Chapter 28

Oliver

-Is that even Debatable?

Three Months Later:

I can finally see my left ankle. After weeks and weeks dealing with that stupid cast, I finally got it removed. Hallelujah.

I sit up in bed and admire my naked leg. Atticus groans in his sleep and curls himself around my pillow. I'll probably spend the better part of half an hour trying to steal my pillow back, but at the moment I don't care. I'm too enthralled with the absence of my cast.

I spend ten or fifteen minutes admiring my leg in the moonlit room. It's early in the morning, not even four-thirty. I don't know what woke me, but if I had to guess, I'd say it was Atticus' phone. The display screen is lit up with a text message; it's probably from Kody or Easton. I don't check to confirm my guess.

Instead, I work at tugging my pillow from Atticus' hold. He resists for a few seconds before he lets go completely. I'm slightly surprised, but I don't pay much attention to it. I just place my pillow where it was earlier and lay back down. Atticus swings his arm over me and pulls me tight to him; I now know why his resistance broke.

I snuggle into Atticus' hold, press a quick kiss to his jaw, and drift back to sleep.

It's hours later when I wake for the second time. I've no doubt what woke me this time. A foam ball pelts me in the shoulder. Opening my eyes, I can see that Atticus and I are covered in foam balls. Another one hits my lower back. I turn over to see RJ standing in the doorway with a toy gun, smiling widely. Julie stands behind him shaking her head fondly.

"Give me another shot, Julie," RJ requests. "I don't think Atticus is awake yet."

Atticus groans in response; he's awake. Julie, in the mean time, obliges RJ's request. RJ reloads the gun, points it at Atticus' thigh, and shoots. The foam ball bounces off Atticus and lands in the floor. Atticus sits up in bed.

"Sorry, boys," Julie apologizes. "It was either the dart gun or the water gun."

I laugh at the indignant expression that crosses RJ's face.

"You ruin all my fun, dear," RJ says.

"They're awake now so why don't we go down to the kitchen and start breakfast. I'm sure the coffee has perked by now."

Julie holds her hand out for the dart gun, knowing that if it's left in RJ's possession he'll come attack us again. RJ sighs and passes the gun to her. She leaves the room. RJ winks at us and follows her.

The moment they're gone, Atticus grabs my shirt and pulls me to him. Startled, I don't have time to process what's happening before he presses his lips to mine.

"Good morning, Ollie," he says when we part.

"Good morning to you, too," I respond and kiss him again.

When we part for the second time, both he and I are left gasping for breath.

"How's your leg feel?" he asks as we get out of bed.

"Free," I respond because there's no other description for it.

Atticus laughs.

"I'd say."

We grab our clothes in comfortable silence. I use the bathroom across the hall for my shower. Atticus uses RJ and Julie's private bath. It's been this way since that first morning I woke up in his arms three months ago.

A little while later, I find myself helping Atticus set the table. RJ is sitting at the head reading the newspaper and nursing a cup of sweetened coffee. Julie is frying bacon at the stove while Carrie is buttering toast as it comes out of the toaster.

"Morning all," Al greets as he walks through the kitchen door from his and Carrie's side.

As he passes his wife, he quickly kisses her. Carrie laughs. Al pours himself a cup of coffee and sits down at the table with RJ. RJ passes a section of the paper to him.

"The firm is featured on page two. I believe the editor needs to run the articles through spell check; they still can't spell my last name."

Al chuckles and opens the newspaper to the correct page and reads, "'Like Uncle, Like Nephew: Burnett Follows in Uncle DeVasquez's Footsteps.' D-e-V-a-s-k-e-z?"

RJ nods. Al doesn't pay any attention to him. Instead, Al proceeds to read the article.

Jaxon and Sienna walk into the kitchen. They're immediately recruited to help Carrie and Julie move the food to the table. I sit down between Atticus and RJ. When all of the food is placed on the table, Jaxon sits across from me while Sienna sits down beside of him.

"Oliver, would you say grace?" RJ requests after Carrie and Julie have both sat down.

I oblige. I don't stumble over my words like I did the first time I was asked. It's not the best in the world—certainly not nearly as good as RJ's always is—but when I finish RJ compliments me and passes me the bowl of gravy.

"Cal texted me this morning," Sienna says. "He wanted me to remind Oliver to catch him before third period."

"OK," I respond. "Thanks."

Sienna nods her head.

"Don't wait on me this evening, Atti," she says. "Seth and I are going to see that new horror film that came out last weekend."

"Seth hates horrors," Atticus comments.

Sienna shrugs.

"I don't."

Before Atticus can say anything else, Carrie, who is animatedly discussing the pros and cons of online shopping, shoves a bowl of scrambled eggs in Atticus' face. Atticus grabs the bowl before she drops it and spoons eggs onto his plate. He offers me some. I accept them. He dips me out some and passes the bowl across to Sienna.

"Did you hear about the country club?" Al asks suddenly.

"I heard it filed for bankruptcy last week," Julie responds.

"It did," RJ says. "The members lost a lot of money when that happened, too."

RJ looks over at me for a second. They have to be talking about the country club my parents belong to—the very same country club that had a hand in making my life a living hell under my parents' roof.

"So they did," Al says, "and the club burnt to the ground last night."

Karma.

"Which means the members have lost even more money, right?" Carrie asks, and I swear I hear a note of hope in her voice.

Al nods with a satisfied smile playing across his face. I know that smile is because of me. Since that first evening when he had taken the time to explain a basketball game to me, Al has treated me like a long lost son. Al (and RJ) has been more of a father to me than my own father ever was.

I duck my head, suddenly finding the food on my plate more interesting than the conversation at hand. I can't keep the smile off my face. Underneath the table, Atticus squeezes my knee twice.

Breakfast passes quickly after that. Soon enough it's time for school Jaxon and Sienna get up from the table and leave the kitchen. Atticus and I start to follow him.

"I'll take you to get your driver's license tomorrow, OK, Oliver?" RJ asks before I leave the kitchen.

"OK," I tell him. "Thank you."

"It's about time your truck gets some use," he responds.

I agree with him completely.

RJ ushers us out of the kitchen. I follow Atticus to the vehicle and get in the front seat. Sienna and Jaxon are already sitting in the back seat. The drive to school doesn't take long. We listen to the radio and make small talk. Atticus parks his vehicle in his usual spot. Jaxon and Sienna immediately climb out. I start to but Atticus grabs my arm.

"One thing before we go in," he says.

I start to ask him, "What's that?" but he presses his lips to mine. When he pulls back, there's a smirk on his face.

"See you at lunch?"

"I can't wait," I respond as there's a tap on my window.

I jump and turn around Ethan is standing on the other side. He opens my door and steps back for me to get out.

"Finally got your cast off, didn't you?" he asks.

I look down.

"Yep."

"Feels great, doesn't it?"

I nod.

"You have no idea."

"So you want to come over this evening while Atticus is at baseball practice?" Ethan asks.

"We playing table tennis again?" I ask.

Ethan shrugs.

"I dunno; it's a bit fairer now that you've got both legs to stand on."

I roll my eyes.

"I told you that was why he insisted on playing you, Ollie," Atticus says as he throws his arm around my waist.

"I never denied it, you know," Ethan points out.

We begin walking to the school building just as we have done all other days. It's nice having my best friend back. There are days when I completely forget that there was a time when Ethan had abandoned me. Then there are days that I forget he's apologized—that he's attempted to make amends for all his wrongdoings. Those days, thankfully, are few and far in between.

The bell rings the instant we walk into the building. Atticus reluctantly lets me go and walks off towards chemistry. Ethan bids me bye as he enters the history classroom. I make my way to art.

A couple of hours later, I find myself sitting down my tray on the lunch table across from Atticus. Seth, Cal, and Sienna sit between Atticus and me on one side of the circular table. Ethan and Ray sit on the other side.

Ever since that day Dirk tried to kill me and Ethan helped save me, Ethan's stuck by my side and rooted himself firmly in Atticus' group of friends. Ray, on the other hand, has always been a follower. He apologized to me for his actions (which I took with a grain of salt) and that was that. He's always sort of hero-worshipped Ethan, but I think he's starting to hero-worship me a bit too. Of course, the fact that he defied Dirk to help me means that he's not Dirk's favorite person in the world.

Cal and Ethan are choking on their laughter. Seth looks equally amused, while Atticus just rolls his eyes.

"Remind me again why it was a good idea Cal and Ethan met?" Sienna requests.

"It gives you more time with Seth?" Atticus guesses.

Sienna is not amused with his answer. Seth, for his credit, doesn't even seem fazed at Atticus' accusation.

"What do they find so amusing anyway?" I ask.

"Ethan told them about the time he locked himself out of the house after the Halloween party," Ray responds with indifference.

"When he was drunk off his rear end and kept asking why the gnomes were dancing in his front yard?"

"That'd be the story."

I roll my eyes, understanding why Atticus did not find the story as amusing as Cal and Seth did. Cal and Seth had immediately hit it off with Ethan—well, Cal more than Seth. Although they were both initially weary of him after the way he had treated me, they soon warmed up to Ethan. I think it probably has something to do with Ethan's confident personality and his undeniable charisma, but I don't know the real reason.

Lunch passes quickly. We exchange stories, jokes, and small talk. The lunch bell rings soon enough.

"What are you doing for study hall, Ollie?" Atticus asks before we leave the table.

"What did you have in mind?"

"Meet me in the library conference room?"

I smile.

"I'll see you there then."

I can see the desire in Atticus' eyes. He wants nothing more than to throw his arms around me and hold me close. I'd love to be able to do that to him, but I can't. He can't. It's not the right time for that.

"If you two love birds are done, can we get to biology now, Oliver?" Ethan interrupts us.

Atticus and I both pretend like Ethan's suggestion is the worst thing in the world. Ethan rolls his eyes at us, seeing right through our façade.

"C'mon, Ol," Ethan says. "Seth's waiting on us anyway."

I sigh.

"See you later, Atti."

I walk off with Ethan. I can feel Atticus' eyes following me. I resist the urge to look back at him as we leave the cafeteria. As I walk with Seth and Ethan to biology, I wish I would have glanced back at Atticus just once.

It seems to take last period forever to come, but it's finally study hall. I get to spend the next little while hanging out with Atticus. I'm on my way to the library when I run right into the person in front of me. I definitely need to start paying more attention to my surroundings.

"Oh, sor—"

My apology dies in my throat as the person turns around. It's Dirk, and he's supporting a rather nasty-looking black eye. That seems to be the norm for him as of late. Of course, he's only been back at school for a couple of weeks. Trying to kill me (although he claims was accidental) landed him with a suspended license until he's eighteen and in juvie for a few weeks. He was let out a couple of weeks ago.

Now, he's almost never without Emma, who was also convicted; she, much like Dirk, took the plea deal but only spent fifteen days in a step-down from juvie. It wasn't quite the justice that I was hoping for, but I don't care; I've got Atticus, and that's all that really matters.

"Watch where you're going, Gray," Dirk snaps.

He starts to advance on me. My mind flashes back to those weeks I spent living in fear of him.

"Theodoric, it's so nice to see you again," Kai says from behind me.

The expression on Dirk's face suggests that Dirk does not agree with Kai's statement.

I turn around. Kai is standing with his arms crossed over his chest. Landon and Haber flank him.

"Is he giving you a hard time, Oliver?" Kai asks. "We can take care of him for you."

Kai sidesteps around me and advances on Dirk. I watch long enough to see Kai back Dirk up against some lockers before I continue onto the library. As much as I'd like to watch Dirk get what's been coming to him (once again, because Kai seems to like cornering Dirk quite a lot), I'd much rather go to the library and see Atticus.

The library's mostly empty. There are a few people in the far corner pretending like they're reading. A few more people are lounging on the couch beside of the window who aren't even bothering to pretend to read. I don't pay attention to these people. The only person I care about is sitting in the private conference room.

I enter the secluded room to notice that Atticus isn't as alone as I thought he was. Easton and Kody are sitting at the table with him. Atticus looks up when I enter and smiles at me. I close the door behind me and flip the blinds as if we are working on a media project.

"Hey, Oliver," Easton greets me. "Kody and I are getting ready to leave. We both know how much you'd like to have Atticus all to yourself."

Then Easton winks at me, bringing a blush to my face. The other three chuckle a bit. I sit down at the table with Atticus.

"Clay misses you at the club, Atti," Kody says, and I feel a spike of jealousy.

Ethan notices my response and explains, "Clay is the bouncer at the door. He just thinks Atti's a hottie."

Atticus rolls his eyes, but I notice the red tinge to his face.

"Clay's a nice guy, but he's in a relationship with his roommate," Atticus says.

Kody shrugs, and Easton smirks. They're just teasing Atticus.

"Honestly, though, Atti, are you ever going to go back to the club?" Easton asks.

Atticus sighs and visibly resists the urge to look over at me. I inwardly cringe. I'm the reason he hasn't set foot in the club in the past three months. I'm the reason he hasn't done anything more than kissing since that last night with Kody and Easton. I've never been ready, and Atticus hasn't pressured me. Atticus hasn't complained, but I've seen him stare at me longingly enough times to know what he's thinking.

It's not that I haven't thought of taking our relationship to the next level, because I have. The truth is that I'm a little terrified of not measuring up to Atticus' expectation. It's probably a stupid fear, but this is Atticus. It needs to be as close to perfect as humanly possible, and I'm nowhere close to perfect.

Easton senses that Atticus isn't going to answer him so he stands up. Kody mimics his actions.

"We'll leave you guys alone," Easton says. "Text me later, OK, Atti?"

Atticus nods. Easton and Kody leave the room, shutting the door behind them.

The instant they're gone, Atticus gets up from his chair and walks over to me. He pulls me up to my feet and kisses my lips with intensity.

"So what do you want to do for the next hour?" Atticus asks when we part. "We can suffer through a bit of homework or we can play one of those board games over there on that shelf. Take your pick."

I laugh.

"Is that even debatable?" I ask rhetorically. "Grab the one on top."

Atticus obliges and places the board game on the table. I help him set the game up before we begin playing.

"I've been thinking, Atti," I say after a little while of mindless game play.

Atticus makes a noise in my throat to tell me he's listening.

"About what Easton said earlier," I add to clear up confusion, prompting Atticus to look up at me. "I think we should go to the club this weekend."

Surprise floods Atticus' face. I can only hope my voice didn't shake as much as I think it did. I take a deep breath. The thing about fear, I've learned, is that you can either overcome it or be consumed by it.

"If this is just because I haven't been in a while—" Atticus starts to say.

"It's not that," I assure him. "I just think I'm ready to… well, take another step in our relationship, and I know you've always been ready to. I haven't been—and I'm not sure how big of a step it'll be—but I want you, Atticus."

Atticus looks at me in awe.

"If you're sure…"

I smile widely at him. I wasn't completely sure until now. That look in Atticus' eyes—I'd do anything to keep it there.

"Absolutely."

"This weekend it is then."

Then Atticus smiles at me before he returns his attention to the game in front of us. He makes his play, which efficiently wins him the game. He rests his hand on my knee and squeezes it. I place my hand over his, enjoying the love that radiates out from him to me.

This weekend will be remarkable no matter what ends up happening. I can't help but to look forward to it and wish it would come sooner. In the mean time, though, just being in Atticus' presence is enough for me.


A/N: It's finally finished. It seems like so long ago since I wrote the first few words of this story. I'd like to thank you, the reader, for reading this story. I'd also like to thank everyone who has favorited, put this story on alert, reviewed, and/or checked in for a new chapter. You guys are very inspirational and just plain awesome.

If you'll excuse this moment of self-promotion, I'd like to ask you guys, once again, to check out my new story "Gabe". It's on my profile.

So for one final time, review?