A/N: I'm really not dead. I swear! I'm just working on far too many writing projects at one time and, therefore, nothing gets finished. Also, again, not entirely focused on slash writing and more on real, perhaps-publishable stuff. But people keep watching and author alerting me and things, and I feel that loyalty to my extended absence deserves something back.

So here is a one-shot follow-up to "In Manitou" that I've been entertaining to do for a while since the end of it was so inconclusive. Makes a lot more sense if you read that one first, although this has a totally different atmosphere and isn't even focused on the supernatural element at ALL, hence not even being in that category. I've been dawdling on it, but tonight I finished it, mostly because I was feeling supremely down over the fact that my roommate just told me she supports Prop 8 (wiki/index.php?titleCaliforniaProposition8(2008)). And I felt oddly betrayed and had to write it out.

Title: Silver Bullet

Author: Alyn Drasil

Rating: R?

Disclaimer: It's still mine.

Warnings: The norm, which is swearing and m/m stuff. And unbeta-ed like always.

Holm sat on the couch of his parent's living room, glaring. Specifically at the long, shapeless black gown that had been hung from an empty picture-frame hook above the fireplace. It was just a piece of cheap fabric, and he hated it. The hat sat nearby on the mantelpiece, flat and square and ugly and he loathed it just as equally. And there was a nice dry-cleaned suit in a plastic cover hanging in his closet.

The ceremony was tomorrow, and he really didn't want to go at all. The weather was uncomfortably hot for June and he didn't like most of his classmates, anyway. They'd just be handing him an empty faux-leather pocket anyway—his actual diploma would have to be picked up later, from the school. Held in ransom for any last overdue library books.

Holm slouched his body further down on the couch until his sneakers were sticking out past the end of the coffee table, and rolled his head against his shoulders. He'd had his last class of his high school career just a little less than an hour ago and relief was all he could feel about the whole thing. Even before he'd gotten involved with a sort of older man he'd never felt like he quite fit in with people his own age. And Simon never stopped calling him kid, which made it worse in a different way.

The doorbell rang, in a truncated buzzing noise that meant the person who had pushed it hadn't done so long enough for the doorbell's liking. Then it rang again, longer this time—long enough that it was clear the person outside was leaning on it.

"Hoooolm, would you get the door?" his mother caroled from the kitchen, elbows-deep in dishwater and therefore indisposed.

Holm grunted and hauled himself up off the couch, kicking the coffee table accidentally as he did. "Yeah."

The front atrium was hazy with sunlight and the dust motes his mother had stirred up from earlier cleaning. The house had to look nice for all the abstract relatives coming over to invade after the ceremony tomorrow, the ones Holm wasn't sure he had ever all met before. He wasn't sure what the big deal was—it was just high school. Even morons got through it.

The doorbell rang, loud and impatient, again.

"Yes, yes," Holm muttered, and pulled open the front door.

The person leaning against the doorjamb was a dusty silhouette against the afternoon light, and it took Holm a moment to even start making out facial features. And before he really could, the person spoke.

"Hey there, Sandholm Redding," the man at the door said. "How's tricks?"

Holm gaped, his jaw actually falling open before he caught himself and snapped himself back together. "Fuck—Simon?" he said. "What are you doing here?"

"You drop in on me unexpectedly enough, I thought I'd return the fucking favor," Simon drawled, arcing one eyebrow over the rim of his sunglasses.

Holm wanted to riposte with something like, 'if you'd get a phone I could announce my visits, you ass,' but he was too flummoxed by Simon's appearance—and appearance—on his doorstep. Not only were the sunglasses new, but the man's haircut—short, rakish, and attractive—and entire wardrobe were different. He was in jeans that actually fit, a plain blue t-shirt with a leather jacket that looked as though it had cost more than Holm's entire first year of college tuition was going to.

"I—guh," Holm said, raising his hands then dropping them after he realized he wasn't sure what he had planned to do with them. He couldn't take his eyes off Simon. "Fuck, you look hot."

Simon smirked. "Sometimes I try," he said, before his eyes flicked over Holm's shoulder, and the smirk turned into something softer and more friendly.

"Oh, Holm," said Holm's mother's voice from behind him, and Holm flinched. "Who is this?"

He whirled to her—she was holding a dishcloth and still wearing sudsy neon-yellow rubber gloves. "Oh, uh—" He couldn't even come up with a lie fast enough, he was so thrown by Simon and—Simon. "Simon West…more…land," Holm finally said. He hoped Simon's snort hadn't been audible to his mom. "He's, uh—"

"I'm just from the student advisory office," Simon suddenly said, whipping off his sunglasses and flashing a winning smile that Holm had never before seen in Simon's repertoire of expressions. And even though Simon was still too pale and too skinny and still even somewhat ill looking under his new clothes, the smile transformed him into something handsome and charming. Holm could see that his mother had instantly bought in.

"Oh," she said, looking charmed and also slightly worried."There isn't any problem is there?" Holm could see the instant graduation fear that flashed up in her eyes.

"Oh no, it's something good," Simon said, grabbing Holm by the back of his shirt and towing him backwards. "Academic honors, and all that. I just need to speak with your son for a moment."

"Yeah, I'll—it's fine, mom," Holm stumbled, nearly losing his footing on every single step of the porch stairs, since Simon was still pulling him backwards. "I'll be right back—"

His mother blinked uncomprehendingly from the doorway until Simon had dragged him out of her sight and around the hedges that edged the front walk of Holm's house.As Simon towed him along to the garage, Holm saw his dull red and muddied truck at the curb, parked extremely poorly between Holm's father's truck and their neighbor's Subaru. Apparently the man had no idea how to parallel park.

Holm twisted around in Simon's grip so that he was facing forward, and then dug his heels in and dragged them both to a stop. Simon grunted and gave Holm an exasperated look.

Holm scowled at him. "Why the hell did you tell that shit to my mom?"

"What; you'd rather I tell her that I'm a crazed half-hermitized lycanthrope who's been waiting around for twelve months to finally properly fuck her kid when he turns legal?"

"Well, Jesus, no, but—you know, maybe something in between."

Simon laughed. "I'm sure you probably are getting massive honors," he said. "Being as obnoxiously intelligent as you are."

"I think there was a compliment in there," Holm said. "I am going to take it as such."

"Good," Simon said, and shoved him up against the wall of the garage and kissed him, hard. Holm seized his hands into Simon's expensive leather jacket, instantly let go, then grabbed back again. He could even smell the leather, a sort of sweet rawhide mixed with the pine wood scent that belonged to Simon, and his cabin.

Then Holm pushed him away. "My parents," he said, and jerked his head up at the house behind them.

Simon pushed his sunglasses back onto his face. "Fine," he said. "Let's walk." And was already several paces down the sidewalk before Holm recovered himself and headed after him. He trotted up beside Simon's elbow and slowed down, jamming his hands deep into his jeans pockets and half-scowling at the man walking carelessly beside him.

The air was still overly warm, and smelled like mown lawn and dirt with the occasional whiff of Simon's stupid fancy leather jacket. It was ridiculous that Simon was even wearing it—the temperature had to be pushing past ninety. Giant fat bees were bumbling heavily around the flowers in his neighbors' garden, keeping up a low, constant drone.

"What's with the jacket?" Holm said, pinching at Simon's elbow. The man jerked his arm away and snorted.

"It may come as a surprise to you, but I actually make money," Simon said. "I'm not poor."

"I know that." Holm said. "Why the jacket?"

"Doesn't it make me look dashing?" Simon answered in a drawl. "It's made of real animal."

"That was poor bait," Holm muttered. "God, it's so weird that you're here. Seriously, what are you doing?"

Simon lifted one shoulder. "Apparently my boyfriend is graduating high school. I thought I should donate my presence."

Something warm flared up in Holm's chest, but he was careful not to let that show on his face. "So is that what we are?" he asked. "Boyfriends now?"

Simon's face shuttered instantly. "No," he said.

"You said it," Holm said, sing-song. "You can't take it back."

"You're such a child," Simon said, and elbowed him hard. Holm tripped to the side and nearly went over a small decorative garden wall. "Shut up."

Holm grinned, recovering his balance. "You're really coming to my graduation?"

"If I had known you'd be such a fucking sap about it, I'd've reconsidered." Simon fished around in a pocket, and came up with a cigarette carton. He started patting his other pockets, with increasing frustration. "Fuck, I think my lighter's back in the truck. You got one?"

"I don't smoke, idiot," Holm said. "And you shouldn't either."

"Thanks, Surgeon General."

Holm caught Simon's hand, the one holding the cigarette. "I mean it. It's not good for you."

Simon shook him off. "Look, you get an M.D. and then you come back and tell me what's not good for me."

"I was thinking about it," Holm said, and Simon squinted at him.

"About what?"

"About…a doctorate. Pre-med and then, you know…actual med."

Simon let his hand drop. "Shit," he said. "I'd be impressed."

"Would you? It'd be the first fucking time."

"No, it wouldn't," Simon said. A large noisy bumblebee swerved between them, and he swatted at it. "But—you're serious?"

"Maybe. Yeah. My parents approve so, I can be serious about it, if I want to."

"Oh," Simon said, and then, "damn."

"What, you think I don't have life plans or anything?"

"I don't know. You've never said anything before."

"I didn't think you'd be interested."

Simon stared at him, then shrugged one shoulder with a grunt. "Whatever."

"See, that—that—is exactly why I don't think you're interested."

"If you've already pegged me as such, why bother acting any different?" Simon said.

"Well, Christ, I don't know, maybe people can change their opinions."

They had reached the little neighborhood park, the one that took up as much room as a small house plot would. There was grass around the edges and sand in the middle, a brightly colored plastic playset planted in the center of it. The whole thing was empty—no kids playing. There was a metal swing-set near the edge of the sidewalk, and Holm stomped away from Simon and dropped himself into one of the swings. The seat was hard rubber and meant for someone with a much smaller ass, but Holm stayed there anyway. He drug his feet along the wide groove in the sand under the swing and stared at Simon, who was still standing on the sidewalk.

"Well?" Holm said, and with a short sigh, Simon slouched across the sand and dropped into the kiddie swing next to him.

"Honestly," he said, after a moment." Just tell your parents. Then you wouldn't have to screech at me for lying to them. And you wouldn't have to lie to them."

"What—tell them I'm gay? Great idea, seeing how well it worked out for you. Why bring that up, anyway? We were talking about pre-med."

"I don't really want to talk about your pre-med," Simon said, and Holm drew in a heavy breath.

"Of course not," he said. "Fine, then. Let's talk about what you want to talk about. You know my parents don't have any idea that I'm gay. I've even told them this one girl was my girlfriend for a while, when she was really just a history project partner who had to keep coming over. They don't know I've been visiting you—obviously—they don't even know I know you, they think I've been going to see my friend near the ranger station."

"The one you used to fuck," Simon said dryly, and Holm set his jaw.

"Yes, not that it matters. Please, and I'm asking this seriously—don't screw it up for me. Say anything you want to them—just nothing about us. This."

"Shit," Simon muttered. "I'm not that much of an asshole. Of course I'm not going to fucking out you to your parents. Christ."

"Sometimes I don't know," Holm said, and Simon's face tightened.

"I really need a fucking cigarette," he said. "I'm getting my lighter."

"No." Holm plucked the cigarette from Simon's fingers, threw it to the sand, and stepped on it. Then he grabbed the carton out of Simon's jacket pocket, wound up his arm, and hurled it over a backyard fence. He turned back to Simon, who only looked amused. "Don't smoke."

Simon lifted one eyebrow. "I have another pack in my truck."

"Fine," Holm said. "Fine, go get it, go turn your lungs into fucking air filters. See if I care."

"I already know you do."

"Fuck. Off."


Metal jingled and the swing-set frame creaked, and with a whisk of strong-smelling leather, Simon was gone. Walking back to the sidewalk, back in the direction of his truck. Holm dug his sneaker into the sand and kicked a shower of it into the air. He leant his head against the metal swing chain, which was still cool despite the day's heat. He shut his eyes and listened to the bees droning and the occasional gritty swoosh of a car going past.

Simon came walking back within a few minutes, already smoking. Holm hadn't moved. Simon sat down in the same swing as before and sat nothing, only creaked back and forth in the seat. Holm dragged his feet back and forth in the sand and waited. He wasn't going to talk first. He watched the dull burning edge of Simon's cigarette slowly dwindle closer to the filter, Simon occasionally tapping the ash end off the swing chain.

Simon was over halfway through the cigarette before he spoke.

"So this is fun."

"What," Holm said flatly. "I'm not your personal entertainment."

"You're not even talking."

"Neither are you."

"I am fellating a cigarette and don't want to talk," Simon said. "You, on the other hand, are doing nothing."

Holm gritted his teeth and exhaled through them. "Jesus, Simon. Sometimes I don't even know why—"

"Why what?"

"Why I even bother," Holm muttered.

Simon exhaled a long stream of smoke towards the top of the swing-set. "So why do you?"

"I don't know." Holm kicked at the sand, and swung his swing sideways, closer to Simon. "So you wanna kiss me or something?"

"Not really," Simon said, and caught Holm's jaw and tilted their faces together. Holm grabbed the collar of his jacket, squeezing it and hoping his nails put marks in the fabric. The swing chains jangled around them and one bumped Holm in the side of his face. Simon tasted like hot smoke and grease, like maybe he'd eaten a carton of french fries before he'd shown up at Holm's door.

Holm didn't let Simon pull away the first time he tried, instead adding a second hand to Simon's collar and dragging him even closer. He kissed him hard, feeling Simon's teeth behind his lips and their noses mashing uncomfortably because neither one of them would turn their head.

Then he let Simon draw away, sucking in a hard gasp of air because neither of them had really been breathing. He let go of Simon's collar and slid back another foot, the swing settling back to its usual position. Simon tossed his cigarette into the sand and stamped on it.

"Still so fucking underage," he muttered.

"Actually, no. You know…that's almost why I thought you were down here," Holm muttered, kicking his sneaker into the sand again.


"m'birthday was a few days ago," Holm said, still avidly not looking at Simon. "So I'm eighteen, now."

Simon didn't say anything at all. Holm dug so hard into the sand with his shoe that he unearthed damp, sandy dirt, and finally turned to look at him.

"Are you going to say anything?"

"No," Simon said. "I'm just wondering why you weren't on my doorstep the minute you were, demanding that we jump in the sack."

"I don't know," Holm said. "Maybe because I can't stop thinking about what you told me once—that as long as I was thinking like that I was still too young, no matter what my actual age. I didn't—I don't want you to think of me like that."

"I told you that once," Simon said carefully, "when I thought you were transitorily intrigued by me and just consumed by that universal teenage lust for sex. I didn't actually expect you to keep coming around for an entire year, or actually—" Simon frowned, broke off, and knocked his clasped hands against his mouth.

"What—care about you? Like you? Or—"

"Stop talking," Simon said quickly. "Seriously, stop."

"Fine." Holm shrugged and sat back on the bench, his pulse fluttering strangely in his neck and wrists. "Can we just have sex then, already?"

"I thought—"

"I don't care." Holm rose, grabbing Simon's too-thin wrist and yanking him up off the swing. "Let's go."

"Go where, exactly?" Simon's voice was both smug and anxious.

"You're down here, until tomorrow apparently, you had to have gotten a place to stay. And if not we're going to fucking do it in your truck."

"Do you have any idea how uncomfortable that is?" Simon said. "It only looks good in movies."

"Are you speaking from experience or from your ass?" Holm said, still dragging Simon along by his pitifully thin arm. Simon actually laughed, and Holm smiled but was careful not to let Simon see it.

"I got a hotel room," Simon said. "It isn't far."

"Good," Holm said. "Then take us there."

They went, in Simon's truck. Holm didn't bother to tell his parents, because he had a cell phone now and they could call him if they really needed too. They didn't drive far, only a few blocks out of Holm's sprawling neighborhood before Simon was squealing his rust-bucket of a truck into a gritty little parking lot of a dully-painted two story motel.

Holm hand-rolled down the grimy window and stared out of it as Simon parked the truck.

"You can afford a fucking leather jacket but you're staying a goddamn Motel 6?" he said.

"I'm a cheap whore, what can I say," Simon said wryly.

"Just shut up," Holm muttered, sliding out of the truck and slamming the door. Every nerve in his body was tingling, and the bright early summer air seemed to buzz and blur out the outlines of everything into a harsh white-golden glow. Some of it was adrenaline. The rest was anger.

Simon took him to a door on the first level, fishing a key out of his jacket pocket. His hands were shaking slightly as he unlocked the door, which made Holm feel only slightly better about his own pounding heart and trembling hands.

The room was dim and the air conditioning was running when they entered the room, and Holm turned to Simon as soon as the door was shut and grabbed him by the jacket, roughly twisting it off his shoulders. He threw it to the floor and pushed Simon towards the bed, which was just left of the door. He couldn't stop and think about this. If he did, he wouldn't be able to do anything. He didn't even want the lights on.

Simon was unbalanced and grabbing at Holm's waist for stability, his legs backed up against the edge of the bed. Holm took advantage of his unsteadiness and dragged Simon's shirt off over his head. Static electricity crackled through Simon's hair, and snapped between their skin when Holm put his hands back to Simon's bare shoulders.

He'd sort of noticed it before, but somewhere along the line he'd gotten taller than Simon. And he'd always been stronger when it wasn't any time near the full moon. He threw the other man down to the bed with almost no effort. Simon bounced a little and his head his the faux-pinewood headboard.

"Fuck, gently," Simon hissed, grabbing at his scalp.

"Those words do not go together right now," Holm said, and crawled onto the bed, straddling Simon's thighs. Simon bared his teeth in a soundless snarl and grabbed the nape of Holm's neck, twisting him down to the bed beside him. He pushed his mouth against Holm's, more of a bite than a kiss, and rolled over onto him, one knee pressed between Holm's legs. He grabbed Holm's shirt by the front and collar and dragged it over his head so hard that Holm heard a seam rip somewhere.

"Do you want to fight me or fuck me?" Holm snarled, thrashing against Simon's hands, which had fallen down to Holm's shoulders and were digging in painfully.

"Maybe both." Yellow light was coming through the cheap blinds above the bed, falling over Simon's face and chest in sharp slashes. Holm reached up and grabbed his neck, twisting him down to the bed in the same way Simon had just done to him. Simon grunted and threw his body into the movement, rolling them over a second time, the bed springs creaking loudly beneath them. The comforter was cheap and felt barely better than woven-together strings of plastic against his bare skin.

Holm felt one shoulder slide off the edge of the mattress and his head banged into the wood nightstand. He turned his weight back against Simon and rolled them the other way, twisting Simon's head back with a fist still gnarled into his hair. It was harder when his hair was short like this—he was used to about another four inches to hang onto. Holm dragged Simon down and pulled their faces together, barely kissing but more like crushing mouths together, feeling Simon's teeth through his lips.

Holm's chest was burning and he could barely catch breath, he felt dizzy and the stark light was searing into his eyes, Simon's grip on him changing and shifting and feeling everywhere at once. It was a whirl of everything out of control and Holm was starting to hate it. It wasn't right and it wasn't what it should have been but he couldn't make it stop because he was afraid it would never happen again. He was barely even sure that Simon tolerated him anymore, and if this ended here there was nothing keeping them together. He felt suffocated and desperate and terrified.

Simon stilled suddenly, breathing in loud, short pants beside Holm's ear. Holm pushed gently on his shoulders and shifted him backwards, moving Simon into his sight. Simon's face was tightened and drawn, his eyes glinting in the yellowish, dim light. Holm could hear his own breath, loud and reedy against the quiet hum of the air conditioner. They only looked at each other, breathing, not moving.

"This is weird," Holm finally said, moving his eyes to stare at the ceiling, past Simon's head. His voice sounded taut and horrible, and he inhaled slowly through his nose to get a hold of himself.

"I know," Simon muttered, and abruptly rolled off, dropping down beside Holm on the bed. "Fuck."

"Not sure if I want to," Holm said carefully, and Simon grimaced.

"It's not really—right, right now, is it," he said.

"Yeah. I don't know. This is like—doing it for the sake of doing it. I—don't want that."

"Yeah," Simon said. He exhaled and knocked his forehead against Holm's shoulder. "Shit, I'm sorry."

"What for?"

"I don't know, it feels like it's my fault, all this—I've been such a fucking prude about it."

"No, I think you were right," Holm said. "Waiting was…right."

"Then what's wrong with us now? It's not like we're goddamn virgins here."

"I don't know."

"Is this going to work at all?"

"I don't know."

Neither of them spoke for a while. Holm listened to Simon breathe and make little licking noises with his mouth, because the air in the motel room was over-air-conditioned and was drying everything out. Holm was licking his own lips for it, and it was just making them worse.

"I guess I'm going to go home," Holm said, sitting up on the edge of the bed, and reaching for his shirt.

"So," Simon, who hadn't moved, said after a moment. "Now what happens?"

"You're still coming tomorrow?"

"I—yeah. If you want me."

"Then just show up. It's pretty obvious where the school is."

"Right," Simon muttered, and put his arm over his eyes. Holm watched him for a moment, watching his thin, rib-defined chest move up and down with breathing. He looked so pale and thin and ill in just his jeans, and the scars on his stomach and shoulder partly illuminated by the thin bars of sunlight coming through the blinds.

Holm pulled his shirt back on—there was a rip now under the right sleeve, big enough for four fingers to fit through. He wanted to feel angry about it, but all he could feel was a sad sort of sickness. He stood up, and went out the door. Not looking once back at Simon. Outside the sun was bright and blinding, and he leaned against the motel wall for a moment, squinting and rubbing his palms against his jeans. And thinking about what Simon had said.

He had never really thought about whether this was working. It always just was. For over a year it had just been. He and Simon never got all the time but there was just something that always pulled Holm back to him, and Simon had stopped complaining about his presence about a month in. But now that Simon had asked if it was working—Holm had no answer. He had never wanted to think too deeply about the whole thing, because he knew that nothing about it made any sense.

Holm pushed away from the wall and started walking. It would take him a while to get home on foot, and his parents were probably already worried.

Three hundred and eighty one flat black hats flew into the air and cartwheeled back to the sun-steamed grass between three hundred and eighty one white plastic chairs. The mass of unisexly-robed ex-high school students scattered and broke apart out of their neatly aligned rows, finding friends, family members, random faculty members to do some last minute sucking up to.

Holm bent down and retrieved a random hat from the grass. His parents would want pictures and they would want them avec stupid motorboard. He hung his grey and gold tassel back off the knob on top and twisted it to the left side. Parents were sweeping down from the bleachers and intercepting their graduates across the field, but Holm headed towards the far end of the football field, towards the half dozen large oak trees at the end. It was shady there, and his parents had told him to find them there.

Which he did, rapidly. His mother swooped in with a watery, beaming smile and a bone-crushing hug. His father loitered in the background with a quietly proud expression, and when Holm's mother let him go, he gave Holm a firm handshake and a clap on the shoulder. Holm still didn't really understand it—it was only high school, after all. A ring of other random family members—aunts and uncles and a cousin or two, all swept in to bestow their own congratulations.

A few yards away Holm saw Carrie, a girl whose parents were friends with his parents, getting a similar treatment by a smattering of family members. And beyond her, in the shade of the trees, Holm saw a single familiar figure that made something inside him lurch in surprise.

After yesterday he hadn't really expected Simon to show up. But he was there, leaning against one of the huge oak trees with his sunglasses on and trying to look like he wasn't completely conspicuous. After Holm had distracted his parents and other family by pointing them in the direction of Carrie and her family, he slipped off and came up beside Simon's shoulder.

"You look like some sort of pedophile, hanging out and watching everyone," Holm said, and Simon snorted and turned to him.

"Aren't I?" he said, and flicked the edge of Holm's motorboard. "Hat looks fucking retarded."

"I'm sure it's supposed to," Holm said. Simon moved a few inches closer, and Holm shoved a hand against his chest. "Try and kiss me here, and die," he said. His ex-classmates were still milling around everywhere and his parents were only a dozen yards away.

"I was actually," Simon said, reaching up and pulling the motorboard off, "going to do that."

He was still a perfectly reasonable distance away, but Holm rolled his eyes and shoved him even further back. "My parents are looking," he said. "They aren't going to buy Student Advisory Board for long if you keep fucking pawing at me."

Simon glanced right, and laughed. "They are not looking. They're buying about fifty leis."

"Shit," Holm said, "I told them not to do that."

Simon tossed the hat carelessly to the side. "So. This pre-med college thing you're doing. You're going to live in the dorms?"

"Yeah," Holm said, watching the motorboard roll around on its square edges until it landed top-down in the grass. "Got a roommate and everything. I thought you didn't want to talk about it."

"Yeah," Simon said, just as Holm's parents bustled back over, Carrie and her family in tow. Simon slipped incongruously into the background, melting into the shadows of the oak trees while Holm's mother flitted around with the digital camera, purposefully crushing Carrie and Holm together in the center of all the pictures. Carrie gave Holm and awkward, apologetic smile and Holm was grateful she wasn't falling for it either. Both of their mothers had thrown leis around their necks and the strong, sweet smell of the flowers made Holm feel lightheaded.

"I'm going to go find Jake," Holm said after a few minutes of digital camera flashes, as an excuse. Jake was a guy Holm sometimes hung out with, because he was quiet and didn't always act like an idiot teenager. And his parents knew they were kind of friends.

"And I'm going to find Marissa," Carrie added quickly, and Holm almost hugged her in gratitude. They split in opposite directions, leaving their parents somewhat startled. Holm stalked past Simon, still lurking under the trees, hooking a finger briefly in his elbow as a signal to follow. Which he did. Holm pulled them to the furthest edge of the field, near a chain link fence holding back a dark tangle of undergrowth.

"God," he said, untangling the lei from around his neck. "God. I hate this. Here, take that." He thrust the lei at Simon, who caught it in both hands like an offering. "So what were you asking me about the dorms for, anyway?"

Simon stared at the lei for several moments, then picked a few purple-tinted petals off and flicked them to the grass. Then he cleared his throat. "I've been thinking about getting a place. You know. Down here, with the rest of humanity."

Holm stared at him, but Simon kept staring at the lei and ripping petals off of it.

"Of course," he kept on, "I'd still have to get up to the fucking shack once a month, but shit—you do it all the time and it wasn't that bad, driving this time. But then you wouldn't have to drive it, if you even still want to, while you're doing your, whatever, pre-med thing. And—"

"Are you serious?" Holm blurted out, and Simon startled and finally looked at him.

"Yes; what? Yes. I—well. I could be. Stop looking at me like that, fuck, what's wrong with you?"

"I think I'm having an aneurysm, is what's wrong," Holm said. "Did you just say all that? And you meant it?"

"No, I was just making shit up for kicks." Simon dropped the lei and suddenly grabbed Holm by the collar, hoisting him forward. "Stop doubting everything I say. I'm getting fucking sick of it."

"You've lived up in that backwoods cabin for six years," Holm said, closing one hand roughly over Simon's. "You don't have a phone or even the fucking internet, and you expect me to just take it at face when you say you're going to move to a city?"

Simon's expression remained frozen for a long moment, and then he grimaced and pushed Holm away. But more gently.

"Point," he said. "Fine. But I am serious."

"You are," Holm said, flatly. He took a step back. "You are, really. Suddenly you want to be that close to me, when we can't even have sex and all we do is fight and neither of us knows if this is even working. Shit, that makes so much sense."

"You're not still on that, are you? That was one time and—"

"Our relationship," Holm interrupted, "is a fight. It's all we do. Fight, and not have sex."

"Both of which are both of our faults," Simon snapped.

"At least you're spreading the blame evenly."

"The blame—" Simon suddenly stopped, inhaled, and closed his eyes. He pinched the bridge of his nose with two fingers, and then exhaled. "Holm," he said, quietly. "I don't want to fight anymore. Not right now and—not as much as we do, maybe."


"Shit, look. You know what kind of person I am. And I thought I knew what kind of person you were. Until you kept proving me wrong. And—you've shown me how serious you are. And I—maybe it's my turn."

Holm kept silent. Simon wasn't meeting his eyes, and his tone of voice was much lower than normal. He shuffled his hands awkwardly in the pockets of his leather jacket and tossed a stray falling lock of hair out of his face with a sharp flick of his head.

"You're a—a really good guy," Simon said at length. "And I treat you like shit. But you've stuck around even still, and I guess I never let up because I figured one day you'd finally get sick of it and leave. Plus I'm a—you know. I'm not normal. I honestly don't know what you see in me, but—you're still here."

"Of course I am," Holm said, quietly.

Simon looked at him, tight-mouthed and tight-eyed.

"I'd ask why, but I'm a little afraid of the answer," he said, and let out a short, rough laugh. "I really just want to tell you that I'm going to try more. To not be such a god-awful bastard. Because…I realized want this to work. I do."

"Yeah," Holm said, swallowing against a sudden tightness in his throat. "That god-awful bastard thing must get pretty tiring to keep up."

Simon gave him a rough, slanted smile, and looked down at the fraying lei in the grass. He picked it up and stepped forward suddenly, and draped it carefully over Holm's shoulders.

"There," Simon said, oddly gentle. "Now you've been laid."

"Ha, ha," Holm said weakly. He pushed Simon away again. But Simon refused to be pushed. He took both of Holm's wrists and pressed his arms down to his sides, taking a step forward up against him.

"I swear," Holm said, halfheartedly, "if you kiss me, I'll—"

"I'll just have to find out what you'll do, then," Simon said, and leaned down. Holm didn't mean to lift his face up to meet him, but he did anyway, and Simon put his mouth against Holm's and kissed him softly. Holm gripped at him, meaning to shove him away—and then stopped caring about it. He put his hand around the back of Simon's neck and moved into him, catching at his hip with the other hand. He'd never see most of these people again. Who cared if they saw—who cared if they cared.

Simon eventually stepped back, and ran his hands down Holm's sides until they stopped at his waist, just at the waistband of his dress slacks beneath the formless grad robe.

"So," he said. "Go on then. Murder me, or whatever you were going to do."

"No," Holm said. "Don't really care, anymore."

Simon smirked and pushed his nose into Holm's hair. "I'm—sorry," he said awkwardly, after a moment. "About yesterday."

"Over it," Holm said. "We were both stupid. We probably still are, because—I want it to work, too."

"Yes," Simon said, with none of his usual acidity. "We are both stupid. It's probably not going to change."

"Probably not," Holm said. Simon's hands were still on his waist and he knew that anyone looking over at this end of the field would see them like this. Looking intimate and completely non-platonic. Holm was finding it harder and harder to care. He'd never known how he'd feel about being public with Simon because he was never in public with Simon. He was starting to like it. He put his hand on Simon's face and tucked the errant hair strand back behind his ear.

"This is really nice," Holm said, and then added, "you. Not being a bastard."

"It's not going to be constant," Simon warned. "I'm just trying really hard right now."

"Fine," Holm grinned, and pulled Simon back in. "I'll take now, then."

Simon only gave him a quick, nearly chaste peck before pulling away, and dropping his hands off Holm's waist. Vaguely annoyed, Holm tried to step closer, but Simon took his arm and stilled him, shaking his head. Holm saw why when he glanced to the left—his parents had spotted him again, and were coming back over. And even though Simon had moved away, he was still closer to Holm than someone from the Student Advisory Board should be, his body half-curled around Holm's side.

"Oh," Holm's mother said as she and Holm's father reached them, blinking at Simon. "You're that young man from the—where were you from, again?"

Simon opened his mouth to speak, but Holm pinched him in the side. Just because Simon was being nice to him for a transitory moment didn't mean the gesture was going to extend to his parents. Plus, he was taking Simon's advice. He didn't want to lie anymore.

"This is—" Holm glanced at Simon for a last reassurance, and then thought, here we go. He looked back to his parents. "This is my boyfriend."

Damn, that's just as inconclusive, isn't it? Someday I'll have a sex scene. Someday…(maybe)

I had to go read old old diary entries about what graduating high school was like in order to get this chapter vaguely correct (it's been four years). So where Holm is graduating from is basically the exact same place, way, and even number of people that it was for me.

I actually…have a ton of things that are almost ready to go up. Sadly none of them are Christian Faith (okay, seriously, why is that still popular? It's terrible) or Pretty Shade of Grey (which is NOT abandoned, even though it really really looks like it). But there is 71,000+ words of something else that I've been working on for a few months. That'll probably start pretty soon. Feel free to bludgeon me, or whatever, for being flaky and lame and not updating for like two years. TAT