Today is January 11. Today is International Thank You Day, so I want to take a moment here to express my sincere gratitude to everyone who read and/or reviewed this story. Thank you all so much for your time, support, and kind words. Enjoy the last chapter of "Kyle and Orville."

47. Circle

"Elliot."

He heard his name amidst the crowd of classmates bustling around him in the hall. Elliot stopped where he was and turned to see Kyle sidling next to him. "Hey, what's up?"

"Come with me," Kyle said.

"To where?"

"Just come."

Elliot followed him out of the hallway and into another, and then down two more. At first they had to dodge around other students as they went along, but the amount of passerby rapidly decreased as they made their way into one of the more obscure corners of the school.

Kyle stopped walking. He turned to face Elliot. "Well, here we are."

Confused, Elliot glanced at the walls. "You wanted to show me an empty hallway?"

Kyle took him by the elbow and pulled him about a foot to the side. "Stand in this spot. Look straight ahead and don't look anywhere else."

Elliot did as he said, but still asked, "Am I eventually going to get an explanation for this?"

Kyle nodded. "I promise it'll make a lot more sense in three . . . two . . . one . . ."

There came the thunderous crash of a metal door being thrown open. Within the same second, a pair of hands lashed out from behind Elliot and clapped onto his mouth. He was yanked outside before he could even remember to react.

His wits fled back to him just as his shoes touched the grass. Quickly he made a fist and whipped around in a semicircle. He made contact – his foe shouted with pain and tumbled onto the ground.

"WHO ON EARTH IS–?" Elliot halted. "Oh, it's you."

Orville was coughing profusely. "You son of a bitch, that hurt!"

"What do you want?" Elliot said coldly.

But then he remembered who he'd been talking with only a moment ago. His body temperature seemed to shoot up ten degrees as dreadful realization overtook him. Slowly, he turned his head and looked over his shoulder. Kyle was standing there in the doorway, one foot on the grass and one foot still on the tiled floor of the school hallway.

Elliot shifted his gaze to Orville, who was unsteadily getting to his feet. Then he looked back at Kyle, who stared fixedly back at him.

He looked at Orville again. "You said you weren't going to rat me out."

"I changed my mind," Orville replied in a flat tone.

Kyle walked to stand beside Orville, but it was Elliot that his wary dark eyes were watching.

"So what did your brother tell you, then, Kyle?" Elliot asked quietly. "That I'm a liar? A bully? I'm still your friend, you know. I'm the only person in our whole grade that's ever been nice to you."

A bit of gloom appeared on Kyle's face. "He didn't say those things about you. He just mentioned a letter."

Just as Kyle was saying this, Orville pulled a sheet of paper out of his jacket pocket. He unfolded the paper and held it up, showing Elliot the front. Elliot recognized his own handwriting almost instantly. Moments later, as he began to make out the words, he further recognized it as a letter he'd sent.

I found them.

That was the entire message. Written right below it was the lengthy address of a house.

He frowned at Orville with irritated disbelief. "You don't seriously need me to explain who the letter is referring to, do you?"

"I know you didn't actually find my birth parents, Jules! This address is a lie. You have no idea who really lives there."

"How did you know that?" Elliot demanded.

"Well, well. I actually didn't know for sure, but now you've confirmed it."

"! ! !"

"I'll admit, I thought it was real when I first read it," Orville murmured. "It gave me a lot of grief for a while. I couldn't figure out why you would go to the trouble of doing something that had no purpose for you. But then I realized – you wouldn't."

"Is that all you were concerned about? You only wanted to know what my motives were? You didn't care about the address itself? Did the thought of visiting the place even cross your mind?"

"The Castels," Orville said sharply, "abandoned me and left me to die. Why would I ever want to see them again?"

"To find out why they did that! Are you telling me you've never wondered? You live for curiosity. Finding miscellaneous facts, answering your own questions – that's all you've ever done with your miserable self. And this right here is the mystery of your life. Why wouldn't you want to know?"

It wasn't until after he finished saying this that he supposed he might've been yelling too much. Kyle was staring at him like he was a lunatic.

"All right, Jules," said Orville. "Let's pretend for a moment that this letter had fooled me. Let's say I did exactly what you wanted me to. I would've spent five hours being driven to this house, and then I would've quickly discovered that whoever lives there is most certainly not Trey or Caprice Castel. Another five hours and I'd be home again. What were you hoping to accomplish with that? You would've made me waste one day of my life, but that's it."

"No, that's not it. Listen, your parents may not live in that house anymore, but they used to, almost twelve years ago –"

"I don't believe that."

"Don't underestimate how easy it is to find people these days! If I wanted to bring you directly to your parents' doorstep, I could've, but that wasn't the plan. I figured that if you got just a little part of the puzzle, it'd make you want to find the rest of it, just for the sake of finishing what you started. It was supposed to obsess you. It was supposed to waste not one day but maybe years of your life. I had plenty of back-up plans to make every task last longer–"

"And?" Orville broke in. "So I become obsessed with finding information about the Castels. Then what?"

"It would cause you to –"

"Ignore my family? Ignore Kyle? Were you hoping he'd get lonely and come to you?"

He wasn't a fainthearted person, but there was something so icy in Orville's expression that even Elliot was unable to look him straight in the eye anymore.

"Elliot Jules." Orville spoke with an air of complete finality. It was clear that he was bringing an end to the conversation. "I know who my real family is, and it's not the Castels. I couldn't care about them now if I tried."

That's it, Elliot thought. Game over. I lose.

He noticed Kyle approaching him. Slowly, with hesitant steps. He came to a stop in front of Elliot and opened his mouth as if to speak, but then closed it again due to indecision.

Eventually he said, "Okay. Well, first of all, I want to say that that's the most farfetched plan I'd ever heard of."

"I guess so . . ."

"Elliot, why would you do this? I thought you were my friend."

"The same reason why anyone does anything in this stinking world. To become more important than they already are."

Elliot glanced over at Orville, who was watching them impassively. "He wouldn't even be alive today if your father hadn't found him on that road. You would never have met him."

"And I never would have met you if somebody hadn't chucked those oranges at us on the first day of school. Some things just happen by chance."

"Chance. Luck. Oh, of course. It's never going to stop haunting me, is it? Bad luck."

Suddenly he was running his mouth, despite his certainty that he was being a fool. "I'm the only friend you've ever had in our grade, Kyle. But you're the only friend I've ever had in my life. You've always relied on your family for company but I never could do that with my own. My parents, my brother and sisters – none of them can stand me and I don't understand why. I've never had anyone to turn to before. After I met you, I got a taste of what it's like to mean something to someone. And it's the headiest feeling in the world. Even if you hate my methods, can you really blame me for wanting more of that? It's not like I'm the only one in this world who's ever tried to gain more than I deserved."

Kyle was silent for a while. He stared up at Elliot, seeming to be searching for sincerity. Kyle had never quite mastered the art of reading facial expressions, but he had a habit of trying anyway.

Then Kyle raised his arm and made a fist.

Quickly Elliot shut his eyes and braced for impact.

He waited, but the pain never arrived. After what seemed like a whole minute later, he slowly reopened his eyes. Kyle was still frozen in the same position, with his arm raised and his fist trembling in midair.

"What are you doing?" Elliot asked blankly.

"I want to punch you," Kyle grumbled. "But I'm afraid that if I do, I might knock out one of your teeth, which will fall back into your throat and cause you to choke. And as mad as I am right now, I don't actually want to kill you."

"You don't have to punch me in the face." Elliot hesitantly held out his right arm.

Kyle looked at it, but shook his head. "Nah, forget it. I can't hit you."

"I can do it for you," Orville offered.

"No," Kyle said back.

He looked at Elliot again. "Am I really the only friend you've ever had?" he asked seriously.

Elliot nodded.

Kyle sighed. "I guess I can't leave you alone, then."

"W-wait, does that mean we're still friends?"

"It's conditional." Kyle gestured in his brother's direction. "First, apologize to him."

Orville broke in hastily. "No, please don't. We'll both die from the sheer awkwardness of it. Just uphold the deal you made at the library and that'll be enough for me."

In other words, he wanted to never communicate with Elliot ever again. Elliot decided it was a good deal.

"I'm sorry," he said to Kyle instead.

"You can't do this anymore, you know. You don't have to like my brother to be my friend, but you can't make these elaborate schemes against him either."

"I know. I'm sorry."

"Don't ever mess with him again."

"I won't. I'm sorry."

"Also –"

"I know; my apology needs work. Give me some time and I can make it a lot better."

"No, that's good enough for now," Kyle said. "Thanks, Elliot. And welcome back."