AUTHOR'S NOTE: That's RIGHT! Another one! And I haven't finished anything yet. Yeah, yeah, yeah! I know! Don't WORRY! I have NOT forgotten Warren, Chris, Kee or Joey! Neither have I forgotten Alex, Sal, Rhonda, Travis, Rick or Jackson! And there's definitely more in store for Eric and David, as well as Grant, Cody, Trent and Damon. I'd love to work on the other Travis and his guy, Kurt, but you guys have to hop on over to princess max's account to bug her about that one. LOL! For now, here's another little diddy. Not sure how often I'll update this one, but bear with me.


All around him the crowd milled, people going about their business without even really seeing him. Sure, he was jostled here and there by an odd shoulder as they passed by him. But no one actually made eye contact with him. He knew he was as good as invisible to them – just an ordinary, nondescript young man. He stopped and looked at his image in a storefront window to consider what they saw if their eyes did happen to pass over him. He was scruffy-looking – unkempt, especially since he hadn't bothered to shave in a few days. His longish, mousy brown hair fell limply around the nape of his neck, frizzy from the humid weather, his dull gray eyes barely showing up in his reflection. He wore a tee and pair of battered sweats to cover his pear-shaped body, a result of years of taking snide remarks from his former high school classmates. High school was a few years back now but the memories didn't fade very quickly. College offered a better experience, but being stuck home for the summer brought him right back to his old world.

He sighed and ran a hand over his hair, trying to smooth it out, before walking on. It was crowded in the mall today. Most of the people around him were likely here as much for the air conditioning as they were for shopping. It didn't matter much to him. He was just here to pick up the parts he needed to fix his parents' computer. Hopefully Comp USA wouldn't be too crowded. He didn't much care for crowds. He shuffled along the way, looking down as he moved, not daring to look anyone in the eye. Since he knew the way well, he made it to the store without incident. When he found the component he wanted, he went to stand in line at the register.

"Next!" called a bored male voice.

He approached the register and placed his item on the counter then fished his wallet out of his pocket and waited for the cashier to ring up the total, but waited a long time. Finally he looked up in question … into familiar and amused blue eyes.

"Porky?" the cashier smirked.

He felt his face redden and sputtered out a surprised cough. He began to sweat, unsure of what to do. Derek Carter? Here? He hadn't seen him since their graduation two years before. Derek hadn't been one of his regular tormentors, but he hadn't exactly been friendly either.

"Hey, it was just a nickname," Derek said, smiling as he scanned the new hard drive. "Didn't know it was a sore spot."

A drop of sweat slid down his forehead and he sucked in a deep breath.

"$147.52," Derek said, putting the package into a thin plastic bag.

He handed over his credit card and waited for Derek to turn around behind him to run it through the machine so that he could wipe away the sweat.

"Hmph," Derek murmured, looking at the card.

"What's wrong?" he asked, wincing slightly at the grating sound of his own weak voice.

"Nothing," the other man grinned. "I just never knew your name … Maurice."

He winced again, this time noticeably, hating his given name. It was the only thing he really held against his mother. Really, she couldn't help the whole DNA thing. How do you take your only child's name from a damned romance novel? Wasn't it enough that he was saddled with her ass and thighs?

"It's Manny," he said softly as he accepted the slip of paper and ballpoint pen Derek offered him, signing it quickly.

"How do you get Manny from Maurice?"

He sighed inwardly, not knowing how to end the awkward situation. "My dad."


He stared at Derek expectantly for a few silent seconds, hoping to get his package and receipt. But the other man just smiled blankly at him.

"Can I have my hard drive?" he asked.

"In a sec."

Manny looked around him, hoping to see a line of other customers waiting to be checked out. But as his luck would have it, nobody was there to save him. Just like school. Typical.

"Please?" he tried.

"Take it easy," Derek replied. "I just wanted to chat for a bit."

He frowned at that. No good will come of this, he thought. At least for him, at any rate. Derek, though, would probably find the whole thing entertaining.

"I need to go."

"Go where?" Derek chuckled. "You have a hot date with your computer?"

Manny looked down in shame, horrified to feel his face heat up again. "My parents' computer," he muttered miserably.

"I'm sorry, what?" Derek asked with a smirk.

"My parents' computer," he said louder. "Are you happy now?"


"I'm home from college and my big plans include fixing my parents' computer and running into people who hate me," he ground out, grabbing his plastic bag out of Derek's hand. "Like you!"

And with a parting glare through tears he was trying his damnedest not to shed, he stumbled away from the counter and out of the store.


Derek watched the pudgy guy walk away in bewilderment. He hadn't meant to hurt his feelings. He was just trying to be friendly, really. He hadn't seen Pork- uh, Maurice, apparently, since high school. Not that he'd spared him a thought since then, but it was kind of cool to see a familiar face during his monotonous workday. But Maur- no, Manny – Manny didn't seem too thrilled to see him. Wonder what that was about? School was ages ago, anyway. Could the kid still be sore about it?

Ah well, he sighed. He didn't remember doing anything too bad to him. Anyway, the kid actually had a chance to go away to college, so what did he have to gripe about anyway? He shook his head and yawned as he waited for the rest of the day to pass by. Man, this job is boring!


Manny sat in the front seat of his mother's old Honda and panted, trying to catch his breath. It wasn't fair that he could be reduced to a simpering idiot so easily, he fumed. It just wasn't fair at all! When his heart rate finally settled, he inserted the key into the ignition and switched the car on. He just wanted to get home, fix the computer and forget this day ever happened.