Author'

Secrets
***

Author's Notes: 05/05/01 - This story was one of my babies back in High School. (1999) I had fun inventing all of the characters present in this fic, Reid, Donald, Mike etc., and writing about them, and having them deal with, uh, *issues*. Because my friend Zoi_no_miko (you can find her here on Fanfiction.net under the same user name) and I want to post Not about Dogs, a crossover we did with our two sets of characters (she had original characters that she wrote about in her story First Cry in Hades) I'm putting this up so that you can get orientated with my universe. Anyway, please read this before reading Not about Dogs or you will be instantly lost. *lol* and now onto ficcy...

***

I would have never guessed. Never. He just wasn't the type....

Yeah, sure, I knew that he had problems, but then we all do in our own little ways. Yet I would have never expected that. That was just....

I can't be biased, I guess. He trusts me now, probably more than he should. Sometimes I used to wonder if I was just about the only real good friend he had. You know, a friend that wouldn't turn their backs on him the moment it was evident that he was different. That was before he made friends with Donald of course. That action just tied the three of us closer together. Imagine. Me, him, and the class geek.

His name? Reid. Poor, screwed up, Reid Settler. I avoided him a lot, not because he scared me exactly, but because he came close. He has deep red hair, a really interesting burgundy shade, and startling gray eyes. It's those eyes that made me uneasy, and still do sometimes... they have a particular way of piercing a person right to the blackened soul. When they weren't in a permanent state have glazed over nothingness. He had a vice when it came to drugs and alcohol. I don't think a day went by, for both my grades 10 and 11 years that he wasn't high. That all changed, for good, in the spring of grade 11....

***

Pre-Spring

He choked, then coughed and gasped, regaining that lost breath.

Yes, he could breath now. That was a good thing. A very good thing. No matter how jagged and rough that breath seemed each time he drew air through his clenched teeth, it was still air, and air he needed. Especially now. Especially....

Here.

A violent motion that his eyes could not see, but his body could feel caused a shuddering to pass through out all of his teased form. It caused him to loose his breath again.

He moaned, a cry of half pain and half pleasure from deep down in the pit of his throat. The rumble of his voice, no matter how slight, almost managed to disguise the next sound from his straining ears.

Almost.

'Oh great...'

'Come on Chris,' he was tempted to call out. 'Not the lighter again...' But he didn't say a word. He couldn't. Not now. All he could do is lay here and steel himself for the pain, as the tiny flame did its work. It was very good at that....

"Oh baby..." the flame was put away now, and he tensed, body chilled in the arousing knowledge of what was to come....

Oww...

The tongue that didn't belong to him was like a healing balm to his fresh wounds, creating peace across livid skin wherever it touched. He tossed his head to the side. The action only caused the other, older, man to chuckle.

Then he continued to lick it, lick him, like a cat drinking from a bowl of milk, for a moment managing to consume some of the fires that burned with in him....

But only for a moment.

Then....

Pain.

*

He slumped against the cold porcelain of the tub, shaking. Chris had long left him, and time had also. He looked up, and blurred eyes could see the clock against the wall. The black arms told him that it was far past a reasonable time to be in bed, to allow his mind and torn body to rest. But he couldn't get up. He didn't want to. If he got up, he'd have to see the face....

His face. In the mirror of the washroom. At least once upon a time he could have recognized it as his own....

***

Weeks later....

I moaned, pushing forward. Milling, drunken people swirled through the rooms, either alone in their own little worlds, or with friends. They tripped each other, sang together, played together. Sighing out my complaint, I continued to weave through the lavish crowd.

Spotting Travis off to the side, I gave the guy a slight nod, since he was the host and it was only polite to do so. It was his house, his party, and his alcohol as far as I knew.

To tell all truth I really didn't like the guy. If Reid came close to frightening me, Travis did totally. He had a way of manipulating people, especially his 'clients' and there was always a new set of rumors floating around about some of the obscene things he enjoyed doing.

It wasn't any of my business though. Walking on past him and his girl, I reached the stairs. I tread quietly up them, careful not to disturb anyone. Undoubtedly some of the upper bedrooms already contained people, deciding to crash after giving up seeing as it was already three in the morning. It may have been a Saturday night, but I was pretty sure that it was about time for me to head home, half drunk or not.

Luckily I didn't even have to disturb any of the rooms in the search for my winter jacket. Treading down to the end of the hallway, I came to the door of the little office there. Twisting the knob, I went to enter it.

And stopped.

It was locked.

"Hello?" I questioned, tapping gently on the door.

There was no reply... at least for the first few moments. Then....

"Hi," a voice returned, sounding muffled.

I started. I hadn't actually expected anyone to be in the room. In fact I was just about to turn away and go find Travis for the key....

"Hello?" I asked again, leaning forwards and pressing my ear against the wood.

"Again," the voice inside returned. "Who's that?"

I couldn't place the obviously male voice, though it sounded familiar. Brow creasing, I spoke back to it. "This is Mike." I told it. "Mike Dawson."

No reply.

I was beginning to develop a headache. All I was interested in was retrieving my clothes and heading home. "Can I come in?" I asked, sounding logical.

"If you can open the door, I suppose there's nothing stopping you." the voice returned.

Blink. And what was that supposed to mean?? "Well can't you just unlock it?" I argued, annoyed at whoever it was.

There was once again no reply, which was good because it suddenly occurred to me who the person was. And that's a very good thing to accomplish when you are half drunk. "Reid?" I questioned. He was a friend, or rather more of an acquaintance of mine from school. Let's just say that we smoked around the same people, when we were supposed to be in classes. "Is that you?"

Pause.

"Yes," the voice replied reluctantly.

I grunted. "Okay, so why can't you open the door?"

Another looonnng pause. My headache grew.

"You know what Reid," I told the door finally. "It's okay. I'll head home and get my stuff later." I turned away.

"Wait Mike!" Reid's voice called out after me. Smiling grimly, I turned back. That got the reaction I had been looking for. Now perhaps we could get something done.

The voice sighed. "I can't open the door Mike," Reid explained. "Because I'm kind of tied up in here. And I can't move or open the door. You're going to have to get the key from Travis." It sighed again.

I didn't reply for a moment, just out of mute amazement. He was either telling the truth, which I doubted, or he was very very drunk. I had a sudden mental image of him sprawled out on the floor, laying in his own vomit or something. I shook my head.

"Alright, fine," I said out loud. "I'll be back in a second..."

*

His head snapped up, his heart hammering in his chest at the sound of a key turning in the lock of the door. He had dosed off again, which only amplified his fear. He gasped silently for breath... willing himself to calm....

It wasn't, he assured himself mentally. It wasn't all those years ago, when this was common place for him.... 'no... don't...' No!

'This is another place....'

*

I never expected the sight that met my eyes when I did manage to open that door. For a shocked moment I stood there, slumped against the door's frame, now knowing exactly why Travis had that particular look on his face as he handed over the key.

I looked away quickly, flushing despite myself. 'That Freak!' I thought to myself, a rising feeling of repulsion gurgling in my chest. 'He must have locked him in here....'

Never mind that now. I sidestepped the form tied to the filing cabinet, intent on ignoring it as I gathered up my jacket and other items. Only when I had reached the door again did I realize that I had to help.

I was probably the only one who could.

Silently I walked over and crouched next to him, fingers shaking slightly with the alcohol and mute embarrassment as I untied his arms. I didn't look at him, I was too uncomfortable to, but I knew he was thankful in the way he moved his now freed arms. They came up to quickly replace his partially misplaced clothes.

Now I could look at him. I did so in an all new light. Reid had always struck me as a very much "together" person at school, though a mite aloof and quiet, but not someone you find tied to a filing cabinet in a strangers house after a party.

"Did someone decide to play some sort of sick joke on you?" I asked him, my infernal curiosity over coming all logical thought to keep quiet and mind my own business.

He looked at me sharply. "No." He replied, rising to his full 6 foot something, taller than me, height. "My boyfriend Chris did it. You don't know him." He glowered.

I blinked, incredulous as the implications of that statement set in. His boy...?!

Okay, you don't do that. You don't just come out and announce something like that, unless you have some sort of death wish! I coughed suddenly, then choked, peering up at him. He merely looked back at me stonily, his gray eyes flashing, daring me to retort in any way that he would consider offensive.

And I wasn't stupid enough... or drunk enough, to disobey. I would of, I'm sure. I'm not exactly homophobic, as in, I can take it a lot better than most guys, but I still have my qualms. But since I couldn't voice them, I merely asked him stupid question number 1.

"You're?!" I began.

"Yes already!!" he snapped, throwing his hands in the air in frustration. He turned away from me angrily, conveniently blocking me from an escape out the door, though I don't think he realized so. "Jeez, you think people don't watch television or something! Welcome to the real world!!" He kicked the cabinet with vengeance. Then he turned back to me, glaring, long red hair catching the light. "And no, I'm not going to molest you or anything, so you can forget about doing the damned 'stay away from my ass thing!'"

I had to smile slightly at that. I knew the whole entire routine. I continued to smile, even as those red rimmed eyes continued to glare down at me, silently seething. They carried years of hatred for his persecutions and they now dared me to comment at his angry self confession.

And comment I did, but I knew I had to phrase my words carefully.

I grew serious, remembering the sight that had first met my eyes when I had walked into the room, a vision that would be seared into my memory forever more, now that I "knew". It was that of a terribly abused form, lined with wide bruises, burns and cuts. I didn't know where they had come from, but I could probably guess their source. I looked up at him.

"I think you need a new boyfriend Reid." I told him calmly.

Never could my many years of being an actor, could of prepared me for his reaction. He blinked at me, the hatred on his face swiftly being replaced by laughter, and then by sorrow. Cursing softly, he placed his head in his hands, sinking to his knees. And then he began to sob.

It's always embarrassing to see another guy cry. Especially when they are the all out heart wrenching sobs that Reid was doing that night. I stood there, feeling more than a tad awkward, and unable to really help. He himself got over it quickly enough though. Smiling a sad little smile, he looked up at me, then said, "You're right." He inhaled deeply. "Thanks... for the help."

I shrugged, stepping over him to reach the door. "No prob." I returned. I still felt a tad uncomfortable, but knowing I had helped him in a way that no one else could made up for it.

He looked away one last time before looking back at me, catching me with those eyes. They plead at me silently to understand. "And Mike...?" he asked.

I nodded, an eyebrow raised.

He took another deep breath. "Don't tell anyone, 'Kay?"

I nodded silently, then cracked a smile. "Yeah, no prob. Don't worry about it," I told him. Which translated into 'your secret is safe with me.'

I left, my smile fading. I had a *lot* to think about...

*

As the weeks went on after that, I realized, as Reid talked to me more and more openly at school, that I was probably the first person that he actually trusted. That I was the only person that knew, besides maybe Travis, and that he depended on me. I was a little wary of him at first, but the subject of "homosexuality" was never brought up again, by him at least, and slowly we even became friends....

***

Spring

Maybe it was fate, maybe it was just foolish luck, but all three of us, Reid, Donald and I just happened to have been placed in Morrison's English class together that semester. For most of the first term, that was a bad thing. I swear that if Donald wasn't such a peacefully little nerd he would of cracked and taken a defensive shot at either Reid or I long before that day near the end of the school year....

However he didn't. And life in the English class went on from day to day, much the same, with those little expected sparks here and there when the class became interesting.

I, of course, did my normal slack thing, goofing off, flirting with the giggling females. And Donald, being the scholarly student that he was, would play the teacher's pet to a tee. Always the first to volunteer, always the first to raise his hand.

And Reid....

Donald had already done his first-to-volunteer thing that day. During the class the day before we had all been instructed to go home and write a piece of poetry that we felt reflected our outlook on life, or something equally as deep. I don't remember. I didn't do it. Needless to say, only about half the class had actually completed the assignment.

Ms. Morrison sat up on her tall stool at the front of the classroom, her hand's folded in her lap, her lips pierced as she scanned the class. Student's wearing varying expressions of boredom looked back at her. She frowned.

"Come on, students!" she prodded. "One of you must have a poem to share with the rest of us!" her sharp eyes caught a movement. "Reid?"

Along with most of the class, I turned to look at him. Instead of being slumped in his seat with his usual scowl on his face, Reid was sitting up, nervously fumbling with a crumpled sheet of paper he held in his hands. He looked like he wanted to share... surprised though, that he had been called upon, he quickly stuffed the paper onto his lap, glaring at the young teacher.

"Yeah?" he returned.

Ms. Morrison smiled slightly. "Do you have something to share with us?" she questioned.

Reid hesitated visibly. "No." He shook his head, sitting with his back hunched, looking as if he himself was under attack.

The teacher persisted. "Then what is that on your lap?" she asked, motioning.

Reid glanced down at his lap at the paper, then looked up again. "Nothin'" he retorted.

Ms. Morrison sighed, in a particular condescending way that every one of her students probably hated. They hated it because it was, in part, remarkably effective in persuading them into agreeing with her. "Now come along Reid," she began, her words sugary. "I'm sure we'd all enjoy hearing your poem." She glanced around the room, looking pleased when a few of the students nodded and gave encouragement.

Reid blinked around the classroom at them, then turned back to the teacher. "It's stupid," he argued.

"I'm sure it's not," Ms. Morrison motioned for him to rise and come to the front of the room, as if it was some kind of honor.

There was a pause. Finally, muttering under his breath, most probably wondering why he was even doing so, Reid got up. Looking like he was going to be executed, he slowly walked up to the front of the room.

He stood there, fiddling a moment before he glanced at Ms. Morrison for the last time.

She gave him a cheerful go ahead.

I watched Reid take a deep breath. And another. Like most of the class, my eyes were fixed on my friend, fingers unconsciously crossed. I had never even imagined that I would ever see him quite so nervous....

He started. His voice was quiet with his humiliation....

"Mirror, Mirror, on the wall,
Who is the fairest one of all?
Is it god, Mirror, that created me,
Took me apart for all to see
Gave each piece to another
Violence enacts and pain asunder
Causes me to curl up, trembling
Their claws rake, fumbling
And my heart aches, crying
Tears of blood."

I thought it was over, but... no. He took another deep breath before continuing:

"Mirror, Mirror, on the wall,
Do you even care at all?
Mirror, Mirror, through my tears,
I think I'm dying, do you here?
I'm sorry for all I've done
Just a stupid little wayward son
No soul of mine is left to loose
Scared, though you still sooth...
The terrible truth.
Mirror, Mirror, can't you see?
I'm to young and much to frightened...
To give up this lack of hope
And die;
In this poisoned bed of lies."

He finished. Dead silence met his last words.

Ms. Morrison spoke first. "That's a very good poem Reid," she told the boy quietly.

Reid's head snapped around, his steel eyes betraying his hurt at her for making him read his poem. "No, it's *not*," he returned. Deliberately he crumpled the paper in his hands into a little ball, tossing it in the general direction of the garbage can. He didn't seem to care much that it missed and went skittering off into a far corner of the classroom. "It was stupid." he finished. End of argument.

The silence in the room was even more complete now. That one action of crumpling his poem and tossing it away had about the same impact as if Reid had just announced that he was going to die the next day, and nobody cared at all. Which may have been true....

I saw a flash of pity in Ms. Morrison's eyes as she watched Reid march back to his desk, slumping into it with his head in his arms. Likewise at least twenty-six pairs of eyes stared after him.

It was only then that I noticed Donald. The teacher's pet sat upright in his chair, a look of outright amazement on his face as he studied Reid. I suppose he was shocked that one of his tormenters actually had feelings. Feelings, hopes and dreams, and life beyond giving him a hard time. I guess, looking back on the incident, that was probably the first time I truly recognized that fact too.

The rest of that English class wasn't quite the same. Ms. Morrison tried to get the rest of the students involved in reading their poems, which they did with no protest, but not one of them made a noise of teasing or of the like. The rest of the class passed as solemn as a funeral....

I knew I should have sensed the trouble coming, at the end of class, when I saw Donald pick up the 'stupid poem' off the floor and carefully unfold it....

*

Reid

"Reid!"

Scampering footfalls accompanied the voice down the hall. Amazed at whose voice it apparently was, Reid turned.

It was Donald. And he had....

He swore mentally. It was less then two minutes from the end of the English class he would of preferred not to remember, EVER, and the kid he took incredible delight in periodically smashing against walls had chased him down the hall. With the very crumpled copy of his poem in his hands no less.

He glared. "What do ya want?" he growled.

Donald blinked, stopping a safe couple feet away from Reid. Shyly he ducked his head.

"Um..." he searched for the words. Finally he raised his head again, holding out the poem in his hand. "I thought your poem was very good Reid," he said quietly.

Reid said nothing for a moment... he could only stand there in mute silence. He was quiet for so long, that the hand that was holding his paper out to him began to shake ever so slightly. Then he realized he needed to react, and quickly....

He swore out loud this time, violently wrenching the paper out of Donald's outstretched hand. Concerned Donald backed off swiftly, then made a tiny squeak of protest as Reid efficiently shredded the paper into eight neat little squares and let them all flutter to the ground. Then he turned heel and stomped away.

I think Donald got the message. That's how I found him a minute later. I was just going to pass by him without a second glance, in all my efforts to make it to classes on time, but them I realized what he was doing. Curiosity stopped me.

"Donald?" I asked, crouching down next to him.

He didn't look at me. Only continued to gather up the shreds of papers and try to futilely piece them to together on the tiny patch of floor his shadow created. He sniffed finally, rubbing his nose on his sleeve.

I think I saw then that he was probably crying, even though he still refused to look up. I had to repeat my question.

"Donald," I sighed. "What's wrong?" 'crybaby.' I thought.

He sniffed again before answering. "Reid," he muttered.

Ah. That made a thread of sense. "Did Reid, uh, hit you or something?" I asked. I didn't exactly want to get involved, especially since getting involved would probably consist of taking Donald down to the office and reporting on my friend. Which was stupid. But I was stuck.

Donald's reply startled me. He looked up at me, with what I realized were the largest eyes I had ever seen. For a moment he could have been a cartoon for how real they looked. But then they blinked, and the owner struggled to speak.

'Mike,' he thought. 'If smashing me against a set of lockers once a day gives me the slightest opportunity to bare some of his pain I'd gladly do it....' no... would he? He looked frustrated, trying to say something, something that was obviously important, and equally hard to say. "Good grief Mike can't you see he's hurting?" He finally blurted.

I could. But what did Donald have to do with it? Why did he even care?

Donald shrugged defeatedly, as if hearing my thoughts, returning his gaze to the dirty hall floor. A hand reached out to finger a dislocated piece of poem.

'I think I'm dying, do you hear...'

"I don't know why, but I always want to help things that hurt..." he paused, drawing in a shaky breath. He looked up at me again. "I think I would-- die for him Mike, if it would help him." he whispered. He looked shocked, Then his eyes desperately searched mine for understanding.

I couldn't give him that understanding. I didn't understand. I didn't get how one person could have so deep respect for the person that made his life, literally, a living hell. I think I just stared at him like he had just sprouted another head, before shaking my own, getting up, and walking away.

I feel awful about it now of course. Especially since looking back on the incident, Donald was right. In fact, I think Donald was the only one of us that had it right all along.

***

Still nothing had come of the fact that I knew that Reid was the big bad 'G' word, at least, not until around the beginning of May. The day when I destroyed almost everything I built in my friendship with Reid.

I can't even blame it all on the fact that I was both high and drunk. Because some of it came from deep down inside me, from a place where all my little insecurities and fears lie. Some strange morbid part of me wanted a reaction out of Reid, and a reaction I did get....

I found him in the Alley. We all called it that. Actually it was a convenient side street that shaped it's self in an 'L' and ended in a wall. Nobody used it to drive in any longer, and so back when they where young enough to be in high school, Travis and his friends had turned it into an awesome hang out. That was a long time ago though. Now it wasn't used much anymore, even by them.

And this was where I dragged my drunken form that night.

That was also why I was so surprised to see Reid there.

He was sitting in one of the far corners, a surprisingly calm, almost blissful look on his face as he sucked on a cigarette. Eyebrows raised I tottered over to plunk myself down next to him.

Neither of us said anything for a while. Then....

"You're wasted," Reid commented.

I nodded assent, smiling goofily.

A mutual, welcoming silence enfolded our forms.

A thought occurred to me. Actually it had occurred to me before, but I had promised myself that I would never say it.

I studied the darkening sky above the alley, considering the pros and cons of bring it up. I was too far gone, unfortunately, to even get to the cons.

"Y'no Reid," I slurred, rubbing my hand across the back of my mouth. I tried to look at him. "I think you like Donald."
Homerun. Right on the ball.

Reid dropped his cigarette.

He looked at me, eyes narrowed, blissful expression gone. "What do you mean?" he asked dangerously.

If I was smart I would have kept my mouth shut. If I was sober, I would have kept my mouth shut. But at that time I was neither.

"Exactly what I said," I told him with snobby self assurance. "I think you want to know what it'd be like to feel him from the inside...." I hiccuped.

I hadn't expected quite so violent a reaction out of him. Almost as if something deep inside him had snapped, Reid rounded on me, smashing me against the far wall. "Don't say that!" he hissed. "Don't ever say that!!"

Ot oh.

"Wha?" I blinked at him, realizing, as his image swam in front of my eyes, that I was far to wasted to deal with a fight just then. And this looked like it was going to develop into a nice little fight. Despite fact I was far too gone too even think "straight"....

"You like Donald..?" I completed. My eyes developed a secretive gleam to them. I don't know why, but perhaps the look of horrified truth on his face, and the fact that I knew what he was, what he really was, helped me to make one of the stupidest decisions I have ever made in my life. I half slumped, half came forward towards Reid, a suggestive light to my voice. "But Reid," I pouted... or at least I think I did. "I want you! Forget the brain child..." Reid's strong arms released me, like I burnt him, and he began to slowly back away.

I, however, was having a great time. I have, many times, looked back on the incident and cursed my incorrigible way of always trying to make things better by joking. Because this wasn't a joke. It was far from it.

I didn't realize how badly I could humiliate a gay, or not even a gay, but Reid until then. I never realized, though I should have, how badly I was hurting him in all my drunken fun. I also couldn't see, though I did soon later that I was totally and completely confused myself. I wasn't like Donald. I couldn't automatically *know* that I was straight, or *know* if I were gay... I was confused.

I don't remember what I said next, and what I do remember, I don't want to write, in interest of good taste. But I teased and tormented Reid in such a way, that I made him react. I feel so incredibly bad about it now...

Because I also made him cry.

He had completed backing himself away against the far end of the alley, and stared at me as I illustrated my dialogue with F- this and F-that. I do remember what I had said to make him crack. It was something along the lines of this:

"Come on Reid," I had said, making my way towards him on all fours. (I wasn't stable enough on twos.) "I know you want me! After all it won't be all that hard for you now would it? Being a f---ing faggot..."

He blinked at me, his face screwing up into an expression of... hurt? He opened his mouth to say something....

"I mean, how many guys do you fuck a month? One? Ten? Thirty?" I hated myself for what I was saying- and doing for that matter- but I just couldn't.... "It wouldn't take much, Reid," I informed him coarsely, "to add me to that list now would it??" I spat.

He looked away from me to stare at his hands, shaking visibly. Then he did react. Tears of anger and a lot of that hurt that I had no idea even existed pouring down his face, he lunged forward. Strong arms lifted me up again, and though I struggled, Reid still outdid me when it came to pure weight and muscle. It was those arms that smashed me against the wall of the alley, and held me there.

"You dirty LITTLE BASTARD!" he shouted at me. "You..." his voice trailed off. He looked at me oddly. I think it registered then that I was going to learn a lesson that I was never going to forget....

I was right. Reid studied me for a few more moments, absolutely glowering. Then.... "You want to know what it's like??" he spoke quietly. "I'll teach you..."

I had no time to protest, not even time to fight clumsily as he pressed his lips against mine. I could imagine the look on my face....

And to this day, I will always believe that Reid Settler is the best kisser. Sorry girls. But he was.

That wasn't the point though. No matter how violently I found my own mouth violated by him, nothing could have prepared me for the way he violently attempted to violate me next. It all happened so fast... one moment, he had me against the wall, the next out on the ground, writhing in agony. I didn't even know where he hit me, only that a swell of sweet smelling blood welled up above my eyes and began to flow down my face. He kicked at me again, and again, and I couldn't even see where he was....

About then I realized that I was probably about to die. At least I felt like I was about to die. I think I screamed for him to stop, my voice high pitched and incoherent. I screamed, and just kept on screaming....

He backed off of me after a while. Eyes wide once again with that infernal inner grief, he backed himself right out of the alley. Saying nothing, he looked at me one last time before he turned and ran.

That was the last time I saw Reid Settler in over two weeks.

I spent a while on that cold smelly pavement, thinking. I thought most of the night away. Like about what I had done. And how I could never face Reid again. And about how the heck I was going to explain my new array of cuts and bruises to my over-protective mother....

***

Mike

"Reid!!" The voice called out at him. This wasn't the first time it had either.

Gloomily, he turned. Of course he recognized that voice. And he didn't even want to hear from it right then. 'Barely walked in here ten minutes ago...'

"Reid!" The voice, and its owner caught out to him. Donald pulled into stride next to him, looking up at him with his wide green eyes. "Where have you been?" he asked breathlessly. "You been gone for..."

"Shut-up Donald," he told the littler guy wearily. He didn't get Donald and his constant attentions. For the last month or so, all he'd been getting was a worry this, and a worry that. Ever since he read that blasted poem in English class....

"Sorry," Donald apologized contritely. "I was just worried that's all."

See?

It was doing nothing to help his messed up feelings. He couldn't even beat on the kid anymore. He could before, before the boy had a face, a real three dimensional face, that showed concern for him far beyond any other human's face had.

But still....

It had been at least two weeks. I myself had wondered what had happened to Reid. It didn't help that over a few days ago, I had been struck with a sudden urge to talk to Reid, to apologize for that night, no matter how embarrassed I might be. So when I saw Reid striding gloomily down the hall with Donald tagging along after him, I decided to follow from a distance. Which turned out to be a good decision....

Ignoring the little guy besides him, Reid turned down the math hallway. It was a smaller hall, unoccupied by anyone at that point. Donald stopped at a door, watched curiously after Reid as he kept walking.

"Reid?"

Reid turned. What struck me were his eyes... they looked like they belonged to a face of a seventy year old, not a seventeen year old. He looked at Donald with those despairing burning pits embedded in his face. Donald must have caught that something wasn't right, because he came forwards suddenly, away from the open and welcoming light of the classroom.

"Aren't you coming to math, Reid?" he asked softly.

If anyone had asked me to judge right then, at that moment, which of the two were gay, I never would of chose Reid. There are tiny codes of masculinity, that somehow Donald managed to totally ignore and, not only that, breech with ease. It was like blocking we learnt in Drama class. Except this was the surrogated blocking that every member of male and female race does each day. And standing there that day, with his hand slightly out, open honesty on his face, leaning slightly forwards, Donald was definitely practicing femininity in his blocking. The poor kid probably never even noticed it though....

Even Reid picked up on it. I saw that fleeting look on his face. And it reminded me of why I had to apologize to him.

But Reid didn't act on whatever he was thinking. Turning away abruptly, he conveniently blocked Donald from his view. "No." he hesitated. "... but maybe later."

"Oh." Looking truly disappointed Donald shrugged casually, and walked back into his math class... alone.

And Reid just stood there. Finally he sighed and slowly began to walk away from his math class and all of his confused feelings.

I couldn't help but to feel sorry for him. Over the last two weeks, ever since I had gloated Reid into assaulting me, I had been acting very homophobic. Who could blame me? But seeing Reid walk away from Donald that day, and not even make an attempt to hurt him in the process, gave me a new outlook on all that crap. Or maybe I was just growing up.

I ran to catch up with him, slipping in stride beside his dejected form a lot easier than Donald had. He wasn't even aware of my presence until I spoke.

"You can't have him you know," I said bluntly, practically ripping through his thoughts.

He looked up at me, surprised. I expected him to argue. Instead all he said was, "Mike!"

I nodded. In silent agreement, we both looked away again.

I steadied myself, thinking about how exactly I was going to apologize. You know, if I was any other guy, dude, whatever, my apology would of sounded somewhat like this, 'Hey, my man, I'm so sorry for being stupid, ya know, back there.' But I wasn't a typical guy. And I also appreciated using my brain cells, being a poet. So my apology was simple.

"I'm sorry, Reid," I told him, stuffing my fists into my jean's pockets.

He nodded in the affirmative, mutely rubbing his forehead with tired fingers. "Yeah," he sighed. "So am I."

*

We talked after that, all the way down to the neighborhood convenience store and back. He told me everything. It was like he just needed to talk to someone.

So I listened.

He told me that he was going through a hard time at the moment, something I think I could tell. He mentioned for the first time that his dad used to rough him around, something that would always remain with him as an invisible scar. He told me about how his mother was never around, not that he blamed her, and how his older sister had grown up and left with her own problems, and had never came back for him, even though she had promised. He told me how much he had fallen in love with Chris, and how Chris had promised him a home and also promised to grant all of his childish hopes and dreams. Then he told me how Chris only ended up hurting him, trapping him, and never letting him escape. He told me how hard it was to leave him, and he apologized for trying to hurt me on that night.

He also mentioned his 'stupid poem...' how he had written it only a couple days later, and he wrote it because despite how much he hurt inside it was the first time in a long time that he could actually look at his own face in the mirror. He told me that Donald had scared him that day when he picked up his poem and chased him down with it. He was scared, so scared that he would hurt him, that he couldn't think of anything else to do except rip it up, and leave. He was sorry that he hurt him too.

He said that he thought he loved him. Then he rubbed his forehead again, like he had the largest headache and it wouldn't go away.

I couldn't say anything. I couldn't think of anything to say. Only walk along beside him and nod, and listen to his inner turmoil.

He fell silent, and we walked alone for a while there. Caught in our own little worlds.

Then Reid began to chuckle softly.

I looked at him.

He gave me a sight smile. "Well, you know, there are benefits to getting crushes on Donald types..." he commented.

"Which are?" I asked.

Reid continued to smile slightly, even as he looked away. "Well I figure I have a fifty-fifty chance," his little smile widened. "I doubt he's even kissed a girl before, let alone a guy."

I had to grin at that. "True." But then I grew serious. In my mind's eye I could see Donald there, his hand outstretched, caring, despite personal risk to his own safety. It would be so easy to hurt him... I hesitated. "But, Reid?" I began.

"Yeah?" he turned his gaze to me.

I caught his eye, then stopped walking to emphasize how serious I was. Reid stopped also.

"Can you promise me you'll never beat on him again?" I asked. "Like, ever. He's been through enough of your crap."

Reid nodded once, quickly. "Of course!" he told me, looking almost ashamed that I had to bring it up. "I wasn't planning to anyhow."

"Good." That was enough to put my soul at peace for the time being....

***

For the rest of the spring I was witness to something of a miracle.

I have to remember that none of it would have happened if Reid hadn't needed tutoring in Math. But he did, so Donald innocently volunteered to give him a hand.

And so, often during the last of the month of May and most of June, every day after school, Reid and Donald would settle down in the library for Math 101.

They had a unique way of interacting. Donald would never raise his voice, partly because he was still afraid of Reid, and partly because it wasn't something that he did. And Reid...

Well true to his promise to me, he never hit, or punched, or yelled insults when he got frustrated now. Instead, in a way that made both Donald and I chuckle whenever we saw it, he would serenely wind up and throw his pencil clear across the library. Which intensely annoyed the librarians. Donald would only sigh and pull out another pencil from the horde he had in his book bag and continue from where they had left off.

Sometimes, especially since all the drama plays that I always participated in were over for the year, I would go into the library and sit at the same table as them. For the most part they would ignore me, and continue with the lesson....

"No, no Reid," Donald would say. "That's a Radical, not a Radicand. Do you see?"

Obviously not.

And there went another pencil.

***

End

Secrets, 1998 - 2001 by Marie C. Strom.
All rights reserved. Thanks. ^_^

*Chides self* See Marie? That wasn't so bad... *brightens considerably* Hey, I have a short Reid and Donald side story that can go with this... the tale of how Donald became Reid's math tutor... and it's full of sap and angst!! YAY!! I wonder if fix it up and post it... *winks* :D