Jullien and Gaibriel had sat on the McNair's front porch for over two hours after Gaibriel's desperate plea. Their time together moved from serious to playful and by the time Gaibriel realized that he had only a few minutes to get home, he was caught in a gentle head lock under Jullien's arm and having his hair mercilessly ruffled. He pulled free and could feel how much it was poofing up off the top of his head. He went to brush it back down but not before Jullien caught sight of it and laughed. With an indignant blush, Gaibriel fixed him with a quickly fading angry look.

"Jullien, I have to go. Really. I should have left a while ago. If I get in trouble..." He trailed off, not wanting to finish it. His life seemed to be splitting into two different sections and he hated having to remember that at some point, he would be forced to return to the other side. He felt like he could spend forever on this strange family's front porch playing with Jullien. Even Judy's face peeking down at them from and upstairs window didn't bother him anymore.

"I know," Jullien replied hesitantly. He didn't need to hear the rest of Gaibriel's sentence either. The bruise on Gaibriel's cheek was still visible and he noticed the way the boy winced soundlessly if he accidentally brushed it when they were horsing around. "I can give you a ride again. Think that would be okay?"

Gaibriel shook his head. "No... not again. Someone might see. Everyone in my neighborhood knows my father. They all think he's so wonderful. If I get seen getting out of someone's car it won't take long for someone to tell him about it."

Though he didn't want to, Jullien nodded. "Okay. Stay safe, Gaib... or at least do the best you can." He bent slightly and pressed a soft kiss to the top of Gaibriel's head. "And if it gets too bad, you've got my number. Just call and I'll be right there. No matter what's happening."

The bright smile and teary appreciative eyes that took over Gaibriel's expression nearly melted Jullien's heart right out of his chest.

Gaibriel nodded and slung his arms around Jullien's neck pulling him into a tight hug. "Thank you, Jullien... for everything." He buried his face in the mass of blonde hair at the crook of Jullien's throat and breathed in his scent deeply. It made him feel safe and warm and he wanted to try and remember it as long as he could. When he finally detangled himself, he smiled at Jullien once more, waved to Judy, and began jogging towards home.

Jullien stood there, watching him run off. He heard Judy come out and stand beside him but neither spoke until they couldn't see him any more. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Judy turn to look at him. He pretended not to notice until she spoke.

"This can't end well. You know that, right?" She touched his arm, unsure at first if he even heard her.

With a sigh, Jullien sank down into the closest wicker chair. "Maybe not, Judy... I mean, he's going to be 18 soon enough. Maybe then we could-"

"Oh, Jules don't!" Judy sat down across from him and gave him a pleading look. "He's so young! Even if he does get away from his father and you two are free to love, don't you think he's going to want to experience life a little more? You can't expect him to love you and you only forever and never experience anyone else. You'd be taking so much away from him." Judy moved up onto the edge of her chair and placed a hand on Jullien's knee comfortingly. "Just think about it, Jules... Saving him is great. Showing him life and love, even better. But don't... don't go at this with your whole heart. Just in case his youth is stronger that what he's feeling right now. Do you understand what I mean?"

Jullien had to swallow the lump that had suddenly developed in his throat. Judy's words rang true in his head... more true than he would have liked. He'd been dismissing Judy's warnings as jealousy and over-protectiveness all along. While he knew those things were a part of it, the point she just made he couldn't deny. "I hadn't thought of that," he admitted after a few long moments of silence.

"I noticed. Jules, I know you want more than anything to save his cute little self. I do too now that I've met him. But I've never seen you give yourself to someone like this before. He does care about you... that's obvious. I'd even say he loves you. But he's so young and you're so needy for that real love... if it doesn't last, I don't want you to feel like you've lost everything."

Jullien felt a little stung when Judy said he was needy. She was right, of course. She'd always had an annoying habit of being right on the dot about his innermost feelings. He nodded, not really wanting to say anything to that. Speaking felt like a bond and he wasn't sure if he was really ready to commit to what was being said. While Judy's advice made perfect sense, Jullien couldn't deny that he was in need of that feeling of strong love. He ached for it and he found relief from it in Gaib's soft brown eyes. Even if he was heading for heartache, he couldn't let that go and he couldn't pull back from it. It was more than worth the risk.

Judy sighed and smiled sadly at him. "You hear me but you're not listening, are you, Jules?" She reached up and flicked his nose lightly. "Oh well. I did what I could." And just that quick she was once more the perky, cheerful young woman. "Come to my room! I took some pics last Thursday of the whole crew at the club and Kitsune's pic is to die for! Oh-oh and you won't believe! I finally asked her name! For the photo, of course. It's Karen. Isn't that weird? You know, the whole K thing." She took his wrist in both of her hands and pried him up off the chair. Jullien gave in and let her enthusiasm wash away his newfound gloomy outlook.


Gaibriel cast his eyes upwards to the beams supporting the gymnasium's ceiling as he flexed his muscles for one last sit up. He hated doing those but he'd told his father he'd been praised for improvement. He had to at least earn it now, in case his father decided to run another check up. He was rewarded with a satisfied nod from his teacher and told to hit the showers. Usually Gabriel didn't shower but today he felt he really needed it. He'd worked up quite a sweat and his muscles were bunched tightly. The warm water would fix both of those.

He made quick work of the shower and was dressed again with a few minutes of free time to spare before the bell rang to put him on his way to his next class. He tossed his book bag over his shoulder and wandered out of the gym, walking idly along the breezeway. Most kids in gym hung out on the bleachers outside until they had to go. Gaibriel avoided them.

He didn't noticed the sound of some one jogging behind him until a hand landed on his shoulder. Turning he recognized Mat-mat's green eyes and friendly smile right away. He turned and walked away before the other boy could even part his lips to speak.

"He's not here, Gaibriel. I just came from the office."

Gaibriel stopped, his head down. It felt safer knowing that his father wasn't around. But still... what if they were seen? What if word got back somehow? Mat-mat walked up next to him again and squatted down, turning his head upwards so he could see Gaibriel. He smiled widely and Gaibriel couldn't stop a smile from spreading over his face in response.

"Ahh, good. I was starting to think you hated me or something," Mat-mat said standing up. "Come on, let's go hang out in the bathroom. We'll be alone there." He took Gaibriel's hand before he could protest and ran, tugging him into the nearest restroom. It was empty like he'd said but the smell of cigarettes and a sweeter but still smoky smell hung thick in the air. Mat-mat leaned casually against a graffiti spattered wall. "So, what's going on? Amanda wouldn't tell me anything, just that you weren't allowed to hang out with us."

Gaibriel shifted and adjusted the strap of his bag on his shoulder. "I, um... Well, she was right. My dad says I can't hang out with you guys."


It was Mat-mat's casual tone that made Gaibriel snap his head up and stare in disbelief. He forgot sometimes that not everyone lived like he did. He blushed, feeling shameful and exposed for reacting. "I have to listen to him. If he finds out... I'm in a lot of trouble."

Mat-mat pushed himself off the wall and moved closer to Gaibriel. "So its really not because you hate me?"

Gaibriel shook his head a little too hard. "N-no. I wish I could be friends with you guys... you're all really nice and cool." He felt dorky saying a word like 'cool' but Mat-mat didn't seem to notice.

"Good." Mat-mat's voice was a bit deeper and he was suddenly closer than Gaibriel remembered. In fact, the arm Gaibriel had across his body, clinging to the strap of his book bag was touching Mat-mat's chest. The green eyed boy continued when Gaibriel finally looked up at him. "Because I really like you, Gaibriel," he said, almost whispering. "I... I like you a lot..."

At first, Gaibriel didn't understand. He had moved to step back when it hit him that Mat-mat was confessing. Gaibriel swallowed heavily and looked into Mat-mat's eyes. The other boy looked just as nervous as he felt. Gaibriel didn't know how to respond. He felt like he'd badgered Jullien into a kiss and romantic feelings... but it was the first time he'd had them offered to him.

Mat-mat dropped his eyes, heavy black lashes blocking the green totally. "I know you like Jullien. Who wouldn't?" He laughed humorlessly and shrugged. "But... I just wanted you to know. How I felt, I mean." He looked up again, seeming to be waiting for Gaibriel's response.

Gaibriel blurted the first thing that came to mind. "Uh... Thank you?" His voice gave away how uncertain he was feeling.

Mat-mat laughed, a real one this time. "You're so cute." He looked like he wanted to say something else but the harsh ringing of the recorded bell seemed to silence him. Mat-mat leaned forward and pressed his lips to Gaibriel's in a quick, soft kiss. "See ya around," he said cheerfully and waved before bounding off, leaving Gaibriel standing in a stupor.

He reached up and touched his lips. That kiss had felt totally different from Jullien's kisses. The blonde's kiss was passionate and made Gaibriel melt and tingle. Mat-mat's was sweet and made him want another... and another. And maybe one more. But he wanted more of Jullien's kisses as well... he wanted both. Gaibriel's fingers moved up to his temple and he cradled his head in the palm of his hand. He was so confused. He thought things were getting easier and now... Now he was just as lost and scared as before.

"Fuck," he whispered, the word feeling like electricity on his lips. It was the first time he'd actually used that word aloud, a small part of him noted. He felt naughty for using it... almost dirty. He said it again, louder, as he readjusted his book bag on his shoulder and headed for his next class. He rather liked that word.