Chapter Eleven

The small slaps of a kicked rock bounce off tall brick walls. The sound is accompanied by the rhythmic taps of a child's footsteps. David draws his foot to kick the stone again when he hears a yelp from around the corner of one of the academy's wings. Quietly he shuffles to the wall, presses his back against it. It's cold and he feels like James Bond. Peering around the corner he sees three boys. Two are seventh graders, the third one, huddled on the ground looks about nine, David's age. One yells something at the boy on the ground. David does not know what the word means, but he understands the tone is mean and hurtful, like when his parents shout at each other at night when they think he is asleep and in bed.

The other boy David recognizes from the dinner parties at his house. They never talk because fourth graders aren't supposed to hang out with seventh graders. The boy delivers a hard stomp the younger one on the ground who lets out another anguished cry. The cement below the boy's head is darkened in small circles from tear drops. David's fist clench and he wants to do something but a nine-year old is no match for two twelve-year olds. The boy begs them to stop but he is cut off by a kick to the stomach. He sputters and moans in agony and David, moving more on heart than mind jumps out from his hiding place and yells, "Stop!"

The older boys raise their heads and, spotting David with his hands fisted in front of him with a face that expresses anger and terror at the same time, snicker "Fuck off, Acres," the boy David does not recognize says, "Go home before we beat the shit outta you too."

David steels himself trying to make his legs stop shaking. "Y-you two better stop what you're doing right now and leave him alone!" David commands his voice gaining confidence with every word, "Or else I'll-or else I'll tell my daddy on you and he'll fire both your guyses daddies and then you won't be able to even go to this school no more!"

The boy David recognizes seems to sober at the threat. Teeth grind and after a long moment he unclenches his fists. He draws back his head and spits on the boy still huddled on the ground before stalking off. "Fuck this, let's go," he mutters. His friend fingers David before turning and following the other student.

A minute passes before David is able to move his legs again. He kneels on the concrete and lays a hand softly on the boy's shoulder. He is shaking too. "Hey, umm, it's okay now. Those boys are gone so you're safe."

The brown-haired boy on the ground cracks his eyes open and stares up at David. His eyes are blood shot from the crying or perhaps a punch to the face as the puffiness around one eye would lead to believe. He sniffles, "Thanks."

And David, still trembling from his daringness, stands up slowly and offers him a hand up which the boy gratefully accepts. "Are you okay to walk?" David asks, "Benton is at the front but I can get him to come over here if you want."

"I can walk," the boy replies softly taking sullen steps toward a ratty backpack that had been discarded (tossed?) haphazardly on the black top. "Who's Benton?" He asks slinging the pack over his shoulder and meeting David's wide-eyed stare.

"My driver," David answers, "He's kind of old, like sixty, but he's really cool too. Anyways, he can drive you home because you're not supposed to be up and about with your knees all bruised up like they are, or at least that's what my mom would say. You should meet my mom; I think you'd like her too, like Benton." David's voice had gone from concerned to bubbly in a matter of moments as if the confrontation that took place no more than five minutes ago had never occurred.

The brunette starts to head towards the front of the academy, where David had said his driver was waiting, all the while David walked backwards in front of him talking, spouting off nonsense then going off on tangents before returning focus. The boy just nods taking in the chatty, excited voice. His hands grip the worn-out shoulder straps of his back pack and jealously take note of David's flashy new one. He lowers his gaze to his own scuffed, black dress shoes tight from being a size too small.

Not looking forward he ends up bumping into the boy in front of him. He stumbles back a couple steps and raises his eyes in question. David is holding his hand out grinning widely. "I forgot to tell you my name; it's David. My dad would be mad if he knew that I didn't introduce myself right away, but I won't tell him if you don't."

The boy takes his hand and tentatively shakes it overwhelmed at his enthusiasm and simultaneously suspicious of it. "Max," he says.

"Cool, nice to meet you, Max," David says jerking both hands up and down vigorously. "So why didn't those two guys like you?"

Max retrieves his hand. He stares at David for a moment and then says vexingly, "Because I'm poor."

David doesn't miss a beat. With a toothy smile he chirps back, "Really? That's weird. No one likes me coz I'm rich." Max's expression falters and becomes something bewildered.

-

David's phone vibrates on a red tablecloth bringing him back to attention. He grabs it; it's Max. Pressing ignore he sets it back down next to a clean bread saucer and a glass of white wine. "Sorry," he apologizes flashing a coy smile across the table.

"No worries," Reid replies. A freckled hand comes up to loosen his necktie slightly. He clears his throat.

When Reid called to ask if he was free on Friday and, if so, to dress nicely, David had assumed they were going to see a show or for drinks on Granville. David certainly did not foresee a posh dinner at West or that Reid would spring for a one-hundred dollar bottle of wine to accompany their already pricey meal.

"I wish I had paid more attention when Oliver was telling me about this stuff," David says gripping the glass' stem and swirling the light liquid around a few times, "He's always been a huge wine-o."

"Right," Reid responds curtly squashing the quiet jealously that is gnawing at his chest.

The food arrives shortly and despite David's knack at find something to talk about in any situation he finds himself at a loss for words and concentrates on his plate.

-

"...And that's when he found us. Obviously the boy was shocked and I suppose he might be a bit angry as well which is why I need you to tell the gatemen to not allow William onto the premises any longer and that-" Oliver pauses in his long-winded proposal to Annabelle. Bamboo flip flops cease their flipping (and flopping), stilling on orange, sun-warmed stone in the back yard of the Dempsey's Californian estate. A pair of eyes latch onto dripping, water-darkened locks and wet skin climbing out of a pool.

Annabelle's knowing voice interrupts, "The young man is David Acres, the son of your father's business associate." She emphasizes the end of the sentence hoping the fact will keep Oliver in check while around the boy. She knows it won't.

"Right, right," He says drawing his eyes away from the boy and staring pointedly at the cloth in the maid's hand. "He is what the towel is for, correct?" Annabelle gives him an unimpressed look. Oliver brushes it off with a smile no sixteen-year old should have. "May I?" He asks holding out his hands. She sighs in resignation dropping the white cloth onto outstretched fingers. "Thank you, Annie. Anyways, while I'm off attending to this boy's drying needs, be a dear and whip us up a couple of afternoon margaritas, won't you?"

Annabelle elicits another sigh, though this one sounding more like a huff as she turns into the villa. Oliver takes slow, striding steps towards the boy who had gotten onto his knees to inspect the underside of a wicker poolside chair. "In search of this?" he asks. David stands from his position. A broad chest is placed in front of him at eye level and he decidedly doesn't look up. Instead he reaches for the towel bundled in a pale hand mumbling a soft thanks. Then Oliver, swift as a cat, raises the fist clutching the towel above his head and out of David's reach. His smirk is somewhat self-indulgent. "I did not say you could have it. I simply asked if you were looking for it."

"You did?" David says looking up at Reid after taking a second to steel himself against the jaw-dropping and mind-locking that usually occurs.

The redhead nods and meets eyes. "However," he purrs after a moment of staring down the brunette, "With you looking so absolutely wet, I suppose I would be willing to part with this towel," a dramatic pause, "on a trade. What do you say?"

"A trade?" David repeats and audibly swallows. Another languid nod is his response. "Um, sure I guess. I mean, I don't have much here since I'm from Canada, but I did bring a couple down in case I..." David trails off seeing Oliver's gaze and realizing he already has something in mind. "What was it that you wanted?"

Amusement and something akin to the predatory stare of a snake graces Oliver's creamy complexion. "I was hoping for maybe a name and perhaps a handshake," he says laughing deeply. Again, a voice like that shouldn't belong to a sixteen-year old. David is glad it does, though, because, for some reason, it calms him and lightens the mood which he felt was heavy with...well heavy with something.

David goes to shake Oliver's outstretched hand and smiles. "Name's David, nice to meet you," he says wrapping his thin fingers around the redhead's palm. The handshake is firm and comfortable like the hugs he and Max share when they're alone and there is no one around to judge them.

"Oliver Dempsey, it's a pleasure" He releases his hand and drops the towel into David's arms. "So tell me, what exactly were you planning on trading before you got the message?" He asks somewhat entertained and definitely aroused at the show David is unwittingly putting on as he dries himself.

"Oh, uh, comic books," he replies. David brings the towel up to dry his hair and flashes Oliver an embarrassed grin. Oliver's eyebrows rise momentarily before he lets out a sinful chuckle that certainly didn't belong with a boy his age.

-

David's phone goes off again and his utensils clatter loudly as he drops them in an attempt to silence the blaring vibrations. "Sorry," he apologizes again much more sheepishly.

Reid is all smiles though. "It's fine. You can answer it, you know. I don't mind."

"No, no," David insists waving the suggestion away with one hand and tucking the phone into his pocket with the other. "I've never been too great with the whole 'social niceties' deal. I mean, they gave me this weird flat spoon here for my food and I'm not even sure what to do with it!" David laughs.

'It's a sauce spoon,' Reid wants to say. He wants to explain its use and impress David because he looked up all the weird table manners and dinner etiquette before coming here, before booking this dinner so he wouldn't end up looking like a fool in front of the rich, wealthy David Acres whose house is worth more than Reid's father makes in twenty years, who never learned to drive because he grew up with a chauffeur, who wears obscure designers brands because he'd rather spend two-hundred dollars rather than three-hundred on a belt and see every other posh fucker wearing the exact same thing.

Instead, Reid comments on the irony. "Huh. You would think that, your father being who he is, you would have all these formalities down pat." His eyes shoot up to David's face, "Err, not that I'm saying you're ill-mannered or anything. It's just that..." Reid trails off after taking in the uncomfortable expression on David's usually chipper face. "Shit, did I say something wrong, Dave? I really don't think you're rude."

"Sorry," David says quirking his lips back into a small smile, "I've just been thinking back on things and what you said reminded me of something."

"Oh, okay, cool," Reid says, unsure about where to go from this point. "I didn't make things weird, did I?"

David lets out a laugh, though somewhat not as cheery as it usually would be. "Not at all," he smiles wider grabbing his wine glass and settling comfortably against the back of his seat. The rest of dinner is a lot livelier with David focusing on conversation and jokes and Reid finding himself relax in the pretentious atmosphere of the high-class establishment after realizing that David knows as little about fine dining as he does.

After Reid drops David off at his house, after he walks the boy up to his solid oak doors, after they stand awkwardly at ends before Reid daringly places a flutter of a kiss on David's right cheek and after David picks himself up from his doorstep a pile of realization and guilt does David turn on his cell phone.

Four missed calls and eleven texts from Max. David turns his cell off again deciding to deal with it in the morning.


Hello again. I apologize profusely for the late update. I have contracted an infection so instead of writing I have been popping pills, but you probably don't care. I know I wouldn't. Anyways, here is a new chapter. I have decided to delve into the pasts of Max, Oliver and David so expect lots of these little strolls down memory lane.

As usual, read and review and such.