Phoebe vented to carol and Theresa that night, furious for being lied to and dumped a second time. Her friends listened patiently, just as she would have done for them. When she had finally finished voicing her rage, Phoebe began to sob, and Theresa held her.

When Phoebe had settled down, Carol stated calmly, "This is what Derek was afraid of." Phoebe and Theresa looked at Carol in disbelief.

"Excuse me?" Theresa challenged.

"What do you mean?" Phoebe wanted to know, trying to remain composed.

"He was afraid that you would hate him." Carol clarified. "He made it pretty obvious."

It finally clicked in Phoebe's mind. He had seemed nervous, and had asked her not to hate him. Knowing this didn't really help the pain much, at least not at that moment. But she was almost able to forgive him.

~^*^~

When Derek was absent for school the next day, Jared dropped by Derek's apartment to check up on him. He could tell Derek was there; his car was parked in the usual spot, and a faint glow came from the window. Despite this, it was a full fifteen minutes before Derek answered Jared's persistent knocking.

When he opened the door, Jared noticed that Derek's eyes were bloodshot, and his manner was less confident.

The first irritated words out of Jared's mouth were, "You told her, didn't you?"

"Told who what?" Derek asked stupidly.

"Told Phoebe what we did!" Jared exclaimed. "How could you tell her- -?" Derek's mind turned on at this point, and he became very defensive.

"First of all, we didn't really DO anything. And no, I didn't tell her anything like that." He insisted angrily. Curiously, he added, "How did you know that I said anything to her in the first place?"

"She kept giving me dirty looks all day today in class! And you weren't there, so what was I to think?" Jared wanted to know.

"I don't know." Derek sighed. He turned and went back into his apartment, and Jared followed.

"What did you tell her?" Jared asked softly. Derek looked at him for a long time.

"That I love you." Derek had intended it to sound like a joke, but the words came out in a surprisingly serious tone. It was true of course, but he didn't want Jared knowing it.

"Are you serious?" Jared asked serenely, a grin sneaking onto his face. Not knowing what else to do, Derek merely nodded. "Do you--?" Jared queried innocently.

"Would I have broken up with Phoebe if I didn't?" Derek asked peevishly.

"How did she take it?" Jared wanted to know. Though he feared the worst, Jared hoped that Derek's current state simply meant he was merely sick.

"Not well." Derek answered, and Jared felt a lump in his stomach.

"I'm sorry." He replied sincerely, not having the strength to look Derek in the eyes. A strong arm reached out, and Jared allowed himself to be gently pulled into Derek's arms.

"Don't be." Derek assured him. "I can handle Phoebe."

~^*^~

Phoebe would not have spoken to Derek had it not been for Carol's pleading. It wasn't so much that she was not willing to eventually forgive Derek in the distant future, as much as it that she was still upset. Yet Carol had made the very good point that since all five of them were classmates, the distant future was not good enough. Phoebe and Derek would have to work things out for the good of all.

It was when they met at the local coffee shop, one they had enjoyed together so many times before, that Phoebe saw how truly sorry Derek was. They sat in a secluded booth, and Derek began to apologize and explain.

"It's okay, I forgive you." Phoebe smiled, fighting back her own pain.

Without thinking, Derek slammed his fist on the table between them. "Damn it, Phoebe! Can't you get mad for once?"

"I believe I did, when I left your apartment that night." Phoebe replied coolly. "Sit down. Take it easy; people are looking."

"I'm sorry." Derek sighed, sliding back into his seat. "I just don't like how this turned out."

"Neither do I," Phoebe replied honestly, "But we can still work something out, can't we?" Something in her voice soothed him. Derek knew everything would be all right after all.

"Yeah. Yeah, we can." He smiled, looking Phoebe in the eye for the first time since they entered the café.

~^*^~

None of the six people (Derek and Jared included) who knew of the relationship between the two young men had any intention of saying a word, so no one would have found out had Derek not snuck a quick kiss outside the school doors. It was then in there that the proverbial cat was let out of the bag.

One of the high school students saw the kiss just in time to rush in and tell the class. The news was spreading like wild-fire, but neither Derek nor Jared seemed to care. Derek merely whispered an invitation to his apartment in Jared's ear. Jared agreed, knowing what would be in store for the night.

~^*^~

The End

~^*^~

J.M. Seeley - Sorry, I really did intend to have a lemon in this story! I just didn't want to try and force it. I'll see what I can do for Thief of Hearts 2.