I've gotten a few reviews recently that have inspired me to continue this story after over a year of not updating. So if you still remember what's going on, enjoy! Didn't edit this, as usual, so excuse the typos.

Also, can I just. This was something I wrote a while back in one of the chapters:

"I swear they could fit onto one of those ABC shows, if it weren't for the fact that Michael and Carson were both males, because ABC doesn't really tend to do that, do they? I think they should try to incorporate different family settings more. It is, after all, a family station. Families aren't just white, Christian, one mom, one dad, one daughter, one son, and a golden retriever, although there isn't anything wrong with that either. I guess all I'm asking for is a little diver- "

And NOW...

"Modern Family is an American television comedy series created by Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan which debuted on ABC on September 23, 2009."

I see you peepin', ABC. I'm on to your games.

xii. Casual Friday Boyfriends

"So what all did Dorian teach you?" It's dark in Bradley's room and we're laying in his bed, his body looming over mine. He peers down at me with a single eyebrow raised and for some reason it makes breathing become more difficult.

"Just... y'know," I say, blushing slightly although I doubt Bradley can see it in the lack of light. "Kissing. We kind of... french-kissed. A little." He leans down so his face is closer to mine and I can see him better. He's looking at me with a strange expression in his eyes. I can't tell if it's jealously or curiosity. Maybe both.

"Did you like it?" I can feel his breath against my mouth as he speaks. I swallow and for some reason it sounds especially loud. Why is he asking? I don't know. What does he want me to say? We had already kissed, but for some reason, I'm just as nervous as I had been before.

"I guess," I say, looking right up at him despite how much I want to glance away. "I mean I don't know if I liked kissing him, but I like the general idea of it... if that's what you're asking..." I have a feeling that he's more interested in the former part, about whether or not I liked that I was kissing Dorian, but I choose to ignore this. He seems somewhat satisfied because he just smiles and closes the space between us to kiss me.

When he slides his tongue in my mouth, I put a hand on the side of his head and open my mouth a little wider. I've always thought that people were supposed to taste like certain things. Like cherries or sodapop or rain. But despite the lingering flavor of minty toothpaste, Bradley tastes like a person. I like it and I prefer it this way. The feel and taste of him sends warm, electric waves throughout my body. After a few minutes, his lips are no longer on mine. He kisses my jaw and then trails down to my neck.

And that's when I learn that I have a really, really sensitive neck. I take a sharp breath in and clutch onto Bradley's back as his warm tongue glides across the place where my neck meets my shoulder. He gently scraps his front teeth over my Adam's apple and sucks at my tender skin. I'm getting really hot and my body is tense and god it feels so good. My mind wants to slip away, I can feel myself wanting to drift off, but every time I start to, Bradley's mouth moves and it sends a jolt through me. I let out a soft sound and he chuckles.

"Ticklish?" he asks before resuming his work. He sucks at the same spot, softly at first but then harder, nipping at my skin.

"You're going to leave a mark..." I whisper and he lifts his head.

"You don't question an artist," he whispers back and he grins. I return the gesture and he leans down to kiss me again. We're interrupted by loud vibrations. Bradley sits up. "Who the fuck is calling me at..." He glances at the bright red numbers on his digital alarm clock. "2:30 in the morning?" He rolls to the side of his bed where a little table is and picks up his cell phone. "Oh, of course it's her." He lets out a frustrated sigh and sets the cell phone back down, where it continues to vibrate.

"Who?" I ask, sitting up as well. He doesn't answer, just looks at me, and I'm sure if I could see him, he'd have a 'who-do-you-think' expression. "Rose?" He nods and sighs, crawling back over to me. He starts kissing me again and I laugh.

"What?" he says, pulling away. He's close enough that I can tell he's pouting.

"For someone who only very recently blossomed into his sexuality, you sure are eager." I laugh again and his pout turns into a grin.

"Well, I have to make up for time lost. And I've got you here, all alone, in my bed, in a dark room..." He leans in again and his grin presses against mine, our lips locking together. But then his phone starts vibrating again. "Fuck."

"You should answer it," I say. "I'm sure she's really upset and could use a better explanation for your breakup than a drunken explosion." For some reason, I'm actually feeling pretty awful for Rose. I never liked her much, but that doesn't mean she deserves to be hurt. How would I feel if I were in the same situation? Not good. Terrible. I've never had my heartbroken, but I doubt I could deal with it. I'm a pretty big mess as it is. My head is broken, I can't let all my other organs follow suit. My heart will break and then my liver will go on strike and my kidneys will run off to Las Vegas to elope. The police will find me dead in an alleyway with all my organs gone but they won't know who took them so they'll just assume I didn't have any from the beginning and my tombstone will just read, "Brainless". Rest in peace, he never even had a cha-

"BECAUSE, Rose, I literally just said it. I don't think this relationship is working out. Not the way I want it to." When I come back to reality, I see that Bradley answered the phone. He's clearly agitated and he's pacing next to the bed. I can see his face in the glow of his cellphone's backlight and it looks annoyed and pained. I lean forward and tug on his free hand and he slides back into bed next to me. "I'm really sorry. We had a good thing, but it just. It's not right for either of us to stay in something where we aren't both 100% committed."

I can hear her talking on the other end, but can't exactly make out what she's saying. But Bradley seems bothered by it. I lean my head up and he takes the hint and leans down to kiss me.

"BRAD, DID YOU JUST KISS SOMEBODY?" I definitely hear her this time because she screeches so loudly that Bradley has to pull the phone away from his ear.

"No!" he asserts and he groans, standing up off the bed again. I sigh, resting against the headboard. I wonder if the breakup is hard on Bradley too? Right now he only seems frustrated with her, but I have to imagine that he's at least a little upset by it. He must like her in some way. He chose to date her, after all, when he could've pretty much dated any other girl he wanted to. I wonder what made Rose so special. And for that matter, I wonder what makes me so special. I'm kind of... a loser. Bradley is so out of my league that we're not even playing the same sport. Is it just because I'm another boy who likes boys? The only gay people I know other than Bradley and me are my brother, Dorian, and various extensions of Bradley's family. Is this just a numbers game? Am I just some tool for him to test out his sexuality? Am I a rebound?

They talked about rebounds once on Scrubs. It's like... the person you date right after a breakup. They don't really mean anything to you, but you're in a vulnerable state, so you get with them. I think it's a term that derives from a sport or something. Baseball, maybe? Why is everything that deals with sex and relationships always related to sports, anyway? I don't think sports are very romantic. Then again, that makes me think of when I watched Bradley at his football game. It was like a piece of theater almost. I guess there is some romance in that. With the lights shining down and the feelings of pride and unity felt by the entire crowd. It's rather poe-

"God," Bradley groans as he collapses onto the bed next to me, tossing his cellphone onto the floor. "What a fuckin' bitch."

"Conversation didn't go well?" I ask stupidly and he just shakes his head.

"She'll get over me. It's not like we were in love or anything." He lets out an aggravated sigh and rolls over onto his side, facing me. "C'mere." I slide back into a laying position and Bradley pulls me into his arms. He rests his chin on my forehead and I close my eyes, listening to the sound of our breathing.

"Bradley...?" I whisper into the quiet.

"Hm?"

I hesitate. How stupid am I about to make myself sound? Taking a deep breath, I just go for it. "Do you really like me?" He pulls away slightly so he can look at me.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean... do you really like me or am I just like... here because there isn't any other choice?" I look up at him sincerely, my eyebrows furrowed. He sighs and kisses my nose.

"You wouldn't be here if I didn't really like you. And I mean really like you. It wasn't that I just... saw a weak kid who might've been gay and thought, 'hey, I bet I could get all bi-curious on him!'" I laugh and he smiles. "I didn't even think you were gay at first, honestly." I'm reminded of that conversation I heard between his cousin and him.

"Whatever, Dr. Phil. I don't even think he's gay."

"I just... when we did that project together, I sort of... I liked you. And every time we hung out after that, I liked you more. Every time I look at you, I like you more." I hide my face in his chest so he doesn't see my expression. I can't keep the giddiness off of my face. Is he really saying this to me? Is Bradley McCourt actually speaking these words at my face? Which reminds me...

"Are you..." I lift my head back up. "Are you going to like... I mean, I know we aren't going to talk about us to anyone or anything, but are you going to... acknowledge me... in school..." He's quiet for a moment and I refuse to look at him, embarrassed by even having to ask the question. I don't know why I'm embarrassed. Maybe he should be embarrassed. Maybe he is. I really have no idea how Bradley feels about all of this. I'd like to think he's ashamed, at least a little bit? I mean... if he claims to like me so much, then why would he ever be okay with the way he's treated me? Or the way his friends have treated me? It wasn't that long ago that his buddies were slinging food at my back in the cafeteria. Shouldn't that make him angry? Shouldn-

"Hey, Freckles, you listening?" He shakes me slightly and brings me out of my thoughts. I gaze up at him and he smiles for a second. "I said I'm sorry. For... everything. I guess I never really thought about... how it made you feel or anything. Like I kind of just did it because that's what we did and you were just some kid. And even when we were friends, it was like no big deal. God, am I the worst person in the world, or what?"

I don't answer him, but I do give him a reassuring kiss on the chin, willing him to continue.

"I'm not gonna lie... it's going to take time. We can't just go to school and act like we're suddenly the best friends in the world because then people would..." He trails off and takes a deep breath. He seems conflicted over how to word what he wants to say. I'm sure doesn't want to hurt my feelings. I wrap my arms around him to let him know it's okay. I understand. "It'll just take time for us to be openly friends."

"It's okay. I get it," I say. And I do. It's... it's kind of fucked up, but I get it. If we just went to school and were suddenly pals, people would be suspicious of that. And Bradley's friends don't like mine and my friends don't like Bradley, so life would just get more complicated than it needs to be. I don't need Bradley to publicly acknowledge me in order to make me feel secure... do I? I almost want to ask him what he's going to do when his friends tease me or push me around. Because they will. And he'll see it. Can he kiss me now and ignore that later? I really want to ask, but I tell myself I don't need to. He won't let them do that to me anymore. He won't.

"...and I wish everything was different." Bradley is finished a sentence when my mind zones back in, but I don't ask him to repeat it. I pretty much understand what he's saying.

"Another thing..." I say and I squirm slightly, avoiding his eyes. He pulls me close as if to calm me. "Are we... what... are... we?" I still can't look at him even though he's so close.

"I was hoping..." He trails off and I muster up the courage to look at him. He looks nervous, which is still weird to see on him even though I've been seeing it a lot pretty recently.

"Hoping what?"

"That we'd be like... boyfriends, maybe? Like... like really casually. Like Casual Friday boyfriends. Because, y'know, we have to keep it kind of secret for now, so for now it should just be like..."

"Casual."

"Yeah, casual. And we'll work our way up to something more maybe. Together." This time, he was the one not looking at me. I rested my head against his chest and listened to his erratic heartbeat. I smiled and kissed the fabric of his shirt.

"I've always been a fan of Casual Friday."

I wake up being unable to breathe. I feel someone's arms wrapped tightly around me and I'm overwhelmed with claustrophobia. My heart pounds so hard against my chest that I'm afraid my ribs will crack. I wiggle, trying to get the arms off of me. They're holding too tightly. I feel trapped. I start to grow more frightened and I buck wildly. They're not letting go, they won't let go, why won't they let go let go of me let go stop it stop touching me

"LET GO, LET GO, LET GO, LET GO," I shout loudly, clawing at the arms with my fingernails. I feel hot, everything is so hot, and I can't breathe, I can't see, everything is a bright white light and my head aches it aches so hard I feel like it might cave inward and then the arms are gone and I roll off the bed and hit the floor hard. I press my forehead to the cool carpet and breathe rapidly, not opening my eyes, still terrified. I'm scared, I'm so scared. I can't get away, he's still here, I can't-

"Eddie? Eddie, sweetheart," a voice intrudes my thoughts and a soft hand presses against my back. The voice is familiar, but it isn't the one I'm expecting. And suddenly I don't know who I was expecting. Everything comes swimming back to me and my heart slows and I realize I just had a complete psychotic fit and I have no idea why.

"I'm sorry..." I murmur quietly, my head still pressed against the carpet. Quentin rubs my back.

"Don't be sorry, baby. I came when I heard you yelling. Are you okay?" His voice is so soothing and I lift my head and lean into him. As he begins to pet my hair, I see that Bradley is standing by the open bedroom door, cradling one of his bare arms and watching us.

"I'm fine," I say and I back off of him a bit. My face must be as purple as a beet because I'm so incredibly humiliated. And confused. Why did that happen? That's never happened to me before. Was I dreaming? But I know I was awake. And why was I so scared? I've never had a nightmare like that before, not that I can remember. And not while I was awake. I shouldn't be scared of Bradley. I shouldn't be scared of anyone like that! It doesn't make sense and I wish I could make it make sense but I can't and it seems to be getting wor-

"What did I do?" Bradley has stepped further back into the room but he's still not daring to step close to us. He looks terrified himself and I feel even more embarrassed.

"Nothing," I say, shaking my head and backing fully off of Quentin. "Nothing. I have no idea..." I look down, at a loss for words. What am I supposed to say? 'Sorry but I seem to be absolutely insane'? "Sometimes I... I have these dizzy spells and it was sort of like that, but I felt... I thought you were someone else." They're both staring at me and it's silent for a minute.

"Who?" Quentin asks.

"I..." I look from Bradley to him and back to Bradley. "I don't know. A stranger? I guess." Quentin reaches forward and brushes a hand across my cheek and it's only then that I realize I'm crying.

"Maybe you should go take a nice shower," he suggests. I nod, agreeing that it would be nice. I stand up and start to walk towards the door, but stop when I reach Bradley.

"I'm... really sorry," I murmur, my head dropping.

"Hey," he says, lifting my chin with two fingers. I see deep scratch marks on his arms and it only makes me feel worse. "Don't be sorry." He leans forward to kiss me even though Quentin is standing right there and I kiss back. "Do you want to um... do you want to talk to my dad? He'll be home this afternoon and he knows a lot about like... I don't know, he could help maybe." Oh god, he really believes I'm a crazy person. He's basically recommending that I seek medical attention. After what happened by the pool and this morning... I honestly can't blame him.

"Yeah... yeah..." I say. My heart is sinking to my feet and hiding in my toes. Bradley and I just started sort of being together and suddenly all my crazy comes right on out to greet him. He's not going to want to be with me now. Once I leave this house he's never going to want to see me again. He's going to ignore me in school and never ask me to hang out and he'll start dating some girl and everything will go back to the way it was, the way it was before I met Bradley, and I don't want that. That's the last thing that I want. Because I don't think I could go back to that. I couldn't see him every day and know that I ruined everything. I'm awful and I just messed everything up and I don't understand what's going on and I think I might be some lab experiment that escaped and I just don't remember my past life being tested on and once I talk to Bradley's father, he'll realize that I'm Experiment X and he'll return me an-

"Eddie," Bradley shakes me slightly and I blink a few times, the world coming back into view.

"I'm gonna go shower," I say, sliding away from him and out the bedroom door.

When Carson and Michael return home, the mood in the living room is still slightly awkward. We didn't continue talking about it once I got out of the bathroom and Bradley covered his arm in some gauze. It was like this Thing lingering in the corner that none of us were acknowledging. The elephant, if you will.

"We're ho-oo-oome!" Michael announces in a singsong voice as the two men enter with their suitcases.

"Hey kids," Carson says, and he seems rather tired from the commute. Michael, on the other hand, is very chipper and energetic. He pops over to us and gives Quentin a kiss on the cheek.

"Hi Q, hi Brad. And hi Eddie! You're a pleasant surprise," he says, grinning my way. I smile softly back at him. Carson takes Michael's suitcase and announces that he'll be back, carrying everything up the stairs. That's when Michael notices Bradley's arms. "Oooh..." he frowns. "What happened?"

Bradley seems so unsure about what to say. He opens his mouth, but no words come out for a second. Finally, he settles on, "Football." Michael nods understandingly. I look away.

"I don't know why your father lets you play that sport. Honestly, you're going to break your neck one day." He starts to go off about football and when Carson comes back, they talk to us about their trip, but I can't pay attention. My mind keeps drifting away and none of my thoughts are good and I just want to be home. I want to be home and never leave. I'll lock myself in my bedroom and just refuse to face the world ever again. It'll be better for everyone that way.

"Dad, can I ask you a hypothetical question?" I hear Bradley say and I refocus, realizing Quentin's legs are stretched out across my lap. I squeeze one of his sock-covered feet and he wiggles his toes.

"Sure, go ahead," Carson replies. I try not to look at anyone. I don't want them to know what happened just by looking at me. I don't want them to see the crazy. Do I have crazy eyes? You know so many people do. Like when you watch movies about mental hospitals, everybody just looks crazy. Maybe I do too. Hopefully it'll become fashionable and then everyone will want to look crazy, but they won't be able to because it's only a select few who are blessed with such insanity. I'll become a multinational model and I'll walk catwalks but I won't walk like a professional model, I'll just stumble and slouch like myself but everybody will love i-

Quentin nudges me and my attention falls back onto the conversation.

"...and like it could've been a nightmare maybe but then it just kept going after they woke up?"

Carson tilts his head, contemplating the question. "Well, waking nightmares and sleep paralysis are definitely things that exist. It could've just been a regular nightmare and this person just wasn't fully awake after they woke up. You know, like that one time when I woke you up for school and you asked me when Ben Franklin was getting back with the donuts." Michael and Carson laugh, but Bradley, Quentin, and I only give an appreciative chuckle. The mood of the morning is still dampening our spirits.

"What if..." I speak up, but I pause, reluctant to continue the conversation. Bradley smiles at me encouragingly so I trudge on. "What if this person was physically affected too?"

Carson adjusts his glasses and eyes me a bit. "What do you mean by that?"

"Like... he gets dizzy and really hot and he can't breathe. And there's this pounding headache and a bright white light..."

"This is about you." He states this matter-of-factly so I just nod. Carson and Michael glance at each other. "For all I know, it could've been a very intense nightmare. But from what I have observed, this thing might happen to you often, and sometimes when you've been awake for a while?" I nod. His lips thin and he sighs. "I'm not a psychologist. And I don't think it would be responsible of me to give you some sort of diagnosis based on the tiny amount that I know about what you're telling me. I strongly recommend that you visit a therapist. Here, I can give you someone's card. He's really good." He hops out of his seat and walks into another room. I stare at Quentin's socked toes.

When Carson returns, he hands me a small business card with the name DR. SHARMA, an address, and a phone number.

"Thank you," I say in a small voice. Quentin leans over to hug me and I feel Bradley grab my hand. They're doing it to make me feel better, but it's kind of counterproductive.

"Wait," Michael says, his eyes narrowing. "Brad... did you two sleep together?" Bradley quickly lets go of my hand.

"No," he says, sounding incredibly defensive. "I mean... no, I mean yes. We did. But not like... we didn't sleep together - sleep together. You're saying it weird. I have a girlfriend." Quentin and I whip our heads around to look at him. Did he really just say that? He glances nervously at me and stutters a bit. "I mean, I don't. I don't have... a girlfriend. We broke up."

"You broke up with Rose? Oh, Brad, I'm so sorry. When?" Michael seems sufficiently distracted and Bradley gives me an apologetic look before telling his stepfather the story (he neglects to mention the whole party aspect of it though).

When it's time for me to leave, Bradley offers to give me a ride home. I accept and say goodbye to Quentin, Carson, and Michael, and then we're off.

"God I'm so sorry about today," I say as soon as we're on the road. "I really have no idea what that was. It must be some sort of... nightmare thing? I don't know. God..." We're finally alone and I can't keep my mouth from spilling apologies. I'm so afraid that he's going to throw me away.

"No no no no no," he says, reaching a hand over to rest on my knee. "Don't be sorry. Please. It's totally okay. Things happen, yeah?" He reaches up and cups my cheek for a minute before his hand falls back down. "Besides, I've got some shit of my own. Being upset with you would be the pot calling the kettle crazy." He grins and I laugh, lacing our fingers together. I'm mostly relieved, but there's still some anxiety there. He seems to sense this and he squeezes my hand.

"Where are we going?" I ask, suddenly realizing that Bradley is driving the wrong way. He simply shrugs and we drive in silence for a few seconds, before he pulls over on the side of the deserted road. As soon as we're parked, he leans over the console and kisses me hard. I'm slightly caught off guard and unprepared, but I quickly adjust and return his kiss with fervor. He pulls away after a couple minutes and rests his forehead against mine.

"If you didn't have this, whatever it is, then you'd be absolutely perfect. And that just wouldn't be fair." I smile and he kisses my bottom lip. "We've been dating for a whole day, y'know. How's it feel?"

I laugh. "An entire day. Good. Feels good."

"Yeah, I think so too."