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Starting Over

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Added to the Roswell Slash Archive March 13, 2001

Starting Over Author: Debbie
Rating: R
Characters: Jack/Kyle
Disclaimer: Dawson's Creek and Roswell are owned by the WB and a bunch of people, none of whom are me.
Author's Note: This is based on Pilar's "L'Etranger" premise -- which she graciously let me borrow -- that Sheriff Valenti was killed. In "L'Etranger," Pacey's father takes over the sheriff position in Roswell, but there is no mention (as of part 6) of what happened to Kyle. This is one possibility of where he might have ended up. (And if you haven't read "L'Etranger" yet, what are you waiting for? Go, go, go!!! http://pilarsfic.tripod.com/rwindex.html )
Feedback: This is my first crossover fic, and my first time writing Jack. Both positive and/or constructive feedback greatly appreciated. Even short notes mean a lot to me. Please take the time.

Thank you to Bennie and Pilar for their help and encouragement.



       Kyle dumped his stuff on the floor and straightened up to look around. Yup, it was a locker room, all right. Pretty much exactly the same as any locker room he'd ever been in. Gray cement wall, gray cement floor, gray lockers... all permanently bathed in the smell of sweat from the thousands of guys who had paraded in and out over the years. To Kyle it was home. Certainly he felt more at home in his two seconds here than he had in the past three months at his aunt and uncle's house.

       He squelched the uncomfortable thought before it could develop any further and started to change, sifting through his gear to find the necessary elements. First day of All-Star practice... nothing new, really. Kyle had made the All-Star team pretty much every year since he'd started playing football. The only difference was that this year he was in fucking Massachusetts instead of playing with his old teammates back in New Mexico. Kyle sighed.

       He was shaken out of his reverie by the arrival of the boy who apparently had the locker next to his.

       "Hey," the boy said, tossing his gear on the floor, much like Kyle had.

       "Hey." Kyle looked over. This guy played football?? The other boy was a lot leaner than most teammates Kyle had known. He looked as if a good tackle would knock him over. Must be one helluva player then.

       "I'm Jack."

       "Kyle."

       They shook hands quickly, and then went back to suiting up. As Jack stripped his shirt off Kyle noted that lean he might be, but scrawny he definitely was not. The guy had muscles that rivaled his own. Nicely defined muscles... washboard abs... chiseled shoulders... Realizing he was starting to stare, Kyle quickly averted his eyes and studiously devoted his attention to lacing his cleats. Watch yourself, Valenti.

       It still felt strange to acknowledge that he was turned on by that sort of thing. Yes, he was gay. He had finally admitted that to himself months ago. But it still felt sort of uncomfortable, like a pair of new cowboy boots that hadn't been broken in yet. And anyway, he knew damn well that the fastest way to get your ass kicked was to be caught ogling your teammates. This was football, after all. Land of the closeminded macho brutes.

       But Jack was busy turning his jersey right side out and pulling it over his head, and apparently didn't notice Kyle's behavior. They finished suiting up in silence then walked out together toward the field.

       "So," Jack said, "have you been on an All-Star team before?"

       "Yeah," Kyle answered shortly. Despite the fact that he'd found Jack somewhat attractive, Kyle wasn't in the mood for chitchat.

       "This is my first time here," Jack volunteered.

       "Mmhmm" Kyle responded automatically. Didn't this guy take a hint? Then he mentally kicked himself. Lay off, Valenti, the guy's just trying to be nice. It's not like you're swarming with friends at the moment.

       The truth was, Kyle felt stuck in limbo right now. He was terribly lonely, but at the same time, really not looking to bond too closely with anyone. He had learned the hard way that the loss of relationships -- friends, family, love ... Kyle swallowed hard ... caused more pain than they were worth. But still -- Jack was being nicer than most of the kids he'd met so far in this godforsaken state. With an effort, Kyle pasted a friendlier expression on his face and joined in with the typically empty male banter with Jack and the rest of his new teammates until the coach called the group together and the real work began.

******

       Kyle closed the door and gazed around his room wearily. His room. Even after 3 months here with his aunt and uncle, it still didn't really feel like *his* room. It was cold, impersonal. No posters on the walls. No childhood memories like his room back in Roswell had had. Even when Tess had taken it over, it had still felt like *his*. But now... this could have been a room at the Motel 6 down the street, for all he cared.

       Going to the window, he stared out at the early-winter landscape. Bleak, colorless, and freezing. Kyle missed the warm desert of New Mexico, missed meditating on the dunes under the golden sunrise, missed driving his convertible with the top down all year round. He missed just about everything about Roswell -- the weather, the Crashdown, his friends, his dad.... Kyle took a deep breath and angrily wiped moisture from his eyes. Hell, he thought, trying desperately to lighten his mood, he even missed the aliens. A smile cracked his face as he reflected on the irony. Never thought you'd miss them and their bizarre, complicated lives, eh, Valenti? Then his smile faded. Oh, yes. He missed them all right. One in particular -- Max Evans.

       Kyle threw himself on his bed in frustration. Fucking Max Evans... It was only after Kyle had caught himself staring at Max one too many times that he'd finally admitted his attraction to men, to this man. That drunken spree with Max had awakened the urge that he'd long tried to ignore, and it didn't go away after he'd sobered. He wondered if Max had seen Kyle's true feelings during the healing later that Spring -- Liz said he'd seen things about her. But if Max knew the truth about Kyle, he never acknowledged it. Max eventually became a friend of sorts and they did a lot of group activities together, but he only seemed to have eyes for Liz. And so Kyle was left to jerk off alone in his bed every night, dreaming of golden-brown eyes and hard-cut muscles. Pleasure and pain.

       Tonight was no different.

******

       Kyle dragged himself through his classes the next day. For some reason, the past had haunted him worse than usual last night. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw either visions of his dad lying crumpled and lifeless on the ground--a silver handprint burned into his chest--or images of Max and Liz being all smoochy in front of him. Both dreams reminded him of what he couldn't have. By the time the weak winter sun finally fought its way over the horizon Kyle had finally managed to catch a few winks, but exhaustion and the emotions of the previous night had left him even more bitter than usual. No use wishing, Valenti. Maybe you should just become a Buddhist monk. You're never going to have anyone anyway.

       Football served as his therapy. No matter what was going on, he could usually forget his troubles during games or at practice. But not today. Back in the locker room after practice, Kyle listened to the scores of jocks around him talking about weekend plans with their cheerleader girlfriends. Their banter only made him more depressed, and he was too tired to try to fight it off. God, it sucks to be gay, he thought. Not that he was in any mood to be sociable, but the girl-oriented talk reminded him once again that he was an outsider.

       The sound of Jack slamming his locker door shut interrupted Kyle's downward spiraling thoughts. "Ready to head out?" the other boy asked. Kyle shrugged his assent, picked up his gym bag and followed Jack out the door.

       They walked out of the gym in silence and Kyle quickly fell back to brooding. Despite the fact that they had struck up a tentative friendship over the past few days, he was glad that Jack wasn't pressing him to talk just then. The reprieve lasted until they reached Jack's motorscooter, at which point Jack turned to him with a smile and asked, "So, what about you, Kyle? Got any weekend plans?"

       In retrospect, Kyle would realize that Jack probably merely intended the question as a neutral remark, a means for a casual parting. But in that moment, Kyle's bitterness suddenly flared out of control. "No, I don't." he snapped at Jack. "I don't have a girlfriend and never will."

       Jack gestured defensively. "Hey, who said you had to have a girlfriend? Besides, I'm sure you--"

       "I'm gay, dammit!"

       Jack's mouth fell open and he stared at Kyle in astonishment. "Y-- You're what?"

       "I'm gay. There, I've officially repulsed you. Now, will you just leave me the hell alone?" Without waiting for a further response, Kyle stormed off to his own nearby vehicle, yanked open the door, and forced the engine into full wakefulness.

       As he sped out of the parking lot, however, realization hit him. Kyle banged a shaking hand on the steering wheel in frustration. Shit -- why had he done that? He wasn't looking to get too close to anyone, but at the same time he had to admit he'd been enjoying Jack's company. Even the superficial friendship was better than the stark loneliness he'd been dealing with since his arrival. But now ... well, it was all too clear what was going to happen now. Jack would react like any other macho football player. He would be freaked out by the news -- might even change his locker so he wouldn't have to strip down in front of a queer boy. And it's back to the lonely life for you, Kyle, he thought miserably. That Buddhist monk idea is looking better and better all the time...

******

       Kyle's fears seemed at least partially proved in the following week. Jack didn't change his locker, but their newly--formed camaraderie was gone. The first few days, they merely exchanged terse greetings. After that, Kyle had the sneaking suspicion that Jack showed up early or stayed late so he wouldn't run into Kyle anywhere but on the playing field, safe behind the barriers of his helmet and padding.

       Kyle told himself he didn't care and threw himself into his game and, for a change, into his books. US History might not be the most gripping subject, but it kept his mind off his other problems, at least temporarily.

       At the end of the week, the coach took the team out to a local All-you-can-eat buffet as a reward for their hard work. As luck would have it, Kyle was the last one through the line and by the time he made his way to the dining area with his loaded tray, every seat was taken. All but one, that is -- a single chair at a small side table against the wall. It was a table for two, and the other seat was already occupied ... by Jack. Kyle debated risking the wrath of the employees by taking his tray outside to eat, but decided against it. First off, it was freezing outside. Second, if Jack had a problem with him, Kyle abruptly decided, he could just go to hell. Kyle had had enough. He was gay, fine. But that didn't mean he was going to jump Jack at the next opportunity, and maybe it was time Jack got his head out of his ass and grew up.

       Without preamble Kyle slid his tray onto the laminated table surface and dropped into the empty seat. "Hey," he said casually.

       "Hey." Jack glanced up from his plate, but didn't say anything else.

       "Look, Jack," Kyle said, gesturing with his fork in irritation. "I know I overreacted when I yelled at you last week, so if you're pissed off at me for that, then I apologize. But if you're avoiding me just because of what I said, you should at least have the decency to admit you're freaked out instead of just being an immature jerk and dissing me without a word."

       Silence.

       Kyle heaved a sigh and said, "Fine, have it your way." He began to eat, hoping to get the hell out of the uncomfortable situation as quickly as possible.

       "You're right."

       "What?" Kyle looked up.

       Jack cleared his throat and stirred his mashed potatoes aimlessly around his plate. "I said," -- he looked up and met Kyle's blue eyes with his own -- "You're right. I have been avoiding you. But not for the reason you think."

       "You're not avoiding me because I was an ass and I'm gay?"

       Jack winced. "No, it's because you're ... because of who you are, all right," he murmured uncomfortably. "You see, I'm ... I'm ... gay, too."

       Kyle stared. "Are you putting me on?" When Jack shook his head, Kyle leaned back and crossed his arms. "Okay, I don't get it. What's your problem, then?"

       "I don't know," Jack sighed. "I guess ... I've had situations where people expected me to get along with another guy just *because* we were both gay. Like that had to be the revolving point of the whole relationship. And I may like guys, but that's really the only thing 'gay' about me."

       Kyle snorted. "That's pretty much the definition of 'gay', isn't it?"

       "Yeah, but that's not what I mean. Some people just have an entire gay *agenda*, you know? Like everything has to be seen through that filter, or they think you can only hang out with other gay people. It all becomes so political and I don't want to deal with that. I have a whole other life that has nothing to do with my love interests." Jack paused to take a sip of his soda. "Anyway, I guess I just overreacted when you, uh, told me about yourself. I suddenly had visions of dealing with another Tobey and I just couldn't handle it. So that's why I was avoiding you." He shrugged. "Stupid, I know."

       Kyle cocked an eyebrow as he began to eat again. "Tobey?"

       Jack blushed a little. "Um, yeah. It's not what you think, though. My friend Jen *tried* to set us up, or at least to make us friends, because she thought I needed another gay guy to hang out with. But we were total opposites. Tobey had this whole agenda, and, like I said, that's just not me. I'm not going to like someone, even as a friend, just because we happen to like the same gender."

       "Huh. I guess I can see that. Never been an issue for me because I've never known anyone else who was like me," Kyle said. "Not that I knew of, anyway. And really, I don't give a rat's ass if you like guys, girls, or sheep." He smiled wryly. "Although in a weird way it's nice to know I'm not the only gay football player on the planet."

       Jack smiled a little at the joke.

       "And I definitely don't have any agenda," Kyle went on. "I ... uh ... I'm still new to this. This is probably the most I've ever talked about it. Ever. In fact," Kyle toyed with his food a little, "not to sound like a wimp or anything, but I'm ready to change the subject. How about you?"

       Jack's smile broadened. "Sure. And I apologize for being a jerk and making assumptions earlier." He put down his fork and held out his hand across the table. "Friends?"

       Kyle looked at the proffered hand for a moment. Despite his determination to hold himself apart from the world, to shield himself, he felt a growing kinship with the boy across from him. And it had nothing to do with their sexuality. Maybe ... maybe Jack would be worth that risk.

       "Friends," Kyle echoed, returning the handshake.

******

       In the days and weeks that followed, Kyle and Jack returned to their earlier camaraderie. They would sometimes get something to eat after practice, or go see the latest action flick on the weekends. Even when the All-Star activities were over, they continued to hang out and do things together on their own.

       "You know, I never came to Concord that much before," Jack said one night, shortly after the football season had ended. He reached for the remote and rewound the video they had just finished. "It's a pretty nice town -- how long have you lived here?"

       "Just a couple of months."

       "Really?" Jack was surprised. "Wow. It's funny -- you know, as much as I complain about the stagnancy of Capeside, at the same time I can't really picture myself just getting up and leaving it, either. Well, I will when I go to college next year, but that's different."

       "I didn't exactly come here voluntarily," Kyle sighed.

       "Oh?" Jack raised an eyebrow. "Parents shipped you off, eh?"

       Kyle looked down at his hands. "My dad died," he finally admitted, feeling the strangeness of the words as they rolled off his tongue. It was the first time he'd said it aloud -- the very act making what had happened to his father seem suddenly real.

       There was a silence. "Kyle, I'm so sorry," Jack finally murmured. "I wouldn't have been joking around if--"

       "No, it's ok," Kyle cut in. "I can't go around forever pretending it didn't happen."

       "So ... that's why you live with your aunt and uncle, then?" Jack asked awkwardly, trying to piece together the bits he knew. At Kyle's nod, he went on -- "I almost hate to ask now, but -- what about your mom?"

       "She ran off when I was a kid. It was just me and Dad for most of my life."

       "Huh." Jack looked thoughtful.

       Kyle looked at him curiously, forgetting his own troubles for the moment. "What?"

       "Oh ... well, I was just thinking that you and I have something else in common, that's all. Sort of."

       "Sort of?" Kyle cocked an eyebrow.

       "Well, my mom's been out of the picture for the last couple of years, too. Mental institution."

       Kyle flinched. "That's gotta suck."

       "Yeah, it hasn't been a picnic, I'll tell you."

       "What about your dad?" Kyle asked. "I've only seen him once, I think."

       "Yeah -- he keeps pretty busy with his job." Jack allowed a note of bitterness to creep into his voice. "Sometimes I think he deliberately chose a job that involved travel just so he could get away from me."

       Kyle furrowed his brow. "What makes you say that?"

       "Let's just say he wasn't too thrilled at my ... 'lifestyle choice'. In fact, the first few years he made my life a living hell. I actually moved out for a while. He's better now ... but I can't ever get over the feeling that he's glaring disapprovingly every time we're in the same room." Jack looked over at Kyle. "What about you?

       "My dad? He was pretty cool. Oh, we had our differences -- he also spent an awful lot of time devoted to ... his job, and that kind of pissed me off sometimes. But otherwise... yeah, he was great."

       "Did he know you were... you know?"

       "Yeah. In fact, I think he knew it before I did." Kyle's gaze shifted as he focused on the memory. "Something ... happened to me at one point, and after that I guess I started acting differently. I think he was just waiting for me to admit something like that, so when I did, he was almost relieved."

       "You're lucky."

       Kyle rolled his eyes. "Oh, yeah, real lucky -- may I remind you that he's dead?"

       "Yeah, but you have happy memories, at least. My dad may be alive, but he hasn't exactly been a boon to my existence, you know?" Jack sighed. "What happened to your dad, anyway?"

       "He ... " He was killed by an evil alien. "He died doing his job."

       "Cop?" Jack looked at him curiously.

       Kyle shrugged, trying to shake off his melancholy. "Sort of. He was the sheriff in Roswell."

       Jack stared at Kyle. "Did you say Roswell? As in Roswell, New Mexico?"

       "Yeah, why?" Kyle looked up. "You have a thing for little green men?"

       Jack laughed and shook his head. "No, it's just ... well, the coincidence is pretty amazing, you have to admit it."

       "Why? You know someone there?"

       "Yeah. My friend, Pacey. He had to move out there a few months ago when his dad was hired as..."--Jack sobered as the realization hit him--"...as the sheriff."

       "The replacement." Kyle shrugged, trying to be casual. I wonder what the 'little green men' think of him? He has no idea what he's in for... "Well, best of luck to him, is all I can say. That is pretty weird how that worked out, though." Then he grinned. "Pacey, huh? What kind of a weird--ass name is that?"

       Jack laughed, relieved to have a more cheerful subject to talk about again. "Oh, it suits him pretty well. The tales I could tell about him -- Man, I remember this one time about two years ago when..."

******

       Kyle shifted to his back in his sleeping bag, trying to find a comfortable position, one that might encourage his brain to shut up so he could get some sleep. No dice. An early spring breeze drifted in through Jack's partially open window, and Kyle turned his head slightly so it wasn't blowing directly on his face. That only made matters worse for him -- now he was looking directly at Jack's peacefully sleeping form.

       Kyle sighed. Maybe it hadn't been such a good idea to stay the night. He'd done it many times already -- tossing his sleeping bag on Jack's floor, while Jack took the bed -- but lately it had become an incredible strain on Kyle's self--discipline. Over the past few weeks, he'd found himself growing increasingly attracted to the other boy. He'd tried to control it ... man, had he tried. Jack had made it pretty clear back in the beginning that he was leery of even being *friends* with Kyle because they were both gay, and he had certainly shown no sign of being romantically interested in anyone, least of all Kyle. So Kyle had tried to clamp down on his emotions, had tried to focus on the fact that he finally had a *good* friend for a change and that that was more important than satisfying the ache in his heart. But nothing helped -- it was shades of Max all over again. Kyle groaned inwardly. Why did he have to be attracted to guys who would never look at him that way in return?

       Rolling over again, Kyle stared off into the darkness as he recalled the night his feelings toward Jack had started to change. It had been an ordinary enough night ... at first anyway. They'd gone to a Celtics basketball game, pumped to see the hometown team to victory. The game had been close from the very beginning, and the excitement reached an even higher level during the halftime break. That was when a fan had proposed to his girlfriend, the moment broadcast on the huge screens that hung all around the arena, the crowd bursting into an enthusiastic uproar when the startled woman had accepted. Only the Celts eventual victory had managed to produce a greater response.

       As they drove back home, however, it was clear that Jack's thoughts were somewhere other than the basketball game.

       "You all right?" Kyle asked, flicking his eyes over at his brooding friend.

       "Uh? Oh, yeah, I guess..."

       "Liar." Kyle retorted. "Come on, man, what's up?"

       Jack sighed. "It's stupid."

       "So what else is new?" Kyle cracked.

       "Hah, hah. Funny." Jack rolled his eyes. "Seriously though -- you know that guy who asked his girlfriend to marry him? Didn't that kind of piss you off?"

       "Why? Because they were so public?"

       "No. Yes. Well, sort of. I mean, I'll never be able to do something like that."

       "Risk making a fool of yourself in front of millions of people? Why would you want to?"

       "Forget it," Jack snapped. "I shouldn't have said anything."

       "No, look. I'm sorry." Kyle turned off the highway and onto a side street. "It's just ... well, I thought you weren't political."

       "I'm not. But it still makes me angry sometimes to realize that my whole love life has to be such a big deal when it's a piece of cake for everyone else." Jack sighed.

       "I guess," Kyle replied noncommittally. "You realize the irony, though -- I mean, it's not like either of us *has* a love life."

       "Yeah, I know. But when I did try to have one -- I mean, even a date, a kiss, was such a big deal."

       Kyle shrugged as he pulled into his driveway. "I wouldn't know."

       Jack looked at him curiously as he got out of the car and slammed the door. "You've never been with anyone?"

       "Do you really want to be having this conversation?" Kyle mumbled, walking up to the house. Then he sighed. "Yeah, sure, I'll play truth or dare... No, I haven't 'been with' anyone. No dates, no nothing."

       "Nothing?" Jack looked mildly surprised as they went inside. "But ... you seem pretty good--looking"--he blushed--"you know, from an objective viewpoint. And from the way you've talked about your life in Roswell, you sound like you were pretty popular and all..."

       "Well, I went on a couple of dates with girls, sure. But for guys..." Kyle flopped down on the sofa. "Well, there was this one guy, Max. He ... he knew how I felt, I think, but he only had eyes for his girlfriend, Liz. Who used to be my girlfriend. Ironic, no?" Kyle coaxed his mouth into a wry smile. "I don't know what you look for in a guy, but man -- Max had these eyes... and a body ... and--" he stopped, embarrassed. "Sorry. Anyway, we'll just say that nothing ever came of that stupid little infatuation, and leave it at that."

       "Huh." Jack looked thoughtful.

       "I spill my guts and all you can say is 'huh'?" Kyle punched his friend amicably. "Come on, your turn. So how come I don't see you parading around with some stud?"

       "Can I blame it on being scarred for life by my first attempt at a relationship?" Jack said with a trace of bitterness.

       "Sure, why not?" Kyle replied with a short laugh. "As long as we're having a pity-party here, let's do it all the way. Scarred for life, huh? So what happened to you?"

       "Last year there I met this guy ... Ethan. He didn't go to my school, but he came and visited a couple of times.... Anyway, we tried going out -- we even went to this alternative prom my friends made up, did I ever tell you about that?" Kyle shook his head. "Well, I'll have to tell you later. Anyway, Ethan seemed so experienced and worldly -- he really pushed me to just jump into the relationship like it was no big deal. Except it was a big deal, to me. It was like I was admitting that I wasn't normal, not like everyone else, and it was a really weird experience. I guess I just wasn't ready, and Ethan finally got tired of waiting for me to figure myself out." Jack stared off as he recalled the moment. "And that's when I decided I *was* ready. My friend Jen and Grams drove me up to Boston so I could have this big, happy reunion with Ethan..."

       "And?" Kyle prodded, when the silence grew too long.

       Jack sighed. "And I ended up making the biggest fool of myself on the planet. I kissed him, all right. Right in front of his ex-boyfriend. Who was now his boyfriend again. I waited too long and I blew it. I felt like such a jerk."

       Kyle shifted in his sleeping bag, turning so he could look at Jack again. After that soul--baring conversation, they had eventually turned back to easier topics, rehashing the game and complaining about school over late-night pizza. But the mention of Jack's failed relationship with Ethan had woken something within Kyle. In all honesty, he had almost forgotten that Jack was gay too, since they rarely talked about such matters. But Jack's description had blazed vivid images in Kyle's mind. He had never seen two guys kiss for real, and the picture of Jack kissing Ethan was very attractive, and surprisingly arousing. He had spent that night -- with him in his own bed and Jack on the floor -- watching Jack sleep, much as he was doing now. Gazing at Jack's lips. Wondering what it would be like to actually kiss someone. To kiss those lips.

       He had tried dismissing the thought as mere curiosity sparked by Jack's story, but, like his infatuation with Max, Kyle's burgeoning attraction did not go away with the passage of time. Now that he had finally started to see Jack in the light of someone who was even *possible* to date, Kyle had realized just how much he liked the other boy. That first impression of Jack as an attractive, well-built guy came back in full force. And it had been downhill ever since....

       So now, here he was, several weeks later, still watching Jack sleep. It was the only time he ever got to admire the other boy openly, but he felt guilty for taking advantage of all their weekend sleepovers to satisfy that longing.

       In his sleep, Jack rolled onto his back, his head lolling to face Kyle. Kyle couldn't decide if he'd been granted a wish or was merely being tortured by this gift. He studied Jack's narrow face -- the lids that concealed deep blue eyes, the nose, and -- Kyle swallowed -- those lips. They were parted slightly, the perfect kiss-me pose.

       Kyle stared at Jack for long moments, trying to wrestle his desire back down into submission. It was Just. Too. Much. He wanted ... needed ... to touch Jack in some way, or he would go crazy. In a flash of sudden inspiration, he realized that perhaps now would be the perfect time to satisfy his craving. Jack was asleep, and he seemed to be a pretty sound sleeper. Kyle wouldn't go too far -- just one little touch to ease his curiosity, his need, and then he'd go back to his sleeping bag and hopefully have some nice erotic dream to satisfy the rest of his longings.

       He slithered out of his sleeping bag and crept over to Jack's side. A light touch to Jack's arm elicited no response from the sleeping boy. Good, Kyle thought. Perfect. He caressed Jack's arm just a little, feeling the smooth skin and the little hairs crinkle under his fingertips. Ok, you've had your touch. Go back to bed, Valenti. But his head wouldn't listen. The lips were so close, so inviting.... Recklessly, before he could even really think about it, Kyle dropped down and kissed Jack lightly. Just a quick one, he thought. But the feel of the other boy's lips against his own captivated him. It was a drug, an intoxication. Soft, smooth ... but strong. Not like any girl's lips. He planted another soft kiss, then another.

       Jack's mouth moved underneath Kyle's, startling him. He almost pulled away before realizing that Jack was kissing him back, tentatively at first, then with more force. Kyle didn't question his luck. He just reveled in the moment, taking in the warmth, the electric shocks, just the *feel* of finally getting to kiss the object of his desire. And then--

       "Wha...?" Jack murmured in confusion against his mouth. Oh, god Kyle suddenly realized that Jack had still been asleep, or at least half-asleep, when he'd started kissing Kyle back. And now he was waking up...

       Kyle abruptly pulled away, almost tripping over his sleeping bag in his panic. He turned his head away from Jack's questioning, startled eyes, unable to meet his gaze. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry." He whispered. Blindly, he grabbed his bedding and his duffle bag, jammed his feet into his shoes and ran the hell out of Jack's room, out of the house, and into his car before he could make a bigger mess of things.

******

       The next week passed in one long, agonizing blur. Kyle was extremely thankful that he and Jack didn't go to the same school -- the very idea of facing Jack again after what had happened Saturday night made Kyle feel sick inside. Over and over he replayed that moment, the pleasure of the kiss mixed with a sick shame over taking advantage of the sleeping boy, and self-disgust at destroying the friendship. All because you couldn't keep your hands to yourself. Way to go, Valenti. You may be doing better in school, but you clearly have your brain in your dick. Brilliant.

       He hardly slept or ate all week, haunted by visions of Jack's shocked gaze, his stomach too knotted to be interested in food. By Friday, Kyle's aunt was worried enough about him that she ordered him to stay home from school for the day and get some rest. Kyle didn't argue, although he didn't see how it would help much either. Much to his surprise, however, he found himself nodding off on the sofa while watching ESPN, waking only when he heard a knock on the door.

       Rubbing sleep from his eyes, Kyle padded to the front door and opened it, too groggy to wonder who could be stopping by in the middle of the day.

       Then he stared at the visitor on his doorstep.

       "Hi." Jack shifted nervously.

       Unable to think of anything coherent, Kyle blurted the first thing that came to mind. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be in school?"

       Jack held up his wrist and pointed to his watch. "It's four o'clock."

       "Is it?" Kyle leaned back and checked the entryway clock. Damn. Four o'clock. He'd slept the day away. "Sorry," he said, turning back to Jack, suddenly conscious of how he must look. He ran a hand through his hair, trying to smooth the bedhead he was sure he had. "I ... uh ... I stayed home today and I guess I lost track of time."

       "Oh," Jack replied, unsure what else to say. "Can I come in?"

       "What? Oh, sure." Kyle stepped back and let the other boy pass, then led the way back to the kitchen. "You ... uh ... want a soda or something?" he said, trying to fill the silence.

       "No, I'm fine." More silence. "So... how've you been?"

       Kyle snorted. "Been better. You?"

       "Oh, I'm... Look, Kyle, about last weekend..."

       "Oh yes. That. Look, I'm sorry about that." Kyle turned away and gripped one of the kitchen chairs. "I don't suppose we can just pretend it never happened? I swear, I'll never--"

       Jack cut him off. "No, see, that's just it." He lowered his voice. "I'm glad you did it."

       Kyle looked over at him, startled. "What?"

       "I'm glad you did it." Jack repeated. "I admit, I was surprised at first. And then furious. But then ... I realized that I liked it. The kiss, that is." Jack looked down at his hands for a moment, then brought his gaze back up to Kyle's. "Do you ... uh ... do you really feel that way?"

       "Yeah," Kyle admitted gruffly. "I do."

       "Then why didn't you just say so?"

       Kyle tensed. "How can you say that?" he asked, his voice rising. "You tried to avoid even being *friends* with me because I was gay. You said yourself that you were scarred for life because of Ethan. You've never shown any interest in anyone, least of all me. I practically killed myself not to say anything to you so as not to freak you out again." Kyle was surprising even himself with his anger, as all his pent--up emotions burst forth. "Then I finally crack, and now you say you liked it. I've just had the world's shittiest week, kicking myself for what I did, and for nothing. Why didn't *you* say something?"

       "I *am* saying something!" Jack countered. "So it took me longer to figure myself out. So shoot me!" He stepped up to Kyle, grasping him by the shoulders and turning him forcibly. "You want me to say something? Fine! This is what I came over to say." And with that, he pulled Kyle in for a bruising kiss, pressing his mouth roughly over the other boy's.

       They kissed for long moments, a battle of wills -- lips moving brusquely, tongues struggling for domination. Then slowly, gradually, they let it go... let the kiss modulate into something else entirely. Let their previously silent hunger for each other be known.

       "Message received," Kyle said weakly, when they finally broke apart. Then, catching his breath, he looked at Jack soberly. "Not that I'm complaining, mind you, but are you sure about this?"

       Jack returned Kyle's blue gaze. "I'm sure."

       "Ok." Kyle stepped back a little. "Wow. I've had to deal with a lot of stuff in my life, but this is a whole new thing for me." He shifted uncertainly. "So ... uh ... what do we do now?"

       Jack shrugged. "Pizza? Game of basketball out in the driveway?"

       Kyle stared for a minute, and then laughed. Somehow, the suggestions seemed entirely fitting. "Yeah, sure. I'll go get the ball. And Jack" --he looked over at the other boy-- "if you want to stay tonight, I promise to behave myself."

       "All right," Jack replied as he followed Kyle outside. "But actually... I'd rather you didn't. Behave, that is."

       Kyle gave him an evil grin as he passed Jack the ball. He thought of his dad, who had acted up so many times in his life, using all sorts of methods to get or protect what he wanted. You have no idea what you're in for. Kyle mused, We Valentis are good at not behaving...

       End.

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