"Seth?" The knock on my door startles me awake quickly, the sheets tangled around my body and my head somehow tucked under the pillows on my double bed. "Are you awake? You're going to be late."
I pull my head out from under my pillows, Dad's muffled voice a little clearer now and glance at the digital clock on my bedside table. 8:30. Shit. I'm going to be so late. I scramble out of bed in a panic, managing to get out a strangled 'yeah' in reply. I hear Dad chuckle lightly from behind my door before he moves on without another word. I wouldn't really care if he had said anything anyway since my full attention is on getting ready and to school in half an hour. Fuck.
Yeah, okay. So I guess I've had a change of tune since New York, but it turns out that with a relatively normal home life, enough to sleep at night to make it through the whole day without a nap and no distractions, I'm actually kind of smart and a little over a year after Dad took me away from all that shit, I do well in school, and that seems to drive me on to continue doing well. But that means I actually want to get to school on time.
I don't bother showering, deciding to load up on the deodorant instead, and hurriedly find some clean clothes and throw them on, not really caring what I look like today. I don't bother with my hair or making my bed or any of that crap – not that I ever really make my bed anyway. I think it might be some sort of secret vengeance on Bill. I don't really get it, but Dad says my room is the only thing he expects me to keep clean and tidy, so every time he asks me to do it, I don't. I think, even after a year of being out of that place, I like confirming to myself that if I disobeyed a command or do anything wrong, I'm not going to get beaten to a bloodied pulp for it. Not that I do it a lot. It's just my room. And that's enough satisfaction for me.
Dad's sitting at the dining table, the smell of coffee filling the whole of downstairs when I come bounding down the stairs.
"Sleep in?" Dad asks casually, a smug smirk hiding behind a mug of coffee as he takes a sip.
"Not helping." I throw over my shoulder as I head for the front door to grab my shoes. It took me forever to get into the habit of taking them off and leaving them there. Sophie, my long lost Aunt insisted on it, no matter how much grief I gave her for it. No, really it wasn't a big deal for me to take off my fucking shoes, but it was just one of the things that I struggled to adjust to. Rules and house pride wasn't something I was really used to and I fought it with all I was worth. I was used to running around the streets of New York all night, "forgetting" about homework and not giving a shit what Bill thought of me. He hated me, I knew it, he knew it, so I didn't see any sense in trying to change that, so when I arrived at Sophie's house in the middle of butt-fuck nowhere... let's just say I didn't make the greatest first impression on Sophie or even my Dad, but they were both super patient with me, even when I would storm out of the house at night and disappear until morning, just to show them that that's what I was used to. Of course I was an idiot. I knew it, but for some reason Dad and Sophie didn't see it that way. I was just "adjusting" and needed time. I guess they were right.
"Okay, I'm sorry." Dad chuckled lightly, putting his coffee down, standing from the table and heading towards me. "Do you want me to drive you?"
I look up at him from my position on the ground as I slip on my other shoe.
"But don't you have work?"
"I've got time." He shrugs, reaching over me and grabbing his car keys from the key holder in the wall above my head.
"You don't have to." I shrug back as I finishing tying my shoes. It's not really a big deal. We live close enough that I usually walk to school and I've been too lazy to get my licence, so yeah, a lift would be helpful when I only have like five minutes to get to school. But I hate favours. I guess when I worked for Damian a favour was never a favour. It was a trade. They would always expect something in return. I hated owing people. Even Dad.
"I want to, Seth."
"Seth." He looks down at me pointedly, almost warningly if I didn't know that look all too well. Some might see it and think it were a threat, but it's the look he gives me when he's telling me to forget my past, forget my old thoughts on the matter, and just go with it. He doesn't use the look as much now. I guess I'm learning.
I let out a long sigh and push myself up off the floor, nodding sheepishly.
"Okay." I say, shouldering my bag and giving Dad a tight smile. "That would be good, thanks."
He nods at me with a smile, this knowing smile like he knows that I knew that he knew I was thinking about my past and letting it take over again. It pisses me off a bit, but he ruffles my hair slightly before opening the door, letting in the cold winter air and I let it go. He is my father after all. Even though he was out of my life for years, this past year and a half I'd fully expect him to know me a bit by now, and apparently knowing when I was thinking something I shouldn't be was something he picked up fast.
"Come on, Champ."
I still wouldn't classify my relationship with Dad as a solid one. We occasionally find hurdles that are a little difficult to overcome, but we generally get along pretty well. There were things we were able to pick up from before he left, such as the nickname, even after I told him I was too old to be called that anymore. I think he likes it though, like he can make up for all those years apart by saying it, so I didn't fight it too hard.
I hate to admit it, but Sophie helped. She was like a referee when things got messy between me and Dad. She wasn't biased and tended to put us both in our place. She'd tell me when I was being a brat and when I had to pull my head in and she'd tell Dad when to give me space or when to push me to talk. Of course when she told me off I hated her, but then I wasn't used to having a mother. And I guess that's what she was like. She was a doctor or something so she wasn't home much and when she was she'd often be tired but she'd made me lunch for the first couple of weeks at school and did my laundry and even though we've only known each other for a little over a year, I think she loves me.
Dad pulls up out the front of the school and kids are still filing away through the doors, so I presume I've made it in time.
"Remember, you've got Rose after school today." Dad says as I reach over to the back and grab my bag, intending to spend as little time between getting out of the car and to the school doors as possible.
"Yeah I know." I nod as I rifle through my bag, confirming that everything I need for today is inside, or mainly just dreading opening the door and facing the cold.
Rose is – for lack of a better term – my therapist. Or counsellor or whatever you want to call it, I don't know. I think Sophie suggested to Dad a few weeks into my arrival that I should have someone to talk to about everything. It might have been my attitude towards her and Dad and everything else in the tiny little town, but it could have also been the nightmares I started having once I was weaned off my pain medication from the hospital. They were just memories mainly of the attack in Mr. Fords apartment, but sometimes I dreamt that Damian found me. They never did find him.
Rose was another thing that I fought with all my might. I refused to go for the first couple of weeks and then when they finally managed to make me go, I refused to talk to her about anything.
Eventually, after a particularly bad break down about it all triggered by a pretty brutal argument between Dad and me from both ends, I ended up practically spilling my guts in one session. I guess Sophie was right – again – I did need to talk to someone. Pretty much as soon as I spoke to Rose I felt like I could move on with my life. I went twice a week, then once a week, and now I go once a month. I don't really have to talk about my past anymore, now it's more about any issues I have now – any arguments I have with Dad or even something as simple as homework or classes I'm having problems with. She's good and obviously she's done well with me, so I don't have any problems going to her anymore.
"Good." Dad says, tightening his jacket around his neck as I swing open the door. "Do you want me to pick you up?" I shake my head as I climb out of the car.
"Nah, I'm sure John will give me a lift."
"Alright." Dad doesn't look too sure, but nods anyway. "I'll see you tonight, then. I love you, Seth."
"You too." I nod back at him before swinging the door shut and hurrying along the path to the front entrance. Dad made a habit of telling me that he loved me every time we parted ways. I think he wants me to make sure that I know, like really know. I guess because I found it so easy to believe that he left us like Mum told me and that I hated him so easily too. It used to bother me, but I think it's because I never used to believe it. But I guess over time it's kinda sunk in and now as corny as it is, I like the reassurance. There were days a few months into my arrival where I would get really depressed, refusing to believe that anyone could love someone like me, but Dad would say it so easily, yet with so much depth that it got a little difficult to keep denying.
The school halls are warm and loud, crowded with warm bodies trying to get to their lockers or their classrooms. I push past the masses until I spot my locker, or more appropriately, the figures standing beside my locker, chatting easily.
"You're late." Maggie snaps as I slide in beside them and begin fiddling with my lock. I look at the mass of students still in the halls, then at Maggie and John who look like they're in no rush to get to class yet and then at my watch – yes, the watch my father gave me the day he left.
"No I'm not." I shrug, turning my attention back to my locker. Fuck, my fingers are so fucking freezing I can barely turn the dial thing.
"Okaaaay." Maggie sighs dramatically. "You're later than usual. Better?" She asks with raised brows and crossed arms. She'd be a little scary if she wasn't only five foot something. She barely makes it past my shoulder. Yeah, I've grown some. It's amazing what a healthy diet and home life can do to your growth.
"Much." I smile back at her smugly, before turning back to my locker and tugging at my lock. Fuck, you stupid thing. Open!
"Here." John pushes me out of the way after I let out a distressed, frustrated, whiney sort of noise and begins working at my lock for me. I lean back against the next locker and watch silently as he turns the dial precisely and pulls, snapping it open. I would have been worried a few years ago that he knows me well enough to know my locker combination by heart, but now it doesn't bother me. In fact, I'm fucking grateful for it right now. I throw him a 'thanks' before opening the locker and stuffing my bag inside, grabbing my things for English.
"I swear, I don't know where you'd be without me." John sighs giving me an easy smile that I can't help but smile back at.
"Oh, I don't know," I shrug as we start down the hall towards class English. "On time for school, for a start since I seem to recall that it was you who kept me on the phone all night last night."
John shoves me none too gently and I almost crash into some short kid and I can't help but laugh.
"I needed to give you the deets, alright?" He defends pathetically. "What was I going to do? Call Maggie?"
"Hell no." Maggie says, holding up her hand that's not full of books in mock surrender. "I do not need to hear what happened between you and another closeted jock in the showers after gym."
"Aww come on." John pouts down to her mockingly. "You sure you don't want to hear all about how Caleb Houghton-,"
"Holy shit, he's gay?!" Maggie practically yells, before catching herself and lowering her voice. "You can't tell me that Caleb Houghton, as in, I've-slept-with-every-girl-on-the-cheer-squad Caleb Houghton, bats for the other team?"
"According to the phone call last night, if you asked Caleb that question, he couldn't give you a straight answer." I mutter, earning a glare from Maggie and an appreciative laugh and high five from John.
"Coming from you two?" Maggie mutters, as we walk into the classroom and take our usual seats in the middle.
"Hey." John protests sharply. "Neither of us have ever denied being as gay as the fourth of July. You knew that coming into this."
"Yeah." Maggie agrees slowly. "But I didn't know you were such a slut about it. At least Seth can control himself like a normal human. If Seth's slept with anyone here I bet you wouldn't even know about it, although I'd like to think he has better taste than to sleep with any of the boys here. You, on the other hand, seem to be trying to sleep your way through the entire male population of the student body and have no qualms about telling the world."
And I don't think that could be any more true. John is undeniably a slut and I think he'd probably be the first to admit it. At least once a week he's calling me up at an unruly hour to tell me about the guy he's just slept with. He's a good looking guy, slightly taller than me and a bit more built too. His almost bleach blonde hair sweeps easily over his head in gorgeous curls and his grey-blue eyes stand out beautifully against his golden tanned skin. He looks like a bloody god or something.
His sluttiness doesn't bother me. In fact, it's actually how we became friends. I was the new, unknown entity from New York so I already had people curious. Of course, John just saw me as a new target to pursue. I saw straight through his friendly banter and shut him down straight away. He was so surprised by it that it actually made him even more curious. Annoyingly, he was in most of my classes so he kept trying, and when I kept turning him down, he wanted to know why. Of course I didn't tell him that I was still recovering from my last sexual experience of being drugged and raped by my ex-pimp and two random strangers, not to mention the years of being pimped out by my stepfather, but I simply told him that I wasn't interested. He'd asked if I was actually gay, like he could believe that even a straight person would turn him down let alone a gay one, and it was the first time that I admitted out loud that I might be. I might be. That was my answer. And for some reason he didn't push it any further. He hung around though, and over time we moved passed idle chatting and occasional acquaintance to friends. Turns out me turning him down actually did something for him too. And the fact that I didn't treat him like dirt because of his advances helped I guess, but it was like I was the first person to want to know him for him, not for the sex. He opened up to me, and a few more months after telling Rose about my past, I told John. I was worried he'd freak out, but it only made us closer. He became kind of protective me. Not like pity, just pure, genuine concern and care for my wellbeing.
Somewhere along the way, we picked up Maggie, who, even though is constantly mistaken for a freshman instead of the eighteen year old that she is, is like a little firecracker. She knows bits about my past, like my Mum's death and my arsehole step dad beating me, but I didn't tell her about the sexual stuff. I didn't think it was necessary, whereas with John I felt it was.
John only laughed at Maggies comment, a smug smile on his face as the class started. I don't know if it was at the fact that he was proud of his sexual expeditions or at the fact that he got Maggie worked up. Either way, the conversation ended when the teacher addressed the class and the room fell silent.
The rest of the day goes along normally, we split up when I head to biology, then a free period and maths with Maggie before we're back together for lunch.
It's not until I'm heading to my last period of the day with John that things change.
"I mean it, Sethekins," John says as we walk into the art room. "I think Maggie needs to get laid and if she's too... too... too Maggie to get herself a boy then I'd gladly put the gay thing on hold to help her out. Although I think you're more her type."
I'm busy trying to get John to never call it a "gay thing" and to never suggest sleeping with Maggie again when I get this overpowering sense of déjà vu. There, sitting in the middle of the room on one of the students seats was a man with his back to me, staring at a projection of a piece of art I knew all too well. Even John fell silent as students filed in. I didn't realise I had stopped at the door until a particularly fat girl has to physically push me out of the way to get into the room.
John frowns at me from a little further in the room, sensing with that caring, protective side of him that something's not right with me. I move tentatively towards a seat in the row behind the man, ignoring Johns odd looks because I can't take my eyes off him, off the perfectly placed brown hair, the relaxed way he examines the picture, his body. Fuck.
I didn't notice John take a seat next to me, but everybody couldn't help but notice the poor girl who was left without a seat, standing awkwardly by the desk and looking really uncomfortable.
"What do you see?" He suddenly asks, making everyone jump after such a long stretch of silence. Everyone except me.
"Um." The girl turned her attention to the image projected on the whiteboard and studied it for a while. She must've given some answer because eventually he stood up from the seat, but everything kind of went numb. I couldn't really hear of see anything except him, my brain trying to work out if this was a dream or not. If I was just imaging it. Imagining him. But no, when he turned around and those piercing blue eyes looked into mine with this knowing look, I knew it wasn't a dream. I wasn't imagining it. He was here. In Wyoming. In this tiny, little, shitty town, teaching in this school. My school. Here. With me.
Fuck, I'm going to have a lot to talk to Rose about this afternoon.
I couldn't take any notes that lesson. Could barely make sense of what the class was about. All I could do was look at him. He must've found it unsettling, but he didn't even blink. I noticed that when his eyes scanned the room, they would linger on me for a lot longer than anyone else, but he didn't say anything. He didn't even make me answer any questions. Didn't call on me for anything and I'm glad. I don't know if I could have formed a simple word let alone an answer to a question. I'm actually one of the top students in Art, but if he had asked me to tell him the colour of the sky I probably would have said 'ten'.
All too soon, the class is over, and like I was immediately back in his class in New York, I knew he'd call on me, and while all the other students started packing up their things, I sat there, staring at Mr. Ford who was sitting at his desk and shifting through papers.
"Hey, loser, it's home time." John says from beside me and waving a hand in front of my face. I blink and look up to him, the first time I had taken my eyes off Mr. Ford for the past hour and a half.
"Ah, yeah... I-," I stammer for words, just like I knew I would and awkwardly move my books to in front of me, since they weren't in a mess to begin with seeing as I didn't touch a single pencil all class. Luckily I don't have to think of a proper reply because another voice rings through the room fucking melting my heart. Jesus fucking Christ.
"Mr. Turner." Mr. Ford calls, looking at a sheet in front of him and not directly at me. "Can I see you for a moment please?" I can feel the smile slide onto my face, but know that I shouldn't be smiling at that. He's a teacher asking me to stay back. I should be worried. But fuck, I'm not.
Surprising me, John crouches down beside my desk and whispers into my ear.
"Try to keep the drool inside your mouth." He says and I can hear the smile in his voice. "At least I know your type now." Then he stands up straight, pushing my head roughly, but affectionately to the side before heading out of the room and after the remaining few stragglers file out, we're left alone.
It's quiet, and I can't move from my seat, not trusting my legs enough to keep me standing. My eyes are glued to him again. He looks exactly the same. No signs of aging, no dress sense change, nothing. But now that the rooms empty, save for us, he puts down the piece of paper he "read my name off", and no longer looks like the teacher I remember. He looks like the man who I left at the hospital. He looks more relaxed, more himself. I like it better.
"You look good, Seth." He says softly, still staying seated, leaving a half a classroom of distance between us.
"You-," I falter and swallow. I want to look away, embarrassed at my lack of simple life skills but I can't. I can't look away from him. "You too."
He smiles at me and for a while we just sit there in silence, staring at each other. He looks a hell of a lot more at ease than I feel right now. How can he be so calm? It's feels like forever since I last saw him, and after a few months and the conclusion of the trials our phone calls dwindled out until they just stopped altogether. Life just got in the way for both of us and when we didn't have the trials to fill our conversations with, it was just awkward. Things weren't left completely square between us, and I guess neither of us knew how to deal with it when all we could do was talk on the phone. Now it's been months since I've even heard his voice and he's acting like it was only last week.
Finally, he stands from his desk and moves down the aisle and takes the seat next to me, previously taken by John.
"How are you?" He asks, but I don't like it. It sounds the same as when we would talk on the phone. Forced conversations, pretending there was nothing wrong. I could reply like I usually would, but then what would he say? Nothing that interests me. Nothing I actually want to know.
"Why are you here?" I decide to say instead, now staring at my desk and picking at a loose string on my pencil case distractedly.
He falters, obviously not expecting me to be so blunt. I was never blunt on the phone.
"I saw the job opening. Your art teacher's off on maternity leave." He replies softly, and I can feel his nerves. He doesn't know how I'm going to take this, and to be honest, I don't even know. It makes sense. I should have thought about this before. I mean, Mrs. Govern has been pregnant for the last 9 months. She even told us on Friday that there'd be a replacement teacher for the start of the new week. I should've guessed.
But why would I?
He was in New York. We haven't spoken for months. How could I have known that he'd turn up here?
I find myself nodding in response, not sure what to say to him.
"And-," He starts after a moments silence then cuts himself off, like he's not sure he wanted to say what he was going to say. I look at him and raise my eyebrows.
"What?" He takes a deep breath and looks away.
"And..." He starts slowly. "I... I wanted to see you, I-, fuck." He runs a hand through his hair, dishevelling it so that it no longer had that perfect wave before turning back to me. "I... I missed you, Seth."
"You could have told me you were coming?" I mutter, looking back at my pencil case, continuing to pick at that string.
"I'm sorry." He says and I can see him nod in my peripheral vision. "I was going to, honestly. But I chickened out." He lets out a strained laugh before continuing. "I thought if I called and told you I was coming, you'd tell me not to."
"And if I told you I didn't want you here now anyway?" I ask softly, before turning to see his face look like I had just crushed his soul with my words, but he coughs once and looks away.
"I can quit, if that's what you want."
I consider it for a moment. He'd moved all the way out here, taken a new job states away from his home just to see me.
"I don't want that." I say, turning away from him again. He nods, muttering a good, a faint smile on his lips before he looks away as well. Fuck! It's been months and we're still just as fucked up as before.
It's quiet again, the sounds of the hall slowly dissipating as students leave to go home. Home. Jesus, what would Dad say about him being here? Does he know? Fucking hell.
"Honestly, Seth. You do look good." He says after a while. "It looks like your Dad's feeding you and you managed to stay awake the whole period so..." He lets out a light laugh and I can't help but laugh a little too. It eases the tension a little, which makes everything a whole lot easier.
"Yeah." I say, still laughing slightly. "I'm... yeah. I'm doing alright."
"That's good." He says nodding, that calm smile back in place. "How're things with your Dad?"
I shrug, sending him a 'it is what it is' kind of look. I don't know why, but I think that if he knew they were going quite well, Mr. Ford wouldn't like that. I mean he would, he'd just act the same way he did at the hospital when my Dad came. I mean, he was my protector, I was living with him, he saved my life, then Dad comes and takes me away, taking over all his jobs like Mr. Ford wasn't needed anymore.
So I keep it to myself that we're getting along... relatively. We get along like father and son now at least.
He laughs again then we fall into silence, but this time it's more of a comfortable silence. Not as awkward. It's alright. I don't really want to break it, but I also feel like I have to. I need to.
"I..." I pause when he turns to look at me again expectantly. Fuck, those blue eyes. I can't look at him anymore, and I stare at my books again. "I... I missed you too. I just... yeah... I missed you."
It's quiet again and Jesus, I'd wish he'd say something. I can feel him still looking at me, but I'm too afraid to look and see what he's thinking. He opens his mouth at one point, and I take a sharp intake of breath, preparing myself for what he's going to say, but he hesitates, then lets out a long breath and closes his mouth again.
I almost want to give up and just leave, but then his hand lands on my arm and it's as simple as that. It's gentle and reassuring at the same time, resting on my forearm, his thumb gently rubbing along my skin and drawing goose bumps to my skin. I practically shiver at his touch, so simple but saying so much. I finally turn to look at him. He's not smiling, but he's got this look in his eyes, this silent determination, and like a magnet I can feel us pulling together, and his eyes flick to my lips before back to my eyes and then back again and fuck. This is happening again and I thought a year apart would change this, but nope. I want this just as much as I did before.
I close the gap, feeling a little awkward as we lean across the divide between the chairs, but as soon as our lips touch I don't give a flying fuck anymore. He's kissing me and I'm kissing him back. For the first time we're actually kissing each other and we both want it, both ready for it, both enjoying it.
It takes me everything I have to not climb into his lap to make this kiss easier, but I have to keep reminding myself that we're at school and I can't do that. No fucking way. I still have to hold onto the desk to keep myself in my seat though. His hand wonders up from arm to cup my cheek, turning his head slightly to deepen the kiss and I don't have to feel his tongue twice to open my mouth up to him.
There's an element of need in the kiss, like a long await hunger that's finally being fulfilled, but at the same time it's controlled. Like me, I can feel him fighting himself to keep it as calm as possible, and in the end, when his hand that's cupping my cheek moves to the back of my head and fingers intertwine in my hair, applying a sort of pressure, I can't help the small pathetic excuse of a moan that escapes my mouth and with that, he pulls away. Fucking tease.
He looks at me, studying my face like he's checking for a problem. Like I might be having a breakdown over this. He might not be completely wrong because, fuck, I feel like I'm having a bloody heart attack it's racing so fast.
"Seth-," He breathes, but stops when there's a tentative knock at the door. Like the speed of lightening his hand is gone and he shoots out of his seat and moves back to his desk. He's still on his way when the door opens and John pokes his head inside. Fucking hell, are you kidding me? Now? What the fuck?
"Um sorry, sir, sorry to interrupt but, uh, Seth, do you still need that lift to Rose or...?" John mutters hovering awkwardly in the doorway. Shit! Rose. I completely forgot. Well of course I did, who couldn't when I just had the best kiss of my whole fucking life?
"Oh, um, yeah." I say, collecting my books and standing up. "I'll be right out." John nods slowly his eyes going from me, to Mr. Ford and then back to me again, his eyes roaming my body before they stop at my eyes again. And there's that fucking smirk. Shit.
He leaves without a word.
"I, um, I have to..."
"Go." Mr. Ford finishes for me nodding understandingly as he begins to pack up his things from the front of the room.
"Yeah." I say, but I don't make a move to leave. Instead I stay standing next to my desk, my books awkwardly hanging in one arm and my brain feeling like it's just run a god damn marathon. Mr. Ford stops packing and looks at me, his eyebrows raised.
"I'll see you around, alright, Seth?" He says, his tone somewhat suggestive and I can't help the smile that crawls across my face as I nod. I turn to leave but before I exit the room I turn back to him and he seems to sense the movement because he stops packing again, looking a little worried with his head tilted to the side slightly. God he's gorgeous.
"I just wanted to let you know that, um..." I pause and swallow audibly. "My birthday was last month. My, um, my eighteenth birthday."
"Yeah, Seth." Mr. Ford says, that beautiful knowing smile back in place. "I know."
OMG SO IT'S DONE! Jesus, i'm sorry for the long wait for this final chapter but I was having serious brain blocks... brain... brain.. see i can't even think of the right phrase, but i don't think it's brain blocks...
Anyway! Please review now that it's finished! I'm quite proud of it, but i wished i did more chapters of this two years later or whatever because i really like John. Maybe I'll write another story with a character like him or maybe I'll write a sequel.. or maybe i wont, i don't know, but we'll see!
Also, reaaaaally sorry about ending it there, but i just felt like it was right. For Seth life never was about the sex, so i don't think having like a sex scene with Mr. Ford was necessary, it was just about acceptance from Mr. Ford and more importantly from himself and I felt like i could leave it up to the readers imagination how it turned out between them or whether John really knew what was going on or any of that stuff, so...
Let me know what you thought of my first proper, full length story!
Lots of love, guyyssss