meant to have this out friday, but there was a family reunion this weekend (not that i went, but my cousin had a bunch of us over at her house to plan the halloween party scheduled later this month. and drinking, i guess. word to the wise: go easy on Fruit Loop vodka.). but anyway. glad you guys appear to be enjoying this one so far. and time goes by at weird intervals, but if you've read other stories of mine, i'm assuming you're used to it by now.

hope you enjoy the chapter!

sunday, 6 october, 2013. 5:17pm.

I knew he'd want to fuck again, and though I dreaded it already, I knew it was better than not having him at all. Before we left the clearing, he touched my face, fingers gentle as he kissed me. "Thank you, Tyler, I love you." I felt tears come to my eyes and he smiled, kissing me once more before letting me lead the way back out.

We fucked three more times, each time as dreadful as the last though I always pretended I liked it, pretended I'd come from him fucking me. Each time he would tell me he loved me and I knew I'd let him do it again.

"Tyler, it's come to my attention that it might be a good idea if you…quit yearbook."

Mr. Riley was the council sponsor, and he pulled me aside after one of our frantic daily meetings only a week before everything had to be finalized and sent to the publisher.

"What? Why?"

I was shocked, and he looked away with a low cough.

"Well, someone…some people have let it be known that you simply aren't carrying your weight. It's not fair for everyone else to try to count on you and have you not do your part. I know you don't mean to slack off, but yearbook is a big project for freshmen to take on. Maybe you should wait a year or two and then try it again. What do you say?"

I was stunned; nobody had given any implication that my work was substandard or any less than anyone else. In fact, I had been routinely thanked and praised for input and contribution. Mr. Riley patted my shoulder and gave me a pitying glance before turning and leaving the now-empty classroom.

Shock turned slowly to righteous anger, my lips pressing together as I gathered my things and left the building to walk to Henry's house. I needed to vent and it was too long a walk to my brother's apartment.

My boyfriend was watching television in his room when I showed up, not turning it off when I walked into his room, which was unusual.

"Hey, Tyler. I've been meaning to talk to you."

"Mr. Riley kicked me out of yearbook."

"Oh, did he?"

His tone made me pause; no surprise or confusion, just mild acknowledgement.

"…You. You told him I was dead weight, didn't you?"

He didn't answer, which was answer enough.

"You…! Why? Why would you do that to me?!"

"Because it'd be awkward working on yearbook with my ex, now wouldn't it?"

He made it sound so simple, like I was a moron for not realizing the truth for myself. A pain opened up in my chest, sharp and needling.


"Oh c'mon, Tyler, it's obvious neither of us really wants to be together anymore. We haven't even hung out in over a week."

I shook my head, unable to think of anything to say that wouldn't break me into pieces.

He stared at me and I ended up turning around and leaving, walking from his house and toward home, walking into my room and stopping dead, unable to go any further.

I let him fuck me, not once or twice but four times, and he still broke up with me. He'd lied to me when he said he loved me, he'd lied and I let him do it. I felt brittle, like spun glass shards, so I did the only thing I could think to regain my sanity.

I dropped my bag and left, walking clear across town to my brother's apartment.

It was almost six by the time I knocked on his door and Andi answered, her smile automatically warm before she looked more puzzled; "Tyler? Is there something wrong?"

"Is Ken home?"

She searched my face a moment before nodding, stepping aside so I could walk in.

"He's in the bedroom."

I nodded and turned an immediate right, walking down the hallway until I came to a door closed three-quarters. I pushed it open and walked in without knocking, catching Ken in just his underwear as he toweled his hair dry from a shower.

"Did you want that Chinese place again or-"

He broke off when he saw it was me, jumping and letting out a strangled curse before regaining his composure enough to be angry.

"Jesus, Ty, what the fuck are you doing here?"

I felt my eyes grow wet, my gaze rolling as I looked away, and his anger faded into sharp concern.

"Tyler, is something wrong? Mom? Dad?"

I shook my head and he sighed in relief, tossing the towel on the bed and grabbing a pair of jeans.

"How did you get here? Walk?"

I nodded and he frowned, pulling his jeans up to his hips and fastening the button before walking over.

"Talk to me, kid, you're giving me the creeps."


"That friend of yours that's been hanging around lately?"

I swallowed back tears; "He wasn't my friend, Ken."

"Well, boyfriend then."

I gasped back a sob and he frowned, touching my shoulder as he tried to look me in the face with only partial success.

"Tyler, it's okay if you're gay, Mom and Dad won't care, none of us will."

My face crumpled and he pulled me into an uncharacteristic hug, holding me as I stood there, breath sharp in my throat as I fought against sobbing into his chest.

"C'mon, kid, what's wrong, this is more than just thinking we'd kill you, what is it?"

I breathed deep, voice almost steady as I said, "He said he loved me so I'd put out. I didn't…I didn't believe him but I did it and he broke up with me anyway."

I felt his body go rigid, anger thickening his voice as he ground out, "You mean that…that pencil-neck prick fucked my baby brother?!"

Another sob forced its way out and his hug turned fierce, tucking my head under his chin as he growled, "I'm gonna put his nuts in a blender, so fucking help me, I'm going to castrate that sonuvabitch."

"No, Ken, please, just…."

"Yeah…I know."

He held me like that until I felt I was less likely to fall apart, my face wet when I awkwardly pulled away. My brother used to hit me a lot, when he was in high school, and used to call me a royal pain in the ass, but he'd never let me down whenever I needed him.

He looked as awkward as I felt as he looked me over before asking, "He didn't…uh…hurt you, did he?"

I shook my head, wiping an arm across my eyes; "Just feel sleezy."

He sighed, looking unhappy, but I shrugged and asked if I could use the bathroom.

"Sure, kid. I'll phone the parents and let 'em know you're staying here for a while. I'll give you a ride home later on, if you want, or you can crash on the couch."

"Yeah, okay."

I went into the bathroom and washed away the evidence of my tears, examining my face and seeing that though my eyes were still puffy the rest of me looked somewhat normal. When I emerged, Ken was fully dressed and on the phone ordering Chinese, Andi making faces at him so he'd laugh. When he hung up the phone he chased her, tickling when she let him catch her, the two of them laughing and making me smile.

I could tell the difference between what I'd had with Henry and what my brother had found with Andi, could tell they loved each other even if they never said it whenever anyone else was around.

Halfway through a helping of steamed rice and vegetable lo mein, Andi looked at Ken and gave him a visual nudge, her lips threatening to turn into a grin when he blushed. I looked between them, wondering what was going on, until he cleared his throat.

"Well, we only found out yesterday, but…Andi's pregnant."

I was at a loss for words for a moment, staring with round eyes before breaking into a huge grin.

"Wow! How long? I mean, do you know?"

"Three months," Andi replied, happiness shining through her skin, and I wondered how I hadn't noticed it before.

"It's amazing, I don't even have the words to say how cool it is," I gushed, seeing Ken smile though it was tempered by seriousness.

"What…how do you think the parents will take it?"

The fact he was asking me humbled my enthusiasm, making me think it over.

"Well, I think they'll be happy. I mean, you're not married, they won't like that, but…I don't think they'll be angry. I don't think they'll even be surprised, actually."

"You don't think they'll say we're too young? Andi's only twenty, you know."

And Ken was only nineteen.

"Do you want this baby? I mean, will it make you happy?"

I looked at Andi but she was obvious; she fell in love with the baby as soon as she suspected she was pregnant. Ken was more guarded, his face showing his concerns; would our family accept the news, would he be a good father, would they be able to make enough money to support another mouth. Beneath all those worries and doubts, though, I could see that the idea of having someone calling him 'Daddy' was something he wanted, was something he'd always wanted though he probably never knew it.

"You're going to be okay."

I smiled as I said it, meaning it wholeheartedly, and felt superhuman when I saw the doubts fade from his face; for once, I was able to be there for someone else, for Ken.

"So, any ideas on names?"

Deidre Ann Mathews was born a month before the beginning of my sophomore year, her parents married a month before that. Our parents hadn't initially been willing to put aside their concerns that my brother and Andi were 'ready' for kids, but they came around soon enough once the idea had time to sink in.

I know Mom cried once or twice when she realized she was going to be a grandmother with one kid still in school, but overall she was ecstatic at the beginning of my brother's family.

The sex of the baby remained unclear all the way up to delivery, despite taking ultrasounds; Deidre would always turn when they tried to ascertain if she was a boy or girl. If she'd been a boy, her name was to be Aiden Murphy Mathews.

When Ken told me the name they'd decided on I'd sucked in a breath; Aiden was Pudge's name.

I hadn't heard from him since he left, though I'd written a letter not long afterward. There were still days I missed him terribly, days when I thought of something I would have told him, before, but no longer could. The fact that he'd never written back stung, but hadn't surprised me.

I mean, I was still just Ken's younger brother.

Sophomore year I grew upward about a foot, people no longer calling me 'Ken Mathews kid brother'. I took a position on the school paper as copy editor and made some casual friends with that group.

I wasn't popular but I wasn't the sci-fi geek I'd been the year before.

It helped that I started dying my hair different colors and pierced my ears, band shirts becoming a wardrobe staple. Ken was merciless in calling me a wannabe punk, but I knew it just made him laugh, especially whenever I'd find Deidre in my arms and melt into a pile of doting-uncle goo.

I'd fallen in love with her from the moment I first held her; even when she cried and fussed, I wanted to hold her and feel her breathing against my chest. It made me question my own 'Daddy' impulses, though I figured that sort of decision was even further in my future than it had been when Ken was in my shoes.

Junior year saw me grow another couple of inches, a lip ring joining the three holes I had in each ear. My parents drew the line there but I didn't mind, knowing they let me get away with a ton of shit already with my appearance. I didn't smoke and never drank, I kept my music at a reasonable level. I wasn't really as badass as people began to think, though I never let them know different.

I rejoined yearbook knowing Henry wasn't, and enjoyed the pressure of keeping my grades in a B average range while juggling the school paper and yearbook.

Everything was great until the day I looked to the left in pre-calculus and caught the eye of Everett Faust.

a/n: until next time.