Well, this story will likely be an interesting experience for everyone involved, we'll say that right now (we meaning me and Kiyoshi). This is the first time we have ever attempted to write a story at the request of somebody. (We wrote a fanfic for a friend once, but her only stipulation was that it be a Snape/Hermione pairing. Don't mock it. After Draco/Hermione, Snape/Hermione is the best. She was never supposed to be with Ron.) Anyway, this is the first time we've written a requested story, so we'll see how it goes, yes?

For anyone who hasn't read one of our stories before, reviews will be answered at the end of the next chapter. If you would like a private response, PM us rather than just reviewing. Gracias.

This story is for the lovely Storm Dryu, for whom it is being written.

Finally… I (meaning me but not Kiyoshi) ramble a lot at the beginnings of chapters. You can skip anything in italics. However, if it's also in bold, you should probably read it.

It IS slash, and the little M rating is there for a reason. Don't like it, hit the little back button at the top of the screen. It's there for a reason too. You've been given fair warning.

Disclaimer for this chapter: I've never written middle school kids as more than minor characters. It has been a while since I used anyone younger than college age. So if this chapter is less than believable… well… next chapters should be a bit better, and starting at chapter four we should be good to go.

You will be getting at least one chapter a week, perhaps more, but one will be the minimum. I will be posting on Wednesdays to start.

That's all. Enjoy!

Kiyoshi'sGirl64 and Kiyoshi


-Cameron-

I realized I was gay sometime in the seventh grade. I remember how it happened too. I didn't have this sneaking suspicion or anything—I probably should have, thinking back. I was just walking down the hall one day and I heard these girls talking about Brian Stanford. I knew who he was, of course. The school wasn't small, exactly, but it was small enough that if you heard a name, you knew who was being talked about. You might not know the person, but you always knew of them and could put a face to the name. Or a name to the face, if you met in the halls.

At any rate, I knew who they were talking about. And I was struck by the sudden, awful realization that I agreed with them. More completely than I was comfortable admitting, even to myself.

At first I tried to convince myself that I was just admiring him. Brian wasn't the most popular kid in school, but he was by no means unpopular either. Thing is, he didn't achieve what popularity he had by cutting other people down. He wasn't even friends with the other "popular" kids. He was sort of… he was a man of the people, I guess. He was nice to everyone, with the exception of those who attacked his friends, whether verbally or physically. He never cared what people thought of him—which was largely positive anyway—but you didn't talk bad about his friends.

That was sometime in October, I guess. A week or two before Halloween. Not that the fact that it was near Halloween was important or anything. All that really matters is that I didn't have any classes with Brian. Not that that was an issue, since we weren't friends. Like I said, he was on the periphery of being popular. I was on the periphery of being unpopular. You know, that really awkward place where no one even notices you exist, so you can't be popular or unpopular because no one really knows who you are except your closest friends? Yeah, that was me. Well, I wasn't unpopular then, at least. But we'll get to high school later. Right now I'm trying to tell you how I realized I was gay.

So I only saw Brian Stanford in the halls. I was able to convince myself that I didn't like like him, or anything that went beyond mere acquaintanceship.

But then second semester rolled around. As if seventh grade wasn't awkward enough and didn't offer up enough humiliation on a silver platter. No, the school had to screw up my schedule. And the only way to fix it landed me in not only art with Brian, but gym as well. Fucking brilliant, right?

So I had been in self-denial for about two and a half months at that point. But when the object of your denied affections is undressing less than fifteen feet away on a daily basis, it's difficult to keep that up. So my form of denial changed. I decided I liked girls and that Brian was the only person I had gay tendencies towards. No one else. Or that's what I told myself.

I guess it was sort of fortunate Brian was in my gym class, though. I'll just say this right out: I'm a klutz. There's no two ways about it. And as such, I can't play sports.

Brian… Brian wasn't overly athletic, but he could play everything decently well. And I consider "decently well" a relative term. Here it means "he could catch a football while he was running without tripping over his own two feet."

But my… crush or infatuation or whatever it was, was only encouraged by the fact that, when he was captain, Brian consistently picked me third. Always third. I guess he wanted some of the better players so that they could balance out my lack of skill, but that's okay. I wasn't picked last, at the very least. On the rare occasion the teacher forced—yes, I considered it an involuntary duty, one that must be a punishment for something—I always picked Brian second. First was always my best friend, Kaitlyn. Or Kait, as she preferred. Or prefers. Anyway, I'd pick Kait and Brian and they'd take turns hissing at me who to choose next.

But this team-picking made us… friends, I guess. Brian would always forgive me for my inability to play sports, and I'd forgive him for his inability to draw. Or that's what he'd always laugh about in art, when I had to help him figure out what, exactly, he needed to do to fix whatever he had messed up. And that was how our friendship started. It was built on mutual "forgiveness" even though there was nothing that really needed to be forgiven.

Our relationship continued through the summer. We hung out a lot, usually with Kait and Graham, Brian's best friend. It didn't seem to bother Kait in the slightest that she was with three guys. Later I found out that it was because she had known I was gay since she learned what the term gay meant. Meaning… who knows when. Kait has four older brothers. She's not exactly… shy about anything. But she's a good person to have around. She never asked, never pushed, but she was delighted when I came out to her—and only her, mind you. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Summer before eighth grade. That's where I was. Anyway, we all hung out a lot, and I was increasingly aware of the fact that it was the high school guys at the pool that were turning me on, not the high school girls. It was just… I'm not going to lie. It was horrible. In the I'm-so-embarrassed-I-want-to-crawl-in-a-hole-and-die kind of way. I mean, I knew what "gay" meant, but I didn't actually know anyone who was gay. It was a very foreign concept, and a topic my mother avoided like the plague. And her avoidance of the topic made me feel as though I had something to be ashamed of. Which resulted in an endless cycle of attraction and embarrassment.

Not to mention that it was that summer that Brian started to grow up, if you know what I mean. You know, get more muscle, broader shoulders, growth spurt. The whole shebang. Which caused a lot of problems. And I mean a lot of problems. Primarily hiding the fact that I felt that way about Brian from my three best friends. Particularly since Brian was one of those three.

Then school started up again. In eighth grade, we were at the top of the school. Above the seventh graders and the sixth graders. We all conveniently ignored the fact that, in a year's time, we'd be back at the bottom of the food chain again. Only we'd be in a much bigger pond with much bigger fish.

But eighth grade wasn't too bad. Comparatively speaking. I was firmly in the closet, I hadn't even told Kait at that point, I saw no reason anyone needed to know about what I was convinced was an "unnatural tendency." That's what the youth director at my parents' church called it. "Unnatural tendencies." Needless to say, eighth grade is when I stopped going to church. Primarily because I didn't feel welcome anymore.

My mom didn't understand why I quit church, and she didn't approve, but I couldn't help that. She didn't force me to go. I think she recognized that forcing me would do nothing more than make me resent her and God. I do believe in God, by the way. But that's about as far as my religious beliefs go. God exists. What he—or she—is doing and what he or she thinks of me is entirely beyond me, and quite frankly, I don't really care, either.

Back to eighth grade then. I—fortunately, as bad as that sounds—had only one class with Brian. It was—unfortunately—gym. If I had believed God played an active role in our lives, I would have thought he hated me, or that I was being punished for something I wasn't aware I had done. You'd think days at the pool would have made me immune to the way his body looked when he lacked a shirt. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

That's what it was. It was wrong that Brian made me felt this way. Even worse was the fluttery feeling I got in my stomach whenever he would grin at me. He thought it hysterical, of course, that I was embarrassed to change in front of everyone. I would always go to the privacy of the stalls for that. The thing is, I wasn't embarrassed to be changing. I was embarrassed by the other problem caused by seeing Brian change. And it's not like I could control that.

But other than the embarrassing locker room scenes—and come on, it would have been a bit embarrassing whether or not it was guys that got me off—eighth grade really wasn't that bad. Terribly awkward, yes, but no worse for me than for the straight guys. High school is when things got bad. But we'll get to that in a bit, I suppose.

Graham, Brian, Kait and I stayed close as the year went by. Brian got more athletic. Mostly soccer, with a bit of baseball thrown in. Graham was a football nerd—and yes, such a thing does in fact exist—all the way. Me? I was the artist, and Kait was the band geek. Quite a combo. But somehow it worked. I nurtured my doomed infatuation with Brian. I rolled my eyes like the hypocrite I am when Kait would whine about how a guy could never like her. I laughed at the crude jokes Graham and Brian made, even though I was often hit by Kait as a result.

Eighth grade graduation came along, and I distinctly remember Kait tackling me so hard that I fell over. She just jumped up and pulled me to my feet, squeezing me tightly, saying, "We're in high school now, Cam! Aren't you excited!" That's how she said it, too. Exclamation point, not question mark.

There's something you have to know about Kait. She is and always has been herself, no questions asked. She is totally unashamed of who she is and she's almost unforgiving with how much herself she is sometimes. She's never understood why I try to keep it quiet that I'm gay. Not that she knew I was gay at middle school graduation.

But when she asked that, I deadpanned, "No."

"Cam," she whined good-naturedly. "Why not?"

I just grinned. "Why would I be excited about school when I have a whole summer to look forward to instead?"

She just laughed at me and dragged me outside where we caught the bus away from the middle school for the last time.

It was about three weeks later that Brian called me. I assume he called Graham first, and that he called Kait right after. Well, I guess he never called Kait, otherwise she would have known. He probably didn't call her because she's a girl. But he called me, and I can still remember how excited he sounded. "Cam, I have a girlfriend."

I think my heart broke. I'm not sure why I felt so jealous, since Brian was never mine to begin with, and since—at that point—I didn't feel anything beyond friendship for him. But I forced myself to congratulate him, and when he hung up, I felt like crying. Okay, that's a lie. I did cry. And then I called Kait and asked her to come over.

Her mom dropped her off about fifteen minutes later, and she got all concerned and everything. "What's going on, Cam?" she demanded.

"Let's go out to the swings," was my reply. There's an old swing set in my backyard, one that's been there since before my parents moved in before I was born. Kait and I played on those swings all through elementary school, and then in middle school they turned into the place where we'd go to gossip or talk about "serious stuff." Which looking back now, was very rarely actually serious. But it seemed serious at the time.

She nodded and dragged me out there. She took the left swing, I took the right, our standard arrangement. For a while I just drew patterns in the dirt with the toe of my shoe. Then I sighed and said, "Brian has a girlfriend."

I didn't need to look at her to see her frown. I heard it in her voice. "That's what you're upset about, Cam?"

"Sort of."

I could feel the frown deepen, as she tried to make sense of my words. She evidently couldn't because she said, "Cam. Explain."

I sighed. If I'm being perfectly honest, I didn't want to tell her. But I had to tell someone, and I trusted Kait more than anyone else in the world. So I said, quietly, as though I was hoping she wouldn't hear, "I think I'm gay."

She heard. She jumped off the swing and yelled, "What?" Looking back now, it's obvious that her surprise was that I told her—or maybe even that I knew—since she had known all along. Curse her, I swear. But she's the best friend a guy—gay or straight, mind you—could have. She calmed down after a minute or two and simply said, "Okay. But don't expect me to take you shopping."

I couldn't help myself. I started laughing. I had absolutely no desire to go shopping. Especially not with Kait, considering how much Kait despises it. Then I said, "Kait, you can't tell anyone."

She nodded. "I won't, Cam. I swear it. On my honor, and all of that mumbo jumbo." She mimed locking her lips with a key, which we always did to indicate "your secret's safe with me." But rather than throw the key away, she offered the imaginary key to me. I stared at her and she said, "You can give it back to me when you decide to come out." I grinned and took the imaginary key from her. I still have it.

The summer passed by. It was hot that summer too. Like, weeks went by where every single day was over a hundred and five. Actual temperature, not heat index. But I don't think any of us noticed all that much. Kait was thrilled that I was out of the closet, at least with her. Graham and I were both jealous of Brian and Lena—his girlfriend—although where Graham was jealous of Brian, I was jealous of Lena. Brian was just himself, I suppose. Happy to be around his friends.

Things were awkward on occasion, at least for me. But I lived.

And then high school started. And I immediately began wishing that it was still summer. Or eighth grade. Or something that wasn't high school.

Because it was—I'm not exaggerating either—the third week of school when I was outed. That's right. Outed. I did not come out voluntarily. I was forcibly dragged from my the closet where I had all the clothes and provisions I would ever need, where I had been planning to stay for the rest of my life.

So much for that.