Author's Note: Wow, I posted something. Nothing anyone wanted probably, LOL! This is well overdue. It was originally suppose to be out by v-day, but I got extremely busy. If you want to know why, instead of a lengthy message here, just go read the note at the beginning of my profile. It's exciting news, especially for fans of The Hunting Moon! Anyways, this was another little story trade with jma! So much fun! Hope I got everything dear! P.S. this is unedited because it's midnight and I'm tired.

Dedicated to: jma

Warning(s): Adult Situations, Strong Language, Sexual Content


A Moon for the Zookeeper

He was standing next to a large gray elephant and I couldn't take my eyes off him. The fact that he was right there in front of me hadn't seemed to register in my mind yet. How many years had it been since I'd last seen him? Longer then I'd like to admit, though the last time we saw each other probably hadn't been on good terms. Not that any time we saw each other was on good terms.

He looked the same, just a little taller, a little thinner, but still the same. He still had the same giant gray eyes, so dark and deep that they seemed like cold winter nights. In high school his eyes had terrified me. I always felt like they could see straight through me, past my barriers and into the secrets I locked away. I hated them, but I loved them. They were merciless, cold as steel and as sharp as a sword. Now they sparkled, alive with light and joy, as he ran his hand up the trunk of the elephant.

"Come on Uncle Thorn!" Tamara shouted, grabbing my hand a jerking me forward. I stumbled a few steps before catching my self and following the eight year old obediently. My stomach bunched nervously as we approached the exhibit.

Ten years. It had been ten years since high school. Ten years since I had tortured him, crushed him beneath my foot to make up for my own insecurities. I chewed on my bottom lip, planting my feet on the ground as we got closer. Tamara looked up at me, pissed that I stopped walking. "Uncle Thorn!"

"You go on a head, just stay where I can see you," I said. I felt like chicken shit. I couldn't go up there. I couldn't risk him seeing me. The hatred he must have felt. I had made his life hell. I had poured all my doubts and pains into him, magnifying them so I could feel better.

Who knew if he'd recognize me. I definitely didn't look like the varsity football player I use to be. I had done a complete one-eighty, but then again going to prison does that to a person.

"Fine," Tamara huffed and spun around, running up to the railing next to a group of punk teenagers. I shoved my hands into my worn out jeans, and hunkered back towards a shady tree. The sun was beating down like it was planning on setting the world on fire. God I wanted a cigarette. But Betzy would tan my hide if I even thought of smoking around Tammy.

Madison guided the elephant gently forward. I could feel my dick getting hard just watching him as he sensuously moved. The best thing about him was that he was so fucking oblivious to the fact that he was gorgeous. He didn't have a fucking clue that he turned heads, so he moved with a nonchalant ease that just made him ten times more desirable. His hair fell in a cropped waves around his face, cut close with bangs dusting just above his haunting eyes. His face was round with baby fat and his lips were full, pouting and begging to be kissed and abused. My eyes raked down his body, that was done no justice in that God aweful zoo keeper uniform. But he some how managed to rock it. His shoulders were small and he was curvy in size and shape. He had a full hour-glass form, not skinny like a waif and not buff like me. No, he was shapely, built to take a hard fucking. Beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

I bit my thumb nail, trying to kick the itch of smoking and cool down the fire in my crotch. Madison tipped his head, a smile that I'd never seen on him before blooming. In high school he had always been reserved and introverted, guarding himself from the next attack. I saw him smile once and that was the day I fell in love with him. After that, he was always a whispering pale shadow, dashing down the hallways, looking for an escape route. Not now though. Now he was laughing, happy, filled with a joy he had been denied during his youth.

"This is Nel, she's an African bush elephant. Can you say hi Nel?" Madison said, his voice holding a warm, soft note to it that carried around the crowd.

Nel raised her trunk and gave a wave. I looked down at Tamara who bounced up excitedly, clutching the railing tightly. I smirked, leaning against the tree and shaking my head. Her eyes were nearly too big to fit her head in that moment and her small mouth was opened wide, spread out into a grin that showed off her single right dimple.

"African bush elephants are the larger of the two African elephants. Nel here has a diet of --"

"I don't know which one is bigger!" One of the punk teenagers said absurdly loud, facing his buddy with a dumb ass smirk on his face. "Nel better watch out, there's a bigger elephant standing right beside her!"

They broke out into a peel of laughter. Tamara craned her neck to look at them. Everyone standing along the exhibit edge were straining to watch them make jackasses of themselves. Madison's face flushed a bright red, like he was about ready to go into heat stroke, and his steel eyes became sharp and guarded, daggers ready to pierce anyone who approached him. I knew that look. That was a look I was familiar with. It was one he had given me countless times. I had been at the point of those blades when I had taken one joke to far.

"Look on at the boobs on him! I think his titties are bigger than my mamas!"

His friend laughed, snorting out in a wheezy, stoner voice, "boobs."

Madison turned his head and body somewhat so it was facing away from the crowd, using Nel as a shield. He ran his hand up her side calmly, but I could see the faint tremble that was there.

Fuck. I couldn't take it. I had caused that look so many times, I couldn't bear to see it anymore. He didn't deserve this, he never had. He was an honest to God good person.

I pushed off the tree and stomped over to the punk asses, using my thick girth and height to my advantage. I was six-foot-two with a body that prison tailored. You didn't keep your ass safe and people in line without making sure your guns were fully loaded. I grabbed the back of punks' necks and added enough pressure to scare 'em, but not hurt 'em. "I think you can move your sorry asses along now, got it?"

"What the hell man!" The one spewing the insults shouted, reaching out to grab me. He strained his head to look up, about ready to tell me off. He took one look, paled, and possibly pissed himself, before he nodded and said, "o-okay man, we don't want trouble."

I forcibly moved them away from the fence and gave them a shove, "then move it."

They stumbled, caught themselves, and bolted down the path. The crowd thinned out after a bit of murmuring and when I turned back around both Madison and Nel were gone.

"Wow Uncle Thorn!" Tamara shouted, running up to me and holding her arms out to gesture that she wanted to be picked up. I reached down and hoisted her up into my arms, trying to ignore the vice grip on my heart. It was better that I didn't talk to him.

"That was amazing!" Tamara continued to chatter. Betzy was going to kill me, and Lord knows that I don't need to get in any trouble. I'd only been out for about six months. Fuck if I needed to draw attention to my self.

"Lets just keep this between you and me pumpkin," I said, turning to look at her.

Her blue eyes sparkled. They were just like mine, a bright aqua color, like the ocean. I always thought hers were prettier though. Maybe because they held innocence in them. Hopefully it would never go away.

"But Uncle Thorn," she began to sing.

"I'll put an ice cream in it for you," I offered, knowing I had her the moment the words left my lips.

She squealed and began to squirm in my arms to the point that I had to put her back down. My eyes landed on a pair of black boots covered in dust and dirt and a pair of shapely legs hidden beneath brown pants. Slowly I looked up, rising back to my height. Madison was standing a few feet away, looking a bit anxious. His hands were clasped at his side and his eyes were still guarded, though the blades looked dull and used now. He nervously brushed hair from his eyes and chanced a look around before closing the distance a bit. He was a good three inches shorter then me, coming to my shoulders. Damn, was he perfect.

"Excuse me," he said, voice soft. I bet it sounded even more amazing when he was all throaty and lost in pleasure. "I… um, I just wanted to thank you. For um… back there."

His cheeks reddened again but he straightened his shoulders and gathered up his courage, looking up at me and offering a smile. Not a single shred of recognition register in his eyes. Of course it didn't though. I wasn't the All-American boy anymore. My dirty blond hair was long, down past my shin and kept back in a loose ponytail, and there was a scar across my right eyebrow now. It also didn't help that I had not only gotten taller and filled out, but I had also covered my body in tattoos. I half-sleeves on both my arms, which were peeking out beneath the Ed Hardy t-shirt I was wearing.

"Thank you," he said more firmly, voice not wobbling as much.

My stomach seemed to uncoil when he didn't lash out at me like I expected him to. Nine years in jail and here was quaking in my boots at somebody who use to recoil at the sound of lockers slamming closed. I licked my lips and offered my normal roguish smile, "No problem."

Tamara held onto my hand, swinging my arm back and forth. "Hi! I'm Tamara! That's Ta-ma-ra!"

Madison looked at her and his eyes crinkled with mirth. "Hello, I'm Madison."

Tamara giggled and stopped swinging my arm, giving it a tongue, "this is my Uncle Thorn."

I waited, breath held, searching for recognition once more in his eyes. Nothing. He just looked up at me, a breathtaking smile spreading softly across his face, "Hello Thorn."

There went my dick again, getting hard fast. I shifted my footing. Why the fuck wasn't he remember? But then again, I also went by my full name back in high school: Hawthorn.

"Hi..." I said dumbly, feeling like a broken, pissed on light bulb in a closet.

That just made his smile grow. Tamara swooped in to save me from my self and said cheerfully, "we were going to get ice cream, wanna come?"

He blinked, laughing softly at her offer. The sound rolled down my back and made all sorts of bad things come to mind. He looked down at his watch and said, "well I was getting ready to get off… but I don't want to intrude…"

"No!" I said, a little to forcibly. I coughed and tried again, this time more calmly, "I mean, ya ain't."

He smiled again and nodded his head, "alright. Let me just go get my things and I'll meet you at the front of the zoo?"

"Okay," I said, trying to get my tongue and my brain to work properly. God, he still fucked me up something bad even now.

He turned and walked off, leaving me standing there with Tamara holding onto my hand. I felt like a leaf stuck on a tree, getting read to be caught up in a giant breeze. My wind was whirling and twirling, going in a direction I couldn't see, guided solely by him.

"Uncle Thorn!" Tamara shouted, shaking me from my thoughts. "Come on!"

*****

Tamara took a big bite of ice cream, chocolate smearing across her face. I snatched a napkin and scrubbed at her, earning a glare. She swatted my hand away and made a whining noise in the back of her throat. Madison laughed, taking a small bite of his ice cream. He had only ordered a small vanilla dish, and after a bit of arguing, allowed me to pay.

"Is Nel nice?" Tamara asked, continuing her attack of questions.

Madison nodded his head and set his spoon down, "yes. Very nice."

Tamara let out a breath, which sounded like a mix between an aw and a balloon loosing its air. I shook my head, fished out some quarters and shoved them in her hand. "Go play some games pumpkin."

There were a few claw games in the back of the parlor. She eagerly took the quarters and dashed to the back, squandering my money away for a shot at a cheap Taiwan made stuffed unicorn.

"She's sweet," Madison said, taking another reserved small bite.

"Yeah, she's a good girl. I love her to pieces." I said truthfully. I'd lay down my life for that little girl.

I eyed him carefully, taking in his practiced movements. He was containing himself, not quite relaxed but at the same time not guarded like he use to be. It was more like he was self-conscious of himself and he didn't want to make an embarrassment, not that he could do that to me.

I was still shocked he hadn't recognized me. It was encouraging to be able to sit there and not have him turn those sharp, steely eyes on me. It almost gave me hope that maybe I could take a chance that I had blown up back in high school.

I bit my thumbnail and asked, "so how long you've been working in the zoo?"

"About eight years. Give or take a little." He said with a smile, "I started working at the Columbus zoo after college. What do you do?"

Well ya know, for the past year I've been sitting in the state prison. Yeah, like I could tell him that. I shrugged and said, "construction."

It was the truth. I got a construction job shortly after I got out of the big house. Not glamorous and definitely not my passion, but it was something.

Silence settled over us, so thick and sticky it felt like molasses. I wished I could collect my wits and come up with something to say, instead of sitting there festering in it like some dumb fuck. I could see Madison getting uncomfortable and I didn't know how to fix it.

Come on Thorn, get yourself together. He doesn't remember. This is your chances, the one you've been dreaming about. Just let the past go. I scolded my self. I flashed a charming smile, the one that had melted all the panties off the cheerleading squad and said, "So, I know that you're amazing with animals and from the way Tamara lights up around you, with kids as well. What else are you into?"

Madison seemed to relax a bit, taking a bigger bite of ice cream. He swallowed and shot me a flirty, if not taunting smile and it sent chills straight to my toes. I'd never seen a confident, smug smirk on his face before and it looked good. It looked like the years away from high school had given him more confidence. "Is this your attempt at flirting? Smiling dashingly and asking me for my likes and dislikes?"

"I included a cute kid," I teased.

He chuckled and took a slower bite, eyes holding mine, "and she was well played. She is adorable. I think it's the dimple."

"She learned how to extort that smile from me," I said proudly.

Madison laughed and set his spoon down. Good, because it was getting harder to resist jumping him.

"You do look like a bad influence."

I fiend hurt, "me? Bad?"

Madison rolled his eyes and leaned back in his chair. "To answer your earlier question, I like to cook, read Terry Pratchett novels, and have a pathetic attachment to Sleepless in Seattle. Though, to cover up that lameness, I also am an addict for zombie books and movies."

"Yeah, Sleepless in Seattle is kind of lame. But I guess you make up for it for liking zombies." I teased.

I reached over to my left sleeve and pulled it up, revealing the half-sleeve tattoo that covered my arm from my shoulder down to a few centimeters shy of my elbow. On the size there was a zombie tearing at my flesh, revealing the muscle and blood. It mixed in with the rest of the chaos, which included nightmarish depictions of demons and hell, and one man with his eyes falling out.

"What can I say? I'm a zombie whore," I said with a shrug.

Madison studied the tattoos, blinking at first in surprise before smiling. "Wow, those are amazing"

"I got a few more. It got addictive after the first time." I said, showing him the other arm. It was a more softer style, the exact opposite of the hell that was on my left arm. There was a Psalm 23 on a burning parchment in the middle with an angel on side and death on the other, bleeding thorns wrapped beneath them, piercing my skin.

"I've never been brave enough to get one, though I've always wanted to." Madison admitted, admiring the details. His hand twitched like he wanted to reach up and touch my arm, but he never did.

I dropped my sleeve, "they didn't really hurt."

"Yeah, some how I think your definition of pain and mine are grossly different."

"Naw, I think you could take it."

Madison gave me a bewildered look but before he could say anything Tamara came back, wielding the unicorn I didn't think she could get. "Is it time to go Uncle Thorn?"

I glanced at my phone to check them time and hissed, "shit!" It was well past the time I was suppose to return her. Betzy really was going to filet me.

Tamara snickered at my swear.

"Everything okay?"

"I got to return the pipsqueak before her mom castrates me. My sis is a stickler for sticking to the time."

Madison nodded and got to his feet, throwing away his barely eaten ice cream. "This was fun, thanks… and thank you again, for stepping in."

His cheeks colored slightly at that and I swear it was the power of God that kept me from kissing him. High off the rush of his smile and confidence, I mustered my courage and asked, "hey, would you like to grab dinner sometime?"

Madison paused, eyeing me hesitantly, gauging my expression. He worried his bottom lip ad my heart skipped a nervous beat. Was it to much?

Finally he nodded and it was like a fist had unclenched from my heart. "Sure," he said, "I'd like that."

He took my phone and programmed his number in, telling me to call him later to work out the details. He left after hugging Tamara goodbye and I swore I could hear the angels singing. This might work. I might actually get to be with him. I just had to make sure I didn't fuck it up.

I knew I should tell him the truth. Tell him who I was. That I was the guy that had tormented all through high school. I was the one that had stuck a tampon to his back after marking it with a red sharpie, letting him parade down the hall with it out for everyone to see. I had gotten everyone to start singing, "Bloody Princess Maddy" and "Princess Maddy had a period". It was that stunt in junior high that had been the breaking point. Madison had a nervous breakdown in the middle of school. Over Christmas break his parents checked him into a psychiatric ward. He didn't come back till the next year, repeating eleventh grade.

I stopped teasing him personally, but the wheels I had set in motion continued to spin. They teased him, even though I didn't. I couldn't do it anymore. Seeing him break like that was too much. I couldn't even look my self in the mirror. In tearing him down, I had also ushered in my own doom. That had been the start of my downward spiral.

No… I can't. Not yet. I have to show him I'm different first.

*****

"So who is it that you're going on a date with?" My sister Betzy asked, sifting through my shirts in my closet.

I ran my hand through my hair, letting it freefall around my face. My stomach was sloshing back and forth like it was caught in a riptide. I turned to look at her, dressed in only a pair of Diesel jeans that hung low on my sharp hips. I wasn't sure if I should tell her the truth or not. She was a year old then me, so she knew about everything that had gone down back in the day.

She paused in her selection process and turned her sharp eyes to me. They were darker shade of blue, like raw sapphire. She lifted a manicured brow and pressed, "Thorn?"

I turned back to the mirror, fidgeting with my hair in an attempt to avoid her eyes. I could feel them piercing me and I swear to God her eyes were almost as sharp as Madison's. Almost.

I rubbed my chest, hand pushing at the tattoo over my heart. It was a gothic style cross with Tamara's birthday in it -- the day I found salvation.

"Madison," I said reluctantly.

Betzy pulled out two shirts: a blue silk top that was a few shades darker then my eyes and a deep gray t-shirt with a silver foiling design on it. I took the t-shirt an slipped it on.

"Why does that name sound familiar?" Betzy asked to no one in particular. She pulled out my black boots and passed them to me.

"Uhhh… I don't know?" I looked away, unable to meet her eyes.

Was this wrong? I wasn't trying to play him. I would tell him the truth… just not yet.

"Wait," Betzy said, turning her eyes to me, "wasn't that the name of the kid you use to pick on?"

"Uhhh…"

"Son of a bitch Hawthorn! Is it him?" Betzy hissed, her eyes growing darker, becoming to inky pools.

"Uhhh…"

"Is that all you can say? 'Uhh'?" She stomped in front of me, and I shrunk back. She was a five-three, petite woman, and I was shrinking back like the Hulk was standing in front of me. Betzy rested her hands on her hips and glared down at me, disappointment in her eyes. "I thought you were done with that bullshit?"

"I am!" I said. "I'm not trying to pull anything!"

"Really?" Her eyes narrowed and then she blinked, "wait… why would he even agree to go on a date with you?"

I looked sideways again. "Uhh…"

Her eyes flew open wide. "Oh Thorn! Are you serious? You mean he doesn't know?"

"Well.. You see…"

"Hawthorn!"

"I wanted a chance! He'd run if he knew who I was!" I shouted, gritting my teeth. "Is that so bad? It isn't like I'm trying to do anything! You know I ain't like that anymore Betz. I just wanted him to see me for me, not who I use to be…"

Her eyes softened and she let out a sigh, deflating like a balloon. "Thornie…"

"Is this wrong?"

"He deserves to know Thorn."

"I know, and I'm going to tell him. I swear. It's just… I want to give him time to see that I've changed first."

She shook her head and set her small hand on my shoulder. "Thorn, you're a good guy. You may have done some bad things in the past, but you've more then made up for it."

I nodded, biting my thumbnail. I shook my head, her hand falling aside. "I got to go."

"He needs to know."

I grabbed my keys and phone and said as I walked out of my room, "I know."

I did. I knew that he deserved the truth. I was just scared to tell him.

I patted Tamara on the head and called as I headed out, "Lock up when you leave!"

I headed down to my car, an old black Intrepid with a rust spot on the top of the roof. I use to drive a Mustang that my parents bought me. But after I went to jail they sold it. I slipped into my car and started her up. She ran, even if she didn't look hot.

I lived in a complex called Royal Apartments, though they were far from regal. They were situated right in the middle of Hilltop, one of the worst neighborhoods in Columbus. I went from living it up in Powell, to slumming it with the other mutts in Hilltop. Life sure had a way of working out, not that it was anyone's fault but my own.

The closer I got to Madison's place, the tighter the ball in my stomach grew. He lived in Gahanna, in a small ranch style house with red siding and white shutters. The flower bed out from was well maintained, with trimmed bushes and a several colorful flowers -- don't ask me what kind, I couldn't tell ya. I knew squat about gardening and I had no desire to brush up on the topic. It looked good though, that I knew.

I pulled up to the curb and cut the engine, falling back in my seat with a sigh. This was it.

"Alright Thorn, buddy boy. You can do this," I said, feeling like a moron for talking to my self. Okay, enough of that. I climbed out of the car and headed to the door, holding my fist up like I was getting ready to knock, but not quite sure if I should. I could easily turn around and walk away. Save him from pain that I would no doubt inflict on him. Who was I kidding? Even if I showed him what kind of person I was, as soon as I told him who I really was, he'd run.

"Shit," I hissed, dropping my head and turning around. This was wrong. Lying to him was not the way to go about things. If I wanted to start a relationship with him then I needed to do it properly, starting with admitting who I am and one huge ass apology.

I turned back around, sucking in a breath and knocking. I'd tell him who I was and just beg him to hear me out. Madison had always been a good person. He'd hear me out. It be okay.

There was a bit of rustling and then the door opened and Madison beamed up at me. My breath caught in my throat and every nerve in my body released an electrical current that shot straight to my rod. Any thought it my head just seemed to blow away in the summer breeze. He was dressed in a pair of tight dark jeans and a black t-shirt that showed off the shape of his body nicely. There were traces of gray in the design on the shirt that just made his eyes stand out.

"Hey," he said, holding the door open.

I leaned forward, not really giving it much thought, and kissed him. He tasted like vanilla and deepened the kiss, wanting to devour him. He froze at first, standing stoically in the doorway and I was almost about to pull away, when his hand lazily slipped from the door. He set his hands on my shoulders, gripping tightly, and opened his mouth up. It was the only permission I needed.

I had spent countless nights wondering what he tasted like. God, it was so much fucking better then I expected. I slipped my hands around his waist and pulled him closer, tongue pillaging his mouth. He mad a keening sound in the back of his throat and I nearly lost it. I was fucking rock hard and he was making sounds I had only been able to dream about.

I pulled back before I lost complete control, whispering, "shit… you couldn't be any sweeter if you were of chocolate with gumdrop nipples."

…yeah, I don't know where that came from.

Madison laughed, lips swollen and face flushed. His eyes sparkled in the afterlight. "I don't think anyone has ever said that to me," he chuckled, still holding on to me for dear life.

I blinked and stepped back, disentangling our limbs. "Oh jeez, I'm sorry. I just… damn you look good. I couldn't help my self."

His cheeks grew brighter and he self-consciously shifted from foot to foot. "Oh… um, thanks."

He looked down, hair falling in his face. I reached up and tilted his head back, stealing one final fleeting kiss, "hey, don't hide them eyes. They're too pretty to be covered up."

His mouth opened but he didn't say anything. He just stared up at me, dumbstruck like he'd never been told that before. I wondered briefly how often he still had to take shit. If the other day at the zoo was any indication, he still was getting the shit end of the deal from people. I wanted to show him just how amazing he was. I wanted to swoop in and protect him.

I smiled and took his hand, "come on, lets go eat."

I'd tell him the truth later… right now I was just going to show him the world.

Madison nodded and closed the door, locking up and saying, "okay. Lets go."

*****

I took us to McGee's Tavern over on Bethel. Madison didn't say anything the entire ride to the place and I could tell he was anxious. His eyes would meet mine every now and then and hastily look away, cheeks coloring up like Christmas lights. We settled into a book towards the back of the tavern, next to the window. Our waitress shot me a bright smile that I was sure typically made the guys go howling, but I just ordered a draft. After our drinks were placed, she walked off, looking slightly miffed. I just hope she didn't spit in our food.

"So you going to talk, or am I just gonna have to kiss you again?" I said finally, trying to break the ice, "or maybe I should try a pick up line?"

A defiant smirk began to form, the light returning to him. "Give me your best one."

I stroked my chin. "Hmmm… my best one? Okay, I got it. Hey, boy, was your mom a beaver? Because DAMN!"

He stared at me flatly for several seconds and then broke out into a peel of laughter. "Are you serious? Have you really used that before?"

It was my turn to color. I laughed though and shook my head, "hell no, but it was good right? Come on, you gotta admit it was pretty creative."

"Okay, I'll give you that." He said, taking in a gulp of air. There were tears in his eyes from laughing so hard.

"And it did its purpose, it got you smilin'."

Our waitress brought our beers and took our orders, this time with out the flirting. I took a sip of the draft and asked, "so how did you get into zoo keeping? Not exactly the kind of career people line up for."

"No, but I love it," he said, taking a small sip of his beer. "I don't know… when I was in high school I spent some time…"

His words trailed off and he blinked, eyes growing distant like he was seeing something past me, something no one else could ever see. I knew he was remembering junior year, I knew it the moment he said high school and his voice dropped to a cryptic timber. I tightened my hold on my beer, not sure how to pull him back. But he seemed to catch himself and shook his head, chasing the memories away like shooing birds off. "I've always liked animals. My father is a veterinarian and I use to help him out at his office. Back in high school it was easier to talk to the cats and dogs then it was to talk to the kids in my school…"

I bit my thumbnail and looked out the window. The sky had gone indigo, stars cast over it and the moon hanging suspended in the center of the celestial mess. I gave my self a mental kick and looked back at him, taking a long sip of beer.

"High school was rough?" I asked, trying to keep my tone light.

"You could say that," his expression soured like he had taken a big ass bite out of a lemon. He smoothed out his features a second later and said, "but lets not talk about that. So what got you into construction?"

"Just a job I found. Not really what I want to do, but it pays the bills, ya know?"

"What do you want to do?"

I wasn't sure. I'd never really given it much thought. Before I had fucked my life up I had been thinking of becoming a teacher. I had taken a few classes in prison, but it wasn't enough to get me anywhere.

"I use to want to teach," I said, scratching the back of my head. Our waitress swept in, dropping our plates in front of us. We had each order a burger and fries.

I dived right into mine, starving and capable of eating a horse. Madison nibbled on a fry the same way he had nibbled on bites of ice cream. God, did I give this guy a complex on eating too? This list of fuck ups just kept getting bigger.

"Use to? You don't anymore?"

"Eh, not really that I don't. I mean, I'd love to, but I kinda blew those chances." I said before taking a bite of my burger.

"What do you mean?"

A band started playing in a sectioned off bar area. Some people migrated over to it. It explained why the place was so fucking packed.

"Well," I said, biting my thumbnail. I hadn't really wanted to tell him so soon about my prison stint, but my big mouth lead me down that path. I guess it was better to get it out of the way. "I guess I better tell ya know, so you can decide if you even want to finish this date. I'll take you home if you don't."

Madison blinked, a brow raising nervously. "Thorn?"

"Back when I was nineteen I was a real shit. I just started college and I was really hitting the bottle. I was still in the closet, hell, I wouldn't even say that. I was refusing to accept who I was."

Madison fell silent, eating a fry. I took a sip of my beer and anxiously fiddled with my own fries, really not hungry now. My stomach felt like it had been suckered punched a few times. I almost would rather face a riot back in the prison then telling Madison this.

"I was kinda living a double life. I had a girlfriend and friends. I was on the football team, living the dream I guess you could say. But then I'd secretly go to gay bars and pick someone up. Well, one night when I was out with my friends at a bar, I ran into one of my one night stands. Long story short, the guy remembered me and blew my cover. I was drunk, stupid, and pissed. I beat the living shit out of the guy. The guy was in a coma for a week. Someone told me that he had flat lined once on the way to the hospital, but I don't know for sure."

I looked up to meet Madison's eyes, trying to gauge his expression. It was unreadable. His eyes were guarded and not a flicker of anger or disgust or even understanding showed up. I finished off my beer and said, "I went to prison and was suppose to be there for ten years, but I got out six months ago on good behavior. Only job I could get was construction. I live in a crappy apartment in Hilltop and drive that piece of shit outside."

Madison let out a slow breath and looked down at his plate, pushing his fries around with his index finger. He didn't say anything, just let the silence stretch between us. It was so thick that it even blighted out the band playing. I could only hear him breathing and no matter how hard I willed him, he wouldn't talk.

"In the middle of the junior year at high school I had a total mental break down. I had been bullied for the past two and a half years and finally, after they pulled one really mean stunt, I lost it. I went ape shit in the school. I mean a total Carrie fiasco."

I sucked on my teeth. His eyes were locked on his food, but he wasn't seeing it. The expression on his face made my heart break the same way it did when I pulled that final stunt.

"I wound up going to the nut house for the rest of the school year. I didn't come home till the end of the summer."

"Madison…"

He met my eyes finally, looking up with such intensity that it stopped me from saying anything. Slowly they softened up, growing warmer and welcoming me in like I was coming home. A smile slipped across his lips and he reached out, setting his hand over mine. "I know what its like to me ostracized for your mistakes. It doesn't matter what you did in the past, what matters is that you're trying to make a change right now."

Slowly I nodded my head, not sure what to say. I didn't think it was possible, but I had fallen even harder for him. He pulled his hand back and asked, "so, time to lighten the mood. What would you say or do if I said the word 'penis'?"

I laughed. "What?"

"What would you do if I said 'penis'?" He grinned at me.

"I don't know… aren't 'cha sayin' it now?"

"Okay, I guess I am," he laughed.

We finished eating, and this time he actually ate his food instead of picking at it. After another round of beers we left. I wrapped my arm around his shoulder as we walked into the bar, watching him as he said, "when I was a kid my favorite book use to be Guess how Much I Love You. I think that was another reason I fell in love with animals."

"Never read it," I admitted, parting from him to get into the driver side.

He shot me a scandalized look, "Are you serious? That's a classic!"

"My mom was never much of a bedtime reader. I didn't read a lot as a kid. Still don't, honestly."

"Blasphemous!" He gasped, and it was so damn cute the way he pouted at the thought of my oh so deprived childhood. I leaned forward and stole a kiss, slipping my tongue in to taste that sweet vanilla once more.

"It's no biggie babe," I said as I pulled back and started the car.

He just smiled and settled back into his seat. I chuckled and backed out of the parking spot, driving him home.

******

He pushed the door open to his house and held it open, giving me a chance to glimpse at his living room. It was modestly furnished, just a leather couch and chair situated in front of a flat screen mounted on a wall. He jingled his keys as he fiddled with them, looking up at me with a shy glance of his eyes that sent my blood racing. Bashfully he smiled up at me and asked, "you want to come in?"

Damn, if I hadn't dreamed of those words. I nudged him backwards, snaking an arm around his waist and hauling him up against me. I dipped down and kissed him, slow and lazily, taking my time to tease him and build him up. His keys slipped from his hand with a clatter as he reached up to curl his fingers around my neck.

"Thorn," Madison mumbled, his other hand grabbing my shirt to guide me backwards. I kicked the door closed and let him lead me, more then willing to follow.

He had a look on his face that could damn near stop any man in his tracks. It was flushed and excited but as nervous and fleeting as a humming bird. I picked him up and he let out a startled sound, arms flying around him. I was sure it wasn't often he got that kind of treatment, but I was going to do things right.

"What door?" I asked against his lips.

"The one on the right."

He had a two bedroom house, the one on the left was turned into an office with a couch. I walked into the master bedroom and laid him on his king size bed, climbing up on top of him. He looked up at me, eyes wide and glistening, like two polished stones. He smiled, breaths coming out short past his plump swollen lips, and I felt as hard as a rock. But my brain was racing as fast as my blood, and suddenly my stomach clenched painfully.

I pressed my forehead to his and hissed, "shit."

Madison frowned, his brow wrinkling. "What's wrong? Did… did I do something wrong?"

The light that had been there was fading, a star going behind the clouds. I shook my head and pressed a kiss to his forehead, "no, it ain't you. Fuck, it's me."

"What?" There was a slight edge to his voice and he was nudging me to sit up. His guard was going up and if I didn't play this right, I was kissing my chances goodbye.

"I don't mean that. I want to, trust me I really want to." I let up on him, sitting back on the bed. He sat up and glared at me, pushing himself against the headboard. It was made of a dark walnut like the rest of the furniture in the room.

"Where have I heard that before? Look, if you have an issue with doing it with me, just say it." The worst part was his tone. There was just a defeat to it, an acceptance to what he thought was the reality. How many dumb fucks turned him down all because he was more on the shapely side? I preferred him because of that. He wasn't a waif, some delicate boy that could easily pass as a girl.

I shook my head rapidly, "that isn't it. I just don't want to rush things. I like you a lot."

I cursed under my breath and ran both my hands through my hair, "fuck, I'm screwin' this up already. Damn it!"

Madison hesitated beside me. Slowly he slipped up next to me, cautious as a baby bird, and then reached out to set a hand on my arm. "No, no you aren't messing it up…"

I looked at him sideways, ashamed to meet his eyes. He reached up and turned my head to face him, "explain?"

His eyes were soft again, welcoming me in. I leaned forward and pressed my forehead to his. "I like you, if we do this, it might fuck what could be. I don't want to risk that."

He bit his bottom lip and I held back a groan of frustration. "So… it's not that you don't want to?"

"Babe, I can barely keep my self off you. You don't get what I kind of restraint I'm usein' here."

His eyes dropped to my evident hard on and his face flamed up. He smiled though and he nodded, leaning in for a kiss that made my dick ache all the worse. I growled, "tease."

"Okay, we'll wait." He said softly, laughing lightly.

I pulled back and said, "I should go, before I lose it."

He looked like he wanted to argue, but he nodded and didn't fight me. Good, because if I stayed, I would fuck him.

"Are you free tomorrow?" I asked, getting up.

"Yeah, I have tomorrow off."

"Good, I'll pick you up around three." I said, leaving it at that.

He blinked, startled, but nodded with a big ass grin and said, "okay."

I left with a final kiss, heading straight home to jerk off and go to bed. Fuck, if this boy was going to drive me insane. Every part of me was conflicting. My head screamed to tell him the truth, my heart wanted to be with him a little longer before it all went to pot, and my cock just wanted in that tight ass.

*****

It been almost two months since we started dating. I kept finding reasons to put off telling him. I knew eventually it would blow up in my face, like some bad romance novel. But every time I sat down to tell him, I couldn't. We were happy. Why should I ruin that? Maybe, just maybe, we could go on pretending. Hell, whose to say he had to find out? We'd never see anyone from high school, so why not just let it all go?

Yeah… even I didn't believe that excuse.

We were heading back from dinner with my sister, Madison holding a picture of an elephant from Tamara in his lap. I reached over and squeezed his thigh as I turned onto his street, "I told you it be fine baby."

"Yeah, I know." He was grinning from ear to ear, even as he gave me the eye roll.

I swung into his driveway behind his Avenger. We still had yet to have sex, but my plans were to change that tonight. Once we were settled inside, Tammy's picture on his fridge, I pulled him into my lap.

"Oh wait!" He said, shooting up.

I glowered, lifting my beer and taking a swig. He walked down the hall to his room, calling out, "close your eyes!"

'Huh?"

"Close them!" He ordered from his bedroom.

I chuckled and closed my eyes. I could hear him rustling around, grumbling to himself. Was it too much to hope for a naughty nurse outfit?

"Okay, open them," he said in front of me.

I opened my eyes, staring at a square wrapped package. "What's this?"

"A present." The proud look on his face made my heart melt.

"Aw, babe, you didn't have to." I said, taking the gift.

He just sat beside me, eagerly waiting for me to open it. I pressed a kiss to his cheek then tore the plaid paper off. It was a copy of Sam McBratney's Guess How Much I Love You.

"You said you never read it… so…" he trailed off.

I opened the book, fingering through the pages, reading it quickly. No one had ever gotten a gift like this for me. Sure, it was a kid's book, but I knew there was meaning behind it. My heart raced a bit at the thought of how deep that meaning could go.

"Is it stupid? I'm sorry… I just…"

"It's great," I said, stopping him from putting himself down. It was a habit I was trying to break. A habit I knew I caused.

"Really?"

"Babe, thank you." I said, leaning in for another kiss, adding almost hesitantly, "so how much do you love me?"

His lips hovered over mine, his steel eyes gazing up with devotion. My heart stopped right then and then, paralyzed in place. Softly, voice sweet with vanilla, he said, "I love you to the moon and back."

I love you.

I never thought I'd hear them words.

I set the book aside, curled my fingers in his hair and pulled him in for a deep kiss. He melted into my body as I stole his breath away. When I pulled back I whispered, "I love you too."

"Really?"

"To the moon and back baby," I grinned. Fuck, cheesy, but true.

I grabbed his hand and pulled him up, pulling him along to the bedroom. He didn't say anything, just followed behind me.

"Thorn?"

"I think its time," I said, turning him towards the bed and dropping my head to lazily kiss down the curve of his neck, "that we took this to the next level."

"R-really?"

"Baby, I can't wait anymore."

He bumped into his bed, fingers running over the white comforter. His taste was surprisingly very classic. Everything was done in whites and neutral tones, with dark woods and a few greens mixed in. His hands ran up my stomach, tugging my t-shirt up so he could skim his fingers over my abs.

I bent him over the bed, continuing my onslaught of kisses. He continued to try and pull my shirt up, but he'd pause half way, squirm under me and make a sound that was a cross between a moan and a whine. I sank my teeth into the supple flesh of his collarbone and he arched up, his hard cock brushing mine.

His hands dropped from my shirt and wrapped around to my back, running down and cupping my ass, pulling me closer to gain friction. He fingered my pockets and paused, laughing, "Thorn, did you know there's a whole in the ass of your jeans?"

I blinked and craned my neck to see, not that I really could. "Fuck are you serious? Damn, must have been on that loose nail on the chair."

Madison threw his arm over his eyes, laughing. "You've been walking around like that!"

I let my lower weight sag against him. "Hey, are you makin' fun of me?"

"Maybe," he said toothily.

"Mm, I think that deserves punishment."

I got up and hoisted him up, reaching down to pull his shirt off. He sucked in a sharp breath as the cold air hit his chest, his nipples going hard. There was a fine tremble running through him and I ran the back of my hand down the right side of his face, murmuring, "Your shakin' baby."

"I… I don't know Thorn. I mean," he said, doubt clouding his expression.

"You don't want to?" I asked. It would take one hell of a cold shower and a lot of restraint, but I would hold back if I had to. I wasn't going to push him.

"I do!" He said hastily, "I just, you don't want, I mean…"

His face flushed, cheeks going rosy his head dropping with shame. I tipped his chin back and said, "Aye, I don't what? I don't want you? Babe, my cocks been begging to burry its self deep in that ass of yours the moment I set eyes on you."

'But Thorn… I…" His hand lazily waved and he tried to cover him self.

"You're fucking gorgeous, is what you are." I said firmly, not giving him room to argue. I dropped to one knee and took his face in both my hands. "You're it for me. When I saw you at the zoo, I swear my heart flew right out of my chest. Babe, it's to the moon. If you don't believe me, tell me what I gotta do to show you. You want me to go get the moon for you?"

I rose up, heading to towards the door.

"W-where are you going?" Madison stuttered, his face so red he looked like he might just pass out.

"I'm gonna go get the moon," I said, hand on the door.

He was struggling not to smile, but he couldn't fight it. "Get over here you dope!"

I smirked and sauntered back, dropping to my knee and returning my hands to cupping his face. I pulled him down to meet me, kissing him slow, tasting him like it was the first time.

"Okay," he whispered as I pulled back.

I looked up at him, meeting those eyes that were like diamonds. "You sure?"

"Yes."

I rose back up and he scooted down the bed. Slowly I worked the rest of his clothes off, taking my time to shower each part of his body in attention. He needed to know how deep my devotion ran, that I wasn't about to go anywhere else. I started with his eyes, placing small, fleeting kisses across his eyelids. I dotted my way down his nose and cheeks and left him gasping for breath when I reached his lips. As he was collecting himself trailed a wet path down his throat with my tongue. He was squirming beneath me, his hands holding onto my shoulders to anchor himself.

I grin and took his left hand, kissing my way up it. I was tempted to spew French I didn't know, but stifled the urge. I mirrored my actions on his right and then turned my attention to those gumdrop nipples.

Madison moaned loudly as I sucked his right one into my mouth, teeth sealing around the perk nub and rolling it.

"Thorn!" He cried out.

I looked up at him, letting his nipple slip from my mouth. "Yes?"

He opened his mouth and then closed it, not able to come up with anything to say. I grinned, loving teasing him. I turned to the left nipple, showing it the same adoration and causing him to scream my name again.

I worked my way down his stomach, sucking on the skin. Once every part, but of course the most important, were drenched in kisses, I pulled back and asked, "where's the lube?"

"Top drawer of my dresser," he gasped, staring up at me. His eyes had gone a strange shade of gray. They were murky, not necessarily dark, but not pale either. A swirling mix of dark and light gray, hazy like a foggy night, deep with lust. His cock was at full mast and dripping and I wanted to swallow it up.

I walked over to his dresser and fetched the lube. I shucked my clothes off, climbing onto the bed and rising up above him. He was leaning in the mass of his pillows, chest rising with quick breaths.

"So damn beautiful," I murmured. I poured a dollop of lubricant in my palm and threw the bottle aside. As I raked my eyes over his body, I reached down and gave my shaft a squeeze. Madison spread his legs, the mattress shifting as he dug his feet in, soundlessly begging for attention.

I smirked and let go, ordering gently, "get on your hands and knees."

He listened and as soon as that ass was up I gave it a smack. He let out a cry, "shit!"

I pressed a kiss to the hand print and shifted beside him, running my slicked fingers down his crack. A shiver ran down his spine and he made a sound deep in his throat as I pushed my first digit in. He was tight, so fucking tight, and it made me want to burry my self all the sooner in him.

I worked him into a frenzy, starting slow and easing him up. I moved to two fingers and then three, stretching him gently. He dropped down onto his forearms and moaned into the pillow. "Thorn, shit, please!"

I held out a little longer. Sweat rolled down his brow and I smiled, twisting my fingers and fucking him slowly. Finally he growled, "damn it Thorn, fuck me!"

"No need to get nasty," I teased, pulling my fingers out. I moved behind him and positioned my self. "You just had to ask."

I grabbed his hips and pressed my head to his entrance. It took all my will power not to just slam into him. I eased my self, watching him swallow my head. Slowly, so fucking slowly, inches were ate up, buried into the tight cavern of his rectum. Madison cried out, holding onto the comforter tightly. I rubbed his back, helping ease the tension as he took me in. It wasn't even just length for me, but thickness as well.

Once I was completely inside him I paused, letting him adjust. His canals tightened, clenching around me as if trying to expel my dick. He took in some gulps of air and after only a few seconds said, "okay."

"That's my baby," I said proudly. It wasn't every day a guy could take me and bounce back that quickly. I knew he was made for me. I pressed a kiss between his shoulder blades. "So strong."

I started rocking, working him like I did with my fingers. Nice and easy, setting a tempo that was lazy. There was no need to rush it. We had all night. I savored each thrust of my hips. It was so much better then I ever imagined, being inside him. Nothing could compare to the feel of him around me, like silk shaped around my rod. All the times I tried to pretend my hand was him was a fucking joke.

"Thorn," Madison panted, a whine in his tone.

I smiled and continued my slow pace. "We got all night baby. I'm going to make sure you remember this."

God, if I had known, then maybe I would have made it last forever. But I couldn't keep up that slow pace, especially after he took charge and rolled his hips, grinding back against me. I groaned and gripped his hips so hard I was afraid I'd bruise 'em. He didn't complain, in fact he kept grinding, until finally I began to pound into him. I drilled him into the bed, fucking him hard, sending him to the moon like I promised.

We came, screaming out each other's names like we were trying to get heaven to hear us.

I pulled out and fell down beside him, pulling him into my arms. He burrowed close and I ran my hand through his hair, pushing the damp strands from his forehead. My chest suddenly squeezed so tightly that I couldn't breathe. His eyes were filled with so much love, so much completeness.

I should tell him. Even if this moment was so perfect, I should tell him. Before we fall any deeper. But how much deeper could we go? I was already lost in him, already seeing stars.

*****

The county fair was in town. Tammy wanted to go and Betzy hated those things. She said the carnies always hit on her. So I got Madison to come with us. We were walking down the dirt street lined with booths, the rides off in the grassy fields of the fairgrounds. Down the center of the wide road were food vendors, the smell of pretzels and hotdogs mixing with steaming vomit and sweat. Ya gotta love the fair.

"Come on Uncle Thorn!" Tamara cried, grabbing my hand and hauling me over to the carousel. I let out a grunt and stumbled behind her. How someone so little could drag me around amazed me. She did it effortlessly though.

Madison laughed and followed behind, helping her push me to the damn ride. Me on a carousel just looked fucking wrong. But Tammy wouldn't have any of me just standing beside her. She pointed out the horses me and Madison were suppose to ride and she took the one in front of us, properly dubbed Buttercup.

I sighed and heaved myself onto the fake horse, who was a bright pink. Madison grinned toothily. I glowered at him. "Quit yer smilin'."

"What? You look cute!" He said, climbing onto his horse. At least he got the white one.

The ride started and I couldn't help but smile. Tamara was squealing in excitement and Madison was holding my eyes. I swear, every time I looked at him, it was like falling in love all over again. It had been a little over a week since we made love. Summer was over and fall was setting in, the air cooler, crisper. We were taking turns at whose place we'd stay at, though it was mostly his. I didn't like him being at my apartment. I didn't want him in such a bad neighborhood, where he could get hurt.

Every day I told my self that I'd tell him. But every day I found another reason not to.

When the ride ended we got off and Tamara pulled me to another one. By our fifth ride I was feeling drained.

"What about a game?" I asked Tamara, distracting her from the carousel again.

She let out a squeal and ran to the basketball game. I handed the man a five dollar bill -- fucking rip off -- and took the first basketball. I threw it, the net swishing as the ball went through. I easily got in all three, much to the carnies disappointment. Tamara applauded enthusiastically though, pointing out her prize. She took the pink unicorn, a purple heart on the side of its' butt.

Madison smiled and said, "why don't we get a drink Tammy?"

"Hey, boy," The carnie said, a grin spreading across his pockmarked face. His hair was oily, falling in strands that were poorly kept back by a baseball cap. He had some teeth missing in the back of his mouth, the ones in the front stained.

Madison looked at him, hand resting on Tamara's shoulder. "What?"

"Was your mama a beaver? 'Cause DAMN!" He let out a peel of laughter, slapping his knee.

Red spotted my vision and I let out a growl, drawing my fist back. Madison quickly grabbed my arm and said firmly, "Thorn, no!"

My arm trembled and I glared at the carnie. All the color had gone out of his face. I dropped my arm and hissed, "you're fucking lucky."

Madison gave my arm a hard tug and said, "come on."

Tamara gave me a wide eyed look and my stomach plummeted. My anger had gotten the best of me. She squeezed the unicorn tightly asked, "Uncle Thorn, you mad?"

"No pumpkin," I said, ruffling her hair, "come on. Lets get that drink. Want a pretzel?"

That got her perked up. I ushered her over to a food vendor and ordered us all a drink and pretzel. Madison eyed me skeptically, trying to gage my mood. But when I didn't seem to go off on a tangent, he smiled and grabbed my hand. I lifted it up, pressing a kiss to his knuckles. Fuck anyone that didn't like it.

It was strange for me to not care. But being in prison does that to you. I just didn't give a flying fuck who thought what about me.

I pulled him to another stall, one where you knock down the milk jugs. I paid the guy, who was a bit more cleaned up then the last guy, and took the baseballs. I missed on the first two throws, but nailed it on third.

"What one, babe?" I asked Madison.

He smiled wide at me and then picked out a giant stuffed elephant that said 'I love you' on its belly. I chuckled and shook my head, "go figure. The elephant please."

The man grabbed it and passed me the elephant. I handed it to Madison and said, "there, now you each have one."

"Thank you," Madison said, shyly leaning forward. He looked around and then closed the distance between us, kissing me softly.

"Oh God." The voice that said that made everything inside me go cold, like death had just swept over me and stolen my soul. I swear I could feel my self dying.

Madison pulled back, looking over his shoulder as he hugged the elephant. Just a few feet away, standing in the bustling throng of people, was the last person I'd ever want to see again. Stephen Shay, the boy I had literally beaten to death. He was as white as a ghost and his big blue eyes were glazed with raw fear. The right one was glassy, a kind of milky, distorted color. They use to be like two big aquamarines. Not as beautiful as Madison's, but damn near close. His pouting lips had a permanent scar from where my class ring had caught them, and his nose looked like it had been broken. He was leaning on a cane, like his right leg hurt 'em.

"Fuck," I whispered softly, not sure if anyone even heard it.

"Thorn?" Madison asked, taking my hand. I squeezed his, unable to stop my hand from shaking.

"Whose that?" Tamara asked, grabbing onto my shirt.

Stephen was standing with a woman and two guys, one of whom looked hovered over him protectively. He was about my size in girth, maybe not as hard cut. Also a lot cleaner looking, no tattoos. It was the girl beside him, a petite red head with fierce green eyes, that spoke first; "what's wrong Stephen?"

Stephen looked like he just might cry and my stomach twisted with guilt. I wanted to apologize but I couldn't get my mouth to work. It felt like someone had jammed a whole damn package of cotton balls down my throat.

"Stephen?" She said, getting slightly shriller.

Stephen took a trembling step backwards, leaning heavily on his cane. "I-It's him."

"Him?" She asked, confused at first. She looked at me, recognition dawning on her. Her grip on the drink she was holding tightening. "You!"

"Who is that?" Madison asked, glaring at the woman as he face transformed from pretty to dragon-like.

"What the fuck are you doing here? Get out of here!" She yelled. Stephen opened her mouth, eyes going even wider. He looked like he wanted to stop her, but then part of him didn't. The guy hovering over him pressed a hand down on his shoulder.

"Excuse me?" Madison stepped in and I grabbed his arm as soon as he took a step forward. He looked back at me and then over to the girl. "Who is this Thorn?"

"That's the guy," I said softly. Tamara was huddling in close to me. I looked down at her and something protective unfurled inside me. Yes, I deserved to pay for my sins, yes I owed this man an apology, but they didn't not need to be scaring my niece. This woman did not need to be shrieking like a banshee in the middle of the God damn public.

"The guy?" Madison asked. "You mean…"

He trailed off, looking at Stephen, mouth forming an oh. He looked down at Tamara and then back at the woman as she took a step forward, shaking off the hand of the third guy, who I was assuming was her husband or boyfriend. "You fucking monster! Who let you out of prison? You should be hanged! You're a fucking MONSTER!"

They were like knives piercing into me. I knew I deserved the words. Fuck, I had made so many mistakes. It didn't mean it didn't hurt any less.

"I hope you die, you fucking ass!" She shouted, drawing the attention of everyone around us. I could see the security over her shoulder, just down the dirt path, and my blood ran even colder. I was still on parole. I didn't need to be getting in trouble.

Something cold slapped into my face and I sputtered, soda dripping down me. Tamara let out a shriek, beginning to cry.

"Diana!" Someone yelled behind her.

Madison let go of my hand, dropping his elephant, and yelled, "that's enough! What is wrong with you? There's a little girl here, and you're acting like a psychopath! You should be ashamed of yourself!"

"Me? Ashamed? He's the fucking monster hurt my brother!" Diana shouted back at Madison.

"I don't care what Thorn did! He paid his dues! Now just leave him, leave us alone!"

Security pushed through the crowd, shouting, "is there something the matter here?"

I grabbed Madison's hand, giving it a squeeze. Madison returned the gesture and looked at the guard, snapping, "yes! This psycho just threw soda in my boyfriend's face and started screaming at the top of her lungs!"

"That man is a criminal! He should be behind bars!" Diana shouted.

"He was released," Madison hissed.

The security guard looked at us all and then said, "I'm going to ask you all to leave."

Tamara was crying even harder. I wiped the soda from my face and crouched down, picking her up, "hey," I whispered, "it's okay pumpkin. Everything is fine. You want to go get ice cream?"

Madison looked like he was struggling with his anger, his eyes like swords thirsty for the woman's blood. Finally he let out a breath of frustration, spun around and picked up his elephant. He dusted it off and said, "come on Thorn. Lets go get Tammy some ice cream."

We left, not looking back over our shoulders. I wanted to turn around and say something, say that I was sorry, but I knew it wasn't the right time. Maybe if I ran into him again, maybe then it would be okay.

*****

"I can't believe her!" Madison said, storming over to his hall closet and jerking it open. He pulled out some towels and turned to me, passing them into my arms. "Acting like that! I don't care what you did, that doesn't give anyone else the right to act insane!"

"Baby," I said, trying to assuage him. After we calmed Tamara down and dropped her off, promising to fill Betzy in later, we had come home. "It's fine. I deserved that. I really fucked his life up."

"No," Madison spun around, eyes flashing vehemently, "you do not deserve that. Yes Thorn, you fucked up back then. What you did was horrible. Beyond horrible. But you made amends. You paid your dues. Now it's time to move on with your life. You aren't a bad person. You were just a confused person who made a bad decision."

I wanted to hug him, to embrace him, but I was sticky so I resisted. He leaned up though and kissed me, not seeming to care if he got sticky. "Now go take a shower."

Despite his reassuring words, I felt like shit. I didn't deserve his kindness. I was lying to him. I walked into the shower and stripped, stepping under the hot spray I turned on. I stood under it, staring blankly at the white tile wall. What was I going to do? There was only one thing I could do, tell him. Maybe… maybe he wouldn't hate me. Maybe he'd move on. He seemed to let go of his past, all the horrible teasing I had done. Maybe he wouldn't end.

"Fuck," I whispered, running my hands down my face. This day went from amazing to hell in a matter of seconds. All from seeing one person.

Stephen's horrified eyes were burned into my brain, one startling blue, the other like milk. I washed up, scrubbing hard at my hair. When I got out of the shower, I changed into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt I kept at Madison's house. I left my hair hanging damp around my face.

I walked out into the living room, stopping just shy of the hall. Madison was sitting on the couch channel surfing, jabbing the buttons of the remote with more force then necessary. He was mad because I was hurting. I was so proud of how he handled today. He didn't vanish into his shell at the first sign of confrontation, or turn into a crazy lunatic spewing out curses. He kept a firm, level tone, and addressed the problem. He never forgot that there was a child present, that there was an audience. He had become so much stronger from the little boy in high school, who I use to shove into lockers and tack notes onto the back of.

"Babe," I said, feeling sicker by the second. I was going to puke. I was going to fucking puke. "Can we talk?"

Madison looked up and shut off the TV. He scooted down the couch and patted the seat beside him, "sure."

He eyed me cautiously, but smiled nonetheless. I ran a hand through my hair, pushing it from my face, and walked over to the couch. My limbs felt like they were made of lead. I collapsed into the couch and Madison slipped beside me, reaching out to rub my shoulders. I sat there for a moment, just letting him work the tension out. Maybe I didn't need to tell him. Maybe… maybe I should stop being selfish, for once in my life.

I gently nudged his hands away and turned to face him. I pressed a hand to his cheek and said, "baby, I'm so proud of you. You handled today so well… I know it couldn't have been easy, dealing with my shit."

"Thorn, we all have demons. You know mine." He said, eyes growing distant.

I leaned forward, kissing away his nightmares. He sighed contently, responding as soon as he felt my lips. God I loved him. My heart hurt, like it was trying to cave in on its self.

"I love you Madison, to the fucking moon."

"I love you too," he assured, staring at me quizzically, "what's wrong? Why do I feel like you're about to say something bad?"

I pulled back, not allowing my self to look away. I had to be a man for the first time in my life. "I have to tell you something Madison, and I don't know how you're going to react."

"What is it?"

"Just, just remember that I love you, okay? I just never wanted to loose you, because I love you so much. I never lied about that. I swear to God, I never did." I said, trying to embedded the fact that I loved him into his mind. Maybe if I said it enough, maybe if I told him enough a dozen times, a thousand times, a million fucking times, that I loved him, he wouldn't tell me to go.

"Thorn, you're scaring me. What's wrong?" His voice was wavering, fear edging into his eyes.

I cupped his face and kissed him, slow and easy, savoring the sweet vanilla of his tongue. My gut twisted ominously and I could feel my own tears fucking choking me up.

"Baby," I started, pausing, throat closing up, words clogging with the snot, fear impending me, a road block I didn't even want to think about surmounting. I drew in a shaky breath and tried again. "You remember the boy from high school? The one that fucked with ya a lot?"

"Yeah…" He was apprehensive, a bit confused.

I pulled back, though I wanted to hold on to him for dear life, and said, "I'm him."

Madison blinked slowly, eyeing me like I'd gone insane. "That isn't funny Thorn. I told you those stories in confidence, not to be teased with." There was a hard edge to his voice.

"I'm not fucking with you," I said, holding his eyes, "My name is Hawthorn Wineland. Thorn is a nickname my family calls me."

I reached deep into my pocket and pulled out my wallet, fishing out my ID and handing it to him. He took it, his hands shaking like he had taken a bad hit of crack, and he stared at my ID. All the color drained from his face and he looked just like Stephen; like he had gaped into the mouth of Hell and faced off with the devil.

He dropped my ID and scrambled off the couch, putting distance between us. "W-what is this Thorn? Hawthorn, I mean, Thorn… who ever the fuck you are! Why are you telling me this?"

His voice cracked, the little boy coming out. I picked up my ID and put it all away, saying soothingly, "baby, I wanted to tell you from the beginning. I swear I did… I just was scared. I wanted you to see I changed."

"Don't call me that!" He hissed.

It was like being punched. I swallowed a rock in my throat and tried to placate him. "I never lied about my feelings. I've changed Madison. What I did back then, I know it was awful. I'm so sorry."

"Sorry? You're sorry? I went to a fucking insane asylum because of you! I just stopped therapy a year ago Thorn!" Tears were ringing his eyes and he was gritting his teeth to fight them. "I thought I wasn't worth shit! Less then shit! The names you called me lasted me all through fucking college! Fucking Mad Maddy and Princess Maddy! All names you gave me!"

I winced and looked away. "I know, I know I fucked up. I'm sorry!"

"Sorry doesn't change it!"

I forced my self to look at him, to meet his eyes. I had to stare down my demons, the mistakes I made. I got off the couch and he took a step back, his entire body quaking violently. I held my hands out, begging him, "please Madison, please. I'm not that guy back then. You know that. What about all these months? What about letting go of the past? Moving on?"

He closed his eyes and drew in a shaky breath. A tear escaped and rolled down his cheek. All I wanted was to gather him in my arms and hold him, to wipe away those tears. I wanted to mend the broken pieces of his heart, undo the damage I had done.

"I have moved on Thorn, and you know what? I might have been able to handle this if you hadn't lied." He said, each word soft, lost and hurt. He opened his eyes and met mine, the tears falling freely. "We've been dating for three months now. You couldn't tell me once before that? You lied to me. Every time I shared my pain and you never said a thing."

"I'm sorry," I tried, "I was scared. I know that isn't an excuse. But I was afraid you'd walk away. I couldn't loose you."

He laughed, bitter and sharp, a bark that raked down my skin like ragged nails. "Ironic, because for that very reason you are loosing me. Get out."

"No," I gasped, dropping to my knees and grabbing his hands. It was pathetic. It was a move I had always sworn I'd never make, but I was at the point that I'd do anything to get him back. "Baby, please. Listen to me. I know I made a mistake, I'm sorry. I didn't do it to hurt you. We can move on, work past this."

"No we can't!" He screamed, ripping his hand away, "you lied to me! You broke my trust! You of all people should know how important that is to me! That for us, for you especially, the truth was most important!"

I knew. I knew from the beginning I should have told him. I knew the second I didn't say my real name, I had sealed our fate.

"Get out. I don't ever want to see you again." The words came out choked, a sob raking through him. He turned away.

"Madison," I tried one more time.

"GET OUT!" He screamed.

I jerked, choking on my own sob. I could feel the tears on my cheek and I blinked them back. I got up and quickly grabbed my shoes, shooting out of his house and into the beat up, piece of shit Intrepid. I almost ran off the road driving home, almost tempted to just say fuck it. But I made one to many mistakes in my life. I was done being selfish. I was going to right this, I wasn't going to loose him.

****

I was going insane. I was barely sleeping. Barely fucking breathing. A month since I saw him, since I heard his voice or tasted those sweet, vanilla lips. I'd give anything just to hold his hand.

I finished off the bottle of rum, drinking straight from the bottle. I tossed it aside and went searching for another in my almost completely empty cupboards. I was running on autopilot. I drank, I went to work, and I slept. Those were my objectives for life. I should probably think about adding shopping for food in there, but I didn't care.

I ignore the persistent knocking at the door, hoping it would go away. I snatched up my last bottle of rum and unscrewed the cap, taking a long, burning swig. The lock on the door turned and Betzy pushed her way in, halting two steps from the door. She took a sweeping glance around, taking in the scattered bottles of rum and crushed beer cans. There were even a few pizza boxes, but only like three.

"Shit, Thornie," Betzy said, nose curling in disgust.

"What da'ya want?" I grumbled, taking a swig, hand wrapped around the neck of the bottle like I was trying to strangle it.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" She asked, kicking some stray cans away.

I stumbled over to my shit couch and collapsed into it. Laying out on the coffee table was the book Madison gave me. To the moon baby, to the moon.

"Nothing." I hissed, "Get the fuck out."

"Don't talk to me like that," she snapped firmly, tone motherly.

I glared up at her, but she didn't back down. She didn't care how big I was, I'd never scare her. I snort and took another drink. Fine, she could stay here, I didn't give the fuck. As long as I could drink.

It was the only thing numbing the ache in my chest where my damn heart use to be. Why did I have to go to the zoo that day? Why did I have to see him again? Talk to him again? Love him again? There was my mistake. Letting my self give in to these damn emotions.

I went to take another drink but Betzy snatched the bottle away. I shot up, roaring, "what the fuck? Give me that back you bitch!"

I swayed, barely catching my self. A sharp sting spread across my face as she slapped me, my head jerking to the left. "Snap out of it you moron! Is this what your plan is? To get him back, drinking your self to death? Grow a fucking pair of balls and man up! Time to fix your mistake for once!"

"Just get out," I said, the conviction gone. I slumped back down on the couch, legs spread out, and buried my hands in my hair to cradle my head.

"Damn it Thorn," she said, "for once, don't run. I thought you had changed. I thought you said you loved him."

I didn't say anything. Eventually she let out a disgusted snort and set the bottle down next to my book, walking out. The door slammed closed behind her.

I sat like that, head in my hands, staring at my bare feet like they had some divine answer. I pulled my self up and grabbed the bottle, taking a slow swig. What did she know? Of course I loved him. I loved him more than anything. But he didn't want me. I had shit on any chance of being with him because I couldn't just man up.

"I couldn't even get him back if I wanted to. Hell, I wouldn't know how." I said to the bottle.

My eyes settled on the picture of Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare. Heh, it was kind of like me and Madison. He was so small compared to me. It hit me so hard the bottle nearly slipped from my fingers. I still had a chance, it was slim, so fucking small that it was crazy to think it could work, but I couldn't give up. Not yet.

*****

Part of me was sure this was crazy. All of me was pretty sure that I'd be going back to the stony lonesome for this. But if there was a chance I'd get Madison back, then I'd slap the shackles on my self.

I climbed out of my Intrepid and hoisted the large gym bag over my shoulder. The sun was blazing like it was damn near ready to fall straight out of the sky, making the day ten times hotter than it should have been. Just my freaking luck.

The zoo was packed. It was a pretty day, and those were few and far between right now. Great, the chances of me getting hauled off just went up another good ten percent. I walked to the entrance of the zoo, got a ticket, and walked in, flashing Shelly a smile.

"Madison at the Elephant exhibit?" I asked.

"Yeah, he's showing Nel today." She said. She lifted a brow at the bag. "What you got there?"

"Surprise for him."

Her grin grew bigger and she let out a giggle. I adjusted my grip and gave a small wave, heading towards a bathroom. I checked to make sure no one was there and threw the lock, dropping the bag on the sink. I unzipped it and pulled out the rented brown rabbit suit. I stared at it. Was I really going to do this?

Yes. Because I didn't know what else to do.

I put on the suit, jamming the rabbit head on. I looked ridiculous. I was a giant brown rabbit. Of course I looked ridiculous.

I stuffed the bag in the janitor's closet and unlocked the bathroom door, walking out. People turned to look instantly, but I didn't care. Okay, maybe it did make me a little uncomfortable. But I gathered up my courage and walked towards the back of the zoo where the elephant exhibit was. Sweat began to pour down my back. It felt like a hundred degrees in the damn suit.

The exhibit came into view and I paused. People pushed past me, stopping to look, kids pointing and laughing eagerly. Madison was standing next to Nel, talking animatedly. His steel eyes seemed dark though, despite his infectious smile. It was as if they were stones weighing him down. He ran his hand down Nel's trunk, which nestled his side, and for the briefest moment I saw his anguish.

Was that because he missed me? Did he ache for me the way I did for him?

Only one way to find out.

I walked up to the exhibit, earning everyone's attention. They turned away from him as I stepped up to the metal fence. Madison stopped talking and stared at me in confusion, looking around the crowd.

"Madison!" I called out. My stomach twisted up in fifteen different knots. I felt like I was going to get sick. This could go so many ways. So many bad ways. They all ran through my head, blurring together and causing spots to dance in front of my eyes. I shoved them from my head, buried the worries deep down, and spread my arms out wide. "I love you this much!"

Madison's face scrunched, his brow wrinkling cutely. "Excuse me? Who are you?" He looked around, and then back at me. "Thorn?"

"I love you across all the rivers and hills," I said, "I love you from coast to coast."

"Thorn, what the hell are you doing?" He stepped away from Nel.

I heard people laughing, some kids snickering. Someone took a picture.

"I love you from across the Atlantic all the way to the Pacific." I continued to call out to him, pouring all the pent up emotions I had carried on my shoulders through out the years, into those words. I wasn't going to hold back. This wasn't the time to shy away. What did I care what people thought? I spent my youth hiding behind a mask, and it had driven me into rage. I had spent my one chance at being with him, hiding from my lies. No more. Never again. It was all coming out.

"I loved you back in high school." I called out. His face was guarded, his eyes so sharp I couldn't read them. They looked skeptical. He held on to Nel's trunk, using it to steady himself. "I loved you even though I hurt you. I was so scared of that love -- of how intense it was. I beat you down because I couldn't face it.

"I loved you when I was in that damn cell. I thought of how if I could only turn back time, I'd tell you. I wouldn't lie. I wouldn't pretend. And when I got the chance, I screwed it up again. I know I lied. It doesn't matter what excuse I have, it doesn't change what I did. But none of that changes the fact that I love you. I love you so much that without you there beside me now, I can't breathe. Without being able to hold your hand, or hear your laugh, or see your smile, I can't function.

Sweat was dripping into my eyes and I really wanted to wipe it away. I drew in a breath and let it out, hoping to cool my self. "Loosing you was the biggest mistake of my life. And I'll spend the rest of my life making up for it Madison, if you'll just take me back. I love you, to the moon."

His eyes flashed, emotions swirling and falling, dropping as if the stones were tied to them. He held onto Nel's trunk a bit tighter, his hands trembling. There was a collective silence and I could see his face crumbling. He was warring with himself, with his past and the demons that haunted him, the demons I had awakened. Finally he let go of Nel's trunk and turned around, walking off.

I stood there, the rest of the world dying, falling away. I could swear the ground was opening up and swallowing me, dragging me straight down to hell. Madison was walking off. He was letting go. This was it. Game over. I lose.

My arms fell to my side, my shoulders slumped. I closed my eyes, fighting the sting of tears. Damn it, damn it all…

I turned, ignoring the whispers that rushed over the crowd. Numbness rolled over me; I couldn't even feel the sweltering heat of the suit.

"Thorn!" Madison's voice broke the darkness.

I turned around slowly, looking at him through the shitting eye holes of the rabbit suit. He stood a few feet away, the crowd part to make a path for him. He took a slow step forward. I looked into his eyes. They were clear, beautiful silver, like the full moon on a clear night.

His bottom lip trembled for a second as he stepped up in front of me. He squared his shoulders back and lifted his chin high, a smile slowly spreading across his face, and I swore I could feel wings unfurl inside me, taking my heart soaring.

"I love you, to the moon…and back." He said, voice ringing like a choir of angels.

He lifted his hands and removed the head of the suit, dropping it to the side. He brushed my damp bangs from my face, fingers dancing down along my cheeks. I grabbed him around the waist, grinning like the fool I was. His lips sealing over mine, tasting like the sweetest vanilla. I pulled back, my lips hovering over his, and said, "to the moon and back baby, to the moon and back."

The End


And they lived happily ever after. YAAY! This story was fun, if not a bit challenging. It took a few drafts. But in the end I fell in love with the characters. I adore Madison and Hawthorn, and I'm totally going to do another story for them sometime in the future. I just don't know what. I'm also thinking that Stephen needs a story, because I just love physically deformed characters. But my main priority for posting here (though that isn't my first, sorry) is to update Drop Dead Zombie. So look for an update for that in the future. Thanks for reading and PLEASE review!