad storms the whole time and we should make other plans, we went anyway figuring we have rain ponchos, why not.  And it was perfect ( one 10 bad storm last evening, then sun back out), a couple light sprinkles today, but we were in the water park anyway.  AND because of the strong threat of rain, practically no one else at the park!  Pretty much walk onto every ride.  Anyway, so I'd sent the next chapter of Ripped to editors before I left, so you should have an update in the next couple days as I get back.  Take care everyone!

    1. Timothy M.

      Timothy M.

      Did you see the blog review of your story ?

       

  7. craftingmom

    Chapter 19

    Oh, hell, if that were the case, I'd be serving a life sentence!
  8. craftingmom

    Chapter 18

    Parker was sooo helpful in working out all the scenes with the administration and helping to make them so much more real. I've relied greatly on his knowledge of the workings of private schools. I was a public school teacher for several years, but there are some major differences with a residential private school.
  9. Hey all, I'm working on catching up on comments I missed 'liking',  working on Ripped first, but I hope to get through all the others as well (until I run out of 'likes" anyway).  So if you suddenly get a notice on comment you made ages ago, you'll know why.  So sorry if I missed it earlier.

    1. spikey582

      spikey582

      Just glad you’re seeing them eventually.

    2. Timothy M.

      Timothy M.

      You won't run out of likes. That doesn't happen any more, after the big update.

      And now I know why I had so many notifications today. ;) 

    3. craftingmom
  10. craftingmom

    Percy Jackson the Olympians

    My oldest daughter and I read the first few books together, but then she took off reading them on her own. I did read at least two of the Egyptian books too, while we were waiting for more of the Percy Jackson books to come out. ( This was a few years ago of course). I grew up studying mythology and minored in it in college. Then I somehow passed that love on to Katelyn. She still gravitates to myth based books along with other fantasy...
  11. craftingmom

    Chapter 25

    Chapter 25 --Bailey— Bailey sagged against the bathroom door as soon as he'd closed it. He could hear Micah and Logan laughing and talking from behind the closed door on the other side of the bathroom. He shook his head at Declan's suitemates, a tiny grin lifting the corners of his mouth. They had given Declan a hard time, but Bailey could tell they were good friends. At least his body had recovered from waking this morning secured in Declan's arms, even if his mind hadn't. That feeling of being wanted, needed... loved might be too much quite yet, but it was close... struck Bailey hard. He'd grabbed onto Declan's arm before he could move, holding him in place—holding onto the feelings Declan was awakening in him again. He'd felt dead, lost, aching, for so long, it seemed like he'd never feel hope or happiness again. He pushed away from the door and quickly dressed. After brushing his teeth, he splashed some cold water on his face, taking an extra minute to get himself together. Declan's nervousness had surprised him, and Bailey hadn't expected to be the one in control. It was endearing how unsure Declan had been, but the guy had begun to relax a little after his initial horror at realizing he'd been rubbing against Bailey's back. Declan hadn't even realized that his fingers had been stroking Bailey's skin... but Bailey had sure as hell noticed. The teasing slide of Declan's fingers had been etching fiery trails on his hip and belly, making it nearly impossible for Bailey to ignore. But he'd wanted to calm Declan's mind, set him at ease, so he'd focused on Declan's words—how he'd never done anything more than kiss a girl. But damn if Declan's fingers, and then his mouth with that searing kiss, hadn't chased away the nightmare his life had become recently, quieting his tormented mind better than... it... ever had. *** Breakfast in the dining hall had been somewhat quieter than Bailey was used to seeing, probably because students had a wider range of time to saunter down on the weekends, rather than everyone trying to scramble in during the hour before classes started. Some students also tended to skip the earlier meal, sleeping in or munching on something in their room. Bailey had been surprised at how comfortable he was around Micah and Logan. Before, his teammates had pretty much been the only people he would have even considered hanging around with. Being with Declan, the small, innocent touches here and there Declan kept making, had anxiety Bailey hadn't realized he'd been holding in slowly seeping away. Maybe the reason he wasn't ignored anymore had less to do with Declan himself than how much more open Bailey had recently become because of him. "You don't mind Micah and Logan, do you?" Declan asked on their way across the Square. Bailey frowned. "What do you mean?" There was a hint of red on Declan's cheeks, and it wasn't from his morning shave. "Their ribbing and joking this morning. I don't want them to scare you off or anything." Bailey laughed. "No. It's fine. I told you that already." "I know, I know. I just want to make sure. At least, they were somewhat behaved during breakfast, probably because there was hardly anybody else around to annoy." "Yeah, I didn't even see Justin or anybody else from my team." "If I remember correctly, I've seen them up pretty late on the weekends. If Evan had been here, we might never had made it to breakfast. For a damn runner, he's pretty lazy about getting up in the mornings." Bailey laughed as they approached the house. "Yeah, you'd think I'd have seen a few of the track guys at least when I run in the morning." "Well, you go at the ass-crack of dawn." Bailey nudged him. "I recall running into you a few times that early." Declan shrugged. "Well, the first time, I was pissed and hadn't been able to sleep. Then, well, the other times... That's... well, that's when you were running." "Awww, you saying I'm worth cutting into your beauty sleep to get up early for?" Bailey teased, tilting his chin up so he could meet Declan's eyes. Declan scrunched his nose and brows like he was considering it, rubbing at his chin. "Hmmm, maybe. But then don't have a lot to improve upon." He swept his hand up and down his body. "All this... is natural awesomeness." Bailey almost tripped on the step to his front porch from laughing so hard. He was still giggling when the front door opened in front of them. "Bailey, you're home." His mom's eyes were wide with wonder as she stared at him. "Hi, mom," he greeted distractedly as he edged inside. "Declan came with me. He said he'd help me with the yard stuff." He stopped suddenly when she only stared open mouthed at him. "What?" Her eyes glittered, dancing between the two boys. "You're just..." she breathed out on an awed whisper, and Bailey frowned as she waved her hand at him to come to her. She reached forward, pulling him into a tight hug. "You okay, mom? Did something happen last night?" Bailey asked worriedly. She glanced over at Declan before looking back at him and slowly nodding. "Yes, yes, I believe it did," she said softly. Bailey's hands clenched at the thought of Daniel Kirsch hurting his mother in any way, especially after wheedling his way into their lives like he had. "Did Daniel—" His mom jerked at his angry tone, obviously not expecting it. "Oh no, no, sweetheart. Nothing like that," she assured, waving her hand dismissively. "Daniel and I had a wonderful time. We went to the Melting Pot. You know that fondue place. He had flowers and chocolate covered strawberries waiting... They even took a picture of us and put it in one of those little cardboard memory frames." She paused, obviously briefly lost in the happy memory. She pursed her lips, frowning slightly as she glanced around like she was looking for something. "Hmm, I must have left it in Daniel's car. I'll have to ask him about it." As much as he was glad his mom was happy, Bailey didn't want to hear about her date with another man. Knowing the man was seeing his mom was one thing. And even though he'd sort of offered his blessing on Daniel taking his mother out for the evening, he still wasn't quite sure he was ready to accept the man in his own life. He was slowly becoming to accept that Daniel Kirsch was here to stay in his mother's life—at least for a while. But how much did the man have to intrude on Bailey's life? Maybe it was time to consider moving to the dorms at the beginning of the next semester. He wouldn't be faced with his mother and Daniel's growing relationship on a daily basis. And it seemed like his mom didn't need him at home like she had when... when... his father's death was so raw and painful. "Let's drop our stuff in my room first," Bailey told Declan, before facing his mom. "He brought a change of clothes in case he gets too dirty or sweaty. You can put it up here." Bailey headed toward the stairs, and Declan moved to follow with a polite nod to Bailey's mom. Bailey was at the door to his room before he realized Declan wasn't right behind him. He turned to see Declan just now starting up the stairs. Bailey lifted a brow in question and Declan cleared his throat and shrugged. "Your mom just wanted to say, uh, thanks for coming to help you out," Declan explained. "Really?" "Yup." Declan edged past Bailey to drop his bag with a change of clothes in it inside Bailey's room. Then he rubbed his hands. "So... let's get dirty." Bailey burst out laughing. **** --Declan— Declan hadn't been prepared for Bailey's mother to grab him as he started up the stairs behind Bailey, but her words had him stunned. "Thank you. For making my boy smile and laugh again." Hell, he'd known Bailey had had trouble dealing with his father's death, but... God, those words had nearly knocked the breath out of him. Had Bailey been that lost, that broken? He suspected Mrs. McIntyre may have been much the same way at least until this Daniel Kirsch guy came along. He knew Bailey resented the man, but Mrs. McIntyre came alive when she'd spoken about their night out. When he'd gotten Bailey to laugh again before they headed outside, the sound resonated through Declan's soul in a whole new light. Their jovial banter as they walked back downstairs and to the back shed had Declan grinning like a fool that he affected Bailey in such a way. "So what, exactly, do we have to do?" Bailey waved at the yard. "Well, mow of course. Edge along the fence, since I haven't done it in a while as you can see." Declan noticed the longer blades of grass and weeds sticking up along the fence line. Hell, had he weed-whacked at all this summer? "Pull up the weeds in the flower beds and put the mulch down," Bailey finished with a wave at the bags of mulch stacked along the fence. The height of the grass and weeds around the bags indicated they'd been there for quite a while, maybe even before— Oh, hell. Declan suddenly realized that, other than the mowing, the other yard chores apparently hadn't been done since Bailey's father had been killed. Neither Bailey nor his mom had bothered with more than minimal upkeep since the man's passing. He was surprised Mrs. McIntyre hadn't at least called in a lawn guy to do it. It just told him how deeply the man's death had affected the mother and son. "Okay, yeah. I can do that," Declan announced as cheerfully as he could. "Maybe. I think so anyway." Bailey stopped halfway across the yard, turning and quirking a brow at him. "You think so?" "Well, I've never really done this before," Declan admitted. Bailey threw his arms wide in amusement, chuckling. "What do you mean you haven't done this? You mean mowing? Yard work?" Declan grinned. At least he still had Bailey laughing. "Well, yeah, hello? Private boarding school, duh." "What about the summer?" Bailey challenged. "Or before you started boarding school?" "Um, yeah, I've always been to boarding school, and in the summer I'm either training for the next season or we're taking our family trips." "Family trips? Like where?" "I don't know, dude, places. Skiing, beaches... Mexico, Bermuda, the Alps.... Oh, but my favorite was Jamaica man!" He grinned evilly. "No minimum drinking age!" Bailey just rolled his eyes. "Shoulda known." Declan grimaced. "Yeah, the morning after wasn't so great." "So you've never had to take care of your own lawn?" Declan shook his head. "No, we always had people come and do that." "People?" Declan glared at him. "Don't say people like that. Just because I didn't mow lawns growing up doesn't mean I've been deprived of some major life skill." Bailey cocked his head, his hands on his hips. "Yeah, it kinda does. What happens when you don't have people to help you anymore?" He grinned. "I'll always have people." "So sure of yourself, huh?" Declan sauntered over, almost stalking towards Bailey before gripping his hip and whispering in his ear. "Well, right now I have YOU to help me learn how to get down and dirty. So, teach me, sensei." Declan felt Bailey quiver in his arms as he sucked in a breath. Bailey ghosted his lips across Declan's stubbly jaw to whisper back. "Then come on padawan, let's teach you how to use a mower." Declan snorted. "Padawan? What are you, my Jedi master?" "I find your lack of faith disturbing." Bailey continued on to the shed, and Declan couldn't keep from smiling. "One of us can mow while the other weeds. I can show you how—" Bailey yanked on the shed door, and it flew open, causing Bailey to stumble back. Declan jumped forward intending to... do something... catch him maybe, but he wasn't sure what had happened or why. Bailey righted himself, his body going rigid and his jaw clenching. "That son-of-a-bitch... how dare he... he had no right... the goddamn bastard...!" Declan blinked, opening his mouth to say something, but Bailey's abrupt tirade shocked him. What the hell? Bailey was glaring at the shed door like it had personally offended him, shouting at it, slamming it open and closed. It took several moments before Declan managed to break out of his stunned paralysis to catch Bailey by the bicep and pull him back away from the offending shed door. Declan stepped in front of Bailey, grasping both biceps to still his angry flailing as well as force Bailey's focus off the shed and onto him so he could figure out what was going on. What the hell had caused Bailey to go ballistic over the opening of the shed door? "Woah, woah there, Yoda, come on, it's okay. Come back from the dark side." Bailey's mouth was open, about to spit out more profanities at the shed door, before he blinked those soft gray eyes and lifted them to Declan's. Declan bit his lip to keep from smirking at rendering Bailey silent for a moment as he processed what Declan had said. Bailey squinted up at him. "Yoda? What the hell? I'm that short." Declan shrugged as Bailey shoved Declan off of him, the tension in his body dissipating. "Should I have called you Darth Vader? You were certainly pissed off enough at the shed there." Declan figured continuing to use movie references was helping to lighten the mood. Bailey's shoulders sagged defeatedly. "If anyone is Darth Vader, it's Daniel Kirsch." Declan glanced at the offending shed door, swinging innocuously on its hinges. "And what did he do to become a Sith besides being a lawyer?" That caused Bailey to huff out a laugh, and Declan saw even more of his anger slip away, leaving behind the raw misery glimmering in his eyes. Bailey's gaze darted briefly back to the shed door before wiping the edge of his eye on his shoulder. The tell-tale dampness of tears still stained his lashes, but he looked up at Declan with a wan smile. "It's nothing really. I shouldn't have gotten that upset over it, but it's just..." Bailey took another calming breath. "My dad was supposed to fix that shed door, but he never got around to it before he got—got deployed. It's stupid, but I guess I kept putting off fixing it myself because of him... He was supposed to do it, but even though he's... he's dead... I still wanted to leave it for him to fix. Does that make any sense at all?" Bailey practically begged Declan to understand, and Declan had to fight back the emotions clogging his throat at Bailey's anguish. "Yeah, yeah, it makes sense." Bailey dropped his head, looking lost and defeated. "I know I shouldn't have gotten that upset at Daniel fixing something that I should have done a month ago, but it's like he just... I don't know... just stole something that was dad's. God," he groaned, rubbing his hands over his face, "I'm not making any sense." "No, no. It's makes perfect sense," Declan assured, grasping Bailey's wrists and pulling them away from his face. "I can't imagine what you're having to go through. Sorting through your life without your father and allowing new people in. I'm glad you let me in. And I know you're trying to let Daniel in, when you suggested he and your mom have a night out together. I could tell your mom appreciated it, but I know it was hard for you to do as well." "I guess it pisses me off that he just did it. He didn't even ask," Bailey admitted. "I'm sure he didn't mean any harm by it. Probably just thought he'd save you and your mom some trouble." Bailey nodded. "Yeah, I know. Just not even sure why he'd be out here in the first place." "Maybe needed some tools?" Declan gestured at the shelving inside the door where several tools were stored. "I guess." Bailey stood staring at the shed for so long that Declan thought maybe he'd forgotten why they were out there in the first place. "So mowing? Weeding?" Declan prompted, earning him a blank stare, so he dropped to his knees, clasping his hands together. "Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope." Bailey huffed, stifling his laughter as he smacked Declan playfully on the back of the head. "You're a dork." Declan just grinned as Bailey turned to the shed with a smile, his body now relaxed and cheerful as he pulled out the lawnmower and a gas can, followed by gloves and several tools. Declan let Bailey direct him on how the mower worked—pretty simple stuff—as well as how to weed the flower beds around the front of the house before given Declan the option on which job he wanted to tackle. Declan chose the mowing. No way was he interested in crawling around on his hands and knees with all the ants and spiders, let alone any worms or other creepy crawlies. Besides he didn't want to accidently pull up something that he shouldn't. Some of those plants didn't look much different from some of the weeds to him. Declan finished before Bailey, so he sat on the back steps watching Bailey work the weed-whacker along the back fenceline. His t-shirt was damp and sweaty and sticky to muscles in all the right places. Declan kept hoping he'd take it off. He lifted the bottom of his own shirt to wipe the sweat from his face and looked back up to catch Bailey staring at him. A slow grin curved his lips, and he winked. Bailey jerked a little, realizing he'd been caught staring, and refocused on zapping the tall blades trying to climb the fence. The screen door opened behind him, and Declan turned to see Mrs. McIntyre bringing a couple bottles of Gatorade out, their sides dripping with condensation. Declan felt his mouth go even dryer at the thought of the cool liquid quenching his thirst. "I thought you boys might need something to drink." She handed Declan one as she watched Bailey move to finish edging along the sides of the shed. Declan cracked open the bottle, lifting it towards her in a pseudo-toast. "Thanks, Mrs. McIntyre." "So it looks like you did all the hard work, pushing that monstrosity of a mower around," she teased. "Nah. I just didn't want to crawl in the dirt with the bugs. No offense to your flowers or anything." She laughed. "None taken. Thank you for helping Bailey out." Declan debated telling her about Bailey's reaction to the fixed shed door but figured it wasn't his place. He was too new to have any right to intercede into their family life. Bailey would probably tell her later. Declan could see him confronting Daniel about it at dinner even... maybe... The weed-whacker shut off, and Bailey propped it up against the side of the shed before walking over to them and saying hi to his mom as she handed him the drink. "Thanks, mom. I think we're almost done," he said between gulps of the icy cold drink. Declan felt his chest tighten as he watched Bailey's throat, the muscles moving as he swallowed, the sweat dripping down the side of his neck and into his damp shirt. "We just need to put that mulch down. Then maybe we can watch a movie or something." Declan cleared his throat. "Yeah, sounds good." "Well, if you boys don't need anything, I'm going to run to the store." Bailey's mom opened the screen door but paused to eye them both. Declan thought that was funny as he wouldn't consider asking her for anything. She settled her gaze on her son. "Bailey? Need anything?" "No, mom. I'm good. Thanks." Bailey gave her a little wave before gulping down some more Gatorade. After she had disappeared into the house, Bailey settled on the step next to Declan. "Glad you brought a change of clothes now?" Declan chuckled, lifting the front collar of his t-shirt to wipe the sweat from his eyes. "Yeah, definitely." "So, what movie you want to watch when we're done?" He shrugged. "Doesn't matter." And he really didn't care. He was just enjoying hanging out with Bailey no matter what they did. And the sooner they got the damn mulch done they could get to the fun stuff. Declan felt Bailey nudge his side as he glared at the bags of mulch. "That's not how the Force works," Bailey laughed, taking another swallow of Gatorade. Declan grinned, wiping more sweat from his forehead. "The Force is strong in my family, my father had it, I have it, my sister has it..." Bailey smiled around the lip of the bottle. "So, Star Wars it is."
  12. craftingmom

    Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

    We saw it last Friday, and my daughters loved it. The youngest loves Blue and was excited to get a picture with him at Universal this week. (the oldest was more into Harry Potter world).
  13. craftingmom

    Chapter 24

    Hehe! Good timing! I actually just sent the next chapter to Parker and Caz to edit!
  14. Thanks everyone for reading and the comments! I can't guarantee a story for Eddie yet, so I won't make any promises. I'm desperately trying to finish Ripped, then have thoughts on the third Neko installment. I'd also like to finish The Line shorts in the anthologies (hopefully for the fall one).
  15. Well, of course there's always the possibility that some readers will have a harder time reading it than others. And while I often get brutally real, I also always try to lead my characters to a happy ending where they can at least begin healing. Most of my characters are still healing well after the end of the story. I try to be blunt with the fact that a story contains some kind of abuse, and I think by now readers understand how much hardship and pain many of my characters go though, and hopefully trust me to bring them out on the other side. I guess while my readers have to trust me to some extent to give them hope, I also have to trust that my readers will know what they can handle and choose not to read a story that's too much for them. I know some won't read my stories until they are completely posted for similar reasons, and I totally get that. I know my stories are tough to read and are definitelynot for everyone. That being said, there was a tiny moment when I debated letting Wyatt succumb, and then focusing on the aftermath for Bryan. But as much as I put my characters through, I have a very hard time killing them off. I've only done it once or twice, and those were in my early, young adult work.
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