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1,167 I'm Unstoppable

About mastershakeme

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    Bisexual, leaning male
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  1. Chapter 8

    That's funny as hell! I was roaming Walmart the other morning, like 3 am lol and you're right. They had security and a cop car coasting around the lot :-P I used to have good luck parking at the bog for stuff like that. Last time we went thou the parking lot was full of snow and I got my car stuck immediately upon pulling in to the secret parking lot super long wait for AAA and no good excuse for being there lol. No sex that night...
  2. Chapter 6

    Your comment gives me the feeling you're gonna quit reading! I've never heard of Turbulence, but it definitely sounds interesting... I tried to build up to a realistic and somewhat satisfying ending. I wouldn't say i was trying to horrify anyone Well, whatever the case, thanks for reading and for the comments!
  3. Chapter 2

  4. Chapter 25

    I didn't expect anyone to like poor Shaun. I figured people would be turned off by his appearance and mannerisms, and they were, but somehow Shaun managed to capture your attention, and a few other peoples as well, and even though he didn't get glowing praise for being who he is, he got to tell his story. And he got listened to and taken seriously... I really appreciate you giving him a chance. I'm means a lot
  5. Chapter 7

    Yay! I'm glad you're having fun! And I bet I'm even more impatient than you Jesse's a little saint!
  6. I'm still waiting to get into rehab... It's stupid they make you wait :unsure:. BUT I'M GONNA SEE "IT" IN THEATERS TODAY!!!! FTW! 

    1. drpaladin


      In theater movies have dived to the bottom of my musts, especially since they closed our last local multiplex. At one time we had three.  :(  I hope you enjoy the movie and get into rehab soon.  :)  :hug:

    2. Okiegrad



    3. mastershakeme


      It was AWESOME! 


      I probably shouldn't, but I'm plotting a new story... of the horror variety ^_^


      Also, I started on Ch 15 Parasitic love this morning so, I'm trying guys. I really am! 

  7. Chapter 11 Part 2

    I don't want to freak people out over here... Honestly, it's going to get much worse and Torrin's going to be real mean to Kai. I just hope I don't get flamed
  8. Chapter 11 Part 2

    Chapter 11 Part 2: Saturday "Torrin?" a male voice called at the door, followed by a short burst of knocking. "Torrin? I'm coming in, OK?" The bedroom door opened and Kai sat up in surprise. A blond boy stood in the doorway. He was tall and broad in the shoulders and pretty handsome, too. Kai double checked his junk was covered. Beside him, Torrin's muscled chest was bare and the sheets were pooled in his lap. His eyes fluttered open and his nostrils flared. "Uh…" the blond boy's eyes met Kai's and they widened hugely. "What the fuck, Nash," Torrin snapped. "What the hell do you want?" "Vince told me, but I didn't believe it..." he trailed off. He stared at Kai for a long minute and then he started to smile. Slowly. "So, this is the boy you were talking about–" Torrin ripped the sheets off and charged at the boy in the door. Nash yelped and ran down the hall, Torrin hot on his heels. Kai sat on the bed in a bit of confusion. He heard Torrin cursing and then a brief scuffle taking place. Nash let out a few barks of laughter. "C'mon!" he cried. "I was just messing with you." "Fucking bastard…" Torrin growled and Kai heard the boys slam into something. He got off the edge of the bed and spotted Torrin's tee shirt on the floor. He put it on quickly, made sure he was properly covered, and peeked out the door. Torrin had Nash pinned to the wall a couple doors down. Nash's hands were up in surrender, and his head was tilted back, his throat crushed under Torrin's forearm. Torrin's dark skin glowed warmly in the morning light and he exuded confidence and power despite his nudity. The muscular globes of his asscheeks flexed and his strong back shifted as he dug his forearm a bit deeper into Nash's windpipe. He loomed menacingly over his friend. "You shouldn't have come into my room," he hissed. Nash flailed. "C'mon man!" he gripped Torrin's bicep. "You're rubbing your dick all over me!" Torrin stared intently into Nash's eyes before he pulled back completely. Kai saw Torrin's member swinging freely. Even flaccid, his cock was large and it hung to his mid-thigh. Kai blushed as memories of that full, juicy dick ran through his mind. He guiltily raised his gaze back to eye level. Just then, Torrin's other roommate, a boy with dark slicked-back hair, ran up the stairs. He looked an awful lot like Mitch and Kai ducked out of sight. "Uh, hey Torrin," the newcomer said. "Why are you naked?" "Fuck off, Logan!" Kai stood nervously on the threshold, but when he heard bare feet padding down the hall, he hurried back to the bed. Torrin appeared in the doorway. "And don't let anyone else bother me!" he shouted. Then he shouldered inside the room and slammed the door shut. He paced back in froth in front of the door. "Fucking assholes," he muttered to himself. "Is… everything OK?" Torrin stopped pacing. He looked at Kai like he was surprised to see him sitting there. "You've got my shirt on," he said. Kai looked down at himself. The black tee fit Torrin snuggly, but it was more like a dress on him. His pale legs dangled over the bed and as Torrin slowly drank in the sight of him, Kai started to feel a dull pain in his stomach. He winced and pulled his legs up uncomfortably. Torrin quirked an eyebrow. "What's up?" Kai bit his lip. "I have to go to the bathroom." Comprehension flashed on the other boy's face and he smiled sheepishly. "You're stuffed full aren't you?" Kai nodded. He blushed and ducked his head a little. He remembered being fucked last night and he could feel the probe lodged in his rectum even now. His hole ached, but the muscles had gotten used to the stretching and besides the churning in his lower belly, he felt alright. Torrin came closer to the bed. "Get on your hands and knees. I'll take it out." Kai blushed hotly, but he did as ordered without the slightest hesitation. He scrambled into position and laid with his cheek pressed against the sheets, his knees digging into the mattress and his ass in the air. The shirt slid down his back, exposing more of his pale behind. "Fuck." Torrin pressed on the base of the probe and Kai moaned, a slight twinge of pain emanating deep in his bottom. "Your asshole looks swollen. How do you feel?" he asked. "Full," Kai whimpered. He was embarrassed, too, but he didn't say that. Torrin had seen everything… last night he'd gotten a great view of the pink inner flesh of Kai's asshole… and now, as Torrin began to plunge the anal probe in and out of his greased hole, Kai feared he'd have an accident in front of him. He squeezed his muscles tight and groaned under the pressure, but suddenly, Torrin stopped and he drew the toy out smoothly. "You'd better run to the bathroom," he said and he slapped Kai's ass. The blond yelped and rolled over. His butt felt weird and loose and uncomfortable, but he took Torrin's advice and got off the bed in a hurry. He rushed out of the room and down the hall, trying to be quiet and not draw attention to himself. Torrin's shirt had fallen back into place, but he felt naughty and indecent half dressed in someone else's home… he prayed no one saw him. Luckily, he didn't run into any of Torrin's roommates. He got to the bathroom and shut the door. He pulled the shirt up and sat on the toilet with a sigh of relief. He was just finishing his business and flushing when the door opened. "Hey." Torrin slid into the room. He wore boxers briefs and his dick was outlined clearly down his thigh. He was hard and Kai's gaze lingered on the tempting package. "We should get a shower," Torrin said as he moved to the bathtub and turned on the water. In seconds, Torrin was bare again and his cock curved upwards towards his flat stomach. Kai felt a stirring of arousal, a little tingling sensation around the head of his cock as it began to fill with blood. "Get in first," Torrin said. "I have to piss." Kai nodded determinedly. He pulled the shirt over his head and stepped into the shower. Before he pulled the curtain shut, he saw Torrin watching him with his dark hazel eyes. Kai got under the warm spray of water and he bit his lip to stifle a moan. The water felt great. Suddenly, the curtain was tugged aside and Torrin got in behind him. Arms wrapped around Kai's waist and he sighed as leaned back into the broad chest behind him. He relaxed into Torrin's embrace immediately and the older boy held him possessively. Kai closed his eyes, enjoying the closeness of their bodies. Then Torrin slowly turned them around so they faced the back of the stall. Kai could feel the older boy's hard dick against the small of his back and he groaned with nervous excitement. The sound bounced around the steamy bathroom. Torrin pressed his lips against the top of Kai's wet head. He smoothed his hands over the boy's belly and up to his chest. He stopped on the tiny pink nipples and he gently teased them to hardness. Kai gasped and made soft sounds of pleasure. Torrin shifted slightly and he nudged Kai's head to one side. He lowered his mouth and started sucking at the exposed skin. Oh no… The last love bites had finally started to fade and now Torrin was going to add more? Kai quickly forgot to be upset. The sucking kisses stung a bit, but Torrin soothed the hot brands with his tongue. The kisses and the gentle tugging sensation on his nipples made Kai's body quiver with need. He closed his eyes and whimpered as pleasure built inside him. Kai was completely hard by the time Torrin spun him around. The older boy watched him with heavy-lidded eyes. "Stay still," Torrin said and then he picked one of the body washes on the edge of the tub. He lathered his hands with the gel and then stepped closer, gliding his soapy palms over the Kai's heated skin. Torrin soaped his body thoroughly. He stroked Kai all over and kneaded his small muscles with his strong fingers. He was determined to wash every inch of Kai's soft, pale skin… Kai moaned softly with appreciation. Torrin's pace was methodical and relaxed. It felt lovely, but as his cock began to grow harder, Torrin's touch quickly became an act of sexual torture. When Torrin made Kai lift his feet, one at a time so he could wash between his toes, he realized Torrin was purposefully saving his cock and his bottom for last. The water hit them both now. It rolled down Kai's legs, rinsing the soap bubbles away so they swirled around their feet. Torrin tilted his chin up with a finger and Kai hesitated a little before he raised his eyes up and looked into Torrin's. They didn't say anything to each other, but when the older boy leaned in, Kai was ready for him. They kissed, their lips melding in a hot press of excited flesh. Kai moaned wantonly into Torrin's mouth and clung to him. His little body shook with a desperate need to come and he hung from Torrin limply as the older boy licked his lips. Torrin pulled back a bit, leaning in quickly for one last peck when Kai whined with despair. The warm crush of Torrin's lips was intoxicating and the taste was delicious. "Turn around," Torrin said to him and Kai groaned and followed his direction, confused as to what was next. He didn't have to wait long, Torrin told him to bend over once he was facing away. "And prepare for a special cleaning," he said with a chuckle. Kai bent at the waist and braced himself hesitantly with his hands on the tiled wall. He looked shyly over his shoulder and watched as the older boy poured a small dollop of soap into his hand. Torrin looked at him heatedly and Kai flushed and looked back at the tiles. There was a short delay and Kai watched as droplets of water dripped down the wall. Suddenly, a slippery finger touched his sore asshole and he gasped. "Spread yourself open," Torrin said in a deep voice and Kai did so immediately. He reached behind himself and pulled his cheeks apart, bending over a bit more as well. He groaned when Torrin's finger slid inside of him with ease. Torrin fucked him gently a few times and then he started to work a second digit into the hole. "You can take two fingers now, no problem," Torrin said casually and Kai gasped and sucked in a deep, stabilizing breath as the older boy slowly fucked him with two thick fingers. "One more night of stretching and we'll be good to go," Torrin said and he fucked his fingers a little deeper and rudely poked the boy's tender little prostate. Kai cried out, stars exploding behind his eyelids. His hard cock was dripping pre-cum in frantic spurts and it hadn't even been touched yet. "I wish I had something a little bigger though," Torrin continued absently. "You're still too tight." Kai sucked in big, shaking breaths of hot, steamy air. He held his hole open and loud, helpless whimpers were forced out of him as Torrin fucked him deep with firm, thrusting fingers. He thought about grabbing his bobbing, excited dick but his fingers were trembling and he was struggling to keep his asscheeks parted. He thought he'd fall face first into the wall if he tried anything else. Torrin drew his fingers out of Kai's hole and slid them down along his exposed perineum. He slicked the wet channel with a bit of the remaining suds. When he took his hands away, Kai whimpered at the loss. Torrin chuckled again, but his breath hitched at the end of it and when he spoke, Kai could tell he was just as aroused and desperate for release as Kai was. "Brace your hands on the wall," Torrin said roughly and the blond moved to comply. Torrin slipped a finger between Kai's cheeks as he nervously pressed his weight against his hands on the wall. "Don't worry," Torrin said and Kai felt something much larger than a finger slide between his cheeks next. "I'm not going to fuck you yet." Torrin fit his soapy dick between Kai's asscheeks and it slotted into the tight hollow between his thighs. Torrin wasn't happy with that, though. He spread Kai's cheeks wide apart and slipped his wet, throbbing cock deep into the crack. He sighed as his hot skin pressed tight against Kai's wrinkled anus. Kai moaned at the sensation and he desperately ground his ass back on Torrin's dick. Torrin gripped his hips and started to thrust against his little body. "Close your thighs some more," he said and then groaned when Kai squeezed his dick between his legs and the soapy crack of his ass. "That's a good, slut," Torrin murmured and he grabbed onto Kai's hip a bit tighter, hard enough to bruise. Kai barely even noticed. He was so turned on and desperate to come… Torrin's other hand ghosted along the flat expanse of his tummy and he went lower, stroking his fingers through Kai's wet pubes. When he touched the base of his cock, Kai moaned and he tried to slide his erection against Torrin's hand, but he couldn't really move. Torrin held him firmly and Kai whimpered in distress. "You want to come, don't you?" Torrin murmured, skimming the pads of his fingers up and down the shaft of Kai's twitching member. His other hand held Kai almost completely still as he slowly thrust his cock between his asscheeks, using the tight, slick channel for his own pleasure. "Yes," Kai hissed in response. "Please," he moaned. Torrin gathered his cock in his hand and the blond sobbed with relief. Torrin stroked him lazily as he continued to hold him down, restraining him from his frantic urge to fuck Torrin's pumping fist. Kai cried and whined, but Torrin didn't speed the pace any. He moaned softly behind Kai and rocked his hips into the blond's. Kai clenched his asscheeks together, making Torrin groan deep in his chest. Kai mirrored it with one of his own. "You're gonna love getting fucked," Torrin said in a deep voice. "You'll be my beautiful little butt-whore." Kai moaned wantonly. He leaned against the wall, pressing his cheek into the cold, wet tile. Torrin grunted and he shifted closer when Kai pressed his ass back, grinding on the big dick between his legs. "One more night, baby," Torrin moaned. He finally sped up. He thrust his dick steadily between Kai's tightly clenched thighs and he jerked the blond off a bit faster, too. "One more night and I'll pop your cherry… No one is ever going to stretch you like I will. You'll remember this for the rest of your life." The possessiveness in Torrin's voice was strangely satisfying. Kai responded by humping his ass back to meet the older boy's hips. Torrin switched up his grip on Kai's dick. He pressed his fingertips into the sensitive underside and wrapped his broad palm around the shaft. "I want to see your come dripping off the wall. Think you can come for me, little slut?" Kai's breath caught in his throat and he trembled in Torrin's arms. The tip of his penis burned with an intense need for release. Torrin pressed his cheek to Kai's. "C'mon babe," he whispered in the blond's ear. "Show me how much you want me." He glided his thumb over the boy's leaking slit and squeezed the shaft lovingly. Kai whimpered helplessly as stringy ropes of sperm erupted from his cock. The mess splattered across the tile and he shuddered and pressed his face against the cool wall. He held his hips steady and moaned as Torrin strangled the last few spurts of come from his cock and pumped his own excited flesh between his thighs with renewed vigor. A few moments later Torrin grunted and finally let go of Kai's penis. He slammed his palm against the wall and gasped as he came. Kai's breathing slowly returned to normal and behind him, Torrin relaxed. The older boy slid his arms around the blond's waist and he pulled them back into the water. Kai sighed with pleasure, letting himself sink into Torrin's strong body. "You want to go to breakfast?" Torrin asked after a minute. "Where would we go?" Kai asked softly. He was blushing though, thoroughly liking the idea of something as normal as Saturday morning breakfast. That was something boyfriends did together… "I don't know, someplace off-campus so we don't have to deal with anyone from school," Torrin said, and he let go of Kai completely. The blond moved back and turned to see Torrin was using the same body wash to clean himself now. He watched the older boy lather up his muscled chest and his arms. "Would it really be so bad…" he started awkwardly and Torrin looked at him immediately. Kai struggled to finish his sentence, "...If someone saw us?" Torrin snorted, and he quickly washed his spent cock and balls before moving on. "Yes," he said. "I don't want anyone else bothering me today. Fucking Nash," he sneered. "I've been trying to talk to that dickhead for weeks and he decides he wants to check on me now? When I'm clearly busy." He shook his head and lifted one of his big feet to wash it. He did the other straight after and then turned around to rinse off, muttering more about Nash in between a few colorful obscenities. Kai tuned him out though. He calmly admired the older boy's sinewy back. Torrin's skin glittered under the flowing water and Kai gave into the urge to touch him. Torrin glanced back at him and Kai bit his lip. "I don't care where we go," he said and the older boy turned around, splashing warm water down Kai's front. "I want to go out with you…" He blushed, too shy to actually look Torrin in the eye. After a moment of indecision, he leaned in clumsily and wrapped his arms around Torrin's waist. Torrin hugged him back. He stroked fingers through Kai's hair and sighed. "I know just the place," he said as he reached back and shut the water off. They stood together in the shower stall, dripping wet and quickly getting cold and Torrin tilted his chin up and kissed him on the lips. Kai moaned into the older boy's mouth. He was totally in love. They got out and Torrin draped a big fluffy towel around him. He slung another one around his waist and gestured for the blond to follow. They got dried off and dressed in Torrin's room. When Kai grabbed his phone, he realized he'd missed a couple texts and phone calls. He didn't have time to check though. Torrin was already dressed and flitting around the room, tidying up. Kai put his phone on vibrate and stuck it in his pocket. They headed downstairs after that and Kai could hear voices coming from the kitchen. Torrin immediately pushed him out the front door, muttering something about needing to get the keys. Kai went outside and stood on the porch. Torrin just didn't want to be bothered, he reminded himself. The older boy just wanted to get him alone again, so they could do stuff, like kissing and sex… Kai blushed. He concentrated on the tingling sensation in his ass. He could still feel the effects of all the stretching, and he was reminded every time he moved or sat down. He was starting to believe Torrin when he said he wouldn't be able to walk by the end of the weekend… The front door opened and Torrin slipped outside with the keys to the truck. He grabbed Kai's hand and pulled him to the driveway. The blond thanked Torrin in a whispery voice when he opened the door for him. He got in and waited for Torrin to shut the door. He let his hair fall into his eyes, but it didn't help. Torrin was already watching him and when he got behind the wheel and started the truck, he started to smile. "You're so shy," he said and they backed out the drive and took off down the street. "I wonder what's going through your mind right now. You're blushing, so I assume it's something to do with me." Kai stared out the window, but he wasn't seeing anything but his own stupid reflection. He hated his face right now. His eyes and his mouth were so expressive and his skin was pale and baby soft; his skin was always giving him away. "I know what you're thinking," Torrin said and he stopped the truck at a red light. He laughed. "You're totally smitten," he said. "I can read you like a book, you know?" Kai's face burned with embarrassment." I'm sorry," he said to the window. Torrin laughed. "C'mere," he said and Kai whimpered a little with embarrassment, but he turned around. Torrin leaned over and kissed him deeply. His tongue swiped along the parting between Kai's fat, heart-shaped lips and Kai opened his mouth with a helpless moan. Torrin forced his tongue inside and twisted it around the blond's and Kai groaned, feeling his cock twitch with interest even as it lay tucked securely in his pants. There was a honk behind them and Torrin ripped his mouth away. "Fucking dick-licker!" he grouched at no one and then he stepped on the gas and zipped through the light. Traffic surged around them while Torrin fumed, his knuckles turning white as he clenched the steering wheel. Kai fell back into his seat, his heart pumping into overtime. They were silent for awhile and slowly, Kai relaxed into his seat. Torrin calmed down too and he turned the radio on. Some old R&B song was playing and he jumped right in and sang along. Kai had never heard the song before, but he thought Torrin's voice was amazing. He snuck careful glances at the older boy, admiring his handsome face and his strong arms. He was smitten. Torrin made Kai feel special and cherished, like he had something to offer other than his brains… Of course, he had nothing to complain about. He had a bright future ahead of him, he was in college early and his father trusted him fully. But there had always been something missing in his life. He'd never known what it was, but now he realized it had something to do with Torrin and the passion he brought into Kai's tightly-laced lifestyle. There were other, easier boys he could chase after, but he wasn't interested anymore. Torrin made his heart race, he made Kai feel important and he was fucking hot. They drove out to the countryside. Kai started paying attention to the landscape as the houses became less frequent and acres of green forest filled the spaces. "My mom stays out here," Torrin said. "I guess it's to be closer to me, but I only see her on Sundays." "That's nice," Kai said. "I guess." Torrin started to slow the truck and Kai spotted a happy little breakfast diner just ahead. It was a simple country style restaurant with a big porch in front. There were baskets of flowers on either side of the doorway and rocking chairs for people to hang out and wait. Torrin parked in the gravel lot. "My mom meets her book club here," he said. "This place is probably fine." Butterflies erupted in Kai's belly and fluttered in a nervous frenzy. Torrin was bringing him somewhere special and different… Kai didn't know about the upperclassman's regular haunts, but this obviously wasn't one of them. He hoped that was a good sign. What wasn't a good sign, though was Kai's phone blowing up with notifications as they got out of the truck. Torrin glanced at him. "Is that your little cock-block friend?" he asked as they approached the restaurant. He opened the front door for them. Kai sighed. "It's probably Holly." The restaurant was kind of busy. Half the booths along the back wall were filled with families and a couple older folks. The atmosphere was friendly and warm though. Kai's phone stopped buzzing when they got to the wait stand. Beside him, Torrin folded his arms as he looked for someone to seat them. When he saw Kai sneaking peeks at him, he smirked. Kai blushed and looked away. They were seated soon after by a chubby teenager in a sloppy apron. The teen was clumsy and he dropped a menu as he sorted through the stack. Torrin watched the waiter in silence. He looked really unimpressed. Kai's phone started buzzing again and Torrin glanced his way once more, his eyebrows inching up into his hairline. Kai's heart did a crazy flip in his chest. As soon as they sat down, he was going to mute his phone… Why was Holly trying to sabotage him like this! Feeling very awkward, Kai let his long hair drape into his eyes. He looked down at his hands and twisted them nervously together. "Right this way," the waiter said when he'd finally gotten ahold of the two menus. He led Kai and Torrin to a booth in the back and laid the menus on opposite sides of the table. Kai sat down quickly and started to page through the selections. Torrin sat across from him and the waiter began to read off the specials of the day in a hurried voice. He said something about blueberry pancakes and Kai glanced up attentively. That sounded good. "Somebody will be right over to grab your order," he said with a lazy smile. Then he adjusted his sloppy apron and wandered back to the front. When the guy was finally gone, Kai noticed Torrin was staring at him, his expression blank. "Who keeps calling you?" "I-I dunno," Kai flushed all over. He hadn't even noticed when the buzzing had stopped on his phone. He'd just made plans to turn it off! "Somebody called you when you were in the bathroom this morning, too," Torrin said and his eyes narrowed a bit. Kai gaped at the older boy… and speak of the devil… the phone started going off again! Torrin rolled his eyes and Kai started to fumble in his back pocket for his phone. And just then, the waitress popped up. Some young girl will a huge fake smile on her face."Morning guys! What can I get you to drink?" she asked. In a panic, Kai dropped his phone across the table before he could check the screen. He reached for it, but Torrin's hand was already resting on top of the device. The boy looked up wildly and met Torrin's stony-eyed stared. Kai gulped and drew his hand back in a flash. He chewed his lip nervously as the phone continued to buzz. The waitress looked between them. "Are you guys ready to order?" "Sure," Torrin said easily and he pulled Kai's phone onto his side of the table. He glanced at the screen. "Coffee, black, and the ham and cheese omelet. Bacon on the side." The waitress wrote that down. "And for you?" She looked in Kai's direction now. "Uh," Kai glanced at Torrin and nearly had a heart attack! Torrin stared at him with dark, serious eyes and Kai wondered what he'd seen in his phone! "Go on," Torrin prodded in a cool voice. Kai chewed his tongue and quickly folded up his menu. "Orange juice," he said. "And blueberry pancakes." The waitress jotted his order down before she gathered up the menus. "Don't go anywhere, I'll have that right out for you!" she said and then hurried off. Torrin watched the girl disappear into the kitchen before he spoke. "So," he said slowly and he looked down at Kai's phone. "Who's Jack?" Kai's body froze up. "Can I see?" he asked in a squeak. Torrin frowned, but he shoved the phone across the table. Kai looked at the lock screen. He'd just missed a text from Jack and there were 5 missed calls from him as well. He groaned internally as he opened the phone up. I wish you would answer me. I miss you so much, Kai… Kai blushed. He didn't even look at the other texts. He didn't need to. "What did he say?" Torrin flashed his arm out, but Kai leaned back just in time and kept his phone out of the way. Torrin huffed and sat back in his seat. Kai kept out of his reach, plastering himself to the back of the booth. "Are you messing with other guys?" Torrin asked darkly. "N-no!" Torrin crossed his arms and looked down his nose at him. "Let me rephrase. Are you trying to mess with other guys?" "No," Kai said weakly, but he was blushing profusely. His face was probably going to melt off. "Because that would be a really bad idea," Torrin said seriously. He leaned back and put his arms up on the back of his seat. His stance was relaxed, but he looked far from calm. Kai trembled in his seat. He didn't know what to say… He considered telling Torrin the truth, about Holly's intrusive plans to get him a wholesome boyfriend… The only reason he didn't was because he didn't see the point in giving Torrin an actual reason to hate Holly. As Kai gnawed on his lip and tried to figure out what to say, another text came through. Kai please… "Jack's one of my lab partners," he said quickly. "He's probably having a panic attack over the chemistry test we just had. Let me talk to him for a second." Torrin scowled, but Kai got up before he could say anything. He ran to the bathroom and rushed inside with his his phone clutched to his chest. The men's room was strangely deserted, but Kai headed to the last stall anyway and shut himself away behind the little door. Kai sat on the toilet and looked at his phone in dismay. Another text came through as he watched. Can you call me when you get a chance? I just want to talk. Kai glared at the phone, but he keyed up Jack's number just the same. "Hey," Jack said breathlessly when he answered. "Hey," Kai said awkwardly. "Are you OK?" Jack asked. "You… sound upset." "I am a little," Kai said in his pissiest voice. It wasn't very convincing. He sighed and prepared to lie. "My dad checked my phone earlier when I was sleeping. He was asking me about you, Jack. He looked at some of the texts." "I'm… sorry," Jack murmured. Kai signed. He didn't want Jack to wallow in self-pity. He just wanted him to stop calling! He had to keep this conversation short anyway… He didn't have time for this! It was only a matter of time before Torrin burst into the men's room, demanding him to come out, hands up! "Holly's upset you aren't talking to her," Jack said suddenly and Kai huffed. "I promised I'd pass that along if I talked to you." "Yeah." Most of all, Kai was upset to hear Holly had been talking with Jack behind his back again. But he wasn't going to tell Jack that. "Holly keeps asking if we've planned another date," Jack laughed and Kai was wracked with annoyance once more. "I don't have time to talk to her or anyone else right now," he said briskly. He wished he didn't have to be so blunt, but Jack didn't seem to get it when he was simply nice. "I'm hiding in the bathroom right now. Just so I can make this call." "Oh," Jack said. "Please, I have to go," Kai whined. "When can we talk again?" Jack urged. "I didn't know how much I was looking forward to that date last night until you had to cancel." "I'm sorry," Kai said quickly. He closed his eyes and pressed a hand to his face. This was so stressful! Why couldn't everyone just leave him alone! "I'll see you Monday in class. That's the best I can do, Jack." Jack sighed. "Alright. But how come you can't at least answer our texts?" "Because my dad asks too many questions," Kai said. "Please. I have to go." "Bye," Jack said solemnly. "See you in class Monday." He sounded really depressed and Kai felt bad for him. There wasn't anything he could do either way though. "See you Monday," he said back sadly. As soon as they hung up, he wondered why he hadn't just told Jack the truth. He really didn't want to string him along anymore… He decided he'd have to have a serious conversation with him soon, without the pressure of class or Holly or god forbid, Torrin waiting in the other room hanging over his head. He came out of the bathroom stall, resolved to break it off with Jack at last, when he ran right into a strong, broad chest. Kai tilted his head back. "It sounds like Jack's desperate to see you," Torrin said with a lecherous grin. And then he forced Kai back into the stall. Kai whimpered a little at first, but then he clamped his lips shut and stared determinedly into Torrin's hazel eyes. Torrin glared at him, clearly unimpressed with his little show of bravery. When he spoke, his voice was quiet, but rough and dangerous. "You told him the same bullshit excuse about your dad, too? Why does it feel like I'm some kind of dirty secret?" Torrin sneered. He crowded Kai backwards until he flailed and yelped and fell backwards onto the toilet. "It was just convenient," Kai gasped. "Holly's my other lab partner. I'm sure she'll still be complaining about this on Monday," he said. Torrin narrowed his eyes. "He likes you," he said. "Jack. Whoever he is." "But I like you," Kai said firmly. "Torrin please. He tried to set up some a study date with me and Holly this weekend, but… obviously, I'm here with you. I didn't know what to say to him." "That you're getting a nice, thick cock up your ass," Torrin said harshly as he started to unzip his pants. "Now you're going to get it down your throat. You fucking little slut… one cock isn't good enough for you? Do you need more?" Torrin took his cock out and Kai, sitting on the toilet, had a great view of the slowly hardening organ. "Yours is enough," Kai said softly. He reached out and wrapped his fingers around the length hanging before him. "Fuck, your hand's cold," Torrin hissed, but his dick responded eagerly. The hard length throbbed in Kai's hand as he stroked it methodically. He tugged and pulled tightly on the skin around the shaft and rubbed the veiny underside with his thumb. "Put it in your mouth," Torrin grunted and Kai glanced up at him. Torrin sneered… or at least he tried to. His eyes were narrowed, but they watered a bit at the corners and he panted with every breath and moaned a little. He gripped Kai's hair with fingers that shook with need… Kai held Torrin's cock firmly at the base. He stared at the dark red cockhead and the tiny little mouth of the urethra. He squeezed Torrin's length and pre-cum oozed from the tender pore. Torrin gasped and he drew Kai's head closer. It was obvious what he wanted… Kai smiled a little and then he eagerly guided the cockhead to his lips. As soon as he took Torrin into his mouth, the older boy groaned loudly into the empty bathroom. Kai sucked just the tip of Torrin at first and as he did, the loud sounds became choked, sputtering grunts before they finally died down completely. Kai glanced up to check on Torrin and saw him biting the inside of his cheek to stifle anymore sounds from escaping. From the look on his face, he was doing it hard, too. Kai smiled around the length in his mouth. Torrin could barely contain himself… Kai was warmed by the thought. He was proud he was able to do something to make Torrin feel good. Torrin made a sound deep in his throat and his cock twitched in Kai's mouth. The blond slid the head onto the flat of his tongue and licked and sucked the mushroomed tip with relish. Torrin gasped. His fingers tightened in Kai's soft hair. Kai didn't want Torrin to cum immediately, but he kept doing his thing. He just didn't know anything about teasing besides going slow and honestly, he didn't think Torrin was going to let him slow down at this point. He sucked Torrin's shaft sloppily and with lots of spit as he traced the underside with the tip of his tongue. He went lower with every bob of his head, showing off his developing deep-throating skills. He touched Torrin's silky balls while he sucked his cock too. He massaged the tender sac with gentle fingers and smiled when Torrin's tight, body trembled with need. Torrin looked down at Kai with fire in his eyes. He watched Kai's movements with an intensity that would have had the blond burning with embarrassment any other time, but right now, the look turned him on. "Faster," Torrin grunted. Kai looked up again and their eyes met. Kai blushed immediately as Torrin worked his jaw. "Can't drag this out forever slut," he said with a dark chuckle. Kai thought about his blueberry pancakes out in the restaurant and he swallowed more cock. Torrin twisted his fingers in Kai's hair and started fucking the boy's face. He didn't do it hard, but it was kind of forceful. Kai tried to meet his thrusts a few times, but finally just gave up and let Torrin use his mouth for his pleasure. He valiantly used his tongue and the pressure of his lips to speed the process. Torrin gasped and finished quickly, shooting his cum neatly down the back of Kai's throat. The little Asian hummed. His cock was straining with a desperate need between his legs. Even just rocking on the toilet seat and feeling his jeans ride up into his crotch made his dick pulse for a more direct touch. He wanted more. But Torrin just laughed at him. "Get up," he said and Kai cried a little as he got up on shaky legs. Torrin kissed him roughly. He bit his lips and then licked the abused flesh with his tongue. Kai's head swam with confusion and desire. He started to sag into Torrin's arms, but was pushed back as soon as he tried. "You're not getting off," Torrin said sharply. "Let's go." He strolled out of the stall and Kai was left behind, biting his lip as he carefully looked down at the tent between his legs. "C'mon slut," Torrin called from across the room and Kai whined and hurried after him. He had no choice! As soon as they got back to the table, the waitress skipped over to meet them. "I thought you left," she said stiffly. Torrin knocked Kai into the nearest booth and then smoothly slid in beside him. "Nope. Just a bathroom break," he said casually. "I'll go get your food," the girl said and then vanished. Once they were alone, Torrin reached under the table and slowly stroked the bulge of Kai's erection. "I can't believe what a slut you are," he said softly, looking into Kai's eyes with a vicious sort of glee. "I teach you a little about sex and next thing I know you're sucking strange dick on the side." "No," Kai said, flushing a deep red. "I didn't s-suck Jack's dick." Torrin stared deeply into Kai's eyes as he ran his finger up and down the shaft of his cock. "Maybe this time I'll believe you," he said. "But I don't trust you now." Kai whimpered and rested his head on Torrin's shoulder. He felt boneless. Torrin teased the head of his dick, squeezing and rubbing the swollen knob through his jeans. Kai squirmed in his seat. He was caught in a whirlwind of pleasure, totally helpless. "I'm going to keep a closer eye on you," Torrin said. "You're mine. Nobody else should even be looking at you--" "Here you go," the waitress appeared again and started unloading food on the table. She was looking at Kai, but he shut his eyes tightly and turned his face into Torrin's shoulder. He just wanted to hide… The waitress quickly went away and Torrin continued to rub Kai's cock ever so gently. "Eat your pancakes," he said. "I don't think I c-can—" "You can do anything I tell you to," Torrin said briskly. "Eat." Kai whimpered in distress, but Torrin ignored him. He ate from his plate with his left hand and used his right to play with Kai's poor, confined erection. The boy couldn't figure out if Torrin was being serious or not. Part of him was pretty sure he wasn't playing around though, and Kai decided he'd better try and listen. He turned to the pancakes sitting before him, his cock pulsing insistently between his legs. He shakily dumped the little tub of syrup over the cakes and started cutting them with the edge of his fork. When he took a bite, he gasped. Torrin snorted and cupped his hand around Kai's hard manhood. "The sooner we finish, the sooner we can leave," he said and Kai moaned around his mouthful. The two of them finished their breakfasts in record time. Torrin managed to keep Kai's dick hard as a rock through the whole thing. When they finished, Torrin didn't wait for the check. He stood up as soon as they'd cleaned their plates and started thumbing through the money in his wallet. "I suddenly had a great idea," he said. "I know somebody who has all kinds of stuff to stretch your asshole with. We should see what he has." Kai gulped. He looked anxiously around the cheerful little restaurant. It hadn't been a problem when they'd come in, but now he found himself wondering how he was supposed to get out of here without showing his erection to everyone… "Walk behind me," Torrin said, watching Kai's distress with a thinly veiled amusement. Kai scrambled out of the booth and got behind Torrin's bigger body. He wanted to grab onto him. He didn't, but he kept very close by. Torrin threw some cash on the table. "Cmon, " he grabbed Kai's hand and led him outside. Torrin started playing with his cock again once they were on the road. Kai held onto the door and whimpered. There was a wet spot in his jeans now, he hadn't cum yet, but as they drove back into town, he got close quite a few times. He was pretty distracted, but after a while, he realized they weren't heading to Torrin's place, or anywhere else he'd taken Kai to before. They were in a completely different part of town. "W-where are we going?" he asked "I told you, we're getting something else to stretch you with," Torrin said. "My weed guy lives out here, but Case deals in a lot more than just the green stuff." Torrin squeezed Kai's cock shaft and the boy groaned with helpless desire. They pulled up outside a big, decaying house a few minutes later and Torrin parked on the curb. He smirked across the seat at Kai, his hand still glued to his erection. "Cmon," he tugged on Kai's zipper before he hopped out of the truck and rounded it, grinning through the windshield at Kai as he went. The little Asian got out awkwardly and shuffled after Torrin. He was bright red in the face and had a thin layer of sweat above his upper lip. Torrin waited for him near the porch and as Kai got closer, he held his hand out. Kai took it gratefully. He much preferred this form of PDA over the dick fondling… Torrin led him up to the rickety porch. There was a wooden swing beside the front door that actually looked kind of functional and Kai was eyeing that when Torrin knocked on the door. It opened almost immediately and a dishevelled guy in a bathrobe stood grinning on the threshold. "Hey Torri!" the guy said excitedly. "I thought I heard the hemi pull up." Torrin pushed his way inside, pulling Kai behind him. "You missed a great party last night," the guy continued. He simply moved aside and let Torrin force his way in. "I saved you a little something though," he said. "I knew you'd stop by eventually." He grinned at Torrin and the larger boy quirked an eyebrow at him. "I'm not here for drugs," Torrin said. "Oh, it's on the house! You and…" the guy glanced at Kai. "Your friend can take it upstairs right now." Torrin waved him off. "We're here for something else." "Oh?" Torrin slung his arm around Kai's shoulder. The blond boy had managed to lose his erection, finally, somewhere between leaving the truck and now. He still felt hot and embarrassed though. And as Torrin drew him into his side, the boy in the bathrobe frowned and looked confused. Kai felt even more uncomfortable. "Who's your friend?" he asked. "This is Kai. He's… my special friend," Torrin said slowly. He didn't seem to know how to explain it and Kai felt himself getting hotter in the face. "Uh, is he your boyfriend?" Torrin shrugged. "That's close enough," he said and now the bathrobed guy turned to look at Kai with intense interest. "So, you're trying guys now?" he asked. Then he smiled hugely and he stepped a little closer to Torrin. "I guess we did have fun the other night. When you slept over." He wagged his eyebrows and Kai's heart skipped a beat. What did that mean? Torrin shrugged again. He seemed unaffected. "I was wondering if you had a butt plug." The guy laughed. "Yeah. I've got a couple different sizes. You're gonna use it on him?" Torrin and Mr. Bathrobe glanced at Kai and the little Asian wanted to die right there on the spot. "I'm having a hard time with him," Torrin said, looking at Kai like he was a piece of meat. He smirked meanly. "I had him wear an anal probe last night, but he's still not ready for my cock." "Woah," said Mr. Bathrobe. "He's a virgin?" Kai burned with embarrassment. He glanced at Torrin and groaned. "I wouldn't say he's a virgin anymore, but I haven't fucked him yet." He smiled. "I'm trying to be gentle." The guy in the bathrobe looked surprised, but then he asked for them to follow him upstairs. "I'm Case," the guy said in introduction. He smiled back at Kai as he led them to the second floor. "Me and Torrin have been friends since his freshman year. I've seen him go through hundreds of different girls, but you're the first guy… Besides me. I think I was the first guy Torrin was with, wasn't I Torri?" Kai stiffened up. They gone up the flight of stairs in the entrance hall and were standing crowded together on a narrow landing on the second floor. Torrin grunted with indifference. "Oh, c'mon," Case whined. "Don't you remember the blowjob I gave you the other night? That was before him, wasn't it?" he prodded. He turned and went down a hallway with several different doors. Torrin shrugged as he followed his friend further into the house." I only let you touch me because I was thinking about Kai." "Oh." Again, Case seemed surprised. He continued leading the way though, taking them into a bedroom with a mattress on the floor, a dresser pushed against the wall, and not much else. "Have a seat," Case said distractedly as he looked through the dresser drawers. "Let's see what we got here…" Kai glanced at the mattress on the floor. Torrin had his nose up though and he didn't look like he was going to sit so Kai kept standing. "This place is weird," he whispered, but Torrin completely ignored him. Kai bit his lip. "Here we go," Case turned around with two different toys in either hand. There was a slim pink probe and a thick black one with a big diamond studding the base. "This one's for beginners," he said, turning the pink plug in his fingers. "I've never used it." He held up the black one next. "I've used this one a few times though, so I'll have to disinfect it first." "The black one looks good," Torrin said and Kai stifled a whimper. Case nodded absently and tossed the pink plug back in the drawer. "You should show me what we're working with here. It's only fair. I am supplying the equipment." Kai wasn't sure what Case meant, but Torrin grinned hugely and chuckled a bit. "Sure," he said. "Why not." He turned to Kai then and looked him up and down, his lip curling. "Take your pants off and get on the mattress on your hands and knees. We want to see your sore little hole." Kai gaped at Torrin. Surely, he wasn't asking him to expose himself was he!? "Cool. I have lube in the bathroom. I'll go put some rubbing alcohol on this and I'll be right back." Case rushed out of the room, his bathrobe trailing behind him. "Torrin… no," Kai protested once they were alone. He started to shake. He was absolutely terrified. "Why not? It sounds like you're trying to get some new cock—" "Torrin! No!" Torrin laughed meanly and for the first time ever, Kai hated the gorgeous boy standing across from him. "Your mine and you're going to do what I tell you," Torrin said nastily. "When I'm done with you, you can do whatever you want, but until then, if you so much as look at another guy, I'll have your balls, Kai. Now, take your jeans off and get on your fucking hands and knees." Kai swallowed down tears, but he unzipped his jeans just the same. Case came back into the room as he dropped them to the floor. "Nice," Case said, and his pale blue eyes roamed freely over Kai's exposed lower half. He had a pair of briefs on, of course, but they were kind tight and Kai knew the outline of his cock and balls was on display right now. The thought made his dick start to get hard again… Kai groaned and turned away from the boys standing on either side of him. He shuffled closer to the mattress before he kicked his jeans off completely. Then, before he lost the nerve, he quickly pulled down his underwear and climbed on the bed. His butt was waving in the air and the more he spread his legs to get comfortable on his knees, the more he exposed his anus and his cock. His face was hot with humiliation, but his dick refused to go down. He was super aroused and very embarrassingly exposed. Kai hid his face… he had no idea what to do with himself. Nobody said anything at first and Kai felt sweat beading at his forehead. They moved closer. Kai heard their footsteps on the dull wood floor. Case whistled with appreciation when he got closer and Kai shivered with disgust. "Give me the lube," Torrin said. "Shit. He's really pink," Case moaned. "He looks virgin perfect." Kai gasped when he felt Torrin's thick, wet fingers touch his swollen hole. Torrin pressed his first finger in and fucked him with it slowly. "He's not leaving this weekend without taking my cock at least once," he said before he popped his second finger in alongside the first. "You're lucky," Case said adamantly. "He's gorgeous." Kai sobbed with embarrassment. He couldn't stop being aroused though. Torrin's fingers were gentle and though his sore asshole hurt from all the recent attentions, it was a nice kind of sting. "Hand me the plug," Torrin said and he pulled his fingers out. Kai heard the boys moving around behind him. He looked back, his red little face peeking nervously over his shoulder. Torrin was lubing up the big black plug while Case watched with fascination. Kai turned around again and pressed his face into the musty mattress. "Hold him open," Torrin said and Kai moaned brokenly into the bed. "C-can I?" Case asked. "Yes," Torrin snapped." I told you to." Case's long, thin fingers pressed down on each cheek of Kai's ass. He spread him open slowly, and the little Asian felt like he was gaping obscenely. The wet, pink skin of his inner asshole was on full display and he hated that this strange boy was seeing such an intimate area! He was getting to hold him open even! "Don't be shy, get him wide open," Torrin said after a moment. "I'm going to push this inside and I want a good shot." Case's cold fingers inched into the crease of Kai's ass. He gently gripped Kai's fleshly cheeks and slowly, he pulled them much wider apart. Kai felt cool air tickling his lubed hole. It puckered slightly in his embarrassment. He knew everyone was looking at it… Torrin's warm, broad hand rested along Kai's lower back, just over his spread ass. "Brace yourself," he said in a deep voice. "This might hurt a little." Kai whimpered and hid his face. The fat tip of the butt plug pushed against his moist little anus. Torrin applied steady pressure and the plastic toy sunk into Kai's tight body. He moaned and dug his fingers into the mattress. Case's nails were cutting into his pink, sensitive flesh and the butt plug was tearing him slowly… The only part Kai didn't hate was Torrin's firm hand on his back. He was so angry with him right now, he wanted to cry! But he felt a… very misguided need to please him, too. Even if he was embarrassed and uncomfortable. Even if he felt a little betrayed… Because as terrible as this all was, Kai felt guilty about that phone call with Jack Torrin had overheard earlier. Determined, Kai pushed his hips back and groaned as the plug flared wider and forced his tight anus to stretch to new widths. "We're almost there," Torrin murmured. "How do you feel?" "Gah…" Kai moaned. His asshole burned. There was one final push and Kai felt his muscles shift to accommodate the thick base. "That's a good slut," Torrin said as he rubbed Kai's back. "It looks really nice inside you." "He can keep it," Case said. "I don't need it anyway." Torrin laughed. "Is it too small for you now?" he moved to sit beside Kai on the bed and pulled the half naked blond into his lap. Kai's head reeled and he moaned a little at the pain in his behind. Case rolled his eyes, then he stood back and watched the way Torrin and Kai sat together. Kai rested with his legs over top of Torrin's. It made his thighs split open widely and Torrin ran his hands over the soft, white flesh. Kai blushed bright red. He was suddenly staring Case in the eye while his cock and balls were totally exposed. He looked away quickly, but he knew Case just kept staring. Torrin brushed Kai's dick with his wrist and Kai moaned. He was still very hard and Torrin touched his shaft again with gentle fingers. "Hey," he said over Kai's head. "Can we get some weed to go? I think I tortured my little slut enough for one day." He sounded like he was smiling and Kai shut his eyes and leaned back in Torrin's arms with a helpless whimper. He wanted desperately to close his legs, but Torrin had them pinned opened with his knees. He continued to rub Kai's cock very slowly, too, and Kai panted and groaned. He wanted to come so badly!!! "Sure," Case said and his voice sounded like it was a million miles away. When Kai opened his eyes again, he was leaving the room. Torrin wrapped his hand around Kai's cock fully once they were alone. "Fucking little slut…" he murmured in Kai's ear. "Do you like being stuffed full for me?" Kai whimpered. "Please, let me get dressed." "You want to get dressed?" Torrin laughed. "Don't you want me to take care of your cock? Look, it's leaking and making a mess." Kai looked down at his cock. It was hard and dripping pre-cum all over Torrin's fist. The slick head was swollen and flushed with need and as Kai watched Torrin squeezed his cock shaft and droplets of boy juice bubbled from the tip. Kai gasped. "Let me take care of you," Torrin said sweetly. Kai moaned. He let his eyes fall shut again as Torrin stroked him with a firm grip. He whispered dirty little endearments into Kai's soft ear and held onto his shaking body with warm affection. Kai reached the peak quickly. He gasped and squirmed in Torrin's lap and stars erupted behind his eyelids as Torrin worked his cock flesh. Torrin was stroking him so slowly… just a few more pumps of Torrin's fist and Kai knew he'd explode! "I rolled a few blunts for you," Case said as he came back into the room. Torrin stopped stroking Kai's dick and gently cupped his balls. Kai groaned with frustration. "Looks good," Torrin said and Kai peeled open his eyes. Case stood in the doorway with a bunch of cigars in a zip lock. He was watching the scene on the bed with half lidded eyes. "He's had an erection for over an hour now," Torrin's said loftily. "I thought I'd let him finish." Kai twisted in Torrin's grasp. Somehow, he'd pinned his arms back too. Kai couldn't move, he couldn't touch his cock, let alone try to hide it. He groaned and whispered Torrin's name in desperation and Torrin kissed him sweetly on the cheek in reply. "Do you care if I watch?" Case asked. "Looks pretty hot." "What do you think, Kai?" Torrin ran his thumb down the boy's excited shaft. "You want him to watch?" Kai shook his head quickly and shut his eyes. "Torrin please," he moaned. Torrin chuckled. "I think he wants a little privacy." Case snorted. "I've seen it all anyway—" "Get out," Torrin snapped and Case held his hands up. "Fine." He backed out of the room. "But I'm holding on to these… so you guys don't sneak out without saying goodbye." He waved the baggie of blunts and Torrin growled at him. Case promptly disappeared. Torrin grabbed Kai's cock again and stroked him quicker than before. Kai groaned the second he was touched and his helpless noises got louder and more frantic as Torrin continued to rub him with firm, even strokes. "Cum… so we can get the fuck outta here," he said in Kai's ear. He licked the tender lobe afterwards and Kai gasped at the wet sensation. He came seconds later, spraying Torrin's hand and the mattress between their legs with his sperm. Torrin stroked him through his orgasm and held him as he shook with aftershocks. He wrapped Kai in a hug and finally let him move around, so the little Asian turned in his arms and looked at him with a pout on his face. He whimpered a little… "You're so mean to me," he sobbed. Torrin gave him a long look. "You deserved it. You're trying to hook up with your chemistry partner." Kai stuck his bottom lip out. "No, I'm not." "Liar," Torrin glared at him. He pushed Kai out of his lap and stood up to dust himself off. "Get dressed and leave the plug in. I'll be waiting downstairs with the weed." Then he left him in the empty room. *** As soon as they got out to the truck, Torrin began tearing through the console. "There it is." He held up a lighter after a few seconds of searching and he grinned with victory. Kai frowned. He shifted in his seat, uncomfortable with the plug up his ass. He watched as Torrin pulled one of the cigars out of the zip lock Case had given them. He stuck it in his mouth and lit up. Torrin sighed and a huge cloud of smoke rolled from his lips. Kai recognized the smell. It was weed. "Here," Torrin handed the cigar over and started the truck. He pulled away from the old house and went down the little side street, heading back towards town. Kai didn't want to smoke, but he figured he'd tried it before, he could try it once more and then just refuse to smoke for the rest of the night. He cautiously smoked the thin little cigar… it was slightly wet from Torrin's mouth and the papery length of the blunt felt like it was stuck together with spit too. It was slightly moist and the weed jammed inside was loose and lumpy. Kai's cheeks bubbled up when he drew the thick smoke into his mouth. He swallowed it inelegantly and held onto to the breath until his lungs burned. Torrin laughed at him. "You look like you're going to explode," he said. He took the blunt back and puffed on it a little. They were quickly approaching familiar territory and Kai knew they'd be home soon. Torrin didn't try to give Kai the cigar again, but he was feeling all the effects by the time they got back to the house. Kai spotted a few of Torrin's roommates on the porch as soon as they pulled up. Torrin must have seen them too because he cursed inelegantly. "Fucking dicks," he said under his breath and then he shut the truck off. "C'mon," he said. "Let's go watch some movies and smoke." Torrin got out and hurried towards the house. Kai moved at a much slower pace. The plug felt quite a bit larger than the one he'd slept with last night. That'd been the whole point, of course, but Kai just kept forgetting what a hard time he was having with his walking. Torrin was up on on the porch, tapping his foot, by the time Kai limped up the driveway. As Kai stepped uncomfortably onto the porch he saw Vince and the blond boy from earlier. Kai though he was called Nash. Vince was smoking, leaned against the railing while Nash hung out by the door, his arms crossed. He glared a little at Torrin as he approached. "Feeling any better?" he asked. "Yep," Torrin said shortly as he jogged up the stairs and opened the door. "But I'm not in social mood, so don't fucking bother me." He turned back to glare at Kai, who was struggling up the porch. "C'mon Kai," he said impatiently, and then he hurried inside. Torrin's roommates watched him wince and his way to the door. Kai hung his head in embarrassment. "Are you doing OK?" Nash asked and Kai glanced at him, a little shocked to find the handsome boy gazing at him with concern. "I'm f-fine," Kai squeaked. "Torrin told me he was into an Asian boy, but I still didn't really know what to expect," Nash chuckled and Kai licked his lips and looked resolutely at the ground, too afraid to make eye contact with anyone. He could feel Nash's gaze burning into his forehead and Vince's heated the back of his neck… He itched and scratched under their scrutiny. "He doesn't even look like Torrin's type," Vince said and Kai oscillated his body so he could see both boys at once. Vince's heavy brows were furrowed and he too, looked concerned as he looked Kai over. "No," Nash said. "But maybe that's the point. All of us are changing, aren't we?" Vince flicked his cigarette over the railing and into the gravel. Kai couldn't help himself, he was curious… "What's Torrin's type? Big boobs?" he laughed nervously. Nash shrugged. "I guess he usually goes for easy lays. Just to save time. He doesn't like to wine and dine chicks anymore." Kai blushed a little. "We just went to breakfast," he said. Vince snorted from the railing and Nash smirked. Kai wondered what they were laughing about when Nash asked: "Did he bang you over the table?" "W-what?" "I saw you three hours ago," Nash said. "You look wasted, kid." Kai looked down at himself. "Oh," he said. "Well, we stopped at some guy's house before we came back. Case," he said with an unconscious shudder. "Some stuff… happened there," he said uncomfortably. "I'll bet," Nash laughed. "You just seem really innocent, Kai," he said nicely. "You do know what you're getting into, don't you?" Kai frowned, feeling a cold chill come over him. He was about to answer, when the front door banged open and Torrin stood glowering on the threshold. "Are you coming?" Torrin asked angrily. "Ah, yeah," Kai said quickly. He looked guiltily at Nash. "Then c'mon already," Torrin snapped. He grabbed Kai's wrist and yanked him into the house. Kai stumbled and moaned. "Please," he gasped and Torrin let him go instantly. "What were you talking about out there?" Torrin sneered. "You trying to jump on Nash's dick now?" Kai felt his eyes tearing up. "They said I wasn't your normal type. Nash tried to warn me, I think…" Torrin snorted and started up the stairs. "Whatever," he said and Kai whined, but started up the stairs after Torrin. Torrin stopped halfway up and when Kai met him on the stairs, huffing and whimpering with pain, Torrin scooped him off the stairs and carried him up the rest of the way. Kai's head spun, but he felt secure in Torrin's arms. His bottom still hurt and he was still a bit upset about everything that had happened today, but Kai let his eyes fall closed as Torrin swept him down the hall and to his room. He was laid on the bed like a doll and Torrin stared down at him with heavy-lidded eyes. "We've got different movies today," he said vaguely and then he went to his desk and got the laptop out. Kai watched him with nervously. He didn't know what Torrin had planned, but he was feeling odd after the weed. Torrin sat on the bed beside him once the screen was set up and he put a movie in. It was an action movie with Tom Cruise. Kai wasn't interested in the plot, but he watched the actors fill the tiny screen with action and explosions, the bright lights warming his gentle almond-shaped eye. After a while, Torrin lit up another blunt and started smoking. Luckily, they'd forgotten a can of beer on the nightstand this morning and he ashed into that. When he handed it to Kai, the little Asian didn't even think about it, he took a hit and passed it back. He didn't like the tension in his shoulders… he was angry with Torrin, but he didn't know what to do about it. They shared the blunt. Kai smoked a few more times before his spinning head made it impossible to do more. Torrin finished the smoke on his own, his hand resting on Kai's lower back, rubbing his skin warmly. Kai felt hot all of a sudden and the hand on his back felt so yummy and comforting… He sat up and started to take his shirt off. Torrin's hands were on him in an instant. "What are you doing?" he laughed. "Getting naked," Kai said shyly. "Is that OK?" "Do you want to suck my cock a little, too?" Torrin asked, quirking an eyebrow. Kai nodded his head. Unfortunately, he was starting to recognize a pattern. Sex was a piece of cake compared to their forays into a more normal social relationship. As scared as Kai was of all new aspects of his sex life, Torrin usually treated him alright when their clothes came off. Torrin got naked too and Kai stretched out on the bed beside him. There was no conversation, Kai simply swallowed Torrin's cock. It was getting easier every time and Torrin always tasted clean and fresh. "Kai…" Torrin whispered. He stroked Kai's soft blond hair as he watched him work the large member into his mouth. Kai looked up into Torrin's eyes. The hazel depths burned with passion and Kai stared into them, becoming lost in the swirling colors. He was so confused about everything. Torrin still had to claim his asshole with the big cock he held between his lips and Kai was scared of that. He wanted it too. More than ever… He sucked Torrin's glorious cock until the gorgeous boy came down his throat. Then he curled up next to him and rested as Mission Impossible continued to play in the background. Torrin ghosted his fingers through Kai's hair,gentle and sweet, and just like that, Kai forgave him for all of the day's embarrassment. He didn't know what waited for him next, but he tried to be positive because he was still hopelessly in love with the way Torrin made him feel. It was pretty messed up.
  9. Chapter 25

    Epilogue "How's it feel to finally be of age?" Ben asked, sloshing his beer as he leaned over the couch to give Shaun another. Shaun flicked him off, then cracked the beer open and drained it. "Feels like normal," Shaun said. Today was Shaun's 21 birthday and because of it, the whole band had taken a short break from their tour and they'd all flown back to Arizona, to Shaun's house. A lot had changed over the past three years and it wasn't just the housing situation that was different. Ben circled around the sectional couch, falling onto the cushions beside Gretchen. "Watch it!" Gretchen carefully cradled their one year old to her chest. She had hated leaving little Rosa behind at the beginning of the tour, but she was doing alright now. Ben was a great dad and took care of their daughter but every break they'd taken so far, Gretchen had come home, her maternal instinct burning bright and Ben usually took a break. So, on Gretchen's night off she was rocking her baby girl, feeding her, talking to her quietly while Ben got drunk as a skunk. She didn't seem to mind, as long as Ben wasn't hindering her. "I am watching it," Ben said goofily. He leaned over to plant a sloppy kiss on Rosa's head. Rosa grinned, her pudgy cheeks colored a soft pink. She was wearing a black onesie with a skull and crossbones and her hair was up in a tiny tail. It was really cute. Ben was now attempting to plant an even sloppier kiss on Gretchen's lips but she laughed and shoved him off her. "You'll get yours, a little later, once you've sobered up," Gretchen told him bossily, smiling at her husband. Ben smiled back, somehow satisfied. Shaun didn't understand their relationship and he didn't ask for clarification. He was just glad Gretchen seemed happy and Ben, the stupid asshole, while he'd dropped out of the band just before they'd really become famous, that didn't mean Shaun didn't still care about him. Ben was still his friend and the guy seemed pretty happy whenever Shaun saw him. Besides Ben and Gretchen, an ex-bandmate and a current one, Shaun's b-day party consisted of his other two current band mates, the new bassist, Andrew, and the new rhythm guitarist, Teddy, their manager, Kerry, and Jesse and Brian of course. The past three years had been a hell of a ride but they'd all made it. Together somehow. And now they were sitting in Shaun's big mansion, drinking beers, after a day's worth of talking and catching up. All Shaun had wanted when he'd gotten home and saw Jesse, wearing short-shorts and a loose t-shirt – his shapely legs bare, his skin tanned golden, beautiful, delicious – was fuck the ever-loving shit out of him. This was supposed to be his birthday and he'd been stuck doing the thing he hated the most, being social. Shaun had grown up a lot. He hadn't thrown a tantrum or anything, but he'd shot Jesse so many desperate, annoyed looked as the night progressed, that Jesse had finally asked Lorenzo, their maintenance man, to run out for a couple packs of beer. Ben had gone with him, saying he'd help Lorenzo pick out the best beer available. Andrew and Teddy had almost gone as well, but Andrew had ended up pushing Teddy into the pool before they could go anywhere and they both ended up fighting in the water. Shaun had rolled his eyes and waited, as patiently as he could, for the beer to arrive. Once it had, they'd migrated to the living room. The TV was on. They weren't watching anything in particular, the beer was the main entertainment for the night, apparently. Ben and Gretchen talked a lot, sharing lots of shit about the baby and Andrew and Teddy finally joined the crew after they'd dried off and changed. They changed the subject quickly, grabbing beers and getting stupid. Shaun let them dominate the conversation, not really caring to participate. Jesse and Brian were in the adjourning room, using the state-of-the-art kitchen that Shaun had gone all out for in designing. Jesse had become quite the chef lately. When he and Brian weren't following Shaun on tour, Jesse liked educate himself. He'd gotten his GED years ago, that wasn't the kind of education Jesse was interested in. He was taking all kinds of cooking classes lately, but before that he'd taken language courses, he'd taken some music classes, some on computers, a couple in self-defense and even some art ones. Besides the classes, Jesse didn't have a whole lot to do besides entertaining and caring for Brian. And Brian was in school half the time. He went to an expensive private school up in the hills and it was full of other rich, spoiled kids. Not that Brian was spoiled or anything…. The three of them tried to do a lot of fun things together, Jesse was always making plans for things they could do. They'd been to a lot of amusement parks, museums, and movie theaters, stayed the night at expensive hotels in major cities, on beaches, in the snow, in the middle of nowhere. Brian hadn't liked the idea of traveling for months at a time, going to a different city every night, but after he'd spent his first month on tour with Shaun and the band, Brian had changed his mind. Being on tour was a big adventure to the boy. He was beloved by the crew members and the other bandmates as well. Gretchen was basically his godmother at this point and she was able to watch him when Jesse and Shaun needed a little break. Jesse didn't usually stay for the entire tour anyway. Brian couldn't be away from school for longer than a month at a time, and they had the money to fly out and meet each other, pretty much whenever they wanted anyway. For quick visits. Besides that, they both had laptops and phones with Skype and texting and Messenger and they were in contact every time they were apart. It was rough at times, but Shaun was truly dedicated to his music and loved the fans. The huge concert venues he now headlined were so epic and cool that every day felt like a new experience. Shaun was more than satisfied. He was living his dream. Just then, Jesse came into the living room with a large plate of appetizers, Brian was trailing after him, in his little chef hat, looking important. He was carrying plates and a stack of silverware. "Hey guys! Ready to eat?" Jesse asked. He placed the tray down on the huge glass coffee table that the sectional couch bordered. Jesse then helped Brian set the plates and silverware down. Everyone gazed upon Jesse's masterful creation. "Damn Jesse!" Ben cried. "What'd you make this time! Damn!" Jesse laughed. "Here we've got some filet mignon bites with a little creamy horseradish sauce and that there is the crab stuffed mushrooms. They turned out better than I thought, and I knew they were going to be good," Jesse grinned. Everyone's mouth watered. "The last thing there is the prosciutto and basil wrapped mozzarella sticks. I hope everyone likes it. Please! Dig in!" Shaun and Ben both put aside their beers to partake in the appetizers. Andrew and Teddy, who had been off to the side, laughing about something or other, came over to sit on Shaun's other side, grabbing plates to get some food as well. Kerry, who had been quiet for most to the night, sitting in the armchair across from the sectional, his leg crossed primly over his knee, calmly watched the proceedings over his steeled fingertips. Kerry had ended up being one of the main reasons Defaced had finally gotten famous. He'd shopped around for Defaced's first label, and he'd worked hard to get them signed and sponsored. Kerry had worked behind the scenes for all the production and marketing for their albums. He'd made sure they had the best, sounded the best. Kerry had been instrumental in every part of their success and just as Kerry had predicted, the band had eventually been able to pay him back handsomely. Shaun respected the guy deeply. And Kerry wasn't so dorky anymore. After all the time he'd spent with the band, he'd finally gotten serious about fitting in. He'd used some of his new found wealth to get some cool looking glasses that actually fit his damn face. He wore sharp suits and his body had filled out. He apparently had a personal trainer now, and Shaun didn't doubt it. Kerry had packed on some muscle over the years and he walked with a confidence that bespoke of his ability to protect himself. Fuck, Kerry had a wicked cool goatee now. It made Shaun want to try growing some facial hair. He'd always just shaved it away when it grew in patchy. He'd never given it time, to see if it would get thicker and fuller. Kerry set his glass of scotch on the arm of his chair and he got up to come sample some of Jesse's food as well. Even badass Kerry couldn't resist Jesse's tasty treats. "Mmm!" Gretchen moaned. She was bouncing Rosa on her knee, biting into the crab stuffed mushroom with her free hand. Rosa tried to reach up and pat Gretchen on the cheek and Gretchen laughed and ducked out of her way. "Jess, it's really good. Rosa's doesn't even have teeth but she still wants to try your cooking." Jesse beamed, before he turned and went back into the kitchen, leaving the guests to munch away. Everyone fell quiet as they devoured the tray of morsels. Jesse returned with a little bowl of mac and cheese and handed it over to Brian. Brian whispered something to him and smiling, Jesse waved the little kid off. Brian went to sit right next to Gretchen and baby Rosa. They'd all told him Rosa was his cousin and that they'd be good friends for life. Of course, nobody knew that for sure but Brian was very interested in the little girl. Shaun watched the little blond kiss the dark haired infant's soft forehead, while Gretchen smiled down at the two children. Jesse came to sit next to Shaun after that. Putting his arm around Shaun, leaning into his side and Shaun was glad to be home….He couldn't wait until tonight, once Brian was asleep and all their guests were in their rooms. Once this stupid 'catching-up' bullshit was over, and Shaun finally had Jesse alone in their room, they'd be able to do whatever they wanted. Shaun had had the bedrooms sound-proofed as the house was being built. Shaun's grandparents came to stay in the guest rooms a few times a year and it made everyone's life a lot easier. They simply kept an ear open for Brian through the near-permanent baby monitor they had in the kid's room. But that wasn't until later. Now, in the living room, everyone had had their fill of Jesse's gourmet appetizers, and everyone had complimented the beaming chef at least once. Shaun, now full of beer and food, felt himself relax a bit more. This was stupid and boring and not really what he'd wanted to do for his birthday, but the food had been good, he and Jesse were together, at least, and beer was always nice. "Do you think Lorenzo is done setting up the pigeon tosser yet?" Andrew asked after a prolonged moment of silence. Shaun's eyes were half lidded. He was so pleasantly stuffed. He felt so warm and comfortable on his couch, with Jesse's arm banding his waist. He'd been about to fall asleep. "Huh?" Shaun grunted, sitting up a bit straighter. Determined not to fall asleep at his own party. He had plans for later, damnit. An early bedtime was not an option! "That's what we were just talking about," Teddy spoke up. He was young, just a year or two older than Shaun, and attractive and blond. He had a cute southern boy drawl to his voice. In other words, he didn't look much like a heavy metalist, but despite all that, he played the guitar like a beast and he'd added a new depth to the band. "We were hoping you let us try out your AK-47." "Do you think Lorenzo's done setting up the pigeon tossser?" Andrew repeated his question. Earlier that day, when Shaun and the band had gotten to the house, they'd had a big stupid cake with Shaun's face on it. It was incredibly accurate, the image featured Shaun's iconic scowl. It was fucking embarrassing. But to make up for it, after everyone had laughed and had a good time at Shaun's expense, they'd opened presents. Shaun wasn't a fan of accepting gifts. It had taken him some time to get used to giving Brian stuff. He'd started bringing presents home for the kid during the first tour. Brian had used to try to hug him to death and kiss his cheeks, but Shaun had been so awkward when he'd reacted that way, Brian now just thanked him excitedly before checking out his gift. He intuitively knew not to make a big deal out of it, now. But when Jesse had insisted that his present was outside and led everyone out onto the back porch. They went down to the lower level, circling the big pool and going to the edge of the paved walkway and out into the huge backyard. A camp table had been setup and there was a big wrapped box sitting on it. "Open it!" Jesse had insisted. "A fucking disk tosser! Sweet!" now Shaun could practice his shooting at home! He'd been collecting weapons in the last couple years. It had become quite the hobby. He actually had a couple weapons that he probably shouldn't…but he was careful and he really did have a lot of land. Their maintenance man, Lorenzo, had really been awesome to stay behind for the party and offer to set up Shaun's favorite birthday present. He was at the house almost every day, there to fix something, or do some lawn work or to run errands if Jesse really needed him too. He was totally capable of watching Brian if need be. They trusted Lorenzo, the guy was a hardworking Mexican immigrant and he had a lovely family. Brian loved Lorenzo's two kids and practiced his Spanish with them occasionally. His thoughts wandering, Shaun's eyes drifted shut and beside him, Jesse nudged him with an elbow. Shaun jerked, realizing he'd been slouching off, falling into sleep again. "He's asleep on his feet!" Jesse laughed, kissing Shaun sweetly on the cheek. "Am not," Shaun grouched and everybody laughed. "AK-47? Pigeon tosser?" Andrew tempted. "C'mon dude! Wake the fuck up!" Shaun nodded. "Yeah. Sure, ok," fuck! Why was he so sleepy! "Must be jet lag," Jesse said beside him, apparently reading his mind. Jesse's fingers slid into his hair, caressing his scalp. "Maybe tomorrow guys." "Bullshit, we leave tomorrow!" Andrew complained. "None of us have jet lag! He's fine." Gretchen cleared her throat. "I don't know about you guys, but I'm tired too actually. I was going to call it an early night as well." "You just want to bounce on your hubby's dick," Andrew laughed. "Oh, shit, maybe that's why your so 'tired' all of a sudden too, huh?" Shaun scowled, getting up. "Let's go," he said. Andrew crowed with laughter but followed Shaun through the house, to the garage off the back hall. Teddy got up to follow as well, but Jesse, Gretchen and Ben stayed behind. Brian and the baby, Rosa, were stuck with their parents, of course. They weren't coming out for a nighttime shooting. The three men were out looking through Shaun's collection of weapons. They were locked up in a steel case, accessible by a glowing keypad. Shaun grabbed his favorite rifle and then took down the 47 for the other two men. Just as he was doing so, the garage door opened and Kerry sidled into he room with them. "I thought I'd watch too," he said by way of explanation. "I've never seen one in real life." Shaun nodded and then led the way outside and to the backyard. Lorenzo was indeed done setting up the disk tosser and he too hung around to watch it in action. Shaun had read the instructions earlier and after looking over it again, in the warm orange light of the setting Arizona sun. He set the first round off up into the air and leveled his rifle against his shoulder. Tracking the flying disk as it rose high into the air and then began to fall, Shaun pulled the trigger. Everyone cheered as Shaun got the disk on his first try. It shattered and fell away into the distance. Shaun tried a few more times before Andrew insisted on them being given turns as well. Teddy rolled his eyes at Andrew's antics. Andrew was a little older than Shaun and Teddy; he was in his early 30's and the guy was pretty socially inept. He too was a great player, Shaun wouldn't allow a shitty one into his fold, but he was a weird one. He was a little lacking in the attraction department. Even Shaun had grown out of his teenage awkwardness. Shaun had grown slim and wiry. He wasn't insanely muscled but he was strong and powerful and he wore his long, sexy, sheath of hair with pride. It wasn't a big deal or anything, but Shaun had been called hot more than once. On the news, in articles, girls in concerts had screamed it at him, along with flashes of their boobs. It actually happened quite a bit. Andrew had a hooked nose and greasy hair though. He was kind of fat as well and usually smelled like old beer. Whatever. Shaun didn't have to sleep with the guy. Shaun was so over living like a piece of trash. He took care of himself now. He respected himself. He didn't even think of bringing a blade to his flesh and although the scars from before would never go completely away, Shaun just thought of them as a reminder, of a time he never wanted to go back to. Shaun stood off to the side, watching his two bandmates fuck around with a loaded gun. Lorenzo was backing off, looking a bit nervous but Shaun was pretty sure the idiots knew better than to turn around. As long as they were pointing the thing at each other, what the fuck ever. Shaun smirked at the mean thought, and then quickly took it back. Shaun hated being such a nice guy now. "Shaun," Kerry said from just over Shaun's shoulder. The young man turned to his manager, a bit startled to see he was still here. He'd been so silent, most of the night. "What's up?" "Before we leave tomorrow, a popular magazine asked to interview you. Somehow they got tipped off that you were home." "Do I have too?" Shaun hated interviews. Why did anyone want to know anything? Couldn't they just enjoy the damned music? "It's just a quick interview," Kerry said, and that was as good as a yes. Shaun pouted. "Fuck." The sun went down not too long after and they had to go in. Teddy helped Shaun cover the pigeon tosser and they all went back inside. Gretchen, Ben and the baby were gone. Jesse said he'd shown them up to their room already and that Lorenzo had come through, saying goodnight as well before he went home to his family. Still pouting about the interview tomorrow, Shaun said he probably just wanted to go to bed too and Andrew laughed at him. "Fuck off!" Shaun growled, flicking the ugly idiot off. Andrew held his hands up defensively. "Whatever dude! It's your b-day!" Shaun got up, continuing to flick Andrew off on his way out the door. Shaun then ran upstairs, to the master bedroom. He went directly to the connected bathroom and slammed the door shut. He took a long hot shower. The entire bathroom was in black marble. Besides the large rainfall shower Shaun was currently getting his shoulders and back massaged under, there was a big Jacuzzi bathtub, a double sink with a lighted mirror behind it and the toilet even had a bidet. Not that Shaun had ever dared to use it. He got out of the shower, grabbing a heated towel off the rack and drying himself off absently. He paused to run a comb through his thick, wet hair, the towel knotted at his waist. He hoped Jesse would be up to cheer him soon. It was his fucking birthday and all he had to look forward to was a fucking interview in the morning! Bullshit! Shaun came out of the bathroom and wandered back into the bedroom. It was a large room with an amazingly wide, firm mattress on a four-poster frame. The sheets and comforter were pricy and it had been well worth it. They were like nothing Shaun had ever laid on before. It was like being on a cloud of silk. Shaun crossed the plush carpet and climbed into bed, dropping his towel behind him. He laid on the silk sheets in the dim light. The beside lamp was on, but Shaun hadn't bothered with the overhead. Besides the bed, there was a little bookcase and a reading area with two armchairs for Jesse and Brian. The little redhead liked to read to him before bed sometimes. Occasionally, when Shaun was here anyway, Shaun watched them together. Watched Jesse make up fake voices for different characters while Brian laughed. Watched Jesse show of the book's pictures, watched Brian's face light up. Eventually, it happened more often than not, Brian fell asleep and Shaun would get up and gently volunteer to carry him to his own room. Jesse, smiling, would agree and Shaun would carefully pick the little boy up. He and Jesse would usually fuck then. Shaun hoped Jesse was coming. Shaun continued to look around the room. At the signed guitars from other famous people he'd gotten to meet mounted on the far wall. Jesse had some bamboo canes growing in a pot adjacent to that, and his yoga matt spread out before it. Yoga was another class he'd taken recently, apparently. There was a large mirror and under that was a fireplace, the mantel laden with pictures of family. Shaun hadn't wanted to put them there, he felt like there were eyes on him every time he noticed the pictures again. There were a couple pictures of his grandparents, smiling happily in the sunny Florida condo Shaun had bought for them. There were a couple of Jesse's siblings, which were mostly from Facebook. Jesse wasn't on good terms with his mother, but he talked to Sam and the twins occasionally on social media. Shaun had even given him money a few times to send to them. Jesse said it felt like guilt money, but he knew they could use it. Apparently, Cliff the doctor hadn't been able to change Monica and Monica's true face had shown itself eventually. From what Sam said, Monica had apparently ended up cheating on him. And Cliff had kicked her to the curb. "She looked the gift horse in the mouth," Jesse had said, looking sad. "I knew Cliff was too good to be true. Mom didn't deserve him." Shaun had snorted with laugher and hugged him. He'd promised to himself, as long as he could afford to, he'd give Jesse guilt money if he asked. Shaun was feeling very generous after all. Suddenly, the door budged open and Jesse peaked into the room. "Hey," he smiled, coming in as he saw Shaun slouched upwards in the bed. "Your awake." "Yeah," Shaun grunted. "I'm sorry, I took Kerry to his room and showed the boys their room as well. They just wanted to know where the booze was and asked if I'd mind them crashing on the couch, because they probably wouldn't make it upstairs," Jesse rolled his eyes. "I put Brian to bed too. He wasn't happy about it, but I put that new Ice Age movie in and he's tucked in bed, watching that. He wanted to get started on that Avenger's Lego set tonight," Jesse said, shaking his head. Jesse was talking about the gift Shaun had brought home for Brian this time. He'd given him the lego set after the adults had given Shaun his birthday gifts. Shaun had picked it up in California a few weeks ago. "I'll help him open it in the morning," Jesse said, shutting the bedroom door behind him, moving further into the room. Shaun hear the lock click. "Sounds good." "How about I give you the rest of your birthday present," Jesse said seductively, smiling at Shaun with sexy, half-lidded eyes. Shaun nodded, a lot more enthusiastically this time "That's what I've been waiting for." Jesse's smile widened. "I was thinking you could make me bleed …if you wanted. We haven't done that for a while." Shaun's interest in cutting had diminished sharply in the past couple years. Despite the violent, brutal lyrics he came up with, Shaun hadn't killed anyone else. Hadn't wanted to either. Shaun didn't cut himself in anger anymore. He didn't hurt anyone really. They'd experimented with bondage and such, however. They had a safe-word and it was all just fun and games in Shaun's book. Shaun didn't see his sex life as violent. It was just kinky. "I'd rather just tie your hands behind your back and fuck the shit out of your hot little body," Shaun said boldly. Jesse blushed. Shaun could see it from across the room. Jesse slowly walked towards the bed, towards Shaun, taking his clothes off jerkily as he went. Shaun grinned, reaching towards the bedside table where he knew they kept some lube, some cock rings, a couple lengths of ropes and a pair of handcuffs. The metal felt too impersonal tonight. Shaun wanted Jesse's wrists to bruise so he'd remember this for a while. Jesse reached the bed, climbing obediently into Shaun's lap. Shaun spread his legs easily, letting his heavy cock, which was already getting hard, just at the idea of what was about to happen, smack onto his thigh. Jesse fell face first into Shaun's crotch, taking Shaun's dick into his warm mouth. Shaun hissed and closed the door to the side table as his fingers wrapped around a thick length of rope. He dropped his hand commandingly onto Jesse's head, his eyes falling shut from the delicious pleasure of Jesse's wet mouth. The little redhead hooked his arms behind him and raised them up as high as they went. This arched Jesse's back and his ass popped out beautifully. Shaun quickly tied his wrists together before he dropped the other man's now bound wrists and grabbed fistfuls of his hair. Jesse had been letting his hair grow too. It was getting quite long, and was amazingly silky and soft. Jesse usually wore it up in a tight bun but it was down tonight and beautiful. It was like a sheet of satin but strong and Jesse's scalp wasn't too horribly sensitive either, Shaun knew from experience. So, Shaun felt free to wrap his hands in the silky strands, using them as handholds as he arched his hips up into Jesse's face. His cock was sliding deep into Jesse's open throat and Shaun panted, loving the feel of Jesse's throat muscles spasming in reaction. He pulled Jesse's mouth off of him suddenly, feeling like he was getting too close to coming. It had been a minute since they'd done this. Shaun would have fucked Jesse as soon as he got home, but his band and Ben had been around all day. Brian had been around. Lorenzo had been bumming around too. Fuck. Shaun yanked Jesse around and pushed him down into the pillows. Shaun roughly snagged some cushions and shoved them under Jesse's hips, raising the helpless man's body. Jesse squealed and rutted against the pillows. Shaun quickly reached over him, for the lube, and then he was rushing the process. His cock needed to be inside Jesse. Now. That's all he wanted. He pushed a single, slick finger up Jesse's asshole, moaning when Jesse gasped, his body shuddering helplessly. He was so sexy and hot. Shaun poured some more lube into the center of his palm and slicked his cock pronto. Then he grabbed another hunk of Jesse's long, silky hair and yanked him up and back. Jesse gasped, whining in pain as Shaun licked the side of his face. "Get ready baby," he hissed into Jesse's ear and then he forced his wet cock into Jesse's tight ass. Even after three years of fucking, his ass was still tight. Jesse had confided in him over the phone not too long ago, when Shaun had been in Nevada playing through the state, that he had been practicing anal kegel exercises during Shaun's absences from home. "To make our sex lives awesome, when you are here," he'd said and Shaun had used that line later when he'd masturbated alone on the tour bus. "You're so fucking hot…I love you," Shaun panted, between thrusts. Jesse was crying with pleasure. He was very tight. Shaun should have stretched him more, but Jesse had also admitted to liking the pain even. After all this time, he was turning into a complete slut…asking to get cut, getting excited by bondage. Loving the pain. Shaun yanked on Jesse's hair, pulling his head back, tilting it so Jesse's neck was exposed. Shaun sank his teeth into Jesse's throat and fucked him hard and deep. Straight into his colon. Jesse cried out. Wildly. Shaun was yet again, super glad for the soundproofed walls and Jesse came, his ass clenching crazily. Shaun couldn't control himself for much longer after that. He came as well, surrendering to the pleasure. He didn't feel like a loser, though. He was so fucking satisfied. He gently undid the ropes binding Jesse's wrists. Jesse turned over immediately, kissing Shaun, pulling him down on top of him, down to the bed. Shaun went willingly. They fell asleep sometime after that. Holding each other. Shaun wished it could have lasted forever. *** Shaun got woken up way earlier than he wanted the next day. He hadn't drank enough to have a hangover or anything but he felt like sht. It didn't help knowing he'd have to go and sit in some little room, with a stranger who thought they knew everything about him, smiling at him like robots, firing question after confusing question…. Shaun hated interviews. Kerry offered to escort him to and from the magazine's office and Shaun grunted. "Was that a yes?" Shaun glared at him. "Alright," Kerry nodded as if that were an acceptable answer. Shaun got dressed in black jeans and a band t-shirt. So, the same shit as normal, and went down to meet Kerry. "Would you like to stop somewhere for breakfast? We have time," Kerry said as they went out to his Porsche. He'd upgraded the Lexus long ago. "No," Shaun snapped, but followed Kerry to the car regardless. They were home for his fucking birthday and his guests got to sleep in, not him! Shaun, the lucky bastard, got to get his brain picked by someone no better than a paparazzi! Fuck this! "You don't have to be so upset. I promise. This will be simple and quick. We'll be back by noon." "Noon?!" Shaun glanced at the clock. It was 8 am! "We'll be back by then. I have a meeting at noon," Kerry said smoothly, starting his car. Shaun crossed his arms, pouting. As they started down the long, winding driveway, towards the secured gate, the Porsche started chiming. Some annoying warning sound. "You have to buckle up, Shaun," Kerry said and Shaun growled with frustration. "C'mon now." "This is fucking stupid! Just put us on the plane! I want to get to New York to set up!" Shaun cried, waving his arms in a burst of anger. "Ok?! I just want to play the next show already! Fuck!!" Kerry was silent, staring ahead at the gate. He had to pull up to the standing keypad to enter the exit code before the gate opened but he glided through, pulling out onto the road. The warning sound chimed again and Shaun roared with anger. He nearly punched the damn window out in his haste to grab the seatbelt and secure it into the latch. The sound stopped immediately. Shaun literally felt trapped. "You haven't been this angry in a while," Kerry said. "You almost sound like a child," he said. "Didn't you just turn 21?" Shaun gaped at his manager. "What the fuck?" Kerry laughed. "Listen, I know you're nervous because of the last interview—" Shaun scoffed loudly. "Fucking UNDERSTATEMENT of the year!" Kerry didn't even wince. How and why had he become such a FUCKING badass?!!? "Nobody needs to know ANYTHING about my private live! They weren't SUPPPOSED to ask me about anything other than the concerts, the album or the music! They IMMEDIATELY asked me about Jesse!" Kerry hesitated. "I warned them. I told them not to ask any prying questions—" "Whatever," Shaun, his arms tightening across his chest, glared out the window. At the passing desert. Arizona was hot and red and the space seemed to stretch on forever out here. The sky was so wide and blue against the red landscape. It was really a sight to see. The red rocky cliffs running jagged against the cloudless blue. They got on the highway and started driving south. Shaun wondered where they were going. He had a feeling the reporter, journalist, whoever the fuck was interviewing, wasn't out here in the middle of nowhere. Shaun hadn't picked a location that was populated. When he came home, he wanted to get away from everybody. Shaun was serious about his privacy but the more famous he got, the more serious the media got about trying to find out what was so private. They drove and drove and drove. Shaun checked the clock. A half hour had passed and they were getting closer to Phoenix. All signs started pointing towards Phoenix being their destination after 45 minutes of driving. Shaun glared out the window. He couldn't wait until this was over. They'd have another hour's drive back home then when the fucking interview was over. Shaun sighed impatiently, drumming his fingers against the armrest. 10 minutes later they got off the freeway. They were driving directly into the heart of downtown Phoenix. Immediately they hit traffic. The lights changed too quickly and they sat through four cycles before they finally inched their way through the green light. "See that tall building to the right? The one covered in windows?" Shaun grunted in acknowledgement. "That's Metal Magazine's Arizona headquarters. They have a girl who's very interested in talking to you." "Great," Shaun said. They fell into silence again, as Kerry guided them through the busy streets. They got slowly closer to the Metal building and Shaun grew steadily more impatient. They just needed to get over there! Why did they have to go through all these people to do it! Shaun glared viciously out the window at the flood of crossing pedestrians. They'd had to slow to a stop because the pedestrians had gotten the walk signal. Fucking stupid assholes! Somehow, finally, they were pulling into the parking deck below the tall Metal building. Kerry drove to the right, heading to a row of empty spots labeled for visitors. They parked and went straight down to the elevator lit up against the back wall. Kerry took out his pocket notebook from the inside of his suit jacket. A pen followed closely after. "Head up to the 10th floor," he said, reading his notes. "We're to ask for Kathy." Shaun crossed his arms. "It won't be that bad," Kerry said, almost as if to a child. A stupid one, obviously. Shaun bared his teeth at his manager. "It better not be." They got to the 10th floor before too long. The doors opened to a luxurious office. There were white carpets, and the wallpaper was black, with some sort of intricate design embossed on it. The many love seats and the few arm chairs were vibrant red and the side and coffee tables that flanked the seating were in black and white. There were pictures of many famous metal bands on the walls, all of them covered in signatures. Shaun wondered if he'd get a picture on the wall like that and he started to feel a little better about the whole idea. Kerry left his side, going to the front desk where a young woman with her hair in a tight bun sat in front of a long mirror. She was typing away at her laptop, visible just over the top of the desk. But she looked up as Kerry approached. "We're here to see Kathy," he said blandly. "Oh," she said, looking over Kerry's shoulder at Shaun. Shaun scowled at her and moved to sit in the nearest chair. The girl's eyes slowly turned to focus on Kerry, again. "I'll let her know that you're here." she said, before grabbing up her desk phone and punching in a couple numbers. Shaun didn't hear what she said but the girl watched him the whole time she spoke into the phone. Shaun started to feel uneasy again. He looked intently at the wall across from him. There was a framed picture of Pantera in their early years. It too was covered in signatures. Before Shaun could get up and look closer, a thin woman with black hair, bangs and a headband on her head, opened the door behind the front desk. She was wearing a black blouse and a black and white plaid skirt. Black stockings. Black Mary Jane shoes…she reminded Shaun a bit of Gretchen. She was a basic goth, pretty maybe, but basic. "Shaun," the woman said. "Nice to meet you, I'm Kathy." Shaun got up uncomfortably. "This is the lady I was talking about," Kerry said, going up to shake Kathy's hand. "One of her first articles published with Metal Magazine was a careful dissertation on your first album, Shaun." Shaun edged closer as Kathy began laughing. "What can I say, I'm an old fan." "Her review was very well received. It did us a lot of good, advertising wise. And we didn't have to spend a dime on her," Kerry laughed and Kathy curtsied, pursing her lips, looking cute. She didn't have the black lipstick and fingernails that Gretchen still liked to wear, Shaun noticed. She had cherry red on her lips. It wasn't unattractive. "And the topics of conversation that are off limits?" Kerry prompted and Kathy was brought up short a bit. "Nothing too personal!" she said enthusiastically, turning to Shaun. She clapped her hands together. "Why don't we go find somewhere to sit down real quick! Then we'll run through some questions about the next half of your US tour!" "Ok," Shaun said neutrally. Shaun wanted to talk about the tour. He wanted lots of fans, new and old, to come. The rest of the tour was going to be awesome and when it was over, Shaun as coming home to work on his next album. This would be his third and most epic. Shaun, in fact, was probably up for an interview no matter how much he wanted to avoid it. But even with Kathy's reassurance that her questions would stay away from things that were personal, Shaun didn't feel much better. "C'mom!" Kathy opened the door behind the desk and gestured for Shaun to follow her in. The receptionist was still watching Shaun, and he carefully avoided her gaze. "I'll be waiting out here," Kerry told him, just before Kathy shut him out and put an arm around Shaun's shoulders, drawing him near. "Let's go to my office," she said and Shaun tried not to tense up. Why was she touching him? They walked down a hallway, taking a left and passing a number of offices with closed doors. The back wall of the hallway was studded with windows and going around the corner there brought them before a large open room of cubicles, most of which had occupants. Most of them were young and nicely dressed. "I'm just off the activity's room," she said, leading the way through the rows of cubicles. People were looking at him, stupid college-looking kids with neat hair and ties and button down shirts and Shaun tried to sneer at them all. He tried to anyway. At the other side of the room was a fuckton of copiers and fax machines. There were a few doors, one of which was labeled Activities, and the entrance to another hallway with doors to bathrooms. Kathy took him into the door closest to activities, but basically right next to the fucking bathroom. She finally let Shaun go and opened the door to her office. It was a small space. Just a desk big enough for a computer and a small writing space and a desk chair was behind it, there was also a more uncomfortable plastic one sitting on the other side of the desk. She had a window though and Shaun went there first, looking out onto the street far below. "So, the band's heading to New York next," Kathy said as she took a seat behind her computer. She started typing, her sharp eyes occasionally flicking to Shaun with interest even though he did nothing but gaze out the window. "Yeah. It's the last leg of our tour." "And this is the second one?" Kathy verified. Shaun nodded. "And how would you say you compare this one to the first?" Shaun started to relax. He'd never liked interviews but was just another part of the life of a celebrity. Shaun still couldn't believe he was famous sometimes. The concerts were always a good reminder. And the arenas, the stadiums, the amphitheaters Defaced filled? The album sales? Oh yeah, Shaun was rolling in money and fame. "It's awesome," Shaun said, smiling faintly out the window. "Being on tour. It's just easier this time since we all know a little more what to expect. Very little home time, very little privacy…I've got a short temper myself, so I'm not always the most pleasant to be with. Especially in the tight quarters of the tour bus." Kathy looked back at her computer screen, typing madly away. Shaun rolled his eyes. He'd noticed, early on, that journalists, guys on the radio, whoever they sent from whatever form of media they covered, everyone enjoyed hearing Shaun's flaws. "It makes you human," Jesse had told him once. "It makes you accessible. There's a lot of people out there that worship you, desperately," Jesse had looked at him with shimmering eyes and Shaun had felt his heart swell with affection. "You are a god," the little redhead had said, his lips twitching upwards at the corners and Shaun had gently cupped his chin, rubbing his thumb along his pink lips. Jesse took a deep breath, letting it out in a shaky laugh. "It's a little overwhelming at times!" and Shaun hadn't really understood what he meant. What was Jesse overwhelmed about? He'd kissed him then, trying to impress upon the beautiful redhead that he should never be overwhelmed…or uncomfortable around him. But Shaun had taken the advice. He'd started trying to sound more human and as always, the media ate it up. "What do you like best about being on tour?" Kathy asked, still very focused on her computer. Shaun propped his arm up on the windowsill, tracing the ledge with an absent, calloused finger. His favorite part of tour? Besides the shows, he loved when Jesse and Brian came to visit. He loved fucking Jesse in big fancy hotels, on planes, in the tour bus and backstage. Brian was always easily distracted. And he wasn't bad to be around anyway. He'd never really lost his hero worship for Shaun…it still warmed his heart every time Brian looked up to him with his trusting blue eyes. Pretty much everything Shaun had to say, Brian listened raptly too. Shaun couldn't say all that though. "I love being on stage," Shaun said. "I love connecting with the audience. It's different every night, in every new city. People are so pumped and excited to see us…its really intense. I feel honored that I get to do this every night." Kathy typed something briefly. She was smiling suddenly, turning to Shaun her eye glinting. "So, why the break? What brings you back home to Arizona?" "Oh," Shaun looked away. He'd been convinced for a minute that Kathy was about to get predatory. Shaun was pretty good at interviews at this point, but he still had a hard time controlling his temper. People sometimes asked him the wrong thing, usually something about his personal life – his love life – and Shaun would slowly start to lose his patience. It had happened several times before although it was rare. Reporters latched onto his discomfort and literally attacked him. "It's their job to do that," Kerry had said after some bitch on the radio had made an attack against his privacy. "To expose vulnerabilities. That's what sells. It's personal, but it's not actually personal." Shaun had liked his explanation much less than Jesse's but again, Shaun had taken it to heart. "It's my birthday," Shaun said. "Yesterday it was anyway. I had a low key party with my band and a couple friends." "Ohhhhh!" Kathy cooed. "How exciting!" "I guess," Shaun snorted, turning back to the window. "Do you mind me asking how old you are?" Kathy asked, and it really seemed like she meant it. She wasn't just using a common expression. Is age too personal? Shaun cracked a grin. "I'm 21. Finally legal," he said. "Not that that changes anything." "Of course not!" Kathy typed some more. Her fingers clacking away at the keyboard. "What was your first drink last night? For the occasion." "Miller High Life," Shaun said. "Isn't that a little low brow for you?" Kathy asked, pausing, looking at Shaun with something like concern. "I could introduce you to some much better alcoholic fare. If you were interested." Shaun laughed awkwardly. He had no idea what that was supposed to mean. "Ben, one of my original band members picked it out on the beer run last night. It's just something he likes," Shaun impatiently pushed some of his hair out of his face. "How many more questions do you have?" he asked tensely, his act of friendliness cracking already. "Just a few," Kathy said immediately, bouncing back with almost no reaction. She started typing again, her eyes focusing on the computer screen. Shaun was beginning to feeling uncomfortable again and impatient and he would be glad to have this done and over with and if Kathy really was just a few questions from being done, Shaun could probably get through it. None of the questions had been especially prying. It was just Kathy's vague offer to get alcohol which was weirding him out. Maybe she just wanted to continue the interview over drinks, Shaun thought to himself. Maybe she wants to see if I really am used to getting drunk. Maybe she's hoping I'll spill all my secrets as soon as some alcohol touches my tongue… "Where and when is the last show on this tour? Do you know yet?" Kathy continued. Shaun paused a beat, recalling the facts. "I think we'll be in Alabama, in March," Shaun said. "So just a few more months," Kathy said to herself, her fingers flying on the keyboard. "I've got a really important question, that all the fans right now are dying to know," Kathy said, smiling. The question couldn't' have been that important because it took so long for Kathy to look Shaun in the eye again. Shaun waited impatiently for Kathy to stop typing and finally, the goth journalist looked up at him. "Do you have any plans for the next album?" Another easy one, Shaun smiled faintly. "Yes. I've already got a few new songs I'm working on. I haven't decided on a theme yet, so my ideas are a little random right now. I'm trying everything, from new topics and sounds and instruments. I've been trying to add some of the new techniques I've been picking up along the road, too, to change the final product," Shaun said. "I've been had an idea for a while now…maybe collaborating with another artist to create something completely different. I've always worked with my band to hash out their individual parts. The only thing I do solely is write lyrics. I would just hate to be a one trick pony. I want to change with the times. I want to stay fresh…and brutal!" Shaun glanced back at Kathy. The goth chick was smiling, typing that last part in rather decisively. "I don't want my music to get old. I've already changed a lot. As a person. My music can't possibly stay the same." "That's a pretty interesting perspective," Kathy said, nodding. She typed it all in. "Well, alright! I think that'll do it." Shaun smiled. Whew! What a fucking relief! Kathy smiled back at him, her mouth slanting to the side, awkwardly, the longer they stared at each other. Shaun uncomfortably looked away. He took a few steps forward, just hoping to get to the door. He knew the way out. He didn't need to be lead or told twice. The interview was fucking over. "One more thing the fans have been wondering about…" she said and Shaun felt frozen to the spot, in the middle of her tiny office now, behind her plastic guest chair. "There's a rumor floating around," Kathy said, piercing Shaun with her stare. "That you're gay. What do you have to say about that?" "What?" Shaun snapped. "Well, I guess even I've been wondering about this too," Kathy said, pretending to look embarrassed. Shaun felt sick. "You're dead sexy," she said and Shaun actually groaned in disgust. Kathy ignored him. "You're female fan base is growing rapidly, but it's widely known that you don't sleep around? With anyone?" "What? Are you hoping I'll fuck you?" Shaun snorted. "Well, I'm not fucking interested. And I'm not interested in girls who throw themselves at me!" he said. "It's not attractive!" Kathy, typing madly, was still able to ask: "What do you find attractive. What are you interested in?" Shaun growled. He glared hatefully at the woman and started to turn and storm out of the office. He got to the door, wrenching it open and staring out into the sea of cubicles. Behind him, Kathy had stood up from her office chair, her hands forever poised at her keyboard. This was exactly like the last interview! Everything had gone fine, perfect even, until suddenly, someone was asking him which team he batted for!!! This wasn't going to stop! Shaun slammed Kathy's office door shut and turned back to her. Kathy flinched. Just the tiniest bit. "Do you know what? I am gay," Shaun said. Kathy blinked. She sat back down, typing rapidly, as usual. Shaun sneered at her. "Is it a repressed feeling for you?" Shaun snorted. "No. I have a long-time boyfriend. Right here in Arizona." Kathy's words per minute spiked. She glanced, wide-eyed at Shaun, before her eyes zoomed back to the screen. "That's why you don't sleep around?" "Yes," Shaun snapped. "I'm committed to my boyfriend. We have a kid together. A little boy. It's my boyfriend's kid, biologically, but I'm thinking about adopting him legally. " Kathy smirked. "Wow. Are you thinking about asking your boyfriend to marry you? Since your adopting his kid? Gay marriage is legal now. Lots people have support for the gay community, you know." "I know!" Shaun felt himself blushing. Kathy paused to peer at him, as if she'd be able to zero in on more embarrassing facts if she only looked at him. Shaun sighed, frustrated and pissed off and already doubting that this was a good idea. He was about ready to go up to New York! He'd been there once. It was a rough city…Shaun was about to go there after admitting to a popular magazine that he was gay! This shit would probably be on the news tonight! It was so embarrassing and shocking and whatever! This was bullshit! "I think it's kind of cute," Kathy said suddenly and Shaun glared at her. "Well, I do! You must love him…your boyfriend," she said stupidly and Shaun flicked her off. "Of course I love him! He's a part of my family!" "Then you should marry him. Make it official," Kathy said smartly. "Then everybody will know why you abstain from sex. It's because you get it good at home!" Shaun was beat red by this point. He shifted awkwardly from foot to foot. "Um…I guess." "C'mon!" Kathy said and Shaun was again, reminded strongly of Gretchen. His drummer had never actually pressured him to come out to the public. She'd gotten married herself, in the end, but she'd never said much about Shaun doing the same thing. Yet again, Shaun felt like Gretchen and Ben had some sort of straight privilege and the fact that they never mentioned it, made Shaun think it was real. Fuck yeah it was real. But this stupid bitch was encouraging him. She was going to expose him to the world anyway. So Shaun felt incredibly confused on which side to take. "Maybe I will marry him," Shaun said, tilting his chin up. Kathy clapped her hands together before returning them to the keyboard. Ready for any more breaking news. "I don't care what anyone thinks," Shaun said, even though he did. Kathy typed that out apparently. "Of course not," she said. "He means more to me than anything," Shaun said. "I met him at a really tough spot in my life. During high school actually," Shaun laughed nervously. "High school is hard for most of us," Kathy said and Shaun wondered if she was just saying that or if she had actually had a rough time in school. Whatever. "We've been together ever since," Shaun said. "That's really cool" she said. "Really romantic." Shaun shrugged. "Is that everything then? Are you fucking done with me? I'm tired of being asked stupid questions like these. My manager said, nothing fucking personal!" She smiled and Shaun felt like hitting her. He started to regret his decision to spill the fucking beans at last, but there wasn't much he could do now. He got up and left. Kathy didn't insist on following him out. He found his way back to reception and as he entered, Kerry stood up from the chair Shaun had vacated earlier. He'd had one leg crossed over the other, his big phone was out, he was probably reading emails from the label or something. Now he stood at attention, his green eyes stood out sharply in his sophisticated glasses. "How did it go?" Kerry asked, a faint smile tracing his mouth. Shaun bared his teeth and Kerry's smile disappeared. The angry musician jabbed the call button for the elevator and waited with arms crossed. Feeling almost itchy with impatience. The door opened finally and Shaun charged inside, Kerry hot on his heels. "She asked something personal, didn't she?" "Uh, yeah!" Shaun cried as the elevator doors slid shut. Kerry, wordlessly, pushed the button for the parking deck and the elevator slowly started its downward climb. "And guess what?! I answered her!" "What?" "She asked if the rumors were true! Was I'm really gay!" Shaun yelled. "I didn't even know there were rumors like that!!" "I was just talking to Janet at the label," Kerry said. "They just paid a hefty sum of money to kill a TMZ story on that very thing. I think someone sold them a picture, it was an old one, but it was one of you and Jesse." "Well, I told her I'm thinking of marrying him," Shaun said bitterly. "I told her I'm going to adopt Brian. She thought it was cute." Kerry covered his face with a hand. "The label will be furious." "Fuck them," Shaun said angrily. He couldn't do anything now and Kerry had gone over the contract with them closely before they'd all signed on with the record label. The line, 'absolutely, under no circumstances, are you allowed to be gay!'…hadn't existed. "You're comfortable? Doing this? Coming out? Now, while on tour?" Kerry asked and Shaun grit his teeth. "You're the one that dragged me here! To answer questions about the tour and the next album. I did that. She then needled me about being gay and why I never sleep with fans or with celebrities or with anyone! I fucking got so angry, I just about walked out!" "Maybe you should have." "Maybe I should!" Shaun snapped. "But people are wondering and they're going to keep asking me because of it. The TMZ bullshit, this…this is just the beginning and they're already uncovering shit." Kerry was quiet for a minute and finally the elevator stopped and they got out. "That's a positive spin I can put on the situation," Kerry said. "When I explain to the label that your apparently coming out in Metal Magazine." "Fuck you," Shaun hurried past him and into the parking garage. Shaun spotted Kerry's car and fled for the safety and privacy. He felt exposed all of a sudden and dumb. The ride out of Phoenix took slightly less time than the ride in. They were on the highway in under 30 minutes and started the hour long trip, going at a brisk pace. "I just…"Shaun said, after a long bout of silence. They hadn't said much since they'd left the parking garage, but Shaun's mind had been turning in circles for the last 40 minutes or so and he suddenly had a question. He had an idea actually, but he'd get around to that eventually. "What was that?" Kerry asked. "I just never thought I'd marry Jesse. I just never really thought about it." "Is that why you decided to come clean?" Kerry asked. "Are you paving the way—" "For what? A gay parade?" Shaun laughed. Kerry smirked but he didn't really look like he was joking. "I wasn't planning on any of it. I just said what I said." Kerry nodded. "I actually really like the idea," Shaun said. "That birthday thing we did last night was stupid but, I loved being with Jesse. Fuck, I could have just come home, by myself, given Brian that stupid Avenger Lego set and then taken Jesse to bed. We would have gotten up later and he'd have made dinner and I'd have helped Brian with his new legos and once we'd all eaten dinner, I could have passed out on the couch in peace! Nobody would have bothered me!" Kerry smirked. "I told Gretchen you probably would have liked to skip the party. You may be 21 but we all know you've been drinking for much longer than a day. But who was I to call a halt to a band celebration? She called me a nerd." Shaun shrugged. "Sorry," he apologized lamely before he rushed to ask his question. "I was just wondering, do you think I can afford to not get on the plane tonight?" Kerry glanced at him, raising an eyebrow. Shaun looked ahead, out the window. They were passing other cars at an increasing rate. Kerry was obviously in a hurry. Shaun checked the time, it was nearly noon and Shaun remembered Kerry saying something about having to get to a meeting at noon. "I just wanted to do my birthday over again. Just me and Jesse," Shaun said. "Can't I just get on a plane in the morning? The show isn't until tomorrow night." "I don't know, Shaun," Kerry said. "I'd love to indulge you…" "Then let me do it," Shaun said forcefully. "I think I want to propose." Kerry actually gaped. "That would be interesting." "Don't be a nerd," Shaun said. "I'll be in New York tomorrow afternoon." Kerry shook his head. "They'll have me removed as manager. The label will replace me with someone sane." Shaun snorted. "Over my dead body," Shaun said. "We'll just start our own label. If we have too. Then we'll have full control." Now it was Kerry's turn to laugh. "Alright. Fine. I'll have a ticket waiting for you tomorrow morning. I'll text you the details later tonight." Shaun grinned. "Awesome!" "But if you're late, it's my neck on the line." "I won't be," Shaun said, settling in for the remainder of the ride. They got home a little after noon. Kerry had to take off immediately, although Shaun wasn't really sure where he was off too. Shaun didn't see Ben's car or the rental they'd all been sharing home from the airport, but Shaun went in to check. Jesse and Brian were in the living room, reading a book. Jesse and the little boy were lounging in the middle of the sectional, Jesse had his back to the sofa and Brian was in his lap, lying back against Jesse's chest. It was a peaceful sight. "Hey," Shaun said, coming into the room. He loved this room. It had large windows on both sides of the room and they were open, letting in the dry air. Jesse had the ceiling fans running so the gauzy curtains were forever blowing lazily in the breeze. "Shaun!" Brian leapt up, coming to throw his arms around Shaun's waist. His head came up to Shaun's chest now. He was getting bigger. It was fun to watch. Shaun ruffled the little blond's hair. "Where is everyone?" "Ben and Gretchen took the baby home pretty early. Just after you left for the interview, I think," Jesse said. He was bouncing off the couch too, now. Leaving the book behind. He came to join Brian in the hug fest and feeling strangely emotional, Shaun hugged them back. "What about Teddy and Andrew?" "They're out…doing something," Jesse said, rolling his eyes. "I didn't ask." Shaun snorted. "Good for you." Brian tore away from all the hugging. "Hey! I'm almost done with the Avenger's set! Come see, Shaun!" Shaun laughed, watching the little kid run off towards the stairs. Not even pausing to see if he were being followed. "It really is cool," Jesse said. "I was up there helping him earlier. We paused for lunch and a story." Shaun gently stroked Jesse's warm cheek. He was always so tan and gorgeous now. The sun did him wonders. Streaks of his red hair were starting to come out blond, and his freckles had faded into the new golden color of his skin. And his eyes, that was the best part. They stood out so brilliantly on his face now. He looked like a little golden dream. Jesse smiled at him, happy, content, wanting for nothing but some more of Shaun's time. Shaun couldn't help leaning in, right there, and kissing him soundly. "Mmm," Jesse moaned. Shaun pulled back, licking Jesse's soft throat, his neck, sucking at his warm flesh. Jesse started to laugh. "How was the interview! It must have been as easy as Kerry said it'd be. You're in a good mood!" Shaun didn't want to ruin the surprise. "Me and Kerry had a little talk. I told him how much I hated that stupid party last night and asked him if I could skip the airport tonight." Jesse blinked his brilliant blue eyes at Shaun, looking nothing but confused. "The rest of the band is going to New York tonight. I'm staying for a little private date with you. You were the best part of this whole mess. " "Seriously?" Shaun nodded. Jesse yelped and jumped up into Shaun's arms. "One more night! Yes!" Shaun twirled him around, laughing with his cheerful companion. He'd have to leave and get some things organized and put together to his liking, but money always helped with that. And for once, Shaun had no shortage of that. *** "So, where are we going again?" Jesse asked as they tore off down the interstate. They were in Shaun's Hummer. He'd shirked on the speed and went for the versatility and power. The Hummer went fast enough anyway. He was happy with it. "You'll see when we get there," Shaun said evasively, loving the sweet little pout Jesse got on his face. "Ok," Jesse said, helplessly. Like there was anything he could do. After making sure the band had cleared out and that Jesse was amendable, Shaun had gone out to set everything up. Dinner. A little entertainment. And of course, Shaun had gone to the closest and the best jewelry story he could find. He'd nearly had to drive all the way back to Phoenix but he'd found something slightly closer. Shaun literally had a ring in his pocket. Brian was with Lorenzo. Kerry had texted Shaun a little while ago, saying all the band members were present for the boarding of the flight to New York and that he'd left a ticket for him with a 9am boarding time. Shaun wasn't thrilled about the early hour, yet again, but he was going to bear with it. Tonight was going to be special. It was going to be worth it. "Brace yourself," Shaun told his little red haired companion, spotting the sign ahead. Someone had put it there specifically. It was low to the ground and no larger than an envelope but Shaun had been looking for it specifically. It had the faint image of a rose on it. This was the sign he'd been looking for. There was no one behind them. Shaun turned the car sharply off the highway and went off-road. "What the hell!" Jesse yelled. He grabbed Shaun's arm, his fingers digging in. "Relax," Shaun told him. "I know what I'm doing." "Are you sure?! Did you take something?" Jesse asked and Shaun rolled his eyes. "I'm 100% sure." Jesse fell quiet, looking cautiously out the front of the hummer, gripping Shaun's forearm with his left and his armrest with the other arm. Shaun turned the brights on. He squinted through the dust the Hummer's rapid pace was kicking up. They said it wouldn't be far off the highway. About a mile into the desert. Shaun thought he saw something and he slammed on the brakes. "Shaun!" Jesse squealed but Shaun barely heard him. He was waiting for the dust to settle. Ahead, right smack dab in the middle of nowhere, was a tent. The walls were made of flowing gauzy curtains, kind of like in Shaun's living room. The whole thing was draped in tea lights. Shaun drove a little closer and Jesse finally saw what had snagged Shaun's attention. "What's that?" "Our table for dinner," Shaun said, turning the Hummer off and reaching across the car to kiss Jesse's soft lips. "It's kind of a surprise." "What?" Jesse blinked. "It's your birthday. " "I know," Shaun gestured for Jesse to wait and he got out, going around to the redhead's door. It was cool out, in the desert at night and Shaun was dressed in some form fitting jeans and thermal. He'd gotten a new pair a while ago, but he was still wearing big ass kicker boots. The fame had changed a lot for Shaun, but not his fashion sense. About the only thing new was the face paint and they'd been doing that for a while now. Shaun helped Jesse out of the car and put an arm around him. He led the boy towards the tent and as soon as they got inside a female hostess and a young male chef greeted them inside. This was another expensive splurge. An on-the-spot restaurant who brought luxury amenities to any place you could imagine. Shaun had dropped a couple thousand dollars over the phone that afternoon to ensure these guys would meet him and Jesse out here tonight. But this was obviously legit and Shaun was curious to try the food he'd gotten details on earlier. Whoever this young chef was, he was a world renowned chef, and knew how to impress. "Good evening gentlemen," the girl was young too and was pretty and petite. She had dark hair tied back in a ponytail and was dressed all in black. The chef at her side was tall with tattoos going up his arms which were displayed due to his rolled up sleeves. He was wearing all black too, with a white apron and a white hat. His dark curly hair was shaved up one side and he had a couple rings in in his face. His ears had spikes through them, too. Stupid gage things. "Hi," Jesse said, looking from the hostess to the chef. He was smiling pleasantly. "What is this place? Why is this here?" The young girl smiled, answering politely as though she did this often. The chef crossed his arms, saying nothing. "We're part of a luxury food company. We cater to the more…romantic demands of our customers," the girl said, beaming. "We can meet and surprise them anytime, anywhere, with food and venue." "Wow!" Jesse said, looking towards Shaun now. "You set this up?" "He sure did!" the hostess said cheerfully. "I actually talked to Shaun this afternoon when he set everything up." "Wow!" Jesse said again and Shaun tried to place her voice. A female had helped him on the phone earlier but he couldn't remember what she sounded like. He hadn't been paying attention to faceless girls on the phone. "I'm Carly," the girl said. "And this is our world renowned chef, Max Stein!" If they were supposed to recognize the name, Shaun wasn't sure, but Jesse immediately introduced himself, giving Shaun's name as well, even though these people obviously knew who they were. "Well, why don't we get you two seated and I can get you two something to drink while Max goes back and gets started on the food!" Carly said and Jesse followed her, glancing excitedly back at Shaun. Shaun trailed after them, letting Max pass him by, disappearing through a solid white curtain. It must have been the cooking area beyond there. The tent wasn't very large and they were already standing in the biggest space it had to offer. The tea lights were hanging from the tent's frame, and there was a small table for two set up in the middle, under all the lights. The table had a candle as well, and a simple display of flowers. Besides the table, which had a view through the gauzy curtains of the dark, wide expanse of the dark desert beyond, shimmering under the light of the moon, the room had some kind of bar set up. After Carly sat them at the table, already laid out with polished silverware and delicate looking plates, she walked to stand behind the bar, asking them what they'd like to drink. Jesse ordered something girly and sweet, his voice soft and adorable. He looked at Shaun nervously after he'd ordered, as if he'd gone over the top in his drink choice. Shaun smirked at him and ordered a whisky. He was feeling kind of nervous too, all of a sudden. He hoped everything would go well tonight. He hoped he could actually go through with this stupid proposal. He always wanted Jesse in his life, that was something he'd accepted long ago, but marriage? Shaun didn't want Jesse seeing this stupid article, the one where Kathy was going to tell the whole world he was in love with a boy and was going to ask him to marry him…Shaun wanted to actually make that true, before Jesse saw it. and it broke his heart. Shaun really hadn't been thinking today…he hadn't wanted to come out. AT FUCKING ALL. But he had. And he wasn't going to cower and hide and be embarrassed. He was going to hold his head up and continue with the tour he'd promised he'd do. He wasn't going to be a pussy. People could hate him because of his choice in mates, but Shaun didn't need them. He was pretty sure he'd weather this embarrassment and come out on top after all. He was pretty sure anyway. Carly brought their drinks to the table, bringing little glasses of ice water along with the alcohol. "I'm going to go check on Max!" she said cheerfully, before dodging back through the white curtain. Shaun watched her go. "Mmm, she's really good at cosmos," Jesse said, sipping from his red drink. "Good," Shaun said, turning back to his boyfriend. He took a rough drink off his whisky, stifling the urge to cough afterwards. He just wanted to be calmed and relaxed. He just wanted to get drunk. "This is pretty awesome, honey, but why are you treating me? I wish you have let me try to surprise you." "You already did. That pigeon tosser was cool," Shaun said. Jesse rolled his eyes. "I bought it off eBay. It was nothing special." "The sex was nice," Shaun reminded him. "Yeah, and if Lorenzo has Brian asleep by the time we get back, I think we may be able to try again," Jesse said, smirking. "I just wanted to be you," Shaun said softly, lowering his voice. They were basically alone and Shaun couldn't even hear the hostess and the chef talking over the sound of the soft wind blowing, the sounds of nature…"I just wanted to be alone with you." "Sucks we had to come all the way out here," Jesse said. "I mean, this is awesome! I don't mean anything against your idea! I just can't wait until your home," Jesse said, looking a bit panicked but Shaun just laughed. "I love you," Shaun leaned over the table to kiss Jesse on the mouth. Jesse eagerly opened his mouth, licking submissively at Shaun's lower lip. Shaun sucked Jesse's tongue into his mouth, tasting his sweet alcoholic drink inside his mouth, Shaun drew back moments before Carly returned, arriving with something on a tray. "Garlic and Herb Shrimp Crostinis," Carly said, completely blank faced. If she'd seen them macking, she didn't have a reaction to it. Shaun was glad for her discretion. He'd chosen this odd and unusual dinner tonight so that they wouldn't be observed. So that they wouldn't wind up in some paparazzi rag, the butt of everyone's joke. Carly left the food and quickly cleared out. "If you need anything at all, just call for me," she said as she ducked back into the kitchen. Shaun had a feeling she was just giving them a little privacy and he appreciated it. "This is good too!" Jesse hummed as he popped one of the little appetizers into his mouth. "Mmm! I'll definitely have to try making this!" Shaun tried one of the crostinis as well. It was covered in shrimp, and some kind of white spread that was creamed with the garlic and chopped herbs. It was pretty good. "I guess I have a confession to make," Shaun said. Jesse tilted his head to the side. He reached out, and Shaun easily took his hand. The ring in his back pocket burned and Shaun couldn't wait to surprise the little redhead more tonight. "Remember the last interview Kerry forced me into?" "Yes," Jesse said, squeezing his hand. "Last month, you called me afterwards, yelling up a storm." "Yeah, they were fucking riddling me with me questions about my sexuality. Well, it happened again," Shaun said roughly, still feeling a bit raw about the whole thing. He was taking it remarkably well, however. Even he knew it. He could have stormed out of Kathy's office, like a little bitch. He could have smashed up her tiny workspace. He could get away with it. He had money now. Nobody could touch him. Jesse was peering at him, his eyes glinting in the hazy candle light. "Are you ok?" "Yeah," Shaun sighed. "But I told them everything this time. I spilled the beans. Finally." "About us?" Jesse asked, his voice low, shocked. His eyes were widening too. "Yeah," Shaun repeated, not looking away this time. Locking his eyes with Jesse's. "I'm ready to come clean. I don't care anymore. I love you. You're one of the best parts of my life. I love touring. I love playing shows for the fans. And I love you too. I love coming home to you, spending time with you. I love you being in my family." Jesse's eyes started to shimmer with tears. "I love you too, Shaun." This was getting remarkably soppy and so Shaun smirked and reached across the table to wipe a little moisture from his boyfriend's beautiful eyes. "So, I guess this isn't just a celebration for my birthday. It's for us too. For you. I wanted to celebrate this relationship I have with you." Jesse just looked at him, his eyes burning with passion, his cheeks pink and sweet, flushed with emotion. Shaun kissed him again. The kiss was long and satisfying and there were no interruptions this time. When they broke away from one another, Jesse fanned his face. "I'm getting a little hot and bothered," he said with a nervous laugh and Shaun glanced down at the redhead's crotch. He saw a telltale tent in the other man's pants and he chuckled darkly. "Let's finish dinner. Then we can drive out a little further. We can make love under the stars, like we used to." Jesse bit his lip. "This is so romantic, Shaun. Thank you." Shaun scooted his chair a little closer and put his arm around the other man. He picked up his whisky glass and finished the harsh drink. He felt loose though. Comfortable. They chatted quietly for a couple more minutes before Carly was emerging from the kitchen again, brandishing another course to the fancy dinner. It was a bowl of soup and a fancy salad. Shaun didn't even listen to her explanation of what it was. He was so busy watching Jesse's flushed face, watching his reactions to the food. He was a lot like Brian. He was easily pleased and doing anything for him was a joy. Shaun was incredibly glad he'd done this, thought of this, and again, he thought of the ring in his pocket. Carly stayed around to get them another drink. Then she vanished again, clearing the table of their empty plates. "This is sooo good! I'm getting so many ideas of what I want to try next!" Jesse said excitedly as he tasted his soup. Shaun brushed some of his long golden red hair from his face, loving how heated his cheeks felt. They wined and dined for another 40 minutes. Carly was friendly and knew when to get the fuck out of the way. She didn't hinder the romance in any way and Shaun didn't regret the large sum of money he'd dropped on this venture. This had been just as good as he'd been promised. "Good night!" Carly said, as she took away their dessert plates. The last course had been some divine chocolate dish. Lots of chocolate, caramel and ice cream. Shaun had actually kissed some caramel from Jesse's bottom lip. He'd been so cute, humming over his dessert, praising Max, the gods, Shaun, for the dish before him. Shaun was leading him back to the Hummer now and after stowing his beloved in the car, Shaun went around to the driver's side, climbing in. Jesse didn't say anything, he just smiled and leaned back. Waiting for whatever was next. Shaun's heart skipped a beat. Jesse had no idea what Shaun had in store for them next… The Hummer had a navigational system and next on the list, Shaun had to drive slightly northwest and look for a tarp laid out on the desert floor. Shaun took off in correct direction, hitting the brights again. "I hope we don't get lost out here," Jesse said casually. "Driving around off road." "I'll just turn on the GPS," Shaun said confidently. "Plus, I know where I'm going." "Ok," Jesse said cheerfully, willing to believe Shaun at face value. Shaun liked that. They drove for a couple minutes. Northwest. Before low and behold, Shaun came across the X. It was a large tarp, laid out and staked into the ground with posts. Very obvious. Shaun slowed down, pulled onto of the tarp and parked. He shut off the car, the lights and then sent the entertainment for tonight the text of arrival. Time to start the show. "What was that we just parked on?" Jesse asked as they sat in the dark. "The next part of the surprise," Shaun said, getting out of the car and going around to open the back hatch. In the back, there was a storage compartment and Shaun opened it up. Blankets, a few pillows, and in the back, between the seats was a small cooler with a bottle of expensive champagne. Shaun climbed into the back and started laying the seats down, hoisting up the cooler and spreading out the blankets on the now flat surface. "Come on back," Shaun said, and Jesse, watching with interest, climbed over the front seat and joined Shaun in the back. "You really had this all planned out," Jesse said a bit breathlessly. "Don't hate me for saying, this is a little out of character for you. Fuck, when's the last time you tried to surprise me?" Shaun felt a bit bad for that. No, he'd been so busy and not really thinking about it to be honest, to do anything super special for Jesse. Shaun made sure that Jesse and Brian were happy and content and they were. They never complained. But they still deserved more. Jesse definitely did. "Maybe I will. After this," Shaun said easily. "This is kind of fun." Jesse smiled. "Alright then," he laid out on the blankets and pillows, stretching his arms out in reach of Shaun. "I really like it. Thank you baby. Tonight was really awesome—" Just then, up in the sky, visible through the open hatch, there was an explosion of color. "Fireworks?!" Jesse cried, sitting up abruptly. He looked up into the sky as more fireworks burst and crackled across the dark sky. It was brilliant out here, in the pitch dark of the desert. Shaun had paid a firework vender to put on an exclusive show. All the best fireworks the guy had. Jesse's upturned face shone in the moonlight, the colors from the explosions above dancing across his skin. "I love you, Jesse," Shaun said, and Jesse turned to him in an instant, smiling hugely. "I love you, too! This is amazing, Shaun!" "I've got one last surprise for you," Shaun said, as the fireworks crackled behind them. "I've been saying it for years, but I want to make it official. I guess I want to make everything official now." "What do you mean?" Jesse asked, his brow furrowing. "I love you, Jesse. And you've always been one of the best parts of my life. That's not going to change." "Ok?" Jesse laughed. "I feel the same. Me and Brian both love you to death!" "Then marry me," Shaun said pulling the ring out of his back pocket. "Marry me and make it official. I want to adopt Brian, I want to marry you. I want you guys in my family." Jesse's eyes teared up as he looked down at the tiny box in the middle of Shaun's hand. He reached out, touched it, seemingly afraid. "Open it," Shaun promoted, chuckling. Jesse gently opened the box, gasping. The small silver band Shaun had selected for him sat inside. Jesse cautiously took it out and Shaun took his hand, gently sliding the ring onto the correct finger. "Will you marry me?" "Oh my god!" Jesse fell onto Shaun, he wrapped his arms around him, he started sobbing. Shaun rubbed his back as the fireworks continued above them. The crackles and pops were almost soothing. Shaun held onto Jesse until he little redhead finally sat up again, tears running down his face. "Yes!" he cried. "Yes! Absolutely! I'll marry you!" "And you don't care? About the whole world knowing we're together?" "No! Not if you don't!" Jesse laughed. "Oh my god!" The fireworks ended shortly after that and they cracked open the bottle of champagne to celebrate. They eventually got around to making love, but it wasn't the most important thing on the addenda. They were going to be together forever. Officially. They'd be a family now, for real. And Shaun felt good about that. He felt safe. Fuck the rest of the world. Shaun didn't know what would happen when they found out. Probably nothing. Because Shaun didn't plan on going full-blown razzle dazzle gay at any point. Nothing was going to change really, as far as the fans were concerned and Shaun almost kicked himself for taking so long to do this. This was his life and he'd grabbed the bull by the horns and made his dreams reality. He and Jesse could do anything they wanted if they were together. Shaun was sure of it. THE END!!!!
  10. Chapter 24

    Thanks! I'll be getting that out as soon as I can. I'm not close to a computer however. Real life is EXTREMELY crazy right now lol. Thanks for reading
  11. Chapter 24

    This chapter looks like crap guys... I'm in the hospital again on my phone, please have mercy. I'm sorry
  12. Chapter 24

    Chapter Twenty Four They had a couple more shows before the Battle of Bands on the last Saturday of the month. All three members showed up. They played. The fans seemed happy and there were no ex bandmates to fuck with them. Angela was still sticking around. For practice. For the shows. Ben seemed more and more tense every time they saw him. He didn't look any fucking better at all. Gretchen actually did seem to be getter better, though. After maybe the third practice, she'd stopped egging Angela on. She'd stopped harassing Ben and asking him stupid bated questions. She'd stopped going on so many random dates as well, but she was still doing that, too, every couple of days. Whatever. Shaun didn't care. He'd decided to find new band members after the Battle of the Bands anyway, so he wasn't very invested in this bullshit anymore. They were all just trying to make the best of things, right now. And it was just a few days from Halloween! Brian was ecstatic. He couldn't wait to dress-up and walk around the neighborhood collecting candy. "What does he want to be again?" Shaun asked over breakfast. It was the last few days before the Battle of the Bands on Saturday. It was Wednesday though and before the Battle of the Bands came Friday. The neighborhood's trick-or-Treat night. Gretchen was going to be home all morning so Shaun and Jesse were running to Wal-Mart for a few things but most importantly, Brian's costume. "He wants to be a skeleton," Jesse said around his mouthful of cereal. He was looking super cute this morning. His bright red hair was bedraggled and messy from Jesse shoving his fingers through it, every time he yawned. His blue eyes, in contrast, were bright and eager, sparkling in the bright sunlight shafting through the kitchen window. Shaun snorted, leaning across the table to rub some of the sleep out of Jesse's bright eyes. Jesse's nose wrinkled. "Sorry! Yuck!" he scrubbed his fists in his eyes, clearing all traces of sleep. Shaun laughed at him, his heart skipping a beat when Jesse smiled and started laughing too. Jesse was so gorgeous. Everything seemed to be going to shit, but Shaun was so lucky he had Jesse. No matter what, good or bad, Jesse would always be standing by Shaun's side and Shaun was really starting to appreciate that. Brian had somehow managed to sleep in that morning and Gretchen was bumming around in her room. Jesse and Shaun took advantage of the peace and showered together. Touching each other's bodies under the warm spray of the water. They got dressed together, said their goodbyes to Gretchen and took her car over to the local Wal-Mart. Shaun didn't like shopping especially, but he was really enjoying Jesse's company lately. The redhead kept up a running commentary as they browsed for a couple things. Shaun needed new shampoo and a razor and Jesse wanted body wash. Brian needed pull-ups as well. That was something they always seemed to be buying. When they got around to the seasonal costume aisle, the assortment looked pretty picked over. "At least everything's on sale!" Jesse said, trying to be optimistic. They ended up having to sort through a huge bin of clearance costumes but Jesse eventually pulled out a little skeleton outfit. "Shit! He's going to love this! It glows in the dark!" Shaun laughed, feeling pretty good about having helped. They went through the checkout and headed to the car with their bags. Jesse was full of excited chatter, speculating how Brian would react to his Halloween costume. They needn't have wondered for much longer because they were home in 20 minutes and Brian was rushing them, wanting to see what they'd found. "This is cool!" Brian cried when Jesse showed him his Halloween disguise. "It glows in the dark too," Jesse told him. "Awesome!" Brian snatched the costume up and ran for Shaun's room. "I'm trying it on!" "Whoa, let me help, little buddy!" Jesse ran after him, leaving Shaun and Gretchen behind, laughing. "Did you guys get costumes? I'm dressing as a sexy witch again," Gretchen said. "Dressing up to do what? Are you going door to door too?" Shaun snorted. Gretchen stuck out her tongue. "No, asshole. I give candy out. Its boring if you don't dress up!" "I gave that shit up years ago," Shaun said. The last time Shaun had dressed up, Ruth had been forcing the issue. She'd had to drag Shaun, dressed in a simple sheet with eyeholes, a stupid ghost, around the block and she'd said she'd never do it again. Despite her words, she'd tried the next year but Shaun was having none of it. He was 8, dammit! Gretchen rolled her eyes but went off to her room, choosing to drop the matter. Shaun was glad. He was honestly tired of fighting, he just couldn't help being contrary most of the time. It was a bad habit. "Look at me, Shaun!" Brian shouted, bursting out of the bedroom and running down the hall. Laughing, Brian the Skeleton twirled in a circle, showing off his costume. It was actually pretty cool. It was a lot cooler than the sheet-ghost Shaun had been. "Jesse said we have to leave it out in the sun Friday morning so that the glow in the dark thingy charges up." Jesse came up behind his son, laying a hand on his skeleton head. "The glow in the dark paint needs to charge," Jesse laughed at him. "He looks pretty terrifying," Shaun said, coming to lay his hand over Jesse's. The little redhead's eyes lit up and he smiled. He was so receptive. So loving. So sweet. Shaun couldn't help himself, he leaned in and kissed Jesse's beautiful pink lips. As he was plundering the redhead's mouth, Brian made a sound of disgust and announced he was going to show Gretchen. They were left to their own devises for a moment and Jesse stepped closer and wrapped his arms around Shaun's waist. "I love you baby, thanks for helping." Shaun smiled back, touching Jesse's glistening lower lip with his thumb. "I haven't done anything yet. We've still got to do the actual Trick-or-Treating." "Pfft," Jesse waved Shaun off. "No big deal." "I don't know. How long does it last again?" Shaun joked, smirking at the smaller boy before him "Couple hours," Jesse said. "But once Brian comes home and crams his face full of candy, he'll pass out and you can do whatever you want to me." "Whatever I want?" Shaun's smirk became more of a leer. "Anything." "Alright. You've convinced me. I'll do it." Jesse punched him on the arm and laughed. "C'mon. Help me wrangle up this kid before he ruins his costume. I'm definitely not going back through that bargain bin!" Laughing, Shaun went off to help Jesse. *** Brian got back into his skeleton costume on Halloween night. They'd let it sit out on the patio that afternoon and Brian's bones were indeed glowing in the dark. "So cool!" Brian was dancing in front of the bathroom mirror, the light off. He was laughing and making all kinds of crazy moves and Jesse and Shaun watched him enjoy himself thoroughly before they'd even gotten a single piece of candy. This kid was so easy to entertain. "Looking good, kid!" Gretchen said. She had bowls of candy ready and she was dressed in basically the same get-up as usual. She just had a witches hat on tonight. "Thanks!" Brian jetted out into the hallway, running down into the kitchen and then through the living room. He returned at breakneck speed with one of his little bug jars. "Can I go catch some lightning bugs before we go out!" Jesse rolled his eyes ,but nodded. "You've got 5 minutes then we're going trick-or-treating without you." Brian yelped and rushed for the sliding glass door off the back hallway and fumbled with the lock. He flew outside. Jesse watched the little boy jump and dash around the backyard. It was just getting dark but the humidity hadn't stopped yet. The bugs didn't seem to know it was October. There was a knock on the front door . "Trick-or-treat!" came the muffled greeting, followed by some childish laughter. "That's me!" Gretchen put on a big grin and grabbed her first candy bowl of the night, sitting off to the side on the hall table. "I'm going to watch TV," Shaun sighed. "Come grab me when we're ready to go." Jesse smirked at him and let him go. As Shaun was going into the living room, he saw the group of children on the front step, eagerly grabbing handfuls of Gretchen's candy. There was a cowboy, a cat and another witch girl. The little girl and Gretchen were comparing costumes. Shaun snorted and turned on MTV. There was an old episode of Jackass, the Halloween edition and Shaun briefly enjoyed watching the dumbasses getting hurt. "We're ready," Jesse appeared with Brian latched to his hand. Brian was carrying his candy bucket and wiggling in excitement. "I didn't catch any bugs," he said. "But Jesse said we'd make up for it in candy!" Shaun shut the TV off and they left. There were a lot of people out, on the sidewalks, as it got progressively darker. There were tons of little kids, some on the older side, but all of them dressed up in various costumes. The adults chaperoning their groups of kids shared looks of camaraderie with both Jesse and Shaun. Shaun felt strange, but Brian was jumping up and down with excitement by the time they go to the neighbor's house and Jesse sent him ahead to the door. Brian knocked obnoxiously, screaming, "Trick-or-Treat!" at the top of his high pitched voice. Some old lady, wearing a shirt with a pumpkin on it appeared, holding out a handful of candy. She plunked it into Brian's bowl. "I figure we'll go up this block, and down the next and then circle around back to the house. "We'll pass tons of houses that way," Jesse said as Brian rejoined them. He was grinning, holding out a fun sized Butterfinger. "My favorite! "Brian tore off the wrapper and stuffed it into his mouth. "C'mon. Save the candy munching for later! We've got a ton of houses to get to!" Jesse said, putting his hand on Brian's shoulder and leading him on to the next house. He shot Shaun a quick smile before toddling off after the little boy. Shaun followed slowly. The first hour or so of Trick-or-Treating was more than enough for Shaun. They walked to each house on the block before crossing the street and going down the next. Occasionally, no one would come to the door, but those houses were far and few in between. Most people in the neighborhood were participating in the stupid holiday and Shaun was quickly becoming tired of the tedium of it. "You ok?" Jesse asked as they got to the end of the second block. Now they had to circle around, at least another half mile, before they would even be done. "Just getting tired," Shaun sighed. It was pitch black now. Brian couldn't hold his candy bucket anymore as it was getting too full so Jesse had to follow him to the door, brandishing the toddler's bucket for. Jesse gently touched his hand. For the briefest of moments before he separated from Shaun. "I'm not actually having any fun either. But sometimes, you've got to do stupid shit to make your kid happy." "Jesse!" Brian cried, pointing to the next house. "Duty calls!" Jesse winked at Shaun, before hurrying after the little boy. Shaun thought about Jesse's words as he slowly caught pace with the other two. Reluctantly, Shaun knew Jesse was right. They went to a few more houses. Jesse bubbly and happily keeping pace with the skeleton toddler and Shaun shadowing them, quiet and contemplative. As they began the last leg of their journey, Shaun occupied his mind with thoughts of the Battle of the Bands tomorrow. He'd been working the set list for days, selecting 4 of his best songs. He was on the fence about the last one though…. They'd just rounded a corner, nearly bumping into a pair of teenage boys, one dressed as a pirate and the other as a Freddy Kruger, when Jesse's phone started ringing. "It's probably Gretchen," Jesse muttered, grabbing onto Brian to keep him from running off alone. The crowd was getting older. The little kids were becoming scares. It was about time to be wrapping up. Brian whined, wanting to check out the next house and the fake corpse laying in the lawn. It was pretty gruesome and barely even thinking about it, Shaun took the candy bucket from Jesse as the redhead finally procured his phone and took Brian's hand, leading him on in Jesse's absence. "That's so gross!" Brian said as they entered the next houses lawn through the unlatched gate. Their porch light was on and Shaun had started to realize that definitely meant they had candy. Still, Brian was edging towards the corpse decoration, looking thrilled. His glow in the dark bones, were starting to dull, but Brian wasn't. "Do you think it's real?!" "No way," Shaun laughed in surprise. They got closer, standing over the obviously stuffed dummy. They'd cut one of the dummy's arms off and drenched in in red paint. There were a bunch of plastic guts spilling out of the dummy's belly too. It was wearing a ghoulish face. "Are you sure?" "Watch this," Shaun said, smirking and handed over the candy bucket. Brian struggled under the weight but held it up, watching Shaun with interest. Shaun jumped and drove his elbow down into the dummy's chest. He fell to the ground, in a pile of dummy fluff and leaves. "Wham!" Shaun said for effect. "If he was real, he's dead now!" Brian set his candy on the ground, clapping in excitement. Suddenly, Jesse appeared, his phone held to his chest. "Hey," he said. "It's for you." Shaun quirked a brow but reached for the phone. He got off the ground, dusting himself off as Jesse took Brian the rest of the way to collect his candy. Brian was laughing joyfully, peeking back at tough old Shaun. "Hello?" Shaun asked, putting the phone to his ear. "Hey, it's me," despite being more descriptive, Shaun recognized the voice. It was Ben. "What's up? Don't tell me your canceling for tomorrow," Shaun's stomach dropped and he knew that was what the call was for. "Fuck you, Ben!" "Wait, what?" Ben sounded honestly confused and Shaun sucked in a breath and tried to calm down. "I'm not canceling tomorrow. Tomorrow's the Battle of the Bands!" "Well, you fucking scared me. Since when do we check in on each other? What the fuck's up?" Ben hesitated and Shaun spotted Jesse and Brian coming away from the house, candy in hand, and Shaun moved to follow after them. Jesse was peeking at him now, looking interested, but he didn't say anything. Ben finally found his words. "It's just that me and Angela are at a work party tonight…it's not going so well." "Hmm," Shaun was so interested, he didn't even have anything more to say. "She doesn't normally drink very much, but since we started to make up, she's been drinking heavily. She's drinking tonight…" "And?" Shaun prompted. "We're walking Brian around the neighborhood. It's fucking boring. Sorry. Hopefully tomorrow is better." "I guess this is about tomorrow," Ben said, sighing. "I can't do this anymore, Shaun. I'm calling it quits." "What can't you do?" Shaun asked, his eyes narrowing. Jesse peeked back at him again, saw his look of anger and turned back around in an instant, his shoulders squaring. Shaun paused as Jesse and the little blond toddler went up to the next house. He leaned against the tree in the front yard, waiting impatiently. "This marriage," Ben said finally. "I told you Angela was drinking right? And we're at my office, partying with my co-workers. I was in the middle of playing his fucked up game of bobbing for apples and once I got my apple, soaking wet, I go into the breakroom to find some paper towels and Angela is talking to half the girls in the office. She's telling them how stupid I am and what a terrible husband I am. She was just raving about how much she hates my band. She really hates this band." Shaun shook his head. Highly annoyed. "So, I made a decision. And I'm just running it by you first." "You made another decision? I thought the last one was final," Shaun sneered. "Yeah, I know I said that, ok. I got caught cheating red-handed and that's not something I do. I'm a loyal guy. I don't cheat around. This is a first for me, alright?" "Alright." Ben took a deep breath. "Me and Angela will meet you at the venue tomorrow, like planned. She'll be in the audience. And once the set is finished, I'm going to return that last kiss Gretchen planted on me. I'm going to kiss Gretchen on stage, in front of Angela, in front of everyone. Angela will never support me. She'll never understand the band. I was wrong when I thought that was alright with me. I can't live a half-life. I want a full one. One that's everything I want."tomorrow, like planned. She'll be in the audience. And once the set is finished, I'm going to return that last kiss Gretchen planted on me. I'm going to kiss Gretchen on stage, in front of Angela, in front of everyone. Angela will never support me. She'll never understand the band. I was wrong when I thought that was alright with me. I can't live a half-life. I want a full one. One that's everything I want."Me and Angela will meet you at the venue tomorrow, like planned. She'll be in the audience. And once the set is finished, I'm going to return that last kiss Gretchen planted on me. I'm going to kiss Gretchen on stage, in front of Angela, in front of everyone. Angela will never support me. She'll never understand the band. I was wrong when I thought that was alright with me. I can't live a half-life. I want a full one. One that's everything I want."Me and Angela will meet you at the venue tomorrow, like planned. She'll be in the audience. And once the set is finished, I'm going to return that last kiss Gretchen planted on me. I'm going to kiss Gretchen on stage, in front of Angela, in front of everyone. Angela will never support me. She'll never understand the band. I was wrong when I thought that was alright with me. I can't live a half-life. I want a full one. One that's everything I want."tomorrow, like planned. She'll be in the audience. And once the set is finished, I'm going to return that last kiss Gretchen planted on me. I'm going to kiss Gretchen on stage, in front of Angela, in front of everyone. Angela will never support me. She'll never understand the band. I was wrong when I thought that was alright with me. I can't live a half-life. I want a full one. One that's everything I want."Me and Angela will meet you at the venue tomorrow, like planned. She'll be in the audience. And once the set is finished, I'm going to return that last kiss Gretchen planted on me. I'm going to kiss Gretchen on stage, in front of Angela, in front of everyone. Angela will never support me. She'll never understand the band. I was wrong when I thought that was alright with me. I can't live a half-life. I want a full one. One that's everything I want." Jesse and Brian came back to Shaun, looking at him expectantly. Cautiously, Shaun gave Jesse a thumbs up and smiling, Jesse led them towards the next house. They were getting pretty close to getting back to Gretchen's. This night felt like it had lasted forever, but it was nearly done. "What do you think?" Ben asked. "I know you didn't like me and Gretchen messing around, but my wife's betrayed me in the deepest way. I mean, I fucked her sister and then she called me and my music stupid. We don't belong together. I can see that now. It's never going to just get better." "Probably not." "So, can I do it? Can I use the stage to get the real girl of my dreams?" Shaun laughed. "I don't know who would call Gretchen the girl of their dreams—" "Have you seen her site? She's got quite a few dedicated fans." "Gross," Shaun sneered as Ben laughed with amusement. "And I don't know what you think's so funny. You're trying to get with an online porn star." "She's beautiful and fun. She's outspoken and wild. She gets my blood flowing, my heart pumping, my cock rock hard—" "TMI." "And she inspires my music. Gretchen's the one." "Ok," Shaun said simply. "I don't care if you kiss her or not. It's your funeral. She's still doing the online dating crap. I think she kind of hates you." "I know she does. But I can make it up to her." "If you think you can, then do it." "Thanks, Shaun," Ben said. "I mean, I would have had to break the news to Gretchen somehow, but I think this is the perfect way to do it. It's over the top, dramatic and weirdly romantic. Plus, if Angela gets on-stage, there will be witnesses!" Shaun laughed and after a round of quick goodbyes and promises to see each other tomorrow night, Shaun got off the phone and Ben got back to his office party. Shaun ran to catch Jesse and Brian. "What was that about? Or was it private band stuff?" Jesse asked curiously, taking his phone back, slipping it into his pocket. "You're subject to private band stuff," Shaun said, boldly putting an arm around Jesse's shoulders and drawing him near. "But Ben was just telling me he's definitely ending things with Angela tomorrow night. He's going to kiss Gretchen at the end of the set. In front of everyone." Jesse squealed. "Oh my god! That's so sweet! Why? What happened with Angela to make him change his mind?" "Are you joking? Haven't you noticed how miserable he's been since he's gotten back with her for real?" "Yeah, I guess I did notice that." "I guess he caught her bad mouthing him and the band. He's totally over her. I have no idea how Gretchen will react though, maybe we should tell her—" "Hell no! It's a surprise!" Jesse cried. "Cross your heart and hope to die! Don't tell her!" Shaun rolled his eyes. "Whatever." "Oh, this is going to be so much fun! I can't wait to see the look on Angela's orange face!" Shaun snorted. After a half hour and getting close to 10, they finished the final loop and made it back to Gretchen's. Gretchen the witch was sitting on the couch when they got back, watching a slasher flick. She was popping candy into her mouth. "Want some more?" Gretchen asked as Brian came flying into the room, spilling his mountain of candy onto the carpet. "I've got extra. I bought so much fucking candy!" "Yes!" Brian cried. Shaun and Jesse got some candy of their own. Shaun ate a couple Twizzlers and called it a night. He didn't really have much of a sweet tooth. Jesse was eating nearly as much candy as Brian though. He just didn't have the chocolate stain around his mouth. The adults got into the slasher flick while Brian gorged on candy, watching the blood and guts fly across the screen with wide, decensored eyes. "So, do we got the set list for tomorrow? Four songs maximum." "Yep," Shaun said. "I'm still debating on the last song, but I'll get it figured out by morning." Gretchen nodded. "Alright boss," she got up, leaving the still quite full candy bowl behind for Brian. "I'm going to wash this makeup off and get to bed early. I'm so nervous I can taste it!" Shaun didn't really know what that meant, but he watched her go. Shaun started to feel a bit guilty about his plans to get rid of his drummer and bassist. They really were good musicians and they'd been playing at Shaun's side for several months now. They were going through a rough patch, together unfortunately, but Shaun got that. Nobody was perfect, least of all Shaun. And Shaun actually was kind of excited for the kiss. He was actually jealous that Jesse would have a front row seat to see Angela's reaction. He knew the fans would like it, too. "You're not nervous about tomorrow night at all?" Jesse asked quietly, over Brian's munching. "Should I be?" "No," Jesse said smiling. "Shit's just been difficult lately. I wasn't sure how you were feeling." "Confident. Especially now that it seems everyone in the band's on the same page. Maybe I won't have to find replacements after all." Jesse's eyes brightened and he smiled brilliantly. "I really hope not." Shaun kissed him softly, enjoying the silk like feel of Jesse's lips. When he pulled back, both boys looked towards Brian. They examined him for signs of sleepiness and there was some! Brian was still sitting up in the middle of the room, surrounded in candy. He'd taken the mask off but the rest of his costume was still on. He was leaning slightly to the right, slowly shoving bits of chocolate into his mouth. His eyes were half closed.in candy. He'd taken the mask off but the rest of his costume was still on. He was leaning slightly to the right, slowly shoving bits of chocolate into his mouth. His eyes were half closed.in candy. He'd taken the mask off but the rest of his costume was still on. He was leaning slightly to the right, slowly shoving bits of chocolate into his mouth. His eyes were half closed.in candy. He'd taken the mask off but the rest of his costume was still on. He was leaning slightly to the right, slowly shoving bits of chocolate into his mouth. His eyes were half closed.in candy. He'd taken the mask off but the rest of his costume was still on. He was leaning slightly to the right, slowly shoving bits of chocolate into his mouth. His eyes were half closed.in candy. He'd taken the mask off but the rest of his costume was still on. He was leaning slightly to the right, slowly shoving bits of chocolate into his mouth. His eyes were half closed.in candy. He'd taken the mask off but the rest of his costume was still on. He was leaning slightly to the right, slowly shoving bits of chocolate into his mouth. His eyes were half closed.in candy. He'd taken the mask off but the rest of his costume was still on. He was leaning slightly to the right, slowly shoving bits of chocolate into his mouth. His eyes were half closed.in candy. He'd taken the mask off but the rest of his costume was still on. He was leaning slightly to the right, slowly shoving bits of chocolate into his mouth. His eyes were half closed.in candy. He'd taken the mask off but the rest of his costume was still on. He was leaning slightly to the right, slowly shoving bits of chocolate into his mouth. His eyes were half closed.in candy. He'd taken the mask off but the rest of his costume was still on. He was leaning slightly to the right, slowly shoving bits of chocolate into his mouth. His eyes were half closed.in candy. He'd taken the mask off but the rest of his costume was still on. He was leaning slightly to the right, slowly shoving bits of chocolate into his mouth. His eyes were half closed.in candy. He'd taken the mask off but the rest of his costume was still on. He was leaning slightly to the right, slowly shoving bits of chocolate into his mouth. His eyes were half closed.in candy. He'd taken the mask off but the rest of his costume was still on. He was leaning slightly to the right, slowly shoving bits of chocolate into his mouth. His eyes were half closed.in candy. He'd taken the mask off but the rest of his costume was still on. He was leaning slightly to the right, slowly shoving bits of chocolate into his mouth. His eyes were half closed.in candy. He'd taken the mask off but the rest of his costume was still on. He was leaning slightly to the right, slowly shoving bits of chocolate into his mouth. His eyes were half closed. Jesse winked at him and Shaun felt his cock twitch in interest. He remembered Jesse's promise to use his body after Trick-or-Treat and from that look, Jesse was remembering too. "Alright, little buddy, let's put this candy away for tonight." Brian whined instantly, but Jesse ignored him, getting up and collecting all the candy back into the bucket. "You can have some for breakfast, how's that?" Jesse said before he took the candy from the room, probably going to hide it. In Jesse's absence, Brian came to sit on the couch beside Shaun, looking glum all of a sudden. "What's the matter?" Shaun asked. "My stomach hurts," Brian said, making a face. "That's because you ate too much candy," Shaun rolled his eyes. "Try laying down. See if that helps." Brian curled up into a ball beside Shaun, looking sadly towards the TV. "Just think about all the candy you'll get to eat tomorrow," Shaun said lamely, not really know how else to cheer up the child. "As soon as you get to sleep, you'll feel better and it'll be a new day and more candy." "And I get to see you play again. At the big competition." Shaun smiled down at the little blond. "Yep. It's a really big deal. Tomorrow. Even my grandma and grandpa are coming. They wanted to see me play too." "You're going to win," Brian said softly, after a moment of silence. "You're the best, Shaun," and at that, little Brian shut his eyes and was asleep. Jesse came back into the room shortly, pausing almost in surprise to see Brian asleep beside Shaun. "How'd you do that?" Shaun got up cautiously, trying not to disturb the kid. Brian's eyes remained shut. "I don't know. But he said I'm going to win tomorrow." Jesse smiled at him as Shaun came closer. Once Shaun was within reach, Jesse wrapped his arms around Shaun's waist and held him. "No one has worked harder, or played harder than you. This is your moment to shine and somehow, it all came together right at the last minute. You are going to win." Shaun loved the sound of that, and he swept Jesse right off his feet, carrying him bridal style towards his bedroom at the end of the hall. Jesse was red in the face when they got to the bedroom. Shaun shut and locked the door and held his precious boyfriend to his chest. He'd wanted to do something crazy, maybe some bondage, or blood play, but honestly, he just wanted to touch Jesse and hold him close. He didn't want anything between them tonight. Shaun laid Jesse gently on the bed and stood over him, loomed over him, as he took off his clothes. Jesse's beautiful blue eyes roamed over his naked body. Over his scars. His eyes remained warm, compassionate and loving and Shaun felt his heart swell in size. Jesse had always loved him, flaws and all. Shaun was really starting to realize how special that was. Shaun climbed onto the bed, leaning down to capture Jesse's lips. They kissed slowly, deliberately and Shaun smoothed his hands up and down Jesse's lithe body, wanting nothing more than to touch his naked flesh. "Ohhh! Help me take this off!" Jesse moaned, tearing his mouth off Shaun's and smirking, the bigger boy helped him out. Together, they pulled Jesse's t-shirt off and then Jesse worked frantically at his jeans while Shaun scooted down and yanked his shoes off. Within seconds, Jesse's bare body was laid out on the bed and Shaun was back to him in an instant, touching Jesse's warm skin. It felt good. Having his bare flesh sliding against Jesse's. But it wasn't enough. Shaun needed more.sliding against Jesse's. But it wasn't enough. Shaun needed more. The bigger boy leapt up from the bed, fumbling through the top drawer of his dresser. He returned to Jesse with the bottle of lube, and just about dumped the whole thing over Jesse's body. Things were very slick now. Jesse whined and moaned as he was covered head to toe in slick lube and Shaun rutted against him as he rubbed it in, letting his cock swell to full hardness as it glided up and down Jesse's slick belly. Shaun flipped them, next, pulling Jesse onto his chest. He planted his feet and with a single hand, angled his cock up towards Jesse's anus. With a few tries, Shaun was entering the beautiful boy, slick and beautiful and flushed with pleasure, and easily manipulated his body.manipulated his body. Shaun went slow at first, making his thrusts deep and controlled. He couldn't stop touching Jesse. His skin, his hair, his beautiful face. Jesse was still red in the face, his expression askew, marred by pleasure. He was moaning so desperately, begging for Shaun to fuck him harder and Shaun didn't want to disappoint. He sat up, scooting to the edge of the bed. There, with Jesse still in his arms, Shaun trust upwards into Jesse's body, trapping him against his chest, in his arms. "Oh!" Jesse's legs folded under him, beside Shaun's thighs and the little redhead finally got some purchase on the bed. He started to raise and lower himself in accordance to Shaun's thrusts, fucking himself harder, wedging more of Shaun's large cock up his behind.legs folded under him, beside Shaun's thighs and the little redhead finally got some purchase on the bed. He started to raise and lower himself in accordance to Shaun's thrusts, fucking himself harder, wedging more of Shaun's large cock up his behind.him, beside Shaun's thighs and the little redhead finally got some purchase on the bed. He started to raise and lower himself in accordance to Shaun's thrusts, fucking himself harder, wedging more of Shaun's large cock up his behind.legs folded under him, beside Shaun's thighs and the little redhead finally got some purchase on the bed. He started to raise and lower himself in accordance to Shaun's thrusts, fucking himself harder, wedging more of Shaun's large cock up his behind. Shaun shivered, highly aroused by the sight of Jesse fucking himself into oblivion. Shaun sat back on his elbows for a moment, just watching Jesse ride his cock. He was gorgeous as he did it too. All slick like that, smooth and hairless, he looked so delicious. Jesse's arms came around his neck, and his mouth fell open around a pant mixed with a moan. He was sweating, from the effort, and trying his best to screw himself hard and Shaun grinned evilly and decided to end the boy's delicious suffering. and decided to end the boy's delicious suffering.pen around a pant mixed with a moan. He was sweating, from the effort, and trying his best to screw himself hard and Shaun grinned evilly and decided to end the boy's delicious suffering. and decided to end the boy's delicious suffering. In one last, heroic move, Shaun picked the redhead up again and all but threw him against the wall. Jesse's back hit the wall, his head thudding against it dully. Jesse looked startled for a moment, helplessly wrapping his legs around Shaun's waist, but then Shaun entered him again and with the support of the wall, he nailed into him, aiming his cock directly for Jesse's secret little prostate.into him, aiming his cock directly for Jesse's secret little prostate.ly for Jesse's secret little prostate.into him, aiming his cock directly for Jesse's secret little prostate. Jesse cried out repeatedly at the end of every stroke. Shaun knew he was hitting the redhead's sweet spot. Even if Jesse had been silent, Shaun still would have felt the rhythmic clenching of the boy's anal muscles. Jesse's poor little asshole was being given quite the workout and it was going crazy!it was going crazy! Shaun got caught up in the feel of Jesse's tight asshole milking his hard cock and before he was ready, he found himself coming, biting into Jesse's shoulder to stifle his scream of pleasure. Jesse shook like a leaf below him, his legs slipping from Shaun's waist. In a burst of wetness against Shaun's stomach, Jesse came as well, right behind Shaun. Shaun held them there for a few more moments, breathing hard, before he gently released the redhead and took him back to bed.hard, before he gently released the redhead and took him back to bed. "That was nice," Jesse said, a bit out of breath, but smiling pleasantly. "I don't know why you had to waste all the lube though." "I don't know. You look hot, all shiny like that," Shaun said. Jesse laughed. "I love you." "I love you, too," Shaun said. "Completely."," Shaun said. "Completely." They shared one last kiss before Shaun got up to turn off the lights and Jesse pulled back the sheets. They spooned together under the blankets. Tomorrow, for once, didn't seem like such an obstacle. They would get over this last hurtle. Shaun was pretty confidant.rtle. Shaun was pretty confidant. In the morning, things were kind of chaotic. The Battle of the Bands was being held in one of the big venues in Dallas. It was pretty far out, almost a 2 hour drive and the plan was for Jesse and Brian to get picked up by Ruth and Eli around 5. They were going to get something to eat really quick before they went down to the venue and picked up their tickets.2 hour drive and the plan was for Jesse and Brian to get picked up by Ruth and Eli around 5. They were going to get something to eat really quick before they went down to the venue and picked up their tickets. Shaun and Gretchen weren't eating anything. Shaun was so beyond food, it was the last fucking thing on his mind and Gretchen said she was feeling sick. She'd already gone to the bathroom several times to vomit and Shaun was hoping the number of times would drop soon. He actually understood, for once. He'd puked before their first show. But there was way too much pressure now, to be feeling nervous. To be feeling sick. Shaun had worked hard and gone through a lot of bullshit to get here and he wasn't going to mess this up. Ben, although they didn't know if he was being sick or feeling nervous or not, was supposed to meet them at the venue at 8. Jesse was supposed to get a call from Angela and she, Jesse, Brian, Ruth and Eli would join up to be some sort of familiar support. So, between Gretchen's runs for the bathroom and Shaun's quick and last minute hashing out of the set list, Jesse and Brian got ready to go and much sooner than Shaun had expected, he came in the room to let Shaun know his grandparents were here. "What?" "It's almost 5," Jesse said, standing in the doorway. Shaun tossed his guitar to the bed. Fuck! There was no way it was 5 already! Where had the day gone?! "They just wanted to say good luck, and then we're going to eat." Shaun nodded silently, following Jesse out into the hallway. Ruth and Eli were in the living room, Brian sitting between them, looking cheerful. He was trying to pawn some candy off on the old people and while Ruth tisked and waved him off: "No candy before dinner, Mister." Eli snuck a Hershey Kiss into his mouth, grinning conspiratorially down at the little blond. "Hey guys," Shaun said. Ruth smiled and left her seat on the couch. "You're sure your hair looks alright? It's getting so long," she said coming to hug Shaun, and also to push his hair out of his eyes. Shaun glared. "You'll see, grandma. Everyone tonight will have long hair." Ruth sniffed, seemingly offended. Eli came forward next, enclosing Shaun in a bear hug. "I'm proud of you, son," he said, patting Shaun firmly on the back. Shaun hugged him back, almost unconsciously. "It feels like yesterday I went and bought you your first guitar. Now you're going up on stage to compete for a recording deal." "Yeah, it's pretty cool," Shaun said modestly. "Very cool. I can't wait to hear you play, son." Shaun glowed with pride, feeling Jesse come up next to him, touching his arm, transferring love and compassion through the press of their skin. "Well, we don't want to hold you up for too long," Ruth said, putting her arm around Eli. "Let's get going, dear. Let's not bother the musicians. " Shaun snorted and rolled his eyes, but didn't protest. Ruth and Eli started outside, to their car and Jesse pushed Brian out after them, saying he'd be right behind him. He stayed in the front hallway, turning to look back at Shaun. "This is the last time I'll see you. Before you become a famous metal god." Shaun smirked. "Guess you'd better make it good then." Without much restraint, Jesse hurled himself into Shaun's arms, hugging him tight.tight. "I love you," he said intensely, before pressing his mouth to Shaun's. "Good luck," he whispered and then he was whisking out the door, shutting it behind him. Shaun stared at the door for several seconds. Making his breathing deep and calm. Shaun could do this. He could do this. But first…Shaun had an idea. "Hey!" Shaun knocked on Gretchen's door. "How are you feeling?" The door opened and Gretchen emerged, looking a bit paler than usual, but she'd changed her outfit and it looked like she were getting ready to do her face paint because her hair was back in a tight bun. "Better. I guess," she said. "I heard your folks come by." "They'll be at the show. They took Jesse and Brian." Gretchen nodded slowly. "Hey, I was thinking…I think I want to try the face paint after all." "The corpse paint?" Gretchen looked curiously up into Shaun's face. "And ideas what kind of style you want?" "Yeah," Shaun held up Brian's skeleton mask from last night. It had been laying on the coffee table in the living room, where Brian had left it last night. "We're Defaced. De-face me." Gretchen nodded. "Alright. Cool. Come into my office," she said, stepping back and grandly presenting her bedroom to Shaun's perusal. Shaun rolled his eyes and went to take Gretchen's office chair. The girl's makeup was spread out on the desk and there was a completely normal wallpaper on her computer screen; a stupid winter landscape. Shaun leaned back in the chair as Gretchen looked over her makeup selections. "So, how's the dating going?" Shaun asked, mostly to keep from falling into awkward silence, but also to test the waters for Ben's plan tonight. If she was already in love with some other guy, then Shaun should probably just spare Ben's feelings and tell him. Gretchen shrugged. "Pointless." "Was there supposed to be a point?" "Yes," Gretchen said. "At first I just wanted to get over Ben. I've done that. Now I feel like I'm looking for a replacement. I don't do relationships, Shaun. They hurt too much and nobody's good enough." "You thought Ben was good enough." Gretchen scoffed. "Yeah, and look what happened. He hurt me," Gretchen tilted Shaun's chin up. She had a stick of black eyeliner in her hand and she carefully started to sketch the eye sockets around his eyes. "So, to answer your question. I'm done with the dating. It's just a waste of my time. I'll stick to my sugar daddies. They never hurt me. They fuck me and pay my rent. It's a living, if nothing else." Shaun was silent as Gretchen filled in the eye sockets with black. He winced and glared when Gretchen got close to his eyes but Gretchen ignored him. She then started in on his nose, adding black to the tip, the sides, and up his fucking nostrils as well. It tickled and Shaun tried his best to stay completely still. "What if we win tonight, though. What if you don't need some random guys to pay your rent anymore?" Shaun said when he had a chance. Gretchen paused to grab some tissues from a holder beside her bed. She came back to clean up her work, wiping some stray eyeliner away from Shaun's upper lip. "I don't know, Shaun." "I feel weird as fuck, telling you anything," Shaun said, watching Gretchen pick out a white paint now. She swirled a new brush through the paint, refusing to meet Shaun's eyes. "But I really love Jesse. He's improved my life. Like a 100 fold. He's the best thing that's ever happened to me." "So, I should find a Jesse? Someone sweet who takes care of me?" Shaun smirked. Ben was both sweet and caring. But that's not what he said. "You deserve to have love too. Everyone does. It comes in a lot of different forms, but it usually feels good. I guess, I want you to be happy." Gretchen gave up her act and nailed Shaun down with her stare. "Say that again?" "I just want you to be happy—" Gretchen suddenly collapsed into him, hugging him tightly almost desperately. She held on for longer than Shaun was comfortable with but Shaun eventually rubbed her back, realizing she was really going through some pain and that she was seeking Shaun's compassion. Shaun did his best to accommodate. "Sometimes, I hate you, Shaun," Gretchen said, pulling back, sniffling. She was blinking back tears and trying to smile. To get rid of her untimely sadness. "Sometimes you drive me crazy, even." "Thanks," Shaun snorted. "But you're the best song writer I've ever worked with. The youngest too. I know I'm a bitch to you, but I honestly feel honored to be work with you. I think you're going somewhere. I just hope that I get to come too." Shaun, yet again, felt guilty for making plans to change up the band members. Shaun completely agreed with her. Gretchen was annoying and Shaun hated her sometimes, but she was a great drummer. And she knew a thing or two about getting shows, negotiating pay and sparking the fan's interest. He felt honored to work with her as well. "Thanks," Shaun said gruffly. "After Execute Invasion, after being constantly shot down by Will and Danny, I thought I'd never find someone to collaborate with. You and Ben, you guys respect me and my music. It's…pretty fucking cool." "It is," Gretchen said, smiling. She gently tilted Shaun's chin up again, gliding the paintbrush over the uncovered portions of his face. She warned him to keep his mouth closed and then dragged the brush over Shaun's lips. Shaun kept his mouth shut and waited patiently for his makeup job to be finished. Gretchen dusted some power over the paint once she was done. "It's setting power," she said by way of explanation. Next was gray eye shadow, to add shadow and contrast. Then more paint. More black. To finish it off. It went over the eyeliner from before and then she added tiny lines to his mouth and more off his eyes and in the creases of his face to add more definition. Eventually, Shaun became so disinterested in her obsessed rendition of her makeup work, that Shaun tuned her out and let her go at it. He was totally planning on hating it, on having to wash it off, but when Gretchen said she was done and handed him her mirror, Shaun stared back into the eyes of a menacing skeleton. He looked fucking awesome! This was 1000 times better than the little skeleton mask Brian had worn last night. "Fuck you!" Shaun cried, amazed when the evil looking skeleton moved with him. He laughed. "This is awesome!" "I told you," Gretchen said. "I told you months ago, let me paint your face!" "Well, bring all that shit with you and do it to yourself and Ben too. We're going with it tonight!" Gretchen smirked and nodded. "We've got to leave in 40 minutes." "Then hurry it up. Get your makeup on and I'm going out to the car to pack up." Really starting to feel the excitement, the pressure of the night, Shaun rushed to his room, piling all his equipment on the bed. Gretchen's was in the hall closet and Shaun made several trips outside, wedging their shit into the backseat and the trunk. Shaun ran back to his room to change into all black. Just a simple black shirt and black cargos. He checked his makeup in the mirror again, extremely pleased with how it had turned out. "Ready?" Gretchen poked her head in. She'd changed up the style a bit, her's was a little more cutesy, but I was cool as well. "You like? I styled it after those girls at those Dia De Los Muertos parties." Shaun nodded. "I still like mine the best." Gretchen rolled her eyes. "Like I was going to put this girly shit on you," she said, poking a finger at her makeup. "C'mon," Shaun pushed past her, grabbing the keys on the way out. They locked up and got in Gretchen's car. Gretchen ended up driving, apparently knowing exactly where they were going." "We've got to get you a phone with GPS," Gretchen said. "As soon as we win and get the prize money. We'll modernize you yet!" Shaun grunted. He hated phones and computers but they really did seem to be helpful. He just never used them. "Whatever! Let's go!" Gretchen screeched out of the neighborhood and with his heart pounding, Shaun tried to sit back and relax. This was it. It was finally time. *** It was just getting dark when they arrived at the venue. It was a huge venue. Used sometimes for sports, sometimes for concerts. They had graduations here, even, Gretchen said. The parking lot was absolutely huge, and very packed. "I've been to one of these before," Gretchen said as they drove through the lines of cars. They were looking for the loading dock, in the back. All the info on where to go, who to talk to and, their lineup in the competition was in some email that Gretchen refused to let him see. It was on her phone. Fuck phones. "The first one I came, I felt like, for the first time I wasn't a freak. I was suddenly standing in a room full of people dressed like me, who looked like me and the music! It was fucking awesome! I'm so glad I get to add to history tonight. This has always been a secret dream of mine…." "I'm posting that to Facebook. It's not a secret anymore!" Shaun joked and Gretchen glared at him. "Whatever," Shaun scoffed. "I've been dreaming of this too. For a long time." They feel into silence as they drove around the large venue. In the back, there was clearly a sign that said Loading. "Easy enough," Gretchen said. "I'm texting Ben. Just to tell him we're here." Shaun shrugged. They parked and were immediately accosted by stage hands. They had earpieces on, radios on their belts, and security cards that let them enter rooms with a swipe. This was serious business. "We're Defaced," Gretchen said to the most insistent stagehand. "We're still waiting on our Bassist—" Gretchen's phone chimed and she glanced down at the screen. "He's here, actually. He's just dropping off his wife." They literally had to verify their ID's but once the stage hands knew they were who they said they were, Shaun and Gretchen still had to wait for Ben to pull around the building. They didn't let bands inside unless they were all together. What a stupid rule. "Hey!" Ben called, rolling down his window as he pulled into the small area behind the venue. "I'm part of Defaced. I'm the bassist. Oh, there's my lead and my drummer! Right over there!" Ben was ID'ed and put through the gauntlet before he was allowed to approach Shaun and Gretchen. "Jesus, what's with the security?" Ben joked, but the stage hands were already unpacking their shit and taking it inside. Ben came to see them, his mouth popping open when he took in their new face paint. "You're next," Shaun said menacingly. "How'd you get him to try that out?!" Ben cried. "That's wicked awesome!" "He suggested it himself, actually," Gretchen said coolly. "C'mon. Let's get backstage. I've got to make you look more like us." Ben snorted. "Sure." Shaun let his bassist and drummer go ahead of him, watching them interact with amusement. Somehow, after all the betrayal and heartbreak, Gretchen and Ben were still excellent band members. Even though they'd fucked each other, fell in love, split up, horribly and were forced together, they were keeping it business like. Keeping the topic to music. To corpse paint. To the upcoming show. Gretchen was really a trooper. Although Ben shot him an over-the-top wink, letting him know his plan was still on, but whatever. Gretchen had no idea that was coming and yet she was still acting civil. The three of them went backstage and immediately ran into Will and Danny. It was like Execute Invasion had been waiting by the fucking door for them or something! "Hey fag," Will greeted. "Oh! Look, Danny! He's got makeup on for his big day! How sweet!" Shaun gave the two idiots death glares. He wasn't going to be affected today. There was no way Shaun was leaving without playing his set. They could say whatever the fuck they. Shaun wasn't going to break. "Hey Shaun! Shaun!" Danny yelled as Defaced went past, looking for their own corner to prepare in. "Where's your boyfriend!" "Hold on a minute," Ben said, detaching from Shaun and Gretchen. The two painted band members turned to watch Ben approach Will and Danny. He advanced on them. He said something, in a low, insistent voice before he turned on his heel and came back to them. He smiled and Will and Danny were left gaping stupidly. "What'd you say?" Shaun asked, dumbfounded that Ben had somehow been able to intimidate the assholes. They were so stupid and brash, they never knew when to shut up. "I just told them it was funny hearing them calling you a fag. When I know for a fact they double up on drunk single girls because they actually wait for her to pass out and then they fuck each other." Shaun's eyebrows shot up to his forehead. He remembered Will's and Danny's love of picking up floozy bar bitches and bringing them back for a fuck, but he'd never, not even once, suspected Will and Danny of fucking each other! "It was actually just a joke. But, I mean, look at their fucking faces!" Shaun and Gretchen turned back, seeing the two idiots gaping after them, still. The janitor would have to clean their jaws off the floor later, it seemed, because they completely forgot to pick them up! Shaun turned away, laughing with and so did Ben. Gretchen joined in, laughing while she faced the original members of Execute Invasion. Right in their faces! Will and Danny seemed to snap out of it, going back to their two new band members who were fucking around with their phones or something off in the corner. "Alrighty!" Gretchen said, pushing Ben towards a couple of folding chairs. Shaun took one as well, sitting down to watch the makeup process. Gretchen had a bag on her, the fucking makeup wasn't stuffed down her bra, not this time at least, and Gretchen got to work making Ben into another scary member of Defaced. Besides Execute Invasion. There were a couple other strangers milling around. Guys who clearly weren't part of the stage crew. "Who are all these other people?" Shaun asked. "How many other bands are there?" "Most of them are probably other guys from other bands," Gretchen said and Shaun nodded, looking around some more. "Oh and you wanted to know the other bands? Yeah, hold on, I have the list on my phone."Oh and you wanted to know the other bands? Yeah, hold on, I have the list on my phone." Shaun rolled his eyes, but waited for Gretchen to pause in her makeup application and glance at her phone. Gretchen smirked and casually put her phone aside on one of the empty chairs. Shaun waited expectantly. "Looks like, besides Execute Invasion, us, and Twisted Corpse—" Gretchen started. "Aww, cool! We get to see Jimmy again!" Ben said and Gretchen scolded him, saying he needed to stay still and be quiet. Ben, looking up into Gretchen's face, nodded slowly. Gretchen bit her lip. Hard. Before she went back to drawing in the eye sockets. "There's only two bands we've never seen before," Gretchen continued after a moment. "Wrath is playing…But I've heard them before. They're not as good as us, but they're ok," Gretchen said. Ben snorted but Shaun glared at him, speaking up in Gretchen's defense. "I trust her judgment. She knows her shit."' Ben all but rolled his eyes. "So, of the bands you've heard Gretchen, who's better than us?" "None of them," Gretchen said honestly. "I'm not worried about any of the other bands." Shaun smirked, tilting his chin up as he looked favorably towards his drummer. Ben folded his arms, unconvinced, but he shut his mouth and Gretchen returned to Ben's face. "The last band is called Dying Hope. I've never heard of them. They had no videos on their Face Book page either. I couldn't listen to their stuff." Shaun shrugged. "I'm really not sure if that's a bad sign or not," Gretchen continued, looking grimly back towards the room. More people were coming in now. A well muscled guy with a blond beard and a tall, thin, guy with long silky hair and piercing blue eyes stood out amongst the entering group. The two of them were very attractive and as Shaun tracked their movement into the room, it definitely appeared that they were in the same band. Fuck, this wasn't a beauty contest. This was about music, dammit! And pure talent! Gretchen was just finishing on Ben's corpse paint when the booming voice of the event host rang out across the stage. The backstage area they were all in had three walls and then a long narrow exit to the right which lead out onto the stage. There were heavy curtains and ropes and suspension cables and Shaun knew he'd just have to edge along that passage before the curtain would break. There were probably crew members standing just off stage to help anyway. Shaun thought. They were apparently out there, setting each member up before they went on because nobody was doing anything out there. The event host was welcoming the crowd. The resounding cheer from the crowd beyond the curtain was kind of muffled but Shaun had a feeling that was just an illusion. It would probably be deafening once they were actually on stage. Anyways, the host was calling out Twisted Corpse, announcing the first band of the night, and Shaun turned to see Jimmy, his shoulder length hair in a man-bun today, one of his iconic bandanas tied around his head. It was just his head poking out of some door Shaun hadn't even noticed before. Then was coming out, hastily releasing a billowing cloud of smoke from his lips as he fled out of the backstage area, running on-stage. Shaun quirked his brow. "Did you guys see that?" Ben laughed. "Yeah. I guess the rest of his guys are already out there." Indeed, Shaun heard them start up momentarily, playing one of the Twisted Corpse originals. Shaun sighed, suddenly feeling a bit of the nervousness Gretchen had been displaying earlier. He didn't puke or anything. But his stomach felt a little queasy and he was glad he hadn't bothered to eat. "What's the band order? When is it our turn?" Shaun asked. Gretchen distractedly waved him off, she was close to finishing. She added a little more detail to the final look, making Ben look a bit more different than Shaun before she pulled back, smiling with satisfaction. "There," she said. "Looks good." "I'm going to check the mirror," Ben said, getting up to venture over to the door Jimmy had come out of, across the room. Shaun suddenly realized it was a bathroom. Gretchen turned to him finally. "If you want me to go find a stagehand, then you're going to have to hold my bag. You could have gone and found someone this whole time." Shaun rolled his eyes but held his hands out for Gretchen's makeup bag. She sneered and tossed it over. Shaun simply placed it beside him, on the chair next to him. Gretchen snatched up her phone and stalked off to find a stagehand. Ben returned in Gretchen's absence. "Where'd she go?" Ben was smiling, looking creepy with the corpse paint, but underneath it all Shaun knew it was just his goofy bassist. "To find a stagehand, to find the band order." "Oh," Ben came to sit on the other side of Gretchen's makeup bag. "I like the paint. It's pretty cool. It makes since, I mean, we're called Defaced. Why shouldn't we have some kind of 'faceless' act." "It's Halloween," Shaun said, thinking of Brian and his costume the day before. "I thought maybe we'd try something different." "And the kiss?" Ben asked casually, glancing at Shaun out of the corner of his eye. Shaun felt awkward immediately. They'd already talked about this on the phone, fuck! Having Ben glance at him, all hopeful and miserable like, was making Shaun feel so damned uncomfortable! "Sure!" Shaun said aggressively. "Just don't bother me about it! Especially right here and now! Fuck, there she is," Shaun shut up, crossing his arms, turning away from Ben and his obviousness. "So, Execute Invasion's next," Gretchen said as she approached the rest of the band. "Wraith is third. We play after them," Gretchen said, smirking at Shaun's nervous expression. Shaun was fighting down a goofy smile and his nostrils flared, as his breathing picked up in an excited tempo. It wasn't a big deal, Shaun was quick to smooth his face of emotion but Gretchen still grinned at him like he'd just been jumping for joy or something. "The last band playing is Dying Hope." "Again, with Dying Hope," Shaun sneered, all traces of his smile now gone. Easily. "I didn't write up the band list," Gretchen hissed, her eyes narrowing. Shaun shrugged. He knew that! Shaun and the rest of his band were quite, listening to Twisted Corpse's familiar songs. The crowd was receptive, it seemed. They were cheering and crying out and the tone sounded positive. Shaun couldn't wait to see the crowd. To see how many people he'd have to rile up tonight… When Twisted Corpse finished their fourth song, the host helped them off stage, telling the watching crowd that Shaun's old band would be up next. There was an excited swell of cheers from the fans out in the crowded theater but Shaun just ignored it. Twisted Corpse returned momentarily. Jimmy looked red-faced and sweaty. Indeed, he was taking his bandana off and wiping his wet brow below. He spotted Shaun and his crew and briefly left his band to come say hello. "Hey, guys! Great seeing you here!" Jimmy said enthusiastically as he approached. Shaun smirked. "Sure," he said neutrally. "I love the corpse paint," Jimmy said." Badass!" "Hmm," Shaun muttered, feeling superior. He'd played with Twisted Corpse before. There was no way they were better than Defaced. Their corpse paint was cool and the fans were going to fucking love it. They would convert every new listener into a fan tonight, with four of their best songs and a hell of a show on stage. All their old fans would be satisfied…They were going to take this Battle of the Bands by storm! Gretchen huffed. "Use some fucking manners, Shaun," she sighed in frustration. "Hey, Jimmy. How was the audience?" "Pretty hyped up. They were fun to play for," Jimmy laughed. He pulled the rubber band from his hair, letting his shoulder length hair fall about his face. His eyes were kind of red, bloodshot and Shaun remembered seeing him pop out of the bathroom with smoke in his mouth. "Do you have anything to smoke?" Shaun asked, wondering if maybe it wouldn't help to get a buzz on before the show. Gretchen groaned, looking embarrassed but Ben started laughing immediately, agreeing with Shaun. "Not a bad idea, dude," he said. "I could give you a little cash afterwards, if you want," Ben said. "If you can share, that is." Jimmy looked forlorn, however. "I'm sorry boys, but I brought a half joint in with me, sat down on the toilet back in there," he said, poking his thumb over his shoulder back at the bathroom. "And smoked it in one sitting." Shaun was a bit disappointed but he'd make it without. He'd never played a show high before anyway. It was probably best not to start tonight. Gretchen and Ben talked with Jimmy for a bit more. Casual topics, asking how life was and about where Jimmy had been getting up too. Jimmy was pretty vague but when Execute Invasion slipped out of the backstage area, heading towards the stage to get setup, into place and ready for their set, Shaun totally tuned Jimmy out. Will and Danny were both shooting him and Ben and probably Gretchen, too, nasty looks, and Shaun was stuck giving them the hardest, most unblinking death glare he'd ever given anyone before. Jimmy was following Shaun's gaze. "Hey," he said, turning back to Shaun. Shaun glanced at the other band leader, blinking to bring him into focus. "Hey, don't let them bother you." "Oh, really? I thought I'd let them fuck around with me a little bit more before I asked them to stop," Shaun snapped. What a stupid thing to say! Jimmy laughed. "It's just water!" he said coolly. "Everything they say or think. It's just water off a duck's back." "Water?" Shaun snorted. "And do I look like a fucking duck to you?" Shaun didn't like Jimmy's metaphor. Jimmy's lips wobbled as he pondered what to say next. "It's…it's like, don't make mountains out of molehills—" "Grrr!" Jimmy waved his hands around laughing at Shaun's frustration. "I'm sorry! It's just, I like you guys more than I like Execute Invasion. I don't even like Will. Your my buddy, Shaun! You come to my house. You've partied with me! Fuck, I even gave you advice and shit. Shouldn't my opinion of you matter more than Execute Invasion's opinion of you? Besides, they're totally biased. You used to play for them and then you started your own band. A better band. Of course they're trying to psyche you out!" Shaun smirked. "Yeah," he said. "I can see that." "Well, alright," Jimmy beamed, looking goofy and happy. "I'm going back to my band, guys, but I'll see you later." Shaun nodded. Ben and Gretchen said their own goodbyes and Jimmy was strutting off. "I can't believe he likes you at all, your so fucking rude," Gretchen bitched as soon as they were alone again. "How do you have any friends?" "I don't know. You're my friend, aren't you? Answer your own fucking question," Shaun said, a bit harsher than intended but really he was just joking. Gretchen grabbed her makeup bag up from the chair next to Shaun, clutching it to her chest. She took a seat in one of the other folding chairs, shaking her head. "I literally can't deal with this shit right now," she muttered. Shaun smirked, proud of himself. Sure, he was an asshole. But he was an asshole who was going to win it all! They weren't alone for barely a moment before a small group of people, a foursome, started heading their way from across the room. They passed Jimmy as they approached. All four of them, eyes on Shaun and Ben and Gretchen, seemed intent on reaching them. And they did. Besides the muscular, blond bearded guy and his silky haired, blue eyed friend, the group also consisted of a pretty redhead, with red lips and a tight halter top displaying her womanly figure. The last member of the group was a handsome dark skinned guy with straight inky hair. The four of them stopped before the seated members of Defaced. "You are the only band here we've never heard of," said blond beard casually, a slight accent to his words. "We thought we should come introduce ourselves." "We are Dying Hope," said the blue eyed man next to him. He had the same accent as blond beard. Shaun sneered at them. They sounded like fucking Europeans! Weren't they local?! "We're Defaced," Shaun barked back. "We've only been playing for a couple months. Playing local places around Dallas…What's your fucking story?" The two blond Europeans smiled at each other, but the redhead spoke up next. "We play local too. We just play more down south. More out of state, stuff. I'm Nicole. I'm the lead singer and these two are my rhythm and bass sections. Hans and Stefan," Nicole nodded first at the muscular guy, Hans, and the thinner, almost feminine like-man with his dreamy blue eyes and perfect beautiful hair. Stefan. "And this is Luis," Nicole laid a hand over the dark-complected guy at her side's arm. "He's our percussion." Luis smiled, looking friendly enough but Shaun was glaring and feeling challenged. He could hear Execute Invasion beginning their set out there on the stage and Shaun just wanted to concentrate on the task at hand. On going out there, ready to kill the audience with everything he had. So, in Shaun's disinterest, Gretchen spoke up on Shaun's behalf. "This is our asshole front man, Shaun," she glared in Shaun's direction, much to the determined boy's anger. "That's Ben, on bass," she nodded in Ben's direction who waved and smiled. "I'm Gretchen. Drums." "Nice to meet you," Nicole said. "We'll be watching you guys out there…we wouldn't want you to steal the show from us, right out from under our noses," she said with a laugh. Her entire, attractive band smiled in unison. Looking so dammed confident and sure of themselves Shaun felt like spitting he was so annoyed. "We will," Shaun said snottily. "You think you're going to win? Pfft, just wait until you see us play." Nicole's smile refused to waver. She turned to look at Shaun again, her light green eyes sharp and searching. "We appreciate the challenge. Just wait until you hear us play. I like the corpse paint, by the way. Defaced…cool name." And with that, Dying Hope was going back to their area of the room. They were sitting around on some threadbare couches pushed in some corner off to the side. There was a cooler over there too. It looked like they'd found the drinks. Shaun continued to feel annoyed. He surely didn't feel better after having met the mystery band face-to-face. The compliment didn't help either. Shaun's face burned red under the paint. "It's nothing," Gretchen said nervously. "Nothing at all. We're going to do fine." "Shut up!" Shaun barked, getting up to start pacing. He listened to the rest of Execute Invasion's new songs, some of which he recognized from the terrible show the other night. Shaun desperately wished Jesse were around, he could really use a quickie in the bathroom….Shaun was full of so much nervous energy and no ability to rid himself of it. He paced and paced, ignoring Gretchen's pleas for him to come back and sit down. Ben was trying to get him to come back too, and Shaun just tried to block out their voices in his head. Execute Invasion was exited from the stage to an admirable round of applause. They appeared backstage again, too pumped from the show to remember they were supposed to glare at the members of Defaced. They were all united in their excitement and they were totally wrapped up in themselves. Wraith, a band of 5, who didn't bother to come say hi, by the way, went on-stage to set up when one of the stagehands appeared, hurrying to get them ready. "We're next," Shaun heard Gretchen say, her voice filled with apprehension. Shaun clenched his teeth and tried not to be affected by his drummer's fears. Gretchen had just promised they were the best, no band here was better than them. But of course, Gretchen hadn't lied about Dying Hope. She didn't know who they were or what they sounded like, and it was very possible they may be the better band. Gretchen could be completely wrong and they could just be about to lose miserably. That line of thought was so fucking unproductive…. Shaun sneered at himself and continued to pace, listening to Wraith as they performed to the crowded theater. Shaun didn't have the best spot to listen from, of course, but he thought Wraith sounded good, if a bit repetitive. That was their flaw. Their stuff sounded a lot alike. Shaun's confidence swelled as he quickly went through his set list, thinking how he'd selected them to show off different parts of their skills. He'd picked a song with a great drum solo. He'd picked one where both he and Ben had different musical solos as well. He'd picked a song with catchy lyrics and another with excellent rhythm…. Suddenly, a spike of fear when through Shaun's chest and he went back to the band, remembering that he hadn't discussed his final picks with the rest of them yet. "Guys! We didn't talk about what we're playing yet." Gretchen looked alarmed while Ben nodded, resigned to using their last few minutes for serious band talk so Shaun went right into it, blocking out every single distraction but for Gretchen and Ben and the songs they were about to play. They pressed in close to him, their familiar faces, were at least comforting. Wraith finished quicker than any of the other bands and Shaun suddenly felt as if someone had dumped a bucket of ice water over his head. Gretchen's eyes were wide with panic, although she was obviously trying to keep it together. Ben looked a bit nervous as well, although he was continually glancing at Gretchen, out of the corner of his eye, and Shaun had a feeling he was thinking about the kiss he had planned for the end more than he was the actual performance. Whatever. Shaun couldn't worry about that. He had a band to lead. Wraith came backstage again, acting cool. Like the performance hadn't been a big deal. Shaun watched them as they crossed the room, going to circle around Dying Hope and the coolers. Indeed, they seemed like old chums, cracking beers, talking to the attractive group like they did competitions like this all the fucking time. Who knows, maybe they did. Shaun felt annoyingly uninformed. Defaced sat in a panicked silence, close together like some lameo prayer group. Shaun hated that he felt so nervous. He didn't want to. It wouldn't help. He just had to bring his best performance to the table and hope for the best. "Defaced!" One of the young stagehands called out, waving at them from the exit. "That's us," Shaun said needlessly, getting up, pulling away from his group. They were following him, but Shaun felt alone. His heart pounding, they were lead down a narrow corridor, it was dim, the only lights coming from the stage just ahead. The stagehand gestured them forward, through the curtain and they had finally arrived on-stage. The main curtain was drawn, and a couple guys in black were quickly setting their stuff up, while several others quickly packed away Wraith's equipment. The stage was large, and Shaun went to stand behind the mike. Feeling a bit overwhelmed, he was just moving to take up the mike when one of the stagehands appeared with his guitar, trusting it into Shaun's hands. Shaun took it quickly, fumbling to get it adjusted across his chest before he was left alone again, standing before the mike. Feeling stupid, Shaun grabbed it up, his fingers worrying the handle. Before Shaun was even ready, he heard the host announcing them. The guy wasn't on-stage with him, he was just beyond the curtain and Shaun felt incredibly disorientated. "From a little city called Blue Ridge, we've got another new band on the scene. I'm happy to introduce to you, Defaced!" The curtains were being yanked back and Shaun looked frantically to his left and to his right, seeing the stagehands fleeing, seeing Gretchen and Ben on either side of him. He even caught sight of the members of Dying Hope, fucking converging off-stage, watching them through the gap in the curtain. The lights hit Shaun in the face and he was suddenly staring out into a huge crowd. Huger than any Defaced had performed in front of before. Shaun blinked, his eyes scanning out over the hundreds, thousands of faces and holy shit, Shaun couldn't fucking choke now. Mother fucker! Shaun lashed out at them. It was the only thing he could think to do. "Nice to meet you, motherfuckers!" Shaun growled into the mike. People cheered and laughed. It was loud. Like a wave crashing over his head…. Like thunder roaring down from heaven. It was like nothing Shaun had ever heard before. Had felt before. He smirked. "I'm sure a lot of you've never heard of us or seen me before, but let me fucking tell you, I'm here to fucking dominate. Get ready to have your ears raped and your mind filled with the sickest most disturbing bullshit you've ever fucking imagined. Cuz I'm a fucking daemon. I'm a goddamn lunatic. And I'm going to make you my slaves." Shaun glanced purposefully at Gretchen and after a moment's pause, where Gretchen stared, open mouthed at Shaun in amazement, she shook her head, clicked her drumsticks over her head as Shaun returned the mike to its stand. They blasted into the first song. It was simple. Once they'd started. Shaun had no problem at all, he sang into the mike, shredding his guitar like a pro. They went immediately into the second song, killing the almost deafening cheers that started up as the first one had ended. The crowd wasn't silent, it seemed like a lot of people were singing along to the second song now, this was a really popular one at their regular shows, Shaun was tickled pink when he saw actual fans, repeating his words. Shaun couldn't find Jesse in the crowd, like he was usually able to at regular shows. He didn't let it bother him though he knew Jesse was here. So was the rest of his family, Shaun thought as they came to the end of their second song. Shaun paused, holding up a hand to stop Gretchen from going straight into the third. They had a spot light on the band, and there were other lights, out over the crowed room. It danced over the faces of the thousands in attendance. The seats went upwards, and out, there was a large balcony and the light and sound box were up in the back. High up above that, Shaun could see the theater's old catwalk system and he saw a couple flashes up there, photographers getting shots for their magazines and websites…. "De-faced! De-faced! De-faced!" the crowed started in the band's brief silence. Ben was looking at him, Gretchen was gesturing, looking confused in Shaun's direction but for a moment, Shaun let it happen. Let his fans start a slow and completely thrilling chant up for him. Fuck everything! This felt right! This was exactly where Shaun needed to be right now. Shaun laughed into the microphone. "That's right fuckers! I love you calling my fucking name!" "SHAUN!" Someone bellowed from the balcony. It looked like a couple of girls actually, whatever. Shaun smirked up at them. A couple girls were standing up on their seats, high in the balcony. "WE LOVE YOU!" the fucking bitches actually flashed him, even though Shaun was too far away to actually see anything. And of course, he didn't even like boobs to begin with. Shaun cackled and gestured for Gretchen to start the third song off. She grinned at him, obviously feeling a lot better now that they were playing, as well. This song had the long drum solo and after the first part was finished and Gretchen started doing her thing, Shaun left the mike behind, swinging his guitar around behind his back. He ventured out onto the edge of the stage and immediately people rushed to stretch out their hands. Shaun touched their fingertips, feeling like a god, feeling so fucking powerful, unstoppable almost. He tossed his hair over his shoulders, letting it cascade attractively down his back, wisps curling back to his face. People were screaming and fighting each other to get closest, to get to be the ones to touch Shaun's fingers, but Shaun was already stalking to the other side of the stage, giving a few more lucky souls his attention. He laughed at the desperation on the faces of his fans, their frantic cheers and cries. He pulled his guitar back around though and pranced back to the mike. Gretchen's solo was almost up. They finished up the third song and rolled into the fourth. Their last. Shaun immediately wished he'd paused before they'd started this last one. He just wanted to savor this moment for as long as it lasted. He'd been shy, scared at first, but that feeling was just a figment of the past. There was nothing about this moment Shaun did not love. The last song was slower at least and people who knew the lyrics, were singing along. Shaun shared excited looks with both Ben and Gretchen as the fans improved their song with their participation. When it was over, Shaun took one last look out over the crowd, hoping to see the little redhead, his lovely boyfriend, but he did not. The applause was deafening, it was fucking incredible and Shaun felt like he were weightless, he was so high from the thrill of the show. The applause lagged for a second, and Shaun bit his lip, leering out over the crowd, wondering what the fuck was going on but everyone was looking just behind him, at Gretchen and her drum kit. Shaun turned. Ben had dropped his bass, he was climbing over Gretchen's drum kit, grabbing her by the arms, and just as suddenly, he was kissing her on the mouth, sloppily. The audience, as a whole, started hooting and hollering and clapping again, clearly amused by the show. Shaun smirked, glad to hear the approval of the crowd and glad to see Gretchen was melting into Ben's arms. Ben's dumb plan had worked. Shaun grabbed up his mike again, as Ben and Gretchen continued to make out. "You'd better make sure we win, motherfuckers," Shaun growled menacingly into the mike. He smirked when he got some yells of approval it. "Goodnight, fags," he said, winking and someone dropped the curtain, blocking them from the audience. "Wow," Nicole, the lead singer of Dying Hope clapped as she came on-stage behind Ben and Gretchen, who seemed completely oblivious as to anything that wasn't one of their mouths or tongues. "Quite a show," she said almost mockingly, although the audience was still applauding them, and Shaun could hear people trying to start up the chant again, De-faced! De-faced! Hans and Stefan came in behind Nicole, looking completely unruffled by the sound of Defaced's popularity. Shaun knew they were probably trying to fake him out, but they were doing a good job. Shaun glared at the Europeans, absently taking his guitar off. The stagehands had appeared again and were trying to pack their shit up. Gretchen and Ben had finally been broken up. Luis was saying something to them, looking cheerful and bright and Gretchen and Ben were smiling like idiots in love and Shaun suddenly felt embarrassed. "What did you think?" Shaun asked boldly. "Honestly, I think we were the best musical act tonight." "You had some elements I haven't heard before," Hans said. "The vocals were better than I thought," Stefan, the skinny, girlish blond said and Shaun glared death at him. "He means, we weren't expecting you to have such range. It was impressive," Nicole said primly, shaking her red hair over her shoulder. She, like Gretchen, was taking advantage of the fact that she had tits. Fucking chicks and their tits, Shaun scowled down at the girl's cleavage, refusing to let her affect him. "The kissing show was cute," Stefan said, smirking, thinking he was funny and Shaun made a quick move, wanting to grab the skinny blond around his neck but stopped before he could actually touch the guy. Stefan winced in anticipation and then scowled. Hans started to laugh. "Oh, Stefan, did the American teenager scare you?" Shaun sneered and pushed past the three assholes. He snapped at Gretchen and Ben as he passed, yelling at them to hurry the fuck up already. "Great show," Luis said, and Shaun flicked him off. Shaun wanted to go back to the backstage area. Maybe he'd grab a beer now that Dying Hope wasn't monopolizing the cooler. But Gretchen pulled him up short. "Let's watch. Let's see what we're up against." Shaun honestly couldn't argue with her request. He was curious after all. He wanted nothing more than to win. So, Shaun, Gretchen and Ben stuck around behind the curtain while the stagehands rushed around and packed their shit up, leaving Dying Hope's shit out for them to set up with. The two blond Europeans grabbed up their guitars. Nicole got behind the mike. Luis sat down at his kit, looking carefree, flexing his hands, spinning the sticks around like a show-off. "Last, but not least, we've got Dying Hope playing! They got their start down at the border a couple years ago and they've had a lot of changes recently, but they're stronger and better than ever now! Here they are!" The curtain drew back and Shaun peeked through the curtain, looking out at Nicole as she addressed the crowd. The roar of the audience seemed just as loud for Dying Hope as it had been for Defaced. Shaun didn't want to be self-conscious or anything. It was just true. "How do they pick the winner?" Shaun asked, not really caring what Nicole had to say to her fans. The fact that she had any, was irritating. Gretchen glanced at him, giving him the stink eye. "You really don't know?" "It's not like a vote?!" Shaun asked, frustrated. "I'm asking because I don't know, bitch!" "Hey!" Ben cried and suddenly some stagehand were surrounding them, literally trying to pull them back towards the backstage area. "We're quiet!" Ben hissed, looking panicked. "Sorry! We won't make another peep! Promise!" Shaun ripped his arm out of one of the stagehand's grips. The guy gave him a look but backed off. "Don't call her a bitch," Ben muttered and Shaun nearly brought the stagehands running back again as he was highly considering punching Ben in the balls and he didn't think Ben would be able to keep quiet when that happened. Shaun didn't though and Gretchen was rolling her eyes anyway. "Ben, c'mon. I can protect myself," she smiled briefly at the bassist, but then turned back to Shaun. Apparently, finally ready to explain. "There's no fan vote, Shaun. There's a judge. Honestly, I forget the guy's name but he's some production rep. He's going to pick the band agency will represent." Shaun frowned. "Well, who is this guy? How the fuck do we know what he likes or what he wants to represent?! Why the fuck wouldn't there be a fan vote?! That makes so much more sense!" The end of Shaun's rant was drowned out as Dying Hope finally began. Their music was fast paced. Loud, and dramatic. Shaun forgot about the current argument for a moment, looking out onto the stage as Nicole's beautiful voice cut through the music, strong and clear as a bell. They didn't say anything as Dying Hope went easily through their set list to much acclaim from the watching audience. Shaun started to feel more and more nervous, thinking about how attractive all the members of Dying Hope were. Hearing the fans react. There were a lot more guys cheering for Nicole than there had been girls for Shaun. They weren't flashing their chests or anything, but it was clear Dying Hope was popular. The music was good too. Shaun wasn't a huge fan of female vocals but Nicole was good. The Europeans were making love to their guitars. The melodies were phenomenal. Luis was good on drums as well. Dying Hope hadn't skimped on anything. Everyone was skilled. Everyone looked the part. Shaun left the area before they started their last song. The members of Wraith were still clustered around the cooler when Shaun returned. Shaun went to get a beer anyway, ignoring everyone. Gretchen and Ben showed up shortly. They went back to sit on the chairs they'd been vacating previously. They were talking quietly, probably about their relationship! That was cool and everything but Shaun didn't know how they could even bare to think about the future when they really had no idea if they'd win or not! This was fucking insane! Dying Hope finished up eventually. There was lots of applause, and Shaun hated how loud it sounded, even from back here. He finished his beer and grabbed another, leaving the cooler and the disinterested members of Wraith behind. "You sounded great!" Jimmy cornered Shaun before he could get back to his band. Jimmy had sprang up out of nowhere and Shaun glared and tried not to crush his beer. "Thanks," Shaun said shortly. "I didn't actually know there was only one damned judge for this fucking battle. This is bullshit!" "What?" Jimmy asked, looking confused and Shaun shook his head and stalked off, not wanting to explain if Jimmy didn't already know. Shaun reached his band, standing over them. Both Gretchen and Ben turned to meet him, both of them looking wary. "What's up?" "So, the show's over, how long do we have to wait to find out who the judge picked?" "Err," Gretchen hedged. "I'm not sure. We'll just have to wait." Shaun scoffed, draining his second beer. "Fuck," he muttered, glaring as Dying Hope returned to the backstage, looking extremely proud of themselves. Shaun went to the bathroom, locking the door behind him. He couldn't take it, if Dying Hope stole this from him, if anyone stole this from him, Shaun didn't know what he'd do. Maybe he'd implode. Maybe he'd go on some fucked up killing spree. Maybe he'd pack up and leave everything and everyone behind, too embarrassed to continue his life here…. Shaun shook his head and kicked the brick back against the wall of sinks. He kicked the wall until his foot was throbbing and his boot was scuffed. Shaun wanted to win! He had to win! HE DESERVED IT! "Shaun?" that was Gretchen's voice. She was knocking tentatively on the bathroom door. "Shaun? They're calling us all out. They're ready to announce the winner." Shaun, breathing hard, looked at himself in the mirror over the sinks. His corpse paint had gone a little crazy, from his sweat, from his hair getting into it, from his two beers and subsequent raging. He smoothed his hair down and walked determinedly to the door. The backstage area was completely empty now. Gretchen and Ben were waiting outside the bathroom door, looking concerned. "Dude, we'll have other chances, this isn't the end," Ben said immediately but Shaun glared at him. Gretchen met Shaun's gaze warily but she didn't say much. "Let's go," was all she said and the three of them fell into step together, going back down the dark corridor to the stage. As soon as they joined the other 4 bands on the stage, they drew back the curtain. The host was finally visible. He was just some nerd in glasses and a Metallica t-shirt. Nobody special. "Alright you guys! We're ready to introduce tonight's judge and have him announce the winner!" The audience seemed to swell. The rows upon rows of people were standing up out of their seats, excited and ready to hear the winner. Shaun felt awkward, standing crammed between Gretchen and Ben. They were holding hands behind him, so they were basically in an embrace. Shaun could see Execute Invasion was just in front of him and Dying Hope was off to the right. Shaun didn't dare move. "Hello everybody!" a fit and rather attractive older man came to join the nerd in the Metallica t-shirt. He was dressed in an impeccable suit and had steely white hair in a crew cut. He looked completely out of place. "I'm Paul Yates, head of Hell Fire Records. I'm going to be announcing the winner tonight." There were some cheers, but most people simply waited, wanting to hear what Yates had to say. "Let me remind the contestants that tonight's winner will be getting $5,000 cash, a one-year contract with my publishers and I'll be personally helping the winner write and record their own album in our studios!" There was another round of applause and a hail of cheers and the other bands on stage started clapping. Shaun felt awkward, but he clapped as well, feeling like a robot. Enough already! Shaun just wanted to hear the winner! Yates smiled thinly. "I think there's been enough delay. Why don't we cut right to the chase." Thank you! "Think someone can give him a drum roll, please!" the Metallica nerd called and Luis broke off from his group. Shaun realized they hadn't put Dying Hope's equipment away yet and Wraith had clustered around his drum kit. They moved, amicably enough and Luis sat down, smiling pleasantly. The drum roll started. Shaun rolled his eyes. Yates was opening a fucking envelope. Like he didn't already know who won. Fucking bullshit! The spotlight centered on Yates and the Metallica nerd and as the drum roll continued, Yates cleared his throat. "Announcing this year's winner, and our hot new member of Hell Fire Records, Dying Hope!" Everybody cheered. It was deafening. The lights swung and spotlighted Dying Hope now, the light glaring off of them, like they were fucking made of gold or something and Shaun literally couldn't stand to look at them. Ben was patting his back. Gretchen, in his ear, was whispering something about next year but Shaun pushed them off of him. He turned and walked off stage, seeing nothing. Hearing nothing. The backstage area had a few stagehands milling around in it, but Shaun was completely uninterested in this place. He wasn't staying and they couldn't fucking make him. Nobody stopped him. Shaun went straight outside and spotting Gretchen's car, he went and sat down beside it, on the pavement. He just sat there, looking out into the sea of cars beyond in the parking lot. He sat there for what felt like a long time. People started flooding out of the venue after too long. Dying Hope must have played their encore song. That's probably why they hadn't bothered to tear their equipment down. This all seemed like a setup and Shaun was feeling very bitter. "There you are," it was Gretchen. Shaun jerked, glancing up to see the goth chick hanging over her car, looking down at him. "Nice hiding place." Shaun grunted as Gretchen came around the car, moving to sit next to him. She'd removed her corpse paint and she had a towel folded up in her arms. She gestured towards Shaun and Shaun, wordlessly, turned in her direction. Cautiously, looking into Shaun's eyes, Gretchen scooted closer and started to wipe away the paint. The towel was warm and moist and Shaun shut his eyes and let himself be cleaned. He felt like a stupid helpless kitten having it's mother clean him with her tongue. Whatever. "So, I guess we found out that Battle of the Bands is a sham," Gretchen said after a minute. She pulled back the towel and Shaun saw her smiling. "Dying Hope was going to win. They were always going to win," Shaun said grumpily. "Nobody else had a chance. They were picked ahead of time," Gretchen said. "Yeah," Shaun hung his head. "I feel like a fucking retard. I thought this was our chance to make it big. This was nothing but an enormous waste of time." "Hardly," Gretchen said. "Did you hear all the fan support we had out there tonight! That was completely unplanned! That's not going away just because Dying Hope won some rigged competition!" Shaun grunted again. "It's not!" Gretchen said vehemently. "And I know you don't want to hear it, but there are going to be other opportunities. As long as we keep it together and don't fall apart—" Shaun snorted. "Fall apart? That's been you and Ben's objective for weeks! We're lucky we had it together enough to play tonight!" Gretchen shook her head. "Shaun…" "So what, you and Ben kissed tonight and the three of us are going to be some unstoppable team again? No more Angela? No more complications? That's it? Simple and done?!" Gretchen bit her lip. "We actually don't know what's going on with our family yet." Shaun laughed. "So, chances are Angela was in the bathroom when you guys kissed and Ben will realize he can have a wife and some on the side and the dumb idiot will take it!" "What?" "I don't know," Shaun sighed, frustrated. "Can we go already. I'm done with this place." "They're helping everyone pack up. They'll be outside, loading, really soon," Gretchen said. "I just wanted to make sure you weren't off slitting your wrists, or something." Shaun snorted. "No, Jesse nipped that habit in the bud." "What?" Shaun shook his head. The mention of Jesse made him want to see the little redhead. "So, how do you think I could find Jesse and my grandparents?" "Oh, I left my phone out in the car. Let me see if he messaged me at all." "I'm sure he did," Shaun got up, dusting off the backs of his pants. He watched as Gretchen retrieved her keys from their usual place and unlocked the car doors. She rooted around in the car's console, coming out victorious with her cell. She then turned and sat in the front seat. Looking at the phone's screen. "Yep, there's like a million messages. Jesse's one of the authors," she laughed nervously. Shaun rolled his eyes. "What'd he say?" Gretchen paused. "He sent me a fucking novel, but the last one's short. He says 'Eli has us parked in lot C-4'." That was all Shaun needed to hear. He looked back over the lot, seeing the tall light posts were lettered. They were facing lot E. "See you later," he said vaguely, marching off in the direction of the parking lot. Gretchen, thankfully, didn't try to stop him. It wasn't very hard to find lot C. The lots were still full of cars. There were people milling around, still more coming out of the theater. It was full of activity, people backing out, people yelling and running around. Shaun glared at them. At the joy of the concertgoers. He didn't know what they were so happy about? The wrong band had won! Shaun spotted Eli's old car right under the C light post. Jesse and Eli were standing around, talking, but Ruth and the kid, Brian, weren't in sight. "Hey," Shaun called as he got closer. Jesse and Eli turned and immediately, Jesse flew across the remaining distance and threw his arms around Shaun's neck. Unable to keep a straight face, Shaun wrapped his arms around Jesse's waist, supporting him. Jesse was hugging him tight, nearly choking the life out of him, but Shaun just carried him back to the car, setting him down gently. Jesse was staring up at him, his eyes beautiful and blue. "I'm so sorry, baby. Dying Hope wasn't even that good!" "Yes they were," Shaun sneered. "They were pretty good, but c'mon! Defaced was awesome! We absolutely loved the new makeup! It was so cool!" Brian popped out of the car, running to Shaun's side. He latched onto his arm. "You were a skeleton too! For your show!" "I got the idea from your costume," Shaun said to the little boy, managing to smile down at him. "You were so cool!" Brian said, jumping up and down in his excitement. "It was incredibly loud, but it was pretty surreal, seeing you up on stage tonight," Eli said finally, clapping Shaun on the shoulder. Somehow, even though he knew he was a loser, Shaun felt his heart swell with pride. Eli had never seen him preform. It was cool to see the old man smiling at him, looking proud of him…. "You even had a couple girls flashing their boobies!" Eli laughed, and Brian started up too. It seemed to be a running joke between the pair now, because Jesse rolled his eyes and look annoyed. "Terrible," Ruth muttered, climbing out of the front seat where she'd been sitting. "I mean, well…I don't mean it was terrible," Ruth was looking a bit worse for wear. Her silvery hair was awry and it looked like she had something spilled down the front of her baby blue blouse. "It was a good show," she said sourly. "Grandma?" Ruth glared at Shaun, her mouth pinched in a narrow line. Jesse cupped a hand to his mouth and leaned in close to Shaun's ear. "Someone threw a beer down from the balcony. It landed on Ruth." Shaun tried not to laugh. "You certainly knew what you were doing up there," Ruth said after a moment. "Maybe you can make a living, being a musician." "Well, it's back to the drawing boards now," Shaun said. "We obviously need more practice. We need to play more shows. More fans wouldn't hurt either," he said neutrally. Jesse grinned at him. "That's a great attitude! I guess maybe our sights were set a little high. I mean, Defaced hasn't even been around half a year." Shaun nodded. "It'll take a little time," Jesse said, smiling brightly. "That's all. You'll see." And Shaun had always hated that. Time. But he didn't have a lot of choice. He could give up. Or he could continue to plug away. His efforts may end up to be fruitless, but Shaun wanted his. With his whole being. He didn't want to give up. "Oh my god!" Jesse cried suddenly, covering his mouth. He looked up at Shaun with wide, amused eyes. "We had to leave Angela behind in the building. She said she wasn't leaving until she had Ben's balls!" Eli scratched his head. "She really seemed like a nice girl." Ruth sniffed indignantly. "There's something wrong with a girl who spends that much time in a tanning booth. I saw a segment about it on CNN. It scrambles the brains." Shaun couldn't help it. He started to chuckle. Everyone thought it was pretty damned funny and it was only Gretchen's car pulling up that stopped them. Gretchen hung out the window. "We're all loaded up and ready to go. My sister's out on a warpath, so, I think we'd better go." "You're going home? Angela knows where that is," Shaun pointed out. "Yeah, me and Ben were thinking we'd treat the whole family to a night at the Holiday Inn! They have an indoor pool!" Brian started bouncing up and down on the spot. Gretchen laughed and waved for them all to get in. Brian went immediately, throwing himself into the backseat and Jesse followed him, saying his goodnights and thank yous to Eli and Ruth as he passed. "Thanks for coming," Shaun said, turning to his grandparents. They were smiling at him. "I wouldn't say we'd be back anytime soon, but that was interesting. Getting to see what your all about," Ruth said. She pulled him in for a hug and Shaun went willingly, letting her damp shirt press into his chest. He didn't mind all that much. "I'm sorry you didn't get to see me win," Shaun said as he pulled back. "We did, Shaun," Eli said, pulling Shaun in for a hug as well. It was briefer but just as heartfelt. "They only picked 5 bands to compete and you were one of them. I saw a winning performance tonight." Shaun smiled, touched by his grandparents' words. "Now go have a fun night. You deserve it. Don't let this keep you down." "I'm not going to," Shaun said, lifting his chin up. "If I quit then I'll never win." "That's right," Eli smiled brilliantly. So, Shaun left with his band, with his boyfriend and their kid. They went to spend the night at the Holiday Inn and went swimming in their underwear. Shaun tried not to think about the show. He tried his best. *** Three Months Later It was the middle of January and Shaun was idling in the Wal-Mart parking lot, waiting for Jesse to finish his shift. They only had one car at the moment, and it wasn't a Mustang, but it was theirs and they used it daily. Shaun spotted Jesse hurrying through the cross walk, his blue Wal-Mart vest over his shoulder. Shaun unlocked the doors and waited for him. "Hey! Sorry! Amanda just wanted to talk about my request for time off. She said they could give me every day off but Friday. Valentine's Day. So, I'm going to have to ask around to see if someone can switch hours with me." "Hmm." "Don't say hmm, I want have to figure this out. I can't miss that show!" The little redhead was talking about Gretchen's newest idea. To start playing out of state. Somehow she'd set up a weeklong tour in bars and theaters and rinky dink venues through New Mexico and Arizona before they doubled back home for Valentine's Day. They'd been invited to this Valentines event in Texas. Lots of local metal bands were going to be playing at the Bloody Valentines Show but Defaced was going to be one of the headliners. Shaun drove across town as Jesse ran his mouth. Jesse was resourceful. He was popular at work too, so Shaun didn't even know what they were talking about. Jesse would find someone to cover his shift. There was no way Jesse would miss a show. Next stop was the Happy Days day care off of Broad Boulevard. Putting Brian in day care was a recent occurrence. Shaun had been happy to watch him throughout the day, but Brian had actually asked if he could enroll himself. Little Brian had continued to blossom under the care of Jesse and the band. He had friends in the neighborhood now, and when they went away to school and daycare during the weekdays, well, Brian had decided he needed to do that too. He wanted to be social. "Let me go grab the little brat," Jesse said as they pulled in the parking lot. He threw his vest into the backseat and leaned over to get a quick kiss from Shaun. The little redhead smiled all the way to the front door of the day care, Shaun noticed. Hell, Shaun was smiling too, it seemed, when he glanced at his reflection in the rearview mirror. Shaun turned the mirror away, feeling a little ridiculous. Things since the Battle of the Bands had been good, despite what Shaun had initially thought. They continued to play shows, getting the roll of headliner more often than not. The pay rate had increased. And the fan base had expanded. If nothing, the Battle of the Bands had provided them with exposure. People on their band page were always asking where they could buy an album or when they would be playing on the radio. Shaun, Gretchen and Ben were now seriously trying to save some money so they could get time in a studio. They had to produce their music. That was the next step. Shaun's phone started beeping. That was another development. Shaun was now mobile. Shaun rooted around in his back pocket, pulling out the damned smart phone, which wasn't even fucking smart. Shaun didn't recognize the number but he didn't always save his contacts. Jesse had been in arms when he'd seen Shaun's list of contacts. "Nobody even has a contact photo!" Whatever. Shaun answered the call. "Hello, is this Shaun Wilson I'm speaking to? Of Defaced?" "Er, yeah?" This must be about the Bloody Valentines event. Or one of the other shows Gretchen had scheduled. She usually used her phone but who knows, maybe she'd given Shaun's out in case one of their employers had a question. "This is Shaun," he said a bit more authoritatively. "I'm Charles Kerry…I'm…a pretty big fan." "Alright?" "I've been watching your band preform since Battle of the Bands in October and I'm ready to make you an offer I don't think you'll want to refuse." Jesse and Brian were exiting the daycare now, and Shaun watched them with a furrowed brow. "Who are you?" Shaun asked the Kerry guy again. "How did you get my number?" "I have my ways," Kerry said. "And I'd like to offer you my services." "What?" "I know this is terribly unprofessional, but at the moment, I'm running a pretty bare bones establishment," Kerry said quickly. Jesse opened the back door for Brian, getting him into his booster seat. Brian was talking about something, but when Jesse spotted Shaun on the phone he gently hushed the little boy. He hurriedly strapped the toddler in before shutting his door and coming to get in the front. "Who's that?" Jesse mouthed. Shaun shrugged. "Are you busy at the moment?" Shaun looked around the car. "I just picked my boyfriend up from work. We're taking our kid home." "Oh!" Kerry sound a bit surprised. If it was by the boyfriend comment or the kid one, Shaun didn't care to find out. But Kerry was quick to recover. "Are you going home for a meal? Let me treat you guys. Can you met me at the Denny's on 59 in oh…say…45 minutes?" Having no idea what he was agreeing too, Shaun pictured the mentioned Denny's in his head. It was only a half hour's drive from here. They'd get free dinner too and Shaun wasn't going to sneeze at that. "Sure. I guess." "Great! I'll see you there! If you get there early, watch out for a Lexus! That's what I'm driving." Kerry hung up and feeling a bit out of place, Shaun took the phone away from his ear. Sliding it back into his pocket. "Who was that?" Jesse asked as Shaun started up the car again. "I don't know. Some guy called Charles Kerry." "What did he want?" "He wants to treat us to dinner. I guess we're driving to meet him at the Denny's off the highway." Jesse fell silent as they exited the parking lot. "But…why?" "Jess! I don't fucking know! He said he had some offer for the band and agreed to meet and buy us dinner!" "What kind of offer? Shouldn't the rest of the band be here?" Shaun sighed. "I don't know." "Well, I hope it doesn't take all night. I've got a test to study for in the morning." Jesse left it at that. Using his morning GED classes that he took at the community college as some kind of excuse. Shaun turned some music on and Brian started playing with the pens in Jesse's Wal-Mart vest. They blazed down Broad. Heading for the highway and the Denny's. When they got to the Denny's and parked, Shaun started looking around immediately. Nobody really stuck out at first. There was a van full of kid and a single mother. There was a greasy trucker hanging out in the entrance, smoking. There were a couple teenagers sitting in their car, huddled over a phone. "I think that's him," Shaun said, pointing as a beautiful silver Lexus pulled into the lot. It parked and out came a young looking kid in a suit and tie. He had glasses on and as he collected some papers into his briefcase, he repeatedly paused to shift his glasses further up his nose. What a dork. The kid hurried inside and Shaun got out, moving to follow him. "Kerry?" Shaun caught up with the dork once he got inside. Kerry was standing at the waitresses podium, apparently waiting to be seated, but the kid whirled around at the sound of Shaun's voice. He paused again, to push his glasses up his nose, and he beamed. "That's me!" Kerry looked him up and down, craning his head back to meet Shaun's gaze. Fuck, was this kid short. "Shaun Wilson…" Kerry said with a tad of reverence. "It's an honor!" Kerry fell all over himself, shifting his briefcase around, trying to get a hand free. When he stuck out his hand, Shaun took it, feeling a little bad for him. "So, this is the guy?" Both Shaun and Kerry jumped, turning to see Jesse and Brian standing just behind them in the entrance. Jesse, friendly as always, came forward to introduce himself. "I'm Jesse. Shaun's partner." "I didn't mean to sound so surprised on the phone, it's just I didn't know you were gay!" Kerry said. "That's fine and everything! Good for you guys! And you've got a kid too! Awesome!" Jesse smiled, looking like he was trying not to laugh. "Yeah, this is my son. Brian." "Hi!" Brian said cheerfully, not nearly as afraid of strangers as he had been just a few months ago. "Hi!" Kerry said back, just as cheerful. A Denny's waitress approached them, looking bored to death. "Table for 4?" she asked. "Absolutely!" said Kerry. "C'mon, let's get down to business!" The four of them were seated and a waitress came by almost immediately for drink orders. Shaun decided right there and then that he wanted a burger and ordered a coke. Jesse and Brian got pop as well but Kerry ordered a water with a lemon. Then Kerry leaned over the table, looking Shaun right in the eye. "I've always been a metal head, but I've never fit into the scene," he said blatantly. "I can see that," Shaun said neutrally. Jesse scoffed and hit Shaun playfully on the arm. "He doesn't mean it like that," Jesse said. Kerry glanced at Jesse. "Honestly, I don't see any other way to mean it. I know I don't look like the typical metal head." The waitress returned with the drinks, asking, almost hopefully, if they knew what they wanted to order. Everyone pointed out what they wanted, luckily and Jesse ordered chicken fingers for Brian. The waitress pulled a kid's menu out of her apron and Brian was then entertained with the included 3 crayons. Fucking kids…easy as shit. Once they waitress went off with their orders, Kerry started again. "I'm fresh out of college. I just got my degree in music management…I've never fit in, but I knew I could contribute to the genre." "Wow," Jesse said, taking a sip of his beverage. "So, your saying…" "My business is brand new. My investor is my dad," Kerry admitted, looking a bit sheepish, even as he pushed his glasses further up his nose. "But I'd like to get started managing bands and your band is the one I want to manage." Shaun quirked a brow. "I don't know if we need a manager," he said slowly. "I mean, my drummer schedules all our shows and negotiates our pay…what do we need a manager for?" "Yes, I would handle scheduling shows and negotiating the pay, but I'd be doing so much more than that," Kerry said, smiling. "What Defaced needs right now is time in the studio. You guys need to produce your music." "Yeah," Shaun agreed. He'd just been thinking about that. "And I'm your man!" Kerry said. "I'm willing to buy you studio time. I'll get guys to help you produce it. Then I'm going on the road to sell it! And you guys will be right behind me. We need to get you on the road. We need to get you on the radio. Unfortunately, because your undiscovered still, your still working on a small scale. I'm here to get you noticed, not bar by bar, but nationwide! We'll have a contract written up, but for now, I'm going to support you. And in the end, you'll make me richer than my wildest dreams!" Shaun glared at the kid. "Seriously?" "Yes. I heard you guys play for the first time at the Battle of the Bands, but I've been following you since. You guys have skill. You guys have drive. I wanted to approach you first, but I'm not against meeting with Gretchen and Ben and hashing out the details with them too. I'm very interested in managing your band." Shaun watched Kerry for a long moment. He took in his extreme dorkiness, his goofy smile, his earnest voice… "I'm definitely not saying yes tonight," Shaun said. "You've got to come meet the rest of the band. Gretchen's going to go apeshit when I tell her we got a new guy to schedule shows. She's been really OCD about it lately." "Alright! Good!" Kerry said excitedly. "Let's make plans to get together! I've got tons of ideas to share with you guys. You won't be sorry." Shaun wasn't sorry. They enjoyed their free dinner and then they hit the road, exchanging numbers and dates and times on when they would meet again. "I kind of liked that guy," Jesse said as they got into their car and headed home. "I had a good feeling about him. He really wants to be a part of the band." "I don't know how we can say no. Gretchen will be butthurt about not getting schedule shows, but we all want time in the studio. Kerry's offering that." "Sometimes, you just got to take a leap!" Jesse said. "Maybe he will take advantage of you, but it'll just help you pick a better manager. I think all big bands have managers." "And publicists and agents and stylists and bodyguards…They have crews." "Right. So this guy comes out of nowhere, gushing over you...and he wants to help." "So, I should blindly accept," Shaun said, cracking a smile. Jesse punched him in the arm, rolling his eyes. They just had to take one day at a time and no matter what. Keep moving. Shaun had wanted so many times in his life to just roll over and die. But he hadn't. And new and better things kept popping up every day. Life wasn't easy. Shaun's definitely wasn't. But he was happy. He was surrounded by friends now. He was deeply involved in his own music. He had a lover in his life and every day, little Brian moved closer to his heart. They were a family now, and as rag-tag and patchwork as it was, it was a happy one. They went home to tell Gretchen about Kerry. They'd probably have to get right back in the car after that and drive over to Ben's new apartment and tell him too. It was probably going to be a crazy night. But Shaun, deep down in his belly, absolutely couldn't wait to tell his band the good news. They were finally getting somewhere.
  13. Chapter 23

    Chapter Twenty-Three Jesse and Shaun got up early on Sunday morning. They were determined to get to the U-Haul rental and get a little truck for the day, wanting to make the process of moving as easy as possible. Gretchen and Ben were still sleeping in Gretchen's room when Jesse and Shaun left the house and commandeered Gretchen's Mazda. They drove downtown to the U-Haul place, parking Gretchen's car in the lot for later. Then they drove towards Jesse's. "We get to live with you!!!" Brian screamed the second Jesse and Shaun came in the door. He had apparently been waiting for them in the living room and he leapt off the couch and ran circles around the room, crying with joy. "We get to live with Shaun!!" "Alright Brian, keep it down," Jesse admonished the little blond. "Is everyone awake?" "No!" Brian cried. "They're all sleeping in!" Jesse groaned. Well, that was the end of that. "Just stay down here," Jesse told his boyfriend, leaving him to tend to the excited toddler. Shaun gave him the barest of smiles and Jesse took that as an agreement. The redhead went upstairs. His and Sam's bedroom door was shut, but Monica's was partially open. He could hear Lissa crying at the baby room at the end of the hall and Jesse went there first, hoping to find Monica. "I thought I heard someone come in." Jesse did a double take as he entered the baby room. Cliff was standing over Lissa's crib, holding the baby, not Monica. Despite the early hour and the fact that everybody else seemed to be sleeping still, Cliff was dressed casually in slacks and an undershirt. This definitely wasn't the first time he'd done this either as he seemed to be doing a decent job calming Lissa down. Being a doctor, Jesse figured, he probably knew what he was doing anyway. "Yep. It's me and Shaun," Jesse confirmed. "We're here to grab Brian and all our stuff." Cliff sighed. Avoiding Jesse's gaze, Cliff gently took the baby over to her changing table. He started to change Lissa's diaper. Jesse had a strange sense of deja vu. Jesse left home and now Monica's boyfriend was taking his place as babysitter? Well, if Cliff really was marrying Monica then maybe this was a good sign. The kids would surely benefit from having a father figure, rather than a floozy mom and a distracted older brother. "Your mom finally came clean about Brian. He's yours." "Yep," Jesse said. "We weren't planning on telling him the truth, but I guess, maybe I'll have to now." "Probably for the best," Cliff said, powdering the baby's bottom before grabbing a new diaper. "But he's your kid. I shouldn't tell you what to do. You're almost an adult, your mom says." "18 in December," Jesse said. Cliff finished with little Lissa, picking her up gingerly and coming to stand in front of Jesse. The doctor smiled down at him and Lissa, the sweet little girl, turned her face in Jesse's direction and gummed her teeth at him excitedly. Jesse absently stroked the little girl's soft hair, smiling back. "I have a good feeling about you, Jesse," Cliff said. "When I found out it was you watching the kids, all by yourself, I felt like a…well, like a selfish asshole. I knew going into this relationship that Monica had baggage. I had my head up my ass, I just assumed Monica had daycare and babysitters." "Nope. Just me," Jesse said. "And Sam too. He's helped me a lot." Cliff clapped Jesse on his shoulder. "You're going to be just fine. And honestly, if you need some help," Cliff pulled a business card out of his back pocket. "That's my direct cell. Don't bother with the office line, Monica and I are both transferring out of state, but you can call my cell. Any time. For any reason, ok?" Jesse felt a little teary eyed looking at the card. "I wish you'd come along sooner," Jesse told him, staring at the card and not daring to look into the doctor's face. "I just hope your legit. You seem too good to be true." "Never heard that one before," Cliff said, laughing heartily. "Oh, and hey, I'm heading to the hospital to grab a few things later today, when you and your friend are done packing, why don't you run over to the hospital. We'll get this cast off you. It's time." "We kind of made plans to have an early dinner over at Shaun's grandparents," Jesse informed him but Cliff just smiled. "Don't worry about it. I'll be there waiting for you. My last patient." Relieved, Jesse nodded and left Cliff to the baby. He glanced at his mother's door as he past, but he didn't bother her. She wouldn't appreciate it.he past, but he didn't bother her. She wouldn't appreciate it.he past, but he didn't bother her. She wouldn't appreciate it.he past, but he didn't bother her. She wouldn't appreciate it. Jesse pushed open his bedroom door. Sam was indeed still in bed. He was laying on his stomach, his head to the side, drool leaking out of his mouth. Jesse hadn't seen him in days and after the bullshit they'd had to bond over, Jesse suddenly felt very guilty for leaving him. "Hey," Jesse sat next to the sleeping boy. He patted him on the back. "Sam. It's me." Sam groaned and rolled onto his side. He rubbed his eyes. "You're super early," Sam complained. "We just wanted to get this done," Jesse said, smiling in apology. "You just wanted to get the hell away from us," Sam pouted but rolled out of bed. "I promised mom I'd help you…I think she wants you out too." "Oh, jeez, thanks," Jesse actually felt a bit hurt, but he definitely wouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. "I guess me and you can pack up all my stuff and I'll have Shaun go through Brian's room. I'm sure Brian won't mind pointing out all his stuff." "That kids ecstatic," Sam said. "He's been bragging about moving in with you guys since you called and told mom. She let him know right away." Jesse was starting to feel very uncomfortable. This had been his decision, his choice, but the fact that Monica was so quick to agree and so fucking accommodating, it really struck home just how unwanted he was. "I'm going downstairs to grab a few boxes, I'll be back," Jesse said before shuffling out of the room. Shaun was downstairs, sitting uncomfortably on the couch. Brian was bouncing beside him, talking about something in his high pitched, excited voice. Shaun met Jesse's gaze instantly, looking for a bit of relief.. Shaun met Jesse's gaze instantly, looking for a bit of relief. "We're ready to start. Sam said he's going to help too, so me and him are going to box up my room and I'm going to have you and Brian box up his."me and him are going to box up my room and I'm going to have you and Brian box up his." "I can help!" Brian chimed in. "I'm going to need you too. Shaun doesn't know what stuff's yours so if you can point it out to him, that'd help a lot." Brian jumped up and went flying to his room, Jesse rubbed a hand over his face. "C'mon. Let's go grab the boxes." The house started waking up about an hour into packing. Across the hall, Jesse could hear Shaun and Brian talking in low voices, and in Jesse's old room, he and Sam had gutted it, and were trying to find places for things in boxes. Jesse had never realized how much shit he owned. The twins popped in first. Looking curiously through Jesse's junk, asking questions, generally just being annoying. Luckily, Cliff came by and said he was making breakfast downstairs and the twins vanished. Monica came through next. She loomed in the doorway, in her nightgown and slippers. "I never thought I'd see you up so early!" she said, smiling. "How long have you been here?" "Almost an hour now," Jesse said uncomfortably, he looked down at a stack of his jeans that he was attempting to cram into the box of t-shirts. He was already getting tired of organizing everything. Monica nodded, surveying the packing with sharp eyes. "Did you decide what to do about school?" During their family talk nearly a week ago now, Monica had talked casually about removing them all from school. She had been talking about moving everybody but she was asking about it anyway, despite the fact Jesse was staying. "Can you just help me drop out of school?" Jesse asked after a pause. Sam instantly started laughing and being obnoxious and Jesse flicked him off. Monica was unaffected by Sam's taunts, she folded her arms in thought. "What are you going to do then?" "I'm going to get a job probably. When I have some time, later, I'll get in a GED class. I'll get my degree. I know it's important." "High school drop-out? Ha! Mom! He just wants to lay around all day and get high!" Sam cried, trying to ruin it. Jesse didn't know why. Sam knew Jesse couldn't go back to the high school. What was the point in finishing anyway? Jesse was sure he'd be able to get in some GED class, no problem. It wouldn't be hard. "Sam, zip it," Monica absently chastised, her eyes remained locked on Jesse's however. "I can pick you up tomorrow morning and we can get that taken care of." absently chastised, her eyes remained locked on Jesse's however. "I can pick you up tomorrow morning and we can get that taken care of." "Really?" Monica's forehead creased. "What's the address? Where you're going to be staying?" "Ah…" Jesse really didn't know. He'd had it in his phone, but that message had to be deleted by now. "Maybe ask Shaun? He should know."in his phone, but that message had to be deleted by now. "Maybe ask Shaun? He should know." "Yeah," Monica said, pulling a face. "I'll do that." Before Jesse could take back his horrible suggestion to talk to the devil himself apparently, Monica left the room. "Get the fuck out of her house as soon as you can," Jesse told his brother in a low voice. "She's a monster." Sam rolled his eyes, but he said nothing in protest. They continued along in silence. Sam eventually pulled up a music app on his phone and played some loud obnoxious rap music. Jesse usually liked this stuff alright, but he was just hoping Shaun couldn't hear it and that it wasn't annoying him. When Jesse and Sam were just finishing up, everything but the Jesse's mattress, his dresser and the game boxes – which were more family property than Jesse's – was packed up ready to go. There were five boxes of clothes alone, along with a few more filled with random junk. He and Sam were discussing how best to get everything down to the truck, fast, when Shaun passed them out in the hallway, loaded down with boxes. Jesse poked his head out the doorway, watching his boyfriend manhandle three large boxes down the stairs like a total hunk. "C'mon," Jesse grabbed the nearest box and rushed down the stairs after the older boy, nearly tripping over Brian who was running around, being unhelpful. Jesse struggled down the stairs and out the front door, which Shaun had thankfully propped open. Shaun was unloading his three boxes into the U-haul when Jesse caught up with him. Jesse saw there were a few boxes in the truck already. "Hey!" Shaun turned, grinning brazenly. He easily took Jesse single box, pushing it so it slid into the back of the truck bed. "I'm done with the kid's stuff."y took Jesse single box, pushing it so it slid into the back of the truck bed. "I'm done with the kid's stuff." "We're done with packing too. We just need to carry all the boxes down," Jesse glanced back at the house, spotting his brother struggling under the weight of another box of clothes. Jesse had packed some of them really densely, just wanting to cut down on boxes. "Can you help him?" Shaun rolled his eyes, but went to unload the younger boy of his boxes, sending him back inside with a few curt words.eyes, but went to unload the younger boy of his boxes, sending him back inside with a few curt words. "What'd you say to him?" Jesse asked when Shaun returned to the truck with Sam's box. "That I'd get everything. But thanks for the help." Jesse watched his boyfriend as he pushed the second box of clothes towards the first. "Let's get these stupid boxes then. And get the hell out of here. I just want to go." "Your mom came and asked what Gretchen's address was," Shaun said measuredly as the two of them turned back to the house. "I hope you gave it to her," Jesse said, remembering his mom's offer earlier to pick him up. "She said she could pick me up tomorrow and that she'd help me drop out. I'll need her. I'm still a minor." Shaun nodded, his lips quirking upwards at the corners, just slightly. "I gave it to her," he said. They got up to Jesse's room again, spotting Sam sitting on his bed. He and Shaun looked over the boxes, Jesse pushing two he thought were light to the side and pushing the remaining three into the center of the room with his foot. He almost missed it when Sam cleared his throat. "You killed Kyle. Didn't you?" Shaun had been following along behind Jesse, rounding the boxes up into piles he could carry at once, but Jesse turned and saw that Shaun had stopped a way's back. He's stopped, pausing stock still and awkward as hell, in the middle of the room, eyeing Sam with suspicion. "Kyle told me how you hurt those guys that beat Jesse up that one time. He told me about some other kids you'd hurt before. He told me about your parents—" "What about them!" Shaun snapped and Jesse moved back, hoping to starve off his boyfriend's angry kneejerk reactions. Sam's lips were pressed tightly together and Shaun growled, pointing at Sam in frustrated silence. "What the fuck, Jesse?!" "I-I-I—"Jesse stammered cluelessly. "Listen, you don't have to say anything, ok. I just wanted to say, thanks. For taking him out," Sam said awkwardly, wilting under Shaun's intense glare but continuing anyway. "Kyle was an asshole." "JESSE!" Shaun raged, his face turning red. "Let's get out of here," he growled, his voice dropping in pitch but becoming no less intense. Shaun stacked the three heaviest boxes and totally lifting with his back, not his knees, Shaun hoisted them up and out of the room. Jesse watched for a moment, a tad stunned by the display of power, but then he had to deal with Shaun's demand to 'Get out of here!' as fast as possible when he had two boxes to carry and only one good arm to do it with. He'd already struggled with one box already and that'd been hard enough. Now two? "I'll grab it," Sam said, pushing forward and helping Jesse with the second box. They went downstairs together. Shaun had the three heavier boxes in the truck and was waiting impatiently behind the now idling truck. Jesse sighed at his boyfriend's antics, but he knew Sam wouldn't say anything. They'd been safe so far and Sam figuring it out meant nothing more but that Sam had been too close to danger. He'd known the enemy personally and he was only glad Shaun had taken care of it.waiting impatiently behind the now idling truck. Jesse sighed at his boyfriend's antics, but he knew Sam wouldn't say anything. They'd been safe so far and Sam figuring it out meant nothing more but that Sam had been too close to danger. He'd known the enemy personally and he was only glad Shaun had taken care of it. Sam and Jesse unloaded their boxes and Shaun, avoiding Sam's gaze entirely asked if they were done. "Yeah, let me go say goodbye and grab Brian. Are we just going over to your grandparents?" Shaun nodded stiffly, as if he were afraid of reveling the rest of his plans for the day in front of Sam. Clearly the enemy!stiffly, as if he were afraid of reveling the rest of his plans for the day in front of Sam. Clearly the enemy! "It's a little early for dinner," Jesse commented, laughing nervously, but Shaun only shrugged. Jesse stopped laughing and bit his lips hard in punishment. "Well, ok, I'm going to go say goodbye and I'll be back." Shaun nodded again, stiff, like a metal man that needed oiled. Jesse turned from him and hurried back inside with Sam following him. They went into the kitchen. Breakfast was over it appeared and Brian was getting some strips of bacon from the plates of the twins. "Brian, babe, we're going to go eat at Shaun's grandparent's. We're going for lunch," Jesse amended. Brian licked his greasy fingers and returned obediently to Jesse's side.grandparent's. We're going for lunch," Jesse amended. Brian licked his greasy fingers and returned obediently to Jesse's side. "You're going then?" Monica asked, perking up from the end of the table. Cliff was washing dishes and he looked over as well. "Yeah. We're all done." Cliff promised that he'd be leaving shortly after the dishes were done. Then he'd be at the hospital to take Jesse's cast off. The twins wished Jesse and Brian a fun vacation and Brian cried out that it wasn't a vacation. This was where they were going to live forever! Sam patted Jesse awkwardly on the back, murmuring something, but he was already going to sit at the empty place at the table. It looked like someone had saved him breakfast. Jesse bowed under all the attention. He smiled at everybody. He tried to say pleasant things. Monica said again that she'd pick him up in the morning and that they'd head to the school to take care of matters. Jesse promised her he'd be waiting. Jesse scooped Brian up and they went out to meet Shaun in the truck. The older boy seemed to have calmed in Jesse's absence and he smiled gently when Jesse struggled to boost Brian up into the truck and over to the little seat underneath the arm rest. Shaun leaned over to help, taking the majority of Brian's weight and easily helping the toddler get situated. "We're just driving down the road," Shaun said, pointing to his old house across the unkempt lawn. "I know!" Brian chirped. "Jesse said we were eating lunch!" "Yeah," Shaun said absently. He started the truck up and angled it out of the driveway. They bumbled down the street a little ways until Shaun swung the truck into his grandparent's drive and parked behind the old Eli's car. "Here we are!" Shaun said, prompting Brian to bounce erratically in his seat.a little ways until Shaun swung the truck into his grandparent's drive and parked behind the old Eli's car. "Here we are!" Shaun said, prompting Brian to bounce erratically in his seat. The three of them got out of the truck. Brian could barely contain himself and after gaining permission, he ran to the porch, tripping up the stairs, and wrenched open the screen door, smacking the door repeatedly with his palm. Jesse laughed. "Did you tell your brother about me and Kyle?" Shaun asked suddenly, his voice very close to Jesse's ear and when the redhead looked around he nearly head butt the growly frontman. Shaun was hanging over him. Literally right in his ear.he nearly head butt the growly frontman. Shaun was hanging over him. Literally right in his ear. "I-I didn't tell him," Jesse said. "We didn't talk about much actually. I was just as surprised by his question as you were." Shaun didn't say anything. The front door was opening and Ruth was ushering little Brian inside. She said she had just pulled a batch of cookies out of the oven and Brian was asking what kind. "Are you two coming in?" Ruth called after them, following Brian inside and Jesse and Shaun headed after them. Lunch was another exercise in patience. Eli and Ruth didn't bring up subjects that angered Shaun, but they definitely irked him, it was clear. They started out by making a lot of loaded suggestions concerning Brian's education and Ruth had asked in a really roundabout way whether Brian knew if Jesse was his father or not, and Jesse had of course, responded negatively. Ruth's comments had gotten more and more judgmental, to the point where Jesse was feeling pretty irked as well. He wondered if his face was as red as Shaun's was but he doubted it. Shaun was beet red, angry, so beyond irked, but Ruth just scooted closer to Brian's chair and stroked the boy's soft blond hair. She told Shaun and Jesse how messed up a kid could be after being lied to about their parentage. She condemned Monica and said she never would have let Jesse lie to Brian if Jesse had been her son. "Grandma!" Shaun finally snapped and Ruth's lips pressed into a thin line. Jesse had wanted to say something sooner but this would do. "What?! I'm just concerned about the boy, is all!" Ruth said in her own defense. Jesse couldn't wait until lunch was over. They ended up having rabbit stew and despite the name, it was pretty good. Ruth send them home with lots of leftovers. There was a lot of relief bouncing between them when they finally got back into the U-Haul. There was only one stop left and on their way to the hospital Shaun stopped and grabbed them all milkshakes at McDonalds. Jesse left Shaun and Brian out in the car, carrying his half-finished milkshake into the ER. He asked the first nurse he spotted where Doctor Cliff was and got quick and easy instructions which he followed to the letter, finding the doctor in the middle of packing up his office, just like he'd said he'd be. Cliff smiled at him. "Let's get this bugger off, shall we?" Jesse was horrified and grossed out when Cliff removed the cast. His arm looked withered and pale. The arm hair was the wrong color too! It was so dark and course! "It'll go back to normal very soon," Cliff said. He dug around in his desk drawer, retrieving a little foam ball. "Here," he said, squeezing the ball tightly before placing it in Jesse's newly revealed arm. "Squeeze this as much and as tight as you can. It'll get the muscle strength back." Jesse tested the doctor's orders, squeezing the little foam ball as hard as he can. His hand felt weak, but he was able to make a fist, enclosing the foam ball in his grasp." Neat," he said, studying his limp arm. "Call me if you have any questions!" Cliff said and Jesse was able to leave after that, taking the foam ball with him for further rehab. Brian and Shaun both ogled his newly uncovered arm, but Jesse didn't mind. He was glad to have his arm back. They hit the highway, the three of them in high spirits. They got back to Gretchen's close to three and found Gretchen and Ben out back, lounging on the lawn furniture and halfway through a 12 pack. "Aren't you ever going home?" Shaun asked exasperatedly. "Later," Ben announced, accepting a friendly hug from Brian. They were going around. Brian quickly moved onto Gretchen, nearly climbing into the smiling goth girl's lap. "We were waiting for you guys. Want some help?" Shaun didn't turn them down and Shaun and Jesse grabbed a couple beers for themselves, joining in on the drinking. It didn't take long to clear out the U-Haul and then Shaun went to return the truck, going to retrieve Gretchen's car from the lot. Jesse was left to find homes for his boxes of clothes, Brian's boxes of clothes. That didn't even cover Brian's boxes of toys or Jesse's toiletries and other bullshit. Sitting in the midst of both his and Brian's belongings felt a bit overwhelming. Honestly, the beer wasn't helping either. Just thinking about all the work ahead was making Jesse unbelievably tired. Actually getting up the energy to do everything…? "Hey," Gretchen popped her head into the room. "C'mon. Leave that for later. Me and Ben went to reup earlier. Come out and smoke." And Jesse was happy to accept the offer, leaving the unpacking for later. He was home now anyway. There was no need to rush. *** A couple weeks passed and October first came and went. Battle of the Bands was almost here and late at night, they ran commercials for the event, calling all fans of hardcore death metal! It was exciting. Shaun was literally vibrating with energy and he spent most day perfecting his songs, writing new ones, scrapping anything that wasn't absolutely flawless. The band was practicing a lot and Jesse and Brian didn't go to all of them. They weren't as fun anymore. No more did the band practice for a few hours and then break for drinks and smoke. No, the band practiced for hours upon hours without breaks. Lately, Shaun it seemed, never wanted to stop playing and it was usually only Angela's somewhat frantic pleas for them to please stop because it was past midnight and she desperately wanted to get some sleep before work, that stopped them. Jesse hated having to wait for the woman's desperation. He hated feeling trapped in the basement, unable to move in case he interrupted Shaun's intense practice session. Gretchen and Ben were getting pretty tired of it, but as the date grew closer to Halloween, the less they complained. There wasn't much they could say. There was a lot of nerves surrounding this. A lot of pressure. Nobody wanted to be blamed for fucking it up. Besides the insane practice schedule, Brian was adjusting pretty well to their new living situation. Although he did ask after Monica quite a bit and Jesse was starting to feel bad because besides the trip to the school weeks ago, Jesse hadn't seen or heard from his mother either. Jesse's trip to the school with his mother had been uneventful. Brian had stayed at Gretchen's with Shaun, and Monica and Jesse made quick work of the paperwork once they got to the school's office. On the way back to Gretchen's Jesse had been waiting for something, anything, from his mother, but nothing much had come. She hadn't said 'love you' or 'I'll miss you' or 'call me if you're in trouble', like Cliff had done. She'd pulled into Gretchen's driveway and handed Jesse an envelope. It was money, she'd said. For food. Although she wasn't planning on Jesse using it for food, she just wanted to feel less guilty. "Are you serious?" Jesse had asked, his mouth agape. "Tell me you're not going to spend that on weed. Or whatever you're on," Monica had accused, not looking at Jesse at all. "Your brother told me your screwing that Shaun kid," Monica shut her eyes and had a full-on and dramatic body shiver. "My son is not a homosexual! What the hell happened to you! You bring a rapist around the house, start fucking boys and then next thing you know, the police find kiddie porn of your brother and naked pictures of you!" Monica raged. "What the fuck are you into Jesse?! What the fuck did you bring into my home?!" Jesse had stared at his mother in shock. The woman shoved the envelope into his hands and spoke again, her voice shaking with calm. "If I hadn't gave up on adopting Brian, I would never let you take him. He's your kid though. So, fuck it," Monica laughed harshly. "I truly hope you leave that kid alone. He's your own flesh and blood, for Christsake!"Christsake!"gave up on adopting Brian, I would never let you take him. He's your kid though. So, fuck it," Monica laughed harshly. "I truly hope you leave that kid alone. He's your own flesh and blood, for Christsake!" "I-I know that!" "Just get out Jesse," Monica sneered, looking back towards the windshield blankly. Her eyes were narrowed with hate. As soon as Jesse got out, Monica reversed with a squeak of her tires, nearly tearing Jesse's arm off in the process. Jesse released the door handle, letting it bang shut as Monica whipped out of the drive and away down the street…. That had been weeks ago, but Jesse still hadn't told Shaun the truth about what had happened after Monica had dropped him off. Monica had given them 300 dollars and Jesse labeled it mockingly as 'guilt' money from his mom and handed 200 to Shaun, taking 100 to Gretchen, asking for a ride to the store. He'd told Gretchen about his mother. For some reason, Jesse felt better admitting the sleazy feelings his mother had inspired to Gretchen, rather than his boyfriend. They'd talked as they'd roamed the aisles of the cheap discount grocery store. They'd talked as they checked out and got their food bagged up. They talked on their way out to the car. There wasn't much Gretchen could say though as they both knew Gretchen wasn't a pedophile and he wasn't responsible for anything. "Parents think things about us that suck," Gretchen said. "Sometimes you can't change their mind. I mean, my mom thinks I'm a witch and as fun as that was when I was younger, I know she actually loves me less because of it. She thinks I'm evil. I choose to be evil," Gretchen rolled her eyes. "I don't even believe in magic. I'm an atheist. There's nothing evil about me. Black is just a color." "My mom thinks I have rapists for friends and use my family members as victims," Jesse said, getting into Gretchen's car after they'd packed away all their groceries. "She thinks I'm on hardcore drugs or something!" Gretchen waved him off. "Try not to let it bother you," she said. "Just do the opposite of what your mother's expecting. Which will be easy enough! Then what the fuck ever! She's an idiot and you know she is!" Gretchen had been right. The pain of his mother's accusations had faded day after day. It had gotten lost in the tangle of Shaun's obsession with practicing and with the handful that Brian had turned out to be. Jesse was always thinking about trying to look into GED classes and even if he wasn't looking into that, Jesse felt the need for a job. Brian was an expensive mother fucker and supplying food for him, plus the rest of the adults in the house was no joke either. Jesse found himself cutting coupons some days, on top of doing the chores around the house and caring for Brian, and the idea of a job remained just that. An idea. There was a lame commercial playing on TV now. It was advertising some trade college with degrees in nursing and dental and criminal justice and accounting…. Jesse simply wished he could fill out an application and put down his graduating high school! This commercial felt like it was mocking him. Jesse flipped the channel. "But I want to watch that show! It was about to come back on!" Brian whined and Jesse immediately flipped the channel back. Brian had been right through and the college ad was over. It was some GI Joe type of show. Animated. Completely uninteresting to Jesse. Jesse's mind wandered. It was Saturday night, two weeks from Halloween and Shaun and the band were at some bar, finishing up a show. Jesse was at home, stuck with Brian. Which wasn't the worst because Jesse had had a headache tonight and he hadn't wanted to go to the show. Plus, he hadn't wanted to fuck with the after party. Jesse figured Shaun would want to attend, would want to show his face, this close to the competition. But Jesse had his phone on him. Shaun had promised to send word back if he was leaving Gretchen and Ben at the bar and coming home or going with them to the party. It was 9:30 and the show should almost be over. Jesse was hoping Shaun would be coming home but he wasn't planning on it. GI Joe ended and Jesse quickly changed the channel before something worse came on. He found a reality show. People in a kitchen were cooking competing against each other in two big teams. They had to go through ridiculous trials and situations and there were food judges and everything. Jesse got into the show, feeling Brian sag into his side, asleep, and Jesse finally felt his phone buzz on the couch across from Brian. Jesse quickly looked at the screen. 'Sorry! We all left the bar a half hour ago. Me and Ben are going to the party and Shaun's driving my car home.' Jesse nearly leapt for joy, but settled for grinning and texting Gretchen back a smiley face. Brian had recently grown comfortable enough to start sleeping out on the couch. Alone. Jesse had never thought that would happen, or at least, he hadn't thought it would happen so soon, but Brian was starting to change. The little blond's high level of clinginess had taken a sharp decline, and his little bouts of depression had all but vanished. Brian was happy most of the time. And when Jesse got tired of him, Brian could usually find company with Shaun or Gretchen or with Ben, when the bassist was around. Brian seemed pretty content, in Jesse's opinion.company with Shaun or Gretchen or with Ben, when the bassist was around. Brian seemed pretty content, in Jesse's opinion. So when Jesse had suggested Brian give him and Shaun a little nighttime privacy, Brian hadn't minded. Jesse turned the TV off and left the side lamp on as Brian's night light. He carefully arranged Brian on the couch, getting a pillow behind his head and tucking him under a blanket. Brian curled into the blanket, his thumb getting sucked into his mouth. Jesse smiled at the little boy, kissing his forehead gently before he silently left the living room and went down the hall to bed. He waited in the bedroom for Shaun. He laid out on the bed, flicking aimlessly through one of Shaun's guitar magazines. It wasn't much longer before he heard the front door open. He waited with baited breath, tossing the magazine onto the side table. Shaun came into the room, his eyes moving, pinning Jesse to the bed. Shaun looked so intense. His hair was perfect now. It was long and thick and no longer frizzy and unmanageable. It wavy but hung straight, sliding over Shaun's bare shoulders. The metal god was wearing a shirt with torn off sleeves and jeans with holes in the knees. His boots were gnarly as usual, the usual asskickers and he'd picked up some thick metal rings that he wore on both hands. They kind of looked like brass knuckles.asskickers and he'd picked up some thick metal rings that he wore on both hands. They kind of looked like brass knuckles. Shaun looked fucking awesome. And then his stoic expression broke and Shaun angrily shoved his hair over his shoulder, pushing his way into the room. "Ben and Gretchen kissed on stage!" he said. "What?" Jesse sat up, taken slightly aback by the random topic. He'd been hoping Shaun had been in the mood. Finally. But again, with the complaining over Gretchen and Ben! Shaun hadn't been doing it as much lately, but— "When the show was over and I was saying goodnight, Gretchen got off her drum kit and waltzed over to Ben, hooked an arm around his neck and pulled him in for a kiss! People were taking fucking pictures!" "You think it's going to be a big deal?" "I don't know! I just wish she hadn't done that! Shit!" Jesse smiled. "Well, so what? People liked it right?" "No!" Shaun cried. Jesse quirked an eyebrow. "Then why were they taking pictures? Nobody takes pictures of things they hate and never want to see again." "Oh, shut up!" Shaun gnashed his teeth at Jesse. "Who cares if they liked it?!" "Yeah, who cares what the fans like," Jesse said, just to point out the error in Shaun's thinking. Shaun didn't take kindly to being shown, however and, well, Jesse had been hoping for sex but he got nothing but a cold shoulder the rest of the night. Short of sleeping out in the living room with Brian, Shaun rolled over so his back was to Jesse the whole night through. Jesse sighed and tried not to be disappointed.however and, well, Jesse had been hoping for sex but he got nothing but a cold shoulder the rest of the night. Short of sleeping out in the living room with Brian, Shaun rolled over so his back was to Jesse the whole night through. Jesse sighed and tried not to be disappointed. The next morning they were all awoken by a loud and furious pounding on the front door. "I KNOW YOUR IN THERE!" came a high pitched, feminine, voice from behind the door. Jesse got out of bed and ran into the living room to comfort Brian, who was out there alone, crying on the couch. From their seat on the couch, Jesse watched Shaun creep to the front door. He peered out the peephole.YOUR IN THERE!" came a high pitched, feminine, voice from behind the door. Jesse got out of bed and ran into the living room to comfort Brian, who was out there alone, crying on the couch. From their seat on the couch, Jesse watched Shaun creep to the front door. He peered out the peephole. He reared back. "It's fucking Angela!" "I CAN HEAR YOU!" Angela yelled from outside, pounding on the door. It sounded like she'd resorted to using her feet at this point. It sounded like she was kicking the door in. "OPEN UP, GRETCH!" "I'm going to open the door, " Shaun said, and both Jesse and Brian cried for him not to. "Gretchen's not even here!" Shaun cried out, his voice being drowned out by the enraged female on the other side of the door. Shaun rolled his eyes, twisted the lock and yanked the door open. Angela had been pressed to the door apparently because as the door fell open she tripped inside and nearly fell on her ass, but she righted herself in an instant, twisting around, looking around wildly. "Gretchen! Oh, GRETCHEN!" Angela hollered, her voice breaking on her level of craziness. Her green eyes were wide and wild and her normally neat blond hair was in a tizzy. Even her shirt was on backwards and buttoned up wrong. "WHERE'S MY CHEATING SISTER?!" "Oh, fuck," Jesse bit his lip. Feeling cautious, he left Brian behind on the couch and edged up behind Shaun, trying to back him from the crazy lady standing before them. "Angela! Hi! Do you remember who we are? We're your sister's roommates—" "I know you are! Where is my sister?!" "Hey, have you tried calling Ben or Gretchen—" Shaun suggested but Angela just about bit his head off. "I'VE BEEN CALLING FOR THE PAST HOUR!" "They went to a fucking party," Shaun snapped, fighting to be heard over the crazy bitch. "Last night. I'm sure they're just messed up. Gretchen gave me her car so I didn't have to stay at the party." "Oh, then you weren't there to see this!" Angela whipped out her phone, flipped through it and then presented it again, held it out proudly. "This!" she said again and both Jesse and Shaun leaned in for a better look. It was a fucking Facebook post. It looked like the band's page and someone had posted a pretty graphic image of Ben and Gretchen making out. It looked like they were on stage. Just like Shaun had said. "This went up last night! I saw it this morning!" "Angela, it was just a joke—" "A JOKE?!" Angela roared. "A JOKE?!" Jesse shrank under the girls anger. Shaun glanced at him, frowned ,and then quickly moved to advance on Angela. "Don't yell at him like that," Shaun said firmly, staring Angela down. She scowled up at him, but she was edging backwards nervously, subconsciously. "I'll be back," Angela said through clenched teeth. They were pearly white against her skin, against her strange orange spray-on tan. "I don't have any business with you." "Nope," Shaun said, smiling thinly. Angela fled the house, leaving the door wide open behind her. Shaun went to shut and lock the door. He thudded his forehead down against the door when he was done. He banged his head into the wood a few times. "Fuck me," Shaun said. "Fuck…fuck me." "So, it ended up on Facebook," Jesse said. "It happens…I guess you guys really are famous." "Amazing," Shaun said. "Just how I wanted to experience fame! Through fucking social media!" "This doesn't mean anything bad for the band," Jesse said quickly, pulling Shaun into the living room. Shaun went, his eyes unseeing, his attention fixed somewhere else, a million miles away. Jesse pulled Shaun to sit on the couch, next to little Brian. "Maybe this is a good thing. Ben will leave his wife. He and Gretchen will become a couple. The fans seem to dig it…I don't know! It's not the worst thing ever! Angela knows what's going on now. They can't sneak around and hide anymore. They'll have to face up." Shaun's expression softened. "Maybe your right. Maybe they won't even like each other now, maybe it was all just a stupid thrill. A game. And now it's over." "Maybe," Jesse said. "Let's just wait and see." "Who was that lady?" Brian asked as the two adults fell quiet. "That was Ben's wife," Jesse said. "And she doesn't like that Ben's friend's with Gretchen. She's jealous." "Ben has two ladies?" Brian asked, looking amazed and Jesse just laughed at him. "It's actually not as exciting as it sounds. Ben's in a lot of trouble," Jesse told him. "Oh," Brian looked completely confused. "Hey," Shaun turned to Jesse, coming out of his daze. "Do you have their numbers? Try to get ahold of them!" "Umm," Jesse was up in an instant, pacing back down the hall. He grabbed his phone out from under his pillow and turned to head back to the living room but he needn't have bothered as both Shaun and Brian had followed him. Jesse sank onto the bed, sending first Gretchen and then Ben quick texts. "No immediate response," Jesse said, although he didn't think anyone had been expecting it. "Fucking call them!" Shaun cried, exasperated and Jesse jumped to do as he'd asked. Gretchen's phone went straight to voicemail and Ben's rang and rang unendingly. Jesse hung up, glancing stony faced at his boyfriend. "Fucking cowards," Shaun sneered. "They're fucking hiding!" "They were partying all night," Jesse said in defense of the drummer and the bassist. "They're probably heading home now." "To this?" Shaun said, indicating the crazy bitch they'd just sent away. "Fat chance we'll see them. We'll probably get a fucking Facebook update!" Jesse sighed but said nothing more. There wasn't anything to say. They eventually migrated back to the living room and Jesse cracked out the cereal. After a while Shaun, bless his heart, challenged Brian to a wrestling match out in the backyard and Jesse rolled them up a few blunts. The three of them hung out in the sunny backyard, smoking, playing with Brian, trying not to worry about Gretchen and Ben. They showed up around dinnertime anyway, bringing a storm cloud of drama hanging over their heads. "Did you hear that?" Jesse asked Shaun and Brian. They'd found Brian a jar and filled it with sticks and leaves and grass and Shaun was hovering over him as the little blond weeded through the garden and caught bugs to put in his new terrarium. Shaun straightened up. "Sounds like they're home." "Yay!" Brian set his jar down and flew into the house. Shaun and Jesse watched him, neither of them comfortable enough to follow. "Oh my fucking god!" Gretchen appeared behind the sliding glass. She waved at them, before prying it open and falling out onto the patio. "We're in so much fucking trouble you guys!" Brian came right behind her, holding onto Ben. The bassist was looking haggard. He was wearing the same clothes from yesterday and had bags under his eyes. Frankly, Gretchen didn't look much better. "She found out," Ben said simply. "Oh? And how did Angela find out you guys were cheating?" Shaun asked sarcastically. "Maybe it was Facebook?" "Uh, yeah! Some fan shared the post of us kissing on stage last night! Mother fucker!" "Well, I've got some more bad news for you guys!" Shaun announced. "Angela was already here! She just about scared the living shit out of us! Nice way to find out you guys are ruining the band! Great fucking job! So quick too!" "What?" Gretchen gaped. Her makeup had been smeared off and she was looking cute and vulnerable. Jesse knew Shaun didn't care about that, though. And before Shaun could explode, the loud banging from the front door they'd heard earlier that morning started up again. "GRETCHEN!" "And that's for you guys!" Shaun started to laugh and seeing the utter shock, the matching expressions of entrapment both Gretchen's and Ben's faces, it was actually kind of funny. "Me and Jesse handled Angela this morning! Your turn!" "What?" Gretchen asked again, cluelessly, but the pounding resumed, just as adamant and insistent as that morning. "Time to face the music!" Shaun's laughter had become a bit maniacal but it wasn't screaming and filled with anger and Jesse had no idea how to handle this situation. He just stood at Shaun's side, waiting for Gretchen and Ben to do something, because this wasn't actually any of their doing. For once, Jesse was calm because it wasn't him under pressure. He surely empathized with the couple standing before him, but there wasn't much he could do. It was all on them.something, because this wasn't actually any of their doing. For once, Jesse was calm because it wasn't him under pressure. He surely empathized with the couple standing before him, but there wasn't much he could do. It was all on them. Gretchen, her hair in a sloppy bun, her makeup gone, only the piercings and the few visible tattoos that marred her flesh made her look anything but a venerable young lady, living on her own. She bit her lip and looked towards Ben. Ben didn't look at Gretchen at all. He sighed, he gently removed himself from Brian's grasp and turned towards back towards the house. "I better go talk to her." Ben went back inside, and Shaun, Jesse and Gretchen watched him. None of them moved, none of them relished facing Ben's wife. There was a loud chaos of sound from the house. Jesse heard Angela's high pitched screaming, but couldn't pick any words out of the noise. Then Angela was rushing up to the sliding glass door and Brian was running in between him and Shaun, hiding from the scary bitch. "YOU STUPID BITCH!" Angela flew out onto the patio , flying directly towards Gretchen. They met with a thud and Angela plowed Gretchen down into the grass and started wailing on her. Gretchen, the normally tough goth chick, made a lot of high pitched squeals and cries. Brian was sobbing, the two chicks in the grass were rolling around, screaming and wailing. Ben appeared, at the open sliding glass doors. He looked frantic, overwhelmed and a bit fearful but Angela was firmly atop Gretchen and was punching her in the face like a drunk at a bar fight. Totally uninhibited.firmly atop Gretchen and was punching her in the face like a drunk at a bar fight. Totally uninhibited. "Shaun!" Jesse cried and was glad to see the older boy finally leave his high horse and jump into the cat fight. "STOP!" Shaun yelled, hauling Angela bodily off his drummer. Gretchen had a bit of blood in the corner of her mouth, but she readily spit it into the grass, glaring after her sister who had been fully restrained by Shaun at this point. Shaun had Angela's arms behind her back and the girl was kicking, thrashing for her life, against Shaun, trying to get back at Gretchen.spit it into the grass, glaring after her sister who had been fully restrained by Shaun at this point. Shaun had Angela's arms behind her back and the girl was kicking, thrashing for her life, against Shaun, trying to get back at Gretchen. "YOU FUCKING CUNT!" Angela screamed, totally entrapped. "You jealous fucking CUNT!" "Jealous of what?!" Gretchen yelled back. "OF WHAT? You didn't even consummate your marriage!" "FUCK YOU!" Angela hollered back. "BEN'S MY HUSBAND! MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESSS!" "He is my business!" Gretchen yelled, picking herself off the grass and coming to literally spit in her sister's face. "He's in my band! And I care about him!" Angela thrashed violently in Shaun's grasp. The older boy bared his teeth and tightened his hold. Angela screamed with rage. "LET GO OF ME YOU FUCKING APE!" Shaun didn't and Angela continued to scream in rage. "LET ME GO!" "So you can beat my drummer to a pulp? No thanks," Shaun sneered at the woman's request. "Sorry about your shitty marriage but just leave. It's over. This is MY band!" "YOU THINK A FUCKING BAND IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN A MARRIAGE?!" Angela raged. "FUCKING MONKEY!" Shaun shoved Angela to the ground. The prissy bitch landed hard on the patio pavement, barely missing scraping her chin. "Fuck!" Ben came outside, rushing to his wife's side. "C'mon Shaun!" "What'd I do now?!" Shaun cried. "She came to my house and fucking bothered me! I didn't do anything!" But Ben was hovering over Angela now, as the fake blond moaned over her perceived injuries on the ground. "Ben!" Gretchen cried, seeking the bassist's attention, but Ben wasn't giving in. Ben wrapped his arm around Angela's shoulders and helped her up. It seemed like she was incredibly hurt, all of a sudden. Shaun hadn't been necessarily rough, he'd just knocked Angela to her knees, but it looked like he'd decked her now, with the amount of pain on her face. She was fucking milking it. "Take me home," Angela said, falling into Ben's shoulder. "Just take me home and I can't even look at her! How could you do this, Ben?!" Ben didn't say anything. He just looked nervously at Shaun and Jesse, avoiding Gretchen's searching gaze. He continued to support Angela. Continued to keep his arm banded around her. "Ben!" Gretchen called again, uselessly, because Ben finally met her gaze. Just for an instant and then he was folding into himself, falling all over Angela, his stupid wife. "We'll come back for my car later. Let's just get out of here. I'm sorry, baby," Ben said. "Sorry?!" Gretchen shirked but Ben met her eyes and gave her a desperate look and out swept back inside, leaving Gretchen cold and unanswered. Gretchen held her stance for a hot second and then she was running after the two of them. After her lover and his wife. "Ben! BEN!" Gretchen yelled back inside but Jesse could clearly hear a car starting up out in the drive. Ben and Angela were leaving. "Jesus fuck," Shaun fell into the nearest patio chair. He slammed his fist down on the little plastic table. "FUCK!" "Can you guys FUCKING believe this!" Gretchen was back, throwing her hands up. She came to sit at the patio table and cautiously, Jesse moved little Brian over to the table too. He sat between Gretchen and Shaun, pulling Brian into his lap. He rubbed the little boy's back, trying to calm him. "Believe what? That it didn't fucking work out?" Shaun sneered. "Oh I believe that."Oh I believe that." "Fuck you!" Gretchen snapped. "All he's been saying for weeks is that he has to find a way to out of his marriage and when it comes looking for him, FINALLY, he falls all over himself, trying to protect the fucking thing!" "What happened last night?" Jesse piped up, receiving a death glare from the drummer. She deflated however, after a moment. She buried her face in her hands. "We went to that party but we ended up leaving. We grabbed a room off the highway. One with a Jacuzzi." "How fucking romantic," Shaun scoffed. Gretchen tore her hands from her face. There were tear tracks down her cheeks, and a few glistening tears building in the corners of her eyes. "He told me last night that he was falling for me!" "Are you sure about that? He just left with his wife." Gretchen screamed with rage and suddenly the table was upending itself and Gretchen was flying over it, her claws out and aimed at Shaun. Jesse grabbed Brian up as the boy started to cry again. Gretchen landed on top of Shaun, tearing into him with her nails. Shaun let it happen for less than a minute before he was hauling Gretchen off him and rolling her onto the grass. "Fucking crazy bitch!" Shaun spat, getting off the ground, backing up, giving Gretchen some space, as she cried and rolled around on the ground now like a child throwing a tantrum. She hit the ground with her fists, kicked her flailing feet. She was shaking her head frantically over and over and she finally grabbed hunks of her messy hair and screamed impotently. "This can't be happening!" "I FUCKING TOLD YOU IT WOULD!" Shaun shouted back at her. "When's Ben coming back, Gretchen?! When can we use your sister's house for practice again? When's the next fucking show?! What now, Gretchen?!" "It was just a stupid fling, Shaun!" Gretchen said through her tears. "And then all of a sudden there were feelings involved! We were having fun! He said he was staring to fall for me and I fucking told him not to mess with me! I told him not to say things if he didn't mean them! WHY DID HE TELL ME?!" Still holding onto Brian, Jesse took a cautious stab at Gretchen's frantic question. "I think he meant it," Jesse said. "I mean, the wedding and practice are the only times I see Angela and even during the wedding, he and Angela weren't getting along. I've been watching you and Ben hit it off for a while now. I don't think he was messing with you." "Then why'd he leave?" Gretchen sobbed. "This is why I don't fucking date! Guys are always doing this shit! Playing with my heart like it's a fucking novelty toy!" "I…I don't know. That seemed like the perfect opportunity to end his marriage," Jesse said. "Right! But he chose Angela. FUCKING ANGELA!" None of them had much to say after that. Gretchen finally got off the grass and took herself inside, saying she needed some alone time. Nobody complained. A few days passed with no word from Ben. Shaun was in a terrible mood, grouchy and short tempered. Gretchen's emotions, when she came out of her room , ranged from mopey and depressed to impatient and angry. "I don't know why I don't just go to their house. I'm sure they're there," Gretchen had said many times. But she never went. And neither did Jesse or Shaun. And the night after Ben had left with Angela, Ben's car disappeared from their driveway. They only had one show that week. On Friday. But when they failed to reach Ben and Ben failed to reach out to them, Gretchen called and canceled it. Shaun's bad mood quadrupled. All of Friday, Shaun was locked up in his bedroom. Practicing, he said. Brian was whining Jesse's ear off, wanting to watch Shaun, wanting to help write music, but Jesse kept him in the living room. They played with some of Brian's Legos and watched cartoons. It was a distraction, but not much else. Jesse was worried. Shaun was angry. Gretchen was depressed. And Ben? Who the fuck knew what Ben was thinking… Shaun finally came out of his bedroom around dinner time and Jesse went to knock on Gretchen's door, inviting her to dinner. Jesse had made some chicken fingers and coleslaw. He wasn't in the mood for anything fancy and nobody at the dinner table minded. Brian chatted cheerfully about the fortress he and Jesse were creating out of Legos back in the living room and the adults let him. Gretchen had her head down, pushing coleslaw around her plate. Shaun grunted occasionally around bites of food. He wasn't interested, Jesse could tell, but he was at least trying. Jesse ruffled the little boy's hair, getting a laugh from the toddler. Jesse smiled at him. Dinner was over pretty quick and Gretchen and Shaun went back to their rooms. Brian went solo on the Lego fortress for a while, while Jesse did the dishes and put everything away. Then he went back to the living room, sitting with Brian and entertaining him as best he could. Brian, as always, seemed to blossom under the individualized attention and Jesse was content, glad he'd made someone's day. It was getting close to 10 when there was a knock on the door and the automatic porch lights flicked on outside. The knock was slow and even. The complete opposite of Angela's wild pounding from the other day. Jesse wondered if maybe it was one of Gretchen's sugar daddys and he left Brian in the living room to go answer the door. "Hiya!" Ben slurred cheerfully. He was standing at an odd angle and was blinking blearily in the dim porch light. He was drunk. "Hello," said a softer, more feminine voice and Angela popped out from behind Ben, smiling sheepishly. "Sorry about the other day." "Uhh…." Jesse looked between the two of them, saw Angela's hand tangled with Ben's. They were both smiling and they both shared the glassy eyed expression and rosy cheeks of a drunk. "Can we come in? Everyone's home right? We just went out for drinks," Ben said. "We had a fabulous talk and we both wanted to come and share some stuff with you guys." "Stuff?" Jesse gaped. "Yeah, c'mon. Let us in," Ben squeezed past Jesse, slipping inside. He was pulling Angela behind him and as Jesse flattened himself into the doorframe to let them both pass, the orange-tanned girl giggled. "Thanks! You're a doll!" Jesse glared after them but shut the door, going after them and into the living room. Angela immediately flocked to little Brian, who had moved to the couch to watch a movie. Brian's eyes lit up for Ben but he was cautiously watching the woman approach. "Hi!" Angela called, waving at the little boy. "I'm so sorry you had to see me angry the other day. I'm really a nice person." "She is," Ben said, coming behind his wife, an arm around her waist. "It's ok, kid. This is Angela. My wife." Brian didn't say anything. He waved back cautiously, but he wasn't smiling. "He's your boy?" Angela asked, turning back to Jesse curiously. "He's very cute." "He's ah…yeah. He is pretty cute," Jesse said awkwardly. "Thanks." "I told you, Angie, he's the Jack Nicholson kid. Brian is Jesse's brother," Ben said knowingly. "Or did you tell him the truth now. Since you're taking care of him full-time?" Angela waited with a curious expression, apparently dying to know, just as badly as Ben who was watching Jesse with hazy eyes. He was practically swaying in place, using his wife more as a balancing tool than anything. Why were these jerks so intent on blowing Jesse's secret! What the fuck! "Ben!" Gretchen was rushing into the room in a streak of black. Her hair was down, black and flowing. Her makeup was gone. She was wearing her usual black silk robe and her shapely legs were displayed prominently. Jesse nearly smiled. She looked so much more appealing than the fake blond, the fake orange-tanned bitch at Ben's side. Ben's eyes focused on Gretchen when the goth girl stopped beside Jesse. There was a couple feet of distance between him and Gretchen and Ben and Angela and Brian was behind Ben and Angela on the couch. There was a couple tense moments. It was almost like a standoff. "Where the fuck where you?" Gretchen said after a moment. Her voice choked. "You could have answered any fucking time! All you had to do was send a text! And email! A Facebook message! Anything!" "We needed some time alone," Angela said stiffly. "Consider it our delayed honeymoon," she put her arm around Ben's chest, laughing seductively into the taller man's chest. Ben awkwardly stroked her hair, smiling sheepishly at walls, avoiding everyone's eyes. "Oh, so you went off and finally fucked? Congratulations," Gretchen said blankly. Her claws were curling into fists, though. "I don't know why you have to be so crude about it, but yes. We did," Angela said proudly, digging her fingers into Ben's chest. Possessively. Demandingly. "What the fuck!" The four adults whirled at the sound of Shaun's angry voice. He was standing out in the hallway, surveying the living room through the entranceway. He jerked forward, poking a finger in Ben's direction. "What the fuck Ben? We missed a show tonight because of you!" "Oh, that was tonight? I thought it was tomorrow, actually," Ben laughed awkwardly, scratching through his hair with his fingers. "I'm sorry dude, but we come with peace." "Peace?" Shaun snorted. "What the fuck are you talking about?" "Yeah!" Gretchen chimed in needlessly. "Do you mind if we sit down actually?" Ben laughed again. He was nothing but nerves and stupid smiles. And Jesse pushed between Ben and Angela and went to his son. He pulled Brian into his lap as Ben and Angela migrated to the opposite end of the couch. Shaun remained standing in the entrance and Gretchen, her eyes narrowed, went to perch on the arm of her Lazy Boy. "What up?" Shaun prompted impatiently, glaring powerfully. "What's your fucking excuse?" "Well," Ben seemed a little taken aback by Shaun's vehemence but he managed to find something to say. "Angela, first of all, wanted to apologize for scaring everyone the other day." "I'm sorry," Angela said gravely, biting her lip. "And then we just thought it was fair to tell you, the band, and I guess you too Gretchen—" "Oh, fuck! Thanks!" Gretchen spat. Ben stumbled again, stuttering over his words. "I—I—I didn't mean it like that." "He's a fucking asshole!" Shaun snapped back at Gretchen before the girl could say anything. "Get over it!" Gretchen sucked her lips into her mouth and her face became red. It looked like her head was going to explode. Angela, in her husband's place, spoke up finally. Drawing everyone's attention away from Gretchen's boiling rage. "Ben and I talked a lot these last couple days. We both took off some work. We spent time together. We talked. For the first time in, maybe a year. I don't think we've actually talked, really talked, since before you proposed. I just became so obsessed with planning the wedding. We'd just got the house together. I was decorating…." "What the fuck is this bullshit?" Shaun sneered, crossing his arms across his chest. Angela glared at Shaun, but didn't comment. She just continued. "Ben's been in bands since I've known him. He's always played the bass. But he never told me how important it was to him. It just thought it was a hobby. Now he's never home, because of the band. He's missing work, because of the band. He ruined our wedding, because of the band. He canceled our fairy tale honeymoon, because of the band…." "And you're a jealous bitch, right?" Shaun asked, making Jesse cringe. "You wouldn't want anything to be more important than you and your shitty union," Shaun sneered. Jesse glanced Angela's way, seeing her look of indignation as he heard Gretchen snort with laugher behind him. This was super fucked up. "Are you kidding me? I know your gay, and all, but I thought you had some sort of loving relationship with this one," she said, pointing vaguely in Jesse's direction. "What about it?" Shaun scowled. "The band is more important than him?" Angela pressed. "No," Shaun said through his teeth. "Jesse just comes to every show, every practice and he comes to the parties with us. He doesn't put stupid rules on me. He doesn't hold me back. He actually loves me!" Jesse was touched by Shaun's forceful words. Angela was gaping, and Gretchen was laughing gleefully again. Ben was looking between his wife and Gretchen, looking nervous. Overwhelmed. His cheeks were getting redder, if that were possible. "Well, I love Ben too. And that's why we're here tonight," Angela said. "I agree with you, Shaun," she said stiffly, almost as if it hurt to say such a thing. "I want to be a part of the band too. I should be at the shows. I should be at the parties. I should come down and listen to you guys practice," Angela said, her voice building in confidence. "I'll forgive you, Gretchen. For what you did. But this is my husband. You need to back off." "Fuck this!" Gretchen lurched off the arm of the Lazy Boy, throwing her arms up. "Are you fucking kidding me? All's forgiven, forgotten? It's OVER?!" "It's over," Ben spoke up, but his eyes remained lowered. "It's over and Angela's going to let us use the basement for practice. She wants to start coming to the shows. She's really trying, you guys." "Who are you fucking trying to convince?!" Gretchen scoffed. "Everybody. Because it's true. And I've finally decided. " Gretchen let out a heart wrenching cry and she flicked Ben off aggressively, shot her sister the coldest, meanest glare ever, and ran out of the room. "That was brutal, man," Jesse spoke up, squeezing Brian a little in his nervousness. But he was suddenly feeling very defensive of the goth girl who had just fled. "You seriously broke her heart. I don't know what you said exactly, but she thought you really liked her. And that she really might have a chance." Angela snorted. Her eyes were filled with anger. "My sister? The prostitute? The porn star?" Angela laughed. "What kind of chance does she have with anyone? Let alone with my amazing Ben!" Jesse quirked an eyebrow but didn't say anything more. "The next show is Wednesday night," Shaun snapped. "Can we practice Tuesday night, in the basement?" "Yes," Angela said simply. "Where's the show?" Ben asked. "At some local place," Shaun said. "Someone's opening for us, actually. It was an invite. I don't want to miss another show." "No way, man. I'm back. I'm not going to disappear again." "Great," Shaun said bitterly. There was an awkward silence and finally, Angela got up and declared that they should probably get going. "Early day tomorrow! We have plans for breakfast," she said sweetly. Overtly so. ' "Ok," Jesse said. "Yeah, fine. Goodnight," Shaun sneered, moving out of the way as Angela and Ben got up to go. Ben paused, almost out of the living room. "You guys, please just tell her I'm sorry." Shaun sneered "I'd love too." Ben, his face grim, swept out of the room. Jesse and Shaun heard the door close behind them. "Fuck!" Shaun shouted. He spun around and hurried out of the room. Jesse thought he was just going back to his room, but after a second, he could hear Shaun pounding on Gretchen's door. "What!" she shrieked, her door banging open. "Your little boyfriend says he's sorry but he's leaving you for his wife!" Shaun yelled. "We have practice on Tuesday in their basement! You're totally cool with that, right?!" "What the fuck!" Gretchen screamed back. "Leave me alone!" "Tell me RIGHT FUCKING NOW if this is going to fuck with the band! TELL ME IT ISN'T!!" "FUCK YOU!" It sounded like the two of them were fighting. There was a struggle happening out in the hallway. Jesse jumped up, leaving Brian behind on the couch, wide-eyed with shock. Shaun and Gretchen were fighting over her door. She was trying to push him out of the doorway, struggling to shove the door shut behind him, but Shaun had his foot wedged between the door, and was putting his shoulder into it, pushing against Gretchen with his full body weight. "Shaun!" Jesse shouted. "C'mon! Leave her alone!" Shaun's eyes met Jesse's across the hallway. His eyes were dark and swirling with anger and fear. Shaun shoved off the door and Gretchen finally slammed it shut behind him. "Fuck off, Jesse," Shaun said blandly, and then he crossed the hall, going into his own room, slamming the door just as Gretchen had. Not knowing what else to do, Jesse ended up going back into the living room to tend to his son. Brian was crying silently, tears leaking from his pretty blue eyes. "What's going on?" he asked. "It's complicated," Jesse sighed. "Don't worry about it, ok? It's just adult stuff. We're just going to let everyone calm down. Things will be better in the morning." Brian didn't say anything and Jesse embraced the little boy. He rocked him in his lap. Eventually the toddler stopped crying and slid out of Jesse's lap. He sat beside him and pressed into the redhead's side. "Do you want to find something else to watch?" Jesse asked. Brian's movie had ended sometime during all the commotion. "Yeah," Brian said quietly. Jesse flipped thorough the channels languidly. Finding an old movie on the Disney channel. Jesse got up to hit the lights and returned to the couch, hauling Brian into his side. Jesse had already decided to sleep on the couch with him. What he'd said to the toddler was true. Jesse hoped things would be better in the morning. But for now, he was going to leave Shaun alone. The movie began and some little mouse characters set the scene for the upcoming tale. Jesse's eyes fell half shut. He just wanted this night to be over. "Jesse?" "Hmm?" The little boy hesitated, he turned his face upwards, shyly meeting Jesse's eyes in the light coming off the TV screen ."Why does Ben think I'm your son?" Jesse froze. Motherfucker! Ben had been playing the stupid oblivious drunk for too long! Jesse was starting to dislike the older bassist. But, Jesse had been planning on telling Brian the truth. Ever since Monica had abandoned them for good that Monday morning a few weeks back. This was a good a time as any. "Because you are," Jesse said. Brian's bottom lip protruded. "How?" "Mom isn't really your mom. She's your grandma," Jesse said. "When I first started high school, when the family was living in California, I got a girl pregnant. Her name was Cindy." "You're my dad?" "Yeah," Jesse said. Brian pouted and for a moment, it looked like he was thinking very hard. "But who is Cindy?" "That's your real mom," Jesse repeated. "But who is she? Where is she?" Brian asked and Jesse sighed because that question wasn't so easy to answer. "She's a nice girl," Jesse said simply. "And I'm not really sure where she's living right now, but her full name's on your birth certificate. We could look her up on Facebook or something maybe." Brian nodded very solemnly. "I'm sorry I waited so long to tell you," Jesse said after a moment but Brian just shrugged. "I think it's really weird. That you're my dad," Brian said. "But it's the truth. And you deserve to know the truth. It's why you're staying with me and not moving again, with Monica." "I'm glad I'm not moving." "I know," Jesse smiled. "I spent my whole life doing that. I'm not going to put you through that too. Just…" Jesse paused and the little boy looked up at him with his matching blue eyes. "Just let this sink in, ok? Try not to worry about it too much." Brian nodded slowly. "Just watch the movie, ok?" Jesse suggested and Brian didn't say anything else. Jesse was troubled by his own thoughts for a while but before he knew it, he was falling asleep. In the morning, There were a lot of grim faces around the breakfast table. Brian was all smiles and good cheer, however and once the table was set and everyone was digging into their plates, Brian announced to the table that Jesse was his father! "I never thought I had a dad!" Brian said excitedly. "now, I don't have a mom." "Brian, c'mon," Jesse sighed. "Yes, you do." "Jesse said my real mom's named Cindy. He says she's nice." At the sound of Brian's birth mother's name, Shaun got up and dumped his breakfast into the sink. He didn't look at anyone, didn't say anything. He just left the room. "Did I say something bad?" "No," Jesse sighed again, rubbing a hand over his face. "He's just a little jealous. It's me and Shaun now. Me and Cindy never would have worked out but I still have you in my life. And believe it or not, Shaun wants to step in and be a second parent to you." "Really?" Gretchen snorted into her coffee ."He doesn't know what he wants ,kid. He just wants to make everyone miserable," she got up, carrying her half-finished plate to the sink before she left the room, heading back to bed, mumbling to herself. Brian turned his worried blue eyes onto Jesse. "What's wrong with everyone?" "I don't know, honey," Jesse knew what was wrong of course but he wasn't explaining it to the toddler. "Let's get out of the house today. Let's leave these spoil sports behind." "Ok!" Brian said, his whole face lighting up. "But where will we go?" "Let's go check out that park at the end of the road. It looked like they had a tire swing!" So, that's what they did. Jesse packed up a picnic lunch and they walked through the neighborhood, down to the park a couple block away, in the back of the allotment. There were some kids already playing when they arrived and Jesse was thrilled to see the neighbor kids running up to his son and introducing themselves. Brian ran back to Jesse. "They say I can come play! Can I?" "Go for it!" Jesse enthused, smiling as he watched little Brian run off with his new friends. Jesse found the closest empty bench and sat his ass down. He pulled up some game he'd been working on for the last month and started playing. Brian came back in a couple hours, starving, and they made their way over to the picnic tables to eat some lunch. After that, they took a little hike through the wooded path, looking for cool rocks, plants and bugs. Brian caught a baby frog and the toddler carried it proudly back to the playground. He ran to show his new friends and Jesse hung out on the benches again, getting back into his Clash of Clans game. They didn't leave until well after dinner. Jesse's phone was nearly dead and both of them were hungry again. They walked home in high spirits though. It wasn't until they rounded the last corner and Jesse saw the little house of terror before him, that he started to get nervous. Were Shaun and Gretchen fighting again? Were they still angry? Probably. Did they know how difficult they were being? Did they know how hard to live with they were? Jesse shook his head. Obviously, they didn't care. When they got in the house, everything was still and quiet. Jesse edged inside, feeling as if he were to make a single sound, the peace would be destroyed. "I'm going to see if Shaun's practicing!" Brian yelled and then he ran past Jesse and down the hall, bursting through Shaun's door. Jesse groaned and slugged into the kitchen to get something ready to eat. He waited for Brian to return, tears down his face, as he heated up the pork chops from a few days ago. He was getting some dishes down when Brian finally returned. No tears. And Shaun was attached to his hand. The gloomy boy looked extremely unhappy, but he was here. He was trying. "Hey," Jesse said. "Hey," Shaun greeted back, emotionlessly, before leading Brian to the table. The little blond boy and his grumpy adult companion sat at the table and Jesse hurried to set their places, feeling on the spot all of a sudden. Jesse left a place for Gretchen and Shaun shook his head. "She left a couple hours ago. To go fuck some guy." "Oh." Shaun grunted. "She told me everything was fine and that she just needed a few days of rebounding to get over it. She said by practice on Tuesday Ben would be nothing but a distant memory." Jesse didn't say anything. He brought the platter of pork chops and the bowl of noodles to the table. Somehow, Jesse didn't think it would be that easy for Gretchen, but who was he to judge. "Like anything's ever that fucking easy," Shaun scowled. "I didn't even see the guy. It was probably Ben!" Jesse couldn't help it. He laughed. Which got Brian laughing too and finally, Shaun cracked a smile of his own. Dinner was much better than breakfast. At least everyone was talking. Shaun told them he'd been working on a new song now for the past few days and he'd scrapped it this afternoon. "It sucked," Shaun said. "I wasn't in the right frame of mind." "Take a break," Jesse said. "Hang out with us." Shaun smirked at him. "I already am. And I know where Gretchen's stash is." Things were calm and easy for the rest of the night. They smoked on the couch, watching whatever Brian turned on. Gretchen came home later that night, dragging some random guy in behind her. The guy had greasy long hair and a scraggly beard. "These are your roomies? Their bud smells nice!" the guy said as he came in, sniffing around the room like an overly friendly dog. "That smells like my bud, actually," Gretchen shot them a glare, but she tugged on her date's hand. "C'mon. We can join them after our little party. You promised you'd go down on me, remember?" The two adults cringed as Gretchen and her pot head sexual partner descended down the hallway. Brian was none the wiser however. Actually, it looked like he was mostly asleep. Not wanting to run into Gretchen and her one-nighter again, Shaun and Jesse turned the TV off and tucked Brian into his little couch bed. They left Gretchen's smoke and her paraphernalia just outside her bedroom door and went to bed themselves. As Jesse started at Shaun's sleeping figure, turned on his side, his back to Jesse, the redhead tried not to think about how easily their sex life had been destroyed. Shaun had wanted nothing more than for Jesse to move in and ever since he had, Kyle, the dead asshole, had been haunting them ever since. It wasn't like they talked about it anymore. That felt dangerous. Unwise. But the rape and the subsequent murder were responsible for the lack of dick in Jesse's life and since he was afraid to bring up the subject, Jesse feared it would somehow, never return to normal. "It's just the Battle of the Bands. It's just band dynamics," Jesse muttered to himself, turning over so he wasn't staring at the back of Shaun's neck anymore. Once things were…well, less stressful, things would probably go back to normal. They had to. Because Jesse didn't know another way. The next couple of days passed a little easier. Nobody brought up the band or Ben or music at all, really, but everyone was talking again. Gretchen seemed happy. Even if it did seem a tad forced at times. It literally looked like she was putting on a mask when she came out of her room, plastered in her gothic makeup, ready to go out to meet random hook ups. Every night she brought someone new home and her days were consumed with seeking new partners. She spent the majority of the next few days chatting to guys on her phone or in her bedroom making 'sexy videos'. Shaun, weirdly enough, seemed pleased to see her slutting around. "Does she look heartbroken anymore?" Shaun pointed out and Jesse had to agree, because no, she didn't. When Tuesday rolled around, however, Gretchen's clever façade began to crack. At 5:30 the three of them, along with little Brian, packed up all the band equipment and hit the road. Gretchen was full of chatter. About the guys she was chatting with. About the guys she'd fucked. There was something hilarious about all of her encounters. All of the guy she'd been with had made fools of themselves somehow. Gretchen made fun of them so cleverly, so snidely, and was Shaun roaring with laughter at the punch line of each date, up in the front seat. Despite the hilarity, Jesse wasn't laughing. He had a feeling Gretchen's cutting sarcasm had something to do with her feelings towards a certain bassist. One they happened to be driving to meet right this very second and Jesse started to feel uncomfortable. They got to Ben's place a little after 6 and they all piled out of the car. Angela greeted them promptly at the door, welcoming them all in. It was very strange. "I thought you might be coming!" Angela cooed to little Brian. The blond looked up at her expectantly. "I made some cookies. Four different kinds! And my girlfriend let her son come over. He brought his Xbox and he's upstairs in the family room. Why don't you go find him? Try out the cookies?" Brian looked back at Jesse frantically, obviously wanting to explore the options Angela had laid out for him. Jesse nodded, watching the little blond run upstairs. "The family room's the other way!" Angela barked after the toddler, calming immediately when Brian did a 180 and ran in the right direction. "Don't worry," she said, snapping her attention back to the adults. "Dylan's a nice boy. They'll get along." Jesse raised a brow at his companions but Shaun was trying to get past Angela and down into the basement. Gretchen was busy glaring daggers at her sister. "I made some finger sandwiches and there's some chips and beer of course," Angela laughed, following Shaun and leading the rest of them down into the basement. "Why go hungry! This could be a really fun gathering, if we got some decent traditions going," Angela continued, gesturing to the pool table which had been turned into a buffet table of sorts. It was loaded with food. Lots of snack items, fingers sandwiches, as mentioned, and other things too. Weird things, like cut up fruit and veggies with a dip. The beer was pushed under the table, still in it's cardboard box. Shaun grunted and after setting his guitar aside, he went to attack the beer. He came out with an arm full of beer and started dispensing it, giving one to Jesse and putting two next to his guitar before shoveling the remaining two into Gretchen's waiting arms. Everyone cracked a beer. "Erm, let me go grab Ben! He was just helping Dylan set up the Xbox so the boys could play!" Nobody said anything and finally, Angela turned and fled back upstairs. "Bullshit," Shaun grunted, taking a large gulp of his beer, whipping the foam off his lips with the back of his sleeve. "I mean, it's pretty cool that Brian gets to be entertained," Jesse said lamely. He got glares from both Gretchen and Shaun. "C'mon guys, the food looks really good too." "I'm not hungry," Gretchen said at the same time as Shaun said: "Fuck food." Jesse sighed and cradling his beer, he went to sit on the loveseat. Shaun and Gretchen started to set up after they spent a minute of glaring around at nothing. They were mostly done when Ben and Angela returned. Ben already looked stressed. Angela was grinning forcefully. "Ok, guys, let's get started then," Ben said, going to his bass, which had already been set up. Gretchen sat grumpily at her drum kit and Shaun, scowling at nothing, quickly adjusted the mike. Ben strapped on his bass. Angela rushed across the room, darting over to the loveseat, sitting right next to Jesse. She latched onto Jesse's thigh, squeezing her fingers into his flesh. "This is so exciting! First time I've heard them play live! I watched a lot of fan videos this past week though," she gushed. "It's a lot louder live," Jesse said, gently patting Angela's hand, trying to remove it. "I bet!" Gretchen cleared her throat. "From the top then!" she cried. "Three, two, one!" And they blasted into their first song. An original. One the fans always seemed to love. Angela was wincing immediately, her hands flew up to her ears and hovered there, as if she were afraid to cover her ears. As if she would offend. "You should just get used to it!" Jesse cried, making Angela wince and shy away from him now, too! "They aren't even half as loud now as in concert!" Angela nodded miserably and lowered her hands. Jesse moved with the music, sang along to the parts he loved best. Angela's eyes grew dark and her face haggard. She started to tremble. "Just move with the beat!" Jesse encouraged her, pumping his hands into the air, shaking his hips. Angela bit her lip and stayed stock still. If one didn't count the continued trembling, that was. Jesse sighed and when the band finished their third song, Jesse hurried over to the pool table, grabbing two more beers. The band rolled right into the next song and Jesse flopped back into the loveseat, handing Angela the first beer. "If all else, fails, get drunk. It dulls the senses!" Jesse told her. Looking very unhappy, Angela, her lips pursed ridiculously, took a sip of beer. Jesse laughed at her, cracked his own beer open and tried to out drink her, hoping to inspire the prissy bitch. Nothing seemed to work really. Jesse was amazed to see the uncomfortable woman sit still for so long, actually, if nothing else. She'd fucking made it. That was for sure. The band stopped practice after a couple hours. As soon as Shaun shrugged his guitar off, saying: "I think that's good," Angela was up, the same beer Jesse had handed her hours ago, grasped in her hand. "I'm going to check on the kids!" she said a bit loudly. "I'll be right back!" Everyone watched Ben's wife flee the basement. Ben looked away first. He looked very tired. "What's going on, Ben? Trouble in paradise?" Gretchen snarked. Ben didn't say anything. "Oh, c'mon Ben! Don't hold out on us! We're all friends!" "Jesus Christ," Shaun sneered, immediately turning to dismantle his guitar and amp. Jesse had been drinking a couple beers and he watched the unfurling fight with interest. "Everything's fine," Ben said stoically, avoiding everyone's eyes. "Bullshit!" Gretchen cried. "Bullshit," she said again, a bit calmer. "Everything's fine with me too. I fucked 4 different guys since I saw you last," Ben winced and Gretchen's face immediately broke into a huge smile. "That's right, Ben. And since we finished so early tonight, with this shit practice, I'm probably going to fuck the fifth guy. As soon as I drop Shaun and Jesse and the kid off." Shaun sighed, disgusted. "Gretchen! Where are the keys!" Gretchen pulled the keychain out of her cleavage again. She threw them without looking in Shaun's direction at all. Shaun caught the keys, made a face of pure disgust and then he grabbed his guitar under one arm and his amp under the other. "C'mon Jesse!" Jesse didn't move, however, he sat planted, watching Gretchen stare Ben down. Feeling like he needed popcorn or something. "What are you doing tonight, Ben?" Gretchen asked, smiling slyly. "Fucking the wife?" "Babysitting Dylan. Because Angela's off the pill and we're trying for a baby. She said we should get used to kids being around." Gretchen laughed. She doubled over and laughed. Angela appeared at the top of the stairs, Brian's hand in her left and another boy, a kid with wavy black hair, was holding other her right. Shaun, who had paused on the stairs, waiting angrily for Jesse, pushed past Angela and the kids and Jesse started to get up, thinking it was best just to leave, as entertaining as this all was. Ben looked sullen and deeply unhappy and Jesse hurried to Gretchen's side as Angela and the kids came down the stairs, looking curiously towards all the hysterical laughter. "What's going on?" Angela asked brightly. "What's so funny?" "C'mon Gretchen!" Jesse hissed, just wanting to get out of here before another cat fight took place. "Please, Gretchen!" Gretchen continued to laugh, but she relented, moving to pack her things up. Jesse helped her, feeling frantic, desperate to escape. Angela was still waiting for a response and Jesse could feel her eyes burning into him and Gretchen, demanding, insistent… furious. "It's nothing," Ben said, and Jesse glanced at him. The bassist was red in the face and was avoiding his wife's eyes just as he had avoided his bandmates' earlier. "I told Gretchen we're trying for a baby." "Oh," Angela looked up, her gaze growing cold. "And why's that funny?" "Fuck off, Angela. I'm allowed to laugh at anything I want," Gretchen snapped, her laughter dying quickly. Gretchen slapped her drum case shut. Angela winced slightly at the sound, making Gretchen quirk a smile. "How'd you like our practice? Did it make your precious ears bleed?" "I think that's enough for tonight!" Angela said suddenly, her face flushing. She released Brian's hand and the little rushed to Jesse's side. The redhead picked him up, swaying only slightly under the boy's weight. "See you tomorrow then!" Gretchen bared her teeth in an attempt at a smile but it looked feral and threatening. Jesse had to set Brian down to help with Gretchen's load but as long as they were leaving, Jesse was glad. "I can't believe it," Gretchen spat, as they came out the door, laden under her equipment. Brian ran to keep pace with them. "I can't believe this!" Shaun had already packed up and was sitting in the car, sparking Gretchen's bowl. He was sitting stiffly, tense all over. Jesse sighed. They quickly packed everything up and got in the car, Jesse and Brian in the back and Gretchen and Shaun up front. Gretchen snatched her bowl back from Shaun immediately, lighting the sticky bud. She held onto her smoke for a bare minute before she was coughing out a lung. "FUCK!" Everyone waited silently for Gretchen to compose herself. After a minute, Gretchen handed the bowl back to Shaun and turned the car on. "They're having a fucking baby!" Gretchen cried, shoving the stick shift into reverse. "How much will that fuck with the band?!" Shaun didn't say anything. Silently, he hit the bowl again before passing Jesse the bowl and the lighter over the front seat. Jesse glanced down at Brian, hating that the little kid had to watch this shit. He didn't hate it so back that he actually didn't hit the bowl however. And Jesse sparked up. Gretchen navigated her Mazda out of Ben's neighborhood. She hit the freeway and they flew towards home. "I really do have another date tonight," Gretchen said after a while. "This guy said he'd wait up all night, no matter how long practice took." "Good for you," Jesse said weakly. "It is good. I won't be out too late," she said, laughing. Nobody disagreed with her and the car remained silent the rest of the way home. Gretchen was out the door as soon as they'd all unpacked the instruments. She asked them to wish her luck, but didn't seem fazed when neither Shaun or Jesse said much. She waved them off. Saying she was late. To the date that had no time limit. Shaun and Jesse watched horror movies with Brian in the living room until the toddler went to sleep. Brian had relayed to them in quiet tones that Dylan had been kind of mean and that Angela's cookies hadn't tasted all that good while they'd watched movies. Shaun and Jesse had shared a look but it wasn't until they shut everything off and went to their own bedroom that they talked about it. "Next practice, I'll see if my grandma can watch Brian," Shaun said evenly as he got into something more comfortable for bed. "That's not a bad idea," Jesse agreed. Shaun nodded and rolled into bed, turning his back on Jesse as usual. Jesse, simply stripped down to his boxers and slid into bed behind Shaun, touching his hip gently, spooning into him. "You're really holding it together," Jesse said. "I thought you'd be spitting mad after that scene Gretchen pulled." Shaun sighed. "I'm just trying not to jinx tomorrow!" Shaun cried. "Fuck, I have no idea what this is going to do to the band. We sounded alright, maybe we can still make this shit work while Gretchen and Ben figure their bullshit out. Once the Battle of the Bands is done, I'd might think about looking for a whole new band though. I can't handle this fucking drama." Jesse felt a cold sliver of fear slice into his abdomen. "We live with Gretchen. How can she not be part of the band?" "I'm planning on winning, Jess," Shaun snapped. "Fuck, then we'll have money. And we'll get our own place, and a car, before we tell Ben and Gretchen the bad news. We can't have people in the band that are dating or have dated. It's bullshit." The fear of losing the home he'd just gotten settled into was nerve-racking. Jesse bit his lip. Wanting to find a different solution— "Or we just stay in this sinking band, until their personal drama drowns us!" Shaun snapped, cutting into Jesse's worried thoughts. "I doubt Gretchen will want to room with us once the band's flopped. She'll kick us to the curb anyway." Jesse's level of worry spiked sharply. Shit. Shaun was right. "Try to sleep now," Shaun said. "With that on your mind." Jesse laughed harshly. "They're fucking ruining my band, Jesse. They helped me create it, but it's mine, these songs flow through my veins and all they care about is messing around and making things complicated and confusing. This isn't fun anymore!" Jesse wrapped his arms around Shaun, burying his face into the soft skin at the back of Shaun's neck. He carefully brushed Shaun's long kinky hair aside and kissed his skin. Shaun shuddered and released a loud breath of air. "I'm sorry, Shaun. I know you can do this thought. You'll make everything work. I know you will." "Yeah," Shaun said. He turned slowly in Jesse's arms, meeting the redhead's gaze in the dark room. "It's nice to hear you finally trust me." "I love you," Jesse said simply. Shrugging. Shaun smiled, searching Jesse's eyes for something, Jesse couldn't imagine what. He must have found it thought, because Shaun leaned in and kissed Jesse fully on the mouth. He kissed Jesse slowly, almost properly. He didn't stick his tongue down Jesse's throat. He didn't try to bite or lick anything. Shaun just kissed Jesse's soft lips. He kissed him, stroked Jesse's trembling jaw, almost acknowledging Jesse's burning need for more, but then Shaun was rolling over again and Jesse was left with a burning mouth. It was another long night. It felt like Jesse was never going to fall asleep but eventually he did, thanking god or the sleep fairy or whoever the fuck. It didn't matter. He was just grateful. In the morning, Jesse was surprised to find Shaun and Brian eating cereal at the breakfast table. "You guys are up early," Jesse commented, yawning. Last night had been one of the most restless nights of Jesse's life. Ever. "I woke up to call my grandma. She's coming to pick Brian up for the night around 5. We'll leave for the bar at 6:45. It's literally 10 minutes away." "Oh," Jesse got himself a bowl and came to join the two boys at the table. They'd left the milk and a couple boxes of cereal out on the table and Jesse didn't have to get up again to select something he wanted to eat. "Good idea? I thought we talked about it last night," Shaun said. "It's a great idea," Jesse said. "I'm just glad your grandma wants to help." "I wanted to go to the show!" Brian was pouting, Jesse suddenly noticed. He was so tired, he hadn't noticed the little blond sitting with his arms crossed, a big ole' pout on his face. "Oh, we'll take you to another show. I promise," Jesse said. "Things right now are just tough because things with the band are a little weird." "What do you mean?" Brian's bottom lip quivered. "Just trust me," Jesse said impatiently. Brian had been present enough for the bands little drama fests. It was stupid that he even had to ask. Either way, Jesse and Shaun managed to cheer the toddler up by taking him, together, to the park Jesse had taken Brian to the other day. The same neighborhood kids from before were hanging around the playground and Brian ran to meet them, shouting out their names. Brian was met by several children at once, and was surrounded by friends in an instant. Jesse and Shaun smiled at one another. Both of them had some pride for the little boy. It was great to see him succeed. "I usually sit on a bench," Jesse said, pointing to one of benches that faced the playground. "Let's just take a walk," Shaun said, nodding towards some distant enclosure further out towards the treeline and biting his lip, Jesse agreed. The two of them walked leisurely down the gravel path that looped around the whole park. "I'm really nervous about tonight," Shaun admitted. The trees were slowly becoming thicker and growing closer together and there was no one else on the trail. Just them. Jesse blushed and then smiled brilliantly, biting his lips to try to hide the ridiculous smile that blossomed on his face when Shaun grabbed his hand and laced their fingers together. "Don't be nervous," Jesse said lamely. He gasped, feeling Shaun's fingers flex in his grasp. Shaun shot him a look over his shoulder. "Seriously? You don't have any better ideas than just 'don't be nervous'?" Jesse's blush deepened. "I could make you feel good. I could do that." Shaun's eyes darkened but he said nothing more. He tugged on Jesse's arm, pulling him off the trail and deeper into the trees. "Shaun?" Jesse asked, getting nervous. They were getting pretty far from the playground. The trees were really getting thick and Jesse knew he was going to get turned around pretty quick. "Just c'mon!" Shaun panted, pulling insistently on Jesse's arm. Jesse shut his eyes, allowing himself to be dragged along like a rag doll for a moment. He nearly tripped and died on a huge and knobbed tree root but Shaun took his weight with ease, swinging Jesse back upright again. "Shaun!" Jesse cried. "How far out are we going?!" Shaun stopped them abruptly, turning and backing Jesse up into the nearest tree. "This is fine. I just wanted to spend a little along time with you. Is that a crime?" "No," Jesse said breathily, feeling like his heart was going to burst out of his chest, he was so excited, he was so nervous, too, all of a sudden! What was Shaun going to do to him? Why'd he dragged him out to the woods to do it? Shaun crowded in on Jesse's personal space, pressing his body up against Jesse's smaller one. Jesse imagined he could feel Shaun's dick pressing into his stomach and he started to get hard immediately. "You're turning me on!" Jesse hissed, glancing heatedly up into Shaun's dark eyes. "Am I?" Shaun laughed. Jesse groaned, loudly, when he felt Shaun's cock actually twitch inside his pants. He could feel it against his stomach! Shaun was still laughing but he tilted Jesse's head back, diving into a kiss. Shaun's laughter died down pretty quick. The kiss wasn't as nice and tame as yesterday's. Shaun was licking Jesse's tonsils and his teeth and his lips and his cheeks. Shaun was sucking Jesse's tongue for spit, Shaun was plunging his tongue deep into every crevice of Jesse's mouth, tasting his morning cereal. They kissed deeply, making loud smacking sounds, grinding helplessly against one another and against the tree Shaun had Jesse pressed too. Jesse groaned and arched his back, trying to get closer to Shaun when the older boy gently started to undo Jesse's jean shorts. Shaun popped the button with his big calloused thumb and tugged on the zipper, easing it down. Jesse's hips were jutted out, and he was panting, his cock poking rudely through the opening of his zipper. It was covered in soft cotton. Jesse's undies. Shaun made quick work of that, however and after he dropped Jesse's shorts to his knees, Shaun did the same with Jesse's soft cotton underwear. He pulled the briefs down and Jesse moaned as his cock was exposed in the warm air. It wasn't every day Jesse was naked outside. The breeze felt nice. Shaun stepped forward, kissing Jesse's mouth again, nibbling on his lips. Shaun was tugging on his own fly between them and Jesse soon found out why. Shaun's bare cock, erect and poking out of his unzipped fly, pressed against Jesse's own needy erection and Shaun wrapped his large hand around their excited cocks, squeezing warmly. "Ohh!" Jesse gasped into Shaun's mouth, making the other boy bite his lips. Shaun's long hair was falling around Jesse's face, obscuring everything but Shaun, of course, and when Jesse peeked shyly at the other boy, he happened to meet Shaun's eyes. The dark orbs were gleaming with desire and Jesse gulped and clutched needily at Shaun's biceps, just trying to hold on. Shaun stroked their cocks together slowly, jerking them off against each other. It didn't seem like Jesse was allowed to touch Shaun in any sexual capacity at all, but he was apparently allowed to cling because that's what Jesse did. They kissed and frotted against each other for several moments. Jesse was so surprised by his boyfriend's initiative and so strung out from lack of sex, that he found his pleasure climbing quickly. Doubling, quadrupling rapidly before it quickly boiled over and Jesse was coming in Shaun's hand, gasping into Shaun's open mouth. Shaun pumped his own dick a bit faster after that. He grunted. He bit Jesse's tongue and then he was coming too, collecting his come with Jesse's. Then he was scraping their junk off against the tree trunk. Pulling his fly closed. Jesse did the same, watching his boyfriend curiously. "We should probably head back," Shaun said, carefully avoiding Jesse's eyes. He threw his long hair over his shoulder and started back towards the trail. Jesse fell into step behind him, following the older boy without thought. He couldn't help smiling just a little, all the way back to the playground. When they got back, finding Brian and his little band of friends playing tag around the playset, he and Shaun found seats on one of the benches and sat down together. Shaun talked quietly, mostly about his changing plans for the upcoming future and Jesse just listened, wanting to take Shaun's hand, wanting to cuddle up next to him, but just allowing the simple togetherness to continue. Jesse was afraid of things changing. Things were already tumultuous as they were but it didn't really seem like they had a lot of options. At worst, they'd bunk up at Shaun's grandparents' house again. Jesse couldn't even imagine how awkward that would be. They stayed until noon and then gathered Brian up, promising him lunch and cartoons if he came home agreeably. Brian pouted a little but waved goodbye to his friends. He took one of Jesse's hands and then one of Shaun's and he walked between them, swinging between their arms. Jesse smiled at Shaun over the toddler's head and Shaun smiled shyly back. They went home and the three of them made sandwiches in the kitchen. Gretchen was laid out on the couch, looking hung over and lethargic. Jesse made an extra sandwich and carried it and a glass of water in to the drummer. "You'd better get something to eat. You've got a show to play in a couple hours," Jesse told the raccoon-eyed girl. Gretchen grunted and sat up on the couch. Her eyes rolled in her head a little and she burped. "Last night was pretty crazy." "I bet," Jesse said vaguely, not wanting to know. He pushed the water and the sandwich into Gretchen's lap. She took them unsteadily but luckily she didn't get wet nor did she lose her sandwich. "Thanks," she mumbled. "But—" "Tell me later," Jesse said quickly. "Shaun and Brian are in the kitchen waiting for me." "What? I'm restricted to the couch?" Gretchen laughed but Jesse wasn't so quick to deny her. "Why don't you just drink that glass of water and get the sandwich down and if you're feeling ok after that, come in and say hello, ok?" Jesse instructed in the kindest voice he could muster. "Oh! So I really can't come in!" Gretchen started laughing again, uproariously. "I think you're a little drunk still!" Jesse said loudly, over Gretchen's laughter. "I think you should eat something and drink some water, before you come and socialize. That's all!" Gretchen rolled her eyes but took a large sip of water. Then she tore a chunk off her sandwich after that. Swallowing dramatically and showing Jesse a clean mouth afterwards. "Great," Jesse said, cringing. "I'll see you soon, probably." Gretchen stuck out her tongue but bit into her sandwich again. Her bite this time was a lot smaller, at least. Shaun and Jesse and Brian enjoyed their lunch anyway. Gretchen's arrival didn't bother them anyway. She was funny. She listened first to Brian's tales from the playground, making jokes here and there. And then she had a crazy story about the guy she'd hooked up with last night. Apparently the guy had had a dog that licked snatch! Jesse frantically hurried Brian out of the room after that. Shaun was laughing. Gretchen, it seemed had been too drunk to know at the time, but afterwards she'd realize the dog had been the one that had been giving her such spectacular head. Not the guy! Eww! Gretchen went to take a shower after that. Saying she'd clean up before the show. Jesse and Shaun were left to smoke a blunt she'd kindly left behind and watch Die Hard on TNT. Brian was bouncing around, loving the action scenes. Ruth came around 5. As promised. She gently took Brian's hand and led him out to her car. She said they'd all play a board game and have snacks before dinner. Brian seemed a little shy and nervous but Jesse and Shaun both urged him to relax. "We'll come get you tomorrow morning. We'll be over for breakfast," Jesse promised the little boy. Brian nodded solemnly and Jesse laughed as the little boy was led away. He was sure Eli and Ruth would treat the little boy right. He didn't have to worry. Shaun went to take a shower after that and Jesse went right after him. They got dressed separately and met again in the kitchen. Shaun was shoveling cold noodles in his mouth and Gretchen was eating another sandwich. Rolling his eyes, Jesse resorted for the easy road in this instance. He grabbed the nearest bag of chips and considered it his dinner. They left at 6:45, as planned and arrived at Sully's promptly at 7. It was a dive bar. It didn't look special or anything and the clientele mostly looked like bikers. They pulled around behind the bar. It was basically just an alley. There was no parking. "Fuck! Wait here! I'm going to see if anyone can help us unload or what we're supposed to do!" Gretchen said, leaving the car on and leaping out, running in the back door which was mercifully open. Shaun sighed and leaned his head against the door. The window was down and his hair was streaming out in a gust of wind. Jesse put his hand over the front seat and clasped Shaun's shoulder. "Everything's going to be fine. It's just another show." "Yeah," Shaun said, but his shoulders didn't untense. He remained stiff and uncomfortable. A car pulled up behind them. It didn't take a genius to know who it belonged to. Plus, Jesse glanced and saw Brian and Angela in the front seat, through Gretchen's streaked back window. Angela got out and came up to Shaun's side of the car. "Are we supposed to park?" She asked. "We were looking for a place, some loading bay or something, and we saw Gretchen's car sticking out of this alley. We figured you found the spot." "She just ran in," Jesse said, leaning over Shaun's shoulder. "She's looking for a stagehand or something." And speak of the devil, Gretchen returned, bursting through the back door, looking harassed and red in the face. She looked even more so when she saw Angela standing beside her Mazda. "What's going on?" Angela asked in a shrill, authoritative voice. "Where are we parking?" Gretchen scowled. "Not here. The stage's too small for two bands to set up at once. After this first band opens for us, they have to tear down and we have to set up. They literally have a half hour intermission." "What?" Shaun snorted. "Stupid." "Yeah," Gretchen said. "So, tell Ben to move his car. We're backing out." Angela glared at her sister, but turned to head back to her car. Ben and Angela backed out momentarily and Gretchen left her stiff post in front of the bar's back door and got back into the Mazda. "We're never coming back to his fucked up place," Gretchen scowled as she backed up back into the lot. She drove around, finding a spot way in the back between a cluster of bikes. "One of those guys back there pinched my ass!" "Seriously?" Shaun snorted. "You're upset?" "I didn't ask for that!" Gretchen cried, getting out of the car abruptly, and slamming the door. Shaun and Jesse got out too, following the angry goth girl to the front of the bar. The narrow front doors opened into an even narrower hallway. It was dark, lit by neon bar signs that were strung up near the ceiling. There was a jukebox at the end of the hall and a couple bikers were gathered around, flipping through music. Jesse hoped they knew there was a show going on tonight. "Let's just sit at the bar and watch," Gretchen said, slipping through the crowd with ease. Shaun and Jesse struggled a little bit but when they reached the bar, Gretchen had saved them several seats. Jesse sat gratefully beside Gretchen and Shaun sat beside him. There was one empty seat. Beside Gretchen. "Three Yuenglings!" Gretchen ordered easily, pulling money out of her cleavage. Jesse spun his bar stool around, looking out over the bar as he waited for their drinks to arrive. It was a simple place. The bar started just after the jukebox at the entrance. It went all the way down, ending at the opposite wall. The bar was pretty damn generic looking, as were the plain black bar stools. There weren't any TV's up either, that Jesse could see anyway. It was no wonder the bikers had been looking at the jukebox! There was nothing to do in here! There wasn't much else to see. The rest of the room was an open area and they'd set up a couple tables here and there. It looked like people had started pushing them against the walls however, as the crowd grew larger. There were lots of people standing around and most of them were facing the stage. There was a simple black curtain obscuring the opening band from the crowd's view but that didn't seem to matter; the waiting crowd seemed eager and Jesse wondered who the first act was. What the big deal was about. This was the first time in a while that they'd been to a show and been ignored. Shaun didn't seem to mind. Gretchen was paying the bartender, accepting the three Yuenglings anyway, so Jesse turned back around and waited for his beer. Ben and Angela appeared after everyone had gotten their drinks. They were bickering quietly amongst themselves and when they got closer and saw that the only seat left was next to Gretchen's, Angela latched aggressively onto Ben's wrist, keeping him from going anywhere near the open seat. She and Ben remained standing. It was as good a time as any, to reveal the opening band. As Defaced sat uncomfortable, and totally disharmonious, the curtains on the stage were drawn back. The spotlights above turned on and focused on the lead singer. He looked terribly familiar. "We Execute Invasion, invading Sully's tonight!" Will said amicably, smiling charmingly out at the watching crowd. For some reason, the crowd already seemed to love him and their cheering was loud and excited. "Start us off, Danny!" Will asked his drummer and after a quick countdown, they started playing. A song Jesse had never heard before. He knew he'd never heard it, because it was actually pretty good. Will had tamed his screeching voice and the vocals were a lot more in tune than Jesse remembered them ever being. Danny was fine on drums. That had never been a problem. And the two new guys, rhythm and bass, seemed like well-trained musicians! They sounded good! "Isn't that…your old band?" Gretchen asked, breaking the tumultuous bubble of silence that had fallen over Defaced. "Doesn't sound like them," Ben said. "But yeah. That's definitely Execute Invasion. That's Will and Danny." "Motherfucker," Shaun muttered and when Jesse glanced his way, he saw the lead singer almost shaking with rage. "So, what. They improved a little," Jesse said, feeling like everything was falling apart. And fast. Who had invited them to this show? This was no fucking coincidence. "You guys have been playing the scene longer! You have more fans!" "Who the fuck are all these assholes?!" Shaun cried, gesturing to the thriving audience. "Fans?!" Jesse bit his lip. His beer long forgotten, Shaun sat watching Execute Invasion's show, hunched over, his eyes dark and angry. Every time Will addressed the audience, Shaun scowl deepened. Every time the audience reacted to a song, or a melody, Shaun winced. The show was nothing but a 'fuck you' and Jesse felt control of the situation spinning wildly out of control. As soon as the set finished and Will was saying goodnight to his fans, Shaun was getting up. "Stick around folks! My old good friends are playing next. They're not too bad. We even let them be the stars of the show tonight! Coming up next! Defaced!" And that was it, Shaun was charging through the crowd and heading for the stage. "Um, I don't think that's good, you guys," Ben said lamely, but no one moved. The rest of the band, and Jesse and Angela, got front row seats to Shaun leaping up on the stage, running for Will and flat out decking him. They couldn't see much else, from their angle. But the rest of Execute Invasion converged on Shaun and Will and as that happened, the crowd rose up, cheering, laughing, some of them trying to get order. "Oh my fucking god!" Gretchen was shaking her head. Jesse found himself trying to get higher up on his bar stool, just wanting to know if Shaun was alright! Ben was arguing with Angela, it seemed like he wanted to go get Shaun himself but Angela didn't want him going into the fray. Someone shouted something about the police and all of a sudden, there was a mad dash for the exit. People were shouting and crying out and pushing and shoving. Ben and Angela were whisked away but Jesse latched onto Gretchen's arm, pulling her face around, trying to get her attention. "We have to grab Shaun!" he cried. Gretchen looked like she were scowling, but she nodded wordlessly and the two of them held onto each other as they pushed through the pandemonium and towards the stage. Reaching the stage, Jesse and Gretchen saw the stage was a total wreck. The guys in rhythm and bass were standing off to the side, being half-heartedly restrained by a guy that looked like security. Shaun was being bodily restrained, by another tough looking guy. Shaun was literally spitting with rage. Will and Danny were standing amongst some destroyed equipment. Will was pointing his finger menacingly. "We invited you man! Out of a sign of respect! And you had to go and do something like this?!" Will looked like he were fighting to keep from smiling. He was obviously lying. This is exactly what the bastard had wanted! "Dick's just upset because we're winning the Battle of the Bands," Danny simpered, getting an unrestrained scream of anger out of Shaun's restrained form. "They're holding him. Probably waiting for police to take him in," Gretchen said quickly to Jesse and Jesse felt his stomach drop. "Fuck! No!" "Shut it," Gretchen snapped. Her eyes were gleaming with mirth. "I've got an idea. Just wait here. Get ready to run," and Gretchen hurried forward and hauled herself up onto the stage. The group of boys turned, surprised to see the goth girl climbing up on the stage. The bar had rapidly emptied. There weren't a lot of people hanging around now. Just the fighting group on the stage. "C'mon guys! This is all just a huge misunderstanding!" "Who the fuck are you?" asked the security meat head holding onto Shaun. Shaun's eyes were wild, he didn't even seem to have noticed Gretchen's arrival. "Just a fan!" Gretchen said, edging closer. "A super hardcore fan!" Gretchen to one last step closer to Shaun and his imprisoner and with a completely unplanned move that Jesse barely even caught, having been staring unblinkingly, Gretchen did a quick leg sweep, forcing the security guy to stumble, releasing one of Shaun's arms. She then dropped to one knee, spun around and landed a punch to the security's balls. The guy released Shaun at once and the rest of the guys on the stage lurched forward, surprised by the girls surprise attack. "Let's go!" Gretchen was already sliding off the stage's edge, pulling on a handful of Shaun's t-shirt. Shaun seemed to get the idea, because he ran after Gretchen and Jesse, as they passed, ran after them. There wasn't a big chase or anything. They got outside and ran across the street to the parking lot and piled in the car. They didn't even have to worry about going back for their instruments. Sweet! "Dude! What the fuck?!" Gretchen cried as they peeled out of Sully's. Gladly leaving it behind. "Fucking assholes!" Shaun growled. "This was all a set up!" "Ah, duh!" Gretchen snapped. "And you fell right for it. Great work, detective!" Shaun gave her a death glare which Gretchen weathered like a pro. "Shut up. Just let me enjoy this," Gretchen continued. "It's not every day Shaun ruins a show." "I didn't ruin anything!" "You single handedly cleared out the entire bar! You ruined everything!" Gretchen laughed. Shaun sulked hardcore, sinking into his seat in the front and glaring at nothing. Cautiously, Jesse touched Shaun's tense shoulder. When he wasn't immediately thrown off, Jesse rubbed his boyfriend's shoulder. Wishing he could do more. Gretchen's phone started ringing. "Hello!" Gretchen said into her phone. "Well! Funny getting a call from you! I didn't think you'd ever call me back…" Obviously it was Ben. Jesse could hear him and Angela's high pitched whine coming out of the speaker. "Oh, you know," Gretchen said causally. "I just had to leg sweep some security detail and punch him in the balls. No big deal. Shaun's fine. He's right here. Want to talk to him?" Gretchen didn't pass over the phone. She chatted for a moment more before she hung up. "That was just Ben, you guys," she announced. "Making sure he didn't have to come pay our bail." "Lots of help, that guy," Shaun said bitterly. "Absolutely," Gretchen snorted. The three of them fell into silence on the short ride home. They were back at the house in under 15 minutes. Gretchen killed the engine and looked meaningfully from Shaun to Jesse and back again. "Next shows in two days. Friday. Think we can handle that?" "What the fuck do I know?" Shaun spat. "Battle of the Bands is in two fucking weeks! Can we handle that?!" Gretchen shrugged. "Sounds like the competition is going to be stiff." "Fuck that!" Shaun snapped, getting out of the car. "And we can't even hold our shit together!" he got out of the car, storming towards the house. "Jesse!" he called and Jesse hurried to follow him. Not really knowing what was up, Jesse followed Shaun inside. They went straight to the bedroom and Shaun shut and locked the door. For a moment, Shaun stood awkwardly in the center of the room. Jesse didn't speak or interrupt his line of thinking, he just watched the gloomy older boy. Watched him simmer. Any minute now, Shaun would explode in anger. He'd rant and he'd rave and he'd damn the whole world to hell. But Shaun didn't do that. He looked up, into Jesse's eyes and he stepped forward and he wrapped Jesse up in his arms. "I'm going crazy," Shaun said. "I think I need you. Now." Jesse perked up in interest. This was definitely not what he'd expected! "I'm here for you. For anything you need," Jesse said, a little out of breath, a little taken aback but so thrilled and excited, he found himself agreeing before he even knew what exactly he was agreeing too. But Shaun was leaning down and capturing his mouth and Jesse sighed and released all his worries. That single kiss was laden with so much emotion and passion and need and Jesse found himself melting into Shaun's arms. The bigger boy lifted him easily and carried him to the bed. They kissed for a while more, Shaun pinning Jesse to the bed. Jesse moaned and squirmed under the heavier boy. He liked this position best. He felt safe here, completely under Shaun's control. There was never any hesitation when they were in this position. Shaun always knew how to use Jesse's body and Jesse always loved it. Shaun started to tug on Jesse's shirt and Jesse struggled to sit up, to get the shirt off as quickly as possible. Shaun smoothed his hands over Jesse's bare chest. He paused to rub Jesse's tender little nipples and Jesse was so turned on, he just about shouted with joy, the tingle in his nipples went straight down to his dick. He could feel his erection growing in his jeans and Shaun cupped the bulge knowingly. Jesse moaned helplessly. His eyes were shut tight and he bit his lip so hard he started to taste coppery blood but Shaun simply squeezed the bulge of Jesse's clothed erection. He squeezed it. He stroked it. He tortured the little redhead on the bed, making him moan and whither in pleasure from the simple point of contact. Shaun was smiling. Jesse could hear it in his voice. "You're beautiful. I can't believe I let you go this long without a good fuck." Jesse snorted with laughter, his eyes opening slightly to glare in Shaun's direction. "I can't believe it either. It's been hell," Jesse's head fell back to the pillows. His eyes slid shut and he groaned. Shaun was trailing his finger, a single finger, up Jesse's swollen shaft. "This is killing me!" Shaun laughed darkly. "I bet you'll pop as soon as I unzip your fly." "Probably!" Jesse grunted. "Well, I want you to hold onto it. I want to be inside you before you start coming like a little whore." Jesse groaned. "Did you hear me? You're not allowed to come yet." Jesse nodded. He clenched his teeth together. His balled his hands into the sheets below him. Shaun got off the bed for a moment and Jesse just happened to see Shaun returning to the bed with their bottle of lube and he was quickly taking his clothes off. Jesse gasped when he spotted Shaun's heavy, erect cock. It was bouncing against Shaun's stomach merrily, drooling precome already. Jesse quickly shut his eyes. Just the sight of Shaun's big dick was making him want to shoot his load. Shaun came back to the bed. He carefully unzipped Jesse's jeans and pulled them down and off Jesse's legs. Jesse trembled and shook. Sweat was dripping down his brow. Jesse clenched every muscle in his body to keep from coming. It was hard. But Jesse's hard, red cock remained standing. Leaking thick strands of precome but, it was still hard! Shaun laughed at him. He pulled on Jesse's balls a little, making Jesse wince. "No coming," Shaun reminded him cruelly before wet fingers were easing into Jesse's asshole. Jesse wanted desperately to come. And the fingers, stretching him slowly, filling him methodically, rubbing purposefully against his hard little prostate…Jesse pushed into the fingers. He tried desperately to relax his anal muscles. He just wanted Shaun to enter him. Oh god, Jesse was trembling with the continued effort not to come! Shaun just continued to laugh. "Beg me," he said ."I want to hear you beg." "Oh, god, please, please, fill me with your cock!" Jesse begged, his voice breaking, sounding highly pathetic and desperate. "Please fuck me!" Jesse whined. "Please, please, I need your dick—" "Beautiful," Shaun hissed. He got up and on his knees. He dumped the bottle of lube over his cock and the clear lube snaked down his dark, blood engorged length. Shaun slicked his cock, hissing, his eyes locked with Jesse's. "I'm going to fuck you so good, Jesse." "God yes!" Jesse moaned. Shaun got on top of him. He bent Jesse's fragile body in half and pressed his wet cock between Jesse's asscheeks. When he first started to push, sliding the very crest of his cockhead into Jesse's puckered opening, Shaun crashed his mouth down on top of Jesse's and forced his cock inside fully. Jesse screamed into Shaun's mouth. He let Shaun lick his tongue soothingly. Let Shaun bite his lips in parting. Jesse was suddenly completely full and although it burned and Jesse's muscles ached, the most insistent need was still Jesse's cock. "Can I—can I c—" "Come," Shaun said, grinning toothily down at the beautifully disheveled redhead trapped below him. Jesse grabbed his cock. Wrapped a single hand around the base and he was coming in long ropy strands against his chest and stomach. Jesse howled his pleasure! Shaun started to fuck Jesse in earnest after that and after a few moments of heavy breathing, Jesse started to fall into Shaun's rhythm. His cock started to get hard again, even! The bigger boy took his time. Fucking Jesse long and deep and slow. He stared into Jesse's eyes, when Jesse's eyes were open. Jesse was absolutely loving the feel of his boyfriend carefully fucking him. He felt cared for and appreciated. And Shaun's eyes! They were so intense and dark and swirling with all of Shaun's hopes and dreams and as beautiful as it was to look at, Jesse struggled to meet Shaun's completely unguarded gaze for very long. Jesse knew how rare this moment was and he forced himself to keep his eyes open. Shaun smiled at him. He was panting, sweat was beading at his brow now, too, and his long kinky hair was dark with the perspiration. "Do you know how much I love you?" Shaun asked, pausing abruptly, with his cock almost all the way out of Jesse's asshole. Jesse gasped, feeling his muscles clench up like crazy. Shaun smirked, and shoved his cock back inside, HARD! "Guh!" Jesse gasped inelegantly. His cock twitched like mad and his ass squeezed down hard on Shaun's cock. But Shaun was ripping it out again, leaving Jesse with just his cockhead wedged inside his hole. "I love you…more than anything…and I always forget to tell you!" Shaun said, punctuating each statement with a sharp jerk of his hips. He was fucking Jesse so hard now, leaving Jesse's body open and empty and then filling his ass completely again, rapidly, and Jesse could barely hear Shaun's words over his own cries. It hurt, some, but mostly the punishing fuck was a strange and incredible turn on! Jesse felt like he was being turned into a complete cockwhore and if he was going to be Shaun's cockwhore, then Jesse was fucking ecstatic! "I'm going to fuck you…every single day…and you're always going to be my good slut…aren't you?!" "Yes!" Jesse cried. Shaun growled his pleasure and fell into a more natural rhythm again, fucking Jesse fast and filling him deeply. When Shaun's breathing hitched and he grabbed onto Jesse's hips with a death grip, Jesse came again just from the feel of Shaun losing control. Shaun shook above him, coming into Jesse's body like a firehose. Jesse wrapped his arms and legs around him, as Shaun sagged into his body, completely spent. Jesse kissed any part of Shaun he could. His shoulders, his neck, his forehead, which was resting just there, against Jesse's chest. Jesse shut his eyes and held onto Shaun. He didn't bother to wake him, he didn't care that he was being crushed like a pancake. Jesse wanted this moment to last forever and he wasn't going to risk ending it. Shaun would wake up later and he'd have to figure shit out because Battle of the Bands was indeed just two Saturday's away. Jesse, already feeling slightly bummed out, just by the thought of the uncertain future, kissed Shaun's forehead one last time before he attempted to go to sleep as well. Luckily, this time, he was able to pass out rather quickly despite his head full of worries….
  14. Chapter 22

    Chapter Twenty-Two Shaun was holed up in his room, practicing his guitar, angry and highly pissed off. Gretchen had been gone most of the day but he'd heard her come home an hour ago and then, awhile after that, he'd heard Ben come in. Shaun had been listening to them with his ear pressed to the wall for the past few minutes. "I'm just fed up!" Brian was yelling out in the living room. "She give a shit about anything I care about! Everything I do and think is stupid." "It's not stupid," Gretchen crooned and Shaun tried not to vomit. "I wanted to tell Angela last night when I got home. I wanted to tell her everything but she came at me so hardcore, I got defensive. I denied everything!" "Then we need to practice," Gretchen laughed seductively and Shaun's stomach roiled with disgust. "We should practice your alibi too. Where did you get off to after work today? Well, you went and fucked Gretchen! That's what!" Ben laughed as well and Shaun heard them traveling down the hall. He heard Gretchen's door shut and he pulled his ear off the wall, not wanting to hear any more. So they weren't ruining the band? They were just spending all their time fucking? Great. Productive. Shaun scowled, throwing himself back down on his bed and grabbing up his guitar. He ran through a few riffs. He tested a few notes. He dropped the guitar and sighed heavily. There were no songs in his head today. The house phone rang, shrill and startling and Shaun cursed. The headset had moved to Shaun's room. Gretchen got all calls that mattered on her cell, the only people who called the house were Jesse, Ruth, on occasion, and telemarketers. Thinking it was one of the latter options, as Jesse was waiting for Shaun to call him, Shaun let the call go. It rang all the way to the end and Shaun saw a message flash up on the headset. He didn't bother to get up and check. Shaun stayed in his room, sulking, until he heard Ben and Gretchen come out of the bedroom again. Shaun immediately went to listen to them, pressing his ear to the wall again. It sounded like they were making plans to go out to eat and after some discussion, the two of them left the house. Shaun heard a car start out in the driveway and he finally came out of his room, hoping something quick and easy was in the fridge.sulking, until he heard Ben and Gretchen come out of the bedroom again. Shaun immediately went to listen to them, pressing his ear to the wall again. It sounded like they were making plans to go out to eat and after some discussion, the two of them left the house. Shaun heard a car start out in the driveway and he finally came out of his room, hoping something quick and easy was in the fridge.sulking, until he heard Ben and Gretchen come out of the bedroom again. Shaun immediately went to listen to them, pressing his ear to the wall again. It sounded like they were making plans to go out to eat and after some discussion, the two of them left the house. Shaun heard a car start out in the driveway and he finally came out of his room, hoping something quick and easy was in the fridge.sulking, until he heard Ben and Gretchen come out of the bedroom again. Shaun immediately went to listen to them, pressing his ear to the wall again. It sounded like they were making plans to go out to eat and after some discussion, the two of them left the house. Shaun heard a car start out in the driveway and he finally came out of his room, hoping something quick and easy was in the fridge. There was fried chicken from last week. Greasy and still in its cardboard box. It was easy enough and Shaun lugged the leftovers back to his room. Shaun sat and pouted. He ate the greasy chicken before returning to the kitchen to dump the remains. Gretchen and Ben still weren't back and feeling bored, Shaun decided to risk running into them and parked his ass on the couch, turning the TV on. Shaun struggled to become interested in anything he put on. Sports were never very interesting. He wasn't in the mood for music. Funny sitcoms felt like they were poking fun of Shaun, not themselves and Shaun scowled at the screen. He settled on a nature program. Watching whales dive out in the deep blue ocean was at least relaxing. After a while, the whale put Shaun to sleep. He dozed off and it was Gretchen's return that woke him. "Well, lookie here! I've got myself a roommate!" Gretchen cried, shutting the front door behind her. Shaun blinked, looking around suspiciously. "You got Ben with you?" "He went home," Gretchen said with a sigh. She came into the living room, glancing at the nature show. "You like this shit?" "It's relaxing." Gretchen shrugged and walked out again, disappearing to her room. Shaun groaned and stretched, yawning hugely. He checked the time. It was just after 9. Shaun needed to call Jesse. He shut the TV off and shuffled down the hall. As he passed Gretchen' s room, he could hear her laughing at something. He scowled, knowing she was probably laughing at him. At how stupid he was. Fucking Gretchen. Fucking Ben. They were risking everything with this little roll in the sack and they were fucking LAUGHING. Shaun grabbed the phone off his dresser, ignoring the flashing message, and he dialed Jesse's number. He was just throwing himself down on his bed when Jesse answered. "Hi." "What's up? Today sucked," Shaun said petulantly. "How was school?" "Umm…" Shaun forced himself to listen, to pay attention. Jesse wasn't saying anything though. The line was silent. listen, to pay attention. Jesse wasn't saying anything though. The line was silent.haun forced himself to listen, to pay attention. Jesse wasn't saying anything though. The line was silent. "Hello?" "I called you earlier…" Jesse said. "That was you? Sorry, I wasn't in the mood to talk. Fucking Ben was over again after he finished work. They went out to eat. I guess they're fucking dating," Shaun's scowl deepened and he waited for Jesse's admonishment but it never came. Jesse was silent again and Shaun snapped. "If you're not going to say anything, I guess I might as well hang up!" Shaun cried. "Fuck! What's the point of talking every night? This is fucking stupid, Jesse!" "Something happened today," Jesse said suddenly and Shaun sighed. "What?" "I actually don't know how to tell you," Jesse laughed nervously. "I called earlier, because I knew I had to tell you, but the message just says to call me back." "Well thanks for having me avoid another pointless conversation. Just spit it out! What?!" Jesse fell silent again and Shaun's level of frustration nearly doubled. "I'm going to hang up," Shaun said very precisely, fuming but knowing the reason for his extremely short temper right now wasn't actually because Jesse was hemming and hawing on the phone. Usually these nightly conversation were at least positive but whatever Jesse had to tell him? Clearly it was going to be as hard as pulling teeth and Shaun just wasn't up for it.Clearly it was going to be as hard as pulling teeth and Shaun just wasn't up for it.conversation were at least positive but whatever Jesse had to tell him? Clearly it was going to be as hard as pulling teeth and Shaun just wasn't up for it.Usually these nightly conversation were at least positive but whatever Jesse had to tell him? Clearly it was going to be as hard as pulling teeth and Shaun just wasn't up for it. "Wait! Just…" Jesse sobbed into the phone and Shaun paused to listen, his haunches going up immediately. "Did somebody at school fuck with you?" Shaun asked quickly. The only place Jesse should have been today was school and then home. There wasn't a lot of things that could have happened. "Does somebody need their ass kicked? Huh? Don't protect those fucking assholes! I would love to beat someone's face in right now!" Jesse sniffled on the other end. Fully sounding like he was crying. Still annoyed at the lack of conversation, Shaun prompted the redhead. Asking who had fucked with him, was it Kenny? Eric? Jordon? "I can't tell you over the phone!" Jesse cried and Shaun nearly got up and banged his head on the wall! This was stupid! "I'm not going to school tomorrow. Definitely. Can you come talk to me tomorrow? Please?" "What? Like in the morning?" "Yes." Shaun rolled his eyes but Gretchen didn't like to get up early. She probably wouldn't even notice the car was gone. "I'll be there around 9," Shaun said. "I'll be waiting," Jesse said and with that, Shaun thankfully ended the call. When he got up to return the phone to its' cradle, he let Jesse's message play. "Shaun? Call me back. We have to talk about something." "Yea right," Shaun scowled, deleting the message. It wasn't even 10 yet, but Shaun took himself to bed. He was bored and lonely and upset and Shaun thought about the knife he had returned to the drawer. He thought about stabbing himself and bleeding and pain. Shaun rolled onto his side, glaring at the dark wall across from his bed. He shut his eyes and pictured Jesse in his mind's eye, remembered how Jesse had let him feast on his blood. Like Shaun was a fucking vampire. That made Shaun smile at least and he drifted off thinking of the redhead and their impromptu meeting tomorrow. Shaun figured he'd have to go ruff up some jocks and that definitely was no hardship. Then he'd probably get to hang out with Jesse. He'd probably get to fuck him. Shaun was actually looking forward to tomorrow. Shaun woke early the next morning, thanks to some internal alarm going off in his head. He snuck around the house, getting cleaned up, getting dressed and grabbing some toast to shove in his hungry mouth. Gretchen didn't come out of her room and the few times Shaun passed it, he heard no sounds of life. So Shaun snagged Gretchen's keys left on the hall table and left the goth chick a note in place of her keys. Jesse's having a problem at school. I'm going to help. I'll be back Shaun went outside, scowling at the bright sunlight as it slanted into his eyes. He started Gretchen's car and began the trek back home, back to Jesse's place. He didn't arrive until closer to 9:00 but he didn't think Jesse would mind. Strangely enough, when Shaun pulled into Jesse's drive, Monica's car was there, along with a beautiful Mercedes. Shaun deduced that was the doctor's car. "What the fuck?" Jesse pulled in behind Monica's beat up van and cut the engine, looking towards the front door. He'd hoped, expected, that Jesse would be alone. He'd expected some motherfucking privacy! Why had Jesse asked him here again? Regardless, after some thought, Shaun got out and went to the door. He was sure he was scowling as he knocked but what the fuck ever. Monica answered the door and immediately she matched Shaun's expression to a tee. "It's you," she said. "That's right, it's me," Shaun sneered. "I'm here to see Jesse. He invited me." "Well that was pretty stupid of him." Shaun ground his teeth to dust. He wanted to deck the stupid bitch standing on the doorstep, blocking his entrance but before he could, the doctor appeared behind her, the little baby Lissa over his shoulder. "Aw, it's my finest patient! How are you doing, my boy?" Shaun reeled and stood speechless on the step. First pure hatred, now pure acceptance and friendship? Shaun hadn't liked the doctor much at the hospital but he hadn't seemed so bad. He was improving Jesse's life as well, so that gave him some brownie points in Shaun's eye. "Jesse wanted to talk to me. He invited me over," Shaun said to the doctor, his teeth clenched tightly to hold back his annoyance and frustration. The guy had just asked how he was doing! "I think he's still sleeping. All the kids are. We were all up pretty late," Doctor Cliff said, his face instantly draining of cheer. Shaun suddenly felt nervous. What the fuck was going on? Everyone was home from school? Monica was home from work? Even the doctor was here?Monica was home from work? Even the doctor was here? "I'll go get him," Monica said, disappearing into the living room. "Come on in," Cliff invited, waving Shaun past him, into the house. Shaun followed the doctor's instructions and came inside. Moving to sit on the empty couch. Cliff stood over him, the baby solidly asleep on his shoulder. "So, I guess you saw the news," Cliff said, sighing and looking away, towards the stairs. "What news?" "About Jesse and Sam." Shaun's feeling of nervousness grew exponentially. "You mean like the actual news station? Like on TV?" Cliff shook his head, his expression getting grimmer, if that were possible. "You don't know what happened, then?" "WHAT HAPPENED?!" Shaun couldn't take it anymore! He sat there, panting, glaring, wanting to know what the fuck was going on! It was like this was a huge and stupid fucking joke or something! Pull the wool over Shaun's stupid eyes! Why wouldn't someone just tell him?! Jesse appeared at the bottom of the steps, his mother behind him. Monica was glaring right back at Shaun but Jesse's face was tired and haggard. He looked fucking terrible! "Jesse?!" Jesse nodded, his silky red hair sliding into his eyes. "Let's go talk outside." So, Jesse led the way outside. As soon as he shut the door behind him, Shaun turned on him, demanding to know what the fuck was going on, but Jesse urged him back to Gretchen's car so, nearly screaming with frustration, Shaun stalked to the car and got in, waiting impatiently for Jesse to hurry up and join him. The fucking dick was dragging his goddamn feet! When Jesse got in, he simply sat and stared blankly out the windshield. "What's going on! I'm here! We're not on the phone! We're outside and in the car! What's the next fucking requirement? What do I have to do to get you to tell me what the fuck's going on?!" Jesse sighed and finally he spoke, his eyes remaining glued to the house. "Sam got arrested yesterday. Kyle trained him up and sent him to the middle school to sell. I fucking told Kyle Sam would get him caught. That's the only part I don't understand." "Pfft," Shaun shook his head angrily. All this build up for this? Fuck! "Fucking Kyle," Shaun growled. "So did your brother rat him out? Is Kyle sitting in a cell?" "Yes," Jesse said. "They raided his house. They found more stuff. Worse stuff than just weed." "What? Like fucking weapons?" Shaun hazarded a guess. "What'd they find? Kiddie porn?" Shaun laughed at that. "They did," Jesse said, turning to face Shaun finally, slowly. Shaun saw how red and bloodshot his eyes were and simply paused to listen. "Yeah. They found some kiddie porn." "And?" "They found tapes of my brother…Kyle…drugged him. More than once. And fucked his unconscious body. Also, more than once." Shaun's jaw actually dropped. "Are you fucking serious?" Holy shit, Kyle was worse than a fucking snake! He was some kind of serpent from the depths of hell! Some motherfucking demon out to cause grief and anguish! "Shit, no wonder your skipping school! How's Sam dealing with this bullshit?" Shaun chuckled darkly. "Fucking little shit had no idea what he was getting himself into." "There's more," Jesse said, biting his lip. "They found another tape. One of me." Shaun didn't say anything. "It was more of the same," Jesse said. "I was unconscious. I didn't even know it happened to me." "What the fuck are you talking about?!" Shaun snapped. Jesse turned from him, his shoulders tensing up. "He raped me. "What?!" A tear fell from Jesse's eye, slowly rolling down his cheek. "It's really stupid—" "FUCKING STUPID?!" Jesse flinched, his eyes closing, more tears rolling down his cheeks. "After the accident. When you were trying to break up with me…I already told you. I was hanging out with my brother and Kyle for lack of anything better to do. I was so fucking lonely without you…" "So you got yourself RAPED?!" Jesse was trembling like a leaf. He was shaking and pale and looked so stupidly fragile and Shaun grabbed the steering wheel and screamed, wrenching at the wheel as if to tear it right off the dash. He screamed and he screamed and Jesse, his eyes squeezed shut continued to tremble and shake. "Kyle said to me, he said that if I wanted to get you back, I had to make you jealous—" "JEALOUS?!" Shaun banged on the wheel, accidentally honking the horn a few times. He didn't care. "He told me he wanted me to meet this guy," Jesse said in a rush. "I wasn't planning to sleep with anyone, Shaun. Kyle's plan was that I meet some guy and take him to your next concert. I was just supposed to have you see me with some guy—" "And then what happened?!" Jesse faltered at the interruption but found his place and continued again. "So, Kyle's stepdad was having a party. I was supposed to meet this guy and I had to wait all night for him to show up but when Kyle introduced me, it was like this guy was from The Hills Have Eyes. He was weird and ugly and fucking…just creepy!" "And then?!" "Well, and then I tried to tell Kyle that this was absolutely NOT happening and I told him I just wanted to leave. He brought a drink for me. A long island ice tea. He told me to drink it and that if I still wasn't interested after I'd finished, he'd take me and Sam home." "FUCK!" Shaun yelled again, giving the wheel a rest and driving his elbow back against the car door. It hurt, but Shaun barely felt it. He did it again and again, the color red bleeding into his vision, blinding him from everything. He could literally SEE Jesse at that party. Kyle giving him a spiked drink and Jesse cluelessly gulping it down, just wanting to leave. "I drank it and I felt weird almost immediately so I got up and said I felt sick. I told Kyle that I really wanted to go but he just ignored me. The last think I remember was sitting at the table with Kyle and this Hills Have Eyes Freak and next thing I know, I'm waking up on the floor with no memory, hours later."this Hills Have Eyes Freak and next thing I know, I'm waking up on the floor with no memory, hours later." "And he'd fucked you!" Jesse hung his head. "I didn't know what happened, Shaun. I didn't know until the police put a picture in front of me, some still from a high quality camera. I didn't recognize myself at first. He had me face down on the bed and my cast was mostly covered but that's how they identified me. The cop pointed to the cast and I knew it was true."high quality camera. I didn't recognize myself at first. He had me face down on the bed and my cast was mostly covered but that's how they identified me. The cop pointed to the cast and I knew it was true." "MOTHERFUCKER!" Shaun screamed. He thrashed violently in the car for a moment before getting out and screaming into the bright and sunny morning air. He turned and brought both his fists down on the roof of Gretchen's car, yelling, screaming, demanding Jesse to get out. Jesse cautiously slipped from the car and Shaun was on him in an instant, towering over him, grabbing both his biceps, shaking him. "ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS?!" Jesse looked up at him, his eyes glassy and blue and beautiful and Shaun screamed with rage. Kyle had touched him! KYLE HAD BEEN INSIDE OF HIM! Inside a place that was only for Shaun! He'd had Jesse's beautiful body spread out before him and he'd touched him in all his secret places! "I'm sorry," Jesse said and Shaun, through his bloodlust, could see the little redhead crying in full force now. Tears were streaming down his face, running into his mouth and Shaun leaned down and took his mouth, kissing him deeply, sticking his tongue so far down Jesse's throat in an attempt to claim him that Jesse actually gagged and pulled away, crying more, harder. "I'm sorry," he said again, crouching down right there in the driveway and sobbing uncontrollably. "Sorry?" Shaun said. "YOU ARE MINE! He shouldn't have touched you—I'M GOING TO KILL HIM!"I'M GOING TO KILL HIM!" Jesse continued to cry, there on the pavement and Shaun left him to it, pivoting and marching straight across the lawn and to his grandparent's house. The garage was rarely, if ever locked and it wasn't today. Shaun slipped right in and looked around his old practice space, breathing hard, thinking of nothing but spilling Kyle's blood. He had to. HE NEEDED TO. Kyle couldn't be allowed to live after this! He'd done this knowing EXACTLY what he was doing! It had always been a game to him, pissing Shaun off. But this hadn't pissed him off. It had fucking snapped the last bit of Shaun's sanity.rarely, if ever locked and it wasn't today. Shaun slipped right in and looked around his old practice space, breathing hard, thinking of nothing but spilling Kyle's blood. He had to. HE NEEDED TO. Kyle couldn't be allowed to live after this! He'd done this knowing EXACTLY what he was doing! It had always been a game to him, pissing Shaun off. But this hadn't pissed him off. It had fucking snapped the last bit of Shaun's sanity. Shaun looked over Eli's guns, but no. Shaun wasn't sane at the moment, but he was thinking quickly, his thoughts were coming ordered and clean and Shaun knew it would be only too easy to identify him as the killer if he used one of Eli's guns. So he turned to the tool bench and looked for something sharp. That's when he ran across his father's old hunting knife. It was right there, on the bottom shelf of Eli's worktable and Shaun picked it up, smearing the slight coating of dust off the blade. Shaun gripped the trusted old knife in his hand, felt it's power. It had killed both his parents and now it was going to kill Kyle. This was perfect. Shaun holstered the knife in the back of his jeans, pulling his shirt down over it. Then he left, returning to Gretchen's car, to Jesse who was still crouched down and crying. Shaun put an arm around him, much gentler than before. Jesse melted into him, hugging him tightly. "Where'd you go?" he sniffled. "Nowhere. C'mon. Sit with me," and Shaun got back in Gretchen's car, feeling the knife poking into his back. He let it stay there, let the feeling remind him what was in store for the boy who had fucked with Jesse, literally! Kyle was going to die and that made Shaun eerily calm. Jesse got in with him and climbed across the armrest and sat in Shaun's lap. "You don't hate me?" Jesse asked, pressing his wet face against Shaun's neck. Shaun wrapped arms around him, holding him. Jesse was his! "No. But I am going to kill him. That's the only way I'll get over it." Jesse didn't say anything, just clung to Shaun tightly and Shaun let him, stroking the redhead's back, occasionally trying to kiss his hair, just trying his best to be supportive and loving while he was here. He'd take care of the violence later, when Jesse wasn't around. Shaun suddenly felt guilt, for ignoring Jesse's call yesterday. For being so short on the phone with him. If this is what Jesse had been keeping hidden, Shaun understood. Kyle was a snake and Jesse knew that. Shaun, as shocked as he was to find out Jesse had been raped, knew there was no way Jesse hadn't been even more surprised. A simple killing wouldn't be enough for Shaun if he found out Kyle had drugged and raped him. He'd have to torture Kyle to death. He'd have to string it out for days, possibly weeks, before he let the fucker die. Of course, that wasn't actually possible and Shaun, his brain powered by a deep need for revenge was planning everything out to Shaun's best interest. He'd go in, he'd slit Kyle's throat and then he and Jesse could get on with the rest of their lives. Jesse sat on him, crying, for almost an hour. When his body became heavier, when he started to loll slightly to the side, asleep, Shaun turned on the radio, turned the volume low and tuned into the local radio station. As Shaun had figured, the top story today was that of Jesse's and Sam's. No names were given out, of course, but Shaun knew they were talking about his boyfriend. And his mortal enemy. Shaun didn't know how the legal system worked really, but he knew Kyle would get out somehow. That snake. He would get out and Shaun would be waiting for him. He listened for several hours, holding onto Jesse's sweet unconscious body. He stroked his face, his silky hair. Shaun held him close as he listened to the oldies music the station played, listening in for the hourly news update. It was 1 o'clock when there was finally some breaking news! Shaun had been right! Kyle had just had his preliminary hearing, from a stupid camera and TV setup in the jail and he'd fucking made bail. He was out and he was going to be dead soon. Shaun gently shook the redhead awake, turning the radio off. Jesse woke with a start, his eyes opening wide. "I love you, Jess, but I really have to go right now." "Go where?" Jesse asked, peering at him. He blinked several times and then smiled, weakly. "Can I come with you? I'm not going back to school this week." "Not just now," Shaun said calmly. "But yes. I'll come back for you." "Where are you going?" Jesse asked again but Shaun ignored him, kissing his soft pink mouth and opening the door. Pouting, a lot like his son, Jesse slid out of Shaun's lap. "I love you," Shaun said again. "I'll see you soon." "Please," Jesse asked, his eyes growing watery again, filling with tears. "Where are you going?" "I'll tell you later," Shaun said. "Get some clothes together. I'll be back." Shaun shut the door and drove off, watching Jesse's figure, planted out in the driveway, disappear in his rear view mirror. He didn't drive to Kyle's straight away, he went to his parent's burned down house first, just to wait, knowing it would actually take some time for Kyle to get out. He sat in the remains of his former life. He stared at the burned ruins. It felt surreal, being here, plotting a murder, but it felt right. Everyone had been waiting for this moment. For him to snap and do the same thing his father had done. It had happened. Nobody would ever know for sure, but they'd been right, damn them. Shaun almost smiled. Only thing was, Kyle actually deserved this. He had this coming. So, everyone had been right, but not really. Because Shaun wasn't committing this murder to end his own life, he was doing it so both he and Jesse could move on. He wasn't like his father at all even though he was the same. He was doing this for love, not purely hate. Shaun took the hunting knife out of the back of his shirt and ran his fingers carefully, reverently over the blade. This was going to be awesome. Cutting Jesse up had been fun but this was the one and only time Shaun could cut without fear. He was going to slash Kyle to bits and Shaun didn't care what shape he was in when he was done. Just as long as he was dead. Shaun left the remains of his parent's house and took the short drive down to Kyle's shitty rambler. There was an old truck parked out front and the screen door was hanging partway open. Shaun pulled Gretchen's car in the drive and off to the side, into the grass. There was a corpse of trees here that would hide Gretchen's car from the road and Shaun got out and approached the front of the house, moving silently, the knife gripped in his hand. He climbed up on the porch and with the knife, pushed the screen door open. He could hear frantic voices inside. "C'mon! What the fuck are you packing!" "Clothes!" That was Kyle's voice, Shaun couldn't place the other. "I'll buy you new shit in Mexico! C'mon! We have to hit the road!" "I'm almost done!" There was a loud sigh and Shaun froze, still just standing on the porch and listening. He heard movement inside, someone was approaching. Through the crack in the door, Shaun could see a blond guy, young, banging around in the kitchen just beyond the door. He was opening cupboards, looking for something. "Didn't you guys eat? Where's all the food?" "Who knows, maybe the cops ate it," Kyle said, his voice distant, coming from somewhere else in the house. The young blond guy sighed again before turning from the kitchen and moving back into the living room. Shaun heard the TV turn on. Carefully, Shaun pushed the front door open, getting past that and the screen door silently. He creeped into the kitchen, lining himself up behind the blond guy who was standing with his back to Shaun, staring over the top of the couch at the TV screen. This had to be Kyle's brother. The guy even looked a bit like Kyle, minus the short shorts. He was decently muscled and had on a sleeveless shirt and cargo shorts. "They took everything else. My computer, my phone, my tapes, my drugs," Kyle was saying from down the hall. "I mean, c'mon! My phone? That was the only thing that had nothing on it, actually." Kyle's brother laughed and as the blond guy stood there, laughing, plotting with his snake of a brother to escape the country, Shaun rushed forward and sunk the knife into the small of his back. Into his spinal cord. The brother attempted to turn and grab him but Shaun yanked the knife out and he spun the guy around himself, meeting the brother's honey brown eyes, wide with shock, with panic. Shaun stabbed up into the guy's gut, shoving him into the couch, the blade imbedded deep in his stomach. The brother sputtered, blood coming out of his mouth and Shaun let him slip from his blade, the guy sliding helplessly to the floor, staring up at Shaun, nothing but sputters and half formed words slithering from his bloody lips. "Ryan?" Kyle called from the other room and just as Shaun was straightening up again, bloody knife in hand, Kyle poked his head out into the hall, instantly meeting Shaun's eyes. He pulled his head back into his room quickly and Shaun got up, running, to follow him. Kyle was halfway out his bedroom window when Shaun got there. He grabbed Kyle's ankle and with all his might, pulled him back down onto the floor. Kyle fell like a sack of potatoes, smacking his forehead onto the hardwood floor. He moaned uselessly and Shaun got on top of him, rolled him over so he could see Kyle's fucking face. "So, Jesse just told me about how you raped him. How you drugged him. How you FUCKING TRICKED HIM!" "I only fucked him once! You guys weren't even together!" Kyle scrambled for an excuse. Shaun could see the fear on his face, in his eyes. "You killed my fucking brother!" Shaun hit him hard in the face. He held Kyle down and punched him with abandon, laughing when he stopped and Kyle looked up at him dazedly, his face bleeding and bruised. "I killed your brother and now I'm going to kill you," Shaun said, grinning with pleasure. Kyle pushed some frothy blood from his lips. "Fuck you, Shaun! You're too much of a pussy!" Shaun laughed. "You really think that?" he punched Kyle right in his mouth. Kyle's eyes rolled back in his head for a minute and Shaun laughed at that. "You've always wanted to fuck me. So you fucked my boyfriend instead? You know what? I can forgive you. Jesse's ass is nice and tight, isn't it?" When Kyle didn't answer, Shaun hit him again, he even brought his knee up to whack the bastard in the balls. Kyle moaned but said nothing more. "Well, I hope you enjoyed it fucker. Because you're never having me and you're not going to Mexico. You should have stuck to the kiddie porn and the drugs. The second you touched what was mine, your life was over. It was only a matter of time before I found out." Pausing to see if Kyle had any more to say, which he didn't – those punches must have been really damaging, because Kyle's eyes were rolling around and he was moaning in pain, completely fucked. Shaun stabbed his knife into Kyle's stomach and ripped upwards, tearing through skin and organs and Kyle screamed wordlessly. Shaun finished his vivisection just below Kyle's ribcage. Then he stood up, admired the boy bleeding out below him. Kyle was sputtering, blood flying out his mouth, flecking on his lips and the front of his shirt. The knife was sticking out of his chest, moving up and down as Kyle's breathing became more erratic, as his life slipped from him. Still not satisfied, Shaun kicked the asshole's legs apart and he stomped down hard on Kyle's cock and balls, grinding the useless organs with the heel of his boot. Strange, gurgling sounds came from Kyle's bleeding, quivering form and sneering at him, Shaun bent to retrieve his knife, a jet of blood squirting out back onto the white wall. He paused to clean the knife's blade on Kyle's stupid purple coverlet and then he left, stepping over Kyle's brother and the pool of his diseased blood. Shaun headed to Jesse's after that. He parked the car in the redhead's drive but before he went to knock, he walked back to the his grandparent's garage, and wiped his prints from the handle with a shop towel. At least, he hoped he did. How were those assholes always covering their tracks in the movies? Fuck! Shaun checked his hands for blood and panicked when he spotted red crusting his nails, sitting embedded in his fingerprints. He spat on his hands and rubbed them furiously against the shop towels but that just smeared blood and sweat and dirt around, making it worse. Shaun finally just rubbed his hands over an old oily tire, coating his hands in black shit, and then he cleaned his hands again. At least the blood was covered with the oil now. It just looked like Shaun had been messing with a car. Satisfied, Shaun put the knife back where he'd found it and snuck out of Eli's garage. He went directly to Jesse's. The redhead answered the door this time and he was eager to go. He had his backpack over his shoulder and he nearly bowled Shaun over in his hurry to vacate his house. "Where did you go?" Jesse asked immediately, moving to put Shaun between himself and the house. Shaun scowled at him. Did the asshole want to be an accessory to the crime? "I just drove around. To clear my head," Shaun said. "I had some problems with Gretchen's shitty engine," he continued, holding his hands up for inspection. "Oh," Jesse winced. "Sorry," he moved to jump into Gretchen's passenger seat. "Is it driveable?" Shaun blinked at him, taking the last few steps to the driver's side of the door. "You had engine problems?" Jesse said, quirking a brow at him. "Oh, yeah," Shaun got into the car and after a moment, Jesse followed, sitting beside him. "The car's fine," Shaun said, starting the engine to prove his point. Jesse nodded and Shaun took off, heading towards Gretchen's house. Shaun took some time getting there, enjoying the silence, enjoying the long, easy drive. Jesse kept looking at him and Shaun just wished Jesse would relax. Halfway home, Shaun reached across the armrest and took Jesse's small, delicate hand. The hand was like clay in his hand now. Jesse's hand was sweaty and almost boneless in form! Jesse continued to look at him, his look panicked and nervous. Not calm at all! Shaun let go of Jesse's hand when they entered Gretchen's neighborhood. He announced their arrival but Jesse just looked at him with wide, fearful eyes and Shaun choked on his words. He used the key on Gretchen's keychain to open the front door when they got to the house. Gretchen was up and in the hallway as soon as they came through the front door and she demanded, just as Jesse had, to know where Shaun had been. "He came to help me out," Jesse said helpfully, piping up in Shaun's defense. Shaun remembered complaining to Jesse about Gretchen and Ben's stupid haywire tumble in the sack, but even Shaun knew his complaints about his friends sex lives wasn't important. Not now, not ever really. Shaun felt stupid all of a sudden and he ducked his head, putting his arm firmly around Jesse's shoulders and pulling him into his side. "I'm sorry, Gretchen," Shaun said, holding out the goth girl's keys. Her black lips were pinched together but she took the keys without comment. "Today was an emergency. I didn't even know how much of an emergency until I got to Jesse's. That's why he's here. Unannounced," Shaun said, shrugging awkwardly. "That's ok," Gretchen said. She tossed the car keys to the hall table, planting a hand on her hip. Casual. "So, what's going on?" Shaun's insides flared with anger at the easy question. For a minute. And then he realized that Gretchen had no idea what had happened today. She had no idea she was joking around with Jesse's rape and Shaun's secret revenge murders. Jesse answered again and trying his best not to glare daggers of death in the girl's direction, Shaun simply let the redhead speak for them both. "I'm just having some family problems," Jesse said. "I've got a few days off school…I just need to get away from everybody." "Everybody but me and Shaun, right?" Gretchen asked snidely, leering at them. "R-right," Jesse said and Shaun kissed his boyfriend on the forehead, gave Gretchen a mean, nasty look and finally, swept Jesse down the hallway, towards his room at the end. Gretchen did not stop them again. "She didn't know," Jesse said instantly, defending the mean bitch out the hall. "I'll tell her later. In my own words. Thanks for not saying anything." "Alright," Shaun said, for once not wanting to start a fight. He knew he was right. Gretchen had won. But it didn't matter. He and Jesse were alone in Shaun's room now and that's what mattered. Shaun had a sudden urge to be close to the redhead standing in the middle of his room, looking awkward, sagging under the weight of his overstuffed backpack. It looked like he'd packed for a year and that made Shaun smile. Shaun moved forward, flicking the dimmer on the room lights as an afterthought. Jesse laughed nervously as Shaun approached, in the weak light, and Shaun loomed over him in an instant, easily taking the weight of his backpack and shucking the load off to the side. Shaun stood over the redhead, tilting his head back gingerly. "No one's ever going to touch you again," Shaun said, knowing it was true because he would always be there to make it so. "I'm never going to leave you again. You are mine." "Yes!" Jesse cried instantly, arching up into Shaun's body. His chest barely touched Shaun's and his belly, no matter now intensely Jesse arched his back and curved his hips and legs, his belly would never touch Shaun's. He whimpered into Shaun's mouth as the bigger boy ghosted his lips over Jesse's. Shaun's fingers were sharp, poking relentlessly into Jesse's chest, keeping him just out of reach. Shaun kissed him sparingly, pecking his lips down onto Jesse's, wetting his soft, pale pink lips with his saliva. Shaun was just dabbing Jesse's fat kissable lower lip with his tongue, wetting it just so, promising to kiss deeper, to suck harder and more…. Jesse was crying with need when Shaun finally picked him up. Jesse was light and limber in his arms, and Jesse curled into his body, planting his lips on Shaun's skin, his neck and his throat. His cheeks and his hair. And when Shaun finally tossed him abruptly to the bed and climbed on top of him, Jesse lunged upwards and attached his lips to Shaun's mouth, kissing him with a desperate need. Shaun met his desperation, kissing him back, plundering his mouth, slopping his tongue into Jesse's mouth, tasting his delicious juices. They kissed and rolled around on the bed. Shaun threaded his fingers through Jesse's hair and Jesse moaned and cried helplessly into Shaun's mouth. They kissed and rolled around some more and then, before Shaun lost his resolve, he got off the fiery redhead, stroking his hot, beautiful face, his red freckled cheeks… Jesse smiled at him, his eyes opening, shining bright and blue in the dark, gloomy room and Shaun knew he'd done the right thing. Jesse wasn't ready for anything but kissing. Jesse needed – he deserved – special treatment and extra love and care. Shaun had easily defeated the enemy, now he just needed to help with the aftermath. Jesse needed his love. It wasn't going to be easy, but Shaun knew he had to do it and he actually wanted to too, so Shaun just pulled Jesse under his chin, pulled Jesse's warm body flush to his own, and he held the younger boy. He held him until Jesse fell asleep and then Shaun carefully maneuvered the sleeping boy to get up and venture out of the bedroom. He found Gretchen hanging out in the living room, alone, but very involved in her phone which she held in her lap. She looked up as Shaun entered the room. "Hey," she said cautiously. "Hey," Shaun said back. "Are you ordering anything for dinner?" "I wasn't going too," Gretchen said, her eyes inching back down to her phone. "I'll order pizza. If you guys want some." Shaun shrugged. That sounded editable. "Sure," he said. "Hey!" Gretchen called him back the second he turned to go. Shaun slouched back around, glaring at Gretchen wholeheartedly. Gretchen didn't take the hint. "What's going on, really? Is it something with his son? Is his mom being a controlling bitch again or something? Is Jesse getting bullied?" Shaun cleared his throat abruptly, mostly just to get Gretchen to shut up. She looked at him curiously, shutting up as Shaun had intended. Still, Gretchen was waiting for some sort of explanation. "It really is serious," Shaun said awkwardly. Suddenly angry again, that he had to explain anything, but he tried to trample down the instinctive rage. He tried his best to civil. Polite. Friendly. He tried his best to be Gretchen's friend. "It was serious. What happened to him," Shaun said again. "We just don't, well I don't anyway, want to talk about what happened and it was really serious and personal so can you please just leave it alone. Jesse will tell you what happened if he wants, but I really don't want to talk about it." Gretchen gave him an unwavering look. "It was that bad? Fuck. Ok. I'm sorry." "It's private," Shaun said, blushing furiously. "Just don't…mention to me again, please," or I'll rip your fucking head off! Shaun though deliriously, shaking his head. He went back to the bedroom, thinking maybe he'd try going over some song lyrics, but Jesse was lying awake on the bed, his blue eyes open and surveying the room in a calm silence. Shaun smiled at his boyfriend, coming into the room, shutting the door behind him. "Gretchen's ordering pizza." "Cool." Shaun came to sit beside the other boy, reaching out to stroke his hair. They sat in silence for a moment, Shaun awkward and consciously trying to be supportive and Jesse was just quiet. "I guess I have something else to tell you," Jesse said suddenly, out of the blue. Shaun grunted, twisting Jesse's silky strands about his fingers. "We all had a family talk last night. Cliff was there too, you saw him this morning I think." "Yeah," Shaun said, prompting the other boy to continue. "Well, I guess Cliff's asked mom to marry him. She said yes, of course…" "Is that bad?" Shaun guessed, confused by Jesse's awkward pause. The guy hadn't seemed so bad. "He was saying last night, how he was so shocked that this all happened," Jesse said, looking off somewhere into the distance. "He said he's been living here his whole life and nothing this bad has ever happened before." Shaun snorted. He would have thought his parents murder/suicide was worse than a few cases of date rape but who was he to judge. Of course, now Cliff was going to link Jesse and Sam to Kyle's murder, so maybe he was on to something. "He and my mom were talking about leaving. Finding a better school district, finding a safer neighborhood, with healthy neighbors—" Shaun snorted again, knowing that was a slight to his grandparents. "Cliff's going to take my family to some gated community. They're going to be safe. They're leaving." Shaun wasn't missing the 'they' reference. "And you?" he asked. "What about you?" "I'm included in Cliff's plan," Jesse said, sighing and scrubbing a hand across his face. "Me and Brian could have it easy if we just went along with everyone else. But we can't go. Our lives are here with you." Shaun felt his face break into a nervous grin. "Seriously?" Jesse looked up at him from under his lashes. "Where are we going to set Brian's bed up?" Shaun hugged and kissed his boyfriend. "You're moving in?" "Yes," Jesse said and Shaun crushed him in his arms. After all the negative that had happened today, this was so positive and Shaun's spirits literally soared. Jesse was injured, Shaun could feel the other boy's frailty by just holding onto him, but things were only going to get better from here. Kyle would never hurt or taunt Jesse again. He was fucking dead and gone and that pleased Shaun deeply. Jesse was moving in and his family was moving away. Jesse was soon to be Shaun's. Almost exclusively and for good. Forever. Shaun's hands shook with relief, with pure fucking joy as he continued to hug his boyfriend and rub his back. Things were only going to look up from here. Shaun knew this wasn't going to be easy. Shaun was going to have to get used to a new schedule, as well as a whole new slew of things. Shaun knew things, at times, would be frustrating and difficult and upsetting but that was just par for the course. Relationships were a lot of fucking work, Shaun was finding, but he wanted this. He wanted Jesse. And so Shaun was going to man up, put on his big boy pants and start taking things with a grain of salt because the last thing Jesse needed, after this sexual assault, and after his difficult decision to finally move in, the last thing Jesse needed was Shaun's anger. Shaun and Jesse heard the doorbell ring a while later. They went out into the living room to share Gretchen's pizza and watch TV. Gretchen, bless her, didn't ask about why Jesse was here or what was going on again, she just selected a goofy movie and talked up a storm through the pizza and the film, getting a few laughs out of them both. Jesse did manage to share with her his decision to finally move in. Gretchen paused, looking towards Shaun, questions burning in her gaze, but she left it at that. Replying neutrally, saying she wouldn't mind some more friendly company and that Brian was 'doable'. Almost cute. That made Jesse laugh and as Shaun watched his boyfriend and his bandmate interact, Shaun was slammed over the head again with how truly stupid he'd been acting lately. Tonight, with Jesse at his side and Gretchen feeding and entertaining them, Shaun realized how glad he was to have people in his life. To have people to care for and to depend on. Jesse had looked to him today for comfort and support and now, Shaun was leaning on Gretchen to help them both. Now that Shaun wasn't glaring daggers at her about her current fuck buddy, she was talking freely, laughing without reserve and Shaun knew this was a hell of a lot better than the solitude he'd enacted on himself yesterday. He'd been punishing nobody but himself and Shaun, really kind of felt stupid. The three of them stayed up late, watching some slasher marathon on one of the movie channels. Shaun kept close to Jesse, kept his arm around him, or on him, at all times, and Jesse was just smiling at him. Something deep in his eyes was still sad, Shaun had a feeling Kyle was still on Jesse's mind, but the sad little gleam in Jesse's eyes had faded and grew dimmer with every soft touch Shaun gave him, every kiss, every hug. His eyes brightened with Gretchen's raunchy humor. He laughed over the stupid slasher flick, the lines of tension about his eyes lessening, if not altogether disappearing. Shaun knew it was going to take longer than just a single night to mend Jesse's spirit but he was glad to see the improvement. Of course, Jesse wasn't relieved, like Shaun was, to know that Kyle was well and truly gone, and Shaun debated briefly with himself over whether to tell Jesse about what he'd gotten up to earlier, during their separation. But Shaun decided against it, just wanting to keep Jesse safe, not wanting to incriminate him if he didn't have too. Not that Shaun was going to get caught of course. They all turned in for the night around midnight. Once Shaun had sent Jesse into the bedroom, he paused out in the hallway, giving Gretchen a meaningful and very heartfelt thanks. "I'm still dying to know what's going on," Gretchen said, literally rubbing her hands together in her excitement. Shaun's eye twitched. "I know," he said as neutrally as possible. "And the kid's finally moving in, huh? Something big must have happened." "Yeah," Shaun said, and then just to avoid any further conversation, Shaun snapped a quick, "Goodnight," before he slipped into the room behind Jesse. The redhead was naked on the bed, the lights were dimmed and Shaun quickly shut the door behind him. "Spoon me?" Jesse asked and Shaun instantly stripped down to nothing and climbed between the sheets, taking Jesse up on his offer and spooning up to his back, enclosing him in his arms. Jesse sighed and settled into the embrace. "That feels so nice," he moaned. Shaun was highly aware of his cock, nestled up against Jesse's anal crack. He could feel his cockhead, resting gently just above Jesse's sweet hole. Shaun tried to ignore all that. "Whatever you need," Shaun said, kissing Jesse's soft cheek. "Just tell me. And I'll get it for you." "Really?" Shaun was surprised Jesse sounded so shocked. "Yes," he said simply. "Did you notice? I'm not fighting with Gretchen anymore." "You did that for me? I figured you were just distracted. You just forgot." "Forgot that both members of my band are risking everything to be together? Nope. Didn't forget." Jesse chuckled. "Well, thanks. For pulling the civil card. Tonight was nice. Relaxing. The pizza was super greasy. Yum." "I just realized whatever Gretchen and Ben do, it's not my business. You're my business and I don't even treat you good. Not all the time." Jesse turned in Shaun's embrace, turned to look at him in the dim light. His blue eyes were unwavering, firm. "I love you, Shaun. You treat me good." "No, I don't," Shaun said, meeting Jesse's gaze just as firmly, just as determined. "But I will. I'm going to learn how to treat you right. And then we're going to spend the rest of our lives together." Jesse's face broke into a grin. "I like when you say things like that." "I like saying them." Jesse leaned in and kissed him. Their lips met passionately and moved slowly, languidly against one another. Shaun cupped Jesse's face and held him flush to his body. Shaun just wanted Jesse to feel safe and content and loved and when they pulled back from one another and Shaun saw the beautiful red flush coloring Jesse's cheeks, Shaun knew he'd accomplished his goal. Jesse rolled over again and nestled back into Shaun's body. Shaun spooned him again, wrapping Jesse up tight in his arms. His cock settled into the groove of Jesse's asscrack again but Shaun was able to ignore it. They fell asleep together like that and Shaun slept soundly and without dreams. When he woke up in the morning, Shaun rubbed a hand over his face and sighed in relief. He'd kind of been expecting to have blood drenched dreams, dreams of splitting Kyle in half, but Shaun's head felt free and clear. Shaun was alone in the bed so he got up and put something on, wondering what the little redhead was getting up to. He ventured down the hall, hearing the TV playing from the living room. He went to investigate. Jesse and Gretchen were sitting close together on the couch, their eyes glued to the TV. Shaun turned to see what they were watching. The first thing Shaun saw was Kyle's house. It was an outside shot of the shitty rambler, a wheat field off to the right, the gravel drive, the dead grass and the tall creepy trees bordering the house were all there. That was Kyle's place. The shot changed to an anchor. A pretty black lady in a blue power suit was telling the viewing public how Kyle and Ryan Lundgren had been found dead. Stabbed to death. And that there were no suspects although both brothers were known to have enemies. The shot changed again. To the inside of Kyle's house. Shaun recognized the room as Kyle's and he saw blood splattered against the back wall. He remembered the blood splattering out like that when he'd yanked the knife out of Kyle's stomach. A police officer was on screen now, explaining the details of the Lundgren case. Or the details there had been. Because obviously the case was closed and done with now. Kyle would never have the chance to defend himself. Smiling vindictively at the television, behind him, Shaun heard Jesse speak. "Where did you go yesterday, Shaun? After you came to see me, you left for a while and then came back for me. Where did you go?" Shaun laughed, not bothering to turn from the TV. "Do I really have to explain? C'mon Jesse." "C'mon what?!" Shaun turned slowly, at the utter shock and disbelief in Jesse's tone. Shaun's eyes flicked briefly to Gretchen. The girl was watching them in silence, her eyes wide, entertained. "Did you tell her?" "About Kyle?" Jesse paused and when Shaun didn't reply, Jesse sighed and reworded. "Yes, I told her about Kyle. That's why I'm up early. I thought something might be on TV again so…here we are. Watching the fucking news!" "And the news says he's dead. Funny thing about that. I guess Kyle's brother, Ryan or whatever, made the ridiculously high bail. They thought they were going to escape." Jesse shook his head. "What?" Shaun rolled his eyes. "I'm only going to say this once, so listen up," Shaun paused to make sure he had Jesse's attention. The redhead was staring at him with wide horrified eyes. Shaun firmed his resolve and continued. "I told you I'd kill him, didn't I? I found out Kyle was being released. I went to his house. I spied on them. They were packing everything up, talking about running for Mexico like some fucking bandits. And I wasn't about to let that happen. I went in. I stabbed the brother in the back because he was in the way but I was looking Kyle in the face when I cut him open. He deserved to die." "What?!" Jesse gasped again. Beside him, Gretchen's mouth had turned into a little O of surprise. When she caught Shaun's eye, she quickly looked away, towards the TV to the right of Shaun's figure, looming just in the doorway. She stared sightlessly at the screen but her mouth remained pursed in it's stupid shape of shock. Slowly she raised her claw-like hand to cover the stupid thing and sneering, Shaun turned his attention back to Jesse, who's face had fallen a deathly shade of white. "What?" Shaun repeated Jesse's question without even knowing. He really hadn't registered whatever it was that Jesse had said, just that the redhead had gasped something in distress, and now Jesse looked utterly drained of life, staring at Shaun with glassy, sad eyes. Jesse's mouth quivered but he eventually spoke. "What are you saying, Shaun? You killed someone?" Shaun folded his arms. He didn't say anymore. He'd already told Jesse he'd only say this once! "You did that!?!" Jesse cried, poking his finger insistently towards the TV screen. Shaun shrugged. That was simple enough to answer. "Yeah," he said and Jesse got his point finally because he sagged back into the couch and covered his eyes. His mouth opened around a sob and as Shaun watched, the redhead's cheeks, what was still visible under his palms, smashed flat into the hollows of his eye sockets, were rapidly filling with color once again. Tears, the majority of which were collecting in Jesse's palms, were smeared and running down his cheeks, down his chin and his throat and Shaun sighed and came closer to the sobbing boy. "Y-you killed those guys?" Gretchen asked as Shaun slowly approached the two of them on the couch, Shaun glared at her, the walls of his carefully built patience were rapidly crumbling and Shaun wanted to scream with rage. "How many times do I have to tell you? Yes!" Shaun snapped, turning to Jesse when Gretchen drew back, looking horrified. "Jesse—" Jesse tore his hands from his face. "HOW COULD YOU DO THAT?! YOU'RE GOING TO GET CAUGHT!!" Jesse's face was red, streaked with tears but he continued to yell, his voice quickly growing hoarse. "Oh my god! They're going to fucking find you!" "I couldn't live with what he'd done. I HAD to kill him," Shaun said forcefully. "But-but they're going to take you away from me! YOU'LL BE ARRESTED!" "No, I won't—" "YES! YOU WILL!" Jesse screeched. He stood up and poked Shaun hard in the chest. "I BET THE POLICE WILL BE HERE ANY MINUTE NOW!!!" Shaun stared Jesse down, watching errant tears escape the little redhead's tear ducts, rolling crazily down his face. "I can't fucking handle this!" Jesse turned and ran from the room. Shaun heard the bedroom door slam and he sighed and moved to collapse onto the couch. Gretchen was silent for an entire minute before she broke the ice. "So, you're not plotting me and Ben's demise, are you?" "What? Fuck no!" Shaun cried, turning to glare at the goth girl. Gretchen was watching him carefully, despite the lame joke. She was smiling, but it was weak and Shaun turned away just as quickly, knowing Gretchen was going to grill him. "Dude, c'mon. I don't think I've had the pleasure of knowing a serial killer—" "Serial killer?!" Shaun scoffed. "Fuck off Gretchen! That fucker drugged and raped both Jesse and his little brother. He didn't deserve to live!" "Yeah, but if you would have waited they would have taken care of him for you guys. They let criminals out on bail all the time, that's just part of the game. He had another court date, in a few weeks. They were going to nail him, Jesse said." "If they could find him," Shaun grumbled. "I told you. I was already going to kill the fucking piece of shit but when I got to the house and heard some of the shit Kyle and his brother were talking about, they were fucking fleeing the US. They were going to jump right over the border." "That doesn't always work." "So I should have gave up and let him go?" Shaun asked. "FUCK NO! Jesse is mine and I am going to take care of everything. Jesse is stupid. I'm not getting caught." "Nobody thinks they'll get caught. That's why there's a new criminal every day—" "SHUT UP!" Highly affronted, Shaun got off the couch. "You heard that bitch on TV! There's no suspects! You and Jesse are the only ones who know what happened! Let's fucking keep it that way!" Frustrated with all the judgments, Shaun went out into the hall, spotting Gretchen's keys on the table. "I'm going out!" he yelled back at her, before grabbing the keys and rushing out the door. Shaun got out to Gretchen's car, and just like yesterday, he took his anger out on the steering wheel. Shaun thrashed around in Gretchen's car for a minute, having a mini rage attack. When he ran out of energy, he sat, his fists white-knuckled on the wheel. He took deep, calming breaths, and tried to relax his fists. "Fuck," Shaun muttered to himself before he started the car and for lack of anywhere else to go, he headed back home. To his grandparent's. The last time Shaun had spoken to Ruth on the phone, she'd been bitching at him to come and visit. Shaun hadn't wanted to make any plans, of course, but now was as good a time as any. Eli's hours had been significantly reduced at the plant and Ruth was always home. When Shaun got to his grandparent's, he parked the car and sat staring at the garage. Knowing his father's hunting knife was inside. Shaun's murder weapon of choice. Shaun glanced towards Jesse's house. It looked like both Monica and the doctor were home. Probably taking care of their kids. Shaun wondered how Brian was and resolved to put more emphasis on getting Jesse moved out of that house. More on getting Brian situated at Gretchen's house and on getting him some kind of bed. Jesse didn't need to focus on Shaun's safety. Shaun had made Jesse safe and Shaun wasn't getting caught. That was that. Shaun went up to his old porch and knocked on the door. There was a significant pause but Ruth opened the door, her face pulled into a grimace. The look of disdain dropped the instant she caught sight of Shaun though and Shaun was pulled hard into her chest. "It's about time you came by," she said, hugging Shaun fiercely. "Your grandpa will be home soon." "Thought so," Shaun scowled, ducking out of Ruth's embrace. She didn't seem affected by her grandson's rudeness, she just smiled. "Hungry?" "I could eat some eggs." So, Ruth got to work making Shaun some breakfast and Shaun took a seat at the kitchen table, just watching. "We heard what happened to your friend," Ruth said, cracking a couple eggs in the pan. She looked over her shoulder, a bit of concern in her eye. "It looks like that whole family's at home." "Jesse is with me," Shaun said. "His mom wants to leave town. Probably the state, but Jesse's moving in with me." "What about his boy?" "I guess I'm going to be a step dad." "Hmm," Ruth, her back to Shaun, flipped the eggs over in the pan. "Do I get to be step grandma?" Shaun smiled. "Yeah, I think you do. You don't mind babysitting occasionally, right?" "That little boy's a pleasure. So is the baby girl, little Lissa." "They're young yet," Shaun chuckled. "They haven't been ruined by Jesse's mom just yet." "Ridiculous," Ruth said. "That woman's in way over her head. It's too bad she won't stay around to support her son but he's part of the family now. I guess we'll do that part." "Really?" Shaun hadn't expected such resounding support! He remembered tip-toeing around Ruth for months, trying to hide his feelings for Jesse, then trying to hide their relationship. He shouldn't have bothered. "That's what family's do. Good families, anyway," Ruth said, flipping the eggs onto a plate and grabbing the toast from the toaster. She slattered some butter on the toast before bringing the plate to the table and taking a seat across from Shaun. He dug in immediately, more hungry than he'd realized. "I just can't believe that boy who assaulted Jesse turned up dead." Shaun paused, his fork halfway to his mouth. "Yeah. I guess." "I kind of recognized him. Wasn't he one of your friends? The boy that assaulted Jesse?" Shaun trampled down the instant spike of suspicion and fear Ruth's question engendered and tried to play it off. "I bought weed off him. That's all." "Terrible stuff," Ruth bitched, pulling another face. Shaun rolled his eyes. "I wonder who killed that boy though. They were saying on the news they think it might have been a deal gone bad. Once that kid got exposed, with all the drugs and the sexual assaults and the child porn, they're thinking one of his contacts came and snuffed him out. Before he could expose them." "Probably," Shaun said, taking another bite of egg. "That sounds likely." "Is Jesse relieved? To know his attacker is dead?" "He's pretty upset," Shaun said. "About everything. I just thought I'd give him some space." "That was wise. The poor boy probably needs to think." "Yeah." Shaun stayed for breakfast and then waited around for another hour for Eli to get home. The thin old man was happy to see him and gave him a rib cracking hug. Shaun was a little annoyed with all the attention but he made himself stay and visit for a couple hours. Eli had tons of ideas for Shaun, on how to convert Gretchen's place into a child friendly one. And Ruth said she had boxes of Shaun's old clothes that might fit Brian. She had boxes of his favorite childhood books as well as some toys. Both his grandparent's wanted to help and Shaun felt warmed by their thoughtfulness. When Shaun finally left, it was with instructions to bring Jesse and Brian over for dinner soon. Shaun agreed. Shaun drove back to Gretchen's feeling a hell of a lot better. He just hoped that whatever mood Jesse was in, it wasn't an accusatory one because Shaun knew how very fragile his state of being was. It didn't take much to ruin Shaun's mood and probably for the first time ever, Shaun actually felt bad about that. He had to learn to cope with stress and handle disagreements. Shaun parked the car and came inside, depositing Gretchen's keys on the table. "Hello?" he called out and after a moment of silence, Shaun's bedroom door down the hall popped open and Jesse appeared. "Hey." Shaun approached him. "You ok?" The redhead's tears were gone and his eyes were a touch red, but he looked alright. "Yeah," Jesse said. "I guess Gretchen went out. She got picked up an hour ago." "Seriously? She left you alone?" It wasn't Gretchen's job or anything, but she didn't seem stupid. Shaun figured she was going to watch out for Jesse! "I told her to go. She was sitting with me in the room, after you left, but she kept getting texts. I guess it was one of the sugar daddies," Jesse explained. Shaun rolled his eyes. He didn't like to think about the fact that he was living off Gretchen's fuck buddies. She was practically a prostitute on the side. "Where were you?" Jesse asked, ignoring Shaun's annoyance. "I went to see my grandparents." Jesse quirked a brow. "Wow, that's pretty cool." "They want us over for dinner soon. Us and Brian. I told them your moving in and grandma offered her babysitting services. She wants to be Brian's step grandma." Jesse's eyes widened slightly and slowly, he began to grin. "Did she say that?" "She literally said that." "Grandma Ruth! This is awesome!" Jesse cried, dropping the sad act and launching himself into Shaun's arms. "We've got to get my stuff! We've got to get Brian and his shit too!" "Well, we've got practice on Thursday and shows Friday and Saturday. Did you already talk to your mom?" Jesse extracted himself from Shaun's embrace, shifting his fingers through his hair sheepishly. "Yeah. I kind of broached the subject with her after you left. I actually called her, just to make sure the cops weren't looking for me or something…She said no. Not a word from the police." Shaun scoffed. "Why would they be looking for you?" "I don't know how it works! But I fucking know who killed Kyle, so I can't believe they don't want to ask me questions!" "You want to be interrogated?" Shaun growled. "Motherfucker, I knew I shouldn't have told you! You're a fucking open book! Have you ever held a goddamn secret in your life?!" Jesse gave him a very pointed and annoyed look and Shaun scoffed, utterly frustrated. "Sure, fine, you hid your son from me for months, but do you really think you can get through a fucking police interrogation?!" "Well, I don't have to! Fuck!" Jesse cried. "Excuse me, Shaun. I didn't ask you to kill him. I didn't want to tell you, because I knew you would! I can't believe I was right. This is something out of a fucking movie!" "I would have found out," Shaun said through his teeth. "You can't hide anything from me. Not anymore. And it's all over the news, anyway, so—" "Right! So I told you before you found out some other way. I didn't know what to do!" The two of them glared at each other for a moment. Jesse's pretty blue eyes were narrowed with indignation and Shaun sighed heavily, just trying to turn it down a notch. "Just trust me, ok? Grandma said she heard about what happened to you. She heard about Kyle too—" "Great! That's right, every fucking body knows!" Jesse buried his face in his hands. "No, listen. She was just saying that the leading theory right now is that Kyle was killed by some other drug dealers. They think his contacts heard he was being charged with possession of a whole lot of bad shit and to keep themselves being identified, they went in and took Kyle and his brother out. They aren't saying you're angry boyfriend's out on a warpath. Seriously, Jesse. Did you tell the cops about me? Did you even mention me?" "No." "Do they even know your fucking gay?" "I don't know why they would." "Then were fine," Shaun said, reaching out to cup Jesse's cheek. Jesse immediately shook his hand off. "But what if the kids at school talk! They know we're dating. They know what happens when someone messes with me! They know Kyle raped me and now he's dead?! I just don't think you're as set as you think! I'm terrified you're going to be taken away from me!" Shaun sighed. This was the easiest part. "You're right. The kids at school may know some shit, but they won't talk." Jesse stomped his foot. "Why?!" "Because," Shaun said, getting down into Jesse's face. "Because I said if anyone messed with you again, I'd kill them. And guess what, I did. Are those idiots going to risk their lives to avenge Kyle? After he fucked some kid? Fucked you? Had a pile of kiddie porn? No. I'm sure they hate Kyle now just as much as they hated me. I told you, Jesse. There's one thing they hate around here more than a weirdo and that's a fucking fag. Nobody cares if Kyle's dead. Nobody's going to investigate. They're going to run with this drug dealer story. That's it." Jesse stared up at him. "But there'll be rumors…" "There's always rumors." "Maybe," Jesse said, looking off to the side, obviously unconvinced, but Shaun grabbed his chin and brought his face up again. "Not maybe. I know how things work around here. We're going to be fine. Now we just have to figure out how and when your moving in and where we're going to put everything." Jesse smiled. "It's going to be quite a task." "I know. I moved all my shit here a couple weeks back. At least I know how to rent a U-Haul, now," Shaun said. Jesse laughed at that and they went back into Shaun's room to move things around and see what kind of space they had to work with. Shaun brought up Eli's idea, of building a false bunk bed that would fit over their queen mattress. Shaun went into the kitchen, rummaging around in the junk drawer until he found a measuring tape. He took some measurements, having Jesse write them down. It sounded like a really cool idea and Eli would bring all the wood they needed plus he said he'd buy them a little twin mattress to go with it. Shaun kept Jesse occupied with planning for his move the rest of the day. Gretchen came back close to dinner time, her black lipstick was smeared off and her stockings were askew. She definitely looked like a prostitute home from work. "How's Ben?" Shaun asked snidely, unable to help it, when she stumbled in the door, interrupting their TV dinner in front of the TV. "Fuck off," she sang, flipping him the bird as she shuffled off down the hall to her room. Jesse laughed and Shaun rolled his eyes. Wednesday was the next day and Shaun was glad when Jesse didn't bring up Kyle once. He was still on Shaun's mind, however, and Shaun was able to grab some alone time to write some lyrics, and get some guitar tabs down. Jesse was out in the living room with Gretchen, the two of them doing something, but after several hours of work, Shaun had down one hell of a powerful revenge song and he was itching to get together with Gretchen and Ben to practice it. He knew it would probably make Jesse cringe, but the feeling was powerful. The song was bad ass. Shaun had never been more proud. Thursday afternoon rolled around and the three of them got in Gretchen's car after loading up all the instruments and they headed to Ben's. "So, Angela has no idea your fucking her husband?" Shaun asked as they backed out of the drive. "Oh, fuck you, Shaun!" "What?!" Shaun cried. He was sitting up front with Gretchen, Jesse was stuck in the back, cringing next to Shaun's guitar and Gretchen's big drum. "It's a legitimate question!" "The fuck it is! Would you fucking stop guilt tripping me?! "Hello? We're about to enter your sister's house…While you're sleeping with her husband! How mad is this bitch going to be now? I want to know if I should go in with my guard up!" "Fuck, Shaun! Fine! Angela still has no FUCKING clue that me and Ben are kicking it—" "Kicking it?!" Shaun laughed heartily. "Shaun," Jesse said in a warning tone, from the backseat. "It's cool, Jess," Shaun said, brushing him off. "Why don't you just say it like it is, Gretchen. You and Ben are FUCKING not KICKING IT." "What does it fucking matter, Shaun? I know you KILLED a guy but we're just going with oh no! It's cool! I totally won't get caught!" "Don't you say a WORD about that!" Shaun cried. "TO ANYONE!" "Then don't ruin practice!" Gretchen bitched right back. "Ben's still in the dog house, but I guess Angela's been civil. We can use the basement for practice anyway, so just leave it at that. I don't need you going in there, glaring at us, giving Angela ideas—" "What? Like divorce?! Fucking TERRIBLE idea. Worst idea I've ever fucking heard!" Shaun raged sarcastically. They were in for a long drive. When they got to Ben's place close to 6:30, Gretchen got out of the car immediately after parking, plugging her ears and saying, loudly: "I seriously don't want to hear one more fucking word from you. Grab my shit. I'll see you downstairs." And she stormed inside, slamming the door behind her. "Fucking bitch," Shaun complained, getting out in a huff, going around to the driver's side to hit the trunk release. "You're doing it again," Jesse said, grabbing Shaun's guitar. He put the case strap over his shoulder, he still had the fucking cast, he still couldn't carry much. "Doing what?" "Uh, arguing with Gretchen? Making her business yours? You were just saying you weren't going to harass her anymore. You were going to focus on me." Shaun stopped halfway to the trunk, turning to look Jesse in the face. The little redhead stood in Ben's driveway, Shaun's guitar strapped to his chest. His eyes were downcast and he looked sad. "Motherfucker," Shaun grumbled, before he gave up on the unloading and simply moved to pull Jesse into his arms. "You're right. I'm sorry." Jesse clung to him a tad desperately. "I love you so much, Shaun. I'm seriously trying to trust you but I just keep thinking…" "Thinking what?" "Thinking that someone will find out what you did and take you away." Shaun sighed. Only time would prove that he was right. He hugged Jesse tightly before he pulled back and kissed the little redhead on the mouth. "C'mon," Shaun tugged on Jesse's hand. "I've got an awesome bloody revenge song to practice." Jesse rolled his eyes. "Great." Shaun laughed and kissed him again, on the top of the head this time. He moved to grab his amp and some of Gretchen's drum equipment from the trunk. "I'm dealing with this in my own way, Jess! Don't hate!" "I'm scared shitless!" Is what Jesse said back and his pretty blue eyes did look wild and panicked. "I hope to god we get through this. I don't know how, but I hope we end up laughing about this one day. Shit, how the fuck are we ever going to laugh over this…." "Stop worrying!" Shaun said forcefully. He wanted to just grab Jesse and pull him inside, but his arms were full, so he did his best to herd Jesse inside, pushing him in the right direction. "Just listen to the music. It's going to be awesome." Down in the basement, Gretchen and Ben were kicking it. This, of course, seemed like the right use of the phrase, because Ben was fucking around with the pool table and Gretchen was sitting on the loveseat, watching, her legs crossed primly, and a pleasant smile on her face. They were kicking it. "Hey guys!" Ben called, waving. "Hey," Shaun grumbled and behind him Jesse piped up with an exuberant hello and rushed to set Shaun's guitar down so he could go and give Ben a hug. "You've been ok?" Jesse asked, overly concerned. Ben laughed. "Yeah. Angela's been a bit nicer since I spent the whole weekend away. She got my card turned back on." "That's—good," Jesse hedged. "And I stopped drinking so much. I had to take off work yesterday. I went on another bender." "Why?" Ben shrugged, his eyes shifting in Gretchen's direction. "Just trying to stop feeling so lonely. My wife lives here with me but I feel like I'm the last man on earth." "I've been texting you like 20 times a day!" Gretchen said. "We could have at least gotten drinks together," she said. "The only time you answered me was when I asked about practice." Everyone looked at Ben and the bassist's face rapidly filled with red. "I—ah…" Ben looked nervously towards Shaun and elephant in the room! Shaun went to set the instruments down, moving further into the basement. He sighed. "Listen guys. I'm sorry. I'm being a huge dick and Jesse just pointed it out to me." "You've been a huge dick since we started this!" Gretchen cried. Shaun cringed. Hating the sound of 'this'. Hating that Gretchen and Ben were calling their relationship 'this'. They were fucking and they couldn't even figure out what to call it! Fuck! "You already know I don't approve, but I'm trying to stop harassing—" "Seriously, Ben! This dick just harassed me about you, non-FUCKING-stop, the whole way here!" "I'm trying to stop," Shaun repeated through clenched teeth. "You only stopped because Jesse came over and you got distracted!" "He's my life," Shaun said. "And you guys got your own shit to deal with. Just be here for the band, ok? And I won't say anything else." "Blah, blah, blah," Gretchen made a stupid hand-puppet with her claws and made the stupid fucker jabber. Shaun literally wanted to kick Gretchen and her stupid hand-puppet in the face, but he balled his hands into fists and focused on his breathing. He did a slow countdown in his head and tried his best not to fly off the handle. He kind of deserved this. Ben was suddenly standing at his elbow, slapping him on the back. "Thanks man," he was smiling hugely. "I'm fucking sorry this is happening, but I really fucked up. Just give us some time to figure out what the fuck we're doing." Shaun shook his head, annoyed, but he simply said: "Ok," and forced himself to leave it at that. Ben came out with Shaun to collect the last of their equipment and as they came back inside, they ran into Angela. The little brunette was looking oranger than ever. Fucking fake tanning bitch. She was dressed in a skimpy summer dress and was watching Ben and Shaun with suspicion. "Hey," Shaun grunted at her, not knowing what to say, especially with the brunette's eyes locked on him. "Hello," she said neutrally. Ben smiled weakly at his wife, but said nothing to her. He led Shaun back into the basement, shutting the door on Angela and her bullshit. "That's about all I've gotten out of her. I came home Sunday. Told her I was staying with you guys, just to have some fucking company and she said she understood, turned my card back on and she's been waiting for me in the hall when I come home for work. She says 'hi' then goes upstairs to work on her computer. If I'm lucky, she makes me a cup of coffee and says goodbye to me in the mornings." "Just break up with her already," Shaun said. "I've never actually broken up with anyone before. I'm always the dumpee," Ben said sheepishly. "I don't actually know how to go about it." "And your dating Gretchen and she can't give you a single clue?" Shaun snorted. "Just turn around, open the door, and say, 'I'm fucking Gretchen, and I like it better. I'll clear out as soon as we're done with practice'." Shaun bent to hook up his guitar to the amp, Gretchen and Jesse were talking nearby on the loveseat, not listening in to Shaun and Ben. "Wow, Shaun! It's really as easy as that!" Ben laughed, setting Gretchen's shit down. He actually started setting it up, doing Gretchen's job for her. Shaun couldn't help but to sneer. "It really is that simple. What the fuck would she say? And what does it matter? You don't want to be with her, why are you tip-toeing around?" "Because Shaun, we're married now. Both our names are on this house. We own each other's cars. We have a joint bank account. It's not as easy as just walking out the door." "Then how do so many people get divorced?" Shaun asked smartly. Ben shook his head. "Maybe because they have no self-preservation?" "Maybe they just don't want to live in hell on earth." That made Ben laugh and Gretchen was getting up to assist Ben in her drum setup and Jesse was sprawling out on the loveseat, looking ready to be entertained. Shaun dropped the subject. "Alright, I have a new song I wrote we need to go over." "Another one?" Gretchen groaned. "This one's inspired," Shaun said, giving the goth girl a hokey wink. "Huh?" "A song inspired by the events in the last couple days," Shaun said, still trying to tell her the song was about him killing Kyle, but Gretchen was giving him the stupidest look and now Ben was looking curious too. "Never mind!" Shaun yelled. "I'm just going to play my part." Shaun started the song off, playing the tabs, singing the lyrics. Gretchen got a knowing look on her face about halfway through and smiled nastily through the rest of the song. Jesse, just as Shaun had hypothesized, was cringing. "That was powerful!" Ben said. He played a few notes on his bass. "Run through it again, I know where I should come in. See if you like it." "Right behind you!" Gretchen said, clicking her drumsticks together for a countdown. They started the new song again, and this time, Shaun got some accompaniment from his band. They had to play through it a few times before everything was to Shaun's liking. Gretchen added an epic drum solo that would give Shaun time to stalk across the stage and involve the audience. Shaun loved and appreciated Ben's rhythm. It added to the song, made it darker and deeper. It was a really badass song! They played their regular set list next and then ran over the new song one last time. It sounded great and Shaun couldn't wait for the show tomorrow. They were really coming down to the line. Battle of the Bands was a month away and Gretchen said she'd just signed their band up a couple of days ago online. They were really doing this shit! After practice, Ben broke out the weed and a 12 pack of beer. He passed on the beer, but before anyone knew it, Ben and Gretchen were getting comfortable together on the loveseat, looking wasted and happy. Ben was literally necking Gretchen and the almost-prostitute, amateur porn star, was blushing like a school girl. Giggling too. Once Shaun had a good few tokes off Ben's joint and a couple beers in him, he found the sight more funny than anything. Jesse seemed happy enough too. He and Shaun had started up a really shitty game of pool. Ben offered tips occasionally, when he wasn't busy kissing on Gretchen, but neither of them were good enough to make use of Ben's stoned advice. "Your song kind of scared me," Jesse said, putting his beer down and trying to aim the cue ball at his stripped red ball. He hit the right ball, but it didn't go anywhere near any of the holes. This game was fucking tough. "It was supposed to." "Nobody's going to know you actually acted on this. That this is really about something," Jesse said, taking a sip of his beer as Shaun lined himself up. He hit the blue solid ball and knocked one of Jesse's stropped balls in by mistake. "Fuck!" Shaun cursed. "Yeah, I know that. They don't have to know, it's still cool." "It is cool," Jesse said, and then he had the gall do a fucking victory dance when he realized it was his ball Shaun had sank. Jesse laughed at Shaun's look of fury. "I know you'll always have my back. You'll never let anyone fuck with us, will you?" "Fuck no!" Jesse smiled, he came around the table and planted a wet and lingering kiss on Shaun's lips. "Just please. Don't do what you did again? It's dangerous." "I know it is!" Shaun said. "I took precautions!" Jesse touched Shaun's face, calming him instantly. "I love you. I just don't want to worry about you getting in trouble for defending me. Just go back to punching teeth in, ok?" Shaun chuckled. "How does Kenny look by the way? Did he get himself some new teeth?" Jesse laughed and laughed. "Oh, he sure as fuck did! He looks like Bugs Bunny, they're so fucking big and white!" "What's so big and white?!" Gretchen yelled from across the room. "Shaun's dick!" Jesse called back. "Holy shit, did you ever see it? Wait! Don't fucking answer that." Gretchen laughed uproariously and when Shaun quirked a brow at Jesse, the little redhead rolled his eyes. "She told me you guys kissed. I freaked the fuck out." "Oh," Shaun said, having to think for a minute before he remembered laying one on Gretchen's horrible black lips one time at a bar. "She showed me the picture. Of you wearing her lipstick." "What?! She said she deleted that!" Shaun dropped the pool stick and advanced on Gretchen and Ben, planning on raising hell until that horrible image was erased from the face of the earth. It didn't actually go so well. Gretchen had it in a cloud, whatever the fuck that meant. But they all had fun and Angela didn't show her face the rest of the night, so Gretchen and Ben got away with some pretty raunchy shit. Shaun was still abstaining and he didn't try to get more out of Jesse besides simple hugs and kisses. Jesse, however, was pretty adamant about climbing into his lap. They didn't leave until close to midnight. Ben didn't usually have them over so late, but he was attached to Gretchen at the hip. Had been since practice ended. It almost seemed like he didn't want them to go. "Tomorrow. At The Outpost," Gretchen said to Ben, confirming. "We'll meet you there at 7?" "Yep. I'll be there," Ben said, and then he gave Gretchen a very not-safe-for-life kiss. Shaun averted his eyes, kind of annoyed that they felt the need to do all this smooching and cuddling. Shaun wanted to bend Jesse over the fucking pool table, it had been so long, but Jesse probably wasn't ready still. They finally got their shit packed up and pulled Gretchen off of Ben. "See you tomorrow!" Jesse called down to Ben as the three of them trailed upstairs. "Wow, the PDA was fucking phenomenal," Shaun commented snidely once they were outside, once they were getting into the car. Shaun hadn't dared to say this inside, but he'd been storing this comment up for a while. It was like the walls had ears. Shaun had been expecting Angela to come bursting downstairs all night, having heard or seen something incriminating, but she never had. "Please, fucking please, don't start this bullshit again," Gretchen begged, shooting Shaun a desperate look. It had only been a joke, but Gretchen looked so stupidly desperate that Shaun simply dropped it. "Fine," he said. The car fell into silence as they got on the highway and jetted towards home. Jesse yawned in the backseat and Shaun looked back at him, smiling over the seat at the sleepy redhead. Jesse smiled back. "I really like him, you guys," Gretchen said suddenly, out of the blue. "What?" "Ben," Gretchen said and when Shaun looked at the goth girl's face, she was smiling again, goofily, looking like that giddy school girl she'd been down in the basement. "I really like Ben." "I'm sure this is fucking rude, but how many guys do you actually sleep with? Ben knows you fuck guys to get rent money? He knows your vagina's online?" "Fuck, Shaun!" Gretchen's smile disappeared. "Do you have to say it like that?" "Yes? I don't really know how else to describe all the shit you have going on the side." "Well, he knows about my webcam shows. Before we hooked up, I guess he was watching them at work. When Angela wouldn't walk in on him." "Jesus," Shaun said. "He was into you for this long and he still defended Angela? He still married her?" "He's kind of stupid, isn't he?" Gretchen laughed, her goofy smile returning. "He's a loyal little puppy." "I guess." "And I'm pretty sure he knows about my sugar daddies. Everyone who knows me knows about that. It's how I got out of my parent's house. Straight out of school." "Ugh," Shaun cringed slightly. "It's a lifestyle, Shaun. I'm not the one who invented this bullshit. Other people do it too, you know." "Yeah, whores." Gretchen swerved sharply to the left and Shaun jerked and bumped his head into the window. "OW!" he cried. In the backseat, Jesse fumbled around with the instrument cases. The drum had nearly rolled him over. "What the fuck!" "I'll let you know when you've stopped being a rude asshole, ok?" Gretchen gave him a cheeky smile and Shaun growled low in the back of his throat. They got back to the house within the hour and Shaun, still angry with Gretchen, got out wordlessly, grabbing Jesse's arm and pulling him inside. Fuck the guitar. They'd just have to repack everything tomorrow, might as well leave it. Once they were in their room, Shaun stripped immediately down to his boxers and climbed into bed, hitting the lights. He left Jesse in the middle of the room, still dressed, in the dark. "I wish there didn't have to be so much fighting all the time," Jesse said, moving to take off his shirt. He folded it languidly, putting it on top of his overnight bag. Shaun threw his arm over his face, sighing. "I'm trying Jesse." "I know you are," Jesse said and Shaun heard him taking his jeans down. There was a few seconds delay before Jesse was climbing onto the bed beside Shaun, curling up into his side. "I'm just not nice," Shaun said. "I can't help but to be a huge asshole! I don't even mean to do anything!" "Hey, you really are trying and that's all we can ask of you," Jesse said, sitting up on his elbow to look into Shaun's eyes. Shaun moved his arm completely, meeting Jesse's gaze head on. "You didn't get to socialize like a normal kid. People were calling you names before first grade was over, weren't they?" "Yep," Shaun said. "Your used to responding negatively. You're exercising your social skills, it takes work but you'll get there. You can be anyone you want." "I just want to be a metal god," Shaun whined. "Why do I have to be nice?!" "You don't always have to be," Jesse said, gently touching Shaun's stupid frizzy hair. It was getting longer now, more manageable, but it was all rucked up into a frizzy ball now. On the pillow. Jesse's fingers tangled in the mess of his hair and Jesse smiled sweetly at him. "But it would be easier if you could talk to people without immediately offending them. C'mon, Shaun, you're not clueless. Do you really think Gretchen wants to be called a whore?" "Probably not. But she is one. I don't know what she meant, she likes Ben. What does that mean, Jess? Is he going to start shelling out rent money too? This isn't fucking good for the band. No matter how you turn it." "Maybe not, but just like Ben marrying Angela even after you warned him," Jesse said, his fingers tangling deeper into Shaun's dark curly locks. "People like to make their own mistakes. It doesn't matter if you tell them not too, or tell them it's a mistake because most people just have to live it. See where they're wrong and then make adjustments. It's called life." Shaun grumbled, not wanting to accept the truth to Jesse's words. He'd done a lot of that lately, making mistakes, living them and then fucking changing because his mistakes weren't something he could live with. He knew Jesse was right. "So, I've just got to wait for them to realize what a mistake this is? Then we'll be alright? Fucking bullshit." "Or wait for Ben to get rid of Angela and for Ben and Gretchen to settle down. She said she likes him, Shaun. Did you see them together? Ben's eyes were glued to Gretchen. It was fucking adorable. " "Fucking gross, is what it is," Shaun scowled. "She's not even fucking pretty with all that fucking black makeup on! Ben actually likes that nasty nose ring? That fucking booger thing hanging out her nose?! Ugh!" Jesse laughed. "Septum ring," he corrected. "Fucking booger," Shaun refused to be corrected. Jesse laughed some more, pushing at Shaun, trying to shove him out of the bed and not having any of that, Shaun grabbed Jesse's good arm and hauled him up and over his body, flipping their positions easily. He now had Jesse sprawled, half naked on his bed and Shaun nervously felt his cock perk up in interest. Jesse looked up at him, his eyes half lidded, his mouth parting sexily and Shaun rolled over, pulled the blanket up over his shoulder and said: "Goodnight!" in the stupidest, high pitched, voice ever. Shaun cringed and bit his tongue and waited, impatiently, for Jesse to settle down beside him, offering a hurt sounding, 'goodnight', in turn. Sleep was long in coming, but Shaun kept his eyes shut resolutely until it did. He just wanted to fucking disappear. He shouldn't be having sexual thoughts about his boyfriend. Not now. Not just after finding out he'd been raped! Maybe Jesse was ready, and as much as Shaun's cock wanted the contact, he didn't really. Shaun wasn't ready. As he laid there in the dark, his eyes squeezed shut, listening desperately for Jesse's breathing to deepen and slow into his normal sleep patterns, but it seemed Jesse was lying awake too, Shaun tried and failed not to imagine what that picture had looked like. The one the police had presented to Jesse. The picture of Kyle fucking Jesse. There wasn't even a picture of Shaun fucking Jesse! This was so fucked up! And the images invaded Shaun's mind. Kyle had had Jesse on his bed. Or at least, that's what Shaun remembered Jesse saying. Kyle had had the beautiful boy's face pushed down onto the bed, so Kyle hadn't even been appreciating him! He'd just used his body. Made a humiliating video of it, and then he'd probably watched it again and again, laughing, knowing he'd had Shaun's piece of ass and Shaun was none the wiser. Shaun's cock had grown hard, looking at Jesse's wanton display, but the erection long gone. In its place an insane rage was growing the more Shaun pictured Kyle using Jesse's body and he finally just got out of bed and left the room, shutting the door silently behind him. If Jesse was still awake, he didn't bother to follow Shaun and Shaun was so fucking relieved. Cautiously, still seeing a light under her door, Shaun knocked on Gretchen's door. "What," Gretchen appeared after a moment. She was in her silk robe and had earphones hanging around her neck. Her makeup was off, and her hair was down. She looked gentler, more approachable, even though she was glaring. "Do you have any smoke?" Gretchen's lips quirked up at the corners. "And can mean old Shaun use his nice words?" "Please," Shaun stressed the word. "Do you have any smoke?" "That's better, come on in," Gretchen waved him into her room. "Have a seat," she said, pointing to her bed and falling into the computer chair. She pulled a little metal box out of one of her desk drawers. "We should get more this weekend. This is my 'almost-out' stash." Shaun carefully took a seat on the edge of Gretchen's bed. He wished he could have taken Gretchen's desk chair, rather than the bed she fucked who knows how many guys in, but as he watched Gretchen roll up a little joint, he realized the desk chair was where Gretchen did her webcam show. The room's only other seat was the goddamn sex chair! Nothing in this room was safe from Gretchen's whorish life! Gretchen passed him the joint and Shaun zipped his lips. Jesse had a point. Shaun was fucking a boy and he still didn't like to be called a fag. Gretchen was a prostitute and didn't like to be called a whore! Shaun was kinda getting it, now. Shaun lit up. He took a deep inhale and passed it, holding the smoke in the back of his throat. "So, what's the purpose of this late-night visit?" Gretchen asked, crossing her legs and displaying a bit more thigh than Shaun was comfortable looking at. Shaun leaned further back onto Gretchen's throne of sex, the satiny sheets tickling Shaun's back. Gretchen scooted her desk chair closer so she wouldn't have to lean over, passing the joint back lazily. "We almost had sex," Shaun said. "I honestly didn't think Jesse would want any, you know, after what happened, but I think he did. I couldn't do it. I fucking chickened out." "Uh, why?" Gretchen chuckled. "You do know that even if you weren't aware, the rape happened weeks ago. You guys were just fucking last Sunday! He's not destroyed or anything!" "I know that!" Shaun snapped, taking his hit before shoving it back in Gretchen's direction. She poked him with one of her claws and Shaun growled in displeasure. "Jesus Christ! Then what's the problem?" "I don't know! I rolled over and tried to go to sleep but then I was thinking about sex! And Jesse! And fucking Kyle!!!" "You were thinking about fucking that guy you killed?" Gretchen snorted. "NO!" Shaun sat up. What the fuck! Gretchen had no manners either! This was bullshit, being fucking nice! "I was just across the hall, in my bed, having vivid images of Kyle using my boyfriend! I couldn't lay there another second!" "You're not…mad at Jesse are you?" "NO!" Shaun cried. "No! Why would you think that?!" "Well, if Jesse wanted sex than you should have helped him out. I don't know," Gretchen made an awkward expression. "You're going to have to find a way to sleep with him. Without being haunted by what that other guy did." "Easier said than done," Shaun said. "Like I said, I thought I was waiting for him but as soon as sex was on the table, I couldn't do it. I didn't know that was going to happen." Gretchen bit her lip. "I'm sorry." "Just one day at a time, right?" Shaun laughed. He'd always hated that bit of advice. One day at a time was too long and arduous. Fuck! "That's what I keep saying," Gretchen said, spinning lazily in her chair. "About what?" Shaun grunted. "Ben," and Gretchen's face took on that moony, school girl quality yet again. Shaun decided to just listen this time. "You know how I said I liked him?" "Yeah." "Well, I like him and I don't like him, is the thing," Gretchen said. "He's not like any guy I've ever dated or hooked up with and yes, Shaun, I've had boyfriends before, not just rich old dudes who like to cheat on their fat wives." "Um, ok?" "He's not my type. He's a goody-two-shoes. He's a loyal dog. He's hopelessly romantic. He actually has a job and a schedule. He's fucking dependable." "What…horrible qualities," Shaun said, not knowing what to say. Gretchen made a face at him. "But we play music together. He parties with me. We smoke together. He makes me laugh, like all the time. He's actually really fucking phenomenal in bed, too. He's got an excellent penis." "TMI," Shaun said, repeating Gretchen's stupid acronym for too much information. Gretchen laughed at him. "It just seems like a waste," Gretchen said. "He told me the only time he goes out is with us or with me. Angela never wants to do anything fun. She hates parties, unless they're like formal events with RSVPs. She hates drinking. She's always gotten sick the second she smokes. My sister is a fucking lameo," Gretchen bitched. "Why did she get with Ben? Ben's like, cooler than her. He's like better than her. Angela's idea of creativity is looking at food on her Instagram. 'Like look how they arranged these finger sandwishes! So sophisticated!'" Gretchen mocked in a high pitched voice. "Ben gets down and dirty with us! He can actually write music! Why is he with her?!" "I have no fucking idea," Shaun said. "Maybe you can convince him to end this stupid shit." "I've been trying! I've been messaging him for days, just trying to see if he wants to come over or something, I fucking missed him! I wasn't expecting that to happen!" Shaun smirked. They were both out of their minds. "Yep," he said. "Just take it one day at a time." Gretchen growled with annoyance. "Fuck that!" Shaun laughed, sharing the girls sentiment. "Nothing more we can do but wait and see if things work the fuck out." "Don't you mean I should break it off with Ben and we should go back to being friends who've never seen each other's junk?" Gretchen pulled a stupid face. "Gonna be pretty difficult. Once seen, you can't unsee a dick like that," Gretchen said with a smile. "Ok, seriously," Shaun interrupted. "I'm fucking going into the bathroom with that fucker. There's no way he's bigger than me." "You think your so fucking great?" Gretchen asked snidely. "I've been around the block, honey. Let me see your feet." Shaun literally curled his toes into the bottom of his soles. Now that it was time to prove himself, Shaun had no desire. At all! "I think I'm going to bed," Shaun said, getting off Gretchen's sex throne. Gretchen laughed. "As usual, a man with a big huge dick that can't actually prove it." "Fuck off," Shaun shoved Gretchen's chair out of the way, sending the girl flying into her desk. The double screens shook. "Watch it!" "Good fucking night," Shaun said, exiting the room, shutting the door and ending the conversation. Across the hall, Jesse was asleep on his side, his breathing was deep and even and he didn't stir when Shaun got back into bed beside him. Shaun's eyes slid shut and he was thankfully drawn under, falling asleep within just a few minutes. Jesse was bright and cheerful the next morning and didn't bring up the weird occurrence the night before. He made everyone breakfast and they ate it out on the patio, putting the last of Gretchen's stash in her little glass bong. It was a beautiful Friday afternoon and the three of them laid out in the sun, relaxing, smoking, chatting about nothing in particular. Gretchen mentioned to them that Ben was texting from work, bored and excited for the show tonight. Gretchen was almost caressing her phone, smiling at the screen as if she could see Ben's goofy face through it. "So, tell me, what are you hoping's going to happen?" Shaun asked coolly, affected by the buzz of the weed. "If you and Ben really did become a thing, you could probably move in together, he could keep working and you can keep doing the band management shit. You probably could get rid of the sugar daddies. You could probably cancel the webcam shit." Gretchen stuck her tongue out. "Why would I want to do that? I don't want to be his housewife." Shaun rolled his eyes. "I kind of have a feeling Ben would rather you not be fucking a million guys if you were together." "Oh, fuck you," Gretchen flicked him off, making Jesse laugh. "But your probably right…that's what I said to you last night. He's not my type. Sexually, I'm very fluid. I don't want to box myself into a corner." "I thought the dick was amazing," Shaun said scathingly. "It is. But I'm not sure it's the only thing I want forever!" "Nobody said forever." "Yeah," Jesse piped up. "People don't get into relationships to be together forever, that stuff just happens. You just end up sticking together. It's not a death sentence." "Yeah, well, I'm definitely not getting into the same boat as my sister! Not getting married!" Shaun met Jesse's eyes, sharing a look of exasperation with the redhead. Shaun decided to let the subject drop, although Gretchen continued to moon over Ben. There was a party after the show and Ben said he was definitely coming. Gretchen was pumped. They all hung out, bumming around, for the rest of the day. When it was about 5, they ate the leftovers from Jesse's previously prepared casserole and they took turns in the shower, getting cleaned up, getting dressed. They were in the car by 6 and heading to The Outpost. They were slumming it again. This bar was pretty shitty and actually, decently close to Gretchen's. They got there early and after parking in the back and getting some lazy stagehands to unload their shit, the three of them ventured out to the bar. It was a simple set up The Outpost had. A single TV was up on the back wall, behind the bar and there were a couple booths across from that. The bar's main attraction was the stage in the back room. The place was kind of rinky dinky and packed to the gills and Gretchen pushed herself between a couple dudes on barstools, letting her tits hang out as she shouted out her order for three beers. Gretchen was back momentarily, finding Shaun and Jesse at the end of the bar, the two of crowdwatching. "Ben's pulling in the back now, so I've got to get another beer," she said, pushing their drinks at them before hustling back to the bar, through the crowd. Jesse smiled after her, having a drink off his beer. "She's really fucking cute. Young love, right?" Shaun snorted. "I guess," and funny enough, Shaun remembered Ben saying the same thing about him and Jesse just a few months back. Fucking dick. Gretchen returned with Ben's beer just as Ben actually pushed his way through the mass of people, his face breaking into a smile as he spotted them. "Gretch," he said in a low voice, capturing the girl immediately about the waist and pulling her in for a kiss. Gretchen's newly procured beer pressed between them. Forgotten. "Alright, you guys. C'mon," Shaun admonished, not wanting to make a scene of this bullshit, but FUCK were they taking things over the top. Ben really didn't have to suck on Gretchen's tongue like that. "Let's fucking finish these beers and get backstage." Gretchen was smiling like a fool when Ben released her, but at least the bitch pressed the last beer into Ben's palm, urging him to: "Drink up." It was all starting to feel normal and almost like clockwork. Once they'd finished their drinks, Shaun gave Jesse a lingering look, wanting to kiss him, but not really in front of all these people. Jesse wished him good luck and then the three of them, Shaun, Gretchen and Ben, were heading backstage, getting setup behind the curtain, listening to the crowd out there on the floor murmur with excitement. When they drew the curtains back and Shaun screamed out to the fans, the show took off without a hitch and they played through their set list, Shaun's fingers burning gloriously, his body drenched in sweat, his hair wet and plastered to his face, the back of his neck. The crowd was pulsing like a single organism, oscillating wildly under a scope. Shaun left his new song for the end. He paused after the last song, breathing heavily, his eyes narrowed and scanning the undulating crowd below him. He finally spotted Jesse. The little redhead was wedged between some group of metal kids, watching him reverently. His sweet face made Shaun's groin tingle with confused arousal and Shaun cleared his throat roughly, looking away from the beautiful boy. He growled into the mike. "Last song of the night, motherfuckers," he said to his fans. The audience made sounds of displeasure, and Shaun sneered at them. "It's fucking new though. A song to draw blood too. A song about bloody fucking revenge!" There was a swell of approval. Lots of screams, and people throwing up the metal sign. There was nothing more metal than revenge. Shaun signaled Gretchen, and the girl counted them down. They blasted into the new song and Shaun, his voice deep and rough, tore into the lyrics. "Ashes to ashes and dust to the death Of what we were to what we became Betraying a trust is a must in your mind The agenda's just business as usual Anger grows in me, anxiety is my disease Keeping me in the shit and send me into screaming fits of fucking rage! Eye for an eye and blood for blood you better get your gun (blood for blood!) For every action reaction, and death is business Eye for an eye and blood for blood you better grab your gun (blood for blood!) Can't take it back, what's done is done I want blood for blood Time to pay your penance all together, forever This spinning web of deception Lies begin to constrict The walls of fate have a gate that's sealed around you Brick by brick Eye for an eye and blood for blood you better get your gun (blood for blood!) For every action reaction, and death is business Eye for an eye and blood for blood you better grab your gun (blood for blood!) Can't take it back, what's done is done I want blood for blood" "And remember you motherfuckers!" Shaun screamed at the end, his voice cracking. "Don't ever let some piece of shit get the best of you! EYE FOR AN EYE, AND BLOOD FOR BLOOD!" They walked off the stage to deafening cheers. The applause echoed in Shaun's ears and he smirked as he strolled over to the water dispenser they had in the little area off stage. Shaun gulped down some water. He was so fucking wiped. He hadn't even noticed how hard he was playing, how hard he'd pushed his voice. He got another Dixie-cup of water, downing it in a single go. Jesse burst into the backroom, startling the half asleep stagehand who was propped next to the door. He started to protest Jesse's presence but as the little redhead rushed past him and ran to wrap his arms around Shaun's sweaty body, he seemed to relax, letting his eyes lids partially shut. How anyone could have just slept though that show was a goddamn mystery. "That was great!" Jesse yelled, ignoring their usual custom of keeping it private, and kissing Shaun firmly on the mouth. Shaun let him. Besides Gretchen and Ben, the only other person here was the stagehand. Nobody cared. "Seriously Shaun," Ben said. "You really connected with the fans! They loved the new one!" "They're still fucking screaming," Gretchen said, looking back towards the stage. "Think we should go out again?" "Naw, let's bounce. Where's this party," Ben said, throwing an arm around Gretchen's shoulders. "You just want to get some cootchie," Gretchen said mockingly, squeezing Ben's cheeks between her thumb and index finger. Ben's lips puckered out and Gretchen kissed him. "How'd you get that idea?" "Um, you sent me a pic of your hard dick?" Ben laughed, pulling Gretchen off to the side, kissing her again, deeply. "Ugh," Shaun muttered, averting his eyes. "C'mon. Can you help me pack up? Let's grab these fucking stagehands and get out of here. I'm sick of looking at these two." Jesse giggled but fell in step behind Shaun. It took a bit longer than Shaun wanted to get everything packed. The second stagehand had apparently gone home already so they were stuck with the sleepy one. And he was just about as much help as Jesse was and he had use of both his goddamn arms! Ben came out with his bass under his arm, while Jesse and Shaun were out in the parking lot, shoving everything into Gretchen's Mazda. "We need a fucking van or something!" Shaun cried, kicking the back door shut. Storage was so limited and everything had to fit just so! It was so fucking stupid! "Hey!" Ben called out to them. "Gretchen's grabbing our pay. I've got to go back for my amp but make sure she waits for me! I've got to follow you to the party." Shaun rolled his eyes, watching Ben stalk off across the lot. His little car was just a few spaces further down. Gretchen wouldn't dare think to leave without Ben. Shaun was sure of it. What a stupid fucking request. Gretchen and Ben ended up coming out together anyway, so the matter was settled. They all piled in Gretchen's car, Shaun up front, Jesse in the back and waited for Ben to pull out behind them. Then Gretchen was heading out into the boonies, away from town. "Where the fuck is this thing at?" Shaun asked, peering out into the dark countryside. "We got invited on Facebook. It's supposed to be some wicked awesome barn party." "Sounds pretty wicked," Shaun snorted and Gretchen flicked him off for his trouble. "That kind of sucks, there won't be any beds or anything," Jesse whined and Shaun very resolutely did not look into the backseat, towards his boyfriend, because why would Jesse be concerned over a lack of beds if he wasn't planning on having sex? He was planning for sex, Shaun realized. Fuck!! "So what? There's hay!" "A roll in the hay," Jesse laughed. "I'll have to add that to the list of things 'I've Done'." Shaun nearly bit through his lip. Fuck. He didn't know if he was ready yet. Maybe it wouldn't be a problem. The show had been awesome, they were about to drink and probably smoke. Maybe it wouldn't be a problem! After a while of driving, Gretchen and Ben were the only drivers on the road for what looked like miles. The houses they passed were becoming fewer and farer in between and Gretchen nearly screeched to a stop, turning the car and bumping it aggressively down an almost invisible dirt road, leading deep into the trees. "What the fuck?" Shaun asked, blinking as Ben's headlights reflected into his eyes from Gretchen's side mirror. "Fuck!" the road was uneven and they bumped along the winding path at a dangerous speed. "You're going to fuck your car up, bitch, if you don't slow down!" Shaun cried and just as he did, Gretchen slammed on her brakes. There was a barn in the middle of a clearing, just ahead. The barn was filled with light and music was spilling out into the forest. The huge doors were propped open, letting the light filter out onto the grass. There were a dozen or more cars ringing the barn and Gretchen, Ben trailing behind her, found a spot and parked the car. "C'mon guys!" Gretchen cried out, leaping from her car and dashing towards Ben's. Ben was out in an instant, sweeping Gretchen up into his arms. He carried her off towards the party, Gretchen giggling foolishly, kicking her legs. "Oh my fucking god," Shaun covered his face but got out into the cool night air, feeling Jesse sidle up to him. "Don't worry about them. Let's have fun!" Jesse grabbed onto Shaun's arm, yanking him after Gretchen and Ben. They were blasting some pretty decent music inside the barn and the whole place was lit with Christmas and LED party lights. There were a couple kegs of beer by the entrance, sitting in buckets of ice. The barn wasn't packed or anything, but there were a fair number of people. Some of them just standing around, drinking, some of them were out dancing. Shaun spotted a couple taking a ladder up into the loft and he realized that was the hay Gretchen had been talking about. Gretchen and Ben were already out among the partygoers, drinks in hand, dancing together. Shaun, suddenly feeling uncomfortable, under pressure, stressed, whatever the fuck, he yanked his arm out of Jesse's grasp and just stood in the entrance, looking around. "What's wrong?" Jesse cried over the music. "C'mon! Let's go get a drink! Let's go dancing!" "I don't dance," Shaun said. "Oh, c'mon! It's a party!" Shaun glowered down at his boyfriend, not knowing how to say he was uncomfortable. Jesse surely couldn't be expecting them to go up into some group sex pit to have a 'roll in the hay' as Jesse had put it. "Oh shit! Hey! It's Shaun!" Someone off to the side yelled, catching both Shaun and Jesse's attention. It was some tall skinny guy in leather pants. He had a girl hanging off his arm. He dragged her along, approaching Shaun at a rapid pace. "Motherfucker," Shaun scowled. Not fucking now! But it was now, and the guy was on Shaun in an instant. Praising him, saying how much he loved his show, saying he'd gotten dragged to one of Defaced's shows a while ago by Linda here and instantly fell in love. "That's great," Shaun said blandly. "You know, this is my party. It's my dad's old barn. We don't use it for anything but this, hardcore parties!" Said the leather dude and Shaun nodded disinterestedly. "Help yourself to something to drink," Linda said, pointing back to the kegs. We have a hookah set up in the stall back there to the left and we've got a couple other party favors up in the loft. If you find any girls that whet your interest, you should bring her up to the loft. It really is something special." "Thanks," Shaun said thorough his teeth and luckily, finally, the leather dude and his bitch let them be. Telling them to have fun. "Fuck this," Shaun said. "This is weird. I can't fuck you in front of a bunch of people, Jesse. I don't even know if I can even fuck you right now. Like, at all." "What?" Jesse looked up at him, his mouth falling into a pained little pout. "Please!" Shaun shut his eyes, unable to look at Jesse's face. "Please tell Gretchen we want to leave. Get her keys." "Shaun! What do you mean you can't fuck me! What did I do?!" "Just get the keys!" Shaun hissed, turning on his heel and fleeing the barn. Shaun went to Gretchen's car, annoyed with everything, but most specifically, with himself. He sat on Gretchen's hood, burying his face in his hands. Jesse just wanted to have some fucking fun and Shaun had had to go and ruin it! Jesse wanted sex, and Shaun didn't know if he could get over Kyle fucking him to do it! Shaun was the worst fucking boyfriend in the world! Don't let some piece of shit get the best of you, Shaun remembered telling his audience earlier that night. Shaun had taken vengeance. He'd wrote a kick ass song about it too, but Shaun couldn't even follow his own damn advice. "I've got the keys." Shaun sat up, staring at the little redhead in the dark. Jesse was standing before him, dangling the keys and Shaun reached out to take them but Jesse drew them back immediately, keeping them just out of reach. "Tell me what you meant back there," Jesse said. "Yeah, I was kind of hoping you'd fuck me tonight. I mean, I'm not the biggest fan of your new song but watching you preform…it literally got me hard." Shaun gulped nervously, pushing his hair out of his eyes. "You're so hot lately," Jesse said, smiling at him just a touch. "Your hair," Jesse stepped closer, keeping the keys behind his back. He touched Shaun's hair, the shaggy length now reached down to his shoulder blades. "It's really sexy now, that it's grown out…" Shaun sighed, trying to get his shit together because he really did need to explain. He didn't want Jesse to think for a minute that Shaun blamed him for being raped. Shaun had killed the only boy responsible and one other for trying to help said boy. Shaun didn't want Jesse to feel guilty or dirty. He just had to fucking bite the bullet and explain. "I'm really horny for you too, Jess," Shaun said, and Jesse shifted closer unconsciously, his fingers sinking into Shaun's tangled curls, touching his face. "When you were laying on the bed last night, looking sexy as hell, I was getting hard. I was thinking about fucking you, but at first, I was afraid it was too soon for you. That it might hurt you—" "No, baby, I'm more afraid of you getting caught than I am of you being inside of me!" Jesse actually laughed. "Actually, I'd really love to have you inside of me. I think it would make me feel so much better, so much safer…" Shaun shook his head. "I kind of figured that. I could see the look in your eye," he said. "I'm the one who's fucked up then. I—I saw—" Shaun paused, hoping Jesse wouldn't be offended, but Shaun had to be honest damnit! Jesse deserved that. "I couldn't do it. I just keep thinking about him fucking you. My stupid brain was literally forcing me to imagine that picture you saw at the police station. The one with you face down, getting fucked up the ass by Kyle." Jesse bit his lip, his eyes shifting away from Shaun's. "I know the one." "Yeah," Shaun said awkwardly. Looking sad, Jesse finally brought the keys out from behind his back. He handed them over wordlessly and moved to go around to the passenger side, waiting for Shaun to unlock the doors. Feeling like he'd failed, stupidly and completely, Shaun got into the car, letting Jesse in behind him. He started the car and edged it out of its spot, taking the long narrow dirt trail back to the road. "I'm sorry it happened," Jesse said after a while, surprising Shaun with his voice. "If I could take it back, obviously I would." "It's not your fault," Shaun said, staring forward, out at towards the moonlit road. "What are you supposed to fucking take back?" "Going to that party? Thinking Kyle could be trusted even the tiniest amount?" Jesse said, sniffling and Shaun finally looked at him, and saw that he was crying silently, the tears glistening in the half light of the car. Shaun wished he hadn't done either of those things either, but knew he had to give Jesse some forgiveness. "So he got you beat up in high school," Shaun said. "He outted us and got you beat the fuck up. You weren't expecting anything like this to happen. I wasn't either. I would have hated to know you were hanging out with Kyle when we weren't together but I would have left it alone. Kyle's always been a dickwad but a rapist? Didn't see that coming." "I know," Jesse said. "And he was raping my brother right in front of my eyes and I still couldn't see what was happening. He had us all fooled." "It's not your fault," Shaun said again, reaching over and taking Jesse's soft hand. Shaun rubbed the soft, pink flesh with his own rough and calloused ones, enveloping it within his own. "I'm really just trying to be honest with you. I don't blame you. I'm not like, disgusted by you. No way. Fucking Kyle's still just hanging over my head, I guess. And I'm not going to let him get the best of me. I killed him so we could continue with our lives and never be antagonized by him again. Just…I need some time, Jess. Just a minute to figure shit out." Jesse squeezed his hand. "I think I understand." "Let's get Brian moved in. Let's get shit figured out. We've got the rest of our lives to roll in the hay." "Aww, but I really wanted to check out the exclusive loft! Wonder what was up there?" Shaun snorted. "Who cares. I'll fuck you in our exclusive bed! Doesn't anyone like any privacy anymore?" Jesse laughed at him. "Guess not." "Well, I like privacy," Shaun said adamantly. "Besides the fact fucking you in public may kind of hurt my reputation – no offence," Shaun said lamely and Jesse shrugged noncommittally. "I wouldn't like to share you with a room of people. I wouldn't want them to see any part of you. Your mine." "I can definitely understand that," Jesse said. "I didn't really expect you to fuck me in front of everybody. I just want to get fucked, period." "And I will. Soon," Shaun said, feeling a little stupid. "Please, Jess, just give me a little time." "Ok," he said, squeezing Shaun's hand again. "And we've got all the moving shit planned out, we just need to pick up the U-Haul Sunday morning." "Yep," Shaun said, glad they'd already planned everything out. Shaun was pretty sure, with the amount of work that laid ahead for them, that Shaun would forget about Kyle. Jesse would forget too. The passing of days would be slow at times and feel like it was taking forever but time would pass. And things would change.
  15. Chapter 21

    Chapter Twenty-One Shaun called Jesse around 9pm later that night. Jesse was home alone, still. He'd rode home with Sam on the bus but Sam hadn't stayed for long. He'd rushed out the door the second Kyle pulled into the drive and he'd been gone ever since. Jesse hated being home alone. It was very unnatural and Jesse wasn't accustomed to it. When he heard his phone buzzing, he'd dove across the room, grabbing the phone off the coffee table and quickly muting the TV. "Hello," Jesse breathed into his phone. "It's me," Shaun said. "Baby!" Shaun snorted. "What are you up to? Did your mom get home yet?" "No," Jesse said, sobered instantly by the reminder of his solitude. When Monica came home, she'd bring the kids home as well and Jesse could give little Brian the hugs and kisses he'd missed out on the past week Jesse had spent away from him. "I'm just watching TV. Nobody's home. It's boring." "Only you would think that was boring," Shaun pointed out and Jesse sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose, feeling a headache coming on. Jesse just wished he knew if his brother was safe right now. He wished Monica would get home so Jesse could ask about taking Brian away for the weekend. Then Brian would be here anyway, stretching his arms out, wanting Jesse to hold him. Jesse was looking forward to picking Brian up and showering him with affection but Jesse just had so many things on his mind right now. He couldn't focus on everything. "Jess?" "Hmm?" Jesse shook his head. "What did you say?" Shaun apparently repeated himself. "I talked to Gretchen about this weekend." "Yeah?" Jesse prompted. "What'd she have to say?" "Not much. She agreed. It wasn't even a big deal." Jesse smiled. "I didn't think so. She's so fricken awesome!" "Yeah," Shaun sounded like he was smiling too. "Now all that's left is the hard part! Asking your bitch mom." "C'mon that's mean," Jesse scolded but he didn't really mean it. Monica was proving herself pretty useless as a mom, it was only Doctor Cliff's determination to do right by Monica's children that was keeping them all happy and situated at the moment. Nothing Monica had actually done or wanted had helped Jesse and his siblings. "Hey, are you going to be up for a couple more hours?" Jesse asked. "Uh, yeah. Gretchen's out on some kind of date….but with no one we know or care about! I saw the guy, he was old. And kind of scary but Gretchen told me beforehand to be nice because this guy paid for a lot of her bills!" "Wow, Gretchen's sugar daddy?" "Yeah, I guess," Shaun laughed. "Well, I'm going to be up anyway. I'm using the alone time to write songs. I've got a new one hammered out. I can't wait until practice Wednesday." Jesse smiled at the warmth in his boyfriend's voice. He'd expected him to be glum and depressed with the separation, but Shaun seemed ok. He'd seemed content at the school as well, although Jesse hadn't been expecting any less. Shaun had been talking about dropping out since the first day Jesse had met him. It was probably for the best anyway, a lot of kids these days were going the homeschool route, or just quitting school altogether with the amount of bullying going on. And honestly, Jesse hadn't been entirely truthful with Shaun earlier that day. Jesse wasn't getting the best attention from his peers at the school, but Jesse wasn't going to let that make him quit. Fuck the other kids, Jesse wanted his high school degree! "Cool," Jesse said absently. "Alright. I'll call you as soon as my mom gets home. Soon as I talk to her." "Ok," Shaun said, his voice dark and rumbling, like thunder during a heat storm. "I'll be waiting." Jesse hung up, shivering and aroused. It really did suck being back home. Being separated from Shaun's dark sexy eyes and his fat cock. Jesse wondered if Shaun knew how impressive his manhood was because if those fan girls got one look at it, they'd probably chase him to the ends of the earth. Jesse made a promise to himself, that he'd reward Shaun again this weekend. No matter what Monica said when she got him, Jesse was going to make this weekend memorable one way or the other. Just then, behind him, the front door banged open and the twins stumbled in. Tyler was digging his fists into his eyes, yawning ferociously, and Allison was yawning as well, trailing him slightly, but she was covering her mouth with a single, dainty hand. Monica came in behind them, carrying Melissa and Brian. She looked super annoyed. Jesse got up quickly to help her. "You can just go upstairs and get a shower. I'll put the babies to bed and I'll get the twins snacks and get them in jammies," Jesse offered. "Would you?" Monica looked at Jesse suspiciously. "That'd be really helpful, if you were serious." Jesse snorted. "Yes. I'm serious. I offered, ok?" He took Lissa from her first, then, as Brian groaned and stirred, Jesse took him next, settling the toddler on his hip. Monica, her arms now free, crossed them and continued to look suspicious, her sharp blue eyes narrowed on Jesse. "C'mon mom, I just want to talk to you about something when you're out of the shower," he admitted. "Oh, ok," Monica smirked. "I knew it was something," she pushed past him. "I'll call you into the room when I've got a minute and I'm decent." Jesse nodded, watching his mother saunter up the stairs. It was hardly a chore and Jesse even enjoyed it a bit, caring for his siblings, for his son. He put a new diaper on Lissa, settled her in her crib and started her mobile. She was so used to being jostled, moved and passed around that she seemed to settle into sleep immediately and without fuss. Her eyes shut anyway and Jesse stroked her soft red hair, smiling when her eyes remained shut. She was an easy baby. Jesse then returned to his bedroom, to Brian, who had already changed into an oversized sleep shirt and was hanging over the top bunk with a pout on his face. Jesse climbed up and patted the pillow. Brian crawled up the bed, his pout deepening. "Hey! Why the long face?" Brian sniffled, his sad face continued to be filled with misery. "Because you're not going to be back until I'm asleep!" "Ohhh," Jesse descended on the toddler, kissing his velvety soft cheeks until Brian was helpless but to laugh. "I love you, little man, I'm not going to be gone that long I just need to talk to mom!" Jesse relented on Brian, patting the covers until Brian wormed under them and pulled them up to his chin. "Promise?" "I promise," Jesse kissed the little boy's soft pink cheek once again. "Now, I've got to go feed the little monsters and then I'll talk to mom. The twins will probably be half asleep by then. And then I'll be back." "Ok," Brian's watery blue eyes didn't look all that trusting, but Jesse would just have to prove him wrong. Jesse went down to the living room where the twins were standing in the middle of the room with the TV on. They looked like zombies. Jesse grabbed them a couple cereal bars from the kitchen and returned, sitting on the edge of the couch to administer the snacks. The twins munched lazily on the cereal bars. "C'mon guys. I don't have all night." "Yes, you do," Tyler said snottily, his eyes glued to the cartoon on TV. It was Family Guy. Great. "I don't have all night to watch you guys eat snacks, I can tell you that much," Jesse went to turn to TV off, putting up with Tyler whines. Allison finished her cereal bar and asked if she could go upstairs to change for bed. "Great idea Allie. Can you take your brother?" Allison put both her hands on Tyler's right wrist and tugged him hard towards the stairs. Tyler's whines turned into yells. Jesse sighed and quickly broke the twins up. He carried Tyler upstairs and luckily the kid was so happy to soak up the special treatment, while his sister was admonished, that he didn't yell or scream anymore. All Jesse had to do was continually tell Allison she was a meanie. "I don't know why you'd grab him like that," Jesse told her as he grabbed some footie pjs for Tyler and waited until the kid started to undress. Allison was rolling her eyes, sitting on her bed in her pull-ups. Jesse got her a pink cotton nightgown and helped her pull it over her head. Jesse paused to kiss her on the forehead. "She's a total brat!" Tyler cried, dancing in the middle of the room. "She's got a mean streak too!" "Yeah, ok," Jesse said. He grabbed the rejected footie pjs and chased after the little red haired kid. Tyler was the only brat in the room but no one said anything to him. Jesse finally caught the kid and got him into his jammies. Then he turned the night lights on. The pink princess one on Allison's side and the blue dragon one on Tyler's. Then he told them to keep it down and that he'd be back in a little bit and if they were being loud he'd send mom in. The twins audibly zipped their lips. Jesse rolled his eyes and left them. He shut the door behind him, ignoring the swell of laughter that bubbled out from the room in his absence. He went to his mom's room and after a moment or two of indecision; he knocked. "Jess?" "Yeah?" "Did you get the kids settled down?" "Everyone's in bed," Jesse felt stupid talking to Monica's door. "Um, can I come in?" "I guess," Monica said after a moment and Jesse pushed her door open. Monica was in her fuzzy pink robe and matching slippers. Her hair was up in a towel, drying, or something. She was laying on the edge of her bed. "How was work?" Jesse asked, nervous all of a sudden. "Exhausting," Monica's eyes were closed and indeed it looked like she was going to pass out right there. "I'm sure that's not what you wanted to know." "No," Jesse rubbed his neck, cautiously moving closer to the bed. To Monica. "I was wondering if I could take Brian out of daycare early Friday." "What?" Monica sat up instantly for that. Propping herself up on an elbow. She blinked at Jesse as if she'd never seen him before. "I was thinking, I could take him to Shaun's with me for the weekend. We could spend a lot of time together. He'll get a lot of attention…" Monica was staring at him with the same look of confusion. Like she didn't know him. "He deserves it. He's really been trying to adjust to all the daycare but I know he misses me. We were going to have a cookout for him Saturday, and Friday night, there's a show we can take him to," Jesse didn't tell her which show they'd be taking Brian to, and luckily, Monica didn't ask. "It would be really fun for both of us." "I don't know if that a good idea," Monica said, sitting back against her headboard now. Jesse could see Monica's large heart tattoo, the one on her upper thigh that used to have Jesse's dad's first name. It had been scratched out sloppily for as long as Jesse could remember but the heart was still there. "Please, mom," Jesse tore his eyes away from his mom's thigh, grossed out but wanting to be polite, wanting access to his son. "He misses me. He's starved for affection." "Yeah, I guess he is," Monica said conversationally. Almost casually! "Yeah! So I thought I should do something special with him. I should take him with me to Shaun's this weekend since we have so many fun things planned—" "Ugh! That Shaun kid," Monica made a face. It had been cute, watching Brian make faces just a few minutes ago in the bed, but watching Monica glare and scowl over Shaun just made Jesse angry. "Honestly, what do you see in that kid? He's dirty. He's gross. He's rude—" "And he's always there for me. Unlike my family." Jesse snapped. "He actually cares about me as a person; I'm not just free help." Monica drew herself up. "Watch it, kid. I also pay for your room and board. I'm also mothering your son." Jesse bit his tongue so hard he tasted blood. Jesse hung his head and stood, completely humiliated, in the middle of Monica's room feeling so utterly stupid for thinking he could say anything and get away with it! After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, Monica spoke again. "Well, I guess I can't blame you for wanting to bond with your kid. That's the most responsible plan you've had for…well maybe ever." Jesse's teeth clenched down harder on his tongue. He'd bite the fucking thing in half if Monica continued along this line! Luck was in Jesse's side however and after Monica had her moment to gloat, she asked: "So, at Shaun's place, do you have some place for Brian to sleep?" Slightly taken aback, Jesse fumbled for an answer. He imagined Brian sleeping on the couch. Hell, Gretchen's arm chair was really comfortable when you reclined in it! But he knew Brian wouldn't rest until they were in the same room together. "Yeah," Jesse said, finally. "We have a couple different options for him, actually." "And what if you boys decide to drink or get high—" "We're not going to!" Monica leveled a glare at him, so vicious and terrifying Jesse's balls shank a size. Jesse cleared his throat. "Shaun's roommate is older. She's female. She doesn't drink or smoke," Jesse lied. Completely. "Gretchen's responsible. Anyways, she's always the designated driver—" Monica arched a brow. "Really now?" Jesse tripped up again. "Uh, yeah. After the accident and everything…" "And there's food over there? Enough for everyone at every meal?" "Yes mom," if Jesse weren't so insulted right now, he'd be proud that Monica was seemingly so interested in Brian's welfare. She wasn't about to let Jesse, Brian's own fricken father, take him on a fun weekend outing. As if Jesse hadn't spent the past year caring almost solely for his siblings AND his son. This was so fucking humiliating! "I guess that'd be ok." "R-really?!" "Yes. I'll have to sign a permission slip saying you're going to be picking him up early Friday. What time?" "Sometime after school ends for me," Jesse said excitedly. "And we'll be back Sunday night!" "Mmhmm," Monica muttered and waved Jesse off. "Now let me get some sleep. I've got work tomorrow." As if Jesse didn't have school. 4 hours before Monica had to even be at the hospital. Jesse let it go. Thrilled that something good had come from the miserable conversation. Jesse ran back to his bedroom and climbed up to his bunk. "Guess what!" Brian had apparently been dozing because he sat up, his blue eyes wide with shock. "You're coming with me this weekend! We're staying at Shaun's and going to his show Friday night!" Brian leapt up, jumping, hitting the ceiling, which was just a few feet away, with his fingertips. He started to yell with excitement but Jesse quickly held a finger to his lips and kids were actually better than adults sometimes, because Brian knew immediately what he meant. "Awesome!" Brian hissed, waving his arms around, dancing and squirming around, doing anything but making noise really. "Yay!" "Let me call Shaun. He'll be happy too. He got everything set up on his end today, I told him I'd ask mom tonight." "She said yes?" "She did! Just now!" Jesse grabbed his cellphone out of his back pocket and called Shaun's number which was saved as a favorite, now. "I get to sleep over at your house this weekend!" Brian cried once the call had connected. Jesse glared at the little blond but Brian was smiling at him. "What? What was that?" "Sorry!" Jesse pressed the phone back to his ear. "Sorry. That was Brian. I just told him the good news!" "Your mom said it was ok?" "Yeah! I guess she has to sign some permission slip but we can pick Brian up from daycare Friday after I get out of school and we can take him to the show! He's so excited!" "That's awesome! Yeah. It's going to be great," Shaun said. And Jesse tried to keep that good thought to himself through the rest of the week. He tried to be optimistic. During the day, Jesse was mostly alone. The other kids at school weren't outright bullying him but they certainly hadn't forgotten that Jesse dated Shaun and it didn't help that half the school had seen him leaving the cafeteria with him Monday during lunch. Anyways, there were multiple rumors floating around that Shaun had moved, he'd flunked out, he'd dropped out, and that his grandparents had finally gotten sick of him and had kicked him out for good. There were meaner ones of course, ones like Shaun was in jail, or on house arrest. Ones that he'd killed his grandparents and ran away. Stupid ones that Shaun had found another, better boyfriend and that he'd skipped town with him. Nobody, it seemed, knew the truth for sure and nobody knew about Shaun's band. It was as simple as sharing pages on Facebook, but Jesse knew nobody would share anything with him. Not at this school. Since Jesse was alone and had next to no one to talk to during class, Jesse tried to refocus his goals. No longer was Jesse concerned with making friends! He was only going to worry about his grades. To make things even easier, Jesse was alone when he went home as well. Sam was still jetting off with Kyle after school and he still wasn't coming home until after midnight most nights. To make things even worse, Sam was still coming home smelling of alcohol and weed. He was still getting fucked up. Jesse tried not to worry about that either. There was nothing he could do. Jesse and Monica had been putting the twins to bed the other night, at nearly one in the morning, and Sam had come stumbling in the front door, banging his way upstairs. Monica had seen him, had stopped him even. "Shit," Sam had cursed, freezing in the hallway, halfway to his and Jesse's room. Monica left Jesse to his duties with the young kids, advancing on Sam. She'd tilted his chin back, peered into his eyes. "You have school in the morning," she'd said blandly. "I'm not calling you off." Sam had nodded and Monica left it at that. Jesse's jaw had literally dropped to the floor. "That's it? He's been coming home messed up for a while now, mom. I think it's a problem." Monica had the gall to laugh. "That's what you were doing when you were his age." "Mom, c'mon, I really think—" "Just leave it alone," Monica said, moving to tuck Tyler into bed. She kissed him briskly on the forehead. "I want to get to bed sometime this century." So, no. There was nothing Jesse could do about Sam, so why worry. By Friday, Jesse had his weekend bag packed. He had Brian's packed. He was so ready to go. "Here's your permission slip," Monica said over breakfast Friday morning. The twins were flinging cereal at each other, Brian was bouncing on his chair, watching Monica hand Jesse the slip. Sam was there as well; looking glum over a bowl of Lucky Charms. "It's as good as your ID," Monica continued, while Jesse slipped the form into his backpack. "You'll be able to grab him any time after 2:45." "Thanks mom," Jesse said. "Don't mention it." Jesse and Sam got on the bus after that. Jesse was smiling, looking forward to the school day being over, to his weekend with Shaun and Brian and Gretchen and Ben to begin. "You're in a good mood," Sam remarked while they stood waiting at the end of the drive. "What are you doing this weekend?" Jesse asked, more out of kindness than curiosity. He probably didn't want to know. "There's another party at Kyle's on Saturday. You're invited." Jesse laughed. "No thanks. We're having our own party Saturday. Just a cookout with friends, actually," Jesse trailed off, thinking. "You know, you should come! It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. I'm sure you could crash on the couch, too. It's no big deal." "Naw," Sam sneered, as if the offer were offensive. "No thanks." "Fine," Jesse snapped. "Have fun at your old-timers swinger party." The bus came rumbling down the road at that moment and the brothers fell into a bitter silence. Even though it wasn't necessary anymore, even though Jesse wasn't waiting for his nasty neighbor to sit beside him, Jesse went straight to the back of the bus and sat his ass down. School was slow and boring. Science was first period this year, physics. Jesse was already lost. Next was government. Then home-ec. Then algebra two. Jesse shared most of his classes with the gang from last year, but algebra was the only class he had with Kenny. He remembered Shaun telling him he'd knocked Kenny's front teeth out and remembered Kenny subsequent absence for the last half of their junior year. Kenny was usually smiling nowadays. His huge, shiny replacement teeth looked perfect. The fucking asshole had gone and gotten better looking! During algebra, rather than listen to the boring lecture going on at the front of the room, Jesse drew Kenny with a tiny body and a huge head. The little doddle had humongous buck teeth and once Jesse completed his masterpiece, he had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing. He wished Shaun were here to see it. English was Jesse's last class before lunch and when the bell rang, Jesse nearly fell out of his seat in his hurry to get out the door. Jesse pushed lunch around his tray. Next was health class, replacing gym from the previous year, and then lastly, journalism. Which was a lot less fun than Jesse had previously thought. He was mostly ignored by his fellow writers, his peers, and he spent most of the period completing worksheets from his workbook and doodling in the margins. Jesse might as well have taken art, with all the doodling he was doing this year. When the final bell of the day rang, Jesse ran to his locker, threw his books in, and dashed out the front door, dodging classmates and teachers alike. Shaun had said the night before he and Gretchen would be waiting for him out in the parking lot and Jesse looked frantically about. Beep, Beep! Jesse turned, his face breaking into a grin as he spotted Gretchen's red Mazda parked out near the field. Jesse ran, his backpack banging into his hip. He reached the car in seconds and threw the door open. "Shaun!" the older boy had taken it upon himself to move into the backseat and he had his arms held open. Jesse squirmed into Shaun's arms, kissing him anywhere he could. Gretchen was laughing in the front. "PDA! PDA!" "Shut up," Shaun growled when he and Jesse split apart. "No! Eww! God! My eyes are scarred for life!" "That scarred you?" Shaun snorted. Gretchen was already starting her car. "Where are we heading next boys? To get the little monster?" "He's not a monster," Jesse pouted. "I promise. He's a great kid." "Who'd tell you their kid was a monster? That's for me to judge!" Jesse rolled his eyes, but directed Gretchen towards the daycare which was near the hospital, towards the town center. "We have to get our overnight bags next, but that's it!" "We've got a show to get to, man!" Gretchen cried, over the top as usual. "We'd better step on it!" Jesse sat back, settling with Shaun's arm around his shoulders. He kissed Shaun again, softly on the mouth, just because he could. Shaun smiled at him. "Did you miss me?" "Of course!" Jesse grinned. "I always miss you." "How was school? Boring as usual?" "So much more boring without you," Jesse said in truth. "All I do is doodle." "Hey, you could always concentrate on your schooling now that bozo's out of the picture! Maybe you're our next Albert Einstein! Shaun's trying to get you guys paid with a music deal but maybe all you have to do is crack the books!" Gretchen said up front. "Shaun's hardly a bozo," Jesse said, literally feeling the rage Gretchen's casual comment had inspired in his boyfriend. "And I'm actually spending a lot more time on school this year. If I were a genius, I think I'd know by now." "Well, you never know!" Jesse rolled his eyes again. He told Gretchen to take the next right, there at the light and straight down until Keller Street. It was faster if you took the back way. "You're sure the kids are treating you alright?" Shaun asked as Gretchen flew down the residential street. "If not, I could always come and remind them who you're dating." Jesse actually blushed at the offer, loving the sound of Shaun's protectiveness. But Jesse declined. "No. Nobody's been treating me bad. They just aren't very talkative when I'm around. It's just boring. Nothing I can't handle." Shaun gave him an intense look. "Alright. Let me know if that changes." Jesse nodded. "Ok, where am I going now?" Gretchen had taken a left at Keller. Jesse took her all the way down to the stop sign and then they made another right. "There it is. Up there in the plaza on the left." They approached the daycare at breakneck speeds but Gretchen parked alright. "We'll be waiting!" she sang happily, nervously, maybe and Jesse went in to collect Brian. "Hey buddy! Ready for a fun weekend?" Jesse asked the little boy once he'd turned in his permission slip and Brian was returned to him. He hugged the blond tightly. "Yes!" Brian was hugging him back, his thin little arms felt a lot stronger than they actually looked. Jesse stroked Brian's hair. "Shaun's outside! And so is his roommate. She's dressed a little weird but she's really nice, ok, Brian?" Brian blinked at him, clearly having no idea what he meant. "Ok." Jesse led Brian out by the hand. He put Brian in the back with Shaun and got up front with Gretchen. "Brian, honey, this is Gretchen." "Hiya kid!" Gretchen said, turning around, smiling hugely. Jesse hadn't noticed before but Gretchen was decked out in her usual costume makeup. Black eyeliner ringed her eyes, black lipstick coated her lips. She had her usual piercings in as well, the one through her nose, the ones in her eyebrows and her lips. Brian drew back immediately, cowering into Shaun's side. "She looks like a witch!" he stage-whispered and Shaun flat out laughed. "Shut up!" Gretchen turned back around, starting the car angrily. "Which way back to your house!" "Make a left." "Thank you!" Gretchen fumed as Shaun continued to laugh in the back. Brian was whispering something else, something Jesse couldn't quite hear. Shaun cupped his hand though and whispered something back to him, laughing afterwards. Jesse smiled at the two of them. They made it back to the house in record speed. Jesse laid a hand on Gretchen's arm and she turned and glared at him. "I'm fine!" she hissed, pulling her arm away. In the back, Shaun cleared his throat, interrupting Jesse and Gretchen and Brian, after a minute of indecision, spoke up. "I'm sorry Miss Gretchen. I think your rings are really cool!" Brian started. Gretchen looked at Brian in the rearview mirror. "Thanks kid." With the encouragement, Brian perked up. "Shaun says you're his friend, I'm Shaun's friend too! Maybe we can all be friends!" "Maybe we can," Gretchen said, turning to smile at Brian again, this time much more reservedly. Brian matched her smile with a grin of his own, displaying his two missing teeth in the process. Jesse snorted and rubbed Gretchen's arm again. "It is fine," he said, getting out right after. Gretchen was scowling at him, but Jesse laughed and hurried inside. The house was empty, not that he'd been expecting anything else. Sam was probably with Kyle and everyone else was at daycare and work. He grabbed both his and Brian's overnight bags and left his backpack on his bed. He grabbed his phone charger and his toothbrush and he was good to go! As he locked up behind him, he felt a burning urgency to get back to the car. Back to Shaun and Brian. He ran down the drive, practically skipping in his desperation to return as quickly as possible. He dove back into the car. "Speed Racer! Let's go!" Gretchen joked, but she hurtled backwards down the drive before screeching off towards the highway. Brian made lots of encouraging sounds, lots of Woahs! and Woohoos! Jesse glared back at him, but he was smiling so hugely, Jesse bit his tongue. Shaun was smiling too, his hand on the little blond's shoulder. Gretchen got them home safely, and in just under an hour. She checked the clock as they were pulling in the drive. "We've got 4 hours until we've got to be at the show. Maybe your little buddy can talk sense into you, what do you think Brian? Don't you think Shaun should be wearing corpse paint, too?" Gretchen pointed at her makeup, making a starkly opposing cheery face as she did so. "You know, just for the show." Brian tilted his head to the side. "Maybe," he said. "You said your show's scary, right Shaun?" Shaun snorted. "Not as scary as that," he said, putting a hand on Brian's back and leading him into his bedroom at the end of the hall. Jesse followed, ignoring Gretchen's bitching behind them. "This is my room," Shaun said as they entered his little domain. It looked like Shaun had made an attempt at picking up his clothes and putting the clean ones in the dresser. He'd spread out a sleeping blanket anyway, and it was between the wall and the dresser across from the bed. There were a few pillows and extra blankets stacked on top and it looked decently cozy for a 3 year old. "Cool!" Brian said and he at least knew where he was sleeping. He ran and jumped on the sleeping bag, kicking his feet out. "It looks like your old room!" "Yeah. It's all the same shit," Shaun said, going to sit on the edge of his bed. Jesse went to arrange his and Brian's bags across the room, in the corner opposite to Brian. "You're missing your TV," Brian said, pointing towards the stereo system which now dominated the dresser. "Yeah, but Gretchen's got a shit load of channels. Want to go watch something?" "Yeah!" Shaun grabbed Jesse's hand, pulling him out of the bedroom and behind Brian who was running like his life depended on it back down the hall towards the living room. Brian and Shaun sat together on the couch and selected a show. Jesse watched them interact for a little bit, feeling content, happy. After a bit, he left them to it and went to nose through the refrigerator thinking of starting some dinner but the fridge had nothing. Nothing but lunchmeat and takeout. "Hey, do you have any money for groceries?" Jesse asked, popping his head back into the living room. "In my wallet on the dresser," Shaun answered, his eyes glued to the TV screen. Beside him, Brian was mirroring his actions. "Gretchen will probably run you to the store." "Ok." Jesse retrieved the wallet, opening it curiously. There was like 400 here. In a range of 50's and 20's. Jesse grabbed a couple twenties and stuffed them in his back pocket. He hoped Shaun had a bank account and money saved there. He hoped this wasn't his piggy bank. Thinking he'd probably bring it up later, Jesse went to knock on Gretchen's bedroom door. Gretchen asked him to come in, so Jesse ventured into the room, looking around. Besides a bed with black fur and silk, a weird swing chair hanging in the corner and a desk with two monitors and a big webcam, the room looked pretty normal! Under a barrage of band posters, Jesse could see Gretchen's pink wallpaper. "Pink?" he said, coming to stand behind Gretchen who was in her desk chair, hunched over the computer. She was on some porn site and Jesse quickly averted his gaze, hoping he wouldn't see Gretchen naked again. It didn't seem very respectable to see that. "It was there when I moved in. I didn't change it. It kind of reminds me of my first room back home with my parents." "Oh!" Jesse attempted to ruffle Gretchen's hair. She wasn't having it though! She slapped Jesse something silly. Laughing and actually seeing stars, Jesse stumbled back and fell onto the bed. The fur blankets really were luxurious. Jesse wondered if he could get some for Shaun's room. "Hey, I didn't scare the shit out of your kid, did I?" Gretchen asked, spinning around in her chair. She actually looked worried, bless her. "I kind of have that effect on kids. Ever since I started getting tattoos, kids would take one look at me and run for the hills. I used to think it was funny…still is, I guess, but—" "It's not a big deal. Brian's best friend is Shaun, so…" "He's used to worse?" Jesse laughed again. "He's an understanding kid. He gets bullied a lot at day care. At home too. He's just always been different and I guess he can sense that in other people." "So he's a little weirdo magnet?" "That's an interesting way of putting it," Jesse scratched his chin. "I guess so." "Anyone who can put up with Shaun for longer than a minute is weird. I'm practically running a crazy house over here!" "Alright crazy lady. Think I can get a ride? I've got to feed all the crazies dinner before we get ready to go to this show." "Aww, really! I was just going to get takeout," Gretchen laughed but she was already getting up. "What are you putting on the grill tomorrow? After you killed it with that baked chicken casserole, I've been dying to see what else you can do." "The casserole? That's the easiest thing I've ever whipped up. Well, Shaun generously opened his wallet to me, so I was thinking I'd throw some steak on the grill," Jesse said, watching Gretchen shut her computer down. "I know how to put together a really yummy steak sauce. Brian eats it like ketchup." "Do you now?" Gretchen grabbed her keys and after saying a quick goodbye to the two boys on the couch, they were out the door. Gretchen scoffed when Jesse recommended the corner store Shaun had taken him too last weekend. "Fucking camel store," Gretchen bitched. They blew right past the little gas station, heading towards the big stores in town. "Who even knows if that shit's FDA approved. It sure as hell isn't fresh!" They went to a discount shopping center. Honestly, Jesse didn't have a very high opinion of stores like this. He thought if Gretchen was concerned over the quality of their food, they definitely shouldn't have come here, but Jesse wasn't up for an argument. "So Ben called me this morning, frantically asking me for directions to tonight's venue. He couldn't remember where we're supposed to meet," Gretchen said as they selected a cart and began to wander down the aisles. "Nerves?" Jesse grabbed a bag of potatoes. He was going to mash some up with the steak tomorrow. "Whatever happened to him after the wedding?" "He got his asshole ripped out and hanged by it?" Gretchen laughed at Jesse's look of shock. "No, but after he canceled the honeymoon, well, Ben's in the doghouse now. Literally." "Really? How bad?" "Really bad. Like she won't even let him come upstairs, makes him use the little bathroom off the kitchen, she's that mad." "He's sleeping in the basement?" "Consistently. Ever since the wedding," Gretchen hung over Jesse, waggling her tongue. "They haven't even consummated the fucking marriage!" "Oh god," Jesse sighed, then tried to get the best mindset possible for selecting meat. He ventured over to the meats section, Gretchen hot on his heels. "She's driving him crazy! I hope to god he's in the mood to play tonight. It was a little shaky Wednesday. Practicing. But I think that was because Angela kept popping her head down in the basement, complaining the amps were too loud. I thought the vessel in Shaun's forehead was going to fucking explode!" Jesse laughed, picking out 5 cuts of steak. "So, Ben is coming to the cookout? At least to get away from Angela." "Oh hell yes. When I had him on the phone this morning, he was rambling about the party. Our goodie-two-shoes Ben wants to go to a fucking party! He must be out of his mind!" "He just needs to relax," Jesse said, feeling bad for the bassist. "I'm sure, even if everything went alright, that he'd still be stressed after such an…eventful wedding." Gretchen rolled her eyes. "Yeah whatever. Ben's hot brother was in town and Ben stayed in the doghouse with my sister. Ben is coming undone, Jesse. My sister's ruining our bassist." They fell silent as Jesse wove through the aisles, selecting anything that interested him. He was keeping a running total in his head but the prices were so reasonable! Jesse suddenly realized why these discount stores were so popular. "So, what's for dinner?" Gretchen asked as they headed to the checkout sometime later. "Beef stroganoff," Jesse said, pointing to the Hamburger Helper box. "Yum. Simple and good," Gretchen rubbed her belly, looking like an evil cookie monster. "I like bakes." "Good to know," Jesse laughed, piling their purchases on the belt. They drove home and after the two of them unloaded the car and packed the fridge, Gretchen joined the boys in the living room, watching whatever program they had on. Jesse went right to the kitchen and got dinner started. Three hours to launch! Dinner was passable. They had it TV dinner style and the adults ate off their laps while Brian was sat at the coffee table, his drink, with a straw, set far out of his reach. They were all watching some new action movie on HBO. Brian was really into it and he slopped stroganoff down his chin. "Brian!" Jesse wiped the little blond's face. "Pay attention. You don't have a second mouth on your chin!" Brian laughed. "What if I did?" "That'd be disgusting." "Rawr! Rawr!" Brian came at Jesse with his sauce stained mouth. Jesse attacked him with his napkin. "Excellent feeding habits!" Gretchen called from her arm chair. "Looks like you're raising a true monster!" Brian grinned at her and roared some more. He was incorrigible. After dinner, Shaun came into the kitchen with Jesse to help clean up. He more or less came to lean against the sink and watch, but Jesse didn't mind the company. "I really missed him," Shaun said, staring back towards the living room, a trace of a smile on his lips. "It's like I was never even gone. He loves me just the same. He told me." "That's the joy of kids," Jesse said. "They forget shit like that." Shaun came up behind Jesse, wrapping his arms around him, putting his chin on Jesse's shoulder. He hugged him tight. "I think we should keep doing this. I think he's happy." "Really?" Jesse turned in Shaun's embrace. "Yes. I'm working on a car. I've got 400 put back now." That brought Jesse up short. "Honey? Are you keeping all your money in your wallet?" Shaun's jaw clenched. Suddenly his body was tense. "Don't start. My grandma's been saving money under her pillow her whole life." Jesse rolled his eyes. "That's not safe, Shaun. Anyone could break in, anyone could swipe your wallet." "And crooks at the bank can bankrupt me! No thanks!" Jesse sighed, turning back to the sink. "You're going to have to get an account eventually. Do you think they're going to pay you in cash forever?" Shaun was silent and when Jesse turned he realized Shaun had already left the room. Jesse sighed. He finished cleaning up, put everything away and then he went to check on Brian in the living room. Strangely enough, Brian and Gretchen were alone. Gretchen had moved to the couch, to sit closer to Brian and the little blond was talking shyly to her in between glances at the TV. They both seemed fine so Jesse went down the hall to Shaun's room, finding the older, grumpy boy sulking on his bed. He looked up as Jesse entered. Pulling a face. "I don't know how to do anything!" he said. "I can't wash my clothes. I can barely fold them! I don't know anything about saving money! Besides keeping it in a box under my bed!" "Hey," Jesse moved to sit beside Shaun, putting an arm around him. "I'm here to help! Just ask me and I'll help you, ok? We can figure it out together." Shaun looked at him, his dark eyes full of emotion. "I want you to stay here. I don't want you to go back." "What?" "Just keep Brian here. Don't go back. I'll drive you to school. I'll watch Brian all day, all night, if I have to. I don't want you to go." "Oh, Shaun," Jesse rubbed the bigger boy's back. He moved up into Shaun's hair, scratching his scalp in a manner that he knew was soothing. "I can't just up and leave whenever I want." "Why? Why not?! What's holding you there?!" Jesse shook his head. He didn't want to get into this argument again, not now, so close to show time! He didn't want to explain the intricacies of raising a kid, he didn't want to explain the kind of money they'd need or the types of expenses they'd have to cover! He didn't want to explain anything! Shaun would just see it as an evasion, not as it actually was, Jesse seeing reality! Jesse held Shaun. The older boy started to cry but Jesse continued to hold him. "I'm here for you! I'm right here! And when I'm not, I'm not even that far away! I'm always just a phone call away," Jesse said, attempting to reassure the sobbing boy. "I can't hold you, I can't touch you," Shaun said into Jesse's shoulder. "I can't fucking see you! I need you here!" Jesse didn't know what else to say. Monica was being a complete and total bitch and Jesse really and truly was tempted to do what Shaun wanted but he stayed silent, holding onto Shaun, whispering sweet nothings into his ear to calm him. Jesse couldn't agree. He was too afraid of what would happen if the band fell through and Gretchen kicked them out. He was too afraid of his responsibility towards Brian. What if he couldn't meet all of Brian's needs? What would they do then? Jesse was too much of a pussy to jump and as he held Shaun and comforted him, he started to hate himself. All of a sudden, Shaun growled into Jesse's shoulder and in the blink of an eye, Shaun had switched their positions, enfolding Jesse in his arms, flipping them and rolling on top of Jesse. His face was red but there were no tears on Shaun's face. He was scowling, pushing his face into Jesse's, hovering over him. "You're a fucking pussy." Shocked that Shaun had apparently been reading his mind, Jesse could only gape at Shaun's assessment. "Stop making this so FUCKING hard. Move in with me." "Baby—" "I will make this work. We will raise Brian. Together. We'll figure it out together." "Shaun, I can't—" Shaun's mouth crashed down on Jesse's. Their teeth clicked and Jesse tried to recoil in pain, but Shaun forced him down to the bed. Held him there with his body, with his mouth. Shaun was practically licking his face, sucking his lips, and slowly, confused by the sudden change, Jesse responded, moving his lips against Shaun's, meeting his tongue with his own. The longer they kissed, the more heated it became. Jesse was suddenly sporting an erection and he wantonly rubbed it up against Shaun's hip. Shaun's fingers were wound in his hair, keeping him still while he feasted on Jesse's lips and tongue. Shaun abruptly withdrew and Jesse gasped as his mouth was released. He peeled open his eyes, moaning. "You are such a fucking whore," Shaun spat. "Do you really think I'll let you leave?" Jesse stared into his boyfriend's dark foreboding eyes, feeling a tendril of fear snake up from the depths of his belly. "Now turn over. I'm fucking you." Jesse hesitated slightly and in an instant, Shaun was tearing at his jeans, ripping them down his hips. "Get on your knees!" Jesse hurried to follow his boyfriend's order, struggling to get himself into position with the jeans still wrapped around his ankles. He still had his shirt on as well, but behind him, Jesse heard Shaun's fly unzipping and he figured Shaun wanted him just like this. He heard Shaun hawk up some spit and felt rude and insistent fingers jam their way up his ass. He winced but lowered himself down onto his elbows, pushing his ass back, opening himself up as wide as he could, knowing he didn't have much time to prepare. He didn't. Shaun's cock quickly replaced the fingers and Jesse moaned in pain as Shaun slowly worked his fat cockhead into Jesse's tight little ass. "You know why it hurts? It's because your slut ass took a week off," Shaun hissed, grabbing a chunk of Jesse's red hair and pulling him back painfully, shaking him angrily. "You stupid asshole!" "I'm sorry!" Jesse cried. "You should be," Shaun threw Jesse back to the bed, and Jesse collapsed onto the sheets. Shaun grabbed hold of his hips and dragged his ass back up again, slotting his dickhead back into the little mouth of Jesse's opening. He pushed and he struggled and Jesse sobbed helplessly into the bed sheets, feeling the tiny folds of his anus stretch and tear. Shaun was usually rough. They didn't always use lube and stretching fingers, but something about this felt different. It took a moment for Jesse to realize he was no longer hard. Shaun usually took care of that, but apparently not today. Jesse was here, now, to be used. "Please," Jesse moaned, feeling his muscles give and tear under Shaun's force. The meaty part of Shaun's cockhead had now worked its way inside and Shaun was fucking the first couple inches into Jesse's tender asshole. "Please… go slow… it hurts." "Fuck you!" Shaun spat, literally spat on Jesse's back. Jesse shivered and moaned but Shaun pinched his ass and snapped for him to be still. "You want me to be gentle and nice and slow? I want you to fucking stay with me!" Shaun cried. "Fuck you!" Shaun pushed hard against Jesse's hole and with a sharp gasp of pain, Jesse felt his muscles give out finally and Shaun's cock was sheathed deeply inside his body, his abused asshole clenching up tight again around the intrusion. Shaun held his cock there for just a moment, breathing heavily behind Jesse. Jesse's body was covered in sweat, his face slick with tears. He just wanted this to end. Shaun's cock usually gave him such pleasure but now it was burning inside him. Burning and tearing and ripping his insides. Slowly, Shaun pulled his cock out, pulling Jesse's sensitive inner flesh along with it. Jesse whimpered and hissed. Shaun waited until just the head of his cock was imbedded in Jesse's body before he slammed his cock home again. His balls slapping into the curve of Jesse's up thrust ass. "Guh!" "This is what you deserve, whore. For making me wait!" "Ah!" "Shut up! You deserve this!" "Oh god!" Jesse bit down on the side of his hand, attempting to keep quiet but Shaun was fucking him so forcefully, Jesse could almost feel Shaun's cock in his throat! "Slut," Shaun called him. "Fucking bitch," he said, as he drilled his cock, harder and harder into Jesse's body. Again and again, he plowed full force into Jesse. Shaun's fingers, digging into his hips, were starting to feel as sharp as needles. His whole body hurt and Jesse continued to cry, knowing it couldn't last forever. Knowing it had to be over soon. It didn't last much longer, luckily, although Jesse didn't feel very lucky when Shaun came and he did not. Shaun didn't even bother to touch him, once he'd hosed Jesse's insides down with blisteringly hot come. He just got up off the bed, zipped up his pants and stormed out of the room, leaving Jesse half naked, crying and exposed on the bed. Jesse quickly pulled up his jeans and frantically wiped at his eyes. He could hear Shaun yelling something down the hall and he carefully crept to the door, peering down the hallway. He was just in time to see Shaun whisking out the front door, banging it shut behind him. "What the fuck?!" Gretchen yelled after him, her voice floating down the hall from the living room. Knowing Gretchen would come looking for him, wanting an explanation, Jesse hurried across the hall into the bathroom, locking the door quickly. "Everything's fine!" Jesse yelled, hoping to starve off the search party. He dropped his jeans again and sat on the toilet, reaching behind him to carefully clean out his abused asshole with toilet paper. "Where the fuck did Shaun go?!" Jesse lurched, stabbing his sore hole with a stray finger. "Fuck! I don't know!" Gretchen's voice was closer. It sounded like she was standing on the other side of the door. "He just left? Where the fuck would he go?" "He's just taking a walk! Ok!" "After you two got done with your screaming match? What the fuck's going on?! Why were you guys fighting?! I had to grab your kid by the scruff of his neck to stop him from coming to see what was wrong!" Jesse stared at the blood spotted toilet paper. It wasn't much, mind, but Jesse wondered if Shaun had been getting off, watching Jesse's asshole bleed around his cock. "We were just talking about money," Jesse said absently. "Yeah right!" Gretchen huffed. "What the fuck ever, dude. I hope he's back soon." "Yeah," Jesse agreed, sighing, dropping his head into his hands and hoping Gretchen was finally gone. "We've got like an hour before we need to go. Think he'll be back in time?" "Yes!" Jesse cried. "Please, Gretch—I'm taking a dump!" "TMI," Gretchen complained, but Jesse finally heard her going back down the hallway. Jesse continued to sit on the toilet, his head in his hands. What the fuck had just happened? *** True to his word, not that Jesse had actually known, but Shaun returned 10 minutes before they were supposed to leave. After Jesse had managed to put himself together and had come out of the bathroom, he and Gretchen had continued to entertain Brian in the living room. Brian wanted to know what had happened and where Shaun had gone, but Jesse tried desperately to involve the little blond in the TV show, not wanting to talk about it. Gretchen, as time ticked on, started to become more and more nervous and upset. "I told him. I told him the only thing I wanted was for him to prioritize the band. Now he's out taking nature walks! What the fuck!" Jesse tried his best to avoid her questions but when Shaun waltzed in the door, Gretchen was practically rammed down his throat, wanting to know everything! "Where the fuck did you go?!" Gretchen cried, whirling around. "We've got a show to get to!" "Then let's go. I'm here, aren't I?" Shaun said, looking everywhere but at Jesse. He didn't look upset or sad, in fact, he looked suspiciously normal. "But what the fuck—" "Let's go!" Shaun snapped, turning on his heel and marching towards his room, towards the guitar and amp tucked in the closet. Gretchen shook her head. "Yeah, fine. Whatever. Let's go." Jesse helped Gretchen pack up her drum kit while Shaun stood and watched from the porch, listening emotionlessly to Brian's chatterbox. Jesse wasn't much help, his right arm was still in the cast, but it was more a matter of figuring out where everything would go and where everyone would sit. "Fuck it!" Gretchen slammed the trunk shut. They'd crammed the majority of her equipment and Shaun's amp in the trunk, but the big bass drum would have to be in the back, alongside Shaun's guitar. "We've got to go! C'mon!" "Me and Brian will sit in the back," Jesse volunteered, calling the little boy over. Brian looked distractedly over his shoulder before he went back to talking Shaun's very uninterested ear off. "C'mon!" Gretchen shouted and Shaun sneered, pulled the front door shut and put a hand on Brian's shoulder, leading him wordlessly to the car. Watching Shaun carefully, Jesse edged forward, his arms out. "He can sit on my lap," he said slowly, simply, for Shaun's benefit, but Shaun was glaring off into the distance. He wouldn't meet Jesse's eyes. "We're just going to sit in the back," Jesse snatched Brian up, ignoring his pleas to sit with Shaun instead. He jumped in the back, pulling Brian into his lap. He shut the door. Gretchen and Shaun got in the front and without another word, Gretchen started the car. "Is Shaun mad?" Brian whispered as they got out onto the road. "He's nervous," Jesse whispered back, glancing towards the back of his boyfriend's head. He was staring straight ahead. Neither he nor Gretchen were speaking. Once again, Jesse wondered what the fuck had happened. One minute Shaun had been begging him to stay, and then suddenly the begging had turned to name calling and violence. "Maybe he should have done Gretchen's face paint idea," Brian suggested. "Gretchen said, some people who are scared to be on stage wear makeup and face paint to be someone else. To be someone who's not afraid." "That's not a bad idea, Brian," Jesse hugged the little blond in his lap, wishing it were as simple as some face paint to change Shaun's mood. "Did you tell him about that?" "I did. Just outside the house. But I don't think he heard me." "Don't worry," Jesse told the boy. "He'll feel better after the show." Brian nodded, some actual trust in his eyes this time. Jesse hoped he wouldn't disappoint him. The venue tonight was a sports bar about a 30 minute drive from Gretchen's place. Maybe it had been Shaun, maybe it had been Gretchen, but someone had told Jesse this was a college town. As they drove through campus, Jesse raised a brow. This area actually looked pretty nice. The college they passed was made of old stately brick and was covered in ivy. "Looks nice," Jesse commented. "This place is super popular with the college kids," Gretchen informed him. "Wait til you see this place!" The Tipsy Cow was jam packed. They couldn't even find parking. Gretchen drove them around the block, twice, looking for a space, and Shaun finally demanded to be let out and told Gretchen to loop back around again, at a much slower pace. "Why?" "I'm getting somebody to make us a fucking space!" Shaun cried and Gretchen pulled up to the front entrance of The Tipsy Cow and Shaun got out, slamming the door shut behind him. As Gretchen started her slow crawl around the block, Jesse spotted Shaun pushing some college kids out of his way and barreling into the bar. Jesse couldn't help but smile. "Are you sure you guys aren't fighting?" Gretchen asked, rolling to a slow stop at the stop sign at the end of the street. She made a right and crept along another row of storefronts. "Pretty sure," Jesse lied. "If we play good tonight, this will be another excellent payday. Did you see all those fucking people?!" "I did." "Fuck!" Gretchen mashed her fist into the steering wheel. "I wasn't even thinking about Ben after all of Shaun's fucking drama bullshit. I hope he can find parking!" "I'll call him," Jesse shifted under Brian's weight, fishing his phone out of his pocket. Brian was starting to squirm and kick and Jesse really hoped Shaun would get some results inside The Tipsy Cow. "Ben?' "Hey! Are you guys here yet?! I had a hell of a time finding parking!" The background noise was so loud, Jesse knew it was only because Ben was yelling that he was able to hear the older bassist. "You're inside?" "Yeah! They set my shit up on the patio and now I'm sitting at the bar, waiting for you!" "We're still looking for parking. Shaun just came in to—" "There he is!" Brian cried and sure enough, when Jesse followed Brian's little pointing finger, he saw Shaun standing on the curb, in front of an empty space, arms crossed, looking livid. "Ok! We just found a spot. We'll meet you inside," Jesse told the bassist before hanging up. Gretchen had apparently spotted Shaun as well, because she was making a god awful attempt at parallel parking. The car in the lane behind them honked and Gretchen rolled her window down, waving them on impatiently. "C'mon! Don't have time for this bullshit!" Gretchen raged. The car behind them revved their engine before blowing past them. "Asshole! Fucking motherfucking ass—" "Gretchen, c'mon," Jesse admonished the goth girl from the backseat, just barely restraining himself from covering Brian's ears. The kid was looking a bit traumatized, his eyes wide with shock. Gretchen let out a loud and frustrated cry before she turned to check behind her, then whirling left and then right to check her peripherals. She started to back into the spot, straightened up and then angled it in. When Jesse jumped out, moving Brian safely to the sidewalk, he didn't dare mention that Gretchen may be able to fit his twin mattress between the curb and her wheels, but half parallel parked was better than no parking at all! "How'd you do that, man?!" Gretchen asked, coming around to hug Shaun enthusiastically. Shaun remained stiff and unaffected. "Found a bouncer. Stared him down. Told him if the fucking bar want's a show, then they're going to have to kick some asshole out," suddenly, Shaun cracked a smile. "I guess he knew who I was. Who Defaced is. He said he knew just the asshole to kick out," Shaun held his hands out, presenting the procured parking space in which Gretchen's Mazda was parked. "Abracadabra. There's your spot." Shaun relaxed the slightest bit. He at least unfolded his arms. Gretchen was still clinging to him though and watching them look into each other's eyes, Jesse felt sick with jealousy and anger. Why were they looking at each other like that?! Jesse's ass was still on fucking FIRE! Why were they looking at each other like that?!? Gretchen randomly broke into gales of laughter, finally releasing Shaun and doubling over, clutching her stomach. Shaun was smirking, looking rather pleased with himself. Jesse couldn't take it a second longer. "What's so funny?" Finally, Shaun looked at him. The smirk was instantly gone and his eyes were just as dark and unreadable as they had been earlier, while Shaun had pinned him to the bed and called him a whore. Gretchen was still laughing, getting little Brian to laugh along with her, she was giggling so hard. "C'mon. Let's get inside," Shaun popped open the back door and pulled out his guitar. He tucked it under his arm. He also grabbed Gretchen's bass drum and he struggled only momentarily before he got a hold on it. "I'm going to grab that bouncer. He said he'd help us load shit in. I guess this place doesn't have any stagehands." Shaun turned promptly and disappeared inside the bar. There were quite a few college kids hanging out front, girls in end-of-the-summer skimpy skirts and shorts and guys in wifebeaters that showed off their muscles and tans. Gretchen grabbed the majority of her shit. Jesse could only grab one case, as he only had the one hand at the moment, and Brian was able to carry the snare case. It had a little strap and he and Gretchen put it over the kid's shoulder like a little bookbag. Brian was trilled he was getting to help and he was bouncing up and down, waiting impatiently for Jesse and Gretchen to grab their shit and take him into the venue. "So, seriously. What was so funny?" Jesse asked, unwilling to let it go just because no one had answered him. Gretchen shouldered her second tom case, Jesse had her first, and rolled her eyes. She started to go into the bar and Jesse followed her, reminding Brian to hold onto his belt loop because he didn't want him to get lost. "Gretchen!" The inside of the bar was huge and packed with people. The bar was lit up neon yellow and wrapped all the way around the room. It was mounted with huge plasma screens, every one showing a different game. The back half of the room was full of high top tables with little amber lights hanging over them. The whole back wall had floor-to-ceiling dark tinted windows and the lamps reflected off their mirrored surfaces. It was a really cool effect. "Gretchen!! C'mon!" Jesse ordered Brian, the little blond at his side looking up at him with huge, fear filled eyes, to absolutely NOT let go of his belt loop and wishing he had a fucking free hand, Jesse pushed through the crowd, following the tuft of Gretchen's black hair through the crowd and towards the bar. The crowd consisted of more college kids, go figure, but they didn't all match the stereotype that they'd passed outside. Some of the girls had dark makeup on, wore band shirts and had piercings and tattoos. The guys ranged from the typical jock to the more usual lot of Shaun's fans. Jesse passed quite a few guys with long hair, guys wearing all black and even a few with chipped painted fingernails. He even saw a guy with 3D implants in his forehead. He had fucking horns! "Gretch!" Jesse saw the girl stop a few bodies away from the bar and Jesse checked to make sure he still had his son attached to his hip, before he hauled ass in the goth girl's direction. The redhead ended up running straight into Gretchen's back. She whirled, her mouth already open with some insult from her illustrious repertoire, but when she saw it was just Jesse, she seemed to deflate. "We're all here guys," she said, turning back to the bar and indeed, Ben was leaning back against the bar, a drink in hand, waving merrily and between him and Gretchen was Shaun who was handing off Gretchen's drum and guitar to a short but hella built guy in a tight black t-shirt. The guy was shaved and had a solitary gold ring in his ear. Jesse watched the guy lift Gretchen's bass drum, watched the big guy's muscles flex. He went off in the direction of the high tops, and Jesse suddenly noticed that the entire back wall was not just windows. There was a glass door that led outside. "Where's he going?" Ben pushed himself off the bar, a little too enthusiastically actually, and he stumbled and sloshed his drink at Jesse's feet. "Eww!" Brian cried, dropping Jesse's belt loop and backing up. Jesse dropped the tom case and latched onto Brian's wrist before he could get out of reach. "Dude! My bad!" Ben laughed obnoxiously and Jesse took a closer look at the bassist. His face was flushed and his eyes were glassy. He was fucking wasted! "Oh, sweet! Is this your kid?" Jesse hushed the older man up with a finger to his lips. "Shut it, Ben! He doesn't know about that!" "Know about what?" Jesse gave the older man a pointed look but that was getting Ben nowhere. "Oh! Is he like a Jack Nicholson kid? You know, Nicholson though his mother was his sister through his whole childhood. Pretty weird, man." Shaun cleared his throat, loudly, to be heard over Ben's ramblings and the other hundreds of conversations from the bar's patrons. "Chad, that's the bouncer," Shaun clarified, STILL not looking Jesse in the eyes as he did so. "He's helping us load. I guess the stage's on the patio." "Thanks," Jesse said, feeling flushed and stupidly panicked but Brian was simply looking up at the adults with his wide-eyed interest. "Ben, this is Jesse's little brother," and here, Shaun paused to punch Ben in the arm. "Jesse's little brother is named Brian. Ben laughed and rubbed his arm but whether he got the hint or not wasn't clear. He knelt down though, nearly kneeling right in his spilled puddle of beer. "Hi, Brian. I'm Ben. I'm a friend of Jesse's and Shaun's. I'm in the band too." "Hi Ben," little Brian gave the cheery faced bassist a shy smile. "I think we met once before," he said. "You came over to visit when Jesse was sitting on Shaun's thingy." Jesse blushed and Ben dissolved into laughter. Shaun was looking embarrassed as well, but little Brian was clueless. "I actually remember that now! Ha!" Ben continued to laugh until Shaun punched him in the arm again and Ben stopped. Apparently that had actually hurt. "Anyways," Ben said loudly. "Since we're all here, I think we can get this party started! WHOO!" Ben sloshed the last of his beer when he threw his arms up over his head and hooted like an idiot. Shaun was glaring at Ben. Gretchen had her hand over her mouth, covering laughter. Jesse hoped the show would go alright. It was out of everyone's hands now. Chad returned to grab Gretchen's haul and Shaun and Ben valiantly took Jesse's and Brian's loads, making things a hell of a lot easier for everyone. They snaked through the crowd, towards the back, the so-called patio/stage, and now that Jesse had a good grip on Brian's arm, he simply hauled the kid up onto his hip and ran after Gretchen. He grabbed her arm, pulling up next to her finally, walking in step with her. "Please, why won't you just tell me what was so funny outside? "Huh?" Jesse wanted to smack his head into a wall! "Gretchen! Are you fucking Shaun? Are you guys messing around?!" "What?!?!" Gretchen paused right there in the middle of the serving area to have herself another good old laugh. Jesse glanced towards the remaining members of their party, watched Shaun and Ben walk off without even noticing the other half of their group was missing. He stopped beside Gretchen, just watching her laugh. "What the fuck, Gretchen? Why were you hanging off him and staring into his eyes? Why was that so funny?!?!" "We kissed, ok? When you guys were split up." "What?" Jesse asked, not understanding what he was hearing. He didn't realize Gretchen hadn't heard him until the goth girl cocked her head to the side, cupped her hand to her ear. Jesse suddenly felt like he was going to explode. "Ow! Jesse! OW!" Jesse released Brian, setting the toddler down on his own two feet. "You squeezed me really hard!" Brian yelled at him. Jesse stared from Gretchen to the little blond boy glaring up at him. But how could Shaun have kissed her?! Gretchen was already laughing again, watching him implode. "Why would you kiss him?!" Jesse spat, the white hot flare of anger he'd felt watching Gretchen and Shaun embrace earlier returning with a vengeance. "Why would HE kiss YOU?!" Gretchen promptly flicked him off. "Come off it. We were both laughing because after he kissed me, we both had to pretty much brush our teeth and swig some mouthwash," Gretchen took out her phone and flicked through it for a minute. "Look." Fearing the worse, Jesse cautiously took the phone from Gretchen. It was a picture of Shaun. It looked kind of dim and there were beer slogans on the wall behind him. Must have been taken at a bar. It was obviously a candid shot, because Shaun wasn't smiling or even looking at the camera really, but his lips were covered with Gretchen's black lipstick. "Gross!" Jesse threw the phone back at her and Gretchen squawked and dove for her phone, saving it before it crashed to the floor. "Dick!" "Why would you show me that?! What the fuck!" Jesse yelped. His balls were suddenly in a vice and Brian was trying his best to yell something beside him. Something like: "Don't hurt my brother!" Gretchen was very close to him and her claw-like hand was currently wrapped around his rapidly shrinking balls. She got in his face. "We were at the bar after our first successful practice since the car accident. Shaun was thrilled and I'd just rescheduled all our shows for the week. So it was me and Shaun and Ben, since he's in the band too, as I'm sure you know. And then, since me and Ben had been discussing options of how best to get Shaun to practice and shows, I asked him to move in with me. He was so fucking happy he leaned across the table and kissed me. We both spat and wiped our mouths off and I took the picture because me and Ben wanted to show him how goofy he looked." It sounded like a likely story. Gretchen slowly released her hold on Jesse's balls. "I like you a lot kid. I like Shaun too. He's alright. Brian's not even half bad. But fuck you. Fuck you for thinking I'd need to sneak around and steal someone else's man. I would NOT do that. I told Shaun to ask you to move in too, the night of our oh so fated kiss. I was, am and never will be interested in Shaun. Got that?" Jesse nodded dumbly and Gretchen curled her lip, shaking her head, and she simply turned and walking off after the rest of the band. Gretchen left Jesse standing there, staring after her, feeling stupid and petty. His ass burned. His balls ached. Brian was crying beside him, asking why Gretchen got so mean and scary all of a sudden. "It's my fault," Jesse admitted, picking Brian up again. People around them were starting to stare. It hadn't been completely obvious that Jesse had a kid with him when Brian was being quiet and just hanging out. Now he was a huge baby and needed to be carried. Jesse turned to head towards the front, thinking he'd take Brian outside to calm him down and explain, but he didn't know if he'd even get back in. Chad, the bouncer, whoever the fuck he was, wasn't up front anymore. Jesse could see a couple tight black shirted guys milling around the entrance and Jesse had been kicked out of shows before. He'd rather not have that happen again, especially not with Brian present. So Jesse rubbed Brian's back and Brian laid his head down on Jesse's shoulder. It was the perfect opportunity for Jesse to whisper reassurances to the toddler and he was reminded of doing the same for Shaun earlier that day. Before Shaun had ripped his ass open, anyway. This time, Jesse's reassurances seemed to do the trick and after Jesse took them on a slow walk around the perimeter of the bar, Brian was picking his head up again, looking around curiously and Jesse figured they were ready to go join the show. He picked his way through the crowd, back to the infamous door to the patio. A couple goofy looking guys were coming inside just as Jesse reached the door and Jesse slipped past them, finally getting outside. The patio was almost as large as the inside. The whole area was paved in sandstone and was blocked off from the street and other businesses with a tall privacy fence. There was a smaller bar out here too, along the back side of the building. There was an awning over it, strung up with little white lanterns. There were some picnic tables in the middle for seating but off to the right there was the stage and a wide open area filled with people in front of it. The stage was probably the least exciting thing Jesse had seen at The Tipsy Cow. It was basically just a platform with a tarp tented over top. The large speakers on either side were under the little tarp too and as of right now, it looked like Defaced was on stage setting up. Jesse could see Shaun standing center stage, tuning his guitar with his back turned to the excited audience. "Look! It's Shaun!" Brian pointed towards the stage, as if Jesse hadn't been just staring at him. "Want to get closer?" Jesse asked but he was already moving up in the crowd, trying to find a decent spot so they could see. Jesse found them a spot up near the front, off to the left side. If Jesse still had Gretchen's camera he might have tried to get a better angle but honestly they had a great view of Shaun and Ben, who seemed to be clumsily messing with his amp. Gretchen was on the left and one of the poles holding up the tent of a tarp was blocking her from view. "Can I sit on your shoulders?" Brian asked and Jesse sighed and set Brian down, crouching to a ridiculous low level so the little boy could climb up with the help of only one of Jesse's arms. Jesse swayed, slightly off balance, but he held onto Brian's left leg with a death grip and Brian, thank god, sat pretty steady. The set up lasted several more minutes. Shaun eventually just stalked over to Ben, pushed him towards the mike and finished hooking Ben's shit up for him. Jesse just wished he could have a minute alone with him. Jesse could tell from the way Shaun was standing that he was tense. From what he could see of Gretchen, it appeared she was watching Ben, finally with some concern, rather than amusement. "Ok, we finally got this bullshit set up," Shaun growled into his mike. There were a few cheers but mostly, just laughs. "Alright," Shaun continued, staring out into the crowd. Jesse glanced over his shoulders, seeing more people flooding outside from the bar. "Well, I think it's fucking ironic that we're here to play for your back-to-school fest, or whatever the fuck. I actually just dropped out Monday. Couldn't be fucking happier." There were more cheers this time, more laughter. "Yeah man! Fuck this place!" some loud idiot in the back yelled. There was more laughter from the crowd. Shaun was smiling up on the stage. He seemed to be making eye signals to Ben, and when the bassist nodded, after a good 10 second delay, Shaun's smile turned into a grin. "I actually wrote a new song for those bastards I left behind. And even if none of them ever fucking hear it, it's for them. It's called Thoughtless." Thumbing through the pages of my fantasies I'm above you, smiling at you, drown, drown, drown I wanna kill and rape you the way you raped me And I'll pull the trigger And you're down, down, down Why are you trying to make fun of me? You think it's funny? What the fuck you think it's doing to me? You take your turn lashing out at me I want you crying with your dirty ass in front of me All of my hate cannot be found I will not be drowned by your thoughtless scheming So you can try to tear me down Beat me to the ground I will see you screaming As the song finished up, Jesse couldn't tear his eyes away from Shaun. So, maybe Shaun hadn't been so cool with dropping out of school after all. Maybe he hadn't fared as well as Jesse thought he had during their week apart. This was the song he'd been working on and excited for? A song about seeking vengeance his past enemies? Fuck, Jesse was concerned and he wanted to get Shaun alone, ASAP! He wanted to talk to him. Needed to make sure he was ok. But mostly, Jesse just wanted to know why Shaun had hurt him so much. And Jesse had a feeling he understood. "That was cool!" Brian chirped up from Jesse's shoulders and frankly, for a moment, Jesse had almost forgotten he was even holding him! "Shaun! Shaun!" Brian screamed at the top of his little lungs, waving his arms like he was on-site working for airport traffic control. And Shaun, right before he started the next set, actually fucking physically waved back at Brian and Brian cheered with excitement. "He sees us!" "Good job, Bri," Jesse laughed, squeezing the little boy's thigh in congratulations. For the next hour, Jesse became stiffer and sorer with Brian on his shoulders but he wasn't leaving the front for any reason. Since Brian had flagged Shaun down, Shaun was now throwing extremely loaded looks in Jesse's direction in between sets. Jesse's eyes remained locked on Shaun's face, watching his every move intently. The crowd, it seemed, was loving the show. Shaun was smoking hot, stalking up and down The Tipsy Cow's little stage, headbanging, calling out to the crowd to excite them. Even his silly frizzy hair wasn't looking so bad nowadays. It was getting pretty long and Jesse actually liked it. Once Shaun started to work up a sweat, his hair hung straight, with the slightest bit of wave to it. With him swinging his hair around, Shaun looked the part. He sounded the part, he was the metal god he'd intended to become and whether Shaun realized it or not, he was absolutely killing it! Brian continued to enjoy the show, clapping along with the audience, swaying back and forth to the tune, making Jesse's job of keeping him upright a lot more difficult. Lucky brat didn't even have to stand! When the show wrapped up and Shaun wished his new and old fans alike a good, safe night, Jesse quickly squatted back down, letting Brian slide down his back. "Let's go see Shaun!" "We're allowed?!" "Sure, why not?" Jesse firmly took the little blond's hand and pulled him through the slowly dispersing crowd up towards the little stage. Shaun was waiting for him, watching as Jesse weaved his way through the masses of drunk college students to get to him. "What'd you think of the show, little man?" Shaun asked as soon as they got close. Brian broke their hand contact and ran straight for the stage. Shaun crouched down, grabbing Brian's hand and zipping him up to the top. "It was awesome!" Brian cried, giggling as Shaun swung him around once before returning him to his feet. "You guys were so cool and you were doing this…" Brian shook his head like a dog shaking off water. "And this!" Brian did some poor air guitar, but he got his meaning across. He was certainly cute while doing it. Jesse had finally made his way to the stage and Shaun was standing up there, looking down at him. "Can I come up?" "I'd rather come down," Shaun said. "Yeah, fuck! We'll get this shit torn down in a minute, there's a bar right over there!" Ben crowed, shrugging off his bass and setting it down carelessly. He nearly tripped on the wires on his way off the stage but Gretchen was already running after him, laughing but putting a helping hand on his shoulder, making him slow down and step carefully. "You want a drink?" Shaun asked, turning to Brian. "I'm so so thirsty," Brian whined, his bottom lip protruding. "Fuck, Jess, I think this kid's gonna expire," Shaun laughed, scooping Brian up and carefully handing him down. "We'd better get some water. Fast," Jesse agreed. "I don't want water! Eww!" Brian spat out his tongue. "What were those big orange drinks we saw on that long table inside? I want one of those!" "No, no Bahama Mamas today," Jesse smirked, pinching Brian's fat little cheek. He batted Jesse's hand away, his pout intensifying. They didn't even get halfway to the bar before Shaun was approached by a pair of metalhead looking guys. They had an ugly chick with them with a choker and a leash attached. All three of them were looking at Shaun like he was some kind of God and feeling a tad annoyed, Jesse patted his boyfriend on the back as platonically as possible and said he'd meet him at the bar. Shaun looked deeply into his eyes but Jesse still couldn't quite figure out what the look meant. Jesse ended up dragging a sulky faced Brian to the bar. Then of course he remembered he had no money or an ID so he slid down until he was sitting next to Gretchen and Ben. "Oh, there you are," Gretchen said, blinking with surprise when she turned to find Jesse and Brian sitting glumly at her side. "I didn't see you. I thought maybe you left." "Seriously? Me and Brian were just up on the stage." Gretchen smiled. "Whatever. I'm glad you're here, I was just telling Ben how freaked out you were by that picture of Shaun." "No you weren't, fuck you." Gretchen stuck her tongue out. "Naw, I was just complimenting Ben's playing. I didn't think he'd make it. Like at all! Good save, Ben. You almost ruined all that hard work we put in!" Ben, already deep into another beer, flicked Gretchen off as he took a swig. Gretchen giggled and Ben burped and then started laughing too. "I came here straight after work! I've been drinking the whole afternoon!" "Oh Jesus," Gretchen slapped an arm around Ben's shoulder. "I really feel bad. I can't believe my sister is a destroyer of men! I seriously have to do something!" "I have an idea," Ben said, taking another swig off his beer, laughing raunchily into his drink. "No!" Gretchen said immediately, but she was grinning hugely. "I think I know where this one is going. Nope!" "Where's it going?" Ben continued to laugh like a fucking asshole. Jesse was confused because it really seemed like Gretchen and Ben were making a joke about sleeping together. It would have been funny, if they hadn't just been at Ben's wedding last week! Someone tapped him in the small of the back and he turned, coming face to face with an epic pout and teary eyes. "Jesse, I really am thirsty. I can drink water, I guess." Oh for the love of god! Jesse melted in an instant, turning back to his friends and interrupting their flirting. He had a feeling Ben would thank him tomorrow anyway. "Guys, I'm really sorry, but I don't have any cash on me and Brian's super thirsty." "Oh! Shit!" Gretchen got up, coming around to Jesse's other side. "What do you want to drink? I'll get you something. Do you like Coke or Mountain Dew or…I don't know what kids fucking drink, shit," and then Gretchen just casually pulled a wad of cash out of her fucking cleavage. "Oh god, boob money!" Jesse covered his eyes. Behind him, Ben was literally pounding the bar top he was laughing so hard. Jesse rolled his eyes, wishing that he had something to drink too, but he wasn't going to press his luck. "Mountain Dew's good," Brian said, the pout already softening. "Miss Gretchen? Are you really mad at my brother?" "Pfft, no," Gretchen said. "Sometimes friends fight, don't they? Great friends make up. Me and Jesse made up, ok?" "Ok!" Brian was smiling again, and Gretchen ventured further down the bar to grab the bartender. "So, how's it been Ben? Really?" Jesse asked the bassist. Ben pushed his now empty beer glass a little too hard towards the back of the bar top and the glass slid off the edge, shattering behind the bar. Jesse covered his face, mortified, but next to him, Brian was laughing. Ben started to chuckle too and then he fucking stood up on his stool and yelled further down the bar: "Hey! Sorry! Take it out of my pay! Alright?" Jesse continued to keep his face covered as he listened to Ben struggle and fumble his way back down to his bar stool. "Your kid thinks I'm funny," Ben said when he had returned. Jesse removed his hands, groaning. "Hey, kid, tell your dad I'm funny." Jesse covered his face again listening helplessly as Brian informed Ben that Jesse wasn't his father. He didn't have one. "Oh, shit," Ben slapped a hand over his mouth. "Did I say something wrong?" "Oh yeah," Jesse said, not entirely lying. He could probably salvage the situation. "You just fucking blew my goddamn cover." Ben hissed loudly, as if he did it loud enough it might take back his fucking words. It didn't. "Here you go kid, drink up!" Gretchen had returned and she dropped a tall glass of Mountain Dew in front of Brian. It had a fucking long blue bendy straw and Brian nearly swallowed it in his hurry to quench his undying thirst. "We should actually get the fuck out of here. That dude running the bar down there? Yeah, he's totally not cool about you breaking the glass. He said if he had to come pick it up and you were still here, he'd get us banned." "Oh fucking no! I'll never be able to come back to The Tipsy Cow! Fudge!" Gretchen marched around both Brian and Jesse and slapped Brian upside the head. "OWW!" "They'll dock our payment too. Fuck paying for the glass, you aren't cheating me out of a hundred bucks!" "Ok, fine. But what about this fucking party," Ben asked, absently rubbing at the sore spot on the side of his head. "Because my night ain't over! No sir!" "Can you believe this lush?" Gretchen asked Jesse over her shoulder, chuckling. "Well, you're in no state to drive. And I've got to get the little nuclear family home before 9, and here's daddy now! Hey Shaun! Did you enjoy signing autographs? Kissing babies?" Jesse turned, grinning when he saw that Shaun was standing just behind his and Brian's chairs. Shaun leaned over little Brian and kissed the top of his head. "There," he said. "Single autograph signed. Single baby kissed." Gretchen rolled her eyes. "So, we're all trying to figure out how to get out of here and keep our payment." "Huh?" "Ugh! Nevermind," Gretchen dug deeper in her fucking cleavage, retrieving her goddamn keychain. She dangled the set of keys before Shaun, and Jesse was happy to note Shaun's similar look of disgust when the keys fell unwillingly into his palm. He was stupid to have suspected Shaun of cheating. That kid was so gay and he didn't even know it! "Listen, me and party boy are going to have some fun tonight," Gretchen said, putting her arm around Ben's shoulder's again. She drew him down off the barstool, holding onto him every step of the way. She looked like she was holding back more laughter. "Don't you think he's had enough for one night? He could have totally sabotaged us," Shaun said, peering at Ben, frowning deeply. "No, no, it's my sister that's sabotaging us." Shaun grunted. "I guess maybe I can agree with you." "So, we're going to have some fun tonight and talk about what the fuck to do! I'm sorry I ever said your little monster was bad, Jesse, because my sister is an even bigger monster and she's devouring our bassist!" Jesse snorted. "Yeah. Ok." "Shit, here comes that bartender! I've got to get him to the car. Don't worry about our stuff, grab yours and go. You guys can do whatever except total my Mazda. Or burn down my house. Don't do that." "Noted," Shaun said. "Gotta go! Bye!" Gretchen and Ben lurched off, on account of Ben's lack of balance and coordination, Gretchen really was a trooper it seemed, leading the drunk. "What the fuck happened?" Shaun asked. "I don't know. Let's find that Chad guy again and promise to sign anything he wants. Let's get this shit packed and let's go." Shaun arched a brow. "You want to go right now?" "I think we need to talk," Jesse said, disbelieving he actually had to spell this out. Shaun was instantly sheepish and he was suddenly avoiding Jesse's gaze again. "Yeah, I'll go see if I can find him. I'll be back," and Shaun backed up and literally vanished within the crowd. "Motherfucker," Jesse cursed under his breath. "What?" "Nothing," Jesse said, rubbing Brian's back and watching him drink the fuck out of that Mountain Dew. The bartender also swung by, and glared at them both while he picked up Ben's glass. Jesse fought the urge to hide behind his hands again. Brian had nearly finished his entire glass of pop, the full 2 liters just about, when Shaun was back. Putting a hand on Jesse's shoulder, squeezing firmly. "I found Chad again. He said he'd meet me at the stage in a couple minutes. We're going to break everyone's shit down, I'm not fucking abandoning Gretchen with Ben's drunk ass. She'll never get everything packed." "Alright." Shaun handed Jesse Gretchen's keys. "Do you want to go wait in the car?" "Hell yes," Jesse accepted the keys, nearly forgetting himself and kissing Shaun. "See you soon?" "Yeah, like 15 minutes." Already feeling better, Jesse picked Brian up again and touched Shaun lightly on the wrist as they passed each other. That would have to tide him over until Shaun finished up. Then they'd have to wait through the car ride home. Then they'd have to wait until Brian fell asleep and that wasn't until late now that he was up at daycare until sometimes after midnight. "Do we have more to eat back at the house?" Brian asked. He was sitting up front, in Jesse's lap again. Jesse was still feeling really sore and he couldn't wait to get back to Gretchen's and to get Brian to bed. After all this carrying and holding and genital abuse, Jesse was really looking forward to relaxing. He was also trying to organize his thoughts because the conversation laid out before him and Shaun was going to be perilous and full of pitfalls. "Yep. I can make you a PB&J or you could snack on some popcorn." "The one with lots of butter?" "Of course." Brian did a little dance, making Jesse chuckle. He turned the radio on and he and Brian sang along to some of the songs. Jesse was happy to keep the toddler entertained. Shaun came out of The Tipsy Cow a lot sooner than Jesse had expected. He was alone, carrying just his guitar and amp. He placed both in the back before jogging around to the driver's side. "We're good to go," Shaun said, revving up the engine. He flicked on the lights, it was almost 10:30, before he pulled carefully out onto the road. Brian was a chatterbox again the whole way back to Gretchen's place. He wanted to know everything about the band, how the songs were made, how Gretchen's and Ben's parts fit in. Shaun seemed light and carefree and he laughed easily. After driving for a few minutes, Jesse felt Shaun's hand on his knee. Jesse slid his free hand onto Shaun's, touching the older boy's rough skin tentatively. Shaun didn't say anything about it, didn't even look away from the highway, he just curled his fingers around Jesse's. It took Shaun a little longer to get back to the house than it had for Gretchen to get them to the venue. The ride was pleasant and relaxed however and Jesse didn't once feel like his life was at risk. "So they're really going to that party?" Jesse asked once Brian had finally run out of questions. They were entering Gretchen's neighborhood now. The ride was almost over. "Fuck, I guess," Shaun said. "I went out and found them back in the parking lot. Gretchen was trying to get Ben in the car. He was super fucked up. I helped her get him in and had her pull around behind the bar so me and Chad could load them up." "That was pretty nice of you guys," Jesse said, squeezing Shaun's hand. Shaun squeezed back. "I don't know how we made it through that show," Shaun said. "Guess it was luck." "Fate is a better word for it." Shaun quirked a smile at him, taking the last turn to get onto Gretchen's street. It was only a few more moments before they were pulling into the drive and cutting the engine. Shaun hung back at the car, collecting his equipment. He handed over the house keys for Jesse to run ahead and get the door and Brian trailed after him, following him inside and to the kitchen. Shaun was right behind them and as Jesse rummaged through the freshly stocked cupboards for Brian's bag of popcorn, he instructed the toddler to follow Shaun into the bedroom and to have Shaun help him pick out jammies and pull-ups. They all met in the living room a couple minutes later. Brian was in an oversized batman t-shirt and he happily accepted his bowl of popcorn and his cup of juice. Shaun found the remote, wedged into Gretchen's armchair, and turned the TV on. The channel was still on HBO and as soon as Brian saw the current movie was animated, he cried for Shaun to leave it on. "I really wanted to see this!" Brian said, settling down in front of the coffee table, shoving a tiny handful of popcorn into his mouth. "Tyler and Allison saw it at camp! Now I get to, too!" "Ugh," Shaun groaned under his breath and Jesse smirked at him. "You can go jump in the shower if you want," Jesse told him. "I'll watch the kid's movie." "I'd rather shower with you," Shaun said, his dark eyes a tad bit softer than they had been earlier. Jesse could see the lust in Shaun's eyes. He could also see some love and compassion, shining in those deep dark depths, but Jesse shook his head. And then Brian started laughing across the room, nearly knocking his bowl off the table as he jumped up and ran to tug on Shaun's sleeve. "C'mon guys! This is really funny! Come watch!" "In a minute, baby," Jesse told the kid, absently ruffling his hair. "Ok!" Brian cried, giggling as he ran back to his spot on the floor. He shoved more popcorn into his mouth. "Someone's got to stay out here with Brian," Jesse said, pointing after the little kid. "Then we'll take turns," Shaun said, scowling. Jesse smiled at him, stepping closer, feeling stupidly nervous but hoping it would pay off. He took the last step, the step that brought him toe to toe with Shaun. "We'll wait for Brian to pass out, we'll have a little talk and then I guess we'll go to bed," Jesse bit his lip. "I really want to know what was happening in your head today." Shaun sighed, his eyes leaving Jesse's face in an instant. "Look at me," Jesse said, softly, reaching up, cupping Shaun's cheek. Shaun's eyes met Jesse's and finally, Jesse felt like the visage Shaun had constructed to hide his emotions was breaking and falling away. Shaun's eyes burned hot and dark with passion, devotion and love but there was so much sadness there as well, so much anger and confusion and fear and pain. Jesse stretched up onto his tip-toes and kissed Shaun softly on the mouth. Shaun's lips were dry, but Shaun kissed him back, just as gently, just a careful slide of lips, Jesse's palm warming against Shaun's cheek. "I hurt you," Shaun said when they pulled back from one another. Jesse caressed Shaun's cheek, but the other boy's skin was paling rapidly. "I fucking messed up. Again!" "Jesse! Shaun! C'mon you're missing the whole thing!" Brian whined, and Jesse glanced his way, seeing the toddler busily licking the extra butter off his fingers. "We'll talk about this later," Jesse said, and not being able to resist, Jesse hooked his good arm around Shaun's neck and pulled him down for another kiss. Shaun kissed him back a bit more desperately than before. Jesse could feel Shaun's tongue pressing against his lips, seeking entrance, but Jesse laughed and released the older boy. Shaun was stuck with a kissy face, just for a moment. Then he pulled back as well, straightened up and glared. "How long do we got until he's asleep?" "Probably another hour," Jesse said. "It's a quarter after 11, right?" "Just about," Shaun said. "He'll be getting sleepy by midnight, then." Shaun nodded and then turned to leave the room. Jesse, on the other hand, went to join Brian on the couch. "Is Shaun coming back?" Brian asked, but he didn't tear his eyes away from the screen. It looked like some talking animal movie. The main characters were a rabbit and a fox. "Yeah, he's just getting a shower. Did you see how sweaty he got on stage?" "I did!" Brian said excitedly. "I'm probably sweaty too. Can I get a bath?" Brian's bath times usually took 40 minutes to an hour. He stayed in there for as long as possible. Until he was a prune. Jesse definitely wasn't up for that. "Are you kidding me? You got carried everywhere, you sat on my shoulders the whole concert…what are you sweaty from? Sitting around?" Brian giggled, smearing a buttery finger down his cheek. "Can I get a bath now?" Jesse yanked Brian up onto the couch, kissing said cheek until it was pink and clean again, fighting Brian to keep him still. "No! Nooooo!" Brian was laughing and squirming around delightedly. "I want to get a bath!" "Tomorrow night. I promise," Jesse said, releasing the blond toddler at last. "Now let me watch the movie!" "Ok!" It was maybe a half hour before Shaun returned. His hair was wet and he had sweats and a pull-over hoodie on. He gave Jesse a pointed look, sliding onto the couch on Brian's other side. "The bathroom's free." "See you in a minute then." Jesse grabbed some sleep clothes and ventured into the bathroom. He stripped and climbed in the shower. "Fuck," Jesse muttered as he stuck a wet finger up his ass. There were pink tinges of blood in the water, Shaun really had to explain why he'd used so much force. Jesse's hole really stung and hurt. He took a quick shower, but felt a million times fresher and cleaner afterwards. He slid out, grabbing Shaun's towel and drying off. He got into boxers and a t-shirt. When Jesse came back out to the living room, Brian's popcorn was gone. He'd finished his little cup of juice and Shaun had hit the lights. The room was dark, and the movie was coming to an end on the HBO channel. "Hey," Jesse said softly as he took a seat on Brian's left. Shaun, on Brian's right, looked at Jesse over the blond's head. "I think he's asleep." Jesse peered down at the little boy. Brian's eyes were half open but staring blankly at the television. "Almost," Jesse said, grinning. The movie ended, Jesse was staring at the time on the cable box. It was exactly midnight when the credits started rolling and Brian closed his eyes entirely. "C'mon," Jesse whispered and Shaun got up, following Jesse out of the living room. Jesse shut the door when they got to the bedroom but he didn't lock it. If Brian woke up alone out in the living room he'd freak out and run to find them. Shaun sat on the bed. Jesse stood over him, watching him. "So, can you explain what happened today?" Shaun shrugged his shoulders. Jesse hadn't really been expecting anything groundbreaking but he still wanted to get the grumpy boy to talk. "Did you mean it?" Jesse asked, his voice whispery, fearful. "You're not going to let me leave?" Shaun shrugged again. "I don't want you to leave. I'd like to keep you here." "So you raped me to show me you were right?" Shaun scoffed, looking up rebelliously. "I didn't rape you. You let me do anything I like." "Because I trust you. Because you always take care of me. All you did today was hold me down and hurt me!" Shaun averted his eyes and looked down again. "Yeah. Maybe." Jesse sighed and came to sit beside Shaun on the bed. He gently took Shaun's hand. "I was a little freaked out by your new song tonight too," Jesse said. "It sounded…kind of violent." Shaun laughed. "I'll agree with you there." "Are you ok Shaun?" Jesse asked. "How was it this week, without me?" Shaun hesitated for a minute, making a face, scowling at seemingly nothing. "It was fucking bullshit," he said, finally. "We went over the song, but Angela was totally ruining practice, harassing Ben nonstop…I wanted to beat her face in," Shaun clenched his hand into a fist and both of them looked at it. At the force behind his single hand… "You're not coming back to the school to kill everybody are you?" Jesse asked in a rush. Both of Shaun's eyebrows shot up to his hairline. "What? No! Why? So I can rot in jail while the world cries and builds them memorials? Fuck that," Shaun crossed his arms, pulling his hand out of Jesse's. "I'd rather be rich and famous and rub it in their faces." Jesse smiled. "That sounds inspiring." "Thanks," Shaun spat. Jesse sighed, deciding to just change the subject again. "Listen, things with my mom are really bad right now. She's a total bitch…" "All the better reason for you to move here. Be with me," Shaun bitched. "I don't know why we have to keep having this stupid argument!" "I'm afraid that if things don't work out, I'll be stuck, on my own with Brian or something," Jesse snapped. "I know for a fact my mom won't let me come back home if I leave. She'll never let me come back," Jesse shook his head. "So! You'll never have too!" Jesse rubbed his face, just wishing they could see eye to eye. "Can we just agree that you need to save up and get a car first?" Jesse said. "You're right. Things would be a lot easier if you still had the Mustang but before we and Brian move in and start spending up all your money on food and clothes and pull-ups and shit, fuck those pull-ups are like $50 a box!" Jesse cried. "Did you know that?" Shaun's arms remained crossed. It looked like he was pouting almost. "Before we and all our expenses move in, save up for a car. It's going to be really important," Jesse said. "Just work on that. Try not to focus on the other bullshit. I'm here. As much as I can be and I love you. I want this," Jesse gestured to the room, the house at large. "I want you. But I need some security first." "So, when I get a car we'll talk again?" Shaun asked slowly. "Yeah. And I think we'll be able to work something out," Jesse said, smiling. "You guys don't practice or play shows during the day, so I could borrow it, take myself to school, and be back by the time you'd need it. You'll have to watch Brian. It'll be the cheapest option for now, but he's not hard." Shaun looked at him, his eyes guarded. "I'm sorry I held you down earlier," he said. "I missed you, insanely, this week. The phone calls only helped a little." "Maybe we should try phone sex," Jesse said, laughing nervously. Shaun wasn't amused. "I still really think you should just stay with me. It'd make me a lot happier having you around." Jesse's heart swelled at that. "I know. But it'll be easier and faster to save up for a car if we aren't sucking up your money. You don't have $400 anymore. It's like $325, after I went shopping. For enough food for the weekend." Shaun shrugged. "I guess," he said. "If Gretchen's willing to get takeout the rest of the week, I'd let her. Monica's feeding us at home…that's about the only thing she's good for lately is paying the bills and buying food," Jesse scowled. "If I have to smoke during the week, I'll catch Sam, borrow some off him and you're pretty much rolling in green here, with Gretchen, aren't you?" "She takes care of us," Shaun said. "She said she'd buy after we get this Tipsy Cow payment." "Good. Then that cuts down on your expenses. Almost completely," Jesse told him. "And if we do win Battle of the Bands next month, then we get an advance on top of the recording deal," he said, perking up. Jesse didn't really want to put more pressure on Shaun but he did want to trust in him. If Shaun thought they had this Battle of the Bands, then Jesse wouldn't bring him down. "Then we'll plan for that. We'll get you a car with your savings and the advance." Shaun grinned. "You're right. I didn't take care of you earlier," he said, reaching up to tuck some of Jesse's bright red hair behind his ear. He caressed the shell lovingly. "Can I make it up to you?" Jesse blushed, watching the lust flare to life in Shaun's dark eyes. It was like watching coals burn, the heat in them glowing darkly, heating in their depths. Jesse nodded shyly and in an instant, Shaun was kissing him softly, urging Jesse's mouth open, plunging his tongue into his mouth. Shaun rolled on top of him, pressing his hip down onto Jesse's crotch. As the kiss continued, Jesse had an unpleasant reminder of earlier in the day. Jesse remembered getting hard, rubbing his cock against Shaun's hip, he remembered kissing and licking and sharing spit before Shaun had suddenly gotten mean. Shaun drew back, his eyes deep and dark and hot with lust. His lips were shiny with their spit and he was smirking. "Can I get you naked?" Shaun asked, seeming amused. Jesse nodded again, still feeling shy and cautious but Shaun was hurried and began tearing into Jesse's clothes with abandon after the redhead's approval. He pushed Jesse's t-shirt up and over his head before he slid the boxers down and easily off Jesse's hips. Shaun paused to strip as well, taking off the hoodie, the sweats. He was left hovering over Jesse in an undershirt and nothing else. His heavy cock swung freely just under the hem of his shirt and it bobbed invitingly. "I love you, Jess," Shaun said, and Jesse had to bring his eyes all the way up from Shaun's swinging cock to meet his eyes again. Shaun smirked, looking pleased. "Let me take care of you." Shaun laid down on his stomach, between Jesse's legs, and he drew them up over his shoulders, bringing his face right down into Jesse's crotch. Jesse blushed terribly, embarrassed under all the attention. "Just relax," Shaun whispered and then he was closing his mouth over Jesse's sore little pucker. "Ohhhh!" the mix of pain and pleasure was intoxicating. Jesse's eyes slammed shut and he saw sparks behind his eyes, sparks that flared with the tiny bites of pain and the large swells of pleasure Shaun's mouth brought. Shaun was sucking Jesse's sore hole so gently, his tongue coming out to prod lightly, wetly at the very entrance. He was pushing spit inside, swirling it around, easing his tongue inside slowly and gently and it felt so intimate and frankly, embarrassing, that Jesse wasn't surprised at all to see his cock pointing straight at the ceiling, a jet of precome leaking down the pulsing length. "Think you can take a little finger?" Shaun asked, releasing Jesse's pucker at last. Jesse whined, feeling the cool air brush against his spread and very hot and bothered asshole. "Yes," Jesse hissed, just wanting the hot pleasure to return and this time, Shaun coated his finger in spit before he swallowed Jesse's cock and started to work his finger up his rectum. "Oh, oh, oh!" Jesse gasped, clenching down on his pelvic muscles, trying to starve off the imminent orgasm. "Oh! Shaun!" Shaun's finger was poking his prostate directly, gently stretching his sore opening. Shaun's mouth was doing a number on his cock too, his tongue was doing wicked things to the sensitive spot just under Jesse's cockhead and Jesse loved how Shaun swallowed so strongly around his erection. The feel of Shaun's throat contracting made shivers go up and down Jesse's spine. It felt so delicious. Shaun worked Jesse's lovely little body for several minutes, sucking him, fucking him with his finger, watching him closely the whole time, the lust in his eyes nearly making Jesse explode with need all on their own. "Wait, stop!" Jesse panted. "I'm so close!" Shaun opened his mouth, letting Jesse's wet erection pop out. It fell back to Jesse's belly, smacking wetly. "Come then. Come in my mouth," and he started to swallow Jesse's cock again, his finger crooking just so inside of Jesse's hot little body, awakening another spark of pleasure behind Jesse's eyes. "No! No," Jesse insisted. "I want you inside me when I come. Please. Fuck me. Slowly." Shaun's eyes darkened again and without another word, Shaun got up and went for the bottle of lube stored on his dresser. Shaun absently removed his undershirt and when he turned back it was to display his raging hard-on. "I wasn't sure you'd want to," Shaun said, dumping a significant amount of lube into his hand. He slicked his cock. "It'll probably hurt," Jesse said, watching as Shaun slid back onto the bed between his legs. Jesse wrapped his legs around Shaun's waist, locking him there. "We don't have to then," Shaun said, still not moving away. "I can just jerk off after I finish on you." "Just…slow…" Jesse said softly, reaching up to take Shaun's hand. He pulled the bigger boy closer, pulled him down on top of him. Their lips met, they kissed slowly, the smacking sounds echoing in the dim bedroom. "I love you," Jesse said against Shaun's lips and that was the end of the conversation. Shaun hitched Jesse's leg up higher and lined his cock up and slid inside. It was much easier this time. The pain was dull and continuous but it wasn't sharp and the pleasure was building slowly, wonderfully inside of Jesse. Shaun was fucking him, moving inside of him slowly and his stomach was pressed to Jesse's erection, pulling the skin up and down with every slow thrust. It was lovely. Jesse came first this time, his body shuddering in Shaun's embrace. Shaun held onto him, kissing him deeply while the contractions in Jesse's body wrung an orgasm from him. They held onto each other for a bit afterwards too. Just warm in each other's arms, happy and safe. "I should move Brian in here before he wakes up," Jesse said, feeling like he was in danger of Shaun going to sleep on top of him. It wouldn't be the worst scenario in the world, but he still had to take care of his kid. "Want me to grab him?" "I'll do it." Shaun kissed him again before rolling off. "I'd better get some pants on then," he said as Jesse got up and retrieved his boxers. Jesse ran to the bathroom to clean up then he doubled back down the hall to head to the living room. Brian had fallen to the side in their absence and was asleep with a leg and an arm hanging off the edge of the couch, his head resting on the armrest. The TV was playing the same movie over again and Jesse gladly turned it off. They all deserved to get some rest. "Let's get you to bed," Jesse said, stroking Brian's hair. He would have liked to just pick him up, but with the arm in the cast, Jesse realized Brian would have to walk. "C'mon little man, let's get you up." Brian opened his eyes sleepily. "What?" "C'mon," Jesse drew the little blond up off the couch, leading him down the dark hall and into the dim bedroom. Brian was only half awake and he accepted the move to the sleeping bag without any hassle. Jesse helped him unzip it, climb inside and he piled some blankets on top while Brian got comfortable with the assortment of pillows. Jesse paused to kiss Brian goodnight but the little blond was already drifting off again. Jesse turned the lights off before climbing into bed with Shaun. "Mmm, goodnight," Jesse murmured at Shaun's dark figure. "Mmm, is right," Shaun said back, kissing him again. They settled down together, Brian at their feet, and fell asleep. *** When they woke up the next day, it was to Brian climbing excitedly into their bed, yelling: "Ben and Gretchen are home!" "Fuck!" Shaun yanked the blankets over his head, exposing Jesse cruelly. Jesse doubled over in pain as Brian accidently kicked him in the ribs with all his excited bouncing and jumping. "Dude! Watch what you're doing!" Jesse cried. "Sorry!" Brian called, leaping off the bed and landing with a thud. He tore out of the room, back down the hall. Jesse could hear him making noise down in the kitchen and he sighed and rolled out of bed. "Guess that's all the sleep we get," Jesse complained half-heartedly. He pulled his t-shirt on from last night, glancing over his shoulder at Shaun who was still hiding under the covers. He laughed ."He's gone, you know." Shaun came out, looking a little silly. "I'll leave you to get dressed, alright?" Jesse said, loving the adorably bedraggled look on Shaun's face. He vacated the bedroom, shutting the door behind him for privacy's sake. Gretchen and Ben were in the kitchen with a couple bags of McDonalds. Brian was sitting at the table across from them, eating the pancake breakfast with gusto. "I could have made breakfast," Jesse said, coming to take a seat across from Ben. He looked at the two of them. They looked like shit. "Didn't want to fuck with it," Gretchen said. "Had a hell of a night." "Really?" Ben raised up a can and after blinking a few times, Jesse realized it was more fucking beer! "Hair of the dog," Ben said, draining his can and getting up to get another. "Ok," Jesse laid his palms on the table, pushing the bags out from in front of Gretchen and Ben and seeing they'd been hiding cans of beer. Gretchen scowled at him. "What the hell happened?" "We got a shitty flat tire on the way back last night," Gretchen said, grabbing a bag of McDonalds and tossing a McMuffin at Jesse. "Don't fucking judge! We sat there, waiting for help until 6 in the morning. Then some trucker stopped, gave us a tow and then this fucker realizes Angela canceled his card last night so I had to spring for the new tires!" "Why would she cancel your card?" "Who knows. I'm sure she came to some conclusions of her own last night after my phone died and I never showed up," Ben said, looking almost smug. He cracked his beer and started in on it. "Well, I still had a twenty in my wallet so we grabbed some beer once we got the tire replaced. We felt like we needed it." It really seemed like Ben's life was going to hell, but honestly it was Saturday, none of them had any responsibilities or anywhere important to be so Jesse decided to stop judging them. Actually... "Can I have a beer at least?" "We're going to have to do a beer run before noon!" Ben said, but he got up to get Jesse one as well. "Well we are having a cookout today," Jesse told him. "I make a mean steak." Ben grinned at him. The day was spent rather harmoniously. It seemed Ben and Gretchen had both let their phones die and he saw neither of them check it. Not once. All day. Shaun eventually came out of the bedroom and after being informed of Ben and Gretchen disaster of a night, he also joined in on the drinking. Ben was actually pretty good with kids and despite being drunk, he made Brian laugh a lot. He had hundreds of dumb jokes, silly faces, fun facts and he didn't mind watching cartoons and Gretchen, for whatever reason, seemed to be helping him out. She didn't seem to leave Ben's side all afternoon, choosing to hang out with him and Brian since the kid had suddenly latched onto him. It was a strange sight. Jesse and Shaun didn't mind having a little privacy. They spent their time hanging out with the others, drinking, touching each other and being close. The room was full of laughter and Jesse didn't want anything serious to mess it up so he didn't mention anything of importance. Later in the afternoon, Jesse got all the prep together and he and Shaun led the troop outside to the grill and the lawn furniture. Gretchen found a Frisbee in her garden shed and Ben and Gretchen used the tiny backyard to involve Brian in a game of ultimate Frisbee. They were so drunk and uncoordinated, that Brian actually had a shot of beating them. He was grinning from ear to ear, laughter bubbling out of him as if it could never be contained. Jesse was thrilled to see his kid so happy and watching the ill-fated game, he threw the steaks on the grill. "This is actually fun," Shaun said at his side. He was holding the serving platter, attempting to be of some help. "Is this what it feels like to be with family?" "I think it is," Jesse said. While he'd always been with his family, it had never felt quite like this. Everyone here had their best interest at heart. Everyone here looked out for everyone else. Jesse was busy making dinner and Gretchen and Ben had stepped in, no problem at all, to help take care of and entertain Brian. It felt nice. Dinner was ready soon and Jesse had whipped up some bacon mashed potatoes and the steak sauce in the kitchen beforehand so they laid everything out and ate buffet style! There were lots of compliments for the chef and Jesse glowed with pride, never having felt so good to have made a family dinner before. When dinner was over, Gretchen said she was sure there was a fire pit in the shed. Ben and Shaun went in and poked around and eventually dragged a big metal chiminea out. "We'll set it up if you guys go down to the store and pick up some s'more supplies. We have to have s'mores after a dinner like that!" Gretchen demanded and so Shaun and Jesse went down to the 'camel store' and easily picked up some graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows. They went back to the house to find the fire going and Gretchen setting up some lawn chairs around said fire. The sun was going down and Brian and Ben were hunched together over the fire, telling scary stories that usually ended in laughter. Jesse was glad to join them, bringing the supplies out. The night, it seemed, was winding down peacefully. Everyone enjoyed the s'mores. The stories had everyone smiling and happy. Brian had chocolate smeared on his cheeks and was looking sleepy for once. The beer kept flowing and Jesse was cuddled next to Shaun, holding his hand, just happy to be with him. Ben started another story and Jesse leaned back to listen, breaking off a stray bit of chocolate and muching on it. Ben stopped halfway, trailing off. "I think the little one's finally out," he said. Jesse checked, seeing Brian passed out in his lawn chair, drooling slightly. He laughed at the sight. "I've been waiting all day, but I've got a present for everyone. You want to move him inside?" Jesse quirked a brow, but started to get up to move Brian. "I've got it this time," Shaun said, laying a kiss on Jesse's hair. He got up and carefully lifted Brian. The kid stirred and murmured but his head collapsed onto Shaun's shoulder and he remained sleeping. Shaun disappeared inside with the kid. Ben was riffling through his pocket and eventually pulled out a fat joint. Jesse's other brow rose. Nice. "Alex popped by before he went back to L.A." Ben said, studying the joint. "He said he could feel the tension in the house. Said I could probably use another batch." "Oh! That shit was good," Jesse said. "You didn't even tell me!" Gretchen complained. "I've been going on and on about that shit for days!" "Well, aren't you happy? It was a surprise for all of us!" Gretchen rolled her eyes but snatched the joint from Ben. There was one of those big click lighters on the table that they'd used for the grill and the fire pit and she lit the joint, taking a prefatory puff. Shaun came back out. "So what's the surprise?" "More California bud," Jesse told him, happily accepting the blunt from Gretchen. They sat around for a little more, smoking and talking, getting more wasted the longer they sat. Once the first blunt was finished, Ben pulled out another and they started the process again, a real group of potheads. "Fuck, this shit messes with my head. I feel dizzy," Gretchen said suddenly getting up and stumbling to the table. "Hey, can you help get me to my room? I think I'm going to call it a night." Ben jumped up immediately. "I'll help," he said. "Oh, hey guys, Ben's staying the night. He'll be on the couch so try not to bother him, ok? You guys can handle putting out the fire?" "Yeah," Shaun said and he and Jesse watched as Ben wrapped an arm around Gretchen and helped her inside. Through the sliding glass door, Jesse saw the hall lights go out. "Poor guy. He can't even go home," Jesse said, turning back to the fire. Ben and Gretchen had left them with the end of the blunt and he passed it to Shaun, careful not to burn his fingers. "I hate to say I told you so, but I told him," Shaun said. "I knew this would happen. This is exactly why Will told me girls ruin bands. Guess who's ruining our band, now?" "How was he supposed to know." "We told him!" Jesse sighed. This wasn't even what he'd wanted to talk about. He turned to Shaun completely, waving off the passing of the blunt. He'd had his fill. "Listen, I wanted to do something and it looks like this is the best amount of privacy we're going to get," Jesse started. "Huh?" Jesse ignored Shaun's question. "Do you still have the paring knife? Where is it?" Shaun looked very confused. "It's still in my top drawer." Jesse got up without another word and rushed into the house. As he approached Shaun's door, in the dark, he slowed down and snuck inside. Brian was asleep on the sleeping bags. It looked like Shaun had attempted to wipe his face, but chocolate remains were stuck to the corners of his mouth. Jesse smirked, and went to the dresser, rummaging around the top drawer until he came up with Shaun's knife and his little bottle of lube. He took them back outside. Shaun's gaze was locked to him the instant he came outside. His eyes zeroed in on the knife. "I haven't used it," Shaun said. "I didn't cut myself." "Good," Jesse said and then he went to lay down in the grass, pushing the abandoned chairs out of the way. Shaun watched him with confusion. "I want you to use it on me again. Make love to me under the stars." Shaun swallowed, and shifted uncomfortably in his chair. "What if Gretchen looks out the window or something?" "Then snuff out the fire. I don't care." Shaun shook his head. "I won't be able to see what I'm doing," cautiously, he got down on his knees and crawled through the grass to Jesse's side. He leaned over the redhead, stroking his hair lovingly. "You really want to do this?" "Do I want to show you that your special to me? Yes. Do I want to show you that I love you? Yes," Jesse said. "I know you're impatient for me to move in, and I just want to show you my thanks. For waiting and being understanding." "You don't have to do this," Shaun pressed. "Don't you want to do it?" "Yes," Shaun said quickly, taking the knife. "I do." "Then make love to me," Jesse said, laying back and Shaun, his hands shaking, started to undress them both. Jesse had only been naked outside with Shaun in the past, but even then, they'd had the car for privacy's sake. Now they were in Gretchen's open backyard. There were houses on either side but their windows were dark. Gretchen had a little privacy fence surrounding her little patio and Jesse hoped it would do its job and keep them invisible from the street. The fire wasn't very strong anyway, it was crackling away, dying, on the remains of the wood Gretchen and Ben had laid out. Jesse was naked first and he stretched out in the grass, reveling in the unfamiliar feeling of being buck ass naked in the dirt. The breeze was warm and soft and caressed Jesse's skin, his slowly hardening cock. Shaun pulled his shirt off, hesitated, and then shucked his jeans and boxers, standing up to lay them in one of the abandoned chairs. He stared down at Jesse, naked as the day he was born, standing unashamed in the dark night. "I do love you," Shaun said. "Tonight I was supposed to show you that. I wasn't planning on any pain." "I was," Jesse said. "I wanted to do this all week. I guess it was supposed to be a reward for you doing so well without me." "Look how well I did," Shaun snorted, but he crouched down beside Jesse, touching his bare skin with reverence. "I took advantage of you. I don't deserve this." "But I want to give it to you," Jesse said, sitting up and wrapping an arm around Shaun's shoulders. He pulled Shaun down on top of him, kind of obsessed with the way the cool grass tickled his back, his sensitive little ass, compared to the feel of Shaun's warm, smooth skin caressing his chest and belly. They started kissing and Shaun seemed to give up, he simply rolled on top of Jesse and pinned him to the grass with his hot heat. The fire crackled merrily beside them as they plundered each other's mouths. The breeze ghosted across their skin, through their hair and Jesse laughed out loud at the strangeness of the feel. Shaun pulled back, smiling at him. He had the knife poised in his hand and Jesse paused and waited for the pain. There was a pinprick of pain on Jesse's left thigh. Jesse opened his eyes, watching as Shaun slowly sliced into his leg, the blood welled up and spilled over, leaking down his pale flesh. Shaun was back in an instant, kissing him. Jesse moaned, feeling Shaun's fingers pulling at the cut. They were still kissing when Shaun did the other leg. The right one. He gently matched the first cut, drawing a red line over Jesse's flesh with the knife. Jesse gasped at the pain, but it was swallowed up by Shaun's kiss. The bigger boy pushed his legs up, over his shoulders and started kissing his wounded flesh. Jesse watched him with parted eyes, watched Shaun bath in his blood in the light from the fire. Shaun was licking his blood, kissing his skin desperately and the blood was coating his lips, his chin, his chest. He looked barbaric, like some cannibalistic sex god. Jesse was reminded of Shaun's new song. The one they'd heard at the show last night. The lyrics had been violent and had sought revenge and Jesse was yet again intimidated by his boyfriend. "You want me to use this?" Shaun held the bottle of lube up, between his fingers. Jesse nodded, and cast his eyes down. He was suddenly embarrassed to look Shaun in the eye. Shaun's eyes were glowing in the fire light, his face was dripping with blood. Jesse had a strange and ominous feeling but he felt Shaun's wet cock press into his anus and he hissed as his sore body accepted Shaun's erection. Shaun fucked him steadily, rutting him into the grass and the dirt. Jesse grabbed fistfuls of grass, dug his fingers into the dirt below, he gasped and moaned and his eyes rolled up in his head as he felt Shaun's tongue trace his bleeding cuts. The stars winked above them, the moon was just a sliver hanging in the sky to the right of the house. Shaun grabbed his cock and started jerking him. Jesse bit his tongue, trying to keep quiet. "Come for me, baby," Shaun growled. Jesse opened his eyes, peering up at Shaun who was brutal and intense, covered in blood with his eyes intent on Jesse's face. Jesse's breathing picked up, he felt Shaun's fingers squeeze him tight, his eyes slammed shut and he came. Shaun murmured his affection as he filled Jesse with come. He stroked Jesse's face and his hair. He spread out on top of Jesse and kissed his throat and chest. He sucked Jesse's nipples. They stayed out in the grass for some time. The fire finally died out and Shaun picked Jesse up and carried him inside. They took a quick shower. Together. Washing each other, kissing, constantly touching. Jesse knew he'd made Shaun feel loved and appreciated and he was glad he'd decided to do this again. The cuts on his thighs were minor really, in comparison. After they got sleep clothes on in the bedroom, keeping quiet so as not to wake Brian, Shaun sent him to bed, saying he had to go grab the stuff they'd left out on the patio. Jesse laughed, glad that Shaun had remembered and they hadn't left their clothes, a bloody knife and a bottle of lube out for everyone to find. He climbed into bed. He got comfortable on Shaun's pillow. Shaun was only gone a few moments and then he was back, pulling Jesse's head to rest on his shoulder. "Love you," Shaun told him and Jesse replied in kind, grinning like a loon. *** In the morning, Jesse woke up before anyone. Brian was still sleeping on the sleeping bag and beside him, Shaun was still fast asleep. Jesse got up to start breakfast, peeking into the living room and strangely, not seeing Ben at all. Jesse had just come from the bathroom, so he figured Ben must have sobered up and went home. Poor guy. Jesse still had potatoes left from last night so he started chopping them up to make home fries. He was just throwing some into the pan with butter when Shaun came in, yawning. "What's for breakfast?" "Home fries, scrambled eggs and biscuits," Jesse said. "Is Brian up yet?" "Just about. He was flipping around on the sleeping bag when I got up. I think he was joking." Jesse laughed. "Well, I'm about to start on the eggs. Can you get him up?" "Sure." Jesse let the potatoes alone after seasoning them. He wanted them to crisp up. He grabbed a big bowl and started cracking eggs into it, adding milk and shredded cheese. He whipped everything up. "Morning!" Brian said as he was led into the kitchen by Shaun. He was wearing his clothes from yesterday and his hair was sticking straight up in the back. Jesse paused to ruffle the blond's hair, smirking at him. "How'd you sleep?" "Good!" Brian escaped Jesse's manhandling, dancing to the table and selecting a seat. "Did Ben leave already? He's cool too." "I know. Shaun has good friends," Jesse said, sparing his boyfriend a look before he went back to scrambling the eggs. Shaun blushed, moving to sit beside Brian at the table. Jesse popped the biscuits in the oven before pouring the eggs into the skillet. "Do you think we should wake Gretchen? She might feel better if she eats something. I know I've got a little hangover, I'm sure she does as well," Jesse said. "I'll go see if she's up," Shaun said, leaving the table. Jesse pushed the eggs around the skillet and turned the potatoes so the other side could get crispy. He was just about to peek into the oven when Shaun came back into the room, his face pale. "Think we've got a problem." "What?" "Ben is in Gretchen's bed," Shaun said. "I asked if they wanted eggs and she flicked me off and slammed the door in my face." "Ben's still here?!" Brian asked but Shaun ignored him, taking his seat again. "Fuck! I mean, I didn't want him marrying that bitch Angela but I didn't want him fucking our drummer either! Fuck!" Jesse paused over breakfast, his worst fear imagined. "They were flirting pretty hard Friday night at the bar. I thought I was doing them a favor, starving it off." "They were just trying to get us out of the way! So they could do the fucking nasty!" Shaun cried. He slammed his fist on the table. "Fuck!" The kitchen fell silent as Shaun fumed over the change in his band dynamics. Jesse finished up quickly, not knowing what to say. He was just about to put everything on plates when Gretchen and Ben showed up in the doorway, Gretchen, half-dressed in her silky robe and Ben heavily disheveled in his clothes from yesterday. They looked truly shameless. "So, yeah. I guess we want eggs too," Gretchen said and Shaun growled with frustration. "Did you guys seriously fuck?!" "We seriously did," Gretchen said, coming to take a seat across from Shaun and Brian. Ben followed her nervously. "Are you drunk already?! What the fuck were you thinking!" Gretchen looked pointedly at Brian. "I could explain, but I'm not sure I should, given the current company we're keeping." "Oh, fuck you!" Shaun roared. "This is going to fuck with the band and you know it!" "We're not getting married," Ben said suddenly, drawing the room's attention. "We're not moving in together. We're just seeing where things go—" "Go? Shouldn't you be seeing where your marriage goes?!" Shaun cried. "And then end the fucking thing! This is going to make everything worse! You're fucking your vindicate wife's sister? Who's in the band that Angela hates?! Good fucking work! Good job toning down the fucking drama!" Highly unsure of himself, Jesse carried a couple plates of eggs, home fries and biscuits to the table. Gretchen took her plate up, digging in immediately and without care. Nobody else touched their plates. "I don't know what to do, Shaun, ok?" Ben started. "I TOLD you what to do! I TOLD you not to marry that bitch!" "But I did," Ben said loudly. "And now I don't know what to do." Shaun sighed heavily. "Why can't you just tell Angela you made a mistake. She's obviously a bigger bitch than you gave her credit for and you're out! Why do you have to cheat on her sister?!" "Because I was trying to get him to do that…" Gretchen said around a mouthful of potatoes. "And this happened instead. We didn't get a flat last night. We rented a room at some roadside motel." "I knew it!" Shaun cried. "Great detective work!" Gretchen mocked. "Now why don't you stop wasting your boyfriend's hard work and eat something." Shaun glared down at his plate but in his silence both Ben and Brian turned to their meals and Jesse grabbed his own plate and started eating, leaning against the counter. Breakfast was definitely uncomfortable and afterwards, when they all moved to the living room, it became even more so. "So, are you sure you're not moving in?" Shaun asked Ben as the bassist got comfortable on the end of the couch. Ben winced immediately, opening his mouth, but Gretchen talked over him. "No. He's not moving in, but this is still his day off and I'd like to spend some time with him," Gretchen said. "Don't act like this is your place, Shaun. You just stay here." Shaun made a nasty face but didn't say anything more. Jesse sat beside Shaun, pressing his hip heavily into Shaun's but the bigger by was glaring hard at the wall, grinding his teeth to dust. Jesse attempted to rub Shaun's unresponsive thigh but Shaun didn't notice. He didn't seem to notice Jesse even existed at that moment. The rest of the day Shaun was in a sour mood. They all hung out in the living room together, running through a movie, with Shaun glaring over at Gretchen and Ben alike, through the whole thing. When the movie was finally over, Gretchen grabbed Ben's hand and dragged him out of the living room. "Guess I'll just go fuck him then!" Gretchen yelled back at Shaun and the grumpy boy's spine stiffened. "Since you can't be a decent human being!" "Fuck you!" Shaun yelled after them, but Gretchen pulled Ben quickly from the room and they all heard her door bang shut. Hopefully, the movie was going to cover any other sound effects coming from the bedroom… Brian looked back at Shaun and Jesse, his eyes full of confusion. "What happened?" "Nothing," Jesse said quickly. Just wanting to play dumb but Shaun had to speak up! "I don't want them hooking up!" he told Brian, and basically the room in general. "It's going to ruin the band! Faster than any rotten relationship!" "Hooking up?" Brian asked and Jesse groaned, covering his eyes. This was so inappropriate! "Yeah! It means Gretchen and Ben are sleeping together and kissing and holding each other naked in the dark…" "What does—" "Just shut up!" Shaun warned Brian and the blond zipped his lips shut immediately, tears welling in his large blue eyes. Shaun sneered and crossed his arms tightly over his chest, looking away from Jesse and Brian. The little boy eventually moved up to the couch, moved closer to Jesse and cuddled into his side. Jesse held his son tightly, just wanting to do right by someone, just wanting to feel useful, loved! He knew Shaun lived in the moment but just last night Jesse had been fulfilling Shaun's fantasy! Now Shaun was too angry to notice him! They sat around for a while, and Jesse and Brian watched TV, trying their best to ignore Shaun who was an enormous black storm cloud. He pouted and glared and grumbled through the majority of the movie they put on and he generally made everybody miserable. When Ben finally emerged from the bedroom, he looked a hell of a lot more put together and he poked his head into the living room, saying he was headed home. Brian jumped up immediately to give him a hug, to say goodbye. "So are you going to tell Angela? About your little fling?" Shaun snapped. Ben reeled, pulling back from Brian's little farewell hug. "I hadn't planned on it. No." Shaun sneered and Gretchen, who was still in her bathrobe, hanging out in the hall, watching the proceedings, spoke up. "And you better not mess with this. This has nothing to do with you. This has nothing to do with the band." "The fuck it doesn't!" Gretchen continued to glare and Shaun threw up his hands in defeat, yelling with frustration. He left the room and after a moment they all heard his door slam shut. It was strangely familiar. Ben took his chance to leave and Jesse, Brian and Gretchen saw him out. "It's getting kind of late. How about I throw on some clothes and get you guys home too?" Gretchen asked and suddenly feeling like he'd overstayed his welcome, Jesse nodded. "Really? We have to go?" Brian asked, tugging on Jesse's pant leg. "I don't want to go home." "I know," Jesse said, stroking the blond's hair, but Gretchen had already left to get something on and Jesse instructed the kid to stay in the living room, to watch TV, while he packed up their stuff. "I don't want to go!" Brian whined but he went to sit on the couch, glaring disinterestedly at the TV. Jesse ventured down the hall. He carefully opened Shaun's door, but if he hadn't wanted anyone to enter he would have locked it. Shaun was sitting on his bed, his guitar was out and he looked up when Jesse slid inside. "Did he leave?" "Yeah." Shaun sighed, setting his guitar down. He covered his face with a single hand. He didn't say anything. "We're leaving too, actually," Jesse said after a moment, moving further into the room and towards his and Brian's belongings. "Really?" "Gretchen suggested it." "Oh." Jesse gathered his and Brian's belongings in silence. He stuffed everything in their appropriate bags, suddenly feeling like he had to hurry. Like he'd done something wrong and had to leave. Shaun met his eyes when Jesse turned around, pulling both his and Brian's overnight bags over his left shoulder. "Do you want me to ride along?" "I'd rather avoid an argument," Jesse said. "Can you not rip Gretchen's head off?" "She was so fucking concerned over Ben. I thought it was for the band's sake," Shaun said, his expression turning sour. "But she just wanted to get in his pants!" "Ok, guess that's my answer, then," Jesse said, sighing with frustration. "Nobody said Ben and Gretchen hooking up was a good idea. But you're going to alienate yourself from them before they even have a chance to do anything at all!" Shaun shook his head but Jesse wouldn't let him deny this. "You don't have to like it. You don't even have to accept it, but leave them alone, Shaun. You can't tell them what to do. Not in this area." "They tried to tell me what to do!" "And did you listen? What good did them telling you what to do accomplish?" Shaun shook his head again, but Jesse just rolled his eyes, stepped closer and kissed Shaun on the side of the mouth. Shaun reared back but Jesse met his eyes and glared. "Goodbye, Shaun. I had a really weird, pretty awesome, fucking ridiculous weekend. Stay here and think on it, but I think you know that you have to treat your bandmates with some respect." "Yeah," Shaun said sourly. "Call me tonight?" "Always." Jesse smiled and Shaun almost smiled back. They kissed properly and Shaun even got up to come say goodbye to Brian. Brian was still pouting, but Gretchen was dressed and ready out in the living room. Shaun didn't say anything to her, but he crouched down and said a quick and rather lame apology to Brian for being upset. "I have a hard time with my anger, sometimes," Shaun said awkwardly, obviously embarrassed. "Oh, I know," Brian told him, taking a break from the pouting to smile at Shaun. "You're mad a lot." Shaun flushed bright red. "I guess I am." "That's ok," Brian said, patting Shaun on the shoulder. "I forgive you." Shaun stood up stiffly, looking uncomfortable. "We'll maybe I'll see you next weekend." "Really?!" Brian looked from Shaun to Gretchen and finally he looked to Jesse. "Really Jess?!" "I don't know. We'll have to talk about it through the week. We'll see how everything works out, alright?" "But I want to come back!" Brian cried, his pout coming back full force. Jesse sighed and tried to speed up the process. Giving Shaun one last hug and kiss and turning to Gretchen with wide-eyes. "Let's go?" she asked, laughing awkwardly. "Yep." Brian calmed down after a couple minutes. He got to sit up front in Jesse's lap again and he seemed to like being involved in the conversation. Gretchen was trying to explain why she and Ben were messing around. Jesse didn't have much to say, although Brian seemed adamant that Ben would be a good boyfriend for Gretchen, since he was so much fun. "I don't know about boyfriend," Gretchen said. "He's so not my type. And I don't date anyway. I don't like to be held down." "Just be careful," Jesse advised. It was all he felt he could do. "And please, try to give Shaun a break. He's really afraid of what this means for the band." "It doesn't mean anything!" Gretchen bitched. "It would be different if we were dating, but this is just a fling! To get Ben's head on straight!" "So he can divorce your sister?" "I don't know if you've noticed, but me and Angela are worlds apart. I've never liked her much. I always thought she was a bitch and when her boyfriend came to me, out of the blue and asked me to be in a new band his friend was starting, well, I became personally involved! Ben's my friend. I'm just like Shaun. I don't want Ben to be stuck in this shitty relationship either." Jesse nodded. Deciding to just agree. When they got home, Jesse made Gretchen promise to call him if she had issues with Shaun. "I don't know, maybe I can come over and help talk through it," Jesse said. "Doubt it," Gretchen said. "I'm going to do my damndest to avoid him." "When's the next practice?" "Thursday. We've got two shows, one Friday and one Saturday." "Try to keep the peace," Jesse said, hoping to god Shaun wouldn't be a terror. Gretchen rolled her eyes and drove off, leaving them in the driveway. "She didn't say goodbye," Brian pouted. "She's an odd one," Jesse said, taking the little boy's hand and leading him inside. The two of them immediately ran into Monica. "I didn't think you'd show up until late," she said. "Is that a problem?" "No," Monica said, taking the overnight bags from Jesse. "Cliff's here. We just came back from an early dinner. We were going to watch a movie but since you’re here, can you watch the twins? They're upstairs." "Sure," Jesse was glad to agree, especially if that's all she wanted ."Is Sam around?" "Haven't seen him all weekend. I think he's staying at his friend's." Jesse had expected as much. He took Brian upstairs and the two of them came up with a game they could play with the twins. It ended up being a board game and by the end of it, Tyler had smashed the pieces off the board and they resorted to arts and crafts. Jesse just kept worrying about Shaun… *** Shaun hadn't been very forthcoming on the phone last night. He'd said he'd stayed in his room and Gretchen had bothered him. Jesse hoped that was good enough, but wished either he or Gretchen would initiate some dialogue. Shaun and Gretchen and Ben had to get along. They had to know that! If they didn't, the band was already ruined. Jesse worried about it over breakfast and when he and Sam went out to wait for the bus, he worried about it some more. "Why the long face? Shitty weekend?" Sam asked. Jesse glanced at his brother, noting his greasy hair and his bloodshot eyes. He didn't seem to be taking care of himself anymore. As long as he went to school that was good enough. "How was your weekend?" Jesse asked instead. "How fucked up did you get?" Sam grinned. "Oh my god! You should have been there. It was wicked awesome!" "What was?" Jesse asked, feeling a tad nervous but Sam was already waving him off. "You just had to be there. I can't explain." The bus pulled up and Jesse and Sam got on. Sam sat up front, apparently waiting for the other middle schoolers and feeling completely out of his element, Jesse, again, went to sit in the back. The school day started normally. So nobody talked or looked at Jesse. No one spared him a glance. It was just as well and Jesse went to his first three classes, alternating his worry between Shaun and Sam. He wondered what Ben had said to his wife? How the hell were they even going to have practice now? And what had Sam and Kyle got up to over the weekend? It couldn't have been anything good, it rarely was when Kyle was involved. Jesse was so distracted by his own thoughts, he almost didn't notice the change. During English, Jesse started to notice people staring at him. Like a lot of people. And they were talking a lot too. In whispers. And when Jesse approached them, they split up and stared at him like they'd just been talking about him. It happened through lunch, and then through health. By the last class of the day, Jesse was out of his mind with paranoia and his entire journalism class seemed to be at a standstill because everyone was staring at him! When the last bell of the day rang, Jesse sprinted out of the journalism room, looking for the only person he knew would talk to him. Kyle. He rushed down the English hallway, then down the science wing, looping around the cafeteria. He'd had his locker changed from last years, so he figured Kyle had as well. He searched the whole school, becoming more and more desperate as the hard and pointed stares from his peers continued. What was everyone looking at! After 10 minutes of running around like a headless chicken, Jesse had to give up. The busses were about to leave and Jesse figured he'd check the parking lot for Kyle's ride when he was running to catch the bus. Jesse was almost the last kid out of the school and as he flat out ran for the departing busses, barely catching the one that was meant for him, he didn't spot Kyle's car out in the lot. The stares continued on the bus. People craned their necks to follow him to the back of the bus. And strangely enough? Sam wasn't present. Jesse sat down in the back and tried to call his brother. The phone went straight to voicemail. "What the fuck's going on!" Jesse cursed, wishing he had Kyle's number as well, because he suspected they were together. He just wanted to know why everyone was staring at him! When Jesse got home, he wasn't surprised to find the house empty. He tried Sam's phone again with similar results and finally just sat down on the couch, sighing with frustration. Today had been weird and now Jesse was even more worried for his stupid brother! Jesse, half delirious, made wild plans to pack up all his belongings and move to Gretchen's. Tonight. Because he was so sick of the drama going on here. He couldn't fucking take it anymore! Jesse jumped, his heart trying to beat out of his chest, when a loud and pounding knock sounded on the front door. Shaking his head, knowing Sam rarely carried a house key, Jesse got up to open the door. "Are you Jesse Welsh?" "Y-yes," Jesse gaped. There were two cops standing at the door. "We have your brother," the first cop said. He was young, fit and neatly groomed. "Your mother's been informed but we're going to need to talk to you as well." "You have my brother?" Jesse was screaming inside. "What do you mean? He was at school right?" The young cop looked towards his partner, an older guy with gray streaks in his dark hair. The older cop spoke up. "Can we get you to come down to the station for a couple questions?" "But what about my brother! What about Sam?!" "We can discuss that at the station." Jesse, his eyes wide with shock, nodded dumbly. He had to save Sam! What was going on! The little redhead locked up and followed the officers to their cruiser parked out in the drive. They let him in the back, but they didn't cuff him or anything. Jesse started to feel scared once they shut the door and got up front. There were bars between him and the cops and Jesse tried to calm himself, tried to tell himself he hadn't done anything wrong. The ride to the station felt like it took forever. The backseat was made out of hard plastic, and far from comfortable and Jesse picked nervously at peeling sticker on the door. "Don't touch that," snapped the older officer and Jesse immediately folded his hands in his lap. "Sorry kid, most people back there are cuffed. They're not picking my stickers off." "Sorry," Jesse said quickly, hanging his head. When they finally arrived, Jesse tried the door but was unsurprised to find he couldn't let himself out. The younger guy hopped around to let him out and Jesse got out into the parking lot. "This way," said the young officer and Jesse followed him inside. Jesse didn't see any cells or anything, it looked like he was being led through offices. Of course, every office worker had a uniform on, but Jesse had been expecting to see prisoners screaming and banging on cages. He felt a little relieved. That was until he was put in a windowless room with the two officers standing over him. Looking down at him. "Have a seat." Jesse sat at the rooms solitary table. This looked like some interrogation room. Once Jesse had sat down, the older officer left the room and returned shortly with a folder. He sat down across from Jesse and sorted through his papers, while the young guy stood behind him and stared at Jesse. All this staring! Would someone fucking explain already!? "We picked your brother up today, trying to sell marijuana at the middle school. He says Kyle Lundgren told him to sell it." "Oh my god!" This is what this is was about?! "Kyle's the one who sells it! Not Sam! Listen! I was friends with Kyle when we first moved here but I stopped once I realized Kyle doesn't know how to be a friend. He only cares about himself! So my brother started befriending him and I knew this would happen. I tried to confront Kyle many times but I couldn't convince my brother Kyle was out to get him. This is all some game of revenge because I stole the only person he loved. He's out for my blood but Sam's the only one who played into his game. Please, this isn't Sam's fault." Both officers looked at him. Saying nothing. "Please tell me you already have Kyle in custody." "We do actually," said the older cop. "That's why you're here." The older cop took a page out of the folder. He turned it around and placed it flat on the table. Jesse blinked several times, staring at the picture before him. It was a still from a video. The quality was pretty decent. So decent that Jesse could clearly see Kyle was hunched over someone and when Jesse looked closely, he could see that Kyle was shoving his cock up someone's ass. Jesse looked away, uncomfortable. The older cop tapped the picture. "That's you. Isn't it." Jesse looked again. He looked and looked. "Oh my god!" he cried, because yes. That was him! His face was pressed flat into the sheets of what looked like Kyle's bed and Kyle was over him, fucking him, his face twisted into a grin. Jesse finally noticed a bit of neon blue up in the left corner and realized that was his cast, bunched up and hidden under some blankets. "After your brother's confession, we raided Lundgren's house. On top of a couple hundred pounds of marijuana, we also found a cache of kiddie porn. Forensics is still looking through all the tapes but yours was right on top. Unfortunately we found a couple other tapes, ones featuring your brother—" "Oh god!" Jesse dropped his head. His whole body was shaking. He felt sick. Violated. "Oh my god!" "I know this is hard to take in but—" "He drugged me! He must have drugged Sam too!" Jesse sobbed. "I was at his house a while ago. I was having…relationship problems and Kyle said I should come over and meet this person. It was supposed to be a blind date," Jesse rambled ."All I remember is Kyle giving me a drink and the next thing I know I wake up on the floor!" "We found some date rape drugs in the house," said the older cop. "That's it then. He drugged me and fucking raped me…." Jesse trailed off, starting to sob. "Oh my god!" he hid his face from the cops, knowing tears were tracking down his cheeks. "In light of the circumstances, we aren't going to put any charges on your brother. We're going to require that he complete some probation but he's not doing any time. Nothing's going on his record." Jesse nodded, refusing to remove his hands. "Did you want to see him? He's…pretty upset." "I bet! I'm pretty upset!" Jesse cried. The two cops looked at him blankly, without emotion and Jesse knew his brother must be feeling even worse. Even more destroyed if the cops were as friendly with him as they were with Jesse. "Can you take me to him?" The cops took him to another office. This one actually looked like an office. It had a desk covered in reports and folders, a computer, a couple filing cabinets and a few chairs. There was actually a window in this room. Sam was sitting in a chair pushed to the corner. Alone. He was hunched over his lap but when Jesse and the cops came in, he looked his, his face red, his eyes tearstained. He looked a mess. "Jesse?" Jesse rushed to his brother, enfolding him in his arms. "Jesus Christ, Sam," Jesse scolded the boy, hugging him tight. "Are you alright?" "No," Sam whispered and Jesse squeezed him tight. "Your mom's on her way. She's going to take you home for now." Jesse turned back to the cops. "Aren't we needed in court or something?" The older cop waved the file. The one with the picture of him getting raped. Jesse swallowed. "We've got all the proof we need right here. It's pretty easy when the criminals record their crimes." "I guess," Jesse said. The two cops left it at that. They left the two brother's alone to wait and Jesse pulled a chair up to Sam's, bringing the younger boy down to sit. "What happened today?" "It was really stupid! Kyle had me practicing how to sell all weekend! I was fine!" Jesse closed his eyes, fighting the urge to start yelling. Sam didn't need that. It wouldn't help. "As soon as I get in the school, somebody tells on me and I get called to the office and they go through my bookbag. I didn't even get to sell anything!" "You're so lucky you're getting out of this easy," Jesse harped. "You're so lucky!" Sam hung his head, crying silently into his hands. Jesse sighed and rubbed his back. "I just don't know why you'd agree to do this! You know, selling drugs can get you in a lot of trouble! You know that right?" "Yes," Sam said. "It's just that Kyle said it was easy. No one would ever question me or stop me." "Well that's bullshit. I hear they already arrested Kyle." Sam nodded. "They kept asking me. Over and over again. Where I'd got the weed from. I had to tell them. I didn't mean to be a fucking rat! But I've been sitting here all day thinking I was going to jail and then they bring this picture in! A picture of Kyle fucking me up the ass when I was asleep! How did he do that?!?!" Jesse bit his lip. "They showed me the same picture. Remember that party Kyle had? The one I came to? Well, remember how I was asking you what happened to me that night? I was already suspicious. He gave me a drink and next thing I know I'm waking up on the floor next to you. Classic date rape symptoms." "You knew and you let it keep HAPPENING?!" Jesse gave his brother a long and suffering look. Sam met his gaze unrepentantly. "So you knew?!" "I suspected," Jesse said. "But how could I know for sure. And you're always singing Kyle's praises—" "FUCK KYLE!" Jesse rubbed his brother's shoulder again. "I know. Trust me I know. Shaun told me to stay away from him. He's a snake." "A slippery snake! Right up my ass!" Sam spat, then his expression of anger broke and he hid his face again. Dissolving into tears. "I can't believe this fucking happened to me!" Jesse held him until Monica showed up, her face as white as a sheet. Then they went home and waited there for Monica to return with the kids from daycare. She was taking off work. Nobody was going to school or daycare. They were on lock-down. "Everybody knows at school," Jesse told his brother. "They were all staring at me. I didn't know why." "I'm sure it's already on the news," Sam said, sniffling. "Nothing ever happens here, everybody is going to know exactly what happened and to who," he started to cry again. "This is so fucking embarrassing!" And then it occurred to him that there was one person who didn't know. Shaun. Jesse felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand up straight. There was no way Shaun would receive this news well. He'd either accuse Jesse of cheating or he'd kill Kyle. But either way, Jesse had to tell him. Leaving his brother there on the couch, Jesse snuck upstairs to make the phone call. He wasn't sure how he'd say it, but he knew he had to. He just wished he knew how Shaun would react.

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